Monday, 26 November 2012

Why a Brand should B(e).E.P.

Black Eyed Peas- Do It Like This Lyrics

Back when the Black Eyed Peas released their first socio-political chart topper "Where is the Love," I was in the early years of secondary school, trying really hard to be cool.  Fast forward 8 years, and whilst I'm still pretty much the same, compared to their early days The B.E.P. are almost unrecognisable.  What hasn't changed for them however, is their consistent presence  at the top of the music industry.  But in a sector riddled with illegal downloads, one-hit wonders, and a highly fickle public, how exactly have they retained their success?

Below are a few observations that are broadly transferable to any business or brand, and key to success and longevity.

Brand it!

Firstly and most importantly, The Black Eyed Peas have moved from hip-hop band, to hip hop-brand – sorry for that one. 

Originally the ATBAN clan, the band differentiated themselves from the typical hip-hop scene by performing with a live band, choosing a distinctive and recognisable style, and adding a little sex appeal in the form of vocally voluptuous Stacy Ann Ferguson – a.k.a. Fergie.

In providing consumers with something new and distinctive, the Black Eyed Peas became instantly recognisable, and consequently gained a platform on which their product had a chance to succeed.  Give your brand’s product the same opportunity.  If you can create a distinguishable and definitive personality for your brand, whatever the sector you will incite curiosity from consumers that are naturally receptive to your product/business and the chance to build a relationship with them.

Brands that have done this well:  Innocent, Starbucks, Old Spice

Evolve but Remain

Whilst finding fame amongst Daniel Beddingfield, t.A.T.u and Westlive, their most recent no.1 (“The Time (Dirty Bit)”) struck a chord with the public amidst the synthed-up stylings of Flo Rida and The Far East Movement.  What’s impressive about this is that not only has their musical style consistently evolved to reflect the type of music consumers want to consume, but that they've achieved this whilst retaining their brand identity.

The importance of companies striving to stay ahead of consumers’ wants and needs is now fairly familiar; however the importance of retaining a consistent brand identity during each offering-evolution isn't quite as revered as it perhaps should be.

Ensuring that communications stay true to a brand's core principles during a business' growth and progression allows consumers to understand a brand at a deeper level and build an affinity with it.  With e/f/m-commerce constantly growing and convoluting the shopper journey to purchase, this affinity lets brands stand out to consumers and increase the likelihood of influencing them on this journey.

Brands that have done this well:    Microsoft, Gillette, Kanye West

Communicate Appropriately

As a judge on this years reality show "The Voice", got into some hot water for tweeting during the show.  He reportedly responded:

"If you saw me on my phone I wasn't being rude...if I don't tweet during live TV I'm not connecting to people watching in the new way"

There are 2 points to be said on this.  Firstly, with 2nd screen interaction set to grow alongside the tablet market and smartphone saturation, it recognises the evolution of how consumers are and will be watching TV.  Secondly, has recognised where his fans are (4.68m Twitter followers and many more on other social networks), and how he as a brand needs to interact with them.

Not everyone needs a Facebook page, mobile app or Pinterest account.  Utilise the best communications channels that are appropriate for your brand and target audience to forge and foster a relationship.  This will not only let you streamline efforts and budget to create a more effective campaigns, but let consumers familiarise themselves with your brand begin in specific spaces, and help provide consistency and consumer expectation of your conversations.

Brands that have done this well:  Cadbury, The Guardian, EMI


From humble beginnings as the ATBAN Clan, The Black Eyed Peas have gone on to achieve great things, and continue to have a strong presence in what's become an increasingly complex industry.  Consistently evolving ahead of consumers, they've supported the myriad of individual and group endeavours they've undertaken with appropriate communications, and consequently maximised their consumer reach.  Whilst the constant progression and digitalisation of communications means that they'll need to continue to evolve in order to prosper, if they carry on in the same vein as they currently are, they'll do pretty well.

What's more, if you follow the above principles, you and your brand should prosper too.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Brand Your Cookie: Going Beyond the Directive

The Intro

Considering that 93% of marketers believe consumers have no idea about the recently implemented cookie laws[1], it’s not all that surprising that less than 20% of sites have complied with the EU Directive[2].  Unfortunately however, it’s here to stay.  And sooner or later, the penalties are going to start to be dished out.

Whilst achieving compliance may be viewed as merely a tedious task to be forcibly undertaken, the importance of it in terms of branding should not be underestimated. 

The Opportunity

Although admittedly minor, brands must be aware of the continued annoyance that consistently opting in to cookie data causes – multiplied if users are choosing to opt out.  Proper site optimisation to recognise and mitigate this fact can not only decrease the likelihood of users clicking “no” to cookies, but in educating consumers and providing them with an informed choice on opting in/out, have a positive branding effect.

Tough currently being in the press for other reasons, one company that has taken this process very seriously is the banking behemoth; Barclays.

The Process

In acknowledgment that the ICC’s cookie guidance ( ) is merely a framework to work from, they individually optimised all their cookie-using communication avenues, in an effort to provide consumers with a value-add service and act as a voice of help to consumers amidst the current wide-spread ignorance.

The examination and classification of all 60 of their websites, apps and e-mails, led to experimentation with notification tone, placement, format and size.  This resulted in a bespoke platform, site, and page specific level of cookie notification that naturally fits with the environment it’s placed in, and doesn’t interrupt the user’s experience.

Further to this, users are directed to an education section that informs them about the pros and cons of cookies, alongside external links for further info on the topic.  This not only helps educate users, but places them in the position to make an informed choice.

The Conclusion

Whilst it can be said that the branding effect that undertaking this laborious task will have is not overly significant, neither is it trivial.  Also, as more businesses comply with the law and the volume of cookie notifications increases, its importance shall rise (though as more accept cookies, will naturally tail off). 

What is potentially more impactful than creating a good consumer experience, is doing it poorly.   Merely doing the bare minimum for compliance can easily result in a clunky user journey.  Not only will this decrease the likelihood of cookie acceptance, but may decrease brand trust and affinity - and considering the broad wording of the law may not even be legal.

Overall, the main points businesses can learn from Barclays are:  Be rigorous, think about usability, treat each communication method individually, and try to make it as positive an experience as possible.  (And most importantly, if you break the law you’ll eventually get caught).[3]

By Owen Lee

[1] KPMG May 2012
[2] E-Consultancy May 2012
[3] N.B.  Information on Barclays was taken from attending The IDM’s event - New EU Cookie Directive:  What you absolutely need to know, 26th Jun 2012.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Know Thine Enemy: From Analysis to Insights

Competitors are routinely analysed on media spend and creative messaging in order to showcase to clients how and where others are playing within the advertising sphere.  However, if the practice is to offer up any material benefit beyond the temporary placation of a client’s curiosity, we have to go deeper than a mere reporting level to an interrogational level.


If we can go beyond asking the questions of “what” , “where” and “how” competitors are acting and move on to asking “why” they’re doing it, we will start to be able to get in the minds of our client’s competitors, and consequently better know our own.

Key to this is to examine the creative messaging.  Utilising tools such as AdDynamix, even a rudimentary analysis of messaging, tone and creative content will allow us to drill down beyond the media spend level.  By asking simple questions such as “What the objective of the campaign?”  “Who were they targeting?”  “Why did they think it would succeed?” etc, we can begin to gain insights that lead to bigger, more important questions:  “How are they assessing the marketplace?”  “What opportunities do they believe can be taken advantage of?”  “Have we seen them too, and if not, why not?” “What space are they seeking to own with their brand?” etc.

Answering these questions can help us examine our method of purchasing media in multiple ways.  We can see how aggressive/passive competitors are being; whether they are seeking to recruit from our customers or merely wanting to retain their current consumer base.  We can see the method and tone in which they are trying to achieve this, and examine its effectiveness and impact on our current and potential consumer base.  And we can think about the extremity of their actions, is our brand or others causing them to act differently, and do we need to react?

Now it can be argued that the individuality of any campaign and subjective nature of any inferred conclusions heavily mars their transferability and worth.  However it is suggested that the broader findings sought by examining areas such as brand aggression, target audience movement etc, prevent this from holding much validity.  We are seeking to find out how competitors are thinking at more of a business level, in order to challenge and grow our brand from the campaign level upwards.

Additionally, whilst PR, statistics, and trade press provide us with (potentially biased) facts and information on competitors, thoroughly analysing competitors in a more humanistic, bottom up approach provides us with a greater feeling and understanding of a brand that these other methods of examination lack.


You can never tell what thought or piece of information will enable you to move your client’s business forward, but through a thorough a proper interrogation of the available resources, you can give yourself the best chance on discovering it.  So next time you’ve got to examine competitors, put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and you might be surprised what it can lead to.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Katy Perry: Wide Awake to the Importance of Facebook

Just a quick note today on the social implications of Katy Perry's new music video - Wide Awake (above).

Upon watching the video, you mighty be surprised by the lack of suggestive gesticulation, and potentially disappointed by the departure from her normal music video attire.  However what can be admired in this video is the understanding of the importance of her social media presence, and resultant promotion of it.

Whilst just about every celeb under the sun has a Facebook page, it's generally the more dedicated of fans that like.  Whilst this in some cases amounts to vast numbers, this is not the case for all - poor ol' Jim Davidson and his 1,886 likes.
Now Katy's 43m page likes would suggest she's the more bountiful in likes than most already.  But the video's acknowledgment of how much Facebook resonates with her target audience allows her to not only reach those already connected, but demonstrate to those unconnected viewers the content benefits connecting with her.

This not only results in a Katy Perry brand push to both current and lapsed fans, but the content of the video causes intrigue to this new audience and encourages a page visit.  This ultimately results in both a promotion of her latest catchy tune, but also a subtle yet measurable social media push.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Value of a #Creative

Recently I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of creative which has a #tag somewhere in its midst; such as:

The typical copywriter’s justification for such an insert is that it “adds a social element to the campaign”.  However I would broadly contend this. 

The inherent nature of the #tag inevitably adds a “social element” to a campaign.  However unless the #tag leads to a conversation or something more than a singular tweet/post, it can be argued that any such action is not truly social.

Additionally, a tenuous link between the #tag and product/service offered – as with the example above - doesn’t indicate any value exchange that may occur in return for the consumer’s social action.  This, alongside the fact that consumers are typically exposed to such creative in internet bereft tube stations, and consequently meant to remember to respond to these randomly placed #tags, vastly decreases the volume of responses[1].

It could even be said that incorrect use of #tags can actively hinder a campaign; as whilst many consumers are now using Twitter, far more aren’t.  So using language that is foreign and potentially confusing to a consumer, is not only is a cardinal creative sin, but may alienate the target audience and devalue the authority of the brand to the consumer.


The moral of this rant is that whilst users may treat #tags as throwaway signatures of irony, an affiliation to group or topic, etc, advertisers can’t. 

In the absence of something particularly entertaining or interesting that consumers will actively want to mention, #tags should only be used in copy as part of a wider consumer experience, with clearly defined objectives.  There needs to be back end content (ideally alluded to in the creative) to incite participation and facilitate a positive brand experience for the user.  

Though this isn’t a walk in the park, inter-agency collaboration at the point of the initial communications brief can ensure that all sections of the campaign ultimately come together to deliver a meaningful journey and experience for the consumer[2].  Without it, the often confusing or disjointed journey (if there is one) that consumers are taken will result in a user journey the consumer will not so willingly embark upon again.

[1] This example has only received 7 tweets in the last 7 days
[2] A simple example would be:  A drive to sign x number people up for a charity run through Facebook.  Some creative running cross media shows an asset of theirs e.g. Paula Radcliffe signed up, suggesting people #runwithPaula on y date.  On Twitter, search for the #tag are links for training tips and stories on who you’re helping if you sign up to facebook via the link, where you can find additional content (though also being encourage to sign up for the run - where you get a goody bag or something).  This would entice people into starting the user journey, and at each stage encouraging them to go further to the point at which they've signed up, whilst being able to measure the volume and nature of each social interaction to the point of achieving the KPI of signing up.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Pinterest: Examining the User Experience


So, Pinterest.  Heard of it?  Probably.  Using it?  Well if you’re reading this from the UK, it’s unlikely you’ve done much more than had a quick browse, or maybe repined the odd thing.  However if you’re reading this from over the other side of the Atlantic, you’re likely to be one of many who’ve contributed to their 4000% growth over the past year – especially if you’re a woman.

But what exactly is it about the site that’s caused this level of growth and excitement?

Firstly, What is it?

Getting fed up with numerous files and folders Evan Sharp formed Pinterest, in order to “create a place where you can go to upload or collect things on the web and simply organize it the way you want”.

At its simplest level, users can “pin”, and aggregate individual pieces of content to a “board”.  Pins on other users’ boards can be “repinned” (placed) to one of yours, or you can “like” or comment on the pin.

To find content, you can select a topic, see what’s “popular”, or search by keyword.  Alternatively you can look for potential gifts by selecting a price range to browse.

Why it’s good

Pinterest appears to provide users with a more sharable and varied means of personal amplification than other social networks, whilst building in graded degrees of personal gratification (that “feel good” factor) at all levels of the user journey. 

Straight from the get-go, standard and video searches immediately result in content for users to engage with.  As the person builds their profile by pinning, repining, liking, commenting and following, each action has the potential for a reciprocal action, most of which amplify the user’s presence on Pinterest and increase the user’s enjoyment of the site.

Similarly to Twitter, it’s this constant creation, sharing and enjoyment of “pull” content that has played heavily in it’s growth, every action spreading in a Google+esque Ripple.  I.e. Only one person has to upload content for numerous people to consequently find and share it, with each link feeling positive that their content was deemed interesting/funny enough to interact with.

It is suggested that this is happening, not just because that’s how you interact with the site, but because users have the confidence to do so.  What’s meant by this is that with 80% of pins currently being repinns, users generally aren’t accountable for the content pinned on their board.  This removes the fear of anything more than superficial judgment from an action - i.e. Sarah will be less bothered about people disliking the picture of some pretty flowerpots that she repined, than if she knows the photo album she created will be pushed out on all her friends’ Facebook walls or on their Twitter feeds – a worry that’s beautifully displayed by the Facebook post-night-out-detagging ritual.

This is reinforced by the fact that (as previously said) the pin/repinn isn’t pushed onto anyone.  Conversely to Facebook, it’s the content that creates the profile/person, not the other way around.  This, alongside the fact that consumers are given choice and selectivity over the content they view - in a way other social networks don’t - is another huge factor in Pinterest’s rise to fame.

Everyone has different interests, and most importantly, different interests that they share with different people.  Allowing people to follow singular boards of others enables a Circles - type effect and lets consumers segment their interests, and ensure they see content that’s relevant to them on an individual level.

Whilst the potential for “going viral” is somewhat hampered at the moment by the majoritatively tame subject matter, that the relevant content is organically growing creates the potential for more niche, semi-viral incidences.  E.g. A Fantastic pic of a new Thompson holiday destination that a celeb went to, whilst unlikely to go viral in its traditional sense, could well get wide and fast reach through people interested in holidays, celebs, or nice landscapes.


Whilst at the moment, the 200,000 uniques in the UK are dwarfed by the 12,000,000 in the US, Pinterest’s engaging, relevant and gratifying user experience and organic growth is likely to ensure an impact over here.

Whilst who’s currently using Pinterest and the way they’re using it here in the UK is vastly different to in the States, that’s a topic for another time.  But rest assured, if you don’t currently have a Pinterest account, you should, as otherwise you could become uncool very, very soon.