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    Food for thought

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    December 04, 2008



    Thanks for this, thought-provoking stuff. Funny how much of this feels like common sense and yet radical at the same time (for much of the industry at least).


    If you take this route (and I think you are on to something here), the other fundamental problem you encounter is the Marketer's obsession with talking to new customers rather than existing ones. A social idea is all about inclusion. It grows by osmosis. You need to nurture it internally before you yell about it - and even then you have to be careful.

    The power of 'new customer acquisition' to drive strategy could be a potentially huge barrier to this mindset change.

    Libby Anderson

    Thanks so much for this Gareth, really useful and inspiring.

    One other problem that I've observed over the years is the agency desire to present clients with the magic solution when most would prefer to be involved in getting there. It usually makes for an easier time and often better work when it's a collaboration vs. a sparkly reveal.

    Helge Tennø

    Valuable stuff Gareth, really nice job of putting it all together.

    I would also second Paul on connecting to the existing customers instead of chasing new ones. There is a brilliant case study from Mini in the UK where they focused on courting existing drivers in order for their conversations about the car to get louder. There is also a lot of potential here regarding Branded Utility, and filling the holes in the bucket (tier stronger relations with existing customers) rather than pouring new water in from the top.

    (and your thoughts on the social and market exchange, turning it around, excellent :o)

    Jason Gingold

    Gareth, great thoughts.

    I might also add reframing the way we (and the brands we represent) build work. It's currently designed like Frost's "Mending Wall" - which is to say, we pretend we're building something WITH our neighbors, but in actuality, we are isolating and separating them into smaller pieces of property (or smaller and smaller communities).

    It would be great to consider ways not of breaking down consumers into microtargets, but, as you're pointing out with the point about focusing on culture, to consider ways of (to butcher my Frost reference/metaphor) creating an open field with the intention of simply seeing who shows up to play. Rather than a wall, we need to build a swinging gate, allowing anyone to enter or exit with seamless ease.


    Well put, Gareth.

    Culture is the business that we're in, we create it, we compete against it, we are inspired by it.

    What I've railed about with clients is just because you've bought the time, doesn't mean anybody cares to listen. Our output has to earn the right to exist. It's about making culture and content, not ads. No one really cares for ads.

    It back to Howard Gossage, people read what they like, sometimes it's an ad. Clients and agencies are scared to embrace that.

    Keep up the good fight

    Valeria Maltoni

    One might add or just because you've put in the time, it does not mean what you've done is valuable to those you intended it for.

    Speaking from the client side, I can tell you that the higher in the food chain, the harder these concepts are to grasp. I go back to a conversation I had recently with Mark (Earls), people are messy, and that presents a wonderful opportunity for those who are curious and interested in culture - in helping make an impression vs. counting and measuring impressions. Good food for thought here. Thank you.

    Jon Bellinger

    Well-said, and completely true in every way. One thing I might add is our propensity to insist on building things from scratch. It's fascinating to me that most brands still approach the social media landscape like colonists, seeking to recreate their own culture in a new context. As such, they spend a ton of time and money creating message structures, finding "Eureka" moments and building stuff.

    Part of starting with culture and working backwards can also mean ceding much of the creative process to consumers. Look at the broad and interesting range of memes out there...consumers and web users inevitably come up with far more compelling creative than any brand I've ever seen! More brands should start with these memes and let them drive messages, infrastructures and communications.

    Rob @ Cynic

    I've got another one ...

    Planners are becoming too obsessed with being seen as intellectual gods [generally by their peers, rather than people outside their bubble] rather than be seen as people who work with other people to develop ideas that have real positive consequence.

    Ideas that live without the need for ads, but benefit from ads being able to amplify their message.

    Until we remember we need to know what's going on in people lives ... their real lives, not just their category/ad habits ... we'll forever paint ourselves into a little corner until eventually we'll be so small, no one will notice us.

    We're almost there already ...

    Jim Antonopoulos

    Great thoughts Gareth.

    It is indeed culture that we're creating, inspiring and truly the business we're in*. It certainly is difficult to break the mould of delivering a magic solution to clients, and moving towards a more collaborative process of discovery together.

    Solving business challenges and ensuring that the solution has both cultural and social relevance is difficult and it means that far more people than just us strategists need to be on board for the ride.

    * great quote rukallstar.


    Great post Gareth.

    This is a good step onwards from John Grant´s Brand Innovation Manifesto. Might deserve a mention there in your "Food for thought" column?

    Any other thoughts on Brazil?


    Great post Gareth.

    This is a good step onwards from John Grant´s Brand Innovation Manifesto. Might deserve a mention there in your "Food for thought" column?

    Any other thoughts on Brazil?


    I have always viewed culture as subjective, so a fundamental problem is to define what is the current culture. And more so, to define the current culture daily because that is how culture exists. Reminds me of a slideshare presentation by Matthew Milan called "leading with insight" where he outlines insights come from a "prepared mind". In this case, a prepared mind actively understands the culture around it.

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