Friday, 4 November 2011

Lack of marketing budget? Time to think smarter

Many of you may have seen the recent furore about the number of ad breaks in the X Factor and the current series of Downtown Abbey. Many have complained how the sheer volume of ad breaks and sponsorship slots was ruining their enjoyment of the programmes. I will leave you to decide whether that is either possible or true.

I suspect though that along with concerned of Surbiton there may have been a few individuals either watching the shows or reading about the controversy who simply wished they could afford that level of marketing. Lets put it this way, the estimated cost for a 30 second slot in the final of X Factor last year was in excess of £250,000 and that is without the cost of making the ad in the first place. So this style of advertising is just for the big boys with big pockets which makes it difficult for a local advertiser to stand out.

So if you are a small company looking to promote its products on a tight budget how do you compete with the big boys? The answer is you have to think smart.

My favourite two examples of this are from very different industries. The first is from Scottish brewer Brew Dog who have made a name for themselves not on the basis of its beers but for its ability to get a lot of coverage by being clever. They launched a beer described as the "UK's Strongest beer", Tokyo beer, at an incredible 18.2% abv.

This created a huge backlash from a number of alcohol issue related charities and bodies concerned over the need and glamorisation of such a high strength beer. I suspect though that they have missed the point. This launch has nothing to do with selling a few bottles of beer and everything to do with gaining profile for Brew Dog. In fact they only brewed 3,000 bottles as a special edition. In reality over 29 millions barrels of beer are sold in the UK every year. You can now see brewdog beers in most supermarkets, a big win for a small company.

My other favourite example is from American clothing company Betabrand ( Like the drinks industry, fashion is dominated by big brands and big retailers so its very difficult for a small online only brand to standout. The founder of Betabrand knew he had to come up with something different so last year they created the seven deadly sins series of trousers. It started with the “Gluttony Pants” which included three expander buttons labelled piglet, sow and boar. Trousers were then created for each sin. For envy for example they created just one unique pair of trousers for an auction so others would envy the winner.

Clever idea, clever product and clever marketing generated social media and press coverage and took sales to over $1m in just a couple of years. With ongoing product innovations such as horizontal cord trousers and trousers with reflective turn ups for cyclists they continue to carve a name for themselves in a difficult market place.

Sometimes it does not take millions thrown at marketing to make a brand. It takes creativity, thought and perseverance and a good product to start with.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 10 October 2011

The business of gaming

In a week when we move into autumn along with the cheery message that there is a 1 in 6 chance of a double dip recession one media moves into its biggest profit generating season. You might be forgiven if you think that the most profitable media in the world is television with its ad revenues or film with its takings and merchandise, in fact, its gaming.

Consoles such as the Nintendo Wii moved gaming from the bedroom of the teenage boy to the family lounge. Gaming has moved into a more mainstream environment but the names of the big autumn releases: Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 give the game away, so to speak, of where the real money lies.

Lets take the most anticipated game release of this year, Modern Warfare 3, part of the Call of Duty series. This will mean nothing to most of you however the last game in the series; Call of Duty Black Ops, sold 5.6 million copies on the first day of release last November in the UK and US alone. Since then it has gone on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide in just 10 months with a launch price on average of £40.

The Call of Duty titles are created and owned by publisher Activision Blizzard. This one games publisher in 2010 posted revenues of $4.8 billion with a 29% operating margin. It had $1.4 billion operating cash flow with a total of $3.5 billion of cash and investments and no debt. The Call of Duty games alone brought Activision $1.2 billion in 2010. They also made $1.7 billion in digital revenues from online subscriptions to web based games such as World of Warcraft and also map packs for games. These allow gamers who play others online to buy new digital worlds to shoot each other in and with 20m worldwide sold of a Black Ops extension pack at an average of $10-$15 per sale you can see how it ads up.

They are not alone Electronic Arts which publishes the Battlefield series and the Sims among others reported $3.8 billion in revenues for the year ending March 2011. These are just two of the bigger publishers and this does not account for the revenues gained for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo for their multiple console sales. It is now, undeniably, a massive industry but how has it moved from teenage boy’s bedrooms to one of the worlds most profitable industries?

Gaming recently enjoyed its own series on BBC Four and therein lies the clue. I first played with a Spectrum 48k when I was in high school. Many a Saturday afternoon was lost playing such classics as Manic Miner or Sabre Wulf. That generation, who were brought up on the Specturm and Commodore 64, grew up and graduated to the Playstation and the X Box. Then, games were bought by saving pocket money. Those 1980s teenagers are now in their 30’s and 40’s and can now afford the £40 cost of a new game, albeit wincing when paying. The gaming industry has been accused of many things, but with enviable revenues and profits and a growing market a double dip recession is not a concern for those involved.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow in on Twitter @timyoungman

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Cheese, cigarettes and brand architecture

Question, what has Philadelphia Cheese and Marlboro Lights got in common. 

Answer, well you need to read on and I will explain later. 

Some stories, unlike this column, do not need a hook to keep readers interested and some stick around for longer than people first thought they would. The best current example of this is the phone hacking scandal. This seems to have dragged on forever, but it has done because every time you think it will die down something else comes out that beggar’s belief.

I am sure that you all will have read or watched ad nauseum details of this scandal.  Most interesting to me however was that this story has moved from something affecting a single newspaper to something affecting a global corporation.

So back to the question of what has Philadelphia Cheese and Marlboro Lights got in common? The answer is that at one point they were both owned by the same holding company, Phillip Morris. This is the point with global companies, they can own vastly different products and brands, contentious and otherwise, and the general public never know.

So now a brief lesson in brand architecture, or the way that companies structure brands they own. You can have product brands such as pampers, sub brands such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and also corporate/umbrella brands such as Virgin. These are the most dangerous as if something goes wrong with one part, as the others are so closely associated with it, it can affect the others. So if Virgin Money were to suffer a major issue it might creative a negative perception on other Virgin brands i.e. Rail, Atlantic etc. This has not stopped some previously relatively unknown corporate brands start to make themselves known such as Proctor and Gamble with its “proud sponsor of mums” campaign in readiness making the most of its Olympic activities.

A house of brands approach however is the complete opposite. Here a relatively unknown parent brand owns lots of very disparate sub brands and if one gets in trouble, it is unlikely to be associated with another and the holding company.  So when the News of the World got in trouble you may have realised that it could affect The Times or The Sun as they are all part of News International. But what about Fox News, or any of the 120 newspaper News Corporation, the overall parent company, own in Australia alone and I could go on.

What has been most interesting is that the focus and talk around phone hacking has moved from individual product brands to the ultimate owner News Corporation and more and more the largest shareholders the Murdoch’s themselves. The enquiries may be looking at specific products but media coverage and social media chatter now generalises about News Corp as a whole, something that has a house of brands it probably thought would never happen. With the News Corp BSkyB bid gone and the scandal ongoing, no matter how clever you run your corporate affairs, sometimes a single event can pull the critical piece from the Jenga tower and we wait to see if it will all fall down.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant – follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 11 July 2011

Copywriting for sales materials - less is often more

In the last month I have been at both the Suffolk County Show and the Norfolk Show. Of course Archant Towers are heavily involved supporting our local county shows but we are of course at them as well selling lots of newspapers. This year we also had people signing people up to our new Tickles offering, which sends out daily emails of local money saving offers, at both shows.

After coming back from two very long but fruitful days at the Norfolk show I sat nursing sore legs and a large mug of tea thinking about what others were doing at the show. Walking around, you get to see the wonderful and rather creative ways people describe what they do. I also have a habit of picking up sales brochures at shows like that. It was not that I was interested in these businesses, but it is a great opportunity to collect examples of sales materials and branding aids from different industries to see if there any ideas I could steal, sorry I meant learn from.

So while trying to regain feeling in my legs, I flicked through a large pile of brochures I had picked up as I walked around the packed show. It came apparent that most were created by people who run with the adage “why use 3 words when you can use 300”. The words, innovative and trusted company were used by at least a half a dozen of them. Few actually told me what they would deliver to me as a potential customer in a concise and easy to remember format that would stand them apart from their competitors.

Sales materials, especially sales brochures, are often beautiful things packed with words that potential customers simply don’t read. This is mainly as the person who wrote them either was under instruction from his or her manager to make sure that they include all the benefits and descriptive text they think should be in there (forever known and The Crammer). Or because they think that with 4 pages of a brochure to fill you should fill it even if it means long winded descriptions and lots of flowery text that says lots and yet nothing at the same time.

Only one company of all the brochures I picked up described in 4 concise words what they did and stood for. That simple statement set them apart and drew me into its literature which itself was concise well designed and well written. Whoever created that had sat back and taken time to think through what key messages they were trying to communicate to its potential customers and then delivered them clearly and concisely.

Creative writing and design is an art and writing concisely is a skill, ask any journalist or columnist who has to stick to 500 words. So if you are thinking about creating something to promote your business think about what you are trying to convey and remember in this case, less is often more.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

Monday, 9 May 2011

Social Media and its key role in moden news delivery

There were two worldwide major media events since my last column that you cannot have failed to have seen. The first was the royal wedding and the second, the death of Osama Bin Laden. Both were fascinating stories for very different reasons and both garnered worldwide media coverage. What was interesting though was the role that social media played in that media coverage.

Over 400m people watched the royal wedding on a dedicated YouTube channel. Not as high as the estimated 2bn television audience but still staggering. During the service, according to Facebook, its users were posting 47 updates a second. As I watched the television coverage, on both channels correspondents pushed their own twitter accounts (I don’t think the BBC or ITV had thought about keeping it to an official profile that they owned rather than a following that moves with the presenter). As Philip Schofield constantly was tweeting live on TV and reading tweets I sat and wondered if Twitter especially had gone mainstream. That was of course until the events of last Sunday night.

The death of Osama Bin Laden by American Special Forces has now been touted as Twitter’s CNN moment. That refers back to the first Gulf war two decades ago when the cable networks 24 hour news coverage brought 24 hours news to mainstream attention and arguably changed the face of news reporting. The story was first unofficially broken by Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual on Twitter) who inadvertently tweeted the whole raid as he lived nearby, commenting on helicopters and explosions and then the now famous “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who live blogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”. It was then done more officially by the former chief of staff for Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary under President George W Bush. "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn." he wrote at 10.25pm EST Sunday evening. After that it went round the world, within 35 minutes by 11pm EST, Bin Laden news was being tweeted at the rate of 5,106 tweets per second.

It’s this speed of breaking news that is the real change. In 1952 it took 2 days for news of the Lynmouth flood disaster to break. By 1988 the Piper Alpha explosion was reported an hour after it happened. By the time the plane landed on the Hudson River in NY in Jan 2009 it was reported live. However breaking news is not journalism. That is the skill of checking the facts, verifying and adding context and comment. Some commentators have said that news no longer breaks, it now tweets. Certainly the way major news breaks and is first shared may now have changed forever but true insightful, analytical comment on the stories will always come from proper journalism not retweets. I will however leave the last word though to Sohaib Athar who after his now famous tweet followed with: "and here come the mails from mainstream media....sigh".

Tim Youngman is Head of Digital Marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Thursday, 7 April 2011

2D barcodes - more than just a funny blob

Some of you may have noticed strange small squares made up of black and white shapes appearing on adverts and posters and even shop windows. This is not some new form of graffiti but in fact they are 2D barcodes. If you have not noticed them before you soon will do as worldwide usage of them has quadrupled over the last year and now even mainstream brands like Waitrose are using them, but more on that later.

A 2D barcode works in the same way as the barcode on the back of a tin of beans i.e. you scan it. However instead of having to drag a supermarket till around with you, these are created to be scanned by mobile phones and hence their use has exploded with the growth in smart phones.

The name “2D barcode” is a generic term used to describe these mobile tags and you may have heard of them being used by some of the branded versions such as QR Codes or EZ Code. But they are all the same thing. A user downloads a 2D barcode reader to their smart phone, of which there are many freely available, and then they can scan 2D barcodes wherever they see them. The barcode effectively acts as a graphic link to a website or webpage which the phone then displays which could contain anything the brand owner wants so long as it’s been optimised for mobile display.

Good examples of how brands have used them include the aforementioned Waitrose Christmas campaign featuring Saint Delia and Heston Blumenthal. Here 2D barcodes were added to the print ads of the campaign which linked users straight to the Waitrose mobile site and the recipes being featured in the ads. Eurosport added a 2D barcode to its print advertising for its coverage of the Australian Open which linked to its mobile live scoring service.

There are issues with this new technology currently though. It’s so new most early adopters have found that unless they are targeting tech savvy mobile users, they need to add some form of caption underneath the code explaining how to get a reader and the process of scanning the code. The link must also direct users to a mobile optimised web offering, another common mistake.

However this new technology gives brands so many different ways to use it. They can be used in print advertising as a novel way of driving people to your content. You can add them to business cards and marketing material to drive people to further information about your company or products. They could be added to vouchers or posters in your stores and my favourite idea is having them printed onto branded t-shirts.

Creating a 2D code is very easy and there are lots of free sites that do it for you, just Google “2D barcode generator”. These are here to stay and early adopters will get the best stand out and your usage is only limited by your imagination.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant – follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Boom or Bust - Dotcom Valuations Soaring Again

For my sins I have been working in and around the web since before the days of and Lastminute started. I once worked for an Internet Service Provider, long since swallowed up and re-branded, and got excited about valuations of the business based on the numbers of subscribers. I honestly thought that my share option at the time would allow me to retire before I was 30. Of course now I know I will be working until I am 70. It never occurred to many of us that the real value of the business is not how many people use it but how much profit it generates. A couple of years later and the dot com crash happened and valuations crashed, and investments from individuals who should have known better stopped.

A lot has changed since then but valuations of pure-play internet companies have started to rise again. You might think that the Google bid for Groupon, the daily deal website, of $6bn was an incredible figure. However Groupon made a reported $760m in revenue in 2010 which put that number into perspective. Rightmove the property site has recently been valued at £1bn helped by the fact that it made pre-tax profits of £52.2m last year from selling listing on its site to estate agents. Against those numbers you can see where the valuations come from.

However there are other examples which don’t make sense. The online music service Spotify has just managed to get $100m funding to try to compete with Apple’s iTunes service. That funding means that the business is valued at $1bn despite the fact that it is currently loss making. Compare that to HMV the high street and now also online music store, whose market capitalisation is currently $150m or about a seventh of the loss making online only Spotify.

Also last month AOL bought the American news website the Huffington Post for $315m. That is almost the same price as the current valuation for Trinity Mirror. That has 5 national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, 160 regional newspapers and over 500 websites let alone 6,500 staff. Trinity is not helped by its borrowings of £260m and a pension fund deficit of £161m. By the way that means that Rightmove and its one site is worth 6 times Trinity Mirror according to the City.

As you can tell by the number of $ signs in the column most of these valuations are being driven by American companies. However there now definitely seems to be a trend of upwards valuations of internet companies. This time around however on the whole the lessons from the last bust have been learnt and they are mainly being valued on the cold hard reality of how much cash is being generated by the business. History teaches much and I hope that those who are now responsible for valuing who then were probably at high school look back at the last boom. That may keep the lesson to Boo who rather than Boo hoo.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Should brands provoke emotion and why desire is the strongest

One of my lecturers at university, way way back, was one of the team responsible for the infamous Club 18-30’s marketing campaigns. He spent many hours drilling into his students that true brands must evoke some form of emotion in people. If there is no emotion it is just a product, emotions makes people choose a brand even if other products may fulfil a users needs better.

When questioned on his philosophy regarding to a brand evoking a hate reaction his response was that there is a fine line between love and hate. It is the challenge of the marketing professional to understand that fine line and to move users from one side of the coin to the other. Doing it in the real world is a different thing but he was of course right.

He did miss one emotion that arguably is stronger than both love and hate. You may love Heinz and you might hate marmite but if you desire something you often are prepared to pay a premium to have your desire satisfied.

A new study from band consultancy Clear compiled a league table of desirable brands after asking 4,000 consumers their views on a list of 300 brands. Some brands in the list such as Oxo at 47 would be a surprise but the top three of iPhone, Rolls Royce and iPod are probably not. Interestingly only eight of the top twenty are what would be described as luxury goods and three quarters of the top 100 are not either, including such “desirable” brands as Dettol and Domestos.

Surveys are of course just a view of a subset of public opinion and clearly not everyone can manage or create a sense of desire into their brands. However from the obvious in the top twenty including Aston Martin, Prada and Rolex the inclusion of Cadbury at number four might surprise you.

Cadbury has managed to both appeal to hearts and minds and have a clear understanding of how its brands fit into peoples lives. For example, the recent Gorilla playing the drums TV ad for Dairy Milk did actually have a point. It was not the result of a long afternoon in the pub coming up with creatives. It was created to remind people of the enjoyment of eating chocolate visually shown by the enjoyment of the gorilla beating the drums. I didn’t get that either by the way. They do though spend time trying to understand how people lead their lives and then how their product could fit into this. For example whether people prefer eating bars of chocolate or from more convenient bags.

Not every brand will be desirable, nor would it be right for many brands to try to achieve this emotional reaction as it might not actually be right for the product or service. For those that have potential though the rewards of achieving this desirable state are clear.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Happy New Year - Advertising Predictions for 2011

This New Year, branded “the year of austerity”, will no doubt be hard for many but will also come with highlights for others. You might think that the world of advertising will be hit from reducing budgets and a general belt tightening. However many major brand owners have spoken on record that they will be spending similar amounts, and more in most cases, to last year but spread over a greater number of channels and initiatives. Three areas to look out for in 2011 will be local coupons, product placement on television and location based advertising on mobiles.

Local coupons and vouchers have become massive in the US over the last year with Google even trying to buy the US company Groupon for $6bn. These will become a new vehicle for local companies to create new business and innovative local companies like are already offering daily deals to thousands of registered users across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Product placement on television, which I have lost count of the number of times I have written about, finally starts in the UK at the end of next month. Placement is nothing new in the states and with our channels filled with US imports, viewers are already well used to the sight of bottles of Coca Cola and Pepsi looming large. By the end of this year you can expect this to change. While you may not see pints of Fosters across the bar at the Rovers Return, you will start to see placements of other kinds in programs on commercial channels as they try to claw back recently lost revenues.

By this summer mobile operator Orange has announced it is launching location based ads with O2 expecting a roll out by the third quarter of 2011. What this means is that if your phone works on those networks you can opt in to receive ads sent to you based on where you are. So you could be walking down your local high street past a Starbucks and you would be sent an offer such as 50p off a cup of coffee to tempt you into the store to purchase. This may sound intrusive but the key point is that these will be opt in ads i.e. you have to sign up to the service to get them.

Despite all these new and wonderful ways of being inundated with adverts there is no guarantee that the adverts themselves will be any good. So I would like to leave you this month with the results of a recent poll in Marketing Magazine of the most irritating ads of last year. In top position was that affront to music the Gocompare series of ads with that opera singer. The number two slot was taken by the frankly terrible webuyanycar and number 3 was injurylayers4u . All definitely irritating ads, but through people remembering them they have all done their job. If you have any other candidates send them to me via twitter @timyoungman. Happy New Year readers!

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant – follow him on Twitter @timyoungman