*Please note this post is my opinion on the opinions shared in the book and is not intended to be a spoiler or an infringement of copyright*
It was only by chance that I stumbled across this book. A link was shared during the daily marketing meeting between the marketing team which led to a discussion on Nike’s new social media video campaign “My Time is Now” whereby viewers are encouraged to find the “hidden tunnels” to find out more about the new stars of world football. This video is excellent by the way and you can view it here.
After watching the video I came across the company who managed the social activation of the idea, digital agency AKQA. Clicking through onto the homepage after a Google search led me to find the biggest plug I have ever seen. Looking back on it now I am delighted that this obvious plug is so in your face as I would have never found this book otherwise. I ordered the book the same day and got next day delivery (don’t tell my girlfriend).
The book barely had time to rest and I was finished with it in one day and has completely changed my perspective on … everything really. Not saying I had a bad attitude towards work or anything but this book has really inspired me to try new things, be creative, innovative and take ownership of tasks that will get clients excited.
The book is written by Ajaz Ahmed, founder of Akqa and Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike. It’s not your average book which reads in big chunks of text but instead a conversation between the two authors discussing digital successes and real life examples of apps, sites and strategies that have taken the digital world by storm. It also has an introduction written by my uncle Sir Richard Branson. (Disclaimer: Richard Branson is not my uncle). Still not impressed? You will be. The book has seven chapters, one chapter for every law. I have gone through each chapter and picked out a few key quotes and have added my perspective on the points raised.
Chapter 1: A Smith & Wesson Beats Four Aces
“Evolve immediately. Entitlement kills”
“It’s good to be first. It’s better to be good. It’s best to be both”.
A person should be brutally honest with themselves and outline what they are good at and what they are not so good at. Learning doesn’t take age into account; you are never too old or too knowledgeable to find new and better ways of doing things. Using your strengths to instil quality into all of your work is paramount if you want to take a market by storm. Early adopters into a marketplace will see some success if the product/service is popular among a community but if early adopters do not create a flawless product then it leaves the door open for a better product to enter the market and steal the majority of market share.
Innovation is a key factor in creating something new and exciting, which is hard to come by as most companies are built on efficiency rather than innovation. Efficiency is the opposite of innovation.
How many agencies do you know that will employ new staff when new work comes in? Company’s personnel find themselves inundated with work and have no time for innovation, they will grow as business comes through the door but they will never dramatically grow or take the market by storm and separate themselves from the competition. Researching every new advertising platform, keeping up to date with industry trends & blogs, and forming new relationships with experts in certain fields will allow me to become better at my job, learn while I work and use techniques that I have discovered are innovative.
Chapter 2: It’s Easier Done Than Said
“Get Going. Then Get Better”
Know what the consumer wants before they do. You need to take a step back before developing the product and ask “how will this benefit the customer”. Don’t just put your product in Beta and leave it up to your users to spot the bugs. Launch a product that is flawless, put as much time and effort into it, test it, act as your own biggest critic. These actions will enable you to launch a product that will be bought and shared by consumers who love your product.
If you have any problems then go to an expert in that field rather than spending time trying to fix things. The time lost here may see a similar product come to market and blow your idea out of the water. Staying true to your word is priceless. If a product says that it does something and it doesn’t then the disappointment will be resonated by the customer and it is easy to crash and burn before the ball gets rolling due to the popularity and pace of the major social networks.
Have you asked your clients what they want to achieve with a campaign? It is key to outline goals and sub goals when working on an account. Find out as much about the client as you can and then turn your attention to the client’s customers. Perform usability testing on their site, use surveys and heat-maps to see what customers actually want. Set up Site Search reports in Google Analytics to see what they are looking for on your site. Nike put a “tell us what you think” button their nikeplus.com site and they get 15,000 responses a day.
Chapter 3: The Best Advertising Isn’t Advertising
“Make Meaningful Connections”
Making a connection with your customer is more important than interrupting them while they are interacting with friends on Facebook. Connections last and customers who feel connections will become brand ambassadors and promote your product. This is the best type of advertising as people would rather buy a product which is highly recommended by a friend rather than just click on an advert for a company which they do not know anything about.
“You don’t want to ruin it with ads because ads aren’t cool”
That was Sean Parker’s quote to Mark Zuckerberg about adding adverts to the social network. Creating wonder around your product means a company will save on advertising costs as brand advocates shall be born and they will tell your story.
“Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service” – Jeff Bezos Amazon.com
That’s all well and good Jeff but we all don’t work at Amazon, Nike or Virgin. Some companies have it harder when it comes to getting a product out there but if the product fulfils a consumer need then it will be picked up. Buzzwords are commonplace in the digital industry, “gamification” being the new one. Launching products that do not fit into the mechanics of these buzzwords is a bad idea and time should be spent ironing out any faults and creating those connections rather than trying to create a false mystery around the product.
Study the brief carefully when creating a new product or launching a new campaign. What does the company wish to achieve and what vehicles will take them to their goal?
“Always go too far. If you go too far we can bring it back if we need to. Don’t go far enough and we’ll always be disappointed”
The above quote is in relation to pitches. Some agencies like to give the potential client a taster of what they will do and leave them wanting more. I am of the opinion that you should put your hand on the table and show them exactly what you will do. It’s about the execution of the plan as well as the actual work.
Chapter 4: Convenient is the Enemy of Right
“Never have anything to apologise for”
“Making life easier for people means making it tough for yourself”
“Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you’ll suck forever” – Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys
To succeed when launching a product or service you have to get stuck in and put in the time. Be anal about your product and make sure nobody can find issues with it. After all this is your creation and your name will be forever attached to it. Some things are impossible to manufacture but reach for the impossible and get as close as you can to it.
There will be people out there who will try to create better products than you, waiting for you to fail, don’t let that happen. Take responsibility for everything that you create or provide. Ensure that your clients and customers are serviced fully and are happy with your work. If you go the extra mile the customer will see the benefit in the long run, they may not see all the hard work that you have put in but they will be left with a product or service that truly fulfils the need that it was created for.
In the digital industry you get a range of client personas. Clients who ignore you, clients who are on the phone to you every day and clients who are never happy with whatever you do. All of these clients should be serviced the same way, to the best of your ability. Just because a client does not reply to your monthly reports doesn’t mean they want you to stop sending them. Find a middle ground; supply them with something they desire. Competitor reports and insight usually get a knee jerk. Taking the hassle out of what they do will make you stand out from other agencies. Can we help them to ease their workload?
Chapter 5: Respect Human Nature
“Make yourself proud by making people’s lives easier, richer and more fun. Don’t just give people choice, help them to choose”
“I just think things should work properly” – James Dyson
Create products and services with the consumer in mind. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and ask yourself; is the product useful? Where and how can I use it and is it easy to use? Is it cool? Always try to exceed expectations and make a customer’s life easier. The vibe around a product is extremely important, more important than content. The experience a customer has will influence whether they buy a product or use a service.
It is easy to open a client’s eyes to new services that have come to the market although the usual response is “why didn’t you tell me about this sooner”. Provide clients with proposals on how to improve their offering. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no to the idea. If you don’t do it then another agency will. Make sure to outline benefits of using the proposed service and be analytical about it. Forecasting is extremely difficult. Especially in this economic climate whereby one month to the next may show really varied results. Act as a guide when presenting the proposal and offer alternatives if the service is not a good fit for the client. Make it not about saying no but about which one to choose.
Chapter 6: No Good Joke Survives a Committee of Six
“Have the balls to make the calls”
“We have no money so we have to think” – Billy Beane, Oakland A’s
Groupthink and brainstorming sessions are very popular in the digital sector but there will always be one person who will have an objection with an idea. Most of the best ideas come from individuals, using their own initiative and bringing that idea to the fore where it can be developed further and brought to reality. Don’t be afraid to project your ideas on the group, you may get shot down nine out of 10 times but that one idea may change the business.
Once an idea has been identified it has to be acted upon. It is easy to list ideas, harder to list good ideas, even harder to list great ideas but once noted they need to be acted upon. Offer to take responsibility to follow up on your idea. Too many times ideas have come and gone because everybody is too busy. Why bother brainstorming if no actions will be taken?
A team that has a boss who comes up with all of the ideas isn’t a team. A leader should let their staff evolve and feel comfortable and confident in bringing new ideas to the table but at the end of the day it’s the manager’s decision on what projects shall be carried out and what will be ignored.
Chapter 7: Have a Purpose Larger than Yourself
“Do the right thing: always play from your heart”
“It’s not about “big ideas” or “small ideas”, it’s about good ideas”
Be passionate about your work. If you don’t have passion and enthusiasm for what you do then you are in the wrong job. Showing your love for your work will shine through and customers will see that and admire you. Keep making suggestions which you think will help customers reach their goals and objectives. Always dream big and reach for the impossible, then it will be pulled back to see what can be done in reality.
“Life is like a box of…..” just kidding, you know I’m not going there.
When attempting to create something amazing, financial incentive should be at the back of your mind. A consumer’s needs and desires should be at the forefront when doing anything product or service related. Personally, I love what I do and get excited about new client projects and new technologies which will help me service clients better. This shines through in client meetings and discussions because if your client shares a passion for what you are doing and is appreciative of the hard work you are carrying out on their behalf it is so much easier to reap the benefits.
“The most powerful force in the universe isn’t technology. It’s imagination”
This book is a must read and is definitely worth the £6.99 & £6 postage and packaging (don’t tell my girlfriend). It is very product based but can be transferred across into everything that a company does. The book lists some really good quotes and extracts from other books which I will look into reading and reviewing over the coming months.