Archive for the ‘branding’ tag
In a recent essay in UX Magazine, Andrew Turrell, User Experience Director at Lunch.com, argues that the news feed format, those short bursts of syndicated information from Facebook, Twitter, friends, and media outlets, is becoming a kind of universal currency of digital experience. He writes: “As users consume more and more information on personal aggregation websites and on mobile devices, all content providers must evolve to meet these new user expectations and browsing styles, and come to think of the news feed as the default model for presenting digital content.”
I agree with Turrell’s premise, but I think he doesn’t go far enough in spotting the incredible convergence of social and personal “news” with old-school news outlets. For example, someone using Tweet Deck may in the same blush read a feed item from The New York Times about the recession and another item from Aunt Zelda about her cat, and that same user may turn around and comment on both. With the news feed model, Friend News from “content provider” Aunt Zelda and News News from “content provider” New York Times are both vying for your attention within the same interface and the same presentation format. And when you have friends sharing News News as well, it all starts to converge into one universal social and digital experience. It’s no wonder that Facebook uses a little Newspaper icon next to the news feed, and it’s no secret that social news has eroded older patterns of news cycles and news consumption.
Why has the news feed become so central to our everyday lives? Turrell is surely right that the small space format is perfect for the always-on mobile channel. Social and mobile are made for each other. But the other incredible power of the news feeds is the way that they enable sharing of all media forms. News feed items offer a bite-size package that can reveal movies, slideshows, music, and other articles while sparking multiple conversation streams and user actions. With the ability to expand a news item and view its attached media content inline, the humble news feed has incredible communication power behind it.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the news feed for how brands operate. Here are just a few implications:
- Every user is potentially a “reporter” and an advocate for your brand with their own set of friends and followers. They’ll decide what, when, and how to share parts of your story in their feeds.
- Brands aren’t locked into situations where news “breaks” in the mainstream press and then circulates among consumers. It can easily break in social news streams and then find its way into media outlets, who republish it in their own news feeds.
- Since it’s now mainstream for consumers to have their own mini-media audiences in the form of their friends and followers, they are actively looking for interesting media to share that can help them spark conversation.
- Because shared feed items flow into users’ personal space, they often succeed by striking the right conversational tone, with news written and designed not just for personal consumption but to be bantered about in a social setting.
What do you think? Are any of these ideas news to you?
As some of you may know, recently a few of us in the planning community got the chance to attend a new sort of un-conference called Planning-ness, where we didn’t just sit around listening to people talk at us, but we actually did stuff. For example, starting to create the new planner toolkit in quick and dirty fashion. I think I can speak for all in attendance when I say it was a fantastic and inspiring weekend, and one that we’re all thrilled we attended. And we were all ready to get back to work.
I wanted to walk in on my first day back in the office after Planning-ness and start implementing some of the things we spent the weekend talking about.
One month later, and I’ve gotten little chance to do that (my guess is, some of my fellow planners share this pain). Sad as it may be to make this excuse, the craziness of daily business got in the way. Firedrills to be attended to, POVs that need to be written, new business decks that need to be prepared. It’s easy to make excuses.
But it’s exactly the thing I don’t want to do. I think all of us that were a part of Planning-ness would agree that daily work craziness aside, we don’t want that to get in the way of the changes we all spent so much time talking about and working on that weekend. Somehow, someway, we need to find a way to bring it to fruition. Not just for us, but for the future of the industry and for the betterment of our client relationships.
So how do we best do this? How do we balance the insanity of the daily needs of our industry while still trying to implement new tools, new processes, new ideals, new ideas, and new thinking? By no means easy, but necessary. And as I started thinking about it more, I wonder if the best way isn’t to bring clients into the early process as well.
Not easy, and sometimes not pleasant. But after all, no one benefits if we spend 3 weeks coming up with an evolved model for brand frameworks or a new way of thinking about the archaic ‘purchase funnel’ only to have clients shoot it down in a 1 hour meeting. Why not put some of the accountability and responsibility back on them? We’re partners, right? I know it’s naive to think every client will come along for the ride with us, but let’s imagine that this is the moment we try to convince them.
Here are a few ways I think that we could do that:
Invite smart clients into the discovery phase- early.
Perhaps this is blasphemy for some. Inviting clients into the creative process? But at Planning-ness I got to participate in a fantastic session put on by the smart folks at (aptly named) SmartDesign, during which they talked to us about the fact that every research project and every discovery phase incorporates every party involved- including client, strategist, designer, etc. Bringing everyone in, and letting everyone feel some sense of ownership over the process, in my opinion, could make our whole industry process feel more collaborative, more informal, and in general just help it to work better.
Create the new brand framework (which doesn’t need to be just one model) with your clients, arm in arm.
I know agency folks get incredibly protective and territorial (even internally) when it comes to what we create, but it feels like it may be time to rid ourselves of that nonsense. We don’t create priceless pieces of art– we are trying to build our clients’ business. Whether that’s through sparking talk value or direct calls to action, the end is the same. If we don’t move the business needle, we failed ourselves, and we failed our clients. So it only makes sense we’re all in agreement on and working towards the same goal. If we can build the new brand model together, it can only make for a better and more collaborative relationship and experience.
Find the one client representative who will champion the idea of failing hard- then learning.
I’ve been blessed enough to work with a few individual clients (individuals, not just brands) who were willing to come along with me on collective ideas and sell through things we both knew could fail despite best intentions. But through all of our work together, and desire to succeed, they put themselves out there on behalf of us and helped sell things through, and in the end we were able to make inroads into the client org that would’ve otherwise been impossible.
Have the hard conversations early, and often.
It’s not exactly easy to tell your $100 million client that many of the things they’ve been doing (much of which we may have been telling them to do, or are currently telling them to do) is broken, but it’s necessary for change. We talk often about wanting to be business partners to our clients, and not just viewed as vendors who make ads. But if that is to be the case, then I think we need to truly act as business partners, which to me means making difficult decisions, having uncomfortable conversations, and taking tough actions. To me the earlier the hard conversations happen, the earlier we can weed out the clients who are not ready to work with us (or who we’re not ready to work with).
Stop trying to sell ideas that only work on old theories of needing massive $$$ to work
We’ve long talked about the simple idea of ‘outsmart vs outspend’ when it comes to what we do. And that was in the day when TV and print were the two biggest and really only options. So it’s a bit odd that years later, when we have so many more options with which to provide value to people beyond spending a ton of money shouting more and more loudly, often times our industry still ends up doing the latter. Let’s actually try living the idea of doing lots of little things that build up to a bigger point of view. Let’s finally stop with the BS.
I have no delusions about things changing overnight, or even next month, or even in the next 6 months. But I think we can all agree, planners or not, that things are not working in anyone’s definition as of this moment. What I do hope is that next year at this time, whether we’re all gathered again at Planning-ness or at that other planning conference, that we can all point to clear pieces of evidence that show what we did on that weekend in October 2009 planted the seeds of change for an industry.
I hope that we all can look back at the year behind us and feel like we, at least in some way, were successful at making some new things happen.
Good but not all too surprising piece of latest research from our friends over at eMarketer. Interesting to note that branded websites are up there with recommendations from friends on the trust spectrum.
There will always be debates around what media is trusted best I suppose, but to me this just reinforces the fact that none of it can really hope to match what our personal networks suggest and recommend to us (obvious statement of the day).
Perhaps it’s another piece of fodder for an argument against seeking fame as the main goal of our industry. Or, as Gareth put it resisting fireworks for real connections.
If all we do is connect powerfully with a focused group of people with shared values and ideals, add truly interesting value to those personal networks, then to me that feels like success more so than big budget blasts that might gain you headlines but not really any lasting engagement or connections.
But curious to hear any thoughts, agreement/disagreement, insults…whatever you have.