brainstorming marketing plans

We are rounding off one of the last few client brainstorming workshops for the year.  As such, it timely to summarise some key areas that surfaced during these sessions. Off the back of a rough 2020, clients will certainly wonder what to put forth in 2021 marketing plans? Do we stick to tried-and-tested marketing techniques? Especially those that have yielded Return-of-Investments over time? Or do we be adventurous in the face of new opportunities?

2020 marks antics@play’s 11th year in the business. Boy, what a year! We have always believed in fun and impactful marketing. Being brand-led, play-inspired and experience-driven lead us to conduct our workshops focusing on exploration, discovery and creative ideation. We believe this yields aligned  marketing results. And will also chart new grounds for both our clients and us.

Below are some thoughts gathered between antics’ Players;  a team of adventurous and knowledge-driven creatives and consultants, who are excited about sharing knowledge and inspiring clients, supporting clients from boardrooms to marketplaces.

1. Clients want agencies to support in marketing planning, customer insights and experimental marketing.

Clients are roping in agency partners for marketing planning, brand relevance building, trends leverage and other experimental marketing.

Beyond campaigns, we support CMOs in building plans, justifications, ideas for the boardroom. We are expected to support marketing plans with data, case studies benchmarks and KPIs etc. for maximum buy-in. This is where competitive scan and analysis will be most helpful. Beyond their industry, studying best practices, especially in IMC, should set hearts beating faster in the boardroom, in a good way!

There is always a need for clients to discover changing norms of customers, whether B2B or B2C. And explore how we can establish common ideals between our clients’ brands and their customers. Clients want consultancy, advisory, mutual learning and knowledge sharing in the fast changing landscape of customer behaviours.

In terms of execution, for more routine tasks, most clients have a well-greased engine, made up of in-market teams, in-house creative or production team to quickly roll out set marketing plans and central brand and marketing assets.

2.  What will brands consider in 2021?

seeding a young plant
seeding hope and ideas for 2021

It could be we have extra time to stop and calibrate this year, or maybe due to a global humanitarian crisis, our focus swings to humanisation – messages and communication styles that are more empathetic, more supportive of social good. Beyond business KPIs, marketing work needs to address and provide other social impact, measured in social KPIs.

This questioning of social responsibilities of brands by customers prove that brands, now more than ever, must communicate the value they create in terms of social impact too. How to communicate this meaningfully, to relate and inspire consumers have been exciting. The planning of human experiences (HX) and social impact goes beyond the usual logical path of customer journey mapping or purchase funnel. The thinking of our impact on society and environment leads to us thinking on Total Experience (TX) terms.

In the post-pandemic world, communications and marketing plans need to speak to the heart rather than heart. So customer insights in terms of decoding customer values will be important, whether B2C or B2B. There are data and reports on various consumer segments emerging in 2021.

Being brand-led, antics@play has always leaned unto research to test proof strategies and work. Research methodologies will be quicker or even real-time, enabling agility and adopting best practices of design thinking.

With home environment as a focus in the post-pandemic world, we will need to consider activities and experiences while at home. New platforms and mediums and content consumption habits will influence and drive more diverse forms of content and formats.

Other antics Players may have shared other views via antics@play’s blogs. More can be read regarding anticipated post-pandemic insights including marketing for social impact .

3. How can brands innovate in 2021?

AI technology
Surprises in 2021
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln

Great marketing, like any great work, should go beyond delivering KPIs. It should break new grounds, inspire, impact people and lives.

With changing customer needs, and technology and data as enablers, there is huge room for brands to innovate their marketing. Many clients secure experimental marketing budgets, and we co-plan areas their brands want to experiment with in 2021. From planning, implementing, tracking … these trials often yield exciting breakthrough for our clients.

The art of brand storytelling will continue to be important, as brands evolve and relate to changing habits and eras of consumers.

Besides delivering business KPIs, social KPIs and impact, excellent HX( human experience) planning will also be imperative. Beyond effective and kick-ass marketing, we should touch hearts and evolve society.

Now, let’s raise our glasses to 2021.

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Many feel the stress and constraints brought forth by this recession. To this, I argue that COVID creates new marketing paradigms that should stimulate new creative muscles.

You may be a strategic planner, a project manager or a creative. There are now new problems to be identified, new customer behaviours and emotions to learn and consider. And a whole new world of solutions that require ideation.

Clients and brands are asking “What promotion will attract our customer now? What performance KPIs should we set for our CRM programs?”.
How can your new creative muscles build a crystal ball to look beyond this constant flux, and imagine new insights, new solutions?

 

The power of observation

How do you watch the world burn change? First, you quiet down, observe and feel. Some do it via meditation. I find it helpful to feel and not think customer behaviour.

Stalking at a supermarket

Working on a branding project for craft beer recently, I spent ~2 hours at the supermarket alcohol section, scrutinising how shoppers touch, talk and browse.

craft beer

I even followed some around, peeping into their cart. Where did they go first? What else did they buy? I noticed tons of snacks, meat,  NO VEGETABLES!  Craft beer drinkers hate vegetables? I love my carefree wandering and believe that heightens my sensitivity and curiosity. I imagined these shoppers returning home, putting on their favourite Netflix show, having beer and a chat. Full-on stalker syndrome and quiet observation allow me to think, feel, imagine.

 

A good ear

Ah… the art of listening. Whether to chatter, to feedback, to issues, experts recommend listening with empathy, to get the most understanding. In a recent project where we interview  social heroes during lockdown; it is never about just what they did, but how they feel, that truly tells the story, that truly connects people.

 

yes, yes and maybe

Ideas lead to more ideas! Indeed, removing filters, biases, and having an open mind (and attitude) often aids in broadening our perspectives.  Learning about some natural biases like the Semmelweis reflex can help us avoid the trappings of our own mind.

The rabbit hole brainstorming. where will it lead us? In the post COVID world, new consumer behaviours will groom a whole new set of habits – good or bad. For example, WFH creates multitasking behaviours which changes communications patterns. The spike in growth of online shopping, increasing in 75% month-on-month page views and 25% month-on-month order counts, since April 2020 (Source: Bazaar’s Network Asia). What’s important to customers now ; quality, price, brand or actually just availability and safety? An open attitude will help us embrace changes and strategically trend spot.

 

So what if?

With new problems and insights come new solutions. Or perhaps newer than new! In our industry where tools, technologies, ideas flow fluidly, there are often new techniques or cross-industry adoption; with national healthcare doing highly personalised with location-based tracking etc.

How we articulate brand purpose, how we engage staff and other stakeholders, how to spread positivity authentically, are just some areas where we have seen innovative communications.

Recently, i came to know of kkday. Similar to klook and other digital travel agents, business took a hard hit with travel curbs, movement restrictions, restaurants and other business not in operations. kkday swiftly switched their offerings, to totting travel memorabilia, favourite local delights you buy back when travelling, and promoting unique local experiences, delighting millennium crowds seeking experiences despite travel curbs. I applaud this creative spirit. Indeed,  1% positive action every day, little brave steps, compounded, will forge a road ahead into the unknown.

It’s okay to make bold hypothesis, to be fearless. Unprecedented crisis means may mean we have to take unprecedented risks too.  The worst is to fail, and when muscles tear, they rebuild stronger.

Determined to be curious

Ultimately, smart is the person who stays curious, who will continue to learn.  The ability to explore, looking for different paths, will help us build the language of a whole new generation.

Let’s get those creative muscles pumping, building long term creative resilience, so we add strength and flexibility to our creative repertoire.

It has been a decade since antics@play started shop. Unbelievable! Am I that old already?
antics@play is made up of its people; staff, clients, partners. So to those who were a part of, or who worked with antics@play at any time, a big thank you.

As I sit down with my wine to write this article, I pause and wonder who and what do I remember?

At a time, we were a smaller marketing agency of 6. We organised a year-end party for our client. We had to DIY most parts, but there were giggles and wine. Probably too much wine but I thought then, we treated every client’s work as our own.

We transformed into a brand-led strategy-driven agency. We were planning go-to-market plans for contact lenses, and campaigns for top crystal and jewellery brands. I remember shopping non-stop (man, don’t we love it!), all in the name of retail research. Pretending to be consumers is very real for us.

There were tough times, of course. As a small business, we streamlined, built partnerships, and tried different tactics and strategies. But what really pulled us through were our friends; like-minded media agencies, technology partners, printers, trusted clients. We learnt from others how some things should be done, we grew and matured.

I remember tears, fat tears with some laughter. At the end of a product launch project this year, both antics Players and client kinda teared up. I recalled the year we developed a brand scent for a client and scented their red packet paper. Most of all I remember all the arguments why it couldn’t be done, yet we did it. Or when we tested the app for the 100th time for the same client. I remembered thinking ‘ we are some crazy buggers!’ I remember one of us excusing herself at a client’s brand positioning presentation, and I noticed some tearing, because she was so ‘shook’ by it. We are persistent, and crazy like that.

Did 10 years pass in a blur? Are we wiser for it?

Through ups and downs, we learnt. But like new kids tasting ice cream for the first time, we dream of creative work that makes people laugh, cry, and briefs that make us sit up and just wanna jump onto it. Curiosity and wonderment never goes away. #10YearsUnwiser. It sure keeps us on our toes.

And as we celebrate this 10-year mark, I look at antics Players, past and present, as well as our clients, and hope that we have instilled this need for wonderment, joy of marketing in all of them, and hope in some way, we did make a difference.

#10YearsUnwiser

How much online shopping do I do? Let’s just say everyone in my family, down to my 2-year old daughter, knows how to sign off a delivery on my behalf. As a busy working mother, my most frequent online purchases are for fashion, technology and household items.

What makes us return to the same site over and over again? Surely the holy trinity of great product, good user experience and better service make a happy customer? Yes, but with so many sites providing similar products and equally great service, user experience becomes a real game changer. Here are the features I have come to love, from interacting with the product to checkout;


1. eDM (email) links directly to product page

I subscribed to Tradesy to sell my wedding dress. I do covet the limited-edition items on the site that you can’t find anywhere. However, whenever I receive their emailer and click through via photo of that vintage Gucci bamboo bag, I am disappointed to arrive at a generic page and have to spend at least the next half hour trawling to find that bag.

Compare this to Polyvore, a great affiliate marketing site that gives me trendy ideas with fashion mood boards. If I want to ‘steal that look’, I click through to find exactly the options of what I have seen on the mood board. Having direct links is a basic must-have in my book.

 

2. Show us the product clearly

On ASOS, I get to see clothes, shoes up close, at multiple angles, with zoom-in feature to see even seams and even a catwalk video. Close-up allows me to check out fabric, material, and prints.

I was trying to buy a gardening stool and toolkit on Amazon and I had a hard time determining the material of the stool, the toolkit and even handles of the gardening shovel. Let me zoom in!

 

3. Details details details…

Having item descriptions and specifications are important. I need to know material of sports wear, if this dress requires hand washing, and the quantity of the pork I am buying over Redmart etc.

 

4. ‘How to’ videos

I love videos. It revolutionizes how I shop for food. Now, I can get cooking tips while I shop for groceries!

I recall shopping for infant car seats online; from Mothercare and babyrus. In the end, the Graco web site had ‘How to’ videos teaching us on installation, tips and tricks and of course, we were sold.

 

5. Peer reviews

They help me feel emotionally connected to other buyers and reassure me of my decision. Mostly, they can range from positive, blah to even slightly negative. Knowing the experience of others is more important than agreeing with them, as I feel our requirements may differ.

 

6. Keyword search and predictive entry field

It lets me know you have what I am looking for.

 

7. Remembers my past orders

Ordering groceries get easier when Redmart remembers my orders. I can edit from list and just re-order all our favorite brands of household items. On Cat & the Fiddle web site, they remember the last cakes I ordered so I know which flavors of cheesecake I have not tried. It also generates positive emotions knowing I am remembered.

 

8. Mobile experience or mobile app

Shopping on-to-do saves me so much time. Remembering a birthday, I typically buy flowers from The Florist Atelier or Poppy Flora. Easy to order mobile apps are important for that quick order.

A research shows that from search to checkout, we will visit on average 18 pages. So when I am done browsing, and am ready to derive some positive retail therapy, these are the features I value.

 

9. Real time shipping and tracking

‘Out of stock’ are the worst 3 words to hear at this point. All that time spent on 18 pages.

 

10. Ships to where I am

I once spent 2 hours completing my entire Christmas shopping over a site, only to find that they do not ship to Singapore, though they ship ‘worldwide’. Those are 2 hours I can never get back.

 

11. Remembers multiple addresses

Half of my shopping is for gifting so it is great user experience to remember multiple shipping addresses.

 

12. Payment portals

Sites must accept all major credit cards and payment portals like Paypal, for user convenience.

 

13. Sales and discounts

I love good value. So I do appreciate a promotion or better, a discount just for me! Appreciating my repeat patronage creates positive shopping emotions. But don’t expect me to remember that promotion code, membership number or other details. I am just two clicks away from completing my purchase. Besides, don’t you know everything about me already? Come on, just give me the discount already.

 

14. Uncluttered editable cart

After 18 pages, I typically end up with 4-6 items. Sometimes the total sum exceeds my budget, which is about $400 to avoid GST. I like it when sites allow me to edit the items in card during checkout. Changing sizes, quantity or moving items to my wish list (and wait for a sale) are great features!

 

15. Wrapping options

A few Christmas ago, I completed my shopping on Amazon and my friends all receive their gifts in brown paper boxes. A year later, gift-wrapping options are included and I believe my recipients much happier since.

Here you go, my current favourite ecommerce features. As ecommerce innovates, they create better features and consumers will certainly have increased expectations. Shopping online can be so multi-sensory and I look forward to being spoilt for choice!

A day to Halloween, we are staring at shopping malls decorated with screeching skeletons, howling werewolves and vampire blood.  That thrill of accidentally touching a fake spider seems to heighten retail experiences during Halloween.

Beyond festivities, we wonder, can brands inject fear and thrill into their brand experiences to better connect with customers? Logically, the scare emotion activates our flight response, which in turn increases our sensitivity to our environment. But most brands seem to be built on positive attributes such as empowerment, beauty, wonderment and fun. Well, can fear be fun? Can fear engage? Can fear build brand affinity and, most important, brand love?

There seems to be 2 main types of emotions of fear. The first is a cognitive, muted message that is fear based. Used often in public health and PSA campaigns – e.g. anti-smoking, responsible drinking – they tap into logical fears, aiming to modify social behaviours. The second is a fast and intense sensation that is thrill based. Can brands tap on the latter to drive an exhilarating brand experience?

Think about horror and thriller movies, roller-coasters and haunted houses. Why do they tap on fear to connect with patrons? What is it about fear or thrills that draws us? Doctors share that neurochemicals like dopamine and testosterone affect our desire to play it safe or to live on the wild side. High-sensation seekers may lack the brakes to increased dopamine levels and these heightened sensations give ever-increasing pleasure. Some claim that personality type “T” (Thrill) have higher cognitive abilities as their brains can recognise that the movie or ride will only scare but not hurt. Behavioural scientists add that this group is vulnerable to addictions and are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. However, they are also likely to feel bored if the activity is repeated. Which explains why fear merchants need to constantly up the horror ante: Horror sequels need to be scarier, roller-coasters need to be faster, haunted mazes need to be more terrifying. It’s the only way to secure repeat patronage, affinity and loyalty.

So who are these thrillseeking patrons? Demographically, they tend to be adolescents. Those who survive the experience claim the brag factor. It’s a sign of their bravado and coming-of-age. After all, what better way to rebel against your parents and establish your independence than indulge in what polite society would normally deem subversive and terrifying? Those who survive it together end up forming a bond and become a community of thrill-mongerers. And they are the thrill-mongering brand’s cash cows.

Whether using fear as marketing motivator, or having scariness as a brand attribute, the line is often very fine. At the end of the day, branding is about forming an emotional connection with your customers. It’s about offering them something – a service, a feeling – that enriches their lives in some ways. Some do it by building on “positive” emotions like security; others trade in more “predatory” emotions like fear or thrills. Which, some may argue, can heighten one’s sense of security too and can therefore be equally effective. Studies have been published about how brands that advertise in horror movies enjoy bigger sales lift. This is no mere fluke.

Perhaps it is in experiencing the intense positive emotions that we have during and after the scare wears off that makes us feel human. After all, there is nothing like a near-death experience to make us feel more alive!

Do you know of brands that use fear to define their brand experience? Share with us in the Comments below.

Over-thinking is trademark of a brand strategist.

A recent campaign had me thinking ‘What went wrong?’. It advises mothers to give their domestic helpers their days off and spend more time knowing their own children instead. This recent Mums vs. Maids campaign, commissioned by The Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) set tongues wagging. Some mothers feel that they have been shamed.

AWARE is unhappy that fathers are not deemed responsible for ‘knowing’ their child, TWC2 defended that truth can sometimes be uncomfortable.

My diagnosis – This is based on an insight that does not resonate. The agency responsible shared that the insight is that mums do not want to miss out on children’s lives and hence highlighting how they are missing out by not giving their domestic helpers a day off will motivate them to behave otherwise.

I know of mums who feel that they can spend more time with their children if their domestic helpers can help with household chores and even the cooking for large family gatherings during the weekends. From what I observe, most mothers (and fathers) will want to spend time with children, and family whenever possible.

Another perspective can be asking why the employer feel he or she requires domestic help on this supposed off day? And what can motivate them to consider otherwise? As a mum, I try to spend as much time with my little girl. Knowing that my helper understands how I want to raise my children and extend quality care when I am not around are important. A possible key insight to motivate parents can be that ‘A well-rested, well-socialised helper can better care for your children’. How this is expressed, whether building on my fear of child abuse, neglect or showing benefits of consistent behaviour between mums and maids, could then be developed.

Insights are often developed through observation, interviews and other forms of research. Good marketers know a good one when they hear it. That eureka moment lets you know there is something you can build on. What are some of your thoughts on possible insights that can motivate parents to evolve their thinking and adjust their behaviour?

Why do companies place so much importance on teamwork? To some, it’s the best excuse for social loafing. But to others, teamwork ensures synergy, where the sum can be greater than its parts. Good teamwork is often touted as a success multiplier.

To foster teamwork, companies invest in team building activities. In most cases, employees are tasked to engage in collegial games like swamp crossing and human pyramids, which are designed to establish trust and cooperation among individuals, test out leadership skills and push people to work as a group to achieve a common purpose. In the most extreme cases, feuding departments are sent to work out their issues over a game of paintball or laser tag.

That time when we parkoured our asses outta the office and found time to mug for the camera

 

But with such team building activities, there is always a goal and an overt agenda. Sure, they’re time spent outside the office, but I’ve heard from many that they nevertheless feel like work. For me, I like to make a distinction between team building and team bonding. The former sounds calculated and fairly mechanised; the latter sounds more emotionally engaging and likely more effective in yielding meaningful teamwork.

The whole idea behind team bonding is to develop mutual understanding and establish emotional connections between individuals. It runs deeper than being part of a temporal human chain link. Shared recreational activities like a city hop, an excursion and non-competitive sports allow you to not only spend time together as a group, they let you discover new dimensions of yourself while shaping new dynamics within a team. It’s doesn’t feel forced. It’s more relaxed, convivial and disarming. Simply because people approach it as recreation and not work.

How do you then create this disarmingly useful environment? Putting people in unfamiliar situations often help. In unfamiliar situations, our mind and body are re-wired quickly to help us discover new surroundings, ideas and connect new dots. It’s about giving people a shared stimulus and letting their individual reactions and attitudes surface and interact.

At antics@play, we have Creativity Days – excursions to view and be inspired by the latest creative happenings in town: An art collection visit, a photography workshop, a design hop, stand-up comedy, or even a jaunt through a haunted maze. Knowing how your co-workers respond to the same information or stimulus differently from yours is a huge part of diversity management. And these are probably the kind of raw behavioural and attitudinal insights you likely won’t excavate from a human pyramid.

Similarly, we periodically switch off our computers and lock the office to go experience dance forms, recreation sports, arcade face-offs or even parkour. We call these Sports Days. Not only do they provide excuses for us to goof off for a couple of hours and work off those gallons of lattes, these shared activities reveal surprising facets of ourselves…to ourselves, and to each other. Individually, we learn just how far we are willing to push our own boundaries, aptitudes and interests. Collectively, we also get to discover shared competencies, and mine insights such as, who among us is the habitual corner-cutter, who is the most adventurous, who has the hardiest constitution, who is secretly the most competitive and who is the best actor. The best part is, we also end off these outings with enough incriminating evidence of each other’s greatest hits and misses, fashion faux pas and face plants to last a few lifetimes.

And when you have dangerous and incendiary stuff like this, that’s when you truly know you are bonded to each other