Category Archives: brand_as_media_

we are hard-wired for ‘same day’

Much of the heat around the Walmart and ‘eBay Now‘ plans to test same-day shipping has been generated through the positioning of these efforts as a ‘retail/e-tail battle royale’ with pretty much everyone against Amazon.

Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic writes: “Walmart will send Internet-purchased items to you the very same day as online check-out, in 5 select cities…Amazon already offers that same quick delivery time in 10 cities…Walmart [has] 4,000 stores primed for this delivery option…Amazon…40 warehouse distribution centers. That means Walmart could offer same-day delivery to a lot more people in far more obscure places.”

Game on!

There are operational and logistical hurdles to overcome (and Amazon’s done this “e-mmediate” thing before – remember Kosmo?), but with the global near-ubiquity of mobile, marketers should pay close attention: when you can impulse-buy anywhere there’s a data up/down, every brand impression is a potential point-of-sale.

Imagine: on your lunch break, you see a Coca-Cola awning – a minute with your mobile, and Amazon ‘Same-day’ has a case waiting on your doorstep when you get back from work. All the light touches that add up to our personal brand experiences – vending machines, retail signage, delivery trucks, packaging, social media, and yes, advertising – are purchase-enabled product shelving in the infinite aisle of Amazon.

(And people LIKE instant gratification – the more instant the better. We are hard-wired for same-day. That’s why 3-d printing is the next industrial revolution and all this will change again.)

Granular sales attribution to individual brand expressions may be hellish, but if Amazon, eBay and Walmart (and their partners) enable infinite-shelf impulse-buy, could this be a way for CMO’s to use their brand footprints in entirely new ways to drive revenue? Could an unintended consequence of “Same Day” be a reconsideration of the right column for ‘Marketing’ on the P&L (revenue, instead of expense?), and with it, a reconsideration of the value of brand communications in the overall revenue mix?

I think it’s cool to get stuff the same day. Or even better: yesterday.

what do you think?



Portland Incubator Experiment, Reloaded: PIE 2.0

You may have seen some news about PIE today, or came across it on Twitter.  The application form went live yesterday.  What is PIE?  Well, let’s start with “delicious”:

“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility.  Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months.  Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”

I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about.  Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths.   We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.


"Know your voice or STFU"

This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.

PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey.  But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”.   [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]

Mobile PDX meetup at PIE

All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind?  SkyNet?  Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls?  Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise?  would unexpected things happen?   would it be fun?

Short answer?  Yes.  And the keg helped.

Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.

In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.

So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.

PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.

Dan Wieden judges the entries in Wieden + Kennedy's tenth annual PIE contest
Dan knows PIE

This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike.  We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences.  PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation.  Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.

The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype?  Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide?  Applications close August 1st.  September 1st, the new class takes their seats.

We are pretty excited.

What’s more fun than answers? QUESTIONS!

I was asked to identify the typical questions an interactive strategist seeks to address when grappling with how to solve a particular client's business problem.  These were the ones that came immediately to mind:

(1) What is the consumer journey through the idea and how does that experience evolve over time?

(2) Vis-a-vis social media, how is my brand ALREADY ENGAGED in this space (twitter feeds,
websites, CRM efforts, social media outreach)?  What permissions do we have, and how can we leverage existing social capital?

(3) What are the CURRENT conversations around my brand/objectives (e.g., on user-powered customer service sites, via google/baidu results, on social nets, etc.) my campaign will be wading into?  Are their clear issues that need to be tackled/addressed, or opportunities to meaningfully participate?

(4) What are the conversations I want to have (or hope to inspire) and where will they be most effective? 

(5) Traditional planning sets a goal of defining a brand's 'voice', but generally it's applied
to mass communications.  Interactive planning asks "what is the
brand's voice when it speaks one-on-one?"

(6) How do we dynamically engage in conversations with consumers (e.g., will the brand
reply directly to queries and posts?  Will an agency partner? What is
the approval time for replies? etc.),

(7) What is the technographic profile of my target (what devices do they use, how do they use them, how do those devices/experiences mesh/complement with real world activity, etc.)?

(8) What does success look like (e.g., traffic, leads, buzz, conversation density, buzz, etc.) and how will it be measured?  Has the client bought the RIGHT success metrics?

(9) What is the "value" the brand provides the end user in return for
their attention/engagement (e.g., social/economic/entertainment)?

(10) How are we facilitating peoples' ability to SHARE their brand experiences with friends?

(11) How am I "findable" (e.g., what links to me? How are we playing SEO to optimize visibility? What will people looking for us type into Google? etc.),

(12) How is the idea participatory?

— not an exhaustive list, but does this adequately cover the big points?  Please let me know your thoughts…

W+K+Schmidt+Birkett+N900+OneDotZero = fun

As part of our effort on behalf of the Nokia N900, W+K London partnered with computational designer  Karsten  Schmidt and software architect Gary Birkett in conjunction with OneDotZero to demonstrate what happens when

per Birkett:

“we are using a 3 inch display to try to control a 70 foot
display”. Based on the N900’s accelerometer, the software uses an
interface that takes movement data from the handset and sends it to the
projection app, created by Schmidt.”

This is so cool, it must be 37 degrees

OK – so that's a reference to the "perfect pour" temperature of Coke – 37 degrees Fahrenheit – that optimizes the drinking experience to the point you have to sit down to drink it or your brain will explode with pleasure.  And frankly, that'd be a mess, what with the bubbles and all.

I know that because (disclaimer) I have the pleasure to work with Coke.

Read about Coke's "interactive fountain" in Fast Company today.  Touch screen + 46-ounce concentrated flavor cartridge = your perfect Coke.  That in and of itself is pretty neat.

Coke machine

But I like it for two reasons – one that was stated in the article, one that wasn't:

(1) According to the article, "Another perk is the business data the dispenser sends back to Coke's headquarters in Atlanta.
The machines upload data about beverage consumption, peak times, and
popular locations. Coke can also talk back to the machine, letting it
know if a particular flavor needs to be discontinued or recalled and
causing it to stop serving the drink immediately."  This is FANTASTIC.  The machines become real-time focus groups and interactive sales terminals.  As long as the info generated isn't left in the hands of the inventory department but rather feeds the broader marketing organization, this has significant implications.

(2) This machine will feed a fundamental behavior intrinsic to Coke's target audience – sharing.  you can't create a witch's brew flavor without the friend next to you asking for "just a sip" to compare to their concoction – and you'll probably see an uptick in sales as people 'experiment' with different flavors.  Expect different flavor combinations (the more esoteric the better) to form fan groups and passion communities online.  Expect #Coke flavored hashtags cropping up on Twitter, etc. etc. etc.

The machines don't just mix flavors, they start conversations.  probably not unlike the ones that mmay have happened at soda fountains.  Even better?  Good-natured arguments.  And THAT is cool.

"My Diet Vanilla Black Cherry Bomb is tastier than Biff's Crap-tastic mix…"

Kudos to Coke for harnessing a technology that speaks to both their heritage (the soda fountain) and their future.  And for turning their product into a participatory experience. 


NIN Secret concert…finally

Maybe my favorite bit about the NIN Year Zero ARG was that damn concert that I had heard about but never actually saw documented.

The story went that players and fans were made aware of an 'Art is Resistance' meeting…then climbed into vehicles (I had heard buses, but apparently it was vans ok, it WAS buses) and driven to an undisclosed location in the LA factory district for a wild 'experience'. Sounded cool, but though I kept coming across references, I couldn't find documentation. Until now.

Karl Bode's WordSoup blog mentioned the concert back in 4/07, and though his video's been yanked, he links to one of the YZ websites 'Open Source Resistance' where the video still exists. bingo.

It's worth watching to see

  • the crowd reactions – they shift [frequently] between willing disbelief, outright disbelief, mild discomfort, wild euphoria and s–t scared. Just try to quantify the 'engagement metric' on that puppy, Holmes.
  • watching the intersection of realities between Trent and the actors/assistants with the fans – Trent is firmly embedded in the album's alternate worldview, and for once, the fans don't just imagine it after huffing airplane glue and cranking it up, they get to be there when the SWAT team bursts in. Shooting.

Trent and 42 Entertainment built the Year Zero roller coaster ride that turned music into a game you could play. And kudos to 42 Entertainment, but make no mistake: Trent has spent the better part of the last two decades doing the heavylifting of brand narrative world building. And with the dystopian foundation laid and the narrative arc in motion, you can subcontract/modularize the activation to map to technographic, demographic, and psychographic subsets. And net a solid selling album in the process. Yes, I am a NIN fanboy. Sue me.

For anyone unfamiliar with this year's Cannes Viral Advertising Gran Prix winner, here's the synopsis, from their entry:

"The ambitious Year Zero alternate reality game (ARG), a work of
cross-media art involving websites, emails, phone calls, album
packaging, tour t-shirts, thumb drives, music videos, murals,
interactive games and live concert events with the new music of Nine
Inch Nails at its core. Playing out over 10 weeks, the Year Zero ARG
engaged over 2.5M participants. It started with a message hidden in the
back of a concert t-shirt that lead to online websites, ultimately over
29 websites discovered over several months, 7.5M page views, 7M forum
postings, 2M phone calls and thousands of original art submissions."

Are you letting people play YOUR brand communications?

American Brandstand BS

Piece in today’s NYT entitled “American Brandstand” focusing on brands stepping into the sucking void left by the “whipsawing” of the music business by “digital technology” completely misses the point.  The bigger story isn’t about brands underwriting music – it’s about traditional command and control distribution models being exposed as costly barriers to innovation and emotional connection rather than facilitators.  It’s about a digitally-enabled new playing field and new players popping up in
industries where they weren’t expected.  That’s a story – and one that
will rewrite a lot of marketing playbooks.

Which should all be burned anyway.

This “whipsawing” crap is an excuse you hear in a lot of industries facing the digital tsunami and chosing to go down in their cellars rather than get out the boards and surf – the music industry industry didn’t just “miss” the digital distribution revolution – they ignored it because their financial self-interest was wedded to another model.  When Hurricane Fanning hit the music business, the klaxons shouldn’t have sounded only in the lawyers’ suites – the business brains and creative hearts needed to sit down and ask themselves what their industry proposition was.  Maybe they’d have realized they weren’t in the “music” business, they were printing houses whose medium of delivery was being eclipsed.  The future, now presently emergent,  business is “music experience” or “music supply” – regardless of format – and still offers phenomenal opportunity.

And then a couple of folks go on record in the article saying it’s “not
about the money”.  Bilge.  Of course it is.  This isn’t the corporate
responsibility group doing these deals – the intention is to associate
and by association drive sales.  Or you don’t do it.  And for the
bands, it’s promotion.  And distribution.  And ultimately…oh right –

Richard Bishop of Cornerstone had a nice sound bite:
“I think in the world today, it doesn’t make a difference to the
consumer if a record comes out on Warner Music, EMI, Red Bull or Diesel
Jeans.  Artists may be better advised to put their
music out with a brand to get better reach and bigger advertising.” 

Damn straight. 

Smart artists are using every loophole they can to explore new possibilities.  They are trying to extricate themselves from the burning building of the old music industry, while the record business is still running room to room trying to douse the flames with single-serve Evian bottles.

The story for me here is that while the lame end of the music business is floundering through a slow motion car wreck  trying to maintain their command and control CD-printing model,  new music experience/music supply players – iTunes, brands, movies, video games, you name it – are stepping in.

So where will this happen next?  Well…what’s another command and control production distribution model?  Oh…how about…movies?  TV?  Books?  Games?  Advertising?

Brands with money to spend to create powerful emotional connections have the world at their fingertips.  But it’s a messy world, to put it mildly.  Some will execute well, becoming new gatekeepers and kingmakers.  More will tank this thing, with their delicious brand mismatches and missteps excrutiatingly well documented.

We are all experimenting.  The brand lab is huge.  Music is just one tool – look for brands in more businesses than you’d expect.

Your Collective Brand

Melissa Sconyers, W+K interactive scout, shared with us Noah Brier’s (a Naked-ite) newest creation, Brand Tags.

"Brands exist in people’s heads" goes his premise – and here everyone’s
brand-related tags are collated and rendered as a swarm, creating a graphic
illustration of the brand as socially-constructed collective
perception, with each perception proportionally scaled by it’s
importance to the group.  [Interestingly, as participation with the site
has increased, Brier’s noted more "noise" being introduced – profanity,
brand bashing, etc.]

How does it work?  Brier’s site shows you a logo, and you free-associate a word (that becomes a tag) into the handy blank field.  Then the next logo appears.  It’s shockingly simple, and irritatingly addictive.  So people come to you to tell you about your brand.  Contrast this with Summize, the Twitter search tool that searches public twits/tweets for brand mentions and aggregates them, or their "sentiment"

He’s cobbled together a single player Google Image Labeler, only now instead of help Google tag every image using your free labor, you can help Brands get a gut check.  And make Naked look brilliant.  Sweeet.

What I really liked was the gaming aspect of the site – Brier lets you try to guess the brand based on the swarm and see the tags posted by referral URL (so you can ferret out any domain-based swarm biases 🙂

Melissa conjectures that the site coding may reveal potential Brier-based brand bias in the order in which brands were entered – Nike is #1 (ID=1), Google is #2 (ID=2), etc. – but his numbering scheme skips from #9 (H&M) and doesn’t pick up again until #25 (Yahoo!).  Perhaps this has something to do with their client list?   Or maybe he’s leaving room to put them in later?

Check these swarms for W+K partners:

Brand Jordan
EA Sports

If Brand Tags sits at one end of the spectrum of collective brands (where people are required to go to a destination to create and experience collective perceptions), Summize sits at the other.

Summize positions itself as a provider of "conversational search", and it searchs public twitter streams for keywords.  Enter a brand, get a slew of brand-relevant tweets.  In aggregate, it’s a pretty interesting snapshot of what people are saying, right now, about your brand.  You can even sift for sentiment.