Happy 7th Birthday YouTube

YouTube, everyone’s favourite hosting site, has turned 7.  Like many other internet phenomenon’s, YouTube has come a long way In  2005  three former PayPal employees struggled to share video content amongst themselves, turned that problem into the solution of YouTube.  Seven years later it has exploded into a global video sharing platform, with 72 hours of video being uploaded every minute.

Bought by Google in 2006 for an astounding $1.65b, YouTube is now estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of 45-50bn. The site has been helped by massive growth in the uptake of Internet globally, which has accelerated thanks to the explosion of mobile phones, and thanks to videos hosted by it gaining prominence in the Google search algorithm it has eliminated competition.

YouTube has revolutionised how we consume our media, it took the music industry a while to grasp the power of YouTube, yet today music videos dominate YouTube, with artists such as Lady Gaga, Eminem and Justin Bieber making almost blockbuster productions. This has had a massive impact on how on brands interact with consumers. From flash mobs to rollerblading babies to create your own video ad, there isn’t a creative agency trick that hasn’t been employed by brands to grab and retain consumer’s attention. YouTube seems to be the only social media channel where brand placement and advertising has been embraced but users rather then alienated it. While YouTube itself, thanks to its own meteoric rise in both audience numbers and user generated volume it has established itself in its own right as a mega-brand.

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Today must consumer brands are trying to cultivate consumer loyalty through creative content and user engagement. YouTube is now seen as a central part of any marketing or PR campaign, used by charities, political parties and commercial brands.

And importantly these videos are being watched, the number of users uploading content – home videos, music and TV clips – has more than doubled in the last two years. With over 800 million users and 4 billion videos watched per day worldwide, including home videos, business, filmmakers, musicians and humorous cats YouTube is now the third most visited website after Google and facebook.

 

 

Consumer Control

Thanks to technology, consumers are now much more in control, over how they interact with brands, meaning brands and agencies are having to adapt to the end of push marketing and the new dominance of pull marketing.

Social media has enabled consumers to take control over the adverts they are exposed to, and the network of brands they want to engage with. Advertisers need to adapt in order to appeal to the “internet” generation. The message isn’t new, but the medium is. For the internet generation radio, television and newspapers are considered to be old and dying formats whilst Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the way forward.

Advertising and marketing is about building connections with people, encouraging them to discover more. It is no longer okay to create an advert and simply wait for people to demand the brand. A successful adverting and marketing strategy need to utilise targeted social media to connect with different consumer group on different levels. Marketers need to focus their message were it will be heard and were it wants to be heard. This can only be achieved by listening to consumers and providing them with something of value they will be happy to take time out of their day to engage with.

In these times of austerity, economic uncertainty, speeding freezes and budget cuts there remains a gulf between the public and many brands who, despite the current climate,  are encouraging consumers to spend their wages on supposed ‘must have’ products. UK consumers no longer believe owning branded products reflects status, only 20% of UK consumers agree owning the latest brand products or ’nice things’ tells the world they have made it, while in BRIC counties like Brazil, Russia and China the figure is a much higher 50%.   

A larger proportion of consumers feel dissatisfied with how they are represented in the media and marketing. 16-30 year olds feel disenfranchised, believing those in authority do not understand them or can relate to their needs or wants. Yet with today’s new rules of marketing it is this generation group that is the most media and brand savvy and are far more intelligent to marketing then previous generations.

The advertising and marketing industry is viewed with suspicion, it’s the year 2012 and people have a more cynical view of what advertising is there to achieve. We understand advertising influences consumers to purchase things we would otherwise not need and its ways and means to go about it. An inquiry called for by the Prime Minister recently condemned advertising for a lack of social responsibility and placed the blame for the 2012 riots partly at the feet of advertisers for encouraging excessive consumerism, leading young people to believe they must have the latest products. With more than two-thirds of people believing materialism among young people is a problem within their local area.

Brands need to treat customers as unique rather than taking a blanket communication approach. Marketing strategy need to be developed in a connected environment with elements of peer-to-peer sharing. Brands must prove their worth within a culture of sharing and focus on earned media rather than paid.Image

Timeline: will brands be ‘liking’ Facebook’s latest development?

“Brands are people too” apparently, well according to Facebook at least, whose controversial Timeline feature was rolled out to all brand pages towards the end of last month. The new pages have received a mixed reception, largely because the redesign removes the ability for brands to create landing tabs to incentivise fans to interact and engage with them. The removal of these gateways, where fans were forced to “Like” the page in order to access richer content, means that now, all visitors will be directed to a permanent universal landing page, regardless of whether they have liked the page or not and hence the ability to establish a unique experience has gone.

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Facebook’s introduction of Timeline has increased the need for brands to demonstrate innovative online marketing like never before. Simple quick fire statements will no longer suffice. Brands now have to be seen to be maximising the facilities social

media is throwing their way. As a result, brands will need more staff, which means bigger budgets and companies are not necessarily queuing up to recruit newbies!

Facebook’s Timeline does still deliver a rather striking and effective package, with the new configuration making it far easier for Facebook users to share material, a key asset to brands. Many people have praised the aesthetic appeal of Facebook’s Timeline, with its unique, yet fairly easy to follow presentation of apps and photos.

Another perk of the new format is that brand page owners can highlight what’s important-such as a post, or a story. The new layout also allows the brand to control who can post on their timeline or add tags to your page. 

There is also the rather unmissable addition of the cover photo. It will be interesting to see how creative types will utilise the new cover photo.  Moreover, Facebook’s Timeline assists brands in telling a story, which can immediately make a brand more personable to a consumer.  Users can gain more of an in-depth understanding of a brand’s history, whilst enjoying the aesthetic appeal of bigger, bolder imagery.  The timeline takes users on a journey that transpires their original perception of a brand. One can see the appeal of taking a trip down memory lane with the Facebook Timeline, and for brands this personifies them, in a way they haven’t been able to before, or at least in a pre-Pinterest world, but will brands truly benefit from the creative refurbishment of the Facebook profile?

There is clearly a demand from brands for new ways to interact with their fans through social media, as in recent weeks both Twitter and Google have similarly introduced brand pages. However it appears we are still in a period of transition to an ultimate perfect solution.

That said Timeline’s brand pages are definitely a great asset for brands such as Coke and Red Bull  to showcase their work, purpose and history. Timeline is continually evolving and soon brands will be able to post coupons onto there, for users to share them with friends. While the new Facebook format does mean that people will be required to invest more time and effort in maintaining the general upkeep of brand pages, Facebook Timeline is a very promising offering to brands. Brands should maximise the opportunity to showcase themselves in an interesting and easily accessible way for consumers and therefore use social media to widen the audience and boost engagement and brand association.

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Proud to be British – an opportunity not to be missed

 

With the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee approaching next summer, patriotism in Britain is on the increase. Both events will be celebrating Britain and what it means to be British, and will hope to have the same unifying affect that we saw with the Royal Wedding earlier in the year. I certainly have a renewed sense of national pride – it’s hard not to when (dodgy politicians and rioting youths aside) our capital city is soon to play host to the world with the arrival of the greatest sporting competition on the planet!

 

This increased public spirit and rejuvenated patriotism has presented a fantastic opportunity for innovative marketing agencies. Consumers full of patriotic fervour are drawn more and more to companies who celebrate or acknowledge their British heritage; no longer is the Union Jack seen as a negative or a marketing faux pas, but a positive, and something companies are becoming more keen to associate themselves with.

 

The challenge facing brands and marketing agencies, therefore is how to tap into this patriotic zeal and translate it into profit. But what makes this challenge more difficult is ensuring that any activity achieves this and, at the same time, respects the strict marketing regulations (particularly regarding ambush marketing) that have been set for businesses that are not official sponsors of the London 2010 Olympic Games.

 

Some brands are blazing the trail, with Vodafone recently unveiling its ‘London’s Calling’ campaign with a series of black cabs emblazoned with the Union Jack and Vodafone’s logo offering phone charging services to customers. We have also seen Nestle associate themselves with the Olympics sporting legacy in a bid to boost their image.

 

Virgin Media has adopted a more subtle angle with its recently revamped logo. By incorporating the Union Jack Flag into its logo, the business is visibly celebrating its British roots whilst also drawing in customers with a renewed pride in what it means to be British. Virgin’s executive director of brand and marketing communications, Jeff Dodds, explained: “At Virgin Media we’re extremely proud of our British heritage and wanted to find a way to symbolically remind people about all the fantastic things about our nation. With Britain celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and hosting the Olympic Games next year, we believe there is no better time to show our pride and excitement about what it means to be British.”

In the past the UK has generally tended to shy away from overt displays of patriotism but it now seems that, with the approaching Olympics, we have thrown aside our old inhibitions and are ready to embrace our national identity. It will be interesting to see which brands will be next to recognise and make the most of this Olympic and Jubilee-inspired national pride spreading across the nation –  without stepping on any sponsors’ toes, of course.

 

Upsetting the evolution in Middle Eastern marketing

Dr. Stephen J. Gould, the late American paleontologist and evolutionary biologist had a theory called ‘punctuated equilibrium’. His theory states that when species undergo change, it’s new and happens as a spurt that occurs at the fringe of the ecosystem.

Whilst Gould was probably referring to Darwin or dinosaurs, his thinking can be applied to so many trends in social, political and commercial society. McDonalds, for example, started life as a little restaurant in San Bernardino just as Wal-Mart was once a small convenience store called Walton’s in Iowa. And, more recently, Facebook went live in a student dormitory.

So by applying the thinking of Gould to Middle East communications, change in a person’s buying habits and authentic brand loyalty will only ever happen if you can deliver something new – something that starts a trend and is a shift away from the status quo. This means breaking away from the ‘equilibrium’ that has come about from balancing Western ideas for a regional audience. It might even mean breaking away from the types of advertising listed on Wikipedia and creating new products or ideas that market a brand by improving a customer’s life. I mean, most other industries offer assistance, help or value – why can’t advertisers!

Breaking the equilibrium might seem a risk too far but as Gould suggests, most social systems exist in an extended period of stasis and are only punctuated by sudden shifts or radical change. So whilst the advertising and PR industry in the Middle East has its valid reasons for being more risk adverse than other geographies, how can it ever expect to have an impact if brands are too afraid to challenge anything that might be outside the status quo?

Referring back to Kroc, Walton and Zuckerberg as examples; they had a vision that was so different and defining, that they were forced to begin on the fringe of society by the naysayers. But they were adamant people would identify with their concepts and had they not rebuffed the sceptics and continued fighting for what they believed in, life would be very different without their respective companies and the trends they created.

The power of the iPhone

If you thought the hype surrounding the iPhone was starting to settle, you’d be wrong. Like a laptop in your hand, there is something for everyone, with everything you need in one place.

Since its first release in July 2007 the Apple iPhone has been a hot commodity. Now, less than three years since its debut, hardly a day goes past without a new iPhone application popping up, attracting attention from consumers, brands and marketers alike.  My personal favourite has to be the retail apps.

Oasis was the first retailer to launch an iPhone application last summer allowing consumers to shop on the move, view latest collections and track down their closest store. It wasn’t long before other big names including Ikea and Warehouse all created software tools for consumers to download on to their mobile phones.

Most recently, Argos announced the launch of an iPhone app to take advantage of more consumers using Apple mobile devices to access its website. The application provides a ‘click and collect’ service with over 17,000 products available for in-store reservation.  

Getting the basics right is essential when it comes to developing iPhone apps. It seems the best approach for retailers to is to have a full features application where you can browse every section of the web site, every department and product, and physically buy from via the phone.

The majority of them do what it says on the tin – creating a beautiful version of their catalogues on an iPhone, not to mention providing a greener way to distribute a catalogue. Moving forward, brands that are quick to adopt and experiment will deliver consumers exactly what they need.

Clearly not a passing fad, the soaring popularity of the iPhone is set to continue and with more than 150,000 different apps currently available, rarely costing more that a few pounds to download, I’d say the more the merrier!

Brands get closer to their customers

Everyone from Vodafone to Ocado and Cadbury’s are busy chatting about how they are going to get closer to their customers. There are the older style tactics of Market research and suggestion boxes that can still serve that purpose for some brands.

And then there are the new methods. Increasingly brands want to be your friend on facebook, your follower on twitter and the keeper of your data through new schemes like yahoo-nectars loyalty that was launched in the USA 5 years ago, but has recently evolved to have more direct contact with brands including Cadbury’s who signed up earlier this week.

But how do consumers feel about these brands trying to get closer to them? Not always very happy it would seem. Gideon Spanier’s article this week in the Evening Standard highlights that consumers are still likely to view the recent developments in targeting and tracking, as they did with Phorm, negatively. The week also started with a company I was involved in as a teenager, Dubit hitting headline for their controversial use of children to help promote a variety of brands.

So the question is how can brands listen and show understanding of their customers, without being accused of snooping or abusing their position by involving children in the process?

Seth Godin recent blog What’s expected vs. what’s amazing contains one suggestion for overcoming this dilemma. Real life personalisation, where a stranger remembers your name, what you like and what they’ve talked to you about before, even when it was months ago is certainly a powerful tool.  Really it is what targeting is trying to replicate, all be it in a much more controversial manner.

Before you say it, I know this is nothing new. In fact Dale Carnegie, in his popular book How to win friends and influence people, written in the 1930s, advocates this in a number of his principles e.g. “Remember that a persons name is to that person the sweetest sound in any language”. But if you think back to an example of someone doing this to you, I’m sure you’ll agree that level of personalisation, is a brilliant form of flattery and certainly makes you more likely to respond positively. The question is how global brands can replicate this on a massive scale… and without using controversial techniques.