Key trends from #ElSol2014


I’m at the airport heading back from my first trip to Sol, The Iberia and Latin American Advertising Festival. I was visiting with the students from the Design and Communication Lab at IED Madrid. The venues in Bilbao (which included the Guggenheim) were stunning and there was a great roster of international speakers (including Walter Susini – Unilever and Guido Rosales – Coca Cola).


Yesterday afternoon we managed to grab some time with the IED students and fellow tutor and JWT planning supremo Ugo Ceria to reflect on the key trends we’d seen at #ElSol2014



Purpose and cause was the major trend in communications for 2014. In Walter Susini’s excellent talk on the work Unilever are doing to drive purpose through their brands, he cited studies which demonstrated that brands with a deeper social purpose showed performance improvements of up to 350%. An interesting side effect of this is that when you watch a lot of purpose led communications together they lose their impact (2015 prediction: purpose fatigue). In the roundtable there was a good debate centred on the need for authenticity within the wider brand to drive purpose and the acknowledgement that purpose needs to live outside of the marketing veneer and throughout the whole business.

North versus South


If the Cannes festival shows the global cultural differences between East versus West, Sol demonstrated the ascendance of southern hemisphere’s creative talent and it’s impact on the creative landscape. Ugo called out that 10 years ago Argentinian creative was known for a humourous style. Now the southern hemisphere is more likely to deliver emotional storytelling evoking Gabo to underpin purposeful communications.



While the work was strong in Outdoor, press TV & Cinema, it was uneven across the smaller categories and my specialist field of digital felt one of the weakest.

However the main inequality which my students identified was around gender. The Jury panel of senior creative leaders featured 10 guys and 1 women (a fact not lost on the twitter stream). On a more positive note, there was a clear showing in the awards from a new generation of female creatives and a recognition that the industry was going to have to evolve.

Cannes Predictions


In terms of Cannes predictions, Brazil was strong as ever with “Bury the Bentley” and Getty looking destined for great things.


My personal favourite was “The Sun is not what you say it is” created by Lowe for Vision Labs.

Thanks again to all at Sol, IED and JWT Madrid for making this happen!

You can read more about the work shown at Sol in this great summary on Marketing Directo (in Spanish)

DIY Marketing Strategy for Lean Startups


For technical startup founders, the main challenge is building products that customers want. The Lean movement has given entrepreneurs a framework for iterating their startups to create maximum customer value, however, many early stage startups still struggle with marketing basics.

The advertising industry has spent decades studying peoples’ desires and has developed a set of specialist disciplines who focus on key components of the marketing mix. However, accessing the industry can be mind numbingly expensive for early stage entrepreneurs.

Three of the most common areas which I get asked about are value propositions, brand building and channel marketing.

1) Defining a Unique Value Proposition

Your value proposition, at it’s most basic form, is  your promise to customers. Propositions form the cornerstone of traditional marketing, they encapsulate why you are unique and why customers should care.

Inspired by Ash Maurya in Running Lean, there are four practical steps I would go through to define an early stage value proposition.

  1. Marketing sizing and BFN (Big Fricking Number) : Capture your business model hypothesis, make sure the addressable market is big enough (have a BFN to quote) and not owned by someone else.

  2. Problem / Solution pairs: Make sure you have a problem that customers can articulate and that you have a solution for this.

  3. Value Propositions: Summarise your promise to customers, focus on making it unique, memorable and single minded.

  4. Running experiments to validate and improve: iterate your value proposition with interviews, groups and tests until you are comfortable.

Ash has re-worked the business model canvas into “Lean Canvas”  the “10 Steps to Product / Market fit” deck below is a good primer. At early stages, I like to use a cut down version as an  “Opportunity canvas” which just focuses on the left hand (product) side.

2) Building a valuable brand

Your startups Brand goes beyond the logo and the look and feel of the website, it is the emotional response it builds with the people you are trying to sell to.

Building a “Valuable Brand” is normally associated with mature corporates and global advertisers, but understanding how Brands work is critical for early stage startups, as every external facing action you take will contribute to your overall Brand perception.

“The brand is a special intangible that in many businesses is the most important asset. This is because of the economic impact that brands have. They influence the choices of customers, employees, investors and government authorities. In a world of abundant choices, such influence is crucial for commercial success and creation of shareholder value.”

Brand Valuation: The financial value of brands (By Interbrand)

This summary of “Brand like a Rockstar” has got some good advice on branding

1) Stand Out: Being different is more important that being the best

2) Be Consistent:  Have a clear and consistent identity, keep repeating the same messages and values

3) Build a tribe: Become a rallying point for people around you with the same views.

3) Channel Marketing

As you become more confident about your unique value proposition and understand what you want your brand to mean, you can start to think about your marketing channels. A good starting point is to think about your funnel, touchpoints and campaigns.


Sales and marketing funnels map out the customer journey to buying your product. You can set yourself measurable goals at each stage of the funnel and deck different types of activity and levels of effort to help you reach these goals. (see: Startup metrics for Pirates).


Your touchpoints are the different places that your target audience can come into contact with you. It’s important that you have a holistic view of what these touchpoints are, which stage of the funnel they are focused on and how they connect together into a coherent journey.


Once your funnel and touchpoints are in order, you can start to drive traffic through them with specific campaigns. The first few campaigns for startups typically focus on attracting early adopters for prototype validation or signups to beta services. If you don’t have money for paid media, your initial public campaigns normally focus on a smart use of PR, coupled with search driving to a landing page sign up tool like


I’m hoping that some of the concepts mentioned here are useful for the startups I am  mentoring at the New Finance Meetup next week, please let me know if there are any other areas of traditional marketing that would could be useful for new startups.

5 things we learned running a kids coding club

We’re celebrating a year since a group of parents setup our children’s coding club: the East London CoderDojo. It’s a very informal and irregular session, but we have had really positive feedback from both kids and parents. If you’re thinking about setting up your own coding club, here are 5 things we’ve learned along the way.

1)   Borrow someone else’s organization structure. A lot of the early questions we had were around safety (do we need special insurance, or legal checks to work with kids?) format (how long should the sessions be, how frequently should they be held) and topics (what should we focus on?).  We used the CoderDojo structure, which is an “open source” organization, which got us up and running quickly

The best tip we learned from this was that parents have to stay with their kids, so you don’t have to take on insurance or safety responsibilities and also don’t get used as free daycare!

2) If you’re not sure, just ask. We were really lucky that the first session that inspired us to set up a coding club was the excellent CoderDojo in Camden which was led by Andy Kent (@andykent). Andy met us for a pizza and gave us loads of advice, he also put us in contact with Sarah Walker (@sazmattazz) and CoderDojo founder Bill Liao (@liaonet) who were really generous with their time and encouragement. The kids coding scene is very friendly and people are always willing to help, so just ask!

The best tips we learned from Andy were the ideal age (8-12) and timings (his sessions were run from 2-5pm on a Saturday which we also copied). In terms of content, he recommended that we focus our first few sessions on Scratch then move onto html / css / javascript (the kids loved the Ratchet framework He also gave us logins to @CoderdojoLondon and to help publicize the events and recommended we use eventbrite to organise tickets, manage numbers and keep in contact with parents.

The best tips from Bill were around making sure that girls were extra welcome and encouraged to come back (it can quickly become very boyish) and that you never touch the kids computers when they are having problems, explain how to fix their problems, but let them drive the keyboard.

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3)   Get lots of people involved in the organisation. This may sound counter intuitive if you are used to getting on and doing stuff as quickly as possible. One thing we learned the hard way is that having lots of people involved in the organisation makes it much more robust as people have busy lives with their families and day jobs and no-one person can attend every session. You need a group of parents to organise the events, more than one person who can “lead” the session (present, teach and take them through the tasks) and a bunch of parents / developers to act as “mentors” on the day and nudge the kids. We were incredibly lucky to find the amazing Stuart Seymour (@stuartseymour) to lead out first few sessions and get massive support from the developers at @ustwo as mentors (see below)

4)   Find an awesome venue (that doesn’t feel like a school). We were looking for a venue in East London near where we lived. We were really lucky that we had the “triangle” of Shoreditch, Old Street and Brick Lane on our doorstep, which is full of startups, tech companies and agencies. We were offered the amazing space at LBi on Brick Lane (@LBiLondon), but it was a bit big for us and we weren’t confident we could fill it .

Then Joel Brydon (@jbrydo) from digital product studio offered us the use of their amazing London space (see pictures above). It’s an informal and creative café area which seats around 25 kids and plus parents, with space to present and a projector / drop down screen.

Mills (@millsustwo) and the team have been great hosts, they rig up a robust guest wifi specifically for us and always leave us with loads of multi-plugs. The kids love the space as it’s covered in sketches and designs for ustwo’s upcoming projects like

One thing we didn’t count on was the support we got from the ustwo developers, not only do ustwo open their doors to us, but their dev team take time out of their weekends to mentor the kids and help them get over any bumps (A big thanks to Juan, Ajax and everyone else who has helped us over the last year!)

5) Just do the first one. If you’ve managed to read this far into this post and you are thinking about setting up a kids coding club, the best advice (which I was given by @liaonet) is “Just do the first one”. If you’ve got a bunch of organizers, a venue and some kids, go for it!

A big shout out to Joel, Sebastian, Sascha, Matt, Stuart, Johnny, Rob and Ajax who are currently organising the next session as well as my son Lucas who is always on hand to give us advice about what they want to learn next.

Lots of people have been very generous with their time and support, so apologies if I’ve missed anyone out! 

2014 Trends Digest Deck: Marketing for a Connected World

The last few weeks of 2013 saw a huge number of predictions, trends and lists of priorities for marketing in 2014.

I wanted to understand the digital shifts that are happening, so I digested all these 2014 marketing trends so you didn’t have to! These include

– Frog Design tech trends 2014
– Most Contagious 2013
– LeWeb Paris December 2013 “The Next 10 Years”
– Journalism, Media and Technology predictions 2014
– eMarketer Key Digital Trends for 2014
– CES 2014 roundup

The big theme I’ve identified for 2014 is going to be “Marketing for a Connected World”, let me know what you think or if you’ve got any comments or questions.


New McKinsey report on Disruptive Technologies



The McKinsey Global Institute have just released a report called Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, which identifies 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years.

3 key technologies which stand out from the usual suspects which they call out are:

Next-generation genomics marrying the science used for imaging nucleotide base pairs (the units that make up DNA) with rapidly advancing computational and analytic capabilities. 

Energy-storage devices or physical systems store energy for later use. Advancing energy-storage technology could make electric vehicles cost competitive, bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries, and improve the efficiency of the utility grid.

Advanced robotics—Increasingly capable robots or robotic tools, with enhanced “senses,” dexterity, and intelligence—can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate. 

Full report summary and PDFs to download free are here

Google Glass in 60 seconds

Google have finally released the Explorer Edition of their wearable computing system “Glass”.  There’s loads of noise about this at the moment, but if you can’t be bothered to wade through the blogs, here’s what you need to know in 60 seconds

–        The current edition of Glass is an early prototype aimed at developers, who had to pay $1500 and wait nearly a year after registering

–        Apps are starting to be released into the glass appstore, one of the first include social network Path.

–        The Glass hardware is pretty basic (with around $100 of components) and works best when tethered to a smartphone using Bluetooth (think of it like a Bluetooth headset)

–        Consumer versions are expected to retail for around $500 and be available in 2014

–        Hyper Blogger Robert Scoble was famously photographed wearing his Google Glass in the Shower, he reckons this initial product is a game changer like the original apple mac, which will get developed over the next 20 years

–        A tumblr called “White men wearing google glass” has been trending this week, with a great strapline “In its favour, if Google Glass didn’t exist, all these Silicon Valley guys would be having affairs or buying unsuitable motorbikes”

More reading

Robert Scoble on this week in tech video podcast

White men wearing google glass

Engadget Review

Engagdet “Living with Glass” series

The newsfeed web is changing the economics of content for brands


If you want to advertise your brand to online consumers, content seems like a more native way of doing it than display advertising. Content can be distributed across multiple touchpoints and function on multiple screens. If it’s creatively compelling enough, it will be picked up by people and shared across their networks.

The big challenge in creating great content that is effective for marketing on the web is the economics.

Evan Williams (@ev)  Co-founder of Blogger, Twitter & new quality publishing platform gave a great interview a couple of weeks ago where he described the challenge of this “newsfeed web” for content creation.

The Internet has dropped the cost of distribution, which has caused a flood of new information.


The Incentives reward frequency and keeping costs low when it comes to creating content.


Therefore we see more stuff, faster and faster … If volume increases that means that things disappear much more quickly.


That rewards a particular type of content.


Just the way we’ve decided to organise the web, which is to put the new thing on top, new thing on top … is a disincentive against investing in a particular piece of content. 

(from 12.30 on )

These economics mean that brands can’t take the same “feature & editorial” approach to content creation.  They need to create big story driven ideas, with many facets, which can easily executed into man snack size pieces. The alternative, as Anthony Mayfield (@amayfield) says, the alternative is