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Real-time marketing: to bite or not to bite

Monday, September 8th, 2014 by John Manning

Brands and the marketers, comms specialists and PRs that marshal, guide and protect them are now living within an “always on” social media ecosystem.

Long gone are 9 to 5 office hours; for social media and marketing teams, if the lights are on but no one is at home, you could be missing a trick. But how do you know what opportunities to take and which to leave alone?

Jumping on the back of an event just for the sake of it isn’t always right for the brand and your hard working attempts could have a negative, rather than positive, impact.

I clearly remember the time when the “always on” approach was cemented into the psyche of marketing teams across the globe. On February 3rd 2013, people all over the world were watching one of the most famous events in the sporting calendar, the Superbowl.

During the third quarter of the game, the lights went out and what happened next hit the social media history books as one of the best reactive social media campaigns to date.

Oreo’s world famous “You Can Sill Dunk in the Dark” Twitter campaign was the brand’s real-time marketing reaction to a widely talked about blip during the event.

And since Oreo succeeded in a number of ways, more and more brands adopted this approach and it was no surprise that many took the opportunity before the World Cup to plan for the unplanned. But while real-time interactions and the speed at which a brand reacts can provide huge rewards and opportunities; it can also create grave dangers.

Using the Luis Suarez biting incident as an example, we used our survey tool to conduct one in a series of surveys that ran during the World Cup to gauge the general public’s perceptions of Suarez and the brands associated with him. The survey results suggest that there are three appropriate courses of action that brands can take should they wish to implement any kind of real-time marketing activity:

Don’t react

It might be tempting to get involved, especially if you are seeing others doing it; but is it really worth clutching at straws and will the outcome be positive? If in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will your audience gain anything?
  2. Will your audience care?
  3. Is it the right subject to pursue?

I was on the tube home one evening after the Suarez biting incident and saw an advert on the back page of the newspaper. One particular brand had jumped on the story but the product had absolutely no relevance to the incident. As a result, the brand in question immediately went down in my estimation and I was left feeling confused.

React, but don’t follow the lead

As soon as the Suarez biting incident took place, brands had exactly what they needed to work with, a situation and a concept. The situation in question was the incident, and the concept was the action: the bite. Countless brands jumped on the bandwagon and got involved in the slew of jokes on Facebook and Twitter, most creating images of products with a bite taken out of them.

By the time I had seen the tenth image of a product with a bite taken out of it, or read the twentieth tweet from a brand telling Suarez that he should have taken a bite out of their product, I was bored of it. I wanted to see something different, or nothing at all.

React, with purpose

This is where using evidence to make an informed decision can come into play. The Suarez survey data revealed that more than a third (36 per cent) of consumers changed the way they perceive brands associated with Suarez and that 40 per cent would be less likely to buy products or services from brands that continue to sponsor the player.

With this sort of insight, brands are able to make informed decisions as to whether to act and, if so, in which way.

So what can brands learn from this? If nothing else, it is a lesson to determine the ways in which evidence can be used to help make better, more informed decisions.

If a poor decision is made it could have a negative impact on the brand and fail to resonate; on the other hand, it could provide a fantastic opportunity to say something meaningful. Whatever the opportunity, be sure not to miss it.


Why B2B needs to target smarter

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Guest blogger

Inbound marketing and selling to decision makers who have requested a brochure has become the holy grail for business marketers today. (more…)

Multichannel is about persuasion

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Guest blogger

There is a common misconception in modern post digital marketing, which stems from a view that because it is difficult to track which media and devices a consumer uses, it’s difficult to ensure they’re always getting the same message. (more…)

Time for consumers to switch off?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by Guest blogger


Engagement is always high on the list of marketers’ agendas, and is usually a KPI to measure campaign success. Yet, what does it really mean: to capture consumers’ attention, or gain their interest? And for how long? Is this a two way thing? Is this really what marketers should be striving for as an end in itself? (more…)

Mind your terms and conditions: the battle for plain English

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 by Guest blogger

I doubt you got into marketing with a burning desire to shake up the way brands write their terms and conditions. You might not think they have a role to play in attracting or keeping customers. You might not think about them at all. Leave them to the legal department and you’ve followed the rules – and covered your backs.

No one reads them anyway.

Ah. But they do.

Well, they try to.

The Writer recently asked just over 2,000 people if they ever bothered to read the small print before accepting terms and conditions when buying or signing up for things online. Just 9 per cent said they didn’t read Ts&Cs at all.

So, nine out of ten customers take a quick peek, at least. In fact, the average time spent reading Ts&Cs turned out to be 4 minutes 42 seconds. That’s almost five whole minutes of undivided attention.

I was amazed. Because I’m the one out of ten who doesn’t bother. But I wasn’t surprised by what we found when we looked at how long Ts&Cs take to read and how hard they are to understand. We had a look at the small print of a random selection of brands, including Amazon, Barclays Bike Hire, Spotify, nPower, LV Insurance and Tesco Direct.

Using a reading rate of 250 words a minute, we found the average time it takes to read a set of Ts&Cs in full is 28 minutes. Vodafone’s would take three days if you read all their different sets of Ts&Cs.

And if you stopped off to read PayPal’s small print, it would be an hour and 42 minutes before you could go through with your payment. The battle to get terms and conditions for financial services into something approximating to “plain English” has been going on for decades, so it was good to see an insurance company scoring well for keeping it brief. LV Insurance’s small print took six minutes to read.

To measure how difficult Ts&Cs can be to read, we used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. Most business writing should have a score of around 65. That’s like The Economist magazine, the BBC news website, and this blog. It equates to the “reading age’’ of a 13 to 14-year-old. When we crunched the numbers, the scores for these Ts&Cs were mostly in the 30s. That’s like The Harvard Law Review, equating to a university-level “reading age”.

One of the worst culprits, Spotify, actually broke the system with a negative score for its impenetrable legalese. A business based on 21st-century technology with 19th-century Ts&Cs. Take a look. I’m not kidding.

But some brands are making an effort: the best terms and conditions we looked at were short, structured so you could easily skim-read, and written in clear, natural English. We like LinkedIn’s upfront summaries, Vodafone’s clear subheadings and BT’s short paragraphs – and Facebook has inventive ways of explaining difficult ideas.

By and large, these improvements were small tweaks in what’s still a sea of legalese. But it’s clear that Ts&Cs are a serious stopping-off point on every “customer journey”.

You’ve got their attention for around five minutes. Make that count. Start that revolution.

Unleash the power of omnichannel

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by Guest blogger

The rise of ecommerce and the development of mobile devices have transformed the retail sector – consumers can now search and shop at their convenience, anytime, anywhere and even simultaneously through different channels. (more…)

I’m a shopper – get me out of here!

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by Guest blogger

If you’re struggling with the difference between your RDAs and your RIs, fear not – you’re not alone. (more…)