Digital Strategy: from here to the future

This blog takes a deeper look at digital planning and strategy in brand marketing and advertising. It accompanies a useful overview of these strategic tools from my Birmingham City University colleague, Mike Villiers-Stuart in his blog, Overview: Working The Methodology. This article considers how we can deliver strategic approaches that bring value in a constantly changing landscape of digital channels and platforms. In short, how can we develop an effective digital (and future-proof) methodology?

 Platforms, Channels and Formats 

“There was a time when people felt the internet was another world, but now people realise it’s a tool that we use in this world.”  Tim Berners-Lee

Since the explosion of the internet in the mid-1990s we have seen the continued growth of digital marketing channels (Meeker, M. 2015). Within the broad definition of ‘online’ there are an increasing number of platforms that offer opportunities for brand advertising; desktop/laptops, smartphones, tablets and, potentially, wearable devices. Eventually we might even include the connected fridge as a platform. These technologies have driven the emergence of new media channels, specifically web, mobile or social media. These channels have led to a plethora of formats from display ads to paid search to native content or video ads. As a result of this combination of platforms, channels and formats, marketing and advertising has become an increasingly complex landscape.

The other side of this challenge is that consumer behaviour in the brand context has become similarly complex. Arguably, our basic human needs, as defined by Maslow remain largely the same. The difference is that these needs are being played out in many different places. Way, way back, before the internet, advertising and marketing had limited touch points. The aim of advertising was to create something memorable, such as a jingle, a catch phrase or a concept, in the hope that consumers would remember them later at the point of purchase. In the UK the 1980s was a heyday for creative advertising. People such as John Hegarty (Levi’s 501), John Webster (Cadbury Smash, John Smiths, Courage Best) or Tony Kaye (Real Fires, British Rail, Dunlop) were writing adverts that were memorable, often repeated, and memed in playgrounds.

In today’s digital landscape the problem is not simply the numerous channel options, but also that consumers adopt new ones faster than brand advertising. Larry Downes’ identifies an increasing gap between these two groups (Downes, L. 2009) due to the exponential growth of the technology that drives digital media. It means that brands in digital are constantly playing catch-up with their audience.

maslow1

The Role of Planning and Strategy

‘If you have all the research, all the ground rules, all the directives, all the data — it doesn’t mean the ad is written. Then you’ve got to close the door and write something — that is the moment of truth which we all try to postpone as long as possible.’ David Ogilvy

The primary purpose of advertising and marketing is to create brand value, sell products and services, and through that, to create a return on investment (ROI). Simply placing adverts without any strategy in a complex digital media landscape is unlikely to deliver a return. Although some brands have tried this approach, advertising needs something more than just a ‘spray and pray’ strategy.

As early as the 1960s, even with fewer channel choices than now, it became apparent to some advertising UK execs that account managers could not rely on intuition or guesswork to develop their campaigns. Two people are credited with the development of the discipline known as planning; Steven King at JWT and Stanley Pollitt at BMP (Morison, M A et al 2012). They believed that they could produce much better results for clients if advertising professionals looked beyond pure marketing research and interpreted data in a more meaningful way. The discipline has since matured, or to use an advertising term, ‘rebranded’ into a range of roles. The Account Planning Group[1] lists a dozen key positions, and creative recruitment sites include terms such as account planner, strategic planner, strategist, creative strategist, and an old favourite, ‘brand anthropologist’ (Morison M A et al, 2012, Pg 7). The precise definition of who does what, and especially, who is more important in the pecking order, seems to be cause for considerable debate. Tracy Fellows, Chair of the Association of Account Planning said there is “a culture emerging in our industry that isn’t clear on what strategy is or what it does.” (Tiltman, D, 2011). In spite of this confusion, there are some broad principles that underpin the discipline that go beyond a single job definition. Some would even argue that job definitions are in fact, irrelevant.[2] Ultimately any strategy aims to take a brand from pain to gain – identifying a problem and finding a solution. That boils down to understanding research, developing some insight and through that, offering the brand a creatively led solution or ‘a moment of truth’. Regardless of what we title it, strategy is a meeting of analysis and creativity.

The Rise of Digital

Even in the 60s, the amount of market research was too much for an account manager to interpret (Morison M A et al, 2012). Now, with an explosion of digital channels we have many more measures and research data. Along side the market research offered by companies such as Nielsen, Kantar, IPSOS and Comscore, planners, or strategists for that matter, can also access some exotic analytics data generated from digital channels. Typically it covers usage information, such as web or app analytics[3] that works in conjunction with primary research conducted by a brand or agency.

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Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist.com

At the other end of the process is the deployment of marketing and advertising. What tactics will the marketer use in order to deliver the strategy? As new platforms develop, tactics will inevitably change. The shift and the resulting opportunities to advertisers in digital platforms has been closely tracked for some years by Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends. Other indicators of a shift include Google’s ad revenue for search and display, which has nearly doubled to $20bn in a decade (Reported in Ad Week, July 2016), and social media advertising, where Facebook has seen revenues go from zero to $3.3bn in less than 10 years (Seetharaman, D. 2016, WSJ).

Such rapid growth creates a confusing landscape in which to deploy brand engagement. One example is the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Ad Unit Portfolio[4] which shows hundreds of options for just one of many advertising channels, display advertising. Another indicator of this is the growth is in technology providers in the digital landscape. Scott Brinker in the Chief Marketing Technologist blog found that the number of players in the market almost doubled between 2014-15[5].

The challenge for advertising agencies that stems from a changing landscape is that of risk. How do we prove engagement in new, emerging channels? Brands, by their very nature, tend to be risk-averse and shy away from what they see as untried channels. Therefore the role of strategy becomes more important in helping brands to understand the new landscape and manage that risk (and, of course, to spend the money).

Technology as a Tool

One of the biggest challenges of the modern digital landscape is that particular platforms or technologies drive a campaign. It’s not unusual to hear a client say ‘put a QR[6] code on it’ , ‘we want an app’, ‘let’s use iBeacons[7]’ or ‘we want an augmented reality campaign’. In some ways it is understandable. An emerging platform such as the smartphone is very feature driven, and thus the technology is at the forefront. The challenge is that tech-driven thinking is not strategic. All it is doing is describing the tools to deliver a campaign. Imagine that you commissioned a portrait but you only told the artist the brushes you wanted them to use? It’s no different in advertising. Describing a technological feature fails to show an understanding of the audience or the context in which they might be engaged. It’s important to keep in mind that the technology itself is agnostic – there is nothing wrong with it – but without a strategy it is often used poorly.

Furthermore a lack of strategy in emerging platforms creates a ‘me too’ approach – using a channel simply because everyone else seems to be doing it. When some brands are early into a channel and see a small measure of success, others jump on the bandwagon. User generated content in social media is a good example of this. There’s a Tumblr dedicated to this, called tellusyourstoryblog.tumblr.com, that documents numerous brands that have asked users to share their story. The most surprising of these is PreparahionH, the pile cream. A strategic approach might reveal that another ‘send us your selfie’ campaign is not the best way to engage an audience in this context.

From Pain to Gain: Strategic Methodologies

Today’s planning discipline in advertising agencies is essentially an applied practice rather than a theoretical concept. Although there are supporting theories, strategic methodologies are rooted in a practical delivery of a campaign to an audience – the straight forward pain-to-gain process. An effective strategic tool can be understood in three stages; research, insight and creative. Within each stage there are a number of smaller processes that contribute to the development of the strategy. Although it is often described in a linear way, the reality is that development doesn’t always take a such simple path. For example, creative might be considered at an early stage in the process then reviewed or changed following further strategic insights.

In a complex digital world, this process can understandably become confusing. In order to formulate an effective strategy it is therefore necessary to use a framework. Agencies often like to invent their own, but three such examples are DPDDD (Villiers-Stuart, M. 2014), SOSTAC (Chaffey, D. 2012) or Storyscaping (Legorburu, G. & MaColl, D. 2013). These are not solutions that can provide an answer, but instead are tools that describe the flow of development in which to deliver an effective, meaningful strategy.

Strategic Realists

Realists or cynics? It all depends on your perspective. With the rise of digital channels, strategic methodologies have become more complex. Inevitably, some argue that it creates an unnecessary mystification of the process. Chief amongst these is Byron Sharp. He proposes that advertising is not sufficiently underpinned by empirical research and suggests that the objectives of many strategic methodologies are false. Strategists may focus on creating brand value through storytelling that will deliver brand fans or advocates. Advertisers will cite passion brands such as Harley Davidson or Apple who deliver a brand story that creates advocates who will purchase more frequently and encourage others to do so. The most referenced example of such brand fans are those that have the Harley Davidson tattoo. Sharp’s research identifies the concept of a fan as largely a myth and that the purchase/repurchase rate is similar for most brands. A little more vociferous in his argument is Bob Hoffman, Ad Contrarian (2007). A long-standing ad-man, Hoffman believes that brand strategists are mistaken in identifying consumers as ‘fans’. He suggests that what is described as ‘brand advocacy’ is nothing more than convenience and habit. He would go so far as to argue that brands are misled by their agencies who are creating something of ‘an emperor’s new clothes’ about what is fundamentally a simple process. He suggests that this is why brands will deliver inappropriate campaigns such as social media ‘Tell Us Your Story’, smartphone apps that are hardly used, and banner ads that are rarely clicked on. The Advertising Realists believe that it is really not that complicated. Arguably it’s in the interests of agencies (and their fees) to make it seem so. The Strategic Realists are typified by an irreverent, almost punk spirit that seeks to break down much of the pompousness of current advertising strategy. An Open Letter to All of Marketing and Advertising is a good example of this approach (Anon, 2010), which ends with the plea:

‘If you’d like to tell me what’s good about your product, fine. I may buy it. I may not …But, not to put too-fine-a-point on it, please, please, PLEASE, if you wouldn’t mind, awfully. Leave me alone. Thanks.’

Tools for The Job

All of this presents our core question. Which strategic methodology, if any, is the most appropriate? Perhaps the solution is to take a strategic approach to strategy itself. Just as technology is a tool, a strategic framework is simply there to deliver a job. The job of good advertising. That choice of tool should consider the values of the agency, the needs of the client and the campaign objectives. Thus, the DPDDD methodology is an effective tool for clients who are results driven, looking for an end-to-end solution. SOSTAC, on the other hand, is designed to meet the needs of a marketing-led approach. Storyscaping is a more in-depth tool that can help build the brand idea, especially in an omni-channel landscape. Storyscaping lends itself well to engagement for passion brands but it may over complicate the process where consumers are uninvolved with the brand, such as the classic FMCG product, a packet of soap powder.

These are just examples of how the tools might be applied and are far from exhaustive. Ultimately the choice of methodologies should be underpinned by the basic principles of strategy – identify some relevant research, critically assess it to create some insight and develop creative that meets the needs of the brand.

Bibliography

Legorburu, G. & McColl, D. Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds, 2014,

Villiers-Stuart, M. Overview: Working the Methdology, 2016,
http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/futuremedia/2016/10/07/overview-working-the-methodology/

Meeker, M. Internet Trends 2016, 2015, KPCB

Morison, MA et al Using Qualitative Research in Advertising, 2012 (2nd Ed) Sage Publications

Downes, L, The Laws of Disruption:Harnessing the New Forces That Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age, 2009, Basic Books

Tiltman, D. The death of the big idea and the future of strategy, 2014, Brand Report
http://www.brandreportblog.com/the-death-of-the-big-idea-and-the-future-of-strategy-david-tiltman-warc/

Seetharaman, D. Facebook Revenue Soars on Ad Growth, 2016, WSJ
http://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-revenue-soars-on-ad-growth-1461787856

Sharp, B. How Brands Grow, What Marketers Don’t Know, 2010, OUP

Hoffman, B. The Ad Contrarian, Getting beyond the fleeting trends, false goals, and dreadful jargon of contemporary Advertising, 2007

Anon, An Open Letter to All of Advertising and Marketing, 2010, PSFK
http://www.psfk.com/2010/08/an-open-letter-to-all-of-advertising-and-marketing.html

[1] There is a list of key planning roles to be found at http://www.apg.org.uk/#!apg-planningjobguide/c1lkf

[2] This might be controversial to some who believe the difference is significant, such as Jinal Shah who argued the importance of the planner vs strategist definition in his Constant Beta blog: http://jinalshah.com/2012/05/29/lets-fuckin-set-the-record-straight-account-planners-and-digital-strategists-are-not-the-same/

[3] These kinds of analytics are typically drawn from individual web-site based logs into formats such as Google Analytics. In addition there are aggregations of this data through tools such as GS Stats Counter or Google Trends to highlight just two.

[4] The IAB Ad Unit Portolio [http://www.iab.net/adunitportfolio] looks at ‘display ads’ such as web banners, mobile and video advertising formats.

[5] A rise from 947 in 2014 to 1,876 in 2015 http://chiefmartec.com/2015/01/marketing-technology-landscape-supergraphic-2015/

[6] QR codes originated as a means of tracking parts in the vehicle industry. They were adopted in Japan as a means of delivering a URL to a mobile device due to the complexities of translating Japanese into Roman-type URLs. However, there are few examples of successful campaigns in Europe and the US. I discussed this problem with Graham Charlton at Econsultancy (2013) in the following blog post: https://econsultancy.com/blog/62397-qr-codes-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

[7] I looked at the challenge for Beacons in this blog post: https://brandsandinnovation.com/2014/10/28/beacons-the-saviour-of-retail-probably-not/

Does Length Matter? Twitter’s 10K Character Dilemma

Twitter recently suggested that they might increase the length of Tweets to 10,000 characters. Unsurprisingly it created something of a Twitter storm. Social media users are passionate about their networks and rarely like change. It also happened when they changed the ‘faves’ star to hearts. But what will longer Tweets mean? Some commentators suggested that it will make the social media site no different to any other blogging platform. That points to the challenge that Twitter has an identify crisis. It doesn’t know what it is any longer. Celebrities and their audience have mostly left Twitter to go to Instagram. Perhaps they are simply driven by narcissism but it’s very telling that four of the top ten Instagram accounts are from the Kardashian clan. Twitter though, seems have become the place for politicians’ indiscretions, journalists Tweeting their own articles and the middle class moaning at brands over service failures.

That is Twitter’s broad problem. Over the last year its growth has slowed down considerably and had just over 300m active users in 2015. Well below expectations. Compare that to WhatsApp, the messaging platform is rapidly approaching 1 billion users. Since its IPO, Twitter has seen a fall in its share price, so it needs raise revenue (and investor confidence). For the mico-blogging site, that means bringing in more advertising, but it has not managed to deliver the expected revenues. Although it has grown, their advertising remains a bit-part player to Facebook’s highly successful offering. In part, it’s because they lack the reach of their competitor, but the key to Facebook’s ad success has been to create a walled garden and keep the users within the site. Twitter is trying a number of formats to address this issue. They recently launched a Conversational Ad format that with call to action options.In a similar vein, longer Tweets means that users should (in theory) spend more time in the channel. And that’s good for advertising.

But what about the users? The complaints about the changes are in part, a reflection that their audience cares about Twitter. Ultimately though, social media sites must evolve. Twitter has regularly added new features – from the (user driven) hashtag to their recent Moments. However, I think the problem for longer Tweets is that it goes against the prevailing trend. We are moving to shorter, message-based content.

Snapchat is a good example where social media this is going. The ten-second life of pictures and videos has caught the imagination of 200m+ users. The FT reported in Sept 2015 that the app had 6 billion video views per day – that’s a 3-fold increase in 7 months and rapidly approaching Facebook’s figure of 8 billion views per day. The fact is that from content to our attention spans, everything’s getting shorter (as a Microsoft study found). Certainly Twitter has to evolve but the answer probably doesn’t lie with longer Tweets.

Why the Internet of Things Needs More Personality

It seems as though everything is becoming connected. It’s not just smartwatches from the likes of Apple or Samsung. It’s also cars, homes, health, industry and agriculture. We have connected babies (well onesies), WiFi sniffing cats and even (the slightly pointless) a connected yoga mat. That’s all very well, but the mere existence of technology does not equal adoption. Cue Cat is my favourite example of a large technology investment with no user take-up. When it comes to the IoT Michael Humphrey writing in Forbes summed it up well – we have an ‘enthusaism gap’.

Clearly, going from innovation to adoption is not easy. Bill Buxton talks about The Long Nose of Innovation. Development happens over many decades until we create a truly usable product. The computer mouse and smartphone touch screens are two examples. How could we apply the long nose to the IoT? Some people suggest it will reach true innovation when it becomes invisible and we don’t know it’s there. That might be true in part, but I think there is a flip side – we need to create more enthusiasm by making the IoT more visible and giving objects a personality.

Things That Tweet
The micro-blogging channel has been put to good use, not just by people but also Tweeting objects. We have Mars Curiosity (@marscuriosity), the Crossrail Tunneling machine, Big Bertha (@BerthaDigsCR99) and there’s Tom Coates’ Tweeting house (@houseofcoates). Fun? Yes. But it seems to go deeper than that. @houseofcoates has 1400 followers (slightly more than I do), and some of them get into conversations with the house (and very occasionally, it replies).

Enchanted Objects
MIT Lab scientist, David Rose, harks back to the days of beautifully crafted artifacts that fulfilled just specific tasks. He worries that the future of most objects will be little more than a black slab of glass without any enchantment (and without personality). He is on a mission to create and promote more enthusiasm with enchanting objects. Often, these objects have fewer functions but they do them beautifully. He gives the example of the umbrella, where the handle glows when it is going to rain or a medicine bottle that chirps to remind you to take a pill. Simplicity and delight are the key to the engagement.

Simple, Fun Experiences
Taking a cue from David Rose, if we are to engage with the IoT then we need to focus on simplicity and fun. The Smart Crossing was a recent Cannes Lions winner for Smart Cars that did just that. To discourage pedestrians from crossing in front of the traffic they created a light where the red, stop person danced. Not only that, but the moves were created by real people in a booth nearby. Of course, everyone waited at the lights, entertained for a few minutes by a dancing person.

More Personality
Brad The Toaster is a more anthropomorphic incarnation. Though an artistic concept, rather than a real thing, it brings a personality to the problem of over consumption. Brad is one of many connected toasters that can’t be owned (he’s more like a cat in that respect). You can look after Brad and use him, but if he is neglected then he will simply give himself to someone else. This idea could be applied to other products like self-driving cars. Given that the vehicles we own spend most of their time parked up, it makes little sense to own a car . However, we have a strong emotional relationship with them. Even in a self-driving world where the car just appears when you want it, giving them up won’t be so simple. Perhaps, though, if they have personality more like Brad The Toaster then we’ll be more likely to switch to a simple rental model.

‘Clothes have Feelings Too’
Taking the Brad concept further, I’ve been developing an idea called The Internet of Clothes. In developed nations we buy too many clothes and wear very few of them. One solution is that your clothes will ask to be worn. They will Tweet you based on the weather, frequency of wear or occasion. And if you ignore them? They will contact a charity for recycling.

I hope that giving clothes a sense of personality it can help people make better use of the resource. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same for other IoT objects. At the simplest level, we can feel more engaged but at a deeper level, it’s also about building an anthropomorphic relationship. For us humans it makes the whole IoT easier to comprehend.

Facebook’s Dislike Button. What’s Not To Like?

Speaking at a recent event in California, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the social network would be introducing a new button. He said, ‘”We have an idea that we’re going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we’ll roll it out more broadly”. Although the Facebook CEO didn’t name it as such, it has been branded the ‘Dislike’ button.

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If it is implemented, this will be an interesting new step for Facebook. The current Like button, that first appeared in 2007, was famously the result of a hackathon. It was proposed as an ‘Awesome’ button. Realising that many post of cats and people’s children were less than awesome, it transformed into the Like that we know today.  The success of the button is both its binary simplicity and the fact that it is a positive acknowledgement of the post. Even when a post is more serious or tragic, the action of Liking is widely understood to be positive and supportive.

For Facebook, there is a need to move forwards. At a time when many young users are switching to Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook), they need to innovate to encourage retention. The challenge of a Dislike button, though, comes from its very nature. It’s a negative action. In a Wired article, Brian Barrett suggested that it will create a negative atmosphere that will simply put people off posting. Given the personal nature of these networks, it’s easy to understand why users will be discouraged if disapproval is as simple as clicking a button.

The negativity of the Dislike button could, potentially run even deeper though. Unlike Reddit, one of the benefits of Facebook is that posts are not ranked. Once you have two options, Like and Dislike, there will be an inevitable sense of competitiveness on posts, discouraging yet more users.

I’m sure Facebook are aware of the challenges, but they will need to tread carefully. Posts and shares are the lifeblood of Facebook and that in turn is what drives their advertisers. So in the end, the success of a Dislike button will probably come down to money.

It’s All in The Wrist Action … Apple Pay and The Apple Watch

apple_pay_watch-580x387I was excited by the thought of Apple Pay on my Watch. There’s a (childish) appeal that I can pay for stuff just using the device on my wrist. And it looks as if I’m not the only one. In June, mobile analyst,  Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) Tweeted: ‘Apple Pay with a phone is still just taking something out of your pocket. Not transformative. With a watch it’s amazing. End of friction’. A report released in August from Writstly found that 80% of Watch users have paid with the system and 78% do so at least once a week. With such a high uptake, does that make Apple Pay a rip-roaring success? The answer is, probably not.

I am one of the 80% who have used Apple Pay on the Watch and it has been far from life changing. It is good enough, but far from the great experience that Apple has delivered elsewhere. Double clicking to ‘prime’ the card is fairly easy, although it’s effectively a two-handed operation. Tapping in to pay can be tricky at times. The biggest challenge is getting the angle right on the reader. They are generally set up on the right hand side and this is especially a problem on London’s transport network. If you wear your watch on your left then tapping in can be somewhat hit and miss. That’s not great on TfL where a nanosecond’s pause will cause havoc and loud tutting from other commuters. Another challenge is the availability in retailers. My UK experience is that very few outlets advertise Apple Pay. So for many shops it’s a case of tapping to see if it works. So even on the Watch there is still some friction.

In spite of the Wristly study, its difficult to know the true uptake of the payment system – we don’t know how many Apple Watches have been sold and there have only been a couple of broader studies in the US. One survey from InfoScout covering all Apple devices pointed towards a drop in payment adoption rates – from 15% in March 2015 to 13% in June. The second study was a Gallup Poll, which found that 65% of iPhone 6 users were aware of the payment system, but only 21% had used it. None of these show a comparison in take up with contactless cards, so there’s no baseline to gauge the success.

The Wristly study was a self-selecting sample of Watch users. It’s reasonable to assume that these are early adopters of the device who are likely to try out Apple Pay regardless of the experience. When it comes to a broader audience an experience that’s ‘good enough’ is probably not good enough to drive mass adoption. At the end of the day, Apple Pay is good attempt at mobile payment but it’s hard to see how it will achieve real scale. That said, I’m going to keep using Apple Pay on my Watch. Not because it’s any easier, but just because I can.

If Mobile is Contextual, then Smartwatches are Hyper-Contextual

apple-watch-review-heroI’ve previously blogged about the challenges for the Apple Watch. Right now though, nobody can agree on the success of the device. Data from Slice Intelligence, reported by MacRumours  suggested that sales fell by 90% in the second week of July. However, Recode countered that the data only accounted for US online sales and didn’t factor in the launch in physical stores during the same period. Regardless of the ‘sales’ stats, Business Insider has predicted a 35% annual compound growth of the smartwatch market. The Apple Watch is therefore an interesting device in which to understand the direction and benefits of wearable computing.

Having used my device for nearly two months (yes, I have an Apple Watch), it’s been a good way to understand what works and what doesn’t. For example, I find the notifications are more useful than I expected. Whilst getting my phone out my bag or pocket is not a major hassle, there are benefits with notifications on the Watch. For a start, it’s discreet. I have been in a few meetings where my Watch quietly buzzed and I could quickly glance down to see what it wanted. That’s less of a disruption than pulling my phone out my bag. One commentator claimed that all the notifications do is to tell you to pick up your phone. I haven’t found that. Some of the notifications are reminders of another next meeting. I also use it to check the weather, transport and currency rates. None of these require me to look at my smartphone.

One of the unexpected benefits has been for travel. I can set an arrival time for a journey in Citymapper and it will alert me when I need to leave, based on the current speed of the transport network. The turn by turn navigation is also useful. I was in a less savoury part of the city the other week and it was more discreet to use my Watch than get out my phone to check the route (if only Apple Maps were a bit more reliable). The navigation is also useful when it’s raining or I have my hands full.

What’s interesting about all these benefits is that they are all very specific, or contextual. There is a parallel with the contextual nature of smartphones. I have been banging on for years about the need of brands to understand context in mobile to deliver the right engagement. For example, context is not simply knowing the user’s location. Understanding that I’m in-store is useful, but it doesn’t tell me if I’m browsing, ready to buy or just can’t find the product I’m looking for. Context also includes the time of day, my intent and even functions such as the battery life (when people’s batteries are low, the save their usage for basic tasks like messaging their loved ones).

I’ve asked a number of people how they are finding their Watch. Although each person uses it differently, everyone said it was useful, but not essential. Maybe that will change if Apple Pay gains traction. However, the non-essential nature is the key point here. Whilst smartphones are now an essential core device, smartwatches are not. They are useful for very specific tasks. If brands want to develop their engagement on these devices then they will need to understand the very specific contexts in which they are useful. It’s hyper-contextual. Of course the challenge for brands is how to understand or identify that hyper-context.

Five Good Examples of Brand Innovation from Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions, the Oscars of advertising, will kick off later this week with innovation at the heart of their approach. Increasingly, the deployment of technology has been a strong element of the awards. In 2012, Nike’s Fuel Band won the Grand Prix Prize and last year, it went to Nivea’s beacon-based Bracelet . This year’s nominees contain a strong smattering of connected objects. Here are some of the stronger contenders:

Nike RISE LED Court

This is the kind of experiential campaign that you would expect from the sports giant. Big, flashy and well-executed:

Clever Buoy

Arguably this isn’t brand advertising but simply a good concept from Australia. Sharks emit a unique sonar signature and buoys strategically located near the coastline can be used to alert lifeguards of the proximity of sharks:

Hammerhead

From sharks to cycles, R/GA (the company that developed Nike’s Fuel) is a T shaped device that clips to a bike’s handlebars. It connects to a smartphone and uses lights to guide the cyclist around their route – thus mitigating the need to become distracted by their phone.

Samsung Safety Truck

This is a simple and effective concepts that the tech manufacturer developed in Argentina. The country suffers particularly high road fatalities, not helped by the large number of single-lane roads. Their truck simply used a wireless camera at the front and projected the road ahead onto a screen behind so that drivers could easily see if the road ahead was clear. Maybe all trucks will have something like this one day?

The Dancing Traffic Light

This campaign superbly solves the problem of over-eager pedestrians in an engaging way. Instead of a static red person, they dance! Simple enough, but the dancing pedestrian is actually a member of the public in a nearby booth. Their movements are translated into a simple red LEDs that keeps pedestrians entertained instead of trying to cross in front of the traffic: