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’.

© andysellers
e:   t: 07836 256465   Skype: andysellers


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.

© andysellers
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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.

© andysellers
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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.

© andysellers
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