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Archive for the ‘Our thoughts’ Category

Social media’s love affair with the swipe

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

If you’re a user of social mobile apps (and who isn’t), you’ll be well aware that the swipe is emerging as the next like – sibling to our other ugly social verbs the poke and the favourite.

Executed in less than a second, our beloved new one-handed digital gesture leaves a flurry of digital footprints in its wake.

Annabel Sampson likes your photo.
Annabel Sampson has poked you.
Annabel has favourited your tweet.
You’re a match with Annabel!

Annabel is omnipresent, permeating all social platforms, and it’s not yet 8am.



How does the swipe impact our attitudes and behaviours? The swipe delivers instant results paired with instant gratification, making it hopelessly addictive and hugely empowering. So easy in fact, it seldom involves pause for thought.

Tinder was the tipping point for the swipe. The light-hearted hook-up app that allows us to swipe through potential matches based on age, location and gender has turned the agony of dating into a ruthless gladiatorial game and it continues to grow at a rate of 10% a week.

So is the swipe the solution to millennials’ fish-like attention span? A conveyor belt of opportunity grasped with next to zero kilojoule output – and hardly any intervention from our more sophisticated ‘system two’ brain (to use the terminology of behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman?)

Other start-up teams certainly seem to think so. Tapping into the success of the swipe interface are JobrEstately and Daily; gamifying the fields of recruitment, real estate and news reading in an attempt to entice addiction in different, somewhat drier landscapes. All attempt to match you with your perfect fit and sell themselves as the Tinder of their field.



But is this a logical adaptation? Tinder lends itself to the swipe because it’s immediate, visual and shallow. It’s a snap decision, comparable to a burst of attraction in a bar. But applying this instinctive gesture to  more complex areas risks trivializing them. Do you really want to swipe to find your perfect home, job, even pet (see bark buddy)?

The swipe is inherently fickle with overtones of callousness. Should gamification be left in the realms of Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario Kart or is it normal to build real lives, real conversations and real relationships through a sloppy thumb-slash?

For brands, the rise of the swipe reflects the need for them to provide instant visual appeal and improve clumsy purchasing processes.  In our increasingly impatient culture, consumers expect action with one casual move. Shopping in a click, same-day delivery services, contactless payments, storage within a digital “cloud”, answers on tap through Siri, movies and TV shows streamed in seconds, smart phone apps that eliminate the wait for…cabs, dates, food.

We expect our products and services to jump to attention, and content from brands must be ever more easy to consume and share. Of course, there’s room for businesses to subvert the swipe, to insist that their offering requires more deliberation and appreciation than a few seconds, but that would be a bold game to play and the goods have to be worth the investment of attention and finger-power.

This would be a good time for brands to assess how swipe-friendly their processes and content currently are. Because if social runs true to form, this tap dance is only going to get more frenetic.

Dubai is the new frontier for word of mouth

Friday, September 19th, 2014

You’ve probably heard about Joseph O’Neill’s ‘The Dog’, “a tale of alienation and heartbreak in Dubai”, that was long-listed for this year’s Booker Prize.

You’re less likely to have heard (unless you read my last post) about my recent move to Dubai to open 1000heads’ MEA HQ.

You’d presumably appreciate the latter making the former of particular interest to me. And after a perfect example of WOM in action, I purchased said novel.

I am not going to turn this post into a book review (although it is a good read), but I will focus on one very salient point that our unnamed hero makes, very early in the piece. Abridged:

“That’s Dubai, I suppose – a country of buzz… everywhere in the emirate are opacities… And so the place makes gossips of all of us whether we like it or not”

In this unique context – and Dubai is unique in its truest sense – ‘buzz’ travels by word of mouth because of ‘opacities’, because of the absence of any real, clear information.

Having lived here for six months I can vouch for the near-impossibility of finding out any ‘real’ info on anything. And, in its absence, word of mouth powers knowledge transfer.

Little wonder then that Gulf News recently reported that parents in Dubai rely on hearsay rather than inspection reports to choose schools for their kids. That’s a huge life decision, but it appears that WOM still trumps ‘official’ opinion.

Social media use in UAE is of course on the rise but it is this hunger for peer to peer recommendation – whichever channels are used to spread it, on and offline – that makes Dubai such an exciting place for us to be.

Whether you want a great book suggestion or a word of mouth campaign for your brand, get in touch.

Making chocolate sundaes…

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Last night I was at dinner with a friend explaining what we do at 1000heads. I’d just got going when his attention was diverted.

“What’s that?” asked my dining partner not apparently talking to anyone in particular. I turned in the direction of his glazed gaze.

“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” exclaimed a woman in a state of giddy joy, “…we saw them having it and we just had to order one.” She motioned to the table beyond where a couple looked on with the glow of parental pride.

The ‘it’ in question was a rather wonderful chocolate sundae crowned with a hemisphere of thin, dark chocolate. On the side, a jug full of hot butterscotch sauce was waiting to be tipped onto the crown where it would burst the confectionary bubble and reveal an oasis of cream and popping candy. The fizz and freckle of the butterscotch on candy drew oohs and aahs normally reserved for fireworks.

“Looks great…” I said, “…we should order a couple of those later”.

And so we did.

When they appeared we caught the table next to us peering over.

“What’s that?” asked one.
“It looks amazing!” squealed another.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” said my dining partner.

And so the ripple continued.

All in all that evening we observed a chain of twelve sundaes, each directly attributable to the trendsetters at the top table.

“So…” said my friend smearing chocolate brownie across his lower lip. “…1000heads, what is you guys do exactly?”

“We help our clients make chocolate sundaes” I said.
“I thought you were in marketing?” (He never got metaphors).

In an industry forever discussing new platforms, new audiences and new techniques it’s important to remember what we do and why. And hey, it never hurts to have a delicious go-to example to explain what success looks like.

Debate: Is social media a waste of time for business?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Recently I was asked participate in a print debate for Economia magazine, a back-to-basics scrap between myself and Robert Wynne, President of Wynne Communications. Our topic: Is social media a waste of time for business?

There are still (and quite rightly so) many sceptics out there wondering whether social marketing is all so much smoke and mirrors, so I was delighted to get the chance to articulate why (when done properly) it isn’t.

Let me know what you think.

Image: JD Hancock

YES: Robert Wynne

Look at your audience. Who is primarily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? Children, teenagers, celebrities and families. What is it you want to say? Probably something important about taxes, a new hire, a new law that impacts your clients, or possibly a new office. Now post it on Facebook, right next to photos of that cute kitty. “Watch out, he’s about to knock over that aquarium. What a scamp. Now what were you saying about your firm?” It doesn’t look appropriate next to that cat, does it?

Some things do well on social media: celebrities who appeal to teenagers, such as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Games including Candy Crush. But not businesses or accountancy firms. If you post your news item on social media, then send it out via a news release service or to your client list: which do you think will be more successful?

Social media is about conversation and most of that, unfortunately, involves reposting. Financial results, tax advice, new hires; most of that is best posted on your website, your blog or sent directly. The best way to reach your clients, friends and influencers is via email. As Rick Newman, chief business correspondent for the US News & World Report put it: “Social media represents all these new forms of information, but all roads lead to email.”

NO: Molly Flatt

Saying social media is a waste of time for business is like saying humans are a waste of time for business. Social media is simply a set of tools that allow people to connect with each other. Sometimes we use social media to gossip or watch videos of cats, just like we sometimes eat junk food. But most of us also cook nutritious meals, and we use social tools to do things that are central to our lives and to businesses: for example, asking others for advice, giving recommendations or collaborating with others.

And by “we” I mean everyone.

Pew Research tells us that 71% of online adults now use Facebook, including 45% of internet users aged 65 and over. The Interactive Advertising Bureau tells us 90% of consumers would recommend a brand to others after interacting with them on social media. Frankly, if you think that connecting with your clients involves talking about taxes or telling them who you just hired, you’ve got a problem. This is about emotion, not just information. Emotion is what drives people to buy products, remain loyal or spread the word, and emotion is the currency of social media.

Robert Wynne

Yes, more people are using social media than ever. But are they using it to discover the offerings of a company, to compare prices, to contact customer service or to engage with businesses? Not really.

Look at your own habits. If you have a problem with your Samsung 55-in LED TV, do you check Facebook and Twitter or do you go to the retailer’s website? If you have an American Express Platinum card and want to buy tickets for Adele’s concert using the credit card firm concierge to get the best seats, do you look at social media or “like” a page about Adele on Facebook? Neither – you look at their website.

The same principles apply to accountancy firms. If you need to contact your clients about a change in tax policy, a direct email or notice on your website homepage will be more effective and professional. The same applies when it comes to crises. Twitter may seem to be the best platform to inform the masses but it only works when you lead clients to a live person or team of experts via email or phone.

It’s comforting to believe that all businesses need to do is type in a few words or post an arresting photo and the magic happens. But perhaps it’s better to think of social media as a complementary function that leads people to where they really want to go: to your website or to a live human at your practice. That’s what you want as a customer, isn’t it? So treat your clients with the same respect and efficiency.

Molly Flatt

Using your own habits to extrapolate what the rest of the world is doing is a classic marketer’s mistake. Let us consider the facts. Research from the Ambassador Group shows that 9% of all social media users engage with brands daily, more than half will do so several times a month, and 33% of people would rather contact a company by social media than by telephone. And this behaviour is increasing.

The Center for Marketing Research in the US recently found that 62% of Millennials like at least one brand on Facebook, 23% follow a brand on Twitter and 11% have pinned a brand on Pinterest. Their top three motivations? Supporting that brand, getting brand news and updates, and discovering discounts.

But although the value of social media for brands – as a channel for broadcast, transaction and customer service – is valuable, it still misses the point. Getting people to talk to each other about you as a brand, rather than talking to them, is where social’s power lies. The best brands spend more time listening on social media than they do talking – and then use that insight to surprise customers or clients.

Take the Samsung example: a savvy competitor could spot that person tweeting about their broken TV and offer them a free trial of their product instead. Or with the American Express example, why not give bloggers early access to your top events, encouraging recommendations with greater reach, trust and relevance than your concierge will ever have?

You can’t just plonk the same old business approaches onto social media. You have to change what you do. And that means prioritising advocacy, not just functionality.

Robert Wynne

There are great statistics about the rate of people using and enjoying social media, but it’s difficult to find anecdotes about serious businesses actually profiting from social media compared with good websites, their own blogs, and other effective digital communications including email. The example about another TV company bottom fishing by trying to pick up dissatisfied customers illustrates a reactive strategy for followers, not leaders.

Think of social media as another outlet for posting news, stories, anecdotes and hope it brings customers, friends and other audiences to your website or even better, to call or email you directly. I’ve seen marketers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building up Twitter followers and Facebook likes with nothing to show for it but… followers and likes.

There’s a role for social media, as part of an overall public relations, marketing, advertising and communications plan. There are apps used today by Forbes contributors, including myself, that allow us to post our columns to several social media sites simultaneously. Soon anyone will be able to do that. And once the sites and messages can be aggregated, they will seem less unique and just one more hammer or screwdriver in the toolbox.

Molly Flatt

Social media is not a better or worse version of brand websites or emails. It is a totally different beast, requiring a totally different set of approaches and skills. Businesses are followers, not leaders, in this space. In social media, you need to listen to your consumers or clients, then serve them in the most helpful, timely, relevant and inspiring ways – not try to dictate your superior wisdom or pre-packaged marketing bumf.

Of course, social media can’t fulfil every business role. But it is a way to build genuine and mutually rewarding relationships with your customers. So do keep auto-publishing your fascinating Forbes columns and sending them round via email. That way the rest of us can happily ignore them – and spend time engaging with businesses who approach this space like human beings, not content-creating robots.

Why influencers love Instagram

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The tide is turning once again on the platform of choice for social media’s movers and shakers. Snapchat’s for teens, Facebook’s for losers and Twitter’s for marketers, but Instagram is unequivocally having its moment in the digital spotlight.

Image: Jason Howie

We had a sneaking suspicion the times were a-changing. First, there was the influencer who, after we shared our planned Twitter activity for an event they were attending, literally scoffed, “Twitter? Why? I barely use it anymore. I ‘gram.’”

(Attention to the unhip: A “gram,” as it’s affectionately referred to amongst Instagram’s most devout users, refers to a photo posted on the platform.)

These Twitter-spurning, Instagram-loving influencers are becoming increasingly common. We work with a growing pool of influencers who, from their average Twitter following, look more like you or me than a bonafide influencer (apologies to all the Twitter kingpins reading this – you’re exempt). Look at their Instagram accounts, however, and you’ll see a following in the 10k+ range with engagement per post of 1.5k+.

Then, there was the time we first engaged influencers on Instagram using Direct Messaging. The result? An avalanche of immediate, effusive responses. What a change from the “Is this a scam?” or, more frequently than not, the pure radio silence our community team has become accustomed to when engaging on Twitter.

Giddy with the results, we decided to take our newfound Instagram success a step further. How? By publicly commenting on an influencer’s photo. Shortly thereafter, we were greeted by a screenshot of our comment posted on the user’s Instagram, accompanied by text saying how “cool” it is the brand took the time to comment on their photo.


In the vein of not letting our love affair with Instagram go to our heads without cold, hard stats, we did some research. According to a recent article by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), Instagram’s monthly active user base of 200 million boasts an engagement rate per user 60 times higher than Facebook, and a whopping 120 times more than Twitter.

But why? Why is it a preferred platform? Why more engagement? Why more consumer trust in brands that engage on Instagram? We have a few theories:

  • Visual – Instagram’s inherently visual nature makes it the ideal platform for the plethora of visually inclined fashion, food and lifestyle bloggers we so frequently work with to share their content vs. text-heavy Twitter.
  • Easy – Sure, tweeting is easy. However, as the pressure to think up a witty, unique, 140-character-or-less bit of wisdom that will score you retweets, favorites and legions of new followers (and maybe a book deal!) can put a damper on things. With Instagram, no words are necessary. A picture is worth a thousand characters.
  • Uncluttered - Instagram has yet to be overrun by brands clambering for user’s attention (According to WOMMA, only 15 brands are currently approved for sponsored posts*). A brand reaching out to you on Instagram is out of the norm. It’s different. It doesn’t feel spam-like. It might even feel personalized, because, as our social savvy influencers know, there isn’t currently a platform that makes mass marketing promotion easy on Instagram.

Where are your influencers exerting their influence?

Transparency, trust and the power of native advertising

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Having touched on the topic of native advertising a couple of months ago, I’d now like to turn to… well, native advertising.

The trend continues to rise and the case studies accumulate, and it’s hitting more and more of a nerve with consumers fed up of traditional, interruptive ads. So let’s dig a little deeper into what’s causing the upsurge, and how businesses can make the most of it.



Don’t do this

Cast your mind back to 1994. More specifically, 27th October 1994, when the first banner ad went live on hotwire.com and 44% of those who saw it clicked on it. Fast forward to today and banner ads are ineffective and, frankly, downright annoying; nowadays you’re lucky to get a CTR of more than 0.1%.

Intrusive ads just aren’t the way into consumers’ hearts. During our usual bedtime browse, we’re increasingly resentful of those annoying onscreen popups that obscure content, or even the whole page; background takeovers; ‘suggested content’; and the much-hated banner ad.

As we spend more and more time online and the ‘second screen’ becomes the ‘first screen’ (3 hours and 41 minutes are spent online per day, that’s 26 minutes more than we spent watching TV), not being interrupted is becoming incredibly important.

And that’s where native comes in. What makes something native? What are the rules? And more importantly, how can it be measured? The answers are a work in progress, but marketers are swimming in a sea of opportunity, which is both exciting and scary for all involved.

Consumers are tired of being shouted at. They’ve had it for the last 100 years, and it’s time marketers became smarter. Indeed, the IAB found 60% of consumers prefer digital advertising that focuses on a story rather than selling a product, highlighting the importance of storytelling in advertising and the power of emotional connections.

The key issue here is one of transparency. When it’s not so obvious consumers are being advertised to, marketers run the risk of leaving the consumer feeling misled and eroding brand trust. In the same IAB report, 41% of those surveyed recognised native material as advertising. This is a big issue for brands and marketers.

Last time, I shared a piece of great native advertising on the New York Times website for Orange is the New Black, but in many cases it doesn’t take such a considered approach. Have a look at The Atlantic’s native ad for The Church of Scientology for an example of how not to do native.

This ‘advertorial’ unashamedly peddled the achievements the controversial church had witnessed that year. The issue here, other than the brash nature of the article itself, is that there was no distinction between The Atlantic’s standard editorials and the sponsored article.

For other examples of good native ads one need only look to BuzzFeed – the vanguard of click bait articles. As a purveyor of the much-loved listicle, BuzzFeed is the perfect platform for nondescript articles for brands to express themselves and tell a story rather than sell a product (see Hellmann’s 17 hacks That Will Make Your BBQ Awesome or Oasis’ The 11 Most Irritating Types Of People On Instagram).

In short, we’re going to see a lot more of native advertising. It’s certain to evolve into something that is different to what we’re seeing today, but the similarities will be one of discretion and, for the format to survive, one of transparency and trust.

Facebook Custom Audiences: What does it mean for your brand? Part I

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

A Custom Audience is an ad targeting option available through Facebook which lets advertisers connect with a brand’s existing audiences. This targeting option leverages the power of CRM data to find Facebook users who have previously interacted with a brand. It enables advertisers to reach qualified leads on Facebook, precisely segmenting this audience by CRM data, pages visited or by any of the ad platform’s standard targeting options (age, gender, interest etc).

This powerful tool blurs the lines between CRM and advertising and although the potential applications are huge, we’ve identified eight ways brands can maximise its value:

1. Grow your fan base
Once you have uploaded your CRM data you can target this group during your paid social campaigns, allowing you to target everyone from your email list who isn’t an existing fan to like your page.

2. Extend your post reach
A published Facebook post can often only reach a small percentage of your audience organically. If you want to reach more people you can promote your posts using Facebook’s advertising platform. However, with your own CRM data you can reach individual users on the Facebook platform who may not be your fans yet. These users have already expressed interest in your brand and its content, so they are more likely to embrace seeing your post in their newsfeed.


Image: Facebook for Business


3. Retargeting website visitors
There can often be a large drop off during the purchasing process as customers research their options or simply become distracted. Retargeting ads remind the customer of what they were looking at, build familiarity and bring them back to the site to complete the purchase.

4. Cross-sell/upsell
Knowing which products a customer has purchased before gives a brand the opportunity to upsell a complementary item to existing customers through Facebook.

5. Cross device retargeting
A lot of customers will research a product on a mobile device but then make the purchase on a desktop. As custom audiences allow us to retarget the user rather than the device, brands can extend this behaviour by promoting further browsing to mobile users, or to trigger a sale with desktop users.

6. Seed campaigns
Custom audiences allow brands to extend the reach of ‘fan’ targeting to those outside their current social following, but still to engaged and reactive audiences.

7. Building new customers
Look-alike audiences allow advertisers to create additional audiences similar to your existing customers based on their demographic, interest and profile make-up.

8. Profiling your customer base
Brands can apply targeting filters on custom audiences to discover a huge amount about demographics, interests and profile. These insights can then be used to inform business objectives and decision-making.

Facebook Custom Audiences is currently under-utilized by many advertisers. The potential of the advanced targeting option allows you to reach current and potential customers with your Facebook advertising, and benefits brands and customers alike.

For brands they benefit from targeting the exact customers they want to reach allowing them to be more efficient with advertising spend. For customers, they benefit from being served more relevant advertising, from a brand they have previously engaged with.

In our next post, we will be covering the application of Facebook Custom Audiences as a profiling tool in more detail.

Point of view: 3D printing. Blood vessels, organs, food… What next?

Friday, July 25th, 2014

3D printing. A concept that only a few decades ago would have seemed ludicrous, is now set to revolutionise the way we live today.

Eco-friendly, a cure for cancer and a functioning 3D-printed kidney. The rise of 3D printing has been heralded as the “Second Industrial Revolution” , and it has the potential to impact our lives in a similar way

3D ‘Bio’-Printing

“Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed – or bio-printed, as we call it – with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the ‘print’ button on your computer screen?” envisages Dr. Luiz Bertassoni of the University of Sydney. Forward-thinking doctors want to be able to print tissue to make organs cheaply, and anticipate that in 10 years’ time every lab and hospital will have a 3-D printing machine that is able to print living cells.

3D printing even has the scope to revolutionize the way we treat cancer. Tumours can now be ‘printed’ for the purpose of testing developing drugs quickly and more accurately. A living tumour can be printed at an extraordinarily high resolution, in a multitude of different and specific shapes and sizes. Each tumour is different, so there’s even the possibility that the technology will be able to simulate individual patients’ cancers in the lab – to see which drugs work most effectively to combat it.

3D Printing and Sustainability

3D printing is being lauded as a ‘greener’ option to traditional manufacturing processes. The problem with traditional manufacturing is in the costs of transportation from A to B to C and often D. Creating not one, but multiple routes of carbon emission, not to mention excess packaging.  With 3D printing, a design team come up with an object and then store the design in an online repository. Clients then peruse designs online before loading their favourite to an in-home or local 3D printer to be reproduced and used; therefore removing the individual legs of shipping as well as the dilemma of excess packaging.

A distant version perhaps; in a world where all homes are kitted out with a 3D printer, akin to the two dimensional printer these days – but nonetheless, this could be an environmental game changer.

3D Printing and Brands

3D Printing is already starting to speed up small businesses. Science and life-enhancing capabilities aside, it is proving an effective tool for brands to tap into. However with the ‘democratization’ of 3D printing, as it has been termed, will brands lose their power and lure as more people are able to manufacture products independently?

The cleverest brands are embracing 3D printing; and harnessing the opportunity. They are riding the wave of the revolution and inviting collaboration with the individual. 3D printing provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the link between consumer and brand through the creation of one-of-a-kind products.

This mode of thought is exactly what Adobe tapped into with their #CreativityForAll campaign hatched by 1000heads. We were briefed to raise awareness of Adobe’s new 3D printing capabilities. The solution: we invited a selection of 2 and 3D artists to reimagine the traditional Easter egg.  In turn, we 3D printed their visions in magnificent coloured sandstone. Read more here.

Other brands operating creatively are Dewar’s who gathered a swarm of 80,000 honey bees to “3B print” a bottle of whisky. A transparent whisky bottle was created housing a swarm of bees for a period of 6 weeks. From this, an inside out beehive was gloriously constructed. The experiment was broadcast “Live from the Hive” to Dewar’s Facebook page. Despite not being a clean-cut example of 3D printing, it clearly demonstrates its powerful influence and the creative possibilities 3D printing invites.

To promote CocaCola’s mini-size bottles in Israel, the brand created an app which allowed consumers to create virtual replicas of themselves to feed, drink and take care of, a la Tamigotchi (remember?). The reward to those that looked after “themselves” successfully was an invitation to Coke’s headquarters in Israel where “mini me” figurines were 3D printed. Successfully tapping into Coke’s overarching marketing strategy about the formulation of personal relationships with its customers.

The possibilities with 3D printing in the future may well extend beyond our wildest dreams . Already we are dealing with Bio-Printing, dreams of 3D printed airliner wings and plastic skulls (yes, really). Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired, once said that 3D printing “will be bigger than the web.” A bold statement indeed, but judging by the levels of ingenuity, it could well be the case.

Photograph by makerbot on Flickr

Point of view: Going back 50 years to face the future

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Each year the social media industry asks itself a new set of questions. In 2009 we wondered if it was a fad. In 2010 we debated what we should say. In 2013 we stood for all things ‘real time’.

This year we’re finally taking steps to talk about actual, proven business value.

Platforms like Instagram have been cautious about introducing advertising. Others like Pinterest have been more aggressive. Just last week, both Facebook and Twitter took a step further: they want to make buying things on their platforms easier by introducing direct response solutions (Twitter already had Lead Generation Cards for example). All of which takes me fifty years back in advertising history…

When David Ogilvy was 25, he discovered what would become his “first love and secret weapon”: direct mail. It was his introduction to the power of measurable results, instead of general platitudes and opinion. With direct mail, you either got a result, or you didn’t. You either sold something, or you didn’t. Simple.

As an industry, we tend to avoid talking about selling. We like to talk about conversations and ‘engagement’, an altogether more human kind of communication. We don’t like the nagging salesman, the cold call, the hard sell.

To think we are either cold-blooded salesmen or daydreaming enthusiasts prevents us doing our best work. We love to think we’re either one or the other, but in fact we must be both.

The backbone of our industry has always been probability. The right research, strategy, idea and measurement are essential not because they make failing impossible, but because they make success a bit more likely. Now that it’s becoming easier to define success, we’re getting closer to what Ogilvy stood for with direct advertising: you either get those results, or you don’t.

Social media has always allowed us to track the metrics – number of fans, total reach, conversations, referral traffic – but it’s not as easy to tie that to actual value. If people tweet more, do they care more? Do they buy more? Metrics are a means to an end, but in the end it’s the business value that counts.

It’s good to see social platforms mature to the level in which they give us more tools to better make that connection between what happens on social media and how that reflects in business performance. Tracking direct response is not the only way to do that, but it’s a good start.

We’ll not always be able to connect the dots, because the research around brand building is clear: these things take time and are not always logical. In a way, we’re going back fifty years to Ogilvy’s philosophy around direct advertising and we have more tools than ever to tie the metrics to actual business value.

Photograph courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr.

Point of view: The inescapable rise of Emoji

Friday, July 11th, 2014

As our self-appointed in-house Emoji expert I am unashamedly passionate about the sunny yellow characters used to inject personality into messages nationwide. Born in Japan, the characters have been incorporated into Unicode (the computer industry standard for encoding and displaying most of the world’s writing systems) and captured the hearts and minds of the masses at an unprecedented rate.

Emoji is the sticker album we had as youngsters, digitalised. Last week saw the launch of Emojli, the niche “Emoji-only” social platform and over 17,000 people have already flocked to the site to secure their username (in Emoji, of course).

Granted, Emoji has its sceptics – ‘informal’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘distracting’ are a handful of the labels thrown their way – but millions of people disagree. The use of Emoji in social media has given rise to a new method of storytelling; these visual tokens add emotional nuance or strengthen a point. Research has revealed that our brains have adapted to read emoticons in the same way that we read human faces, and studies report that those who use positive emoticons tend to be the most influential people on Twitter.

So, how can a brand harness the power and influence of Emoji? To be more approachable, humane; to be better understood?

Brand collaborations with Emoji are manifesting in a number of ways.

Animal charity PETA has used Emoji in a first-of-its-kind cross channel mobile campaign entitled ‘Cruelty beyond words.’ Tapping into Emoji as a universal “language” for the under-30s, PETA used the characters to create a short clip and conjure graphic animal cruelty scenes in imagery spread across social media. Add a clear anti-slacktivism call to action at the end, encouraging supporters to text the heart Emoji or keyword HEART to support the cause and you have a campaign that is easy, timely and effective.

Brand Emoji has morphed a collection of well-loved brand logos from Coca Cola to Chanel into Emoji form: a concept that makes cold or corporate imagery instantly shareable and could be exploited much more vigorously by brands.

Renowned early adopters Oreo targeted mainland China, with their Oreo Bonding Emoji Campaign. Through research, Oreo found that Chinese families were becoming increasingly divided and Emoji was perceived as the best tool with which to unite the broken nation (yes, really). Family photos could be pasted into interactive Emoji frames and shared through China’s biggest mobile, social platform, WeChat. The figures speak for themselves – 99 million Emojis were generated over 11 weeks and 10 million shared with family and friends.

We’ve also been helping Skype use their famous emoticon library in new ways – letting the Emojis loose from the Skype app to help build brand love and create conversations. Using emoticons to tell simple visual stories in the newsfeed has generated some of the highest engagement rates for Skype across Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve also taken emoticons offline. As part of their presence at the Spirit Awards, we hired an artist to create on-the-spot emoticons of the stars live from the red carpet.

Attendees could even order a special emoticon latte.

For Skype’s recent Easter promotion, we hid hand-crafted “eggmoticons” in Skype’s cover photos for fans to collect. Users then had to find the hidden emoticons, sign into Skype and IM them to a “Skype Easter Basket” ID.

The humble emoticon has also underpinned Skype’s recent movie sponsorship deals. As part of its partnership with Marvel around the latest Captain America movie, Skype dropped limited edition emoticons into the latest version of Skype for film buffs.

What next?

Apparently, 250 new Emojis will be coming to our keyboards this month – everything from a levitating suited man to a chipmunk. And Emoji could be set to become legitimate search criteria. Yelp now allows users to search venues through Emoji whether they’re on the lookout for a coffee, haircut or a slice of pizza. With most of Yelp’s audiences are accessing the site through mobile, it’s an ingenious time-saving device. Google, Bing and co. may not be far behind..

Twitter has already seen #emojiethnicityupdate trending, backed by the likes of Miley Cyrus in an effort to get more Emojis of ‘colour’ to our keyboard in the current absence of ethnic diversity. InstaEmoji is an app that allows you to plant Emojis onto camera roll photos to Tweet/Instagram as you like.

In short, Emoji may be cartoonish, but brands would be well advised to take them seriously. There’s real power in those smiles.