2012 is here, but are we prepared for it?

As we take our first few tentative steps into 2012 we thought we would cast our eyes forward and look at what the year has in store for UK marketers. The Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012; it is set to be an action packed year. But with so many brands competing for the limelight, how can they make sure they stand out from the crowd? Which offline and online media trends can marketers exploit in order to get ahead? As is so often the case, the answer is right before our eyes – to be prepared for 2012 we must learn from 2011.

2011 witnessed social media continue to expand its influence over the marketing industry. Many brands moved their entire digital spend to Facebook and it seems this pattern is set to continue in 2012. In particular the posting and sharing of videos online is transforming the advertising and marketing industry. Saatchi & Saatchi’s spoof of the royal wedding for T-Mobile, which featured Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes, was named 2011’s ad of the year among viewers in the UK. It was viewed an estimated 24,485,000 times globally after being launched in April 2011. The advert brilliantly tapped into the excitement of a nation and is a good example of successful offline and online strategies working together in harmony; a pattern we are likely to see a lot more of in 2012 with more and more adverts going viral online.

We couldn’t look back at 2011 without mentioning the phenomenal success of the John Lewis Christmas ad; ‘The Long Wait’. The advert touched the hearts of a nation and is a great example of a brand utilizing personality. In order to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd, brands need to make sure they create relationships with consumers and foster loyalty – John Lewis achieved this brilliantly. As explained by actress and screenwriter Mae West; “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is”. A charismatic personality is crucial to a brand’s success and this isn’t going to change in 2012. With the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee fast approaching; 2012 will foster a greater sense of national pride in Britain. 2011 has already witnessed brands keen to adopt a more patriotic stance and this is all part of the personality brands will try and display to their consumers.

Another theme that looks set to dominate the marketing industry is the squeeze on price. The worldwide economic recession shows no signs of abating and 2011 saw price based promotions gather pace. Brands therefore need to make themselves budget proof, whether this is by being seen as the best in their field or by creating a strong relationship with their consumers. Brands must encourage customer loyalty to ensure when shopping budgets are cut they do not lose out to the often cheaper supermarket own brands.

Moving away from online and offline content the technology sector is also expanding and impacting on the marketing industry. The rise of the ‘second screen’ seems unstoppable. 2011 saw more and more people consuming media through smartphones and tablets rather than through more traditional platforms and this presents an interesting challenge to brands and marketers. According to Nielsen’s 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense. This research is backed up by the testimony of BBC i-player creator Anthony Rose, who claimed television ad-breaks were becoming “tweet breaks”. A number of televisions shows now invite viewers to ‘tweet’ along while watching and this trend will be boosted by the rise of internet connected smart TVs. This is a new and rapidly growing marketplace, marketers need to be proactive and create compelling content that will engage consumers. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in 2012.

Finally, with the emergence of cloud technology and the continued rise of wireless internet our lives and homes are now more connected than ever. Almost any modern device can have an internet connection and as a result video can be displayed almost anywhere. Video is becoming the preeminent communication tool of our society. Research from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1 million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Therefore it seems certain 2012 will witness brands continue to adopt video content as an important communication tool online.

Clearly there is no shortage of options for marketers in the current environment. Social media, mobile, viral videos and more traditional methods mean marketers have a variety of platforms with which to engage their consumers. However with so much choice, brands need to take extra care not to rush into marketing decisions. Campaigns need to be carefully planned to ensure they are communicating with the right consumers in the right way.

Have a great year everyone!

Ian Savage

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.

 

William, Kate and lots of fun in between

I do love a good wedding. Granted, I’m not going to this one, but I’m still excited about Will and Kate’s forthcoming nuptuals (and not only because we have two mammoth bank holidays to look forward to!)        

It seems I’m not alone in my excitement – retailers are going nuts and Will and Kate seem to be everywhere I go, on everything I look at.

Over the past few months hundreds of pieces of merchandise have flooded the market promoting the royal wedding, and whilst some have celebrated the old sovereign values of ‘British – ness’ , others have provided a tongue in cheek perspective. My personal favourite were the ironically marketed Royal Wedding themed contraception  -somewhat suggesting that we can all be replicating what the newlyweds will be up to.

Whilst contraception seems by far the most tongue in cheek of the items on sale, they are by no means the most outlandish. Some companies are offering goods which allow us to knit the royal wedding (that is knitting dolls of all the main attendees of the wedding), and others are offering ‘sick bags’ with a brand image of the royal wedding, appealing to the anti – royalists of the world.

Then on the more serious side, there are many companies offering commemorative memorabilia such as Gold coins, and engraved plates celebrating that are the wedding. It’s just never ending!

It would seem that regardless of the individual’s prerogative towards the royal wedding events, there is a form of memorabilia for everyone. Even more importantly it would just seem that the nation is up for a celebration, and what better way to have a party than with banter and satire.

Whether the Royal Wedding will deliver the expected uplift for the businesses and brands riding the promotional wave remains to be seen.

Don’t forget the ‘R’ in PR

You can’t really beat Oscar Wilde for famous quotes. Witty, intelligent and insightfully true – the man was, quite simply, a comedy genius. But after reading that the RMT are to strike again and are considering the day of the Royal wedding as their target,  I wondered, for the first time, whether in one his most famous lines and a mantra for the PR industry, Oscar actually didn’t get it quite right.

The news of the strike hit me from all sides – in the papers I read at work, the Metro on the way home that night, on BBC News and many a front page this morning. The RMT’s strategy seems an obvious one: pick dates that will incite the most public outcry and thus maximise media interest, column inches and air time. Quite simply the more people talking about their cause the better. But does such a PR strategy lose sight of the ultimate goal; building relations? Surely for any organisation public empathy for their cause is critical. Isn’t it this that adds the validity and substance that results in greater cut-through where it matters most?

Yes, ‘hit them where it hurts’ tactics make a good story, yes the papers and broadcasters will all be talking about it but, listening to public response, I fear their message is being lost and their requests are losing all sincerity. On many a strike or demonstration you’ll see a ‘Honk if you support us’ placard. I wonder how many honks our London tube drivers would get if they stood outside stations on Kate and Will’s big day?

 

A PR strategy focused on ‘coverage, coverage, coverage’ is likely to be one driven by vanity rather than any core strategic or business objective and it’s left me wondering just how dangerous this can be. Yet, having said all this, you have to admit it’s certainly sparked debate and many provoking water cooler moments. Perhaps for some people that’s enough. Agree with their tactics or not, at least we’re all aware of what this is all about. Whether we all feel their demands are valid, however, is what’s being called into question. But one thing we can all agree on is that it’s a right royal palaver.