Wanting for nothing and why brands have a crisis coming

Brands have got a real problem coming. It’s also going to have a huge effect on some of the biggest economies around the world too.

We all have enough stuff.

Back in Spring 2008, my favourite brand Howies sent a card inside my quarterly catalogue asking if I’d fallen out of love with them, or maybe whether I just have enough clothes for the time being. It has been something that has stayed front of mind for nearly ten years now as I think we are at a stage where we probably all have enough stuff.

I just have enough stuff thanks
I just have enough stuff thanks

I have a newish computer, my car is fine (even with 130,000 miles on the clock) and I have quite a few watches. My Phone is reasonably recent and I really don’t need an Apple Watch, a new TV or another bluetooth speaker. In fact we have TV’s all over the place, bluetooth speakers all over the place and a lovely old valve amp for playing proper music.

I have outerwear coming out of my wazoo, at least six pairs of jeans, two gilets, jumpers, shorts, socks and shirts in every material for every eventuality.

I have access to almost every song ever produced with Spotify and every film ever made, with a combination of Amazon Prime, Netflix and a mildly chipped Firestick.

I adore Oxford United and should make more effort to see them home and away. That’s tribal, it isn’t about the brand. This is an opportunity for tribal experiences like football and they will be one of the few areas to do well out of this.

I love holidays, exploring new places and going to the pub. In fact, probably my favourite thing to do is walk to the pub with the dog, have a few pints and walk home again.

But in effect, I want for nothing.

Which is the problem that any brand faces.

We all have too much stuff.

There is no consumer good that creates real desire, real anticipation and a real need to have it in your hands.

New products are all derivations. Small but barely discernible differences that the brands create to try and make us want them. But the differences aren’t real enough. They don’t add value to our lives and as such, they just become normal, within a moment of owning them.

Social media makes things worse. You can now see that everyone owns everything and we are all bored of this. It’s why so many people are turning away from Facebook and it’s dying on its arse. No-one lives that perfect a life and we can all see through it for what it is.

Showing off.

But if everyone has everything anyway, who is there to show off to and what with?

It’s also why everyone needs to pay less than full price for anything. Why else do you think the outlet villages and discount sites are so prevalent? The only thing left to give you a buzz is the bargain, rather than the brand you’ve bought.

So what do brands do to overcome this?

The answer is to fulfill something deeper than a need to own something. My clever friend Leila pointed out that this is why there’s a huge rise in Mindfulness and Wellness. We are all searching for something more than just the diminishing thrill of owning things. I know with the challenges I’ve been through in the last year, I couldn’t care less about material things, I’m quite pleased to be vertical and pretty much pain-free again.

That’s one hell of a challenge and one thing I can say is that not all brands will survive this imminent crisis.

You can summarise it all very easily in just one line.

If there is no actual need, then the only way to sell is by creating desire.

maybe that is what marketing is all about. Creating desire. The issue I have is that we are all losing our desire for material things and therefore selling anything material is just going to get harder and harder.

It’s a self-imposed austerity that could run for quite a while. With an economy built entirely on buying such things and a Chinese economy built on making these things, I suspect things are going to get a little rocky in the manufacturing-based economies.

Real engagement for brands is more than just online engagement

I saw this video today by Gary Turk and shared it on Facebook on my personal account. Without any form of promotion, today it has been shared 40 times which is exceptional. If you watch the video it talks about real engagement.

Brand engagement is about more than just likes and shares on facebook Johnny Lyle
Brand engagement is about more than just likes and shares on Facebook

As a brand and social media specialist who shows real brands how to treat their customers and behave online, it is a very, very timely reminder that real engagement is about far more than likes, shares and a few extra follows. You have to be brilliant offline to allow people to get you online.

Real engagement is about getting inside people’s heads. It’s about becoming part of their lives, so they can’t live without you. It’s about building proper relationships where you give things as well as just take them.

Real engagement is real life and that’s what Gary’s film shows us.

The risks in Social Media – Direct Line style

It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with social media.

We’ve lured a world famous actor to come and be our ‘face’ and recreate the look of Pulp Fiction’s Winston Wolfe.

We’ve produced a great series of TV ads with our new character ‘Mr Wolf’. They are genuinely different ads for the space in which Direct Line operate.

And then they throw it to the real wolves by using sponsored posts all over Facebook and their existing customers get hold of it.

Direct Line Harvey Keitel Mr Wolf. Social Media is more difficult to handle than you think













There are have been 224 comments in the first 14 hours and as far as I can see, every single one of them retells a story of how they have been badly treated by Direct Line or commenting on Harvey Keitel’s decision to work in the insurance market.

For me, this can be nothing but bad for the Direct Line brand. Assuming most people have 250 friends on Facebook, these negative comments have already been seen by at least 50,000 people with a negative endorsement. If you add the 223 shares, this problem could be much worse than it first looks.

Compare this to the number of views on YouTube (only 3,573 after eight days) and you can see that the negative power has been at least FIFTEEN times more effective at reaching people. It may have gone viral, but hardly the type of viral they were hoping for.

One week on and only 3,573 views for the Harvey Keitel ad on YouTube for Direct Line
One week on and only 3,573 views for the Harvey Keitel ad on YouTube for Direct Line

Social media is both friend and foe. If you open yourself up to comments and feedback on such a public platform you need to be 100% sure you can cope with the responses. The old adage of ‘never asking a question you don’t already know the answer to’ may have been a prudent way of thinking before they ran this campaign.

I suspect a few people in the team at Saatchi (who produced the campaign) will be getting an ear bashing for their decision to try and amplify the positive effect of their advertising spend by engaging with Facebook and REAL customers.


Social media and genuine engagement

A social media Like isn’t a love. It’s not even a dislike.

I’ve been thinking how much social media has evolved in its short life.

A like on Facebook for business has no value whatsoever. It doesn’t show any level of engagement, it just shows that people want to be seen liking your business as they believe it will make them look good to their own peer group, or they want to enter one of your competitions and this is your entry requirement. So, for example, if you run Vegetarian cooking classes for experts. Some of your followers will want to show how advanced their vegetarian cooking skills are and a ‘like’ positions them as this to their own audience.

In the same way none of us ever need to give to charity any more, we just need to share the tweets and articles of others who write about what they are doing for charity. The most cynical gain all of the charitable halo, without any of the hard work. It gives them the ability to show their peers how benevolent they are and never need to reach into their pockets.

So this is a the REAL battle for business. A like isn’t a friend. it’s an alignment. There must be a way of extracting value from this, but as a stand alone like, a favourite or even a share, it’s still only an indication of a position and not any form of buying signal.

I am convinced that today’s socially savvy have enough ‘friends‘. Whether they know them all or not is a different matter. So, as brand owners, we need to slowly allow them to get to know us and offer them the same courtesy in return. Don’t stick your social media tongue down their throat on a first encounter, but rather allow the relationship to grow and flourish and you’ll have a chance of becoming social lovers.

Try it, see what happens, but feel free to share this with your own audience and i’ll see how wise you really are.

The hierarchy of like

It’s quite easy to say you like something these days. All you need to do is press ‘like’ on facebook and everyone can see you like it. But it’s quite meaningless and hollow isn’t it?

Of course I don’t like cancer, and of course i’m against racism, but clicking ‘like’ does absolutely nothing but give the person who started the chain of public pointlessness a warm glow and a stirring in their pants at their ability to move social media mountains. It doesn’t save lives and it doesn’t raise any money for the causes we are liking.

Does it mean a little more when you retweet, or favourite some else’s tweet? Probably. But not much more. Single button support is all too simple.

Next for me on the hierarchy is a text. it’s pretty easy and painless and doesn’t commit you to anything much really. It gives you a glow and them a vague feeling you’re there for them.

But if it really mattered or you wanted them to know it was important to them, you’d ring them wouldn’t you and tell them? With a mobile in every pocket, that’s ever so easy and ever so fast. It’s over and done with in a flash.

But at the top of my new social hierarchy is a letter.

If it matters, then write. By hand. The old fashioned way. Craft it a little and show people that what you think of them and that you care enough to put pen to paper.

Go on, see what happens.

Internet Usability and the $300m button

Please will you be my new online best friend?

A little while ago, I read this article called the $300m button. Whilst I took some of it with a pinch of salt, it made me think and change the way I advise clients on their Internet and social media behaviour.

But I’ve now discovered that I am living it myself. I have stopped wanting to become friends with organisations online, unless they are amongst my very few special online friends.

So there is a very simple lesson for all of us involved with brands, websites and social media strategies. Stand in your own shoes and see how you behave.

I probably don’t want to be your mate. if I do, I want it to build slowly and get to know you first, before I commit long term.

Ooh, that sounds rather like building a normal relationship doesn’t it?

So, the new lesson i’m sharing everywhere is that you mustn’t expect people to create a unique user name and password to buy, comment or login to your site. keep it simple, keep it slow and let them log in with their Facebook, Twitter or Google identity and you will make far more friends and build a far more active community. When they show they want to get to know you, that’s when you think about moving the relationship up a gear.

How to use Twitter in ten easy lessons

Twitter_Bird_logoI’ve been asked about this a lot in the last few weeks, so thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on how to best use Twitter. Ten things you really need to know about Twitter and how to make it work for you and your brand.

1. Decide whether you are a person or a business
Twitter is used by three distinct groups: Celebrities, who like to talk about themselves and the everyday trivia of their lives; Businesses, who are talking to their customers and trying to build rapport with a younger audience and by Individuals who often use it to share gossip and news amongst their own group – like Facebook but without the pictures. An on line version of texting between each other on their mobile/cellphones.

2. Choose a good name to work with
Like creating a brand for yourself, you need to start with a good name. If you’re a business, it makes sense to choose the business name and if you’re an individual, use your own name. I simply can’t understand why someone would want to try and build another brand with a random name. It’s exactly like splitting your spend and your time across two different brands and halving its effectiveness.

3. Personalise it with an icon and all your info
When you sign up to Twitter, you have the ability to personalise your information in the Profile panel. There is lots of talk on the Twitter forums (fora?) about not following people who don’t bother with an icon for themselves as they’re probably spammers. If you’re going to do it at all, do it right and that means adding in your own URL, your own or your brand’s icon and by being as interesting and engaging as possible with your 160 character introduction.

4. Choose your tone of voice
If your brand has tone of voice guidelines, STICK TO THEM! Just because you’re speaking in a different medium, doesn’t mean you need to start being all chatty and inappropriate. If you’re an individual, decide whether you want to be friendly and engaging, cold, useful but clinically efficient or some combination. But whatever you decide, write it down as your agreed tone and stick to it in every tweet.

5. Choose your area of expertise
It’s the same for what you say as to how you say it. If your expertise is in mortgages, then why would you have any credibility talking about advertising? Decide what you are going to speak about, again, write this down and agree it with yourself or fellow contributors and then stick to it. If you are shouting about any old subject, you’ll get seen as a loudmouth rather than an expert and people will lose interest in what you’re saying all too fast.

6. Follow back
The reason I follow no celebrities at all is that none of them ever follow you back and I care very little about their trivia. Why should I care about what they’re saying if they don’t care about my thoughts? This has been escalated recently by Twitter introducing ‘lists’. Organise your favourite tweeters into lists, so you can see what they’re saying even if you’re not constantly monitoring their every tweet. This can be by subject, area of interest or even geography.

7. Tweet things that you like and that others can learn from
“Waiting for a train to Nottingham“. “On a train to Nottingham“. “Arrived in Nottingham“. And so on and on he went. The most dull set of tweets I‘ve ever seen. There were nine in total all involved this boring man’s journey to and from Nottingham. Another person, in my own industry, I used to follow said “I have to stand up from the table to let my colleague go to the toilet.” Who cares? Why should I waste my life looking at his pointless tweets? Think about what you’re saying. How will your audience learn more about you and what you do by reading what you’re writing? Would you ring someone and tell them what you’re tweeting? If so, go with it.

8. Twitter is a conversation
It’s all about dialogue, not diatribe. If you speak loudly at people, no-one benefits. Think of Twitter as a conversation and allow others to speak, retweet the things they say that you find interesting and do them the service of acknowledging when they have been kind enough to retweet your thoughts. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can behave impolitely. If someone serves you, you would normally say thankyou. Behave online as you or your brand would offline.

9. Build a like minded community
If you’re interested in branding and marketing, then don’t follow someone in California who is interested in real Estate or Madcap MLM schemes. When I follow someone, it’s because I think we can learn from each other. I always turn down people who are talking about things I don’t care about. It does mean I have limited myself to around 3,000 followers, but it also means that they have something to say that will be worth me hearing and that they may benefit from my own thoughts and ideas.

10. Keep listening, keep talking, keep tweeting
Stick with it. It’s a frustrating time when you’re trying to build a community. It doesn’t happen overnight unless you are a porn spammer or someone using a ‘foolproof system’ that follow millions of people and bombard them with irrelevance. But if you’re working to a plan and set aside a little time most days to work on your Twitter account, it will grow, it will be useful and it will be fun doing it.

See you in the Twittersphere.

The X Factor effect and how brands need to recognise the changes in youth behaviour

The X Factor effect and how brands need to recognise the changes in youth behaviour
The X Factor effect and how brands need to recognise the changes in youth behaviour

I’m 44 years old and grew up in a village outside Plymouth in Devon. Having moved there from Oxford, it never felt like to most cosmopolitan place but I don’t think my childhood years were that different to millions of others of my age.

But young people today are totally different in some of the things they think are normal.

When I was on holiday recently I was talking to a good friend of ours Chris Bentley who lives in Kent.

What we noticed was that when we were kids, if you wanted to speak out loud in a language lesson (only French and German in those days) and try to put on the best accent you could, then you were seriously weird.

But now kids seem to love languages. Listening to my 12 year old son taking care of all the ordering for us on holiday and priding himself on the Spanish accent would never have happened when we were kids. Just use English louder was far more normal behaviour.

And then there’s singing and dancing.

I recently went to an School X Factor event where 13 finalists, who had been whittled down from many more entrants, were prepared to stand in front of all their peers and sing their hearts out. The standard was amazing.

Again, if you danced at a school disco as a lad, you would have been lynched.

But any brand needs to address these changes. Staying cool is tricky at the best of times, as tastes and norms change so completely over long periods. Even Google is being pegged back by the US investment market as it is not showing the growth it once was and is being overwhelmed by Twitter and Facebook in many areas.

Apple are now the most valuable brand according to the same Fortune article, but can even they keep it up for another generation?

So whilst looking at how your brand presents itself, sometimes it’s not just a design change that’s needed, it’s a cultural, brand definition change.

And that’s far more scary.

Social media is really antisocial for B2B

Edith Boundy - 95 years old on Tuesday and better at listening than 95% of all businesses that use social media as marketing tool
Edith Boundy - 95 years old on Tuesday and better at listening than 95% of all businesses that use social media as marketing tool

I’m a big fan of social media, it’s great fun and quite sociable really. But is it right for most brands or is it just a great big distraction?

Having given this lots and lots of thought, I’m becoming more convinced that a social media strategy for many B2B businesses is nothing more than a total waste of time that will ultimately serve to undermine their business.

A big statement, but lets look at the facts.

Email marketing
Sending lots of emails to your clients keeps them abreast of what you do.
If you’re doing well, as a B2B business you may have a 40% open rate. This is a 60% NOT open rate so more of your customers are choosing to not even look at the information you are sending them.

Lets say this takes 4 hours per month

I blog loads and loads that build links and web presence
But how many people read it and how is this adding to the SEO of your own company? It is far better to use all of your hard work blogging to populate your business’ site with lovely searchable words that Google can crawl all over and rank you more highly for than build an external blog presence.

You have to be incredibly committed to build an external blog with a Page Rank that will make the link back to your business site worth the effort. Realistically, one link from Linkedin to your business site will do more good.

To do this well will take 15 hours per month

I’m always Twittering
Unless you make the effort to build an engaged audience, you may as well not bother. How many people are actually listening to what you say. Most (over 80%) of twitter accounts are effectively dormant, so who cares? Are you shouting your thoughts in an empty room.

To do this well will take 6 hours per month

It’s nice to see your business down their with the kids and yes it’s a huge fast growing audience base. But for B2B. Hmm, not really.

Will you sell more widgets, buns or B2B services by having a Facebook fan page? I doubt it. At least once it’s up, maintaining it is pretty simple, so lets say we allow 2 hours per month.

For consumer brands it can be completely different, they try to build religious fervour where people seek them out and want to know more and more. Their reputation can grow like wildfire with consumers looking for information in every available channel. So yes, I can see why you just have to have it here.

But if you’re a B2B supplier, wouldn’t the TWENTY SEVEN hours every single month, you’ve just saved be better spent hanging out with your clients and giving them a really good listening too?

Facebook is the biggest waste of time in our universe – it’s official

According to some new figures by Nielsen the average Facebook user spent seven hours of their precious time on Facebook in January. That sounds like about six hours and thirty minutes too much to me, but then again, I’m not generally stuck for things to do in the evening.

Top 10 Parent Companies/Divisions for January 2010 (U.S., Home and Work) - facebook is the biggest winner in the time wasted in front of your computer
Top 10 Parent Companies/Divisions for January 2010 (U.S., Home and Work) - facebook is the biggest winner in the time wasted in front of your computer

Perhaps even more amazing for Facebook is that this time absolutely dwarfs the time spent on the other top ten platforms made up from their parent companies of:

Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, News Corp. Online, InterActiveCorp, Amazon, Wikimedia Foundation and eBay

With the nearest rival being Yahoo at two hours and eight minutes. That is weird. Why would anyone spend any time on Yahoo at all?

And again it shows that time spent on ALL of the other platforms is falling month on month. When you consider in large parts of the world, January was a snowy month, with loads of kids off school, logic would say that all of them would have spent more time online.

So from this I draw two possible conclusions:

1. Facebook has become the dominant web application of its generation. Yes Google is one we use a lot, but clearly not one we connect too and even the launch of their Buzz product may not be enough to make an impact on the strength of Twitter or Facebook.

(I registered for Buzz, but not sure why, what it does or even how to find myself on it! If anyone can help, that would be nice.)

If you own a brand and want to build a future, trying to do so without a sensible Facebook strategy, will ensure you have afar worse chance of succeeding.

2. Kids are learning how to play again. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch on my part, or maybe its just me being hopeful, but I have to conclude that all of the kids in the snowy northern hemisphere chose to go out and play in the snow, rather then veg out in front of their computers. I like this conclusion very much, it’s good for our future.

I would say that we are currently getting more enquiries about social media than any other area of our business and along with iPhone Apps can see that we have many fun hours in front of our computers spending time devising strategies to get kids to engage with brands – or hopefully getting them to engage with brands that live outside.