brand experience China

There is a subtle difference between brand pushing messages to consumers, and letting consumers discover what the brand represents.

Recently, a giant pavilion in the shape of a Louis Vuitton suitcase emerged on Moscow’s Red Square. The construction is part of an exhibition called “The Soul of Travel”, marking Louis Vuitton’s 150th anniversary. The blatant display of branding in a conservative culture didn’t go down well.

In fact, consumers in parts of the world where branded goods used to represent status are now turning towards more subtle expressions of taste. China is one of them, and luxury products have already seen heavily branded merchandises slowly losing their charm.

Brand presence has to be more intelligent, subtle, understated, and localised.

In doing so, brands need to dig deep into their DNA or develop a multidimensional personality, and not just fulfilling a functional benefit. Sportswear is not just for helping people excel in sports performance but as a fashion statement; cosmetics is not just about beauty but about fulfilling a social purpose; and coffee shops are not just about beans but about sharing with friends.

Brands are also becoming more like publishers. Creating content around the brand needs more than just one dimension. To be involved in popular culture, particularly the creative side, gives brands the opportunities to contextualize the brand stories, and build key components of their brand promise. It can also give them “currency” and relevance in specific local markets.

There’s a trend that resonates this movement – brands are making the most of retail space. Not just as a place for transaction of sales, but also as a place where they can project a multidimensional character of their brand.

The beauty and make up company Sephora created a pop-up museum concept in New York entitled “Sensorium” in 2011. The category of perfumes has always been solely relaying on glossy print ads and images, but the interactive journey of the setting of the “Sensorium” space introduces consumers to a new way of appreciation of fragrance. All of a sudden, beauty is not just skin deep, but adds a layer of intelligence to it.

In September this year, Starbucks opened two flagship stores in Beijing. They are not ordinary flagships, they are brand-defining establishments. One, located at Beijing’s glitzy and busiest Kerry Centre, is a 4,000 square-foot, two-story “coffee tribute”. The temple-like space features a giant, bold, Starbucks siren icon on the exterior of the building that illuminates at night. The other “eclectic” version, located in Sanlitun, is a 24/7 operation. Featuring ceiling-to-floor glass windows with a special club on the second floor called “Club 1971” that features live music by local talents on weekends. The Chinese Millennials are in dominance. It also reflects the young Chinese growing up in the one-child system with a strong desire to connect with their brothers and sisters outside the family.

In Shanghai, Under Armour opened its first store in China by blending art and science, presenting the Chinese consumers a sensory journey into the brand. The “retail theatre” is located in the new Jing An Kerry Centre, and designed by Marc Thorpe Design in collaboration with HUSH Studio.

China has a complex relationship with sports, although Chinese athletes are winning more medals in the global stage, but still relatively few Chinese has a personal relationship with sports. Global brands such as adidas adapted their strategy by creating two different divisions, on the one had is their flagship sports performance line; and on the other hand, capturing an aspect that translate sports into lifestyle and fashion. The result is, sub brands such as Originals and Y3 had been successful through the halo effects and the connections with its sports performance heritage, effectively crafting out a strategy that is relevant in the local market.

But developing local product strategy is not enough anymore. The idea behind the Under Armour’s “retail theatre” is to open up the minds of the consumers by redefining the notion of training – not as a pursuit of profession in sports but working to achieve physical greatness. It elevates the proposition from a physical one to an aspirational one.

In an age where authenticity of the brand is so critical that it defines what the brand is all about, by presenting consumers a production quality of epic scale it breaks down the boundary between the physical space and the digital, it will certainly triumphant over any content people get just from small screens.

Creating unique brand experiences is one of the most powerful, immersive means of building a brand. Ultimately, it boils down to making it relevant to local consumers while enabling sharable conversations.

I came across this campaign earlier this year. It was created by Print Power Europe, advocating the effectiveness of print media in the multi-media environment. Like any organisation exists to protect the role of a specific media in the integrated marketing world today, the message single-mindedly focuses on the effectiveness of the media, communicating the notion that print often demands the ‘full attention’ of the reader.

However, this is of course just one side of the story. When was the last time you were not being interrupted by a push message appearing on your mobile while reading the newspaper? Or have you ever read something interesting from the newspaper, and quickly tweeted it in 140 characters?

In fact, any single media attempts to operate in silo is surely going to fail. The Print Power Europe also acknowledged that digital integration is central to the success of the print media.

But newspaper and magazine advertising now offer that interactivity with the use of QR codes, Augmented Reality and Near-Field Communication. 
This digital integration is now central to the success of print media and offers the marketer a host of opportunities to engage with their customers in a number of new and exciting ways.

The challenge today is not only because of the multi-screen media consumption habit of consumers that caused huge disruptions to any specific media, it’s also much more difficult to make a strong business case if we frame contributions of one single media too narrowly – and not from the entire customers’ journey.

What we have started to see happening is cross over interactions. Twitter had successfully reminded the advertising industry about their close relationship with TV viewership, their 140 characters actually could be a good fit as and when the consumers’ eyeballs are glued to the TV screen.

In the context of print media, we also see innovative partnerships. Here are just two of the recent examples:

Enhanced Lexus print ad:

By inserting an iPad screen under the print ad, it transforms a print ad into multi-media visual sensation.

Independent+ Powered by Blippar:

Through ‘visual discovery’ pioneer Blippar app, the enhanced Independent content is enriched with videos, pictures, story updates and all sorts of interactive engagements.

The original page:

Independent_original page

Scan with Blippar which triggers additional content:

Blippar_independent_screen_1

Instant access to constantly updated online content:

Blippar_independent_combined

As everyone is talking about ‘mobile first’ when it comes to digital strategy, we are in fact just touching the tip of the iceberg in its potential. I am so looking forward to seeing how the creative folks can think of even more innovative ways to create interesting partnerships with traditional media channels; and how such ideas could be implemented for brands on a global scale. It’s a constant and never-ending iteration, and it’s only going to get better.

Sir Dave Brailsford

It was a blast at the recent first ever Advertising Week Europe in London. There were truly diverse viewpoints from a wickedly broad representation of thought leaders in the industry.

True, it was pretty London-centric, and not representative of ‘Europe’ as such.

However, there was one point I found particularly refreshing.

Sir Dave Brailsford’s ability to balance art with science and his point on ‘clarity’ as the most important thing in winning is truly inspirational, especially for an industry that is constantly in a state of change.

Clarity, not contradiction, is what we need.

The advertising industry at large remains operating in silos. When mobile becomes increasingly important in the consumers’ journey, the only way to be creative is ‘to be mobile’. As clients demand the evidence of effectiveness through big data, creative ideas have to be ‘data-driven’. As the boundaries between ‘content’ and the traditional form of advertising are blurred, everyone starts raising their objections and protect their line of business, reminding everyone else to ‘mind their own business’.

Everyone has a point, within each individual’s own territory. But why can’t we think in a media-neutral way?

Or should be listen to what Chuck Porter from CP+B said: ‘Don’t start with ads, start with business solutions’?

Nevertheless, there were some fantastic debates and remarkable insights coming out from the conference. In the true fashion of today’s ‘bite-size’ communications, I summarise it in a slide show here.

And as Sir Dave Brailsford also suggested, ‘don’t let numbers inform observations’.

Untitled-3

Topshop is no stranger to creating social media sensations. Last year, Topshop took the high street fashion chain’s social presence to a global level when they collaborated with Facebook on a “Customize The Catwalk” experience during London Fashion Week (see my summary of it in my previous blog post).

This year, the brand worked with Google+ to create yet another multi-dimensional experience. The trend for brands to work with social media platforms takes the definition of ‘the medium is the message’ to the digital age. The benefits for brands to co-create content with social media platforms directly is to tap into the expertise of the technology and jointly exploring innovative ways to connect with consumers.

It also guarantees a certain level of exclusivity during content-rich season such as the London Fashion Week when every brand is now producing live streaming of some sort and winning the consumers over unique experience is important.

Brands are also able to make the best use of data collected from various activities. While live streaming, and other ways to give consumers digital access to runway fashion, was more of a marketing tool at first, is now being seen as a research opportunity.

Here I would like to give a brief summary of the key elements of the campaign to illustrate how they are all inter-connected with each other:

Teaser: On 12 Feb, a trailer “The Future of the Fashion Show” (as featured below) was released as teaser of the upcoming activities, giving hints on the ‘storyline’ that would unfold in the following days leading up to Topshop Unique show at London’s Tate Modern on Feb 17. It’s also a crucial step to invite fans to get onboard Google+ that essentially acts as the hub and springboard of the Topshop ‘story’ of the season.

The Future of the Fashion Show – the trailer:

Creating buzz: On 14 Feb, Google+ and Topshop installed a “Be The Model” photo booth in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Street store in London. Customers can try on Topshop outfits and snap pictures in the booth, the device creates animated GIFs users can share with others on their social networks. Organically growing the number of followers and Topshop fans were turned into brand advocates through peer-to-peer recommendation.

Connecting with professional influencers: On 15 Feb, Topshop unveiled behind-the-scenes videos of the models and creative team preparing for Sunday’s show on its YouTube channel, and invited bloggers and fans to join a Google Hangout with Topshop’s creative director Kate Phelan and the Topshop design team. Specific content targets at the fashion circles that in turn act as credible voice for the brand – to give ‘a 360° view of what goes into creating a catwalk show’

Real-time experience: On 17 Feb, Topshop activated its full portfolio of interactive tools. 3-D Google Map technology was employed to give fans access to the show’s space in The Tank at Tate Modern. To create pre-show buzz, 30 mins before the show kicked start, Topshop broadcasted Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities on their way into the unique space. More opportunities for the content to be widely spread on various platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Hangout Live Backstage Before Topshop Unique AW13:

Topshop Unique AW13 – The show:

Multi-platform distribution of content: The Topshop Unique Show was streamed live on Topshop’s owned website, as well as on Google+ and Twitter (Tweek Walk), in embedded media players on news organization websites and various fashion blogs, and on a giant screen in the window of Topshop’s Oxford Street store.

360° Interactivity: Runway models’ outfits and accessories were fitted with ‘Model cams’, HD micro-cameras powered by SIS Live’s Hawkeye techonology. The tiny cameras broadcast model’s-eye video in the corner of the show livestream, giving audience an opportunity to experience stepping out onto the catwalk through their favourite models’ eyes.

Content optimization: Other spin-offs were adopted from the success of the previous season’s livestream “Customize The Catwalk” initiative. These include the very successful “Shoot and Share” feature for fans to take still shots from the webcast, and various ways to prolong the experience by allowing fans to download the catwalk music tracks (this year the music featuring tracks from the Smiths, Beats International and Saint Etienne) and purchase the make up range. Every single element was fully utilised to extend the lifespan of the campaign.

Data intelligence: “Be The Buyer” post-show custom Google+ Hangout app was launched so that every clip from the runway will be swipable into a ‘wish-list’ which will then be featured on Topshop website. The data from the Google+ Hangout app will help the buyers decide what they are going to actually bring to retail. Fans feel like they are literally taking control of what they are going to buy.

It’s exciting to see how brands embrace digital channels to produce experiences that consumers really enjoy. The use of data also allows designers for the first time to make a very educated decision about how to plan. I believe the clever and seamless application of technology without making consumers feel like they have been put under the microscope is the key to success. As we know, the worst things happen to some of the digital campaign is that they tend to make consumers feel like they are generating content on behalf of the brands rather than having an enjoyable experience.

I would also like to see how this kind of co-creation could evolve to a global level, creating universal experience for consumers from different markets joining in the big event. It also allows brands to understand what works where globally. That could well be the next big news in global digital content creation.

If there were two essential ingredients in creating brand content today, it will certainly be ‘participation’ and ‘sharing’.

Ford announced an updated Fiesta social media initiative that will invite content generated by users. It will not be just a one off promotion but apparently a yearlong activity. It will also be the very first ‘innovative ad campaign created entirely by consumers’ according to the press release from Ford.

Tweet_Ford Fiesta movement

It’s in fact an updated version of the ‘Fiesta Movement’ first debuted in 2009, when thousands of consumers submitted entries to be chosen as one of 100 ‘influencers’ given the keys to a Fiesta for 6 months. These Fiesta ‘influencers’ completed monthly challenges, posted video and blogged about their experiences. The videos can still be found on the current youtube channel.

Ford_become celeb

The updated campaign for the 2014 launch is called a ‘social remix’. On the dedicated website, Ford invites people to ‘Join the movement’. There will be 100 ‘social influencers’ being selected as ‘Ford Fiesta Agents’. The ‘Agents’ will be supplied with a Ford Fiesta and a camera. Curated ‘content’ will be shared through a mix of paid media, social media and experiential events so they can become ‘celebs of the social space’.

It seems to have ticked all the boxes. Elements of participation, user-generated content, channels for sharing, are all contained. What remains is the question of how the process of participation and sharing create meaning for the brand.

Perhaps it’s exactly for this reason, that the new ‘movement’ has some additional refinements:

  • A small percentage of the ‘Agents’ will be reserved for celebrities, current Fiesta owners and alumni, potentially ensuring the quality of the user-generated content to a certain degree.
  • There will be a ‘theme’ each month and a particular mission for the theme. The monthly themes are intended to highlight different features of the Fiesta – essentially acting as a ‘brief’ given to the ‘Agents’.
  • Ford will also partner with American Idol, the Summer X Games and the Bonoaroo Music Festival. Fiesta ‘Agents’ will be given inside access to these events.

The biggest change from the original format is that the new Fiesta Movement will generate ALL of the TV, print and digital advertising for the 2014 Fiesta launch over the summer. Which also means WPP agency Team Detroit will have to use the agents produced materials to create advertising content, potentially redefining the role that a creative agency plays in the process.

It may be unwise to assume people will automatically share any content their peers put out. And the new format seems to have defeated the original purpose of letting the Millennials speak their minds. It would be interesting to see how this campaign unfolds.

I will also like to understand the potential of this initiative being rolled out internationally, from the initial reactions on their twitter feeds I have already observed some interests from consumers from as far as India and Canada, given the global reach of social media I feel that is something we should not neglect. How can this be adapted for your market? Feel free to share with me your ideas.

Celebrity endorsement in advertising is nothing new. From the long time strategy adopted by brands such as Lux who pioneered female celebrity endorsement or Pepsi’s relationship with pop culture in their ‘Taste of the New Generation’ platform, to the more contemporary usage of celebrities by brands such as Mandarin Oriental’s ‘I’m a fan’ campaign. The use of celebrity used to be about helping to shape the brand positioning (as in the case of the Lux being the choice of ‘stars’ and Pepsi’s association with the ‘New Generation’), or in some cases, purely as an awareness exercise.

In Asia, celebrity endorsements had long been a ‘formula’ favoured by brands aiming to achieve an instant fame, from China, India to Japan, often without much careful consideration of the compatibility of the celebrity’s persona with the brand’s image. Every Bollywood star has a product to endorse, and every Japanese whisky has a Hollywood star in a talking head commercial. That’s probably the reason why in the past when a client said they wanted to use a celebrity in the upcoming campaign, it almost always signified the beginning of a formulated creative process.

To a certain extent, this has changed.

The recent trend for brands to associate with celebrities indicates both a changing nature of ‘celebrity’ and the practice of ‘endorsements’. Celebrities are no longer just the face or simply play an acting part in a commercial. In fact they are now hired as creative directors. Some of the recent appointments include:

  • Justin Timberlake for BudLight Platinum
  • Alisha Keys for Blackberry
  • Marc Jacobs for Diet Coke
  • Will.i.am for Intel
  • Lady Gaga for Polaroid

Here are some of their own words in response to their appointments:

Some of them are more credible, as in the case of Will.i.am who actually carries the title of Director of Innovation and reportedly holds an Intel fellowship at the company’s HQ in Santa Clara to constantly dream up innovative ideas, working in collaboration with Intel’s futurist Brain David Johnson. This seems to me one of the more successful collaboration. For other, it could well be just another ‘form’ of celebrity endorsement.

However, one thing is for certain, celebrities are no longer one-dimensional and with their ability to generate ‘content’ in the digital space, it’s where the potential begins. And when brands are moving towards acting as ‘publishers’, the need for relevant and quality content is paramount. When BudLight announced Justin Timberlake’s appointment they said he will ‘provide creative, musical and cultural curation for the brand’ while Justin Timberlake said he is ‘looking forward to not only being a part of the creative process, but in bringing other talented musicians to the forefront as well.’ Could that mean the brand’s future involvements on platforms such as MySpace? Let’s wait and see.

Will the trend of ‘celebrity creative directors’ adapt well in your market? What are the differences in terms of the driving force behind it and its effectiveness? I would like to know.

viral ad 2012

It’s hard to imagine any ‘socially active people’ who has not tweeted or posted a link of a video this year. Sharing content, be it in video format or otherwise, has been part of our lives. This is the time of the year when everyone is putting together ‘The best of 2012’ listings, so I will pick a few that I have come across and ‘share’ it with you, adding a few of my thoughts along the way.

I read the ’20 most viral ads’ compiled by Adweek the other day. First of all, I am not a big fan of the jargon ‘viral ads’. I think the notion of creating conversations with people (consumers) these days has made ‘viral’ being one of the key success factor in any form of communications anyway. In a sense, everything should be ‘viral’ these days. The listing has also only captured videos that were most shared, in this case they are pretty much all on one single platform – youtube. Nevertheless, there are a few gems in it and here are some of my observations:

  • The ‘technique’ of making a video ‘viral’ is beginning to repeat itself. The domino-chain-of-reaction type of action continues to amaze. However, there is a danger that this technique will become old school very quickly. Don’t forget the classic success of the ‘cog’ TVC from Honda was produced back in 2003, and arguably that film was inspired by Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s video ‘The Way Things Go’ which was produced back in 1987. So the key is to find fresh angle to engage and in my opinion, make sure that the execution really does add to the value of the brand. (reference: Red Bull – ‘Klug’ (Clever): The Athlete Machine)
  • Authenticity is one of the most important element of content that worth people to share. We begin to see ‘fleshmob’ starting to feel much more designed and staged. The spontaneous effect is diluted and very soon we all will see through it and lose interests. (reference: Banco Sabadell – Som Sabadell)
  • The idea of judging the effectiveness of video content on its own is hugely misleading. Unless we are in a creative award whereby we are purely looking at a single media of the specific entry. Best campaign effects come from the synergy created by online and offline and everything in between.
  • Simplicity continues to be the winning factor. If something is genuinely interesting, 5 sec is all it needs. We also need to make sure there is ‘meaning’ behind the ‘making. People have not stopped communicating. What’s changed is we are getting better and better at filtering. It’s only the valuable stuff that will spread between people, igniting conversations among those who trust each other. (reference: P&G – Thank You Mama – Best Job 2012)
  • Video content is becoming more sophisticated with much higher production value. This is both driven by the fact that producing high quality videos is much easier to achieve cost effectively these days. With the popularity of mobile device with HD quality video capability, it makes sense to optimize that for the benefit of bringing out the brand message. The downside of it is there is a tendency to use technology for the sake of it and forget about the ‘story’. (reference: GoPro HERO3)

I have embedded a few of my favourites here:

Red Bull – ‘Klug’ (Clever): The Athlete Machine

TNT Belgium – A Dramatic Surprise

P&G – Thank You Mama – Best Job 2012

Here are the titles of the full list of 20 videos:

  • Safe Internet Banking – Amazing mind reader reveals his ‘gift’
  • Air New Zealand Safety Video – An Unexpected Briefing
  • Banco Sabadell – Som Sabadell (We are Sabadell)
  • Red Bull – ‘Klug’ (Clever): The Athlete Machine
  • NIKE FOOTBALL – My Time is Now
  • ‪Sesame Street – Share It Maybe
  • Nike Football: Mercurial Vapor VIII: Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Rafa Nadal
  • Coke Zero – Unlock the 007 in you
  • GoPro HERO3
  • Google Project Glass – One day
  • PBS Digital Studios – Garden of Your Mind
  • Volkswagen – The Bark Side, 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser
  • ‪OK Go‪ – Needing/Getting – Music Video
  • Metro Trains – Dumb Ways to Die
  • 2 year old William Stokkebroe dancing the jive
  • P&G – Thank You Mama – Best Job 2012
  • DC SHOES: Ken Block present Gymkhana FIVE: Ultimate Urban Playground
  • Abercrombie & Fitch – “Call Me Maybe”
  • TNT Belgium – A Dramatic Surprise
  • KONY 2012

I would like to hear from you the most talked about video content in your local market. Please comment here, send me a link or send a tweet @louiechow. I will include your suggestions in the next update for everyone to compare.

Not sure if it is the weather, or because it’s just that time of the year.

A few major ‘changes’ had made the headlines in the industry press. Here are the news from some of the global brands…

Global Brand-Building Officer of P&G Marc Pritchard said the company wants “fewer, bigger creative ideas that can travel around the world”, the impact will be lower agency and production fees by eliminating some that “don’t add value”. The major cuts will be on the non-advertising portion of P&G’s annual marketing spending, including production of promotion and in-store marketing programs, coupon distribution and eliminating things such as giveaways of stuffed animals. The spending on such promotions that “don’t build brand equity” amounted to around $2.1 billion in 2011.

Unilever is moving its 150-strong London-based European brand development team to Rotterdam while centralising its global brand development team in London – the whole shift will be completed by 2014.

These might sound like just everyday news, but if these are in any way an indication of a trend, and when we think deep into the impact, these changes potentially will shake up the entire agency support ecosystem. It influences how, and where, brand ideas and campaigns/ platforms are planned, created, implemented and fulfilled.

Further down the chain, it will impact every agency of any discipline, and every talent working within.

It will also fundamentally change how we, as creatives, producers and implementation specialists, approach any brief; and how and in what way we collaborate with each other, globally.

I find this exciting.

Could this be the starting point of a revolution? Is it a major trend in the making?

One thing is for certain. I am convinced that we cannot go after quantity, but need to invest in quality thinking and insights.

We all need to be as agile and flexible as possible to take advantage of the fast-changing conditions in the marketplace.

Rain or shine? How would you turn this into opportunity? What will we expect in 2013?

In a recent business trip to Beijing I had a reunion with the creative team I worked with in the past. We talked about the development of homegrown creative talents and the emergence of a new breed of independent creative hot shops.

I observed a particularly interesting development. Local creative agencies are starting to embrace a hybrid model to offer services covering everything from strategy, ideation, through to integrated production. Some of the agencies I met up with even have in-house creative roles from film directors to animators, and with photography studios housed under one roof. It takes the notion of through-the-line to a different level.

This is rather different from the development of the agency structure in the West.

Paul Simons talked about the difference between ideas, execution and implementation in his recent blog. He considered that implementation has shifted ‘to a different place driven by tasks that tend to be more mechanical’. He also described how today’s multiple channels and platforms, and creative work running internationally, had turned implementation massively complex – so much so that ad agencies won’t have the resource, knowhow and technology to handle the job in hand. The solution, what it seems to be the obvious one, is to outsource it.

I agree with some of his viewpoints. The ‘decoupling’ of ‘Implementation’ and ‘Production’ from ‘Creation’ has indeed happened, especially in Europe and the US, with various degree of success for different clients.

However, what I think we have to bear in mind is even when ‘Implementation’ is technically being defined not as part of the creative process, they should not be treated as ‘post production’ – or sometimes, even as an after thought.

It is especially so when campaigns are going to be launched simultaneously in multi-markets, across all touch points and particularly, for lifestyle brands. More often than not, a certain degree of rethinking needs to apply.

Creative agencies recognising the importance of that aspect of implementation had positioned the function of technologists as an important element within a creative team. Implementation is embedded within the ideation process. Jeff Benjamin of CB+P once said: ‘When we brought the technology piece in house we made it a point to say this isn’t a production capability, this is a creative capability…A technologist is as creative, in a way, as a writer.’

Joel Koplan of AKQA even argued that ‘the job of creatives is also about making ideas happen, having an eye for execution…It’s also the ‘follow through…It’s coming up with an idea and taking the step to make it come to life in the right way’.

That, to me, is what ‘implementation’ truly is.

It is exactly when we treat the implementation process as totally separate, mistakes bound to happen.

The recent blunders of the Ikea catalogue (which I discussed in one of my recent blog) were good examples. In the case of Ikea, I imagine this was what happened – an ‘implementation/ production’ company were tasked to localise the Ikea catalogue for 10 different markets, and one of the ‘requirements’ was that in the Saudi Arabia version they need to take away the female images (somehow, a top down decision as written in the form of a localisation brief). Meanwhile, the retoucher proceeded according to the ‘brief’ without having the luxury of time to consider about the outcome and implication of the work. He/ she did a fantastic job in the retouching, probably within 24 hours turn-around and then, zoom, went to printing, which was again, possibly outsourced to a printer away from the production centre. The process also may have escaped the final screening by a local marketing manager, since either the company had eliminated such posts during the streamlining/ re-structuring or the ‘production/ implementation’ agency was not tasked to do it. It was not within the ‘scope of work’.

Technically, nothing wrong. Digital files were pristine. Assets were digitally archived. Job in question was completed within SLA. Catalogues were delivered on time.

I believe that any form of communications, no matter how technical the process, is still a creative product. And creativity, not to mention culture and local relevancy, does play a large part in its success.

Even if we were not literally doing each other’s work, there are bound to have cross-overs and we should not implement ideas like a ‘conveyer belt’ style.

Ultimately, an idea never really completes till the last minute before any work goes live.

If I polish my crystal ball, here are some of my predictions in the discipline of ‘implementation’:

  • The role of implementation will go beyond production. It will involve transforming a creative platform into any form of media suitable for any particular market, culture, and of course in any language. In the digital arena, implementation will encompass roles such as user-experience designer, interactive designer, strategist, tech head and integrated producer.
  • Creatives need to think of media-neutral platforms and not media-centric ads. As such, the role of implementation is to completely understand the DNA of an idea and be able to expand it beyond any boundaries of a specific media.
  • Back in the days of traditional media, the line between creative and execution were clear. With digital comes to the fore, creatives often have in their mind the question whether the ideas that they come up with could actually be executed. The role of implementation is first to advice whether it is feasible and what is the best way to organise it to optimise both quality and costs effectiveness.
  • ‘Creative’ and ‘Implementation’ agencies will form tighter strategic alliance and collaboration. The discipline of media and creatives had been surgically divorced in the 90s, with no respect that often the ‘media’ were the ‘message’, and we’ve learnt the lesson. In the future, execution and the way an idea is implemented will have a profound impact on the magic of the idea. Creatives, media and implementation will need to find a way to work back together. Collaboration is the new activation. Or as I always believe, T-shaped hybrid talents will be the real star in the future.
  • The creative inputs within ‘Implementation’ will evolve in the form of ‘Planning’ and will become more crucial in the overall delivery, and more importantly, will be recognised as part of the strategic process.

Looking forward, leading implementation agencies need to join forces and articulate the value of their work, and be rewarded appropriately for what they contribute into the success of the final output.

I will continue to expand on these thoughts in future blogs. I also like to hear from your experience either as first hand from an implementation agency or from the point of view of a creative agency that had benefited from some of the best practice in this discipline.

I will also like to explore the significance of the hybrid model of some of the creative agencies in China and profile some of the need-to-know talents.

If we have to choose a high street fashion brand that had made global news recently, it had to be Topshop. During London Fashion Week in September, the fashion industry had widely praised the brand for unlocking the selling power of social media, turning ‘likes’ into ‘sells’. The effort seemed to have paid off and have certainly uplifted the brand to a global status. ‘Shoot the Show’ was also described by Topshop’s chief marketing officer, Justin Cooke as social, commerce and entertainment rolled into one.

Here are the highlights of the truly 360° activation of the Topshop Spring Summer 2013 extravaganza:

  • The entire fashion show was live-streamed on their website on 16 Sept
  • The live stream video was pinned to the top of its Twitter page
  • Consumers could personalise and share their experience as it took place in real time in London’s Bedford Square
  • Converging with conventional retail activation – the show was also shown on large screens at its Oxford Circus flagship store in London and on the websites of more than 200 media partners
  • The ‘Customise the Catwalk’ feature allowed users to select and order the key looks and accessories, and change the colour to their preferred option before placing the order
  • Viewers could click on clothes and accessories to browse color options as they came down the catwalk
  • Garments ordered ‘live’ from the runway could be delivered three months ahead of industry lead times
  • The partnership with Facebook that featured a ‘Shoot the Show’ function, whereby fans could trigger a ‘camera icon’ on the screen and take a snap of their favourite looks, they could then share it on Facebook with their friends
  • All the tracks from the show were available to be downloaded via iTunes on topshop.com
  • Beauty products used by models were available online with a 48-hour delivery promise
  • Online tutorials were developed to guide fashion fans to develop their own look inspired by the catwalk show
  • Twitter followers (@Topshop) were encouraged to review the show in a ‘Tweet-off’ for a chance to win tickets to the next runway show
  • Branded content: Topshop posted videos of the show 30 mins after the event ended as newsfeed to every country

Snapshots of stats:

  • Both #TOPSHOP and UNIQUE trended globally on Twitter Sunday
  • 100,000 images shared every 20 seconds
  • One garment was sold out in 10 minutes …during the show. In every colour.
  • 2 million people in over 100 countries watched the live-streamed show, its largest online audience ever

The social media strategy seemed to have indeed made Topshop go global. What could possibly be missing?

This year, from May to end of August, Topshop had opened a pop-up store in Shenzhen, China. Now, of all the cities in China, it’s not clear what’s the strategy behind the choice of location, but nevertheless, the global ambition is clear. What I am wondering is, when will the retail brand start localizing the online shopping site to ensure it connects to the local consumers?

Here’s the topshop.com ecommerce site for the China market:

Topshop’s CMO Justin Cooke tweeted during the social media extravaganza: ‘This was the dream #Topshop we might just be the first case study they all wanted – social to commercial, likes to pounds…more to come’. Will the web site be localised in time to even enhance local consumers’ online experience?

While online shopping in China is flourishing, should retailers look at how to implement the global brand locally? Should e-commerce act as one part of their overall digital strategy as well as their overall integrated strategy offline? These are all the questions I like to explore in future blogs. Let me know your thoughts.

*The image shows the Chinese character of ‘one’.