Tag Archives: Retail

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.

@marksandspencer: intelligent social media marketing

I’m often accused of packing my posts full of flowery verbiage and using alliteration with alarming alacrity; however this one is brief and succinct.

Today I simply wanted to highlight a fantastic piece of social media marketing from Marks and Spencer.  This morning, the retail giant tweeted the following:

Why is this so spot-on?

•    It communicates M&S’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charity commitments through a social channel
•    It offers consumers the chance to be involved with, and contribute to, the brand’s activity
•    It utilises technology (Foursquare) to encourage check-ins
•    It utilises a hashtag – #MS4sq – to drive PR / digital buzz
•    It references the charity’s Twitter handle, thus engaging their social team
•    It drives footfall amongst consumers with a worthy mechanic

Whether this drives an extra billion pounds of sales of not, the fact remains that behind social execution lies rational, intelligent digital marketing strategy.

And this is what turns branded social media activity into effective social media marketing.

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.

Social Media: Time to DEFINE What You Want.

Take my fiancé’s voice.  It can be used to whisper tender sentiments that warm my heart, or, more frequently, to express irritation that I haven’t hung up the bath mat / put the washing out / hoovered up properly / {insert suitable misdemeanour here}…

As my German teacher continually used to tell me, I’m being facetious.  But the fact remains, that social media is very much like my girlfriend’s voice.  Why?  Because it too has many different uses – and this truth is something that simply has to become embedded in the minds of companies seeking to use social media effectively.

It’s 2011 and if we take a snapshot of the corporate / consumer landscape, it’s evident that many brands are starting, slowly, to ‘get’ social media – and, more pertinently, get it right.  But there still exists a plethora of brands who find themselves asking for resources to ‘do social media’, yet remain unsure of what they want social media to achieve.

Here is my list of social media differentiation:

i) Branding

Want to get yourself noticed?  Engage and interact with your consumers, clients, customers?  Build subcultural capital?  Grow brand awareness with your target audience.  Social media is a valid catalyst that will get your brand noticed by more people, in the channels they choose to be reached in.  Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Wikis, LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube, Flickr – the key is to be amongst your target audience, be interested in the things they like and show them that they need to invest in your brand as consumers.

We live in an age of permission marketing – your target audience won’t grant you permission unless you can show them that you share their interests.

ii) Commerce

This point ties neatly in with the argument put forward by naysayers who claim social media offers no ROI.  Quite frankly, this is spurious nonsense.  Of course, Dell is the ‘ROI posterboy’, posting sales figures of $3m dollars (& that was June 2009!) directly through its Twitter account, @DellOutlet.

From a branding perspective, measuring branding through any channel (print, press, posters, TV adverts etc.) is difficult to say the least.  But when it comes down to cold, hard, digital e-commerce, the fact is, digital marketers can choose from a wealth of analytics packages to track sales sources.  And more pertinently, social media channels are a great way to reach consumers who may not visit your traditional outlets, be they physical, websites or email.

iii) Customer Service

And this is one that is fast outstripping traditional methods.  Five years ago, a disgruntled customer would submit a form on a website, with their query / complaint / demands being whisked off electronically to some virtual email black hole.  A week later, a customer service representative may get round to opening your email and issuing a ‘case number’, but the fact remains, this has taken too long in the consumer’s mind.

Take social media – especially Twitter.  A complaint aired socially can be picked up instantly by a team of social media customer service staff.  Instant replies offering direct phone numbers, website pages for help, details of someone to contact, money-off deals or compensation are fast becoming the norm.  I grumbled about BT on Twitter regarding what was clearly an erroneous bill.  Within a few minutes, I had received an @reply asking for more details, was asked for my phone number and called up then and there.  The issue was resolved within 10 minutes.  A bad situation turned into a happy consumer – all from a tweet.

***

Those of you that are au fait with social media (and are still reading!) will no doubt be aware of these three basic different uses.  But the point I wish to make is thus:

Social media in itself is not ‘a strategy’ or ‘a solution’. Like anything, it needs strategy, purpose and alignment with business objectives.  If more companies are looking to invest in social media, that can only be a good thing – but these businesses must define the purpose of their social media engagement in order to ensure that it is effective.

You can find me moaning about utilities companies on Twitter right here: @callumsaunders

CC image courtesy of Kelsey Ohman (kmohman) on Flickr.