Monthly Archives

September 2018

Technology and the Joy of Missing Out.

By Chris Griggs

Director of Technology, Keko London

Who doesn’t love new stuff? It promises so much – especially when it comes to technology. New tech can make you look cool. It can make you and your business more successful. In comparison to new stuff, everything else seems stale, boring and, well, old.

In particular, many who work in agencies tend to go all dewy-eyed about new tech – however fanciful its promise might be. This can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Wanting to deliver a competitive advantage on behalf of clients – a noble aim, though not one that can be achieved exclusively through new technology.
  • Wanting to win awards – a less noble aim. A major culprit as to why I feel the agency world has lost its way with technology. Why? Look at any award book from the last 20 years and ask yourself how many of the digital campaigns are truly great ideas, and how many are average ideas coupled with the first application of a now-dated technology.
  • Wanting to be seen as innovators; as fast-moving pioneers rather than conservative, risk-averse Luddites. Because, well, who doesn’t?
  • Being afraid we’ll be left behind forever.


Guess what? New is not always best.

If we look at the really big changes to our lifestyles that the internet has ushered in, many of them are really just repairs or improvements – either fixing things we already had or enabling us to do something we already did more effectively.

eBay made it easier to buy and sell second hand items. PayPal made paying for it easier, especially when you don’t know the seller. The iPod let us listen to music from our entire music collections, rather than just the tapes, CDs or Minidiscs (remember them?) we were prepared to lug around. The iPhone bridged the gap between a computer and a mobile phone, enabling us to use the internet on the move – before the iPad bridged the gap between an iPhone and a computer, for those of us who needed bigger screens. More recently, Uber fixed many of the problems with taxis, while Air B’n’B made it a doddle to let our flats for short periods, while giving us all an alternative to hotels at the same time. Spotify and Netflix, meanwhile, resolved the file storage limitations of our various devices by giving us streaming access to everything.

What all these innovations had in common is that there was either a known problem there to be solved or, if not, an opportunity – a genuine consumer need – to be exploited. The knife and fork were not invented because it would look cool to hold a different-looking implement in each hand. They were built to make life better and they succeeded because they did exactly that. They were not created as part of an arms race, with the simple goal of being first. In fact, every example above was based on technology that already existed; technology that, if it hadn’t been commercially deployed already, it had at least been publicly demonstrated. As Steve Jobs told a room full of Apple developers back in 1997, “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”


Back in the real world…

Many of the world’s most successful new technologies are the work of start-ups. And usually, their ideas have arisen from problems the inventors experienced first-hand (if you work in an agency, you’re probably more familiar with the term ‘insights’).

In agencyland, however, we have remained preoccupied by the empty promise of the new and the next. We’ve become so dazzled by new tech that we’ve lost sight of these real-world problems. As a consequence, we’ll often rush towards a new technology with no true appreciation of the problems it is ready to solve. Which in turn, results in solutions that are really just demonstrations – proof of our ‘innovative capabilities’ but nothing more. Predictably, the customer experience usually leaves a lot to be desired.

For me, the time has come to refocus on real-life problems. Which means getting out of our offices, where we languish at a safe distance from the people who experience the fruits and failure of our labour. A time to apply true empathy to our clients’ current and future customers, by experiencing the real, physical world, first-hand.


Let’s get physical.

Today’s most successful digital applications are often mashups of the physical and virtual worlds. Uber is predominantly a physical experience – only the hailing and payment of the taxi happens digitally. Amazon still requires the physical act of packing and shipping an item. Booking process aside, AirB’n’B is also a physical experience.

This suggests that rather than being entirely screen-centric, we can add value to people’s lives by enabling technology to augment our physical experiences. But to do so successfully, we need to think differently. We need to identify real opportunities to improve the minutiae of our physical lives – and that means considering context and experience. It means undertaking physical, real-world research and creating usage scenarios. And only then, when we know we’re looking in the right place, can we start to look at the technology itself: Location, iBeacons, Projection, Audio Watermarking, IoT – all can help us connect the digital and the physical, but only if we have found the right problem to solve. Let’s not develop an all-singing, all-dancing, big data-driven AI bot if all we need to do is put up a sign.


Join the resistance.

In an agency context, this will mean being prepared to challenge briefs that stipulate a particular technology at the outset. On receipt of briefs like this, we need to step all the way back to the high-level objective (e.g. increase awareness of product X) and then look at what consumer or business problem we can solve to achieve it. Only then can we examine the technologies available, with an aim to enhancing or improving a real-life experience.

Crucially, we need to remain disciplined throughout. Which means not rushing to the newest technologies available to us, or the ones we think will win us awards. And we need to keep things simple. Which means resisting the temptation to add features, extra tabs, content and more calls to action. In fact, it means resisting everything – unless it will help improve the life of the end user – because that’s how you create a great app. Instead of rushing to be early adopters, we should all be early resistors. Let’s define the future not by FOMO, but by JOMO – the joy of missing out.

What does ‘Personal’ mean?

What does ‘Personal’ mean?
By Jenni Ashwood


This is something we’ve been thinking about and mulling over internally for a while. It’s something we’ve written and rewritten many times. Which is demonstrative of the complexity of the subject. So rather than a ‘properly’ crafted essay piece, this is a collection of thoughts and possible conclusions drawn together.

We see ‘personalisation’ as being 2018’s important word and so do our clients: “How can we better connect and resonate with our customers?” and “how can we really mean something to them?” But everyone has a different POV on what ‘personalised’ means in marketing and what’s important. From the Data Manager, to the UX Specialist, to the Product Strategist, to the Brand Planner, to the creative team, the word ‘personalisation’ in the context of ‘marketing’(1) can often cause confusion.

So what could ‘personal’ mean?

Personalised products – this could be products that consumers feel are relevant to them and their needs, or literally personalised products (e.g. making something the colour of my choice alone, my initials, to my exact specification so that no-one else has it).

Personalised targeting – talking to people in the way that’s right for them. Mixing data with qualitative research, understanding their preferred journeys to purchase, with the addition of some instinct too. Boden has been excelling at this for years with their DMs that show pieces previously bought and suggesting new ones based on that. Newer companies like Stitch Fix are showing that data-driven personalisation plus a layer of human thought can make something very special that is hugely relevant(2).

Personalised experiences – retail is more than just bricks and mortar, or a nice and easy ecommerce journey; 53% of UK Millennials would rather spend money on an experience as opposed to a possession(3). It’s free delivery and simple returns, as well as a reason to spend time in store/online that isn’t linked to a hard sell. Offline, Rapha have really excelled in this space(4); online we love the Everlane Instagram and website (incidentally, their New York store was also a very relaxing place to just ‘be’ in a heatwave). In the travel sector, Black Tomato’s ‘Get Lost’ programme merges the need for disconnecting with an incredibly unique ‘holiday.’

Personalised brands – demonstrating how a brand’s values are echoed and shared with their customers: 54% of British and American millennials are looking to connect with brands which enhance their spirit and soul(5). This isn’t about chameleon-ing yourself as a brand so that you match each individuals’ requirements. It’s about nailing your colours to a mast so that customers can say ‘yes I get that, and they get me too.’

Personalised content and creative – this is more sophisticated than walking past a billboard and having your name flash up. In many ways, it’s about having content that resonates with what someone cares about that day – which arguably editorial publications have been doing for years – but which is often harder to implement in an ‘advertising’ context with print lead times etc.

…But the truth is that this is all easier to theorise about than actually do. From a practical perspective budgets only stretch so far. So do you spend limited funds on a new brand campaign, dynamic content or updating retailer environments?

Perhaps it can be summed up as this: personalisation is valuable in some contexts, especially with brands with which you have a close relationship. And it’s about what people expect from you (the brand) based on the kind of brand you are, as well as whether they have given you permission or not to do so. Canvas 8 (2018) highlight that 48% of consumers are frustrated when a brand doesn’t personalise its services, and 61% say they would switch companies without hesitation if they have a poor customer experience. With this said, brands could potentially lose out due to unsatisfactory experiences as they contribute to an erosion of trust. These businesses may fall victim to the ‘switching economy’ – where people switch brands for a better deal when service isn’t up to scratch (Canvas 8, 2018).

I like thinking of it in ‘real terms’ – if you met someone briefly once and then they messaged you at least once a week offering advice that they claimed was perfect for you, or sent you a free bracelet with both your initials engraved on it, you’d think they were mad!

Bill Gates, speaking on Radio 4 earlier this year, touched on this when questioned on the legitimacy of companies using personal data to target more effectively. The conclusion he drew was simple and we think can be echoed across the other ‘personalised’ elements: the preference for personalised advertising is the most important ‘personal’ thing a brand should care about.



1. Getting the right product into the right marketplace for the right people at the right time \
3. Proudlock D., 02/07/18, UK Millennials Report
4. Though their latest campaign to ‘Ride with Us’ perhaps shows that for many, this intense personal experience was actually excluding many who felt they, personally, weren’t the right fit. However there’s an argument that by trying to reach more people, they dilute the previous successful work they’ve previously done.
5. Proudlock D., 02/07/18, UK Millennials Report