What would Steve Jobs have said about your eDetail campaign?

I recently saw a Steve Jobs YouTube clip from the 1997 Apple worldwide developer conference. There he was, in his trademark black polo neck, perched casually on a bar stool, taking questions from the floor. There’s a good chance you might have seen it too as it’s been watched by over 6 million people.

One man in the audience stood up and said: “Mr. Jobs; you are a bright and influential man” (so far so good) but then he added, “…it’s sad and clear that, on several counts, you don’t know what you are talking about. I would like you, to express in clear terms, how, say, Java addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc…”

Essentially, what this man was saying to Steve Jobs was: “you don’t understand the technology”.

This reminded me of a recent discussion we witnessed at a meeting with one of our clients.

It centered around one of their recent eDetail campaigns. Apparently, less than 10% of reps were using the tablets the company had supplied to them.

As you can imagine, such a disappointing usage figure quickly prompted a heated debate. On one side, it was argued that “the reps clearly did not understand the platform”. Similarly, a counterpoint was made that “the marketing department weren’t developing solutions that made best use of the platform”.

The truth is that the eDetail simply wasn’t addressing the fundamental needs of the reps. They weren’t using it because it added absolutely zero value to their sales calls. Much worse, what transpired was that the eDetail was actually making their calls much more difficult than they had previously been with a print detail aid.

Unfortunately, this is an issue we’ve seen played out at a number of pharma companies. And it isn’t the fault of the marketeers or reps.

Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) platforms were conceived at a time when the internet was in its infancy. They were originally set up to realise the opportunity of the laptop computer. Companies would simply take their paper detail aid and put it onto the laptop, and, later tablets.

Now, nearly every CLM platform is really just a locally-hosted web solution which captures data and uses it to deliver a semi-personalised experience.

But ultimately, it is a restrictive, and obsolete technology. Website user experience, and supporting technologies already deliver personalised experiences that far outpace any CLM. But too many organisations have invested too much in CLM to simply admit any shortcomings and “pull out”. (The observant will have recognized this as classic loss aversion in action.)

Which brings me back to Steve Jobs.  His answer to the challenge was: “You’ve got to start with customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology.” And everyone knows how well Apple grew under Steve Jobs.

Maybe it’s time more of us in healthcare marketing followed Steve Jobs’ example and paid more attention to the customer than the technology.

Why apps that fail to reward ultimately end up failing

I was in a client meeting the other day when I was asked a very blunt question. We were talking about behaviour change, gamification and apps. His question was simple. “Why do many apps, gamified or not, suck and fail?”

From a fail point of view, probably the main cause of failure is that no one ever sees them. All the money went on dev with nothing left for promotion, the cause of death for many an app.

The second reason is that the usage opportunities are so narrow there’s little point in having an app. Staying at a hotel chain the other day I was invited to download their app “to chat live with a host”. Really? I can’t just ring room service or talk to the concierge? I’m sure that it does other stuff but if this is their lead functionality, unless I am mainlining this chain’s loyalty programme, that download is never going to happen.

These two are pretty obvious, as are their solution. Don’t spend all the cash on dev, have a plan to promote your app. Don’t develop an app that only you need…

Another fail is the experience itself. This is more subtle…

The experience, particularly in health, may well not be all fun but could be challenging, interesting or even plain hard work at times. The key is that it must be rewarding. This too is a concept clearly understood by the mobile gaming industry. Many games contain an element of the “grind”. This is when, at points during the game, you have to carry out repetitive tasks in order to achieve a better level/equipment/skills which allows more interesting stuff to happen.

The way that this is handled should be of enormous interest to anyone wanting to harness gamification techniques to drive behaviour change. It is well documented that our brains release dopamine – a key reward neurotransmitter – both when we get a reward and/or achieve an objective and in anticipation of that reward or achievement.

It’s easy to see how this could work from a health behaviour change perspective. Starting with simple day-to-day objectives and tiny changes which are rewarded, then building harder to complete multiple missions around diet, smoking, activity, health education etc. with each carrying increasing perceived rewards. The piece about perceived rewards is key. The rewards experienced via dopamine can be triggered virtually as effectively as in reality.  This explains why so many millions of hours have been eaten by Candy Crush Saga™…

So the three main answers to my client’s question are as follows:

  1. they’re invisible
  2. they’re not useful
  3. they’re not rewarding

You might just survive getting one wrong (as long as it’s not the first one) but good luck surviving two!

 

The Fall and Rise of Useful Advertising

Remember when programmatic was going to effortlessly turn DDA (digital display advertising) into a push-button instant revenue generator for clients, agencies and media owners alike? As we all know, this prophecy hasn’t quite turned out as many would have hoped. But fear not. As Joe Hoyle explains, the digital world is well-served by opportunities to fulfil everyone’s and every brand’s qualities and ambitions.

Programmatic tools were widely deemed to be the promised land for digital display advertising (at least that’s what the media industry wanted us to believe).

However, it didn’t count on the power of consumers to deploy their own new set of powerful tools, effectively enabling them to ’cock a snook’ at the advertisers and their agencies who were producing a glut of ubiquitous, lazy creative that followed them around the web like a bad smell.

And it’s a real shame, because brands can most certainly advertise, entertain and sell products and services, whilst still delivering useful customer experience as added value that will engage the audience.

Back in 2008, online display advertising was starting to get really interesting – both technologically and creatively. There was an opportunity to start delivering real, tangible super-rich customer experiences inside new, larger-format display units that could be targeted to specific users and even personalised in terms of their content. In parallel, programmatic media buying was gathering pace.

Things were looking up for advertisers. They were about to be armed with tools that would allow them to buy media on the fly at much better value, target more accurately and progressively re-message to encourage consumers further into the purchase funnel. We were even starting to look at producing commerce-enabled campaigns.

A step back

However, things didn’t go exactly to plan. It quickly became obvious that the new media technologies couldn’t serve or interrogate the more advanced and intelligent creative that was being produced. As a result, the industry ditched creative innovation in favour of simply following the media money until advertisers became disgruntled with the return to basic creative messaging and a meaningless 0.01% CTR.

The stark legacy of this practise is an industry that has clearly become more and more inward-looking over the last few years. Also, it has completely disregarded the audience and, in turn, its clients’ needs. What it also precipitated was a general widening in the gap between the creative and planning departments.

An integrated approach

So what’s the answer to this? First and foremost, we need to adopt a completely new creative approach to digital advertising… one that intelligently combines all tools at the disposal of creatives and planners and encourages them to work more closely to realise digital’s true potential. Hopefully, campaigns will then become much more integrated, using a combination of channels and mobile devices as a enablers rather than standalone channels.

Putting users first for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

In our experience, the best results come when campaigns put users’ needs at the forefront of the strategic planning phase.

When the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team approached us a few years ago, they initially wanted us to stream a selection of HD videos inside our proprietary display unit. They wanted to create a distributable channel inside a media unit that could be seeded in paid media and blogs then shared across fledgling social media and earned, free media.

This was all well and good (not to mention also being a media first) but something was missing. We felt that the audience we were targeting would be more engaged with another data set that was available. So, we set about taking the difficult steps to persuade the racing team to provide is with the live telemetry from the two McLaren cars of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. And it worked.

Over an extended campaign of four years using essentially the same unit with updated functionality and content – much like an app these days – we delivered 10% interaction rates and astounding 32-minute interaction time during practice, qualifying and race sessions.

Lessons we’d all do well to learn

There are several key take-outs from our work for Vodafone Maclaren Mercedes, and subsequent campaigns that still ring true.

First, campaigns don’t just have to advertise, they have to engage and fulfil.

In the campaign for Vodafone Maclaren Mercedes,  the content channel was as critical as the content itself. As someone once said, “if no-one can hear you scream, you may as well whisper for help!”.

Secondly, programmatic and fast-pace retargeting deliver highly-sought efficiencies for clients and their brands – the real challenge is to reignite a passion for innovative and successful advertising that engages within this landscape.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, people – be they customers or marketers – will always find a way around limitations. The best way to make this work is to collaborate, co-create and re-imagine together.

Read the full Vodafone McLaren Mercedes case study

Digital disruption or a clever tweak?

I’ve been seeing this slide a lot recently. Each time it gets posted the list has got a bit longer. It rarely seems to get posted with any real message other than “oooh, digital disruption”. But what is its actual point? The ever growing list of facts, on the face of it, looks interesting. The facts appear paradoxical, but aren’t really. They are, in fact, statements of the obvious, but dressed in intrigue. Let’s take a closer look.

Taxis: Many of the world’s smaller taxi companies don’t own many taxis either. The drivers are self employed, owner drivers – same as Uber. The taxi company owns the booking infrastructure and controls how the customer books a ride. Same as Uber. It’s an intermediary model. The web is fantastic as an intermediary, it allows efficiency and vastly increased scale. It means that Uber can offer the same cheap fares as (or even cheaper than) your local taxi company on a massive scale. Ignore that fact and your intermediary business is dead.

Accommodation: The world’s largest providers of business accommodation and travel own no hotels or airplanes. Amex Corporate travel has been doing it for years. It’s an intermediary model. AirBnB have brought new providers onto the market place who can offer accommodation way below the price of the existing providers.

Inventory: Alibaba don’t have inventory. Neither does ebay. For that matter the largest “retailer” of fine art doesn’t own the paintings it sells. Sotheby’s have been at it for a long time. It’s an intermediary model. They connect buyers and sellers.

Telco infra structure. Why would a company based on web comms own telco infrastructure? The web is great at transmitting data, although an awful lot of it gets transmitted on other “Telcos” infrastructure. If it weren’t for them, Skype wouldn’t have a business. The lesson here is that if your business is about transporting large quantities of data in any form for your customers, and you are too wedded to the way you’ve always done it, someone will use technology to walk around you.

Content: Most popular bookshops didn’t write any books. Most record shops didn’t make music. People have been providing content produced by other people forever. Sheet music sellers were doing it in the 19th century. The way it is done has changed beyond recognition. One of the big differences is that much of the ‘content’ provided by Facebook used to be provided directly from one person to another for free, when they met. Or talked. It was free then and it still is. The means of delivery means that we can give away our free ‘content’ on a colossal scale. The internet is good at that.

Money. Most banks don’t have much money either. It’s their customers’ money. People deposit cash which the bank then lends to others. SocietyOne is interesting. It finds people who want to lend money and puts them in touch with people who want to borrow it. They call themselves a peer-to-peer lending company, not a bank. People have been lending people money for as long as there has been money. Digital makes it easier to do on a massive scale.

Movies: Blockbuster Video were the largest supplier of movies back in the day. They didn’t own cinemas either, because they provided movies for people to watch at home. Just like Netflix do now.

Software: The biggest sellers of software don’t write the apps. Supermarkets are the biggest suppliers of milk but they don’t dairy farm. Of course they don’t, they’re a store. They sell stuff made by other people. So do Google and Apple. Maybe that’s why they call their points of sale “Stores”.

There is, of course, a lesson here. All the businesses above existed in another form previously. They carried on happily doing what they’d always done until either (a): new competitors used the incredible ability of the web to facilitate their intermediary business and bypassed more traditional models of customer acquisition or (b): in a data provision business, books, films, conversations, xrays etc., they used the web’s incredible capacity for data transport to deliver that differently. I want it now. On demand. The web allows Uber, Netflix and the rest to deliver like that. On demand. Usually cheaper than the existing providers. Not surprisingly, customers like it.

The really interesting part is that the businesses who were in the game before aren’t the ones who made the leap. All of which tells us that we need to keep our eyes open, to look at our businesses dispassionately and think about the leap that would kill them (if there is one), then to make that leap before someone else does.