Author Archive


No such thing as ‘bad publicity’?

5 years ago
by tom

Ryanair CEO Michael O´Leary

I think the old phrase that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ has had its day now.

There were a couple of examples of the past few weeks that have had me pondering about the saying. With the way that social media has opened up communication between consumers and companies, we have increasingly seen that negative feedback can spread. Quickly.

I’m talking about the furore on Facebook that happened in August after Ryanair customer, Suzy McLeod, took issue with being charged over £200 for not printing out boarding passes prior to her flight. The complaint on the budget airline’s unofficial Facebook page received over 300,000 Likes and over 20,000 comments.

Ryanair, in response, did a remarkable job of putting its fingers in its ears, closing its eyes and humming ‘Camptown Races’ until its chief executive, Michael O’Leary (pictured), broke silence, describing passengers who forget to print their boarding passes as “idiots”.

The ‘rant’ was of course actually not a rant at all and was, I would assume, carefully thought out, in line with O’Leary’s outspoken, ‘us against the world’ PR strategy (more of his memorable quotes can be found here). However I’m of the opinion that this kind of strategy whilst at one point may have worked, with the instantaneous and very public two-way communication brought about by social media, is in need of a review. As @gordonmacmillan’s blog suggests; it’s time to listen, and engage.

Some articles claim Ryanair’s social media disaster was no such disaster after all – I’m not convinced.

Previously the airline could get away with batting away negativity from the public, but with social media allowing hundreds of thousands of people to voice their opinion en masse, only to be ignored or insulted; it is perhaps no surprise that in July of this year, Ryanair posted a 29% drop in profits.

It isn’t the first time that consumer outrage through social media has led to negative feedback for a large company. American car insurer, Progressive, faced a mass of fury from customers about this blog post in which the New York-based comedian Matt Fisher notes his frustration and anger with the company following the death of his sister in a car crash.

And even when brands provoke a reaction for the purpose of publicity, I’m not convinced it always hits the mark. Whilst ad agency Iris split opinion over its new staff benefits brochure to good effect, it was The Sun’s reaction to its fake newspaper headline from 1992, which spread across Twitter last week, that was perhaps misplaced.

The creators of the mock front page, the team behind The Sun’s ‘Hold Ye Front Page’, seemed to revel in Twitter users mocking The Sun’s stupidity, and retweeted comments throughout the day.

The obvious clues pointing to the page being a fake that were missed by users perhaps don’t highlight the ignorance of those commenting on the image, but rather serve as evidence of the low opinion of the newspaper among its non-readers.

No such thing as bad publicity? I’m not so sure anymore.


Domino’s online activity means I probably need to get out more

5 years ago
by tom

Last Friday, I had a rock and roll evening planned. Seeing the back of a busy week, and experiencing the rarity of being home alone, I decided it would be best to stay in, watch the double bill of Coronation Street, catch up on the latest episode of The Office and have a beer.

That’s right, I know how to party.

And with it being the weekend, I thought I’d treat myself to a takeaway pizza from Domino’s. The pizza chain had recently promoted a great deal and I thought I’d cash in.

It was only after looking on their website and checking out their Twitter feed that I realised I was too late – the offer was over, I’d have to pay full whack.

That wasn’t happening. I was out – I decided to eat something else. How dare they ask me to pay full price. The nerve.

It turns out I was at least correct in hunting for Domino’s deals online. Last week, the pizza chain announced strong figures for 2011 with group revenue increasing 11% to £210m in the year to 25th December 2011. These figures were driven by online sales, which increased by 43% to £183.1m and regularly account for half of all Domino’s daily sales.

I can completely see how those online figures have come about. They have been a busy lot over at Domino’s, partnering with television shows like Red or Black, using Twitter promotional codes, creating iPhone, Android and Windows phone apps and this year, they’re looking to build on that activity further.

Domino’s recently announced a partnership with Blinkbox. The movie and TV streaming service, in which Tesco owns a majority stake (80%), has introduced Blinkbox Movie Mondays, a campaign to promote themed movie packages that also provides customers with a 40% discount when they spend £25 or more on- or offline at Domino’s Pizza.

They are also looking to improve its mobile payments systems by exploring the possibility of customers paying for orders directly from their phone bills or by mobile payments connected to a credit account, such as Orange Quick Tap or Barclay’s Pingit.

And whilst this is fantastic for the consumer, with easier payment methods and more and more retailers promoting online discounts and offers, it begs the question; why bother ever paying full price again? I touched on this at Christmas when high street retailers took the decision to start sales before the 25th December and could be the result of companies trying to make their online presence stand out in a bid to claim a share of over-crowded market places.

Online deals and promotions will give the consumer more choice and a better deal, especially as more and more brands utilise the combination of social media and mobile devices. I understand that deals on things like pizzas work differently to more expensive products, but there is a fear that by constantly offering people money off deals, it will devalue products, meaning people will steer clear of paying a premium price. It certainly means that I’ll be the one doing the cooking on Friday night.

Or perhaps I just need to get out more.


Can someone put a Pin in it please?

5 years ago
by tom

The Joy of Tech - Pinterest

I’ve been back and forth about whether to add to the hype surrounding Pinterest.com. It may well be a very useful, fun and engaging addition to social networking, it’s just, well, I can’t really be bothered with it.

The site has been around for a couple of years but has shot into the limelight recently thanks to a few high profile blog posts and news articles about the Tumblr-like social network.

There are lots of articles that have detailed exactly how to use Pinterest, and what the benefits of using the site are – it’s all fairly reminiscent of the hype around Quora last year, and hopefully it will be given time to grow and develop.

I can see the attraction of Pinterest; it’s a more accessible, social way of creating mood boards for example, or collaborating with someone to draw up a wish list (i.e. a bride and groom-to-be, pulling together a wedding gift list).

For brands too, it can be great for collating product ranges in one place to showcase to customers and, on the face of it, I can quite easily see the rationale behind the site.

Images are a proven means of increasing engagement. A recent Facebook study for example, found that links which included a thumbnail image in the link preview received 65% more “likes” and 50% more comments than those without images.

I’m struggling, however, to see how quick and easy it will be to keep updated – a characteristic that perhaps Pinterest needs to become widely popular. Perhaps I can’t get into it because it’s not aimed at me, having primarily been adopted as the social platform for women.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for people to explore new ways to interact online, but I think there is a risk, especially in the case of Pinterest, that people will dive in, have a quick look and dive out again, claiming to have ‘tried it and it’s not for me’. This can be seen in the latest stats from comScore, in which Pinterest actually lost users in the UK in January.

I’d also perhaps be more inclined to explore Pinterest further, if there wasn’t such an explosion of ‘Pin’ related terms that seem to be shouting at me from all corners of the web.

Currently you can pin a picture to your Pinterest pin board and then use PinPuff to measure your Pinfluence. There’s also something called PinClout which, it seems, does much the same thing (of which, I’m not entirely sure).

As an aside, I think influence measuring tools should be offering more to their users, perhaps taking a similar route to PeerIndex who recently announced PeerPerks, a new service that offers freebies and discounts to key brand influencers.

As for Pinterest, I’ll keep an eye on its progress. But later – my head’s spinning – I feel I’m in need of a lie down… and a Pint.


Driving online activity home for Christmas

6 years ago
by tom

Alan

Clearly Bob Geldof doesn’t have any trouble when it comes to present buying during the festive season. Why else would he boldly claim: “it’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid”?

He’s wrong. There is a need. A very real need. Like many offices across the country, we recently exchanged Secret Santa presents, unveiling gifts like the glorious one I received in the image above.

And, while at first I was hit by a wall of fear about what to buy for my lucky chosen colleague, I’m glad to say the whole team came away with some fantastic items.

For me, my own anxiety about what to buy was largely relieved by the use of my mobile phone and a particularly impressive Christmas gift stand in Waterstones, and it turns out I wasn’t alone.

Talking to the Rewired team, it seems we all made use of the Internet before opting to head to the high street to make our final purchases. Despite reports that last week’s footfall figures for the high street were down on last year, it’s a way of browsing that brands are recognising and incorporating into their online offering.

Google recently announced that shoppers are using their mobiles a lot more to search for last minute Christmas gifts and store locations. The search giant estimates that this year 44% of searches will be made on mobile rather than desktop, more than double the 20% for the same period last year.

It means that the link between online and offline will hopefully aid footfall in high street stores in the run up to Christmas.

This style of shopping can be seen in the recent campaign from Argos which centres on a television advert featuring the voice of Bill Nighy. It demonstrates how shoppers can choose what they want from its online offering first and then go in store to collect it, and includes a mobile version for use on the move.

It’s good to see, especially when some articles suggest online and offline can’t work together, as was reported last week.

For me, I think we’re seeing some exciting developments for mobile and retail which will continue into 2012 – and anything to aid my buying experience and conquer my fear of Christmas shopping is fine with me.

 


Please mind the (perception) gap

6 years ago
by tom

Mind the gap

It was my birthday this week. I turned 25, and have therefore been stalking this earth for a quarter of a century now.

It’s all quite scary stuff and normally I’d be quite annoyed about getting older, but this week I was pleasantly surprised to see that apparently I’m still classed amongst the ‘younger consumers’.

The good news came whilst reading about those aged between 18 – 34 years who, a study found, are the more likely to turn to Facebook than Twitter in order to read news.

The new data from Lightspeed Research found that 30% of 18-34 year olds turn to Facebook for their news at some point during the week compared to only 12% who use Twitter.

People seem surprised at this and I’m not sure why. I’m always a bit sceptical about these sorts of studies and with over 800 million active users on Facebook, compared to the 200 million Twitter users, I’m not surprised that out of the 1000 people surveyed more people use Facebook than Twitter. Especially when the survey asked respondents to list all types of media they use when finding out about news.

Chart to show in an average week, which media source do people get their news from

It can be hard for companies that work day in, day out with a certain type of digital media to understand its true importance to a wider audience and it’s vital to remember to take a step back and analyse where the real opportunities lie.

I recently attended this year’s MediaPro conference and learnt more about the perception gap that exists for brands about exactly why people join social networking sites.

Many believe the main reason people join Facebook or Twitter is to belong to a community. It’s not. Actually 70% of people sign up to connect with friends and family, it’s only 23% who say they join to connect with brands.

So, with more people using Facebook, each having an average of 130 friends, more people are hearing about what’s happening through their mates.

This translates into e-commerce. A recent study by Deloitte found that 71% of people said the single most important factor in buying from a website was if it was recommended by a friend or family member.

In order for brands to fully connect with its followers, they need to change its perception about who they think uses social media and why, in order to fully engage with them.

This was seen to great effect a couple of years ago with Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign when people were offered a free burger from the fast food chain if they deleted 10 of their friends from Facebook.

This connection between a brand and what it’s audience values saw 33,906 friends removed by 82,771 users in the space of a week and the campaign being swiftly shut down by the social networking site.

Whether it’s understanding how and why a ‘younger consumer’ finds out about the news or understanding why people connect to a brand on social media, it’s important to think carefully about any perception gaps that might exist along the way.


Charity fundraising is becoming more mobile

6 years ago
by tom

Fundraising is getting more mobile

It’s August, and whilst the summer period hasn’t quite been the normal ‘silly season’ that we all expected, there have been one or two things that are always the same at this time of the year.

For example, following much promise, the weather has proven to be erratic at best, everyone (except me) seems to have disappeared on holiday and, as always, the Nottingham Forest players have had a shocking start to the new football season.

August also means that I am in training. Last year, I took part in the Robin Hood Marathon and this year I’ll be running in the Bupa Great Birmingham Run however, whilst I ran in the Robin Hood Marathon simply for the experience, this will be the first time I will be raising money – as part of the Birmingham Future team.

For me, fundraising at an individual level has become more and more target based and organised and, thanks to people utilising online facilities, pledging money to a cause has become far easier.

Sites such as JustGiving, which launched in early 2000, and Virgin Money Giving have continued to rise in popularity. The sites allow users to direct people to a specific profile page about a specific campaign and then allow donations to be made by entering card details.

Through sites such as JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving people have helped over 9,000 charities, raising £770 million.
 
More recently, JustGiving launched a new service that helps charities through JustTextGiving. Donations can now be made with a simple text message that’s free to set up and run, in partnership with Vodafone.

Social networking sites have got in on the act too, with Facebook allowing not-for-profit organisations to use Causes. Launched in 2007, Causes helps Facebook users to make a difference without having to leave the social network. The application markets itself as a way for anyone to make a difference using Facebook to tell friends about charitable campaigns, ask them to donate and generally get the word out.

Charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support are also utilising Flickr to spread the word about its Macmillan Coffee Morning on Friday, 30th September. The cancer charity is asking people to tag pictures with ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’.

By utilising the tools that are available online, it enables an organisation or individual’s fundraising potential to be maximised and has made raising money for a chosen charity a lot easier.

For me, it’s just the running that’ll be the tricky part…


Don’t make my mistake; they aren’t real buttons

6 years ago
by tom

Buttons.

I like buttons. They’re fun, functional and come in all shapes and sizes. So imagine my excitement when I heard that three new ones were unveiled this week.

Off I skipped to the haberdashery section of John Lewis to fetch Google’s +1 button (for those of us who are conscious about losing buttons, I assumed), Twitter’s Follow button (a trend setting button?) and LinkedIn’s Apply with LinkedIn button (for suits perhaps, or acceptable job interview attire).

Imagine my surprise, anger and subsequent embarrassment when I got to the counter to enquire about said buttons to find that I had been somewhat misled.

After reading up on the subject, of course I was wrong. The buttons are all plugins that will be used to increase communication and interaction between a company’s website and its users and it is interesting to hear that all three have been announced within such a short time of one another.
 
Google’s +1 button aims to rival Facebook’s ‘Like’ and works by allowing users to recommend pages to the rest of their contacts across Gmail, Buzz and Reader. It has been something that Google has been experimenting with since March and has now made the code readily available to all. It won’t affect search rankings for pages and is more about pointing friends in the direction of things you like through a recommendation.

I’m not convinced.

I’m equally not convinced by Twitter’s Follow button. The plugin is a new bit of code that publishers can stick on their site to link through to their Twitter profile and, while using Twitter to stay connected with your audience is important, I don’t see its Follow button as the big leap forward that everyone is making it out to be.

Twitter's Follow button

More than 50 sites have been using the button, including The Telegraph.

The LinkedIn button seems to be one of the more interesting announcements to come out of this week. The new feature will be displayed alongside job descriptions on partner sites and will launch later this month. It allows users to apply for jobs by sending their LinkedIn profiles as a CV and the benefits are that it will not only speed up the process of applying for a job but will also mean that people will pay more attention to their LinkedIn profile, update it more frequently and as a result, spend more time on the site.

The plugin will also provide benefits to employers. It appears that if a company wants more than a LinkedIn profile from a prospective candidate, it can ask additional questions from a template, add customized questions or request a cover letter. As Mashable reports, employers are a key demographic for the company and I agree that providing them with tools to make finding the right candidate easier is a smart move.

What isn’t a smart move, as it turns out, is rushing down to John Lewis and demanding buttons that don’t exist. Apparently, shouting “I’ve been coming here for years!”, “do you know who I am?” and “give me my Google buttons!” aren’t acceptable ways of communicating with service staff.

Who knew?


Email marketing: The importance of being mobile

6 years ago
by tom

Email marketing is getting more mobile

When people are late it annoys me. I just hate waiting around. I understand that this statement is extremely hypercritical because all my friends will say that I’m always late for everything, but I stand by it.

The growth in smart phones however, has made this annoyance easier to deal with because I can pass the time by checking my emails, playing games and seeing which team is beating Forest that day.

It turns out I’m not alone either and with 13% of subscribers reading emails on their mobiles last year, and that number set to grow rapidly this year, marketers are looking increasingly at how to make their email campaigns more mobile.
 
Smart phones will outsell PCs for the first time in 2011 and the Email Newsletter Usability Report 2010 (catchy name) by Nielsen Norman Group stated that more people were engaging with e-newsletters on their mobiles because of the ‘boredom factor’. Users can kill time by flicking through emails whilst they wait which means that marketers will now need to place more of an emphasis on formatting e-newsletters for mobiles and making sure they are designed to incorporate touch screen technology.

I recently listened to a webinar about creating successful email campaigns in 2011 and the speakers from DM Inbox and Silverpop provided some great advice for the coming year.

Design for touch
Last year, 65% of all subscribers that read email content on their mobiles did so on an iPhone. Between 20 – 25 million entry-level Android smart phones will be sold in the global market in 2011, which is a lot more than the 2.5 – 3 million units sold in 2010. So, if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start designing for touch.

Be more social
Creating links to a company’s social media platforms should be the first thing you think about when planning email marketing content. Following a recent National Express promotion that pointed customers to its Facebook page, the coach operator found that the link offering money off selected journeys was shared by 800 people and resulted in 80,000 additional page impressions on its fan page. The company saw 8% organic list growth and three times its normal click-through rates because of the promotion.

Social media provides a more efficient way of targeting consumers. A normal email campaign would ordinarily be sent to a huge, crudely targeted list that would result in any call to action being effective on that sub-set of recipients alone. When utilising social media platforms, if the content of the email campaign is interesting enough, it will most likely be forwarded to a new audience of very similar recipients that are ready to act.

Know what stage you are performing on
Email marketing will go through some big changes this year following the introduction of Facebook email, Hotmail’s Active View and Gmail’s Priority Inbox in 2010.
 

 
Facebook email will be used by 50% of users with 8% using it as their main email address. Hotmail Active View will give companies the chance to put a mini website inside the user’s inbox, which will provide instant access to interactive content.

Because of the changes, marketers will need to think about everything from the subject line (which doesn’t appear in Facebook email) to the creation of scalable images and fonts that take into account the different platforms, of which mobile will be the one to watch.

It seems that as more and more people are using long queues and waiting times as a chance to check their inbox, it is more important than ever to be mobile.


Going viral: How to create popular viral content for your brand

6 years ago
by tom

The Ricky Gervais Show

Last night saw the first episode of the second series of The Ricky Gervais Show on E4 and I think it’s safe to say the animated series which features the trio of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington has come a long way from the early days of the podcasts being animated by fans on YouTube.

The cartoon, which was first aired on HBO on 19th February 2010, was created by using the original podcasts and putting animation to the audio track. What began as an Internet fan homage to the podcasts on YouTube, became a pitch for a cartoon on HBO and has added to the popularity of the Gervais brand.

There are many different animated versions of the Ricky Gervais podcasts available online.

A clip from the HBO animated series.

I recently attended #KittenCamp, an event which included a talk about how to make something viral by David Edmundson-Bird, course leader MSc in Digital Marketing Communications at Manchester Met University. It was an interesting insight into the viral community which has led me to pull together some thoughts about how to make viral content a success.

1. Enhance, don’t copy
It sounds obvious but it is so important to do something different with content. Gervais agrees that animating The Ricky Gervais Show has enhanced the audio content saying, “Because Karl goes off on these flights of fancy, these fantastical stories where he personifies chimpanzees, animation lends itself so well. The worst thing would be if the cartoon made it worse — and I think not only does it not do that, but it brings it to life.”

2. Target content at the bored
People who have had a slow day at work and want something to distract them from the mundane are a key audience to consider when creating popular viral content. Videos under five minutes in length, posted on YouTube or a similar site, are ideal for people to quickly watch and share with a friend.

Using content that is already recognisable – whether it is a podcast from a popular comedian or an image that has been used in the media recently – will mean that more people are inclined to view your content.

3. Seed content in popular places
Again, it sounds obvious but unless your content is given the opportunity to grow, it will never become popular. Sites such as www.b3ta.com are a hotbed for viral content according to David Edmundson-Bird.

Viral content is a great way to get a brand out to new audiences and can be seen in the success of The Ricky Gervais Show.

However, it seems that not everyone is happy about the show being aired on television.

Pilkington said about the animated series: “I’m a bit worried; I used to be able to talk about my Aunty Nora having wind for five minutes and it wouldn’t matter – she wouldn’t be listening to the radio – but suddenly it’s on the telly, and it’s there, with her floating around. There’s some things I wouldn’t have talked about.”

Too late though Karl, it’s out there now…so to speak.


Cupid: A symbol of love or someone with good PR?

7 years ago
by tom

Cupid: A symbol of love or someone with good PR?

It’s Valentine’s Day again. For many, it is a day of exchanging gifts and declaring true love and for others, it’s just another day. It was named after Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers who, it is believed, was murdered on 14th February AD 270.

During that time, the Roman emperor Claudius II cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Take up for the army wasn’t great, and he believed married men, being emotionally attached to their wives and families, did not make good soldiers.

However, Valentine secretly married couples until he was caught, then, refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs, was sentenced to be beaten to death with clubs and have his head cut off. Lovely stuff.

One legend suggests he left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter before his death which said “Love from your Valentine”, the first Valentine’s card.

Today, Valentine’s Day is a day for large-scale public displays of affection with Cupid, the Roman god of love, becoming chief mascot.

Cupid enjoyed playing jokes on people and spreading love with the use of his gold arrows, however, he wasn’t the loveable scamp that many think. Cupid had split personalities and he had an evil side in which he used lead arrows to kill his victims. According to Roman mythology, he didn’t make the greatest husband in the world either.

He was the son of Venus and as the story goes, Venus became jealous of a beautiful maiden named Psyche.

She ordered Cupid to punish the maiden but instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with Psyche. The two married, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him. Psyche’s sisters, however, later convinced her to look at him and when she did, Cupid punished her by promptly leaving.

Slight overreaction, perhaps.

Their beautiful surroundings, including their castle and gardens, were all gone and Psyche, left with nothing, wandered in search of her lost love. She would eventually arrive at the temple of Venus, who wanted to destroy her.

It’s at this point in the tale that, if I were Psyche, I would be having strong words with my sisters.

Venus, doing nothing to improve the image of mother-in-laws, gave Psyche a series of tasks to complete and for her final task, Psyche was sent to the underworld with a small box. She was told to use the box to collect some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto.

Psyche was warned not to open the box, but temptation overcame her. When she opened the box, Psyche fell into a death-like sleep.

When Cupid found her lifeless on the ground, he woke her, and all was forgiven. That’s right. Cupid forgave Psyche. What for? If you ask me, she had a bloody hard couple of days.

Now, personally, I don’t think this is a tale that epitomises true love and devotion in the same way as St. Valentine’s tale and I think Cupid has done pretty well to land the chief mascot job.

I suppose he must have had a good PR team behind him…