Blog : Brainiacs

Inspiring Creativity – It’s a dangerous business but someone has to do it.

Inspiring Creativity – It’s a dangerous business but someone has to do it.

‘Creativity essentially scares people…’

This is a quote I used to start a talk I did recently for the Marketing Society Scotland.

The event was titled ‘Inspiring Creativity’ and was the third of the Inspiring Minds programme, designed to explore five key areas of marketing. Of those five areas which include briefing, planning, results and presentations – creativity is the most elusive.

Why? Because the end result of the creative process is what everyone cares about, and no-one really wants to know about the ugly truth behind the journey you take to arrive at that place.

This seems strange, but it’s true.

It’s scary for clients to commit completely to creativity, because it is unchartered territory. It is by definition, non-conformist.

It’s scary – in fact it can be an excruciating prospect – to be the person tasked to think creatively… Especially to order.

The process is so awkward. Luke Sullivan, author of ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’, describes creativity as ‘like washing a pig.’

So why do we do it?

Because it amplifies our message. It allows us to cut through into those uncharted places, it keeps us dynamic and it keeps us alive and even though it is the hardest role of all to fulfil, it’s the most rewarding one.

‘I am not creative’ is a phrase people say all the time. However, in reality this is not true, because if you are alive, you can create. Fear of the unknown and comfort of the usual, are the active restrictions at play here. To be creative you just need to have the confidence to push the boundaries a bit further.

Creativity is the soul of all marketing, branding and communications and we all need to be thinking creatively throughout the whole process. If we don’t, we lose the opportunity to make the biggest impact and make the most difference, to do the best work; and as hard as it can be, make us feel amazing about what we do.

So, how do we inspire ourselves to be less intimidated and be more creative?

First absorb the world around you: look, listen and understand. As George Lois says, ‘Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires’.

Second, know the formulas.

As part of the creative induction process here at Stripe I have come up with what I call, ‘Five Ingredients to Create’. This is a crib sheet for the creative process and if you are using one or more cribs on this list then you’ve got it in the bag.

# 1 Be Original.

It’s obvious but it’s hard, because originality is abstract. Making something original is taking all the references and facts you see every day and adding that little twist to make it unique.

Picasso once said, ‘Good artists copy. Great artists steal.’

Interestingly, this was a phrase used by Steve Jobs in relation to design at Apple. This was explained later by Apple’s Bud Tribble, “if you take something and make it your own… it’s becomes your design, and that’s the dividing line between copying and stealing. That is part of Apple’s DNA.”

Creativity does not exist in a vacuum; it can do, but it seldom does. Take from the creativity of others, but make it a heist.

# 2 Be Reactive

Listen and jump into the conversation, this way you create immediacy. Instead of drawing in someone’s attention, you can fall purposely into it. Be there and be aware.

# 3 Concept and Craft

Think about concept and think about craft and how they work with each other to make an idea great. Sometimes you need to bring more creativity to the party to add value to an idea. On the other hand if the work is all craft with no concept, idea or strategy, it will lose its relevance or story. Treat the message right. Let it grow.

# 4 Innovation

Know about it. Digital and technology is moving forward around us, like an out of control juggernaut, and we all need to be aware what’s going on. Run beside it if you can’t be in front of it. Be ready to introduce new technology and techniques. Keep things exciting and dynamic. Use innovation. Use it first and be remembered.

# 5 Mistakes are good

Be careful with this one because it’s not the mistakes we make that are good, it’s how we allow them to take us forward that is. You are not being creative if you are not prepared to fail. It is a leap of faith that you have to be inspired enough to take. As daunting a prospect as this may be, this crib is the most important of all.

 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Why be good when you can be scarily great.

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

After 11 days of incredible sporting action, the inaugural multi-sport European Championships drew to a close on Sunday evening. Titles were won and lost, world records smashed, and we were right in the thick of it.

Stripe’s work on Glasgow 2018 started way back in February last year. Our first task after being appointed as the Championships’ digital agency was to set out a unique strategy to reach sports fans, families and the local community in the run up to the Championships, to generate awareness and help people understand what this new event was all about. With a focus on organic and paid social we set this strategy in motion, engaging these audiences and encouraging them to help us bring #themoment to life, starting with the first of our key milestones: 500 days to go.

In the 500 days that followed we delivered some amazing work: created thousands of assets; planned and published posts across Glasgow 2018 profiles; produced films for online and TV; launched the official mascot Bonnie the Seal; recruited volunteers; live streamed with athletes and ambassadors; ran over 200 hundred social ad campaigns; measured and reported on all digital activity; and a whole lot more besides.

With Glasgow 2018 marking the first time that the six featured sports have come together to hold their European Championships, we needed to constantly analyse, evaluate and evolve our approach. Established multi-sport events like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games and recent single sport events here in the UK like London 2017 offered insight into what can work to engage sports fans and non-fans alike, but a new format presented new challenges.

We knew that the awareness and understanding piece of our work was going to be a much bigger challenge than that faced by other events and we weighted our strategic focus accordingly. This meant conducting a detailed research piece at the outset, really digging in to the conversation about other events, Glasgow as a host city, and the individual sports. We profiled our domestic and international audiences, segmenting our tactics for each based on all our findings to help us tailor both organic and paid social activity.

We also developed a bespoke measurement framework specifically for Glasgow 2018 that allowed us to evaluate activity in terms of not only the awareness and engagement benefits, but also hard metrics such as sales for ticketing campaigns. By combining in-built social platform insights, website analytics including UTM tracking, social listening tools, custom attribution modelling and enhanced ad reporting thanks to employment of the Facebook pixel, we’ve been able to accurately measure everything we’ve done and consistently deliver results.

Throughout the journey to the Championships, our priority was balancing of great creative with great insight: delivering brilliant ideas and content that really resonates whilst ensuring we were able to measure the value of what we do and provide genuinely useful insight that helped the combined Glasgow 2018 and Stripe team push things forward. As the Championships themselves kicked off two weeks ago, our day to day activity changed but not the way we worked.

On the 1st August we changed gear and moved to near round-the-clock measurement and monitoring of conversation surrounding the Championships, seven days a week. For twelve days we tracked key conversations, influencers, opportunities and issues. We watched Adam Peaty break another world record and set Twitter alight, we shared the home crowd’s disappointment when Ross Murdoch just missed out on a medal by the narrowest of margins, and we celebrated when Laura Kenny’s comeback led to a well-earned gold (and a mention from Elton John).

The Stripe team was responsible for gathering data and insight on all online discussion in real time and delivering reports at regular intervals each day, as well as spotting and working up reactive content and creative opportunities to maximise impact during the Championships.

Now that the event is over, all that’s left is to reflect on an amazing 18 months of preparation and hard work that resulted in one heck of a payoff. We’re still pulling together our wrap up report of everything that’s happened since that first milestone campaign, but we already know for sure it’s going to point to a hugely successful event and we’re so proud we got to be a part of it.

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

Like most things, social media has its very own international day of recognition, yes that’s right, it’s #WorldSocialMediaDay and it’s certainly a cause for celebration.

2018 has been one of the most turbulent years in the world of social media – the Cambridge Analytica controversy has shifted public opinion of social media platforms and even more so, the ethics surrounding online information management. As a result, the public’s trust of information shared online by news outlets, public figures and of course, brands is at an all-time low.

Even with what seems like a constant wave of negative reports, social media has and continues to change things for the better for brands. No matter the size of business or the value of a product, micro-brands now have the capability to reach any audience they choose in the same way international brands have done so for years.

There will always be a place for global televised advertising and A-list celebrity endorsements, but social media has given all brands the chance to compete on a level playing field and that is what makes social media so priceless.

As more and more brands begin to acknowledge the value of having a presence on social media, there are still many asking where to start?

Should every brand dabble in the recently launched IGTV? Should every brand pay influencers for partnerships? Can brands even prevent themselves from being sucked into the anti-social media agenda?

One thing common across brands nailing the volatile social media landscape is those with a clear, defined and confident brand identity. An identity that transcends through all content – images, videos and tone. An identity that has helped it navigate the landscape of traditional PR and marketing, so it’s a pretty good place to start.

Make a Date with Data Protection

Make a Date with Data Protection

So what can I say about GDPR? Sadly for the Stripe team the term doesn’t stand for God Damn Public Relations, if it did we’d ace that.

What I’m talking about is the General Data Protection Regulation, not the most exhilarating topic perhaps, but please don’t stop reading, let me explain…

The regulation is a new law that will come into force across the EU (including the UK, we’re still in it for now) this May. The law makes it incumbent for businesses to safeguard all their staff, client and supplier private information; meaning that they have to be a lot more sensible about the personal information that they collect and store.

The UK’s existing data protection law was created back in 1998, the same year Geri left the Spice Girls, Titanic was top of the Box Office and two PhD students from California created a little-known search engine named Google. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and the law relating to data badly needed updating for a new generation, one that communicates, shops, banks and does business online.

Almost every week the media reports on yet another company that has either fallen prey to hackers or has inadvertently shared customer information with a third party. This dissemination of personal information leads to an array of problems, ranging from nuisance phone calls (“Have you been mis-sold PPI?”) through to fraud and identity theft.

Last month the user database for popular app My Fitness Pal was hacked. I’ve intermittently used the app to chronicle my various failed attempts to shape up. As a result of the hack, I now know that my contact details and (even more terrifyingly) my weight could be in the hands of anyone. And this is small fry compared to other headlines – the patients whose NHS medical records were hacked; or the Grindr users whose HIV status was sold to a third-party marketing firm…Life is getting a little too Black Mirror, and that is exactly why we need GDPR.

Like most professions, in the comms industry we do, by trade, collect some personal data. In preparation for the upcoming law change, we’re implementing new and secure processes for managing data, emails and encouraging our clients to do the same. Our goal is to ensure all the data we keep on file is up-to-date, relevant to our business, and above all, stored safely.

The law sets a new standard for data protection and makes businesses accountable for how they control and process data. It will require changes in mind set and processes, but ultimately, the outcomes are positive; the law will help us ensure our privacy and reclaim a degree of autonomy in the digital age.

Three cheers for data protection.

Alexa, why should I care about smart speakers?

Alexa, why should I care about smart speakers?

What did you get for Christmas?

Chances are, that if you’re into gadgets, it was an Amazon Echo.

The internet shopping giants are keeping the exact sales figures of their range of digital assistant under close wraps, but the fact that the Alexa app needed to operate them was the most downloaded on Christmas Day and for weeks afterwards on both IoS and Android platforms is a pretty strong signal that Amazon won the seasonal battle to be top dog under the techie Christmas tree. Amazon might be coy about detailing their massive growth, but informed industry experts think there are probably currently about four million of their smart speakers in the UK, and one recent survey suggested penetration will top 40% of all British households as early as this year. With Google, Apple and Samsung also all in the arena, the explosion in voice recognition and the generational disruption it represents for how we interact with technology isn’t science fiction, it’s here and now, and brands are already diving in, admittedly some with better results than others.

Whether it’s cooking tips (and abuse) from Gordon Ramsay as users cut their vegetables in their kitchen, or taking up the slack and reading a bedtime story to kids, the benefits of smart speakers seem endless. The number of new ‘skills’ (or apps) which the Echo devices can offer has risen from a dozen or so when it was first launched to approximately 30,000 now, and growing daily.

Crucially, the fact that it’s not just Amazon but independent companies that can develop new skills for Echo devices makes this pioneer period a real gold rush moment for any firms willing to take up the challenge. Gordon Ramsay aside, other early adopters like JustEat and VirginTrains are already translating the tech into sales. But like every gold rush, there are some who don’t always strike it lucky first time round. National Rail’s Alexa skill, for example, has left some users complaining in frustration that the Echo can’t differentiate between different stations in the same city, or has given out-of-date schedule information.

A quick look at #AlexaFail on Twitter provides enough proof that the tech is (often hilariously) still evolving. But despite the inevitable glitches, the rapid transformation of Amazon Echo and its competitors from parlour room novelties into genuinely life-enhancing helpers is happening, quite literally, as we speak.

Personalisation will be the next big leap forward. Once smart speakers can recognise individual voices it will be able to tailor results to preferences. Likewise, the integration of voice recognition with cars and all manner of smart devices from TVs, home heating and lightbulbs to ovens is already here.  All new BMW’s and Minis will have the technology by the middle of this year.  As an example, when the tired traveller can ask their car for nearby hotel or restaurant recommends and get a response tailored to their history, preferences and budget, and then have it booked for them, then the game will really have shifted another gear.

In the meantime those brands that can answer the questions consumers are asking, and those who learn from the mistakes of others, will be the real winners.

Fake News!

Fake News!

“We are living in an era of fake news” said a Downing Street spokesman as the UK Government unveiled the new national security communications unit to tackle disinformation.

President Trump announced the Fake News Awards on Twitter, the Pope just denounced “snake tactics” from those who spread fake news, and social media platforms are being threatened with sanctions if they don’t hand over information about misinformation campaigns.

This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror set in a disturbing dystopian future-universe. This is real life in 2018.

During times like this the public needs reliable sources of news more than ever. Major, trusted news outlets remain our bastions of the truth as organisations like the BBC, Press Association and Reuters pour resources into fact-checking and strive to present a balanced, unbiased story.

It will be interesting to see how they fare as Facebook begins piloting new algorithms to prioritise content from publications that people rate as trustworthy. The most trusted sources will rank higher in news feeds to help the truth rise to the top. While there are only tests in the US now, Facebook plans to roll it out internationally in the future.

In Norway, four of the country’s most influential media organisations have already formed a ‘fact-checking collaboration’ called Faktisk. It will manually fact-check Norway’s media and social media, public debates and politicians’ comments before ranking them with a truthfulness rating from one to five. The software is open source, so other media companies can use it too.

Fake news is no longer a joke. Around the world publishers, governments and social media platforms are under increased public scrutiny to address the issue. The race is on to find the best way to spot and flag fake news.

Will the UK Government be the first to crack the code? Only time will tell.

Micro Influencers – What are they and where can you find them?

Micro Influencers – What are they and where can you find them?

If you’re unfamiliar with influencer marketing, it is the term used to describe brands using influential individuals to promote their products.

Influencer marketing is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience as consumers are trusting third party recommendations more than traditional outbound marketing efforts.

The term influencers can cover a wide range of people including celebrities, sports stars, bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and more. However, often when the term influencer is thrown around we think of A-list celebrities with millions of followers and fans.

Yet, brands are increasingly stepping away from the most well-known influencers and looking towards a new type of influencer – the micro influencer.

What is a micro influencer?

A micro influencer is someone with a following of 3,000 – 100,000 – otherwise known as the sweet spot for engagement. Micro influencers are very successful in terms of interaction, engagement and conversation. This is because social media users aren’t as keen to interact with celebrities compared to someone they can relate to and influencer marketing is most effective when the individuals are viewed as peers.

Why you should be using micro influencers

Engaging with micro influencers is the perfect way to promote your brand’s offerings though genuine and authentic content. As their audience is very valuable to them, the micro influencer will only post content they know their audience will want to see and a lot of their success depends on authenticity. As a result, sponsored posts will feel more genuine if they align with the usual style of content posted by that influencer.

Generally, studies have shown that the larger someone’s following is, the lower levels of engagement they received from their followers. Someone with 1,000 to 3,000 followers is likely to receive, on average, 8% post engagement in relation to their followers whereas, someone with between 500,000 and 1,000,000 is more likely to receive 1.7% – 2.4% post engagement on average.

Despite having a smaller following, micro influencers are likely to have a much more engaged, targeted audience because they are more likely to share content related to a particular niche as opposed to just being followed for being ‘them’. Examples of this include travel instagrammers and fitness bloggers. As the user will follow that micro influencer due to their interests, they are much more likely to engage with the content – much more valuable than hundreds of thousands of eyes scanning a post yet not registering it in any way.

Based on this, using micro influencers is proving to be cost effective for brands. Micro influencers generally charge significantly less than an influencer with a much larger following. Therefore, it is likely you will be able to engage with several micro influencers for a fraction of the price of one celebrity, yet see higher engagement and more effective results.

How to find and choose the right influencers for your brand

To find influencers who are right for your brands, the following tips are useful:

  • Use relevant hashtags to find micro influencers who are interested in what your brand offers
  • Research on social media to see who has a large following and is already interacting with your brand
  • Search on Google for influencers in your target area. An example of this could be ‘travel blogger in London’
  • Research the influencer’s audience – are they valuable to your brand?
  • Look for a community or network relevant to the niche that your micro influencer works in. Such as ‘mummy Facebook accounts UK’
When Style transforms into a Story

When Style transforms into a Story

Today marks the start of London Fashion Week (LFW) which can only mean two things for the week ahead, stylish consumers will be glued to their phones and fashion brands will be working a lot of overtime.

LFW is the opportunity for journalists, consumers, buyers, celebrities and influencers to catch a glimpse of the next season’s collections six months before they hit the shelves – unless it’s Nicola Formichetti, then you can receive it within an hour from Amazon. But do not fret, if you are without an invite or ticket, this season, fashion brands and influencers alike will keep the FOMO at bay. And if you are within the 150,000 who are attending then well done, you’ve essentially made it.

Thanks to its audience of more than 500 million users, Instagram Stories has evolved to become the top choice for fashion brands to trial instant content. According to Instagram Advertiser statistics, 75% of Instagram users take action after viewing an Instagram sponsored post, and the number of brands using Instagram Stories is expected to rise to 70.7% by the end of 2017.

But how do Instagram Stories actually provide long-term value for a brand with content disappearing after 24 hours?

Fashion brands will benefit from this platform in a number of ways; whether it’s providing a countdown or showcasing their garments in action, it will create an impact. By inviting their followers to witness behind-the-scenes action of models getting fitted or practicing their walk pre show, this will provide an in for fans to what was previously an exclusive experience. This indoctrinates the viewer to become invested in the brand, becoming encouraged to view future posts and establishing longer term brand affinity.

You may have seen organic posts with ‘swipe up’ at the bottom that are reserved for users/brands with 10k+ followers. Most brands will have these verified accounts, enabling them to link out to their websites, landing pages or blog posts from within their stories – helping to provide a ROI for their short-lived stories.

A study from Rakueten Marketing has found that premium fashion marketers will pay up to £93,000 per post, showing just how powerful influencers and their stories are to an event like LFW. This year Topshop have invited actress Sophia Brown and Women in Fashion co-founder Lily More to take over their blog and to involve them both in a live streaming via Topshop.com.

For the social media spectators like myself, it’s a long term benefit to the brands to provide access into the behind the scenes of the event and are exposed to every aspect of this season’s collection, developing brand ambassadors and fans and fortunately Instagram Stories provide just that.

Fortunately London Fashion Week lasts a full 7 days, unlike Insta Stories – which can only be a good thing for fanatics like myself! So before you tap through those #LFW posts, take a second to think about the lasting power of Instagram Story.

Kick-off transfer deadline day with a donation to the Homeless World Cup

Kick-off transfer deadline day with a donation to the Homeless World Cup

As the clock ticks down on what is set to be another record breaking transfer window, you’d be forgiven for getting caught up in the hullabaloo of the modern day football circus.

After all there is little escape from Sky Sports’ rolling news coverage and its perpetual scenes of reporters jostling for a glimpse of a club’s new multi-million pound signing in the latest transfer exclusive.

But over in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, an eight day football tournament with a difference is well underway and this year is set to be bigger than ever.

This year’s Homeless World Cup will see 570 homeless men and women from 54 countries across the world compete in a celebration of street football.

Connected by their love for simply playing the game, the tournament uses the power of football as a force for good to tackle homelessness. It has always amazed me how sport has a transcendental quality to transform lives for the better. The direct impact of the Homeless World Cup has on people’s lives is nothing short of remarkable.

An astonishing 94 per cent of players surveyed after the tournament last year in Glasgow said the event had a positive effect on their lives while an estimated £10m in social capital was generated from helping people off the street and into employment.

If you’re wondering how football can bring about positive change there are many benefits for a person who is homeless getting involved with the sport.

As well as developing relationships and learning to trust teammates, street football can also improve aspects of a person’s life such as regaining self-esteem, improving health and well-being and reconnecting them with friends and family.

The impact of this year’s tournament will also be far-reaching.

Not only are an estimated 3 million people set to tune in to the tournament which is being streamed live on YouTube, an innovative Fairtrade partnership between the Homeless World Cup Foundation and sports co-operative Bala Sport will ensure that an often forgotten army of men and women making footballs in Pakistan will also benefit by receiving fair rates of pay, safer working conditions and access to union representation.

This year Stripe is proud to be able to lend a hand to the Homeless World Cup Foundation supporting the charity to raise the national and international profile of this inspirational event.

So next time you refresh your Twitter feed this transfer deadline day to see if your club has bought anyone half decent, instead why not take the time to see how your nation is performing in the Homeless World Cup.

For more information or to donate and help to change the lives of homeless people around please visit www.homelessworldcup.org.

Craving experiences

Craving experiences

Last month, Madame Tussauds London launched Alien: Escape, a terrifying multi-sensory experience, developed with one of the most genius creative companies in the world – Creatures Inc. When we first began working on Alien: Escape, I didn’t know what to expect. Isn’t that the beauty of working in PR though? You start a project with no previous knowledge and by the end you’re an absolute pro – whether it’s a video game, a food product, a documentary, or an experience inspired by a popular film franchise.

Alien: Escape is a multi-sensory experience, which follows the release of the critically acclaimed blockbuster film, Alien: Covenant and challenges guests to navigate a trail of blood, gore, chaos and danger. The mission is simple: Run. Survive. Escape. It is also the most terrifying experience Madame Tussauds has ever worked on, with a recommended age of 15+. If you don’t believe us, you can see how terrifying our celebrities rated it at the launch event.

Madame Tussauds London introduces Alien Escape
Michael Fassbender Alien Covenant

But why do we need them? Are we craving new experiences more than ever before meaning that we no longer need material belongings? Not really. In my opinion, we are still very much a commodity focused society. We love our products and we definitely like to show off with them even if we don’t admit it.

And because we love our products so much, they have been made much more accessible for us. In Western societies, it seems almost unreal to own an iPhone with a model starting below the number 5. No really, who has iPhone 4 anymore? The market is overly saturated and since we all use similar brands and products, we have changed the focus and become much more ‘spiritual’. We’re frantically looking for things to do, because we have everything.

Certain brands have realised this social trend and have adapted accordingly. Snapchat and Instagram are all about experiences – capturing places, people and things we have seen. Facebook has added a permanent “Feeling (happy, excited, tired, sad etc.)” to our status updates.

Any forward thinking brand that seeks leadership in its sector has to realise the potential in triggering some sort of emotion – whether this would be comfort, loyalty, excitement or fear. Madame Tussauds London has definitely raised the bar with getting its audience to show fear with their horrific new Alien: Escape.