Do you know where your brand is taking your business?

All too often businesses spend their hard-earned cash on brand advertising and promotion without giving sufficient thought to the setting of clear objectives and considered planning of activities to ensure optimum return on investment.

Here’s a few tips to best practice brand planning …

LOOK BEYOND paid-for advertising, and consider your brand communications holistically.

INVEST TIME in establishing realistic objectives and ensuring all parties involved do understand them.

SET A BUDGET which matches your ambitions, or set your ambitions according to your available budget.

ENSURE that your broad comms strategy has a marketing-focused idea at its heart – not just a creative advertising platform.

BE AWARE of the rapidly changing media landscape and the new opportunities it affords.

ESTABLISH the role each media channel is to play and ensure that the activities of all channels are fully integrated.

ENGAGE a creative partner to offer objective strategic input and deliver creative communication solutions.

ENCOURAGE your creative partner to boldly go where others haven’t.

TEST & TRACK campaign effectiveness to ensure optimum accountability.

REVIEW and revise where necessary – a brand comms strategy is continuously evolving.

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When the going gets tough, the tough get vocal

In times of economic downturn and Brexit uncertainty the first thought of many brand-owner companies is to cut their marketing budgets, freeze their ad spend and restrict all marketing activities. Of course, reducing overall company expenditure may be necessary if sales and profitability are falling, but very often, and unfairly, the marketing budget becomes the immediate and automatic first casualty in such circumstances because company management still views marketing spend as a necessary evil, regarding it as a cost rather than an investment.

Even those companies which do appreciate the contribution successful brands make to their business fortunes may assume that it does no harm to chop marketing spend in difficult and unpredictable economic circumstances. But there is considerable evidence to refute this assumption and, moreover, to show that it is vital to at least maintain, if not increase, advertising and marketing activities in tough times.

If all brands in a category were to cut their marketing budgets by the same proportion, then there would be little impact on individual brands. But the experience of previous downturns shows that some brands maintain or increase their marketing spend, while others cut theirs. And there is evidence to show that those who do cut their spend suffer in the longer term, in terms of market share and profitability. It is calculated that the cost of a brand’s eventual recovery is three or four times greater than any savings made by knee-jerk budget cuts.

Research shows that there is a strong correlation between the level of consumer bonding with the brand and its market share. Marketing budget cuts result in reduced consumer bonding, weakened brand image, lower usage and market share decline. And there is a strong relationship between market share decline and the key marketing expenditure metric, i.e., ‘share of voice’ minus ‘share of market’. Share of voice is defined as a brand’s share of total category marketing communications expenditure.

In order to gain competitive advantage a brand’s share of voice should exceed its share of market, and successful brand managers realise this. Even in recessionary times when budgets are under extra pressure a brand must at least maintain its share of voice in order to retain existing brand preference and emerge a healthy business when recovery comes. The benefits of doing so will have proven even greater if, in the meantime, the competition have cut their own spend.

If the brand fails to maintain spend, its market share will decline and the company’s fortunes will suffer in the longer term, as those competitors who have maintained or increased their activities will have leapt ahead. Alarmingly, in the short term the consequence of not maintaining spend may not be apparent, and not for some considerable time, possibly up to four years, due to the time-lag effect of advertising payback.

And while marketing spend can deliver share of voice in terms of volume, creative content of all activities also has an important part to play in ensuring the voice is listened to – making the brand’s communications more arresting, and engaging and than that of its competitors. In creative terms, brand voice should reflect core values, and all brand communications should be well orchestrated to ensure consistency of message – they should all be singing off the same hymn sheet …

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
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Brands must engage in the Blogosphere

The social and consumer dynamics of interactive digital dialogue are constantly evolving, and for some time now Web 2.0-savvy consumers have been doing much of the talking. They’ve taken control over entertainment and editorial media, reversing the conventional flow of communication by increasingly uploading as much as downloading content. This wave of Consumer Generated Media (CGM) – blogs, podcasts, videos – is viewed or listened to on a rapidly increasing number of social website, TV and mobile networks.

Digital media owners are riding the CGM wave. YouTube users can produce and upload videoblogs in a matter of minutes, and view those produced by others. Social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter let people keep in touch with one another and voice their opinions. Amazon encourages consumers to post product reviews for others to read. Periscope users transmit live video feeds. Some entertainers are also encouraging interactivity – movie makers are reshooting to include suggestions from preview internet audiences, rock bands invite fans to remix album tracks before re-releasing them online.

And with Web 3.0 just around the corner consumers will be doing more of their talking from an increasing number of devices – not just from their smartphones, tablets and laptops, but also from their smart TVs, video game players, medical monitors – even their clothing will connect to the ‘internet of things’. And with the likes of Google planning to understand the context as well as the content of such communication, the dialogue between browser and consumer is going to become more humanised – leaving brands in danger of being left out of the conversation.

What’s a brand to do? The answer is to openly engage with the consumer through social networking channels with a genuine, honest voice, encouraging them to befriend the brand and to participate in brand development activities. For example, crowdsourcing sees consumer volunteers or low-paid amateurs being encouraged by brand-owners to help design better products or services online, often motivated by nothing more than their own creative aspirations. The advantage to the brandowners is that new ideas can be generated at little cost and candidate ideas can be aborted if rejected by participating consumers. And by inviting their involvement, consumer affinity with the brand is strengthened.

Another example is Consumer Generated Advertising (CGA) which encourages consumers to write and even produce their own online ads for their brand by making video clips and music tracks available for download. All the big USA brands have experimented with this – some successfully, others not so. Without editorial control – and that would be seen as a cop-out – it can be a risky business. Disappointed customers can have a sting in their tail.

Perhaps CGA is taking consumer empowerment a step too far. Brands should encourage consumers to suggest product innovations or improvements, by all means. Entertain them, engage them in conversation, indulge their creative ambitions, even – but brandowners should never forget that consumers are there to be sold to. Remember, brands can be at their most persuasive when shout turns to whisper. Exploit the new dialogue between brand and consumer. Embrace the emerging technologies and the new interactive communication channels and make them work. For you.

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A Choice Opportunity for Preferred Brands

toothpaste-variety-main-image-toothpaste-431945Cavity protection? Fluoride Tartar Control? Anticavity Gel? Fluoride Free? Advanced Whitening? Peroxide Tartar Control? Enamel Care? Antibacterial with Calcium? Herbal? Sensitive? Low Abrasion? Stain Removal? …

And all you wanted was a tube of toothpaste. Of course it’s not just toothpaste. A shopping survey in a USA mall showed three dozen smartphones on display, each with around 30 phone faces available and about 20 payment plans to choose from – making a total of over 20,000 different options from which to choose. By the time every option might have been considered, you can bet your life the phone would be obsolete.

In today’s rich western society the abundance of choice available to us is overwhelming. Conventionally, greater choice would be considered beneficial to the consumer but there’s evidence to suggest that the consumer is ill-equipped to make decisions when faced with such an increasing number of options, and having to make them leads to confusion, misery and in severe cases, even clinical depression.

This state of lingering discontent is particularly likely if the consumer in question would be regarded by classical economists as a ‘maximiser’ – that is, someone who insists on devoting much time and effort to search out only the very best when making their selection. Just good enough is not good enough for maximisers. Because there is such an increasing array of products, services and financial deals from which to choose, with each and every option boasting their offering as best, many of us are driven into becoming maximisers. But we don’t have the time nowadays to consider every option. And most of us hate making choices, because the wrong choice leads to regret, so we become frozen by indecision and prone to depression.

FlashIt’s been suggested that society would be more content if we were to resist overwhelming choice and become what economists call ‘satisficers’ – that is, someone who’s easily satisfied providing their basic standards are met. Satisficers don’t waste their time researching the options in search of perfection, they’re more likely to be content with their lot.

The dynamic internet-driven marketplace continues to confront consumers with more and more products and services from which to choose. And paradoxically, increasing consumer empowerment to easily and instantly shift allegiance in turn pressurises competitive sellers to respond with better deals, and new or improved products.

This accelerating spiral of bewildering choice is leading consumers to follow the lead of many companies in recent years, and outsource – in their case, to outsource choice. For them, freedom of choice means being free not to choose. They’re employing the services of ‘experts’ such as interior designers or financial advisers who remove, or at least greatly reduce the number of choices they have to make. These experts offer a personalised service which, of course, doesn’t come cheap. But there’s also a free option available to consumers – that is to put themselves in the hands of ‘the brand’.

It’s well recognised that through creative marketing communications preferred brands forge an emotional bond with the consumer, creating brand preference and retaining brand loyalty, thereby reassuring consumers and making it easier for them to make a choice. With consumers looking to brands as an escape route from a multiplicity of choices, brand owners should be making the most of the opportunity.

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
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Brand Experience must surpass Perception.

We all find it difficult today to go anywhere without being hit with intrusive brand messaging. Wherever we happen to be, whatever we happen to be doing, we’re targeted by a proliferation of advertising messages.
They rain down on us from a multitude of sources – online pop-ups and banners, multichannel TV and radio, in press and magazines, through the mail, outdoor billboards, buses, texts, and so many more.

Some of us earn a living by making those pieces of brand communication as persuasive as we can, influencing customer perceptions of our client’s brand so that at point of purchase it will be their preferred choice – although our job is being made increasingly difficult as advances in technology continue to empower the consumer to make their own choices regarding what, when and how they are exposed to much of the media.

Difficult it may be, but it remains so very important that your customer should be made aware of your brand and should think well of it. Creative, persuasive and truthful brandbuilding communication through online and conventional media can still achieve this, not necessarily by shouting louder but by making your brand be noticed by being different, distinctive.

But because there’s so much shouting going on, even if you achieve advertising cut-through and succeed in getting your voice heard, will your brand be remembered at the point of purchase? The more messaging there is out there, the less chance there is of anyone remembering any. Research shows that today’s consumer is so over-stimulated with brand messaging that short term awareness is less likely to be retained in longer term memory. And of course, as brand perception fades so does the hope of the customer choosing your brand above the competition. All that media spend going to waste? Well, not quite. Brand owners should still invest in achieving advertising cut-through but it’s not enough on its own – the brand must follow-through so that customers’ actual experience of the brand surpasses their perception of it.

This might this be achieved in a variety of ways. By making your website easy to find and navigate through. By making your retail outlet attractive and comfortable so shopping becomes a more pleasurable experience for the customer. By ensuring your telephone is answered by people who genuinely want to help. By motivating your salespeople to recognise regular shoppers and make them feel loved. By rewarding repeat customers for their loyalty – surprising them by giving them something extra, for free. By encouraging and incentivising word of mouth recommendations. In short, by ensuring that the brand experience lives up to the brand promise, and more.

The combination of advertising cut-through and brand follow-through is the secret to creating a strong emotional bond between the brand and its consumer.

In today’s world of empowered consumers, neither can do it alone.

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
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Neuromarketing focuses on the ‘f’ Word – fMRI

The ‘f’ word, or fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging – is increasingly being adopted as a neuroscientific marketing tool by chief marketers of global brands. The cost of fMRI scans has to date been seen as somewhat prohibitive, but recent studies show that the technique can not only help predict consumer behaviour and preferences more accurately than more traditional research tools but also more cost-effectively by using smaller sample sizes.

FMRI Tali Sharot (2)Most people know what an MRI scan is – in fact, many of us will have had personal experience of MRI scanning machines being used to detect vascular or arterial medical conditions. Functional MRI (fMRI) scanning is a very similar, non-invasive technique which has the added benefit of revealing brain activity in real time, and where in the brain it happens by identifying and measuring changes in localised neuron activity and bloodflow, among other indicators.

fMRI’s potential as a marketing tool was initially tested in a series of experiments to determine the effect of branding on the brain and how it might influence consumer preference. The famous ‘Pepsi Challenge’ was repeated while scanning the participants’ brains at the same time. Presented with anonymous colas, more people preferred Pepsi to Coke, and their brains’ reward centre – the ventral putamen – showed a response level of five times higher than those whose preference was Coke, showing indisputably that Pepsi was the favoured cola, on the basis of taste.

brandingpepsi-vs-cokeThen the tasting experiment was repeated, but after first identifying the respective brands this time. Nearly all subjects said they preferred Coke, despite the majority of them earlier preferring the taste of Pepsi. The subjects were obviously influenced by their knowledge of, and experience of, the Coke brand. And interestingly, on this occasion different parts of the brain were stimulated into activity – particularly the medial prefrontal cortex, an area known to be involved in our sense of self-image, how we see ourselves. It is known that these two receptor areas within the brain – content and cultural influence – combine to shape perceptions and to modify behavioural references for even a very basic reward.

Exactly how Coke achieved a position of such influence is not fully understood, even by Coke itself … therein lies the Holy Grail of marketing. But the answer must be a combination of name, consistent advertising, packaging, PR, distribution, product placement and so on … cultural messages which have been proven to influence consumer behaviour and the decision-making process.

In another fMRI study participants were invited to taste two identical wines – one being first identified to them as different and more expensive than the other. Neural data from the fMRI scans showed that the higher price actually made the wine taste better in the participants’ brains by changing its neural signature.

Researcher-testfMRI and other similar brain-scanning techniques seek to establish how a brand might best build an emotional relationship with its customers, identifying the most receptive areas of the brain to receive such a message. Market researchers and brand owners are taking these neuromarketing techniques very seriously.

Neuroscience marketing analysts claim they can use the information gathered by fMRI and other techniques to identify consumer preference triggers, and then apply this knowledge to help marketeers formulate more effective brandbuilding campaigns. fMRI is becoming a regular tool for testing packaging, advertising and other promotional material, helping brand owners to build strong relationships with their existing and potential customers.

But, call me old fashioned – surely there can be no prescribed formula for producing effective, creative brand communications. No matter how much we may come to know about how and where the brain responds to cultural messages, in order for brandcomms to break through the plethora of commercial messages out there they must challenge, amuse, shock, or intrigue the audience. And that means being bold, different, unpredictable.

In my book, creativity will always prevail over science.

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Stimulate the E-Spot

Subconscious Logical Reasoning surfaces as Creative Inspiration at the E-Spot …

Some years ago scientists at Northwestern University, Chicago discovered the E-Spot – the precise location in the brain where the ‘Eureka!’ moment takes place. Where a flash of inspiration resolves a problem which logical, contemplative thinking could not. Where the Big Idea is conceived in an instant, known by many as the ‘Aha’ moment. The E-Spot is to be found in the right temporal lobe of the brain, its formal anatomical term being the anterior superior temporal gyrus. I for one prefer the term E-Spot.

The original behavioural study invited groups of volunteers to solve a number of verbal puzzles and say whether they thought they’d arrived at the solutions by insight or by more considered reasoning. A mite subjective perhaps. But the participants’ brain activity was scanned as they responded and functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed increased activity in the E-Spot location when insight, rather than reasoning, provided the correct solution. A sudden burst of highfrequency neural activity was recorded at the E-Spot just moments before a flash of inspiration resolved the problem at hand.

So the study identified the part of the brain responsible for the uniquely human quality of insight. But more interestingly for those in the business of brand communications is that later development work suggested problems (or opportunities) are being thought about in a  reasoned, contemplative manner at an unconscious level for some time prior to solving them with what we might call a flash of inspiration – ‘an idea out of thin air’. The E-Spot is thought to play a crucial part in gathering together disparate information and then be subconsciously activated to produce an abrupt insight when the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

How often have you woken up in the middle of the night, or at daybreak, with the solution to a problem you have been wrestling with for some time? You didn’t have the answer – or the problem in mind – when you went to sleep. And yet you have the answer now. How? By wrestling with the issue in your unconscious mind for it to surprise you with the solution on waking – or perhaps it even woke you up to tell you?

Legend has it that Archimedes famously shouted ‘Eureka!’ (I have found it!) when he discovered how to calculate density by watching his bathwater displace as he sat in the tub. He had been logically wrestling with the concept of measuring density for an age and had reached an impasse until the solution arose in his consciousness as it did in his bathtub. Typically, an emotional response follows a moment of insight. Surprised and excited by his discovery Archimedes also ran home from the baths stark naked, forgetting his robe – presumably also surprising some of his neighbours!

So what real relevance does any of this have to the business of brand communications? Well, it demystifies the creative process to a degree. And dispels any thought that creatives need rely upon little more their own ‘off the wall’ thinking or divine inspiration to produce the Big Idea which will deliver success for the brand. Anyone believing that is kidding themselves. Since receiving the brief the creative team would have been thinking in a reasoned, logical, contemplative way about the issue, revisiting and reinterpreting it, but because this would have been taking place in their unconscious they wouldn’t have even known it was happening. Until, hopefully, the mould-breaking solution would have presented itself in what the creative would call a flash of inspiration.

From a brand owner client viewpoint, the conclusion is that you should always provide as comprehensive a brief as possible to your creative partner, accompanied by as much support data that you can lay your hands on. You can’t give them too much information providing it is relevant and concise – contrary to popular belief it will not stifle their creativity. The more knowledge they have of your brand, its marketplace and your aims and objectives, the better chance your creative partner has of delivering more effective, brandbuilding solutions.

One final thought – if your creative partner tells you they get all their best ideas in the shower, it might raise a chuckle. Just remember Archimedes jumping out of the tub…

© andysellers
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Fortune favours the brave brand owner.

Most marketeers would agree that daring and distinctive creative work builds brands, and provides a healthier return on investment than less arresting executions would.
The ‘Advertising Works’ series of publications, produced annually by the IPA, contains winning case studies from the prestigious IPA Effectiveness Awards which demonstrate how well planned and executed brand communication campaigns can make a hard financial contribution to a company’s fortunes. And it’s no coincidence that much of the creative work featured in these case studies also goes on to win advertising industry creative awards in its own right, being judged by the author’s peers upon the work’s originality, distinctiveness and memorability. The latest Advertising Works 23 features 2016 gold-award winners which include John Lewis, Guinness, The Economist and Save the Children – proof, if proof were needed, that insightful planning and an inspired creative idea can set a brand apart from its competitors, can drive sales and deliver profits, as well as motivate a client company’s own staff and suppliers to improve their own performance.

To differentiate is to be distinctive, to stand out from the crowd. ‘When the world zigs, zag.’ as a famous John Hegarty ad for Levi’s once suggested. In other words, to step outside the norm, to break the rules and amuse, intrigue or shock its audience in a way which is still relevant and ‘on brand’ of course.


Brave, brand-owner marketer clients also have a very important part to play in the process. By recognising the potential of unshackled creativity to make an impact they can encourage their brand comms partners to deliver the unexpected. They can kickstart the creative process by writing a great brief. They can be prepared to make bold decisions and to take a risk on no more than a hunch. And they can defend great work internally, as not everyone will instinctively share their appreciation of the true worth of brand-driven, creative communications.

Working together to produce distinctive and memorable creative advertising, marketers and their creative partners are likely to be rewarded by seeing their brand achieve great things in the marketplace, providing substantial financial return on advertising investment.

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
e:   t: 07836 256465   Skype: andysellers


The case for compelling copywriting

Is anyone else out there still writing persuasive advertising copy? Some would argue that powerful imagery and photography have made copywriting redundant in today’s digital world. It’s certainly true that many advertisers and their agencies seem preoccupied with visual imagery, be it photographic or illustration, at the expense of well written copy. Just a headline would do, but often today it’s left to  the visual alone to tell the story, with just the brand logo for company.


Is it just a passing fad? Or is it the beginning of the end for advertising copywriters? Perhaps it’s just a consequence of the fact that most agency creatives have followed art director career paths, learning the rudiments of their trade at one of the many art colleges available to them rather than taking up an obscure copywriting course?

There is a place for visual-only advertising, of course, but let’s not denigrate the worth of well-crafted, compulsive copywriting. A visual alone may well be effective in creating instant engagement between brand and consumer. But the same can be said of well-crafted copy. People still want to read and hear words, whether online or in print.


‘Texter’s thumb’ is now regarded a serious medical condition affecting some of those more enthusiastic social networkers among us as they exchange digital, hideously abbreviated text messages and Tweets from their mobiles. And the spoken word is as popular as the written one, with 90% of the UK population listening to the radio, and new digital stations launching every week.

Actually, that’s where the argument in defence of copywriting begins. Because words are simply sounds which are ‘heard’ in our heads, in our imagination. And sound is much more intrusive than sight. Don’t believe me? Try turning off the volume when you next watch TV, just view the picture for a minute or two. Then turn the volume back on and turn around so you can’t see the TV screen. Which is the more intrusive medium, the more powerful – sight or sound?

It’s sound, of course. And there’s a neuroscientific reason for that. Sound enters through the ear to the auditory cortex of the brain and on to Wernicke’s area of the brain where words are attached to it. Then, as with words actually read, to ‘Broca’s area’, the part of the brain where language is processed, and on to the prefrontal cortex where judgment and emotion take place. The adjacent motor association cortex then initiates action. So no action without words.


But the words have to be impactful, and memorable. They must surprise, shock or amuse so they can stimulate the appropriate action. If your aim was to persuade someone to do something you’d tell them to do it, or you’d write it down – you wouldn’t show them a picture of what you’d like them to do. So by all means enhance the message with an attractive, stimulating, or shocking visual, but you’re asking a lot if you expect this alone to be acted upon.

So well-written copy should retain its rightful place in contemporary advertising. And hopefully, further extension of the internet and all things digital may give life to a new generation of worthy wordsmiths.

A picture or a thousand words? Six simple words managed to pose the question.

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
e:   t: 07836 256465   Skype: andysellers


Look out for Facial Recognition Marketing

All marketers would acknowledge that power has shifted from the brand-owner advertiser to the consumer over recent years, with technological innovations encouraging the latter to select what, when and how they consume media, and the advertising messages they wish to be exposed to. This has led to consumers creating their own entertainment with blogs and YouTube videos – Consumer Generated Media – and ultimately to Consumer Generated Advertising, where the public are invited by some brands to submit advertising ideas for commercial production.
Brand marketers had to find a way to regain control of the situation. And now they have a marketing tool which helps them do just that in Face Recognition Technology –  it enables the advertiser to identify the demographics of the potential customer in an instant, and to customise the choice of ad displayed to appeal specifically to the prospect. If you’ve seen the futuristic film Minority Report you may remember Tom Cruise’s shopping mall scene? Well it wasn’t just filmmakers fantasy – we have the technology and now it’s for real!

Gap large

Face Recognition Technology is commonly used by the authorities in the fight against crime and to identify terrorists at airports. At the basic level a hidden spycam scans the suspect’s facial features and compares them with photographic facial images already held in a database. The scanner records the structure, shape and proportions of the face by measuring the distance between eyes, nose, mouth and jaw. More sophisticated FR surveillance techniques involve 3-D scanners, facial thermography and skin texture analysis.

Now Facial Recognition Technology is being put to commercial use, with brand-owner advertisers and retailers employing the technique as a marketing tool in what is being called Facial Recognition Marketing, or FRM. Finally, The Brand Strikes Back!

Privacy issues are being raised as a concern, but the commercial applications of FRT differ to those being used by law enforcement agencies in that brand owners, at least for the present, are employing anonymous facial detection, pinpointing a demographic based on age and gender, not identifying individuals.


Here’s how it works … when a potential customer approaches a digital advertising hoarding, kiosk or vending machine an optical sensor becomes aware of their presence from up to 25 feet away. The camera then scans their face to take certain measurements and identify – with 90% accuracy – their gender, their age within five years and their disposition – smiling or otherwise. In less than 100 milliseconds the most appropriate advertising message for the so-defined indivdual is automatically selected and displayed. Effectively, the advertising message is targeted and self-optimised in real time – it’s the ultimate in personalised marketing. You can see it in action right here.

The Artificial Intelligence software learns as it goes along, in real time choosing to display the ad it considers most likely to prove effective for the particular audience. It can also provide analytical reporting of ad performance against specific demographic groups based on audience attention time, immediacy of interactive response, eye-tracking, and so on. More information about the technology and its capabilities can be found here.

FRM is particularly prevalent in Japan and the US, but it’s also hitting the UK in a big way. Adidas has tested it on UK digital street hoardings and on interactive shopping mall screens. And Kraft Foods has experimented with introducing face-scanning technology into their freezer cabinets so they’re able to suggest an appropriate meal for the type of customer identified. Some banks use FRM to identify younger customers most likely to be opening their first account. And FRM works with crowds too – some bar owners in Chicago use the technology to measure and reveal the male/female ratio and age mixes of their customers in real time so anyone planning a night out can first log-in with their mobile apps and check out the venue’s crowd mix.

NEC, who makes the FRM interactive display screens, has predicted that within just a few years years 10% of all digital signage will employ facial recognition technology.

Technology has empowered the consumer in recent years. So perhaps it’s fitting that through technology the balance of power may now be returning to the brand marketer? The future’s looking good for marketing – keep a watchful eye open for further developments …

© andysellers

Building brands through strategic insight, creative concepts & direction, copywriting.
e:   t: 07836 256465   Skype: andysellers


Location Marketing’s Here to Stay

Successful marketing relies on targeting the right person, with the right message, at the right time. Right?

Right. Of course marketers need to know who their customers are, how best to influence them and when to reach them, but the proliferation of location-based social media networks with their trendy apps, and the accelerating development of smartphone geolocation technology allows them to now know exactly WHERE their customers are at time of contact, presenting an exciting marketing opportunity for brand owners and particularly for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The opportunity originates from ‘lo-so’ networks, as they are called – location-based social media networks which consumers use to ‘check-in’ by smartphone, mobile email or text with their friends and family, Facebook and Twitter followers when they are out and about. By ‘checking-in’ from the real world to the virtual world they reveal their specific location to the lo-so network via GPS. LBM has taken off big in recent years with major lo-so network players being Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Twitter among others.

By ‘checking-in’ to the virtual world consumers reveal their whereabouts

Subscribers are encouraged to check-in to send text messages, geotagged photos or videos and leave location-based recommendations, known as ‘tips’, for their friends to discover when they visit the same location. They participate in real-time social gaming and online competitions, awarding each other virtual prizes by unlocking digital stickers and badges. And the more often subscribers check-in the more the network rewards them, one way or another. Foursquare, one of the biggest networks with over 55 million users and 1.9 million participating businesses, bestows the honorary title of Mayor to the person checking-in most often at a particular venue, and the Mayor receives special rewards. Its recently-launched Swarm app makes checking-in even easier.

Savvy marketers soon spotted the opportunity of exploiting these lo-so check-ins to reach potential customers when they know they are in the vicinity of their retail store, or a store which stocks their brand, and so passive location-based marketing was born. Through the network, businesses offer the consumer real-time promotional offers, sales discounts, mobile coupons, prize draws, etc., stimulating impulse purchase when they check-in while in the immediate vicinity of their store. These offers have particular appeal to the consumer because of their immediacy and the instant gratification they deliver. And the value to the business goes well beyond a sale on the day – they encourage customers to check-in at their venue and pass on the promotional message to their family, friends, Facebook and Twitter followers, gaining advertising impressions at an exponential rate.

A more recent further development is the emergence of opt-in location-aware network services such as ShopAlerts, trialled by O2 in the UK initially with Starbucks, L’Oréal and M&S. The networks use geo-fencing technology around a retail location to automatically receive customer location status updates, actively tracking the subscriber’s location in real time and enabling participating businesses to engage with customers when they’re in the vicinity, with no need for them to have checked-in first. The promotional messages are layered in with useful information such as local weather and traffic reports, shopping mall details, and the like, and so customers are likely to be more receptive to them.

While it’s been around for a while, future growth of Location Based Marketing, and particularly the opt-in, active version of same, is predicted to continue to escalate, as it sees business making sound commercial use out of social networking.

ShopAlerts enabled by real-time customer location tracking

Utilised effectively as a real-time direct response tool, LBM can create immediate customer footfall and sales, and with only modest investment necessary, it can deliver increased ROI for bricks-and-mortar retailers. And because of LBM’s use of social networks it facilitates customer engagement on an intimate level, helping improve levels of customer aquisition and retension for brand owners as well as retailers.

Watch out for Location Based Marketing – ‘Coming Soon to a Venue Near You’.

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Creative Advertising Cuts Through

Today more and more brand-owner marketers are turning to ‘earned’ or ‘owned’ media exposure to help build their brand(s), – ‘earned’ media being publicity gained through non-promotional channels such as PR-generated editorials, social network activity, YouTube virals, and suchlike, ‘owned’ media being where the brand owner controls the message – company blog, website, Twitter account, Facebook page. Marketers are doing so because they believe it to be free advertising, not ‘paid for’ media. Well, free doesn’t always deliver reward.

Paid media, and creative communications within it, are necessary to make the initial connection and engagement with potential customers, presenting the brand offering to them before going on to support the dialogue created by earned and, to a lesser extent, owned media initiatives.

Today, much of earned media is internet-based, initially seeding entertainment content on community channels such as YouTube and Flickr, to be propagated through social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Trouble is, these channels are now so heavily populated with content that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. And even Facebook admits that only 10% of fans see a brand’s content organically, they need motivating to discover the place where they might engage in dialogue with the brand. And that’s where paid media, advertising, comes into its own.

Paid media can expand a campaign’s reach, engaging with and nudging prospects to earned and owned media platforms, and with earned and owned media in return helping shape the paid media’s creative messaging by providing feedback of their intimate understanding of the interests and motivations of the brand’s followers.

Having made the case for paid media remaining in the mix, this brings us more specifically to conventional, paid-for advertising’s role in the brandbuilding effort, and particularly how it might achieve standout in the cacophony of messaging out there. Advertising in its broadest sense encompasses print ads, posters, TV, radio, direct mail, etc., and the role of this media is to encourage prospect engagement with the brand. But engagement can only be achieved if the message is noticed in the first place. Which is where a creative angle is necessary.

For advertising to be effective and persuasive it first needs to have standout, cutting through the marketplace clutter for it to have an emotional impact upon its audience – be it to amuse or to surprise, to shock or enlighten – and is most effective when it encourages customer empathy with the brand by sharing a moment of insight – the ‘aha’ moment. There’s no set formula for this, it there was all brands would do the same and the approach would be ineffective – which is why uninspiring advertising doesn’t provide the ROI that creative ads achieve – proven by IPA-supported research which shows that creative award-winning advertising is 11 times more efficient than non-awarded ones in achieving market share growth. This emotional connection makes the message and the brand more likely to be remembered and recalled, ultimately creating brand fame, customer engagement and buzz, to be networked across earned media.

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Nudged any Prospects Recently?

Most organisations today recognise the potential of social media marketing to make a significant contribution in helping to drive their brands and their business forward. They appreciate the value of maximising engagement with their customers and prospects and many brand owners regularly create entertaining or informative branded video content to be published on social hubs such as YouTube or Flickr, and shared across social networks through channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. While it is often the case, the branded content need not always be a video – it can be anything from photographs to podcasts, editorial, perhaps a game or a useful app.

Most important is that it should engage the viewer and stimulate a positive response, hopefully to the extent that they then share it with their network contacts, bringing more and more people closer to the brand. But encouraging broad distribution for your branded content is just one aspect of social media marketing – with a cohesive social media strategy in place much more can be done to gently ‘nudge’ prospects towards your brand, and ultimately to a place where they might feel predisposed to purchase – such a strategy is referred to as ‘Nudge Marketing’.

At the heart of nudge marketing is ‘choice architecture’ – the art of arranging options to indirectly influencing purchasing decisions. As the web has led to consumers being increasingly empowered to pick and choose the media and messages they are prepared to expose themselves to, switched-on brand owners have quickly realised that brands should not appear to be selling themselves on the social web – instead they must gently, and sincerely, show genuine interest in their audience and encourage their prospects to engage with them to build loyalty and cultivate advocacy.

There are four aspects to a nudge marketing strategy; 1) social media, introduced by 2) social signposting, to be shared across 3) social networks, by the use of 4) social tools.

The first step is to create social media (original branded content) which people will find entertaining, informative or useful – the more it is so, the more likely prospects are to engage in a meaningful way with the brand and appreciate its values.

Brands must encourage customers to engage, and must cultivate advocacy
But it doesn’t matter how engaging the content is likely to be if no-one sees it. So a brand needs to jump-start the campaign with a link-generation exercise, exposing the content through signposts owned by the brand such as its own website, company blog, Twitter activity, Facebook group and PR activity as well as paid-for links including paid search, seeding initiatives and offline media advertising.

By continuously refining the content offered according to feedback received, brands can encourage potential customers to immerse themselves further in the brand and to share their experience with others across their social networks including Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn, using social tools such as a sharing facility, ratings, ‘like’ buttons, bookmarking, and other simple-to-use, instant referral devices.

Today’s empowered consumer will decide whether they’re to be sold to or not.

The success of a social web nudge campaign is not measured by direct conversion to sales although, of course, increased or at least maintained sales is the ultimate aim of all brand marketing initiatives, online and offline. Success is judged by how effective the campaign has been in encouraging and rewarding positive customer engagement with the brand, building relationships, developing loyalty and cultivating advocacy across the web.

And nudge marketing is not exclusive to online activity, this softly-softly approach to brandbuilding can increasingly be seen in much offline, conventional advertising too. In a world where the customer really is King, empowered by the web, brands of today must be very mindful to nudge, and not shove.

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Why do some Brands fail?

Brands exist on an emotional level in the mind of the consumer and they must work hard to maintain that special relationship as social culture, markets and technology constantly and dramatically change around them.

There are numerous reasons why brands fail, and many of them are interrelated. In no particular order …

1. PANICKING – brand-owners often take ill-advised panic measures to arrest sales decline, developing inappropriate diversification and brand extension strategies which come back and bite them. Examples: Guinness Red and New Coke as mentioned below.

2. DESERTING CORE VALUES – a brand’s core values are the anchor to the emotional relationship with the consumer, and a brand must always remain true to them in every way. Without those values being established within the mind of the consumer, the brand simply does not exist. Example: A smoother, sweeter Guinness Red was launched to capitalise on the fame of the original which had declining sales – it was considered a failure.

3. INAPPROPRIATE DIVERSIFICATION – often caused by an over-inflated brand ego, thinking the brand is big enough to be extended into totally unrelated market sectors, and often into far too many of them. The mother brand can suffer considerable damage by association. Example: Bic – well known for its cheap, disposable pens, lighters and razors extended the Bic brand into a line of ‘disposable pantyhose’ for women – disaster darling!

4. DECEPTION – all brand communications must be based upon truths to ensure retension of consumer trust. Consumers catch on very quickly if they feel they are being misled or disrespected and today social networking can destroy a brand’s reputation in an instant. Examples: Coca-Cola’s disastrous UK launch of Dasani ‘designer’ bottled water exposed as no more than filterered tap water. Gerald Ratner’s infamous ‘totally crap’ remark when referring to his firm Ratners jewellers’ products, resulting in a £500m loss in value of the company.

5. UNNECESSARY RELAUNCH – a brand-owner can get bored , and relaunches with the intention of breathing new life into a brand, but can shoot themselves in the foot if it unecessarily disturbs an otherwise content customer.

6. OBSOLESCENCE – a brand must keep one step ahead of evolution in the market and fast-moving technological advances. To be left behind isn’t an option.

7. PRODUCT NEGLECT – the product is now the ambassador for the brand, rather than the other way round, as used to be the case. Neglect product quality, or make unecessary, unwanted changes, and the brand itself is likely to suffer as a consequence. Example: While losing sales to Pepsi, Coca-Cola’s ill-fated launch of New Coke in the 80’s, which was not only rejected by consumers, but also had a damaging effect on sales of the original Coke, before it returned to the original formula.

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