Now and again people offer me free stuff to trial, in the hope I'll blog about it. I usually say no because I don't want to be under pressure to write something, and I'd feel bad about cutting something to ribbons if it wasn't any good. Also, I'm sort of bemused that anyone would think I have some sort of influence.
But I did accept trialling Papershow for a few weeks. Basically, you can connect a pen to your computer by USB and turn it into a whiteboard. I thought I might find it useful in workshops to scribble notes, and I did, but the real value was creating powerpoint slides that were a little more interesting. And it worked a treat.
Like this slide. And in fact, while we're here, lets talk about this slide a bit.
I'm not going to have a go at Brand Onions and stuff, it should be self explanatory by now, but look those charts again. See that big arrow in the middle? The thing that holds all those little ideas together?
It has an intent, a direction, a goal, and endgame. Nike didn't know what they would have to do in the next twenty years, just like I don't know what I'll be doing in my fifties, I bet you don't know what you'll be up to in twenty years time either. That's the thing about plans, they rarely work out.
In the 80's the US army used to plan everything to death. Every single eventually was planned for, nothing was left to chance. Problem was, they found that every single engagement has one thing in common - nothing went to plan. And the rigidity of orders and planning meant that no one could use their initiative, adapt to the situation and make it work.
The general even had a saying for it, "No plan survives contact with the enemy". So over a number of years, they adapted their planning, with more emphasis on the end result. Everything is about the intent now, that's the guide, the thing everyone works to. And being enables to adapt, gets them their.
I think brands are like that - the vision, manifesto is critical, but it shouldn't handcuff what you need to do for right now, it should enrich it and hold all those 'right now' into a much bigger 'one day'.
Someone was kind enough to ask my thoughts on what to say if you want your first planning job and, in the the interview, you're asked about process, insights coming from anywhere and proprietary tools. I thought I'd share my answers (I've added some bits in since my initial reply).
"My view on templates is that if the agency has one, use it, it's easier for you in the long run. Plus, models and templates have a place - they frame your thinking.Like the Disruption model my agency works with - thinking the conventions and how you might break is a useful place to start, but isn't much good without insight into the audience, or knowing what the objective should be. The trick is to make sure you have a good idea, not just one that fits the box.
Try and still think about the usual stuff - brand, audience, market, culture, objective, and I mean think hard. Write things down, do manifestos, mind mapping, all that. When something good eventually comes, if it doesn't fit your 'model' post rationalise it to hell to fit. If something is really good, it should be able to take everything you throw at it.
As for getting consumer insight, it's true that ideas come at anytime. That said, you can't beat going out amongst the people you're targeting and hopefully talking to some of them in the context of your subject matter. Talk to footballers before a match, talk to women about make-up when they're getting ready. Talk to gamers while they're playing. If you haven't got time, read what they read, watch what they watch. Look at some of their videos on Youtube. Read their blogs, Facebook groups etc.
When it comes to the interview, find out as much as you can about how the agency works, and tailor your 'approach' to that. Be yourself, but no one wants a loose cannon. People want someone who can both fit in and add to what they already have. Think about your planning heroes - how you might nick their best stuff and leave the bits you don't like.
You simply can't avoid rigour and process, but my view is that you should never do anything for the sake of it though, approach everything with the idea of learning something new, generating ideas.
It's true that ideas come from anywhere, but they won't unless you've done the work and banged your head against a brick wall first.
I was talking to someone the other day about the brilliance of the Internet.
If any agency professional was really, really honest, they'd tell you that they never know 100% how well something will work. With the Internet, you can try lots of stuff without a big enough, see what works and then ramp it up. Testing in real time.
But there's a danger. Just because you're in 'test phase' that doesn't excuse slackness. When things can be shared and gather pace at a frightening rate, you have to be sure you've accounted for things going wrong as much as you can. When it's out there, it is very hard to recall. A bit like the email you reply to instead of forwarding I guess.
That goes for bloggers too. You don't know which posts will take off and which ones will be ignored, and it's often surprising. That doesn't excuse not putting yourself in the shoes of the reader and making sure it doesn't needlessly offend anyone, or can be taken the wrong way. I think I wrote one of those posts today.
It was supposed to be about the highs and lows of working with people who have different skills and different ways of working, but it seems like it came across as having a pop at creatives. It wasn't supposed to, without them, my agency would fall down, just like it would without suits, production or accounts. I just wanted to point out that maybe we should celebrate ALL departments a bit more and try to hold each other to the same standards.
But that's the web for you, when you make mistakes you make them in public. So the post has been deleted. You live and learn.
I'm sitting on a train en-route to London. Last time I mananged to swing first class, and demonstrated that I was anything but by trying to pay for the free tea, and after realising everything was gratis, troughed free sandwiches and made myself ever so slightly jittery after over-dosing on the caffeine in all the free tea and coffee I availed myself off. Anyway............
It's standard class today, which is fine. But then I hear the latest snippet of ''helpful information' from the tannoy. "Please be careful when alighting from the train, as the heavy rain has made it slippery". Do I really need to be told this?
I'll be merrily navigating the Tube in a bit, with the constant reminders to mind the gap, and the at some point, they've decided to inform you what station you'll be approaching and what station you've just left, despite the perfectly brilliant Tupe map and line map that adorns each train.
Whenever we drive, they've taken it upon themselves to tell us to slow down, despite the fact we all know the speed limit, to take a break when we're tired, to think don't phone.
How did this happen? When did we become a nation that needed it's little hand held wherever it went? How did we agree to be pelted with useless intruction? To be bossed and cajoled wherever we went?
Of course, having reached the venerable age of 34, you may be justified in accusing me of descending into grumpy old man territory, but this really does feel like a cultural phenomon the right brand could get its teeth into.
Someone from Brazil emailed me recently wanted a head up on planning and stuff. I deleted it by mistake (are you sure you want to take anything I say seriously?). Do get in touch, and sorry if I appeared rude, I'm just an idiot.
According to Adam Smith, suddenly achieving blazing success can actually be the route to misery. Not is the praise from your peers less than sincere, as the green eyed monster takes hold, the established players in the elite you've just joined do not always welcome upstarts.
Now, this is of course true, envy is intrinsic to human nature, as is group think and snobbery (inverted or not). I think this comes down to how you meet your success. With humility, gratitude and never false modesty. There's nothing worse than seeing someone change over night. You know who you are.
But then, you have to question the ones who have been left behind, or those in the higher echelons the person has joined.
Those left behind can let envy consume them, or they can be inspired into pushing themselves a little harder. Human societies have always had elites, some would argue that the cult of the celebrity enables us to dream of being as wealthy and glamorous as them. Watching Michael Phelps in the the pool makes me want to work on my freestyle.
And, of course, elites need to close ranks, otherwise there's nothing special about them, but without the possibility that the lucky few can join in, the lower orders eventually rebel. From a sociological point of view, that's why actors and rock stars are so potent for capitalism, in theory, anyone could do it. Talentless celebrities like Jordan and other reality stars are even more useful, you don't even have ti be any good at anything.
And anyway, you should always welcome new additions to the tribe, the diversity will make you stronger.
So there you have it, success can be dangerous for all, but the bit I find interesting is the role of emotion within this. No emotion is bad, it's how you use it. If you're other half was never a little jealous when you flirted with someone, would you really feel loved? Without envy, would you ever be inspired to surprise yourself? Without fear of challengers, would you ever push yourself to stay ahead?
Sometimes the most simple things can be fascinating if you look hard enough, in fact if you just scratch underneath the surface a little. That's one of the arts of planning for me, there's no excuse for a dull creative brief, whatever the category. Or the obvious, first stuff thought stuff either. There's always another layer to peel if you ask the right questions.
I've been doing some work on colour and quickly found out how little I know.
The physiological stuff is down to wavelengths of light. Take red, it's got he broadest wavelength and physically takes the most energy for the brain to process it, that's why it jumps out at you, actually raises your pulse, makes you feel hot. So if you want t get a raise, wear red, if you want to lose all your money, gamble in a red room. Researchers actually found that people have more arguments in red rooms - culturally, it's passion, strength and danger, but that all comes from the way it affects you physically. A cup of tea will actually appear hotter in a red mug.
Blue on the other hand is positive relaxing color, thanks to having the smallest wavelength. It physically lowers the pulse, so it calming, makes you feel cooler. But then culture has made navy blue seem authoritative and conservative.
But on the other hand, while yellow is a happy colour, it's symbolism with the sun means it subconsciously stands for renewal, reinvention, constant motion.
Green has a nature/nurture contradiction. While we talk of being 'green with envy', people who like green tend to be friendly and generous. One is intrinsic, one is a tradition we absorb by osmosis.
And on it goes. I won't get into shades and colour combinations, we'll be here forever. Don't know why I'm telling you, I just found it interesting.