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We were lucky enough to catch the Kooks last night at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam.

The last time it was 10 years ago at London’s Astoria. The difference in performance was significant.

At the Astoria, we saw a young, over-confident group of Indie buskers. Full of energy and melody but musically still forming.

To be fair to the band, they recognize themselves as a band that got signed too early. They were still shaping their sound and forming their DNA.

Last night I saw a stadium act. Not quite as evolved as Elbow or even the Artic Monkeys but well on the road.

The band were tight, polished, not choreographed but well-organized like big act.

The Kooks lead, Luke Pritchard was so confident that he made his work look leisurely. Amazing voice control, connection with the crowd and a Jagger jive style (though that needs some work – Indie front men – on the whole don’t make great dancers).

The new album shows off new musical skill and new tastes on the fringe of indy. A couple of solo numbers from Pritchard shows that the he can still busk with more style and precision.

There has to be a smarter way to capture the evolution of a band. This is more than just biography and discography but some engaging way of telling the band’s story in a way that engenders both new and older fans.

Not sure what the digital answer is but the question is becoming clearer. How do you create a 1 second everyday video for a band you love? Simple video edit tool? Deeper video integration for Shazam. Let’s keep thinking.

In the meantime, call me middle-aged but it’s amazing to see a band grow just like a child. Puts a smile on your face.  I want to ‘go to the seaside.’


This weekend, my nephew came to stay and he kindly brought a present for my five year old son.  It was the physical Star Wars/Angry Birds game.  My son absolutely loved it.  For the first time, he could physically relive and be part of what had been just an ipad game for the last 6 months.

In a growing world of brands born on-line, the challenge is how to make them come to life in the physical world.

I remember how Google actually ran some consumer events in shopping centres a few years ago. Interesting but incongruent as they struggled to tell a story or create real engagement beyond just explaining product benefits.

Clearly its much easier to go offline if you have an inbuilt story and a natural interactive component.  In some senses, you could think of it as the mechandising of a film.  An easy way to drive some incremental revenue from the buzz around the core game.

But Angry Birds is different, it an forever evolving franchise and so the physical game feels like meaningful brand extension and another touchpoint for the brand.

Equally, we do see some brands go to social and use the platform to help shape the physical.  A food brand could create meaningful community on Facebook.  Then they can facilitate physical events based on the social interaction.

Of course, the real value is when the brand comes to Facebook with a purpose and a story.  In India, Lifebuoy comes to Facebook as a health and disease monitor inviting the community to be part of the live dynamic solution.  You can easily see this shaping phyiscal events in different towns and cities when particular action is required.

Its yet again, another principle of digital; the smooth (and relevant) transition back to the physical.  My son is now even more excited playing Angry Birds on his ipad as he starts to feel a real world relationship with the brand.





Over the last 15 years, as digital marketing has evolved into being the way all marketing is driven, those at the forefront have predicted a parallel demise of advertising.

There is some emperical truth in this.  The other week, I saw a great quote from Trevor Edwards, CMO of Nike, “we’re not in the business of putting money into the pockets of media companies.  With Nike+, consumers come to us 3 times a week.”

Nike’s head of digital, equally talks about the death of traditional advertising through the world of connected products.  Read Velocity by Stefan Olander and Ajaz Ahmed (if you haven’t already).

Add to that the Mckinsey model, and you see the power of advocacy to drive new consumers into your brand.  You see us move into the world of consumer pull (driven by social media) rather than companies pushing their brand with their eyes shut.

All this means that traditional advertising has to mutate into something else.  Something way more considered than just integrated communications.

Those of us that have taken the leap from traditional marketing to the digital way, have observed and been part of changing how we use traditional advertising.

That said, the recent growth of behavioural economics gives some real hope and meaning to advertising.  In the book, ‘Thinking, Fast & Slow’, there’s a great chapter, where the author writes two words “bananas and vomit”.  He then goes on to write how our brains automatically conjure up particular imagery (using all our senses) as we process these two words (usually imagery of an unpleasant nature in this specific case).

This is effectivey how traditional advertising has worked.  The use of copy and images helps us to conjure up our own stories and make personal connections.  When these are positive and relevant we start to move to familiarity and favourability.  Then we might buy.

The beauty of behavioral economics is that the role of the planner and the dark art of advertising can start to morph into something with a creative science behind it.

Science can allow us to make giant leaps into truly quantifying the meaning and value of communication even using traditional media.  Begin to connect that with digital marketing and we start to see a whole new world of marketing reinvented.

In this blog, I barely scratch the service but I’m started to get truly excited by how the old world of marketing can still have meaning and purpose in this new digital connected measurable world that is evolving so so fast.

Over the last 18 months, yet another big change linked to digital marketing has started to evolve.  This is digital marketing itself being the lego of new products.

Forrester research has started to show evidence of this and many organisations are proving the point.  Nike have been doing this for a few years already.  They have taken what were initially marketing initiatives like Nike+ and then turn them into products.  In FMCG, companies like Unilever are using digital products as marketing tools.  You can take a skin analysis app for your iphone and ultimately use it to sell more facial products.

As connected products proliferate you see the digital marketing expertise in user interface and user experience being applied to the growing software in connected products.

Marketers have the opportunity and frankly the responsbility to use these new competencies to redefine products and step-change their product experience.

They need to do it now.  Perhaps your existing competitors will be slow to do this but there is a big new breed of start-up software product companies doing this.  Just look at Withings.  Barely 50 people and now with the leading products in the app-enabled accessories part of the Apple Store.

Its exciting, very real and really happening now.

For those who, like me, have been in marketing for years we have seen the digital revolution and evolution over the last 10 years.

So digital has gone from being a channel for marketing to being the change agent for all marketing and now for all aspects of business.

Over the last 3 years, as we spend more on digital, we need to analyse what that really means.  Whether you’re building a website, mobile site or social platform what you are really spending money on is user interface and user experience,  This is fast becoming one of a new list of  core competencies required in all marketing teams from 2013.

It also means that we are spending more in IT even though many marketing directors could not tell you how much they really spend on hardware and software.

This means a new partnership in marketing where the most fundamental relationship is between marketing and IT.  For me, although the hardware is key, it is the software that will be the deciding factor between marketing success and failure.

Shaping software and understanding exactly what it can do will be one the primary competencies for marketers of the future.  A future that has already started.

I don’t think we need to start buying textbooks on writing Perl or starting courses on code-writing.  Its more about an understanding of what software can enable for the marketer.

Its as important as understanding how media works but just more important as it pervades more than just marketing.  Software will define products and new services.

Software is like a canvas in so many ways.  It will shape the size of the user experience and it will also influence how the communication story is executed.

I would start to hang out with the software geeks now if you are not already doing so.

Just back from a Marketing Conference that takes place on a large boat in the English Channel.

Its a good way to see the state of UK marketing across 2 days.  It was good to see that digital made up some of the key topics but it was shocking to see the breadth of contrast between agency leaders.

It is also clear that from a client perspective that the spread of digital capability is pretty mixed.

What gave me confidence is that a number of company marketing directors have begun to realize that digital is changing how we do marketing at a more fundamental level than any of us realized. Many are looking at organisation structure and at how they educate their boards.  We had some great conversations around our role in IT and how we increase digital capability across the entire organisation.

It was also interesting to see the extent to which some great advertising gurus have simply failed to understand how digital has rewritten the rules of advertising.  Creative teams also have to be Curation teams.  Yes it is still about insight and big ideas but you have to understand context.  That context is now digital.  I’d love to see a creative agency present a creative idea only in the context of search (SEO, for example.

Some of the agencies are doing some smart things like hiring more analytical teams as digital media campaign requires the same skill and mind sets of daily share trading.  Was also great to hear of agencies helping clients build connected products and use digital to pilot innovation at speed.  That said, the majority of agencies still focus on delivering digital campaigns.  Disappointing for me but to be fair probably just a reflection of current market need.

So I plea once more to marketing directors and senior managers to stop, take stock, look more closer at the digital behaviour of your consumers and ask more of your agencies.  Digital also provides a great opportunity for marketers to be a real leader in the boardroom.  We should be drooling over that steaming bowl of big data on the table.  Let’s eat up and speed up the revolution. 


Che Guevara once said, ‘the revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall’.

So in digital, how many of us are catching apples as opposed to shaking trees?

So, I want to spend a few minutes today to encourage you to shake more tress.  Not so much in your day to day of digital or social media but more about, how you can shape and influence your environment so that your strategies and programs can have greater impact.

Ultimately, this is about changing the businesses we work in.  It’s about digitizing them.

So far, we have seen a lot of change in the last 10 years.  I won’t talk about the key trends in digital, as you already know them or anyway could find a brilliant infographic on your ipad whilst I speak.

What we’ve been doing for over 10 years as marketers have now been formalized.

So we know from McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey or Google’s ZMOT studies that the consumer has changed.  So we all have teams in search, web, social, mobile, e-commerce and analytics but to what extent have we fundamentally changed we run the business because of the digitization of consumers.  I’m not sure that this is the case especially in more established companies.

I know we are all spending more on digital, we are all recruiting digital marketers but to what extend are we truly changing the business at the core.

Why should you care?

Well do you have those days when you feel that your boss just doesn’t get your new resource plan for growing social or that your analogue marketing colleagues are paying lip-service to a new social strategy?  Or your agencies either get the digital part and not the bigger picture.   You need senior management, your colleagues, your agencies, your business to understand and embrace this digital revolution if you really want digital to fly in your business.

Why you and not the CEO or board?

Do you ever think about why you became a digital marketer?   Why you love it and why you are prepared to make the case for it every day, often with folk who may not really get it.

I think that one of the reasons we love what we do is because we love innovation.  Interesting to see that at a Forrester Digital Marketing Summit a few weeks ago, the day’s topics converged on the topic of digital innovation and our role to champion it

I think that digitizing business is a common cause for all us digital marketers and that we can help each other with shared experiences.  It’s as if some of the companies that we have worked for have figured out business the hardware and we need to make the software to works in a joined up way to serve the digitized consumer.

Is this making any sense yet?

Let me pull out my favourite example.

Anyone know what service Nike is launching at the end of the week?

A new basketball boot with performance analytics!

The new Nike Hyperdunk+ is the latest service from the digitizing business that is Nike.

Time for some digital eye-candy; take a look.

A couple of years ago, Stefan Olander global VP of digital at Nike and his colleagues pitched the plan to create a digital division to their CEO in Portland, Oregon.  The principles included:

–          Changing Nike into more of a software company and adopting the accompanying values (like you see in a Google or a Facebook)

–          Thinking service not products

–          Making sure products are connected

–          Big data is key – collecting it via product or smartphone and making it useful for consumers & business

–          Building community is critical

–          But it is all true to one of the company’s goals which is to help athlete’s improve their game

–          Ultimately, the data becomes performance analytics which becomes part of the consumers coaching system – a simple and powerful value proposition

Stefan produced a book that sums up digitization perfectly.  He wrote it with Ajaz Ahmed, Chairman of AKQA.  Its called Velocity and if you haven’t read, download it today.

So, how do we go about digitizing the companies we work for?

I think there are 5 key areas fundamental to business digitization:

  1. CEO/C-suite
    A while ago, I used to do a presentation to young marketers and I’d put up a slide with the question: what’s the definition of marketing?
    I’d invite answers from the audience and get the expected mix of answers.

Then I’d put up the next slide:

‘what-ever the CEO thinks it is’

After you’ve worked for a few companies you realize that all marketing is not created equal and clearly the same applies to digital.

CEO defines the culture; and that shapes how digital turns up in your business.

The extent to which the CEO prioritizes digital is key to our long term success.  For example,
Does he give digital to the marketing director or does he hire a digital director to sit on his board

i.      Does he leave digital to the marketers or visit Silicon Valley digital businesses himself

ii.      Examples from places I’ve worked:

  1. Unilever – first internet marketing manager 15 years ago; I know second-hand that the CMO, Keith Weed has personally spent time in Silicon Valley
  2. – Brent Hoberman is a digital native and obsessed with user-experience.  What was interesting was that analogue marketers like me took a long time to truly understand
  3. RIM – more cautious approach.  The websites were brochure-ware until 2008 and social media was slow.  In fact, there was some suggestion of RIM taking some legal action against bloggers.  In 2009, RIM appointed its first global VP of digital marketing and social media was accelerated because the VP was an employee of almost 10 years and had the CEO’s trust to grow social
  4. Philips – CEO is learning fast and so is the business.  Some business groups are more advanced than others.

iii.      Actions to take:

  1. Make sure the CEO is up to speed – directly or indirectly, eg., reverse mentoring
  2. Use senior management, agencies or key digital players like Google or Facebook
  3. Make sure that the C-suite commit to the same digital capability programs as all marketers
  4. Get them to talk about digital at conferences
  5. Cheat – get a digital NEC – I recently learnt that Apple’s CEO sits on the board of Nike
  6. Marketing Team – structure & responsibilities
    1. What digital responsibilities do they have?
    2. What is their level of understanding
    3. What’s the mix of talent in the marketing team and what’s the seniority?
    4. Most importantly, how do you structure a marketing team in the digital world?
      Story – during the last presidential election, a fundamental change was made in how the Obama team was structured.  Typically, in political campaigning it’s a linear hierarchy – campaigns head with a comms head, with a digital lead with an IT lead

i.      They changed it with all 3 reporting into the campaigns head

ii.      Suddenly, both digital and IT are one step away from the presidential candidate

iii.      If Digital is so important, is that reflected in your organization?

    1. You’ve got to have evolving digital capability programs
    2. You need smart ways of keeping up with the sheer speed of digital evolution
    3. Its more than just training

i.      That said, who’s had a digital course in the last 3 months?

ii.      Who’s marketing (non-digital) colleagues have completed the courses?

iii.      Other functions & senior management?

  1. It’s about creating a single language for digital across the business and a common way of working.  Ultimately, it will help create the new software culture you need for digitization.  By the way, it makes topics like governance even easier.
  2. At BlackBerry, we created courses across key digital touch-points for the team and I pitched it to as any marketing and commercial folk as I could.  We filled a class-room
  3. At Philips, we have put several hundred marketing, sales, IT & design folk through a digital capability program and encouraged teams to review, challenge, debate & improve the content. You could call it a social approach to digital capability.
  4. ACTIONS: digital capability audit, create an integrated program and take a social media approach to language, learning, process and sharing best practice
  5. IT for Marketing
    As part of digitization, we need to get our heads around the buzzwords of Big Data and Internet of Things.  IT is the backbone of digital marketing and as we all move to ‘always on’ marketing, a well thought IT infra-structure is critical.  As digital marketing investment has rocketed so has the marketing IT investment.  Most digital marketers don’t write code or deal with Apache servers yet Marketing IT shouldn’t be left to IT alone.

I’m not saying you need to have a CMTO, which have started to crop in the US, but you need really close collaboration between marketing and IT.  Really close.  There needs to be one IT joined up road-map for all aspects of digital: web, social, mobile, CRM etc

  1. Connected products & services
    As digital marketers working on brands, we’ve got quite good at leveraging the new consumer decision journey and ZMOT.  We’ll manage consumers at every relevant digital touchpoint but we then we sell them an analogue product.  As I said at the beginning, Nike are showing us the way with Nike Plus, the Fuel-band and now the Hyperdunk+.

Connected products make sense because of the penetration of smartphones & tablets and because of the technology works and is becoming affordable.  Eg., NFC chips have gone from $2 to 20c in 6 months.

Built in the right way, they add value to the consumer and help companies listen & learn.
Some of the themes you see are personalization & coaching.

A couple of examples.

One from Adidas as its still Euro 2012.  The boot with a brain.  Not sure if they help with penalities.

One from Fiat.  The Eco-drive helps you become a better driver and so you save money on fuel and help the environment.

At Philips, our approach is think about sensors, connectivity & data analytics.

i.      More than just apps, it’s about building ecosystems

ii.      The way we look at this is around 3 simple principles:

  1. Add sensors to a product
  2. Connect it to a primary device like a smartphone
  3. Collect and analyse data in a way that adds value to the consumer

                                                          iii.      At Philips we have several projects.  The details are all confidential but to illustrate.  Philips Sonicare.  We can take a toothbrush, add sensors, connect it to your smartphone and make it into an oral coaching device.  You can share your usage data with your dentist.

    Businesses need to digitize.  They must go beyond digital marketing and change at their core.

Digital marketers need to drive this and take ownership.
5 principles:


Marketing & Marketing team structure

DM Capability

IT for Marketing

Connected Products

You have to drive the digitization.  You have to shake the trees and be the revolutionary.

So the support for Madonna was a French DJ called Martin Solveig.  The fella has a Facebook community of 500k.  How?  Well, a lot has to do with his popularity as a DJ but also he does a smart job of managing his Facebook community.

Saw him take a picture of the crowd at the end of his warm-up last night and within minutes he had posted it to his Facebook page.  Makes interesting engagement for folk who attended.

What’s the insight?  Always think about content and get anything that is unique and relevant.  Not many people can stand on the stage and take a photo besides a performing artist and you can’t help yourself if you were there.

Just a thought.

What was interesting at the Madonna gig (beside the music and the show, of course) were some of the marketing components. You saw that in some of the costume changes, dancers were adorned in some bling Adidas kit. The queen of pop, herself, opted for a pair of Converse. Funny that two competing companies in Nike and Adidas can both get a slice of Madonna.

Also noticed that the on-screen idents that came of for Vogue used the font that belong to the women’s lifestyle magazine. Guess that one is just coincidental but who knows. The Madonna brand is global with huge reach & engagement. Her fashion looks to have continued in the style in which she is accustomed with outfits from Dolce & Gabanna, as well as Versace.

Finally inspired to start writing again.  Saw a lady who turns 56 next month.  She started her dance career in 1977 in New York and realeased her debut album in 1983.  Here in Amsterdam in 2012, Madonna is as fresh and vibrant as ever.  Holy cow.

The show opened in a scene that felt like Les Miserables had met Twilight.  The sense of stage craft, dance craft and music craft created a punchy start.

Madonna has the courage to take on new stuff and still reinvent the old.  She sang Like a Virgin in the style of Sting singing Roxanne.  She never really used any of her past as a crutch.  And we know that would not only be easy but would be truly legitimate.

For an audience who are primarily there for the old stuff, Madge introduced us to our new stuff with the energy and commitment of a brand new artist starting off.  The lady still has a point to prove.  She wants and needs to continue provoking.  She leaves nothing to chance.

The stage set was technically advanced.  HD screens and the use of the latest in stage hydraulics.  Creatively, it was gothic and sometimes religious.  I think the team behind the gig started by thinking about what a madonna really is.  Then we saw a sense of Madonna’s history from New York.

The dance choreography was at times breathtaking.  Madonna’s team are able to find new dance talent and in the same way she has brought in new producers, she has also used new choreographers to take dance to new levels.

I wonder if some of our gymnasts in the Olympics this year would have been able to pull off break-dance carried out on trapeze wires.

One the hand the show is highly choreographed but Madonna’s shear raw energy and sense of personality makes it feel personal.

As the tattoo on her back (she revealed by a classic Madonna strip)  said it all: ‘No Fear’.

Take nothing for granted.  Perform like your life depends on it. Push the boundaries of creativity.  Find new collaborations to stay fresh.  Deliver nothing less than perfection.

The true Queen of pop shows us, as ever, so much.  Thanks Madge.