Inbound marketing Infographic (2013)

1 May

Dan Bosomworth of recently made some fundamental amends to an infographic he conceived last year, visualising the inbound marketing effect. It made me think how the world of content marketing has evolved in the past 12 months, and how digital and traditional (multi-channel) integration is inevitable more than ever before.

Inbound marketing 2012 Inbound marketing 2012

Here’s SI’s 2012 infographic on Inbound Marketing (a diagram I’ve referred to many times with my own clients): Here, we see a really sweet visualisation of how published content plays a key part in the inbound marketing effect – all the while ensuring that relevant listening tools are utilised properly to evaluate campaign effectiveness.

Inbound marketing 2013


Inbound marketing 2013

Moving a year on, Dan and the guys at SI have considered the obvious need to compliment published content with paid media. In this case, Dan highlights (in the ‘Tape Deck”, as he calls it) not only PPC, social, display and affiliate channels, but also ‘offline’ media as part and parcel of this driver. Naturally, these paid media options must drive the consumer to brands’ digital hub and I like the idea that offline (interruptive) media can be used to do this in more creative and tactical ways going forward. Equally, with the emergence of the likes of Tint (a new social media tool, designed to integrate all of your social platforms into your online hub), the ‘Owned Media’ element will play a crucial part in the evolution of content marketing strategy in the coming months; encouraging consumers to engage more fully with brands online.

Thanks to Dan for his continually inspiring infographics on this subject; you can read his blog about the new inbound marketing (2013) infographic here. brand feature

4 Apr

I recently wrote a piece for on the importance of feedback for brands (wonder how long it’ll be before someone comments how ‘pants’ the piece is…).

martin o'toole lingerie insight retail branding feature

3 Apr

Proof they’ll print anything these days…

Here’s a recent piece I did for Womenswear Buyer, Menswear Buyer, and Footwear & Fashion Extras magazines, on the importance of brand for independent fashion retailers.

martin o'toole branding

Lingerie branding and Cupid’s arrow

8 Feb

“Have you seen my pussy?”

So the petals are falling off the roses, the cards are gathering dust on the mantle, and our bank balances are a chunk lighter than they were last Wednesday, and I’m wondering about some of the brand messages I imbibed over the Valentine’s period.

Since we work with the luxury lingerie brand Something Wicked, I’m on the mailing list of a number of lingerie brands, to keep a close eye on lingerie branding and creative strategies. This means my inbox usually contains a rather interesting array of imagery – from the decadent to the downright kinky. The annual pre-love-day push is usually pretty full-on and this year it showed no sign of abatement.  However, the thing that struck me was the sudden shift in brand messaging, as the target audience shifted from women, to men – and the apparent misunderstanding of how a lingerie brand might wish to communicate with a male audience.

Having spent seven figures rebranding last year, Ann Summers underwent a largescale brand overhaul. Speaking in an interview in Jan 2012, Jacqueline Gold commented on the lingerie branding exercise:

“We realised Ann Summers had lost its mojo. Customers were saying we were less edgy compared to the rest of the high street and that there was a lack of naughtiness when comparing the Ann Summers of today to the Ann Summers of old. We recognised that we had become a little too safe and had started to lose what made us different. It gave us the opportunity to reinvigorate our brand. Some businesses might think we were mad to spend on research at such a difficult economic time, but for me it was crucial. It’s the businesses that stand still and stop listening to their customers that will suffer more.”

The rebrand was designed to reposition the brand as one which was influenced by pop culture and women like Rihanna and Christina Aguilera – raising the profile and credibility of the brand, essentially making it more up-market.

For the most part, they’ve done a fantastic job; sales are up, brand awareness is up, and Ann Summer has positioned itself as an open and accessible sex-cessory and lingerie retailer. Their advertising creative and brand messaging has taken a really positive leap forward. Then I saw their 2013 Valentine’s Day offering (clearly targeting men). Surprising to say the least…

Copy-wise, it starts well, with what promises to be a smart script, but then quickly sinks into a pretty tacky approach to marketing the brand’s Valentine’s lingerie range – the low point being a badly edited close-up of a woman’s wide open mouth, catching copious amounts of goo (one assumes lubricant) as it’s poured all over her face. From a brand perspective, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s taking the brand backwards after all the hard work in raising credibility; from a consumer perspective, I cringed to the point of whimpering.

In the same week, I received the first of a suite of slick, well styled/shot emails, from my old friend Agent Provocateur

Ever since I saw their cinema ad featuring Kylie Minogue, I’ve been a big fan of AP. I’ve loved their brand advertising; their e-commerce, their packaging and indeed their products. Top-class lingerie branding and always have been. From an ECRM perspective, they’re smart and intuitive; and I can’t help but smile every time they catch me out with content-fed online display ads shortly after I’ve been browsing through their site. All-in-all, a phenomenal luxury lingerie brand in my view. And then came their 2013 Valentine’s Day ad:

“Have you seen my pussy?” REALLY??!! 

So what’s going on here? Two brands with aspirations that were clearly shot down by Cupid’s arrow – both of which have sold out this Valentine’s Day, in favour of using tacky, low-market, unsophisticated creative. I’m not sure what this says about the brands’ understanding of the male partners of their typically female clientele? Are we (men) all mindless morons, driven by heinously unsubtle images of lube-soaked lips? Are we so thick and unsophisticated that we need the use of the word ‘pussy’ in lingerie ad creative, in order that we’ll engage? I genuinely don’t believe so.

Perhaps we as consumers will forgive the brands we’re loyal to, for their occasional off-brand blips? Or is it possible that having such tangent ‘cease-fires’ on brand strategy, could seriously damage our perception of the brands we know and love? Only time will tell I suppose.

Brands and social media honesty

2 Nov brands and social honesty bodyform

I read a really interesting blog by a chap called Jonathan MacDonald the other day, as he discussed ‘The Fallacy of Social Media’.

What sparked his thinking was the recent video that Bodyform released as a response to a member of the public’s comment on Bodyform’s Facebook page.

At length, Jonathan discusses the validity of the video – and whether, as a creative piece, it has any real consumer engagement value – especially since the video is of an actress, purporting to be the ‘CEO of Bodyform’.

He wasn’t the only person to write about Bodyform’s video; in fact, it’s been well documented about featured in the majority of the marketing press – heralded as creative genius. In addition, many people have speculated whether the original Facebook posting (by a chap called ‘Richard’) was fake and part of the campaign.

All-in-all, Bodyform has created a great topic for discussion. On the one hand, the creative industry is congratulating them for a sweet idea – well scripted, well presented, simple and fun. The idea that the CEO of Bodyform would honestly and frankly refer to menstruation as a “crimson landslide” was certainly evocative (and honest). On the other hand, digital purists and marketers are bringing into question the manipulation of social media by brands, and whether brands using social media in such a way makes for an effective social media campaign.

For me, the ongoing use of brands of social media it comes down to three things:

  1. Are brands being honest and truthful when using social media?
  2. What (aside from an increase in sales) constitutes an effective social media campaign?

The essence of social media (in the context of brand interaction) is about brand loyalists sharing their views and opinions on brands/products. The issue is that many brands are still not getting the honesty factor and are still (as they’ve always done) considering ways to manipulate the social sphere. Sadly, this can be said across all digital channels, and I wonder whether that will ever fully change.

I’ve always believed that this arena will ultimately force brands to be honest and true. Don’t try to manipulate it, because you’ll be found out – and your #epicfail will be shared by countless consumers, at the click of a ‘like’ or a ‘share’.

Was Bodyform’s response funny? Oh yes it was. Was it honest? Sort of. I did enjoy it – as did 3 million other viewers. Great copywriting (and delivery) and certainly along the lines of what we’ve all been thinking over the decades of watching these ludicrous happy-go-lucky-menstrual-lady-solution ads.

So what’s the answer on this occasion? Perhaps, if the ACTUAL CEO of Bodyform had replied to Richard via Facebook directly and said something similar..? Perhaps that would’ve been just as shareable – and indeed honest.

In fact, it would’ve been truthful brand interaction with a consumer, via a social media channel. Which is what it’s all about and where the opportunity lies – isn’t it..?

Marketing agency pitch etiquette

16 Oct Marketing agency pitch etiquette

Previously, I wrote an ebook called ‘Life’s a Pitch’, which is on this site – as well on the digital marketing information sharing site, Whilst not wishing to repeat my earlier thoughts on this subject, a recent incident made me consider agency pitch etiquette in addition to pitch process.

In July, we were invited to a TV advertising agency pitch for a very well known national network of ambulance-chasers. We were up against 2 major northern agencies (1 in Manc and the other in Brum). It was a good prospect and thus we were delighted to be invited to pitch.

We presented our creative to the owners of the firm (a father and son) at the end of July. At the end of the pitch, our hosts informed us that the other agencies were due to pitch within the forthcoming 5-week period and therefore, regrettably, we’d be waiting until then to hear the outcome.

6 weeks on and I made the traditional courtesy call to the MD of the business and ended up leaving him a message. A few days after, when I’d heard nothing, I sentAgency Pitch Etiquette him an email. A week later (again, nothing), I did the same – all very calm, all very courteous – and certainly without a modicum of desperation. In the following weeks, I repeated the process – never receiving any acknowledgement.

So on Friday, I called the MD’s direct line and to my surprise, he answered. The moment he realised it was me, he found himself rather lost for words, clearly uncomfortable as he stammered and told me they’d appointed one of our competitors. He (rather unconvincingly) fibbed about it being a very recent decision etc. I bit my lip; thanked him for the opportunity and that was the end of the call.

We win pitches and we lose them; it’s the nature of the beast. There can be no room for sour grapes and we know to accept the rough with the smooth and cope with the expected level of disappointment if we are unsuccessful. However, one does expect a level of professionalism and courtesy – and that each party follows some level of etiquette. So here are the things to keep in mind when running an agency pitch:

6 Points on Marketing Agency Pitch Etiquette:

  1. Be courteous to all of the agencies you invite to pitch. If they ask additional questions in advance of the pitch, consider that as a good thing. Plenty of creative agencies will simply take the written brief you’ve provided (assuming you’ve provided one), then respond without questioning. Questioning is good and should not be viewed as an irritation;
  2. Provide a written brief! There’s a clear link between clients being disappointed with the results of a pitch and the brief provided (“shit in, shit out” is the more crude expression, I believe). If you haven’t provided a structured brief, what else would you expect? Unless an objective of your pitch is to challenge creative agencies by seeing how they think on their feet (rather than working to a structured brief), then providing the same brief to all parties involved, will reduce your potential for disappointment come the day of the beauty parade. It’s also fair;
  3. Don’t invite too many agencies. An agency pitch should ideally have between 3-5 prospective agencies (more likely the former). Any more implies a lack of focus; notwithstanding the veritable time and financial resource required by all parties. Don’t ever feel as though you should invite additional agencies to ‘fill a space’, as is often the case. If you don’t genuinely rate them, do not invite them. Simple;
  4. During the pitch process, give every agency equal opportunities. Give them the same amount of time (it should be reasonable time. Telling an agency they have 45 minutes to present strategy plus a selection of executions/ideas is hardly polite or fair). If an agency has spent time, effort and resource on producing creative and strategic ideas for your consideration (on average, for a TV advertising pitch, we would likely spend 1-2 weeks, spending something in the region of £20k-£30k in time/visuals), the least you can do is give the agency a couple of hours of your time to meet with them and hear their ideas;
  5. After the pitch, try your best to review and select at your earliest convenience. Consider the fact that you likely gave your agencies 2-4 weeks to respond to your brief (which they did eagerly). Consider that they’ll be keen to learn whether they’ve been successful;
  6. Your first call may well be to the winning agency, whom you will doubtless surprise and delight with the fantastic news. You’ll exuberantly compliment each other and likely arrange a follow-up meeting over drinks or dinner, to discuss how you’d like to work together and how best to approach the project. Once that call’s over, don’t forget the other agencies. Call them in the same moment. Let them down with courtesy. Remember, the marketing agency industry is as small a world as yours. Agencies talk – especially when they’ve won an account. The last thing any agency wants is to hear through another (winning) agency that they’ve lost a pitch.

Teaching Grandma? If that’s the case, then ace. Last week, I learned that this stuff isn’t simple commonsense. Hence me taking the time to share these thoughts.

In summary, it’s all about courtesy. Can’t recall whether it was Jesus or one of his 12, who was quoted as having said: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you”. I’m not religious, but I’m a big fan of manners. After all, without them, business can be absolutely miserable.

Traditional and digital agency integration: adapt or die

1 Oct

I had a beer and chat with a specialist consultant, who is doing phenomenally well working with agencies, helping them integrate digital agency expertise into what we’d know as traditional marketing disciplinary departments (advertising, PR etc). We spent a great deal of our time together discussing the various pitfalls associated with this issue – and the nuances surrounding traditional and digital agency integration.

The conversation went along the lines of me expressing huge surprise that the agencies we discussed (some of them very large indeed) were having such a tough time properly integrating their traditional and digital creative propositions. In addition, my drinking partner pointed out that a lot more agencies are fearful of this issue than people in our industry are led to believe. Surprised? I was. To be clear, what he meant by this was that a great deal of agencies offering integrated traditional/digital services, are either doing it wrong or making it up as they go along (and subsequently struggling).

I freely admit that I/we had to take my own agency back to school for some serious re-education since setting up in late 2010. Specifically, this was in the areas of social commerce, inbound and content marketing. Whilst the agency has grown from strength-to-strength in terms of providing traditional creative solutions for brands, I’ve had to open my mind to the new possibilities available via the ever-changing landscape of digital (online) marketing and learn how best to offer an integrated online/offline portfolio of products to our clients. From a viewpoint that we needed to redesign a product offering that integrated our creative output with modern inbound marketing concepts.

I’m of the opinion that as long as agencies refer to their ‘online’ and ‘offline’ service lines as completely separate propositions and disciplines, and as long as they have teams for each, who don’t fully understand each others’ skill-sets, they put themselves in grave danger of being overtaken by the following:

  1. Traditional agencies that have not knee-jerkingly repositioned themselves as a ‘digital creative agency’, but have adapted their already strong creative output to include digital channels;
  2. Active and entrepreneurial digital agencies, whose entire business models have been built on rapid evolution and adaptability – thus they are well-placed to simply enhance their own propositions by employing teams of flexible brand creatives who can effectively then work within digital media channels.
Clearly, the above has already happened on a grand scale. Clearly it will continue to happen. Clearly I’ve already done it, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog. However, many agencies still haven’t and I’m led to believe that many larger agencies are struggling with it, due to their size and cultures (the old adage about turning oil tankers being at the forefront of my mind).
From my perspective, the interesting question is which agency is better placed to do this? Let’s look at the issues surrounding each:

Your traditional agency…

  • Likely has a management and strategy team with years of experience in producing traditional above-the-line creative (TV, press, outdoor, DM etc);
  • Has a creative team with core skills set around traditional advertising;
  • Has an account management team similar to the above (with less industry experience);
  • More than likely has a Creative Director over 35, who doesn’t have a social media account and spends less than 20 mins online per day;
  • Has little understanding of new, digital media channels, and/or is very much from an old-school interruptive advertising background (i.e. used to advertising at people). With that in mind, they might stretch to producing online display ads…


Your digital agency…

  • Likely has a management and strategy team, the majority of which are all under 40 – either an entire career (of under 10 years) in digital (granted, there are also be plenty of those former traditional marketers who saw the opportunity early);
  • Has two teams; one made up of digital designers, the other made up of developers/coders;
  • More than likely has a Creative Director under 35 and is less likely to be from an advertising/campaign creation background;
  • Probably has a team with similar skills – none of which are campaign creators or brand thinkers. More likely designers and developers.

Sweeping generalisations? Before you shoot me, yes of course I’m generalising and I know there are exceptions to the aforementioned. However…

So which agency is better placed to get ahead? Traditional agencies ‘dabbling’ at digital, or digital agencies that are developing creatively? I have to say it’s the latter. I believe that digital agencies, by their (youthful) nature, are infinitely more agile. I also believe they have the upper hand due to the fact their core skill set includes digital marketing futurology. In addition, the majority of decent digital agencies are in the throws of developing their own in-house creative teams.

But what of the digital agency lacking in creative culture? Beware indeed. As much as there are traditional agencies unprepared for the kind of integration I’ve mentioned; digital agencies who aren’t recruiting serious campaign creative talent, or ensuring they’ve got an accessible creative culture, will undoubtedly experience the same issues and potential failure. One thing is for sure: we are bobbing along in a sea of change, and whenever change comes into play for businesses, there’s an argument to say we must either adapt, or die.

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