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Epiphanies and the redacted ad about Beryl

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BLiX: the brand permission platform went live this September.

John le Carré once observed, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Of course, he was talking about spy craft, not marketing. Turns out, in the case of marketing, sometimes the inverse of le Carré’s tenet can be true.

So as much as I stand by the companion credo, “A meeting room is an unlikely place in which to have an epiphany”, it just so happened to be in a meeting room where the idea for BLiX first pinged.

Big meeting room. Vast bank of glass windows taking in an even vaster river view. The Thames, the London skyline from Sea Containers, on a crisp March morning. The Transport for London client and an elliptical “How do we build our brand and get better at making people care about it?” conversation.

What transpired was that TfL use a sizeable chunk of their own Out-of-Home inventory to talk to commuters. For ‘chunk’, at the time, we’re talking around £50m in media value. For context, a £50m a year ‘spend’ in print and digital posters actually puts TfL north of Coca Cola and McDonald’s as the UK’s heaviest outdoor advertiser. With such a serious media inventory to showcase your message, you don’t want people drifting past it like magnolia-coloured wallpaper.

When the media planning guys left the room, they were replaced with the “CRM/digital/data guys”. Conversation turned to email outreach and a new website. “How many people were on the database? How many were open to receiving TfL emails?” Well, GDPR had chopped the figure by about… 90%. Ouch. “But how many then?” The shy reply: a bit shy of 45,000, that was who was left, who had opted back in.

It was both glaringly simple and yet seemingly not. Why not get all those posters working to rebuild your CRM database? From assets in isolation that don’t join up or particularly work together, why not an ecosystem of assets that play to some genuine gestalt? Why not join everything up? Different agencies and teams were being wheeled in, one after the other, talking brand, media, CRM, and there was no lynchpin. It was all silo chatter.

That was epiphany number one, in ‘Meeting Room 1’. The first epiphany that set the wheels in motion for BLiX. Back in March 2019. From then, we moved fast and (in truth) moved slowed, because you can only move so fast, and because Daniel Kahneman is worth paying attention to.

Shaping the BLiX proposition, defining the product, pitching for funding. That happened quickly. Product development, market testing with marketers, debugging, building a bespoke back-end platform, baking in all the encryption tech, going from MVP to Fully Viable Product, that took a little longer.

Along the road, Epiphany Number two buoyed and bolstered everyone’s spirits; served-up an adrenalizing shot in the arm.

Epiphany Number two wasn’t in a meeting room, but in a Waitrose. A lovely old lady with a clip board asking shoppers for their email addresses. A one-women attempt to rebuild John Lewis Group’s CRM in the fallout of GDPR. “That’s how they’re trying to fix it?”

Epiphany Number 2 became our first print ad. Still affectionately known to us as, “The ad Campaign magazine refused to run”. It was however the ad AdWeek were perfectly happy with.

March 2020: Inside back, the BLiX Beryl Redacted print ad in AW360, available here.

Then, as now, BLiX is not about rocking the apple cart, but it is about helping improve the quality of the apples. It’s about a smart and simple way to fix a set of challenges. (You may have noted the gear-shift in tense - because we’re now all caught up and in the present.)

From reaching across four continents and talking with so many CMOs who kindly gave their time to figuratively bash, bruise and beast the BLiX proposition, we’re now once again talking with marketers worldwide about partnering and trialling the platform. BLiX is live. As of this month. September 2020.

How will BLiX fare? I have no clue! Sure, we have high hopes and bold ambitions; there’s a lot to like about it. We think it makes infinite sense. Ticks a ton of boxes for marketers and consumers alike. But only time will ultimately tell.

What I do know is that BLiX, from late night drawing board to post-Covid dawn, remains a single-minded proposition. A single-minded proposition that neatly unpacks into an entire ecosystem of motivating possibilities for marketers:

  • An honest broker RMP (‘relationship management platform)’: tick.
  • Fuelled by the digitisation of press and poster ads, but where that digital trigger can be similarly applied to physical POS, product packaging, and the product itself: tick and tick.
  • Where the above is just the “Marketing IoT” dimension, because a brand’s digital assets can just as easily be BLiX-enabled: tick, tick, tick.

BLiX was born from a few simple “Imagine if’s?” Imagine if every poster and press ad could be born digital? Meaning, imagine if it could contain a digital trigger point, a motivating call-to-action, that could also establish the cause-and-effect of that message and medium?

Imagine if every poster and print ad, in consequence of being born digital, could become a CRM driver?

Imagine if people could house all the brands they love and want to hear from, all in one place? Aggregated together on an App, in a way that was quality-controlled, with the user in control.

Imagine if we could resolve GDPRs decimation of CRM lists and the marketing communities questionable approach to “relationship marketing” as pushing emails into people’s Inboxes?

It’s these “imagine if’s” that essentially answer the question, “So what is BLiX?”

September 2020: The BLiX Explainer.

If you clicked and watched the whole 100 seconds, I hope you liked it. Long-short: advertising is changing. Change of the welcome kind. Where everything can become the right kind of brand response, can carry a call-to-action that can become the start of a lifetime customer conversation. Which also means it’d be remiss of me to sign-off here without practicing what we’re preaching.

If you’d like to know more – just as it should be – we’re a click way.

Simon Pont, CEO of BLiX and co-founder of Big Blue.

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