The Un-menshn-ables!

Louise Mensch – Tory MP, chick lit author and wife of Peter Mensch, the manager of Metallica, Jimmy Page and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – has joined forces with former Labour technology expert Luke Bozier to set up a new social networking site to rival Twitter. 

 Image

The site called Menshn.com was launched last week in the US to capitalise on the presidential election and is designed to curate the conversation around set topics. Upon its US launch, Menshn offered three discussions, one for the Obama campaign, one for the Romney campaign, and a third generic one covering the US Election in general, but has now been expanded to cover a wider range of topics. At present the site looks rather bland compared to its rival Twitter, with some interesting topics of conversation on what is essentially three glorified chat rooms, including which presidential candidate has watched the most pornography!

By having only set discussion topics Mensch and Bozier hope this will limit the mundane and random updates people post on Twitter (that’s what happens when you have over 60,000 followers) and generate actual debate and conversation. Essentially menshn.com is a more topic-based Twitter comprised of chat rooms, designed to enable people to have conversations rather then simply broadcasting their thoughts. The other difference is users are gives 180 characters to play with rather than just 140 and instantly gain 100 followers upon joining. Similarly to Twitter the site revolves around following people but it does not include retweets or, ironically, mentions.

It has since been launched in the UK sooner than expected, responding to UK interest and to capitalise on England’s EURO2012 match against Italy over the weekend. The UK launch was originally planned just before the Olympics.

So far the reaction on Twitter, blogging sites and even menshn.com itself has been negative, describing it as a vanity project, criticising lax security and questioning what exactly it can offer that Twitter already doesn’t, considering Twitter can be tailored through sites and applications such as Tweetdeck to follow certain conversations or topics. Other commentators have responded favouring how subjects on Twitter can morph, allowing people to engage in what-ever-you-want chitchat.

Not to be outdone Mensch and Bozier aren’t the only politicos in the process of setting up their own social networking site. The Kremlin has also announced it is creating its own Facebook-style social networking site, following failed attempts to limit online Opposition activism after the recent street demonstrations. The popularity of the internet in Russia, which has recently overtaken Germany as the European country with the most internet users, means any Chinese-style attempt to assert control from above would be doomed. Whether a government-created social networking site will succeed remains to be seen, but while other platforms free of government censorship and control remain free to use this looks unlikely.

I remain sceptical when it comes to new social media sites and having looked at Menshn it still has a fair few creases which need ironing out. In an already saturated market, any new social media launch needs to offer something different, alternative and most importantly easy and worth using. The most recent successful example is Pinterest, now one of the fastest-growing social media sites, but one based purely on image sharing. Users of established sites such as Facebook and Twitter are reluctant to leave, or switch to new sites. Google has been trying to break into the market since 2003 and has only had limited success to date so any new sites are likely to struggle to gain traction, but I wish these new sites the best of luck and look forward to following their progress. 

 

Keith Millar

Advertisements

Step aside Google+, Twitter & Facebook there’s new social media in town…

2012 has already seen the news packed with social media stories. From bald Barbie Facebook campaigns, Ed Milliband’s Blackbusters blunder, McDStories hashtag horror,  Katie Price’s Snickers Stunt to LA Fitness’s Twitter storm.

With social media continuing to be a clear influence on our behaviour and on brands’ marketing strategies  it is no wonder that more sites are popping up with new ways of engaging and interacting with audiences.

Two which we think have great potential this year are Instagram and Pinterest.

So what do these social media tools have that the giants don’t? Is there really room for them in this seemingly saturated market?

Instagram

Instagram has gained popularity over the last year and was named iPhone App of the year. It is now considered the largest mobile social network  with over 15 million users and is recognised as a great choice for brands. This new platform allows consumers to tell their story instantly via shared photos.

Recent brand initiatives using this technology include Levi’s “Be A Levi’s Model” campaign, where individuals were encouraged to strike a pose and upload a photo in the hope of becoming a future model. Another example is Tiffany’s latest campaigntrue love in pictures’, which uses an Instagram gallery to allow followers to share their photos. Other brands such as Burberry, Mango, Starbucks & ASOS have used it as a way of creating content that their followers regularly engage with and talk about.


Pinterest

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard site which allows individuals to pin images to digital boards, link back to other sites, share posts with followers, like and re-pin content. One of the best features of Pinterest is its ease of use – you can share and browse content simply and quickly. Its uptake has been fairly rapid over the last few months and brands are beginning to tap into its potential. It’s also proved to drive more traffic to retailer’s sites than Google+.
As HubSpot point out, “the trick to succeeding on Pinterest isn’t necessarily about showing off your products or services directly. It’s about finding creative ways to show how those products and services fit into the lifestyles of your target audience”.

One brand that has used Pinterest particularly well is Greek yogurt company Chobani. With boards ranging from “Nothing but good” to “Flavour inspiration” it is clearly connecting with followers from a lifestyle perspective and enabling  users to understand its brand, rather than just focusing on the products it sells. Other brands using Pinterest well include Gap, Whole Foods, Etsy and Better Homes and Gardens.

Pinterest is currently only available by invitation, so if you want to join you can either request an invitation or get in contact with us at Limelight – check out our Pinterest boards here: http://pinterest.com/limelightideas/

These two social media initiatives aren’t as big as the giants (yet!), but I’m sure over the next few months more and more brands will use them. They offer a refreshing new platform to share content visually, and I’m already hooked!

 

Danielle Barrett

Slogan vs. brand promise

A funny thing happened the other day. After a roguish water bottle exploded in my bag, my work diary was looking less than smart, so I ordered a mid-year A5 black day-to-a-page diary on Amazon. I specifically wanted a black one – always slick and classic.

A few working days later and I receive my package on time and unwrap it, eager to write my first to-do list on the fresh, new pages. Organisation Central, here I come!

To my dismay and, frankly, annoyance, this is what I was greeted with:

 

Yup, it’s red. And by way of explanation? A carefully written Post-It note: “Sorry. Red only.”

Well, sorry Amazon seller, but I didn’t want a red one; if I had, I would have ordered a red one! I felt like scrawling underneath: “Sorry. Only ordered black” and sending it back.  But that in itself is an annoyance; now I have to re-wrap it and make an unplanned trip to the Post Office. All they needed to do was send me an email to let me know.

Amazon has a brilliant reputation but this was not good form from one of its ‘trusted’ sellers. It got me thinking about brand promise and expectation, so I checked to see what Amazon’s slogan is on the website, ready to tear it apart with my recent poor customer service experience. After all, a brand is only truly successful if it delivers on its promise all the way through the consumer experience.

But Amazon has no slogan to tear apart. Interesting; I hadn’t realised that before. I guess, when you’re as big as Amazon and everyone knows who you are and what you do (normally very well, I might add), do you need a slogan at all? Google, Starbucks and Virgin clearly don’t think so.

Is not having a slogan a cop out? Arguably it is one way of not having to live up to a very high expectation, which if a brand (inevitably) doesn’t reach every time, might “undershoot and sully” its reputation, as Helen Edwards asks in her recent Marketing magazine column. Maybe, but she goes on to make the important point that, “It is more subtle than that. You can bet that a great brand like Google, with smart marketers on board and skilled agencies alongside, could devise a stunning sign-off if it chose to”.

Whether a brand chooses to have a slogan or not, one thing’s for sure – actions speak louder than words. On that note, I wish Nike did diaries, JUST in black.

This time it’s (too) personal?

Real-time location based marketing – the ideal made real or a step towards a very scary future?

“There’s been some increasingly excited chatter about real-time location based marketing recently, with some particularly interesting examples that have been generating debate about whether this new technology is a really good or a really bad idea.

It’s no secret anymore that smartphones and branded apps are an incredibly effective way to target and engage consumers, in a way that is also very cost effective. By creating tools that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis you can integrate with their lives in a way that ‘mere’ advertising never has. Virgin’s iPhone app for example, based around its ‘Flying without fear’ course allows consumers to access relaxation exercises, fear therapies with a personal video introduction from Sir Richard Branson himself. It’s smart, intimate and useful on a runway (in safe mode of course).

However, the next generation of apps are all using smartphone’s GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target, so to speak. The mobile social network / game Foursquare signed up its first national UK brands (Debenhams and Domino’s Pizza) this month. The app detects players’ whereabouts and when they visit shops and restaurants they gain points for ‘checking-in’.

Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on for example the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are.

Win-win right? Well not according to pleaserobme.com which aims to highlight the dangers of giving your exact location on social media sites in case the information is used to burgle your house.

Personally I think that’s a bit reactionary (although a number of Liverpool FC’s players may disagree with me) but it does raise an interesting point all the same. The ideal of advertising is similar to the ideal of PR in that the greater the relevance to the audience, the greater the value, whether it’s a genuinely interesting and newsworthy story to a journo or a half price burger to a hungry commuter. But where do you draw the line?

Don't be...

Google Buzz is another new development which has been getting a great deal of ink but it’s the mobile version of the platform that appears the most powerful, by some distance. However, as has been pointed out, you could argue that “Google isn’t really a search engine, or a chat tool, or an email provider. It’s an online advertisement-pushing juggernaut”

So just as Gmail scans the content of your emails to present you with relevant ads, Buzz will combine this with your locational data.

All of which could lead to a day where from waking up and being immediately offered a hangover cure (because Google knows you were at the pub last night) to the local Buzz-linked McDonald’s ‘Buzzing’ you at lunch time and asking if you’re in need of a quarter pounder (as Google knows you went there last week) to a local bar ‘buzzing’ you to see if you fancy another post-work beer (because Google knows what time you leave the office)… And so it goes ad infinitum until there’s no one point in your day when you’re not sharing personal data with Google, and having personalised ads thrust upon you.

It will be fascinating to see how brands will be able to heap innovation upon innovation with this new technology, but it will be crucial that consumers are handed the power to control the medium, otherwise the potential for brand damage could exceed the huge opportunites for new forms of engagement.”

Actions speak louder

 

Your image is influenced by your actions as much as what you say. There’s no better example of this than Google’s announcement that it may withdraw from China if it is unable to run an un-restricted operation in the future.

The company’s decision in 2006 to agree to the Chinese Government’s terms and conditions for operating in the country; screening sensitive information from the Google.cn service, caused many commentators to question the credibility of Google’s “do no evil” corporate mantra.

It signalled that even the world’s search superpower and presumed exponent of a newer, better, more moral form of capitalism would bow to the harsh realities of doing business in China. 

If Google wanted a big slice of the action in the world’s fastest, biggest, potentially most lucrative emerging market, it had to play by rules dictated by a single party state with cold war values, just like everybody else.

Even if Google’s decision to possibly withdraw from China was not quite as difficult a decision as has been presented, there’s no doubt it’s a big one – which will have on-going repercussions.

One of those will certainly be to Google’s own public perception. It may be that on balance Google’s brand is more valuable to it than the Chinese market, but I certainly like Google a bit more today.

In contrast I don’t like First Capital Connect and the service it has failed to provide over the last month or so due to a very British combination of strike action and snow. If you live on the route, you won’t need me to explain this; if you don’t, see this.

A very different business to Google, but the same principle applies; the company’s actions (or in actions) are very much affecting its public image.

A grass roots campaign against the company is growing fast amongst London’s commuters to the extent that First Capital Connect has spawned an alter ego: First Crapital Connect.

This sort of thing is right up there in the worst nightmares of any consumer brand.

First Capital Connect has it a bit easier in the short term than say a drinks brand; they have a virtual monopoly over the route which services the City area connecting south London and north London, up to Bedford.

So in the short term there isn’t perhaps the urgency to act. In the long term however, the rail company has their franchise to worry about.

Winning back the trust of customers in this case will be tough. But it might be do-able. First Capital Connect could redeem itself, if it does the right thing/s.