Posts filed under ‘strategy’
Apologies for the recent silence but I’ve been busy trying to get my head around a new client.
This particular organisation and it’s challenges has required speedy generation one of those Planner’s To Do lists where the short term and long term To Dos are very similar, but the urgent stuff will have to be done based on gut instinct, while the medium term stuff has the luxury of giving me enough time to do some research and base decisions on actual proper insight.
It’s going to be very interesting seeing if my gut instinct is anywhere close to what the research turns up.
And all this short term vs. long term malarkey has got me thinking a lot about testing. Russell wrote a lot in 2007/8ish (particularly here and here) about being always in beta, a habit he says brands (and their agencies) have to get into in order to operate in this blurry, unpredictable world.
picture nicked from Russell’s blog, when it was Howies t-shirt of the week
Russell’s thinking was mainly around agile brands that keep pushing lots of new ideas out there and turn any mistakes into opportunities. I suppose it’s the ‘let’s try something on a bit of a small scale test and see if it works’ approach. But I think more old school testing, i.e. ‘did what we just did actually work and how could we do it better next time?’ still has a massive place too.
The world of DM has been happily testing and reviewing/evaulating format, creative and messaging for years and years in order to find the most effective mailer. And the online media lot have been giving good spreadsheet about what did and didn’t and might and mightn’t work ever since someone invented display ads. You’d also hope that media planners would be just as interested in what was working / might work hardest as what the black box media planning software said would be most effective.
But I’m not sure that cross specialism, multi-agency teams servicing a brand have sat down together often enough and rationally discussed what has and hasn’t worked in the past – and what might be worth having a go at in the near future.
With several agencies and freelancers all working on his brand, Mr Head New Client has recognised my bossy streak and put me in charge of all multiple-agency-client meetings. Getting the client team and all their agencies to sit down and talk about what has and hasn’t worked and what might be most likely to work in the future has already produced a surprising amount of honesty – and some ideas that might not have made it onto a traditional marketing plan, however short term or long term it was.
But this approach has also required me to regularly chip in to remind everyone that just because it didn’t work last time, we shouldn’t entirely discount it. Because the problem with something not working is that it’s very rare you discover exactly which element didn’t work and why. The only thing worse than no data is misleading data – and misleading data means missed opportunities.
So I went to see Frankenstein last night, as part of National Theatre Live, the idea being that instead of schlepping down to London and forking out megabucks for a theatre ticket you can watch the show at your local cinema instead.
It’s a genius idea really – if your ‘product’s’ audience is constrained by geography just find a new distribution channel. And even better you could conveniently restructure your ‘product’ to encourage a repeat purchase, in this case Benedict Cumberbatch (himoff Sherlock) and Jonny Lee Miller (himoff Trainspotting) alternating the roles of Frankenstein and his Creature. I saw Benedict as the Creature last night, but if I hadn’t gone and booked focus groups in for the reversed repeat performance in a fortnight I’d be on the phone now trying to get seats.
And on the same theme of ‘try something different’, I’m off to Kirkstall Abbey on Saturday evening to watch BBC3’s live re-imagining of the same story as Frankenstein’s Wedding. This is an even more cunning approach as they’ve persuaded 12,000 of us to turn up as audience/extras on the night – thus adding 12,000 to the viewing figures as well as creating loads of online chatter.
12,000 extra viewers might not sound like much, but if you consider that last Saturday BBC3’s most watched programme was Family Guy with an audience of 623,000, even small gains start looking worth chasing. Add in the friends and family effect and that you can’t really escape buzz about the show in Leeds this week and at least they’re going to see a serious regional uplift in Saturday’s figures.
Two very different approaches and if we’re being fair I think both have essentially noble intentions to engage new audiences. It’s just a bit weird that they both entered my life in the same week.
‘If it was my money I’d…’ has to be one of my most over-used client-meeting phrases. But there’s a good reason why – especially when you’re dealing with Outside London sized marketing budgets it’s easy for clients to try to be all things to all media channels, and master of none.
I’d always advocate for doing one or two things brilliantly rather than faffing about and doing lots of things not very well. I’m not saying you can’t try lots of new things and be always in beta. I’m now a big fan of Russell Davies’ Idea Buckets, which are vague brand ideas that accommodate all sorts of other, often contradictory thoughts and allow you to try lots of stuff and see what works.
But you can try lots of things within the confines of a few media channels, or aimed at a specific target audience. It’s when brand owners want TV, press ads, DM and PR on a five figure marketing budget that I start to get nervous. Or there was the time I saw a creative brief that under target audience simply said “Anyone. They’re desperate”.
In almost every agency credentials meeting I’ve ever been in a Process chart has been pulled out. You know, the ‘our unique approach to reaching marketing solutions’ chart that renames every process, procedure and department to bring it all in line with the particular agency’s positioning.
They come in all shapes and sizes, from flow charts, road maps and triangles to butterflies and I even once saw an agency Process visualised in cartoon form as a bunch of agency types hanging off a motorbike, display team style.
Some clients seem to like buying a Process, rather than just a team of talented and experienced people. I suppose it’s something they can use to help justify why they chose Agency X instead of Agency Y and something has to justify all those agency fees after all.
But it strikes me that every single agency process chart ever could be summarised into three simple steps:
If you really want, you could add a feedback loop in, or make the whole thing a continuous circle, but I think perhaps it’s time agencies spent more time talking about effectiveness and less on window dressing.