Perspective shift in London

In the past year I have twice returned to London after several months very much somewhere else, once from South East Asia, once from Denmark. The city is different each time I return. Not because the city has changed, but because I have. Or, at least, my perspective has changed.

After three months travelling around Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, I returned to London and saw a majestic city. In comparison to the throbbing chaos of South East Asian cities, London was orderly, spacious, dripping with wealth, full of old, understated power. Everything worked with such ease, there was so little friction with each interaction. But it was also the end of a vacation. London felt like a slap in the face with real life, telling me to smarten up my act before moving on.

Now, after five months living, learning and loving in Copenhagen, I come back to a very different city. In comparison to the Danish capital’s pristine streets and impeccable citizens, I see in London a messy, patch-work city, brimming with poverty, where tired, rushed and frazzled Londoners push their way onto crowded tubes, driving forward with their objectives, slaves to their social diaries and anti-social hours. Yet London’s diversity and grit emit an energy and ambition that Copenhagen often lacks. As a brief trip back to my homeland, each street is full of nostalgia. I miss the sense of being fluent in the city’s cultural cues, equipped with the insider’s view, and empowered in a way that in Copenhagen, as an outsider, I am not.

My perspectives as a returning traveller, as a migrant-visiting-home, together are like an optical illusion. All are true of the city. But one image always emerges more salient. And all these perspectives are my own, the same person, just coming from a different place. The perspective is capable of both prejudicing as well as enriching understanding.

For great work in strategy and insight, we should always be conscious of how our perspective is both shapeable and mutable. My perception of London has shifted. I learn more with each shift, a new facet to this fantastic, terrible city. It’s the same with all things that strategy and insight professionals are tasked with understanding. The best work involves consciously and constantly recognising one’s shifting perspective to try see the world at its fullest.

Getting psychological in Copenhagen

I recently moved to Copenhagen. What’s drawn me to this city?

Well of course, the famous design culture, the quality of public services and Danish pastries have all been an attraction for me.

Nevertheless, I’m particularly excited by a trend that is taking place here. Copenhagen is home to a movement that blends business and organisational practice with human sciences, such as psychology and anthropology. This is taking place in the academic sphere, with trail blazing research coming out of CBS and KU. But also there are several businesses working in this growing field. See consultancies RED Associates, Is It A Bird and Krukow, for example

As a strategist, I’ve always been very passionate about adding psychological depth to my work. That’s why I’ve come to this city to study a Master in “Cognition & Communication” at Copenhagen University. It’s a unique course that seeks to understand the psychological phenomena of communication, between people, between groups and with technology. With it, I hope to be able to give a new perspective on my client challenges.

What’s more, there’s a healthy start-up scene here in Copenhagen, with the Nordic countries punching above their weight in terms in the number and quality of successful tech businesses created. You could argue Copenhagen is at the centre of this Scandi start-up culture. Looking forward, as well as continuing to work with UK-based clients, both agencies and start-ups, I hope to begin to grow my network here in Copenhagen and work with some of these companies.

So, with that in mind, a new chapter in wonderful Copenhagen begins…

The mass market fiction

I have a bit on the side. I’m teaming up with marketing capability consultancy Curious Decisions to create a trailblazing programme on diversity marketing. Here’s why.

Your customers are fantastically diverse. Their attitudes, interests, behaviours and demographics present almost infinite possibilities.  For any company to scale to “mass market” proportions, it’s vital to respond to the nuances and complexities of multi-segment markets.

That’s just the real world. Customers don’t stay in their boxes.

But marketers still use the myth of “mass market” to justify to themselves laziness about or blindness to this richness.

In corporates, this looks like getting lost in targeting the fictional mainstream. Locked away in commuter belts, corporates research comms and propositions to death, often losing sight of their USP and their niche, reducing themselves to average marketing for average customers.

Meanwhile, start-ups are busy making start-ups for start-ups. It’s the reason we see so many open sourced geo-located aggregator crowd-fund platforms. These brands may go down a storm in silicon valleys and roundabouts. But no further.

Just like the corporates, the founders of these start-ups have not looked outside of themselves.

Diversity marketing is simply looking outside of your organisation’s expectations for its average customer. It’s the ability to create a brand which speaks to people as complex individuals, and be capable of tightening targeting down to a clearer, sharper audience. It’s a powerful tool for companies trying to grow.

I’m working with marketing capability and strategic consultancy Curious Decisions to deliver a Diversity Marketing programme designed to transform how businesses think about their customers.

This isn’t just a bottom-line venture. We believe that society will benefit from the increased consciousness and recognition from the brands that form so much of our cultural landscape.

Our focus for this programme will be big, blue chip brands with marketing departments who need training up and letting loose on making more diversity-based marketing happen. But the principles apply to everyone. You can find out more about our work here.

Open for business

If you’ve just got a minute, here’s the gist of things: Having done strategic marketing for some of the world’s biggest brands, I’m going freelance to help tech businesses and start-ups get their products into the hearts and minds of customers.

Wait, you say, “strategic marketing? Explain this jargon.”

Think everything that lays the marketing-y foundation for growing your business. That means I’m up to things like researching a market or understanding customers, building a brand, planning comms activity or setting up a trial for a new product. It’s a cocktail of commercial and creative, big picture and detail, if I say so myself.

I’m taking a slightly different approach to marketing strategy in comparison to many in the field. Basically, it’s lean. I put big brand marketing thinking though the agile machine of the start-up to produce great results, fast. At its best, this is strategy taken from whiteboard straight to test.

You might be thinking “Isn’t that what they’re calling growth hacking?”

I’m certainly fusing together elements of growth hacking with good old-fashioned brand building. However, growth hackers in tech companies tend to focus purely on acquisition. I take a broader remit. I look at all the building blocks of the brand to create something customers love and are loyal to.

All in all, it’s an approach inspired by the tech industry in order to serve the tech industry.

It’s also based on a fair amount of experience considering my current lack of grey hairs. I’ve had the fortune to learn my trade working with some of the world’s best marketing teams and on some of the world’s most admired brands; this includes working in marketing strategy for Telefónica O2 across Europe and the renowned marketing consultancy Added Value.

There is a vision driving all of this. It’s to be at the inception of truly game-changing technologies. I want to help pioneering companies find a place in their customers’ hearts, minds… and mobiles.

I’m now open for business. I’m working with some great clients and hope there will be many more to come. If that’s you, dear reader, get in touch. And for everyone else, thank you for you for reading.