Why I support those who are protesting as part of the Extinction Rebellion movement

October 31, 2019

I know many of you feels frustrated or annoyed by some of the recent action taken by the Extinction Rebellion, but at least these people are out there trying to get our governments to take notice and take some ‘real’ action on climate change, not just make hollow promises that they fail to deliver on time and time again. . Extinction Rebellion is a socio-political movement with the stated aim of using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to compel government action on climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. You might think this is all ‘a but over the top’, so I thought I would take an example of something that is close to home for those if us who live in Australia. Our Great barrier Reef is in danger of no longer being ‘great’, in fact it like coral reefs all over the world are under threat from climate change. Here are some interesting facts to give you some perspective…

  • Coral Reefs take up a fraction of a percent of the sea floor but support a quarter of the planet’s fish biodiversity.
  • The fish that reefs shelter are especially valuable to their poorest human neighbours, many of whom depend on them as a source of protein. Roughly an eighth of the world’s population lives within 100km of a reef.
  • Due to human activity, corals face the most complex mixture of conditions they have yet had to deal with.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in global temperatures of 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial times could cause coral reefs to decline by 70-90%
  • The planet is already about 1°C hotter than in the 19th century and its seas are becoming warmer, stormier and more acidic.
  • “coral bleaching” is happening five times as often as it did in the 1970s. The most recent such event, between 2014 and 2017, affected about three-quarters of the world’s reefs
  • Corals also protect 150,000km of shoreline in more than 100 countries and territories from the ocean’s buffeting, as well as generating billions of dollars in tourism revenue.
  • In the Coral Triangle, an area of water stretching across South-East Asia and into the Pacific which is home to three-quarters of known coral species, more than 130m people rely on reefs for food and for their livelihoods in fishing and tourism.

What do you think will happen to those 130m people once we have irreparable damaged our corals? They will likely become climate refugees that is what. More importantly, the corals are just one part of the worlds eco-system that is under threat. This shit is real people, it is already happening, and yet our governments do nothing of real significance to address this. So maybe don’t be so angry or frustrated at those taking time out of their lives to protest so that we can go about living our lives.

Are you using real insights in your decision-making?

September 18, 2019

As a brand and marketing insight strategist I hear the word “Insight” being bandied about to the point where it has become one of the most overused – and alas – misunderstood words in marketing today. However, “insights” have never been more important to businesses and marketeers than ever before, in order to unlock new or real growth in ever competitive environments. As such, companies are demanding that “insights” be placed at the heart of decision-making, so it is important to make sure that what you think is an insight is, in fact, just that.

In a world where data is taking centre stage more and more, I often hear clients say things like “we are drowning in data; how do we unlock the insights from all this data we hold?”. But being data-rich does not mean you are insight-rich, as insights are not necessarily intrinsically linked to data. It is of course true that the ongoing explosion of data is providing us with more and more knowledge; in fact, more than we have ever had before. The trick is knowing how to use it in order to turn this knowledge into insight.

That said, data is just one part of the puzzle, and not always a source of insights. Much of the work I do is talking to (or observing) consumers directly in order to unearth insights. However, this comes with its own set of challenges, as consumers are often unable to articulate their needs as many of these are latent. In addition, if you are operating in a category which can be considered ‘low interest’ from the consumer point of view, these can be even harder to articulate… and ergo, unearthing the insight that sits at the heart of these consumer needs is harder.

It doesn’t matter what your source or data points are when seeking insights. What is important is that you need to understand what an insight is and – more importantly – what is not.

An insight is not an “observation” or the “reportage” of what has been seen or heard (qualitatively or quantitively). Observations are an extremely important part of creating or earthing an insight, but they should be treated as just one data point to consider… and they should never stand alone. That is because rigour is required for meaningful insight generation to happen. Meaningful insights are usually “powerful insights” which can unlock competitive advantage and drive growth. It is true that they are hard to find, but when you do, they can be extremely valuable.

In order to define an insight, you must take a multi-dimensional view. You need to unpack the “why” and or the “motivation” behind the observations, which sit behind a consumer’s behaviour or what they have said (qualitatively or quantitively).

Real insights don’t come from the consumer alone: they should be framed within the context of the marketing challenge, the competitive context and the company/brand capabilities. In order to do this, an insights framework is required to inject discipline and structure into their creation. There are plenty of definitions as to what an insight is (far too many to go into detail here), so what marketeers need to do is to work in collaboration with their key agencies to define their process of insight definition based on the business or marketing impact they want to drive within their own business or with a given campaign, for example.

But to get the ball rolling, here are some simple guardrails you can use to stress-test if you have a meaningful insight or not:

  • It should be anchored in a fundamental human truth
  • It should be a powerful observation about human behaviour or attitudes that prompts you to view the consumers from a fresh perspective
  • It should inform a new way of viewing the category/consumer/product in a way that causes you to re-examine existing conventions and challenge the status quo
  • It should be a previously unrecognised facet about the underlying motivations that drive people’s actions / behaviours or attitudes

Happy Staff Equals Happy Customers

September 3, 2019

I have seen a couple of reports this week that demonstrate that there is a correlation between happy staff and happy customers. I am sure this feels intuitively true to many of you but it nice to see this quantified.

Glassdoor research explored data for 293 companies across 13 industries between 2008 and 2018 in order to identify the link between employee satisfaction and customers satisfaction (using the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a benchmark gauge of shoppers’ sentiment). This study found that a one-point improvement in staff satisfaction rating (on a five-point scale) translated into a statistically significant 1.3-point increase in customer satisfaction (rated from zero to 100). This correlation is strongest in categories where there is a higher percentage of staff interacting directly with customers, in these categories a one-point gain in employee satisfaction rating raised that of customers by 3.2 points.

Interestingly, previous research by Gallup has shown that when businesses work hard to ensure their employees are happy this results in a “direct and significant impact on your bottom line” (Gallup’s The State of the American Workplace report). This research found that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, resulting in a 20% increase in sales. In addition to this, Glassdoor says research has demonstrated that “higher customer satisfaction scores are linked to higher company valuations”.

So maybe it is time to spend less time worrying about your NPS score and more time worry about how satisfied your staff are.

Observations and thoughts in relation to setting targets or benchmarks

August 30, 2019

I have been working on a few projects lately where clients have asked us to help them set or define performance benchmarks or targets for them. These have been in a variety of areas, such as the impact of communication, the success of product launches and the engagement of content. Some clients want to ‘track these over time’, others want to establish short term targets, and the work has stimulated interesting conversation (and at times conflict). So, I thought I would capture some of my thoughts around this topic here. I should point out these are just my thoughts and are intended to stimulate debate and are not a ‘set way of doing things’.

The reason setting targets or benchmarks is useful is because they enable you to make important judgments in as objective a manner as possible. For example, the effectiveness of communications. They also encourage brand owners and their partners to have intelligent debate about how and by how much they expect things to work. For example, say the impact of new packaging or advertising. In addition, they ensure you they have the right research approach in place to measure these expectations.

A key observation is that different parties involved often have different expectations of what the ‘targets’ or ‘benchmarks’ ought to be, depending on different criteria. This could be related to their experience in having set and measured targets previously, the potential ‘risk’ to the targets being set and for some their potential gain (a bonus) or loss (their job or the account). So, taking the time upfront to understand the different parties’ motivations and barriers to setting targets or benchmarks is very important.

Next up when thinking about your benchmarks, make sure they are all relative to something. This might sound obvious, but trust me, I have worked with some clients who have come to us with existing targets, but they cannot explain why specific ones may have been set or what they were linked to. Here are some obvious aspects to consider when setting targets or benchmarks:

Set them in relation to your brand and your objectives:

  • Previous results for your brand
  • What your ‘start point’ is
  • What you have set out to achieve
  • How much investment you will be utilising

Set them in relation to other brands / competitors:

  • Brands / competitors in comparable situations
  • Competitors’ performance
  • Research you have available on other brands / competitors

My final tip, one that I am sure some of you will not agree with, is to avoid norms. Why, well, I believe norms set the wrong ‘expectations’. For example, they can encourage the belief that exceeding the norm = success in the market, which time and again we can see is not the case. In addition, they can create targets or benchmarks that are by definition average, and this encourages us to aspire to the mediocre!

Trump more than anyone, should know that words have consequences

August 12, 2019

As a child I was taught, like many of you I am sure, that our words have consequences. What we say can influence what others think or do. As an ‘average’ man on the street my words carry little influence, but I am still aware that I can use them to encourage others to do good deeds, or should I be so inclined, not so good deeds.

If an average man like me can use words to prompt thought or action, just imagine how powerful the words of the President of the United States of America can be. I think we have just seen in the recent mass shooting in the US just how impactful Trump’s words can be. He cannot in all consciousness absolve himself of any responsibility for the impact his racially divisive language has had at rousing someone, like the El Paso shooter, to act out violent racist acts.

In a press conference soon after Trump blamed the internet, video games and mental illness but pointedly not guns or hate speech for mass shootings. Sure, when in front of a teleprompter (and being told what to say) he claims “Hate has no place in America. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy”. However, the sheer hypocrisy of the fact is that when he is not hiding behind a teleprompter, and is not being told what to say, he regularly issues harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and clear ‘hate speech’ and in addition has often re-tweeted statements and images from known white supremacists.

Trump must acknowledge, that the language he uses has consequences, he would not be so prolific a Tweeter if he did not believe this.

When Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, he claimed that Mexico was sending murderers and rapists across the border, and that was just the start, he has continued in this vain ever since. The El Paso shooter posted a manifesto filled with racist rhetoric and language that could have been lifted straight from a Trump rally or tweet-fest and made it clear his actions were “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

I am not saying that Trump is responsible for mass shooting in America per se, there were plenty before he came into office and alas there will most likely be plenty once he has left office. However, he has clearly inspired the actions of at least one of these mass killers, and the more he continues with his rhetoric of hate the more he will inspire others because, words have consequences.

Have you fully thought through a framework as to how your creative should work?

August 8, 2019

I get involved in heaps of creative development and evaluation work, and whilst it is work I really enjoy it can often be challenging. The greatest challenge is when there is lack of alignment as to ‘how’ the creative is intended to work and with ‘who’ it is intended to have impact.  This lack of alignment can be between the client and their agency, the researcher and the client, or the agency and the researcher and so on…

When there is alignment between all the interested parties’ and with the researchers, then we are really working in partnership. This is where research adds the greatest contribution towards making the creative idea the very best it can be.

To ensure this alignment is there, a key aspect is ensuring agreement on a ‘framework’ for how the creative is intended to work and how to evaluate it.

What should this framework include?

Don’t assume that the creative brief is the framework. Absolutely this is a key input, but not all briefs are created equal.

The framework can easily be distilled into a one-pager and should be a way of spelling out all the assumptions made by both the client and agency about how the creative will work. It should show how (in detail) the content of the creative delivers the communication strategy and the client’s commercial objectives (this information is generally somewhere in the client’s/agency’s heads but amazingly is often not written down). Most importantly of all, it should absolutely not be a boring set of research objectives.

The beauty of creating this framework is that it makes explicit for the researcher, client and agency what the advertising is designed to do and how it’s designed to work. This then enables the researcher to tailor the design and approach of the research according to what the client and agency are trying to do. The framework then determines who to interview; content and coverage of the discussion guide; correct wording and language to use (and what to listen out for) and ultimately how to judge effectiveness and interpret the findings. An added bonus is that it avoids politics and misunderstandings at the debrief.

Some tips on how to construct a Creative Framework

The framework should ideally be crafted when you have a finished execution, but you can develop one from a script or storyboards, but it should always be done before the research is designed and the discussion guide is drafted.

Always begin with the client’s marketing / commercial objective – and be sure to understand what end result the client is looking to achieve.

Then take the detail in the creative strategy/creative brief, and ask exactly how are we expecting to achieve it? For example, what’s the key way we’re trying to enhance the brand relationship? Among which people (demographics, attitudinal groups, user groups, primary and secondary targets)? What are the key ways in which the advertising execution is achieving its effect?  And which aspects of the execution are tasked with doing this?

The framework should articulate ‘How the creative will do this?’ for each of the key questions mentioned above or whatever relevant points beyond these it covers.  This then enables the researcher to better understand what effects they should expect to see if the creative is working according to the framework. And if it’s not working according to the framework, how best to explore the creative in order to optimise the work.

Should You Be Building Confidence In Your Brand Rather Than Trying To Win Back Trust?

July 22, 2019

Much of the work I do is in the financial service industry, and as such ‘trust’ or ‘winning back trust’ has been a hot topic for some time now, for all the obvious reasons not least of all the outcomes of the Banking Royal Commission here in Australia.

However, the issue of trust is not limited to just the financial services industry. It seems consumers and people in general have dealt with an ever-increasing amount of disappointment in businesses and organisations in which they once placed their trust. Can consumers ever trust their politicians, banks, or clergy in the same way they once did? And if not, what should your brand be doing about it?

Trust is important because consumers trust that their experiences will be positive, and that their time and money are worth the return. Can your brand truly deliver on this? If not, you need to consider that your customer may never trust you in the same way they once did or that to ‘win back their’ trust will take more time than a typical marketing cycle or two and decide what else you might need to be doing.

Start by ensuring your audience has ‘confidence’ that the brand will deliver the basics of what is expected in the relevant category

I have done a lot of research that looks at brand trust for a myriad of brands and one keen observation I have made is that, as consumers level of trust in brands diminishes, this is replaced by something more akin to confidence. They may sound like the same thing but there is an important difference between what the two ladder to.

As consumers fail to trust in a brand exceeding their expectations they start to place more importance on having the ‘confidence’ in a brand delivering to their basic needs or wants from it’s products or services. 

Consumers don’t always expect to have to ‘trust’ a brand anyone, so they are increasingly seeking out brands that give them a feeling of ‘confidence’. Either confidence in their own choices or confidence in the brand to deliver on what it says it will – nothing more nothing less than this. 

One might suggest that trust is being relegated to a lower role and confidence is being elevated to a higher one when it comes to brand choice. Relationships with brands based on confidence may feel more comfortable than those based on trust.

If we take financial services as an example, we see trust levels in the Big 4 have certainly deteriorated. However, what consumer say and what they do are two very different things. This is evident in that the four major banks’ domination of the Australian banking market has not shifted over the past decade. They account for around three-quarters of deposits and assets and a larger share of home loans. They have averaged about 80% market share over the same period.

Interestingly, as levels of ‘trust’ have declined the level of consideration for the Big 4 among consumers when looking for new products has stayed consistent. As mentioned, as a researcher I am seeing brand confidence increase in importance in the finical services sector – as in, people placing more emphasis on organisations “getting the basics” right rather than trying to ‘win back their trust’ by over promising in big ads and under delivering at the coal face. I would suggest that the consequences of loss of confidence will far outweigh any loss of trust. Loss of trust may lead to avoidance of your brand, but loss of confidence will surly result in a withdrawal from your brand. 

I am not saying that Australian consumers don’t care about ‘trust’, and this thought piece is meant to stimulate debate on the matter not present a final argument.

Don’t stop being angry about Australia’s lack of legal protections for press freedom and whistle-blowers

June 23, 2019

I know it was a few weeks ago now that the federal police raided the ABC offices and the home of Annika Smethurst, a journalist at the Sunday Telegraph. However, where has all that anger gone? Lost in the news cycle and drowned out no doubt by what Trump might have been saying in his latest tweets. The recent protest in Hong Kong have got me thinking about just how placid we really are here in Australia. We get all outraged in the moment, then move on to the next thing without really protesting or preventing things that might ultimately be undermining the liberal democracy we hold so dear.

The raids were shocking, but they shed further light on the fact that the ABC had previously reported on allegations of illegal actions by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, such as the killing of unarmed men and children. These are not actions forces of a liberal democracy should be allowed to get away with it. The ABC was reporting on gross misconduct by our forces and this is indeed in the ‘public interest’. What is shocking is that the warrant served on the ABC looked like it was from an authoritarian, Kafkaesque society in that it allowed investigators to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the broadcaster’s computers.

The raid on the home of Annika Smethurst was in connection with an article she wrote about potential ‘top secret’ strategies to expand surveillance powers that could be used by the authorities in Australia. These strategies include covert reading of people’s e-mails, text messages and even being able to see their bank accounts.

Stories like these are important in that they keep our governments and authorities within democracy honest. Furthermore, these stories would not have come to light if it were not for the whistle-blowers who risked everything to bring them to the fore. The allegations in the ABC story were brought light by David McBride who used to be a lawyer with the defence department. He did not go running straight to a journalist, indeed he had done all he could to adhere to the ‘public-interest disclosure rules’ and is on record of having raised his concerns with the department. However, they did nothing to address his concerns or allegation and it was this that prompted him to contact journalists. However, protections under the law for whistle-blowers are woefully lacking, and in fact these laws specifically exclude protection for public servants the very people who should be protected in order to guarantee the protection of our democracy!

David McBride is now being charged with the disclosure of unauthorised documents and faces a life sentence. Some in the right-wing media have said this an apt punishment as this story posed a national security threat, but this is a load of tosh as they relate to events that happened more than six years ago.

Democracy is clearly under attack in several parts of the world and some even say it is failing. Therefore, the last thing we need is for democracy to be under attack in the very countries that should be standing up for the benefits of democracy. So, what does it say about our own democracy that here in Australia we lack explicit constitutional protection for civil liberties and that we as citizens on the whole seem to sit back and let our government pass legislation that weakens our civil liberties.

The Net Promoter Score, the debate continues…

June 11, 2019

For years now, it feels like I go through phases where clients ask me “what do you think of the Net Promoter Score?” and we have lots of meaningful chats about it, then I hear nothing about it for a while. Well it seems it is back on client’s radar again, so I thought I would jot down my point of view on it. I should point out that my perceptive on the score is based on my experience of how my clients have been either ‘gathering the score’ or ‘using it’.

Let me start of by saying that I believe it is without doubt a useful measure of customers relationship strength, but I believe it is limited in terms of providing strategically focused outcomes. I base this thinking on the fact that it is often used in a manner which makes the score one dimensional when a multidimensional measure of the strength of the customer relationship is something we should be striving for (in order to better reflect lived experiences). A single score can be limiting, for example if you have a low NPS score it’s important to understand “why” the number is low so that you can improve that score. Thus additional research to determine why people talk positively or negatively is still necessary if all you have is the NPS score (which is often the case, especially if just ‘adding it on’ to a survey).  

A potential ‘recommendation” is more often than not an effect of service received, the NPS can initially measure this for you and in time monitor this, but it does not give analysis that will enable you to measure the underlying cause of likelihood to recommend, you need to explore the “effect” of service (and other relevant metrics) on recommendation and identify opportunities for improvement. In addition, is just collecting a standalone NPS measure it is not effective for predicting business performance as it provides no direction about what to do, that said a standalone NPS may give you a “motivational” score should you need to improve but little or no guidance for management on “what to do”.

Furthermore, you also must consider the market in which your (or your client’s) company operates, I believe the NPS is better suited to business that operate in a market where customer interactions are fairly simple and are confined to a limited number of possible touch-points (namely business-to-consumer retail settings). It is far less suited for a company operating in a market with complex customer interactions and a multitude of possible touch-points and processes to manage (namely business-to-business or where complex service relationships exists with consumer, such as financial services).

Guinness’s ‘Surfer’ ad didn’t do that well in research ‘but we ignored it’ – In defense of research….

February 7, 2019

This post was prompted by this article https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/06/13/guinness-surfer/ I saw on Linkedin, I had lots to say on it but the word limit on the comments box would not let me say everything I wanted to say, so here goes…

Just because an ad does not do well in research, does not mean that the outcome of the research is to say “it is not a good ad” or indeed that “the idea should not be used”. As someone who has done a wealth of research into communications testing and development, I have seen lots of ads / concepts that did not do well that went on to be incredibly successful ads. That is because the job of research is not to ‘kill the idea’ it is to tell you how to make the idea be the very best is can.

This works best when as researchers we are working in partnership with both the client and the agency (not brought in at the 11th hr to test an idea). This enables all involved to foster a more collaborative process that get the best result out of the research.

When it comes to researching ads the starting point should always be that every concept has a chance of success and our role is not to kill them off, but to understand their potential. A researcher’s job is not to ‘beat-up’ on the ad, as a researcher I want a successful outcome for all involved and as such we approach the evaluation of any communications with an open mind. Our task is to look for constructive ways to improve on the possible success of the communications being tested. In order to do this, context is important, we have a much better chance of understanding how people react to a concept if we have a deeper understanding of their overall attitudes to the category say.

Also the way in which we evaluate ads if paramount, first impressions are key (and more closely mirror real world exposure) so we should focus on initial reactions and not allow people to spend too long talking about a concept to the point where they are just looking for things to say or critique. The gut feel viewers have is often the most powerful insight we get about what’s working and what’s not.

In addition, people don’t always say exactly what they mean and we should look beyond their verbal messages to ensure we understand the meaning behind what is being said (or not). So although consumers will often tell us what they “think” of an ad we should not expect them to always automatically identify the factors which are “influencing their thinking”, this is where the researchers expertise at understanding what is often left unsaid is critical to interpreting how the communications are working (or not).

As research I also often hear “the ads are not is a format ready or best for testing”, however an ad does not need to be in its final polished format in order to test the ‘idea’ or ‘concept’. There are all manner of ways to use stimulus to stimulate a conversation with consumers about a communications idea. Not only that, but consumers are far more marketing savvy than we sometimes give them credit for and if we take the time to explain the stimulus at hand they get it and are willing to ‘work with us’. On the topic of consumers being more marketing savvy now than ever before we should never underestimate their ability to understand the ‘idea’ behind the ad being tested, they often provide us with the ‘gem’ that gets the idea across the line.

Anyway, the main point I want to make it that ultimately as researchers we are hired to have an opinion and should avoid ‘sitting on the fence’, but this opinion should always be well-informed and constructive and when it is, this helps ensure ads that don’t do well in research have a chance to go to become award winning ads.

Why I got naked today…

July 17, 2016

tribeWell, it has been a while since I last muttered away about anything. In fact since my father passed away last year I seem to have had very little to say on here, or in life for that matter. It has been a strange time, life goes back to normal, you go to work, you eat, you chat you move on, but something inside you does not, it stays stuck. I guess that is why I have not blogged, I have been feeling stuck, stuck in this well of emotions that I feel like I am drowning in, but doing nothing to really help myself. Close friend and family have said I should ‘talk to someone’, and they don’t mean the postman. I know I ought to, but I am not really one for doing that, I seem to find it easier to mutter away at a keyboard to no one in particular. I think this way I feel safe that no one if going to challenge me about what I am thinking and why.

my-tribe

Anyway, why am I posting this now? Well this morning I took off all my clothes and let someone take nude photos of me…. I did it for something called My People | My Tribe, which is a community group focused on telling and sharing LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and diverse sexualities and genders) stories that educate, enlighten and inspire. The group aims to shine a light on a variety of LGBTQ+ areas of interest including a focus on topical issues, history, sexual and mental health.

They recently, had a call out to the Sydney LGBTQI+ community to take part in a photoshoot that tells the stories of 100 locals. Titled #BareNakedTruth, participants are photographed by well know photographer Brenton Parry who said it’s time to showcase we are all more alike than different. “By photographing 100 people from a diverse cross section of the community, stripping them back and telling their story I’m hoping we can see that for all of our differences we have more similarities.”.

Some of the stories that I have read associated with some of those taking part have really inspired me. By participating in it myself it has in fact made me think about my dad a lot.  I came out at 18, around the height of the AIDS epidemic which fed fear and prejudice against homosexuals, and I was not living in some cosmopolitan city like I do now. I did it because I knew that if I could not be honest with others about who I really am and know that by doing so they would love me for who I really was, not who they thought I was, then I could never truly be honest with myself about who I am and grow to love myself. Back then I was gripped with hate and disgust for what I was, and I desperately wanted to not be gay.

And why does all this remind me of my dad, well at the time, we might not have had the best of relationships, it was a struggle for both he and I to accept my sexuality, but he sat me down one day and said he admired me for coming out. He said it was one the bravest things he had ever seen someone do and no matter how difficult things might be or what challenges I might face in the future, he said he knew I would have the courage to face anything after having witnessed me coming out to the world.

It took me a long time to come to terms with who and what I am and many years to truly feel proud of who I am. Today I stripped back my clothes and stood there proud and loving my father for the kindness of acceptance that made me feel loved and cherished for who I really am.

I feel a little less stuck today.

The books I read in 2015

February 10, 2016

Ok, so normally I would have posted this already but 2016 has had a busy start so only just getting round to it now. In fact 2015 was a busy year all up and i can tell that by the number of books I read, just a paltry 27. My biggest disappointing of the year was Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, but then To Kill A Mocking Bird is one of my all time favourate books so i had very high expectations.

There are lots of 4’s but interestingly not one of them got a full 5 out of 5, but one did come close…

  1. Faggots by Larry Kramer = 2.5
  2. The final confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough = 3.5
  3. Small crimes in an age of abundance by Matthew Kneale = 3.5
  4. They came like swallows by William Maxwell = 3
  5. The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and David Mann = 4
  6. So long, see you tomorrow by William Maxwell = 3
  7. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout = 4
  8. Geek love by Katherine Dunn = 2
  9. The two hotel Francforts by David Leavitt = 3.5
  10. Coming up trumps by Jean Trumpington = 3.5
  11. The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins = 4
  12. We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen J.Fowler = 4
  13.  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer = 4
  14. The silkworm by Robert Galbraith = 4
  15. The end of Alice by A.M. Homes = 2
  16. Red Hill by Jamie McGuire = 3
  17. Wold Winter by Cecilia Ekback = 3.5
  18. Mislaid by Neil Zink = 3
  19. Revival by Stephen king = 4
  20. Vanished Years by Rupert Everett = 3.5
  21. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell = 4
  22. In the unlikely event by Judy Blume = 4
  23. Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child = 3
  24. Go set a watchman by Harper Lee = 3
  25. Hiroshima by John Hersey = 3.5
  26. Queen Victoria’s youngest son by Charlotte Zeepvat = 3
  27. Career of evil by Robert Galbraith = 4.5

How well do you think these powerful brands address today’s participatory culture?

November 6, 2015

Bob_Megaphone

Every year, Brand Finance puts thousands of the world’s top brands to the test. They are evaluated to determine which are the most powerful, and the most valuable. have listed the following as the 10 most powerful brands in 2015…

Lego 93.4

pwc 91.8

Red Bull 91.1

McKinsey and Company 90.1

Unilever 90.1

L’Oreal 89.7

Burberry 89.7

Rolex 89.7

Ferrari 89.6

Nike 89.6

In order to determine the most powerful brands in the world, their team examines factors such as a company’s investment in marketing, equity as measured by goodwill of customers and staff, and the impact of marketing and goodwill on the company’s “business performance.” All well and good but as a researcher who does a lot of work in this space I am curious to know more about what these brands do to actually engage with their customer base. We know that engaged consumers tend to display greater levels of loyalty and I don’t see this as a measure, good will is there yes, but this does not always equate to loyalty.

In my opinion (and it is just that an opinion nothing more) not all of the 10 brands listed appear to be particularly strong thought leaders in addressing todays participatory culture, something that is becoming more important as a tool to engage with customers. It is true a lot of these brands aim to engage consumers on a deeper level to foster long-term loyalty and if you spend a bit of time online it is easy to see how they are tapping into this participatory culture to foster this loyalty.

Many brands do this, but not all with a clear strategy as to how they want this to add in a positive way to their brands narrative. In addition without a clear social media management strategy in place, many are in danger of having little control over how customers add to their brands narrative (good or bad).

A social media strategy needs to go beyond simply embracing the creation of ‘brand engagement campaigns’ aimed at generating shareable experiences, and these need to be done in a way that are not evidently commercials which gets harder and harder as consumers become more and more marketing savvy.  Often a campaign’s success is measured using social media engagement metrics, but as a qualitative researcher I am often asked to explore the ‘meaning’ behind these metrics and more often than not just because a campaign goes viral (a benchmark for success) this does not always result in a positive impact on the brand narrative, in fact it can have short term positive impact but a longer term negative one.

The growth in participatory culture by consumers has actually been fed by brands embracing this as a tool to engage with consumers, but said consumers now believe their voices are more valuable than ever before and  as a consequence brands are in danger of losing ‘control’ of the narrative that they wish to stimulate.

It is true that in today’s society social media has facilitated a two-way connection with consumers like no other. However, a conversation is only as good or interesting as all its participants make it, and that requires paying attention at all times, but how many brands are truly embracing that idea and paying attention to everything that is being said on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook?

It is not just about ‘listening’ to what consumers saying, attention needs to be given to everything a brand intends to ‘say’ to consumers and this needs to ladder to a clear social media strategy. So many brands are trying to hold conversations with consumers today which means they are being blitzed with more branded messages on a daily basis than ever before. Think of it this way, we all know how we hate to be interrupted by someone else when we are having a conversation and we have ways in which to deal with this, online consumers have more control over which messages or conversations they see, hear, and ultimately choose to engage with, so pay heed to what it is you want to say and the manner in which you intend to do it.

To bring this back to my earlier point around engagement, I see in the work that I do that relating with consumers on an individual, personal basis is often the piece of the jigsaw that is missing in the engagement puzzle, where I see this is not the case is with brands that have moved towards a more human or humanistic connection in the way their brand attempts to build relationships and therefore loyalty among their customers. This I like to call ‘the rise of human’ but that is another story all together.

My Mo will grow and my Moves will motivate me, will you sponsor me?

November 2, 2015

A previous years effort

A previous years effort

Yes it is indeed that hairy time of year again, Movember, and I am again going to do my bit for the cause. Keep an eye out for those moustaches, and feel free to let me know how I ought to style mine over the next couple of weeks, and no shaving it off is not a styling option.

I actually love a bit of facial hair, and do not mind how silly I look, so this year I have decided to make it more of a challenge for myself and I am not only growing a Mo but I have signed up to Move in Movember too. This requires doing some form of physical activity every day for the month of November, and that really will be a challenge for me, given my aversion to physical activity of any kind (expect tearing it up on the dance floor).

As with every year the Mo has a job to do, those growing the Mo will also be raising vital funds which will be used to make a global contribution to men living happier, healthier, longer lives. This ambition underpins everything the Movember team does. Since 2003, they have raised $685 million and funded over 1,000 programs focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here: http://mobro.co/macarthursmutterings

As well as keep up to date with the daily move activity that I will be doing.

Five years as an Australian citizen and still have questions about nationality…

October 28, 2015

At my citizenship ceremony

At my citizenship ceremony

Five years ago I became an Australian citizen, after having lived here for five years, at the time it made me questions, or at least reflect on what this meant to my sense of identity. As an expat with many friends who are in a similar situation the topic of one’s nationality is often a discussion that comes up and I still have a fairly fluid sense of who or what I am.

For example on Saint George’s Day I still wear my England football top in honour of the day, for those of you that don’t know this is the feast day of Saint George, patron saint of the English. Also I found myself incredibly engrossed by the debate around Scottish independence and I felt oddly engaged in a way that really surprised me. I felt like I ought to have some kind of a say, or at least a right to an opinion, but am I Scottish?  As mentioned in this blog before I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, but I have a very Scottish surname, my grandfather on my father’s side was very much a Scott. My father died recently and in an odd way I felt more of a connection with my Scottish roots as a result, because I wanted to feel a closer link to my dad’s history and sense of belonging.

However, I now have two boys who are both Australian and British but primarily Australian really (their mother being Australian) and I feel more connection to Australia via them, and their extended family they have here.

So who should I cheer for in international sporting events like the Rugby World Cup? Well clearly it is Australia at this stage given they have made it to the finals, and for now I’ll worry about the conundrum of should it be England or Australia should they ever be going head-to-head in the final someday, till then my sense nationality shall remain in flux.