Each year (originally inspired by something Ian did) I do a kind of end-of-year review of the major projects that I've been involved with over the year. It's my habit to think aloud on this blog and this is my way of stepping back and looking at the shape of what I've been doing over the last 12 months and see how I've been spending my time. In the rush of the day-to-day the opportunities to do this are rare and this is always really useful, so I'm doing it again. It's now been six years since I launched my own business and I'm fortunate in having had another hugely busy, but rewarding year. Some of the bigger projects that I worked on and shipped in 2015 have included:
- Google Firestarters has continued to gain momentum this year. In London we ran four planner focused events – one with the legendary Paul Feldwick, one featuring key lessons from seven masters of planning (which I think was possibly my favourite Firestarters yet), one on content marketing and one on mobile UX. We also did four events for the performance marketing community including ones on dynamic data feeds, and real-time creative. In late 2014 we ran our first trans-atlantic event in New York with the support of Ben Malbon, and Firestarters has continued to run there, but this year there was also an event in Cannes, and of-course there was our SXSWi one on the intersection between UX and planning (a fascinating theme that we've been thinking about bringing over to the UK). This year we also ran our first Firestarters events in Sydney and Melbourne, which was a lot of fun. As we move into planning for 2016, we have a long-list of themes we'd like to do (many of which have been suggested by regulars) and some good discussions about other places in the world that we'd like to run them so watch this space for more news on that.
- Speaking of Google, I delivered more keynotes for the wonderful Google Squared programme this year, and also some webinars on innovation and change as part of the online version which continues to scale in really interesting ways
- I was lucky enough to work with several organisations in the arts sector this year including the Welsh National Opera, Sadlers Wells and the brilliant Unlimited (whose aim is to embed work by disabled artists into the UK cultural sector), to help define their overarching digital strategy. They each have so much opportunity given the amazing productions they put together and so it was work that I really enjoyed (and I even got to see an Opera whilst in Cardiff)
- The scope of workshops I ran this year continued to prove pretty diverse but they were all highlights. In 2015 I worked with a big pharma to workshop ideas for mobile innovation, with IBM on planning effectiveness, with a global materials business on B2B marketing, with an office equipment retailer in Amsterdam, with a big UK government department on digital comms, with a global FMCG brand and with Hyper Island in New York.
- There was also a fair bit of work in the luxury sector, much of it building on work done in 2014. This included working with Richemont in Geneva on digital content, strategy and marketing, and helping to re-scope a website for a luxury goods trade organisation
- I also researched and authored a number of reports for Econsultancy this year including one on The Future of Agencies, another on Effective Leadership in the Digital Age and the third iteration of our research into Organisational Structures and Resourcing. We'll also be releasing a new report on Content Marketing (in partnership with a global media company) in the new year so I'm looking forward to that. I've learned a lot from doing each one of these reports, not least because it facilitates an opportunity to interview some of the most interesting people in the field.
- Digital Shift, the digital marketing trends service I developed with Econsultancy has also continued to do well, with four more reports and associated webinars. I tend to find that the work I do for Shift feeds other work I do. And as always, Econsultancy have been great to work with this year
- There was more work in the digital transformation area in 2015 including a fascinating project to redefine processes and structures for a large UK based travel business with the objective of increasing agility and speed to market. And there was also a major project with a big UK charity to help transform fundraising culture, capabilities, skills and processes to be more digitally-native. These projects are always different and always interesting. Whilst it often starts with a particular organisational pain point or ambition, the objective and desired end-point are often similar, at least at a macro-level
- I also worked with one agency to help define their proposition and positioning which was an opportunity to work with some really smart folk. And (unrelated but somehow similar) I also got the chance to work with the founders and investors of a really interesting start-up to help nail their product-market fit and product development plan
- I seemed to do lots of webinars this year, including a series on digital business leadership, another series on digital marketing channels designed for a global marketing team, more to support the Future of Agencies work, and one on digital transformation for Marketing Week
- It was great to work with Antony Mayfield and the smart folk at Brilliant Noise curating the second Dots Conference. I loved all the talks of-course, but was really blown away by Ciara Judge (who is running three businesses at the age of seventeen), and the amazing talk on the extensible self by Stuart Turner
- As always, I really enjoyed the speaking gigs I had. This year I spoke at the Future of Digital Marketing Conference, MarTech Europe, the Festival of Marketing, Aerials in Toronto, the Annexe Digital University event, a Platforum event on digital transformation in the finance industry and the ICSA annual conference. Alongside the conference gigs, there were in-company talks and sessions with the likes of WCRS, Merlin Entertainment, Google (at Dentsu Aegis), the Body Shop, and Informa. I'd like to do more speaking over the coming year I think.
- Fraggl has continued to grow this year and we launched specific versions for health innovation, and design which, alongside the strategy and advertising one, have shown us that there's a real opportunity in creating vertical and bespoke variants which might be used by individual businesses to inform forward-thinking innovation. We made (and continue to make) changes to the design and the algorithm, and also relaunched the website, but there is still lots to do and lots of exciting places we'd like to take it
- My weekly newsletter had it's fifth birthday this year, and added another 42 editions. The subscriber list grew nicely which is pleasing. Doing the newsletter feels altogether different from the other writing I do. I share different stuff to that which I write about here, and it kind of feels a bit like a club. I was lucky enough to get the chance to join in a conversation about the ongoing renaissance of newsletters with the authors of some of my favourites
- I wrote 125 blog posts this year, which is quite a bit less than 2014. In truth it's been hard to find the time but it still brings me lots of value so is something I'd like to do more of next year. I think I also need to move off Typepad which, when I started all those years ago, was the platform of choice for many of the bloggerati but which has since stagnated somewhat and is pretty limiting in terms of design, usability and increasingly functionality. I may write a bit on Medium, but I still value having my own corner of the web so will likely migrate to WordPress when I can
- And speaking of writing, at the beginning of the year I committed to writing a book but you may have noticed that it's gone a bit quiet since. So what happened? Well, in short, we (that's me and my co-author) beavered away and got about 40,000 words down and also met with publishers, but then work commitments and various other things (including in my case moving house three times in a year) got in the way. So a priority for the new year is to edit, redraft, fill in gaps and get it out there. It still feels like an itch I need to scratch
- Oh, and getting the BIMA thing for a second year in a row was nice, and meant a lot
Looking back on all that there's been times this year when it's been a little more full-on than I'd ideally like, but I'm very grateful for the steady stream of interesting work. The one constant amongst it all is that I continue to learn as I go and that is something which is really important for me to continue. So my thanks to all those with whom it's been so great to work with this year (you know who you are) and to those who also took the time to meet up. It's been fun.