Archives For creativity

Late last year, an American researcher used anonymised, aggregated data from multiple public sources to answer a question that had previously been only guessed at by traditional in-person or phone surveys: How many American men are gay?

For marketers what’s fascinating about this research is not that we finally know how many American men are gay (about 5%, it seems), but that the answer was made possible by marketing’s buzzingest new buzzword: Big Data.

Predictably, most of the media reaction to the research focused on the political implications of the findings (Here’s the headline: US states that are less tolerant of same-sex relationships don’t have fewer gay men, they just keep more of their gay men in the closet). However, the researcher Seth Stephens-Davidowitz revealed in a podcast interview with Dan Savage (warning NSFW) that he personally has little interest in the topic itself.

Multiple sources is the secret sauce.

In his role as a data scientist with Google and a NY Times columnist, Stephens-Davidowitz has been shining the ‘big data’ flashlight on some fairly provocative topics, but his interest is not in being provocative, per se. His work focuses on the potential of data analytics, fueled by the almost unlimited information generated by our use of the internet, to accurately answer questions we could previously only resolve with expensive surveys of limited scope and questionable accuracy.

Big Data, closet, gay, insight, truth, research, customer survey

Big Data can now measure closets accurately.

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Rather than relying on a single source of direct-survey information, Stephens-Davidowitz combined aggregate data from Facebook (relationship status), porn keyword searches (obvious enough), Craigslist (casual encounters listings), popular dating sites (profile and seeking data) and Google searches (including prevalence of the query “Is my husband gay?”). He then overlayed these sets with more traditional sources such as the US census and Gallup polls and found very strong correlations: a classic case study of combining multiple-source, multiple format data from unlikely vendors to learn something new and, perhaps, previously unknowable.

Let me tell you what I think you want to hear.

Survey data is notoriously unreliable, for a whole host of reasons. I’ve had B2B publishers confide that readers who claim they are responsible for major purchasing budgets, for example, rarely are. Junior staff talk up their roles to feel important, while more senior execs talk theirs down, knowing that publishers and advertisers are fishing for prospects and they can do without the spam. You can ask any advertising creative who has witnessed a ‘focus group’ in action to supply further examples of what people will say to earn a free sandwich and a turn on the microphone.

While prompted surveys are good for measuring intention, big data is increasingly being used to measure un-provoked behaviour. Which is otherwise known as ‘the truth’. As anyone who’s ever signed up for a gym membership can tell you, intention and behaviour are two entirely different animals.

9 out of 10 Marketers plan to use Big Data in their next campaign.*

It seems that while a lot of the marketing industry talk around “big data” is reveling in the technical wizardry of the tools and offering generic business double-speak about competitive advantages, the real story here is that big data, ultimately, knows the truth.

Big Data, marketing, research

Put your hand up if you like the idea of Big Data.

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It will, however, require creative minds to find and combine previously un-related data sets that reveal the truth about our preferences, purchases and behaviours. And this truth, in turn, will set creative marketers free – free to develop counter-intuitive strategies, pursue previously-dismissed niche markets and deliver provocative messages that resonate profoundly with an audience who knows, deep inside, that there is a brand who truly understands them.

* This statistic** is entirely made up, but can you imagine what would prompt a marketer to publicly admit they have no intention of using the latest marketing technology?

** 37% of all statistics are made up.

This post originally appeared on the Firebrand Talent blog.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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This week, I’m handing the w2fm keyboard over to Ogilvy Sydney Art Director Leisa Ilander who won this year’s GROWIE award and, therefore, a week with us in the Singapore office:

“I’m sitting in a small room with Barrie Seppings and two women infinitely smarter than I am. They’re talking about co-collaboration, startups and innovation and I’m quietly thinking to myself “this wasn’t in the brochure”…

singapore, growies, ogilvy

Singapore takes its architecture seriously.

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But come to think of it, I’m not certain what type of brochure I was reading. Winning a chance to work in the Ogilvy Singapore office for a week appeared to be welcome relief to what has been a hectic start to the year in Sydney.However during the week, as I’ve been welcomed into this incredibly (both literally and metaphorically) warm office, I’ve realised I may have to re-write that brochure.

Start by visiting the land of un-paralleled award opportunities

On my first day I wasn’t given one brief. I wasn’t given two. I was given twenty nine. Each, bar one, was from the “wall of opportunity”; a magical place where briefs are given a new chance; and where an IBM creative can have a crack at a brief for Castrol, The Red Cross or Coca-Cola; in the hope of producing an award-winning idea.

At first the competitive part of me stepped into overdrive – where do I begin; which do I tackle first; how many can I do in a week; breathe, Leisa, breathe. By the end of the week I realised how far I travel down this path is up to me, but the fact this path exists; breathing space outside of the routine, makes it a uniquely refreshing place to visit.

Discover innovation

By Wednesday I’d settled into my routine of walking the twenty odd minutes from my hotel to the office (something I’m told Singaporeans do NOT do, due to the heat), and was taken to my next sightseeing destination – the IBM Lab.

And although my imagination was not satisfied aesthetically (no scientists in lab coats doing experiments), our imaginations were ignited by the current projects demonstrated to us. Projects I’m sure the NDA would disapprove of sharing here, suffice to say we walked away with ideas for new campaigns outside of any currently briefed work. A trip I’d definitely be interested to replicate when I get back home. A similar one, I’m told, was where a boy and his atom originated.

singapore, ogilvy

But its not all glass and steel

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Don’t forget to see the outside world

Which brings me to my meeting with Bernice Ang and Grace Clapham. As anyone working on the IBM account would know, you need to have something between your ears to work on this client. In a job where we sell complex software and service solutions every day, you need to be able to comprehend a thing or two.

But as Barrie begins his interview I am completely overwhelmed. By their intelligence. By their ambition. And by their comprehension of something so completely out of our world.

Barrie is preparing his uniquely Asian-centric coverage of SXSW, and these two women are giving us a sneak peak into their talk Co-Creation by Design: Asia, Women & Innovation. And it’s incredibly enlightening. Not only in it’s content; but the action itself. To look outside of our agency and category bubble and to prepare ourselves for the future is not only relevant, but possibly crucial for our survival as thought-leaders and taste-makers.

These three things I’ve learnt from just a week working with Barrie and the IBM team in the Singapore office. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-writing the brochure with you.

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Leisa Ilander is an Art Director in Sydney, who always keeps her heels, head and standards high. You can follow her on twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

Most of the interesting work I’ve been pursuing for brands over the last couple of years was directly influenced by the things I learned at South By Southwest, where nerds are celebrities and everyone is trying to launch the next Twitter.

With over 800 scheduled sessions, there is a hell of a lot you can learn in 5 days, but for the sake of brevity, I boiled the findings from my last trip down to a seminar called 10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW.

For me, the most valuable thing I took away was a framework of authenticity, content, relevance and utility as guiding principles for creative and strategic development.

2014: we’re back, baby.

SXSW, texas, Austin, BBQ, Salt Lick

The Salt Lick: the other reason Austin is famous.

Thanks to my friends over at Ogilvydo (the agency’s online magazine for thought-leadership), I am fortunate enough to be heading to Austin again, as part of a larger Ogilvy team bringing you trends and insights for brands, marketers and innovators. My particular focus will be on storytelling: how stories are originated, structured, produced, managed and distributed for brands and their audiences.

There are well over two dozen individual sessions, including a handful of long-form workshops dedicated just to this area and I’ll be doing my best to learn from them all. I’m also looking at startups and innovation culture, growth hacking and future publishing. Here’s my schedule of sessions I’m planning/hoping to attend – if you’ve got recommendations or suggestion I’d love to hear from you.

South By South East Asia: Is America’s biggest tech festival broadening its outlook?

SXSW tara talk

Living in an Asian Megacity is the mother of this particular invention

I spent yesterday afternoon interviewing regional analyst and trendwatcher Tara Hirebet, who is based here in Singapore and operates out of the local chapter of The HUB, a global network of co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, technologists and creatives.

If you’re looking for evidence that startup culture is alive and kicking in Asia, I recommend you start here: it was virtually standing room only on a Tuesday afternoon. Tara was selected to present at this year’s SXSW and I got a sneak preview of her session,  ‘How Overcrowded Asian Cities Inspire Innovation’, which is one of several this year with a distinctly Asian focus.

Another is ‘Co-Creation by Design: Asia, Women & Innovation’ from Singapore-based entrepreneurs Grace Clapham and Bernice Ang. Look for the interviews and previews on Ogilvydo in the next couple of weeks.

You look taller than your avatar

One of the real joys of these conferences is the chance to meet IRL the people that you’ve been reading, following, retweeting and upvoting. If you’re reading this and you’re heading to SXSW, give me a shout @BarrieSeppings

There will be no shortage of SXSW advice articles in the next few weeks (and they all say: stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes and A.B.C.*), so I won’t add to the pile except to point to the web services I’m relying on to get me there and get me through it:

– hitting up Airbnb for accommodation (which always scarce)

– grooving to these Spotify playlists

– getting some “I met you at” cards from moo.com

– pre-registering for a bunch of events with rsvpster

– keeping Uber up my phone sleeve (taxis are also scarce)

– finding a few local spots via ATXThrillist, if the lanyard crowd gets all too much

Despite all the planning and preparation, I like to think that the random talks – and people – are often the best. It’s always good to have a plan, as long as you remember to stay open to possibilities.

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* Always Be Charging

SXSW Interactive runs from March 7 to 11.

Tara Hirebet is an Asian Trend & Innovation Consultant & Ex-Head of Asia Pacific, trendwatching.com. She will be delivering “How Overcrowded Asian Cities Inspire Innovation” on Monday March 10 at SXSW, Austin, Texas.

Ogilvydo will be covering SXSW Interactive 2014, focusing on trends and insights for brands, marketers and innovators.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

Warning: humblebrag approaching

I’m paid to generate ideas and that’s fun, but it’s becoming clearer that execution is the new black. If that’s true, then I’m here to declare longevity is the new chrome. One of the better ideas I’ve had (okay, stolen) in recent times is an internal program we’ve established at Ogilvy Singapore called the Ogilvy Adventure Squad.

Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 12.16.46 AM

Know the face, but not the name.

The program was created to help tackle the siloification that invariably happens in organisations as they become larger, both in terms of headcount and areas of specialisation. The mechanics of the idea involves throwing a small group of people from different departments together for a short but reasonably hardcore adventure trip, doing or learning something new and physically demanding.

The Adventure Squad kicked off last year with trips to Malaysia to go rockclimbing, out into the South China Sea to go scuba diving and over to Sri Lanka for a what turned out to be an unbelievably good surf trip (4 to 6ft of swell and glassy conditions, in case you were wondering). All the trips offered something for the enthusiasts as well as professional lessons and gear hires for newbies.

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 12.04.37 AM

Shared experiences lead to shared goals

The result was a whole bunch of new informal connections and networks springing up all over the business between people who could probably help each other a lot, but so far have found no real reason to say anything beyond “Hi” in the lunchroom. And here’s the truly heartening result: in 2014, the agency is backing it again.

Not coincidentally, the agency is also restructuring to foster more integration between specialisations (I know: everyone says they are doing it but I’m yet to see it happen, at scale, as a result an intentional). While structure and method and org charts are important, I’m a big believer in getting the bloodware right, which is much more an ongoing management process than a run-and-done engineering task.

snowboard

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pack my Burton jacket and Anon goggles – the next Ogilvy Adventure Squad mission is our snowboard trip to Hakuba, Japan, where the forecast is for snow, snow and quite possibly more snow.

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

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Feeling entrepreneurial: this guy is giving away 100 business ideas.

You Don’t Need To Learn To Code + Other Truths About the Future of Careers

Every morning, I get an email from a site called betali.st that pitches 3 or 4 new web-based startups: You get a name, a snapshot of their home page and roughly 50-100 word description – their elevator pitch. It’s like witnessing the finals of a startup competition every day, over coffee.

There are a few things that make this email absolutely fascinating.

1. Absolutely everybody has a startup now

Or at least it seems that way. This email (and I’m sure there are others) is relentless. 7 days a week they serve up a series of mini ads for new startups and the demand appears to be so high, their revenue model is based partly on offering an ‘expedited listing service’. The startup communities are growing to the point that they are fragmenting and splintering, dividing not just by location, but also by specialist roles within startups – witness Sean Ellis’ burgeoning Growth Hackers community.

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startup, apps, media

The web is currently exploding with startups.

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2. All these people are spending a shitload of time & money

When you consider that Jeremey Rappaport recently put the true cost of developing an app at somewhere in the vicinity of $120k and 10 weeks, the cumulative investment in developing all these new apps is staggering. Even if you halve that, betali.st offers direct evidence of over a million and half dollars and 3 years of work spent developing new apps, every goddamned week. Note too, that this figure is only for development. These costs, ballpark though they are, are net of marketing, support and legals. Ker-ching.

3. In the quest for differentiation, these apps are getting seriously niche.

The language of these startup pitches is incredibly variable and probably warrants a post on its own (hint: from a copywriting perspective, it aint always pretty) but what is common is how specialised they are becoming in terms of the services they offer and, therefore, the audiences they are targetting.

In recent weeks, the email has pitched apps for rugby fans, fitness enthusiasts, disorganised photographers, semi-competitive cyclists, parents of kids with allergies… you get the picture.

There are also a lot of copycats: men’s fashion, restaurant reviews, holiday planning, stock trading and group deals are about to get even more crowded, if that’s possible.

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media, apps, fragmentation, audience

What happens when everyone’s living in their own app bubble.

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A lot of the startups are offering infrastructure services for other startups (hosting, customer service, social media monitoring, budget tracking, market research) and now there’s a raft of ‘startup in a box’ startups, such as CrateJoy, that provides everything you need to launch your own ‘subscription service’ startup. Presumably these startups will also appear on betali.st in the near future.

Once you work out what it is that a particular startup is planning to do (as it’s name suggests, most of the services on betali.st don’t technically exist yet), some of the value propositions are, frankly, outrageous: “build an ecommerce site in 20 seconds” was a recent favourite.

Obviously, not all of these startups are going to survive. In fact, almost none of them will. But, statistically, that still leaves an extraordinary number of successful apps, all doing things very, very well for small, tightly-focussed audiences.

Where did all the people go?

The media ‘fragmentation’ we witnessed with the rise of the web will become complete ‘atomisation’ as we all start disappearing into niche apps, spending time with the functionality and communities that exist only within the interface of
these ‘appified’ services.

The implications for brands are significant. Just as the strategies we used to rely on in the multi-channel world became ineffective in the post-broadcast world, we’re going to have to reinvent the role of the brand again in the post-site world.

Coke is getting a lot of attention for their wholesale abandonment of ‘the corporate webpage’ and I think that this gives as an indication of how brands are going to have to re-cast their role in this world of apps and the atomised audience it will engender.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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A couple of years ago, agencies went bananas* for Creative Technologists. Everybody started hiring them (except W+K, apparently) and so lots of people started adding that title to their LinkedIn profiles.

More recently, agencies have been creating Customer Experience roles. These are often based on more traditional UX skillsets, blown out to encompass more of the real-world touchpoints where customers meet and experience the brand, including call centres, retail environments, live chat, user groups, social networks and so on. Again, lots of people with related skills are recasting themselves with this title.

Here’s a prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 hiring ‘Growth Hackers’

This job title is emerging with warp velocity from start-up land, where it was originally coined by Sean Ellis in a post on his Startup Marketing blog. Growth Hacking originally described the low-to-no budget art and science of attracting new users to a brand new web-based start-up. Ellis describes a Growth Hacker as “someone whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”
Now the term is stretching and morphing to describe the pursuit of customer growth, to the exclusion of all other business-related pursuits.

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Growth Hack, agency, strategist,

Growth Hackers don’t wait for permission to launch.

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They’re part marketer, part coder, part strategist and all do-er. Growth hackers don’t learn to do, they learn by doing. They embrace that ‘fail fast, fail cheaply’ attitude to in-market experimentation. Instead of talking a lot about agile / scrum / lean / bootstrapping methodologies, Growth Hackers just fire up a browser, whip out the credit card and code together some existing services to create a new mini-machine for growth – one that can be switched off as soon as it stops firing.

Most importantly ‘Growth Hacking’ is the coolest newest skillset to emerge from startup land. Like most cool new things born of startup land, Ad Agencies will soon want some of that action.

Another prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 trying to figure out how to charge brands for ‘Hacking Growth’.

This will be the tricky bit. A lot of brands will probably sit in the Agency boardroom and listen to the Growth Hacker pitch, take a long, deliberate pause and then ask, in varying degrees of politeness: “Then what the fuck have I been paying for all this time?”

The other problem will be that true Growth Hacking is characterised by its lack of budget. Many claim that this lack of working dollars are precisely the precursor chemicals required for the bootstrapped, agile, bare knuckles marketing innovation (the ‘hacks’) that are the most valuable product of Growth hacking. Agencies are generally unfamiliar, if not downright uncomfortable, recommending their clients don’t give them wads of cash.

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marketing, funnel, growth hacking, agencies

Agencies and Growth Hackers already have this in common: funnel obsession.

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Hacking your growth to spite your agency model

Growth Hacking is lashed irrevocably to the mast of performance – everything is obsessively tracked and relentlessly analysed. When Growth Hacking starts emerging as a practice in large, established agencies, some parts of the business are going to be very familiar with this level of accountability (media, social) and some less so (creative, strategy). By contrast, newer, smaller agencies constructed of a small, senior team supported by an Agency Operating System will be, by definition, Growth Hacker agencies.

Another potential hiccup is individual agency, with a small ‘a’. Agency-side Growth Hackers will need authority to act and access to the tools that allow them to do so. Can they speak or act on behalf of the brand? Can they download a new app without needing IT to unlock their machine? Do they need Finance to pre-approve a subscription or software purchase? This procedural stuff is not trivial.

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Growth Hack, Agency, speed

Growth hackers don’t care whose ball it is.

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Speed is critical for Growth Hacking to be effective – under-exploited APIs have a limited lifespan as viable hacks. If you’ve got to make a pretty powerpoint and wade through rounds of meetings with the Vice President of No, the opportunity you want to hack might have already evaporated. By way of example, Airbnb famously ‘hacked’ Craigslist to get to build its own critical mass, now that hack has been shut down.

Prepare for the Growth Hack hype-o-thon

One of the clear indicators that Growth Hacking is not quite ready for big-brand prime time is the dearth of method and repeatability. This will be a fine line: too much process will kill the creativity at the heart of Growth Hacking but, like Social before it, some commonly accepted tools and best practices will have to emerge before it moves out of the garage.
Agencies are very familiar with creating processes and methodologies and frameworks, then packaging them to create perceived value. I have no doubt this will happen. I have no doubt it will also inspire the Growth Hacking backlash.

How agencies might get it right

Leaving cynical re-branding aside for a moment, I definitely see a place for Growth Hacking thinking, services, teams and talent, delivered within a traditional agency structure and applied to specific projects for established brands.

Think: new product launches; land-grab new market entries; activation campaigns; aggressive, short-term competitive plays.

Neil Patel is a leading educator in the Growth Hacking scene and he doesn’t see the role staying in startup-land for long, either:

“One more note on the future. For now growth hacking is relegated to startups, but eventually, growth hacking will be a part of fortune 500 companies. Startups generally lack resources, and the established relationships, that would allow them to be effective with the tactics of a traditional marketer, so they are somewhat forced to growth hack. However, there is nothing about growth hacking that cannot be applied to larger corporations. If growth hacking can work without resources, imagine what it can accomplish with resources.”

The part that makes me, on balance, optimistic about the rise of the role of ‘Growth Hacker’ is that it could offer a valid hybrid role for people who don’t fall into rigid definitions and job descriptions, yet still enjoy working alongside talented specialists on big brands to create things with genuine commercial impact. Agencies still have a chance at remaining one of the best places to do that from.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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* I really dislike bananas, by the way.

 

Then this happened:

A few days after I wrote the the post, Sean Ellis (quoted earlier in the post as the ‘coiner’ of the term) was kind enough to tweet this:

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Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking, twitter

 

 

The discussion has since moved over to Sean’s excellent new community at GrowthHackers.com where several people are saying they’ve already been approached by ad agencies for consulting gigs and roles in the last month or so. Which is a bummer for me, as it kind of screws with my prediction.

If only those agencies had waited till January 😉

 

We’ve been in the business of anthropomorphising Brands for a while now. We talk about expressing the ‘Brand personality’. We ensure our Brand has values. We get very serious about this stuff, we call them ‘core values’. We spend a lot of time asking people to engage with our Brand. We help facilitate relationships with our Brand. But then we get jealous and appoint ourselves Brand Guardians. In short, we’ve been treating Brands as people and making their wellbeing our professional responsibility,

Shouldn’t we stop for a moment and ask our Brands if they’re happy?

I got to thinking about the mental health of Brands while attending a talk by UK psychologist Oliver James, who appeared at the Singapore Writers Festival* earlier this week.

James used his ‘meet the author’ talk to discuss what it might take (assuming it’s remotely possible in the first place) for an individual, family or even a society to be genuinely happy. By way of background, James coined the phrase Affluenza, wrote the parenting guide “How Not to F*** Them Up”, and is now advocating ‘Lovebombing’ – giving your child complete control (and emotional support) for 48 hours as a way of re-setting their emotional thermostat. As a speaker, he’s an acquired taste, but his insights were eminently applicable and grounded in fairly deep science.

brands, mental health, happiness

Not happy.

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While discussing childhood, parenting, materialism and the impending collapse of the economic system, he also offered some insight into the ‘dark triad’ of CEOs and other business leaders. Reassuringly, your boss is composed of equal parts psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism (and I imagine a lot of heads are nodding out there while reading along).

After dissecting all the things that make everyone so miserable (parents, work, materialism, Tony Blair), James summed up by offering a really useful and interesting checklist of the traits of mentally healthy people.

Here’s Oliver James’ recipe for happiness:

1. Living in the present

2.  Two-way communication (knowing when to listen and when to assert your voice)

3. Insight (understanding how your childhood affects your adulthood) and empathy (understanding how you are perceived by and affect others)

4. Playfulness (child-like wonder and enthusiasm)

5. Vivacity and vitality (these are not the same as hyperactivity)

6. Authenticity (which, importantly, is not the same as sincerity)

So if we roll with the metaphor of Brand-as-personality for a moment, we could probably take this recipe and use it help us nurture ‘mentally healthy’ or happy Brands. That is, Brands that people want to engage with and form a relationship with.

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brands, people, personality

We demand that almost everything has to have personality.

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The 6 things happy, mentally healthy Brands do:

(with apologies to Oliver James)

1. They live in the here and now: forget globally-centralised, 3-year brand strategies, happy brands live where you do and react to the same environment and times that you and I are living in.

In practice: agencies that are run more like newsrooms, global strategy with local input and real-time marketing.

2. They listen as often as they speak: set and forget broadcast models show brands have a ‘tin ear’. Listening for insights, alert for trends and reactive to change, Happy Brands also know when to assert their voice and have the self-confidence to make their opinions and presence felt.

In practice: social listening, empowered staff and a well-defined scope of expertise that your Brand can offer as a ‘gift of knowledge’.

3. They understand their heritage and their sphere of influence: Nike and athletics, Volvo and safety, IBM and technology. Happy Brands don’t deny they were shaped by their childhood, and they use that to their advantage. Constant, fashion-driven re-invention displays a lack of maturity. In practical terms: operating within a Brand’s wheelhouse and realising when a scenario is not appropriate for them to be present (Kenneth Cole, we’re looking at you). These narcissistic brands believe they are  always the main character in their own story.

In practice: take the time to understand your Brand’s original raison d’être and then update that for the here and now.

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skywhale, playful, happiness.

When playful things happen on a grand scale.

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4. They embrace play as a valid form of expression: Healthy, happy brands have a lot in common with human kids – they regard creative play as their ‘work’. Google’s ever-changing, often playful homepage is a perfect example. Taking yourself too seriously demonstrates a lack of self-awareness in humans and Brands, limiting themselves to only themselves as atopic, often behave the same way.

In practice: loosen up on the ROI metric-a-thon and provide a way for your fans to use your Brand to express something they enjoy. If you are accused of ‘just playing around’ – you may well be doin’ it right.

5. They show vivacity and vitality: Being unafraid to display bursts of unbridled enthusiasm (red bull let a guy fall from space) and also passion is a very appealing trait. When this passion is a passion shared with the audience, the Brand starts to feel like it is part of a tribe – it believes in the same things as we do. Instead, many Brands see themselves as the tribe, which we can only join via purchase.

In practice: create brand experiences and service that contribute in a useful, meaningful and helpful way. Re-consider the hyperactive ‘content factory’ approach that is merely evidence of industry.

6. They value (and practice) authenticity: When Oliver James explained that this was not the same as sincerity he illustrated his point with the example of Tony Blair, who was sincere in his admission that he knew Iraq did not have WMDs when he authorised military action. James believes Blair used his sincerity (“I sincerely believed it was the right thing to do”) as way of apologising for his lack of authenticity (“I knew I didn’t have the proof I needed, so I made it up”).

The practical corollary for bands here is in the field of PR and crisis management, where authenticity is going to be seen as more forgivable for a Brand than manufactured or self-serving sincerity.

The challenge now is for agencies to adapt their structure and their Operating Systems to be more ‘parental’ and less managerial. A happy brand is one that people want to hang out with and that has to be agencies’ number one objective, right kids?

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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* I really have to take a moment to declare that I found the Singapore Writer’s Festival, on the whole, to be a pretty frustrating experience. It’s not a brand I’m ready to have a relationship with.

Whoever designs the software defines the world.

Radical urban planner Mitchell Sipus questions the universal appeal of “smart cities”