Thursday, 30 July 2009

Keep calm and carry on

Some great data visualisations on flickr from David McCandless. The line charts are ok, but ones like these, where he takes a step back and makes an immediate, simple impact are brilliant.

I really like the Swine Flu one too. Be afraid!! Or perhaps not.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Be the 60s adman!

I'm sure advertising was more fun in the 60s. Less healthy, but definitely more fun.

Would anybody have even let an analyst through the door? They didn't have any hairy data monkey templates, so I've gone for my alterego instead. Make your own Mad man.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What happened to instructions?

Have you noticed how nothing needs intructions any more? When you turn on a new mobile phone for the first time, it gives you a little tutorial on how to use everything and I can't think of a successful web application that needs an instruction manual. Facebook or Google Mail with instructions? The idea is ridiculous, but that doesn't mean you can't do a hell of a lot with them.

I'm an occasionally keen photographer, but as much as I like my new compact, it's got features that you can only understand if you read the instructions. They're not intuitive and so I don't use them. Full auto works, so full auto it is.

Media software is being left behind in this new world. Our agency's timesheet system is so complicated that you need to be shown how to use it, which is a farce (thanks again DDS.) If you've ever tried to get TV ratings from Nielsen Addynamix or MMS, then you'll know that working it out for yourself is hard. Why? It's not like you're trying to do anything difficult. Pick an ad or a programme; pick an audience; show me the ratings. Not difficult.

We don't need instructions any more because we've learned the rules. I know I can right click things to get options, so I try it. I know what save buttons do. When we build software and dashboards, it's essential to build on that existing knowledge that users have - to put menus where the user expects to find them. This means an intuitive understanding of how people work and then a lot of user testing.

Where I don't know the rules, I need instructions. A mechanic can service my car with just a toolbox but I need a toolbox and a Haynes manual and a lot more time. And then a mechanic to fix the mess I've made, because I've got no experience. Making up new rules so that you need a manual is a serious undertaking - is what you're building important enough to junk all that built up experience and make users learn a new way of working? Really?

I'm applying a new principle to the dashboards, spreadsheets and tools that we build for clients: The ten minute demo. If you can't work out for yourself how to use everything after a ten minute demo, then it's too complicated. You might learn a lot of new things after that demo, but it should be straightforward enough that you can work them out for yourself with a minumum of effort.

As a rule, if it needs instructions or training, then it's too complicated.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Creating Events

Lesson two of Red Bull's lessons in youth marketing.

"Create, don't sponsor events."

Forget youth marketing, that's a great thought, full stop. I love Red Bull's marketing (can't stand the drink, but that's not the point.) With £272m per year to play with globally, you could buy a hell of a lot of TV spots, or you could set yourself apart and buy a Formula 1 team, invent the Flugtag and the Air Race and create something really special.

This is how you 'do' word of mouth. Start by creating something that people will want to talk about, then make it easy to get content about it. Contrast what Red Bull do with the 'people are talking on Twitter, what can we do to get them to talk about us on Twitter?' approach. Forget Twitter, if people want to talk about you then they'll talk in all sorts of places and one of them will be Twitter.

Now make it easy to get the content. People will find you. You're going to need a Twitter page, but as a response to people talking, not as a seed.

I'm very, very excited this week because the Red Bull X-Alps started on Sunday. It's an 818km race across the Alps, on foot and by paraglider that means, right now, thirty incredibly fit and skilled people are trying to be the first to get to Monaco. You've got to carry your kit or fly it and there are no stages. Sleep at night if you like, but somebody else will be running.

The X-Alps is much smaller than Formula 1 or the Air Race, but a community of enthusiasts is absolutely buzzing. On Facebook, on Twitter and [shock horror] in real life. Don't talk to me until the end of next week unless you want to hear about the race... (sorry everybody*)

The Twitter bit is easy and cheap. If you're not going to put this level of effort into your viral campaigns, then lets be honest, what's the point? Spend whatever budget you've got on TV spots, lets stop pretending you've got something people are interested in talking about and I'm off to see how far Chrigel Maurer went today.

* After the race, I'll go back to just boring everybody about normal paragliding, promise.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Let them eat cake

Covent Garden market has made a big cake, so we went out to have a look at lunchtime. Experiential marketing at its very best, but I hope they've got a really big cake-shaped umbrella for later.

The little yellow arrow on the left will make sense when you look at the next picture. It's where I was standing to take this...

Proving that students will walk through fire (or at least queue all afternoon) for a small slice of a very big cake. We would have too, but what with having jobs and bosses and all, thought we'd better head back to the office.


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

How to guess your marketing ROI

I spent yesterday morning estimating a client's marketing uplifts. Well, when I say estimating, guessing would probably be more accurate.

There's nothing especially wrong with that. If you haven't got any idea what your marketing ROI might be, an analyst can usually put you in the right ballpark with a small amount of effort and some 'creative' use of sales data.

There are two ways of going about guessing your marketing returns. One is right and the other one feels right, but leads to totally unfeasible levels of sales almost every time.

Lets start with the wrong way. You know those people who get their business plan laughed off Dragon's Den? The ones who say "I've made a product for the pet care market and the UK pet care market is worth £1.5bn per year. If we just get 0.5% of that..." Then Peter Jones cuts them off and asks how many kitty litter boxes they sold last month. And the answer is less than ten.

When you say "My competitors combined, have an 80% share of market. If I can just get x% of that" you're making exactly the same mistake. Or The other one you hear a lot is "there are loads of people who only buy my product very occasionally. If I could just turn 10% of them into regular users..."

The right way to do it is start from where your sales are now, plus the sort of marketing spikes you can see in the past, with some sensible adjustments bolted on. This gives a much smaller number than the first way, but is a lot closer to the truth and won't get you laughed at on the BBC...

All those people who don't buy your product now are not buying it for a reason. One ad isn't suddenly going to make a lot of them change their minds.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Could somebody at TGI call Morgan Stanley please?

I don't even know where to start with this. Morgan Stanley have put out a press release on the media consumption habits of 15 year olds, based on the opinions of... drumroll please... one 15 year old intern at Morgan Stanley. Bet he's a representative 15 year old.

Have a read for such classics as "Most teenagers watch television, but usually there are points in the year where they watch more than average."


Generation M?

Interesting article from Umair Haque on the Harvard Business blog.

It's a digital version of a very old complaint. Call them Generation M if you like. Me, I'm going with iHippy.

Friday, 10 July 2009

This is how you tweet your brand

We spent some time not long ago evaluating a piece of software called Confluence. It's a cool intranet engine that lets you share with colleagues through wikis.

One of the guys playing with the software got frustrated that it wouldn't let him do something complicated with HTML and, as you do, he tweeted that Confluence was winding him up. Just throwing the frustration out into the ether along with eveybody else's random thoughts.

Sombody at Confluence picked up that there was a tweet about them, and mailed back directly saying yes it could be done and here's how. You don't forget service like that - we hadn't even asked for help and a small negative PR message on Twitter turns into two vocal advocates for Confluence.

Is this a small company thing? I have to say I think it is and there's a good chance that Twitter will work best as a tool for smaller companies - either extremely local or extremely niche, or both. The long-tail without a body.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Get your branding off my gadget

I've just picked up a new phone and for the first time used a third party to buy it - Dial-a-phone instead of straight from Vodafone. You know what? I'm never going to get a phone straight from the operator again.

It's not that Dial-a-phone are brilliant, in fact they were a bit weird and insisted I 'prove' where I work to get the phone delivered to the office. What's that all about? After they rejected the first letter-headed word doc I emailed (not my idea - it's what they asked for) I seriously considered mailing over a photo of me standing in front of the office with the front desk security guard and the date visible on that morning's copy of The Times...

Anyway, what they did to get me on board for next time is give me a phone with no branding, no Vodafone Live! no red apostrophe backgrounds and no attempts to get me to buy Beyonce ringtones every time I start the web browser.

What a lovely surprise!

Sorry Vodafone, you're a utility company. You own mobile phone masts and let me make calls. I don't want Thames Water branding on every drinking glass in my house and I don't want your corporate identity staring at me every time I text somebody. So until mobile phone companies give up on being lifestyle brands, I'm buying an unadulterated factory fresh phone without any crap on it from now on.

Oh and the phone? An LG Viewty Smart. Lovely bit of kit - I'd highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

An angry analyst

It's time to talk about this chart. I've tried to ignore it, but it's everywhere. It turned up in two of our pitches recently and if it does it again, I'll be honest, I hope the audience crucifies whoever's presenting it.

My initial opinion, was 'well that's pretty poor, let's move on' but as well as our pitches, it's been on Flowing Data, the BBC, Freakonomics... the list goes on.
At least Flowing Data put it up to explain what's wrong with it. Others seem to be debating whether it's an acceptable visualisation or not.

This is very simple. No. It's not.

The problems with the graphic - it's absolutely not a chart - are well documented and range from having no units on the y axis and an inconsistent x axis (look at the sizes of the gaps between years) to no documented source for the data at all. Which, lets face it, is because there isn't any data - it's a picture that might as well have been sketched with crayons.

If it looked like what it is though, it wouldn't be on the BBC, or Freakonomics because then it would just be a sketch of one person's opinion on how media is evolving. And not even a particularly good one.

It's been picked up all over the place because it looks scientific. It looks like there's real data and research behind it. Look at those lines; they kink; if it was all just made up they'd be smooth, surely? Only real data looks like that.

If you're one of those people who thinks that media and marketing don't need proper statistics and real research, fine. Just don't talk to me. But have enough confidence in your beliefs not to resort to making up or using pseudo scientific rubbish like this.