Category Archives: Mobile

The Digital Landscape in 2012

There’s no questioning that the pace of digital technology (and indeed, its subsequent adoption by consumers) means that each year, digital practitioners and marketing types face a new set of channels, mediums, challenges and of course, possibilities..

 Whilst I am loathe to add to the glut of run-of-the-mill, obvious ‘digital predictions’ currently swilling around the Internet’s waters (especially given we’re now well into January already!), I feel compelled to jot down my thoughts on the digital year ahead. 

In no particular order, here is what I envisage the digital landscape to consist of in 2012, providing the Mayans weren’t right and we’re not all doomed of course…

 1. Mobile

 Mobile is one of those mediums that seems to crop up in these ‘prediction’ lists annually now, but 2012 really will be different.  There’s absolutely no question that the advent of smartphones has triggered a fundamental shift in how society communicates with brands and each other, as well as with the world around them.

 Sources vary, but latest figures put UK smartphone ownership at around 36% of the adult population, up from 27% from August 2011 – and this will only continue to grow in 2012.  Add this to the fact that consumers are becoming more mobile-savvy (40% now know what a QR code is) and using mobiles when shopping and you quickly realise that we’re on the cusp of some big things for the medium. 

 What does this mean for marketing communications?  Quite simply, the ability to reach our target audience with timely locations in the geographical locations we deem effective.  This could be product information, conversion tools, offers or CRM information.  But the advanced nature of mobile phones, coupled with the increasing adoption of mobile internet and geo-location services spells big things for the mobile future.

 2. Social CRM

 Thankfully, the social media debate has (seemingly) finally been put to bed.  It’s here, it’s lasted, it’s not a fad and its benefits are clear for even the most ardent sceptic to see.  However, businesses are still looking for ways to quantify their investment and maximise their efforts – and why not?

 Social media analytics packages are now reaching advanced levels and social media’s integration with other digital channels (e-commerce, websites etc.) has allowed businesses to see the value in joined-up strategic execution.  So the question is no longer ‘should we do social media’ but rather ‘how well do we do it’?

 In 2012, I believe that more and more businesses will start analysing their social media activity and joining up the dots on a consumer’s digital journey.  We can collect rich data from consumers through their digital activity, whether mobile, online or indeed, on social media, so working out ways to offer intrinsic value to these customers and segment them through social networks remains a powerful concept – and one that we will see integrated into business in 2012.   

 3. Augmented Reality

 I believe that 2012 will also be a hugely exciting year for augmented reality.  Whilst digital marketing geeks such as myself have been bouncing around with excitement at the possibilities of AR for a few years now, it’s only literally in the last few months that we have seen working examples wheeled out to the public in high-profile marketing campaigns.

 Just as 2011 saw consumers starting to engage with QR codes that brands sprinkled liberally on every press ad and piece of packaging they could, 2012 will see consumers starting to engage with augmented reality executions.

 For a young technology, I believe that the coming 12 months will see the majority of AR provide ‘brand theatre’ and add some fun, excitement and innovation to marketing campaigns.  It’s a fantastically creative medium and one that holds limitless possibilities for marketing campaigns, making AR a big thing to watch in 2012.

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 So there we have it – I could list plenty of other areas I believe 2012 holds big things for, but shall stop (for now) at these three core examples. 

 Every year in digital is fast-paced, challenging, fun and packed with learnings, opportunities and incredible executions – and 2012 will be no different.

What do you think?  Do you agree with my list?  Have I missed anything?  Leave your comments below!

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Advertising is Dead: Long Live Engagement.

OK, so advertising is not actually ‘dead’; however it’s syntactical position as the exclamation mark or full-stop in a campaign has been usurped by the genuine need to engage and interact with consumers.

It’s interesting to see how different brands, different businesses and different sectors are employing this need to engage with their customers.  This weekend, I visited Tesco as usual to carry out the weekly food shop, when the following piece of in-store signage caught my eye:


This signage struck me for a number of reasons:

i) It blurs the boundaries between the offline shopping experience and online engagement.  Supermarkets have traditionally bombarded us with in-store signage in order to tempt us with special offers and multi-buys.  However, this piece of advertising clearly goes beyond that and considers the shopper long after they have left the store.

ii) The QR code is a nice touch – it allows smartphone users to access more information (and thus, engage more deeply) with the brand right there and then.  My only criticism is that the social media handles are not signposted clearly for those who do not use QR codes – an ‘@Tesco’ for example would allow customers to search specifically when they got home.

iii) There is an opportunity for genuine two-way interaction and engagement – customers are asked to submit their own recipe and get involved with Tesco’s new venture, the Real Food TV show.

iv) The platform on Facebook itself is innovative, dynamic and adds value, offering a place to compile and view recipes.  Not only is this a nice tool in itself, but it offers clear potential for several repeat visits.

v) It ties in with Tesco’s key business – the app details food that is ‘in season’ etc., providing a clear call-to-action for consumers to return back to the store and spend money.

In a previous post, we saw how Facebook’s marketers are talking about the new cycle of social engagement, and this piece of social marketing activity adheres to each step in that cycle:

AWARENESS: In-store signage
INTEREST: Competition mechanic and recipe feature
DECISION: QR codes and social channels visited
ACTION: Interaction with the application online
RECOMMENDATION: The ability to share / tweet tool with friends

Engagement is not solely the preserve of social media channels, as we saw in my recent ‘Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle’ blog post.  Social media undoubtedly acts as the platform in which brands can engage consumers more deeply than ever before, but successful brand engagement is an integrated phenomenon.

And this first-class example from Tesco highlights how the offline and online channels are becoming ever more intertwined.

QueRying QR codes – THINK

QR codes’ label as marketing’s ‘new’ thing is phenomenally ironic, considering that the technology was invented by a Toyota subsidiary back in 1994 (I was a mere 12 years old at the time.)

However, the advent of smartphones has provided a valid tool for consumers to read these codes, and marketers are subsequently in a fervent clamour to place their communications / branding / information directly into people’s hands – why wouldn’t they be?

On a rare tube trip yesterday, I took the opportunity to take a look at the glut of panel ads that adorn every tube carriage and one for Heathrow caught my eye.

In the corner of the ad was a glinting QR code, with a clear call to action for consumers to scan the code and download information, access offers and continue their interaction with the brand.

In principle, this is a solid idea, utilising the latest technology and prolonging an ad’s effectiveness by continuing the consumer interaction within a smartphone.

In reality?

There’s no reception or internet connectivity when you’re travelling underground, meaning that a huge percentage of your audience will not be able to perform the call-to-action asked by the advertisers.

Although very much in vogue, QR codes still need to offer discernible value to mobile phone users, tailored exclusively for the mobile space and placed in positions / touch points where consumers can act upon them.

For me, tube ads just don’t offer this widely enough.

Do you agree?

Meal Deals: Why The Limited Marketing Menu?

Take a look through your inbox.  Chances are, you’ll find a veritable glut of emails from restaurants and pubs offering discounts, promotions and offers.  Since the recession, these printable voucher codes and deals have been very much de rigueur – especially at office lunch outings.

But in the few years that these vouchers have cemented themselves as staples of British dining (along with complaining, too much wine and poor tipping), the marketing mechanics behind this form of promotion have remained frustratingly stale.

These vouchers are not the preserve of some exclusive ‘club’ – they get forwarded around any office as frequently as gossip, jokes and topical memes.  So in theory, vouchers are simply a form of agreed advertised price at certain times and for certain meals.

So why not shift the qualifying criteria from a piece of paper to something that genuinely benefits your brand?

UGC (user-generated content) is authentic, effective and embodies the very ethos of social media marketing, yet the majority of mainstream restaurants continue to miss a trick.  Why stick to mailing out vouchers that become crumpled up pieces of scrap paper when the qualifying mechanic could so easily become a source of useful UGC for your brand?

Take Instagram for example.  Last week, I blogged about Starbucks’ excellent use of 2011’s hottest photo-blogging app to curate authentic, consumer-led photos of brand experiences.  Restaurants could so easily offer the same offers for customers who upload a photo of their meal for example, and tag it with the name of the restaurant.

Foursquare too is a channel with such potential if it only shook off its autocratic ‘mayoral’ system.  Sure, ‘mayors’ can receive a free pizza / drink etc. with their meal, but this instantly excludes every other brand advocate who regularly checks in – should their (loyal) brand advocacy not be rewarded too?  ‘Check-in’ between 12-3 to [insert voucher offer here] would result in lots of check-ins and thus lots of digital buzz.  What’s to think about?

From a commercial perspective, I understand that physical pieces of paper offer a tangible ROI for bean counters at various head offices.  But with tills (or cash registers for the Americans amongst you) that are sophisticated electronic computers, collecting and measuring social media mechanics / footfall drivers is surely a relatively simple task.

I’m also keen to stress that I’m not advocating the eradication of printable paper discount vouchers.  My mother, for example, finds the concept of sharing your personal life on Facebook ‘very strange’, so clearly asking her to geo-tag a photo or check-in on Foursquare would exclude her (very valid) custom.

But in my opinion, social, mobile and digital technology is now getting so advanced, and UGC is becoming such an authentic and desirable form of marketing content, that brands putting all of their eggs into one printable voucher are missing a huge trick.

Food for thought.

Instagram: Instant Success for Digital Marketers?

Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock for the last six months (and perhaps even if you have), you’ll no doubt be aware of the phenomenon that is Instagram.  For the rock-dwellers amongst you, Instagram is a smartphone app that allows users to share photos with each other, in a ‘stream’ fairly akin to Twitter.  Its variety of vintage filters allows users a level of creativity too, which is proving highly popular (especially amongst the denizens of Hoxton).

Instagram could easily be the latest in a long line of social media ‘fads’ that are picked up and dropped a few weeks later by promiscuous digital aficionados, but substantial growth figures seem to suggest otherwise.  The app now has over 2 million users, to which it is adding 130,000 every week.  3.6 million weekly photo uploads are also adding credence to its viability as something that’s ‘here to stay’.

So the question is, how can marketers claim a slice of this rather lucrative social media pie?

Starbucks is one brand that is utilising this latest tool to fantastic effect.  And, as is typically the case with social media, brand advocates are doing much of the legwork for them.  So how is Starbucks causing a stir (indulge me the tenuous coffee pun) on Instagram?  By adhering to some of the fundamental principles of social media:

Giving fans access to ‘exclusive’ content

On the company’s Instagram profile, users can see all manner of interesting photos, from coffee tasting sessions in the boardroom, to bean-roasting machines, new logos and new product ideas.

This glimpse ‘into life at Starbucks’ offers users a genuine ‘behind the scenes experience’ that they receive as a member of the social community.  There is value to them being part of that community and enables them to feel involved within the company.

Giving their fans a voice

Starbucks’ own page is only a small element of their Instagram presence.  The real genius lies in their involvement of their fans.  The real ‘perk’ is the rich range of content produced by brand aficionados who upload relevant pictures using the #Starbucks hashtag.

Instantly, Starbucks has a diverse range of UGC (user-generated content) that the company is able to use in its social and marketing communications.  And fans feel that they are being given the chance to share the brand they love.

‘Facilitating’, not ‘Controlling’

The days of one-way communications have not ‘gone’.  But those wishing to engage in effective marketing communications have entered the era of digital democracy and dispensed with closed, one-way ‘shouting’ to accommodate democratic, participatory discussions within the social sphere.  The glut of comments on Starbucks’ photos shows that social channels such as Instagram genuinely do facilitate user interaction – “build it, and they shall come.”

From a marketing perspective, Instagram is clearly not going to be suitable for every single business, brand or service.  But for many brands, it will be.  Taking a leaf out of Starbucks’ book is vital however – the channel is different, but the rules are the same – be social, offer value and ENGAGE.

Converting Customers: The Digital Drip-Feed

You can’t deny it: social media does lack the grandeur held by an emotive, sweeping TV advert; lacks the visual ‘punch’ of a colossal billboard passed by hundreds of thousands of people every day.  Which I presume, is why so many people question its relative value as a marketing investment; especially considering the ROI debate continues to rumble on.

However, social media is rapidly becoming part of an integrated digital subculture that underpins our lives as consumers.  Our daily routines are now stitched together by a variety of different digital devices.  I walk to work in the morning and browse Twitter.  I ‘check in’ to a coffee shop on Foursquare.  I tag friends at a restaurant on Facebook in the evening.  Social media is a way of life, offering touch-points throughout the day.

And it’s this ‘digital drip-feed’ that makes social media so effective.

Today sees the launch of the UK version of ‘Facebook Deals’, with Starbucks, Mazda and Argos all signed up from the off.  The premise is simple: ‘check-in’ and receive discounts, offers and deals.  This symbiotic relationship offers brands a glut of digital buzz, whilst consumers benefit from some great promotions, leading to retention brand advocacy.

I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t adore Guinness’ ‘horses’ advert.  Yet on a day-to-day level, will that make me go out and drink a pint of Guinness?  Probably not.  However, if faced with two high street coffee shops and my mobile device offers me a coffee for £1 just for checking in, I know which one I’d choose.

So with Facebook deals set for lift off in the UK, it’s worth remembering that social media is SO important as part of an integrated marketing strategy.  Cinematic, orchestral, art house adverts that tug at the soul may well get your brand some exposure.

It’s the digital drip-feed that converts them into paying customers however.

(CC image courtesy of GollyGForce on Flickr.)