Chips and Beans

Chips and beans – staple foodstuffs – the very foundation of a robust and balanced diet. Every day, three times a day, if I had a choice. (Sorry, dearest blog trotters, I find myself a little lacking in the breakfast department and – quite frankly – I could suck a frozen dog.)

But this post isn’t about me and my almost unmanageable craving for fried food, no, it’s about ideas. And it touches on what I believe to be a potential communication trend for 2011, so, if’n’ your in the field of communications, you might want to stick around to the end.

I’ve touched on the topic before – there’s this debate that rages on in the communications background (and when I say comms, I mean advertising, marketing, PR and corporate communications because, unlike so many others, I AM inclusive and I embrace both sides of the line and, yea, through it as well – I am, truly, a renaissance communicator) which occasionally surfaces almost, but not totally, completely unlike a small volcanic eruption – and the debate is – who owns the idea?

Obviously, the answer is – who gives a shit who owns the idea? If the idea is a great one, we should all embrace it and use it as a great theme for our part of the business mix. Unfortunately, too many companies trammelled by ‘not invented here’ syndrome, meaning many good ideas smothered at birth. I’ve had my fair share.

So how genuinely marvellous to see a totally fantastic idea (I cannot tell you how much I am in awe of this idea), being used across a business – increasing sales, making consumers feel warm inside, evoking memories, generating laughter and, I’d wager, bringing the home team together in an internal-communications-stylee. Yes, blog snorkellers, it really is that good. And it’s for beans. Baked beans. Heinz baked beans to be exact.

Here it is in all its glory, presented through the medium of film. (Obviously, I’d prefer it if it were presented through the medium of insane industrial mime, but you cannot have everything, as me old mam used to say. Still does, in fact.)

So, the idea – for you lazy, lazy slackers who cannot be bothered wid da clickety – is a resealable jar of baked beans. A screw-top jar. Why is it so good? Let me count the ways (and sorry if I miss some):

  • We’ve all had that ‘not used all the beans in the tin moment’. What do you do with the ones that are left?
  • It is a childhood memory for everyone. Newborn babies know about leftover beans, at a genetic level
  • It is humorous
  • It is a money-spinner – a screw-top jar of beans is going to be more costly than a tin
  • It makes the workforce feel proud

It, genuinely, is a work of genius. Have I said this before? It works across every piece of the business melange. And no, it is not important who had the idea, it is important what everyone does with the idea. This could be a communications trend for 2011 – everyone working together – through-the-linery – accepting that the brilliant concept can come from anywhere. Chances of it happening?

Briefly, then, chips. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a restaurant chain. I had an extremely creative PR agency. We needed some local media coverage, because we couldn’t afford to advertise or offer local discounts.

(PR purists, look away now.)

We made up a story – the story being that this restaurant chain were launching something called a ‘Pincher’s Portion’ of chips. This  was – supposedly – a half-portion of chips that you could order for your girlfriend to stop her eating yours (after having flatly denied that she actually wanted any). This is very resonant – every bloke in the entire world – at a subatomic level – knows how frustrating – and true – this scenario can be.

It was brilliant – the coverage was beyond our wildest dreams. And better, the NPD department looked at the idea, worked out how they could implement it, and made it a reality. A half-portion of chips at three-quarters of the price of a full one. Money spinner. Again, doesn’t matter who had the idea – a good idea can benefit everyone.

Finally, riding on the tube the other day, I saw a big poster advertising MacDonalds. It featured a packet of chips. With fingers. And the slogan ‘pick packet’. It minded me of the Pinchers Portion and also of the fact that no-one has a monopoly on ideas. At any one time, different people all over the shop are having the same idea. Embrace the idea – once again, it doesn’t matter who had the idea – it’s what you do with it that counts.

I am really, really hungry.

Googly I

 Been a while, blog snorkellers mine, been a while.

Frankly, this blog has turned into my foamy-mouthed rantings about the eville that is social media and, d’you know what, it’s becoming difficult to find anything new to write.

Why? Because I’m not a geeky techy, I’m a communicator. I do not hang around in the kitchen of the internet’s big social media party, discussing the tiny changes that social media keep making to themselves, nor the wholly spurious increases in fans and clicks, nor the fact that 52.673% of businesses run by hippies believe that social media will, eventually, replace God.

And unless you choose to rummage through this morass of soiled underwear, you have to accept the truth that nothing has actually changed in the year or so that I’ve been gracing the web with my musings. The evangelists are still evangelising, the fools are still fooling around, the inappropriateness is still inappropriate, the naysayers are still naysaying – but nothing has actually changed.

Social media are still what they are – and the communications and marketing community are still trying to work out how to leverage them. Anyway, today I come across this – which is a post from the Digital Brand Expressions Blog (thank you) musing on the possibility that Google may be planning to have another foray into the social media space with something that may, or may not, be called ‘Google Me’. Obviously, I think they’ve missed a trick here – ‘Googly I’ would be so much better, or Google U, which could then become Googlez Vous in French and Et Tu Google for the small Swiss community that still insists on speaking Latin.

Anyway (again), just a couple of thoughts on the back of this article:

1) It’s probably too late for choice. You’re either on Facebook, or you’re not. And if you are – well, you are (obviously) and if you’re not, I think it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly throw your privacy away and embrace the sharing of drunken photographs simply because that nice Mr Google has provided a new medium for you to use.

2) If Facebook was going to launch a search engine, it would have done it by now. Let’s face it, a share of Google’s $23bn annual profit (revenue? not sure) is not to be sneered at. I can only think that either they can’t, or that they’ve decided it’s not worth the effort. And, simply because Facebook doesn’t make any money currently, I’m forced to believe that they haven’t the capability to create an algorithm that would approximate Google’s. (If indeed algorithm is the right expression for the magic mushroom of code that allows Google to hallucinate all the stuff that people want to view.)

So. I’d hazard that Google won’t be able to invade Facebook’s space and vice-versa. So, once again, nothing has changed.

See you in another couple of months – supposing anything actually moves on.

Kirk out.

Talking Sense About Social Media

Today, lovely blog snorkellers mine, I’m going to get all volte face on your asses.

Today, I would like to say that I am prepared to accept that social media can be a force for good – in a commercial communications, sales and marketing context. I am prepared to go as far as to say that interacting with them might even add measurable value to the bottom line of a company, brand or organisation. In short, I am ready to say that such a company, brand or organisation should have a social media strategy in place to capitalise on the opportunities that social media present.

The one thing that I am waiting for, in order to make my conversion complete, is some proof that all of this is – in fact – correct. Suffice it to say that in the course of a recent conversation, I was given hope that at least one organisation is actually measuring and evaluating the ROI of its social media strategy. If this is the case, and the results speak for themselves, then I will be a convert. I look forward to sharing more with you.

In the meantime – if anyone already has concrete examples of tangible ROI delivered by social media activity, then I would be genuinely fascinated to hear them.

In the meantime (2), I would like to draw your attention to this. It is a collection of ‘insights from a lively morning panel discussion’ entitled ‘Social Media For Corporates – essential channel or unecessary distraction’, which was held by CorpComms magazine and was a Precise.exchange.

Please, lazy, lazy blog snorkellers, do clickery on the link, and read the comments of Peter Morgan, Director of Communications, Rolls Royce. A case of genuine insght, cutting through the quagmire with the laser scalpel of clarity, or one of old dogs not being able to get their heads around new tricks? I leave it to you to decide.

(Personally, I agree with him wholeheartedly.)

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part The Third)

Oooh! Oooooh! Oooooh! (Imagine small child at back of classroom waving hand in air.)

And another thing. Yesterday, I passed comment on the flimsy gibberings of Erik Qualman, social media snake-oil salesman to the shiny-object obsessed masses, the man behind socialnomics.net, and the author of this piece – statistics about social media that supposedly build a case for its here-to-stayness and its centrality to all that is good and clean.

Anyways, cutting a story short, something was niggling at me. I re-read my post. I remembered why it is that I’m not a social media fan. It’s not because I deny its existence (as I was once accused of doing), nor that I have anything against it per se. No – it’s simply because I’m a career communicator, and I believe that all marketing, communications and sales activity should have a measurable ROI and a demonstrable impact on the bottom line – which social media (in the context of sales, marketing and communication) does not.

So I re-examined Mr Qualman’s list with this in mind. His list of 42 points (go and check it out for yourself, you lazy blog snorkeller). I wanted to see how many of his 42 statistics, claims and exhortations actually had a bearing on the use of social media for commercial ends.

And the answer is 12. Yes, 12 out of 42 – and even those do not have a direct impact on the formulation of a commercially-focused, measurable social media strategy, aimed at delivering bottom-line impact. The other thirty are, variously, meaningless statistics, empty statements and trite irrelevancies.

How did I come across this horsesh*t in the first place? Because a contact of mine, who is slightly more forgiving of the whole social media mojambo, circulated it. Implying that quite a few people are circulating it and more than a few are using it to justify the time, resource and budget that they have convinced their employers/clients to put behind this whole box of smoke and mirrors.

I don’t have to tell you – right-thinking snorkeller that you are – how toxic this is.

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part Deux)

Oui, oui, my hydrophobic British chums (and dear, dear blog snorkellers of whatever persuasion, religion, creed, nationality or proclivity you may have assumed on rising, this fine matin) here we go again with the increasingly rabid and just-on-the-left-bank-of-sane meanderings of one Erik Qualman, evangelist of this parish and the Dr Evil-alike behind socialnomics.net.

You will know, because of your avidity in the following of this blog, that I have already dealt with the thoughts of Qualman (have a look here) but, to maintain a flimsy gauze of pretence, I will tell you about it again, as though I were addressing the needs of a new visitor.

Mr Qualman puts forward an entire raft of statistics which, on the face of them, appear to tell us that not only is social media here to stay, but that it is becoming fundamental to the core of our very lives. They go on to imply that by ignoring social media from a commercial perspective, then your business will no longer be around in five years, and from a personal perspective, you might as well rub yourself with a fish, don a hessian all-in-one and wander the highways and byways, ringing a bell and wailing ‘unclean, unclean’, for all the future you’ve got as a valid member of society. And I had a thing or two to say about that.

Now Mr Qualman has updated his statistics. Again, on the face of it, can’t argue. Facebook (by population) is the third largest country in the world? Check. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one use of the internet? Check. One out of every eight couples married in the US in 2009 met via social media? Er. OK. If you say so.

I’m sure it’s all true. “Some universities have stopped distributing email accounts…….instead they are distributing ipads” – so, if I’m understanding this correctly, enrol in University, get an ipad. Certainly beats the £5 I got for opening a bank account. And it’s a very attractive offer for those people who a) can’t afford an ipad of their own and b) couldn’t get one anyway because they’re in such short supply. In fact now we know why they’re in short supply – because all the universities had bought the entire stock to give to their students instead of email accounts.

Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined ) (now there’s a nasty thought) – or Allen Detcher – have more Twitter followers that the population of Ireland. No – that IS the population of Ireland, having a laugh. Some of the population of Ireland are finding it so amusing that they’ve been following Elshten Kuneres more than once. Wags that they are.

The point is – and still remains – that I cannot be the only one (or even one of a few only ones) who don’t really want ‘the news finding us’ (rather than us looking for the news, when we want it) or ‘products and services finding us via social media’ (rather than that quaint old-fashioned thang called shopping around when we’re good and ready, thankyou).

I’m sure social media is growing in leaps and bounds – statistically. I just don’t believe there’s any  longevity, loyalty, depth or substance to it. It’s millions of little voices, yapping into a void. It’s certainly not a valid marketing, communications or sales tool.

PR’s Groundhog Day

Here’s a piece from PR Week. (What do you mean you don’t read it, blog snorkellers mine? Go out and buy a copy immediately. This week’s cover price is – for the sake of argument – a highly reasonable £32.57.)

It’s about integration – and lest anyone be unclear – that’s the integration of communications disciplines through the creation of what used to be called ‘one-stop shops’.  PR Week see fit to grace the front page of their organ with this story, so they obviously regard it as ‘news’.

But – hold on, and correct me if I’m wrong, hasn’t this happened before (twice, as far as I can remember) – and then sort of un-happened, sort of dis-integrated, if you like? (And I do.)

Doesn’t it prove that the old adage ‘PR – it’s a young person’s game’ is fundamentally wrong? It’s not a young person’s game because young people can’t remember the hideous fuck-ups of the past and thus cannot learn from them.

Mind, as long as the clients are young as well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. They can all repeat the same errors together. Again and again and again. It’s like Groundhog Day, but it will never sort itself out and it’s somewhat less amusing without Bill Murray in it.

And the final bit of the ‘story’ just underlines what cack it actually is. “It’s not as simple as being in the same office” – no, you’re right, sunshine, it’s not – “there has to be a willingness…..to work together to understand…….” Yes, nail, head.

There has to be a mutual respect, an acceptance that the ‘idea’ can come from anywhere, and an innate ability to recognise what makes a good idea. These three things do not come from making the poor, hapless drones sit together and share the same canteen. Didn’t work in the late eighties, didn’t work in the early noughties, won’t work now.

Oh, and for the record, PR Week has been around for much, much longer than a lot of agencies and most account execs. Why, then, is PR Week slavishly reporting this, rather than working from its years of experience and pointing out that ‘integration’ is not new, not big and definitely not clever.

Integration – It’s In The Idea

This from the Evening Standard. For the hard of clicking, it’s a piece about the challenges facing the advertising (and by association, the marketing and PR) industry. It’s about integration being the new black (which was a trend in the mid-to-late Eighties, as I recall, but that’s another story).

“”It is a myth that the rise of digital means the death of ‘traditional media'”, adds Woodford (Stephen Woodford, chief executive of agency DDB London). “It just means there is more media for consumers and advertisers to choose from. The winners will be those who use old and new media and play to their respective strengths. A brilliant print campaign can transform a business just as a brilliant digital one can. But it would be better to have both, working together as one.” That’s what integration means.”

Yes, it does. And I, for one, am a great fan of real integration and the power and longevity it instils into any campaign. The example that is cited in the Standard piece (if you STILL, dearest blog snorkellers, cannot be bothered to get jiggy with the clicky on the link I have so thoughtfully provided) is that of comparethemarket.com and its truly excellent Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat campaign.

Which makes me think that all this guff about integration, and how difficult it is to get the respective teams working together – and it is, it is – is actually missing the point.

The starting point for true integration – and genuinely great campaigns, that reach out to the target audiences through all forms of media, using all the communication tools available – is, and always will be, the great idea.

comparethemeerkat.com and the inspired Aleksandr is a brilliant example. It’s a great idea. I bet nobody needed convincing or cajoling into working with that one.

The real issue, therefore, is not getting people to work together. It’s getting them to agree on the great idea.