Will YouTube ever be the same again?Read More
What is YouTube?
YouTube has been a popular streaming site for just over a decade now and as of 2017 is the second most used website on the internet. Its popularity has stemmed from the creative freedom that it allows its users to have, whether they’re looking for videos branching out from film reviews or something completely different, like makeup tutorials. A key selling point for YouTube is that anyone with a camera and an idea can upload a video to the site without going through any filters that try and dilute down the content that they intend to upload. The intimacy between the creators and viewers on the website turned the small video sharing site of 2005 into the digital juggernaut that it is today. However, as YouTube grew bigger in popularity, it attracted bigger companies that wanted to advertise on the site. Although that meant great things economically, it also meant increased risk of slipping up.
On the 17th March 2017 The Times published a disparaging article on YouTube. They had discovered that adverts from big companies like BBC and L’Oreal were showing up on videos displaying hate speech and non-brand friendly videos that might tarnish the reputation of such companies if seen by the wrong people. As this article started to trend online, it reached the eyes of many companies that acted quickly by pulling their adverts from the site. This exodus of ads included companies like Pepsi, Walmart, GSK, Johnson & Johnson and many more. Many among the YouTube community came to know this as the “Adpocalypse” since adverts were sparse on the site. According to analyst firm Nomura Instinet, YouTube could’ve lost up to $750 million because of the drop of adverts on the website.
Effect on YouTubers
Every video on YouTube is able to make money for the creator of the video and for YouTube itself. In simple terms the money comes from the adverts that pop up on the video and the more views that a video gets, the more money the video makes. After the “Adpocalypse” many of the videos on the site started to make significantly less money because no adverts were appearing on them anymore. This started to become a problem for people who made a living from creating videos on the site because they were getting very little income. This led to YouTubers venturing into new opportunities such as another live streaming website called Twitch and other forms of social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. A lot of YouTubers dropped out of school when they became popular so very few have a backup job that they can rely on if anything goes wrong.
Attempt to Recover
YouTube always had guidelines that people uploading a video must adhere to but they were so lenient that most videos aligned within the rules anyway. However, with adverts appearing on videos that shouldn’t have been allowed on the website, the rules were strictly tightened in an attempt to stop anything like the “Adpocalypse” happening again. These new rules have changed YouTube since creating videos is a more cautious process now that content creators are being monitored a bit more closely. This has made the platform a lot more family friendly, which has annoyed the fans who dislike television for the same reason. One of these new rules are to stop swearing as much, which has also angered the viewers because they came to YouTube for raw and real content from their favourite creators, not people who have to censor themselves in order to make money. Another rule that has stirred some controversy is the ban of graphic content in videos. This is especially affecting independent news channels that can’t make money on their videos if they show any footage of terrorist attacks or police shootings that bigger news stations like CNN or BBC can share on television.
As always YouTube are trying to fix some of the problems and resolve some of the issues that their new set of guidelines have brought with them but the “Adpocalypse” has really got people wondering if YouTube will ever be the same again.
What are your opinions on YouTube? Do you think it’s changed? Tweet me your thoughts @ollieatnotch
Storytelling – why and how does it work?Read More
In a recent blog post, Gaby told us about eight ways to communicate science better. One of them was “Tell a story”. Indeed, storytelling has become a buzzword for many aspects of marketing, not just for science communication. But how and why does this powerful mechanism work? Neuroscience, and a bit of Shakespeare, can give us the answer!
Storytelling has a long history, with cave paintings in France dating back more than 40,000 years. So it is not surprising that our brains are designed to remember engaging stories.
Memory experts have shown that narratives make things easier to remember and understand1. You may have also noticed that words can trigger memories and emotions. So, consider this:
- • Just verbally describing an intense situation is enough to activate areas of the brain that deal with emotional responses2 and release a neurochemical called oxytocin3.
- • Listening to a story activates the brain areas involved in imagining scenarios4.
- • Imagining a visual scene activates the same areas of the brain as when we actually see the scene5.
Oxytocin is a small peptide made in the hypothalamus of mammalian brains3. It is synthesised when we are shown kindness or trusted, and motivates cooperation with others. Release of this molecule can also be induced when we hear or see a character-driven story. We can consider oxytocin as the neural substrate for the Golden Rule: If you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return. In marketing, this means that a well-told story could get a customer to buy from your company, or donate to your cause.
Therefore, a story must sustain attention and contain emotional content to induce the release of oxytocin and make a positive, lasting impression in your listener’s brain.
What makes a story successful?
Keith Quesenberry, marketing professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Michael Coolsen from Shippensburg University conducted a two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials to investigate what makes an ad successful6. By doing so, they realised that the secret ingredient wasn’t that secret, but had been used already by good old Shakespeare, in his famous five-act plays. Already in 335 B.C., Aristoteles began to develop dramatic theory, and his theories were expanded by German novelist and play writer Gustav Freytag, into what is known as Freytag’s Pyramid, used by Shakespeare and others.
Analysing the Super Bowl commercials, Quesenberry and Coolsen found that ads with more acts (a more complete story with a plot) achieved higher ratings.
When we hear a story, classical language regions in our brain are activated. In addition, a story following Freytag´s Pyramid is also associated with activations in areas beyond the conventional verbal regions7.
But why do the stories stick with us? Well, it is because we don’t just listen to them, we see the images and feel the emotions; we actually experience the story as if it is happening to us (and therefore the oxytocin is released). And again, our brain is involved in this ‘experience’ – more specifically the mirror neuron system. Mirror neurons are a class of nerve cells that modulate their activity both when an individual executes a specific motor act and when they observe the same or similar act performed by another individual8. A study by Ramachandra et al. employed psychophysiological methods to elucidate the role of this system in processing vocal emotions9. Skin conductance and heart rate were measured for 25 undergraduate students while they were both listening to emotional vocalisations and thinking (internal production) about them. The results revealed changes in skin conductance response and heart rate during both “listening” and “thinking” conditions. This suggests an active role of the mirror neuron system in processing emotions from stories.
To sum it up, our brain, nerve cells and chemicals are why storytelling is such a powerful tool, that correctly used can work miracles in marketing. And when building your story, turn to Shakespeare to make it memorable!
What do you think about storytelling? Does it work? Tweet me your thoughts at @fraidifrida
- Baddeley, A. D. (1999). Essentials of human memory. New York: Psychology Press.
- Wallentin, M., Nielsen, A. H., Vuust, P., Dohn, A., Roepstorff, A., & Lund, T. E. (2011). Amygdala and heart rate variability responses from listening to emotionally intense parts of a story. NeuroImage, 58, 963-973.
- Zac, P.J. (2015) Cerebrum, February 02
- Abdul Sabar, N. Y., Xu, Y., Liu, S., Chow, H., Baxter, M., Carson, J., & Braun, A. R. (2014). Neural correlates and network connectivity underlying narrative production and comprehension: A combined fMRI and PET study. Cortex, 57, 107-127.
- Kosslyn, S. M., Alpert, N. M., Thompson, W. L., Maljkovic, V., Weise, S., Chabris, C., Hamilton, S. E., Rauch, S. L., & Buonanno, F. S. (1993). Visual mental imagery activates topographically organized visual cortex: PET investigations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 5, 263-287.
- Quesenberry, K.A. & Coolsen, M.K. (2014). What Makes a Super Bowl Ad Super? Five-Act Dramatic Form Affects Consumer Super Bowl Advertising Ratings. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 4, 437-454.
- Babajani-Feremi A. (2017) Neural Mechanism Underling Comprehension of Narrative Speech and Its Heritability: Study in a Large Population. Brain Topogr. Feb 18.
- Kilner, J.M and Lemon, R.N. (2013) What We Know Currently about Mirror Neurons. Current Biology 23, R1057–R1062
- Ramachandra, V., Depalma, N., & Lisiewski, S. (2009). The role of mirror neurons in processing vocal emotions: Evidence for psychophysiological data. International Journal of Neuroscience, 119, 681-690
How to Communicate Complex Science to the PublicRead More
Scientific research is moving faster than ever before, leading to ground-breaking discoveries moving from the lab to our everyday lives quicker with each new breakthrough. Innovative science is now such an important part of the world we live in, that it is crucial for the public to be able to understand the science behind these discoveries. For example, the cutting-edge of science is often surrounded by debates due to ethical implications, complex benefits and risks. Therefore, to take an active role in these discussions and make informed decisions, consumers need to be educated in a way they can understand.
However, until recently, scientists were not trained to communicate their science effectively to the public. Published papers communicating the latest in scientific research focus heavily on accuracy of information and high levels of detail, so much so that in some cases they would require a translator to make sense of.
So how do you go about communicating these complex subjects to the public when they are hard enough to convey to a trained scientist?
1. Know your audience
Number one and by far the most important. Know and define whom you are talking to. How old are they? What is their previous education? What are their interests or life experiences? These are all important factors to consider when communicating science and when applying the next seven pieces of advice. A 10 year old at school, a college-educated 50-year-old and a high-school educated 30-year-old are all very different audiences and will require a different tactic to reach them. Use the first person – talk to them as a human not as a ‘scientist’, because what you are talking about affects everyone.
2. Talk to them as an individual
Once you know who your audience is, talk to them. I recommend using the first person as much as possible when communicating to the public in general, but especially when trying to educate. Half the battle with communicating complex subjects is engaging the audience, and the first person lends itself to this well.
3. Tell the story
When conveying anything, not just science, it is most engaging to do this as a story. Have a clear beginning, middle and end. Think about how to set the scene, get into the ‘whys’ before the ‘hows’. This way you will engage the reader and keep them interested as one point clearly and simply leads on to the next. Don’t delve into the nitty-gritty too early (or at all if it isn’t relevant), as you will defeat the whole point of trying to tell the story.
4. Make it relevant
The truth is, as interesting as you might find this area of science, the public won’t care about the story unless it has a relevant impact. The good thing is that science will inevitably have an impact on everyone in some way; you just have to find it. Start your story with an experience/event/feeling that they can identify with and go from there. I find it useful to start with the big picture, what is the end goal of this research?
5. Show and tell
We all know that a picture is worth 1000 words, but what is important is that those 1000 words are in a language everyone on the planet can understand. Whether your audience has previous knowledge of science or none at all, illustrating your point with an image/diagram will always help.
If you cannot find a suitable image, or you are trying to explain a concept, then you can paint a picture in the imagination of your audience. Analogies and examples go a long way to making a complex concept easy to understand. Talking about a nucleus doesn’t mean a lot to many but the “brain of a cell” explains it well. Even if it is not 100% accurate it gets across your point without confusing the reader. Which leads me on to…
7. Let the little things go
The process of simplifying a complex scientific concept can be a painful process to those that have deep and detailed knowledge of the subject. The nucleus is not the brain of the cell. It’s just not and I understand why that annoys cell biologists and neuroscientists alike. A nucleus has no conscience, can’t think and isn’t structurally comparable to a central nervous system in any way. But it’s a good enough comparison if you are trying to convey that it controls the cell.
My advice (that may be easier said than done) is to let the little things slide and resist the urge to explain too much too soon. No analogy will be perfect, but try not to criticise one that gets across the point. Who knows, if you really engage a reader they may go on to learn more about the subject and discover the details themselves.
8. Leave the politics aside
Science is very often the subject of political, ethical and religious debates. For a lay audience, it can be even more difficult to isolate fact from opinion. So it is up to scientists to either make the differentiation clear or to remove opinion from it altogether. My opinion is that it is up to science communicators to convey the facts and discuss the amazing job that science has done to achieve these breakthroughs. It is the job of political commentators, ethical debaters and even the philosophers to argue whether it is right or wrong. By all means give an opinion, but make sure your audience know that is what it is.
So that is it for my top tips on how to communicate your science. Let me know if you found this helpful, and if you have any tips that you would add Tweet me @GabyAtNotch.
To placement, or not to placement? Insights that can help you answer the questionRead More
Placements. Internships. Years in industry. They’re a chance to gain some invaluable experience and learn new skills that, in the future, could propel your career forward. That’s what your Mum, Dad and lecturers will tell you. Of course they are spot on, but there is a lot more to it than that.
I’m currently on placement here at Notch Communications, as part of my Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Manchester. Since my time on placement is coming to a close, I thought I’d give a little insight into what I’ve learnt along the way – from surviving the applications process to getting used to the big wide world of work.
1. Please, don’t panic!
I’ve been there. Your genius friend has managed to get a prestigious lab placement in the USA with a cracking pay and it is only the beginning of October. You, on the other hand, have no idea what you’re doing. You’re still getting to grips with your lectures, you have deadlines due and you’re working on your CV all whilst being bamboozled by the numerous emails featuring placement opportunities. It can all get a bit much. My top tip? Don’t rush. It is very easy to succumb to the pressure and try to get a placement as soon as possible. The application process is competitive but don’t panic and apply for simply anything you come across. One quality application to the right company is far better than sending lots of rushed applications to companies that, with hindsight, you’re actually not that interested in. Do your research, read up about the company and work out if you’d actually enjoy the placement on offer. Don’t worry about being left placement less. Plenty of students find placements a couple of days before summer starts or even self-arrange!
2. Consider the little things
The skills and experience you gain from a year in industry will stick with you for the rest of your career, but work isn’t the be all and end all. You should think about what else you’ll get up to over the 9 months (or more!) you’re on placement. You’ll be leaving behind the familiarity of university life, perhaps moving to a new city or country and living with people you don’t know. All of this is extremely exciting with so many new opportunities being thrown your way. It can also be a little daunting, and that’s ok – just make sure you’ve considered the other aspects before diving into the unknown! I initially wanted to go anywhere abroad – Australia, USA or as far away as possible! Alas, it didn’t work out for me, but with hindsight I’m so glad I’ve stayed in Manchester. I think I’ve adapted to my placement with such ease because my life outside work is great too. I’ve been able to live with my fab university chums (I don’t have to miss them and watch them graduate without me!) and with the free evenings that come as a result of the 9-5 life I’ve been able to throw myself into the university societies that are still on my door step – kickboxing and women’s rugby league! If I’d ventured further afield I know my placement experience could have been very, very different. I’m more than happy with how things turned out for me and I don’t think the work/play balance could be much better.
3. You make your own luck
Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate some people are more privileged than others – we all know that well connected person who got work experience with their dad’s best mate. However, you can make your own luck sometimes. Like running to catch the bus versus watching it drive slowly past, you have the power to make the best out of every situation. This can be applied to the application process and during your time on placement. Do your research on the company, read their blogs, check out their social media and read up on their clients – information is power! Ask friends and family to do dummy interviews with you, and take advantage of all the great resources university has on offer to make sure you are as prepared as you can be. If you’ve done all you can, you won’t need luck! Equally, whilst on placement you wont be babied. You’ll be welcomed into the team, and shown the ropes initially, but it’s not like school anymore. Want to get involved in that exciting project? Ask! Think your idea should be considered for the new creative piece? Say! Opportunities will not always fall into your lap so you have to be prepared to make them for yourself. If you go that extra mile, sooner or later your hard work will pay off.
4. Authenticity and honesty are key
The big wide world of work can be an intimidating place. The phrase ‘office politics’ exists for a reason, and interactions with clients and customers can be testing at times too. In the era of fake-news and fake people, the most endearing quality you can possess in this day and age is to be yourself. Don’t try to conform to the norm to impress your new boss or work colleagues. If you have a different idea, don’t be afraid to speak up! Voicing new ideas, and sticking by them will gain you greater respect in the work place than by simply being a yes man. You’ll also reap the rewards if your ideas are a success. Honesty can go a long way too. If you pretend you understand everything when you don’t, will you learn anything? No. A placement is an opportunity to be exposed to new things and learn new skills – you’re not expected to have them already! If you don’t understand something, be inquisitive, be honest and say. If you’re struggling, or finding something too easy, even if you’re running late for work – it’s always best to be honest.
So, there you have it. Mum and Dad are right – placements are a wonderful opportunity to gain experience in an industry that interests you. They also offer so much more: the opportunity to make new friends, see new places, try new things and realise your own potential (cliché).
Are you in the process of applying for a placement? Are you already in the midst of one? Let me know at @EllenAtNotch
Snapchat, black boxes, struggling artists and a Nobel Prize in Economics – On the future of modern advertising (2/2)Read More
Last week, I outlined the rapidly changing features of the marketing landscape. We live in an era where we have all the information we could ever want on tap, and with people’s attention ever more difficult to acquire, modern marketing just isn’t keeping pace. The ‘content orientated’ approach has failed to remedy the general apathy towards marketing, except in certain cases that we will explore further in this article. If you haven’t read part 1, you can check it out here.
I stated previously that people inherently associate adverts and marketing with just ‘noise’, and that a lack of authenticity prevents people from engaging with the vast majority of the messaging out there. Why do I feel authenticity is important? Well, let’s look at some of the success stories out there, identify what they have in common, break down those ideas and suggest how you can apply them to your business.
How Boeing made a billion dollars selling planes to ordinary people
The aviation industry is one of incremental improvements and a relentless dedication to efficiency. As an example, 10 kilos saved on slightly thinner rivets made possible by material advances can amount to tens of thousands of pounds saved in fuel costs over the lifetime of a plane. This is the kind of information that carriers, the companies who buy aircraft from the manufacturers, want to hear about. For the last few decades, this is where the vast amount of messaging has been directed. This means that, save for aircraft that are particularly ‘iconic’ like the 747 Jumbo, A380 and the Concorde (which also happens to be the least profitable for both airliners and manufacturers), ordinary consumers simply are unaware about the differences between the myriad of other models out there. Unless you’re a plane geek, could you tell the difference between a 777 and an a350? Why would you even need to?
In the run-up to the launch of their newest 787 aircraft, Boeing tried something different. They put a concerted effort into a commercial awareness campaign pitched directly at the customers of airliners. Their new machine was not visually distinctive or physically impressive, so it had very little appeal in the way the aforementioned iconic planes did. Instead, they pressed the tangible benefits of travelling on their aircraft to consumers, they invited countless documentaries and news into their factories to explain their manufacturing processes, and they branded the machine the ever-so-slightly cheesy ‘Dreamliner’. They gave this huge B2B proposition a decidedly B2C face. This campaign was extremely successful, and pretty soon customers began inquiring with their favourite carriers about when they could fly in this new machine.
What Boeing had recognised is that awareness is just as important as directly appealing to the people who make the purchasing decisions. Decision makers in a B2B setting are still human, and the impact your brand has on a much wider scope of people can influence them in a very positive way. If you can sell the idea and engage a broader variety of people who aren’t even involved in the more mundane B2B calculations that go into the final purchasing decision, then you will appear all the more authentic. Not only does it convey enthusiasm for your product and forces you to articulate its benefits in creative ways, but if successful it will build a mythos. Getting your name out into the public consciousness pays itself off in spades when the person you are pitching to has already heard of you before you walk through the door.
Make art, not ads. Inform, don’t sell.
One of the key reasons why Boeing was so successful in this endeavour is because most of the marketing pitched at the public was not aimed at selling. There was no sense that it was KPI driven material, designed with financial performance in mind, but instead created as if the content itself had intrinsic value. In other words, much of what Boeing did was more like art than advertising.
One of the reasons why people are so turned off by typical advertising is because many talented marketers are not thinking like their clientele. They are under pressure to generate a high ROI, which has led to a significant impact, in ways both subtle and not-so-subtle, on their work. As we explored in the previous blog, people don’t engage with abstractions and statistics, they engage with a story and creative messaging, both of which appear completely inauthentic if they are done with transparent and negative associations of ‘the sale’. The experience of an ad or marketing message from the perspective of the customer is primarily an aesthetic one. If you want to create a positive association with your content, you must stop thinking in terms of ads and start thinking in terms of art and aesthetics. Capture the imagination of your audience.
The rise of influencers, many of whom are people who have gathered a large following from simply producing content online for their viewers, demonstrates that there are far better ways to create a compelling narrative than what most of the industry is currently capable of. Take for example a content creator like Linus Tech Tips, a tech advice channel that spends half the time producing paid for, sponsored ad spots. What companies like Intel have realised is that working with these types of people can pay significant dividends, and just by sponsoring whatever is produced, they earn very positive, credible exposure. The next step is to move from simply sponsoring and buying influencers, to becoming one yourself.
The key is to allow creatives, whether they be in-house or influencers (who will often not work without), significant creative freedom and distance from business metrics like ROI. This is vitally important because it makes it more likely that the resulting content feels independent, intrinsically valuable, and most importantly, authentic.
The curious case of Denny’s Diner
Denny’s has about 1500 locations across the US and it boasts a follower count of 374,000. Burger King conversely has about 7000 locations and has 1.5 million followers. With that in mind, note the significantly diverging engagement figures of Denny’s vs the much larger Burger King. With a fifth of the followers, Denny’s regularly gets over 10 times the engagement. What’s more is that they do not pay Twitter to place their tweets in others’ timelines (like Burger King does for its promotions), instead they rely on the strength of their content and word of mouth. Their social media marketing is so strong that other people will actively spread it for them, and although most of what they produce is related to their business (to great comedic effect I might add), it never pushes the sell. It comes across as genuine and authentic, not crafted in a corporate environment that most people just can’t, or don’t, want to identify with.
So humour is a tool that one particular consumer-orientated company is using, what could a large B2B firm possibly learn from something like that? The broader point of the Denny’s example is that intrinsically valuable content is useful for building a broad base of engagement. This will then have a positive influence on your core business through heightened awareness and a more pervasive narrative. Even if your product is not something that might be considered conventionally ‘sexy’ like a jetliner, there are alternative ways for these types of companies to still get their faces out there. Doing things like sponsoring competitions, particularly at the secondary and tertiary education level, will generate important name recognition in the years to come. Creating high quality content which explains the innovation and relevance of what you do, and delves into the various applications it has, will generate powerful engagement if done correctly. Just look at a company like Apple go into exhaustive detail about its anodisation process. Most people have a reason for why they do what they do, chances are good that you fell in love with the field at some point. There is always a story to tell, you just need to find the right way to tell it.
Build yourself a black box
If you’ve ever been on a commercial aircraft, maybe even the previously mentioned Boeing Dreamliner, you’ll know that your tray table must be stowed and your seat upright for takeoff and landing. You have to watch the same safety video every time and, if you’re a frequent flier, you probably could operate one of those weird yellow oxygen masks in the dark. That said, each and every one of those routine operations has been borne out of an ingrained sense of learning in the aviation industry. Every safety procedure is there because of a previous failure or accident. This is because everything is recorded and measured, in the form of a piece of crash-proof hardware called the ‘black box’.
In his book ‘Black Box Thinking’, the author Matthew Syed goes into deep detail about how the practices of the aviation industry are relevant to almost every field. He argues that to think in ‘black box’ terms is to meticulously record and learn, to set up ‘feedback loops’ where the impact of each decision can be measured and future actions can be modified by the resultant learning. In marketing, this means heavily utilising analytics to ensure your goals are reached, but also by refining creative processes. This might seem implicitly contradictory to my previous statements about the need for creativity and breaking free from the constraints imposed on authentic messaging by business metrics, but here this is not the case. What I am arguing is that the goals of the messaging must be different from purely business metrics and not that all metrics are worthless. We are able to appreciate how good the likes of Denny’s and Boeing’s efforts are in part because we are able to measure their success. We are just using more than straightforward KPIs as a metric.
In practice, this strategy is about allowing for explosive outbursts of creativity in your marketing and messaging. After this, you gradually sharpen and refine them into a honed representation of your brand or product. It’s about establishing a solid feedback mechanism so you aren’t just wandering in the dark with your ideas, but using a variety of performance metrics to measure their impact. Crucially, this cannot happen at the cost of the ‘human touch’ that makes something relatable or engaging.
Instituting a culture of creativity
Creativity, or more specifically originality, is a difficult thing. It is a function of many things; the right environment, challenging work, an emphasis on approaching problems differently, and everybody needing slightly different stimuli in order to achieve their best output. The key to generating compelling, authentic content is to build a culture and ethos that actively values original thinking. What gets people excited to go to work in the morning is not the prospect of their pay cheque, but an overarching goal. Whether it be Steve Jobs proclaiming he wants to ‘put a ding in the universe’, or Skype ‘disrupting through innovation’. This just isn’t about creating a meaningful product of service, instead it is part of the direction for the company as a whole, including marketing and advertising. Ensuring you don’t define this purpose from the top down is also the key to some of the biggest success stories of the 21st century. By allowing this purpose to be shared and contributed to by everyone is vital to establishing a cohesive culture.
There are concrete, solid changes you can make to encourage this type of thinking. One company, Atlassian, gives their employees one day at the end of each month to work on anything they wanted to, with anyone they wanted and anywhere they wanted, with the only rule being that they show the company what they did at the end of the day in a party-like atmosphere. What they discovered is that more software bugs were fixed in that one day than in an entire month. This is not something to be reserved for creatives either, everyone has probably had an idea about how they might improve their work or some other aspect of the company, but has not had the opportunity to try. Even if they don’t succeed, they tried and learned something, which is valuable experience. There are countless more examples of this type of practice bringing in great results.
Another important aspect of creativity is conflict. Creativity flourishes when it is given parameters to work with and around. For example, research shows that mind-mapping is a wholly inadequate way of finding solutions to problems as a group because of the social biases in the workplace tend to compel people to agree with one another and not challenge assumptions. Instead, one of the most effective methods is to allow people to bring their solutions to the table, instruct the group to explicitly find problems with the solution, and then work together to fix them.
Doing this right takes a lot of institutional learning and experience, and will not necessarily yield results right away; building a culture takes time. But done correctly, your content marketing will be authentic enough to be appreciated as intrinsically valuable. This translates into a positive public narrative about your company, which will ensure that your customers, whether they be consumers or other businesses, will want to buy your products or work with you.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts? Let me know at @Notchcom
Snapchat, black boxes, struggling artists and a Nobel Prize in Economics – On the future of modern advertising (1/2)Read More
Recently YouTube, one of the world’s largest ad distributors, announced that it was cutting unskippable 30 second ads from its offering to businesses, citing a reduced inventory and high user turnover as one of the key problems with the format.
The landscape that marketers and advertisers alike will find themselves in, in the very short future, is changing rapidly. The rise of ad-blockers, the rapidly deteriorating state of monetisation via advertisement, and the popularity of subscription services and on-demand media, make opportunities for attracting customers significantly more scarce. But this is actually a huge opportunity for savvy operators to differentiate themselves in such a way as to not only survive this brave new world, but to thrive in it. So what lessons are there to learn and how can they be applied to your business, no matter what field you are in?
It’s a ‘Snap’ world now
In 2013, a bizarre application made its name (and billions of dollars in valuation) known across the world. Snapchat, the ephemeral messaging app, essentially removed functionality found in other communication applications, and became a huge sensation. This is a key clue to what the future holds, as it represents the next big leap in what has been a decade long paradigm shift from old media to new.
It might be tempting to look at the likes of Snapchat and Twitter and grumble about declining attention spans that can’t pay attention to anything longer than 140 characters or a few seconds of time, but there is more refined analysis to be had here. The fact is, we have an awful lot competing for our attention in the modern world, more than any other time in human history. In order to get anything done, we have to dedicate focus to it, and that represents a larger opportunity cost than it ever has done before. Advertisements are unpopular, particularly ones that hold you as a captive audience like YouTube’s unskippable 30 second ads, because they are just noise that keeps us from what we are actually interested in, and this cumulatively costs a lot of time.
Snapchat is popular because it condenses entire stories into bite-sized chunks. It is unobtrusive in its delivery, and because nothing holds any permanence, it means you are focused entirely on the here and now. Everything is always relevant and current, and the format is personal and intimate. This is in stark contrast to old media, where content is served essentially to a captive audience. Even the most ardent advocate of this type of marketing has been sat, gripped to their seat watching a favourite TV series or film, only for a climactic moment to be interrupted by an overly bright ad with hokey dialogue and recycled clichés.
Marketing in its original form was typically rooted around finding consumers who have a need, and informing them about how their product fulfils that need. This strategy typically only works if people and businesses always know what their needs are, and it creates a hard ‘ceiling’ of potential customers, but the biggest success stories often come from creating a product people don’t know they need until they actually use it. This involves telling a story that people can buy into, an idea, something that can entice them into buying into the company and the product. The problem is that the stories have become long and bloated, they sometimes try so hard to hide their commercial nature that it becomes painfully obvious, and they often just aren’t actually any good in the first place. How is this model meant to survive in the era of Snapchat? Where there is a huge opportunity cost for simply reading a handful of paragraphs, that time that could be better spent watching funny videos on YouTube or the latest drama on Netflix. On this very blog post, no matter what you consider its quality to be, it’s unlikely that more than 50% of people have read this far (a thank you to those who are still with me!).
The rise of content marketing
Daniel Kahneman, author of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ and the winner of a Nobel Prize for his acclaimed work into the study of human bias, details research in his book on how humans weigh up information to make decisions. One useful takeaway from his research is that humans are pretty poor at visualising abstract information. We can understand it on a logical level, but it is hard to create emotional buy-in without something more tangible to back it up. This makes intuitive sense. A chart with a list of percentages is less useful than a helpful visualisation, such as a graph or infographic. Perhaps most importantly though, he concludes that handling such abstraction is significantly more taxing of our finite mental resources. Modern advertising has to give people a very good reason to buy in, before it makes its case.
The industry’s response has been the focus on content orientated marketing or ‘content marketing’. This approach recognises that simply pushing products to sell resonates only with an exceptionally small number of a potential customer base. Content is presented as an experience, and can be found in almost any form. The majority of the time it is presented in extensive social media engagement, videos, articles, et cetera. They will typically contain a somewhat clever metaphor or idea, the bad ones will be based on a terrible pun.
Creating this much volume and trying to maintain quality is expensive and time consuming, and though a select few achieve huge success, there are plenty of companies of all sizes who have seen little return. So why are people more disaffected than ever before? Why are they not spending their valuable attention on all of this stuff? Well because, despite the change in approach, the way the stories are delivered still sucks.
Authenticity, not content, is king
Most marketing departments do not set out with the goal of creating bad campaigns. They do it almost entirely by accident, with the help of a couple of shibboleths that have gone unchallenged in the industry for years. There is a shortage of the kind of blue sky thinking required to really engage people, and cut through the aforementioned noise. Make no mistake, the competition between adverts is cutthroat, you’ve got to be bold to stand out. Because there is so much volume, people have developed a built-in instinct for what an ad looks like and sounds like, and once that association has been made, all that work towards a content-orientated strategy will likely fall flat on its face. This is because it lacks authenticity, it tries to hide its KPI-driven ulterior motives beneath a veneer that barely conceals it. The creative direction is often cliché-driven and overly padded. Social media strategy is a good example of companies recognising the need to engage on these relatively new platforms, but being stuck in an old mindset that has not adapted with the technology. Tweets and posts are meticulously planned out and rather than resembling the distinctly ‘social’ nature of that platform, each one instead feels like a mini press-release. A web-advertising campaign across multiple socials, YouTube, Google et al, will cost a significant amount for a comparatively paltry amount of engagement. If you look at genuine content creators, people who make a living from these platforms, they are often able to generate tens to multiple thousands of times the interest with no spend whatsoever. It’s not even that their content isn’t commercial in nature, many of them create content explicitly related to products and brands. Something crucial is happening with respect to the interaction between the audience and the content.
This applies just as much to B2B as it does to B2C. B2B marketing has come a long way since ads were just a product with a list of bullet-points on a neutral colour, but it still has a reputation for being tediously dull in many sectors, particularly mature ones. The scarcity of attention applies just as much to business people as it does to consumers, and if anything, authenticity is of greater consequence when companies are being asked to stake a significant investment in you and your product. The only significant difference between the two is the needs you are fulfilling and the corresponding messages you want to send.
So what can a company, irrespective of its size, do to adapt and succeed in this environment? Watch this space for part 2!
Christmas Ad Roundup 2016Read More
To me, Christmas adverts are easily the highlight of the marketing year. This time of year showcases some of the best creative consumer advertising sandwiched in between the televisual delights of the festive season. Whilst there are many blogs ranking the peoples’ favourites, there is so much variety this year that it is impossible to choose. So instead, here is my round-up of some of the best in each category, from the emotional and the beautiful, to the feel-good and the funny.
But first, some honourable mentions:
• Aldi “Tale of Kevin the Carrot” – Could you get more festive than an anthropomorphised root vegetable?
• Coca-Cola “Holidays are coming” – as reliable and festive as cold weather, busy shopping centres and the Queen’s speech.
• Waitrose “Home for Christmas”– It is impossible not to become emotionally invested in this dramatic journey of a robin making his way home for a mince pie.
• Amazon – A heart-warming story about two clerics from different religions who, by exchanging gifts, give a hopeful nod to post-brexit Britain.
• TK Maxx – Very simply, a bizarre and comical a cappella singsong with heaped spoonful’s of festive spirit.
The Tear Jerker
In 2015 this award would, without doubt, have gone to “The man on the moon” by John Lewis. However, it is 2016, and this year the award goes to an ad that almost had me ugly crying in the office upon first viewing. “Santa Forgot” by Alzheimer’s Research UK is an inspiring take on a Christmas story that tells the sad and hopeful story of the year that Santa forgot Christmas. Through a heart-breaking story, it addresses some of the misconceptions about Dementia and is well worth watching. A great contribution and maybe one you would have otherwise missed.
This award is dedicated to the ads that leave you thinking about the true meaning of Christmas… and possibly reaching for a tissue. For me, the ad deserving this award is Marks and Spencer’s “With love from Mrs Claus”. This may be controversial to the hard-core John Lewis fans out there, but this ad brought a tear to my eye (although it is not exactly hard). It tells the tale of a boy who asked Mrs Claus to help him make things right with his sister in time for Christmas. Beautifully written, wonderfully festive and enduringly classy. Well-done Sparks.
The Feel-Good Factor
When we are all rushing around, I do appreciate an advert that makes me take the time to recognise what we often forget during Christmas. This one was a tough call for me, but after a bit of thought, I think it has to go to Boots’ “The gift of beauty”. It is a lovely tribute to the women that will be hard at work this year whilst I am tucking in to my Christmas dinner. This ad left me wanting to know more about the women that are so rightly recognised here. It most definitely has the feel-good factor.
The Christmas Cheer
This year sees John Lewis in unfamiliar territory. Rather than a tearful and emotional tale that has us reaching for the tissues, Buster the Boxer provided us with what we might have all needed after a gruelling 2016. Although it has received mixed reviews, I am most certainly on side with John Lewis. Though we didn’t know it, what 2016 needed was definitely several small critters bouncing on a trampoline. The hedgehog was my favourite.
The Dark Horse
I didn’t know what to expect from H&M when I saw that they had released a Christmas ad. “Come Together” is H&M’s first entry to the Christmas ad scene up against some formidable contenders. In all honesty I did not expect great things… but I soon ate my words. “Come Together” is the unexpected tale of holiday plans ruined by train delays. Spoiler alert, the conductor pulls out all the stops and the passengers come together for a Christmas brunch on the train. At just under 4 minutes it is by far one of the longest ads but was an enticing story and an extremely pleasant surprise.
The Fairest Of Them All
Few words are capable of describing what Burberry delivered this year as their Christmas advertisement. Film? Art? Beautiful. The tale of Thomas Burberry is a triumph of film that is so stunning it has left almost everyone begging for a feature length movie so we can experience more on the big screen. Whilst it is not particularly emotional, funny or particularly festive it is without doubt the most beautiful of the Christmas ads and (in my humble opinion) worth every penny of the £10m budget.
This award is for the advert that makes me sit on my sofa and shout “me too!” at the screen. All year round Tesco is the familiar face that we all know and love, and their Christmas advert is no exception. Starring Ruth Jones, we follow her wandering the aisles to some festive tunes and hear the thoughts that we all share at this time of year:
o “It’s only November, my clothes still smell of bonfire”
o “Where do you put the tree and the lights and the decorations?”
o “I haven’t even started on the presents”
After a few worries about what the festive season brings, her husband, played by Ben Miller, offers a box of mince pies: “too soon?” Maybe it’s some inspiration from the festive tunes,
but she responds with a motto for all of us during the holiday season… “Bring it on”.
The Christmas advert from Sainsbury’s this year, sings the story of a hard working dad who is struggling to get everything done for Christmas. “If only there was a way to be in two places at once” he sings, before coming up with a plan. He uses the toy factory in which he works to make replicas of himself so he can do the shopping, be at work and spend time with his family all at once. The oh so familiar story is set to an original song sung by comedian James Corden, the title of which sums up the true meaning behind the story “The Greatest Gift For Christmas Is Me”. To top it off, Sainsbury’s charity partner this year is Great Ormond Street hospital, supporting families who are unable to go home for Christmas. Bravo.
The Great British Bake Off; a honey pot of marketing opportunitiesRead More
The Great British Bake Off, the hit “quintessentially BBC Programme” will now be broadcast on the UK’s Channel 4 after negotiations between BBC One and Love Productions went sour on Monday the 12th of September. With the 2015 final pulling in an average of 13.4 million viewers throughout the episode, it’s no surprise that GBBO (as it’s commonly known) was 2015’s most watched programme. Losing one of its most successful programmes is clearly a big blow for BBC One…but why is it so successful? Will moving away from the BBC impact on its ever growing popularity? Potentially yes, as the dynamic duo Mel and Sue announce they will stand down as the programme’s hosts.
However, the concept of the programme is undeniably attractive. The show has something for everyone: From yummy cakes and humorous hosts to crying over failed show-stoppers and Paul Hollywood’s brutal, no-nonsense judging. It’s inoffensive, easy viewing that has something for everyone – what’s not to love? The target audience seems to be the entire population. Cooking judge Mary Berry is a familiar face to the older generation, with her cookbooks taking pride of place in many homes since the 1970s, whereas the contestants come from all walks of life – the youngest being only 17 years old. Not only is the content of the programme enticing, but the way in which the programme markets itself and its social media strategy seem to be key in whipping up its viewers into a frenzy.
Twitter and GBBOs youthful tone
The Ying to the programme’s Yang is Twitter. Although the show’s Facebook newsfeed is lively, the @BritishBakeOff Twitter account has a strong 490K following. The feed is updated in real time during the programme encouraging a ‘tweetalong’ with viewers via the hashtag #GBBO, creating a buzz about the show as the drama unfolds. The tone the Twitter and Facebook accounts use to talk about the show appeals to the average viewer in a relatable and engaging way. They make sure to bring attention to the never ending reel of innuendos and the contestants’ baking faux pas. How could we forget Mary Berry’s #SoggyBottom? Or the controversy around Ian’s Baked Alaska? The apparent sabotage of his dessert led to public outcry and the hashtag #bingate trended on Twitter with a whopping 10,700 mentions. By promoting a relaxed and funny conversation online, GBBO entertains its viewers both on and off screen. However, it isn’t without risk; the innuendos that are now infamous from the show have been a cause for concern for some viewers, who believe the show sometimes takes it that step too far towards ‘smutty’ and detracts from the competition. Overall, the GBBO team tap into the way the viewer is thinking and influence the online conversation extremely well.
Harnessing the power of gifs and memes
The social media accounts regularly use clips and quotes from the live show to create content in the form of memes and gifs. This type of content is far more engaging than a normal text post. By being light-hearted, relatable and providing instant laughs; both memes and gifs are very ‘of the moment’ and easy to share on social media. This means that the GBBO content quickly spreads throughout the twitter sphere.
Engaging with viewers
The post-show programme, Extra Slice, later on in the week ensures the GBBO conversation never dies down. Here, viewers are asked to send in photos of their best and worst bakes via the hashtag #ExtraSlice, that are then either praised or mocked on the show and across social media. By sharing their baking experiences and seeing their own content on the show, viewer satisfaction and engagement is at an all time high.
The Great British Bake Off really knows how to engage with its target audience and keep them coming back for more. Its dominance and youthful approach to creating content for Twitter has meant its popularity as a show has increased year on year. To honour the programme’s well deserved Twitter success, GBBO now has its very own GBBO emoji, featuring the bake-off tent which pops up whenever you use the #GBBO hashtag.
The Bake off effect
It’s not just GBBO that reaps the benefits from its top viewer ratings; many businesses have noticed and taken advantage of ‘The Bake-Off Effect’. The marketing potential of the show itself is enormous. Whatever jacket Mary Berry wears seems to sell out by the end of the episode, and now that the show is moving onto Channel 4 we may see more product placement creeping onto our screens. Advertising will undoubtedly be in demand in between the show, but are there easier ways to utilise GBBO for marketing your business?
The number of baking products sold during the 2015 Bake Off season increased by 214 per cent in comparison to the weeks prior to the show. In response, supermarkets such as Morrisons employed ‘Bake-Off officers’ purely to watch the show and, as a result, predict next week’s demand for cookery items and stock appropriately. Waitrose goes as far to say that the 11 weeks that GBBO runs is the third most important event for grocery sales in the calendar behind Easter and Christmas – grocery sales alone increased by up to 392%. Kenwood also has used the bake off-induced cooking craze to its advantage by planning to coincide promotion of its KitchenAid mixers with the beginning of The Bake Off season 2016.
It isn’t just kitchen utensil providers and supermarkets that have got on board with The Bake Off craze. By getting involved with the #GBBO conversation on social media, brands can market themselves to viewers without them even realising. Most often when they’re most relaxed, with a cup of tea in front of the telly. Brands who get involved with the GBBO conversation make themselves look more personable to their current followers, using the opportunity to show off their personality and not just their products or services. It’s also a chance for brands and businesses to be exposed to a new audience they may not usually reach or think to advertise to.
Shortlist Magazine is a good example of an unlikely brand to get involved with this ‘in the moment marketing’. As an upmarket, men’s magazine it kept its GBBO tweets relevant by sharing tech stories about baking and kitchen-wear as well as funny gifs. The London Fire Brigade also got involved with the GBBO conversation to promote a more serious issue. By tweeting its own videos and writing relevant blog content featuring bakers and topics from the show, the Fire Brigade aimed to remind viewers of the importance of kitchen safety and fire hazards.
So, the morale of the story is that even if you don’t tune into the Great British Bake Off, there seems to be no reason why you and your business can’t get involved with all the potential marketing opportunities.
– Tell me what you think on Twitter @EllenAtNotch
6 Steps in the Notch JourneyRead More
6 Steps in the Notch Journey.
From big thinking to creating brilliance, Notch Communications delivers proven results and lasting brand success. Check out the six steps we take during the Notch journey in our infographic!
Using humour for successful B2B marketingRead More
Humour is a technique commonly used in B2C marketing; however, it’s something we rarely see in B2B marketing. This is largely due to the fact that B2B is inherently professional and so the marketing has to match that, nearly always resulting in more serious campaigns. After all, a large corporation trying to sell their services or products at a high cost cannot be seen as comedians who want to make a joke out of what they do. However, on few occasions some B2B companies have taken the risk and added some humour to their marketing campaigns, with great success.
It makes sense to remain corporate and professional in your marketing campaigns if that reflects the business appropriately. However, it is important to remember that at the end of every business deal is a group of human beings, all with emotions and the capacity to laugh at a joke. We are surrounded by traditional adverts with a stern message full of corporate jargon and buzzwords. Rarely, though, do we see a humorous advert that makes us stop, think and, most importantly, remember the message and the associated company. In a world that’s becoming increasingly social, too, the funny ads are the ones we’re likely to share with our friends and colleagues, essentially extending the reach and success of an advert.
Examples of successful marketing using humour
One company that managed to incorporate humour into their marketing strategy effectively is Epuron. They are a clean energy company essentially trying to sell wind… not exactly the most exciting thing to market. Yet, with the use of humour, and by poking fun at the dull nature of their business, Epuron has managed to produce a video that turns something relatively uninteresting into a joke that everyone could enjoy. In fact, the video was so successful that it’s racked up 3.5 million views on YouTube and collected a number of awards including two golds at the 2007 London International Advertising Awards and two more at the International ANDY Awards. While it may not make you go out and purchase a wind turbine, it will definitely make you think fondly of the company as a whole.
What Epuron did so well was recognise that a traditional advert may not wow their customers and instead used it to their advantage by putting a humorous spin on their service. Their video tells a story starting with a sad, lonely man, using everyday relatable events throughout, and ending happily, leaving us all with a laugh and a warm heart. This is a common pattern for using humour in adverts.
A company called Kinaxis has truly embraced comedy in its marketing. This advert by Kinaxis uses an everyday dating situation to represent the simplicity of its software. Often, B2B marketing can become over-complicated and technical, but this advert has stripped it right back to a simple and funny story, which everyone can probably recognise. Drawing parallels between your ex/current girlfriend and computer software probably isn’t the most obvious of links, but it definitely worked and is in fact part of a 6-part video series. Watch them here and see whether you’d consider investing in their products with ads like these.
Tim Washer, a stand-up comedian and video producer, created this advert for Cisco, marketing an $80,000 ASR 9000 Router. It’s not exactly a gift you’d buy for anyone – ever – but the company fully embraced this and advertised it as the ultimate Valentine’s present for the person you love. Boasting the product’s features that make it better than its competition, the Cisco router is made out to be the present that everyone is hoping to wake up to on Valentine’s morning. I think this advert is definitely one to make you chuckle, and even if you’re not prepared to dish out $80,000 on that special someone, sending them the link to the video may just be enough…
Creating your own humorous advertising campaign
The most common starting point for devising a successful comedy B2B advert is identifying a common pain-point or highlighting everyday situations that cause us trouble, and building a story around this for your product. The above examples all contained recognisable situations that a lot of people could relate back to their own lives. They all appeal to a widespread audience and, because of the humour, leave a lasting impression of the company on everyone.
Humorous marketing in the life science industry
The use of humour in Notch’s industry, life science and chemicals, remains limited. We’ve seen some companies adopting a slightly more light-hearted tone with their marketing on social media with the likes of sharing science jokes, but that’s typically where it ends. It remains a very corporate sector and pulling off an advert like the ones above would be a massive risk, but maybe someone will have to take the leap of faith as far as humorous marketing is concerned. Ultimately, companies are always looking for innovative ways to market their services and products, and this may just be the way to do it.
Begin thinking about humour in B2B marketing now
I think the point I’m trying to prove with this blog is that humour should not be absolutely ruled out of a B2B marketing campaign. Granted, it’s a risk and it may be difficult to get right, but if you do, the outcomes could be great. More and more so, companies are looking for different ways to advertise, and something as simple as humour could be that differentiator.
What are your thoughts on humour in B2B marketing? Unprofessional or a breath of fresh air? Let me know by tweeting me @EmilyAtNotch!