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How to create and activate a brand strategy

As brands and businesses currently face huge uncertainty due to the current global situation, many will be finding the most suitable and appropriate ways to keep their companies afloat. Dan Dufour, Brand Strategist for theTeam, writes this comprehensive guide for businesses on ‘How to create and activate a brand strategy’…

This blog looks at how a good brand strategy can help you change the way people think, feel and act. But you have to embed it across the whole customer and employee experience, not just the brand expression.

Branding is, and always has been, about making an emotional connection with people. Changing the way they think, feel and act, whether that’s influencing them to choose a product or service, support a charity or join a social movement. But what are the key building blocks to success? Let’s investigate.

Is your focus on brand management or leadership?

The first step is to agree your approach to branding. Do you see it as a tactical tool to manage consistency, or as a strategic tool that should run through the DNA of the whole organisation?

The writer David Aaker makes the distinction between ‘brand management’ and ‘brand leadership’. Brand management has a shorter-term perspective and is based on building and measuring image and impact. Brand leadership has a longer-term strategic perspective, driven by what the brand stands for, and it uses the brand strategy to direct the whole organisation, from employees to products. This may include ‘brand-driven innovation’, where the brand strategy is used to inspire new ideas and filter out old ones through a clear purpose.

In the excellent A very short introduction to branding, Robert Jones describes the difference between managing and leading: “Branding may be a relatively unimportant, tactical tool, and the brand manager normally sits a long way down the hierarchy, with a small team and little power. Their role is limited to managing communications or policing design.” Alternatively: “branding is seen as a strategic activity, encompassing all the ways an organisation touches its customers. The brand team is usually large or powerful, and brand gets talked about a lot at the top of the business.”

Personally, I like Dom Boyd’s definition of ‘brand entrepreneurship’: “Strategists now need to be less ‘thinkers who hold the strategic line’, and more like activists who proactively sniff out competitive commercial opportunities and make them happen.” In other words, you need to be business savvy. A brand entrepreneur helps an organisation step into the future by setting out a compelling purpose. They make change happen by driving commercial innovation.

What audiences are you targeting?

The next step is to be clear about which audiences you are targeting and why. This is where audience segmentation is helpful to manage ‘brand stretch’. Because few of us have the luxury of marketing budgets big enough to target the whole of the general public, or to shift spontaneous awareness figures.

Going deeper than just gender, life stage, geography and socio-demographics, a good segmentation covers attitudes and beliefs, consumption, or giving patterns for charities, and should be linked to media channels, in order to be helpful for marketing purposes. This will enable you to both create a good brand strategy and put it into action, based on target audience segments.

What is your brand positioning?

This is the heart of a brand strategy. If your brand is the space you occupy in somebody’s mind, your brand positioning plants the seed. Brand positioning is commonly defined as positioning your brand in the hearts and minds of your customers. What do you want them to think – and feel – about your brand in order to inspire action?

Brand positioning is commonly defined as positioning your brand in the hearts and minds of your customers. What do you want them to think – and feel – about your brand in order to inspire action?

Brand strategy models and platforms come in all shapes and sizes and the jargon can be confusing. Charities favour vision, mission and values, while future brand leaders are taught purpose (why you exist), personality (how you behave and communicate) and proposition (what you offer).

Over recent years, there has been a big trend for Brand Purpose, where brands look to define why they exist and the value they create for society. This is driven by an increasing desire for brands to have a positive impact on profit, people and the planet. It is why sustainability is increasingly important and why brand projects extend beyond marketing to complement corporate strategy.

Some brands look to have one core proposition, while others will have several propositions for specific products that sit within one framework. In the commercial sector a proposition will often convey the benefit of a product, while in the charity sector a proposition might convey the benefit of support. Sometimes the proposition becomes an external strapline, while other times it provides a springboard to inspire a strapline. Don’t forget, a good proposition should be underpinned by what you want people to think, feel and do to be effective.

It is common to involve customers and employees in the development of a brand strategy and story to make sure it is truly inspiring. This can be complicated and time consuming but is the best way to create a brand with a strong sense of purpose, pride and commitment. Typically, different options are researched with key audiences before refinement. It is increasingly common to use human psychology (behavioural economics and human emotions) to inspire people to action.

One brand or more?

Alongside an audience segmentation and proposition development you’ll need to decide whether you need one brand, or a portfolio of them for specific products. This is called ‘brand architecture’ and is essential if your brand is to remain intact and not unravel. There are different models you can follow such as Freestanding, Unified (also known as Monolithic), Branded House, House of Brands or Hybrid, with pros and cons to each. Sadly, sub-brands are often created by default, rather than being directed by a clear brand strategy. So, we’d recommend agreeing your brand architecture during a brand development process, not leaving it until later as can be the temptation. In the era of Brand Purpose, corporate master brands like Unilever are becoming just as important as their portfolio of product brands from Dove to Marmite. At the same time, many charities are trying to tame a plethora of unnecessary sub-brands to move towards a more unified approach.

Have you embedded your brand strategy throughout the customer and employee experience?

Now you have your brand strategy in place, it is time to bring it to life. Most people start with the brand expression, visual identity and tone of voice. But branding goes much further nowadays.

Branding is increasingly embedded across the whole customer and employer experience, including UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience) design, not just marketing communications.

There has also been a shift in mentality when it comes to managing the brand expression. Where some people seek control and consistency, others allow more freedom of expression within set parameters. Where brand guidelines were once the bible, practical tools and online learning are now more commonplace. In this context, the job of a brand manager is to coach, educate and inspire.

Have you done enough to engage your people with your brand?

There can be a tendency to rush to take a new brand to market. But don’t forget, your people are a ready-made salesforce and every interaction we have with a brand informs our perception of it, including with its people. There have been numerous stories of bad behaviour having a negative impact on brand trust and reputation. But embedding your brand strategy and values within your culture should mitigate this. Ultimately your brand should be a guiding light, to inform decision making and conduct throughout your business.

Do you have a clear plan for digital communications, marketing campaigns and content?

The next step is to engage your target audiences with your brand to build the right perceptions and influence action and loyalty. Your approach will largely depend upon your budget. Most people start with digital marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google ad-words to ensure the right messages are seen by the right people at the right time, together with a content plan. Which social channels do you want to invest in curating, for which audiences and for what purposes? What content will you put out to connect people emotionally with your product or cause?

Which social channels do you want to invest in curating, for which audiences and for what purposes? What content will you put out to connect people emotionally with your product or cause?

Do you have measurement and processes in place to make improvements?

Brand development is an ongoing creative process and is never set in stone. We test and learn, curate and evolve. But improving your brand is always best when based on audience insight, so make sure you have good measurement in place. Brand trackers are common, measuring metrics such as prompted awareness, understanding, consideration to purchase or support, attribution and trust. Measuring the sentiment towards a brand online is also popular, often called ‘buzz scores’. ‘In campaign’ measurement can allow you to optimise your creative in real time. Then there is the hard evidence, such as sales figures, income, customer satisfaction, trust pilot rankings and staff retention.

We recommend creating a dashboard of key measures you can report to senior management at key intervals. Regular brand health checks or audits are also a good idea, as is a brand steering group with representation from across your organisation to help you create, embed and improve the brand going forward.

Marketing production in highly regulated industries: overcoming key challenges

By Paolo Teotino, senior technology alliance manager, OpenText

An effective marketing strategy today requires an integrated approach across multiple channels to reach an organisation’s target audience. As a result, many different channels are now pivotal elements for a compelling multi-faceted marketing strategy, including email, mobile apps, websites, microsites, social media, webinars and many more.

Yet in highly regulated industries, such as life sciences, the ability to quickly make the most of new digital marketing assets is restricted by compliance requirements and stringent regulation. This presents a major obstacle for organisations trying to use new digital channels to promote new products and services to consumers – with many finding their efforts significantly slowed down as a result.

Sector challenges

The life sciences industry faces some specific challenges. For instance, organisations must comply with the relevant regional regulatory authorities – such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK. Consequently, marketing assets for prescription drugs must be accurate, include balanced information on risks and benefits associated with the product and be consistent with the prescribing information approved by the regional regulatory authority. Furthermore, only information supported by strong evidence can be included. Some regulations also require materials to be auditable and even stored in certain ways for certain periods of time.

Additionally, life sciences companies must develop highly effective review and approval solutions to meet the demands of changing relationships with doctors and patients. These industry-specific obstacles are combined with the broader challenges facing rapidly growing global organisations in every industry today, from evolving operational needs and transforming digital processes to overcoming information silos and adhering to broad regulatory guidelines.

In this environment, it’s easy to understand why companies operating in regulated industries are searching for best practices that enable an efficient marketing workflow as well as rapid marketing process innovation. The ability to implement a completely automated platform — replacing manual processes with system-driven workflows and asset lifecycles that use Digital Asset Management (DAM) platforms – represents a major step forward today for businesses looking to reduce overall complexity and cut down on time spent creating a fully compliant marketing campaign.

Automate and speed up

Automating digital asset management is key if businesses are to enable a timely and efficient marketing workflow. Regulatory compliance demands that document management processes such as content creation, review and approval, and content distribution are executed in accordance with industry standards and are auditable. Creating workflows to develop and manage operating procedures for quality control ensures consistency, reliability and efficiency. Furthermore, streamlining collaboration via automation can also lower costs related to the creation, management, and storage of marketing content.

Automation can also extend beyond assets to project management. Marketing projects generate many digital assets. By implementing a content management solution that provides complete digital media supply chain management, teams can track individual elements and whole projects from inception through to distribution. Some systems also offer start-to-finish production accounting tied back to the business systems, providing details on how the budget is spent to bring greater accountability.

Utilising a comprehensive platform to regulate marketing asset lifecycle and unify cross-enterprise production and delivery processes enables organisations to achieve faster innovation, better brand consistency and regulatory compliance. Companies adopting these systems for their marketing project management processes can move more quickly. In fact, one OpenText customer experienced a 70 percent reduction in average time for asset review and approval – reducing the approval process from days to minutes.

While efficiently using and managing digital media assets can be a significant challenge for highly regulated organisations, employing the right technology to automate and streamline processes can transform the marketing function. Companies moving from manual processes to automated DAM platforms will quickly reap the rewards – from reducing time-to-market to complying with regulations – to benefit the entire enterprise.

5 Minutes With… Paul Honey, Strange

In the latest instalment of our executive interview series, we sat down with Paul Honey, Managing Director at Strange, to talk about his business, marketing industry trends, challenges, opportunities and career advice…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

We run a lot of high performing digital marketing campaigns (PPC, Social, Display and SEO) and design and build websites (Drupal, Magento, Shopify, WordPress) for a range of travel, leisure, retail brands and not for profit clients. We’re located in Bournemouth and Bristol and are celebrating our 20th birthday this year. 

What have been the biggest challenges the Marketing industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Performance of marketing campaigns. ‘Subpar’ performance just isn’t sustainable, ‘good’ performance is often not enough to keep brands ahead of their competitors and brands rarely have the budget to be the ‘best’. So from our perspective it’s all about doing things ‘better’. It’s a simple approach to a complicated problem. 

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

We’ve seen a strong rise from brands that are seeking better performance from their marketing budgets and who are looking for a more joined up approach to digital. 

What is the biggest priority for the Marketing industry in 2020?

From a digital point of view, getting ready for the ‘downfall of the cookie’ is a huge priority. For organisations who rely a lot on cookie-based audiences they should be preparing for the day when the main browsers no longer allow marketers to track users using cookies. They could start by collecting as much (GDPR-compliant) first party data as they can from their customers so that they can use this information to build audiences in the future. 

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2020?

As Google and Facebook battle it out for client advertising budgets, we’d expect to see a lot of continued innovation in both platforms – which is a great! And with the increased privacy legislation, we’re also starting to see data further up the funnel becoming more significant.

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

The humble cookie…Things are changing in digital and the impact is significant.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

Probably voice search – it’s predicted that 75% of US households will have a smart speaker by 2025 and the UK will be just a bit behind that number. It won’t be long until Amazon’s ‘keyword trigger’ patent comes to life which could allow brands to advertise based on the smart speaker recognising certain keywords. It will start small of course, but the possibilities are just too significant for it not to become a major marketing channel.  

Which person in, or associated with, the Marketing industry would you most like to meet?

Frederick Vallaeys – one of the architects of the Google Ads platform, an ‘AdWords Evangelist’, and current CEO of Optmyzr  – a tool we use widely. It would be really interesting to get his opinion on the future of paid media marketing, and how far it’s come since he helped create Google Ads. 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Marketing sector?

The rate of change that technology enables new businesses models to emerge is fascinating to watch. There are some very cool companies out there now and whilst not all of them will rise to the heights of the current tech giants, a few undoubtedly will. 

You go to the bar at the Digital Marketing Solutions Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

More than likely a coffee… 

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Each day usually brings something new and exciting, but nothing matches the team delivering work that surpasses client expectations.

And what’s the most challenging?

There’s not one thing that’s really challenging…There are of course minor ‘annoyances’ from time to time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Spend client’s money like it was your own.” I was given this advice early in my career whilst working in New York City. It’s such a universally good bit of advice for people working in agencies. 

Succession or Stranger Things?

Neither. Watched a bit of both, but they didn’t capture my interest enough to pursue. I did binge watch Vikings though!

Glenigan B2B Audience Targeting – Case Study

Glenigan is an information services company for the construction industry who supply detailed information about construction projects in the UK via a subscription service. Clients include construction firms, mid-sized and large contractors, and the manufacturers/suppliers of building materials and services. Glenigan has the most accurate and comprehensive database of construction sales leads in the UK, and their information helps their subscribers win contracts and gain insight into the construction market. 

Challenge

Glenigan had been running paid search campaigns with some success, but wanted to increase their number of qualified leads year on year. They also wanted to drive greater efficiency from paid media channels so that they could achieve a lower CPA and get the most from their marketing budgets. Paid search formed an important part of Glenigan’s digital channel mix, so it was vital to the client that the channel was reaching the right audience, high quality leads were being generated for the sales team, and efforts weren’t being wasted on consumer traffic.   

With this brief, we set about creating a plan which would help Glenigan connect with their target audience and improve the performance of their paid search campaigns.  

Solution 

Our first move was to make sure that paid search activity was connecting with quality users. We knew that we needed to reach a B2B audience, and (where possible) limit exposure to consumer traffic. 

We took measures to analyse campaign performance by both time of day and day of week, and ensure that the account’s budgets were aligned with performance. Running campaigns during trading hours only greatly improved spend efficiency, and within these hours we were able to find additional pockets of efficiency in which we could adjust our bidding accordingly. 

To help further refine our paid search targeting, the team also took advantage of audience demographic information so that we could identify areas of wasted spend, and areas of opportunity. We examined campaign performance by factors such as age, gender, and user household income to make sure that we limited ad delivery to those not interested in Glenigan’s proposition. Conversely, we were then able to maximise our efforts on audience demographics who responded well to our ads, and were likely to result in a qualified lead.

In addition to demographic audience analysis, we then started to run several in-market audiences on groups we believed to be similar to Glenigan’s target customers. By observing the behaviour of relevant groups – such as users in the market for general contracting services – we were able to set bids based on their performance.

Taking it a step further, we were also able to help the client install website tracking so that we could keep track of users who were already Glenigan subscribers. With this information we excluded current customers from our prospecting campaigns to reduce wasted spend on users who were simply looking to log in to the website’s subscriber area. We also started to bid more aggressively on returning site visitors who were yet to convert, as our analysis showed that they were much more likely to convert compared with cold leads.    

Results

The result of our audience refinement work were significant improvements in account performance and overall lead volume. From paid search we generated a 17.5% increase in qualified leads, comparing the first half of 2019 with the first half of 2018. 

Over the same period, we were also able to decrease Glenigan’s cost per lead by 20%. Furthermore, the client saw these improvements without increasing their marketing budget between the two periods, meaning that overall efficiency was greatly improved.

Ian Bellamy, Head of Marketing at Glenigan, said: “Strange has helped us to spend our paid search budget much more efficiently and effectively. We’ve managed to spend less and achieve more through improvements in both the volume and quality of leads. The team has made a real positive impact, not only are they focused on delivering improved business results, they’re also a great team to work with and a valuable extension to our internal team. Highly recommend.”

Read more about Strange here

Using Facebook for marketing success

By Strange

What’s the main focus of your digital marketing strategy? At one time, everyone would have said Google. These days, however, Facebook has become a credible alternative for many businesses. As an agency, we’ve developed considerable resources and capabilities to service the huge growth in clients’ use of the platform.

You may already appreciate the sophisticated features and capabilities combined with enormous reach and powerful targeting that Facebook offers. These can deliver great returns for almost any brand or organisation, whether used for acquisition, awareness or direct response, for example.

Being a Facebook Marketing Partner certainly helps us deliver better value for clients. Facebook defines Marketing Partners as “tech companies and agencies that have been vetted by Facebook and certified for their excellence in helping advertisers get the most from their campaigns.” 

New insights on the Facebook Auction 

As a Marketing Partner, we can access information and insights from Facebook that may not be widely available. In this article we’re sharing some valuable information we were recently given on the Facebook Ad Auction. We hope this helps make the auction process work better for you.

The Facebook Auction is the process by which Facebook’s algorithms spend advertising budgets in the most effective way possible. How these auctions work has, for a long time, been somewhat opaque, but Facebook has now started to release more information about how the system works.

1. Simplify your campaign structure 

A typical Facebook account structure looks something like this. It can have multiple campaigns organised into different marketing approaches, strategies or tactics. Campaigns are subdivided by highly defined, narrow audiences at ad set level.

But if your account structure could look like the one below, Facebook claims that a simplified and consolidated structure leads to what they call increased ‘auction signal’, i.e. it increases the available signals Facebook’s algorithm has to work with when it decides where and how to deploy budget. 

Combining your campaigns and ad sets into larger buckets helps because it removes constraints on the system so that it can search for the best areas of opportunity within larger groups of people, instead of being restricted to granular, pre-defined audiences.

The primary benefit of a consolidated account structure, however, is that it will help drive a faster exit from Facebook’s ‘learning phase’ because the algorithm has more information to work with.

2. Respect the learning phase

Facebook’s learning phase is when the delivery system explores the best way to deliver your ad sets after launch. This means that performance is less stable, and CPAs will actually be worse during this time because the engine is still working out the best people and places to show the ad. Anything that you can do to exit the learning phase earlier will therefore help to improve overall campaign performance. 

Fortunately there are some straightforward rules you can follow to make sure your campaigns have enough data to exit the learning phase in a timely manner. For instance, making sure that your targeting and placements aren’t too narrow will really help give the auction more signal. 

It’s also very important that you optimise for the right conversion event. If you’re optimising for a conversion event which is too far along the funnel for you to reach a sufficient number of conversions, try switching to something which will record more conversions – for example, optimising for ‘Add to Carts’ instead of ‘Purchases’. A higher number of conversion events will ultimately help you get past the learning phase threshold and improve overall optimisation.

One last critical piece of advice: do your best to avoid frequent manual edits! Whilst it may be tempting to constantly tune and tweak your campaigns, making significant changes can reset the learning phase so that the algorithm has to start all over again. Any changes to the following can cause your campaigns to re-enter the learning phase:

  • Targeting
  • Placements
  • Creative (including adding additional ads)
  • Optimisation events
  • Pausing your ad set for more than 7 days
  • Bid strategy
  • Budgets

Key takeaways

  1. Consolidate your account structure for maximum auction signal
  2. Give the Facebook system as many data points as possible so that it can exit the learning phase quickly
  3. Don’t narrow your targeting too much and optimise for the right conversion events to reach the learning phase threshold
  4. Avoid frequent manual edits so that your campaigns don’t re-enter the learning phase

Continuing to evolve

Facebook has come a long way since its Marketplace was originally launched in 2007. Back then we were helping clients use the brand new channel (we’re now celebrating our 20th anniversary as an agency) and we’ve been keeping abreast of Facebook’s evolution ever since.

Future changes are inevitable. However the platform shapes itself in the future our focus as an agency will always be on working in partnership with Facebook to bring greater value to our clients.

Read more about Strange here

How long is too long to see value in marketing tech?

By Grant Coleman, SVP of EMEA at Emarsys

Choosing the best marketing platform for your business is difficult for any marketer. There are countless different factors involved in the decision, but finding one that delivers results, quickly can be particularly challenging. The timeline for acquiring, implementing and integrating new marketing tech lasts more than twelve months in many cases. It’s likely there will then be a latency period before it delivers results too. You might even be looking at a couple of years before your new piece of tech starts generating value. It is no surprise therefore that this ‘time to value’ challenge often puts marketers off choosing new tech solutions.

There’s a compelling case for addressing this challenge head on, however. Taking too long to get innovative solutions up and running comes at a business cost: a recent McKinsey survey shows that 71% of major tech projects go over budget before time to value (TTV) is reached.

How then, can marketers reduce TTV to make their new tools as profitable as possible in a short timeframe? Those seeking to save time and deliver sustained success from their martech must first set aside plenty of time to adapt their marketing strategy to ensure it’s proactive, not simply reactive. Even if this process is challenging and requires the investment of time and money, it is a worthwhile exercise for improving long-term productivity and profit in more ways than one. 

With this in mind, here are my top tips for marketers seeking to get bang for their buck from their martech investments: 

1.       Make sure your marketing talent has the tools to succeed when they need them

Delayed and slow launches are bad for business. As everyone knows, the quicker you can get your platform working at an optimal level, the greater impact it will have on your business objectives. Skilled marketers need tools to match their ability to rapidly respond to and manipulate the market. If not, they will be frustrated.

2.       Think strategy, not just speed

There’s no need to become fixated on speed alone, however. Outsmarting your competitors is also key, so it’s crucial to invest in platforms that are both strategic and streamlined to ensure your product delivers value. By collectively agreeing your desired outcomes and a methodical, transparent timeline to get your new platform up and running with the wider business, you’ll be able to build a far more effective marketing strategy than if you aimlessly construct an IT architecture that renders your technology more of a hindrance than a practical tool.

3.       Establish goals at the outset and evaluate your progress

A critical part of any plan is its timeline, which needs to be collectively agreed and transparent from the outset. It is important to designate milestone markers: what does the whole process resemble after a month of implementation? What remains to be done? If your business is five months down the line and still unclear on the end objective, or how far away it may be, then something needs to change. There are many technological advancements at our fingertips that we can use to ease the process.

4.       Make your platform work for your team

When deploying a new platform, it’s critical to get your team clued up on your new tools and turn them into experts as soon as possible. That doesn’t just mean training them on its functionality though. It’s vital you impress on your team how beneficial the new tech will be, once the teething stage is over. Otherwise, staff may become disillusioned, clients may question contract renewals and you might fall further behind the competition. 

5.       Be open to addressing new challenges

Your objectives will naturally influence your choice of tech, but you should also be open to the potential of new technology to address hidden problems you didn’t know you had previously. For example, wouldn’t you want to address the fact that 86% of customers will “channel hop” and evade traditional marketing methods? This is an instance when new information can inform our choices.

6.       Choose an ally, not just a vendor

Above all, make sure you choose a provider you can trust. You need them to be on hand for assistance during the process. Proper implementation requires a provider closely aligned with your objectives. Find out what their training materials are, the courses they have available, what consultancy they provide, and the support services they have available, and whether these are calibrated to the needs of your marketing team. Adopting a new platform is not an overnight process and will require due diligence before installation.

Final Thoughts

Time to value has been an important concept for years for countless products and across hundreds of industries. In marketing TTV is less transparent, which is a confusing problem. Taking a more strategic view of acquiring tech that matches the objectives you want to achieve with the most suitable tech available will ensure you deliver the best possible time to value for your business.

Why digital maturity, not transformation, is the key to inspiring change

By Damian Proctor, Redweb

The journey to becoming a digital-first organisation requires a shift in business focus outwards, towards the customer. Due to low risk and greater flexibility, digital has become a key enabler and the best medium for evolving an engaging relationship with customers, investors and other interested parties.

The phrase ‘digital transformation’ has become popular because it indicates a fundamental change taking place. Much like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, the marker for a transformed business is digital evolution to a point of no return. 

While this definition has value as a desired future state, it does little to explain the process – from the steps you need to take today, to where the real work happens in the future. However, if you shift your thinking from a focus on transformation to a focus on maturity, as a digital champion you will find it easier to engage and empower your colleagues during the early stages, rather than appearing to evangelise an unattainable utopia.

Digital maturity is a gradual process that unfolds across an organisation over time. Just as a child takes time to grow up, a business needs time to mature. Just as there are different developmental stages throughout an individual’s life, your business can continue to grow and adapt no matter what stage it’s at in order to become more digitally mature. 

Maturation is a natural affair, so it does not happen automatically. Digital maturity is the process of learning how to respond to the emerging competitive digital environment through a better understanding of your audience – adapting your culture and operations to meet their needs, supported by just enough technology to deliver against your strategy. Yet, this is not something that your business, leaders, and employees will instinctually know how to do. Digital champions must develop a working knowledge of the steps required throughout the journey to be prepared for the challenges ahead. 

At Redweb we partner with ambitious brands to empower long-term success, by defining transformational digital strategy. We’ve utilised two decades of experience, working with heritage brands like UEFA, Guide Dogs and Organix, to curate a break-through digital series that will guide you through the key challenges at each stage of your journey to becoming a digital-first organisation. 

DMB readers have the chance to start the new year with a competitive digital advantage by signing up for early access to our maturity model today.

Image by Fauxels from pexels

Marketing trends to watch in 2020

By Sarah Evans, Senior Digital Strategist, Bottle

As we move into 2020, a new decade, the pace of change is only set to increase for the marketing world. This will be the year that some proposals will be out of date if they get stuck in a six-month queue waiting for the board to sign off the budget. It’s hard to benchmark and forecast results when it’s never been done before. Marketers must be brave, curious and nimble, balancing long term and short-term goals. Well strap in…. here’s what we think are the actionable trends coming next year. 

1.       The Social Marketplace: the role of social will change for brands and consumers 

Social sharing has declined over the past few years, digital detoxes are so common they’re boring, and people are becoming more conscious about how they use social media. They’re wising up to how the platforms use our data and the permanence of how and what they share online is off-putting. At the very least, this knowledge is now influencing the level of curation, editing and filtering that their social profiles undergo. Their presence is selective.  

The real conversations are hidden behind closed doors in closed groups or messaging apps – a consumer’s prerogative of course. For brands, that means social listening for consumer insight is far less informative, but also that if they want to get in front of that audience, they’re going to have to pay for that privilege.  

There is another version of social media – it’s increasingly the place you go to shop. Wired called Instagram a shoppable mall: introducing shoppable posts and features that make it easier for people to spend money directly from their feed. Brands may even forgo the money to engage their audiences when sales opportunities are now so readily available through this platform, and the audience is willing. 

Native integration has turned social posts into mini ecommerce experiences where the sales funnel can be much shorter. It’s a great traffic driver from social to a brand’s website too – not to mention making it easier to track sales from an influencer marketing program.  

2.       Influencer Marketing ‘Glows Up’: maturing and diversification 

This is not a new trend, but we’ll see the next phase of its evolution. Budget spent on influencers is estimated to grow from £4.5bn to £18.4bn in 2024, despite misgivings about transparency, efficacy and measurement to name a few: brands still insist on throwing money at this tactic. 

In 2020, we’ll see this kind of activity ‘grow up’, as governance increases and both brands and influencers themselves get more discerning and savvier when it comes to things like contracts, compliance and exclusivity. We expect to see the scale increase, both length of partnership and number of people in a brand’s ambassador program. 

Influencer marketing will go beyond Instagram and YouTube. Not least because algorithm changes, removal of likes and decline of organic reach all pose a threat to influencers’ livelihoods, but also due to the emergence of other niche channels. The explosion of TikTok for example, took most people over 30 by surprise. 

TikTok are trying to woo brands with their 800m global active monthly users and predominantly Gen Z audience. Brands could think laterally about where else to find authoritative people on existing channels as well as emerging ones: like Reddit (just tread carefully), LinkedIn, Medium and even Quora will mean that influencer marketing will be audience-first, not channel-first. This will be key for B2B brands looking to capitalise on this type of activity next year. 

3. The BERT Effect: humanising SEO means voice search will kick up a notch 

We all know of that stat that was absolutely everywhere (you know the one*). On October 25th 2019, Google launched its most significant update in five years, called BERT. It’s a deep-learning, natural language processing model, which is now powering search queries. This is huge and could give voice search the impetus it needs to hit critical mass, as the semantic and contextual understanding BERT will bring lends itself perfectly to that type of search. 

What do brands do about this new update? What they should have been doing all along – which is solve for the user. BERT is now able to read sites just like humans, so write for humans. Google also use humans to manually check websites and the effectiveness of the search results based on their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, so there is no hiding anymore.  

Be useful, trustworthy and authoritative with your content (the E-A-T update is here to stay), and create a lot of it to help people throughout the research process, even those who are at the speculative, low intent phase. Keyword optimisation is dead, it’s all about the topic. 

On a broader note around SEO – Google has been making moves to optimise for the best user experience possible. In years gone by, the methodology may have been clunky, but now it’s extremely sophisticated, so instead of trying to second-guess what Google is looking for now, focus on the user and you’ll always be heading in the right direction. 

4. Brands Without Boundaries: marketing will (continue to) break the fourth wall 

Native advertising will be taken to new heights – beyond advertorials and product placement. We’ve already seen some venture into the gaming world, like the Wendy’s avatar “saving Fortnite from frozen beef” and Burberry’s new online game to race a deer to the moon.  Brands will continue to break the fourth wall to connect with audiences where they are spending time, continuing to infiltrate the consumer’s every day. Product placement on streaming platforms will increaseas they offset money lost through traditional TV advertising, and people seem to be more receptive to accepting products alongside a much-loved character than force-fed them in TV adverts. 

2020 will see the introduction of the much-anticipated advertising on Whatsapp. Any communications channel, where it once may have been saved for personal communication, seems to be for the taking. Creative, irreverent and innovative use of these existing channels may earn forgiveness for crossing the line; like using Airdrop for a recruitment campaign.  

With all these opportunities within reach, brands must go beyond the excitement of new territory and ensure their presence is welcome and valued by their audiences – so think about why and how you have the right to be there – not just about the PR story you can tell about it afterwards. Remember, people have yet to forgive U2 for the automatic iTunes album ‘gift’.  

5. The Purposeful Pound: consumer behaviour pivots towards sustainable brands and shopping habits 

The damage we’re doing to the planet is coming into ever-sharp focus and concern about the environment is at its highest level on record. This is no longer an aspirational or status-driven trend for the liberal elite – the ones who could afford the first iterations of electric cars. It now concerns all of us and is shaping our behaviour and our demands on brands.  

Take one movement: veganism. By 2020, the number of vegans will have grown by 327%. Smart brands clocked the demand and responded: Burger King, Nando’s, Zizzi, Wagamama, even Greggs to name a few have all launched vegan options to their menus. Greggs’ Chief Exec is even vegan now

When it comes to environmental responsibility, for brands and consumers alike: it’s not status-enhancing if you opt in, it’s shaming if you opt out. Just look at #flygskam (or ‘flight shame’). 

Consumers (of all ages) are becoming more conscientious than ever before, voting with their money. With tools like Rank-a-Brand, people can find out how sustainable their favourite brands are. 

Brands will have to work hard to prove their green credentials to this growing, discerning group, but if they can then this will be a powerful marketing tool. Brands need to not only respond to, but also nudge consumers into better habits. Mastercard partnered with Doconomy to launch a credit card that tracks the CO2 of purchases and blocks it when you’ve reached your carbon limit. 

Whatever 2020 brings, you can be sure that the only constant will be change.   

*Really, you don’t? It’s by 2020 half of searches will be voice, by ComScore. 

Evolving marketing in the automotive industry

By Jonathan Gilpin, Lookers

With an annual turnover rate of £82 billion and an employer of over 186,000 people in the manufacturing process, along with an additional 700,000 in other aspects, the automotive industry is huge. 

In addition, the stability the automotive industry creates for the UK economy is substantial, considering the industry alone accounts for 12% of UK good exports. 

But marketing investments for businesses in the automotive industry are usually rather costly. Although there are occasions when we are driving past a car showroom and a shiny new Ford Kuga Titanium catches our eye, it is a rarity in 2019.

For those among us that try and suggest they aren’t sucked in by an utterly fantastic marketing campaign — they are telling a fib. 

Product placement is one aspect certain brands choose to focus on. Fans of popular evening soap Coronation Street helped the hashtag #roysrolls trend after the show replaced Roy’s standard coffee with the alternative, big brand Costa Coffee. 

Alternatively, some businesses have become rather symbols of festive periods, such as John Lewis and their annual Christmas TV adverts. In 2018, the campaign paid tribute to British music cult hero, Elton John. 

The popstar is shown to be playing his rather ironically named song Your Song in a modernized, up to date rendition of it in front of a packed-out concert hall. Travelling through time, letting the audience act as witness to the variety of eras in which the song has been played, it finished with a young Elton playing his first piano. 

If you think about it, none of John Lewis’s adverts in recent years have had any relation to the brand itself, however this clever subtle trick does get you thinking of their brand. 

The overriding purpose of a marketing campaign is to make it stick in your mind and most importantly remember who delivered it. For the remainder of the festive period, the British public were driving to work and doing the dishes, humming the tune to Your Song, and when they were, they were thinking about John Lewis. 

The launch of a new product is crucial. Despite the fact an all-singing, all-dancing media campaign will not be enough to mask the incompetency of a below par product, an impressive one accompanying a genuinely capable product will succeed in boosting sales. 

Here with Lookers and their new Ford Kuga Titanium, we take a look at the way car manufacturers invest in the launch of new products, and whether they opt for a subtle or direct approach. 

The true meaning behind Va Va Voom

Despite a slow start back in 2002, Thierry Henry’s career with the Gunners gradually begun to take off. 

Having two premier league trophies and being top goal scorer in two seasons for his club wasn’t bad titles to add to his name. However, breaking the hearts of Manchester United fans wasn’t the only job Henry had on his hands, or shall we say, feet. Thierry had been tasked by French manufacturer Renault to find the true meaning of ‘va va voom’. 

In the past, the Clio has commonly been associated with being a feminine car, however after the striker was seen driving the car in the advert this helped draw attention away from this stereotype and the physical attributes or capabilities of the car itself. Instead, it took a young, rather dashing sporting icon, and delivered a stylish message to the masses — the Clio is for everyone. 

It’s suggested by marketers that after doing something once, the concept loses its initial appeal. In the case of Henry, Renault were clearly so impressed with his performance at the helm, they drafted him back in to chip in with the 2019 Premier League season adverts on Sky Sports. 

A car you could eat: Fabia Sponge 

Rumor has it that after the release of the greatest automotive TV advert of all time, every day Skoda offices have a slice of cake in tribute to it. 

It’s not often you would look at a car and think “that looks tasty”, regardless of how pleasing to the eye it is. 

Eight master bakers teamed together to create a life-size cake in the shape of their Fabia vehicle for their 2007 advert. Madeira cake, Battenberg, Rice Krispies, chocolate fingers, and oil, in the form of golden syrup, were all moulded together to create undeniably one of the most expensive cakes of all time. 

It took the equivalent cost of 62 Skoda Fabia’s to create the cake for the Czech car manufacturer. Tragically, by the time the icing and filming had been complete, most of the edible aspects of the cake had perished. 

Despite the marzipan alternative, this approach did largely center around the actual car itself, in comparison to the Renault. Accompanied by Julie Andrews’ My Favourite Things, the advert watches the chefs at work, creating an utter masterpiece. 

It’s great when things just work 

For their brand-new advert, Honda used the rhetorical statement of ‘Isn’t it nice when things just work?’.

The advert that situates a Wallace and Gromit-style mechanism in a rather lengthy, desolate gallery is deemed one of the most visually intriguing piece of media contents of all time. 

This domino-effect style idea sees a variety of car parts collapse into one another causing them to fall and trigger the next element of the chain, leaving the audience sat in anticipation to see what the final falling aspect is going to be. 

Before the launch of their campaign, Honda’s sales in Europe had been rather unimpressive. The video however was incredibly well received, collecting a host of awards, including one at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Honda sales, in turn, jumped by 28 per cent, and the monthly number of Honda branch visits rose from 3,500 to 3,700. 

After 4 days of filming, £1m and 606 takes later the Japanese manufacturers had finished their advert. Again, there was little of the video that focused on the vehicle itself however, the advert got engraved in the minds of its viewers. 

From a business perspective, you need to consider how much your marketing campaign is going to cost, how much you’re willing to invest and how beneficial it has the potential to be. 

Sources:

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/content/features/classic-ads-cake-skoda-fabia

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

How is global working affecting video management?

By Parham Azimi, CEO, Cantemo

The latest iteration of Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index” found that video will account for 82 percent of all online traffic by 2022. That means most of the content your site visitors, leads and potential customers consume will include moving pictures, and all of this needs to be managed well.

In addition to a huge increase in video content production, distributed global teams are now an everyday norm for many companies.

According to an article published in Forbes at the end of 2018, remote working is a standard operating mode for at least 50% of the US population. Employees are beginning to expect a flexible work life and Forbes is predicting that Generation Z workers will expect more choices as to when and where they work.

However, it’s not only employees who are seeing the benefits of working remotely; many employers are reaping the benefits of increased productivity from their remote staff, as highlighted by recruitment organisation Tecla in its 2019 article.

With clear advantages, it’s not surprising that there has been a giant increase in employers embracing distributed teams. However, it doesn’t just promote productivity, it opens up a whole new workforce. This allows businesses to employ well qualified and talented staff based on their qualifications as opposed to where they live. Of course, adapting workflows to enable this presents employers with some challenges. With offices based around the world some staff are starting their day when others are switching the lights off.

How can you ensure smooth and seamless collaboration for creative teams working on the same projects, but in different time zones? The benefits of remote teams mean that organisations are ready to implement technology to make this easier and more efficient. However, industries that work heavily with reams of data are faced with a decision; what solutions are suitable for the job? Is there a solution that not only enables video management, but also enhances it?

When file sharing isn’t enough

When we are thinking about file sharing, we’re considering options such as Dropbox, Google Drive and One Drive. These are popular and low-cost tools that can be a suitable way to handle media when your content library or archive is small. With capabilities to share links and set permissions, sometimes web-based sharing is enough as it does all of this very well. However, its file sharing falls short when being used for more complex workflows, such as collaborative projects that have multiple stakeholders,  teams, timezones. Have you ever tried to find a file that your colleague has mis-named, duplicated or saved in the wrong location? This is where it’s time to consider file management tools. 

The case for Media Management 

Finding lost files wastes valuable time. Add to this the complexity of collaborating with creative teams and clients across multiple locations and you can feel the metaphorical sweat beads starting to form. Metadata may be part of the solution.

Combining AI—which allows computing brain power do the heavy lifting—with rich metadata will provide the tools to make media searchable and easier to find. Automated and bulk metadata tasks can allow for efficient media management. Tagging media enables a huge set of parameters to search for content.

Instead of manually choosing where to file media featuring a family, on a day trip, travelling by train, with their dog, you could choose a better option and make the file discoverable using any one of those search terms. Better still, AI capabilities have now been developed to a point in which it can identify the images within the footage, translate this into metadata and provide the user with the content when searched for.

However, global working creates a challenge when managing how you store your data; metadata needs space and remote teams need scalable storage solutions that are easy to access. How should global businesses be storing their content? Can the right storage increase efficiency? 

Storing files and workflows

With many global organisations recognising their complex storage requirements, time must be spent considering how to use storage and workflows to improve efficiencies on an operational level. Sharing files with global teams and clients for review is often quickly and effectively handled by applying cloud-based workflows.

A cloud-based workflow can route all of the steps in the process for approval, regardless of where staff are located. Cloud-based workflows also drive productivity by taking workflows online and reducing manual steps; this rapidly increases efficiency, often at a lower cost than alternatives. As legacy systems start to creak under the strain of modern working challenges, many organisations are considering whether the cloud holds the solution to streamlined workflows.

Cloud working has become a widely adopted computing term.  Most marketers understand that taking storage power from hardware on premise and placing it in the cloud is beneficial for many reasons. However, when swapping to the cloud an organisation’s first decision is whether to adopt cloud storage or a hybrid. Hybrid cloud is a combination of both cloud storage and on-premise storage. It offers users with flexibility when it comes to file sharing and keeps egress costs at a minimum. Add in proxies, which I’ll address later on, and you’ve got a powerful, modern solution.

An editor may already have several hundred gigabytes of data for just one project, which makes sharing and global collaboration difficult. Projects with a fast turnaround can easily encounter bottlenecks that slow down processes and defeat the objective of a media management solution. Enter: proxies.

Proxies

To avoid a content bottleneck, cloud-based media management solutions should provide the ability to offer proxy workflows, particularly non-linear editors (NLEs). With proxies, editors can edit content and the project timeline without having to use significant amounts of bandwidth that are required when moving the high-resolution files around. Working with and moving much smaller files has cost implications for egress (getting your files back out of the cloud) and should be considered when selecting a vendor for services. 

The right tech is the solution

Whether collaborators are across the hall or across the country, organisations need their staff to have the ability to access, edit and share media easily and quickly. Businesses are now turning to sophisticated media management tools to make it simpler to share media at various stages of production, review, edit, and seek approval – no matter where teams are based. All of the advantages of hybrid cloud-based file management produce fewer obstacles in developing and collaborating on creative content. 

Hassle-free, secure and reliable, hybrid workflows support global organisations while they solve their media management challenges. A customised and robust hybrid cloud platform offers a smart solution that enhances ordinary asset management whilst enabling collaborative working. The benefits of remote working outweigh the challenges; equip your business with the right tools and there’s no reason not to hire the best person for the job, regardless of where they are in the world. 

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