Category Archives: Marketing

Why print is not dead: the case for the defence

With all the talk of the Royal Mail privatisation it reminded me of the amount of times I have been told that direct mail and print marketing are dead. Whilst they may be seeing a decline they are far from dead, and I firmly believe that print has a crucial role to play in many marketing plans. Here’s my case for the defence of print marketing.

Digital is easy to ignore and forget

Yes, digital marketing is relatively quick and cost effective, but how many times have you forgotten the date of an event or a URL you intended to remember? We skim-read online more than we do for print, and consequently our ability to retain and recall online information is less effective.  Print materials take slightly longer to read and therefore your message reaches your customer in a different way.

Print hangs around

It’s easy to hit the delete button on an email, and yes, print too can be binned, but if the message is one of interest customers are likely to hang on to the leaflet for reference. Emails get rapidly pushed down the inbox and are as good as forgotten.  Meanwhile your print item is stuck on their notice-board at home.

Greater reach than digital

extend your reachHow many people see the contents of your email inbox? Probably just yourself. How often do you forward an email offer on to friends? Rarely, if ever? A print leaflet can be seen by every member in the household, can be shown around friends and shared.  This is particularly helpful if other members of the household are the decision maker or influencer.  For example a college may contact their future students by post – in order to get in front of the parents too. You’ll reach more people with each communication.

Make the intangible real

Particularly in services marketing we face the challenge that the thing we are selling is intangible – you can’t pick it up.  That can present some communication challenges.  In particular, if your service is high-value customers will want something they can hold in their hand as proof that the service exists. Think holiday brochures, wedding venue brochures or university course prospectuses.  Digital content can change from day to day or even be deleted, whereas if I have an official printed copy in my hand there is some certainty to what I am buying.

Print speaks for your brand

Whilst great design, photography and copywriting all say a lot about a brand, print has the added dimensions of paper and print quality. These provide marketers with another opportunity to communicate brand values and make an impact on their prospective customers. Personalisation and other innovations make print an exciting field, so think beyond the standard letter or flyer and get creative.

We’re not all digital natives

According to the Office for National Statistics, 17% of UK households still don’t have internet access. For some this is about price or security concerns, whilst a significant number just didn’t feel the need for it. If your target audience includes some ‘anti-internetters’ then print is the ideal medium with which to reach them. Let’s not assume that everyone is online all the time.

Push the envelope

Print is not just about flyers, posters and letters.  Print materials have a range of uses which are great for spreading the word and keeping your message front of mind – think ‘leave behinds’ at meetings, calling cards, postcards, vouchers etc. How you use print will depend on your marketing objectives and distribution method.

I’m a big advocate of print marketing – used appropriately, well designed and written, and produced by expert printers, print can have a fantastic impact.


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Filed under Communications, Marketing, Sales, Strategy

Why language makes all the difference in business

A recent project brought home the impact that language can have when engaging with an audience.  We found that a phrase, which until then was being used as the team name and service descriptor had a hugely negative impact on the main target audience, and was in part the reason why the audience hadn’t been engaging with the service.

The outcomes surprised the project team, and will mean that they need to adopt a whole new vocabulary when talking about their service to their audience.  Whilst I can’t share the specifics of this project, the insight is one which can apply to business communications strategies across industry sectors and audience segments.

Challenge assumptions

You may think that there are some obvious differences in the use of English language to appeal to say younger vs older audiences. However I challenge that assumption as younger people (Generation Y and Z) don’t necessarily want their brands to talk to them in text-speak or use their jargon.  If your brand is delivering a serious product or service then they want you to speak with authority using proper English. If your brand is fun and social, then copy in line with their vocabulary is more likely to be acceptable to them.

Use of younger language could mean that older generations (Baby Boomers) simply can’t understand what message you are trying to get across, but at the same time this generation like their advertising to be intelligent and not patronising.

Gather insight about your audience preferences

It is wrong to assume that all of your audience will have the same reaction to language based on their age.  How often have you understood something different to your friend or colleague, even if you were listening to the same words?  We interpret language differently based on a huge number of factors, such as our age, gender, socio-demographic group, experiences and so on.

green appleAt a team-building workshop years ago the facilitator asked us for our first response when she said the word ‘apple’. The majority of those in the room responded with ‘crispy’, ‘red’, ‘fresh’ and so on. My response was ‘snow white’ – which seemed completely left-field to the rest of the group, but to me demonstrated that I was much more creative than my peers. It also helped us all to understand why we sometimes had difficulty communicating within the group! From then on, we appreciated that we sometimes needed to say the same thing in different ways, in order to get a message across to the variety of personality types in the team.

So, the lesson is to understand your audience in terms of the language they would like you – your brand or company – to use with them. Don’t make assumptions based on their demographics as that could easily lead you down the wrong path. Good market research is crucial, so that you get qualitative information to feed into your strategy.

Adult-to-adult, adult-to-child, peer-to-peer

Without realising it brands can slip into speaking to their audience like an adult to a child. This ‘telling’ way of speaking is rarely successful as the recipient feels patronised.  I’ve often seen it used by professional services firms, where they are trying to impart advice or knowledge, and are therefore the ones in the know (unlike the audience).  Their challenge is to get across that they are the experts, without making the audience feel stupid for not having that expertise.

There are also many examples of peer-to-peer language used inappropriately that make me cringe.  Finding the right relationship with your audience is an essential step in defining your tone of voice. It’s partly about your brand positioning, partly about your target audience. Get it wrong and you could sound like a grumpy uncle, or worse – daddy on the dance floor!

Learn to speak your customer’s language

What can a business do, if the service you offer is legal advice, but your customer research indicates that they feel ‘legal advice’ has negative connotations – for example they may feel that it is likely to be expensive, an old fashioned business, full of confusing jargon…and so on.

The answer is to develop a new set of vocabulary for you to use, in dealing with customers and in your communications.  Find out from your customers what they would want from a business that helps them with legal matters, and how they would like you to speak. Test some different phrases with them, let them create their own, and you will find a direction starts to become clear.  From there you can create new ways of talking about your service which will be in the language that makes sense to your customers, and uses phrases that they want to hear.

Your business should reap benefits in terms of delivering a better service to your customers, and marketing communications will be much more effective as your message will be clearly understood.  Language is a very powerful tool in business, but its importance is often sadly overlooked.

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Filed under Communications, Copywriting, Marketing, Strategy

Social media: there’s more to social than Facebook

You might be forgiven for thinking that Facebook is the one and only place to interact with your customers online. With a broad demographic of members, a range of apps and marketing tools it’s increasingly seen as the must have social media presence for any business.  However, there’s danger in this single minded view of social media marketing.

Is Facebook right for you?

First of all, as some of my previous post highlight, you need to be sure that Facebook (or any channel) is the right marketing vehicle for your specific business. Ask yourself who your customers are, how do they behave, and where is it appropriate to introduce your business to them.  What is your business trying to achieve with social media marketing – and find the networks that best fit with your objectives.

Create a balanced social media strategy

Secondly, there are such a wide range of networks out there, that cater for different demographics, behaviours and markets, that a single-minded strategy is a bit short sighted. Yes, social media marketing requires a time investment, but it is never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. A strategy that identifies, for instance one primary network, plus a couple of secondary networks for your business is much more balanced in terms of risk and reward.

Own your digital presence

All social media channels are rented real-estate – if Facebook decides to change your terms and conditions or page layout there is little you can do about it. By contrast, your own website is entirely under your control and is owned by you.  To have a Facebook page and no website means your digital presence is on shaky ground.  By starting with your own website, and building social media profiles on top your business can always change its social media strategy without losing everything that you have built up over time.

Innovation good: innovation bad

The digital landscape and social media in particular are continually innovating. That’s part of what makes it so exciting, but also creates a challenge for businesses to keep up to date with what’s happening.  Recently, for instance Facebook relaxed its competition rules (good news) but Facebook now determines how many of your page posts to show to your fans/followers (bad news).  If you rely heavily on Facebook to communicate with your audience/customers then your business fortune is at their mercy.

information overload
It’s a game of many players

Meanwhile, MySpace has relaunched with a new look and better functionality, and LinkedIn is making moves beyond it’s business networking and recruiter home-ground towards all-round information source with it’s new university pages. Let’s not forget the other big players Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, Flikr, Instagram, Etsy, Tumblr and so on and so forth. Don’t ignore the other players who are relevant to your business or market as they may one day become more profitable for you than Facebook.  They are all continually innovating, and who’s to say that their next update won’t offer just the marketing tool your business needs.

People moves

At the same time as the networks changing their functionality and design, their user bases are shifting and changing. Facebook was once the exclusive home of US college students and is now home to a very broad demographic, with young people leaving the platform now that it is now used by their parents and grandparents.  Keep in touch with published audience figures such as this one to help you determine whether their audience matches your audience.

If Facebook is working for your business and you’re happy to follow the whim of Facebook’s developers, then great. If you’d like to take a more balanced approach then maybe it’s time to review your social media strategy and check out what the other networks can deliver for your business.

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Filed under Digital, Marketing, Social media, Strategy

Best Tourism Ads on the Planet

Inspiring travel and tourism adverts from Beloved Brands.

Beloved Brands

Ad_Newfoundland_240x240As we hit the fall, it’s a great time to be thinking about vacations.  Here are some of the Best Tourism ads from around the world.  Too many Tourism spots use a montage of clips against a cute wholesome song and put on a cheery tag line that says very little and offends very few.  Most tourism ads all look the sam.  The challenge for tourism groups is the number of constituents they must please really inhibits the risk taking that would push for greatness. 

Here’s a few of my favourites.   Feel free to add others.    

Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada

This ad captures the pure beauty of Newfoundland, a province on the east coast of Canada.  Pure desolate and rugged beauty.  This campaign  enticed me to go to Newfoundland and it did not disappoint.  Best photos you’ll ever come back with.  I’d go in the summer…

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Filed under Advertising, Great Marketing, Marketing, Travel and Tourism

How to recruit a social media marketing manager

As the use of social media marketing in your organisation grows, the time commitment can start to become an issue.  Your social media strategy seems to be working, you’re getting likes, follows and comments, but managing your channels is taking up more and more of your valuable time.  Now is the time to consider employing a social media manager to take the task on.

Defining a new role and selecting the right candidate can seem a bit daunting, when there is no precedent and seemingly endless options for the skills and experience needed to do the job. Having been through this process and discovered some of the pitfalls here are some tips to help you on your way.

Start with your current social media activitiesSocial media activities

You may have plans to be the most talked about brand on Facebook, but in reality you are planning to employ somebody because you want them to take over the day job of managing your social media activities.

Start by documenting the daily tasks you undertake to manage your social media marketing activity. For example:

  • Posting regular updates to Twitter in line with the key themes agreed.
  • Responding to direct messages from all social media channels.
  • etc

Once you have those listed you have the broad outline of what the day-to-day of the social media job will be. It is really important to be honest here, as there is no point attracting a strategist if you actually want someone who will be happy posting daily updates. It won’t be fulfilling for the job holder and you will find that you are recruiting again sooner than expected.

Think about where you want to be

Next, consider how you would like to develop your social media marketing plans.  You may have a fixed goal in mind or just a vague notion of what you want. You may want your new recruit to be setting the vision for your social media activity, but as their employer you need to have a way of measuring whether they are effective in their job or not, so stick your neck out a little, even if it is something fairly generic:

  • Define a new social media marketing strategy with measurable goals,

or for the less ambitious:

  • Develop social media engagement plans to increase the number of interactions with our Facebook page.
  • etc

Pitching this too high might scare off some of your possible candidates, so make sure that what you are asking for is realistic to achieve.

Write up the job description

Write a formal job description, starting with the daily tasks. People perceive the first points on the JD to form the bulk of the work, so start with the regular activities. Lead on to the more strategic or stretch objectives for the role.

When you read the JD back to yourself does it sound realistic? Is it likely that one person could do all of that? Are the strategic and daily aspects of the role likely to be undertaken by the same person? If not, perhaps you should divide up the role into responsibilities held by different people (either new, or already within your organisation).

Skills, qualifications and experience

Every job description should be accompanied by a person specification which outlines the skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job.  This document needs to be realistic – for instance, do they really need to have a degree to undertake this role? Secondly, a person specification is an important document to help you filter candidates as it can be used as a check-list to compare each application.

Consider what marketing qualifications and experience this person should have – particularly if you are looking for more strategic input to your activity.  There are plenty of people touting themselves as social media marketing experts who don’t even have the faintest understanding of marketing principles. If you are recruiting someone to do the day-job then that might not be such an issue.

When it comes to experience, I suggest asking for past experience in using social media to develop a brand, club or organisation. We can all use social media for our own purposes, sharing holiday photos and status updates.  It is a very different matter to employ social media tools to develop a brand, generate sales, or create engagement with a community.  Just because my kids can use watercolours doesn’t mean they’ll paint me a decent portrait, and it is the same in the social media world.

The ability to keep up to date with changing trends is an essential part of any social media manager role, regardless of level.  Given the market is innovating and shifting so rapidly you will need someone who can let you know if there is a new way of posting updates, or if a new social network is emerging that could be relevant for your brand. Include something about this in your person specification.

Full-time, part-time, contract or freelance

Do you need a person working for you full-time? Do they need to be based in your office or can they be home-based? Will you want to meet up with them or will you be happy to liaise via phone and email? Do you want to offer this role on a trial basis, would you be happy with a freelancer who billed you by the hour, or do you want someone who is dedicated to your company full-time?

Decide on answers to these questions before you advertise so that you can be specific about who you are looking for.  Check out the going-rate locally for similar types of roles before you decide on a salary. Whilst you are at it, compare your job description and person specification to what they are asking or, so that you can align your needs to what the market norms are.

Social Media ManagerThe selection process

A robust selection process will take up some of your valuable time, but if you do it properly it will repay you that time many times over.

You may want to use a recruitment agency to help you with the advertising of the role to ensure that you reach as many people as possible.  If you plan to handle it yourself then advertise your vacancy as widely as possible – ideally using the free tools you will be wanting the job holder to utilise.  Twitter is a great place for jobs, and if you are recruiting locally don’t forget the regional media.  It may be worth paying for sponsored posts to deliver greater visibility for your campaign.

Ask for a written application from every candidate and filter down to an interview shortlist. If you can hold physical interviews then do so, as it gives you the best opportunity to understand the candidate and see if you see eye to eye. If a physical meeting is not possible, then a Skype call or phone conversation could suffice.

Either way, ask the same questions to every candidate, based on the job description and person specification.  In particular, ask them about their experience of managing social media profiles in a business context.  A presentation is also an excellent way of sorting out who knows their stuff from the bluffers.

The small-print

When it comes to employing a person within your organisation, or making use of freelance resource, be sure to check out the legal and financial obligations on you as an employer. I am not an employment law specialist or a financial advisor, so please ensure that you obtain proper advice on those fronts before you employ anyone.

What if your recruitment process fails?

You’ve refined your job description, person specification and job advert yet you have not attracted the wonder-kid you expected to find. What has gone wrong?  Maybe you were asking for too much, or maybe the salary offered wasn’t right.

In one instance I did not appoint after the interviews as I didn’t find a candidate that I felt was right for the role. I re-wrote the job advert and received many more applications of a higher quality as a result.

It could be that any of the stages in your process let you down, or it could be that the language that you were using was not hitting the spot.  If it is not obvious ask for a second opinion from a colleague or trusted advisor.  Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can really help.

Welcome to the team

If you’ve recruited and found your ideal social media marketing manager, then congratulations! I look forward to hearing more about your organisation on the www! Just remember to set your employee some SMART objectives and measurable deliverables – it’s very easy to spend a lot of time on social media without making head-way.  Ask yourself how will you know if this person/role has been a success in 6 to 12 months’ time.

Free templates available

For advice on recruiting a social media marketing manager for your company, or for a template job description and person specification just get in touch.

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Filed under Digital, Management, Marketing, Social media

Myspace (without a captial s)

Check out the new Myspace at


Remember the days of a buzzing MySpace homepage? A social network which brought strangers together from every corner of the globe, through the power of common interests and music? Well, it’s back, and it’s making sure everyone knows about it.

From 2005 to early 2008 it held the title as the most visited social network in the world, but users began to move their social networking business elsewhere as rival social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo became to rise in popularity, leaving MySpace to lose millions of users.

But it seems Singer and Actor; Justin Timberlake has got inspiration from his 2010 film the Social Network, and decided to take on the task of re-launching the site. Redesigned as a social music site and rebranded with a lower case ‘s’, it displays bigger, bolder images of people and album artwork with a strong emphasis on music, musicians…

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Filed under Digital, Marketing, Social media

Have a break from your Wi-Fi life

Kit Kat have scored an ace with this campaign where they created wifi-free zones in Amsterdam for people to ‘take a break’ from their digital lives.

Apart from the great on-street presence, and PR-worthiness of it, they have made Kit Kat relevant in the digital age by providing busy people with a chance to get away from it all, relax and have a break.

Their ‘take a break’ strapline is now even more relevant to our lives…

kit kat

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June 10, 2013 · 4:17 pm