2009: The Changeover

“It’s called a changeover.  The movie goes on and nobody in the audience has any idea.”<o:p></o:p>

The Narrator, Fight Club



Having never worked through any sort of downturn (I don’t think you can really count the ‘dotcom bubble’ of the early noughties as a proper recession), I’ve no first hand experience of the effects it has on the communications industry… <o:p></o:p>

…but then so very few people in our industry do, given the relative youth compared to other sectors… seriously, it’s like some weird sort of Logan’s Run; where are all the 40 year-olds?




So I’m not alone in my relative naivety, but then I don’t think anyone in the brand communications game has ever gone through something like this, because:<o:p></o:p>

a) This is a huge downturn, a once in a century event.  There aren’t many folk left alive who can remember the last time things were this bad.  Sorry, it’s not pessimism, it’s just true<o:p></o:p>

b) Previous recessions for brand communications were less complex; people minimised, or stopped, spending on advertising.   Then when the good times rolled back round again, they started doing what they’d been doing before.<o:p></o:p>

This time though, it’s going to be different, and probably better… welcome to The Changeover.  Marketing will continue, but when we come out of the downturn it’ll have changed forever.   And it’ll all start next year, for three key reasons…<o:p></o:p>

Less waste<o:p></o:p>

You’ll all be familiar with the Pareto principle (or at least the concept if not the name); 20% of your customers will buy about 80% of your product.<o:p></o:p>

In the mass media landscape, though, it was really hard to just target the 20%; there wasn’t a TV channel or poster campaign that the people that just bought most of your product.  So companies are used to targeting everyone, and making the infrequent 80% buy occasionally… the cause and effect of mass communications.<o:p></o:p>

In 2009, the order of the day will be efficiency, as the budgets that allowed people to reach loads of people all at once disappear.  <o:p></o:p>

Of course with the internet, we can focus on talking to the 20%, and holding conversations with them, rather than shouting at them, and the 80% who gather around the margins.   Less waste, more precision.<o:p></o:p>

Necessity is the mother of invention<o:p></o:p>

How do we do this?  Well, marketing people who no longer have huge, expensive campaigns to wrangle and organise should be focussed on how to really encourage dialogue with the core 20%.  Less focus on acquisition, much more on retention.<o:p></o:p>

They have the time it takes to think about and implement programs that build these relationships, and they don’t have the temptation/obligation to use the ‘shortcuts’ that they might think mass media (and the massive spend that went with it) would deliver.  They will have to hold conversations with the people who want to talk.<o:p></o:p>

They will naturally employ the wit, inspiration and cunning that comes to us all naturally when there are no easy way to achieve our aims; there will be a lot more ‘freedia’ and ‘slow planning’ taking the place of traditional marketing.<o:p></o:p>

The industry will develop skills, knowledge, and understanding about how to build communities with the 20%, rather than the ways they learned to do things when money was plentiful and reach was king.  So what happens when the marketing budgets come back?<o:p></o:p>

This Time, Some People Won’t Come Back<o:p></o:p>

This all makes this recession a lot different from previous ones in not just scale, but in the end effects… <o:p></o:p>

The companies who succeed in building relationships using innovative marketing techniques won’t stop it all once budgets are raised again.  They won’t suddenly think ‘let’s stop all this stuff and get back to reach and awareness.  They’ll just start directing more money at the stuff they’ve found out really works.<o:p></o:p>

It’s the changeover, as the Narrator in Fight Club says; marketing, the art of connecting people to companies, will carry on, but the way in which it plays out will be a lot different in the future.  <o:p></o:p>

Just like when the Narrator found out that he and Tyler Durden were one and the same person, it changes everything you thought you knew before, and everything you do in the future.<o:p></o:p>

There’s no point pretending we’re going to go back to the ways things were; when we emerge from the recession, marketing is going to be a completely different beast.  <o:p></o:p>

The Changeover

So, rather than be downcast about the economic prospects for the next 12 months, I think we should consider this to be very, very exciting indeed. 

There has never been a better time to innovate than now.  All the constructs and processes within the brand communications industry that you think don’t make any sense (you need to fly to Argentina to make a 30 second car ad?  REALLY?!??!!), well, there’s no time like the present to challenge them.<o:p></o:p>

2009 will be the year that everything changes, and a lot of it will be very positive for the industry; I think…no, in fact I believe that we’re entering an era where companies will connect to people in ways that both parties benefit from and like.  The age of brand communities; social, participatory, reciprocal.<o:p></o:p>

So, see you in 2009 for The Changeover… have a lovely break, one and all.


Virtually here

Last night in defiance of the credit crunch, not only did I buy a new summer residence, a sofa and some ornaments for my new house, I also put it all on a credit card. It was not too extravagant though – it cost me £5.

Oddly though, I don’t actually own anything. What kind of weird reality is this?

Well, this is the new Playstation Home Beta… (forums will help shape it ) – now open to anyone with a PS3, broadband connection and some time on their hands. Like Second Life or the Sims (but actually well rendered), you will find people from all round the world wandering about the mall, bowling alley, cinema and “home square”.

It’s a place to meet other game users and chat, there are games dotted around to amuse yourself with your new chums (chess, bowling and pool), or you can dance, sit or just watch. Of course, it’s hard to converse with everyone, there’s Spanish, English, French and even some Welsh in the chat you can see – a real UN of inhabitants at the moment.


The chat is stimulating…

The “posters” run video and expand as you approach to fill the screen, you will be able to buy branded goods from the “shops” to clothe your virtual self… As a virtual world the possibilities for engaging content and advertising become endless, tapping into the TV set, broadband and Blue Ray player we are seeing the start of something groundbreaking.

Of course, Microsoft are not so sure, calling the service outdated. Odd after 2 days….


What does Facebook look like?

Ever wondered what Facebook ‘looks like’?  No, not the actual site, but the stuff that’s actually going on, connecting people throughout the world?

Well, click on the image below to have a look at Facebook Palantir, an application that was developed as part of a Facebook Hackathon* by their engineers.  It’s beautiful, awe inspiring, and kinda humbling.


*The ‘Hackathon’, is where lots of programmers/engineers of a company/specific programming language/other community get together over a concerted period of time to create collaborative new stuff, but with no specific end-goal… just a “wouldn’t it be cool if” ethos.

During such events, the population of active players on World of Warcraft tends to dip significantly…


The 90-9-1 principle: participation in social marketing

Jake McKee, he of the Community Guy blog, just created a new site called 90-9-1

It’s based on the ‘Participation Inequality’ phenomenon, a phrase coined by researcher Jakob Nielsen.  It states that in community spaces, about 90% of people are ‘audience’, 9% will be ‘editors’, and just 1% will actually create new stuff.


Jake’s going to start gathering together stats, examples, evidence and the like, which has the potential to be a brilliant source of both evidence for clients we work with, and inspiration for how to operate in community spaces more effectively.

He’s after suggestions for things to add to the site, so don’t just sit there being the 90, have a look and be part of the 9…


The Communis Manifesto…

The Communis Manifesto, which is all about how companies must learn in this new era how to connect to people and communities, rather than just continuing to shout at them from afar.

The Communis Manifesto – JVW by gamages

In this economic downturn as advertising budgets get slashed, I don’t believe there’s ever been a better time to look at your company and work out exactly how you should be talking to people]]>

Social Objects, by a man who knows…

I’d encourage you to head on over to Hugh McLeod’s blog (which you can get to by clicking on the Blue Monster below), for he would seem to be starting a multi-post tale on social objects and purpose ideas… get in on the first instalment now…



Obama: it was Facebook wot won it…

There’s a great article here on the Guardian by Matthew Fraser & Soumitra Dutta about the combination of online activity and traditional political advertising which won the election for Obama.

It’s interesting because he spent so much on TV spots, and no doubt naysayers will no doubt point to that and say it was ‘business as usual’, and TV advertising will still win you elections/sell your products by the bucket load. 

But it was through the internet that Obama essentially built one of the most compelling belief brands of all time, in a little under two years, and in the process raised the money that he could spend on TV ads to counter the expected ‘win the day’ strategy of the opposition (watch Michael Tomasky’s take on that here, and delve more into his great election coverage… I’m beginning to believe he’s this generation’s Alastair Cooke)…


The internet built the belief, fed the story, brought the tribe together.  The TV ads just helped people confirm what they already believed, rather than trying to change their minds.

It’s like slow planning that I talked about before, and keep finding new evidence like this that underpins the philosophy; stop planning in big, time sensitive chunks, and use the internet to build continually over time. 

Just because the previous century of mass media communications meant you had to deliver all your messages in one chunk doesn’t mean you still have to. 

Far better to build a movement slowly, and when you’ve got enough to talk about and celebrate, take it ‘mainstream’ (if you need to).


Fed up waiting for a dream gadget? Build it yourself…

I love this, just posted up here on the Techcrunch site…

Essentially, they’re bored of waiting for a hardware manufacturer to come up with a decent, simple, cheap web tablet.  Sure, there are some on the market, they’ve been in development for ages, and they’re pretty expensive as a result (hey, gotta get back that R&D money somehow…).


So the guys at Techcrunch are proposing that any interested parties who have suitable skills start getting together to, well, just build it themselves.  Don’t wait for a company to do it, it’ll take too long, and it won’t be as good.

It’s stuff like this that confirms we’re beginning to see a shift from online crowd-creation (Wikipedia etc), to realworld objects, devices, gizmos, stuff

Personally, I’m holding out for the opensource ‘build your own house’…


10 tips for Word of Mouth…

…as told to me by someone (no, not really, as found in this week’s Media Week article on Word of Mouth, and contributed by Simon Quance at Hyperlaunch)…

10 Tips for successful word-of-mouth marketing<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

One – Be honest, transparent and authentic: state your involvement in the campaign and don’t spin<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Two – Try to create a story through word-of-mouth engagement<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Three – Don’t try to create word-of-mouth with something that isn’t worthy of conversation<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Four – Personalise all your messages.  Successfully harnessing social media means thinking and acting more like a person than a company<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Five – If you use advocates as part of your word of mouth strategy, value them and respect their individuality, irrespective of whether they are paid or not.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Six – avoid using superlatives in your communication, or keep them to a minimum<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Seven – Expect the unexpected – results are sometimes far better or worse than anticipated.  If the message has been correctly constructed, it will have an effect on the recipient, even if they don’t get back to you<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Eight – value all engagement – even if it doesn’t create an obvious and immediate benefit<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Nine – Use video – every product you market should have a demonstration video<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Ten – Exploit your own website – consumers have high levels of trust in brand websites<o:p></o:p>