Adventures in digital

Thoughts and ideas from Neil Shewan


The knowing smile

I was talking to a friend of mine recently that regularly engages creative and digital agencies. He has worked in client and agency roles. He had an interesting observation from a client perspective:

 "I know too much about the agency process", he explained. "I know that fighting for internal agency resources is hard. That my account manager is likely to change a few times during the project. That I'm not your only client. And that there will be scope creep. So let's all just be open and honest about it."

Great advice. 

Minimum Viable Marketing

Are you launching a product or service to an audience you're 100% familiar with?

Do you know how they will use it and have a complete understanding of what your competitors are doing? Not to mention, knowing how technology will impact it over the next few years.

You do? Then stop reading this article.

If you are like the majority of businesses, you are operating in an environment of extreme uncertainty. At best we can only hypothesise about who our audience is, and how they will use our products and services.

So how does marketing operate in this environment?

By the time our product is ready to go to market with our traditional "Hollywood launch", we have invested a huge amount of time and energy. We then cross our fingers it will work based on our best efforts.

In extreme uncertainty we need to change the model to one that will allow us to validate our hypothesis, pivot our strategy before we have spent all of our marketing budget, and create a stand-out product or service.

For those that have read "The Lean Start-Up" by Eric Ries you will have an inkling of where this is headed.

Ries suggests we look to the practices of organisations such as Toyota in the manufacturing space, and Google in the digital space, to embrace a cycle of learning, building and measurement. This process is starts by defining the minimum viable product (or service) to go to market. This product does not need to be 100% perfect.

'Not perfect?' I hear you say. Yes. Not perfect.

The goal is to spend as little as possible to get the minimum viable product or service out to market for early adopters to provide feedback into the next iteration, and to validate your hypothesis on price, product and promotion.

For those in brand management this concept is hard to grasp. "If it is not a good product, won't it damage our brand?" The reality is that given the alternative of your product not hitting the mark after spending thousands, sometimes millions to develop and launch it, then the brand will be hurt even more.

Early adopters are quite forgiving if you involve them in the process of early development through iterations and/or regular releases. Let them tell you the issues with the product; let them help you make it better, and you will have developed the beginnings of an enduring relationship.

So what does this mean for marketers?

It means you need to consider a lean approach to marketing doing just enough to test your initial assumptions. This may start with selling the idea and getting feedback.

We adopted this approach with Australia Post's MyPost Digital Mailbox. The minimum viable marketing consisted of a short concept video and a one-page website to gather interest in the product. 16,000 registrations later, we had confirmed there was interest, and Australia Post had a list of early adopters to work with. Australia Post was able to test assumptions, refine the product over many months, then confidently launch to a mainstream market with the best possible version one.

Some things to consider when working out what your minimum viable marketing may be:

1. Be specific about your hypothesis 
Create a persona for your audience, understand how they will use your product/service and continually test and refine your hypothesis.

2. Be ready to pivot your strategy.

If something is not working, be open to change any part of the marketing mix to test and refine. As you have adopted a lean approach it is a lot easier to change direction.

3. Keep it minimal.

Don't spend months designing a logo and coming up with a name for the product when you don't even know your assumptions are correct. Be happy with simple, functional design, and divert your attention to getting feedback and iterating the next version.

This approach to marketing requires a synergy with your creative agency, and a relationship that is different to that we have come to know between agency and client. Stages become sprints, market research become prototypes and uncertainty becomes opportunity.

If you are faced with a marketing challenge where there is extreme uncertainty, consider starting by delivering the minimum.

Originally published at TANK and Marketing Magazine

Set it free

Exploring open communications under Government 2.0 –

Governments around the world are wrestling with digital communications, and what it means to be more transparent and open. These are not virtues most people attribute to government. The changes to embrace more open communications are taking place, albeit slowly in some government portfolios. For management this means changing internal perceptions and processes before they even reach the public.

For those working in, or with, the Australian Government there is a lot of talk about ‘Government 2.0’. In 2009 a taskforce was formed to look at the ways in which web 2.0 technologies can become a channel to deliver and drive a new level of communication.

A key statement from the report captures the intent of Government 2.0:

“It is about new technology. A new approach to organising and governing. Drawing people in closer with a more collaborative relationship with their government.”

From a brand perspective it is going to be important to see web 2.0 technologies as a tool, rather than letting it drive communications. Knowing your key messages and audiences must come before using the shiny new technology.

Rise of mobile

Our target markets are increasingly consuming information on their mobile devices. In the last five years we have all seen the huge shift of computer power moving from the desktop to our pockets. The 2012 Nielsen Australia Online Consumer report shows a 13% increase in smartphone use to 64%, and 39% ownership for tablets.

Spike in evening consumption

Evening consumption of information has also changed according to a recent Yahoo/Ipsos report – with table computer use now outpacing PC/laptop use between 6pm and midnight. Given that tablets have only gathered popularity in the past two years, this massive shift in media consumption has an impact on all marketing and communication professionals.

Four insights, four opportunities

Both governments and citizens worldwide are finding new and interesting ways to work together. There are four insights from Government 2.0 initiatives that we can tap into: transparency, curation, crowd-sourcing and gaming.

To continue reading, download a copy of The Identity Journal today.

Winning strategy and humanising your business

Two books I'm currently reading:

Playing to Win by AG Lafley and Roger Martin.

"Help your client choose to win rather than simply play. Winning should be at the heart of any strategy."

The other book is Humanize by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant.

"We need organizations that are more human. We need to re-create our organizations so that the power and energy of being more human in our work can be leveraged".


Two new books on my reading list

Human behavior is of increasing interest to me and critical in branding. Over the next month I'm reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on optimal experience, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

If you have read these book please leave a comment, would love to know your thoughts.


Time to think

I love this time of year. January is one of the few times of the year where you can steal time to read, learn, motivate and plan for the year.

I've been reading E-Myth again and Emotional Intelligence. I recommend both as essential reading.

I've also been using the Business Model Canvas to brainstorm new models for TANK moving forward.

What have you got planned for the year?


Managing your people brand

So – you have a shiny new visual identity, and you are ready to launch. The CEO is on board. Check. The style guide is in place. Check. The PR is ready to roll. Check. The hard work is done. Wrong.

A brand platform needs to focus on four perspectives.

  1. The visual signals we send through our visual language, our signage, our web site and our mar-comms.
  2. The communications signals we send in our tone of voice, they way to communicate and the channels we use.
  3. The physical signals we send through our built environs, products and brand artefacts.
  4. The behaviours we signal through our people and our attitude.

This last perspective is especially critical for a service brand. Aligning the behaviour of your people with the attributes of your brand is one of the most difficult parts of a brand project. As brand and marketing professionals we all understand communications, however often when it comes to change management of people – we need help. And, the reason we need help, is that much of the work falls to your human resources (HR) team. Getting the HR team involved early in a brand project can assist with the smooth integration of the brand.

In working your HR team, add the following to your checklist.

Brand re-enforcement. After the initial launch of the brand it is important to ensure the attributes of the brand are translated into proof-points and actions for your employees. This needs to be reinforced regularly. Consider focusing on a different attribute of your brand every quarter. Brand re-enforcement can include coaching, mentoring and training.

Recruitment and on-boarding. The behaviours you need to exhibit through your people need to be built into the recruitment process. What skills, attitudes and experiences are you looking for? Once a new person starts, it is important that the on-boarding process is heavily influenced by the brand.

Performance, reward and recognition. When people are “on-brand” they should be rewarded and recognised.

Engagement. Provide opportunities for your team to live the brand, and see what others are doing. This involves events, communications and surveys that seek to engage the team and keep the brand fresh.

External assessment. Know what your customers and clients think of your brand, then feed it back to your team. Ensure there are ways to assess individual performance as well as overall perceptions at a corporate level.

Corporate social responsibility. The behaviour of your organisation towards work balance, sustainability, social justice, supporting charities and work conditions (just to name a few) greatly influences the perception of your brand.

We are always on the search for organisations who manage their people brand with the same degree of enthusiasm as their brand communications. If you know of a brand that does this well, let me know. We are currently writing a journal on Identity (to be launched in the next few months) and would love to hear from you as we are still needing a few more case studies.

 Originally published on  TANK

Originally published on TANK

Making your brand stand


Earlier this month I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Givoni who is a Melbourne-based brand lawyer. We have worked with Sharon on a number of brand projects over the past few years. I was keen to ask her some of the questions we are regularly asked by clients:

What makes a defendable brand Sharon?

In my view Neil, it is one that is unique and distinctive. The whole purpose of a trade mark is to distinguish one’s goods and services from those other traders. It effectively acts as a ‘badge of origin’. From a legal perspective, the strongest brands you can have are invented words such as ‘Kodak’, ‘Xerox’ and ‘Kit Kat’.

I always advise my clients to be wary of using names that may be already in common use or descriptive. For example, common surnames that appear many times on the electoral role such as Jones and Smith may not be registrable as other people with that surname may need to use their own name. Geographical names can also be hard to get a trade mark for, if indeed the product can be produced in that geographical region. So ‘Queensland Bananas’ would be problematic, where as ‘North Pole bananas’ would be better, as bananas never grow in the North Pole!

At what stage in a naming project should the lawyer get involved?

Simply speaking, once you have come up with a new brand name, it’s important to get it legally checked out. My clients have been surprised time and time again on a name which they thought was completely unique had actually been taken by someone else.

Also, Neil, sometimes if someone uses or has requested a brand name that is too similar to your client’s proposed name even though it is not exactly the same that can stop the brand name from getting registered, or worse amount to trade mark infringement. The ‘Tsubi’ fashion label is a case on point. They had to change their name to Ksubi when they exported to the US after Tsubo challenged their name for being too similar.

So, clients also need to consider what countries that they may expand to in the future as well.

How long does it take until I can rely on a trade mark?

The answer to the question depends on whether the Trade Marks office raises issues with the mark. In some circumstances, you can apply for ‘expedited’ examination to speed matters up. In any event, the very minimum a trade mark can be registered in Australia is 8 months.

Is it true that you can register a sound?

Absolutely. Basically, anything that can function as a brand can be registered. This even includes colours, sounds, patterns and aspects of packaging. For example, Cadbury has recently protected certain shades of purple for chocolates and McCain has its well-known ping sound for ‘Ah McCain, You’ve done it again’ trade marked as well.

What are the main benefits of trade marking?

Trade mark registration gives you a monopoly over the mark Australia-wide. This means that you own the mark and can stop others from using it in the goods and services for which you have registered it for. You can also use the ‘®’ symbol as a ‘back-off’ sign.  This is extremely valuable.


The interview was held on 15 February 2012. Sharon's focus is on turning ideas in assets and is more than happy to talk through ways of protecting your brand. Sharon Givoni Consulting: email or

Originally published on TANK