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Game-like reinforcement mechanisms garner very loyal and active customers. “Gamification”, unsurprisingly, is a thriving model for marketers to penetrate the minds and wallets of the market. “Gamification” may seem like a fleeting buzzword these days, but it was once a concept that drew a lot of attention from marketing folks. This was for good reason: …

Game-like reinforcement mechanisms garner very loyal and active customers. “Gamification”, unsurprisingly, is a thriving model for marketers to penetrate the minds and wallets of the market.

“Gamification” may seem like a fleeting buzzword these days, but it was once a concept that drew a lot of attention from marketing folks. This was for good reason: games are unique marketing apparatus because they have very loyal and active customers, in some cases willing to pay not just for the game itself, but for transactions that occur within it.

A few Decembers ago I was in Newark Airport, waiting in security checkpoint in one of those pre-holiday lines that snake around the terminal. I needed to kill time so I downloaded the popular mobile game Clash of Clans. If you haven’t played it before, it’s not too difficult—you build an army of wizards and barbarians and send them off into battle with a flick of your index finger. It was fun, easy to learn, and the speed of progression felt just challenging enough to keep me striving, but without ever becoming a time-burden. Fast forward a year later and you could say I formed a bit of an unhealthy habit, having accrued a few too many $1-$5 in-game purchases, investing well over $50 all said and done. I’d become a case study of how to boil a frog—rope me into an engaging experience with little to no investment, and slowly and incrementally give me the opportunity to invest over time, rewarding me for doing so along the way.

This kind of psychological phenomenon is no coincidence. It is an intentional and scientifically validated method to lure us (otherwise innocent users) into investing increasing amounts of time and money into objects of pure fantasy (see George Yao). Some of the biggest (AAA) game studios pay top dollar to employ psychology PhDs to conduct the research and experimentation to find out what exactly makes players tick. The following is an amateur assessment of what makes games truly habit-forming and pay worthy—features that may have been largely overlooked by marketers years back in the rush to throw badges and points on everything.

In other words, how does gamification work and why?

1. Unlockables, Achievements, and Expansions
You’ll know you’re talking to someone who hasn’t played a console or mobile game in the past 10 years if they ask you, “Did you beat it yet?” Finishing has become an antiquated concept in modern games; you’re never “done,” and games don’t get “beaten.” You may complete a campaign or a main storyline, but they aren’t over in the classical sense. These days, players are on an endless quest to explore an expanding landscape; unlock the untapped potential of skills, abilities, and items; experience new challenges across a growing game environment; and get more/better rewards. Games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are great examples of how feature expansions and downloadable content (DLCs) can effectively introduce new maps and levels, a greater variety of characters and items, and higher level stuff and bad guys, ad infinitum. The ever-expanding framework of modern games encourages players to invest in a character and inventory that persist throughout versions, sequels, and time. The sense of fulfillment that comes from small arcs and accomplishments creates an ever-deepening investment can be leveraged to generate incremental revenue opportunities.

2. Collection-ism
In many games, the purpose of your progress and achievements is to get some kind of treasure or “loot”. In fact, there’s an entire subgenre of games that is designated as looter-games, or Looters, that appeals to the kind of players who find fulfillment in gathering a great breadth of important, useful, or unique objects. Loot-centric games emphasize obtaining, organizing, customizing, and optimizing a vast inventory of desirable stuff, your progress is defined by the amount and rarity of the stuff you’ve amassed, and your achievement and status is defined by those very possessions. Sometimes this means finding and procuring individual items (e.g., shirts, pants, shoes), and sometimes it means collecting a full or matching set of items (e.g., an outfit). Loot creates an insatiable need to get stuff, and a reason to keep coming back to play.

3. RNG
Some of that loot mentioned above is not guaranteed when you complete a mission, open a treasure chest, or otherwise. In some cases, games use a version of a random number generator (RNG) to determine a percent chance at a specific item or reward. RNG creates an intentional level of uncertainty for players, which in turn either A) pays off in an exciting moment of attainment (which can lead to a small dopamine release), or B) does not pay off, many times increasing both the desire and the will to get the object, the amount of time invested to get it, and the motivation to replay a level, a stage, a checkpoint, or an activity for another chance at it. Back in the days of table-top gaming, RNG was often handled with a simple roll of the dice. In fact, in playing games like Craps, it is the thrill of uncertainty itself that encourages the player, not the end-goal of “winning”.

4. Time-Gating
As if RNG weren’t bad enough, not all unlockables and achievements are rewarded instantaneously. Time-gating is the concept of extending an in-game experience by not allowing players to have access to a feature or reward until a certain amount of time has elapsed. For example, you may complete a quest or increase a level, but that elusive loot you were hoping for may require you to check back in a week before you can actually attain it and add it to your inventory. Time-gating is a method to artificially create a sense of anticipation, be it positive (excitement) or negative (anxiety). That anticipation is like negative space: while you are waiting for the necessary time to elapse, your mind fills in the emptiness with fantasies of the accomplishment and fulfillment to come.

5. Reinforcement Schedules
While humans aren’t exactly Skinnerian pigeons, over the course of millennia natural selection has hardwired us to be prone to the same psychological tactic: when we get rewarded for a specific activity or after a period of time, we search for patterns to help us anticipate the next instance in which a reward might come. We might even start changing our behaviors to make that reward more likely.

Building on the prior mechanisms—loot and RNG—intermittent reinforcement schedules refer to the coupling of activities and time vs. rewards, a variation of which you will find in just about any gambling or card game at your nearest casino. Every time players pull the lever on a slot machine, they are participating in a variable-ratio reward mechanism. And every time that slot machine lines up a winning combination, a shot of dopamine is released in the users’ brains, making them more likely to do it again. This is the science of addiction, and it is employed as intentionally by casinos as it is by game producers across the globe. In behavioral psychology, reinforcement is a method of encouraging a desired response to a given stimulus, in order to strengthen behaviors as a habitual reaction to environmental variables.

While I’m not going to get into the depths of this topic from a scientific standpoint, I’ll do my best to distill decades worth of psychological research down to a paltry table…

Types of Intermittent Reinforcement Schedules

6. Multiple Currency Economy
If you’ve ever pounded your head trying to figure out how many dollars your miles are worth on your cash-rewards credit card and found yourself stumped, then you are a victim of familiar with the concept of a multiple currency economy. It’s the idea that, in a given situation, there is more than one way to purchase goods, and each method is earned differently and exchanges at a different rate than the other. This introduces obfuscation–it’s hard to tell exactly what the worth of a given currency is at a glance, and most of us can’t be bothered to whip out a calculator. The purpose of employing multiple, disproportionate currencies in games is two-fold:

  1. To make items seem more easily attainable than they actually are
  2. To make certain currencies obtainable strictly through gaming activities but others only purchasable via real-world dollars

In this sense, players are being “played”, or manipulated, by the blurring of lines between varying types of wealth; both in terms of in-game currency and real money. This draws them deeper into the fantasy and obscures purchase decisions with the complexities of currency exchange. You want to buy the helmet for 50 “gold pieces”? You’ll have to save up for days! Alternatively, you can purchase that same helmet for just 1 “ruby”, but rubies can only be bought through the app store for a measly $0.99. Temptation calls! Which leads us to…

7. Micro-Transactions
Probably the most well-known and often-used tactic in mobile games, micro-transactions involve the ability to purchase in-game items, boosts, cosmetic materials, etc., for relatively small amounts of real-world money. The logic is simple: if you have so much as one dollar’s worth of disposable income, game makers will make a case for spending it. This revenue model is typically employed in free-to-play apps, which allow you to download and invest time into a game before being prompted to purchase virtual goods—a Trojan Horse strategy of sorts. Remember my Clash of Clans anecdote? Voila.

Micro-Transactions Before the Days of Digital Currency

And the list goes on. But the number 1 reason games are so engaging is because they entertain us, interact with us, and make us happy. At the end of the day, the 7 points above are useless if a game isn’t built around solid mechanics and an engaging story and doesn’t feel freakin’ awesome when you first jump into it. These are just a handful of techniques that make great games more of a hobby than a game, which, in part, paves the way for payment. The important question is: what can marketers in other industries learn from this, and how can we apply that knowledge ethically? For that is true gamification.

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Calling all watching-random-videos-until- 3 a.m.- social users AND it’s-EOD-on-Friday mental blockers. The Social Scoop is here to present you with unavoidable solutions. Scrubbing through autoplay videos will soon be even more of a guilty pleasure with sound and a brandy new TV app. Finding “that dress” on Pinterest will be a breeze when you have …

Calling all watching-random-videos-until- 3 a.m.- social users AND it’s-EOD-on-Friday mental blockers. The Social Scoop is here to present you with unavoidable solutions. Scrubbing through autoplay videos will soon be even more of a guilty pleasure with sound and a brandy new TV app. Finding “that dress” on Pinterest will be a breeze when you have “nothing” to wear. Snapchat users are big fans of brand videos, and a 27-page long report proves it. Check it out!

Facebook Autoplay Videos Will Soon Play With Sound, if That’s What You Want

  • Grab your headphones! Facebook finally announced audio-enabled autoplay videos are going to be a “thing” by the end of 2017. The much-anticipated feature will slowly increase sound as users continue to watch a video, and as users scroll, the sound will then fade and the cycle repeats. Not a huge fan blaring your phone in public? Don’t worry. Users will be able to disable the feature in their settings.
  • What it means for brands: This feature applies to organic, brand and ad Considering the success of Snapchat with sound-enabled video ads, it’s pretty evident that content creators and brand managers will have to switch their thinking. There will no longer be a need to create content that is silent, and sound will be an extra oppporutnity to tell your story. Brands need to expand their thinking to not only factor in, but ultimately, optimize video content for sound.

Additional resources: Mashable, PC Mag

(via Adweek)

Facebook Launches a Standalone TV App

  • If you’re sick of scrolling through your Facebook feed to get to the next “swarm of Corgis” video, scroll no more. Facebook launched a TV app that allows users to watch videos from friends, “Liked” pages, and current top live videos. Users will also receive recommendations based on what they already viewed. This app is not intended to say “bye Netflix,” but rather to compliment to Facebook’s already booming video initiatives (think: mid-roll video ads, video thumbnails and the previously-mentioned autoplay audio).
  • What it means for brands: Brand video content can now be viewed in more places than desktop and mobile newsfeeds. Take advantage of that! As brands should already know, Facebook is optimizing for video content to compete with both YouTube and Snapchat. As this growth continues, brands must consider the content types they’re delivering and planning and, in the end, bow down to “the king” (talking about you, video). P.S. The app already launched on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung smart TVs, so brands better get down to business.

Additional resources: recode, Venture Beat

(via Recode)

Pinterest’s ‘Lens’ Matches Real-World Objects With Products For Sale

  • Envying the shirt or shoes someone is wearing? Can’t think of a recipe for that impulse buy spaghetti squash? Pinterest’s “Lens” is your go-to feature when you can’t describe what you’re thinking. Combine visual search technology with Pinterest’s wide array of content, and users’ thoughts and ideas are brought straight to the user in the form of related pins.
  • What it means for brands: Users can now experience brand content in another way via visual search. Brands need to ensure their content is optimized for keywords, trends, and topic categories, so it is shown to the right people, at the right time and at an increased rate. It will be beneficial for brands to Identify the trends and staples that are of interest to their audience(s) so delivery and engagement are a direct result of “Lens” capabilities.

Additional resources: The Verge, AdAge

(via The Verge)

Snapchat Users Are Very Likely to Watch a Brand’s Entire Story

  • More than half of Snapchat users open and watch brand content, and this content is consumed in its entirety 88 percent of the time, which is a huge “W” for Snapchat. According to Snaplytics, “8 percent of an account’s followers watch the user’s stories and 87.5 percent watch all of a story, equivalent to a completion rate.” With no foreseen decline in Snapchat’s daily active users (161 million) and the perk of delivering real-time content, brands can only benefit from the perks of Snapchat Story organic and ad content.
  • What it means for brands: Along with the extreme growth Snapchat is experiencing per month, brands must also consider the content that adheres to this growth: video. According to Snaplytics, of the 11 average pieces of content on a brand’s story, 61 percent of brand content is video, while 39 percent is images. Create and execute content that leads users to not only search for your brand on Snapchat, but follow your brand on Snapchat.

Additional resources: Campaign US

(via Marketing Dive)

Google Takes On Cable With ‘YouTube TV’- 40 Channels for $35

  • Been thinking about cutting the (cable) cord? Google’s new YouTube TV could make that, “It’s not me. It’s you,” breakup with cable whole lot easier. The “skinny bundle” streaming service will include the 30-ish channels you want (to name a few: ESPN, MSNBC, E! and National Geographic) for only $35. The price tag also covers five other people. If you don’t have five friends (quality over quantity, right?), you can keep the unlimited cloud DVR to yourself. Maybe your friends will join you for reruns later.
  • What it means for brands: Get a firm grip on (streaming) targeting for your television ad content and get the ball rolling. YouTube plans to establish more credibility with marketers through selling targeted ads on YouTube TV. These ads will be delivered within ad slots that typically go to cable operators. YouTube TV will also introduce on-the-go streaming through a a mobile app. So, commuters and coffee shop connoisseurs, beware.

Additional Resources: The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Tech

(via Yahoo Tech!)

Instagram Stories ads- now available for all businesses globally

  • We interrupt this Story to bring you this ad. The very much expected ad capability is here. Think brand capibilities on Facebook (targeting and reach capabilities) now available on Instagram. Yes, this does mean users will see ads from the same brands both in their feed and Stories. Is Instagram being a little extra? Eric Toda, Airbnb’s Global Head of Social Marketing and Content doesn’t think so, especially after seeing “a double digit point increase in ad recall.” He states, “Our ability to apply existing targeting and measurement in an experience to reach the right audience, in the right mindset, with the right story at scale has allowed us to achieve the results we were hoping for…”
  • What it means for brands: Unlike recent award show mishaps, brands need to read what’s in the cards, a.k.a., start budgeting and creating for Instagram Stories The brand opportunities are too good to save for next quarter: Reach existing audiences more frequently. Reach potential audiences faster. Reach both existing and potential audiences in the right place, at the right time. Will brands spend more cash? Yes. Will the spend be worth it? Well, that’s up to you, brands.

Additional resources: Facebook Business

 

(via Instagram Business)

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I am fortunate to meet with corporate leaders who aspire to innovate within their companies nearly every day of the week. Every now and then, you realize you are seeing something truly special occurring. Nestle is providing us with one of those examples. Before I describe more on Nestle, here is the problem we all …

I am fortunate to meet with corporate leaders who aspire to innovate within their companies nearly every day of the week. Every now and then, you realize you are seeing something truly special occurring. Nestle is providing us with one of those examples.

Before I describe more on Nestle, here is the problem we all have that they are addressing. In our digital world, we realize a few common things worldwide.

We do not have enough digital talent to hire. Period. We are a generation away from having enough talent to fill the needs of today’s global company.

Our training systems are often centered on single moments, e.g. a one-time course. It’s not enough to shape new habits that are meaningful and long-lasting.

It’s not about building a super team at the center. It’s about indoctrinating an entire company in how to innovate in ways that evolve current business models.

Quite simply, in an era of major change driven by technology, the effective use of data and new digital models and tools, the old way of doing things isn’t going to work.

We now fast forward to Nestle. Six years, ago, Pete Blackshaw joined to become the global head of digital and social media. Pete, who is a marketing visionary and quite accomplished himself (P&G, Nielsen, Press Secretary, Author, Founder and more), realized early on that his ability to influence and empower leaders in the Nestle organization was more powerful than any single plan or action he could personally take. It’s a self-awareness that I’d like to see in more leaders.

So, he set a new course in the corporate world by setting up the Nestle Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) in 2012.  Pete and his team built a training program designed to serve managers from around the world who either have high competence or potential in digital or ecommerce.  A maximum of 18 people are invited for a period of eight months to move to headquarters in Switzerland and learn via sit-down sessions with global subject matter experts and via hands on work on digital projects that create value for Nestle.  The team works in a state-of-the-art Consumer Engagement Center, which includes a multi-media content studio.

Nestle is now hosting their eighth DAT wave with more than 100 participants from more than 50 countries involved thus far.

So why does this matter for Fortune 1000 leaders?  Here is why:

Talent – when innovation is involved, you must identify, train and create the new leaders inside your company.  This is true in any new wave of innovation.

Habits – improving innovation at a scalable level requires us to practice, make mistakes, learn and acquire a new rhythm, new knowledge and, ultimately, new habits. It’s like learning golf. You can’t take a course once a year and play well. You must practice and often get lessons.

Osmosis – too much training is in isolation or small groups of people who then don’t stick together. Nestle’s teams are in the same room for eight months, so the team is teaching itself what it is learning and the cross-training is a benefit that is almost indescribable in its power.

Local/Global – when the focus is on making individual countries and divisions strong, headquarters wins. When headquarters ramps up on what is next, but doesn’t truly train with the same intensity on a local level, it’s like a body builder who works on one arm, but not the other. After a while, it doesn’t work.

Daily Learning – DAT is known for a continual flow of idea sharing from external sources to the internal community, a continual flow of ideas via chatter and more. Learning is daily. Minds are open.

Community – the DAT alumni are now the new teachers in their countries or divisions. The impact of how Nestle innovates will only improve with time. Innovation is now scaling….everywhere.

The next critical item to evaluate is what “scaling” really means, since it can be tricky with innovation concepts. Here are two that Nestle is pioneering.

  • Reverse Mentoring – the DAT team members are reverse mentoring top executives on digital topics. They are  bringing different employee generations closer together and empowering emerging and established leaders.
  • Local “Virality” of  the DAT concept — there are already 25 local DATs in the markets to accelerate Digital agendas at the market or local level. Many of those DAT structures were developed by previous DAT alumni.  As an example, Ana Caldeira was part of the 5th wave of the DAT, then she went back to her home market – Portugal – to set up a local DAT before she received an opportunity to come back to Vevey (HQ) to manage DAT8.

Reverse mentoring and extension of the DAT concept in local markets are two of the best indicators that digital innovation is scaling in a manner that will impact Nestle’s team for the long-term.

On its surface, it seems deceptively simple.  All great models are simple.  Everything Steve Jobs did is quite logical, simple and almost frustrating when you realize others could have done it, but didn’t.

And that is for a few reasons, which is my last point.

As a leader in your organization, ask yourself a few simple questions:

Are we training the next generation of our leaders in our top countries worldwide right now?

Are we scaling innovation via our models and training or are we exporting ideas and hoping our network will do what we recommend?

Are we finding ways to teach our teams every day?

How many of our leaders move to HQ to learn so they can make our organization stronger when they return to their home?

If we are super honest with ourselves, are we just doing the type of training we used to do 10 or 20 years ago?

Digital innovation will require much more of us as leaders in the years ahead.  The evolution of our business models will accelerate, not stabilize.    Our workforces will be shaped by what we choose to do.

What can we learn from Nestle’s DAT?

Here are some great links by the way to learn more about DAT.

An AdAge article and farewell videos from DAT5, DAT6 and DAT7 teams.

Thank you to the Nestle team and Pete for the opportunity to look in, share my own insights and learn from the best example of scaling innovation in our industry.

Best, Bob

 

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  Wondering what all that football was interrupting those commercials? Us too. Check out our Super Bowl commercial recap, along with updates from Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest! The Winners of USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter Are… Over the years, Super Bowl commercials have become a reason to watch the game in their own right. …

 

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Wondering what all that football was interrupting those commercials? Us too. Check out our Super Bowl commercial recap, along with updates from Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest!

The Winners of USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter Are…

  • Over the years, Super Bowl commercials have become a reason to watch the game in their own right. Advertisers, football fanatics, and pretty much anyone with a TV gather to watch and critique these commercials. With a vast reach, these brands become the highlight of the next day’s office conversation. At around $5M for a 30-second spot, brands go all out to create some of the funniest and most powerful commercials of the year. This year’s highlights included a live commercial from Snickers which, interestingly enough, was not the first live Super Bowl ad. Schlitz beer took that claim to fame in 1981! USA Today rates these ads on their annual Super Bowl Ad Meter and the results are in: Kia is the winner.

Additional resources: AdvertisingAge; AdWeek

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Facebook Will Give Some Longer Videos a Boost in the News Feed

  • Attention story tellers: Facebook made a minor algorithm tweak that could greatly impact video content. The new algorithm makes video view measurement more consistent across short and long-form video content. Where previously, video views were measured by percentage and weighted equally, longer videos will get more credit for a longer percentage view. This applies to video views that are completed and those that are not. In a blog post, Facebook explained the change will give long-form video content a boost in the news feed but is not intended to incentive any length of video. In fact, the purpose of this change is to encourage video length to be determined based on the story being told above all.
  • What it means for brands: Until now, brands were often advised to create shorter-form video content for Facebook to gain optimal view metrics. The algorithm change hopes to balance the metrics to empower brands to create videos that are “whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people.” Viewers will likely see a bump in longer-form video content and brands are freer to tell stories at the length that fits the story as opposed to trying to fit stories into as short of a video as possible. Metrics will see an impact for any videos but, in the long run, this is great news for brands and lifts the strain on creativity when it comes to telling stories via video content.

Additional resources: Tech Crunch

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(via Tech Crunch)

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Pinterest Begins Rolling Out Search Ads for Keywords and Shopping Campaign

  • It seems like Pinterest introduces a new ad type every few weeks, and we love it. The latest ad type opens Pinterest’s search function to advertisers. As most pin searches are not brand-focused, this feature offers the opportunity for brands to catch users when they’re searching for specific item. While rich pins appear in related searches alongside user content, these new pins will appear as users type in the search bar.
  • What it means for brands: This new function is currently only available to certain Pinterest partners but keep your eyes open for the full rollout. Some of these partners have reported increases in in-store sales, which is great news for social advertisers everywhere. We can’t wait to see how this feature unfolds and the impact it may have on sales.

Additional resources: AdvertisingAge

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(via Tech Crunch)

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Snapchat Expands Ad Tech to Enable Self-Serve Buying

  • The wait is over. Snapchat is finally opening its ad platform to enable self-serve buying like Facebook and Twitter. Until now, brands had to work directly with Snapchat reps in “creative partnerships” to advertise on the channel. That meant more work, potentially higher costs, and less control. With a self-serve platform, marketers will be able to purchase ad spots on their own through a process we expect to look like Facebook or Twitter’s APIs. Marketing Land reports the API will provide campaign management features such as A/B testing, as well as a “creative API” for assistance in video-ad creation. Not surprisingly, the company seems to be buckling down on simplifying and growing their ad presence in advance of their expected IPO.
  • What it means for brands: Quality is key. Though jumping on this new opportunity at the very first chance can be tempting, be sure not to sacrifice quality. In addition, we can expect the initial launch will be overwhelming for the company so Snapchat is adding sixteen partner companies to aid with the launch of the new feature. Big name brands, including Gatorade and Nissan, participated in the now-ended Beta phase so brands can look to their content for guidance.

Additional resources: Marketing Land; Marketing Dive

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(via Marketing Land)

 

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Taking a disruptive thinking approach to marketing is an innovative way to help your product stand out—even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. It can be hard to break out of your comfort zone. After all, I suppose that’s why it’s called a “comfort” zone. And when it comes to marketing—specifically launching …

Taking a disruptive thinking approach to marketing is an innovative way to help your product stand out—even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

It can be hard to break out of your comfort zone.

After all, I suppose that’s why it’s called a “comfort” zone.

And when it comes to marketing—specifically launching a new product—the thought of doing something different, something disruptive, can be downright scary.

But sometimes the risk is worth the reward, especially when you’re looking to stand out in a crowded or commoditized market. There are products in the consumer goods and services industry that we can point to as examples and even in the world of entertainment/film—since that’s exactly what Disney achieved with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (also, because most of my blog posts need to involve Star Wars in some way!)

But first, let’s define what this approach is to better understand the challenges it can overcome.

The idea of disruptive thinking and how this innovation can apply to marketing was created by Luke Williams, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business. Professor Williams explains, “All of us have well-ingrained orthodoxies and patterns of perception, almost at a subconscious level, that are reinforced by all our education and experiences. And it’s great because it enables you to get through your job, and life, efficiently. But it’s a problem when it comes to thinking differently.”

The disruptive thinking method takes the expectation consumers have about the product or category and inverts it, creating an expectation gap. It may initially seem counterintuitive to address expectations your customers may not have (or may not know they have), but here are a few examples of how thinking differently disrupted entire industries.

Zipcar revolutionized the rental car industry by introducing a “car sharing” model. Instead of only being allowed to rent cars by the day or week, Zipcar members can pay for car usage by the hour. The reservation process is done solely online, so there’s no paperwork or salespeople to deal with. Zipcar also opened its services to people under 21—traditional rental car companies prohibit this and even have fees for renters under 25. The result was a hip and convenient car service that experienced tremendous growth in large cities and a membership base primarily made up of people under 35. Today, Zipcar has more than 1 million members across 500 cities and 9 countries.

LittleMissMatched started an apparel company that disrupted the notion that socks should match and only be sold in pairs. And since dryers tend to regularly eat socks, leaving us with pair-less foot cozies, they were on to something! But more so, this “mismatch” idea proved to be a hit with 8- to 12-year-old girls who loved the socks’ bright colors and fun designs and the fact that they were sold in threes. “A pair and a spare so you can wear them any way you want,” touts the company’s website. The brand’s sense of creativity and self-expression became so popular among its target audience that LittleMissMatched soon expanded beyond socks to other clothing items, bedding, backpacks, dolls, handbags, and slippers. What started out as an ecommerce site now has store locations in New York and Florida.

Which brings us back to Star Wars.

While fans are excited for a new Star Wars movie every year through 2020, there was some apprehension regarding how Rogue One, the latest film, would perform. Amid (confirmed) rumors of massive reshoots that altered the last half of the story, Rogue One broke the Star Wars mold in several significant ways:

  • It was the first non-episodic spin-off movie
  • It abandoned the classic “text crawl” to start the film
  • The story did not revolve around a Skywalker family member
  • There were no Jedi or lightsaber battles
  • It was the first Star Wars movie to create computer-generated human characters
  • It used text on screen to introduce planets (minor, but still)

In the end, removing familiar Star Wars elements enhanced an already engaging story, giving fans a unique and memorable Star Wars experience. Rogue One is the highest grossing domestic film of 2016 ($525MM+) and the second highest grossing in the franchise.

It’s certainly not the norm, but disruptive thinking has a place in marketing strategy and product positioning. At its core, the approach gives you a more holistic view of the market, while asking you to develop ideas that at one time may have seemed far-fetched.

But who knows—perhaps we’ll reach a point where doing something disruptive will become our new comfort zone.

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SOCIAL LIVE STREAMING IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD. Not really but, this month, it sure seems like it. The battle of the social platforms continues with live streaming at the forefront. Not sure what the hype is about? Read on, get the social scoop. Facebook Upgrades Video Offerings This week, Facebook added 360 degree video …

W2O Social Scoop Logo_1024x512SOCIAL LIVE STREAMING IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD. Not really but, this month, it sure seems like it. The battle of the social platforms continues with live streaming at the forefront. Not sure what the hype is about? Read on, get the social scoop.

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Facebook Upgrades Video Offerings

  • This week, Facebook added 360 degree video to its Live function. In true Facebook style and with National Geographic as sponsor, the 360 launch featured content from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The 360-degree view encourages users to click and drag the screen to immerse themselves in a unique and more realistic experience.
  • What it means for brands: Just like with most hot new trends, don’t just hop on the band wagon without a clear strategy. Take advantage of any opportunities to utilize this function in a way that makes sense for your brand and adds value to the viewer. This is a chance for brands to get creative and make a statement. We can’t wait to see who hits the nail on the head.

Additional resources: RT

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(via Facebook & National Geographic)

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Twitter Announces Direct Integration of Live-Streaming Within App

  • This month, Twitter took a step toward integrating Periscope further into the platform. Prior to this change, users were directed to Periscope’s app to set up an account or log in when they wanted to live-stream on Twitter. Now, users with a Periscope account can stream directly through the Twitter app (via a LIVE button) for a more seamless experience, encouraging more participation in the live video trend. Although live content is still saved into Periscope, it seems Twitter is moving toward phasing Periscope out entirely like they did recently with Vine.
  • What it means for brands: This new function makes it easier to stream live on the go, especially for brands who may be streaming at fast-paced events. Facebook Live is still the top performer in this space but Twitter has also found its niche in live sports streaming, while Facebook has focused on celebrities. For brands looking to live stream sponsored influencer content, Facebook remains more appealing.

Additional resources: Mashable

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(via Social Media Today)

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Instagram Launches Live Video Function

  • “I’m so surprised Instagram is launching live video features!” – said nobody. Instagram is the latest major social platform to hop on the live bandwagon and the rollout has arrived. Users will access live streaming via the Stories tab, where a toggle will flip to live. Here’s the catch…the videos are not stored anywhere. It’s easy to understand why the platform would want something to distinguish their live streaming from the rest, but more difficult to understand why they went this route, although it does go with their capabilities of not being able to save images.
  • What it means for brands: Although Instagram Live sounds like a trendy thing for brands to do, its inability to save live content is problematic. While it may be an appealing, edgy touch for your typical user, brands will have a hard time with truly live-only audience and metrics. Unless your audience is much more active on Instagram, platforms like Facebook Live may present a better alternative that can reach users even after the live stream ends. As far as advertising goes, stay tuned! We’re interested to see where opportunities may arise.

Additional resources: Romper

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(via TechCrunch)

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Snapchat Adds 4 New Features, Including Much-Requested Group Chat

  • If you’re feeling like Snapchat group chat seems like the best idea anyone has had all year, you’re not alone. Snapchat Groups can hold up to 16 people and users can seamlessly send private chats to others in the group while remaining part of the conversation. As if that wasn’t enough, the social media giant is also revamping the paintbrush feature, and adding “scissor” and “Shazam” features. The scissor feature will turn cut-out components of snaps into stickers that users can store for later use and Shazam integration will enable users to identify any song that is playing and find out more information about it.
  • What it means for brands: On a smaller scale, this doesn’t mean much for brands just yet. However, when you look at the broader picture, these updates show Snapchat is serious about keeping their skin in the game. Competition between top platforms is sky high and these kinds of updates are what keep Snapchat relevant and retain their user base – which is good news for any brand looking to advertise on the platform. More to come as these features roll out.

Additional resources: TechCrunch; Thrillist

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(via Adweek)

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Overcoming Today’s Attention Deficit Challenge Recently, an article appeared in my news feed that surprised me. The subject caused me to think that perhaps we have reached a new level of content generation, a level that we might not be able to absorb. The article was an instructional piece about how to butter toast. That’s …

Overcoming Today’s Attention Deficit Challenge

Recently, an article appeared in my news feed that surprised me. The subject caused me to think that perhaps we have reached a new level of content generation, a level that we might not be able to absorb.

The article was an instructional piece about how to butter toast. That’s right – how to butter toast. There’s actually quite a bit of content on the topic, but I had not seen it, as I was pretty sure I had that task down pat (sorry).

Remember the term, Web 2.0? Some of my younger colleagues had never heard the term when I asked them. We don’t hear much about it these days because we’re living it. There are wide definitions of Web 2.0, but essentially it referred to a future state of the worldwide web with greater connectivity, user-generated content, social interaction and communication.

What we are witnessing now is the unintended byproduct of this concept: an avalanche of content. In fact, we now face a world with more content than attention. So, marketers and communications professionals find themselves at an inflection point – comprehending what’s relevant to their stakeholders, in order to gain attention and engender action, or continuing to just feed the content machine, so to speak, in the hopes that it actually motivates behavior and action beneficial to the brand or organization.

To achieve success, several critical questions must be addressed. Where does your target congregate online? Is your target getting their content passively or actively – is it finding them or are they looking for it? How do you stand out to them? Are they finding the content they seek? How do you create the right and best content and distribute it to the right place at the right time? How do you determine relevance for your topic, brand, company, etc.?

The good news is that information is more readily available than at any time in history. For marketers and communicators, the mandate is to dig deep, be thorough and know you have the right information for the right audiences in the right format at the right time. There is no need to guess anymore. The data is there and it’s verifiable. Starting with the right data, gathered by asking the right questions and then activating effectively is how we succeed in Web 2.0. (Note: being lured by pre-packaged programs using limited, or self-reported, data sets is a good way to end up with the wrong information, resulting in the wrong solution).

In our work, the biggest obstacle to generating and sustaining interest, increasing advocacy, and improving results is content. Many organizations can boast they have a full library of content, but few can employ it, given relevance, format and context.

There is a lot of content bombarding all of us in the Web 2.0 world. Getting your content in your target’s passive or active feeds is critical to capturing interest and initiating action to drive your business.

So, while buttering my toast better may make for a more fulfilling morning, something tells me either the content or the selection of my news feed to share it missed the mark completely!

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We Need Brand Architects to Design and Sustain a Brand. Brand Stewards Often Refer to a Person, but Ultimately it’s a Culture that Sustains It What is a brand steward? Simply put, it’s someone making sure that the brand stays true to its promise to customers. It means protecting the equity of the brand and …

We Need Brand Architects to Design and Sustain a Brand.

Brand Stewards Often Refer to a Person, but Ultimately it’s a Culture that Sustains It

What is a brand steward? Simply put, it’s someone making sure that the brand stays true to its promise to customers. It means protecting the equity of the brand and making sure that the customer experience is aligned with what the brand stands for. Someone needs to look out for the brand, but the idea of a brand steward seems incredibly passive and outdated. It’s as if this person is simply making sure everyone is abiding by the style guide and doling out hand slaps if anyone is  non-compliant.

In order for the brand to stay true to its promise, the experience of a brand needs to be delivered by everyone.  A brand becomes real only through the eyes of its audience, built through the accumulation of every touch-point between him or her and the organization. Such a task is monumental, and a single person in an organization cannot perform this task. The best way to “steward” a brand is by building a culture that sustains it.

Building a Brand-Enlightened Culture Requires Architecting

Expanding beyond stewarding is architecting. The brand architect needs to be responsible for strategically positioning the organization and developing a long lasting brand that inspires internal and external audiences continuously.  The chief marketing officer, the chief branding officer or even the CEO can assume this role; ultimately, it needs to stem from the top.

Aside from all the activities that bring to life the experience of the brand, the crucial part of brand architecture involves designing and building a brand-enlightened culture that sustains the growth of the brand. Such a culture needs to have:

1. Awareness

A brand-enlightened culture knows who they are. It’s being self-aware and being proud of everything that the organization is and isn’t.

Take a regular pulse on the organization through internal and customer surveys or town halls and communicate the results to promote awareness.

2. Shared Purpose

A group contributes toward its culture by having a shared purpose of the brand. They understand and embrace the organization’s vision and why they go to work everyday.

Share the vision and purpose of the organization from the top. Back the vision with very specific programs and plans as reasons to believe.

3. Known Behaviors and Rewards

Members of this enlightened group also know how to demonstrate that they belong. They know what kinds of behaviors are accepted and rewarded in the community.

Share stories that exemplify types of behaviors that showcase the brand and culture. At the same time, develop culture specific goals in everyone’s yearly plan.

4. System of Education and Communication

As the brand starts to develop and grow, expect to revisit activities 1-3 so that the organization grows together.

As simple as regularly scheduled in-person meetings to as intricate as developing an engaging intranet platform, the main idea is to engage members regularly.

Sustain your Brand by Developing Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors live the values of your brand authentically. They are infectiously enthusiastic, and they may be borderline obsessed. These are the people you are building your brand for, so find them and then develop them. Whether they are your employees or users of your service or product, the job of the brand architect, that pays tremendous dividends, is to identify them and then develop an honest and reciprocal relationship with them. Give them the inside scoop, the exclusivity and attention, listen to what they love and how you can improve to strengthen your bond. In return, they will become the corner stones of your brand culture.

Brand stewardship is a way-too-narrow lens to look at how to build a long lasting brand that matters. We need to architect brands instead.

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With the uncertainty brought about by the Brexit vote, Pharma and Biotech companies need to consider a number of unique opportunities to chart future growth in the UK and EU On 23 June 2016 the UK government held a referendum on either exiting or remaining a part of the EU and 52% of voters opted to leave …

With the uncertainty brought about by the Brexit vote, Pharma and Biotech companies need to consider a number of unique opportunities to chart future growth in the UK and EU

On 23 June 2016 the UK government held a referendum on either exiting or remaining a part of the EU and 52% of voters opted to leave the EU. Political upheaval and speculation about what this actually means for the UK and the current EU is ongoing, and while we wait for the dust to settle the one thing that is clear is that until the UK government invokes article 50, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET.

What we do know is this:

  • The UK government must officially invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the process for negotiating its exit.
  • The referendum is technically “advisory” and isn’t legally binding for the UK government to act.
  • To date there has been no indication if/when the UK government will invoke Article 50, so until then, nothing changes.

This was certainly a divisive vote for the country and the resulting uncertainty has heightened emotions and speculation from both camps.  Now, if you view this vote at the highest level, it was a binary vote about whether the people of the UK wanted change (Brexit) or status quo (Bremain). So part of the reason this has been so emotional for many is that change is uncomfortable.

And we are now starting to the see the short-term effects of Brexit described by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, as the UK having “entered a period of uncertainty and significant economic adjustment”. Lack of clarity is leading to a lot of debate combined with fear, uncertainty and doubt.

W2O Group is known for its fluidity (H2O, W2O, get it?!).  We spend a lot of time sitting in discomfort as we challenge ourselves in devising new approaches, alternative thinking and challenging traditional approaches in order to help our clients achieve their objectives. If we look at the Digital revolution, while it created far reaching change to both our clients’ and our own business it created, for many, opportunities. Our aim is to apply this fluid approach and work with clients and the industry to identify the opportunities and minimize the risks as the implications of Brexit become apparent.

So what should our healthcare clients be considering as the situation plays out:

What could Brexit mean for Pharma?

Pharma and biotech companies currently employ more than 222,000 people in the UK and spend some £4 billion each year on research and development.  Prior to the referendum, big UK based drug companies had said that they wanted the country to remain in the EU. Initial uncertainty in the market on the news of Brexit had an impact on pharmaceutical stocks due to major exposure to the European market.  However, the life sciences business sector has shown recovery, but uncertainty remains.  In terms of the geo-political situation three key considerations for the industry include:

  • Potential instability of the UK as an economy (long-term) and the degree to which the UK will continue to be a priority market or part of the EU Big 5, will have far reaching impact from commercial decisions, to reimbursement negotiations, to clinical trial planning.
  • Lack of clarity about the UK’s future relationship with Europe and how this will affect medicines regulations, licensing, R&D funding, and costs for import/export of medicines.
  • Political uncertainty in the UK (short-term) and if/when Article 50 may be invoked and how the sector’s needs will be championed. Key negotiation points that will most impact our clients will be in relation to the “Four Freedoms” which include free movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders.  This is the foundation of the European Union and once the UK is no longer a part of it, how these points will be either included or excluded from a new arrangement will have the greatest effect on our how our clients can do business.

Considerations about the future relationship between the UK and the EU is warranted as it relates to participation in the centralised EMA (European Medicines Agency) regulatory system:

  • Being outside the centralised system could increase the workload for pharma company regulatory departments. As well as necessitating the shoring up of the UK national regulatory body, there will be uncertainty over how or even if the scope of responsibilities will change, both of which could lead to disruption in providing new medicines to patients across the UK and Europe. Our clients should evaluate their current regulatory department SOPs to determine how increased flexibility can be built into their operations.
  • There is speculation that there would be uncertainty within the EMA about the granting of new drug licences or the renewal of existing ones as the default period for initial licensing is five years, followed by an open-ended renewal. The EMA would therefore face a dilemma on whether to approve a drug from a UK company that would not be part of the EU for the lifetime of the licence. Licences may need to be transferred to businesses inside remaining member states and new medicines approved by the EU would not be automatically placed on the British market, but may need to undergo a protracted approval process. Our clients need to be both expediting submission of marketing authorisations and also scenario planning for those that are not yet ready for submission.
  • It could be necessary to relocate the EMA out of London. This means clients should start looking at proximity of regulatory departments to international transport.

Probably the most time-critical consideration is around the new EU Clinical Trials Directive, which was agreed in 2014, introducing a raft of changes that were expected to be implemented by the end of 2017 at the earliest and by October 2018 at the latest, when the new EU CT portal and database are fully functional. The new directive is aimed at the introduction of a simplified submission process that would ease the regulatory burden on trial sponsors by effectively using a single application to carry out multi-site trials across the EU.

With Brexit in the air it now remains to be determined what the impact on CT in the UK will be and our clients need to assess what this could mean for them. Currently, when it comes to non-EU countries operating within EMA rulings there is a precedent with EEA countries which also abide by the EMA’s regulations, so in the best of cases nothing would change.

What could Brexit mean for science, research and funding?

Research funding is one of the few areas where the UK gains more money than it spends.  Of the country’s gross contribution to the EU, £5.4bn (€6.84bn; $7.77bn) can be attributed to the community’s research, development, and innovation activities. But the UK gets back £8.8bn in research grants, so exiting the EU would in theory leave a gap of £3.4bn to be filled. Through programmes such as Horizon 2020 (H2020) and the Innovative Medicines Initiatives (IMI), the EU provides funding and coordinates research collaborations. UK-based companies without research facilities in other EU countries are likely to lose access to these programmes.

Clients should be looking to emphasise their robust research programs to attract talent and also looking to more closely align with leading UK universities and institutions to establish/maintain a sustainable pipeline of talent, funding and engagement with the scientific community.

What could the impact be on the NHS?

11% of UK doctors and nurses (according to the General Medical Council) hold qualifications from another EU country.  This could mean a loss of non-UK healthcare workers as well as the significant problem of the loss of capacity (a loss of EU healthcare services abroad).

Clients should be looking at devising value-add programmes which support both efficiency and quality of care.  These programmes will be important whether or not the worst fears of the NHS are realised, but it is timely to look at current support programmes and determine if they are truly making a difference, how they can be optimised, and where investment should focus next.

What could Brexit mean for UK public health?

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) is at the centre of a network of communication between EU and EEA member states to monitor, communicate and assist in response to a threat of communicable disease, forming an early warning and response system for the prevention and control of communicable diseases.  The UK will be on the outside of this network which could impact, for example, procurement of pandemic vaccines, where the EU’s greater purchasing power might push the UK down the queue.

Clients who do have vaccine programmes, should look at how these are administered, how they can support the government in shoring up critical medicines, and discuss how to information share in a potentially dis-jointed system.

Everything entirely depends on the direction that the UK government wishes to take when negotiating its exit under Article 50…IF it negotiates its exit under Article 50.  Depending on how negotiations proceed, it may even be possible to keep the UK within the European system for drug approval, and allow UK scientists and companies to continue participating in the EU’s research programmes.

So as we look at our clients’ programming needs for 2017, we are thinking in more dimensions…how we interpret global/EU challenges, how we can help clients confidently move forward with key decisions and programmes/campaigns, how we can support infrastructure changes within organisations, and how we can help UK-based clients do more with less in a challenging environment.  Staying fluid will help define new approaches for our clients’ businesses, helping them to find value in uncertainty.


 This article was written by W2O Group London-based leaders: Annalise Coady President of tWist Marketing; Danielle Whitney, Healthcare Lead EMEA: Effie Baoutis, Medical Communications Global Lead

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