Keep it simple and stop interrupting people. Easy as that.

on Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm sure by now most people have seen the IKEA Facebook idea. If you haven't it's below.


So, why is this idea so good and why are so many people trying to copy it? Well, because it's simple. 

It uses the functionality that already exists within Facebook, it isn't getting the audience to do anything complicated and it's not interrupting their usual activity.

As an industry everyone raves about "keeping it simple" yet we fail to do it on so many levels. This being a prime example. We need to realise that our ideas aren't going to change people's behaviours, our ideas need to be embedded into their existing behaviour. The IKEA idea takes something that people already do (tag photos) and uses this to their advantage. 

I think the one thing that surprised me with this was that it hadn't already been done. Well, it had been proposed, just not on a large scale! I along with Adam & Dan presented an almost identical idea a few months ago. The target audience was different, as was the product but the idea was essentially the same. Tag, spread and create a buzz. 

What we need to understand is that social networking sites are not different to real life. We speak to our friends; we share information with each other and we hang out. It's like chatting with your friends in the street.

Now, if I was having a conversation in the street with my friends, you wouldn’t walk up to me and interrupt our conversation or jump up and down in front of me trying to get me do something else. It would be plain rude and pretty annoying. This doesn't change online. I'm trying to socialise with my friends so stop interrupting me! Social networks are exactly what they say on the tin, a place to socialise. I don't want you trying to push your brands message in my face.

What would be the best way to get my attention? Simple. Give me something to talk about, give me a benefit, and give me something useful. Basically, what I wrote here.  I'm not interested in joining your group or confessing my bread sins. If I was, I would have already done it. The point I'm trying to make is that we can't control people's behaviours online. We can't do it offline so why is online any different?

I think the important thing to realise is that majority of people that are engaging with social media do so without any deep understanding of what they are doing in marketing contexts. Many people are producing their own content without a critical understanding of user-generated content. This can be anything from Facebook groups, twitter tags and YouTube videos. They're doing it for kicks, for laughs and to say to their friends "look at this!" Not to spread your brands message. If your message is good enough it will spread organically.

I'm sure two of my friends won't mind me sharing this:

Why did they make this video? 

For a laugh and to see how many people would watch it and find it funny.

Their aim wasn't to help Michael Buble sell more albums. However, this could be an after effect. If you watched the video and liked the song, you might end up purchasing it. Just because they understand how to use the technology doesn't mean that they understand the effects of what they are doing. Most social network users don't think about their information sharing practices or user content generation, they just do it. Brands need to create content that is worth sharing, talking about (or talking to) or re-creating. Simple.

This brings me back to my first point. We need to embed our ideas into existing behaviours. Create content that encourages engagement and interactivity without changing people’s behaviours. If it's a good enough idea it will spread itself, you can't control it. You can only plant it. Much like the IKEA idea. So let’s stop over complicating it, let’s keep it simple and let's stop interrupting people’s activities.


You're successful? Says who?

on Thursday, December 03, 2009

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today regarding the definition of success His definition of success is different to mine, mainly due to cultural differences.

Being a British Muslim, I have a somewhat of diverse upbringing. I have values that I have acquired from my traditional Muslim upbringing but then I have grown up in a Western society so that has had a big impact on my life and often the two have conflicted and contradicted each other. The main problem is that there is a mixture of expectations placed on you by family, friends and society as a whole. All these have different definitions of success. Essentially you are trying to tick a lot of different boxes.

Societies and cultures define the meaning of success in different ways. In modern capitalist societies, success is normally defined by the outward indicators of wealth. Essentially, being wealthy is seen to be successful. However in a different culture, having a family and respect in the community is deemed successful as opposed to materialistic wealth (see South Asian communities).

In this situation individuals may live their life trying to be accepted by different segments of society and ultimately not achieve their individual goals or satisfy their ambitions in fear of failing one or the other. The perceptions held by members of society concerning an individual's level of success clearly influence how successful individuals actually regard themselves to be. Individuals may take decisions that do not in please themselves but may deem them to be more successful in the eyes of others.

So how do you actually define success? It is pretty much a grey area. One way I guess you could define it is through happiness. You could be struggling to get by in life in a financial sense but still be content and happy with life or you could be a millionaire and a manic depressive. So, which one is the success here? Ultimately I think success depends on what angle you look at and from which person’s viewpoint.

For me success is extremely difficult to define mainly for some of the reasons mentioned above!


Clever little hamsters.

on Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I recently saw this ad on the TV for Drench, the water brand. I thought it was fantastic!

A great example of a brand zagging, when I think of water ads I seem to recall mountains and people running. This completely takes a different approach, as viewers you stay locked in and want to see the whole thing. Brands need to do a lot at the current time to make them stand out, especially in a category such as water where there are so many competitors selling in essence, the same product. Brand personality is very important in this category. Hence the Evian baby ads.

What also occurred to me is that the ad still pushes the brands core goal, to keep people "drenched". You are reminded that staying drenched helps you perform better. Humour is all well and good but you it's all about the sales at the end of the day. In the worlds of David Ogilvy, "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information." The Drench ad delivers the information and entertains at the same time.

On further investigation, they have seeded some rather humorous clips on YouTube. The clever hamster auditions. Although not as great as the mighty meerkat, they still go a long way in terms of engaging customers with the brand and adding the much needed fun element to staying hydrated. Something that can seem trivial for a lot of people, yours truly included.

A late addition to the post: just read they placed x-factor style ads in the Sun and the Metro for the clever hamster auditions. The tune from the ad will also be released in time for Christmas. Brilliant use of channels.


When brands play the lottery.

on Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Finger crossed. Via

The lottery. Something that takes place on numerous occasions during the week and something that 1000's of people participate in. For what? Essentially a quick fix to their problems, you don't need worry about the bills or any of life’s other problems if you win it. You can make a lot of money quickly; after all, the draw takes seconds. The main problem however is that usually only one person wins, for the rest it's as the image indicates; it's about crossing their fingers for the following week. 

Now, not everyone plays the lottery. There are other ways to get a yacht, a villa in an exotic location and some really nice sports cars. However, this takes a lot longer, a lot more work and can be more of a risk then  £1. But who wants to do that?! Surely it is easier to put your money into a short term gain and hope for the best? You would think that wouldn’t you.

Being a advertising-y blog, I suppose I have to relate this to brands and show why it doesn't work. So here it is:

Often brands are in a position where not a lot is going right for them or they need a boost to their bottom line. So they take a gamble, obviously it costs a lot more than a £1 in this situation but essentially they are after the same result. Something that will elevate them from their current situation in a short period of time
picture via  

A great example is Starbucks. A while back they bought out an instant coffee brand. This was done to grow Starbucks sales. Now, when you consider the whole point of going to Starbucks is to get a good coffee, surely instant coffee would damage the brand in the eyes of the consumer. 

Instead of looking for ways to solve their core problems they continue to damage the brand by looking for a short term fix. Starbucks sales aren't suffering because people are buying instant coffee - they are suffering because Starbucks is expensive! They need to address this issue instead of gambling and hoping it works out. This is a recent attempt by Starbuck's. Much the same as the instant coffee idea in my opinion....  

Brands need to realise that by l utilising these quick fix tactics for short term profit they are damaging their brand in the eyes of the consumer. If not in the present then definitely in the long run. Instead they need to focus on your core problems, improve their brands offering and understand the people who interact with their brand. 

I'm now off to buy my lottery ticket ;)  


Henry? That guy who...

on Monday, November 23, 2009

I've been busy the last few days so this post is a bit late in terms of writing. However it has been going around my head for a couple of days.

Now, the dust is beginning to settle on the Henry handball situation. One of the debates I have had with several of my friends is if this is what Henry will now be remembered for.

I refer back to the old story of service. If you get great service in a restaurant every time for a 100 visits, you may tell the odd person. However, if you get terrible service just the once, you tell ten people, who then tell ten people etc etc. Basically, one bad deed can ruin a brands reputation for good, people may never trust/use that brands product or service again. It also creates a knock on effect as people tell their peers.

Now, does this work in terms of brand Henry? Of course it does. Sure, he scored some screamers; he won the Premier league title and the world cup. He was once arguably the best player in the Premiership. However, the handball is without a doubt the most negative aspect of his career. Unfortunately for Henry it is extremely likely this is what people will talk about when they mention his name in years to come. Don't believe me? What is the first thing you think of when I say Maradona? Thought so.


Challenge the big guy!

on Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like many around the world I tuned in to see David Haye take on the giant, Nikolai Valuev. Haye was speedy, stuck to his tactics and placed his shots. Valuev did little or nothing, slow to react, threw the odd punch and ultimately hoped his sheer size would win the fight for him.

Now, I will be honest, I was surprised Haye won. He didn't really land many punches apart from one big one in the final round but he did something Valuev didn't do. He showed heart, confidence and dared to stand toe to toe with the big man.

It made me think about the market place that many brands operate in. They won't compete head on with the big market leader, the sheer dominance and size of the leader brand scares them, after all one blow could, in a sense could knock them out. So, instead they follow the leader brands footsteps and do little or nothing to take its customers.

What they should do instead is exploit the leader brands weaknesses. Be nimble and take risks. Larger corporations are slower to react to trends, less likely to take risks and in many markets will coast along as they don't think anyone call challenge their dominance. A great example is Virgin.Virgin Atlantic had less than a fifth of BA's marketing budget but, thanks to its aggressive and provocative advertising - as well as Sir Richard Branson's fondness for PR stunts - the challenger airline now has a high profile.

So, take one out of David Haye's book. Take on the big guys, they aren't as scary as they look. Even how hairy they are!


What makes a good planner? All in 140 characters please...

on Monday, November 02, 2009

Redscout’s SPUR video series is something of great interest to me and many others, I'm sure. Being a young planner "wannabe" it's interesting to see how experienced practitioners view the world of planning and how they think it will shape up in the future. I'm looking forward to future editions of the video series.  

Here's a something I found particularly interesting:

"Planning was conceived as the thinking behind creativity. But the conventional planner has become a caricature: thinking in an ivory tower and post-rationalizing the doing of others. But today – as the industry, agency, and world-at-large have evolved – the definition of planning, and its future, is unclear."

Building on this thought, I recently asked some planners on twitter for their views on "what makes a good planner?” all in 140 characters. All the responses that I recieve will be added to this blog post, as and when I recieve them.....

All other responses are also welcome :) 

Armano  "Curiosity, excellent communication skills, an analytical mind, creative spirit and the ability to detect and synthesize patterns"

markhadfield "A good Planner is being able to provide more than 1 answer to this question, but throwing out the wrong ones and keeping the best." "(and to always have the last word. ;-) )"

jasonlonsdale "A great planner should be the trusted provocateur: strategically robust yet creatively inspiring; laser-focused yet open-minded"

Will_Humphrey "A good planner has the same qualities as a chinese finger trap."

FamousRob  "There is rarely one 'correct' answer, but a great planner helps focus the thinking and creative work as close to it as possible."

katylindemann  "A good planner should be interested as well as interesting, have an insatiable curiosity, and able to make the complex appear simple."

theplanninglab "A respectable planner combines strategic + creative excellence, and a positive can-do attitude with as little bullshit as possible."

VicHoon "Speaking as someone who works for planners, the most successful ones are curious polymath critical thinkers with an ability to wing it."

Manuel Stolte "a good planner feels and thinks like consumers and has the lead in knowledge of human nature..."

GabrielRossi "Understanding that marketing is a way of thinking rather than just a set of tools. Planning is jut part of the equation."

tarik "Passionate by people and their behaviors. Not afraid to cut the crap and fancy to please the only one opinion that matters: Consumer’s"

paulisakson  " Furious curiosity, endless empathy, intelligent intuition, acute insightfulness and a fierce loathing for the status quo."

bud_caddell "A healthy ignorance of business as usual, little to no reverence for the past, and a desperate need to build the future."

johngriffiths7  "Someone who can find the shortest path between insight and execution and prevents egos getting in the way."

Adverplanner "Great Planners complete a rubik’s cube of trends, tech, insights & brand values so creatives can use it to create something amazing."

jo_vanna  "Curiosity, digging skills of a detective, love of anthropology, ability to see and make conceptual connections, love of learning."

faris  "Ask instead perhaps what planning is, and what makes it good. Then get really nice, really smart people and get them to do it."

chrisgallery "There are two kinds of people in advertising,those who simplify and those who complify. Good planners simplify,bad planners complify.Simple."

BenShaw  "Being able to look at every aspect of life and apply data, insight and creativity to blow peoples minds away with brilliant ideas."


I've got a confession to make...

on Sunday, November 01, 2009

Kingsmill confession's is really bugging me.

What were they thinking? Who has confessions about bread? The answer: not the majority of the people who buy the product, in fact, not many people in general!

The actual confessions on the site seem a bit forced, even fake. For example:

I lock myself in the stationery cupboard at work so I can enjoy my favourite sandwich in peace and quiet"

Here is some of the more "real" confessions that have been posted as comments on YouTube:

"I wipe the under side of my balls with kingsmill gold........it's very refreshing"

"Kingsmill confessions haven't posted mine up about me being a former employee that used to jizz in the dough."

 "I wipe my arse on kingsmill.... its soft and very absorbent" 

Well, I guess the last one isn't so bad. At least they got the message that the bread is soft.

People will remember this campaign for all the negative jokes it's generated not the actual confessions on the website.

Damage to the brand? I think so.

Engaging customers with your brand is important but I think a lot of brands need to assess if what they are doing is truly engaging. Good engagement is viral, you tell your friends, and you share it. I doubt confessing your bread sins on a website is something you would mention to your friends, unless you were telling them one of the jokes above.


The best advertising, is not advertising?

on Thursday, October 22, 2009
This was an interesting point made by the AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed, earlier this week.

I totally agree! Increasingly people are becoming more savvy. Blocking out advertising that doesn't benifit them. Advertising is seen all around us, yet how much of is actually taken it? How much of your marketing activity sells your product or service. After all isn't this the name of the game?

The best forms of advertising in this day and age is not advertising.

So how do you reach people now?

By being helpful and giving solutions.

By helping people connect with each other.

By creating genuine benifits.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it's not about creating campaigns that create short term gain for a brand, its about movements. This is done through creating relevent content that engages, answers problems and enhances peoples lives.


Creative planners?

on Thursday, October 15, 2009

bridging the gap!

After some interesting conversations on twitter earlier today and of course having been to several large ad agencies over the last 3 years, I’ve been thinking about the agency of the future.
Integration is so important in advertising campaigns these days but what about integration in actual advertising agencies?
I’ve spoke to various “old school” type planners in the past month; they are working or have worked at some of the biggest agencies in the country. One thing they all echoed is that advertising is indeed changing and the roles will be next to change.
Advertising agencies will need people who can thing strategically and creatively.
The days of the pure left brain thinkers (planners) and pure right brain thinkers (creative’s) could be numbered. The new breeds of advertisers will infuse creativity with strategy.
They will bring strategic direction and art direction.
They will bring insight and creative flair.
Above all, they will design profitable yet appealing solutions.
One of the things that were said to me by a traditional planner is: your course is too far ahead of advertising. Basically, it is already producing “creative strategists” like me. I found it very difficult to put a label on what I do; I'm a strong creative but just as strong analytically. So I don't fit into any set agency role without losing one aspect of my skills. The larger, more traditional agencies don’t have room for us yet. They will have in 5 years when the changes have happened but until then we have to choose what we want to lose, creativity or strategy.
The type of role a creative planner would play was summed up nicely on Ivans blog over at adsoftheworld.com:
This guy brings to the table his knowledge and proficiency in understanding a client. Strategic thinking is definitely a pivotal part of this new role, but at the same time he can creatively interpret data coming from the client, and create a platform for the creative team. He gets a task from the client for which he creates an insightful brief. Then he briefs the creative team, giving them enough meat to create a campaign. The team then gets back to him with the solution, which he evaluates, keeping in mind the client's requirements and also the creative aspect. If satisfied, he presents the work to the client.
So what are your thoughts? Is this already happening? Does it need to start to happen?


New business ventures and brand marketing (rant #1)

on Saturday, October 03, 2009

Picture via: http://www.startagardeningbusiness.co.uk

At 3 Monkeys No Banana we are often approached by small start-ups wanting marketing/branding advice and direction, which of course if fine. However what we seem to find is that we are undertaking a lot more than simply brand strategy, it turns into business strategy. A lot of businesses come to us with business problems and try to answer these through branding. Of course you can't solve an underlying business problem through brand strategy.

The most common problem for this seems to be the lack of understanding of the customer’s needs, they have a product or service yet know little in terms of how this is any different then an existing offering or how their particular product/service can fulfil a customers need, whether that be functional or emotional. It can be frustrating at times especially when the owner of the business doesn't see a need to carry out research or feels he/she knows enough through assumptions.

Every business should start by identifying its markets, primary and secondary. Finding out how their product benefits them, what their customers want, need, fear, live and breathe. I can’t see how you can start a business venture without having a deep understanding of who your customers are!

As marketers the first hurdle for us is convincing the client that simply creating a nice logo, print ad and slogan won't sell the product. One of the things we try to do is help them understand their value proposition and then devise and deliver a more defined and measurable strategy along with understanding their market, customers and innovative marketing techniques.

The worst thing, well most frustrating is when they have worked with "marketing" people before who are nothing more than bedroom graphic designers. The clients have the ideology that producing a few pieces of marketing literature that simply communicate the product and its features will gain sales and brand loyalty. Strategy defines your communications not creative. It takes a lot sometimes to drive this message home to business owners.

Ok, rant over.


Good old Confucius....

on Monday, September 28, 2009
Well apparently it's Confucius's birthday today or so the new Google logo of the day tells me.

So, I thought how Confucius's teachings can be relevent today, 2,560 years after his birth. Not as tough as you may think.

As this is a blog centred around all things brand, I got thinking and found one of his famous quotes:

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Now how can we apply this thinking to everyday brands? If we think of customers they are bombarded with advertising, it may be on the radio (I hear) on the tv or via the outdoors ( I see).

The one thing that non of these mediums can do is interact with them, yes we they can hear your great radio jingle or watch your amazing tv advert but the one thing that engages people more than anything is being a part of something!

Let's take a recent example, t-mobile. They created effective communication by involving their audience and engaging them with the brand both offline and online. This proves more effective then simply giving your audience a one way piece of communication. Interaction is king. The more your audience can connect with you, engage with your brand the stronger your message will be. I'm pretty sure the people in the video below will remember this for a much longer time then any other piece branded communication.

Remember, it was written over 2,000 years ago but it's as relevent today as it has ever been!


Create movements, not campaigns

on Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where ever you look these days a similar trend is seen:

- Mediocre products
- Undifferentiated benefits
- Poor media placements
- Little or no ROI

So, you have to ask the question: why are brands still creating short term campaigns that give no benefit to their brand in the long term? The simple answer is to make quick bucks. In an environment where customers are more savvy, media tolerant and after the best deal, outwards campaigns do little or nothing to gain their loyalty. Brands need to create movements not campaigns. Loyalty cannot simply be achieved by short term tactics, strategies need to be created and implemented focusing on the customers core needs.

The best approach to this is using a multi channel strategy. Find the idea and then apply it across the mix. The one thing to bear in mind is, the mix doesn’t simply mean paste your message everywhere you can! Find out where your customers “hang out”, if it’s YouTube create video content, if it’s facebook, create facebook applications. Simply bombarding customers with your message isn’t the solution. As you can see from these examples, interaction is king. Let your customers do the talking and by all means join in, word of mouth is still the strongest form of advertising and this will create momentum for your brand. Brand building doesn’t happen with one campaign, it’s a continued effort, connecting with your customers on many platforms and not pushing the hard sale.


Small and furry is the way forward.

on Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm waiting for the next furry animal to become an internet sensation....now taking bets!


Communication: then, now and back to then.

on Friday, July 31, 2009

The story starts many, many years ago when the first caveman invented the wheel. Let's call him Bob. So, one day Bob was carving his stone and suddenly he had an amazing idea, why not create a round object? Once he had created the round object he tested it, made sure it did what he wanted and then went and told his neighbour. Soon word spread of Bob's invention and everybody was using it, one to one interaction had communicated the message. Essentially advertising was born.

Skip forward a few years (well more than a few) and along comes Henry Ford. His way of reaching the masses is to use mass advertising, send one message out to everyone. Famously he said "you can have any colour as long as it's black." This was the same approach he took to communication, everyone got the same message, some took notice and responded whilst a lot didn't therefore a lot of waste.

Let’s skip again, this time to the present. Mass marketing has died, marketers have learnt to segment their audiences, select which communication portal they wish to use etc. However again, it doesn't please everyone; a lot of time is wasted. Suddenly, digital arrives on the scene. We can now contact people specifically and individually through emails, through social media and through digital word of mouth (online reviews, recommendations from peers etc.)

So from looking at this what does it show? It shows communication has took a big round circle and we are back to where we started, having the ability to talk to people on a one to one basis, as humans. As advertisers we have to seize this opportunity by creating a dialogue with people, and being transparent. I love companies who are using twitter to solve customer service problems, to interact with their customers and above all make the customers feel valued. This is the future (and the past I guess). People are more likely to engage with a brand through another human being, not through TV ads, pieces of paper or flashy logo’s. It’s time for companies to go back to the basic way of communicating, one to one. Well done Bob.


You sure?

on Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Saw this today whilst getting my dinner...obviously not the best when you can't even spell Staffordshire right! Pretty much the worst place you could make a mistake: the first line and your supposed claim to fame. Unlucky City Cabs.


The 3 Monkeys No Banana office.

on Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We've been working as an ad agency for just under two weeks now. Here's a few snaps from our cosy office.

Mine's the the messy desk, with the PC! it's is nice office, we are working with in punching distance of each other and the jukebox is always playing good music. Can't compain, especially when we aren't paying anything for it ;)

And I don't know why I'm under "not cool" on the cool wall, damn creative's!!