Why brands consider a new Marketing Communications approach.

Those who know me or read an article on this blog before, know I’m not really a fan of traditional marketing. My reasoning behind it is that “traditional marketing” is often narrowed down to promotional bullshit or advertising. That’s not how it works. And I don’t see any future for advertising as we know it today. Not even for the hot & trendy “native advertising”. I’m a firm believer in marketing as a value creator. Bullshit has hardly any value, unless we’re talking green fields here. But marketing can only create value if it starts thinking in a different manner. My Point-of-view here is that technology might help in transforming your marketing communication but that, on the other hand, you need to understand “why” so to avoid the “fool with a tool” effect. I had the chance to detail this through a seminar talk recently and I want to share that slideshare with you. You can find it below. Hope you enjoy it.

How CMS helps to change marketing communication because the world, the consumer & consequently business and marketing changed.

Marketing Trend 2014 (& way beyond): Back 2 Basics.

It’s that time of the year again. End of year is always a good time to look back. But more importantly, it’s a moment to look ahead. That’s what most of the trend reports do. They predict what’s going to “trend” in the upcoming year. And that’s exactly my biggest issue with trend reports.

Trends are not limited to a small time span of one year. So basically, all trend reports are talking about what’s going to “hype” in the upcoming year. That’s a shame. Because a hype is not structural. A hype is not significant. A hype can project a wrong image. It can be torn apart from the deeper parameters that are the rationale behind a trend. And yeah, marketers just love jumping onto hypes – for better or for worse.

Back to Basics Marketing: 2014 – 2020

I’m not willing to look cocky here but since a couple of years now, one can notice marketers who drastically alter the way they think, see and do marketing. What’s more important, they’re being successful while doing so. It’s my personal believe – and hope, if I may be that naïve – that as from 2014 this way of thinking, seeing and executing marketing will become dominant.

Back to Basics Marketing has an in-depth rooted hate towards the artificial distinction of Digital Marketing vs Analog Marketing. It doesn’t really matter what media holds the content. The medium is not the message. Marshall McLuhan was wrong. Oh wait, he was right when he coincided the phrase. Today’s media evolutions prove that he’s wrong.

Back 2 Basics Marketing

In practice, back to basics comes down to the fact that “content marketing” is “media agnostic” – it can be online, social, print or face-2-face. The real question is who your target community is and what’s the best way to reach out to them. There’s e.g. less clutter in print marketing today. It means an opportunity for your business to get noticed. Is going back to “older, traditional” marketing matter the true meaning of “back 2 basics marketing”? No it’s not.

Back 2 Basics Marketing is not so much about going back to adult media

Back 2 Basics Marketing goes way back in time. Back 2 Basics Marketing deploys the tactics that were valid in the age of the cavemen. Those are still very powerful today because we all still have cavemen brains.

Throughout mankind’s evolution and consequently the evolution of communication media, marketing altered those tactics in favor of quick wins though. But as evolution continues, those quick wins disappear. The very essence becomes more important.

Back 2 Basics Marketing

Back 2 Basics Marketing

The essence of Back 2 Basics Marketing

To describe characteristics of Back 2 Basics Marketing, one can look at how “Marketing” worked in the age of the cavemen. Let’s dig a little deeper into that.

Cavemen initially had no media except for their own voice. Speech was important. It was the manner to transmit information from one to another. This not rarely occurred in “community gathering” fashion, to know, gathered around a fire.

It was the perfect moment to inform people about specific skills, knowledge and expertise another community-member possessed. The way information was transmitted was mainly through telling stories. Stories are easier to remember, pass through, etc. than e.g. bulleted lists.

Furthermore, discussing one’s “business” ( = something he could provide to the community) in a public forum (the fire) resulted in a strong focus on delivering quality and servicing customers. Successful cavemen entrepreneurs made sure their quality & service was endorsed over and over again by customers around the fireplace. Today we call that customer advocacy & ambassadorship.

Finally, because of the above context, there was no single cavemen offering “crap” to the market. Crap couldn’t survive very long. All products and services had value that exceeded the pure financial one. Crappy products, services (and hence brands and enterprises) were put to flames during the community gathering.

Expanding Lean, Mean and Agile: from Dev. to Comm.

Lean, mean and agile communications.

Lean, mean and agile communications.

I’ve been active for about 8 years now within the IT industry. And I always envied developers up until very recently. They could work in a lean, mean and agile way. We couldn’t. Marketing and Communication professionals not rarely fall back to “methodologies, tactics and strategies” that proved their power in the past. However, marketers and communication professionals taking this road are about to experience “armpit ponds” nobody has ever witnessed before. They’ll sweat. They’ll have to start working. Instead of talking. But why?

Digital Technology revolutionizes the communications business.

Art and copy have a new partner, technology, and it’s revolutionizing every part of the communications business. It lead to a new mindset. The idea of being ready to fail quickly, to be more agile in a consumer-dominant culture. How can you as a brand or enterprise communicate in a great way in this new, consumer-driven, multi-channel, fast-paced context? By getting as lean as developers!

Lean, mean and agile for Communication and Marketing

Developers learned us that we need to be open for an early failure. It’s better to realize early that something doesn’t work than to invest people’s time in further elaborating and researching an action that won’t deliver the results.

As marketers have more and more to do with platforms and OS, they need to understand their thinking and processes might need a big shift. They need to work, get things to market and learn fast. They are forced to do it cheaper, leaner and more collaboratively. They need to find ways to operationalize hacking and experimentation. This requires flexibility. Especially in one’s mind!

How to organize for Agile Communications?

Well, first of all. Get rid of your old school marketing thinkers. They’ll only slow down the process because mostly can’t cope with the uncertainty. An agile communications process begins with a ‘minimum viable brief’ (MVB). This dynamic document covers only as much as it needs to provide a framework of insight and inspiration. It shows the big idea but is chopped into smaller building blocks, allowing to get sprint and iterate accordingly. That’s being lean, mean and agile: mock up ideas fast, test assumptions and generate reactions in real-time.

Agile Communications: re-aligning strategy after launch. Adapt & respond.

Agile Communicators are always open for change, if there’s an opportunity to change for better results. This can be followed-up easily after launch. The next step is focus on what’s working and what is not. And consequently experiment with other bets based on what was successful. Adapt and respond. Or die.

Dude, that’s not even possible. The role of values, vision and stories…

We heard a lot of marketers stating that this is not possible for brands and that it would harm your brand in the long run. Well, let me tell you something: not transforming into a lean communicator will harm your brand even more.

You can only act as a lean communicator when you have uncovered the core of your brand / enterprise. You must establish your core values up front and remain authentic. That’s why you need to catch the very essence of your brand. What’s the core story? What are the core values?

A core story and storytelling are a precondition for lean communication

Despite the ever-increasing need for flexibility/agility, brand-building is still about consistency. We must catch our core values and remain authentic up front

In today’s fragmented, information overloaded environments, getting real with audiences is a challenge. But that’s exactly why you need to start fast and collaboratively and adjust along the journey. Getting in the office the day after and completely altering the entire project? Hooray!

Open letter to the Mayor of Kortrijk. Forget Qortrijk, think #Qartrijk.

It recently came to me that the city of ‘Kortrijk’ (Belgium) investigates successful projects in cities with QR codes. Additionally, I heard they’re mainly investigating QR codes as a way to facilitate and foster “tourism” and/or “traders”. That’s a start. But that’s not Kortrijk. It’s good to look at best practices in other cities, true. But it’s even better to have the guts to run your own experiments, sparked off by your own imagination and taking advantage of in-city talents.

Hence, I’ve decided to write an open letter to the major so to hopefully influence the policy in this topic. Of course I should have written this letter in Dutch. But unfortunately most people on this blog come from an English-speaking region – despite the fact that my English isn’t very high standard…

So here we go, an open letter to the Mayor of Kortrijk. I know he understands English.

Dear Mayor,

I’m writing an open-ended letter to ask you to turn your Qortrijk into #Qartrijk for a little while.

But first things first. I’m still waiting for an elaborated policy for the coming years in my and your city. I truly do appreciate your efforts to first consult the inhabitants (not population as you call them in your communication…#tip). I do believe this is useful. However I doubt that this is the way that participative democracy ought to function / to be organized. My view is that leaders have to come up with a vision first. A vision which is consequently elaborated into actionable projects. And it’s exactly at this lowest level – actionable projects level – that participative democracy is at stake. I could be completely wrong. So I’m very much open to arguments in favor of an early integration of “the crowd” into policy decision-making.

10 engagements are a good start.

I know you started with 10 engagements for the city and its people. And I believe those are good principles. But those same guidelines are exactly why you should consider the QR-debate in a different perspective. Especially, the below:

  • A city that listens and converses”
    As stated above #KortrijkSpreekt is a great initiative, whether it’s been organized too early or not. However, I believe the city should also listen and converse in the digital world. That’s why in one way or another this letter should be picked up by you, read by you and given feedback to the author.
  • “A city that undertakes and shares”
    The whole QR debate can be seen in a different light, one that sees the project as an enabler to entrepreneurial initiatives and facilitates the art scene while improving the city as such.
  • “A city that moves, dares and changes”
    In relation to the QR-debate this could mean that you’re really eager to run innovative experiments. Why not use this technology so to improve the traffic experience for pedestrian?
  • “A city with a vibe and enthusiasm”
    There are many talented people in the city. Why not duplicate that through a project like #Qartrijk?

I’m about to cut the crap now dear Mayor, here’s what I actually wanted to say…

#Qartrijk as project for the city of Kortrijk a.k.a. Qortrijk

My idea of QaRt isn’t really new. The idea of #Qartrijk however is. To understand the concept of #Qartrijk, you should understand QaRt. And fortunately QaRt is very easy to undertand. It’s QR + ART. QR + ART = QART. There you go. But why?

QR codes have little value and won’t last forever

I’ve always seen QR codes as a temporary thing. It has little value and it won’t last. What’s even more, most people don’t actually know about QR codes. Yes, tech and marketing people know them. And from time to time tag them if they notice them anyway. But it’s not a mainstream thing. It will never be. Without further details here, allow me to just state that QR is only a little aspect in an evolutionary story called the mobile ecosystem.

QR as an artform

Regardless of the fact that most people see QR codes as messed up lines and dots, it inspires people to turn the code as such in a more artful experience. It’s all about design, one vital aspect of Kortrijk’s identity… For this reason (and the one above) I started “pinning” examples of Qart. It might be inspiring for the #Qartrijk experiment. Oh yes, what exactly is #Qartrijk?

#Qartrijk: QR meets Art through-out Kortrijk

#Qartrijk is all about QR in an artful / design way. But not only that. It’s about mobile technology experiments in an artful way that add value to the city. They make the city better. Imagine one experiment being a new lamppost which pedestrian can tag in order to get a faster green light. Of course the object “lamppost” is an art piece in itself. In this manner, one can dream of an organically grown art route of QR-inspired objects in the city.

Let’s run a small experiment!

Kind regards,

@vermeiretim

The Post Lancegate Era. Plea to allow doping in pro sports.

Doping in sports - © psmag.com

Doping in sports – © psmag.com

Lancegate

I guess anyone knows the story of Lance Armstrong by now. Just for the sake of ease I’ll refer to it as Lancegate and it points to “an all-American hero that fell to earth”.

Lance Armstrong’s recent doping confession to Oprah revamps an old discussion about doping (or the usage of banned performance-enhancing drugs) in professional sport(s).

What is the problem with doping?

The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical by international sports organizations and especially the International Olympic Committee. The reasons why we ban those substances are related to health risks, the noble idea of equality for all sportsmen and the desire of the public to think of sportsmen as heroes – doing all these spectacular things in a “clean” fashion.

I believe exactly those same arguments can be used to state that doping shouldn’t be a problem. And why there shouldn’t have been a lancegate.

Why doping shouldn’t be a problem. A plea to allow doping in pro sports.

First of all the unethical aspect. Why is doping labeled as not ethical? Frankly I don’t know. And it doesn’t make sense. All things mankind has ever done in medics and pharmaceuticals are equally performance-enhancing drugs in the sense that they clearly enhanced our life time. Our timely performance of living is enhanced due to drugs. We didn’t label that as unethical. Additionally, we drink wine (alcohol is a hard drugs people, it’s just socially accepted!) to enhance our dining experience. There’s hardly anyone labeling that as unethical.

Second, the health thing. It just might be that doping isn’t healthy. True. Nor are alcohol, cigarettes and medicines. Can we allow people to decide individually what they take and for what reason? I guess most smokers do know they are having an unhealthy habit. I guess all sportsmen using performance-enhancing drugs equally know they are messing up their bodies. Additionally, one could state that doping are in this respect little different from the use of new materials in the construction of e.g. swimming suits or Formula 1 cars. Those things provide a similar unfair advantage over other competitors. What’s the difference between a substance and e.g. better equipment?

Further more, the way we feel about doping today reflects our culture of “equality”. Everybody is the same. We all have the same opportunities. That’s a great idea. However, we all know that’s not true. With regards to professional sports, it’s quite clear that someone born in the e.g. USA has a way better environment to grow up in to become a sports hero than e.g. somebody in Angola. Just think about sports education, sports infrastructures, etc.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Finally the argument that the public (“we”) has the desire to believe the sport is “clean”. More important however is that the public wants to look up to sportsmen. They are heroes. They inspire people. Do we really care that the hero plays according to the rules? I believe we don’t. Let’s go back to the origin of the word “hero”. A hero was originally a courageous figure in a legend or a myth that did spectacular things throughout the story. Not rarely those “heroes” had a (semi-)divine origin and their acts exceeded the human capabilities. Just think of the Greek Heroi or the modern Spider-man and Superman as an example. Or one of my favorites: Asterix & his potion!

If we want sport heroes we’d better frame “doping” differently. And that’s exactly what Lance did. He framed doping differently.

And that’s exactly why there shouldn’t have been a Lancegate. Your thoughts?

In resolutions we trust. About milk.

Milk

Milk

It’s that time of the year again. The end is near. But since the end is not as near as the Maya’s predicted, it still makes sense to step back and take some time to look ahead.

Resolutions are bullshit

I’ve always believed making up resolutions was a completely pointless activity.
After all, stating some good intentions without really living according to those doesn’t get you that far. The former is exactly the reason most people repeat the same resolutions annually. They didn’t live up to them so they restate them – not rarely emphasizing that this year they are very serious about it.

I used to have the same issue, so I stopped making resolutions after a while. Until last year. Last year I believed that it might be a good idea to lower the expectations of these resolutions. I ran a small test: the milk case.

A resolution about milk

The pilot I set up was simple and straight-forward:

Drink more milk in 2012.

It strikes me – until today – how many times I lived up to this resolution: while I passed milk in the supermarket, when I opened the fridge, when I got in the basement, … every time the resolution popped up again. Speaks for itself that I drank more milk this year. Hooray! Mission accomplished. Things like this make people happy.

Resolution tips – learned from the milk case

Thanks to the milk experiment, I’m a resolution believer again. I learned a few things about resolution-setting from my milk experiment. I will definitely use them to define my resolution(s) for 2013 later today.

  1. Simple resolutions are easy to remind.
  2. Measurable resolutions help to check whether you actually behave accordingly.
  3. Adjustable resolutions help the realization.
  4. Realistic resolutions are an absolute must to stay happy.
  5. Time-pin the execution of your resolutions so to adjust them through-out the year
  6. Funny resolutions stick in your mind. Give your goal a small funny and funky twist.

What’s your view on resolutions? What are your 2013 resolutions?

Samson meets F.C. De Kampioenen. Storytelling for Flemish brains?

I recently came across the below YouTube video. It mixes two of the most popular Flemish TV shows ever – F.C. De Kampioenen and Samson & Gert – into a video clip for the latter show. It got me thinking.

Could it be that there’s something like a narrative format that pleases Flemish brains? What constitutes those success factors? And did Bart De Wever – a nationalist populist politician – crack that same code to win elections?

So to answer the questions from the introduction, I strongly recommend to have a look at the above video after which we present some background on Belgium and the TV shows in particular.

Background: Belgium & Broadcasters

Belgium at a glance.

Belgium at a glance.

Belgium. One of the planet’s most difficult, absurd and surreal countries. Yes, we excel in chocolate, beers and waffles. And that’s a good thing. But apart from that we organized our country into distinct regions like a French-speaking part called Wallonia, a Dutch-speaking part known as Flanders and a mixed region known as Brussels.

There’s something remarkable about Flanders and its most popular TV shows.

Successful TV Shows on Public Broadcasting TV

The Belgian broadcasting landscape is organized along the same lines of the country. That is to say, TV is organized and managed by the regional governments. In case of Flanders, the Flemish government takes care of the media landscape. That landscape is a mixture of public broadcasters and commercial broadcasters. It’s important to realize that the public broadcasting service is quite popular up until recent changes in the media landscape.

What’s striking however is that this public broadcaster often airs the same shows. This allows them to recycle content without investing in the production of new shows. Equally important is to point out the fact that the ratings for these shows remain impressively high.

Over the last 20 years there have been two remarkable TV Shows. Those were so brilliant that they were aired year after year.

Flemish TV Shows as a cultural meme?

During my entire lifetime there seem to be two extremely successful TV-shows, one for ‘adults’ and one for ‘kids’. I’m respectively talking about ‘F.C. De Kampioenen’ and ‘Samson & Gert’. Both have been aired and recycled year after year that an entire generation of Flemish people actually knows these stories as if they were a cultural meme. Hey, I believe today they actually are one.

But why exactly are these shows that popular? I believe one needs to find the answer by looking at both shows. For me, it’s quite clear that both shows draw upon the same principle. The way the narrative is structured and told is the same. The only thing that differs between both shows is in fact that the one is for adults and the other one is for kids. In practice, it comes down to a family wide social TV watching experience.

The Flemish brain?

Why do these stories appeal the Flemish people that much? And why don’t these stories appeal to the Dutch-speaking neighbouring country ‘The Netherlands’? Yes, we tried to export both shows. The one for kids worked fine but wasn’t as big in the Netherlands as it was in Flanders. The TV show for adults was a complete disaster: Dutch people did not like it at all. Was it our humor? Or is there something more at stake here?

I believe that the TV shows are popular just because of the way the story is told. The stories are wired for a Flemish brain. The only thing I need to find is a method to analyze stories so to check whether this hypothesis is valid anyway.

How to analyze TV Shows as a story?

In order to find the “success narrative elements for Flemish brains” I’d like to analyze loads of the shows of both series and consequently compare both series to one another. The final goal is to demonstrate that both shows act on the same storytelling principles. Principles that are particularly appealing to Flemish people.

Until today however, I’m having some issues developing the right analytical frame to execute a proper content analysis. I would truly appreciate your help. Do you know any studies that have analyzed the narrative as such?

Content Analysis Framework to discover the narrative

In order to demonstrate that both shows rely on the same narrative principles, I’m looking to develop a framework for content analysis so to test my gut feeling. The below information from Dr. Chris Griffin seems a good starting point.

narrative analysis

narrative analysis

Has Bart De Wever cracked the code?

We recently held local elections, as my earlier article demonstrates. And regardless of the fact that they were on regional level, Bart De Wever was able to take it to higher levels. He had to anyway, otherwise his “story” wouldn’t have made any sense.

Bart De Wever, N-VA

Bart De Wever, N-VA

But now that we touch upon the story-aspect. Is the political success of Bart De Wever related to his storytelling tactics? Does he deploy the same techniques that F.C. De Kampioenen and Samson & Gert stories do? I believe he might have. What he certainly does is simplifying reality. This has been proven in a Ph.D. “N-VA. Analysis of an ideology.” that states “the party reduces democracy to a temporary dictatorship – meaning: the ones who won the elections are the only ones that can actually reign. In their story they are the only valid voice of Flanders. And this story is often repeated in media outlets: N-VA and especially Bart De Wever are the personification of the moral community of the “Flemish people”.

What else could explain “Flanders Only” popularity?

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