Putting an end to the culture of decapitation

It’s often suggested that in Australia no one wants to rise to prominence for fear of having their head figuratively cut off. While this ‘tall poppy syndrome’ might have once played a role in creating an egalitarian society, it has no doubt caused many would-be leaders in business to pull their heads in before they lost them.

So what do you do then when you are looking to build the profile of your your fledgling business, and one of your best (and more freely-available) assets is yourself? Do you put yourself out in front of your business’s brand and risk decapitation, or follow more traditional routes for brand building.

In this article for CMO.com.au I had the change to examine and investigate some of Australia’s best-known entrepreneurs and business leaders, including Janine Allis and Naomi Simson, and ask about the challenges and benefits of becoming a branded CEO.

 

Plausibility, and what marketers can learn from the Skywalker family

The world of science fiction writing can teach us a lot about just how much the human mind can accept – and the things it can’t.

Take Star Wars, for instance. Walking and talking robots? No problem, even in the 70s. Moon-sized space station with the power to destroy a planet? Great! The main villain actually being the father of the protagonist? Sure, I can go there. But the lead characters being brother and sister …. um, no (see image).

There are far worse crimes against credulity in the annals of sci-fi, but the Luke/Leia = brother/sister plot twist is one that stretches the limits. It shows a conundrum that all science fiction writers have to contend with – the need to create and blend fantastical ideas within a well-defined and consistent world. Push too far and the whole thing collapses, and you lose your audience.

It is a lesson that translates to the world of marketing through the concept of plausibility – a field of study currently under examination by Ujwal Kayande, a professor of marketing at the Melbourne Business School, along with various colleagues. It is also a concept  which I wrote about last year for CMO.  Basically, it is the idea that there are some claims that brands just can’t plausibly make – such as being big but nimble. If they are to make those claims successfully, there is a lot of ground work to be done to establish a suitable context in the mind of the receiver.

I recently caught up with Ujwal to discuss the relationship between science fiction and plausibility, and how some contexts immediately lend themselves to stretched imaginations – but still within limits. Unfortunately marketers have to ground their campaigns in the real world, although there is no end to the number of campaigns that suggest perhaps that grounding was forgotten somewhere along the line.

Plausibility is one of the topics I talk about in Storytelling with Intent sessions – the idea that few people will believe you if the claims you are making don’t sound achievable, regardless of whether or not they are factually true. It is an issue that I regularly see companies grappling with, particularly those that are trying to re-position themselves in markets. That doesn’t mean re-positioning can’t be achieved, but it takes a lot more work than simply making a bold claim in an ad campaign.

 

 

How virtual humans could transform the brand experience – CMO Australia

Marketers often talk about brands having a ‘personality’ – effectively a collection of traits and attributes which are specific and potentially unique to the brand. Now the technologies of artificial intelligence and computer animation technologies are coming together to enable that personality to be centralised into a virtual persona – complete with its own face and voice.

There is great potential that in the near future we will no longer look at websites or interact with contact centres, but interact instead with virtual humans as naturally as we might interact with real people. That virtual person will have a record of all of your interactions, and knowledge of all of the offers and services its organisation can provide. Furthermore, that virtual person might also be a specific instance for you – tuned to your age, ethnicity, or any other known attribute that might serve to make it more useful to you.

It is an idea that has been promised for some time, but in this article for CMO.com.au I explore how the necessary components are now falling into place to make this idea a reality.

Tech to the future: Reselling next-gen technology – CRN

Tech companies spend millions of dollars inventing and developing new technologies, but it’s all for nought if no one buys it. Crossing that chasm often involves a creating professional sales team – which can be an expensive proposition. So why not hire someone else’s?

Hence the global technology reseller  modelwas born. But resellers have a tendency to prefer selling those products which are easy to shift, with a sizeable and eager market (and one that is also willing to pay a decent margin). Much easier to sell something that people already want, than to convince them to buy something they only recently learned exists.

But for those resellers willing to make the leap into selling new and untested technology, the spoils can be great. There is the chance to get in early and build a market position long before a tech is commoditised. And of course there is all the learning that can be gathered along the way, and used to create additional value propositions.

In this feature article for CRN I was able to delve into the thinking of a number of Australian resellers and services companies and find out why it is that some companies are willing to take the plunge into the unknown, and how they avoid losing their shirts in the process.

 

What data-driven thinking is doing to help LifeSpan save lives – CMO

I have spent a fair chunk of the last few years writing about how Big Data analytics can be used to influence consumer behaviour, such as by encouraging us to open electronic mail or buy things we didn’t know we needed. So it is nice everyone once in a while to write an article on how these same technologies can be used to perform a social good – such as savings lives.

Suicide is an increasing problem in Australian society, with rates on the rise. Rachel Green and her team at LifeSpan at the Black Dog Institute are determined to do something about that, and have been using data analytics techniques (and some help from SAS Institute) to create a program they believe will do something about it. Their goal is to reduce rates by 20%, using a combination of evidence-based programs applied in areas of highest need.

You can red more about LifeSpan and its work in this article for CMO.com.au.

Driven to distraction: The rise of the self-driving car experience – CMO

There is a very real danger when using a smartphone today that you might run someone over or crash into another vehicle. Just think about all the time we could be spending on our devices if we weren’t distracted by having to drive a car at the same time?

Let’s face it, a lot of Australians get more pleasure from their devices than they do from being stuck in traffic. So amongst the many arguments in favour of driverless vehicles, the emancipation of commute time could prove to be one of the most compelling.

But what will we do with all these regained minutes? And who will provide the services that we chose to consume?

Occaisionally my editor at CMO.com.au lets me of the leash and I get to write stories that take a longer and and more obtuse view of the world of marketing, such as this one, where I looked into the long term implications of driverless vehicles and what they might mean from a service provision perspective. It threw up a number of interesting concepts, including whether many of us will actually chose to own vehicles in the future, and which companies will be most important to us – the car makers, the mobilty service providers, or those companies that create the services we consume whilst on the road.

The story itself is actually an output from a much larger ongoing study into the impact of automation on the workforce (particulary the impact on regional Australian economies that might stem from the advent of driverless trucks), and has become a key point in my presentations on the Law of Unintended Consequences.

How artificial intelligence is transforming marketing – CMO Australia

xl_31692394-artificial-intelligence-binary-resizedIs AI just the latest victim of the mar-tech hype cycle, or will it really have a lasting impact on how marketers operate?

The answer is probably both, but the long-term impact may be more profound than is immediately obvious. Right now the focus on AI is as a tool for marketers to achieve conversion by refining how and when they reach customers, and which which messages. In this respect AI is being used to extend and simplify work already taking place in customer personlisation. The hope is that AI will simplify these tasks and free marketers to get back to marketing and out of data science. But how much of a role will remain for all but the best marketers?

And what happens when consumers begin to get hold of true AI agents of their own, that are capable of scouring the market and seeing through the clever manipulations of marketers to gain the very best deals possible?

Will the future be one where AI-based marketers are marketing to AI-based consumer agents? And if so, exactly what role is left for people?

Read more about the future of AI in marketing in this feature article for CMO Australia, then make up your own mind – before an AI makes it up for you.

Why CMOs should be paying more attention to cybersecurity – CMO

Cyber SecurityThat cyber attacks can have a strong impact on brand value is indisputable, with the damage to the brand potentially outstripping the value of lost intellectual property or other damages. The extent of brand damage from a cyber attack can also be directly proportional to the quality of the brand’s response.

Data security is not just an issue for the IT or cyber security team. The damage from a cyber attack can affect the entire operation, and especially its brand reputation, and as such it is a topic that a broader set of executives are taking an interest in.

CMOs in particular are coming to realise that the era of data-driven marketing brings with it new responsibilities in terms of how their organisations manage and protect the customer data they are using. and that this data can be highly valuable to malicious actors.

So it is not surprising to hear that a growing cadre, led not surprisingly by marketers in the tech sector itself, are equipping themselves to better understand how their data is protected, and how best to limit the damage when an attack does take place.

You can read more about what they are doing and the links between cyber security and marketing in this article for CMO.com.au.

 

CMO – Why this marketing and creative chief switched from global brands to local startup

Photo by DAMIAN SHAW.com

Photo by DAMIAN SHAW.com

Startups are renowned for being able to build brands off a shoestring budget – a talent that at times has left established competitors scratching their heads about how they can rise to prominence with such small budgets.

Craig Davis is now learning those lessons first hand. The former chief creative officer of Publicis Mojo is now heading up marketing for a small but exciting Australian startup, the parcel delivery service Sendle.

He describes the experience so far as being like an MBA in the new ways of brand building. Given how successful many startups have been in stealing attention (and revenue) from big-spending established competitors, it may be an experience that more up-and-coming marketers might want to see featured on their resume.

You can read more about Craig and the lessons he is learning in this article for CMO.com.au.

CMO – Getting the lowdown on people-based marketing

people_1All marketing is about people – surely? As with all things related to digital marketing, the term ‘people-based marketing’ means much more than what it seems. While much of the marketing world works on probabilities – buying ads in a certain program at a certain time will ‘probably’ reach a certain audience, people-based marketing aims to be very specific – reaching actual (although usually ‘anonymised’) individuals whose attributes have been pre-determined through some form of opt-in system. To learn more, take a look at this article I wrote recently for CMO.com.au.