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One of the hottest topics in marketing and advertising strategy at the moment is the power of content.  Despite a plethora of work already out there defining everything from what content is to the benefits of branded content there are still some glaring holes in the information available.  Even at a recent three-day conference held by Content Marketing Institute in Sydney, of which otherwise I was totally blown away by, there were gaps in the actual strategies behind creating great content.
In this post I would like to put forward a simple strategy for marketers to frame their content.  The end result: a more engaged audience that spends more time getting to know you.
The Three Keys of Content
In my experience branded content works best when it lives in one or a combination of:
1) Utility
2) Storytelling
3) Reward
Utility is often the simplest of the three on the list to develop.  Utility should benefit your audience, providing them with tools and information that makes their lives better.  This could include how-to-video, apps, white papers or top trends lists.  A couple personal favourites are:
The Tesco app that not only allows you to create your shopping list but also maps the fastest route for shoppers to get through the store.  As an added benefit to the store shoppers move quicker through the high traffic sections and end up using the extra time they feel they have in the high yield, low traffic areas.
Another personal favourite out of the U.S is River Pools and Spas (seriously look these guys up). Facing non-existent sales during the global financial crisis this company repositioned themselves as the experts in fiberglass in-ground swimming pools.  How did they do it?  By answering every single question on the topic on their blog. As a result anyone thinking about buying a pool went to their blog to find out what they needed to know – and of course in doing so ended up buying one from the expert.
When I interviewed Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi in 2009 for my MBA thesis he spoke passionately about the resurgence of the storyteller in advertising. Since then, and in part due to Facebook and Twitter’s new focus on reach and engagement, the role of brand storytellers has grown exponentially.
Probably one of the best-known examples of storytelling content is the Red Bull Stratos project.  Not only was Felix Baumgartner epic fall from space the perfect hero’s journey (for more about this see:, but the storyline was so well crafted that Felix was welcomed back to earth by the very man that held the record before him: Joe Kittinger.
Put simply, content storytelling is the power to create intrigue. When done correctly it allows brands to engage audiences over an extended period of time and over multiple channels.
A few years back Reward content was primarily coupons or discounts. Though these still have their place in lead or new user generation reward content has changed significantly. Marketers should now focus on rewarding with S.A.P (Status, Access or Power).  These rewards are harder to replicate and are more valuable and engaging to most consumers, especially your brand advocates and enthusiasts.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of this lately is the Sony X experiment out of Sydney.  For this project Sony launched a private Facebook page, inviting 100 fans from their public page after extensive interviews and tests.  These people were given access to new products, pre-launch swag and to the teams that actually designed and built the products.  In essence Sony created a new world of influencers by merely offering S.A.P.  The result was thousands of dollars of free marketing, media and goodwill for the price of some free products and a community manager’s salary
Final lesson: Combine your platforms
Content works best when it is working on multiple fronts, providing the audience multiple reasons to enjoy a branded experience.  For this reason it is vital that you look for easy ways to combine at least two of the three keys of content in your thinking. So next time you are coming up with a product competition, included a brand aligned story, allowing you to engage your audience beyond the desire to just get free stuff.

SXSW: Debunking the purity of big data and why hardware is the new black


It’s been about 12 hours since the final session of SXSW Interactive 2013 and I think i’ve got about 20 key themes garnered from the four days of sessions I attended. Obviously that is way too much to share in an AdNews article. Here’s three that i’ve picked out:

1.    The proliferation of new Hardware –
All across the SXSW Interactive there were companies focused on the  physical world not just the virtual. 3D printing alone was covered in 10 separate sessions. Scott Summit shared his 3D printed bespoke artificial limbs while Makielabs had a business printing virtual avatars to create dolls. 3D Systems had even printed a drone plane that could take off and land by imbedding circuitry into plastic. The starting price of $1500 for a home 3d printer is low enough and the quality high enough for home production of household items to be a real possibility. Elsewhere, Ouya were lauded for their $99 TV gaming console on Android that launches in June. Google did a talking shoe with Adidas and heavily promoted Google Glass. New hardware was everywhere.

2.    Debunking the purity and equality of big data
In the world of big data legendary US political analyst, Nate Silver showed how more data is in many cases, creating more inaccurate decisions. This is because we continually confuse random relationships (the noise) with real cause and effect (the signal). Elsewhere in big data, academics working in the field of geo-data showed that 97% of digital map makers are male, 96% of contributors to open map platforms are male and that wealthier neighbourhoods spit out more data than poorer ones. They also showed that women are significantly less likely to give away their location in social platforms like Twitter hence reducing their geo data footprint. The result of this? Huge inequalities in the amount of data about certain areas and imbedded bias within the data itself. This means our insights from geo data may be wrong and that we are basing decisions thinking we have comprehensive, accurate information when we only have limited, inaccurate amounts.

3.    Pain Points
The best new businesses start by finding unique dissatisfactions in a market. Norman Winarsky, VP of Stanford Research Institute’s commercial ventures team called these dissatisfactions “pain points”. For Winarsky and his team to invest in a startup the core business idea must satisfy a real and significant problem in a market and then articulate a compelling way to solve it. For example the virtual assistant SIRI was created to find a zero click solution for mobile phones because 20% of people were lost with each click getting to a site. Stanford sold Siri to Apple for hundreds of millions of dollars. This idea of finding real dissatisfaction was also driving the creation of travel services like Desti and Airbnb. It was motivating NYC entrepreneur Cindy Gallop to build and successful music service Pandora to keep innovating successfully. Starting with a pain point provides a mission for the founders and staff, a focus for innovation and is more likely to result in real revenue for the businesses as it is the founding idea of the business has a real human need at it’s heart.

Jeremy Nicholas


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Gestural, Wearable, Neural – the new pillars of interaction design


The recent years have not been kind to the digital designer, known for such loathed design trends as the Web2.0 glass buttons and reflections, and more recently the fad of skeuomorphic interface design. The digital designer is thought of as a harbinger of cringe to the world of design, cool cat gifs excluded.
Arriving back from SXSW this week, I was struck by the opportunity to break out of the two dimensional and heavily-formulaic world of web and app design. This is an exciting time to be a digital designer, as the future of digital interaction is all around us.
In a 2010 TED Talk, Anthropologist Amber Case spoke of her ability to document the evolution of a new species, something that has never happened before, a bit of a science once-off. Case has had the opportunity to hypothesise and record the birth of the cyborg. Now, some may say this is a little premature, but her argument is quite compelling – by definition, the regular use of our smartphones has enabled us to augment ourselves, creating the version 1 Cyborg. What many have touted as the rise of the ‘Digital Native’, may be better described as the arrival of the ‘Digital Born’.
This new species will benefit extensively by the promise of the three new pillars of interaction design. Through the implementation of gestural, wearable and neural technologies the Digital Born will simplify their everyday life, amplify their learned knowledge, and even extend their natural life.

•   Leap Motion, is weeks away from shipping globally. Its ability to recognise such an immense set of unique gestures will make you wonder why we spent so long pushing a 1×1px cursor around our screens.
•   Myo, among others, is an example of how technology is finally able to provide the level of dexterity available to the human hand.
•   The Emotiv EPOC headset may look a little clunky for now, but as our knowledge of brain signals increases, our ability to translate thoughts, feelings, and expressions into data may just do away with the need for any hand-based gesture once and for all.

These technologies are maturing at such a rapid pace, developers can start playing around with all three of these without needing to shell out much more than $1000. And with such a low barrier to entry, applications for these controls will soon be available in our phones, our clothes, and embedded in our transportation.
Like many others hoping to be present for a consumer release of the long-awaiting ‘hoverboard’, I attended SXSW this past week. And while I was once again hoverboard-less, I was impressed with the quality of the conversations occurring in Austin, not just on the panels, but in the street wherever you could get free WIFI or a much needed taco. These discussions focused around more than just how these technologies and associated software is evolving – you could clearly hear the need to identify profitable business executions and more importantly opportunities for social good; health, education, and of course communication.
The conversations featured more than your typical (insert hipster cartoon here) industry types, it pervaded all stereotypes. From social scientists, to industrial designers, makers, hackers and even global corporate consultants. The writing is on the wall, the device of the future is not is the smartphone in your hand or the tiny screen attached to your slick new glasses – the device of the future is everywhere.
But with the advent of this opportunity, a number of concerns must be addressed – quality user experience is paramount and interoperability is imperative. Each of the devices of the future must communicate with eachother in a common language, a simple method for maintaining and optimising our devices (read: world) must be developed.
The collaboration between industrial, product and digital design will be an amazing melting pot, but it will be the interface design that will be technology’s face for people the world over. One will not simply be able to define which neuron, triggers which light-switch, without a useful heads-up display.
It is truly an exciting time for digital design, more than just redesigning our favourite social app or bird-tossing game for new devices, the modern digital designer will be tasked to bring together the multitude of digital interactions we will have in the future. Whether it is our self-navigating shoes, or our astral-travelling microholiday vending machines, the digital designer must understand the new interaction design paradigm – for even the design process itself will be powered by gestural, wearable and neural.

Nev Fordyce

Interaction Design Lead, BMF

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BMF wins Central


Frasers Property Australia & Sekisui House, joint venture partners in the development of Central Park in Sydney, has appointed BMF as its lead creative agency to launch their new retail precinct ‘Central’.
Central, Sydney’s newest retail hub, lies at the heart of Central Park, a $2 billion development by Frasers Property & Sekisui House.  Central Park is an exceptional destination for living, working, meeting friends, shopping, dining out and relaxing. Central spans 16,000 square metres across the first six levels of Jean Nouvel’s One Central Park residential tower. The sun-drenched emporium offers a mix of fashion, homewares, fresh food, restaurants, outdoor dining, bars and entertainment.

Just because ideas can come from anywhere, doesn't mean they should


I started out my career in PR.  I liked to think of myself as pretty creative. Whether crafting media releases or witty newsletters, designing clever brand activations or conceptualising unique events to attract the attention of the media, I spent much of my time ideating (a word that people who like to think they’re creative seem to like to use).

It wasn’t until I worked in advertising that I got a true appreciation, or should I say respect, for real creative genius.
It’s true that an idea can come from anywhere. Ideas are not the sole domain of the creative department. Yes suits, and planners (and even Managing Partners) can have ideas. And of course we shouldn’t forget clients, media companies, promotional agencies and PR companies too.
But just because an idea can come from anywhere, doesn’t mean good ones do.
I’ve spent the better part of two decades working in the industry and what great creatives do never ceases to amaze me. We give them a brief (mostly fairly uninspiring if we’re to be totally honest) and then give them a few days (or more probably hours when you factor in all the other jobs they’re already working on) to come up with a new idea, something never imagined before.
Undoubtedly I’ve been lucky enough to work with some truly great creatives, but rarely am I not surprised and delighted by what they present back. This isn’t to say it’s always right – I wish it could be that easy.   But more often than not, it’s fresh and unexpected, intuitive and clever, sometimes weird and off-beat (in a “what were you on when you came up with that?” kind of way) and every so often, truly brilliant.
Ideas that are so far away from the familiar, formulaic, expected ideas the rest of us come up with (and which seem to take up far too many column centimetres in our industry blogs) that we can sometimes find them hard to judge.   Ideas like a 3D Magic Salad Plate to sell meat pies, cats with thumbs to sell milk or taking up wife carrying as a new pursuit to promote the benefits of footwear fit. Ideas which with hindsight we can easily applaud, but too few of us have the foresight to support. 
That’s not to say we shouldn’t all continue coming up with ideas – absolutely not, as one person’s average idea can often provoke another’s brilliant response. But when it comes to finding truly great ideas, I suggest we leave it to the creatives, the guys who spend their entire day just coming up with ideas, living, breathing, watching, critiquing and even sleeping ideas. Then spend our time effectively by getting on board and helping them bring their genius to life.

The relevance of ‘big advertising ideas’ to consumers.


I have nothing against big advertising ideas per se.

I see heaps of great ones every year that resonate with people and can change markets.

Big stories on a big scale with big budgets to drive home the point.

But if a big idea is the context in the relationship between brand (or advertiser) and consumer - where's the love?

There's a notorious brand book out there with a cloying notion that "big ideas make you fall in love".

But love is rarely instant and that superficial.

Love is the sum of many small deeds and moments that build to a climax and realization that you/this/that are for me. I love this.

Looking at a few sites and small, simple ideas over the past weeks I'm more and more convinced that the future of brand equity (or love) is the sum of the small things you can do for your people.

Pimkie Color Forecast monitors colors worn in a given city and lets users check the 'color forecast' for that city on a given day. If wearing THE hue matters to you, this idea is fantastic. Smart fashion brands will provide more of this stuff...

The Nike Runners Mexico Auction by JWT is another simple idea that oozes charisma and is another in a long line of phygital ideas for Nike that get the brand so much love.

I couldn't name one tagline from a Nike campaign in recent years, I have no idea what the big idea #makeitcount is supposed to mean to all of us in tangible terms but I reckon I've seen 4-5 of these types of ideas for Nike in the past couple of years that are a perfect partnership of product, person and promotion.

In this case the big idea operates as an umbrella for global activity but the really meaty ideas that resonate for me – and presumably other consumers – are how you interact with the brand at a functional level.

Another fine case in point is the Tour de France Tour Tracker mobile application produced by Skoda. The brand has a long-standing relationship with the race but from a distance I was unaware of what that means to me or what the big idea for the brand could possibly be. I used the hell out of the app though. In many ways it was much more consumable than the SBS coverage.

And Skoda should be thrilled with that. I spent time with the brand, they showed support for our mutual interest - they planted a seed that maybe a Skoda is the car for me?

As the Internet of Things becomes more pervasive this decade I think we'll see far more call for interesting and relevant ways to connect products and people that dispense with the need for large-scale media campaigns and the big creative idea.

This is not the end for creative mind you, just an evolution in the application of creative thinking.

Pretty exciting if you ask me.

By Warren Davies, Digital Architect – BMF Melbourne.


Pimkie Color forecast:  

Nike Runners Mexico Auction:

Skoda Tour Tracker: