Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Certain uncertainty.

Last week, an infographic defining audiences for Twitter and Facebook was making the rounds. BrandSavant had a great follow-up article calling out the comparison as descriptive, but not necessarily predictive. As noted, many Twitter users are also Facebook users and vice versa. The two are not completely isolated. Networks are evolving and the platforms are used differently. Definitively predicting follower vs. liker brand or service acquisition is uncertain. 

The rise of uncertainty.
In 1927, physicist Werner Heisenberg introduced a crazy idea that challenged everything from core scientific capability to basic philosophical theory – The Uncertainty Principle. Determinism became a myth. Order went back to chaos. Scientific limitations were exposed. It was a turning point for analytic thinking. What if a fact could never be a simple, indisputable fact?

Imperfection gives us direction.
Though there are many interpretations of this principle, overall, it exposed process as imperfect. It's filled with variable contradiction and human influence. Uncertainty determines where we'll go next, and it's a back-and-forth journey.

Everything affects everything.
By observing, we can actually alter the outcome of the observed. And, the observer determines what is and isn't observed. This is where the source of content becomes just as important as the content itself. (Or, if you figure out a way to time travel, don't mess with anything. We'll call that the loosely connected McFly Principle.)

Uncertainly engaged.
Captive audiences are gone, and brands must engage socially. Unfortunately, social ROI is uncertain. We want to predict solid outcomes. However, it's more important to be relevant and adapt. Focus on awareness. (One thing is certain – if your brand is not confidently at the party, it will not engage with anyone.)

On being uncertain.
Uncertainty brings us clients. It drives better solutions. It's a risk-driven challenge fueled by intuition and probability.

There's a thrill that accompanies uncertainty. It encourages us to lead our lives as certainly as we can today, knowing that we await an onslaught of uncertain tomorrows. That we may never have all the answers, but we'll learn along the way. And, of that much, I'm certain.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Simple is not simple.

One of my favorite posts lately was from Dave Trott. With four words, he summed up what we do: making the complicated simple. Now, don't get me wrong, this does not trivialize the art of advertising. The simplification process is quite complex. There are layers to be sifted through. Patterns to be exposed. Associations to be made. Beverages to be consumed.

He references a great piece of writing from Nick Wray where he imagines World War I as a pub fight. Beautifully, a multifaceted, propaganda-ridden event becomes something we can relate to on a smaller scale. Something we want to pass along and remember. (Okay, so I've never been in a pub fight or fought in a war. I have however seen my fair share of action movies and, in theory, can identify with the scenario.)

Simple is difficult. We are trained to over-think and overcompensate. Do we really need to exasperate every detail and feature? (Boring.) Does our audience care about anything other than the ultimate connection they perceive themselves benefiting from? (Probably not.) What's the projected comradeship urging them to close the deal? (Cut to the chase, but make it interesting.)

How can you say the most with the least amount of information? Can you take insight and research resembling a volume of War and Peace and boil it down into one resonating idea?

As you read through the project background – eyes glazing over, brain visiting somewhere loosely connected, but probably much more awesome – try to regain focus (again) and grasp the metaphor. The essence of the brand.

Knowing a little about a lot delivers the complex simplicity of an analogy. Incidentally, it also requires a little craziness and a lot of free time. But hey, in the end it all looks simple, right? Well, that's the idea anyway.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Creative organization.

Last June, I had the pleasure of hearing Scott Belsky speak at The How Conference. He announced the launch of his updated Behance Network (version two), spoke of plans for the 99 percent, and also offered insight from his celebrated book, Making Ideas Happen. If you haven't read the book, you should. Now.

In a very matter-of-fact way, Scott identifies problems all creative teams face and offers simple, yet powerful solutions. One realization in particular helps us best utilize our team's strengths.

He identifies three agency personality types:

1. Dreamers – Always coming up with new ideas and maniacally starting new projects. If left to their own devices, Dreamers would never get anything done. How to spot Dreamers: They are probably dressed in ironic plaid and working beneath a pile of desk clutter. They'll remember random culture references, but will forget basic survival necessities. Time eludes them.

“Dreamers are fun to be around, but they struggle to stay focused. In their ideas frenzy, they are liable to forget to return phone calls, complete current projects, even pay the rent. While Dreamers are more likely than anyone to conceive of brilliant solutions, they are less likely to follow through."
(Though they may never admit it, Dreamers benefit from Doer structure.)

2. Doers – Focused on logistics and execution. They can get mired in the details. Doers need to be empowered and suppressed at different phases in the creative process. How to identify Doers: Their work areas and lives are immaculately maintained. Chaos makes them nervous. Doers are stellar time managers.
They ask, “How are we going to implement this?” “While Dreamers will quickly fall in love with an idea, Doers will start with doubt and chip away at the idea until they love it (or, often, discount it). As Doers break an idea down, they become action-oriented organizers and valuable stewards." 
(When they're not annoyed with them, Doers are inspired by Dreamers.)

 3. Incrementalists – Can play both roles. However, they sometimes sacrifice quality for quantity.
“An Incrementalist is able to bask in idea generation, distill the Action Steps needed, and then push ideas into action with tenacity.” Incrementalists may seem like the best of all worlds, but they “have the tendency to conceive and execute too many ideas simply because they can. This rare capability can lead to an overwhelming set of responsibilities to maintain multiple projects at the expense of ever making one particular project an extraordinary success.” 
(Incrementalists can deliver alone for awhile, but will go the distance with support from Dreamers and Doers.)

So, what personality are you? 
Ideally, your team is made up of a mixture of these three personalities. All add value and have their strengths. When they are all working together, ideas happen.
 

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