Can More Be Had Than Is Had?

‘Can More Be Had Than Is Had?’ is the question at the core of the Doomsday Book, the 1085/1086 Norman audit of the United Kingdom.

The phrase is asking, ‘can we raise more money?’ and the data within the book looks to answer that question.

This is a principle that brands apply to the way they behave digitally, but instead of focussing on money, focus on the service they can provide to their actual audience and potential audience.

For brands who are looking to utilise a presence online, the first place to start can be a William The Conqueror style audit of what their digital properties look like.

It’s very easy for us to think that we are innovating in the way we look to use to data to find efficiencies and improvements in the digital space.

It’s worth remembering that for all the wonderful things we can do with data online, we’re still looking to answer the same questions as William:

What can we do better?
How can we go about it?
How soon can we do it?

So, if you’re thinking about what your brand looks like online and ways to improve and reach more communities, do an audit of what’s working and what isn’t, and identify opportunities to improve.

Foursquare Comments Are The Key

Foursquare LogoFoursquare the 4.5 million user strong location based social network, finally integrated comments before the holiday period.

This is a feature many have been requesting for some time and will now be an under-stated component of a brand’s social media presence.

Comments can be published when you check-in to a venue, or whilst you are on site. This means that users with itchy trigger fingers can instantly share their experiences of a venue on that venue’s Foursquare profile, unmoderated.

It means that if you’re social media savvy, you’ll be monitoring those comments with an eagle eye to see what people like and dislike about the place they’re at – your brand.

It is the equivalent of scratching a message into the pub table you’re sat at so that future patrons can see what you thought of the surroundings, service and product.

Imagine walking into a bar, sitting at a table and reading, etched into the top surface of said table “flat beer, leaky bathroom, too expensive”

Would you hang around to get the same experience or make your excuses and leave for somewhere better?

Or it’s a Monday night and you’re looking for something to do locally, so you check out the comments venues near to you. One, for a local comedy club says “Monday night comics are the worst, best come Saturday”, another, for a Spanish restaurant says “Fish is freshest on Monday, and it’s 1/3 off too!”.

Do you go to the comedy club or get something to eat?

Brands must make sure that the customer’s offline experience is perfect, especially if they’re aware that you’re promoting yourself on Foursquare and in-store.

And, what’s more, if you are a brand that hasn’t checked what venues exist that you should be claiming as yours, how will you know what may or may not be being said?

I’d suggest taking a look at your locations, see if anything is being said, and work out what you need to do to make sure when a comment is left, that it’s positive and entices people to pay you a visit.

UK’s Most Engaging Brands

A new study from research agency Hall & Partners has attempted to determine the top ten most engaging UK brands.

The research methodology, called the Engager, uses a new way to analyse how people interact with brands.

The list in full:

1. Google
2. Cadbury (Edelman client)
3. Amazon
4. BBC
5. Facebook
6. Marks & Spencer
7. Sony
8. Microsoft
9. The Olympics
10. Dove

According to the press release:

Engager ™… identifies the link between brand engagement and brand value. It does this by conducting detailed research amongst the general public and business to business audiences and linking these findings to not just past and future purchase intent, but also tying them to company profits and stock market expectations.

As we continue to look for ways to develop proof of ROI in the communications industry, this sort of thinking is always interesting to study in further depth. There is little indication of the exact model used to calculate the levels of engagement, and I am keen to find out as much as possible about the topic to continue this ongoing debate!

I have e-mailed the Hall & Partners press team to find out if there is any further information that they can share with regards to the exact algorithm that has been used, and I will share any further information with you.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of the index and if you have any questions, I’ll be sure to share it with Hall & Partners.

London Bloggers Meet Up September

September’s London Bloggers Meet Up was sponsored by the wonderful Ebay.co.uk, recent sellers of Skype and bargain hunter’s online refuge.

Heat re-appeared and beer (kindly paid for by Ebay all night) was shared with conversation, as always, in full flow (hi Cate, Mike, Cristiano, Mel, Alex and Ant et al…)

I like Ebay, I use it a fair amount, and it’s great to see a huge company embracing engagment with the blogosphere in a positive way and what with the likes of Lastminute.com, Guinness, and of course Starbucks (yup, full disclosure, I am indeed a Starbucks guy) having sponsored the event, it shows how important the movement is proving to be for these brands.

I’ve mentioned before how odd it can be doing the PR and blogging thing, and how the balance can be tough to find, but it struck me last night how many of those in attendance juggle both, without detriment to either.

What would be great now, would be to see the brands who sponsor the meetups contribute with a next step by blogging themselves. It’s great that they want to take part, get involved in the community and add value to it – the next stage in the progresion is to become blogging entities themselves, whether it’s through a network, a shared blog or from comments of the CEO.

PRs are becoming bloggers and bloggers are becoming PRs, so why not have brands become bloggers too, if they’re increasingly being represented by people who are themselves blogging and understanding of the nuances of the community?

Lots do this already of course, in particular the more technology-oriented companies. What’s stopping those that aren’t?

Fear of the community and the way that the language will sit within it (don’t be scared, we don’t bite)

Time is of the essence, and who has time to put together 400 words once a week? (A lot of us with full time jobs, not to mention those who are parents, manage this just about)

Hesitance to be totally transparent (surely we should all be aiming for this anyway?)

Personalities within the company who are reluctant to use a new or untried channel of communication (there’s a few of us who blog y’know, it’s not a fad)

The first step towards ‘getting there’ is to get in and amongst bloggers, find out what makes them tick and then apply your business’ characteristics to give the writing a voice – readers and credibility will follow.

Brands and the problem of people

Brands and people do not mix. The original pioneers of brands found that they could not sell their products if they were associated with ‘real’ people and marketing switched to introducing characters that consumers could aspire to be.

Of course this then drove the advertising boom in the 1950′s – 1980′s until consumerism reached it’s peak and people began to realise that they were being marketed to and wanted to begin a two way conversation.

What we have evolved into now is the complete two way conversation as social media takes a stronger and larger grip on the way that brands and their consumers converse. But, of course, when a consumer is having that all important conversation, they are speaking to someone who represents the brand and someone who has a set of key objectives that they are looking to get out of each conversation. This can be as simple as a key message, or resolving an issue that the consumer has raised.

This if course has been made a heck of a lot easier through Twitter. But, there are now a new set of challenges for companies to contend with when it comes to how they are represented on such platforms.

So what happens if the person representing the brand is a disgruntled employee, and uses the social networking service to make malign comments about the company that they work for?

This of course happened famously at the turn of this year, with Facebook’s own staff changing a page to have a dig at their employer’s use of advertising. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have also had to contend with unruly employees bad-mouthing working practices and customers, again on Facebook.

What can a brand do when this happens?

Don’t panic – if you over react, it’s bound to backfire on you sooner rather than later.

Identify who’s involved – and ask them about their concerns and what you can do to make their jobs easier

Re-evaluate your training programmes – are you teaching your employees how to deal with tricky situations well enough?

What do you think brands should do in this situation?

Monitoring keywords on Twitter

Monitoring keywords across different social media platforms including Twitter and the blogosphere, is one of the best ways to gauge how your brand is perceived. You have those who we’d call ‘key influencers‘, and of course other ordinary consumers. Key influencers are, in PR land, perceived as the most important group to get your brand in front of. These are the people in the eye of any particular social storm, be it a group of friends or a group on a social network, who pass on their knowledge of a particular topic to those around them, whether they offer it, or it is asked for.

‘Why is it important to get a brand in front of key influencers?’, I hear you shout. They will be knowledgeable about a certain subject and will give your brand credibility if they think it is worthwhile. This of course will translate into sales for your client. But how do you know if these guys are liking your product? You can go and ask them, get thier opinion and engage in a dialogue that will be beneficial for both you and them. BUT, how do you find key influencers to talk with in the first place? it can be tricky, and you don’t want to spend your time looking for five people when really you want to know what the other 50,000 people think.

This is where the likes of Twitter can come in handy for your brand. You can follow specific key words, such as your brand name using a variety of different tools, of which Twitter has many. You are then able to see what people are saying about your brand in their tweets.

Here are some of the better free tools to have a look at, some are for Twitter, others are not:

Twitter Search
Spy
Tweet Scan
Backtype
Board Reader
Trendrr
Social Mention

Now the wonderful thing is that although these don’t distinguish who your key influencers are – they tell you what consumers are actually using your client’s product think of it or them. Why is this important? It allows you to engage in conversation with the people providing the revenue that your client craves, and crucially, the people that aren’t.

The next step on from this is to monitor what is being said about your competitors and the compare these conversations, to give you an opportunity to position your client in a way that will make them stand out from their potentially crowded market place.

Is your company ready for Twitter?

There has been alot of talk recently about companies and brands using Twitter to connect with their audience. Jeremiah Owyang has written a brilliant piece reflecting on the stages a brand should go through before getting themselves onto Twitter. There’s been alot of talk about whether brands should in fact be on Twitter at all.

According to research by Emergence Marketing, around 60% of companies are not ready to engage with social media, letalone Twitter. The article estimates that somewhere between 60-75% of companies are spying on their employee’s use of the internet whilst at work, and makes the point:

If you cannot trust your employees to do the right surfing, then how can you trust them to engage in social media on your behalf?

Simply, you can’t. And this is one of the hurdles businesses need to overcome if they are looking to enter the realms of social media. You must trust your employees to know how your business needs to position itself, the tone of voice that suits and how you want people that you’re approaching to perceive you.

Much of this perception can be derived from the brand’s name, be it in your local high street, or globally. You tend to want to stick with it on business cards, shop fronts and websites because it says alot about you. So you want to extend this out to Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Xing. What though, if you can’t and you become the victim of Twittersquatting (this is someone taking your comany’s name purely because you haven’t already)?

Erik Heels points out in a blog post, that 93 of the top 100 companies in the world, don’t own thier Twitter names. It might be advisable to check that yours hasn’t already been taken – go on, do it now, i’ll put a brew on.

So was it taken? No? Good, sign up and have a think. Do you really need to use Twitter? Remember, this isn’t a case of getting your Twitter name and using it for the sake of it.

Dave Fleet makes a compelling case that sometimes, social media just isn’t for you or your brand and asks us to question several things:

If you’re not ready to engage yet, my advice would likely be (all other things being equal) to listen and learn from what your customers are saying:

* Who is talking about you?
* Where are they talking about you?
* What do they like?
* What do they hate?

And Dave makes it clear that:

Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to your problems. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it is.

And he’s right.

But just because you’re not ready to step into the social media pond right now, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect your brand from being harmed by those who are. It’s the same as if someone started trading under a name similar to yours. If you are Joe Bloggs Ltd, but your competitor registers as Jo Blogs Ltd and starts doing a bad job, it can give your company, purely as an accidental consequence, a bad name. This is why many big companies buy up all of the website domains that are closely linked to their name, so that if somebody wanted to, they couldn’t buy BBC.com and use it to be nasty to BBC.co.uk.

Protection of a brand should be a main priority for any company, and that goes across Google to an ad in the local Post Office window. Social media is just one of the many tools that are at our disposal to do this, and used correctly, there are many benefits. Have a read of the articles cited above and (now you’ve got Twitter covered) you can make the first tentative steps to keeping your brand safe online.

How many brands in your bag?

Merry Christmas! I hope today is wonderful, full of surprises and big fat turkeys!

So you’ve had 12 months build up to today, what did you get in your stocking? I’d bet that it was full of many things, all very unique in their own ways, but all very similar in one: they are all produced by major international brands.

Each year companies spend more and more on advertising to get us, the consumers, to buy their products. Of course, the biggest growth area for this has been online advertising. An eMarketer study earlier this year estimated that there had been a spend of around £3.34bn in the UK alone, a 21.5% raise in 12 months.

However, what with this recession thingy, eMarketer predict that spending will only grow 10% in 2010 to £3.94bn in 2010, a 12.3%c growth to £4.43bn in 2011 and 14.6% growth to £5.07bn in 2012.

This dip in advertising spend growth goes against research by agency Shape The Future conducted between September 23 and October 4, which reckons that PR agencies could in fact benefit from the current economic troubles. 36.4% of businesses said that they are likely to increase PR and marketing spend, whilst another 475% said they planned no change at all, with 9% saying they’re likely to make cut backs.

My Christmas call? Let PR make your brand’s conversation.

As a consumer this means more interaction with each of the brands in your stocking, letting them know how you think and feel about their products will only make them better in the long run.

As a brand, you engage with your customers, learn about what they want from you and how they want it to be delivered – knowing your marketplace will make you even more successful.

Advertising is like banging your head against a brick wall as a brand. You push your message out and people buy your product, but you don’t know what they think of it. What’s the point in that? You must be blind to not see what effect the consumers are having now in our social media world.

Unless you’re ignoring Cadbury’s of course, and don’t see the conversation that their customers had started with the Wispa Facebook campaign.

Power to the people!

Branding the Band

Music and advertising has always gone hand in hand. be it a sultry sax solo selling chocolate, or a rock tune going through the gears on a car ad.

Advertisers use music to make their brand speak to those who like to listen, and it is often a vital ingredient of the advert pie. What music is chosen can have a huge bearing on what a brand’s image is.

A classic example of this recently was the brilliant Phil Collins inspired ‘Something In The Air Tonight’ Cadbury’s gorilla advert.

The building beat of the track and ‘Something In The Air Tonight’ lyric gives the chocolate a perception of something to be enjoyed in a climactic fit of orgasmic indulgence – heightened by the inevitable drum fill bashed out by our hero, the gorilla.

Now the same trick was repeated, to less success, by Cadbury’s. This time the same footage was shown with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ – it just doesn’t work. Why? Because we know it’s a contrived attempt to make the same thing work twice.

What is happening now is a mini revolution of sorts. Bands are beginning to realise that it is not just an advert that their music is appearing on, but a selling point for themselves. Bands are becoming soundtracks to brands. Vodafone used Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ in an advert which catapulted the Australian band into the limelight – the pacey song fitted in with Vodafone’s perception of itself as being fast, on the move and exciting, something that their tie-in with the Mclaren F1 team also promotes.

Bands are relying on ads to get their music across, long after their tracks have fallen off the radio playlists. They are now looking at the real possibility that instead of being known as ‘that band on that advert’ they are ‘that band who wear xyz’.

Do the artists really represent the brands they are now selling?

Avril Lavigne is currently promoting Canon cameras because she is a ‘huge photography fan’, and Ian Macfarlane, VP and GM of the Consumer Imaging Group at Canon Canada Inc., “She exemplifies the style and energy that our products offer”.

Canon have got the right person to front their campaign if they are after the teen/tween market, and Avril is clearly positioned to sell her music into that group too. This is a partnership that will benefit both parties.

You could of course go the other way, Johnny Rotten selling butter for example, eh? What? When did punk suddenly go spreadable? The sheer notion that JR buys that brand of butter because it ‘tastes the best’
is difficult to believe. The fact he won’t need to buy any because he’ll have a fridge full of it until his deal expires, is another matter.

Why would a butter company use someone such as JR to front their campaign? Is it to make them appear edgy? It would appear not judging by the various backgrounds in the ad. The advert pokes fun at the upper classes, and Johnny’s loathing for them puts him perfectly placed to mock.

What does that say about the brand? That they are the working man’s butter, or that they take the michael out of their competitors? Only sales figures will tell if the advert has caught the attention of former punks or the working man.