How to Reach Perpetually Connected Customers

A nice piece by Christine Overby (@coverby) from Forrester research who interviewed me ahead of a talk I’m doing in May:

There’s a growing group people who are always online and use their devices to support nearly every activity, including making decisions about your products and services. We call them your perpetually-connected customers. They will shake you marketing to the core, because they value service and utilility — not ads buzzing in their pockets. To thrive, you need new tactics and a culture of innovation. In the run-up to our Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders EMEA, I’ve been speaking about marketing innovation with one of our keynotes Greg Williams, Executive Editor at WIRED. As an editor, speaker, and writer, Greg scouts the best glimpses of the future that exist in the here-and-now. Here are some of his thoughts.

Q: What’s your favourite example of an application that merges the digital and physical?

A: It’s a really hard thing to get right. A successful example is Tesco’s South Korean operation, which is called Home Plus. As part of its drive to become the number one supermarket chain in the country it did some research, which revealed that – as people in South Korea work some of the longest hours in the world – they found supermarket shopping an enormous chore. Home Plus reacted to this by posting detailed photographic images of its stores (everything from meat counters to shelves of cleaning supplies) on the walls of subway stations. This enabled time-poor commuters to use their mobile devices to scan QR codes and have their goods delivered to their homes within hours. Home Plus online sales went up by 130 per cent in three months helping it to close the gap on the market leader, E-Mart.

Q: Are there low-risk ways for brands to open up innovation?

A: I think that it’s a mind-set more than anything else. I did a talk for a large energy company a few months ago that was trying to improve its knowledge flows. They’d got people together from all over the world who work across various parts of the business that basically operate in silos. Instituting large-scale change was high-risk for them in terms of cost and they didn’t know where to start. In instances like this I think that the only way to initiate change is to try and forget that you work in a large institution and act like an entrepreneur and energise your team or those around you and, essentially, attack the way that you work. You have to hack your own business, your own working methods and the only way to do this is to have a culture of openness.

Q: What’s the most common mistake that brands make when story telling?

A: People talk a lot about uniqueness and setting your brand apart, which are important, but I feel that, in many ways, content marketing is no different from writing a novel or a movie – it’s about creating a narrative with emotional resonance. To steal from John Lasseter, the chief Creative Officer at Pixar, there are three words that really count: make, me, care.

Hear more from WIRED’s Greg Williams in May at Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders EMEA, May 21-22 in London.

Your Latte Addiction Explained

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

As I write this, I’m drinking my first cup of coffee of the day. I thought about my first sip almost the moment I woke up. The first cup of coffee is a small daily pleasure that many of us use as a fixed point in the day: the beverage means that we’re ready to go now; the day can commence.

There was a cartoon that appeared in the New Yorker a decade or so ago that offered a summary lesson to entrepreneurs thinking about the drinks industry. The idea and execution and summary were simple. There were line drawings of two cups of coffee that had been sketched on a napkin. The one on the left had ‘50c’ written underneath it, and a big ‘X’ through both cup of coffee and price. The one on the right had a drawing of what appeared to be exactly the same mug and coffee. Underneath it was a price: ‘$2’.

The caption beneath the two cups of coffee read: Starbucks’ business plan.

It was a timely observation: at that point, many people were still getting used to the idea of paying double or triple what they were used to paying for a cup of joe. Having spent some time in Seattle in the mid to late nineties I’d witnesses that the model was one that was successful on a local level, but would the Starbucks model work outside out of the relaxed, crunchy environs of the west coast?

You, of course, know the answer to that. But Starbucks’ success in educating people to pay a multiple of what they were used to paying, for a slightly better cup of coffee, wasn’t the first time that coffee manufacturers and retailers have innovated in order to keep their product in the forefront of consumer taste. The invention of freeze-drying the stuff meant that consumers were offered the same properties as the ground iteration, but with a great deal more convenience. Just as people in urban areas were looking for ways to make their lives easier to compensate for the grueling demands and time restriction of industrial labour, a product came onto the market that allowed them to get their kick much quicker and with significantly less effort.

Coffee’s popularity in the US remained undiminished until just after the Second World War. (Consumption peaked in 1946 when the average American drank 46.4 gallons per person per year.) However, the post war era saw the rise of a whole other category of beverages which seemed more modern, upbeat and youthful: the soda. Coffee companies got worried: their product, which had long been associated with leisure in western markets, now appeared to be an old dowager in the face of the youthful vigour of Coca-Cola and the other products which appeared to reflect America’s new confidence and modernity. Coffee was perceived as your parents’ and grandparents’ drink.

Big Coffee fought back.

The trade association for the industry, the Pan-American Coffee Bureau, decided to reposition the product: it created the term “coffee break”. Creating a national campaign that reached even churches, coffee became something people (particularly the growing amounts of time-pressed women joining the workforce)  associated not with sipping, but with a kick that would get them through the day in an increasingly busy and complex working life. Having a cup of coffee was the equivalent of turning on after burners.

Coffee was no longer associated with leisure, but with wakefulness and potency.

Next time you head to Starbucks for your morning pick-me-up, remember that it’s not just your addiction that’s motivating you – it’s decades of cultural persuasion

My friend Martin Delamere reminded me that the Ploughman’s Lunch was also an agency creation. Any other examples?