Big Ideas. Worth Spreading?

It’s been quite a week.  I was lucky enough to be a volunteer at this year’s TEDxWaterloo – my first TED event. It definitely won’t be my last.  I’ve watched, and been inspired by, many a #tedtalk online over the last few years but, as I found out earlier in the week, there really is nothing quite like experiencing one for yourself.

For those of you who don’t know about TED, it’s a small not-for-profit organization with the mission statement, ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.  It does this via an annual TED Global Conference, and a series of TEDx [the x stands for independently organized] events, at which people talk about ideas that inspire them.  It has been described as ‘the ultimate brain spa’ and ‘a journey into the future’.  The Waterloo event was both!

Attendees at this week’s Waterloo event heard about launching cameras – and lego men – into space for just $400, the wider role of community art projects and they had particle physics explained to them – via the media of magic and dance [Lindy Hop in case you are wondering!].

Too often the first things we consider when planning a communications programme are the restrictions – not what we’re trying to achieve. There’s underestimated value in having big ideas – and of considering every possible way of achieving them.  There will always be constraining factors – usually time, budget or resources – but TEDxWaterloo has reinforced that if there is a vision, and an openness to exploration and creativity, then incredible things can be achieved.

Perhaps it’s time we all dreamed a little bigger and encouraged our colleagues to do the same?

What big idea would you spread?

You’ve got 18 minutes to share one big idea with an audience.  What would you talk about?

Here’s one I enjoyed to give you inspiration.


Later in the week I’ll tell you what I’d talk about!

Keep it simple!

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs‘… again!  This will make those who know me well smile.  Why? Because over the years his name has cropped up in conversations about press releases, articles, marketing and messaging… product positioning, brand strategy… you get the picture.

How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

If you’re in the PR or marketing industry – or even in sales – I’d thoroughly recommend that you read it.  Then read it again, and again, and again.  When Steve passed away last year just about every accolade was used to describe him: a once in a lifetime thinker, a technology visionary, a master of innovation. an expert communicator. The one that was often overlooked was best product marketer/manager. That’s not to suggest he wasn’t all of the other things, but his product marketing and management skills were, I believe, the key to Apple’s renaissance.

PRs and marketeers, product managers and sales guys are – particularly in the technology space that has been the place I call home for the last 12 years – often guilty of over-complication.  We get caught up in the minutia of a product rather than focusing on what makes it different or interesting to an audience, which makes press releases long and overly complex. [I know I’ve been guilty of a never-ending sentence or two at times!]

The ‘Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs’ isn’t so much about the delivery of a presentation –  it’s about everything that goes into the creation of an effective presentation. It’s a lesson in how to communicate effectively.  It’s about stripping away the unnecessary information and ensuring that your audience takes away from a presentation, or press release, or piece of marketing collateral, the two or three things that you want them to.  The two or three things that will increase the chances of a journalist wanting to write about your company or of a prospect becoming a customer.

To use a ‘Steve-ism’, it’s an insanely great book and I’m going to make it a welcome gift for all of my clients.

Rethink what’s possible…

How much do you think it would cost to launch a camera into near space and take photographs of the earth? If I told you that you could do it for $400 you’d think I was crazy, right?

I had the privilege to be part of TEDxWaterloo yesterday and one of the most inspiring talks was by Toronto student Matthew Ho who told about how he and a friend had sent cameras and a Lego figure into near space and taken photographs of the earth’s atmosphere – using only the contents of a small plastic crate totalling just $400.  ‘Putting a camera into space is really not that difficult’, the audience was told… and that got me thinking.  Far too many good ideas get mothballed because it appears too crazy or difficult.

I founded THINK DIFFERENT[LY] with the mission to encourage companies to think beyond the traditional boundaries of marketing communications. We look at how we can complement the traditional disciplines with new ideas and approaches and challenge the traditional assumptions of effective marketing, public relations and marketing – because we believe that when you do amazing things can happen… like launching a camera into near space for $400.

You can watch a video of Matthew’s achievements below:


How will Apple spend its billions

It’s a question that everybody in the tech world has been asking for many years… what will Apple do with its insanely large amount of cash in the bank.  Tomorrow at 6am PT|9am ET we’ll get some answers from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

We thought we’d enter into the fun with a few of our own predictions, before the announcement is made, so here goes:

  • Launch an X-Prize-like competition designed to inspire the next generation of technology entrepreneurs.
  • Establish a Steve Jobs Centre of Excellence, to be built as part of the new Apple campus, designed to develop the U.S.’ next generation of technology inventors
  • Apple announce that it will acquire Canadian Enterprise email experts Research in Motion for $1 billion
  • Create its own mobile carrier – called Apple Telephone and Telegraph [AT&T for short!!]
  • Apple will launch an airline – called iFly – intended to revolutionize the air travel industry
  • Launch iHotels – perhaps located at airports around the world.  They could be known as AirPort Hotels, if you like!  They would come with a tech-enabled shuttle service – perhaps known as the AirPort Express.
  • Buy an island and declare its independence create its own state… Apple iLand anybody?
  • Purchase RIM and run it as an Enterprise division of the company

Tim Cook might even do something even more insanely awesome – for shareholders, at least – and pay a dividend to its common stock holders.  What ever the plans are, we’ll know more at 6am PT [9am ET] tomorrow.

How well do you know your audience?

One of the things that, arguably, derails more communications programmes than any other is not knowing who your audience well enough.  It’s one of the most neglected parts of every strategic comms plan.

I always remember back in the 90s [it may still be true now] that The Guardian was fabled for the granularity of the data it had collected about its readers.  It didn’t just know what proportion was male or female, what age brackets they fell into and what job they did… The Guardian knew, with a large degree of accuracy, the likely names of its archetypal readers, how many children they had, it could also hazard a guess at their names and ages.  It also knew the make and model of the car driven by the average Guardian reader, their salary and their hobbies.

This data enabled it to put together a newspaper that it knew readers would want to read.  It could instinctively know how its readers would react to a column or news story, the sort of pictures it needed to use and, most importantly, how to engage its readers.

In a world where your target audience is bombarded by more information than ever before, via more channels of communication than ever, on more devices than ever knowing your audience is more important than ever.  So, before you start on your next PR, marketing or social media campaign ask yourself how well you know the intended audience [or public]. What publications do they read; which social networks do they use; what are the top three problems they are trying to overcome.  If the answer is ‘not very’, then perhaps it’s worth investing some time and money before spending time, money and resource on a campaign that may fail to deliver the results you’re looking for.

2012 – The year online brand advertising comes of age?

I came across this video at the launch of Deloitte TMT Predictions 2012 a few weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to post about it ever since.  2012 is, according to Deloitte, going to be huge for online brand advertising.  One of the major strengths of this is that the Chipotle brand is only on-screen for between seven and ten seconds – the rest communicates the message… beautifully!

The result is that, at the time of posting, almost six million people have seen the advert on YouTube alone.  Six million x 7 seconds is… a lot!

Are there any other examples of amazing online brand adverts you know of?