Object oriented planning

history of the world 100 objectsHistorians on the media have been running away with this. First, we had Neil Magregor’s History of the world in 100 objects, a Radio 4 series followed by a book.  It is also an ingenious promotion of the British Museum since all the objects came from there. After this he brought out Living with the Gods – another Radio 4 series – still available on podcast and an exhibition which is on at the British Museum priced £15 until April 7th. Does anybody want to join me on a visit at some point in the next month? And now we have Civilisations a BBC TV series with an app to accompany it.   So you can inspect each object in 3D and roll it around on the screen of your phone.  These seem to be promoting objects from regional UK museums – marketing is at work again!

Objects are a powerful way to think about culture. Not just because with ancient civilisations objects are all that is left for archaeologists to find. But also because to a significant degree, they are repositories for culture. We may think we carry the behaviours and conventions around in our heads and bodies. But without exception culture leaves a trace. We mark our contexts with signs and objects which signify and facilitate the way we practice our values.

brand wrapmap

The brand wrap map – using objects to understand customers

In the Pirate Inside Adam Morgan has a very useful chapter on brand wrapping where he borrows a model from anthropology. Within this scheme, he offers physical and sensory cues from iconic objects. And internal artefacts which embody internal culture in the host organisation – what it’s like if you are an employee or a volunteer. As well as language and customs and stories, objects have power.

So when understanding the customer’s world the study of objects needs to be part of it. The most obvious one from the perspective of the marketer – is the pack. Not only what it communicates and how visible it is on the shelf and in home. But how the pack is used. What meanings it has for the customer. You look for different information on a pack that you do if you visit a website. It’s different. And sometimes packs are left in prominent places in the home – they have meanings which are visible to the rest of the household or to visitors. But there are also objects associated with consumption as well as those which we use to signify status, or our state of mind.

Apps are objects too

hatstand jon steelIn the app we have a programmed object which is more like a tool than anything else. And it is worth looking at the apps that get used most frequently and recently. Versus those which you never use. In which case we might want to ask why you keep them on the phone/tablet? Why did you not delete them? What was the owner expecting but didn’t follow through to use?  Just as we measure empathy and standout for brands, we might want to evaluate apps for utility and relevance.

The value in an object is how it is used, what it means, what its history is and how it relates to other objects.  Compared with an idea which may be joined with other ideas – objects are intrinsically complicated – they may be decorated – they may reflect multiple or serial kinds of use with meanings changing as the use changes.  For planners, the value of an object is first in understanding those who live alongside it and may use it. But if we are set on behavioural change we may be interested in co-opting objects or even creating new ones or giving old ones new meanings. They are never repositories of communications – that’s a book. Or website. Objects are useful and meaningful.

Account Planning in 50 objects – what object will you nominate?

Account Planning is 50 this year. So as part of the celebrations, the Account Planning Group has set out to tell the story of planning these first 50 years in objects. The final list will be 50 but they are want to generate a lot more which through voting and argument we will boil down. You can see those already posted on the APG site here as a way of starting the process by which you can nominate objects.  We have a parallel page on Reddit where you can nominate objects. Please put a date on it if you can and a title, an explanation for why you think the object is significant as a part of planning culture. And your name please – we would like to know who is doing the nominating. Reddit allows discussion and up and down voting of ideas.


Designed by Matthew Pattman