Seeing the World Differently

I was sent this amazing video of a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson just last week. Sir Ken is (as his Wikipedia entry says) ‘an author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies.’

I confess I’ve not heard him speak before, although since researching him know that he has spoken at TED events previously.

This is a remarkable speech in terms of clearly laying out the historical context of how accepted practices of educating children in the west have developed, but also just how dangerous these same conventions, such as ‘batching children based on their date of manufacture’, are. In fact, they could be dangerous and succeed in essentially educating all creativity out of children.

It’s a great example of seeing the world differently. just because a convention is so entrenched doesn’t make it right or immune from challenge.

If you are a parent, you really must see this.

You may find yourself hungry to change the status quo immediately to protect your own offspring from well meaning, but ultimately, outdated practices that anaesthetise childrens minds to drive out all of the ‘genius’ level creativity that we are all born with.

I would love to know your thoughts.


Losing Our Senses

I heard a fabulous interview with a mini hero of mine this week. James May was on the Richard Bacon Show talking about his new BBC series – Manlab.

Still being based in the US means I haven’t seen Manlab yet – don’t pay the licence fee, so can’t get iPlayer and won’t buy a Slingbox, but James was discussing the premise of the programme being to show the lost skills of what used to mean, being a man.

He discussed hanging wallpaper, cleaning spark plugs and mixing concrete – (all of which I have done I’m proud to say) as being basic skills that are now in danger of being lost due to a computer dependent generation. Why put up a shelf yourself when you can call ‘a man’ to do it for you?

Without passing judgement on the lazy, good for nothing generation Y, I was more taken by a phrase that James used when describing Sat Nav.

One of the tasks he undertakes in Manlab is to navigate the English Channel armed with just charts. He made a very good remark about Sir Francis Drake having a Sat Nav aboard The Golden Hind, before saying this – “you cannot bequeath your whole life and all your senses to the machine”.

So Captian Slow sums up beautifully a feeling that I have tried to express in this blog previously. For all the technical brilliance of smartphones, tablets, apps, widgets, social media monitoring tools, etc. etc. at the end of the day they are just tools! Tools used by people – human beings. Irrational human beings with high expectations of service levels and product quality. Having a Facebook page a Twitter account and a whistles and bells CRM system means nothing if the people responsible for them think that the tools in themselves will solve all of their problems.

Human beings are the key. As Best Buy say to their Twelpforce “Be smart, be respectful, be human!”

So if you think technology alone can get you out of the social media jungle unscathed, then forget it and go home.

Do you agree?

The Opposite Of Love

Ask yourself that question – just what is the opposite of love?

Clearly all the cliches will dictate the answer is ‘hate’ – and that it’s a thin line! However, this post will seek to point out that, in the context of business and customer relationships, the opposite of love is indifference.

If a customer complains to you directly, you’ve already probably talked to your customer care team, to treat this as an opportunity to over deliver in making things right and delighting them with the resolution.

Of course this is absolutely right. But what if a customer becomes disillusioned with you, but doesn’t take the step of complaining?

Well I would suggest that this is worst scenario of all. If you’re measuring your customer loyalty rates and need to grow your level of retention (and who doesn’t?), then other than reach out to them with emails, catalogues or advertising, how can you address this silent majority of people who don’t communicate with you directly anymore?

First of all, consider the results from the Alterian (Your Brand at Risk? Or Ready for Growth? 2010) suggests the following

  • 84% of people trust recommendations from their friends
  • 70% of people trust recommendations from complete strangers!
  • But just 5% of people trust advertising

So if you’re tempted to increase your promotional spend to reach out to this group and consider that if just 5% of people will believe what you say, but  70% of people trust what a complete stranger says, then the power of word of mouth very soon, becomes apparent.

But if they’re not complaining to you directly, how do you find these customers?

Firstly, you have to listen. I’ve written extensively about the various SMM (social media monitoring) tools that are available to dial in to conversations about your brand or your products. But the skill in maximising on the opportunities that these tools offer, lies in learning where the communities of lapsed customers are hanging out.

If you can build positive sentiment amongst your key influencers – SMM tools can help you identify them and their communities – then you are in a really strong position to win back these lapsed customers. It’s almost a case of redefining testimonials.

How are you looking to engage with your lapsed, indifferent customers?

Stopping to Ask Directions

At the Alterian ‘Engaging Times’ conference in Chicago in August, I was struck by the number of people who were just so keen to get going with all this social stuff. They just wanted to dive straight in – it all sounded and looked so uber cool!

People were from all kinds of inductry sectors – from estate agents to car dealerships so restaurant chains, B2C and B2B.

Well diving straight in can be great of course. But there are dangers down there. Having reflected on my experience a the conference now, I guess what the people who were listening to the great and the good in social media back then were saying was “I wish we’d been on this stuff earlier”. Just like the lost tourist who asks a local for directions, only to hear “Well I wouldn’t start from here”!

And yet there’s no choice. Here we are. The here and now with the world of Twitter and Facebook changing more and more, emails from Mashable and Techcrunch backing up further and further, it’s a wonder we don’t all feel swamped.

So I think it’s good to just take a minute or two to remind ourselves that no matter what technological changes happen between you starting to read this post and the end, we should all still be focussed on the same thing – the customer and prospective customer, who are just human beings requiring engagement on a human level.

Don’t get overawed by the tools (they are just that) or the speed of change. The winners on the social web will always be the ones who continue to engage on a human level and not get bogged down in their latest app or funky new ‘thing’.

It’s never too late to show a human face to the customer.

What do you think?

Google Instant – Warning Contains Adult Content and a Disappointing Level of Service.

Last month I published a small post about the launch of Google instant and the possible effects it might have for paid search. But yesterday I read an amazing article by Danny Sullivan of Search Engineland about some bizarre results that Google presents to people on via it’s Images search function.

If you are of a delicate disposition or easily offended, PLEASE stop reading now!

I’ve added my screen grabs so that you can see he didn’t make this up. But try it yourself!

If you type ‘G’ into Google Images the top suggested search results are:


girls without dress


girls breast feeding each other

And another step through the alphabet to ‘H’ produces these results:

So images of girls, girls without dresses and hot girls top the lists for Google Image search.

Of course, we shouldn’t really be surprised by this. And Danny Sullivan gives some expert insight into how users can change their settings to protect themselves and others from these results. That’s not the purpose of this post.

The point of this article, (apart from being astonished at these results) is that it serves as a warning to businesses generally against over automating its processes.

OK, so this is an extreme example, I’m not suggesting Google employ millions of people to tailor search results for its users; its algorithms stand by each of us every day with no complaints whatsoever. But for those of you who have an FAQ’s section on your website, or a CRM system with 4 options – none of which answer my question – beware! What people really crave when interacting with a company or organisation is a human reaction and the bar has been raised!

Fall beneath this bar at your peril.


Gap’s About Turn – Strength or Weakness?

Yesterday was a big day for the retailer Gap.

Having announced that they were to change their logo just a week ago, they have now reverted back to their traditional blue box.

And the reason for this change of heart is the huge outcry and anger amongst Gap’s customers that they have expressed through social media.

Here are a couple of quotes from Gap:

“Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.”

As someone who has been involved in a rebranding process for two major high street brands, I know that a logo change is an 18 month process – minimum. For Gap, this must have included customer focus groups, test marketing and a whole host of other research activities before, firstly they decided to launch a new logo at all and secondly undertake all the work necessary to ensure a transition on the ground from old to new.

So for this process to have been turned into  a costly waste of time and money inside one week, is astonishing.

I can’t think of another example of ‘people power’ that comes close to this. The Gap logo episdoe will surely become case study worthy for all students of marketing in the future.

And yet the fantastic news for Gap in all of this is that they now know, beyond any doubt, that they have a rich vein of customers who love the brand deeply. Care about it passionatley enough to feel moved to mobilise so quickly and express their feelings. This episode proves Kevin Roberts’ great truth “Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them”.

Of course Facebook and Twitter were the main vehicles for this movement. But the speed at which people were able to organise and mobilise is jaw dropping.

There are now sites selling T-shirts with the words “Logo Fail’ across the chest. This story has become huge.

And if anyone doubted that they can afford to stand by and continue to believe that they don’t have to engage directly with customers, then here is the lesson  – Engage or Die.

Of course Gap could have stuck to their guns. They could have done so in a engaging way – “We hear you, but trust us.”

They chose not to.

Do you think they did the right thing?

Don’t Let Your Customer Service Get ‘Buried’!

Last month saw the release of a new thriller/horror movie by Spanish director,  Rodrigo Cortés entitled ‘Buried’.

The premise of the movie is (taken directly from IMDB) “Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.”

The point of this post hinges on you understanding that he has a cell phone, which of course he uses to try and contact the outside world, but that of course, has limited battery life. The movie sounds absolutely gripping, but here is another direct quote from the great Mark Kermode about Buried.

“It’s a film about the horror of being put ‘on hold’. I have yet to see a film that so brilliantly encapsulates the annoyance, the frustration, the terror, the anguish of being ‘on hold’.

Doesn’t that ring true? Excuse the pun.

We’ve all had the opportunity to press 3 by pressing 2 and then being put on hold whilst being told just how valuable we are. So valuable that we can be left in a black hole for 45 minutes – thanks T Mobile!

Customer care is thankfully being redefined. Those amazing CRM systems that were going to rock our world in the nineties and noughties will soon be painful things of the past. All because of the voice that we now have through social media.

I’ve written before about AT&T. They have a terrible reputation in the US. When the iPhone 4 started dropping calls beacuse of the design, who got the complaints – Steve Jobs or AT&T ‘helpdesk”? OK, so Apple took a bad dose of publicity, but on the ground, customers were battering AT&T.

And yet, the great thing about them is that they recognised that the days of leaving people on hold were numbered. They still did it – don’t get me wrong, but by promoting Twitter as a key customer care channel, they have shown that the biggest step in winning on the social web, is accepting the world has changed.

Their strategy for using Twitter to meet their objective is still flawed – nowhere near enough resource and they clock off at 5! Poor Molly, the face of AT&T’s Twitter customer care page seems a lovely lady, with only your best interests at heart, but nevertheless has a thankless task.

If there is a lesson from the last few years experiences surrounding CRM, it’s that peoples expectations are, quite rightly, rising all the time. If your wifi goes down at 3am while working on a presentation, you need help at 3.05.

Customer care can’t take holidays anymore.

Comment on this post and I’ll get right back to you…

Ryder Cup Washout – A Social Disaster and Victory All At Once !

My alarm woke me early this morning. Stupidly early. I was up at 1.45 – why go to bed? The reason was to watch Lee Westwood tee it up at Celtic Manor to try and wrest the Ryder Cup back from the pesky Yanks!

Living in the US gives you a different perspective of these events. Being behind enemy lines makes the event even bigger. Although if things go wrong, (thanks for nothing Robert Green), then it can be twice as painful.

At the time of writing, play has just resumed and the Cup is not likely to be won or lost until Monday!

But the big news of the day, is the rain in Wales. Not just the rain, but the failure of the rainwear chosen by Corey Pavin and the USGA, to keep  the US players dry. Once the news was out that Tiger was soaked to the skin and Phil was dripping wet through, attention turned to the manufacturer of this equipment.

The fact that it was produced by a company called ‘Sun Mountain’, should perhaps have given Pavin a clue that these guys weren’t experts in wet weather clothing! The fact that the team then had to purchase new equipment in Wales, that wouldn’t have been designed beforehand, from a company called Proquip, meant that these two brands were suddenly all over the social web having quite different days!

Here it is happening before our eyes! Everything I’ve written about here before now is coming to pass!

Sun Mountain are suffering the worst possible PR disaster, whilst Proquip are basking in glory. And it’s being played out on social media.

Here are a couple of tweets:

“Probably the end of that company. Certainly the USPGA will never use any of their products again. #sunmountain

“Let’s get some Proquip”

And it spreads wider – Goretex are forced to make a statement that they ended their relationship with Sun Mountain in 2006! Right now Sun Mountain are toxic!

Google news results for Sun Mountain right now and you can see what’s happening. As I’ve said before, “you are what Google says you are” and “you can’t take piss out of a swimming pool”!

If Sun Mountain employ social media listening tools, they will hopefully be on this, working throughout the night and the rest of the weekend to try and address things positively – quite how they do this, I can’t think right now!

Proquip on the other hand may also be listening in and their positive sentiment report will bulging at the the seams! Lots’ of ‘thanks guys’ and if you’re a retailer carrying the Proquip range, ‘here’s a voucher for online store with 10% off Proquip merchandise if you buy before….”, you get the idea!

Anyway, the players are back out – come on Europe!

The Social Egosystem

This article by Brian Solis, paints a fascinating picture.

He echos much of what I have written about here previously in relation to our ‘me’ brands and the narcissism of today’s consumers.

What’s clear is the need for brands to identify their biggest potential influencers. It’s summed up best by this quote “Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks.”
But what really permeates throughout this article is the firm belief, which I share, that actions by brands, via social tools, can indeed be measured and deliver an ROI that brands will expect in the future.

I know from my own experience, when an agency sits and squirms at the suggestion that their funky viral project should carry an element of measurement, it’s the first sign you should run away. And when they say that a calculation of  ROI cannot even be attempted, show them the door.

The refinement of Twitter will, allowing better profiling based on keywords, history and other variables means that this microblog could well become the dominant force of the social web. The launch of new Twitter indicates that they are developing more ways to keep users on the Twitter site itself and away from various third paty ‘clients’. Combine this with their growing ability to analyse user data and in turn what that means they can offer advertisers and you can see where this is going.

I’ve read recently more and more complaints about Facebook and its user interface. The constant changes are becoming an annoyance. When people become more familiar with new Twitter’s ability to show images, video and sound, the reasons we have for spending time on Facebook may decline

In the week that “The Social Network” is released, Zuckerberg surely needs to get his team to raise their game back at the ranch and avoid the red carpet?

What do you think?

A Shout Out for the Good Guys

Without realising it, certain habits have crept their way in to my daily routine recently.

I’ve become an avid follower of several blogs and news sites that give my day its kick start.

So here’s a list of the top five that I follow without fail (almost). I’d love to know yours.

1. Chris Brogan – I heard Chris speak in Chicago back in June this year and his words on ‘human business’ cut through all the guff that I’d heard and read about before. Thanks Chris for all your posts.

2. Alltop – fairly new to this, but a great consoldator of the best of that’s out there every day.

3. Mashable – Goes without saying. I’m sure everyone’s go to site for all things social, marketing, etc.

4. Techcrunch – For an untecchie like me, they make this befuddling world of widgets and apps wholly relevant.

5. Brian Solis – Along with Chris, a great thinker and one who has fully explained the reality of engagement.

The lesson here overall I suppose is that reading is king. You can’t really read enough. Everything changes so quickly and randomly, at least trying to keep abreast is an objective we should all have.