Does becoming a more social brand really help grow your business?

Recent research from statista.com says 83% of SMBs use social media as a way of driving growth for their business. The same source says 70% of professional marketers claim to have been successful in gaining new customers using social networks.

These figures tend to support my own analysis. Social media has become one of the first things business owners and marketers turn to when they want to get more growth or launch a new product. But just how effective is social media in building your brand and growing your business?

I recently talked to customer experience professional and social media expert Augie Ray of Gartner. Augie argues that marketers “cannot achieve their goals with the limited and shrinking reach of organic social media.  Within a year or two, I think all social media marketing will be paid ads, with little effort dedicated to organic and free marketing.”

Brandcasting on social media rarely works

Augie thinks that while some brands do have a great success with social channels as they have great brand experiences that involve their audiences (examples are sports, entertainment and lifestyle brands like Apple and Samsung). But most do not and should be wary of placing too much of their focus on social media for marketing.

Social media marketing which isn’t really social will always be largely ineffective whether it’s paid for or not. Brandcasting on social media rarely works.

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Building a total brand experience for Nuvem 9

Nuvem 9 are a new type of financial and accounting consultancy service that specialises in working with companies and entrepreneurs with ambitions to take the profitability in their business to the next level.

‘We are not advisors with an MBA who have never actually worked in a business,’ says partner Niall McGinnity.

We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the partners and fully understand their business and even more importantly help them understand what makes their business different from other brands and their competitors.

Only then did we start redesigning the logo to make the ‘nuvem’ or cloud part of their brand more legible and approachable, in keeping with their brand positioning. We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

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That breath beyond – branding in the age of disruptive technology

In our latest ebook we look at how brands can win and still be authentic in the ever-changing business market where disruptive technology rules, and we offer some interesting points for business owners and marketing professionals to consider.

Technology and design can really help brands go stratospheric and see real business growth. For instance it’s important to realise that everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience. Your brand is how you speak and interact with your users and your customers. It’s everything you do. That’s why in the always on, always connected, always accessible world – everything matters.

‘Everything that surrounds your service and your product can be described as part of your total product experience. Your website, the totality of your digital presence, including all your social media accounts, are all essential parts of your brand experience. This has implications for business owners of all types and brand managers in all business sectors, as there are some that haven’t quite got the message yet.’

It’s important to realise then that to be a successful twenty-first century brand, everything you do is important. That includes your social media presence too, in all its forms:

‘Social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself.’

Brands win in the disruptive technology world by using digital tools as a means of production, rather than as a means of consumption, and this applies to all territories and virtually all sectors.

‘You must move from merely using technology to get the job done to disrupting yourself and your market by depending on, exploiting and pushing the boundaries of technology.’

In branding, this authentic approach means developing a design and visual language that really says who you are and what you do.

It’s not borrowed or reimagined from someone else – it’s authentic for you and suits your brand’s personality and your company values.

It’s an approach we would do well to apply to each area of our own work and life, if we want to produce original thoughts, create new and cutting edge brands, or have authentic feelings that are something more than the strung together sequences from someone else’s movie.

You can download That Breath Beyond here.

Eugene Burns

 

 

 

Total product experience – why everything matters

Everything that surrounds your service and your product is part of your total product experience. Your website, the totality of your digital presence, including all your social media accounts, are all essential parts of your brand experience. This has implications for business owners of all types and brand managers in all business sectors, as there are some that haven’t quite got the message yet.

If you’re selling a car, a new flavour of cupcake, building materials, a cleaning service, or a digital app that will revolutionise the healthcare sector, in short almost anything digital or analogue, your customers will evaluate the digital experience you give them, as that’s how they first experiencing your brand.

Everything you do is part of your total product experience

Today the digital expression of your product is almost as important as the design of the product itself and the packaging and delivery method you use to get it to your customer. To be a successful twenty-first century brand, everything you do is important. A large percentage of your customers are already online looking for value and not only value in terms of being cheaper than your competitor. They’re looking for value in brands that can deliver more of their needs, more of the things that they want in a product or service, than they’re already getting.

Successful twenty-first century brands need to keep seeking ways to innovate their products and offer extra value that their customers and their competitors haven’t even thought of yet. To do this you need to put your customer first, while not being afraid to make sure that what you offer is not just forward thinking, but profitable and worthwhile for your business.

BeOutstanding710_3 Everything you do is important

 

As Forrester analyst James McQuivey says: ‘(We’re) not suggesting innovation for innovation’s sake, but that you’re innovating in the interests of your customer while explicitly tying those interests of the company.’ (Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, 2013)

If you want to see some total product experience in action have a look at what facecake.com are doing. It’s interesting to see how companies are using technology to change the way brands and customers interact with each other to enrich their online experience and make buying decisions.

Social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself

What does this mean for you? It means that your website and your social media are part of the product and the service you offer. They are not some optional extras but an integral part of your brand experience.

Here’s something to make you think: ‘…social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself,’ James McQuivey, as above.

So what about you? How proud are you of your design and digital presence in every area of your brand communication? When customers search for you and your product are you sure you’re completely in control of the total product experience they’re getting? There’s always room for improvement.

Brangento is the tool we’ve developed to help you better manage and control your brand

Brangento is the tool we’ve developed that helps you to better manage and control your brand, then use your brand to grow your business.

Based on the concept of continuous branding and total brand experience it lets you see you brand all in one place. It helps you grow your brand and grow your business. Try it for yourself at Brangento.com and watch the video below.

Eugene Burns

 

Social media is not life and death – it’s much more important than that

On the day after Twitter announces it wants to raise $1 billion in a stock market flotation, it’s a good time to look at how important social media is to businesses of all kinds. As my Shanklyesque headline implies, I feel that if you’re ignoring the full potential of social media, you’re missing out on a potentially exciting and compelling way to grow your brand and your business.

You probably arrived here because you’re following either of my two business Twitter accounts, or though my other social media accounts such as LinkedIn. But what you may not be aware of is that I create and manage social media platforms for other businesses and groups that enable me to analyse and manage large amounts of followers and their behaviour and interactions.

Just one of the Twitter accounts I manage, for example, follows less than 140 people but has tens of thousands of followers including at least one Hollywood A-lister, another highly respected film director and many influencers in the UK, Irish and international media.

This insight, and the approaches used to build and maintain such a following, allows me to use the same processes to build and develop the social media presence for brands and other businesses, while creating and developing the voice that each individual brand requires.

Copywriting and an understanding of brand tone-of-voice are great social media skills to have and are highly valued by social media managers who understand how marketing has developed and grown with the new media tools.

Not every business or marketing department can afford to have a professional handling their social accounts for them, and the whole point of social media is that you should be able to do it yourself once you’ve got the skills and confidence to create and develop your voice and have a high level technical assurance with the tools.

Social media is the lifeblood of a digitally disruptive, socially driven company.

But as social media is so important, it is the lifeblood of a digitally disruptive, socially driven company, then it’s important to do things right and start as you mean to go on. You should realise that your social media profile sets the voice and tone of your brand.

Increasingly it’s how the people who use your products or your services find you and it’s how they talk and interact with you even if you have a bricks and mortar real world presence.

If you have a brand and visual language, ask yourself if your design really does work across all the social media channels you use, and if it fits with the tone and message you want people to have of you and your business. If you think you need it get professional help but there are lots of resources available to help you.

Here’s a good social media crib sheet that will help you see how your logo, images and messages need to change across the main social media platforms. It’s a little bit out of date as the platforms change regularly, so it’s still a good idea to get help from an experienced designer who can help you get things working right and looking professional whatever the media.

Your website should be one of the core elements of your social media brand.

If you approach social media in a planned and structured way, you and you business will get a lot out of it and come to see it as a vital new business tool. Both Twitter and LinkedIn for example offer extremely powerful and detailed search facilities and it’s possible to see either, or both, as your own database, not only for finding information but also for building and developing new contacts and ultimately new partnerships and customers.

I’ve found too that many business owners and managers tend to forget that your website should be one of the core elements of your social media brand. Rather than merely being your online presence, your site should be playing a dynamic part in your social activity. It should be the place where all your media channels combine and link together and where people can experience the full range of your social media platforms and engage with you seamlessly.

If you’re feeling a little like this new social world has left you and your business behind remember – social media is not just another business tool, it’s much more important than that, but it’s never too late to start being social and growing your business too.

Eugene Burns

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Irish design at the centre of Europe

As Guinness promotes Arthurs Day 2013 it’s a good time to look at the role design has to play in the growth of the Irish economy. In some areas the gloom of recession has started to lift and the technology sector in Ireland has been experiencing something of a boom due to a number of factors.

Ironically, the Irish weather is seen as ideal for data centres, as the temperate climate dramatically reduces the need to heat them during winter or cool them during summer. Just this week Twitter announced that their European headquarters in Dublin will double its workforce, citing the availability of a highly skilled graduates and a cosmopolitan environment as some of their reasons for increased investment in Ireland.

While one hundred new jobs in Dublin doesn’t mean a boom, it’s the quality and profile of the new Dublin based tech firms that catches the attention and leads to further interest from overseas investors. So what do these things mean for design?

As Ireland is becoming internationally respected for its technology and contributions in the areas of Big Data and web innovation, is Irish design ready to play a part in communicating and expressing new technological innovations? Will the Book of Big Data be the new Book Of Kells?

The great advantage Irish design has is an ability to embrace all types and styles of influences thanks to technical innovations and cultural diversity.  With the influential Game Of Thrones series being made in Northern Ireland, design and film production are also benefiting from the higher profile the production brings.

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We can say Irish design has always been at the centre of Europe as that’s where Celtic design originally came from. The knotted intricacy of Celtic design has echoes in contemporary Irish design and thinking. There’s a Celtic self-reflection about James Joyce’s Ulysses and the cubism of Joyce’s approach has the same origins as that of Braque and Picasso.

Thanks to its geographical location and, yes even the climate, Irish design is perfectly placed to be part of a technological resurgence and design itself is constantly changing and evolving with the technology. If you haven’t been there lately Dublin is in many ways more open to other cultures and influences than London.

The swirls and knotwork of Celtic design are the interconnected data of twenty-first century communication – a knotwork of connectedness and a network of form and expression. Irish design has the opportunity to be reignited for the interactive era. Irish design and Irish business has the chance to be at the centre of new thinking and new technologies. Wouldn’t you like your business to be there too?

Have a look at our new brochure Irish design at the centre of Europe.

Eugene Burns

 

 

 

 

Put a tiger in your tank – the advertising revolution

There was a time when a great headline, image, copy and strapline were all you needed to get your message across to your target audiences. And once you had a great campaign in place, you could pretty much broadcast it to the known world without thinking too much about nuance and local adaptation.

The Esso ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ campaign is a good example of an old style company ‘brandcasting’ its message to a captive audience in every corner of the then developed world. Have a look at the example below. When you consider these campaigns were often beautifully produced and hand drawn without the help of any technology, they seem to belong to a very distant world.

Multinational agencies grew as the campaigns grew, but it really wasn’t that long ago when I was a young designer in McCann Erickson, I could pretty much guarantee that anyone that saw a Peugeot advert in Ireland in any given day, in any media format, would be looking at a version of the layout I had designed.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all.

TV, radio and 48-sheet posters, of course, could extend the brand message and target customers as they travelled and went to work, but advertising was essentially ‘brandcasting’ with very little personalisation.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all, and certainly have little relation to old-style brandcasting.

The tiger in the tank of business owners and marketing professionals today is technology. Instead of roaring an unambiguous brand message, the best targeted and most effective results are found using personalised marketing and social media that purr in the ear of the target audiences. You have the opportunity to get closer to your target market than the old advertising tigers could ever dream of getting.

Through digital and social media you can engage with virtually anyone, even when they’re behind the wheel of their car, without resorting to large radio and outdoor budgets. You can speak to them though social technology on their smart phone, be part of their entertainment and lifestyle though sponsorship and branded content and use existing sales and research data to refine your message and grow your business.

This is the advertising revolution. This is the new tiger’s roar.

If you take a total product experience approach to your brand and your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience.

Note that I use the term social technology, as social media really owes it reach to the software and hardware-driven technology that has changed our lives and businesses in recent times and continues to evolve and revolutionise our communication on an almost daily basis.

And if, like many of our clients, you take a total product experience approach to your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience. Your technology and everything you do is your advertising.

You will need help to deliver the best targeted messages that fit the positioning and voice of your brand. To grow your business you must be hungry to communicate and get as close as possible to those you want to speak to, but without biting them of course!

Let your social media purr…

Eugene Burns

 

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Grow your business? Luckily humans are hard-wired to connect

Doing business is essentially about making connections in the real world, but making connections online is becoming even more important every day. And the good news for you, if you’re a business owner or marketing professional who wants to grow your business, is that humans are hard-wired to connect with each other and have evolved to value connections at a deep psychological level.

Of course demographic, social and cultural factors play a big part in how we connect with each other online as well as in the real world and, as I mentioned in my recent post, I recommend you read Nathalie Nahai’s book, Webs Of Influence – The Psychology Of Online Persuasion, for more detail on the cultural factors involved in the psychology of online decision-making.

From a branding perspective, it helps to understand that storytelling is hard-wired into our consciousness when it comes to communication and connecting with your users. Why do many billions of us read books, or iPads and watch TV if not to consume real or invented stories on a daily basis.

‘The story is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of communication known to man’ (See Nathalie Nahai as above page 109)

Think Arthurian tale in Le Mort d’Arthur, think the wanderings of Ulysses in The Odyssey, think overlapping narratives of Game of Thrones, or Mad Men, or the latest invented blockbuster myth. Humans connect with stories and it helps your brand and your online business communication if you understand the importance of storytelling and the benefits for you and your business when you get it right.

What is your brand story and how are you delivering it? That’s a question that business owners and marketers don’t get asked often enough.

‘We’ve long known that storytelling is an incredibly powerful, primal medium through which we connect as a species, but the extraordinary fact that our brains are hard-wired to understand each other in this way has huge implications for the manner in which we deliver information.’ (As above page 110)

What is your brand story and how are you delivering it? That’s a question that business owners and marketers don’t get asked often enough.

‘Our success as a species has depended on our ability to form and maintain social groups, so it is no surprise that we have evolved to value reciprocal exchanges at a very deep level.’

Then there’s the role interactivity and social media play in your online story and in connecting with your customers. If we’re all hard-wired to respond to connections then reciprocity – the give and take of online transactions – is an important part of doing business in the twenty-first century. Online transactions are becoming more of a social activity.

Social media too has been evolving. Social media is no longer social media it quite simply is the media and everything you in your business communication – your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, or your LinkedIn profile – plays an important part in your total brand and product experience. Simply put, social media is one of the primary ways users today experience you business and your brand.

‘Our success as a species has depended on our ability to form and maintain social groups, so it is no surprise that we have evolved to value reciprocal exchanges at a very deep level.’ (As above page 138)

The message is, no matter what your business or the sector and countries in which you operate, you ignore the interactive, social aspects of your brand communication at your peril, and leave the door open for your competitors to talk to your customers if you turn a deaf ear to what they’re saying. Social media should be part of your brand experience and an intrinsic part of your business activities.

Talk to your clients. Listen to what they have to say and you’ll soon find out what they’re looking for and maybe even begin to anticipate their needs. Easy to say, I know, but we can all get there if we stop broadcasting and listen between the silences.

The Holy Grail for any business is to be loved by your customers. And in this week of yet another iPhone launch, Apple gives us the perfect example.

Of course the Holy Grail for any business is to be loved by your customers. And in this week of yet another iPhone launch, Apple gives us the perfect example.

‘Areas of the brain that light up when believers look at religious imagery, also light up when Apple fans view their favourite brand’s logo and products.’ (As above page 208)

So if you want people to buy your products or your services, offer them something they’ll fall in love with. Easy isn’t it?

Eugene Burns

 

 

 

 

Get what you want – the art of online persuasion

It’s really quite simple. In business you get what you want by persuading people to do what you want them to do. There’s nothing easier, right? We all know that persuasion is hard at the best of times, but in the online world it’s an even harder task.

There are several things that can help a business owner and her/his designer get what they want in terms of getting your user, your potential customer after all, to do what you want and help you grow your business.

In the online world getting what you want means knowing something about how the unconscious mind works. It comes down to an examination of free will.

In her recent book Webs Of Influence – The Psychology Of Online Persuasion, Nathalie Nahai outlines the most recent research in the psychology of human decision-making.

‘Our conscious experience of free will happens only after the neural events that caused it… put simply, your brain knows what you are going to do before you do.’

It turns out that most of our decision-making processes occur in parallel, without our conscious awareness.

Business owners, marketing professionals and interactive designers can learn a lot from a more than superficial study of the science of human psychological behaviour.

‘We are not rational beings, as classical economists would have you believe. In fact, the reality is that we are malleable, impressionable creatures, whose behaviours can be heavily influenced by our situations and surroundings, without us even being aware of it.’

Leaving aside the spiritual and philosophical implications of this view, it’s clear that business owners, marketing professionals and interactive designers can learn a lot from a more than superficial study of the science of human psychological behaviour.

It can tell us all a lot about how we can achieve what we want to achieve, and because we are essentially measuring online human behaviours, it gives us data that we can measure and act upon to fine-tune and re-target our approach.

‘Our emotions exert a great influence on our thoughts… beyond making us feel good or bad, emotions play a vital role in how we make decisions.

Emotions play a part as well as intellect when it comes to our on-line decision-making processes.

‘Our emotions exert a great influence on our thoughts… beyond making us feel good or bad, emotions play a vital role in how we make decisions.’

Here is where creativity, ideas and design intuition can play a major part in the online design process and help you to get want you want. Design and creativity, based on a solid grasp of recent psychological research, can help any online business get where it needs to go faster and more efficiently. This approach can integrate well with any off-line and related social media campaigns that you may want to run at the same time.

In the online world, creativity and good design thinking are not only scientific but also measurable in terns of the results and the targets they achieve.

If you know what your customers are trying to achieve, then it’s easier for you to help get them there.

So what do you want to achieve for yourself and for your business? And what approaches are you using to help get you there?

‘The ability to manufacture persuasion is a powerful one and its success hinges on the accuracy of your demographic data.’

In a later post I’ll go on to look at these demographic, social and cultural factors that help colour your approach to influencing your online customers. But to sum up, if you know what your customers are trying to achieve, then it’s easier for you to help get them there.

We know that our customers want us to help them achieve their goals through the intelligent use of technology, social media and design. We know that because we asked them. But what do your customers really want? Perhaps we can help you find out.

Eugene Burns

 

Disruptive technology – how brands can win

If you think about it, in the disruptive world of Amazon and Apple, pretty much everyone is your competitor no matter what sector you’re in. I was talking to a forward thinking business owner in the construction sector last week, who nevertheless was only dimly aware that Amazon were already in the industrial and business supply sector in the US with Amazon Supply and are already making plans to launch in Europe, bringing their anything, anywhere, anytime proposition with them.

But before you descend into paranoia and despair, there are many things you can do as a business owner, or marketing strategist, to make sure your brand still wins in the disruptive technology era.

You will already be aware of the companies that are innovating in your sector, and you know what they’re doing that’s different from you. You may even already be a market leader. But have you really thought about and researched the customer experience that your product or service offers, and really put yourself in your customer’s skin?

[blockquote]‘You must move from merely using technology to get the job done to disrupting yourself and your market by depending on, exploiting and pushing the boundaries of technology.’[/blockquote]

The question for a successful brand owner is not only what your clients want now, but also what they’ll want next and how will you can give it to them, even before they know they want it. Sounds difficult, I know, but it’s really a matter of continuously questioning your clients’ needs and being fast enough to anticipate them in ways that are practical and profitable for your business. Technology makes this process easier.

I remember several years ago talking with the managing director of the major saké producer in Japan to help him create a strategy to make the saké market in Europe more differentiated – more focused on brand and quality. It’s no accident that, if you ask for saké in a restaurant like Wagamama today, you’ll get something more than a lukewarm generic alcoholic drink.

Today I would have used technology and social media to drive that process, but the use of technology is crucial for all brands now, as your customers are all already online and looking for new and better buying experiences. But just using technology is already not enough if you want to be a winning brand.

‘You must move from merely using technology to get the job done to disrupting yourself and your market by depending on, exploiting and pushing the boundaries of technology.’ (Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, by James McQuivey, page 139).

Brands win in the disruptive technology world by using digital tools as a means of production, rather than as a means of consumption, and this applies to all territories and virtually all sectors.

[blockquote]Our clients know that people buy experiences rather than simply buy products.[/blockquote]

Our clients know that people buy experiences rather than simply buy products, and that everything that surrounds their product or service is an important part of the experience. People buy and seek out experiences, not just products, and the brand that wins offers a total product experience that benefits more people who buy it.

‘Digital disruption will no longer be a phenomenon to analyze, it will just be the way we live.’ (James McQuivey, as above, page 149).

Brands that succeed in the digital age understand that people want to use technology as it makes their lives and their jobs a lot easier, and for the B2B sector that includes other business people too. Technology can transform your life and your business and it can also make your brand succeed in a disruptive technology world.

If you want your brand to win we’re always ready to help you find the experience your customers are searching for. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns

 

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