In the outside world: 4th October

Anjali Ramachandran, Head of Innovation, on a few things she noted this week in media:


–          GE has created a new platform called The Ideas Lab that is essentially a digital magazine. It covers all the things they’re passionate about as a company: manufacturing, global competitiveness, skills and so on across industries they work in: energy, transportation, healthcare, and aviation. The interesting thing about it is that it is that they’ve gathered some pretty heavyweight writers to write opinion pieces – it feels weighty, well thought-out and well-positioned. It is also a reflection of a gradual movement by brands towards creating longer-lasting narratives to increase appeal and impact with their audience. This article in fact speaks about how traditional journalists should fear for their jobs because what the best brands should do is get good writers on their side to surface the things the brand (and their audience) cares about. The other advantage to this strategy is the fact that it’s always on. Yes, yes, I know you’re tired of people saying it but it just makes sense for something like a manufacturing brand: I go to find out the news every day, I don’t really go anywhere to see what a brand like GE says. But if they’re saying things linked to the news, with a frequency ALMOST as good, I’d be interested and hear about them by default…and that works well for the brand.

–          This week saw the Future of Storytelling conference happen in New York. The conference has grown over the last few years to attract a discerning audience and extremely creative speakers. By all accounts it went down a storm. I’d encourage anyone who has time to look through the 5-minute introductory videos where the speakers mention their passions. I’ll call out two: Tom Perlmutter, Chairman of the National Film Board of Canada, on the evolution of cinema to the interactive age and how technology has enabled films to allow the audience to structure a narrative, and Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, on how she is steering a quintessentially British brand through the digital age. Burberry Brit, their first perfume, launched a couple of months ago and was anchored in music and digital, and only after they got that right (Instagram and digital OOH played big roles for the launch) did anyone actually get to lay their hands on a physical product. Speaking of Tom Perlmutter, worth reading this Fast Company piece from last year if you haven’t, tracing how a government film body ‘became one of the world’s hippest digital content hubs’. Their project Welcome to Pine Point was one of my favourites from last year.

–          Customer data company Dunnhumby, which is owned by Tesco as most of us know, has established a retail-focussed venture fund looking primarily at retail data, analytics and marketing technology. While it is common these days for brands to create startup incubator programmes (think Pepsico 10, Mondelez Mobile Futures and so on – in fact Barclays is also running an Open Innovation Day on the 22nd October here in London), the interesting thing with Dunnhumby is the fact that they are likely treating this as a route to creating completely new (and likely profitable) business models rather than approaching them as one-off campaign providers. Everyone says ‘If only Kodak had developed Instagram they’d still be alive’, well, this strategy to co-opt technology into their business means Tesco might be in good hands. They will of course have to up the profits (go Sainsbury’s!) but that’s another story for another day.


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