Sunday, 20 March 2011

Once in a blue moon

Our web clients fall into 2 camps; those that commission websites all the time and those that only commission a website once in a blue moon. This blog post rings true for projects for the latter group of clients not the former.

I was having lunch with a business owner client last week and he said to me with reference to a website we built for him 4 years ago,

"You gave me what I asked for, the problem was I didn't know what I wanted."

I am happy to publicly confess this because 4 years is an eternity in the web industry. Our whole web process and skill base has been overhauled and we are a completely different organisation from then. We have new team members, and been through a full professional development programme for the existing team. However the comment made me think, and I realised the universal truth behind it. Clients often do not know what to ask for, and they will even ask for the the wrong thing. It is the job of a good agency to uncover exactly what it is that the client does want, and also to show them the power that the digital world can offer them. It is the job of the agency, not the client, to ensure that their web offering is maximised.

A key way we ensure that we give clients fantastic solutions is to build in enough time into the project to uncover client requirements properly. We can do sites at break neck speeds if needs must, but increasingly we are unashamedly building extra time at the front end of the project specifically to go over and over and over the possibilities of the project. Viewing the project from different angles, understanding exactly what it is that users want from the site, and indeed how they typically might access the information we are offering them. Working with different stakeholders to get the whole picture. For big enough projects include research. The initial phase of a project defines its success. This approach leads for better results, happier clients and a more fulfilled team.

So if you're reading this and it is almost blue moon time again - give us a call, we'd love to help you.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Top tips for delivering an effective email campaign

1.       Data – Mass emails are by nature generic and the recipients know it. Good data allows for all sorts of simple changes that could make all the difference between someone hitting delete or open.
To begin with we should be looking to cleanse bad data and make sure we have names for the recipients. ‘Hello Jane’ is much better than ‘hello friend’!
Data should always be on the agenda and we should be logging how people respond and what actions they make. Our goal should be to respond to people with short seemingly bespoke emails. E.g. if person x donates to a Pakistan fund they should be sent an email thanking them for their generosity and the latest story from the frontline. This can be done by creating triggered emails.

2.       Title – There’s a lot in the title of an email. People receiving lots of emails often decide whether or not to look at a particular email by its title. If it’s too cold or generic expect it to be put in the trash. Email titles should quickly and easily explain how it fits into someone’s space and what it can do for them. It needs to convince them that there is something worth reading, a legacy of quality is not enough to ensure that the email is opened. Even the brands to who I feel most loyal need to convince me that each email is worth reading.

3.       Timing – Firstly, holding off for a few hours can be better than making a deadline. Emails that are sent last thing will be seen first thing the next morning at the same time other, ‘more important’, emails. We don’t want to be competing for attention.
 Once your email is completed and ready to go consider who the recipients are and when the best time to send it would be. We have to ensure that our email hits the inboxes when people are most likely going to open them. Do you want your recipients to be reading your email at work, or at home? If it’s a personal email consider early mornings, evenings or weekends when people have some free time.
Top tip: The best time to send an email to busy professionals would be late morning or early afternoon just after lunch. These tend to be the times when people have fewer meetings and are working a little slower.

4.       White Listing – Ensure that the email server used is white listed. White listing ensures that the emails are delivered to inboxes rather than the trash, junk or not at all.

5.       Email Content – Opening an email is the equivalent to picking up a magazine. We can’t assume that all opened emails are read. We need snappy headlines that appeal to the audience. Ask questions that you know people are asking or link the article to people’s lives – ask yourself how is your content relevant?

Monday, 23 August 2010

Sex Appeal

Does the freedom of speech allow us to say what we want, when we want?

Some say it’s the most basic and fundamental of human rights. In the USA they call it the first amendment. The freedom of speech is a privilege that should never be taken for granted, misused or abused by anyone... even marketers.

Freedom of speech assumes more than the right to make an audible noise. Firstly it assumes the ability to communicate through written, signed, acted, or verbal language. It assumes that the speaker has sufficient knowledge to communicate with their audience using appropriate language, analogy and concepts. The speaker should also
have an understanding of both their position and that of their audience. This engenders the second and most significant prerequisite of speech: community.

Community is the most integral ingredient of any conversation; without it no one and nothing can exist. It is only as individuals relate to others that they take on an identity; uniqueness is understood in community not isolation. We owe a lot to community. Not only does community shape our identity; it supplies the tools of speech and grants us the freedom to use them.

As the sum of its parts, community is fragile and vulnerable. A healthy community requires its members to be positive contributors. When community members decide against honouring the trust extended to them, community breaks down. Why then do we so often exploit its weaknesses in order to gain personally? Given that it is the community that has granted us the privilege of free speech, we should ensure that our ‘words’ serve and develop rather than take from and ravage it.

In the 21st century we have more communication tools available than ever before. As our ability to ‘speak’ has developed, so must our understanding. There are still many people who the community rejects; people who are not listened to – that must be corrected, but those of us to whom the privilege has been extended must learn to use it well and be considerate of the impact our ‘words’ have.

It is my belief that greater than our individual right to exercise free speech is our responsibility to make positive contributions to the community that extends to us that privilege. Given the relational and sexual immaturity that devours our sex-craved society, is it still right to use it as a gimmick? I think it’s time for the unimaginative marketers who use sex to do the job they can’t, to get creative.

Dan Chalke

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The rudiments of branding

I decided to undertake a small observation project while on a recent trip overseas. The title of the project; ‘Learning from Caribbean branding'. Having visited the area before, I had a fair idea where the exercise was going to take me, but some of the results took me by surprise.

I was expecting to see interesting cultural use of colours, naming strategies and visual identities – all of which I did observe. The vibrant use of colour carries through from architecture, to interior design through to advertising and packaging. Along with this I noticed that local naming strategies are influenced by geography (eg. Piton beer) and people (eg. Aunt Gemima and Grandma’s), nothing very unique in that.

Living in the global world of communications I was also not surprised to see the major advertisers are communications suppliers/operators. In particular Lime and Digicel are very big spenders. The obvious connection of using a fruit as a main mobile operator name is not lost on anyone, and on first glance it seems unoriginal and verging on plagiarism. However if you take a step back and look at it in isolation, it is a clever name. It works. Lime is one of 4 ingredients that are hugely important in the Caribbean; rum, lime, coconut and banana (plantain). So take the concept of importance and dependence into the name of the local mobile operator – and there you have it – genius. However all of this was not too interesting to me, as the parent organisations are large global players, and their identities are clearly cookie cut across the nations, simply taking cultural sensitivities into account.

The small islands of the Caribbean vary in sophistication. Even on the islands that have supermarkets you do not have to walk very far before you
find street stalls, often just tables set up with various goods – mostly fruit and vegetables. One day I walked up to such a street stall to buy some vegetables, and soon realised that it was not one stall but 3, and before I knew it, I was approached by 3 individuals trying to sell me their wares. One seemed desperate and pushy, one was aggressive and one was softer and more personable. You can probably guess which one I bought from. There was not a lot of difference between their products, so in the end it was down to the person selling it. (The stalls in the picture are from another island.) This was a stark reminder to me why branding evolved in the first place. People needed to differentiate their product from the next person's, and with time this became more sophisticated and included logos, names, positioning, proposition etc. Soon you forget that people are behind brands. I have long believed in vision and values based branding, but this was a great example of seeing first hand the origins of the need for branding.

On other occasions we bought wares from the boats buzzing around the harbour (ice, t-shirts, bread etc). They have developed wonderful raw strategies to brand themselves. They call themselves names such as Mr. Quality and Mr. Fabulous. You will actually find them named in guidebooks! The chap in the picture is actually Free Willy (although I am not sure what that proves) . This raw branding brought a smile to my face.

Note to self – remember whatever branding projects I am involved in – people are always the main thing.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Have a drink on us...

I’ve received enough promotional fliers and spoken to more than the required amount of salespeople to learn that ‘a free give away’ is more than likely a manipulative offer tied in so many terms and conditions that it would take an entire summer holiday to plough through them. Such has been my experience that I have lost all faith in ‘free’ offers and the brands that offer them.

At a recent networking event we wanted to offer something better than an embossed pen that didn’t come with the dreaded T’s and Cs. What does a completely free gift look like; a gift free of said T’s and C’s and subversive manipulation?

This is what we came up with...

We dressed contact cards in five pound notes and gave them away. Buy a drink, get a kebab, stash it in your wallet; we don’t care what you do, this is a gift to you from us.

And that was that.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Everyone's a marketer

As I run seminars helping professionals get to grips with how social media* can help build and grow their businesses, a simple truth is becoming very clear to me;

In the new world of social media, everyone's a marketer.

I am not saying this is the end of the need for marketing departments. Of course there will always be the need for them, to co-ordinate and drive activity. However, I do believe there needs to be a mindset change within organisations as to what the role of marketing is. Traditional marketing is about lead generation, brand building and supporting the sales function. This kind of marketing is well defined and often lives quite independently of other departments. I believe that, particularly for professional services companies, marketing is at a challenging place, as it needs to become much more integrated and cohesive with the rest of the organisation.

Most marketers understand that social media has challenged traditional activity, and that the blend of go-to-market activity of any campaign now needs to include social media. That is a given. But what is not so well understood is how this new social world impacts the relationships between departments within an organisation? I am not sure many marketing departments are asking the questions;

1) How do we harness the power of social media, utilising everyone within the organisation?
2) How can marketing bring leadership to the organisation in order to maximise the benefit of social media?
2) What is marketing's role in coordinating this disparate activity?

As with all opportunities before us, we have to embrace the change that goes with the opportunity. Business leaders need to empower their organisations to explore these things.

Our understanding of the power of social media to benefit business has only just begun.
Exciting stuff.

Sandra Bullen

*Social media is complex, but in the main, I simplify it to Linked-in, blogging and micro-blogging.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Why Apple’s ‘unveiling’ of the new iPhone wasn’t a clever marketing ploy

A couple of weeks ago an Apple employee left a prototype iPhone in a New York bar. The phone was discovered by an as of yet unnamed individual who, upon realising what they’d found, sold the phone onto, who subsequently dissected it, confirmed it’s legitimacy, and took the story to press.

Gizmodo blogged about everything from the design of the outer shell to the apparent new processing power found within the prototype iPhone. Their verdict was unanimously positive, leaving an apparently red faced apple with a glowing report of their newest tech.

With gadget blogs all over the net reposting the story, sceptics started questioning the legitimacy of the ‘accident’ that led to Gizmodo getting hold of apple’s secret iPhone. Apple refused to release any definitive statement on the blunder and rumours started flying that it had all been part of a pre scripted marketing ploy.

As seemingly positive as this has all been for Apple there are fundamental reasons as to why this definitely wasn’t a clever marketing move and why it’s unlikely to ever happen again.

1) Apple’s current marketing strategy has taken years to refine and is the envy of most, if not all of their competitors. When Apple held a keynote to announce the iPad earlier this year, rumour had already been circulating of a tablet like device that would revolutionise the way we view digital media. With absolutely no word from Apple pre unveiling, the hype built and built culminating in the event itself making international news. The fallout from the keynote led to the selling of 1 million units in the U.S. alone.

2) Even if Apple were developing a new marketing strategy it’s unlikely they would choose a new iPhone as the flagship product. The existing iPhone has been a phenomenal success for apple, selling well in excess of 30 million units. Consider that most of those sales are to contract customers who will inevitably consider a new iPhone as a replacement for their current phone, and you have a product that does not necessitate this style of promotion.

3) And finally, Apple remotely wiped the product after they realised it was missing leaving Gizmodo with an essentially useless prototype. Althugh Gizmodo’s article was a candid review of the product, it was essentially built on speculation.

It will be interesting how Apple handle the promotion of the new iPhone from here on in. With a guestimated release date of later on in the year, all eyes will be on Apple over the next few months. Doubtless they will carry on with their secretive approach until the day the product is officially launched but for the time being gadget lovers all over the world are left to enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to salivate over a new Apple product before the unveiling.

By Rory Muldoon