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.

Audience as Characters: the new frontier of #interactivestorytelling

I just wrote an opinion piece for B&T magazine here in Australia on the evolving role consumers are playing in interactive stories. Hope you find it interesting.

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The best brands have always told great stories.  But in the world of real-time social connections, multiple screens and a culture of immediacy, the concept of the brand story is changing.  They’re no longer linear; and they’re no longer told in one sitting. Welcome to the era of interactive storytelling – where audiences become characters influencing the story.

The best brand stories now encourage different levels of participation to achieve maximum impact and scale.  This means designing interactive stories for skimmers (those exposed to the story), dippers (those sharing the story) and divers (those immersing, influencing and advocating the story) is a must for marketers.  Whilst it’s easier to entertain or engage ‘skimmers’, what is interesting is how brands are developing interactive brand stories for the ‘dipper and diver’ audiences –  as these are the most influential groups.

Many brands have experimented with interactive storytelling where the audience becomes the narrator (i.e, Chrysler ‘Steer the Script’, Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’, and many Alternate Reality Games such  ilovebees ARG, The Dark Knight ARG). The other popular strategy has been crowdsourcing the story, where the audience becomes the creator of the whole story. While some brands have done this well (i.e our latest MINI #notnormal campaign in the UK,  Arvo Beers ‘Perfect Lager Project’, Fanta Flavour Lab, The VW People’s Car Project in China, our own digitally customisable London Olympic Mascots) others have missed the mark, (the Raymond Weil’s ‘help design a new watch’ Facebook competition springs to mind) .

But the new frontier for participation branding is putting the audience into the story, as an actual character influencing other characters and the outcome. That is, it’snot just about giving a few people aunique experience (such as the “Best job in the world” campaign) anymore and relying on the online amplification of that (does anyone even remember who won Best Job?), but actually creating multiple stories for the many, democratising the experience so to speak.

To understand this we look to narrative theory – that’s the idea that in any story there are typical characters we identify with – the protagonist, antagonist, foil, mentor, threshold guardian, trickster, minion etc.   If you think about what’s been hot in popular culture, TV dramas such as the Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad (and more recently The Fall, Luther and Game of Thrones) play around with who’s the hero and who’s the villain. While if we look to gaming, we can see evolving storytelling arcs and different role-playing in games such as Bioshock Infinite, Last of Us, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Heavy Rain, Skyrim and Final Fantasy. Narrative theory has even transcended into the music space, with pop band IO ECHO launching an interactive music video ‘Ministry of Love’ that allows audience to control the band through a series of rooms.

So what’s happening at the more ‘creative’ end of interactive storytelling in terms of the role of the audience?

Audience as the protagonist is still the most common approach (e.g. the character ‘Alex’ in Toshiba/Intel’s “The Beauty Inside”), however brands are now playing with more unusual roles – the most famous of those being the audience as foil in Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ and Old Spice’s ‘Man your man could smell like’. The role of audience as mentors to the community is also becoming a useful tool, some interesting examples being ‘Curators of Sweden’ (where Swedes get to manage the countries Twitter account) and Google’s Build with Chrome collaboration with LEGO (disclaimer: I worked on this one).

At Iris, we’ve experimented alot by thinking about audience as threshold guardians of the story, where fans work with each other to inspire or help the protagonist achieve greatness. For example, our recent adidas #hitthewinner Wimbledon Twitter game inspired Andy Murray fans to predict where he would hit a winner during his Wimbledon matches in real time. Fans won prizes if they predicted correctly, but what they were also doing was playing the role of guardians motivating him to Wimbledon glory.

So where’s the white space for brands looking to experiment with new interactive stories? Thinking about audience as sidekick rather than protagonist is an interesting place to start. Imagine audiences feeling like they are working alongside the brand. Also thinking about ‘groups of heroes’ rather than relying on one main protagonist to engage. We know people seek brands that help them belong, so brands with big advocate communities should explore this approach. The real visionary brands will involve audiences as an antagonist or anti hero as they look to create provocative ways for characters to interact and compete with each other.

So yes, the brands with the best stories will always win, however, if you neglect to think about what role your audience plays in influencing the story outcome, you’re missing a massive engagement opportunity.

Digital platform overview: Facebook = ‘Who I am’ VS Instagram = ‘How I see the world’

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There are many points of view online on the different roles of social platforms to consider when developing your social strategy. Clearly there also hundreds of different social & digital platforms, but I thought i’d share a snapshot on consumer uses of some of the main ones, plus mobile & search. Here’s a quick visual to give you a perspective on some of the consumer uses of the major digital platforms, hopefully helping you define how you’d like to use those social platform to create a meaningful relationship with consumers. This was created/built off some work my great colleagues at Iris NYC (thanks Esty :). The key takeout is to ensure you understand different consumer drivers for use of those channels and employ KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) when engaging in these channels. eg: Facebook is primarily about identity creation for the individual (sharing their life, engaging in conversations which build their real and digital identity) whereas Instagram is really about self expression. Different motivations, different brand uses.

20 quick tips on Community Management for brands

 I’m often asked by clients for tips on Community Guidelines for social platforms – particularly how brands can best manage their Facebook communities. Clearly, you’ve got to have an overarching social strategy, which then comes to life specifically for Facebook and other social platforms you choose to leverage. My biggest piece of advice is thinking about how brands can create meaningful interactions that genuinely add value to the community members daily life. There’s nothing worse than a brand trying to ‘be your best mate’ everyday. Anyway,  here are some quick tips on things Community Managers should think about when managing Facebook communities as the conversation hubs for their brands:

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  1.  Ensure you have a clear SOCIAL PURPOSE driving all conversations (Why would someone want to belong to this community?)
  2. Have a clear & consistent SOCIAL VOICE – are you an entertainer, host, deal distributor, enabler, coach etc..)
  3. Build around the HUM (daily conversation off content pillars), SING (capitalize on relevant brand/cultural events) , SHOUT (create max noise, engagement with launches/campaign activity) model
  4. Vary the posts – open ended stuff works best (questions, polls, competitions
  5. Have a maximum of 3 content buckets (i.e: Heineken has beer, music and design as the passion points they generate conversation around)
  6. Employ the ‘Why would I care, why should I share’ test to every post
  7. Influence, don’t try and control the conversation
  8. Stick to the 40/40/20 rule – 40% something about brand, 40% nothing about brand, 20% all about brand)
  9. Focus on Visual content (more prominence in Facebook’s news feed)
  10. Don’t stretch too far from your communities passion points or your product’s sphere on influence
  11. It’s not a product catalogue, don’t push too much product info
  12. Always listen and respond
  13. Treat everyone equally
  14. Act as an educator/ guide on product issues
  15. Provide facts and benefits at the moments that count
  16. Don’t plan too far ahead, allow for spontaneity, topicality & seasonality
  17. Don’t delete negative comments (unless they are personally offensive)
  18. Measure the best days/time of day to post – monitor engagement continuously and report regularly
  19. Always give FB community access to new products/competitions first
  20. Ensure your Risk management process is clear and you can pick up negative comments quickly and deal with them

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.

Creating Brand MWE in a selfie obsessed world #brandMWE

I was asked to speak about teens and social media platforms last week at a youth marketing conference in Sydney and here are some of my notes.

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Essentially, my talk based around the fact that teens are not longer just creating BRAND ME (their online identity), they are carefully curating BRAND MWE where every Facebook update, Instagram pic, Vine vid, self destructing Snapchat selfie is seeking social approval from the crowd. They have selfie obsessed syndrome. Curating BRAND MWE is less about their own self confidence and more about fear of rejection and isolation in the digital world.

Like it or not, the rise and rise of ‘Selfie culture’ has created a need for teens today to live in a world where they are constantly competing for online validation. How many likes can I accumulate? Talking to a bunch of 15yr olds last week, they feel enormous pressure to post the right pic on Instagram. Fear of judgement? Yes. Fear of isolation? Yes. A Need for peer validation? Absolutely. Their self esteems are taking a massive hit at the moment as they are pressured into ‘joining’ in to the banter that’s happens online. They know that their real self offline is nowhere near as exciting as their online identity, but they’re pressured to often do ‘fake’ check ins to prove their worth.

Unsurprisingly, teens want to be on social platforms that are simple, relatively secret from their parents and super fun. It’s their new oxygen. They’re after self expression, creativity, entertainment, recognition, a place to build their identity and of course connect and chat.

Facebook, although the biggest is on the nose for many influential Aussie teens. It’s not surprising, why would they want to hang out on a place where their aunts, uncles, parents are commenting on every post. It’s become a busy school playground and the cool kids always want to go and hang out in the corner. By end of 2013 mainstream youth will start avoiding FB. 

Instagram parties the new meet up

Instagram is hot for obvious reasons, these kids are obsessed by taking selfies and sharing how hot, sexy, ripped, tough they are with the world. They also use it for entertainment. I recently heard of Instagram themed parties that teens are having so they can ‘own’ that night’s Instagram feed and make their other friends jealous.  Unfortunately this is a generation where many of them are becoming more and more focused on ‘posing’ rather than ‘doing’  stuff. 

Self destructing selfies mean less pressure

 SnapChat is the hottest new photo sharing app that teens are taking up. An app that lets users send quick, SMS-like messages, which can include candid photos or videos that (supposedly) disappear seconds later — “never to be seen again.” Unless you take a screenshot. Once again it’s simple, fun and most adults don’t know about it. They see it as a bit of fun spontaneity, instant gratification. You take a photo (selfie) share it, and once people view it disappears within 10 seconds. One of the reasons why teens love Snapchat is they don’t feel the need to spend hours ‘altering an image’ like they do on Facebook or Instagram. They feel they can be themselves. Many parents are freaking out about Snapchat and the impact it will have on the sexting epidemic.  

6 seconds of Vine Fame

Brand MWE is also built by ‘long photos’, and teens are starting to get into the new app Vine. Posting 6 second vids of them in action. This app taps more into the performing side of teens. It’s no longer 15 secs of fame, it’s been squashed down to 6 seconds of fame. Another example of bite sized nibble content these teens are after.

 Be yourself on Tumblr

Tumblr is quickly becoming the de facto teen social network. It’s all about creativity and self expression without the prying eyes of parents.

They like it its celebrity and vertical (politics, music, etc.) outreach and varied post formats. Teens love it for its anonymity of and lighter emphasis on follower counts as compared with Twitter. “Even if your mum is on Tumblr, you don’t have to follow her, since there’s no requirement to use your real name. You don’t even have to know that she’s on the site,” They feel they can disguise themselves more than on Facebook or Instagram, without fear of being stalked.

 So that’s a quick look into the social platforms that teens are using to help curate BRAND MWE. They’ll be on to something new within 2-3 months so I’ll be updating this post. The latest self expression app is Pheed. Word not in on whether that will kick off.

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.

Step Inside the Circuit: with Lewis and Jenson

Our latest work for global client Johnnie Walker’s sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren F1 team.  ‘Step Inside the Circuit’ is a branded content platform following Lewis and Hamilton as they give us a glimpse into the amazing world of F1 and the rockstar lifestyle attached. What I’m really proud of is the fact that we release this content within 24hrs of the actual race – ensuring it’s contextually relevant and exciting. Well done Grant Hunter, Paul Gage and team at Iris Worldwide, Singapore. Onwards and upwards

Brands scramble over Google + Brand pages launch

My planning colleague Locky and I put together this short piece on Google + Brand pages and implications for brands. Note: We both work on the Google account here in Australia, however we’ve written this independently.

Previously only open to personal profiles, Google+ has today opened access to brand pages. While they share many similarities, Google+ differs from Facebook in that users can intuitively control who has access to what information by dividing contacts up into ‘Circles’. Other features such as YouTube integration, video chat ‘Hangouts’, ‘Sparks’ content updates and +1′s for search rankings all leverage Google’s massive ecosystem. Brands will definitely be looking at leveraging the ‘Hangouts’ feature allowing consumers to have video conversations with employees, brand ambassadors etc.

 

 

The first and most urgent thing for brands to do is to claim their brand page name (+brand). While there are authenticity measures in place around this, it is essential to avoid domain squatters down the track. This can be done here.

 

Best practice for brands on Google+ is still a relative unknown. Functionality remains limited with a lack of applications (compared to Facebook) but photo, video and wall functionality are very similar to Google+ personal pages and what we have become used to on Facebook.

Examples of early Google+ brand pages can be seen at

Burberry

Cadbury

Pepsi

 

Google have also set up their own Google+ Your Business page for more information.

 

We recommend brands create their page ASAP and clearly set expectations in the ‘About’ section or in a post about how the page will fit into their social ecosystem. This may be as simple as stating that ‘Our Google+ page is currently under construction and we’ll be sure to let you know when we’ll be available to chat’ or ‘Google+ will be home to our photos and videos for now but we can help with any of your queries at [link].

 

It’s also important to note that there are no costs in setting up a page and that Google+ global usage is well over 40 million and growing. Given the size of the wider Google ecosystem and the potential for brands in terms of SEO, offers, analytics and more, it makes sense to claim your place now.

Further reading on the importance of Google+ for brands can be seen at AdAge and Mashable while Google’s promotional video can be seen here.

 

Generation E (Empowered) – @davidjoneshavas on the power of young leaders

My old boss,  good friend and inspirational leader David Jones, CEO of Havas/Euro RSCG Worldwide (@davidjoneshavas) talks about how technology, particularly the social revolution has ‘empowered’ youth globally to get involved in changing the world – taking down regimes, building brands up etc. Lets call them Generation E as i think ‘empowered’ sums up the power they now have due to their global connections.

82% of young people today believe they can change the world for the better, an amazing statistic and a nice counter to many peoples view that Gen Y and Millenials and completely self absorbed.

A generation that is incredibly smart, knowledgable, and above all responsible. This is a generation that will probably want to be remembered as how they left the world a better place, what they changed and the power of their social connections to influence & affect change.

The most interesting point in this video, I believe is this concept of leaders of today providing ‘mutual mentoring’ – where leaders are mentoring down as well as up. The most progressive companies, governments, organisations understand how influential Generation E can be.