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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.

Not all customer insights come from customers: 5 Lessons in Luxury Car Design From the Guys Who Park Them

How do you find out what your audience is thinking?

Start by thinking like a scientist.

Our recent post on the ongoing tension between global brands and local audiences prompted some requests for advice on finding and developing local insights – the sort of deep audience understanding that lets you tune a global strategy for more effective local activation.

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focus group

Focus groups: everyone acting like clowns and delivering completely random returns.

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At Ogilvy, we’ve developed a simple approach for ‘bootstrapping’ your way to local insights, one that doesn’t require the time and money of traditional audience research methods, such as the dreaded focus group. This approach was developed specifically for some of the global brands we work with here at Ogilvy, but can be easily adapted to most brands and situations.

customer insights

We call it The Relevance Engine, but that’s just a nifty title for a serve of common sense, spiced with a dash of curiosity and simmered over a little bit of actual work. Like most things in this business, it’s not rocket surgery.

The starting point is the audience – you really have to be able to at least name them before you start. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown persona (although that wouldn’t hurt), but at least some sort of pen-portrait of the audience your brand has, or the one it would like to have, in a particular market.

You can’t just shake an audience and expect an insight to fall into your lap. This is where I believe a lot of marketing-focussed ‘big data’ investments are going to go absolutely nowhere – massive systems will be constructed to collect terabytes of data without ever being asked a single pointed question.

The Relevance Engine asks you think like a scientist and requires you to be a little disciplined: you need to start with a hypothesis.

This hypothesis should relate to your audience and maybe even your brand (or at least your category) and be something that you think might be true. The hypothesis might be something likeEntrepreneurs in our market expect some form of government assistance” or “Parents in our market are very competitive about their children’s progress, but realise it is now socially unacceptable to display it.”

Once you have your hypothesis (you can call it a hunch, or an assumption, or an idea, if you like), you then use The Relevance Engine to test it, to prove it to be either true or false.

In the version we use, we place the hypothesis in the middle of a circle and then, around the edge of the circle, we have eight different categories of data that we could potentially test the hypothesis against:

1. Global Brand Guidance

This sounds contradictory, but you really should see if there’s anything in the existing or supplied materials that answers your question first. Your local market may not be as different as you first thought. The global guidance also might contain something relevant, hidden away in a support point, or an explanatory section or an appendix. First rule of research is make sure the research hasn’t already been done.

2. In-house research

This one is not always so easy to tap into, but the company behind the brand has almost certainly conducted some research around their product and the intended audience: a feasibility study, a competitive analysis, product history, category survey etc etc. If you have it, go back to it. If you don’t, ask the marketing department to share it. If they don’t have it, ask them to ask the sales people, or the product people, research people, lab, finance or whomever. A lot of global brands have dedicated research departments or teams. Find them, use them. Nothing is more compelling to a client than findings based on their own research.

3. Publishers

Do you remember back when magazines where printed on paper and when you read them, little subscription and survey cards would fall out? Publishers have always spent an enormous amount of time maintaining an intimate understanding of their readers. Digital publishers are getting even more intimate. Find a publication (print or online) that targets the same audience your brand does and then ask them about your hypothesis. If your brand has a marketing budget, I’ll bet the publication will tell you the answer over a nice lunch, which is what this industry needs more of. Seriously.

4. Channels & re-sellers

If your brand allows it’s products to be sold via other means (retail stores, affiliates, representatives, agents, re-sellers and so on), go and test your hypothesis with them. Drop in to their outlet, call them up, buy them a coffee or a beer or a steak sandwich or a bowl of noodles and have a chat. They’ll know a lot about your audience, because your audience are their customers.

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insights, science

Disclaimer: The Relevance Engine won’t turn you into an *actual* scientist (like this guy).

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5. Salespeople

Every global brand has a sales department or team or function. Whether these people sell directly to end customers (in the case of big b2b and technology brands) or to a distribution network (financial products, retail, travel, entertainment etc), they’ll also know a lot about your audience, because your audience are their commission and, therefore, the car they drive, their kid’s education, family holiday destination (you get the picture).

In many large organisations, the disfunction between sales and marketing can actually work to your advantage here: coming in as a neutral 3rd party (agency or consultant) often allows sales people to share more than they would inside the company structure. At the very least, they are usually surprised and pleased that someone is asking their opinion about a topic in which they regard themselves an expert.

6. Digital newsfeeds

Ok, so Google reader is dead. And missed. But there are alternatives, and some of them are very, very good. (Flipboard, we’re looking at you, you saucy little neo-digital-magazine-minx you) Regardless of what you use, the basic premise here is simple: ask your computer to test your hypothesis for you. Using an RSS reader of some sort, tune your digital/mobile/computing apparatus to your desired audience and hypothesis (use a few logical keywords and phrases) and have the magic of the internet stream a constant feed of articles, opinions, stories, alerts and trends past your eyeballs as you go about your daily life. Before long, something utterly relevant to your experiment is going to show up – clip it, file it. Done. Great job, internet!

7. Social Media

An increasingly increasing portion of the web is now composed entirely of people opinionating. If you can’t find your audience (and, by extension, what they’re thinking about) on social media, it is quite possible ur doin’ it wrong. Go find the prominent voices and influencers for your audience on social networks, find the groups and chatrooms and discussions, find the blog posts and tweetchats and hangouts and slideshares, and LinkedIn groups, and pinterest boards and tumblrs and webinars and oh god, I’m getting fatigued just trying to keep up with all the fabulous new ways we’ve invented for people to bloviate online. My recommendation? Quora. Go post your hypothesis there, as a question, and see what happens. Failing that, try Reddit. Feeling brave? Ask 4chan.

8. Live events

We’ve written at length about how to make live events work for brands in the digital arena but what about flipping the equation for a second: how can you use an event to listen to an audience, rather than just talk at them? You could try just going to one and listening, for a start: Walk the floors, eavesdrop. If it’s an event you have presence or permission at, try interviewing people, running a survey or getting a presenter to ask the question and get a show of hands. I’ve seen video confession booths, incentivised surveys – all sorts of stuff. One thing that’s true of all events, everyone wants to offer an opinion. Use that opportunity.

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insights, customer

Leave no stone unturned in your search for insights.
Or, you could do it the easy way.

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Tired now

That seems like a metric shit-tonne of work, right? And it would be, if you were crazy enough to interrogate all 8 data sets listed here. (There are plenty of others available, but these are the most accessible).

No need. The Relevance Engine may require a bit of discipline, but it doesn’t demand complete masochism. Just pick 3. You can even pick the 3 easiest ones if you like – although we’ve designed the whole thing to be relatively easy to complete from your desk with just a couple of afternoon’s worth of work (even less if you delegate).

The results are in

What does a successful ‘scientific result’ look like? I’d say 2 confirmations from 3 different sources is a positive: take a few choice quotes & a handful of stats, put them into a nicely-laid-out ‘research deck’ and hey presto: local insights, backed by science. Any global team worth it’s salt will allow a local team to pursue a genuine insight if they’ve done their homework.

Now take your local insight, turn it into a value proposition (if you need help doing this part, you can get it here), put it in a brief and off you go: you’re got most of everything you need to create locally relevant work for your globally-powerful brand.

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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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If you’re in the market for some bad ideas, you could do a lot worse than get your colleagues together and announce a brainstorm. The very mention of the word seems to elicit one of two distinct responses: dread from those who have work they want to be doing and secret delight from those who are desperate for any reason to avoid doing whatever it is they were actually supposed to be doing.

Oh, there is a third reaction: mock outrage that someone would use the word ‘brainstorm’, as it is so obviously a term that offends people with epilepsy. These people then offer up a few alternative terms (Thought shower. Ideation. Ideating), all of which make me want to go and do a bit of vomitating. Not just because these are ridiculous, made-up words, but also because it is unnecessary. There’s actually nothing wrong with the word ‘brainstorm’ – and this is coming from epileptic sufferers themselves.

brainstorm, creativity

Brainstorms: plenty of heat and light, but no velocity.

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Brainstorming may not be a bad word to say, but it is generally a bad thing to do. Plenty of research has debunked its effectiveness, so why is it looked upon so favourably by those in business? And looked on so suspiciously by those (myself included) who are actually in the professional ‘coming up with ideas’ business?

I’m not morally opposed to collaborative thinking, it’s just that traditional brainstorms tend to cling to one of the the biggest fallacies ever perpetuated in the creativity game:

“there’s no such thing as a bad idea.”

I’m here to call bullshit on that one. There are actually plenty of things that are a bad idea: Zumba. Underwater weddings. Electing this guy. Just for starters. Speaking of politics (they don’t call me ‘Tenuous Link man’ for nothing), the main reasons bad ideas proliferate in brainstorm are politics & politeness. There’s no reliable mechanism for separating the ideas from the personalities and so you end up protecting the ideas that are associated with the most politically powerful people in the room (your boss, the client, the expensive consultant), or you spend all your time equally protecting all the equal ideas from all the equal people.

brainstorm, ideas, creativity

The point of the exercise is to find that one bright point of light.

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There are no judgements here.

And that’s the goddamn problem. Brainstorms place too much emphasis on generating ideas (and they are not even very good at that) and not enough on interrogating them, sorting the wheat from the chaff. There’s a reason it’s hard to get into advertising – you kind of have to know a little bit about what you are doing, you have to have a clue. And so it should be hard to get into a brainstorm (if you are still going to have one).  It should be populated by people who have smarts and skills and experience and a point of view. Most importantly, they should not be hesitant to express that point of view. Which is why the genuinely brilliant people I’ve worked with generally ‘choke’ in these artificial environments of ‘enforced idea equality’: asking them not to interpret and pass judgement on ideas is like asking them not to breathe.

There’s also no discipline here.

If you are still going ahead with this darned fool idea, then at least do your homework and then get everyone to do theirs. Assemble a team of thinkers and doers, with distinct specialities, plus a few generalists. Ensure the core team are familiar with each other and add in a few fresh faces, preferably with no stake in the outcome. Give them enough notice and brief them properly. Parcel out the research tasks (competitive landscape, audience insights, social listening report) and ask for succinct, 10 minute summaries to get everyone up to speed. Give people some time to think, and work, alone, then come back as a group to discuss and discard. Remember the aim is not to generate many so-so ideas, but to rally around a few great ones.

b2b, creativity, brainstorm, ideas

Without discipline and direction, brainstorms are a first class ticket to nowhere.

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Call in the Bomb Squad.

I’ve spent too many hours in too many bad brainstorms to want to keep doing this. I also believe, however, that once you cease to put in the effort to find a better alternative, you forfeit your right to complain. And I love complaining. So we’ve developed a template for tackling problems as a group and quickly arriving at new thinking that has been critically reviewed and supported.

brainstormWe call it the Bomb Squad,  because it puts the problem or opportunity in the middle of the room and surrounds it with smart people who work quickly to blow it up into a big idea. We also call it that, because it sounds like it will be politically incorrect, to someone, somewhere.

Sound a bit like regular brainstorming? Yes – if regular brainstorming involved preparation, structure and discipline. The preparation is in the pre‐work, ensuring that the room takes no longer than 30 minutes to get up to speed, and no one can derail the process with those tragic words: “we’ll have to go and find that out”. The structure is in the way the team is assembled: a carefully‐calibrated mix of youthful enthusiasm and learned wisdom, of technical insight and wide‐eyed wonder, of careful reconnaissance and daring risk taking. And the discipline comes from the squad leaders, who are charged with keeping to the schedule and building the follow‐through plan (another big failing of traditional ‘brainstorms’).

If you’d like to know more about how The Bomb Squad works (yes, we even have an instruction manual), get in touch and we’ll talk.

And if you’ve got more examples of bad ideas, tell me on twitter.

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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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Re-designing Demand Gen is hard.

So, if Demand Generation is all wrong, what’s the right way to build leads for b2b? There’s no easy answer (yeah, sorry about that), but we’re starting to see plenty of experiments and some successes using the new ‘favourite sons’ of the comms world: branded content, social media and, to a lesser degree, mobile.

I’m fairly certain none of these are the answer.

At least not on their own. And that’s where the next great trick of B2B marketing will have to be performed: making this stuff work as scale and at velocity. How do you get it humming, quarter after quarter, across markets both mature and emerging, in service of a portfolio of complex, inter-related products?

This is where systems thinking starts to shine. Instead of channels, we’re thinking infrastructure. Instead of messages, we’re thinking stories.  Instead of campaigns, we’re thinking education (in both directions). Perhaps, most importantly, instead of sales & marketing functions, we’re thinking systems of engagement.

Boiling the ocean: also hard.

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The more you start to think about all this stuff, about tearing it down and re-building it, about making common sense more common across all your markets, about establishing frameworks and operating procedures, the more you want to just go and find a shady tree to lie under. Sometimes I think it’s partly the reason we wind up churning out the same tactics in the same channels to ever diminishing applause: compared to this grand, uncharted territory of systems, at least we actually know how to buy a list and pump out the emails.

But that’s kind of boring.

Actually, it’s deadly boring. So we keep sketching and tinkering and experimenting (like we’ve always done), except now we’re also keeping an eye on the grand design, thinking about how that cool idea or interesting tactic or growing social platform might function if it were designed, from the ground up, to be a replicable, scalable and tune-able component of a system.

It’s actually quite liberating to recognise that the world (both ours and the audience’s) is not going to stand still long enough that we can ‘play god’ and re-design everything, perfectly, theoretically, as a completely fresh re-boot.

Instead, it makes more sense to apply the theory of responsive design to Demand Generation as a practice: create something, observe how people react to it, make the changes their behaviours seem to demand.

I wonder what that would look like?

How social is forcing Demand Gen to evolve.

Evolution is a remarkable thing. It sharpens yesterday’s skills to help us survive in tomorrow’s world. If you look at Demand Generation as a skill, you can trace it back to Direct Marketing, which in turn came from Direct Mail, which itself was an attempt to scale and automate Direct Selling.

Just as human evolution bred out things we no longer need (gills, for example) and enhanced things we found useful (opposable thumbs, anyone?), you can still see the core DNA of Direct Selling in a lot of what we call Demand Generation. In particular, the reliance on The List, which became so fundamental, it spun off it’s own evolutionary branch in the mid 1980’s (Database Marketing) in response to the new environment of personal computing.

So what happens to Demand Gen, and The List in particular, as it responds to the seismic shifts of, say, social media? Nobody’s entirely certain, but plenty of scientists are experimenting.

Your social behavior puts you on a list.

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

The likes of Kred and Klout are analysing social data to try and attribute a numeric ‘influencer score’ to individuals, ranking them in order of their ability to influence other people within certain communities or areas of interest. The obvious next step is to use these scores to create a ‘hit list’ of individuals you might want to include in a social outreach campaign, for example, and this has been marketing’s primary use of influencer scores to date, but the leap to a prospect list is still tenuous.

The list becomes a timeline.

 What if we took the same principles and tried to use them to create other predictors? Such as a ‘Propensity to purchase’ model? Or a ‘time to purchase decision’ estimate? Instead of using social as a way to decide who to contact, there is potential to use social to tell us when to contact, by listening for data points that signal where on the ‘road to purchase’ someone might be. Can their ‘social signals’ tell us whether a prospect is browsing, researching, comparing or looking for a deal? The next step from here is to look for patterns over multiple engagements, to build a model that starts to predict actual timelines: real-time ‘GPS for the buyers journey’ that locates a buyers’ proximity to a decision.

The list becomes a network.

networks

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

All this is ‘social scoring’ is fine in theory, but is based on the traditional B2C belief that purchases are made by an individual. The B2B world is more complex, particularly at the ‘big end of town’ were buying decisions are made by a group, operating within a hierarchy and often including people who aren’t the actual buyers. This is where the ‘network’ aspect of social networks comes into play: discovering and defining the membership of and connections within groups is the untapped data goldmine of platforms like LinkedIn. Several publishers in the B2B world are starting to mine their readership data to create ‘small world network’ models, which could be used to define these ‘buying cells’ and indicate which topics are on their collective agenda.

 So, social is the new list, then?

Social is getting a lot of airplay play right now. That’s partly because it’s a shiny new toy in the marketing playpen (I wrote about this in a recent post) but mostly because it’s where your audience is spending a lot of their time and energy, in a very visible, reachable and trackable way. That fact alone should stir something in the limbic system of most marketers: you fish where the fish are.

But it doesn’t mean The List is dead. Quite the opposite: The List is evolving. There are an increasing number of increasingly sophisticated ways to build, manage, mine and generate demand from The List. And a lot of those ways are yet to be discovered, let alone perfected, which I can’t help but find exciting.

Part 3 of: B2B Marketing – four creative opportunities for 2012

Here’s a turn up for the books: during 2011, we got some very good results* from good old-fashioned, big-box, dimensional, high value direct mail. We followed a lot of the old-school discipline, including ruthless segmentation to keep the mailing list as short as possible, clear call to action and high perceived value of the DM piece itself. But we also discovered why Direct Mail is now the digital marketer’s secret weapon.

But first, here are some simple truths about DM, and they are as as truthy now as they ever were:

1. Nothing is as important as the list: do your research; do your due diligence; check all the names; check the spelling; do some propensity modelling; do some pre-campaign opt-in work; don’t just buy a list; and the list (see what I did there) goes on and on.

2. Watch the budget: Although this sort of material can be very expensive to produce per piece – particularly if you are building something bespoke, printing your own boxes or having an item properly branded or personalised – the total campaign costs can be brought under control by limiting the list to truly high-value, high-propensity prospects. Don’t skimp on delivery – courier or hand is usually worth the extra investment. Also, get yourself on the seed list so you can experience the delivery process first-hand.

3. Three Dimensional value, not 3D puns: for a creative, the real joy in this kind of marketing is working out how you’re going to spend a hundred bucks per pack on your idea. Just make sure that the audience can see where the money went as well. Don’t send them a hand-carved hour-glass to tell them “time is running out”. A headline and a stock shot could do that job, on a 90-cent postcard. Good DM follows the same reach & frequency model as media, except the target’s desk is the media space, the number of office colleagues who notice it is the reach and the number of days before it gets binned is the frequency.

4. Offer up: If you are going to the trouble of putting together a high value pack, make sure the offer or the follow up is also of value. Don’t use it just to drive to the same, publicly-available, easily-googled web page that anyone else could get to. Try to ensure that the human element (a follow-up call, a sales visit) is introduced to the contact strategy very quickly after the pack lands, or the impact (and connection to your brand) may be lost.

5. Watch the time: these packs generally take a long time to produce and, towards the end of the process, everyone is keen to simply ship the bloody thing and be done with it, particularly if it has taken longer and cost more than initially scoped. Wait.  The B2B calendar moves to it’s own rhythm, and there are definite no-send zones, some unique to certain industries: the lead-up to major holidays; end of quarter; end of financial year; stocktake periods; reporting season; the introduction of new legislation, regulation or compliance; major sporting events (eg: rugby world cup and investment banking).

Keep these factors in mind and you can dramatically improve your DM response rates. If you’ve got the list right, you should see ROI that will make the average email campaign weep. Speaking of email, here’s the secret behind DM’s new-found old-school B2B success:

Everybody’s office inbox is rammed full of crap, but their letterboxes are wide open for business.

 

Next up: social media is used to the spotlight, is it ready for the spreadsheet?

Missed the earlier parts of the series?

Part 1: See why Content is the kingmaker, not the king>

Part 2: Platform thinking sees creativity and automation software on the same page>

* In the spirit of full disclosure, it’s fair to say we got some pretty poor results as well. But at least we know why. Test, learn optimise, right?

We’ve been invited back to South America, to bring some w2fm thinking to a series of ‘insight and messaging’ training sessions, and it got us thinking about the importance of being relevant to your audience.

Insights are everywhere: if you know where to look.

It’s one thing to talk about relevance, but how do you work out exactly what relevance is? How will you know when you’ve found it? And what language will it be in?

As usual, we didn’t waste any time trying to come up with the answers ourselves – we just asked all of the really smart marketing, planning, creative and strategic people we knew how they go about discovering relevance.

There's a lot of good intel in the sales department - but how do marketers extract it?

Although the channels and techniques and methods varied (online listening posts; eavesdropping at conferences; buying a front-line sales guy a cup of coffee), all roads kept coming back to the audience, and a devastatingly simple process:

Step 1: Find them

Step 2: Listen

 

So we’ve collected the wisdom and put it in a framework that allows us to continue the ‘magpie approach’ of adding new twigs of information and ideas as we find them, continually building up a collection of tools and approaches to discovering relevance.

The result is The Relevance Engine and we unveiled the idea at a 2-day session in Sao Paulo, which revealed a whole bunch more “twigs” from the get-go. There was a feeling that our friends in Brasil already had access to a lot of customer insight and were ready to start combining their sources. We hit upon the idea of having a “hunch” and using the engine to collect the data to either support the hunch with facts, or find an entirely new customer insight.

I had a hunch this was lunch. I was wrong.

We’d also like it to be noted that the Paulistas are amongst the world’s most generous hosts – catering wise. It’s so much easier to facilitate a workshop wen everyone is fed and watered, so a huge thankyou goes out to the Brasil team on this score.

Already, we can see that rather than try to continually ‘develop’ and ‘refine’ The Relevance Engine as we go along, it seems more natural to allow local teams to ‘tune’ it to their local needs. Unsurprisingly, The Relevance Engine works best when it is allowed to become more relevant to the audience that is using it.

We have a couple more stops at Buenos Aires and Mexico City over the coming days, so we’ll write a little more about the engine plays out in these markets but, in the meantime, I’d like to ask you to help with some virtual performance tuning too:

“What’s your fail-safe method for discovering what is truly relevant to your audience?”