Tag Archives: brands

Facebook. It’s over.

23 Nov

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In terms of current world events this certainly can be filed under #firstworldproblems, but for my world of marketing and more broadly connecting with people it’s kind of important.

As the title suggests, I’ve officially broken up with Facebook. Yep that’s right, cold turkey. Totally switched off. App deleted, annoying emails ignored. Gone°.

Yeah it’s not a huge thing when you think about it, but as a fairly tech connected dude in my 30s who likes to feel like they’ve got their finger on the pulse, you start to realise that the old FB can play a fairly central role for your daily dose of downtime or ‘connecting’ with your so called friends.

So What led to the decision? In a word SPAM. That’s right post IPO I’m sure you may have noticed that the FB user experience has drastically changed, based on the added pressure of now driving shareholder value – so how do they do this? Advertising.

It might sound incongruous coming from me as an advertiser, criticising the role of ads, however for me this is about how they are doing the advertising.

Just as for any form of traditional or new advertising, there is a right way to do it, and the wrong way to do it. Simply screaming your message at people, or hitting people with a message when they don’t want to hear it, or in this case screaming a random, irrelevant message in a personal, social environment is just wrong. If you know when people are open to a message, and more so when your message adds some form of value for them, vs just screaming our message, there is going to be far more chance that folks will be open to the message. Get that message across in an engaging, enjoyable way and now you’re in the zone. So for instance, if as I’m standing in the communal shower at the local pool, worried about getting tinea, I see an ad for Dactarin above the sink, naturally I’m open to the message, and more so that brand is then locked in my mind as the top of mind choice should I find myself in the unfortunate position of having athletes foot.

Contrast that to the way Facebook are advertising. Lets look at the day that pushed me over the edge. As I logged in to my iPhone the first story in my news feed was one of my posts from months ago (more on Edgerank in a minute), then there was an (unauthorised) post from Taubmans paint, something along the lines of “Hey it’s spring. What’s your favourite sort of flower….” Ok. Where to start? Trying to connect the dots here I think the link had something to do with paint colours that match flowers, anyway apart from the craziness of the post, what really annoyed me was the fact that there, amongst my personal connections of friends and colleagues is a brand yelling an unwanted and irrelevant message.

Scrolling down further I then got to the section of “sponsored pages” and there, as has been the case for the last 3 months, are the Sportsbet, Tom Waterhouse and some other forgettable brand insisting that given a FB friend likes this page, then I should blindly click like also. And whilst I have never shown any interest in one of this posts or pages over the past months, there they stay. Like the desperate street walker shaking her booty in the hope that some deviant stops to check out what is on offer. Simply an annoying eyesore.

Finally there are the brand pages, obviously being managed by a brand manager or agency who are obsessed with generating ‘likes’, and no doubt is reporting back to their bosses how amazing it is that they’ve generated so many likes. To continue the sex worker analogy here, this to me feels like bragging about a prostitute who you’ve paid for services showing interest in you. Specifically, paying for impressions to generate likes, or posting inane posts such as “hey it’s sunny outside today. Click like if you like being alive”, to worse still giving away prizes for people to click like is such a waste of effort. Sure there is a time and need to build a community, but my view is you deliver a far better result by actually engaging with fans. That’s right, find out what your fans like and then develop content that is relevant, engaging and ultimately adds value for them versus just shouting a message.

What is the biggest travesty here is that with Facebook, every bit of consumer data is available, therefore this should be the best in class example of perfectly target communications. Back to my case, given I’ve never visited a gambling page, and even after a quick scan of my basic profile you can learn what I’m in to, personalised messages or at least brands and categories that are relevant to my interest would be the most powerful form of marketing. Instead brand are wasting money hitting me with a message that not only doesn’t have relevance to me, but more so really starts to piss me off given the persistent hanging around like a bad smell.

Add to the the crazy, erratic nature of their proprietary Edgerank algorithm that establishes what they want me to see, causes posts to disappear and prioritise these annoying ‘promoted posts’ and what you get is a really annoying product. And for me, you actually get me switching off. Good night.

So you may ask “what has replaced it for you” or where and how do we feed our fix now? Well this all depends on what we are looking for. Sure there are other applications that play a similar role – twitter, Instagram and blogs, but more so no doubt in some kids mind, or a uni share house somewhere, the next big thing is just around the corner. But perhaps the bigger opportunity here is to say stuff it all and actually focus on true engagement and connection.

Now I don’t want to sound all superior or like someone who has just learnt about the benefits of Enjo cleaning cloths, but I’m feeling really good about my decision. And it appears it’s not just me; when I’m telling others about this, I seem to be getting a lot of similar feedback. Perhaps other enlightened folks seem to be coming around to this way of thinking. In the same way that FB stormed to life, that same groundswell can turn just as quickly. So if you’re looking for me, the one place you won’t find me is on Facebook.

°disclaimer I haven’t deleted the profile, purely to allow me to use the login details for websites vs signing up fresh. In my view this is about the value and only use for Facebook.

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If video killed the radio star, did brands kill the athletes?

4 Aug

So it’s official. The London 2012 games have been a massive case of over promise and under deliver, and no doubt the various sporting bodies and institutes and more so the media will conduct a rigorous review of just went wrong. Sure the athletes that started to believe their own hype, or spent too long reading every tweet and that messed with their mojo whilst they were on the blocks. Maybe they just weren’t good enough when it counted.

But that’s not the point of this post. More so the interesting thing I’ve noticed out of this campaign is the role of sponsorship and endorsement in the lead up to the games, and the negative impact for brand and athlete when things haven’t gone to plan.

Top of the dais has to be James Magnussen and the terrible “Can’t” campaign. Unless you’ve been boycotting the coverage you would have seen the spot – Magnussen running along what eerily looks like the infamous Gap in Sydney known to be a popular place for those choosing to end it all with a dive off the cliffs. As he’s running he is seen to be talking up his chances, before the pesky T comes along and puts doubt in to his head. Unlike real life, the T ends up making that fateful dive off the cliff and James seems all set to dominate in the pool. As we all know now, it appears that T ended up following Magnussen to London and turning “can” in to “can’t”.

Ego aside, I really struggle to understand why an athlete would agree to be involved in such a spot, and more so why a brand would accept such a risky script from the agency. What could you possibly gain from being in a campaign that totally puts a success noose around your neck. Sure if he won we’d be cheering, but for him, not Com Bank, and as history has shown, the ultimate take out of the whole campaign is can’t , certainly not can and neither brand nor athlete win out of this.

Then there is Swisse, a very switched on business, doing some great work and more so propping up many athletes with endorsements. Now for them, I think this is more a case of bad luck, having a spot featuring Cadel Evans with the music track singing “how many times in my life did I feel like giving up?” Usually, given the strength of Cadel the track was a good fit – especially the reprise “But I’m staying strong, ain’t no stopping me”. But alas, after a big TDF Evans was ruled out for being “too tired to compete” so viewers sitting at home watching spot after spot after hearing this news start to call BS on the brand.

Then even before the games there was the interesting case of reigning Olympic champion triathlete Emma Snowsill. Despite some patchy form, you’d expect the reigning champion to be a walk up starter to the games, and Qantas were obviously very confident she’d be there, so decided to use her as a part of their Olympic campaign. So there proudly adorning airports around the country were massive signs wishing Emma luck on her way to London. Unfortunately for both Qantas and Snowsill, due to some ‘subjective’ selective entry requirements, whilst Emma has gone to London, it’s to be a commentator for channel 10, not to win gold.

All of these brands had to rapidly pull these campaigns given the public comment on them and the fact they looked so stupid in retrospect. So not only did it ultimately damage the brand perception but more so it would have cost them money in terms of canceling media or pulling together alternative creative to make the use of the media inventory.

So it seems that singing up athletes prior to the games is a risky business. Sure get it right and it’s a master stroke and you’ll both be heroes, but get it wrong and I’m afraid all you have to look forward to is the please explain from management.

The counter to this strategy, is to sign up the athlete post games, once you know they have been successful. In a previous life we did this with a swimmer now residing in the ‘where are they now files’ named Jodie Henry. Like many athletes, Henry hit her straps at the right time, being the Athens Olympics, and in addition to a world record, she game home with about 4 gold medals (contrast that to the current teams performance!). So awaiting her as the door of the Qantas flight opened was us with a cheque book, and a multi year deal. We were approaching the Commonwealth Games in two years in Melbourne and as a sponsor we wanted a ready made star who could proudly front our chocolate and soft drink brands.

Now besides no obvious brand connection, this was the a gold medal performance in wasted money. Maybe it was a bad sign when the character in the Freddo suit vomited at the launch, but it really hit its high note when we rolled Henry out to a national sales conference to talk about motivation and what it takes to have gold winning performance (selling sugary products??). Her response is still etched in my mind, as is the look of the sponsorship manager and market director when she responded with “For me winning isn’t really important. I just enjoy swimming, but I don’t like competition and training” cue the crickets here, and despite the emcee trying his darnedest to link it back to selling more, it was a lost cause. What’s more her performance at the Com Games in 2006 failed to live up to the hype, and what’s worse the lasting memory most employees had (besides the awkward motivation speech), was that a one tonne chocolate carving of an athlete will always look pretty crap (yes this was actually done – google it!)

So clearly signing up athletes post winning glory is also fraught with danger, so what’s the answer? Clearly there is a powerful role athletes can play for brands. And more so it is a good thing when brands can help give back to support the lesser known athletes with endorsement money to help achieve their dreams.

For me, I think it’s all about the messaging and tone of the campaign. Definitely sign up potential stars prior to them achieving their ultimate success. Not only will it mean you can get in with a better price, but you also have the credibility of showing consumers that you’ve been involved with the athlete in their lead up, and hopefully your product or brand has in some way helped them achieve their success, showing all important relevance of the brand fit. But the kicker for me, is to go softly, softly. Be honest and humble; messaging such as ‘proudly helping on their road to glory” or the like will show consumers you’re not only supporting the athlete, and therefore relevant for the Games coverage, but you also ensure you don’t look overly cocky and only interested in cashing in on their (hopeful) success. The alternative of course is you just make brilliant brand campaigns that don’t rely on athletes seemingly looking interested in your product.

Supermarkets fight a new war for shopper loyalty

27 Apr

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the last week, you would have been bombarded with the latest installment of retailer loyalty rewards as the original, and until recently forgotten, Fly Buys relaunched with a massive bang!

The campaign has been impossible to miss, rolling out across TV, print, press, radio and every touch point in stores from poor checkout chicks plastered in bright blue t shirts to massive banners above the bananas.

Further, as if to signify how important the relaunch is, Coles have even rolled out Dawn French as an international celebrity ambassador to give extra weight (sorry couldn’t help myself) to the campaign. Fair to say ma and pa in the burbs might not be familiar with French’s work, yet by the fact she has an English accent, she instantly sounds more official, and thus I’m sure people will feel more compelled to believe her vs a local spokesperson.

It always surprised me that it has taken the new management of Coles so long to connect Fly Buys to the defibrillator and bring it back to life. When it launched in the 90’s it was ahead of its time, and importantly as the first loyalty card supported by years of having Coles staff automatically asking us if we had it at every transaction, Fly Buys name became synonymous with shopper loyalty.

Unfortunately for Fly Buys it was a victim of neglect in the previous Coles management. Not only did consumers feel that you needed to spend millions of dollars before you received any benefit, but within Battlestar Galactica (Coles HQ), the people charged with turning Coles around had no grip on the all important customer data. They couldn’t confidently say who their Fly Buys members were, what they were doing, and as shown by some of the issues over the last week with the mass mail out of cards hitting a large number of deceased people, even how many of their members were still shopping, or even breathing! Fair to say this was preventing them from utilizing Fly Buys to any positive effect.

Head 1,0000 km’s north of Tooronga to Woolworths and contrast what they’ve been able to achieve with their Everyday Rewards program. Clearly ‘modeled’ on some of the UK’s best shopper CRM programs, and having the benefit of being developed this century, this is a seriously powerful, and slightly frightening tool.

As with most Woolies shoppers my wife signed both of us up for the cards when it first launched, no doubt excited by the benefits it would provide, and to be fair it certainly offered far more relevant benefits for the shopper. No longer did you need to rustle around in your car for your all important 4c fuel discount docket, and through their partners such as Qantas, earning and redeeming points was a breeze.

About two weeks after signing up I was also surprised to get a little package from Woolies. Containing a sample of their new Select nappy for boys. Hmmm… How did they know we had just had a baby, let alone a boy? As a loyal Huggies consumer, the Select product went in the bin.

A few weeks later I sat through a presentation by Aztec outlining the range of shopper data they can offer through Woolies, and the way it linked in with Everyday Rewards and as a brand guy I was initially really excited, before I became really, really scared.

The power of the Woolies basket data is amazing. Having a panel of a few thousand people to provide a representative shape of the shopper to help plan ranging, promotions etc is great for them. What is greater is the fact that they can track every linked EDR card and the credit card it is used with to understand exactly what every shopper is buying, every time they are in. So whilst Coles weren’t aware of who was alive or dead, Woolies saw that my wife had consistently been purchasing boys nappies, and logically deduced a lot of information about us.

Using this information for good would be incredibly powerful; providing offers to up sell our purchases by having an offer on nipple shields, barrier cream, coffee or any other new parent necessities would be a great way of extracting more money out of me as a shopper, whilst also making my life that little bit easier.

However as retailers seem to be so obsessed at the moment, they opted instead to try and trade me down to an overall lower transaction in the hope I’d shift from the brand I chose to their private label offer. Surely to any business owner this defies logic. Firstly accepting less money through your tills, and whilst you maybe making a higher margin on your ‘brand’, given you’ve no doubt extracted full case funding or close to it through recent cliffing negotiations with the branded supplier, you’re probably still banking less money. Finally like me, if you’re loyal to the brand, especially on traditional foot drivers like nappies, I will search retailers who stock my brand at the best price and shop there, so no not only have you lost my $40 on a box of nappies, but more likely $200 on a weekly shop.

The lesson here for me, is that yes data is incredibly powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility, so be very careful how you use it or risk having loyalty turn in to rejection.

So clearly loyalty programs present a massive opportunity for retailers to better manage their shoppers, and if done well, offer an improved experience for the shopper also. However I fear that in the current race to the bottom that Coles and Woolies are locked in to, these tools will only speed this up, trading shoppers down to cheaper offers vs using it to actually sell more product at a higher price, which is certainly possible through providing compelling offers not just discounts.

Time will tell how Fly Buys 2.0 works for Coles. From what I’ve actually listened to in the launch materials, the everyday discount to five staple products seems a smart step in terms of maintaining shoppers week in week out. I’m also confident that Coles will be more willing to use the program to support brands and as someone that buys my groceries as a result of the money I’m paid to build brands, I really hope they can sail their own path and develop a true loyalty campaign that works for shoppers, suppliers and their bottom line.

It’s game on, who do you think will win this battle?