1000 Heads

Helping brands’ stories travel further and faster
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Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

Making chocolate sundaes…

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Last night I was at dinner with a friend explaining what we do at 1000heads. I’d just got going when his attention was diverted.

“What’s that?” asked my dining partner not apparently talking to anyone in particular. I turned in the direction of his glazed gaze.

“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” exclaimed a woman in a state of giddy joy, “…we saw them having it and we just had to order one.” She motioned to the table beyond where a couple looked on with the glow of parental pride.

The ‘it’ in question was a rather wonderful chocolate sundae crowned with a hemisphere of thin, dark chocolate. On the side, a jug full of hot butterscotch sauce was waiting to be tipped onto the crown where it would burst the confectionary bubble and reveal an oasis of cream and popping candy. The fizz and freckle of the butterscotch on candy drew oohs and aahs normally reserved for fireworks.

“Looks great…” I said, “…we should order a couple of those later”.

And so we did.

When they appeared we caught the table next to us peering over.

“What’s that?” asked one.
“It looks amazing!” squealed another.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” said my dining partner.

And so the ripple continued.

All in all that evening we observed a chain of twelve sundaes, each directly attributable to the trendsetters at the top table.

“So…” said my friend smearing chocolate brownie across his lower lip. “…1000heads, what is you guys do exactly?”

“We help our clients make chocolate sundaes” I said.
“I thought you were in marketing?” (He never got metaphors).

In an industry forever discussing new platforms, new audiences and new techniques it’s important to remember what we do and why. And hey, it never hurts to have a delicious go-to example to explain what success looks like.

Organised Acts of Kindness

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

We’re currently doing some very exciting work with East Village. If you’ve not heard of it, East Village will become London’s newest neighbourhood after the world’s best athletes vacate the current premises after the 2012 Games. It will become a living, breathing community – providing homes for thousands of people and a long lasting legacy for East London.

East Village is driven by three core values: more time, more space and more choice. We’ve used these as the inspiration behind our work, to develop engaging and interesting ways to evoke a sense of community, excitement and anticipation around East Village.

After an intense brainstorm late on a Friday afternoon, with the goal of encouraging people to talk about time, the team came up with a peach of an idea. We’d offer someone the chance to have their very own PA for a day.

Asking people on the East Village blog, London Living, just what they would do with ‘more time’, we awarded one lucky winner the services of yours truly for a whole day (absolutely free, I might add).


The aim here was to provide a personal and unique experience, giving the East Village brand a recognisable face and a human quality at the same time. Like a personalised random act of kindness, this was about us going that one step further for our client, and one leap further for our audience – and about taking something online, and making it happen offline.

I never really considered being ‘auctioned’ off as a prize to a member of the public as part of my first permanent career role, but I nonetheless looked forward to it with a lot of excitement (and a bit of trepidation).

It was with a nervous skip in my step that I went to meet Julia, an aspiring writer currently working in film, at 7am sharp (I know – an early start!) at the Shoreditch Grind, a lovely East London coffee house that sits next to the bustling roundabout by Old Street station.

It seemed Julia could not get over the novelty of the situation at hand; she’d clicked onto our blog, commented under a post, and now she had someone at her beck and call for the whole day. She thought it was a fantastic idea and said she’d dreamt of having a PA for years!

Having got thoroughly stuck into Julia’s mass of short stories, creative scripts and sonnets, editing and collating material as I went along, I spent the day organising her work into digestible prose. It definitely wasn’t light work!

Yet it was clear when the day came to a close that I’d really made Julia’s day that bit better. We know that 90% of recommendations come from face-to-face conversations. In this sense, Julia experienced the East Village ethos through a personal experience, and we amplified this message through proactive engagement with a member of our community.


It’s amazing what physical interaction can do, and Julia was full of praise for the concept and the execution.

I’d like to think Julia’s nascent opinion of East Village is now very much one of advocacy and that we’ve shown East Village is more than just London’s newest neighbourhood.

Embracing co-creation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Last year, Abi Sawyer, Senior Producer for Future Media at the BBC World Service visited 1000heads to update us on how such a complex and public organisation was embracing social. Molly wrote a great blog post about the insights we gained into balancing transparency and public content with journalistic rigour.

So when I stumbled across the announcement of the World Service 80th birthday celebrations, I was intrigued to learn that it would be inviting the public to see behind the scenes of some of its programmes.  Another ‘head and I duly headed over to Bush House for a glimpse at the mechanics behind World Have Your Say.

As an editorial manager I was naturally interested in seeing how the editorial meeting panned out; particularly as the agenda for the programme on this special occasion was to be set by the its vast audience of listeners from across the globe. Taking our place amongst a select group of live participants, we were given headphones to listen to the calls coming in from around the world as the WHYS editorial team planned that evening’s broadcast.

The calls came in from regions as diverse as Indonesia, Tunisia and China. Topics ranged from McDonalds’ newly unveiled plans to open another 225-250 new outlets in China, to Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki offering asylum to Syria’s leader Bashar Assad, each suggestion resulting in an intensive debate amongst the team and audience as to its value and relevance to the global community.

With this international conversation unfolding from a collection of tweets, messages, emails and calls, it was a brilliant example of how the BBC uses social media as a supporting voice when creating a cohesive deconstruction of global opinion.

Steve Titherington, World Service commissioning editor, said: ‘We are turning Bush House inside out, showing who we are and what we do and asking what the world wants next from the BBC World Service’, while Peter Horrocks, director of Global News, added: ‘These are historic and changing times for the World Service. We want our audiences to be at the heart of both the commemoration of the past and conversation about the future.’

For me, this tied nicely into Nokia’s announcement at Mobile World Congress that it would be taking the new strategic direction of ‘co-creation’, with fans invited to collaborate with the company’s marketing team to create more interest around the brand. In short, both the BBC and Nokia have recognised that involving their audiences increases trust in their brand and encourages more emotional attachment, as well as resulting in richer and more valuable content. In turn this creates advocacy, whereby fans want to share the work or concept they helped to create, and ultimately helps brands to take a real step towards being an integrally social business.

Even 80-year old, traditional and highly regulated organisations such the BBC World Service are fundamentally changing and embracing social. If they can do it…

The new face of 1000heads

Monday, February 27th, 2012

We have a new look.  Perhaps the result of a delayed January detox and an early Spring clean, we’ve tweaked our brand identity and revamped our website.

Yet while visual updates are refreshing and reinvigorating, what else has changed?

Mike Rowe recently talked about the journey we’ve come on, from humble beginnings in 1999 to more recent client wins, new hires and award successes.  Over that time we have changed – in size and skill set – but what’s remained constant is our steadfast belief in Word of Mouth, conversation and sharing; in social communication.

And as the marketing and social landscape continues to change, at a rate nobody could have ever predicted, this ethos has never been more relevant.

So we’ve given ourselves a new look and used some new, simpler words to set out our stall.

Tell us what you think.

Is this the end of the road for QR codes?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

These days it can be hard to pass a poster or pick up a jar without finding a QR code promising exciting extras and exclusives staring you in the face. But are those ubiquitous monochrome squares more loved by marketers than anyone else?

Recently, bieMEDIA, an online marketing and media company, predicted the end of the QR code based on the fact that very few consumers actually use them.

We’ve blogged before about the good, the bad and the pointless ways brands are using QR.

But as they move into maturity what are the main arguments for and against these matrix barcodes, and just how valuable are they in driving word of mouth?


QR codes are so popular on posters, flyers and other marketing material because companies can use them to convey specific information about their brands to a target audience. Because the majority of people who use and recognise QR codes fall into the 18-34 age bracket, it means campaigns can be specifically developed for this demographic.

Their versatility also means they can be tailored to all sorts of needs as long as the creativity is there. Just look at this case study from India:

It looks pretty impressive from a community engagement and WOM perspective. But despite the initial positive response, how lasting do those conversations prove to be?


As a QR-virgin myself (someone who has never actually scanned a QR code despite being surrounded by them every day), I am sceptical as to how these codes can be incorporated into a meaningful and lasting campaign. And the data is on my side.

According to an October 2011 survey from strategic marketing firm Russell Herder, although 72% of consumers say they have seen a QR code, nearly 30% of them don’t really know what they are.

More worryingly, 57% of consumers who have scanned a QR code say they did nothing with the information. This means that brands and marketing companies are spending time, effort and money on campaigns that don’t really seem to have an effect on consumers.

Couple this with the fact that other technologies such as NFC and mobile visual search are now on the rise, the trend seems to be towards QR codes becoming nothing more than distant relics of a past era: the marketing equivalent of the MiniDisc.

As with all tools, QR codes are only as good as the strategy or creative execution behind how they are used – and not very many brands are doing that well.

There are shinier alternatives creeping up too. NFC provides the potential for commercial services as well as marketing opportunities. Aurasma, an augmented reality app, acts as a much more tangible ‘bridge’ between the real and virtual worlds we inhabit, providing users with an interactive way of enhancing everyday life, such as this example of a polar bear on the River Thames:

So what do you think? What are your best and worst case studies of QR codes being used by brands? And how often do you use them yourself?

First impressions & lasting impressions…

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

On Friday night I went, for the first time, to a particular Soho bar. The cocktails were good (even if I’m a bitter kind of guy – the drink that is) and the company was great, but I’m not going to talk about either. Today I want to muse on the two experiences that bookended that night. One walking in the front door, one that made us walk out…

At 1000heads we like things that drive conversation. Events, or items that trigger someone to share their thoughts. Walking into this bar there was a classic:

“Are you wearing a tie?”
“Erm, no.” (I haven’t worn a tie outside a church for a good long while)
“Great, you can go in then.”

A no tie policy. Now these aren’t unique, but they’re hardly common. Indeed none of our group had experienced one before and so, despite a nod towards pretentiousness, I knew this was something I’d mention over the weekend. And if the cocktails were decent, then it would be in a most positive light.

Conversation, good.

No entry for Angus…

So we enjoyed our drinks.

We discussed topics as diverse as wallet assembly, what Jack Bauer would get drunk on and the derivation of the word ‘trinkets’. We thought why not have another drink? And so two of our party went to the bar.

And then this happened…

“I need this seat” – a waitress approached
“Oh, Sorry it’s taken.”
“No, no I need it for one of my customers.”

There then followed a discussion, nay debate, on quite what she thought we were, the lack of grace in asking and suggestion that they become better stocked in chairs.

She didn’t get the seat. We kept the seat. But we left pretty soon afterwards for somewhere a little more interested in our custom.

Did I mention the tie over the weekend? No.
Did I mention the strange lack of service? Absolutely.

Conversation, bad.

The moral of the tale?
I’m all for something quirky. Something a bit different.
It draws me in, it makes me a little more interested than I otherwise might be. And then I talk, and then I share, and that might benefit you.

But I’d also like the minimum of service. I also want the product or service you’re selling me to be as expected. I don’t expect to have someone purloin a chair mid visit. Least not a staff member.

Yes it’s about fist impressions, but much more importantly, it’s about lasting impressions.

Anecdotal evidence…

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The anecdote.

We all love them, we all have them.

There was the time ‘my friend Dave’ got locked in a freezer, and slept surrounded by waffles. The time ‘my friend Graeme’ convinced the doorman of a club he was the Pope’s son and they let him in wearing trainers. And, of course, the time someone you went to school with stole an otter from the zoo.

What’s great about anecdotes is they’re never told the same way twice. But then that’s human nature. You have longer or shorter to tell your piece. You have different audiences to sell the story to. You have different moods. What doesn’t change however, indeed what never changes, is the central core of the anecdote. The bit that makes it awesome enough to share.

And we can extend this to jokes. Nuggets passed on, more often than not by word of mouth, but by different people and with local variations. Think about the classic ‘Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman’ set-up in British humour. The same jokes exist elsewhere, but they change the wrapping. In Scandanavia it’s a ‘Swede, a Dane and a Norweigan’ and in Canada the butt of the joke becomes ‘Newfies‘. Why? Simply because the message (in this case a joke) carries much better when it can be easily repackaged by the party passing on the message so that it may gain maximum effect.

And this is important to remember.

James has been talking about Labour’s so-called Word of Mouth election recently, whereby the party have claimed – among other things – that it had recently made its one millionth relationship this year. Not only is that verging on impossible in any practical sense, it’s certainly meaningless. You simply can’t share your vision, your passion and the core of your story with that many people. That many people are a wildly varied bunch.

However, if you have something ‘anecdote shaped’ to share, then you can reach say 100 people. Probably in batches of 10, using 10 different methods. Pensioners have different takes on Labour’s vision than teenagers I’d wager.

And those 100 people can, if inspired, then reach their own group of people. If you start with 100 people of varied background and influence, that could be another 100 each. That’s 10,000 people having a meaningful conversation. And if they’re engaged because they’ve been talked to on their level and in a way that will help them react, then they’ll tell another 10. That’s 100,000. If they tell 10 more you could say you’ve hit your million. And mean it.

Taking Labour as an example,  it doesn’t really matter if they reach every member of the electorate directly. They will still broadcast at everyone through traditional mass media of course, but this need simply enhance the personal discussion voters are having beyond the horizons of Labour HQ, not replace it.

If I’m being lobbied by my colleagues, best friends and the girl who works in the local cheesemongers about the future of the country, then I’m probably thinking a lot harder about my vote than when I’m watching three men bicker about policy.

This isn’t brain surgery of course, but it’s worth remembering. For Labour, for people trying to sell cars or shoes or insurance, for companies looking to build a decent reputation, for artists trying to get a name for themselves.

So, go on, what’s your favourite anecdote?

Anything can be conversational (no, really)…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

When it comes to generating word of mouth, we don’t like to limit ourselves. Why would we? There is a virtually unlimited list of things that can create conversations. Take these for example; they’re barcodes. Functional, boring, scan-em-and-forget-em barcodes. Yet if these were on the back of your own brand digestives, or generic cotton sock six-pack, then they’d probably stir a little emotion. Anything can be conversational, you’ve just got to apply a little thinking.

[via Geekologie]

Where did you hear that?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Conversation happens in a whole host of places. On the bus, in the pub, at the water cooler and – of course – online. One thing to always be aware of therefore, is that where you hear a conversation can impact hugely on what you will learn from it.

Let’s take Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC Question Time last night – a nice hot topic of conversation today. I’m sure you have your opinion on it if you saw it. If you didn’t however, and you wanted a run down of the general concensus as to how it all went, you might jump online. Say you went to Twitter, and search on the #bbcqt hash tag. You’d get a broad view, and you’d probably feel things had gone a certain way. Say however, instead, you opted for the BBC’s news forums. Read that conversation, and you’ll get a very different view.

The freedom for people to discuss what they want is not, and should never be in question. The understanding that different people have different conversations in different places is however, important to remember.

Conversation as a change agent

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I’m a word geek. An etymology nerd. So this morning I went back to basics and sought out the roots of ‘conversation’ in the dictionary. In amongst the obvious definitions – informal interchange of thoughts and ideas, intimate acquaintance etc. – was an interesting, now obsolete use of the term: behaviour or manner of being.

It’s about time that one came back into common currency.

Most brands now understand that a conversational approach helps them to listen to their consumers and engage with them in a personal and flexible way. But it’s the ones who see conversation as a whole way of being for their business, inside and out, who are benefiting the most. WOM is about how you talk internally, quickly and creatively sharing information, links and ideas with everyone from the lowliest admin guy to the swankiest CEO (we love Socialcast so talk to us if you fancy it for yourself). WOM is about how your staff talk about the business in their everyday lives and on social media, maintaining the fine balance between freedom of speech, enthusiastic advocacy, and necessary discretion. WOM is about how you recruit new staff in a way that feels natural and empowering to them. WOM is about how the teenager in your store treats his customers, about the simple functional twist in your packaging, about what you serve in the canteen.

That’s why WOM needs to be ‘owned’ by every department, not just Digital or PR.

As this is already starting to sound a bit Yoda, I may as well go ahead and quote the wrinkled one himself: “Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” Be conversational; don’t just do.