Monday, October 28, 2013

can you feel it?

I don't normally overtly pimp the agency work in these pages, but indulge me as I summarise the story of how we took Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony to the heart of Melbourne.

And captured the imagination of the people of the city by immersing them in the experience.


We needed to frame the MSO experience as accessible, desirable and relevant to a diverse mass audience of music and culture loving Melbourne-ites and drive sales of single tickets in 2014.

We knew that the MSO, and orchestral music in general, is often perceived as being inaccessible, elitist or requiring some specialist practical understanding of the theories of music in order to be enjoyed.

So we wanted to demonstrate that you shouldn’t have to know anything at all.

Because it’s something that you feel.

If we could show a mass audience of ‘people-like-me’ immersed in that experience, feeling something together we could democratise the MSO and attract new customers.

We launched their new brand campaign ‘Don’t Just Hear It…Feel It’ and the 2014 program by turning the forecourt at Southern Cross Station into a concert hall…

Last Monday lunchtime, over 50 lucky commuters, from toddlers to the elderly, were able to conduct the 40-piece orchestra themselves, while hundreds of surprised commuters looked on.

Within hours the story was picked up by the national TV news networks (Channel 9, Channel 10 and ABC News) and newspapers.

So what was our strategy?
(channeling John Grant - note for the ad nerds)

Immerse a mass of people in a richly detailed setting.
Make it larger than life, prompting childlike wonder.
Capture that experience and broadcast it to everyone else.

If you've made it this far also check the extended 12" remix.

The campaign launches today. Results to follow.

first thing you learn is you always gotta wait

In 1967 the biggest selling and most popular US album was 'More of the Monkees'. Extremely popular, millions of copies sold.

Also released in 1967 was The Velvet Underground's first album 'The Velvet Underground and Nico'.

The Velvets never troubled the top 100 album chart with this, or any of their subsequent albums, but nigh on every one of the brave souls who witnessed a Velvets performance or purchased the album went on to form their own bands or become painters, or artists of some description.

The 'influence' of the Velvets can still be felt as it permeated right through much of the important music from 1967 to this day. Although in 1967 no-one knew that they would be influential, their influence was only apparent after it had happened.

And looking at the long game the Velvets and Lou ultimately outsold the Monkees.

Lou's Transformer is as much an iconic punk document as anything else of the time, even though it's from '72.

In my first punky band as a teenager the bass player's art teacher force fed us Transformer, along with The Stooges 'Raw Power' and (somewhat out of left-field, it must be noted) The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out and bits of John Coltrane.

Later, as a young art student in 1984 my Velvets album was a permanent 'under the arm' fixture - as a signifier.

I also recall petitioning the art materials shop within the college to stock the first Velvets album, as an essential material for new students, along with their paints and canvas.

The true measure of 'influence' is what happens as a result of exposure to said influence.
How the idea propagates and what people do with the idea, over time.

Lou Reed. March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

There's more to life than books, you know. But not much more.

Has Penguin Classics 'chucked 67 years of editorial rigour and learning out of the corporate window and kowtow to the whims of a petulant pop icon' or is it that 'a single, fixed idea no longer suffices in the modern business'.

My sense is that the latter is closer to correct.

While the release of Morrissey's 'Autobiography' on the Penguin Classic label appears to have offended the sensibilities of certain elements of the literati one can't help wondering if this is a splendid demonstration of a kind of arch detournement from the Mozfather and further fuel to the notion that the quest for, or perhaps preservation of authenticity is but status-seeking/maintaining.

Presumably, for those disgruntled authenticateurs Morrissey is less authentic than Linton Kwesi Johnson, who collected poems have also been published via the Classic moniker.

But for Morrissey it's something of a marketing masterstroke.

Talk about salient, noticeable and refreshing existing memory structures.

Of course his book had to come out on the same 'label' as Wilde et al.
The Penguin Classic in hand or in back pocket is as distinctive a Mozzer brand asset as the hearing aid or gladioli.

And Penguin its growing their brand, attracting those new/lighter buyers again, for whom this tome will partner that other Penguin Classic - the copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray - that they already own.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

inattentional blindness and a plug for @gapjumpers

In their book The Invisible Gorilla, titled after the now famous Gorilla experiment in inattentional blindness (vid below if you're one of the few who have never seen it), authors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons make a point about how experts often miss information that novices will pick up.

In their examples, experienced pilots can often be less likely to notice an unexpected plane on a runway than new pilots who have only landed a plane a few times. Similarly, experienced doctors can sometimes find it harder to diagnose a rare condition than a trainee doctor or recent graduate.

This is because the more experience one has in any given situation, the more one sees similar conditions over and over again.
Therefore one becomes blind (to a degree) to outliers, extremely infrequent occurrences and randomness.

Over time, we (humans) have developed a number of ways of managing choices more easily.
Most commonly we'll raid our existing stocks of knowledge and beliefs in order to manage new choice situations.

If previous similar decisions have involved certain biases and/or beliefs then those pre-existing behaviours will be likely to exert disproportionate influence on future situations.

That's a long way round to this pimp for Gapjumpers.

GapJumpers is a platform that connects experts that need help solving business problems and young people, so that young people can earn recommendations for their skills.


Being recommended, by an industry expert or someone at a company is the fastest way to getting a job, but young people often lack the network and work experience to get recommended. So it helps them gain that credibility.

And from this advertising planner's point of view, the fact of being very experienced means sometimes that one does see similar conditions over and over again, sometimes one does find it harder to uncover fresh insights, or new research than a fresh aspiring planner who has had less time to develop certain biases.

But I'm in good company with these foibles as people from W+K, Ogilvy Sau Paulo, Google, TBWA, ZeusJones have posted challenges and had young planners contribute insights and research.

The Gapjumpers people are, of course, friends of this blog. Have a look at and see if there's a problem you are grappling with that some fresh brainpower might help to solve.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

pablo picasso was never called an asshole (or the futility of authenticity part 2)

When a mysterious and previously unlisted Picasso painting fell into the hands of one of his most serious (bourgoise) collectors, the lucky enthusiast took it to the artist himslf in order that Pablo could authenticate the piece in person.

Unfortunately, Picasso took one look at the painting and declared it an imposter.

Not to be deterred, the hapless collector purchased another piece and, again, took this to the artist for authentication.

Sadly, Picasso again declared that the piece was a fake.

In a last ditch attempt our collecter commissioned a bespoke work, and then proceeded to watch over Picasso himself as he made the painting, in order that he could be sure of its authenticity, by witnessing its creation with his own eyes.

Upon completion, Picasso yet again declared the new painting to be a fake.

The puzzled collector protested 'But I saw you paint this one with my own eyes?'.

To which the deadpan Pablo replied 'I can paint a fake Picasso better than anyone'.

the futility of authenticity

We've recently been reading Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

Goffman is considered  to be perhaps the most influential sociologist of recent times.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - first published in 1959 -provides a detailed analysis of process and meaning in mundane interaction.

By mundane interaction Goffman means; ordinary face-to-face interactions among people in various social situations.

Goffman's method is the 'dramaturgical approach'.

He is principally concerned with the different modes of 'presentation' employed by people and therefore the meaning of each in its social context.

In essence, all human interactions are 'performance', shaped by by environment, audience, and constructed in order to provide others with 'impressions' that are consonant with the desired goals of the actor.

According to Goffman, one's social identity is a series of 'fronts'.

There is no 'authentic' 'self'.

All the world is a stage

Human social interactions are all performances conducted when on-stage, in social situations. Solitary moments - the closest thing to notions of 'self-ness' - being the equivalent of 'back-stage' pre and post performance.

What hope then for brands in finding an 'authentic voice' or being 'authentic'?
Or the much asserted millennial consumer quest for authenticity?

People are aways competing for status. Products and brands are signifiers of that status.

So, even being anti-consumption is still conspicuous, 'authenticity' is simply the new 'cool'
The fatal flaw is that even when one claims remove's oneself from the competition for status in the mainstream you are simply joining the competition for status in a different sphere.

'What? You mean you still actually BUY products? We only share and freecycle'

Sadly, the call for authentic brands, authentic voices is ultimately futile.

All social interaction is intrinsically inauthentic and performance.
In fact the performance itself is the only authenticity.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

masterclass in the construction of situations

According to Debord et al a constructed situation is a ‘moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and game of events.’

A situation is designed to be lived by its participants.
It’s not just ambience, it’s an integrated ensemble of behaviour.
Situations require:

1. A temporary director or orchestrator.
The orchestrator is responsible for coordinating the basic elements necessary in the construction of the situation, and for conducting certain interventions.

2. Direct agents
The direct agents living the situation, who have taken part in creating the collective project and worked on the practical composition of the ambience.

3. Passive spectators
Passive spectators who have not participated in the constructive work, BUT whom can/should be forced into action.

In other words, a denotative lesson in how to do 21st century advertising.

1. Do something first
2. Make it surprising (funny, terrifying etc add your visceral emotion of choice)
3. Then advertise what you have done.

Do the above with skill and creativity, throw in a bit of luck and you might have a hit.
With circa 1million views in under 24 hours this one looks like a hit.

more science plus creativity #littlelesslittlemore

We know that in conditions of some uncertainty (in this case the modification of behaviour or adoption of new-ish behaviours), biases in judgement, and in particular those influenced by the availablity too much or too little information, can lead to less than desirable outcomes.

So, while the execution here, in the current campaign for Blackmore's, seems straight-forward and simple there's a real depth of understanding that makes it so sweet.

Habits are important.
'Little Less Little More' is all about describing how easy to establish new, better habits.
Because habits are more easily established than we believe. Sometimes with only one or two goes.

People are motivated to ‘do the right thing’.
Again, make it easy and fun to adopt and DO the desired behaviour and it will be more likely to happen. You will never think yerself fitter.

We are loss-averse, so the dislike of losses almost always outweighs the liking of gains.
This is compounded by the Endowment effect - whereby people disproportionately value what’s already theirs, so the appearance of taking away perceived 'benefits' or punishing behaviours often causes resistance and can be counter effective. Little less of this is balanced by a little more of that. And most of the little more 'thats' are ones that you actually like.

Most importantly, people need to feel involved and effective to make a changes.
This one is straight out of the psychology of persuasion.
The commitment and consistency effect.
People want to be consistent with what they have previously said or done, so ssk for small commitments first then bigger ones Even better, get them in writing.

The web extension of the campaign does exactly this.

The line goes 'At Blackmores we’re encouraging you to make small positive changes that are achievable and sustainable Choose what you want to do a little LESS and a little MORE of and make your commitment today.'

Finally, the behaviour of other people matters.
Let's have a look at what everyone else is doing then.

Like we said the other AND creativity. What a concept.

aural sculpture

So I made my Beancast debut yesterday with Joseph Jaffe, Jay Baer, Kate Berg and host Bob Knorpp.

Topics discussed were:

RTM And Being Nimble,
3D Printing,
Context vs. Tactics For Wearables,
Where To Put That Content,
and Consumers Avoiding Brands On Social.

Jump over to BeanCast HQ for a listen or better still subscribe.

Thanks again to Bob for having me on. Hopefully we'll do it again sometime.

Friday, October 04, 2013


I don't know how it took me so long to get round to reading Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.

Aside from being choc full of wisdom it's a hoot.

Rumelt describes one of the hallmarks of Bad Strategy as 'Fluff'.

'Fluff is superficial restatement of the obvious combined with a generous sprinkling of buzzwords.

Fluff masquerades as expertise, thought, and analysis. As a simple example of fluff in strategy work, here is a quote from a major retail bank’s internal strategy memoranda: “Our fundamental strategy is one of customer-centric intermediation.”

The Sunday word “intermediation” means that the company accepts deposits and then lends them to others.

In other words, it is a bank. The buzz phrase “customer-centric” could mean that the bank competes by offering depositors and lenders better terms or better service.

But an examination of its policies and products does not reveal any distinction in this regard. The phrase “customer-centric intermediation” is pure fluff.

Pull off the fluffy covering and you have the superficial statement “Our bank’s fundamental strategy is being a bank.”

Thursday, October 03, 2013

science AND creativity. what a concept.

It's interesting to unpack the latest iteration of the Coca-Cola Happiness campaign - this execution appears to be initially out of Amsterdam - from an evidence based marketing standpoint.

If you've followed this blog at all in the last couple of years there's been something of an about turn over time as the point-of-view has shifted from a digital-centric view to one much more influenced by investigations into the science of advertising and how that combines with things like behavioural economics and bits of other social sciences.

One of the key influences in this turn about has been getting to grips somewhat with some marketing science principles outlined by Dr Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia and Director at Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, in his book How Brands Grow.

Dr Sharp debunks a lot of conventional marketing theory and proposes a framework for building brands based on what works in scientific practice.

In a nutshell How Brands Grow identifies that real challenge of marketing is principally about availability – mental availablity and physical availability.

The splendid Coca-Cola activation appears to be an almost text-book example of this practice, in practice.

In the clip you'll see the Coca-Cola truck take-over a grey urban space by creating a pop-up park resplendent with trees, grass and a Coke vending machine. Passers-by are invited to kick off off their shoes and receive a free coke.

The activation seems to match HBG's seven rules for brand growth to the letter.

1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category – avoid being silent.
While always-on is a social media buzzword de jour, real always-on means being constantly being available.
The Happiness campaign (of which this is an iteration) never stops, and hasn't stopped.

2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (communicate how the brand fits with the users life).
This iteration is entitled ‘Where Will Happiness Strike Next?'. Coke brings you happiness. This is how it fits. The emotional outcome rather than a fabled emotional 'connection'.

3. Get noticed (grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the users mind).
Case in point. And watch your mirror neurons fizzing.
This is actually a piece of real social media, a social object. A public intervention that lets people see each other so that they can copy each other.

4. Refresh and build memory structures (respect existing associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy).
The physical cue of taking of shoes and stepping on the grass is a nice little bonus hedonic boost. And you get rewarded for doing something. Attitudes follow behaviour, remember.

5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind).
The coke bottle shaped grass, red everywhere amongst the grey. Happy smiling people using the product. Simple.

6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, whilst keeping the brand fresh and interesting).
One could argue that coherence rather than consistency is better description but again, the brand idea remains the same as it ever was, the creativity is in finding new exciting expressions of the core idea.

7. Keep the brand is easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy eg by targeting a particular group or groups.
Look at the people in the video. Theres no segmentation going on here. Happiness (ergo Coke) is for everyone.
Even the multi-ligual intro indicates this.

So what if it's semi-staged. It's advertising.

Science AND creativity. What a concept.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

pigs on the wing

A common assumption in advertising, based on not much more than that it is simply the most common and available explanation, is that we have to change attitudes before we affect behaviour.

How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one but the lightbulb has to WANT to change. kinda thing.

In reality, however, doing something first makes us feel different after.

It's attitudes that result from actions which lead to explanations which then form beliefs.

The common example being that if one wants to get motivated to get fit then the way to do that is drag yourself to the gym under duress. The doing begets the motivation.

Getting started with action is the hard part, the motivation comes after.

In fact the consistency principle in marketing psychology springs directly from this.

People want to be consistent with what they have previously said or done.

So asking for very small, easy commitments first means that those who participate will be more likely to be receptive to a bigger ask, later.

Knowing this is why we, at Boat HQ, always have a soft spot for action-oriented marketing.

Compassion in World Farming connected an interactive billboard in London to a free-range farm in Buckinghamshire.

Passers-by were invited (at 1GBP a pop) to virtually throw 'apples' at the billboard and trigger a catapult on the farm to throw real apples them to the hungry free-range pigs at the farm.

The 1GBP price point was the nice touch. Not only was there an action/commitment but those effects were reinforced by the addition of the (albeit very small) cash commitment.

Compassion in world farming from shwan hamidi on Vimeo.

good habits, bad habits

“But who are we, really?

Just a bundle of good genes and bad genes mixed with good habits and bad habits.

And since there's no gene for coolness or confidence, then being uncool and unconfident are just bad habits, which can be changed with enough guidance and will power.”

― Neil Strauss, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists