Friday, 20 August 2010

Apparently the web's dead - should financial brands be worried?

This week Wired called the death of the web. This piece came a week after a column in Ad Age asking 'Do we still need websites?' The argument is that with 'simpler, sleeker services — think apps — [user experience is] less about the searching and more about the getting'.

So what does this mean for financial services. There is an argument to say that financial services hasn't fully embraced the full power of the web yet as a customer enablement tool, so maybe many brands could circumnavigate it all together. For some services like payments this could already be deemed the case, with the increasing pace of mobile payment solutions in the market, there is currently no need to open a browser at all.

The greatest opportunities though probably lie in the servicing side of the business. Manage my account and customer query could very effectively be executed through secure apps. Why force your customers to a web interface when it could all be browserless and mobile. Far more convenient. More likely to be secure and certainly more convenient for the customer.

In truth the web is unlikely to die any time soon. There has been plenty of counter-evidence written to prove its continued vitality and in truth financial services need to improve user-experience across the internet, but as people look for more defined content interactions browserless becomes vital if a brand is to ensure that their website doesn't become a virtual ghost-town.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Has marketing got a million times harder?

I’ve been in the communications industry for 15 years now. I’ve worked in DM agencies, advertising agencies, integrated agencies, digital agencies, I ran my own business for a few years.

In that time I’ve helped send millions of direct mail packs to blanket audiences. I’ve helped spend millions on hair-brained dot com marketing schemes. I’ve helped build a customer base of millions, from scratch, for an ISP with no USP. I’ve launched TV ads that have had over 200 million opportunities to see. I’ve delivered online display campaigns with over 500 million page impressions.

I’ve been involved in some really good work over the years, but without wishing to bag my career, I’ve done an awful lot of untargeted, unmeasurable, unmeasured stuff. It’s been pretty, it’s won awards, it’s been a sensation, it’s been hailed as innovative, but actually when you dig below the surface it’s rested on some relatively shallow foundations. Even the stuff that was measured for marketing effectiveness was based on some funny old massaged metrics.

And on top of all that, I’ve worked bloody hard. I’ve done 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for 2 months straight. I’ve done press passes at 3.30 in the morning. I’ve spent all night sat on floors envelope stuffing, I’ve worked 72 hours straight to get a piece of work out. I’ve sat with a creative department and studio of 30 people, all of us, maccing, creating, splicing and boarding until 6 in the morning for a pitch at 9am.

But that stuff was easy…

...that stuff took a bit of thinking up front, it took the adaptation of a template that we took off the shelf, granted it involved some highly talented creative sparks (but that’s rarely been me) and then it took some schmoozing, a couple of awkward get out of jail client calls, a bit of elbow grease and out the campaign went. Brilliant.

Those days have gone. They’re long gone. The template doesn’t exist anymore. Shiny and pin-sharp holds little of the overall value these days. Every single piece of work I start on today is built from the ground up. Every solution we deliver is completely bespoke. Every piece of work has an inordinate amount of brain-work poured in to it, because none of it is about launch, it’s all about the long tail, the follow-up work, the impact on reputation long-term. The industry’s said that’s what we do for years. Actually if we all admit it, none of us has really worried too much about it, because frankly we could make more money not worrying about it.

Come on, be honest. That’s right, really honest. Yes you’ve probably done some amazing work, you’ve probably done some award-winning work, some work you were really proud of, but be honest, was it really hard work? It may have been tiring, stressful work, but was it hard work, work that made your brain permanently fizz?

Marketing’s got harder, a million times harder, but actually I think I might actually stick at it now, because it’s a damn sight more rewarding than it was in the past.

Friday, 13 August 2010

How many tweets are actually being read?

Measurement in social media has long been a hot potato. There is still limited solid information out there upon which to make reliable ROI based decisions. However, there are big strides being made towards more tightly focused metrics. A thought-provoking piece published this week, suggests that Twitter reach may be around the 2% mark. It was not a scientific study, it was a piece of personal research aimed at kicking off a debate around Twitter’s true impact. So for balance, a similar metric developed last year suggested it may well be 10% with the additional value of up to 1.3% CTR.

Reach is a good kick-off point, however Twitter is not merely a broadcast medium. These stats are just the start for the true potential of Twitter. Used properly and consistently, it is a powerful tool for engagement. If your brand is simply using a Twitter stream to post press releases, then 2% readership could be a cause for concern, especially as you have no control over who your readership is and also your brand is unlikely to understand its true influence in the space. If it is part of your overall social CRM strategy however, one of your tools for engagement, then simple readership is just part of the overall package.

Social communication is not all about followers, or readers, or fans. It’s about a new way of communicating and co-creating, it’s about creating exceptional service and finding out if you’ve got a service problem. This is not to be dismissive of the purist measurement of the reach of social media. It is essential that this becomes more robust and as an industry we are starting to get more scientific with open source movements such as ‘Measurement Camp’ helping to build more reliable models that will stand even your FD’s scrutiny, but we need to ensure we keep focused on social media's killer USP and that is 'dialogue'.