A little more conversation

November 28th, 2011 Comment 0

This autumn, I have been involved with something that is rather brilliant. ( I am allowed to say this without it being bragging, actually, since said brilliance is more other people’s than mine.) My company, business magazine Veckans Affärer, has joined forces with Resumé, the largest Swedish communication industry mag, and B2B agency Hilanders, to start a conversation. A conversation about where the industries that define Sweden (hard and heavy stuff like steel and paper) are heading, and what actually drives their growth in the 21th century.

This discussion, between the communication industry, top management in B2B coorporations, and the odd publicist, has been played out on – yes, yes, yes – all our platforms, of which the site b2bconversations.se might be the quickest one to access. (Or, if you’re one of those Facebook-is-the-new-Internet kind of people, well, here then.) It is in Swedish, so it’s not for everybody, but for Swedes, there is some quite interesting stuff in there.

And on the 7th December, the next step on this journey will be the B2B Conversations seminar, at the lovely Berns Salonger in central Stockholm. Big name speakers, a panel with a couple of communication people with very good resumés who will occasionally ring a funny bell of some sort (Yes, buying a funny bell is my responsibility. I haven’t yet gotten around to getting one, but whatever I choose, it will be spectacular.), oh yes, and wine. Stockholmers, I hope to see you there on the 7th. Do get in touch for discounted tickets, I’m sure I can get you some, but you have to act quickly – we close registration this week.

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The power of the simple sentence

May 4th, 2011 Comment 2

Living, breathing, and endlessly going on and on and on about digital media – like I do – can make you forget that the medium is not the message. The message is the message.* And it can be bloody good. A case in point:

* wiseacre part of myself: “Actually, different media do shape discourses. A pipe is never a pipe when mediated. This example would be only half as good as a Facebook status update.” Non-wiseacre part of myself: “Go away.”

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There are many ways to enjoy a bit of Ylva

November 2nd, 2010 Comment 2

More specifically: if you’re Swedish – or are one of those Germans I always meet who are learning Swedish for no apparent reason – why not head over to the excellent Brand Man blog and read a guest post on design and myths I wrote there.

Design skapar mening i varumärket

If you don’t speak Swedish, don’t hesitate to follow that link regardless, and push the Like button. You would have enjoyed that post if you could read it. It’s brilliant. Trust me.

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Cultural Brand Planning Inspiration: One. Photographers of the Absurdity (and Poetry) of Culture

October 4th, 2010 Comment 3

Instead of reading branding/advertising/marketing/etc literature, step out and observe Life. This is what all strategic folks tell you. And yes, it’s obviously good advice, at least to a point. (It’s also a little like the planner version of the female celeb’s classic ‘I mix designer clothing with vintage pieces and H&M’. A great phrase for showing your sophistication/cultural capital/general superiority. But anyway.)

Life is great, but sometimes you need a bit of help to analyse it. A good piece of cultural inspiration will give you just that: a new perspective, a bit of unveiling, a small shock. (Also, sometimes you’re at a cocktail party, a situation in which you need something to talk about that starts with ‘Have you seen …’.) Here are my top five(-ish).

One. Photographers of the absurdity (and poetry) of Culture

There’s nothing quite like a good photographer’s eye. A photograph exposes, deconstructs and de-familiarizes. It makes you look at the culture you live in like you’re a foreigner. Which gives you the best odds for seeing hidden connections and structures and patterns in what you otherwise take for granted. And for coming up with something entirely new.

Like when you step in to the, sometimes abandoned, consumer theatre of Brian Ulrich.

Brian Ulrich: Schaumburg, IL, 2004 (part of the Retail series)

Brian Ulrich: Dominick’s 2, 2008 (Part of the Dark Stores series)

Brian Ulrich: New York, NY 2004 (part of the Retail series). Isn’t this the most heart-achingly beautiful picture.

Or the surreal architectural world of Frank van der Salm.

Frank van der Salm: Property (Dubai), 2008

Frank van der Salm: Square, 2006

Or, of course, the universe of endless multiplication and scale that Andreas Gursky unravels.

Andreas Gursky: Kuwait Stock Exchange, 2007

Andreas Gursky: Shanghai, 2000

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The creative context as medium and message

September 7th, 2010 Comment 4

The medium is the message. One of the most famous quotes about communication ever, and almost up there with the fifteen minutes of fame in terms of ubiquity. And during the 2000s, the idea of the media channel has been expanded, to encompass pretty much everything. Adding to print, broadcast, web, mobile, outdoor billboards, etc, brands advertise themselves on any physical object they find suitable to associate with. This kind of advertising uses creative associations between the brand and the medium so that it’s actually the medium in itself that communicates the message. So, really a case in point for McLuhan. Easily translated into entertaining, instantly graspable jpgs, ad blogs love this kind of brand communication. But is it effective?

There’s not much written about advertising outside of ‘proper’ media. Swedish rock star professor Micael Dahlén (a generally very clever man, isn’t he) has written a few things on it though. He calls employing a novel medium that makes a statement in itself creative media choice. Which is fine but could mean a wide range of media decisions, so I guess I’d call it something like creative context connections*. (That’s a nice alliteration which I could use with a trademark symbol, too, should I need to make one of those fluffy agency models.)

In both of these studies (The Medium as Contextual Cue. Effects of Creative Media Choice, Journal of Advertising, 2005 and Dahlén, Friberg and Nilsson: Long Live Creative Media Choice. The Medium as a Persistent Brand Cue, Journal of Advertising, 2009) experiments were made where traditional media (ad posters, print ads) and creative contexts were compared. An egg with an insurance company’s logo and tagline or a fire extinguisher with a salsa sauce label on it were two novel media used. The results: creative contexts were more effective than traditional media use in creating the intended brand associations. (This presumes a good match, of course, between context and product.)

As an added bonus, the medium itself can continue to remind people of the brand, something that hardly happens with regular media that’s normally filled with brand messages. Actually, in one experiment, exposure to an altered creative context (when the brand logo etc had been removed) even transferred new associations to the brand. A phenomenon that could be good or bad, presumably. Maybe you should be a little careful with, as in the first example above, associating your food brand with public toilets, hot air connotation or not.

What I would like to do a study on is a possible conflict with brand personality and tone of voice. The simplicity of the message when it’s created by association overlap between brand and medium (Salsa sauce – Hot – Fire extinguisher) and the inherent witty cleverness in making such associations make every brand sound quite similar, and frankly, maybe a little too advertising-y to suit any brand. An obvious rival is of course what trendwatching.com calls Brand butlers. Brand butlers are all those apps, sites or services that also work by association (Energy drink – Sport – App that keeps track of your exercise) but allow an own voice and add value. Like IKEA France’s brilliant covoiturage service, where you can meet people to share your ride to the store – making both driver and passenger save money, perfectly in line with IKEA’s brand values.

* I really dislike the word guerrilla advertising. It’s an example of the old militaristic language of traditional marketing, with its targeting of consumers and offensive and defensive strategies. In his seminal books on guerrilla marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson actually calls different strategies ‘weapons’. Amazing. (Also, dear creative, you’re in advertising, not an invincible jungle warrior. Deal with it.) So I didn’t use it.

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