Never waste a good crisis!

The Covid-19 global pandemic is the absolute definition of something that is outside of all of our controls. Whilst we cannot change what is happening, we can decide how to respond to it. This is true for us as individuals, as a country and even as a planet.  As a small business owner and marketer, I’m interested in the decisions and actions that brands and businesses are taking during this time especially since it feels as if the way we think, live, work, shop, as well as the way we go about our everyday lives, might shift even after the virus is under control.

There are those who believe that the very notion of brands will be destroyed by this pandemic. I believe it is more likely that the surviving brands and businesses will be those that are able to keep fulfilling customer needs – who are in a state of flux – and those that are able to remain connected and relevant.

With this in mind, let’s use this crisis as an opportunity to get our houses in order:

1. Show your customers who your brand really is

Brands are built from the inside out. Use this time to ensure all aspects of your brand offer are aligned with what you’re communicating about it. The offer (product or service), how it is priced and how it is distributed or sold should all communicate how your brand is positioned as well as your brand values.

There are many good examples of brands showing who they are. I really loved the Lifebuoy (Unilever) public service ad which pointed people to other soap brands, such as Dettol, which are sold by competitor, Reckitt Benckiser, as an alternative to their own brand.

Public Service Announcement from Lifebuoy

This demonstrates a confidence in their brand, a real care for the people who use their products (putting people before profit) and a true leadership stance. Well-developed brands have a purpose that ascends profit and now is the time for this to show.

Top tip: Think of a way that you can show your customers what your brand believes in and stands for.

2. Respond to the market’s changing needs

Agility and the ability to flex is probably the single most important aspect of operating a business in times of such enormous flux.

Some small and larger brands have been clever about responding to the needs of their market. Catering businesses that had some big events cancelled for example are now offering home deliveries for family meals while some clothing manufacturers have converted their production to develop fabric masks. There are plenty of other smart businesses who too have adjusted what they do in response to a real need in the market.

This is also a time to remember the huge difference between spotting an opportunity and being opportunistic. Spotting an opportunity is making a hand sanitiser and finding a channel to sell it though. Being opportunistic is selling that sanitiser at 10 times the normal price.

Top tip: Think about what changes you can make to your offer and how you can deliver your product or service differently. This might be offering something different to the same market or to a new market or altering the way your product or service is delivered.

NOTE: Change is the only certainty, I started writing this pre-lockdown and things have shifted again since then. We all know that changes will continue to happen, in all likelihood more and more rapidly, so we need to build agility into our businesses.

3. Transition as soon as possible to a multichannel offering

Delivering an offering virtually is going to become a necessity, not only an option, for anyone who wants to remain in business. This is not only true for brands servicing the top end of the market; there are around 20-million people in South Africa who now have access to a smartphone meaning brands across the spectrum should consider going digital to some degree.

For instance, learning institutions that haven’t already done so are now being forced to offer their curriculums online. Even gyms are offering their classes via Whatsapp or Zoom.

While online retail has been growing exponentially it is still only a small percentage of overall retail sales at around 1.4 % in South Africa in 2019. Covid-19 could however shift things substantially in the short term and maybe forever.

Consider this: Checkers (Sixty60 beta app) together with Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay’s online delivery services are straining under the pressure of a massive increase in demand. Checkers has managed to keep to same day delivery (albeit with a restriction in the number of orders placed per day) but Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths now have a longer than two-week delay in delivery time. They can really only get away with this in a pandemic where people have fewer options. These retailers are going to have to adjust and improve their way of delivering to the market. It is likely that the demand for online retail will also get a massive shot in the arm because of this abnormal and unexpected crisis.

Top tip: The transition to deliver and communicate across channels is much harder for some businesses to do than it is for others. Where possible offer your service through a digital channel. If you’re selling something and don’t have an online channel, use Facebook or Instagram and get a website up as soon as you can.

4. Keep walking and keep talking

There is certainly such a thing as over communication. Below is a case in point from my Facebook feed:

Over communication, especially from brands that you don’t feel are truly part of your inner circle, feels inauthentic and I’ve seen a good few examples of this over the coronavirus crisis, including those who communicated with me via email after I’d unsubscribed from them some time back.

However, now is the time to keep your existing customers close and keep in communication with them. BBH Labs measured what happened after the sub-prime crisis: brands that went “dark” and stopped communicating took five years to recover and suffered significant brand declines proving that reductions create short-term returns but long-term losses. Strong brands recovered nine x faster in the financial crash.

If your brand doesn’t advertise in media, use social media if you have a presence there or communicate via email or SMS. It makes sense, at very least, to inform your customer base about your availability during the lockdown and how to contact you if needed.

Top tip: Keep a presence: brands that pull back excessively in crisis times take longer to recover and can suffer significant brand declines.

If you haven’t got a social media presence, explore which social media platform makes the most sense for your audience. They each have different strengths and audiences. Be realistic about how much time it takes to manage a social media channel.

You can also use email provided that you have permission to communicate and are POPIA compliant. Don’t communicate with your audience for the sake of communication.

5. Be useful, inspiring or be entertaining

Take care in terms of what is communicated; people are anxious and it is an easy time to make a mistake. Now is when the marketing team needs to lead. If there is no internal marketing team, it makes sense to keep your PR company, advertising agency or a marketing professional on speed dial.

Each piece of brand communication or content needs to have a clear intent and a pretty good understanding of what your audience’s life looks like and the problems that they currently face.

A brand can offer up genuinely useful content or be useful by giving their customers an offer. Ideally it should be both. A great example is Yuppiechef. It is offering online cooking courses worth R3 000 free to all of those in hibernation.

Inspiration is also sorely needed at this time and SA Tourism knocked it out of the park with this one

Don’t travel now so you can travel later

South Africans tend to handle things with humour and so anything that provides some light relief is also appreciated. As we’ve come to expect, Nando’s offered up a friendly but hilarious jibe at their most immediate competitor which gave us a much-needed giggle.

What we know for sure is that the economic knock-on of the coronavirus will be monumental and that some businesses won’t survive. But, by putting things in place that will make your brand fitter and stronger, you have the potential to be one of the businesses that survives and comes out better on the other side.

Amanda Reekie is the Founding Director of imagineNATION Alliance, an insights-led communication business and, a survey platform that allows brands to gain insight from an objective, national audience.

Uncovering Actionable Insights Amidst Chronic Information Overload  

(also, why skilled researchers are more important now than ever before!) 

Few could argue that 2016 was an annus horribilis. With a volatile political environment (both locally and globally) and widespread economic malaise, every sphere of business – and life – was somehow upended or disrupted. Several industries and professions, in particular, came under a glaring spotlight – with their very reason for being coming under scrutiny. Political scientists, pollsters, researchers, and any type of ‘expert’ were all forced to defend their science – and continue to defend it today!

As we are all now well aware, multiple quantitative polls failed to predict the victory of the Orange Menace, or the shock of Brexit. Naturally, once everyone had recovered as best they could, accusatory fingers were immediately pointed towards researchers, pollsters and number crunchers. Why had this supposed science failed so dramatically?

Admittedly, however, the research industry was under threat (and under severe scrutiny) even before the colossal failures of 2016.


A false sense of proximity…

With the advent of social media and analytics, many marketers feel that they now have “closer proximity” to their market because of ongoing social media interactions. Indeed, the element of voyeurism afforded to marketers through social media supposedly gives them sufficiently deep insights into their markets. As a result, some marketers posit that social media feedback obviates the need for formal research.

In addition to social media networks, the entrance of Big Data into the marketing mix means that brands are now flooded with all sorts of information. From internal sales data to search engine statistics, there is a plethora of information immediately at hand.


Information does not always equal Insight

Despite the influx of new digital tools and unprecedented access to information, however, credible researchers still have a major role to play. Arguably, given the mammoth amounts of information now flooding every brand manager and marketer, the trained researcher’s unique ability to distill information into valuable and relevant insights has become more important than ever before.

If you don’t know which questions to ask, and which insights are required, no amount of information carries real brand value!


Here’s how you can better leverage the information at hand (and make the most of research expertise):


1. Use multiple sources of data and insight whenever possible 

You shouldn’t base business decisions on one source only.

By all means, conduct a survey with closed-ended dropdowns – but then conduct some face-to-face, more probing, research too. Of course, do some trawling of the posts on your Facebook page, but do some real-world immersions and trade visits as well. Examine the customer behaviour analytics that come from your database, as well as the broader, syndicated market data. (What I’m saying is that you can even count your Uber driver as a source, provided that he’s not your only source!)


2. Remember that people are not rational 

People do not make decisions solely with their rational brains. In fact, emotions are more important in decision-making than rationality. If we as marketers and researchers learned anything from the inaccuracies around polling for the US election, it is that the insight into what really motivates and moves people is all that really matters – not the definitive Yes/No type answers that rely on a rational brain.

Your task is to get to the deep truth about frustrations, unmet needs and life passions – as these truths yield actionable insights and identify key opportunities for your brand. This kind of insight comes from qualitative research, where one is able to probe, gauge reactions and get a handle on body language.


3. Spend time on getting your questions right 

At best, poorly constructed surveys produce more questions than answers. At worst, they force people to lie, as they are not presented with an option that is relevant to them. Also, the badly constructed discussion guides used in qualitative research lead to a restrictive, rigid and narrow conversation – which prohibits real insight and innovation.

To take the polling results from the US election as an example, pollsters might have been focused on getting an answer about levels of trustworthiness of the candidates and likelihood to vote…as opposed to understanding the levels of deep discontent and the perceived need for real change.

The lesson here is to take the time to get the questionnaire, or guide, correct – and always link back to the overall objectives and what you need to learn. Get guidance from a research professional to ensure that what you are asking makes sense – and will answer the questions that you have about your business and brand.


 4. Understand that perspective matters! 

If you are too close to a brand or business, there is a strong chance that you are listening with a bias. Your bias can be “benign” in that you simply can’t see why people don’t get your brand messaging (or why they are so stupid as to not see a button on your website). Objective feedback, which is independently moderated, cuts through the emotions to the heart of the issues and opportunities.

The right perspective really matters in terms of the respondents participating as well – you need to be sure that the people participating in the research belong to the target audience you are aiming your product at – or else you will see your brand through the wrong perspective or lens. 

In essence, research should be guided – if not conducted – by an objective professional to remove both the chance of bias and the ‘old news phenomenon’. (People too close to a brand often dismiss something they have heard before as being “old news” – without probing into what is really meant).


5. Always tell a good story 

Synthesizing all of the different pieces of information and working out how they all fit together is arguably the most difficult part in the whole research process. There are often apparently contradictory or inexplicable results, and ”interpreting” them is an important part of the analysis process.

The qualitative researcher is able to present the facts with insights that draw all of the various strands together, and tell a compelling story. This makes reports relatable and actionable. Rather than simply receiving the positive affirmation from social media sites or PR campaigns, researchers will be able to provide insight into where consumers do and don’t experience the brand vision.

Presenting the findings in a way that is insightful, visual and memorable makes the insights more likely to be remembered – and therefore actioned by the business or brand…


Amanda Reekie is the Founding Director of imagineNATION Alliance, an insights-led communication business and ovatoyou, a survey tool that allows brands to gain insight from an objective, national audience.



This year you’re going to see something on your TV screens that you haven’t seen before. No, not season two of Stranger Things or season seven of GOT, you’ll have to wait till next year for those. We’re talking about a hot new campaign for Ballantine’s, one of the fastest-growing whisky brands in South Africa.

Pernod Ricard South Africa teamed up with strategic agency, imagineNATION Alliance, to bring the Ballantine’s Stay True core to larger-than-life in TV and cinema, backed by out-of-home and print.

The strategic challenge for Ballantine’s has been to set itself apart from its competitors in a cluttered and established whisky market, which is already in danger of becoming same-y.

Since Ballantine’s is all about inspiring others to have the conviction to Stay True, imagineNATION Alliance and Pernod Ricard embarked on an exhaustive national search to find the perfect ambassador whose story they could tell and inspire others. It was a tough ask, they needed someone who truly embodied the essence of Stay True.



After a tireless search we didn’t find one. We found two. Black Motion is South Africa’s hottest house duo. Not satisfied making a name for themselves locally, they’re becoming a massive hit overseas too, following in the tracks of Black Coffee and Trevor Noah.

Thabo and Bongani’s unique dance moves, traditional instruments and vernacular lyrics, are combined with an edgy beat to form a sound that’s so ahead of it’s time, there’s not much to compare it to, not everyone understands it at first.

Ballantine’s is about authenticity, flair and self-belief and inspiring people to have the conviction to stay true, We saw these same traits in Thabo and Bongani of Black Motion through their music and in how they achieve success. They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are, and have stayed true to their sound all the way. Their values fit perfectly with Ballantine’s ethos of uncovering, showcasing and supporting authentic musical talent.



Once imagineNATION Alliance had buttoned down the brief and secured Black Motion, it was up to award-winning creative team, Paige Nick and Karin Barry-McCormack, to meet with Black Motion, ask them a million and one questions, listen to their stories, and then develop a concept that would bring it all to life.

The team then brought director, Sam Coleman and Giant Films on board, as well as producer, Jaco du Ploy. Sam’s treatment knocked the ball out of the park, taking the boards to the next level. He then followed through with world-class production, and exhaustive post-production and sound design, to create this truly unique Stay True story.

Check the ad out on Ballantine’s Facebook page:

Mandela Day 2016


What imagineNATION Alliance got up to on Mandela Day

More likely than not, when individuals and companies give back to under-privileged communities, the most common things to give are food items, refurbishments, clothing items, etc., whilst these are all needed, this year for Mandela Day, imagineNATION Alliance had a different idea about how to honour the legend.

SmartHeart Boardgames were donated and some of the team visited the Baphumelele Children’s home in Khayelitsha to play with the children. The SmartHeart Boardgame was created by a Cape Town based psychologist to assist children in becoming emotionally expressive as this is a fundamental factor for children’s social development.

The imagineNATION Alliance team took some time out from marketing to play this game with around, 20 kids between ages of 10 to 14. While playing the game, these kids were required to identify, communicate and share their feelings with their peers and most showed an incredible level of maturity. The game created an open dialogue between us and the kids; who appreciated the opportunity to talk as they seldom have a lot of focused attention in the home. The team also gained from the experience and enjoyed spending time doing something meaningful and with purpose.

The Thing About Brand Guidelines

With our highly competitive marketing landscape, and the ease with which anyone with a PC can create marketing collateral, it has become more important than ever before that your company has a strong brand identity.
More and more though, I see companies rushing into a brand guidelines exercise without carefully considering everything they need to consider. So what should you be looking out for when you create your brand identity?

Play it out before you cast it in stone

I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that you play artwork out on at least 1 or 2 projects before casting anything in stone, and yet I’ve seen multiple examples in the past few months where a guideline has obviously been put together before this has been done.

What this results in is comments like: that looks messy. Well yes, because your play out had exactly four words on an A4 page – and it’s very easy to make four words on an A4 page look neat. It’s much more difficult to make something look neat with reams and reams of copywriting.

The glaring problem is that you have no idea of the amount of content any client has until you start playing it out. Likewise, you don’t know about available imagery either.

Now, from an outsider’s point of view, I can see how you wouldn’t think this would make a significant difference, but from hard-earned experience I can tell you it does.

Every industry has different key areas they have to focus on. Likewise, many industries have especially content-heavy collateral they have to create – from user guides to instructions, or even a range of over 2,000 plumbing fixtures and products, it is the client’s products and services that have to take centre stage.

Unless you’ve worked with the content, and taken the time to get to know the client’s products and services are, you won’t know what the key elements are, you won’t know what the focus areas are going to be and you certainly will not know what shape and form the majority of your collateral is going to take.

And if you don’t have that knowledge or information on hand, then how will you create a brand guideline that effectively covers those key collateral pieces?

Digital and print are not the same

Here’s the scariest thing: many (if not most) agencies still fall firmly on one or other side of the digital/print divide. This means that you cannot safely assume that what your agency is putting together for you will work on all media.

You’ll most commonly find errors in colour specifications and usage

Most print designers specify pantone colours for print – and if you’ve ever tried to save a pantone colour to an RGB file, you’ll know that the colour doesn’t show up, because there is no RGB equivalent for a pantone-specific colour.

Likewise, most print designers omit hex codes (the colour classification system for digital) from the brand guidelines they compile… largely because they don’t even think to include them.

Even if you are in luck, and find a brand guideline that does include all the web and digital specifications, very often you get an irate customer screaming that the colour doesn’t look right, because screen resolution and quality play the most significant role in determining how a colour appears when it’s open on your machine.

To test this, open the same website or image on every machine in your individual office and then walk from one to the other and see how completely different it looks on all the machines.

This differentiation happens for so many reasons – the light intensity setting the user uses, how they have their RGB breakdown configured, their contrast settings and more.

The differences themselves can be hugely dramatic – what should be black can come out green or grey for example; what appears blood red to one person can be pink to the next. Throw in the fact that 7 to 8% of all men are colour-blind to some degree, and you are opening a veritable hornet’s nest of problems.

Sadly, the most commonly used colours, yellow and red, are also the most difficult to work with and the most likely to go wrong on a screen display.

Second only to font disasters, of course

When it comes to brand guidelines, is there any more important decision than the font you choose?

The font speaks volumes about who you are and how you present yourself, and of all your collateral elements, it is the one that users will most often engage with – or is it?

Not all the fonts that you can choose from are supported digitally – in fact, a very small percentage are actually supported digitally.

Yes, you can use Google Fonts for your website, if the reader’s browser supports it, but I’ve seen even up to date browsers that just do not register the Google Font, if you’re even lucky enough to find your font choice among the small list of available fonts. Worse than that, it can be prohibitively expensive to license a font for use as a web font, incurring high repeating annual license fees.

And even if you go through all the hassle and cost of having a font licensed for web use, you’d still not be able to utilise that font on e-mail sends. Which leaves you a choice of one of the original web-standard fonts: Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Trebuchet or Times New Roman.

Use something other than one of these in an emailer, and if it’s not stored on the recipient’s machine, they’ll only see Times New Roman.

Not everyone is created equal

This is a very key point to remember, because the people who have created your brand guidelines are not necessarily always the people who will be working with them – and not all artists and designers are created equal.

The sad truth is, in order to cut costs, many agencies are doing exactly what your business and so many others do – they hire the least expensive people. This means junior designers, who don’t yet have the experience and knowledge to be able to pay fine attention to detail.

In fact, in most agencies’ creative departments, you’ll find one or two, usually senior, designers who are brilliant at detail work – the rest of them are just typical designers with a great unique art & design style, and very little sense of spelling and detail.

This means that that complicated CI you’ve had put together (and usually paid a fortune for) may actually be too complicated for the average designer working with it to be able to follow.

You brand guidelines simply have to be easy enough for the average designer to understand and carry through, in a way that enables them to add their own style and flair to the creation – because their artistic ability is what you’re paying for after all.

You have to reinvent the wheel

Brand Guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. They’re not cast in stone, and there has to be room for movement to allow you to adjust to different media, sizes and needs.

Even more importantly, if everything you produce looks exactly the same people will think it’s the same information over and over again – and in the world of digital, that means readers will ignore it.

Pinterest is a ‘virtual refrigerator door’

When most people hear the name Robert Scoble, the first thing that comes to mind is “Scobleizer”. Scoble was probably the first person to get famous through blogging and also the first person to get an annoyance measurement named after him.

In September 2008 Follow Cost, a site that calculates how annoying it will be to follow anyone on Twitter, launched the milliscoble unit of measurement, which is defined as: “1/1000 of the average daily Twitter status updates by Robert Scoble as of 10:09 CST September 25, 2008.” According to Follow Cost, a person with a milliscoble rating of 1000 will be as annoying to follow as Scoble himself.

The American blogger and technical evangelist has been around the block careerwise, from his days at Microsoft to video blogging for Fast Company. Scoble currently works for Rackspace, an IT hosting company. His pet project right now is a social play by Rackspace — a content and social networking site called Building 43.

Scoble has also been around the web for a while now, part of that elusive one percent known as the “early adopters” — he has been part of every revolution the web of content has had to offer and is a champion of the social era and what is to come.

Memeburn got to chat to the man behind the blog, the Twitter account, the Facebook page and the Google+ page (incidentally Scoble is one of the few people who believe in Google’s social play) about content distribution and what will come after social.

Scoble believes that we are shifting away from the “age of social into the age of context” where information will based on the context of where we are and who we are with. The idea that the world is moving from a social world to a social-contextual world is something that Scoble believes in and it may or may not be an integral part of a book he is currently working on.

As he is an early adopter, it’s interesting to note that Scoble doesn’t believe Pinterest suits him. He refers to it as “a virtual refrigerator door,” and the place “where you collect your visual identity”.

Memeburn: What do you think the future of news is when you can use platforms like Twitter to tell stories?
Robert Scoble: I look at it as distribution. I haven’t done a blog post in three months and I’m just starting to think about what I’m going to do on it. A WordPress blog still lets you tell stories in a long-form manner. You can put multiple videos and multiple pictures, quotes and do a lot of typography in it. So you can really tell a story in a long form manner that you can’t on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Facebook and Google+ are ways to put a few paragraphs in but have a lot of engagement. The audiences are clearly there. In just eight months I went from 13 000 followers on Facebook to 337 000 followers. Huge audiences are there — 900-million users on Facebook, hundreds of millions of people on Twitter. Google+… they say there are hundreds of millions, but the engagement is less. Google+ gets you into Google’s search engine and that gets you a lot of content.

I look at this whole world as multimedia. I did a SoundCloud recording of this organ playing in the church that a conference is happening in, so that’s a medium. Then you take a photo with Instagram or the Facebook Camera app or any camera app (there’s so many of them… like Path) or you take a video and put that on YouTube or Socialcam or Viddy. You can do panoramic photos… it’s a multimedia world, and a blog is a good way to stitch that media together in a story so somebody can just read it.

Once you write a story or put content together you have to think about distribution. Either you have to go to Memeburn and say ‘hey, can you distribute my content?’ or you have to put it out on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and try to build an audience there so that people can initially see it and then push it to their friends.

When I first started blogging, there was no Facebook or Twitter, no YouTube, no Tumblr, there was just blogging and Google. So Google was the only distribution for the online world back then, other than other blogs. Other blogs would all link to each other — now nobody links to each other anymore.

MB: Link love is dead?
RS: I’ve been spinning that out inside Facebook, clicking ‘like’ on things. I’ve clicked ‘like’ thousands of times this month. When I click ‘like’ on something, that distributes that to some of my audience — not all, because Facebook doesn’t distribute everything, it picks what it’s going to pass along to subscribers or friends. But often, if you’re a friend or subscriber of mine, you’ll see ‘Robert Scoble liked TechCrunch’s article’ or ‘Robert Scoble liked this video’ or ‘Robert Scoble liked this game’ or whatever. That’s curation — that behaviour is pushing that along.

MB: Do you think that’s the future of content now — are we all content curators?
RS: I think that’s a huge part of it. By telling Facebook who you are, Facebook can bring you more media like that in the future. If you click ‘like’ on Manchester United, it’ll bring you information about that team. People are figuring that out — it’s not just ads that come to me because I like something, it’s also content. If I click ‘like’ on more of my friends’ photos, we’re going to get more of those, at least on the main feed. I’ve built all sorts of lists now — I have lists of venture capitalists, lists of tech journalists, lists of world news — so I can keep track on Facebook. Google+ has circles, Twitter has lists. Each system has its own way of distributing content around. It’s quite interesting.

MB: Do you think Facebook is doing a better job than Google with sharing the type of content you like?
RS: Facebook is definitely ahead right now. Facebook has machine learning that filters out noise on the main feed. So the more you use Facebook and the more you like things, and train it what you want to see on that feed… you can block things, so if you don’t like all these tweets coming into the feed, you can say ‘block all tweets’ (which is how I keep the feed very clean). You can train the feed, and that brings you higher signal and less noise. Google+ doesn’t have that yet, and neither does Twitter. It will be interesting to see, in the next year, what they do to bring those up to speed.

MB: Do you think the way that Google has integrated social and search works well?
RS: I think so. When I look for a Thai restaurant in London for instance, I want to see what my friends say is important. It’s important to me, because then I know if Loic liked a certain restaurant, then I can tweet him or Facebook him or Google+ him and say “hey, tell me more about this restaurant. What should I really have there?” and he’s already been there, so I can get a lot of information. If it’s really popular with my friends — like, if 50 of my friends have been there — that tells me that’s a really good place to go or at least it’s popular.

MB: What are your thoughts on Facebook’s Instagram deal?
RS: There are two ways to look at it. One way is that Zuckerberg kept it out of the hands of Apple and Twitter, so there was a bidding war. Another way is that Facebook is an engine — it’s like a car engine. Right now, if you only like 20 or 30 things, it’s like running on three or four cylinders. It runs roughly, it doesn’t run really well. He [Zuckerberg] needs more likes from you, he needs to know more about you.

Each photo you take is worth about four likes if you think about it. If I take a picture of you here — just one picture — it joins our social graphs, it tells you where we were, it hooks into the other content about this space, on and on. So Facebook now knows a lot more about you, just through one picture. So the more that Facebook can learn about you, the better it can work, the more addicted you get to Facebook, and therefore the better the ads work, and the more he gets paid.

MB: Do you think the partnership with Flipboard is another way that Google is trying to go after products that are Apple-related?
RS: Google+ is forced to do that. One of the reasons I’m on Facebook more than Google+ lately is because I use Flipboard, and I am not going to move my reading behaviour off of Flipboard. I tried Google Currents — it’s not as good. They have to care about distribution — if they are not distributed where the readers are and where the influencers are, they’re out.

They’re not going to be as popular as Facebook or Twitter. They had to be on Flipboard. Now that they’re coming, I’m very excited about that. Flipboard has its own noise controls, so it will be very interesting to see what it does for me on Google+. I’ll be playing with that a lot the day it comes out.

MB: Where do you think the future of social is?
RS: I’m actually seeing that we’re shifting out of the age of social (the age of conversation) into the age of context. The Google Glasses that are going to come out in a year or so are going to tell us stuff live. It’s going to tell us stuff live based on the context of where we are and who we’re talking to.

We’re going to have face detection on your face, and it’s going to pull up a Google+ page that you’ve written, or it can go to Google and search information about you. It can know that we’re in a space that is an audience space and tell us things we need to know as an audience member, like when does the next session start, so we can make sure we’re there, or where is the bathroom — all sorts of information that we need in this context.

I like thinking of the world as moving from a social world to a social-contextual world. But very few people are thinking about that, I’m really at the beginning stages of writing a book on it. Highlight is a good example of this — it shows us people nearby us, but it adds context. It tells us there are 50 people near us. That’s an important contextual piece of information. We’re probably in a large space where there are a lot of people all very close to each other. It’s a fun world to think of, this contextual world.

MB: Is a book up next for you then?
RS: No, we’re totally changing how marketing is done. I’m very interesting in how this world is evolving — it’s changing quite quickly, and I’m going to focus a bit more on my blog from now on, and keep doing my video interviews with startups. That’s really what I like to do, and go see cool new startups that will change the world.

MB: Which startups excite you?
RS: Highlight is one — I asked Ron Conway, the famous angel investor in Silicon Valley, this at the Apple event — and he said Pinterest and Highlight. Pinterest doesn’t suit me personally — I keep trying it and it’s just not for me. It’s cultural. If you walk into someone’s house, if you go and look at the front of the refrigerator door, it has all sorts of knick knacks and pictures and sayings and stuff like that. That’s almost always controlled by the woman of the house, not usually the man of the house. Pinterest is the virtual refrigerator door. It’s where you collect your visual identity.

There are some things that I am using it for. Sports teams would be fun to collect there, or cars. There are some things that guys like to collect visually, but we look at it and we see a lot of shoe pictures, wedding dresses and home decorating stuff, and it’s just like “uh, I don’t know…” I’m struggling with it.

But Highlight… I’m a professional networker, and I took to that like crack. That’s an amazing tool for us inside the tech world. I don’t know that it will go mainstream soon… there’s not enough utility there to get my dad or a normal person on to it. We’ll see how it evolves. I think if it’s an app on the Google Glasses, three or four years from now when he gets the glasses, then that’ll be where it goes mainstream. Right now it’s sort of geeky and it steals some of your battery life.

Goodbye to Pips

At the end of May we said goodbye to Pippa Van Den Berg. Pippa has had a major impact here at imagineNATION Alliance in the 20 months that she has been with us and we will miss her energy, efficiency and her ability to get things done under pressure. She has been committed and passionate about growing our business and beyond her daily duties has gotten involved in variety of other things.

She will be joining the online fashion retailer, Zando, in the capacity of CRM manager reporting directly to the MD. Pippa has an established CRM background and this is an exciting move for her.

We wish her everything of the best in her new endeavour. We’re hoping she will always stay close to us at imagineNATION Alliance