Nick Kendall thinks advertising's 'now' culture is dangerous
"I like to hear what's happened over 10 years in the market, not last week. I like to think [about] how your consumers changed over 10 years."
That's the view of Nick Kendall, a founding partner of start-up investment company The Garage Soho and founding partner of the indie media agency Electric Glue.
In the latest episode of the Making Sense of it All video series, Kendall tells Crater Lake & Co's Hilary Woods that taking a long, broad and wide view is necessary to understand how brands connect with people.
"People talk a lot about short- and long-term effects," Kendall says. "But if you agree with long-term effects you have to, by definition, think long-term perspective on the people, on the data."
Making Sense of it All is weekly video interview series by Mediatel News in association with Crater Lake & Co. Each Tuesday, we publish interviews with the industry's most thought-provoking marketers, agency executives and research thinkers to find out how people working in media can make sense of this ever more complicated and fragmented ecosystem.
HILARY WOODS: If there's more and more data but not necessarily more and more insight what do you think we should do to manage all this data as a practitioner?
NICK KENDALL: I was trying to think how do I do it and I don't think these are particularly clever or anything; they're kind of common sense. But I'll try and illustrate three things I think I do. I find myself, one, thinking 'long' much more... I think we're so trapped in the 'now'. I think one of the things all this data has created is almost instantaneous reaction times. Everything is 'now' and that's really dangerous.
I like to hear what's happened over 10 years in the market, not last week. I like to think [about] how your consumers changed over 10 years... show me some of the profile over 10 years...
People talk a lot about short- and long-term effects. But if you agree with long-term effects you have to, by definition, think long-term perspective on the people, on the data. It's very important to remember data is people, not a separate scientific number. They're people.
And so [I'm] trying to get a long-term view of people and their habits and how they're in the long-term view of markets and the long-term view of how you're different and a long-term view of your brand.
So first, number one, take a long view. I try to take that broad view as well, and not just look at what you're doing. I think one of the things that potentially can happen – a lot of the data, as I say, is instantaneous data – and intermediate reaction data, short-term data – it can be very much about what's happening to you or your consumer journey, as opposed to what's happening broadly in the world.
People talk about 'brands are cultural' and things; (I sometimes think they 'over talk' culture) but they definitely exist in a context, that's for sure! We don't have to call it 'culture', they exist in a context of other things, people's lives, not not just hermetically sealed in immediate reaction times. So I like to look broad.
And then the third one... I was trying to think of three because John Bartle always told me to think of three things... I try and look deep. I unashamedly look deep.
Gerry Moira [a very well-known creative director], once said to me... he was doing some work on the IPA diploma for me and he said "I see what you're trying to do!" The IPA diploma was a kind of exam in the one thing the business never actually trained [for]. They trained presentation skills, they trained how to analyse consumer data, their training research skills etc.. But they never trained the thing we spend all our time talking about, which is brand.
When I took up the diploma, I started it and I suddenly saw this huge gap. We spend all our time talking about brand – you can't go into a meeting without talking about brand – but nobody is actually defining what it is or really thinking [about] what it takes.
I do think brands take time to build and they are built in a broader context. I was talking about this to Gerry and saying "would you be part of it and help?" and he said "I see, you're trying to stop it. I'm right with you, because I often feel my creatives, people I meet, they're in Hamlet but they're the spear carrier ... You say what's this play about and he goes, 'oh it's about me carrying a spear!' and I have to come in at this certain point."
And what he was saying is: you get so attached to your thing, your data, your job, your fragmented part of what you're trying to build, that you think the whole thing's about you! I think that is a real danger with data.
The the real thing we're doing is we're all involved in building the brand. From product innovation through to communication through to corporate stance to whatever, to employee practice; they're all building the brand. My relationship with you as a product.
In that context I think brands are quite deep and significant things. I find them fascinating. One of the things that keeps me going apart from ideas, is I like brands they're weird, they're magical. Why, why, why do we do [things] as people? Why do we use, what we know as stories, we know what they are, we know they're fabrications, we know they're myth- making, but we still enjoy it. We still want it. We still use it practically and emotionally.
So, as I say, I look deep because i think the best brands have quite a deep relationship with their their customers or understand their relationship deeply and what they offer even if it's a shallow relationship. [Compare the Market's] Meerkat – they understand totally why people use that and how people use it. So I look deep.
For example, I realise over the years, 30 years or whatever, I have often told people to listen to Radio 4 for their insight. Don't just look at the data, because those are stories about people. They are human stories. Or read books, don't read advertising books because human truth is in Ulysses as much as it's in the data point. So look long, look wide, and look deep. Because what you're doing is all those things – a brand.