Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Happy Brands - are you happy enough?

I read of lot of marketing research and papers on brand and branding as part of my job which are often very dull. However this week I read a recent survey from ad agency Isobel which ranked UK brands based on a number of “happy” criteria. That might seem the agency equivalent of one of those bizarre academic studies such as Why does a cookie crumble (that’s a real study by the academics at Loughborough Uni btw and it's because humidity disrupts the biscuit's internal forces which cause it to self destruct!). However the point is an interesting one, if a brand is perceived as being happy does that make you more likely to purchase or interact with it, and what makes a “happy” brand anyway?

The agency identified five core characteristics that identify a “happy” brand, those being playful, happy, trustworthy, generous and optimistic. They shortlisted 100 UK brands and then asked 1250 people to rank them against those criteria. The final list makes interesting reading. Top of the list was Cadbury followed by Andrex at number 2 and Google at number 3. The full top ten is packed with FMCG brands Fairy (4), Nivea (5), Youtube (6), amazon (7), Mars (8), Walkers (9) and Heinz (10).

It’s not that surprising that the three service brands in the top ten - Google, YouTube and Amazon - are all digital and entertainment based. The rest fulfil the rules of brand that it should facilitate short term gratification and long term identify, you buy them because you are consciously or unconsciously choosing them over another similar offering because you identify with that brand and what it says about you and your views of the world.

What these brands have in common is a consistency of approach and messaging and a human tone of voice in that messaging. Most of the brands in the top ten have a clear brand promise that they deliver to consumers and stick to. What this survey also highlights is that emotional attributes are as important to consumers as rational reasons to buy as consumers are human after all, a fact that businesses often forget.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Never too old to be a gamer - just look at the stats

I have recently suffered a great loss as my beloved trusty Xbox 360 games console died. Now you might think that at 42 I am too old to play video games but the stats would disagree. Today games players cannot be defined by a particular age, sex or social group.

The Internet Advertising Bureau has estimated that there are 33 million regular gamers in the UK alone and worldwide that equates to more that 1.2 billion. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money. In fact a recent report from PWC estimates that by 2017 the worldwide market will be worth $89.7 billion up from $63.4 billion in 2012.

That vast audience has not escaped the attention of major brands. The last few years has seen a rise in brands trying to use “gamification” to various success. Some have even created games as a brand marketing exercise, most notably the successful Barclays waterslide app for the iPad. Other brands have embraced placing ads in actual games and not who you would expect.

It’s not the “yoof” brands that are pushing the boundaries of this type of advertising. Insurer Swiftcover, part of AXA Insurance, has placed ads in games including Pro Evolution Soccer, Guitar Hero and Tiger Woods PGA tour. They have now taken this learning to another level creating mini games inside Facebook apps.

Another long standing in-game advertiser is GCHQ. The spy agency has for over 7 years used in-game advertising for its recruitment ads. They now use streaming video banners on the Xbox Live online gaming platform to try to recruit new spooks. The ads change as the player gets deeper and further into a game and so gives a guide to the spy chiefs to the skills and suitability of a player.

For every successful campaign though there have been many examples of failure. To make it work, the lessons from those that have benefited is that the experience cannot take away from the game and whatever it is; it must be as creative as the game they are trying to enjoy.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

The winter olympics and the delicate issue of sponsorship

Many of you reading this will have enjoyed the last few weeks watching people throw themselves off mountains on sticks or around slopes of sheet ice on tea trays. You may have even religiously tuned into watch people clean the ice in front of a casserole dish. I will admit that the recent winter games passed me by, apart from the furore around Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Sponsorship of any Olympic event is big money and comes with heavy policing. It is a high cost, high stakes business, undertaken by only the biggest global brands with the deepest pockets. They often have the most to loose and so the delicate issue of equality is a headache those brands do not need.

In response to the media and social backlash, IOC sponsors like Visa, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Coca Cola and McDonalds released nice statements about the inclusiveness of the games without directly condemning the Russian stance.

Other brands that had no link to the games however went to town. We had Google’s logo changing on the opening day to include images of the games with the rainbow flag. Channel 4’s “Gay Mountain” ad and Chevrolet’s first same sex couple ad were other examples of brands wanting to demonstrate their own values.  

You have to feel sorry for the sponsor brands as they sponsor the games, not the host nation’s political or social beliefs. But that does not stop the pressure. Closer to home, we have seen examples of brands prepared to take a strong stand over things that they truly believe in. Zoopla’s dropping its sponsorship of West Brom over the Anelka quenelle issue for example. To me that demonstrates a business that truly stands by its values and fair play to them.

There are no winners or losers here. The lesson may be simply that all brands need to be satisfied that they are prepared to stand by their own values. Especially if their activities in some way mean they could be accused of being compromised. Or at least make sure you have a plan of how to approach any backlash. Planning will prevent pain in the long run. 

Personalised marketing - clever or creepy?

I have been working in marketing long enough to remember the first time I got a bulk email drop in my in-box with my actual name on it rather than “Dear customer”. Over the years personalisation in marketing has become something that is deemed standard. In fact, if you receive any form of marketing communication that is not highly personalised they are the ones that are binned electronically or physically first.

Product personalisation is the next evolution of this trend. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign is the best known example of this. It was actually dreamed up by Coca Cola’s Australian marketing team in 2011 thinking about ways to re-connect with its customers. Although they couldn’t personalise each individual Coke bottle, they realised they could replace the Coke logo on it with a range of common Christian names. This drove a 4% sales uplift and the campaign has been rolling out worldwide ever since with the labels printed with the 150 most popular Christian names in each territory. It was launched in the UK this summer to great success both in sales and brand engagement.

Another great example of a brand being creative with personalisation comes from the household favourite Heinz. In America they have a website myheinz.com where anyone in the US (they don’t do this internationally unfortunately) can order personalised bottles of tomato ketchup or mustard with your own words and even photos, delivered to your door.

The UK division took this concept and created a social campaign where Facebook fans could send personalised “Get Well Soon” cans of Heinz Chicken or Tomato soup in a gift box for the princely sum of just £1.99. In the first phase of launch they sent out 4,000 cans and have since made it a regular winter social media promotion.

Consumers love personalisation, anything from having your name written on your Starbucks coffee cup to bigger concepts like the Heinz or Coke campaigns. Although you think it might be impossible for your own company, it might just take some creative thought to come up with an idea that will really help you engage with your customers.  

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Brand Loyalty, Brand Lunacy

The recent loss of a charger for my iPhone made me think about those brands whose loyal customers take brand loyalty to extreme. As I stood in the Apple store I marvelled at the glossy eyed stare of my fellow shoppers. Price sensitivity was not an issue here; desire for the brand and its products over ruled that. Apple, through its product ethos and marketing, has created in its hardcore customer base a personal investment in the brand. This is why people queue overnight when they release a new phone that looks exactly like the one in their pocket and the two other doppelgangers gathering dust in a drawer at home.

Apple is not alone in its ability to generate brand hysteria. Sony and Microsoft have done a similar job not with a DVD player and Excel but with the battle between the Playstation and Xbox games consoles. There is arguably very little technically different between the two but don’t put that on a web forum unless you want to be bombarded. The platforms and the games on them engender fanatical loyalty.

This is not a new phenomenon. Pepsi drinkers have been arguing with Coca Cola drinkers since forever. Brands that become a lifestyle also generate the same level of love. From Harley Davidson to sports brands such as Adidas, each one manages, through very careful and clever brand management, to find a way into the hearts and lifestyles of their chosen target markets.

The best example I can give of what happens if you get it right is Sriracha sauce. It has a simple website, no Facebook or Twitter profiles and does not do any advertising at all in the US where it’s based. Yet 20 million bottles of the hot sauce were sold in the US in 2012 alone. It, like Spanx, Rolls Royce and Krispy Crème doughnuts spend nothing on advertising and just concentrate on the product and the retail experience and let the brand advocates do to talking and buying. That’s careful brand management, a science and an art form.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Its all gone 1984 again - the ad that launched Apple and changed an industry

Last week saw the 30th anniversary of a television advertisement that changed a company and an industry. It’s not often you can say that about a 30 second television ad but in the case of Apple’s “1984” ad aired during the 1984 Super Bowl it’s true.

The ad is a take off of the classic movie of the same name and was even directed by Ridley Scott. If you watch the ad today (I recommend you find it on YouTube), you may think it was very much an ad of its time. It was however the first major cinematic minimalist television campaign. Its tagline “Why 1984 Won't Be Like 1984", positioned Apple as a true alternative in the personal computer market. Within 3 months of the Super Bowl ad airing, $155 million worth of Macintoshes had been sold.

The ad is rated as one of the greatest of all time by industry types however it was almost never shown. When the ad was sent to a research company for testing it was panned by all the panellists who saw it. However in an extremely brave move, the exec at the agency that came up with the ad chose not to share those results with his bosses at the agency or Apple. That’s either ballsy or career suicide depending on the outcome.

When the ad was shown to Apple, Steve Jobs loved it and the rest of the Apple Board hated it but Jobs had his way and the ad aired. The rest as they say is history. The ad not only changed a company’s fortunes but also the advertising industry itself. It made the advertisement almost as compulsive viewing as the programme it disrupted. It was also one of the first ads to go viral being played on news shows across the globe gaining further publicity and airtime. It could have all been so different if that account manager had not had belief in his creative. He however went on to become CEO of the agency and then launch his own. Sometimes you have to just have the courage of your own convictions.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

John Lewis, a bear, a hare and a lesson in advertising

Well that is Christmas done for another year and decorations are being taken down across the land. Although retailers are already at the tail end of the January sales the inquisition into Christmas performances has already started.

In some cases it is not good news. Debenhams has issued a profit warning stating same store sales for the 17 weeks to 28 December increased 0.1%, below expectations. Although you could blame part of this on a forgettable Christmas marketing campaign, the real blame lies with the increased pressure on early discounting.

Way before the usual Boxing Day sales started, many big name high street brands slashed prices and introduced flash sales in an attempt to gain footfall and sales. French Connection, New Look, M&S, House of Fraser and Boots all used discounting, offering up to 50 per cent cuts to entice shoppers. Unfortunately when one does, the rest are often forced to follow.

Both John Lewis and House of Fraser though have posted strong results. John Lewis enjoyed a 6.9% increase in sales with sales from its website accounting for almost a third of its total income over the festive period.

John Lewis credited the bear and hare television campaign as a key driver of this growth. The £7m campaign (£1m on the production of the ad alone) was launched like a movie premiere and garnered press coverage like it was. It was watched 11.5m times on YouTube alone. However as well as the ad itself you could also buy toys of the characters, a book telling the story (which became its best selling children’s title over Christmas), chocolate, slippers and of course the alarm clock itself. The soundtrack even went to number 1 in the charts.

Not everyone has £7m to spend on a campaign but it helped deliver sales of £734m over 5 weeks. John Lewis managed that rare trick of creating a multi-channel event from a simple creative idea. Rather than just creating a TV campaign they created a whole world for people to be part of, share and purchase. I suspect next year we will see similar from the other high street retailers still left.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant