Forests and trees


Have you noticed how sometimes in the modern marketing context it’s hard to see past the end of a day, week or month?  Briefs, strategies and plans start to blur into one another and priorities and objectives stack up becoming a mess of linked but unclear overlapping initiatives and activities – in short, has the big picture become obfuscated from view?

Communication planning means different things to different people. And under that banner sits a whole range of different applications.

Today we’re talking about it in consideration of big picture comms frameworks. These are principles that are applied to whole organisations or portfolios, thinking which can help inform and structure marketing planning.

The problems these principles address are the type we see a lot and generally involve a lack of clarity – and even acknowledgment – of the big picture.

Briefs often exist in a vacuum.  Campaigns and tactics come in from different stakeholders or departments with compartmentalised objectives. Often organisations move from one thing to the next without consideration of the overlaps and mutually beneficial interactions of comms. Failing to see how they all work together as a larger connected system.

By developing a comms framework you are essentially helping to take stock of and decode this big picture view.  But breaking it down can help to organise and make the planning process easier, more consistent, and more efficient.

There are many ways to approach these projects.  But a pretty simple technique which can offer decision makers genuine insight and value to their organisation is to establish and bucket your marketing activities by mode.

What do we mean by mode?

Most organisations will pretty quickly be able to pin-point the three to four things that the majority of their marketing activities are meant to be doing.  These will be common tasks and objectives like ‘driving sales’ or ‘website enquiries’, or ‘differentiating for consideration’ or ‘on-boarding new customers’.  But how well known and understood are these modes of comms within the organisation? And does everyone have a common and coherent understanding of them?

What some organisations don’t do well is to actually articulate these activities; labelling them as ‘comms modes’ and defining what their roles and rules are

Specifically that means:

  1. Defining the modes, giving them a name and explaining their role in the context of the broader marketing goals.
  2. Aligning specific KPI’s and measurement criteria to those modes and ensuring  consistent and measurement and metrics are in place.
  3. Developing imperatives for media and channels (i.e. setting out the channels and tactics that are to be activated for each comms mode.
  4. Creating a messaging hierarchy where each mode denotes  different messaging priorities. Why brand X vs Why brand X for you vs How to use brand X.

Defining these rules and structure means that anyone can pick up this guide and use the same language, assessment and measurement criteria and tactics to plan, implement and assess their efforts.

There are multiple benefits of this approach including:

1. Big picture views
All common activities can then be plotted into a marketing calendar view, and because they are labelled and tagged can be viewed in this way in marketing management systems like media buying investment data or marketing automation tools.

2. Application for modelling
These labels are also useful for other data analysis like econometric modelling – because they organise spend and activity into buckets that make sense because their roles are defined.

3. Consistent measurement
Because everyone is talking to the same goals and capturing the same metrics it’s a lot easier to assess what’s working and for decisions to be made about where resources are invested.

In summary – it takes some relatively simple organistional thinking to lead to some pretty useful and applicable outcomes.

Let’s chat about this sometime :)

Andrew R.


Bowie. Player.

To coincide with the launch of the acclaimed David Bowie Is exhibition, a retrospective at ACMI, I attended the symposium The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie. The two-day multi-disciplinary symposium brought together artists, academics and cultural commentators to reflect upon the influences of and on David Bowie in rock, pop, film, art, fashion and performance.

I was, and am, intrigued by the Bowie persona and his various extensions (Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke); also particularly in how he mastered the art of play.

Upon introducing the persona to the world stage, Bowie was criticised for playfulness and ‘playing’, is of course, deemed immature, frivolous and sometimes taboo. We’re conditioned to scoff, question and judge those who play in their adult life. However, as children, creativity and play are highly encouraged. They’re key for the development of our imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It’s important for healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. The benefits are endless. So why aren’t we encouraged to play beyond our childhood?

Our toys were projections of ourselves. The personality of each would vary along with their story, gender and sexuality. My dinosaur toy would differ to your dinosaur toy, although being the same dinosaur toy. David Robert Jones played via personas, his most well known persona being David Bowie. Bowie was a projection of Jones, and Ziggy Stardust of Bowie. The story, gender and sexuality of these personas (Bowie, Ziggy and the dinosaur toy) is fluid.

In music, stage personas are employed for various reasons: as a branding exercise, a coping mechanism to deal with a lack of confidence or to ensure detachment from personal life. For David Jones, the change was largely due to the emerging fame of Davy Jones (The Monkees). However, the Bowie persona (along with the Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas) allowed him to express and explore the extremes of his identity.
As creatives, we are David Jones. The brands we represent are facets of our identity as we project ourselves onto them. How I speak on behalf of White Pages will differ from how someone else does, even though we may still internalise the brand’s core values and traits. This fresh perspective is often the reason for multiple creative teams to work on a single brand. Side note: Did you know David Jones (Bowie) had a background in advertising? After leaving school at 16, David joined Yorkshire based company Nevin D. Hirst Advertising as a Junior Visualiser/Paste Up Artist.

We’re in the business of play, and imagination is our tool. Like any great tradesman, we need to sharpen our tool. Put your pride to the side and play.

To learn from one of the best players, visit the David Bowie Is exhibition at ACMI, running until November 1, 2015 :

Dan A.

Five things journalists bring to creative agencies


Until recently, journalists weren’t top of mind for roles in creative agencies. But as brands nudge their way into publishing, having a journo on hand is set to become as important to agencies as having a coffee machine or a ping pong table. I stepped off the editorial floor a while ago because I knew I needed to be in a progressive digital space, but I still love the evolving art of storytelling. Fortunately, when I joined The Royals, the guys had already started developing our content offering. By the middle of last year our strategy partner Dave King had refined our content engineering game plan. In 2015 we’re working on some exciting new projects. We can’t tell you what’s in the pipeline just yet, but for now, you might like to consider these five reasons why journalists can be a great fit in today’s creative agencies:

1. Journalists never stop looking for good stories
This year we’ve been working with some really forward-thinking clients who see the value in turning their brand’s stories into editorial-style narratives. It’s my job, and that of our inhouse filmmaker, Qiao, to look at elements of a client’s business and find the most interesting way to tell that story. We’re pretty stoked that we get to spend all day looking at briefs from a new angle and deciding whether to use mini-docos, writing, photography, Snapchat mobisodes or other social media elements to use to bring it to life.

2. They understand that audience retention isn’t assured
Gone are the days where people read any one publication day in, day out. Those of us who’ve worked through journalism’s transition into digital-first know how hard it is to compete to be heard in a media landscape that’s crammed with competing voices. Consumers are savvier than they’ve ever been. They know how to search for and curate their media experience and disregard the junk. It’s not enough for content to be good; it has to be compelling, culturally relevant and delivered through a bang-on user experience, too. In a creative agency, we can work with analysts and use data to find audiences that will be interested in the stories we are telling.

3. Designers, creatives and social media people are their spirit animals.
Creative agencies are a lot like newsrooms. Photographers, writers, creatives and developers are all hustling to produce great work. In both environments there’s a lot of passion, a lot of opinions and, sometimes, some frantic energy around deadline time. But journos can hack it. In fact, they thrive among diverse people and aren’t afraid to throw in their two cents.

4. Speedy turnaround? No problem.
Thanks to social media, response times have to be swift. We’re seeing the need to create relevant real-time content as speedily as a newswire. That’s not to say we’re going to jump on everything that’s trending for the sake of making noise, but many of our clients can make a valuable contribution to subjects that consumers care about. Rather than finding a third party platform to share a client’s news, our editorial team is developing new ways to release that information. Plus we’re pretty good at optimising those stories and ensuring that they land in front of people they’ll matter to.

5. Journalists are chameleons
Okay that’s a generalisation. There’s been plenty of hesitation and resistance to shifts in journalism, particularly as print made way for digital. However, those who’ve had to acquire new skills fast are adept at using their core storytelling knowledge and working with emerging tools to enhance the audience’s experience.

Brands and journalism might seem like strange bedfellows, but they’re oddly compatible. We’re just beginning to explore a whole raft of opportunities and we’re set for a great ride.