April 15, 2019Comments are off for this post.

What if you had to start again?

What if you didn’t have sunk costs in TV and radio advertising buys?

Or in long term agency commitments?

Or in technology subscriptions and freelance contracts and analytics platforms and social media ads and influencer contracts?

What if your entire marketing budget sat in front of you, untouched and pristine?

What would you do with it?

In very tangible ways, all of marketing is about building a relationship with your consumers and then motivating them to pay for your products and your services.

When we build relationships in the real world we are usually hampered, not helped, by having parties or structures between us and the people we want to connect with. We invest in the other person and they invest in us. Bonds are formed. And then strengthened.

But in marketing, it’s the opposite. There are a thousand different ways and providers we’re offered to take our message to consumers. We can (and do) spend millions just to try and make those connections and deepen them.

Many of these services available to modern brands made sense when constant communication and vast scalability weren’t the norms. But now, in our digital world, you can go directly to consumers, and they can come directly to your brand. And then you can start to build the relationships and communities that will form the foundation of your brand and the engine that will drive your sales.

If your marketing budget was completely untouched…

If you had to start from scratch…

How much of what you’re paying for now would you buy again?

March 28, 2019Comments are off for this post.

What kind of relationship do you want with your consumers?

Imagine you’re on vacation and stop in a small store to shop for souvenirs. You may say hello to the person working behind the counter, get their advice on what to buy. You may chat a bit about the town or get a recommendation for lunch. It’s pleasant. But when you leave that store, your relationship with that person is effectively over. That’s not a bad thing. It’s transactional. But both parties know that at the moment of the interaction.

Now imagine your relationship with your longest standing friend. It’s been built up over years or decades, with hundreds or thousands of interactions of all types. There’s a deep trust there. There’s a shorthand by which you communicate. There’s a commitment from both of you that this is a relationship you’ll both continue to nurture and draw value from.

You can have either type of relationship with your consumers as part of a participation experience. In fact, over time, you will probably want a mix of both. The key is being clear about what you’re asking and offering -- and making sure that the value each participant is drawing is connected to the effort they’re putting into your brand.

March 25, 2019Comments are off for this post.

A new gig economy?

The first idea. Depending on who you talk to, the gig economy was supposed to be the end of everything – especially reliable income and benefits for workers and families – or the start of something new, a global marketplace where an individual’s options for career development and revenue streams were effectively unlimited. 

The second idea. Coming from the original crowdsourcing movement, as many in our team did, we always saw the opportunity for participant contributions to a brand be compensated fairly. Those contributions could take multiple forms: ideas, product feedback, original content or brand advocacy or whatever else. The two common aspects to the current state of consumer contributions to brands is that 1) they are valued and often form the basis of innovative products and marketing campaigns and R&D efforts and 2) they have gone largely uncompensated. Certain communities have offered some rewards but the number of efforts that have received virtually no tangible compensation over the last 15 years is somewhere around 99%. 

Merging the ideas. The muddled state-of-work is different for everyone right now but perhaps we’re only a few steps into this new economy. If the gig economy is just a transitory step to the next place, maybe we’re just missing the key element that drives so much of our world: money. It wouldn’t be a shock, would it? There are clear intrinsic rewards for someone to contribute to a brand and sometimes those are enough to sustain a relationship, but if a consumer could collaborate with a brand and actually see real financial returns, what could that look like when they have access to thousands more brands like it? What would it look like for the larger workforce at scale? And what could it mean for brands to be able to have this group of truly incentivized consumers in their employ? 

These are all questions we’re considering on as we work on our Participation Commerce™ pilot projects with new and existing clients throughout 2019.


This article originally appeared in our #IOVIAradar newsletter. If you want more like it along with curated articles, introductions to our team members, job postings and more, you can subscribe here.

February 14, 2019Comments are off for this post.

What if there are no shortcuts?

What if you can’t ‘growth hack’ your way to brand awareness, and user and customer growth?

What if building relationships with your fans and consumers took as much time and care as building relationships with real people?

What if hiring big name influencers with curiously large follower counts was just a waste of time and money?

We have gotten so fixated on new digital marketing tools and platforms, content production paradigms and platforms, and influencers and experts, that maybe we’ve forgotten that relationships that endure and deliver true value must benefit both sides and take nurturing and time.

What if we focused on those things instead of looking for shortcuts?

What would our businesses look like then?

February 13, 2019No Comments

Your brand: A new business model

Here’s the trap for a whole lot of established brands.

They need to engage with consumers. Because it’s 2018 and because of course they do.

There are a million and one places where they can do that in the digital space. There are communities and channels for every niche. The marketing technology landscape is cluttered and littered. But inevitably a brand will need to deal with the big dogs in social and search and sales: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, Amazon. These are platforms that promise reach and touch consumers where they already spend all their time.

Read more

January 30, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Should your brand be on Facebook?

Do you still trust Facebook?

There are many reasons why you wouldn't.

Maybe you broke up with the brand after the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Maybe you saw the recent New York Times story outlining how Facebook unethically shared user data and private messages with other tech giants like Yahoo! and Netflix.

Maybe you suspect it’s impossible for the platform to effectively police propaganda and political speech without rampant errors, bias and gaffes that will punish minority populations and promote toxic content.

Or maybe it’s just the company’s foundational business model that turns you off: "you" as the product – with sophisticated algorithmic manipulation of what you see and how you feel pervading every second of your time on the platform.

But that’s just on the personal side.

For brands, it must be different, right?

Most brands have existing Facebook communities and long timelines full of content and comments and you have that entirely reasonable rationale to keep using it. It's already there. It's built. And of course Facebook remains a massive destination for people all over the world. Whatever its faults, it's still where (most of) the people are.

But consider this.

Gen Z is not adopting Facebook at the levels of other social platforms. It’s just not cool. Many in this generation see the platform as the provence of their parents. That’s millions of consumers that are rejecting a social networking platform they see as designed for and increasingly populated by oldsters.

Making a short term bet on Facebook groups makes sense. We do it all the time with our clients. And it makes sense in many cases. We've gotten excellent results there and expect we'll continue to do so.

But for newer or developing brands, the ones without sunk costs in Facebook, the real question might be: if you reinvested the time, energy and effort you have put into Facebook, or any other social-channel-come-lately, into your own brand?

What could you build with your consumers then?

April 19, 2018Comments are off for this post.

The rise of the participant and the end of all that

I think we’re reaching the end of something.

It may only be a stopover on the long journey into irrelevance for exploitative social networks that obscure their true intentions behind small print terms-of-service. It may just be a warning sign for brands that ‘partner’ with their consumers only to wring every last idea and data point out of them.

But it might be more than that. Even if some of the institutions of our corporatized world linger on, there’s something new rising up in their stead, driven by the many, by the participants.

Participant is our term for everyone who makes a commercial or social contribution — consumers, citizens, corporate employees, small business owners — that big messy mob of all of us that makes the world turn each day.

This new participant-first orientation will form the backbone of what we like to call the Participation Economy. It will result in businesses, organizations and technologies of all sorts being enabled, led and powered by all of us. Value creation and eventually ownership will be decentralized and the spoils of a commercial endeavour will be distributed equitably to all those who contributed to it. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies will have big parts in this change but the exact roles they will play are uncertain. These things are just tools at our disposal.

This wave of change is one reason why we formed IOVIA. It’s our new venture, an organization that works with companies of all sorts who want to make measurable positive impact right now, both socially and commercially. It’s a venture that puts participants first. We’ve always championed fair and sustainable business models and platforms and now are putting aside all the talk and making it happen. Inside IOVIA Labs we are building a platform that brings everything above to real, tangible life.

We are lining up partners right now.

IOVIA won’t be for everyone. Some brands will recoil at the idea of true consumer autonomy. Some brands will still see creating positive social impact as the purview of the Corporate Social Responsibility department rather than as core to the DNA of their company. But let’s face it — not all brands are made to last. The graveyard of the once mighty expands every year.

We are here to work with those who believe an equitable, sustainable future can’t wait. It’s here now.

I think we’re reaching the end of something.

But I know this is the beginning.

January 1, 2018Comments are off for this post.

2018, the year that women change everything

Our team, and specifically our female colleagues, have outlined our collective manifesto for our world in 2018. We will confidently and proudly use the word ‘feminism’ because it literally means Equality. For. Women.

1) We don’t want to hear any complaining about the #metoo movement by men who then promptly tell their own #metoo stories. This isn’t about pitting women against men; it’s about standing up and saying that these unacceptable things are happening to women and it happened to #metoo. And honestly — as women, can’t we just have this moment? Dear men, this isn’t about you, it’s about us.

2) We can’t say it clearer than they do at Time’s Up Now We aren’t going to accept sexual harassment or gender inequality as normal. No more silence. No more waiting. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse.” It’s a hard line they’re drawing. We’re drawing it too, it’s not about how large the offense is, we have zero tolerance. We’ve just made them our first donation of 2018 and we encourage you to do so as well.

3) We aren’t going to shut up, be objectified by, or mansplained either. Don’t even try. We will call you on it. Oh and while we are at it, don’t hepeat either. Hepeat definition (verb); when an idea or opinion that has been stated by a woman or non binary person is ignored but then greeted with enthusiasm when it is repeated by a man. Honestly we think it’s ridiculous.

4) We aren’t going to support or enable women trashing other women. We’ll call you on that too. As Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

5) We will continue to grow our support for female powered business models and movements. We have proudly supported SheEO and will continue to do so, and we are proud to announce that we are also participating in The Helm. This is just the start for us, stay tuned.

6) We aren’t going to pretend to be something that we aren’t, we are strong independent women, period. The great fuckening is over. The world needs more of us and we are bringing it. Here is a good starting point.

7) Finally, we believe the future is female and we will approach it as a grassroots movement brought to life through our daily words, our daily actions and our long-term commitments to other women, both with those we know and those we don’t. At Better & IOVIA we will work hard to positively impact the statistics that we are faced with daily, through our financial support, our time and our voice.

i. Women-led companies make up 4.94% of all VC deals

ii. Women working full-time make 74.2 cents compared to $1 for men

iii. 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age — half of them in sub-Saharan Africa — will never enter a classroom

iv. 75% of female harassment victims experience retaliation when they speak up

v. Women make up just over half (55%) of unbanked people worldwide, of 2.0 billion people

Our response to this is #WTF.

If you know of organisations that we absolutely need to support; financially, through time our expertise or through our voice, please let us know. In the meantime, we are continuing to assess how we can shift to powering these initiatives.

Closer to home, we are applying a critical eye to our business, team and purpose and making sure our own house is in order. That means we are:

1) Building a more diverse team at Better & IOVIA, including adding more women and people of colour in key roles. When we look at our organization, we know we can do better. We know that we can expand the range of viewpoints, life experiences and voices in the room, all to the benefit of our business, our clients and our teammates. And because it is the right thing to do. This is our challenge and we are on it. We’ll report back to you at the end of 2018.

2) Doing our part to ensure that the blockchain isn’t just another man-chain but instead a people-chain. This is important. We cannot build another patriarchal power structure, particularly one that has the transformative power of the blockchain. All the women at Better & IOVIA have our full support and opportunities to develop their expertise and contribute to our work with this emerging technology.

3) Creating more Freedom at work. We’re not going to lie. We think the old school command and control approaches to employment are anachronisms and ineffective. We are focused on creating freedom around the when (there is no 9–5 at Better & IOVIA), where (we work wherever we want) and how (tools, resources and flexibility) of our work lives. We will continue to make Better the ideal place for work and life co-existence — so our teammates can have professional and personal fulfilment and wellness.

So, we’ve cast out a challenge to ourselves, our own team, and we have specified a list of demands from all of us because we believe this… “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” Malala Yousafzai.

Yours truly,