Create, collect and analyse

We have reached that part of the year—just post the key global creative awards, and pre our own local creative awards season—and it feels like a good time for me to share some personal thoughts and insights on this industry we all work within; an industry defined by creativity and technology. I found The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity inspiring and challenging, and I was hugely enthused about our industry’s giant leaps into the future.

These are some of the themes capturing both my imagination and decision-making at the moment;

The Changing Media World in a Single Image

The media landscape is evolving at the fastest rate in history.

In the past, one giant leap, like the arrival of commercial television in the United States in the 1940’s or the harnessing of the internet in the 1990’s, would disrupt the landscape and then re-define the decades which followed but now we face constant shifts – some seismic, some minor, some in-between – which together change platforms, content and consumer habits everyday.

Some of you will have seen the image below which juxtaposes the crowd in Rome awaiting the announcement of Pope Benedict’s appointment in 2005 with that of Pope Francis four months ago, but, for those of you who haven’t, it truly captures these rapidly changing times, and I cannot think of a better image currently that is the truest sign of our times…

Creativity vs. Data: A Phony War

In my last Sharing Insights update, I wrote about the subject of Data which is very much the marketing obsession of the world. How do brands effectively use the overwhelming wealth of digital personalised data which is now available to them in a way that delivers a competitive advantage? It is overwhelming – best estimates are that every second there are 684,478 pieces of content shared on Facebook, 2 Million searches on Google, 48 hrs of video uploaded on YouTube and 175,000 Tweets sent.

There’s plenty of good writing on all of this at the moment, my current favourite is Sexy Little Numbers by Dimitri Maex, the Managing Director of OgilvyOne Worldwide in New York, which demystifies data and CRM

The rapid rise of data in the conversation has sparked another of those distracting binary debates that the advertising industry, frustratingly, specialises in. Supposedly there is now conflict between being data-driven in your marketing or relying on creativity. This fork in the road is every bit as imaginary as that often postulated between effectiveness and creativity.

Creativity has long been proven to drive effectiveness. In his book, The Case for Creativity, well-known planner James Hurman demonstrates that the company which has won the most Cannes Awards has outperformed its competitors on the stock market eight out of ten times in the past ten years and the same applies to data.While agencies now need to up their game in terms of data awareness and analysis (that’s exactly what OgilvyOne is doing for us), very few campaigns will work for brands in this space solely on a blunt volume base. Impact will only be achieved when the correctly crunched numbers are aligned with an insightful strategy on how best to use them and the kind of creativity which produces cut-through and triggers the desired response.

Great Creative Data Campaigns

Here are three campaigns that have leveraged the power of rich social data and hot creative ideas to create truly breakthrough celebrated work.


VW “Streetquest”
A campaign from Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town and a Bronze Cannes Lion winner this year, combines an online and mobile game with Google Street View and Facebook technology. Participants were prompted to find as many VW’s as possible on Google street view and pin then and share their pins on Facebook. It generated over 400,000 pins and a 700% increase in consumer engagement on VW’s Facebook page and has been recognised at the New York One Show, and is featured in Google’s Creative Sandbox as a digital case study.
Case Study »

Oreo “Daily Twist”
The centenary campaign from Draftfcb in New York which posted quirky daily calendar content onto social media platforms, that leveraged real life events through the lens of the iconic Oreo cookie. The entries were then voted on and shared by millions of engaged people.
Case Study »

Pepsi “We Inspire”
Campaign from 6FD in New York which facilitated the building of an online community of women around causes they had in common. It leveraged the power of social media and the ability of women to create networks around themselves and amplified it through relevant celebrity endorsement.
Videos »

A Useful Media Channel Tool

Sharon Keith, from Coca-Cola, shared this with me.

At one end of the continuum, brands must deliver more mass media broadcast messages about what it is they stand for, a lighthouse identity if you like, and, on the other end of the continuum, more one-to-one engagement which adds more utility to consumers who actively engage with them. Be careful not to be exclusively one or the other, brands must engage on both ends in a seamless, coherent way.

The agencies and marketing teams of the future will be configured to deliver to this model.

Any way that you look at all of the above, it’s undeniably an exhilarating time to be in marketing today. We are at the forefront of all this change and have to be prepared to learn and unlearn a at pace, and almost inevitably, make some mistakes along the way.

How data is transforming marketing

I suspect, like me, that you have had less time than you would have liked to read this year.

One of the things I have managed to read, was the recent global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Study conducted by Ogilvy & Mather client, IBM.

I found the insights fascinating and relevant, and thought I would share some of them with you.

What’s keeping marketers awake at night?

According to the 15 000 top executives interviewed in the CMO study, the external factors most likely to be giving CMO’s sleepless nights were all market and technology related. This is hardly surprising: These factors are already driving massive change and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

What was worth noting was that of the CMOs who anticipated these challenges, only half felt equipped to handle them.

This, I believe, echoes the apprehension many of us feel as we face the challenges of building brands in an increasingly complex world.

The key challenge – and opportunity – in my mind, is the increasing importance of DATA in the marketing mix.

Sexy Little Numbers

 If anything is about to transform the way marketing works, it’s this four letter word: “DATA.”

Though businesses have always had a fair idea of who their customers are, and what they need, data has the ability to build meaningful individual relationships and generate new insights about consumers like never before.

Mark Pritchard, P&G’s Global Brand Building Officer, expressed this sentiment very succinctly in his new vision for his company: “Our vision is to build brands through lifelong, one-to-one conversations with individuals and the communities in which they’re active.”

Pritchard is not alone: Multinationals, from automotive to FMCG, are publically estimating that 15% to 20% of their budget will be dedicated to the more ‘Direct’ approaches of digital and social within five years – a figure corroborated by Duke University Fuqua School of Business in a recent report.

Information into actionable insight

As much as data has exploded, so has our capacity to turn it into actionable insight. Data and analytics have become “bottom of the pyramid applications”, allowing us to make mass-customisation of our marketing possible. Businesses now have the means to understand customers based on real-time behaviour and then interact with them as individuals.

Where traditional campaigns peak consumer’s interest in a brand, only to see it wane once the campaign is done, the new wealth of data allows us to create campaigns that instead build ongoing consumer relationships. And it is only a matter of time, before one-to-one channels outweigh the reach of mass media.

Locally, more than one million unique users participated in our “Carling Black Label Be the Coach” campaign. That’s almost half the brand’s core user base. This potential for one-to-one communication not only changes the cycle of consumer communications. It allows us to demystify marketing’s ROI and make the impact of any marketing investment apparent through real-time measurement and refinement.

A bold step towards enduring customer relationships

A year ago, Ogilvy & Mather SA launched Social@Ogilvy, a worldwide practice that builds on our existing social media, communications, CRM, sales enablement and shopper-marketing expertise, to help our clients create social solutions that capitalise on this burgeoning trend.

On Friday, February 1, we launched OgilvyOne Worldwide, South Africa – our Data and CRM offering, which according to Forrester Research Inc, is already a trailblazer “because of its high level of competence across all major criteria – specifically measurement and analytics, account management, and social and emerging media.” High praise we have every intention of living up to. We have understood that data is the key link between social, digital and mobile and must thread seamlessly through them all, and we are ready with some of the best minds in this area to service this opportunity.

If you’d like to know more about OgilvyOne Worldwide and its potential applications for your business, please let me know.

Also, have a look at getting a copy of Sexy Little Numbers – a book by Dimitri Maex, the Managing Director of OgilvyOne Worldwide in New York and the engine behind the agencies global analytics practice. It’s a simple and straightforward guide to growing your business with the data you already have.

The four ways data changes business forever

If anything is about to transform the way marketing works, it’s that four-letter word: data. Technological advancements that have made it possible for any brand and business to have authentic, meaningful relationships with consumers makes data all the more powerful and relevant.

The following words by Mark Pritchard P&G’s Global Marketing Officer speak to a vision all businesses strive for: “Our vision is to build brands through lifelong, one-to-one relationships in real time… It means shifting from mass broadcasting, to creating more personal one-to-one conversations with individuals and the communities in which they’re active.”

This vision can now be realised with data’s newfound power.

Data’s potential to build individual relationships, which has been the case even before Aaron Montgomery Ward invented the mail order catalogue in 1872, is no secret.

Businesses have always had a fair idea of who its customers are, what they bought and why. In modern times, whole industries have been spawned out of data use. Don Peppers and Marther Rogers became the thought leaders of modern CRM and Frederick Riecheld from Bain, the father of Loyalty.

Billions have been spent using data to develop effective one-to-one relationships,however, today’s technological advancements make this dream a reality.

Technology has created two fundamental changes that alter the way we generate, access and leverage data. Firstly, by exponentially increasing the volume of data generated, and secondly, by making the analysis of this data stream more feasible and accessible to many more businesses.

The world data volume doubles every 24 months. Every second, Google posts two million searches; 48 hours of video content is posted onto YouTube, and over 100,000 tweets are sent.

Social media, mobile phones and other data tools mean that billions of people on the planet leave mile-wide data trails, making for much richer data sources than ever before.

This data explosion is coupled with our ever-increasing ability to slice and dice data. Computers are now better able to analyse the non-structured data surge, such as words, images, tweets, blogs and text messages. Whole industries are forming that help dissect this data into actionable insights.

These two technologically-fueled data tsunamis have forever altered marketing in four ways:

Mass customisation becomes real
Every business in the world has access to data today in a way that enables mass customisation. In some ways, data has become a “bottom of the pyramid” application.

An excellent report by IBM’s “Leading through connections CEO study” states that technology has now made “mass customisation” possible. Businesses now have the means to understand customers, based on actual, real-time behavior, and engage them as individuals.

Emergence of new careers
A science is being built out of foraging through vast amounts of data and turning that into useful predictive consumer insights. The Data Scientist is the new, advanced geek, who combines analytics with investigative zeal. This has resulted in a new breed of tech-savvy, socially plugged in hackers who determine what data to track and how to find meaning in it.

The Network Manager works closely with the Data Scientist. This is someone who curates and facilitates the consumer network of a business, observing, learning and influencing conversation and thus building long-term relationships.

These roles become even more critical in a world where building dialogue with consumers is a critical success factor.

Campaigns stop being one hit wonders
Most campaigns peak consumers’ interest in a brand only for it to wane once the campaign is done. Data changes that. Campaigns will be interventions in the building of ongoing consumer relationships. They will not only be used to pique interest, but to drive data too. The days of running an incredible campaign with no useful data at the end of the rainbow are gone.

Here is the really crazy thought: It’s only a matter of time before the reach of your campaign through mass media is less than that of your one-to-one channels. As a case in point, one million unique users registered and participated in the latest Carling Black Label Be the Coach campaign. That’s half the number of its core user base.

This changes the nature of classical marketing interventions. Data makes real the virtuous cycle of consumer communications and thus will change the way that marketing teams and communications agencies configure themselves to deliver their expert services.

Data makes marketing Return On Investment trackable
Want to know the good news? Data demystifies marketing ROI. The real-time nature of the new data streams means that the impact of any marketing investment becomes instantly available for measurement and refinement.

The words from P&G’s Global Marketing Officer are bold and brave. They usher in a new marketing era where data unlocks real-time value. Like all new eras, the implications are both exciting and daunting, but there is one thing for sure:

There has never been a better time to be doing what we do than now.


For the Entrepreneurs

On Saturday the 19th of November I had the honour of speaking at Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week. The four-day event was held at the Cape Town City Hall. As per my usual style of presentation, it was made up of images that I spoke to, rather than using words on slides. So since distributing my presentation won’t help I wrote this summary to share what I spoke about.

My speech was based on how challenger brand thinking can be used as a framework for entrepreneurship and some other thoughts. Challenger Brand thinking is based on ‘Eating the Big Fish’, a book by Adam Morgan – a London based business strategist. The book establishes eight credos or behaviours that are consistent across ‘challenger brands’ like Nike, Apple, Pepsi and even Nandos. I have adapted some of the credos to creating a more meaningful dialogue on entrepreneurship.

Behaviour 1: Human behaviour is predictable
The Bell Curve, by Harvard psychologist, Richard J. Herrnstein published in 1994 was a good place to start. The book covered the distribution of IQ across the American population with some rather controversial findings mainly because of its hypothesis that there was a correlation between race and IQ. I won’t deal with that now, however, the key point it made was that most people have an average IQ, with a smaller number of people with a high and low IQ – hence the term “bell curve”.

This “bell curve” pattern also applies to many other forms of human behaviour – most people behave in the same way with a smaller percentage of people deviating from that pattern – it applies to sleep patterns, bad habits, income and so on. The implication for entrepreneurs is that predicting human behaviour on the whole is quite simple. So, if you want to introduce a product or service take a look at human behaviour and let that guide what you do. You can aim to change behaviour or leverage that behaviour. There are plenty of free statistical resources available online that can help you.

Behaviour 2: Old rules don’t necessarily apply
The world is changing faster than ever before. The advances in technology are accelerating this pace of change. In this new world, opportunities for entrepreneurs are abundant as cracks start forming on the walls of established businesses, brands and institutions. Who would ever have guessed that PEP Stores would be the largest distributor of mobile handsets in the country? Its crazy to think that the iPad didn’t exist two years ago and that iTunes would be the world’s largest distributor of music. Only one of the companies (Shell) in the Forbes top 500 companies list of 2001 is on the list today. When the world changes, someone drops a ball and that presents entrepreneurial opportunity.

Behaviour 3: Everything you do communicates
Often marketers think that their responsibility for communication lies in the traditional marketing mediums they control (TV, radio, events, websites), they have a blind spot about the way they treat their staff, about small things like the customer feedback box, big things like their trucks on the road, or my favourite – the look, feel and etiquette of the security guards at their entrances. Everything communicates – your customers don’t selectively look at your tailored communication, they absorb everything and inconsistencies are glaring.

Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this and ensure that everything that represents their universe is consistent with what they want to communicate to the world. Everything is a medium of communication, use each one effectively and you will stand out.

Check out this clip from South West Airlines – the worlds most consistently profitable Airline. It illustrates how even a mundane safety announcement can be used to say something special about a brand.

Behaviour 4: Assume thought leadership
Thought leadership is about reflecting a vision of the future in the things that you do. It could be through writing, speaking, product or marketing innovation. It’s different to market leadership which belongs to the established player in the market, but it exudes momentum and energy which most market leaders struggle to do. Eating the Big Fish gives simple yet effective tools on how to achieve this. It says that thought leadership is about breaking the existing convention of how products are communicated and experienced. When Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) was launched into the country in 2003, it broke many conventions about how beer brands were promoted, while most advertising focused on the heritage of the brand MGD launched with an ad that looked like a music video. Its launch event in three airport hangars in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town is still spoken about almost 10 years later. It changed the way beer brands engaged consumers by breaking expected conventions. There are conventions in all categories and entrepreneurs can exploit the ‘normality’ of life to their benefit.

Behaviour 5: Hit the refresh button
People are generally too busy to pay attention to your brand all the time. You need to constantly be entering their mind space. This doesn’t mean by the way that having ATL exposure will do the trick – it becomes wallpaper. What you need to do is refresh your brand and make people notice you. Audi did it with the launch of the TT in 1998 and again with the introduction of the LED beams that most motor manufacturers are now copying. What does your refresh button look like?

Behaviour 6: Sacrifice
“If you try and be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no one” – Bob McClain. It’s as simple as that. Often entrepreneurs don’t have sufficient resources to do all they want to do but that’s a good thing because sacrificing a segment of the target market or a particular distribution channel or even communication mediums like TV, gives you the resources to do what you are able to do, better than anybody else. Grolsch for instance is running one of the most effective networking and consumer programmes (Swing Top Circle) I know of. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they focus so much energy into it as they have a limit on the mediums they are able to utilise due to the size of their budget. Most established businesses and brands are so thinly spread that the best strategy is to eat the elephant in bite size chunks – just make sure you’ve invested in some razor sharp, titanium teeth.

Bahaviour 7: Over-commit
Linked quite closely to sacrifice, over-commitment is possible when you focus your resources effectively. Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the 10,000-hour rule which purports that one must practice for at least 10,000 hours if you are to become an expert at what you do. This rule obviously applies to different activities relative to what your field of business is. Most people will never even get half way there, so that should encourage you to commit yourself, being better than the rest isn’t that far off.

Behaviour 8: Leverage technology and popular culture
Social media and technology have made it cheaper to communicate to customers. Leverage social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In to amplify your message. These tools allow two-way communication with your customers so leverage this capability to share knowledge and interact with your customers. New technology in the form of mobile and tablet computing introduce new channels of engagement. 85% of cellphones in South Africa will be smartphones by 2015 so this becomes a real and significant channel for everyone.

Behaviour 9: Be idea-centered not consumer-centered
Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”. People will only give you incremental ideas not revolutionary ones – we simply aren’t wired like that. Idea generation is a skill that entrepreneurs must harness. Ideas are the currency of the future. In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, he argues that the world has moved from the knowledge age into the conceptual age. Economic growth will come from nations and people that are able to conceptualise new ways of utilising resources and solving problems.

The Entrepreneurship Fallacy
Finally, the fact that you have to leave your organisation and start your own enterprise to be an entrepreneur is a fallacy. Entrepreneurship is an attitude. All the behaviours I listed above can work just as well within organisations as they do outside of one. Don’t let the fact that you have a job detract from your entrepreneurial spirit.

Books I recommended:

Eating the Big Fish – Adam Morgan
The Pirate Inside – Adam Morgan
The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
A Whole New Mind – Daniel H Pink
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle(the summary, the full version is just too heavy)

What does the future agency look like? Part 2

In part one of this article I looked at how the client environment is changing in the age of technology and parity. In part two, I discuss how agencies will change as a consequence.

Content generators
Breaking through the clutter remains a challenge, to cut through, agencies will become content generators. In a way that‘s what they do now, except today’s content manifests in distinct marketing channels – mostly advertising, promotions, brand experiences and digital. Soon however the lines between these channels will blur and agencies will create brand content in many other forms and combinations. Accelerated by media fragmentation and technology, content will vary from movies to movements, from creating bands like the Jonas brothers to choirs like Glee, from social media apps to online games played by thousands of people across the world. Traditionally content has been the domain of media companies, which then engage brands through sponsorship. Branded content will become the Holy Grail, and agencies will own that space. This will cause a shift in how agency teams are recruited and designed – teams that are able to tell a brand story through engaging, interactive (aided by social media and mobile) content will be highly sought after.

Strategy and thought leadership
Agencies will invest more in strategic capacity. A solid strategy with clearly articulated campaign objectives becomes even more critical in a world where brand owners and agencies have a plethora of communications options available to them. This trend mirrors the increase in marketing investment and therefore rigour and scrutiny in the client environment.

Agencies will have to stay at the forefront of the changing communication landscape if they are to service their client effectively. They will become thought leaders and provide the crystal ball perspective to clients. Clients will lean heavily on agencies to interpret the complex and ever changing world. Agencies will allocate more resources to internal thought leadership programmes – this may be more company wide training, an increase in the sharing of global intellectual property within the network, regulated research time and more.

Investment in delivery platforms
The land grab for anything digital won’t stop, however agencies will also buy and partner with new delivery platforms such as mobile, film, gaming and experiential in an effort to own as much of the marketing mix channels as possible. This is driven by the need to keep apace with technological innovation, margin and revenue extraction.

Project management
There will be more investment in senior strategic project management, currently account management or ‘suits’. This role will evolve into a more strategic force. The day of paper pushers will be over. Being the front line, they need to be strategically sussed, they need to understand the client’s complex world and interpret it to their agencies and vice versa. They will go from being the note takers to the umbilical cord between client and agency – the way it should always have been.

The large will get larger
Finally, clients are going to invest disproportionally more with larger agencies. For a number of reasons – in uncertain times, the money goes where experience lies – ask the Mckinsey’s and Accenture’s in consulting, or the Goldman Sachs’ and the JP Morgan Chase’s in investment banking. Large agencies will have the depth of global experience that will give clients the comfort that their agency partners can safely navigate them through uncertainty. Large agency groups will also have the resources to procure the best–of-breed talent, new business platforms (as discussed above). In a nutshell they will have the experience and service offerings that will make them even more competitive than they are today.

Some things never change?
David Ogilvy once said: “We sell or else.” The fact that marketing is such a critical function means more scrutiny on investment and return. Agencies that don’t help their clients sell will see the door faster than ever before.

In closing
I’ve written many times before about how the flux the world is in has made us naïve. When people are naïve they appreciate the opportunities that exist beyond their own experience and knowledge.

This can only mean good things for the industry. Lets embrace our naïvety and boldly go forth where no one has gone before.

Follow me on twitter @ abeyphonogenic

What will the future agency look like? Part 1

In a flux
The world is in a flux; American politicians have played ‘who blinks first’ and arrogantly slid the world into economic turmoil; the Euro is facing possible collapse and all indications are that we are heading for another recession before even recovering from the last one. Added to this – technology continues to change the way people interact everyday. It is in this context that I pose the question: “What will the future agency look like?”

In answering this question one must first look at what’s going on in the client environment because agencies exist only to service their clients and ensure the sustainable growth of the brands they oversee.

The age of parity and technology
Other than economic uncertainty, which is already extensively written about, there are a two other major forces that are throwing the clients world into a spin. The first is that there is parity everywhere; parity of product, price and distribution. “within arm’s reach of desire,” first spoken in 1923 by the then President of Coca-Cola, Robert Woodruff, is no longer just the preserve a Coca-Cola, globalisation has made that apply to all products. This is actually good news, as in this new world order, the positioning of a brand in the consumers minds is the predominant differentiator left to brand owners. That’s a space where the marketing practice can thrive.

The second force is the ever-increasing pace of technological innovation that is rapidly changing the way consumers engage. There is a plethora of new products and applications that were not around not so long ago (smart TVs, tablets, smartphones ,Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram etc). It’s difficult to imagine that Facebook wasn’t around seven years ago, Twitter six years ago and the Ipad, less than two years ago. Technological change is happening at such a pace that it’s almost impossible to plan how to use these channels to effectively engage with consumers. This pace of technological innovation is only going to accelerate.

Back in the day marketers used to promote their products through TV, radio, outdoor and print – the traditional above the line channels, today a brand owner can make a song, create an experience, launch an app, sponsor a team and many other activities to engage their target market. There is no longer a template.

Implications for the client environment
How does this change the client environment?

Marketing as a business input becomes more important than ever. More resources are being invested in marketing as the final frontier of differentiation, which means that marketing as a profession is going to become a more critical business function. Gill Rightford elaborates on this topic in her Bizcommunity article – The great business/marketing/advertising disconnect. Finally marketing will be taken more seriously

Strategic skill will remain paramount. In this complex, ever-changing world where communication mediums fragment everyday – well thought through and executed brand strategy is going to become absolutely critical. No longer can marketers hide behind an expensive ad with high reach. You simply will not be able to spend your way out of an ineffective strategy or mistake omnipresence for strategy. Also, just being present on a social network platform like Facebook, doesn’t mean you have a social media strategy – that’s the fad today. Check out Intel’s “Museum of Me” Facebook app for a clue on how social media can be leveraged to drive brand proposition

Also, the client environment is going to require more depth of skill and experience across communication platforms. Along with the traditional skills such as research and strategy, clients will tap into a new breed of resources that bring digital, mobile and cultural anthropological depth to their business. Digital and mobile skills are obvious, cultural anthropologists less so, they are individuals that are so close to the pulse of their communities, that they are able to provide marketers with a more instant source code of consumer behavior.

These skills are outsourced at the moment but they will become so important that they will soon be a part of the client’s permanent payroll. Additionally, due to the growing relevance of social media, in the near future you are not only going to have brand or campaign managers; you are going to have network managers: individuals whose job it is, to manage the virtual consumer network.

Those are the implications for the client environment, how does this relate to the agency environment?

Part two will look at how the agency will change.

Follow me on twitter @ abeyphonogenic

TOP 200

I was at the Mail&Guardian Top 200 South Africans launch last Tuesday afternoon (7 June 2011). It was held at Randlords – down town Jozi – I love that place, it really feels like the top of the world, you get a sense that you are in the heart of Joburg’s hustle and bustle. In my opinion this is the best venue of its kind in South Africa. I was there because I was fortunate enough to make the list in this year’s business category. I’m an avid reader of M&G so I’m honoured to be on it. This however, is not about me, it’s about the incredible people I met that day. I mean what else could I ask for? 200, young, bright minds in one place. I set out to meet as many people as I could, it was only a matter of time before I ran out of business cards but I still managed to get in touch with loads people.

Here are some of the super individuals that I met: Melita Steele, twitter: @Melita_Steele, is the face of Greenpeace in South Africa; quiet and unassuming but you could tell that she was on a mission. She said to me “What could be better than waking up everyday to save the world?” What could? Being green is the big fad today but here was someone who leads an organisation that’s been doing it before it was the in thing to do.

I also met Jema Grobbelaar, twitter:@Jemmasa, a 20-year old Kite Surfing Champion from Cape Town – well not really since she also lives in Wales and Joburg. Jema won the British Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2010. She is an ambassador for Woman’s rights and looks like a supermodel – wow!

Then I met royalty – two Chiefs to be exact, Chief Tebogo Motheo Mamogale from the Bakwena Ba Mogopa and Chief Moefi Edward Mabalane of Baphiring Ba Mabalane – I may run a business but these guys run nations; while I concern myself with sales and pitches and they worry about sanitation and water.

I met another young lady, Amanda Sevasti, twitter: @AmandaSevasti, who reignited my belief in social media, she also introduced me to Sipho Hlongwane, twitter:@Comradesipho who writes for the Daily Maverick and has over 3500 followers on Twitter.

I met Sithembile Mbete, twitter:@sthembete, the force behind the Right2Know campaign which has made a strong stand against the Protection of Information Bill and then I met Humairah Jassat, twitter:@humairhjassat, the founder of Pink Hijab Day – her initiative, where women wear pink hijabs on a specific day to raise money and awareness for breast cancer – she won the 2010 African Leadership Academy Innovation Prize for her amazing work.

I could have stayed in that place forever, there was just so much to learn. So here is my question: with so many incredible young people in that room and countless more out there – why don’t you have faith in Africa?

Intelligent Naivety

I bumped into a group of post grad students while I was at Vega last week. The brief interaction left me feeling really upbeat. For a number of reasons – they were energetic and passionate about the marketing, advertising and brand communication industry and they seemed to want to get stuck in and add value; I felt that they were all confident that they had something to contribute. The chance meeting reminded me of “intelligent naivety” a term that I picked up in a book by Adam Morgan titled ‘Eating the Big Fish’.

Adam Morgan is the founder of Eat Big Fish, a challenger brand thinking consultancy based in the UK. The consultancies first book, Eat Big Fish, made such an impact on me that VWV actually got into negotiations the consultancy to turn its content into one-day workshops, the idea was we could add their challenger brand IP to our brand experience expertise to create a globally sellable product. The partnership never happened but I remained inspired non the less.

So what is intelligent naivety?

Intelligent naivety is intelligence naively applied. It’s the notion that you don’t have to be the most experienced in the game to come up with the best idea. Its happened all around us – Richard Branson knew very little about airlines when he launched Virgin Atlantic but he was the first to bring personalized on-board entertainment onto planes – can you imagine a long haul flight without being able to select your movie of choice? Barak Obama showed up his fellow presidential runners when he made social media a real asset in his race to the White House, now even Jacob Zuma has a twitter account with 28 500 followers.

These students need to be accepted into the marketing fraternity with open arms, as they are the ones that will refresh our staid industry. They need to use their unique perspective of the world, their seamless integration with new platforms such as social media and their understanding of how the world works to their advantage. They should not try and emulate the behaviours and perspectives of others out there – there are enough of us doing that already.

They are intelligently naïve and that’s a powerful asset.

They also reminded me of how important it is for individuals in the industry to regularly share their perspectives and experiences to continue to fortify the foundations of our industry and inspire new thought leadership.

So what now? I’ve invited the students to VWV to get a better understanding of what we do, who knows – they may be the next step in our story.

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Leadership in the age of communication

Having read my blogs, you’ll know that this is my favourite topic. We need leadership to help us through this defining time of our generation – the world’s people are going through a process of re-evaluation of who they are, what they stand for, and where they are going.

I don’t know how much you care for astrology but I have a friend in the know who tells me that we’ve been moving into a new cosmic age – that of Aquarius. Apparently this is the age of truth and it was poignant to hear as I was settling down to write this opening statement.

This change is taking place on a global geopolitical level, a regional level, a country level, and even on a community and individual level. One example is the dynamics between the world’s global powers that hasn’t really shifted since World War 2 (the fall of the Soviet Union had long been predicted); today, China and India can no longer be considered emerging powers – they have emerged and are here to stay. It’s not taken for granted that the US can do how it pleases.

The global landscape is less about the size of your military arsenal and more about your economic influence and the size of your domestic market.

China isn’t just the factory of the world; it is a serious contender and will soon boast the biggest economy in the world.

On a regional level, in countries like the US, a population of predominantly white people voted for a black president. In South Africa, the country’s president was ousted “constitutionally.”

These are major shifts that are defining what the next 100 years will be like.

On an individual level, there is introspection about men’s roles within families and communities. Antonio Lyons produced a play called “We are here” that explores issues and themes from the male perspective in the modern age. I also picked up a great read by Andrew Ramano and Tony Dokoupil in Newsweek that interrogates the role of men in today’s society.

As a young African, all of this is very exciting for me as it demands a change in leadership and, more than ever, men and women who are able to provide direction and galvanise us forward. But I’m deeply concerned that the people we are relying on us to show us direction and engaging on matters that will define our future are, in my opinion, ill-equipped.

In SA, over the last couple years, for some reason there has been a lack of independent constructive thought. Are we really only relying on Helen Zille and Zwelenzima Vavi to challenge the current power status quo? Or on Julias Malema to table the debate about mine nationalisation? I must say I have been impressed with Barney Mtombothi’s Financial Mail editorials – but that’s his job.

If you have an opinion, an informed opinion, your voice needs to be heard so we can all dialogue about where we should be going.

Is it you we are waiting for?

The ‘W’ manifesto: five

So, in the fifth and final part of this particular blog series of ‘W’ manifesto I will cover how to start building a navigator. For details on what a navigator is see blog 1-4.

Understanding a cluster of consumers is the first step. Who are they? What do they do? What is important to them? What decisions do they require help with? Who do they currently seek help from? What can the navigator do that will add immediate value to their lives? A lexicon of knowledge needs to be developed around a cluster in order to optimally position the navigator for market entry.

The next step is to have the right infrastructure in place to facilitate the decision-making process. Infrastructure such as a call centre; computers with CRM software that will enable you to capture and mine information about your consumers, and a network of resources that will help you make the most effective decisions for your consumers. This network of resources will include a database of car dealerships, different car finance methods and any other available resources that will help you help the consumer. I propose that each cluster start off by building capability around the most likely areas that consumers will need assistance – these areas will be revealed by your cluster insight research. Older, married women with children and family will have very different needs to school leavers that have just entered the working world.

Along with the ready for market capability around the cluster, I propose that a separate division be set up to constantly mine consumer data and behaviour so as to be able to constantly evolve the entire consumer offering from services to consumer interface.  

I’d like to use this blog more of the start of a discussion than a stone cast guideline. I hope it becomes the beginning of a dialogue about the genesis of companies that will ultimately own the future consumer relationship. In blog one I asked who was going to be the gatekeeper of the future. The gatekeepers will be the “true navigators”. They will be entrusted by consumers to help them make decisions ranging from insurance to travel, home loans to grocery shopping, and even media content.

Those companies that position themselves for this inevitable reality will be the barons of the 21st century.

What do you think?

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