Friday, 26 April 2013

Ethics in Advertising: Twitter

Nope, that’s not intentionally an oxymoron, although it can be easily mistaken for one.

There a number of subjects that can fall under this title, none more so than social media. Marketing and advertising are often at the forefront of boundary-pushing when it comes to challenging what society deems acceptable, and this has only become more common in recent years thanks to the emergence of social media and the power of the hashtag.

#fail: When Twitter Goes Wrong

There are plenty of examples of ‘hashtags fails’, and most of the time they can end up becoming a funny spoof version of the intended response. One example of this is Waitrose, who last year launched the trend #ishopatwaitrosebecause. Instead of comments about their ethical ranges and organic meat, the majority of tweets went along the lines of this...

#ishopatwaitrosebecause nowhere else can I hear the sentence ‘Orlando, put the papaya down!'

#ishopatwaitrosebecause Clarissa’s pony simply refuses to eat ASDA value straw

#ishopatwaitrosebecause buying food amongst the commonfolk tends to ruin one’s appetite

Sometimes however, the backlash can be a little more serious. Twitter has become a very powerful source for breaking news, and incidents such as the shooting of several film-goers in Aurora, Colo., during a Batman screening begin trending within minutes. Fashion retailer CelebBoutique jumped on the bandwagon with a spectacularly inappropriate tweet:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet celebboutique
CelebBoutique's ill-advised tweet following the shootings in the USA
Their PR people quickly removed said tweet after being inundated with angry comments, and claimed that they were totally unaware of the shooting at the time of posting. There have, however, been other cases where hopping onto a trend with a bad taste tweet has been intentional, such as when President’s Choice (a Canadian supermarket) promoted their Halloween range using Hurricane Sandy:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet presidentschoice
President's Choice taking advantage of the Hurricane Sandy trend
Another more recent example is the Boston bombings, where this unwise tweeter decided to promote a golf tournament:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet golf boston bostonmarathon bostonbombing
If we look at other channels used by companies worldwide to promote their products, we would quickly discover that they have several methods in place to check and double check everything that gets sent out to ensure it stays within the brand’s guidelines. When it comes to Twitter however, and social media in general, there often doesn't seem to be much, if any, control over what is being sent out. An intern or inexperienced assistant at a huge global company can within minutes gain access to a corporate account and become responsible for that brand’s image on what is arguably the most powerful marketing channel available.

Should there be stricter controls put in place? You wouldn't see a TV ad that uses a tragedy to their advantage, so why should Twitter be any different?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Inner vs. outer (and no, I’m not referring to belly buttons)

It’s the age-old debate; inner vs. outer beauty. What matters more? We would all love to be idealistic and say inner I’m sure, but I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we would have to admit that outer is equally (if not more) important to us. Why is this?

There is a billion pound industry devoted to our appearance, and it’s going stronger than ever. In recent years there has been plenty of controversy about the impossible standards set by these companies, and it continues to drive a bigger and bigger wedge between our actual appearance and our perceptions of beauty. These companies have a lot to answer for.

There is however, at least one company who seems to be doing things differently. Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’ has been going for a while now, and they have already garnered plenty of praise. I don’t doubt they are reaping the benefits, but - like all truly great marketing – in these ads they are selling their products without the audience ever realising they are being sold to.
Their latest ad, courtesy of Ogilvy Brazil, is incredibly insightful and will speak to every woman who watches it. They have hired a highly-trained criminal sketch artist and asked several women to describe themselves to him. The artist then asks total strangers to describe these same women, and the differences between the two images are startling.

dove ogilvy beauty realbeauty advertising marketing brand

Watching these women’s reactions unsurprisingly forces us to examine our own self-image, and to wonder what we are basing this on.

Is this what marketing should aspire to be? Should social and moral responsibilities be just as important as the product being marketed?

They’re not just increasing their profit margins here, they are promoting positive images with a strong message about what beauty really is, and effectively they’re attempting to bring our perceptions and realities closer together. Ultimately, it’s about boosting our self-esteem. Considering the disturbing rate at which the number of reported bulimia and anorexia cases (as well as similar illnesses) has been rising, this cannot be a bad thing.

After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – not in the pages of a glossy photoshopped magazine.

Monday, 15 April 2013

How do you market to marketers?

As marketers, we would probably all agree that after both studying and learning on the job for a few years, we each will have developed a few sure-fire tricks and techniques to help us edge up those stats, and to tailor our messages to our target audience.

But what happens when your target audience is comprised entirely of fellow marketers?

After working in marketing for a few years, you start noticing all the little trends and techniques that are emerging being used by an increasing number of companies, whether this be email personalisation/trending developments such as video, enticing keywords, how they use social media to establish a brand’s personality, a viral video etc. It’s gotten to the point that I have signed up to so many different mailing lists just to examine their email designs, that I actually ignore what they are selling to me.

It’s easy to become immune to the practices we use ourselves. So should we ‘up our game’ and try to lure and impress our peers with something shiny and new, or abandon this and go for a simple approach of sticking to the basics?

I would lean towards the latter approach personally, and think there are a few key points that would be important to stick to in order to impress a tough crowd like us...

1. Keeping it simple 
Let’s not waste time on any kind of ‘pitch’, or trying to make something appear flashy and exciting; any marketer worth their salt is going to see right through this in 3 seconds flat. This applies to any ‘buzzwords’ in the copy you’re a fan of using as well as the visual elements of the channel you are using.

2. Tailoring the message 
I think the key point here is to go straight to the core benefits of what you are selling. “You want this; here’s why and how it can help you.” Short and sweet is likely to be the most successful approach because you are probably only going to have a timeframe of up to 10 seconds to grab their attention. No gimmicks, no long intros.

3. Using testimonials 
This is probably one of the few age-old reliable tools that may be appropriate to use. Most of us would agree that testimonials can be a powerful way to enhance your message; you only need to look at the power of review sites like tripadvisor to know the clout it can have. A couple of honest and glowing reports from an industry peer I respect would certainly make me pay more attention to the product, and to explore how it could benefit me.

4. Targeting and choosing the right channel 
In this situation, you are in the unique position of genuinely knowing your target audience; because you are one of them. It will go without saying that the majority of marketers are going to be present and quite active on a range of social media sites, so take the time to think about exactly who you want to reach (assistants, CMOs, heads of marketing and so on) and pick the most appropriate channel to reach them. For example, some of these people are going to be using Twitter a lot, whereas someone more senior may have developed a following on LinkedIn and will participate regularly in group discussions there.

5. Quality over quantity is the golden rule
If any one of your potential customers catch even a whiff of spam or rambling copy, they will probably head swiftly to the ‘delete’ button followed by a short trip to the unsubscribe/unfollow; and while this is true for any audience, the key difference with marketers is that it’s going to have what I refer to as the ‘elephant effect’: they will never forget. We are trained to pay more attention and once a brand gets into our bad books, they are likely to stay there.

A great example of marketing to marketers are hubspot; a fantastic online resource for marketers. They frequently publish relevant and useful tips as well as free, downloadable guides. I signed up to them a while ago and have noticed they stick a straightforward style. An email will arrive and be titled accurately to reflect what they are sending you; ‘[category] what you can get for free’. For e.g. ‘[Tool kit] Creating Visual Content’.
hubspot marketing
A typical email from hubspot
The email itself is uncomplicated with an overtly clear call to action, usually accompanied with a couple of key highlights from the download and social media sharing options... and that’s it! It’s a great model that I believe is just as applicable to a paid product as a free one.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? I’d be interested to see if anyone has any examples, good or bad.