We have an ‘open door’ blogging policy for all staff here at 1000heads and today’s post is from Senior Strategy Executive, Ben Fox, he’s a talented chap and had this to say about a recent not-exactly-social retail experience – JW
Like many twenty-something males in the UK, I’ve always looked to Topman for fashion inspiration. The retail chain took around £1.8 billion in revenue last year and is a market leader because of their ability to influence (rather than simply follow the) trends; a trait that all brands aspire to. This ethos has always stuck in my memory and as a result Topman is front of mind when I want/need new clothes.
However, experience determines perception, and over the weekend I saw a different side to the retailer. I was in-store, browsing through the racks, when I saw the perfect T-shirt for a friend of mine. It was ideal and emblazoned across the front was “It’s all about me”; a running in-joke that we have together.
I took a photo on my phone to send it to him (so we could have a bit of a laugh and see if he wanted it) and to cut a long story short, I was promptly asked by a member of staff to delete the photograph I’d just snapped. I explained what was happening, and that I wanted to send it to a friend, but it didn’t seem to matter. I still don’t really understand why I couldn’t keep the photo, I was simply told to refer to the Topman ‘terms and conditions‘.
Being a disgruntled customer of the 21st century, I promptly tweeted:
Topman can make their own rules, of course. But are these restrictions rules stifling sales?
For a start, they’ve just shut down a direct product recommendation between two trusted peers – a big word of mouth no no. After that, there seemed to be an expectation placed upon the aforementioned peer to go home, remember the product, visit the website, find the product page and then send it on to his friend? Unlikely at best, inconvenient too.
OK, so, sticking to 1000heads’ blogging guidelines and turning this negative into a positive, I’d like to flip this whole policy on its head and create some kind of smartphone-based media sharing campaign for Topman. Without fleshing it out too much, it would basically aim to drive consumers in-store and encourage organic image sharing. I can imagine it being some kind of treasure hunt, using perhaps both Foursquare and Instagram, alongside Twitter and Facebook to push content out to the masses.
Just look at the number of tweets and shares that have driven the competition: 191 and 1175 respectively – that’s not bad at all. The Topman brand has fans that share their content and while it’s not officially related to image sharing, I can’t help the felling that – on the strength of the above - Topman is missing several opportunities to convert positive (and potentially negative) offline retail experiences into online activity.
The Land Rover competition is not inherently social. They’ve done a simple ‘stick a share badge on it’ job and let it go from there. Imagine if they’d actually tapped into something properly and, instead of shutting down P2P recommendation, embraced sharing of in-store content across multiple different platforms?
It could make for a very different story indeed.
To close, it’s worth saying that I still admire Topman, and will do, as long as they keep selling great products. I couldn’t imagine shopping on Oxford Street without visiting their flagship store. But when it comes to engendering positive word of mouth both online and off, they seem to have missed a beat.
My girlfriend and I spent the weekend in Dorset a couple of weeks ago, relaxing with friends. It was lovely. Beaches, barbecues and beer. Bliss. On the Friday evening, we were having a drink in the garden when my friend’s phone buzzed from inside the house.
“Oh”, he said returning with the device, “I’ve got three texts and two missed calls.”
“So do I!” said his girlfriend who had fished her phone from her bag.
All the texts, (six of them) and calls (four) were from the same person. One person who, we would later learn, was sat all alone in a hotel in the Scottish borders.
At this point, my girlfriend and I were a little bemused, so the other couple explained. The mutual friend (let’s call him Bob) had, it emerged, been in contact with our friends for the past few weeks about a wedding they were all attending.
Bob had asked them where they were staying, how they were getting there (they’re all London based) and what they were doing the night before. They, of course, assumed that he was talking about the weekend of the wedding, which was a month away. Bob, they now realised, was talking about this weekend, because that’s when he thought the wedding was.
And now, of course, Bob was calling and texting to find out where they were. He thought they were meeting for dinner. And since it was now 9pm, his tummy was rumbling.
Bob had, through various events that included the mislaying of the invitation, an ambiguous diary entry and a series of conversations that had seemed clear – but had evidently been murk – got the date seriously wrong.
So why is any of this relevant to making brands social?
Well, it demonstrates how things can so easily go wrong when a simple piece of information isn’t readily available (the invite) or communication is based on a false assumption (the texts).
In this case, it led to time, money and a lovely cummerbund being wasted; but for your product launch, news about downtime on your service, a change in terms and conditions, or a great offer you have on this weekend, it becomes a much bigger deal.
Who’s missing out because they think they know what your brand stands for?
Who’s getting annoyed because they didn’t know your service wouldn’t be available?
Who would love to purchase your product at 25% off but doesn’t know they have the option?
If that wedding invite had been on Facebook this wouldn’t have happened (so maybe stick your sale details on there?)
If our friend’s monthly planner had been shared via email this wouldn’t have happened (so maybe share updates there?)
Next time you think you’ve been clear about your brand or activities, think about that bloke, sitting alone in a dank hotel. That happens to consumers on a daily basis.
Andrew Neil recently explored the incest in the corridors of power.
His show, Posh and Posher, highlighted what most of us knew already; that most MPs come from privileged backgrounds and attended the same academic institutions.
19 of our Prime Ministers attended Eton. Oxbridge is the training ground for many of Westminster’s elite.
Needless to say, whilst at these institutions our MPs connected; they were friends, rivals, and members of the same societies.
Neil unsurprisingly concluded that this isn’t healthy. The highly privileged are given an unfair advantage over others, irrespective of ability. And with so many MPs coming from similar backgrounds there isn’t diversity in thinking, or representation of the wider interests.
I believe the social media industry is in a similar predicament. And as social media week is in full flow I wanted to raise this.
First, the issue of recruitment.
Too often, I have heard agencies and clients basing their recruitment policies on candidates’ levels of activity within social media. So because someone has 1,000 Twitter followers, regularly checks-in on Foursquare, and likes to blog about shoes, the assumption is they will be great at the job.
What utter rubbish.
It has absolutely no relation to their ability to do the job effectively. It is like asking a PR manager how many times they have appeared in the in the paper or a plumber how many times he has had burst pipes.
Of course candidates have to understand social media, but the assumption that because they are big users of social media they will be good at the job, is alarming. That’s like saying a pre-requisite for getting a marketing job with Smirnoff is to down a bottle of vodka every day.
We speak from experience here, not that we down a bottle of Vodka a day, but that we have given undue sway in the past to recruits who are highly active in social media. But it has been all too evident that their skills sets ended at Twitter. They understood the tools, but not emotion and not strategy, and ultimately they weren’t up to scratch.
Our fingers have been burnt.
I am not saying there aren’t exceptions to this but I am concerned when I hear that clients are giving the role of managing social media projects to the only member of the team who is on Twitter. Or, when an agency ignores someone who has pedigree in executing campaign ideas across other media because someone else has worked in social media for longer. This is even more worrying if social, as we fervently believe it should, is no longer regarded as a silo activity but is fully integrated into wider marketing activity.
Second, the issue of perspective.
A recent example. Yes, exploiting the crisis in Egypt probably isn’t the most ethical way to market yourselves but judging by the reaction of the social media chattering classes you would think President Mubarak has acted like a saint in comparison to Kenneth Cole.
On the face of it, from an ethical and branding point of view, KC made a mistake. But, the social chatter and condemnation, plus the resulting PR coverage, has no doubt given a massive traffic boost to the Kenneth Cole website. Introduced the brand and its products to new audiences. Got people talking about them.
To someone who doesn’t use Twitter, an inappropriate tweet means so little that I don’t envisage people boycotting a brand over 140 characters on a platform they don’t understand or use. So overall, what is the impact on the business from the tweet and social media. My guess, actually is it has done wonders for awareness and visitor levels, with little or no long-term damage to the brand.
This misinterpretation by the chattering classes of the impact of social media is worrying. Too often, we have heard that agencies have run great campaigns, grown communities, increased volumes of conversation or created some truly great content. However, the client just ‘didn’t get’ social and they are no longer working together. I would suggest that all too often, the chattering classes just ‘don’t get’ the impact their activity should deliver for a business.
The people doing the best work are those that are acknowledging the importance of social media but who also want to see demonstrable long-term impact on the bottom line.
Imagine for a moment you run a restaurant. You want people to talk about and recommend your establishment to their friends, relations and colleagues.
So what is the trigger for that conversation?
The obvious answer is the food.
And of course when you have visited a restaurant, the food is potentially a topic of conversation but generally only if it is exceptionally good, exceptionally bad, or exceptionally unusual; Heston Blumenthal take a bow.
Food is what you expect, so unless there is something extra-ordinary about it, widespread conversation is unlikely.
That is the very crux of word of mouth. People don’t talk about the norm; they talk about anything that is out of the norm. And if you want to amplify word of mouth around your brand or organisation you need to look at the whole experience, what is it that makes you different, what is it that is going to spark conversation about you?
London’s Sketch Gallery clearly understand this. Undoubtedly a fine restaurant but it is not the food that drives conversation – it’s the toilets!
These aren’t just your common garden toilets they are toilets from another dimension. Each cubicle is based within an all-white egg capsule and all the eggs rest on a white platform which you reach via a white staircase.
More Bond or Barbarella than bathroom but I defy anyone who visits the toilets at Sketch Gallery not to talk about them afterwards.
Using toilets to promote a restaurant may not be an obvious course of action but actually they are a great conversation starter. Once the conversation begins everything else follows.
It has to be said, this was one hell of a campaign; well executed and very, very funny. However, I foresee a problem somewhere here…
In my opinion the Old Spice campaign is what I would describe as a sprint; a video that went viral plus a brilliant set of personal follow ups to create more conversation and positive word of mouth. The campaign ends, sales spike and awards roll in.
This has, of course, happened before. Let’s look at some other successful ‘sprints’ -
First, the Evian ‘Babies’ video-
Second, the classic John West ‘Bear Fight’ -
Both great examples and both with millions of views and great short term success.
But what’s the long term impact?
To my mind this is not the standard that marketing professionals should be aspiring to. Yes, we should be creating great content, innovating and delivering great campaign focussed work like Old Spice, Evian and John West, but we need to look at the other aspects of social and WOM as well.
Considerations such as -
Building long term relationships
Successful outreach programmes (that provide a consistent baseline of valuable WOM, feedback and UGC from those who are interested in your brand and industry)
Social presences that listen, deal with questions and concerns, get involved in the conversation and are human (not just pushing messages)
I mean: the hard yards, the marathons that create both business improvements and real advocates.
To give a good example, we all remember how great this was last year:
The thing is, the two types of efforts I’m talking about here (the marathons and the sprints), are completely intertwined. If you have a strong and well developed community outreach programme, great social presences and an RND team that listen and learn from that community then your “sprints” – the great viral videos – will have a much better chance of success.
What I’m really saying here is by all means LOVE the great campaigns and by all means, keep them coming. But don’t get blinded by trying to be the next Old Spice and in doing so, forget the awesome baseline programmes and activities that create long term social success.