Feels & Fields in brand building

information attention

In Scarcity Thinking in Marketing, I’d written about how, in an era of ‘infinite’ consumption choices, attention is arguably the most precious commodity for a brand. Also, as Faris pointed out in his excellent post, it is a zero sum game, and we’re approaching “peak attention”. We’re also well on our way to manipulating (read fracking)  it. State of the art marketing technology (say, programmatic) can sift through a consumer’s data from multiple sources, and use interest, intent and a bunch of other contexts to deliver an ad at the precise point when he/she can act favourably.

Very few brands, however, are close to this level though. Having the data is in itself a huge step, converting that to actionable insights is even huger! Data can be true, but not necessarily accurate. (read) Also, arguably marketing tech is still a wild west with snake oil salesmen. But more importantly, even if we assume that all the brands will finally get there, it then becomes a ‘square one’ driven by who can pay the most. In that respect, I do not see this as a sustainable advantage. Arguably again, at that point in time, new tech might come up with a potential of first mover advantage, but the way I’ve seen the digital marketing narrative evolve, it is probably an optimisation play than anything else. e.g. In the early days of Facebook marketing, much was made about storytelling and organic Likes, but look where we are now! Similarly, something radically different like VR is now being talked of as paradigm shifting storytelling opportunity, but until proven otherwise, I’ll be cynical.  More

Scarcity thinking in marketing

A brand could be defined as a perception in the mind of a consumer, based on his/her/others’ experiences. These experiences could be either of the product/service itself, or its marketing communication. Earlier, in a post in a different context, I had alluded to the framework of choice during consumption. To elaborate, what are the factors that influence a customer’s decision to buy/not buy? The basic 4Ps of the marketing mix cover a lot of ground in this regard. But it does not really acknowledge (even when it is extended to 7Ps) the one thing that is increasingly becoming the most scarce commodity – time.

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That’s the plan for now

This ‘what could have been’ post on FB Platform and the broader theme of ‘move fast, break things’ made me think about planning – brand as well as business, how technology is reshaping it, and the fine balance that is required to ensure business growth goes hand in hand with retaining the trust of the ecosystem.

Brand planning has always been an interest area, and I’ve had the good fortune of knowing a few brilliant planners, and learning what I could from them. Still continue to. A simple search would throw up a number of planning frameworks, and many of the fundamentals would still hold.  However, technology is throwing open more options in terms of manifestation/output. I found some good perspectives in this article which is about that CMOs can learn from technologists. The fundamental theme is dynamism. But such are the challenges that they remind me of We are trapped in our inadequate mental models ~ John Edwarrd Huth (via)

I’d think that brand narratives are (also) shaped by the story telling devices at their disposal. As Mitch Joel points out here, the nuances of marketing vs advertising need to be understood as brands struggle to transition from the mass advertising era. One-way media allowed a linear flow, but current platforms demand flexibility, and customised rendition across contexts and platforms. If consumers are the new media, the stories should be ones that they can identify with, fit into their personal narratives, and therefore inclined to share.

Many of the familiar narrative devices have focused on getting attention, but that is increasingly difficult. It’s not that ‘awareness’ can be ignored, but not only is it not enough, but attention for the sake of itself cannot work. I really liked this post (again by Paul Isakson) where he encapsulates the thought in the title itself Adding Value > Getting Attention. The > works not just as ‘greater than’ but also as ‘leads to’. Or, in other words, Be the Company Customers can’t Live Without.

In a highly fragmented media and consumption scenario, how does a brand/business know what to focus on and when to shift from it?A wonderful blog I have discovered recently is that of Paul Isakson. This post, for instance, throws light on the need for the brand to stay true to its own story, and therefore focus on specific audiences. Another of my favourite posts focuses on something that I have always believed in and liked – the back story, and its relevance for brands. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow ~ Buddha

To get there involves a cultural change, and tectonic shifts. I also think that this will force brands to think about scale. In a mass media world, a brand could get ‘reach’ by throwing money. That can still be done, even on social platforms, but when attention is not the only thing that matters, the challenge is to build relevancy and scale it – across time. That requires new planning frameworks, and possibly means a



We started with FB, so let’s go full circle. Even as late as last year, there was massive skepticism around Facebook’s ability to adapt and thrive in the mobile space. In the last earnings call, they reported that mobile had contributed 41% to revenue. (read) It would seem that Facebook knew its story, what to focus on,  and stuck to it.

until next time, refresh

Attention everyone

It was a strange coincidence that I watched the 62 Super Bowl ads back-to-back, (thanks to this aggregation effort by Mashable) on the same day that I read this very insightful post by Steve Rubel on “Attentionomics“. The slideshow is also embedded below. In addition to the key takeaways – the lifespan of content created on popular networks, it also suggests ways to overcome this.

The interesting thing was that I would have watched the Super Bowl ads without any prompting. Which makes me wonder whether the logical and scientific way proposed above to ‘game’ the attention economy is the best approach. I think my discomfort stems from the fact that this leans more towards the ‘media’ in social media and looks at the social platforms from an information dissemination perspective.

My consumption of the ads was more out of interest. The term ‘Intention Economy‘ springs to mind immediately in this context.

The intention economy is an approach to viewing markets and economies focusing on buyers as a scarce commodity. The consumers’ intent to buy drives the production of goods to meet their specific needs.

The thought is whether/how this can be applied to consumption of content. If it can, then the approach would be to make the content as easy to find and accessible as possible, to ‘appear’ at the time of demand, and create different contexts to drive that consumption.

There is another perspective too. The easiest way to  elucidate it would be with the example of Google Reader/ Twitter Lists, where I pay attention to certain content creators, because I trust and value the content they produce. As Edelman’s Trust Barometer would tell you, the ‘trust in experts’ has actually increased this year. Their appeal does not really depend on the attention metrics.

Can’t think of any other ‘angles’, but if you do, please drop me a line, or comment.

So perhaps like the owned-paid-earned forms of content, brands will have to work on all 3 fronts. Harness expert power (employees and others), seed efficiently, create and use contexts effectively, and be easily accessible (like the brand-stream I proposed last week)

until next time, at ease now :)

PS: New research on why consumers ‘break up’ with brands on email, FB, Twitter, could be taken as a pointer to look at   alternatives to information dissemination.

Higher Stakes

The ‘cow slaughter ban’ bill that got passed in the Karnataka assembly sometime back, got a lot of people’s erm, goat, especially Mallus, for many of whom, paradoxically, its a ‘holy cow’ issue. But the phenomenal prospects of wordplay is not what got me thinking. Its the idea of something getting banned and the protests that follow.

Take smoking, for example. I’m sure all the smokers would have been fuming at the bans that came out on various aspects of the product and its usage, but a lot of us feel that its a good thing for different reasons. Me, mostly because those lousy forwards with the much abused ‘kick the butt’ subject line, and horrible pictures, have stopped. I find that the majority of people I know support this ban, citing health reasons etc. But the beef ban, which (at least in a way) prevents killing of a life form, finds lesser supporters. Personally, I love beef, but as time passes, my feelings of guilt have also been strengthening, and its the case of a subjective like over ruling a ‘better for the cosmos’ thought. A sad rendition of  the “way to a man’s heart…. ” too. But I do wonder about a future when the majority would say that the beef ban is a good thing. A higher state of awareness?

A few days back, I read Seth Godin’s post titled “Fear of Philanthropy“, where though his context is mostly to do with ’cause marketing’, he writes about knowing how much (of giving) is enough.  He paraphrases a question (attributed to Peter Singer) “Would you save a drowning girl even if it means ruining a pair of Italian shoes? If the answer is yes, why not use that money to save 20 kids starving to death at the other end of town/world?” Isn’t it the same? (I need to read up more on Singer, Practical Ethics, and the idea of “the greatest good of the greatest number”).  Godin points to proximity, attention and intent as factors that weigh in in our decision to ‘give’.

Proximity and attention. I remember wondering in a post sometime back whether all this connectivity, instant communication and micro popularity would make us less compassionate and more inconsiderate. But then again, does this connectivity increase our proximity to issues and would it be negated by the lack of attention? Heh. Will it make us more conscious or will it cause to go even deeper into our own comfortable bubble?

Intent. I saw Will Smith’s ‘Seven Pounds’ when it played on TV recently. The idea of a man donating different organs/parts of his body, after ensuring that the receiver is indeed worthy – ‘a good man/woman’ (“You’re a good man even when no one’s looking”). Commenting on the intent would spoil the viewing for you, but the point here is the time and patience taken to identify and verify the ‘goodness’. I’d have liked to do that too, but I’m afraid of what all it would entail. I convince myself that I don’t have the time. However, I can’t help but wonder optimistically whether one day, the collective consciousness would help take my awareness so high that my intent is made all the more stronger and then, everything else will cease to be a factor. But then I look in the mirror and say that I’m better off looking within myself, for its difficult to refute an oft asked question “I didn’t make it this way, why should I contribute to making it a better place, when I can buy my happiness in other ways?” As Godin says, its effective enough, sadly so.

until next time, streamlined thoughts :)

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