Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Mind the generation gap

June 20, 2011

I recently heard Hotwire advisory board member, Charles Davis of the CEBR (centre for economics and business research) speak on the topic of consumer austerity, and I was pleased to hear his message that it’s not all doom and gloom in the consumer market.  There is plenty of good news out there – it just gets buried underneath the bad.

Consumer austerity is a particularly relevant topic in the world of public relations; according to our research performed with the Holmes Report 32% of communications professionals have seen their budgets stay static this year, with 18% seeing a drop.  Alongside this, almost a quarter of respondents stated that the money conscious approach being adopted by both consumers and businesses has affected their campaigns,  forcing them to become more innovative in order to make them work harder and penetrate a less receptive and more careful market.      

As a PR agency we think we understand how recession is affecting today’s markets, but are we aware of how it will affect future generations of consumers?  According to an article by MediaCom, 71% of junior school children already understand the term ‘credit crunch.’  Moreover, many parents are using the recession as an opportunity to educate their children to be more financially aware.

This reaction to the economic crisis could lead to an interesting generation of financially savvy shoppers.  And though many PR professionals and marketers assume that money-saving behaviours will become obsolete on exiting the recession, with this educational approach our successors are likely to learn from our mistakes.  Perhaps we in turn will have to learn to adapt our campaigns to suit a more cautious and financially aware audience.

Top PR blunders of all time

October 24, 2008

Kerry Katona
Kerry Katona



Watching the good ship Kerry hit a PR iceberg and sink on This Morning earlier this week, made me nostalgic for the greatest PR blunders of the past. Here are some old classics:


Brand/Company: FEMA

Failure level: Mild

Feeling battered after a spate of natural disasters and spending criticism in the US, FEMA thought they would take an easy route and position their employees as journalists in a press conference. The soft questions posed allowed spokesman Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson to comment favourably on FEMA’s work. The press saw straight through it and an even worse backlash followed.


Brand/Company: Hoover

Failure level: Major

In the 90s Hoover ran a promotion where anyone who spent more than £100 on a Hoover product received a free flight to America. The offer was massively popular, as this was before the age of budget carriers. But Hoover did not anticipate the level of demand and tried to hide behind technicalities to avoid giving customers their flights. Legal action from customers followed.

Brand/Company: Dasani

Failure level: Epic

Things weren’t going well for Dasani (Coca-Cola’s still water brand) when it was revealed that their water was simply taken from the Thames mains supply in Sidcup, Kent, echoing a famous plotline from Only Fools and Horses. But the laughter became anger when it was revealed that the water was contaminated with illegally high levels of bromate – a chemical linked to cancer – killing the brand stone dead.

Gnome rest for the wicked!

October 22, 2008

Has anybody noticed the suspiciously high amount of gnome activity lately? Last March, this video surfaced showing a gnome quite creepily crossing a road in Argentina:


In August, this Daily Mail story told how a garden gnome was stolen, taken on a round-the-world trip and returned home complete with photo album. Now, the creepy Argentinean gnome is back!

My PR side thinks this could all be part of an elaborate, if extremely patient, viral marketing campaign.  The creepy gnome videos certainly have gone viral but is an organisation behind them? There were rumours that the gnome could have been a Grunt from the Halo game franchise. Perhaps rivals World of Warcraft are behind it, showing off one of the races in its game? I really hope so – it’s great to see good virals done well.

The keys to successful viral marketing

July 25, 2008


One of the first stumbling-blocks that people encounter when talking about viral marketing is a confusion over what differentiates a viral campaign from mainstream marketing. True viral campaigns all share a number of key elements:


● They transmit themselves over existing communications networks


● They are self-replicating – just like a biological or computer virus


● The campaign can grow without your support (or control)


● The recipients pass on the marketing message voluntarily


Confusion also often results from the fact that viral campaigns can operate over a large number of different media: word of mouth, games, videos, eBooks, software, images, e-mail and even text messages.


So what makes a viral campaign become a great viral campaign?


1] You must ensure the viral is compatible with the values and personality of your brand and does not undermine the existing perception of it.


2] The viral must also be intrinsically relevant to the brand so that it cannot ‘shake off’ the brand’s message. An excellent example of this is Hotmail’s viral self-marketing on its own emails – users spread the viral as part and parcel with the free service.


3] Make sure that you have clearly mapped out the viral’s objective. Are you trying to build awareness, increase customer numbers, promote a specific event or do something else?


4] Your central concept for the viral has to stand out – it must be interesting, new and different. Ask yourself, why will people talk about this?


5] The viral must give the recipient something in return for spreading it. For example, a user passing on a funny viral expects to receive recognition and admiration from his friends for making them laugh.


6] It is important that your viral originates from a credible entity – i.e. it cannot blatantly come from an advertising or PR agency.


7] Identify individuals with a high social networking potential (SNP) and target them: for example, targeting prominent bloggers and pushing your product into the hands of leading consumers can be invaluable strategies.


8] Finally, you have ten to twenty seconds. Any longer and you will not be able to grab the audience’s attention. According to Jupiter Research’s latest European consumer survey, only 5% of the internet population has ever forwarded a marketing message.


And remember, it is extremely important to monitor the results of your viral – not least because your clients will want to know where their money went!


Of course, these media viruses can also spring up naturally… like the “dramatic gopher”…


Which is better: PR or Advertising?

June 20, 2008

So when do you need advertising and when do you need PR? Or do you need both?


Well, each has PROs and cons (sorry bad pun)…


Advertising offers a far greater level of message control than PR. That is, with advertising your product or service can have exactly the spin you want it to have. Once a PR news story leaves the office and enters the real world, the message can be changed and interpreted. Often publications don’t even see the story as newsworthy and refuse to cover it. In advertising, if you’ve paid for it, you get the exposure.


But then there is the matter of shelf-life. PR releases tend to smoulder longer than an advert released on television. Search engines can locate an archived press release long after the initial PR buzz has waned.


But, the big bonus of a PR message is that it carries implied endorsement from the publication it’s printed in (and the reader may have a very high level of trust for that publication). Conversely, even the best advertising is recognised as self-serving communication. PR also happens to be substantially cheaper.


PR has also come into its own with the arrival of web 2.0 services, blogs and forums. Third-party endorsement, blogger recommendations and entering into a conversation with consumers has never been more important. Imagine how urgent it is for a PR consultant to stop a disgruntled customer talking about their horrible experience with your client on a forum read by 50,000 people…


The rule for the moment seems to be: if you have a large company and enough money to blast your ad through the constant din of media messaging with a huge campaign, go for it. But you should have PR too.


For small or medium-sized companies, or anyone working in the digital space, PR is the way forward.


Mobile advertising: are the big brands holding back?

June 17, 2008

A recent report published by Informa, Mobile Advertising: Cutting Through the Hype, reports that the mobile advertising industry will be worth $12.09 billion by 2013.  In 2008, however, industry revenues will reach only $1.72 billion, 80 per cent of which will be generated by mobile content providers.  So what about the big brands?  According to vendors, this is the year that mobile advertising will go mainstream (as was last year, incidentally), but according to this report, and mainstream media, the big brands still aren’t biting. 

The mobile advertising campaigns of two big brands, however, have recently been well documented by the media.  The first is Jaguar.  Jaguar has recently announced the success of its US mobile campaign around the launch of its XF model, which has delivered over 15 million ad impressions across the mobile Internet, and over 85,000 unique visitors to the Jaguar XF WAP site.  The second is Nike, who has launched an interactive mobile campaign allowing consumers to create their own trainer designs.  Digital agency AKQA has created a pan-European campaign around technology that analyses the dominant colours of pictures taken on mobile phones.  The new service, NikePhotoID, encourages fans to customise their next pair of Nike trainers by offering them the chance to send an MMS of their choice, which the service will then use to create a picture of a shoe customised to the main two colours in the shot.  Consumers may then progress to buy the customised shoes. 

Despite the success of these mobile campaigns, apparently mobile advertising is yet to hit the mainstream: “big brands remain sceptical about the return on investment that will justify the premium rate-cards already associated with this emerging medium” (Nick Lane for Informa).  Time will tell….

Is Greenwash the new pollution?

May 30, 2008






The world is filling up with rubbish. The world of marketing that is.

Marketing agencies already take flack from the green-lobby and are, rather unfairly, targeted as being responsible for the present consumer culture, which is (allegedly) destroying the planet. But there is a more disturbing and insidious form of pollution that they are directly responsible for.

It is the pollution of a constant drone of background noise, coming through posters, over the radio, in newspapers and magazines – it is literally inescapable. In fact, the industry’s drive to market companies and products on their green credentials (true or not) has meant that ‘greenwash’ has become a big contributor to marketing noise pollution. Ironic, no? The ethos of the major advertising agencies has changed in recent years to tackle the growing problem of ‘digital natives’, which sounds a bit Lord of the Flies, but basically just means kids.

These kids are used to working in several different media simultaneously and have become adept at stopping the onslaught of marketing information from entering their brains (ever wonder why teachers are having problems?). As a result marketing messages are becoming shorter and louder. And if you doubt that this is real pollution – take a look at Ad-Air’s new super-sized billboards underneath airline flight-paths. They are the size of four football fields, so they’re an eyesore you will see, like it or not.

With the arrival of Web 2.0 services, advertising messages can become more intrusive than ever before, as the Facebook Beacon system demonstrates, even though spam and annoying pop-ups do nothing but turn the consumer away from your product or service.

To put it simply, the marketing business is crushing itself under the weight of its own messaging, squeezing the effectiveness out of its product as consumers become more and more unaffected by the commercialization of their surroundings. But what we are still not seeing is the rise of personalised advertising, where you are informed only of products and services that you might have a specific interest in (similar on a larger scale to’s automated recommendations).

The race should be on for more targeted messaging and for marketing that asks for interaction from consumers. Web 2.0 should enable more directed advertising, not the scatter-gun approach that has predominated for the last few decades. So just do it, clean up marketing, get it whiter-than-white, let your fingers do the walking and stop putting damn slogans everywhere.


Want to market your film? Keep quiet about it!

May 16, 2008

 Cloverfield Poster Mirrorer


For many years the core of a film’s marketing push, film-trailers haven’t changed much over the ages. And sadly in many cases they have become an uninspired précis of the film’s plot combined with a spoiler-style preview of all the good scenes. But the trend of dull marketing for films may be coming to an end. Whilst websites and online games have become standardfor all Hollywood films, some are wading a little further into the murky waters of online marketing. Let’s compare two recent films: I am Legend and Cloverfield.


I am Legend followed the traditional approach to marketing – a big-name star, trailers, interviews, a micro-site – it even went as far as to create an online game in the digital world of Second Life. The campaign was reasonably successful, but costly (they spent over $2 million on marketing in New York alone).


On the other hand, Cloverfield made more clever use of its slim marketing budget (around $20 million globally). With an unknown cast, their only advantage was surprise. Their first masterstroke was to create trailers and posters that did not reveal the name of the film (along with a powerful image of a smoking New York). This immediately created a buzz and sent keyboard-jockeys wild looking for clues as to what this mysterious new film was:


We said “We want to talk to you about not putting a title on and what are your regulations regarding that?” And they said “Regulations? No-one’s ever done a teaser trailer or trailer without a title.” It’s like putting out a commercial without actually what the thing is. [Matt Reeves, Director]


Their campaign was all about trying to create active interest in a potential audience. To make people go online, look for information and discuss theories. People are adept at tuning out all the passive advertising noise in their environment, but Cloverfield managed to make cinema-goers reel themselves in.


Another clever move was creating a rumour that the poster somehow revealed an image of the monster. Again this created a flurry of blogs and online videos – all claiming to have revealed the true image of the creature (in fact you had to mirror the poster). In a similar vein, buzz was created by using different titles during the shooting of the film (including the somewhat ridiculous Chocolate Outrage).


Fake websites for tie-in brands to the film were also created along with a complex background story to the film’s events, which sent audiences scouring the internet for clues. Some even connected Cloverfield to viral marketing attempts set up for other films (thereby making other people’s marketing budgets work for them!)


…a lot of the stuff didn’t have anything to do with us, it was just because people were so interested…they were making connections to things that didn’t have anything to do with us…


Most importantly, the producers realised how fatal over publicity could be, especially when your film doesn’t have a lot of marketable elements except surprise:


That’s why we decided we better to shut up, because the flames were already so high….


It worked. Cloverfield took $41 million in its first three days. So next time you want to market something, maybe you should try not shouting about it.


%d bloggers like this: