Here are all of the posts tagged ‘strategy’.

The Disruption of Interruption

by Simon Kemp in News

A few weeks ago, I presented at the International Advertising Association‘s What’s Coming Next conference, joining a stellar line-up of speakers that included Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan, cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar, and the renowned yogi, Sadhguru.

The topic of my session was ‘The Disruption of Interruption‘*, and as you’ll see in the SlideShare embed of my presentation above, I explored a variety of ways in which social media is changing our understanding of – and approaches to – advertising.

As I stressed in my presentation though, it’s critical to acknowledge that social media will not ‘kill’ advertising.

In fact, social media may well be one of advertising’s greatest saviours, because the insights that marketers and agencies can gain from activities such as social listening enable us to redefine our approach to creating and distributing brand communications.

You can read through the full presentation on SlideShare (and download the full deck here), but read on for a quick summary of the key points.

Disrupting the Brief
As fans of Philip Kotler will know, marketing is all about the profitable satisfaction of people’s wants, needs and desires:


However, this poses two distinct challenges:

  1. As per the famous Steve Jobs quote, and a similar statement from Sony’s co-founder Akio Morita before him, people often struggle to express what they want until they see it.
  2. Marketers aren’t very good at knowing what people want either, mainly because mass marketing doesn’t offer a cost-efficient way to research a large number of those people’s wants, needs and desires.

But social media has changed this.

Through proactive social media listening, marketers can now tap into large volumes of real-time, organic insights, wherever and whenever they need them, at a fraction of the price of traditional market research.

The insights available in social media don’t replace traditional research, of course, but they do offer some hugely valuable additions to the marketer’s toolbox, notably:

  • The ability to build meaningful audience profiles using audience’s public social media profiles;
  • The ability to understand which problems or concerns marketing communications should address using analysis of complaints in social media;
  • The benefits or ‘reasons to believe’ that people value most, based on an analysis of favourable mentions in social media conversations;
  • The optimum occasions and contexts in which the brand can engage its audiences.

By tracking these valuable resources and activities on a regular basis, marketers and advertising agencies can build a richer and more accurate understanding of the audiences they hope to engage, and use these new insights to craft better briefs that result in more targeted and relevant brand communications that add real value to both brands and audiences.


[To learn more about social media listening and how you can start using it, take a look at our fantastic free guide here]

Disrupting Strategy
Insights have little meaning without a strategy to bring them to life, however, so it’s important that we understand how to use insights in the context of the brand’s needs and objectives.

The role of a communications strategy is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing activities – a careful balancing act that ensures the brand does the right things, as well as doing those things right:


However, the mass-media broadcast model that has dominated advertising for the past 50 years means that our approach to this balancing act is no longer balanced; the rising cost of media has meant that brand marketers are often more concerned with mitigating distribution costs (i.e. media) than they are with creating the optimum content to distribute in the first place.

This approach is clearly doomed though; there’s very little point in reaching people if the things we’re reaching them with have no relevance, meaning or impact.


If we’re to reverse this broken paradigm, we need to remind ourselves that brand communications’ role is to influence and persuade people; not simply to shout at them more loudly and more often.


Social media can help here too, but not because social media are ‘free’ [they’re not], nor because they’re relatively efficient media thanks to the targeting they offer.

Rather, it’s once again because social media listening can help us to identify and understand that effectiveness aspect – i.e. what the ‘right thing to do’ should be.

By identifying and analysing organic conversations about our brands, we can understand the difference between what people currently think and feel about our brands, and what we would like them to think and feel about our brands – and how big the gap between the two really is:


Disrupting Ideation
We need to bring the strategy to life before it can add value, of course, and social media can play a valuable role here as well.

As with all marketing activities, the critical starting point should be an understanding of the difference between the advertising you will make, and what that advertising should make happen:


Once we’ve identified the optimum approach to bringing the strategy to life – what we might call the ‘big idea’ – social media can help us craft the best experiences to share that idea with the right people in the right places and at the right times:

Right People: social media allow us to target right down to the individual level, but also to amplify those niche stories to millions of people. The trick is to engage the people who matter most, not just to try to engage the most people.

Right Places & Right Times: by thinking in terms of the most relevant occasions and situations that we identified through social media listening, we can craft communications that engage people on their terms and in the contexts where we can add the greatest value, instead of continuously trying to interrupt the greatest number of people at one go, regardless of where they are or what they’re doing.

Best Experiences: instead of merely advertising at people, social media environments allow us to add real value to people’s lives. Part of this is because social media enable us to understand what that audience value looks like in the first place, again thanks to listening (see the chart below for some ideas on what that value might be). Another benefit of social media listening is to deliver continuous improvement; by analysing the on-going conversations about the brand and its activities, we can optimise communications in real-time, tweaking creative and messaging based on what’s working best. The ‘communal’ nature of social media also makes it easier for brands to create experiences that people can share with each other, improving both reach and resonance on a personal level.


The nature of the media aspect of social media also allows us to completely rethink our concept of frequency. Instead of relying on the same, repetitive creative over and over again for months at a time, brands and agencies can create and distribute a wide variety of content based on an evolving conversation:


If we approach these opportunities with an open mind and challenge the ‘accepted wisdom’ of broadcast communications, we can ensure a more effective approach to marketing communications.


Looking for some personalised ideas on what this might look like for your brand? Get in touch with us via Twitter, or send us an email.

* Yes, I’m already tired of the word ‘disruption’ too, but the title was a nice play on words, and it was ideal for the context of this presentation. But we should really stop using it. Ahem.

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Building a connected strategy

by Simon Kemp in News

I recently presented a session for the IAB in Singapore on ‘How to Build a Connected Strategy‘, and I thought it would be useful to share it here too.

Regular readers will recognise some of the thinking from the Marketing in the Connected Age research that we conducted in partnership with the WFA, and our Social Brands ebook, but this new presentation brings together a few of their different ideas in one convenient deck (you can download the PDF here).

The presentation focuses on the 4Ps of ‘connected marketing’ – check out the SlideShare above for full details, or read on for a short summary:

1. People
At its core, social isn’t about content, reach, technology, or likes; social is about connecting with people. Conveniently, this is actually what all marketing should be about though: understanding what people want, need, and desire, and identifying ways to deliver that in order to achieve our mutual goals.

That was sometimes tricky in the broadcast-centric marketing model, because brands had limited opportunities to hear back from their audiences. However, social has turned that challenge upside down. Marketers today have almost too much information, and the challenge has evolved into being able to make sense of all the information we have at our disposal, rather than trying to find it.

The answer to that challenge? Use social listening to understand your audience’s lives, interests and motivations, not just to track what your audience is saying about your brand.

Tip: To become a truly social brand, listen twice as much as you talk.


2. Purpose
Most people don’t really care what brands make; rather, they care about what brands make happen for them. So, instead of using social media to tell your audiences how amazing your products and services are, use it to demonstrate how your brand can help those people to become amazing themselves.

Make it a story about them, not a story about you.

Aim to make a meaningful contribution to your audience’s world, not just to your brand’s bottom line. Help people achieve the things they care about. Offer them something compelling to believe in – something that they’ll actively want to talk about with others.

Tip: Don’t just give people something to buy; give them something to buy into.


3. Principles
People use social media to connect and interact with their friends and family, so brands that behave like corporate robots will seem conspicuously out of place in a social context. People are looking for something more emotional when they connect with brands in social, so emphasise the most engaging aspects of your brand’s personality – in particular, demonstrate generosity and empathy.

Tip: Use your brand’s values to build your brand’s value


4. Participation
Marketing’s job isn’t to increase likes, views, comments or shares; it’s to create brand value. If marketers are to succeed in achieving genuine engagement, we actually need to involve people, not simply chase hollow social metrics.


The easiest way to achieve this is to start thinking of our audiences as an active part of our brand, and not merely the end consumers of its products.

However, involving people isn’t just about asking them for suggestions on ways to improve our products, or to remix our latest ad. Involvement is about helping people to feel like they’re a meaningful part of the value creation process – especially when the value they’re creating is for themselves, achieved with your help. Brands like IKEA and Xiaomi have already proven the value of this approach, but its potential is not limited to their specific situations.

What’s more, with the increasing proliferation of crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it’s only a matter of time before your industry gets disrupted by new brands that have been created by the people, for the people.

Tip: Actively involve audiences in value creation in order to become a more ‘democratic’ brand.

Want more inspiration like this? Check out our Social Brands ebook for related tips and insights.


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The Value of Brand Values

by Simon Kemp in News


As part of our work on #ProjectReconnect with the WFA, we’ve heard many of the world’s top marketers extol the importance of building brands with clear, compelling values.

Our joint research suggests that such ‘brand principles’ are a core tenet of enduring brand success, so we decided to explore this topic in more detail; the WFA have been kind enough to let us share our findings here.

Why it pays to have a compelling brand personality


There’s been plenty of chatter in recent months about the importance of ‘humanising’ brands.

The buzzword may make you cringe, but the potential rewards of building a more personable and engaging brand merit serious investigation.

So, what defines a compelling, ‘human’ brand?

We asked some of the world’s leading marketers the same question, and their answers consistently focused on the same traits that define popular, sociable people.

Authenticity and Sincerity
Brands that try to trick people won’t succeed in the long term; they may generate a few quick sales, but very few (if any) consumers would re-purchase a product that failed to meet their expectations the first time around.


Moreover, people typically form a more favourable impression of brands that are open about who they are and what they do; that treat their employees, partners, and suppliers with respect; and that stay true to the things they believe in over time.

That favourable impression fosters trust, and predisposes us to listen to what the brand has to say. As a result, we’re more likely to try the brand’s products and services, so playing a crucial role in getting people over the first marketing hurdle.


Authenticity is also critical in times of crisis. A number of the marketers we spoke to referenced the transparency and sincerity of Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 Tylenol recall, which – although costly to the brand at the time – ensured that people didn’t lose faith in the brand.


Tip: the truth has more value than deception; if your brand truths aren’t compelling, change the product rather than spending more money on advertising.

We’re universally drawn to people – and brands – who give before they ask for anything in return.



This shouldn’t be news to marketers; we’ve known the power of the free sample for decades. However, this approach has even more potential in today’s connected world.

Brands now have many more opportunities to deliver ‘proactive value’ to their audiences, whether that’s through entertainment (think GoPro and Red Bull’s YouTube content), education (think American Express’s OPEN Forum), or social connectivity (think Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke with…’ and IBM’s Smarter Cities forums).

Brands also stand to benefit if they can help their audiences to be more generous; much of TOMS’s success has been built on making it easy for people to give back to others.

Tip: build marketing activities around what your audiences care about, not just around what your brand cares about.

Humour is central to many of the world’s best-loved commercials, but its potential stretches well beyond adverts.

It’s worth caveating that humour can be a tricky one to get right – especially across different cultures – but when done well, it helps build a highly engaging and sharable brand.

As we saw in our recent post outlining why Social is About More Than MediaInnocent Drinks came up a number of times in our conversations with marketers, especially in reference to the brand’s use of humour on its packaging:


Humour can also turn a mundane customer service episode into a story that gets shared by hundreds of people around the world, transforming a problem into a valuable brand-building episode – as this recent example from Amazon demonstrated:


Tip: judicious use of humour can establish a differentiated personality that draws people into your brand narrative, keeping them coming back for more.

In a social context, we’re drawn to people that are similar to us, or who demonstrate an understanding of the things we care about.

While brands may never convincingly demonstrate an understanding of our inner feelings, they can build greater affinity by demonstrating a firm belief in, or commitment to the things that matter to the people they hope to engage.


As with humour, though, this can be a tricky one to get right; brands need to demonstrate a genuine interest and belief in the things that matter to their audiences, and not merely reflect people’s behaviour in their marketing.

Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ and P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’ are two common examples that came up in our conversations, but it’s worth noting that empathy works in B2B contexts too; a number of marketers pointed out that American Express’s Small Business Saturday initiative has built considerable brand equity amongst the small retailer community, as well as with society at large.

Tip: actively champion the causes that matter to your audiences, instead of just reflecting them in your advertising.

People who inspire us gain our respect and admiration, and we actively seek out their thoughts and opinions.

This ‘magnetism’ has clear potential value in marketing too, and those brands that inspire us the most are invariably those that can also command the most robust price premiums.


Inspiration can come in many forms, though:

  • Nike’s mission to make everybody on the planet more active;
  • Lifebuoy’s mission to save lives in the developing world by spending their marketing dollars on large-scale health education campaigns;
  • Red Bull’s consistent ability to challenge our perceptions of what’s humanly possible;
  • The passion, innovation and visionary leadership of Sony’s Akio Morita and Apple’s Steve Jobs that have made portable technology an inescapable part of our everyday lives;
  • Dove’s on-going commitment to help women everywhere reclaim their own definition of ‘beauty’;

Looking at the list above, it’s easy to see a link between brand inspiration and brand ‘purpose’, which we covered in a recent post in this series.

Without this engrained purpose, brands will find it difficult to deliver sustainable inspiration, so the two need to work hand-in-hand for marketers to achieve the best results.

Tip: don’t just aim to engage people – aim to inspire them too.

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Building A Purposeful Brand

by Simon Kemp in News


As part of our ongoing work on #ProjectReconnect with the WFA, we recently explored the premise that all brands today must be ‘purposeful’. They’ve been kind enough to let us share our findings here too.

Purposeful Brands
In today’s competitive world, a great product is no longer enough for a brand to succeed.

A great product is still critical of course; no-one would willingly buy a bad product twice.

But as functional performance differences between companies’ offerings become ever more marginal, people increasingly rely on more intangible, emotional factors to inform and guide their choices.

As a result, the rules of the marketing ‘beauty pageant’ have changed. Today, brands can no longer rely on good looks alone; they need depth and soul too.

Above all, they need a higher-order ‘purpose’.

But what does a ‘brand purpose’ look like?

A Purpose Inspires Hearts and Heads


Given the choice between similar (and similarly priced) alternatives, people usually go for the option that makes them feel good.

Making people feel good isn’t just about hedonism though; brands that make a meaningful contribution to society, or brands that help people to reduce their impact on the environment, are also highly compelling.

A brand’s purpose doesn’t need to be about saving the world though; brands that offer people hope, or inspire them to improve themselves, are also well placed to earn a place in people’s hearts.

Tip #1: A great purpose engages people’s hearts, not just their heads.

A Purpose Goes Beyond Money


Ask businesspeople why their organisation exists, and most will offer a reply along the lines of “to make a profit.”

But if all businesses exist solely to make a profit, there’s very little differentiation between them.

Meanwhile, unless they happen to be company shareholders, none of your audience cares whether your organisation makes a profit. Indeed, making too much profit can actively turn people against you (think Occupy Wall Street).

If you want to compel people to choose your brand, you need to stand for something more meaningful than simply ‘selling stuff to make money’.

As John Willshire puts it, we need to focus on making things people actually want, not simply trying to make people want  things we’ve already made.

Critically, you need to show people how you help them succeed, not just how you will succeed with their money.

Tip #2: Make sure your brand’s purpose articulates the value to your consumer, as well as to your organisation.

Define Your Promise Before You Define Your Product


People don’t buy what brands make; they buy what brands make happen for them.

Think of it this way: people don’t pay for shampoo; they pay for clean, beautiful hair – and the psychological and emotional benefits that beautiful hair brings (e.g. self-confidence).

Moreover, for your customers, products and services are simply means to an end, and these products and services are increasingly at risk from leftfield alternatives that deliver those same ‘ends’ in new or different ways.

In the most extreme cases, these alternatives can destroy entire industries in a matter of months (think Kodak).

However, by building your brand around the benefits you promise rather than the products you make, you can elevate your brand beyond product-centric comparison

At the same time, you also make it easier to extend your brand beyond a specific product category (think TOMS, who have credibly expanded from shoes into eyewear and coffee).

Tip #3: A brand purpose articulates what people can buy into, not just what they can buy.

Making It Different vs. Making A Difference


Too many brands mistake novelty and distraction for differentiation.

However, such an approach is very difficult to sustain. It may bring in the first sale, but novelty quickly wears off, and the brand must resort to increasingly impressive spectacle to keep people interested – which becomes increasingly expensive and difficult.

There’s an easy way round this though: by focusing on how your brand makes people’s lives better, or how it makes the world a better place, you stand a much greater chance of keeping people coming back for more.

The Essential Tip: Strive to make things better, not just to make better things.

This post first appeared on the #ProjectReconnect website.

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The 6Cs of Global Social Media

by Simon Kemp in News

More than 2 billion people around the world used social media in the past 30 days, and these numbers are still growing at an impressive rate:

We Are Social - Global Digital Stats 2014-08

This connected, vocal audience presents huge opportunities that marketers won’t want to miss, but social success requires a different approach in different countries and cultures around the world.

So how can marketers get global social ‘right’?

The answer lies in the 6Cs of Social.

1. Conversation
There are hundreds of different social networks around the world, all built around different needs, interests, and technological functions.

All these platforms have one thing in common, though: conversation.

Without conversation, social media aren’t social, and for brands in social, it’s the conversation that really matters.

Conversations enable brands to become more engaging, allowing them to evolve beyond a straightforward product or service.

But managing a ‘regional’ conversation in Asia poses a number of challenges.

In Asia-Pacific alone, people speak more than 2,000 languages.

Even if your audience understands English, they may not be comfortable – or happy – conversing in it.

When it comes to social conversations, people prefer to speak the language that best allows them to express themselves.

Even when they do speak the same language though, there are invariably many different ways of speaking it – from the nuances of everyday slang to our constantly evolving ‘social’ vocabularies (think ‘LOL’).

The key is to remember that successful communication isn’t determined by what you say; it’s determined by what other people understand.

Recommendation: spend some time listening to your audience’s conversations in social media, and adopt a style that makes it easy for them to converse with you.

2. Culture
Humans are a highly diverse bunch, and this diversity can add significant complexity to the process of developing a unified global approach.

Firstly, people follow a wide variety of religions, each of which may impact how a brand needs to behave in social media.

Marketers will need to keep track of myriad religious festivals and celebrations, while attitudes towards things such as alcohol, styles of dress, and even colours may vary dramatically from one culture to another.

Similarly, many Asian cultures are guided by the concept of 面子 – ‘face’ as it is commonly known in English – and as a result, they may exhibit less ‘social volume’ than their Western peers.

Consequently, it may be more difficult to achieve high levels of audience interaction, which can impact organic reach and engagement.

Recommendation: make sure that your content development teams and community managers truly understand the culture of the people you’re trying to engage.

3. Content Neutrality
Qzone and Facebook still command the greatest number of active social networking users in the world, but most social media users are active across multiple platforms:

We Are Social - Global Digital Stats 2014-08-27

China’s Tencent is responsible for 3 of the world’s top 5 most active social platforms – clear evidence that social media users adopt multiple channels at once.

Chat apps like WeChat (Weixin), Whatsapp, LINE and Kakaotalk have exploded in popularity in recent months, while platforms like Weibo, Twitter and Instagram continue to grow too:

We Are Social - Global Chat App Figures 2014-08-25

As a result, it’s important for brands to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

Marketers need to create content that audiences will be able to transfer from one platform to the other, allowing people to continue the conversation on their own terms with their different networks.

This approach will also help to avoid relying too heavily on platform-specific audiences.

Social media users are quick to adopt new platforms, and marketers may find that the ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ they build in one platform quickly become irrelevant as audiences move on to the newest network or app.

Recommendation: build communities around passions, not audience on platforms.

4. Country Needs
What does your brand need to do in order to succeed?

It’s unlikely that the answer to this question will involve the same set of challenges and opportunities in each market, so you’ll need to develop an approach that can adapt to your varying local needs.

Much of this relates to the audience context in each market – for example, how much they know about the brand, or the specific place it holds and role it plays in the local landscape.

Do you need to educate people, or just reinforce what they already know? Can you already harness ‘cultural equity’ like community in-jokes or evocative imagery?

You’ll also need to adapt your content and conversational approach to your brand’s specific needs for things like new launches or environmental factors (e.g. product shortages).

Don’t forget that local legislation may have a significant impact on your activities too. Many countries have strict laws governing aspects such as product claims, competitions, or even whether certain products (e.g. alcohol) can be overtly marketed.

Recommendation: even if you’re aiming for a global or regional approach, ensure that it’s flexible enough that it can adapt to a variety of local needs.

5. Cellphones
Social media is increasingly a mobile-first experience. Almost 80% of Facebook’s users access the service via mobile devices, whilst almost all 438 million users of WeChat – China’s hottest social platform – are mobile-only.

This mobility presents some great opportunities for marketers, whether it’s connecting with people when they’re actually using a brand, when they’re at the point of sale, or when they’re out socialising with friends.

However, the mobile context differs considerably from one country to the next, and mobile diversity isn’t without its challenges.

Firstly, data connections remain slow across much of the developing world, with barely one-quarter of Asia’s 1.8 billion mobile users able to access 3G networks.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of Asia’s 4 billion active mobile connections are pre-paid (versus 27% in the US and 42% in the UK), meaning that the cost of mobile data – and therefore of mobile internet access – is still an important challenge.

As a result, marketers need to build carefully balanced content plans. High-definition video may deliver the ‘optimum experience’, but video streams or downloads will be too slow and too expensive for the average mobile user in countries like India or the Philippines, so be sure to incorporate simpler, static content too.

Slow connection speeds mean brands need to deliver immediate value too; if the audience has any doubts about the relevance or utility of a brand’s post, they will scroll straight past it before the content even has a chance to load.

Recommendation: make sure all your content is tailored for a mobile-dominated consumption experience.

6. Communities
If you do need to take a global or regional approach to social media, avoid categorising your audience by country.

Instead, look for the interests, motivations and attitudes that the people you want to engage have in common, and use these commonalities to define your audience.

People are drawn to others whom they feel affinity for, and when it comes to the borderless internet, this affinity is far more dependent on passion than it is on place.

Recommendation: define your audience around their shared motivations, not their nationality.

A version of this post first appeared in my column on The Marketing Society’s blog.

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