The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.

Disrupting Retail: Three myths about digital and in-store shopping

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A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the DiG Festival about the future of retail. The panel hosted by retail guru, Nancy Georges evolved very quickly away from a simple notion of retail to one augmented by digital technology, mobile connectivity and dominated by a focus on customer experience.

And while great strides have been made overseas in recent years, it seems that Australian retailers are only now starting to properly grapple with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital. For many categories, this has left gaping holes in the retail experience, affording startups and more agile small players to enter and dominate parts of the Australian retail landscape. Just think of the way:

  • Zara swept into the country, catching Myer and David Jones completely off guard
  • Shoes of Prey have outflanked and reinvigorated the custom women’s footwear space
  • ASOS out-compete local retailers with reliable online shopping and speedy fulfilment

In many ways, this is symptomatic of a larger shift in consumer behaviour. We are now using our mobile phones and digital devices to fulfil our consumptive impulses, and Australian retailers have been caught with their pants down, having stubbornly under-invested in technology, innovation and customer experience for decades.

There is, however, an increasing body of evidence that retailers can rely upon to bust the entrenched, old-skool thinking that seems to dominate the boards and executive ranks of Australian retail. And this latest research from Google is a great starting point. Busting three myths about digital and its relationship to in-store purchase, the report shows:

Myth 1: Search results only send consumers to eCommerce sites

The research shows that far from creating a barrier to in-store shopping, quality search results can drive in-store traffic. However, this clearly means that retailers have to be actively managing and updating their web presence and product catalogues.

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Myth 2: Retailers lose the attention of in-store customers once they turn to their smartphones

With 42% of in-store shoppers searching for information online while in the store, an up-to-date website with integrated recommendation could deliver powerful cross-selling opportunities.

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Myth 3: Online research has relegated in-store experience to the transaction

In reality, consumers have higher customer experience expectations than ever before. For example, 85% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store.

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You can download the full report here. But it is time for retailers to go beyond reading and to step out of the shadows of the Twentieth Century. It’s time to embrace the opportunities that come with disruptive technology and business models. Not to do so will open yet more doors to disruptive competitors – and no business can afford that.

Eleven Startups Catch the Next Wave at Muru-D

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You could hear the noise in the lift on the way up. Over 150 people were packed into the open area of Muru-D, Telstra’s startup accelerator, awaiting the announcement of the ten teams who would participate in the second class of the Muru-D academy. For the teams that were selected, there was excitement. For those that didn’t make it, disappointment.

The Muru-D academy is a startup accelerator program supported by Telstra. It offers entrepreneurs $40,000 and six months of business mentoring and active development in exchange for six percent equity in the fledgling business. I joined the program as a mentor for the first class so was interested to get an early look at those involved in the second intake.

Around 20 or so new teams had been corralled at the Muru-D office in Sydney’s Paddington over a weekend. They were put through their paces in a “bootcamp” – an intensive round of meetings, instruction and pitching designed to help the Muru-D judges determine those most likely to succeed. Across the weekend, the startup teams were questioned, provoked, supported and challenged. It is certainly not a process for the faint hearted.

But talking to a number of the participants, it was clear that the bootcamp process was worthwhile – even more experienced teams learned a great deal.

All-in-all there were 11 teams selected to participate in the academy process. That was one more than expected – but clearly there was value to be found. This rounds teams include:

  • FanFuel – a sponsorship marketplace where brands search, measure and secure their sponsorship deal.
  • FreightExchange – a digital marketplace for freight transporters to sell their unused capacity to businesses that need to ship goods.
  • Wattblock – quick, customised, web-based energy-saving road maps for residential and commercial strata buildings.
  • Disrupt Surfing – custom surfboards made using 3D modelling.
  • You Chews – an online catering platform, making it easy to find great food for meetings and events.
  • TripALocal – an online platform that connects travellers with local hosts for authentic local experiences.
  • Peep Digital – an intelligent, phonetic English technology platform to help children, youths and adults struggling with English pronunciation and comprehension.
  • VClass – the first ever hybrid education platform that combines the power of internet, VoIP and traditional pen and paper to create an online teaching experience like face to face.
  • Instrument Works – developers of wireless, portable sensors and instruments to build the internet of things for research.
  • CroudSourceHire – a pre-hire assessments marketplace platform that crowdsources industry experts to assist with assessment of jobs for companies.
  • SoccerBrain – making it easy for anyone to coach a team, providing tailored, interactive training sessions week-by-week for coaches and players.

The teams kick off their acceleration program in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see where this wave takes them. And indeed, where it takes Telstra and the Muru-D team.

Do CMOs Like to Play the Field?

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CMOs are a funny breed. They work with a constant tension – half living in the shadow of the former incumbent and half looking towards their own future vision. And with a tenure that lasts about 45 months, that means that there is about two years’ worth of clean air for the marketing chief to make their stamp on a business. It’s precious little when you think about it.

So, from an agency point of view, working with a CMO also has challenging ramifications. Is there alignment between the agency and the CMO? Is there a long term partnership? Or is there a whole new agenda at play?

The Agency Management Institute has released a study that looks under the hood at what truly drives the agency partnership by interviewing CMOs from across the US. It reveals three main style of CMO:

  • Looking for love: these are the CMOs who are in it for the long haul. They are looking for the one-stop-shop and see the agency as a partner in the business and brand building process
  • Playing the field: this is the CMO who hires best of breed. They want the expert know-how and will shake up the agency relationship to keep the blood pumping
  • Single and satisfied: these CMOs are firmly in control of their own destiny – they’ve got strong in-house teams and use agencies on a project by project basis.

Understanding the CMO you are dealing with can help you plan ahead. But there are some things that all the CMOs agreed upon – agencies need to stop being pushy and need to work on building trust levels. Easy to say, hard to do.

 

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Don’t Bore Your Audience: Use the Pixar Pitch

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When I studied literature, I was fascinated by form. By the words. Arrangement. Layout. And narrative. I loved the way that John Fowles would create untrustworthy narrators that led the story in new, unexpected directions. And I loved Antonin Artaud’s dangerous writings. Or Christopher Barnett’s language that was so revolutionary it broke the words. I was intrigued and excited by writing that would break the language and our expectations and then reconstruct things completely new. It was a disruption to thought and expectation and it blew my mind.

But the best of these writers were not rampant destroyers of meaning. They were articulate explorers pushing the limits of language and the implicit bargain that writers make with their readers. Sometimes it would work and take us – together – on new journeys. And sometimes I’d throw the book against the wall and leave it to make its own way back to the shelf. The thing is, that the best of these writers were masters of their craft – and they’d work very deliberately to take us as readers on a journey – it just so happened that the by-product of that journey would be some form of collision or catastrophe of language. And in that way, the product of the writing was not the book – but the experience. Of reading. Co-creating meaning. Disruption.

So when I attend a conference, view a video or see a presentation, I look for something that is going to set my heart ablaze and send my mind wheeling. I wonder where I will be taken or how I will be surprised. And more often than not, I am disappointed.

There is no narrative. No journey to follow and become involved with. It’s just facts. Numbers. And opportunities for micro-naps.

It’s a slow death being hammered by statistics.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, explains the formula deployed to great success by Pixar. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time <something happened>.

Every day <life went on like this>.

One day <something changed>.

Because of that <the world was never the same again>.

Until finally <a new world became the next chapter>.

Now, I am not going to say that this formula will change your world. Nor that each presentation needs to be a masterpiece.

But if your job is communication (and if it’s not, why are you presenting?), then do your audience a favour and wheel out the Pixar Pitch. You might just be amazed at the impact it has.

Disrupting Graphics: Now Design’s at Your Fingertips with Canva for iPad

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Canva-ipad One of the great local startup success stories, Canva – the platform that lets us all create great graphic design in an amazingly simple way – has reached a milestone – 850,000 users. This is no mean feat – especially in a world where every startup, every mature business and hoards of consultants, freelancers and the like vie for our attention, loyalty and share of wallet. With a super-intuitive yet powerful interface, Canva have made it easy for anyone to produce quality graphic design, collateral and presentations.

And by “anyone”, I mean anyone. Including me, my brother and my mother (so yes, it passes the family test). And by “quality” I mean that the results don’t look like they were produced by me, my brother or mother. They look like they’ve been done by a designer. This is largely down to the great library of ready-to-go images, design elements, templates and fonts that come with a Canva account. But it’s also largely by the Canva co-founders keeping a close eye on their advocates, user base and fans.

Speaking with co-founder, Melanie Perkins, over a year ago, it was clear that the Canva team needed to walk a fine line between democratising design – making it available to the masses – while also maintaining the goodwill, support and efforts of the design community. After all, Melanie and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht had come from a design background themselves and were actively working with designers to build out libraries of assets that could be commercialised at scale.

In just over a year, more than 5.7 million designs have been created, Guy Kawasaki has come on-board as chief evangelist, and the team has grown beyond its cute digs in the funky Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

But not content to rest on their laurels, Canva have now released a new a full function app for the iPad.

And for me, this takes Canva into a whole new market. It puts their powerful platform into the hands of its users. Literally. And that means small business owners. Those who work in shops, restaurants and cafes. It brings ease-of-use to a new level too – with access to your iPad’s camera and camera roll, there’s no more messy transferring of images across devices. It’s all in one place – ready to be edited, filtered and combined with illustrations and images from the Canva library.

Now, I won’t lie. Canva in the hands of a good designer will astound you. And my mum’s birthday card designs, while a big hit with the family, are unlikely to end up being featured in a Hallmark promotion. But Canva is a massive step up from the entry-level tools that still dominate small businesses the world over. So say goodbye to that old Paint program, and say hello to a new universe of creativity. Download Canva for iPad here.

ADMA-Telstra Young Marketer and Young Creative of the Year Finalists

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adma-yc-ym There was a time where I wore a rather cynical hat when it came to awards. I’d look at the projects that won and the effort that would go into creating the award pitches and see holes, sub-standard work or missed opportunities. But with more experience on both client and agency sides, I am far more forgiving. And sometimes astounded or amazed at the work that does get done. After all, almost every piece of work that is seen in public has been pored over, compromised, championed and changed. It’s the rough and ready world of creative collaboration – and it’s harder than a dozen series of Mad Men would have you believe.

Which is why it’s important to celebrate the fact that great work is done and that there are scores of young marketers showing the leadership to make it happen.

Sponsored by Telstra, the finalists for the ADMA Young Creative of the Year are:

  • Tara Mckenty, Creative Director, Google APAC, for ‘Make your own luck’
  • Sal Cavallaro, Art Director, 303Lowe Sydney, for ‘An Eye into NY’
  • Brendan Graham, Copywriter and Strategist, Soap Creative, for ‘Under 30 invite’
  • Scott Nolan, Senior Art Director, Drifter, for ‘Flirt with your future’
  • Elliott White, Junior Copywriter, JWT, for ‘Launch brand you.’

And the finalists for the ADMA Young Marketer of the Year are:

  • Sue Kim, Product Marketing Specialist, Adobe
  • Richard Schmid, Advertising Manager, Dick Smith
  • Lucas Black-Dendle, Strategic Planner, Whybin\TBWA Group Sydney
  • Allister Hercus, Social Media Strategist, MEC
  • Penny Richardson, Head of Customer Marketing, Foxtel.

The overall winners will be announced on Thursday, 30 October at ADMA’s Australian Creativity and Effectiveness Awards (AC&E Awards) at The Star, Pyrmont. The winning creative campaign will be rolled out nationally as a call to entry for the 2015 ADMA Young Marketer and Young Creative competitions.

Disrupting the Music Industry – Vodafone and Spotify buddy-up

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Today’s announcement making Spotify Premium available to Vodafone mobile subscribers amps up the pressure on the music and media industries with more disruption on the horizon.

They say that the number one reason that startups fail is due to distribution. It’s not a poorly designed product, or an inexperienced team or even bad customer experience. The challenge, as it is for any new business, is reaching a market.

Now, it used to be that we knew where to find music – on radio stations, at record bars and on Countdown. As a kid, I’d go and see Mrs Fry at Sandy’s Music in Dee Why (and yes, it is still there). With her son, Nigel, they were the go-to people when it came to new music – from the most interesting punk coming out of the UK through to the emerging Birthday Party more locally, they had their finger on the pulse. They could steer you through both country and western, knew the difference between Boy George and Marilyn and would even keep an autographed single behind the counter for you.

Nigel and Jenny were the central node in a local music marketing network. And each week, they inspired their customers with stories of new music, artists and breakthrough video clips. Their knowledge and passion was extensive and their enthusiasm was contagious. Each person would leave the shop knowing just a little bit more about the music they were about to listen to. In effect, they were creating and cultivating advocates – people who would influence their friends and family through music.

But the shift to digital has transformed this kind of relationship. Our music discovery is no longer curated in the same way by the programming directors, radio hosts or record bar owners. It’s at the mercy of algorithms, networks and big data stores. And it feels like it … but I digress.

Most importantly, we are playing under new rules of distribution. Music needs to find its audience – and increasingly, that audience exists at the end of a data stream. The device that transforms that stream into music is a phone. And this places mobile phone networks in a powerful position.

With the ink now drying on the Vodafone + Spotify partnership, Voda customers will have access to the Spotify Premium package as part of their plan – that’s $11.99 a month in value. And while the deals are not yet up on the website, I’d expect you can chat with customer service about it.

But this is not the end of the line for the music industry. Nor is it for the media industry. After all, disruption also breeds opportunity – and the very thing that made Sandy’s Record Bar popular is still the thing that we crave. And for all the technology under the sun, we haven’t been able to replicate that yet.

Audience Disruption and Lessons from the Music Business – How to cultivate and amplify a fragmented audience

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It doesn’t take a genius to know that the days of mass marketing are over. But it is taking some time for us to disentangle ourselves from old ways of thinking. Gone are the days when you could produce an ad and blast it out to the compliant masses who would watch, absorb and then automaton-like file out of their homes to purchase our products direct from retailers next day. These days, advertising is a much more complicated business. It’s complicated by technology, social media and the proliferation of channels. But above all, it’s complicated by our audiences – the people who, at the end of the day, buy the products we pitch them. Because people choose the channels and the media that they are interested in, we need new tools to reach, engage and inspire them.

And by new tools, I don’t necessarily just mean technology. I also mean strategy. Products. Processes. We need staff who are interested in the needs and aspirations of others. How do we do this? How do we make it happen? These are some of the things that we are work with clients on at Disruptor’s Handbook.

The thing is, “disruption” doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a catalyst to innovation. This is also something that we work on – reframing disruption to help organisations capitalise on the opportunities that come from disruption. A great way of understanding this opportunity comes from this fantastic presentation from Michael Goldstein.

In this presentation on cultivating and amplifying audiences, Michael talks about the way that we discover, experience and enjoy music. He suggests that we are moving away from “taste dictatorships” and are rejoicing in “genre discovery”. This is a trend that music streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora are leveraging. But platforms like Boiler Room cultivate a different style of engagement and audience. Beginning as a single live streamed event, Boiler Room has evolved into a live music platform and has now hosted events in over 50 countries and produces around 100 new videos a month. Their eagle-eye focus on both emerging talent and audience engagement has seen enviable growth for the platform along with a growing community.

Does this mean the end of radio stations? Or labels?

Not at all. The long tail takes quite some time to snap the back of the incumbent. But without the benefits of aggregation, we will see further fragmentation of audiences and budgets. While this is a problem for the “Music Industry” (capital M, capital I), it just signals a rockier road ahead. It also signals disruption and opportunity. And it also means we need to work harder – to spot talent and cultivate communities. And we need to delight audiences too. After all, it’s the “music business” – and there’s money in opportunity.

10 Must-See Presentations at the DiG Festival

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Last year’s DiG Festival was one of the best conferences of the year. The DiG founders had worked hard to secure sponsors, speakers and workshop hosts – but in its first year there was a sense of uncertainty. In reality, the vibe, energy and focus proved well worth the 90 minute drive to Newcastle to attend. Not only were the speakers world class – the topics were compelling, the workshops oversubscribed and the venue was brilliant for networking, chatting, and exploring topics one-on-one.

If you have not yet secured your ticket, there is still time to do so. But if you have registered, you’ll know there is plenty to see and engage with – not just on digital topics, but a feast of health related topics too. But these 10 presentations are ones you’ll not want to miss. Look for me in the audience!

  1. Zac Zavos, Conversant Media – How to build and shape audiences to increase online traffic
  2. Ian Farmer, Zuni – Digital advertising trends
  3. Rob Innes, Xero – Platform innovation for the connected small business owner
  4. Panel: The Future of Retail
  5. Con Georgiou, One Million Acts of Innovation – How culture eats strategy for breakfast
  6. Trent Bagnall, Slingshot – How corporate Australia can utilise the tools of the start-up community for disruptive innovation
  7. Workshop: Jordan Kind, Vend – Transforming your retail business with technology
  8. Workshop: Nancy Georges – Customer Service in the Age of “ME”
  9. Workshop: General Assembly – Launch your own website in 90 minutes
  10. Workshop: Kim Chatterjee & May Chan, Optimal Experience / PwC – How to Create a Winning Pitch

See the full program
One and Two Day tickets now available.