Fear and Failure

February 27, 2010

There were several common themes running through the talks at the BrainFoodStore digital conference last week, one of which the speakers themselves picked up on in the panel discussion at the end: fear of failure.

They were responding specifically to audience questions around clients and companies who are afraid to take the leap into social media, where the rules are fluid and the risks seem high. But this fear of failure can be found in many other aspects of our business too and the effects are potentially fatal.

Whether it’s a company culture, or a defining characteristic of a client-agency relationship – how we approach and think about failure is a marker of whether or not we’ll ultimately succeed.

Fear is a plague in any organisation. If an environment is full of people who are quick to criticise, jump into the negative, or actively seek out points to challenge, it’s no wonder that the resultant work becomes cautious and insipid. It doesn’t matter whether these critiques are valid; what matters is the effect they have on innovation.

When fear takes over, tasks are completed with the aim of satisfying expectations, not pushing boundaries. People move away from imagination and into bureaucracy, because accepted ideas and standardised methods won’t garner recrimination. We over-research, over-rationalise and push out decisions because we’re not ready.  (See Claire’s previous post on the tyranny of imperfect thoughts).

Martin Bailie insightfully pointed out that if you wait too long to try, you’ll make all your mistakes in public. By the time you decide to catch up with the world, everyone else will be ten steps ahead of you. The lesson is obvious – if failure is a necessary step on the road to success, you need to try and fail early.

Banish fear, embrace failure and learn while the stakes are low.


On a related note, JK Rowling’s commencement speech to Harvard on “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” is a really inspiring personal account – well worth a watch.


Ignition 5

February 23, 2010

Check out this weeks Ignition inspiration…from Phonebox Libraries to russian ice-cream, from your two Ignition girls- Philippa & Vanessa!

Whats the Buzz?

February 17, 2010


We talk about the digital market in terms of its constant ‘evolution’, but somehow, this seems unhelpful; evolution doesn’t move that quickly. In terms of evolutionary consequences, the unrelenting pace of change is equivalent to a nuclear winter, our sun going supernova, a massive meteor strike, and an alien invasion, repeatedly coinciding.

It is difficult to keep track of what’s important, however, some moves, sometimes even relatively subtle ones, really are indicative of a significant step change in the market, and the content of Google’s 2009 Report represents one of these.

For the first time, Google has named ecommerce sites, social networking sites and vertical search engines like WebMD LLC as competitors. That Google now sees these elements as part of its primary competitive set has been seen to imply one of two things; either Google is branching out, or others are encroaching on what is traditionally its territory, and that of Yahoo and MSN. The reality is that both are true. Business drivers are causing the market to integrate considerably, which means more companies are bringing unfamiliar operations (and sometimes companies) into their folds. At the same time, new ideas and technological advances are leading to the diversification in other areas of the market (see iPad).

This constant cycle of norm- changing is confusing, but this new approach from Google seems to indicate that they are now fully prepared to look at the market in a different way; they are no longer the portal through which the rest of the internet operates, but rather, they are part of the whole, albeit a colossal part. Google has just launched GoogleBuzz, a micro-blogging-come-social-networking-come-email tool that has experienced more than a little backlash since its launch.  Whether it’s simply that they have rushed into something that isn’t quite a perfect fit, or that the offering simply isn’t good enough to make anyone take it up, the launch has been contentious. People don’t seem to appreciate that this new product they didn’t ask for is popping up in their Gmail, and nobody seems to have been wowed by its functionality.

This somewhat clumsy foray into social networking  is a poor start for a company who are looking to steal market share from dominant parties in somewhat unfamiliar areas. We have been spoiled, I suppose, by excellence in the advances we have recently come across (again, see Apple). We expect something outstanding when a new piece of technology is launched, something brand spanking new, yet intuitive enough that it instantly becomes un-live-withoutable. But we don’t want to see a reinvention of the wheel, we want warp drive.

Google is a giant, a behemoth that has done many things well for a long time. But outside of Search and Gmail, a great many of their own developments have failed to become the true game- changers that were predicted (see Google Checkout, Google Product Search, Google Chrome, Orkut, even Docs). As people change their online consumption habits and become more accustomed to seeking out information in different ways and getting more from one URL, it will be interesting to see how their reliance on Google changes, and how much of Google’s ever- changing pie those competitors can really eat up. Google will need to get back to its roots and start anticipating consumers’ needs again.


Ignition 5

February 15, 2010

This weeks taste of Ignition 5- P & V

I’ve recently discovered the google insights for search tool. It’s amazing – and a brilliant insight into the mood of a nation, especially the rising search facility. Basically the tool charts information on what people are searching for. So this morning I looked at Ireland in the past 7 days and this is what I got:

Interesting – sport, politics and escapism (i.e. please god let me win the lotto!) were top of mind for the Irish public last week.

Looking at the past 30 days and rising worldwide search, it is comforting (or maybe not depending on how you look at it) to know that only the iPad topped the search for the word ‘Haiti’.

And when it comes to advertisers, it can be a good gauge of how effective your campaign is – if people are searching it is achieving cut through and there is interest there. For example Moonpig is a rising search In the UK in the last 7 days. Valentines Day + heavy TV advertising campaign = success for this website, and you can bet the numbers that followed through and bought a greeting card are massive.

Anyway, I will report back on the mood of the nation further on in the year based on google insights. Fingers crossed, positivity and growth will feature, along side ‘Ireland Six nations win’. 


Ignition 5

February 8, 2010

This weeks tasty treats brought to you by Philippa & Vanessa, your Ignition crew!

There are some lucky minds among us, who can scan a spreadsheet and immediately pick out a meaningful pattern from the data dump. Most of us aren’t so lucky. And so, we’ve developed some techniques, to hep us visualise what those numbers might be saying – the pie chart and the bar chart are two of our closest friends in the world of media.

The pie chart and the bar chart might have packed a punch in their time – when research was a new and heady invention for our industry. Those were the days before we had monthly brand trackers, quarterly review phone books and surveys so long, that no one ever gets through a genuine analysis of all the results, before it’s out of date.

Media, arguably more that most other marketing disciplines, is drowning in information saturation. We are data rich but insight poor.

However, we are now on the precipice of Data 2.0, where increasingly the days of our good old friends, the pie chart and the bar chart, may soon be numbered. There are people out there, on our own shores, championing the “art of visualisation”. I just became acquainted with Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh this week (via Piaras Kelly).

On our part in OMD, we are fighting the good fight, winning some battles, losing others but always trying to put an emphasis on useful meaning over a deck of charts, storytelling over powerpoint death, and insight over information.



February 1, 2010

Check out this week’s Ignition5!

Philippa & Vanessa.

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