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Archive for the ‘Our thoughts’ Category

Point of view: Social media speed-dating for brands

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Ticking off my news year’s resolution of ‘learning new things’ and also my desperate attempt to find a boyfriend – I recently attended Billetto’s Dating in LDN seminar.

Heading off straight from the office, I must have had my brand hat still on. I couldn’t help but apply each piece of dating advice to businesses attempting to woo their customers in social media; and it was surprising how many fit. Social media is all about relationships after all, so it makes perfect sense to imagine social marketing as a dating game.

Speed dating, 19thC style

So…here are my top four rules for single brands looking to hook up with consumers in double-quick time, inspired by the experts at the seminar.

1. Flirt like your personality, not gender. – Jean Smith, @Flirtology

The most successful flirters are the ones who listen. Never over-look the power of social listening.  When you do decide to speak, be careful with what you say and make sure it is relevant to whom you are speaking to.

Nobody likes dating someone just like their ex. Replicating your competitors’ tone of voice not going to get you anywhere. If a consumer is ready to branch out to a new brand, they want to see the difference between the two. Show off your brand’s unique qualities and personality – not your generic appeal.  

2. It’s not about you. When you approach a stranger, anything can happen – Doug Haines, London School of Attraction

Crisis. It happens. This is no falling tree in the forest; EVERYONE will see you fall. A crisis is not always a reflection of the brand, and can very easily be caused by the consumer’s prejudices or problems. Whatever the reason, you are dealing with strangers, and until you earn their trust and show them you care – only then will they ‘like’ you and become your ‘friend’. The lesson – have a plan. Apologise and learn if you’re at fault, but be careful of taking things too personally.

3. Know good dating spots. Ambience and venue can make a real difference. So don’t defer to All Bar One – Doug Haines, London School of Attraction

As mentioned above, just because your competitor is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to as well. Know your audience – know your platform. The social web now intertwines into so many incredible forms; do not be afraid to take a new campaign or client to a new venue, and keep updated as to the latest joints around (our weekly Stay Ahead blog post should help). Don’t like anything on the market? Create your own.

4. Familiarise yourself with all avenues available for you (where and how to date) and which is best for you: online, social dating, traditional and organic methods of dating – Sasha Wowesny, @SashaWowesny

To truly capture your consumer, you need to really think about where and how you will break through the noise. The answer is not always to be found in marketing, or even online. Is your packing still rocking that bad 90’s font? When was the last time you updated your website? Maybe it is about taking your brand into the ‘real world’ – an innovative OOH experience or a disruptive event. Think broad. Think integrated.

In conclusion, I feel there are three main points to remember  - personalise your approach, be yourself and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Now where did I put that lipstick…

Inspiration: How Vulfpeck gamed Spotify with their silent music track

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

A cheeky band is set to make nearly $20,000 from Spotify for an album consisting purely of silence.

Vulfpeck, who describe themselves as a “half-Jewish German-American rhythm section”, have begun a tongue in cheek campaign to cheat Spotify. The project started with a YouTube video outlining the premise to their fan-base; effectively, you play the album over and over whilst you sleep. It’s completely silent, but in the course of the evening you will have made the band a staggering $4.

But why would anyone would do that? What’s in it for the fans? Well, the band weren’t simply trying to make money – they wanted an insight into their audience. So, using the data gathered from Spotify about where the downloads were greatest, they’ve promised to play in their most popular areas completely free of charge. This is effectively a tour paid for by Spotify. It’s crowd-funding without Kickstarter; a truly inspiring means of making money, gathering insight and stimulating a whole lot of word of mouth at the same time.

It all brings up the age old question – if a band records music but nobody can hear it, does it make a sound?  The band have handled the whole event with a healthy dose of light-hearted humour…

Even Spotify have even got in on the action. Far from feeling ripped-off and cheated, they joked, it’s a clever stunt but we prefer Vulfpeck’s earlier albums. Sleepify seems derivative of John Cage’s work”.

This is evidentially a skilful exploitation of a platform that has come under recent controversy for not paying its artists enough. The takeaways here are:

- Don’t be restricted by the boundaries of the platform you’re using.

- Remain true to your voice, expertly demonstrated by the humour that accompanied the project.

- Stay alert and reactive – just as Spotify did.

Also, their music is great. Listen to one of their non-silent tracks below.

Point of view: The power of strangers

Friday, April 4th, 2014

The image shows a young man leaning against a marble bannister in Grand Central. He is wearing a beanie and a straggly beard, with a skateboard in one hand and a bottle in the other. He looks half-hopeful, half-resigned. The caption above reads: “I told her that if she wanted to start over, to meet where we first kissed. She was supposed to be here 15 minutes ago.” The Facebook post has 107,490 likes, 4,020 shares and 4,719 comments.

If you aren’t already a fan of Humans Of New York, you’re missing a powerful daily hit of social media zeitgeist. Founded as a humble blog in 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton, HONY “now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City” via its three million collective followers on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, and a No.1 New York Times bestselling book.

Why are strangers’ lives so compelling? Most of us have imagined the stories behind the faces we spot in the street, or experienced the unexpected empathy of a brief encounter on a train or in a hospital ward. In fact, encounters with strangers often provoke stronger emotions than exchanges with people we already love or hate. If I receive a compliment from a stranger on my shoes, it will probably mean more to me than one from someone I know, even if that someone is a stylist.

I don’t mistrust the acquaintance, of course but I know that there are probably a host of other social nuances driving her comment: a wish to let me know she loves me, say, or even a need to perform a subtle piece of one-upmanship. With the stranger – unless they’re coming onto me – it’s more likely to be a pure expression of admiration for those gorgeous boots. Moreover, because the stranger has had to take the risk that they will be thought weird or sleazy, their opinion feels all the more potent.

A 2010 study into how people choose a mate from Indiana University found that we are not only greatly influenced by what our friends think of our potential partner, but also by the opinions of complete strangers.  ”If you walk into a party and don’t know anyone, you might think, ‘Why do I care what anyone here thinks?’” explains Skyler Place, a researcher in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “In reality, we’re paying close attention to what others in our social environment are thinking and doing.”

The influence of strangers has been central to the rise of social media. Back in the early days of Live Journal blogs, AOL chat rooms and niche passion-based forums, the joy of the social web lay in the opportunity to reach out to likeminded strangers, beyond the restricted circle of your geographical or genetic community. If you were an early adopter dabbling in these emerging platforms, chances were that your friends and family simply didn’t have the dial-up capability or plain geeky interest to be present in those spaces. For the first time, you could pick the brains of people across the world who didn’t have the same background or biases as your real life social circle. As a consequence, their recommendations for brands or products – from a brilliant book to a stain-remover – held special weight.

Brands’ obsession with Facebook – to the exclusion of blogs, forums and topic-based communities on Twitter – can lead them to forget the importance of helping strangers to bond around their brand. Many of our lasting friendships develop circumstantially, through school or work, so our Facebook friends’ passions and preferences may diverge wildly from our own. Focusing on spreading recommendations within personal networks may not be as influential as brands think. Facebook itself seem to be clocking on to the need to reincorporate serendipity into the mix; Paper, its beautiful new US iPhone app, allows users to view their newsfeeds via topic, so that they can surface relevant popular updates from people outside their own friendship group.

It’s important to keep this in mind with offline engagement, too. Creating opportunities for strangers to connect around your product or brand – in a retail store, or an airport, or in the middle of the street – is highly emotive, and drives plentiful, highly charged content. It’s why stunts such as the interactive vending machines Coca-Cola created for the film Skyfall, or the car-sized gift boxes Mini seeded around Amsterdam streets on Boxing Day, are so effective.

Remember: when it comes to social influence, it’s not just who you know, but who you don’t know that counts.


Point of view: What wearable tech means for social media

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The sun has now set on another SXSW festival, where wearable computing has been the focus of so much attention. Of course, there was the obligatory Google Glass coverage as well as discussions of Nike’s Fuelband and the forthcoming smartwatches from Samsung and Apple.

But beyond the novelty, gadgetry, and the almost universal fear about privacy invasion and copyright violation, what are the true benefits of wearables and how might they help social projects?

Samsung Galaxy Gear vs Pebble. Image: Janitors

It’s much deeper than “because they’re always accessible”.  Our mobile phones are used when we are on the move; wearables differ when they are used as part of a data transmission system. When a wearable device transmits information to a mobile unit, it becomes part of a data ecosystem.  In this use case, the benefit of wearables is as much to collect information, as for the user to capture it.


Not just watches

Some of the most interesting use cases for wearables lie in medical research and urban planning, where devices are used to capture images in the real world, or even inside the body, or they are rigged to record footfall or activity around a city or even a retail outlet.  These examples of wearables are designed to assist in better understanding body functions, interaction design and complex system problems like urban planning.

While it may seem a long way from a social project, these kinds of wearable technologies can be profoundly valuable to both the commercial and non-profit sector.

Imagine a scenario where movement capture and bodily responses can be recorded to create truly immersive interactive experiences for a brand. The technology already exists.

Here in Australia, the subscription TV network, Foxtel, has released a wearable tech campaign where fans get to ‘feel’ the impact of tackles, heartbeat and the muscle movement in kicking a goal.  Players movements, heartbeat and so on are captured by a transmitter shirt, and then an app on phones is used to send the same signals to receiver shirts, available to subscribers of the network.

This kind of immersive experience is considered to be a value addition to the subscription television experience – like being in the game.

Now imagine another scenario where the work of engineers or construction workers was recorded and then transmitted in wearable technologies as part of training to avoid workplace accidents, or to test new building tools and materials.  Again, the technology is already in production, with researchers at Virginia Tech considering a range of uses for wearable sensors to assist with quality control and workplace safety.

The same technology can also be used for a whole raft of purposes, including solving traffic problems, improving customer experiences in retail environments, and monitoring health status.

James B.Forsyth, a Ph.D candidate in computer engineering, places a wearable computing system on a helmet to protect construction works from carbon monoxide poisoning. Image: Virginia Tech


How can wearables be social?

As we know, recommendations from friends are always the most influential factors in adoption or purchase of a product or service.  And we share information about brands, products and services, partly because we want to influence others, or define ourselves in comparison with others.

Wearable technologies, whether they are tracking health, movement or interactions can help us to share our experiences of products and services in a much deeper, more compelling manner.  And where wearable data can be shared on social channels, we can more effectively define our ‘performance’ – our tribal behaviours, interactions and efforts – within our own social circles.

Wearables are experience and data devices that generate content that is thus eminently shareable, because it enables us to express our very proximity to one another – proximity in terms of geography, life experiences, passions and preferences.  And this proximity is the key to the success of word of mouth: we are social animals and we identify ourselves by our place in our tribes.  So we are more likely to trust the advice and choices of people who are ‘near us’; proximate, in our tribes.

As such, wearables represent the most significant boost to word of mouth marketing since electronic social media itself.

Of course, there will always be technologies that are used for novelty and frivolity – just because we can.  But for social projects, wearables represent a way of tracking activities that may involve sharing updates, but their true value lies in influencing behaviour.  And that’s powerful stuff.


Inspiration: Positive word of mouth is more influential then negative

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

When I tell people that I work for a word of mouth agency, it doesn’t take long before they say something like this:

“But don’t people only talk about brands when they want to complain?”

The myth that negative word of mouth is more prevalent – and more persuasive –  than positive word of mouth dies hard. Individuals claim that they only ever take to Twitter to moan. Businesses focus on mitigating negative word of mouth, rather than investing in the power of positive WOM. Even though here at 1000heads we see, time and again, how passionate people get about brands and products that reach out to them in compelling and useful ways – and the behaviour change that passion achieves – the scepticism won’t shift.

Thank the WOM gods, then, for word of mouth researchers Keller Fay. The findings from their latest extensive dataset reiterates that:

- More than 2/3 of WOM is positive, compared to 10% which is negative; and
- Positive WOM is more likely to be considered credible and passed along then negative WOM.

If your marketing team keeps firefighting rather than investing in building positive advocacy, pop this micro-deck in their inbox and start a conversation about how you can start spreading the love, not fearing the hate.

The Power of Positive Word of Mouth (WOM) from Keller Fay Group

Point of view: 3D printing and the rise of mass personalisation

Friday, March 21st, 2014

This January, Adobe announced that they were bringing 3D printing capabilities via an update to Photoshop Creative Cloud. This update enables designers to move from 2D to 3D through one simple tool and to easily create ready-to-print files for 3D printing.

Whilst many designers might not have much experience in 3D printing, this tool also provides the opportunity for them to quickly produce prototypes without the need for specialised machinery. It’s early days but it will be exciting to see how designers make use of this new tool and the creations that come out of it.

Tech companies are also starting to involve consumers in designing and printing their own creations.  In early 2013 Nokia gave Lumia 820 owners the opportunity to customise and 3D print their own phone cases. They released a 3D development kit containing 3D templates, case specs, recommended materials and best practices. It was so well received by the tech community that Nokia went one step further by creating the world’s first live social 3D printing experience at MWC in Barcelona. Twitter users were asked to tweet using a hashtag and the best tweets were then selected to receive a personalised 3D printed phone case.

The gaming industry is also encouraging its users to personalise and create. Cody Sumter and Jason Boggess in the MIT Media Lab have created a platform Minecraft.Print() for Minecraft fans to convert their favourite character into digital files for 3D printing. One fan has even gone a step further and created his own working 3D printer within Minecraft.

The idea that people can now evolve characters that they love and create their own collectibles is a delightful concept for the gaming industry.

There are barriers to the concept of designing and creating your own however, and the most obvious of these is the cost feasibility of people actually purchasing 3D printers for their homes.  Asda is helping tackle this, and has become one of the first retailers to trial a personalised 3D printing experience in-store, allowing customers to design and print mini versions of themselves. After a successful pilot in 2013, the brand is now rolling out a 3D printing tour for 50 stores across the UK.

Tesco also has plans to bring 3D printing experience in- store with perhaps a more practical application; to print spare parts. It’s great to see that supermarkets are starting to recognise the value in providing 3D printing facilities in store, giving customers new opportunities to visit stores before this technology becomes more widely adopted in the home.

We’d love to see more brands using 3D printing, less as a gimmick and more as a way to genuinely involve their customers in product innovation and customisation. We are excited about the potential that retailers have to show the benefits of 3D printing to a truly mainstream audience, familiarising people with this breakthrough technology and driving people into store.

Watch this (3D) space…


This article originally appeared on 12ahead.com

Inspiration: Let’s get personal

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Here’s the conundrum; you have one billboard, two audiences, and two entirely different stories to tell. It’s a challenge in itself to use one small space to spread two distinct messages without alienating both groups.

However, the ANAR Foundation, a Spanish child-advocacy organisation, showed that with a little imagination and a lot of thinking outside the box, it’s more than possible.

ANAR’s main objective was to reach children, and to tell them to get in touch if they are experiencing domestic abuse. However, they rightly identified that this message is likely to be seen while children are in the company of an adult – who may also be their aggressor.

So ANAR used lenticular printing to create a secret message visible only to children under 10 (it’s all in the angles); anyone taller sees a different image entirely.

ANAR isn’t the only organisation to create newly personalised, conversational ads. Women’s Aid released Blind Eye, a video that uses stereoscopic technology to allow viewers to edit the film in real time by opening and closing either their left or right eye. The power is in the hands (or eyes) of the viewer to decide how the story unfolds.

Audi created another great example. Their billboard manipulated the focus of the human eye to show the viewer one message from a distance, and an entirely different one as they walk closer.

One size no longer fits all. ANAR, Women’s Aid and Audi are pioneering the use of clever technology to help consumers experience their stories in personalised, disruptive and even disturbing ways.

The future is calling, and it’s tailored to you…

Point of view: Social media demands strong branding

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Hands up if you hate the term ‘brand’. Yep. I thought so. The word originally comes from the Old Norse ‘brandr’ – the practice of stamping hot metal symbols on livestock – and the etymological whiff of brutality still lingers. Brands stink of globalized uniformity, of slick corporate coercion cloaked in a shiny logo and an uplifting tagline. And we hate them even more now we’re all supposed to be one, with our precious, unique, hydra-headed identities boiled down to a Klout score and a sexy one-line Twitter bio.

But the old-school principles of branding have never been more important. The organisations that are proving successful and resilient in the age of social media are those that have a strong sense of what their ‘brand’ means. Having worked with conglomerates and independents, blue-chips and charities, from Beirut to Birmingham, I have come to the conclusion that most social media problems are in fact branding problems instead. Teaching a marketing department how to use a #FollowFriday hashtag is not the issue. The issue, in the words of the great social media dissenter Jaron Lanier, is that “you have to be somebody before you can share yourself.”

Robert Bean has thirty years’ experience rebranding companies such as BMW, Honda, BT and Yo!Sushi . In his book Winning In Your Own Way, he explains that organizations must find the intersection between their culture, their product or service, and their reputation: what he calls their ‘single organizing principle.’ And listening to him talk at an event in London, I realised that social media terrifies many leaders exactly because it highlights the holes in their organisation’s SOP. Social media demands transparency, so if the truth under their tagline ain’t pretty, it’s quickly going to show.

One story Bean recounted involved a visit to a regional BMW dealership with the company’s CEO. Finding that the toilet was a little grubby, the CEO summoned the manager, pointed to the loo, and mused, ‘the ultimate driving machine?’ He didn’t need to say another word. The manager rushed off to solve the problem; he knew exactly what his boss meant.

It’s the equivalent of being able to point to Facebook, say ‘the ultimate driving machine,’ and trust your staff all over the world to understand exactly why and how they should connect with customers online. When it comes to social media – and indeed most things in life – a glut of rules, safeguards and processes is usually an indication of insecurity. Engaging in consumer conversation requires organisations to traduce boundaries: between departments, between on and offline spaces and between personal and professional selves. Having a simple SOP ensures consistency yet allows each individual to interpret that collective spirit in a way that suits their role, their personality and the conversation they currently need to have.

I may come from the box fresh end of the marketing discipline, but I spend well over half of my time running my own version of Robert’s branding process. Although teaching teams the technical stuff – platform best practice, content calendars, tools and tricks, timings and process – is important, it’s useless if they don’t understand the essence of exactly what it is they are representing when they engage online.

No-one following your Pinterest board? It’ll usually be because your images have nothing to distinguish them, no unique style or provocative purpose. That’s a problem with your visual identity, not a problem with your inability to ‘be social.’ What if your team has posted some inappropriate tweets? That’s a culture issue, not a ‘social media mistake.’ Or what if the quality of your Facebook pages varies wildly across different markets? You won’t solve it by trying to get every region to imitate brilliant Bulgaria, or by crafting a ten-page policy for them all to translate. Only once each one of those owners has understood and internalized your SOP, can they start to interpret it for their communities in a fluid and meaningful way.

The challenge is not just to define your SOP, but to make it spread both wide and deep, from the CMO to the intern. Leaders must show they are committed, but granular, practical action is also key. Start by building it into your rewards and incentives programme. You can throw up a thousand pretty wall vinyls, but an SOP will only really flourish once daily behaviours are being judged and reinforced accordingly.

If you’re struggling with social media, you probably need to dig deeper than you think. Make-up will only give you so much social sex appeal. You need to start with good DNA.


This article originally appeared on 12ahead.com.

Inspiration: Reactive advertising

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

A wonderfully simple yet brilliant use of technology is not something you see a lot of nowadays. So many companies push to use the newest forms of technology to help promote a brand, but it’s not always the tech most suitable for that campaign.

An ultrasonic pressure sensor and pre-recorded video. That’s all the execution of a campaign created by ad agency Amersham Holst and production company Stop for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy hair products required – and the outcome is incredibly effective.The pressure sensor is attached to a video billboard on a platform featuring a woman with silky looking hair. When the train rushes by it activates the pressure sensor and suddenly the woman in the video’s hair starts blowing all over the place. In then comes the line, “Makes your hair come alive”.

Simple but effective -the idea brings an engaging and surprising moment to a commuter’s boring journey. The idea of static imagery coming to life only when triggered by its own context and surroundings is a brilliant example of naturally reactive advertising. This ad was originally only intended to be on display for one day, explaining it’s simple approach – it’s that simplicity of concept and execution that makes this ad so great.


Point of view: The problem with metrics

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Whenever a certain kind of person asks me: “Robbie, which do you think is the best film ever made?” I tell them that it’s Iron Man 3. This is normally met with derision, but I persist. It’s a curious fact, after all, that many people like to shun what’s popular before giving it serious thought.

Sure, this shunning is a good way to form an identity. And it’s not a bad way to showcase your developed taste and accrued knowledge. But I tend to think of this mindset as a little damaging. What’s popular is popular for a reason. Something worth pondering rather than dismissing. And unless you’re working undercover (or are terribly keen to be a hermit), then it’s good to be popular.

Isn’t it?

Popular is what gets your message out to more people. Popular is what helps your cause and furthers your agenda. Popular is what makes you money.

In fact one could quite reasonably argue that what’s popular is, by extension, good. Especially if your measure of success is quite simply being popular.

You know, the kind of measure that’s counted in views, or shares or likes or eyeballs. The kind of measures we apply to a lot of marketing…

When I tell people I like Iron Man 3 better than all the other movies ever made people tend to think I’m a bit odd. But it’s OK, because I’m armed with facts to dispel their cynicism.

Iron Man 3 is the 5th biggest grossing film of all time. Iron Man 3 made over $1billion profit for the good people that made it. Iron Man 3 knocks all Batmen, Supermen and Spidermen aside.

When it comes to being popular that is. When it comes to generating coverage that is. When it comes to the numbers and the metrics and the data that is.

Or is it.

Is Iron Man 3 really the best film ever made?

No, of course it’s not.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Marvel’s The Avengers, Titanic and Avatar are all better. They all made more money. Although Gone With The Wind is actually the highest grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation.

Which means it was seen by more people than any other. Which means it was most popular. And most goodest.

Or maybe not. Jesus, the 1979 film that roughly follows the Gospel of Luke is – according to some sources at least – likely to be the most-watched motion picture of all time.

Which means it’s the most popular. Which means more eyeballs have seen it than any other movie. Which means it did the goodest.

Jesus (the 1979 movie, not the guy in robes) is the winner!

Or at least it is if you take a certain view on popularity as a sole measurement…

When assessing the quality of your marketing you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. It could be building awareness, or it could be shifting boxes. It could even be something else entirely. But it’s probably not generating numbers in a spreadsheet. If it is I suggest you hang your head in shame.

1 million views mean nothing when it comes to judging what’s best for you. 10 million likes mean nothing. 100 million mentions mean nothing. Not unless they translate into meaningful, long term success against a more considered measure.

One that works for you. One that delivers tangible, indisputable results.

Iron Man 3 isn’t the best film ever made.

Gone With The Wind isn’t the best film ever made.

Jesus isn’t the best film ever made.

At least not simply because the numbers looked good.


This article originally appeared on 12ahead.com