Coke Gives Us All a Lesson in Crowdsourcing


My last blog post was all about the importance of culture on global marketing initiatives and this article about Coca-Cola actually fits nicely within that same theme. While this post won’t be about culture, it does act as a nice transition into the topic for today which, as the title suggests, is crowdsourcing.

AdAge published an article about an upcoming creative campaign that Coca-cola is going to launch in China. Now initially, Coke wanted to export a successful English campaign however they quickly realized that the simple expression, “Aaahhhh!” doesn’t translate quite as well into other languages. So, with their campaign now on hold, they decided against a traditional research methodology and went with the more modern-day approach of letting their customers come up with the idea for them. If you’re not familiar, this is really the essence of crowdsourcing – drawing on your customers for ideas and solutions to problems. In crowdsourcing, the customers, in this case likely members of the target audience native to China, are doing the majority of the ideating and eventually these rough user-generated ideas will become the basis for Coke’s new branded marketing efforts in China. Coke will of course reward the winner (or winners) of the project for their ideas before taking them and selling huge amounts of product.

Coke certainly isn’t the first to do this, a variety of different companies have used the technique to solve problems ranging from campaign ideas and core messages, product design challenges, innovation challenges, even as far as to develop new treatments for diseases in record time! There are so many benefits to crowdsourcing for almost any problem/solution scenario in business. Social media and new technology has made this an extremely efficient mode of research. Basically, all the company has to do is write a brief for what they need created or solved and let the people go! Participants can ideate, share, discuss and refine amongst themselves, adding a fun, competitive element to the process.

At the end of it all, the brand will get tons of highly personal, emotional ideas across a wide spectrum. They can look for themes or similarities and aggregate them into a refined idea or if it’s a campaign challenge like Coke’s, just use it all in a big consumer focused campaign. There’s less pressure on crafting the right message (outside of a little massaging) when it comes right out of the mouth of your customers and if you choose multiple submissions, it’s easy to create something that will resonate with multiple segments within your audience.

As I said earlier, there are more benefits than just some good ideas and not all of them are benefits that the brand receives. Crowdsourcing is a great way to build loyalty and vocal advocates in your customers. Giving them secret, inside information and allowing them to participate directly in the creation of a brand they love is a chance that doesn’t come around often. It makes people feel incredibly close and important to the brand. To make it even more impactful (and sometimes a little more organized) the brand can have representatives collaborating and engaging with participants so that it really feels like a team effort rather than just a competition. Despite that, the competitive element and the grand prize is important and can help amplify the experience, encouraging people to one-up each other and really work hard to create something unique and meaningful. And, to round out the whole experience in a positive way since there will likely only be a handful of winners, the brand could feature all entries on a microsite or via social media. This way, even losing participants get some face time…after all there are bound to be a lot of effective entries that still maintain the brand voice.

Though crowdsourcing isn’t new per se – it’s been around for a few years – not everyone is making use of it. Despite it’s benefits it can be a little scary bringing the public in on the process. Obviously it’s important to assess the situation and make sure everything is right for crowdsourcing but I think it’s a method worth trying. Research, even qualitative research is up to the interpretation of the brand team in the end but crowdsourcing can help keep things customer centric since the submissions are from the people themselves.

The Wikipedia page on crowdsourcing has some pretty good examples of successful cases if you want to learn a little more about how this can be used in practice. If you’re familiar, I encourage you to share your favorite crowdsourcing projects in the comments below!


Think Global, Act Local. Your #1 Cliche for Global Marketing Success.

Global Marketing. Image Source:

An infinite number of books, textbook chapters, articles, analyses, etc have been written to give perspective on the various aspects and considerations involved with global expansion. There are market assessments, operations, government bureaucracy, and other processes all of which must be heavily analyzed and sorted out before any plans can be enacted. But there is another aspect, one that I have always been interested in from a marketing perspective, and that is the impact of foreign culture on the global positioning of a brand or product. Now, while this may not be your first consideration, once the decision is made to enter a new market, I firmly believe that a cultural analysis is essential to the success of that expansion.

In college I majored in International Business and this is the first place I encountered the word Glocal. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s one of those buzzwords that became quickly overused in lectures, papers, and textbooks but that said, it’s an incredibly important mentality for a global marketer to have and one that I have consistently referred back to in some of my recent global endeavors. Essentially what it means is the same as the title of this post, “think global, act local.” As someone looking to take their business outside of their native country there are things you have to plan for that require a view of the world at a high level. Things like shipping, suppliers, and logistics — often things that involve the business on the backend and its business partners — need a broader, global perspective because in many cases, these operations involve crossing boarders and choosing people based on their professional qualifications which are fairly consistent from place to place. On the opposite hand however, there are other things that require you to take a local, ground level view of your business. These are often things that are customer facing…really anything that involves an interaction with another person because people are not the same from place to place. We may have similar gadgets, cars, and even clothing, but there are little nuances to our behavior that can make a big impact on how we perceive the world and conduct ourselves.

To me this has always been one of the most interesting aspects of global business. As someone who has always had a particular curiosity for the philosophies of other cultures and how they relate to or differ from my own, I have always loved learning about how different brands adapt or alter their products to fit the specific preferences of a specific market. Essentially the problem at hand is whether your brand or product will be met with interest and acceptance, or with negativity, even going so far as to offend. You may think a quick (or lengthy) customer analysis might handle this issue but in reality, there are so many different aspects to this particular puzzle that if you’re not asking the right questions, it can be a real challenge to solve. As an example let’s consider the amazing and wonderful widget. Do people use widgets? If your widgets are a luxury good do people aspire to higher end status or are they more humble? Does the technological infrastructure of the country support the features of your widget? How are people using related products and does that conform to the way people in your current market are using yours? You could (and should) even take it a step further and consider whether things like brand colors, the logo or the slogan might mean something different in one country or another.

This analysis is difficult and extensive but having this knowledge and this mindset is essential to your actual expansion. It surprises me that in some of my more recent global engagements this seems to be one facet that is completely missing from the planning efforts. What I’ve seen recently is a desire for global campaigns that can be efficient and cost-effective, looking for as close to a one-size fits all approach as possible. I can understand the desire for a quick turnaround on a project like this, looking to leverage as much similarity as possible between markets so that the biggest cost is translation and deployment in the various markets but from my perspective that is the fast, but improper way to go about this.

And so I return to the word Glocal.

Don’t misunderstand that what I’m saying here is that there is no way to be efficient in global marketing or that everything has to be done at the local level. I’m not qualified to make a statement like that. What I’m saying is that there are global and local components to any project. If the goal is to look for efficiencies to create a cost-effective campaign that’s fine. First approach it from a global level. Look across markets and uncover commonalities in perceptions and pain points that your brand can overcome. Cross reference those similarities to how your brand operates in its home market to determine if there is any usable material already at hand so you’re not starting from scratch. Your output here is a strategy and implementation plan that can be applied globally. There will be creative elements that will be consistent across markets — things like core brand elements and reasons to believe — and the benefit of this approach is that if you’re successful, it will be easy for media to pickup on the fact that this is a major campaign with pieces across the world. The consistency makes it easily recognizable.

After this, when you get into the actual creation stage, it’s time to dive deeper into the local level. What order do the messages need to be in to cater to the preferences of each market? Even if the message is the same, are there different decision makers that may alter your target audience in one market? How does the imagery need to change? What channels can best be leveraged based on the behaviors of various cultures? These nitty gritty details lead to an output that may look slightly different between markets but, if you look at some of the most famous global players, you quickly realize that rarely is a brand exactly the same country to country. McDonalds has specialty dishes in almost every country, like burgers made of lamb in India where people don’t eat beef. Pizza Hut and KFC are positioned and designed as luxury, sit down restaurants in Asia where American style fast food is perceived differently. Walmart sells live seafood and chickens in its China stores because people go shopping for only the freshest ingredients which they prepare themselves. There are innumerable examples to draw from, but all of them show that you can create a broad strategy for global expansion that determines where and when to expand and how success will be determined, but in the end, when it’s time to determine who to target and how to expand, a deeper customer and market analysis which includes an examination of culture is key.

Taking culture into consideration is a customer centric approach to going global and that’s never a bad thing. So in closing, remember to always think globally and always think about the future of your brand but act locally and think about the people you’re actually interacting with.

What are your favorite examples of brand that have adapted to specific markets? Let me know in the comments below!






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Apple’s Warning To Developers Means More Health Value for Customers

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Tomorrow is a big day for both consumers and marketers alike as Apple is poised to announce the launch of their next iPhone and it’s accompanying operating system, iOS8. This year, one of the big highlights of the updated technology is a focus on personal, data driven health. As wearables continue to be all the rage, Apple and Google both are rumored to be including advanced tracking mechanisms into their phones, allowing them to go beyond simple surface level data (such as steps, diet, calories, and sleep) into more meaningful measures of personal health. When you pair that with another big trend, data aggregation, you get a device that can do what many electronic medical record systems have failed to do well: namely, provide deep insight into personal health that can be used by both a person and their doctor to stay ahead of any complications in their health. 

As a healthcare marketer, I’ve already been thinking about how we could potentially leverage this platform for various patients and disease states to bring added value to the pharmaceutical products we represent.  However, last week Apple issued a statement to developers saying that no HealthKit data can be sold to third party advertisers. After hearing this, I decided to think a little bit more about this decision.

The way I see it, Apple doesn’t want HealthKit to become a mess of banner ads, plaguing the screen real-estate and taking people away from the information that’s really important. They want a clean experience that can actually affect the way people look at their health. Seeing that they also want this to be something that helps doctors and patients collaborate, it probably wouldn’t serve well to turn HealthKit into WebMD, where everyone and their mother is giving you a diagnostic opinion. Additionally, Apple and third-party developers have to tread carefully regarding HIPAA (health information privacy) regulation and the sharing of personally identifiable information (PII). I imagine, while this is something they could work with the government to overcome, it may be better left alone for now. 

On the other hand, it’s a little unclear whether or not the third-parties, who tie their apps into HealthKit’s system, will still be able to sell data through their own apps if they so choose. Since HealthKit is really just a visualization platform (as far as I can tell) consumers would still be doing a lot of their interaction through third-party apps. Thus, it remains to be seen whether a third-party can sell their own data to advertisers through their app. Basically we’d get only one piece of the data rather than the full profile of a user. 

Personally, while I lament the loss of such great targetability, I think this is a good decision by Apple. As marketers, there is so much more we can do than just send out really targeted push messages. Apple is giving marketers and pharmaceutical companies the chance to really add to a person’s health experience and build tools that allow patients on these products keep an eye on multiple issues at once. In the office we often discuss how to build platforms like this, that can help the patient truly understand their situation and their treatment plan and I think HealthKit has the potential to make great strides on that front. 

One of the great hinderances of healthcare marketing is that you can’t really make implications or associate your product to anything outside of its specific indication. This can be limiting for patients since often times there are significant lifestyle impacts or potential effects on other aspects of their life even when only considering treatment for one condition. Think about the relationship between asthma and exercise, diabetes and diet, or smoking and emphysema. HealthKit will allow pharmaceutical brands to keep their information contained on their app but by tying it into HealthKit, they can still (theoretically) allow patients to look at their medication and disease related information in context of all the rest of their health information. 

Until the official release (and likely even longer judging by the FDA’s track record) it remains to be seen how the FDA and regulatory teams will respond and view this new tool. However, that should not deter marketers but rather challenge them to explore and experiment in an effort to actually guide and modernize this regulation. We should be looking for new and better ways to use these new systems that could standardize health tracking for A LOT of people. In many cases, health is not a one-and-done transaction. It’s important that as these trends become more important and more common place that we treat health and chronic disease as the long term relationship. Rather than the unfortunate standard where we often awkwardly continue hard-selling people who have already bought, we can and should be leveraging this technology, when applicable, to help patients navigate the entire course of their treatment from beginning to end, never leaving them to fend for themselves. 


How do you feel about Apple’s upcoming HealthKit (or Google’s Fit for that matter)? Let me know in the comments below! You can also find the original Fast Company Article here:

From the RTC Blog: Multisensory Marketing, Experience the Sound of Taste

Read the original post here: 

If you’ve been following my blog long, you’ll know that one of my biggest interests (and my career) is in creating experiences. Words like immersive, natural, engaging are some of my favorites and show up all the time. Well my latest blog for RTC was no exception and covered a project that was rather unique in this topic and I wanted to make sure I shared it with my readers.

The story involved a challenge from the client (as most marketing tales do). The agency team was tasked with finding a way to make a product as simple as spices come alive in a way that was intriguing and engaging. While this is fairly standard fare within the agency world, it’s always a tricky ask; we’re talking about spices here not the fanciest piece of new technology. However, despite the fact that spices are a basic cooking commodity, if you look deeper, past the cheesy plastic packaging, they’re actually a really rich product. Spices have intense colors, intricate textures, and complex flavors.

The team was able to leverage this using a mix of traditional and digital media. They used different paint styles to express the various colors, textures, and intensities of different spices. Then, after digitizing the creation, they used a special conductive ink to print their posters. What this allowed them to do, was code each different spice with a different musical chord that could be played on an accompanying iPhone app. When someone ran their fingers over the poster, their speakers would let loose a symphony that expressed the burst of flavors you were seeing and touching. 

How they decided what spice sounded like what is beyond me, but the execution of this ask is stunning. It’s a beautiful visual that doesn’t stop there. The piece transcends one sense and draws you deeper into the product by engaging four of the five senses. The fifth sense is obviously leveraged when you buy the spice and taste for yourself. 

That’s a pretty comprehensive summary, but if you want a little more detail, plus the case study video, head on over to the RTC blog for the original post. 

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From the RTC Blog: Is Amazon the New Leader in Digital Health?


This article was originally posted on the RTC Blog. You can read the full version there.

Summer time isn’t only the time for tans and vacations, it’s also the time when all of the big tech companies announce all of their new hardware and software. This year, a major software focus was on personal health apps, which was no surprise with all the wearable fitness bands and smart watches being introduced to the market. Apple and Google both showed off new health data aggregators that will work with various apps to give you a more holistic and digestible view of your personal health.  

However, a few weeks ago, Amazon jumped into the ring with their first smartphone aptly named the Fire Phone. Unlike the other brands, Amazon didn’t touch on healthcare at all, choosing instead to focus on technologies that leveraged their core competency, shopping. The phone also features 4 unique sensors on the face, similar to the Xbox Kinect that allows the screen to produce 3D images that shift along with your perspective. 

Now despite not touching on health related purposes, some tech and marketing pundits have started speculating on whether those special sensors might mean a new age of powerful, 3D healthcare apps. The focus so far has been largely on personal health apps, much like Apple and Google but I actually see a different perspective; one that could bring doctors and patients much closer together…assuming people really pick up on the Fire Phone anyway!


You can find my full article on the RTC Blog. Check it out and share it!

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WPP Atticus Under 30 Submission

Hey everyone,

Recently I had the chance to enter an essay into the WPP Atticus Under 30 Competition. It’s a thought leadership contest for young employees throughout the global WPP advertising network. It’s 1000 words and I know that’s long, but I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a read and take part in the discussion:

“The time when it was possible to be universally well-informed is past. The ideal of an ‘all-round’ education is out of date; it has been destroyed by the progress of knowledge.”­­­­­­-Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays, 1928. Knowledge has progressed still further since 1928; and so has technology. Was Russell right then; and is he now?

Knowledge is a complex concept in philosophy. The quote above, which questions whether we can obtain both breadth and depth of knowledge, implies that what we know about the world is increasing too fast for any one person to keep up. I disagree. With technology and the desire to share, we create what I call “collective knowledge”, the aggregate knowl­edge of all people. By leveraging the expertise of others, we can become informed on almost any topic whenever we feel the need.

Even in the 1920s I believe it was possible to be universally informed, however I do not think Russell and his peers were prepared for it. The mindset was wrong; it was not efficient to try and understand everything. Industrial developments from the early 1900’s were still moving the world forward rapidly and for over a century, economists preached specialization: develop your inherent talents then figure out how to pair those skills with someone else’s. The problem is that specialization constrains knowledge transfer to within a specific industry, primarily to gain economies of scale. The philosophy mutes the benefits of expanding communication channels to leverage the wealth of human information more broadly. Thus, technology, while improving, was mainly used to build products that brought everyday convenience not for connectivity and conversation.

Eighty-six years later, the level of knowledge and information in the world continues to increase exponentially. As technology advanced so has humanity’s bank of knowledge to the point where, some might make the case that Russell’s philosophy is as true, if not more so, than ever before. From personal computers, to instant messaging, to social media and smartphones, humanity as a whole is learning more and more in real time. For the first time in history, everyone can be a creator of knowledge and that knowledge can be made public in an instant. Technology has broken down temporal, distance, and language barriers. People can discover something, have it questioned, discuss it with the other side of the globe, and advance the discovery, all in a matter of seconds.

How then, amidst a constant state of flux, could anyone be well rounded or universally informed? How could anyone disagree with Russell?

Let me explain.

The growing power of technology and its seamless integration into our lives, means that it is time for the definition of “informed” to change. I truly believe that a person can be well informed simply because they have the thoughts and opinions of the entire world at their fingertips.

As technology continues to transform into an extension of ourselves, it is becoming less necessary for us to be individually knowledgeable. We are moving towards an age of science fiction where we have all the knowledge we could want, or, alternatively, the means to ask new questions, sitting in our pocket. Soon it will be common practice to be wearing computers all over our body and that technology will make us more aware of our selves and surroundings than ever before. We will be able to understand languages we cannot speak[1], find places we have never been, laugh with people we have not seen in years, all without even breaking a stride.

At a certain point, it is going to become difficult to draw the line between ourselves and our technology. We are connected. We are connected to that  “collective knowledge”, and when we need new information we simply need to draw on the crowd for guidance. Individuals and organizations, we are not limited by what we have been taught or what we have experienced. At any time we can crowdsource the experience we need and use that knowledge to move ourselves forward.

So how is this any different than specialization? While technically we are still trading our knowledge with each other, this is the first time we can access it with such immediacy, for free. The information is just waiting, ready to be integrated and adapted and put to use in new ways. The people who are truly universally informed are the ones who are skilled at doing just that. If you can tap into that collective knowledge, understand it, and reshape it to suit your needs, you can be well rounded. Forbes[2] recently featured an article on a new specialty based on this practice, and I have become somewhat enamored with it.

Meet the Generalist.

These types possess the well-rounded training Russell doubts, and that gives them some foundational insight into different skillsets and expertise. They may be better at some then others, but they know where and how to search for information, allowing them to choose the knowledge they need at any given time. This is not the jack-of-all-trades that is traditionally looked down upon; this is a new breed that leverages technology and their peers to bring unique perspectives to environments dominated traditionally by experts.

The Generalist is the archetype that defies Bertrand Russell’s assertion and they are becoming more and more prevalent. Each new generation (including the one writing this paper) is growing up with an affinity for using technology that is almost second nature. Unlike during Russell’s time, information technology is being universally recognized for its range of applications and everyday practicality. Now it’s even being integrated into classrooms, familiarizing us early on with the variety of ways being connected can enhance our lives.

Bertrand Russell was not wrong, based on his own limited knowledge; the world has come along way since 1928. But we live in an era of connectivity that he could not imagine in his wildest dreams and as we continue to change, so must the meanings of characteristics like “knowledgeable” and “informed”. Though we remain constrained by what we are physically capable of perceiving, we are no longer limited by our own individual experience. Technology has made it so that together, we can be universally well informed.

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How Violent Videogames Can Teach Us Ethics

You don’t see this often.

Generally, violent video games get a bad rap. They’re blamed for basically every bout of violence committed by someone between the ages of 12-25 and there are studies left and right; one proving that they’re conducive to violence the next saying that they’re cathartic. It’s really hard to get a clear perspective on games when the News (at least the mainstream) is constantly talking about how games desensitize people to the tragedies of the world. These people don’t take high profile games and give them a fair review. They focus on the negative elements and forego things like award quality acting, literary storytelling, and stunning visuals.

As game consoles get more powerful, games get more immersive. And a lot of the highest-rated games are the ones that give the players an element of choice. And I’m not talking about what outfit their character wears. I’m talking about deep (often) moral choices that influence the direction of the story. It’s going to sound corny, but some of these decisions are often really heavy, playing with with the concepts of life and death and lose/lose situations. Sure, there are people who like to play the bad guy because sometimes it’s fun to be bad, but when you make the conscious decision to be the hero…well let’s just say it can get emotional.

What I like about this story is that it shows these games for their positive outlook. A teacher in Sweden is using the Walking Dead’s video game to teach his students ethics. Now if you know the Walking Dead (show, game, books), you know that it can get pretty violent and pretty gruesome. But this professor can see past that, to the core of the story and the benefit that it holds for…either late high school or college…kids.

Walking Dead may be a zombie gorefest to some but to the rest of us it is a deep story about desperation. The game, which is incredibly adept at portraying human emotion, carries the same moral weight. It allows the player to step into the shoes of someone living in a post-apocalyptic world and make the choices that go along with the setting. The professor has his students play through the game and pauses to discuss at each decision. It’s a really interactive way to understand the consequences of our decisions. Sure you can choose to kill another man for his supplies but what does that do to your character? How does it affect him cognitively, emotionally, in his relationships with other characters? Games combine the artistic vision and technological power to explore these types of questions.

What’s most important, is that these games never teach the false belief that the world, fictional or real, operates in black and white. Games reflect the reality that choices are made in shades of grey. I’ve been in so many classes where my professor has said, “there is always a right choice”. But is that really the case? The professor in this article let’s his students come to the conclusion on their own through the game. This method has the added benefit of exploring the story leading up to the decision as well. Through an interactive medium, the students begin to empathize with the character and understand the motivations leading up to the decision.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that every act of violence is justifiable in some way. There are people who do terrible things for unfathomable reasons. All I’m saying here is that rather than judge games for their negative aspects, there should be more people like this professor who look at them holistically and find ways to turn them into teaching tools. Games provide a safe environment for us to experiment with decisions, where we can visually, emotionally learn to understand cause and effect and the consequences of our actions.

What’s your perspective on violent video games? Have you experienced some of the complexity that I mention in this post? Share your perspective in the comments section, I think this could generate some good discussion.

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