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Friday, 7 November 2014

Storytelling - Invented authentic content?

This week, the UK celebrated Bonfire night (also known as Guy Fawkes). It's an excuse to party and set off fireworks in remembrance of a foiled plot to blow up parliament in 1605. Who knew that such a rebellious act, could result in a reason to celebrate? Maybe there were switched on content marketing folks even in ye olden days...

Consumers today still love a good story.  If you can make your audience care about your product, you're half way to the sale. Trouble is, we need to forge that emotional connection faster than most corporates can get their content through management, accounting and legal.

Guy Fawkes was a real person and the gunpowder plot an actual plan, but what if you don't have an event to write about? Could you make one up?  Inventing an authentic piece of content is all the rage.


National Boss Day

Take your children to work

National Grandparents Day

In each case above, the creators have manufactured a situation, to raise the visibility of their product or cause.  Their next task is to ensure the public engage, by showing them how to get involved while imprinting their message into the mindset at the same time. Think of it like a mass call to action.

As Kickstarter has shown time and again, involving your customers in content creation is the best form of engagement a company can hope for. That sense of personal responsibility drives word of mouth and builds a loyal following.  Rallying behind an event gives us a purpose, makes us part of the crowd and now through the wonder of social media, lets us share our efforts with the wider world, for extra credit. Win, win.

Be warned though, invented content will only work if it's true to your company values and brand.

By all means, capture imagination, but to be believed, your idea has to match the expectations your customers already have about your company. It should reinforce what they assume to be true, rewarding their decision to spend their hard earned money with you, rather than the competition.

Stories in keeping with your company values and your customers understanding of why you do what you do, have a way of ingraining themselves on public perception for generations to come.

Now, stop reading and go create!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Marketing tips from unlikely sources - dog breeders

Image from

Dog owners used to fall into one of two categories - pedigrees or mongrels. Recently a third category seems to have developed in the form of the pedigree hybrid. Such mutts would have been classed mongrels, were it not for the power of marketing.

Though the Kennel Club may be in denial of their existence, the world (or at least my little corner), has gone mad for Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodle), Cavapoos (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Poodle) and Pugels (Pug/Beagle).

What can we learn from this explosion of fluff?

1. Combining two products which are already popular into a whole new package, provides up-sell and can tap into an entirely new customer market

Think of the brands/products you buy regularly. If you see them paired with a new unknown name, you're more likely to give them a try because you already trust the original brand - in marketing speak, it's up-sell.

Yet even if you're not a regular buyer, but you know of a product or service by reputation, a 'two for one' type offer could encourage you to spend.  Afterall, it seems like a great deal and some of the cost risk has been removed by your familiarity with the brand, making you more likely to give it a try.

2. Customer led product development often produces new ideas

Labradoodles were originally bred in Australia as guidedogs for the blind.  A number of technical innovations came from customer feedback at places like Apple and companies are born everyday to fill niche demands.

What would your product/service look like if your customer designed it?

Are the features and benefits really features and benefits or just the pieces you could create in time for launch?

Have you ever asked your customers why they bought your product rather than an alternative?

Our world gets more hybrid everyday as people seek to distinguish themselves and their purchases. While people want choice, there will always be opportunity.  The trick is creating an opportunity for people to choose.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Shared fate - are you ready for the collaborative economy?

This week, I was fortunate enough to listen to a presentation by Jeremiah Owyang and his shocking predictions for the Collaborative Economy. Jeremiah's vision takes us from today's world where ownership is everything, to a future where sharing drives the economy.

You can read Jeremiah's full report, see his slides and have your mind blown here.

The premise is a simple one.  The crowd, i.e. you and me and all our friends, use social media to engage with one another, share ideas, critique goods and services, compare prices and basically do all that we can, to meet our wants and needs without ever consulting the corporations who used to dictate our aspirations.

This, always on, globally linked approach, is possible because in todays world, more people now have mobile phones than toilets (I know, I couldn't believe it either). Mobile phones, ipads, tablets and all those other internet connected devices, have made it easier than ever to access what we want, as we want it, so the crowd ultimately decides what's made, delivered and consumed.

If this sounds like futurology, consider how the crowd could currently be contributing to your business.

Need a presentation produced, questions for your focus group, an SEO action plan for your website?  Look no further than  This is collaboration in action.  Those with the skills offer their services for a small fee, usually $5, and hey presto that irksome little task that's been loitering on your to-do list since the start of the year, has been delegated to a safe pair of hands to complete.

Need a freelance copywriter, project manager or other short term team member then could be the answer and there are any number of similar services worldwide.

If you're lucky enough to be a New York dweller, your office needs by the hour/day/week, could be met by, without any of the search, overhead or relocation delays.  

It may seem a bit of a hippie throwback, but with an ever increasing global population, scarce resources and short attention spans, it's the obvious way ahead.

No doubt the lawyers are already worrying about what this means for intellectual property, copyright etc but for the rest of us, a brave new world of possibility awaits.

Bring it on.

Friday, 11 July 2014

3 lessons in the art of selling from Kickstarter

I have a confession.

I think I'm hooked on funding Kickstarter projects .

It started innocently enough, backing Seth Godin (a noted giant of the marketing world).  I love his work, there was no risk, it was a win win. Then came Duncan Shotton and his glorious rainbow pencils and that was the start of the slippery slope.  I joined the mailing list and now have my credit card on standby, as the ‘Projects We Love’ email drops into my inbox.

How did this happen?  Why do these serial entrepreneurs wield such power?

Searching through those who make and often exceed their targets, the commonalities are clear.

1. They have personality (in spades)

People buy from people - it's the age old mantra.  That's why kickstarters have to present their ideas via video.  According to a new Cisco report, by 2018 over 75% of all traffic will be video based, proving that people really do have to see to believe.

Whether you've heard of the product or not, those who succeed, use their screen debut to ooze personality.  They help us decide to take the risk and make that pledge, by telling a story, from how the idea began, to their vision for the future.  They know that having the viewer trust that they can deliver on their promises, is the only way to get them to press the big green button. As an aside, what a great idea to make the backing button green - green for go, green for good and fresh and new, you get the idea.

2. They make us part of the process

Selling ideas is really about finding or even building a community who want to buy them. That's why marketing departments spend large portions of their budget on generating content to attract and retain relevant audiences. Kickstarter takes this to extremes, adding the emotional factor, that without your funding, this fabulous, new, ‘must have’ will never reach the market.  Feel the pressure?

Here, at the click of a button, a community is born.  Every funder feels like a hero for getting the project out of its starting blocks.  We see that a number of other backers have endorsed what is now, our idea, of a great project. We feel part of something - a secret group of early adopters with a vested monetary interest in success and that makes us care, share and talk about each venture, as though it were our own. Brilliant.

3. They test ideas and listen for feedback

For the price of a two minute video, entrepreneurs can test their audience, to see if there is enough interest to make their idea a viable business.  If it bombs and/or there are no pledges, it's back to the drawing board, without having spent their life savings on marketing and advertising.  TeamYoga is a great example of this.  Maybe there isn't a market for poseable toys just yet, but could that be because not enough children are doing yoga? What could they do to encourage this market?  Their kickstarter investment may have saved them from financial disaster or even inspired them afresh to take a new approach.  Either way, it was worth the broadcast.

So, if you find yourself hovering over that big green button, please get in touch.  We can form a support group.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Marketing tips from unlikely sources - children

How do you pick up a swan?

Do you remember that wiggly thing that you jump over at school, can we get one?

Can a blackbird kill you?  No.  Even if it had a drill?

Oh the random questions my children ask.

Contemplating this mornings round of curiosity, I was struck by how visually descriptive children often are.  They want you to ‘see’ what they're talking about, using language which helps you build a picture in your mind.

As a marketer I often advise my clients to write in pictures as a way of drawing the reader into the story that's unfolding.

Why tell, when you could announce, shout, whisper, confess, leak or reveal.

Instead of encouraging your customers to get something, why not offer the chance to seize, pluck, grab, earn or land.

Analogies are another great way of adding imagery to your communications, helping you to explain and position your brand in an easily recognisable way.  In the UK, people regularly use phrases such as ‘fish out of water’ and ‘quiet as a mouse’, but every country will have it's own variations on this theme.

So, next time you're writing copy, challenge yourself to use language which helps your reader to immediately identify with you, or should I say, publish a blueprint your readers can easily follow.

Be seen as well as heard.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Great advertising must tick these marketing boxes

How many adverts have you been exposed to today?   How many do you remember?

As a marketer, I'm pre programmed to read messaging, ever hopeful of finding a pearl in the sea of mediocrity (a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean).  

This week I was rewarded for not automatically hitting the pause button as soon as the ad break started, by a rather unexpected source of inspiration - Wall's sausages.  Watch below.

This is great advertising because it ticks so many marketing boxes.

1. Engage your audience

The first job of every marketer is to grab the attention of those who are likely to buy the product and encourage them to keep reading, watching and finding out more.  Only then, can any selling begin.  Cue cheeky chappy voice over, suburban setting and all important wallsie outfits.  Two seconds in and we're hooked.

2. Tell an authentic story

This ad pitches the Wall's brand as the everyday choice.  In under a minute it depicts seven easily recognisable characters, (uk based because that's the target market).  Like a mini soap opera, each personality type is dressed in the all important wallsie, uniting them in the brand and entertaining the viewer in the process.  Genius.

3. Opens infinite channels of communication

Now that we're all clammering to join the wallsie set, Wall's have a fabulous opportunity to use this concept as a real product - linking on and offline marketing.  Think tradeshows, competitions, social media, blogs etc.  A Pinterest page of sausage photos has limited appeal, but the wallsie has endless possibilities.
Giving the old onesie trend a new twist, encourages audiences to think of Wall's as a brand that understands what makes people happy.  Wall's becomes a friendly, down to earth, good spending decision, rather than a typical food manufacturer and to show your appreciation you can now join the community on Facebook, Twitter etc (ideally while wearing your wallsie).

4. Differentiation from the competition

Name three sausage manufacturers?  Most people would be struggling to answer, but in this advert, Wall's have given viewers a reason to remember them.  Their storytelling and entertaining visuals, make sure the audience is rewarded for their watching time and links the brand with a feel good factor, worth talking about.  As a hook for the brand, the wallsie now provides instant recognition and differentiates them from the competition at the same time - pleasing investors and buyers alike.

5.  Great content sells

People buy from people and by creating a personality around the Wall's brand, this ad makes sure they're top of mind the next time you're shopping.  Great content makes the product desirable and accessible to the audience, by building emotion and trust.  Getting your customers sharing the message on your behalf, (over 7,000 viewers on youtube in its first week of posting) is marketing gold.

So, will I be rushing out to buy Wall's sausages?  At this point I should probably confess to being a vegetarian, but I've written this post in appreciation, so in my own little way I'm contributing to their empire.

Has any great marketing grabbed your attention this week?

Friday, 9 May 2014

What's your story? 3 hints to help you create brand buzz

Once upon a time, all a brand needed was a website, a shiny corporate brochure and a stand by the food concessions at the local trade show. This trinity reassured shoppers that you were a legitimate business and helped them to trust you enough to part with their hard earned cash. But that was many moons ago. Now content, (anything you create or share to publicize who you are and what you do), is king and brands need a personality. Eek!

So, what's your story?

Hint 1 - Your story is NOT about you

Yes it should convey what you stand for and what makes you unique, but it has to be communicated in a way that shows what you do for your customers. It's all about them. Your aim is to make your audience care. Drive empathy, inspire them, build an emotional connection. These are the things that prompt action and create a sense of urgency about the sale. Dollar Shave Club is a great example of storytelling in action (

Hint 2 - Your story needs to resonate with your audience

It's not just what you say, it's how you say it and where you post it too. Think about the audiences you're trying to reach and craft your content to match their lifestyles. Portray your brand as the antidote to their problem, using language they would typically use, in a format which will be most appealing to them.

The devil really is in the detail, so make sure your imagery, typography, colours and layout attract and are suitable for the channels you're using. Example? A funky young sunglass company, based in New York, realised that their audience couldn't always wait for even next day delivery and so the vending machine for sunglasses was born

Hint 3 - Start with a big idea, then get layering

Red bull make an energy drink to perk you up faster than coffee, but rather than dwell on the ingredients or the recyclable packaging, they focused on what their customers might do in their new caffeine fuelled state. The resultant stories have made this brand synonymous with extreme sport and daredevil antics. This little Austrian company, which used to sell drinks, is now a TV, record and radio producer, sports agent, game maker, app developer, events creator and so much more - worldwide. Red bull drinkers supply much of the content directly to the company. No wonder they've sold over 40 billion cans of fizz. Watch their storytelling below and tell me you don't feel inspired.

Now, grab a blank sheet of paper and get answering
  • who are we?
  • what are we not?
  • who would we like to be?
  • which qualities do we want to be known for?
  • who would find us most useful/valuable?
  • what do they need to know about us?
  • what's the best way to tell them?
Go on. Create your story.

Friday, 28 March 2014

How human is your organisation?

Nowadays we expect organisations to act like people.  The faceless corporation is long gone and even the dullest product line now needs to ‘meaningfully engage’ with it's public. Oh the pressure.

So how human is your company?

If your brand were a person, would you be attracted to it?

If a customer could only see your logo, would they recognise who you are and what you do?

With the global adoption of social media and the recognition that people buy from people, successful companies are working hard to show their personalities, build emotion and convey the most appealing, human traits.  For example ...

Virgin Atlantic 'little red'

Ace hotel, London


Understanding the lifestyle of your audience is key, as you consider the humanity of your business. Remember your aim is to appeal to your target customer, which is different from trying to please everyone. Think about what emotions you're trying to convey and how they fit with your ideal customers view of the world.

Does your company have a virtual smiley face?  Make it easy for customers to choose your brand over the alternatives available and be memorable for all the right reasons and the customers will follow.

Care to share your favourite brand and why?

Friday, 21 March 2014

More haste, less speed for Marketers - 3 easy steps

According to Benjamin Franklin “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.  He may well have been talking about a marketer or indeed a whole marketing department.

Though I work with organisations of all shapes and sizes, in this age of constant communication, I've come to the conclusion, that all marketing departments now fall into one of three categories of ‘rushed’.

Treadmill rush
These groups are driven by fear.  They feel they can't afford to switch off in case they fall behind.  That risk of not being able to catch up again, means that they're likely to be the only ones with 20 days holiday still to take on the last day of the year.  Other symptoms include the compulsion to reply to an email that woke them up at 3am.

To do list rush
It might be an excel spreadsheet, a computer monitor smothered in post it notes or a series of panoramic white boards ramping up the pressure.  To do list marketers are driven by achievement, although they never really stop to enjoy their success because there is always something to add to the list and there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything.

Put out the fires rush
I recently spoke to a head of marketing, who had brilliant ideas for their product line but never got round to implementing any of them, because of all the urgent things which ate the well meaning hours of each day. Such marketers are driven by the need to control, though their hurry blinds them from making any real progress. Sound familiar?

In truth we all have our moments in each camp.  We won't stop being busy people, but we can take steps to make sure our efforts are more fruitful.

Know what you're trying to achieve by understanding what success looks like in your company

Is it a certain number of leads by the end of the quarter, a capacity crowd at your next webinar, a 100% positive rating on ebay?  Set goals for your marketing so the rest of your business understands your contribution. This also helps justify your time and budget spend, when multiple projects are competing for your attention. If you aim at nothing, you're bound to hit it.

Make time to stay up to date

There's something new to learn every day, but the good news is we're all struggling with the same volume of content (email, social media, press, events etc.) and no-one knows everything.  Set up google alerts for those terms and phrases you really need to stay on top of. Log articles to your reading list (that little pair of glasses icon on your dashboard). Bookmark pages and download ebooks.  Anything that helps you self educate, will make you feel more confident and efficient.

Make marketing a business driver not a cost centre

What are your company objectives this year, or even this quarter? Measuring your marketing so that you can show how you're supporting the overall organisation, helps colleagues and customers alike.  Every social media tool now comes with analytics and even the simplest website can provide a host of metrics. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it, so take control and see where your time is best spent.

If you're still struggling, remember Neil Young once sang ‘it's better to burn out than fade away’. Perhaps he was a closet marketer?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The 2 minute tool that positively shapes your brand perception

Perception is 99% reality

Since waking up today, I bet you've judged strangers, chosen one brand over another, skimmed your favourite website and ignored at least one email. Why? We humans are a fussy bunch, each with our own opinions, built on our life experiences to date, or maybe just what side of the bed you got out of this morning.

We've made up our minds, don't confuse us with the facts

We rarely question why we buy one product over another or what makes us take the risk on something new.  Companies spend millions every day, building brands that make us feel something and trying to influence our spending decisions in their favour.  They know that customer perception can make or break their business, but it's easy for employees to forget they are the brand when they attend meetings, make presentations or populate that twitter feed.

Know the brand, be the brand

The 21 minute video above, adds science to the universal truth, that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I must admit that I watched it with some scepticism at first, but having tried it myself and referred it to several friends, I'm now convinced that Amy Cuddy is onto something. In this video, Amy shows that our body language not only influences others, but can also affect how we see ourselves and that's the revelation.

Do you meet my needs?

As we make our daily choices, we often weigh up the pros and cons based on what we believe to be true.  So, next time you want to influence someones decision about your brand, consider how two minutes of posturing could change your outlook and therefore your success. 

Go on, nobody is looking ...