Monthly Archives: July 2010

Foursquare Foresight: Not Enough Of It?

The days when the global Twitter stream was devoid of derogatory remarks about Foursquare is now a thing of the past.  Even heavyweight Twitter users, many of whom naturally extol the virtues of all Social Media channels, seem to jump on the anti-Foursquare bandwagon with alarming alacrity.


Well, as with many emerging technologies, it will take time to establish itself in the mainstream.  Back in February 2004, an innovative new Social Media platform with big ambitions launched, but at the time many people thought it wouldn’t work.  Six years and half a billion members later and who can imagine a world without Facebook?

Similarly, my boss has written a thoughtful blog post this week highlighting the people who queried whether computers would catch on.  Whether emails would catch on.  Whether websites would catch on.  Did they?  I’ll leave you to insert you own suitably pithy riposte here.

Social Media platforms, like any digital marketing channel, take time to grow, evolve and prove their worth.  Back in 2004, the proposal of creating a ‘page’ where your customers could ‘like’ your brand would have seemed a concept as idea as Tiger Woods’ spectacular fall from grace. But today?  Search for any blue-chip FMCG brand on Facebook and the chances are that you’ll find a polished page with heavy investment.

So how does Foursquare figure in all this?  Well, quite simply, today’s Foursquare is 2004’s Facebook.  An exciting new idea utilising the latest technology – in this case geo-mapping and location-based services (LBS) – Foursquare is nevertheless in its infancy, which for many marketers, means instant dismissal.  Despite our moniker as ‘revolutionary marketers who champion new and emerging technologies’, many of us are anything but.

So it seems, that for the moment, Foursquare will continue to receive its fair share of undue criticism.  It’s up to us, as digital marketers, to use some foresight and see how best we can exploit this new platform for our objectives – we could be looking at the new Facebook after all…


My mum buys ice cream too – why email isn’t dead.

Along with the new A-Team film, our annual staff rounders night and the phenomenally excellent ‘Mad Men’, email marketing has been a hot topic at the Stopgap Group office this week.  Top ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s has announced that it will be decreasing its email marketing communications in an effort to focus on customer communications within the Social Media space, which has divided opinions within our marketing microcosm, as well, it seems, as the wider industry.

There’s no doubting that 12 months ago, it was very tempting to agree with the idea that email marketing was finally on its way out.  Google Wave was dubbed the ‘email killer’ (ironic, considering the platform has seemingly dropped off the face of existence), Twitter was the new darling of the SM scene and social networks were fast becoming de facto communications tools.  So Ben and Jerry’s seem to be making a logical shift in digital marketing strategy, surely?  Not necessarily.

This week has also seen the publication of a US study on that claims 37% of online shoppers prefer to receive offers by email – a percentage that’s by no means insignificant.  (Thanks to @RossFurlong for the article.)  So what is a digital marketer to do?  Should we all drop email and place our proverbial eggs within the embracing basket of Social Media?  Or does email remain a relevant – and successful – digital marketing channel?

I believe that email marketing remains a very valid strategy – if employed within an integrated context.

You see, just because Social Media channels have opened up new and exciting ways of engaging with our target audiences, this doesn’t mean that all email marketing has subsequently become redundant – far from it.  Yes, early adopters of Social Media may now interact more prevelantly with brands through Facebook, Twitter, apps on their smartphone – but there still exists a large demographic of consumers who are not engaging with Social Media.

My mum is a perfect case in point.  She continues to find it absurd that her four children “tell people what they are up to” on Facebook and refuses to sign up for such a service.  Although this is very handy for me (as it means my poor old mum is spared the shame of seeing her son tagged in a photo after several pints), this attitude is not good for marketers who are putting all of their efforts into Social Media – like Ben and Jerry’s.

Sure, a marketing communication on Ben and Jerry’s Facebook fan page can reach (at the time of writing) 1,349,244 customers, but what about the generation of people who find personalised, targeted marketing emails a helpful tool?  My mum likes ice cream too – which is why email marketing remains a valid part of an integrated digital strategy.

Long live email.

Charity? This is a Cause.

I’ve been trying to construct an apt introduction, but have failed – worrying for a man who peddles his trade with a pen.  So here is a unique blog post – honest and straight from the heart.

Back in the ’80’s, one of my younger sisters was diagnosed with leukaemia.  For many years she battled this cancer and I saw first-hand how this disease ravages a loved one and affects families too.

Luckily, after many years of suffering, including with shingles and pneumonia, she made a full recovery.  What has also filled my heart with real joy (and sibling pride) this year has been seeing her graduate from university as a qualified nurse and start giving some of the excellent care she received back to those who need it today.

My mother also works in a hospital, often working 14-hour shifts with minimal breaks, conducting intensive and back-breaking labour.  She does all of this for nominal pay – something that is a genuine disgrace considering that many pampered, over-paid footballers earn £150,000 per WEEK for simply kicking a ball around.  The Government’s bureaucratic treatment of the NHS and their incredible staff really is shameful – but I shall desist from breaking into a political rant – the simple fact is that our wonderful nurses are over-worked and very under-paid.

These things have enabled me to see first-hand, the phenomenal job that nurses do, especially when such a ravenous disease as cancer is involved.  And recently, I spotted my chance to make a modest contribution to this cause.

On Saturday 21st August, I shall be walking 10km around Richmond Park to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, as my family and I have been lucky to see how these hard-working doctors and nurses really do make a difference.

I am aware that I have conducted a much longer charity walk earlier in the year, so in order to incentivise sponsorship, I am also giving up alcohol for 6 weeks, until September 1st.  I’m far from an alcoholic (I hope!), but know this will be a difficult challenge for me, so hopefully this will illustrate my comitment to this cause.  As part of my entry into the walk, I need to raise £100.  I feel that although this is a tiny amount, it’s my way of giving something back to those that helped my family all those years ago.

If you could spare even a nominal amount, this will make my abstain from alcohol and a 10k walk all worth it.

Thank you.

A Dose of Viral Marketing?

You cannot CREATE a viral marketing campaign.

You can create a marketing campaign that GOES viral.

Why do so many people continue to have difficulty understanding this concept?

Hashtag Hedonism

Along with ‘tweet-up’, ‘@reply’ and ‘DM’, the term ‘hashtag’ has now entered the vernacular of switched-on technophiles and savvy social marketers worldwide.  But since its inception, the concept behind the term has evolved with alarming alacrity, meaning the humble hashtag is now a complicated Social Media construct in its own right.

Here are a few of the current uses – and misuses – that I have encountered over the previous 12 months.

Search Marketing

Effectively, this is the base use for hashtags.  By prefixing a word with a # symbol, Twitter turns this word into a hyperlink, thus allowing users to click this and see all status updates containing the same hashtag.  This has multiple uses, but from a search marketing perspective, increases the potential of your tweet being seen by a wider audience.  If you have 250 followers and tweet something containing ‘discount vouchers’, this may well be seen by 250 people and any followers that they RT it to.  Insert the phrase as #DiscountVouchers and your reach is exponentially increased.

‘Hashtag Bandits’

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this rather superb moniker, which was coined by Abi Signorelli following an engaging discussion at Courtenay HR’s latest Connecting HR networking event.  The premise of hashtag bandits is simple: communities that use a certain hashtag to communicate with each other, in this case, #ConnectingHR, have their conversations infiltrated by people loosely connecting themselves with the aforementioned community.

The ‘#ConnectingHR’ community is around 4 months old, yet we are seeing an increasing number of HR bloggers inserting the hashtag into their posts in order to obtain more readership.  Whilst this is a useful way to grow an online community organically, problems can arise when those using the hashtag community are not adding value to members of the group and using the channel purely as a method of one-way promotion rather than two-way conversation.


If you work in Social Media and digital marketing, you’ll no doubt have heard ‘buzz’ cited as one of the latest emerging trends.  With the glut of Social Media now at marketers’ disposal, ‘seeding’ and ‘buzz monitoring’ have become full-time jobs in their own right.

Due to their natural searchability, hashtags have become an excellent PR tool and one that is easy for communications professionals to use effectively – events are an excellent case in point.  I have attended 3 different tradeshows / ‘events’ this year, and each have benefited from significant free publicity through Twitter, the adoption of a hashtag creating credible ‘online buzz’.

These have included the Internet World Show (#IWEXPO), the aforementioned Connecting HR (#ConnectingHR) and most recently, Marketing Week Live (#MWL2010).  Attendees employ these hashtags in their tweets in order to ‘be part’ of the community and get involved – and of course, this is self-fulfilling PR for the organisers of these events.


In a similar vein to PR, many global brands are using hashtags to incorporate both PR and marketing activity.  ‘Tweet #XXX to win an XXX’ are becoming very much ‘de rigueur’ and many people are willing to compose a tweet in 15 seconds for a chance to win, say, an iPad.

Again, this generates huge free publicity for the brand in question, with the nominal cost of a prize resulting in thousands upon thousands of tweets pertaining to YOUR brand / business / company / event.


One of the last key uses of hashtags that I have noticed has been that of humour.  From self-deprecating to witty, hilarious to subtle, many of the people I follow use hashtags as a humorous quip to end a personal tweet.

To illustrate this with a fictitious example: “Not feeling good this morning #wishihadnthadthatlastdrink”.  Now obviously, if one was to search for other people that had constructed the hashtag ‘#wishihadnthadthatlastdrink’, the results would in all likelihood, be none.  The reason for writing a hashtag like this has been transformed from a functional construct to that of an ironic quip.  By the fact that common hashtags have such reach, obscure hashtags are constructed knowingly as a socially humorous construct.

These are, what I consider to be, some of the most prominent uses of hashtags currently in operation in the Social Media space today.  If anyone can think of any more, or has anything to expand upon, please add your comments to this post!

‘New’ Old Spice: an Oxymoron & a Fantastic Campaign…

Brut; socks; photo frames; awful jumpers – add an Old Spice gift set to this time-tested collective, and you complete the catalogue of gifts that have long been the staple preserve of unimaginative aunties and uncles worldwide.

And you know what?  I know I’m not the only one who receives these exact same goods year in and year out.  True; I’m guaranteed to smell good for a few months, but in terms of brand perception, these safe staples of seasonal giving have about as much credibility as Nick Clegg since he became David Cameron’s office intern.

So what is a brand to do?  Well, if you’re Old Spice, the logical modus operandi would be to call up top marketing agency Wieden & Kennedy and ask them to revamp, re-brand and resuscitate the Old Spice brand with a balls-out, bold and brilliant marketing campaign – and that’s exactly what they did.

Those of you that work in the industry will no doubt have been following the events in Cannes last week, in which Wieden & Kennedy Portland won the Cannes Film Lions Grand Prix for its ‘The man your man could smell like’ Old Spice advert:

As a marketing and advertising professional, it’s always fascinating to see new life breathed into an established brand, especially with a TV spot as original as this one.  However, the growing success of this campaign, and subsequently of Old Spice’s brand perception, has been the truly integrated nature of the marketing activity.  Hot on the heels of the Cannes win, Old Spice has pushed out an ATL press campaign with the same personality as in the TV advert:

This looks set to be a long-running and indeed, extremely successful campaign for the Old Spice brand and its manufacturers, Proctor and Gamble. So many people outside of the Marketing industry remain sceptical about the power of branding, but this latest example is surely testament to the power of marketing.

Wieden & Kennedy should be applauded for tackling a difficult brief and coming out smelling of roses – or at the very least, like the man your man could smell like.