Playing with Wordle

You’ve seen Wordle, right? It lets you make some sweet little word clouds and can suck you down a vortex of colors, fonts and layouts trying different combinations to perfect what you’re trying to say about a chunk of text. They’re perfect for open-ended questions. Here’s a peak under the hood from the survey. We asked: “what, if anything, do you dislike about your current job?” You’re top 15 responses in word clouds:

Do the different layouts speak to you differently? “Clients” was the number one response – 91 mentions – and it feels a little lost in that first layout.

Interestingly, 133 people didn’t write in anything, indicating to us that they are happy. Salary seems to play an important role in this happiness: 73.6% of the happy people said their pay is fair or better. Men are happier than women (70% vs. 30%, Yowza!). Non-US planners are more satisfied than US planners (65% vs. 35%).

Why I find myself a patron

Two days ago my interweb friend, Bud Caddell, put out a call for some support for a new book project. His goal is to raise $5,000 and, as he explains here in more detail, gather an editorial board to participate in the process of creating the book. He’ll use the funds to hire a book editor as well as cover other expenses that are bound to come up in the process such as traveling to interviews.

So I decided to help out and Bud asked the sponsors thus far to post their reasons why. Perhaps you’ll be interested in helping out too.

I honestly didn’t think about it too hard. I read about the idea, went to lunch and by the time I got back I was typing in my pledge. The various thoughts I had:

1. Bud is a great writer. He is prolific which to me says he’s disciplined. Any project he puts his energy toward will turn out well.

2. The sum I kicked in doesn’t mean that much to me; it’s a couple of pairs of jeans. (Does anyone else measure they’re purchases in units of denim?) And as Gretchen Rubin suggests, we can buy some happiness when we indulge in a modest splurge.

3. Compared to times past, our culture doesn’t support creative endeavors. Michaelangelo had Leorenzo de Medici, but who does Bud Caddell have?

4. I have a book idea myself and recently had a few individuals offer to help me with it and it felt amazing and within my grasp. I’d like to give that feeling to someone else.

5. Since I have a book idea I’m working on, I might learn a thing or two going through this process with Bud.

6. It sounds like fun.

So perhaps you’d like to get involved too? Here’s the place to do it.

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 8

We’ve reached the end of the series. If you’ve just landed, you can check out the other seven parts starting here.

Crowd-source your own work. You may be nothing in planning if you’re not on Cool Planner Hair, but seriously, as a digital planner you’re only as good as your network. Ask yourself, do I help other planners? Can I ask for help and get immediate responses? Building reciprocal relationships based on generosity are imperative today.

I got really lucky. The planning survey started out as something sort of selfish. Or at least quid pro quo. I wanted to know if I was getting paid fairly as a girl and when I might expect to be a “senior” planner. And I shared the info with anyone willing to participate. Now it has become something that I do for the planning community. So too are the informational skypes I do with anyone who asks (up to one a week!)

You have to find your  own way to be generous. The most common way is answering calls for help on twitter or posting helpful thinking on your own blogs and slideshare. Or build networks for planners like Anibal Casso and Eric Fernandez did with AP Find, a storage center of valuable relevant finds from the web. Or Account Planning School of the Web that Rob Campbell now runs. Or one of the number of fresh things Bud Caddell is constantly known for kicking in the mix. Then there are fun things like planner hair that I mentioned. I’d love to know more cool planner projects out there – please give some props in the comments.

These people have made themselves famous in our little planner world. These are people who can ask for help and get responses quickly. These are the type I would want to fill my team with.

Forget my list. Make your own. What the fuck do I know? There’s no one right answer. You have to find what works for you. And you’ve had experiences none of us has had. So start that generous project and help us know what you know.

If you’re interested in the slides from this series, complete with images I forgot to credit, they are now up on slideshare.

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 7

Generate possibilities. This is not merely true of digital – no matter what your realm, any planner worth a pay check should be coming up with possibilities. But when it comes to applying this principle to digital we have to help our creatives get started in a different way from an ATL project. What do I mean? Well, I think our briefs are a fine place to start.

When I see “single most important thing to communicate” on a brief I want to throw up all over it. This is not to say that the problem should not be framed pointedly, but we need to evolve beyond the old guard’s boiled-down bull’s eye phrase. Briefs should have many directions to push off of that still fit the strategy and planners have to show the potential of the strategy with viable idea starters.

This is yet another place where CPB has other shops beat. The Crispin brief is truly brief. But be careful not to think you can just adopt this method in your own work (well, maybe you can, I’ve got smart readers). I was just talking about this last night with a former CPBer – we know other former Crispin creatives who tried to implement this brief at other agencies and it’s never been done sucessfully. Perhaps one reason is that making it tighter takes a lot more time. But the even harder bit is that you have to learn how to write tensions that make sense for your brand while still respecting the concept of tension. There has to be some edge. Russ Klein from BK used to say he had to feel uncomfortable reading it. This is the place where cracking human behavior opens possibilities.

Then there’s the Talk Value section. This is the place to get grains of possibilities into the brief. But generally we’d write it from the perspective of what would a person say about this idea if they experienced it. Get’s you thinking in that two steps ahead, predicting the future kind of way.

I also think Griffin Farley has some very smart thinking about the ability for one group to set off another that he calls propagation planning. Especially with digital, we have to think about how (or from whom) people will get information and entertainment or conversely share their opinions and what they find interesting. This can lead to very interesting ideas as his slideshare shows.

I’m really keen to hear more ways you’re generating possibilities for your brands that I can steal – please leave a comment!

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 6

Seeding is cheating. Cheating works. All of the media and PR firms I’ve worked with are struggling to get their head around seeding. I define seeding more broadly than most – to me it’s anything that get’s views and conversation on a roll. What we called earned media (as opposed to bought and owned). And to me, that should fall under the scope of media or PR. But we have a bit of a wild west scenario right now where no one seems to be calling dibs on seeding, and even if they do, we can’t approach blogs with the full-meal press release and expect them to figure out the appeal to their respective audience. But when we approach them in a cool way, you can get a ton of propagation for your money ala this must-see example.

Of the companies I’ve talked to, there are a spectrum of services that fall under this heading of seeding. There are the more PR 2.0 firms who have relationships with bloggers and sometimes YouTube channels and Facebook groups or they can hunt down some that are relevant to your brand and build new relationships bespoke to each project. Then there are the more Media 2.0 kind who pay sites on a per view basis to pick up their viewer and serve up your video content as an ad or as a video when they write about the content. All of them generally offer listening/tracking services so you know the sentiment, engagement, and number of posts and views. Some companies do the PR thing and the media thing. And then there’s the uploading of your video content to the long-tail video sites beyond YouTube and Vimeo which still adds up to gobs of views. Many do this too.

I know of 8 such companies. I recommend 4 below. I’d like to know of more and who you think are doing good work, plus all of these are headquartered in Europe. Some have partnerships in other regions and can handle other languages but I’d like to have a collection of the best around the world.

The PR ones I like best and would work with personally (in this order): The 7th Chamber We Are Social and Unruly Media

The Media ones I like best and would work with personally (in this order): Go Viral and Unruly Media

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 5

Fads are real. Digital can move fast enough so that we can be a part of fast moving popular culture. And we can create popular culture. Two examples I love right now are Assisted Serendipity using Foursquare data to be notified when the odds are in your favor gender-wise at your favorite venue and Ben Fold’s Ode to Merton that remixed Chatroulette and Merton’s improv singing on the platform doing it better (truly worth the watch if you haven’t seen it).

Every Axe, beer, and gum brand manager who spent even a moment putting “getting the girl” in their brand key should be kicking themselves for not producing Assisted Serendipity first. We have to be not only brave to jump on these fads, but also realize that digital is usually the best way to play with fast culture. Taking a year to test an idea is blindly ignorant of reality. And this transitions to a life lesson I try to keep in mind: we need to be really smart about how much of our time we give to clients who are not ready to push past TV and print alone. Try to be a catalyst of change and be optimistic for up to a year. But don’t be a martyr and let the world pass you by in the process.

Utility and entertainment is better than utility or entertainment. Utility is on everyone’s checklist: what can we do to help, enhance, or inform people? There’s a lot of rhetoric about solving problems, so we’re all clamoring to come up with utilities, but we need to remember to let people enjoy the solution. Those top shelf examples – Uniqlock, Nike +, Bakerstweet – all have an element of delight within an elegant solution.

Interactive behavior is still behavior. Within the digital landscape, human behavior is expansive. We have to add our understanding of real world activity and overlay searching, online shopping, playing, flirting. Online behavior doesn’t stand still. In fact it morphs at a rapid pace. We need to re-evaluate what people are doing all the time and come up with new ways to dig into online behavior. This is the fun stuff. Part of this overlaps with the listening topic previously discussed, but this also gets deeper into true behavior. We can see exactly what people are doing, not just what they say they do.

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 4

Are you hanging in there? I can’t believe I’m posting on a daily basis. This is so not me. So don’t get used to it. Where were we? Ah, yes…

Strategy is what comes after the brief. Concepting takes more people in digital – technologists, art directors, writers, UX, and yes, strategists. We have to be wracking our brains for good ideas too. We also need to encourage baby ideas with potential and fix ideas so they will work in the real world.

Then there is this grey area I haven’t totally figured out. There is a wide variety of interests among even our little bevy of 4 planners – some have no problem walking into a six month vortex to create a 1.3 million a year brand platform site and debate the number of tabs we should have on the home page.  I like coming up with the general idea of a platform and even getting into the detail of all of the functions and content areas and assessing how it is doing. But I don’t want to handhold developers. I’d rather be coming up with more ideas or winning new clients. I’d be curious to know the spectrum of talents you are coming across and which ones you define as strategy.

Strategy is what comes after the launch. Clients are just starting to realize this, but there are inevitably going to be things that go wrong or unexpected fortuitous opportunities when we put our work out into the world. What do you do when 50 Cent wants to use some of your film in his video? This really happened to us last year once we launched Carousel. Or when you’ve created an online game and there’s not enough server space and it’s so popular it constantly crashes in the first days? This also has happened. Or Facebook changes the rules mid-campaign? They tend to do that kind of crap. Strategy plays a critical role in deciding what the best move is.

Of course, there is measurement and learning for the next thing you do, but this point is really about the period of time when an idea goes live and likely needs care, encouragement and trouble shooting.

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 3

Free ourselves from media, create content. Create good content. Any marketer can put stuff on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr, a microsite or a company blog. Of course that’s also the problem. There’s a lot of crap out there. So we have to get good at making content: not just messages, but the kind that starts conversation and dialog, that gets talked about and passed on, and that invites customers to get involved and teach us how to make them happy.

This one is hard. It’s kind of like saying “just be awesome.” But I do believe you can learn from what has worked for your brand in the past, follow the trends of what is working in culture right now, and gobble everything up from people claiming to analyze what is spreading or building their business model around creating spreadable content.

Here’s the super sexy film (and results) we did for Philips 21:9 that won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year:

Learn human, natural conversation and teach it to clients. Brands often seem incapable of not talking about themselves. I’d say this is most evident in client briefs. Grant McCracken likens these brands to a drunk guy at a party going on and on about what he’s interested in. That kind of thinking doesn’t lead to work that spreads and it is getting ever more expensive to shout your messages at people by buying their attention. Plus it’s boring. Why do I want to waste my time working with those kinds of brands?

We have to partner with our clients to teach them how to generate discussion around topics that are meaningful to the community they want to establish. Or be meaningful, inoffensive contributors to communities that already exist. Only then can our brands gain the street cred they see other brands developing and truly be part of the conversation.

Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 2

Listen to the conversation. Everyone talks about listening, and I would argue that it’s getting to be a full time job that we need specialists for in order to implement properly. For our purposes, we need to know the tools and techniques and be able to pull something quick and dirty together for a pitch or in order to sell in real listening services. From the free stuff on Google to the real deal with Radian 6, we need to be able to take data and find actionable information in it. We also need to teach clients about the different KPIs of digital programs and help build custom dashboards to track conversation, spread and remixes of what we’re putting out into culture.  We also want to follow competitors and know what they’re doing. Ultimately, we need to help set up a client to do this work internally and share it with us. I personally believe the voice on social networks needs to come from someone internal.

Encourage participation. What is really cool about digital is that it enables people to more easily do what comes naturally: share their take on the world. We need ideas that create the preconditions for people to co-create with us. This will not solve every brief, but as one of the checklist bases to cover we ought to consider if co-creation might be the answer. Contests tap into our prehistoric competitive nature. Being creative feeds into our need for meaning in life. And bribes aren’t just for kids. A coupon or a freebie can be a fun reason alone to get involved.

At Tribal, we did a fairly low-cost program for Philips last year using Twitter that did a great job encouraging participation. Have a look if you haven’t seen this before:

A New Series: Get Your Digital Planner On – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I was in Romania speaking at a marketing conference and conducting a workshop. The tireless Costin Radu is essentially the most connected man in Bucharest and he and his colleague Vlad perfected the art of hosting for myself, Neil Perkins and Duncan Southgate for a few days.

I think it’s very important to accept these opportunities in order to meet and really get to know a diverse group of people to stretch your thinking as well as force yourself to crystalize your most recent thinking and see the larger themes emerge. One bit of my shtick that went over particularly well was this section of the workshop:

This is a hot topic as I’ve also seen a lot of people favorite the open-ended responses to the question I asked in last year’s survey articulating what digital planners see is the difference between their jobs and other planners on slideshare and a steady stream of traffic continues to land on this post I did on the subject a year ago. But I think it’s time for an update because some of the things I said before feel less true now that I’m in the trenches myself, plus the pace of change is rapid. What was true a year ago isn’t necessarily holding true today.

So over the next several days I want to share my presentation a thought or two at a time and pick the thinking apart. Then I’ll post the whole thing on slideshare. I hope you’ll chime in and leave some comments.

My first assertion:

Matching luggage is dead. We need to make the case that the world is changing until every team member believes it. Then we can go about our business of making a lot of stuff that we think is cool and inviting. See what works. Do more of that. Burger King is the best example I’ve yet to come across that operates this way. You may have seen Whopper Virgins and Whopper Sacrifice. These came off of the same brief. They were presented among many other ideas – each treated equally. We didn’t present “routes” with TV, print and online springing forth. Instead each idea was a board. Some were more expensive than others, for sure. But together with the client we were able to choose the right mix of experiments to try.

Do you remember Whopper Flame? Probably not. It was a real fragrance inspired by the Whopper (though it did NOT smell like Whoppers!). It was available online and in a pop-up store. It just didn’t take off like the other two, but BK was willing to find out if it might. BK doesn’t pretest, and as Les Binet’s (of DDB London) research of IPA papers shows in the UK, brands that don’t pretest see higher effectiveness results than those that do. The real world is the only true test. Making stuff over and over and seeing the results develops your palate as to what will work for a brand.

And a brand can have 25 different logos or three different campaign ideas, big or small. People can keep up. More detail is in fact what makes a brand more interesting. The same principle applies to any cultural artifact as Everything Bad is Good For You taught us. Think of TV shows like Lost. There are 30+ characters, we jump from present to past to future to alternate timelines. But no matter. We can track. And we track even better when we discuss with each other. These details matter.

So as planners, we should all strive to live by the principle that best ideas win. For planners this means a lot of hard work to free yourself from a few things: talking about big ideas, blowing out a big idea, presenting routes, and concepting toward TV/film content first. These issues are not just for ATL agencies to struggle through; many digital shops share the same difficulties.