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Monday, July 19, 2010

The buzz about 'the buzz about the social media buzz'

We were onboard at last Wednesday’s ‘Buzz about Social Media Buzz’ Pecha Kucha event alongside a whole host of other industry insiders talking about the future and potential of online buzz measurement. The event - hosted by brand-e.biz and sponsored by Visible Technologies – was an illuminating afternoon, highlighting both the pressing need for brands to engage with social media, but also the extent to which the industry is still very much in it’s infancy. So Robin Grant from We Are Social gave some very real examples of how they had helped their client at Eurostar to manage the ‘social media tsunami’ that followed their recent yuletide troubles. And Matt Rhodes from Fresh Networks showed how they had used social media to drive buzz around the launch of Jimmy Choo’s trainer range. However, there was also a note of caution from Paul Armstrong at Kindred who claimed that transparency still needs to be the theme of the day when it comes to actually measuring buzz. The methods that are being used are still imperfect – and don’t believe anybody who tells you otherwise. Andrew Grill from Visible Technologies used his time in the spotlight to show how their technology works to make sense of the conversations happening online – and how important the human element still is in deciphering what the mentions of a brand online actually mean. Our very own Claire took to the plate in much this spirit, talking about how social media buzz tools can add an interesting dimension to our work as researchers as a complement to our usual more face-to-face methods. In our recent research into the buzz around ethical world cup campaigns for brands like Puma, Adidas and Nationwide we found that looking at what people were saying online could get you so far in understanding their reactions to specific initiatives. But things got really interesting when we talked to people more directly about the campaigns, as it emerged that people were open to engaging more on these issues, if only they were given a bit more prominence by brands. The lesson for brands appeared to be is that there is real potential to build brand affinity through relevant and engaging ethical initiatives, and so despite the risks there is also a growing argument for giving these initiatives greater prominence

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Green? What's that?

The top 10 ‘green’ brands in the UK according of the ImagePower Green Brands survey – a global poll of over 9000 participants – make for an interesting read That The Body Shop is ranked at number 1 is no surprise – the original ‘cause marketing’ brand here in the UK with an ethical stance right at it’s very core. That said, my feeling is that the products themselves lack relevance for many in today’s marketplace - its position at number one seems to rest more on it’s ethical stance than any real relevance. Innocent is another brand with ‘ethics’ deep in it’s DNA and M&S has its Plan A – which from this evidence seems to have got through to consumers. But it’s the next 4 brands that are really interesting – Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose. Why is this? There are surely more green companies around. Partly this has got to be due to their sheer presence in modern Britain. They are high salience across the population and so it could be argued that they’re bound to come up. However, attached to this is probably the fact that they have strong associations with many of the ‘green’ products that have broken into the mainstream: fairtrade, free range, organic. These are by far the most visible emblems of ethical consumerism – in fact often the only real jumping off points that people have to navigate their choices. Further down the list Boots and Ikea also feature – two stores that have again become part of the fabric of our lives across the country. Here their simplistic, stripped back approach probably also lends them an air of ‘green-ness’ In all, it seems that consumer understandings of what makes a brand ‘green’ are still happening at a fairly surface level They are able to name a few brands with ethics as part of their ‘story’ but beyond this revert to brands with high salience and relevance that may hold associations with green products. More brands that are feel good within the context of my life than brands that are necessarily behaving well. Of course whilst we as researchers are still using terms as woolly as ‘green’ then who can blame them for this?! What this means – environmental, ethical, social concerns? – is so up for interpretation that it’s no wonder it’s attributed on a shallow basis! To be perceived as ‘green’ brands need to engage with consumers on a level that they can understand. One way to do this is to tell a brand story that incorporates some kind of ethical stance – but to take this route authenticity is key. For brands that don’t – or can’t - take this route, it may be enough to just make yourself truly relevant to their lives. If they can identify on some other human level then they are unlikely to openly question your ‘green’ credentials. As the market continues to head in a more ethical direction though and businesses do continue to improve practices, the real danger could be in starting to lag behind the scenes. Whether taking a green stance or not, the real risk is that one slip up can ruin a reputation if it does get out via more involved groups and the media