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Posting on BR’s Comment Central blog

As you probably noticed we recently relaunched Brand Republic blogs to a new platform. Keeping it simple, we moved to Word Press, which is a much easier to use and more flexible system than we previously had.

The move has meant some change to how contributors to Comment Central blog. In future if you would like to blog here what you now need to do in the first instance is drop our social media editor, Gordon MacMillan, an email and we will set you up and account. After that you will be free to post as before.

What’s Your Story?

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THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTIC PROVENANCE FOR FOOD AND DRINK BRANDS

by Zane Radcliffe, Creative Director at The Agency

One of the first things we like to know about people when we first meet them is where they’re from and what’s their story. The same is true for brands. We refer to this as brand ‘provenance’; a word derived from the French ‘provenir’, meaning ‘to come forth’ or ‘originate’.

Which is all rather ironic for Kronenbourg, who last year fell foul of the UK Advertising Standards Authority for making claims about its ‘Frenchness’ that the brand could not substantiate. Parent company Heineken has appealed the decision, which would limit its ability to portray Kronenbourg as authentically French. If successful, the damage to the brand could be significant. After all, without a claim to a distinctively Gallic provenance, Kronenbourg is about as French as a McDonald’s fry.

This case highlights how provenance matters for brands, particularly in the food and drink sector, where it can provide a strong source of differentiation and, ultimately, competitive advantage.

Consumers value authenticity and will gladly pay a premium when the brand’s connections to origin run deep. Much of our industry research points to the fact that we put provenance before price and availability when shopping for food and drink. ‘Made In’, ‘Made By’ and ‘Made Since’ all matter. They have become the shorthand for all things consumers care about: quality, ingredients, health, animal welfare, environmental and labour concerns. In short, provenance equals confidence.

Of course, advertisers have known this for a long time. We’ve been handcrafting ads about provenance since 1623. Probably.

Even a humble bag of spuds can be covered in purple prose – often accompanied by a sepia-tinted photo of the very field from which they were plucked – in a bid to sell the unique provenance of its contents. Potato lovers aren’t merely buying the potatoes, they are buying into the farm, the field and the fingers that pulled them from the long-tilled earth. They are buying the story. Your story.

That does not mean you should instruct your agency to dress up your mutton as salt-marsh or black-faced lamb. Or that you enlist the services of Eric Cantona as your brand spokesman before you can prove that your Strisselspalt hops are grown in Alsace and not some greenhouse in Latvia. While there is a popular conceit that ‘all advertising is fiction’, the best and most effective advertising is invariably built upon truth.

If the consumer spots a hole in your story, their confidence in your brand can be obliterated. And digital consumers can be highly attuned to testing the veracity, or otherwise, of claimed provenance. From a communications perspective, brands simply need to get their stories straight.

Of course, many regulatory bodies and industry kite-marks exist to rubberstamp brand provenance. An unfortunate side effect of this is a proliferation of brands seeking to ‘flex’ the rules. Hence, our supermarket shelves are well stocked with ‘Greek-style’ yoghurt, ‘Belgian-style’ chocolate and ‘American-style’ pancake mix. Volvic piggy-backed the 2014 World Cup with a flavoured water ‘Inspired by Brazil’, surely stretching notions of provenance to their breakable limit. Unless you understand your core consumers and are absolutely sure that they’ll be similarly elastic in judging your brand, it’s a risky game to play.

Marketing begins and ends with your consumer. The digital consumer has a whole repository of tools to instantly gauge the strength of your claims and often a large audience to broadcast to, should they find your story lacking. It’s only worth you making origin a strong part of your brand marketing strategy if you understand their expectations about your brand category. Belgium works for chocolate. Not so renowned for pasta sauces.

If you’re a brand with strong provenance, leverage it and be truthful. For ‘comeback brands’, rediscover your heritage. For ‘new brands’, find your story. And if your provenance isn’t attractive – [Belgian Tagliatelle, anyone?] – don’t emphasize it.

Bath-based The Agency Rated No 1 Independent Marketing Agency in the UK

The Agency

After a recent wave of awards success, Bath-based integrated marketing firm, The Agency has been announced as the No 1 independent agency in the UK, according to The Drum’s annual national Agency Census.

The research, conducted in partnership with the prestigious Recommended Agency Register, ranks agencies on three metrics to provide measures of success – financial performance, client satisfaction and peer recommendations. The census highlights those with the best average rankings across all three, earning them the coveted ‘elite’ status.

The Agency is ranked as the Number 1 independent elite agency in the category of under 25 staff for the second year running. The Agency was also awarded the same accolade in 2014, the first time this was achieved by an agency outside London.

Managing Director of The Agency, Sammy Mansourpour said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been awarded the UK’s no 1 small independent agency. The census is so much more meaningful than awards because in its assessment, peer review, client review and financial performance are all participating factors. The fact it has come for the second year in a row is even more unexpected, but testament to the hard work and dedication of our people and our client partners.”

The news follows a wave of recent awards success after it was announced this week that The Agency’s creative team has gained its record number of nominations in The Drum’s annual Chip Shop Creative Awards after their work was shortlisted in five categories. Last month, The Agency picked up the top award for Strategic Thinking at the prestigious RAR awards which are based entirely on client reviews, feedback and ratings.

@TheAgencyUK Shortlisted for Eight Industry Awards

Awards

Integrated marketing firm, The Agency is shortlisted in eight categories at the leading Industry RAR awards.

Six Tips For Successful Integrated Campaign Planning by @TheAgencyUK

PlanningIntegrated campaign planning is more in-depth than just coordinating different media channels, and we are now seeing brand marketers apply integrated methodologies to their everyday campaigns as a matter of course. In the most part, digital interaction is at the centre of marketing campaigns and this is stark recognition that today’s consumer is well and truly a digital consumer.

So what does integrated planning actually mean? Integration is what draws together traditional media campaigns with a multi-channel approach. Invariably this means offering tailored brand experiences at every consumer touch-point, and this is what causes marketers the biggest headache.

Successful integration requires multi-channel media planning skills, performance tracking and data interoperation capabilities, the application of marketing automation platforms by competent tech folk as well as a keen eye on creativity and user experience design. It is no wonder that the multi-channel media campaign management market is predicted to be worth $2.7 billion within four years.

Here are our six top tips when creating an integrated multi-channel media campaign:

1. Recognise the audience.

Any well planned campaign starts with your target market. Even more crucial when deploying multiple media channels. So get to know your audience, understand exactly who they are and what they’re looking for. Research will help, even if it means testing audience reaction in a live campaign environment. Different media will infiltrate different audience segments, so research and testing can be isolated and personalised, but expect some crossover and develop your messaging accordingly.

2. Create a detailed plan.

It’s all well and good having a presence across numerous media channels, but without a detailed plan of what will be posted, where and at what time your entire strategy will spiral. Line by line planning is what most media planners are weaned on, and no campaign manager should go into battle without one. Your line by line plan can also be used to set the framework for your media channel tracking dashboard, comparing channel performance over time. Be sure that when you set your goals you always keep them at the back of your mind, when you post content, activate new channels and ultimately report to your stakeholders. Not everything will work, it’s as important to track and eliminate those that don’t as it is to back the ones that do.

3. Keep on top of the specifics.

Successful integration is about the detail, and it is key that that every member of your team stays on top of the specifics: what is being published, to which channels, when and how it’s being measured. Knowing your audience and knowing the desired outcomes of your strategy will help to inform these decisions, but it can be hard to know where everything is going so referring to the line by line plan is essential. It minimises mistakes and eliminates duplication.

4. Listen to everyone and everything.

Consumers are becoming more vocal, and it’s not just social media perpetuating this. Consumer power has generally increased exponentially. For many brands this presents disempowerment, but for those that reach out to their audience and look to resolve any issues in the public space by being transparent with their practices, has opened up new opportunities to strengthen their brand. Look at Dell, John Lewis, even Dollar Shave. So integrate your social channels with your customer services. You may be surprised by the positivity that filters through to discussion boards and review sites.

5. Be contextually relevant.

The joy of the digital channel is that we can update them at the click of a button, so there’s no excuse to be behind the times. It also means we can try things out and conduct some user based research in real time environments. People appreciate that brands are now as connected as they are, so in turn brands need to do as much as possible to stay relevant.

6. Be valuable and emotive.

Finally, the wants and desires of the modern consumer have changed. What consumers want more than anything nowadays is an emotional connection to a company which provides them real time value. Creative is still how marketers will tap into the emotions of their consumer market whilst delivering a message of value. Get this right and your brand can almost guarantee marketing campaign success.

Festival Puts the Digital spotlight on City “for Good” featuring The Agency’s Sammy

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This week hundreds of people are expected to flock to Bath, not because of the usual tourist attractions but because of all things digital.

The 2014 Bath Digital Festival is now well under way and this year’s event looks to highlight how digital can be used for good.

Marketing communications firm The Agency is a partner in this year’s festival and managing director Saman Mansourpour believes the ten-day event will help cement Bath’s position in the digital world.

Across Bath and Bristol there are more than 2,500 registered creative businesses.

He said: “Now a real focus for local government and well funded through initiatives such as the Local Enterprise Partnership and Invest Bristol and Bath, encouraging companies to settle and do business here isn’t much of a problem.

“However, retaining talented digital folk from the local talent pool as well as attracting fresh talent to settle here is the final barrier to an explosion in economic growth for the digital sector.

“This is why the festival is so vital. It doesn’t just bring people in the city on the global digital stage, making it possible for organisations like us at The Agency to hire the best.”

The Bath Digital Festival is designed to be educational as well as inspirational, and is now a hugely important event for Bath and the South West.

This year the festival theme is ‘digital for good’ and is set to be bigger and better than ever.

There are more events, and more high profile speakers and there is something for everyone regardless of age and experience, from the Better By Bike Geocaching treasure hunt, to the digital literacy sessions.

Mr Mansourpour added: “We hope that all attendees enjoy the full programme of events as much as we have enjoyed working on the festival this year.

“Our thanks go out to the rest of the organising partners and sponsors for making this year’s festival possible.”

Less David vs Goliath, more Goliath vs Goliath

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The latest round of the ongoing battle between the might of NewsCorp and the power of Google is not merely about a clash of two heavyweights in the media landscape. It stems from a much wider question – Does Google favour its own listings in the search rankings?

The Creative Director is Dead, Long Live the Technical Director? by @TheAgencyUK

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For many this is how the past four years have felt, with agencies seeing their creative revenues squeezed because the justification for spending on a subjective and less measured resource was deemed unnecessary, possibly even negligent.

But in the wake of an economic recovery the emerging sentiment is far from bleak. Brand owners are preparing to defend market share and fight for growth. Armed with marketing automation and rapier acquisition strategies there has been a dawning realisation that technology might support effective service, but it is simply a business as usual function, and creativity is how to score points of difference.

So what does creativity really mean in the era of the digital consumer?

We live in a world where media is increasingly fragmented and brands have to fight harder and harder to attract attention, and it has taken marketers a long time to come to terms with this.

People talk, share and collaborate more than ever before. Spending their time amongst 1bn Facebook users, watching 4bn videos on YouTube every day and actively tweeting with 200m people.

In the UK, on average, we now divide our time across 11 media devices per household and choose to research products across 22 websites before making a purchase.

So, in this complex world where every person is a digitally led consumer, the key to success lies in being different, being recognised and being talked about.

1. Be Integrated

A big idea is a great idea, but the story creative folk write today will be read in fragments. Advertising, promotion, publicity, social engagement even customer service has to be integrated, because the digital consumer will hop between channels. The key to consistency is data intelligence, but commercial advantage is found in how a brand creatively applies it to their marketing.

2. Be Commercially Creative

Being commercially creative in an increasingly automated world means two things:

Firstly you still need to be able to have great ideas that sell products. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you need to apply great ideas that enhance and protect brand image – because if you damage that, the digital consumer’s voice has never been so powerful, and it can be a long hard road to recovery.

3. Be Collaborative

I believe that in a successful 21st century agency, creativity must be found in every team and that includes our clients. Technologists are as close to designers as strategists are to copywriters. Developing an effective agency service is about collaboration, and that’s why creative ideas can and should come from every part of the organisation. The perception that creativity is just about words and pictures is outdated. For some brands just getting the basics of marketing in place is still the priority, but for many it’s about maximising efficiency through effective collaboration.

Here at The Agency we are only as effective as the people we invest in and the clients we work with. So it’s no surprise that the most effective teams are to be found in collaborative and creative environments. The South West of England has built up an enviable talent pool fed by several world-class universities and a vast number of globally recognised brands. As has been the trend with technology towards co-working and open source, companies based here find that through effective networking they can also access world-class expertise. This allows even the smallest of teams to compete on a world stage. For us, our integrated and commercial capabilities are a direct result of the communities we engage with and the South West talent we attract, something that pays dividends for us, our clients and their customers.

Harnessing The Power Of The Digital Consumer by @TheAgencyUK

The-Agency-Commandments

We live in a world where media is increasingly fragmented and brands have to fight harder and harder to attract attention, and it has taken marketers a long time to come to terms with this.

People talk, share and collaborate more than ever before. Spending their time amongst 1bn Facebook users, watching 4bn videos on YouTube every day and actively tweeting with 200m people.

In the UK, we now divide our time across 11 media devices per household and choose to research products across 22 websites before making a purchase.

So, in this infinitely complex world where every consumer is a digitally-led consumer, how can a marketing team predict success?

The short answer is: we can’t. But what we can do is adhere to a set of principles that gives us the very best chance of success.

1. Be Integrated

Today it’s about recognising and understanding the digital consumer, and putting them at the heart of everything we do.

We know that successful marketing initiatives in today’s world rely on integration. This means integrating the marketing and communications that we send out with the multiple consumer touch points that feed in. This means building and integrating the IT systems that collect and share the data. This means adopting a single customer view wedded to a consistent and relevant brand experience.

Achieving this demands impartiality, appropriate utilisation of technology, a thirst for knowledge and a long-term partnership with brand marketing teams and their end customers.

2. Be Independent

Successful marketing demands an integrated marketing team who are connected by more than just a floor plan. They’re a team of independent thinkers who share an understanding of the consumer, who make a deliberate attempt to pool their different skills to create the most compelling experiences that lead to engagement, provoke action, drive loyalty and deliver sales.

Independence is key. Integrated teams work best when they’re free from the complexities of marketing, not hamstrung by cost centres, processes or conforming to industry trends. Independence means media impartiality, free thinking and a single-minded objective to only work in the best interests of brands and their customers. Independence is the bed where creativity can flourish.

3. Be Commercially Creative

The rapid expansion of technology into our lives has focused marketers away from ideas and towards infinite measurability.

The onset of Big Data means that we’re getting better at predicting the things that motivate buyers, and the marketing automation tools that exist allow us to test, learn and time our communications to perfection.

But it’s not the sophisticated CRM systems, technologies or mobile applications that make marketing efforts a success.

It’s standing ahead of the competition and being noticed for the things brands do best, and in a media-saturated world, creativity is the key to achieving engagement with the digital consumer.

The most successful organisations apply their ideas and creativity to every consumer touch-point. Initiating a clear set of principles that help them shape their brands and remain focused on their commercial performance.

So being commercially creative in an increasingly automated world means two things: Firstly you need to be able to have great ideas that sell products. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you need to apply great ideas that enhance and protect brand image – because if you damage that, the digital consumers voice has never been so powerful, and it can be a long hard road to recovery.

Marketing Trends Tipped For 2014

Future-Marketing

Each year is a new beginning that brings new challenges and experiences to all aspects of business, and it’s natural to see various reports from various experts on the trends to evolve over the next 12 months. The Guardian has made a list of its own predictions for the 2014 marketing landscape, in an article that outlines the developments that industry professionals must watch out for throughout the year. Here are some of the trends forecast to guide marketers in 2014.

2014 is going to be an interesting year for mobile, as the technology will penetrate even more into the world of retail. According to figures from eMarketer, smartphones and tablets were responsible for 18% of UK e-commerce sales in 2013, with revenues more than doubling to £8.2 billion. This year, m-commerce is forecast to rise by 53.3%, exceeding the growth of retail e-commerce threefold.

Mobile’s potential won’t go unnoticed by advertisers, who are expected to almost double their mobile budgets to £2.26 billion this year.

The unprecedented adoption of mobile devices will also trigger an increase in mobile traffic. This will not only exceed that of desktops, but will also make smartphones and tablets consumers’ mainstream gadgets, as they will allow them to perform more tasks on the web anytime and anywhere. This must suggest to marketers that the always-on consumer is arriving.

Marketers can also make use of content creation to spur consumer engagement, since this will also be among the opportunities offering solid growth potential this year. The most cost-effective ways for content creation will be embracing native advertising or partnerships with renowned publishers.

Another strong trend that will take off in 2014 will be that of “visual sharing,” which will see the marriage of the three most popular formats of 2013: mobile, social and video. Video is tipped to become the top tool for consumers wishing to share experiences, and will also be a primary tactic for brands seeking to capitalise on the success of Twitter’s platform Vine and the launch of video on Facebook owned Instagram.

5 Tips to Successful Branding by Phil Blackmore @TheAgencyUK

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I’m going to start this article with a confession…

I am a Yahoo! email user and have been for 15 years. There, I’ve said it. Now I know it’s not big, or clever but it is reliable, easy to use and hasn’t really changed much since its beginnings in 1995.