The DNA of a Recommendation

Last week I shared my thoughts on the "Recommendation Economy" at The Late Late Breakfast Show and here on the blog - and I must say I was a little astounded at the response. After sufficient prompting from you lot I thought I would explore this a little further by examining the DNA (more on that in a moment) of a recommendation. First of we must understand that there are several factors, as with any economy, that make up the Recommendation Economy - markets, currencies and goods. Over the coming weeks I'll be exploring these other elements, but today - we focus on the currency of the recommendation economy - The Recommendation itself.

What's in a Recommendation?

As we began to explore last week, I can see there is a new kind of consumerism breeding in the underbelly of the digital world. One where the sale and purchase of goods continues to flourish, but can go mostly unseen as we bring more and more of our purchasing, leasing and renting into the comfort and privacy of our own browsers. Yet brands and increasingly as the weeks go by enterprises are seeing the need to breed a culture of recommendation, where every consumer becomes the evangelist for his or her shop/barber/SaaS Provider/Consultant/Frisbee Manufacturer.

This new culture's currency, the recommendation, when automated, facilitated and propagated efficiently can become a very powerful tool - one that can move financial markets as well as social ones. The recommendation has it's own DNA - a very particular makeup, which has positives and negatives for both sides of the equation.

What is the DNA I here you cry? - Direction, Naming & Association

Let's take each of those in turn. (and here's a handy diagram!)

DNA of a Recommendation Infographic

The first part of the DNA of a recommendation is the direction. This direction in an offline world may sound like "I saw this new paint in the XXBrand Catalogue, you should check it out" - which in many ways has not changed online, however the direction is far more precise. When we choose to say "Check out Dulop's new colour range - Flacid Yellow!" we are not only directing people to a destination but giving them the tools to reach that destination instantly through a link.

This direction element is the most key for companies who want to become major players in the recommendation economy, as this is the element which is most easy for them to faciliate, through automating these sharing actions from their own online stores, social pages and mobile applications. The direction of a recommendation clearly benefits the subject of the recommendation (i.e. the brand) the most - however this value is also shared with the person who uses this recommendation to get a good product or service.

N - The Naming of a Recommendation

This may seem fairly obvious - a recommendation that didn't name the thing it was recommending would appear to be pretty worthless. However the second element of the recommendation's DNA - the naming of the recommendation has a lot more intrinsic value that one my first think.

We are awefully precious about our names, both personally and corporately, and in my experience particularly so when it comes to big companies. So why do we get so hung up about the names we use? Well - our name holds a lot of significance to us, names are one of the only things we can truly claim as our own, even when others may even share the same name - and so they carry a lot of inherent value for us. Not only do they signify who we are, but where we have come from, and the values we hold- they are the badges of our reputation, and when we recommend someone it is that reputation which we are putting into the spotlight, that history, those values - that name. Test this on yourself - when you think of Coca-Cola, Virgin America, IBM, Tony Blair, Melinda Gates, Will.I.Am - what do those names conjure up for you?

This is why so much time and effort is spent by marketeers trying to reinforce and create identities that we as consumers will associate with different names, brands, icons and monikers that we see and here everyday. The value in having these names passed on and recommended reinforces and amplifies these efforts - the more we share the more the reputation is brought to light, where it is either built up or torn down.

Of course the naming of a recommendation plays an important part for the one who recommends also - the association with that name.

A - The Association of a Recommendation

This third element of the DNA of the recommendation is the one that has most value for the one who recommends, and is the key driver behind the currency of the recommendation, as it is the payoff for recommending. The association of the recommendation is what we as the original consumer of the good or service get out of the process of recommending (often referred to as social capital). By saying "check this out", "this is good", "has great service today from...", "James Liked XXBrand" we are associating ourselves with these services - in part to say "try them out" - but I would argue far more that we are shouting - "here I am", "this is what I'm about", "these values are my values".

We know that broadly speaking we are moving a large proportion of our social interactions online, making it harder for people to spot the books on our shelves, the DVD's in their cases, the holiday brochures that once littered the coffee table have been replaced with browser histories, HTTPS shops and next day delivery (or more often than not instant downloads). So by liking, tweeting, sharing, posting, blogging and emailing these recommendations we are beginning to rebuild our own name/brand/identity by means of association with these social goods, traded through these social markets using the currency of the recommendation.

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Renting my life and the “Recommendation Economy”

Last night I shared some of these thoughts with the crowd at The Late Late Breakfast Show (#LLBS), and after a fantastic response I thought I would share them here for all of you! It all started about 12 months ago, when I started renting parts of my life that previously I had been buying, owning, using and then basically discarding or leaving to collect dust.

It started with Spotify, when I switched to the premium service 12 months ago. The prospect of a near infinate music library and syncing playlists over WiFi to my iPhone for a mere £9.99 greatly outweighed the costs of my iTunes and HMV addiction, of which I have been set free. I haven't bought a CD in 12 months.

This was swiftly followed by a sign up to LoveFilm, which curbed my DVD fetish, TV series rentals through iTunes or Virgin Media became the norm, and then the biggest of all - ditching my little (beloved) Renault Clio for a Street Car subscription.

Why is this important I hear you cry? Well for as long as people have sold things, bought things, owned things - they have also showed off, paraded, adorned and accessorised things - all in an attempt to show the world the kind of human being they were, or were aspiring to become. Yet in our 21st Century, wired world where so many of these character expressing assets are becoming digital, it is becoming increasingly difficult to show off these purchases. And if we can't show them off, and if advertising is becoming increasingly background noise, how can we want these things? How will we know about them? Are we on the brink of a marketing Armageddon? (OK - a bit over the top I admit... but gravitas is hard to do in a blog!)

Well maybe not - because there is something else going on, which may be the antidote to this commercial conundrum and it comes in the form of the recommendation. Sites, tools and utilities have been busying away to build social tools into their sites, from Amazon's Facebook Connect (see Prezi below for more examples), to Levi's including "Like" buttons on their jeans selector, and people are using them in their droves. So what's going on here?

I would like to suggest that we are seeing the birth of a new kind of consumerism, with it's own currency and economy. As more and more of our purchases become digital, or are purchased through digital means, from grocery shopping online with Ocado through to ordering snacks for work through Graze, we are beginning to use socially enabled tools and sites to share our purchasing habits to replace the kudos of seeing that prices shopping bag, or displaying your complete works of Shakespeare on your living room bookshelf. Instead we are using the recommendation, that social share that says "here I am, this is what I like, this is WHO I AM".

We may well be entering into a time when we begin to identify our friends as different social beings, not through what they own, what we can see, what they display - but by what they share, like, tag, check-into and recommend. This has a massive impact for marketeers and business as a whole. If the recommendation is becoming the new currency then businesses need to get into the "recommendation economy" if they are going to fight for consumer attention.

Renting My Life - The

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That Wedding Video - June 26th 2010

Here it is... the one you have all been waiting for. The Wedding Video (Highlight version - we won't subject you to the whole 3 hour Directors cut!)

Massive thanks to our videographer Paul for his brilliant handy work. Give me a tweet if you want his details!

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James Needs You!

Ok, so this is going to be one of those "try and keep it humble but big yourself up" kind of blog posts!

I have been shortlisted for the Reputation Online Awards in the "Greatest Contribution From An Individual" category. This for anyone is very flattering, but particularly so for me when you see who I'm up against! (The Head of the PRCA none the less!) - however here's the snag (and hopefully where you come in) - to win I need people to vote for me...

Of course this no opens the opportuntity for what could be a straight forward popularity contest, but as @MaxTB pointed out on Twitter today, it's hard to see from the post on @rep_online what exactly we have done beyond brands we have worked on or job titles to get shortlisted in the first place!?

So in response to a suggestion from Miss Vikki Chowney (@vikkichowney) I thought I would lay it out for you, so at least you can have an informed opinion.

I currently work at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster, looking after brands such as Huggies (Kimberly Clark), The British Army, World Horse Welfare and RBS amongst others, in the role of "Digital Director" - an illusive job title at best, but basically means that my team and I try to help these brands create an engaged presence in social media.

I also am a trainer for the PRCA and the CIPR and you can find some of the presentations I have done for them here on the blog.

I've contributed bits to the industry in terms of sharing what I do and my experience here, if you can call sitting on the PR week sofa "contributing".

And of course I am also a blogger myself, which if you are reading this then you are clearly aware of that fact!

So which of these things mean I should win... well to be honest - none of them.

This is my day job, and making clients happy is a part of that, as is training my team and sharing that knowledge with others in the industry. And the blogging... well I just plain enjoy it. I don't do it for awards, but also can't say the recognition is welcomed either. I can't help but communicate (if you ask my wife she will confirm that...), it's what I do, it's what I always have done. Do I deserve an award for it? I suppose that's up to you...

If you feel compelled to vote for me - please text 'Ro 3' to 82100



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The Difference Between Value & Achievements

Your value and your achievements are not connected. Get this into your head, because I can't help but feel I see a lot of people around me not getting this. You can see it in the colleague who is constantly striving for the promotion, who never seems content, the friend who clings to their accolades but longs for approval, this is not what we are called for and we need to break a bad habit here and now.

There is a fundamental difference between achievements and value.

Your achievements can be listed, counted up, torn apart, taken away, can fail, can be outdone by another.

But your value - you value is who you are. It's what you bring to the table, it's your character, your loyalty, your dependability, your accountability, your patience, your intuition. This is what people buy, follow and adore. Not what you have racked up, but the ingredients that make you, you.

You are not your job title, your position, your rank, you pay grade, your bonus package. And your value cannot be described of analysed through the lens of these things. Your value is what drives you forward and drives people to follow you when you go there.

This is essential in business, to know this, and to cling to it. There is a saying in the video gsmes industry that you are only as good as your last game - your last title. If we take that mentality and prescribe that to us as individuals then we soon forget that we still have value to add, because we must detach our own value from what we produce or achieve.

We in our human-ness (which forms the basis for all business, family or relational decisions) fall down, fail, make mistakes, are hard done by, can be cheated and outdone. So by that very nature we will have successes and failures, and we must prepare ourselves for such peaks and troughs. But we must never marry these these things to our value.

Behind the scenes at Future Focus London

As many of you will know I am out all over the country with the team from Ogilvy, IBM and George P Johnson touring the Future Focus Business Events, run by IBM and The Telegraph Business Club. Myself and the Ogilvy team are producing a series of vlogs about the event, which can all be found here.

But I have also been playing around with our new Flip Video Mino HD - and below you can sample the fruits of my labour.

I produced this using the Flip software in under 20 mins! Basic, but does the job! Enjoy...