Forget what you know about luxury marketing

A little bit blingy???

A little bit blingy???

I was recently asked by Marketing Magazine Australia to write about the new codes of luxury marketing. Here’s my viewpoint on how luxury brands need to think about engaging the neo luxury consumer.

How do you be exclusive, sell the dream, retain the magic and mystique, craft the message in an area of transparency, open access and democratic sharing? These are the fundamental issues facing luxury marketers today.

The next generation of younger multi-channel luxury consumers are rising in influence, seeking demonstrations of discernment rather than badges of bling. Luxury is no longer about outward displays of wealth, it’s a state of mind, with self-fulfillment trumping traditional status symbols. Here are my emerging codes of luxury marketing worth thinking about:

  1. Provocation over poise

Whilst superlative storytelling has always been the bread and butter to create desire for luxury goods, brands now need to look to new more provocative brand archetype to cut through and engage. Jaguar’s latest ‘Villains’ #GoodToBeBad campaign has successfully positioned Jaguar as an alternative Anti Hero in a stuffy luxury car world.

  1. Timely beats timeless

Luxury brands need to think about how they are offering cultural value in real time. Thomas Pink in the UK recently launched their ’90 minute service delivery in London’ to fix dressing woes. 

  1. Making exclusive inclusive

More than ever, people want to help craft the narrative of a luxury brand. Brands need to think about hey they involve people in interactive stories at all stages of the product and marketing process. Burberry’s famous Art of the Trench project and Mont Blanc’s Beauty of a Second are best practice here.

  1. Living is more than owning

The era of Experiential Luxury means status and social currency is derived through engaging in unique and rare experiences often powered my immersive technology. Innovative examples include the Mercedes Benz Travel program in China and our Johnnie Walker Blue Label Gallery .

  1. Personalisation over conformity

Luxury consumers are craving hyper personalisation at every touch point, so luxury brands need to think about how their products and experiences are delivering more personal moments for people.

So luxury marketers need to tear up the traditional marketing toolkit, cleverly leveraging the myriad of digital channels and tools at their disposal to demonstrate discernment rather than blast them with bling.

UNICEF Change For Good: Save a life with the power of 5

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Am so proud of our teams work to launch #5Fund – an initiative for UNICEF’s Change for Good partnership with Qantas. To drum up domestic donations here in Australia, we’re honing in on the power of Australia’s most useless coin, the 5 cent piece and dramatising how powerful your loose change can be in saving the lives of kids in need around the world Please share and donate at 5fund.org.au

How to engage the A-D-D Generation with #LifestyleHacking

A recent piece I wrote for Marketing Mag column with the lovely Kat Edwards from KontentedImage

A screenshot from one of our iris Worldwide presentations courtesy of our guru CSO, Sammy Noble.

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Today’s digitally savvy Millenials have been termed the A-D-D generation, constantly flipping and flopping between jobs, digital devices, having attention spans the size of ants and being brand flirts. It’s not surprising given they’re dealing with 60 million Instagram pics being posted daily, 200 hours of YouTube video content uploaded every minute and 30 billion pieces of content shared monthly on Facebook.

Marketers need to understand those born after 1995 have been forced to develop a finely tuned editing and curating skills to process the endless streams of content bombarding their screens. How they absorb information in the networked world has fundamentally changed.

Today’s Millenials live on a diet of quick fix information nuggets where their memories are becoming hyperlinks to information triggered by hashtags, Instagram pics and Snapchat one-liners. When it comes to content they take a quick glance, sort it, and tag it for future reference. Forget multi-taskers. They are super-taskers.

So how can marketers engage the A-D-D generation?

In todays networked, post modern world, the biggest influence on youth patterns of thought and behaviour are their everyday experiences and social milieu. Their participation in the world around them is the key guide for marketers.

So the role of brands today is to ‘hack’ into and become more of an intrinsic and visible participant in the flow of their lifestyles. I call it ‘lifestyle hacking.’ Here are 5 principles for successful lifestyle hacks:

1. Design distinctive and instinctive interactions

Where milliseconds matter, moving beyond bland consistency, marketers need to focus on visceral, interactive and detailed experiences at every encounter creating distinctive and instinctive interactions.

2. Practical magic

Think about turning life’s pain points into little moments of pleasure and delightful discovery. More than digital utility it’s building in lots of sticky details. The Uber app is a great recent example of this.

3. Tribal identity

Baking in meaningful signs of tribal belonging and affiliation with groups of others to help frame their social identity is key. Our MINI UK #notnormal platform moved beyond the metal to celebrate the inventive relationships MINI owners had with their cars.

4. Social currency beyond WOM

Making your brand a unit of social currency, not just your branded content is the new centre ground for marketing. How do you always stay abreast of the zeitgeist and be part of the emerging shift to the collaboration economy? Online thrift shop ThredUp.com is kicking goals here.

5. Immersive connectivity

Millenials crave connectivity and they love 4D immersion. Why else would Facebook buy virtual reality company Oculus Rift? Look for new ways to create brand experiences leveraging accessible virtual reality.

#Allundefeated in 2013: adidas celebrates All Blacks undefeated season with topical social content

 

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Proud to say I drove this idea with my Regional Creative Director partner in Singapore, Grant Hunter :) Idea cracked late on a Thursday, presented to client on a Friday and live late Sunday evening. Awesome effort by our team and the great folk at adidas and the NZRU for championing this piece of social content.

adidas has been a key partner to the world’s greatest team, the New Zealand All Blacks for over 15 years. The 2013 season has been an epic one with the team sweeping all before them, winning 13 games in a row. After the 13th win against England it became a reality that the team could go undefeated if they were to beat Ireland the following Saturday in Dublin. Knowing there would be massive social buzz if the AB’s did beat Ireland, we asked ourselves the question, ‘How could adidas help celebrate the All Blacks first undefeated season in the professional era tapping into the live conversation around the victory’. This was the perfect op to be a partner, not just a sponsor.

 ALL UNDEFEATED IN 2013

 To celebrate the 14 wins, we decided to change the www.allblacks.com URL to wwwwwwwwwwwwww.allblacks.com – with each ‘W’ signifying an All Blacks win. We created both a Facebook timeline cover and social content for the All Blacks Facebook (2.1m fans) and adidas Rugby Facebook (148k fans) pages.   Within minutes of the victory against Ireland on November 23rd,  the new URL was posted on Facebook, Twitter and as a major news story on the All Blacks website generating high levels of engagement and brand love for adidas. 

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The idea massively tapped into the international buzz around the All Blacks 14th win. Within 24 hours of posting the idea reached well over 2.2m fans online. We had over 19k visits to the website, over 8k likes and 1,100 shares on the All Blacks and adidas rugby Facebook pages with active social engagement reaching another 180,000 people.  The idea was also retweeted almost 900 times on the All Blacks and adidas UK Twitter pages reaching another 100k people. Zero media spend and an example of creating relevant social content that rode the wave of a topical event, in this case a victory to be proud of. 

Interesting Stats:

- 90% engagement in first 12 hours of posting
-Reached over 2.3m fans in a single day
-Most shared branded content on the All Blacks Facebook page
-Most retweeted brand tweet on @allblacks Twitter page
-Facebook Engagement rate of 14%
 
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Hansel & Gretel Effect: the hidden trail of digital breadcrumbs #m360 presentation

Yesterday I spoke at the Mumbrella 360 #m360 conference in Sydney and I thought I’d share the speaker notes. The topic was social media and youth and I decided to talk about the concept of ‘digital breadcrumbs’ and how youth are expressing themselves and evading parents using social media tools……

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Brands have and will always be playing catch up with youth culture. They’re always trying to stay on the trail.

As we all know, we’re all leaving traces of our presence across the internet, whether that be through social posts, sharing pictures and videos, or just surfing the web whilst signed in with Google. Think of these as ‘digital breadcrumbs’. So how are digital breadcrumbs affecting the social media behavior of the Internet’s most prolific sharers.. youth (specifically 16-24yr olds)?

I call it the Hansel & Gretel effect, the ways youth are both expressing themselves on social media platforms but also evading parents, marketers when leaving their digital breadcrumbs.

Today’s teens are constantly crafting and curating their online identity. This isn’t a new concept, but the explosion of new visual social platforms like Instagram has turbocharged this behaviour.

Our (Iris Worldwide’s)  recent Planet Hyperconnected study looked at the digital breadcrumbs of 6,000 18-24yr olds across 6 countries including Australia. Amongst other things, we found the average teen is consuming, creating and sharing content for up to 13hrs a day. Yes more than half the day. So they’re creating and leaving a hell of a lot of digital breadcrumbs.

So what are some of the digital breadcrumb themes (both good and bad) we are picking up on right now?

Firstly, we’re seeing the onset of Selfie Obsessed Syndrome – teens spending hours posing for the perfect selfie, or altering it on one of the many free photo editing aps. This is a behaviour that’s celebrity fuelled but also has permeated from youth subcultures driven by fashion and also sports for boys.

Whilst brands have moved away from a focus on image to reality/transparency over the past 5 years, teens are going the other way.

They are trying to create an idealised version of themselves to boost self esteem.

It’s not all fun and games though, there is a real INSTAGRAM- PRESSURE to look your best all the time and have a ‘perfect life’. We’re seeing many teens talk about ‘faking’ checkins at parties or festivals, as they feel the pressure to be seen in the right place.

They’re seeking approval by asking their friends to rate them #hotornot and #rateme on their posts as well as uploading selfies to judgement sites.

Their self esteem and confidence are increasingly being defined by how many likes and comments they get. When you’re a LIKEAHOLIC it’s a constant contest putting an amazing amount of pressure on your appearance.

This girl who we spoke to loves the fact that she gets up to 100 likes when she posts a selfie..for her it’s clearly a sense of validation and confidence.

However, the flipside of the positive validation is that there is an undercurrent of teens with body image issues as their selfies or pics are not perceived to be making the grade.

A week doesn’t go by when we don’t hear another story of a teen committing suicide following a relentless Facebook Bullying campaign by her classmates.

 INSTAGRAM PARTIES

A little cultural trend born in Australia (to my knowledge)

Forget hanging at the local Macca’s or skatepark. We’re seeing Pop Up social media takeovers in the form of Instagram Parties.

Teens getting together, having a party and trying to post enough content to effectively take over Instagram for a couple of hours… Their plan is to #ownthenight

In an era where everything is shared, do teens really give a shit about privacy and do they worry about the ramifications?

Well a global study by Device Research for the Young People’s Consumer Confidence Index found that 68% of 16-24yr olds are not concerned that their social media behaviour could harm future job prospects.

However they are only really concerned with the NOW and those with immediate power over them.

Think about when we were growing up, teens have always wanted privacy – in our day it was our bedrooms with  “no parents allowed” hanging on the door.

For todays youth– the motivations are the same – they still want a place to express themselves away from Mum and Dad, but now it’s a digital hideout instead. They want a place they can call their own and talk their own language.

Comparing todays youth with older generations;

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Their photo albums are now on Instagram

Their MTV are YouTube playlists

Their tapes and CDs are now spotify playlists

Their loveletters are now short sharp Snapchats

Their diaries are Tumblr pages

Their posters are now Pinterest pins

Their playground gossiping happens on facebook…  or at least it did…

Teens still crave privacy, but now Mum and Dad and unwanted friends are now on Facebook following their breadcrumbs.

It’s no surprise that today’s youth are spending less and less time on Facebook. I’ll go so far as to say there’s a movement off the platform by Aussie youth, following the trend from American youth.

There are simply too many chaperones at the party. The average age of a new user is now 47. So teens are getting out of there

So where are they going? Places Mum and Dad won’t find them like Instagram and Tumblr and places where they’re leaving fewer breadcrumbs.

Snapchat is the mobile app of the moment for youth … posts, pics and videos are sent and then selfdestruct within 10 seconds. They use it for meaningless fleeting interactions. It’s either silly selfies or sexting. Youth see it as failsafe way to share, communicate and interact without ever getting stung by mum and dad. As one teen said

‘It’s a way to connect with friends when you don’t really have anything to say.” Anonymous teen

However literally this week sites such as Snapchat Leaked and Snapchat Exposed  have popped up where people are screen grabbing naughty Snapchat pics and sharing them.

 CODED BREADCRUMBS

Another new behavior we’re seeing is youth leaving “coded breadcrumbs” online.

Teens are doing this by creating and sharing Cryptic Content as a form of privacy protection in the digital age. Academics call it social steganography where they control the meaning of content.

This is content that has layers of meaning, and hidden messages. To the untrained eye it can look like an innocent, vague facebook post, insta pic or vine video, but to those that know the inside language, it has pointed meaning.

Pew’s recent study on teens social media habits found that 64% of teens admit to using inside jokes and subtle cultural references to hide what they’re really saying.

As Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd states, ‘The more they share in public, the more they are hiding in plain sight

A recent example of a brand that’s tapped into cryptic content by creating a new language with hidden meaning is Puma with their Dance Dictionary.

So marketers today must be highly perceptive and agile, able to quickly spot and act upon the digital breadcrumbs the Hansels and Gretels of today are leaving behind them.

I think there are several types of brand action to consider when engaging youth in the social space:

CURRENCY

Start with what will give teens social currency in the digiverse, conversation is king. It requires shifting the participation focus from message to cultural relevance that will get people talking.

Brands need to act at the speed of culture, real time marketing is an imperative  – think like a newsjacker,  being able to tap into relevant cultural memes or events and respond with social ideas at speed. At Iris we call it Urgent Genius and creating conversational currency must be a key tenet of your marketing program.

CURATE

Trying to navigate through 13hrs of content a day is hardwork, at a minimum brands need to play the role of curators. Think less about what content you can create (remembering Youtube cops 72hrs of new content every minute) and how you cab make their life easier by being a curator.

Aggregating, organising and sharing ‘best of content’ created by others to add context, narrative and meaning to it.

Coke’s doing this really well at the moment.

 CHALLENGE

Todays youth get a kick out of discovering the underlying meaning, and knowing what others don’t. Challenging youth to discover the hidden meanings and mechanics through gamification. Motivating and then rewarding them for deciphering ideas.

Our Iris team in London recently launched Adidas NEO fashion label using Justin Beiber, our ‘Find my gold shoes Adidas NEO’ idea generated participation by hundreds of thousands of Beliebers, with reach social reach to over 300m people on Facebook. If the reward ‘Bringing Justin the gold shoes you found online’ is motivating enough, people will participate in droves.

 COLLUDE

Finally and most importantly we need to continue to look at ways in which we can collude with youth. I purposely use the word collude over collaborate as I think collaboration is the most overused word in marketing. Collusion is much more about giving youth something special, making them feel like they have the inside track, letting them put their fingerprints on ideas so they can share as their own…in secret without broadcasting to their parents..just to their friends that will give them cred. It’s a word shift, but one I think is critical.

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So yeah it’s harder than ever to keep up with youth culture, but understanding the digital breadcrumbs and the needstates is the key to engaging youth in the social age.

Day 2 SXSW 2013 Highlights: Peepculture, Digifrenia & Hacksessions

As I boarded the 26hr flight from Sydney to Austin on Thursday I promised my fellow Aussie SXSW’westers that I’d avoid reporting on buzzwords in my daily B&T posts. It’s Day 2 and I’m about to break that promise. Sorry guys.

SXSW really kicked into gear today, heavyweights like Al Gore hit the keynote stage, but it was actually the smaller presentations that were worth the painful queues.

OK, three thoughts to take out of today: Hacksessions are the new brainstorms, Peepculture not pop culture is where youth are at and brands needing to Design for Digifrenia. Bare with me as I explain.

Hacksessions are the new brainstorms

First off this morning was a fascinating panel talk called ‘Can u hack it’ by Big Spaceship, covering how digital agencies are now tapping into Hacker culture to come up with new ideas/services to business problems. It’s rapid real time prototyping of ideas that break the status quo system. The big question of the session was the difference between 24hr Hacksessions and brainstorms.  The key difference between a Hacksession and a brainstorm is that the former is absolutely focused on the ‘making of something real via rapid prototyping’, rather than abstract thinking on post it notes. Big Spaceship for one, are using Hacksessions as their chemistry sessions in new business pitches. Rather than spend $20k+ and loads of strategy/ creative time, they’ll go into a client for a day and run a Hacksession with a client, taking a team of multi discipline thinkers; coders, designers, strategists to crack a problem. Agencies running 24hr Hackathons for clients with low budgets has also been extremely valuable for making lean budgets work harder. Even Al Gore, in his ‘The Future’ speech said ‘Our (USA) democracy has been hacked’ referring to role of big business in hacking the system. Marketers bring The Hack into your business (it’s not just for geeks) for rapid business problem solving, banish the brainstorm.

From Pop Culture to Peep Culture

My passion for youth marketing and ways brands can connect with digital natives led me to the session on ‘How Peepculture hacked your brain’. Despite being viewed as the ‘Connected’ generation (or GenC as I like to call them), Gen Y and Millennial today are social beings living in a time of ridiculous alienation as ‘checking’ has replaced ‘connecting’. The social revolution has led a shift from pop culture to peep culture, where entertainment is far less scripted and young people are more obsessed with the everyday happenings of their friends entertaining them. Social media is selfish, youth share for themselves, whether it’s for self-expression or self-searching. Yes, it can be overbearing and narcisstic, but every generation has needed self-expression. This one just looks more inward. The other myth that was busted is the thought that young people act willy nilly when it comes to their privacy. Actually, in an era of digital freedom young people crave control of their digitally identities more than ever they just assess the social context very differently to Gen X’ers and Boomers. Brands wanting to connect in ‘Peep Culture’ need to determine the ‘what, how and why’ their audience share in the digital space in order to unlock ways to get their brand in that conversation.

Designing for Digifrenia

Digifrenia was a concept introduced by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff today. Digifrenia or as I Like to call it ‘digitally divided identities’ are being created by all of us. They’re the multiple virtual accounts (on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms) people are created to sustain anonymity and avoid being judged. It’s a phenom that has been rising to the surface these past months as the plethora of connected social platforms we all belong to, put pressure on how we connect with the world. Marketers need to design brand experiences with digifrenia in mind, ensuring they put special focus on content with  context so the social media selection adds value, not overwhelms.

Ok, enough buzzwords for today. Going to try my luck at one of the many SXSW blatantly brand funded parties here in Austin.

 

 

 

SXSW 2013 Day 1 Highlights

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Just survived Day 1 of South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual interactive conference in Austin Texas that’s known for being the Launchpad for all things cool in the digital world like Twitter.

Before I get into the Day 1 highlights, it must be said that this place is absolutely crazy, with 70,000 people expected to be here over the next four days and every second person claiming they’re a ‘social media guru’, I’ve never seen so many people glued to Twitter as they race to share the inspiration. But, I’ve been warned by a few seasoned SXSWesters to keep my wits about me, sniffing out real digital and social innovation from BS can be the biggest challenge with over 5,000 speakers.

Here are my top 3 highlights from Day 1 action:

1. 3D printing is the next Industrial Revolution

 SXSW is known for amazing technology being released. Today Bre Pettis launched the MakerBotDigitizer 3D scanner, which can scan a physical item like a garden gnome and record its precise 3D rendering. Forget printing objects, with his latest invention, Pettis let’s anyone scan and print physical objects in 3D.  We’ve all heard about 3D printing but this innovation brings amazing new possibilities for brands to create highly participatory and personalized experiences for consumers. As Bre states:

“MakerBot is leading the next industrial revolution, and we are empowering everyday people to make stuff””


2. Think Omni Channel marketing, forget the silos

 The world of mobile is always an interesting discussion topic. Australia has a smartphone penetration of almost 65% so I thought I better check out the OMMA session, ‘Is mobile a branding vehicle?’. The answer. Yes.

Brands need to forget the online vs. offline debate, as people have media experiences, not channel ones and mobile devices are the ultimate access point. Consumers are living Omni channel lives so marketers have to stop thinking in media and channel silos (forget buzzwords like SOLOMO) and start ensuring that brand experiences flow seamlessly throughout. Remember, people don’t watch the web, they participate in it and mobile devices facilitate and enhance that. And when planning content for multiple devices think three things: Personal. Adaptable. Social.

 3. Empowering people in the Age of Damage

 Havas Global CEO, David Jones @davidjoneshavas spoke about the ‘Age Of Damage’ where brands like BP have been brought to their knees via social media backlash. Brands need to shift from a focus on profit to a focus on social purpose. Whilst the industrial revolution empowered companies; the social revolution has empowered people with ability to either pull down your brand or build it up. Brands don’t get to dictate their image anymore, so they need to focus on transparency, authenticity and speed in bringing their social good to the world. They also need to shift from mass communication to thinking about how they can leverage a ‘mass of communicators’ to share and advocate their brands. The Rainforest Alliance, an example of a brand that’s done authenticity and storytelling brilliantly.

 

 And to finish off my day, there’s no shortage of fun to be had amongst the digital craziness. Stumbled across this ping-pong tournament happening at the Hilton Hotel set up by Pongrock. I won a few rounds but was no match for a developer from Brooklyn who tells me he ‘lives for code and pong’. Tune in tomorrow or follow me @danpankraz for more digital inspiration from SXSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change the rules, not the game: the Power of #ParticipationBranding

In 2012, my co- Regional Strategy Director, APAC at  Iris Worldwide,  Paul Gage @gagey501 and I did a lot of thinking around what we see as the future of brand building within the digital & social revolutionImage. At Iris, we believe the best brands of tomorrow will be Participation brands. Below is a thought piece we recently wrote on the power of Participation branding and our take on the 5P’s marketers really need to think about:

If you work in brand consultancy or a brand strategy department right now, you might be a bit worried about your future.  There are a lot of marketers on both client and agency side talking about the death of branding, marketing and strategy.  Kevin Roberts from Saatchi’s has been particularly vocal with his talk at the Institute of Directors annual convention in the UK.    There have been other keynote speeches at Cannes and Spikes in 2012 that promoted the ‘don’t think, just do it’ approach.

The trouble is, this ‘put it out and see if it works’ approach is not far removed from the myopic thinking of ‘build it and they will come’ which led to the vast microsite graveyard.

Do branding and strategy people need to start polishing their CVs?   Well if you’re still hiding behind brand architectures created in workshop vacuums without real people and still believing there’s a single brand essence, promise and big idea that should flow through everything then maybe it’s time to start crawling for recommendations on LinkedIn.

We still need good brand strategy and big thinking.  We just need to change the rules, and that does mean less talk, more listening and more action and more re-action. We need to change the rules by which brands are imagined and behave.

The most loved and effective brands are an intrinsic part of culture – stimulating interest, involvement and advocacy without constant media support. They are authentically valuable experiences that people participate in, not just a string of marketed products and services that they consume in a passive way.

The successful brands of today and tomorrow are Participation Brands.

These brands put participation at the heart of the brand experience – not as an add-on.  They create a gravitational pull enabling them to outsell without having to necessarily outspend their competition.

Being a participation brand means you still have to have a strategic purpose – it’s not a free for all of random initiatives.  However, this purpose is not something that sits on a PowerPoint slide.  It’s a dynamic, evolving and collaborative system embedded into the operational DNA of the organization.  It’s an approach that’s designed to involve customers, stakeholders, fans and beyond through immersive and interactive initiatives that allow people to join in, connect, converse and co-create.

Essentially, a brand is only as good as the sum of their audience’s positive interactions, so value comes from creating an ecology of interconnected experiences that drive advocacy.  But this ecology is designed from a strategic intent that allow the brand to be a part of the fabric of an ever-evolving culture of passions, relationships and conversations, not a fixed entity demanding a pre-determined consumer response.

A word of caution though.  Participation branding isn’t just doing ‘more digital and social’.  Genuine participation brands think content, context, experience and conversations.  This means planning for all interactions and possible participation moments.  Of course technology leaps through multiple screens and surfaces brings multiple opportunities for participation.  We should also develop initiatives for human interactions at events and experiences, call centres or in retail environments.  Technology is an enabler that allows for greater participation in all of these interactions that the brand can have with people and create a cohesive ecology.

Participation branding doesn’t mean trying to get everyone to get deeply involved at all times.  That’s unrealistic.   But people have different motivations that can lead to different tactics. Being useful, driving belonging, enhancing one’s status, rewarding and recognizing my contribution – these are all different motivations for participation and sharing of ideas.

So how do you create a participation brand? Where do you start?  We all know the famous 4P’s of marketing, well, we think there are now 5 principles governing successful participation brands, they just happen to start with ‘P’ as well!

Purpose & Passion.  Believing in something and being willing to make it happen as the way to drive profit and perception.  It’s essential to align with people’s passion points. Being interesting in what people are interested in and making sure your brand has a meaningful role.

Prototype.  Trialing new business models, new initiatives, and not being afraid to bring people into those prototypes and learning on the fly.  This means living at the speed of culture, not the speed of research.  Being in a constant state of beta mode.

Play.  People change their behaviours when they actively get involved and do something.  The principles of play and gaming allow people to see goals and get rewarded.  Marketers need to stop thinking about their brands as static systems, but rather ask themselves ‘What game are we asking people to play with us’ ?  Participation brands let each and every person leave a bit of their DNA on an idea. They leave space for a person to ‘mark’ the experience as their own so they can pass it on as their branded involvement, not the company’s.

Presence & Propagation.  We can’t just be engaging people when it’s convenient for us.  We need 365 days of presence not 360 degree bursts of activity.   In this digital age people actively filter to find what interests them.  So we need appropriate propagation of our initiatives – through advocates, adorers and ambassadors, but also realizing that there is still a necessary role for paid media too.  However, media should be targeted, relevant and encourage participation.

Pivot.  (With thanks to the Lean Start Up).  Great participation brands know that to stay relevant they need to constantly PIVOT and react to what’s happening in culture. Planning for content you don’t create and setting up structures to be able to evolve and adapt your product and campaign ideas depending on how your community interact with them.

Participation brands are not afraid to move on.  Some things run out of steam.  Don’t flog an idea beyond its shelf life.  But equally, remember that marketers and agencies get bored a long time before ‘real people’ do.  You need good reporting, KPIs, benchmarks, measurement and evaluation.

So who’s doing it well?  Of course the titans and icons of Nike, Apple, Google and Red Bull all have participation baked in: Nike’s Fuelband, every Apple product, Chrome’s initiatives with Jay Zee or with Lego and Red Bull with their music  and action sport initiatives.

But what about in APAC and in Australia in particular?

The work we’re doing with Johnnie Walker’s sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1TM team  - the ‘Step Inside’ platform is an example of creating content, experiences and conversation around different contextual environments with different levels of participation.    Branded content videos offer people a low-effort way of seeing what’s happening inside the circuit with Lewis and Jenson.  This is linked to promotions in duty free, bars, clubs and grocery outlets.  Branded events activated through social media allow a deeper level of participation and the opportunities to get really close to the glamour and the action of F1TM with face-to-face conversations with the drivers or the opportunity to drive an F1TM car.

2012’s most successful campaigns like ‘Share a Coke’,  ‘The Perfect Lager Project’ for Arvo beer, ‘BYO Cup Day’ for 7 Eleven and ‘Mobile’ Medic’ for the Australian Defence Force – all had participation baked into the DNA of the idea. All with amazing results.

So, no we don’t think we’re living through the death of marketing, but rather 2013, will be an amazingly exciting time for brands.  But brand consultants, strategists and planners need to throw away their wheels, onions and pyramids.    It’s time for us to leave our ivory towers and get involved with the real world.  It’s time for strategy to participate.

The death of marketing? Not likely: Becoming a #participationbrand

A little thought piece I wrote for Adnews here on my views on what it takes to be a great participation brand in todays social economy. See below:

There are a lot of marketers on both client and agency side talking about the death of branding, marketing and strategy. Kevin Roberts most notably leading the charge.  Plenty of conversation has been generated promoting the ‘don’t think, just do it’ approach at Cannes and Spikes Asia this year. This kind of thinking led to the vast microsite graveyard and I don’t buy it.

We still need good brand strategy and big thinking.  We just need to change the rules by which brands are imagined and behave.

The most loved and effective brands are an intrinsic part of culture – stimulating interest, involvement and advocacy without constant media support. We call them participation brands. Unfortunately in Australia, 80% of brands create disposable interactions, let’s call them passive brands.

Participation brands put participation at the heart of the brand experience – not as an add-on. They involve customers, stakeholders and fans through immersive and interactive initiatives allowing people to join in, connect, converse, co-create and advocate. They create a gravitational pull enabling them to outsell without having to necessarily outspend their competition.

Rather than being closed, static systems defined by generic words on a brand onion, they’re open, dynamic, evolving and collaborative systems embedded into the operational DNA of the organisation.

Being a participation brand means operating at the speed of culture, not the speed of research.  Being in a constant state of beta mode and letting each and every person leave a bit of their DNA on an idea.

A word of caution though.  Participation branding isn’t just doing ‘more digital and social’.  Genuine participation brands think content, context, experience and conversations not just how many screens you can get on.

Participation branding doesn’t mean trying to get everyone to get deeply involved at all times. That’s unrealistic. Understanding different motivations for participating and sharing ideas is critical. Being useful, driving belonging, promoting achievement, enhancing one’s status, rewarding and recognising my contribution.

So how do you start behaving like a participation brand? Where do you start? Asking these six basic questions is a great starting point:

1. What’s our PASSIONATE PURPOSE that makes the world better?

2. What are we doing to PROTOTYPE new business models, new initiatives, and new ways of consumer interaction?

3. What games are we asking people to PLAY with us and the community?

4. How can we help people PROPAGATE their story whether they’re advocates, adorers or the passive massive?

5. What’s our 365 day PRESENCE PLAN mapping when, where, why and how people want to participate with us? How can we be ‘Always on’?

6. How are we PIVOTING to ensure we stay ahead of culture and relevant to our communities’ needs and interests?

So who’s doing it well?  Of course the titans and icons of Nike, Adidas, Coke, Apple, Johnnie Walker, Heineken, Google, Red Bull, Mini and Lego all have participation baked in.

What about Australia?

Recent campaigns like Google ‘Build with Chrome’,  ‘Share a Coke and a song’, ‘The Perfect Lager Project’ for Arvo beer, ‘BYO Cup Day’ for 7 Eleven,  ‘Mobile’ Medic’ for the Australian Defence Force and our Christchurch ‘Discovery Stream’ and Adidas NEO ‘Find my Gold Shoes’ Bieber collaboration  – all initiatives with participation baked into the DNA of the idea. All with amazing results.

So, no I don’t think we’re living through the death of marketing, but rather an amazingly exciting time for brands. It’s time for planners to leave our ivory towers, dump Google as our primary source of insight, banish our brand onions and get involved with the real world.  It’s time for strategy to participate.