system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Monday, 9 May 2011

Reflections on the agency model

The world is changing for agencies. Revenues from traditional offline products and services are declining. Digital per se is not the answer. Much of what would be considered traditional digital work (website development, search, SEO etc) is now a highly commoditised offering wafer thin margins.

From the client perspective, the world is fragmenting. Meaning brands are finding it increasingly difficult to engage and retain customers.

A successful agency model would reconcile these 2 positions. Finding products and services that offer sufficiently high barriers to entry that margins won’t be eroded in the medium term, whilst offering brands a solution to their differentiation and customer engagement issues.

In a world where the “work” is a commodity, but understanding what that work is, is increasingly hard. An agency must then logically sell understanding.

That understanding is, at its core, the understanding of customer.

Some social experience principles....

“Brand as publisher" - content is the catalyst around which engagement occurs. Stands to reason, that content and content strategy become incredibly important. Good link here

Fish where the fish are - accept users often prefer to use 3rd party platforms and not necessarily a brands' own website - engage them on these platforms where they have indicated they’re comfortable here

brand authority - the sensitivity we must acquire in understanding our brands’ authority is often limited - in other words - our right to a voice is presimsed on our participation, often for extended periods of time, building credibility and trust here

Iterative / fail fast - embracing the notion that in a connected, engaged world, we must constantly iterate - push new thinking, content, applications etc into those networks where our users exist – growing tactics which resonate (and as importantly) quickly decommission those that don’t work. In other words, strategy is often a drip feeding of a larger number of smaller ideas, as opposed to less frequent, larger ones here

“Architectures of participation” (networks not destinations) - building a brands’ authority through the visibility it has within different networks – thinking of our primary marketing tools as our most engaged networks, not necessarily the websites or destinations we own here

Always on - as is often the case, when something is so intrinsic to a concept - it is often forgotten - social business / media / whatever is always on - you can't have a social campaign - if you invite people to a house party you can't send everyone home just because someone plays a song you don't like

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The end of brand and the last fan......

The cheapest pair of glasses in specsavers where the best design.....

As resources become more scarce and consumers poorer, the value option will be increasingly the option the majority of the market chooses.

If that's the case, then logic dictates that every brand needs to make its value product the best product, whilst making the rest of their range, less attractive.

Ergo....the concept of brand value is dead. Value has won again. The last 250 years were a blip.

I loved The End of History and the Last Man- it was so brilliantly, arrogant, short sighted and stupid. So 1992.....

There is perhaps a book to write, which riffs on the title of Fukuyama's inverted masterpiece (like Stiglitz did with Freuds' Civilization) and makes the same argument about brands instead.

Social experience design....

No brand marketing can exist in silos – however sophisticated and well designed those silos might be.

As a customer – a user – a consumer, the interactions I have with a brand, (most of which can be measured in seconds; barely fleeting thoughts passing through my mind) are triggered by activity in all “channels”, at all times of the day, in all locations.

For any brand to focus their marketing – their conversation with their customer – in any single channel and say “that is how someone will experience my brand” simply doesn’t speak to the reality of how we interact with the brands we live with…..
The fleeting conversation in the pub about the new mortgage, the tiny snippet of information gleaned from a friend, which leads to the ad-hoc search for the product on the bus, which happens to resonates with a 48 sheet about a competitors' product, which fits with the piece of content stumbled over whilst doing more formal research, which ties in with the debate at the supper party, which might eventually lead to a half completed application form, which leads to the argument with the partner, with leads to the form completed – and a product or service sold.......
Messy, disparate - and spread over every conceivable channel and platform – that is more often than not a “brand experience”. Being honest with ourselves about this, means we are more likely to be successful.

Social experience design – to place a clear understanding of different types of customers' actual behaviour at the heart of a planning process - to let ourselves off the leash - to be honest and brave - to let the stories we tell about how users will interact with our brand be real........

That is the genius of social  experience design. It is militantly honest – utterly engaging to develop – bloody hard to realise correctly.