Archive for the ‘Interesting books’ Category

A few years ago I heard Allan Leighton speak at a marketing conference. “If they haven’t understood, you haven’t communicated” he said in his talk outlining the challenges he was facing at the Post Office at the time. Allan had the habit of turning up unannounced at postal sorting offices around the country to talk directly to staff about the challenges the business faced and the remedies needed.

He claimed his communications team were brilliant at “strategy” … he had never met so many strategists he said…but what he really needed was great communicators …managers who could be understood by the workforce.

He believed that most marketing and comms. people could learn from the Sun newspaper, the best communicator in the world. Every morning it took the most complex political issues and simplified them into something understandable and relevant to us all. That’s what all great communicators do he ranted. And of course he was right.

When we try and communicate, rarely do we start off with the intention of not being understood. Sometimes however it is hard to distil our complex messages into something easiliy understood, relevant and inspiring to our audience.

I came across four questions today in a book about another great communicator Steve Jobs. They claim to be the structure for the killer elevator pitch. I realised when reading them that I often use these principles when crafting messages for clients….but they are useful checklist, none the less.

1. Who am I (why should they listen to me)

2. What problem am I trying to solve?

3. What am I offering that is different?

4. Why should they care?


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I loved this case study in Emanuel Rosens new book, Anatomy of Buzz Revisited.
He writes about a case in Canada where they attempted to reduce the level of unnecessary Cesarean sections taking place. Guidelines were issued and most physicians said they would change their practices, but figures showed they didn’t. Researchers then identified key individuals (network hubs) and invited them to a workshop to discuss the issue. Following this they asked the attendees to do a little bit of marketing on the issue to their colleagues.
The vaginal birthrate in cases handled by physicians who were educated by the opinion leaders was 85 percent higher than elsewhere. Fantastic.

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If you read this Blog regularly you will know that I believe storytelling is  an increasingly critical skill that needs to be acquired by brand and communication managers. Stories, unlike simple messages, get remembered and get passed on. I found this presentation which summarises some of the concepts within Chip & Dan Heaths book – Made to Stick.  It identifies the components of ideas that get remembered. It’s doesn’t provide the full framework to develop stories, but it does provide a neat checklist to help thinking.

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The Royal Mail’s research (Marketing Week 17th Jan) highlights the growing importance of Social Media as a key platform for brand recommendation. With a fifth of the UK population already active members of social networks and two thirds saying they are likely to buy a brand on the basis of recommendation from a friend, they identify that it is a channel that can’t be ignored by brand owners today.
Of course they are right. It is the transition of brands to the new world that is the challenge.
Seth Godin in his new book Meatball Sundae makes a very important point. “If your product and marketing are optimized for the old model of marketing, you will be defeated by the relentless tide of new marketing and the products and services designed for it”.  In other words, if you see this as something you can simply add to your current marketing and communications planning – you have already got it wrong!
The new advocacy age is reinventing how consumers make decisions on your brand and you need a reinvention strategy also. Research by Weber Shandwick, conducted with Dr Paul Marsden, demonstrated that 70% of brand advocacy (recommendation) can be correlated directly to how much a brand surprises and delights it customers at every touch-point (product, price, promotions and place)!

It’s time for a root and branch review of your brand and how you spend your communications dollars. It’s time to put advocacy at the heart of everything you do.

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Weber Shandwick made an important announcement last week. The appointment of Leo Rayman from the adv agency DDB as European Head of Planning. Leo sent me a book over Xmas – Pollitt on Planning.
Stanley Pollitt is considered by some to be the father of modern day advertising account planning. I believe his story holds important lessons for the PR industry.
Stanley introduced the role of “strategic planner” to the ad industry as “someone who would decide when research would be done and what information was relevant to the creative development process and would remain independent of the pressures of the client and the creative directors”. Fundamentally Stanley saw the role of the strategic planner as the data literate consumer champion who would ensure that the agencies output was always kept on track.
The PR industry has transformed itself in recent years, by putting measurement at the heart of its agenda. Today insight is increasingly being adopted as the new agenda as clients provide increasingly complex challenges that require much deeper insights into the influences behind today’s customer behaviours. As a result we are commissioning research reports, buying into new consumer panels and uncovering new streams of data in a way that never happened before. And this of course is the issue. Does a fantastic publicity person, also have the necessary skills to sift through all of this data and identify what is relevant or not? Can a creative guru, always separate dreams from reality? Can the slick account man, say no?
Historically the PR industry hasn’t divided its roles in the same way as the ad industry. But as clients see the growing importance of advocacy within their marketing mix and recognise that PR is best equipped to deliver against their needs, things are changing. Every agency man knows that clients buy on trust and for the PR industry that trust is coming from demonstrating, consistently it’s ability to navigate client brands through an increasingly complex and cluttered world. It’s an exciting time for the industry and an exciting time for my company. Welcome on-board Leo!

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I read in the paper tonight that Toyota are now number 2 in the US, breaking GM’s 75 year grip on the position. This is partly due to strong demand for the Prius Hybrid car.
The Prius has been an amazing success story for Toyota and a great example to other brands of the new “communication order”. After a slow start, sales of Prius have been built, not through heavy advertising campaigns, but through advocacy. Advocacy through celebrities, using the brand to make a statement
about their green credentials, advocacy by Government (in London you can escape the congestion charge with a Prius and other Governments offer similar incentives) and advocacy through brand purchasers (promoters) – Prius owners are rarely shy about telling you how great their cars are! Apparently Toyota encouraged this in the early days by giving purchasers packs of personalised cards (like business cards).  These just happened to have the key talking points on Prius printed on the back!
Al Reiss’ book, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, claims products are launched by PR and sustained by advertising. As Prius demonstrates, a hybrid approach throughout the brand lifecycle can also work!

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Super Crunchers

Some experts in the UK are estimating that 17% of shopping was done on-line this Xmas, beating all predictions. It’s another sign of how fast things are changing for brands and I was fascinated therefore to read an article in the Times Magazine today, looking at predictions from leading commentators for the year ahead. Supercrunching grabbed my attention …

Ian Ayers has written a book called Super Crunchers (named using Google Ad-words to test various titles to his book, to identify the one that generated the most clicks).

Supercrunching is the analysis of huge quantities of data to make predictions about the real world. He claims it is the future of marketing – identifying what consumers will buy next, based on masses of collected data on past behaviour, external influences and probabilities etc. He says it will replace intuition in many situations.

Data is being collected from us at every source today– search terms, shopping purchases, location records etc. Piecing these together does give marketers the opportunity to create fantastic predictive and targeting models. The issue historically has been one of cost – it’s simply been too expensive to adopt this approach across a wide range of decisions. As these costs reduce, as they will, Supercrunching will clearly become an increasingly important component of future advocacy strategies. 

I also liked The Times article on the Terabyte.

Fewer than ten years ago a matchbox sized 64 Megabyte MP3 player held a CD’s worth of music. The current Ipod has 160,000 Megabytes (160 Gigabytes). Even the Gigabyte is close to obsolescence according to one commentator – as we move towards the Terabyte (1 million Megabytes). Soon gadgets will contain tens or even hundreds of Terabytes. They will be pre-loaded with masses of information to reduce the reliance on slow Internet connections and we will have the opportunity to store everything we have ever produced, seen or heard. It’s yet another new space for brands to think about.

The future it seems is data!

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