Tuesday, August 26, 2008

value of values

Today I was reminded of the value of values. I spent time with our Chief Executive Officer discussing the challenges of allowing our staff to blog, communicate and express themselves on www and mobile and wherever else with complete freedom. He reminded me that the company's key values would provide the framework to support this freedom. Our bank encourages all it's staff to uphold values which include honesty, accountability, respect, trust, compassion, self control and helpfulness. When you have a strong value system you can allow freedom of expression to the extreme and not feel threatened by open debate, in fact it's really encouraged. I later went to an intimate gathering of key industry players hosted by Prime Media where Kgalema Motlanthe was the guest. He shared his vision for SA as deputy president of the ANC. He spoke about the importance of values, of enabling education, making health care a right for all and importantly ensuring every South African has the right to feel safe in their homes. Crime is a priority to tackle. I went to talk to him afterwards and found him to be very approachable, warm and friendly. He seemed to be genuine in his empathy for my concerns about our country. Perhaps he was humouring me, "brand of white" but I would like to believe he is genuine in his support of values. To me this is a sure sign of great leadership.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

who gives you permission to read those books?

"who gives you permission to read those books?" Sorry, its not about porn! Rather, this was the question Christopher Locke (Publisher of Entropy Gradient Reversals and contributor to The Cluetrain Manifesto) was asked by a stranger in a coffee shop in Tokyo some years back. Locke had started a new job and was falling short on his computer science knowledge, so he bought a stack of books and lugged them to the coffee shop. Locke admitted; "I thought about this deeply, and I'm thinking about it still."
I really relate to this, because I've also bought, borrowed and found stacks of books about www and its implications for marketers and media. Some days I too am flying by the seat of my pants and the more I can teach myself the less risk I reckon I have of going into a tail spin and crashing. This week was no exception. The www is challenging us to engage with our customers online, but within the confines of the National Credit Act, it's challenging stuff. Banks can't just let their staff or anyone loose on their customers through any old Facebook sites, blogs or Twitter, unless they’re properly equipped (FICA accredited) and can provide help and guidance responsibly. As much as we all believe in the freedom of expression www embodies, whether we like it or not, a bank is not a fast food outlet. We're dealing with people's hard earned cash and their difficulties in managing it. As a more seasoned banker counselled me recently, "This is not a media business Gisele. No-one likes banks!"
I'm hoping to reconcile the need for responsibility and measured interaction with the ClueTrain hit-one-outta-the-park Twelve Step programe for Internet Business Success, which says 1) have a sense of humour (some days I wonder...), 2) relax, 3) find your voice and use it? (More difficult), 4) tell the truth (we are actually very good at this), 5) don’t panic (good advice that, will remember next time), 6) enjoy yourself (doesn't everyone try), 7) be brave, 8) be curious, 9) play more (who would want to argue with that?), 10) dream always (of course), 11) listen up and 12) rap on (right on…there's no shortage of verbage).
Ok, so millions of South African's are drowning in debt - scary fact is our nation spends 70% of their income servicing debt. Our challenge is to harness our collective creative energies and engage in customer conversations online responsibly, which could result in positive closure, empowerment and ultimately financial redemption. If I sound like a zealot then fogive me. However, I'm pretty optimistic we'll get this right in the long run. However, there's no question we're going to get into a couple of tail spins trying.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

everyone's talking about it, but few are doing it properly

It was a week filled with mobile mania. There's a discernible pick up in the amount of discussion and deliberation around using mobile media as a new channel to market. After all there are more people in SA with mobile phones in their hands than there are PC’s, television sets and taxi’s combined. Admittedly I'm a bit of a mobile believer myself. Well its hard to ignore the sheer scale of the channel to market. We've just had great results from a recent MixIt campaign for our cellphone banking division and we've started testing Eyeballs Media a new mobile advertising channel. The app allows companies to advertise directly to customers through their mobile handsets. It's a very visual application and strictly opt-in for the customer, providing them the freedom of choice to consume advertising or not. It does have one particular drawback for me, and that is you have to have a symbian operating system on your phone to be able to download the app. If you're like me and have a Blackberry, then you're excluded. I'm assured by the Eyeballs team that discussions are underway with Blackberry to get around this. Despite this, I believe its worth giving it a crack as we will be able to directly measure its success or dare I say failure to deliver.
I also sat through a mobile marketing conference where the virtues of mobile were expounded. We were bombarded by lots of facts and figures. My experience at Cannes has spoilt me. The depth of knowledge and innovative delivery of mobile at the Cannes Advertising festival was of a far more superior quality than SA practitioners were able to deliver. However, there's no doubt the likes of of Joanne Scholtz from Group M, Gustav Praekel, Praekelt Consulting and Ian James from Ericcson had a lot of local insight to share. I have to say though my great disappointment was the presentation by Vodacom’s mobile head Rick Joubert. He hardsold his medium without shame, nor any creative use of mobile itself. Death by PowerPoint is hardly becoming from the country’s leading innovator in the mobile space.
At the end of day, I was assured my belief in the fourth screen is well founded and I also learned a cute new line from Paul Berney managing director of EMEA for the Mobile Marketing Association who said: “Mobile is like teenage sex, everyone is talking about it, but few are doing it properly.”