Monday, May 28, 2012

[review] can't/can: talkin' loud, sayin' nothing.

Following its seven day 'teaser' run up, the 'Can't' campaign revealed itself on the weekend and, as just about everyone who was paying any attention predicted, was indeed the relaunch/rebadging of the Commonwealth Bank.

CommBank binned their longstanding agency partner, San Francisco based Goodby Silverstein & Partners, back in February and 'Can't/Can' is the first major effort from M&C Saatchi Sydney who won the account back for Australia as it were.

Whilst every man and his dog in the advertising biz has a view on the executional merits of the relaunch I thought it might be interesting to have a look through a brand innovation lens and chuck in a couple of other thoughts on the overall position of the thing.

Still pretty much the defacto word on brand innovation is John Grant's tome from 2006. The principle hypothesis behind the need for brand innovation being that the nature of communications has fundamentally shifted in the connected age in one simple way.

- From: targeting messages at passive audiences

- To ideas being adopted by (or co-created with) groups for whom they are relevant.

Despite the hoo-ha the 'Can't/Can' campaign is firmly embedded in the former, as we shall see.

The build up of 'Can't' existed initially through the use of prominent billboards with the message 'CAN'T' and the url

Should a viewer be tickled by this the idea was further extended at the website with further oblique 'Can't' messages.

As the week progressed other 'Can't' stunts emerged such as lollipop ladies with 'Can't' on the end of their sticks and a truck with huge letters spelling 'Can't' driving round iconic landmarks in Sydney etc.

If this is starting to sound familiar then yes, you are on the right track.
It's an almost tactic-for-tactic replication of the NAB 'Break Up' intervention from 2011.

More on that in a minute.

On the web the @whoiscant twitter bot seemed to be present in various twitter streams including conversations around The Voice tv show and the rugby, again inserting #cant into the streams with various degrees of relevance, mostly thin.

On Sunday the message then switched to 'Can' with a fairly contrived twitter 'reveal' and a 60sec video fronted by actress Toni Collette reciting a poem 'An ode to Can' reputedly penned by M&C Saatchi around the word 'Can'.

The similarity to 'Break Up' from a tactical viewpoint is very apparent. What 'Can't/Can' principally lacks, however, is an IDEA.

Whilst 'Break Up' took a stand alongside banking customers against the industry, an idea that people could get involved with, 'Can't' seems to be CommBank navel gazing and deep in Mott The Hoople Syndrome territory (ie talking about themselves, to themselves). There's plenty of 'image' but precious little 'innovation'.

The whole campaign hangs off a single consistent 'message' but there's little involvement.

For an idea to spread the intended spreaders need to want it to spread.
If no-one knows what it is, then it's chances are significantly hampered.

Indeed the principle spreaders of 'Can't' were firstly Heritage Bank, then Greenpeace and also ANZ Bank who all newsjacked 'Can't' for their own purposes.

Consequently 'Can't' was therefore a fairly static notion, other than one directional messaging dressed as stunts there were no dynamics or currency to speak of. The lack of agility by either the bank or the agency left it wide open for more nimble competitors or agitators to ambush.

'Experience' was also limited, bearing in mind again that no one really knew what the idea was about.
There was nothing to DO. We were somehow supposed to THINK first, which is a serious strategic miscalculation in this day and age.

How 'authentic' is the idea? It's hard to call on that one, we shall see as the the rebrand manifests itself over time. The actual policies and practices of the bank will dictate that one.

In terms of 'culture' versus advertising then one has to say that it's been 100% an advertising construct, and not a particularly smart one. It's not difficult to imagine the entire campaign being built from the award video submission outwards. Maybe that's just the cynic in me.

Though in fairness one could summise that 'Can' is the germ of some positive value-driven story, whether it will inspire people to take action or bears any resemblance to a truth that CommBank will live and breath remains to be seen.

Overall it seems to be a case of talkin' loud, sayin' nothing, however.

Friday, May 25, 2012

winning the story wars

Here's a inspirational clip, it's a promo for the book 'Winning the Story Wars' by Jonah Sachs.

The message is that 'Brands that tell value-driven stories can change the world'.

We've been believers in the Purpose Idea round here for some considerable time, so this is more fuel to the fire.

Sachs's mantra is Be Interesting, Tell the Truth and Live the Truth.

Contrary to popular opinion the proliferation of social media tools and digital platforms does not make marketing in the connected age more complicated.

No matter how many logo splattered charts and info graphics may suggest so.

It's actually very simple.

Inspire people to take action with positive value-driven stories.

App of the month: PEEK *exclusive sneak peek

PEEK is an iPhone app that allows it's user to share photos that self­‐destruct in 30seconds, and are protected from full screen capture and copying.

The encrypted pictures are viewed in what Peek calls 'torchmode'.

This means the entire picture is never fully visible, the recipient literally only gets a peek through the 'mask'.

To play, simply capture or select a photo from your phone's albums, send the encrypted pic via MMS or email, and Peek will unlock the photo for the recipient for 30seconds so they can have a look.

The great thing about PEEK as an idea is that it obviously exists in response to an existing behaviour. Whatever one may think about the sensibleness of that behaviour, it is clearly a something that is going on. It is difficult if not impossible to enforce any legal measures that prevent private communications from being misused and making it onto dubious Tumblrs and so on, the next best thing is to make it safer.

Because images are never uploaded to PEEK's server they stay between the sender and recipient.

PEEK makes it somewhat safer to play, for those who arre of the inclination, and keeps things private.

Have a peek at PEEK.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

value propositions

I've been in a number of discussions on the nature of value propositions lately. In the agency this debate has been principally fuelled by our current obsession with all things lean and subsequently the ideas of lean godfather Steve Blank.

In a recent article Blank has pointed to the idea that there are in fact only two fundamental value propositions (ie the 'why') available to any brand, company, product or service.

These are:

1. It solves a problem. It is functional.
Things like electricity, toothbrushes, washing powder or paracetamol tablets would often fall into this bucket.


2. It fulfils a human social need.
Human social needs being things like entertainment, connection, friendship and so forth.

Blank argues, and we agree, that the functional value proposition is clearly the lesser of the two in terms of creative potential.

Having a purely problem solving value proposition is also risky, for instance, though not exclusively, for the fact that if Brand Y comes along and can fix the same problem cheaper or faster then Brand X is vulnerable.

Then competing on price is a race to the bottom, particularly if Brand X is also competing on scale.

Whereas there is a huge market for companies that can fulfil social human needs. Facebook, Zynga, Google, Nike, Virgin, Vogue or Manchester United etc etc are testament to this.

As a lens this is useful for quickly evaluating the nature of advertising campaigns.

Which brings me to this current campaign for erstwhile iconic Aussie workwear brand Hard Yakka.

I've noticed this poster over the road on my drive to work over the past couple of weeks and it's irked me but I've not been able to pin down exactly why, but here goes...

The line 'Jeans you won't wear out' seems to me to be so mundane and functional in it's 'value proposition' that I've been scratching my head to see if there's some irony or something that I am just simply not 'getting'.

The double whammy is the kinda subtext which is that - not only but also - you will not wear these denims 'out', in non building site situations such as social occasions, either.

So not only is the value proposition purely functional and commodity but it also goes one step further and negates any potential social fulfillment, or even simply further utility, by imlpicity stating 'problems' that the product will not solve.

I'm all about pragmatism but this strikes me as dull in the extreme.

Of course, the alternative extreme is 'liquid linkage to big fat fertile spaces' but for a 'genuine' brand like Hard Yakka one has to mark this card as disappointing, unimaginative and generally must work harder.

Hard Yakka is a former client at my previous agency, so think of this as tough love.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

the commercial benefits outweigh integrity?

Slightly saddened by the total crushing mediocrity of the miserable quote below from Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston regarding the Glasgow Rangers situation.

As a recap Rangers have come a cropper and been under administration since February following the can of financial mismanagement worms being opened and revelations appeared detailing how the club used non-payment and evasion of tax to obtain an unfair financial and sporting advantage over every other club for at least the last 10-12 years.

Rangers future is still in limbo following the collapse of a take-over bid from American trucking 'tycoon' Bill Miller. Miller had planned a transfer of the club's assets to an 'incubator' company ( a 'newco') while 'issues relating to the existing business are resolved, with the intention of combining the two concerns at a later date' (ie: never)

By rights any newco would be stripped of SPL status and would need to apply for a vacancy in the SFL (the lower divisions body) and then play their way up from the Third Division.

However the integrity of the sport does not seem to be top of the agenda in the boardrooms of SPL member chairpersons.

Someone should point them to the principles of Lean Startup, in particular the chapters about finding a sustainable business model. About learning quickly what works, and discard what doesn't.

The SPL staus quo may on the surface seem to be a product with great features (of which Rangers FC may be asuumed to be one) - but you have to figure out if there is a market for it. Declining attendances and lack of perceived competition due to the domination (by fair means or foul) of Celtic and Rangers, may indeed point to a model that was clearly broken and not actually sustainable.

Kilmarnock chairman Johnston is quoted on the BBC Sport website thus:

"[SPL] Members see the commercial benefits of having Rangers, even as a newco, the clubs are mindful of a sporting integrity aspect but the commercial benefits may outweigh that."

Mindful of sporting integrity? My arse.

Mr Johnson and the other SPL member clubs would de well to heed the old adage 'If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything'.

If Johnson's view is shared by the other member clubs then the race to the bottom for Scottish football has just kicked in another gear.

Monday, May 07, 2012

eu estou sempre soprando bolhas

I remember reading recently, and being somewhat surprised to say the least, about the popularity of long lost east-end bootboy combo - and West Ham United crew - The Cockney Rejects, in Brazil, of all places.

Apparently Stinky Turner and the boys are the toast of Torcidas organizadas, and West Ham tops are de rigeur in the punk rock clubs from Rio De Janeiro to Sau Paulo.

This phenomenon may or may not be connected to a web application called Demand It! from Eventful.

Demand It! users can 'demand' events, (eg concerts by now obscure east-end Oi-sters) and if they enough support can be galvanised, then they can bring these events to their town.

It's a simple VRM-esqe notion, meaning the fans get what they want by pulling together, reducing the risk for concert promoters (who may, or may not even be involved) and meaning that bands outside of the mainstream (whatever that is in 2012) can find their audience, wherever it may be.

Eventful founder, Brian Dear explained to Fred Wilson aka AVC:

'I remember US bands shocked to discover they had throngs of fans in distant places like Finland and Uruguay and Japan, and so they'd go tour there because it turned out their Demand it! numbers in those places were big enough to get gigs that would be profitable.'

Wilson himself remarks at the end of the article:

'With the Facebook IPO on everyone's mind, the topic du jour seems to be valuations, revenues, and profits. But the most impactful thing about social media is not the dollar value of these platforms, it is the people power of them.'

Venha sobre vós ferros.

which agency knows the 'brand' best?

One of the conundrums when making the switch from big agency land to small agency land is realising that the business development boot has landed squarely on the other foot.

In my big agency days I quite happily trotted out the following statement to clients who's account was with said big agency [me], but whose heads were occasionally being turned by the advances of smaller boutique or specialist agencies who had a sniff of one or more parts of the client's marketing budget [them].

'We [big agency] understand the brand. Why would [client] risk handing over any part of the marketing to [small agency]? They don't get the brand.'

The reality of this statement, looking at it now from the challenger viewpoint rather than the incumbent viewpoint, is that it is utter tosh.

If the brand manager and the big agency are the only parties who 'get' the brand, who 'understand ' the brand, then clearly they have not been doing their jobs properly.

If they had been doing it properly then everyone should understand the brand.

Everyone should be clear on the values, meaning, purpose, image and voice of the brand.

If they - brand manager and incumbent agency - have been doing their jobs properly then there can be no doubt about what the brand idea is, so the door would therefore open for any agency to have a valid point of view on how those values, meaning, purpose, image and communications should best be expressed.

In this scenario then, it's clear that best relationships, people and then best strategies and ideas should win.

For [big agency] to claim that the criteria for keeping the account is that they are the only agency to really understand the brand, is the best case I've heard for them to be fired, immediately.