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Why Collaboration is Digital’s Next Killer App

JERRY

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise’s character has a crisis of conscience. One evening during a league meeting crafts a manifesto of sorts about how sports agents, colleagues, and competitors, could all do a better job serving the best interests of their clients. In the fever pitch of finishing this document, he distributes copies to every single person at the meeting and is greeted with uproarious applauses of approval by his fellow agents.

A week later Jerry had lost all but one of his clients, and his career was in ruins.

Hopefully this won’t be my Jerry Maguire moment, but much like Tom Cruise’s character, the manifesto that follows is probably long overdue because it’s 2014 and pharma still stinks at digital marketing.

Having been in the industry for 18+ years now, I continue to observe the same recurring challenges that plague the business and severely impact the quality of the work. These challenges typically take the following forms.

On the agency side:

  • Work is often done in silos: With little to no collaboration between agency teams the end result is almost always very transactional programs. Media, web, mobile, social, PR, etc., are more often than not being managed by different agencies with little or no incentive to cooperate and collaborate
  • Ideas are transactional: Isolated thinking more often than not translates into an extremely low value ideas with little to no enduring value or utility.
  • Agencies are built to sell: They approach work as a zero sum game. Less for you is more for me. Instead of focusing on brand growth, they are incentivized to try and take revenue from other agency partners.
  • Teams are highly suspicious of one another: Internal or external, the territorial behaviors associated with the previously mentioned challenges kill the scale of a program, as working with another group or agency puts your own revenue at risk.

It’s incredibly easy to focus on the agency side of things, but all is not rosy on the client side of things either. Agencies are, for the most part, a reflection of the clients that manage them, and their behavior is a result of the leaders who manage them.

Some challenges on the client side include:

  • High turnover rates = short term management: Most clients don’t stay in their roles longer than 18-24 months, so programs aren’t designed, built, or managed for mid-long term success.
  • An over-emphasis on innovation: The hunt for ‘the next big thing’ is a constant churn, and comically ineffective. Pharma clients typically define innovation as “new” instead of “better.” Any innovative program by that definition typically can’t build the kind of meaningful scale needed to be effective in the short term, as the audiences and utilization need to be grown. That lack of immediate scale leads to, you guessed it, the eventual hunt for the next ‘next big thing.’
  • Clients are built to buy: Given the relative lack of marketing experience most pharma clients have when they enter their marketing roles, the focus is almost entirely on generating tactics. This leads to an“ I’ll know it when I see it” culture that constantly churns through vendors and pitches with the end result being little to no cohesion in a marketing plan.
  • “Vendor” mindset: The end result of all of this is a disposable attitude towards a client’s agency partners. Any effort to provide strategic council is often rebuffed, and if a client is counseled that an “exciting “ idea may not fit with the overall brand strategy, the consequence for the agency is to be told “if you won’t build this for me, I’ll get someone who will.” Read More…

Initial Impressions of Sphero 2.0: The Best and Worst of the Digital Age

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 10.15.29 AMLast night I picked up a Sphero 2.0 from the Apple Store as I needed to test it out for a client project. After about 5 minutes I remarked to my wife that, “This is exactly what’s good and bad about my job. On the one hand, I get to play with these neat kinds of toys and call it work. On the other hand, it’s a $129 dollar ball.”

Initially, I thought my 8 month old puppy would love it, as it was more interactive then her usual analog tennis ball, but she was terrified by the thing. My 3 girls however, were enamored right away.

I’ve been using it for about 24 hours now and the thing is remarkably fun. It is after all a Bluetooth controlled robotic ball. It has a range of about 50 feet and is surprisingly fast and nimble on the controls. When on, it activates a color changing LED that adds to the overall whimsy of the experience.

Update: I was remarking to a few folks at the office that I was surprised that it didn’t have a camera, as it can be hard to pilot around walls. One of our admins remarked that if it had a camera, people would use it for upskirt pics. Fair point.

Sphero comes with a ton of potential apps, including games that blend digital and real-world environments for seemingly unique gaming experiences, most of which I haven’t tested yet but will do so soon. The hardware and software platform are open source, making it ripe for experimenting with. As such, here are some of the things I’m going to attempt to try with it over the next few weeks. Read More…

Dispelling 4 Mythological Beliefs About Innovation

According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus took pity on mankind. He walked among men and noticed that they were no longer as happy as they were when Kronos the Titan was their king. He saw them living in the dark and shivering in the cold because they had no light to help them see and no fire to help them stay warm.

So Prometheus stole a spark from Zeus’s own lightning and brought fire to mankind. It was the dawn of civilization and enabled mankind to flourish.

But while mankind was now off cooking steak and smelting bronze, things didn’t work out so hot for Prometheus himself. For his disobedience he was chained to a rock at the top of a mountain and every day a giant eagle would come tear out his liver and eat it. At night, his liver would regenerate and the ordeal would begin anew each day.

It’s an interesting time for all the digital Promethei, especially those working in marketing. After all, our jobs require that we bring new and unknown ideas to our clients with the hope of ‘futurizing’ their marketing mix to make it more effective. In the America that we live in, almost everyone has a smartphone in his or her pocket. A majority of Americans have high-speed web access, and the sheer number of digitally enabled things we interact with is greater than ever before. The internet of things is upon us. The power and ubiquity of the platforms and APIs available to any given development team means things can be created at a scale and speed that were impossible 5 years ago.

Compounding the situation further is that you can’t flip through Wired or Inc. or Fast Company without reading pages upon pages about the ever-changing landscape of start-ups and internet-based businesses that are reshaping the American economy. The tech business is booming. Being a wild success with a tech idea is becoming the new American Dream and everyone fantasizes about becoming the next great digital titan.

But this has created a Jekyll and Hyde(1) type of situation. In one sense, it’s been empowering. Marketers are embracing new ideas and experimentation with a zeal that hasn’t seen since the early days of the web. Digital innovation is now coveted and the internet is no longer seen as an inferior medium compared to others. Additionally, clients are gaining a greater appetite for ‘new’ and “differentiating’ ideas and the willingness to try things may be at an all time high.

But.

As if they weren’t undervalued enough already, strategy and planning are becoming increasingly viewed as unnecessary, and clients are shifting from defining the objectives for a brand to defining the tactical imperatives of a brand. For example, it’s no longer ‘obtaining new customers’ or ‘getting a patient to stop missing every third dose’, it’s ‘build an app”, or ‘use Shazaam.’ This type of behavior isn’t new, but it does seem to be getting more commonplace with every passing day.

The problem isn’t so much the extensive tactical requests, but the inherent implication that because it’s supposed to be innovative, thinking isn’t necessary, success is easy, and poor design doesn’t matter. Mythologies have evolved with clients about what innovation is and how it happens, some of them so fanciful, they might as well come with wings and a tail. It’s time to dispel those myths and hopefully do so in such a way that we can all stop feeling like our livers are being eaten. Read More…

Youngest Person to Receive a Bioengineered Organ Dies

Writing for The Verge, Katie Drummond details the heartbreaking story of Hannah Warren, who was the youngest patient to receive a bioengineered transplant.

Hanna Warren

In an announcement posted online Monday, the Children’s Hospital of Illinois — where Hannah underwent a groundbreaking windpipe implant — confirmed the sad turn of events. “Although regenerative medicine remains in the early stages for pediatric patients, progress is being made,” the statement reads. “Hannah, and the physicians caring for her, helped advance this area of medical practice which is only at its very beginning stages.”

As the father of 3 girls, I read this with a mix of both sadness and hope. On the one hand, the tragic death of a child is excruciatingly painful for any parent. One of life’s true nightmares. On the other, Hannah’s bravery and contribution to science brings us one step closer to a medical future where organs can be manufactured and replaced, saving countless number s of potential lives.

My prayers go out to the Warren family.