Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

How can we communicate through the recession?

Posted by Nick on March 2, 2009

At a time when the news agenda is firmly gripped by job losses, bankruptcy and budget deficits how should the modern corporation communications team respond? There is certainly a widespread feeling within the industry that at a time like this corporate communications teams should batten down the hatches and avert risk. No one wants to be responsible for the interview during which the CEO struggled with questions about job losses. This culture often contrasts heavily with pressure from internal business stakeholders who look to the PR team for support at a time when marketing budgets are being reduced. The corporate communications function (especially in the B2B world) is now often the primary channel for a company messages > see this interesting study which found that pressure from inside corporations during the downturn is significant – 64% of in-house respondents said they’ve felt an increase in pressure to perform from their internal clients.

So we’ve established it’s a tricky period with potential for bad news breaking and contrasting internal pressures. But what can be done?
Industry veteran Lord Chadlington makes a salient point in an article on this subject: ‘Silence will result – almost inevitably – in the assumption there is something to hide’ . This is something that every major corporation will recognise. If you close down relationships with journalists that are close followers of the organisation and that expect regular pro-active contact it can tempt them to be more investigative – after all some journalists have strict briefs to watch just a handful of companies. If the story doesn’t originate from the communications function it has the potential to originate from business stakeholders such as non-media trained employees, customers and partners. Perhaps best not to raise suspicion in the first place by opting for silence.

From the same article Simon Lewis, Director Corporate Affairs at Vodafone makes another good point “communicating when times are good is always easier. But there will now be a greater emphasis on providing a perspective”. I took this to reflect the need for a company to be bold, to have a position on the issues surrounding it in order to offer stability to its stakeholder audiences. At a time like this championing a cause or issue can provide a platform to align the brand in a positive light. CSR issues and approaching some of the worlds big challenges can provide a point of communications differentiation during this period. When backed by interesting, unique, content issues-based communications can also deliver a reduced risk interview option for spokespeople who may otherwise have been expected to comment solely on business performance.

The recession poses significant challenges but also offers the opportunity to differentiate through communications. Companies that can take and ‘own’ relevant issues are likely to gain a positive reaction from journalists that I suspect will shortly be suffering from recession fatigue themselves.


Posted in B2B, comms, marketing, PR, recession | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Peter Andre Effect

Posted by Emily on April 28, 2008

I wonder if there is a formula that can work out the exact length of time between simply losing interest in something and the point where the nostalgia kicks in. In order to work out this complex formula I’m sure one will have to take into account your age, the level of interest you had in whatever it may be and probably some fractions.

If there is such a formula, Cadbury knows it and isn’t telling us. If you are going to aim to market something based on nostalgia, you have to get the timing just right. If you don’t leave it long enough you just appear to be flogging a dead horse, leave it too long and anyone who remembers it will be too old to care anymore. Nostalgia, when harvested intelligently can rally even the most conscientious shopper, evoking in them a warm fuzzy feeling, reminding them of a time when they were younger, firmer and therefore happier.

Remember the Wispa? This chocolate bar was discontinued 5 years ago owing to plummeting sales, yet last autumn someone at Cadbury cracked the formula and realised the time was ripe for a revival. Well, that and the fact that there was a huge Facebook campaign about it. I would like to point out though, that not everything people campaign for on Facebook is worth pursuing, just in case you were wondering.

The limited edition was a phenomenal success and it is coming back permanently. The interesting thing is that Cadbury replaced Wispa with the same bar in 2003, just with a different name. No one wants that, they all want the original (identical) bar. It is clearly not about the chocolate then, nor is it about the branding (that has not changed). The only thing that has changed is the dewy-eyed look from the consumer.

The lack of interest that damaged sales in the first place has somehow transformed into spend-encouraging nostalgia and the latter is far more powerful than the former. The ability to turn apathy into public campaign is surely a marketing ability exclusive to those in brightly coloured tights and capes.

This is my warning then, be aware that nostalgia can make us all do crazy, irrational things by making us think that we enjoyed them the first time round. Do you remember a time, before a certain celebrity jungle show, that Peter Andre was just a distant memory? Look what your nostalgia has done. I hope you are happy.

Posted in facebook, marketing | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Slurred of mouth (and the wonder that is Winehouse)

Posted by Emily on February 14, 2008

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘there is no such thing as bad press’? I don’t know who came up with this but it’s rubbish. In the world of PR, reputation is king.

With the exception of perhaps Amy Winehouse (who can inject who-knows-what in who-knows-where on her battle scarred body and people will still buy her records) bad press can bring down giants. This is why good press is so sought after, and what press can be better than word of mouth? It is like your customers doing your advertising for you – for free. The apparanetly spontaneous spreading of positive word of mouth is like the Holy Grail and is one of those magical things that is difficult to force but invaluable to experience.

If your customers are saying positive things about you, you have struck gold, right?

According to a recent article in Marketing Week, the sharp increase in the volume and frequency women drink is showing on the radars of alcoholic drinks marketers. The category of women who consume a high amount of alcohol are apparently the most likely to ‘amplify’ the brand through word of mouth. The theory is, the more women drink, the more women know about different drink brands and the more likely they are to convince others of their opinion.

Surely you can see what is coming next? If the audience you are relying on to market the merits of your product are binge drinking young women, I would imagine the message may be somewhat compromised. On top of this there is the distinct possibility that those who are receptive to this coveted word of mouth will likely have forgotten the message in the morning anyway.

I can’t say I would really respect a brand that relies on inebriated young women to do its work for it. The positive brand message may be spreading amongst these women but so is cirrhosis of the liver. 

Posted in marketing, PR | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

More on viral videos, gut feeling and measuring what’s measurable

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 11, 2007

I blogged about viral videos a couple of weeks ago. To save you reading the whole post, here’s a 19 word summary: I once thought that you could plan for a piece of video to go viral, but changed by mind. (It was a fascinating post. No, really…)

Then I came across this post from Nigel Hollis at Millward Brown (the WPP-owned research outfit) recently, which almost made me change my mind again. Almost.

He was commenting on an article he’d read in Advertising Age about Professor Duncan Watts, an Australian who has conducted a lot of research into viral campaigns and concluded that ‘influencers’ are not as important as word of mouth marketers would have us believe. He therefore advocates that any viral campaign should be treated in the same way as any another piece of mass marketing, and supported on- and offline through advertising, PR etcetera etcetera.

Duncan said:

“[You] cannot predict what is going to happen… Things happen randomly. You want strategies that don’t depend on being right, but do depend on being able to measure things very well. You throw things out there, with as low cost as you can manage and with as great a diversity as you can stand and then you see what gets taken up.”

In response, Hollis wrote:

“Things happen randomly if you do not plan and test, and throwing things out there risks a potential backfire. The one factor that is not considered by Duncan’s analysis is the ‘stickiness’ of the idea behind a viral campaign, and that is certainly not immune to testing. There is no reason why you cannot pre-test a viral campaign. The objective would be to ascertain the likelihood that people would share the ad with others and it would reduce the chances of failure by ensuring people did find the content relevant, compelling and worth sharing.”

I must confess I’d not considered pre-testing a piece of viral video in the way you would a TV ad. And I’m still not convinced it would work. Surely the web is too ‘random’ (to use that word in a highly unscientific way) for your typical survey sample to indicate whether a video will take flight and spread far and wide? Can such a survey really predict the subtleties of the network effects that are required for a video to go viral? Hollis thinks it can. I’m not so sure.

Online communities value spontaneity and serendipity. Sure, we sneaky PR and marketing people can do our bit to support a viral campaign and give it a shot at succeeding, but if you market research something to death before you unleash it online you may well squash the spark of creative genius that would have seen it go massively viral in the first place.

Admittedly Mr Hollis chooses his words carefully, and says that pre-testing can only “reduce the chances of failure”, which isn’t the same thing as predicting success of course. His post is well worth a read, and I’ve probably done him a huge disservice by pruning his argument so aggressively.

But the approach he favours still feels too clinical to me (and it may not be entirely co-incidental that Millward Brown offers such services as pre-campaign testing…)

I’m all for measuring what’s measurable in all forms of communication, but sometimes gut feeling must have a role to play.

Posted in comms, marketing, viral, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »