I received an interesting offer this week. If I plugged a company’s Ugg boots on this blog, they would pay me $50. Product placement is about to become big business in the UK. As of tomorrow, companies will be able to place products in programming. ITV’s “This Morning” is leading the way with a coffee machine from Nestle. Look forward to a “P” appearing on your screen warning you that what follows is marketing managers dream rather than necessarily..reality. It will be interesting to see how ITV manage this editorially and how consumers receive it. It’s clearly not as powerful as earned editorial but it’s another useful addition to the marketing mix.



There’s a fantastic article in the Economist this week talking about the revolution happening in the manufacturing sector. This revolution is being driven by the falling price of 3D printing – a technology that allows you to build a three dimensional object from something that can be no bigger than a laser printer.

The implications of this are potentially huge. Imagine a world where you can customise almost everything at a touch of a button and still produce it at the same price as mass production. Imagine a world without factories…a world where every town or village has one of these printers churning out everything from lampshades to spectacles…all from digital files supplied by you and me. This will takes co-creation to the next level…to an individual level. Amazing!

A few years ago I heard Allan Leighton speak at a marketing conference. “If they haven’t understood, you haven’t communicated” he said in his talk outlining the challenges he was facing at the Post Office at the time. Allan had the habit of turning up unannounced at postal sorting offices around the country to talk directly to staff about the challenges the business faced and the remedies needed.

He claimed his communications team were brilliant at “strategy” … he had never met so many strategists he said…but what he really needed was great communicators …managers who could be understood by the workforce.

He believed that most marketing and comms. people could learn from the Sun newspaper, the best communicator in the world. Every morning it took the most complex political issues and simplified them into something understandable and relevant to us all. That’s what all great communicators do he ranted. And of course he was right.

When we try and communicate, rarely do we start off with the intention of not being understood. Sometimes however it is hard to distil our complex messages into something easiliy understood, relevant and inspiring to our audience.

I came across four questions today in a book about another great communicator Steve Jobs. They claim to be the structure for the killer elevator pitch. I realised when reading them that I often use these principles when crafting messages for clients….but they are useful checklist, none the less.

1. Who am I (why should they listen to me)

2. What problem am I trying to solve?

3. What am I offering that is different?

4. Why should they care?

I’m off to Venice for the weekend. It’s an important wedding anniversary and I thought I would get into the “good books” of you know who.

Have you used TripAdvisor recently? In a moment of boredom I’ve just checked out the hotel I’ve booked. Helpfully this is the review…

Don’t waste your money..try a 2 star hotel instead. Customer service equated to 0% the place lacks any soul and warmth and actually was exhausting to stay in, the breakfast was medocre for the rating and found all of the staff extremely unfriendly, our air con was not working requested 4 times for it to be looked at with no avail, was ignored when asking about the internet facility

Hmmm…..what to believe?

Social media advocacy was of course supposed to be the dawn of true power people, allowing us to cut through others agendas and get us directly to the facts. Unfortunately as this weeks Marketing magazine highlights it’s not yet quite as perfect as we had hoped.

Marketing reports that several hundred hoteliers have given strong indications that they are planning a group defamation action against TripAdvisor after less than flattering reviews. One included  “owners dog urinating on grotty carpet as we checked in’. Their point being that many of these reviews are malicious. Ebay of course have had the same problems.

Advocacy is clearly coming of age. Today most reviews are still filled in by honest good intentioned people who want to help others. There are clearly a few out there however who have other intentions. As with the traditional media environment these individuals have to be tackled, there must be the right of reply and wherever possible the true intentions of these individuals should be exposed.

The advice to anybody looking at customer reviews is to look at average scores rather than the extremes. The advice to companies or individuals that have been unfairly criticised is to answer this criticism and where possible tackle the intentions behind the reviews.

Thankfully my Venice hotel has a five star average rating …. but let me get back to you on the reality!

An interesting question is raised by the Times this morning in an article about the Richard and Judy Book club. The club was started as part of their C4 TV show, but now apparently is being relaunched in a solo deal with the book sellers W H Smiths.

The article claims that to get recommended by the club, authors need to pay W H Smiths up to £25k. In return it seems they get not only a recommendation, but a best seller (the first book they recommended by a debut author, went straight into the best sellers list).

The above may clearly show the effectiveness of advocacy but is it really ethical?

I have a simple belief here….as long as Richard/Judy have total editorial control i.e. they make the recommendations, it’s fine. The fact that W H Smiths then go to the authors and request monies to get this recommendation promoted and sold, is simply commercial sense.

Earlier this year I launched a research study, Leading by Recommendation, which I conducted together with Alain Samson of Enterprise LSE. It aimed to identify how actively UK brands are being recommended and the characteristics of highly recommended brands.
As an ex marketer of everything from lager to puppies (sorry Toilet Paper) it was the results from the FMCG sector that I most eagerly awaited. I’d always understood that the FMCG sector was intrinsically low interest and hence mass scale awareness strategies were always the most effective. Our results indicated something different.
Using the Net Promoter Score as our base, we isolated those who claimed to be strong promoters of individual FMCG brands (at a brand by brand level) and then looked at how often these individuals actively promoted that brand. We found that on average, across the 50 or so brands we researched, more than half (55%) had actively promoted their recommended brand to someone over a three month period.
This was interesting. What was even more fascinating was who lead the way in activating their advocates. Our most actively recommended FMCG brands in the UK turned out to be:-
1. Activia Yogurts (76.9%)
2. Kelloggs Special K (76%)
3. Lucozade Sport (72.7%)
Looking behind these results and those of the other 120 brands in our study, we found that the leaders in just about every industry sector met a set of clear criteria. We called these criteria the 4C’s of advocacy activation – Cause, Community, Contagious Stories and Coverage.
We believe this study has many implications but probably the most fundamental is that it conclusively demonstrates that brand advocacy (recommendation) can be systematically built. With a 7% increase in NPS score equating to a 1% increase in growth this we believe has profound implications for FMCG marketing strategy in the future.

I’ve just been sent a free copy of Superbike magazine. Great timing actually as I’ve just bought myself a nice little runabout. Interesting letter attached saying that after a great deal of research they are relaunching to give over more space to readers own editorial. Is this the future of journalism….us?

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