ROI needs a rethink. Not because it doesn’t make business sense to measure your given return on investment, but rather because it is often driving the wrong kinds of marketing efforts. While staring at the numbers is far better that throwing yet more money into analog media, it can often lead to approaching your audience from the completely wrong angle. Instead of creating time and conversations, you are interrupting your potential customers and luring them into your site/store at all possible costs. You measure everything at the last click or sale to justify your marketing spend. If marketers and brands would take a different approach, in which the sole purpose is to drive interest and engagement, the true value exchange would not simply happen at the point of conversion, but during the usage of the actual service/device that has been exchanged for interest and money.

The slide share below goes into a bit more detail around this. I shared this while giving a talk at the Social Media Forum 2012 here in Dubai.

The following essay was featured in Campaign Magazine’s annual Power Essays supplement here in the Middle East. Excuse the lack of hyperlinks, but it was written for analog media🙂.


Throughout the last 12 years on the client side of things, I’ve always been amazed at how many companies outsource their “soul” by assigning critical customer facing tasks to external agencies and consultants. Customer service and call centers are operated by external providers with heavy cost reduction pressure on them. Social media presences are managed by social media agencies because brands are afraid they don’t understand the “social space”. Creative agencies are used on a case-by-case basis to communicate (and often dictate) the brand essence of the company.  SEO & SEM tasks are outsourced to media or specialist agencies with no client interest of delving into the topic. The list goes on…

This needs to change. The Internet has brought along some major disruptions to the media landscape, along with it a fundamental shift in control. Brands are no longer able to control the message across the touch points, but rather live in a scenario in which the brand perception is a hybrid between company and customer perspectives. Customers are more in charge than ever before and the traditional media landscape (as it used to stand) simply no longer exists. Before the Internet, mass media dominated the audiences. This led to corporate ways of working in which the brand used mass media to broadcast its message and the “conversations” were outsourced to agencies behind a phone line or repair centre to deal with. In today’s time and age, these “conversations” and their amplification possibility has caused this shift in control. It is now more important than ever, to engage in these conversations, co-create value with customers and fuel your brand presence through advocacy, not mass communication.

In marketing and advertising, the old broadcast paradigm still seems to hold many corporations down. Most of the marketing budgets are placed on bought media and the conversational marketing costs are always questioned. Mass media still prevails, merely because of engrained habits, but also due to the same paradox in which brands outsource their souls by replacing time with money. In today’s time and age, time cannot be replaced in the manner it was replaced during the “mad men” times. Time is the “new money” as brands need to take the responsibility and accountability of interacting with its customers. Social media and community managers are often the core voice of the company towards customers. Call and customer service centres are not merely “cost centres”, they can become significant profit centres when positioned and managed properly.

Advertising is also evolving. Going from seasonal campaigns only, into continuous engagement and “always on” marketing efforts, allows brands to deepen their relationships with customers. These kinds of changes require brands to rethink their strategies but also their budgets. The notion of human media becomes a cornerstone of an engagement platform. Instead of funnelling money to outside agencies and bought media, brands should first look at investing the proper amounts of resources to handle their customer facing engagement roles.  Once these roles exists, brands will get much more mileage from the creative and media agencies as the same co-creation principle applies just as much in a client – agency relationship, as it does with end customers. This calls for brave CMO’s and marketing managers.

Why is it so easy for brands to invest hundreds of thousands of Dirham’s into TV advertising, while hiring a few full time social media managers seems to require more approvals, amendments and bureaucracy than passing a new law in the UN? The reason is simple. In most companies, human media is still perceived as a non-working cost from a financial perspective. Marketing headcounts are kept low, because most of the actual work is done by agencies and over 70% of the budgets go to bought media on various channels (aka working media). With the emergence of digital channels, all of this has changed. 70% of your budgets should not be going into bought media alone. By investing more time and money into your creative/brand, you ensure you give your brand presence a continuous voice. Hiring internal resources to manage your “always on” performance media and social presences, is just as much working media, than buying TV spots.  By having this human media inside your organization, you ensure that you have accountability as well as a proper workflow of knowledge gathering and sharing. Continuous engagement strategies stride on co-created value with the customers. Co-created value fuels advocacy and advocacy fuels positive WOM or earned media. This is like steroids for any brand.

The marketing organization of the future is one that understands the importance of its human media as well as the importance of cultivating conversations with customers. In-house conversational marketing teams will become more and more popular as they end up driving cost efficiency as well as a whole new degree of accountability and customer engagement.  External resources are not seen as agencies, but rather soul mates. With the digital revolution that the Internet has provided us, customer-facing roles and channels have grown and the need for continuous dialogue, interaction and engagement become a standard part of how brands interact in this space. Customer engagement is much more conversation driven, in which dialogue and engagement begins to provide a shift away from a bought media and broadcast driven marketing alone. Internal creative agencies, customer service centres, community managers and brand architect’s begin to drive a fundamental transformation in the industry. An industry fuelled by your soul: the human media. Don’t outsource your soul.

great article by Didier Marlier from the Enabler’s Network got me thinking about the impact of technology to overall leadership styles needed to stride in this modern time and age. Didier kindly asked me to elaborate these thoughts a little further and the post below can also be found from his Enabler’s Network blog.

 John Maeda often talks about creative leadership vs authoritarian leadership. In many ways, these 2 leadership types or styles stem back to the early days of culture and are described on many levels by cross cultural experts like TrompenaarsHofstede and Edward T. Hall , as power distance. In certain cultures, leaders were considered as “demi gods” who had absolute power and were never to be questioned. In other cultures, leaders were chosen through a collectivist approach in which the overall community assigned their leader but also played a part in the overall decision making.

In business, the traditional leadership styles of the “authoritarian leadership camp” have been dominant throughout the century. This has been the preferred school of thought and used as the nucleus of management education for decades. As societies and cultural landscapes evolve, so do the technological enablers around us. Whether it’s the emergence of radio broadcasts, TV, the internet or mobile communication, these have profound impacts on societies as well as overall cultural norms. These technological disruptions are also forming interesting paradigm shifts within societies, allowing us to witness an interesting generation shift in not only societies, but also in how the notion of a leader is shaping and evolving.

Authoritarian leadership relies strongly on avoiding mistakes. This kind of leadership strides and continues to be relevant in certain circumstances. For example, the military or car factories rely on everyone playing exactly their part in the picture, responsibility is divided in vertical hierarchy and “the parts of the machinery” are expected to perform (and stick to) their task. The leader is the person who asserts his power, accountability and possesses all the answers. It is very much about being in control and managing through authority. There is a striking resemblance between traditional media and authoritarian leadership. It is very much about the brand broadcasting (and controlling) the message across the numerous media touch points. In this scenario, then brand is in control and the message is very much crafted from a company perspective. However, as we all know the media industry in undergoing a massive transformation. The emergence of the internet has led us to scenarios in which brands are no longer able to control the message, consumers are more and more in control and successful brands are those who are capable of adding value to their customer through serving their social practices. These disruptions cause for a fundamental rethink on engagement strategies, and leadership.

Creative leadership stems from a different set of values. It bubbles from uncertainty, from creativity and experimentation. These types of characteristics coincide with the way in which the overall internet landscape has come to being. When thinking about the overall evolution of the internet, it has always been one that supported open standards and information sharing. Where in the past good business ideas were kept secret, these days they are shared openly across virtual networks in hope of recognition and collective assurance, acceptance and collaboration. Because the internet landscape is evolving so rapidly, it becomes more and more difficult for anyone to really become a guru in this space. Previous titles and merits are important, but being successful in this space requires people to go through a continuous rebirth of knowledge, just as a Phoenix bird goes through a rebirth every thousand years (except internet cycles are probably closer to 1 year instead of 1000 years). Relying on legacy and a “what has worked in the past, will work again” mentality is detrimental in the online space.

This is where I believe the fundamental generation gap in leadership is coming to life. It is not a generation gap that is related to age, but to mind set. Your personal equity as a leader relies on your ability to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty and a rapidly changing landscape. You need to prove yourself every day, not only to yourself but especially to your team. As it is impossible to be an expert in everything, you become more dependent on your network and in the end, what you know becomes irrelevant. It’s important to know, “who knows” and that the person “who knows”, respects you and shares your vision. Creative leadership strides in the digital era, not only because it shares common characteristics to the evolution of the web, but also because it shares many of the same values that enabled the internet to become what it is today. The true power of creative leadership is that it creates a following which is based on mutual goals, a shared vision that unites people not only from a rational perspective, but also from a heart and “gut” perspective.

Just as brands need to rethink their engagement strategies with their consumers, overall leadership practices need to live up to the changing times. Is your mind, heart and “gut” ready?

Clicks meet bricks


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take part in the MENA Cristal Awards in Mzaar Kfardebian, Lebanon. As a Finn, it was fascinating to take a 3 hour flight from Dubai and be in a chalet type environment with a view of the ski slopes from your hotel window. If you ever have a chance to visit Lebanon, check out the Intercontinental in Mzaar. In any case, enough of the tourist guide stuff🙂

The reason for my visit was to participate in the MENA Cristals, which represents the “cannes lions” for the MENA region. It was fascinating to take part in the seminars as well as see the work that was rewarded along the way. I was particularly impressed with the quality and innovative work that FP7 from Bahrain had conducted. Check out some of their work here .

One of the most interesting sessions I had the chance to join, was a presentation from JCDecaux, where mr Decaux himself gave an overview about his company’s ambitions to transform outdoor media to the next level. What struck me during his presentation was yet again a notion of the silo approach many of our media channels are taking when expanding their reach. For sure, with the urbanization of societies and the increase in flight traffic, outdoor media plays an important role in the overall media landscape. However, instead of seeing other channels (such as digital) as competition, I’m surprised how little companies like JCDecaux are embracing digital capabilities to drive a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Digital is seen as a separate medium, when it should be seen as the future of ALL media. I’m not saying this because I happen to work in the digital field. I’m saying this because technology is enabling more and more media channels to become measurable as well as targeted. Think of outdoor and digital capabilities from a different angle:

The cost of changing outdoor ads as well as printing ridiculous amounts of paper must be substantial costs for the company (and the environment). This analog form of media is static and is usually changed on a monthly basic, due to its logistical challenges. Think about combining the best of both worlds. Why are companies like JCDecaux not working with digital media agencies and providers to bring digital media types of advertising features into the outdoor networks of this world? Most outdoor ads are situated in either urban environments which are monitored (just ask Banksy how many CCTV’s there are in London), or in locations that cannot easily be reached by pedestrians (or better said, graffiti artists). What better locations to explore possibilities of utilizing digital screen technologies that are coming cheaper by the day, along with environmentally friendly solar powered solutions that could either power the wireless connectivity needed, or the screens themselves? As an example of solar efficiency, I recently met with a telecoms network engineer who mentioned that solar powered base stations are already in use across some markets around the world. The picture starts to look a little different. When there’s technology that enables and there’s a will for change, the benefits begin to emerge. Think of a digital ad network that is located in physical spaces. That’s the future, but the future is more and more here.

Instead of brands booking a billboard for 1 month, they can decide to book “the afternoon traffic”, or “the morning show”. Opportunities for targeting explode exponentially. Media providers cash in because they can run multiple flights a day, instead of risking their employees losing a leg when changing the paper print from a 10 meter high billboard every month. Again, the fundamental issue in this picture is that each media provider is stuck in their own silo. While JCDecaux is building their outdoor “empire” and Yahoo! (or any other digital media outlet) is expanding their digital footprint, they are not seeing the benefits they could yield by partnering to bring the best of both worlds into the picture. What if a digital media provider would bring in their ad serving capabilities, knowledge and infrastructure into the mix, while JCDecaux would continue to leverage their understanding of the efficiency of outdoor placements, physical formats and locations? In my opinion: a scenario where clicks will start to meet bricks.  (and yield a heck of a lot or ROI & efficiency).

The definition “own, bought and earned media” has become a popular description for the different media “types” that brands operate in as well as deal with. This terminology originated from within Nokia and quickly started to pick up pace across the industry. It did a great job in illustrating the emergence and importance of brand properties that resided within as well as outside the control of the company. This form of thinking has large implications on how brands need to revisit their media mix as well as their overall planning and budgeting logic.

As the digital landscape continues to shape the way consumers and brands interact, a further evolution of this “media trinity” might be welcomed. Own/Bought/Earned (OBE) gives a good overview, but there are a few dimensions that perhaps need to be called out more prominently in order to bring a holistic view to the picture. McKinsley recently took a stab at this by introducing “sold” & “hijacked” media into the mix. I’ve been working on something similar during the last few years, with one important additional “enabler dimension” i think the McKinsey model fails to point out. Human.

OBE evolves

OWN media.

Own media is the foundation of any brand. One could say that it consists of all the outlets a brand has in its control. These extend across multiple online properties, (both fixed and mobile) as well as different functional presences related to care, sales, comms/pr, marketing as well as human resources. In addition to digital channels, own media extends to physical spaces such as retail and care outlets as well as the product a brand itself is selling.

BOUGHT media

Bought media is quite self explanatory and consists of the presences/visibility a brand acquires through monetary exchanges with the media owners. These range across digital and physical spaces and are unified by the same principle: a brand pays (or bids) for having their product or marketing message displayed across a particular advertising real estate.

EARNED media

Earned media is a consequence of what a brand does, not something that a brand can buy or control. It is fueled by consumer satisfaction and advocacy, thus becoming a powerful vehicle to those brands that have earned their space in their advocate’s hearts. The biggest misconception I often run into, is that many marketers interpret earned media as having a Facebook page. A Facebook presence is own media, just as their .com or .mobi corporate sites are. Earned media is unprompted and driven entirely by sources that are not controlled by the brand. Brands can facilitate the dissemination of content by creating social features to their own media as well as engaging in conversations with its customers, but in the end, earned media is an end result delivered by the customer.

BURNED media

Just as great brands strive on the earned customer advocacy, modern digital channels make it increasingly easier for consumers to voice their negative brand experiences. Burned media consists of consumers that are voicing their frustrations about a bad experience they have had with a brand. This is also a consequence of what a brand does, not something a brand can pay to avoid. In this light, it becomes increasingly important to have the care and PR teams involved in crafting overall engagement strategies as well as frameworks that enable brands to quickly react to negative WOM as well as proper empowerment that enables community managers and care agents to solve any issues that are emerging.

TRADED media

In today’s age of collaboration, it becomes more and more evident that brands cannot do everything on their own. Collaboration amongst brands is needed and healthy ecosystems encourage a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. Many brands fail to leverage the value of their own media and go out paying for media, when they could achieve more through clever partnerships where media is traded, or by allowing 3rd parties with no conflicting interests to buy real estate on the brands own web sites.

HUMAN media

Perhaps the biggest media evolution we have witnessed in the past years, has been the shift from broadcast media to conversational media. Along this chain of thought, a fundamental piece must also evolve. Conversations cannot be automated, they need a human interface that can understand the human emotions as well as cultural contexts that a particular engagement unfolds around. The earned and burned media streams unfold around conversations that need human interpretation as well as interaction to solve. The media mix that a brand evaluates, needs to start taking the core asset of any company = the people, into account. In the past, media was paid. In today’s world, it’s a combination of time and money, controlled and non-controlled spaces as well as an industry that’s still trying to find the right balance for shifting budgets (and people) accordingly.

Ok. You’ve run into this blog post. You’re busy. There’s a deadline for your report around the corner and you’re rushing along to get through your day. Stop. Just stop for 5 minutes and read through this post. Why? Because it might (just barely) fundamentally shift your outlook on life as well as how you plan for the future.

In today’s hectic living environment, we get squeezed with constant deadlines, action items, duties and commitments. Years seem to go by and we often don’t take the needed time to reflect what it really is we want from life. We daydream about winning the lottery, we make promises on new year’s eve about starting from a clean sheet of paper and being better human beings. Then we go back into the same rabbit hole we came from. Daydreaming and sporadic new years resolutions are not about personal development. Personal development is a mindset and a series of ongoing behaviors that yield positive results over time.

Let’s try something out. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Go on, try it out, i know it’s analog media, but it’s cool to get your hands “dirty” sometimes. Set? Ok. Now draw a circle to the middle of the page and write your name into the middle. This exercise is all about you, and the more you invest into it, the more YOU will benefit from it.

Cool. Now draw a line from the circle and label it “dreams & aspirations”. These can be work or personal related and they can branch out to as many layers as you feel are needed. Think about what you really want from life, work, health, wealth etc. Think short term, long term the full spectrum.The most important thing is to just embark on that journey of reflection and pursuit of happiness.

Next, draw another line to the circle and label it “strengths and skills”. You can either list down what YOUR core skills and strengths are, or list down what skills and strengths are needed to ACHIEVE the dreams and aspirations. Again, you can do this from a work perspective, life perspective or even as a reflection of your current golf skills. You decide.

Great. Now draw a third line and label it “my learning path”. This is not about listing what you are bad at, but more to list what are areas that you would like to learn more about or develop yourself within. Also think about how your learning path will help you develop the skills and strengths you need in order to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

Time for another line. Label it as “network”. In today’s world, the importance of your network is invaluable. Tools like LinkedIN and Xing help us connect business contacts, while Facebook is more about friends and acquaintances. For the sake of this exercise, think of your network in the context of your dreams and aspirations. List down as many names as you want, but please also take some time to profile these contacts to different tiers. For ex. Bob from ad agency: Can help me to cost efficiently setup my startup’s website. Linda from university: Expert on the Chinese market, good contact to help us expand our business there etc. Once you get into the habit of doing this, start keeping a constant diary of the people you meet, work and play with and list down the context around your relationship. This will become an extremely valuable asset for yourself. However, please also remember that you need to “give love to get love”, and the relationships you build and maintain, need to go both ways. Nobody appreciates a free rider.

Ok, last line and then you’re set. Label this as “lifeline/CV”. We often only update our CV’s when changing jobs and too often we don’t even remember most of the stuff we’ve learned along the way. When you consistently document what you have been learning and achieving, you begin to realize all the progress (or lack of progress) you’ve made in the past years. It’s not really about keeping your CV fresh, but more a tool for you to really keep track of how you are developing as a human being.

These are 5 simple dimensions of your “ME” mind map, that will enable you to identify your dreams and aspirations, weigh your skills and strengths against these, as well as identify how you will need to develop yourself and what kind of network you will need to build around you. Lastly, by documenting your lifeline progress, you will be able to measure how well you are making progress. There are some quite nice tools available for doing this digitally, a simple Google search will get you along really well.

Now back to the rabbit hole🙂

PS. Below you can find the slideset on Slideshare

Happy 101010