Category Archives: Masters

An exploration of me

I have just started another module as part of my Masters and this topic is all about ME! Looking at your professional development through “self-reflection” and attempting to understand where I’ve come from, where I am and where I want to be.

As part of this study we’re challenged to try different methods of self appraisal and so my “All about Me” category for the blog is born. For the next month I will take at least one appraisal test per day – ranging from Sex in the city to star wars to Myers Briggs. This will allow me to publish my results, look for similarities, question the validity of the tests and, by the end of the month, see if there is any correlation, trends and information that will make sense in what makes me, me.

On the other hand I could spend the next month learning absolutely nothing but hopefully it will give me some fun along the way!

Surveying

My paper is now almost due and my investigation into how FMCG brands build relationships with consumers in a digital environment is almost complete.

As part of one of my earlier posts I started (and quickly dismissed) qualitative research as consumers appeared to be unable to successfully articulate what a brand / consumer relationship was or how they felt about attempts by brands to contact them (with permission) within their personal spaces online.

With some worries about the possible outcome I then ran an online quantitative survey that easily allowed users to give their opinion through multiple choice selections. The response has shown definite trends, clear learning’s and, in contrast to the qualitative study that consumers definitely understand a brand relationship.

This is quite an interesting point. Was my in depth interviewing technique really bad OR do consumers simply not consider relationships in the way we anticipate them to as marketers?

The survey I constructed can be found here

http://FreeOnlineSurveys.com/rendersurvey.asp?sid=6bsq4nl3v8phn69532458

findings to follow once the paper is safely handed in!

Mumbai, Masters and my Mum

I’m due to go on holiday in 8 days time – judging by the news, the foreign office and my Mum I wont be going.

I was due to head off to Mumbai for 3 weeks of travelling, spending some time in the city before heading to the beaches of the South, the plantations in the middle and then heading out through Chennai. It’s now back to the drawing board and with a travel claim for cancellation in progress, 1 eye on the news, and the other on the laptop I start to formulate Plan B.

With the disruption in Thailand (2nd choice), Strength of the $$ (Hawaii and US) and a previous 3 month trip to Mexico – Sri Lanka came up next in line. From here, being internet saavy, relatively good at searching and narrowing down prospects I suddenly realised how much power Google and it’s algorhythm suddenly has. Typing in for accomodation the normal suspects come out – Opodo, Expedia, Trip Adviser… All great sites but none of which help me get off the beaten path. Repeated variants and getting to page 3 and 4 of Google I start to see some sites and immediately the power of the affiliate travel sites become apparent after the 20th travel content syndicate pops up with the same descriptions, same prices and same content…

It makes you wonder if the internet was stripped of Google (and business parallell attempts to stay top of the pack) would the internets landscape be better or worse… Likewise if all the duplicate content was removed would the web be an easier place to navigate for consumers? If the collective is so powerful why do we continue to happily browse the same pages time and time again, just in different colours. You wouldn’t wander into 20 travel agents so why do we happily browse 20 online stores? Is fun browsing actually compilcated navigation, duplicated content and “stuff thats hard to find” in disguise?

That I cannot solve (but for my next project could have fun investigating) – meanwhile Sri Lanka accomodation ideas on a postcard….

beach_sri_lanka

Why wont they say the right thing!!!

In my “quest” to look at the relationship between brands and consumers I’ve begun to hypothesis and start doing in-depth research.

I’m the first to admitt that I dont like to be proved wrong but being neutral in an interview environment has been a challenge! My hypothesis are, as hypothesis should be, there to help structure my research and to ensure by the end I am proving or disproving an assumption that has been made on the back of research. So far I have done 2 interviews and found them equally challenging.

The first, saw me asking the user (lets call them X) about brands they like: Doing my project on FMCG brands I was thrilled when without leading question “Heinz” came up and was all excited about textbook answers and quotes that would be perfect in my MA project. Digging deeper the frustration at X’s insistent that the only real reason he likes Heinz was because “I like beans” left me feeling silent rage at the lack of how little use this would be in my study of brands and how meaningful their relationships could be with consumers. I put it down to being a bad “recruitment” and moved onto my 2nd.

My 2nd victimn interviewee was also text book perfect at distinguising brands they enjoyed: Loving Bacardi, McDonalds and Cadburys: All wonderful FMCG brands and, even better, this user received email communications from them. Probing deeper how they felt about communications the response was “If they’re giving me free stuff I’ll open it”. This quote fills any marketeer with fear – the idea that these “warm consumers” who are openly saying they love the brand but, even with the “loved” brands, are still only receptive if there is something in it for them ruins all our theories about the power of the advocacy.

So, 2 interviews in I’m left with findings about bean loving, freebie hunters who filter things based on “WIN!” “FREE” “PRIZES” – insightful huh?!

Wikinomics

I’m 2/3 of he way through Wikinomics… For those of you not familiar with the work of Tapscott and Williams, and to quote the title, it looks at “How mass collaboration changes everything”.

Perhaps the notion of everything is used a little bit loosely as a title but as a manner of thinking and, in particular pushing it into the context of relationship marketing it poses an interesting theory looking at prosumers and the collective as a group worth counting on.

To quote:

The old, hardwired “plan and push” mentatility is rapidly giving way to a new, dynamic “engage and cocreate” economy

Its back to that old notion of web 2.0 (or is it now 3.0) and how as the digital space (and consumers) are evolving are marketing techniques to change with it. It remains pointless to use the same tactics with the old web as some might use with the new but how do you move a brand straight into v3.0 when they haven’t really come to terms with 1.0 yet…

I think that agencies and brands alike need to understand that evolution can’t happen at different rates. It’s not an iterative journey whereby a brand will get from A to B and, by chance, one day, they might catch up and be bang “on trend”. It instead needs to bypass the first 2 steps, be brave, and go straight to the point where it matters.

As the book goes on and talks about the idea of “prosumption” and even alluding to its future which, at the rate of the webs expansion could be very soon, the notion of collaboration and customers wanting a

genuine role in desiging the products of the future”

Is increasingly becoming something that needs to evole. The relationship, where as previously was brand to consumer, became a 2way conversation and we’re now moving a phase on to where the consumer powers that conversation with the brand. Can that really realisticly happen? Has the “prey” really become the “hunter…”

Its not an answer I’m there with yet but as I continue on my quest I’m hoping that I’ll start to build an insight into how (and if) that relationship can really stand.

Back to school

So, it;s back to school as the first couple of weeks of the Masters is well underway and the assignment is now set.

I sit writing this from my kitchen table – surrounded by a plie of journal articles and a rather erratic pile of handwritten notes from a previous life at university. The problem with a Masters is by the time you get round to studying you’ve been off the wagon of essay writing for a heck of a long time.  Powerpoint, excel and mindmap are the skills of my workplace and articulating theory and applying frameworks feels totally foreign.

Having refined my topic down to the rather broad “eCRM” I’m now attempting to information gather – this is the bit I always loved as a student and am embracing it again now. Armed with 20 different highlighters, colourful post it notes of various sizes (including the heart shaped) I’m treating it like a milatary operation…. The problem is going to come when i have to move frm highlighted text to written word but, as it’s only week 1 of the assignement, another 10 days of highlighting is yet to phase me!

One of the struggles, of course, is how to refine a topic into a digestable section of research. Right now I’m armed with cultural convergence, Organisational frameworks, Power difference as a model for cultural change and digitization of word of mouth – I guess the next step is to keep reading and understand the historical relevence and “key incidents” that has woven the practice into what it is today – no problems 😉

Storytelling

On Friday last week I met a storyteller.

It was part of a research brief from one of my clients where I had to try to understand how stories get distilled and told over the years. What makes a good story great? What makes a story stick? What makes a story last and spread?

It was an interesting meeting – a 40 year old theatrical storyteller and me, in Brighton, as he brought his work to life. Throwing his arms up in the air, removing his shoes to illustrate a point, banging his feet on the floor and dancing with his hands. In any other situation I would have felt embarrassed by a companions behaviour but in this situation I felt captivated. A man who was so passionate about what he did he wanted to bring it to life for me and, for me an insight into where creative so often downfalls – practicality.

He retold my clients brand story without any thought for if it other than making it exciting – creating a cliff hanger and, for me, I was hooked! He didn’t consider if it would be politically correct to discuss the brand in the concept of fang eating vampires, he questioned it’s rodent origins, explored “creatures of the night” and did everything, in the real world, I would have a fit at our creative department for churning out but, it made me realise one thing. The constraints we place on ourselves as both agencies and stemming from client briefs do stiffle the imagination.

We need to start with total creative freedom and then reign ideas back in but thats an ideal world. In the real world ideas cost money and 1 week exploring an idea that you know wont get signed off is a waste of business time and resource but – the million dollar question – is that what’s stopping great work from coming forward and how do you make the client see worth in that exploratory time….?