Tag: marketing


11.10.14 Astonish 2

Ok, we know the headline is a little cheesy but you can’t blame us with such exciting news to share. Believe me, corks would be popping if we were your typical champagne quaffing agency… but then we’d get nothing done, so we’ll keep it to a blog and a few cheeky team drinks.

So, back to business, we are really excited to announce that here at Open Communications we have added a further client to our extensive portfolio following our appointment as preferred lead PR and marketing communications agency for Astonish, the UK top ten cleaning brand.

We will be working with another local team, Statement, to devise and implement an annual communications and social media plan for the business focusing on engagement, reach and penetration into households throughout the country. Creative is well underway for a series of campaigns that will uplift activity throughout the next twelve months with the objective to raise the profile of the brand and reinforce its strong heritage and cruelty free credentials, along with its value for money and quality proposition.

We are always keen to share our news – it would be strange for a PR agency not to – and more so the feedback from our clients.

Head of Marketing for Astonish Cleaning Products, Katy Clark said: “We have big plans for Astonish over the next twelve months and beyond; as a result we wanted to work with agencies that would share our passion for our product range. We have some great news and exciting plans to share and we know that Open Comms and Statement will assist us in doing just that.”

Astonish is a successful, ambitious and growing brand. As a British manufacturer with a rich heritage we are very excited to be working with the team to meet with their objectives. Astonish is a great addition to our growing portfolio of clients that require a full PR programme of activity to cover consumer, trade, corporate and social media support. It’s great to see that once again our straight talking, realistic approach to the brief meant that we could hit the ground running and get to work.

Plans are underway for the launch of the first creative campaign for the brand, which will focus on its success to date and will rely on social media, managed content, corporate, consumer and trade PR activity. Watch this space, there is lots of exciting news to share from Astonish and we hope to do a sparkling job for them! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Why guidelines can be a lifeline

It never fails to amuse me when people say that they have all of their marketing under control and whip out a document with ‘BRAND GUIDELINES’ proudly displayed across the front. What people don’t seem to appreciate is that even though having brand guidelines is a good starting point, it does not always take into account the bigger picture.

As an example, if someone picks up your brand guidelines document it is likely to explain how your logo or strap line should be displayed. It is not however as likely to go into the detail about the tone of voice you should use when communicating about your brand or the factors you should take into account when using social media.

You see, brand guidelines are one thing but communications guidelines are quite another. The two do and should work hand-in-hand but very rarely are they proudly displayed together.

I recently hosted a strategy session with a local artistic contemporary photographer – Nigel Tooby – who is building his brand. In addition to understanding the importance and significance of how he projects his image, he was also more than aware of the need to develop his communications strategy.

I was pleased that as a creative, Nigel had taken the time to consider how he communicates effectively with his audiences. Many companies and even big businesses and corporations focus on their branding but not on their marketing communications.

A communications strategy should support the business objectives, making it a fundamental part of a company’s growth potential. Taking the time to consider the personality of your business, the tone of voice you use, a positioning statement and longer term aspirations and goals can be the difference between success and so, so.

I’m not sure whether this business has gone through a communications strategy session or if they have specific guidelines for their engagement but Yorkshire Tea do a great job of reinforcing their personality in all that they do. As well as being consistent across mediums, they are also friendly and funny (which is not easy!).

There are lots of other brands who get it right but many that seem to neglect their marketing communications in favour of ‘bigger things’ that command significantly higher budgets. I find it endlessly infuriating that the foundations of a company are discarded due to cost – we can all put our prices up but as specialists we also deliver a professional service and this should be recognised.

My advice would be to start with the basics. Get your positioning and messaging right and then everything else will follow – don’t skip to the branding because you think it’s more exciting; all that happens is that your audience will see a disconnect between the image your project and the personality you portray and that certainly won’t give you the return on investment you’re looking for.

3D printing, coming to a home near you


For those of you who read my blog about the Buy Yorkshire Conferenceyou will know that some of the evolutionary technologies discussed at the event really got me thinking about the future, and in particular about the many opportunities for innovation that will be created by 3D printing.

The thoughts from the event were that although these technologies, including 3D print, were great, they were still some way off being given approval for general release, so you will understand my excitement when I find that as reported in The Drum yesterday, Maplin have launched a machine known as the K8200 kit that can be purchased by the general public.

Now, in most instances this is the point where we have to take a step back and remember that although it is available that doesn’t mean that it is affordable however Maplin have said that the machine takes up to 10 hours to construct, which in turns lowers its cost, and can create any plastic model within 30 minutes, fitting to its scale of 20cm3. The idea over time is that children will be playing with this rather than computer games!

Never mind the children, what about agencies? Doesn’t this present the opportunity to be even more creative and to make scale model products to show the client rather than presenting pretty pictures? I’m not sure how realistic this is but it’s got to get you thinking, right?

How exciting would it be to show off your 3D printer by creating unique products for a campaign. I wonder how long it will be before we move on from ‘printing’ with plastic and start to use other materials. Could you 3D print something that was edible on a mass scale for example – now that would be impressive.

It will be interesting to see how many people make the purchase and if the company’s theories are correct. I know what I would be putting on my Christmas list if I had one.


Can interactive print really deliver?


Working with a print and document management company and an international print manager we are always looking for examples of best practice when it comes to direct mail or marketing materials. Not only do we look for good quality imagery and interesting formats but also pieces that go above and beyond to really capture the attention of the audience.


Interactive print is a bit of a buzz word within the industry at the moment, with lots of companies recognising the need to integrate digital and print together in order to create the necessary impact, which will encourage the recipient to open the piece and most importantly read it.


As QR codes and now AR codes and blippar, plus other apps, become second nature with agencies and consumers it goes without saying that they need to be considered when brands are planning their next marketing campaign, launch or project.


What has changed recently is clients attitudes towards apps; long gone are the days where we can test and measure an idea, now is the time that these things have to deliver a return on investment just like everything else. Pretty pictures are all well and good but if your exploding fruit or branded game doesn’t encourage purchase then you have to question what the point was – did it meet with objectives? Probably not.


I was really surprised recently when my brother gave me what looked like a hard backed booklet from Auto Trader. He works within this industry and often comments that he receives lots of promotional emails that he just simply doesn’t get chance (nor has the desire) to open and read.


As an advertiser with Auto Trader magazine my brother had received this particular piece and thought that it was quite impressive and I have to agree, it is. The concept is simple, it’s a direct mail piece which says ‘Your buyers are online, are you…..?’. When you open the piece there is an image of a smart phone which suddenly comes to life and plays a video showing the benefits to advertising in Auto Trader along with a timeline of how the business has changed over the years.


What Auto Trader have managed to do with this piece is to create intrigue, harness interest and engage with the end user, a prospect and a customer, better still they have encouraged both myself and my brother to share the piece and tell others about it, further extending the audience reach.


This piece is a real example of how print and digital can work together to make a communication stronger. There is absolutely no way that I would have looked twice at this if it hadn’t been so well executed.


I have included a short video of how the piece works as I honestly do think that many marketing agencies could take some learnings from the simple concept through to delivery of this piece.


Please do share your own examples of excellent direct marketing and mail campaigns with us. Can anyone top this quirky campaign or have you even seen better examples that you can showcase?


Have you got the power?

It doesn’t matter whether you are the very best widget seller in the world, or that you can make 100 cold calls an hour, if you haven’t got the power then your business simply won’t work. So what is the power? Well, in simple terms it is your reputation.


When you think about it PR and marketing aren’t rocket science but what they are is powerful tools that can take your business from good to great. We often speak to businesses who say that they haven’t got the time to manage their communications because they are too busy doing the day job.


Thankfully our clients are able to rely on us to make sure that people know all about them and the products and services they offer but what about the others?


If you take a step back and think about the purpose of effective business communications – whether digital, written or spoken – the idea is that you give people the information that they need to form an impression. What you need to make sure is that this is the right impression and that you appeal to prospects. In order to do that the fundamental requirement is to be liked.


Having a great service is just the start when you work in any organisation what’s more important is that you get on with your clients and you take the time to communicate with them and share your innovations, ideas and successes. Pass them the power.


People don’t come knocking on your door just because – they need that push to do so. PR allows a business to manage its reputation, which is questionably the most important asset of any company of any size.


As an example if you are scared of flying, as I am, then you wouldn’t be comfortable booking a flight with an airline you had never heard of but if you have seen and even engaged with a brand that you have chosen to soar through the skies at 37,000 feet with you feel more comfortable. The truth is that these businesses invest in PR and marketing, which in turn leads to credibility and trust that means people are more likely to book with them as opposed to an alternative.


This principle can be applied to any business of any size.   


Take Open Communications, we are not the biggest PR agency but we have a portfolio of fantastic businesses that we work with and this is because when we launched in 2008 we were adamant that we would manage our own PR. Although it sounds strange you would be surprised at how many agencies can’t find the time to communicate with their clients and prospects.


As a result of the PR that we do for Open, and the relationships that we have with our clients, 80% of our new business comes from recommendation. We know that through effective communication, which includes the blog, press releases, sponsorship and relationships we are giving our own business the power.


The values of our business are relatively simple; what you see is what you get, we are straight talking and we do the job and do it well. All of our clients understand how we work and because we manage our own reputation, as well as that of our customers, we have been able to grow and develop over the last five years.


Building relationships is essential to the success of any organisation and that starts with word of mouth, so make sure that when people talk about your business they are conveying your key messages and that you are giving them the power that they need to become your next best advocate.

Making the augmented a reality

Ok, I confess, I don’t really ‘get’ a lot of the campaigns which are relying on AR codes to bring them to life. I understand that AR codes mean that agencies can be more inventive and creative but I struggle with what that brings to the brand and consumer experience.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the technology is amazing and yet another step towards a world where make believe and reality collide – and this is my point.

Here’s an example, I walk into a supermarket and pick up a product. I scan the AR code and a flashy (and admittedly impressive) animation comes to life in front of my eyes. WOW. I then look at the prices of the products, pick the cheapest – usually the one on offer – and leave.

I will have no greater brand loyalty to the company who have spent thousands on a campaign that uses an AR code because they haven’t given me any reason to do so. I haven’t derived any added value from that animation. I would think it was impressive and probably tell people at work – because I work in PR – but otherwise I wouldn’t think about it again until I read about it in the marketing industry trade press.

This is where I am going to completely contradict myself, well kind of, because Tesco have nailed it. Hannah passed on an example of a campaign using AR codes which is simple, impressive and brings the campaign into the real world, encouraging consumers to engage and most importantly come back time and time again.

The campaign uses an association between Tesco and Iron Man 3. The idea is that shoppers can download a free iOS or Android app, which will allow them to generate an image of themselves wearing the Iron Man armour… now here’s the impressive part. They can then scan Iron Man point of sale in store to ‘unlock’ a further six suits with each showcasing a new weapon that users can fire!

I challenge anyone not to get excited by this app. Come on! Admittedly you will need to be accompanied by a boy aged between around 6 – 12 (the target audience for the campaign) in order for it not to look odd, and remember to seem suitably impressed but not show just how much when you’re ‘shooting’ people in store. I can already see my nephew cringing as I make the noises that accompany my new armour… well, it has to be done.

Taking a digital campaign and putting it into the real world is exactly what a truly integrated campaign is all about and I think this example gives the consumer an experience, while delivering for the client – in this case Tesco.

I have seen other examples of AR codes which take you to more information about a product, which is useful but not overtly exciting – however if it meets with the objective and is what the brands target audience would want then it works and it works far better than a flashy animation.

I think that perhaps we (agencies working for brands) need to think beyond the exciting pretty pictures and think more about the real life benefits of these campaigns. Only then will we start to see real value and results from the work that we do and when clients’ see results they want more and with more comes longer term relationships.

We may all get some column inches in the marketing trade press from a campaign that is impressive to our peers but when we sit back it’s the client we should all be thinking about.


I just called to say… Happy Birthday

Did you know that the mobile phone turned 40 today? I find it hard to believe that the little gadget that I lose regularly around the house and office, which seems to be on permanent charge and distracts me throughout the day with a flashing red light is actually older than I am.

It’s also even harder to believe that in just 40 years we have grown so dependent on our phones that when you do leave it at home, or end up in an area of no reception (the Yorkshire Dales is a nightmare for those who care), you feel more like you have lost your link to the outside world and immediately have some paranoid breakdown that everyone you know really is trying to get hold of you all at once!

It’s not just about individuals, businesses now find it increasingly difficult to function without phones particularly since emails have been received through them and don’t even get me started about social media sites. Now that we can tweet, update our status and share videos there is no stopping us – we’re all multi-media, cross channel, integrated marketing experts (easy for me to say hey?)

It’s even come to the point where you can purchase your KFC and McDonalds using your phone – in fact it seems that you can do almost anything if you have the right device and the perfect app. Ironically the one thing people seem to do least is use the gadgets for what it was originally intended – calling people.

I can’t wait to see how the phone continues to change the shape of the marketing industry and assists with bringing campaigns to life through apps, imagery and video. There’s no doubt with new technologies including Blippar that there is scope to be more creative than ever before.

Long may the success and evolution of the phone continue and Happy Birthday mobile phone, wherever you’re hiding!


If you’re appy and you know it


Looks like a young entrepreneur will be laughing all the way to the bank thanks to Yahoo who has reportedly bought his app for an undisclosed sum – said to be around a cool 30 million dollars. What makes this story a little different, other than the fact the businessman in question is only 17 years old and started to write code for apps when he was just 12, is that what he has developed is actually really useful.

Summly condenses news items from the web into small chunks that are then readable on smartphone screens. Not only is this a handy option but you can click through to the full article if you want to read more – in turn driving traffic to the sites of global newspapers and syndication feeds. As a result he has kept news corporations on side by offering them something back and they have therefore agreed to share their content.

This is a fantastic example of a young and already very successful entrepreneur who has developed something that can make life easier for others. The app is clever, business led and will be of use to millions of people throughout the world. Most importantly it is a shining example to others that if they have a good idea they should pursue it.  

However there is another side to this story…

I’m all for championing passion and entrepreneurial spirit, particularly in the next generation of business minds, but what I don’t want to see is a market flooded with unnecessary content that is neither use nor ornament.

What is absolutely fundamental in this story and what led to Nick D’Aloisio’s app attracting the attention of investors and therefore a significant investment into his business is that he thought it through. He was looking for something useful, that would appeal to the masses and he found it.

The same should be said of brands who are investing in digital content. There are lots of QR codes and AR campaigns that are hitting the headlines as the use of smartphones become every day to the majority of consumers however how many of these apps will be used more than once? And what purpose do they serve?

The best apps in relation to campaigns in my view are those that add value – they bring a different dimension to an integrated marketing strategy that builds on a message and delivers it across channels.

To engage with an audience is to keep them coming back and wanting more and this is where I believe that digital and the use of apps, QR and AR codes come into their own. Consumers want more than ever before – they want visual, audio, content rich communication and they want to be involved, or at least feel as if they are.

So before we all put the CEO of Yahoo into our phones on speed dial because we’ve come up with the next big thing, perhaps we need to stop and decide what it is actually brings to those who are going to use it. What will it do, what will it deliver and if the real answer is not a lot maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  

Is it something I said?

It’s been a funny week this week for no other reason than I think people have forgotten how to communicate. I don’t mean that we are all walking around in silence or that our computers have been unplugged and our phones void of network coverage, I mean the basic principles of communication.

Let me start from the beginning. Earlier this week there was a piece in one of the marketing industry trade publications (which will remain nameless) requesting creative ideas from agencies. This is nothing new or unusual. The idea was that agencies would submit their thoughts based on a given and simple brief – that being ‘Britain is s*it’.

I wasn’t remotely impressed by this and felt not only that it was a terribly negative ‘campaign’ but also that it was unnecessary – is this really the best that the UK creative industry has to offer?

On to the second example, where I was reading a blog yesterday afternoon which was littered – and I mean littered – with profanities and vulgar language. Again, this piece appeared on an agency website, which professes to manage the reputations of companies through effectively communicating with their stakeholders – erm? I won’t be knocking on their door any time soon and I’m sure a few others will feel the same.

Final example, I received an email yesterday evening which focused on ‘icon training’. The email was well written and I thought really interesting. The content was engaging and I found myself reading on rather than deleting it until I came face-to-face with the heading ‘take risks and don’t give a f*ck’.

Well, that was that. I deleted the email and all of the interesting facts about it – plus the inevitable sales pitch – were lost. The fact that the person sending it had chosen to dilute the message as a result of including such horrific language made me wonder what they were thinking and why they bothered in the first place.

Now here’s my point. I don’t consider myself prudish and during the course of every day I hold my hands up and admit that I do my fair share of swearing – even banding around words that would make my mother’s eyes water (sorry Mum, I know I’m grounded for the rest of my life!) but these examples are ignorant on a totally different scale.

They are ignorant to the intellect of those receiving these communications. As all of these examples came from businesses who work in an industry which requires you to tailor each and every piece of literature to an audience I’m disgusted. Quite honestly, if this is the best that these people have to offer, I’m concerned for the future of our industry.

I’m all for a laugh but fail to see the funny side of sending what can only be described as offensive messages, which presumably are meant to be ‘down with the kids’.  In any other instance they would be directed straight to a spam filter, where they belong.

Has it really got to the point where in order to attract attention we need to revert to speaking as if we were 13 or down the pub on a Friday night after having one too many? Come on people! There is absolutely no need to use bad language in marketing materials and quite honestly I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds it offensive.

If I have learnt one thing over the last week, it is that at the very heart of everything that we do at Open Communications we remember the need to consider how each action will reflect and impact on our clients. Thankfully using bad language in marketing literature and embarrassing them isn’t something we have to worry about.