Tag: differenciation

think differently this christmas.

Although this blog isn’t a reviewing website, it’s been a while since I haven’t posted something and what’s better than the Christmas spirit to celebrate (and rant) on what Adland has to offer this year.

cocacola

Last year saw a burst of newcomers and as there’s always so much you can say about Christmas, most brands ended up saying the same thing, to the point that Currys and Harvey Nichols shared voice for giftface. That’s probably why everyone is taking on a subversive message for this year’s Holidays. Let’s start with the very Harvey Nichols who clearly didn’t want to risk being imitated this year with this original – if not questionable – execution “Britalia”. In an era of data-driven clients, I’ve read that the retailer recorded a peak in sales of Italian products… Buon natale then! But Harvey Nichs isn’t the only one to have taken an original approach, it’s hats off to the never-disappointing W+K and their latest spot for TK Maxx that brought a brilliant Christmas twist to their new brand promise.

And how can we forget the ball opener that was Burberry’s trailer-like short about the life of Thomas Burberry? Unfortunately for them and as with all things successful, they seem to be on for unveiling the full feature…

In the mean time, Currys stayed within the reasonable with a humorous take on gifting and House of Fraser built on last year’s musical success. One will note my deliberate move to omit John Lewis’ effort which will, by no doubt given their choice of director, be another tear-jerker that you’ll either love or hate.

Merry Christmas Adland, and keep thinking differently for more than just the Holidays!

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right place, right time.

What is Starbucks’ main success factor? Location, location, location.

I was reading one of Dave Trott’s articles on content and the fact that the real question wasn’t about how good it was, but rather how well it was distributed. Although I disagree that content can be anything (people don’t eat ****), I found the point on its delivery quite interesting.

After the year of content and the year of mobile, maybe it’s logical that everything is now about context. What made Amazon successful a few years back is now common practice. You’re much more likely to listen to suggestions if they are tailored to you and if you’re in the mindset of buying. I graduated with a dissertation on the potential of NFC and how supermarket shoppers could be prompted with a relevant promotion when walking past the relevant aisle. Or imagine McDonalds calling out drivers on the motorway with a contextual suggestion on Apple CarPlay?

After launching a partnership with Spotify, Uber has just unveiled an API for developers to create contextual content and services for their riders (think about Heineken telling you about some cool bars in the area you’re heading to). 4newswall made the news accessible and relevant to millennials, and was hosted on Tumblr. Even the latest iOS is now “learning” your habits to suggest actions based on the context you find yourself in.

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Most marketers are scared of the connected world’s ecosystem, not knowing where to start. That’s probably why most content is still buried within millions of YouTube videos and Facebook posts – the megaphones of social media. The truth is that the countless platforms available offer the richest opportunities in terms of audience and context.

So instead of creating content for the sake of it, start by learning your audience’s pathways. Only then you can reach them with relevant content that won’t necessarily hit billions of likes from some bots in India, but that will engage and move people to their very core. And that’s pretty much what true content should be about.

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learning from dicaprio’s near misses at cannes.

We’ve once won an industry award at my first agency. I remember the planner running around the office, brandishing a creative brief with a mandatory section that read: “this piece of work needs to win us an award”.

My proudest achievement to date – the Puma Dance Dictionary – won us some awards, but not before the international press talked about it. Not before I received a Puma Dance Dictionary message from a close friend I hadn’t talked to in years. If the purpose of what we do is to use brands to fuel culture and make something people will love, then there’s nothing more rewarding than having people talking about it. Unless you’re a multi-awards-winning CD, a Lion is really only destined to sit under some dust in reception or be buried under a lot of blurb in your CV.

Besides, what have awards become today? The backlash from the recent Cannes Lions was clear in pointing out that the strongest ideas had made place to what could be defined as “gimmicks”. Grey’s Grand Prix wins for Volvo and Facebook’s ice bucket challenge are good examples. And with new categories created every year, we are just devaluing what was the most respected awards show a decade ago.

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It is hard to argue against Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances over the time, yet he’s never left Cannes with anything else than a hangover. The year he failed to win an – expected – award for his performance on The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar went to Matthew McConaughey for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club (movie fanatics will remember that McConaughey undertook an extraordinary physical transformation for that film). Perhaps Oscars aren’t rewarding the best performances anymore. Perhaps that’s why Leonardo’s physical effort in The Revenant is likely to finally win him one. And perhaps there is a strong case for awards to be overrated.

Awards give you momentum, which could in turn win you clients and talent, but never should they come before or in the way of what we do in this Industry – culturally defining moments that get people to give a damn.

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celebrate the game.

3 days into the Rugby World Cup and it’s about time I shared some work from the many brands out there trying to own their share of the game.

I’ll start with one of my favourites from Beats. Following on from their Football WC success (“The game before the game”), they carried on with long form content centered around the theme of preparation and anticipation with 3 films celebrating the stories of France (Fofana), New Zealand (McCaw) and England (Robshaw). “The game starts here” (what an evolved copy) is complete with some more content online around the 3 stories. Once again, R/GA showed that they know how to put a good narrative together and truly move their audience.

For those who are just getting into the Rugby vibe, Grey London and The Times went for the educational approach, with the “A to Z of Rugby“, hosted by international legends such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Sean Fitzpatrick and Gareth Thomas in a series of films attempting to decypher the language of the game with a light-hearted execution.

And the third one will have to bring some good around us. Rugby creates an interesting opportunity for blood donations. Both the natutre of the sport and its philosophy, built around respect and fair play, make it the right playground for such a message. That’s what the NHS tapped into with a bold execution around the iconic Rose. And they even went beyond by involving the legends of the game and their real blood. Watch it here.

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One will note that every ad break is filled with football-related messages (mostly betting) that might upset the true Rugby lover out there.

And last but not least, we are yet to see a brand making the most of a moment like Oreo did at the 2013 Superbowl. What about the controversial use of the video to give and then cancel tries?

Much more to come from the likes of Guinness and Land Rover so keep an eye on it as you enjoy what I hope will be a thrilling RWC.

Oh, and ALLEZ LES BLEUS!

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what’s your mantra?

In an Industry where everyone is relentlessly trying to stand out, my fellow admen will be aware that most agencies in town are using a mantra to differentiate themselves from their competition. So here we are, working on “Real World Communications“, for the “connected age“, with “brave ideas beautifully executed“. These mantras usually shout about an approach, a POV or a methodology. In most agencies they reflect a culture, something that will be applied to everything they do, right from their recruitment policy to the delivery of work.

But really, to what extent do they differentiate from one another? If everyone is trying to say something different then surely no one will end up breaking through that clutter of would-be punchy lines?

Let’s get this straight. Most of them are so obvious they are almost insulting to any sound marketer out there. Who would go to R/GA expecting work that isn’t “for the connected age“? Who would knock at AMV‘s door and wouldn’t expect them to “help solve business challenges with creative ideas that change the competitive landscape“?

Don’t get me wrong, some of them do matter and make you listen. They do when they connect an agency’s strategic approach with its vision. They do when they are remembered over time and have a true purpose. They are defined through the circle of truth. They answer why we do things, why do consumers care about our work and why would a client want to partner with us.

Perhaps another approach would simply be not to have one and define yourself through what eventually matters the most. Your work. Something to think about.

And to wrap your week, here’s a nice little something challenging you to match a mantra to its agency.

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is apple getting tired?

Apple’s slick product development strategy consists of permanently avoiding the maturity phase of its products by spreading the deployment of their existing innovations over time. This ensures consumers will keep upgrading their devices and flourish the company’s cash flow with minimum R&D. Perhaps what they didn’t realise is that this strategy is, today, leading the company itself to its maturity phase, as they are seen as lacking innovation as a whole.

Is Apple getting tired? The fact that this happened when Steve Jobs left the Earth is a mere coincidence to me. This trend had already started before he left. Maybe the answer simply relies in the fact that competition managed to catch up. Apple’s current trial with Samsung – the company behind the development of the iPhone’s nemesis – unveiled an interesting letter that says it all about Samsung’s threat on Apple.

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These two companies are differentiated by a key aspect of their marketing. Samsung never really had a strong brand equity, nor vision. If they have one, it is nowhere near the one of Apple (I wouldn’t wear a Samsung T-shirt – would you?). But they embraced Android like no other and managed to create a simple yet innovative and powerful product line in the name of the Galaxy range, which has quickly matched the appeal of the iPhone. Apple on the other hand, have established one of the strongest brands ever and have been challenging the status quo since releasing the first Mac with an ad to remember in 1984. That said, the recent releases of their products have been disappointing to say the least, with some little evolution that has been beaten by Samsung and other players in the market. A focus on a strong brand vs. a focus on a strong product.

What did go wrong for a company that was seen untouchable 5 years ago? Any new technologies they proudly launched have been matched by the competition, be it Siri or Face Time. They released a new iOS, which, to me, seems to take some hints from both Windows Mobile (design) and Android (functionality). Just like they seem to align on their competitors, with the rumoured launch of a bigger screen size after resisting it with the argument that you could reach the whole of your iPhone 5 screen with your thumb. And their anticipated attempt to release a cheaper version of the iPhone – the iPhone 5c, which is basically the iPhone 5 with a plastic colour cover reminiscent of the relaunch of the iPod Nano range – failed to deliver with a hefty price of around £450.

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Maybe that last point is the beginning of the answer. When Apple released what everyone expected as an entry-level iPhone, they were actually never going to trade off their premiumness which is what their brand stands for and simply released a colour range rather than compromising on who they are. Can focusing on their brand keep them out of the water for long? The launch of the iPhone 6 at the end of this year is still fuelling conversations and will definitely be a turning point should they fail to deliver ground-breaking innovation. Their activeness on the patent front might be reassuring. There are also new battlefields this year, such as the wearable tech, with Google and Samsung being key players. So let’s not list them as dead just yet. After all, maybe that mind-blowing ad (and the way it was launched at the back of the Super Bowl storm) is reminding everyone of who they are. The question, though, is not about who they are but about what they will do.

 

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video cv and other ways to market yourself.

Bleustein Blanchet – one of the late fathers of advertising – once said that the Communications Industry was all about difference. I could not be more in agreement with him and have even extended this statement to Marketing and our every day’s life. Having a look at the employment market, the release of the “Doyoubuzz” website highlights this quest for differentiation: job applicants are now more than ever looking at ways to differentiate themselves from the crowd. That’s right, this is individuals marketing themselves on the job market.

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If the CV and the covering letter are evolving, one would be mistaken to think they are disappearing. The CV is, to me, the ultimate way to give the employer what he wants (on top of its administrative purposes). It needs to be simple and almost standardised – imagine everyone using the same template for their CVs just like most corporations are now asking us to fill in these lengthy questionnaires that literally re-organise the information already presented on your CV. With this in mind, the only way to differentiate yourself will be to do anything around the CV that will be clever enough to 1) make your voice heard, and 2) sell yourself.

A (very) basic way to understand the message in Marketing Communications could be to split it between the What and the How. The How could be a ATL comms, raising awareness whilst driving engagement through emotional cues, and the What that could be a retail leaflet or a company website, providing your audience with detailed info about the product in a convenient format. Back to our employment market, the How will be your covering letter (showing your personality and getting your reader to consider your CV), and the What will be that very CV. Again, agreeing that all CVs should be standardised, your only opportunity of differentiation will be your covering letter or whatever this is. Let’s look at an interesting example: the video CV.

Typing “video CV” on YouTube will give you a broad range of good, bad and even ugly executions. I have given myself a try at this risky exercise (risky as, if it will undoubtedly give you fame, that fame can easily turn into bad publicity) after graduating, and therefore having a fairly “light” CV in terms of experience. Here are my advices to any fellow ambitious risk-takers:

  1. Have a clear goal. This will narrow your ambitions, making your video to the point and relevant. There is a huge difference between “I want a great marketing job with great money” and “I want to be a successful advertising account executive in London”.
  2. The idea. This is not a CV but an inspiring deliverable with sole goal to inspire your employer to read your CV. Ideally, the end frame will actually call the viewer to download your actual CV.
  3. Relevance. I have seen some fairly bad examples that were so famous they probably destroyed these guys’ careers. Why? Because you don’t make a video of yourself if you don’t have that minimum of charisma, creativity or if you have nothing better to say than reading your CV in front of a camera for 5 minutes. Relevance also covers the Industry you are after. You wouldn’t do a video CV to land a part time job at McDonalds would you?
  4. The execution. Remember that the execution supports the idea, and not the other way around. You could simply post it on YouTube and wait for the buzz to take off, or send it directly to employers with a catchy line, or you could combine both into a clever activation plan whereby you will start broadcasting it (online and auto-generated buzz) to then narrowcast (direct emails)

The video CV is just one of the ways to market yourself on the employment market, just like putting yourself on eBay for auction. Remember to always stay true to yourself, to showcase your personality instead of replicating your CV in audio, and to execute it as part of a well-thought activation plan. Here’s mine open to critics… I would steer away from Barney Stinson’s execution!

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imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The word “inventing” comes from a lot of meanings. Whilst an “invention” refers to something new, an “inventory” refers to something existing. I find that quite interesting as it can be a way to understand the concept of innovation. Going back to its Latin roots, innovare means renewing or changing an existing concept/ process/ product or what have you. One might therefore be mistaken to believe that innovating is bringing something totally new to the world. Sit down Steve J, I’m only starting.

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Innovation tends to be massively used in dynamic Industries such as the high technology sector. This is logical since differentiation in this sector is driven by the novelty of its products, even though the brand can still play an important role e.g. in Apple’s case. But innovation means patents, industrial spying, many (many) lawsuits and other childishness. Which brings us to the question: can imitation be considered as a form of flattery?

I have been using an HTC Desire HD for the past couple of months and I must admit that some of its hardware and software features clearly come from the iPhone’s famous innovations. One day, I have shared my new purchase on my Facebook profile and most of the underlying comments were quite disrespectful to HTC, stating that they had “cheated” on the iPhone to make a break on this market. Yes, HTC wasn’t the first to use multi-touch and other – once groundbreaking – features that today became a standard in smartphones. However, they have – alongside the Android OS – brought a lot of new innovations such as its processor for an improved speed, a revisited interface and the ability to customise your device the way you want. They have done what is standard practice in open source software: “study how the program works, and evolve it to make it do what you wish”. This trend isn’t specific to an Industry either: new advertising techniques are also imitated, then improved and so on.

Competitors tend to rely on what one has created to improve their own products and services. While some might see this as cheating and disrespect, others will see it as a recognition of the initial innovation as well as taking part to the ongoing improvement of the product, and in turn, to the dynamism of the market. The trick is then to ensure consumers remember you were the first one to introduce that novelty.

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Apple v.2.0.

Many people have anticipated The 2nd of March for a while now. Steve Jobs – or his future successor – is due to announce his latest “revolution” to the World, namely the iPad 2. The press has rumoured Cupertino’s latest baby to sport a slightly different design, a frontal camera for video calls as well as a higher resolution screen (probably that “retina display” they’ve introduced with the iPhone 4). They might also release more versions (screen size and internal memory) to reach a wider market. So sleeker design, more versions, and addition of technologies already used on their current portfolio (camera and “retina display”). Rings any bells? That’s exactly what they’ve done when releasing the 2nd version of the iPod Touch.

I’ve been trying to understand how does Apple succeed so well. Sure their branding and marketing gurus have made it a purely inspiring brand with a vision, but there is more to that. I have been on their website and listed all the products they were selling for their main product lines. You will be surprised to see that that brand’s simplicity that everyone is praising actually extends to its products portfolio:

Apple table

The above table shows that Apple sells 38 products (a number about to increase on the 2nd of March).  Now looking closer, Apple actually sells 13 products, from 4 product lines, each declined in multiple versions. Looking even closer, you will see the differences between all these products: camera or not, retina display or not, screen size, internal memory or processor’s power. Logistically speaking, it would be safe to say that Apple actually release one great total product, and then remove/ lighten a few of its features to “multiply ” it in other versions and allow for it to be released upgraded a year later. This assumption also applies when you analyse the above chart across all products. The iPad for example, is literally a bigger iPod Touch (earlier version) with a bigger on-board memory, a bigger screen, and uses the same OS than the iPhone and the iPod Touch – that’s a lesson in economies of scale. All that doesn’t apply to their “lower end” devices (iPod Shuffle and iPhone 3Gs) that are only available in one version, or the iPod Classic that has been here for ages, using brilliant marketing techniques to sustain like the famous bottle of Coke, or even Hugo Boss “Hugo Man” fragrance.

iconic design

So how does Apple succeed so well? Steve Jobs relies on a few core platforms – Mac and “i” ranges (iPod, iPad and iPhone) – to then play with technologies that can be applied to all them. The trick is then to know when and how he will release it. Therefore, anyone shouting that Apple is amazing as they have so many great products would be mistaken since they actually only have a couple. Now let’s open our marketing books to see what this technique allow them to do:

  1. Regularly refresh their products with features perceived as groundbreaking by their early innovators – eventually purchased by innovators and the rest of the gang
  2. Avoid the maturity phase of the Product Life Cycle (PLC)
  3. Reach a wider audience with products that are not significantly different but for which you are ready to pay a significantly higher price (up to £1k on Macbook Pro, £2k on Mac Pro)

So next time you see an ad stating – with their usual modesty – “this changes everything, again”, read it as “it changed everything a year ago on this so we ran it on that, thanks for your continuous custom”.

iphone4-changes-everything

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self-derision sells.

How many times how we laughed out loud in front of a humourist mocking himself on stage? If an ignorant might claim that the human race became massively masochist, the wise will see that most of these humourists became famous and loved by that same public laughing at their “misery”. Is it because we relate to these people in some way, thus are laughing at ourselves unconsciously? Or is it because we feel some kind of sympathy for these characters? In any case, I’m far to be the only one who saw underlying marketing opportunities in self-mockery.

The most obvious opportunity was in Politics. If a humourist can make himself famous nationwide by simply mocking himself, then why would a Politician with no clear programme not have a go at it? French President Jacques Chirac admitted in an interview that his success in the 1995 elections against Edouard Balladur was partly due to the derision given to his character in the 2.6M-audience French Muppet show Les Guignols de l’Info. The show presented him as a no-programme-man lazy moron, who only wished he’d finally be elected against Balladur, who betrayed him. This made him the most famous and liked Muppet in the show ahead of presenter PPDA for the 2 years ahead of the election.

LES GUIGNOLS DE L'INFO

It wasn’t long before smart and edgy ad agencies pitched to convince some of their clients to try themselves at this exercise. Kapferer found that VW “style of expression is one of humour as shown in its attitude of self-derision, false modesty and impertinence towards competitors as well as in the use of paradox”. Gillette latest spoof ad is a more recent example where the brand takes one of its consumer’s insights i.e. “one day they’ll be selling us 10-blade razors” and embraces that cynicism by humouring themselves, as well as creating some buzz over their brand equity.

So, smart or risky exercise? Since not many brands are risking themselves to such a niche practice, one could argue that differentiation could be a good motive to such positioning – bearing in mind the products (or people in the case of our politician) concerned usually hardly differ from their competitors. Rod A. Martin stated that ‘‘they are making use of the peripheral rather than the central route to persuasion”. That said, relevance is key and in most cases the antidote becomes the poison. Ask Chirac what he thought of his Muppet in Les Guignols de l’Info in the 2002 elections…

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