Tag: brands

Do you know your QR from your AR?

It can be a challenge when you work within the media industry, not least because things are changing so quickly – online and in print, digital and viral, integrated messaging and social media platforms – it’s all to take into account when you are coming up with brand plans for clients and that’s even before you decide who is responsible for doing what.

Although we don’t profess to be all things to all people, we are a creative agency and we will make recommendations knowing that it isn’t our team who will bring them to life – or bill at the end of the month. The reason we do this is because if we genuinely feel an idea will meet with the brands objectives we will suggest it – and we all know that no idea is a bad idea!

Another reason we try to go beyond the boundaries of being a traditional PR agency is that we are consumers ourselves and we understand that we, as others, expect brands to want to engage with us, to offer us things for free or deliver great promotions that save us time and money.

The more that a brand invests in effectively communicating with its customers the more they are seen to care and with that greater loyalty and brand awareness is achieved – or that’s the general idea. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that and some brands get it spectacularly wrong, while others can seem to do no wrong.

When reading some trade publications recently in the office, Hannah pointed out some relatively new technology which would allow a brand to bring an advert or promotion to life at the touch of a button. Basically you download an app called Blippar or Aurasma Lite and then that technology allows you to view adverts and promotions using AR codes – or image recognition as it is also termed.

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of QR (quick response) codes, which I felt were basically a mechanic to link to websites and more often than not promotions pages, so this was never going to immediately appeal. What I find myself asking is if anyone will actually be bothered enough to go to the trouble of downloading this technology in the first place, never mind then going to the further trouble of scanning the AR codes to see what brands are doing to engage with them beyond the printed promotion.

BUT on reading through further articles about the technology it has certainly made us think. Imagine if you could encourage people to engage with your brand through an online tool and if you could really bring that brand to life – suddenly an integrated campaign could take shape in front of your very eyes. It could literally jump off the shelf. How exciting would that be!

We aren’t a digital agency but we do work with social media content and with other likeminded agencies to create campaigns that leave a lasting impression and I have to admit that we have spoken to a few brands already about AR and its possible benefits and pitfalls. As an evolution from QR codes it’s fair to say that they are likely to become redundant but if there is something all the more impressive, bigger and better to take its place then I’m sat up and listening.

I would be really interested to hear what others think about it? Is it a fad or something that will change the way that brands interact with their customers forever? Is this a turning point that will see us all understanding our Blippar from our Aurasma and our QR from our AR?

It’s certainly one to watch and I can’t wait to see which brands really embrace the technology to create rich content that can be shared and genuinely meet with expectations, while more importantly achieving brand objectives.

Why do big businesses fail?

I have long pondered this question and have come to the conclusion that it is far too simple to blame everything on the banks and the government. I’m not saying they are blameless, after many a revelation over the past couple of years that would be silly, but there has to be more to it than this.

Then I got thinking about the businesses that I was surprised to see go into administration; Woolworths, Barratts, GAME and La Senza to name a small handful. The sad part about this list is that you could go on all day and it isn’t exclusive to big brands, but to businesses of all sizes across all sectors.

It’s no longer shocking to hear that a business has called in the administrators, it’s almost considered to be ‘a sign of the times’ but I think we all need to give ourselves a bit of a shake. The basic principles of running a business haven’t changed – you need to supply a product or service that people want to buy and can pay for.

The problem is that even this isn’t enough and I think that this is where brands are getting it wrong. They concentrate so hard on securing the funding for a business that they forget to even consider how they are going to position their brand and how they plan to approach communicating and engaging with prospects and customers.

Rather than building a brand they build a funding model, which lacks substance. If people don’t understand what you are offering and what products you can supply them with then you have no business at all.

People are time poor and they are not going to ask the question or come looking for you as they perhaps once would. You have to take the information to them and package it so that it is easy to understand, while injecting some personality to create a point of difference from your competitors.

Big brands don’t engage with agencies for fun – they want to make sure that their communications reach the largest and most relevant audience possible and at the most basic level this goes back to getting your message right in the first place and then bringing it to life.

Perhaps this is why Woolworths was one of the first to go – other than Pick and Mix and Ladybird clothing they more of less just sold ‘stuff’ and it was hit and miss if what you wanted would be in there – it was often quicker and easier to go to Argos.

As another example, Barratts did nothing to change the consumer perception of them being a brand for old people and so failed to attract a younger audience, who after all would in time become their customers of the future.

A brand that I think has worked hard and has started to see the benefits of an effective communications strategy is Burberry. Needless to say they haven’t always benefited from the associations that have been made between their clothing and the type of person who is expected to wear them – however that has changed over recent years and they have developed a strategy to build brand loyalty and maintain their business as a leading fashion brand with credibility.

So, let’s just watch this space. It will be interesting to see if there is an obvious and direct correlation between businesses that have no communications strategy in place and those that go into administration by the end of the year.

If I were a gambling women I would guess that the odds for continued success would be stacked in favour of those who have a clear route to market, a defined target audience, creative ideas that will engage with consumers, and depending on what type of business they have, encourage trial before purchase.

If you have a business then why not put it to the test – ask five of your family, friends or even customers to explain what your company does, why you differ from others and if relevant what your last marketing campaign / promotion was. If they don’t know then is it likely anyone else will?

Certainly food for thought.

Social media, editorial or advertising – where’s the line?

Ok, I don’t mind saying that I am confused. There was a recent story in The Drum which reported that an Australian court had ruled that comments posted on a facebook advertisements should themselves be considered advertisements – are you keeping up? That means that the advertiser, in this case Smirnoff, would be held responsible for the comments of others.

So basically a person’s comment is no longer considered editorial, despite the fact that it is opinion led and is not necessarily promoted or endorsed by a given brand in any way. It is now, as per Australian law, advertising – although not paid for! Confused? Yes, me too.

This is where the lines with social media start to blur and real confusion creates misunderstanding and concern over whether brands should even consider using online tools for promotion. Many business owners I come across consider it to be too much like hard work and they literally close a door on it altogether.

We work with a number of brands who have active social media profiles from MAOAM who have more than 600,000 likes on their Facebook page and more than 1,000 followers on twitter to Pom-Bear who have 30,000 likes on Facebook. We monitor the pages and update with posts that are relevant to each brand and their audience.

Some people argue that the brand should manage this internally but as we work so closely with our clients it becomes almost irrelevant. We work with them to engage with consumers and to ensure that when questions are asked they are answered appropriately using the correct tone of voice and approach – every client is different so it is essential that we get this right.

Obviously we are unable to monitor a brand page all day, everyday and so on occasion (although very rarely) someone will put up a post which we would deem to be unreasonable. We always remove these posts – more to ensure that others are not offended than anything else but sometimes it may be a couple of hours before we get to them.

With this new ‘law’ the brands we work for would be held accountable for the comments of others and would be liable for any action that was taken as a result of them. Thankfully a further story was issued by the Drum to say that the ASA were not considering reviewing the policy in relation to brand social media comments in the UK but it does beg the question how long will it be before this is considered.

Personally I think this is balmy. The whole idea of social media is to encourage comments and opinion from a mass audience and admittedly some people abuse that but then some people aren’t particularly nice when you meet them in the street, it doesn’t mean they are doing something which will be liable.

What does everyone else think? Should a brand be held liable for the comments of others whether promotional or otherwise? And if this is the case then should social media become another advertising medium, which does not accept editorial, and be done with it.

 

Because the client says so

People think that working with so many clients in such a diverse range of sectors would be difficult but it isn’t as long as you understand their business, communications strategy and wider brand plan. It’s important to get to know their business inside and out in order to put together recommendations that will deliver on objectives.

In my opinion too many PR agencies get caught up in trying to pull the next big stunt without looking at the bigger picture. How will that campaign have any longevity and what will happen once you have secured the column inches. How could it work as a theme that could be delivered in phases so that you get more than one opportunity to speak to the media and greater retention of message?

At Open Communications we work with our clients to create campaigns that grab attention, while also meeting with expectations and delivering on objectives. Anyone can make unrealistic suggestions or over promise on ideas that simply won’t deliver but we choose not to be like that.

One principle that we have employed from day one is to be honest and open. We don’t do something because the clients says so and we are more than willing to challenge an idea if we think it is to the benefit of the client and their brand and business.

As a small agency our reputation is literally our business and we are not prepared to go along with something for the sake of banking some cash. We are however more than prepared to work with our clients to come up with ideas that can improve their brand awareness, engage with their consumers and impact on their bottom line.

I think this is why I enjoy working at Open, not least because I was part of the partnership that set the company up and am therefore completely biased, but more so because we work WITH our clients and not for them. This approach, as simple as it sounds, has led to us sharing long term relationships with the brands we work with and becoming an extension of their teams.

When launching the business we decided that if someone was going to employ us as the experts we are then they deserve the benefit of our experience, recommendations and knowledge. There is no point in nodding politely and then when it comes to reviewing an activity having the embarrassment of saying that you knew it wouldn’t work in the first place but just couldn’t say anything.

I wrote a blog recently about being from Yorkshire and calling a spade a shovel and once again I think this lesson has served me well. If you are honest with people and you work with them to come up with ideas and plans that work you can all share in the results. Otherwise you are just another agency, nodding politely at another client, who will be looking to replace you once your latest stunt is complete.

Can you weather proof your marketing?

You can’t really say that we’ve had a summer time yet, despite it being mid-July, in fact it feels more like some balmy extended winter. The only glimpse of sun we have had in the UK has been a random day here and there or if we really push it maybe a week.

The problem isn’t just flooding to houses and roads, burst river banks and floating cars, it goes far beyond that.  We work with a range of clients who rely on us to put together PR strategies and plans which meet with their briefs and deliver results, while achieving objectives. Not always as simple as it sounds.

As a PR and marketing communications agency, we do not profess to be all things to all people but we are a creative team and we come up with a range of ideas that the client can then choose from. Sometimes these ideas go beyond PR and include sampling, experiential and even, on occasion, suggestions for advertising campaigns or retailer engagement.

Working in this way allows us to put recommendations forward that we feel will work for the client and better still deliver a return on investment. We know that one theme can create an integrated approach, which can then be used in a number of different ways to achieve results. We also know that the ideas we propose have longevity, which can build over time, and ultimately create retention of key messages throughout the campaign period.

It would be unfair of us to suggest that we always come up with the ideas, as we work with a range of agencies and benefit from their insight and experience.  In order to make this approach work as well as it can, we hold agency days where all agencies come together and share their thoughts in order to agree the best ideas and creative routes, which are able to translate across disciplines.

So what has all this got to do with the weather?

This ‘summer’ has proven that an integrated approach to marketing and PR is absolutely essential. We have heard about the number of events that have been cancelled or rescheduled, which has impacted on sampling opportunities, sponsorship and outdoor activities.

There is nothing you can do about the rain, so in order to weather proof your marketing, by having a multi discipline approach, when one recommendation cannot be implemented as expected another can come into play, meaning a brand can have a contingency in place that will still deliver a return and build on the campaign theme.

As an example, if an activity cannot go ahead, PR activity can continue with features and press releases distributed to the media, sampling activity can take place in doors and advertising on cinema screens can reach an audience that are trying their best to get away from the wet weather.

I’m sure we are all praying for some more sunshine – and I don’t want to be the one to dismiss the fact that we may just get a summer – but on the basis that we do get more wet weather, we would advise that brands consider how they can work smarter to ensure they have a contingency in place.

The first step is to choose an agency that doesn’t simply look at quirky ideas that hit the headlines one minute and are lost the next or those who feel that winning an industry award makes for best practice – but an agency that delivers consistent results with the brand and business objectives in mind, while taking into account their disciplines and those of others.

The Dragon’s Den Effect

Dragon’s Den is one of few business ‘reality’ television programmes that I have continued to enjoy watching. It is informative and although I often feel some of the comments are unfair and a little insensitive it does give the viewer an insight into how it is to own a business – people don’t walk around on egg shells and they don’t give you ‘owt for nowt’.

I quite like the mix of Dragon’s in the Den now and I really admire and respect most of them, particularly as they have come from nothing. What always gets me is that the people who choose to feature on the show know what it is all about and they understand their product or service inside out.

They have real passion, energy and excitement by what they are doing, selling or making. Then they stand in front of these entrepreneurs – who have a wealth of knowledge that you could tap into – and ask for a hand out. Now here’s the bit… how many times have you heard people ask for money to support marketing?

It is almost always the case. If it isn’t suggested as the reason that the whole sum is required, it is in there somewhere. So why do people struggle with marketing budgets so much? What makes them think that marketing is so expensive in the first place? And why go to a leading entrepreneur so that they can pass you on to their preferred PR or marketing agency?

There is no doubt that marketing and effective communication are an essential element to a business strategy and the two should be absolutely aligned with objectives, but why do these entrepreneurs find it so difficult? I have decided to call it the ‘Dragon’s Den Effect’.

It’s a nasty heritage of stories which include bad advice and burnt fingers.

Business ‘A’ goes to big agency ‘B’, they are blown away with pretty pictures, they receive a catchy ‘logo’ and perhaps a quirky strap line, they then receive a big bill and that’s that. Job done. No questions asked. No further forward with a strategy – but you have a nice logo!

Now I genuinely think that times have changed, particularly since the last recession. It almost seems that it is becoming the trend to rely on smaller agencies that are genuinely doing great things. Not only are they often more cost effective but they also (in my experience) care more about their clients – irrelevant of size or budget.

You don’t have to work in a ‘full service’ agency to get the best – just choose them. You get to handpick the very best designers, copy writers, PR people and brand managers. Some agencies will tell you this takes time and is difficult to manage but I disagree – better to have a collective of the best, who can work together, than the internal politics that come from a big agency; who gets what budgets, who is first point of contact for the client and who takes the glory when it goes well or handles the fall out when things go wrong?

So next time you come across a business who is going through the ‘Dragon’s Den Effect’ just ask them what they are doing about it. If the answer is keeping their head down and hoping for the best then I’m afraid to say that ‘I’m out’.

However if they want to chat about how to get excited by their business and put in place some excellent PR and communication campaigns, which meet with objectives and manage reputation – well, that’s a different story altogether. I’m not just in, I’m here and waiting in the den.