20 December 2010

3 keys to job survival for 2011

It’s December.

We’re all rushing to the holiday finish line, a swirling rush of activity. Some of us will keep working through Dec. 31st, nailing deadlines along the way. For some, it will feel like a crash and burn.

For others, it will be a crash and burn.

All of us should take the opportunity to stop and think about what we’ve accomplished in 2010 and what we want to accomplish in 2011. And then figure out how to get it done. Here are three steps you can take: Plan Big, Think Smart and Move Fast.

Plan Big

Whether your plan is to keep your job, change your job or get a job, it’s important to plan big. The end of year is a reflective time when you can dream a little bit and think about goals for 2011 that are ambitious and achievable. Last year at this time I made a 2010 plan big enough that it will continue into 2011.

Yes, I wish I had been able to check it off my list in 2010, but actually just having the goal has motivated me to do a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. This is especially important if you are in the group of people who want to keep your job – apathy and the routine are your enemies.

Think Smart

This step is about strategy, or more prosaically, how you are going to get things done. Some element of strategic thinking is involved here, especially if you have planned big. You will absolutely have to think things through. You also need two other simple elements: People and Time.

Advertising has always been about collaboration, and now more than ever when no one has all the answers. So think about People you can enlist to help achieve your goals. They won’t be “your” goals anymore, but that’s OK because you’ll still get credit as part of the team.

Time is the other element of Think Smart: You will need to literally schedule time for yourself to work toward your big plans, especially if you need to schedule time with others.

Move Fast

The most underrated job skill in the advertising business is execution – the ability to get things done fast. Some us think big, a few plan smart, and not enough move fast.

The image above is from the tail of Elvis Presley’s plane. It’s the motto of his crew, the letters TCB with a lightning bolt, meaning: “Taking Care of Business in a Flash.” (Lee Knight had a good post on this last year.)

If you really did Plan Big, sometimes people and things around you won’t Move Fast enough. Try to be patient, not frustrated. Certain tasks and steps along the way can go faster, and others can’t. Just stay focused on what you want to accomplish.

A Modest Proposal

No matter what level you are, I’d encourage you to consider goals for 2011 that will increase your experience in digital. Even if you work in a digital agency, you’ll need to rise above the day-to-day and learn new things because “digital” is changing so fast we may not even use that word by the end of 2011.

The key is to get experience. All of us can read about it, participate and even start a blog, which is all beneficial. Doing actual work in your company is even better.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Feliz Navidad -- and have a happy, prosperous, change-embracing New Year in 2011.

* Note: One year ago, we posted “3 keys to (continued) survival in 2010”. It was inspired by Arthur Ashe. Today's theme, "Plan Big, Think Smart, Move Fast" was a motto hanging on the wall of Hank Feeley, President of Leo Burnett International, who hired me into this business, and who practiced what he preached.

17 December 2010

Hyper Island: Burn the Ships

NEW YORK – This is the end of my three days on Hyper Island. We learned a lot about Digital strategies, tools and measurement, all of which were important, but none of them are the most important thing.

Hyper Island really isn’t about “Digital”, it’s about Change. As posted on Wednesday, we didn’t just increase knowledge, we increased our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry. The change is so swift we can’t even predict the terminology we’ll use in 2011. (Coincidentally, the BBH Labs blog ran this headline just last night: “Digital, can we kill this word for good?”.)

The organizers and instructors here were superior Digital practitioners, but their real strength was being superior Change Agents. Change was the explicit topic at the beginning and the end of the three days, and a constant theme throughout.

“Digital” isn’t just a change for our industry, it’s a harbinger of change. The changes and challenges will keep coming and always cause discomfort. Rather than trying to feel comfortable, the smart strategy is to embrace discomfort. Stick to the mission, which is keeping up with the changes.

Burn the Ships

Hernán Cortés understood how wanting to stick with comfortable ways could distract people from a journey into unfamiliar territory. He led a group of Spanish ships to conquer the Aztec Empire. When they arrived at Veracruz, he burned the ships so his men would have no way of going back.

That’s the spirit we decided to carry back to the office on Monday. Yes, we will go back, but having metaphorically burned the ships, we won’t go back to the ways with which we’ve grown comfortable.

It was a great week. Thanks very much to the organizers, instructors, and of course my fellow shipmates.

16 December 2010

Hyper Island IV: A New Hope

NEW YORK -- We're finishing off the day at Hyper Island by splitting into groups and responding to briefs clearly intended for Digital Strategy. Even if they weren't "clearly" digital, we'd be creating digital strategies anyway because this is Hyper Island.

I admire the quality of thinking represented in each group's presentation. It's evident that most people come from the perspective of starting with a solid consumer insight and trying to bring business solutions to their clients. On actual digital strategies, we were uneven, but as one of our judges said, "What are you going to accomplish in 45 minutes?"

The point is that we are coming at these briefs differently than we would have two days ago.

On a related note, I'd like to think that one of the main themes of the day -- collaboration -- seeped into the exercise. I really enjoyed working with my team.

I'm a Believer

One last point if you'll indulge me. I despise the term "media agnostic" so much that if you enter it on Google, my blog post lambasting it is the first result.

We're two days into Hyper Island and not one person has uttered it publicly. That alone gives me hope.

Hyper Island III: Hype vs. Results

NEW YORK – This morning’s post touched on the effect digital strategy can have on brand equity. What other results should we watch?

This afternoon we’ve been looking at a range of digital programs and their results: Uniqlo, Old Spice, Kill Zone 2, Fun Theory and others. The results were reported in a number of ways: alleged sales lift, messages generated, downloads made, brand awareness, number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends, or the size of a community one builds.

Two quick observations:

Ultimately, Sales is what matters. All of the measures listed above are important, but if they do not grow the business, none of them matter.

Results can’t be put in silos. I’ve posted frequently about how various media can’t be planned in silos – and the same holds true for results. As Daniele Fiandaca told us, “It’s the combination of all the results.”

An example of both points was Kill Zone 2 in the U.K. The launch drove some six-figure participation numbers, which generated a ton of P.R. in gaming magazines, which drove the sales. The number of online participants alone did not tell the entire story.

Remember: Follow #HIMC on Twitter to listen in on our Hyper Island Master Class.

Hyper Island II: The Network

NEW YORK – Every day at Hyper Island starts with a “morning reflection”. You get a chance to stop, consider what you’ve learned and how to apply it. Then you share insights in group discussions. It’s mandatory to take a lot of notes, which I’m repurposing here as a blog post.

Networks are the Base Unit of Communication

I learned a lot on Day 1 but the one thing that most changed the way I think was the concept of Networks. Your Network is the list of people you choose to read, listen to, and interact with.

Our lecturer, Mark Comerford, said this: “Networks are the base unit of communication. If you don’t reach the Network, then you don’t reach me.”

That was a radical idea for me, not because of my experience with mass audiences, but because I made a mental shift some years ago from mass audiences to one-to-one communication. My newer paradigm has been that Digital, Data and Direct all work together, allowing us to engage people in ways relevant to them, and measure the results.

In a bit of self-analysis, I realized that I had seen each individual person as their own gatekeeper – and that is true, by the way. What I had been missing is the fact that each individual person relies on their Network to be a gatekeeper. The implication for marketers is to figure out how you are going to offer something of value to these Networks.

That value is what matters to the Network of people. The currency of the Network is stuff that’s interesting to its members.

What My Network Taught Me This Morning

After a few minutes of journaling, we sat in a circle – a Network, if you will – and shared our insights.

My good friend and colleague, Terry Corrigan, shared something that anyone coming from a traditional ad agency background, big or small, would want to hear.

Terry observed that “the digital space isn’t about selling, it’s about being useful.” Many of you know this. He went on to describe how “being useful” builds brand equity.

Many traditional agency people and their traditional clients think about brand equity as a function of the TV advertising. What we say, how it looks, what products we choose to advertise – all of these contribute significantly to a brand’s equity.

The same applies to digital programs. Best Buy’s Twelpforce and Zappos customer service build brand equity. Motrin’s ignorance of the space hurt their brand equity. Brand equity is your reputation.

This point is significant because many clients ask about the ROI of Social Media. Instead of dissembling because we don’t know how to calculate the ROI, we should make the impact on brand equity part of the answer.

Time again for lunch. You can follow our Hyper Island Master Class on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HIMC.

15 December 2010

What is Hyper Island?

NEW YORK – This is the first of three days I’m spending at Hyper Island Master Class, a sort of boot camp for marketing and advertising people catching up on “Digital”. For more about Hyper Island, read the recent article in Fast Company, and a response of sorts published in Adweek.

Even having read about Hyper Island in advance, I didn’t know whether to expect a class in writing code for HTML5, or how to sign up for Twitter, or… well, I imagined a lot of possibilities.

Here is what I’ve gleaned so far, after the first morning’s agenda.

Change Management. While the curriculum features digital tools, case studies, best practices and important principles, the real topic of discussion is adapting to changes around us. This isn’t only a matter of increasing knowledge, it’s about increasing our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry.

Communication is what’s changing. Digital is partly a range of media we must all learn, but its significance lies in the way it permits people to comment and connect much more rapidly than in the days of Ye Olde Marketing. Word of mouth has always been the most reliable form of marketing communication, and it’s more out of control than ever.

It’s not about how you sell something, it’s about what you sell. The old paradigm is “market what we can make”, creating ads with finely tuned messages, hoping for big awareness among a mass audience. What shatters this paradigm? Consumer experiences drive commentary far more authentic than what we can possibly say about our products or services, regardless of medium.

Time for lunch now. I’ll write more later. You can follow all the action on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HIMC.

03 December 2010

Modern Retail is Full of Caveats, Part II

Earlier this week we posted about DecorMyEyes, an online seller of designer eyewear owned by Vitaly Borker. The New York Times reported how Borker purposely angered customers who complained, so they would complain online and drive up search engine rankings for his business. It seemed to be working.

You can't beat the Algorithm

Apparently, Google was not amused by all this, and announced Wednesday that they had adjusted their algorithm to screen out merchants that "provide an extremely poor user experience."

It was a good, but possibly unnecessary move, as Borker's strategy may not have actually worked in the first place. According to Search Engine Land, you can't rank well just by cultivating terrible reviews. Google, however, didn't take any chances.