Business


HomelessOne of the most talked about pieces of news to come out of this year’s SXSW was not shiny new tech but the “Homeless Hotspot” campaign by BBH Labs, the innovation unit of the international marketing agency BBH. According to Jenna Wortham writing for The New York Times, BBH outfitted 13 ‘volunteers’ from a homeless shelter with Wi-Fi hotspot devices and T-shirts bearing their names: “I’m Clarence, a 4G Hotspot.” They were reportedly paid $20/ day (£13) to go to the most densely packed areas of the conference and were allowed to keep whatever customers donated in exchange for the wireless service. What BBH dubbed a “charitable experiment” has undeniably backfired with industry pundits and media calling the campaign “exploitive” and “tasteless.” Wired magazine even described “Homeless Hotspots” as something which sounds like it is out of a “darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia.” But is it really all that bad?

BBH has defended its thinking framing the initiative as an attempt to “modernise the Street Newspaper (similar to the UK’s Big Issue) model employed to support the homeless populations”. This has only triggered further criticism. In the past 24 hours, an official response from BBH has been released: “Obviously, there’s an insane amount of chatter about this, which although certainly villainizes us, in many ways is very good for the homeless people we’re trying to help: homelessness is actually a subject being discussed at SXSW and these people are no longer invisible… we wanted to share a few key facts: We are not selling anything. There is no brand involved. There is no commercial benefit whatsoever.” You can read the full comment on BBH’s Homeless Hotspots website.

The campaign for SXSW has failed so spectacularly and so publically. Using Edelman’s TweetLevel tool to evaluate Twitter buzz over the past couple of days, the campaign’s hashtag "#HomelessHotspot" was itself virtually invisible until hybrid media picked up on story on Monday (12/02/2012). The most shared links for the topic, again from TweetLevel, reflect the fierce criticism and debate this campaign has triggered in social and hybrid media since the close of SXSW (interesting to note here that articles by traditional media (BBC, Telegraph, The New York Times) are not fuelling the debate but are only reporting on it.

So why has this initiative failed so spectacularly and so publically? It’s mostly a matter of perception. Countless social programmes promote jobs for the homeless and encourage (and/ or require) the benefactors to participate rather than give hand-outs; the Street Newspaper/ The Big Issue and Habitat for Humanity, for example. But this wasn’t a social programme, let’s be frank here, this was a PR campaign by a marketing agency and the agency failed on one of the most critical principles of any digital marketing campaign; context. As a result, the campaign left users and pundits feeling uncomfortable and with a negative perception of the BBH brand.

The objectives of this campaign were mostly sound and pretty good – connect the visiting SXSW technology community with the local Austin community by highlighting the social problem of an ‘invisible’ homeless population – but the context, and some of the content, was all wrong. BBH lacked a fundamental link connecting the plight of Austin’s homeless with the core audience and objective for the marketing agency.  Instead if feeling like they’ve done something for good, users said they felt awkward about the whole thing. That’s not good at all. 

You may argue that this was a CSR or even a local community support initiative (BBH does) however contextually BBH – a UK-based agency – did not have a building block of sustained social credibility local market/ community to support such a campaign. We all know that context is king. BBH failed to question; what kind of marketing message are conference goers receptive to in this context? And, is the platform (in this case the homeless participants) contextually relevant to our business and our customers. If this campaign initiative was run by a local charitable organization or local city of Austin chamber of commerce type organization, it’s quite possible we’d be talking about an ingenious campaign designed to promote the local community with the technology elite who descend on Austin once a year. But why an agency? What is the connection?

Surly, as a marketing agency BBH should have known better? Question what you will about the motivations for the campaign, the truth of the matter is that contextually, the language of the campaign was all wrong as well. The mechanics of the campaign gave observers an impression that the initiative lacked purpose and therefore the language used fell flat and communicated exploitation of the homeless participants instead of municipal support. Speaking about the criticism detailed in media reports, journalist and freelance writer Mic Wright said, “It was all in the language. [The homeless participants] WERE the hotspots.”

Behind the scenes and once you visit the BBH website, you might feel otherwise, but as digital marketers we know that the first 5 seconds is what counts. Saneel Radia, the director of innovation at BBH Labs who oversaw the project, told one reporter that the company was not taking advantage of the homeless volunteers. He said, “We saw it as a means to raise awareness by giving homeless people a way to engage with mainstream society and talk to people,” he said. “The hot spot is a way for them to tell their story.” But giving a homeless man a t-shirt that effectively says “I am a homeless hotspot” – where is the tact in that?

If BBH had employed events staff to wander around the show broadcasting wireless hotspots, we would have had no problem with this. It is that fact that they felt the need to make a point with employing the homeless and made it so visible that impacted reception of the campaign. Within the context of SXSW, this simply didn’t gel and the experience left users and pundits feeling uncomfortable. Better, BBH should have employed local community members and activists/ influencers with a message to SXSW attendees to get to know local Austin, the good and the bad. In fact, we’ve used TweetLevel to find a simple list of influencers in the Austin, TX area talking about the homeless. In terms of delivery, a cleanly designed app would have neatly connected SXSW conference goers with stories about their adopted home for the long-weekend. In the right context, with some killer content, this could have been a powerful campaign.

@jacqui_fleming

clip_image002Corporate data breaches and security incidents pose a growing threat to businesses around the world. Such events are increasingly common, with companies and organizations from Google to Sony to the Stanford University Hospital falling prey to data breaches, news of which was subsequently splashed across national headlines.

Incidents like these, combined with the increasing number of ways to track what people are doing online, are affecting consumer attitudes. Edelman’s new global study, Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action Global Insights 2012, reveals that seven in ten people globally are more concerned about data security and privacy than they were five years ago, and a full 68% believe that consumers have lost control over how online personal information is shared and used by companies.

Businesses, however, are not doing enough to meet these concerns. A majority of people (57%) report either no change or a decline in the security of their personal information in the last five years. This is problematic, because consumers think that businesses should be grappling with these issues and that it is their responsibility to do so. The vast majority (85%) say businesses must take data security and privacy more seriously, and a plurality say businesses – as opposed to governments or individuals – are responsible for protecting the security of their personal information.

Edelman’s study also indicates that data security and privacy issues have the potential to affect a businesses’ bottom line. Customers are taking data security and privacy into account at the checkout counter; surprisingly, when it comes to smartphones, personal computers and tablet computers, data security and privacy are as important to them as a product’s design, style and size.

Businesses are also suffering from a trust deficit due to peoples’ concerns about data security and privacy, particularly in the financial and retail sectors. While 92% of people say security is important to them in when doing business with the financial sectors, just 69% trust the industry to protect their personal information – trust lags by 23 points. In online retail, the gap is even more dramatic. While security is important to 84% of those doing business with online retailers, just 33% trust them to protect personal information – a 51 point gap.

To earn people’s trust in their ability to protect data security and privacy, businesses must manage these issues like a core competency, engaging with them in a meaningful way on a daily basis. Businesses that ignore data security and privacy do so at their own peril, because consumers will abandon companies they do not trust to protect their personal information. Those that prove willing and able to manage data security and privacy effectively, however, will bring unexpected value to consumers around the world by demonstrating that they understand the importance of protecting the information people hold most valuable.

Read the full study here. We’re keen to hear your thoughts…

@pete_pedersen

ENTER MUS-GRAMMYS 226 LAIn today’s social media driven world it seems like all companies are using social media and are trying to be the experts in the field. But as we all know creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle and frequently shouting about your brand is not likely to make you an expert in social media. 

This post comes as a result of the Twitter storm that was sparked around Adele the night of the Grammys. This suggests that personalities work better than brands with online conversations often backfiring on brands and advertising often taking over true conversations. Instead, it is about being able to create content which users can discuss, share and recommend while also supporting customer service and experience.

There is no doubt that brands must embrace social media. The fast-changing landscape means that many companies remain confused about exactly why they are on social media sites – beyond the usual talk about building a fan base there are many ways that brands can interact with customers using social media including handling customer complaints, offering discounts and listening to online conversations.

There are only a small number of brands that are using social media to really connect and interact with customers. For example Dell, has a social media ‘listening command centre’ that identifies customer service issues along with brand evangelists. KLM also is using social media to improve customer service and gleam customer insights. They have a unique 24hr customer service platform on Facebook and Twitter, employees held up large poster with individual letters and created a living alphabet that was videoed and sent to customers to spell out customer questions. Unisys also has a social knowledge sharing platform for employees to network and share information.

Another great example of a brand excelling in their use of social media is American Steak house ‘Morton’s’, who identified that a social media guru tweeted about craving a @Mortons steak after a long flight. Morton Steak House acted quickly and used this as a media opportunity organising a number of employees to greet the influencer with a juicy steak at the arrivals gate. This highlights the importance of noticing a PR opportunity and acting fast.

Looking at these brands examples gives useful insights into why these companies are succeeding in social media.The small handful that really are using social media successfully are listening and communicating with their customers by two way communication that is not overly brand biased. Improving customer service is a key theme flowing through the above examples; customers who feel like they are listened too and understood are likely to be more loyal to the brand. Successful brands are talking to customers about what they actually care about.

Brands who demonstrate understanding, creativity and innovative thinking which moves them out of their comfort zones seems to be winning ingredient. 

@T_Bloore

The ancient Mayans are often accredited for their ability to investigate celestial objects in the night sky with primitive tools. Archaeologists have found tablets, which provide evidence of their ability to accurately predict positions of objects, lunar and solar eclipses, often many years ahead.

However much of what the ancient Mayans were practicing bear remarkable similarities to what we now refer to as ‘big data analysis’.

In 2008, the McKinsey Group described the trend towards big data – the technology and practice of handling unconventionally large datasets which, after years of experimentation, has recently seen rising prominence. 

One of the earliest adopters of big data analysis is that of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN. As a matter of fact, the internet was invented as a method to collaborate and handle the vast amounts of data generated at the facility. Yet what started off as technology for scientific investigations, big data analysis soon quickly found itself in areas such as finance and banking.

Today’s organisations are beginning to recognise that by analysing petabyte upon petabyte of data, meaningful insights and predictions can be accurately made. Yet over 1,700 years ago, Mayans were already analysing data from the observable universe – an unstructured database with 93 billion years’ worth of data.

The Mayan’s obsession of analysing astronomical ‘data’ was not centred around scientific investigation, but more on predictions and justifying rituals. The decision to engage in military conflict was based almost entirely on the movements of Venus and Jupiter.

Interestingly, the modern day practice of analysing big data suggest that we could be following similar movement.

Today big data analysis is being used to help justify macro-social and economic decisions – from investments, economic policy to crime directives and healthcare provision.

Earlier this year, analyst firm IDC even reported that the US Army has implemented a big data cloud program to collect data from unmanned aerial vehicles, to gather intelligence information in near-real time and relay it back to its troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The life of the ancient Mayans revolved around their religion, which they supported through their obsession with astronomical data. This influenced their culture, their every decision and provided what they believed were predictions for the future.

Are we creating a technology-led religion of our own through our obsession with big data and what legacy will we be remembered for when future archaeologists discover our civilisation?

@thelondonblog

The UK Govt could be kick-starting a revolution. Its motives are sincere, but has it laid down clear enough ground rules?

I’m not sure why but the arrival of the Government’s Cloudstore, a new portal for public sector bodies to procure software, got me thinking about the “Comparethemeerkats” campaign. Bear with me…

Even if you are suffering ‘meerkat fatigue’ I don’t think many would argue this campaign has made a dull subject (price comparison websites) somewhat entertaining.

And without wishing to offend those who spend their lives processing public sector tenders I wonder whether there is something to be learnt from this approach. Many people would agree that the mere mention of ‘Government Procurement’ would be a powerful sedative. I’m not sure what the Cloudstore equivalent of meerkats would be, but surely greater emphasis should be placed on properly promoting the service so that both buyers and the SMEs who are meant to benefit from access to Government procurement maximise the opportunity?

While the tone is generally positive there are outstanding questions. Mark Say’s article in the Guardian worryingly saw an admission from Phil Pavitt, CIO at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC): “How big departments are going to use it (Cloudstore) has not been fully thought through…"

At the very least the Cloudstore signals an intention from Government to act upon long harboured aspirations to move away from expensive, long-term IT contracts and enable more UK small businesses to overcome the bureaucratic nightmare that is Government procurement.

As Stuart Lauchlan suggested this could be a quiet revolution. Yes many of the well-known vendors have made it onto the list, but the message is fairly clear. Be prepared to deliver short-term contracts and strip away the complex implementation costs or we have alternatives. It could be argued that the mere suggestion of alternative is enough to focus minds and deliver greater efficiencies for the public sector (and us taxpayers).

Perhaps when we look back on it we’ll see this decision as one of those moments when Government intervention sparked a truly revolutionary moment.

Question marks

However, the Government’s approach does leave a few questions unanswered. Stuart pointed to learnings from the US’ project on Cloud Computing, which shows there is a lot more to consider than simply listing an application  or service on a portal. Likewise Clive Longbottom welcomes Cloudstore, but recognises that the public sector has to embrace it if it is to be successful.

From my perspective the key questions are:

Buyer/end user education and empowerment:

Using a service from Cloudstore will never be quite as simple as Amazon or the Apple iStore, but it will be consigned to history as another Government-backed dodo without significant investment in buyer education. If we look at SaaS adoption it has often seen end users circumventing frustrating IT policies to use the software they want. While I’m sure central and local Government departments will have checks in place to prevent a ‘free-for-all’ Cloud Computing should empower users and buyers to make choices. But how do they choose between the solutions on offer? What considerations should affect their decision? 

Integration:

Of the 250 vendors already registered on the Cloudstore 50% are supposed to be small businesses often providing just a point solution or at best a suite of similar products. In the main they will be built on one platform, such as Solidsoft on the Microsoft Azure platform. They do not have the resources to integrate their offerings with those of all the major vendors. That is a problem, because central and local Government have invested heavily in IT and cannot afford to discard these legacy systems. So how does the Cloudstore administration ensure smaller vendors can integrate as effectively with existing solutions to ensure the playing field is truly level?

Marketing:

In any industry if a buyer has to choose between a known entity and an unknown one it is no surprise they usually go for the safe option. With Cloudstore there has already been some debate about how the vendors present their offerings, because it is clearly not uniform. That makes marketing these solutions hard and obviously it is going to be harder for the smaller vendors to compete against recognised brands. With culture of risk-aversion heightened by all the high profile IT failures how is Cloudstore going to help to promote the ‘Davids’ to ensure the Whitehall politicos don’t just pick the ‘Goliaths’ they know?

I do believe the Cloudstore can deliver significant value, but as Michael Krigsman has said many times successful IT implementations are a combination of the software working, the implementation sticking to a mutually agreed schedule using the right resources and the customer understanding exactly what goals they want to achieve through the adoption of IT. 

While the Cloudstore could be the start of something the spectre of the ‘IT Devil’s Triangle’ still looms large and these fundamental issues have to be addressed for it to a long-term success

@cairbreUK

Being a member of the Edelman Tech Team provides a constant challenge, no two days are ever the same and you will learn to expect the unexpected.

You need to always be up to date with the latest industry news and developments. My favourite part of the day is the morning paper rounds, reminiscent of BBC Breakfast’s news round up, which helps to keep you up to date with all the latest industry news and development. Part of my daily role also includes account support, liaising with journalists, pitching media stories, proactively news jacking and reporting.

Since I have been here I have worked with a broad range of clients including HP, LinkedIn, SocialVibe and Norton. Because of the range of clients that the Edelman Technology team represents, the work is very varied. So far I have worked on social media programmes, proactively sourced product placement opportunities and helped to introduce start ups to the UK media. The diverse interests and partnerships of our clients mean that although you will be based at the centre of technology you will begin to learn about other aspects of the media industry, from mainstream consumer PR to public affairs and digital. Last week was particularly busy and part of my role included inviting press to a David Guetta event and following up on some work we had undertaken with the Prime Minister.

Edelman takes the development of their employees seriously and the company runs some great training sessions with industry experts. So far, I’ve attended session on issues as far reaching as crisis management, analyst relations and brand strategy which has helped to provide me with invaluable insight into the media industry.

@CamillaEClarke

A very interesting blog post on the FT about changes in the fashion industry caught my attention and I wanted to share the most subversive etail initiative I have ever heard about. 

www.honestby.com is the brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters. The site will sell a collection of 56 pieces for men and women. But what is groundbreaking about it is its transparency. It is transparent both financially and in terms of manufacturing.

By the time you press “buy” you will know exactly what you are paying for – everything from the material used, weight, who spun it, whether it is organic, a website for the supplier and so on – and you will find this for the fabric, the zipper, the lining, the trim, the label, the buttons, the thread etc. Under “price information” you will find out the cost per meter of the fabric, how much was ordered, how much was used, how much labour was involved, what the mark-up was, and how the profit was used.

High-end fashion has historically been a business built on opacity. Things cost what they cost and the less the consumer knows about the literal value of these, the better off the brands are and the more they can charge. It is precisely this attitude that Bruno wants to change as he thinks it breeds consumer mistrust – and why he wanted absolute clarity in his own brand. He has even gone so far to have said that if orders go up and he achieves economies of scale, his prices will come down.

It seems to me this has the potential to be a real game-changer in fashion, because if consumers get used to having this sort of information available, who knows, maybe they could start demanding it from other brands…

@natfut

honest-by

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