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 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