Brain Surfing: The Top Marketing Strategy Minds in the World
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The types of companies hiring strategists snowballed beyond agencies to include innovation consultancies, start-ups, and even the marketing departments on the client side.
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The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice—practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. You will need a well-informed coach not only to guide you through deliberate practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself. Above all, if you want to achieve top performance as a manager and a leader, you’ve got to forget the ...more
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checklist. You could pick any number and try that item just to see where it leads you.” How simple is that? His list (see Fifty Ways to Get Started) covers both digital and analog sources of inspiration, and he even appropriates the religious slogan with “What would Jon Steel do?”
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consultancy First the Trousers Then the Shoes Inc., was similarly inspired to create a tool he calls Positioning Roulette by analyzing over 1,200 case studies from around the world. He identified twenty-six possible approaches brands can take, such as identifying an enemy or submitting the brand to a torture test. He also built a handy website (positioning-roulette.com) outlining approaches that are full of provocative questions to stimulate thinking.
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good research is a critical element to beginning a project well and is worth fighting for.
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Jason and Dave got to discussing the development of the rover NASA sent to collect samples on Mars. NASA started out by designing a robot that was as big as a truck and chock-full of computers. The robot, which they called Robby, would take a bunch of pictures, render them into a 3-D image, and then decide if it should collect a sample or move forward twelve inches before initiating the sequence again. It was heinously slow and cost $2 billion to build. NASA was stumped. Should they send this expensive and slow robot to Mars? How much will it be able to see of Mars before breaking down? Enter ...more
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Jason asks us to have a look at a campaign that the Colgate client loves that is entirely above-the-line. Is there a way to extend it into digital channels? Can we encourage people to “engage” with their toothpaste?
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After just a couple of hours’ work, Jonny and I have some ideas we’re pretty excited to share with Jason. We walk over to Jason’s office and take him through our thoughts. Like us, Jason is most excited about our idea to create a dating site where profile pictures of smiles are the only ones allowed. We munch on some beef jerky that Jonny brought from Singapore, and the conversation turns toward how digital ideas are treated in Asia.
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“For any brand, way more people buy the product than ‘like’ the brand on Facebook.” “Heather,” Jason says, “have you read How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp?” I shake my head and jot down the title in my notebook. Jason explains that Sharp is the lead disciple of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, a marketing think tank in Australia. He pulls the book from his shelf, searches for a specific page, and then sets it between Jonny and me across the desk so we can see a chart that dispels the 80:20 rule. Rather than 20 percent of customers accounting for 80 percent of sales, the vast majority of sales come ...more
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I see that my objectives going forward for any brand should be to grow the customer base and to make the brand easier to buy for more people in more situations. These are the big drivers of market share.
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1. Use the formula: 2. Google Trends, Google Insights, Google Suggest. 3. What archetypes does/could the brand play? 4. Review universal human needs—where does the brand make a difference to people? 5. Search planning blogs on the Plannersphere search engine. 6. Search WARC. 7. John Griffiths’ Planning Kata: www.planningaboveandbeyond.com/planningcraft/kata 8. Search Youtube/Addictomatic/Flickr/Twitter/Delicious for the topic/brand. 9. What brand in the category has the most Facebook likes? The most Twitter followers? The fewest? Why? 10. Go to a store. Check out the retail environment. Use ...more
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One of my favorite examples is Netflix. They’ve been known to lighten the mood with Star Trek–themed online chats: “This is Cpt. Mike of the good ship Netflix. Which member of the crew am I speaking with today?”
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“If we want people to tell stories,” he tells me, “we have to realize they’ll be most interested in stories about themselves, not about our brands. They’re the protagonists; we’re just the support cast. I think Red Bull is a perfect example. They don’t just sponsor a person; they fund that person’s quest for their dreams and personal achievement. It’s always about how that person has stretched themselves, not how Red Bull is the hero.” This immediately brings to mind for me Red Bull’s Stratos stunt, where they sponsored Felix Baumgartner to skydive from the stratosphere. Unbelievable content ...more
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One evening, Simon and I take the metro home, and he tells me about Story Sync. “It’s this great little second-screen app that AMC [the channel that brought us Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, among others] has with quizzes and insight about your favorite TV shows. When people are watching TV and using their phones, tablets, or laptops, 75 percent of the time it has nothing to do with the show. But with this app, people can participate with others who are watching the same show they are and get a real-time experience.”
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One of my favorite examples of smart work is a campaign Canon did in Australia. They created an idea they call photochains, which is essentially an inspiration game housed on a microsite. They kicked it off with several example chains: In each photo, a detail was highlighted to inspire the next photo in the chain. So, say there was a picture of a child with an orange wedge in his smiling mouth, and the photographer selects the orange. This means the next photo has to have something to do with orange, which could be an alleyway in Spain with an orange door. That photographer might highlight and ...more
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What’s beautiful about this idea is that I don’t believe it could have been created in a loop team. If Canon’s above-the-line agency of record (primarily tasked with TV creation) started working against a brief to inspire people to take more pictures, it’s very unlikely that they’d present a digital platform as the crux of their idea. This particular idea uses above-the-line TV and outdoor to build awareness of and drive people to the site.
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“Think about growing a potato,” he says. “You might say, ‘I grew this potato.’ But you didn’t actually grow the fucking potato. You can’t create a community or a conversation just like you can’t grow a potato. But you can create the right environment.” I find myself nodding because this is a perfect articulation of what I feel clients so often don’t really understand. They see digital as simply another channel—just another method to get their messages out there. But, with respect to the many lovely clients I’ve worked with who think this way, they are missing out. The thing is, they won’t have ...more
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Brand as a Gardener. A gardener creates something of value, but he respects that he can’t always predict what will thrive and what will wither. He creates the right environment for a living thing to grow (growing a brand is like growing a fucking potato, remember?). Creating that environment requires an empathic understanding of real people and of what will be useful and entertaining to them. That’s the way we ought to look at creating content to build brands. For example, most gardens have benches and spaces for people to simply enjoy. These gardens make room for others, which is a good ...more
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A brand worth talking about is a brand that people are willing to pay more for. And everything a brand does is an opportunity to start a conversation. The packaging. An event. An ad. It takes skill to build a brand worth talking about, where these conversations are positive and people become media.
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“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” – Thomas Jefferson
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other brands that have transformed staid categories. What attributes do Saturn cars, Burberry, and Method cleaning supplies share?
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“When I think of these sort of upstart brands,” Tom says, “they all seem to be hungrier than the incumbents in their categories. A lot of times they have a visionary leader, too.” “They almost always speak directly to a cultural tension,” I add. “Saturn took on the convention of haggling over the price, and Method challenged the lack of style and beauty among cleaning products. What do you think the tension is here?”
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instances of devious strategy in action. “I did hear about something I thought was brilliant,” Rob tells me. “When Daniel Radcliffe [aka Harry Potter] was in New York for several months acting in a play, he found himself pestered by the paparazzi. However, he didn’t try to persuade them to leave him alone. Instead, he decided to let the paparazzi take pictures if they wanted, but he’d wear the exact same clothes every day. For tabloid readers, it would look like one endless day. So of course, the paparazzi got bored and left him alone.”
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People have businesses where employees play World of Warcraft to sell hard-earned virtual weapons.