Category: Relationships

Taconic Biosciences Global Launch.

Taconic Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 14.01.11

The mission began in January 2014 in a small town two hours north of New York. Stepping off the train in the midst of the Arctic Freeze, we made our way to the meeting that included two generations of the family who owned the business and contributors from Miami, San Francisco, Germany and Denmark.

We were all gathered to hear the plans for the coming year that included a major rebrand that would effectively position Taconic as the sector leader and introduce clients to a host of new services offered by the company.

Our mission was to work with the Taconic marketing team in the United States to create and deliver all of the brand assets that would introduce the world to Taconic Biosciences as a new entity. Recognising that those we would be targeting included NASA – one of Taconic’s existing customers, we quickly established the scale of the challenge facing us.

In addition to the obvious challenges that you face in creating an engaging roll-out strategy, we were also tasked with ensuring the roll-out simultaneously across two continents.

Working in real-time and on location with the Taconic Marketing team in Hudson and their partners in San Francisco, we managed the development of the new brand assets and their distribution throughout the company – ensuring buy-in from all levels within the company.

We then worked with the Taconic Marketing team to facilitate a seamless transfer from the old brand position to the new one. This was not just a change in logo – this was a fundamental cultural change that challenged perceptions – both internally and externally, creating a new chapter in the Taconic brand story.

Key to the effective delivery of the project was undoubtedly the collaborative relationship that developed between the Taconic Marketing team and The Mission Control. Honest debate, valid critique and commercial integrity were the linchpin to ensuring the successful completion of the strategy and rollout.

Mission Accomplished!


Monsters. Awards and Two Hours in a Car!


OK. So last Thursday night we had to go to the 2013 An Post Integrated Direct Marketing Awards in Dublin. We were the only agency from Northern Ireland that had been shortlisted. This left us with a problem. How do we amuse ourselves for 2 hours on the car journey there?


We decided to create a diary of the journey and the exploits of our Creative Muse…

…Meet Boris, the original Creative Monster and the inspiration behind our now award winning ‘Unleash Your Creative Monster’ campaign.

Boris wasn’t always this fortunate however. When we first found him back in 2012, he was rummaging through some old concepts in our studio. Like many of his kind, Boris had been ignored by other agencies before escaping and finding his way to The Mission; attracted by the scent of great ideas and the lights burning into the small hours of the morning.

A little T.L.C., and some belly rubbing and Boris was soon part of our team. We found that the more great ideas we fed him, the more of his kind turned up. Pretty soon we were overrun by Creative Monsters.


So we began to release them back into the wild. We tracked down hundreds of brand and marketing managers and soon we were Unleashing Creative Monsters all over the world.

Our release programme proved a massive hit. Within weeks Creative Monsters had been unleashed in New York, Los Angles, Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, Frankfurt, Cologne, Sydney, Belfast, Dublin and London. Well you get the idea…

Then last month we heard that An Post had shortlisted us in their 2013 Integrated Direct Marketing Awards for all of our hard work in helping people like you to ‘Unleash Your Creative Monster’.

So on Thursday night, Boris put on his bowtie and set-off to Dublin to compete against some of the biggest names in the industry. Still a shy little creature at heart, he invited some of us to come along with him.


Approaching the border, Boris was in great form and actually treated us to an impromptu version of Gangnam Style ‘The Monster Mash Up’ version. “Whoop Up Gangnam Style Grrrrrr….


As we crossed the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland, we were delighted to see that An Post had sent us an escort. A lovely big green lorry just for us! How thoughtful and polite.


But Boris was in a hurry. He hadn’t eaten all day so we couldn’t wait and had to dash on ahead of our escort.


Wave as you go past Boris and be a polite little Creative Monster to the nice man in the An Post lorry.


Finally we reached the Mansion House and settled in the evening. Perhaps it was the nerves or maybe just because he was thirsty, but Boris emptied his glass and most of those around him. Boris had a secondary Mission – to get fuzzy on the fizzy!


Then came the moment of truth. We were up against three of the biggest and best known agencies in the country. We all pretended it didn’t matter and that it was the privilege of being shortlisted in the first that mattered. But deep down inside we all knew the ugly truth. It was all about the winning. Our hearts began to beat faster; unconsciously we all moved a little closer to the edge of the seat. The bronze was awarded. The silver was awarded to the agency we had pegged as being the cert. And then… “The winner is…. …The Mission Unleash Your Creative Monster!

We didn’t even see Boris go he was that fast. He was the first on stage bowling over anyone that got in his way and collected the award on behalf of The Mission and Creative Monsters all over the world. Good one Boris!


And here we see a well deserved Gold Winning Creative Monster standing outside The Mansion House about to be Unleashed onto the Streets of Dublin for the night.

Oh and we also promise to spend the €5,000 we won as part of the Award in helping hundreds more Creative Monsters like Boris find their way into good businesses all over the world.

Mission Accomplished!

Has social media liberated us or imprisoned us?


In this stunning series of illustrations by Felipe Luchi, we get to explore the other side of technology. The dark side that no one likes to talk about. The side in which we finally admit that we’re slaves to technology and prisoners to the gadgets we use.

Oh I know most of us will deny it, but can you imagine a day without your smart phone and all of the perks of Facebook, Twitter etc., etc.?

For starters, most of us would be late for work because who uses a traditional good old fashioned alarm clock these days. Nope. Without our phone to waken us up, most of us would sleep straight through GMTV and totally miss Aled and Lorraine on the sofa. ‘Drama’!


Now you’ve skipped breakfast so you can check your Tweets and Facebook messages before leaving the house just incase you’ve missed anything of vital importance in those 6 hours you disconnected from the worldwide web and gave into that annoying base human need for sleep.

So now what?

Well you’ve made it to the station with your Rivita bar in hand and you’ve text Louise back on the way, narrowly missing getting knocked down by that rude driver who just wasn’t looking where you were going. You’ve ‘Liked’ three pictures of smiley cats and shared an image of some hotel room because you might win a weekend there for two and creepy Nigel from HR has ‘Liked’ every post you’ve made in the last 12 hours including the one about the weekend away for two – gulp!

He’s also tagged you in 57 shots on his Facebook from Saturday night when in a complete accident of fate he just happened to check in on Four Square in the exact same bar you and your friends met in 134 miles away. Who’d have thought when you were planning the night on Facebook that good old Nige would just happen to be in the area. It really is a small world.

Now you’ve cleverly avoided having to communicate with the ticket collector at the station by purchasing a digital ticket, which you flash as you head out onto the platform. Suddenly you hear something. Words. Something’s wrong. A recorded voice comes over the speaker to announce that the 6:15 has been delayed by 15 minutes. Cold sweet. What should you do? I suppose you could strike up a conversation with a fellow commuter, but that might mean having to use more than 140 letters. ‘OMG’ Nope can’t do that. Best text work and let them know you’re going to be late and then just to listen to some music on your phone whilst texting, tweeting and updating your profile on Facebook.

That’s much more ‘social‘ than talking to someone – isn’t it?

Relief. The train arrives. You find a seat and settle into a quick game of Angry Birds. A quick scan of your favorite sites and you’re there. Only two texts from Louise. Best send her an email when you get into work and maybe quickly find one of those ‘life goes on’ e-cards for her. Oh – Nige just started to ‘Follow’ you on Twitter and what’s that; oh he’s looking to ‘Connect’ with you on Linked In and joy, he’s updated his profile with one of the shots of you and him. Seriously – how many pictures did he take with his phone?

Congratulations. You’ve successfully made it to the office without making eye contact or uttering a single word to another living soul. Oh I do love ‘social’ media!


Don’t become a victim of brand arrogance.


I really love this image. It’s one of those beautifully interpreted cultural observations that makes Banksy such an important visual commentator on our age. However, for me, the image symbolises much more than just the ‘Every Little Helps’ generation of BOGOFs and Club Card points; it symbolises the bubble that many brands are living in (not all, but some).

It captures the misguided and vein assumption some brands have that customers are ‘loyal’ patriots who have sworn an allegiance to their brand by hitting the ‘Like’ button on their Facebook page or following them on Twitter.

They forget or ignore the fact that the person that just hit ‘Like’ on their Facebook page has probably also just hit the ‘Like’ button and ‘Share’ button on the picture of their nan’s dancing cat.

Yet many brands still see the number of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ they have as a measure of commercial success and proof of a meaningful ‘relationship’ with ‘loyal’ customers. Some even dare call it a successfully social media strategy until you bring up the thorny question of customer retention, repeat sales and how many of those ‘Likes’ actually translated into hard cash or meaningful engagement that extends beyond the generic ‘hello’ across the room.

You see; the truth of the matter is that your consumers, both online and offline are simply someone else’s consumers who occasionally buy your brand. In one survey, 77% of people said they didn’t have a relationship with a brand. In another, 72% of Pepsi drinkers admitted to also drinking Coca-Cola and I’d have to admit to being one of them.

So what’s causing the confusion? Are we in a meaningful relationship or not?

I suppose in its simplest and most human of terms, you could say that if a brand were to sit down over a coffee and have a chat with the vast majority of consumers, the conversation would go something like this:

[BRAND X]  We’re great together, aren’t we?

[CONSUMER]  Actually – I only came over because I thought you had something for me.

[BRAND X]  But I thought you ‘Liked’ me?

[CONSUMER]  I did. But that was then. This is now.

[BRAND X]  But I thought we had something special?

[CONSUMER]  Look – we’re just in different places.

[BRAND X]  But I counted you as being one of my best friends. I’ve told everyone at work all about you.

[CONSUMER]  You’re taking this way to serious. I think we should see other people. Bye.

(At this point the consumer gets up and leaves you to pick up the bill.)

OK – so maybe this is an over simplified explanation and a little harsh. But I’ve seen too many companies falling into the trap of misinterpreting the meaning of the word ‘relationship’. They take it literally and try to humanise it. But the reality of the matter is that brand relationships are nothing like human relationships even though we are increasingly using the same communications channels that we’d use to keep in touch with our family and friends.

As much as we’d all love to think that our brands’ Facebook and Twitter followers are loyal friends and stalwart advocates just sitting waiting to hear from us, you only have to watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle to work out that Facebook isn’t the forum for forming loyal relationships – even in the real world.

It’s a forum more given to opportunity than commitment. And for brands, that opportunity is to flirt with someone else’s consumers and invite them over with the promise of something worthwhile. Yes I know that sounds a little seedy, but the number one reason why people say they interact with companies via social media is to get a discount. I suppose that would explain the success of all those annoying websites that compare prices on everything from hotel rooms to home and car insurance. In-short, most people just want to save money and not get drawn into a long-term relationship that they know will always end up in the same place – with them being put in the awkward position of eventually being asked to part with cash.

So what’s the solution? Your brand is ready to settle down and have a committed relationship, but consumers just want to have fun. Well maybe we need to start by accepting that whilst what we’re saying might be really important to us – it’s not really all that important to other people. Not in terms of everything else that is going on in their lives. Remember, brand communications are more often than not an intrusion more than a welcomed distraction. We’re just clogging up Facebook and Twitter space that is needed to find out who is doing what tonight and discuss the really important topics such as, ‘does she really think she has the figure to wear that dress?’ and those obligatory promises of, ‘I’m never going to drink again’ with a choice of happy smiley face or cheeky wink.

So the challenge for brands is to become part of what is important to people. To be part of what interests them. It means taking a position and opposed to simply having a positioning statement.

And remember – not every conversation has to be all about you and how great you are.


TNS Impulse Panel (UK) & IBM in ‘To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple’. Harvard Business Review, May 2012.

More importantly, what are your customers looking at and where?


There was a time not so very long ago when planning your brands media activity was a straightforward process. Audiences could be relied upon to act in certain ways and to follow predefined viewing and readership patterns. Life was simple if you were a planner.

But then something changed. Well actually – everything changed.

The arrival and subsequent explosion of social media forced planners to rethink the Brand / Channel / Audience equation. Social media did not follow the rules of traditional media and that made a lot of people very nervous. It was rebellious, undisciplined and accessible anywhere and at any time and people loved it for all of these reasons.

For the first time control of where, when and how people were exposed to and accessed information was out off the control of the planning departments and in the hands of the individual. People were becoming their own broadcast networks with their own followers.

Audiences were no longer faceless A, B, C1 demographics who could be relied upon to line up at 7:45pm on a Monday and Wednesday evening to be spoon fed brand messages during Coronation Street. They were suddenly real people with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and they were talking and tweeting with one and other. They were sharing experiences and discussing views on everything from politics to which brand of shampoo they preferred.

In an attempt to regain some form of control, many planners began to reposition themselves as authorities in specific disciplines. In doing so, the discipline of media planning itself fractured and broke away from its rightful place at the marketing table instead of embracing the opportunity and combining its knowledge and market insights to maximum effect.

However, limiting yourself to just one area of expertise reduces your ability to engage with the very people you are looking to communicate with.

Think of it as going to a party and getting stuck in the kitchen with someone who insists on telling you the complete history of the Great Northern Railway. Yes, they have a defined area of expertise – but will you want to talk to them again?

People get bored and unless you can keep their attention, they will move onto someone more interesting and with more to say for themselves.

So if you are going to put your brands future in the hands of Roy Cropper – then your brand is in most likelihood going to come a cropper.

Forget B2B and B2C marketing, its P2Pthat counts.

We think it is time that brands stopped trying to pigeonhole the people they are targeting into neat definable clichés. Society is not that simple. In the world of B2B marketing for example, many brands and planners forget that behind the ‘B’ in business that there is a ‘P’ as in person making the decisions.

Our approach is to target the person and not the cliché. We focus on getting to know the behaviour of the individual and identifying the content they will find most relevant – content they will want to view, use and share. In achieving this, we are effectively turning each person in a brand advocate of the product or service we are selling.

From observing peoples behaviour, we can also identify other areas where we can reinforce our brand truth in a meaningful and relevant manner.

In our world, it’s not about digital and it’s not about channels. It’s about people and understanding their behaviour so we can manage and successfully stimulate positive behavioural change.

The psychology behind P2P

As a species we are genetically programmed to be socially aware and to be communicative with one and other.

Indeed long before iPhones and Blackberry’s were even thought of, our ancestors were busy Tweeting and blogging on cave walls all across Europe, North America and Africa. Later they were chiselling profiles on any surface they could find and when they ran out of people to communicate with here on Earth, they launched the Pioneer 10 mission in 1972 to search for a new form of life in outer space to talk to.

We simply love to communicate.

However – for a brand to successfully engage with people, it has to be prepared to communicate and understand what ‘communication’ means. P2P works because it is a two-way process. It lets people engage with the brand and have a say.

It makes the brand someone as opposed to something. The brand steps down from its historic place on the pulpit where for generations it preached at the masses and it allows the brand to enter into dialogue with people. It allows the brand to earn a ‘trust’ value.

This insight into the human communications value hierarchy system shows us that people are increasingly basing purchasing decisions on the advice of family, friends and peers. Think about it. When was the last time you booked a hotel without first going to TripAdvisor and seeing what people have had to say about it?

Yet despite this knowledge, many brands continue to ignore the opportunity they have for becoming part of that influencing hierarchy and earning a trust value.

Change is good

Change keeps us on our toes. And for those willing to explore the opportunities presented by behavioural led P2P communication strategies, the future promises to be very exciting indeed.

However – at the risk of being taken out and stoned by the digital evangelists in our midst, social media remains a medium that has still not been fully realised. There is no end of brands preaching about its virtues, but in reality, very few have had the steal to commit to a fully immersive, behavioural led strategy.

Whilst there can be no denying that statistically, social media makes an impressive case for itself, as a tool within the marketers arsenal, used in isolation social media like any other channel will have a limited effectiveness.

For brands to fully capitalise on the opportunity that exists today to engage with the people they do business with, there has to be a fundamental change in the behaviour of marketers first and foremost.