The Week’s Digital Highlights – 19 May

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Two things caught my eye this week in the digital and advertising world.

The first being how Coca-Cola used image recognition software to target users based on images users shared on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Digiday reported that Coca-Cola’s ice tea brand Gold Peak targeted users who shared images of drinking glasses and jugs of ice tea, including images of competitor brands. Ads were served across 40 mobile and app sites. Having used social listening tools for about 8 years, I’ve noticed the steady decline in

Having used social listening tools for about 8 years, I’ve noticed the steady decline in the number of conversations people are having on social, with the trend moving to image and video sharing. It looks like the Toronto based software company Cluep, behind Gold Peak’s campaign is on the right path with its facial recognition software. I would seriously consider testing the software for an awareness campaign.

The other thing that caught my eye was from the UK with McDonald’s pulling its bereavement TVC (Dad ad) featuring a child discussing his deceased father with his mum over a Filet-o-Fish burger. Looking at the backlash on social, McDonald’s probably wishes they didn’t take the purpose-driven ad route, which is all about brands expressing their values and beliefs. Heineken took a similar approach with their 4 minute ‘Open Your World’ ad, which challenged people’s way of thinking. As Mark Riston expressed, there’s nothing wrong with the ad, similar to the McDonald’s ad, but does it ultimately sell more products? I probably say no. Advertising helps in building mental availability, but you want ads to showcase your products in a memorable way. Leave the beliefs of the company to the mission statement.

My mother passed away from a long battle with cancer when I was 11, my brother was 7. I remember the following day after my mum’s death dad took us to McDonald’s, my brother was happy to be going to the golden arches. At the time it pissed me off, but looking back I now realise it was a place my brother associated with happiness, which in a time of death was comforting for him.

I can see why some people are angry with McDonald’s for their ad, labelling it exploiting childhood bereavement, but I can see what they were trying to do. For many people, McDonald’s is more than a fast food burger joint, it’s a place where families come together. In saying that, seeing as the topic of ‘death’ is so sensitive I would’ve stuck to selling burgers.

 

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Energy Crisis – Time to get serious about Renewable Energy

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Last September South Australia was hit by a state-wide blackout as the result of a massive storm. The state’s main power supply from Victoria was cut which left Adelaide in darkness overnight and some towns without power for up to 3 days. The crisis that succumbed the state sent dire warnings around the nation that our energy grid was vulnerable and in crisis.

On last week’s ABC’s Four Corners, they reported that household energy bills are set to increase in the coming months by up to 30%. They asked the question how did the lucky country, rich in natural resources get to this dire situation. As expected the finger was pointed at politicians who have made short-sighted energy policy decisions over the years.

Traditionally Australia has relied heavily on fossil fuels for its energy with coal and natural gas being a cheap and reliable resource. But with the focus on reducing emissions, ageing coal power stations around Australia have been closed down with renewable energy solutions replacing them. Government and opponents have always challenged the credentials of renewable energy power as a true replacement for coal. This is mainly due to renewable energy’s capacity challenges and its reliance on Mother Nature.

Australians are one of the highest proponents of solar, with 16.5% of households having Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. The majority of units are between 1.5kW – 5kW. For comparison, the average AC unit consumes 2kW in operation. One of the challenges facing renewable energy has been the storage of power. As Mother Nature can be unpredictable the ability to store power is key. The much-reported Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, which has storage capabilities of up to 14kW is not cheap, costing approximately $10k including installation (not incl the Solar PV panels).

A study published by CME compared the cost of using solar and battery storage vs taking power from the grid, the solar option was ahead. With energy security, such a hot topic and the impending energy cost rises, the above solution is looking even more attractive. However, the cost is beyond most Australian households. We can’t expect the same uptake of batteries, especially after households have forked out several thousands of dollars on solar panels.

Businesses are struggling to deal with the rising energy costs with some facing a doubling of their energy bills in the coming year, on top of the already rising bills. The other challenge is the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG). We’re one of the biggest exporters of LNG, but the issue is we’re exporting too much and not leaving enough for our local manufacturers.

While Australian households have embraced Solar PV panels, very few businesses have invested and or have the capital to invest in the technology (the size of the project is one challenge). However, community renewable energy projects are now starting to pop up in Australia with investors getting a very healthy 7% return. In just 6 hours $388,000 was raised for a 230kW community solar panel project in Sydney on top of a wholesale bakery. Of course, government red tape is holding up more community invested solar projects.

Having worked in the Solar PV industry back in 2008 in New York City for SES, I’ve watched the renewable energy debate from afar, but have become increasingly interested and concerned with the direction in this country.

Talk of the government doubling the Snowy Hydro scheme to 400MW is impressive, but at a cost of $2 billion and with a 10-year wait, the upgrade is not as attractive as it sounds. Other sustainable energy solutions need to be implemented in shorter time periods. It’s encouraging to see South Australia talking about building a 100MW battery storage facility (they have an urgent need). The CISRO has announced they have found a way to export renewable hydrogen taken from solar and sea energy. This has the opportunity to be as big as the LNG export market with many Asian and European countries moving to hydrogen power.

While there’s no doubting the fact we need a balance of fossil fuels and renewable energy, we just can’t flick the switch to sustainable energy sources. Now is the time to stop the bickering between government, big business and industry, and start investing in renewable energy.

 

 

 

The First Six Weeks at Home

ImageToday, six weeks ago was my last day at work! Where has the time gone! Time use to fly by at work, but it’s the same at home with a little one.  

The last six weeks has been a real eye opener! Hats off to mums and stay at home dads, there’s no rest at home. The constant repetition can be tiring, especially on not much sleep. Luckily for us, we have a baby that likes to sleep at night, which is a godsend for new parents!

When I tell people, I’m taking some time off to spend it at home I get some mixed reactions. This is maybe because my wife is at home too, but I get the feeling there is still this ingrained mentality in society that the dad works, while the mum stays at home.

One of the main reasons for spending some time at home is so I can build a bond with Zoe, our daughter. Zoe is now four months old and is getting very active. She’s now rolling over from side-to-side and before we know it, she’ll be crawling! We’re entering the teething stage, which means lots of dribbling and constant wiping of her chin.

When I finished up work, I created a long list of things I wanted to do at home. I can safely say that I’ve done about half the things on that ever-growing list. I was kidding myself thinking I was going on holidays at home! I’m three-quarters through a Photoshop course which I bought on Fiverr, I’ve been very happy with the instructional videos. Also, I’ve updated our side business’ website, Flowers By  Night which was in desperate need of a refresh. It took about a week to do using one of Wix’s templates.

Next week I’m starting a Marketing Week’s mini-MBA online course by Mark Ritson. Mark has been teaching MBA’s for years and has consolidated the marketing core subjects into the mini-MBA. I’m really excited about getting a refresh of the core marketing theories.

One thing I’ve been struck by is how much stuff you can buy for your baby! It’s a marketer’s dream. We all want the best for our kids, which means brands have a field day marketing their products. Now I need to think of what to sell 😉

 

What I’ve learned in 3 months using Snapchat

Back in February I wrote an article about Snapchat, I had been using it for 3 weeks and was pretty excited by the platform. The excitement surrounding Snapchat reminded me of the buzz Twitter was getting 8 years ago when I was living in New York. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr were all getting started and Twitter was winning the battle. We all know what happened in the following years.

Three months later I’m still using Snapchat, and are excited by the new advertising features which really opens up the platform to advertisers.
A quick recap, Snapchat is a mobile App that allows images and videos to be sent. The messages last between 3 and 10 seconds, and then it disappears. Points are earned for every message sent and received, and there are trophies for rewards. To enhance snaps, you can add funny filters and text to images and videos. These filters are one of the reasons why the platform is so addictive. I got hooked using the filters and was actively sharing photos and videos with my wife’s friends, who in turn shared content with their friends. Before long the whole group was using it.
Snapchat figures are impressive for a platform that has been going for about 4 years. Snapchat has 200+ million users, 100 million are active daily users with Australia having 2 million active users. More than 60% of US 13 to 34 year olds Smartphone owners are Snapchatters. Users spend on average 30 minutes a day on it. Snapchat is dominating video with 10 billion videos watched daily. To put it in perspective, Facebook has the same number of video views, but are 10x times larger!
Why do people love the platform? Snapchat is giving users a platform to creatively express themselves to the world. We can share content (our own) with friends, celebrities and people located anywhere in the world (very similar to how Twitter was used to connect with people from anywhere, Facebook was more of a closed environment). And we control the frequency of interaction. Snapchat is the perfect platform to be continually sharing Snaps from our busy lives. The Snaps are a reflection of how we are feeling in the moment.
Interesting to note, all content on Snapchat is viewed vertically, which means it gets maximum eyeball attention on mobile. Studies have found that mobile users were not turning their phones when viewing content, resulting in landscape content been underutilised. This could be one of the reasons why Facebook has recently launched Canvas ads, to take advantage of the full vertical space.
So how do the brands get involved in the platform? Like with everything, there’s the organic way and the paid option. The organic way is to create stories on a brand’s profile. This does not mean replicating Facebook and Instagram content calendars onto Snapchat. The content should be quite separate and unique. Snapchat content is a lot rawer and does not require the same high creative production. However, it still requires some planning otherwise a brand’s profile will be full of random images and videos. The brands doing it well are telling a story, checkout NitroCircus for inspiration. But building an active community is quite labour intensive due to the content disappearing after 24 hours, so you have to be continually creating new stories.
Snapchat’s paid options allow brands to get involved without having to invest as much manpower, but there are still considerable costs to advertise on the platform. In Australia we’ve had limited access to advertising options, but this has changed recently.
One of the first paid options introduced by Snapchat was the ‘Discovery’ brand channel, which is a place where brands can publish curated content. This option has been only open to a small number of brands with very deep pockets (in the US prices started from $750k per day, apparently it’s now around $50k).  In Australia some brands using Discovery channels have included Fox Sports, News.com.au, BuzzFeed and MTV.
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Another option for brands to participate in is the ‘Live Story’ section, which occupies prime realestate just below the Discovery section. It’s a combination of user generated, branded and Snapchat curated content from live events from around the world, it’s a bit like a modern day documentary. A lot of the content is from behind the scenes at fashion shows, music and film awards and sport (the NBA finals has been featured a lot).
To get a sense of how big Snapchat is, America’s ABC recently broadcasted the American Music Awards, it got 3 million TV viewers aged 13-34, while a Snapchat Live Story about the event drew 11.5 million. Advertisers will be climbing over themselves to be featured next year.
Snapchat also features Live Stories from cities around the world, yesterday Reykjavik was featured. Not sure if there’s an option for cities to nominate themselves. Snapchat’s team based in LA and NYC sift through thousands of Snaps to curate the content and mix in their own content (with people on the ground at events), and add in ads (brand stories). To create ‘brand stories’, prices start from a very reasonable $20 for every 1,000 views. Yesterday I saw a 5 second Hungry Jacks ad video.
Quickly becoming a popular option for brands to participate on Snapchat is sponsored ‘on demand’ Geo-filters. Users can add branded graphics to selfie photos and videos based on Geo-locations. We’ve had community driven filters in Australia (e.g. Melbourne) but recently we got access to ‘on demand’ filters. McDonalds was one of the first to use the filter on a national scale. Recently in the office we created a filter for an event, we geo-fenced it to our building for about an hour, and it costed about $5USD (very reasonable). Thoughts of hijacking events spring to mind, so it will be interesting to see how Snapchat manages this going forward.
The last 3 months have certainly been fun using and discovering more about Snapchat. If you want to learn more, I’ll be co-running a Snapchat workshop this Thursday afternoon. We’ll be Facebook Live streaming the workshop, so like our Facebook page to watch it. www.facebook.com/onlinecircle

Watch out – Gen Xers are on Snapchat

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Username: Jimmy-Coleman

It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve started playing around with Snapchat and there’s no going back!  Move over Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat is the new kid on the block.

As a Gen X-er, I was keen to understand what all the fuss was about with the platform that has captured the imagination of the Millennials. Also, how can brands use it as a marketing tool.

Snapchat is a mobile App that allows images and videos to be sent to users. The catch is the message last between 3 and 10 seconds, and then it disappears. For every message sent and received, you receive points, and there are trophies for rewards.

To enhance snaps (videos and images) a bunch of very funny filters and emojis can be added. These filters are one of the reasons why the platform is so addictive. Updated daily, they encourage users to keep checking back.

The platform is all about capturing and sharing moments.  Why send a plain text message when you can communicate via an image or video (a picture is worth a thousand words). While we all use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SMS for instant communication, Snapchat has turbocharged this form of communication by adding a game element to it.  It’s all about sending creative Snapchat messages, very similar to memes. Snapchat also gives an insight into a user’s daily life, as videos and images can be uploaded to a profile in the form of a story, which lasts up to 24 hours. Uploads are stitched together to make a story.

While it’s been a great tool for having fun with friends and spying on celebs, but how can brands play in the space?  From my research, it’s only recently that Snapchat has opened up the platform to advertisers. There looks to be 3 ways brands can get involved. The first is the discovery section where publishers / brands can upload highlights from the day in the form of videos, images and GIFs. The next is sponsoring a filter; Samsung recently used a filter in Melbourne. The third way is creating stories on a brand’s profile, the organic way.

From a reporting perspective, things are pretty limited. You can understand how many views and screenshots content has been received, but there’s no way to benchmark performance with other brands.

It’s very early days for me with Snapchat, but early indicators show it’s a fun platform to use. I’m looking forward to exploring it more from a business perspective. Don’t forget to follow me!   

Tis the season to celebrate with Christmas commercials

With Christmas just a few sleeps away the retailers are in overdrive with activity. I was just in the city, and things seemed pretty crazy!

Now that our TV viewing habits have changed, we are relying more and more on getting our news and entertainment from Facebook’s newsfeed, including commercials.

Tis season I’ve only noticed a couple of standout Christmas commercials. The first being John Lewis’s ‘Monty The Penguin’ ad, which has had over 21 million views on YouTube.  By the looks of it, the ‘Monty’ campaign has been very successful with books, Apps, live interactive sites, dedicated Twitter account, plush toy and adopt a Penguin in conjunction with WWF.

I’m sure everyone has heard and seen this year’s edition of the dancing elves from OfficeMax, the campaign has nearly 1 billion downloads (over many years)!

Every year retailer Myer in Australia has the Christmas windows in the capital cities, which draw massive crowds.  This year’s TV commercial ‘Find Wonderful at Myer’ is a throwback to our youth when everything was wonderful.

Coca-Cola’s Make Someone Happy TV advert shows people doing random acts of kindness.

Wishing you a Safe and Merry Christmas!

What’s the difference between marketing strategies and tactics?

ImageMany newbies and experienced marketers confuse strategies for tactics. This is quite common in the digital industry, especially social media, which is full of savvy social media users, but most times they don’t see the big picture and deal with just the tactical execution.

Strategies are a subset of your business goals. Tactics are the actions taken to achieve the goals. Everything starts with the business goals, for example grow sales by 20% this financial year. These are the high level targets for the business. Strategies explain how you will achieve the goals.

Like most organisations, soft drink/ soda manufacturers would look to grow sales, but in a saturated market they would look at other food lines/ categories to achieve their goals. The ice-cream category is often used by soft drink manufacturers to broaden their sales. Ribena, a popular blackcurrant drink has released an ice-block product.

Ribena would have done their market research and understood their target market likes to keep cool in summer and ice-blocks fit that need. Research probably also told them that consumers for years had been creating their own version of Ribena ice-blocks by freezing the juice at home. In addition the ice-cream confectionary market has been growing steadily as a result of hotter and more prolonged summers.

When it came to tactics, Ribena would have most likely used a combination of television and print advertisements and social media to promote the new product. Social media is used a lot these days to launch a product, for example a simple 25 words or less competition is good way to generate interest in a new product. Once brands have built-up a good following on social media they can leverage this for product launches.

Now I’m not sure of the success of Ribena’s ice-block product, but if you want a better example check-out the blog ‘Brand Insight Blog’, John Ferguson references the famous ‘Arm & Hammer baking soda’ example.