Knowing me, knowing you

8 Nov

It seems you can’t read anything the days without the obligatory story about the dangers of your digital fingerprint. Young kids posting pictures of their private parts on Facebook (god I’m glad I grew up when you still had negatives you could destroy), or posting some other picture or comment online that will be sure to prevent them getting a job in the future.

Clearly both of these are relevant and true risks of posting without thinking. Like most employers, the first thing I do when reviewing resumes is to do a google search, and scroll past linkedin to find out a little bit about the real person. I’ve also taken a great deal of pleasure when someone (generalisation here but it’s usually someone who should know the risks such as a “community manager” or similar) from an agency who one day wants some of your investment decides to tee off on your latest campaign. Unfortunately for them, whilst I often struggle to remember to pack snacks for the kids when heading out to the park, I never fail to forget someone who could be so stupid.

So it’s true, that for gen y or whatever the latest batch of ‘indestructibles’ is called, and anyone else who likes to think of themselves as a keyboard warrior, a bad digital fingerprint can genuinely be a Liz Lemon-esque deal breaker.

However, I don’t think enough is made about how beneficial digital fingerprints can be.

I recall sitting down for a piccolo with a man I am really inspired by, the omnipresent Steve Samartino who said to me something along the lines of “my blog has come to generate more opportunities than any of the other work I’ve done”. Now those familiar with Steve (not Sam Artino as his twitter handle may lead you to assume) will be aware of the amazing breadth of successful work he does, from client side, to agency planner, and more broadly, entrepreneur and start up king. As we continued to talk I expressed my fear that I didn’t really have anything that inspiring to write about, or couldn’t share the confidential stuff I was working on. However, Steve encouraged me to back myself and share the thoughts that I had, as if he found them interesting over a coffee, surely someone, somewhere, bored on the interwebs may find my ramblings similarly interesting.

So I started. And I loved it. Granted, as life with two kids, an intense job, a desire to stay fit and generally living day to day, I haven’t done it as much as I would like recently. However, if I’m honest, all the excuses are a cop out. There’s always five minutes to get some thoughts down on the iPad. And as Steve recently reminded me, writing is just like exercise: the more you do, the easier and better it gets. So, much like my need to improve my triathlon swim, this is something I just need to commit to.

So back to the title of this entry, and the opening paragraph. Perhaps not enough is made about the potentially positive impact of sharing your thoughts online. If you have a positive digital fingerprint, as Steve suggested, there is a lot that can be gained.

This really struck home for me last week when I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristian Manietta. Kristian is a phenomenal triathlete and, amongst other things, run elite training squad for those looking to improve their Tri performance. Perhaps more importantly, he is currently working on a charity ride this summer, riding from Bondi to Noosa for an amazingly great cause of sustainable water for Cambodian families.

Now Kristian and I had never met in person, but a quick text and we agreed to meet up for a ride to talk about the charity ride and how I could potentially help. Now, usually the thought of spending an hour on the bike together with someone you had never met could be a bit daunting, with a lot of uncomfortable silences. However, as soon as I rode out and met Kristian, I already felt I knew him. Why? Simple…research: Twitter, Instagram, websites etc. What’s more, as a switched on guy Kristian had done the same, and it really blew me away as we were talking on the bike, and much longer over another piccolo or two, how much he actually did know about me. I was really impressed when he started referencing articles I had written on this blog, not for the ego stroke, but because it showed he had an interest and a similarity of views. How handy is that? When going in to a meeting with someone you can really simply find out what makes them tick, get their views on things and, sometimes most importantly what they absolutely detest, and make sure you tailor your message to this, or if you really think they’re a real douche just cancel the meeting!!

So there it is. In summary, digital fingerprints can actually be really positive. As my dealings with two inspirational men has shown. By writing more, and in turn reading more about others there is a lot that can be gained both professionally and personally. So expect to see more from me from now on.



Business 101: If consumers don’t buy your product, you’re doomed.

25 May

So this week’s news that Ford have announced they are planning to pack up shop for local Australian car manufacturing in 2016 has got the talk back lines abuzz, and the press spewing out a range of illogical suggestions.

Let’s just get this out on the table. Yes, mass job losses like this, and no doubt the flow on impact for the smaller component suppliers is incredibly sad. There will be families who have no idea how they will continue to put food on the table, petrol in their cars and generally provide the life that they’ve been accustomed to. This is especially sad for the middle aged workers who have little chance of re-employment despite whatever ‘up-skilling’ training they are provided. In no way am I trying to downplay this human impact.

However what I can not understand at all is how poorly the Australian automotive industry has been managed over the last decade, and primarily my major gripe is with all levels of government who have continually thrown more good money at bad investments to keep this industry alive, under the guise of ‘protecting our national interests’.

As most people in the Geelong area will tell you, Ford closing isn’t really a surprise. Ford in the US have been flagging this for years, but rather than allowing the inevitable to happen, like a guy who doesn’t want to lose his girl, we keep throwing more money at the problem, in the hope that somehow this will change the inevitable outcome and all will be rosy.

Now, with the decision finally made, and Ford having the decency to tell the government that no stimulus or rescue package will help, we can actually move on rather than living with the constant cloud over our head.

Despite this some today are still trying in vane to save a dead horse, claiming we should be reviewing the tariff model to protect Ford. Yep, let’s go back to the glory days of the 80’s and protectionism methods that not only make our industries unfairly competitive, but also penalise consumers at the same time through higher priced cars.

This for me is the central point, for not just Ford but any brand or company that goes belly up. If consumers are not buying your product, you will not have a production line to worry about. Just have a look around next time you are driving, and count the number of Fords on the road. Sure the soccer mums are cruising around in the Territory, but the lifeblood of the local operation being the Falcon is primarily reserved for the lowest form of car, the humble taxi. What’s even crazier for me, is given the Victorian government was looking for a dedicated, proprietary taxi design (a la the London Cab), but Ford rejected this, claiming they made a gas version of the Falcon. OK, just ignore the one life buoy that could actually provide a sustainable future for you.

With a country of just over 22M people, the idea of having 3 local manufacturers in Ford, Holden & Toyota is ludicrous. Not only are they still making products that no one wanted ten years ago, but the overall quality, safety and consumer benefit do not stack up to comparison. We live in a global democracy and if I want my Subaru as it provides all of the features and benefits I demand, then that’s what I’m going to do. I have no yearning to support local manufacturing when the overall quality is below standards, and a large chunk of my tax has already been used to prop up and protect an outdated and non sustainable industry.

So all these people so up in arms about Ford and other companies, need to start speaking with their wallets. Buy the products and get others to do the same, it’s that simple. Sure it’s easier to fill up news print, or get your head on the tele with your view (and then jump back in your Audi, Mercedes, et al) and head home.

So yes, clearly this is an emotional subject , especially for those who are actually impacted, but for the rest of us, and those elected to LEAD our country this is one of the most basic economic theories around: Make sure you’re making a product that consumers want and you can financially survive selling it. It’s that simple. Don’t look for handouts or intervention, just be bloody courageous making great products and continually refine the offer to make sure you are future proof for changes as they come.


Facebook. It’s over.

23 Nov


In terms of current world events this certainly can be filed under #firstworldproblems, but for my world of marketing and more broadly connecting with people it’s kind of important.

As the title suggests, I’ve officially broken up with Facebook. Yep that’s right, cold turkey. Totally switched off. App deleted, annoying emails ignored. Gone°.

Yeah it’s not a huge thing when you think about it, but as a fairly tech connected dude in my 30s who likes to feel like they’ve got their finger on the pulse, you start to realise that the old FB can play a fairly central role for your daily dose of downtime or ‘connecting’ with your so called friends.

So What led to the decision? In a word SPAM. That’s right post IPO I’m sure you may have noticed that the FB user experience has drastically changed, based on the added pressure of now driving shareholder value – so how do they do this? Advertising.

It might sound incongruous coming from me as an advertiser, criticising the role of ads, however for me this is about how they are doing the advertising.

Just as for any form of traditional or new advertising, there is a right way to do it, and the wrong way to do it. Simply screaming your message at people, or hitting people with a message when they don’t want to hear it, or in this case screaming a random, irrelevant message in a personal, social environment is just wrong. If you know when people are open to a message, and more so when your message adds some form of value for them, vs just screaming our message, there is going to be far more chance that folks will be open to the message. Get that message across in an engaging, enjoyable way and now you’re in the zone. So for instance, if as I’m standing in the communal shower at the local pool, worried about getting tinea, I see an ad for Dactarin above the sink, naturally I’m open to the message, and more so that brand is then locked in my mind as the top of mind choice should I find myself in the unfortunate position of having athletes foot.

Contrast that to the way Facebook are advertising. Lets look at the day that pushed me over the edge. As I logged in to my iPhone the first story in my news feed was one of my posts from months ago (more on Edgerank in a minute), then there was an (unauthorised) post from Taubmans paint, something along the lines of “Hey it’s spring. What’s your favourite sort of flower….” Ok. Where to start? Trying to connect the dots here I think the link had something to do with paint colours that match flowers, anyway apart from the craziness of the post, what really annoyed me was the fact that there, amongst my personal connections of friends and colleagues is a brand yelling an unwanted and irrelevant message.

Scrolling down further I then got to the section of “sponsored pages” and there, as has been the case for the last 3 months, are the Sportsbet, Tom Waterhouse and some other forgettable brand insisting that given a FB friend likes this page, then I should blindly click like also. And whilst I have never shown any interest in one of this posts or pages over the past months, there they stay. Like the desperate street walker shaking her booty in the hope that some deviant stops to check out what is on offer. Simply an annoying eyesore.

Finally there are the brand pages, obviously being managed by a brand manager or agency who are obsessed with generating ‘likes’, and no doubt is reporting back to their bosses how amazing it is that they’ve generated so many likes. To continue the sex worker analogy here, this to me feels like bragging about a prostitute who you’ve paid for services showing interest in you. Specifically, paying for impressions to generate likes, or posting inane posts such as “hey it’s sunny outside today. Click like if you like being alive”, to worse still giving away prizes for people to click like is such a waste of effort. Sure there is a time and need to build a community, but my view is you deliver a far better result by actually engaging with fans. That’s right, find out what your fans like and then develop content that is relevant, engaging and ultimately adds value for them versus just shouting a message.

What is the biggest travesty here is that with Facebook, every bit of consumer data is available, therefore this should be the best in class example of perfectly target communications. Back to my case, given I’ve never visited a gambling page, and even after a quick scan of my basic profile you can learn what I’m in to, personalised messages or at least brands and categories that are relevant to my interest would be the most powerful form of marketing. Instead brand are wasting money hitting me with a message that not only doesn’t have relevance to me, but more so really starts to piss me off given the persistent hanging around like a bad smell.

Add to the the crazy, erratic nature of their proprietary Edgerank algorithm that establishes what they want me to see, causes posts to disappear and prioritise these annoying ‘promoted posts’ and what you get is a really annoying product. And for me, you actually get me switching off. Good night.

So you may ask “what has replaced it for you” or where and how do we feed our fix now? Well this all depends on what we are looking for. Sure there are other applications that play a similar role – twitter, Instagram and blogs, but more so no doubt in some kids mind, or a uni share house somewhere, the next big thing is just around the corner. But perhaps the bigger opportunity here is to say stuff it all and actually focus on true engagement and connection.

Now I don’t want to sound all superior or like someone who has just learnt about the benefits of Enjo cleaning cloths, but I’m feeling really good about my decision. And it appears it’s not just me; when I’m telling others about this, I seem to be getting a lot of similar feedback. Perhaps other enlightened folks seem to be coming around to this way of thinking. In the same way that FB stormed to life, that same groundswell can turn just as quickly. So if you’re looking for me, the one place you won’t find me is on Facebook.

°disclaimer I haven’t deleted the profile, purely to allow me to use the login details for websites vs signing up fresh. In my view this is about the value and only use for Facebook.

Giving birth

30 Aug

A big day today for me, the culmination of eleven months of blood sweat and tears as we created the latest campaign for Carlton Draught.

Whilst this has been a long and often challenging process, it really captures the importance of working with a great team – both internally and at the agency, and the persistence to keep pushing to keep ideas alive.

In this case I’m fortunate to work with the best in the business, the collective creative fire power at Clemenger BBDO, incredibly professional account service and a production team who continually make the impossible possible.

Then at my own end, I’ve been in the great position of having the experience and skills of my boss who was the original architect of the brand positioning and more so has an eye for detail unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, plus two eager assistant brand managers who continually ask questions that make you think.

So yes we had the basis to make something good, but let’s not forget every project has its challenges and for us we had a few. A corporate takeover, new CMO, new CEO and an increased scope of pre testing metrics we had to hit, not to mention ensuring we worked within our various codes and regulations, and from the first presentation of the idea that had robbers being chased from the pub with beers – this was certainly a barrier to overcome!

Now the ad is live and we’ve figuratively ‘given birth’ it’s always that nervous time as we wait and see. And encouragingly early signs are good. Sure we’ve tested and tested to make sure punters like it (and they did) but the real test is seeing people watch it and enjoy it. What’s more, in what is usually an incredibly bitchy world of not praising others work, it’s nice to read folks tweeting and commenting that they like it.

At the end of the day that’s all we’re trying to do. Continue to refresh those memory structures for people so they continue to love your brand and consume it. When it makes you laugh it’s an added bonus, especially when you think this will be disrupting people from watching all the drivel that seems to be dominating our TV screens at the moment.

So if you haven’t already, please check it out

When were you last at the coal face?

25 Aug


I had a good day this week. Slightly over the last few months of meetings, powerpoint presentations and edit suites I made the call to get myself and my team out of the office and back in to the trade to see what was cracking in the real world.

Fortunately for me, when I talk about seeing my brand at the coal face, it’s either in a pub or bottle shop and as a result it’s always good fun. How many other industries can you happily pull up a stool next to a punter or a publican, share a fresh pot or schooner of beer and find out how your brand is tracking? It certainly beats my old world of trawling the supermarket aisles or dodgy milk bars and servos!

I took a lot for this half a day at the coal face. In fact it was probably the most important consumer and customer immersion, and general barometer check that I’ve done in the last 6 months. Sure the reams of amazing consumer, brand health, market share and ex factory reports are beneficial, and more so sitting behind the glass of groups is always insightful; but for me there’s nothing better from seeing it in the flesh. Also in contrast to traditional research groups where we incentivise people with cash for their opinions, just talking to folks who are interacting with your brand in their day to day life is immeasurable in terms of its benefit. The other major benefits of this sort of immersion, is that it’s quick and more importantly free. Sure there will be questions on the sample size, and your ability to extrapolate these insights to a bigger picture, however being out with your brand and consumer in this way will give you enough to get moving, and if you need further quantification by all means commission a bigger research project.

Returning from my day in the trade, I had a long list of things we were doing that were good, things that needed improvement and importantly some simple ideas that we weren’t doing. Be that simple things like POS dimensions or the mix of materials you’ve made, to what punters are saying (and doing) about your brand, to more general feedback from the trade – you know the sort of stuff ‘oh someone from your company has finally got out of the office’ or worse still ‘get out of my venue, I hate you guys!’ Luckily my brand doesn’t get too much of the latter.

What surprises me most is how rarely I, and probably you, actually prioritise this time and actually do it. Sure we are all super busy in the day to day roles, and even sometimes we fear the usual ribbing from colleagues who think rather than visiting customers we’re at the driving range working on our swing. Clearly there’s a huge benefit to your own performance and the brand you work on in getting out to the coal face, and if we’re honest, a far bigger sense of achievement vs punching out a critical path or agency brief. So I’m putting it down in writing. Once a month, without fail I’ll be in the trade connecting with my drinkers and the trade. Sure when talking about beer this is a fairly exciting prospect, however the same should apply if you’re working on toilet paper or tomato sauce. Get out from behind your desk and back to the coal face. You might just be surprised what’s happening (and I may even see you at a pub somewhere when you’re done!)

Why don’t more agencies embrace ’tissue sessions’?

13 Aug

I’m currently working through a three way competitive pitch for some BTL work, and it struck me the other day how underutilized ’tissue sessions’ (as the Sydney agencies, or a ‘review of territories’ or similar as we’d call them in Melbourne) are.

When you think about the traditional briefing process, it’s fairly straight forward. As a client I present a problem I’m wanting the agency to help me solve, then we spend a few weeks not talking, schedule a response and then both parties nervously sit there hoping like hell it hits the mark. Sure the agency will have a section in the response restating the brief, as if to hope that by mentioning this again it will magically make the ideas seem more logical, however more often than not it just serves as a good checklist to confirm how far off the brief the ideas are.

Yet perhaps we’re relly missing a trick to not only get more work, but more so get better solutions, vs just having to settle for something that’s ok.

Contrast this process with the tissue session. Here the agency takes away the brief, makes sense of the often conflicting priorities, googles some of the acronyms, and hypothesizes what the magical consumer segment 17 is, in the hope the brief actually makes sense. Then they have some time with the planners / strategists to get clear on what they need to do, before having a first pass with the creatives regarding some potential ways to solve the brand issue. Sharing this with the client to get their feedback at this time now enables the client to not only confirm if the agencies detective work correctly unpicked the brief, but more so (and this is the kicker) before too much time and cost is wasted going down different avenues, confirms whether they are on the right path in delivering what the client wants (or will buy).

Sure not every brief requires this, but especially those where it is a competitive pitch, or a new problem, it makes a lot of sense to me to make sure that agency and client agree to a tissue session before the final response. The alternative approach more often not will see the unsuccessful agency reaching for their own tissue as they miss out or lose the job.

Most importantly this isn’t only limited to brands and agencies – I’m sure the same approach can be applied to all facets of business and our life. Ask the questions to make sure you’re on the right track before you go so far down, you can’t come back…

If video killed the radio star, did brands kill the athletes?

4 Aug

So it’s official. The London 2012 games have been a massive case of over promise and under deliver, and no doubt the various sporting bodies and institutes and more so the media will conduct a rigorous review of just went wrong. Sure the athletes that started to believe their own hype, or spent too long reading every tweet and that messed with their mojo whilst they were on the blocks. Maybe they just weren’t good enough when it counted.

But that’s not the point of this post. More so the interesting thing I’ve noticed out of this campaign is the role of sponsorship and endorsement in the lead up to the games, and the negative impact for brand and athlete when things haven’t gone to plan.

Top of the dais has to be James Magnussen and the terrible “Can’t” campaign. Unless you’ve been boycotting the coverage you would have seen the spot – Magnussen running along what eerily looks like the infamous Gap in Sydney known to be a popular place for those choosing to end it all with a dive off the cliffs. As he’s running he is seen to be talking up his chances, before the pesky T comes along and puts doubt in to his head. Unlike real life, the T ends up making that fateful dive off the cliff and James seems all set to dominate in the pool. As we all know now, it appears that T ended up following Magnussen to London and turning “can” in to “can’t”.

Ego aside, I really struggle to understand why an athlete would agree to be involved in such a spot, and more so why a brand would accept such a risky script from the agency. What could you possibly gain from being in a campaign that totally puts a success noose around your neck. Sure if he won we’d be cheering, but for him, not Com Bank, and as history has shown, the ultimate take out of the whole campaign is can’t , certainly not can and neither brand nor athlete win out of this.

Then there is Swisse, a very switched on business, doing some great work and more so propping up many athletes with endorsements. Now for them, I think this is more a case of bad luck, having a spot featuring Cadel Evans with the music track singing “how many times in my life did I feel like giving up?” Usually, given the strength of Cadel the track was a good fit – especially the reprise “But I’m staying strong, ain’t no stopping me”. But alas, after a big TDF Evans was ruled out for being “too tired to compete” so viewers sitting at home watching spot after spot after hearing this news start to call BS on the brand.

Then even before the games there was the interesting case of reigning Olympic champion triathlete Emma Snowsill. Despite some patchy form, you’d expect the reigning champion to be a walk up starter to the games, and Qantas were obviously very confident she’d be there, so decided to use her as a part of their Olympic campaign. So there proudly adorning airports around the country were massive signs wishing Emma luck on her way to London. Unfortunately for both Qantas and Snowsill, due to some ‘subjective’ selective entry requirements, whilst Emma has gone to London, it’s to be a commentator for channel 10, not to win gold.

All of these brands had to rapidly pull these campaigns given the public comment on them and the fact they looked so stupid in retrospect. So not only did it ultimately damage the brand perception but more so it would have cost them money in terms of canceling media or pulling together alternative creative to make the use of the media inventory.

So it seems that singing up athletes prior to the games is a risky business. Sure get it right and it’s a master stroke and you’ll both be heroes, but get it wrong and I’m afraid all you have to look forward to is the please explain from management.

The counter to this strategy, is to sign up the athlete post games, once you know they have been successful. In a previous life we did this with a swimmer now residing in the ‘where are they now files’ named Jodie Henry. Like many athletes, Henry hit her straps at the right time, being the Athens Olympics, and in addition to a world record, she game home with about 4 gold medals (contrast that to the current teams performance!). So awaiting her as the door of the Qantas flight opened was us with a cheque book, and a multi year deal. We were approaching the Commonwealth Games in two years in Melbourne and as a sponsor we wanted a ready made star who could proudly front our chocolate and soft drink brands.

Now besides no obvious brand connection, this was the a gold medal performance in wasted money. Maybe it was a bad sign when the character in the Freddo suit vomited at the launch, but it really hit its high note when we rolled Henry out to a national sales conference to talk about motivation and what it takes to have gold winning performance (selling sugary products??). Her response is still etched in my mind, as is the look of the sponsorship manager and market director when she responded with “For me winning isn’t really important. I just enjoy swimming, but I don’t like competition and training” cue the crickets here, and despite the emcee trying his darnedest to link it back to selling more, it was a lost cause. What’s more her performance at the Com Games in 2006 failed to live up to the hype, and what’s worse the lasting memory most employees had (besides the awkward motivation speech), was that a one tonne chocolate carving of an athlete will always look pretty crap (yes this was actually done – google it!)

So clearly signing up athletes post winning glory is also fraught with danger, so what’s the answer? Clearly there is a powerful role athletes can play for brands. And more so it is a good thing when brands can help give back to support the lesser known athletes with endorsement money to help achieve their dreams.

For me, I think it’s all about the messaging and tone of the campaign. Definitely sign up potential stars prior to them achieving their ultimate success. Not only will it mean you can get in with a better price, but you also have the credibility of showing consumers that you’ve been involved with the athlete in their lead up, and hopefully your product or brand has in some way helped them achieve their success, showing all important relevance of the brand fit. But the kicker for me, is to go softly, softly. Be honest and humble; messaging such as ‘proudly helping on their road to glory” or the like will show consumers you’re not only supporting the athlete, and therefore relevant for the Games coverage, but you also ensure you don’t look overly cocky and only interested in cashing in on their (hopeful) success. The alternative of course is you just make brilliant brand campaigns that don’t rely on athletes seemingly looking interested in your product.