Category Archives: Marketing

TrendWatch September 2017

In my spare time I read about all sorts of topics. The number of browsers open at any one time on my computer is unsettling to some! But I love it. I love learning about things that are completely removed from what I would normally see every day. Things that other people are working on, benefiting from, or learning from. Things that make a difference, help us achieve our objectives and improve our lives. Ideas that can be potentially applied to other industries and give us insights into changing business models. The topics range from physics to health products, environment to aerospace.

Today I am sharing a new passion project called TrendWatch. It’s bi-monthly news on technology, trends, hot topics, communication, creativity and innovation.

It’s designed to encourage ideas that go beyond the focus of our day-to-day work, and by asking relevant questions, being better prepared for the future. I hope you enjoy and take something useful from it, and I welcome your feedback.

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Swipe right to like: How’s the Tinder model affecting consumerism?

The right-swipe. Not just for finding a date, but also for shoe shopping.  Stylect is a new app that helps you find shoes because ‘the more you swipe, the better our recommendations’.

A recent article on Fast.CoDesign stated, ‘Online dating and online shopping have a lot in common. The options are nearly endless, and it’s tough to find the good ones……So yes, swipe right if you think a shoe is hot and left if it’s not.”

What does this do to the way we perceive commodities?

I understand the Tinder model for dating, I do. It’s a numbers game after all, plus everyone’s too busy to meet in real life (because we’re all looking down at our phones?).

But in a world with material objects coming out of our ears, what does a a ‘swipe-to-shopping-cart’ fast consumption model reflect of us? For me, it doesn’t reflect my desire to consume products which I can get a feel for. Whose quality, origins and social footprints are in line with my standards.

It’s as if products are made in an ether, mysteriously and in bulk, and delivered straight to the screens of our smartphones. Like gutted, plucked and glad-wrapped meat on the supermarket shelves, we’re being increasingly removed from the production line of commodities, and instead seeing them in a quick line up, ready for us to choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with barely a thought.

Should our consumer choices be simplified to such a degree?
Do these models support craftsmanship, or only mass production?
What effect will swiping to like or purchase have in other areas of our lives?

Just as Tinder encourages partner selection (however temporary) on the basis of a few parameters, does the same model, when applied to products, encourage us to view consumerism with a detached, short-lived lens?

The shoe may look good, but does it fit?

From the Stylect website

From the Stylect website

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Desire and advertising

A few weeks ago I went along to ‘Your Brain and the Future’, an Ideas at the House event at the Sydney Opera House. Four leading thinkers in neuroscience, philosophy and psychology spoke about how we can shape our future by expanding our imaginations and being creative. This summary is in relation to what Professor Peter Railton discussed on the topic of Desire.

Desire. A glorious word, with beautiful connotations. It rolls off the tongue poetically, exuding sensuousness, craving and longing.

“Desire is about what is absent, but could be present.” – Professor Peter Railton

Us humans, we’re such complex creatures, yet so basic in certain ways. Through evolution we’ve grown and innovated through finding the motivation and means to change things. Professor Railton said that motivation is found in two forms: one is appetite, the second is desire, and that desire is about imagination and affect. We have a wonderful ability to consider possible situations, be aware that we are not in them, imagine what they would be like, and then pursue them.

Professor Railton told us about time he’d spent in Paris some years ago. He said that travelling on the metro all day could have been dark and dreary, but the Parisian metro has “windows” – large advertisements that tower up the walls of the stations. What were these ads about? Desire. Beautiful women, beautiful men, close-ups of creamy coffee, smooth chocolate, shiny watches and the luxurious interiors of alluring vehicles.

Metro advertising

Image credit: The Anti Blog

Advertisements are “photographic representations of what desire is like” and we connect to them when we can imagine ourselves enjoying the product or being close to the perfect and breathtaking subjects in the images.

When our brains receive information that something good is about to come, there’s a spike in dopamine. We make calculations that we’re not even consciously aware of. When given information, our brains are capable of making “finely calibrated predictions of value.” And it feels good.

What’s a lesson to remember about desire? It’s that desire itself has associated learning. If an object or experience doesn’t compare well with the representation, the ability to desire it again in future is endangered. Whether it’s an awful meal at a restaurant, or a watch that breaks after two days, failing to live up to expectations is challenging to overcome.

Talking about desire in an advertising context alone is hollow and negligent, so here’s advice that transcends to all facets of humanly life:

Create things and experiences that are awesome, encourage imagination and evoke desire that’s worth desiring. 

Repeat! 

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Will you buy acai and pomegranate, or will you buy VITALITY?

“Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.”

“Sell the benefits, not the features.”

There was a great post the other day on the Buffer blog titled “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.”

And it’s true. People buy stuff that makes them feel better, seem more clever, look more attractive and come across as more generous.

The post on Buffer shows some excellent examples, with one of the most well-known being Steve Jobs’ “1,000 songs in your pocket” vs “1GB storage on your MP3 player”. Nice.

An example of this that I’ve noticed recently is Swisse’s ‘Superfood Powder’ range that came out about six months ago. The products are called: Vitality, Digestion, Cleanse, Beauty, Relax and Immunity. In contrast to the neighbouring products on the supermarket shelves, a busy consumer who wants to be a better / more beautiful / cleaner / more energetic human will quickly see that (through clever naming and design) this line stands out because it immediately promotes the benefits, not the features.

Screenshot from Swisse website

Screenshot from Swisse website

Aside from raising questions as to how a product that lists cane sugar and fructose as two key ingredients can be also marketed as a “Superfood”, the fact remains that to a consumer, a product labelled ‘Relax’ is inherently more enticing than a product that is named after its key ingredients.

Similarly, ‘the benefit’ is why Evernote isn’t just an app that stores things that you might forget. It’s a way to Remember Everything.

It’s also why Campaign Monitor isn’t just an online tool that allows people to manage subscription databases and distribute e-communications to their client base. It’s a service for businesses to Send beautiful email newsletters.

What’s the last product or service you purchased? Do you remember why it spoke to you?

Listen to your consumers, present them with benefits, and make sure your product is great enough to keep its promise. 

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Top 5: Kraftwerk, Blood Service marketing, Archibald Prize, ice cream & kale chips and no time for a nap

Last week’s ‘stuff to be grateful for and admire’ includes music, marketing, art, food and an appreciation for not having enough time for a nap. Here are last week’s Top 5:

1) Music: Kraftwerk at Vivid Sydney
Kraftwerk are a German electronic music band that formed in 1970. This show had amazing sound and 3D visuals. It was so much fun, I had a sore face from smiling!

Kraftwerk

2) Marketing follow-up material from the Australia Red Cross Blood Service
I received this material a few weeks after donating blood for the first time in Australia. From a marketing point of view, I love it! It’s brought me right into the story, it’s given me accountability and made me feel a little bit spesh. However, there’s a slight flaw in this because I’m not allowed to give blood in Australia – I’m only allowed to give plasma so with this first ‘trial’ donation, unfortunately I didn’t save three lives. Still, I like this material so I’ll let it slide!

Australian Red Cross Blood Service

3) Art: Archibald Prize
On the 26th of May I went to the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW. The portraits were talented and wonderful, but the portraits that spoke to me the most were those by the kids. Most of them chose to draw or paint one of their parents, siblings or grandparents and their commentaries of why those people are special to them brought tears to my eyes.

Love Face by Vincent Fantauzzo

Love Face by Vincent Fantauzzo (Source: Art Gallery of NSW site)

4) Culinary creations: banana cacao ice cream and kale chips
Word on the street is that kale is totally in. It’s actually been the word on the street for some time now, but I’ve only just attempted kale chips and they are delicious! I mixed torn pieces of kale with coconut oil, garlic and smoked paprika and baked them for about 10 minutes.
Another treat that I made last week was banana cacao ice cream with my flatmate. This stuff is too easy and sooooo tasty. We blended 3 frozen bananas, cacao and a dash of water to make what you see here. Next time I’ll make date caramel sauce to drizzle on top 🙂

5) No time for a nap
Last Saturday I was struck with a strange thought. I’d been out late the night before, got four hours of sleep, went to a boxing class in the park, had brunch with the good people from the class, and then took a walk to buy produce from the markets. I had a few key tasks to tick off the ‘to do’ list before meeting a friend in the city for a gig that evening. Feeling pretty tired, I was hoping to take a nap before the show, but I didn’t have enough time. And that’s when the thought struck me: I had an amazing day with friends, fitness, sunshine and fresh food, and my biggest ‘problem’ of the day was not having enough spare time for a quick snooze. Not having enough time to nap because the day held so many great experiences and people to enjoy them with? Now that’s a thought to be very grateful for indeed.

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Top 5: Tim Tam Slam, start a business checklist, Melbourne sunrise, food blog, Australian Writers’ Centre

Came across some delicious, pretty, funny and useful stuff this last week. The world is pretty awesome!

1) Tim Tam Slam
How did I not know about this? Maybe because I don’t habitually enjoy biscuits, but had to make an exception for this. You basically bite off little bits from diagonal corners, use the Tim Tam as a straw until you can taste your hot drink, then EAT! I’m going to have to try this again because I was laughing too hard from excitement the first time. Thanks Kimmy for introducing me to this wonder in Melbourne last week!

Image from Baking for the Office blog

2) Starting a Business  – The Great Big Checklist of Everything
Came across this fantastic post on docstoc.com. It lists off everything you need to know about starting a business, including:

  • Ideation and Protecting Ideas
  • Forming your Entity
  • Identity and Branding
  • Financing and Business Planning
  • Operations
  • Financial Planning and Accounting
  • Business Mentors
  • Building a Team
  • Human Resources
  • Sales
  • Marketing and PR
  • Insurance
  • Legal
  • Service / Retail / Online

The ins and outs will change for each country, but the pointers are a great place to start. Read the post here.

3) Sunrise in St Kilda, Melbourne
I was in Melbourne last week for work and enjoyed a jog in St Kilda during sunrise. Say no more!

4) We Call Him Yes! Chef! – food blog
I love this blog – it’s written well and has wicked photos! Although I haven’t yet made any of the recipes, I’ve taken many ideas from this blog and I have certainly got some of the meals on my ‘to try’ list. YUM.

Photo from the They Call Him Yes! Chef!

Photo from the They Call Him Yes! Chef! blog

5) Australian Writers’ Centre 
I’m 3 weeks into a 5-week Screenwriting Stage 1 course, and loving it! I’ve been a fan of good script for a while, but I didn’t realise that this course would give so much insight into effective storytelling. In turn, it’s a course that I’d recommend to anyone who needs to tell stories (or is in marketing/advertising/PR).

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Top 5: TEDxSydney, make another person’s day, VW Golf advert, Le Creuset, Here is Today

The clear ‘Top 5’ highlight this week was TEDxSydney. It was a day of inspiration and ideas and I’m probably still a little high from it! Here’s this week’s Top 5 things I’ve enjoyed:

1) TEDxSydney
I was stoked to be accepted as part of the live audience for TEDxSydney 2013. The whole day was incredible – the speakers, the setup, the attendees, the food! I loved every part.
TEDxSydney name badge
Some of the best bits included:

  • The opening talk, by Ron McCallum, on ‘The Blind Reading Revolution.’ A must-watch.
  • Danny Kennedy on solar power.
  • A video about how crowdfarming was used to feed the attendees.
  • Lawyer Jennifer Robinson on ‘Courage is Contagious.’ She made everyone in the room want to become a human rights activist.
  • Tasty Video Bit by Saatchi & Saatchi: “The First Taste” – a slow-motion video of kids trying new foods.
  • The performance by beatbox extraordinaire Tom Thum was AMAZING! Here’s a video of him jamming backstage with John Butler and Jeff Lang.
  • Joost Bakker’s talk on sustainable and zero waste buildings was rad. He’s doing some awesome things. Check out his website.
  • This Tasty Video Bit by The Projects and Paper House Productions was adorable. Hank and the Pink Balloon.
  • Meeting a woman called Alison Covington at afternoon tea. Alison is bringing Good360 to Australia. It’s all about matching corporate “waste” with charitable need and I’ll be heading along to this event on the 5th of June to learn more.
  • Spending the day with some of the awesome crew that organises TEDxAuckland. Aucklanders, keep an eye out – the 2013 event is happening in a few months and I might just see you there!

2) Make another person’s day in unexpected ways
This post on LinkedIn by Jeff Haden made me smile. He highlights 6 great ways to make another person’s day. In summary:

  • Use your free time to do something nice for someone else, not because you’re expected to, but because you can
  • Compliment someone for something they did a long time ago
  • Point out when you’ve been referred, and who referred you
  • Compliment people for something they don’t expect
  • Notice when someone does something out of their norm
  • Let someone know that you see something in them that they don’t see yet – even if you can’t quite yet see it, either. Give them hope and show them you believe in them

Very happy dog
Oh, and there’s this really cute picture of a dog. ‘Nuff said. (Source)

3) VW: The new Golf advert

There are so many crap ads, so it’s nice when you come across one that can hold your attention. Anyone with a sibling can relate to the kid at 0:13, and I like the divorce proceedings at 0:27. The only thing that’s a bit silly here is how close to a cricket game the guy in the last scene has parked his beloved Golf, but I’ll let that slide. All in all, this is a solid advert.

4) Le Creuset store
Now in Sydney: Un petit bout de France! The beautiful cookware of Le Creuset is now in its own stand-alone store at 106 King St, near Pitt St Mall. I believe I’ll be spending a fair bit of time (and money) in there….

Le Creuset

5) Perspective: Here is Today 
This clever site is a nice reminder of the fact that we’re ultimately here for a fleeting moment. Click through to see how small one day in the grand scheme of things. Damn well, make it count.

Here is today

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What makes Vine so good, and will it last?

Twitter’s recently launched new app, Vine is the latest in ‘brevity sharing’. While Twitter’s micro-blogging service is restricted to 140 characters, Vine’s video platform is limited to six seconds of looping video. The video can be recorded in one hit or in several bursts to create stop-motion and animation short stories.

I prefer text. I’ve already made this confession on a previous post, ‘Why written content is not dead (but video is awesome)’. In it I stated that video is indeed awesome – there are fantastic films, ads and other breeds of moving pictures that educate, entertain, enlighten, inform and move us in ways that a page of words cannot, but I love a good page of cleverly compiled words. Sometimes, it’s patience that gets the best of me. Even a short (say, 3 minute) introductory video about a product or idea takes time to watch, whereas I can choose how long I scan a page of text for. There’s also the aspect of convenience and usability with video taking longer to load than a static page of copy.

So why do I really like Vine? Five main reasons:
1) It’s simple to use
2) It creates video, but at 6 seconds, an easily digestible amount of video
3) It’s shareable
4) It demands creativity
5) It has a huge amount of marketing potential

For those who haven’t seen what Vine does yet, here’s my first Vine creation:

Why Vine is so good

  • There is no editing or filter option – it’s raw and demands the talents of a storyteller, not just someone who can make things look pretty.
  • The interface is intuitive and simple to use.
  • The ‘Explore’ function is solid. Users can quickly search for other Vines under ‘Editor’s Picks’, ‘Popular Now’ and a selection of twelve hashtag categories including #cute, #pets, #travel, #remake, #food, #howto and #sports
  • Vine videos are immediately shareable on Vine, Twitter and Facebook as well as being easy to embed into blog posts. They can also be shared solely on Vine, Twitter or Facebook, or all at once.
  • Six seconds is ideal for short attention spans.
  • The potential for marketing and advertising is huge. Industries like travel, food & beverage, bars & restaurants, real estate, dating, beauty, film and theatre are naturally suited. Freelancers such as artists, photographers, musicians, music teachers, make-up artists, hairdressers and chefs will be able to get amazing messages across, too. With the constantly and increasingly rapidly changing landscape of advertising media, here is a tool that brands can use to share short, snappy messages with their consumers, for free. (For now).

But, will it last? What are the challenges?

Yes, Vine will last, but I don’t believe that it’ll be mainstream. It’ll be used effectively by certain industries and by creative minds, but there will be challenges.

  • It’s still very buggy. This needs to be sorted quickly to better secure an engaged set of users.
  • Lack of quality and creativity are threats to its usage – Vine will need to weed out all the crap and highlight the awesome videos.
  • The censoring of inappropriate content is a challenge. Porn has already posed as a problem to Vine, as it has with sexually explicit images on Instagram and text on Twitter.
  • Are hashtags enough? The ‘Explore’ categories are useful, but are they tailored enough to create a unique, relevant experience for the user? Not in my opinion.

Despite its challenges, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s produced with Vine…..the highlights of a destination, the before and after shots of a make-up artist in action, the freshly baked bread from a bakery, the ambience of a Surry Hills bar at 10pm on a Friday night….I want to see it all.

What are your thoughts on Vine’s potential? 

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Lessons from a wedding: What are your customers’ values?

Your potential customer is someone you are hoping to win over. You want their buy-in, their loyalty and their passion. Ideally, you want them to be a lifelong customer. You want them to prefer you over your competitors, but you need to give them reasons to stick by your side. Is it your superior product, excellent service or a fantastic online community?

Over the weekend I went to a wedding where the bride and groom displayed a beautiful plaque with their five core family values etched into it: Trust, Passion, Commitment, Support and Understanding.


These five values are what they hold most dear in their relationship. They’re the make or break. They’re non-negotiable. If any of these five values disappear, the relationship will be brought into question.

A business needs to understand and consider their customers’ values in everything they do in order to attract and retain them. Those values need to form part of every campaign, communication, touchpoint and sale. If ever the business disappoints, they must be able to recover by demonstrating that they respect those values and know how important they are to their customer. The challenges are figuring out what those values are, satisfying those values, and adapting when those values change over time. How? By listening, communicating and not ever making assumptions.

What are your customers’ values? What’s non-negotiable for them?

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Why written content is not dead (but video is awesome)

A few weeks ago I attended a Sydney Business Month presentation titled ‘Video Killed the Written Website’. It was run by Claire Stretch, Producer, and Brendon Stretch, Creative Director of Filmstretch. Claire and Brendon specialise in video production. Their presentation was very good and the insights they shared valuable. They shared great ads such as DollarShaveClub.com’s comical ‘Our Blades are F***ing Great’,

Nike’s compelling ‘Find Your Greatness’,

and the odd but attention-holding American DirectTV ad, ‘Don’t Have a Grandson with a Dog Collar’.

They showed us how the art of film has evolved over time, and just how much can be going on behind the scenes of films. Just check out the final scene of Hugo to get an idea:

By the end of the session we had an understanding of how much work is involved in all phases of video creation and digital post-production.

I’m not here to argue that video isn’t brilliant – when executed well. In an age of digital ADD, video is critical in engaging audiences. From advertisements to film, video educates, entertains, enlightens, informs and moves us in ways that a page of words cannot.

There are people (like me), however, who still enjoy reading a well-written article. Sometimes when I follow the link on a tweet I’m disappointed that I’m being taken to a video instead of a concise and smart piece of writing. I like the puns, the innuendo, the big words, the flow. I value the effort that has gone into creating a piece that makes me laugh, cry, learn, or just keeps me glued to the screen.

Sometimes, Internet services aren’t always fast enough for video. Also, not everyone has mastered the art of video, or has the budget to do it well. Great words coupled with relevant images or infographics can capture attention and inform adequately in many situations.

The crux: In many instances, video isn’t an option and many people still appreciate clever, entertaining and/or compelling written content that has been carefully crafted.

Yes – crappy written content is most certainly dead, but excellent, relevant, timely, useful written content is not.

 

Some pieces of writing that have held my attention lately:

This simple yet warming blog post about rice on The Patterned Plate

This recent post by a straight man about how he was ‘defriended’ over the wedding of his gay brother

Aleksandar Hemon’s gripping and devastating piece about his daughter’s plight with a brain tumour on The New Yorker

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