The modern workplace conundrum

This week we discuss the modern workplace.

Like a lot of digitally-led creative agencies we’ve always favoured an open-plan office, the supposedly modern workplace. But, having read some interesting articles written by developers and creatives, both of whom make up a chunk of our workforce, I decided to dig a bit deeper.

Why is open plan considered the modern workplace?

I’d always been of the opinion that for a business that thrives on collaboration that open plan is the only way to go, but when I think about it where does collaboration start and interruption stop? For a number of our team sometimes they need to get their head down and get on with things. Sure they can move around and work where they like in the space but very often this means alone, headphones on.

The open plan office also seems to have a huge impact on sickness, something that affects all businesses. Sadly, based on my findings this impact is huge. An Australian survey I found in a Telegraph article cited open plan offices and a lack of personal space as having “shocking” effects on mental and physical health. UH OH.

The sceptic in me then started to wonder that if real illness is on the rise what about the imaginary side, I found a great survey by Free office finder looking at the flip side. Who’s not telling the truth? Sadly, both real and made up sickness follow similar patterns more real sickness lowers the barriers to pulling a made up sickie. As a business owner I have encountered these issues in the past, it builds resentment within the team and doesn’t lead to a nice atmosphere in general.

So what’s the answer

One of the biggest drivers to open-plan was the economics, individual office space for lots of staff is expensive. We live in expensive times especially in London. Open plan is a nice way to sell team spirit, a modern workplace environment but importantly keep the bills down. It seems the solution lies in variety, led by the new tech behemoths workers want freedom, want to be able to work where and when they want.

This is all great but for a smaller business it’s not really feasible to purpose build a campus somewhere, maybe next year. We’ve found the solution in a flexible multi-use building in Camden. We have an office but there are co-working and break out spaces that we can use as we like.

The sick issue is still one that I struggle with though, I want to give employees freedom, they are measured based on outputs but I know deep down that not everyone is honest 100% of the time. It’s not a slight on my staff it’s human nature. Besides we foster an honest culture so hopefully the DVO team won’t take offence at this article. We try our best to create a culture that doesn’t lead to the reasons often cited for taking made up sick days but I’m sure it does happen. Although the reality is for us outputs are the focus so in a perfect scenario take as many as you like as long as the work is on time and to standard, (really hoping no one in the company reads this now!).

We’ve favoured flexible working as a reward based incentive, if it works out we continue, if it doesn’t then we look for alternatives, it’s not perfect but it works for us. Which I guess is what it boils down to, asking staff how they want to work and accommodating where it works. I measure this by also being honest, as I know not everyone is going to be 100% happy 100% of the time.

If you’d like to talk to us about marketing or have a look at our open plan office, hopefully you won’t get sick, then give us a call 0203 771 2461 or contact us here.

Optimising webspace; the benefits of brand blogging

This week we’re discussing the benefits of brand blogging.

Here at full service digital agency DVO we’re big supporters of clients optimising webspace. Sounds straight forward, of course as a business you want to optimise all your resources and channels and brand blogging can be a great way to achieve this. But in today’s New Normal, as marketers and business owners, it can be challenging.

So what exactly do we mean when we say optimising webspace? Well, it’s the practice of looking beyond a brand’s site or blog to create an overarching online marketing presence. Any approach that doesn’t encompass every element, from e-commerce to social media to blogger outreach, will create an incomplete, confused or broken machine that isn’t ready to take on a well-rounded marketing strategy. We’ve seen this time and time again with clients, where responsibility for different digital resources can sit with different departments and silos are a very real problem still. So having a strategy that sits above this and pulls all the elements together effectively is vital and will actually make each channel work harder and produce better results.

We’ve written a series of articles, breaking down the different areas of webspace, explaining what they mean, why they are important and how you make them work harder for you.

Why have a blog?

Owned media has many different aspects and may seem daunting. But it’s also the most accessible and easiest means by which connect to your audience. At the centre of this should be your brand’s blog. Why? Well, for many reasons but here are some key stats that you should be aware of, especially if you’re not convinced of the value a blog can bring to your business.

  • A blog produces 97% more inbound links to a company’s site compared to one without a blog.
  • Companies that blog receive a massive 434% more indexed pages on average than those that don’t. Seriously, you don’t have a blog!!!
  • Small businesses that blog will see 126% more lead growth compared to those that don’t.
  • 23% of total Internet usage is on social media networks and blogs.

Webspace

Every client is different. They have different brands, different products, different attitudes and different approaches but most want the same thing: to get their brand known. When they ask if they really need a blog, the answer varies depending on what they are hoping to achieve. We hope the stats above have helped convince you of the benefits of brand blogging if you were sitting on the fence.

A blog should be the heart of a brand’s owned media. Brand blogging is the motor that keeps it running. It provides the content that drives individuals back to your website. How can you get involved with social networks, your email databases and other channels without having something to say? For most companies, your website and blog exist to tell the world what you’re about and why they should care. Your site does it on a basic level, but your blog lets you go off on tangents. 60% of people feel more positive about a company that has custom content on its website than those that don’t. It shows a confidence and a level of expertise that consumers want from the companies they are buying from or interacting with. And if it’s content that evokes an emotional response and encourages further action like commenting or sharing, then that’s an added bonus.

What do I blog about?

Working with clients who are starting out on their social media/blogging journey, we hear the same thing time and time again. What should I say, what should I talk about? Why would people be interested in what I’ve got to say? While understandable, this anxiety is often misplaced – you’re already an expert in your field so talk about what you do. Using brand blogging to explain your decisions, your journey, your beliefs, your successes and even your mistakes. After all, that’s what your customers are most likely to be interested in.

Nothing to say - Blog about it

McDonalds Canada is a great example of this, as can be seen in the fast food giant’s behind-the-scenes feature showing how burgers are photographed, hosted on YouTube. By being completely transparent about the dark art of food styling, the brand has taken something it knows intimately and created positive, engaging content that keeps its consumers interested and informed. The video has earned more than 11.3 million views.

Whilst developing content marketing for Expedia, we knew we needed to put a fresh spin on what could have otherwise just been more of the same old travel blogging, creating content that would stand out in a cluttered space. We did that by flipping the narrative into the future, focusing on what you could do, not what we had done collectively as the writing team. Making it about the travellers and the experience they could have allowed us to position the content we created away from the rest of the market. We built a network of writers across 8 global cities who were our correspondents and formed the basis of our content marketing approach. Having this solid digital experience meant we could build in tactical campaigns highlighting new destinations, seasonal holidays such as Halloween and tie-ins with wider campaign initiatives.

This is just one example of how we’ve used a brand’s existing know-how and worked with others to create useful content. Updating your blog at least once a week may seem daunting, but you already have the knowledge and expertise to share with your customers. And trust us, if you’ve got your offering and your branding right, people WILL want to listen. We’re here help bring it out. Talk to DVO about brand blogging on 020 3771 2641 or email us at iminterested@w-ptheme.club.

 

Optimising webspace and why you should care about bloggers

Blogger outreach and bloggers can make the difference to your content campaign’s amplification, in the second in our optimising webspace series we discuss why?

Before digital marketing, there were two main ways to get your brand seen – advertising and PR. The online revolution has given us a third: Bloggers. But say the word ‘Blogger’ nowadays to those not in the know and you might be on the receiving end of an derisive eyeroll. Which is a shame and, we believe, very short-sighted. This valuable resource has been tainted by what can only be described as a deluge of third party publishers. I mean, think about it, EVERYBODY and his mate Dave is a blogger these days. In this our second post on optimising webspace, we’re aiming to re-establish bloggers and blogger outreach as a valuable element that can be a huge benefit to your marketing campaigns.

Blogging took off in the late nineties. These writers, critics and reviewers started out making careers from what were once hobby blogs. Whether using wit, authority, well-crafted prose or all three, many bloggers managed to grow their readership to such a level that brands and advertisers sat up and took notice. Let’s have a quick look back before we look forward.

From humble beginnings, Peter Robinson’s very funny Popjustice founded a record label, released branded compilations, held branded tours and broken pop news stories. Charlie Lynne’s film blog Ultra Culture was hailed the UK’s foremost film blog by reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and hosted the national premiere of Spring Breakers. And Jack Monroe, the budget food blogger behind recipe site ‘A Girl Called Jack’ has earned worldwide media interest and become the face of Sainsbury’s ad campaigns. How’s that for the power of blogging? And lots of people sat up and took notice. Where’s there’s traffic, there’s cash and where there’s cash, you’ll quickly find people jumping on the bandwagon trying to exploit it. Hence the above mentioned eyeroll response. Blogging started to get a bad name for itself, what was once innocent and pure, spontaneous and organic, became cynical and cheap, lacklustre and cold.

Cat blogging

So what does today’s blogger look like? Well, for a start, don’t call them bloggers! It’s all about ‘Influencers’ now. Which, considering how much blogging has moved on in the last few years, is a far more accurate description. Gone are the days when a blogger could throw up low grade content on their blogs (their own or ‘borrowed’ from elsewhere), fling out some click bait, post tired listicles and sit back and watch the revenue pour in in line with their blog traffic. Today’s blogger understands the power of engagement, and harnessing top quality content on their blogs, their social media channels, images and graphics is at the centre of all this. The best blogs capture their readers’ imaginations, giving them reasons to return, stay and share. It’s actually pretty much the basis of DVO’s core proposition around content and engagement, and something brands the world over are keen to buy in to.

When we worked with specialist travel operator Thompson Lakes and Mountains, we saw an opportunity for blogger outreach that feed content to not one, but two blog audiences. By creating a guide to the company’s most popular destinations inspired by the maps often found in fantasy novels, we worked with a number of influential travel bloggers as well as the fans of dramas such as The Hobbit and Game of Thrones. In doing this, we used this highly engaged network to spread word of Thompson Lakes and Mountains across multiple channels on our behalf.

(Click the image below for the full infographic).

The best bloggers are seen as proper, respected experts in their fields. No longer is running a blog just about posting about your Couch to 5K progress (or lack of it!) or what you ate for lunch this week. Good blogs are well researched and presented, understand their strengths and their audience. They produce useful and inspiring content which illicits a response and excites the reader, prompting them into action. Which in today’s saturated digisphere is no easy task.

Be sure to check out our previous blog in this series on brand blogging. If you’d like to discuss with us how you can expand your reach into earned media, get in touch. Talk to DVO or drop us an email at iminterested@w-ptheme.club

The social media storm that is Movember

Movembers a lot of fun for most of us. This week we analyse what you can learn from Movember to make you’re social media more effective.

A quick look at social media will tell you we’re staring down the face of Movember (already!) and the question of whether to ‘tache or not to ‘tache raises its head. Yes, that’s right, it’s nearly Movember and men (and women) the world over are considering ways that they can support this very worthwhile charity. As a full service digital agency we want to look deeper, analysing why initiatives like November are so good at engaging large audiences and how you can apply the same thinking to your campaigns.

Every year, in November, Movember turns moustaches into a symbol of support for its cause. But what was once a very simple premise with an equally simple fundraising journey has become somewhat of a behemoth. Ask most people what they think Movember means and what the movement supports and they’ll say, “growing a moustache in November, get some sponsorship and raise money for testicular cancer”.

But Movember has become so, so much more than that. Let’s explore.Continue reading

Branding, campaigns, briefing. All our start-up tips in one place.

Launching a business is bloody hard work. We know, we’ve done it. Thankfully, there’s a lot of advice, start-up tips and support out there, but nothing beats sitting down and chatting with someone who’s been through it all. So as a start-up (with some history) we’ve focused our insights recently around what we think is important and opened the lid on some of our process. Area’s covered include branding, campaigns and agency briefing as so often these are where start-ups are loosing out, wasting valuable time and energy and not getting the expected outcome. Each area is covered in more detail on the individual posts in our blog but we’ve summarised all the key points below. So grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.

Don’t under estimate the power of a well thought out brand!

In amongst all the excitement of starting a business, when you’ve got your idea and can’t wait to share it, taking a step back and thinking about the brand itself and rationalising it is a sensible and often overlooked essential.
Here’s a quick and easy list of start=up tips for branding, we advise all start-ups to do sooner rather than later. For more detail, have a read of our article on start-up branding.

• What is the Vision? – Your aspirations for the brand
• What is the Mission? – What is the company’s purpose?
• What are your brand values and core principles?
• Do your research – Quantitative, qualitative, competitors, business name and digital assets availability
• What’s your Unique Selling Proposition? What makes your brand special?
• Who is your customer? How is your audience segmented? How does your messaging needs to flex to resonate with your segments?
• What’s your Elevator Pitch? You’ve got 2 minutes to explain your brand’s visions, mission and USPs to a complete stranger – GO!
• Pillars of reason – Create arguments to back up your claims.
• Tone of voice and content – How are you going to express your brand?
• Visual identity – Logo, fonts, colours, layouts, templates etc. Do these represent your brand values? Will your audience identify with them?
• Customer journey – Understand it in GREAT detail. Does it work for your audience? Is the user experience consistent with your brand profile?
• Test your messaging and everything else. A lot.

Start-up tips for campaigns.

Once you’ve nailed down your brand and you’re confident you have a very clear set of guidelines for your ongoing communications you’re in a good place to get cracking as you’ve got your litmus test for what comes next.

We follow a process to create integrated campaigns, you should too.  Here’s ours in detail.

Research.

Often overlooked, but oh so vital. We’d advise using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research and be sure to scrutinise all available relevant data sources. This means customer data, website usage (via Google analytics or similar), social tools and any other data sources you think might be relevant. Uncovering the not so obvious insight might give you the competitive edge.

A word of warning here, the best creative taps into an emotional or behavioural insight, sometimes data doesn’t always tell you this. It’s important to keep an open mind with research and try and get to the bottom of what is happening in the context of your project.

Persona development.

Create a detailed picture of who your target customers are going to be. Why? It allows you to refine who you are talking to, getting to the heart of their needs, passions and goals.

Warning, don’t take “need” too literally, people have more than just functional needs. Think about emotions, the best marketing always taps into them. Don’t believe us, think about why people will still buy the iPhone 7, even though they are perfectly happy with their iPhone 6.

Campaign/editorial planning (The strategy).

How is your campaign or content going to play out, where and when?
Rigorously sense check against the objectives. It’s important to always ask why you are doing something.

Note. I read it in a blog is not a good why!

Measurement.

You’ll be surprised at how many companies, agencies and even seasoned marketers forget this bit. Once you know what you are doing, start to think about how you will measure individual elements and assigning KPI’s. These should always ladder up to your overall goals, after all how do you know somethings worked if you can’t measure it.

Creative.

Don’t sacrifice creativity. Even if you think that it’s unnecessary for your marketing channels, all that means is that you’re not using your channels optimally. Give us a call, we can help you. We go through a briefing process where our planners run a workshop with our creative, editorial and technical staff. Ideas are often the intersection of these three disciplines. The creatives’ job is to tap into the insights and communicate in a novel, engaging way that works to make the activity successful. Good creative is always the result of good planning.

Production.

Art production, copy, editorial, development. Basically getting on with bringing your campaign to life. Have defined elements that you can quickly prototype and test, whether it’s content or a technical element. Try to gauge reaction from live users. Try testing out something through a blog post or a piece of functionality. Don’t just throw stuff out and see what sticks.

Activation.

You’ve got your assets, you’ve got our plan, now you want to get it out there. Time for a bit of media. Well for us activation is still about test, learn refine. We’re a full service digital agency so we get our hands dirty with the activation, it gives us the benefit of real feedback on performance, which we’d otherwise have to get from the media agency or client. This allows us to tweek and refine the work, luckily something that digital is great for as it’s a bit trickier with offline elements. With this in mind we favour digital first before committing to a print run, TV ad or some other major cost.

Measurement. (it’s here twice as it’s important!)

Once it’s out there we regularly report on all aspects, our planners then have the opportunity to scrutinise real interactions to feedback into the ongoing work and make it better.

What we’ve outlined above is probably going to be stretch for a start-up who isn’t highly
experienced, so we’ve pulled out some specific start-up tips mindful of your time and budgets that  you should definitely consider.

Essential start-up tips

• Do some research, you’ll find insights once you get beneath the surface. Speak to your users, get feedback, ask questions. Don’t be afraid of negative answers, you probably learn more from them.
• Set clear goals for your activity. Start at the top and work down, e.g if it’s more sales, you should be able to relate KPI’s in your activity back up to this.
• Set specific KPI’s for individual elements, make sure they are relevant to your goals and make sure you can measure everything you need to.
• Prototype your campaign ideas alongside your content. Test the themes out, dothey resonate with your audience?
• Start small, to ensure you use budgets for paid amplification wisely.
• Use campaigns to fuel big jumps in your incremental audience growth.
• Record your social interaction and user stories, these are great fuel for your campaigns helping to grow and shape your narrative.
• Don’t beat yourself up if it seems daunting, start small with a few priority channels, likely social and content based as they don’t carry large media budget requirements.

Start-up tips for getting the best out of an agency; better briefing

As a start-up, you may decide that working with an agency is the right route for you. Which can be a great thing, they should bring experience, expertise, advice and the right results. But often the relationship can leave either one or both parties feeling a little deflated. And often this means that expectations weren’t managed, communication wasn’t ideal and direction was lacking. This is where a good, solid, well thought out brief can help hugely.

We’ve seen a variety of brands, new and old, struggle with the brief, either through lack of experience, overthinking or simply being time poor.

• Our first piece of advice would be to speak to the agency. Any good agency worth their salt recognises the importance of a good brief and should be able to offer advice and a framework to work within. We would rather invest a little time getting to a good brief because we know that we’ll end up with more successful work and a happy client. Rather than simply accepting a bad brief and the obvious outcome.

• Failing that, think about a problem that needs solving. You may not be able to add all the pieces to the puzzle, but again a good agency should be able to ask questions of your brief and fill in the missing bits.

• Keep it simple. It’s an age old adage in the industry that a good brief should fit onto one piece of paper. 20 pages will invariably lead to misunderstanding as different people read the brief and focus on different elements.

• Don’t make the brief too restrictive. You may think that making the brief hyper-focused will stop the agency from going in the wrong direction but this is a false economy. Creative agencies need room to be creative.

• Don’t try to answer the problem in your brief. This totally sidesteps the value-add offered by a creative agency and probably means you’ll end up paying a lot more for something you could have otherwise completed elsewhere for less money.

• Collaborate with your agency. If you’ve got a tight budget, be transparent from the start. When budgets are tightly guarded and expectations aren’t aligned, it creates mistrust in the relationship from the start. When both the client and the agency understand the situation, expectations are managed and the two parties can grow and develop together.

So, if you are near the start of your business’s journey, hopefully you’ve found these useful? We know it’s a lot to take in, but we really believe that by heeding this advice at the beginning, you will reap the benefits further down the line.

So good luck, and let us know how you get on. We love hearing people’s start up stories, sharing start-up tips and the agony and excitement. We’ll be here to celebrate with a glass of fizz or commiserate with a warm cuppa and a choccie biscuit.

Contact us if you think you need a full service digital agency, we’d love to help.

We offer a no-obligation workshop to properly identify the challenges for all our clients and prospective clients.

Agency briefing. What’s the problem?

Agency briefing is an often overlooked skill, whether you’re a start-up or a seasoned brand. The agency briefing process sets the tone for the project and can often determine how successful the outcome will be.

This week I’m tackling the agency briefing process. Originally we wanted to look at this purely from a start-up perspective but I think a lot of these pointers are relevant across the board, especially as briefing becomes more challenging in the digital age.

There are a lot of posts out there about the perfect agency briefing, many offer great advice, so some of this may be familiar. What I want to focus on is the challenges clients are now facing in the digital age and how you write a brief when it’s difficult to know what you want in an ever evolving landscape. Also, if you’re a start-up and cash is tight, how do you brief to get the best bang for your buck?

First let’s take a step back. What’s the point of a brief, the benefits and basic principles?

I think this quote from Dominic Grounsell (marketing director Capital One) sums it up really well.

“The equation is simple, tightly written briefs plus passionate briefing equals engaged agencies, impactful campaigns and strong market results.”

The key benefits of a brief:

• It leads to better work, avoiding doubt and giving better clarity as to the objectives and a successful outcome to measure the work against

• It saves time and money, stops the goal posts moving and adds efficiency to the process

• It makes the process fairer, vital if you want an engaged agency with real clarity in the objectives who will work collaboratively with you

• It provides the critical information needed to complete the task

• It inspires and motivates the agencies people

So why is briefing a digitally-led agency sometimes so challenging?

I think it comes down to who’s leading it.

Digital in most organisations is a silo, operating alongside, but often not fully integrated with, the wider marketing function. When digital teams brief they lean towards very specific performance or KPI goals. Which is fine, but when these aren’t aligned to broader business and brand goals, can make it very difficult to understand the wider context of success. This also seems at odds with accepted thinking of the digital space and the multi-channel nature of consumer behaviour. Sure, there may be a digital experience at the heart of a campaign, but very often there will be all sorts of offline and online channels aligned around this. When the team briefing is purely digital how does this work?

Brand teams often have the flipside issue. Used to briefing on above the line or traditional communications, briefs tend to be linear and lack the flexibility to explore multiple touch points and digital experiences that don’t adhere to traditional campaign roll-out strategies.

This really touches a deeper issue of organisational structure, but I think the basic solution is to get these teams working and talking together, the shared challenges should unite them. The first step is then being to recognise that there shouldn’t be an assumption on channel before the brief is created. Ultimately, all teams should be pulling in the same direction, working together to think holistically about how they can play a part in better servicing the needs of the consumer.

For DVO this really is the fundamentals of a good brief; what is the consumer need? The brief is, in essence, asking the agency how do we better meet this? The next question is, how do we identify it? That’s a big problem and something the brand often cannot answer because historically, a brief has fleshed out a challenge or problem purely from their perspective.

We’ve tried a number of techniques and found the most effective has always been a pre-brief workshop. We come armed with a deeper understanding of the consumer and collectively arrive at where we want to get to within the framework of the brand’s objectives. It’s not fool proof, but it’s a good step towards a workable brief from a starting position of not knowing what you want, need or even what the problem is.

So that’s great but there’s two of us in marketing, we’re on a tight budget.

Back to the start-up conundrum! We’ve seen a variety of brands in this space struggle with agency briefing, either through lack of experience, overthinking or simply being time poor.

• My first piece of advice would be to speak to the agency, don’t suffer in silence. Any good agency worth their salt recognises the importance of a good brief and should be able to offer advice and a framework to work within. This isn’t a sly way to steer the selection process. We would rather invest a little time getting to a good brief because we know that we’ll end up with more successful work and a happy client. It’s never in an agency’s interest to do bad work and have unsatisfied clients as we operate in a very competitive sector.

• Failing that, think about a problem that needs solving. You may not be able to add all the pieces to the puzzle, but again a good agency should be able to ask questions of your brief and fill in the missing bits.

• Keep it simple. It’s an age old adage in the industry that a good brief should fit onto one piece of paper. 20 pages will invariably lead to misunderstanding as different people read the brief and focus on different elements.

• Don’t make the brief too restrictive. You may think that making the brief hyper-focused will stop the agency from going in the wrong direction but this is a false economy. It assumes you know exactly what needs to be done to stay within your budget and meet the objectives and leaves little room for innovation or lateral thinking. Creative agencies need room to be creative.

• Don’t try to answer the problem in your brief. We’ve seen this a number of times where a problem has been fleshed out and then the brief itself has tried to solve that problem, leaving little room for the agency to move. Understandable if it’s purely a production piece but the question would then be “why use a creative agency to do this”? This totally sidesteps the value-add offered by a creative agency and probably means you’ll end up paying a lot more for something you could have otherwise completed elsewhere for less money.

• Collaborate with your agency. If you’re small with tight budgets, this should be transparent and accepted from the start. When both parties are happy with this situation, it will lead to appropriate work and the two parties can grow and develop together. When budgets are tightly guarded and expectations aren’t aligned, it creates mistrust in the relationship from the start.

I think it’s fair to say that the agency briefing process has become more fluid. There still needs to be a grounding in the fundamentals but that doesn’t mean it’s about passing pieces of paper from team to team. With consumer behaviour changing good briefs are now a collaborative effort between agency and client, whether you’re a start-up or a global player.

If you want to explore this topic further check out the good pitch which focuses more on communications but is still a great guide. Sadly there seems to not be too much about briefing agencies in the digital age so hopefully this will start the conversation.

If you’d like to speak to us about how to shape your brief for digitally-led communications then we’d be happy to come in and run a short workshop, contact us for more information.

What we learned at Technology for Marketing

This weeks post covers our adventures at Technology for Marketing.

We spent the day at the Technology for Marketing show, an event which brings together all sorts of different marketing technology “martech” offerings around various, mainly digital, channels. We’re a lean full service digital agency so we were there for two reasons; to discover new technologies we may be able to incorporate into our projects and to pick up insights into client uptake and understanding. It was a great show, we played retro Star Wars games, had a balloon fascinator made for us and got to speak to some really enthusiastic and knowledgeable people. So a big well done to the Technology for Marketing organisers.

We’ll get into the detail below, highlighting some great technology we came across that you should definitely look at.

Firstly though, I think it’s worth talking about the bigger picture. Whilst we’re big advocates of digital, technology and a digitally-led approach there are one or two things that are quite alarming and as a marketing manager must be confusing.

I don’t think we have to argue anymore that a consistent multi-channel approach is something all brands should be aiming for, breaking down siloes to deliver communications holistically. This thinking was strangely absent, maybe because the solutions on offer were very channel specific and geared towards optimising better results in any given channel? But come on, I find it hard to believe that nobody is considering the customer in all of this and how their respective technology dovetails with other channels, especially other digital channels.

There still seems to be a notion that teams grappling with lots of channels have a need to add more and more software solutions, that don’t talk to each other, into their workflow as if this is something that is going to make things easier for them. It may help the results but it may also make the whole thing unmanageable. I think the infographic below illustrates this, it’s a bit chaotic? (Produced by Scott Brinker, download available here)

martech-landscape-2105-800x552

I think the wider issue at play is that many companies in the martech space are inadvertently perpetuating the siloed mentality we are all striving to move away from. A Forbes study from 2014 highlighted the negative impact of siloes both internally and externally. Siloes cause cracks in the customer experience because messaging and tactics are inconsistent across different channels.

So why are so many companies selling tech that perpetuates this? I guess business wise it’s always a good idea to have a niche, but how then does a company choose which piece of software to use? Another thing to add to the marketing teams to do list.

The other thing we noticed at Technology for Marketing was some talk about emotional engagement. We dug deeper and were surprised to find it’s only skin deep. Content marketers have been discussing how to drive more emotional engagement for a while, how to get beyond the logical needs and use the content experience to drive the emotional engagement you would normally associate with brand activity. Suffice to say it’s not been cracked. Our perspective is that there is not the research rigour outside of simple data analysis to really get to the bottom of the emotional triggers that will resonate with any given audience. Sales plug! That’s where businesses like ours come in because we have the planning skills to do just that – delivering a message through traditional methods or a digital experience that will trigger an emotion because our research goes beyond the data. We study the bigger picture.

So that’s the rant bit done. Here’s some of the things we thought were cool at Technology for Marketing, take a look at them, they might help.

Phrasee is an AI solution for use in email subject lines. The example we saw was for an Xfactor campaign. It showed how the ai made subtle changes to the subject line of an email campaign over it’s broadcast lifespan to improve engagements. Firstly, cool. Secondly we can’t wait to test this and want to explore how this could be used for social media, maybe to improve engagement of scheduled posts, looking to drive people into deeper content.

R3engage had a cool piece of software that works on site exit points, allowing you to show the user a screen on exit that can have any content you can think of in it. They explained that it’s a bit like asking someone ‘can I help you’ when they walk into a retail space and doing that before they leave. Current applications have included surveys and buying suggestions. We wondered about it’s use in research as a survey point to better understand why someone didn’t buy. I can also see applications for publishers looking to generate revenue in this way for third parties.

Barclaycard, no need for a link! We were very impressed by the ladies on their stand in the payments section, they were very well informed. We didn’t know much about their online payment gateway but it’s pretty impressive and for those who bank with Barclays, very seamless. I think there’s a lot of credibility in the Barclays brand especially in tech as they clearly lead the way amongst the high-street in this area. Not ground breaking tech but a good service and that really is more important.

So there were good and bad bits, some clever tech and balloon parrot hats. All in all a positive experience, just wish someone would bang the drum a bit louder for cross-channel integration. We built a tunnel under the sea to do this, surely we can do it in marketing? If we don’t see you sooner you can catch us there next year, we’ll be doing the Technology for Marketing rounds looking for the new and innovative solutions that will make our work better.

As ever if you want to know more, want advice on what next seasons balloon hat fashion will be or want to chew the fat, contact us. Or sign–up for our newsletter, the box is just to the right at the top of this post.

Content marketing and integrated campaigns for start-ups?

This week we talk integrated campaigns and content marketing for Start-ups

As a start-up, we know you’re trying to learn and juggle about 3 million news tasks. You’re suddenly in charge of a business and there’s a whole raft of things you need to know; VAT, tax returns, Companies House, bank accounts, funding, HR, IT, accounts payable, the list goes on and on. Thinking about marketing campaigns and content marketing is often the last thing on your agenda. But take heart, the leap from a brilliant idea to turning it into an actual proper grown-up business can be huge and daunting. We know, we’ve done it. But you’ve done the hardest part.

One area that often gets a bit left behind, becomes a bit of an afterthought, can be your marketing strategy. If you think about it, you know it’s important and you know it needs time and possibly some money dedicated to it, but before you even get there, there’s another set of skills and a never-ending list of buzzwords to wrap your brain around.

Now, a post to help explain all the marketing terms and technologies would be longer than that last hour at work on a Friday afternoon, but recently we’ve been asked by quite a few of our business buddies about Integrated Campaigns and Content Marketing, particularly based around a digital interaction, so thought that was as good a place to start as any.

So what do these terms mean and aren’t campaigns and content marketing strategies polar opposites? Integrated campaigns, or integrated marketing, is the process of communicating a consistent message across all available customer touch points. If it’s done well the narrative runs through each channel but is adapted for the particular nuance of the individual channel and customer need at that point. Content marketing is the strategic approach to creating and distributing valuable content that meets consumer needs to attract and retain a target audience. Sounds so simple, right?

Well you’ve probably noticed that there’s two methodologies at play here, campaigns tend to follow a prescribed cycle and have start and end points, digital allows optimisation through the process. Content marketing is an always-on approach that builds over time and can be continually optimised. Fear not though you don’t have to choose one or the other done together they can be mutually beneficial.

DVO is on hand to give you lots of simple and, more importantly, useful tips on how you can make this work and why you should be doing it.

First let’s take a step back, why content marketing, why integrated campaigns, why both?

Well, as with so many things nowadays, we have technology to thank for all this. Two things have happened which have had a huge impact on how companies interact with their audience. One, control has been put in the hands of the consumer, thanks to technology and two, technology has created a huge amount of choice. The first behaviour has placed huge emphasis on brands meeting consumer needs in a better way. The second has created consumers who flip between channels at break neck speed. Couple these to some of the inherent cornerstones of marketing, such as consistent and coherent, and you begin to realise that to truly influence consumers, your messaging needs to be delivered across multiple channels in a properly cohesive way.

Content marketing has become a vital means of customer communication. Gone are the days when trash copy filled pages and pages of the Internet, never to be read, in the hope to generate traffic, inbound links or just through shear laziness. Brands and agencies alike are waking up to the fact that truly engaging content, aimed at meeting the needs of consumers, that is rich, relevant and interesting, has a huge amount of value. This content must capture your audience’s imagination in a very short space of time. Consumers are not daft; they can smell weakness at a 100 paces. Fail to give them what they want and they will be off quicker than the Finance Director when it’s their round at the bar.

Campaigns can be tricky, particularly in the digital space. You can’t run a campaign indefinitely, think of the money! But you also need to publish content regularly, particularly social content. So how do you make the two marry up?

Once you start to think about it though, you can fuse the two together. You can use content marketing to test elements of your campaign and you can use campaigns to build stepped increases in your audience, which in turn will then be exposed to your content marketing. Lost you a bit? Let’s break it down, here’s how we approach it.

Research

We look at 4 key area; Brand, Consumer, Landscape and Competitors. We using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research and we scrutinise all available relevant data sources. This means customer data, website usage (via Google analytics or similar), social tools (we favour brandwatch) and any other data sources we think relevant. If we don’t have something we’ll do a survey or similar to find something out.

Why? Because we want to uncover the not so obvious insight that will give our client the competitive edge.

A word of warning here, the best creative taps into an emotional or behavioural insight, sometimes data doesn’t always tell you this. It’s important to keep an open mind with research and try and get to the bottom of what is happening in the context of your project.

Persona development

We develop personas which are a picture of our target market.

Why? It allows us to refine who we are talking to, getting to the heart of their needs, passions and goals. Really building up a picture of the audience and understanding what they need from the brand we’re working with.

We don’t delineate between campaigns and content marketing. Whilst the activation may be different, insights and data inform our work regardless of how it is executed. Very often it’s a combination of both.

Warning, don’t take “need” too literally, people have more than just functional needs. Think about emotions, the best marketing always taps into them. Don’t believe us, think about why people will still buy the iPhone 7.

Campaign/editorial planning (The strategy)

How is our campaign or content going to play out, where when? Whether it’s an integrated campaign or content marketing or both, you need to have a clear plan of what is going to happen, where and when.

This is then rigorously sense checked against the objectives. It’s important to always ask why we are doing something.

Note. I read it in a blog is not a good why!

Measurement

Once you know what you are doing and you’ve sense checked it thoroughly you can start to think about measuring individual elements and assigning KPI’s. You should already have a clear idea of how to measure the overall success as it’s probably related to a business objective, sales or market share or maybe a brand objective such as awareness.

Creative

We go through a briefing process where our planners run a workshop with our creative, editorial and technical staff. Ideas are often the intersection of these three disciplines. Essentially we are setting them a challenge based on a framework our planners have created. The creatives’ job is to tap into the insights and communicate in a novel, engaging way that works to make the activity successful. Good creative is always the result of good planning.

If you don’t have the time to go through this in a granular way we suggest you use your research to sense check your creative, does it tap into one of your insights? Failing that go back to the roots of your brand and use that to sense check.

Production

Art production, copy, editorial, development. Basically getting on with bringing it to life. We will have defined elements that we can quickly prototype and test, whether it’s content or a technical element. We want to gauge reaction from live users and digital gives us the perfect environment to do this, think testing out something through a blog post or a piece of functionality. What we don’t tend to do is just throw stuff out and see what sticks, it’s highly inefficient and can be brand damaging. We call it an agile waterfall methodology.

Activation

We’ve got our assets, we’ve got our plan, let’s get it out there. Time for a bit of media. Well for us activation is still about test, learn refine. Digital gives us this benefit as it’s easy to make small changes, it’s a bit trickier with offline elements so we tend to go digital first before committing to a print run, TV ad or some other major cost.

Tips

What we’ve outlined above is probably going to be stretch for a start-up who isn’t highly experienced so we’ve pulled out some pointers you should consider:

  • Do some research, you’ll find insights once you get beneath the surface. Speak to you users get feedback ask questions. Don’t be afraid of negative answers.
  • Set clear goals for your activity. Start at the top and work down, if it’s more sales you should be able to relate KPI’s in your activity back up to this.
  • Set specific KPI’s for individual elements, make sure they are relevant to your goals and make sure you can measure everything you need to.
  • Prototype your campaign ideas alongside your content.
  • Start small, to ensure you use budgets for paid amplification wisely.
  • Use campaigns to fuel big jumps in your incremental audience growth.
  • Record your social interaction and user stories, these are great fuel for your campaigns.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if it seems daunting, start small with a few priority channels.

Ultimately you’re aiming for an omni-channel approach. Why? Because consumers just see your brand they don’t see channels. Consistently great experiences, regardless of where or when someone interacts with you, are the ultimate goal.

We’re here to help, if you would like advice on both of our key areas of expertise, Integrated Campaigns and Content Marketing, then give us a call or use our contact page.

Wrapping a brand round your start-up.

This week we’re discussing start-up branding. It’s essential but, in so many cases, it gets overlooked, certainly beyond the logo and colour scheme. But a brand is so much more. It’s the beating heart of the business and the basis of any marketing and communications. A good brand can make the difference between success and failure.

We started by talking to two different start-ups about the challenges they faced and we finish with what we believe is important when taking your business to market and truly selling it. Why? Well nowadays there are so many new businesses launching, thanks to technology, that unfortunately it’s becoming more and more obvious which ones have put time and thought into their brand. After all, all businesses need customers, period.

Vanessa Butz and Giovanni Roberto, were our two victims. We wanted to understand how they dealt with brand and why they felt it important.

Vanessa moved to London in 2015 to set-up Interchange, one of London’s coolest co-working environments, which was taken from conception to launch in a little over 3 months. Although Interchange sits under the umbrella of a larger public company, Vanessa experienced all the challenges you would expect from a start-up.

Giovanni is the founder of Yndica, an innovative, multi-channel retail solution with a hand picked selection of products, displayed in pods, which can be placed almost anywhere. The proposition seamlessly integrates a mobile ecommerce solution, allowing purchase and delivery at the swipe of a phone.

The consensus is refreshing and something the start-ups of this world should take on-board, as a strongly differentiated brand is what will give them an edge as markets start to get more competitive. Both felt strongly that culture is what drives start-up branding. It all starts with the founders establishing a strong sense of culture in the business (we’d probably call this values and personality) and this should be reflected in the experience a customer has regardless of where they are in their journey. The deeper understanding of how a consumer forms relationships with a brand was something they both inherently understood and both felt that brand needed to be policed, especially as the businesses evolved. What we often see missing, that both really understood, was that brands evolve. Many start-ups forget this bit, still forging ahead with the first iteration, conceived over the kitchen table, at a point in their lifespan where it’s no longer fit for purpose.

 

So we’d thought we’d hand out some start-up branding advice. Free. Because we’re nice like that.

 

You’ve come up with a great idea, you’ve asked a lot of questions, you’ve put in the time and effort to formalise your idea into a business. Now what?

Never before has there been so much support, funding and information available for start-ups. But, from our experience (and this goes back to year dot!) most people don’t put enough time or budget into planning their start-up branding and marketing strategy. And your start-up will need both if you want to start making money in the not too distant future. Which we’re assuming you do.

Start by thinking about what the actual purpose of your business is and where do you want it to be in the future. What are your ambitions for your business? These can be distilled down into short, snappy phrases, called ‘Vision’ and ‘Mission’ (often the Mission Statement).
Your vision is exactly that, what your ultimate vision is for the future of your company? This is often something kept within the company to inspire your employees, and it should always be written in the future tense. A great and very often quoted vision statement is “A just world without poverty” – Oxfam. Simple, clear and truly visionary.
A mission statement is often shareable and is more about a statement of intent for your business. What is its day to day purpose? These tend to be a little longer than your vision, with a slightly more practical edge. Google’s is pretty good we think, “Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. As you can see, it’s not about giving your ideas or secrets away, just simply telling people what you’re about. A good exercise to do alongside this one is listing out all your brand values and core principles. Having these agreed early on will prove very helpful all along your branding journey.

At DVO we offer a full service digital agency model which places a huge amount of importance on research, and with good reason. We never understand why so many companies, including some long standing, experienced ones, place little or no value on research, some even totally forgoing it! Yes, it is a potential cost, or can be quite labour intensive, especially if you don’t have a big budget. But really, it is essential. Both quantitative (large amounts of data, easily measured and reported) and qualitative (smaller amounts of data, less easily measured, sometimes anecdotal) provide valuable insights into all areas of your business and the landscape within which it sits. Use your research to establish whether your business idea has potential. Look at other players in your sector, what is your potential audience size, what can your target customer afford? Even down to the basics; has your chosen brand name been taken already, are the digital naming rights available? All these things will help you formulate your business model, price your products or service accordingly and realise their full potential going forward.

 

Very few new businesses are truly unique nowadays. If you’ve come up with an idea that really does not have any competitors, then well done you. But most business ideas will already be out there in one form or another, and you will hopefully have identified these during your research. So what you need to do is establish what about your business is different to them. Once you’ve identified these points of difference, you need to ratify these into your ‘unique proposition’.

 

Once you have your unique proposition, you need to do some analysis of your audience. Lots of times in the past, when we’ve asked someone who their potential customer is, the reply is often “everybody”. Everybody? Really? So every single man, woman and child in the entire world is going to want and be in a position to buy your product? No, didn’t think so.
Take the time to really understand your target audience. So, for example, if you’re selling feminine hygiene products, then pretty much 50% of the world’s population sits outside of your target audience. If the lowest possible entry price for your product is, say, £500,000, then you’ve narrowed do to a small sector of very wealthy individuals. Selling pens? Yes, you may think that your product IS for everyone, but if you actually think about it, if it’s cheap, high volume units, then maybe your core audience is large offices, and you need to sell via large scale office suppliers. So you’re then looking at a B2B strategy, rather than direct to consumer.

 

Once you’ve established your audience, you can then look within it to identify any differing segments. Different segments might require different messaging or may favour different channels. Understanding these early on will help you create a brand profile that works will all your audience segments and resonates fully with your potential customers.

 

A handy exercise we favour is the creation of an ‘Elevator Pitch’. This is really useful for all employees, not just those responsible for sales. It’s your door opener, essentially, if you had those few seconds in an elevator with a stranger and had to explain the ‘who, what and how’ about your brand, what would you say. It is the spirit and function of you brand, articulated in a clear, concise and memorable way. Once you have this defined, put it on stuff. On your website, on business cards, on headed paper, on email signatures. And try and make it as engaging as possible.
Next, you need some reasoning to back up your pitch. A good test of any statement you make in business is to say it, and then add the words “yeah, so what?”. Make sure you’ve got a list of arguments that can support any claims you make. And make them customer-relevant. If you can offer something, prove its integrity and shows how it can only benefit your target customer, the sale is as good as yours.

Tone of voice and content go hand in hand. You’ve already got your brand values from earlier, haven’t you? So your tone of voice is how you ensure that brand profile is expressed throughout all your communications. Doing this ensures consistency, helps alleviate mismatched messaging and ratifies your brand throughout the customer experience.

We have lost count of the amount of times we’ve encountered the old ‘logo as brand’ mentality, even from so-called branding specialist. Visual identity; your logo, chosen colours, fonts, layouts, templates etc. are the visual representation of your brand. Your visual identity needs to aligned itself with your brand values, your messaging and identify with your customers. It needs to be memorable and it needs to work hard for you. All the elements of it need to support the rest of your business.

Understanding your customer journey is key, and often, what at first seemed simple can actually end up much more complicated. So take the time to work through it in great detail. Understanding what you expect your customers to do to buy from you can be a bit of a humbling experience. Once you have got it nailed, ensure that all the above elements are expressed throughout the journey. With so many potential channels, points of contact, entry points, purchase methods and digital assets to manage, a consistent, clear user experience is what will get you loyal, repeat customers. Which would be nice eh?

Right, that’s a lot to take in, we know, so here’s a handy little start-up branding checklist:

1. What’s the Vision? – aspirations, always in future tense
2. What’s the Mission? – shareable, what’s the company’s purpose?
3. What are your brand values and core principles?
4. Do your research – quantitative, qualitative, competitors, business name and digital assets availability.
5. What’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
6. Who is your customer? How is your audience segmented? How does your messaging needs to flex to resonate with your segments?
7. What’s your Elevator Pitch?
8. Pillars of reason – create your arguments to back up your claims.
9. Tone of voice and content – how are you going to express your brand?
10. Visual identity – logo, fonts, colours, layouts, templates etc. Do these represent your brand values? Will your audience identify with them?
11. Customer journey – understand it in GREAT detail. Does it work for your audience? Is the user experience consistent with your brand profile?
12. Test your messaging and everything else
13. Give us a call if you get stuck, 020 3771 2461

We hope you’ve found this start-up branding guide useful. If you’d like more information or help then please get in touch, we don’t bite!

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Understanding the New Normal and the problems it presents us.

My blog this week sees us delving deeper into the New Normal we’re all trying to do business in is, how it affects brands and the problems it presents.

 

DVO is actively solving the problems brands face in the New Normal. But what exactly do we mean when we refer to the ‘New Normal’. Here at DVO, we’re not massive fans of the latest, meaningless industry buzz words and phrases, so before you tar us with that brush, hear us out.

In its simplest form, the New Normal refers to ‘the current state of being after some dramatic change has transpired’. This could be many things; socio-economic, environmental, technical or political. Think how things have changed forever after the Berlin Wall came down, or since the Internet came into our lives, or more recently, post-Brexit. There’s been a shift and the world is different now and can’t go back to how it was before. In most cases, this is a great thing. These sometimes dramatic, sometimes small-scale shifts, whether local, national or international, change our lives and help us to grow, change and evolve. Essentially, they are what creates our modern society, the world we see and experience. And we have to each find our own place in that.

The New Normal we are facing today, in terms of the technical revolution that has happened in the last 10 years, is slightly different in that it is a constantly shifting beast rather than a singular event. Technology is moving very quickly, more quickly than we’ve seen previously and its accessibility is unlike ever before. The majority of people, from as young as 7 or 8, up to 70 or 80, have access to high speed Internet, tablets and smartphones. This in itself is pretty mind-blowing to me, considering when I first started working, we didn’t have email. And I swear, I’m not that old!

The combination of such sophisticated, accessible technology has irreversibly changed the way consumers go about their daily lives. We now use our phones in every aspect of our life; communication, shopping, interaction, research, listening to music, planning, gaming, life administration, watching TV and so much more, it is all done through our phones. Seriously, what did we do without them? Mobile phones have consolidated so many things (I mean, think about it, it wasn’t that long ago we all got excited and went out and bought an iPod. Who uses them now???) that they have become an essential tool to modern day life. It also means that consumers expectations have changed dramatically. Everything is accessible, all the time (3G/4G willing) and this has changed what was once a linear customer journey into a series of interactions across multiple touch points. And unsurprisingly, brands have struggled to keep up.

Buying behaviour has become much more complex, with myriad stages that can fill marketers with dread as they try to unpick where research, desire, intent, commitment and emotion fit into their mix. So, for example, do left items in a basket count as intent to buy, research or merely an exercise in price comparison? If someone clicks through on your Facebook offer but doesn’t complete the process is that an emotional interaction with your brand or just someone wanting something for free who actually couldn’t give a monkeys about you or your products? And how do you tell the difference?

This complex web of interaction has essentially put the power back into the hands of the consumer. They choose when, they choose how, they choose what and really, they choose how much. If they find you even slightly lacking, then they will drop you like a stone. Harsh I know, but that’s where we are. And we need to find a way to deal with it.

Brands’ reaction to this New Normal consumer is often to turn to more and more technology, like they might be able to earn customers respect that way. We at DVO believe that doesn’t work. Consumers aren’t stupid, they will sooner or later get wise to the fact that you still don’t know, understand or care about them or their needs. We think mistakes are being made at a much more basic level. And essentially, this is the reason that DVO was created. A digitally connected creative agency with big agency planning and strategy. We fight the problems of a digitally connected world with the core principles of marketing. We work with brands at a strategic level to help them understand how their brand is perceived, who their customers are, how these customers want to interact with them, how to emotionally and rationally connect to them and how to optimise the whole journey. Tactical output comes much, much further down the line. Having a strong strategy, with clear objectives and metrics are the basis of any great work. Channel shouldn’t influence this, strategy should influence channel. As we’ve always said, particularly when it comes to technology, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should”. Don’t waste money on ineffective technology that’s not right for your brand, instead invest in quality customer research and brand development. We promise you, you’ll reap the benefits down the line, because we all know, the technology will keep changing. Are you going to keep throwing money at it, or make it work for you in a way that’s best for your brand?

If you’d like help in solving the problems the New Normal is presenting your business, drop us an email or give us a call T: +44(0)20 3771 2461. We can help you and we’re lovely.