The Social Phone doesn’t come with an IVR menu

Save the date!

Local Social Summit – London – 9-10 November 2011

When big brands think local

This week sees the third Local Social Summit in London. I’ll be there, curating a panel of great thinkers sharing their views about what happens when national (or international) brands start connecting with their customers at a local level.

Think about it.

The marketing team sit in an obscure corporate headquarters and create the rules around which the brand gets portrayed by the company. Often those rules create absolute positions – fixed views of what people should understand about the brand – that seem to have missed the shift in expectations that the social explosion have started to create in their audience.

Now consider the challenge they face when it comes to interacting locally with that audience. I’d argue that you can’t successfully run that from Corporate HQ – but even if you try to, for large brands, that means a substantial team of people being involved.

And, unlike the typical large organisation, your customer won’t distinguish between ‘Marketing’, ‘PR’ or ‘Customer Service’. They won’t conveniently direct their social call-outs to the part of your organisation that you’d really like them to take it up with. The Social Phone (to borrow a phrase from Radian6) doesn’t come with an IVR menu. (Maybe that’s one reason people go social rather than telephone customer services).

So if that marketing team have any chance of meeting that challenge they need to figure out how to corral the organisation’s responses to the social phone. And so do PR. And Customer Service. And so on.

That means combining a degree of enablement, mentoring and strategy to equip the people on the ground with what they need to respond. And that runs counter to the established wisdom of old-school marketing. Or PR… etcetera.

I’ll be joined by Duncan Ogle-Skan of EMO (who advises his clients’ how to do this), Leanne Tritton who runs PR & Communications agency ING Media, together with Alistair Watts of Hand Picked Hotels and Janis Prescott at Mini UK, both of whom do this for real.

Are you ready for Big Data?

Great piece on McKinsey Quarterly today. It reminds me of the old-school mantra about ‘information is power’ that led to some types of managers seeking to keep that information close to their own chests, rather than sharing it with the rest of the organisation, to cement their power base.

This is quite a long read – but worth the effort. One immediate stand-out for my world of driving eCommerce revenues:

3. How would your business change if you used big data for widespread, real-time customization?

Customer-facing companies have long used data to segment and target customers. Big data permits a major step beyond what until recently was considered state of the art, by making real-time personalization possible. A next-generation retailer will be able to track the behavior of individual customers from Internet click streams, update their preferences, and model their likely behavior in real time. They will then be able to recognize when customers are nearing a purchase decision and nudge the transaction to completion by bundling preferred products, offered with reward program savings. This real-time targeting, which would also leverage data from the retailer’s multitier membership rewards program, will increase purchases of higher-margin products by its most valuable customers.

I welcome the advent of the data-aware organisation that operates in a transparent set of market conditions. In this world, true leaders will be the ones who can read the context around the data.


Sandlines @ Mediapro

I’ll be on the podium at 2.55 on Tuesday 1st November at the MediaPro conference at Olympia. I’ve just finished putting together my ‘prezi’, so if you’re interested please feel free to take a look.

I’m talking about the balance / contrast between using data to deliver relevance in digital communications with the importance of understanding context as well – particularly as the importance of both smartphones and tablets is changing the ecommerce landscape. Enjoy – and please let me know what you think.

That’s not my name!

Apparently, Groundhog Day is coming...(with apologies to the Ting Tings)

Thanks, Yahoo!

I just got an over-enthusiastic email from Yahoo about something that means very little to me. Following on from my recent rant about poor sign-up practice over at Q Magazine’s website, Yahoo have shown that actually having all that good data can be a waste of time… by failing to use it.

“Dear Yahoo! Calendar and Yahoo! Notepad Customer” runs the greeting.

This is being sent to me because Yahoo! think they hold some information on me – and they definitely have in my Yahoo! profile a record of my name. Shame they didn’t bother to personalise.

And, if they’d paid any attention, they’d realise that I don’t use either Notepad or Calendar. Had they recognised this, they’d have been able to send me an enormously more relevant email inviting me to explore the new service.

Finally, am I alone in thinking this name change is extremely naff?

Sorry Yahoo! No sale.

Barriers to entry

Too much information?Never mind ‘Q‘. The more pertinent question is WHY?

I admit I have a tendency to get more worked up than the average customer about bad form in email sign-ups. Most people, I’m sure, will either groan and put up with it, or lie… Maybe they simply don’t bother and move on.

But for me, it seems daft to go to all the effort and investment of persuading someone to engage more closely with you – and then make it so difficult to actually get on your email list.

There is really only one piece of information you should ‘require‘ to send someone email. Yep, the email address. Take a look at this form: it’s the only thing that Q have NOT required you to give. Madness.

All the other information is useful, I agree. But if you don’t get it immediately, it can still be gathered later… a really good welcome programme is a much better time to do it. Anyway, surely it’s better to be in contact with someone you know only a little about than to lose them completely because they don’t want to share their full address, mobile number and date of birth with you?

I’ve worked with a lot of companies on their sign-up processes and subsequent email programmes. I’ve analysed which data you hold on someone is the best indicator of customer value – for retailers and for media companies. Believe me, there are many more important things than having all these required fields.

Please, Q, stop making your would-be subscribers jump these barriers to entry. You’ll thank me for that advice if you follow it!

Unsubscribe: How not to handle it

A couple of years back, I blogged about an unsubscribe from a Guinness list that asked for WAY too much information. I called it ‘probably the worst unsubscribe in the world’ at the time.

It’s nearly Christmas, so once again I’ve had an email from them – first one I’ve had since October 2008. In a world where around 30% of Guinness’s key target audience have switched / created a new email address in the past year, that 2 year silence alone is a recipe for deliverability hell.

I was curious to see whether they’d improved their unsubscribe options – take a look at t0 see for yourself. There *is* a slight improvement on 2 years ago: you are no longer obliged to share your physical address. But there is still way too much information required for what should be a painless procedure.

When you consider the enormous levels of creative expertise that go into their Google Earth-driven online campaign and their TV commercials, it astonishes me that their data driven marketing is so primitive.

Oh well. Another year, another Christmas spam button hit.

December? Time to make lists!

'tis the winter of our list content

The calendar flipped over to December this week, we got an inch of snow in London… and everything ground to a halt. Except for the compilers of end-of-year lists, who’ve swiftly moved to fill the breach.

Long term readers (yes, both of you) of Sandlines will know that I’m a bit of a music fan, so I’ve closely followed the ‘best albums of 2010′ lists in Q Magazine, NME and the like – and I’m looking forward to various others.

One things struck me, in particular, about the NME list: on their website, they link to the reviews of each album and publish the score (out of ten) of each title listed. The consistency between what they are saying now with their own reviews over the course of the year is astonishingly low.

MGMT’s sophomore effort, Celebration, managed only 6/10 upon release – but features at #19 in the end of year list… considerably higher than the much more favoured Dilinger Escape Plan which, despite being raved about with a 9/10 review, only managed to scrape in at #67.

So what’s behind this?

It reminds me of the discussion around the ‘Pepsi Challenge‘, as discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Pepsi produced a product that, in blind tests, wiped the floor with market-leader Coke. They used this as the basis of a huge marketing campaign. Coke remained (by some distance) market leader. One of the reasons for this, suggested by Gladwell, is that the ‘sip test’ talked only to first impressions – and the sweeter Pepsi drink made a much better first impression. But over time, people found the sweetness cloyed.

Of course, another major factor is the power of brand identity and associations – one of the reasons why Stella Artois spent much of the past 30 years as market leading lager in the UK despite consistently doing poorly in blind taste tests.

So perhaps the lists reflect the more considered satisfaction with the music in question – and the power to last out the initial sugar rush. Certainly, NME’s choice for the top spot, the excellent ‘Hidden’ by These New Puritans signally lacks saccharine (excellent choice, by the way guys).

There’s a clear marketing lesson in there somewhere. But what I’m going to pull out is more direct: these lists make people buy. The Q list made me buy ‘Queen of Denmark’ by John Grant… an album that (assuming it’s not a ‘sip test’ reaction) is probably going to make my top 5 of the year.

PS – my others would be These New Puritans’ ‘Hidden'; Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs'; The National’s ‘High Violet and ‘Total Life Forever’ by Foals.

Go compare? Go away!


According to the Economist last week, it’s on the decline… temporarily at least, thanks to the shutting down of a bunch of servers in Russia.

Part of the rationale Mark Zuckerberg offered for Facebook Messaging when he announced it this month was that:

“…the “social inbox” … would catch spam or other unwanted messages. “Because we know who your friends are, we can put in really good filters to make sure you only see things you care about,” he said, with unwarranted confidence.”

go complain

So why are supposedly respectable marketers like sending me messages I don’t recall signing up for… and then requiring a password, email address (astonishingly) my date of birth to remove my email address from their list? Why???

This comes across very badly: one very small step short of phishing.

In the (generally) looser regulatory environment for email marketing of the United States, would expose them to risk of prosecution. This is one area where the US rules are better crafted than those in Europe, where this is not against regulation – but it is firmly against best practice standards.

In practice, what I did was to hit the ‘REPORT SPAM’ button on my gmail account.

This makes my problem go away, but is only the start of their likely headache.

Increasingly, the focus of deliverability is shifting to an engagement index. Every person that hits the ‘SPAM’ button adds to the likelihood that messages from this sender will end up in the SPAM folder, not the inbox. It doesn’t make any business sense at all to keep people on a list who don’t want to hear from you. So let people leave your list in good grace: they may be more prepared to return to you at a later date when what you have to say is of interest to them again.

The most expensive marketing plan ever?

I’ve just got back from a few days in LA, presenting at Lyris’s Future Vision conference there. Obviously, I flew Air New Zealand from London.

Now I’ll admit, as a kiwi, to being a touch biased. But frankly, this is an airline that takes a completely different view as to why it exists. It’s not just a way of cargo-freighting sardines from one corner of the planet to another, it’s a central part of marketing New Zealand as a whole.

And why not? After all, the main reason you’re likely to fly them is to get to NZ. The airline is a badge of honour for the country, and for tourists the first taste you’ll have of the place. So why not get the experience off to a great start.

The extensive in-flight entertainment module is liberally sprinkled with the best of NZ music and cinema (and I don’t just mean that other expensive tourist video, the Lord of the Rings trilogy). The menu is packed with unashamedly NZ-flavoured meals (NZ Lamb with chick peas…) and a liberally shared wine / beer selection that was extensively steeped in kiwiana.

The in-flight team are not all kiwis, but were all amazing.

And then there was the neat twist on the safety video.

Overall, I loved every minute… and it made me not just want to fly Air New Zealand again whenever I can, but to visit the ‘mother ship’ as well. Great work, guys. That Airline of the Year (2010) award looks spot on to me.

(News)Stand and Deliver

I happened on a column by Julie Burchill today on the Indy’s website. Haven’t been there for a while, seems to have changed a bit since I was last there. And not necessarily for the better.

I liked the piece here – and wanted to share it with my French and Francophile friends… until I found out that it was going to cost me £1 ($1.58) per person to do so via email. Well, it would if I was to use their ‘share’ feature at the top of the story.

I’m really curious: how many people pay to use this? I recall some years ago, when at Yahoo!, I sold a lucrative sponsorship deal to Vodafone around this email-to-a-friend function on Yahoo! News pages. Not a lot of people used it, but Vodafone felt that those who did were people worth connecting with. We might call them Mavens if we’d read our Gladwell.

But, seriously, make them pay to tell other people to go and look at this content? I’d love to have seen the meeting where THAT idea was discussed.

Oh – and I would have shared a link to the story, but I don’t think I could afford it…