Category Archives: Marketing

Brands love Pinterest


We’re loving Pinterest in my office. It’s a great tool for creating collaborative moodboards for inspiration. But brands are getting into even more of a lather about it than we are – and we can understand why. Here are six reasons that brands are going crazy for the internet’s newest darling.

1. Pinterest is the fastest growing standalone site ever

That’s right. Pinterest just hit 10 million unique visitors in the US faster than any standalone site ever. That’s impressive. And Pinterest seems to have hit its ‘hockey stick moment’, where growth goes from steady to huge. Any mass audience gathered together in one place is attractive to brands, and Pinterest is no exception.

2. Pinterest drives traffic to retailers

According to Mashable (via a study by Shareaholic), Pinterest is driving more traffic to retailers than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, MySpace and Linkedin combined. When considered in light of the huge growth Pinterest is experiencing (see point 1), this is only going to get greater – and brands can leverage this traffic to sell more product online.

3. It is easy for brand sites to integrate with Pinterest

The Pinterest ‘pin it’ button is SO easy to add to a product page on a brand or retail site – via a little bit of code – enabling users to pin directly from the brand site and therefore drive further traffic. Brands can not only profit from Pinterest, but fuel its growth – a virtuous circle.

4. Pinterest attracts female shoppers

According to TechCrunch, Pinterest’s growth is being propelled by ‘18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland‘. It might be a cliche to say that women like to browse and take time to enjoy shopping, whilst men are more mission-oriented, but if that cliche holds, then Pinterest is the perfect stepping stone to a purchase – offering a fantastic browsing experience with a link to a retail or brand site when the user is ready to take the final step and make the purchase.

5. Optimal design – in more ways than one

There are two points to make about Pinterest’s design. First, it’s device neutral – the flexible design means it’s optimised for smart-phones through to wide-screen monitors – meaning it can benefit from mobile traffic just as much as desktop traffic. Second is that the layout feels instinctively more like a shop window – encouraging browsing behaviour (see point 4) and delivering up users that are more ready to buy. What’s more, their approach is being embraced by the wider web, and starting to become more and more widespread – witness what Mashable calls the ‘Pinterestification of the internet’.

6. Focus on product

There are no two ways about it, Pinterest pushes products. You might think you’re just re-pinning a cute teacup that reflects your esoteric taste, but your pin will help others find that product and buy it. People are actively creating Pinboards that act as wishlists – for birthdays, Christmas, weddings, or just that end-of-month payday. Because consumers are driving this, they are almost granting brands permission to get in on the act. Consider this: consumers don’t really use Facebook to post pictures of things they want – clothes, kitchenwear, books, whatever – and so when brands try to use Facebook for that it comes across as forced and corporate. But on Pinterest the environment is all about posting products: it’s a win scenario for brands.


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Are consumers turning into bullies?

No bullies

I remember, back in 2008, preparing a presentation on social media and how it was starting to have a huge effect on customer services. Twitter was starting to gain traction beyond the early adopter/techie types, and brands were desperate to leap onto the band wagon. Facebook was already massive, and a relatively small number of brands were starting to use it well with others using it badly, and still more sitting on the sidelines, enviously looking in at the party, but too scared to get involved.

My advice to the client at the time was ‘you can’t afford NOT to get involved’. There had already been a number of famous cases of brands being seriously damaged by complainers who had taken their grievances to social media, and had been ignored by the brand in question. The internet had done its thing, and before the brand knew it the grouch had been turned into a cause célèbre, the public complaint and lack of brand action had gone viral, and the brand’s reputation was in tatters.

So far, so meh. Old news, right? Well yes, but recently I’ve been noticing, and getting increasingly annoyed by a new(ish) phenomena. Brand bullying. This is where some opportunist saboteur turns to Twitter complaining of poor service or poor quality or some other perceived snub from a brand, purely to see whether they can screw some free stuff out of said brand. They invariably use a holier than thou tone and seem to think that the world will side with them purely because they’re shouting, loudly and in public. And they’re not far wrong – ‘the internet’ is the ultimate champion of the little guy.

Brands often respond to this public airing of dirty washing by doing exactly what the opportunist wants – throwing a freebie at it. No matter whether the whinger was an incredibly brand-loyal person with a real grievance, and therefore worth responding to and nurturing, or someone who has heretofore demonstrated zero brand loyalty, if they complain long and loud enough, they’ll be looked after.

This pushes a button for me. It’s inherently unfair. And it actually goes against the internet ethos: the internet has given power to the individual, but (to quote Uncle Ben Parker) with great power comes great responsibility – and if the individual abuses that responsibility the power should be taken away from them. So I suddenly find myself in a slightly unlikely position, and questioning whether brands really do need to oil every squeaky wheel. Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a way to take the sting out of the complaint without giving in to the bullies. Maybe brands should stand up to them, sometimes.

This is obviously a much more delicate an operation than I make it sound, so really I’m throwing it out there as a question. Any social media managers out there care to weigh in?

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Branded content, authenticity and authority

My company, Better Things has its roots in content marketing. Our team all have experience working at agencies that create and distribute branded content through multiple channels. We like making content whether that content be beautiful illustration, animation, editorial features, blog posts, or photographs. We like making the vehicles for that content too, but that’s a different matter.

So it was with interest that I read a piece by Dermot McCormack on Mashable Business entitled ‘3 commandments for the next online content leaders’.

According to McCormack, the art of successfully using content to market a brand comes down to  to three simple things:  authority, curation and context. More specifically, it comes down to earning  authority by curating your content well, within context. His article is great and I agree with all of it, so have a look. The bit I’m specifically interested in here though is the first part, ‘authority’.

What does McCormack mean? Well, he says that brands need to become trusted as content providers. And trust, according to McCormack, comes from authority. The BBC for example has authority when I want UK news. Pitchfork has authority when I want new music suggestions (although I also turn to the BBC in the form of six music for that). For US political news I go to The Huffington Post or The Daily Beast. You get the picture. But these are all media owners, not brands, and the authority they have has taken time to earn, and has come partly because they are an independent voice, not trying to sell something. So brands have to try to generate authority, and quickly – leading to trust. McCormack acknowledges that this process can only be achieved by brands knowing who their audience is, then constantly fine-tuning the way they communicate with their customers, and always, always remaining honest, talking to them about things they care about and striving to improve the way they do things. So far, so obvious. But he also says brands must ask themselves ‘is my voice authentic’, and this is the really interesting part for me.

I’ve had debates over this question for years, but for me, authenticity of voice is something that needs to be carefully considered and planned hand in hand with brand positioning. Sometimes authenticity can be manufactured – see Red Bull’s authority in adrenaline sports after years of careful sponsorship. And sometimes that authenticity is customer-led (ie the brand notices that certain consumers are using their product in a certain way and uses that behaviour to its advantage) – see Converse and music. But either way, for me what your brand can speak with authenticity and authority about shouldn’t be a casual decision. The authentic voice that your brand develops must be integral to EVERYTHING you do.

This might seem obvious, but sometimes when I talk to customer magazine publishers (or custom publishers in the US, Canada and Australia) they argue the case for bands producing ‘lifestyle’ features in their customer magazines – for example a bank doing a feature on a home makeover, or a top ten gadget feature. Their argument is that the lifestyle content somehow adds value for the customer. This has always worried me, mainly because the brand doesn’t necessarily have any authority in that area, or really any authentic voice, and therefore I’m skeptical about how much value it really adds. Red Bull spent years building up their authority in adrenaline sports before it launched its (fairly adventure sport-dominated) Bulletin. Waterstone’s Books Quarterly is a magazine about books and, much as you might doubt the objective nature of their reviews, there is no doubt that they have an authority to talk about books. They also have an authenticity which comes from the again undoubted knowledge and passion of their booksellers, if not their (previously) corporate owners. But I never really believed in the insurance magazine I produced that did features on how to fit out your home-working office, or style your new bathroom – I just didn’t see why I should trust the brand to tell me about that stuff.

This is alway going to be a slightly controversial argument, because it implies that using content as a marketing tool isn’t right for some brands. That’s not what I’m saying though – I’m saying be more careful about the content you choose, because it should both add to your perceived authority and come from a position of authenticity. I’m also saying be more careful about the channel – it may be that a magazine isn’t the right forum for your brand’s content, but a blog or a Facebook page is.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Mobile Couponing, Infographics and Tesco

I had lunch yesterday with an old colleague who moved to Toronto a couple of years ago to work with Transcontinental Media. We had an interesting conversation about couponing, which is apparently a big thing in North America – much bigger than it is here in the UK. My ex-colleague was concerned that, as a consumer publisher, Transcontinental’s use as a channel for distributing coupons was falling.

He blamed this on two things: firstly, most of the bigger multiple grocers/retailers have increasingly large loyalty schemes which are replacing magazines as distribution channels with which brands can reach consumers with coupons. Replacing rather than working alongside because the data-driven loyalty schemes can be much, much more targeted because they hold much, much more data. And secondly because these same grocers are using mobile to traget their consumers with coupons: print is once again losing out to digital.

I was intrigued by all of this. I have a Tesco loyalty card, and they send me a DM piece through the post every now and again. It’s packed full of vouchers that either go staright in the bin or sit in a pile of other post for a couple of months before going in the bin. I pop into Tesco on the way home from work on a whim if I need something for dinner that night. I don’t plan to pop into Tesco that morning, or even that lunchtime, it’s usually as I leave the office, or even as I walk past the store. I don’t carry the vouchers with me just in case I do that.

More to the point, the idea of standing at the checkout faffing with bits of paper whilst the huge queue of people behind me builds and builds and gets more and more frustrated and annoyed doesn’t appeal either. When I see other people doing that I (totally unreasonably) want to scream at them that they’re eating into my tiny and extremely valuable leisure time just so they can get a penny off a bunch of bananas.

So, given all of that, would couponing, mobile style, work on me? Well the answer to that is…maybe. If I could tell Tesco that I’m interested in, say, offers on wine and pizza. If Tesco could detect, via geo-location, when I was in their store and either mail or SMS me an offer for wine or pizza. If I could present that offer, on my phone, at checkout. Then, I MIGHT think about using couponing.

Conincidentally I came across this infographic by Tiffany Farrant (via AP Find) about mobile couponing today. Great graphic, telling an interesting story:

Mobile Advertising and the Rise of Coupons
Infographic By Promotional Codes

So what does all of this mean for my friend at Transcontinental? Well, either find a new revenue stream, or think about getting your data up to scratch. And all the time keep a very close eye on the development of the slate market and the way people use slates. If they, as many people expect, start to replce magazines, then maybe they can also replace magazines as a distributor of coupons.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Advertising vs Storytelling

People talk a lot about telling brand stories. They also talk a lot about the idea that traditional advertising is dead. I agree with the former, whilst not entirely agreeing with the latter. But today I came across something that illustrates the tension between the two ideas pretty well.

I read with interest that the Union of Concerned Scientists have decided, in the wake ofclimategate, to run a series of ads to make themselves appear a little more ‘cuddly’.

Their ad campaign ‘curious for life’ begins, unsurprisingly given the name, with the premise that scientists were curious from an early age, remain curious, and are therefore ‘curious for life’. To get this point across, they have created little story-style profiles of climate change scientists, appended to print ads featuring the profiled scientist as an inquisitive child or youth, checking out insects, mud, and, of course, the stars. It’s a neat little campaign and gets across, via the medium of a story, just how normal these scientists are: not cosseted academics in ivory towers, but regular Joes just like you and me. Here’s one featuring David Iounye.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The campaign is in response to accusations levelled in the media (and, crucially, blogosphere) that they are not open with the public and not engaged enough with politics.

Here’s the thing though. They’re using storytelling techniques to achieve their objective (getting regular members of the public to identify with them a little more, appearing more human, open and honest), but they’ve picked the wrong medium in which to tell that story. As Randy Rieland over atGrist (via Damian Carrington at The Guardian) points out, the real issue is their engagement, or lack of, with the blogosphere. The blogosphere is ‘the real crucible’ for climate scientists, and the onus is on them to start dealing with it. If you want poeple to think you’re open, act like it: engage with the most open debate in the history of mankind – don’t whack some posters up on a subway or take out full page advertisements in newspapers. It’s a classic case of the right approach but the wrong audience and the wrong medium.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Nike: write the future

I know everyone in the WORLD has seen this by now, and I would imagine that everything there is to be said about it has been said. But I just had to post about it because of the sheer exuberance of the thing. As a friend of mine @NeillSBullet said: ‘that ad just made me REALLY excited about the World Cup. Can’t wait!’

Yes, once again, Nike (and Wieden+Kennedy) have got their advertising on the button. They’ve used their roster of star sponsorships (even crossing over to their basketball properties) to great effect. And they’ve managed to squeeze two concepts into one ad.

First, footage of sublime skills. It’s the direct, Ronseal approach. What better way to promote football’s showcase than with showcase football? So far, so easy, so been done before.

Second, a wonderful imagining of the alternative futures that flash through different players’ minds before they decide on a course of action in the game. The beauty of this is how the creatives have managed to get across the personalities (or at least public perception of the personalities) of the different sportsmen. So Rooney is the humble, down-to-eath player that the public can identify with. His thoughts turn to the possibility of failure and that’s what motivates him to his show of gritty determination and unbending will. Failure is not an option. He is the embodyment of the way the English play football, the embodyment of a nation, even, if you’ll forgive the hyperbole, invoking Churchillian reisitance: we’ll never surrender! Ronaldo on the other hand is the ego-driven rock-star, his motivation the adulation of a nation, erecting of statues in his honour, appearences on the Simpsons. His perceived arrogance is clear: it’s all about him. Ronaldinho’s sequence is all about flair, partying, fun, style. It embodies his personality, but also the football style of his team and the (admittedly cliched) global perception of Brazil as a nation. Samba!

But talking about it almost detracts form the effect of watching the thing: it’s just a party of a video, a celebration of everything that’s great about the World Cup. And Neill was right. For the first time this year I feel really excited about the prospect. Roll on June!

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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