Brought to you by Christos: another branding diagram/brief

Being neither a branding expert, nor a digital master, I really get bored with discussions of what campaigns/strategies/briefings etc, should look like. It seems to always to end up being a more tactical discussion as oppose to a strategic one.

What is marketer to do? And then it hit me (right after that ouzo at Christos ). Below you will find a way to, for me at least, bring talk back to a more fundamental level, from a marketer/client/creative point of view.

Social vs Civic axis (hattip @ markearls for this one): this gives us a simple way of understanding how to strategically position the campaign when looking at conventions in the market, competitors, and stuff happening in society. It also serves as a way to reality check clients as to the consequences of choices.

Social would be well, Old Spice/Cadburry/Budweiser stuff.

Civic would look like Levi’s Go Forth

Casual vs intense axis: gives us a way of thinking about of the ways to best interact with the target group, again based on the context of society, product, etc… (stolen from @eranium at Christos while talking about gaming)

Casual would look like the stuff that Live Strong did: all we want you to do is simple, low intensity/effort stuff that could make a great difference.

Heavy: Is of course the opposite of casual in terms of complexity, commitment (both from the company point of view as from the customer point of view). Think World of Warcraft vs MaffiaWars.

From commercial points of view, it makes you think more about the painpoints in the “customer experience” (fuck me I hate these kinds of words), how to perhaps pick up groups not your core, former customers who have not seen your product as still relevant.

By combining the various possibilities one can play with ways to answer the clients problem while making sure clients aren’t overreaching, or underselling the possibilities of the situation. And in the ideal situation all elements would play a part at some point, cause humans are never on or the other all the time.

As with all diagrams/briefs the above one is simple and incomplete. Nevertheless, it can serve as a good conversation starter and a way of looking at the market in a broader sense then just catergory, or going into digital vs analogue type conversations.

low hanging fruit or genuine investment

So the Esta form, the one introduced to help create a safer USA, is going to cost $14 dollars as of september of this year. $4 covers the admin cost, the remaining $10 will be spent promoting America for tourist purposes.

In 2009 just under 11 million people visited from Western Europe alone (part of the Esta program), so that times $10 dollars is $110 million from this part of the world alone, from 2013 on out (taking into account that people who now travel and fill out the form can use it for free over the course of 2 years and travel keeps current levels).

How will this money be used to increase the customer experience of people visiting (or planning to visit) the USA? As of now no plans have been made public, so we can only wait and see. In the meantime it is a nice reminder of the choices we face everyday.

Increase the price by a couple of pennies, cut budgets on “non essential services” cause they are not visible. All to eek out that extra gross margin to “stay competitive in the future and to be able to continue to provide customers with the experience they have grown accustomed to”.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And if you do, you better make damn sure customers feel a genuine improvement in their experience by actions that grow out of these financial decisions.

For always the best way to ensure healthy profits is to keep customers satisfied. And the key to this, boringly, is to improve your product and service first and charge second. Not the other way around.

speaking in tongues

My mums neighbour has knee problems. Yet every time she goes to doctor he says: “things are looking good”. She is in pain and gets angry when he tells her this.

A doctor friend explained to me, that the issue is this: most likely her condition has been classified as chronic. So for the doctor this changes the entire outlook of treatment. Control vs curing. The neigbours goals have not changed.

So when the doc says it is going well, for him it is, because he is comparing it to the last check up. if it is not worse, it is going well. Mums neighbour just evaluates against the pain. Anything other then less pain, is not good.

Of course it does not help matters that she is an immigrant women, whose command of the dutch language is not that good (she speak Dutch fine, but Doctor Dutch is another matter).

And everytime she visits, she diggs in deeper in her role “patient/victim” and he diggs in the role of “doctor/victim (this last point about the doc is based on stuff as told by the neighbour).

What if the doctor stopped calling the situation good, swallowed his pride and took the patient serious? How would she react? Could this get them out of their roles and on even playing field? Could that small shock to her system make the situation (not perse the condition) better? Given that the last thing she expects is to be taken serious? I wonder…

In our industry much of our time we try to convince others of our viewpoint, though sadly often from defensive positions, expecting the other to give in first (“he does not get it”, the bumpersticker of our industry, is the one thing digital, traditional agencies and clients truly agree on ;) ).

In doing so we close down opportunities to show some true creativeness to achieve results that are both distinct, and resonating with our target group. And is that not what we are hired to do in the first place?

ich weiss dass ich nichts weiss

So a couple of weeks ago I had some issues with my Mac and the adapter. Both were heating up like crazy and once I thought I even smelled something burning.

Anyways, a couple of days later, while in the city, I walked past a Macstore and explained my problem to the staff. I have to admit the people impressed me with the fact that, by me just mentioning a hot adapter, they knew the problem: It was not the adapter, but the coolingsystem of the Mac. It was broken.

While they did say, that an aditional test was needed for confirmation, they were very sure that the cooling was the real issue. I would need to come back with the Mac and I would have it back in a week or so, with an estimate of cost/repair.

But home, before i packed it up, I googled my problem. Turns out the solution was, not to place my Mac or the adapter on a pillow, cause this makes for bad air circulation. And it worked.

Of course the store guys did not know I used the Mac in bed. Had they known, they might of said the same thing. But they did not ask. “Hot + adapter” = cooling and no more listening and questioning.

In a world filling up with more and more information as we speak, filters are growing in importance. Like doctors who work the overcrowed emergency rooms, we perform our own triage (either social, historical, cultural, personal or a combo of the four) to determine courses of action.

On the whole this works, pretty well. We would go nuts if we questioned everything. But what we must remember is to take time out to question our own triage proces and filters once in a while, so that they aren’t answering today’s problems, based on yesterday’s assumptions and entitlements.

Because the line between a satisfied customer and not, is getting narrower and narrower, more often than not (as in my case) coming down to one simple question: Please, tell me more..?

juking the stats



ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: So for the time being, all teachers will devote class time to teaching language arts sample questions. Now if you turn to page eleven, please, I have some things I want to go over with you.
ROLAND “PREZ” PRYZBYLEWSKI: I don’t get it, all this so we score higher on the state tests? If we’re teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?
TEACHER: Nothing, it assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving.
The scores stay down, they can’t.
PREZ: Juking the stats.
TEACHER: Excuse me?
PREZ: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and major become colonels. I’ve been here before.
TEACHER: Wherever you go, there you are.

Much of this rings true in business. The rewards are the driving engine as to how problems are solved. How often do we seek really helpfull information that leads us to interesting questions about the problem at hand? Both as clients and as agencies?

How often are we juking the stats to make the answers fit into a preconceived brief, agenda, pay structure or particular monetizable skill set, (the old “if only in possesion of a hammer” problem), or corporate culture ? If companies come to you in search of answers the key to helping them is to ask better questions, regardless of where they may lead you and them.

If, like the teachers in the clip and in real life, we start at the end (how do WE get paid? Waht would THEY want to HEAR?) this will only lead to bandage improvements. And to envious looks at companies who truly start with the work (schoolkids, consumers, solutions) in mind, thus creating better odds at stable long term success and all that comes with it.

Wherever you go, there you are. No regrets, no sympathy.

It takes a village to raise a consumer

complexity of life from Niko Herzeg on Vimeo.

So the clip above is from the movie Un Prophete. But I wanted to zoom in on the last scene. It is in that detailed scene we can learn so much about the many, subtle and slow influences that drive our values, culture, and actions. Stuff that might not seem relevant at first, but when spotted can open up many new ways of connecting with people

(it is poor quality editing, but stay with me)..In the scene Malik (the dude without the beard) sits across from his best friend and ex-con Ryad. Ryad comes to visit him and brings along his son, Hicham. Now what follows is most interesting. Ryad introduces Malik to Hicham, as his godfather ( “ton parraine”)…Godfather. A christian custom whereby one person takes on the responsibility to care for another man’s child should anything occur..

Only now we see it being integrated into the life of a first generation pop culture mediated muslim man (both in the character of Ryad and in the real life of the screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri). Sure the Koran and Islam have their own rules for bringing up other man’s children, but the concept of being godparent as such does not excist. And yet it does in this mans world. And it seems natural. Islam now has the concept of “parraine”.

This scene serve us up with is an interesting arche/hypothesis to consider as to how this came to be:

In 1963 Joe Valachi testifies and explains the meaning of the word GodFather to the American Public

6 years later in 1969 Mario Puzo wrote a novel about the live of fictional crime family and further engrained the word in our collective imagination only for…

1972 to happen and to spawn a new genre with great cultural implications..

For one it captured the imagination of a rapper from Staten Island, called Reakwon who would in turn create his classic album Only build for Cuban Linx, which featured the first signs of his infuences not only from cinema and music but also from his actual life on Staten Island NY.


Wu Gambino’s opened the door for rappers to align themselves with cinematic and or real life criminal characters, from Irv Gotti (John Gotti), to Frank White (Notorious BIG taking on the name of the Kinf Of NY character played by Walken in the same movie) and others. (More on the development of the genre of gangsta rap here.)

Around the world in France in the meantime, the social and cultural tensions and difficulties of the Muslims and immigrants that were simmering since the difficult separation struggles in North Africa, were beginning to find ways to express themselves.


We begin seeing footballers and business people make their mark at the end of the 80′s and the early 90′s, but we also see a growing identification of French immigrant youths with their American (black/immigrant/real/fictional) street and arts counterparts and remixing it to fit in with their lives.

All of these decades of influences (of which the path I discribe is just one of many) flow seamlessly from one into the other and end up creating a scene in a movies that for the writer and the character make perfect sense (and will influence the viewers and so forth, so forth)..

Which leads me to (of course) this thing of ours..We tend to forget that a lot of what drives us as people we don’t always perceive and more often times than not has nothing to do with the category or product we want consumers to make a purchase in.

The many influences that the screenwriter Dafri (or all others mentioned) experienced in order the come up with that scene/piece of art (or to choose a particular brand of food, clothes etc) includes everything he has been exposed to since many years.

Take this into account. Yes tech trends are coming at us fast and hard, yes some have changed us profoundly, but to only look at that aspect (or any other that happens to be your field of expertise) or to just look at the category, limits our understanding of people’s lives and what they are doing and limits our ability to creat something that sets our clients apart and create value for them and consumers in a way that fits in with their lives..

feeling pain is the first step to a remedy

My Dad passed away almost three years ago. Amongst other things he left Mum with a VW Golf 5 series sports edition, blacked out with chrome rimms. And even though for the amount of miles she drives it vs the cost of the car, there is no way she would/will part with it. It is not a car. it is our car. As she was walking towards her car one day, she noticed that somebody keyed the car. I mean it was not just one cut, the fucker did it twice.

Now anyone who has had the misfortune of having his car keyed knows the anger that it brings to the surface. But in this case it ruined her day, brought back all kinds of memories that have nothing to do with the actual inicident, but that can’t be stopped once triggered..

If any car or insurance brand wanted to melt functional with emotional i’d suggest they would offer a cosmetic car surgery service for damage to cars of people who have lost a loved one (which if you start to think about it is sadly a huge market). Helping preserve the memory of a loved one by making sure the tangibles of his/her life stay in the same shape, much like the pictures of our loved ones passed.

Yes the insurance on the car covers certain damages, so as an insurance agency you could ask yourself why you want to do it, as people will come to you. Which actualy is the problem for most businesses. That feeling of entitlement. And of disconnect between their world and the rest of the world.

Which is a shame because it is not hard to make a meaningfull impact on peoples lives and actions towards you. If you remember from time to time what it is like to be human. Cause had Mum been able to call a specific number at that day and had they come in and fixed stuff, without all the hassles they put her through now (go to this dealer, the expert has to determine if the damage is real, paperwork, etc), her loyalty towards the insurance company would be set. Period. Yet for them she was just a number on a list, with standard responses to her unique situation.

Live life and you will be frustrated about/by so many things. Notice them and find out if more feel the same. Relieve that pain. Then advertise the solution. repeat cycle. Instead of “think local act global” or whatever variant you please, just “be human, act social”.