Theo Lynn, Laurent Muzellec

HyperReality is the interaction of the real world with Virtual Worlds, whether fictional or computer-synthesized.

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    Virtual Brands, How to Blog, Strategic Sales, Country Selection – NGM Week 5

    by Brian Mulvany

    The first optional NGM event of Week 5 was a Marketing Foresights seminar entitled “The Future of Advertising”. Delivered by Ciaran Cunningham (CEO, Carat Ireland), it provided a brief overview of changes in advertising over in recent history and discussed some of the trends that have and continue to impact advertising. These include decreasing reach numbers of traditional media and the rise in broadband users, online advertising and social marketing. Mr. Cunningham emphasised the need to move from a one-way broadcast to a dialogue with consumers, to conversational marketing. This entails:

    Doing not just saying
    Thinking differently
    Asking why anyone would want to pass a particular message on
    Identifying influencers
    Inviting participation
    Mr. Cunningham then went on to discuss the three different digital ages – digital technology as a channel, a platform and an extension of our personal selves. As digital technologies surround us on a personal level, online reputation management will be an increasing challenge for marketers and consumers alike.

    – Charles Darwin

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

    On Tuesday morning and after some twenty minutes of technical hitches, Dr. Theo Lynn (DCU Business School) and Dr. Laurent Muzellec (DCU Business School) delivered a LINK Seminar on “Conceptualizing Brand Discovery”. The presentation was based on their recent paper at the Irish Academy of Management 2009 in Galway. The technical hitches ruined the first half of the seminar but nonetheless the presentation was intriguing possibly due to the pop culture references, more than the academic content. After establishing that changes in technology influenced how marketers advertised. They discussed that two distinct “worlds” are emerging – the virtual and the real. Surprisingly, given Theo’s reputation, the virtual was not limited to digital-based worlds. He distinguished between two different virtual worlds – fictional worlds such as those in books, films and movies and then computer-synthesized worlds such as Second Life. While these worlds can be mutually exclusive, they are not necessarily. Where the real and virtual interconnect, were labelled the hyper-real.

    HyperReality is the interaction of the real world with Virtual Worlds, whether fictional or computer-synthesized.
    Dr. Lynn and Dr. Muzellec the went on to discuss their early work identifying brands that existing in virtual worlds but more importantly brands that successfully (and unsuccessfully) defictionalise or migrate from the virtual to the real and vice-versa. Deficitionalised examples included Final Fantasy Potion (Final Fantasy), JR Hartley’s Fly Fishing (Yellow Pages Advert), Duff Beer (The Simpsons), and Sex Panther (Anchorman). One of the interesting things that they questioned was whether some of these “virtual brands” were really brands e.g. Did they have a name or logo? What mental images were associated with them? Were they capable of legal protection? Did they generate revenue?

    One of the challenges Dr. Lynn and Dr. Muzellec highlighted was that because the phenomena that they were exploring was at an early stage of conceptualisation, they and indeed the marketing literature lacked a language to describe the phenonomena. Some of the phenomena that they are trying to define include:

    HyperReal brands are brands that interact and generate brand equity and economic value in both real and virtual worlds (Lynn and Muzellec, 2009)
    Protobrands are brands that have not been “tangibilized” or “productized” in the real physical world but nonetheless capture the imagination and emotional attachment of real consumers (Lynn and Muzellec, 2009)
    Brand precession is the phenomenon where brands (i) foment a brand aura entirely in the virtual prior to tangibilization or productization in the real physical world and (ii) sufficiently capture the imagination and emotional attachment of real consumers in the real physical world (Lynn and Muzellec, 2009)

    “Duff Beer” from “The Simpsons” – a defictionalised brand which has been brewed by a number of third parties but not under license from Warner Bros
    Dr. Lynn and Dr. Muzellec argue that protobrands represent an opportunity to exploit or a risk to mitigate and cite the examples ”Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans” from “Harry Potter” and “Duff Beer” from “The Simpsons” respectively.

    “Bertie Botts’ Every Flavour Beans” – An example of a Triple Play Brand: a virtuous circle of brand reinforcement (Lynn and Muzellec, 2009)
    Later on Tuesday evening, a number of us attended a Dublin City Enterprise Board seminar on “How to Blog” delivered by Niall Devitt from Beyond The Boardroom. Mr. Devitt’s presentation was preceded by a brief talk by Leslie Gilmour of Cube Online Marketing (SEO) on entry level search engine optimisation. While short, Mr. Gilmour highlighted three first-step methods for SEO i.e.

    Keyword Use in Title Tag
    Link Popularity
    Keyword optimisation
    This was very simplistic however it is possible SMEs are unaware of these methods. Given the time and audience, it is possible Mr. Gilmour couldn’t discuss some of the other negating factors that often impact SEO e.g. use of dynamic pages, graphics, flash etc instead of text.

    As a sales consultant, the focus Mr. Devitt’s presentationwas on the utility of blogging as a sales tool, what SMEs should consider saying and what the expected return should/might be. Mr. Devitt’s own personal blog story was very interesting. When he set up his blog, he had very little traffic for the first six months followed by a slight increase the following six months. Now 33% of his sales consultancy business comes from the blog. Based on my experience, this was a shock. The companies I had worked for had struggled to generate business from their website let alone a blog. Is it the personal touch of the individual where a website is more polished and formal? Mr. Devitt cited good advice he got starting off from one of Ireland’s top bloggers – blog every week and don’t be afraid of giving away information. Time and fear are the two barriers to successful blogging. He now promotes his blog through other media – Twitter, Facebook etc. Using other media and links within the blog helps with SEO which ultimately drives leads. In summary:

    Link to as many external sites as you can
    Write 300 – 500 words
    Do not feel that you are selling your knowledge when writing a blog; give as much information as you possibly can
    Know your audience and ask yourself what they are looking for.
    Start narrow and broaden, if necessary invite a guest speaker.
    Build a personal brand, Niall’s one regret is not using his own name for the blog.
    Within the search engine, target to be listed in the first 3 search results
    To be most effective chose a topic that is specific
    Most people read blogs during the weekend so post your new blog just before the weekend
    Set aside time weekly to blog
    To bring the week to a close, Dr Theo Lynn delivered a seminar introducing strategic sales. Dr. Lynn started the seminar by exploring our perceptions of sales and a career in sales. Few answered positively. Theo discussed why this phenomenon occurs – many of us agreed sales seemed to be a dirty word yet it is what pays the wages. Why is this attitude prevalent? A couple of suggestions – it isn’t taught as a formal subject in business schools, it has negative cultural connotations, it is perceived as part of marketing, there were few academic articles compared to other areas etc, etc, etc.

    Theo’s approach to the seminar was from a strategic level and based on his experience in one of his companies, Educational Multimedia Corporation. It was structured on how to diagnose sales problems from the strategic level and addressing five questions:

    Are there gaps between our offering and our customers’ priorities?
    Do we have the right kind of people who can execute these processes?
    Are our selling tools and templates adequate?
    Do we have the right sales model to sell effectively?
    Do our compensation plans and performance management system support the right behaviors?
    Dr. Lynn emphasised that the same questions need to be answered by every CEO and management team when writing their first business plan or the twentieth. In extreme cases, where a company is failing this involves significant change and therefore leadership is essential.

    This seminar had some resonance for me. My brother recently commented that “It’s either a Salesman or an Account running companies here in Ireland” and recommended that I read “How to Close Every Sale” by Joe Girard. I found it a very good book to read but one of the most important piece of information I got from the book was “Sales is all about service”.

    One of our major assignments for NGM this year is a live project assignment. We have to undertake a country profiling exercise and prepare recommendations for Cambridge University Press on their market entry strategy for a particular country and region within that country for their Global Grid for Learning project. The first task was to pick a country and region. Dr. Lynn put a list of over 75 regions from Russia, India, the GCC and China live on Moodle and we each had to select one on a first-come, first-serve basis. There was a catch however. To encourage critical and analytical reasoning, a number of the regions were distractors….duds. So a quick choice was not necessarily a wise choice. The client may already have entered that country/region or the market size or infrastructure may not be sustainable.

    Depsite the aforementioned warning, I could not believe it when I went online at 4:45 that the countries were live and about 15 countries were chosen already. My view was that if I was going to invest in this project and exercise, I would do some research first before committing to it. However, clearly many others disagree and it was as if they are all running at it blindly. Despite this, I am looking forward to this group project as it will give me a chance to learn a lot about all aspects of my chosen region as well as how to go about launching a new product there.


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