The Power of the Crowd

April 29, 2011

The Golden Pages recently announced that it’s making significant changes to its online offering. An interactive website has been launched, as well as a new app for both iPhone and Android devices. As part of the new website, consumers are invited to rate businesses listed in the directory, forming a database of customer views and experiences. This is a great example of how the traditional model of direct communication by businesses to their customers is increasingly being replaced by dialogue.

More and more, consumers are making their voices heard. Several brands have actively recruited members of the public to play a role in the production of a high-profile marketing campaign. Glenisk teamed up with Ray D’Arcy and Today FM to search for a piece of music to accompany their new TV ad. After a shortlist of entries was compiled, listeners were encouraged to vote for their favourite on Facebook. Guinness took a different tack and recruited rugby fans instead of actors to appear in ads for ‘This is Rugby Country’. The goal was to give a more authentic feel to the campaign and bring about the sense of pride that unites rugby enthusiasts.


Making the public part of a major marketing campaign is a great way of creating an emotional connection. Despite this, crowdsourcing is only one of a number of tools at hand to any brand manager. The challenge that lies ahead for marketers considering using crowdsourcing is finding a way of successfully integrating consumer ideas, feedback or even faces into a campaign. While it seems that this has been successful for many, will it work for everyone? Or is it just a way for cash-strapped companies to save money on ad campaigns?





Monday Morning Ignition brainfood,



Here’s a thought.  And here’s a place to share it too.  What if consumers.  Wait.  Are people consumers?  Or customers?  Or just people?  It bothers me that I’m not sure, but I’m sure I’m not sure.  I had a good conversation with a friend the other week who extolled the virtues of owning up when you don’t know something, which sounds like good advice to me.  And what do we ever do with the virtues of things except extol them?  In fact, I’ve rarely extolled anything other than virtues.

It was Flann O’Briens death-iversary the other day in case you’re wondering what happened there. 

Back to my thought – and we’ll go with consumers – what if consumers don’t really tell us anything?  And they don’t by the way.  What if a rhetorical question wasn’t rhetorical.  I’m reminded of a research group on sponsorship I attended a while back and the group were asked what they would like to see the sponsor do.  They were completely nonplussed.  They didn’t get it, they didn’t have any idea what they’d like to see from the sponsor – and why would they?  Which reminds me further of the apocryphal quote from Henry Ford.  He said if you’d asked people what they wanted before the invention of the motor car, they’d have asked for a faster horse.  And by god I’d like a horse with air-con, power steering and a decent sound system.

Consumers won’t tell us what they want.  And arguably the more you ask them, the further you get from the real answer.  And isn’t that the rub?  It’s also a bit of a linguistic theory – Saussure’s ideas of signifier, signified and meaning.  The idea that the words we use to represent things are arbitrary, but they’re associated with a common meaning.  But how common is that meaning if that meaning could be different to different people?  I mean is my colour red, the same as your colour red?  What if I describe something as smelling red – or is that just synaesthesia? 

We have to be grown ups about understanding consumers – observe them and figure it out.  That’s our job and that’s the fun of it.  If they just told us it’d be very boring anyway. 

Back when I first got into media I remember reading a year review in one of the marketing magazines where they asked agency heads to speak about the year to come.  And I remember Pat Donnelly saying people needed to be less constrained by research, research, research – instead they needed to start trusting their instincts and being bold and brave.  And I remember feeling extremely indignant at the time, thinking – typical – sure if the research doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, of course, ignore it and pretend that you’re justified in doing so. 

And now I’m not so sure. 

I think media agencies need to start having confidence in their convictions.  Just because we’ve more data and facts and figures than anyone else, we become too reliant on them.  Creative agencies need to be more thorough, logical and back up their reasoning (for trying to flog expensive TV production jobs).  And media agencies need to un-clench and borrow a bit of confidence from their colleagues in creative. 

And, and, and. 

And if I was any kind of slave to convention I’d tie this all back up in a neat bow, re-referencing Flann.  But I’m better than that, I’m able to resist – and sure after a pint of plain, that’s probably what he’d have wanted anyway.


I haven’t seen the movie Killing Bono, but having watched the trailer, I love the conceit: “I was nearly in the best band in the world but fate dictated otherwise”.

I’d love to be able to say the same is true of me and how close I came to being Liverpool’s centre forward, but if Killing Bono is a ‘true-ish’ story, any claim to me having a fledgling football career would be a downright lie.

What are the near misses of the marketing and advertising world? What left turn did Harp take that only those of a certain age have fond memories of Sally O’Brien and “the way she might look at you”, whatever happened to the Radion family and their stain busting washing powder, and more recently what caused Bebo to be overrun by Facebook and why does Nokia look like it’s once unassailable position in the handset market is crumbling before their very eyes.

I guess the truism that the only constant is change plays its part. Harp, once part of an (un) holy trinity of Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp suddenly found itself fighting against the Americans and Nordics as Budweiser, Carlsberg et al entered the scene with seductive allure of unconquered worlds on their side. Radion fell to a combination of multi-national rationalisation and the ever evolving technological advances of its stable mates and competitors. Facebook garnered the momentum of the adult social network that it has become and Nokia came face to face with the genius of Steve Jobs and the creative positioning of Samsung and HTC in the android world. There are hundreds of other examples one could choose.

So how do we protect ourselves from ending up being the second best band in Artane? To use another marketing cliché, stay in touch with our audience. More than ever consumers can garner information, move quickly and switch loyalties. We need to stay in touch, stay relevant, engage and at times entertain. Bono once claimed that U2 were re-applying to be the biggest band in the world. I think he wouldn’t make a bad marketer if the music thing doesn’t work out. The McCormack brothers are waiting in the wings, only to eager to fill his shoes.



Brand Survival

April 11, 2011

Charles Darwin was a misunderstood man. But perhaps his most misunderstood line was the supposed doctrine of the ‘survival of the fittest’, by which he meant fittest for purpose rather than the largest or fastest. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives,” he said, ‘nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

As in nature, so in marketing. The speed of technology and changes in society means those responsive marketing beings sensitive to the changing commercial habitat have most to gain from changing consumer trends. With tough times ahead, the Irish marketplace is packed with brands facing threats to their very survival. Almost inevitably, a few dinosaurs will fall away. Yet it need not happen. With insight into the needs of clients and consumers, companies not only survive, but prosper in the ever-changing environment.

Brand Survival

It was all on show last week in Lisbon, at the OMD EMEA Insight Conference. This is where our European counterparts were falling over each other in an effort to showcase inspiring examples of how they are responding to their own market conditions. In Lithuania, the OMD office faced a very specific challenge. The beer company Utenos, spotting a gap in the market for a dark beer for female drinkers, wanted to fill it with their own brand Utenos Tamsus Lengvas, (Dark Light). The campaign kicked off with a huge display of lanterns, lit up by members of the public and then sent into the night sky. The event sparked a campaign across traditional media including  tv and print using images from the event. An emotional connection with the target was made, and sales went through the roof.

Smart insights are needed now more than ever. Tough economic circumstances and changing technologies mean it’s a fight for survival. Firms who respond to their changing surroundings will come out in a better position than before. Ask Darwin.


What a gorgeous weekend,



We presented the current Adidas and Nike YouTube campaigns in the last two Monday morning ignition 5s, and they got me thinking about the future and especially the future of celebrity.

The market is saturated with famous people (we know this), not only in magazines, they are judges in our TV programmes, talking in our twitter feeds, endorsing the products we choose.

Cheryl Cole is last year, this year who will it be? Amy Huberman, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Charlie Sheen….

…Charlie Sheen?? Why not?

The Charlie Sheen #Winning public ‘breakdown’ got me thinking about celebrity too. He is sticking two fingers to the world, ignoring everyone and everything he ‘should’ do, screw endorsements, fronts etc – ‘I am Charlie Sheen and I’m #winning’.

In many ways he is winning – he is ignoring celebrity norms and expectations, and I suspect this may mark the threshold of when marketing moves from celebrity obsession into non celebrity obsession – or at least takes a small breather from it.

There is something extremely valuable about a product or service etc that doesn’t need celebrity to give it that premium je ne sais quoi. Eg Dove. It is certainly safer anyway….

…which leads me to the Adidas versus Nike argument.

Adidas are going the celeb route – featuring tens of big name stars in its current ‘Adidas All In’ campaign – Beckham, Messi etc. Great ad and you wouldn’t want to blink because you’ll miss a score of famous faces.

They are talking up their street/music credentials with Katy Perry and BOB big name stars. The ad has a great soundtrack and is nicely put together.

But Nike (although they certainly spend millions on celeb endorsements), have taken the higher ground, and retaliated with the ‘Nike Better World’ campaign two weeks later. I think it’s a more powerful message?

1.       They recycled their collateral to make a ‘green ad’

2.       They are making the world better through sport, fighting depression and discrimination

3.       They are making the world better even for the haters

4.       They don’t rely on celebrity to create a powerful message

A good time to think about messaging and whether a profound and thought out message can be more powerful and moving than a billion dollar celeb endorsement…

Watch the video – it moved me


Also includes Carlsberg Unbottle Yourself, Kraft from Tweet to Telly and Volkswagon Boot Tetris



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