Consumer


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

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

journo

The last decade has been something of a whirlwind for traditional media. Old school stereotypes of trench coats, smoky newsrooms and 4pm deadlines have been replaced with 24-hour reporting, the internet and social media.

Despite the challenges that traditional media has faced and will continue to face in the near future, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, published last week, revealed some extremely positive news for the world’s media.

They were the only industry that saw a global increase in trust.

In a time in which there is global disillusion with government, business leaders and traditional figures of authority, the role of the media to provide the public with facts, transparency and both sides of the story is more important than ever.

I do not think this comes as a surprise. In a world of economic uncertainty I believe that it is only natural that we turn to the industry built on the grounds that it provides accurate and fair information, designed to educate us on important issues.

While trust in all media, that is traditional, social and online, saw an increase in trust, i believe that the biggest opportunity to affirm itself as the place we turn to first for news lies with traditional media.

Traditional media have the advantage of being long-established news outlets with a rich background in news reporting. However, in order to truly fulfil this potential, they must ensure that they embrace the modernism’s that have changed their industry, and continue working towards providing a diverse and content- rich service.

The Edelman Trust barometer also indicated a 75% increase in trust in social media, a figure very difficult to ignore. While traditional media have made great progress in incorporating this into reporting, I believe that there is still much more room for improvement.

By incorporating social and digital content with traditional news articles, publications can create news packages that will enable them to not only reach wider audience, but also develop more comprehensive content and effective audience engagement.

bearFishing where the fish are is something that bears have known for years but many folk who use Twitter seem to have forgotten. We cannot simply think our message will be heard by tweeting ourselves which is why we try and target influential people via tools like TweetLevel and BlogLevel.

However, this isn’t the only way of doing it. What I have been doing successfully over the past year is taking part in twitter chats. These are regular conversations that take place about a specific subject on twitter normally for an hour and owned by a specific hashtag.

For example,

· if you are targeting the SME market then look no further than #smallbizchat

· If you are focussing on innovation then #Innochat on Thursdays is the one for you

· Are you a small business that uses LinkedIn (client) – why not use the chat that shares best ways for businesses to use this service on #linkedinchat

My personal favourites are #influencechat and #measurepr – but suggest you look at this larger list to see which ones can help you

Any questions, just chat with me @jonnybentwood

End note: My thanks to Judy Gombita for pointing this list out to me who also wants me to plug Windmill Networking #PR column Wed, Social Capital Byte: Institutionalizing Parity in B2B Relationships

@jonnybentwood

The world can be full of contradictions and online stores going offline is another example. Some of the biggest names such as eBay, Amazon and Google are leading the way back to traditional roots.

With commentators at the start of last year announcing the end of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, what is the reason for this fast turnaround? In my humble opinion it is the shopping experience. Love them or hate them physically stores can (I emphasise can) give a more fulfilling and satisfying experience than offline. I realise that online shopping is quick, simple and saves fighting the crowds but who has not bought something online and then been disappointed either because of the fit, look or size? We have all been there.

‘Bricks and mortar’ stores allows customers to touch, try and god forbid socialise with others which is just not comparable to the online shopping experience. However as we are all aware the online experience is hardly on the decline with record online sales this Christmas. In December, Amazon announced that 1.4 million orders had taken place on their website on Cyber Monday alone and on Christmas day itself 186 million pounds was spent online in the UK. Shopping online is quick, easy and hassle free, so it is no wonder that traditional offline stores are turning to non-traditional means to encourage shoppers in-store. House of Fraser is luring customers into their stores by offering free WiFi in-store; Marks and Spencer’s ‘brick and click’ campaign combining in-store and e-commerce offerings as well augmented reality changing rooms at Topshop that save queuing for the changing room.

It seems that the lines are blurring and both traditional and new retailers are seeing the benefit of each other’s position.

topshop

@t_bloore

Not the prettiest nor most effectively designed infographic, but data rich nonetheless; Dream Systems Media launched an infographic last week illustrate numbers from the largest social media networks, based on AdAge data. Some of the more interesting highlights are below, see the infographic for full details and sources:

  • 95% of Facebook Wall posts are not answered by brands.
  • Twitter updates that include verbs have a 2% higher shareability than the average tweet.
  • 30% of B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars annually on social-marketing programs, though nearly 30% are not tracking the impact of social-media programs on lead generation and sales.
  • More smartphone and tablet owners are researching products that purchasing them – 80.8% compared to 41.4%.
  • The Mobile Marketing Association of Asia stated that our of the 6 billion people on the planet, 4.8 have a mobile phone while only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush.
  • 56% of college students said that if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they would either not accept a job offer or they would find a way to circumvent corporate policy.
  • You can expect, on average, an extra 24 minutes of attention if you post on Facebook than if you post on Twitter.

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8584-mapping-the-social-media-lands…

Via eConsultancy

@jacqui_fleming

no answer

santa ipadThe hotly anticipated 2011 Christmas shopping season saw a rush of retailers for clambering to offer better door-buster and free shipping deals than the next. So, as a nation of consumers, did we live up to our end of the bargain?  John Lewis Group and Next are among the retailers to have already published their data. With numbers still expected from others – for high street and online – it may be another week until we have a full picture of economic data that will make a concise story. In the meantime, eConsultancy ran a nice round-up of Christmas 2011 ecommerce stats published thus far. Of interest:

· Online sales in December were up 30% year-on-year, and the last week before Christmas saw almost double the sales compared with last year, according to stats from MetaPack

· 640,000 tablets were given as gifts to adults, with the iPad dominating the market with 72% of sales

· 4.2m iOS devices were activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

· Christmas Day was the busiest day of the year for mobile clicks, with volumes 36% higher than the early month peak on 11 December 2011 and 50% higher than the average for December

Now here is an interesting stat:

· Boxing Day 2011 was the biggest ever day for online retail in the UK, according to Experian Hitwise, and represents a 19.5% increase from last year.

This is a measure of visits, not sales, however. Consider another stat to come out last week – More smartphone and tablet owners are researching products that purchasing them – 80.8% compared to 41.4% – it will be interesting to see how the e-commerce sales numbers stack up for Boxing Day and whether all this traffic converted into sales, or disappointed shoppers perusing the clearance sales with a Turkey hangover. My money is on the stuffing.

@jacqui_fleming

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