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I went to a really interesting CIM workshop at the Confex show today. I was tweeting through the event and surprised that there wasn’t a better twitter presence for the event given the type of people that would be attending if I’m honest.

But…back to the session which as I say was excellent. Speaker for CIM was Thomas Brown who was a confident and fluent presenter. I was sat fairly far back and couldn’t really see him or gauge his body language but I felt very comfortable with his approach and understood all the points he was making, which isn’t always easy in a noisy show floor exhibition seminar like that.

He started by commenting that customers’ attitudes towards value have shifted, and that this will have a long term impact on our approaches to marketing. He didn’t spend time discussing the impacts of the recession as such, but did say that a recent CIM marketing trend survey shows that the majority of large companies surveyed are starting to increase marcomms spend in 2010, showing that there’s a shift from the doom of last year.

His aim was to share some ways that marketing should be shifting to respond to the new environment we are in.

The first was to integrate customer experience. In other words, to put customers at the centre of what we do, and ensure that their experience of a brand is comprehensive, so every contact point that a person has with a company is consistent with that company’s ethos/vision/strategy/whatever you want to call it.

For this to happen, the whole organization has to unite behind the strategy. He said – very rightly – that marketing is just one strand of this conversation, and they can facilitate but shouldn’t dominate. This has to be achieved in conversation with all parts of the business, to figure out how do you want to be perceived and how does that play out in these different areas (from finance to customer services to marketing). You need to think about your customer journeys, where are the touch points and – most importantly – what is their need?

The really strong take away here was that consistent integrated experiences create tangible value: think about starbucks for example where maintaining this consistent brand experience has been shown to have made a big difference to the bottom line.

His next theme was the need to revisit value propositions: businesses must articulate real understanding of customer needs. He suggested this doesn’t need to be achieved through expensive research, but rather by engaging with key customers, chatting informally about what their top needs/issues are, and then correlating that with internal knowledge across the business. Again this isn’t just a marketing function but across the whole organization.
Theme no. 3 was using alliances/partnerships: what opportunities are there in collaboration? For example what are others in your business chain doing to engage with customers? How could you benefit from working with them? How would customers feel (could they benefit too?). It is definitely worth considering whether your business could benefit from brand association with another organisation.

His final theme was on marketing capability: what should marketers be doing? In another CIM survey, marketers commented that skill-sets are becoming more cross-functional, e.g. engagement in business strategy and a better understanding of finance. This means it’s crucial to be savvy about how the business operates outside of marketing.

His points don’t just apply to marketing but PR and all comms professionals. We all have a role to play in business strategy and brand/customer experience. I’ll certainly be looking up the free reports he referred to on the CIM website.

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I’m loving the current fashion for nostalgia in PR and advertising. You’ll have done well if you managed to miss the massive Wispa campaign last year. Stuff like that is just such strong testimony to the power of using brand advocates to spread your messaging for you.

The recent trend is a bit different but aims to generate that same nostalgic buzz. Three examples are Persil, Hovis and Nestle (with Milky bar).

Persil is cutting in clips from their ads over many years  – I love the ’90s one with the teen pouring powder all over the floor – celebrating 100 years of the brand. It’s great. Really can’t help smiling watching it.

The Hovis ad is a little bit different – same concept as the Persil ad, we watch a boy running through time from when Hovis first launched, through to the present day. I don’t recognise the clips or the music so I think it’s been made from scratch, but it’s meant to feel familiar.

Then today the Milky bar Kid found his way back into our hearts. I can’t find the ad, but Zoe Wood’s Guardian article looks at all of these examples.

I hadn’t read the Guardian article until I sat down to write this post, and I feel a little sad that it wasn’t just me wondering what the psychology is that is behind this – although also secretly pleased that my random musings on the journey home may actually be interesting.

So what is the psychology behind this trend? Well according to Wood, as well as researchers from Washington State Uni and Wolverhampton Uni, it’s about remembering ‘better times’. Wood’s article contributes the rise to the current economic doom and gloom. People look back on the past with a fondness, so the nostalgia ads give us that warm happy glow that makes us want to part with not only our money but our brand loyalty too.

Harper Collins last week launched HarperPlus (see Bookseller coverage here). The site describes itself as “designed to enhance the reading experience”. By entering a page number from the print title where a symbol is displayed, you will get access to a variety of additional content (either video, audio, image, text or game).

The first book on the site is Apache by Ed Macy. It’s easy to see why a book like this works well. There are lots of additional photos, and creating a platform like this is a way to introduce additional value without adding to production charges, while at the same time creating something that readers can interact with.

This is a great strategy by HC. Not just in terms of reader engagement, but more for the benefit of providing the book with free online advertising. Readers get to experience something of the book’s essence outside of just the print title.

Where I think HC’s site falls down is in the levels of interaction possible. Given this is a very glossy-web.2.0-looking site, it’s almost frustrating to find that actually, once you’re on there, it’s all pretty much flat content, with little or no opportunities for the fans to engage on the site. They can read the additional content, listen to the audio and watch the videos, but they have no choice other than to do this on their own. This is missing a trick: while reading is a solitary activity, sites like this should be faciliating dialogue, and letting fans connect. Other than social media bookmarking, you’re on your own on HC Plus. Shame.

There seems to have been a sudden splurge of online collaboration tools, both within publishing and the wider academic community. After my forage a few weeks ago into the world of ning, I do currently intend to try out some of these others and do some detailed comparisons. But for the time being, here’s some highlights…

First up, the new fresh author talent site from Harper Collins: authonomy. Aiming to bring together new authors along with potential readers and publishers, the site offers a community approach to rating new content. Attractive, nice welcoming tone, lots of user interaction, this site has been well planned and the community has well and truly bought into the concept. It had a good publicity launch followed by a period of BETA testing. It’s a really neat concept and a strong business opportunity – both for the authors getting the profile and the publishers growing a fan base. What is even more interesting is that HC is getting lots of great profile and loyalty, yet the site is open to other agents and publishers to do business too.

Next up is Penguin’s new partnership with match.com. Not so much a social network, rather an online chance to bring together individuals with a shared interest, even though there is membership and the chance to interact. I didn’t want to create a profile so can’t tell you much about its merits, other than to say it’s another great example of how the Penguin brand gets a big profile boost, without this being directly tied to the main Penguin business, or restricting it to being only about Penguin. My only criticism was it was really not easy to find this thing – search results were not great, so I had to search via the Penguin blog to find an entry point. Might just be my incompetence, but SEO needs to be next on the agenda…

Same goes for the new Facebook app from Pan Macmillan, who have launched the ‘Love letters of Great men‘ app to accompany the new book release of the same title. I have to say it took me quite some time to actually locate the app. The fan base is currently quite small, but I haven’t done my homework on what the average uptake of a new app is, or what the likely growth of new apps might be. I decided against downloading this one, but I wanted to include it to show again the kinds of things happening in networks.

I don’t intend to go into detail on some of the following – you can read more about them in Paula J Hane’s article on Information Today, but I will certainly be spending some time getting to know Research1; the American Chemical Society (ACS); the Canadian Medical Association (CMA);  and Indiana University School of Medicine Informatics’ Laboratree, along with the more established 2collab and labmeeting. So much fun to be had…!

So the launch was…not quite a success. But just over five months on, BA are launching a new campaign to shift public opinion and reassure the world that ‘Terminal 5 is working’.

According to coverage the campaign will be a multi million pound marketing campaign covering print, online, radio and billboard advertising.

The one ad I saw on my way home today is…well it’s ok. It’s doing exactly what the campaign aims to do, which is concentrate on the simple messaging, and the campaign is apparently going to make use of real ‘genuine customer experience’, look at stats showing how T5’s improving security, baggage handling and general timeliness.

I have to say it’s not blow-away, but will be interesting to see how far this goes to shift public opinion. I’d be interested to know how much the campaign is going to make use of online media – for example through travel booking sites and holiday forums. What are they doing to promote to previous customers also, i.e. those who have travelled since March?

Most importantly, whether the message is believed or not, will this actually change people’s travelling habits? Had their travelling habits been changed in the first place, or is this more just to redress what was an embarrassing opening to a very expensive venture? As the Londonist aptly puts it, are BA just reminding people of previous mistakes unnecessarily?

Will be interesting to see reactions to this campaign as it develops.

Well a lot’s happened in my longish absence from posting, and it seems a little pointless to go back and write about it all, but part of me knows that won’t stop me, as I still think some of it’s interesting!

It’s been a gruelling couple of months at work, followed by a much needed break, and now I find myself having given up yet more of my free time choreographing some dances for an opera. Still if I was bored I’m sure I’d complain…

This does however act as my excuse for not finding the time to write about all the PR/marketing/publishing thoughts I’ve been storing. So this is me making a personal pledge to find the time. Not sure when or how, but it’s a promise I’m intending to keep. I still haven’t figured how the truly committed bloggers manage it. Maybe they have more than 24hrs in their days…it’s possible I’m sure…

Once again I would like to point out a rather clever advert I clocked on the underground, only I can’t find it anywhere online.

HSBC have released an advert promoting their sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships 2008. According to the official website,

HSBC– becomes the Official Banking Partner of The Championships, providing banking facilities at the HSBC Bank on site by the Museum Building.  HSBC has also agreed to donate to charity a sum equal to the total amount generated via the HSBC branded red ticket resale boxes, in 2007 the amount donated to charity was in excess of £85,000.  In addition, HSBC will be working with the All England Club to expand the Road to Wimbledon junior event, henceforth to be known as The HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 and Under Challenge.

The advert is really pretty cool. It actually took me until the second time I saw it, standing waiting for my tube home this evening, to actually figure it out, but once I did I was impressed with the subtleties they have applied, and found the whole ensemble really rather engaging.

I don’t want to give the whole thing away as it really is quite inventive and fun to look for all the little touches, but they have set up the inside of an HSBC branch as a tennis court. It’s very very subtle…! Ten points if you spot more than ten tennis-themes – if you’re desperate to know what the ten I saw were skip to the end and I’ll add these in…

Being responsible for SAGE’s sponsorship I was also pleased by the simplicity of the messaging. The whole piece gave lots of food for thought. It’s strongly branded, simple, and clever. Just what a sponsorship ad should be. Lovely. Good work HSBC. Just put the ad online somewhere so I can link to it?? Thanks.

The eight references…Tim Henman at the desk on the front left; strawberries and cream on his desk; the two female tennis players (handbags as rackets), the umpire, the net, the runner, the green watercooler, the wimbledon mug, the Cliff cd’s, SW19 on the ladder.

I’ve been searching online but have been unable to find a link to the new BT display adverts for home broadband. If you haven’t seen them, essentially they are several very neatly produced ‘happy homes’ – a house with a smile built in to its architecture, either through a strategically positioned fence, or hedge etc etc. What I like is the fact that the main picture is not trying to be subtle at all, but it has built in some much more subtle touches throughout the piece – so a smiley face in the flowers, or in the sky, or a heart-shaped smoke plume coming from the chimney.

What I also find interesting is the fact that there is a cat pictured in each ad. Now this may just be a coincidence and perhaps the designer on the job is just very fond of cats, but I also found myself wondering as I sat gazing at these ads on the tube over the weekend whether BT has any research on what consumers consider to be ‘things that make mine a happy home’. Do cats feature highly on this list? Maybe they don’t and this is all far too elaborate, but it did get me thinking about research and persuasion again.

On this topic, I was commissioned last week to re-write some copy for a direct mail campaign, to make it a little more ‘persuasive’. Not strictly being a copywriter by trade, I fell back on some of the principles of persuasion laid out in Goldstein and Cialdini’s ‘Yes’ book: absolutely worth a read if you are ever trying to write ad or marketing copy. It sets out examples of where persuasion has worked, based on a number of psychological and real life experiences. I’m fully intending on reading it a second time and highlighting some of the best tips on this blog – but in the meantime I can strongly recommend buying a copy.

I’d fully intended to spend some time on CPD this weekend. Unfortunately I was scuppered by a perfect sunny bank holiday. Somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to spend it indoors…