Twitter was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey. Many in the marketing profession thought it would fail. It didn’t. But should Twitter marketing be part of your mix?
By January 2021 Twitter amassed over 330 million active monthly users. Thus it is now a mass medium. Twitterers include most media companies, such as CNN, the BBC, the Guardian and the marketing press. A red carpet full of celebrities; Katy Perry @katyperry) is the female with largest following (109m (Jan 21)), Justin Beiber has 114m, politicians; @BarackObama has 128 m (Jan 21), and many of the media brands dominate the top 150. The followings of these folk change daily so follow the links to check the latest numbers (1)!
Top corporates include @youtube, Google’s video platform (ranked #10 (Jan 2021) though with far fewer followers than many celebs. Other corporates include NASA, Samsung, Starbucks, Cadbury and Dell. These appear in various guises such as products, CadburyDairyMilk (@DairyMilk and @GoneFairtrade) and @Cadbury_Gorilla and as channels or customer service centres. Dell’s presence spans outlet stores such as @delloutlet in the USA, customer service representatives and a growing number of staff.
Twitter’s more open nature is a plus to reach new markets. 60m users live in the USA and the rest beyond. The demographic is slightly more male (62%) than female (38%). Millennials came of age on Twitter so are the largest age group; 80% are under 50 years old. Users are slightly more likely to be college-educated than not too. The growth in smart-phone penetration and faster bandwidths supports Twitter, and social media generally, evolving further into the mainstream. Especially in developing countries.
Twitter allows both mass and individual customer (or follower) communication and engagement to the web and mobile devices. It can also amplify your social media messages as it integrates with platforms including Facebook, Linked In and Instagram. Twitterfeeds can also be exported to websites and blogs.
The short nature of the messages is more casual and less corporate thus removing a barrier to communication and that many consumers see in engaging with businesses. The mobile nature of the medium also enables live messaging, such as live news, information and picture sharing from events, product launches, presentations etc. Brand awareness and engagement can enhanced through innovative content such as humour and thought leading ideas. During the Wimbledon 2010 tournament, @andy_murray promoted a tennis player snack game (John MacEnrolo, Martina Haggis). This helped soften his image, prompted many retweets and followers.
Opta the football information company (for example @OptaJoe) always adds a final quirky and cryptic sign-off to their football coverage. This is helping them develop a football celebrity and almost cult following.
The searchable nature of tweets means that it can play a key part in driving traffic to your website. Our experience is that traffic to The Marketing Directors marketing consultancy website from @themarketingdirectors was around 20% of the total in 2009 though this has reduced to around 1-2% today. While adding topical content, we’ve also found that adding a live twitterfeed to our home page increases bounces and reduces our overall search engine ranking.
Twitter works like an add-on to the web. By embedding links into tweets, followers (and the Internet population at large) can be directed to your website. Either to collect names for direct marketing or drive direct sales. Dell, for example, has over 80 corporate twitter accounts which promote a range of ‘unique to twitter’ offers.
Twitter can form part of your corporate early warning radar system to help spot opportunities and threats. Some companies only appear to follow competitors, for example, Cadbury follows other chocolate firms.
To follow you is to get to know you, and potentially like, trust and buy from you. Twitter lends itself to both casual mass communication and personal communication with specific individuals. Use it to answer questions and enter into dialogue. As Dell has discovered it can turn detractors into friends such that its employees are now encouraged to open accounts.
The research department will also find it useful to ask your customers questions, monitor brand mentions, identify trending topics and analyse your own followers (www.socialoomph.com). We find it particularly useful to keep track of, and find market research partners, in different parts of the world.
There are lots of employment agencies out there!
There are growing numbers of politicians on Twitter. One of their most famous (or infamous) users (though recently removed from the platform) was ex President of the USA, Donald R. Trump. During the 2020 US Presidential Election his 5am tweets set the election agenda for the day.
An original downside was that messages had to be encapsulated in 140 characters and that included links. However 280 characters are now allowed. Nevertheless this encourages brevity and clarity!
While there are lots of good practices, the rules for making money using twitter are still evolving. The marketing rules however remain the same as they did during the dot-com boom. Insight and ingenuity are both required.
Setting-up a Twitter account is quick though ongoing management is time-consuming. Use automation software such as socialoomph.com to lift the load. As with the web, there will always be time wasters and spammers. These issues easily distract or overwhelm but reduce through simple technology fixes, such as anti-spam or human verification software.
The seeming lack of regulation on Twitter means that there is a risk of unofficial twitterers occupying your turf – so aim to mark and protect your brand! One of our favourites is @Queen_UK (who pre-empted HRH Queen Elizabeth who was a late follower in 2014)!
Twitter is a high reach marketing communication medium though over the years engagement levels have fallen. Nevertheless Twitter marketing has a role in your social media strategy. It can be a boon to businesses, and both marketers and researchers alike. The barriers to entry are almost nil and the upside potential remains high. As with all digital media, expect the platform to evolve over time. Image and video tweets are now possible as is advertising.
1. Messaging and commercial strategy; Think carefully about content and define your voice – both are differentiators and vital to engage. Once you’ve decided on your strategy stick to it so as not to alienate followers. In our early days we tweeted a couple of jokey messages very early one morning and lost half a dozen followers! Twitter is ripe for new business models and some of the world’s hottest news stories start here.
2. Targeting; Think carefully about who you want to target, and define your target using keywords. Following your competitors is a good place to start….
3. Measurement: Successful marketing starts with measuring your social media effectiveness. There are many free tools to measure your growing follower count, your friends and followers (FriendorFollow.com), your influence (Klout.com), mentions (Socialoomph.com) and embedded link clicks (bitly.com). Try and measure sales conversion or ROI too!
4. Then just open an account, watch, learn and experiment….
Call us for help to get your message across in the most cost effective way. We view digital marketing as part of the wider marketing mix, and encourage you to simply put your money where it delivers best returns. Just call us for help.
There is widespread recognition among children’s tv producers that income from tv programme sales is seldom enough to cover production costs so brand licensing is often centre stage to increase revenue. However, if you start by thinking about brand innovation the upside is even greater.
The current brand licensing process is typically an auction. A producer makes a show. It’s then sold to broadcasters and aired. Production of a ‘style guide’ follows, with a synopsis of the show, the key characters and design elements. It’s usually an impressive tome, a wonderful work of art. This is then sent to potential licensees with a brief asking them to come up with new product ideas. The product rights are then sold to the highest bidder.
But the current model often leads to little more than putting a label on a product. While there are a few bucks in adding a logo to a pair of pyjamas, pencil-case or rucksack, the benefits seem marginal. Does the label aid brand recognition, stand-out or value? More likely it relegates your brand to a commodity found in cheap and cheerful stores. Thus undermining the brand.
Therefore thinking from a supply-push product development mindset alone isn’t enough. It’s akin to throwing mud at a wall – and hoping it sticks.
Moreover, markets are increasingly competitive. Media owners compete against retailers, and consumer goods companies. These businesses are amongst the most sophisticated organisations in the world. So, learning from, and out-thinking them, is helpful.
Consumers choose based on their needs; whether an offer meets their needs, and also by weighing up the benefits of competing offers. They subsequently buy when their ‘needs’ become ‘wants’. The retail trade also buys and stocks-up similarly. Based on what sets their store apart, and also drives store traffic and meets their customer’s needs.
So invest in audience or consumer research to make better product development and brand innovation decisions. In particular, invest in meaningful insights on consumers’ needs and behaviours. Also understand what engages and sets your tv series apart. Look for unusual character and personality quirks. Do this at the same time as programme production, in order to maximise both programme development and brand innovation opportunities.
Stimuli (1) brings to life ideas. Thus better enabling consumers to react to ideas, and challenge and build them. It therefore moves conversations beyond the superficial to the detailed. In turn, helping to uncover more insights. In addition, insights become more meaningful and better articulate how to differentiate products and services, and also command a premium. All can then be hard-wired into ‘style guides’ and also brand marketing plans in order to deliver the return on investment you need.
Brand licensing is a valid and powerful means of extending a brand into new markets and growing sales. However there are commercial upsides in thinking beyond slapping your label on a product. So think about what currently sets your brand apart or could in the future, and develop a brand strategy based on these insights.
Extending programmes beyond the tv screen to create brands requires the programme’s unique essence to be truly understood. Do this by seeing through the audience’s eyes. Also by using creative stimuli to explore, and push creative boundaries.
The same thinking process applies to any organisation thinking about how to extend their product or service into new markets. Carpe diem.
(1) Stimuli reproduced courtesy BBC Worldwide. These are just a handful of some 70 plus ideas created in order to explore new product and brand innovation opportunities for The Secret Show. Read more about our approach to brand extension and using creative stimuli in research.
Often new hires, either a CEO, or CMO, coincide with a challenge of restoring business growth. But how? Here are three steps for a fast and effective business turn-around.
First, understand the effect on your business or portfolio as a whole. How significant or material is the effect in relation to the business as a whole? If it is small then delegate responsibility to solve the problem, if large, then there is a case for you to invest more of your own time.
Then diagnose the cause as quickly as possible. Ask questions and form your own opinion of the cause and the ability of your team to solve the problem. The scale, complexity, political sensitivities of the problem will affect the ability of your own team to develop a solution.
Then diagnose the cause as quickly as possible. Ask questions and form your own opinion of the cause and the ability of your team to solve the problem.
To check that the problem is understood, and to corroborate this is the case, ask for a paper discussing the issue as well as recommending options to deal with it.
The scale, complexity, political sensitivities of the problem will affect the ability of your own team to develop a solution. If your own team struggle to be objective, seek help from a third party. Using experienced consultants and conducting original customer research helps you remain objective and apolitical.
When you fully understand the issues and then create a marketing strategy and plan to drive change. However, the nature of your approach should depend on the effect of the business problem, and the ability of your team to solve the problem. If the problem is less significant, prefer a light touch approach. If the problem is significant or catostrophic, prefer a more directive and hands-on approach. First, check that the problem is understood. To check ask for a paper discussing the issue as well as recommending options to deal with it. Then drive action. If the problem reaches across departments, set-up a task force to deal with it and ensure clear access to relevant senior management. If the problem is beyond the ability or experience of your current managers, then strengthen the team or replace the key people.
‘Focus groups’ are often the default consumer research method yet in today’s highly competitive environment relying on groups alone is blinkered, if not blind. If everyone is just using the same technique how can anyone possibly gain an advantage over a competitor? So how can you gain new insights and an edge?
First, as insights can come from anywhere, it is vital to look in different places, and view and explore consumers in different ways. Use mixed methods to push the boundaries, dig deeper, and look into the future. We advocate using three consumer research strategies to gain an edge; we call them the three Cs: Context, Challenge and Collaboration.
Who consumers are, their needs, behaviour and influences are seldom what they seem. Sometimes consumer preferences and reasoning is beyond imagination. So we need to understand who consumers are, how they live their lives, what’s important and why. So by getting close up, and though observation, it is possible to truly understanding the decision making context.
Consumer thoughts and feelings come from their own frame of reference i.e. experiences, prejudices and memory. By provoking consumers, it is possible to reveal what is unconsidered, hidden or perhaps forgotten. So take them out of their comfort zones and provide new experiences. For example, giving consumers a new or different product to try can reveal insights on current product deficiencies, on new or unmet needs, and also on barriers to overcome. Conversely, combining loyal and lapsed consumers in a ‘conflict group’ can reveal drivers and barriers to usage. Also to cast new light on the strength of attitudes, and whether, and how, to change attitudes.
Today we live in an increasingly connected and savvy society with greater free-flow of information and collaboration. In IT collaboration and ‘open-source’ software is common-place. Consumers are also very familiar with advertising and brands. able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms. This is a boon for researchers and marketers. It therefore means that consumers able to discourse in ‘technical’ terms and also create as well as assess communication and product ideas and solutions. The concept of collaboration applies all aspects of research. The only limiting factor is our imagination! For example, by including specific technical experts in research, brings leading-edge insights and ideas, and potential glimpses into the future.
For market research to probe for new insights and give you an edge consider the 3 Cs : Context, Challenge and Collaboration.
When dealing with tough times, a recession, or recovery from C-19 issues, marketers have a key role to play. So how to take the opportunity to restore business growth. Here are six pointers for a speedy business turn-around:
It has always been the case that the most successful businesses are those that are the most customer or audience driven. If the tough times have caused a sales reduction, this may indicate weakness in your offer which needs to be fully understood and addressed. Whatever the economic situation, robust insights must inform your targeting, products, and promotions. Only when you have a strong offer and sound strategy in place will you ever be in a position to invest and grow.
Marketers can do much to bring forward and maximise cash flows, for example by rewarding early payment. Do your bit to control costs too. Consider using more efficient communications and seeking out smarter and better value agencies. If a worst-case rationalisation is required, view it as an opportunity to ‘right-size’. Also, make sure that the right resources are in the right places and perhaps refresh the culture. This then provides a more robust foundation for renewed growth.
Marketers should lead; in particular to ensure that corporate antennae are installed and working properly. While tough times present threats, they also present opportunities – a weak competitor here, a lower cost investment opportunity there. There will rarely be a greater opportunity for the smart marketing and research department to prove their worth. So provide timely intelligence and quality thinking on how to realise those opportunities. In particular, look to, and try and anticipate the future. Specifically, look for threats and opportunities by talking to consumers and reviewing what your competitors are doing. Reading investment blogs and company reports also provide potential sources of insight. In addition, consider using scenario planning to work through and determine the best business turn-around strategies.
There are many studies that show how the share of advertising voice correlates with market share. Further, those who invest in proactive marketing during tough times are the first to emerge and the strongest when the good times return. Also use creativity to add value to your brand and avoid creating a hostage to fortune.
Test major business building initiatives on a low cost, controlled risk basis to ensure that they work. Only when you have the metrics to prove that they work should you invest heavily.
In tough times those under pressure often cut their prices or become cheaper to buy. So grab bargains, for example cheaper advertising, while they are around. Also consider good value hires or business acquisitions.
1.Darwinist fundamentals apply. So make sure that your business and brand strategies are based on true insight and facts by using robust market research. Only then can you best focus resources on being as fit and competitive as possible.
2. Take a long and also a short term view. Take proper notice of threats and opportunities by making sure your corporate antennae work properly. Thus you’ll be more proactive and timely in spotting opportunities and making investment recommendations to your Board.
3. Grasp lower cost marketing opportunities while they abound. In so doing you will be able to go for growth while others are still sitting on their laurels. Thus ensuring a speedier business turn-around.
The greatest brands have high awareness and a clear and distinctive image. Also an ability to evoke a strong rational and emotional bond with audiences, stretch into new markets as well as change with the times. With the opening of its new London store, The National Geographic Society delivered a great brand experience.
It all started in 1888 when 33 explorers and scientists gathered to form the National Geographic Society ‘for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge’. Over the years, the Society has supported many expeditions and research projects including polar and undersea expeditions, studies of animals, such as Dian Fossey’s study of mountain gorillas. It has also enabled discoveries such as the wreck of the Titanic (Robert Ballard) and the man-like Zinjanthropus in Tanzania (Louis Leakey).
The first brand extension, National Geographic magazine appeared in 1888. Then with its articles on geography, science, world history and current events, dramatic photographs from around the world, and trademarked yellow border, it became an icon of our times. Also a coffee table essential for the chattering classes.
In June 1985, National Geographic chose a close-up of an ‘Afghan girl’ as the cover photo for an article on the refugee crisis in Afghanistan.
Photographed by Steve McCurry, the girl had sea green eyes striped with blue and yellow. She peered with a mixture of bitterness and courage from within a tattered burgundy scarf. As a result her picture touched the souls of millions.
In 1964, the brand extended onto television with stories of adventure and science. In turn, it gave fame to marine explorer and ecologist Jacques Cousteau and his adventures on board Calypso. The first TV channel then followed in 1997. Then in 2007, National Geographic created a global media group comprising all of its magazine, book publishing, television, film, music, radio, digital and maps units.
Together with franchise partner, Worldwide Retail Store, National Geographic opened in Regent Street in November 2008. It is (or was*) a fantastic sensory experience.
On walking in you are greeted by a staff member from one of the many nations represented in the store. To the right are magazines and videos, all with the iconic yellow border, neatly displayed in a small pagoda-like structure. Beyond is a café with rustic tables and chairs. It is a great place to chat and enjoy a drink and pastry or pincho created by the fabulous Spanish chef.
All is interposed with state of the art interactive screens and video walls bringing HD quality pictures from around the world up close and real. After hours, the merchandise then packs away and the room becomes a lecture theatre.
Inside the door are a series of horse sculptures carefully crafted from driftwood. Beyond are rows of hanging prints taken by National Geographic photographers. Also a market-place brimming with hand-crafted furnishings and artefacts from all over the world.
In the basement you’ll find clothing for the great outdoors as well as the most fashion conscious. Also a cold chamber to test the weather-proofing abilities of the outerwear. This includes a wind turbine, block of ice, thermal imaging camera and visual display to add dramatic effect. The shirts are priced at £119 therefore demonstrating the premium that great brands command.
Finally, on the top floor polished wooden desks adorned with glowing globes signal this is where to book your expedition (or holiday). In the nearby technology department the latest camera and optical equipment is showcased in sturdy steel cases. Dressed in their khaki safari gear, staff are unobtrusive yet close to hand. For example, to advise on what’s best to see the stars or (photographically) shoot beasts in the bush. All that seems missing is a Masai warrior or lion on the loose…… but then again, did I really look everywhere?
While many great brands evolved by accident, what’s critical is management vision and conviction to push the boundaries. Also rigorous attention to detail to inspire and deliver consistently through all activities. As with all great brand experiences you should see, hear, think and feel the quality, value and difference.
*Sadly the London store closed in 2017, and its demise is our loss. Thus, we presume the high cost of a Regent Street venue, and associated high costs of merchandise, were insufficient to keep the business in the black. And/or alternatively following Disney’s acquisition of 67% of the shares, the place to visit is now the Disney Store.
Nevertheless, even without a stand-alone London store, National Geographic remains a great brand experience, with clever brand extensions, and underpinned by a clear brand strategy!
Photo credits: Afghan girl by Steve McCurry, other photos of the National Geographic Store © Guy Tomlinson 2009.
There has been much in the press in recent years about market research losing its place in the boardroom. Most notably from Unilever who say that senior managers were unwilling to invest time attending a research debrief. Further, most CEOs consider market research less useful than finance, marketing, information services and human resources (1). However, market research professionals appear in denial about their relevance (2). Yet criticism is also made by major research suppliers (3)!
Some suggest researchers lack the ability to integrate information, fail to connect research results with business outcomes and are unable to turn complex data into clear narratives (3). Problems result from many causes. Less than robust data collection, market research analysis and strategic interpretation. This is therefore to share insights and ideas to restore the importance of research in the Boardroom.
Triangulation is a mainstay market research method. The idea is that when two or more methods are used in a study, confidence in the results increases. Denzin defines four basic types of triangulation. Methodological triangulation involves using multiple research methods to gather information, such as interviews, observations, and documents. Also, data triangulation which involves multiple time periods and respondents. Investigator triangulation involves multiple researchers. Finally, theory triangulation which involves using multiple analytical methods or models (4).
As qualitative research data is usually unstructured a key challenge is to manage, shape and make sense it. The most common form of qualitative data analysis is observer impression. Computers and software offer a storage place and tools to classify, sort and arrange information. However, computers and software fail to do the thinking. Identifying themes and patterns in data i.e. uncovering insight requires human skill.
And human skills and knowledge lie with the observer and analyst. While many analysts are graduates, most are career researchers and not business people. Further, for life stage and economic reasons, fieldwork and analysis tasks often fall to younger, less experienced staff.
The concept of triangulation provides a foundation on which to build. The more data collection points, the more ways a problem is looked at, the more analytical methods, the more substantial is both data collection and analysis. Bricolage is a term used to describe multiperspectival research methods. It is also a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing and playing around. It avoids the reductionism in many single method (monological) and mimetic research approaches (5 and 6). Further, it enables more deductive reasoning (in which a conclusion is based on the concordance of multiple premises). Thus it produces more comprehensive and specific insights.
Within qualitative research, employing simple numerical scoring (or semi-quantitative) techniques also enables more rigorous analysis. For example, by asking respondents to independently select the most appealing communication idea from a gallery. Or to rate a new product or service concept on scale from ‘will definitely buy’ to ‘will definitely not buy’. Using these techniques reduce reliance on subjectivity (interpretivism) (7) and adds scientific methods to qualitative research i.e. objectivity (empiricism, positivism). This therefore ensures important differences in meaning and in relative customer appeal are discerned more readily. As a result this spotlights key issues and opportunities on which to focus. Also ‘outliers’ (8) that demand more detailed investigation.
Probing and testing for clear cause and effect relationships also ensures more robust findings and analysis. The ‘Manchester Map’ is a useful technique learned in management consulting days. This involves systematically asking and understanding ‘so what does this mean?’ or ‘why does this happen?’. It therefore forces all information to be reviewed, delineated and linked. This thus ensures clearer articulation and understanding, of causes and effects. And in turn, findings and implications or conclusions.
Researchers should understand core marketing and business principles. Every marketer knows that customers have needs and seek products and services that meet their needs. So to design products and services to meet those needs, research must first clarify needs and wants, and also the drivers behind those needs. Only then can product benefits be matched or created to meet those needs.
Researchers should also have a good understanding of business aims and options. The broader and deeper the knowledge of a businesses’ aims, possible business strategies, and product, brand, and marketing options, the broader and more penetrating the nature of enquiry. And thus ability to uncover relevant, meaningful and actionable business insights.
1. Esomar Research World / ARF (2005)
2. Boston Consulting Group (2009)
3. Does Market Research Need inventing? www.InspectorInsight.com (2014)
4. Denzin, N. Sociological Methods: A Sourcebook. Aldine Transaction (2006)
5. Kincheloe, Joe. L. Berry, Kathleen, Rigour and Complexity in Educational Research (2005)
6. What is Mimetic Theory? www.woodybelangia.com
7. Interpretivism (or antipositivism) is a view that social research should not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world. Gerber, John J. Macionis, Linda M. Sociology (7th Canadian ed.) page 32 (2010)
8. An ‘outlier’ or outlying observation is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs though this is partly a subjective exercise. Grubbs, F. E. “Procedures for detecting outlying observations in samples”, Technometrics 11 (1): 1–21 (February 1969)