Monday, 18 June 2012

Email marketing - is it unfairly unfashionable?

Fashionable is an interesting word. You can have fashionable clothes, fashionable hair, even fashionable food. Anything can be fashionable and if certain influencers or the media tell us so we believe it. By definition therefore when something becomes fashionable something else becomes unfashionable. So for every pair of skinny jeans there is a pair with an elasticated waistband. For every tight haircut there is a mullet and for every locally sourced, organic gastro pub meal there is boil in the bag curry.
This pace of what is shiny and new and what is old and dusty is far worse in the digital world driven by the pace of technology. So your iPad1 is already old and useless compared with the new iPad. Likewise if you compare the column inches and web pages dedicated to the best practice for social media you would think that there is no other way to interact with consumers. In fact as a commentator and professional it often feels that unless you spend your time banging on about the latest trend you too will be viewed as unfashionable and out of date.
So I am going to put my mullet on and stand up for email, a marketing tool that many now view as run of the mill. 10 years ago email marketing was the sexy young thing in a marketeers toolbox. It was shrouded in mystery and some people made a lot of money telling others how to do it. Over time however new things arrive and email marketing moved from being shiny to becoming a stalwart of peoples marketing activities simply because done well it delivers.
A recent report from the Direct Marketing Association showed that half of the respondents stated that email marketing was driving 30% or more of their total revenues. So almost a third of revenues from an activity that is often neglected, and in some firms given to a junior while others try to fathom out how to get a return from their new Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Those companies, from large corporates to local restaurants that do get it, realise the benefits. They know that they can prove the return on investment in both time and money. They understand that compared to other channels it is cheap and you can truly build brand loyalty through regular contact if done well, something that all Social Media tries to do. Compared with Social Media it is also highly targeted, you can personalise your emails to named individuals and send highly tailored messages. Anything from solutions or products you know interest them such as a Friday night offer for a deal on a curry to announcing a new product line.
There are lots of shiny new toys out there and there are good reasons why you should pick them up and play with them to see how they work. However you also shouldn’t be afraid to put on your mullet and not forget those older toys that deliver results time and time again and give them the time, effort and attention they deserve and enjoy the returns that will give you.
Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Thursday, 7 June 2012

What’s in a name? The re-brand dilemma - Yellow Pages, or Hibu?

Nothing causes more comment and amusement than when a business decides to re-brand itself. The announcement by Yellow Pages that it is re-branding all its digital products worldwide to Hibu has achieved just that.

Now there is a clear difference between re-branding and re-positioning. Re-positioning is when a business tries to change what it, or its brands, stands for in the minds of its customers. Re-branding though is a change of position and also identity and is one of the most expensive and difficult things a business can do. Local examples of this are the re-branding of Norwich Union to Aviva versus the re-positioning of Bernard Matthews.

When Norwich Union wanted brand uniformity across the world it re-branded its entire business to Aviva. The universal use of “Aviva”, recognised now as a global group with a common brand, is testament to what Aviva achieved and the tactics it used to get there.

Bernard Matthews is still on the long journey of re-positioning themselves following a range of PR nightmares starting with Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Twizzler outburst in 2005,. Its actions over the years, changing to Bernard Matthews Farms and signing Marco Pierre White show that this is possible but can take time to change public perception back to being known for product quality and a healthier image.

Brands certainly should evolve over time or risk being overtaken by competition. Good brand managers know this but also understand that they are just custodians of brands that often existed before them and will do after them, our newspapers brands have taught me that.

For every Aviva though, with good reasons to take the difficult route, there are many more examples like the Royal Mail. It lasted 16 months being called Consignia before being forced to change back to the old name wasting millions in the process.

Yellow Pages is a big business, big enough to post an annual loss of £1.4billion with debts of £2.2billion. It is not just the yellow book but an international business who grew through acquisition (the massive loss caused by a £1.59 billion write down of businesses in the UK, US, Spain, China and Peru).

The change in Yell’s fortunes has, in the main, been caused by the impact of the internet. It is no longer the go-to place for directory listings and despite extensive investment in its online offerings, competition has hit it hard. It has tried to diversify, for example it now builds websites for its advertisers, building 337,000 for its clients worldwide in 2011 alone, but clearly this is not enough.

So to break with the past and try to revitalise its digital offerings, Yell is re-branding all its digital products across all countries, including in the UK, to “Hibu”, pronounced high boo. Products that have spent money and effort building up brand reputations and awareness are going to be changed. Of course having one brand across all your international markets and the consistency and savings it can bring can make sense, see Aviva for that.

But this is a very treacherous and difficult road to take with few making a successful change. Whether this works, only time will tell, something Yell is short on. Certainly this smacks of last throw of the dice rather than thought out strategy in good times. I hope they learn lessons from those who have done it well as well as those who now regret.

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