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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.

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.

I’m actually amazed that my, ehem, “experiment” in ignoring my blog has demonstrated the long-tail effect just perfectly. It’s not a lot of hits, but it has kept on going despite my shameful lack of activity. I did some Googling and it’s actually pretty poor in terms of visibility, which suggests I’m not doing a great job at maintaining a personal ‘online brand’. More to come on this as I see it as a forthcoming hot topic for 2009.

Interesting that the highlights from Carol Lewis’ Meet the Editor Session are mirrored in the PRWeek 2008 Media Survey.

They highlight the integration of journalists working on print and online. They also highlight the move towards constant activity and increased workload due to blogging becoming core to their daily lives. It’s not surprising really: just for the same reason PRs are advocating increased use of blogs to maintain two-way relationships with stakeholders, journalists now have a better chance than ever to find out what their readers think and interact with them as soon as their stories are published. They’re also contributing with their comments and additional content.

Some of the other interesting highlights: company websites rated highest on journalists’ ways of finding out more about a business, so it’s about time these were prioritized if you want people to know what you’re up to. Email (unsurprisingly) is medium of choice for contact.

I downloaded this a while ago (it’s been a busy few months) but the details of the survey are dated March 31 2008 if you want to look it up.