Monday, August 08, 2016
By Colin Jowell
With the coming census, we are finally beginning to have what appears to be the first real public debate about privacy in the digital age.
We should have been having it for quite some time because in our daily lives, we already see the impact of retargeting. And while there have been horror stories of identity theft, fraud, Facebook cloning and more, it seems like we are more obsessed with sharing our lives than protecting them. Even with some of the serious alarm bells rung about the Trans Pacific Partnership last year, ask the average person in the street about what impact that will have, and you will likely get the blankest of blank responses. Not everyone is a reader of tech blogs, which are the only real outlets that seem to care.
But now, with the online census going out, for the first time there is a real and relatively sustained examination of what it might mean for our privacy.
At the core of the issue is the fact that the ABS will be keeping name and address data for four years, which along with the intensely personal information stored, is perceived as a major risk. Nick Xenophon has warned of a potential looming “debacle” and Malcolm Turnbull has refuted that.
The case for keeping the data is to allow the census information to be far more useful and current, and therefore, provide a better guide for its essential application: the planning and services of our future. This is akin to marketers opting you in and enriching data to provide you with more personalised experiences. Consumers are seduced by the joys of more relevant offers and e-mails and a tailored playlist on Spotify. But, how happy will those same consumers be when they are scammed, frauded, cloned, or outed in places they shouldn’t be a la the Ashley Maddison adultery website scandal?
Past experience says the privacy issue rears its head from time to time, generally aligned to a crisis, and then dies back down. But it would be wrong to ignore the trend - that the frequency of crisis is slowly but steadily increasing on both a mass and individual level.
And as that happens, we need to be prepared.
- We need to start thinking about the segments of customers who trust us enough to share their information with us, and those who don’t.
- We need to understand what they are prepared to share, and why.
- We need to build in failsafe measures to protect that trust as a key competitive asset and differentiator.
- Critically, we need to learn how to move people from one camp to the other by creating customer journeys that build trust incrementally.
Marketers who master this skill will be able to lock in customers with data rich, personalised, relevant experiences. The rest will be left, spreading the net wide and wasting resources, and ultimately without any marketing plan at all.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
By Colin Jowell
When the antics of the advertising industry crack a mention on the ABC’s MediaWatch, we have a problem.
Recently, the show took to task a number of so called “innovations”, following up on them to see if any of them had made the light of day.
Some of the brands in the firing line included:
• KFC - for their “finger licking good” nail polish
• Durex – for their vibrating underwear called “Fundawear” (yep, released in 2014 and still not available!)
• Dolmio - for their wifi-blocking peppermill to save family dinner time
• Domino’s - for their delivery robot
• OMO - for their peggy smart peg
In fairness, some of these items could theoretically hit the market at some point in the future, so the story was a little harsh (is there a MediaWatch for MediaWatch?).
And in some of the brands defence, what else are they supposed to do? There’s only so many times you can add more fancy additives to washing powder, and support it with animated molecules in the advertising, before we all lose interest forever.
According to MediaWatch, a representative said the above new nail polish wasn’t ready for mass production, but that they “were giving previews to the media to test the market reaction”. (Because in this modern day of bull-bingo, we can’t just say the words “publicity stunt”.)
In an age where every consumer trend report you see talks about the “savvy” customer; their growing distrust of brands and their desire for authenticity - these shameless pleas for attention have no place.
And worse still, having attracted the attention, but having no way to fulfill on the demand you create, is truly sloppy marketing.
Pulling the wool over the eyes of the customer won’t work, and while the effort to break the mould of traditional advertising is to be applauded, we shouldn’t use “innovation” as an excuse to ignore the fundamentals:
- be absolutely relevant to your brand - allowing you to sell more of your existing product, or opening the avenue to sell a new one
- solve a problem for the customer, or be incredibly entertaining in an authentic way
The discipline of marketing has a once-in-a-generation opportunity – to align with the data and tech capabilities of the business to create genuine product and service breakthroughs.
But stunts, played for publicity masquerading as impact, will relegate marketing to the backbench. Knowing what problem the customer needs solved isn’t easy, but it’s still the only thing that really matters.
Monday, May 23, 2016
By Colin Jowell
It’s not exactly news that the home of innovation in the United States is not the commercial capital of the country. It’s not even a rivalry between San Francisco and New York – simply a well understood fact that the lifestyle and more relaxed, anti-establishment nature of the bay area proved to be far more fertile ground for breakthrough ideas.
And, at the risk of being pelted with rocks by the owners of many countless start ups, incubators, and funky desk shares (of which I count myself one), I’m beginning to suspect that something similar might be happening in Australia. Melbourne doesn’t just have a more progressive attitude to education, drinking, and well, almost anything at the moment - it might also be gaining the edge as the best place to be an innovative start up.
Ben Pfisterer, Country Manager for payments innovator, Square, has observed the trend first hand: “Melbourne has always had a strong and entrepreneurial small business culture and we're continuing to see a growing trend in tech companies establishing in Melbourne, from local companies such as Xero and Envato, to larger international technology companies like Square, Slack, and Zendesk. Melbourne has a rich history of small businesses and is renowned for its community of hard-working business owners with a genuine passion for innovation, which was one of the attractions for Square when we chose to set up our local headquarters here.”
Beyond the cultural factors, Danny Gorog, Director of Outware Mobile has observed some practical differences as well: “Based on our experience with recruiting at Outware Mobile I think sourcing experienced developers is tougher, more expensive and time consuming in Sydney. Average salaries are also higher across the board”.
And those practical differences extend to local government support: Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Philip Dalidakis points out that Victoria is “leading the country in small business growth with over 8,638 new businesses started in last financial year alone”. This he attributed to the “right combination of online and direct business support services through a range of programs including (the) $60 million LaunchVic startup initiative and Small Business Victoria’s workshops, seminars and mentoring.”
Which is not just political spin: Pfisterer reflects that Square has “a great relationship with Victorian Government since we first considered establishing in Australia a few years ago. They've supported us with everything from introductions to local businesses and talent, networking Square with other technology companies who are establishing themselves here, through to helping us select the best location for our office space”.
It also doesn’t hurt that Dalidakis responds personally to a humble blogger such as yours truly, within hours of e-mailing a query. It’s this combination of the personal touch combined with tangible support that seems to be making a difference.
Gorog observes that “the startup ecosystem in Melbourne is very strong with lots of incubators popping up all over the place. Richmond, in particular, is becoming a hot-bed for startups. Entrepreneurs like to be with other entrepreneurs so this is only heating up.”
The right culture. Affordable talent. Meaningful local support.
Australia’s innovation capital may be further south than you think.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Much will be written about the UBER rebrand. Much already has. So I’m not going to mull over its interesting choice of fonts, its dynamic colour palette that is regionally flexible, or its clever iconography that will allow it to expand to take over, well, almost everything.
The thing that every CEO should be pondering right now is this: they did it themselves. They talked to undoubtedly the best in the business and still, they decided to do it themselves. The days when the world of tech and agency were best friends a la Apple and Chiat Day are, well so very 1984.
And before you write this off as limited only to the design skillset, make no mistake, that the “trend” of in-house is a reality for all – whether it’s delivering communications, PR or CRM… the list goes on.
The in-house trend is being driven by two forces. One of them is actually a credit to the creative services industry, the other, its key failing.
To the industry’s credit, the power of branding, design, communications and PR are as well recognised as ever. In fact, they are so well recognised that the notion of leaving them to an outsider is an anathema. Take the speed of a social media crisis – it really requires internally empowered teams to act, not a well-indemnified pack of advisers.
The industry’s failing however is a cultural one. The agency promise used to be a culture full of fun, variety, and inclusion. But the truth of many jobs is draining, repetitive work, done with higher pressure and lower reward. And the industry still has regular reportage on evidence that it is hostile to women. Ask a graduate whether they would rather work at Uber or last year’s agency of the year? This is not a survey I think we need to validate.
I’m sure many of you reading this will jump up and down pointing to fabulous agency partnerships and I have no doubt that it’s true, because like any trend, we are talking about the movement of the line on the graph not the size of the axis.
And, like you, I loathe those “chicken-little” style articles that claim the sky is falling in. So let me be clear, it isn’t. But we need to think about what a creative services client will really want in the future. The growth and opportunities are there – they will just be in very different sizes and shapes.
So what might they be? Well I can only share what we’ve been asked for, and what we are hearing.
1) Large organisations increasingly need help with facilitation. Whether that’s across multiple agencies, multiple sources of data, or multiple silo’s within the business. If your relationships and interactions are just with people that have the word “marketing” in the title you can easily be insourced or replaced. That we have good ideas helps, but what helps more is our ability to develop those ideas as part of cross-functional, wide-reaching teams.
2) Smaller organisations will always need external help, unable to afford to fully insource some of what we do. But that requires us to re-price and adapt to the projects these businesses can afford, and be truly generous with what we give and teach. Trust me, it’s profitable and rewarding, especially when these businesses are new or in a state of renewal.
3) We have to demonstrate that we have truly learned our own lessons. Not through some case study full of execution and cherry picked statistics. But through practical application and skin in the game. The best way is to start building stuff of our own. Real stuff that hits the shelves (or in the case of our Fonzarelli partnership, stuff that takes to the streets).
Avoid flashy, impractical things designed for awards and a few YouTube views – your clients are too smart for that. Investing in your own ideas doesn’t come cheap, it may even require forgoing a flashy party or maybe some of this years management bonus. But your staff will be stoked to be working in a place that does dynamic things like the ones they truly use and admire, and some of these ideas may go on to pay for themselves several times over in the end.
If UBER is doing it, you can bet that a bunch of companies who admire UBER will soon follow suit. The future of businesses and those that advise them will look very different. But thinking differently should be what we do every day.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
By Colin Jowell
There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in the innovation sector in Australia.
The National Innovation and Science agenda is a massive step forward for us, make no mistake, so it seems churlish to criticize an agenda that is positive in so many ways. The opening up of funding and opportunities for start ups and new businesses, the acknowledgement of the cultural shift required, creating better opportunities for women to participate…. the paper is a must read for anyone with an idea they think could become a business. There are some overdue reforms that truly celebrate risk, which is a dream for any innovator. So rather than view this as a criticism, I’d prefer to frame this as a challenge, for us all to fill in the blank spaces on what is a very generous and forward thinking canvas.
The first clue comes in the very title “Innovation and Science Agenda”. Pairing innovation and science is both critical and logical, but it’s also incomplete. While an innovation like a Tesla is rooted in science, innovations like Uber and Airbnb are less about science, and more about customer insight and understanding.
And once you see this theme, it is reinforced over and over. For example, as one goes through the site the somewhat clunky UX, one cannot help but wonder how much usability testing had been done. Such speculation is always risky in the absence of knowledge- but from observation, while the front end of the information has been given some gloss, accessing the back end programmes and the detail is still quite challenging- back to the land of dull and dense government sites. One person’s opinion, maybe, but the medium is the message, sometimes. Making this information more accessible is as important as the information itself. And this will be critical to the success of the programme going forward.
One of the more exciting developments is the opening of access to research. But again this is appears to be heavily skewed towards research provided by publicly funded organisations- the CSIRO, and others of that ilk. But some of the greatest opportunities and ideas for innovation come from a deep understanding of customer experience. With so many well-respected frameworks for developing that understanding now in the market, it seems a pity that it’s less explicitly called out. There’s a very real risk of chasing technology over customer needs- too many times, we see businesses trying to “Uberfy” their businesses without actually understanding the true problem they are trying to solve. This is exactly the reason we design our solutions around our customers deeper needs and motivations, since these frameworks are long term and outlast the tech of the day.
Understandably, more established businesses are not the focus here- but our point have view has always been that established businesses often have access to resources and expertise that just need to be channeled the right way in order to innovate. So therein lies the opportunity. Established businesses should see this as further warning that their businesses are more likely than every before to be disrupted. Existing customer relationships can, and must be leveraged to understand where that disruption may come from. By looking out for new ways to audit and examine your customer experience both qualitatively and quantitatively, you can spot which gaps to fix, and which strengths to promote, before the well-branded “idea’s boom” sends your business in the opposite direction.
Monday, November 23, 2015
And so it begins. Apple Pay has finally launched in Australia. You can now load up your American Express card on your wallet and enjoy the benefit of contactless payments on your mobile phone. This is not a new advance in technology - on the contrary, it’s been available in the US for over a year, with over a million cards signed on to the service within the first three days.
So why the dramatic title? Because the war to become your payments provider has just begun. And the prize is your valuable shopping data. We will witness a once in a generation shift in how we pay for things, possibly more significant than the rise of the credit card which has been around in pretty much the same form for over 50 years.
It will be more significant because while there have been advances in security and features like tap and go, removing the card altogether and putting it on to your device opens up a whole new world of customer experience. Consumer habits can be hard to break, but if the incentive is a more personalized, more rewarding shopping experience, delivered in fun but frictionless ways, you can rest assured customers will change in a heartbeat. And as customers make new choices, so new victors will emerge, and some traditional powerhouses will lose relevance and disappear.
Little wonder then that the local banks are not simply opening their arms to the new solution. It’s worth noting that the local offering is dramatically reduced, offering a limited number of American Express cards only, a far cry from the plethora of banks and card providers that are available in the US. For a change, the fragmented and often backwards US banking system could open the door to a leapfrog in innovation.
So what’s it going to take to win? Well if the US examples are anything to go by, there are some interesting developments. Will the acquisition of mobile loyalty provider Paydiant by Paypal signal an entirely different player in the bricks and mortar retail space? CurrentC, running on the Paydiant platform is backed by retail coalition MCX. While some early reports on poor user experience suggest otherwise, it’s worth noting that with participants like WalMart, Target, Mobil and about 30 more, there is a scale you wouldn’t dismiss lightly.
From this, it's very clear that the integration of those other cards clogging your wallet will be critical: loyalty cards. The providers of loyalty cards have always battled with frequency. Whereas your bank card battles with engagement - you use it, but you don’t love it. It used to be a battle for “front of wallet”. Merging these offers in new and innovative ways will capture customer’s attention and make “mobile default” the desired territory. Little wonder then that Commbank just launched a feature in their app enabling you to scan loyalty cards. The functionality is a little clunky now, but it would be wrong to assume that it will always be.
It’s a very exciting time - the possibilities to reinvent customer experience now have never been greater. Time to rethink those assumptions, create fresh insight, and think more creatively about what experiences will become the new customer expectations. As Winston Churchill famously said when facing a very different kind of confrontation: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
By Colin Jowell
Second to the promise of amazing data that would predict your every move, the biggest promise of technology has to be the notion of “digital self serve”. The promise is seductive - a set and forget scalable nirvana. Like Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams”, you can build it and they will come - the rest will be the stuff of legend.
But will they? Recent data suggests not. A study by SDL suggests that of great customer experiences, only 7% are created by technology alone - 42% are created by people, and 49% created by the combination of people and technology. It’s intuitively true because the combination of people and symbiotic technology gives your people a consistent script, and an appearance of credibility they might otherwise lack. And people can give technology a sense of cut through and connection that you just can’t get from tapping at a screen.
Why then are we building so much with the promise of self-service? The answer lies in the decision-making process that underpins so much innovation in today’s businesses. Your average CFO is quite likely to believe that you can strip out people with technology, but is far more cynical about the potential to create engagement and growth. So the projects that focus on cost-out win over ones that focus on the upside.
Is this too cynical a view? Engagement is, after all, a fuzzy nebulous marketing word that is hard to measure. But the variability of the human factor has plagued service and retail businesses for decades, and has a hard figure attached to it.
So what’s the solution then? It comes back to a thorough understanding of your customer journey and reviewing two things at a quantitative and measurable level:
- Where are your customers falling out of the purchase funnel? How can you focus your technology to help your people prevent that from happening? A common example of this is “choice overload” – where companies present customers with too much to select from in a desire to offer them more personalized solutions.
- Where are you making money? How can you create technology to help your people do that easier? If you’re making your money from cross sell, have you built that into your experience, or are you relying on customers to get there by themselves? Again, people and tech working in harmony here can work incrementally better than either solution alone.
There is always a place for digital self serve. It is fantastic in situations where customers really don’t want to interact with other people. But we’re still a way off from asking a piece of technology if something suits us, and truly accepting the response in the same way we do when it comes from a flirtatious sales person. In the rush to enhance customer experience and modernize our processes we often forget the power of human interaction (even more powerful when it’s woven together with technology).
That's what drives brilliant customer experience in all but 7% of cases, and you can tell that to your CFO - the data doesn’t lie!
Monday, September 21, 2015
By Colin Jowell
One of the great things about being 40 in an industry that prefers its gurus a decade younger is that you don’t have to have a strong education in history, you just have to have a half decent memory.
That said, it was well before even my time when David Ogilvy said, “Man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard.” He went on to say: “I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bikes, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?”.
Such evocative writing undoubtedly made him the legend that he was, and one wonders what he would have made of the latest scourge of advertising - the digital mobile pop-up. In an industry that celebrates terms like "user experience", and creates new jobs like "creative technologist", how is it that we have these interrupting menaces with their carefully concealed “x” marks, neatly obscuring the only path of escape?
I’m not being an old fart about it - a more direct, less erudite millennial colleague summed it up with “they suck!”. And when something sucks that badly – expect regulation to follow.
Most cities have regulations around billboards. Sure it took some time, but one of the worst affected cities in the world by outdoor, Sao Paolo, enacted bans and limitations on the media in 2007. In 2011 Paris committed to a one-third reduction, and you can get an augmented reality app that removes subway advertising in New York.
Of course, it’s not just mobile ads. Today’s eDM from Woolies promised me "half priced specials I could not resist". Despite having a detailed history of my past purchases, only two of 15 the items listed were things I had ever purchased before. And given I’ve never purchased a processed food item from them in my life, putting party pies in front of me at half price is hardly the apex of predictive data-based marketing. Delete.
The rumblings have started - the ad blocking movement is gathering steam. $22 billion has been lost to ad blocking so far according to some sources. This is enough for concerned marketers to consider ways in which they can “block the blockers”. To which I say - what an extraordinary waste of time and energy!
That energy should be channeled to this unavoidable truth. Despite my critique, digital has created some incredible experiences that have attracted massive audiences, beating the odds with a fragmented, distracted audience. If yours isn’t one of them, instead of trying to figure out ways to ram your message down your customers throats, try to think of ways to make that message more relevant, engaging, and heck, even helpful. You’re trying to breed more geese, not make foie gras.
It stuns me to see (what should be respectable) marketers “trialing” mobile in irrelevant places, at irrelevant times, in irrelevant ways. The only way most of those trials can be deemed successful is because most of us have fat and clumsy thumbs. If it carries on at this rate, by 2050 some of us will have evolved thin, pointy, stylus-like thumbs because the rest of us will have been driven to an early grave by irritation.
The worst writing, the poorest insights, the clunkiest design are saved for a medium where customers actually expect the best. We can do better. And our customers already know it.
Monday, September 07, 2015
By Colin Jowell
Google has released a new logo. Undoubtedly it was motivated by what is a larger and more significant restructure into Alphabet.
The corporate story is an important one, and probably an overdue rebrand for a company that has long been about a whole lot more than the initial search product that branded it.
From a branding perspective, they have always been trailblazers - it’s hard to think of a brand that was more willing to have fun with its design- the “Google Doodles” that changed with every significant event have become the benchmark in how to keep a brand simple and fresh.
It’s rewritten the rules of what we mean by brand consistency. What is “on brand” is determined by a sense of the values behind the brand, not the faithful reproduction of an image adhering to formulaic brand guidelines.
The age of traditional branding is well and truly over - where the logo could make you stop on the pavement, reach for the supermarket shelf, or admire the fine grade paper of your business card.
And good riddance too.
There is far too much rubbish written about the “meaning” of colour. Or shape. Even after all this time, modern psychology can only prove that these things are given meaning by association.
Association is undoubtedly influenced by culture. And it’s also driven by precedent and personal experience. Which is why American Express can choose black to represent its premium product. But it’s also associated with the Playboy bunny.
As marketers, we can create our own associations, and so to a certain extent, these things can be given the meaning we choose to give them. So maybe we’d all be better off not thinking about it all so deeply.
On the other side of that coin is the host of crowd-sourced options that are now available - $5 and you too can have a design. Sure the typeface may be just like something the designer forgot he saw on a billboard on the way home, and heck, no-one has thought how it might need to look as an app icon even though that might be essential to your business - but hey, you get what you pay for!
For all the deliberation, the official word around the Google design suggestion comes down to one or two paragraphs.
There are three versions - standard, dynamic, and compact. So there is a middle ground between 100 page brand bibles and $5 knock jobs.
And if behind the scenes, there is indeed some massive guideline bible, they have had the good sense not to over-intellectualise. Why use a million words to describe what the picture is supposed to communicate?
It’s smart fit-for-purpose design, and it’s where brands are headed.
This means two things for you:
- Rationally: have you covered the major applications and moments of truth for your brand?
- Emotionally: is your design a heuristic for the things that are important to your brand - whether you call it your purpose, your values, or your story - what are the things you want your staff to say, and your customers to think and feel when describing you?
You may think the headline of this blog was a bit mis-“leading” for the dis-”kerning” brand designer (last design pun I promise!). But in truth, the change of the logo means very little - Google do that every week.
But the story behind this one is what makes it compelling.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
By Colin Jowell
Let’s begin with a tale of two upgrades: one is Microsoft and the other is Apple.
After much hype, Windows 10 is rolling out and through the course of the upgrade, a user found himself without basic access to Outlook and other essential programs. Never fear – within minutes he found himself connected to the help desk, and by the end of the hour, all access was restored. The user then gladly signed on for a $120 package for unlimited assistance and support for the next year!
A similar story over at Apple. A music buff had resisted an iTunes upgrade, but the purchase of a new device necessitated it. Unfortunately, it obliterated all the playlists (which if you’re a music buff is pretty devastating!). Worse still, the Time Machine feature had not been working so, even after the $40 service call to Apple had restored most of the data, seven months were still missing. Apple sent out a terabyte drive for free to the music buff, to ease the pain and insure against future mishaps.
Why am I boring you with these tails of IT woe? Well consider this - between the two companies they managed to secure $160 of additional revenue from customers to fix a problem that the company had in fact created. And both users seemed pretty chuffed about it, raving about the greatness of their chosen platforms.
Contrast this to my recent trial of supermarket home delivery where not a single provider (out of three) could manage to deliver the items ordered at the allocated time with any degree of consistency. Now technically, this is no more of a disaster than some missing playlists or a program that was a bit glitchy. A little time and hassle, and everything was OK in the end. But the net result in the supermarket category was a customer that was an angry snarling beast, not a net promoter.
The difference? Well it actually does come down to the little things:
- A phone that’s answered in three rings, at any time you might need it
- A well-trained, genuinely empathetic sounding person on the other end who doesn’t sound like a surly teenager when they say “I understand that it must have been frustrating”
- A bag of tricks that go above and beyond when the customer has a genuine grievance - (a token voucher that barely covers the cost of the delivery fee is no sign of care or remorse).
The message is simple. Sure you can optimise your platform, streamline your app, and generally wow with as much tech whizz-bangery as you like. But things will always go wrong. Always.
Recent research by SDL stated that only 7% of great customer experiences were created by tech only - the remainder were either driven by people or a combination of technology and people. Which only reinforces the fact that as technology ultimately becomes more and more commoditised, future success is far less likely to be about what is delivered, and far more likely to be based on how, and most importantly, who delivers it.