Frankly, this is just one of the coolest pieces of video I have seen anywhere.
The power of music to transform lives and aid memory and brain function is epic.
At Hill+Knowlton, we spend an awful lot of time ensuring brands have a great story that they can articulate anywhere. This video got me thinking though, does a brand have a soundtrack to go with that story? Can you give it one?
Interesting results published by Procter & Gamble on the frequency of word of mouth brand conversations.
Their research agency, Keller Fay, persuaded 32,000 people to keep dairies that tracked when they had brand related discussions. An overwhelming 91% were reported to occur either in person or on the telephone, leaving only 9% for new media channels.
60% of these conversations made participants “more likely” to purchase, and 67% of conversations were “positive” in tone. That seems like an opportunity to good to pass up.
Digital conversations are far more visible, and they remain online long after the discussion has faded away, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that they seem more important to me as a marketer.
The social optimist in me says that the online environment is ‘closer’ to a point of sale, and retains it importance. The social pessimist in me feels like he always knew that the vast majority of folk aren’t talking about brands online.
I think the key takeout from this for me, is the need for a renewed focus on channel neutrality and ensuring that from the ground up; your product, your offer and your communications are more than just present on a channel in proximity to a genericised consumer. As a brand you need to be worth talking about, especially if you want to end up competing on something more than price.
It seems like every other show being released around the world these days is a reality based concept where people are challeneged to complete big tasks in short amounts of time with the possibility of one of them taking home a large and exciting prize, possibly life changing to boot.
I have been briefed by media agencies across the board, explaning that younger mums are the bullseye for this show format. That they are engaged by characters that they can relate to, doubled down with subject matter that relates to love, cooking or home improvement.
Australian television seems full of reality shows, from Masterchef cooking challenges to renovate this place, they all seem to blend into one extremely similiar mass. It got me thinking, what can be learned by this rush into content by the braodcasters in Australia that we can learn from in creating new content for any platform.
Adding drama to reality makes it less real.
A ubiquitous cliffhanger at each ad break quickly becomes not a element of anticipation, but a cue to get up and finish the dishes.
Formulas make it much easier to make TV. An idea becomes a saleable franchise that can be produced by anyone. Results become repeatable and in evry essence, you get a show, something to tune into that delivers a relaible result week after week. It’s a programming maxim that has survived since the formats inception. People like the reliability of loving Lucy.
I think that the problem occurs when you start to notice the formula more than the content itself. When repitition frames an ad break it’s a good sign that editing for drama has superceded reality.
Context is key in content
When the drama of the show supercedes the content, it becomes less interesting to your core committed audience of fans.
When any correlation of attention in the media begins, it is led by a group of the most interested. They might be foodies, home handymen, seasoned travellers or even just like arguing about stuff. These folk are the committed core that not only talk about their topic of interst themsleves, they see it as their mission to convert their friends and families to become fans to. These guys explain the history, educate and editorialise, they’re a valuable asset to any person trying to grow an audience for an idea.
While it’s true that this pointy end of the audience tends to be the first to leave, moving inexorably on to find the next big thing to introduce to their friends and acquire social capital around, the writers and producers of many relaity shows don’t seem to understand that by moving the focus of the story away from the content topic to amplify drama alienates these fans. Sure, they might spend a couple of seasons trolling from the sidelines that the show does not now contain much of the subject it started out with, but the mass audience you’ll be left with once they’re gone are no where near as passionate about talking about things.
Saturation is not effective, it’s boring.
A slightly different take on what is currently playing on the other channel might seem like a sound strategic move, but which is likely to draw more attention and eyeballs: something similar but possibly better (or worse) or something completely different? If I am watching a show about home renovations,
The difficulty we seem to continually face up to as humans a desire to recreate things that have been successful before. If we copy something that is successful, innovative and attracts all important attention, then we seem justifiably entitled to believe that we will get a similiar result.
Flashmobs are a great example of this effect. The first t-mobile flashmobs to break out big online where great to watch. They showed that everyday life can throw up the unexpected and reasonably laddered to the brand benefit of t-mobile is a great way to share the everyday amazements with the people you care about. Unfortunately, everyone else thought they could get the same type of result. See for yourself where this type of thinking takes you.
The media environment is in the midst of a shift as significant as the mass adoption of television during the fifties and sixties. The Internet has transformed the way people in developed economies live their lives, and pickup amongst the developing countries is astonishing. The world logs on each day to connect, consume and create in ways that would have seemed impossible ten years ago.
The emergence of social channels has given weight to the voice of the individual. We can argue about the value and longevity of individual platforms like facebook, fourquare and twitter but they are part of a wider trend in media that delivers choice and control into the hands of the user. Content rarely now exists without a subtext of relevance and relationship, however tenuous.
Channel proliferation has come to the internet as well. Like television before it, attention now often goes to those who best curate what is available. Audiences converge in niches and throwaway in-jokes vault to become global trends.
I believe the commonality across all these channels, both new and traditional, is the power of stories.
Stories captivate, entertain and amaze. They inform and evolve, morphing to take on the character of the person relaying them. The single biggest difference between the new media and the old is that lifespan of a story is increased. It seems almost that virtual immortality of message is just around the corner.
All agencies, across the marketing mix, are engaged in a bitter fight for supremacy. For the first time in fifty years or more the leadership of the creative advertising agency looks vulnerable. The fortress of the media buyers shows evidence of cracks. The scent of change, and blood, weighs heavy on the wind.
In light of these changes, I wanted to articulate exactly what in the traditional PR arsenal gives us an advantage in the fight for the attention of consumers everywhere, and the growing war for share of wallet with the other agency disciplines.
Understanding tribal anthropologies
It seems more and more that the world is made up of tribes of influence.
The abundance of choice available to folks these days has not created a new world of amazingly self-actualised and distinct individuals. Quite the opposite, in fact. The human tendency for pattern recognition is amplified as the tyranny of place is not just broken, but smashed to flaming bits. Global trends are established in days, as consumers seek out and establish connections with products and the ideas or people behind them.
Influence is a fickle glue, sometimes lasting seconds, but in the right circumstances it can seem eternal.
While it can be difficult to measure and even harder to predict, influence can most definitely be played with.
One of the pieces of equipment in the PR arsenal that helps makes sense of this landscape is Stakeholder Mapping. This PR101 process is all about trying to understand all of the voices that have an interest and influence in the communications environment. Most of the time, you can map these voices out on two +\- axis of influence and sentiment: How great will the effect of the voice be, and is it likely to be with or agin us?
When I was in China, working on the 42 Below brand, I learnt a lot from Geoff Ross about the value of creating outrage in the type of person you do not want to join your tribe, and the affinity that it instills in those who you do. Positive voices too, can be harnessed to carry a story further and to greater effect, or to provide a most effective defense in a time of crisis.
This approach is about more than understanding audience, it is about examining context and trying to harness all of it for a desired outcome.
Gaining permission to speak
Anyone who has come up through the ranks of PR will, at some point, have been asked to pitch in a story. It is the bain of many young professionals lives as they learn about making an impact, capturing interest and dealing with rejection, often in 15 seconds or less.
There is a real goldmine for us here. Because of this shared experience, our communications thinking most often begins with the thought of gaining permission. What is it that we can say or do that will gain fast acceptance in our target audience and deliver us enough of a pause to actually tell a story?
It might be a statement, delivered over the phone, crafted for a individual journalist. It might be sending a toy in a box instead of an invitation to a special audience for a special event. It might be video content, hyper-targetted and delivered with a humorous flourish.
Beginning with an expectation that permission must be gained is one of the reasons PR thinking can work across a much broader spectrum of the media environment. Permission has become the expectation of connected consumers, that plethora of choice they have demands it.
I like to think about this permission model behaving like a cycle. I believe this informs a pattern of thinking that lends itself to a new environment where brands can aggregate an audience themselves on a channel, rather than being forced to buy an audience on someone else’s. Screwups and misunderstanding can bust the cycle at any point, so the onus is on communicators and brands to be active an focus on a longer term.
Crafting stories that survive transmission
There is a market perception that Public Relations writes the news, and while it might be great for us and our clients if that were the case, journalists and editors are effective filters separating newsworthy fact from brand spun fiction.
As a result of this filter, PR professionals have become adept at crafting stories that survive transmission through the filter and deliver coverage and a connection for the brand in the media.
As the nature of media changes, the skill of crafting stories that survive not only one but multiple transmissions, with the key messages intact is an area of real value that we can take to our clients. The extension of this is crafting stories both good enough to retain their message, whilst allowing each person to take ownership of the story and tell it in their own words.
It is going to be a challenge taking this skillset and applying it to new mediums, but its power, particularly when planning integrated campaigns, seems very useful. While we might not be moving into the production of 30 second spots for TV, the day we start to bring a TV quality production capability inside our agency seems much closer than it did even a year ago.
Reacting in (near) real time
Timescales are massively compacted in this brave new world. Lengthy approval and revision processes must be confined to the planning stages, so the benefits of momentum can be reaped. The odd creative agency seems to have nailed this skill set as well, with W+K’s Old Spice work being the most notable example.
The most skilled of our practitioners are used as communications counsel in times of crisis. They are adept in assessing the nature and direction of communication on an ongoing basis as well as taking steps to control the situation and the way it evolves.
As anyone who has been watching the news channels of late, in the absence of clarity the media will move quickly on to conjecture. Offering contradicting opinions from thought leaders provides a story drama that many find difficult to ignore and as attention is the greatest commodity in any media environment, channel owners will always skew towards the fantastic to keep people glued.
Flipping this model to a proactive use can add weight to a campaign, by using each channel to its utmost at the best time. It certainly sits more in the realm of art than science, but honing it will be a key way the PR arsenal evolves to take a larger share of wallet at the marketing table.
I thought this research spot from Hill Holiday, an advertising agency in the States, was exceptionally interesting.
They persuaded a group of Americans from varying social backgrounds to give up their paid cable TV boxes and try out one of the new direct TV models, including XBOX, Apple TV, Boxee Box and more.
The feedback was almost universally negative. Loading times and availability of content, as well as the ease (or disease) of third party software installation were all mentioned.
There was one statement that unified all of the participants, and I think it comes back to the Paradox of Choice.
Most folk, when they decide to watch TV, do so with a mindset of seeing what’s on, and making a choice from what is live and available before them.
The mistake these platforms seem to be making is that placing a consumer in a space where they have unlimited choice as to what they want to watch has a counterintuitive result. Rather than perfectly meeting their every need, these platforms trap users in decision inertia by forcing an active role in the decision making process.
It might make for a much healthier America if people give up trying to decide and maybe head outside for some exercise, but I’m not sure that’ll sell many boxes.
I am the Creative Director at Hill & Knowlton in Sydney.
I've worked in a few different parts of the agency world and ran my own shop in Shanghai for a while, launching super premium products into the world's largest marketplace.
I am fascinated by what's coming next, how new networks offer a company like H&K the opportunity to flex our earned media muscle and deliver great work for the clients we work with and the brands they breathe life into.
I write about campaigns that work and some that don't, from Australia and around the world. Sometimes the world of social media will hold me in its sway and occasionally I'll just post something that inspires me and hopefully you as well.
Please comment, I'll respond to as many as I physically can.