Monday, November 2, 2009

7 Ways to be Interesting.

Image courtesy of MadRussianPhotography

Ogilvy Germany has just published that consumers are now cats, not dogs anymore. True in the sense of conditioning. As it seems cats are as self-directed as the modern consumer is supposed to be today. And still: I want to be talked to as human being if possible. With things, that interest me. "Interesting" seems to be the logical key word. Why should I read or watch anything un-interesting? But what makes stuff - advertising even - interesting?

WHAT IS INTERESTING TODAY?
Some recent campaign examples show what people are interested in. And doesn't have them smoothly turn away cat-style. For a recent event I screened a bunch of hyped and awarded campaigns and (product) ideas to look for commonalities.

What was part of this screening? Of course the much discussed „The best Job in the World“ case. Alltogether campaigns and examples that get praised by planners and creatives alike – and some where receiving the one or other award lately ( e.g. the Jay Chiat Awards , an English APG Award or international Effie.)

The „Prescribe the Nation“ campaign from BBH for example. Building on a completely different media strategy. With "word of mouth" taking a very organic and a lot less predictable and steerable way.

vaseline prescribe the nation CASE STUDY from craig smith on Vimeo.


What are they doing that others are missing? In a sense one of the answers is that they are (or come across as) more than just advertising. A lot more exciting is communication that was not even created as such - but as a product. E.g. bylaurenluke – where communication was actually the basis for the product – the YouTube cosmetics educational videos from a girl named Lauren Luke. Or Nike+, the product platform that achieves a much more intensive brand connection of runner and brand than any campaign could ever achieve.


Image courtesy of S.Stäuber/ Morethanadvertising.


WHAT MAKES THESE EXAMPLES INTERESTING?
There are patterns visible that are truly different to the old dog training methods. They all follow some principle or other - not all at once, but often the exciting stuff builds on one or more of the following. That aim at doing something for and with people. To gain more relevance. Principles, that make things interesting for people. A product, a brand or a business idea. And advertising and communication.



Image: courtesy of dunechaser

1. EXPERIENCE. INSPIRATION. BEING PLAYFUL.
For example the „Routan Babymaker 3000“ by VW. Experience what great baby you can have with the right partner. Actually this is about a minivan - but with a very engaging method. (Unfortunately the campaign was just that - a time based ad campaign. I think they could have left it online much longer...)
The Hornbach-House of Imagination is one of the few German examples, and truly in 3D. Outside of well-worn DIY store communication patterns the visitor can experience a complete house and the artful interpretation of it with all senses. Experiental value is the least I need to create to get people to talk about it - and achieve awareness via Word of Mouth.


2. USEFULNESS. BE HELFUL. SIMPLIFY LIFE.
Offer something truly useful. As a lot of iphone apps show over and over. Or mint.com as a new way to look at banking and financial services. As the „Twelp Force“ from Best Buy does. Or by just taking up a socially relevant theme, as Häagen-Dazs with „Where my bees at“ shows.


3. GIVE. BE GENEROUS. SHARE.
Give stuff away generously. Not in form of coupons that should get you to buy stuff. But as a present. Free useful iphone Apps for example. Or free downloads like the Coldplay Live Album. Live Streams from concerts etc. are just the same – and also hit on the „Experience“ principle. Moneywise generous is the IDEO idea of „Keep the change“ for Bank of America. Movements such as „Guerilla Gardening“ give the city a greener face where it otherwise would be grey and ugly. Maybe because this is a voluntary movement, and not a brand doing it: a lot can be learned from cultural phenomena on how to create relevance.




4. OPEN. TRANSPARENT. BE REACHABLE. CREATE DIALOGUE.
Transparency and openness are principles of a lot of communication ideas that use social media. Like the BestBuy Twitter employees of the twelp force. The Obama campaign, even though a bit overused example. And as a lot of other brands on Twitter and other channels show. (Zappos, jetblue etc.)

5. TRUE. HONEST. AUTHENTIC. BE REAL.
Tapping the truth with what you communicate. Let real customers talk about your product - like the Fiesta Movement. Or as in Vaseline-Prescribe the nation. This is at least more trustworthy than just glossy campaigns.



6. FOR ME. BE INDIVIDUAL. PERSONAL.
Personal not in the sense of a personalised letter. But in the sense of the „me-conomy“. The feeling that you evoke when it is truly about "you". And also reflecting the potential to share. Products are definetly ahead here: YouTube – Broadcast yourself. Facebook. Flickr. Or Nike+ – where it is all about my personal run. But also products within the printing industry – e.g. Moo.com, who offer personalized business cards with a number of visual creative possibilities. A bit similar is Blurb Books, where everyone becomes their own publisher, making their own book - no matter how limited the edition.

7. COLLABORATION. COMMUNITY. LISTEN-LEARN-IMPROVE.
Cultural phenomena show it: #barcamps, that work completely different compared to the old conference style. Events such as Pecha Kucha, where people meet for speeches on the most unusual themes in a may cities around the globe. Creating and experiencing something as a community, and learning from it becomes more important. Often this principle works in ways of customer-collaboration: getting in touch and experiencing products "Tupperware-style" within a circle of friends - with the one difference that the brand is interested to source these meetings like focus groups and gain feedback on their products as well.
Crowdsourcing is an interesting idea in order to create or improve products and ideas - and advertising as well. Lego has been doing that for a while - with designbyme. Unilever has just done it for Peperami in the UK. The German Bild campaign is another recent example (also showing the creative limitations). The list of crowdsourcer is long: dell ideastorm, mystarbucks idea, German coffee corporation Tchibo having something similar. A bunch of crowdsourcing ideas - corporate and beyond - can be found here. No wonder this idea is also the basis for ex-CPB man John Winsor and his latest project: a whole agency based on the idea of crowdsourcing.



What other examples can you think of? And: are there principles missing in order to make interesting products, brands and communication?

As I was writing this I asked myself: does this always need a technical platform, are these principles strongly bound to the online world? Or is this just due to our changed media behaviour? Or that all (communicative) innovations are seemingly technical?

Looking forward to your comments and ideas on this!