Is iPad Advertising Like Harry Potter?

February 23, 2011

iPad Advertising is Very Harry Potter

Those who love Harry Potter will remember the portraits that are hung throughout Hogwarts and elsewhere. Living pictures that move and gesture from within their frames. In Harry Potter, the pictures in books move too.

It struck me the other day that real life advertising is becoming increasingly like the Harry Potter portraits and books, which is ironic considering that Harry Potter is set in a mythical and slightly old fashioned world which no references to Harry’s trainers can quite dispell.

So why are ads becoming increasingly interactive and what lessons are there for the keen marketor (with or without a broomstick)?

It is natural that as technology evolves, there will be an interest in stretching the boundaries as much as possible. Think of moving poster sites on the underground, at bus stops and other outdoor advertising locations. These digital billboards have evolved the concept of advertising from a static image to video, with the potential to tell a story in bite-size portions. It is important with this type of medium to consider the angle at which the consumer will see the ad, and whether there is more than one screen available. With the screens that appear on the tube escalators, it’s much better to show different elements of the story on each screen rather than show the same ad on every single screen.

In the same way, as businesses and consumers reach for tablet computers to read publications and get their news, advertising will have the potential to become more interactive, either showing a video or interactive experience, or, more spookily, and in true Harry Potter style, showing video content within a static ad. Already, stock photography sites such as Getty and iStockPhoto have made this type of content available.

So how can this content be used? What does it contribute to a static ad? Video content inserted into a static ad must add something to the message, rather than just be a gimmick. It is easy to distract the viewer and the intention should be to enhance the message. As with a photo, consider the angle of the subject’s eyeline how the composition works across the ad to include this moving content. Take as much trouble as with a photographic stock shot to ensure the mood, tone, and audio work for the brand.

It would be great to hear from digital magicians in this area and those who simply have ideas as to how it would best work.

 

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Tips for Creating a Press Release Template

January 12, 2011

A Press Release Template in Less Time Than It Takes to Find the Coffee

If you are planning to release news to print and online journalists, it will help to create a proper press release template. Once you have set up a template, it can be used for future press releases, saving you time. Here are some tips on the essentials that you need to include:

1. Create your press release template in MS Word or another, similarly accessible format. If a new version of Word comes out, use the slightly older version until you are sure that most journalises will be able to open the new format.

2. Add a logo to the top of your document.

3. Underneath, on the left hand side, add ‘For Immediate Release’.

4. In the centre, add the words ‘Press Release’.

5. Underneath, add a headline for the press release such as ‘ABG Graphics Acquires West London Design Company’

6. Start your press release with the location of your news release and the date – for example “London, 15th February 2011”

7. After the main press release, add a final paragraph containing boilerplate about the company; for example

‘About ABG Graphics:

ABG Graphics is a London based graphic design company specialising in design for all types of fashion industry catalogues. Founded in 1985, ABG now has a staff of 165 people in the UK and China and dedicates itself to serving leading names in fashion retail.’

8. At the bottom of the release add a section: ‘For Further Information:’ and then include your contact details which should include your name, your title, telephone number and email address.

These tips should help to get you started with any PR activity. Look out for next week’s post on writing press releases.


Social Media – Should Companies Adopt Avatars?

December 1, 2010

For Some Brands, A Social Media Avatar Could Work Perfectly

I had a great meeting this week with a bright project manager who thinks that corporate social media works best if the company adopts a character, a sort of avatar, unique to the company. So rather than setting up a Twitter account in the name of a company, it’s even better to use a robot, a games character, or some other type of identifiable personality. The theory is that this makes the company more approachable and more interesting.

Here are some ideas for social media avatars:

  • A robot to represent a technology brand
  • A cartoon musician to represent a music company
  • A young girl to represent a fashion label

Here are the pros and cons of this approach as I see it.

Benefits of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It’s good way to manifest your brand values. Really it’s no different to finding a good and memorable actor to represent your brand in ongoing TV advertising, for example Nanette Newman for Fairy, Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury.

2. It removes complexity around using real people. Real people come and go and may say that wrong thing. A social media avatar is completely controllable by the marketing or PR operation.

3. It can be more entertaining. You can take more risks with a social media avatar but keep it fully in the scope of the brand.

Negatives of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It can feel a bit trite. Especially in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and PR, clients often expect a more mature approach explanation of messages.

2. It has to work with your company branding. If you represent a fun, perhaps technology driven brand, this could work really well.

3. It may work better with the younger demographic. Younger clients might find it more entertaining and interesting. Older clients might find it a distaction.

4. The copywriting needs to be good. If you start something like this, you cannot adopt a classic corporate copywriting style. The style needs to sound like the avatar speaking to its audience.

So in conclusion, the success of social media avatars depends very much on the brand and audience. I hope you’ve found this thought-provoking. I’m off to find my robot costume and get my picture taken. Anyone joining me?


Is Informal the New Formal in Copywriting?

November 26, 2010

There are Times When Copywriting Should Wear a Suit

As is evidenced by this blog, I’m all for informality in copywriting. Informality brings people together, it suggests that we’re not too stuck up. It sounds more like the spoken word. As a result, it builds bridges.

Informal copywriting styles were initially used with care. Now it has become a fashion and as a fashion, it has been adopted unthinkingly by the marketing masses. In fact, it’s very much like fashion. The first time anyone wore flares, or cigarette pants, or tricorn hats, it would have appeared daring, on the money, energetic. Then the style was adopted by everyone, and even those who looked bad dressed in the fashion of the day had to wear it too.

It’s the same with copywriting. There are times when it’s just right for the job. Some brands cry out for informality – Innocent Drinks, for example, American Apparel, Gap. They crave snappy sentences that aren’t necessarily grammatical, ‘isn’t’ instead of ‘is not’, exclamation marks, directness.

Yet last week I received a letter from a well respected financial company. They started their letter with ‘We’re pleased to send you…’ Did this make me feel that I had my money in the right place? No. It really didn’t. Where are the trusty, suited individuals looking after my money? It reminds me of the poorly assembled marketing for the Abbey building society before they were purchased by Santander.

Certain organisations should be formal. I’ll give you some examples. Banks, financial institutions, government departments, solicitors, barristers and lawyers, hospitals,  educational institutions, museums, libraries, funeral directors. By formal, I don’t mean stuffy. There is no reason why a copywriting style cannot feel warm, but at the same time reflect certain formalities. These are institutions that we respect, that we rely on to educate our children, uphold the rule of law, care for the vulnerable or the deceased. They’re not selling us snackpots or jeans. They’re there to help us at the most important times in our lives. Quite simply, their writing style should reflect the importance of their role in their lives, and frankly, I don’t care if they come across as formal, or even stuffy. I want them to do their job and do it well. Formal language is a signifier that the doctor has read her notes, the bank has counted to the last penny, and the solictor has remembered that clause we discussed last week. Let’s remember that there are times when copywriting has to wear a suit, and times when it’s OK to wear jeans.


How to Market in a Recession

November 19, 2010

Let your Business Grow in Recessionary Times

Yesterday evening I attended a dinner which included a speech by the Chief Economist of HSBC, Stephen King. A personable and interesting speaker, King also writes for The Independent on Economics. Whilst his speech was wide-ranging, and drew much on the history of economics as the present day, it is clear that the route out of recession will be made up of careful steps.

In the meantime, here are some tips for marketing in a recession.

1. Explain the value of your goods or services

2. Give something for free, whether it’s a physical product or even information or a white paper. People appreciate free gifts even more when the economy is tight

3. Be relevant. Now is not the time for extravagant gestures

4. Use the best possible data to shape your campaign

5. Measure ROI from your campaign

6. Use partnerships to achieve more coverage without increasing costs

7. Use free media such as social media and blogs

8. Work on your Search Engine Optimisation skills – it will generate extra leads at no extra cost to you than your time

9. Keep in touch with your network

10. Demonstrate an understanding of financial constraints in your communications with potential customers

It’s a time for us all to embrace the new order. It’s certainly true that after this period, marketing will be very easy indeed, and we’ll be much better skilled as a result. Feel free to post your own best strategies for marketing in a recession too.


Why Marketing is an Engine for Growth

November 17, 2010

 

Winners Only Need to be Slightly Better than the Competition

Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details of marketing – why one strategy works better than another, whether to print a brochure or deliver it on line – when the true purpose of marketing is forgotten. The true purpose of marketing is to drive a business forward and act as an engine for growth.

So why would you use marketing at all? Why not be purely sales driven?

1. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to you but they don’t mind reading about you.

2. You cannot always reach the key decision-maker. They might be looking for your services online or in a trade magazine, for example.

3. It’s important to have materials that explain your offerings in support of your sales effort.

4. In a crowded market, it’s necessary to develop branding that sets your company apart.

Marketing can take many forms, from branding reflected in stationery, advertising, signage and even workwear, to direct marketing using email and print, and through to organising a company’s presence at a trade show.

Whilst marketing is changing, the principles remain the same and involve careful planning, budgeting and implementation. Research should show that any activity targets the right audience and that its costs are justified. Implementation should be professional and timely. All activities should be followed up and measured. Simple really.

Marketing needn’t be complicated. Just find yourself an expert who can help you through the basics and watch your company grow.


How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

November 14, 2010

Strategy Should Define Marketing Spend

It’s not always simple to define the appropriate level of marketing spend for a business. However, here are some considerations that should make it a little easier to analyse.

1. How long has your business been established? If your company is well established with a good market share, it may be possible to operate marketing at a stable, but not aggressive level. However, this depends on:

2. What are your competitors spending on marketing? Although these calculations will never be 100% accurate, you should aim to spend more than your competitors.

How is Marketing Spend Calculated?

The most common method of calculating marketing spend is a term coined by IDC called ”MBR’ or Marketing Budget Ratio. MBR is essentially, a ratio of your marketing spend to sales revenue.

So What is Normal Marketing Spend?

Marketing spend varies by sector, type of business and other factors such as product lifecycle and competition. Technology companies’ marketing spend ranges from 1.1% MBR for IT service companies, to software companies who spend an average 6.5% of sales revenues. Yet there are some quite dramatic exceptions even within this band. Dot com startups seeking rapid growth and market share can spend as much as five times their annual revenues on marketing, although this is only sustainable through investment and with a view to establishing their market position as quickly as possible.

Business to business companies also vary significantly from business to consumer companies. In the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector, it is common to spend 50% of net sales in the first year of a new product, reducing this to 8-10% within a few years. Conversely, B2B companies will typically spend a few percent of their sales revenues on marketing.

Although it only covers media spend, you may enjoy Paul Dunay’s excellent blog on how major technology companies only spend 0.2% of their revenues on media. As he explains, the bigger the company, the smaller media spend becomes as a percentage of overall revenues, making it harder for smaller companies to compete.

I’ve mentioned the importance of tracking competitors’ spend. It is also wise to think about the platforms on which you will need to promote your company. The online space is becoming increasingly crowded; competition for certain keywords is high. It is best to consult with an expert in online marketing before setting marketing budgets if these areas are important to you.

Finally, rather than allocating marketing spend on the basis of what is affordable, it’s perhaps important to take a step back and consider what will really move your business forward. How can you flourish in the competitive landscape? What are the important promotional routes to gain exposure? If the budget is not available, it’s worth considering outside investment or a change of product offering. Unfortunately a good product is not enough. It’s about making sure the market knows you have it.