WTF Part 5: Corporate Narrative, Brand and Context

In part 1 of this five part series I plotted out what I’m calling the Seven Part Corporate Narrative –

Seven Part Corporate Narrative


You may notice that both ‘brand’ and ‘context’ are pointing outwards. This is deliberate.

I read an interesting article recently that said a person’s perception of time is a mailable thing. It had a good example to explain this: if someone turns up to a doctor’s surgery and is told the doctor is running 30 minutes behind they may be initially annoyed, but will then sit down and happily wait for 30 minutes. However if the person turns up and is told the doctor will be available soon, but then waits for 30 minutes they will become increasingly annoyed and agitated. Interesting? Rambling? Stick with me.

Interesting in the context of this model.

The model is saying there are two types of stakeholder. Either a) people who are pro-actively interacting with company, interested in an aspect of it (with a goal in mind) or b) the company’s activities enter into the life of the stakeholder and they are reacting in so manner.

Brand deals well with the group of stakeholders in bucket A – it helps them understand what the company can do for them and if the stakeholder wanted to dig deeper they can find out about the other aspects of the narrative. Brand connects with stakeholders who have an active interest in the company. They should be able to walk through the door a from that point be covered in brand.

But brand can come across as self-serving when it disturbs an individual’s life – brand tries to turn the disturbance into an opportunity for the company. Not really great behaviour that builds reputation with people who have nothing to gain from you and perhaps something to loose.

But there is another way – through sharing context. Context connects with stakeholders who have a passive interest in the company. A passive interest is perhaps a bit more difficult to grasp – it could be where an aspect of a company comes into contact with an individual’s life, instead of the stakeholders actively seeking it out.

Companies need to communicate the fact they share the same context as their stakeholders. Only from this point can there be common ground and a road to acceptance on both sides.

I’m aware this is a big ask – communicating context is difficult online – just read the pointless spats that take place in the comments section on the Daily Mail’s articles. When done well it should connect with the individual in a shared experience. On a basic level it needs to cover political dynamics, economic issues, social and technological change and environmental impacts (as you’d expect).

So that’s brand and context.


Corp comms is stuck in the defensive #justsayin

Is it me or is corp comms becoming more and more defensive?

It feels to me that confidence is at an all time low. Where has the energy and enthusiasm gone?

Yes a lot of corp comms is defensive in nature – and you could argue that all corp comms is essentially defensive. Words like transparency and disclosure belie a mind set on keeping the silent majority happy. 

But I was always taught that the best form of defense is attack. Where has the confidence gone? The new ideas?

Timidity in communication just frames your potential as deeply negative. 

Who can say they are making some real tangible progress in the job of corp comms? Anyone? 

Yes content strategy is allowing companies to communicate more directly, but how much of this content everyone is producing is actually interesting?

Brand Debate, Uncategorized

London 2012 – the final stretch

Olympics, 2012 brand

Photo used under Creative Commons, with thanks to Ben Sutherland

The last London Olympics were nicknamed the Austerity Games, and the parallels between 1948 and 2012 are not lost on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). They’ve navigated the choppy waters on the approach to the games with aptitude:

  • Key sponsorship deals were secured before the financial meltdown,
  • Strong ticket sales will ensure good attendance at the games (despite the anger felt by UK ticket buyers),
  • The regeneration of Stratford is comprehensive and immediately apparent with news footage showing the progress onsite, and importantly,
  • It is running on time and under budget.

This all reflects well on brand UK. Around the world, outside the British tabloid bubble, the message rings loud and clear – the UK’s has got it’s business in order, which at the moment is pretty good news. This message came across resoundingly last week with the celebration events taking place all over the UK’s capital to remind people it’s only a year until the opening ceremony.

The Final Stretch for the 2012 Brand

So far, so good, but there is one thing that nags in the back of the mind that is less concrete than that used in the ahead-of-schedule stadium. The next challenge the 2012 brand faces is extending itself to getting ‘the youth’ involved. This is not an easy task, as a recent survey suggests that around half of the UK’s 11 to 18-year-olds are ambivalent towards the games.

What is required is behaviour change on a massive scale. And due to the stakeholders involved (the British public) behaviour change that has to be evidenced in a meaningful way – numbers of young people signing up is a start, but evidence of repeated activity would be better.

Nike, another brand that reaches back to the Ancients, has made progress in this area with Nike+. 2012 would do well to take a laurel leaf out of Nike’s Macbook – their use of technology to enable people to race each other and connect has been a great success in the contemporary world.

But 2012 will need to take a step further than Nike and identify the exact behaviours they want to change in young people and the motivations for maintaining that behaviour. Only then, from that frame of reference, will 2012 will be able to persuade the youth to commit to a new path. It is a challenge of Olympic proportions (sorry) and if met London 2012 will surely be an absolute success.

What do you think? Do you think the London 2012 brand is helping the UK or not?

Trends, Uncategorized

It’s time to mobilise your brand

Yes, it’s a rallying cry. And here’s a quick rundown of why mobile phones are so important for marketers and some potential implications for brands.

Computing itself is shifting from the table and lap to the hand. The oft’referenced Morgan Stanley research points out that next year more units of SMART phones will be shipped around the world than the traditional PC.

SMART phone owners use their phones for a wide variety of reasons. A recent study by KPMG shows us that the top five activities are texting, taking and sending photos, surfing the internet, checking emails and accessing social networks.

Mass adoption is a reality too – SMART phones are becoming part of everyday life in the UK. Kantar research indicates that SMART phones will account for 50% of the UK mobile usage by this time next year.

What does this mean for brands?

It appears the humble mobile telephone is fast becoming an extension of the self. Life is turning into a project that can be monitored, adjusted and enhanced in realtime. But I think the key question here is what do people actually need, or expect, from these new devices?

To try to answer this question I’ve mapped out my thinking on this – see below (this has been influenced by others, take a look at slide 36 of this deck for instance).


Brands will have to make an adjustment.  If life is to be a realtime project, where the journey not the destination, is all important then brands will need to move from lifestyle choices (the destination), to ‘lifesubstance’ choices (the journey). Google are getting there with the Google+ Project – it implies that with your help the project can only get better; you become a part of it’s on-going success. It’s the formula for a new form of brand loyalty – you don’t simply live the dream, you create it too.  And people, especially young people (H/T EURO RSCG), think it is important to find brands they can be loyal to.

This is such an evolving space – please add your thoughts on this below. How do you think brands can utilise mobiles?


In the Press

I got a mention in Marketing Week:

Integrated brand communication agency Bell also used direct marketing to kick-start its Cracking Ideas project for the UK Intellectual Property Office, aiming to bring innovation to classrooms, with a website and competition for budding inventors. A CD-Rom was sent to teachers directing them to the Cracking Ideas website, which offered online resources that fitted with the National Curriculum. Some 8% of the UK’s primary schools downloaded work schemes and took up the invention challenge.

“DM is a difficult one to get right – creativity and testing are key,” explains George Butler, strategic consultant at Bell. “An authentic tone of voice is important – teachers do not want to be patronised; they want communications to speak directly and clearly, and they search out innovative ways to help solve problems they have in their classroom. “We tend to test ideas on focus groups to make sure they hit the mark,” he adds.