Marketing lessons for brands from the News of the World








So, after a frenzied seven days, News International closed the door on one of the world’s oldest and most popular newspapers yesterday.

At the time of writing this blog, none of the senior management responsible for one of the darkest periods in British newspaper history have fallen on their swords, but a loss making though popular Sunday tabloid has been shut down, with the loss of hundreds of jobs. And the rumours swirling even before Thursday’s BBC Question Time were that the paper will be quickly replaced by The Sun on Sunday.

From a marketing perspective, it was interesting to watch the discussion unfold as to the reaction of advertisers, their brands and their promotion using channels like tabloid newspapers to access huge demographic groups.

In some cases, it could be seen that first movers like Ford made the decision to remove their advertising with ethical considerations in mind. But in others, surprisingly brands including The Cooperative waited too long, wanting to see how far and how deep public anger would run before clarifying their position.

Marketers must take some critical learnings from this sorry episode.

1. Chose your marketing partners wisely. Your reputation and integrity are intrinsically linked once you do.

2. Whether it is advertising, direct marketing, sponsorship or PR, be mindful that the Internet and portals like Twitter have changed the game forever, transferring power to the public. We saw this week the ease of viral spread of online petitions, lists of target companies,  pre-populated emails and tweets.

3. Deal quickly and decisively and communicate your position and intentions as transparently as you can. Some advertisers had to run adverts in the magazine supplement which was already printed and were quick to advise.

4. Remember corporate social responsibility isn’t just a fad to be included as a bolt on in your marketing plan. Increasingly, it is a critical point of difference and the companies that embody it stand head and shoulders apart from those that merely pay it lip service.

Call me cynical, but I wonder if brands like Halifax, T-Mobile, Virgin and Tesco didn’t just switch their allegiances to other papers on Sunday AND continue to work with the News International stable. Waiting for The Sun on Sunday.

Yes it’s time to make a stand, but as we’re seeing, business is still business. Will marketers learn anything and even remember all this in twelve months time? I’m not so sure.

Image: The Telegraph


Interactive video – trend or gimmick? (TFMA 2011)

The first session I attended at this year’s TFMA was given by Steffan Aquarone from Venio and focused on the latest developments in interactive video and how it allows content owners to make objects in their videos clickable thus enabling objects as links for viewers to ‘find out more’, ‘buy now’ or even drive the story that unfolds.

There is no hiding the significance of video in both consumer and business marketing. Video search takes up 50% of online search, YouTube is classed as a search engine and a growing proportion of video is now watched within Facebook.

Interactive video gives over control to the viewer and works best when it contains a genuine first or a gimmick in order to generate interest and drive traffic.

Getting video to go viral means interactive video can be used to meet a number of objectives.

– Increased sales conversion

– Engagement

– Improve delivery of information

– Provide entertainment

– Drive website traffic

Clickable video, like the Tippex example below are not new but are now becoming more accessible through suppliers like Buto. (Note this is NSFW, use headphones on the first bit – the second bit is inspired, I tried ‘sings’, ‘eats’ and ‘hugs’ – you’ll see what I mean!)


Considering the objectives above, clickable video works best in the following scenarios

– Increased sales conversion (use a ‘click to buy’ device in the video)

– Engagement (like Tippex, offer multiple story flows)

– Improve delivery of information (offer a ‘find out more’ mechanic)

– Provide entertainment (utilise games and incentives)

– Drive website traffic (have a high gimmick factor which generates leads)

In summary, and in thinking about how to put interactive video to good use, think first about your target audience, then about strategy, and only then about the tools. And if you fancy doing it through YouTube it is reasonable easy using the annotation link here is a video from ChadMattRob but if you want to skip the hi-jink to 3:30 you’ll get the tutorial.

Overview of TFMA 2011

Technology for Marketing and Advertising (TFMA) is one of my favourite shows of the year. It provides lots of opportunities to catch up on the latest thinking in the digital space, to see the latest technology up close, to talk to leading suppliers and attend lots of free keynote presentations and seminars from leading brands.

Though there is an extensive exhibition, the real draw is the growing seminar programme. It was clear this year was the most popular yet, as organisers opened up a number of new sections on the exhibition floor covering email, mobile, analytics, social media, affiliate marketing and online advertising in addition to all the usual attractions.

Traditionally a free show, a Priority Pass was introduced this year, which guaranteed entry to all the keynote presentations, for £99. An interesting proposition given there were 2,000-3,000 attending, yet the keynote theatre probably only catered for 400-500. This left hundreds of visitors, myself included, unhappy at not accessing the first keynote from Facebook at the start of the day.

Less of a money spinner but more visitor friendly would have been to double the size of the keynote theatre or perhaps use unutilised space at the back of the hall to run video relay on large screens, perhaps seeking to make additional revenue by locating an additional (and over priced) coffee zone. This and the total mismanagement of queuing for all sessions need review for 2012.

That aside, most of the sessions were superb and offered lots of food for thought for the marketers and business owners attending. Though there was a natural bias on speaker’s parts to cite big brand FMCG consumer marketing case studies. I always think this is nice, but mis aligned with the b2b responsibilities of most attendees, but there was lots to learn.

Head over to The BDB Blog where you can get my take on the following sessions:

I also tweeted extensively yesterday on the Twitter hashtag #TFMA. Feel free to check back on what everyone was saying.

Has Honda just created app-vertising?

The big consumer brands continue to innovate in the digital arena. Honda this week launched its latest campaign for the Jazz called ‘This Unpredictable Life’ –  a spectacular one minute animated advert which claims to combine App interactivity.

Here’s the ad:


Here’s how the app side of it works:


Kind of mind-blowing. Probably not applicable or affordable to most brands, but it has viral legs, is creative and stands out from the pack.

Improving marketing perception in your boardroom

Helen Edwards wrote a fantastic piece in Marketing recently (28th July) musing on how Peter Fincham took the top marketing role at ITV despite having no marketing qualifications or discernible experience from his time in broadcasting.

The fact he will now be responsible for all marketing and research budgets at ITV demonstrates the continued lack of regard given to marketing in Britain’s boardrooms. Helen pointedly argues that the same would not be the case if they were looking to recruit senior commissioners, finance directors or operations directors.

As a qualified CIM member with fifteen years experience from both sides of the client and agency divide, and a recently invested Chartered Marketer, I am frustrated when these situations arise, but they don’t surprise me.

In the real world, I come into contact daily with businesses where the owner, managing director or sales director hold the marketing reins. Sadly, this is often to the detriment of creativity, high impact (even daring) campaigns and frequently without the experience to properly brief and plan integrated marketing campaigns effectively.

This jeopardises the success of the client-agency relationships because at the core is a fundamental lack of regard for effective marketing.

So what has caused this and how can we fix it on the ground?

The CIM has a role to play but Chartered Marketer status will take a generation or longer. But will the Institutes’s CPD program ever truly achieve a similar status to those operating in the fields of medicine, accountancy or engineering?

Companies have a role. Any in-house marketing roles should demand experience and CIM related qualifications. Companies miss out in the long term when they promote the unqualified from other departments. In b2b companies, there is often a career path that starts in the field and progresses internally marketing management. The problem with this lies in the fundamental differences in the salesperson – living in the moment, securing the sale, where as marketers arguably build longer term relationships and see the bigger picture from a customer, product, market and competitor viewpoint. Controversial but, I think, accurate.

Individuals have a role, especially the graduates and students of this generation. How we manage our brand management teams and agencies, the type of consultancy we outsource, and the manner in which we plan, implement and evaluate our marketing campaigns, will determine how seriously marketing is taken in the short and long term.

In her article, Helen poses a number of questions that might come up in an interview for a top marketing job and encourages the long list of editors, salespeople, IT consultants, HR and accountancy professionals who might fancy a go in marketing not to.

Few companies have marketing representation in the boardroom, it is our responsibility to work to higher standards and secure our seat.


The return of ‘real women’. Again.

LK Bennett is the latest brand to disregard professional models in favour of real women (Marketing 28 July 2010). There is a clear trend developing that started with Dove before brands like Nike, Pretty Polly tights and Ultimo lingerie all got in on the act.

With all the talk of Mad Men and the fuller figured Christina Hendricks (heralded as a role model for women due to her Marilyn Monroe style gait), does this mean we might be seeing a return to the wholesome girl next-door product marketing that dominated the 1960’s?

I’d like to say yes, but ‘real women’ as a marketing concept works almost as well as re-issuing older, fondly remembered brands during a time of recession. Oh and almost as well as sex (a first time mention in 120 Assassin blog posts!)

Real women are accessible, realistic, natural, comforting, unthreatening – that’s why the Dove campaign connected and endured for years. It was in marked contrast to the campaigns staring fashion models, supermodels, celebrities and WAGs usually position clothes, shoes, toiletries and other luxury goods to the fairer sex.

What disappoints is that the real women featuring in the LK advertising campaign, marking its 20th anniversary, include Anna, a 24-year-old geophysicist, and Gaby a 39-year-old writer and agent, who whilst not being professionals, are clearly on the right side of photogenic.

I have nothing against them but it doesn’t look or sound particularly real to me, in the way the concept was originally coined. I dare say LK will still succeed in shifting a few pairs of shoes as a result of the coverage though!

Why the Top 50 UK Brands survey does little for b2b marketing (and me)

Marketing Week’s ‘Top 50 British Brands’ made interesting and confusing reading to me over the weekend, not least because it was almost entirely dominated by consumer focused brands.

Drawing on the findings from the Brand Finance valuation survey, the list features the 50 ‘most valuable brands of British origin’ and suggests that British business is on the up as these companies have increased their combined brand value from £166bn in 2009 to £199bn in 2010.

The top five are Vodafone, HSBC, Tesco, Orange and Shell. Clearly the survey’s findings were developed before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as BP sit at 7th.

Call me a skeptic but don’t most UK marketers work in a business selling things to other businesses? Digging deeper, there are a handful of overtly B2B companies such as professional services firms PWC (8), KPMG (11), Deloitte (12), Ernst & Young (14), the mining group RioTinto (29), information and education provider Pearson (34) and security firm G4S (38), But I find the list and how it was created somehow disappointing from a B2B marketing perspective.

Why? Most of the remaining companies on the list operate in consumer and business markets, and muddy the waters with their marketing by trying to apply a common approach. Also, emotional scoring plays a big part in brand value metrics, and this is significantly more important in a consumer brand evaluation as opposed to the complex, multi tier, multi contact influencer approach required in business marketing. B2C and B2B brands should be treated separately.

When they’re not, we end up with a table that gives Vodafone and Tesco a much higher rating than Rio Tinto or G4S. But is this right or fair? Can we truly compare a business like Rio Tinto on similar metrics to a company like Vodafone and then rank them? Personally, I don’t think we can because they operate in different ways, delivering different needs to very different customers.

Expanding the argument further, here is the 2010 list of 500 ‘business superbrands’. How many are actually business superbrands, as opposed to ‘consumer with a business division’ to ‘true consumer/business hybrid?’ Again, I’m not convinced

Marmite sandwich box image courtesy of KitchenCritic

Learning from Unilever’s creativity in numbers

A recent article in the UK’s Marketing magazine (28 April 2010) reported on how Unilever is experimenting on a global level with crowd sourced creative after successfully trialing smaller campaigns in 2009 with Peperami and Lipton Tea.

The brief which is available from partner MOFILMs website is asking for content based on 13 of its most famous global brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Dove deodorant (Real Women campaign pictured), Knorr, Sure, Sunsilk and Vaseline.

At first glance, it seems preposterous that one of the world’s largest advertisers should commit to paying out a modest £70,000 in receipt for a raft of creative ideas whilst risking significant brand damage and upsetting its roster of global brand partners.

There are undoubted economic and creative opportunities for Unilever as a client in running such a scheme.

For one, it heralds a shift in the subsidization of fat cat agencies, their bloated structures and network models. Rather than paying for 24:7 access and the staffing of agency offices across the globe that arguably spend more time biccuring internally over Unilever P&L, Unilever are paying solely for ideas generation within the crowd sourced model.

Secondly, there is an empowering injection of work into the global creative industry at a more micro level. It affords creatives previously shut out with an opportunity to work with Unilever brands. This alone should stimulate some fascinating creative content.

Thirdly, in a recessionary economy, Unilever’s decision to review their marketing spend and in some respects ‘work smarter’ is natural and is likely to have a positive effect on margins. In time could it perhaps even equate to lower consumer prices at the till?

Critics argue that these schemes don’t take into account strategic planning or implementation, areas which do clearly require further consideration. Perhaps though, that is and should always be the remit of the in-house marketer? What we can be assured of is crowd sourced content is here to stay.

What can we take from this? That crowdsourcing only works when you have the brand equity to support it to start with? No, I think most brands could utilise this approach to generate some additional ideas – think about running a graduate program through your local college / university. It gives the students some valuable real life experience, and it provides you some fresh creative perspective and regional kudos!

Social media and the power of advocacy

This blog reflects on the Econsultancy seminar on social media effectiveness at Technology for Marketing & Advertising 2010. More can be found at

The classic AIDA approach to sales and marketing has at its core a customer journey from unaware through to customer. Social media in a short space of time has proved that it can be used as part of a fully integrated marketing strategy to deliver at every AIDA stage but most effectively in the areas of engagement with, building trust of and facilitating loyalty to a brand.

Social media, explained simply, encourages and enables advocacy. The ability to instantly refer, recommend, share, advocate a product, service, supplier or idea has revolutionised the use of the Internet. You can tap into groups of likeminded individuals, make people famous and reward contribution.

The communication principles of ‘content in context’ remain key to this as people only share relevant, interesting, funny, good or plain cool material with their online contacts.

There are numerous examples of campaigns that have drawn on the power of social media to go viral and move people and opinion. Just consider the return of Cadbury’s Wispa, The X Factor vs. Rage Against the Machine chart battle, Blackberry having the first Facebook business page and online support for recent catastrophes in Haiti and Chile.

Small and large businesses alike are making platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and MySpace, blogs and more work for them. Make advocacy happen for you by doing the same and taking it one step further by making it easy for people to share your content. Use ‘Retweet’ and ‘Share’ buttons and sites like and

Are you using the right web analytics model?

I have been inspired to share some of the content I picked up at Technology for Marketing & Advertising, 2010.

This blog reflects on the Econsultancy seminar on web analytics. More can be found at

If you are into evaluation, (and my blog statistics suggest most visitors are), you need to start providing credible reports on return on digital marketing investment. Attribution models help allocate lead generation and customer conversion to specific activities but model used can give a very different report.

There can be massive differences in what your website statistics and advertising statistics tell you. That’s because there are natural drop offs between people clicking an ad, opening an email, clicking a link to your site (the ad stat) and staying on your site long enough to register as a session (website stats). It can be down to simple things like realising they have gone to the wrong or irrelevant site, the home page taking too long to download or a loss of internet connection.

At a deeper level though, understanding how to attribute the success for a conversion is gaining importance in internet marketing. There are essentially three different strategies which can be employed to help give you a view on web traffic. These are commonly referred to as ‘last click’, ‘conversion’ & ‘weighted’.

Last click is the most common and easiest to monitor as it attributes credit for the conversion on the last click. So if an email is sent which results in 20% clickthrough to site, the email takes the credit. The major drawback in this model however is that it fails to take into account any other touchpoints, which inevitably provides a false impression of what works.

Conversion isolates a click and offers a thread so is ideal for affiliate enterprises. It does however provide the greatest risk of duplication and double counting as there is no guarantee that the clickthrough ends in a sale.

A weighted approach tries to allocate credit to all aspects of campaign but is obviously the hardest to manage. Dell and other direct marketing giants pioneered the concept of dedicated landing pages to help allocate traffic to specific channels and activities. Other sites bluntly ask how you arrived at the site.

I think the key thing for most businesses is simply to start monitoring where your traffic is coming from. If you are not, start monitoring your clicks, traffic and conversion today. If you already are, perhaps this post has given you some food for thought on exactly what you are monitoring.

Image from willscullypower WordPress blog