Monday, November 9, 2009

Mark Braddock & Carolyn Hall launch ‘Chatterblock’ at Block

So here is my VERY EXCITING news. We have been working on this project for the last 3 months or so and today - we launched! I am so excited to be working with my Block buddies.

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PERTH: Two of Perth’s most respected marketing and communication executives, Mark Braddock and Carolyn Hall, have formed ChatterBlock, a division of brand management agency Block that specializes solely in digital and social media strategy.

ChatterBlock now sits alongside Block’s existing divisions: Block Consulting, Block Branding and Block Imagining.

“Many marketing executives are curious about using social media to reach their consumers but they have no idea where to begin. At ChatterBlock, we hope to play a leading role in helping companies implement digital and social media strategies,” says Mark Braddock, Creative Director and Co-founder at Block.

“One-on-one conversations with people have always been the holy grail of marketing communications, but until now they have always eluded us,” says Hall, explaining her decision to join ChatterBlock at Block.

“With the rise of digital media, this holy grail is within our grasp. We can now communicate directly with people without always needing costly, drawn-out product development cycles and focus groups. We can take a product or idea directly to the brand’s audience and they can tell us if they like it and would buy it. This is a radical shift for all business owners, big and small,” says Hall.

ChatterBlock will work with clients to show them how, when using digital media, it’s all about integration with their existing communication campaigns. It’s not about technology, but a way to grow closer to their existing customers as well as access new audiences far more effectively than mainstream media channels sometimes allow.

Braddock brings a wealth of experience to ChatterBlock having worked at The Martin Agency and Ogilvy in the United States and Smarts Advertising in the UK before returning to Perth in 2002. He formed Block with co-founder and Managing Director Tanya Sim in 2002.

Carolyn Hall brings 22 years of experience to ChatterBlock as former Senior Vice President for McCann World Group in New York, the largest marketing communications organization in the world. At ChatterBlock, she will also continue at the helm of brand consultancy, City Hall.

“We’re excited about collaborating with Carolyn because she’s passionate about all things digital, and offers a unique perspective as a result of her mixed background as a marketing and advertising executive. She already authors several blogs, and her website SmallNotes has been hugely popular, making her a bona fide digital expert,” says Braddock.

In 2006, Hall returned to Perth from the United States as Brand & Communications Director of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), which became the top-ranking brand in the Annual WA Business News branding survey for two years running under her leadership.

Block’s decision to launch ChatterBlock heralds a major shift in the WA advertising industry, which is making way for niche, specialist players like ChatterBlock in addition to the large agencies that have traditionally dominated the landscape.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It is no happy accident that after Barak Obama, Coca-Cola is the most popular page on Facebook. Unlike many pre-internet brands, the king of carbonated drinks and confectionery has a social media strategy that keeps the one hundred and thirteen year old company fresh for consumers.

Recently posting a link to redirect traffic from their website to their Facebook page, Coke now has almost 3.8 million fans. It is important to remember that visits to brand websites are often infrequent. Utilising social sites like Facebook and Twitter can grow brand networks at an exponential rate whilst maintaining and building lasting consumer relationships. These social platforms also work to build a more personable brand identity.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Visionary got it wrong on books

This is a great article written by my friend Damon Hurst. It appears today in The Australian in the media section. Well worth a read.


"THE book is dead," said Peter Kindersley, founder and chairman of Dorling Kindersley (DK). He was launching the world's first interactive CD ROM in London in 1992 at a lunch for city types as the company prepared for an initial public offering.

At the time, DK was a "new media" company with an "old media" core business -- illustrated reference books. To be sure, Kindersley's bold and self-interested prediction has plenty of relevance to today's debate about the newspaper industry and the role of the internet -- history might not predict the future but, hell, there sure are echoes.

Kindersley, a graphic designer, personally responsible for the illustrations in the ground-breaking Joy of Sex, had taken his essentially pop-art sensibility and applied it to the boring world of educational publishing with huge success. In what must have seemed like a blink of an eye he had built a global company producing 200 books a year, which in turn were licensed and published in 80 countries into 40 different languages.

So what was the secret to his borderless triumph? He took a product that was a monologue of black and white text and turned it into a hotchpotch of high-resolution photography, bespoke illustration and modern motifs, stitched together with thin lines leading to small blocks of text with factual and lateral interpretations of what you could already see on the page. Sound familiar? Fast-forward 20 years and look at a webpage today, even the modern newspaper, and you see how Kindersley's vision was the shape of things to come.

"These books, they just come to life off the page and reflect real life -- or TV," he once said to me with a twinkle in his eye, while explaining what drove him to experiment with CD ROMs. It led me to joining the company for eight years, initially as commercial director based in London and ultimately as managing director for the Australia/NZ territory, with stints in between developing the business in Britain, the US, Germany and Russia.

These new "multi-media" products, as they were then known, were developed from scratch in a highly publicised joint venture with Microsoft. A joint venture that consisted of DK's two million copyright-free images, Microsoft's ideas and team of 150 graphic designers, editors and "interface" people who grappled for two years to invent the new media software industry. Remember at this time there was no commercial World Wide Web. CD ROMs, which we now know to be just storage mechanisms, were then a sexy new marketing channel.

The brokers pricing the DK float based on bottom-up calculations of the old media business were very annoyed with Kindersley's comment, as were DK's distributors awaiting the next batch of products. Not to mention DK's unintentional encroachment into the sacred monopolies of the film production and TV industries.

The tension to get these now very expensive CD ROMs finished, with production costs of up to pound stg. 2 million each, into smart packaging was matched only by the pricing wars that followed in retail environments around the world. Not to mention fundamental questions, like where to place them. With books? With software? A new category? The refrain from retailers around the globe being: how do you price new products without an historical reference point?

The DK educational products went head to head with Sony's new PlayStation games. The PlayStations were launched as hardware/software packages and their brilliant animation actually exceeded the "TV" qualities that Peter Kindersley had imagined for DK's products. Sony won the the retail war and DK got on with finding a way to demonstrate these "beautiful educational" products, without them being compared to the nasty competitive game products. Demonstrating the CD ROMs and other DK products in the family home led to huge sales, often at heavily discounted prices but the model worked and DK had 10 very good years.

Long enough, at least, for Kindersley to attract an on-market bid from Penguin at an enterprise value of about $2 billion, at a price-earnings ratio of 26, which was twice the publishing industry average, even if those brilliant ideas of his were yet to cascade to the company's bottom line.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. A book is a book, as a film is a film, as a CD ROM is an old-fashioned storage device. So what's the moral to this story? In my opinion, the long-term future of the newspaper industry is assured if it authentically acts out the part of selling newspapers.

The fundamental business question the newspaper industry should ask itself: what's our value proposition from a customer perspective? It's a sanguine conclusion as I reflect on the day the book publishing industry was swamped by the digital revolution. Kindersley made a lot of money but he got one thing wrong. Books survived.

Damon Hurst is the principal of Thirdman Interim -