Das Auto.

It seems as if there were a lot of people really excited about Volkswagen getting it eventually wrong – loosing billions of dollars in market cap overnight because they cheated on emission data.

Loosing their Chairman & CEO; loosing quite some important R&D people; loosing trust in “Made in Germany”…

Actually a good thing happened, right?! Someone cheats us on sustainability, we’ve found out, they’ll loose their business and reputation with us.

However, let’s listen to the truth told by someone who never had a car driving licence, nor drove a car without (yes, it’s my voice):

Have you really believed you could move a car that weights 2.5 tons a hundred kilometres for less than 7 litre of gas?!

Sorry, guys, you wanted to believe… Now, do not complain that they made you believe.


The “Craft” of Account Planning

It all started with an the question “why are there so many planners out there who not even attempt to do their own research?” Gordon Euchler asked on LinkedIn a week ago:

Me: because they are busy crafting ppt decks? He: ppt is not a craft. Me: even worse… although planning is not a craft either. He: i disagree. Me: we wish it would and a lot of people are busy making others believe so. But what is the artistic skill it requires though? He: finding ways that excites people to go from a to b sounds a lot more artistic to me than most of the traditional professions… not that artistry matters. it’s the specialised education which is core to planning, yet sadly too often missing. without this education we all might end up being trend ninjas. or keynote jugglers. or account men by another name. Me: Agree, especially with the latter. Calling it an art or craft or whatsoever only helps those who pretend it can’t be learnt. Hence, specialised education is the key.

2848375598_d88ed064fa_o(Photo: Julie, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am happy we finally had something to agree on. Even though it’s sad to admit that a lot of strategists out there lack the proper skill-set to be called strategists. But on the other hand, it might be because everybody calls himself a strategist nowadays, even though he or she just writes Facebook posts for a brand.

However, do we need a more systematic approach to educate those who want to become brand & communication strategists? Or is it done by simply hiring interesting people no matter what background, trained on the job and sent to a couple of APG courses? Is Account Planning already the profession it needs to be or still needs to become one?

Email Conversation During #Cannes2015

A interesting way to do ‘soft’… That’s just picked up a Cannes lion

That’s so cute. I know what the outcome will be, but I still can’t help but watch it all the way 🙂

But a Cannes lion? Really?

Only a silver.

“Only a silver” – grain of arrogance or grain of truth? The latter, I think. Or can you remember only a fraction of the 1143 Cannes lions winners from 2014?

This is not to say I haven’t enjoyed seeing lots of shortlisted, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Grand Prix winning work over the last couple of days – all the creatives involved can really be proud of their ideas and craftsmanship; but unfortunately I know only a few of them will stick in my head. Yes, of course there seems to be a need to add new categories (not so sure about all those sub-categories though) to represent the rapid change our industry is going through, and hence have an increasing number of winners. But what does it tell when the Cyber Jury has to first discuss what Cyber means in 2015?

If I had one wish for Cannes Lions 2016, stop judging fractions of work in siloed juries and start looking for the very few groundbreaking pieces of work to only award them. I know it won’t happen, just dreaming…

My 17 Most Favourite Quotes on Strategy and Strategy Development

Complaining is not a strategy. – Jeff Bezos

Strategy was first used in Athens (508 BC) to describe the art of leadership used by the ten generals on the war council. Some argue for the more creative, human side, while others argue for the more analytic side of strategy. – Max McKeown

Strategy is born when a calculated risk meets an educated guess. – Samer Chidiac

Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy. – Rudy Giuliani

This strategy represents our policy for all time. Until it’s changed. – Marlin Fitzwater

Strategy and culture should have breakfast together. – Max McKeown

You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you. – Leo Trotzki

Strategy is not a solo sport. – Max McKeown

(Photo: Will Evans, CC BY 2.0)

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. – Alvin Toffler

Every advantage is temporary. – Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Be selective in your battles… – Brandi L. Bates

Danger has a bracing effect. – Sun Tzu

Following the rules of your industry will only get you so far. – Max McKeown

You’ve got to eat while you dream. – Jack Welch

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. – Winston Churchill

The entrance strategy is actually more important than the exit strategy. – Edward Lampert

Equally Important

In January, my wife and I spent a weekend in Saigon which by no means is a large city to explore. Hence we didn’t plan much upfront, but simply took the city map we found at the hotel, decided to stroll around with the Notre Dame Basilica as final destination in mind.

We quite enjoyed the stroll, even though what was supposed to be a 2-hours walk took us 5 hours. 10941832_10205095652847652_4957930869749660838_n

Why was it?

Yes, we get easily distracted by interesting things on our way – and there were many of them. And yes, there is a lot of construction work going on in the city centre, so you have to go round large areas. But none of them was the reason for our lengthly stroll. The mistake we made: assuming the starting point of our journey being somewhere where it was not. The fact that we thought our hotel was at the opposite side of the street than it really was, made us walk in the wrong direction for most of the first one and a half hour.

It’s not the worst thing when you want to freely explore a new city; it definitely is when you are planning your brands journey into the future.

How often does it happen that we know where our brand needs to be and how we get there; but are not honest enough about from where we start? How often business problems get either exaggerated or downplayed for political reasons? How often the true business problems stay hidden under the surface, because mentioning it calls for real change?

If you’ve read my last post as emphasising that the “how” in strategy development is as important as the “where to”, take this one as a reminder how important the “from where” is.

Strategists Need Dirty Hands

No, it was not because my parents came over from Germany to visit us in Singapore last month – they actually have a clue what I do for a living. Nor was it, because a student who wanted to become a strategist asked what it takes. It simply was Penelope Trunk’s catchy headline that made me re-visit her post “Do you think you’re a strategist? You’re probably wrong.” written in 2008.

Those who read my blog regularly know that I could not agree more with her first paragraph:

It is a cliche that everyone thinks they’re a strategist. The reason everyone thinks they’re a strategist is because they don’t know what a strategist does.

And I quite like her observation that outside of creative and technical fields everyone seems to use the term ‘strategist’ to indicate he or she is brilliant at what he or she is doing. And that this is wrong. I also agree that ‘real strategists will always think in terms of the conceptual future’.

However, a lot of strategists these days behave as if thinking about the future was everything it takes to develop a great strategy. They seem to share Trunk’s believe that strategic thinking is ‘creating something from nothing’ and behave exactly how she describes them:

Strategists usually favor thinking about the future instead of the present; strategists I admire are bored by what is and focus on what could be.

Being bored as motivation for change? Ignoring the present in favour of imagining the future? That’s not my cup of tea. For me, coming up with a strategy is more than dreaming a future vision. 16519256095_f7337c7b75_o(Photo: BK, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s about looking at things differently instead of closing your eyes. It’s about asking the right questions instead of not listening. It’s about embracing the new & old instead of change for the sake of change. It’s about having an informed opinion on how to solve existing business problems instead of just having an idea about a possible future. It’s about walking the walk instead of talking the talk. It’s about getting your hands dirty instead of dreaming in an ivory tower.

A strategy is not a vision of the future – that’s for the lazy ones. A strategy is about envisioning where you can & need to be in the future and how to get there from where you are. The latter being the harder part of it.

Am I right? Or am I right?

Video Ads on Facebook – Worth the Money?

Facebook for Business recently published the results of a study on how online videos deliver value for brands.

Nielsen did a meta-analysis of 173 of their BrandEffect studies which included digital video ads on Facebook. The study focused on the effect of the videos on Ad Recall, Brand Awareness and Purchase Intent which they correlated with the time a person actually watched the video. No surprise in the Nielsen results: all three measures increased with the time a person watched a video.

10845547513_e585dd8816_o(Photo: Andrew Tarvin, CC BY 2.0)

Then the Facebook Marketing Science team “looked at both the lift data from Nielsen and the number of people who watched for varying lengths of time to estimate campaign value at different lengths of view” – a measure they called Cumulative Campaign Impact or Total Campaign Value – and found:

  1. On Ad Recall, people who watched three seconds or less created 47% of the total effect. With people who watched 10 seconds or less, the total effect was 74%.
  2. On Brand Awareness, people who watched three seconds or less created 32% of the total effect. With people who watched 10 seconds or less, the total effect was 65%.
  3. On Purchase Intent, people who watched three seconds or less created 44% of the total effect. With people who watched 10 seconds or less, the total effect was 72%.

Then why should we spend production money and media budget on a 30 second ad when it reaches 2/3 to 3/4 of its total effect after 1/3 of its time?

In my view, because Facebook’s Total Campaign Value is nothing but a tautology for the fact that the videos create smaller impact on many, many people (those who watch only a few seconds of the video) and bigger impact on only a few people (those who watch most of the video) – meant to reassure marketers not to worry too much if the majority of people only watch a few seconds of their ads.

Keep on trying to create videos with an idea that is as engaging and sticky as possible – that’s how they really add value to a brand.