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It’s really interesting how we planners are always discussing about our role in the industry. Although sometimes I feel like we are in a permanent collective identity crisis, to think about who we are and what we do help making us better.

And this is a great time to think about making planning better.

Because of a simple reason: planning has never been so defied as it has been defied now.

This 40 years old discipline is experiencing an unprecedented moment where everything surrounding has changed. By everything I mean the advertising model, the consumer, the media channels and the clients’ demands.

Motivated by these transformations, Stephen King, one of the idealists of the planning discipline long ago, once said: “I’m just surprised that no one has thought of a better idea yet”.

It’s not that planning doesn’t work or it’s not valid anymore.

It’s just that it was a great innovation for a different scenario. To be “the voice of the consumer in the process of developing advertising” is not enough for the actual reality in which communication and planning are playing.

For me it’s true that planning needs to evolve.

We have to think differently about creating brand relevance in an era when people have got the power to chose what, how and when brands will be relevant for them.

So let’s think different about planning.

Let’s think more on how influencing the culture in which a brand plays rather than trying to make the brand bigger, faster, cleaner, greater, cooler.

Let’s accept fragmented, segmented and molecular approaches rather than the big and fixed message/idea of what to say about the brand.

Let’s celebrate the opportunity people give us to work for the development of conversations rather than the advertising monologue.

Let’s face that the creative brief is just the beginning of our jobs and not the final product of out activities.

Let’s fight to put planning officially starting with innovation and product development people rather than just keep solving marketing staff’s problems.

And let’s keep our strengths and use them to fight new fights.

Planning will continue to be about the people.

About bringing well-grounded insights to generate brand relevance.

About helping to create truthful connections with products and services.

About helping to understand who consumes what and how who influences whom.

About guiding people in the middle of the chaos.

About envisioning great storytelling themes and universes.

So, be confident.

Behavior will still be our holy grail. Even more.

And think different.

Because even less will be advertising.

The idea of communication as an interactive process is not new, but can change a lot the way things are done in the marketing industry. This simple notion changes the perspective from targeting messages to designing experiences in order to create engaging communication between the parts.

While some product and service brands are learning how to think with the interactive perspective, other “brands” are offering great lessons, like the ones from the entertainment industry (by the way, remember where transmedia storytelling started?).

Just experiment Radiohead’s 12 Cams, for example. This is an interactive piece that Radiohead did to communicate their In Rainbows World Tour in Japan. A simple and great idea that puts you in the position of a TV Director, or something like this, where you can edit the images of a stage performance using all the different 12 cams to create your own rainbow (see the concept?).

It’s crazy – simple, very attractive and something you would like to share with your friends.

What I like most about this idea is that it gives me the rich content of the band in its pure form and let me play with it. Fantastic, and a real good example of an idea that aims for a two-way (or more, if we consider it’s spreadable) communication.

Better than having one idea that aims this dynamic, is to have an strategy based on that. Which is what I get from all this Radiohead project. The premise of interactivity seems to be the seed for the whole strategy of In Rainbow launching, not just the 12 Cams idea. And this is what makes the whole thing even more beautiful.

As people responsible for the creative manifestation of brands, I believe we should look for this same seed in our strategies. To aim and pursue for a experiential path in which creativity could produce a two-way communication process resulting in better relationships and conversations.

After all, what do you think those guys were thinking when they decided for letting their fans chose what price to pay for the musics of the album?

When I think about my future as a planner, or even the future of planning, I like to think that I’ll evolve from a discipline that happens through messages to one that happens through experiences.

When experiences take a major role, our mindset has to shift as a radar mapping great interaction opportunities.

In my mind, interactions presume both sides giving something valuable to each other. No part playing a passive role. Instead, an active exchange between two parts.

That’s how interactions turn into dialogues.

Creating rich dialogues, we will create richer conversations – that major topics and events existing in our culture, where brands happen.

Ok. I know that this thinking is not so clear, maybe just thrown away as things appear in my mind, but not so far from what Colin has wrote with great simplicity here:

Why the separation between planning and user experience design? As “planners”, we need to evolve our thinking to be interactions-based. Insights and strategy that drive brand interactions, retail interactions, product interactions, digital interactions. Brands create paths for people to follow.

As you can see, and I like to think, we have a very interesting path ahead of us. So, let’s contribute with it.

Maybe the hardest thing for brands who face social media and social networking is to avoid the bandwagon and really come up with a strategic thinking behind their presence.

Lots of brands are making use of the social tools. But lots of brands are just replicating, with different layers, the messaging model when there is no conversation at all.

So, it’s great when some companies come up with richer perspectives and this is what makes me highlight what Best Buy is doing.

In this post from We Are Social you can see a video of Best Buy’s CMO explaining how they understand what is happening and what digital can do for them. In a sentence: “make dreams come true”.

As part of that, they launched Twelpforce, a dedicated help force to be there for customers via Twitter. What means that if I have a doubt I use @Twelpforce and someone will try to solution my anxiety.

Isn’t it simple and brilliant?

What I like most about it is that it’s a real service for people. A real utility for consumers.

Great because it builds value upon the space where people are already present and adds a new function inside it.

It’s also a big example of how companies and agencies can be skillful to bring up new uses of Twitter as a social tool applied to business.

If CP+B is not behind it (which I think they do), they are the ones who are spreading the service.

Have a look on the ads (here) that directs the audience to @Twelpforce and not to a microsite. Oh, and the stadium metaphor really makes one understand what the service is all about. Even for those who are not used to Twitter.

This year at Cannes Lions lots of people could interact with a new Coca Cola vending machine.

One that, besides delivering the product, delivered a new buying experience.

Before that, I watched a video of a Samsung’s person explaining its functionality, but it’s a huge jump when you observe people interacting with it.

It’s interesting to see how, through this technology, Coca Cola amplifies the experience at the moment of buying. A precious moment when the consumer has his attention totally focused on it and the brand can give something more than just the product.

It’s not just a moment for a “refreshing pause”, but a huge opportunity for the brand to be more relevant, to surprise and present a piece of its storytelling in a delightful way.

Also, this is a nice example of how great interactions can generate more interests for brands.

A natural thing if we think that the more pleasant an experience is, the more we want to repeat it.

Maybe, this is the little truth and desired effect behind the touch-screen.

This video was popping up the internet some days ago.

And I think it’s just so cool.

Because it’s a perfect piece to explain what viral is and how/why it commonly happens.

As Faris usually says: “viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is” and here we can see this effect.

Something just happening.

What I love about the video is that in the beginning you have one guy original and authentic enough to come up with a different behavior from the context (no judgments here, please).

So, another guy comes and makes the different action kind of fun and acceptable.

A third one comes into it, making it playful and enjoyable.

And then, it just happens.

The ones who were not part of that action, but part of the context, just get into it too, endorsing and wanting to make part of that movement.

People now act like herd.

Suddenly, nonsense dancing becomes one cool thing done by many.

And, oh, the spirit of collective hysteria takes the main role.

I had to write a text about the use of multi-platforms to optimize creativity.

And that’s my opinion about the theme (under 25 lines).

Optimize the experience

I dare to say that the changes we lived in the media landscape in the last ten years were unique and exposed us, agencies, to communicate in new and unexpected ways. Mass media rapidly lost its reign to new channels and tools because people are in charge now.

Their demands are active and happen through lots of platforms because of a simple reason: they go after what is appealing and interesting to their eyes. And it doesn’t matter if this is on TV, on the internet or at a live event.

In this way, the concept of using multi-platforms to optimize creativity bothers me a little bit. Because it sounds to me as if we were still thinking on the message perspective and not thinking on how best use a mix of platforms to come up with a strategy/creativity able to make people engage and relate with an idea (be it an experience, a storytelling or a product, for instance). To make my point clearer, I’ll use the launching of Halo 3 to explain the difference.

Thinking about Halo 3, you could see that lots of platforms were used to articulate not only the advertising of a new game, but the experience of a mythical and heroic storytelling. The campaign wasn’t proposing a message, but an idea big and powerful that people could engage and participate. They did films, internet, live actions, promotions, PR and more, using the power of each platform, combining them to offer different experiences and opportunities for people to join the story.

This is opposed to the use of multi-platforms leveraging one single message. When it happens you are just reaching people by different touch-points, but it doesn’t mean you are engaging and connecting to them. What is, definitely, not an optimization.

When it comes to the modern ways of brand building, I believe there is nothing so strong as establishing conversation. The ones that are real, interesting and enduring.

This presentation from John Willshire is absolutely fantastic to understand, in a few minutes, how brands need to evolve their marketing approach to really connect to people in this world ruled by interesting things to talk about.

Great way of showing and proving how actually doing things for people (remember this from Adrian) makes lots of difference on how brands can get closer and relevant.

Unfortunately, I bet there are lots of us still trying to convince some clients not to pointing their finger – the way slide 31 reproduces – while people are having some nice conversation.

Hilarious piece from  Jon Stewart about Twitter.

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p1010249

It’s so pleasant when you face a brand that walks the walk. And that’s why I’m writing about Zappos.com.

This week, my dear friend and colleague at McCann Brazil, Debora Nitta, sow Zappos’ young CEO on Oprah TV show and was amazed by how he runs his company. Their mission is to provide the best customer service experience through the WOW philosophy.

Debora, then, wanted to know more about it and sent an email to Tony Hsieh, the CEO. I don’t know what was her expectation, but mine wouldn’t be receiving a reply on the same day or the next. But Tony put words into action by answering her inquires just-in-time and offering the 2008 company’s culture book so she could know them better.

We were just amazed with that. But the more we read about them, the more we understood this act. These guys are just crazy about making this WOW thing happens. See:

  • Zappos.com is an online retailer (primarily focused on shoes)
  • they don’t charge shopping and returns (for 365 days!)
  • there are always someone to help you in case of doubt (yes, real people)
  • people do have autonomy to solve your problem
  • if they don’t have the product you want in stock, they will look for it with competitor’s and then drive you to that site so you can have what you want.
  • but, most importantly, they will satisfy you throughout the entire shopping process.

To guarantee this idea Zappos.com creates and feeds an internal culture that involves all employees around it. And it’s based upon 10 core values.

So, when the CEO of the company replies an email from an unknown person from another country and sends a book about their culture and beliefs for free he builds his brand and is truthful to his own ideal.

Tony knows how to generate word-of-mouth around his business. His business vision is all about improve his service and let people do the advertising job. In a natural and spontaneous way, telling their folks how good it was their purchasing experience. I just love a sentence of the book which says: “rather than spend a lot of money on marketing, we can instead put that money towards improving the customer experience”.

In an age of conversation what it seems to me is that Zappos.com has all to do with common sense and simplicity. They are not reinventing the business, but being more sensible on making a good selling, dealing with people and allowing them to interact with you. It’s an human approach, after all.

Also, it’s a great example on how brands should behave to really connect and dialogue with people.

That’s why, in a near future, they can be operating in whatever business their way of doing means to provide a better experience than the competition.

Check it out more about them here and here.

This is interesting.

Some people are posting this presentation, but I want to add some words on.

When you first see it you immediately think it’s a good material about marketing and business investments during recession periods. And, the first slides are really about it.

A clear and well written point (not to mention the beautiful graphics) on why brands need to keep investing – how this leads to market share gains, how you can beat competitors in the long term, the golden opportunity for brand building.

But, then, it kind of reveals the real intent.

You just feel uncomfortable when reading a chart that says: “New media are less effective at brand building” (strange, isn’t it?)

The reason is that this presentation is not a conceptual piece about advertising, but a selling effort from a magazine.

And the thinking reveals a fallacy in order to sell ad spaces.

Anyways, I think it’s a shame.

The Economist could have stand the voice on how deeply they understand about brand building during hard recessive times, positioning as a reference. But, instead, they just tried to push something and lost credibility.

Just feels like a missed opportunity to make a broader connection.

conferencia

I’ve been away in the last couple of weeks. So much work, no time for anything. But now I’m spending some days at my hometown and I’ll try to write a few things. The first one is about the Brazilian Planning Conference that happened some weeks ago in Sao Paulo.

The theme was (guess what?) Conversation. A cool theme for an advertising marketplace that needs to really understand this concept and re-shape the structures to start to respond to this new culture.

It was a great day, with lots of inspiring people from the client side, journalism, design, pop nerd culture, research and planning. You can have a better sense of the day looking at these pics or at Gareth’s blog here.

Albeit all of the speakers have done a great job, I’ll stick to comment four presentations that best demonstrates the thinking behind the Conversation concept in my opinion.

The first is about Nike, represented by its head of marketing in Brazil, Tiago Pinto. Once more, the brand proved why it knows how to make things happen. Nike is all about connecting to the culture of each sport they are into. Plus, it really knows how people behave in each culture because the company participates running, playing and skateboarding with them in Brazil.

This is a brand that understands their folks are more interested in things that provide social currency for them to share and connect with their peers. So Nike provides what makes conversation. In two ways: between the brand and its consumers and between consumer-to-consumer. The usage of events, utility and content is the way to reach a broader goal of making the dialogue happens.

My second comment is about a nice surprise and a refreshingly voice coming from Fred Gelli, founder of Tatil Design. His approach on conversation was related to the ongoing thinking brands must have on a more eco-conscious and sustainable society. But his speech wasn’t an “eco-boring” thing, rather a very inspiring way of considering Bionic as a powerful learning for industry and brands. Besides, his stuff showed how designers have a different (and in many cases, a broader) mindset to brand thinking.

His first point has to do with cycles: how nature doesn’t throw energy away and how it designs for the long-term perspective. The opposite of the industrial consumerism thinking that has the short-term perspective and lots of wastefulness problems. His second point was on how Bionic leads to new solutions. To make that closer for the planners in the room, he made a brilliant correlation of flowers as the most successful nature’s brand experience. Because flowers changed, optimized and romanticized nature’s procreation process. Than he showed some slides with similarities on brand experiences and flowers. Beautiful and sensitive stuff.

As sensitive are the two planners who spoke over there. Two of the guys who are trying hard on the quest to move planning forward: Adrian Ho and Gareth Kay. Of course they have a similar view on the planning issue, but it was very interesting to hear how one is trying to change not just planning, but his whole agency and how the other had to quit the ad business to start doing things instead of advising in the conversation reality.

Gareth’s main point is that planning needs planning. It means that this discipline needs to re-evaluate itself and must be radical in terms of attitude and approach on doing that. It starts by the comprehension that the business we operate in is culture and not communication or branding. Then it evolves to the notion that we need to translate the other way back, bringing social grammar into the commercial world and not keeping the translation of commercial into social. Where, finally, brand is measured by its energy and not by some static attributes like awareness.

Gareth defends that energy is what drives conversations. Something that makes lots of sense to me if we think this is the leading indicator of usage and preference, something essential to a friend endorsement, for instance. So, planning outcome naturally shifts for brands to: have a social/cultural point of view, be additive and not interruptive, to interact not just integrate (I would say lots of agencies really have to learn this one) and do stuff, lots of them.

Underlying his main point is the fact that in today conversation world messaging is gone. And this may be the great issue of this whole industry we are part of. Digital and design are free from it, for instance. Messaging isn’t part of these discipline’s roots, just part of advertising roots. I’m the one saying that, but Adrian presented his case of liberating from the messaging paradigm.

Zeus Jones came from two “personal failures”, as Adrian put. Based on personal experiences, they (he and his partners) sow that advertising (massaging) was limiting the power of their strategy. Even if they had a brilliant insight and a deeper strategy concerning product and other touch-points of the brand experience, at the end of the day, they were stuck in the ad pieces square. Not accidentally, Zeus Jones is focused on doing things not saying things. Their belief is that marketing only exist as service and that there is not as important as the experience of using the product.

Personally, it was a great opportunity I had to listen to some guys and brands I already was an admirer. Professionally, I’ll continue to support the conversation idea. It’s essential that Brazilian advertising understands this shift for our own sake. Conversation requires more strategy, new approaches and renewal minds on agency and client sides. Just as a last thing, look why Crispin as Creativity’s agency of the year has everything to do with the conversation age.

Courtesy of Onildo_Lima from Flickr

The way low-income classes in Brazil are embracing technology and the internet is just amazing. So interesting that a very popular TV show in the country, Fantástico, has covered what happens where these people live and how they use the web.

You can see both of the materials below. It’s in portuguese, but even for you who read it outside Brazil it worths taking a look to understand the contextual references of people I’m talking about and the place they live (each video has 10 minutes). See here and here.

The most interesting thing about the role of internet for low-income classes is that it is not just a mean of digital inclusion, but A MEAN FOR SOCIAL AND CULTURAL INCLUSION.

I believe that there are 3 major things about this phenomena that worth some lines:

The LAN HOUSE phenomenon

The Lan House is where people from the “comunidade” (community, their neighborhood area in the suburbs) go to have internet access. Inside the neighborhood there are lots of them (more than 90k all over Brazilian suburbs).

Although in the last few years the computer penetration has largely grown in the low-income segment in Brazil, the internet access is still limited. Largely it’s because of the price, but in some cases also because the difficulty companies have to make it viable.

Nice to say that the Lan Houses are not simply the place for internet access, but also it’s a place for SOCIAL interactions and exchanges within the community.

How people are using the web

As the videos show, these are simple people. Generally they don’t have a strong educational basis, do not make much money, work for the richer classes. But these people are the ones who best reflect some attributes of the Brazilian spirit: happy, creative, social, faithful.

Their web usage reflects it. Socialnets are extremely popular. Low-income people want and like to be on the social communities making themselves noticeable. Orkut is the main socialnet in Brazil with a huge amount of the minor classes users. Msn Messenger is another very popular tool that quick spreads among this segment. But other social web sites like Youtube, Flickr, Fotologs and even blogs are getting important and used.

The interesting point is that people use those tools in a very creative way. Its the case of turning the Orkut and Msn Messenger into business spaces. Like the nail manicure that takes pictures of her service and upload it so her Orkut friends and others could see her work and call for it. Or the case of the boy who created his car profile selling it. Or the pizza restaurant where you call for a pizza via Msn Messenger so the customer doesn’t have the cost of a phone call and the business doesn’t have the cost of buying a phone line.

What they get is what they see – and they see far

Here is where it lies the biggest insight low-income people have about the internet. Because they don’t have the same access to education, health and security in comparison to the higher classes, they don’t have so much opportunity as the others.

But this logic changes with the internet. This is a place that allows everything; that provides content and learning, that allows to express and raise their voice and culture, that incentives new and creative forms of making money, that connects the people from “comunidades” with the world.

So, for the marginalized low-income person, the internet brings and make it touchable the idea of EQUALITY. People feel it, know it and are using it to gather the opportunities the system used to keep away

Because of this insight, I believe we are about to see main changes on the internet usage in Brazil in a near future. Something that will impact not just brands and communication, but the market creating a need to design new business models considering people that is out of the radar today.

Contagious is a very inspiring source for me and I really like the way they cover what is happening in the communication’s world. A while ago, I sow an analysis of four automotive micro sites and decided to put two of them here. Because I think they illustrate well what I consider a good and not so good usage of a micro site as a medium for advertising.

The first case is the micro site of the New Ford Ka launching in Brazil where I felt like if I had wasted my precious time going to the site. I found a difficult navigation; I was lost and had to play games I didn’t want to; I didn’t know where to find information about the car and when they appeared they were like specs not translated into benefits. I wonder what kind of reaction the possible prospect of the car had with it…

The second case was different. I’m talking about the Smart micro site in UK. At first, it shows what it is all about – Smart truths. This site involves who’s there.  Easy to understand and navigate, intuitive and entertaining. The benefits of Smart For Two are directly and funny pointed out. Not just the experience was pleasant as I wanted my peers to take a look into that.

For me, what makes the two examples so different is the way they where thought for the consumer. The first case is the replication of the old advertising approach. The second is the application of a conversational approach. I’ll put it simple as that:

  • Case 1 – message.
  • Case 2 – message + MEDIUM EXPERIENCE.

 

I believe that when brands think about people’s experience they tend to get a good response. On the other hand, when they just want to communicate without thinking on the other part, they tend to get nothing.