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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

This Month’s Newsletter

March 2018: Ask the Lonely – something wrong with our culture


These last few weeks I have been working with the Campaign to End Loneliness, running workshops to assist their agency in developing a campaign. What has come home to me forcefully has been the way in which the forces of professionalisation, compliance and technology are making it more and more difficult for people to access services to which they are entitled. Or to apply for funding via a process that takes many times longer than the activity which needs funding. In parallel I have started teaching research and HR in a local HE college one day a week and have been amazed at the forest of bureaucracy that requires me make 25 checks when entering a classroom including instructing students to remove coats and hats, and to put their bags right under tables to ensure a safe learning environment (even when they are in their 30s!). I need to maintain what is called ‘individualised learning strategies’ even for students who never turn up to learn!  Added to this my experience of the health service this last year has shown that healthcare professionals often know who needs support. Some people are so lonely that they experience human contact as intensely painful. But data protection and safeguarding prevent doctors from telling anybody else such as a body of volunteers not within the service who might have the time and motivation to make connections.

In marketing we have GDPR imminent, we are in exactly the same place.  Automation doesn’t just replace human activity. It adds an additional layer of due diligence and reporting. The percentage of human involvement in marketing is disappearing into a fog of regulation and measurement – ostensibly to protect people but effectively leaving millions isolated and further removed from human contact. It is dehumanising and it has to be reversed. The more we regulate the more we fragment. The one ray of sunlight is that GDPR will force marketers to rationalise customer relationships to make them meaningful. If you would like to discuss how to make those relationships genuine – then why not talk to me about how to do that?

History, account  planning and objects – branding is older than you think!

brandingI have been reading the History of the World in 100 objects, Neil Magregor’s book and Radio 4 series telling the history of the human race using 100 objects all found in the British Museum.  I draw your attention to the gold coins of Karmaragupta – a coinage and representation of Hindu Deities including a temple building programme that helped to secure the Gupta empire. It showed me that branding is much more ancient than logos on packaging on 19th-century American goods. Empires have used currency and deities to formalise a shared understanding of values and culture. If your colleagues are struggling to understand branding, send them down to the British Museum!

In the last month, Anna Thairs of Grey and myself, working with the team at the Account Planning Group of London have posted the first objects in a series that we hope will grow though the year. It will describe the history of planning using the objects. You are welcome to nominate objects of your own.  You can follow progress here on the APG site.  We also have a page on Reddit which allows you to make nominations, argue or support those already posted and up or down vote too. Do feel free to join in, whether you work day to day as a planner or not. Our first task is to ensure that people nominate objects rather than ideas or people. I think you will enjoy seeing it take shape.


Emergence the secret sauce of research according to Joanna Chrzanowska

mrs awards workshoppingLast month I had lunch with friend and colleague Joanna Chrzanowska last month. Joanna and I have been running training for researchers for many years working first alongside Mike Imms.  She is one of the most expert researchers I know. She was describing to me the unique value of qualitative interviewing which she calls emergence. Following a line of questioning and deep attention that enters the world of the person being questioned to discover an emotion, and a thought connected with it. Which may be entirely new to them and is a kind of discovery. This is at the heart of good qualitative research interviewing.

We conventionally call these discoveries insights. They are worth millions to the marketers who build products and services around them. Careful sifting that reveals the pure gold dust is the starting point. That’s why this process of emergence is so powerful and qualitative research continues to be so valuable. All new ideas start with a feeling which most people struggle to put into words. Data harvesting has severe limits. If you want to learn more about this then I would advise you to visit Joanna’s website Qualitative Mind. If you can persuade her to work with you then you are doing well!   The photo, by the way, was taken when Joanna and I won the Best Workshop award at the MRS awards night some years ago.

In other news 

The year presses on.If you have a project to discuss, do get in touch. Workshops, planning projects or indeed research projects. Ginny Valentine research bravery nominations are once again open for 2018 with only a few weeks to go before they close. So visit here to find out more about how to do that.
I have posted a new blog about the value of thinking about objects in customers’ lives on the blog here. Bring on the spring thaw!

Check out the blog at Further and Faster or follow johngriffiths7 on twitter.

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