Revolutionary Measures

Journeying to the uncomfortable zone

The world of business used to be a simpler place. Companies worked in a linear fashion, creating products and services and then marketing and selling them to consumers. Most organisations had a single business model and customers were very much at the end of the chain.no-straight-lines-home

The rise of the internet, greater communication and social media has changed all of this. Rather than being driven by brands, consumers have now taken back power and are in the driving seat. Don’t like the service you’ve received? Social media provides a megaphone to broadcast your concerns. Dislike the attitude or activities of a major brand? Use the power of the internet to force them to change. The #FBrape campaign succeeded in forcing Facebook to change how it dealt with gender-based hate speech on the network, both by demonstrating the scale of anger (60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails in less than a week) and by lobbying advertisers to remove their adverts from the network.

And the new world order goes much further than this. Companies need to tap into this complexity to co-create with their customers rather than continue in the top down, industrial mindset that we’ve known for so long. That’s the view of visionary thinker and Cambridge-based author Alan Moore, who talked through his book No Straight Lines at last week’s CamCreative.

Alan sees five key areas for companies that are being disrupted to focus on as they move into the uncomfortable zone of today’s business reality. They are:

1              Ambiguity
The non-linear world is complex and unclear. Rather than fearing the unknown companies need to unleash their curiosity to see how they can change.

2              Adaptiveness
As Wittgenstein said “the limits of our language are the limits of our world”, so everyone (companies and individuals) needs the knowledge, skills and tools to formulate what they want and how they can request it.

3              Open
We’re not in a monoculture anymore. Companies in all industries need to open up to work with their customers and other partners to design and deliver the products and services they want. Crowdfunding is the perfect example of how this delivers results, as is Lego’s Cuusoo site where builders post designs of new models. If it gets enough support from the community the design is turned into a fully-fledged product, with the inventor receiving a royalty.

4              Participatory cultures and tools
Humans are not machines and we want to make meaning in our lives, participating in the world around us and providing input into things close to our heart. The rise of fan fiction demonstrates this, with people actively extending the stories that they love. Rather than reaching for the lawyers, creative companies need to work with enthusiasts to benefit everyone.

5              Craftsmanship
The old model of build it and it will sell is broken. Companies need to continually update and adapt their products, listening to feedback without fear of failure.

6              Epic
The new world order can have a transformational impact on your business and the lives of us all. Companies need to embrace this and deliver an epic response to meet the needs of the world around them.

Whatever your business, marketers and creatives need to understand and react to the changing world, making it more relevant to everyone. There’s a lot more in No Straight Lines, which can be accessed online for the price of a tweet or bought in paperback or Kindle editions – it is well worth a read.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Cambridge, Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Leading from the Front

The west end of King's College Chapel seen fro...

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When people think of Cambridge the things that tend to come to mind are the university, technology hub and biotech/healthcare industries. But it is also one of the UK’s creative hotspots, with the creative industries employing 12,000 staff across Cambridgeshire and contributing £1 billion to the local economy. 24 per cent of the UK’s game developers work in the county, which was news to me.

While we creatives have been talking to each other (through initiatives such as the excellent CamCreative) clearly the creative industries have been hiding their collective light under a bushel.

Hence the formation of Creative Front, an Anglia Ruskin University-led initiative designed to be an umbrella for creativity in the county. Perhaps symptomatic of the fragmentation in the sector, it has taken four years to get off the ground, and has just about launched its website. This aims to be a one stop shop for those looking to buy creative services or network with colleagues, get training or mentoring and advertise jobs etc.

Having heard Caroline Hyde from Creative Front talk I can see in principle that it’s a much-needed idea. But I do worry that it’s taken four years to get to an average looking website and there don’t seem to be clear plans for building thought leadership (and business opportunities) for Cambridge creatives nationally and internationally. Asking the 12,000 creatives what they want is going to get you a similar number of radically different answers. In a city crammed full of networking organisations and hubs Creative Front is going to have to differentiate itself and deliver value quickly if it is to achieve its laudable aims.

 

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April 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supertankers and social business

There are still a fair number of businesses out there that see social media as a fad – like Deely Boppers or Cabbage Patch dolls. All this talk about two way dialogues and customer control of the conversation will fade – people will get bored and things will go back to business as usual.

Part of this is down to inability to change quickly – a multi-billion pound business makes a supertanker look agile, so even a minor course correction can take years to be felt. But what they are missing out on is the opportunity to really transform themselves. Rather than the traditional top down model of producing what you think people want and then marketing the hell out of it, social media gives the ability to make real connections with your customers.

Speaking at CamCreative last night, Eric Swain outlined why companies need to move from social CRM to social business. Using the actionable insights that social media conversations provide increases trust, creates lasting connections and, for the bean counters, pushes sales up. Eric quoted Umair Haque, the author of The New Capitalist Manifesto, on the potential to create social businesses based on a much more democratic, balanced relationship. Less value propositions, more value conversations.

I’m dubious that big business can do this – a lot of current social media marketing simply uses it as another channel to shout about how great they/their products are. But given social media’s ever-growing global power, big businesses need to act now to ensure they are still relevant in ten years’ time. Or risk joining Cabbage Patch Dolls on the scrapheap of history.

 

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February 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments