Check out this CIPR event!

CIPRevent1

CIPR Midlands is giving you the opportunity to hear from a range of video content experts who can advise on getting the most from video content.

Not only will you get to hear from Vermillion Films MD, Lee Kemp, and Rob Glass from Flotilla Video Training, but you’ll also get the chance to see a campaign showcase of inhouse and PR agency work incorporating heavy use of video content, as well as take part in an expert Q&A where you can quiz the experts themselves.

What’s more, if you’re a CIPR member, you’ll not only get a cheeky discount (lowering the price to a mere £19.75) but attending will also earn you 5 CPD points!

WHEN: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 from 18:30 to 20:30 (GMT)

WHERE: Vermillion Films – 20 Victoria Works. Vittoria Street. Birmingham B1 3PE

Book at Eventbrite

 

How an Itsy bitsy teeny (and controversial) bikini can help explain brand integrity

This week in class we were debating if there is ever such a thing as ‘bad publicity’?

Although many were aligned with Phineas T. Barnum’s statement that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, I believe this stance can only go so far.

True enough, if someone is seeking notoriety and a scandalous reputation, perhaps this opinion may have some credence. But if publicity is centred on a product or service that has been shown to be physically detrimental to the consumer or the environment ala BP after their latest oil spill, then there is little likelihood that that publicity of the issue is going to increase sales or improve brand awareness in a valuable way for the business.

Our focus led us to looking at Protein World‘s ‘Beach Body Ready!’ OOH campaign which a few days ago was pulled by TFL.

Launched on platforms across the London Underground, the campaign’s bright yellow poster (shown below) is illustrated by the requisite (although allegedly un-photoshopped) woman in a tiny bikini as well as examples of some of their protein-based meal-replacement products. 45775830-2510-465f-a8cb-bda9b5a82951-620x372

Reactions, perhaps surprisingly, were mixed.

Call me cynical but this campaign’s message doesn’t really stand out (neither amongst its competitors, or within the general media). Maybe I’ve become desensitised, who knows…

Others however, have taken a stand against the ad on the principle beachbodydeface2that any ‘body’ which makes it to a beach this summer is a ‘beach body’, and that Protein World – and by extension, Richard Staveley (Head of Marketing) – are adding to the commodification of women’s bodies within society, and are ‘fat-shaming’ those who do not meet their body ideals.

Campaigners claim that the company is “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model in order to sell their product” and have not only taken to social media to express their views, but have also defaced ads across the London Underground and started a (now successful) petition to have the campaign pulled.

As a self-acknowledged chubster, its easy to understand why some women might find these ads offensive, but it was the brand’s response that really threw me for a loop. Instead of apologising and taking a softly-softly approach centred on the ad’s role as a motivational device, they doubled-down and held their own.

The resultant outcry and subsequent media attention has meant that in four days, Protein World has secured 20’000 new customers, over 113 million media views, and has made over 1 MILLION in revenue.

By causing a debate on such a fraught issue as obesity, the brand Picture1has polarised the media and its audiences in a way that (because they are in a niche market) means they can be completely unrepentant in their stance whilst meeting the ideologies and general attitudes of their key consumers – those who are or want to lose weight – even if that causes an awful lot of controversy.

Rightly or wrongly, the campaigns objective was to increase sales and, by creating a newsworthy story that everyone had an opinion on, social justice campaigners didn’t just give the brand a MASSIVE boost in exposure but also meant that those who agreed with their ideology would be more interested in actually making a purchase.

INGENIOUS!!!

Think about it.

They secured free coverage in several key national publications and news outlets as well as even more in women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan. Coverage that would have otherwise cost them thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – to pay for themselves.

All it took was them maintaining their brand’s integrity.

If your brand is consistent in its actions, values, principles and behaviour, then it is seen to have integrity, and as such, will be meaningful to the audience to which it is aimed – however distasteful it might be to the rest of us.

It’s not about trying to be good anymore (though that might be one aspect of your brand) and its not about being ‘nice’ or even looking good in a yellow bikini; it’s trying to be honest, authentic and representative of the people who really matter – if only to your brand.

Dipping my toes into local radio

Who’d have thunk it, David Blunkett?! Yesterday, I made my radio debut!

AND I DIDN’T MESS IT UP!!!WOO

After being tweeted by local BBC Broadcast Assistant, Rob Watson (@Rob_Watson87) last Thursday, we had a quick phonecall where he mentioned that he was aware of my blogging and wanted me to take part in an interview panel with BBC presenter, Ben Jackson (standing in for the usual host, Jonathan Lampon, BBC Leicester’s Political Correspondent, Tim Parker, and De Montfort University Lecturer, Alastair Jones, regarding the General Election and, more specifically, the role social media will play in it.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was nervous. Although I’ve trained as a journalist myself, speaking at a live event where people would actually be listening to what I had to say was….daunting to say the least.

What I found (to my surprise) was that, as well as my five year participation in De Montfort’s Politics Society meaning I actually had a pretty substantiated opinion and had learnt the skills to be able to articulate it well, I was also completely at ease in-studio (due in part to having been taught by several of Alastair’s colleagues during my degree which meant that I was blessed with someone in studio who anchormanat least I partially knew).

Therefore something which I had honestly been in two minds about over the weekend, turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience which if again offered (and I hope it might) I will no doubt jump at.

If you’d like to hear what I have to say, please click HERE and have a listen (from 9 mins – 35 mins).

*Forgive the pauses for thought. I’m working on that for next time.

Marketing ‘vermin’: Strategies to combat a plague-ridden reputation

sellings rats
Rats.

Not the easiest animal to convince people make good pets, but ones which I’ve found in the four or so years of owning them to be the cheekiest, most playful and surprisingly easiest small pet you could own.

A quick list of their benefits can include:

  1. Unlike Hamsters, Degus and Chinchillas, they’re not nocturnal and so will be awake when you are.
  2. Personality-wise they are a cross between a dog (playful, attentive, loyal) and a cat (wants cuddles/to be stroked, relaxed)
  3. Each rat has their own individual personality that can be developed depending on how you respond/act with them.
  4. Once you’ve gained their trust, they will consistently want your attention/to play/be stroked.
  5. They are very food-orientated as a species. No pet meets ‘the way to your heart is through your stomach’ mantra more than a rat.
  6. They are as clean as cats, especially if you litter-train them.
  7. They eat (or will at least try) pretty much anything (though high fat diet or citrus foods will have negative health effects).
  8. They grind their teeth together when happy (bruxing) and (when really happy/relaxed) they boggle their eyes.
  9. They’re both friendly and independent so bought in pairs or a trio, they will play with themselves when you’re doing other things.
  10. They are ridiculously intelligent. Check out the video below and see some of the many tricks you can teach them.

But, admitting to owning rats as pets does come with some interesting (and occasionally offensive) stereotypes – mainly born out of fear or even sheer ignorance.

rat

  • Assuming my home is filthy because of their presence?
  • Assuming they carry diseases like rabies and the plague (yes, as in the bubonic plague…which was carried by fleas.. not rats..)
  • I even had one classmate warn me that they could escape and attack me and my partner…

Don’t get me wrong, I can semi-understand why some people might find the tails off-putting, or why some may not like the threat of being bitten; but then saying that, you have a threat of being bitten by any pet if you hurt/upset it enough and the tails… well they’re easy to get used to after a while.

My original and aptly-named ‘Rat Pack’ consisted of five boys which I semi-rescued from a woman living in Sheffield (luckily for me she agreed to deliver them on the understanding that I’d pay petrol costs). Ranging in age and temperament from about 6 months and almost feral (never been handled) to approximately a year and a half year old love-bug, they quickly stole my heart, particularly after one of them suffered a stroke/severe fall shortly after arriving and so spent three days cuddled in my pocket so I could feed him medicine mixed in yoghurt every two hours.

The downside to caring for rats (or any rodent) however, is their short lifespan which averages at about 2-3 years, so my original rat pack are now all what is known as ‘over the rainbow bridge’ ie) rattie heaven.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

I do however currently have a very licky, very attention-seeking, very food-orientated pair of boys whose faces I couldn’t resist when visiting Pets at Home last November.

*Saying that, I really do not recommend purchasing any small animal from a Pet store, particularly rats, due to the high risk of health or temperament issues that come from those environments – many pet store rats are bred and treated as snake food. Seriously, if you’re a novice or don’t want to risk having to trust train them, buy from trusted breeders; you’ll be saving yourself a lot of stress and hassle.

Very quickly, Houdini and Pebble came home to live – Pebble, named for the colour of his coat and the way he often sleeps (curled up in a ball as if about to do a forward roll), and Houdini who came by his name for the ridiculous speed in which he managed to escape not one but three of the cases I was expected to carry him home in.

Winning over the hearts of those who are afraid or flat-out dislike rats however, is not an easy task. Historically they’ve been a species cursed with a bad reputation, and counteracting the ‘plague-ridden, aggressive, you-will-die’ stereotype is often a task that meets a lot of resistance. People are comfortable in their own world view and questioning that/showing them that a belief/fear that many have held since childhood is false, isn’t always appreciated unless approached with care.

There are five key strategies that I have tried to take in building and defending ratty reputations. These are:

1. Be authoritative

Communicating strongly and knowledgeably goes a long way to making everyone else believe you understand what you’re talking about and that you’re the leader and authority in your area. Conveying your message with powerful, emotive words as well as with conviction will make you more believable and will make your audience more receptive to your message.

2. Be specific

Your message needs to be clear and easily conveyed. In this case, that’s pretty easy given the simplicity of both the subject and the stance ie) ‘Rat’s are awesome and everyone should love them!’, but in most cases, issues and brands can have more complex, more multi-layered connotations and thus need focused and specific communications to be believed by the recipient audience. It’s no good telling someone how great rats are if you can’t explain to the person why you like them and what makes them a good pet.

3. Be consistent

Being consistent when showing pictures and videos that contest the ‘ewwww gross’ mentality reinforces the message and shows people how loving and playful rats truly are without overcomplicating or confusing the issue.

4. Be honest

Every pet (and brand for that matter) has annoying quirks and habits. Being honest about them (they chew anything rubbery or wooden, and will use your clothes to make nests given half the chance) and admitting the downsides (they can smell if not cleaned regularly) increases your credibility and means that when you talk about the good things, you’re more likely to be believed. Integrity goes a long way after all.

5. Be relentless

Commit yourself to getting the positive message out there. People are inundated with a myriad of messages each day and when it comes to rats – lets be honest – the vast majority are not going to be positive ones. It’s not only critical therefore that you try to stand out amongst the static but equally that you are not forgotten. Follow up with people you’ve had past discussions with to reinforce not only your message but also the relationships you are building.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of success.

I mean it’s hard for people to retain the belief in the evil/disgusting/diseased stereotype when they are faced with the grabby-handed puppy eyes of two very adorable fluffballs.

There are of course going to be a small percentage of people whose opinions will be immovably negative. The RepTrak Alignment Monitor, developed by Cees van Riel for The Reputation Institute, measure employee alignment and contribution to the objectives and performance of an organisation. It suggests that although 10% of employees will automatically respond positively to change and 70% respond given adequate persuasion, 20% will remain consistently negative in their response.

The key I think is making sure to reinforce the positive messages I’m promoting to the 80% majority whilst never giving up on winning over that remaining stubborn 20% to my way of thinking – after all, their stubbornness gives me plenty of opportunities for rodent evangelism on a personal one-on-one basis.

What is a MarComms project anyway? And what’s my topic?

Before I start I should probably explain that a Marketing Communications project is slightly different to a Dissertation. I’m not *entirely* sure about the details but (from what I can understand) the main difference is that whereas a dissertation centres around the exploration of a concept or theory, a MarComms project centres around a particular brand through which you explore a concept.

So an advertising project focusing on the way a brand is advertised towards a specific group ie) Alcohol (WKD) towards young adults, might follow a simple structure of:

  • Introduction (theme/trends/context etc)
  • Market Analysis
    • Brand Analysis (of WKD)
    • Competitor Analysis (of similar brands)
    • Consumer Analysis (of young adults and youth drinking culture)
  • Objectives
  • Target Market (specifying who are being targeted by the brand)
  • Creative analysis (could focus on content analysis of a selection of different adverts)
  • Analysis of trends within alcohol advertising (Using a PRESTCOM analysis etc)
  • Conclusion

Obviously there’s a lot of lee-way within this.

A focus on PR, a different market sector, a different brand, a different target market, even a different methodology or framework approach, can completely restructure a marketing communications project so that it looks completely different to this (outside of the Intro/Conclusion sections obviously).

So, onto my idea.

As you have probably gauged, I am super interested in Politics. That’s not to say I’m party-affiliated; I’m not. What I am, however, is passionate. One of the key things that I learnt growing up was to speak out if you feel something is wrong; never be afraid to stand up and be counted.

Showing this passion in a way that will be acceptable to many employers can be tricky. I know I always worry about whether my background in public speaking and debating contests (not to mention my now 6-year membership of my university’s Politics Society) might suggest that I’m confrontational or aggressive with my views – which (I like to think) I’m not.

The man young people love to hate. But is he a sell-out or a scapegoat? And how important is our belief/trust in him for Lib Dem's success?

The man young people love to hate. But is he a sell-out or a scapegoat? And how important is our belief/trust in him for Lib Dem’s success?

Luckily for me, my initial concept of looking at personal branding (a much under-analysed topic of discussion in my view) was tightened down to looking at the personal brands of party leaders in the run-up to this year’s elections, and then further tightened to specialise in the personal brand and campaign strategy of one specific party leader – Nick Clegg.

As any Brit knows, Clegg’s 180 degree turn on tuition fees hugely upset a large number of his voting base who – as young people – had invested in him largely due to this policy above all else. Not only was he proposing to cut tuition fees though, he was also the fresh-faced ‘man of the people’ who finally seemed to care and have policies that directly benefited the young – We who had often been overlooked as a demographic due to the high percentage of voter apathy and disengagement within our age group.

By looking at the case of Nick Clegg’s personal brand, I intend to look at image/knowledge transfer the ways in which trust and personality impact on brand success within politics, and (on a larger basis) whether lack of trust in the personal brands of political leaders is indicative of the wider disengagement and voter apathy within politics.

Of course it is still early days and, as such, I’m still very early on in the planning process. However, based loosely on the initial research and reading I’ve managed to get done alongside my other assignments, I think I’ll most likely be tackling this subject using a combination of secondary research (into brand-building, reputation and trust (they’re different things); political marketing in general; the ways brands try to engage young people in terms of messages/creative/platforms; and voter apathy/disengagement and its causes) and media content analysis (perhaps through analysing Clegg and his followers’ use of Twitter as one example).

SUPER excited now that I’ve narrowed my subject down to something achievable and interesting and relevant – all important points that I raised in my last post on ‘Planning a postgraduate marketing communications project‘.

I can’t wait to get started!

From Russia with “love”

Russian Chocolatiers: Konfael have taken wooing your loved one a step further than most this year by celebrating its ‘Women’s Day’ with confectionery with a particularly ‘political’ flavour, satirically poking fun at Western sanctions against Russia over its armed intervention in Ukraine

_81128842_chocsThe selection boxes – adorned with famous Soviet-era-styled propaganda posters – are stylised to include biting couplets (such as “Don’t mouth off, gentlefolk dear/That Obama’s bound to hear!” blazoned beneath the image of a World War II female factory worker warning against gossip), and patriotic slogans like “For Western currency we have no need/A golden ruble – at full speed!” – used to emphasise the perceived power of Russia’s resource-based economy.

A man who needs no shirt

He is a man who needs no shirt.

One box (my favourite example)  features the verse “To be king, when all are ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’/You need a pair of rock-hard nuts” below a photograph of President Putin in sunglasses. This being the same man whose last presidential campaign featured an advertisement which saw a young Russian female visit a fortune-teller who (after being asked to reveal the girl’s “destiny”) informs the girl that her “first time” will be with the presidential candidate as she turns the card revealing Putin’s image.

Regardless on my distaste for Putin’s presidency (his KGB background is the least of my concerns despite perhaps explaining the mentality behind his foreign policy), its hard not to respect a leader who seems to centre a considerable amount of his party’s PR and advertising around how fabulously ‘manly’ he is.

Anyway, Konfael’s marketing strategy has resulted in a mixed response, appearing to leave the majority of its social media respondents with a bad taste in their mouths. Although a few users commented with their own witty comebacks (like Jonathan Grainger’s: “Confael’s Chocolates trigger Odium / Warning: May Contain Polonium!”), many more were disgusted at the brands politicising, some of whose statements I’ve listed below:

Anna Pavlova: “Konfael – I often took you gifts to kindergarten and school for children and teachers. So, our parent committees now [have to] find other gifts. Think next time [with] your head.”

Tatiana Glezer: “I have no words. Stupid, vulgar and beats all desire to buy your products.”

Andrey Lavrov “Just wondering, have you got a real Putinism-brain on the basis of television propaganda, or are you just such creatures that consciously decided to connect to the propaganda for the sake of an extra penny for your Business?”

It’s clear to see how Konfael has tried to tap into Russia’s internationally-famed nationalism, and, in the face of the country’s current political and economic concerns, it’s a little understandable as to why they’ve taken this approach. However, the brand has clearly not done a vast amount of market research prior to developing this product, and thus its request for feedback on its Facebook page (a platform that actively connects people across the world) was probably the first step in why the range’s launch has backfired so badly.

Politics is known for being a tricky and polarising topic for discussion at the best of times, and Russia’s recent actions have generated an increased level of drama and speculation across the world… Asking for feedback on an internationally open forum and for a product that not only raises issues in the country’s international standing (the version belittling regular Kremlin hate-figure, Jen Psaki (US State Department spokeswoman) is particularly callous) but also issues WITHIN its borders (judging from the numerous references to Soveit-nostalgia for gulags and pickled herring) is therefore probably not the smartest marketing ploy…