Brands of the future – it’s now about online to offline

Booodl

A recent Tech Crunch article by Tom Goodwin suggests 2015 is all about the customer interface. The article points out, that Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Goodwin believes, the Internet is the most powerful mechanism we can imagine to match perfectly individuals that need something, and people with something to offer.

And if you keep that in mind, you may find my predictions for Booodl and the future of e-commerce quite interesting. For those who are not yet familiar with the app and platform, Booodl is like an online to offline market place – for people wanting to locate items nearby they need. When you remember that, and consider the following, you start to see that the future for Booodl looks rather bright.

Every marketing success story is based on turning a want into a need. All advertising is centred on this simple premise. And everyday consumers buy items as a result. Materialism is part of our culture, and we are constantly purchasing items, for ourselves, our families, for weddings, housewarmings and just because shopping is fun. And as Goodwin states, the Internet is now the perfect medium to do this, at scale, cost effectively.

According to a 2015, Global retail survey, conducted by PwC, 49% of shoppers preferred doing their research for clothing and footwear purchases in a store, 43% online and 5% via catalogue. What this suggests, it that while online shopping – and therefore websites, digital advertising, search marketing, SEO, social media and e-commerce sites can help with the purchase decision, the in-store experience is still crucial in the retail environment.

Now you may think this is simply stating the obvious, however the key issue with this behaviour, is the disconnect from online research to in-store behaviour and purchase. Therefore, at present, very little in understood about how to influence and assist the consumer in their online to offline journey. For a long time, brands have plunged hundreds of thousands of dollars into digital marketing. Using Search, Performance Media and Social CRM, digital is used to drive the online consumer down the funnel of their purchase cycle. However, at some point the online user stops researching and decides to buy their item. In a new technical era, at this point, many people will decide to buy online. The last 15 years brand have been obsessed with recording, tracking and analysing this process to collect data about their online behaviour, to form insights that help the understand when to target their brand messages at optimum time frames and within environments the consumer trusts. A combination of digital marketing tactics, can be very effective in driving an online user down this purchase funnel and often a conversion pixel can prove that such advertising was instrumental in influencing their decision. But largely once the user goes offline, brands can merely predict what happened next.

Despite the availability of such technology, as the PwC report points out, many people around the world still like to try before they buy; preferring to get out in the real world and experience the items first hand. Especially before spending their hard earned cash. We all understand how in the 2 dimensional, somewhat anonymous online ecosystem, information can often fail to represent the real life situation. Conclusively, most consumers reach a point in their purchase decision, where they log off from their phones and computers, walk in store and buy that product.

Which is great for the retailer, but not so great for the retailer’s marketing department. The marketing department has spent a lot of money on digital advertising and believes that it most likely had an influence in the consumer’s purchase journey. But there is no way to prove it. Once a user goes offline, the purchase journey is disrupted and marketeers can at best correlate total spend vs sales figures to measure success post campaign, but they have no way of knowing how many sales were directly attributed to the digital marketing spend alone.

As yet, there is no permanent software environment that connects the virtual and physical world, to allow the brand to continue mapping the consumers online to offline purchase journey. Many brands use temporary tactics, such as online coupons to drive people in store. This method of advertising is popular, because it delivers strong sales revenue, but also gives the brand key insights in to better understanding the demographics and behaviours of their customers. However, it is also seen as tacky, and sometimes eats in to the brand’s profits unnecessarily. So really, there are few ways to link online and offline behaviour sequentially.

By creating an online platform that tracks in real-time, this infinite loop of online to offline transactions, Booodl is able to suddenly do what very few business platforms have ever done before, directly attribute back an in-store sale, to a person’s previous online activities.

The second point of difference with Booodl, and what in fact relates back to Goodwin’s point about the scramble for the user interface, is that across the globe, the past 15 years have been spent helping traditional, bureaucratic companies move online. First a website, then social media, then mobile, and then the digital marketing planning that came with it. This was such an intensive task, that there was no time to think about one day, when online was commonplace, that people might go back offline, and simply want to do things the old fashioned way. We live in world that is still alive with experiences, but also dominated by technology. Children are brought up with iPads, cameras and smartphones. Future facing companies are beginning to realise the opportunities in connecting the data from the online and offline world. SoLoMo was the pretext. In an age where people carry their smartphones everywhere, and we can now GPS track and pin point people by geo-location every minute of the day, it has now become possible to connect the online and the offline world.

Yet, despite online e-commerce offering a convenient and direct way to buy products, brands acknowledge that consumers still like to buy in-store, and talk directly to the service provider or product retailer. Worldwide, new shopping malls are constructed every year. People still take taxis and everyday people travel and need accommodation. The main problem is simply knowing where to find what you need. And while a website gives a little bit of assistance, more often than not, you need to speak to the actual person providing the service, before you feel comfortable making that purchase. Hence Goodwin is 100% correct when he says, the interface layer is where all the value and profit is.

And that is exactly the space Booodl operates in. Booodl is a pioneer in understanding how to track this journey, while also offering a product that has great utility for the end user. They are your online personal assistant throughout your purchase journey. Taking you the whole way through from searching, browsing, comparing and then staying with you as you locate your item nearby, and head in to the store to buy it. Or if you are feeling lazy, why not Uber the item to you for a small additional cost? Quite handy when you remember you suddenly need to buy that gift for your friend’s birthday but you ran out of time, and wouldn’t even know where to get it close by. It’s certainly not replacing online purchasing, but rather, removing the lack of control you have once you realise you want to buy something online, but then have to wait for it to arrive. Also, you can’t deny there’s been a time recently where you went to a shop to try an item you saw and they don’t have your size, or they have it, but in a store a few blocks away. With Booodl you can check ahead of time, see exactly which store has your item in stock, in which sizes and confirm via online chat with the store assistant, before even heading outside.

And if you acknowledge the ‘invisible retail hand’ of supply and demand is never ending, and then you remember that Booodl is like an online to offline market place – for people wanting to locate items nearby they need, you start to see the true value of the platform. But its value does not lie only in the B2C transaction between the retailer and consumer. Conversely, the B2B transaction is where the future looks even brighter. Given the platform can really stay with a person throughout their entire online or offline purchase journey, the data collected about these users becomes very useful.

Digital marketing managers no longer have to guess what happened to their online audience, once they clicked away. They can literally follow the person in store and see what they bought and where they bought it. And this is where digital marketing can finally get interesting. Not to mention the insights gleaned that will help make business and investment decisions in the future.

With a valuation around those two transactional points, Booodl will not struggle in the early days, like Facebook and Twitter, which both had trouble monetising their platforms. The Booodl platform is also a natural fit for native advertising opportunities, in a similar way to Pinterest and Instagram ads. Not to mention it will allow brands to better allocate their marketing budgets and offer the ability to directly talk to and reward their consumers who are loyal and turn up to purchase items they have put on hold via the app.

To find out more about Booodl – download the app or check it out here

Is the balance of power shifting back to organic distribution over paid media?

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When social media first became big news, the general public were largely naïve, and it didn’t take much for a brand’s content to thrive online. As long as there was something disruptive, or share-worthy, the chances of organic viral success were relatively high. Paid media agencies looked on in panic as they struggled to get a foothold in a media environment that was not controlled by advertiser spend. Brands like Nokia, realising paid media placements could do nothing to change perception of their flailing mobile devices, compensated for poor sales figures by focusing on Consumer advocacy, building a network of trusted influencers who spoke positively about their products, campaigns and developments.

However, this organic Nirvana did not last long. The naïve public, led by the dissonance of Gen Z, quickly became the cynics and people ‘de-liked’ brand pages as quickly as they’d liked them in the first place. Unless your content included some earth shattering information of actual interest, online influencers were reticent to share blatant advertising campaigns, having realised most organisations were in fact just using them to spread a brand message.

Also, sudden monetisation and ever changing organic algorithms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn quickly limited a brand’s ability to reach their consumers online, en masse, without investing significantly in paid amplification. Media agencies saw their opportunity and quickly developed paid social divisions to claim back the social media territory. And once again the advertisers with larger budgets were comfortable knowing they simply needed to spend in social to spread their digital content far and wide.

Yet, as content discovery became the new buzz word, new platforms appeared that helped surface online content to its target audience, in an ethical and transparent way. A digital brand strategy was no longer about building an audience, going ‘viral’ or pushing people to a specific campaign microsite. Because let’s face it – there are not so many people out there who could really care to spend their time going to your brand page and doing whatever it is you hoped they did.

Instead savvy, content marketers saw if they could perfect the science of story-telling, using bit sized content and multiple sources, then they were no longer at the mercy of Facebook – but rather could reach a similar sized audience in parts – by segmenting their content and pushing it out via cool new platforms such as Medium and Contently, supported with a careful combination of native advertising and branded content. Also this meant that the content itself could be more tailored around the nuances and topics that distinguished each platforms. Which in turn increased relevance, as well as reach.

In addition little integration widgets such as Click to Tweet, now allow readers to Tweet pieces of content directly from the place they were reading (as opposed to old fashioned article links).

All this suggests to me it’s now key for content marketeers to have a good understanding of both the paid and the organic media space. There will always be a role for paid media – especially in achieving the reach and frequency required to get a message to a high percentage of your target audience, cost effectively. However the strength of content marketing and therefore its impact relies on the competency of the curator and strategist to understand which content is appropriate for whom and which organic or paid platforms / methods work best to deliver this content and reach their intended audience. Which is a great thing for both brands and online influencers that deserve to get noticed, but simply can’t compete with the deep pockets of Global brands.

For illustrative purposes, if you like the quote in the image above and want to share it, give it a go:

Tweet: Content is King, but Marketing is Queen and runs the household – Gary Vaynerchuk

Controversy: The Future of Advertising is Native

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I have already detected the haters in the room. Those who despise Native Advertising because it blurs the line between journalistic merit and blatant product promotion.

‘Be transparent’, they say, while creative agencies get rich basing their work on Creative Directors whims that actually lost touch with the ‘Millennial‘ audience years ago. At the same time, clients feed the media machine more money to push out loud TV, print and digital ads.

Yet, across the World Wide Web, there are people, who create content about their passions. They did it long before advertising made them social media superstars. In comes thick and fast daily – oh the amazing things you can see on the Internet, that agencies only dream of creating.

The content creators of today no longer have to limit their ideas by stale agency terms, conditions or trading agreements. They are also not trying to be advertisers. Rather, they are documenting the experiences they have while exploring their interest, and based on the time they spend doing this thing, you could certainly say they are subject matter experts. Oh and they’re pretty influential in social media, and handy with Instagram or a video camera.

What the haters of Native Advertising don’t realise, is that this is the key to the future of advertising, and also the demise of the creative agency stronghold. Eventually all advertising will either be programmatic or native. People are hungry for content and informed content helps us make decisions. TV ads and other ATL media may help with front of mind, but do nothing to educate us on our purchase decisions. Once programmatic buying is active across all TV, Print, Digital and Radio, beyond reach and frequency, creative, nor media human resource will be necessary, beyond business science.

However, word of mouth has always been the most effective form of advertising.

The trusted advice of peers and subject matter experts is used everyday to help consumers make purchase decisions. And in Internet times, there are endless content creators, sharing information around a given topic.

Now I have just one question to ask the advertising industry; How can you claim that media and creative agencies can come up with a better idea to engage an audience, than those who speak with that audience everyday. Not only do they speak with them, they entertain, vlog, photograph and experience first hand every reaction and success. They are the ones who hold the content marketing key, and surprise – this is native advertising – and it’s set to take off in a big way.

In fact, Native Advertising has taken on different shapes in media for quite a while now– via Facebook and Twitter paid feeds, contextual advertising and if you think about it –Experiential Marketing was the birth of Native Advertising – where you enhanced or affected a person’s experience while feeding them positive subliminal messages from brand.

Ask a Content Marketer what they think of Native Advertising and you will get mixed reactions. – some will deny any association between the two techniques. Yet they are one and the same thing. Branded content – which is a form of content marketing – is really just a new development within the art of Native Advertising, and one that ironically our best practitioners are failing to, or simply refuse to notice.

Is it ever ok for social media professionals to Twitter-jack?

If you paid attention to the usual ad frenzy around the Superbowl, you may have noticed that Coca Cola had to suspend its #MakeItHappy automated social campaign after a prank from Gawker had the brand inadvertently tweeting out several lines from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Nationalist propaganda, hiding in the form of a cute hamburger...

Nationalist propaganda, hiding in the form of a cute hamburger…

We’ve all seen it happen. A brand launches a playful, social campaign, uses above the line media to drive use of the associated #tag, and – if they’ve hit the right mood and with a dose of luck – the general public gets involved. However, at the same time, such promotion also attracts the unwanted attention of internet trolls, hiding behind the cloak of an ISP or anonymous user name. For brands that have both loyal advocates but their fair share of critics, it’s a Catch 22: the more high profile the social media campaign, the more open they are to sabotage.

 

McDonalds , Burger King, Qantas and Heinz remain as stark reminders of how hash-jacking, Twitter-jacking and Twitter-hacking can turn an innocent campaign in to a disaster.

In Coke’s case, the company launched a 60-second commercial during the Superbowl ‘focusing on the importance of injecting happiness into the internet’ and encouraged people to mark negative tweets with the #MakeItHappy hashtag. The brand then turned those words into cute art images using ASCII lettering code. To deal with large volumes of engagement, Coke also offered an automated response using a set number of stock ‘happy’ images and positive copy .
Gawker quickly realised that expletives and a few contraband words like Pepsi were the only barriers to getting a response. In fact, they even noticed one Tweet that turned into a picture containing white nationalist propaganda. CueTwitter bot @MeinCoke – and Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto being transformed into art.

Gawker’s editor Max Read used the Gawker website and social channels to amplify news of their hash jack, publicly shaming Coke in the process. It wasn’t long before Coke halted the campaign.

Now, it’s easy to blame Coke for failing to see it coming. But it’s also disappointing to see influential publishers promoting trolling – especially when cyber-bullying is having such a powerful negative effect in wider society.
Sure, there is nothing wrong with an innovative, cheeky or creative social idea designed to ride another brand campaign’s coat tails, especially amongst competitors. But not only did Gawker publically destroy Coke’s campaign for no good reason bar its own self-promotion, it did so with subject matter that more or less promoted genocide.
Brands should be setting a precedent in the ethical use of social media. As the technology era matures, cyber-law is slowly evolving to become more fit for purpose. However, until the public themselves take responsibility for good social media behaviour, we won’t see real change.

And while advertisers and agencies can all have a private giggle when a social media campaign backfires, there is no need to draw added attention to a mistake. It is even worse for another brand to intentionally derail a campaign. Otherwise, as digital and social media professionals, we are ultimately paving the way for our own demise. Campaign-jacking, driven by ill will and enhanced by media spend, could take down almost any idea, however good the concept or strong the community management.

Stones and glass houses come to mind.

Connected TV killed the EPG star

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Connected TV branded content on the rise in Australia

It’s no secret that over the last few years, the growth of Connected TV, Internet TV and Video on Demand (VoD) content has led to a decrease in real-time TV viewing. There are now more than half a billion connected TV devices in use around the world, and in the UK alone, connected Sky+ homes watch 33% more catch up TV and x3 more VoD than the unconnected Sky+ homes. In short, brands can no longer rely on live, TV advertising to reach their mass audience.

Conversely, in Australia, real time TV still remains popular, and sadly Netflix has yet to reach our shores, at least for those waiting diligently to obtain it legally. But things are about to change; this week Cricket Australia launched an Apple TV channel, giving fans access to extra content and information beyond the live matches. It is the first Australian sport to launch on the platform, following suit from the US, which has already launched similar channels for the NBA and NFL.

In a similar announcement, Mamamia Women’s Network, a runaway social success story, from Australian Mummy blog, to nationally recognised website that appeals to women 25-45, is soon to launch Mamamia TV. According to their editor-in-chief, Jamila Rizvi, the aim is to produce snackable TV-style content for the web. Rizvi claims that, unlike other media companies, Mamamia isn’t having to shift to understand digital or what women want out of content, as the network is already there. She said the extension of the platform to TV is due to demand; they now receive over 420,000 views a day on their site, compared to 20,000 views, 2 years ago.

On a larger scale, Vice TV is also making a splash globally and showing how brands that are willing to be reactive and involve themselves in topical news are met with likes, shares and mentions of their content across the web. Ultimately tbrands who use this form of advertising ensure their message has a much stronger, more organic impact, when compared to brands that spend high in traditional media and achieve reach with little reward.
Based on the Connected TV penetration globally, and the increasing demand for bite sized content, I predict that 2015 will be a key year for both the Global and Australian Connected TV industry and with it, will change the way brands can reach, engage and share content with their fans. In addition, the low cost nature of content production means integration of social campaigns within the TV content is relatively easy and a low barrier to entry for brands that otherwise cannot spend fortunes on traditional media.

YouTube will still be a cost effective way to upload and share videos, however partnering with smaller media brands, to introduce social campaigns via Connected TV platforms, where audiences already go to access short form content they love to watch, could present brands with new opportunities to engage in a social manner.

The revival of OOH within paid, owned and earned campaigns

There is still the common misconception that amplification of content is only achieved through various forms of paid social and digital spend.

However, as marketers start to understand the full potential of integrated ad campaigns, and therefore consider different ways to achieve critical mass through paid media, the use of traditional channels like OOH have been revived. When executed correctly, OOH is a great way of driving cost effective mass reach, and driving organic sharing and word of mouth for a TTL campaign.

SNFC – the French Rail network, understands that push messaging alone may remind consumers it is there, but simply getting your brand name in front of as many eyeballs as possible is no longer the way to speak to consumers. In addition it realizes to compete in a world of clutter, and keep its brand front of mind, in a favourable way to its audience, their ad campaigns need to inspire, positively disrupt and delight.

The above example is a great use of OOH to create content and brand conversation that in turn has a wide reaching earned impact, without the need to spend too much additional budget on other paid channels to achieve reach and scale.

The Future of Design

These days, it is not enough to simply create a product with a sleek design that masks the fact it’s not entirely fit for purpose. Most consumers expect quality and any product considered sub-standard has a short shelf life, or competes in a low end market arena and hence can only charge a pithy price.

Furniture is a perfect example where this holds true. IKEA proved that if you get the balance between design, quality and price correct that the whole world is your potential target audience.

It took many years, but slowly new entrants are coming to the market. While it took Wayfair years to develop an Online presence and consolidate their audience, it appears they have managed to corner the Online shopping market for furniture. For anyone who has been to IKEA and been forced to navigate through their entire showroom in order to buy a chopping board, I imagine for time strapped, yet wealthy consumers, it’s a welcome entrant in to the world of furniture.

However, Resource Furniture, an Italian owned company, has looked further in to the relationship consumers have with their furniture and realised that due to the growing world population, the average consumer now lacks the housing space to buy the furniture they perhaps wish to own. So while Wayfair and IKEA are churning out new sofas and living room furniture, their target audience is diminishing or simply those that like their furniture don’t have anywhere to put most of it.

In response to this insight, Resource Furniture have created space saving furniture. Not only do their designs help people maximise their living quarters, they are also competing in both quality and sleek design.

Check it out for yourself: