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Is all this networking encouraging us to become more sociable by actually being less sociable?

Is all this networking encouraging us to become more sociable by actually being less sociable? Everyone seems to know what one another is doing via Facebook and Twitter etc., yet were not really communicating directly with our friends anymore! We leave it up to them to find out where the party’s at via status updates and online invites! Are our communication skills improving or diminishing?

Will video conversation kill the Twitter star? by Matt O’Brien, MD, CheezeDMG

Its official Twitter is massive. We’re all talking about it and joining in droves. But Twitter (and its ilk) has been since July

2006, so we’re not talking about an overnight sensation by any stretch of the imagination.

Whilst we all revel in the ‘newness’ of Twitter we need to keep an eye to the future and ask ourselves what will kill Twitter?

Seesmic, effectively ‘video twittering’, could quite possibly be the next ‘big thing’.I’m sure its founder, Loic LeMeur would offer a more eloquent description – but you get the picture!

Launched in 2007, Seesmic offers the consumer the ability to post short videos about anything they want – mainly face-to-camera conversations. Other Seesmic members can respond to these posts with their videos, with all the responses indexed in threaded form so you can follow or join a conversation as you wish.

Seesmic’s advanced profile and the fact that it owns Thwirl – one of the most popular Twitter desktop applications, providing them with easy access to the tweeting audience; gives it strong Twitter-killer potential.

But Sessmic’s not alone in the video conversation market, we shouldn’t ignore sites like 12seconds.tv and phreadz.com.

So why is video conversation set to be the next big thing? First up you’ve got the mass adoption of Twitter and secondly the concept of recording your own video and uploading it is actually not new – Youtube receives over 13 hours of new content every hour. Mix the two together and you’ve got a powerful new channel waiting to be unleashed!

About CheezeDMG Founded in 1999, CheezeDMG is one of the UK’s leading
digital direct marketing agencies with a staff of 30 and a turnover of
£13million. In 2007, CheezeDMG was acquired by Digital Marketing Group.


Walking the Talk…A combined future for branding and sustainability

Recently we have seen more and more companies develop statements outlining their environmental and social values, this signals a widespread acknowledgement of the need to consider sustainability throughout business processes.But where does the line cross between brand marketing and sustainability? In the past, brands and sustainability have not interconnected, for example if you search for ‘brands’ and ‘sustainability’ at the same time you tend to get results that fit firmly in one camp, the two areas could not be more at odds. It seems that the theory behind how brand marketing and sustainability can work together for mutual benefit is yet to be written.

Brands, much like in advertising, began to be described in terms of an essence or image, something that can easily be conjured or created by smart communications. From a sustainability standpoint, viewing a brand simply through a company generated image or essence can often be misleading. When brands use these images to build their environmental or social credentials in a way that is not proportional to the actual behaviour of the company they are committing greenwash. A good example of greenwash would be a communications campaign from an oil brand extolling the virtues of their renewable energy generation practices when renewable energy only represents a tiny fraction of the overall energy output. Many companies have taken this approach to sustainability where it is made prevalent in the brand image through advertising but is less evident in the overall policy. Greenwash in its own right is testament to the fact that conventional approaches to branding struggles to get to grips with sustainability.


As a branding professional seeking simple, compelling and inspirational stories to engage mass audiences sustainability offers solutions that modern branding is looking for in order to deal with the new digitally enabled interconnected business environment of the 21st century. In fact, for almost all of the things that brand marketers evangelize about today but are not quite sure how to deliver on yet, sustainability has the answers.

Branding professionals know that using advertising to create a positive brand image is disconnected from the actual business that sits behind it. In the past the company was in control of its own image, its branding was the only ‘face’ that consumers ever saw. Due to the proliferation of digital communication, consumers now have access to all areas. The simple fact is that your brand is everything that people are thinking and saying about you, not just what you are saying yourself.

When all of a brands information is in the public domain, having sustainability embedded into your company will encourage positive comments and will ultimately have a positive affect on your brand as the company is being open and transparent about where they are in their journey. It is therefore crucial that external communications and internal practices become aligned. You can’t stop people talking about you but you can show willingness to be honest and open. This means joining the dots between brand communications and corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives because in the eyes of consumers there is no difference.

In the long term, sustainability seeks to create a positive impact on social and environmental issues and can be designed to work in brand marketing to engage consumers in ways that would not be possible without the tangible actions that the company was initiating as part of those projects. What is interesting is that these opportunities often already exist,companies are often doing great work behind the scenes through CSR initiatives that brand marketers don’t know about. At the same time these same brand teams are desperately seeking meaningful stories to give depth to their messages so that consumers will actually engage with them!Anything positive that a company is doing is an opportunity for a meaningful conversation with potential customers and potentially a way to build the brand.

Brand marketing is also striving to deal with the issue of increasing market parity. Differentiation on product benefits and attributes are becoming less effective, however building sustainability into how a company operates as well communicating via a brand image is an effective way to differentiate itself. A recent study had found that “companies with a commitment to sustainability have outperformed others by an average of $650 million in market capitalization” (Kropp, 2009). The long term opportunity is to unite the overall brand vision and the sustainability goals of the company.

Linking branding and sustainability should create a virtuous circle, communicating the good that your company is doing, the success that this brings will justify an ever increasing focus on how to make this better. If nobody knows what kind of company you are then the incentive to better and change associations are not there.

If you look at each of the examples the consistent theme in all of them is “what a brand does is more important than what it says.” This is true in both sustainability and in branding, however crucially I expect neither could actually deliver on this properly without the other. It seems to be a good common starting point as we write the combined futures of branding and sustainability. Until then it seems justified to keep my branding books and my sustainability books all jumbled up together for the time being.

Diana Verde Nieto is the CEO of Clownfish, a sustainability and communications consultancy. Clownfish offers clients a range of discrete tools to evaluate unrealized sustainability opportunities in their products and processes and embed sustainability at the heart of their brands.

Advertising on Social Networks

Last year Respose One conducted a survey of UK adults to examine the relative effectiveness of different advertising media in driving consumers to visit a company’s website and ’seriously consider making a purchase’. Advertising on social networking sites ranked marginally above unsolicited email and unsolicited text messages when it came to encouraging customers to visit an advertiser’s website.

Some saw this news as the storm clouds brewing over social networking as an advertising medium which most thought of as being used by a difficult-to-engage youthful market anyway. However a year on and the outlook seems far sunnier.

The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) posted information yesterday about the growth of web 2.0 based on a recent report by Nielson Online. The report indicated that social networking is now more popular than email among web users around the globe and I for one use these sites to communicate with friends and family more than I use email.

Member community sites, such as blogs and social networks, are now the fourth most popular website category in the world and are growing twice as fast as categories such as search, portals, PC software and email.

The Nielson Online report also showed that Facebook is by far the most popular social network in the world and reaches 3 out of every 10 web users in the main economic markets including the UK, USA, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Figures from Facebook suggest that they have more than 175 million active users in total which means that nearly 3% of humankind is on Facebook!

Visiting social media sites acoounts for 1 in every 11 minutes of time spent on the web with the fastest growing user demographic being the 35 to 49 year olds (my demographic group………..).

The UK market also stood out as being a nation of ‘early adopters’ as the report also revealed us Brits are the most likely to access a social networking site from a mobile as our need to be in touch now extends to when we are ‘offline’.

With two thirds of the world’s online population accessing blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter it would be unwise for brands to exclude these from the marketing mix. Although the initial results from using this media have been far from exciting it is clear that with the broader demographic take up and the wealth of freely given data to enable targeting and segmentation; social networking is likely to be the next big thing……… again.

Last year Respose One conducted a survey of UK adults to examine the relative effectiveness of different advertising media in driving consumers to visit a company’s website and ’seriously consider making a purchase’. Advertising on social networking sites ranked marginally above unsolicited email and unsolicited text messages when it came to encouraging customers to visit an advertiser’s website.

Some saw this news as the storm clouds brewing over social networking as an advertising medium which most thought of as being used by a difficult-to-engage youthful market anyway. However a year on and the outlook seems far sunnier.

The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) posted information yesterday about the growth of web 2.0 based on a recent report by Nielson Online. The report indicated that social networking is now more popular than email among web users around the globe and I for one use these sites to communicate with friends and family more than I use email.

Member community sites, such as blogs and social networks, are now the fourth most popular website category in the world and are growing twice as fast as categories such as search, portals, PC software and email.

The Nielson Online report also showed that Facebook is by far the most popular social network in the world and reaches 3 out of every 10 web users in the main economic markets including the UK, USA, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Figures from Facebook suggest that they have more than 175 million active users in total which means that nearly 3% of humankind is on Facebook!

Visiting social media sites acoounts for 1 in every 11 minutes of time spent on the web with the fastest growing user demographic being the 35 to 49 year olds (my demographic group………..).

The UK market also stood out as being a nation of ‘early adopters’ as the report also revealed us Brits are the most likely to access a social networking site from a mobile as our need to be in touch now extends to when we are ‘offline’.

With two thirds of the world’s online population accessing blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter it would be unwise for brands to exclude these from the marketing mix. Although the initial results from using this media have been far from exciting it is clear that with the broader demographic take up and the wealth of freely given data to enable targeting and segmentation; social networking is likely to be the next big thing……… again.

Jason Edge

www.nexusdp.co.uk

How to use email marketing to retain your customers in the recesssion by Oli Christie, creative director, InboxDMG

As the recession bites, it’s harder than ever to acquire new customers – especially if budgets are shrinking – so marketers need to make the most of those customers they already have.

Now is a good time to focus on retention marketing. And if you need cost-saving as well as effectiveness, email marketing programmes can deliver impressive ROI.
It’s all about targeting and relevance.

No other direct medium allows you to deliver such highly personalised, relevant content, all of which is instantly trackable and measurable, and with a quick turnaround providing you with a strategic and a tactical tool.

Here are top 10 email marketing tips for retaining customers and increasing customer value:

1. Less is more:
Keep copy short. Don’t fill the available space just because it’s there. Keep it simple and concise to deliver drama and message clarity. Your existing customers know what you do, so you don’t have to remind them in every message. They’ll want you to get to the point quickly.

2. Stand out from the crowd:
How many emails arrive in your inbox every day? A McAfee report last year revealed that unprotected inboxes receive an average of 70 unsolicited emails every day. Stand out is obviously crucial, but not always given enough attention. Build a strong identity and style so that your existing customers can spot that relevant message even in a crowded inbox.

3. Deliver your brand creatively:
Avoid being overly formulaic in your creative approach. Brand consistency is good for immediate recognition, but be prepared to surprise and delight through creative visual treatments. If you’re building templates, why not build creativity in. Don’t be dull, keep your customers interested.

4. Use attention grabbing headlines:

Make sure the headlines within the email are relevant to the recipient and contain enough drama to generate immediate response. Think of them as newspaper headlines – short, attractive lines to lure the reader into the stories.

5. Clear message positioning:

Think about the positive of the ‘fold’. Know that you’ve got less than 3 seconds to generate a response. The key message has to appear early and high, with supportive content lower down. Don’t be shy. If the content is well-targeted, even sales messages to existing customers will be received as a form of customer service – you can afford to be upfront and get to the point quickly.

6. Make it even more relevant:
This is probably the single most important piece of advice. You need to learn about your customer, capturing data from email responses, online behaviour and profiling questions. You then need to show your customers that you’ve ‘listened’ by using your knowledge to build relevant and personalised communications. Target content and offers based on what you know about the individual customers. Customers want one-to-one communications so well-targeted and segmented emails will get double the response, or more.

7. Keep it clean:
Defensive systems designed to spot and reject SPAM are very sophisticated. If your list is scattered with bounce-back addresses, duplicates and unsubscribes, your stats will suffer and so will your ‘sender’ reputation. Use services like Return Path analysis to increase deliverability and therefore, ROI.

8. Use the subject line, it’s very important:
This along with your ‘sent from’ email address, is the first thing your customers will see. It’s important! Keep it concise – 40 characters or less is best – putting key info at the start of it. Avoid subject line personalisation as you need to avoid appearing like SPAM at all costs. Oh, and don’t forget to test, and retest, and test again…

9. Tune in and get the tone right:
These are existing customers you’re talking to, so make sure you acknowledge it. Use the data you have about previous transactions and reduce the formality. The copy tone has an enormous effect on customers’ perceptions about your brand and brand affinity, so spend time developing your ‘house style’ and language.

10. Timing is everything:
Finally, there are good times and bad times of the week, and day, to despatch your emails. Again, more testing is required, as it will vary depending on your business sector and product. As a rule of thumb, aim for the first half of the week – plenty of time for your customers to react before the mental cleansing effect of the weekend.

About InboxDMG Established in 1999, InboxDMG is one of the UK’s leading, award-winning specialist digital communications agencies. InboxDMG specialises in digital customer relationship management, providing clients with insightful, engaging and results-driven digital solutions that build brands and long term one-to-one customer relationships and is a member of Digital Marketing Group, which specialises in digital marketing.


Contents is king in the men’s market

Established in the 90’s against a backdrop of Brit-Pop and New Labour, men’s magazines such as FHM, Maxim and Loaded were once the staple of every self respecting teen and twenty-something male. But the latest ABC figures reveal a publishing sector on its knees, haemorrhaging readers and facing an uncertain future.


So why has a magazine sector that once captured the male Zeitgeist so perfectly and counted a readership in the millions, come to the edge of collapse?Before the rise of online content and social networking sites such as Facebook, the rise of Google and YouTube; magazines such as Loaded, Maxim and FHM almost bottled the essence of “lad culture”.

It’s hard to remember any other group of publications, past or present that so perfectly captured an audience. A recipe of witty, informative, agenda setting editorial and a constant stream of scantily clad celebrities made these titles every media planner’s dream publication; enormous targeted readership and a great branding.

So what has gone so badly wrong? Well there are several reasons. First remember that the lad’s mag heyday was pre-Google; before YouTube, Facebook and now of course Twitter.The internet has elbowed the glossy monthly or even weekly men’s mag aside as an agenda- setting source of entertainment. Why tell your mates about something you read about in Loaded, they’d heard about online three weeks earlier.

The painful fact for magazines is that cool news or “did you see that” content has a far shorter lifespan, perhaps measured in days or hours rather than weeks or months. As a result the influence they held as the print gate keepers of information has diminished.

Second, in general the sector has failed to keep pace with changing times and is still too reliant on editorial content and style that was popular ten years ago. The lads mag is out of step with the realities of the content market. Whilst unfair to say success of FHM etc flowed purely from the amount of bare flesh they exposed, it was a big factor. In an age where porn can be accessed so easily for free online, it’s inevitable that lads should ask why they should bother paying three pounds for a magazine.

Male attitudes have also moved on. The timeless, universal appeal of tits and arse still hold true, but, there’s been a gradual shift in men’s attitudes over the last ten years. Gone are the days where men were proud to fly the “lad” flag. Today most twenty-something males are probably too embarrassed to read such magazines in public for fear of the negative social connotations associated with them.

Neither maturing with the readership of the 1990’s nor attracting the new ipod generation, the lad mags now find themselves in no-mans land. Unlike the women’s lifestyle sector, where there’s a natural progression in terms of the magazines you mature into, (for example as a teen you might read Sugar, before moving onto Grazia in your twenties and Red in your thirties) men have found no middle ground between the brash content that appealed to their younger selves and the high-brow editorial or apparitional cool offered by the likes of GQ.

The winners have been titles that have continued to deliver content (especially expertise or opinion) that is not easily accessible elsewhere. Specialists such as Men’s Health, Golf Monthly, Q or Total Film (or examples that are on the rise) have inherited the lad audience, defining it by interest group.

With the high water mark of men’s magazines well and truly behind us, and recent ABC’s charting a precipitous decline is the genre of the general “lad mag”, even in weekly form dead and buried? Well, clearly some are still alive and well, for example you cannot ignore Nuts! with an ABC of 234,034 in February.

Having said that, publishing contracts aside, I’m not optimistic. It can’t be long before the monthlies are all but gone and the weeklies may face a similar fate in a year or two. The brands are of course attempting reinvention online, but will they survive in that form alone with so many alternatives online?I expect specialist titles to continue to thrive and for “quality” titles aimed at the more discerning reader to survive with a solid readership. Perhaps the answer to the survival of the general men’s mag lays in a return to journalism that offers entertainment the British lad simply can’t get with a quick Google.

Dennis Perks, Press Manager, Total Media

About Total Media

Total Service: The service and results your deserves


Total Expertise: With all the knowledge you need from digital and direct to international

Total Media: The independence to think and act freely for youVisit www.totalmedia.co.uk

How Important is A Website in the Marketing Mix?

I was doing a little online research for a client recently when I stumbled
across a little snippet of information on the New Media Age website
which was quoting some research by Rawnet.

It stated that 86% of consumers have researched a company online
before deciding to use it and 78% have been put off from dealing with a
company because of poor processes on its website. The study of more
than 1,962 UK consumers found 74% would be more likely to deal with a
company if it had all the relevant information on a single page.

It shouldn’t come as any gteat surprise as all of us have
experienced that disengaged feeling when the home page loads and it
looks home-made or worse still; over-designed. Thankfully the big brands have hordes of dedicated web monkeys to keep there sites at the cutting edge and full of content but some companies further down the brand food-chain just don’t get it. I don’t want to name any names………………………………..

If you want to see how bad things can get check out http://tiny.pl/bwwp – ‘the world’s worst website’ which points out the real no-nos of any brands online presence. Then check out http://www.arngren.net/ for a genuine commercial website that has to be seen to be believed.

The benefit of the web to any brands marketing activity goes without question but getting it wrong is far worse than having no web presence at all.

Jason Edge

www.nexusdp.co.uk (we’re in the process of rebuilding it so no need to comment!!)

2009 – The Year of Search…

Comment by Pete Fairhurst, Information Architect, 3Sixty

As Google continues to advance its search services, 2009 is already looking like a landmark year for search – particularly for Google users. With its desire to provide ever more relevant results to each individual, Google will finally launch its much-lauded “personal search” service later this year. Reading some of Bruce Clay’s comments on the web about this very subject, its hard not to get excited about what Google’s offering will mean for the consumers and the advertising industry alike.

By recording a user’s previous searches and click-throughs, Google hopes to offer a more personal and relevant experience. How this will work isn’t entirely clear, but each time a user performs a search, Google will inspect a user’s search history to better establish what they’re really looking for.

For example, say a user searches for “java”. This could mean a number of things: the popular drink, the holiday destination or Sun Microsystem’s popular programming language. Google will take into account a user’s search history before presenting what it believes are results the user will find the most interesting.

Google will also then record the user’s behaviour with these results – whether they click through once or twice and don’t come back (meaning they have found what they wanted), or if the user tries a slightly different search to find something more appropriate. All of which will continue to feed back into the user’s personal search profile, ready for use next time they perform a search.

While this is all largely speculative at time of writing, this rumour has been causing ripples in search engine optimisation circles – particularly with those experts who charge for precise, guaranteed placement within Google’s search results. If each user gets a different set of results based on their individual tastes and interests, this could have a potentially devastating result on positional search engine optimisation.

However, in reality this should actually prove the opposite for the user; the quality of results returned should noticeably improve, meaning better visibility for more specialised businesses. Sticking with our previous example (“java”), specialist small tour operators could see a marked improvement in their search result performance.

There is also the continued question of Google versus personal privacy. Whether users are willing to have Google store their search history in detail remains to be seen. As an aside, Google has been offering a “save my search history” option in user’s personal Google accounts for a number of years now; utilising this data to improve their search service for the individual is merely the next logical step. Google is also likely to offer “personalised search” as an option under each user’s Google account settings, so it likely that it won’t be a “service by stealth” as some parties have feared in the past.

Above all, personalising search in this way promises to bring as much benefit to business as it does the end user. It will be interesting to see how this development from Google progresses, and what impact – if any – it will have on the web at large.

About 3Sixty

Founded in 1995, 3Sixty (http://www.3sixty.co.uk) is a full service digital marketing agency run by Managing Director, Chris Thurling and Creative Director, Jon Waring. The agency takes pride in its experience and deep understanding of using the web as a communications tool for advertisers; its work emphasises simplicity, functionality and the aesthetic. With particular expertise in the travel, finance & leisure industries, 3Sixty is based in Bristol and is an active member of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Account Planning Group.

Getting customers to love your team

What makes teams like Manchester United so popular? Having talented players, a fantastic heritage and winning trophies all helps. Clever and innovative advertising doesn’t hurt either. But more important than these is the positive engagement marketers develop with fans and the experience it offers them. The owners of the biggest teams understand that careful management of their marketing, based on a complete understanding of their fan base across the globe, can inspire more than mere passionate support, it can create customer loyalty – and turn fans into brand advocates. It’s a lesson that applies to all marketing – making the customer experience a top priority is crucial if a company is to meet its business goals and stay in the premier division of its industry.


Customer service guru Ken Blanchard coined the term ‘raving fans’ to refer to customers who are so impressed by a company that they tell everyone else about it. Football teams routinely inspire that kind of response, but other companies can too. Think of companies like Apple, IKEA, Nintendo, eBay and Facebook, and it’s hard to separate your perception of the company from its community of fans and their passion for it


How can companies build that kind of relationship? The key is to understand the essence of the customer, what makes people want to be a customer, and what is it they share that the company serves. Building experiences that reflect this shared need and using it as a basis for communication provides a focus for marketing and re enforces why a business has customers in the first place. This core knowledge can then be enriched to serve the differences in group of customer. Marketers must talk to customers in ways that re enforces their shared needs, but alongside it demonstrate a real understanding of their specific and personal needs, then, delivering on it consistently.


With data integrated into a single customer view the information is consistent, accurate, up-to-date, and complete. This supports examining personal details, such as age, gender, family and relationships, and analysing it alongside purchase history. With this in place a business can take advantage of analysis to develop a detailed profile for each customer, allowing it to identify and group those individuals that are likely to be interested in similar messages. By ensuring customers only receive messages that are relevant to their lives, a company greatly increases the connection between itself and its customers. It shows it understands and is listening.


A major reason why the big sports teams are so successful is that they understand the importance of making fans feel like they are a part of the same organisation with shared beliefs and a common passion. Establishing what is common and shared can form a powerful part of regular communication, take a newsletter for example. This needs to go beyond keeping customers updated with what’s going on and the blasting sterile messages. It must re-enforce shared beliefs, however, also be personalised, recognising groups and individuals that need different message to stimulate positive behaviour.


Content can be personalised for each individual, so that they’re not only greeted by name, but they also see only those stories that matter to them and offers they will be motivated to act on. Content also needs to be timely, using what is known to recognise life changes, for example, that a customer have moved house, had a child, or changed their preference to be communicated via the web. These factors makes communication more compelling but it can go further. Communication can also be made interactive, for example, to encourage customers to share it with friends and family through digital medium such as email, the web or SMS. Appling this intelligence to communications can create campaigns that take on a momentum of their own. As customers feel part of the same organisation, they will spread the word, acting like advocates, ultimately providing access to people that aren’t customers yet.


At half time, the team on the pitch will gather to review the first half and make subtle and sometimes dramatic changes to formation or tactics. The best marketing teams do the same, at regular times during any campaign. A digital campaign is live and can be reviewed instantly. For non digital campaigns success can be created by watching which message variants generate the best response, what type of response is delivered, as request for information or straight to add to basket. When responses happen, what people did first, second or last are all required. By observing the combination of responses with behaviour and purchases campaigns can be refined and tweaked in light of this unspoken feedback from the customer base. Like all teams, sharing the information is vital, so that nothing get’s missed and everything is coordinated. Of course there is usually one captain, but as managers and coaches, marketers work as a cohesive team, each needing to analysis, understand and share their views, then take action to get the right result.


Marketing efficiency combined with customer intelligence makes it possible to forge a relationship between customer and organisation, fostering loyalty and dedication on both sides. As on the pitch, there are many different strategies that can be employed. In marketing the key is never to lose sight of the experiences customers want, crave and aspire to. Like a fan, a customer’s decision is underpinned by the knowledge that other people have a shared experience, using this and what you know about the individual will keep customer support and ensure they keep coming back for more.

ChrisjoinedsmartFOCUS in 1999, hehas led to theacquisitions of three companies: marketing software companies, Paris based AIMS Software in 2005 and UK based Email Reaction in 2006, adding long standing news & media marketing specialist Astech Intermedia in the USA in 2008.

About smartFOCUS Group plcsmartFOCUS (LSE:STF) is a leading international marketing software company that empowers marketers with the intelligence to drive high performance multi-channel campaigns and more valuable customer relationships. Its Intelligent Marketing solutions integrate offline and online data, analysis, campaign and performance management to deliver better targeted, more timely and relevant communications that increase campaign conversion rates and improve customer insight.smartFOCUS has over 700 customers and partners worldwide using its marketing software including AAA, ABN AMRO, ASOS, Center Parcs, EMI, Fig Leaves, Harrods, Hilton International, NSPCC, Société Générale and QVC.smartFOCUS is headquartered in the UK, with operations in the US, continental Europe and Asia Pacific. www.smartfocus.com


Brands need the feelgood factor in times of recession

The fact that the film Slumdog Millionaire swept the board at the BAFTAs this year (and probably will at the Oscars) is not coincidental to the economic climate.

Because, whether or not you agree with the critic who said it was ‘the feelgood film of the decade’, Slumdog’s uplifting ending struck a chord with the public, as the perfect antitode to today’s gloom and doom. Similarly, reality shows such as X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, with their themes of triumph over adversity and provision of escapist enjoyment, are enjoying record audiences.

It’s not just popular culture that’s showing us which way the wind is blowing. People all over the UK cried tears of joy at President Obama’s inauguration – that had the feelgood factor too. And just look at the way February’s snow got everyone out throwing snowballs – people jumping at chance to enjoy themselves again.

In order to ride out the recession, depression (or whatever it’s being called these days), brands might need to tune into the feelgood factor too. The immediate response of many brands to the downturn was to focus on trust, reassurance or nostalgia in order to attract consumers. Banks sobered up, ditched the celebrities and started telling us our money was safe with them. Supermarkets focused squarely on price and discounting. And consumer brands such as Hovis returned to the past in their advertising, in campaigns designed to evoke familiar feelings of warmth.

But now we are seeing a second wave of marketing. Bright, lively campaigns – such as T-Mobile’s ‘Life’s for Sharing’ – are ahead of the curve, tapping into a new culture of fun that can still be had, regardless of cash. Virgin Atlantic’s ‘stewardesses’ campaign, however controversial, has a high-camp style that both entertains us and harks back to the 80s with an ironic nostalgia. In the US, Coke ran ‘feelgood’ spots in the recent Superbowl- and went down well with viewers.

In a downturn, people need entertainment to shake them out of their depression. It’s no coincidence that the 70s, with its three day weeks and winter of discontent, produced comedy geniuses such as Monty Python and the team behind Not the Nine O Clock News.

And the companies that are about entertainment – leisure, communication and lifestyle brands – could start to benefit. People who have been working hard over the last few years and have nothing to show for it will start looking to achieve more of a work/life balance, plus a more healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. There could even be a slower pace to life – more of a Continental feel – as the UK pendulum swings away from a focus on money and property.

Consumers will not stop spending – they will just spend on different things. While they may not be buying or selling houses, they will be renovating their existing homes, so DIY or decoration brands could benefit. And they will take care who they spend with – established, trusted retailers will benefit, while those who were already floundering will go the way of Woollies. Retailers that give us positive, uplifting messages will find returns on their investment.

2009 will also see the real beginnings of the build up to London Olympics in 2012, as well as the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Both events will provide a positive focus for consumers who see the economic chaos around them. Brands will start to capitalise on capturing the excitement of major sporting events, and this will encourage a change in mindset for consumers, who will start to shift from being mere spectators of sport on TV to actually taking part in live events.

But brands keen on associating themselves with sport will have to do more than simply badging events – it will be much more about involvement at the grassroots level. This approach will have much greater impact, because consumers will want to be more closely involved in the reflected glory of sporting achievement. Successful campaigns are likely to be more triumphalist, with direct association to successful athletes or footballers.

Many brands have floundered since the start of the recession, unsure whether to keep their heads below the parapet, play to their strengths or change their message. But perhaps all it needs is for marketers to start feeling good about their brands again, and consumers will start feeling more confident too.

About Gordon Bethell
Gordon Bethell became joint Managing Partner of gratterpalm in 2001, alongside Gareth Healey, having joined gratterpalm in 1996 as an Account Manager. In June 2002 he was a member of the management buy-out team which now owns the agency.
Gordon has two decades of experience in marketing, on both on the agency and client side, and has gained particular expertise across the retail industry. Before joining gratterpalm he directed the Staples account at communications agency Creative Communications. He has also worked for TMD Direct, as a media planner for clients including the AA, and began his career as an advertising executive for the tour operator Airtours and Eurosites. Gordon sits on the board of gratterpalm and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business. Under his leadership, the agency has expanded from a staff of 45 to 120.

About gratterpalm
gratterpalm is the UK’s leading independent retail marketing agency. It delivers shelf-centred marketing campaigns through strategy & branding, packaging, digital, print, broadcast, creative, PR, events, direct response and point of sale for the retail sector. Clients include ASDA, DFS, M&S Outlet, Greggs, LA fitness and Umbro.
http://www.gratterpalm.co.uk/