Back in the 1980s London agency BBH came up with a brilliant ad campaign that is now their corporate mantra. The ad was for Black Levi’s and featured a single black sheep in a flock of white ones. The strap-line ran: “When the world zigs, zag”.
Identify a gap in the market and fill it with something different enough to be exciting but relevant enough to sell: this has long been the holy grail of marketing.
When the world zigs, zag – BBH campaign for Black Levi’s, 1982
In the past, the best ideas depended on sheer creativity and gut instinct as much as market research. Today’s brands have an always-on, direct line to their customers.
Zunas’ tweet shows a photo of her colleagues on board their expedition ship, preparing for the march. Each of them holds a placard with a message: “Men for the earth”, “Save the planet”, “Seals for science” or “Penguins for peace”.
Social media consultants used to talk about the difference between “broadcasting” and “listening”. You don’t hear that so much any more. One of the reasons Twitter isn’t the fun it used to be is the reversion to broadcast across so many profiles. (Combined with the rise of trolling – which makes Twitter like a party full of bores and bullies. And who wants that?)
One reason brands broadcast is because they can’t actually “listen”. Not in the true sense of the word. You can have all the monitoring systems you want, all the data gathering, all the analytics, but you can still completely miss the point.
Like puzzled parents trying to chime in with their kids’ conversations, or the proverbial dad on the dancefloor, many brands may need to face up to the harsh reality that they can never really be cool. At least, not that cool. Not achingly hip, blink and it’s over, cool.
The UK festival season has kicked in: everyone’s talking about summer and, if you’re that way inclined, you’ll want tickets to your favourite field party. So how are festival organisers making the most of it? I compared ten of the UK’s top independent events on social media, using Brandwatch to track mentions and hashtags.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a healthy conversation around music festivals in April and May (5980 mentions in total), with a strong contribution from mainstream media (led by online local newspapers).
Kendal Calling and Festival No 6 come out top of the comparison, with volume of mentions roughly in proportion with their social media following. Secret Garden Party does less well – despite having nearly the same number of Twitter fans as Kendall Calling (around 50,000), they generate less than half as many mentions. Continue reading →
Given the massive sense of frustration we can feel, sometimes it seems easier to forget the whole damn thing and go back to forming meaningful relationships through old school ties and networking dos.
But social media marketing, the ability to scale and grow through your business through amplified word of mouth (while also benefitting from heart-warming conversations), is a fabulous, life-enriching opportunity. If you do it right.
On 3 December I gave a lunchtime seminar at Royal Holloway University of London. The brief was to give an overview of social media marketing and also talk about how social tools are being used in other aspects of business, such as CRM and project management.
Royal Holloway was originally a university built for women – men weren’t admitted until 1965! The Founder’s Building – in all its Victorian gothic glory – is quite amazing. It wasn’t snowing when I visited (as in the beautiful photo above), but it was cold enough. I hope to get the chance to visit again soon.
My talk covered current key trends in social media marketing including:
Short form visual content – the huge rise in emoji, stickers and photos
Emotive video – hoaxes and tear-jerkers (such as Save The Children’s Second A Day video – 51m views to date)
Cross-platform distribution – seeding one piece of content across all networks – Buzzfeed is doing this brilliantly
Social is now mass market. The terms “social” and “digital” are blurring. Today, it’s all about “content”. The Gartner Hype Cycle for new technologies says investment and interest reach a crescendo until expectations far outweigh realistic outcomes. Content marketing and native advertising are hitting this peak round about now.
Hacking and privacy issues are likely to push more people to reduce activity on social media and even go offline altogether.
We’ll see an increase in augmented reality: tactile communications will be the next stage of the Internet. Scientists at Ochanomizu University in Japan recently developed a device that lets pet owners “play” with their cats remotely – the system even allows owners to “feel” their cat when it scratches them. We can imagine the sort of impact this technology could have over social media!
Sadly, we’re also going to see a rise in silos. Increasing fragmentation and network proliferation will mean that there’s a danger of inhabiting our own like-minded bubbles. Gillian Tett addresses our silo mentality brilliantly in her new book, The Silo Effect. Luckily, she also offers some solutions.
In January, Edelman’s Trust Barometre said the UK was at an all time low in terms of public trust for charities, NGOs, business and media. The PR giant recommended companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, and behave with integrity, in order to build trust.
In June, I went to the launch of Reclaiming Agency – a report on the future of advertising. The report concluded that advertising creatives should start using their collective nous to address sustainability, inequality, poverty and other big social issues facing the world.
Words like “collaboration”, “community” and “engagement” are used frequently in organisations, but check the subtext – you may find they’re little more than sticking plasters on the same old creaky top-down, hierarchical models (or, worse still, a deliberate ploy to distract from real, less inclusive, agendas).
Eliane Glaser’s recent RSA talk on How to de-spin a party conference (a topical take on her new book) looked at the way people – specifically politicians but also brand managers and marketers – appropriate the language of “social” business into traditional “business as usual” models.
Glaser’s critics describe her as a conspiracy theorist, and it’s easy to see why. She paints a picture of a Matrix-like world where we are all kept happy with rustic, homespun consumables while just below the surface rumbles a monstrous, corporate machine dedicated to serving a wealthy elite. This machine cares nothing for the long-term welfare of humankind – in fact, it will ultimately destroy it.
If you presumed for a moment that this was true, you’d find yourself in good company: it’s a familiar argument used by environmentalists, NGOs and the Occupy movement. You would find that George Orwell and Larry and Andy Wachowski (creators of The Matrix) were right: if only we could wake up from our mass prole-like sleepwalk, we might see the horror for what it is and build a better world.
Glaser’s book is a call to arms: a manifesto for revolution. If you take her anger on (and be warned, she’s quite persuasive), you may find yourself dusting off your student copy of the Communist Manifesto and questioning the painfully slow evolution of business.
But as Francis Fukiyama wrote in The End of History (and Glaser herself admits), revolution ain’t what it used to be. The “workers” have been seduced by Sky TV and warm shopping malls. The language of “isms” has long since disappeared from everyday conversation. Unemployed teenagers are interviewed on TV saying their sole aim of rioting was “to get free stuff”.
Glaser’s argument is that we are unable to articulate what we want. We are doing a lot of talking (on social media). It is up to us to make it meaningful.
Brands are trying to appear more ethical, and that’s a good sign. We forget that social computing is still relatively new – to some extent we’re like children playing with a new toy. When a child first starts to speak, they imitate. And that is what the big brands are doing now – imitating. Some are doing more than that, they are following through – they are actually creating more ethical businesses.
The great thing about social media is that we now have the tools to hold the non-ethical businesses to account. So, what are we waiting for? Bring on the social revolution!