Category Archives: integration

Fairy story beginning for a neat social campaign

Every now and then someone comes up with a really great idea that deserves a second look.

Not only is this commercial from the Guardian a great idea well implemented, its part of an integrated on-line campaign that is equally smart and undoubtedly destined to generate some big numbers.

It used to be that anybody with half an idea could generate a following in social media, but audiences, particularly in developed Western markets, are now so refined that being on-line is no longer novel enough in itself to get results, you have to have that big idea, just as you do with any other medium.

I’ve just launched an integrated grass-roots and social campaign and I know how tough it can be to overcome the expectations of businesses that simply doing something digital achieves instant success.  It takes good planning, hard work, the all-important “big idea” and time to recoup the investment in an initiative like this, but because The Guardian don’t appear to have skimped on any of these my guess is they’ll get their pay-back.

What do you think?

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So, what does the “agency of the future” look like?

The news a couple of weeks back, that DraftFCB has lost their SC Johnson business after fifty-eight years prompted a pretty damning commentary from Campaign that Thursday in which Claire Beale condemned Interpublic’s promise to deliver “the agency of the future” with their amalgamation of Draft and FCB as a damp squib.  But do Interpublic even have the components to create the agency of the future.  Come to think of it, what does the agency of the future look like anyway?

If you’ve been watching this space you’ll have heard me point out many times that the single most important difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one is efficiency.  You’ll also know that the world has moved on from the times when an unsuccessful business could still chug along (I’ve seen plenty of walking dead over the years).  These days you are either ticking like a Swiss watch or you are dead.  That’s the new economy for you. You don’t even get points for being efficient in some areas of your business if you are inefficient in others – you are only as strong as your weakest link.

When it comes to marketing, efficiency is more than just tackling all the issues that influence the success of your business or learning to use a wider range of tools and disciplines.  It’s about eliminating inconsistencies between different messages, campaign elements or between strategic and tactical facets of your Campaign and taking full advantage of the synergy afforded by imaginative combinations of elements of your marketing initiatives.  Synergy and consistency have always been the major benefits of integrated marketing. The only thing that has changed is that these things are no longer merely nice to have, but essential.

On it’s simplest level efficiency is doing the things that deliver the greatest benefit and avoiding those further down the effectiveness table.  Long gone are the days when advertising people could hide behind our inability to measure the effectiveness of much of what they did.  In the digital age we can and must measure the effect of anything.

And therein lies the formula for the agency of the future.  In fact, forget the future, today’s agency has to be able to deliver an integrated solution (and that means integrated marketing, not just the integrated communications that everyone seems to think is the real thing) with data collection and analysis built into every element.

For an agency to pull this off is no small feat.  Firstly it means bringing together a diversity of expertise that very few marketing services firms anywhere in the world can muster.  Then there’s the question of culture clashes.  The people and culture of a data management consultancy is the antithesis of a creative agency as those who have sought to combine the two have discovered.  I worked with Experian a few years ago to help them create a hybrid consulting model that I called Optimarketing, but it never really gained traction because of the issues associated with sitting hundreds of data specialists and analysts who insisted in a silent working environment and who lacked creative instincts in the same space as gregarious, creative advertising people and expecting them to work together.  However, Experian were ahead of the game in recognising that this the way to go, closely followed by Sapient, who adopted the strategy of acquiring creative instinct rather than trying to grow it at home, by buying Chris Clarke’s Nitro group.  While I’ve not seen evidence of a quantifiable model emerging from this marriage, there are others playing with the same idea.  One of the more exciting new partnerships being Harte-Hanks who have taken in the UK agency Mason Zimbler, themselves already accustomed to the digital world that might just provide the cultural bridge to the numbers people.

As a company looking for a marketing services provider you’ll need either extremely broad skills and experience in your marketing team and at least one person with the overview to coordinate numerous specialist suppliers or an agency that can deliver the full package.  As my readers will have detected from my earlier piece on the dumbing down of marketing, I believe the problem is that people with the expertise to fill the modern-day coordinating (or Marketing Director) role are as rare as hen’s teeth, so in the absence of a one-stop shop, I’m hoping folks like me and the Full Effect Company will come into our own.

Maximising marketing efficency. It’s the old strategic v. tactical debate again!

had an interesting discussion with an agency founder the other day that reminded me why I started The Full Effect Company and took to championing the “integrated” cause.

When I set up The Full Effect Company my proposition centred on marketing communications rather than marketing, but while my horizon has broadened the same principle holds true.  When you really get down to business, its efficiency, nothing more or less, that separates success from failure.

And that’s what integrated marketing is all about – getting every element of a business pointing in the same direction.  In the area of marketing communications the elements operate on two levels – strategic and tactical.  Strategic is about building your community, making your customers feel at home and comfortable so they stick around, spend more time (and money) with you and even help you add members (customers).  Tactical, on the other hand, is all about short-term, prompting actions, introductions, sales. (over-simplification I know, but I’m talking to people who know this anyway, so I don’t need to state the obvious)

The thing to remember in all this is that while the influence of strategic communications can only ever be long-term, tactical communications will always not only constitute a call to action, but have a strategic influence as well.  Its unavoidable.  It’s there in the style of execution, the language and the graphics you use. Ignore it at your peril because it will go on working anyway and if you don’t manage it, it could actually be undermining your message and neutralising the investment you have in it.  On the other hand, when the tactical messages support aspects of the bigger strategic idea the relationship become synergistic.  If you make the most of the strategic element within your tactical communications you’ll increase your efficiency significantly and get a whole lot bigger bang for your buck.  And that’s where I started my Full Effect Marketing mission to increase my clients’ efficiency.  I’ve moved on a bit since then, but it’s still the fundamental principle behind all that I do.

While I see increasing evidence that businesses are understanding and exploiting this principle, there’s still a long way to go and it’s certainly not just the small guys who need the lessons.  The friend I mentioned at the start of this piece and I both had first-hand experience of major international organisations with problems that were symptomatic of them forgetting this basic strategic/tactical rule.

A while back I was called into a series of meeting with a major telco who were complaining that they weren’t getting value from their marcoms investment.  They had a strategic message that was getting more woolly by the day and were investing heavily in creating numerous short-term campaigns from scratch each year.  Their problems were two-fold.  Firstly their tactical campaigns were always short and very expensive, so they never had the opportunity to really get up a head of steam and fully repay the investment made in them.  Secondly the tactical messages were so diverse and disconnected from their strategic message that they were not just missing the opportunity for synergy, but sending out confusing, if not contradictory messages that just muddied the water.  This in turn meant their relationships with their customers (Brandships) weren’t as strong as they could be. Yes, it was all very inefficient.

Sadly, while they didn’t disagree with me, the remedy I suggested had political implications that they just weren’t prepared to contemplate.  As is often the case, I was talking to the marketing department and my solution suggested both a change of process and structure and a reduction in head-count, a suggestion that echoed rather hollowly inside their ivory tower.  Oddly enough my friend had a very similar story from a different sector.  Needless to say, faced with an impasse like this my relationship with this telco was short, but by way of my vindication, they were reported in the press last month as having exactly the problem I defined for them, so the cracks are now plain for all to see.  You would think it would be back to basics for them then?  However, I’m not expecting the phone call any day soon!

The key to this kind of efficiency lies in what I call the Brand Model. In the case of my Brand Discovery programme, this is a definition of a brand using eleven parameters, including a promise and a considered set of facts that make that promise credible. If once you have a Brand Model in place you assess every planned initiative in the context of its contribution to or reflection of the promise and these support facts, you’ll not go far wrong.  In the context of your marketing communications this should result in campaign elements with tactical messages that hard-underline one of the support facts and place it in the context of your strategic message.  People who are really good at this are Tesco in the UK with their tactically led messages that culminate with their strap-line “Every little helps”. Philips Electronics’ “Sense and Simplicity” which not only translates back to their product design briefs but results in advertising where the “sense” and “simplicity” are always demonstrated (and these words quoted religiously in headlines and body copy) and to a lesser extent Specsavers’ “I should have gone to …” message.

Until more businesses focus on squeezing the maximum strategic benefit from their tactical initiatives and messages and thereby achieve full efficiency, it’s hard to justify, in these cash-strapped times any purely strategic initiatives.

Need an illustration of integrated marcomms? Should have gone to Specsavers.

I realise that this campaign has been around for a while now, but I find myself eagerly awaiting the next commercial, which in itself is an indication of just how good it is.

“Should have gone to Specsavers” is, on the face of it not a particularly strong proposition.  For one thing it doesn’t actually make a promise, but what it lacks in directness it more than makes up for in the way it has exploited all the opportunities it creates.

The tag line is in the vein of the Tesco “Every little helps”, although I would suggest that Tesco’s is more of a promise, but Specsavers stick to the golden rule by illustrating why I should belive that message in different and highly amusing ways every time they wheel it out.

I like this because it is a big idea that they are exploiting to the full.  “Should have gone to Specsavers” may not be a smack-you in-the-face proposition, the promise is inferred rather than made outright, but I particularly like it because the individual tactical messages back it up with hard facts – discounts, deals etc.  I’m also confident that Specsavers’ data will show that the use of humour has transformed a boring commodity business into a desirable brand by giving it a clear and desirable personality.

In my opinion, Specsavers is one of the very few UK business right now that is producing efficient advertising and demonstrating to everyone how to get maximum bang for your buck by aligning tactical and strategic messages.  That’s integration!

Are you running a business or pursuing a hobby?

I realise that TV shows like Mary Queen of Shops, Country House Rescue and my favourite (if only because I could watch Alex Polizzi doing anything all day)  The Hotel Inspector, despite being formulaic and often contrived are the current entertainment of choice, but what I’m really waiting for is a series of “the ones that got away”.

I’m just itching to see the cases that sent the celeb consultants screaming out of the door, if only because I need the reassurance of knowing for sure it’s not just me who occasionally encounters a hopeless case that simply won’t be helped, or for which there is just no hope.

I’m currently going through that process of mental double-checking every option explored or unexplored that I guess every business consultant goes through before declaring a “patient” DOA.  My nemesis has proved to be a small advertising agency with a £1.5million turnover and accumulating losses that came to me at the beginning of the year.

I believe there is a solution to every business problem and the biggest obstacle to success, as in this case, is usually prejudice, laziness or obstinacy of top management, who despite consistent failure, insist on perpetuating the same model or set of practices.  Who was it who said “Insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome”? What is really frustrating about this case is that the solution was pretty obvious.

The people at this agency are getting on in years and looking for an exit that they quickly discovered didn’t exist.  Their stated losses were modest enough, but when I took a closer look I discovered that the three partners, who were independently wealthy, weren’t paying themselves a salary, which made the real picture rather more of a nightmare.  Strangely, this isn’t the first time I have come across a business where owners were not paying themselves and been forced to point out that they were not a business (which makes money), but a hobby (which burns it)

Working as I often do with marketing services firms I always start with the perspective that whatever discipline they may lead with, a marketing services firm is a consultancy.  A position which carries with it two clear responsibilities.  The first is that you must know more about your subject than your clients do.  This may sound obvious, but I often find client/agency relationships that are a bit like the blind leading the blind.  Assuming you qualify on the first point you should be advising your client not taking instruction, otherwise there is no reason for your existence.

Explanations for the failure of this business were turning up under every stone I turned:

  • The principal of this business told me with pride that he had never in his life stepped foot in any other advertising agency and didn’t know what they did or how they worked.
  • In fact they had never conducted a competitive review and were oblivious to who their competitors were or what they were offering.
  • Neither had they undertaken a client review.
  • None of the employees had worked in other marketing services firms either, so their “training” had all been at the hands of their agency principal.  Consequently their perspective was as narrow as the business.
  • In an era where integrated marketing is accepted as essential this agency operated in a very narrow field indeed.  All they offered was local press advertising!  Account handlers positively resisted the idea of offering additional comms, probably because they didn’t know anything about them.
  • The business operated on the commission model where, as an NPA recognised agency (remember those?) they received a 15% commission payment from publishers, which they used to pay for the design and artwork they provided.  I don’t know of another agency that still operates this system, simply because it doesn’t work.  For one thing any agency, regardless of “recognition” gets 15% discount from publishers these days and for another, 15% of the space cost is rarely enough to cover the cost of design and production when the majority of the space you are dealing with is in local newspapers.
  • They “sold” advertising space rather than advised on media strategy and account handlers were paid on commission, just like a media sales rep.  They also did pretty much what their clients asked if it meant selling some space.
  • Senior management had no contact with clients and I was refused access to them because the account handlers wouldn’t allow it!!!  Work that one out!
  • Their in-house management system, including job-bag management and invoicing was all done BY HAND!  Yes, you read that right.  What’s more, they were adamant that this was better than a computerised system.  I haven’t seen that much paper since Wiggins Teape was a client of mine!

The list goes on, but you get the idea.  However, without giving too much away, after speaking to local businesses, business networks, competitors, local media and other marketing services providers, I identified an opportunity for my client to create a model that catered for small businesses and even outlined a plan for growing the business nationally.  This was obviously going to take the founders out of their comfort zone, but they weren’t planning on being around for long, so that was hardly the point.  My job was to make their business attractive to potential investors.

I wasn’t entirely surprised though, when the owners decided not to adopt my strategy.  It had become clear to me early on that they weren’t removing themselves from the situation.  Comments like “But we like the business as it is” and “What we really want is someone to come in with a few new clients” were commonplace, despite me pointing out that the business was losing significant sums mainly because there aren’t any clients left for whom the agency’s offer was relevent.

So, this is one for the “ones that got away” file.  A fruitless exercise, but maybe not a waste of my time because its always good to have an insight into markets and in this case I have awoken to an opportunity that some other small agency might make work.  It also reinforces my belief that businesses fail, largely because they deserve to and that a great many small businesses should start by deciding whether they are running a business or pursuing a hobby.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

I’m endebted to Jerry Daykin and WantandBlog for Tweeting me the link to this masterful example of integrated social communications.  Its opportunities for creating stuff like this that gets me out of bed each morning!  For once there’s nothing I can add!

Don’t just watch the video I have embedded though, go to the site itself and get involved. Enjoy!

Everything you do is part of touching the customer with the brand

In an interview with Forbes today Horace Luke, Chief  Innovation Office at HTC said “Everything from a sneaker eyelet to a brochure to a trade exhibition is part of touching the customer with the brand”.  Great!  A nerd who gets it!  But why stop there?

What Horace is telling us is that the strength of a brand is in its consistency.  To be credible a brand has to achieve consistency, represent the same values and opinions at every touch point. Organisations can no longer get away with paying lip-service to a brand promise, customers are too savvy, too well-informed and too suspicious and if you slip up at any point in your relationship with them they’ll be on to you like a cheated wife!  You simply have to walk the talk, deliver that promise.  Its a simple and logical concept that’s not so difficult to make happen.  You just have to realise that it isn’t done by legislation.  Only by listening and sharing information will you get everyone in your organisation on the same page and from there consistent delivery is an easy road.  Horace is clearly a department head who you can rely on to pass the message down the line and my bet is that everyone in his group share his perspective and clarity of purpose.

This is my passion and it’s why I created Brand Discovery, the means by which organisations can represent their brand consistently at every level.  But if you are still asking why brand is so important you should take time out to read another of today’s rich veins of wisdom, this time from Graham Codrington (That man again! I promise we don’t have any kind of relationship, but he definitely gets it!)