Tabli chapter 2

You have been waiting for long, but it’s finally here and I have great news in store. Tabli (remember, that chalkboard placemat we were prototyping and testing and having fun with in the fall?) is doing great. We are still perfecting the technique of making it, we asked a manufacturer to help us cut the wood for the placemats and we were ready to sell for the Croydon High Street Fair on the 16th of February.

And sell we did! We devised a plan to attract buzz to our table by inviting anyone on the street to come and play with our product for a free chocolate. Oh, the kids loved it! So while they were drawing, we took the opportunity to explain the parents all about the chalkboard placemat which comes with chalkholders so the little ones don’t get their hands dirty while they are waiting for their dinner. And we successfully sold 11 tablis so 11 happy children are engaging with our product and we are happy to have made them happy. This is our stall at the fair.

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And the good news don’t stop here. On Wednesday, 20th of February, we attended the Bright Ideas Final Prize Giving. And much to our surprise, as there were many great ideas out there, 42 won with their Tabli a prize of £250! And to our even greater happiness, our friends from Blue Glimpse with Jabels, Easthetic with Pozzy and Angelika with her Every Child An Instrument also won prizes of £250 and £1000.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what Tabli will reveal in Chapter 3! Until then, feel free to order the award-winning product here for your kids, nieces and nephews. Or come and meet us at the next fair: Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, 28th February at 15:00.

The most inspiring lecture

The story I am about to tell you is related to the most inspiring lecture I can remember. It was last Friday, 15th of February 2013 and it opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Our guest lecturer was Piers Ibbotson, a man who has had 20 years of experience in directing and acting in the theatre and who applies some of the learnings from that to business in the most efficient way. I really felt like I was in the presence of a great man and I have now a new item on my wish list, his book – The illusion of leadership: directing creativity in business and the arts.

I won’t go on and on repeating everything that happened, but focus on the key lessons.

1. Creativity cannot exist without boundaries. Shocking at first, but true. It’s only when people have constraints that they can create. Thus, if you give a writer a blank piece of paper to write whatever they want, they will get writer’s block. If you say, I want a novel on the love story between a knight and a lady of the court in Henry VIII’s time, the mind starts working.

2. Creativity is a by-product of action: the more you do, the more people can produce iterations, the better it becomes. Creative people don’t just produce creative things, they work and work and work (a writer can rewrite a novel for 20 years, never being satisfied) and they eventually produce something beautiful (same with painting).

3. People don’t express ideas for the fear of being wrong, fear of being rude and fear of seeming mad. It is by eliminating status and bringing equality among members of a team that you can reach the true potential of creativity and expressing ideas. The role of the leader is to push the moment when no other ideas can be generated anymore ahead as far as possible, in order to allow for everyone to express themselves.

The advertising vs. social media battle

As you have probably realised if you’ve read previous posts at all, I have an interest, no, I am passionate about advertising. I believe in it. Even when people criticise it, when they call it morally corrupt or even when they see it dead. Today, I’ve had the great opportunity to learn about a respected professor who justifies my thinking. His name is Byron Sharp and together with other reputable scientists study the empirical aspects of marketing. In order words, they don’t come up with theories for the sake of publishing, they challenge what is there and have the research to support it. This is his book and *hint* *hint* my birthday is in two months.

 To very shortly describe it, what Professor Sharp argues is that against popular (Kotlerian) theory, companies should target light users of their brand despite their switching between different products because that is where the growth opportunity lies. Thus, his argument goes, a Coca-Cola heavy users will buy Coca-Cola regardless of the advertising he sees on TV because he is a heavy user in the first place. So even though it is more difficult to talk to the people which are not paying attention and couldn’t care less about your brand, they should be your audience.

The argument goes further to the realm of social media and the huge buzz created around. Companies like Procter & Gamble are said to cut back on their advertising to rely more on new Internet-based media. However, the customers who are most likely to “friend” your brand on facebook are already heavy users or people who aspire to your brand but will frankly never afford it (see luxury products like Burberry having nearly 15 million fans). A light or non-user would never go on Facebook to like your brand. Thus, it is still advertising that can help you reach and expose those people to your brand. Whether they will be persuaded is a whole other story worthy of a post on its own.

Then Martin Weigel, Head of Planning at W+K Amsterdam, discussed the concept of engagement and the hype around it. He rightfully claims that engagement as a concept is not new. Rather, it has been around for a long time although not manifested in the same way and social media is just another platform rather than the only platform that creates it. He gives the example of the Launderette ad from Levi’s which translated into a huge increase in the 501 jeans and people reacting to the ad to the point of putting up posters of Nick (the hunk in the ad) in their rooms. For those of you who haven’t seen it or those who want to see this classic again, enjoy!

And for those of you who felt inspired by my short description or not convinced at all and you want to hear more arguments from the source, you can see the video from the talk with the two,  I think it’s brilliant.

The best description of advertising I’ve ever come across

“You need to know that advertising means different things to different people. It’s a business, an art form, an institution and a cultural phenomenon. To the CEO of a multinational corporation like Pepsi, advertising is an essential marketing tool that helps create brand awareness and brand loyalty. To the owner of a small retail shop, advertising is a way to bring people into the store.

To the art director of an advertising agency, advertising is the creative expression of a concept. To a media planner, advertising is the way a firm uses the media to communicate to current and potential customers. To scholars and museum curators, advertising is an important cultural artefact, text, and historical record. Advertising means something different to all these people.

Even though companies believe in and rely heavily on advertising, it is not a process that the average person understands of values. Most people have some significant misinterpretations about advertising and what it’s supposed to do, what it can do and what it can’t do. Many people think advertising deceives others but rarely themselves. Most think it’s a semi-glamorous profession but one in which people are either morally bankrupt con artists or pathological liars. At worst, advertising is seen as hype, unfair capitalistic manipulation, banal commercial noise, mind control, postmodern voodoo, or outright deception. At best, people see advertising as amusing, informative, helpful and occasionally hip.

The truth about advertising lies somewhere between the extremes. Sometimes advertising is hard-hitting and powerful, at other times it’s boring and ineffective. Advertising can be enormously creative and entertaining, and it can simply be annoying. One thing is for sure: advertising is anything but unimportant”
– O’Guinn et al, 2011

Lesson to take away? You might be on either side of the argument, but acknowledge that the truth is in the middle and that in some cases the other side is right. But not always.

A new year, same old story

If I were to jump on a time machine and go back a year right now, I would find myself desperate and at the verge of tears because I wasn’t able to find a dissertation topic for my undergraduate studies in Marketing and Management Communication. Here I am, one year later in the same position, same month, same desperation. But as the experience last year taught me, once I have something to work on, I can do a damn good job on it.

“Without a goal, it’s difficult to score” – Paul Arden

This is also partly the reason why I haven’t updated the blog in a while, I’ve been lost in the search for a topic. And lost I still am. I’m lost between the interesting ideas I find and what is strong enough for a dissertation or measurable enough, I’m lost between what I like to do, what I can get a good mark on and what I am afraid to do. There’s no point in hiding it. It’s an honest confession that at some point in our lives we all get lost and it’s intimidating.

But I know what I love: writing. I know what I am passionate about even though people through rocks at my passion: advertising. And somehow I know that if I keep searching, I’ll find my dissertation Holy Graal, if I can make that analogy. I just wish that if anyone else is reading this and feeling the same, from my own experience, you will look back and think “what was the whole fuss about?”. It’s just now that’s hard. But good things have never come to me without hard work.

Now I’m going to pass the floor to Steve Jobs for 1:30 minutes of wisdom. He might have had a horrible personality in the eyes of many, he might have turned his passion into obsession, but in my eyes he is one of the best motivational speakers. Just try and listen.