2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Data and Technology. PART 3: DATA

Data is the flavor of the month

Skidding around the door like a late, naughty school-kid, comes our third post on Data Trends for 2018. Get in here, you scallywag!

Data science and its marketing is a subject that is here to stay, which to us, is refreshing in an industry too often full of whimsy and subjectivity. Over the past few years, however, our industry has developed a twisted relationship with data. At times we’ve seen it as a silver bullet, overplaying our hand, measuring “things” just because they can be measured without objectively interpreting the meaning or impact of what we’re doing; hello, fan count! Then there’s the bright, new shiny stuff in the world of emerging data trends that is cooooool. But first, we need to wind our way through the woods of regulation to get there. So let’s talk first about what’s around the corner and then reward ourselves with the awesome shiny toys of the future.

Measurement in a mire

It’s well known that we have an ongoing issue in terms of measurement; for example, while research says that online video is the present and the future, the major players can’t align on industry-wide benchmarks as they relate to it. Sure, action is being taken – internal councils are being formed, third-party integration solutions and independent industry audits are being conducted… but a lot of it is simply sound and fury, given that the actions aren’t necessarily solving the brand owner’s problem. Industry bodies such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Ratings Council (MRC) have been active in trying to progress discussion but you only have to look at their recent Digital Video Impression Measurement Guidelines, released in October 2017 for public discussion, to see that we’re not making progress fast enough. When you don’t have major media players such as Facebook and Omnicom at the table, there’s a telling sign. Also – notice the narrowing of the title? Now, major players, such as Nestle and HP are going out on their own; we predict that others will follow and that solutions will come from the brands and media intelligence firms this time, rather than the platform players, establishing metrics that matter to their business rather than industry-agnostic measures of old.

Walled gardens rise as a butterfly effect takes hold

There’s no way of putting this mildly: the free ride for brands on digital media – particularly as it relates to data acquisition is well and truly over and the stakes are rising for publishers.  The EU’s General Data Protection Law (GDPR) brings consumer protection firmly into the limelight. What’s worrying is how many brands, agencies and developers have their eyes closed to it but to do so is dangerous from a reputation, legal and financial POV. Why? Read our previous post for background, with advice from MENA media legal eagle, Fiona Robertson.

A perhaps unintended consequence of the GDPR laws is the rise of the walled garden, aka closed platforms. Platforms will now have to work harder at providing truly compelling, free services in exchange for audiences to provide them with personal data. No way will they be giving customer data away for free anymore. While GDPR is designed to protect its audience, it means an increase in advertising investment from brands seeking personalized customer interaction and validated audience data from platforms. Expect brands to be a lot more discerning about their media spends, a lot more demanding when it comes to data quality and unfortunately… for the smaller publishers to suffer they don’t get their ducks in a row. Throw in the universal uptake of ad-blockers and the repeal of net neutrality (which we are still in denial about) and you can see just how well-protected these walled gardens will be.

We asked location tech firm, Blis’, Managing Director Puja Pannum to weigh in. “Understanding audiences and where to reach them is a marketer’s number one priority before their first dollar is spent, and with more and richer data, targeting capabilities naturally improve. While it’s an absolute priority to protect consumer data, it is also beneficial [for vendors] to be transparent with brands about ROI and footfall data. But to do that, it needs to go both ways,” said Puja. “Brands need to be as transparent and open about their analytics and data sources, like loyalty card data and Google analytics, as vendors are about ROI. Currently, this is the only missing element in end-to-end transparency, something players on both sides should be striving for. In 2018, promoting the sharing of these kinds of data will help brands and their chosen partners build campaigns on more data sources and benefit from a holistic view of what’s working versus what’s not.”

Human + machine gives birth to Digital Twins

One of the more interesting aspects to come from the fusion of Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning is the Digital Twin. A Digital Twin is a virtual replica of physical assets, processes and systems which uses data to enable understanding, learning, reasoning and prediction. The aviation, aerospace and automotive sectors are the leaders in this field, whereby real-time analytics of critical aspects (such as tyre pressure, temperature, distance and speed) have been used to optimize efficiencies.

Where Digital Twin technology starts to get really interesting is in the area of predictive modeling and future-proofing, where we’ll start to see not just the what but the why, generated by the emergence of the “Digital Thread”. The Digital Thread is the contextualization or connectedness of data, informed by the integration of large and multiple data flows, both real time and historical, leading to actionable information – such as establishment of digital twins being able to accurately predict a range of outcomes at scale.

Gartner predicts that by 2021 around half of large industrialized companies will be using Digital Twins. All this said, Digital Twin technology has been around for decades – were it not for Digital Twins, the Apollo 13 mission may well have been doomed – it was this practice that enabled them to mirror how they could rescue the mission when it ran into trouble. Without Digital Twin technology, there would be no Mars rover Curiosity! Take a look at the video below, to see how curiosity, technology, ingenuity and data join forces to make miracles!

Thanks for reading our 2018 trends across content, technology and data. Please feel to drop us a line and let us know what you’re thinking about in this realm and of course, we welcome your feedback too!

 

2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Technology and Data. PART 2: TECHNOLOGY

Technology Empowers the Maker Generation

In the second of our three part series on 2018 trends, we now turn our gaze to technology. In this piece, we’re going to look at social trends produced by technology, rather than tech trends in and of themselves – there’s already squillions of posts out there on AR before VR, blockchain, mobile first approaches, addressable media, voice and mood recognition, data driven content and video content, just to name a few “trends”. Instead, we’ll be looking at social and cultural nuances directly influenced by technology, specifically as they relate to Generation Z, otherwise known as The Maker Generation.

Generation Z is fascinating and of great importance for a number of reasons. Firstly, in the Middle East Gen Z comprises half of the regional population – double that of the US or UK. Gen Z are our first true digital natives, born to digital-savvy parents – namely GenX –  into a world of advanced technological accessibility on a personal scale, with smartphones and social media for example prevalent in their lives since birth. This is the generation that will deal with “the singularity” and will need to assume the lead in addressing the social, moral, economic, ethical and political questions that the advent of such advances necessarily demand. Then there’s the small issue of looming environmental catastrophe that they must address. The reality and viewpoint of this generation will be so different to any other generation the world has seen – and we are already seeing signs of this emerging.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at where things heading today, in 2018.

On Work.

Today’s young adult is different. Unlike their millennial counterparts, a hallmark of Gen Z is a realistic and practical worldview; young adults of today don’t have experience of a life before economic instability and certainly don’t expect opportunities to be handed to them, rather they know that they have to make their own opportunities and be financially responsible. Industriousness, the ability to multi-task, resourcefulness, collaboration and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of this generation. Accessible, crowdfunded tech and collaborative workspaces are emerging symbols of this new way of working: check out the beautiful work being produced by Pier 9, as one example, where one exhibition required that each piece be made available via Instructables and a Creative Commons license, inviting anyone to collaborate.

While some educators lament that, as a result of technology, the attention span of this generation has dwindled, others recognize that the education system itself must necessarily change to become more collaborative. This is the generation that can code, does schoolwork on the cloud and is highly visual due the digital nature of work and interaction.  “Gen Z have always known how to pinch and swipe. They have grown up with hi-def, surround sound, 3D and now 4D – 360 degree photography and film is their normal. Ultra slow motion and hi-speed video is their standard.” (Sparks & Honey, Pew Research, 2012).

On Play.

Where are our young rebels, our wild-eyed-yet-wet-behind-the-ears individuals demanding a brighter future and showing us the way through music, art and culture? They’re not hanging out, partying or protesting the way generations before have done. But that doesn’t mean for a second that this generation is apathetic, far from it. This generation is different.

According to a recent “Think With Google” study, only 15% of Gen Z prefer to connect in person versus 56% who would rather connect through SMS or messaging apps. According to the same study, nearly 3 in 10 teens say they text with people who they’re physically with at the time.

What does this say?

When you overlay this data with other behavioral and attitudinal data, we start to see a clearer picture; this generation sees themselves as collaborative change-agents, a group that will hack the world for the better. And while potentially more physically reclusive than generations that have come before them, in this region, they still want to stand out and online is where their party’s at. In fact, I would argue that online is where GenZ’s “id” – the part of the personality that demands gratification of needs and pleasures – finds its outlet. Looking at this through the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can begin to see how technology, particularly social technology is impacting the two top tiers – those being self-fulfillment and psychological needs.

On World View.

As you can see, interesting research is beginning to emerge on this generation. According to a study conducted by the Center of Generational Kinetics, personal safety is high on Gen Z’s agenda. They can articulate the impact that social media has on their sense of self worth. Nearly half (42%) report they’ve been bullied online. Being a generation focused on positive and inclusive social movement Gen Z won’t tolerate these actions and it will be interesting to see how they find ways to solve this issue. Youth research consultancy Sparks & Honey found that Gen Z’s outlook is about togetherness; they’re more mature and have greater humility as realists compared to Millennials. Other research indicates a keen sense of financial responsibility.

A creative, resourceful and hyper-connected generation is emerging; one which is vastly different to millennials. For brands to meaningfully engage with The Maker Generation, they must find ways to nurture and empower their ambitions, to listen, collaborate, engage in real-time and ultimately have the confidence to stand back and watch them fly.

 

 

Bravo Romeo’s 2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Data and Technology. PART 1: CONTENT

Quality over Quantity. Effectiveness over Effusiveness.

If 2017 was the year of marketers pulling budgets and challenging the value of activities previously taken for granted, such as award participation and ad fraud; we think 2018 will be the year of media effectiveness.  Decision-makers will demand greater and more granular accountability in media spend, technology investments and content effectiveness.

Given the push for content effectiveness, thoughtful and well-researched content marketing initiatives will find their time in the sun, this year.

So first of all, for the uninitiated, what’s content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. While digital by provenance, content marketing is by its nature a practice which is media agnostic, taking the case of that old adage: right message, right time, right audience extremely literally and granularly. When applied correctly, content marketing should unify all marketing and communications efforts behind a unified content strategy, with realistic and relevant ROI measurement frameworks in place to analyze success and augment activity.

Why is it important?

Content is booming yet the audience attention is finite. In order to be heard, organizations need to be very careful about how they communicate.

As social and digital media has matured over the years, numerous (and often, major-player) marketers have become lazy about how they communicate, seeing social and digital channels as extensions of their traditional advertising approach. They’ve realized the potential reach of digital however have not necessarily respected the nuanced approach that’s required in order to achieve impact. Consequently, customers are bombarded with ads and messages which offer them little or no value. Given the suite of techniques and tools advertisers have at their disposal, such as super-refined audience segmentation techniques and location-based addressable media, customers can be engaged meaningfully when they’re in a certain mindset. It’s here the opportunity lies – but it’s on marketers to do their homework and have the right team that can bring such initiatives to fruition.

Where does success and failure lie?

(Clue: It’s much more more precious than money)

An agile and flexible content marketing strategy that is grounded in reality is key to success, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 benchmark report. Understanding that content marketing is not a quick-fix “silver bullet” but rather requires the all-too-precious investment of time and internal alignment is also clear.

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Organizations fail where there’s a lack of strategy, time and internal alignment. 

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Content marketing has the capacity to resonate more powerfully with customers because it’s carefully tailored to their needs and interests. For brands that want to be heard, an investment in content is almost inevitable, with more than 40% of B2C and B2B marketers increasing their investment in the practice in 2017.

As is often the case in life, the greatest rewards are hard-fought for. So too with gaining the attention and desired action of your intended customer; a well-thought out, creative and resonant content marketing program is your best means of success.

Next up? Bravo Romeo’s 2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Data and Technology. PART 2: DATA

Bravo Romeo: On a High at The Dubai Airshow!

Event of the year? For me it was the Dubai Airshow, hands down.

Having recently worked within a leading global airline’s corporate communications team I have been in the wings (pardon the pun) of organization of an airshow but this was my first experience as a delegate.

And it was nothing short of wonderous.

If I thought I was an #avgeek before, this experienced confirmed it. The big, beautiful draw of the open skies, the roar of an immensely powerful engine and the smell of jet fuel burning as each bird ascends from the runway up into the vast horizon. The romance, the thrill, the exhilaration. I can only wax lyrical! 

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As a former event manager however, I can’t help but wear my old hat and notice details, large and small. For example, the trap which companies fall into with their designated 3m x 3m white box. Sure, it “ticks the box” but from a delegate’s POV there is often nothing memorable about it; it makes me question the ROI measures that companies apply to their participation. Which is why I was absolutely delighted when we happened across the Boom Supersonic stand. Conceptualized by a Dublin-based company called Catapult, it completely disregarded everything typical about exhibition stand layout and created an experience that delegates were automatically drawn to. Minimalist yet compelling. Below is a snap of the finished product and not a rollup banner in sight!

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Image Credits: thisiscatapult.com 

Now I shall retire my events hat for the moment and swap it for my communications hat.

We went to the airshow with very little agenda, seeking instead to ensure we remained up to date with what’s going on in the industry. One thing that we were so pleasantly reminded of is that there really is nothing like a good old fashioned conversation. In fact, the conversations – and hospitality – that we enjoyed with various people  and companies across the two days was such a highlight. CAE, Boeing and Alsalam, we’re looking at you!

Now this may be quite un-millenial of me to admit; but I often feel that, in this hyper-connected world we live in, we forget the value of face-to-face interaction with people. In this age of screen-time overload, people are genuinely so refreshed by face-to-face conversations. And somewhere like the airshow, in an out-of-office setting, you don’t feel like you’re encroaching on people’s time or burdening them by just dropping by. It was really refreshing to meet new people (Meredith even got to meet her hero Sir Tim Clark!) and share stories. It should come as no surprise that at Bravo Romeo we love a good chat, we are after all storytellers by trade.

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Bravo Romeo’s CEO Meredith Carson (pictured on the right) and Communications Manager Katie Rose Cuthbert

Lastly, there’s a reason it’s on for a week. It is vast! If you’ve only blocked a day to go, believe me when I say it is not enough. The expo is absolutely huge and that’s before you even make it outside to the incredible static display. Organize meetings in the morning and make sure your 2pm is open so you can catch the magnificent air display. I considered trying to describe the full wonder of the display, but as I type I’m reminded of a quote from screenwriter Micheal Parfit who once said, “Can the magic of flight ever be carried by words? I think not”. So I’ll leave it to your imagination, and see you on the tarmac in 2019.

In Plane Sight: Building Aircraft Components in Dubai

Ahead of this year’s Dubai Airshow, our CEO Meredith Carson was invited to share her thoughts on what the future of Dubai’s aircraft manufacturing industry looks like.

An avid aviation lover and industry expert, here she explains how the UAE is set to innovate globally within this space.

You can read the full article here.

Featured Image Credit: Visit Dubai

 

Digital Transformation. Buyer, Beware!

I’ve been watching the rise of the digital transformation business trend, as it relates to marketing and communications, over the past year or so with an eagle eye and a raised eyebrow. Why? As experts in the field of developing digital and through-the-line marketing communications efforts, I’m skeptical of the way the industry is conducting its practice.

See, this industry is so good at jumping on and running with a buzzword. IoT! Big Idea! Big Data! Everyone’s gone native, pitched this, propped that and worn the T-shirt with pride. But oftentimes that t-shirt is a couple of sizes too big…

In the instance of Digital Transformation, agencies and consultancies are galvanizing and pitching themselves as masters of the trade without necessarily equipped with the tools and know-how but arguably more importantly, without fully appreciating the weighty implications this carries for their clients.

In this day and age, I believe that, sometimes, in order to speed up one must first slow down. In the frantic race to digitize all the things, including my left pinkie, I invite you to take a moment so I can share with you my top-line thoughts and recommendations for organizations being pitched a digital transformation initiative. I’m happy to discuss further and at great length also, feel free to get in touch at hello@bravoromeobyaj.com

  1. Digital Transformation can mean anything. When you’re being pitched digital transformation, it’s essential to really get a clear idea of what exactly that person or company is referring to and how profound a change it will have. Depending on who you’re talking to it could mean anything from “let’s put all your marketing and communications online” all the way to “let’s completely change your business model and organizational structure” and everything in between. A digital transformation initiative is not something to take lightly as it has the potential to have huge consequences (hopefully great and long-lasting ones!). It requires serious auditing, very well thought out and informed strategy and operational roll-out, including robust measurement frameworks.
  2. Organize around the audience. While we’re a digital-led marcomms firm, I’ll be the first to tell you that TV and radio are not dead. Declined consumption and media fragmentation? Sure. But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. First and foremost it’s important to understand where your audience is, how they interact with various forms of media, be it a podcast or pole poster, and plan accordingly. Think message before medium. 
  3. Infuse rather than pivot. Touching on my point above, integrated marketing communications (IMC) means using a range of touchpoints to communicate meaningfully. It is not a buzzword. IMC is a practice which has been around way before I first cut my teeth as a digital copywriter in a below-the-line ad agency, back in 1999. IMC is a responsible practice, which takes all touchpoints into consideration to make sure the brand story is revealed in a way that is well-received by its intended audience.

When we started Bravo Romeo earlier this year, we thought long and hard about digital transformation as a practice and really thought about what it meant and what our promise and philosophy is. What we quickly realized is that digital transformation within a marketing and communications context should be best practiced as part and parcel of IMC: responsibly, thoughtfully, beta testing, reviewing and augmenting to see what resonates with key stakeholders and what doesn’t; by overlaying the audience’s interests with business objectives and setting measurement frameworks which align with these objectives. We’re with team Solis here, digital transformation should be gradual and phased.

So, if you’re setting out on a digital transformation mission, ensure you’ve done your homework, ensure you have a compelling commercial and strategic mandate to make such a change and ensure you have the right partners on board. Because, pussycat, in an age where everything is faster, faster just be sure that the rush to the big shiny tech toy doesn’t kill kill.

Data and Consent: 6 ways that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts MENA businesses.

If you haven’t heard about the GDPR you will soon; it’s a set of regulations being brought in by the European Union in May 2018 to tackle data and, specifically, consent.

In this post, we paint a picture of its implications for businesses; from a legal, content, reputation management as well as business development perspective in the MENA region and globally, with valuable input from Fiona Robertson – Al Tamimi and Company’s Senior Legal Associate for Technology, Media & Telecommunications.

Read on guys, this is an important heads-up that’s not being discussed in the industry here as much as it needs to be. And when we say important – we mean important to the tune of 20 million euros. At least. So, let’s start at the beginning…

What is Consent?

In a nutshell, consent means offering users choice and control. With regards to data, the GDPR defines consent as “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

In the Middle East, as users we face real issues with consent – being relentlessly abused by marketers, who flog their wares flagrantly in the face of the law, using personal data they genuinely have no right to use. As marketers, we owe it to ourselves and the brands we represent to regulate how we use data and how we manage consent. Why? Because brand reputation matters.

Consent and Reputation Management

Placing legal ramifications aside – just for a moment because they’re the juicy bits – the benefits of getting consent right are significant both from a customer service and brand trust perspective.

By being compliant with global best practice, you are demonstrating to your customers that they are genuinely valued and respected. You’re elevating your brand above the competition. Getting it wrong means (at best) eroding brand trust, reputation damage and inhibiting the likelihood of customer engagement now and further down the line. So… what do you need to know?

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Image Credit: pixabay.com

In order to put together the following recommendations, we pored over the UK Information Commissioner’s Office Advice and joined forces with Fiona Robertson – the region’s leading light in Technology, Media and Telecommunications law. Please bear in mind, the legislation isn’t yet finalized – it’s released in May 2018 – however we hope it serves as a guide to help you prepare.

  1. The first thing that you need to know is that there’s a lot to know and attention to detail is critical. Read the ICO’s advice (linked above). There are specific new provisions on a range of areas, including requirements around children’s consent for online services and, as you can imagine, consent for scientific research. The regulation applies to the manner of collection of data, the way data is secured and processed and the way in which it is used.
  2. While the regulation applies to the European continent, when your audience is on the continent, you will be subject to the law. In addition, and really importantly, the regulation is drafted to apply to all EU citizens, no matter where they are resident. In reality, this means the law is to be treated as a global mandate, as finding out who and who isn’t an EU citizen is not at all a practical reality and would represent a feat of data management in and of itself.
  3. Furthermore, the laws will apply to any entity that is part of an EU corporate structure. From a practical perspective, MENA subsidiaries will be expected to comply, as their European offices could be held liable for their errors.
  4. When it comes to UX design and data capture, assume nothing and do your homework. The draft regulation indicates that it will require specific and granular action. A blanket check box will not cover you off, so be thorough. Put a team together to ensure organizational-level understanding if you’re an agency and (at least) departmental-level understanding within Marcomms & IT if you’re client-side and – in all cases – set internal protocols and working processes.
  5. Another important point Fiona urges us to remember is that EU “Data Controllers” (who are the office-holders responsible for data in a corporate entity) must carry out due diligence regarding their suppliers’ data management processes, where they will be collecting or managing data on their behalf. Failure to undertake this due diligence may also result in a fine to the EU entity, so expect them to be very diligent in their due diligence! UAE companies that do not pass this due diligence process can expect to be overlooked for EU contracts. So, there’s a new business aspect to this as well, agencies. The agreements that you will see coming in from the EU will now include this higher standard for data collection, management and use. These clauses will not be negotiable, being required by the new law. This means that a company could be held in breach of contract if it fails to comply with the data provisions and could well be expected to include an indemnity for failing to comply as directed.  Given the size of the fines involved, it will be important to take this contractual obligation seriously.
  6. If a complaint is made, then the EU will notify all people that it believes might have been subject to that breach. This could open your company up to wider findings of infringement and could well create a public relations crisis. This will also most certainly negatively affect your ability to secure future EU contracts.

As you can see, getting it wrong is costly – beyond reputation damage, businesses may face substantial fines. Infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data, including conditions for consent, are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. It could mean a fine of up to 20 million euros or 4% of your total worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.

This is not just about obeying the law, it’s about best practice. In the near future, Fiona and I will be hosting a seminar on the GDPR and its implications. Drop us a message at hello@bravoromeobyaj.com and we’ll make sure you’re on our guestlist. Best of luck everyone!

 

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Why You Can’t Afford To Operate In A Marcomms Vacuum

Guys, we need to get it together.

Here is a truth; everyone in this industry, no matter whether they’re client side or agency side wants to do great work. Everyone. Whether on a grand or small scale, we all want to do work that moves the dial and inspires action.

Lately however, I’ve been reading posts, mostly on LinkedIn, with people from agency land emotionally wilting. Feeling lost, miserable, their work feeling futile. I was quite taken aback by some of the discussions; they were coming from heavy hitters – some very well-established international industry types and they were utterly lamenting. Why? Budgets are being cut. They can’t get their work through. Struggling to find meaning, that sort of thing.

Client side, it’s same-same-but-different. I recently had a senior regional brand owner,  sit at my kitchen table on a sunny Saturday morning to discuss how she just felt like she was spinning her wheels. Internal alignment was a nightmare, managing her many agencies felt like herding cats, budgets had been slashed and she just didn’t feel that she could move the dial. And how on earth could she keep herself and her people up-to-date with everything that’s going on in the digital world?

This gig is tough at the moment, on a number of levels. We all know that. There is a little silver lining however: challenging times can be a strangely inspiring and produce quite incredible work. It forces people to spring into action and get it together; to think sharply and make the best of the resources they have.

In this environment, collaboration is key to success. In this crazy, hectic, sometimes bonkers world of acronyms, algorithms, and addressability, you simply can’t go it alone. There’s too much to know and too many opportunities to miss out on. In this feature in Campaign Magazine, we talk a little more about our thoughts on this and the role that we play in helping agencies and brand owners work in a more cohesive manner. Have a read and we invite you to share your views: http://campaignme.com/2017/09/10/112856/bravo-romeo-story/ 

We don’t do blame in this family.

“The disastrous impacts of a blame culture work environment.

When I was growing up, “we don’t do blame in this family” was a mantra within our family unit. The motto of our parents that was rolled out whatever the situation; be it a way to diffuse a sibling squabble, a joke that was cracked when an exit off the M8 was missed, or simply when making a comparison to the approach of other families around us.

I remember as a child being so frustrated by this phrase. We don’t do blame in this family but it’s all HER fault I would proclaim, casting daggers at my younger sister. I didn’t get it. Understandable at the age of 8. However, as I have grown up it has stayed with me as a constant throughout both my personal and professional lives, and become the phrase that has shaped my outlook.

In recent years I have spent time at both ends of the spectrum; from a relaxed, friendly work place, to an authoritarian blame culture where the premise upon arrival was “trust no-one”. Having lived-through (read: survived) both, I can safely say the former is a much more enjoyable and productive environment to be part of.

If your employees are too scared to speak up out of fear, imagine how many ideas/suggestions/brainwaves that you’re missing out on because it becomes easier (safer!) just to stay quiet, keep your head down and do the bare minimum. If employees see others around them get blamed for things going wrong when their intentions were nothing but good, what message does this spread to the rest of the workforce?

How does a blame culture thrive, and what can be done to stop it?

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1) It stems from the top.

In order to facilitate a no-blame environment, it has to be endorsed right from the top and will not work with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. As a leader, it is their role to take the most arrows, even if it means taking some for the team from time to time.

2) No blame does not mean no accountability.

The concept of blame, I believe, stems from a lack of taking responsibility for one’s own actions, and therefore the easiest thing to do is to point the finger at someone else. A work-place blame culture greatly reduces the effectiveness of a team as employees fight to carve out their niche, rather than work together towards a common goal.

However, this does not mean that people will not be held accountable for their actions. A simple way to implement this is to put in place KPIs and metrics for every project. If expectations are clearly defined throughout the process, it’s more difficult to shift blame.

3) It’s not an excuse.

Having a no-blame policy in the workplace does not mean that employees are allowed to get away with out-of-order behavior. The difference is in the response to dealing with such behavior. Instead of wasting time and effort appointing blame, issues are examined, and a clear strategy for improvement is derived.

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Image Credit: Sonya Teclai

 

It is not an easy feat. And ultimately, it begins with trust – from both sides.

Looking to the market, Netflix is a great example of how a large corporation is approaching this. Their Culture Deck  has become an industry benchmark for how to set the tone of a workplace. They believe that trust is a two-way entity and empower their employees through this outlook. Employees are encouraged to take control of their own approach to the company, managing their own deadlines, holidays and workload.

As one of the earliest employees to join Bravo Romeo by AJ, I find myself in the fairly unique position of being able to help shape the culture of our workplace. Add to this the fact that we are a startup, it means we have carte blanche to set the tone of the company and not be tied to existing workplace policies that other more established companies are often faced with. I am determined to ensure that the company grows up with the right values, and stays true to them as we expand. 

With this in mind, I believe blame to ultimately be a completely redundant emotion, both in leading a business and in life in general. It erodes collaboration and breeds toxicity. The time you spend blaming someone for something can be much better spent solving the problem, or working out how to improve in future. Here’s hoping I can learn from the stellar example that my parents set, and always practice what I preach. 

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Brand Own Goal or Brand-as-Troll?

The fallout for a brand can be huge when its intentions are unclear, according to Bravo Romeo’s Communications Manager, Katie Rose. 

As I’m sure most of you have seen by now, the Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek stirred controversy last week with the release of their (rather excruciating) new marketing campaign #LaraIs30.

Where to start? The awkward script that doesn’t flow? The stilted way the actors read their lines? The awkward tone of voice and forced Radisson Blu mentions? It’s like they were playing a game of “how many people can we offend and how fast?”. Let’s take a look at a few of the most cringe-worthy moments:

“You’re well fit and you’re Lebanese, which means you can cook.”

Would you like a dash of misogyny with your xenophobic starter, sir? A slice of objectification on the side? Certainly, we will arrange that here for you, at the Radisson Blu.

The  idea that women should be married by 30.

This nurtures this unhealthy idea that women who are not married have somehow failed. Believe it or not guys, we’re not all waiting around for our Prince Charming so we can stop what we’re doing and focus on becoming “wifey”.

The male actor’s verbal violence.

If a man acted that verbally aggressively toward me in a restaurant, I would leave immediately – wouldn’t you, ladies? I would also hope that the staff might step in and check on what’s up at our table. That the Radisson scripts the girl sitting there just taking that abuse hardly sets a positive example.

“Let’s close this deal” and “jog on”.

Do people actually speak like this in real life?! OK maybe some “geezers” do… But nevertheless the script is forced and jarring.

“Have you ever had Emirati food before”, “yeah, I’ve had a donner kebab”. 

The stereotype that the English don’t speak any other languages, and are generally quite ignorant of other cultures when they travel is already alive and well. Again, it’s just another iteration of a xenophobic stereotype.

I could go on. And on. And on.

Radison Blu - Lara
Image Credit: Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek Facebook Page

 

It got me thinking though. How can a brand get it so spectacularly wrong in 2017? Is this an outstanding example of content marketing gone wrong…

….Or, is this an example of “brand-as-troll”?

Are we playing directly into the Radisson’s hands? This content is so bad, it surely cannot be sincere. Is the Radisson trolling us all and have we given them the exact reaction they were looking for? We at Bravo Romeo think so, however there are some important lessons here:

  1. If you’re going to troll your audience; go hard or go home. You need to come out of the traps hard and not leave your audience in any doubt over your intentions. Radisson’s intentions remain opaque.
  2. See it through and strike while the iron is hot. Radisson promised us the next installment two days ago. We are still waiting. Therefore the Radisson looks like it buckled under pressure, admitted defeat. It makes us think that the other episodes must have unfit to be shared publicly. I would love some insight into the creative process here. Did the creative team back down? If so, here’s that message again – stand behind your work, see it through, be brave, be prepared to cause a stir and run with it. (For a refresher, see point two in our post on how to create and destroy a masterpiece.
  3. From a scripting and direction POV it should have either been “so bad it’s funny”; or a humorous in-joke which the audience gets; or something so absurdly ridiculous, the audience is shocked, then gets it. Radisson, however, failed to coherently execute across any of these approaches.
  4. What may have started out as a decent concept, drowned in the execution. The narrative falls to bits by trying to do too much. Are we focussing on the fact she’s 30, are we focusing on the stereotypes? Are we focusing on the aggressive male loser? Are we focusing on the dishes being awkwardly presented? Are we focussing on the fact that it’s a trusted hotel for young ladies? The narrative is all over the place, there are too many messages and at times mixed messages at that.

 

trolling image
Image Credit: Quickmeme

 

So, should brands troll?

With all these potential pitfalls, brands have to ask themselves “is it worth the risk?” This is explored further in this great piece by Campaign that weighs up the benefits to the cost of such initiatives. As with all disruptive marketing – our answer is yes but only if it’s genius both in terms of concept and execution.

As wonderful as it is that brands have the bravery to try out alternative marketing communications, ultimately this is a rather unfortunate example of a) how important it is to have your intention and narrative straight from the beginning and b) to stick to your guns. I would be fascinated to know what the initial concept and treatment was, to see whether this was a face palm from the get-go, or whether it was a case of creative compromise gone wrong.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Proimos