Close-Up: Staying ahead of the game with PSFK

The trends and innovation company's Good Ideas Salon came to London. Matt Williams reports.

The trends and innovation company PSFK came to London last week with a new event designed to help foster discussion and inspire agencies to keep coming up with cut-through, cutting-edge ideas.

Called the Good Ideas Salon, the forums have already launched in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Singapore. So what advice did the experts, including Paul Graham, a partner at Anomaly, Nic Roope, the founder of Poke, Kevin Anderson, the blogs editor at Guardian Unlimited, and Matt Hardisty, a founder of AnalogFolk, have for agencies striving to stay ahead?

Here are the PSFK speakers' ten best ways to inspire great ideas in 2009.

1. Play around with new technology

With the emergence of the iPhone, digital advertising boards and a whole host of other new devices, people are now interacting with technology in new ways. It's therefore up to agencies to embrace this new technology, and the only way to do that is by playing around and participating with what's on offer.

There's no way you'll be able to adapt your great ideas to new technology if you're not familiar with that piece of equipment's capabilities, so make sure you're constantly on top of what is going on in the technological world.

2. Focus on providing more intelligent content

Consumers have a greater thirst for knowledge than ever before. In a world where a whole host of information is available cheaply on the internet, consumers are going to have to be wowed with intelligent thought if they're going to sit up and listen to you. Particularly in the media space, where websites, magazines and even newspapers are given away for free, companies can no longer get away with providing anything but intelligent, thought-provoking content in order to persuade consumers to part with their hard-earned cash.

3. Stop being precious about coming up with new ideas

It's extremely important not to exclude or alienate people from your thought process. This is both applicable to the final idea, and the journey you take in getting there. Just because you're the so-called "expert" in coming up with ideas, doesn't mean you know a brand better than Doreen, who has been making the tea at the company for the past 50 years. By putting more of an emphasis on the process you need to take in coming up with the perfect idea, and by ensuring you cover all bases in your approach, you'll have far more chance of coming up with the idea that works best in your campaign.

4. Ensure your brand can fulfil your promises

In this climate, it's the little things that set brands apart from each other. So if you make a promise to a consumer, and the brand doesn't follow through with that promise, now more than ever people will remember that. Anyone can have a brand ideal, but not everyone can follow through on it.

Consumers are more sceptical about the claims that a brand makes, and they are savvier to the companies that try to charge more just because they've written some nice things on the side of their products. They now expect the service to justify the hype too.

5. Embrace ethnography

Advertising agencies have to remember that they can no longer get away with gimmicks. They are no longer branding towards people, instead they are going to have to work with them in order to understand their desires. The only way that this can be done is if you immerse yourself into the consumer's lifestyle, so that you can understand their habits and their way of thinking. It's far easier to apply your experiences to the problems that a brand has in reaching its audience. It might sound obvious enough, but it's really not as common among agencies as it initially appears.

6. De-silo mobile ...

The capabilities of mobile means that it must no longer be compartmentalised. It can no longer just simply be used as an afterthought to the original television or online ad. Mobile should now be the connector between the other media, and can even be the basis for shaping the rest of the campaign.

A mobile phone is the most personal device that a consumer has, so why are so many brands still ignoring using the medium for their marketing campaigns?

7. ... but remember to keep it simple

Just because everyone in the ad industry is iPhone-obsessed and, therefore, has downloaded and mastered every application that the device offers, doesn't mean that Sandra on reception or your postman has done the same. These people are still impressed by the accelerometer, and the fact that they can find out the latest news and traffic reports just by the touch of a button.

Make sure, then, that any mobile campaign is easy to use, properly integrated and applicable to the rest of the campaign. It's pointless if the technology is used as a gimmick that removes the consumer from being the focal point of the operation.

8. Youths are people too

Youths are more empowered than they've ever been. They are willing to experiment more, they're more adaptable, and more willing to embrace the new ideas and technologies that are out there. However, this has also made them more savvy when it comes to marketing techniques, and more cynical about what brands can offer them.

Companies should focus on forming "business relationships" with them, rather than trying to showcase themselves as "hip and streetwise". Kids do not want Microsoft as a mate, but they do still want its products. They expect brands to be brands, and find it embarrassing when encountered by an ad campaign where the posters are adorned with graffiti and cartoon characters that have their nose pierced and a blue streak in their hair.

9. Get consumers involved

On the other hand, a recent study showed that 90 per cent of the economy involves people interacting with each other, and with the emergence of social networking applications such as Twitter and Facebook, consumers now expect to interact with their brands. All good ideas involve consumers engaging with a product, yet you'll be staggered just how many brands think it is sufficient to create campaigns that talk at consumers, rather than specifically to and with them. If campaigns are not open to consumer contribution or reaction, then those consumers won't think twice about defecting to a brand they can speak to.

10. Don't give up on London just yet!

The year 1996, when Britpop was thriving, football was coming home and London was the cultural epicentre of the world, seems like a very long time ago now. But the capital is seeing a creative renaissance, and there is a renewed energy flowing through the place. New bars and restaurants are popping up, and there is a sense of optimism thanks partly to the 2012 Olympics.

London is unquestionably the best place in the world for social interaction, it's still the hub of scientific innovation, and is again starting to produce some of the most innovative creative work in the world.

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