Creative technology will drive the next era of marketing

Brands are still a long way off from delivering the connected, personalised marketing that people crave, says Omaid Hiwaizi chief strategy officer, UK, Geometry Global and director of industry innovation at the Marketing Agencies Association.

We’ve been discussing a vision for a connected world for some years now. A world where consumers enjoy brand experiences that are personalized in real time and contextual, and brands collect and apply data creating more value and efficiency. While “The Internet of Things” has already become “The Internet of Everything”, why is it that this vision so far away from being normalized and just how we build brands?

Innovation for awards

Don’t get me wrong – innovative solutions do appear from time to time – smart products, quirky communications and interesting executions which are both products and communications. But how many of these are core business drivers and how many are created for the awards shows as the conspicuously different idea, which everyone wished they’d produced?

In corporate organisations operating with strong processes there’s an overarching need to proof everything until the very last detail, due to the risk and cost of innovation in industrial production

Why, then, is it that companies and agencies have been so slow on the uptake of creative technology innovation in how brands are built?

The barrier is corporate business’ typical (and necessary) approach around risk, creating success through optimisation rather than innovation. This mismatch was highlighted by Alper Eroglu, Unilever Global Media Director, at the launch of the MAA’s Creative Technology Initiative. He reminded us that in corporate organisations operating with strong processes there’s an overarching need to proof everything until the very last detail, due to the risk and cost of innovation in industrial production. This conflicts completely with the live beta and iterative prototyping approach required to deliver relevant and powerful creative technology innovation.

New wave of brands

Clearly this is not an issue with the new wave of technology based service brands who started life as prototypes and therefore have this culture at the core of how they do business.

Coke’s solution has been to embrace a 70-20-10 culture: with 70% of their effort focused on delivering quality BAU communications, 20% on pushing the boundaries of normal and 10% on ideas and approaches which are unproven but could transform the marketplace

What should companies who have this culture clash do? Coke’s solution has been to embrace a 70-20-10 culture: with 70% of their effort focused on delivering quality BAU communications, 20% on pushing the boundaries of normal and 10% on ideas and approaches which are unproven but could transform the marketplace. This has resulted in ideas like “Small World Machines”, a vending machine bringing India & Pakistan together through a shared experience and Coke Dance vending machine in Korea, where consumers who do a choreographed dance are rewarded with a Coke. These solutions are produced with creative or digital agencies and in partnership with technology partners.

Unilever’s approach sits under the The Foundry banner and operates a hybrid model of being both a technology incubator and a crowdsourcing platform. They issue briefs to a community of tech start-ups, hackers, students and agencies, vet responses and pick the solution with the most potential to develop into a prototype. The creative agency is added to the team to guarantee that the developed idea fits elegantly in to the brand landscape and advances the brand narrative appropriately. Thus far Unilever has received over 1000 applicants to those briefs issued through The Unilever Foundry It has now launched, or committed to launching, over 65 pilots with 50 different start-ups. Central to their approach is their alignment with start-up networks that allow them to pull on talent from over 40,000 start-ups.

It’s a robust and scalable approach, and because it’s under that specific banner, enables them to ‘fail fast’ when necessary, take learnings, and move onto the next possible solution. A great example is their Knorr activation for Africa and Asia where most mobile interaction is through feature phones using SMS. They partnered artificial intelligence based tech start-up Digital Genius to answer the question “What’s for dinner tonight?”. The natural language algorithm answered people’s questions and quizzed them about preferences and ingredients and then suggested recipes, using Knorr of course!

These initiatives are transforming how we build brands in the era of the Internet of Everything, and creating an advantage for those brands and companies that embrace them. This will transform the whole of marketing.

Innovation ghetto

Why, then are these projects and initiatives still locked up in an innovation ghetto? Why are they the exception rather than the rule when marketers make their plans? What needs to happen for Creative Technology innovation to cease from being a side project or ‘nice to have’ and become the core of how we do business?

The MAA’s Creative Technology Initiative was founded to address this. Our goal will be achieved through the sharing of best practice around three key pillars. Firstly funding models, to navigate how projects like this should be financed. Are they opex or capex? Over what time frame should they pay back? Secondly how to measure the effect, and establish which KPIs should be put in place. It requires building frameworks precedents as the measures are likely to be a mixture of those conventionally used for marcomms and product engagement. Finally building operational structure and process, how to work in multi-discipline, multi-partner teams and efficiently test and iterate solutions. Only then will organisations understand how they have to be organised to be able to deliver the next era of marketing.

Depth is more effective than reach

[ Taken from WARC ]

LONDON: Marketers prepared to look beyond the traditional reach approach can generate a greater return on investment using a depth strategy which creates greater and more sustainable impact by generating advocacy and driving repurchase.
These are the conclusions of Omaid Hiwaizi, chief strategy officer, UK at Geometry Global, and Dan White, chief marketing officer at Millward Brown Europe, who explain their findings in the current issue of Admap.

They have developed a mathematical equation to address the primary and secondary marketing effect of a brand activity and to understand the reach of each and their impact per channel: effect of activity = (Reach of activity × impact per encounter) + (Reach of advocacy generated × impact per encounter).

Inputting Millward Brown data revealed that, for a mainstream consumer brand with a target audience of 10m, a reach strategy yielded a 2.1% brand impact, while a depth strategy returned a figure of 2.6%.

They argued that such results challenged conventional wisdom around marketing communications approaches.

Depth strategies drive the effects of advocacy and brand video-sharing, but the authors conceded that much depended on the quality of the creative.

“Just 15% of word-of-mouth campaigns reach over 42% of the total audience, they noted. “Brand videos do have the opportunity to achieve significant reach, with the 15% most viewed videos achieving an average of 454,000 views.”

Red Bull is a striking example of a brand built through depth of engagement, with last year’s Red Bull Stratos event – where Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier with a freefall jump from 128,000 feet above the Earth – something that will continue to be talked about and distributed socially for a long time afterwards.

“By reimagining success in terms of brand impact, the spotlight shifts to the unquestionable power of great creative ideas in driving greater returns,” they write, while suggesting that there is an opportunity for agencies and brands to change their ways of working to increase the frequency of these ‘hit’ ideas which work across multiple channels.

“As broadcast media continues to fragment, this new standard will cease to be ‘nice to have’, and become mandatory for work to generate a return.”

How agencies can unlock the power of creative technology

Marketing solutions have been transformed through the application of creative technology. Previously confined to the more forward-thinking digital agencies, creative tech has crossed over into traditional and integrated agency structures. This transformation is reflected in award-winning work but also in the real world, where it enhances creative expression and provides smarter ways of applying data.

While this innovation is arguably what defines the future of brand engagement, there remain several barriers to its progression, most notably in the areas of talent, operations and finance.

Agencies and brands often lack the kind of talent capable of developing creative technology solutions – more specifically, people capable of building both code and electronics for prototypes. Agencies also need people who understand both digital strategy and creative idea generation. While this talent can be found in tech development or creative departments, it is often better to recruit from outside the industry and nurture good people.

Operational issues also hinder the impact of creative technology. The linear waterfall processes led by planners and art director/copywriter teams are a particular barrier. To produce the best work, it’s preferable to develop concepts through an iterative process with a diverse team, recognising that the big idea can often come from a utility or technology opportunity.

Finally, and most significantly, are the financial barriers. Agency output is usually financed through marketing campaign budgets and needs to pay back within a short timeframe. Agencies often heavily subsidise the work to persuade clients to back an idea. Instead, creative technology should be funded through capital expenditure with a robust business case, allowing for larger returns over a longer timeframe. The impact is increased even further if clients and agencies can use a model that consciously builds innovation into their ways of working.

To unlock these issues, and to help agencies and brands create the future of brand engagement, the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) is launching a new initiative around creative technology. This starts with our first event later in January. More details can be found on our website.

Social Sells … or else!

The journey shoppers take has always incorporated three different contexts: home, on the go and in-store. Each step offers opportunities for social interaction and therefore influence through word of mouth.

The rise of ubiquitous digital touchpoints means that today’s shopper is changing. 90% of online shoppers trust peer recommendations, 67% of UK shoppers have used their mobile device while making an in-store purchase and four out of 10 social media users have purchased an item in-store after sharing or liking it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Today’s connected shopper uses social media to gather opinions and recommendations from their friends like never before.

Connected shoppers thrive in our omni-channel world where the merging of physical, digital and social means they browse, share, compare and buy, anytime and anywhere. Shoppers have always shared advice, but what’s different now is that digital has transformed the scale, strength and length of its effect.

Integration of social media into marketing campaigns to drive more reach and engagement is now an expected approach when developing communication strategies. But few are truly taking this to the next level by using social to support the consumer in their decision to purchase and therefore drive sales. Digital tactics such as social promotions, social sampling, experiential social amplification and social commerce will only be effective if consumer behaviour is understood.

With consumer journeys that are neither linear nor simple, the onus is on brand owners and agencies to understand their complexity.

At Geometry Global we use unique insights tools to map, segment and prioritise what we call people’s purchase decision journeys (PDJs), identifying the steps taken before, during and after the selection of a brand for purchase and the key points of influence. The role of social within this is crucial to reveal purchase triggers and insights around ways of influencing shoppers.

What’s clear is that using social only to drive emotional engagement is a missed opportunity: properly understanding today’s connected shopper allows us to use word of mouth in a way that inspires consumers to buy.

Alt.Cannes: A renaissance of substance over style?

Stories of spotting the likes of Kanye, Bono and Courtney Love are increasingly leading the post chatter about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. It seems that the cult of celebrity has truly taken over and the price to get your session booked in the Grand Audi is to shoehorn a celebrity into your seminar. The lines of self-serving celebrity culture and creative communities have become blurred. While adding a famous person is a great way of being talked about, unfortunately a celebrity cut and shunt is a hit and miss approach to projecting a strong, clear, coherent and inspiring message. Think about it – these people have their own narrative, so asking them to spout an agency’s spiel is discordant. Alternatively, agencies whose big idea is to host a “creative” celebrity seminar falls down as agency exec interviewers rarely measure up against a true professional (A Jay Leno or Jonathan Ross for example). Notably, Spike Jonez even threw out a request to the audience for more interesting questions – ouch!. The key is making any celebrity addition relevant to your agency and your content/messaging. One exception for me was Futurebrand this year, who nailed it. They brought us co-pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who have created a solar powered plane, to share their story and vision. The agency CEO introduced them and then got out of the way, the Futurebrand branding was understated and as a result more powerful. They created a credible synergy between themselves and their guest speaker. Another notable exception was PR agency Golin’s use of “The Hoff” – making the whole thing a relevant, transmedia content stunt, which worked beautifully to showcase their communication skills. However, excitingly, this year at Cannes there was the beginning of a renegade movement, an underground network of substance over style; a reaction to the spread of the cult of celebrity in the Grand Audi. The center of operations was the broom cupboard sized theatre, Audi D. It was here WARC hosted a series of showcases and debates on topics ranging from Creative Effectiveness (i.e. how to win an Effectiveness Lion), to understanding how the smartest campaigns work, and the future of the planning department. Clearly, the planning community gravitated to these sessions and packed out this little room. In the discussion about the future of planning for example, Martin Weigel (Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam) made a strong case for planning needing to return to its radical sixties roots, as it was the tonic to unmeasured and instinctive “Mad Men” creativity. He also asserted that 95% of advertising ‘is crap because we live in a bubble’. We’re “institutionalized”, responded Partha Sinha from Publicis South Asia, “we should be at the vanguard… driving the train, not be in the guard’s van!”. Neil Dawson from SapientNitro summarised things in a practical way with a call to arms for multiplicity and the real challenges around collaboration. My view was that many were betting too much of the future of planning on a revision of the past of planning. The world is changing dramatically, and while humans are mostly the same, we are changing physiologically . Why then should the future of planning have any resemblance to what was invented in 1965? Strategy leaders talking through their best work followed by profound discussion and challenge akin to a round table. Real thinking, sharing and learning going on in the room. Truly inspiring. Cannes already has a reputation for style over substance and as with this year the focus on celebrity overshadowing creativity things can only get worse. Perhaps becoming a forum for informed debate and learning isn’t what Cannes is about now, but maybe it is a way to justify the huge investment in the future?

iEat – bridging the UK muslim product/culture gap

It would appear ludicrous that with a spending power of around £20bn each year – a source of income any food manufacturer would like a slice of – that a whole consumer group and category is ignored: Muslims and halal foods. It is a fact that Muslim’s do not just eat curry and therefore as a product category Halal food is still undeveloped, with few major brands catering for it and those that do sticking to curry options.

ieat, a brand we helped to launch this year, is bucking the trend, producing the UK’s first halal ready meals of British favourites – shepard’s pie, chicken & leek pie, pizza etc. Founded by Shazia Saleem, she was frustrated with not being able to enjoy traditional British foods and so, in true British entrepreneurial spirit, created her own range.

Educating the public about a product and a new category is a daunting task. It requires the brand to be clear about their audience; their desires, their behaviours, their purchase triggers. For brands to stay relevant, they need to understand the context in which they exist. Also, embracing multiple cultures in our diverse society is something brands have to do to be attractive to the highly influential Generation Z audience.

For ieat, the strategy is built on insights into how modern culture is shaping the identity of British Muslims. Particularly the under 40s – or third generation Muslims, who have grown up in the UK – who are far more inclined to engage with other cuisines and societal behaviours, whilst still wanting to maintain a relationship with their mother culture. This group want to be part of the British food scene as much as everyone else; but whilst the restaurant scene is catching up, retailers have been much slower.

However, this demographic needs a new set of brand communications rules – it’s not enough to be in Muslim community newspapers or just talked about at the Mosque anymore. Whilst these help, in order to fully reach this growing group, with its new styles and habits, the brand needed to be more flexible and approach a multitude of different channels including social media. As part of our communications campaign, locally targeted community PR and marketing went hand in hand with larger national messaging for a far wider footprint.

This strategic thinking should be followed by all manufacturers who are looking to tap into this new product category. It will help drive sales, revenue and, ultimately, profit.

We’re in the behaviour change business. What business are you in?

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” is a thought derived from the ideas of Xun Kuang, a Chinese philosopher who lived from 312-230BC. It’s often referenced by educationalists as a key insight into how to impart learning into students, which results in new skills. It’s also an extremely powerful lesson for the advertising industry and a sharp reminder of what business we are in. We develop brand communications which change behaviour, so that people buy more of what our clients sell.

However agencies instead focus on thinking up smarter and more complicated ways of changing audiences’ attitudes; how to get people to love brands more, how brands can deliver their messages in quirky ways to stand out, or creating business cases as to why our clients should just outspend their rivals.

Ironically today’s audiences forget much of our output in seconds, if indeed it ever reaches them. And in the digital world, where people are adept at curating what they engage in and screen out advertising, the simple ‘spray and pray’ method of pushing out messages and crossing fingers, simply isn’t good enough any more.

I believe the answer is locked up in the words of Xun Kuang. If we want to change behaviour, we have to involve our audience. If we engage them in experiences that are useful and entertaining, they will welcome our interventions, and learn new behaviours. Entering their psyche in this way results in more recall and life long engagement (which is why the thought is embraced by Educationalists). Behaviour change leads to attitude change. The value for brands is obvious.

At Geometry we involve consumers by understanding them intimately, mapping every nuance, feeling, touch point and interaction with precision, and then activate this insight in the work. This results in more compelling experiences which influence behaviour in precise ways, which deliver more value per £1 invested.

So why doesn’t every agency just do this? Because most focus on attitude change, while we’re in the behaviour change business.

The Perpetual Experience Engine

Brands built through experience will succeed better than those built through communications

Too often these days, our industry sees brands as the sole product of advertising and communications. This is understandable as communications are the core of what we do.

But we have to remind ourselves that the most successful brands are built around a purpose. The top fifty fastest growing businesses between 2000 and 2010 were built with defined ideals. Google’s is to “organize the world’s information”, Innocent Smoothies’ is to “make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old”. This clear purpose results in brands that have a richness that, while defining their behavior in the real and virtual world, will leave behind a cultural legacy.

The tail has been wagging the dog since advertising became popular as a medium and we need to re-think about how we contribute to building brands. A standard advertising and communications led approach is a powerful way to immediately reach a mass audience with a brand’s world, inviting consumers to take part and engage. But it’s exhausting, relying heavily on continued media spend for what is, in essence, a one-way conversation.

The alternative is the experience led approach – a far more robust and sustainable way of building brands. This approach creates a Perpetual Experience Engine between product and service experience and cultural imprint a brand can leave in society – through language, occasionality and shared experiences. This virtuous circle grows sustainably on its own, driving sales as it does, and while this growth can be accelerated with advertising or communications, it does not rely on it.

A wide range of brands have been built with this approach. They are constructed around a specific purpose, have a differentiated product and engage consumers in a very direct way. They rarely use advertising and communications in the early stages, instead relying upon the growth in culture such a strategy brings to build its audience. They focus on experience through disciplines such as advocate group engagement, shopper, packaging, content, events and social activation, and through developing their internal cultures, all in the name of living the brand they are representing.

Encouraging such ground-up approach provides exciting opportunities for agencies and clients to embrace. Brands should be organised around a true purpose, engaging staff and delighting customers, driving success and sustainability. In the digitally connected world this Perpetual Experience Engine is perhaps the only way to create a truly transcendent brand.

This is a summary of an article which is free to view in its entirety on

Smartphones fuel rise of ‘snackable shopping’

Consumer retail behaviour is fragmenting in ways never seen before. We call this ‘Snackable Shopping’. The notion of snacking on content is of course nothing new, but snacking behaviour is becoming more widespread; extending to how people engage in social interaction, with brands, and in how they buy, on and offline.

Many day-to-day activities no longer need to be planned and it is becoming more natural for people to find ways to fit things into the gaps. To wait ‘until they have a moment’ and do several things at once. This means that content and information needs to be delivered in bite-sized chunks – easy to understand and to act upon.

This is happening because shoppers are interacting far more frequently than before with devices, each interaction taking less time and the sum total getting closer to being truly ‘always on’. Smartphone users interact with their phones 150 times per day – that’s every six minutes.  The era of second-screening or multi-screening is upon us, in a survey of connected device owners, nearly half of smartphone owners (46%) and tablet owners (43%) said they use their devices as second screens while watching TV every day (Nielsen). Given that estimates put smartphone penetration at 73%, the context for this new behaviour is clearly established.

The rise of ‘Commuter Commerce’ is a perfect example of this phenomenon. No longer do we gaze out of the train window or aimlessly flick through a free newspaper. Geometry Global research has shown that 90% of us use commuter time to browse, shop and buy via smartphones and tablets. With technology so ubiquitous and assimilated into the lives of the shopper, even the journey to work becomes a moment to make purchases.

What does this mean for the chief marketing officer? The most critical lesson is that the consumer is in control. For brands to successfully ingratiate consumers and integrate into their worlds, they need to identify these commuter opportunities and connect the modern digital shopper in a meaningful way.

Brands and marketers need to rebuild how and where they attempt to engage consumers, and the systems and processes required to support this.  Not only do we now need to develop snackable content, but also entire experiences (ecommerce, brand engagement) which can be ‘consumed’ in bite-sized chunks, anywhere, at any time and on whatever device.

How FMCG brands can unlock the potential of digital: five top tips

Here are five powerful ways that the FMCG brands can unlock value through the opportunities that digital presents:

1. Have a direct, continuous, two-way dialogue with consumers
FMCG Brands are traditionally built using mass TV advertising to drive retail sales, supported by promotional marketing. Digital enables ongoing connection using a range of channels and platforms – via social and CRM, and useful services and utilities delivered on mobile. This enables personalised dialogue across multiple subject areas, bridging audience passion points with the business objectives.

2. Drive engagement and sales in retail
Through innovation in point of sale systems, mobile and marketing platforms there are now opportunities to drive engagement and conversion in the shopper/retail environment. Working in partnership with retail partners, or via established payment or couponing platforms (such as the UK’s Paypoint), we can deliver discounts and offers in real time, direct to the consumer, for immediate one-time redemption through retailers. This also enables shopper centric utility delivering inspiration and information in the shopper journey.

3. Get data on consumer preferences and purchasing behaviour
Extend the conversation to be continuous and into the retail environment on digital platforms. This generates a huge amount of data about how consumers choose and buy products – insights previously at the fingertips of retailers and kept at a distance from brands. These are valuable for product development, the ongoing development of the consumer experience and in trading negotiations with retailers.

4. Feedback, R&D
A two-way conversation provides feedback on current products and services, enabling propositions to be adjusted and optimised on a continuous basis. It’s also possible to use the audience (or just the passionate) for R&D – crowdsourcing product and service ideas and trialing prototype product in discrete groups. Such groups also become powerful transmitters of social buzz.

5. Creating connected customer experiences
Consumers increasingly have limited mental capacity and time, so brands need to earn their right to have a role in peoples’ lives. Create propositions which are broader than the core product essence, and distributed through a range of touch points. A great example is ice cream brand PaddlePop, which drove significant consideration and share in India through a brand landscape consisting of a multi-part movie on Cartoon Network, experiential roadshows, online games and conventional media.