We’re extremely excited to announce the launch of Forecast, a new global weather service.
About a year ago, we released a little app for the iPhone and iPad called Dark Sky, attempting to do something new and interesting for weather forecasting, a field we think had become pretty stagnant….
*You have to feel obscurely proud that a sci-fi writer pulled off all of that all at once
I now understand something that I hadn’t grasped before.
I’d seen all the mantras from great people about failure: ‘Embrace failure’, ‘Fail harder’, ‘Never be afraid to fail’ etc.
But I hadn’t got them.
I hadn’t grasped their meaning properly, hadn’t realised their significance.
Luckily though, recently, I have failed.
And, eventually, I’ve embraced it and as a result, I now understand the importance of getting something wrong.
Very briefly (and it’s not over yet, so I’ll be vague so as not to give anything away), we are putting together a piece of work for a significant client of ours.
They are great people. They trust us. And they have embraced our way of working with open arms.
We had an idea to create something for them that had never been done before.
On paper, it looked amazing.
But we had no frame of reference for it. We could test the technology behind it but not the storytelling.
It didn’t come off.
We made it. We made the thing that we thought was going to be incredible. And it wasn’t.
Things came to a head. Harsh truths were exchanged. And for a while, everyone retreated to a safe place to scratch their head and lick their wounds.
Then, something amazing happened.
Rather than write the project off, the group began to take it apart and rebuild it again.
This is a piece of storytelling, mind, not an app or a website. This is interactive content. Not something that you would traditionally pivot or iterate on.
The team went again on the concept. They worked late and hard. They reshot, re-edited and re-designed.
They had faith in the vision. And it looks like, a week out from its birth, that the finished piece of work is going to be great.
This has cost money. It’s cost trust. And it has cost time.
But if the end product is as good as it might be, then to my mind it has been worth it.
So, why has this been such a transformative experience for me personally?
It has taught me the value of failure.
If you set out to do new stuff (properly new, not repurposing or improving things that others have done before) then there is a chance that it will go wrong.
This is a frightening thing for anyone but it’s also extremely energising.
It’s also shown me what an amazing man I work for. My boss has had umpteen opportunities to bawl me out over this episode. But he hasn’t. He’s trusted me to come through and realise the vision that we all bought into. He’s backed me. For this I thank him profusely.
There are so many lessons from the process that we have just been through.
Test the concept in every way that you can.
If your gut is telling you something, listen to it.
Re-building is as valid as building.
Time invested up front is time saved down the line.
To make something great you have to be on it full time.
The list goes on.
But the most important thing that failure teaches you…
Is how to fail.
Failure’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s the best thing that can happen to you.
It’s not the end. It’s the beginning.
And once you’ve done it once, you’re that much more ready for it the next time.
Embrace failure. Wise words indeed. Wish I’d written them.
I’m sitting at the airport in New York. I’ve been here for a few days, hanging out with one of our clients, someone we do our most future-facing work for. The few days culminated in a presentation to the company’s CEO who, without a trace of sycophancy, I can happily describe as a thoroughly decent, massively intelligent man.
The crazy thing for me was that was talking to him about his company as a whole. How they work, how they operate, how they interact. And only part of that was about marketing.
Or put another way, all of it was about marketing.
You see, what we’re doing with this client is getting towards a realisation that everything is marketing.
Marketing used to be a thing that was done by marketing people in a marketing department.
Now it’s the responsibilty of everyone. Which is why this CEO is so good.
He makes us present to everyone on his team - the marketing people, the biz dev crew, the ecommerce folk, even HR and the CFO.
He wants everyone to feel responsibilty for the brand that they steer.
Every touchpoint, every interaction, every piece of real-estate is a brand experience and to quote my boss, Bob Greenberg, ‘the whole has to become greater than the sum of its parts’.
That’s why we’re even talking to the CEO. He realises that brand and business are irrevocably intertwined.
It’s incredibly energising. The marketing crew at the company feel empowered and everyone else feels a sense of guardianship for how the company is percieved.
He finished the meeting by saying he wanted to see more of us, wanted to be more involved.
We so often talk about getting involved in our clients’ business issues.
Tonight I genuinely feel involved in my client’s business.
And it feels good.
I think we’re all agreed on something by now. Social is not a channel.
This is kind of self-evident. It’s like saying digital is not a channel. Digital is a frame of mind, a world that encompasses a myriad of behaviours, a space to be trodden lightly in but also a world of utility and life-enhancement.
Back to social. It’s not a channel. You can’t drop messages there. In fact, you can’t even think about messages there. Wrong folk still seem to think that you have to have something to say in social.
You don’t. Social is the ultimate proving ground of the new thinking on brands. It’s where brands behave.
These days you can’t be a brand and have a message. As a brand, you need a behaviour. This behaviour can come out of an insight about your people. It can come out of a mission that your brand espouses; a way of making people’s lives better.
Social is where you activate that mission. But not by telling people about it. Instead by doing things that people talk about, involving them in your mission and gaining social currency.
In fact, social isn’t an online thing at all. It’s the business of being remarkable. People can talk about you just as validly over the garden fence as they can on Facebook.
I say all this because I have come to a realisation about what we do.
I love R/GA. I love what we make. I love the people that I work with. But when we engage with the tougher brands of the this world - the FMCG clients, the washing powders - it’s social that is going to drive them forward.
Again, not social as a channel but social as a piece of design.
The new golden crew, worth their weight in platinum, are the folk who really get social. They inherently understand the space and can design interactions between brands and people there that are meaningful and authentic.
We have taken on a new strategist recently. He has set about our clients like a whirling dervish. He’s got noble, meaningful social engines coming out of his ears. He’s got insights, strategies and missions. He understands people and what makes them tick and talk.
In essence, he’s a designer. He’s creating products around people, just as designers always have.
I love social. I love its honesty and humanity. Wrong social gets caught out very quickly. Right social is effortless - trying too hard stands out like a sore thumb in what is, essentially, an extension of peoples’ lives.
Design. I keep coming back to it at the moment. A noble, professional craft, mindful of people and their lives.
Experience design, visual design, service design, information design, communication design and, now, social design.
No flim-flam. No smoke and mirrors. Just graft and empathy. A bit like being a vicar without the supernatural stuff.
(If there are any creative folk out there who take social very seriously, who get off on structures and mechanics, get in touch. We’re hiring. I’ll be your new best friend. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunrise over Basingstoke (Taken with Instagram)