Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder


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Young Entrepreneurs

We all hear about the younger people out there innovating and becoming genuine entrepreneurs. In my recent career I have been lucky enough to meet some of these people.

When I meet somebody who is young(er) and has amazing talent, I try to help and support.  Whilst this may sound altruistic in nature, the truth of it is, I believe we are all always learning. I learn and develop my knowledge and approach by speaking to them.

So I will highlight, on an ad-hoc basis some of these great business people I ave personally come across. The only rules. I have to think they are great and under 30.

First off, and I haven’t asked him, so I hope he doesn’t mind.

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

  1. Steven Bartlett (CEO and Founder) Social Chain

I first met Steven when I invited him to come in and speak to me at boohoo. This was off the back of a Youth Marketing contract he spoke at (and I was meant to be speaking at).  The issue that we wanted Social Chain’s help with? Well effectively to help magnify what was already a strong social media presence.

We needed to grow a global audience, but ensure that that audience was fully engaged.

Steven was refreshing in that like other “agencies” he came in with a deck. The difference though was he was reacting to the conversation, rather than just slavlishly going through the deck. He was pulling insight from tools, showing examples and coming up with ideas on the fly.

This was different and exactly how we ran at boohoo. A good plan, but always able to move as things change, a real agile way of working.

We gave Steven and Social Chain a trial, which was hard to explain, given we were already one of the most engaged social brands in the UK. But his passion was infectious and his ideas were new.

Needless to say, the proof was definitely in the pudding and Steven along with his Social Chain team fully delivered to expectations.

I also took Social Chain to my role at N Brown where the backdrop was completely different. We were operating in a smaller sector with an unknown brand in the US. With a tiny 15-20k Instagram followers for SimplyBe and nobody engaging, we had an issue.

Using different techniques and really working with me and my team, we came up with  strategy and series of activities that led to us driving 100k Instagram followers for SimlyBe in the US in around 6-8 months. Overtaking the UK account.

Social Chain Environment

Social Chain Environment

Now, you could argue the Social Chain team are the ones doing all of the work. To be fair, Steven is one of the nicest and most humble professionals I have ever met and he would probably say the same. But his team and his business operate in his mould. They are hard working. The are passionate about what they do. They are all hungry for results. But they all act in a professional yet down to earth and friendly way.

Looking around their Manchester office, where it all started, albeit in a much smaller way.  Steven’s personality and vision plays a central role. From the huge slide dominating the main office, to the working/sleeping pods, this is no normal place to work.

If you need to get to grips with your social media and aren’t afraid to try new things, get hold of Steven, I promise you will not regret it.

Sorry Steven, I should have asked first, but I didn’t.

Oh and one final thing, he likes a nice hat

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England Football Sponsorship

This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile with the title “Its Coming Home” if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn feel free to add me here

As England qualified last year, in all fairness from a pretty poor qualifying group, for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, few, if any football fans expected this success. When the groups were drawn, we were expected to qualify for the first knock-out stage but probably little beyond that.

The “tactical” defeat by a second string England side against a second string, albeit still very strong Belgium side, ensured they had an easier path to navigate in the knockout stages. However, as the team has progressed so have the emotions, so have the passions and so has the feel good factor around this little old country of England.

With political turmoil and ever growing confusion around Brexit, the fortunes of a little fancied football team are helping the country. Few would have planned, but the nation and business are more than happy to embrace this. As I write this, I am awaiting the France Vs Belgium game to see who our potential final (or 3rd place playoff) opponents will be).

So I take a non-fact based look at who I believe has done well from England’s unexpected performance.

The logical first port of call is to examine the official partners of The FA. If we progress to the final, I might even look at some of the unofficial brands that have made the most of the experience.

Vauxhall

First off we have Vauxhall, who are the closest of the FA partners to the relationship we used to have when I was at Nationwide. They have their names on the training kit, I assume they have access to players and they have rights to use the official badge and players in their marketing materials. Bizarrely though, the automotive brand seems to have failed to embrace either the success or even the fact they are a partner of the FA. Whilst it may difficult and costly for a larger company with rigid processes to adapt TV creative to respond to the current opportunity, they should be able to adapt press and could definitely make more of it on their social media. If you were to look at Vauxhall’s social media channels, even Facebook, the one they could adapt to location if they were worried about alienating people, there is no reference to football or England. The imaginative content the brand could have produced shows this is a huge missed opportunity and a bit of a shame.

Nike

As main kit suppliers Nike are embedded with the FA and fans alike. You can’t see England without seeing the famous tick. Nike’s potential issue in terms of really taking advantage of the current buzz is their global accounts and their stable of countries they are involved with. Nike actually supplies kit for three of the four semi-finalists, with only Belgium bucking the trend with their adidas kit. Nike is so in to its brand with amazing executions, that genuine football fans would forgive them and still consider them part of what was going on. They could still do a bit more in terms of content and tailoring their properties for the English market, but they do pretty well.

Buildbase

Now maybe I am not their target customer. OK. I am not the Buildbase target customer, but until I looked it up, I had no idea that they were a partner of The FA and haven’t seen them at all in conjunction with this England push. Even when looking at their social accounts, you would be forgiven for not realising they were so closely aligned. Apart from a quite poor game and some unimaginative posts the brand seems to have wasted its opportunity to engage and undoubted football audience. Perhaps you can move in their stores for football paraphernalia

Mars

Mars have been involved with the FA for some time and the are great at capitalising on their relationship. They do have the undoubted advantage of selling quite a few of their products and being able to put on pack promotions and messages that are in pretty much every supermarket, petrol station and convenience store in the England. Their ATL efforts clearly align them to the football team and there is no doubt of the connection. As England have progressed, it feels their ads are more regular which shows great ability to capitalise on the mood of the nation. Bizarrely, if there is a weakness in its armoury, again it is in content and social media, where its Mars football accounts have small following, infrequent posts and low engagement.

Lidl

After a successful partnership with Sainsbury over the years, it came as some surprise that Lidl was unveiled as its new partner. The Lidl TV ads were actually fun and engaging and really use humour and the human angle to captivate an audience. However in terms of retail execution, something was awry. Particularly as Sainsbury’s still seemed to have a volume of “official” England merchandise available in store. Its presence on content on both Twitter and Facebook appear strong, however Instagram feels the poor relation. Overall though it was a good showing from the German retailer.

Carlsberg

Carlsberg extended its long-standing relationship with the England football team. With other relationships in football the brand has genuinely smashed it again. A strong branded website and great content relevant to its audience. Again, the publishing of social could be stronger but assets are strong.

Lucozade Sport

With a reputation engrained in sports its not really a surprise that Lucozade have a good take on how to run a sports marketing initiative. Their on pack materials are limited but the content they have produced is strong and lives comfortably across all social channels. They have done good work with many influencers both football and non-football related. It was surprising that there wasn’t more native video built specifically for the platforms and for others to push out and share.

Overall, of the official partners I looked at their pushing of the association with the England team is mixed. Very few have really taken the tactical opportunity of the unexpected success. None of the brands, with the exception of Nike delivered a particularly strong presence in terms of social.

I feel Vauxhall who had the biggest right to do something was the biggest disappointment. So, if anybody from Vauxhall is reading this, get in touch.

The lesson for me from this exercise is one of how to tactically take advantage of an event (that may be unexpected). Also, how much potential there is in the realms of sponsorship and sports marketing, still out there in relation to social media. Now that gives me an idea…


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Internationalisation or Not

In my recent roles I have found myself engrained in making organisations international. Now, I say international deliberately and not global as i firmly believe internationalisation is very different from globalisation.  International in my head means expanding to some overseas territories picked for strategic and commercial reasons.  Globalisation is changing your business models, culture and processes to become truly global and as such your business can operate in any country, utilising all of the existing processes and investments you have already made.

International Vs Global

International Vs Global

Anyway, enough of my views on the difference between the two nuances, I have managed to make two brands achieve success in the US, with boohoo and SimplyBe.  Whilst this is not unique it is unusual, as there are more failed UK brands going to US than successes.

In a follow up post I will explore some of the specifics that I think we have made to help brands successful, but in this first post, I will apply some of the aspects already out there from huge success story Pret.

  1. Don’t change essential parts of your model
  2. US customers insist on customisation
  3. US customers like variety
  4. Don’t underestimate seasonal influence
  5. Bigger is often better

1. Don’t change essential parts of your model

One of they reasons for expanding internationally (aside from more people to target) is to maximise the investment in current assets.  If you can keep the majority of your model in tact then you can leverage your existing investment and create operational efficiencies. A sound reason.

However not only do you create operational efficiencies, the essential parts of your model also help define who you are as a business and depending on the element, even who you are as a brand.  For this reason it is critical to understand the core elements of your business, brand and model and keep them as intrinsic part of your overseas presence.

For example at SimplyBe, the core of the brand is to produce fashion that fits and flatters for a curvy girl.  The core age of the customer was 25-35. Whilst we produced bespoke creative and tweaked the way we approached the customer given the market and cultural differences between the US and UK customer in that target, the core of the brand was retained.

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

2. US Customer Insist on Customisation

Americans are a proud bunch of people and not only like things are their terms but are pretty vocal and stubborn if they don’t receive it.  The Pret example showed that they had to offer self-serve points for hot drinks and salad dressings.  It is no different for fashion.  Obviously if you have designed for a global customer from the outset and mirroring trends or fashion from the global shows this is less pronounced. However, as we did at SimplyBe, sometimes you know there are gaps in your product offer and as per the previous point you don’t want to make wholesale changes to your range, however you can add components that are right for the audience. With the traditntal SimplyBe range the product was quite stable and as the US landscape is much more competitive and diverse, we identified the likes of Athleisure and cropped garments were missing.

This is not unique to SImplyBe.  Brands often use collaborations to help resonate with a local audience and adapt ranges to suit audiences. However, other brands such as some within the Pentland Group assign a proportion of their overall product strategy to be allocated for local markets.  Several success stories also have local design resource to understand, on the ground, what is happening.

3. US Customers Like Variety

US customers like and demand variety. The Pret example is classic evidence of this in action. When they moved soup size choices down from two to one, it was a disaster.  They moved back to two (and in some regions six) and the sales responded accordingly.  The fact they developed further product options also shows how important variety is.

This, I believe is one of the reasons, boohoo has been successful in the US. After all, there is so much choice in terms of style and so much choice in options on the same products.  This has helped the average basket size climb and also the value per order.

4. Don’t Underestimate Seasonal Influence

Now the example given in the Pret article explains perfectly why seasonality is so important in food. However, this is true for other sectors in the US as well. Obviously, the seasonality issue is far different in different areas of the US. Winter in Minneapolis is very different to winter in Miami. This is something UK brands need to remember. Yes Inverness is different to Bournemouth but the contrast isn’t as great. If you can accurately reflect seasonality particularly winter on the site experience, you have something that sets you apart.

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

5. Bigger is Often Better

In the final example given in the Pret piece, it says Americans expect space. This is the one point I believe is different per sector. Retail in the US is very spread on this issue, with Mall culture very important in some areas, however, smaller boutiques are as important in Manhattan.

Whatever you think, Pret is a massive success story and whilst all of the points may not be right for every business, they are good reflection points for anybody looking to expand in to the US.

The whole basis of this article is to demonstrate how the US needs attention and in some circumstances needs tailoring. With this in mind, from my personal definition of globalisation vs internationalisation, international feels right.

The original article on Pret can be found here

Love to know what you think. What your views are.  Let me know by commenting on here or by reaching out on Twitter

One Size Does Not Fit All


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Personalisation is a bit over-rated

Its been a while since I updated this blog and looking back now at some of the topics, I  can understand why.  But I have been inspired by a few people to resume writing content.

The main purpose of my blog is to give personal opinion and perspective, as opposed to self-promotion or facts and figures based post. People have been telling me there are a lack of “professional” marketing blogs which actually are grounded and have personality. So lets hope I can deliver on at least one of those counts.

So I come back with a bit of nostalgia

I was invited to take the stage at the Drapers forum, now over three years ago in 2015.  I was joining joint-CEO and then colleague at boohoo, Carol Kane.  As seemingly the technical marketing person I was asked a series of questions.  One was from the audience and asked about personalisation. Now apologies to the individual, I cannot remember who asked, but my response got quite a reaction.

drapers logo

Personalisation is a bit over-rated, my quote from Drapers forum

The question was effectively related to how can brands get closer to customers and what were our views on personalisation. My response “I think personalisation is a bit over-rated”

Now that got headlines and even boohoo colleagues coming in and repeating the quote.  The headline was great and actually became quite funny, however, I did go on to substantiate what I meant. I spoke about segmenting customers properly and actually offering degrees of mass personalisation (customisation) could be as if not more effective and yet provide less operational pressures.

So some three years later have my views changed? Well with the developments in AI and machine learning, there is a greater argument for personalisation, never greater than previously.  However, the technology at present is only really effective at certain parts of the journey.  This is increasingly changing though.

In terms of the creative front end of a site, personalisation can still cause organisational strains. If you regularly change images, promo messages and or categories, the design consequences and processes needed to personalise to a genuinely deep level could cause resource repercussions.  Many businesses still struggle to cope with designing and building pages for BAU and some potential A/B or multivariate tests.

With this in mind, mass customisation of pages and journeys could still be a better solution.  For retailers, the ability to change the merchandising of a shopping journey based on data of the crowd, or from AI of individuals do make sense. Although I haven’t had chance to explore the functionality of people like Bloomreach to its fullest, the promise of what it can offer feels closer to what I would value in personalisation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

The ability to set business rules for behaviours that are regular, using crowd date means you are technically personalising, but really again just personalising for segments or groups of customers.  What the technologies allow you to do is make those groups much smaller and more highly targeted, in turn making the journey more effective.

Now, if I sit down and write this same piece and say, I think I still feel the same in three years time, I will be stunned.  Developments in AI and machine learning are advancing so quickly, personalisation should be much easier and of course the processes will be shortened to make it happen.

Article can be found on drapers here

I would love to hear your views on this one.  I know I am probably in the minority of one in my views, but I am always happy to be different.  After all, the people that asked me to kick this blog back off asked me to give my personal views and here you have them.

 

Image of Albert Einstein's Two Ways to View Life


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Thursday Thought with Albert Einstein

This week’s Thursday Thought takes a lead from a slightly more well known philosopher than myself.  Albert Einstein‘s take on life gives a great hint to how we should all approach challenges.

Image of Albert Einstein's Two Ways to View Life

Einstein’s famous Two Ways to View Life quote

No matter how you choose to interpret this in your own walk of life the way I apply this is simple.  Miracles are kind of impossible, so never think it would take a miracle to make the unthinkable happen. But equally, never constrain your thinking to create restrictions on your creativity.  Try to aim to create your own miracle, after all the amazing might happen.

“There are only two ways to view life:

One is as though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle”

– Albert Einstein

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign


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Defining a good Collaboration

Brands through the years have been jostling for position as the leader in their category. Some have done this through innovation in product design. Some have focussed on providing excellent customer service and others on generating a go to brand.  There are many other ways brands have attempted to be top dog, however a common method is by creating collaborations.

Collaborations can take various forms an can centre on partnerships between brands and individuals, brands and various bodies and of course brands with other brands.  Collaborations are not mere marketing tactics, sponsorship and ads cannot be confused with collaborations. Collaborations, in their truest sense are when two parties work together to create something.  In fact to put it more succinctly below is the definition from Business Dictionary

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 22.36.43

Fashion and sports industries have been at the heart of these collaborations for some time. However other brands such as tech companies and car marques have taken great strides in their collaborations.

So, what is the basis of a good collaboration?

  1. Objectives

Now stating objectives might seem obvious. But for me, this is crucial to ensure that everybody involved understands why you are doing the collaboration.  All stakeholders involved need to share the same goals and adhere to the same objectives.

The basis of all collaborations isn’t necessarily always down to a direct ROI and instant revenue from the product you create.

Shot of Charli XCX in her exclusive boohoo range

Charli XCX x boohoo

An example of this that I personally worked on was CharliXCX x boohoo. The basis behind this was to open boohoo up to the slightly edgier girl.  However, the primary objective was to help accelerate our launch in the US by achieving greater levels of press coverage.  The multi-collection collaboration did well in terms of sales, however, as a business this wasn’t our primary objective.  We answered the questions in relation to our investment by achieving press coverage of a much greater value than the monetary investment placed by boohoo.  The coverage we got in fashion and lifestyle publications and websites in the US such as Access Hollywood and Yahoo Celebrity would have been close to impossible with a standard fashion message.

2. Credibility

This is a tricky angle for a brand to tackle.  How can you use a collaboration to make your brand more credible and become accessible to a wider and critical audience?  Well Monster managed to crack this in one of the early celebrity/influencer collaborations when it partnered with “gangsta rapper” Dr Dre to create Monster Beats.  Monster created some good, but lets be honest, not great earwear but with the power of Dre behind it, the brand and hardware became instantly credible and sold in bucket loads.  Obviously we all know that this didn’t end particularly well and Dre and Monster split with Dre creating Beats by Dre which literally earned him a hood full of cash.

Picture of Dr Dre

Dre teamed up with Monster for his first Beats collection

 

3. Expertise

Sometimes there are specialist audiences or areas to target that are just to difficult to do on your own.  Nike are the kings of collaborations and their recent decision to tie-up with Muslin Athletes to create a Nike Hijab is inspired.  Not only does it open the brand up in a new way it also provides quality items with branding that was previously difficult to attain.  Obviously it is too early to decide if this is a commercial success, but the attention the collaboration has received has probably warranted the decision.

Image of woman in nike Hijab

Nike team up with Muslim athletes to create its own Nike Hijab

4. Commercial

When Nike first teamed up with NBA legend Michael Jordan, it was largely to gain a foothold in the streetwear market.  Yes, it was a collaboration that used Jordan‘s athletic prowess to produce footwear that aided athletic performance. However, Jordan was so synonymous with America’s urban black culture at the time, that the main benefit was to create quality AthLeisure.  The solid product placement in Spike Lee‘s film Do The Right Thing really cemented its place in Hip Hop and Urban culture.

Air Jordan logo

Nike Air Jordan one of the finest collaborations of the modern era

5. Creativity

When Land Rover wanted to make its baby Range Rover Evoque stand out they called on the fashion expertise of none other than Victoria Beckham. The Posh brand (Becks that is not Range Rover) is so popular across the globe, but never more so then China, Brazil and the Middle East all breakthrough markets at the time for the vehicle marque. Only a few hundred of Beckham’s Evoque’s went on sell, however the model became quickly known as the car Victoria Beckham designed.  There are many other examples of vehicle manufacturers teaming up with designers to ensure creativity comes to the fore.

Victoria Beckham and Range Rover Evoque

Victoria Beckham and the Range Rover Evoque she designed

6. Stature

When a high street brand wants to attract a more affluent customer or help its core customers buy up by feeling part of something bigger, what do they do?  Well team up with a major designer of course.

This goes on in fashion on a pretty frequent basis and one of the best examples is Balmain x H&M.  The collaboration saw prestige designer Balmain create a capsule range for the global high street fashion retailer.  Obviously, H&M isn’t budget anyway, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, but the difference between brands was still marked.  The success of the collaboration was unprecedented with the whole collection selling out, queues around the block in major cities across the globe including fashion capitals New York and London and items selling on eBay for pretty much close to the price tag of core Balmain items.

Image from Balmain x H&M campaign

Balmain x H&M was a successful collaboration

 

 

Social Media Icons on a mobile


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Social Media – Beyond the Numbers Game

For too long, when brands have looked at their social media strategy they have been obsessed over their Facebook fan numbers or likes.  This is in part to prove their investment is worthwhile to their management teams or boards.  The other component to the equation is that of bragging rights.  I have sat in many meetings as an independent and heard many organisations talking Facebook and Instagram likes, albeit (I hope) by the way of banter, but it still adds weight to the value brands place on this as a measure of success.

Social Media Icons on a mobile

Social Media – Beyond the numbers

The key to social media success isn’t how many people like your page or posts.  A better success measure is how entrenched your social media activity becomes in your audiences every day life.  That may be through sharing, return visits, recommending or generating conversation.  For me social media can offer so much to both customers and brands, in fact the media half of the term is a little bit of a red herring.  Social Media is another digital channel, just as websites were when the web first gained momentum.

Of course, it isn’t just likes people talk about. A large number of brands will still obsessing over the number of fans, followers, friends or likers they have, now understand that they need people to interact.  With this in mind, they have started to measure what they deem engagement.  The standard ways most brands look at engagement is how many times a pic on Instagram has been liked.  How many retweets their post has had or how many shares their Facebook post has received.  All of which is interesting, but in essence, its not really engagement.  How many of us have personally, or have observed people just double tapping the insta post, without really reading or viewing the content properly.

For me, engagement isn’t even just about the buzz or sentiment we measure. It is about the genuine affinity our customers or social crowd feel towards us and/or their likelihood to recommend us.  This really can’t be measured through standard social metrics.  However, if we really do have a highly engaged Facebook page (for instance) then it goes without saying these people should eulogise about us, at least our content and hopefully also our brand.  With this in mind, our followings should increase on an organic basis.  So engagement in isolation isn’t enough.

However the crux of all of this text is, we need to start thinking beyond the numbers.  We need to care about them as we are targeted on them and often its what investment decisions are made of. But, we as profession, Marketing Professionals are increasingly worried about making marketing decisions without reams of data to support us.

Some things we need to do to help us grow, to accelerate growth is to make decisions that have no or little data.  If we only look back at data on what has happened, or compare ourselves to the success or failures of our peers we are instantly constraining our thinking and our ability to innovate.

If you as marketing people know your audience well enough, you should succeed.  If you as marketing professionals speak to your audience, they can help you succeed. If you as marketing professionals allow your audience to collaborate with you and help produce content, you will get what they want and they feel bought in. In theory that should bring even more success and a feeling from content providers they are part of your brand.

Remember one key thing for your social channels. Be credible.

Produce content that your audience will want to see. Engage and communicate with your audience to understand what they want. Work with your audience and they can help you produce what they want. With this in mind, I think we can look beyond the numbers of social media and produce better content, have better engagement and ultimately drive the numbers after all.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to challenge, critique argue or endorse by adding comments here or by tweeting my @richclarkmktg