Blog : Smart Thinking

So long superficial social stars – it’s time for the real influencers to step up

So long superficial social stars – it’s time for the real influencers to step up

The pandemic has made us, as consumers, reassess and reflect on exactly who we’re following online, and why. As the UK public put a spotlight on our everyday heroes – the nurses, bin men and shelf stackers fighting the good fight right there on the frontline – slowly we began to realise that influencer culture had got a little out of control.

From sponsored brand deals, collaborations and an all-expenses paid lifestyle – or at least, the illusion of one – influencers appeared to have been given an easy ride over the past couple of years.

Then coronavirus happened.

Sponsored posts on Instagram fell from representing 35% of influencer content in mid-February to 4% in mid-April according to a report by Launchmetrics. Covid-19 forced content creators to strip back all the luxuries and go back to doing exactly that – creating their own content. With no glamorous events, launches and comped travel to luxe destinations, influencers have retreated to their bedrooms, mirroring exactly what their viewers have been doing for the past four months.

Back to the bedroom

For those of us who remember YouTube’s ‘What’s in my Bag’ era when Zoella filmed her videos in a box room at her parent’s house and Tanya Burr still spent her weekends working on a makeup counter, there’s something satisfying in knowing that throughout lockdown, our favourite influencers were binging Normal People right alongside us.

Pretty much overnight, influencers had to relinquish control of their carefully curated content, pare back their aesthetically pleasing lives and go back to the drawing board to work out exactly what their fans enjoy (and balancing that with much needed hits and engagement) at a time when social media provided a much-needed solace for so many.

In some cases, it’s been refreshing. As we all dusted off our kindles, Beth Sandland launched her virtual book club and brought readers from around the world together. When restaurants and bars were forced to close, Ailsa from Edin Eats pivoted her content from recommending the best places to eat in the city to ‘Edin Cooks’, a series where she learned to cook from scratch in her kitchen.

Josie LDN has captivated Insta audiences over lockdown with her home renovation. Yes, it might be a glorious, million-pound Cotswolds bolthole rather than a one-bedroom studio with a shower above the toilet, but who hasn’t enjoyed a bit of lockdown DIY?

However, it’s clear that others have struggled with developing their style when the safety net is wheeked away (no names mentioned – in this blog post anyway…).

The behaviour backlash

Predictably, living your life online comes with a level of accountability and some influencers have been caught out. Creators such as Arielle Charnas were called out for flouting social distancing rules and travelling long distances – with their followers describing their behaviour as irresponsible, insensitive or just plain old out of touch. Suddenly, fans took off their rose-tinted glasses and instead started to view their favourite influencers with piercing clarity.

So, is this the end of the road for influencers? Despite the backlash, influencer marketing is still one of the most powerful and measurable forms of marketing. During times of uncertainty, people rely on those individuals with credibility to educate, entertain and inspire. That’s not going to change. Influencers just need to ensure that they’re being genuine with the content they’re putting out there and continue to be as authentic as possible.

The rise of authenticity and purpose

Authenticity is something PR professionals have been banging on about for years. But, some of the time, it’s been lip service. How many times has a client said they want to work with a Zoe Sugg, because they can’t see further than the follower count over engagement levels? They’re happy to ‘pay and display’ – pay a one off sum for an Insta Story, a tweet, a single post with #ad. But what’s the benefit for the brand, and ultimately, the end consumer?

It’s our prediction that there is going to be a rise of purpose-led content, and content creators that facilitate conversations and inform valuable two-way discussions with their audiences will come to the fore. Pushing out just one solitary, vacuous grid post isn’t going to cut it with audiences in a post-Covid world and PRs, brands and influencers need to recognise this.

The next few months are going to be an interesting time as opinion shifts. Beauty blogs? Meh. We’d rather see some more dancing bin men.

VIRTUAL STRIPE ACADEMY LAUNCHES

VIRTUAL STRIPE ACADEMY LAUNCHES

Are you a student or graduate thinking about a career in communications? Do you have smart thinking, bright ideas and a passion for communicating?

We know this year will be tough for people starting out in the communications industry. To help talented people kick-start their careers, we’re launching the Virtual Stripe Academy to provide free online training on how things work at an award-winning communications agency.

The Virtual Stripe Academy will provide 12 online training sessions over four weeks. You’ll meet Stripe’s senior team and learn from their experience and expertise – providing industry insight and the skills you’ll need to get started. You can check out the full schedule here. It will run on Zoom from 10 August to 4 September 2020.

The programme is open to anyone studying at college or university as well as those who have graduated in the last two years. You don’t need to study any specific course, but you should have an interest in pursuing a career in the communications industry in the future.

Everyone who completes this training course will be offered the chance to join the new Stripe Mentor programme. The top 10 applicants will be mentored for three months by a senior member of the Stripe team – getting one-to-one career advice and help into the industry.

Registration for Virtual Stipe Academy has now closed. 

MENTORING IS A SUPERPOWER NOT TO BE TAKEN LYING DOWN

MENTORING IS A SUPERPOWER NOT TO BE TAKEN LYING DOWN

I never had a mentor when I was working my way up through the agency ranks, so when someone suggested that I should become one, my initial reaction was to decline. I made the same excuses that I use for avoiding the gym; no time and I don’t have the technique – a classic case of imposter syndrome.

Looking back, I had a subconscious fear of giving the wrong advice and being judged. I thought I wasn’t high profile or experienced enough to be a mentor. It was all in my head but feeling self-conscious is one of the biggest barriers to discovering what could turn out be a mentoring superpower!

To clarify, I’m not claiming that being a mentor makes you a hero (although I love the idea of wearing a cape to my next session), but it does have a positive impact on mental health – for both the mentee and the mentor. And, as many people are still working remotely and are anxious about their futures, the need for a mentor has never been so relevant.

 

What is a mentor?

Not to be confused with coaching, which addresses specific goals, mentoring is about the longer-term holistic development of a mentee. A mentor looks at the bigger picture by assessing overall strengths and weaknesses, and by helping the mentee to realise their own potential for themselves.

So why is mentoring good for mental health?

 

It reduces the feeling of isolation

You don’t have to be living alone or working remotely to feel isolated. Not having anyone to open up to can make your working life feel lonely. Having a mentor, a trusted confidante, can make a huge difference. Simply getting a different perspective and encouraged to find your own solution to a problem gives a sense of relief and empowerment.

K-PowIt helps combat anxiety

Most people experience some level of work-related anxiety, that’s normal. But, add a global pandemic and economic crisis to the mixing pot and anxiety levels can bubble over. It can be hard for people to share their feelings because they’re worried that it will reflect negatively on them, which creates even more anxiety. A mentor helps to get under the skin of the issue; to break it down and tear it apart, before guiding the mentee to find practical ways to move forward.

 

It boosts confidence

Mentees frequently report an increase in their self-confidence because they feel supported.

The relationship with a mentor gives a mentee a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgement. In turn, they get validation from someone with more experience, who they trust and admire. But it’s not just the mentees that benefit. Mentors also experience a confidence boost – the very act of helping someone else to reach their goals, and overcome hurdles provides a sense of achievement.

 

MENTORING MYTHS

A mentor can transform lives but, to do that effectively, you must get past some myths. Here are a few that I overcame:

“I don’t have anything to offer”

Nonsense. You’re a skilled professional that’s being paid to do what you do.

“I don’t have time”

Do what you can. An hour a month is plenty. A mentoring session can happen over a coffee, or a zoom call – whatever works best for you. I’m still too busy for the gym though.

“I’ve never had a mentor, so I can’t be one”

I’m living proof that, that’s not true.

“I cannot relate”

I’m currently mentoring a counsellor with his own practice, an entrepreneur through Virgin StartUp and various people through the PRCA – none of them operate in the sectors that I’m experienced in.

“I am responsible for all of my mentee’s decisions”

Not true. Your role as a mentor is to help the mentee think outside the box and explore all avenues before making ‘their own’ decisions.

spiderman

 

“I haven’t reached my full potential”

That’s good. You’re still striving. But, mentoring isn’t about you reaching your potential, it’s about helping others to reach theirs.

“I can save them!”

I love your enthusiasm and how you’ve moved from imposter syndrome to having a saviour complex! But seriously, mentors aren’t superheroes and are not here to save anyone. But, if they use their superpower wisely, it can be transformative for both parties.

mentoring superwoman

Influencer culture in Lockdown: where do we go from here?

Influencer culture in Lockdown: where do we go from here?

A lot has been said about COVID-19 marking the end of influencer culture as we know it. Consumers are tired of seeing social stars brag about their lavish lifestyles or preaching from their #gifted million pound home, promoting products that we ALL know they don’t and would never use – Khloe Kardashian and Febreeze, what?!

I get it and we have felt the same. Particularly as we navigate what is going to be an incredibly difficult few months for everyone.

However, for all the covidiot influencers who have got it seriously wrong, a lot have also risen to the occasion, helping to spread important messages to otherwise hard to reach, younger audiences.

As these uncertain times continue (sorry!) and conflicting messages and cluttered news just gets worse, audiences are desperately looking for people who they can connect with, trust and rely on – the micro influencer. Those who are genuinely experiencing the same things their audience are and who can share real content their followers can relate to.

In Finland, social influencers have actually been defined as ‘critical operators’ throughout the pandemic. They have used their platform to communicate Government guidelines and speak to a traditionally hard to reach audience. And what better way to reach your audience than working with the people you are trying to reach?

Influencers are always a key part of our campaigns and although the big names out there will always be big, it’s the micro influencers who are coming out on top for our clients at the moment.

Throughout lockdown, we’ve run influencer campaigns for the Scottish Government, Young Scot and Baxters to name a few – all of which have been used to spread a message quickly and efficiently, something a traditional media campaign just couldn’t do.

But why micro influencers?  They are the most flexible and can create content quickly that is authentic and believable. They are close to their audience and know what they respond well to. With fewer followers, they are much more likely to engage and respond to comments – they genuinely care and want to help their followers, which reflects well on the brands we work with. Finally, they are real. Without management teams, ulterior motives or big production budgets, their content is incredibly personal and personable and resonates with their audience better.

Post-pandemic, I think we can expect to see all influencers take a step back and take stock of the content they’re sharing. The high profile, aspirational type content still has its place but moving forward, honesty and authenticity is going to be key.

WORK FOR CHANGE: EFFECTIVE CHANGE COMMUNICATION

WORK FOR CHANGE: EFFECTIVE CHANGE COMMUNICATION

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that everyone and everything can change.

Over the last few months people, governments and organisations around the world have been forced to transform how they work at a pace that’s been dubbed a new “industrial revolution” by some analysts. As we all navigate this change, trust in leadership, remote technology and honest, authentic, effective communication have never been more important.

At Stripe we’ve supported our clients as they adapted their communications to resonate, reassure and engage with customers, service users, employees and stakeholders in new ways. The recent pace of change has been incredible and largely born out of necessity, but here are some of my observations from recent experience that I believe would apply at any time:

  • Leadership is key. Visible leadership and trust in our leaders is absolutely vital, so buy-in from the top is essential. Whether that’s weekly video updates from the CEO, employee team briefings or regular email communication, the right level of communication provides reassurance that the best plan is in place.
  • Nothing is more powerful than our emotions. We’ve all experienced fear, anxiety and hope over the last few months and the best performing brands responded by investing time in research to understand their audience and working hard to humanise their communications. They helped customers and service users feel in control amid a world of chaos.
  • Take time to do a pulse check. Use data, insights and measurement to understand how people feel and track how things are changing. Whether that’s bespoke market research, the YouGov public monitor or a quick employee pulse survey.
  • Listen and learn from employees on the frontline. Remote working technology has given employees more opportunities to have their voices heard and influence organisational change. It’s a two-way conversation and the best businesses take employee feedback seriously and put insights into practice.
  • The right technology is transformative. Zoom, Slack, Teams, Yammer and Miro already existed but for most organisations uptake was low. Out of necessity businesses around the world took a leap into remote working technology without the chance to review what would be most effective. As businesses continue to adapt to new technology, now is the time to re-examine what’s in place and seek ways to make workforces more connected while introducing automation and artificial intelligence tools into everyday practice. If you’ve taken the first step into transformative tech, what’s next?
  • Authenticity and creativity matter more than ever. Honesty, transparency and bold creative ideas need to be at the heart of communications as people increasingly question what they see, hear and read like never That’s come to the fore during the Black Lives Matter movement as brands are increasingly scrutinised on their stance and support – with brands like Yorkshire Tea and Ben & Jerry’s recognised for authentic responses.

Change is never easy but it has the potential to unlock innovation and make us think differently. The right change helps us achieve better business, create a better society and to better us as individuals.

Last week I saw a post on Instagram that made me question whether our experiences in 2020 have changed us for the better. I liked it. I wasn’t alone – 464,000 other people liked it too.

HOW CRISIS PROOF ARE YOUR BRAND COMMUNICATIONS? A GUIDE TO CONFRONTING UNCERTAINTY HEAD ON

HOW CRISIS PROOF ARE YOUR BRAND COMMUNICATIONS? A GUIDE TO CONFRONTING UNCERTAINTY HEAD ON

One of the many observations noted in these strange and unprecedented times is how quickly we can all adapt in an emergency.

As a result of this particular emergency most businesses in IT, finance and HR provisions have spun into meltdown to catch-up with the concept of lockdown while we moved ourselves into an almost entirely digital space.

Our customers and employees are now all better connected than ever before, yet they have never been so isolated or remote to any real tangible outcomes. Secure in our virtual bunkers, staff and consumers alike are looking for any answer that offers intelligence, insight or empathy.

Step aside for the 4th emergency professional service, Brand Communications.

Proactive budgets can be the first to get slashed in changeable financial situations, however, once the reactive piece is complete, provision to deliver your message now and, perhaps more importantly, in the future is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity.

If you need to be reminded of how receptive the public is to concise and logical messaging, just look at the reaction the other week to the government changing their messaging from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’.

Everyone has woken up to realise how important is to be seen, understood and believed as individuals and collectives. From an audience perspective we’re craving information inside and outside of work and in a world where we can no longer touch, we’re looking at everything through a digital filter.

With huge swathes of our workforce working distantly or remotely – if at all – the only real thing that holds them together is understanding what they belong to, how and why.

 

So where do you start crisis proofing your brand?

Well, as Walter Landor once said, ‘Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.’

So, let’s start there.

Brand Communications is all about telling a story. Not just any story – your unique story. Generating and perpetuating your myth that will engage, endorse and activate.

This isn’t just about good looks, it’s the blueprint for your business and a guide to being heard. In an ever-fluctuating situation, done well, it is one of the most real assets you can own.

You can’t prepare for what you can’t see but you can prepare for what you might, and without knowing who you are, you can’t prepare at all.

It goes without saying that brands are based on what you do or sell pulled together with research and strategic insight. Those two aspects are what define your unique proposition. However, there is a check list of must-haves that formulate that information into a complete Brand Communications piece for now and the future…

Here’s our top 6:

  1. Clarify your (new) mission and vision

    This is your purpose and ambition: why you are here and where are you going – medium to long term. Most businesses have or will need to adapt their offering and plans, and it’s vital that everyone understands and aspires to what these are.

  2. Define your core values

    So everyone is clear how to do what you do, from an internal and external perspective. From making decisions to interacting with colleagues. Behaviours can vary and are guided by values, and in a crisis they will bond and include.

  1. Set short term goals

    Time bound objectives can be managed and completed. People want to be part of a success story, but they need to know how and it needs to be practical.

  1. Demonstrate present, accessible and insightful leadership

    This is a battle of sorts. Leaders need to be seen and they need to be relevant. Create regular and structured forums to share information, inspire and unite. People are more likely to worry if they are given random bouts information and if their leader is aloof or mysterious. Include opinion where you can but make clear decisions and deliver them with assurance and empathy.

  1. Define your communication pillars

    Have a clear understanding of and format for what you want to say and what you need to say. Both proactive: brand building and selling; and reactive: crisis management and risk minimising / avoidance.

  1. Digitise

    Your brand needs to be appropriate and useful to deliver messages within a digital interface. This is more than a cosmetic refurb, it’s updating your look to really belong within this space. Understand and utilise platforms, ensure positive user experience and create and provide content that engages on the right level at the right time.

Getting to grips with resilience

Getting to grips with resilience

With the global implications of Covid-19 front of mind, we’ve heard a lot recently about individual, corporate and national resilience. It’s almost like it’s an elusive superpower that promises to make us invincible, natural leaders, with unwavering confidence and the ability to ride any storm. Well, don’t believe the hype, it’s not really like that.

I’ve been told I’m resilient, but it’s not a superpower. Like everything in life, it takes time, effort and courage, and is something I’m still working on. But it’s a hugely important and incredibly valuable skill I have drawn upon in both my professional and personal life.

 

So how can you build resilience?

First of all, you need to know that unlike great bone structure, resilience isn’t something you’re just naturally born with. It’s 100% learned.

If you did competitive sports as a kid and never won gold (or any medal for that matter), lost something precious, crashed a car or have a crazy story from that time things went wrong on your gap year. If you failed an assignment, had a run of personal ‘bad luck’, moved to a new city or had a flat share that went disastrously wrong… these have all been part of the learning process and have helped build your resilience. Because resilience is how you deal with and transform a situation. It’s how you proactively propel yourself forward, it’s how you take control and make decisions, it’s how you learn and grow. And it’s a continuous process: something Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant talk about extensively online and in the book, Option B.

The second vitally important thing to realise is that sh*t happens, and it happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s seriously big stuff like bereavement, redundancy, miscarriage, relationship break-ups, life changing accidents or health conditions, and sometimes is smaller things like missing out on a job, losing a pitch, or have your best work friend resign. But it happens, and it happens all the time. You need to be realistic that life is not a glorious feel-good Instagram feed, and that sh*t will also happen to you at some point, so get ready.

My last observation is this: being resilient takes effort and importantly, attitude. As humans we naturally focus on the negative, but that doesn’t foster resilience, it’s just self-indulgent. Yes, listen to feedback, but also be kind to yourself. In her TedTalk, Lucy Hone PhD, talks about deciding if something will ‘help or harm’ her, and it’s great advice, especially across social media: will seeing those updates help or harm, will muting that person help or harm, will having a break from social help or harm?

Finally, here’s five practical things that I have found have helped make me more resilient and I hope they might help you too:

  1. Focus on what matters and what you can control – one of the biggest epiphanies I had was that I can’t control everything, but I can control me. It was so obvious but so liberating! By focusing on what really matters to you and understanding what you can and can’t control, you can start to make a plan.
  2. Make a plan – stop fearing failure, instead proactively get out your comfort zone, take action, get creative, make connections and innovate. What’s the worst that can happen?
  3. Make decisions – it sounds silly, but start making decisions. It’s easy to become paralysed in a crisis or a moment of doubt. But trust your instincts and make a decision. It might not always be right, but it will allow you to at least move forward and be proactive (see point above!)
  4. Be confident – don’t think for one minute that resilient people don’t doubt themselves, they absolutely do! But what they then do (after the initial ‘holy sh*t’ moment) is have confidence in their ability and themselves. Part of part of being resilient is giving other people confidence in you.
  5. You do you – understand who you are and what you’re passionate about. If you only ever think of yourself in a work context, it’s very easy for that to become all consuming. Yes I am a ‘boss’ but I am also a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and neighbour. Take time to explore who you are, what matters to you and what – sport, reading, cooking, creative arts, whatever – gives you headspace and valuable ‘you time’.
Nobody panic – helping you manage out of a crisis

Nobody panic – helping you manage out of a crisis

Despite the fact we are in the middle of a huge crisis, from a comms point of view things have been relatively straight forward. The Government has led the way and businesses have followed.  No one is alone, we’re all in it together, which in many ways has made it easier to message and deal with.

But as we start to see things transition into ‘next normal’, businesses have to be prepared for managing their own news and reputations. The media are going to switch their attention away from the Government and will be looking for stories about the fallout. So, everything – from financial struggles to redundancies, closure of offices, pulling back from investment, employees not being supported or treated appropriately, to additional spikes in infection – will prove challenging to manage. Whilst much of this is unavoidable, brands and businesses will be held accountable for their actions during this time, and even the mighty can fall with one wrong move.

Last week, myself and Scotland MD, Morna McLelland, sat on a Marketing Society Inspiring Minds panel to discuss managing comms during a crisis; here’s a summary of some things for brands and businesses to think about.

1. Be Prepared (and know when an issue becomes a crisis).

None of us ever saw ‘global pandemic’ on the risk register of any business we worked with, but every business should be thinking about the potential risks and challenges facing them.  These could be financial, operational, people, product or customer related.  Prepare your own risk register, work through the scenarios, and ideally, plan how you would respond.  If you know something significant is going to happen, take as much time as you can to prepare.  Think about who in your organisation will need to be involved, what are the key stages or dates you need to work around, how will you make decisions, and how will you communicate with each other?

2. Understand your audiences

Who are the people you need to influence and communicate with?  These could include investors, stakeholders, politicians, customers, and employees.  Map out your audiences in relation to your issue.  Who is most important, what do they need, what do they want to hear, and how will you reach them?

3. Make your message relevant

Ideally you should boil your comms down to four key messages. When you write them, remember your voice, keep them short, and ideally work with a PR professional to ensure that the words you use can’t be edited down by a journalist or taken out of context in any way.  Revisit your audiences and then make sure you tweak messages depending on who you’re talking to – tailored comms will go down much better than one size fits all.  Be consistent.  Admit mistakes, be clear, and show empathy.

 

4. Don’t believe your own hype

Of course you believe in the business you work in but that can sometimes cloud your judgement on how people externally will interpret your message. Use someone external to stress test your messaging and approach, and get a real-world view on things.

5. Be clear on your voice and who is representing you

When you speak, how do you sound?  If a brand is talking, make sure you don’t ignore your brand personality but be flexible.  Even the most irreverent brands need to know when to play it straight. Be real, be authentic, and above all else be honest.  The brands who fare best in a crisis are those that are relatable and real – hiding behind corporate masks will do very little to engender any kind of empathy. Get clear on who is going to be your voice. There is of course a role for the CEO but it’s important to consider different people for different roles and to ensure the most effective communicators are used at key moments.

6. Join things up

Make sure that your communications response looks at all the comms channels at your disposal, from PR, internal channels, customer newsletters, social media, stakeholder comms, third party networks and direct communications (picking up the phone or sending someone an email).  Timing and the sequence of this is especially critical and will be dictated by your audience mapping.

 

7. Use third parties to provide a different voice

Is there a third party that could support your story? Can you signpost existing help and information resources?  Or similarly, if you know someone is going to be especially negative then you might want to brief them directly in advance.

8. Understand the mood, and how it changes over time

How your story lands will have as much to do with what you say as the context in which it is landing.  Make sure you have a good read on the external environment and are sensitive to what’s going on around you. At the moment we are ‘all in this together’ with a collective goal, but that’s unusual. Be aware of wider economic factors that are influencing opinion – both good and bad – and how your messaging might need to change.

9. Communicate often and think ahead

Keep people updated (even when you have nothing to say).  Never stick your head in the sand or ignore questions. Review your social content and frequency of communications as people hunger for information, reassurance or guidance. And while you’re in this now, and will undoubtedly be focused on getting out of it as quickly and painlessly as possible, think ahead…what could be the future implications; unemployment, shareholder unrest, staff well-being and mental health, and are you equipped for that too?

 

10. Get specialist help

Managing reputations in a crisis is something that can’t be taught in a book or by reading a blog. The process and nuances come from years of experience so get someone in that knows what they are doing and absolutely have them at the top table throughout.  If you manage something badly then it’s going to take five times longer to clear up and by then your reputation could be severely damaged. Surround yourself with experienced experts that can help you and provide calm and confident support.

As a final thought, while no-one loves a crisis, if handled correctly they can define a business and the leadership team within it. Even when delivering the toughest of messages, if you are relatable and act with integrity and compassion then things might not end up quite as bad as you think.

 

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Where’s creativity heading in today’s marketing context?
Well, there’s a ship about to leave the pod and it’s heading out-of-this-world.

Having recently attended the D&AD Festival 2019 (physically) and The Adobe Experience Festival (virtually) my take outs are looking into the stratosphere.

Just as we’re all feeling comfortable that we’re digitally up-to-speed, private space travel is bringing together entrepreneurship and enterprise in an explosion of converging technology, and futurists are now telling us to prepare for the post-digital era.

Boom! The sonic pop of this concept is blowing my mind.

So why should this matter to me as a Creative Director?

The answer is that these missions are working examples of how the combination of creativity and innovation is the key to the future. Not just as a savvy business model but as the way we need to think.

Right now, what better creative platform is there than to say you’ll be the first human on Mars? What higher technological challenge is there than to be responsible for the innovation to actually get there? What’s not entirely genius about owning both the creative and technological thinking of the journey and the experience?

Sophie Hackford, a speaker at Adobe’s 2019 Experience Festival, tells us how augmented and virtual reality are set to have a significant impact on the customer experience.  Looking at trends in the most popular gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Secondlife, gives us a glimpse into the commercial landscape of the future; spaces where avatars of ourselves are building lives, interacting, buying and selling virtual commodities.

The internet is becoming more and more immersive. UX and digital design trends are a response to these interactive and 3D environments. Communities are already engaging with flawless virtual influencers, and even our Hollywood stars and CEOs could be succeeded by both digital and synthetic avatars of themselves.

Hackford continues that if ‘virtual intelligence can automate experience’ then events in the future could become so good, no-one will want to leave and if you do miss a must-go social event, then there’s no risk of FOMO, you can travel back in time to take part in the 3D virtual world.

Where does this leave creative communications professionals?

In a fascinating, expansive place…but am I concerned? A little. Not just of the monitoring and morality issues, but more by the capacity my brain has to take all this tech on board. Time to grab an innovation geek and make them my new BFF.

And here’s where we go back to basics. Creativity can’t be automated and when fuelled by great strategy and insight it’s the driver of all enterprise, especially in communications. Looking at this year’s D&AD pencil winners, and observing as a judge at  the ‘Pioneering Spirit Awards’ for the Marketing Society Scotland, it’s clear that creativity is agile as well as migratory. If there is an understanding and skill to adapt, then creativity fits seamlessly into any new habitat and is the vehicle to get you there too.

What should we take out of all this?  Well for me it’s that creative and innovation in marketing terms should no longer be considered as separate skills. ‘Creativation’ is the future. See you on Mars.

Sophie Hackford, Futurist, Technologist, Researcher and Anthropologist Keynote Speaker, Adobe The Experience Festival 2019 https://www.adobe.com/uk/events/experiencefestival19/recordings.html

#DandAD2019 https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-creative-advertising-design-festival/