Reinventing yourself

I recently wrote an article about how I can hire a marketing candidate by looking at their iPad. 

At its heart, my point was grounded in the belief that you should hire for attitude and train for skill. While it would be fantastic to find a candidate who had both, I would never appoint someone who had the “wrong” attitude.

“Wrong” in the sense of no personal interest in the subject they will be working on. Do you hire a social media manager who has never tweeted? A brand director who cannot speak with passion about brands they admire?

The challenge and wonderful thing about our modern world is with the constant being change, you need to have a self-perpetuated hunger for self learning and discovery.

As you progress through your career with the aim of finding something you love to do and the world of work becomes blurred with your passions, you will have to simultaneously continually reinvent yourself.

I read recently that a great deal of students are studying content at university that will be out of date by the time they graduate and that for a significant portion the role they will work in has not been invented yet.

At its nub, modern marketers need to demonstrate a natural curiosity to learn. I guess I am saying if you do not display any personal interest in the subject, not only are you not the best candidate, but why are you applying for that role?

‘Tis the season to be social

For many brands, the holiday season presents a perfect opportunity to drive sales through social media marketing. There are few things as straightforward as the relationship between celebration and sales during this time of the year. However, as digital marketing directors take to the social sphere with their holiday offers, promotions, and messages, the danger of oversaturation becomes very real. In order to prevent this, here are some prudent steps that can be followed to stand out in this crowded period:

  • Make it personal: The holidays are an ideal time to reach out to your followers on an individual basis and make them feel unique and valued. Never underestimate the power of unexpected or random acts of kindness. The element of surprise can enhance gratitude, which in turn can create a strong positive association with your brand.
Image

Social Media Gift

  • Show your human side: Additionally, there are few better times than now to let your fans know that your company is made up of hardworking people just like them. It is a great opportunity to post pictures, videos, and messages from your team members, whether a junior employee or the VP of digital, as they take part in holiday shopping, family fun, and celebrations.
  • Be genuine: As Christmas has become increasingly commercialised over the years, a certain amount of related consumer fatigue has developed, which makes many particularly sensitive to holiday campaigns running just to take advantage of the season. Thus, this time of year is an especially critical time to avoid being cynical, overly commercial, or corporate in your social media activities. All content, from text to images, should be infused with a real enthusiasm, honesty, and appreciation for everything this time of year represents to people around the world.
  • Offer real value: If you are running competitions, or posting content about special holiday promotions, make sure they are a step above the others and provide meaningful experiences that your brand will then forever be associated with. Avoid clichés, gimmicks, and being too slick. Some worthy examples could include last minute travel to see relatives for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, catered holiday parties, and all expenses paid trips for shopping at holiday markets in festive locations. For smaller budgets, prizes like sleigh rides, ice skating rentals, and cooking classes focused on baking holiday treats or preparing party foods are all good ways to take part in the joyful spirit of the season.
  • Remember others: Keeping in mind the generosity celebrated this time of year, now is an excellent time for promoting charitable donations through your social media activities. You can also bolster these by offering to match employee or fan donations to certain charities. Additionally, it is important not to forget that different countries have different Christmas and New Year’s Eve traditions, and that these aren’t the only holidays being celebrated at this time. You should tailor content to cover different regions and recognise the diversity of your followers. During December people around the world observe dozens of holidays, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saint Nicolas Day, St. Lucia’s Day, Las Posadas, and a plethora of winter solstice celebrations like DongZhi in China.

So while this time of year might seem to be holiday overload for some in social media, a bit of sensitivity and originality will go a long way toward ensuring your brand’s voice is not only heard, but also appreciated.

Content is STILL King

Digital marketing directors will often talk about the need for great content to engage consumers. In the years I have been running digital programmes it is increasingly clear that “content is king” is not a throwaway cliche but a business critical point.
Beware all yea Marketers who ignore this at your peril.  You can search optimise, you can measure, you can link, but unless your content is great you will fail. There is only so much icing that can cover a burnt cake.
 Content is King
An essential ingredient for social media success is transitioning your business from a campaign only approach to one that is always on. Content is a fundamental component within this marketing evolution.
So what has changed?
  • People are increasingly time poor therefore snacking on content is more prevalent.
  • Facebook and Twitter are established mainstream sites and brands are fighting for space in increasingly cluttered walls and newsfeeds.
  • Screens are getting better – it is not by chance that a huge proportion of the marketing of the ‘new’ iPad was focused on the retina display
  • Digital Platforms are supporting better quality images – Facebook high resolution image support & Instagram acqusition and the epic rise of image focused platforms such as Pinterest
What does this mean?
  • The challenge used to be about sourcing and producing content 365 days a year for your audience.
  • Now the business challenge is ensuring every single piece of your publishing repertoire is to the standard you would normally reserve for outdoor advertising or TV production.
Don’t get me wrong, it was not that any old toot used to be good enough, all content had to be shareable; that is useful, fun and interesting. However to be the leader of the social pack your “stuff” has to look amazing.
I really respect Red bull and Burberry who have set the content bar so high.
My predictions:
  • Consumer perceptions of the brand will be increasingly affected by the quality of the images and videos that Brand posts in social channels.
  • Any company involved with luxury goods or premium offerings need to be acutely aware that every piece of content needs to look amazing.
  • A lot more brands will need to prioritise budgets for image/video creation beyond campaigns.
  • You will potentially see the rise of social media production specialists; in house brand photographers and a growing creation of in house studios.

From VP of Digital … to Digital Engagement Director

There is a simple explanation for my silence since August. Just around the date of my last post, the announcement went out about my impending move to Barclaycard into a newly created role as the company’s Global Digital Engagement Director.

My current title might be different from the previous one (VP of Digital), but it still refers to the same mission: to use technology to simplify life and create greater engagement with Barclaycard.

The past few months have been remarkable and have left me with little time for commentary. As Barclaycard has been developing its contactless payment systems across a wider range of digital platforms, I have thrown myself into its varying digital initiatives.

Products like PayTag, a small credit card tag that can be used for contactless payments, are all about simplicity, which is right up my alley. Basically, a PayTag is a little stick-on credit card that can be linked to your regular credit card. You can wave it like a magic wand to pay for things, using whatever object you choose to stick it on. For many, this is their mobile phone, effectively transforming it into a payment vehicle.

Anyway, innovative solutions like this are ideal for alignment with social media campaigns, especially when targeting the majority of consumers that will use a PayTag on a mobile they already use to connect to their favourite social networking sites. It is a glimpse into our digital future where our wireless phones have become wireless wallets and mobile devices are mobile worlds in of themselves. It’s all about simplifying.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Simplification is a hard word to spell and it is even harder to deliver.

I focus a lot of my time on simplifying:

  • Working with my team to turn complex issues into manageable decisions
  • Working to deliver a strategy that is easy to comprehend and digest across the business, but equally one that the team can pay into and deliver against everyday
  • Turning 30 slides into 5, transforming text into pictures.

How about an app that could turn your slideware into an infograph – What a killer app that would be? (Padley Patent Pending)

For me Simplicity = comprehension = success.  Why is it then we are conditioned to reject and fear simplicity?

“Are you simple?” says the condescending teacher/parent, incredulous at the mistake made by the innocent child.

Simple maths are not as good as complex maths. Better to use longer words than be monosyllabic. If it is complex and only a few people get it, then it must be “clever” and therefore right.

Maybe the world is turning full circle on this as we are all struggling to find actionable insight in our personal and professional lives and siphon the 24/7 deluge.

Look at Dove Simple’s commercial success and the simplicity of Apple Design.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time” may or may not have been penned by Mark Twain but I love that quotation. Equally, a great story that personifies the impact of simplification is found in reference to the 13th Century artist Giotto. When asked to demonstrate his skill for the Pope, Giotto drew a perfect freehand circle. You can search YouTube with some very entertaining examples of this today.

In my career I have had the fortune to present and work with the most senior management of a company.  These ladies and gentlemen are time poor, meeting rich and simplicity of report and communication is key if you want to gain support and interest in your projects.

My slides take far longer to prepare for the C-suite as I desperately attempt to make sure that there is no room for interpretation and comprehension is instantaneously achieved on viewing the material.

As we all know the best ideas are the simple ones

Ben

Predicting the Future

Alan Kay said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

I will try Alan but unless Arthur C Clarke imparts his genius for foresight onto me from beyond the ether I will have to make do with three shots in the dark.

1. Download will be classified an obsolete word by the Oxford English Dictionary

I was not convinced on streaming (even as a YouTube fan) until I used Spotify a couple of years back when it first launched in Europe. My behaviour has changed as I have access to content at the touch of the button. However, we are in this weird middle world where we don’t have ubiquitous access to the cloud. How boring is the London Underground…but one day…when high speed Wi-fi is available everywhere…who knows? Maybe my kids won’t know what download is.

2. G+ becomes H+

H+ is new upcoming TV series by one of my favourites Bryan Singer.

At its core, this focuses on the transition of the internet from an externally accessed medium to one that is integrated into our physical make up.

Observe right now how quickly Desktop Internet access is being superseded by Smartphone access and how companies like Apple are bringing people closer to technology through Human gesture interfaces like pinch, zoom and swipe. This is the stuff of a William Gibson novel. Would you implant the Internet in your brain?

3. Profit orientated companies will fail

In the transparent, social media world where organisations and consumers now are bedfellows, companies better be good. Beyond this, they better give back. I follow with growing admiration Tony Hsieh’s mission to build the ultimate customer experience which has resulted in the deserved financial success of Zappos. But where Tony is truly a pioneer is that this drive has clearly transcended into a genuine mission to make the world a better place. In the future will there be a place for a company whose only goal is to make money?

A topic for the next blog

Ben

The Trouble with Email – The need for rules

I have a love hate relationship with email.

The hate bit is not with the platform per se but with its misuse.

I abhor the way people treat it like Exocet missiles when they fire and forget a task onto the next person. This is the sort of person you don’t want to hire. Someone who says they have done a good day’s work when they have cleared their inbox.

The sort of person who gets delegated a task and then in turn emails a load of people (internal/external). When the boss chases on the status of the action the reply is “I have sent out an email”.  Job done then. This is the sort of person who calls you or walks up to your desk and says “I sent you an email.”

You are so not on my not to hire list I think to myself as they stand there with the look of a Michael Palin from the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

the trouble with email

the trouble with email

The Love bit: At the same time email is fabulous as a group communications tool. Effective one way messaging.

It is a great for working across different time zones, akin to playing a remote game of chess.  When you are in the same time zone and start pinging to a colleague or friend I always pick up the phone.

Then there is spam. How the ? did I end up on your email distribution list? Apparently Spam is declining, but not in my experience and you are always guaranteed a deluge of unsolicited correspondence after attending a conference.

Then there is some sort of perverted Moore’s law where the more you clear the more you get.

And you know what this diatribe highlights is the issue itself. There is too much variability and not enough standardisation or “rules” by which we should all conform when it comes to email.

It is too loose.

How many of you have tried to enforce an email policy at work by which you put prefixes like ‘action’ or even bizarrely ‘read’ in the header. Works for a week then people revert to individual behaviour.

Is this one of the reasons why text messaging, Facebook, Twitter or even IM have been adopted at such a voracious rate? Some people complain at the lack of flexibility of Twitter but that is what makes it successful.

Future gazing it is most probable that email will be overhauled. There are already things happening in this area and start-up companies looking to capture an opportunity.

How many of you read an email that needs a mouse click to take you below the fold of your screen?

Regards

Ben