Living a 3D life

A few of us from PHD & PHD Drum went over to see a company called Inition yesterday; we worked with them on making the Cadbury’s fairtrade ad from Fallon into a 3D version for showing before Avatar.

And we saw lots of really cool 3D TV stuff, and some augmented reality malarkey too…

…but the thing that I was most excited about was their 3D printer, especially after various posts here and there and of course the end section of my social production presentation.

They’re not just making solid objects… they can print mechanical models with moving parts…



…and even really complicated stuff like chainmail, all in one go.  It moves just like you’d imagine chainmail to move, too…



(you can hear the costume designers in the movie industry celebrate, they no longer have to spend hours making this for Lord of the Rings style epics…)

You can even coat objects in metal… perfect for Marvel comic figures, of course…



Of course, such printers are still really expensive, and you need proper design CAD files to tell them WHAT to print in 3D…

…but as this technology gets cheaper, and people design simpler interfaces for it, they’ll start to find their way into our offices, and our homes.

Which means that in the same way that an iPod is the device that brings to life a digital MP3 file, a 3D printer will be the device that brings to life digital CAD files.

Instead of sharing songs digitally, you’ll be able to share objects, devices, art, fashion, jewellery, furniture… anything that’s got a digital file that describes it.

I like the future.  It’s excellent.


What's in the box?

Jen just sent me over two lovely examples of things you can do with ‘packaging’…

First of all, Nokia’s ‘Hackerbox’ that they sent out the review copies of the N900 in last month… a wonderful idea, the reviewers who got them had to crack a code to get into the box.

Secondly, via ideasarawesome, a great example from Mini of creating something extraordinary in place of the everyday…

Sometimes it’s not about the thing.  It’s about the thing the thing is in. ]]>

Internet of things with BIG POINTY TEETH

Ahhh, the ‘internet of things’.  Much talked about here on FtP, it’s the trend we’re beginning to see where everyday things have embedded in them tags, chips, devices etc. that let the wider internet know where they are and what they’re doing…

…which would be really good to know if those things were dangerous.  Like SHARKS.



Yep, PSFK brings us this report that scientists in Australia have tagged 70 great white sharks so that when they get too close to a beach, a text message is sent to the lifeguards on that beach to warn them. 

Probably something like ‘CHOMPING TIME, WATCH OUT, LUV GR8 WHT SHK’.

As someone who’s been terrified of sharks ever since watching Jaws at the age of six, this is excellent news.  Though I’ll be slightly worried if they give the sharks laptops next, and they log on here and find out about my fear of them…


The Brand Hindrance

After the Battle of Big Thinking a couple of weeks back, I’ve been doing some pondering on the nature of ‘brand’, and why (in some cases at least) this notion of ‘brand’ is now more of a hinderance than a help.

(For a quick recap, you can read & hear the presentation here)

i) A brief history…

I keep coming back to the fact that ‘brand’ was developed as a device for another age. 

Interesting, complex, diverse organisations had to compress all of the interesting information into a ‘statement of best fit’ that would travel through the mass media system.

‘Brand’ of course could be many things; at it’s simplest, it’s a mark of consistent quality, a guarantee of a product inside that was as good as the last time you bought it…



…and at it’s most complex, it’s a ‘transformational’ device which lent the product intangible value when someone was drinking it because they believed in the ‘brand’, not just the product inside.

Which is why Coca-Cola always beat Pepsi in taste comparisons when you could see the brand, and Pepsi won out when the brands were hidden in the blind taste ‘Pepsi Challenge’…



(If you don’t know about the disaster that was ‘New Coke’ that came about because of the Pepsi Challenge, read about it here)

By and large, Paul Feldwick‘s description of brands as…

‘a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer’

…held true. 

People learned about brands through advertising in between the mass media entertainment they watched, read and listened to.  

That ‘collection of perceptions’, if you skipped from person to person, would be largely the same. 

Which is the principle we built our industry upon…

ii) Compress & Repeat

Advertising, Media, PR, even Digital to some extent… we all still are bound in by this construct of ‘brand’. 

We get together in rooms with and for our clients, and make the best sense of it we can, so that we can compress things down, and create and disseminate endless repeats of that simplification.

Which is when we get to places like this…

“…we are currently in a brand anchoring process where a brand cube will be formulated”

(something Ben overheard and put in his twitter stream today)



What the fuck does that even mean?  We should step back and listen to ourselves sometimes…

Anyway, here’s the thing… we create these brand pyramids and onions and cubes and so on like everyone is still holding the same set of perceptions as everyone else in their heads. 

The brand cube probably worked enough when everyone thought the same three things about a brand, and it let agencies get on and do stuff. 

But nowadays I fear that trying to compress and repeat leads to us discounting and throwing away great ideas that would deliver value, just because it doesn’t precisely match the rest of the luggage.

We’re still missing the fact that people are not as homogenous as they once were.

iii) The jar of marbles

Where once people were all exposed to a limited set of information largely via mass media, nowadays we have so many different sources of information about companies and products (not least each other), that the notion of ‘a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer’ is redundant. 

Imagine the ‘collection of perceptions’ in your head for a brand were like marbles in a jar.



When the different kinds of marbles that existed were limited (and companies & agencies were in control of what the marbles looked like), then you could go around every marble jar in the land, and find a limited number of variations on a theme. 

Now, Jeremy Bullmore said in a 2001 lecture that ‘no two people, however similar, hold precisely the same view of the same brand’.  So maybe we always knew that, as an industry…

…but in the mass media landscape, the variations were limited enough that creating a central ‘brand’ based on five marbles was good enough… people were likely to have at least three of those marbles in their jar.

Nowadays, there are ever-increasing numbers of marbles about your ‘brand’ that people can collect and store.  Only a minority of them are designed by you, or distributed by you.  The rest come from Amazon reviews, facebook updates, mumsnet posts, videojug instructions…

…the list goes on, but what it adds up to is a jar of a lot more (and a lot more varying) marbles in everybody’s head.



Which means that trying to create a brand campaign that has ‘five marbles’ to it is increasingly unlikley to resonate in as many heads. 

So what do we do now?

iv) The Brand Hindrance

I don’t think that the first part of Feldwick’s notion of the brand as a ‘collection of perceptions’ is the ‘hindrance’ nowadays.

Instead, it’s the phrasing of the back half… “in the mind of the consumer”. 

In the past, we assumed all consumers were they same.  So we assumed the perceptions across their minds were the same. 

Which meant we built ‘five marble brands’… everything conformed to this ‘matching luggage’ theory.

It’s not ‘brand’ that’s the hindrance. 

It’s the way agencies and marketers think about (and produce marbles for) brands.

v) Some solutions

There are lots of thinks I think you could suggest doing to break this institutional thinking up I think. 

…give separate teams across a company a marketing budget, rather than having it all held by a small team of ‘brand guardians’.

…break the budget into ‘calendar months’, where you have twelve distinct and interesting projects running through the year.

…create an marketing ‘dragons den’, where every quarter anyone from across the company and appointed agencies can picth to a panel of CEO, MD, FD & Marketing Director for cash support for their idea.

Really though, I think it comes down to to things;

i) realising that the world has changed, and a lot of the things your boss told you when you started don’t hold true any more

ii) having the confidence to say ‘well, if that doesn’t work as well as it used to, let’s try something different…’

What do you think? 


Social Production… my 'big idea'

I was invited to take part in yesterday’s APG/Campaign Battle of Big Thinking (yes, an honour to be asked, thanks guys), and managed to carry the public vote in the innovation section…

I talked about Social Production… I’ve put it together as a slidecast here, I’d love to know what you think.

Just click the green ‘play’ button at the bottom to hear the voiceover… 

…it’s not the original audio, I quickly rerecorded a track this morning, hence it being longer than the allocated 15 minutes…


Bonfire Builders: Mark Earls

This week’s Bonfire Builder is Mark Earls, author of Herd, formerly of St Luke’s, BMP & Ogilvy, and “London advertising scene’s foremost contrarian”… 



What are your thoughts on the social bonfire/advertising fireworks principle of ‘not either/or, but both…’?  A long term proposition, or just a step along the road to something else…

To be honest, I think that you’re right about the need for both, but given human nature I also suspect that there’ll always be more of a need to encourage businesses to do the hard yards of continuous daily interaction.

“Fireworks” seems so much more appealing if you’re in the corner – as does magic, generally – but the real value comes from the daily commitment to the “bonfire” work.  To being open and responsive to the people-what-buy-your-stuff

Equally, I think this plays to the thoughts in my chum John Winsor’s latest book: “Baked In”.  We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that somehow the magic of communication can overcome mediocre product and service delivery. 



Just get the right ad, the right campaign architecture, optimise the spend etc etc… and it’ll be sorted.

The truth is – and always has been, I suspect – that excellent communication can make the best of a bad job but the real value comes from making the job better.

Tesco is a great example here – while advertising has played a role and the strategy is good (though identical to the one that one Safeway received plaudits for in the 90s) the real value is created more in the way they keep on going – working out ways to make things better for the customer.

Bonfire communication enables this kind of approach to business – more two-way, more responsive, more human but much more hard work. By contrast, fireworks communication tends to be prone to the outbound dialling and pointless display!

You speak to a wide variety of folks around the world… who gets it, and who needs to get there quicker?

It’s hard to generalise, but I think in the client community the biggest discriminator is probably those who see making communications as a factory function and those who don’t.

By this I mean those who by dint of volume have had to professionalise and develop processes for communications development.  This tends to embed really unhelpful practices and ideas in the business (like “what’s our message?”) and make it harder to envision other kinds of communication.

It’s also really hard to unpick the vested interests when budgets are huge – large amounts of money makes marketers conservative; they feel the need to not be seen to be p****** it up the wall.

For those who haven’t professionalised communication as a core function of the business, it’s easier to show how the bonfires approach can be embraced without entering the world of sharp suits and flower-arranging. 

Smaller, more entrepreneurial businesses tend to fall into this camp.

I guess the agency model we’ve ended up with doesn’t always help.  I kind of see the purpose of a media agency like PHD being reframed as ‘connecting companies with people’, however that best happens.  It often involves talking to other people in organisations beyond marketing departments though (HR, IT, sales and so on…). 

Is it inevitable that marketing (and agencies) must break out of the ‘mass communications silo’ to take a much more company-wide role?
I suspect you’re right here. Part of the problem for all marketing services businesses is that their ability to create value is often limited by the clients they have – by the marketing clients in particular.

It’s not just creative agencies who come across as florists and astrologers: marketing people are often seen this way by other business functions.

It’s interesting, isn’t it: while marketing’s big ideas are now everywhere (brand, consumer etc), in most organisations marketing is no closer to real leading the company’s activities than it was back in the 1950s and 60s.

One of the central things you talk about in ‘Herd’ is the need to ‘light many fires and see which one(s) take(s)’… 


Media_httpfeedingthep_mghbj’ve you found selling that into marketers who’re used to lighting fast working fireworks?  Any tips?

Boring answer: the place to start is probably by understanding where the marketers are coming from – what the other issues and conversations they are party to which are shaping the context to this particular issue.

Sometimes there’s already a willingness to accept the relative ineffectiveness of past firework activity; sometimes not. Sometimes there’s a willingness to accept the world is complex and inherently unpredictable so you’d better; other times this just scares the bejeezus out of clients.

Find out this kind of stuff and adjust your pitch accordingly.

HERD answer: seeing what other companies are doing always helps. Particularly successful ones.

Finally, what do you foresee in the future for the bonfires and fireworks?

I rather suspect that the future for fireworks advertising is going to be rather less rosy than many imagine.

Of course, we’ll need these gunpowder-fuelled punctuation marks (and shows of corporate virility) but increasingly a combination of the bonfires model and the Baked-In idea (making things better and making better things) are going to prevail.

Less glamorous but rather more valuable to our clients – and for those agencies who do it well, too.


A Gazillion Different iPhones

So, Mashable reported recently that there are now 100,000 approved apps for the iPhone.

Which is a big number. 

But not as big as the number I think is more interesting, and maybe more important. 

How many different combinations of iPhones are there with 100,000 available apps?



We can get the average number of apps per iPhone from reports like this from networkworld)

It’s about 18, apparently (10 paid for, 8 free).

So from 100,000 apps, how many possible combinations of iPhone are there?

To work this out, I asked my brother, Andrew, who has a PHD in engineering and works at our sister agency BrandScience. 

Needless to say, he has a better grasp of numbers than I…

This is what he worked out:

No. of Apps   /   Total Combinations   

1        100,000       
2        4,999,950,000   
3        166,661,666,700,000   
4        4,166,416,671,249,980,000   
5        83,325,000,291,662,500,000,000
6        1,388,680,567,360,800,000,000,000,000
7        19,837,103,521,810,800,000,000,000,000,000
8        247,946,436,557,054,000,000,000,000,000,000,000   
9        2,754,740,009,356,990,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
11      250,383,330,322,534,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
12      2,086,298,234,634,990,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
13      16,046,522,144,975,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
14      114,603,114,979,263,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
15      763,913,803,621,103,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
16      4,773,745,103,441,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
17      28,076,360,613,085,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000




<o:p>Yep; if you select just eighteen apps from the app store, you are selecting one of the </o:p>1.56E+74 possible 18 app iPhone combinations.

Which is a very big number indeed. 

To put it in context, if you multiply the number of hydrogen atoms in the galaxy (5E+68) by 311,907, then you get to the number of possible iPhone permutations. 

(EDIT: This is an update on the maths from Andrew… I misinterpreted original email)



Interesting?  Maybe, depending on your take on what ‘interesting’ is… but it’s certainly important.

Why?  Because it represents just how unique and customisable the iPhone platform has become… the chances of you ever running into someone who has the same iPhone as you are entirely remote.

…which means that not only is your iPhone unique, it continues to be a social object even when everyone around you has one, because you’re always likely to have something new, different and interesting to show each other.

So next year, when the Orange and Vodafone iPhone deals have really kicked in, it’s not like everyone in the UK is going to have the same phone…

…they’re going to have the most unique phone they’ve ever owned. 

It’s just they’re all going to have the same case for it…




A day for building social bonfires



Yes indeed, lest we forget it’s Bonfire night, and given the history of the Bonfire & Fireworks analogy on Feeding the Puppy, it would have been remiss of me not to post the latest thoughts I’ve been having on this more fitting of days…

(As a brief reprise, for those who haven’t seen or have forgotten it, skip through this again…)


So, what now?

After the IPA Social Event (which I first started writing about Bonfires for), we all thought it’d be a good idea to keep the momentum behind the project going… build on the success, keep the bonfire burning as it were.

After all, it was just the end of the beginning.

Rather than a formal evening organised event, though, we wondered if holding three concurrent conversations over coffee, somewhere in London, would mean that people could spend half a morning dipping in and out of different conversations… sharing experiences, results, case studies and the like.

How best to make it happen?

It’s not just an ‘advertising’ issue

Largely every type of agency and communications company going are all looking at this area, whether they’re involved in advertising, PR, corporate comms, internal etc.

The shift in the way the world communicates has affected many industries, not just the one that you or I happen to find ourselves working in.

At its simplest, I think everyone can take the graph below, look at their own industry as say ‘yep, that’s happening to us, and we’re not totally sure how to deal with it /create it / measure it / value it / charge for it yet.



So we’d love to see folks from across as wide a spectrum as possible… the sharing of results & case studies is something that the Measurement Camp guys have been doing a great job every month, so we’d love to see them down there.

Then there’s all the folks interested in making businesses internally social too… Enterprise 2.0, or Social Business Design.  I found the Corporate Social Networking Forum earlier this year a fascinating insight into how other industries are harnessing the available tools to add significant value to their businesses.

And I’m quite sure that I’m missing out folk too… so in order to make an ‘easy to manage’ list of folk to tell about it, I’ve made my first twitter list…

Making a list, checking it twice…

We’ll get on with confirming a date, thinking a bit more about the format & subject matter… just generally firming things up a little more.

And you? 

Well, if you think you’d be up for meeting up one morning for a couple of hours in early December and sharing some social insights over coffee, then just add your twitter name TO THIS LIST HERE*.

Happy bonfire night… see you all soon I’m sure.

(*fingers crossed that I’ve got the list thing working OK…)


IPAsocial 03 – If advertising is a firework, social media is a bonfire

“Social Media is a conversation. That seems to be one thing that we can all agree on.

But given that Social Media is a rather noisy and opinionated conversation, what value do we think we will have by adding our voices to it?

We are not Social Media gurus. In face we are rather sceptical of people who claim they are. We are simply 10 people from across a wide range of communications disciplines in the UK and the US who would like to share some thoughts. Thoughts that have either been bugging us or inspiring us, thoughts that we believe could form some of the building blocks for successful Social campaigns. We came together to respond to and add our voices to some work that the IPA had done earlier in the year.

We have each defined a Principle which we feel is important in this Social world. You will find each principle up here but they are also on our individual blogs where we will be curating the conversation which we hope they will generate. Please do get involved, maybe you think these principles don’t apply, are there better ones? Are there changes that you would like to make? Are there examples that you could add to help illustrate them? The only thing that we ask is that as part of the advertising and communications community that you become part of the conversation. After all the more opinions that are being shared and built on, the more interesting and stronger the outcome. At least that’s what we are hoping.

Thank you in advance.

You’ll no doubt remember all the bonfires and fireworks posts from before… well, this is the project that it’s been for (which I’m delighted to be a part of)…

It’s well worth reading the brilliant summary of The Big Picture by Mark Earls first, and you can see the  list of all ten principles here.

As for the principle I’m babysitting, at the moment it’s as follows:

IPA social principle 03:  Continuous conversation, not campaigning

If advertising is a firework, social media is a bonfire; slow to start, collaborative to build, then gets bigger and brighter…

The traditional advertising approach to campaigning is like setting off fireworks. 

Great fireworks are attention grabbing beacons on steroids; they make crowds gasp in delight, and draw an audience from many miles around.  


Yet while advertising burns very brightly, it dies very quickly.  Fireworks are an expensive way to keep a crowd happy all night.

Social media isn’t like setting off a firework; it’s like building a bonfire.  


It takes time to start.  There’s careful initial construction, a gentle blow here and there, and the gradual addition of more wood.

Then a couple of other folk gather around.  Some of them will even help you build the fire; break some wood up, throw more on, poke around in the embers to make sure the fire doesn’t go out.  

As more people gather, and help the fire grow bigger, the more it will attract yet more people… with attention and dedication, as everyone fuels the bonfire it will only ever burn brighter.


A social bonfire isn’t something you can ‘campaign’.  It doesn’t fit snugly in four week bursts, it doesn’t come with a guaranteed reach & frequency, and it’s hard to know exactly what it’s going to cost from the outset.  

If you want to start a social bonfire, or want to help other people make their bonfires bigger, you’re going to have to commit some time, effort, ingenuity and resource. 

Because it’s not just about the bonfire; it’s about building it together.

“If you are going to engage, you have to have a plan and make sure that resources are available. Because you can’t gracefully exit – once you’re in, you’re in. The days of walking away from a campaign are over – once we engage, we have to commit to it.”

Denise Morrissey, Online Community Manager, Toyota



So, what’s next?

These ten principles are just a starting point; provokers of conversation, thought, ideas… an invitation to you (yes, YOU) to join in. 
Why?  Our aim with this project is to move the debate beyond simply the theoretical, and into the practical; examples of approaches that have worked, and which have not.  What does success look like?  What do you need to do first? 
We believe that by sharing information and case studies around ‘social communications’ we will all, from the largest agency to the nimblest freelancer, from the most traditional client to the youngest start-up, benefit from this open source of knowledge.
So please, join the debate below…

(NB: I may take a while to respond, given circumstances, but some of the other guys in the group are going to weigh in too…)


Social media as speed dating

Guest puppy feeder… Jason Spencer

Jason is Managing Director of PHD North in Manchester, and is nicely fostering the ‘Feeding The Puppy’ spirit there… he recently attended the ‘Science of Success’ seminar in Manchester featuring Malcolm Gladwell & Daniel Goleman, and has come away with four main thoughts inspired by what he heard there…

…’can I share them on Feeding The Puppy?’ asks Jason.  You certainly can, Mr Spencer…


2. Social media as speed dating

If you are going to go speed dating, don’t just talk about yourself. The same goes for brands.

Daniel Goleman cited the greatest Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, and his I and Thou Theory that there are 2 types of human relationship:

I/it relationships, where the I considers the person they are interacting with as an object and talks at them;

I/you relationships, where the I empathises and listens to the other person.

Now it does not take a genius to work out which strategy will yield the most success if you go speed dating, as Goleman pointed out.


But this got me thinking that social media is maybe just like speed dating.

If you are inundated with lots of brands vying for your attention, you will be drawn towards the brand that treats you as an individual not an object. The brand that stands out because it listens rather than just talks.

Without social media, every brand would be engaging in an I/it strategy and whilst they would get through the highest number of its, they would make the least “connections”.

If we want to get phone numbers and meet again, hey maybe even go out on a few dates and have some sort of meaningful relationship, we must listen and ask questions from the very start.

So I/you beats I/it every time.

For the record, I have never been speed dating. But I have a friend who has.

If you have been speed dating, it would be great to know if this analogy works for you (and if we can stretch it a little further)…


(Read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence for more on all this)