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:


Google has the Holy Grail of social apps and is waiting for users to realize.

I, like many others, have been trying to figure out the point of Google + over the last few months.  In a world where Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare have all established their raison d’être, the majority of Google + users are still trying work out what purpose it serves.  The answer could, arguably, be the one thing that all social networks have been dreaming of… the holy grail called ‘engagement’.

At this point, I suspect a few of you – actually, most of you – will be frowning!  Your Google + streams are far less active than any of your other social networks – it’s a place many people go only when they remember.  Most will be visiting to see whether it’s more active than the last time they visited.  Right now, the answer is probably not.

But, there’s one application that I’m starting to use more and more… and I think it’ll become the most critical social application for both consumers and business users within the next few years – Google Hangouts.  Not tried a Hangout yet?  You should – and I suspect it’ll become an integral part of your personal and business lives in the next few years… here’s why:

  • A statistic I read this morning claims that 51% of traffic on the internet is non-human.  What better way to know that the person you’re talking with is real than via video?
  • The power of the real-time web has been vaunted with the growth of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare… it won’t get more real-time than Google Hangouts!
  • You don’t need to be mutual friends, or followers, or use a specific OS or device to hang out.  If you seen an interesting hangout you can join it.  They can also be promoted via links on other social networks to find people that are outside of your circles.  Want true engagement… give me real-time face-to-face chat.
  • Want to know who’s credible and who’s not on any given topic? With video you’ll get to see and hear the person in order to explore the depth of their knowledge – rather than relying on third-party pseudo-scientific metrics.
  • Need to take a quick poll of interested and knowledgeable third-parties on a given subject?  Google Hangouts gives you the facility to do it quickly and easily and gather qualitative, as well as quantitative, data.
  • How about a webcast or conference, or just chat with friends – on demand? Why not hang out?!

So, while some have questioned the longevity of Google + – I, myself, have wondered whether it may go the way of Wave [you’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you?!] – it may well have the killer social app. and is just waiting for users to catch up!

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.

Move over iPhone… BlackBerry is the biggest threat to $BBRY!

I’ve been watching RIM closely for a number of years… hoping that they’d turn things around.  I’m a self-confessed Mac fanboy, but I own a Blackberry – my third – and I recently chose to replace my old Bold for a new 9900 model.  Why?  Because it does what I need it to do for business [mobile email, social networking, browsing].  I don’t want to carry two phones… have two numbers… so my personal preference takes a back seat.  While many business users may want to use their personal ‘idevices’ for business purposes, their employers may not.

There’s a saying in marketing… ‘own your niche’.  Do what you do well and market it to your target audience – in RIMs case, that’s Enterprise email.  Refocusing on its strengths could be the saviour of RIM.  Also, while it fails to own it’s niche [the not insubstantial mobile Enterprise email market],  choosing instead to chase the consumer mass-market, RIM risks somebody else – Google, Microsoft/Nokia or Apple, for example – developing a competitive email offering and beating them at their own game.

When RIM replaced its joint CEOs in January, I hoped that this would signal a change in strategy and, in turn, the fortunes of the company.  I’ve long said that it needs to give up trying to be a contender to the iPhone’s [or the iPad’s, for that matter] crown in the handset and tablet markets, and return to its roots   Why?  Because, in my opinion, it is never going to compete with Apple’s device and, I believe, continuing to lose this battle can only do the company’s reputation and financial performance significant damage.

RIM implores consumers to #BeBold in it’s marketing.  Perhaps it needs to take it’s own advice…

KONY2012: a call to action speaks louder than words!

By now you’ve probably seen the KONY2012 video – it’s been everywhere in the last few days; on mainstream on and off line news outlets, social networks, and was the first video to reach 100 million views on YouTube.  One of the stated objectives of the campaign by Invisible Children was to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony in Uganda.  [TICK]

The video talks about the desire to arrest Joseph Kony and bring him to justice, and then asks supporters to sign up to an online petition and buy a kit that will ultimately end in what it calls ‘Cover the night’… where supporters paste posters in towns and cities around the world on April 20th 2012.  On April 21st [a Saturday, for the record] the world will likely wake up to poster-covered towns and cities… but how does this help achieve the states objective of bringing Kony to justice.

I suspect that Invisible Children will forward on their petition, containing millions of names to some pretty powerful people… but, at the end of the day, it’s just another document with a lot of names on it.  Will it really persuade political leaders to take action?

Having used social networks to spread the word, why not use these same networks to lobby the people ultimately with the power to find, arrest and try him?  What if the call to action had been for each and every person that has watched the video to email, call or write to their senator, their member of parliament, their Prime Minister or President?  It’d be hard to ignore 100 million emails… 100 million letters, 100 million voices.

A campaign can raise awareness… but, no matter how admirable the sentiment, unless it has a call to action that will mobilize the audience to actions capable of delivering the intended objective all the awareness in the world won’t help the cause.


A glass and a half of pure brand advertising genius!

As part of my recent thinking about the importance of brand – and intelligent brand advertising – I wanted to share what I believe is one of the best examples ever.  I won’t spoil it for the first time viewer by telling you too much about it before the fold but it was raised many an eye from colleagues and friends who grew up outside of the UK.  I remind them that they weren’t the intended audience… the millions of children that grew up seeing the infamous ‘a glass and a half’ slogan on the side of every Cadbury’s chocolate bar they’d ever eaten was.

Initially run as a 90 second TV spot the video very quickly went viral.

One of the marketing team behind the advert was asked what the point of the advert was, to which he is reported to have replied, ‘it’s a Gorilla playing the drums… that’s the point’.     Brand advertising at its simplest – and its best.

New iPad is another piece in Apple’s bid to change the face of TV

What do you think to the new iPad announced yesterday?  What about the updates to Apple TV?  For those wanting an Apple television and a revolutionary new iPad the announcement was, perhaps, an anti-climax but it was another marketing masterclass from the Cupertino-based company.  Yesterday’s announcements were, I believe, more about Apple putting the final pieces of its strategy in place for its attempt, later in the year, to revolutionize the television industry.

In recent years TV Everywhere – all your content on every device, when you want it – has become the latest service for Pay TV operators and telecommunications service providers looking to reduce churn and increase revenues.  Increasingly consumers are demanding 1080p [true HD] as the default resolution.  Apple’s iPad and TV updates yesterday play to  the launch of its own TV Everywhere later in the year… and yes, it’s likely that there’ll also be an Apple television before the end of the year.

HD video on Apple TV + a second 1080p resolution companion screen + Apple TV HD + iCloud + a revolutionary Siri-powered EPG + a large screen Apple television = an insanely awesome TV service?  The creation of an ecosystem that makes it easy to store content between pre-integrated devices is a critical part of Apple’s desires on the TV industry.  Oh, and there’s also likely to be some smart marketing!