Home > advertising theory, Branded content, future of advertising > a model for modern communication

a model for modern communication

This is a model I’ve been playing with for quite a long time. This isn’t meant to be revolutionary and is a build on everything I’ve read in recent years; from Seth Godin flipping the funnel to Duncan Watts reaction to the Tipping point and a lot of others things I probably forget. It tries to combine the utility trend everyone’s talking about with the old entertainment model that advertising, as we know it, is built on.

I haven’t got a name for it. I’m hesitating between the diablo or the eggtimer.

This is not a model for everyone, it is a model for brands that have a point of view or something interesting to say. It is not completely finished, so I’d love any (constructive) input you may have. It may also be totally useless! Sorry for the ugliness, it is in these situation I wish I’d know how to use PhotoShop.

It is shaped by reach and engagement. The first phase is communication from the brand to the consumer, obviously reaching a lot of people. The second phase from consumers to consumers, but leveraged by you, reaching less people but continuously increasing their engagement with the campaign.


I like this model because:

a/ It forces you to have a strong idea at the heart, something interesting, something with legs. If you don’t have a strong idea, you just can’t fill the model in its entirity. Simple.

b/ Has the PR element built inside of it (the whole write me the press release thing)

c/ Doesn’t rely on channels but use them to the best of their abilities

d/ Doesn’t rely on one execution but leverage each channel’s force

e/ Does not start by targetting a selected few influencers but is a model that finds the right influencers for your brand.

The examples mentioned below are just examples for the said step, not for the whole campaign. Only Nike Joga Bonito and Dove Campaign for real beauty came close to perfectly fitting it.

Step 1: Provoke.

Here the goal is to create an emotional connection by introducing your philosophy / point of view / what you stand for, to as much people as possible as quickly as possible. I’m starting to agree with good old Duncan. The hipsters and pseudo-influentials are totally ignored from that plan. The point is to create pull and to find the people who might be interested in your message rather than paying to get some to do the job for you. It’s also kickstarting the whole project so it’s the most important phase. If it’s not done well, the whole thing collapses. The most easy way to achieve this is still through the use of a spot, which just doesn’t have to be put only on TV. (The second model below).

Examples doing it well:

Evolution and Onslaught for Dove’s campaign for real beauty.

– Nike Joga Bonito, Eric Cantona’s introduction.

Step 2: Inspire

This step is about getting people to believe your point of view / philosphy / issue is a valid one. It is mainly done through the use of a manifesto, basically describing what you mean by step 1 in more details. There is a risk of creating content for the sake of it here. Every piece of comm developed should always serve a purpose, in this case, reinforce the provocation / intrigue of step 1 and get people thinking about your issue or point more seriously. Joga TV is a good example of that.

It’s also good to support this point with tactical PR. Again if you have a research that says that 78% of women feel pressurised by the media, then you’ve got a story supporting your ad in step 1 (Dove).

Insurance companies are also quite strong at that step, releasing statements that we have a lot more valuables than we think in our house… so we should get insured with them…

Step 3: Demonstrate.

I’m a fervent supporter of demonstration. As cynicism is on the increase (no pun intended), there is a big need to demonstrate whatever it is we are claiming in the real world. Even if most people won’t see it, it’s a way to get PR and word of mouth and essentially credibility, which is what really matters these days. These could be events, stunts, exhibitions…

Examples: Tournaments where you have to play beautiful for Nike Joga Bonito, RedBull flying races, Nike Runners lounge in Vancouver.

Here you can also use your products as a demonstration of what your philosophy is about. Example, the Nike shoes help you play beautiful, here’s why… Or Nike+ helps you running. Method products really clean…

Step 4: Participate

This is where it gets interesting and where most brands fail. You’ve switched from push to pull to participate. This is not a monologue from you to them anymore, this is a dialogue.

After all the efforts above, you’ve actually converted some people. And they want in. So you need to give them a place for them to congregate, a hub to what you stand for where they can go to fulfill their desire to participate. And where you will give them the solutions and tools (utilities) to support your communication. You are building yourself a little army of fans and they don’t want to be disappointed.

It will ony be a small number who will participate and take action, but they will be the one starting the new phase. You’ve given them the tools to get out there and start spreading the word.

Its Nike running community, Dove forums and workshops for mums to know how to talk to their daughters, Diesel Wall, or Lynx Get in there, whether you like it or not, or Levi’s world in HK.

Step 5: Recruit

They see you as the champion of your cause and they want to help you spread the word. You need to give them the tools to do so. Get them involved in your product creation, find ways for them to participate in your comms or be a proud part of your activities. By participating to these activities, they will become evangelists. You can also have a bit of co-creation if your brand / product allows it. Rewards are good but beware of trying to get some unstructured UGC.

You are trying to recruit more passive people, not the creators, but the critics here.

Examples: My Starbucks idea, Diesel preachers, Lynx Get in There challenges, MyVegas…

Step 6: Advocacy

You might want to go back to broadcast media to show the results of your actions and how participation from the community has created something extraordinary. This is how you complete the model.

You could create a viral or even go back on TV if budget allows it. It’s not about you anymore, it’s about how you’ve empowered people to do something great or how the situation has changed thanks to your support.

  1. Rob
    April 1, 2008 at 11:45 am

    And I thought creating good communication was relatively simple πŸ˜‰

  2. Rob
    April 1, 2008 at 11:46 am

    And I thought creating good communication was relatively simple πŸ˜‰

  3. gen
    April 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    great post. has to be eggtimer surely?

  4. Digicynic
    April 1, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I like the eggtimer metaphor. Basically, with time, you are getting people from broadcast and impersonal communication (top of the eggtimer) to more personal and engaging communication (bottom).
    Rob, how could I justify my salary if coming up with good communication was simple πŸ˜‰

  5. Rob
    April 2, 2008 at 2:41 am

    In all seriousness, I genuinely think that’s one of the problems with adland … in our quest to justify our huge salaries, we complicate rather than simplify.

    Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of hard work to get to do something simple, but I always worry we are sending out the wrong message but then I’m a fucking hypocrite given what I do for a living, ha!

  6. Digicynic
    April 2, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Hi Rob,
    I was kind of joking. My salary is far from huge. And this model was meant to be relatively simple, not trying to make things more complicated.
    I’m sorry if I made it sound too complex. It is not. It’s a classic push / pull / participate model, a little more evolved.

    You’ve said it yourself: “it is shameful that in the past 10 years, less brands have truly infiltrated the psyche of society than in the last 50.”
    Well most of the brands that truly have infiltrated the psyche societly in recent times, followed a similar model, with one strong idea, executed in lots of different ways and following these steps.

    This model is based on the brands that have been successful in the past: Dove campaign for real beauty, Nike Joga Bonito or put it where you want, Diesel, even Innocent in the UK with a lot less budget but a lot more imagination are all good examples of that. They have a simple idea at the heart, but their campaign are complex, feeding and involving people in different ways.

    A model like that is not mandatary for a campaign to be successful, but I think it will dramatically help getting to much better work that the classic TV + online model that most campaigns still use.

  7. Rob
    April 2, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I’ll leave you with this story …

    Years ago, guitar virtuoso Edward Van Halen was asked by Professors at Berkley Music School how he came to mix so many different kind of musical scales and he replied, “I don’t know, I just play”

    There is way, way too much post rationalisation in the World today and I still believe the best brands that have entered the fabric of society [and no, not Dove, that is still a marketed brand, however much the ad idea is bigger than the usual stuff Unilever do] are the ones created by someone/group who had a specific vision, goal and soul rather than this distillation of brand models which more often than not, leads to conformity rather than liberation – and I say this as a man who has worked directly with Virgin, Apple and Adidas for the last 10 years.

    Sure they’re exceptions, but the truly big brands – the ones that have an irrantional emotional hold over consumers – tend to be, at least in my mind, the ones who decided who they wanted to be rather than were told what they should be … a subtle, but massive difference, which is possibly why “it is shameful that in the past 10 years, less brands have truly infiltrated the psyche of society than in the last 50.”

    Maybe πŸ™‚

  8. Digicynic
    April 2, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks for that Rob.

    I like it that you disagree, makes me think about it again. But I still disagree with you. πŸ™‚
    I think you are having a go at someone else but me here. Just because my model might have looked a bit complicated at first, it doesn’t mean it is.

    It is a model to make smarter campaigns, not to replace the fact that you still need a big idea.
    It is just a way to structure your big idea, exactly what you are talking about. Without a big idea, a vision, a goal and a soul, this model doesn’t stand. Only when you have one can you fill the model.

    Well, this is what it is intended to do, maybe I haven’t communicated clearly enough.

    This has nothing to do with post-rationalisation. Au contraire mon ami, this is a way to get your idea heard. This is a way to stop making lazy TV ads and starting to think about campaigns that really have an impact on society.

    The brands you mention have exceptionnally great products. My model is for the 99.9% of other companies that just have great / good / average products.
    It’s not trying to replace a big idea. But because there isn’t a model for getting to a big idea (see my post on virals being black swan), there are models on how to make sure the idea you have make more noise.

    Building an emotional connection with advertising still seem to be a very powerful tool. See Honda, Nike, Cadbury, Sony bravia… But I believe these campaigns could have been even better had they followed a similar model.

    And I do think Dove did enter the fabric of society. It was by a mile one the most successful campaign of these last years. On a global scale. You seem a bit bitter about Unilever but that’s another story πŸ˜‰

    Speaking of which, I do like the fact that artists just play and don’t think about which different music scales they are using, but that’s genius, and there isn’t much of it in our industry as far as I can tell. Hence the need for a bit of stimulation on our part.

  9. Rob
    April 3, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Hi mate – I’m not calling your model wrong, nor am I saying it’s about post rationalisation [that was aimed at companies like FutureBrand and those big global networks like McCaan’s who talk about their proprietry ‘Demand Process’ and then you see it’s the usual shit just re-packaged – I’m just saying as an industry we are becoming far too focused on identifying a magic formula when the reality is there isn’t one, well not one that can work for every single situation.

    As for DOVE, it has been fantastically successful – but that has more to do with their distribution and product quality/pricing than the ads – and I hate how adland forgets about those componants when there is success.

    When I worked on Tango, the ads helped drive emotional connection, but if we didn’t have distribution, packaging and sales all in the same mindset, we’d of never been able to achieve the success we had – and it wasn’t a model we used, it was good ol’ fashioned planning fundamentals πŸ™‚

    I am not picking a fight with you because you don’t pretend your process is the most unique in the World, you are simply saying this is what works for you and your clients – however many companies treat their process like it’s the 2nd Coming and that’s when I get the shits, which you can read here


    OK, I’m outta here …

  10. Rob
    April 3, 2008 at 1:07 am

    The brands I mentioned DO have good products, but that’s because they have a good corporate philosophy and it doesn’t matter what model you use, if a company is simply focused on making money [rather than doing something that will make money as a byproduct of their product/service] you’re never going to achieve anything to great.

    Of course I’m lucky – and biased – but what I find even more mad is when an organisation like Unilever, that has had such success with DOVE and Lynx, still goes about communicating the majority of their brands with the same mundane boredom as P&G and the like.

    I have gone off tangent here haven’t I? Sorry – jetlag.

  11. Digicynic
    April 3, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I see where you are coming from now!
    This isn’t even a model I have used. I normally tend to shy away from models for the exact same reason you mention.
    But I do find this one, to be useful (to me), as it forces me to do more interesting work. A model is there to be broken, it’s a starting point, you might end up somewhere else totally different, as you point out.
    Regarding the magic formula, I’d like your feedback on that post I wrote about exactly that. https://digicynic.wordpress.com/2008/02/20/no-one-knows-anything/

    And I agree with all on the rest. I actually don’t think we were disagreeing, but talking about different things πŸ˜‰

    When are we seeing your presentation on collaboration? It sounds very interesting.

  12. April 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

    God the British and French agreeing – that will not do will it, ha!

    I have a ton of presos I should put up, I will soon – they’re all abit too wanky at the moment, haha!

  13. April 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Interesting wrap up as you say.
    A nice way to acid test a concept, not to drive creativity maybe.

  14. Digicynic
    April 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    yes agree. Driving creativity is a whole different matter, not one that can be explained in a model. Or a post. Or at all actually.

  15. April 12, 2008 at 1:14 am

    For the name, I would go with “Diablo”.
    Because you have got to keep the goddamn thing running, else it will fall off the string.
    I believe that is true for your model. You have got to keep the conversation running…

  16. Digicynic
    April 14, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Interesting. Thanks for that. Yes it’s exactly the point, it’s a challenging model, you can’t just sit there and watch it going, you have to be totally involved in it and be flexible enough to adapt to the audience’s reaction.

  1. April 5, 2008 at 1:34 am
  2. April 21, 2008 at 8:47 am
  3. May 1, 2008 at 10:10 am
  4. May 24, 2008 at 11:31 pm

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