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Must be fashionable and code….

Top Trend overclaim NO’ 1: Marketers will become coders…

 

The other day I stumbled across an infographic which claimed that one of the Top 10 trends for 2015 would be marketers becoming coders…

Seriously.

Admittedly my personal ability to learn coding is probably more likely than becoming a designer (drawing was never my forte) but equally the entire make-up of a person who is driven by marketing, and a person driven by code is entirely different. You only have to stumble through any agency and you can easily transition from design studio, to development studio, to marketing team and instantly see the difference in ambitions and personality by the desk space alone…!

In my mind the trend we will see over the next 10 years (so lets not jump the gun here) is that coding was always seen as a bit of a dark art. The creative you can judge, the marketing plan you can query but the code… Well god knows until you’re testing it and jumping up and down when you realise functions are missing.

The education sector is driving a new generation growing up constantly plugged in to understand and know the basics – this will be the biggest drivers of change. Companies like Barclays with their code playground look a darn site more interesting than the Amstrad blinking green-screen I once tried to create basic code for at the grand age of 10. Kids will feel more compelled to learn as its a faster, more immediate output suiting their “want it now” demands,  and equally their peers will be able to do it. Who wants to have the latest social page if it hasn’t been customized and you’ve had to resort to (shock horror) default settings. elephant

As these kids come through the system they will be more critical of coding decisions and more able to contribute to the debate, in the same way the average “marketer” can critique a design approach).  The pressure of this on management will be to learn and understand more to kep up with the new generation rather than it being something left for other people to understand. And yes – there will be the marketers who dabble in code, WordPress blogs, even manage to build the odd page template or code up an email but by no means do I think these disciplines will converge in the same way. There is a clear line between marketing and design, there will be a line between marketers and code.

2015 wont be the year that  marketers become coders. It will be the year that they start to place more importance in understanding itand start to decipher what’s involved. Coding for brands will be left to the experts and if a marketer can add value to discussion and have an understanding of what’s involved with “code” then that will be a big enough leap for me in 2015.

 

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Spinning through the seasons

Yesterday I entered Sainsbury’s with the motivation of nothing more than the mundane “I’m going to eat 5 a day” NYresolution weekly shop and the purchase of a new frying pan (having charred mine with an experimental dinner that didn’t quite work out).

Little did I know in one foul swoop this consumer machine would shunt me from Christmas comedown to Easter menu planning in 20 paces.

Located in the doorway was a tasting station, not just a sample of one baked delight but instead offering me a mincepie  titbit(reduced to 50p per 6 box) and a hot cross bun slice (new into store!)

Just like that forced to decide.

Am I hanging onto Christmas or ready for the springing lambs, bird song and daffodil fields that make springtime.

Well Mr Sainsbury I for one am neither (and with some willpower resisted either trial). I will not be catapulted through life at such an alarming speed that in one guilty bite you transport me past Valentines day, My first wedding anniversary, 2 family birthdays, Mothers day and most importantly MY birthday. Consumerism races us through one occasion to the next – each year seeming to up the ante and need for consumers to invest (and yes as a marketer I too admit I look at opportunities to do this) but seriously. Hot cross buns. In January? To taste?

What happened to the craze of moment marketing – transporting consumers to make the most of now?

Google "Easter" search results 2014.

Google search trends (Jan – April 2014) Easter date 2014: Apr 20th.

And what bright-eyed merchandiser thought this could work – that Easter can be dragged out for 3 MONTHS!!

A simple search on Google enlightens you that Easter is in fact a one month occasion (on mass level). Trends don’t build to a lovely crescendo they hover and slightly over-index in advance of the occasion but BAM  hit when the kids holidays do and isn’t one we’re actively trying to seek out to get ahead of the game,

Stop trying to flog me hot cross buns – they’re tea-cakes till March, and instead focus on passing off mini-eggs as a perfectly acceptable all round treat. That I buy into.

Frijj – incredibles campaign

Whilst doing the mundane weekly shop in Tesco this week I stumbled across the new range from Frijj – 3 brand new milkshakes that had absoultely no appeal to me but, at a guess, I’d say I’m not the target audience for these raspberry jam, honeycomb choc or Sticky coffee range! Admittedly I stumbled across them as they had taken off the whole of the reduced items section (something that might not suggest positive sales or poor over-ordering by the Tesco buyers) but this isn’t a critique of stock replenishment at my local store…

New Toffee frijj milkshake flavour

Toffee frijj - not my cup of tea!

Having a snoop around online when I got back I soon found this is a new brand launch and has been supported by a digital campaign to embrace the unexpected – with an initial digital game of “You LOL you lose” which will be followed in September with a pet translator app…

The game sees you confronted with multiple YouTube clips and using webcam technology you have to keep a straight face.

Unfortunately the technology is hyper sensitive and is a very false environment. The slightest twitch of the head, sticking your tongue out or even fast blinking (yes I tried all of the above) causes you to lose even if you stay firmly straight faced. The video clip I stumbled across promoting the game equally shows individuals with such an exagerated laugh I was begining to wonder if I simply dont find YouTube funny as I’ve certainly never found anything as amusing to justify a head back gaffaw – a gentle giggle and a share maybe…
With the predictable share functionality to beat and share your scores amongst your Facebook or Twitter clan this campaign feels like it could have done something much bigger, or cleverer. The concept of using facial recognition for scoring is great but due to its hyper-sensitive and false environment it really feels this is a try it once gimmick – maybe like the milkshakes….

Social specialists (Arghhhhhh……!!!!)

No really.

I get that when new channels emerge new specialists spring up. Mobile = mobile agencies. AR = AR agencies. Apps = Application agencies I agree with this, I’d use these agencies and I understand the logic that not all agencies have all the skills (nor should have the skills to do everything under one roof) but what I am getting increasingly frustrated with is agencies that call themselves “social”.

Social agencies, as they call themselves, are positioning themselves as the future of digital. Clients, whom previously have never seen senior support are suddenly being asked “how will this campaign work on Twitter/Facebook” and, in response, we’re seeing new agencies being added to rosters as the social specialists.

Okay – I work at 20:20, a full service digital agency and yes, I’m responsible for social media so perhaps I am bias BUT I dont believe the future of social is going to be maintaning a brands Facebook Page or Twitter account. Give it 18 months and consumers (and brands) will be sick of receiving status updates from brands asking them what they are up to this weekend and, yes, yet again, we will be back full circle to it being about content. Yes social agencies can create applications (or at least have the ability to outsource them) but it’s back to the age old problem. Digital is constantly changing. A good full service agency will evolve to take into consideration these skills because, of course, they are VITAL to the success of the brand and use these, along with the skills and experience it’s learnt over the last 10 – 15 years to understand it’s role in the digital strategy.

Facebook isn’t a strategy – just like ITV isn’t a strategy. It’s a tool. There are lots of them about. Understanding what’s in that toolbox and using everything to the best of the ability is what makes great digital campaigns and for the future creating meaningful connections via social channels is key in that success.

The death of books?

I love books. I like choosing a book by its, spine, a cover, a good review and I love picking it up and turning the pages.

I’ve always said I can’t imagine reading a book on an eReader but recently I’ve started to question how long I will resist getting one. I’m now used to reading news on my laptop, opting for paperless comms from brands and browsing pretty much anything on my iPhone.

Looking at a recent statement from amazon they stated that their US book business saw

Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books.

Does that make paperback readers a minority or simply mean those owning an eReader buy more books?

Although the UK is by no means seeing penetration at this level, Chris North, managing director of Amazon, said that the Uk was heading in the same direction…

So, how long till I get a kindle… I reckon by 2012 I’ll have succumbed!

Lets shift our budget to social media…

Digital sometimes feels like one big circle. From shifting all money onto banners, to websites, to emails, to search and now to social one thing is clear – brands are still focusing on one part of the channel rather than a diverse channel that has many components.

I’m not disagreeing with the fact that social media is inevitably worthy of a brands attention – it is. But what I would be wary of is brands seeing it as a replacement of their website. Somewhere that they can now house content instead of a brand site.

To name one example Brand republic said yesterday…

according to comScore, Bacardi’s unique visitor numbers fell 77% between 2009 and 2010 – it is understood that the company will be shifting up to 90% of its digital spend to its presence on Facebook in the next one to two years.

Does Bacardi really need to shift this high proportion to Facebook? What happens IF the platform as a whole sees a decline? What’s the context of this quote? Is it shifting it’s spend (and it’s content) to facebook OR shifting it’s advertising focus to Facebook? (with it’s content being enabled to live across an array of platforms). With a decline in brand site visitors it makes sense to house content where the consumers already are but what brands do need to be mindful of is that simply having a presence is still not enough.

Facebook (and the majority of social networks) work on a real-time basis. Brands who simply post a status update and “expect” consumers to see it will gradually see a decline in engagement as consumers feeds get more and more crowded, and like the email mechanic that came before it, begin to simply ignore or unsubscribe from messages that are too frequent or irrelevant (which I’ve ranted about before!). Brands will simply end up in the same scenario but a different platform – people will ignore them on Facebook rather than ignore their brand sites.

For me it’s not a channel challenge, it’s still a creative challenge.  If it’s a good idea, that you advertise and tell people about, that people then talk about and that people then engage with its irrelevent where it sits. It’s the content, not the final platform delivering that content, that is still king.

Noeldle…

Okay – so I know it’s February, and I know Xmas is well and truly over (and they are selling easter bunnies alongside valentines crap in my local garage) BUT I stumbled across this viral when I was looking over the IAB showcase winners from last year and it made me chuckle!

I love the way AKQA, and the client, have embraced all the qualities that Pot Noodle is. Slightly grim looking, slightly (okay very) chavvy and possibly consumed by the lower end of the socio-economic scale that most brands will quietly omit from their marketing efforts.

It makes a pleasant change from brands that crop the reality out of their marketing in favour of that one sexy consumer who “happened” to fall into shot!

Love it!

Brand motivations in social media

I think its still fascinating the amount of brands who struggle to grasp social media (or how to carry it out). For many prospective clients and people within the marketing world it’s almost seen as a dark art. How do you get these fans? What do you say to them? What will they do for us? and, the million dollar question, whats the ROI?

Brands know that they need to be in the social space but not necessarily why they are playing there, not to mention how they justify another budget back to their boss. Most common is the slicing of an already lean digital budget even more by adding yet another platform to the mix. Whilst there is no doubt digital marketing (and budgets) are expanding, when you look at the amount of platforms they have to cover, from the innovations that are constantly occurring, are they really getting bigger? But I digress, let me leave that one for another day (and answers on a postcard….!)

What prompted my thoughts around brand motivations was this graph I stumbled across in a slideshare presentation – attributed to a global research study done on social media motivations.

It’s not massively surprising that the main reason users follow or like a brand is for exclusive deals or offers – the rise of online vouchering has been testament to the growth in that.

The interesting points, and yet another reason why stats such as this should be taken with a pinch of salt are:

  • Over 32% of individuals following a brand on Facebook declare they do so because they are a current customer. Is this really an insight we can take anything from? Of course you’re going to have heard of any brands you decide to follow and, with the exception of luxury brands you might aspire to be part of or draw inspiration from, chances are you’ve purchased from them BUT this doesn’t really tell us why you’re following them over the millions of other brands you buy into every day. They must be doing something different. There must be a more insightful thing to learn?

 

  • Under 10% of individuals state it’s because they have friends who are fans or followers. Is this the death of recommend a friend? Probably not. Social snowballing is evident from any campaign you’ve ever done in the social arena. By getting a fan to post up content or promote your brand chances are you will get something back from that – even if it’s a 0.01 fan for every fan you acquire. You might not have joined “just” because your friend has but, when you see something interesting a friend has done (and this is based on the brand having given them something interesting to do in the first place) why wouldn’t you check it out? It’sPR and I can’t see it dying anytime soon!

 

  • Less than 25% of people said it was because of interesting or entertaining content and this, as far as I can tell, is where mainstream brands are getting it wrong. Iconic brands, statement brands, fashion brands are never going to struggle. Being fans of Apple, Nike or Gucci isn’t just about saying you like the brand it’s about declaring to everyone you know that you like the brand – it’s wearing the label without ever having to invest into it. These are the brands that could afford to be lazy – they ” have to work hard for their fans. They will naturally come to them. The brands that need to worry are those building a page, perhaps even investing in making it look pretty BUT then they think status updates and a photo here and there will do the trick. It wont. Unfair? Okay –  it might. For now. But as individuals get more socially crowded they will get better at screening their social spaces. As with every age-old marketing practice that came before social it will come down to being interesting, being different and saying something that a consumer thinks is worth listening to.

Foursquare: In play not one to watch?

Over the last few months foursquare has been bubbling up to the surface and increasingly been viewed as one to watch for 2010.

It’s a virtual game in which participants earn badges for checking in at various locations; those that check in most become a venue’s “mayor.” By all accounts, this mechanism is as addictive as Twitter, Facebook or checking your e-mail on a BlackBerry – pete cashmore, Mashable

Powered by your mobile, and letting you check in via mobile to your current location using GPRS its become the ultimate in social networking – merging Twitter features, with Location data and, its point of difference, a gaming mechanism that is going to let users obtain real world rewards from their virtual activity.

The simple mechanic of “checking in” when you’re out and about (and conveniantly being able to synch it to your facebook / Twitter as well) puts you in control of broadcasting to your friends where you are – no need for electric tagging!

With companies begining to give offers to those checking in it wont be long before this early adopter network begins to gain in audience and brands will need to think clever to continue to engage (and reward) en masse – particularly if stats of 60% month on month continue to be sustained (and increase!)

Bars being able to offer first come first served “early bird” drink promotions, priority discounts for the “mayor” of the venue and brands being able to analyse their real world visitors (with digital tools) will undoubtedly change the ever-changing shape of social media again.

For now I’m going to keep watching, get playing, and see if how many establishments I can rule….

The digital agency of 2015: Scenario 2, The specialist surge

So whilst my first scenario looks at the possible rise of true integration the 2nd scenario looks at the fragmentation of the digital space and a surge in specialists…

Enjoy!

  •  Marketing becomes tailored to specialist channels and agencies as a dawn of ‘high maintenance’ marketing commences 
  • Agencies have retained a digital / traditional split with more coming to market to deal with the specialist requirements  
  • Consumers are significantly more digitally able and helping to shape communities, channels and brands 
  • Clients are resourcing their digital team to deal with the multiple channels but agencies are still in charge as they lead clients through the space  

OVERVIEW

‘New Media’ continues to be an over-used term as fresh challenges, and demands on marketers continue to present themselves in the digital space –constantly evolving and therefore always perceived as new and unknown.

The constant stream of new technologies and communication channels create a constant reliance on digital specialists, across a plethora of niche topics, to keep clients up to speed and help shape the industry for marketers.  The constant battle to stay on top of change means that the lead agencies driving a client’s digital strategy are leaned heavily upon to lead them through the space.  

With recommendations being stemmed from the agency, rather than initiated by the client, digital agencies are constantly adding new specialist individuals and departments to cover off new requirements as they evolve. Small specialist agencies also pick up business as digital agencies outsource some of the more ad-hoc skills (not wanting to pick up the overhead) and clients go direct for one off tactical campaigns.  

Consumers are steadily increasingly their consumption of digital media – seeing it as a necessity in their lives. Social media has reached it’s peak in terms of penetration– with consumers tiring of peaking at other peoples lives and, instead, using it as a space to share and play with their closer friends, as well as create new connections with individuals who share similar specialist interests.

Technology has continued to expand rapidly amongst the big platform players with many adopting an open source development approach as they see the value in the power of crowds. Brands are also beginning to see the value of this as a method for reducing their production costs and welcoming creativity, and development, from new sources for both ideation and production alike.

 

Taking a deeper look

Consumers are heavy (and saavy) digital users

Consumers of 2015 have more options available for their technology needs. Personal computer prices have fallen but costs have remained comparable to 2009 as processing, hard-drive storage and applications demand higher spec machines – outweighing demand for low cost (and lower spec) products.

These higher specs are in part needed to drive online gaming and virtual communities as we see the demise of the console (with individuals fed up of the constant battle to upgrade hardware) and the rise of online gaming sites that stream games on a subscription basis, or within a community structure, direct to your PC or through a TV box.[1]

The use of online subscription accounts is increasingly common with individuals hosting data virtually[2] putting a trust in external partners to manage their music, photos and data. This move has been caused by a general acceptance amongst consumers that they don’t need to have physical products. This acceptance has been caused across the last 5 years by the increase in MP3 downloads, digital photography (and photo-share), the kindle reader[3] and virtual data storage, all working to increase the value consumers place on ‘digital’ ownership of products. This move has driven computer literacy further as consumers start to have to expand their knowledge to use new hardware and manage their digital content. This thirst for personal knowledge continues to help drive the industry further as digital partners are able to add more functionality and tools to their spaces – allowing users to help develop sites and apps as the younger audience in particular begins to master basic CSS and programming skills.

The government have successfully continued in their mission to create a “digital Britain” and successfully met their objectives. Most importantly they’ve managed to develop the nation’s digital skills at all levels and secured universal access to broadband, increasing its take-up and using broadband to deliver more public services more effectively and more efficiently[4] (Digital Britain, 2009).

Landline phones have begun to decline in ownership, particularly amongst younger households, as the growth of VOIP continues to offer a low cost alternative, with providers like Skype being the big winners. In addition to this, mobile phone penetration and tariffs have dropped to a point where 2015 sees mobile phone ownership (by household) exceed fixed telephone line ownership[5] (Euromoniter, 2009).

The growth of mobile phone usage for web access in particular has meant that personal mobile data is being shared more frequently between consumers and third parties. The early days of email is beginning to repeat itself as the government struggle to regulate data protection on mobile devices, and spam becomes a recurring handset nuisance.  

Specialist and niche sites are on the rise

As consumption of digital rises users are on the look out for new ways to spend their time online. Consumers become driven by seeking out like minded people with like minded interests and we see a surge in communities and sites tailored around specific topics and interests.[6] With specialist communities forming we also see a move in the number of sites being managed by groups of individuals – for both personal, and professional interest, with a growth in the number of bloggers.

This growth in special interest sites has created challenges for brands as they become unable to create large-scale integrated campaigns. Audiences have become fragmented, and whilst there are still high reach spots available on sites like YouTube and Facebook, brands have to seek out tailored campaigns in order to hit ROI objectives. The addition of also being able to understand specific interests within your brands remit also warrants additional budget. The ability for brands and agencies to enable campaign messages to be tailored to very specific audiences and ensure maximum audience engagement guarantees a better ROI (at a production price).

With specialist communities and interests cropping up a whole new requirement for digital specialists to understand the online behaviour of particular audience segments is in demand. Specialist digital agencies and freelancers begin to take advantage of this, looking at common audience types (Over 55’s, 18 – 24’s, Under 16’s) in order to monetise this understanding of digital behaviours, with brands and agencies tapping into them in order to ensure the space is used correctly.

Digital knowledge is concentrated to agencies

This fragmentation of media and sheer volume of channels, audience segments and engagement contact points means that the amount of knowledge needed is immense. Clients aren’t able to physically keep up with channel developments, their audience movements and subsequently place a heavy reliance on the agency to steer them through the space.

With a gradual loss of control (client side) as well as the increase in the number (and type) of campaigns being run by anyone brand, at anyone time, has seen an increased pressure put on the client resource. Brands have begun to resource up their team, dedicating specialists to areas that they see as critical to their strategy (mobile, web and social media are commonly having their own brand managers). Client side these brand managers work closely with each other, and each agency, in order to deliver the digital strategy.

The increase in resource has also led to an increase in the importance placed on getting the digital marketing right as increased investment places an even bigger demand on ROI. Senior marketing staff client side are forced to get involved, increased their understanding, and getting hands on in the decision making process in order to deliver the results back into the business.

This is having a positive effect on the digital agency as technical ignorance begins to disappear. Development, hosting, purging, bugs and virus’ begin to be terminology with problems that occur day to day now seen as something created by the channel, not agency excuses. Clients are forced to deal with these issues and explain them to senior staff making them understand the explanations rather than see it as technical jargon being palmed off on them as excuses.

Growth of specialist agencies

The industry overall is similar in terms of types of agency to 2009 with a range of traditional, digital and specialist agencies co-existing and vying for clients digital investment. The biggest change though is the growth in the amount of competition in the specialist sector with an array of small specialist individuals and agencies springing up to deal with and offer services within the digital area. Services vary massively with reputation management, social media, community generation, social gaming, mobile application development (Android / iPhone and Blackberry specialists) and content specialists pitching within the marketplace.

This continued increase in agency numbers has kept prices down. Smaller specialists can afford to work on lower rate cards with freelance and / or ‘one man band’ mentality and less overheads enabling them to win projects based on price. This competitive pricing also gives clients a reason to deal with the inconvenience of splitting business across multiple agencies.

To retain all elements of the larger client accounts, the larger digital networks and traditional agencies with digital offerings are forced to cut prices or tag on added value ‘free’ services to compete and retain ownership of their clients business.  

The amount of agency choice in the marketplace leaves clients broadly sitting in one of two camps. The first that sees adequate resourcing and expertise at the client end to conduct and lead a number of agencies within the digital space enabling them to benefit from competitive prices and carefully juggle multiple communications. The second sees a stretched client resource relying on working with one lead agency, aware of other services available but unable to take real advantage from these, leaning heavily on the agency to master the skills or outsource specialist work when appropriate.

Brands begin to open up their platforms to give consumers more control

With a vast amount of specialist skills, channels and audiences available brands are beginning to feel braver about opening up their brands for consumers to control. Open source, whilst not a new concept is beginning to move into the public space as an area previously used mainly by developers[7] or for feedback[8] begins to expand out further.

Brands are beginning to use crowd sourcing techniques to help the agency create the right digital ideas.[9] This use of panels and / or a section of the public to help shape the brand is increasingly important in areas where the brand, and even agency, hasn’t been before. Using sophisticated reputation monitoring tools brands are able to identify key contributors and influencers in target niche subjects, and areas, and use their power to successfully launch an appropriate campaign to the target market.

Agencies are opening up their planning departments to allow for research into these niche areas and admitting to clients where areas are unchartered. Clients, rather than being nervous about moving into new areas begin to embrace these as it leads to them being able to gain competitive edge (by being first to market). Digital agencies continue to be exploratory but, by now having the experience into how best to enter new areas and channels, the client feels more secure because the methodology of ‘entering new channels’ is now tried and tested even if the solution isn’t.


[1] OnLive launhing in 2009 give a snapshot into the possibilities for the future: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7969044.stm

[2] Services like livedrive become common:  http://www.livedrive.com

[3] Kindle launched in 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/oct/07/amazon-ebooks

[4] Digital Britain: http://digitalbritainforum.org.uk/report/executive-summary/the-interim-report/

[5] Euromoniter: Technology, communications and media report Oct 2009.

[6] Specialist social community sites: www.ning.com

[7] Linux is still heralded as the biggest breakthrough in collaborative development (1991): www.linux.com

[8] Dell rely heavily on a community of users to help shape their product offering www.ideastorm.com

[9] Brands pitch open creative briefs for display on sites facilitating the idea process: www.ideabounty.com