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Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Planet 50-50: The greatest emerging economy the world has ever seen

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. I hesitate over the word ‘celebrate,’ as while progress has been made, the statistics show women are falling woefully short. According to the World Economic Forum we are 117 years from global gender parity, meaning it will be 2133 before true equality.

While this gobsmacking statistic is depressing and hard to take, I do feel a slight sense of optimism. That optimism is based upon the sheer force of economics. The fact is women are not just good for business, they’re great. As you will see from the following graphic, women are arguably the largest emerging economy the world has ever seen. And, let’s face it what business would want to miss out on what could be the greatest competitive advantage ever?

So, today on International Women’s Day please take a moment to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in, and for, business.

#PledgeForParity

International Womens Day - the biggest emerging economy

Brands going for gold in sport

Brands going for gold in sport

Whether you gushed at the sight of sausage dogs gleefully running around in hot dog buns towards humans dressed as giant bottles of Heinz Ketchup, or winced at the unborn baby shooting out of its mother to snatch at a bag of Doritos, it was hard not to sit up and take notice of what brands were doing for Super Bowl 50.

My personal favourite brand involvement wasn’t an advert. It was a stunt (shockingly!). Airbnb OWNED it with theirs. They offered Super Bowl fans the chance to stay in the home of Carolina Panthers star Roman Harper – complete with pool table, sky lounge and yoga room – to watch the game while he battled for the big prize against the Denver Broncos. At a heavy cost of $5,000, Airbnb gifted the money to charity too, which was a really nice touch (down) from them.

The Super Bowl is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Reuters claimed this year’s game attracted over 111 million TV viewers in America alone. With these colossal off-the-scale viewing figures, it’s no wonder some of the world’s biggest brands are paying $5 million for a 30 second window to push their latest products to win the ‘brand battle.’

This is obviously a budget which can go a long way towards creating a fantastic campaign, but to global consumer brands such as Snickers, Budweiser and Pepsi, it’s a drop in the ocean.  Considering over 111 million people watched Super Bowl 50, the cost of $45 to reach one thousand people doesn’t seem that much for them. What would be the impact of NOT advertising or pulling off a stunt?

If we look at brands involving themselves at major sporting events closer to home, it’s worth noting the increase in sales Tunnocks Tea Cakes and IRN-BRU experienced on the back of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The giant tinfoil covered cakes and cans of Scotland’s favourite soft drink took to the stage as Glasgow welcomed nations from across the world to the city for Scotland’s biggest sporting event of the century, with over 9 million people in the UK tuning in to watch the show.

Whether we agree or disagree with the money spent by brands that are pushing product awareness during big sporting events, it’s hard to argue against the return on investment.

It remains to be seen what the best form of association is for brands looking to put themselves out there before, during or after big sporting event, whether it be advertising, sponsorship, joining the discussion on social media or turning round a cool and funny stunt to spread the word. What’s clear is that if a brand’s objectives fit well with a particular sport and they have the budget to be involved then it makes perfect sense to take advantage and increase their exposure. But, it does have to be done right and in line with their brand values.

With the Euro 2016 Championship in France just around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing how far brands will go to get noticed. Watch this space.

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

“You just have to deal with the situation. It’s not until afterwards that you realise how much it affects you emotionally” said one participant at an event Stripe was hosting this week.

In the wake of a tragic accident at a primary school, she was the local authority’s communications specialist – briefing councillors, consulting with emergency services and arranging plans for the school’s memorial. She was following protocol and process in the midst of a community’s grief.

This is surely the dark side of PR and comms if ever there was one: planning for worst case scenarios, considering how an organisation could respond, and pre-empting the emotions and sensitivities involved. Nothing prepares you for the reality of being at the centre of a real crisis, but having communications plans in place can be the difference between offering heartfelt condolences and being swallowed by your own emotions and negative media coverage.

Last week, CIPR Scotland hosted an event on ‘using digital channels in crisis communications’. The speaker talked about research from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that showed 40% of organisations don’t have plans in place in case of a crisis.

The CIPR event focused on developing digital procedures for crisis situations. This included:

  • Act immediately – even if you need time to develop a public response.
  • Push pause on all planned content, including scheduled social media posts. Ask yourself “is this content suitable in the current circumstances?”
  • Integrate all parts of your communications structure into the crisis plan. This should range from social media and website content to SMS services, telephone hotlines and email bulletins.
  • Review your organisation’s tone of voice and spokesperson – sometimes the response needs to come from the CEO. No one else.
  • Start monitoring online discussions immediately – you need to understand what people and saying and why it’s being said.
  • Ensure internal communications is included at all stages. Getting your staff to understand the situation and how to correctly respond is vital.
  • Update your website. Add relevant information and check the tone being used on the homepage.
  • Engage your stakeholders and keep them updated. We develop these relationships and networks for a reason.
  • Always remember the emotions involved and act appropriately.

These considerations apply to brands not directly involved as well, as was demonstrated on Friday evening as the world watched and mourned for Paris.

As news poured in about the atrocities, many brands continued to post scheduled or automated content. The public reaction was disgust, even by those in the communications industry itself. Ad Week has run an article on how brands showed support without being insensitive. Facebook, Airbnb, Google, Skype and Verizon have been recognised for their appropriate support.

We can’t always predict when a crisis will occur, but real-life dictates that it will happen. It’s up to us to know how to respond, react fast and hope we never have to.

Halloween brand watch

Halloween brand watch

Whether you’re the person that puts on a pair of mouse ears and calls it a costume, or goes all out to hand-make a 3D cupcake costume that looks great but means you can’t sit down all night (yes, I am the latter), we can all appreciate good Halloween jesting.

It’s the one night a year when every brand, no matter what they’re selling, can show their creative and personable side by giving a nod to All Hallows Eve. Social media is the perfect platform for pushing these out and driving traffic, and Twitter in particular has been rife with spooky videos, pictures and hashtags.

These are some of my favourite contenders from this year.

Google
Google Halloween 2015
Always a fan of a Google Doodle, in the name of research this morning I spent a solid five minutes playing their Halloween flying game. Aimed at either children or bored office workers, it’s an interactive winner. I racked up a high score of 350. Beat that.


Cadbury Chocolate
Cadbury Halloween 2015
For excellent use of a hashtag and for uniting the nation over some of our favourite fallen (confectionery) heroes, Cadbury have made the list for #CadburyCraveyard. This social competition features cute stop-motion and animated videos and gives people the chance to win a limited edition rerun bar of Fuse or Marble. But what about Creme Egg Twisted, Cadbury?! When will it be making comeback? That’s the real question.


Tesco
Tesco Halloween 2015
Up next it’s Tesco’s social campaign – ‘Introducing Spookermarket’. Torn between wanted to see this in my local branch and knowing that I would definitely be the person who loses the plot, mows down fellow shoppers with my trolley and bolts after even the tamest of scares. It’s a great, family friendly one and the hidden cameras capture the hilarity.


Chipotle
Chipotle Halloween 2015
Americans generally put us to shame when it comes to all things Halloween and this is no different. Purveyors of fine Mexican food, Chipotle have expanded on their usual #Boorito costume competition to create the Endless Line video. This is tongue-in-cheek, Halloween with a heart. Poking fun at tasteless, processed fast food, it’s dry, hilarious and well worth a watch.


Adobe
Adobe Halloween 2015
Hands down winner of Halloween from now and until the end of time is Adobe for their #ScaredSheetless campaign. As a company that I get weekly updates from on my laptop, but aren’t entirely sure what they do, I am so impressed by this camp and hilarious video. It’s a great take on their mission to rid the work-place of paper. Love!

Just for good measure here’s a video of a pug dressed as a ghost. You’re welcome.

Happy Halloween!

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

“As a general rule, everyone wants to be liked. Brands are no different because they’re created, represented and employed by people.” That was my Friday night take-away from the Turing Festival 2015, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.

For one weekend in Edinburgh, big hitters from across the technology industry share their inspirations, pet hates and hot tips on a range of topics. Friday was ‘full stack marketing’ day – from SEO to audience analysis and online behaviours. Headliners included Cyrus Shepard from Moz, Oli Gardner from Unbounce and Phil Nottingham from Wistia. The audience went wild when Rand Fishkin presented a ‘Whiteboard Friday’ especially for the festival.

With hundreds of tech-heads in one room, my expectation was impenetrable jargon and hours of discussion about algorithms and the merits of SEO. I was right – there was jargon, algorithm chat and SEO celebration, but dominating it all was the idea that the biggest challenge facing the communications industry is the need to ‘humanise’ brands and their digital presence. Sound familiar? “We humanise brands” has been Cello Signal’s tagline since 2014.

It’s not a new topic. Since computers started infiltrating customer services in the 1960s there’s been theorising that faceless industry puts off consumers. With every brand now competing for their piece of ‘digital space’, it’s never been more important to come across as honest, trustworthy and ‘real’ to customers.

The problem (and opportunity) for the comms industry is that so many businesses are doing it badly. Atrociously. Abominably. Unforgivably boringly. How often do you pointedly ignore Facebook posts from a sponsored brand that does nothing but switch you off?

Mark Johnstone from Distilled summed it up when he questioned “why will anyone care?” As communications consultants, it’s our job to take a step back, stop, play devil’s advocate and assess the psychology behind consumers’ experiences and perceptions of a brand and its messages. Without that research and assessment, there’s nothing to base a strategy on.

The inconvenience is that there isn’t a silver bullet. It takes time, effort and (usually) money to understand your customers; their likes, dislikes, behaviour, mood swings, passions, schedule and tolerance. It’s like they’re real people… because they are real people. To get a real person on your side takes time, effort and (usually) a bit of money.

It’s heart-warming to think that even in the most advanced technological age, we can still say the easiest way to build trust in a brand is by making people feel special and understood.

As a complete aside… thanks to the speakers at Turing Fest for an inspiring event. And to the guys at Codebase and Stipso for organising it.