Rich Clark Marketing

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

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What Happened to Foursquare?

Whilst considering approaches for our clients Social Media strategies, I was doing the usual thing of wondering what platforms would suit their customer base and of course the objectives of their activity.  At one point last year people were heralding the dawn on a new era.  Social Media was finally finding its feet and earning its commercial water wings. Not in a traditional digital marketing sense, but in a multi-channel sense.  What was driving this, the advent of Foursquare.

Foursquare Logo

Foursquare was the new thing we all needed to get excited about.  Taking people’s passions and love for social media and melding itwith their new found love with smartphones and a pinch of real-world and the ingredients were there for a winning combo.  Or so we thought.  This view was backed up by the decision in August 2010, at Facebook to launch their Foursquare killer, Facebook Places.

Easy to say it now, but I remember sitting in the offices at Best Buy and being quite cynical about the whole thing, while others were raving.  Whilst I didn’t doubt the concept of blurring social with real world, my belief was that this would have to be simplified to the extent the user wouldn’t have to do a thing and there was a sufficent reward for them doing so.

For a while I did doubt my own wisdom.  I signed up to Foursquare, after all, if you’re in the industry thats whay you do.  I had Google Wave, Google Buzz, Bebo, MySpace etc etc log-ins but no idea what they are now.  More and more contacts started popping up.  Note I used the word contacts.  It seemed to get quite noisy and then ther integration with Twitter came about and my timeline got loaded with people checking in to shops, sports grounds and fast food outlets.  Frankly it got a little annoying.  The point of the word contact was, most of the interactions were by people I knew in digital or technology, with a few friends who were early adopters.  None of my proper friends could be bothered.

The rewards on offer at the likes of Foursquare just aren’t interesting. Pretty juvenile really becoming the mayor of HMV in Oxford Street.  Apologies to all the various Foursquare mayors I have just offended.  I read with interest the fact that Facebook was closing its Places service, whilst it isn’t completely backing out of geo services it does show that its not the Xanadu some thought it would be.

Maybe Facebook just got it wrong and Foursquare demolished Facebook places.  Ironically the biggest boost Foursquare got to its numbers was when Facebook announced its Places service.  In terms of people looking for Foursquare on Google it would appear that the search volume has already peaked.  The August 2010 Facebook announcement got it mainstream and created the big boost, the numbers levelled but still at a higher than pre-announcement.  Foursquare also had a second boost around April this year when Amazon announced its servers had taken out both Foursquare and Reddit.

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

The light for Foursquare is that although things haven’t really sparked for them in the UK or Europe in general, they are big on technology advanced Asia and the population of Indonesia seem to be searching in their droves.  Some would say we need to treat Google data such as this with some scepticism.  Whilst I wouldn’t pass comment on that, even if you don’t believe the core numbers, the trend is still there.  Backed further by a quick search on Alexa.com where a similar story can be found.

Alexa ranking of Foursquare

The same pattern is true in terms of reach according to Alexa.  The April spike exists in April, but after that, the traffic drops back.  For me this demonstrates a lack of engagement with Foursquare.  Not complete lack of engagement, but low engagement on a relative base to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, its not to say it can’t happen.

My view is that there could still be a place for Foursquare or an equivalent service.  However they need to offer real value to users, something that makes users want to engage or embrace mobile technology to its fullest and minimise the engagement and actions needed in the physical world.  Foursquare and other services such as Gowalla still have a long way to go.  Once somebody has cracked it, the sector could ignite and present great currency for users and no-brainer commercial options for multichannel brands.

Remember the key to all of these platforms is mobile.  With this in mind we need to keep a watching eye on Google, with the rise of G+ and obviously the Android operating system gaining momentum, they could be in a good place to crack it.  If the minds at Google can work out what “it” is.

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My Time at Best Buy

As most of you are aware my time is now officially up at Best Buy.  After over two years at the US company (I can’t believe it is that long either) it is time to move on.  A lot has been achieved over my time there, some of which I will account for below and I have met a number of very good people.  Above all I joined Best Buy for two reasons.  One reason was to launch a brand from scratch, something most marketing professionals in th UK have yet to do, and fewer digital marketers have had that responsibility.  Secondly was because of the great people-based culture Best Buy had.

The second part of that has changed during my time in lovely North Acton and I suppose it had to change to a degree as the organisation comes to terms from being a start-up to becoming a dominant player in the UK CE space, something they should be well-equipped to become.

So what was achieved?

Launch of a Brand

We had a lot to do on this. Rather than just transmitting the US brand to the UK, we had to establish what the UK consumer wanted and needed and deliver propositions against that.  In the early days I was one of the key stakeholders in the process and we had some great debates on how to shape the brand and in turn the plans accordingly.  As the Marcomms team grow and we went from launch and branding to BAU this moved to the more traditional team.  We won an award for one of the service propositions we created ‘Walk Out Working’

Social Media

I may have been lucky in joining a brand that embraces Social Media more than some, at a time when social media was going from infancy to adolescence.  But, I feel this was one of our main success stories – recognised by being voted number 5 in the UK’s Top 100 Social Brands.  We did more than just build buzz around driving Facebook page numbers or Twitter followers.  We tracked behaviour and listened to conversations and reacted accordingly.

In addition we created content calendars to drive Social Media currency and providing worthwhile content for people to visit and engage with us on our platforms.  This included attending Trade and Consumer shows in addition to covering Entertainment events.

One of my brainchilds TechXpert did very well and given the right backing by the business will help differentiate Best Buy in both Social Media and through site usability.

Watch out for others on the horizon that have already been developed including TwelpForce and IdeaX.

Affiliates

Our affiliate programme grew from absolutely nothing to a roaring success over night.  We built very strong relationships with key affiliates including Quidco, MyVoucherCodes, Nectar and CoolKitchen as well as with some of the others you may not know.  We created a programme that was far more competitive than anybody in our sector and listened to affiliates and their needs.  This was recognised at this years A4U Forum where the Best Buy programme won ‘Best Newcomer’

Mobile

Although not launched officially as yet,  the work already put in means Best Buy is well-placed in terms of apps and m-Commerce.

Site

The site in my opinion is the cleanest and most customer-centric of all core-CE competitors.  It was built using a combination of best-practice and usability studies with our customers.  We also used Exit Surveys post-launch to see where we could change further.

Social Commerce

We were the first retailer in the UK to launch a Facebook store-front, allowing users to access the entire catalogue within Facebook, share or like with friends and go off and buy.  Other work in this area has been done, but it would be unfair to reveal what that is.

Viral

We produced a great viral to link Best Buy and our people with the World Cup.  That despite no link with the World Cup and no online presence.  The video which also featured a competition element, pitted two of our brilliant blueshirts from Merry Hill setting up the ultimate mancave featuring great tech but also a kebab oven, slush puppy machine and man nappies.  The video got c. 250k views and loads of comments within just two weeks.

Overall

There was a lot covered in the two years and it was a great learning experience, not only for me but for all involved.  There is a lot more that we managed to do that is not in here, but I didn’t want to bore you all too much.  I joined Best Buy for a challenge and it certainly delivered in that respect.  It was a great time with its fair share of ups and downs but overall good.

Last word

I couldn’t write this post without acknowledging perhaps one of the best leaders I have ever worked with.  Now I don’t normally go for the cheesy American stuff or Raa Raa as most of you know.  But one of our original leaders at Best Buy was absolutely inspirational.  He believed in what we were doing and was absolutely passionate about Best Buy.  He treated every employee as a member of his family an he genuinely had the best interests of everybody at heart.  Paul Antoniadis sadly left Best Buy and in my humble opinion I still don’t think they have replaced his passion or enthusiasm.

I know Paul is off doing his own thing now and doing very well for himself (I imagine with much shorter days as well).  There were many other people within Best Buy who were good and helped make it a great place and they know who they are.

Now I move on to new things, which will be revealed very shortly.  Needless to say everything I have learned over the past two years will be utilised and built upon.  So watch my LinkedIn profile to see what’s next.


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Do us a Flavour

Walkers – Do us a flavour

So in the first of the case studies to illustrate my 5 F’s theory, comes Walkers and “Do us a flavour”.

The Context

Walkers has always enjoyed a special closeness with the British public.  A relationship that has brought them huge commercial success and an almost dominant position in the crisp market.  Unlike most dominant players in their sector, there seems relatively little animosity towards Walkers.

Part of this has been down to product development but this significant position has also been achieved through great marketing.  Picking up on the status of national hero Gary Lineker was a masterstroke, and it is a relationship that still lives on today.  Walkers are responsible for creating some magic moments with some of the in-demand public profiles.  The classic example of this was when Walkers created a football execution involving Gary Lineker and a tearful Gazza (Paul Gascoigne).  Other celebrities such as Charlotte Church and more recently Cat Deeley have appeared.

Rather than develop the same theme and just extend it, Walkers created a real point of difference.

The campaign

In 2008, Walkers “Do us a flavour” campaign moved their advertising on by taking participation to a whole new level.  Capturing the mass love of social media and User-Generated-Content (UGC), Walkers created a campaign that involved the public and created a genuine national debate.  The beauty of the campaign was that it didn’t live in one space or develop through one-channel it almost became part of the British way of life.  The campaign obviously lived online.  However it also crossed TV ads, in-store, outdoor, radio,  mobile and even IVR (Interactive Voice Response).

The fact that the public suggested over 1.2m flavours (that equates to 2% of the UK population submitting a flavour) and over 1m votes on the final shortlist, proves what a storm the campaign created.

The campaign essentially became the first large-scale initiative to put the British public in control.  The election process was clear and straightforward.  Crowd sourcing at its best.  In hindsight this was a masterstroke as the campaign was also live when realtiy TV was at its peak.  All shows that centre on the population (viewers) being in control.

On top of all these factors, Walkers didn’t throw away the heritage and familiarity of its previous campaigns, Gary Lineker remained a focal point of the campaign.

So why did it work?

Well, partly down to the fact that Walkers spent a hell of a lot of cash on the campaign.  However, you could argue that this was no more than they would have spent on a standard campaign.  So Fortune was a factor in terms of spend.

For me the F’s that really made the difference were Fame.  The chance that “normal” people could get a massive amount of coverage regardless of whether they won.  Their creations, designs or concepts would reach hundreds of thousands of people, very few opportunities like that exist, unless you have an immense Talent (then maybe you could get on X-Factor).  The second success factor was Fortune (not the campaign spend).  The winner secured a huge £50,000 prize.  If that wasn’t enough, they also got 1% share of the revenue for all future sales, in theory, thats the pension sorted.

In my view the combination of social media nuances, putting the people in control and a massive fortune to the winner was a sure fire hit.  Yes the campaign spend did help.

And the winner is…

I suppose after waxing lyrical about the campaign it is only fair to reference the winning flavour – its was of course – Builder’s Breakfast.


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When Virtual Becomes Reality

t-mobile flashmob-dance-tv adWhen Virtual Becomes Reality

FlashMobs were once the buzz of those in the know.  Mobile and online communities creating a mass gathering, normally just for the sake of it. This has now been given mainstream status by the recent T-Mobile ads.

 

Nowadays with the rise of social media the distance between virtual and reality are becoming ever more blurred. People have for years used social media (chats, blogs and forums) to arrange meetings with others with similar interests.

 

 

At present social networking is used to generate mass awareness, awareness within niche areas or to generate attendance at events.

 But the world of virtual and reality are colliding and the masses are joining forces to meet with fellow followers, whilst at the same time raising money for charities. What am I talking about?  Twestival is a perfect example of this.

Twestival saw Twitter users, followers, Tweeters create events all over the world in over 200 towns and cities, raising over $250,000 for water projects in Ethopia. This isn’t isolated, who can forget the infamous Facebook waterfight. Two things make Twestival stand out from my point of view, the fact that Twitter has only recently hit the mainstream and that given the current economic climate it was all done for charity.

 facebook waterfight

 

Examples of brands identifying this phenomena early and making it work to their advantage are Innocent (and the innocent village fete which uses Flickr and Blogs) and Nike utilising actual products (Nike+) and creating a massive buzz around a sports event. Not only did Nike create a one of buzz, it has successfully maintained a passionate and engaged community. There is a real connection between the concept, the events, exercise and the Nike brand. Members of that community are very likely to be strong advocates of the Nike+ product.

To my mind, very few organisations have really struck a chord with their target audience in social media. However those that find a winning concept will not only create immense brand awareness. Their strategies should also engender loyalty and in turn sales.

Maybe its an old fashioned marketing theory. But if you give people something that they want or need and create a buzz from more than just one medium – you should just get a winning formula.

You can keep up to date with Twestival updates by following on Twitter