How can organisations learn to participate in social conversation?

Justin Sadgrove - Monday, July 09, 2012

It is the job of marketing professionals to identify the communities where our customers, peers and other influencers communicate with each other. This is how we build relationships and establish social capital. Social networks are magnets for marketers, but the people who define each online community are often reticent to their attempts to connect especially where the purpose is seen to be 'corporate'.

Connecting therefore is not just about marketing. It fuses marketing, service, sociology, psychology, creativity and sales. Importantly it also necessitates a level of personalisation, and a genuine and humanised approach, that makes it difficult for traditional marketing techniques to be successful.

This, of course, makes it very hard for corporates. The organisation of work is still centred around a product or a service, something to be sold. Social media however is defined by people, the communities they join, and the cultures and behaviours that manifest themselves in these communities. This is not a new development and has forever been a cornerstone for human development interaction.

The Conversation Prism

So what can be done? On their blog Brian Solis and Jessica Thomas have put forward a concept called The Conversation Prism. The Conversation Prism is a tool to help organisations visualise and map the shifting landscape of social networks and micro communities.

How can organisations learn to participate? Employees are a company's first community. Right now they tend to manage the flow of information through their internal social networks in the same way they manage the technology installed on each employees computer. Companies can, and will, get ahead when they learn to educate, engage with, and empower the natural grass roots communities that form within them. The Conversation Prism can help this process.

For more please click through to Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas original article.


The Psychology of Colour

Justin Sadgrove - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Choosing the right colour for your brand, logo, website or other marketing material is a process with much more substance than you might think. Colour psychology is based on the principle that colour can carry specific meaning, evaluated often intuitively, by the person seeing it. This evaluation in turn influences an individual’s behaviour. The psychology of 6 key colours is set out below.

Psychology of Black

Black is the colour of authority and power, stability and strength. Black clothes make people appear thinner. It's a sombre colour sometimes associated with evil (the cowboy in the black hat) and grieving. Black is a colour that evokes strong emotions that can overwhelm. Proficiency of use is often needed for a successful result.

Psychology of White

White is associated with purity (wedding dresses); cleanliness (doctors in white coats) and safety. It is also used to project the absence of colour, or neutrality. Like black, white works well with most colours and is often complimented by an accent of colour for emphasis.

Psychology of Grey

Grey is most associated with the practical, timeless, middle-of-the-road, solid things in life. Too much gray leads to feeling mostly nothing; but a bit of gray will add that rock solid feeling to your product. Some shades of gray are associated with old age and depression.

Psychology of Red

If you want to draw attention, use red. It is often where the eye looks first. Red is the colour of energy. It's associated with movement and excitement. Wearing red clothes makes you appear more noticeable. Red is not a colour to over use but a spot of red in just the right place can leave an immeasurable impression depending on intention (lipstick is red for a reason!).

Psychology of Blue

Ask people their favourite colour and a clear majority will say blue. Much of the world is blue (skies, seas). Blue is generally seen as calming though some shades can be cold and uncaring. Over the ages blue has become associated with security, dependability, wisdom and loyalty (note how many Banks and Financial Services companies are blue).

Psychology of Green

The colour of nature, growth and money. A calming colour that's very pleasing to the senses. Hospitals use light green rooms because they are found to be calming to patients. It is also the colour associated with envy, good luck, generosity and fertility.

Most of the above will probably intuitively make sense. Easy done? Well the challenge for a designer, and where you will pay your money, is in understanding how the combinations of multiple primary, secondary and tertiary colours on your website, will impact visitors. Just the 6 colours above, and there are obviously many more to choose from, have 46,656 possible different permutations!!! However while 46,656 possible permutations sounds like there is a virtually unlimited colour palette to choose from I will leave you with this thought from Wired Magazine almost 10 years ago.

Companies spend millions trying to differentiate from others. Yet a quick look at the logos of major corporations reveals that in colour as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. The result is an ever more frantic competition for the best neighbourhood.

While the fortunes of these corporates have shifted dramatically over the past decade and new players have emerged the psychology of colour has remained a bastion. Facebook and Pinterest are just a couple of recent players competing for the same valuable real estate created by the psychology of colour.

The Shared Services Litmus Test

Darren Connolly - Monday, March 26, 2012

One of Porter's clear strategies for sustainable competitive advantage is cost leadership. It would make sense therefore that the size of a corporate overhead imposed on a business unit could either help, or hinder, this strategy. So what size of overhead is appropriate? This is a difficult question as there is no single 'right' configuration and the solution usually depends on a range of considerations including the size of the organisation, culture, evolution and the regulatory environment within which it operates.

In this instance however the litmus test is usually the extent to which services can be performed more efficiently centrally (shared) than devolved back in the business. So the cost of providing the service centrally must be lower that that incurred if the business unit was to perform the service itself. Simple? Well yes if that was the end of it but in reality there is more to consider. 

Complicating matters is the fact that the price the business unit pays for a shared service is usually more than the cost it is charged. This is because it also incurs an opportunity cost for not performing the service itself. This cost can manifest itself in a number of ways including a drop in service levels and responsiveness often due to the service provider just having multiple priorities. Only by including the opportunity cost with the charged cost can you work out whether or not the shared services model passes the litmus test. 

What’s the answer for your organisation?

Helpful tips to writing a design brief...

Justin Sadgrove - Monday, November 07, 2011

A design is only as good as the brief worked from. The best projects are borne from creative briefs that are open enough to inspire ideas, while being specific enough to feel workable. Providing clients with briefing templates will elicit the information you need from a few carefully crafted questions.

A well outlined brief should draw attention to the things your client hasn’t thought of—like “Have I got all the artwork my designer needs?” or even in some cases “Who am I targeting with this item?”

Unfortunately, clients who aren’t familiar with the design process don’t see carefully-written briefs as a high priority. This may be because they don’t have time. Quite often, it’s because the client hasn’t made fundamental decisions about the objectives of their marketing collateral.

A formal handover template gives the designer an opportunity to offer a few pointers, so the client learns how to get the most from the relationship. It’s a frame of reference when you meet to discuss the assignment, and a point of review if your first proofs don’t pass muster.

Good Things to Include in Your Design Brief

  • Title of item.
  • Delivery mechanism and marketing objectives.
  • Format.
  • Budget and schedule.
  • What are you providing the designer with: Product shots, website screen shots, photographs, diagrams, etc. (Check these are high-resolution.)
  • General description of format: Describe any formatting issues you have arranged with the printer.
  • Description of target audience: Occupation, gender ratio, average age, nationality/location, psychological demographic, lifestyle preferences.
  • Message objectives: Hierarchy of copy messages, treatment of headlines, body copy, visuals, product samples, call-to-action.
  • Where to look for inspiration: Give brief examples of style / overall look you want the item to achieve. What aspects of the product or branding can be used as a starting point for the design? What feelings or metaphors reflect the spirit of your product or company?
  • What not to do: Also give examples of what the design shouldn’t include and what styles to avoid.

Tips for Briefing a Designer

1. Think about the message of the design.

Offer guidance to help the designer marry the “look” of the item with the “voice” of the copy.

2. Don’t prescribe solutions.

You are paying for the designer’s ideas, so avoid the temptation to tell the designer what to do. Instead, be clear about what the item needs to achieve, so the designer can explore ideas. This is where you need the designer’s expertise.

It’s rarely a good idea to give a designer a mocked up layout – they will simply follow your instructions which are not necessarily making the best use of the space.

3. Do your scheduling before you brief a designer.

Make sure you schedule the whole project before you brief a designer, incorporating appropriate feedback and incubation stages. Ask your designer to inform you in advance if deadlines or set budgets are unrealistic.

4. Formalize design briefing.

Carefully word your brief in an email or as a front page to your copy, and use this as a reference point when you meet. Always brief designers face-to-face, or on the phone for smaller projects.

 Download CCM creative brief template

Brand Equity - Qantas shutdown

Justin Sadgrove - Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"To think that their passengers will understand the complexities of negotiations with unions, take their side, and return to them when it is all over, is naïve in the extreme."

Paul Harrison points outs some of the possible fatalistic brand consequences of the move by Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, to ground the Qantas fleet around the world.

Branding is all about perception, rather than some objective reality. And the key to branding is trust. This move has the potential to further erode trust in the “flying kangaroo” amongst its key publics, including business travellers and the government.

Marketing is not about massive changes in behaviour, it is about small, incremental shifts. If Virgin are able to provide a level of service equal to Qantas, then it will be difficult for Qantas to get back all of those customers, at least in the short-term. Read more

What drives Top Brands?

Darren Connolly - Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Interbrand's Top 100 Global Brands report was released today. Coca-Cola and IBM held the Top 2 places with Apple being the fastest riser in the Top 10. The report is worth a quick look here but there were a couple of quotes that I thought were worth highlighting;

“Consistency, relevance and commitment are imperative if a brand is to keep pace in our rapidly changing world.” Jez Frampton, Interbrand’s Global Chief Executive Officer. 

“More and more brand promise will need to be delivered through a whole organisation to provide a consistent customer experience and create and sustain a meaningful brand.” Joseph Kumar Gross. Allianz SE, Head of Group Market Management

“It is our people and their ability to execute on the mission and vision of our organisation on a daily basis that builds, shapes, and increases the integrity of our brand.“ Beverley Wallace, HCA (the largest private operator of healthcare facilities in the world).

In other words the key to success is consistency, delivered throughout the whole of an organisation, by all of its employees, on a day to day basis. Easy!