The End Of The World As We Know It

Occasionally, as you will know, faithful blog trotters mine, I get a little bit taken with a prime example of the admaker’s art, and all overcome with how brilliant they are at selling stuff. I know how sad this is, but, still, credit where credit is due – when I have been presumptuous enough to try and identify key trends in communication (any communication, nota bene), I have always put humour right up there at the top of the list. Make people laugh in an unexpected, wry, self-deprecating or genuinely funny way (and you’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t, at how much humour isn’t, actually, genuinely funny – and is none the worse for it) and you’ve got ’em.

Everyone likes a laugh – better still, everyone likes a clever laugh – and never more so than when everyone’s hurting financially, as we all are currently. (As those who were elected to take care of the world instead f*ck it all up on our collective behalf. Thanks.)

Now, obviously, not all brands or companies can use the humour route. Oil exploration, energy generation, financial services (and related industries) and funeral directors – amongst others – face something of a challenge if they want to make funny, and my advice would be not to try. Thus and therefore it actually behoves those brands who can do it – mostly fast-moving consumer goods with personality (think beer and crisps and smoothies) – to get to it on the hurry up. Take, for example, the truly magical ‘Good Call’ Fosters adverts – if you’re not familiar, can I suggest you do a YouTubey on their ass – which never fail to make me feel better about life in general.

(However, and extraordinarily germane to this post, have a look at this link and breathe a collective ‘wtf’. )

So, the latest commercial execution to make me feel so much better about things in general, to restore my faith in humanity, is the latest Lynx ad, for its 2012 Final Edition deodorant. Yes, snorkellers, I am going to post a link to it, but before I do that, I need to make the odd incisive observation – as is my wont.

For those who don’t know, Lynx is a (sorry, Lynx guys) fairly downmarket range of male grooming products – shower gels and deodorants. But the brand has become iconic through its marketing communications – it’s clever, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s not too serious – hell, it’s sexist, but even the laydeez have a laugh (*). Personally, I’m a customer. Those who are familiar with the products and what they appear to promise will share my frustration at the fact that, to date, no angels, or bikini-clad women have actually invaded my personal shower space while I have been using said products, but I look at it like the lottery – gotta be in it to win it.

(*) How do I draw this conclusion? Read on, blog rollers, read on.

Anyway, long story etc etc. As you’ll all know, the world is going to end on December 21 2012. Or perhaps not – perhaps it’ll be more a sort of cataclysmic event, and not an end. Or possibly, it’ll be a sort of spiritual transformation and things will not only not end, they will positively continue, but perhaps in a different fashion.  (NB again – I have to say, all this strange stuff going on in the world currently – continent-sized icebergs in Antarctica, earthquakes in Japan and SF, flooding in Thailand, 29 degrees in the UK in October, social unrest globally, the Arab Spring and Greece about to cause the biggest period of economic instability since economics was invented by that nice Mr Milton Keynes – does make you wonder whether we’re not, in fact, lining up for a cataclysm. Just me?)

So the nice Lynx people make a fabulous leap of creativity, announce their Final Edition body spray and make an ad – well – watch it for yourself here. I like this a lot. It is clever. It looks good. It has a nice soundtrack and, best of all it completely embodies what I perceive the brand to be about. Tongue-in-cheek – we all know that no amount of body spray is going to render a bearded carpenter (hey – new connection! One I’d missed! It’s sacrilegious as well!) magnetically attractive to women – but, well, I’ll keep using the stuff. You know, just on the off-chance. Anyway. Enjoy.

Finally, and tying up all the loose ends. I’ve posted a link to a Lynx Facebook page deliberately. I’m drawing the conclusion that the laydeez are having a laugh as well, despite it being a tad sexist, because they don’t appear to be complaining.

I posted a link to the Pink News and its questioning around the homophobic nature of the Fosters Good Call ad as an illustration that no matter how clear you are about your intentions, no matter how obvious the comedy, not matter how clearly it is a case of ‘laughing with you, not at you’ – there’s always space to be filled, comments to be made and, yes, people who will take offence at anything.

And with social media, these joyless, humourless, literal and narrow-minded curmudgeons get their say. Check out the comments on the Lynx Facebook page. Here’s an example:

“This is a really sick fuckin ad, playin on peoples fear and vulnerability. take it off tv ads idiots…..”

There are those who champion the use of social media in a marketing context because it’s all about the conversation, the learnings from the consumer – well, you try having a conversation with, or learning from, that particular fucknut.

Facebook – Show Me The Money

Today, I present, for your delight and delectation, a piece from the Wall Street Journal, a regional newspaper with a reasonable circulation, entitled ‘Big Brands like Facebook But They Don’t Like To Pay’. I am not going to paraphrase or summarise the article so, lazy blog trotters, you’ll have to get all clickety wid it for yourselves.

So, to my mind, there a few key points to be dragged out of this, and you’ll forgive me for re-ordering them, but in the following sequence, they make more sense:

  • Facebook’s global revenues were ‘not as robust as I would have expected”, said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
  • Facebook’s estimated market value, now in the neighborhood of $70 billion, is founded on the belief that companies will spend big to advertise on the site. Facebook’s revenues, which come largely from ads, were $1.6bn in the first half of this year, up $800m from a year earlier.
  • Facebook is expected to capture just 6.4% of total online ad spending this year, according to estimates by eMarketer.
  • EMarketer expects Facebook’s ad revenues to reach $2bn in the US, from 162 million unique users, according to comScore; Google is expected to earn $12.8bn in US ad revenue from 184.6 million unique US users, according to comScore.
  • The auto maker (Ford)……….said it spent less that 5% of its total online ad budget for the (Ford Focus) campaign on Facebook.
  • Martin Sorrell………..said Facebook works for brand building, but companies that use traditional advertising “are invading a social space. You have to be extremely careful”.
  • “You can give them money, and they can give you Likes,” said Mr Kelly (Scott Kelly, Ford’s head of digital marketing), “but the question is, what is the value of those Likes?”
  • “Likeonomics.” Rohit Bhargrava, SVP with WPP agency, Ogilvy.
  • Facebook says 96% of the top 100 US advertisers, as ranked by Ad Age, bought ads on the site in the past year. Of the world’s 100 largest companies, 61% have a presence on the seven-year old company, up from 54% last year, according to Burson Marsteller.
  • Sony Corp is shifting 30% of its traditional ad budget into social sites, including Facebook, for its Playstation console. Diageo, maker of Smirnoff and Guinness, committed in September to spending more than $10m on Facebook ads.

So, snorkellers all, I’m just throwin’ this out there:

  • Facebook’s immense valuation is based on its certainty that companies will spend big on ads. They’re not. Most of the ‘Book’s ad revenue comes from SMEs.
  • Ford used Facebook for its ‘viral’ possibilities – it spent a little and then pulled the spend once momentum had been achieved. Ford’s head of digital raises questions over value.
  • Martin Sorrell issues a warning against traditional advertising on Facebook and even Diageo (one of ‘Facebook’s recent successes’) is only committing $10m to Facebook ads – which is hardly the big bucks Facebook needs.
  • 61 of the world’s top 100 companies have a ‘presence’ on Facebook – define ‘presence’, please

I’m still looking for the Emperor’s underwear here.

My perception is that Facebook is finding it tough going monetising its undoubtedy enormous user base – and this is partly because savvy companies (Ford amongst them) realise that – whetever value there may be in using Facebook as a marketing and sales tool – it is not delivered through advertising on the site.

Facebook themselves are not helping their cause as David Fischer, VP of advertising and global operations for Facebook, has said that the company is “building our business for the long-term” – and turning down ads that compromise the user experience. In addition, Facebook ads are small – because of an early decision by Zuckerberg to keep the site uncluttered.

Sorry Facebook – you can’t have it both ways. You can either liberate the revenues and sell companies what they’ll pay for – or you can stick with your ideals, and never realise the potential that might (just might) justify the frankly obscene estimated market value that’s being bandied about.

My bet is that Zuckerberg will attempt to have his cake and eat it – and the rumoured float next year will be a car crash of epic proportions.

A Letter to Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

Here, dearest Blog Trotters mine, is a letter sent, via the medium of  ‘e’ mail, to the CEO, CMO and (oh but yes) the Chief Performance Officer of Everything Everywhere, the company formed through the alliance of Orange and T-Mobile. I’ll let you know whether I get a response.

(Still have no email on my B’Berry, by the way.) (I knew you’d be concerned.)

“Dear Olaf, Pippa and Ralf
Having been, finally, beaten by your impenetrable ‘customer service’ network (a completely new and totally unexpected definition of the term ‘customer service’ that I’d not encountered before), I am really, really hoping that you will be able to solve my Orange problem for me. (Congratulations on the company name, by the way – genuinely visionary and grandiose. If only it wasn’t the complete opposite of my experience to date.)
A long story short – as I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do (I know I have) – I’ve been a genuinely loyal customer of Orange for over 10 years and, to date, while it’s been (with hindsight) a bit pricey and I don’t like being sold insurance that I don’t need, I’ve been happy with it. Never even considered moving. Over the last four days, however, all of that has changed – rarely have I felt so powerless in the face of complete corporate ineptitude. Seriously, guys, whoever designed your call handling systems, the automated responses and the customer-facing website functionality should be tracked down and punished, in a cruel and unusual way. And so should the person who sold you the idea of outsourcing your call centres (I’m guessing that they are outsourced) – as the systems don’t work and even if they did, the call centre staff don’t have the knowledge to do anything with the account data the system is supposed to provide. I suspect it’s cost-cutting and lack of forward planning – but, whatever the cause, it’s frustrating and it will lose you business.
So – I’ve got an upgrade to a new Blackberry device. There was a slight delivery snafu, but it arrived. I’d been told to ring a number to activate the SIM. Did that on Sunday – the rather irritating call centre chap told me I should have done it online (incidentally, when I DID try to do it on line, the service didn’t work), but then said he’d be able to sort it out. Monday morning – not done, so I called again. Monday afternoon, nothing happening, called again, assured that a supervisor would be activating my SIM. Late Monday afternoon, call again, recorded message tells me that a problem precludes me being connected to an operator, and I should call back. Monday evening, nothing doing, call again, put on hold for 20 minutes, then cut off. (Meanwhile, and while I’m on a roll, why do I have to go through umpteen ‘if you want this, press that’ prompts, every time I ‘phone, when I still end up with the same lacklustre call centre staff, all of whom (without exception) have to contact someone else to address my query? And what, in the name of all that’s holy, is a ‘magic number’?)
Tuesday morning – hallelujah – SIM activated. Attempt to connect to my internet email accounts. Wah-wah and, indeed, oops. Either I’ve got a purely enterprise device, not allowing (as I’m sure you know) connection to internet mail accounts, or I’m being stupid. Let’s take the latter option – it’s been known. I visit your Orange website – again, do you know how difficult and painful it is to find things on that site? Couldn’t find anything helpful. Today I braved your call centres again, looking for a resolution to the problem – who knows (not me) maybe Orange can tweak the B’Berry enterprise software and provide me, remotely, with a consumer-facing device. Suffice it to say, your operative either couldn’t, or didn’t, address the issue. Nor did she call me back when she said she was going to.
So, here I am, with device, without email. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to rely on email to keep me in touch with career and business opportunities, so I’m a little stifled right now. Two questions:
How has Orange come to this? It was brilliant – now it’s rubbish. Is this the Everything Everywhere influence?
Can you sort this out for me – or do I, and with regret, take my business elsewhere? I know I’m just one punter, but on the basis of my recent experience, I won’t be the last.
Perhaps a little less spend on marketing and a little more on nuts and bolts and getting the experience right.
All the best
The Wordmonger
PS And, lest I be accused of not making enough effort (sigh), yes, I have emailed Orange, via the same difficult website, twice, once asking advice and once complaining. No response to date. I know it says ‘a response within 48 hours’ – but, really, 48 hours? In today’s social media-driven world? Time for reflection, I think.
PPS I know I wrote, earlier, ‘long story short’ – but, well, hey……….”

Corporate Communications – Trends for 2011

I don’t really know what I was doing, publishing an overview of communications trends for 2011 – and here’s the good bit – more than halfway through 2011. I was either bored, or labouring under delusions of grandeur and importance, or I was temporarily insane. Possibly for tax reasons. In any case, I’ve just re-visited this post and, with my delusional grandiose Hat of Importance on my head, it is actually quite good.

And it stands up for 2017, also. I’m brilliant, me.

It has been a mighty long time, blog trotters mine, a mighty long time. I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been doing something incredibly exciting, dangerous and isolated for the last however many months it has been since my last post – like single-handedly piloting a spaceship to Venus, without either lights or a radio, or breaking the world record for lying immobile and silent in a flotation tank.

But, of course, I haven’t. Simply been busy, mind on other stuff, d’you see.

Anyway, without further ado, guess what is the most popular post on my blog? Actually, that’s unfair, it would take you days to trawl through all the posts and even then you’d still be guessing, so I will go ahead and tell you – it’s this.

It seems there are a lot of people out there looking for guidance as to where the Corp Comms industry is going – so desperate are they for answers, any answers, that they’ll even read my blog which, as my faithful followers will attest, is to be found sticking, damply, to the bottom of the internet’s barrel.

Today, therefore, I am – without any source material, without any proof points and without any visible means of support – going to bring you what I believe to be the current Corporate Communications trends in 2011. I think publishing this on July 15 gives you ample amounts of year left in which to follow my trends, slavishly. (It’s very important that they are followed slavishly. Makes all the difference.)

1) Social media. Despite my best efforts and those of the small band of underground Luddites like me, social is showing no signs of going away, and I am afraid, sickening though it is, we are going to have to participate. I myself have just updated the Twitter account that I have never used since I opened it in 2009, and I am going to have a right good twat, when I can think of something useful to contribute. What is interesting, however, is that when we talk about social, we no longer, necessarily, mean Facebook, as even the most weak-minded amongst us is beginning to realise that Zuckerberg is an odious turd who simply wants to control. (Parellels between Murdoch and Zuckerberg anyone?)

The role social media plays in a corporate context will, of course, depend on what sort of corporate you are. Simply put – if you’re an airline, then Twitter is good for twatterating about your routes and your schedules. If you are a global firm of accountants, no amount of Facebooking is going to make you interesting. Know your audience, know yourself, take approriate action.

2) Austerity is with us every waking, breathing day – things are not getting better (unless you’re the Scots couple who won £161m on Monday – why have they waived their right to anonymity? Why?) and it looks like it might get worse – so if you’re talking to the end user, empathise with them and – if you can – give them something. They will love you for it. Especially if it’s beer, or pizza or a free holiday. Do not underestimate the shallow needs of the impoverished.

3) Also driven by austerity is the need for inclusion – we’re all in this together, even if we’re not – so when formulating comms plans, be part of the group you’re talking to, think the things they’re thinking, watch the stuff they’re watching, eat the food they’re eating. This maybe very nasty, if your medium is the Daily Mail, but trust me, no-one’s listening to stuff that doesn’t come from within.

4) Austerity, the threat of a winter of discontent, rising fuel prices (incidentally, if – dear reader – you work for an energy company and you’re searching for a way to make your company/executives look good – I’m sorry, you are a reprehensible reptile and there is nothing for you here), rising taxes, perhaps even rising interest rates – we need something to snigger at. Do communicate with humour, there’s a chap – it should be clever and whimsical and it should make ’em laugh.

5) Transparency is an old ideal, but let’s remind ourselves that without transparency, you don’t have trust and without trust you don’t have any sort of relationship. More and more important these days – we’re all feeling threatened, we’re all worried about the future and no-one’s goingto be loyal to anyone or anything unless they’re certain it’s clean, and they can see what makes it tick. And if you feel you can’t be transparent then, for goodness sake, go away and clean yourself up until you can.

6) Working together – another much-vaunted ideal – but one that’s still conspicuous by its absence. what it means is simply eschewing the cult of the ego, realising that it doesn’t matter where the idea comes from if the idea is the right one and all pulling together to make it effective. That’s PR and advertising and marketing and direct mail and digital. It also means being polite to each other and playing nicely. This way, everyone’s interest is served. Honest.

So this is where I think we’re going in 2011. I’d be interested to know what others (anyone?) think.

Chips and Beans

Chips and beans – staple foodstuffs – the very foundation of a robust and balanced diet. Every day, three times a day, if I had a choice. (Sorry, dearest blog trotters, I find myself a little lacking in the breakfast department and – quite frankly – I could suck a frozen dog.)

But this post isn’t about me and my almost unmanageable craving for fried food, no, it’s about ideas. And it touches on what I believe to be a potential communication trend for 2011, so, if’n’ your in the field of communications, you might want to stick around to the end.

I’ve touched on the topic before – there’s this debate that rages on in the communications background (and when I say comms, I mean advertising, marketing, PR and corporate communications because, unlike so many others, I AM inclusive and I embrace both sides of the line and, yea, through it as well – I am, truly, a renaissance communicator) which occasionally surfaces almost, but not totally, completely unlike a small volcanic eruption – and the debate is – who owns the idea?

Obviously, the answer is – who gives a shit who owns the idea? If the idea is a great one, we should all embrace it and use it as a great theme for our part of the business mix. Unfortunately, too many companies trammelled by ‘not invented here’ syndrome, meaning many good ideas smothered at birth. I’ve had my fair share.

So how genuinely marvellous to see a totally fantastic idea (I cannot tell you how much I am in awe of this idea), being used across a business – increasing sales, making consumers feel warm inside, evoking memories, generating laughter and, I’d wager, bringing the home team together in an internal-communications-stylee. Yes, blog snorkellers, it really is that good. And it’s for beans. Baked beans. Heinz baked beans to be exact.

Here it is in all its glory, presented through the medium of film. (Obviously, I’d prefer it if it were presented through the medium of insane industrial mime, but you cannot have everything, as me old mam used to say. Still does, in fact.)

So, the idea – for you lazy, lazy slackers who cannot be bothered wid da clickety – is a resealable jar of baked beans. A screw-top jar. Why is it so good? Let me count the ways (and sorry if I miss some):

  • We’ve all had that ‘not used all the beans in the tin moment’. What do you do with the ones that are left?
  • It is a childhood memory for everyone. Newborn babies know about leftover beans, at a genetic level
  • It is humorous
  • It is a money-spinner – a screw-top jar of beans is going to be more costly than a tin
  • It makes the workforce feel proud

It, genuinely, is a work of genius. Have I said this before? It works across every piece of the business melange. And no, it is not important who had the idea, it is important what everyone does with the idea. This could be a communications trend for 2011 – everyone working together – through-the-linery – accepting that the brilliant concept can come from anywhere. Chances of it happening?

Briefly, then, chips. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a restaurant chain. I had an extremely creative PR agency. We needed some local media coverage, because we couldn’t afford to advertise or offer local discounts.

(PR purists, look away now.)

We made up a story – the story being that this restaurant chain were launching something called a ‘Pincher’s Portion’ of chips. This  was – supposedly – a half-portion of chips that you could order for your girlfriend to stop her eating yours (after having flatly denied that she actually wanted any). This is very resonant – every bloke in the entire world – at a subatomic level – knows how frustrating – and true – this scenario can be.

It was brilliant – the coverage was beyond our wildest dreams. And better, the NPD department looked at the idea, worked out how they could implement it, and made it a reality. A half-portion of chips at three-quarters of the price of a full one. Money spinner. Again, doesn’t matter who had the idea – a good idea can benefit everyone.

Finally, riding on the tube the other day, I saw a big poster advertising MacDonalds. It featured a packet of chips. With fingers. And the slogan ‘pick packet’. It minded me of the Pinchers Portion and also of the fact that no-one has a monopoly on ideas. At any one time, different people all over the shop are having the same idea. Embrace the idea – once again, it doesn’t matter who had the idea – it’s what you do with it that counts.

I am really, really hungry.

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part The Third)

Oooh! Oooooh! Oooooh! (Imagine small child at back of classroom waving hand in air.)

And another thing. Yesterday, I passed comment on the flimsy gibberings of Erik Qualman, social media snake-oil salesman to the shiny-object obsessed masses, the man behind socialnomics.net, and the author of this piece – statistics about social media that supposedly build a case for its here-to-stayness and its centrality to all that is good and clean.

Anyways, cutting a story short, something was niggling at me. I re-read my post. I remembered why it is that I’m not a social media fan. It’s not because I deny its existence (as I was once accused of doing), nor that I have anything against it per se. No – it’s simply because I’m a career communicator, and I believe that all marketing, communications and sales activity should have a measurable ROI and a demonstrable impact on the bottom line – which social media (in the context of sales, marketing and communication) does not.

So I re-examined Mr Qualman’s list with this in mind. His list of 42 points (go and check it out for yourself, you lazy blog snorkeller). I wanted to see how many of his 42 statistics, claims and exhortations actually had a bearing on the use of social media for commercial ends.

And the answer is 12. Yes, 12 out of 42 – and even those do not have a direct impact on the formulation of a commercially-focused, measurable social media strategy, aimed at delivering bottom-line impact. The other thirty are, variously, meaningless statistics, empty statements and trite irrelevancies.

How did I come across this horsesh*t in the first place? Because a contact of mine, who is slightly more forgiving of the whole social media mojambo, circulated it. Implying that quite a few people are circulating it and more than a few are using it to justify the time, resource and budget that they have convinced their employers/clients to put behind this whole box of smoke and mirrors.

I don’t have to tell you – right-thinking snorkeller that you are – how toxic this is.

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part Deux)

Oui, oui, my hydrophobic British chums (and dear, dear blog snorkellers of whatever persuasion, religion, creed, nationality or proclivity you may have assumed on rising, this fine matin) here we go again with the increasingly rabid and just-on-the-left-bank-of-sane meanderings of one Erik Qualman, evangelist of this parish and the Dr Evil-alike behind socialnomics.net.

You will know, because of your avidity in the following of this blog, that I have already dealt with the thoughts of Qualman (have a look here) but, to maintain a flimsy gauze of pretence, I will tell you about it again, as though I were addressing the needs of a new visitor.

Mr Qualman puts forward an entire raft of statistics which, on the face of them, appear to tell us that not only is social media here to stay, but that it is becoming fundamental to the core of our very lives. They go on to imply that by ignoring social media from a commercial perspective, then your business will no longer be around in five years, and from a personal perspective, you might as well rub yourself with a fish, don a hessian all-in-one and wander the highways and byways, ringing a bell and wailing ‘unclean, unclean’, for all the future you’ve got as a valid member of society. And I had a thing or two to say about that.

Now Mr Qualman has updated his statistics. Again, on the face of it, can’t argue. Facebook (by population) is the third largest country in the world? Check. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one use of the internet? Check. One out of every eight couples married in the US in 2009 met via social media? Er. OK. If you say so.

I’m sure it’s all true. “Some universities have stopped distributing email accounts…….instead they are distributing ipads” – so, if I’m understanding this correctly, enrol in University, get an ipad. Certainly beats the £5 I got for opening a bank account. And it’s a very attractive offer for those people who a) can’t afford an ipad of their own and b) couldn’t get one anyway because they’re in such short supply. In fact now we know why they’re in short supply – because all the universities had bought the entire stock to give to their students instead of email accounts.

Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined ) (now there’s a nasty thought) – or Allen Detcher – have more Twitter followers that the population of Ireland. No – that IS the population of Ireland, having a laugh. Some of the population of Ireland are finding it so amusing that they’ve been following Elshten Kuneres more than once. Wags that they are.

The point is – and still remains – that I cannot be the only one (or even one of a few only ones) who don’t really want ‘the news finding us’ (rather than us looking for the news, when we want it) or ‘products and services finding us via social media’ (rather than that quaint old-fashioned thang called shopping around when we’re good and ready, thankyou).

I’m sure social media is growing in leaps and bounds – statistically. I just don’t believe there’s any  longevity, loyalty, depth or substance to it. It’s millions of little voices, yapping into a void. It’s certainly not a valid marketing, communications or sales tool.