Reader's Round-Up: A Passing Fad

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The Drum Network's Reader's Round-Up, gives Drum Network members the opportunity to have their say on the hot topics featured in The Drum's fortnightly magazine.

Last week’s edition of The Drum explored the trending issues that are tweaking the noses of the top marketers. The topics of digital transformation, social engagement and fashion branding was particularly popular as Drum Network members discuss…

'What's Your Chat Strategy?'

Chris Minas, founder & MD, Nimbletank

Chat is the child of, and therefore a product of, the mobile industry. It is helping to transform businesses, the FTSE100 and customer behaviour.

Mobile is our most personal device: they’re our pocket super computer, our compass, our map, our camera, our diary, our games console, our everything. We even occasionally use them to speak to people! And we certainly now have a learned behaviour for chat with it firmly ingrained in our minds and seared into our retinas.

As SMS changed the way we interact with our friends, it has evolved into the chat revolution we are experiencing. Chat is instantaneous and useful. Just like good apps should be. And its now driving new functionality such as payments and sharing, with often the most innovation coming from the East, as pace. Speed, context, ease, social value, sensors and software interfaces have come together to help in driving the growth of chat which in turn is driving software innovation.

The mass penetration of messaging services is having big implications on apps, with more brands than ever before taking chat more seriously. The reasons for implementing in-app chat functionality are many: such as to improve service, experience and enable more data capture. Basically chat is excellent at helping to solve customer problems in a cost effective way.

According to Bi-Intelligence, in terms of monthly users the world’s four biggest messaging apps – WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE, WeChat – now have more monthly active users than the top four social apps – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. And there are over 2bn monthly active users of messaging apps. So chat isn’t just eating software, it’s quickly overtaking and crushing all social media.

From web live chat and Twitter customer service channels springing up in circa 2011 to in-app messaging dominating customer mobile engagement in 2015, what we do know is customer expectations have never been higher. Chat messaging apps are becoming payment apps and vice versa. The world is blending.

When it comes to adding app features it’s logical that brands sometimes suggest adding messaging functionality, either between customers, and or between brand and customer. The rise of mHealth has seen many great examples of customers now being able to video call their GPs for example.

Leveraging existing consumer behaviours is key, and it’s worth considering that from a consumer POV, once you’ve gone through the hassle of inviting all your friends onto a messaging platform chat can help introduce various functionality quickly and cost effectively as well as keep brands and consumers in touch. Brands should be wary of re-creating the wheel within their own products.

Chat is the holy grail of mobile. It always has been. And it always will be. It’s good to talk, after all.

Tom Farrell, senior marketing director, SWRVE

It would be dangerous to underestimate the significance of mobile chat as a communications channel. As it stands today, consumers are flocking to messaging as a means to talk to each other either 1-2-1 or in groups. And where consumers move, marketers must surely follow.

To look at this from the other end of the telescope, think for a moment of the many thousands of highly paid individuals currently creating and targeting email campaigns that at best end up in a Gmail promotions folder and at worst are being delivered to individuals who think of email as something comparable to semaphore when it comes to their daily communications habits.

Those of us who work for a living tend to over-estimate the significance of email to the consumer. Email is, after all, how we communicate with each other - and email is undeniably great for business. Aside from anything else, it creates a permanent record and that's great for large organizations - but also almost completely irrelevant for the consumer.

In our modern, mobile world - consumers prefer communication in the moment - and marketers will have to give up on the old reliables and re-imagine how that happens - whilst being aware that consumers have less and less tolerance for 'interruption' marketing in a world in which they choose what to consume and when.

That will certainly involve the smart use of messaging networks. It also means greater emphasis on relevance and timing (something marketers have always paid lip service to, but now need to take seriously!) One area that will certainly merit investigation is the use of mobile apps (and the messaging, notifications and user experience associated with them) to put the brand 'in' the consumers life and support 'right-now' marketing.

Whichever way you look at it - interesting times ahead!

'Worth a thousand words?'

Tom Ball, head of digital, Immediate Future

Only today I was speaking to a client, albeit from a slightly different angle, about how image recognition technology could surface and expose a wealth of image right issues as well, in a world where we are curators and publishers.

The opportunity is right round the corner to better analyse the effectiveness of campaigns (which let's face it are increasingly image and rich media focused) as well as brand equity. Text alone does not tell the full story but to Dan's point context is key here…

Sure, some vanity metrics around exposure to image based content, user generated content, on-site experience, product usage would be interesting to most brands - volume, peaks, troughs and trends. But this needs to be considered in context of sentiment, in context of outside influencers that could have driven those behaviours. For example, take the Apple 6 launch with the infamous phone bend. If image recognition could stretch to identifying the phone, it would only become useful at the point you combine that with the related negative sentiment, in context of the launch timings and consequent (negative) swell that was created as a result. Otherwise all we have is spike in volume, which on its own tells us nothing, certainly not about the damaging impact, negative press and ensuing “mock” activity.

As a technologist and a passionate believer in the power of social data I am incredibly excited about getting to grips with this technology. However, the sceptic in me also can't help but think 'let's walk before we can run'. Whilst this is not true of all brands (or agencies) I still see a huge learning curve and a wealth of opportunities to develop better ways of structuring the un-structured and utilising social data (text only as a start) that creates real business value.

There is no doubt though, the power of social images is huge, the opportunity is huge. Great article Dan.

'Digital Transformation'

Jonny Tooze, MD, Lab

It’s a bit weird that something like digital is having such a massive effect on organisations.

Digital used to be part of a marketing strategy, which used to be part of a business strategy. It seems that the whole thing has been turned on its head and everyone is looking to digital to be the magic bullet that will save them from a dying market, aggressive competition, organisational inefficiencies and a lack of ability to employ and retain anyone who’s less than 28.

Digital is awesome. It is fully capable of doing all of these things, but so many organisations manage to get it so wrong. The problem is that digital transformation actually is a part of business strategy. It’s not a peppering of initiatives or a quick fix and, as we’ve recently learned from Taylor Swift - Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.

We’ve all read our share of business books and by now you get that a good strategy is made up of: your position in the market, how distinctive you are, and how you are going to be compelling. You might have a great positioning statement, whether it’s truth or completely aspirational, and it probably includes something along the lines of being modern or at least a bit digital. Brilliant work so far, but the only way you can translate your positing statement into the real world, in an even marginally believable way, is through the behaviour of your people - and that behaviour is ultimately driven by culture.

If you want to digitally transform your organisation, then start with injecting a digital mind-set into your culture. It’s your people that will drive the change, not a positioning statement or a decree from the c-suite to invest in digital. That would be like starting off a business strategy from a budget – corporate suicide.

But if you really don’t want to do your press-ups, here are a few simple things you can do to say that you’re digitally transforming your business:

  • Push everything you can ‘into the Cloud’ - Email, documents, data, systems and tools.
  • Allow remote working and rip your social media policy. This will make you a bit cooler and help attract digital natives.
  • Add in some collaboration tools to encourage sharing ideas and achievements.
  • Start a digital innovation initiative and put in a framework to support and encourage ideas. Tell your people it’s OK to fail, as long as they are failing forward.
  • Read a book on the Internet of Things and see if you can plug any sensors into your products.

Also, have a think about your customer experience and how digital can stop it being annoying. Watch out though, with customer experience, most people fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about efficiency, self-service and reducing costs. Think about how your customers will feel at the start, in the middle, and at the end of their journey and how digital change can make better their experience – which dare is say it, might involve human contact.

Colin McMillan, head of development, Dog

Digital Transformation is a huge subject, and one that can be overwhelming for many organisations. The almost apocalyptic predictions emanating from some of the world’s business leaders only serve to generate further confusion or anxiety. To paraphrase John Chambers, outgoing CEO of Cisco, 40% of businesses will no longer exist “in a meaningful way” within the next ten years if they don’t embrace the necessary digital change.

Nothing like striking fear into the heart of your audience to get their attention! But the point is clear: become a digital business, or be disrupted and overtaken by those who are. In reality, this is not a new risk, just a new era.

So how do we remove the fear factor and tackle digital transformation?

We break everything down into manageable pieces, mapping against tangible business or customer outcomes. Focus on, and prioritise, the projects that will provide the greatest return. These might involve product improvements, investing in digital engagement to boost sales, replacing legacy systems, or initiatives to re-energise the workforce. Every organisation will be different, however the strategy remains the same. Look at where the biggest gains can be made to drive revenue back into the business, be it through efficiency, productivity, sales or customer retention. Use this revenue to invest in further projects, creating a sustainable digital transformation programme that is constantly driving forward.

The success of each project is critical, both in terms of execution and organisational engagement. Be sure to gain buy-in from stakeholders and ambassadors throughout the business - at board and department level - so that positive communication can flow through the organisation. Without people behind you it will be like cycling uphill and into the wind. When the workforce sees, and feels, the benefit of small changes they will accept the larger changes ahead with, a sense of enthusiasm and optimism. Screw up and it’ll be hard to recover.

Personally, I have no time for a culture of fear. In my view you have two choices - succumb to fear and avoid the issue, or be courageous and move forward in the right way for your organisation. A further prediction from Mr Chambers that, out of 70% of businesses that attempt digital transformation, only 30% will succeed, should not become a reason to shy away from the challenge, just motivation to get it right and reap the rewards that becoming truly digital offers

Tom Ball, head of digital, Immediate Future

I think Tiffany's point about having read 40 management consultancy whitepapers on digital transformation says it all for me. It's not that I don't think we are going through a monumental shift, or that the underlying principles are a big deal - it's just funny to laugh at ourselves sometimes.

'Digital Transformation' is such a something and nothing buzz term. It's like 'cloud'. Of course we are going through a digital led transformation! My Mum is using a Kindle; that is massive transformation! Do you know she can barely even use the video (yes I said video!) remote? Anyway, rile me though it does, it is grabbing attention and interest. And Tiffany is spot on...it needs to be clearly defined...

As an industry, we need to be weary of being caught up trying to create an urban dictionary definition for the buzz term. Instead, we should be focusing on what it means to transform our business, our culture, our thinking, and our propositions and how we deal with our customers.

The best brands I have worked with are working towards a vision, rather than a technological solution. Of course, this vision will morph and change such as the nature of transformation does, but is that a problem?! It's an interactive process. The biggest gap I see is still not setting out to answer the right questions, for example needing a new CRM system without truly understanding what the goal of that system is or what change we are trying to effect. Sometimes it feels like transformation for technology’s sake, I see this a lot in the implementation of social listening technology too!

'Elitism goes out of fashion'

Stuart Wood, creative director, Missouri Creative

Everywhere you look elitism is in as rapid decline as Kanye West’s street cred: from food to fashion, from products to politics, the allure of the elite is making way for a new type of cultural democracy. After all, elitism is a way of keeping people separate - we now live in an age where people want to come together.

The Boomer generation consumed brands and experiences that said, “I can, you can’t”, whereas today's Millennials say, “I can, and you should come along too!” It’s the difference between using brands as a trophy of reward and success versus being more emblematic of the journey and who they want to be.

Social media has (obviously) changed the way we all communicate and consume – we’re all a lot less influenced by the social glitterati - the likes of AA Gill - and a lot more inspired by the phenomenon of Clerkenwell Boy. It’s less about ‘who’ you are and much more about ‘what’ you say.

Even the high fashion nobility are seeing the effects of social media on design and marketing – Donatella Versace recently said, “Before that (SoMe), we were in a little enclosed circle – fashion designers and fashion journalists. But fashion is not an elite any more: it is a democracy. The real new things are things you see on the street.” The power of influence has never before been in the hands of the many and not the few.

Take Net a Porter’s new platform The Net Set. Hailed as the future of collective consumerism, it takes social shopping to the next level. Browse by tribe, sub-culture, celebrity or just a scrap of wallpaper that you happen to like and you are provided with a curated collection of brands and products recommended by other users with similar interests and style.

On a broader and more fundamental level, elitism simply doesn’t work. In a recent study on elitism in British society, Alan Milburn (the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the commission) believes that "Locking out a diversity of talents and experiences makes Britain's leading institutions less informed, less representative and, ultimately, less credible than they should be”.

Just look at the rapid demise of Nokia and the stagnant Japanese economy for proof that elitism in senior management provides no new ideas and perspectives. There is a complacency and cynicism inherent to those few that are ‘in the know’, as opposed to the openness and optimism of those ‘in the now’.

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