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A few weeks ago, the media gleefully revealed that Jamie and Jools Oliver had named their new daughter Petal Blossom Rainbow. When we stopped snorting, my BHP colleagues and I reflected that the Olivers are just conforming to a celebrity tradition of giving their offspring ‘distinctive’ names. The Fluffy Bunny Wabbit variety is a relatively recent phenomenon, probably inspired by the late Paula Yates, mother of Peaches, Fifi Trixibelle and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. But it’s been almost 40 years since David Bowie boldly called his son Zowie Bowie and Frank Zappa sired the oddly-named Moon Unit. Yet even these two zanies seem quite restrained beside the magician Penn Jillette, father of the fabulous Moxie Crimefighter, the actress Shannyn Sossamon, doting mother of Audio Science, and singer John Mellencamp, proud progenitor of the unfortunate Speck Wildhorse. WHAT WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING? It would be easy to poke fun, to go on about how the other kids in class will be sniggering behind their hands during registration, and how potential employers will assume their job application is a joke. But the truth is that their names are no real handicap at all, because these children automatically belong to an exclusive club where a bonkers name is more or less a membership requirement. They’re not really going to be applying for jobs at Sainsbury’s, are they? My point is that the suitability of a name is dependent on context – and it’s the same with business. Some time ago we interviewed Neena Trehan, the owner of Spa Fabulous, which leaves you in no doubt what to expect. Spa Fabulous just works. So, for quite different reasons, does IBM. I’ve no idea what IBM stands for, but I do know that big business loves an important-sounding abbreviation - so IBM works for me. In fact, I suspect that if IBM were to rebrand itself as IT Fabulous it would collapse overnight, leaving thousands of executives called Jim, Garry and Tom to console themselves with a relaxing massage at Neena’s as they wonder where it all went wrong. As far as I can see, a business name has to do five things:
It doesn’t have to be attention-seeking, but it does need to be self-aware. J Brown & Son Locksmith is fine, suggesting craft and continuity – exactly what security-conscious customers are looking for. J Brown & Son Fashion, however, makes me think of neglected seaside towns where old people go to sit on graffiti-strewn benches and stare mournfully at the sea. Naming a business - like naming a child, I guess - is a bit of an art. It’s not so much that you have to get it dead right as you must not get it wrong. And context matters, a lot. Zowie Bowie understands this. As an adult pursuing a serious career in the film industry, he’s rejected the proxy glamour of Zowie Bowie in favour of something rather more prosaic: nowadays he’s plain old Duncan Jones. I wonder if Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver will ever wish for such an ordinary monicker in years to come?
Over the weekend, I was following a handful of events and news online. Also, quite unusually for me, I picked up a copy of The Times, and was fascinated to see that a large amount of space had been given to stories which reflected some of the things that I was following online. Unusual in that recently the newspapers have been lagging behind (in some cases by days) compared to say Twitter. In short, there are a lot of very strong indicators that social media is going through the roof. So here I was, about to pull together a whole lot of great statistics for the benefit of those who are still unconvinced. And then I found blog on Mashable - which does the job better than I could ever hope to. If you have a 120 seconds spare and you want a competitive edge, make sure you read this blog post.
If you spend any time online at all (and you clearly do because you’re reading this blog post), you’ve probably seen your fair share of viral videos. There’s a long list of videos which are brilliant examples of content which is entertaining, amusing, controversial or extraordinary in some way. And because of one or a combination of those qualities, they end up spreading like wildfire as people forward them on to their friends. In the last few days, a video shot in Britain (and numerous versions of it) has been doing the viral thing around the world. If you haven’t already seen Susan Boyle’s performance in Britain’s Got Talent, then despite the fact that this comes from a reality TV show that you either love or hate, you definitely should watch it. What’s really interesting is that they experts are confirming that this is probably the most viral video in history, watched by more people than the video of Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. And many more than Obama’s victory speech. Like many tens of millions more!! Social media measurement company Visible Measures has written a great post about this. But the key graph that they have shared says it all (see below, and click the graph to get to their blog). [UPDATE as at 11am Monday 20 April: the video has (in its various versions) now been watched almost 100M times since launch]. While you would be foolish and delusional to expect that you can engineer this kind of virality, what this does show is that when you get the formula right, video is an exceptionally “spreadable” media. From a business perspective, this means that if you’re not already incorporating video into your marketing mix, you should look at it both seriously and urgently. The graph below speaks for itself - even 12 months ago video was the fastest growing and most favoured social media.
When it comes to information on websites, the old library model is tried and trusted. Everything’s arranged in some sort of hierarchy and you just drill down until you hit what you want (used to be oil, gold’s probably better these days). But a library’s kind of quiet – what if you want to share ideas and see what’s happening? And anyway, marketing – in fact, business of any kind – doesn’t often work in such a neat and tidy way. A small business may well see ‘advertising’ as a discrete marketing topic while an agency thinks in terms of integrated marcomms. So the Marketing Donut gives users a choice. There’s a library of drillable ‘topics’ (and a search function for the really abrupt). That’ll suit lots of visitors looking for advice on a specific aspect of marketing – they’ll quickly find the page they want, maybe take a peek at a few related resources, and that’s it. But there’s also a choice of broad ‘themes’ for users who want to get a bit more involved. We’re hoping they’ll appeal to people who are serious about marketing – our own experts, marketing specialists and owner-managers who know what’s important. (You can hide away doing admin and what have you for as long as you like, but let’s face it – marketing is what it’s all about.) Why themes? Probably not the right question to ask when we’re talking Marketing Donut but it’s a good excuse to link to my favourite theme tune. More to the point, what did we come up with?
Planning – all the stuff we know is really important that somehow keeps slipping down the to-do list .... Promotion – probably the first thing that springs to mind when you talk about marketing, everything from Advertising to reaching Zuppies (I found this on the CIM’s website but I think they just made it up). Selling – getting down and dirty at the coalface. Maximising – making the most of your existing customers: everyone’s always saying how vital they are, and how marketing to existing customers is much more cost-effective than chasing new leads, but it rarely seems to grab the same attention Start-up – everything marketing, but from the start-up angle; seriously practical and low cost marketing, not the place for jargon and theory.
See you there.
What we expect governs how we react. A child may be disappointed with their present if it’s not the one they expected. Another child, with lower expectations, might be delighted with the same toy.
In business, setting the expectations of customers, staff and suppliers is critical. Often, they will judge you not against an absolute standard, but against what they expect. For instance, the expectations on phoning an overseas call centre can be very low - so it may be relatively easy to please a caller. On the other hand, a visit to The Ritz may be eagerly anticipated, and easily disappointed. Which is why following a recent visit I shall never be returning there again.
We have to work hard to set expectations, but they must be reasonable and the cost must work too. Miss this part out and we will have big problems. So we mustn’t deliver a Tata Motors People’s Car if we charge for a Rolls Royce. Unfortunately, it’s more common for customers to expect a Rolls when they have paid for a Tata. That’s life, but it’s down to us to educate them.
I recently dropped off an outboard motor for a service. Before they would accept it, the company told me it would be at least three weeks before they did the job. It’s a long time, but I’m not angry that I’m still waiting, because they set my expectations correctly up front.
After simple delivery, setting expectations is the most important business tool for nurturing good relations with staff, suppliers and customers. Too bad it’s not talked about more.
OK, so we are in the midst of a recession, times are hard and it certainly isn’t pleasant out there. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! We are finding that some of our clients are bucking the trend and experiencing some of the most successful shows than ever before.
Although some companies have pulled out of exhibitions as they believe them to be an unnecessary expense or not a profitable exercise, (says to me that they have the wrong stand, the wrong staff or the wrong strategy), companies who are exhibiting are finding that the competition on the show floor is far less fierce and the fact that (generally) footfall at exhibitions has remained constant, this means that they have a far greater lions share when it comes to the all important visitors and target audience.
Another interesting piece of research we have conducted amongst our client base is that the quality of show visitor has increased during these hard times. This can be explained by the fact that staff numbers amongst some companies have dwindled leaving the figure heads to pick up the workload. Therefore, long gone are the days of PAs and researchers being sent to the exhibition to gather information and rack up a rather impressive bar tab, instead it’s the decision maker’s turn to hit the key shows and events, make a qualified decision and attract as little expense as possible during the process.
At Thinking Clear we live, sleep and breathe exhibitions and it’s such a shame that sometimes the first budget to fall is the exhibition spend. These decisions to slash the budgets are made, typically, without any real understanding as to how to get the best results form a show campaign. We see exhibitors on mobile phones, eating snacks or discussing where to head for the evening on stand… or worse… the dreaded salesman who simply will not let the visitor leave until they know every ounce of product information and has given the names of their first pet, first music record and first kiss! Get the key information required to follow up, don’t bombard them, and get them off the stand so you can bring a new prospect on… is what we say!
Just remember, you can have the most eye catching, awe inspiring stand at the show, but if your staff aren’t properly trained and your objectives not clear then how can you expect to attain a return on investment?! I’ll take a wild guess that some of you may be thinking… ‘How have we managed to get any leads in the past?! And if we have, then blimey, imagine how many we could get if we knew what we were doing!!’
Over the coming months I will be blogging many ways to ensure your future show is a huge success and if you’ve got a budget meeting coming up then please feel free to drop me a line, I’ll give you a few statistics you can draw all over the boardroom walls!