Retail has to act – now

The internet alone is no longer futureproof. Omni-channel shopping is the way forward – shopping on all virtual and analogue channels. However, only very few retailers have plans for this.

On the one hand: Online shopping is booming like never before. In the last year, turnover in Germany increased by 12.5 percent to almost 54 billion euros. A further increase of 11 percent is expected for this year. On the other hand: The stationary retail business is buzzing. The fashion industry, for example, had its best September in 17 years.

Apart from the fact that German citizens are keeping the economy running with a generous desire to buy, above all this means that: All the projections suggesting that we will only order things online within a few years’ time are false. The term omni-channel shopping, shopping via all channels, has long been an integral part of the retailer’s vocabulary – at least since the online giant, Amazon, began to infiltrate the real shopping world. Amazon has taken over the American organic food store chain, Whole Foods, and is opening its own supermarkets and book stores. For most retailers in Germany, it seems that setting-up an online store would be enough to be able to survive despite all the new and powerful competition from the web world. Unfortunately it’s not.

It is only a matter of time before Amazon expands to Germany with its physical shopping world. No company relentlessly infiltrates the lives of customers with its services and devices like this retail giant, with an annual revenue of 136 billion dollars – the trend is on the rise. And it is by no means the only online retailer that wants to settle in the shopping streets. Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer, Zalando, is also considering opening shops and the online furniture stores, Westwing and Home 24, have already done it.

They are no longer two business worlds that run side by side, the virtual and the real. They are now visibly overlapping. Successful e-commerce needs stationary trade – and vice versa. However, only those that manage to combine them in harmony will reap the benefits. “E-commerce is becoming more and more physical, accessible and offers a more intense experience, while physical trade is drawing nearer to the web in many ways: It is becoming more interlinked and data driven,” explained Dough Stevens, founder of the consulting company, Retail Prophet, whose client list includes names such as Coca-Cola, Disney and Google. “New technologies are speeding up the development of both channels. The line is becoming more and more blurry, and at some point, we will not be able to say with certainty whether the buying experience is digital or physical.”

Nowadays, customers are well-informed, demanding, price-conscious, impatient and lazy. They want to shop as they please. For traditional retailers, this means: They have to be involved in all channels that the customers may potentially use – shops as well as the traditional catalogue, plus online, mobile and dialogue all the way through to smart TV. However, not many have managed this so far. 90 percent of German companies do not have an integrally networked digitisation strategy. This could be their downfall when it comes to omni-channel shopping.

For many, it’s all about mobiles. For the largest players in the USA, the revenue share of orders via smartphones or tablets is already between 60 and 70 percent. Mobile phones are by no means just a shop window for retailers. “Speed and convenience are essential to a shopping experience and determine success or failure,” said Gerrit Heinemann, manager of the eWeb Research Center at Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. For example, for retailers this could be an app that alerts customers when the product arrives and lets them know where there is a parking space available. And in the shop, the customer can pay for their goods via the app without having to go to the checkout.

If possible, they would like to have the goods conveniently delivered to their home in the evening, instead of dragging bags around. In some cities in Germany, Amazon has the Evening Express, Media and Saturn offering delivery within three hours, while Deutsche Post works on a Same-Day-Delivery standard for all others. Such operations also work on a small-scale, as the example of Kiezkaufhaus in Wiesbaden shows: Local retailers present their products on the website. The customer orders online and the product is delivered that evening by bike courier. 80 percent of the orders are food stuffs and there has never been a return.

Of course, the physical shopping experience – with an emphasis on experience – is completely lost. It is high time for an upgrade. Department stores and brand shops may be livening up their shop floors with gastronomy, but this can only represent a stepping stone. Tomorrow’s shop will offer completely new worlds of experience driven by the technological development. For example, a few years ago, Burberry established virtual mirrors in its flagship store in London: If you hold a piece of clothing in front of it, the mirror shows you what it would look like on.

The shop is a showcase for innovations. This will mean that it will be possible to present products in the future that are not yet on the market, but that the customer can alter to their needs by means of configuration. In addition to virtual reality, augmented reality will also be introduced – the new iPhones have this technology. Ikea, for example, is working on an app that transposes furniture into images of real environments on your mobile phone.

A side effect that should not be underestimated related to this type of new shop concept is the required investments, but cost savings in the long run. As, instead of 400 square metres, 100 is enough for the haptic experience, the web takes care of the rest. The products do not have to be stored in an expensive warehouse in the city, but are delivered from the outskirts by courier. This considerably reduces the cost of rent, a big chunk of every retailer’s outgoings. And it draws new players to the inner cities – from the e-commerce giants to car dealerships, that introduce their models virtually, yet life-size and in 3D. Cities are becoming more colourful.

The future institute in Frankfurt, a think tank of various scientists, is going even further. The shop is becoming a place for open innovation. This means: Buyers and sellers become equal partners, not only in sales, but also in the manufacturing process, product range selection, product design and marketing. At Community Retail, customers help design the products. It’s worth it: In Japan, the retailer Muji investigated whether there are differences in the sales figures of furniture if they were designed by customers or if they came from their own design centre. Result: In the first year after the product launch, the sales revenue of the user-designed products was three times higher than that of the products from the design house. Over the years, this effect has increased.

This is all based on customer data – the more and the more exclusive, the better. This means that completely new business models can be created. The Otto group has launched a first approach in this direction with the About You portal. Based on all the data collected, a custom-made web shop is created for each individual customer. The vision for the future is to have orders already prepared before they even arrive.

The future of trade is dependent on technological understanding, but in particular on new ideas. Amazon has registered 1662 patents in the last year.

The zest for life of employees is one of the most important values of the economy

The zest for life of employees is the elixir for corporate success

How many times have we heard this before: “Employees are our most important asset!” Let’s be honest: Though most of the time they were just beautiful words, right? However, they are fully applicable for our future – only then will change really happen. That’s why we have to give employees more central responsibility in company management.

At Serviceplan in Munich, as of late there is an atelier, the “Brienner Above”. Our employees can let off some steam here, with oil and acrylic paints, crayons, canvases or on the sewing machine. Conditions: That they do something completely different here to what they do every day in their job. They should calmly fulfil new ideas, without targets or performance indicators.

What makes it special is not the atelier as such, but rather the fact that it was conceived, founded and accounted for by an employee. Michael “Mais” Sundermann, Head of Design at our Plan.Net Pulse agency. “Now and then, creative people have to escape everyday life and try something new in order to improve” he said.

Small escape from the agency routine

Why have we supported Michael’s idea? Firstly, because we are naturally interested in our employees constantly improving. If small escapes from the agency routine are necessary for this – then we are happy to provide them. Secondly, we want all of our employees at Serviceplan to feel comfortable and to stay with us.

The turnover rate shows that we are on the right path: In the last two years it sank by two and three percent. If the motivation of our employees was not excellent, we certainly wouldn’t have produced an increase in sales of 12 (14/15) and 14 percent (16/17) in the past two financial years. Additionally, customer satisfaction, which we poll annually, constantly remains at an above-average level. If the employees are happy, everyone involved will benefit.

Who likes to take on responsibility

The atelier is an example of our new company philosophy, we’re calling it “Ownership”: We encourage employees to shape our company with new ideas and to prepare for the future together. To do this, we need colleagues who regard themselves as entrepreneurs and who are happy to take on responsibility. This new working style – for which the term New Work has been established – is, in our opinion, pivotal to the success of digital transformation and beyond.

New Work and digitisation – these are two sides of the same coin. A company can only respond quickly and flexibly to the increasingly rapid demand of requests of the market if both concepts work.

Basically, we all want the same

That is why we don’t (just) manage company change from the board room, but also from within the workforce. This makes sense simply due to the fact that there are striking similarities between Serviceplan’s aims and the wishes of many (especially younger) employees. Basically, we all want the same: Flexibility, continuous learning and stimulating communication.

So what reason is there not to join forces? Why shouldn’t we shape our company together, employees and management? HR is ideal for moderating this exchange.

The old enticements don’t work anymore, the old rigid rules are annoying

If we take a closer look at the desires of our employees, they are now well explored. Especially the younger generation (Y, Z, digital natives, millennials or whatever they’re called) do not want to have rigid work rules, e.g. turning up on time in the morning, compulsory attendance while working, forbidden from having a side job, maximum of three weeks of holiday at a time. Classical enticements such as a good salary, company car, career path and canteen are less effective than in the past.

Instead, they want jobs in which they can realise themselves and do not always have to be at the same desk at the same time. They want an equal exchange. They want a boss that is approachable – and are not afraid to have extensive discussions with the aim of putting the world to rights.

Do you think these claims are outrageous? We disagree: We see them as a valuable source of inspiration to successfully master the change.

Good results at kununu and in the cafeteria consultation hours with the personnel manager

There are valid reasons to make sure that your employees are not only satisfied, but are also happy and inspired. That is why, three times a year, we evaluate “Colleague Satisfaction” in 60 companies of our group. This value is currently at 72 percent, which we are proud of.

On the kununu rating portal we have a good rating, with over 3.5 out of 5 stars, the apprentices praise us with a 4.15. In order to keep the channels of communication open with the employees, twice or three times a week our personnel manager, Winfried Bergmann, sits in the Serviceplan cafeteria in Munich from 7:30 in the morning; anyone who has any questions or wants to share problems or suggestions can come and join him. Anyone who would prefer to remain anonymous can, for example, use the complaints office on the internet. These letters are answered immediately and discretely by Winfried Bergmann.

In the meantime, we have come a long way in the transformation. This is what working at Serviceplan currently looks like:

Flexible working hours instead of a 40-hour dogma: Employees can choose their workload quite flexibly. Although they have to review this with the management team in advance, for example, if they want to change from full-time to three-day work. However, in principle, we offer you the option to flexibly adapt your working hours to phases of life.

Mobility instead of an attendance recorder: Whether a mobile office, brainstorming in the park or a workshop in a mountain lodge for several days – we encourage everything. When working for us, no one has to endure 40 hours at their desk.

Side job instead of recreational obligation: Many of our employees pursue a second or third job in addition to their work for us. This is not a problem as long as it is approved by the respective manager and contractually fixed. We see additional jobs as an indication of above-average commitment, strong will and as a sense of responsibility – character traits that we need.

Sabbatical instead of dismissal: If someone needs more than a three week holiday, we can find a solution. A somewhat longer break is always better than losing a valuable employee.

Training instead of sacking: At times of an acute lack of employees, it makes sense to not sack the professionally weaker employees, but instead to support and train them more intensively.

Learning instead of routine: Our employees are constantly put into new teams, they are constantly learning and continuing to develop. They also benefit from a large educational and training program: Every year, we hold around 65 seminars and impulse speeches on topics such as management, presentations, creative techniques, digital tools, customer loyalty, time management or resource planning. We also support 15 employees through their studies at the Steinbeis University each year (we pay for at least 50 percent of the costs).

Events instead of newsletters: Working together requires personal and intense forms of communication. What use is a newsletter full of new directives that no one understands? Workshops, meetings and discussions are always favoured. Our office doors are always open if you’re passing by.

We also offer all sorts of flexibility and freedom. However, this does not mean that there are no obligations. In return, we demand performance, willingness to learn and critical faculties. And we expect everyone to see him- or herself as a brand ambassador for Serviceplan and to give everything to the role, online and offline.

To make Serviceplan’s character clear to all, our personnel department is developing an employer brand. Every new employees learns the employer brand on their first day, the onboarding day teaches about the interesting facts of the history of Serviceplan and which brand values shape our work. The brand is the frame, within which the employees can act. To an extent, it replaces the hierarchical structures, which we are using less and less because the responsibility for the future success of the company sits on several shoulders.

Do you love responsibility?

One of the most important Serviceplan brand values is therefore called “Ownership”. We support employees that want to establish something of their own with good ideas, talent and a sense for responsibility. Such as Michael and his atelier. Or the personnel manager, Julia Vogginger, who taught yoga classes to her colleagues for free during their break at work. We support projects that optimise our working processes and quality, that improve people’s health or that harness market developments.

Lesson learned: Do not constantly look over your employee’s shoulder

Of course, this new style of work has consequences for management, for example for middle-level management: In training, colleagues learn that they should not constantly look over their co-workers. They have to learn to trust everyone and to support their development. They learn how to communicate “top down” and “bottom up”. Thus, middle-level management acts as a catalyst for good ideas and innovations – in both directions.

And the top management? Their job is to always keep track of corporate goals. In addition, they have to make sure that the source of power for success does not run out: the employees’ zest for life, excellent communication, top quality through the constant development of knowledge. They have to solve interfering factors, such as silo thinking, superior knowledge and conflicts between departments – all remains of the hierarchical past.

The zest for life of employees is one of the most important values of the economy

What have we learned so far on our journey through transformation? That employees’ zest for life is one of the most important and relevant values of the economy. It is the source of power for greater performances and innovations. If employees are happy, they repay it many times over in loyalty, ingenuity and commitment. In particular, there is one thing to do: We finally need to give life to the phrase “employees are our most important asset”, which has been overused for years.

Millennials in the Middle East are mostly ignored!

At the “International Roadshow: Middle East Insights” in the House of Communication in Munich Rami Hmadeh, Managing Partner Serviceplan Middle East, talked about several trends and characteristics of the region. One of the aspects he talked about was how to adress the millennials. He specifies these thoughts in this article.

So, what does a Digital Media Planner do?

Part 2 of our series called “Jobtitles-Bingo”. In this episode we are going to explain the tasks of a Digital Media Planner. A modern profession with great future, presented by two experts from Plan.Net Media.

Serviceplan Middle East Diary

We’re calling it the Serviceplan Group Middle East Diary: Every week, one of our team members will be sharing what’s currently going on in her or his life at Serviceplan Middle East.

When food trends meet trend food

If you want to write about food trends you cannot avoid considering the whole picture, i.e. looking at the major, social mega trends. A wide variety of consumer trends come from these mega trends, and they develop in various directions in different industries and with different target groups.
The impact of trends on the purchasing behaviour of consumers is undisputed. Trends and knowledge about trends have therefore become important elements to help with managing brands.
There is currently more happening in the food sector than ever before. Rapid digitalisation, globalisation with simultaneous nationalisation, the departure away from what is seen as a classic family and away from traditional gender roles and therefore the structure of everyday life, climate change and the resulting responsibility for the environment – all these issues have consequences – even on what we want to eat, how and when we want to eat and how food should be packed. Food trends are never far removed from the major social trends and developments.
This makes it even more exciting to take a look at the food trends that concern us all.

Healthy food

has become an umbrella term. Lots of people want to eat “better” and “more healthily”, but at the same time don’t want to compromise on enjoyment. Generation Y in particular is very open to new concepts and products.
An ethos aspect with a responsibility for the environment and sustainability also always resonates here.
One resulting development is people not eating meat.
If vegetarians were seen as frigid individuals who you looked at with sympathy at a barbecue around 10 years ago, they are now very trendy. Even traditional German sausage manufacturers such as Rügenwalder have followed this trend and are now delighting their whole nation with vegetarian products.
This is commonly referred to in Germany as the “Ersetzer” (replacer). They are for people who are actually looking for the taste of sausage or meat, but prefer the healthier or more politically correct version.

Source: Vegavita

And if we go one step further, we meet the vegans. In the past, vegans appeared almost militant. Nowadays they are the life and soul of the party and have mutated into trend setters. New lifestyle concepts in this category are sprouting like mushrooms from the ground. It is no longer about doing without things, but rather the eating experience. Exotic recipes and ingredients such as humus, chickpeas, tofu and lupines sound exciting and make you want to try things. Attila Hildmann performed pioneering work in this field with his cookbooks. Foodies blog about new recipes, new products, new restaurants, their journeys and other events. A few dogmatic foodies are then included in the group of self-appointed flexitarians. This species goes for the best of everything. Their main interest is the lifestyle they lead rather than a political or healthy approach.

Healthy snacking

Source: Nakd

The dissolution of classic mealtimes – both parents work and the kids are in school until 4 in the afternoon – also means that people eat more irregularly. And the thing we do throughout the day is called snacking. This might not sound healthy but a whole new category has opened up. After all, it isn’t possible to live on chocolate bars and crisps without seriously damaging your health. So there is now a greater demand for healthy alternatives – one of these being bars, but there’s more: they are squeezed out of things that provided good energy: nuts, seeds, dried fruits, superfruits and seeds.


There is even an international brand for this. The concept behind it is providing raw ingredients that have been processed as little as possible and the motto is “without, without, without”.
What “without” means here differs between brands and manufacturers. However, this usually concerns preservatives, colouring agents and often gluten too. Then suddenly “hip” ingredients appear. Protein is currently celebrating a triumph. This is where you can see that one trend sometimes leads to another one. People giving up meat means that new sources need to be found in order to provide a basic supply of essential nutrients. There is therefore a great gap in the market for highly concentrated protein products – sometimes more, sometimes less lifestyling. Even the big industrial brands are trying to jump on this bandwagon.

And this is where a not so new, but still very current trend comes to the forefront again:


The organic trend was a trailblazer and now it is basically standard. Regionality and small factory productions are currently particularly popular amongst younger consumers.
The opposing trend to globalisation and digitisation is therefore very handmade – products wrapped in packing paper, hand-written labels and (individually) stamped brand logos appear personal and create an emotional bond. Countless small labels have emerged that are managing this trend. These brands come across as more honest and more authentic than the brands of major corporations. And when people hear real founder stories to go with it, their hearts fly straight for these brands. Ben and Jerry’s was so successful with their founder story and their concept that they were bought by Unilever.

Retailers have also discovered rationality as a theme are hitting the market with their own concepts. They are trying to connect customers more closely with their markets and to emotionalise their product range by using their own regional and sustainable products. Major brand owners are now responding and staging brands so that they correspond with the look and feel of this trend.

Lifestyle food

Food is increasingly becoming a way to express personal attitudes towards life – it is a way of expressing your individual lifestyle. In the convenience area there are always even more differentiated product ranges of chilled food concepts. What’s new is that a sense of life is now provided too. Eat, drink and be with other people. As well as freshness, regionality and convenience, it is also about the promise of an experience here. If the experience of dining together was a success, whether you prepared everything yourself or shopped cleverly, then this will of course be immediately posted on all social media platforms. Pinterest is overflowing with recipes, cooking events and new blogs. Food blogging has become a real discipline.

The expression of personal standards is also accompanied by an expression of personal attitudes towards life. We particularly see this in the improvement of the quality of fast food. Fast food no longer has to be just “fast”, it also needs to be tasty, healthy and high quality – almost like a gourmet train. Burger trucks are now out and about in all major German cities with culinary highlights. Or new restaurants such as Burger lab in Hamburg are founded.

Digital food

New technologies don’t stop at the kitchen either. Whether Thermomix offers a platform for users to share their recipes with its recipe chip or we can tell Alexa in the future which items are missing from the fridge – the kitchen will only get smarter. The journey from the recipe to shopping (Amazon fresh) is seamlessly networked using kitchen appliances that can be controlled via smartphone.
Nobody has Grandma’s cooking skills anymore anyway and using new technology such as sous vide cooking means that the expensive raw materials at least aren’t wasted. Grandma’s joint of meat is no longer roasted in the oven for hours, instead it is wrapped airtight and then cooked gently in a water bath for a programmed amount of time – with the guarantee of success.
This is, of course, an enormously lucrative field for manufacturers of kitchen appliances and food processors.


Like we’ve already mentioned, a hell of lot is going on in the food sector at the moment. We, as branding experts, are obviously excited to support companies and their brands in identifying the correct trends for their brands or developing innovative products and packaging concepts in line with these trends.

The Next Reality

Thinking about buying a new TV? Ah, the excitement! Measuring the living room, looking for the right place where it could fit, or choosing the color of the bezel, the right resolution, figuring out the necessary connectivity options and brightness? And if the couch you will be sitting on watching TV has the right viewing distance, because you don’t want to watch a football game without being able to recognize the players, do you? If you are not dealing with decisions like this right now, chances are you did in the past or you are going to do it in the future. Let’s face it, it’s inevitable, just like most things that are coming our way, the future is worth talking about, so let’s focus on this concept of time right now: The Future.

In the not so distant future, you most likely won’t have to deal with decisions like this at all. Not because of the breakthrough in projection technology, not because TV will become obsolete, nor because manufacturers will die out and Apple or Netflix will take over the TV game (well, that is happening anyways); it’s because you will be able to watch TV on a screen any desired size, anywhere and anytime you want – not just on your comfy couch at home. The magic behind that is a thing called augmented (AR) or mixed (MR) or even virtual reality (VR), but only in its final form. The final form of media. The final form of consuming content. The final form of entertainment. The end game.

So let’s focus on the present for a minute: there are a couple of VR devices out there, and most of them are pretty nerdy; you probably heard of names like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR or Samsung Gear VR. Manufacturers gaining momentum in creating the device to end all other devices – no wonder, since VR hardware is supposed to earn $17.8 billion by 2020. By the way, Samsung has sold more VR headsets in 2016 than Oculus, HTC and Playstation combined, namely 4.51 million pieces. And a lot has already been achieved with them: High resolution: check. Variety of content: check. Availability of devices: check. A cure to motion sickness while using it: check. Even motion, movement and eye tracking has been conquered not so long ago, getting VR one step closer to be a realistic experience in an unrealistic, digital environment. But one crucial thing is still missing, and all of the current solutions are not even close in delivering it: ease of use. A no-fuzz device. A device for people who are not expert gamers or scientists or enthusiasts. Something you can put on your head without having to connect a cord, a battery back or a head strap. Easy as putting on your shades and unlocking your smartphone.

Some manufacturers are still trying to mimic the success story of smartphone development, because it is their field of expertise, and it worked already in the past: increase screen resolution, add a new camera, mix it with a better microprocessor, a newer software version, and a dash of some weird new experiential technology. But baby steps are for babies, in a saturated market walking slow is not an option anymore: we don’t need another device that’s slightly faster and better looking than the other one. We need a breakthrough. We need something to control our movements in a virtual world, that feels like the real world. We need a way to trick our brain into thinking we really are standing next to a lava stream or inside an imperial hangar from Star Wars, awaiting the devastating blow out of the Death Star’s Superlaser instead of knowing all the way that it’s all just a game.

So back to our initial question, adding some more amazing stuff: You want to turn your living room into a dark dungeon to hunt zombies? You got it. You want to measure your new fridge and see if it fits in this impossible slot in your kitchen? Done. You want to have a look at the interior of your new car in life-size, standing in the middle of your bedroom? Sure thing. Or you just want to watch the final episode of your favorite TV show in your garden, on a huge canvas, and next to it keep track of a hockey playoff game that happens to run at the same time, on a smaller screen – and all of this together with your friends? Yes. That is the future I’m talking about. And the end or at least a fundamental change in the field of consumer electronics.

If the rumors are true, the first company to deliver something like this is called Magic Leap. Quote: “This technology could affect every business that uses screens or computers and many that don’t. It could kill the $120 billion market for flat-panel displays and shake the $1 trillion global consumer-electronics business to its core.” Says David Erwalt from Forbes Magazine. And he is right: if this thing kicks off and has finally a release date and price, it will change everything we know about consuming digital media in an instant. So maybe you should hold off on that purchase of a new TV set for now. The future is just a (magic) leap away.

The opportunity in interactive video

It’s hardly a revelation to say that video content has never been as popular as it is right now. Whether it be on Facebook, YouTube, Display, or increasingly, Snapchat & Instagram, more and more of users’ time online is spent consuming video in some form. By the end of this year, KPCB estimates that video content will account for 74% of all online traffic, and Mark Zuckerberg has even said that he expects Facebook to be almost entirely video within the next five years.

But while the digital video format itself has never been more accessible, many of the digital video ads that tend to make it out into the wild don’t truly take advantage of the opportunities that digital channels allow. Most still ape TV spots that have been adapted to digital – a new format but an old mindset. While television is a passive channel, digital is not, and its potential is currently not being fully utilized. Consequently, we seem to have reached a point where viewers have become numb to video on digital channels – not surprising when you consider the slew of formats that seem to have gotten increasingly aggressive in recent years such as un-skippable pre-rolls, auto-playing sound-on ads, and now the particularly jarring mid-roll videos that burst into your viewing experience half-way through.

Viewers are fed up of video ads taking over their digital experiences and forcing them to passively bear witness to their marketing message. In 2017, most consumers are used to interacting with content on digital channels, especially on mobile. Many expect a certain level of interactivity. Users are familiar with gamified experiences and tend to tune-out at the first sign of a countdown to skip an ad. As attention spans seemingly decrease, passive content just isn’t grabbing users’ attention as it once did.

Things are looking up though as the range of functionality open to digital video is getting broader and broader all the time. Interactive videos have been around in some form for a few years now, but this trend is starting to become more prevalent of late, especially outside of advertising. Just this summer Netflix introduced a series of interactive shows for children that allow them to make choices throughout each episode that dictate the journey the episode takes. This all seems like quite a novel idea for kid’s TV shows, but imagine being able to control what happens to your favourite characters, or reveal alternative scenes in shows like House of Cards or Game of Thrones. What better way to keep viewers engaged than by getting them involved and letting them influence the content itself, right? The same goes for advertising too.

Choice-driven videos have been shown to work especially well in a story-telling and educational capacity. The UK Resuscitation Council used such an approach in a campaign to teach viewers the basics of giving CPR by presenting them with an emergency scenario where they have to make a set of choices to save someone’s life. The thinking behind it is that involving the viewer in the process in this way provides for a much more visceral experience, and by getting viewers to interact with the content, they are much more likely to absorb the information.

We are also starting to see more examples of mobile video utilizing the particular features of the smartphone itself to enable the viewer to interact with the content in a more intuitive way. AdColony’s new Aurora HD mobile video ad format lets users manipulate video content by tapping, tilting or swiping during a video. A recent treasure hunt style video to promote the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie showcased the impressive graphical elements that can be used to immerse the viewer in the video while adding a gamified element to the experience. Similarly, a recent campaign from Visit Britain let viewers use their mobile device’s gyroscope to switch between visual tours of several different parts of the country by pointing their mobile either North, South, East or West to see what each part of the country has to offer.

These features can be used in a host of ways to let viewers define their own journey, answer questions, buy products, access exclusive content, complete forms and much more, all from within the video itself. There’s still a great deal of potential left to explore with interactive video, and with Facebook trying to muscle in on TV-style programming with its new ‘Watch’ platform and Snapchat et al yet to truly take advantage of this format either, advertisers better start thinking about how they might adapt their current approach to video for a more interactive future.


Brands, power and myths

Donald Trump is a complete failure. Above all when it comes to marketing. He is a textbook example of what not to do. He should have known better.

Donald Trump – oh dear, not him again. On this side of the Atlantic, we don’t want to see, read or hear any more about the presidential impersonator over on the other side. Not until we receive the news that he is finally gone. At least he appears to be working hard to make that happen. And despite all the signs of fatigue, this actually makes him interesting. Especially for those involved in marketing. After all, when the Americans elected Trump to head of state, for the first time it was not a politician taking office but rather someone who consistently denies being exactly that. In fact, Trump was a brand up until then, just like Coca-Cola, Oreo or Ariel. Something people see on TV so often that they’re bound to try it out at some point. However, things have been going wrong for the Donald Trump brand ever since.

There are of course a number of political reasons behind this, but these are only one part of the story. Trump regularly crosses red lines – the one surrounding the events in Charlottesville was clearly one too far. He made it clear that he is not just suspected of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, but does in fact sympathise with far-right radicalism and neo-Nazis. If Trump the businessman were less narcissistic and if he didn’t surround himself with so many bootlickers, he would probably have a word with his head of marketing in light of the resulting situation. It’s like McDonald’s only wanting to sell the Big Mac and nothing else. Trump insists on serving the old-established customer base, which all polls indicate has since become a substantial minority. He never tries to appeal to a new clientele. Perhaps he’s not even interested in being re-elected?

In that case, a personality brand such as his can be an extremely positive thing, and advertisers would be happy to see more of it. We need only take a look – in a much more harmless context, of course – at coffee roaster Albert Darboven, who advertised his beans on television. Or Claus Hipp, the friendly baby food patriarch. These are people who can build trust. Faces that represent a product as well as the company that produces it. They convey truthfulness. However, the Trump brand, which should represent the president for all Americans, has become a fake.

He has meticulously built up this image of a tough property mogul who has become a billionaire through unconventional methods and good old elbow grease (something we can’t know for sure, by the way, since he stubbornly refuses to reveal his tax returns). The old “anybody can make it” story. In marketing, there exists a classic triad for brand trust: Raise awareness, generate sympathy, and arouse the willingness to buy. Trump’s election was simply a case of job done. The electorate bought into him. If you look at it from a business point of view, he succeeded in establishing his brand in a completely new market. The superman of the business world was now going to show politics the ropes. But then, egomaniac that he is, he began unnecessarily cutting those ropes.

Trump’s success as a campaigner is also down to the economy of attention prevalent in today’s world. Twitter, the preferred communication medium of the US president, gained an unexpectedly high number of new users in the first quarter of this year – nine million. 8.9 million of those are attributed to Trump. The respected New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also recorded a noticeable growth in popularity since he entered office. Clearly, people are looking for more than just news, and want signposts to help them navigate the jungle of information brought about by the Internet. After all, the web is not just a convenient source of daily information, but also a hotbed of misinformation due to its over-abundance. Too much, too quick, too often, and too unreliable – we are inundated with news and click bait, whether from politics or economics, with everyone trying to vie for our attention. We look for guidance and direction in this jungle. In other words, we look for truthfulness and trust. That’s what brands stand for. Once I have found “my” brand, my world is in order and I can confidently leave everything else aside.

One might then interpret a brand as being a good thing. It isn’t. It is only good for sales. In politics, for example, the brand of populism has massively increased in value in recent years, as analysed by Giovanni di Lorenzo, editor-in-chief of “Zeit”. He spoke about this during his keynote speech at “Best Brands” – an event where the best brands in Germany are awarded prizes. Populism means simple orientation with clear guiding principles and, above all, with enemy stereotypes. Which brings us back to Donald Trump. His populism has not only damaged his own brand, but this movement as a whole. The populists have been unsuccessful in their attempts to gain power in the Netherlands and France, and the story will be the same in Germany. It’s impossible to win in Trump’s wake.

The guy has a knack for marketing, as he demonstrated during his campaign. But politics is not his thing. That’s why he continues to act as though he’s still on the campaign trail. As much as we like to rant about politicians, The Donald makes it clear that even this job is one for professionals. It would be interesting to find out the course that his company’s business takes in light of the political debacle. According to the US press, after Charlottesville, charitable associations no longer wanted to book his golf club in Florida where they would have held events for a lot of money. And apparently he has been unable to sell a holiday villa in the Caribbean, even after lowering the price. Perhaps this is down to the “dictator chic” style of the interior design. Unfortunately we don’t know any more details.

What cannot be ruled out, however, is that the Trump brand has become a financial burden on the Trump company. After all, the most important thing for a brand these days is the product (something often underestimated or overlooked by those responsible). Whoever makes a promise about a product needs to keep it. If the detergent doesn’t actually make clothes whiter, then customer confidence – the essential capital of the brand – quickly disappears (by the way, have you noticed that this type of advertising is barely used anymore? There is a reason for this!). If the president just keeps producing sound bites and failing on his promises instead of getting down to politics (which we are actually used to with politicians, but didn’t expect from this anti-politician), then something is wrong with the product. Quality has never been more valuable.


This article was also published at Horizont

You won’t need a turtleneck to be creative

We often ask our self the question, where do good ideas come from? and we seem to be sure that a great idea is born in a single incident, Eureka! .. like Newton’s apple.

Moreover, we think creative ideas come from the selected few, guys with turtleneck sweaters and rounded glasses, or it has to be written somewhere in their title, they also have to work in a special place, preferably with a lot of colors and bean bags .. and the occasional pool table.

The first truth is, ideas take time to be form, it’s usually the collection of everything we face in our lives, the problems, the challenges, the stuff we read online, a story our mom told us at a certain point, and although you may not know it, your brain files all these information for later use.

Ideas are created in our daily lives, in the cultures we live in, so if you are a creative person, an accountant, a photographer or a cook, you can find inspiration everywhere, and if you remember that ideas come from creative collaboration and the impact of and the role of users and consumers in creating your ideas are guaranteed to elevate to an upper level.

The second truth is, ideas are more likely to come from the combination of different thoughts that clash together, you see why workshops are important, for an idea to be born it needs a collision, a friction if you may, that challenges the single thought in a purpose of improving it or creating something completely new out of it.

Best examples of innovations around the world we created or only find its true purpose by customers, end-users, people who created beautiful things that would not have been created by big corporations because they couldn’t see the need, the opportunity: they didn’t have the incentive to innovate.

This is a huge challenge to the way we think creativity comes about. The traditional view still follows in much the way with think about creativity – in silos.

Ideas are problem-solving, seizing opportunities, creating a change but ultimately selling a product. And if an idea doesn’t deliver on any of those goals, then it’s a waste.

Sadly, you see a lot of “waste” around us, beautiful execution and products that cost a lot of money and the most expensive media touch points, but no results, no sales, no test drives, no interest.

We need to have a mindset that allows everyone to contribute, under one roof or many, from any department, client or agency, small business or big… trust me it makes a difference.