Friday, 23 July 2010

Is Facebook the answer for financial services brands?

Facebook announced its 500,000,000th user this week. That makes it the equivalent of the third most populus country on the planet; 7.4% of the world’s population; 1 in 13 people is a member etc. etc. I’m sure you’ve probably read the stats, they’re front page news after all.

However, the question remains. Is Facebook the right place for all brands and in particular the large established financial services brands to start engaging with customers? While trust remains at such a low ebb, financial services brands have got a long way to go before they can be 'Liked' on Facebook with any true conviction.

There's no doubt that financial services brands should be involved in social media, but the job at the moment is to listen. In many ways it could be argued that brands with the lowest trust levels should be modelling their businesses around social even more than those that are loved. That means listening, learning, feeding that into customer service, product development and innovation and then releasing and engaging through multiple touchpoints with consumers.

There is an opportunity right now for financial services brands to build businesses that could emerge as some of the most customer responsive and fully immersed companies in the market. So Financial services braqndsdon't concentrate too much effort on being 'Liked' on Facebook. It's a distraction. Concentrate on being 'involved' with your customers at as many touchpoints as possible.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Move over Meerkat, Old Spice is the new guy on the web

What’s 71 years old, looks fantastic in a towel and smells great. That's right, Old Spice baby. In the past couple of weeks Old Spice guy has stormed the Internet, in what is without doubt this year's 'Compare the Meerkat', in terms of it's impact, engagement and huge, fast-growing fanbase.

At the heart of the project is Old Spice guy, a smooth talking, towel wearing, hottie, loved by men and women alike. While the TV advertising sets out his buff credentials, the online activity has taken the campaign way beyond TV's dreams.

Since Tuesday, Old Spice guy has been personally responding to questions posed by fans and online big hitters alike. So far, the team has shot over 200 30 second video responses posted on Youtube, each within a couple of hours of the original question. The video postings have so far prompted over 10 million views in just 3 days and grown a Facebook fan base of over 500,000.

Undoubtedly the key to the Old Spice success has been the digital engagement strategy. The strategy sits at the heart of what started out as a TV ad aimed at going viral. The social media phenomenon that was Meerkat, started out as a side project which successfully grew exponentially as time went on. The recognition by P&G and Wieden and Kennedy (the agency behind the campaign) was that online social media needed to be, 'as well as', the TV not 'instead of'.

This has taken bravery and trust from the client, who are effectively handing over sign-off of, what are effectively, 100, 30 second TV spots, per day and enormous commitment and resource from the agency. There is currently a team of techies, film crew, analysts, marketers, writers and producers holed-up in a studio somewhere in Portland, Oregon working round the clock to get these things out.

As has been proved time and again digital and social media in particular is not the easy option. It takes a herculean effort of co-ordination, man-hours and creativity. Given the right time and space though, the rewards can be countless. Monocle smile @-)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Transactions via social networks and mobile gather pace

New research last week suggested that the pace of movement towards mobile payments is gathering. Teamspirit has been tracking the rise of alternative payment methodologies for a while, but it would seem the big banks aren’t necessarily taking the threat of the spread of these systems, through social networks, that seriously.

I’ve blogged previously about the potential impact of Facebook bank, but in the absence of a full commitment to all services the Facebook credits system that has been introduced, and widely used for payment of services such as online gaming, is very reminiscent of the way Paypal leveraged E-Bay to secure a foothold in the payments market to ultimately launch across the entire web. Facebook credits could easily follow the same model and become much more than the virtual currency it is currently.

But apart from these large social networks moving towards transaction it is the tipping point, provided by the adoption of smartphones that we feel will probably see the category explode. The emergence of smart phones, which can simply enable mobile wallets and interact with both marketing databases and payment-settlement networks means these devices can provide a bridge for what are currently e-commerce processors to reach the physical point of sale.

Evidence of this trend emerged earlier this week with news that PayPal and Google have found ways to let accountholders with their payment systems use their handsets to tap those accounts with physical merchants. As always the internet is finding ways of sweeping away all the old traditional structures, this doesn’t mean that the banks will necessarily lose, but their strong survival will in large part rest on an extremely powerful mobile strategy.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Facebook may finally have a true rival

On Thursday Google made their first major update to Google news since 2002. The aim is to make the whole news section more relevant, personal and of course, as is de rigeur these days, more real-time. We’re wondering though whether it may be a precursor to something much bigger and could perhaps be part of the functionality development within Google Me.

‘What’s Google Me then?’ you may ask. Well it’s just a rumour, however, it’s coming from some very credible sources. By all accounts Google Me is a social service due to rival the might of the now omnipresent Facebook and frankly a competitor probably couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been argued that Facebook’s sheer scale is strangling innovation as it harvests all the best ideas and releases poor imitations of the original idea.

However the real win here is the focus on the privacy issue within Facebook. This week Mark Zuckerberg has been in the UK facing questions about the privacy issues and he and the company have assured users they are tightening up on security. However, Google have an excellent reputation for data security (despite the slight Streetview blip) and given that fact and their similar scale they could provide a real alternative to Facebook. Let’s just hope Google Me doesn’t end up being the next Buzz or Wave.