October 22, 2007

Brand consistency redefined: achieving constancy of purpose and the 70/30 rule

In this excellent article, Jeff Swystun, Director of Global Communications at DDB Worldwide, shows how the sooner brand owners and managers change their definition of and approach to consistency, the sooner they will profit from increased relevance, differentiation, and influence.

October 12, 2007

The golden keys of E-commerce

Domain management strategies have in fact become ultra-sophisticated. Domain names are no longer small issues to be handled by the logo-centric, slogan-happy agencies or Web-tech teams. They now demand powerful strategic, boardroom-level discussions and a commanding knowledge of global domain registration laws and search engine visibility rules.

Today, in order to have a commanding e-commerce presence with universal access, domain names must be treated like very special golden keys. Without an effective domain name, the entire exercise of Internet-centric commerce becomes almost useless.

Super success in cyber-branding lies in the sophisticated creation, development and ownership of these powerful and magical keys, so that they may open the door to an undiscovered universe of billions of unknown customers around the world. Without this power and access, what's the point of being in the race for leadership and image

It only takes a minute to establish if one is holding that magical key or just toying with a rusty screwdriver.

Domain Names Matter
Domain management strategies have in fact become ultra-sophisticated, and they are among the most valuable components of any ambitious corporation's strategy for building digital branding assets
and intellectual property.

Domain names are no longer small issues to be handled by the logo-centric, slogan-happy agencies or Web-tech teams. They now demand powerful strategic, boardroom-level discussions and a commanding knowledge of global domain registration laws and search engine visibility rules.

But in order to be golden keys and not rusty screwdrivers, they also must serve the company's branding objectives.

During the dot-com boom, there must have been a million domain names registered each day. Even the most unusual, silly and dysfunctional names were sought-after icons of get-rich-quick dreamers, and 99 percent of them failed.

Dot-Com Graveyard
Exhausted or expired, these names have now disappeared, and along with them, the hundreds of millions of dollars on short-lived Web site campaigns.

Today, however, there are some very powerful, universal domain names that have carved powerful, highly lucrative positions. Their superior and exclusive fluidity on the net demonstrates the global power of e-commerce

Smart businesses around the world are aggressively in search of such golden keys.

The best approach to universal domain naming starts with a serious audit to professionally measure the strengths or weaknesses of the proposed names. This process is best served by highly objective views.

The primary goal is to achieve power and access for maximum impact. Today, only the very best names will dominate the global marketplace. Weak, confusingly similar, or nearly identical names do not have a chance of surviving the power and ubiquity of e-commerce.

Be Original
The duplication factor alone will bury most names in complex global listings.
The most expensive Web sites are useless and the best campaigns will remain stuck unless there is a deeper understanding of this subject.

Then there are alpha-structures, which can kill great Web sites and become a liability to business itself. One must have the knowledge to determine the message, personality and length of the name, plus the choice of alpha characters, as each emits its own unique signals.

General branding exercises cannot be mistaken for these complex naming analyses. The strictest application of the
Five Star Standard of Naming guards against such expensive busts.

The Google Test
The hyper-visibility of a universal cyber-name is the main issue. A quick search on
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is an instant test of any name's visibility. To appear on the top or on the first page is the most sought-after position, but only an extremely small percentage can achieve this as most names are poorly structured and remain buried by massive duplication.

With the high cost of promotion and intense global competition, it's a brand-new frontier. A lot of money can be wasted in creating an artificial bounce in traffic to an expensive Web site, but in reality it's only those uniquely designed domains that quickly rise to the top with little effort.

Only an in-depth, highly customized analysis will point to the deep problems and illuminate the latest methods to fix them.

Today, it's about global domainization, as multiple domain names create multiple problems in multiple markets. There are highly sophisticated rules to be followed. Be aware that there are too many fancy services offering sketchy global registration and translation services.

The World Is Your Domain
Domains are for the international audience and global customer base, and companies should avoid serious language issues, such as translations or foreign connotations that may be embarrassing to the company or confusing to customers. Cyber branding is an extremely global phenomenon.

Mind share is more important than market share. Customers need to allow a name brand to settle in their minds before they give out their cash. As such, market positioning is more critical than profit maximization.

The human mind gravitates toward good names; those that are user-friendly and trustworthy. When trying to process millions of silly and randomly structured names, the mind quickly becomes exhausted.

In conclusion, logo-driven branding has fallen into a deep sleep on these complex matters, and there's no need to wake it up. Currently, with 95 percent of the domain names stuck in traffic jams, a frank and very candid CEO-level discussion is required. Denials and refusal to face up to reality will simply keep a company's e-commerce presence mired in oblivion -- guaranteed.

Today, one needs a very special golden key to open the gates of e-commerce. Now, can we throw away that rusty screwdriver? Source: Nasseem Javed, E-Commerce Times

The many challenges of writing a CEO blog

Source: Jeremiah Owyang. So often do I meet clients that instantly want to check off the “CEO Blog” inventory for their marketing mix, little do they realize that the CEO blog may be the most difficult to create an maintain, and will likely be under the most scrutiny of any other employee. I’ve met and worked with many Fortune 5000 companies on the topic of social media, and think it’s time to release this list of reasons why CEO blogs are so difficult.

I know many CEOs that blog, and I hope they chime in and perhaps share what they’ve done to overcome these challenges.

The Many Challenges of Writing a CEO blog:
While not every CEO blog will be afflicted with the following, here are of the common diseases I’ve seen.

Probally the biggest challenges that all CEOs have are the limited amount of cycles they can spend on communicating. As we know blogs are conversational tools, they are not press releases or memos, they often require dialog, reading responses, even if you don’t have comments enabled. Blogs that don’t abide by rules simply become irrelevant.

Legal Scrutiny
John Schwartz, CEO blogger of Sun has his legal team read and watch his blog, he often is recommended to add safe-harbor provision, boilerplate statements to prevent from lawsuits. With increased legal eagle monitoring and the potential of saying something that could backfire, the CEO blogger has to be very careful in what they say, and may not be able to give strong opinion.

Not Authentic
Large companies (and some small ones) are afraid to make mistakes, I’ve heard of a few cases where the CEO blog was started by the CEO then handed over to the communications group to write. Although these things are absolutely traceable and timing can be watched, we’ve got to wonder what’s the point of maintaining this blog, perhaps the team should pour the efforts into another tool.

Clare Hart was Factiva’s former CEO and active blogger. She reached out to me when I talked about her product (I was a customer) and has since moved on to a bigger position at Dow Jones. Sadly,
her blog is now a ghostly figure, I’ve been up close for this too as there are Hitachi blogs that have been left unattended too.

See, I’m cool too
Far too often, I hear tacticians (not strategists) suggest they want a tool without realizing the business reason to use it, it’s possible they saw this
list of CEO blogs, saw a competitor doing it, or just decided to jump on the bandwagon. Coupled with the need for image freshening; for some CEOs, they may want to shed the yacht club reputation and have realized a great way to tap into the latest trend is to join the conversations of customers. Deploying these tools to join the ‘cool’ revolution is never a great idea, people see through it way too quickly.

The Party Line/Rogue Blogger
This has to be one of the worst diseases of CEO blogs, when you see a CEO announce his own product, shout out the marketing line, in an attempt to boost the latest release. While we love enthusiasm for one’s passion, when it comes from the chief, deep down, we filter out some of the hype. On the flip side, a rogue CEO blogger who speaks his mind and shares his beliefs that the corporation may not agree with could potentially damage deals and client relationships, a true PR nightmare.

Should be doing other things?
Shareholders and disgruntled employees may not understand the benefits of communication tools and may be asking themselves and others; “Shouldn’t the CEO be doing something else besides blogging? Like running the company?” While the strategic CEO blogger incorporates these tools for internal and shareholder communications, when things go south, criticism will go up.
Long term commitmentMany bloggers, CEO or not, fail to realize there is only one exit strategy from blogging, and that is you stop. Unless the return on investment is clear, if blogging becomes a task and not a passion, the dreariness will also cascade into the writing.

Last and worst, many CEO blogs are carefully written, sometimes reviewed, edited or polished, thus removing the humanness that we know. Often, CEOs are media trained not to say things that will be used against them in public or private. The world, as I know it, is not polished, but rough, bumpy, and I’m ok with that. Often, the job of Corporate Communications is to remove any jagged edges, thus removing the humanity of a natural human blog.

Keeping it Real
Please don’t think I’m down on blogging, in fact, I’m one of the biggest advocates of joining the conversation. I really want you to think about the ramifications of CEO blogs before you start, this post is intended to help you. If you’re wanting to think about other tools, I’ve often though
video is great for executives.

Talk Back
If you’re still inclined, be sure to respond to me from your own blog or in the comments on 1) the benefits of CEO blogs and 2) how to overcome these challenges.

For more info on business blogs, read
Shel Israel Co-author of Naked Conversations, Debbie Weil author of Corporate Blogging, and the Business Blogging Summit. Alternatively, I give advice to clients, my contact info is public.

October 5, 2007

How companies are marketing online: A McKinsey Global Survey

A global survey shows that marketers already regard digital tools as
very important for advertising and for managing sales and service--but
frequently don't use them. Why? Although respondents are applying
both established and Web 2.0 technologies to reach customers at every
stage of decision making, they complain about a shortage of skilled
people to run online vehicles and about a lack of metrics to assess

  • A McKinsey global survey of marketers shows that companies are using digital tools—from Web sites to wikis—most extensively for customer service, least in pricing. Two-thirds are using digital tools for product development, almost as many as are advertising online.
  • Respondents consider online ads to be as useful for brand building as for direct response. Spending is expected to increase on all types of online advertising vehicles over the next three years.
  • In 2010 just over half of all respondents expect their companies to be getting 10 percent or more of their sales from online channels—twice as many companies as have hit that mark today. And 11 percent expect to be spending a majority of their advertising budgets online by then.
  • Most companies today don’t integrate their online and offline marketing efforts; companies that use online tools across the full spectrum of marketing activities are much more likely to do so.

Register free online to The McKinsey Quaterly to discover respondents’ views on digital-marketing tools and techniques.

October 4, 2007

12 steps to the interactive future - you decide

1. Change Your Marketing Mindset

Marketing's role has not changed. It's still about defining target markets, communicating with prospective customers, building loyalty and so on. But the techniques that were successful in the past will be less and less effective in the future. This is where your new marketing mindset comes in.

Clear your mind of all those one-way, one-sided communication techniques, all those ways of spouting only your side of the story. Marketing to the Social Web is not about you getting your story out, it's about your customers. It's about being more transparent, earning trust, building credibility. It's about nurturing relationships and dialogue among customers, prospects, your company and whoever else is active in the community.

2. Make Your Brand Come Alive

To win the branding war, you have to recognize that brand equity is shifting away from brand essence and brand recall. Those were key elements in the old marketing and resulted in what I call the stationary brands, like Gillette, Kodak, Disney and Kellogg's.

But a brand is actually a living, changing thing, especially in the new marketing. It is difficult for many marketing people and C-level executives to admit that their brand is a living thing. Yet, in the new marketing reality, the brand is based on the dialogue you have with your customers and prospects: the stronger the dialogue, the stronger the brand; the weaker the dialogue, the weaker the brand.

What makes the Social Web so important is that it permits companies to have these kinds of dialogues more efficiently and less expensively than ever in the past. Google is a good example of a living brand that fosters dialogue. Its features, in fact, actually enable dialogue between users—features like Google Talk, Google Groups and Blogger. The brand has become iconic because it's an indispensable part of everyday life for anyone who uses a computer. Google is always developing new features, asking for feedback on "beta" elements and checking to see what people do with Google.

In the new marketing, companies gauge brand equity not by static measures such as brand recall but by dynamic measures such as customer word-of-mouth.

3. Out with the Old Segmentation

Companies have traditionally segmented their markets according to easily identifiable demographics like age or gender. In the second period of marketing, they added lifestyle factors such as diet or medical concerns. With the advent of the Social Web, the new marketing means segmenting by what people do and feel—their behavior as well as their attitudes and interests. Your goal is to identify groups of customers within the larger market that you can reach and affect through your marketing.

Segmenting by behavior, attitudes and interests doesn't depend on faceless numbers (how old customers are or how wealthy they are, for instance). Instead, it groups people by what's important to them, as indicated by what they do, think, like, and dislike. Once you know what moves your customers, you can target them with marketing activities that are meaningful to them. (It's all about them, after all.)

4. Target by Behavior

The old way of targeting was by demographics. This has probably been beaten into marketers' heads because it tends to be the way to buy media. Not in the new marketing. Now the Web helps us map behavior (on the Web itself) very closely. Age, sex, educational level, income and other demographic indicators do not even register online (with the exception of a Web site for children or for products like liquor, where age is very important for legal reasons). As the famous New Yorker cartoon pointed out, on the Web, nobody knows if you're a dog. Software can track behavior, however, through the sites customers have been visiting, how long they linger on each page and many other details. This opens the door to precise targeting opportunities.

Ultimately, the Social Web will lead to targeting customers who say, "Here are the things I like. Make me an offer, instead of my having to do all the work." Customers will be more open to targeting based on behavior because they've made the choice, they have the control. Marketing is not an irritation or an interruption if it relates to something customers want. The ideal is to get your brand in front of just the people who are interested in your product or service at this time.

One of the big changes happening with the Social Web is a swing away from one-to-one targeting. I think marketers went too far in that direction, to a point of diminishing returns. We don't need to know every little thing about an individual. We do need to know that an individual participates in three or four online communities of interest on any given day.

5. Communicate Interactively

The new marketing creates the platform of true interactivity. Add more dimensions to the communication, rather than having most of the communication flowing from the organization. So you might add the ability to search and query, which is similar to search; add dialogue; add comments; add personal reviews of products, services, experiences.

Communication is less about creating contained and controlled messages (as in the old marketing) and more about creating compelling environments to which people are attracted. Remember, the marketer's primary job is to be the aggregator of customers and potential customers. The marketer's secondary job now and in the future is to create compelling environments that attract people.

How do you create an environment that is a shared, powerful experience? Starbucks is a great example of environmental marketing because it is a physical place that people want to visit and stay a long time. Amazon is a great example of early environmental marketing because people actually hung out at the Amazon Web site. They wrote about the books they liked and didn't like, and made lists for other visitors. Oracle and IBM are two business-to-business examples of how to create digital environments that are thoughtful, attractive and foster interactive communication.

6. Embrace Consumer Content

In the new marketing, the best Web site will combine professional and user-generated content (contributed by customers and potential customers). You're asking for this—encouraging it—when you create an environment where it's easy to talk about your products or services. Even when you pay for and develop professional content, user-generated content continues the dialogue.

Here's what I mean about balancing professional and customer-generated content. You have every right as, say, a leading energy company to post your thoughts about the future of electricity. Customers will let you know whether they agree or disagree. You can offer podcasts from an expert on energy from the University of California, who talks about the future of renewable energy. Again, customers will react to this professional content with their own content. It's almost embarrassingly easy to create a video with a video camera, digital camera, cell phone or computer. Of course, the video may not be very slick, but that is often the point.

Let me point out, at the risk of sounding profound in a clichéd way, that everybody has become media. So as you get into the Social Web, you are media. Individuals are media, organizations are media. They are writers, editors and publishers, sorting, prioritizing and presenting compelling content in an interesting way makes it important.

For example, a local dry cleaner can hand a camera to an assistant and produce a show called, "Here's how we take care of the spots on your dresses. We don't use harsh chemicals. We are environmentally friendly." The chef at an Italian restaurant can produce a show called, "How we put together today's special from my grandmother's recipe." Or, even more basic, "Going to the market with Chef Umberto," following the chef as he picks out tomatoes or cuts of meat. Be sure to allow questions for interactivity. "Gee, Chef Umberto, my zucchini soufflé didn't turn out. What did I do wrong?"

7. Spread the Right Virus

Viral marketing is interesting because it is word-of-mouth over which you have no control. Before I go on, a word about silly virals such as the "Subservient Chicken." At www.subservientchicken.com, a camera reveals a person in a chicken costume standing in a dingy living room. The chicken responds to typed commands, such as "tap dance," "take a bow" or "do push-ups." In the 17 months after it appeared, the site was visited more than 422 million times.

The site won a Grand Clio in the Internet ad category for Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami. Although the site barely mentioned Burger King and I've never seen anything to indicate what it did for the company, the Subservient Chicken's popularity prompted the entire advertising industry to look for viral ads that were funny, charming, sexy or controversial, then e-mail them to friends or post them on a Web site. My 10-year-old son, who is interested in Google video now, thought it was a howl when he found an animated hippopotamus singing a song, and he kept e-mailing it to his friends. So even at a 10-year-old's level, we can see the effect of virality.

Yet silly virality, for all its popularity, is not really word-of-mouth. The concept we should be talking about is content-based virality. How do companies get solid viral content, something that does more than simply attract attention to itself? In healthcare, the content could be about lowering cholesterol or improving quality of life. People talking to other people about these topics will create a viral dialogue with content.

8. Accept Customer Reviews

In the old marketing, customers turned to professional book, theater, movie and restaurant reviewers for knowledgeable opinions. Once Zagat and Amazon invited ordinary people to give their opinions, there was no stopping the trend, the "Zagatization" of everything. Consumer Reports and the experts will always have their place, but in the new marketing, expect customers to vote on everything from cruise lines to cookware.

Customer reviews become particularly important for things that people don't do very often—such as rafting down the Grand Canyon or buying an ultralight airplane. Reviews include big-ticket items, drugs, cosmetics and many other things that affect the body. They also will be important for local and small businesses to enhance the experience of being part of a family of customers. If you add local search—the ability to find an Indian restaurant in San Diego or a bed-and-breakfast in Asheville, N.C.—the reviews become exceptionally powerful. You may keep your ad in the Yellow Pages, but why not spend a little time, effort and money to build your social media site?

In short, don't try to control your customers. The difficulty in the movement toward the Social Web is the natural instinct of marketers and corporate culture to control the message and the customer. It's difficult to give up control completely, but realize that reviews, as user-generated content, serve to demonstrate your company's transparency.

9. Leave Paper Behind

We have fewer reasons to kill trees because advertising and publishing for the Social Web requires no physical objects. Many of us simply throw away the instruction manuals that accompany our products, anyway. In fact, let's put all manuals on the Web. If I threw the manual away when I bought my microwave four years ago, invite me to download another copy from the Web site or click to watch a brief video.

The new marketing will be collateral-free, with material that is more compelling, customized, visual and up-to-date. Information can be a powerful customer relationship tool, but it doesn't have to be printed in an ad or booklet.

Ideally, you want to make content available at the exact moment customers need it. Let people choose what they want to see and when they want to see it, in effect making customers co-publishers. The same holds true for advertising. Give up control, give customers real choices (and real content), and their collaboration will make the dialogue more meaningful. You can sponsor a site or community and associate your brand with it, but don't expect to control the dialogue.

10. Invert Your Strategy

Strategy has traditionally been imposed from the top down. Now it has to be bottom up. As marketers, we have to learn from the people who are really paying attention to our products. Companies should test ideas and products, and let the strategy bubble up from there, instead of trickling down from top management. Through the Social Web you can quickly test, say, 2,000 versions of a new yogurt container and build on the winning version. Suppose you develop a new diet pill. Where should it be displayed in chain drugstores? Where would a prospective customer look for this kind of product? Test that and use the results to drive your strategy.

Clearly, there are other dimensions to strategy. Market leaders must have an overall strategy to stay on top in the automotive industry, soft-drink industry, computer industry. But in a Social Web world, you have to segment your strategies to the various communities in which you want to participate and sell. If you're an automotive company, how do you communicate to the group that is interested in environment and energy conservation or the group that cares about speed and sexy looking cars?

11. Let Users Decide

In the old marketing, information was arranged into channels, folders and categories to suit advertisers. In other words, the sponsors practically dictated the hierarchy of organization. Not any more. With the Social Web, information has to be available on demand by keyword, when and how users want it. So when I need to change the cartridge in my ink-jet printer, I have to be able to find that information quickly and easily. Similarly, Samsung should have its information link immediately available to prospects who enter an appropriate keyword ("flat-panel TV").

Customers want what they want when they want it, and in a way that makes sense to them. This may not necessarily be the hierarchical organization that makes sense to the advertiser or its information technology department.

Companies have traditionally used cost per thousand (CPM) to gauge advertising costs. How much will it cost to reach one million people at prime time in the Boston metro area? How much will it cost for an ad in a magazine with a circulation of 600,000? Notice that CPM puts the focus on the cost that the company must pay.

The new marketing has an entirely different emphasis. Instead of thinking about cost, you'll be thinking about return on investment. Your marketing payment will be based on a measurable return. For example, you might pay according to customer lifetime value (how much a customer is likely to spend with your company during the "life" of your relationship with that customer). In a highly sophisticated situation, the calculation would include the value of that customer's word-of-mouth and referrals.

From this perspective, marketing to the Social Web is truly an investment in your brand's future growth and profitability. You're paying for that growth, but you have a better idea of what you'll get for your money because the technology allows for more precise monitoring and measurement.

12. Let the People Pay

In the new marketing, customers want to be in charge of their own payment options. Whether they use a credit card, give you a bank account number for debit or choose PayPal, payment options must be fast and easy. From your end, payments via the Web are easy to track and help you analyze where the company's revenue is actually coming from—down to specific customers and offers. That's a big payoff.

Excerpted from Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business by Larry Weber. Available at Amazon. A recent review appears in BrandWeek.

October 3, 2007

The end of control

"It is now becoming utterly impossible to control the people formerly known as consumers. Instead, they control the media purveyors — by virtue of millions of mouse-clicks and the power of their combined click-streams. ..." Many would agree with Gerd Leonhard's premise. Terrifying thought for communications and branding professionals! Perhaps his new blog-book The End of Control: How technology is Shifting Control Over Media to the People Formerly Known as Consumers will throw some light on what we need to do about it. You can sign up for free to receive weekly chapters at www.endofcontrol.com.

Meet Forrester Research's new social computing analyst

One to watch: Jeremiah Owyang recently left Podtech.net to take up a new position: senior analyst at Forrester Research with a focus on Social Computing. He'll be working with the very talented Charlene Li.

Jeremiah first made his name at Hitachi Data Systems where he was Online Community Manager, launching and managing a very successful social media program. At Podtech, he was Director of Corporate Media Strategy.

Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher interviews Jeremiah, where he says that 2008 will be the year in which more companies start to address what social computing means for their business, not just in marketing, but in product development, support services, and employee communications.

Jeremiah - best of luck in the new role!

October 2, 2007

InterContinental and the ‘Girl from Ipanema’

“Why do we play ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ when no one in the bar is over 40?”

It was this comment from InterContinental Hotels Group CEO, Andrew Cosslett in a broad-ranging Financial Times interview and touched upon frequently since (see Time Magazine, The Times, Chief Executive) that first caught our attention. Why indeed?

Believing that we had the answer, my Sound Strategies colleague, ex-Burson Marsteller London CEO Reginald Watts, contacted him straight away.

Since then Sound Strategies has been working with the Group’s lead brand, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, to develop a comprehensive Acoustic Program that will affect all the sound and music touch points in the brand’s 148 hotels around the world and across all communications channels - whether online, off-line or in the physical spaces of the hotels. Intercontinental will launch its Acoustic Program in early 2008.

According to David Anderson, vice president, global brand innovation for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts:

“Over the last year, we’ve been conducting in-depth consumer research around the world and one area of focus was the application of sound and music in our hotels. Music and sound have a profound and distinct affect on people’s physiological states and their moods. And of course, music and sound contribute significantly to the essence of our Brand. Therefore, we chose to take a comprehensive and scientific approach to our acoustic program.”

Music is such a fundamental part of our lives, our every tradition and celebration – regardless of culture – is accompanied by its own special sound-track. It’s so integral to our life experiences, in fact, that it is very easy to slip into cliché. And, as was only too obvious to Andy Cosslett, a hotel bar, restaurant, or even elevator, were potentially major transgressors! In fact, the company’s own research found that while two out of three guests consider themselves ‘passionate about music’ and are very clear about which styles they prefer, other research cites that nearly half of all hotel guests consider music used in hotels in general is ‘poor or very poor.’ This despite the widespread availability of hotel-branded CDs!

For us, this has been a fascinating and challenging commission which has opened up a new way of thinking for the use of sound as an effective communications tool. The whole of the work was underpinned by a year long research and analysis project into all aspects of the brand and business, and informed by the latest psychological and neurological information into how we associate with music. Not to mention a great day-long Music Awareness Workshop at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London with the entire Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts brand team – not quite Take That recording ‘We can rule the world, ’ but as close as a brand team gets, I’ll wager!

The end result has been the creation of a robust methodology which can be used for briefing music suppliers, agencies, live musicians, in fact anyone who is involved in sound in the hospitality industry. One that will take into account the differing needs of both communications media and audience (participator, really) situations, be it in physical spaces, online, television, telephony, or navigation.

Sound Strategies aims to help business understand more about sound and how we interact with it. We work closely with companies’ corporate affairs and marketing departments and the communications and advertising industries to examine how the use of music and sound can be more effective in all aspects of communications.

Internet advertising buoys the UK advertising industry with above-expectation 41.3% year on year growth in the first half of 2007

Above expectation growth takes the internet advertising sector to a half-year high of £1,334.3 million - compared to £917.2 million just a year ago - lifting online advertising's market share significantly, to 14.7%.

The results of the biannual internet advertising spend study commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the UK online advertising trade body, in association with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC), point to online advertising expenditure reaching a potential new high of £2.75 billion by the end of 2007.

The total UK advertising market grew by 3.1% during the first half of the year to £9.1 billion. However without online's contribution, UK media expenditure would have fallen by 1.9% (or £147 million). Once again the internet has propped up the UK advertising economy and remains the fastest-growing advertising medium. The new results see online overtake the size of the direct mail sector, which has a market share of 11.8%.

All major online ad formats surpass expectations

Classified advertising is the latest online success story, growing by 72% year on year to £277.7 million with a share of 20.8% of all internet advertising spend. Online classifieds in the recruitment, automotive and property sectors are shaking-up the print industry, with marketing budgets switching at a steady rate in response to the demands of the internet user.

Internet display advertising (including banners, skyscrapers and rich media formats) climbed 33% to £287 million and a share of 21.5%. Nine out of ten online households in the UK are now on broadband, and marketers in all sectors are targeting consumers with increasingly creative rich media and video advertisements.

Paid-for search (search engine listings that advertisers pay for when a consumer clicks through to their site) was 44% up year-on-year to £762.3 million - a share of 57.1% of the online total. Growth is attributed to at least half of all ecommerce transactions (£32 billion in 2006) starting with a search. In July 2007 internet users carried out 1.4 billion search queries and over 80% of these resulted in a click through to a website. Advertisers recognise that search plays a valuable role in building brands, selling products and creating a competitive advantage online.

Major categories up, automotive is star online performer

The top five categories remain the same as in 2006 but automotive has overtaken finance with a 12.5% share and is very much the star performer. From brand-building display ads for marques and models, to email building relationships, through to search aiding research and price comparison, and ultimately classifieds helping consumers find what they want, the automotive industry utilises every online format to complete a customer journey.

Recruitment leads with 24.7% of share up 5.3 points with finance down 3.9 points to 11.7%. Consumer goods made steady progress, increasing by 0.7 points to 5.3%, while retail remained static at around 3.1% of all online advertising spend.

The share of the business and industrial category more than doubled to 3.1% while telecoms also performed well - up two points to 6.7%. Property continued its ascendancy achieving a share of 5.7%, up 1.4 points year-on-year.

Key drivers for growth

Broadband: Broadband is now an everyday utility with 52% of all adults in Great Britain connected at home*, an increase from 13% of all adults with broadband just three years ago. With 90% of home internet users now accessing via broadband, up 6 points year on year, and 38% of the online population having used a wireless connection at home in the past month, advertisers are able to deliver far more creative and engaging communications to a mass audience.

Online evolution: Ofcom research reveals that average daily web use rose by 158% over the past four years; the over-50s account for nearly 30% of time spent online; and women in the critical 25 - 34 age group spend on average 20% more time on the net than their male counterparts. This is all great news for advertisers as the medium hurtles towards £2.75bn by the end of the year.

Social networking websites: While not a major driver of online advertising expenditure, social networking sites generate higher consumer demand for fast broadband, increasing time spent online and boosting overall consumer confidence in the online experience. This is likely to increase advertiser interest in the medium and lead to a continued growth in advertising expenditure for years to come.

Measurement and web analytics: As tools for measuring the efficacy of online, such as engagement and brand-building, become more sophisticated and robust the sector is fast becoming more accountable, transparent and measurable than traditional advertising sectors.

The online market is developing at an astounding rate and once again we see exceptional growth and a significant increase in market share. 90% of internet users are on broadband now and nearly 40% are using wireless. We're also seeing women and the over 50s spending far more time online, which makes the internet a very attractive medium to a broader set of advertisers.

Importantly, marketers have a much better understanding of how online works and how to measure the effects of brand advertising as well as direct response. With other disciplines such as web TV, mobile and in-game advertising on the rise too, the opportunities in digital are limitless.

Source: Internet Advertising Bureau UK.

October 1, 2007

Top ten tips on managing your brand online

Although this only covers website design basics, it's a good list from web standards compliance specialist Simon Lande of Magnus, posting on e-consultancy.com. According to Simon:
"Effective management of your web standards yields tangible results: it builds the brand, cuts costs, and optimises web operations. Yet, most companies struggle to retain order online, and the penalties for poor management are high: damage to brand and reputation, loss of revenue, operating inefficiencies and risk of litigation."

Here are 10 tips for managing your brand online, with the effective application of standards:

  1. Brand standards online are more than just fonts and colour. A website is an immersive experience of your brand, and your standards should cover everything which contributes to that experience. Online brand standards should also incorporate code standards, content presentation, usability, SEO, and legal issues such as accessibility and data protection.
  2. Establish governance procedures. It is important to establish responsibilities, and there needs to be a central body, which will monitor, support, and if necessary, enforce standards.
  3. Communicate with your web editors. Ensure you have effective mechanisms for communicating with your editors. It can also be helpful to encourage them to communicate more amongst themselves to share ideas and discuss common issues.
  4. Define your standards clearly. Try to avoid ambiguity when you document your standards. It is much better to give people clear rules which are easy to follow than vague principles and preferences. This way, standards compliance can be measured and quantified. Ensure your standards are defined and documented by someone who understands the web environment.
  5. Explain the benefits of following standards. Used effectively, your standards can also act as a coaching tool for your web editors.
  6. Standardise code wherever possible. This will give you more control over your website quality, and save time and money by preventing similar code being developed over and over again. If you use a global ECMS this will be done automatically, but even if you don’t you can still provide templates and code snippets.
  7. Keep your standards guidelines resources up to date. Any change in your web standards needs to be reflected in all the places your editors look to for guidance. Sounds obvious, but frequently overlooked.
  8. Measure web standards compliance regularly. You need to establish some mechanism for monitoring whether standards are being followed, and communicating issues with the web editors. Given the sheer scale of this task it is advisable to automate the process.
  9. Make sure the main “.com” site accurately follows your web guidelines. There’s nothing more confusing for your web editors than your flagship website not following standards.
  10. Take standards contraventions seriously wherever they are. Your web editors will find it easier to copy peer websites than read guidelines; so unchecked standards contraventions have a nasty habit of propagating themselves right across your web presence.