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"Trust me, I'm a politician"

April 15, 2010 by Simon Wicks

David Cameron, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown

Whenever there’s a general election, the political parties go into marketing overdrive. They bludgeon us with large full-mix marketing campaigns that incorporate market research, customer targeting, branding, straplines, press and PR, direct marketing through leaflets, doorstep selling, outdoor advertising and now, of course, online marketing and social media.

They leave no stone unturned to reach us, get us in their vice-like handshake and persuade us to “Vote for me!”. At the same time, there’s all sorts of underhand guerrilla campaigning going on, supported nowadays by an army of bloggers and viral marketeers.

What we’ve seen in the past few weeks is the political juggernauts firing up, heavy boots pressing down on the accelerator and the great unwieldy vehicles steadily building up speed. Soon, they will overwhelm us. 

Some of these political campaigns are an object lesson in how to create and execute a corporate marketing campaign, driven by the zest and evangelical beliefs of thousands of volunteers - or as I like to call the party activists, “unpaid marketing interns”.

But does it work? Is it actually going to make us vote? At the last two general elections, just 59 per cent and 61 per cent respectively of the electorate turned out to put a cross next to their favoured candidate’s name. That’s pretty low.

As any fule no, no brand is worth diddleysquat unless we believe in it. Frequently we see an enormous “reality gap” between a claim made about a brand and our real experience of it. A big reality gap can be profoundly destructive to a company’s reputation. Some survive by tackling the issue head on. Others never really recover and slip out of our consumer consciousness.

In the case of the political parties, there’s a massive reality gap which presents a serious challenge to the people charged with marketing them. Politicians operate on the basis of trust, yet they have been hurt by a succession of scandals that undermine our trust in them. So how do deal with that as a marketer?

Our Twitter followers had plenty to say on the issue of political marketing campaigns and how we would run them. Below is just a representative selection. It’s interesting that not one person had something positive to say about our politicians:

@brightwomenare 1. Focus on positive messages. 2. Stop fudging and be clear - even if bad news. 3. Stop personalising.

@debutmarketing They should stop telling us what's wrong with the other lot and start telling us what they're going to do. 

@debutmarketing Politicians should stop knocking the competition and start telling us the benefits of voting for them.

@Web_D Stop bickering like a bunch of kids when they get together. #actyourage #childish #notfittorunthecountry

@clairedowdall I’d make politicians sign something that binds them into delivering what they promise - or else! Plus easy manifesto comparison.

@jakepjohnson I’d make my campaign about my party’s positives and not just about the opposition's negatives.

It seems pretty clear to me. The big focus of any political marketing campaign should be the restoration of trust:

  • We would not make promises we can’t or don’t intend to keep
  • We would stress the positive aspects of our own brand or product and not knock the negative aspects of our rivals’.
  • We would be unafraid to deliver tough news honestly.

Is this a recipe for electoral success? Or just the start of a long, hard slog back to credibility? I suspect the politicians will have a lot more marketing to do before we’re comfortable about buying into their brands again.

What do you think?

Who's got the best election slogan?

April 12, 2010 by Simon Wicks

Each of the three major political parties has now unveiled the election slogan that will underpin its campaign. This is a vital piece of their election toolkit – it’s the platform on which the rest of their messaging will be built. In marketing terms, it’s their USP. But do they work? And what makes a good election slogan anyway?

I’ve done some thinking of my own and I asked your opinions, too, via the Marketing Donut Twitter account.

Labour: A future fair for all

The Labour Party slogan recalls its great founding principle, equality - presumably because they feel it’s the key distinction arch rivals, the Conservatives. The phrase itself has a poetic, but archaic quality. Rather than looking forward to a progressive future, it seems almost a requiem for an ideal that has never been achieved.

This is what you thought:

@the_shopkeeper Surely this should be “A fair future for all”? Rolls easier off the tongue, in my humble opinion.

@Web_D Sounds like there's going to be a rollercoaster and dodgems.

@JanMinihane Sounds like Labour are planning a fair, how wonderful.

Conservative: Vote for change

The Conservative Party slogan has the virtues of directness, simplicity and it’s memorable – all key elements of a good slogan. On the other hand, it doesn’t tell you what they want to change or who will benefit from the change. Is it us? Or is it them? They seem to rely on a public appetite for something – anything – different.

You said:

@benparkatbjs Does anyone know the Tory election slogan? “Spare any change?” isn't it? Something like that.

@runninginheels7 Conservative could mean change in any sense or subject?

@dpoyser Would have to be the Conservatives; most descriptive with the least number of syllables and it makes the best soundbite.

 @JanMinihane Conservative Slogan: "Time for change" - what, 20p, 50p, 5p?? Bit too snappy and short for my liking.

Liberal Democrat: Change that works for you, building a fairer Britain

Of all the slogans, the Liberal Democrat one feels most designed by committee. It’s a mouthful, two slogans tacked together - two slogans we’ve already seen, in fact. The Lib Dems truly are finding a middle way with this one; they have the promise of change (Conservative) AND the promise of equality (Labour) all in one rather unwieldy mouthful.

It is, however, the only slogan that actually speaks directly to you, the reader. This alone was enough to help it find favour with our Twitter following:

@mathewhulbert In simplistic terms you might think the Tories is the best, but the Lib Dems speaks to two different groups.

@Web_D I like this actually. It’s the “for you” that wins me over.

@JanMinihane  My fave, seems more personal somehow.

And the winner is...

@twistandshoutuk That Lib Dem one seems a bit weird and wordy. The Labour one sounds like part of a poem. Conservatives is brief and snappy.

In a sense, each of the slogans does exactly what we might expect of each of the parties: the Labour slogan treats us a collective; the Conservative slogan commands us; the Liberal Democrat slogan tries very hard to appeal to everyone – but at least they are personable about it.

When I asked how you would rewrite the slogans, I should have known I was inviting trouble:

@benjamindyer How about “Write me a letter if you like, but I am too busy knocking back Martinis and attending garden parties to care.”

@Web_D I’d vote for any party that admitted the truth: “We're in the s**t... It will be tough, but we'll get through it in time.”

Despite this cynicism, I’ve had a go at adjusting the slogans to address the criticisms and this is what I came up with:

Labour: A fairer future for you

Conservative: Changing Britain for the better

Liberal Democrat: Your only REAL alternative

I reckon they might just work. What do you think?

Editor’s round-up: A touch of nostalgia and a cause for celebration

April 09, 2010 by Simon Wicks

When I was growing up in the 1980s there were few things I enjoyed more than a trip to the corner shop and those delicious words: “A quarter of lemon bonbons please.”

If I was feeling flush I might add: “Oh, and could I have four Blackjacks and a Fruit Salad, too, please?”

I have a very sweet tooth and miss being able to order sweets by the quarter pound. A sealed 125g packet just isn’t the same, is it? So I was delighted when I encountered an old-fashioned sweet shop in Broadstairs a few years ago. I was even more delighted when our Rachel emailed me our latest case study.

A Quarter Of is a fantastic business. What a great idea - to source and sell the treats of our youth to a web-savvy customer base. Brilliant. I love the Internet. Even better, owner Michael Parker has created a forum for people my age to list all the things they remember from the 1980s. You know you’re a child of the 80s when…  In my case, the answer would be ‘when you were able to smoke on the top deck of the bus, in your school uniform’. But I’m not sure they’d put that up in this day and age…

This week we’ve also sent out the latest issue of the MyDonut e-newsletter. The profile of Ola Laniyan-Amoako on our sister website the Start Up Donut was very well-received and even prompted several requests from other business owners who would like to be profiled. Which saves me some work!

In addition to the newsletter (you can sign up for it here), we’re thinking about launching a weekly small business news headlines service for MyDonut subscribers. This would mean news headlines straight to your inbox, every Friday. We'd love to know what you thik about the idea. You can sign up for MyDonut here, by the way.

So what’s next? Two things: General Election coverage and our first birthday. With the Election, we’ve decided to stick to what we do best, which is provide useful advice and information for small businesses. We may be choosing a new government, but you’ve still got a business to run, right?

That’s not to say we’ll be ignoring the Election - quite the opposite. But we’ll be trying not to just regurgitate the kind of material you can get everywhere else. We prefer to keep the focus on you - your business, your concerns - in the weeks leading up to 6 May. By the way, if you’d like to contribute to our election diary, please email me and let me know.

We’re also getting ready to celebrate our first birthday. Unbelievably, 20 April will mark a full year since we launched the Donut websites (starting with this one). It’s been fascinating, fruitful and definitely fatiguing at times. But it’s also fantastic to edit a website like this. So, on 20 April, we’ll be marking our birthday with - a donut. Well, what do you expect?? We’ll also have blogs, articles and maybe one or two other surprises. Then it’s onwards and upwards for the Marketing Donut - the site that never rests.*

Have a good weekend,

Simon

* Except during the evenings and at weekends.

 

Valuable content will help you sell

April 07, 2010 by Sonja Jefferson

In our Internet-driven business world, content is king. The quality of the information you put out across the web will directly affect how successful you are at generating leads and closing business.

But what type of content do you need to provide and what should you write about? Here are some tips and examples:

  1. Adopt the right attitude when thinking about creating content. Produce information that is of real value to your customer base. Your position should be NOT “look how great we are” (as in a traditional brochure) but “look how useful we are – we have the answer to your problems.” Create content that is genuinely useful to your customers.
  2. Pick the right tool. There are many different types of content to choose from: articles, newsletters, webinars, online presentations, audio, video, white papers, case studies, ebooks...the list goes on. Select the tools that your customers are most likely to engage with. A variety of methods often works best.
  3. Informative articles are a great starting point; and the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to get them published and out to your customers is via a business blog. Sign up to Wordpress or Blogger; link the blog to your corporate website and start writing useful, education articles.
  4. Think like a customer. What questions do they ask when selecting products or services in your field? What problems can you help them to solve? Listen carefully to your customers and create helpful content just for them.
  5. Make your website a resource hub. All this valuable content will start to transform your site from a flat, online brochure into a living, breathing resource for your customers. Update your content regularly to keep it fresh and invite your customers to sign up for newly added information.

Valuable content is a win-win for you and your buyers. They learn what they need to help them with their challenge and you demonstrate your expertise and build the trust that leads to sales.

Some valuable content heroes from the small business world:

  • Mel Lester produces a fantastically useful monthly ezine for his architecture and engineering clients: an amalgam of his best blog articles, industry news and trends plus insight from others in the field www.blog-bizedge.biz
  • Heather Townsend – a well respected business coach – sends out fortnightly efficiency tips on a Monday morning as a reminder to get organised and stay on track www.theefficiencycoach.co.uk/blog
  • Bryony Thomas and her company Clear Thought Consulting have created short video tutorials for their B2B clients with tips on all aspects of marketing www.clear-thought.co.uk/10_minute_tips

What would help your customers? What valuable content can you create?

How do you like them apples, eh?

March 30, 2010 by James Ainsworth

As a resident of the West Country, I am accustomed to the fact that cider is a way of life round these ’ere parts. When Blackthorn changed their recipe last year and went for a big relaunch, billboards were defaced, Facebook pages launched and free samples through the local paper were rejected. Believe me, a Bristolian does not reject free cider readily. The resulting public campaign to return to the original recipe won through and the brand conceded defeat.

In Bristol there is a boat that has been converted into a bar that goes by the name of The Apple and sells the juice by the bucket load. There is also a small, tucked-away, gem of a pub in Clifton called The Coronation Tap - or to those more affectionate or slurred of speech, The Corrie Tap. Here they sell a cider known as ‘Exhibition’ and such is its potency they only sell it by the half pint.

Last week’s Budget heaped misery on the West Country, with dear Mr Darling making cider play taxation catch-up. A 10 per cent increase came into effect as of Sunday and in doing so brought cider in line with beer, spirits and wine for relative taxation value. While stories of queues stretching for miles — akin to a petrol price hike — are greatly exaggerated, it is the talk of the town.

Tonight the BBC’s ‘The One Show’ is filming a feature on the popularity of the drink at the fabled Corrie Tap (free samples from 6pm I hear). Will I see you there?

Editor’s round-up: cakes, cash and a wordle

March 26, 2010 by Simon Wicks

It’s been a great week: fun, exciting and we’ve had the best traffic figures ever on the Marketing Donut. The most popular single item of the week was our case study of the online cupcake community, How we got together online to boost our cupcake business.This produced a fantastic response within the world of cupcake makers, who spent the whole week sharing the article and spreading the word about the Marketing Donut. I’d like one of these, thanks guys:

Cupcakes at Liana's Star Bakery

But probably our biggest draw overall this week was our extensive Budget coverage on Wednesday – and this is what made it such a busy and exciting week. I blogged live as the Chancellor read his speech, the team tweeted like crazy and we published a Budget round-up and the reaction from small businesses before the end of the day.

We were really pleased to be the only news organisation to spot the National Minimum Wage increase on Budget day itself. This wasn’t in the Chancellor’s speech, but buried deeply in the Budget Notes where it was spotted by one of our eagle-eyed editors. We called the Treasury, checked it out and slipped it into our coverage minutes before publication. Result.

The Budget also produced my favourite thing on the Marketing Donut this week – our James’s rapid response analysis of the Budget in words and pictures. Take a look; it made me smile.

Post-Budget, it was an early start on Thursday morning for a trip to our Bristol office where I delivered an editorial training and went to the Bristol Twestival in the evening. This fundraising networking event was kind of a who’s who on the Internet in Bristol, which is a real new media hub. It got a bit raucous and raised in the region of £4,000 for Concern Worldwide, who are no doubt very happy indeed. Good stuff.

Now it’s back to earth and the business of providing good marketing information to small businesses. We’ll be updating our favourite things with more books, videos and websites you should be reading, watching and visiting, Plus, we’ll have information on mobile phone apps, advice on closing a sale and tips for making your business stand out from the crowd.

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