Future of Work Part 3.


Today we look at the third insight developed in 2011 for a JWT/Microsoft project to see how it weathered after all these years. Insight number 3:

For many work bleeds into play and vice versa.

  • Gaming in marketing growing.
  • “Always On” blurs the lines.
  • Who pays the phone bill? Who owns the laptop?
  • Should be a backlash at some point (a fight against always on).
  • The recession has conditioned employees to work harder.

Implication for FOW: By providing helpful, meaningful ways to support the work/life phenomenon, MSFT should help users in do both.

It seems to me, with the exception of gaming becoming more a part pf marketing, these all held up. Everyone is different and not every job is as strategic as the next, but always being on and having a mobile phone to record in real time your work improvement observations allows those to think about work when they are not at work. Just as making a parenting observation at work won’t keep you from taking that home.

Though gaming didn’t overly impact marketing, Virtual Reality will. Especially in a post-Corona Virus world. Which, by the way, has created a recession. Which will condition employees to work harder.

Insight 3 was a handmaiden to yesterday’s about mobile changing everything. Businesses that enable work to integrate comfortably into life, will earn some serious revenue points. And right now, I’d say that will be a win for hardware companies more so than for software and service companies. I’m guessing devices will morph toward more talking and less typing – virtual assistance stuff.



Future of Work Part 2.


Yesterday I began sharing a Future of Work deck from 2010-11.  Today we are looking at Insight Number 2.

Mobile is changing everything. I cannot imagine anyone arguing this point. Here are the support points:

  • 292m subscriber in the U.S. (pop. Of 308m)
  • Messages about to replace MOU (minutes of use) in mobile
  • Smartphone to surpass functions phones in 2010.
  • Mobile connected workforce puts more hours into the work day.
  • Mobile is chaotic with huge interoperability issues. (Gomez.com, a solution provider).
  • Customers expect more and

The only point that doesn’t stand up is mobile is chaotic. Interoperability is pretty seamless these days albeit the Apple (IOS) and Google (Android) operating systems aren’t the friendliest of cousins.

Implication for FOW: If we (Microsoft) create a more usable, kinder-gentler mobile experience, we can be seen as leader.

My prediction that the Windows mobile operating system (and eventual purchase of Nokia in 2013) would win the day was absolutely wrong. MSFT and Steve Balmer had an opportunity but played the wrong cards. 

The reality is, mobile has changed the Future of Work. But work and play will continue to merge via the mobile phone until such a time as security issues and hacking change the landscape.




The Future of Work, Ten Years Ago.


Ten years ago (time flies me droogies), I was hired to work for a few months in the JWT account planning department on Microsoft. It was one of the highlights of my planning career.

One of the key assignments was something we called the “Future of Work.” I wrote a trends deck that acted as a starting point for the assignment. I’ll be sharing key insights from that deck over the next week or so to see it they still hold up 10 years later. (When written, the deck was only about trends, not about selling product. Eventually it morphed towards an Office 365 piece, where it was to help defend against Google Docs – it is a business after all. My approach was upstream however.) Insight number one:

  1. Most of the innovation in technology over the past 4-5 years has been on the consumer side.

Prior to Facebook, most major technology innovations were business to business. Mainframes, LANs, PCs, private date lines, enterprise (corporate) email systems, cell phones, and VOIP and voice mail. But this all changed in the middle aughts when Twitter, Facebook, the iPhone, Kindle, Netflix, the App Store, Foursquare and tablets emerged. Developing and marketing products directly to consumers rather than IT departments forced technology to be user-friendly. Accessible. It was a sea change. It was a cleansing moment. Ease of use paved the way for use and innovation. The market was not just the geeks who understood PC Magazine, but everybody.

Implication for the Future Of Work (FOW): With all the action on the consumer side, someone could fill the innovation void on the business side of the market. Business workers could thrive thanks to usability-inspired innovation.



Unhealthy Healthcare Advertising.


Healthcare branding is my jam. I know, I know, it sounds sort of geeky and sans luster but it really is a deep and emotional category. When I first dabbled, I expected it would be a downer. Most healthcare organizations, especially systems, couldn’t find their ass with their hands when it came to promoting – let alone positioning. But over the last 15 years or so, brand craft in healthcare has inched forward. Sadly, not everywhere.

Two local health systems here in North Carolina like to promote how thoroughly they cater to their patients. How the patient is job-one. (Here’s a secret, that’s the promise of 70% of hospital systems out there.) Today I read an ad from one of these systems Advent Health that spoke about Corona Virus preparedness. The headline “Your trusted source for Corona Virus Care,” sat atop a subhead “Nothing is more important to us than you.” The copy contained more promise, no a lick of proof.

Most healthcare orgs. and systems don’t have a brand strategy – a discrete framework of value. A claim and proof array, as I refer to it. Had Advent a brand strategy, they would have been able to write an ad that was not simply unsubstantiated claim, but was an evidentiary tale. Filled with reasons to believe/

Poor or non-existent brand strategy leads to poor paid communications.

It’s crime. It’s a waste. Frankly, it’s unhealthy.



Adopt a Business.


What do brick and mortar businesses do when the supply chain of money comes to a halt? Effectively it turns into a ghost town economy. No peeps, no money, no products, no services.

There’s an old Mike Tyson boxing axiom “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well folks, we’ve been punched in the mouth. What shall we do? Business as usual? Sit back and wait it out? Can’t do the former. Shouldn’t do the latter.

The government believes the way forward is to keep the money supply chain running. Send out gov’t checks so we can continue paying bills. The only winners then become the banks.

What if we were to have a bill paying moratorium? Say for 3 months. No mortgages. No electric or water bills. No credit card bills. (But also, no credit card purchases.) What would it free us up to do? It would free us up to isolate and heal. It would free us up to help one another in thoughtful, meaningful ways. It would free us up to innovate. It’s a big idea and one that only the federal government can pull off.

But since that’s not likely to happen what can we do for our brick and mortar brethren? How about this — Let’s get everyone to adopt one brick and mortar business. Then offer them help as safely as is possible. A little money, paint, food, sweat equity – even a shoulder to cry on. Maybe, even just some new ideas.

Isolation is great for pandemic, but it’s not the best way to innovate out of a crisis. Let’s help one another, but be safe doing it. It will free up many of the burdens of this illness. But we must do it safely.



The Golden Rule.


Branding with a brand strategy is simple. But it starts with having a brand strategy. At What’s The Idea? framework for brand strategy is one claim and three proof planks. The claim and planks never change; however, the proof points comprising the planks can, do and must. By finding new proofs for your claim you keep your brand fresh, relevant, topical and dare I say social.

By way of example, I’ll share the brand strategy for a commercial maintenance client. The claim was “the navy seals of commercial maintenance.” The proof planks were “fast,” “fastidious” and “preemptive.” When marketing or content creating if the work did not support the claim and at least one element of the proof array, it didn’t get approved.

Branding without a brand strategy and tight framework for same, is difficult. It lacks pragmatism. Branding without strategy is fluid, determined by the artist not the business person, and often ever-changing. Marketing directors come and go, campaigns come and go, agencies come and go, but a brand strategy should be indelible.

To quote David Byrne, “This ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.” We’re trying to make money here. In good times and bad. The framework for successful marketing starts with brand strategy. Extensible, scalable, replicable and creative brand strategy.

The golden rule. Peace.


The Wix Logo Maker.


I was watching TV the other day and a Wix ad asked “Need a professional looking logo for your brand? Then Try the new Wix logo maker.” Oy.

I made a career out of working in emerging technologies. I love the digital age. Google’s brand promise “the world’s information one click away” shows me that digital companies are good marketers and branders too. But marketing and, especially, brand building are not Do It Yourself pursuits. A logo making machine, come on!

Trademarkia has made it cheap and easy to establish a brand name. Wix has made it cheap and easy to create websites. Google Adwords has made it cheap and easy for small business owners to advertise. But building a business or growing and scaling a business is not a just an add water process.

Here’s the strategic input required to create a new Wix logo.

Enter Your Brand Name – Add the name of your brand, business or organization, and tell us what you do.

Tell Us What Your Logo Is For – Describe your business, so our logo maker can create a logo that fits your brand.

Share Your Design Style- Let us know more about your personal style—from colors and fonts, to icons and more.

Customize Your Logo Design – Edit and polish your logo online till it looks exactly the way you want.

Abracadabra, out pops a logo.

This is the most narcistic marketing tools known to man. The business world will be littered with Wix logos in 20 years. Why? Because these logos have nothing to do with the consuming public. It’s all me-centric strategy. And more importantly, machines aren’t designers. They’re machines. Oh, the horror.



My Favorite Interview Question.


One of the interview questions I used while wording at an ad agency looking to hire junior account managers was “Tell me about me.” I’d wait until the interview was well underway so the candidate had an opportunity to hear a bit from me and look around my office. Also, it let me know if they did any homework prior to the interview. I loved this question. At the time I was an account manager not a brand planner or researcher, so pinging a candidate on their powers of observation was, likely, unexpected.

It was an out-of-left field question that really separated the wheat from the chaff. On so many levels. Are they bull-shitters? Do they pay attention? Are they multidimensional?

The last time I used the question was with a young woman whose response made me feel I’d crossed the line. Or said something untoward. She couldn’t process it. And I spent more time explaining and justifying the question than I did interviewing her. (Fail…on both our parts.) She overreacted and I overreacted. I should have just moved on.

I still love the question, especially as a brand planner, but putting on my empathy hat I can see how it may have been off-putting to someone sensitive to roles, power and need.

Maybe the problem wasn’t the purpose of the question, but the question itself. Perhaps an edit is in order.

Always thinking.




Unorganized Marketing.


What is the pent-up demand for brand strategy services? What keeps company officers up at night that a brand strategy can fix? The answer: Unorganized marketing.

The Oxford Dictionary defines organize as “give an orderly structure to, systematize.” Therefore, unorganized means the opposite — not organized or not orderly. Disorganized has a stronger connotation. It means to “destroy the system or order; throw into confusion.” It indicates a chaotic mode.

The fact is, most companies in need of brand help suffer from unorganized marketing, not disorganized. That’s because they never had an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. They may have a logo, tagline, marketing plan, even a good ad campaign, but not a constant framework that governs everything.

So what is the result of having unorganized marketing? Loss of time developing programs. Loss of money in poorly performing media and tactics. Lack of focus around customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. And poor accountability because marketing doesn’t know what to measure other than sales. With unorganized marketing big data becomes little data.

My job as a brand consultant is to dig deeply into business fundamentals, determine care-abouts and good-ats and create a framework of values for presenting a brand that creates sales and loyalty.

This is upstream planning — and too many marketers are afraid to paddle up. Ergo they lose sleep and sales.



Brand Strategy and Altruism.


I read on Bright Planning that “People want to connect with brands that are giving back or doing something for the greater good rather than just their bottom line. Figure out how your business fits into that and share the story through your brand identity.”

Most marketing people, especially branders, would agree with this sentiment. I mean, what’s wrong with doing good?

Not to be contrary but this isn’t for everyone. Not doing good – that’s never a bad idea – but to make it part of your brand identity. Unless you are a nonprofit.

At What’s The Idea?, brand strategy framework is one claim and three proof planks. The claim is a value statement built upon care-abouts and good-ats and the planks are the proofs or evidence of the claim…organized into discrete groupings. These proof planks are best when endemic product/service values. A more comfortable children’s underwear. A more fastidious building cleaning service. A healthcare system that integrates better with the community.

Being a good corporate entity is the price of entry. It’s not your day job. It’s not a brand plank. Branding is about currying favor with consumers, meeting their needs, in indestructible productized ways. Do good, be a good corporate citizen. Use your brand wealth to share the good, but don’t make it a bolt on to your identity. Not everyone can be Patagonia.