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Could games be key to helping brands tackle social and environmental issues?

By Glenn Gillis (pictured), CEO, Sea Monster

In 2023, the world saw record high summer temperatures in Europe and the US, deadly floods in locations across the globe, and catastrophic wildfires in Greece, Canada, Turkey, and many other locations. On their own, each of these incidents is a tragedy. Collectively, these indicators serve as a stark warning, highlighting the significant impact the climate crisis is already having on societies across the globe. Taken together, they represent a profound warning about how big an impact the climate crisis already has on societies worldwide.

At the same time, almost all of those societies are grappling with significant social issues. Whether it’s income and wealth inequality, gender, race, and class discrimination, crime, or education disparities. These are all issues that must be addressed for any society to flourish.

Addressing both climate change and the myriad of social issues listed above requires intervention from stakeholders across society, including brands. For many companies, that has meant incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards into their operations. Those integrations don’t always come easily, however. In fact, in a 2022 survey, 44% of UK businesses admitted that they were failing to deliver on their sustainability commitments.

Fortunately, there are strategies that brands of all sizes can adopt when it comes to simplifying ESG integrations and encouraging participation from their employees and customers alike to join their mission. Games, in particular, have an important role to play.

Building on brand purpose

To understand how games can help brands tackle social and environmental issues, it’s critical  to recognise  the importance of brand purpose. Beyond the “what” and “how,” brand purpose can broadly be defined as a company’s “why”. It’s also what customers look for and most easily latch onto when they choose which brands to support.

Increasingly, that means putting their environmental and social commitments  at the heart of their branding. A report released in October last year, for example, found that 70% of consumers want to know what brands are doing to address those kinds of issues, with 46% paying close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when making a purchase.

While the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a ready-made framework that brands can work from, communicating brand purpose based on that is a different proposition. That’s where games and gaming can make a significant difference as a vehicle of communication, a place to build communities and as a means to inspire shifts in behaviour. In this way, games can be leveraged to help brands connect with their customers to drive this higher purpose while also driving their own marketing and brand goals. 

The power of impact games

In order to get those results, brands can’t just expect to build any game. Rather, brands need to adopt impact gaming strategies in order to maximise the power of the medium.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term “impact games,” chances are you’ve encountered one at some point or another. If you or your child have ever used a game to supplement educational activities or have seen a game used as a workplace training tool, you’ve witnessed impact games in action.

These games can mirror the dynamic interactions, structural complexities, and feedback loops that characterise real-world situations and scenarios. In doing so, they can encourage and reward the kinds of outcomes and behaviours that organisations want to see from their customers and employees in a comparatively low-stakes environment. They work because, rather than simply trying to build an association between a specific brand and positive social and environmental impacts, they provide an authentic and relevant way for brands and consumers to exchange and share value around these issues.

An industry adept at driving change

When it comes to environmental and social issues, many brands have built up an extensive understanding of environmental and social issues and how to address them and talk about them through gaming.

A prime example of how games can not only target broad audiences but also produce valuable insights is UNDP’s Mission 1.5. This game served as a climate policy education tool and provided a platform for players to vote on the climate solutions they wanted to see happen. According to UNDP, they received 1.2 million respondents, making Mission 1.5’s “People’s Climate Vote” the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. Using a new and unconventional approach to polling, results span 50 countries, covering 56% of the world’s population, showcasing the potential for how brands can use games as a dynamic tool for education and obtaining audience data and sentiment at scale.

As another example, 2023 saw leading coconut water brand, VitaCoco create an experience on Roblox called ‘Coconut Grove’. Through interactive experiences and games, Vita Coco was able to not only spread awareness about responsible farming practices with the online community they had built in their game but they also actively supported sustainability with a pledge to donate $1 to its charity partners in Brazil for every coconut seedling planted in the Roblox experience, up to $75,000.

Similarly, as part of their commitment to supporting the agroecological movement, Nestle France launched a Farmtopia experience in Minecraft in order to help raise awareness among young people about the world of regenerative agriculture. And other impact games with an environmental and social lens are also making a difference in the fashion and finance spaces, among others.

Big issues require big engagement

There is no doubt that brands have a significant responsibility when it comes to helping find solutions to environmental and social issues. Their ability to do so, however, depends heavily on keeping customers and employees as engaged as possible and promoting their values as a brand with their community.

When it comes to driving engagement and reaching their audiences in an effective way, there are few more powerful tools than impact games. So, by working with the right game development house, brands can drive their ESG and sustainability commitments forward and promote their brand purpose in ways that would previously have felt impossible.

Can ‘fin-fluencers’ play a role in your B2B tech PR strategy?

By Lee Simpson, Head Of Technology Practice, Skout

Whether you call them Key Opinion Leaders, influencers or simply celebrities, leveraging the reach of influential people in various industries has long been part of PR strategies. The definition of what an ‘influencer’ is varies and the concept is nothing new; in our business a journalist can be an influencer, able to shape public opinion and raise awareness of new products and services. And we don’t need to tell you that the proliferation of social media over the past 20 years has given rise to a new breed of influencers using these free platforms to promote themselves and endorse products, in return for an often handsome fee.

For B2B businesses, the role of the influencer and where this sits in the PR and marketing mix has had varying results. Big name celebrity endorsements for B2B brands is still in its relative infancy when compared to the consumer world, and the jury is out as to the ROI in engaging with them. Gordon Ramsay lent his star power to the contact centre software company NICE back in 2019. Deep pockets are a necessity for such an endorsement, something which will be beyond the reach of most tech companies.

For fintechs specifically, or businesses targeting financial services, working with a financial influencer, or ‘fin-fluencer’, could be beneficial. However, there are a number of things to consider before you take the plunge.

Introducing the fin-fluencers

There are a wealth of individuals who make a living offering consumer finance advice. From Martin Lewis, to Suze Orman, consumers now often take these fin-fluencers’ word as verbatim. During the energy bills crisis of 2022, for example, Martin Lewis’s status as the oracle on all things consumer finance had never been greater. But when it comes to the B2B world, fin-fluencers are less prolific, but the power they can unleash for your fintech brand can be enormous.

Take Jim Marous as an example. Marous has built an around being a financial influencer, speaking about digital banking, banking transformation and the finance industry at events around the world. His platform allows him to align himself with certain fintech brands, primarily through sponsored thought leadership content opportunities. For example, Qorus published this whitepaper through Marous’s publication Digital Banking Report. His name instantly adds a layer of credibility to the brand and serves as something of an endorsement, with the content being viewed by potential Qorus customers. But again, the investment in such a package will not be insignificant.

Finding the right fin-fluencers

Before you embark on your search for a fin-fluencer to endorse your fintech, clearly map out objectives and consider the why. What do you want to achieve and will a financial influencer be the appropriate route to go down?

It’s important to remember that trust is key when it comes to recommendations for new technology vendors. Your prospective customers will need proof points – the endorsement of a thought leader or respected industry voice will only get you so far. So lean on your customers first and foremost and leverage their testimonials and case studies. Then consider if a fin-fluencer can add weight, and ultimately value, to your story.

If you’re doing this independently, you can use X and LinkedIn to research relevant individuals. You could even post a #journorequest or #prrequest for a #finfluencer on these platforms and then explore how you could work together. It may be there are reciprocal benefits to the engagement, content that can be shared on your site and theirs, so don’t be afraid to ask the question.

How influential this will really be among your target audience – which can be niche, to say the least – is where robust analytics and attribution modelling are a must. Using UTM tracking links across any shared content by your fin-fluencer so you can track ROI will be key.

Why Christmas window displays can still make a great social marketing opportunity

The Christmas window display has become a UK tradition up and down the country, especially in tourist hot spots. Since being pioneered by RH Macy’s in 1874, big businesses are still finding innovative ways to keep the festive feels fresh 149 years later.

This isn’t a coincidence, the best businesses in the country and beyond have realised that an innovative window display makes for the perfect festive marketing tool. Christmas window displays increase brand awareness, promote products, can be themed alongside marketing campaigns and do the rounds on social media.

In 2022, seasonal sales in the UK were forecast to reach £82 billion. This is the highest retail value of festival sales in Europe, making window displays more important than ever to help compete in this lively market – especially with UK adults buying roughly 32 gifts a year.

But what are the best and most inventive Christmas window displays of the last decade? We spoke to the slimline aluminium window experts at The Heritage Windows Company to get their perspective on which displays went above and beyond to stand out from the rest.

Harvey Nichols (2022) – a festive fashion show

A love letter to the glamour fashion trends of 2022, Harvey Nichols’ 2022 Christmas window display was adorned with mirror balls, high fashion and sequins – reflecting the faces of happy visitors at its iconic unveiling in Knightsbridge.

The focus on metallics and reflective surfaces lit the windows up like a Christmas tree, creating an eye-catching showcase of bright lights and fashion. All glitz and glamour, Harvey Nichols stood out from Harrods and Selfridges by getting their display ready by the end of October… we’ll let you decide whether that’s too early or not!

Harvey Nichols has understood what it means to create a workplace that welcomes customers and employees with fantastic use of lighting, a skill which can be applied anywhere with careful consideration.

We can’t wait to see what they cook up this year.

 

Harrods (2018) – Instagrammable festivity

Harrods’ 2018 display, Fantastica, showcased everything that captures the minds of the Instagram generation – finding inventive ways to reflect the spirit of social media in the festive season.

Each window in the display represents a different photo frame of Instagrammable festive subjects, from gift giving to Christmas dinner, all of which are elevated with a colourful and considered design.

Harrods established an entire department to design this display, The Department of Surprise and Delight. Sounds like a great place to work, if you ask us!

They did a fantastic job on Fantastica, mixing glamour, traditional Christmas spirit and modern trends in a way which didn’t feel out of place for a second.

Fenwick (2018) – we’re walking in the air

2018 was a great year for Christmas window displays across the country, with Fenwick’s Newcastle display tugging on the country’s collective nostalgic heartstrings. Their display, We’re Walking in the Air, reenacted famous scenes from the Christmas picture book classic, The Snowman (1978).

Each window as magical as the last, scenes from the book were lovingly recreated with impressive detail and lighting. The scenes were partly animatronic, too – capturing the feeling of the snowman coming to life surrounded by moving train sets, spinning platforms and all kinds of festive magic.

This display had something for everyone, especially for nostalgic parents and children discovering the magic for the very first time.

Fortnum & Mason (2019) – feline festive

A throwback to the department store’s roots, this Christmas display depicts festive characters from artist Edward Bawden’s Fortnum & Mason 1958 Christmas campaign.

The detailing in this display is simply outstanding, featuring feline characters making Christmas magic behind the scenes in a Christmas factory. Golden pipes, illuminated bottles of champagne being corked, Christmas crackers getting tested and more are represented in each subsequent window.

The charming feline models steal the show, however, with each as characterful as the last.

Selfridges (2018) – rockin’ around the Christmas tree

In 2018, Selfridges went for a ‘Heritage Rocks Christmas’ theme, dressing up Santa in an assortment of different rock’n’roll outfits over the decades.

From glam rock to the 90s, Santa absolutely sleighed all the iconic looks featured. With golden mic stands and plenty of power stances, we love the ambition to do Christmas a little bit differently – finding the fun in a Christmas winter display that invokes all the excitement of the first Slade track of the season.

We can’t wait to see what iconic displays are featured this year – but one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be hard to top these fantastic windows. We’re sure they’ll all be up for the challenge.

‘Pantry p*rn’ is the latest retail social media trend – Here’s how to make it work

Rachael Kiss, Marketing Manager at home and catering supplier Alliance Online shares six ways in which retailers can capitalise on the ‘pantry p*rn’ trend in 2023…

In a nutshell, ‘pantry p*rn’ is a trend where people showcase their aesthetically-pleasing pantries on social media. This kind of content is proving particularly popular on TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram, and essentially depicts well-stocked and neatly organised pantries in users’ homes.”

Pantry tours are certainly not a new phenomenon, but it appears that the trend has got a second wind in 2023. Here’s how you can use the phenomenon to boost sales.”

1. Understand the trend

Getting to grips with what the pantry trend is all about, and why it is so popular at the moment, is crucial. In my opinion, this type of content is resonating with so many because it is aspirational, inspirational and ultimately aesthetically pleasing. This is something which retailers can tap into when marketing their products and creating content.

It’s also important to understand who is interested in pantry content. Recently, searches for the term ‘dream pantry’ are up 100% year on year on Pinterest. According to the social media platform, females aged 25-30 are the core demographic.

Finally, investigate the peak seasons of interest for pantry products and content. Based on Google Trends data, there is continued interest related to the topic of pantries, but it spikes in the colder months (from September to March).

2. Consider your stock 

Analyse your stock to determine which of your products may fit into the “pantry p*rn” aesthetic, and therefore will appeal to consumers interested in the trend. Products typically involved in the trend, with a high search volume on Google, include pantry shelves and pantry storage, such as baskets and jars to store food in.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for ways in which your products could allow someone to create their dream pantry. For example, the pantries on social media tend to have a neutral colour scheme – do you stock paint which would work for this? Labels for produce are also frequently seen within the trend, something which craft companies can use to their advantage.

3. Create a targeted page on your website 

In order to capitalise on the high search volume related to pantry content, create a page on your website designed to gain traffic and drive sales.

For example, the page could be a ‘guide to pantry p*rn’, which can include links to relevant products and calls to action throughout the copy. Format the page as a guide explaining how to aesthetically organise your pantry, and include images.

Consider taking new product photos which reflect the trend. If a customer is browsing for something to make their pantry look like their aspirations, showcasing a product in this environment will make it much more appealing.

4. Optimise your content to increase traffic

After creating content about pantries on your website, ensure that it is optimised to give it the best chance of ranking well within the Google search results.”

Conduct keyword research to uncover what people are searching for, then edit headings and copy so that they are used naturally throughout. For example, popular terms with high search volumes in the UK include:

  • Storage ideas

  • Cupboard storage ideas

  • Pantry shelving”

Including internal and external links, within the page in question, will also have SEO benefits, as well as making the content easy to read for customers.

Use social media to your advantage

#pantrygoals has more than 261 million views on TikTok and there are 259 thousand posts on Instagram containing the hashtag #pantryorganisation. Clearly, this is a trend which has taken social media by storm. So, if you’re looking to promote your products, or simply gain brand awareness by providing content related to pantries, social media is the best means.

We know that there is an active interest in pantries on these platforms, so organic content should work well to showcase your offering. You also have the option to run paid-for ads if you really want to get in front of the target consumer.

Bear in mind that platforms such as TikTok ban certain words that may be used in your content and could get your video taken down. The word “p*rn” will likely fall into this criteria, so avoid using it at all costs.

Be mindful of potential backlash

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying getting a sneak peek into a well-organised and ultimately satisfying pantry. However, well-performing pantry content tends to showcase a fully stocked pantry of food, in a plethora of neatly organised jars. Be mindful to avoid promoting overspending on both food produce and containers, which could be damaging for your brand’s image – particularly in light of the cost of living crisis.

Image by CSU-Extension from Pixabay

Top ten PR and marketing tactics to help retain e-commerce customers

In 2022, the UK was expected to have almost 60 million e-commerce users — leaving only a minority of the population as non-digital buyers. As such, e-commerce has undeniably become the norm for shoppers everywhere in the UK, resulting in an increasingly competitive environment.

With this in mind, and following a 7,900% increase in monthly searches for “customer retention” over the last three years, PR and communications specialists Wild PR, has shared ten ways e-commerce business owners can build excellent customer relations and retain existing customers to maximise return sales and up-sells…

Define your target client personas

In order to retain customers, you need to ensure your strategy is formed on attracting the right people and getting a comprehensive understanding of their needs, goals and objectives.

Clarify your perfect target audience and personas by researching the current industry landscape and competitor profiles, as well as listening to your current customers so you can define your tone of voice to best engage with them. This will allow you to appeal to the right clients for your business.

Embed your brand purpose

When choosing brands to do business with, today’s consumers are more interested in the impact that brands have on the world than just what products or services they offer. To take your brand to the next level, you need a mission statement that resonates with your audience.

Brand purpose is essential because it shows customers that you’re more than just a product, service or advertising campaign; you have a larger goal, and it’s not just about making a profit.

Make customers feel appreciated and valued

This is often as simple as saying thank you. Express your thanks with a special written note or a coupon for their next visit in their delivery or via their order confirmation. This is a way to remind them again that they made the right decision in doing business with you.

Go the extra mile

Why not send a Happy Birthday or customer anniversary offer as a show of appreciation for your customer’s loyalty?

Maximise the use of data from your CRM to identify the best possible times to interact with your customers. Whether it’s their birthday, their anniversary of becoming a customer with you, their pet’s birthday or perhaps their wedding anniversary, there are multiple opportunities to show your customer how much you appreciate them.

This may be an email with a discount for their order, or you could send them an unexpected sample gift in the post with an offer code allowing for potential appreciation posts on their social media platforms, which could, in turn, generate customer referrals. Win-win!

Ask for feedback

How can you improve your customer service if you don’t ask them what they think? Surveys and other means of gathering feedback can help you to learn what your customers enjoy and where improvements can be made.

You can even incentivise this by providing a discount code for everyone who completes the survey as a token of thanks, which could result in increased orders.

Value honesty and integrity

As a business, it is crucial always to have a culture of honesty and integrity. Refrain from blaming the customer if something goes wrong with your product or if something is missing from an order and you still need to meet the customer’s expectations.

While the issues might be out of your hands, or it might indeed be the customer’s fault, find a way to fix the issue as quickly as possible and promptly respond to complaints politely and professionally.

If communication is being undertaken on social media pages, look for a way to take the communication privately to minimise the chances of the post showing in potential customer feeds.

Engage in two-way communication with customers

Two-way communication between brands and consumers is beneficial for both parties. Social media platforms, in particular, have made it easy for companies to connect with their customers so they no longer feel like strangers.

Make sure to respond to consumer feedback or questions, as failing to do so can create a sense of distrust, or potential customers could view you as being inactive and, as such, risk the loss of orders.

Building a community online

As part of the buyer journey, consumers are often primarily looking to learn more about a company’s products or services before making their purchase decision.

By building a strong online community that aligns with your business, you can strengthen brand loyalty and attract new customers. Companies can easily achieve this by providing educational content for customers through newsletters, forums, videos, blog posts, and even whitepapers.

Digital PR and Traditional PR

Customers who see a company being talked about in positive news stories are more likely to feel secure about their buying decisions when purchasing from the business.

Traditional PR, such as company announcements, product launches, thought leadership or commentary on relevant topics, can boost credibility when it comes to retaining and attracting clients.

While Digital PR can help drive referral traffic through an element of link building, helping your site rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This tactic helps get you in front of new customers, reminds lapsed customers about your brand, and makes loyal customers advocate for your brand. All tactics that help increase sales.

Hire a PR agency to manage communications

Hiring a PR agency can help brands stay ahead of the curve and reach a much wider audience.

Usually, the agency would work alongside internal marketing teams or directly with CEOs and business owners to promote an e-commerce brand’s products and services while positioning them as the best option in the market.

How can marketeers address ‘loyalty destroying’ home delivery experiences

By Kitty Poole (pictured, above), Chief Marketing Officer at Doddle

Home delivery hit the headlines in the UK last December when a perfect storm of Royal Mail strikes and extreme weather resulted in huge backlogs and many people not getting their parcels in time for Christmas. Doddle found that 62% of shoppers had experienced at least one delivery issue in the month, and 39% of consumers were considering switching retailers to avoid problematic carriers, their reputations damaged by the peak delivery failures.

For marketeers, this has once again highlighted the delivery experience as an important vulnerability in the supply chain with a material brand impact. Putting safeguards in place to ensure consumers avoid the annoying and loyalty-destroying experiences of delivery failure will be crucial at a time when retaining customers is more important than ever, given the challenging economic background and drop in consumer spending.

Since the Covid pandemic consumers have become accustomed to online shopping and increased their expectations of retailers.  A poor delivery experience can be extremely damaging to long-term customer loyalty and generate bad reviews or other negative brand impressions. This is a major challenge for marketeers who are increasingly aware that what were traditionally viewed as operational issues, are now at the heart of any reputational marketing.

For marketeers the Out-of-home (OOH) delivery offer is a win in many ways. It gives shoppers the ability to select convenient local pickup and drop-off points for their online shopping and returns, providing them with choice and greater flexibility.  In addition, the increased security helps address other concerns.

One of the most potent benefits of OOH delivery is that it escapes the familiar unpleasantries of a bad home delivery experience. There can be challenges (queueing at a post office or shop counter for a parcel isn’t always ideal) but in working with customers, we’ve repeatedly seen OOH delivery achieving the highest Net Promoter Score of any delivery type. In addition, the psychological benefit of controlling when to pick up a parcel encourages customers to feel positive about the merchant.

We recently conducted research into European Out-of-Home Delivery Options, surveying retailers across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy to learn which merchants are offering OOH delivery; how they’re making it happen; whether it’s working for them; and what carrier partners need to provide to merchants to make their ecommerce checkouts more effective at converting and retaining customers.

Our survey showed that 77% of European merchants offer OOH delivery and are reaping the benefits, including increased conversion rates, average order value and net promoter score.  50% of our merchant respondents said that they saw an increase in conversion rates since adding the out-of-home delivery options, with 20% saying they saw a significant increase.

OOH deliveries cater to an important demographic of shoppers who cannot guarantee they’ll be at home to accept deliveries, particularly during the working day. Giving them the confidence that they won’t miss their delivery should make them more likely to purchase in the first place and 55% of merchants surveyed saw an increase in average order value since adding out-of-home delivery options to their checkouts. In simple terms, customers who are confident that their delivery will be available at a convenient time and place are liable to spend more.

In addition to enabling the reduction of delivery costs OOH deliveries can also be marketed as the sustainable delivery option.  With fewer deliveries being sent to individual homes, and consumers trip-chaining their errands and parcel pick-ups or drop-offs into local collection points, emissions are reduced as fewer kilometres are driven per parcel. 80% of our survey respondents indicated that they believed it was important to offer consumers a sustainable delivery option – a role OOH delivery should absolutely qualify for and can be promoted to fill.

As the world continues to ‘open up’ and the consumer becomes increasingly busier, implementing integrated OOH delivery options in 2023 will be crucial for retailers to stay ahead of the curve and meet the demands and preferences of the ever-evolving online shopper.  Delivery is often an underrated aspect of customer experience. However, thinking of it as the culmination of the shopping experience requires us to understand the impacts of a negative delivery experience on the retailer’s brand.  In contrast to this, OOH delivery offers huge opportunities for everyone involved in the delivery journey – the customer, carrier and retailer.  For the marketing team it means they are no longer fighting brand damaging issues and can focus on the positives.

What does excellence look like in B2B Marketing?

According to recent research, 82% of business leaders find B2B marketing boring – and 88% of CEOs want a bold, contrarian or provocative approach. That’s fine, says Workbooks’ CEO John Cheney, but execution is just as important as strategy. Before going wild with an innovative B2B marketing strategy, it is vital to put in place the marketing engine and ensure the current ‘people, process and technology’ is set up to effectively deliver campaigns and gain real value from creativity… 

Executing strategy

On the one hand, 60% of B2B marketers face reduced or stagnant budgets in 2023. On the other, marketers are being called to tackle the risk averse culture within the B2B industry. CEOs want the marketing team to take a radical approach to the look and feel of the brand, build synchronicity between different arms of the business to pool creative ideas, even create more intense emotions to drive B2B buying behaviour.

But while this call for change provides marketers with an apparently unchecked opportunity to unleash their creative talents, the reality of B2B marketing is that the business will always be looking for a return on investment and tangible proof of value. And that means the execution is just as important as the marketing strategy: however innovative or just plain ‘out there’, if the business cannot run email or Google Advertising campaigns, if it can’t track leads or benefit from trade shows, all that creative thinking will be pointless.

So, what does good really look like when it comes to B2B marketing? Where does technology, including CRM, fit in? And what steps should a company take to make the most of stretched marketing budgets this year?

Step 1: Self assess to identify execution shortfall

It is vital to honestly assess the current marketing set-up when executing campaigns. How good is the business at running digital advertising campaigns? What is the SEO benchmark, and how is SEO performance measured? How effectively are Marketing Qualified Opportunities turned into Sales Qualified Opportunities? How are results tracked? How are sales measured against different marketing activities?

Whether the focus is brand awareness or lead generation – the team needs to both effectively run campaigns and measure the results. The data provided by every campaign is key to the evolution of the marketing strategy, so without that, the B2B marketing process cannot improve. Honestly assessing and then improving any underperforming areas is essential if the business is to truly benefit from the next marketing strategy.

Step 2: Consider technology from a place of success

There are so many marketing technologies available, it is easy to get distracted by the latest innovation. But technology can only accelerate what a business is already doing. So, if the marketing execution process is already working well, adding technology will enhance that process and deliver benefits. If marketing is not working well, tech will simply help the business to do the wrong thing faster: more useless leads, more hits on the landing page that bounce straight off again.

When the execution process aligns with the business goals – the target personas and value propositions – the addition of technology can fast track execution and support the evolution of the marketing strategy.  Using CRM for example, to join up information across the entire sales and marketing process not only transforms B2B marketing activity but also provides the insight required to support ongoing strategy development.

Step 3: Leverage feedback data to support creative strategy

The general perception of marketing is that it is all about creativity, logos and brand awareness. But marketing is actually all about revenue. Without the foundation of ‘execute, measure, learn’, it all falls apart. In addition to using the data provided by effective marketing execution, creating a strong feedback mechanism with the sales team can rapidly highlight the value of leads and provide insight into where plans can be refined to drive additional value.

Conclusion

Innovative, creative campaigns can be hugely exciting, but before turning up the investment dial it is essential that the marketing engine has the capacity to execute well. With marketing execution in place, including the right people, processes and technology, a company can apply a raft of different marketing strategies to reflect and deliver on business goals.

4 basic tips for strong brand creation

By Flavio Andrew do Nascimento Santos/PhDc is Lecturer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI)

Creating a brand is a process that can often be painful, and we have the notion that everything good has already been created, and that there is nothing else left for the new brands.

With this feeling of exhaustion, there is a fantastic article written by Jennifer Murtell on the American Marketing Association´s blog, asking the question: Do we really need more brands?[1] In short, there is no clear answer to this question, but facts are facts: over 60% of consumers look for brands they can trust before they look at the price. Therefore, if your brand is your voice, we should build a brand that people can trust.

To do so, here are four simple tips for strong brand creation. And here, a ‘strong brand’ is a brand that people can trust, especially after the pandemic, where trust has a very different meaning. Janet Balis[2], in the 10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic, from The Harvard Business Review calls our attention to an important shift: the old truth is that your brand should stand behind great products. The new truth is that your brand should stand behind great values. Creating great value leads to our number 1 tip: it needs to be clear.

1. Clear

Having a clear message is important to build trust. Consumers are making purpose-driven decisions and your message should be clear and as short as possible because the clear ones are the ones that stay in consumers´ minds.

2. Distinct

Consumers have contact with so many different brands every day and with social media, this amount is only growing. Your voice (or brand) needs to be strong, and have a personality, differentiated from the ones in the market. You can start with the cliché question: what am I doing that no one else is doing? If you have this answer, you should make sure that it looks obvious in your brand to the customers.

3. Relevant

Continuing with this idea that ‘consumers are purposefully making decisions’, your brand needs to speak up about the relevance of the product or service. If the consumer values are now different, it is preferred to connect with brands that (at least show) the relevance of their being.

4. Credible

The last tip is a friendly reminder that if you make a promise, your consumers will remember it. Keep in mind that, after the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are skeptical of the market and the brands, and we, as consumers, curse brands that are not delivering what they promise.

And credibility leads to our EXTRA TIP ✨: be authentic!

Michael Platt is a professor of neuroscience, marketing, and psychology whose research demonstrates how our perception of brands influences our decisions and defends: “we relate to brands in the same way we relate to people”[3]. In these terms, our consumers will know if you are not creating an authentic brand with a credible, relevant, distinct, and clear voice in the middle of all the other brands.

It is important to remember that identity and community are somewhat related to brand creation. Consumers are using one brand over another to show community affiliation and identity connection. This mindset is powerful if your brand creates a sense of community and identification with a purpose that people trust. And, unfortunately, there is no magic to creating a great value brand and a brand that people trust, the only way to do so is by hard-work and consistency in the everyday life of the brand.

Finally, from an educational perspective, there is a role that institutions should play to help companies increase their brand trust, even in societies where we can check that institutions are losing trust over years. Effective communication & transparency are at the center of this relationship among educational institutions, companies & their brands, and consumers.

About The Author

Flavio Andrew do Nascimento Santos/PhDc is Lecturer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI)

Flavio has more than 11 years of professional experience in tourism (3 years in management positions) working on diverse hospitality companies, revenue management, tourism agencies, market research, consulting projects, and as a university MBA professor.

[1] https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/does-the-world-really-need-more-brands/

Market research in 2023 – what should we expect?

By Frédéric-Charles Petit, founder and CEO, Toluna

2022 has been another turbulent year for businesses around the world. Despite having emotionally moved on from COVID-19, the ripple effects of the pandemic continue to severely impact businesses. Between supply chain disruptions, skyrocketing inflation, political instability, and the war in Europe, it really is a time like no other in our recent history.

Confronted with major disruption after major disruption, brands have been forced to adapt to their ever-changing circumstances—continually adjusting their offering to align with what consumers want and when they want it. And it is only by understanding evolving consumer sentiment and market understanding through research—tech-driven, agile, scalable research—that businesses can truly keep their finger on the pulse.

This year, technology has continued to propel the market research industry, as automation has accelerated innovation within the sector. As we look ahead to 2023, Frédéric-Charles Petit, founder and CEO of leading consumer insights provider, Toluna, shares his thoughts on what we can expect from market research next year….

The age of curation

In 2023, we will see research become fully immersed within business processes so that marketers and researchers within an organization can easily and rapidly generate real-time, accurate insights. To enable this, the key objective will be to create a platform specifically curated for research. To create this next wave of transformation in the market research sector, it will require the strategic combination of technology, audience segmentation, the proper use of data, and the intelligence of the research expert. Only then can we properly embed research into businesses to generate agile, relevant insights at scale.

Data ownership is front and center

Some have suggested that the age of the survey data is over. Well, not quite yet. Opinion has never been more important than it is now, especially at a time when the amount of data revealing attitudes of populations is higher than ever. But understanding ‘why’ is key and asking is the only way to know. Brands will increasingly rely on research to inform their decisions on the products and services they offer. Insights will also advise them on how to market their products to audiences and communicate with them accordingly—through the right medium at the right time.

In 2023, data ownership will become paramount. And not just for regulatory reasons, but because of the power of opinions. With news about many GAFA ring-fencing the access of data, we’ll see first-party data become increasingly important to decision-making. This is where the ability to ask questions and get answers is becoming critical again. It had never ceased to be the case, but it was trendy to say it had. By combining first-party data with consumer insights, brands can understand consumer intentions, behaviors, and attitudes without needing to rely solely on third-party data. And when you combine the two, you have a much greater picture of the the consumer. And whilst automation is vital, it cannot be successful without the right data feeding into it. The powerful strategic combination of technology and data access—curated by insights experts—will prosper the most in 2023.

Accessible, agile research fuels business growth

To make research fully accessible to everyone within an organization, it must be easy to interpret and understand. Thanks to continued innovations in research technology, organizations are not only able to gather more data, but they’re also able to easily analyze it and use those insights to inform strategic business decisions. Because of these continued advancements, brands will be able to fully integrate research into their daily marketing activities.

Through agile, on-demand research that delivers easily digestible data, organizations can better understand the changing sentiments of their consumers, now, and into the future. By doing this, they’ll be able to forge stronger customer relationships and adjust their product or service offerings to better suit their customers’ needs and reinforce the health of their brand.

It’s clear that we operate in a world where strategic five-year plans are less relevant. Organizations cannot plan the same way for the long-term when instability has become the norm; they can only prepare themselves to respond to a quickly changing environment. Rapid advancements in consumer insights technology present a big opportunity to businesses during such a challenging time through the provision of accurate market understanding—quickly and at scale. Although a new year will undoubtedly bring the unexpected, what we know for certain is the power research offers to brands as a strategic tool in growth through the delivery of high-value insights in real-time. And that, more than ever, the power of understanding people’s opinions can help shape the future.

Getting sentimental: Why printed football programmes still matter

With a growing number of iconic football teams switching to digital football programmes, print and design experts Solopress delve into football memorabilia and look at why items like printed programmes may have more staying power than you think…

COVID-19 had a significant impact on the world as we know it with the sports industry taking a severe hit in terms of ticket sales, with fans not permitted to attend games and get in on the action. Naturally, the restrictions also resulted in a decline in sales of match-day programmes, one of the most favoured forms of match-day memorabilia.

In light of this, the BBC’s recent article Are Paper Football Programmes on Their Way Out? debated the value of the printed programme over digital versions, but rightly points out that physical programmes are still in demand due to customers wanting something tangible to flick through, especially when the match is a ‘big historic occasion’.

With a rising number of clubs such as Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City and Derby County already making the switch to digital programmes to accommodate last-minute changes, brochure and programme printing experts Solopress look at why items like printed programmes may have more staying power than you think and reveal the future as to where programmes are likely to head.

Football Programmes Through the Years

Interestingly, the first football programmes in history were published roughly the same time as the launch of the Football League back in 1888, but they were originally used as scorecards. These early programmes were made up of a single sheet detailing the date, team names and player positions. One of the first clubs to publish a programme that celebrated club news was Aston Villa. Their iteration of the printed programme, the “Villa News and Record”, was in journal form, providing a different number and volume for each season.

Before World War I, the football programme had evolved into a more substantial print, providing fans with 4-8 pages of content. However, the paper shortage just before World War II meant fewer match programmes were produced. Post-war prints were also few and far between due to the devastating impacts of the war. This meant that programmes printed during this period are extremely rare and hold huge collector appeal.

A rise in popularity over later decades and the availability of more sophisticated printing methods led to programmes transforming into thick, glossy, full-coloured pages containing relevant club news, key statistics and a statement from the club manager. The quality of paper programmes in terms of both print and design has also improved significantly. This is because printing capabilities have progressed and the level of design expertise available has increased as new generations of graphic designers have emerged.

Bringing Programmes into the Digital Age

Today, due to the sales of match-day programmes falling during COVID-19, clubs were left with a surplus of unsold copies after games were postponed at short notice; thus, more and more clubs are taking their programmes online. Renowned clubs Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City and Swansea City are among the bigger clubs making to switch to digital programmes, with content including news, behind-the-scenes snapshots, features, exclusive interviews and a round-up of fixtures. Many of these programmes are also free of charge to fans, whilst allowing access to the same valuable content.

Whilst these programmes may offer the enticement of a digital archive, accessible at just the click of a button, there is no denying the sentimental value of having something physical in hand that serves as a souvenir and contributes to a memorable match day experience.

Although football programmes have changed massively from their humble beginnings, what has remained a constant throughout the years is the fans behind the programme and their desire to have a lasting physical representation of the memories made at their favourite matches. The enthusiasm of those that produce and sell the programmes remains a vital part of the match day experience.

The Rise of Football Fanzines

Football Fanzines are hardly new – the first football fanzine, Foul, was released in 1972, whilst fanzine The City Genthas been going strong since November 1984 – but their increasing popularity may give traditional printed programmes reason to re-evaluate their approach. Whilst official matchday programmes are a formal and professional affair, the fanzine acts as an antithesis to this, blending cheeky humour with on-the-nose commentary which is a perfect match for UK football culture. Whether it’s the Queens Park Rangers fanzine A Kick up the Rs or Scarborough Athletic FC’s Abandon Chip!, these unofficial publications often resonate with fans in ways that traditional programmes struggle to do, written by and for passionate football fans. Recent years have also seen the rise of supporter websites and online fanzine publications, which likewise offer up-to-date insights and stories. Whilst official printed publications still need to maintain a degree of professionalism as they represent their club, some programmes could do with taking a leaf out of the fanzines’ books and innovate more with the addition of humour, fun fan stories and lighthearted commentary or “did you know” facts about players to help maintain the attention of fans.

Why Print is Still Important

Solopress have been delivering high-quality printed materials since 1999 and have printed programmes throughout the football pyramid from professional clubs down to non-league clubs. Whilst they acknowledge that it’s time to evolve the beloved matchday staple into a new era, they maintain that the printed programme will remain important to fans for years to come due to its sentimental value and the impact it has on the overall match-day experience.

With 72% of consumers preferring to read printed versions of books and magazines, it’s easy to see the long-term value of the printed football programme, with it providing a single, reliable source of information for a match. Older age groups are also at risk of becoming alienated without the option of printed programmes, with over 75s highlighted as the age group least likely to use the internet and only 15 per cent of the nearly two million offline individuals having an interest in getting online at all.

Glen Eckett, Head of Marketing at Solopress shares: “Without printed programmes, you are clearly isolating some of your fan base, particularly the older demographic who may not be as tech-savvy.” Glen also raises the point that printed programmes help to take the match-day experience to new heights and add to the overall anticipation of the game; “People look forward to the anticipation of match day, right down to programme sellers greeting them in front of the stadium.”

“Going fully digital would diminish the overall match-day experience for a sizeable portion of the fanbase. A match is always special to someone and it’s important to consider those moments, like a grandfather taking his grandson to see his first match and wanting something to remember it by.”

Sentimentality & Souvenir Value

Whilst there is the obvious advantage of additional revenue for football clubs with the printed programme, one of the main things that we stand to lose by going online is the memories associated with physical copies. Glen upholds that the printed programme is something that is still treasured by many and has the power to inspire fans young and old. “Printed programmes can be the difference between young supporters remembering the game and going on to become lifelong supporters themselves or turning away from the game.”

He also explains that the sentimental value of printed programmes shouldn’t be underestimated: “The key advantages of the printed programme are the sentimentality and souvenir value that they hold. You’ll find that more people will purchase for big matches such as their first game and this is something I think will live on.”

Collectability

The collectable nature of physical programmes also makes them inherently valuable, especially to the “ground hopper” that makes a hobby of touring stadiums and collecting memorabilia. For the floating football fan market that exists today, not having the option of a printed programme could be a potential dealbreaker as it is fundamental to them and their overall experience of the game.

Many printed programmes have gone on to be hugely sought-after, with the oldest-known programme from the 1882 FA Cup final (Old Etonians vs Blackburn Rovers) being auctioned for a staggering £30,000 in 2013 and a single-sheet programme from the Manchester United versus Bristol City 1909 FA Cup final being sold for £23,500 in 2012. The first final programme from the old Wembley, dating back to 1923, is another hot commodity for collectors and is worth around £1,000. Similarly, the 1966 England vs West Germany programme is considered one of the most highly prized programmes in sport, demonstrating the rarity and unique appeal of printed programmes throughout the ages.

A Time for Innovation

Whilst the power of the printed football programme is undisputed given the sentimentality they hold for thousands of fans and their appeal for collectors, there is no avoiding the fact that to meet the demands of fans in the modern age, football clubs must innovate.

Although design and print innovation has come a long way since the production of the early programmes, the format of content has remained static, indicating that this is the area that should be transformed to create a more engaging experience for fans.

Glen identifies an opportunity for innovation in relation to printed football programmes and shares his views on the direction that should be taken. “Today, fans have a vast amount of information at their fingertips, whereas previously the programme would be their sole source of information. A lot of people that have purchased a football programme will likely have a phone in their hand at the same time scrolling through football news, therefore, it is time to reimagine what football programmes can be with offline and online working together.”

“Whilst clubs need to rethink the format of the printed programme, they don’t need to be a thing of the past. Programmes have the potential to form an integral part of football’s future, but it’s about seeing how print and digital can work in tandem to bring something new to the table.”

Are We Headed Towards Hybrid Football Programmes?

The prospect of “hybrid” football programmes that combine print and digital could lead to a range of exciting possibilities for clubs to creatively engage with their fans, from QR codes that lead to additional content to augmented reality (AR) and gamification elements linked to the printed programme.

There is evidence to suggest that this marriage of print and digital could be on the horizon, with Queens Park Rangers launching the first English AR match day programme that did not require an app in 2021. Fans were instructed to scan the QR code on the programme or on posters around the stadium to access exclusive content.

Similarly, Arsenal FC utilised AR technology to create a unique programme that enabled fans to select their squad for the match ahead, Captain’s Notes from a virtual Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, player profiles, quick-fire interviews and exclusive training ground footage. The innovative programme was developed to allow fans to recreate the match day experience in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the creativity and innovation being exhibited by some major clubs today, it is easy to envision a future where printed programmes can work in sync with digital content to deliver a brand-new matchday experience to loyal supporters. Glen concludes, “The more clubs that take this step forward, the more that others will see the virtues of it. I think it’s going to be vital for football clubs to innovate and bring the printed programme into the future.”

“There is a definite long-term future for the printed programme in the case of non-league games that have more traditional values, especially since non-league football attendances skyrocketed since COVID-19 when people were unable to access professional stadiums. Regardless of league or football club, it is such a fundamental part of the game and we believe in the ability for the football programme to evolve.”