London Calling–But are marketers answering?

August 3, 2009

Forgive the cheesy title, but after studying social media use in six different countries, we are heading to London to work face-to-face with actual clients and The Clash has been in my head, along with numerous other songs about London. London has a particular allure because 1) it’s my favorite city and 2) I assume there will be a parallel between the marketing practices of the UK and the US, thereby making it an interesting study (plus the fact that everything is in English makes the research easier). Upon beginning initial research into the use of social media, one of the first things that I found is the dichotomy between companies using social media and those not using social media. Anybody who studies or works in social media knows that social media is still in its infancy. Though many organizations (government, military, nonprofits, corporations) do engage in social media, there are just as many, if not more, that do not engage. Some organizations do not because they question the value of the current available tools, and others do not participate because of issues with access to the tools.

McCannSurveyA recent survey (table at left) by McCann Erickson Bristol shows that “two-thirds of marketing experts admit they do not understand social media despite acknowledging it is here to stay. The Social Media survey of marketing professionals found that 86% of them thought social media is more than just a fad. However, 65.6% of them said they did not know how to use it for the purposes of marketing.” This survey shows a common refrain. Communicators are beginning to see that social media is a viable tool, yet many are struggling to find an appropriate or effective use for it. Throughout the semester, we’ve seen numerous examples of effective social media, but as this survey shows, there is still trepidation to embrace the tools.

So while this survey shows that marketers do not know how to use social media, there are many UK (and European) companies that are using it effectively. The British candy maker Cadbury recently started a social media campaign to promote the new Crème Egg Twisted candy. “Dubbed “Operation Goo, “the initiative invites British consumers to become CIA agents. (That’s Cadbury Intelligence Agents, of which there are now 9,082.) The participants search out the candy bars across the country by finding clues on Cadbury’s Website. The top ten agents then create videos “with Flip cameras supplied by Cadbury, upload them on YouTube, and win points for generating the most social media exposure via tweets and videos. The agent with the most points by mid-July gets $33,000.” What Cadbury is doing here is creating engagement and conversation. Engagement is probably one of the most important aspects of social media. The sheer numbers of people who participate in social media means that the word can reach many more people than traditional media.  One analysis of the campaign stated, “Overall, it’s win-win for Cadbury. They promote one of their latest products through others via a social media experiment and then use and analyse the successful techniques used by the Super Agents to gain the most attention on each YouTube, Twitter, blogs etc.”

Overall, the biggest take away from my own perspective of managing and strategizing social media at work, and studying at school, is that there are numerous opportunities for brands, regardless of what country they are in. With a little bit of research and a Website survey of the brand’s relevant competition landscape, a marketer can help spread the word very effectively, and cheaply. But brands need to realize that they should not engage in social media just because everyone else is doing it. They need to have a strategy just like they would use for every other communication campaign. One thing that should be readily apparent is that an understanding of social media will be in great demand, so there should be future career opportunities for those of us who study it.


7/7/05 London Bombings and Citizen Journalists

August 3, 2009

During my very first visit to London, I woke up to a morning similar to any other — except I slept in later than usual;  after all, I was on vacation.  I had my morning cup of coffee and turned on the TV only to discover that July 7, 2005 would not be like any other. 

Explosions had taken place in the London tube at various stations.  One being Edgware Road, the area where I was staying.  To say I was scared would be an understatement.

At first, the media and government announced the explosions as underground ‘circuit shortages’ that had occurred throughout the lines.  A map of the entire tube was pictured on the news report indicating each affected station with a red circle.  But to me, it seemed much too coincidental that this happened at so many stops throughout the tube; and, sure enough, 20 minutes later, a double decker bus exploded.  At that point, all of the explosions were verified to be bombings as part of a large calculated terriorist attack.

I was shocked, stunned, scared, and confused all at the same time.  I could hear engines outside and people in the streets.  My initial impulse was to stay locked inside and wait it all out.  However, my travel buddy thought otherwise.  His initial impulse was to run to the streets and find out the facts of the story.  After much convincing, and perhaps a feeling of obligation to make sure he was not harmed throughout our trip, I agreed to go outside with him and find out more information about what exactly happened.  After all, the media didn’t get the whole story right the first time (‘circut shortages’), we wanted to get to the bottom of it.  Plus, we were in the middle of it all.

We stepped outside to find chaos everywhere.  The tube stations were closed and filled with police and caution tape lining each corner.  We couldn’t get very far.  But, the looks on people’s faces, including the police, told it all.  Everyone felt the same way as I did: shocked, stunned, scared, and confused.  But many of them had something I didn’t (due to traveling abroad), a camera cell phone.


During the summer of 2005, camera cell phones were the rage.  A relatively new product (at least to those will a normal-sized bank account), they were just beginning to become a cell phone ‘norm.’

According to the BBC, this day in history, 7/7/05, was when “the phenomenon of “user-generated content” (UGC) or “citizens’ journalism” came into its own in Britain, as members of the public took over the roles of photographers and news correspondents.”  And I fully agree.

I was there to witness the massive amounts of people who had their cell phone camera on them and used it, over, and over, and over.  Even without a cell phone camera in hand, I began to feel guilty for just wandering the streets.  Like a car wreck, people were drawn to the tube stations.  The sidewalks and streets were filled with onlookers.

Building on the BBC article on citizen journalism, The Online Journalism Review  claims that 7/7/05 marks the day that the UK public became citizen paparazi, not journalists.  From my experience there, I would have to agree with this as well.  It seemed that the general public went overboard with their camera-happy involvement in the activity both in the streets and underground. 

On the other hand, however, how else would the rest of the world hear and understand the tragedy?  A major image that sticks with many of us is the bus explosion, a photograph taken by a civilian.  This citizen journalist, who choses to remain anonymous, won the Nokia Citizen Journalism Award for this photo.  This image allowed people to see firsthand the impact of the terrorist attacks — giving them a personal and emotional connection.  Anna Shipley, Communications Manager of Nokia UK said: “…Citizen Journalism is very much being recognised as a credible part of the media agenda. The increasing quality of camera phones has meant that more and more people are able to capture spontaneous and newsworthy moments whilst going about their everyday lives.”

Similar to many other countries, participation in online social networking and media has incrased in Great Britain. The reports on the 7/7/05 bombings proved that the work submitted by citizen journalists is unmatched by any mainstream media news source; a comprehensive and truthful story can be told by working with, not against, each other.

It is clear that citizen journalism took off on 7/7/05 in London, and has little signs of ever stopping.

YouTube and the United Kingdom

August 3, 2009

In January 2007 British Airways threatened to strike causing the airline to cancel departing flights for two days.

In 2008, United Airlines damaged a passenger’s guitar. When he inquired about reimbursement the airline gave him the runaround. Finally, he was able to get their attention through the creation of a YouTube video.

British Airways needs to heed the strides United Airlines has made in order to ensure the satisfaction of its customers as well as its employees. Utilizing social media to listen to your audience is important in order to intersect any potential problems.

I don’t think customers should have to go to such great lengths like writing a song and posting the video to YouTube in order to secure proper customer service. Everyone should know by now that engaging in customers online has proven to be a success as long as the company is secure enough with its product that they can relinquish control of the conversation.

Social media in the United Kingdom is very influential. Robin Goade found that “The successes of Facebook and YouTube, along with similar sites, meant that social networks accounted for 1 in every 10 UK Internet visits during Christmas week. For the week ending 27/12/08, our Computers and Internet – Social Networking and Forums category accounted for 10.09% of all UK Internet visits, the first ever time it has passed the 10% threshold.”

Social Networks continue to dominate online activity and usage across the globe and this is no more evident than here in the UK. A recent report from ComScore reveals some very interesting UK Social Media Stats. Of the 36.9 million UK internet users in May 2009, 29.4 million visited at least one social networking website.

These are not statistics companies should ignore.

Brands Beware

July 31, 2009


VirginAtlantic787IIIn December 2008, Oliver Beale, a passenger traveling on Virgin Atlantic from Mumbai to London, was so disturbed by his in-flight meal that he wrote a complaint letter to Richard Branson, complete with photos of the food. Copies of the letter spread rapidly via e-mail and the story was quickly picked up by bloggers and traditional media. To read Oliver Beale’s letter follow this link: The best complaint letter ever?
In response to the media attention surrounding the letter, Virgin Atlantics public-relations team quickly got out the message on Facebook that Mr. Branson had personally phoned Mr. Beale and invited him to help select food and wine for future flights. According to Paul Charles, a Virgin Atlantic spokesman, “Our response was so fast, some people even accused us of setting the whole thing up as a publicity stunt, We took that as a compliment.”

Letter Excerpt: “It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast.”

Honestly, this is one of the funniest letters I have ever read and it shows how quickly a company’s brand can be damaged through social media if they are not prepared with the correct response when issues arise. In this case Virgin Atlantic got off easy, Richard Branson made a call to Oliver and everyone had a nice laugh about the situation and now both Oliver and Virgin Atlantic have tons of publicity to help them sleep at night.
But as the recent United Airlines guitar debacle shows, this is not always the case. Twitter, Facebook and other social media are changing the world of consumer complaints and brands must remain aware that consumers can and will use social media to tell their side of the story.

Viral Campaigns – A “Must Do” in Brazil

July 19, 2009

Before launching a social media communication/advertising/marketing plan in Brazil, brands should take the following into account:

These facts therefore not only change the way in which brands allocate advertising dollars but more importantly alter the format of the ads them self.  It also means that simply adding brand advertisements i.e. banner ads to Orkut (Brazil’s dominate social media platform) is not the answer.  In fact the proverbial social media plan just won’t do it either.  Instead, the solution lies in turning traditional advertising on its head and creating a new path; one that is focused on creating and generating buzz that can then be spread through social media sites with more authenticity and a sense of community.

Seasoned marketers already know that word of mouth and viral marketing is one of – if not the – most effective marketing technique.  According to the United Kingdom’s blogstorm, “viral marketing campaigns are an amazing way to generate a huge amount of buzz and brand awareness whether they are carried out online or offline.”  Given Brazil’s social media influence, online viral campaigns become all the more relevant. 

1dc106945fcaf829218bf6a63d07f5e53580db93_128x96One Brazilian company – – has already figured this out with the launch of their “Worst Job in The World” viral campaign. 

The video features beautiful Brazilian models and a large amount of sarcasm (which undoubtedly helps ratings) has been viewed on YouTube 773,716 times and has received 233 comments in the past two months. 

Last year, blogstorm posted “The Top 10 Viral Marketing Campaigns Of All Time” that companies aiming to launch social media campaigns in Brazil can emulate. 

The list includes:

  • Nike’s “Touch of Gold”
  • Quicksilver’s “Dynamite Surfing”
  • Transport for London’s “Do The Test”

While not all companies can – nor am I suggested they should – employee overt sexual innuendos or extreme sports, they should pay attention to the power that viral campaigns can have on the ability to reach intended objectives.