Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's reward our spectacular failures!

Professional recognition is great, particularly if you're still in career-augmentation mode. More years ago than I care to remember, I won a few awards over several years. Subsequent job offers followed. Strangely, the job interviews that stemmed from those wins all took place in city bars, but that's something I'll never quite resolve.

All I remember is knocking back one offer because I was in such dire financial straits with interest rates at 18% that I was on the verge of losing my house. I therefore could not take on any job that didn't provide a car, because that sort of purchase would have pushed me over the financial brink (I worked for Ford at the time so was well catered for in this regard).

But back to awards. I saw some awards handed out last week at an industry function. With due respect to the winners, who had put together some okay campaigns, none of them broke new ground and several won because of the sheer weight of budget. In fact, I have to say in all modesty that, in most instances, all I saw was replicas/hybrids of what we'd been doing for several years. But we didn't enter the awards program!

My point is not to decry the efforts of others, nor to whinge about opportunities lost by not entering. All I am asking is what is the value of awards programs? Certainly consumers care diddly squat about whether we've collected a marketing or communications award. But of course, they may count for something when you go for your next budget increase or, even more significantly, grovel for your next pay increase, bonus or promotion.

But can awards ultimately do the recipient a mis-service over the longer term?  If we win awards, are we tempted to kid ourselves that our effort and ingenuity sets a new benchmark for the industry? Because this is what good awards programs should be about - creating new benchmarks, thresholds below which no one should fall in future .

Perhaps all the good ideas that we're ever going to see have been acted upon, in which case we are doomed forever to view repeats as frequent as MASH reruns on cable TV. I hope this is not the case, because I would still like to see breakthrough ideas, people recognised and rewarded for taking risks with marketing and communications.

Perhaps every program should include a category for 'Most promising debacle'. This would give appropriate recognition that out of a failed idea might spring something fantastic that will point out new directions for the future.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On election campaign slogans

Remember Kev07's pitch to Australia's 'working families' in the last federal election? What happened to those families and why does Julia 'Brutus' Gillard keep referring to me as 'the Australian people'? Have 'working families' morphed into just plain old 'Australian people'? If so, what were they before?

Perhaps Brutus is trying to embrace diversity, assuming that Kev thought the only working families were immigrants who hadn't been naturalised and, therefore, had not quite made the grade as 'Australian people'. Or perhaps, she has identified that there's a swag of votes to be had among the unemployed and/or occasionally employed families, who didn't quite identify with the 'working families' thing. But what grinds my organ is that the Australian people phrase is very third person - suggesting that Brutus may not be of this nation as she addresses us.

You know, 'the Australian people' thing is getting to me more than 'moving forward'. Both of these would probably be no more irritating than the Lib's battle cry, which might grate on me if they'd cut it in half so I could recall it.  All I can think of from the Lib's catchphrase is 'action' which, unfortunately for the mad monk, keeps regurgitating the budgie smuggler image in my mind.

Election phraseology and imagery is of national importance and we're all occasional victims of it.  Those that capture the mood of the nation like the legendary 'It's Time' campaign in 1972, produce outcomes that vitally affect all our lives.

However, most just cause mood swings rather than capture the mood. The more gratingly annoying this stuff is, the more it sticks in your mind and the gloomier you become. This year's Labor Party slogans suggest that the legendary 'Singo' (he of the infuriating Madge dishwashing liquid and 'Where d'ya get it?' commercials of yesteryear) is back on the payroll and puppeteering in the background.

Unfortunately, the Lib's malaise is akin to my experience of trying to create concise mission and vision statements in the corporate world. Recently, I came across a consultant who advised that a company's vision statement should be a single sentence. The executive group duly engineered a single sentence which, on any decent newspaper subs desk would have been broken down into at least five paragraphs. The result was identical to the Lib's campaign slogan - too long for anyone to remember, generic, and totally forgettable. I say sack the consultant and smuggle in a budgie to think of another.

Given that their leader will never get over the budgie smuggler or early morning cycling images, or the fact that the mad monk would be a first-time prime minister, perhaps an appropriate catchline for the Libs might be: 'Lycra virgin. His very first time'. Job offers - message me here ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We kick off our brand challenge

I currently have about the best brand and communications gig in Australia. No. I'm not exaggerating. I have one of those rare opportunities to head a working group, whose task is to research and develop a new brand as our superannuation fund merges with another to create the 8th biggest profit-for-member fund in the country.

How often do you get to start from the ground up to create a new brand for a substantial organisation? Sure, we've all worked on brand refreshment programs - a tweak to the logo and the corporate style guide, but the opportunity to get back to basics and thoroughly research two large organisations as they proceed down the path to merger is something like manna from heaven.

The outstanding news is that the executive teams from both organisations have recognised that thoroughly understanding the new entity's value proposition will be a primary driver of product and services modelling and even organisation structure and its required skills matrix. It's been a long haul for me in elevating brand to the point where it's a substantial driver of business strategy and modelling.

No doubt, the next couple of years will be extremely exciting and a period in which we'll  accumulate various brickbats and bouquets. I just hope we'll be receiving more of the latter when the project is completed!

Just for the record

Keen followers of this blog will know of the psychological and, I am sure, egotistical battle of the brands that I have endured in owning a VeeDub, but aspiring to an Audi. I am pleased to report, I now have my brand alignment thoroughly resolved with the purchase of an Audi yesterday. R.I.P. blogs on the VeeDub....