Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tesco, Amscreen and a Selfie at the pumps

In August I wrote a column about facial recognition in advertising. It was in response to the announcement from one of Sir Alan Sugar’s companies, Amscreen, that it was fitting facial recognition cameras to billboards to allow them to show more targeted advertising to individuals. The cameras could tell whether someone was male or female and approximate age and deliver ads appropriately.

Fast forward just three months and now Tesco has announced that it is planning to install Amscreen technology in all of its 450 petrol stations in a five year deal. The announcement means that very soon Tesco petrol purchasers, when standing at the till to pay, will have their face scanned. Adverts will then appear on a screen in front of your face targeted at whether you are male or female and approximate age, all while you are struggling to remember your pin and what pump you filled up at.

Although Amscreen and Tesco clearly stated that no images are stored and no data is collected, the announcement was met with the usual cries of despair from those concerned about data protection and privacy and intrusion. The reality is that the cameras are able to detect if they are seeing a face, its gender and approximate age and how much attention it pays to the screen. They claim a 90% accuracy rate at being able to detect male or female and unsurprisingly this accuracy rate goes down if the person is wearing a hat or covering their face in some way.

In August I finished my column by questioning whether the advancement of advertising technology and its ability to engage may actually turn people off through a sense of invasion. That question now seems much more real. With the screens expected to reach five million customers in the UK we may soon know the answer. Personally however I truly am looking forward to the first time I am standing waiting to pay and the camera gets the gender of the person in front of me wrong. I suspect my follicly challenged nature will mean this will not be an issue for me!

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant  

Monday, 21 October 2013

Brand Experience - Focus on the real meaning

The term “brand experience” is often misused and miss quoted. Academically speaking it’s the experience your brand gives a consumer and so how they emotionally react or connect with it. This is based on whether it fulfils and is responsive to their needs, and very simply how it makes them feel.  Retailers spend millions trying to get that bit right when you walk into a store. Unfortunately it has now also become a catch all phrase that encompasses a whole new area of marketing.  

Many brands are now creating activities and events that allow consumers to experience a brand. This used to be the lady in the supermarket handing out the latest spread on a crumb of a cracker or the thimble of a new drink to try. Today this has evolved to a whole new level.

The best example of this comes from brand giants Procter & Gamble who in 2006 launched Charmin Restrooms at New York’s Times Square. These promised the best bathroom experience in the entire city. Over 400,000 consumers visited the restrooms in the first year of opening and US sales increased by 14%.

If you have ever been to Dublin you have probably visited the Guinness Storehouse. This is one big brand experience, not a tourist attraction as it’s often mistaken and presumed as. Land Rover has a global brand experience director. They plan to get 2m customers taking part in branded experience events by 2020 offering a range of experiences including Land Rover Adventure Holidays in 42 global experience centres.

Clearly only big brands have brand experience directors. However every company should be thinking about the academic definition as what is really important. What impression does your brand give to your target audience at every touch point they have with it from when people call you, go on your website or even pick up a leaflet or see an ad? Does it fulfil your customers needs better than the competition and are you responsive to that? Spend time thinking on those and you will be further ahead than your competitors.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Marketing People vs the World (again)

A piece of research I read this week once again did what it was supposed to and challenged my thinking about how much I really know about our customers.

The research was a survey of 1,000 consumers and 350 marketers. It looked at what marketers think consumers do and think and then the reality of their actual behaviour.

For example when asked for what was the preferred channel of communication for customer service was, the sample of marketers thought that 8% of people would want to use Facebook and 7% Twitter. When they asked the consumer sample, the reality was only 2% would use Facebook and a mere 1% Twitter. The traditional channel of email was vastly under rated by marketers with 17% thinking people would want to use it versus 32% of actual consumers who said they preferred it.

A similar disconnect was highlighted when both sets were asked about which devices were used to access the internet. The marketers thought that 18% of consumers would use a tablet and 23% a mobile. Again the reality of consumers was of the 1,000 only 6% used a tablet and 9% a mobile.

To be honest I was not really surprised by the results because as a profession we are regularly at fault of jumping on whatever the current bandwagon is. In our defence this is normally driven by the continuing pressure to innovate and be thought leaders. Likewise, if you walk round a marketing conference delegates are usually dripping in new shiny tech toys compared with the people they then go to try to market to.

Most of us who work in a business that sells products or services will know our own products exceptionally well. We know our own industries well and our competitors and their products. However when it comes to our own customers there can be a difference between what we think their behaviour, views and needs are and what the reality actually is.

So all this just highlights a very simple reminder. Understanding your customers, their wants and needs and how you can help them achieve them will help differentiate you from your competitors. Research, in what ever form you choose to use, from studies to simple chats over cups of tea, is always worth the investment.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The beauty of basic business principles

This week I had the pleasure of hosting the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce “be better online” conference. Around 100 delegates from businesses across Norfolk and from numerous market segments descended to the Forum. All with the aim of learning some new tips and techniques that would help them improve what they were doing online and give them what all businesses want: an edge over their competitors.

As well as being an honour to host these events, I too sat with the rest of the delegates writing notes and picking up ideas that I could bring back to Archant towers and implement. I was not unduly surprised that from the varied speakers talking about such subjects as content marketing, search, social and email marketing there emerged some common but essential principles.

Too often companies undertake activities, especially online, without any goals or KPIs to check against. “We do social because we ought to” is not a reason. Have a proper plan with targets and goals and measure yourself against them and don’t be afraid to change if you don’t hit them.

Make sure you understand what your customers are doing on your own sites. For example it could be that your audience arrive on your site not on the homepage but a different landing page but unless you check your analytics data you cannot use that knowledge to your advantage. While you are doing that you should also make a point of understanding what your competitors are doing and see if you can do it better or differently!

Use content in its different forms to show people how great you are, don’t tell them. Use your own product and market experience to set yourself apart from your competitors. Finally a theme across all the day was my old favourite that applies to everything: test, learn and refine.

These simple rules may seem like common sense but are often forgotten by businesses. The value of a conference is not always in what is said but the chance to remove you from the rush of modern working and remind yourself that basic principles apply just as much to the digital world as to the offline world and arguably more so.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Microsoft and Nokia - a new dawn or an inevitable sunset?

The recent announcement of Microsoft acquiring Nokia’s devices business for £3.12bn did not generate anyway near the level of hype and coverage if it had happened 10 years ago.

Why? Well four years ago Nokia’s smartphone market share was 30%, now it’s 8%. Right now 90% of all mobiles work on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms, Microsoft’s windows share is 4%.

Although Microsoft also bought the right to licence Nokia patents and the Lumina phone brand. Nokia will continue to operate as a network and tech company and still owns the Nokia brand.

It’s that brand point which is the most interesting thing to me. From nowhere Apple launched a mobile phone and within a few years dominated the market. It was quickly joined by other manufacturers using Google’s Andriod system such as HTC and most notably Samsung.

These handsets sold not just because of the technology, as much as how they were marketed. Apple made the iPhone aspirational, desirable, you had to have one. Samsung has taken that mantle over, especially to the under 25 market who now view the iPhone as the phone owned by the older generation and so not cool. Even Blackberry had some status driven by its BBM messaging system and its use by celebrities. Nokia phones were just functional and that positioning does not sell in the millions.

Technologists would have you believe that you need the next phone because of all the cool things it will do. The reality is that phones became an accessory like a handbag or a watch. When they did, they moved from selling based on functionality to selling based on desire. Those companies with marketers who know how to create that emotion through marketing and brand messaging won. Those with no track record lost.

If you want proof that marketing is something all companies should take seriously it was noted that Samsung and Apple were estimated to have made £3.2bn profit on their mobile sales in the second quarter of this year alone. That just short of the total paid for Nokia, that’s a lesson in itself.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Marmite and Advertising - you either love it or hate it

Advertising, you either love it or hate it, well that’s the idea anyway. Advertising is supposed to create some sort of emotional reaction. The Christmas John Lewis ads are great examples of this. Whatever it does, it is supposed to do something, especially sell you the thing the ad is about.

Occasionally ads provoke such a strong response that people feel that they need to complain. The all time favourite case studies of this are the Benetton campaigns of the 90s. However right now a new campaign from Unilever for Marmite is doing exactly what the team there and at its ad agency hoped.

If you have not seen the TV ad or posters, the current Marmite “cruelty” ad spoofs the work of animal rescue workers. In the TV ad Marmite rescue workers go into houses and rescue unloved jars of Marmite left at the back of cupboards and take them to a Marmite rescue centre to be re-housed.

However not everyone understands the definition of irony, and the ad has received hundred of complaints that it “trivialises” the work of animal charities. This though has had the opposite effect to what the complainers wanted and exactly what the Unilever brand team dreamt of. Lots of industry praise and more importantly a “significant” uplift in the YouGov Brand Index recall survey.

Now let me tell you I unashamedly both love this campaign for its sheer amusing genius almost as much as I love eating Marmite on toast. The creative concept is brilliantly clever and funny. It’s like no other campaign right now and continues the “love it or hate it” theme of recent campaigns. It’s a brand statement that no-one else is prepared to try, helped by the nature of the product. They are even so strong in keeping on message that the final image is of a small boy eating marmite with a face that shows he clearly is a marmite hater. Can you imagine a chocolate ad where the person spits out the chocolate in disgust at the end?  Neither can I this campaign is aimed straight at its loyal target market who love the brand and what it stands for and that’s why it’s a “love it” from me.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Facial Recognition Advertising - a privacy step too far?

A couple of columns ago I wrote about temperature controlled ad boards that displayed advertisements depending on what the ambient temperature is. That is a clever use of technology but what happens when the lines between technology, advertising and privacy are blurred?

Most people are now all too familiar with online behavioural advertising where you visit a site and miraculously ads from that site seem to follow you around the web. It is of course impossible to drop a little piece of computer code onto a human being to get the same effect. However now thanks to Sir Alan and one of his subsidiary companies, Amscreen, we are getting close to that.

Amscreen has 5,000 digital advertising boards across Europe and they are now fitting facial recognition cameras to billboards. This will show whether the people looking at the billboard are male or female and potentially even approximate age allowing the boards to deliver more targeted advertising.

It does not stop there. Students at the European Institute of Technology are currently exploring the ability to link Facebook accounts to the computer chips in store loyalty cards. These would then link to in-store ad boards that would flash up ads based on a person’s Facebook likes.

At this point you then get into the big question of privacy. In America the upscale retailer Nordstrom ran a trial of a system that tracked individuals’ movements through their smart phones’ in-store Wi-Fi connections. Sensors within the store collected information from customer smartphones as they attempt to connect to Wi-Fi service. The sensors monitored which departments were visited and how much time was spent in them. When this was released in the media the consumer backlash about privacy quickly ended the trial.

The reality is as technology gets smarter, so will advertising and its ability to engage but potentially also annoy and invade. A marketer’s dream, but how much consumers will be prepared to put up with remains to be seen.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Colgate Brushswap Saga - marketing lessons from Colgate and Philips

It’s a sad but true fact that one of the best way to learn in business if from others mistakes and I would like to share an absolute classic from Colgate. Colgate’s brand has grown from toothpaste to toothbrushes and now electric toothbrushes.

The latter is a very competitive market with brands such as Philips and Braun’s Oral B spending vast sums on TV advertising. So you can sympathise with the marketing team at Colgate when thinking how they could make some noise about the launch of its new electric toothbrush.

What they came up with was BrushSwap. Create a viral noise by having a stand at Waterloo station for a week followed by another at London Victoria station for a week. At the stand commuters could swap their old electric toothbrushes for a brand new Colgate ProClinical toothbrush billed as being worth £170. A great idea you might think, or was it?

The problem with giving away free stuff and announcing it on social media is that it tends to get shared, a lot. On the first day people starting queuing at the stand at 5am, it wasn’t planned to open until 7am. By 9am they were forced to shut the stand after being swamped by people and having run out of brushes. Cue lots of annoyed people who had travelled to London to get this seemingly great offer taking to social media to vent their anger and Colgate trying to respond and explain the situation via twitter.

To be fair to Colgate on paper it was a good idea using a tried and trusted technique. The reality was different.  Colgate has now learnt not to underestimate the reach of social media to spread both a good message and a bad one when things go wrong. It has also moved the initiative online to an open to all draw for one of 7,000 brushes they are giving away. Network Rail is also reviewing what promotional opportunities it allows after numerous complaints from angry commuters caught in the chaos.   

Maybe the real lesson comes from Philips who placed a press ad appearing in national newspapers reading, "The best things in life aren’t free." The ad had an image of the Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush and the strapline, "The UK’s No1 sonic toothbrush. And worth every penny." Now that’s marketing.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Temperature controlled outdoor advertising – as hot as the weather

The world of advertising likes to paint a picture perfect world of British summertime for particular products. For example, you never see cider ads with people sitting in a pub garden huddling under umbrellas hiding from the rain while wearing jumpers.

It’s often forgotten that bad summer weather causes problems for brands as well as tennis players and farmers. Brands can spend hours and weeks carefully crafting a campaign for their product based on the good feelings generated by good weather, only for it to be completely ruined by it showing during a period of inclement rain and cold. Despite this every summer we are faced with ads filled with images of picture perfect summers days, even when they are the exception and not the norm.

However for every problem there is someone somewhere coming up with a solution and in this case it is, and I am not joking here, temperature controlled ad panels.

Stella Artois is now running ad slots across outdoor advertising company Posterscope digital poster boards for its Cidre brand. When the temperature rises two degrees or more above the average in the specific location using real time data an ad appears for the cider brand.

Costa Coffee has run a two month campaign on the London Underground working with CBS Outdoor who manage the ad slots there and who were pioneers of digital outdoor advertising. They promoted Costas Ice Cold Costa range on the underground network when the temperature went above 22 degrees Celsius. The ads were location specific so when the temperature went up, a digital panel at a station exit not only delivered a promotional message but also direct underground users to the nearest Costa outlet that they could buy an Ice Cold shake.

Not only is this enormously clever but it will also reduce a lot of wasted spend and effort. Ad slots based on increased pollen counts are now also being introduced and this no doubt is just the start of a whole new advertising concept with winter brands already being lined up for temperature based campaigns. So weather sensor based advertising is here and will grow, all we need now is some hot weather!

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant www.about.me/timyoungman

Monday, 17 June 2013

Little Chef – the product life cycle and the death of a brand

A few readers may be familiar with the product life cycle concept. This describes the stages a product goes through from when it was first thought of, to launch, growth, maturity, decline and in some instances death. Death of a product is normally caused by such causes as technological obsolescence, massive public distrust or reaction caused by a scandal and in some instances they have just had their time. One such brand which is facing such a fate and which holds deep memories for many, including myself, is Little Chef.

Little Chef was founded by a gentleman called Sam Alper who actually ran a caravn making business in East London. He launched it after trips to America, enjoying its roadside diners which gave a much different experience to the road side caf├ęs in the UK. From his first restaurant in Reading in 1958 grew a British institution that created such entries into the British psyche as the Olympic Breakfast and Jubilee Pancakes.

The iconic Fat Charlie sign dominated the roadsides of Britain for 50 years but from its heyday in the 1980’s consumer habits changed. Roads became better, as did cars and long journeys therefore became less arduous and stops became more infrequent and shorter. Petrol stations offered coffee and decent sandwiches, well they offered sandwiches. Fast food outlets opened on the roadside offering a modern quick option for the weary driver. The words “lets stop for a happy meal” started to have an impact on families tired of bickering children in the back of the car.

Since 2000 the Little Chef business has been bought and sold a number of times and also been in administration. Each time outlets were closed and its grip on the roadside catering industry loosened. It tried different strategies such as in 2004 hiring a brand agency who thought the problem was Fat Charlie and re-drew him as a thinner version promoting 15,000 complaints. Some success came in 2009 when Heston Blumenthal updated the menus complete with Channel 4 documentary but this was a drop against a tide. 

Now the business is once again up for sale but today it only has 78 outlets from its heyday of over 400 in the Eighties with 67 outlets closing last year alone. Bids have been received from McDonalds, Starbucks, Costa and Kentucky Fried Chicken any of whom, if successful, are expected to close and rebrand to their own brands.

So let’s return to the product life cycle. Numerous books have been written on the subject with many more on how products and brands can avoid the latter terminal stage. Many brands have managed to avoid death through revitalising strategies anything from brand extentions, re-positioning and even simply changing your packaging. One of the best often quoted examples is Oil of Olay once a mothers day gift favourite and now a multi-million, multi-brand extension cosmetic powerhouse. 

Sometimes though even if you change the packaging and adjust what’s underneath, if its not what the consumer wants then the inevitable will happen. So it looks certain that in a very short time the iconic roadside image of Little Chef will be consigned to brand history. Without the occasional death there would be no new life. So next time you stop at the services please raise your Costa or Starbucks as you eat your M&S or Waitrose sandwich in memory.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant www.about.me/timyoungman

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Wearable computing – computing is about to get very personal

Another couple of hours spent researching the difference between a Jawbone Up, Fitbit Flex and Nike Fuelband helped me decide on the topic for this week’s column. Those names will probably mean nothing to most readers. For those who are into fitness, or just worry about making sure they are getting enough exercise, those names are probably familiar.

They are glorified pedometers, those things given away with healthy breakfast cereals a few years ago that when clipped to your belt told you that you had not walked enough that day. Today they are fully computerised and not only tell you how far you have walked but everything from how many calories you have burnt to even how well you have slept. This is all backed by various apps for your phones and websites where you can further depress yourself on how you are failing in your keep fit targets.

They and those like them are examples of the new trend in wearable computing. The current epitome of which is the Google Glass which looks like a pair of glasses with a small screen over one eye. With it users can access the Internet, take pictures and videos that you can send straight to your Twitter or Facebook account and even have directions up in front of your eye. It’s on limited sale in the US now for $1,500 and will be sold worldwide from the end of this year. It has already created mixed opinions, mainly to do with it making the user looking very, very geeky and also worrying many about personal privacy issues. Some US restaurants are even asking customers wearing them to remove them to protect the privacy of other clientele.

The company that has the real pedigree of changing the way the world uses technology (listening to music, accessing the internet through our phones) has now effectively admitted the long rumoured Apple iWatch. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple stated at the All Things Digital Conference in the US that wearable computers will likely be "another key branch" of the Apple tree adding “the wrist is natural”. When they do release one it will be marketed to a world awash with existing iPhone and iPod users keen and ready to try the new toy. You can also be sure it will only be compatible with iPhones, iPads and iOS devices and not anything Windows or Andriod based. Unsurprisingly therefore, Samsung and others have also announced they too are working on wrist based devices that will work with those operating systems and probably do everything but tell the time.

Where wearable computing will end up is anyone’s guess and I have learnt not to predict.  One example though came from Tom Staggs, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, who last week announced the MagicBand, a wristband that stores information about consumers' identity and preferences, allowing Disney characters to greet guests by name. The ongoing trends of personalisation, big data and potentially even closer targeting of advertising just continue to get bigger. Whether you think this is exciting or just plain creepy I will leave you to decide. As a marketer I know where I stand, I just need to decide which one to wait for!

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant www.about.me/timyoungman

Monday, 20 May 2013

#Fitchthehomeless - a lesson in brand management by Abercrombie & Fitch

A recent article on an American site Business Insider mused on the fact that the clothing label Abercrombie & Fitch does not stock clothing larger than a “Large” size for women. In the article the author referenced another interview with the CEO of Abercrombie, Mike Jeffries, from way back in 2006 in Salon Magazine. Here Jeffries states the following:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

Despite the fact that these comments were made 7 years ago, they have spawned a new anti A&F campaign under the twitter hashtag #FitchTheHomeless. The campaign was started by an LA based film maker and writer Greg Karber who reacted to the article by videoing himself going to a local Goodwill store, buying Abercrombie and Fitch donated clothes and then donating them to homeless people in LA and encouraging others to do the same to break the brand positioning. His video on YouTube has now had over 5.7m views. But is this a PR disaster or actually just very careful and well thought out brand management personified by the CEO?

Most of the media commentary about this centres on how terrible it is that A&F do not cater for larger sized women and that makes them exclusionist. Many have also turned on its policy of only hiring good-looking employees and its habit of having bare torso male models welcoming customers into its darkened, music blaring outlets.

You might be thinking this is nothing new and just one in a long line of CEO PR gaffs. Gerald Ratner famously wiped £500 million from the value of Ratners jewellers with one speech in 1991 with the line “People say, 'How can you sell this for such a low price?' I say, because it's total crap." Or  Alain Levy, chief executive of the music company EMI, who after cutting the roster of artists on a music label they owned in Finland said it was because there were not that many people in the country "who could sing".

They were both classic examples of PR nightmares but in my opinion the comments from Mike Jeffries is actually a good example of excellent brand management. True brand management is about totally understanding both your product and your target audience. It’s about creating a passion in that audience and making them feel so part of your product that they become brand ambassadors.

For some products that mean’s that you might have to upset people outside of your chosen target, but if that’s what you have to do then that’s what you have to do. Abercrombie targets young, pretty, slim people and like it or not young, pretty and slim people do not want to be seen wearing the same clothes as old, ugly and fat people. You might not agree with their positioning but it’s what drives a multi-million dollar clothing empire. They successfully sell to their target market and those who want to be in it and statements such as those from Jeffries only reinforce that ability.    

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant www.about.me/timyoungman

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Guinness – a lesson in the changing face of marketing

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference in Dublin with many from the Irish newspaper industry. One of the presentations from an Irish digital marketing agency called Cybercom who has a range of very well known brands as clients one being that most Irish of brands Guinness.

Guinness of course is famous for its advertising and has created some of the most iconic television campaigns over the last 20 years. From the Snail Race to the Swimmer to the multi-award winning Surfer, Guinness has made a name for pushing the boundaries of how it markets its single brand.

Guinness has constantly had to evolve its advertising and walking round the Storehouse in Dublin you can see the history of those campaigns. In the 1930’s when the print ads were the classic “My Goodness, My Guinness”, advertising was simply telling individuals what a product was, why you should buy it and where you can get it from. 

Those fundamentals have not changed but Guinness believes that successful brands are now marketing with people rather than to people. Brands must realise that people are more than consumers who purchase their goods and that they are now using and creating content, rating reviews, having multiple interest streams and are members of different communities. In doing so brands and companies must not interrupt people from what they are interested in, but somehow become what people are interested in.

Of course that is not easy in any way shape or form and is a lot easier if you are a well loved beer than, for example, a maker of screws. However the principle of moving from thinking about consumers just as people who buy stuff, to thinking about consumers as individual human beings, is a big mindset change for many.

Guinness also believe that companies now have to accept that consumers have changed and want to interact with each other and brands on 4 different types of screens. Also digital is the new operating system of the world and a modern marketers job is to understand the technology and how these channels are used to communicate with each other and brands.

To react to that Guinness has invested heavily in digital advertising and social media. Working with Cybercom they created “Insights from Inside the Ireland Camp” which is a Guinness rugby supporters Ireland community to which players delivered regular updates and value adding content.  This content was then shared across multiple distribution channels including guinness.com, an iPhone app, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Cybercom, through its work with Guinness and others, have found that you may be able to speak to someone via Twitter but they are also influenced by people in other environments such as Facebook and even print and that conversation is now in a constant state of flux. Your brand should be part of the conversation but you cannot force your way into the conversation which means that you have to spend time to understand what drives and motivates your consumers.

Conferences are very good at giving you time to think and learn from others. In this case it is clear that it helps if you are company as big as Guinness with its large marketing budget. However many of the lessons that Guinness has learnt, not just in recent years, but across 9 decades of pushing the marketing envelope are applicable to all. 

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant www.about.me/timyoungman

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Big Data – an opportunity to transform or hoard?

You may already have the creeping realisation that everything we do is being tracked and somebody somewhere is creating databases of our actions. If you have Sky TV they know who you are, where you live, how old you are, what you like watching and so a behavioural view of your likes and dislikes which is of course extremely powerful.

If you go online regularly you will know of online cookie driven behavioural advertising where ads from a site you visited once seem to miraculously follow you around the world wide web as you visit other sites. Most sites drop cookies, little bits of code, on your computer as you visit them that then follow where you go and allow ad servers to deliver more targeted advertising to you. I, for example, am currently faced with pie dish ads from John Lewis or Debenhams wherever I browse. Guess what I have bought recently! The way to stop this BTW is to regularly delete your cookie cache via your browser settings.

The ability for brands to collect more and more data will only continue. The Nike Fuelband, which sports enthusiast wear on their wrists to track movement, is just one of a range of new portable computers. The much heralded Apple Watch and announced “me too” competitors from Google and Samsung continue this trend. The pinnacle of this is Google Glass the glasses with the onboard computer that allows you to search and share wherever you are while wearing the glasses like headpiece, set for release this year. Google it if you want to be amazed.

If done properly this is a massive opportunity that will radically transform businesses but it’s nothing new. I have already mentioned Sky but the best example of all time is Tesco and its Clubcard. They have arguably pioneered the use of data and clearly shown what can be done if you track user behaviour and use it to better target consumers with things they like. Everything from recommendations and offers, to an online shopping system pre-filled with your usual purchases, all checked through your club card and all possible because of clever use of big data.

I am not even going to touch of the privacy issues that will invariably happen when people actually start to realise what is being collected and who can access the data. Privacy aside however, the biggest issue has always been what companies and brands are actually going to do with all this stuff. It is all well and good collecting vast databases of customer data and behaviour's but unless you use that to deliver better products or services or more targeted less wasteful advertising it’s a big waste of server storage.

The trend for collecting more and more data will continue and I believe that like social media, the far reaching consequences will only be understood by a few at first. Quickly followed by others setting themselves up to “help” companies build data strategies to manage and benefit from this new opportunity. One thing that is certain is that in a few years time, companies and marketing teams will have a greater proportion of data analysts and clever mathematical genii than ever before. With the potential huge rewards of proper use of well gathered data, that is not a bad thing.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant - www.about.me/timyoungman Twitter: https://twitter.com/timyoungman

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Apple seasonal email marketing campaigns - great execution, bad timing

Normally Easter weekend is full of adverts from garden centres and DIY stores driving us to spend during our bank holidays. The current cold weather reduced this activity somewhat which is unfortunate on many levels and not just for the economy.

Seasonal marketing campaigns are a tradition but one that is being jumped upon by more and more brands trying to create a tenuous link to help them drum up some sales. You expect, for example, to see adverts for cards and flowers on mothers day. One global brand however managed to give us a great example of possible a stretch to far last mothers day.

On February 28th an email dropped into my personal mailbox from Apple that made me actually laugh out loud. As always with Apple email marketing campaigns it was a beautiful piece of creative. Nice clean design with strong imagery and lots of white space, well written with clear call to action points within the email. So all in all, a great example of how a good email campaign can look.

Unfortunately the heading of this email was “Make Mum’s day. Every day” with the subject line “Surprise Mum with a new iPad.” Now I don’t know about you but flowers and a card are usually in order for Mothers day and yes I do stretch to chocolates but an iPad, for mother’s day, really? The contents of the email did not stop there though. The different sections contained the headings “iPad with Retina display. Wait until Mum sees it.” “iPad mini. A big thank you for Mum” and “AppleTV. Now showing…whatever mum wants”. I suppose if you are going to use a tenuous link to sell your products don’t go half hearted.  As the Apple mailing list is rather large due to the popularity of its products this email was seen by many. So much so that the humorous comments it created on social media even got it trending on Twitter.

The bottom line is of course that email marketing is still one of the most cost effective marketing tools available to businesses today and when done well should be an absolute staple of a companies marketing mix. If that email from Apple converted into sales from even a tiny percentage of the Apple registered users it was sent to it would have paid for itself thousands of time over and been a success.

So if that’s the case does it really matter that for most people the email was one that created bemusement at the sales message than action? The answer is probably not, especially if you are the marketing or sales teams of Apple. For me though Apple is a company that hold a lot of data about its users and is a pioneer of the next big thing “Big Data”. In this case I just think they could use that understanding to move away from big broad brush campaigns to tighter campaigns that use proper segmentation and list management to send more personalised relevant messages to users. That combined with their best practice design and content they would create much higher engagement and probably better sales with less embarrassing social backlash. In the meantime I wait to see what they will link to Easter with great anticipation.

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

Monday, 18 March 2013

Morrisons online and convenience stores - the great catch up

The supermarket business is a fascinating one. People have short memories but I can remember walking into supermarkets that just sold food. In a relatively short space of time UK supermarkets have grown significantly in size, products and profits. You can now buy everything from pharmaceuticals to clothing to homewares to technology and music. In food itself they have created own range labels, chilled food and whole new ways of buying alcohol. In a relatively short space of time they have changed our high streets.

Continuing this growth, which delivers the profits that keep shareholders happy, is difficult and needs constant innovation. Supermarkets moved to online retailing as a new route to grow. Then, having taken things away from the high street, the supermarkets are now taking them over as well. Our papers are often filled with news of campaigns to stop another supermarket store opening, especially the new high street based convenience style stores such as Tesco Express Sainsbury’s Local. So while three of the top four supermarkets have driven ahead with online services and convenience outlets, one has been conspicuous in its absence; Morrisons. 

Morrisons is not having a great time at the moment. It has recently posted a 7.2% fall in pre-tax profits to £879m for the year to 3rd February. This is its first fall in full-year profits for six years and like-for-like sales were down more than 2%. As part of this announcement its Chief executive Dalton Philips announced that it is pushing ahead with rolling out its new convenience stores and, more importantly, it will finally launch an online offering.

With both of these areas they are playing catch up. They have already opened 12 “M” branded convenience stores, have bought 62 other sites from the administrators of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops and want 100 opened by the end of this year. As a comparison Sainsbury’s has over 500 of its ‘Local’ convenience stores already.

However it is online where they really have been caught out. Online food shopping is growing at about 20% per year and Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s attribute it as a source of strong growth for them. While the announcement from Morrisons is not surprising there is a question of what took them so long. It now hopes to have an operation in place by January 2014 and announced that it has been talking to online food operation Ocado about sharing technology and knowledge to help it achieve that.

Learning from others’ mistakes is fine but playing catch up in a market that is moving so quickly is extremely difficult. Morrisons does not have a loyalty card like the Tesco Clubcard which uses data from that to populate its online offering with what a customer normally buys in store. In this game they have proved that big data matters. Where they might have an edge is in m-commerce with Ocado reporting that 28% of its orders are from mobile devices.

Morrisons is a long way from its first store opened in Bradford in 1961 by Sir Ken Morrison and one of the PG Tips chimps who cut the tape. Whether these new initiatives are the right thing to do is not in question; whether they have left it too late is another though. Hopefully partnering with experience, especially with someone with experience in the biggest growth area of mobile will give them the kick start they need to catch up.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant @timyoungman

Monday, 4 March 2013

The horsemeat scandal – PR and brand opportunity? Every little helps.

While tax avoidance creates a certain level of emotion in people the thought that you might have been eating horse, well that’s another story. The horsemeat scandal has created brand issues way above what was seen last year. People still bought Christmas presents through Amazon while tutting at what tax they had just helped them avoid. The thought that you might have eaten something you thought was beef and actually could propel you to glory at Newmarket, different matter.

The two areas that I have found most interesting is how those affected companies have reacted and what those outside of the scandal are doing to capitalise on it. While most of the supermarkets have been affected and long standing brands like Findus have borne the brunt, I want to focus on the reaction from Tesco for the first part of my interest.

From an online point of view, Tesco has taken the brunt of the mentions regarding this scandal. It has far outstripped the other supermarkets and even Findus in online news coverage and social media mentions. With this in mind it probably has the biggest mountain the climb to regain the potential knock to its consumer confidence. What it has done so far though has been quick and effective.

Rather than spreading the blame everywhere but themselves, they apologised quickly and announced investigations. This was quickly followed by a series of announced measures clearly communicated to its consumers especially online through email. This communication was personalised and came from the top, all from the group chief executive, not delivered from an unknown Tesco PR person.  

The last email sent to me as a clubcard holder came with the clear concise, and in my opinion, excellent subject line “we are changing”. In it they once again admitted guilt and outlined simply and clearly the range of measures they are putting in place to stop this happening again. Compare this to how Starbucks handled the tax avoidance scandal and you have a case study in how to do it well compared to how to do it badly.

The next area of interest is what those outside of the scandal are doing to capitalise on it. The big winners from this are, and will be, local food producers, especially your local butcher. My own local butcher, Archers, has already seen a rise in trade as people move to a source they can trust. Our papers are full of similar stories which personally I find extremely encouraging. However the ability to truly maximise this opportunity I hope that local butchers take some time to think about how they market themselves.

Are they actively promoting providence of their meat, even if it’s simply a blackboard with the farms where it comes from are listed. Are they using this as a way to build a bigger database of customers, especially email addresses, that they can then build an ongoing relationship with? Why not give an offer in return for customer details so people have a reason to share and then send them newsletters with competitions, special offers and even recipes giving these new customers more reasons not to go back to the supermarkets.  

It’s not just butchers that can capitalise on the current shift in consumer mood. All local food producers should now be sitting down and thinking how they can make the most of this situation and grow their own businesses. With some thought and effort they can now tap into an opportunity and as they say “every little helps”.

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

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Agile marketing and news jacking - marketeers do love buzzwords

Marketers love buzzwords and new ways of working, it’s in our nature. Last year the big buzz was all about content marketing. This year there is a new kid on the block called agile marketing.

Agile marketing got its name from a type of software development where small teams work quickly on projects, releasing updates in smaller “sprints” rather than big lots, testing and improving as they go. The theory behind agile marketing is to take that style of working and apply it to modern marketing methods.

So instead of a full year’s plan of working, “agile marketers” set out a summary annual marketing plan with themes and overall objectives. Then each month they create more detailed plans of work and review activity weekly against what the current need is and against the annual themes and objectives. That’s the theory anyway.

Of course like all things the theory is quickly swamped and forgotten and already agile marketing is being used as a catchphrase for any quick marketing efforts. Especially brand messages linked to the latest news agenda. In 1952 it took 2 days for the news of the Lynmouth flood disaster to reach the national press. Today we expect that if something happens around the globe we hear about it instantaneously as reports are posted and tweeted across social media and picked up by news channels.

Brands are constantly looking to put themselves in front of us wherever we are in both the real and digital worlds. To engage with us they need to deliver fresh, relevant messages hence you see an increasing amount of messaging linked to the news agenda. The two best recent examples of this come from Oreo Cookies and Specsavers.

On the night of Jan 23rd in the Capital Cup semi final, Chelsea player Eden Hazard kicked a ball boy, cue massive media coverage. On Friday 25th Specsavers had full page ads in most of the national newspapers showing an image of a boy in a vest saying "ball boy" next to a cross, and then below it, the image of a football with a tick and then the optician’s tagline, "Should’ve gone to Specsavers". Clever, topical and most importantly agile.

A bigger global example came from Oreo cookies that, when the lights went out at the Superbowl, sent a tweet out with the message:  “Power Out? No Problem” accompanied with a picture of a cookie with the line “You can still dunk in the dark.” Most impressive about this was the fact that Oreo’s agency 360i had a team ready for anything on the night. This meant that they tweeted a print quality creative designed, captioned and approved within minutes.

To me agile ways of working should be adopted in part but not in total. Sometimes speed encourages people to forget core things like proper objective setting and measurement and writing strong briefs (if only for yourself) as part of proper planning. Those should always be at the core or your marketing efforts. If an opportunity does arise to promote your brand quickly you do now need the flexibility and set up to react.  The next big thing is here and has already been taken over; even the link to news has now got its own term, the frankly awful “newsjacking. We never learn.

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

Friday, 8 February 2013

The reality of creating brand campaigns in 2013

In a couple of weeks I have the honour of being a guest lecturer at the University of East Anglia speaking to a lecture hall full of eager business students. The title of my presentation is the rather esoteric “From inspiration to implementation: the reality of delivering a brand advertising campaign in 2013”. I am of course hugely looking forward to this as not only do I have a passion for giving presentations it is doubly exciting when it’s on a topic that I am extremely passionate about.

Creating the presentation has reminded me how the pressures of modern business means that often you forget key learnings from your education and how they are still relevant. I am sure that those students will have spent time learning about different business and marketing models. I am looking forward to their faces when I tell them that the reality they probably face may contain lines such as “we need more people through the door, sort it”, “our sales are dropping help!” or “it’s a tough time and marketing is just a cost so the budget needs to be saved”.

Luckily here at Archant Towers, our business is about marketing and connecting motivated buyers and sellers, we understand its importance but I know it’s not always the case. We might be facing a triple dip, but those companies that take the time to understand their customers’ wants and needs and communicate with them effectively and cleverly across multiple channels will still succeed. If they have remembered marketing basics like product, price, promotion and place.

Writing the presentation reminded me that it’s more important than ever to set yourself clear objectives, write a brief, even if it’s just for yourself. We are in a world where your message can be placed across hundreds of different channels and quickly lost among the thousands others we are bombarded with every day. Often you have just 1 second to grab someone’s attention so make sure that your creative is standout and remember that clear concise copy is an art form that should be treated as such and refined and refined again. Most importantly measure against the objectives you set yourself whether increase in sales, footfall or whatever and learn from that data.

Marketing has never been so complex with always-on communications, much higher pressure to prove ROI, the sheer volume of data to analyse, and ever more specialisms and channels to understand. My message to these students is that modern marketing is hard and complex and hurts your head on a daily basis. That it forces you to constantly learn new skills as new areas become the norm, from social media to content marketing. That unless you specialise you have to understand everything. From data collection and analysis, to digital techniques to good old fashioned copy writing, design and planning and yes, brief writing and objective setting. However, because of all of this, it is exiting, challenging and rewarding and to me the best job in the world.

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

Monday, 21 January 2013

HMV - a future childhood memory or a opportunity for brand revitalisation

Looking out from Archant Towers to a sea of white brings back childhood memories of days off from forced school closures playing in the snow in Cromer. Memories of your youth often have key points that not only stick in your mind but also often come up in conversations with friends such as “what was the first record you ever bought?”

I can clearly remember going into Woolworths in Cromer with my mum to buy Ultravox’s Love’s great adventures which started a love affair with music I still have. Sadly, I now doubt that my boys will have that same experience and memories. I cannot believe that a click on a box on a website will illicit such strong emotions some 30 years later. This brings me to the current retail stalwart to struggle; HMV.

HMV opened its first store in Oxford Street, London in 1921 and currently has 231 stores all of which are now under threat as it moves into administration. The future of HMV is now clearly in the balance and there is a strong potential that it could go the way of Our Price and Andy’s Records as fond childhood memories. This despite the fact that last year, according to Verdict Research, HMV accounted for 22% of all music and video sales in the U.K.

Most commentators are putting the blame squarely on the rise of music e-commerce combined with the growth in online services such as Spotify and iTunes. Those certainly are major factors but they have their own pressures. A major online only competitor was Play.com which has recently ceased to be a straight etailer, caused by the closing of the Low Value Consignment relief tax loophole which meant that prices were cheaper as they were imported from the Channel Islands. But the fact remains that most of the people I know purchase single tracks or whole albums in digital form only if only to reduce storage space in their houses.

Other contributing factors have been glossed over such as the fact that as a nation we are buying less music than we did 10 years ago. The fact that music retailers faced competition not just from the internet but also from the supermarkets and their purchasing power, a major reason for many independent music stores closing. Despite all of this could HMV have done more to survive?

That is a difficult question. Certainly you could argue that it could have reacted earlier and more strongly on the threat from online. You could also argue that the stores could have had more focus and become more experience focussed. However when revenue pressure starts and you move down the “pile high discount” model its a difficult one to escape and to move to creating a store that people want to visit rather than are afraid about knocking over piles of cheap DVD’s.

What HMV still does have though is brand value in its name and peoples emotions regarding the brand. On the day of the announcement #HMVmemories started trending on twitter, you didn’t see that with Comet. I truly hope that someone recognises a potential here and starts again with the brand. However they will need to be strong in retail, marketing, branding and also digital and companies who have managed to master all of these are extremely rare.

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

2012 a year of marketing highs and lows

As another Christmas rushes towards us and before we have had our fill of excessive gluttony and Morecambe and Wise repeats a brand New Year will be upon us. So before I take my decorations down, cry hootenanny and think about returning to work again I wanted to use this last column of 2012 to remind you all of what a very good year 2012 has been for marketing.

To start with a great lesson in life is to learn from your own and especially others mistakes and there have been some real beauties this year. My favourite lesson in reputation management and the need for proper understanding of the art that is public relations came from Starbucks. The corporate tax avoidance scandal centred on three companies; Amazon, Google and Starbucks but its is Starbucks that has taken the bulk of the flak in column inches. I am totally convinced that within a couple of years this will be used by lecturers to students as a case study in how not to manage a PR crisis which is not a bad thing.

Social media, if done correctly, can be an amazing asset for a brand. Done badly it can create huge headaches and of course its often brought about by the brands themselves. You cannot help what people say about you and social media gives people a forum to do that in public like no other. However actually asking your twitter followers to complete the sentence “I shop at Waitrose because…#WaitroseReasons” is asking for trouble and funnily enough that is what they got. I don’t have enough space to list the more amusing responses, feel free to read one of my previous columns or just Google to see them, it does prove that Waitrose customers are a very funny bunch.

So if they were my favourite mistakes, my highlights were nothing short of spectacular.  To start it has to be the London Olympics and brand GB. Before the games, we pessimistic Brits were rightly concerned how successful it would be. However within 10 minutes of the opening ceremony it was clear that the next month of Olympics and Paralympics showed us and the world that the UK not only can put on a worldwide event but can lead in fields as diverse as engineering, creativity and of course marketing and sponsorship.

My top highlight though was a man who thought it would be a really good idea to get carried 23 miles into space in a capsule and then jump out. What Felix Baumgartner did was quite incredible but what Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz did in my mind was almost equally impressive. This was something that could have gone very, very wrong. However in the end over 8 million people around the world watched Felix jump. This was followed by countless column inches and hours of television coverage let alone the millions of comments on social media all mentioning “Red Bull Stratos”. For an investment of a few million, the marketing coverage this generated has been estimated in the tens of millions. It has indelibly linked the brand in the mind of a generation and set a new level of what can be achieved with a marketing event. Exactly how the founder Mateschitz and his marketing team had planned.

So 2012 had its highs and its lows but its highs way outweighed the lows. We can only look forward to 2013 and what a new year will bring. Happy Christmas readers!

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