Our journey into the unknown: 2015

Back in September we launched Earnest Labs, our journey into the unknown.

And it’s been quite an adventure; even in the short time we have been going.

We always wanted to be more than just a token tab on the website, we aimed to create a living, breathing space for us to pioneer new ways of thinking, solve problems, experiment, tinker, test and create.

As the year draws to a close, I want to take a look back at what we have achieved so far and what 2016 holds.

So what have we been up to?

We’ve created a new product and taken it to market

Labs is much more than just a stream of thoughts and theories. It’s bigger than a blog. We want to create real products that answer real issues marketers are having – like out-dated business events and exhibitions.

Our SlideShare, ‘How to bridge the Content Chasm’, looked at how only 8% of event marketers has cracked developing relationships, closing deals and acquiring customer insight at events and the even more shocking fact that 82% of delegates don’t fully engage with event content.

Clearly something needed to change, so this year we created Event Wallet, an app that enables event attendees to discover, collect and share digital content using their mobile device.

We’re pretty proud of what we have created, and had great fun doing all we can to shout about it.

We created a spoof product, Event Sack, to show off the absurdity of the current situation at events, I got my face too close to the camera for some video interviews and most recently we made our stamp on Event Tech live with Bin Men, talks and a very chatty Robot.

Event wallet made it’s debut in Barcelona, and we are looking forward to seeing it being used at many more events next year (and even in the odd sports stadium.)

We’ve tackled some briefs for big brands, without them even asking

The success of Labs rests on everyone within the agency being involved, which is why we launched Brief Encounter – a monthly get together for the agency to help us flex our creative muscles – breaking into teams to tackle a fictional brief against the clock.

We looked at how Air BnB could become the executive’s choice for business travel – looking at how we could position the company as a place for business travel you would want to brag about.

We took on a brief to help Waterstones encourage people to buy physical printed books – thinking up TV ads, events and pop up shops across London.

My personal favourite was when we most recently put our heads together to think about how London Zoo could enhance the experience of a day out at the zoo. We were particularly proud of our ‘make your own documentary’ booth (coming to a zoo near you soon?)

We’ve run events to inspire innovation

Labs isn’t just about fostering innovation within the agency, it’s about helping our clients keep up in a fast moving world.

This year we have run a number of events for our clients – helping them explore new technologies and discussing the future of b2b marketing.

Back in September, to mark the launch of Earnest Labs we ran a charity tech pub quiz. As well as a good old knees up it was a chance to test out new technologies, gadgets and apps as part of the quiz, while all the while raising money for a very good cause over in Kenya. If you want to hear how it went, check out our podcast.

Later we invited the events and marketing department from London Business School over to our offices to test out a plethora of event technology from partners who came to showcase their wares on the day.

We also hosted our inaugural innovation breakfast, Perk Me Up. Clients were invited along to listen to some wonderful talks from the likes of Google, Amazon and Pavegen and discuss the highs and lows of innovation.

Most recently we have run a number of ‘ideas sprints’ for clients. Adapted versions of Brief Encounter, these workshops help our clients quickly come up a number of tactical ideas, many that may end up being discarded but a lot that will end up becoming tests and ultimately shape their marketing strategy.

We’ve tested new technologies.

We come across new technologies every day, and when one particularly takes our fancy we give it a run for its money and write about it.

Intrigued by their popularity, we tested out a number of live streaming apps, from MyEye to Meerkat. In the end Periscope shone as our hot favourite. In fact periscope was so good it was used to help our very own George Sanders share his body waxing experience with whoever cared to watch.

Our resident sketcher, Rory Muldoon, took Adobe Draw on the iPad for a spin, using the stylus from product developers FiftyThree to cook up some beautiful drawings.

We even found a very cool football which, when kicked around, generates electricity and doubles up as a lamp. It’s a fantastically innovative product and we challenge everyone to think where it can be used to change lives.

We’ve come up with a few ideas of our own.

There have been a lot of stupid ideas thrown around the office but when we do come up with a good idea we try to shape it into something workable.

We noticed, for example, that tube carriage congestion could be fixed with a simple behavioural nudge. Our idea was to print footprints on the floor of each tube carriage – encouraging people to stand in an orderly fashion. Still waiting to hear back from Boris though.

We also had a think about how we could separate the wheat from the chaff in the world of content marketing. Our thought was to create a trip advisor for content – building a community of content connoisseurs who rank what the consume.

Finally we took a stab at creating the alt.dictionary of business lingo – saying enough is enough to business jargon and poking fun at it. The follow up ‘Business Jargon Soundboard’ is currently in development. Watch this space.

We (attempted to) run a couple of public competitions

Competitions will be a part of labs moving forward – getting a wider community involved in coming up with new, interesting ideas and giving people a place to take their creative mind for a run.

We kicked off with a competition asking people to design posters for tube stations – receiving some beautiful entries from across the web. The winner will be announced before Christmas, so keep your ear to the ground.

Our other not so successful competition asked people to come up with ideas for TwitterBots, automated twitter accounts that amuse or help people. Very few entries. Very little legs on that one.

Onwards and upwards – next year we will have more structure to the competitions and make sure to publicise them as widely as possible.

We have had some hot takes on big issues

In between all of the other stuff, we shared our thoughts on some hot topics along the way.

Bald chested George Sanders explored the world of innovation in retail, looking at ways shops could change the whole customer experience.

We explored the rapidly growing, and changing, world of iBeacons and how they could be used for contextual marketing (and pushing content in the right place at the right time).

Most recently, in the spirit of December, we delved into the science behind drinking and creativity and concluded that yes, drinking is good for your creative brain. What a positive end to the year.

So what’s next?

In the short four months Labs has been going we have learnt a lot, and 2016 is set to be an exciting year for Labs.

If you would like to know any more about Earnest Labs, or are interesting in anything mentioned above, I would love to hear from you on james.wood@earnest-agency.com