Archive for the ‘consumer communications’ Category

Content Adds Life (even in a downturn)

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Coke campaign

Coca-Cola Advertising

It has been well documented that great brands do not necessarily contract spending in an economic downturn and that the brands which seize the opportunity and continue to invest tend to ride through unscathed. As a result of this they create an ever-more powerful brand (one that is turned to in troubled times) and which is valued even more when the economy bounces back.  
Where will marketers choose to spend their marketing budgets in 2012 and beyond?
With the squeeze well and truly upon UK and European businesses and even the most esteemed economists unable to predict our economic fate in 2012, how will this influence marketing spend? Overlay this with a real shift in investment from paid to own and earned media properties and 2012 could be caught in a crossfire of step-change in marketing investment, in which the strong and brave rise triumphantly (potentially Coca-Cola and Unilever brands) and the weak and fearful fall apart.  
Will investment in CONTENT shine through in 2012?
My burning question is: Will marketers finally soften financial controllers who demand hard ROI metrics against all marketing activity? In my opinion, the true value of investment in content (or content curation) within the marketing mix cannot be understated, but it is still a tricky investment in terms of clear definable metrics.
Connecting with a time-poor, on-the-move consumer
Consumers are flooded or, in most cases, bamboozled (I love that word) with stuff (advice, information, gimmicks, offers, etc) and it is all competing for our time and attention (of which we have increasingly less of). Juggling this alongside life’s challenges is tough going – and who has the time to wade though it all these days?  
Relationships will matter
Brands that are able to provide us with a solution (and not simply a product), a positive desired experience, to filter out the clutter and complexities in our world, and provide us with solutions to any one of life’s problems (whether it be “what on earth am l going to cook tonight” or “what can I do to entertain myself?”) will be welcomed into our busy lives – delivering a deeper connection and in doing this will achieve a greater sense of ‘social capital’ for that brand. (Social capital is a central idea that “social networks are a valuable asset” and interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other – see
Content Curation and Customer Experience will reign supreme
The best example to highlight here is Coca-Cola’s marketing mission statement, Content 2020, developed by Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence. Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 strategy clearly demonstrates this leading global brand’s marketing future rests on the ideals of content marketing. A lovely strap – Moving from Creative Excellence to Content Excellence.

This investment is linked to three key drivers:
1- The need to double the size of the business
2- Accepting the wider distribution of creativity (crowd-sourcing creativity)
3- Understanding the distribution of technology – the on-demand society and forging important relationships with tech companies (such as Google).
Most importantly, it recognises the power of storytelling.
I urge every marketer to watch both of their videos:
Coca-Cola’s strategic vision

Coca-Cola’s definition of content


Coke Advertising


More on Marketing in 2012

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

The opportunities
The golden CHANNEL of social media, the importance of mobile (“talking to me on the move”),the increased value of a brands-owned media properties, and the all-important value of lovely “sticky” content–to attract, and grow a brands equity, and further build a quality exchange between a brand and a customer, are for me, the key marketing opportunities for 2012.

The pitfalls
Brands who solely rely on continuous discounting, will eventually get stuck in a “Daz cul-de-sac”. These brands will just end up annoying customers (Oh, and I could mention so many brands here). There is every risk that these brands will actually lose market share (even with their impressive, incessant discounting), and trigger the click to the instant ‘unsubscribe’ button for the continuous intrusion, or even worse, create a real sense of anger as a result of receiving continuous ‘wasted on me’ DM that goes through the letterbox (a meltdown I routinely experience). These brands will ultimately fail to sustain any redeeming value in their brand, let alone manage a connection with its desired customers.

Customer insight
Again, any sound marketer will know this. The brands that take time to listen to their customers and really ‘get’ them will be better placed in 2012 than if they don’t invest in insights. It will be up to brands to convince a customer to turn to them over their rivals. The clever brands will demonstrate a real understanding of them and can increase levels of engagement through tactics such as dynamically served content. Moreover, they will aim to ‘delight’ rather than simply service.

The importance of community and conversations
Yes, I know, its been said before, and I am going to say it again! Brands who cleverly persuade and build great like-minded communities, and can also capitalise on our desire for social connectedness (even if it is an increasingly virtual one) will win over more customers, and of these many will be referred on via social communities and features.  Brands who panic and just blatantly push more product at us (that we know we don’t really need), will lose out. Harnessing these built-up communities, and leveraging and rewarding your  most loyal customers (or brand advocates), will be the winning formula. Social sharing, word-of-mouth referrals, product recommendations and ratings are all powerful influencing forces.

Customer experience will be key for retailers (both online and in store)

When it comes to experience – you may or may not like her, but Mary Portas is right on the money when it comes to retail. I really love her straight-talking style. (Are you sure she’s not Australian?).


Portas rallies up some very sound and quite frankly refreshingly uncomplicated advice for British high street retailers (and I know she has travelled further afield to share more of her wisdom –such as Australia. For me, she has the three key principles of thinking:

1) Know your customer (and make sure you understand what they want/like);

2) Deliver an exceptional service (segue to John Lewis) and, finally;

3) Create an experience, not just a room of products (take Apple as one great example). Both above-mentioned brands are premium brands and have recently posted their post-Christmas results – see below.

1-Know your customer (and make sure you understand what they want/ like)

2-Deliver an exceptional service (segue John Lewis & Apple as examples)

3- Create an experience, not just a store of products.
Both above mentioned brands are premium brands, and have recently posted their post Christmas results – see for yourself.

John Lewis reveals impressive results by Iain Laing, The Journal Jan 5 2012

Apple Reports Fourth Quarter Results: All-Time Record Mac and iPad Sales. Highest September Quarter Revenue and Earnings Ever.

AB 🙂 x

AgencyBelle’s 2012 Marketing predictions

January 6, 2012 2 comments

If, like me, you subscribe to far too many trade bulletins and community forums, then you will know that they have been all hard at it from December, right through January, with round-ups for 2011.

2011 was a real techno-media frenzy – so much going on and I am not ashamed to say I was having trouble keeping pace with the technological and web developments. It was as if we were all on fast-forward. (And I think we still are).

I have also noted a plethora of reporting on research initiatives relating more often to social media. There will be attempts to try to account for the so-called soft investment. It demonstrates to me that social media is now a significant marketing channel and finance teams across the nation are scared about its non-standard measures in terms of ROI.

Marketers still need to justify their expenditure, so this year will be a year of trying to get a grip with fine-tuning these metrics – well, excluding The FMCG giant Unilever, with its “More magic, less logic” approach to marketing, which was revealed in 2011: “It wanted to shake up its numbers-led strategy to reward marketers who are prepared to take risks, and back creative ideas.” From Marketing Week (source:

Bravo! to Senior Global Marketers: Keith Weed & Marc Mathieu.

The Expert Predictions for 2012

So what do the experts predict as key marketing trends for 2012? For those interested, here are a few to browse through:





The only way is up!

December 15, 2011 1 comment

Marketing magazine Agency of the Year award, 2011.

Marketing magazine gives Seven the thumbs up-and boy are we proud of our achievements this year. Written by Nicola Clark, 13 December, 2011.



…The agency’s thriving consultancy business is credit to the depth of thinking delivered by chief executive Sean King and the team.

The judges picked out Seven’s focus on bringing quality content to digital channels. They detected a palpable excitement about the way in which digital and multimedia are transforming the industry to help Seven push the boundaries with its clients.

There is no doubt that, while some competitors have struggled to integrate digital into their offering, Seven is leading the field in migrating to earned-media platforms. The agency has also established itself as a hub of thought leadership in the industry; digital development director Mike Burgess regularly speaks at events.

Seven also scored highly on effectiveness, both in terms of generating direct sales and ‘return on engagement’. The judges heaped praise on Seven’s cross-platform work for Sainsbury’s, CIMA and New Look, among others, and the quality of its management and editorial teams.

The agency found time to scoop some important new-business wins, too, including McDonald’s, restaurant operator D&D London and Virgin Atlantic’s social travel site, V-travelled.

Media fragmentation, owned and earned, what’s it all about Mrs?

June 7, 2011 2 comments

I’m totally immersed in this topic right now.  But what prompted me to get on my ‘Blog box’ today was a recent conversation I had with a very capable and aspiring account executive at our agency.  She was asking some great questions, so I thought I would share these with you.

Perhaps she had taken some good advice from a blog on “how to climb the corporate ladder in 2.2 seconds”. You know, the type of advice: Make sure you always carry paper around; be the best tea-maker (I read that somewhere lately); ask regular, strategic and intelligent questions; offer to buy me lunch – OK, just kidding on that one.

She said to me: Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? And what is media fragmentation? She didn’t stop there! And tell me, why do brands need a content strategy?  And finally what is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

Wow! The questions, they were good ones, so she marks highly on strategic this week

Let’s work through a couple of these.  But what would be great, and much more ‘PPM’ (post, post modern), is for me to open it out to you all.  But I am happy to kick off with a couple of responses.

Q1 Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? 

Owned media: As I understand it, owned media is simply media that a brand owns. It is usually a website, a customer magazine, an app, a TV channel, social media pages etc.

Earned media: Is simple too, and refers to the publicity gained through editorial influence. Earned media might include mass media channels such as TV, but more regularly: press (including newspapers and magazines), radio and, of course,  the web, including community forums, social media etc. It includes, generally, any commentary about a brand, such as editorial commentary, and things like letters to an editor, features that include the brand as a case study and even extend to inclusions in polls, for example.

Bought Is simply media channels that a brand pays to be in – again TV, news press, magazines, the web, outdoor, experiential and again can include social.

Why is it becoming such a hot topic? Well, there are several reasons for this, but mostly I would say this due is to the rapid growth in new media channels and TV fragmentation. Marketeers now need to get to grips with how to communicate over so many more channels, and this can be costly. The other main reason is more brands are becoming serious media owners in their own right – a couple of examples include: Net a Porter’s iPad app, P&G’s and Virgin’s Project magazine.  Owned can also include brand-managed Facebook pages, You Tube sites as well as TV channels, for instance Audi TV  and long-standing brands on TV: Thomas Cook and Visit Britain.

Q2 What is media fragmentation?
Now this is where it starts to become more interesting. How do I explain this one?  To me, this is the hot topic right now.

So I started with “back in the olden days”(suddenly I could see account executive’s eyes glaze over).  OK, well, before social media, (eyes came back into focus) brands had a fairly simple approach to pushing out their messages to us as consumers. Brands engaged a DM agency, an advertising agency, a PR agency and, most significantly, gave their media agency larges sums of funds to book media – and over very few marketing channels.  Media was bought on a brand’s behalf, and creative was essentially delivered from a brand outwards.  Nowadays, the media landscape is far more complex and often described as ”fragmented”. All this means is: more channels, more routes to a consumer, more choices for a consumer and essentially less critical mass.

Fragmentation has not escaped the agency world either – specialist agencies have now popped up and include disciplines like digital agencies (a plethora of varieties in this category), social media agencies (such as social media monitoring, content and engagement and also optimizers and, of course, pure consultants).

I also told account executive that the most interesting thing in all of this is how consumers now have the power to control how marketing messages are sent and to where. As consumers (enabled by technology) we are being far more particular about how we want to be communicated to, and are seeking more personalised content, and products for that matter.

We want brands to know what we like to know about and not be bothered by irrelevant information.  We expect to be spoken to as individuals, not en masse.  I had to then stop myself going into a parallel discussion about the increase in product customization.  (Did you know that Fiat is marketing their new Fiat 500 in 500,000 customizable options?) Sorry, but I just love those little cars.

We also gather information via search engines, which “optimize content for us”.  Online, as well as by word of mouth (WOM), we choose and recommend great restaurants, offers, travel destinations etc  to others (“right,” she says). So as consumers we now have a great deal of influencing power.  Brands want to get engaged with this influence.

Technology has definitely created this media fragmentation “revolution”, specifically technologies like Sky+  and, soon to be launched in the UK, Virgin’s Tevo, which gives us the freedom to watch what we like when we like. This is just one example of TV’s media fragmentation (notwithstanding the increase in channels alone).  And then there is the world of Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

All this presents a significant challenge in terms of how a brand find its customers on a mass scale and then transmits a message for the benefit of the brand.

Q3 Why do brands need a content strategy?
This is what we do. Hence the question. The answer is simple.

OK, so we have already spoken about how brands are becoming media owners – with this inevitably comes investment in content. In order to best maximise a brand’s content, it needs strategic content  strategy. This will ensure a brand has a planned and sustained approach to the commissioning, 
creation, distribution and management of content across multiple platforms, (including paid, 
owned and earned media channels), and  that it fundamentally links up with the brand’s core marketing and business objectives.  What a content strategy will also do is ensure consistently high editorial and creative quality, which fundamentally drives a coherent consumer experience.

Q4 What is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

A content agency is most importantly media neutral and should have editorial excellence at the core of its very being – that, coupled with strategic insights, provides the winning formula, and a core distinction from simply an agency that publishes magazines and builds websites.


For more on this topic see:

All Broken Up About Media Fragmentation?

Explain the term ‘media fragmentation’ and discuss the implications for a new Product trying to enter the market.

1 in 5 men read their iPad on the loo!

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

We recently conducted a huge survey of over 1000 iPad users (the most comprehensive to date), and came up with some great data. Some confirmation of what we had suspected all along and some suprising finds. You can find our highlights of our iPad research here but here are some of the finds that I think are important.

The first story picked up by brand republic revealed that 1 in 5 men read their iPad on the loo. The twitter response was “what? Only 1 in 5?”

Delve deeper into the data and you’ll found some real gems. So a large proportion of iPad owners (55%) are over 45, but a correspondingly large majority of iPads (62%) are used by entire households including, spouses, flat mates and children with the average iPad being used by over 2 people. Delivering a significantly larger audience than mere sales stats reveal.

So maybe this doesn’t strike you as a huge proportion of the population. Bearing in mind that this device, indeed this entire CATEGORY of device is only a year old this is pretty remarkable. Look again at the data and we find that 39 % of iPad owners are using their laptops less, 35% are using their desktop less and are watching 10% less television.

It’s conclusive, the iPad is a properly disruptive piece of technology. Owners are abandoning old forms of media (including so-called ‘new media’ like fixed line Internet) for this young, touchy feely, upstart that is the tablet computer. The data shows that the iPad is ‘kind of mobile’ but with most usage at home. 98% use it at home as opposed to 47% travelling or 19% commuting.

As publishers of iPad only magazine PROJECT, we have collated vast amounts of data about what works, what doesn’t in engaging audiences on the device but until you really know who your readers are it’s difficult to really draw conclusion about the future of this platform and it’s real potential for marketing and entertaining the a mainstream audience. The data has gone some way to completing the circle for us.

Change is a good thing.

March 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Can anyone remember when Nokia was the only real handset of choice? The time (I think, the late 90’s) when they had huge market share? I seem to have Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” ringing in my ear and memories of customizing my Nokia 8210.

I am also pretty sure it was the time when Apple was starting to break through, after a decade of a lot of developments, including, like Nokia now, an alliance with Microsoft (with the addition of Internet Explorer browser to every copy of the MacOS). As a student in a creative field, I was only ever going to be a die-hard Apple fan.

Remember the funky iMac? Back then it was fastest selling PC in history (August 15th, 1998)

So what’s happened to Nokia then? Enter the iPhone and Google, mix it up with a lot of business R&D complacency and a resistance to change. Who would have ever predicted it? A sort of Apple v Nokia reverse of fortune?

On the topic of Nokia, did anyone see the news about the allegedly leaked memo from Stephen Elop, (CEO of Nokia, and formerly of Microsoft). A roughly 1300-word memo, addressing the company’s employees, and in this, suggesting that the company is “standing on a burning platform”. I loved that analogy. So basically, they either need to jump off and risk drowning, or stay and burn. Burn, I say! I love my iPhone, way too much! 🙂

But seriously, what would you choose for a giant like Nokia? Well Elop knew what the outcome was, and he was clearly warming his subjects! But most importantly for me, this memo was about selling in change that they need to embrace a whole new way of thinking, and a reality that things have changed (and of course it’s time to pick their socks up!).

I’m all for change, and it’s something that drives the business I work in, without question. I work in a Customer Engagement Agency, (what the hell is that you say?) It’s an agency that creates content for magazines, websites, emails, and tablets like iPad. We create all the lovely stuff people actually like! Well OK, we might sprinkle a bit of product in there too.

For those who do work in agency world, whether it be advertising or digital agencies or through the line – new ideas are like bread and butter, and what we create every day. Creating ideas, new thinking, it may sound clichéd, but it keeps us in business. But from my experience, in our business, many marketers (across many sectors) and companies at large, really struggle with the concept of breaking old thinking – which was obviously the real issue with Nokia.

I don’t profess to be an expert on Nokia, or mobiles (but i have lots of friends, access to reports, and Google, to help me out!). I am however, a consumer, and a passionate marketeer, as well as a strong believer that knowledge, and a sense of priority for always embracing change should be an essential ingredient in any business.

On the topic of innovation, for our business it’s all about integration, working across whatever medium our clients customers are engaged with. We don’t put boundaries up. We are working on what I would only describe (and to use a lovely term I have just heard) as an “accelerated time line”. The world is speeding up, and it’s all about being prepared to keep up with its pace and continually rethinking things.

We are now getting more involved in creating content for brands on iPad too. What I don’t understand though, is that there seems to be so a lot of cynicism about the iPad. We’ve really embraced this shift in our industry, but not all of our competitors have. Some publishers think that the iPad magazine is just another gimmick, a sort of ‘bubble’ surely about to bust at some point. “it’s too early, “yadda, yadda”. I wholeheartedly disagree, and to me this thinking seems incredibly old-fashioned. Great brands invest in tomorrows technology, today. They get a march and they maintain it.

The iPad is a very clever little platform, and one that will provide a brand with a great deal of creative and commercial opportunities, particular having great potential within branded content. And I think we are only at the tip of the iceberg of what power this little device is going to hold in our worlds, (well for now). And the potential for content to be loaded up on this surely is going to be endless. Have you seen Virgin’s Project magazine yet?

I’ve also read several articles saying that Apple iPad sales is forecast to reach 34m units in 2011, (a quick Google will pick that up). What can we compare this too? And moreover, according to eMarketer, the electronics brand will make up 78 per cent of the global tablet market in 2011

As the iPad increases its infiltration into the average Jo’s home, and across several regions. I can’t help but feel excited about it how will transform marketing communications, and in particular branded content directed at us as consumers. Furthermore, how these conversations can be so much more efficient and engaging.

I also picked up a lovely little stat this week from the Retail Week conference from Accenture: 1/3 of China’s 420M population now shop online. So it’s not all about the UK right? What about the emerging markets tapping into our retail brands online?

Someone who does understand the potential of forward thinking is Carl McPhail, CEO, New Look. At his recent address at the UK Retail Week conference he said “invest in the future, be bold, get excited about e-commerce, and most importantly listen to your customers and engage with them”.

It’s now time to start jumping off the proverbial “burning platform”.