What’s a Brand Manager to do?

With a plethora of marketing channels to use, which ones are right for you and your budgets?

There was a time, not so long ago, that the options for brand managers were fairly simple and were clearly defined.

To raise awareness for the brand and increase advocacy, there was above-the-line communication. Remember when people used to actually look out for the last ads on TV? Come on, I can’t be alone in remembering those days?

For driving sales, there was direct mail. Yes, you had to flight for attention on the doormat, but with clever thinking you could usually guarantee a response rate of 4%!

And finally there were events, which were great for pressing the flesh and getting your brand (and yourself) into the trade press.

Fairly straightforward and everything fitted together nicely.

Then along came social media and smartphones and tablets and the world’s gone out of the window.

So how does the smart brand manager still get brand advocacy, drive sales and get their brand mentioned by all the right people?

YouTube

Apart from being the world’s second most used search engine (and yes, a surprising number of brand managers still forget this) YouTube has become what ITV and Channel 4 used to be – the place to go to see the ‘ads’ that capture your imagination.

YouTube can help your business to:

Create a brand profile
Reach a broad, unspecified demographic
Demonstrate your brand’s relevance with ‘how to’ videos
Engage with consumers through UGC (User Generated Content)

Cost: £ – £££ Perfect as a platform for UGC ‘how to’ films and viral, brands are now spending more and more on creating good content

Facebook

Facebook says that 24 million people in the UK now use Facebook every single day. That’s nearly a third of the population who simply can’t let a day pass without checking their Facebook page. And for that reason it comes as no surprise that in a statement via its PR agency, Facebook said that “businesses should focus on people who come back online every single day”.

But why?

Has this simply become something that ‘you must do’ and like the Emperor’s New Clothes, no one’s questioning its relevance. Experience says that Facebook is full with mums and dads and those who are 30+. Meanwhile the ‘kids’ are leaving it in droves.

And as for the importance of building a fan base, recent research is showing that in reality people don’t engage with branded social content very often, if at all.

The percentage of brand Fans who interact with brand posts is 0.7% on Facebook*.

These are not random people. These are brand Fans. People you would expect to be brand champions and people who you would expect to interact with content that a brand posts.

And before you say that this is just one example of research and therefore maybe skewed – this has been confirmed by the Ehrenberg Institute who recorded that just 0.5% of Facebook Fans interact with the posts of those brands that they’re fans of.

So what use is Facebook?

As Will Stevens of 123 Reg says: “Facebook offers you the chance to build a community around your business. You can use it for gathering feedback, passing on useful and interesting information and handling complaints. It has an ad platform as well, which you can use to promote your content, such as blog posts, and the products you want to sell. The biggest drawback of Facebook is its lack of organic reach. This means that even if you have built up a large following on the site, very few people will see your posts unless you pay to promote them.”

For all this, Facebook can help your business to:

Boost brand awareness
Boost sales with advertising
Create a community

Cost: £ – ££ Rather than budget, social media can eat into your time. If you can’t do it regularly yourself, look to get support.

Twitter

Twitter has been branded vacuous by a lot of people, but that’s simply because they have failed to utilise it correctly and to see it for what it is. It is a great platform from which to communicate both quickly and intimately with consumers. And as such you should be using it as a platform through which to start the communication, leading consumers into deeper more relevant conversations elsewhere.

Twitter can help your business to:

Address customer concerns
Boost sales with advertising
Boost lead numbers
Boosting customer retention with ‘instant’ support

Cost: £ – However, you do need to have a social media team in place to do this properly.

Instagram

Pictures and short film clips are Instagram’s lifeblood. Therefore Instagram is only relevant to those brand who can post regular images about either their products or the people who use their service. Think of it as the modern version of the 48-sht poster. You have a split second to capture the viewer’s attention, but where it differs from simple above-the-line communication, get it right, and you’ll create a follower. A follower who will also, hopefully, be posting content that you can use.

In short – use Instagram to show off!

Instagram can help your business to:

Boost brand awareness
Boost product awareness
Boost lead numbers
Boosting sales numbers through product promotion

Cost: £ This can be incredibly cheap as you can simply create images using a handy smart device.

Pinterest

Just like Instagram, this is a visual social media platform, however, there are no films.

Rather you can create themed ‘boards’ that users can interact with. These give you the opportunity to really connect with consumers – as they’re notified when you add to a given board.

Pinterest can help your business to:

Boost brand awareness
Boost product awareness
Boost lead numbers
Boosting sales numbers through product promotion

Cost: £ – As above.

LinkedIn

This is positioned as the social media channel for businesses. In truth, few brands or for that matter, businesses have managed to use it effectively for anything other than recruitment. That said, sole traders have found it to be an effective resource for new business.

LinkedIn can help your business to:

Find the right staff
Boost leads
Raise your personal profile

Cost: £££ (saved) – You can save yourself huge recruitment costs here, but you will need to invest time then going through all the CVs.

TV

OK. So now that YouTube’s here, TV’s dead right?

Wrong.

Consumers have simply changed their viewing preferences. In fact, according to Nielsen, 45% of tablet owners watch TV and use their tablet together at least once a day. So while they might not be ‘focussed’ on your ad, the opportunities for driving viewers straight form the 30” commercial to a purchase have improved.

TV can help your business to:

Raise its profile
Drive sales
Empty your bank account (It’s still very expensive!)

Cost: ££££££ – Creating the commercial, buying airtime etc isn’t cheap, but there still isn’t anything quite like TV for creating brand advocacy.

Email

I’ve place this marketing platform directly under TV because of the fact that according to Nielsen, checking email is the most popular activity for tablet owners while watching TV (61%). This is followed by visiting social networking sites (47%) and looking up information about TV programs.

Email is also the perfect way to stay in touch with customers, ether cross selling, making them aware of new products, add-ons or simply incentivising recipients so that they become a channel through which you can get new customers.

Email can help your business to:

Boost sales
Drive engagement
Drive new business

Cost: £ – As part of a broader strategy, email is very cost effective, with the emphasis being on effective.

Direct Mail

There’s never been a better time to revert to this traditional marketing tool. Why? Because no one else is using it and you’ll have no competition on the doormat. Now with the added advantage of PURLs (Personalised URLs) you can really drive engagement, achieving response rates that are in double figures, so long as your creativity is up to scratch. More than that, the tangible nature of print can reinforce your brand’s characteristics.

Direct Mail can help your business to:

Drive sales
Build your brand
Develop an online CRM strategy

Cost: ££ – Targeted direct mail is a perfect tool to have in every marketeers arsenal and can pound for pound can outperform most platforms.

This is just a quick snapshot of how you can use just some of the platforms available. But to summarise, in many ways, there’s never been a better time to be brand manager. You have more opportunities than ever before to connect with your chosen demographic and it’s all clearly trackable, so you can achieve a defined ROI. However, no one platform can deliver everything that you want and therefore, be prepared to recognise that some of the more popular platforms may not actually be right for you. It’ll help your budget to go further and more than that, you’ll be able to focus on those areas that are truly relevant to you – allowing you to get the results you want.

* Forrester Q1 2014 US Top 50 Brands Social WebTrack

Interactive packaging – if you’re not doing it, ask yourself why.

THE FUTURE OF PACKAGING

Packing and Augmented Reality used for good.

 

Packing has one role, although depending on the contents, possibly two.

It’s raison d’être is to protect whatever is sitting inside. Be it food or drink, clothing, farm machinery or precious gems. The perfect container should ensure that when the contents arrive at their final destination, they’re do so in the manner intended.

However, there are numerous contents that also need to use packaging for self-promotion.

The subtle gold logo on black that whispers exclusivity and urges you to buy. The detailed instructions and screaming headline that explains just how powerful and effective the latest drain cleaner is.

The story of a traveller who ventured far and wide in search of unique ingredients so that today you can be one of the select few, lucky enough to be nibbling on luxurious chocolate.

Packaging doesn’t just help protect, it promotes and projects a desired image. And with Augmented Reality (AR), the opportunities for this projected persona have never been so beguiling.

No longer are clunky Quick Response codes needed.

Now, once the consumer has opened the required AR app, the packaging itself can open a channel of seemingly hidden content for the consumer. Films, games, social media – whatever is achievable digitally can now be conveyed through the packaging.

The circle has been closed.

Packaging and digital content are one and have become the smart marketers’ dream.

Consumers can be engaging with your brand not simply because of what you’re selling, but because of the content that you’re providing.

An edge that will see the brands that embrace AR seeing sales that outstrip their competitors.

One of our clients, JuiceBurst was named the second most ‘Blipped’ brand that year (Blippar figures, January 2014), beating all other FMCG (Coco-Cola’s slim cans came in ninth).

However with growing awareness and concern for the environment, should the responsible brand also be looking to use this marketing channel to endorse their green credentials?

 

The answer to this is three-fold; understanding the target audience, relevance and technology experience.

If your target audience is 20-something builders whose biggest concern is how their team did on Saturday, then content about the environment is unlikely to be consumed by them. If however the chosen consumers are young parents who are likely to be thinking about environmental issues, then your messaging is relevant and you’ll be talking to a receptive audience.

But all this hard work could be wasted if the experience is a let down.

According to research from Deloitte, 72% of the UK now own a smart phone. But while they may own it, are they using the AR technology and if they are, is it useable where your product is?

While 4G has been heralded as the answer to all our prayers, its reach is still poor. So historically the AR experience hasn’t been what it should have been, and this has put a lot of consumers off.

But, get it right and in the sweet spot between technology, understanding and relevance, you’ll find fertile ground where your brand will prosper and grow.

More than that, consumers will share the experience with friends and family, becoming advocates for your enlightened attitudes and use of technology and you should see an exponential growth in sales.

So embrace the new. Start to think of your product and the packaging that it comes in, not simply as that, but as another channel to communication and another way to connect with your content hungry consumers.

THE POWER OF THE ONE

Don’t try to reach the many, rather try to reach the interested.

Social media. When it came only a few years ago, it brought with it huge figures of global audiences that marketers would be able to reach. Today the behemoth Facebook has 1.19 billion monthly users. Twitter a mere 500 million users and MySpace (yes it’s back) 36 million users. But for all these impressive statistics. what does the future hold for social media, brands and agencies?

Honestly, we’re on the cusp of change; unless of course you have ‘significant’ budgets with which to peruse these groups.

The reason is simple, these groups have started fragmenting.

While before there was kudos in joining the crowd and being ‘in’, now consumers are seeing the benefit in following micro-social networking groups.

So what is micro-social networking?

Imagine you get an invitation to a party. The invitation has come via a friend of a friend and they’re incredibly popular, so it’s one of those Hollywood parties that no one in the real world attends. There are thousands of people. Buffet tables are piled high with delicacies, every corner has another band, there are beautiful people by the pool, in the kitchen, and in every bedroom upstairs.

As you walk into the party, so you move about. Aimlessly you wander looking for people you know, want to get to know or conversations that you’re interested in.

You find a small group of people and standing on the edge, you say ‘Hi’. And before you know it you’re chatting away and this is the best party – ever. Not because it was huge, but because you found a small group of people you could talk with. People who are on the same wavelength as you.

And this is what’s happening online. Consumers are eschewing the larger groups in favour of smaller communities. And the concerns over privacy brought about by the likes of Facebook and Google+ will only exacerbate this.

And this is the challenge. No longer will catch-all social media campaigns suffice, we’ve gone full circle and brands are going to have to connect with their customers as they did decades ago; on a one-to-one basis. Yes, social media makes it easier to find these people and yes these conversations will flow like never before, rewarding both parties.

But how many brands are ready for this change? Because no longer will they be able to simply throw budget at the problem, they’re going to have to have the support of people who really understand their brand and the needs of their audience. You won’t be able simply to push brand messages out, rather you’ll have a flock of brand believers who’ll go online, taking their version of the brand message into the outside world.

Scary? Yes.

But it’s also incredibly exciting.

Because yet again, the marketing world that we inhabit is changing and those who embrace it quickly will get a march on everyone else.

THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME FOR…

Cross-platform digital communication.

It’s now not simply good enough for us (creatives) to create digital campaigns, these also; and rightfully so, have to work online, on tablets and on mobiles. And naturally, these campaigns also have to be social.

But in our rush to ensure our clients are maximizing their digital exposure, are we missing a trick?

We’ve all gone digital.

So not only are our ideas having to compete with those of other creatives, but we’re also competing in the same space.

And that’s mad, isn’t it?

Which is why I think there’s never been a better time for good old direct mail.

You know, an envelope with a powerful message on it. A crafted letter where every word has been considered. A brochure even. Remember those? Brochures were what everyone wanted before PDFs and emails.

And my passion for direct mail is simple. And before you suggest it, it’s not because I’m a creative dinosaur, it’s because no one does direct mail anymore.

You’re not competing with anyone. Your idea will sit proudly, by itself, in someone’s hallway or on their desk.

Don’t believe me? Then can you remember the last time you got some proper direct mail? No. Well, that’s the point.

And with QR codes and AR you can use it to initiate a digital response, but here’s the thing, I suspect that not only will your response rates be higher than online, but the quality of the leads will also be better.

So as a responsible creative (that’s one who wants what is best for his clients), I think there’s never been a better time for direct mail. But please, ignore me, as I don’t want my ideas to have to compete with yours.

ARE ALL ADVERTISEMENTS UPSIDE DOWN?

In light of how we now consume information, should our advertising reflect these changes?
A fresh perspective from a commuting creative.

I am a commuter.

Nothing unusual in that.

In fact it’s incredibly common, with approximately one million people commuting into London each and every single day.

Like my fellow commuters, I spend far too long on the train; approximately 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.

So we get bored.

Sure we have iPads, smart phones, books and newspapers to distract us, but we also read the ads that are on the carriage walls.

If today’s offering is anything to go by, a typical carriage includes 2 charities, 2 holiday companies, a telecoms supplier and finally, a university.

The headlines are generally passive. The images expected and the logo in every case, is bottom right. Interestingly only one ad has a url on it!

And here’s the thing.

For all this portable technology and its promise of instant connection, with a bigger world, more often than not, there isn’t any connection. Or if there is, its sporadic and at the mercy of other unexpected tunnel.

So if you do see an ad that you like and it motivates you to find out more, you can’t search for it while you’re on the train. You have to remember who it’s from for as long as it takes you to get from the train to your place of work – and this is the part of the communication that has been given the least importance, tucked into the bottom corner.

Now is know what you’re all just about to say.

Guttenberg’s Design Principles state that the bottom right is where your eye is going to be drawn too – but Guttenberg’s Principles weren’t created for today’s busy train carriage where you’re looking at forty-five degrees, past someone’s elbow to catch a glimpse of an ad, in the hope that you remember who it was by the time you get to get to work.

But what if we flipped communication?

What if the logo led the visual hierarchy?

Sure it would be dull. But no more so than the current offerrings we all see.

More importantly though, it might give commuters a chance to see and therefore remember who is advertising.

And isn’t that what we’re all being paid to do?

To help our clients stand out and to ensure they sell their products?

As an aside, it has always stunned me that creatives or planners have realizes the shortcomings of train ads and have added a simple visual trigger to their ads: LIKE WHAT YOU SEE? TAKE A PHOTO OF THIS AD WITH YOUR PHONE AND THEN SEARCH FOR US WHEN YOU’RE AT YOUR DESK.

This diatribe isn’t simply a cry to understand modern life and the new challenges it brings, it’s a call for greater understanding of shifting conditions and adapting to them.

So while I may not strictly be advocating turning ads upside down, what I am extolling for is for agencies to really start to put themselves in the shoes, or should that be the cramped seats, of their target audiences and understand how we’re all consuming information today.

50 BLOG POST IDEAS FOR BUSINESS BLOGGING

A business blog is subjective but unlike a private blog, you are writing for people interested in your trade, products and services. For reason the best B2B blogs inform. They’re not simply a case of chest beating and saying ‘Look at me’. As remember to be careful with your use of humour. Humour is a very personal thing, and what you may think is funny someone else may not only dislike, they may be offended by.

To give you all the ammunition you need to help with your posts this is a list I collected a list of 50 blog post ideas for business blogging for any industry. You can apply it in most niches I think. Some of these and will bring you publicity and popularity, while others focus on highlighting your expertise or are part of a social networking strategy. Feel free to use some of these ideas or all of these at once.

1. Envision the future of your industry by extrapolating the current developments

2. Explain why everybody should care for your trade and not only specialists

3. Make a list of famous people who deal or dealt with issues related to your business

4. List 30 or more online resources for business people in your industry

5. Review a publication dealing with your industry

6. Make a list of the top myths in your industry and debunk them

7. Disagree with a high level personality in your business, prove her or him wrong

8. Make a list of the top 10 blogs in your niche

9. Report from a trade fair

10. Compare your national market to markets abroad

11. Compile a best of-list

12. Add an RSS feed and don’t forget to include the logo

13. Write down a code of ethics for your blog and your business as a whole

14. Explore and depict a niche social media platform for your trade, if there is none, use a forum to do that

15. Add a forum to your blog or site if your site has a big enough community to sustain it

16. Break the rules of your trade by remodeling them and adapting to a current situation and then write about it

17. Go off topic and link a topic from everyday life back to your business “10 Ways SEO is like Base-Jumping”

18. Make a list of WordPress plugins that are most useful for your industry “The 10 Best WordPress plugins for Graphic Designers”

19. Reach out to your clients and fans: “What would you like to change in [insert your product or service here]?”

20. Display attractive images of your products, several of them, in the best case your own products

21. Analyze the current climate in your industry and explain the ramifications

22. Identify leaders in your area and ask them to guest post on your blog or write for their blog instead

23. Show what went wrong in your company, why and how you dealt with it, learning from mistakes is very helpful for others

24. Compare the new vs the old ways of doing your business

25. Highlight top female bloggers or experts in your trade

26. Create fictional and visionary product description

27. Satirize a very well known personality, be it of your trade or outside of it

28. Write an allegory about your idol doing your business like “The Bruce Lee Method of Business Blogging”

29. Thank your 10 favorite readers and/or commenters

30. Expose a scam in your industry (make sure to consult a lawyer in advance)

31. Take a big brand (or several) and use it as an example for best practices vs mistakes

32. Use humor to lighten up a boring topic

33. Explain the local advantages of your company, do not hide behind modesty: “Oxford: SEO since 1542″

34. Review a book dealing with your topic that really displays thinking outside the box

35. Combine your topic with another one, usually but wrongfully not combined with yours, like SEO and graphic design

36. Express your own personal view an a highly debatable issue and do not just repeat common ground opinions

37. Make a short movie to show on your blog, this can be something funny or just simply you speaking

38. Create a list of indispensable software or web tools for your job

39. Take a common issue many people care about and explain how it relates to your business

40. Introduce a new business model in your trade or better, several of them

41. Be the first to break news, for instance reveal your new product via the blog

42. Check your search engine referers and write postings for those queries that had no matches until now

43. Check in your stats which post is the most popular one and write a follow up

44. Join a trade organization and explain why you did it

45. Make a donation to a good cause and blog about it

46. Introduce the 10 most promising bloggers in your industry

47. Check Digg, StumbleUpon or Technorati to find out what’s most popular right now and find a new angle to it

48. Engage in a discussion on a forum and reprint on your blog

49. Ask people on Twitter a question and blog the best replies

50. Make a list of blogging ideas specifically for your industry

Remember that business blogging is about value. That’s indeed the most crucial difference between private and business blogs. In private blogs people want to express themselves, business bloggers want to create value for others. So when writing a post for a business blog always consider this question: Of what use can this article be to potential clients, people in my industry and the general public?”

DO BRANDS NEED APPS?

Brands are looking to generate customer awareness and retention.This is a given.Without awareness, they die.Without retention, they die.As part of this ongoing struggle, brands are looking to enter into customer engagement.User generated content has and continues to play a huge part. However, iPhone apps have become the latest buzz word and in the last 10 days I’ve had 5 meetings where clients have asked me to create an app for them – something our Finance Director is more than happy to happen.

However, the strategist in me questions this.As Neil Strother, an analyst at Forrester Research says: “Mobile applications (specifically an iPhone app) aren’t for every brand. You need to understand your customers and how they use mobile devices and services, and ask whether you can provide something of value via a mobile application.”The key word here is value.Too many brands are rushing to create iPhone apps and other digital content without asking themselves the simple question – do people want or need this?When you do know your target audience then you can create relevant content – it might even be an iPhone app like Zippo’s which turned iPhones into virtual cigarette lighters to be used by live concert-goers who in the past would have used a real lighter during an encore. A simple idea that was downloaded more than 3 million times.

So before you rush out and create an app – think not if the brand needs it, but whether the consumer needs it.

TWITTER – THE BIG B2B HITTER?

Twitter’s raison d’être according to Wikipedia is “… a free social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets.”

Now this doesn’t instantly sound like the perfect tool for B2B communication, but let’s put these assumptions aside and look at the facts.

Most of the largest cities that use Twitter are in the USA – which isn’t good news for UK businesses. In part thanks to the Twitter iPhone App, iPhone owners form the majority of users (and the iPhone isn’t the renowned business tool) and again the majority of these are in America. 65% of all users are under 25 and unsurprisingly, women users outnumber men. As if that’s not enough, barely 5% of Twitter users go to an online retail service from Twitter.
But what about the people/businesses who are making the most of Twitter?

Looking at the most popular Tweets, as defined by the number of followers, we see that 1st is Ashton Kutcher (nope, as I don’t read Heat I didn’t know who he was either).

He’s followed by Britaney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres and then Barack Obama.

The highest ‘business brand’ is CNN in 10th position, then TIME at 31.

The most popular British brand tweets are the BBC at 49 and then 10 Downing Street at 52.
So the case against using Twitter as a business tool seems to building.

However, how have businesses been using Twitter?
@habitatUK appeared on Twitter and they decided to use trending topic #hashtags at the start of their tweets in order to get noticed. However, the issue was they were using ones that had nothing to do with furniture such as #Apple and #iPhone. To make matters worse, they then used the Iranian election with #MOUSAVI. Obviously Habitat then started to receive some a lot of offended responses. At this point they could have replied to everyone who complained to them publically and then have publically apologized for their spammy behaviour. Mitigating the problem and possibly endearing people to them for their admittance of a mistake.
However, what they did was to delete the offending tweets and replace them with some generic tweets; not realising the thanks to the caching qualities of Twitter Search, the offensive tweets would be around long enough for people to capture the evidence – making a bad situation, worse.

I purposefully highlighted the example of a brand ineptly using Twitter to underscore how it is used, who uses it and how it needs to be managed.

Twitter is about making connections. Connections with individuals, connections with individuals and brands and vice versa and this takes time, investment and understanding.

Yet for all that, there are businesses out there who are doing it and doing it well.

SonyPlayStation and Starbucks are using it to keep customers updated and to send them special game codes and coupons. Ford is using it to post updates about company and industry news. While Samsung is using it to not only share product information, but to inform (just one of the ways is through their mobile explorers at the Winter Olympics).

Twitter’s growth will be truly iniated through Hyperlocal marketing – where brands use it to drive business, be they multinational oil companies tweeting about a price reduction at a local petrol station, or a coffee shop tweeting about free muffins.

Businesses will also look to use Twitter to connect their marketing communication. Tweet that you’ve received a piece of communication or have seen it on a poster or in an ad, and in exchange you could receive a free T-shirt.

Twitter is also ideal for businesses looking for feedback – which makes it the perfect tool for researching a product or a marketing message. Tweet about it and almost instantly, a business can get feedback which it can then use – a process that will also help build brand loyalty and follower base.

Now that Twitter has formed a partnership with Linkedin (the professional, business version of Facebook?), when you set your status on LinkedIn you can now tweet it as well, amplifying it to your followers and real-time search services like Twitter Search and Bing. A tool that will not only generate business traffic, but will help build those all important business connections.

But if a business is looking to create a Twitter account, it does need to be properly resourced, and it needs to be resourced by a team that understands how Twitter works and appreciates brand communication (not the PR agency as is all too often happening).

Yet so far, businesses and their marketing departments have failed to grasp this change in communication, a change where you actively look for consumer feedback.

Twitter or for that fact, any other social networks will not be the panacea for all business marketing ills, nor are they looking to be. They will nevertheless form an integral part of business communication as both consumers and businesses not only look for, but expect more intimate communication with each other and communications that are happening away from the office and out of the home – which is a reflection of the transformation that is occurring with business.

The reason Twitter’s ascendency hasn’t happened so far is due to a lack of understanding and experience, nonetheless the rise of Twitter as a B2B marketing tool is coming, and those who are first to embrace it properly will see huge gains.

THE FOUR BUSINESS AND MARKETING CHALLENGES FOR 2012 – PART 4 – THE SOCIAL GENERATION

On the school run this week I was reminded on how quickly my daughter and her friends are growing up.  First off was the request to have her own mobile phone. Our quick reply was, “why do you need a phone”? “Erm, to speak to my friends and play games”, she replied! My daughter is seven, far too young (in my eyes) to have her own phone, let alone a smart-phone.  Then as she was walking to school with her friends, totally lost in conversation, I wondered at what stage will they rush home and pick up their conversation, not via the traditional phone as we know it, but on Skype or what other means they will have access to by then. Will Facebook be around or just become this global corporate entity trying to suck as much cash from our pockets to justify its insane $100bn value?

You cannot deny the success of Facebook, or the major importance of twitter in delivering real-time news or the ability to share everything. The way we live, act, purchase, interact, ENGAGE has changed forever. We continually see new social media sites being launched, especially the rise of the niche social sites, couple that with the developments in technology allowing us to be continually connected, never missing a thing, sharing everything instantly, means life as we know it will continually change.

Today, people are far happier texting each other rather than having a human conversations, we have the ability to shop around the globe at the touch of a button. We can find out more than ever before about a brand they’re engaging with and whether they have had a positive or disappointing experience, they can share their views with millions of people just like them, instantly. Expectations, whether they are consumers or business customers, are soaring, which means they have the power to make or break a brand overnight.  I call this the transparency of everything.  Long gone are the days where a brand could piss someone off and think ‘that’s OK, it’s just one person!’.  Business leaders, CMO’s and Marketers have to ensure their brand and customer engagement strategies understand this and have in place an approach that fits with what the customer is looking for, not what the brand wants.

The added issue for marketers is in the correlation of all this activity. You have the social team doing what they do, the customer engagement team doing their thing and the retention team doing another. All doing different activities and tracking and measuring differently (Obviously if you are lucky enough to have a budget big enough to allow for this, otherwise it is just a smaller team with a bigger problem!). So the issue is to ensure everyone works together rather then in their silos, using each others tracking and measurement techniques and all sharing the same vision – ‘creating value for customers as individuals by providing experiences that matter to them and their lives’, because when that’s what they receive, they consciously and subconsciously engage with their arms wide open, no matter how or where they are doing it.