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What is decoupling in advertising and marketing?

By Danielle Stagg on 3 April 2013

The definition of decoupling in advertising and marketing is the splitting of the origination of the creative idea and the production of that idea.

Many marketers are tasked with doing more with static or shrinking budgets. The answer to this, is often ‘ to decouple’ production.

Despite the potential benefits, many marketers only have a limited understanding of what decoupling in advertising and marketing actually is, how to decouple and who it is suitable for.

This post, from Gutenberg CEO Simon Steel, the first in a series, looks at the history of decoupling in advertising and marketing and provides a clear explanation of what decoupling is.

The history of decoupling and advertising and marketing

The full service advertising agency had a privileged relationship with advertisers. They often acted as consultant, procurement department, media buying agency, promotional and direct marketing agency rolled into one. Production was craft and many specialists were employed to realise the creative idea, such as specialist typesetters. Production was expensive, time consuming and arms-length from the advertiser. Suppliers such as printers and re-pro houses were managed by the agency and prices marked up.

Gradually this model split and fragmented. Media buying went into specialists, as did direct marketing, promotional marketing and web, all splintering again into the fragmented market we see today, leaving creative agencies with the creative idea and the execution and production of that creative idea. At the same time technology made the execution, delivery and production of campaign material easier and clients, led by specialist procurers started to look at their agency invoices and wonder if things couldn’t be done a bit more efficiently.

This set the scene for decoupling.

Single integrated or specialist agencies tend to make significant margin on the production of marketing material. They are often high overhead businesses, with large fixed operating costs. By decoupling the production of marketing assets and centralising the procurement of printed material, clients tend to save upward of 20% from their overall marketing budget.

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Brand identity: Has your brand strategy got soul?

By Danielle Stagg on 3 April 2013

Nick Pearce - JP Creative

Consumers are seeking authentic brands. Brands with soul. Soul needs to be baked into your brand identity.

Gone are the days when marketing was about having the biggest, shoutiest brand, being 'revolutionary' or being the first to launch stuff into space.

To today’s hype-weary consumer, flash brand strategies, such as celebrity endorsements and high-budget campaigns are seen as the swan song of desperate 'me too' brands trying to eek out market share. They're often a clear sign that the products behind them are lacking in quality and most importantly, soul.

Brand awareness

A brand identity with soul thrives on popularity, admiration, trust and is confided in by their consumers. Brands rack up clout scores on how many of the public and stakeholders literally ‘like’ them.

It’s not news that social media has changed the lines of communication. The trick is to extend the brand personality in an intelligent and human way. After all, friends know when to stop talking shop. A friend would know what to post in your Facebook newsfeed to transport you into a more light-hearted and engaged frame of mind.

Ben and Jerry’s understood this during Occupy Wall Street when they set up live coverage on their website with the title ‘We Stand by the 99%’. They were listening to their audience and they weren’t afraid of openly empathising. Just like a thoughtful human. Just like a friend. They were 'with' us, not 'instructing' us. A vital shift in the relationship between sellers and buyers.

The modern brand identity

It’s all very well quoting text book case studies so here’s one closer to home for brand soul (or a shameless plug for one I launched myself).

In partnership with the BBC and property developer TCN we brought the Ugli Creative Campus in White City, West London to life- a thriving community for 650 creative folk and a brand based on wholesome honesty. Not only were we 12 months ahead of lease capacity, we have a still-growing waiting list.

What was the secret? Fundamentally, we just created a very open, honest and human brand. A brand with soul. A likeable brand identity that was based on what it did and how it acted, looking to support, help and incubate creative talent. Our philosophy, brand strategy and indeed our URL, is ‘lovely inside’, for it's about what all brands should be: People. Community. Engagement. Sharing. Honesty. Fun. Creativity.
As written by Nick Pearce, Co-Owner of JP Creative and Co-Founder of Ugli Creative Campus.
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Big Data: On trend or old news?

By Danielle Stagg on 26 March 2013

Big Data Definition: The large amounts of structured and unstructured data that, in order to be fully and appropriately analysed, require machine-based systems and technologies.

Is it a leap forward helping the world to run smoothly on exabytes of unstructured, unprecedented levels of data? Or, asks Bill Portlock, Head of Marketing at Marketing Metrix, is Big Data a new buzz-word used by sales and marketing to frighten organisations into purchasing multimillion dollar IT platforms?

Big Data: history repeating itself?

History is certainly repeating itself. I’m old enough to remember the birth of CRM (customer relationship management) and how the industry was split between IT companies and their solve-it-all £multimillion databases, and the pointy heads claiming it was their domain. CRM turned out to be data driven marketing using IT as a tool, and eventually became the buzz-word of the '90s.

With this in mind, it’s vital that we monitor how the Big Data debate develops and monitor how it will impact on our industry.  But there are some cautionary steps that must be taken. Some companies are rushing to buy expensive machines to capture what is in many cases vast amounts of ephemeral data without giving thought to how it will be of value to them in the long run.  Others are burying their heads in the sand as they find Big Data to be too overwhelming and are still stuck with figuring out whether or not Social Media is worth it (it is!).

Big Data Analytics

One can throw  enormous volumes of data into a mega machine costing a fortune and it will come out with all sorts of interesting figures, but are these details useful or (more importantly) even usable? Is a machine really better at understanding how human data can be used?

The most effective way to approach Big Data is to combine the entirety of a company’s data collateral, and then decide where to look within the Social Media plane. The data is not thrown into some black box, but analysed by humans using IT tools and software.  It’s the creative interpretation of the data which will do most to drive the bottom line.

This is doable, scalable and most importantly actionable. But the most important question to ask an organisation, before embarking on any ‘Big Data’ project is what they want to get out of it! Essentially, despite the hype and fanatical strategies surrounding Big Data, it’s not difficult or confusing; it's just about asking the right questions.

What's your stance on the Big Data Debate? Were you sold the same story in the 90s? Let us know!
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Word of Mouth Marketing: 7 common mistakes every company should avoid

By Danielle Stagg on 21 March 2013

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Second Screen: What it means for brands

By Danielle Stagg on 19 March 2013

Second screen, that is, watching TV with a smartphone, tablet in hand or laptop on your knee is a fast-growing pastime and it’s accelerating month on month. So it’s no surprise that broadcasters and brands are now increasingly looking at ways to engage these viewers with tie-in content. Here, Matt Butterworth, Planning and Digital Partner for Big Communications, tells us what second screen means for brands.

Second screen society and second screen viewing

Second screen is now an everyday reality - from tweeting comments about BBC’s Question Time to Facebooking during Britain’s Got Talent. About 60% of UK viewers go online while watching TV at least twice a week and one in three does so every day, according to research by TV advertising trade body Thinkbox.

Brands are increasingly looking to build on this phenomenon and some believe that interacting with live TV on a companion device is the next great frontier for social media. According to a study by Brandwatch, 61% of brands are already regularly tweeting before, during and after TV programmes - hoping to improve their brand image by engaging with their followers in current and topical conversations.

Second screen and social media for brands

Twitter’s TV Book which was released earlier this year breaks down the tweeting habits of TV viewers and tells us that of the 10 million active Twitter users in the UK, 60% tweet whilst watching TV and 40% of them mention what they are watching in some way or other. That’s a big social audience – and if a brand can get it right, they can soon increase their social voice and their followers. According to Brandwatch, 17% of the people surveyed said that they felt more connected to brands seen on social networking sites.

Quick facts

  • Dual-screen social TV initiatives are the next great frontier for social media, according to some agencies.
  • 60% of viewers concurrently watch TV and go online two to three times a week. One in three (37%) do so every day.
  • Some doubt dual screening will become mainstream because people often watch TV to relax rather than engage with it. Understanding programme types and content is as essential as understanding audiences. (Source: http://econsultancy.com)
But brands must beware because the social audience is just as likely to turn away from a brand for an uncool or inappropriate comment, as they are to engage with it. Now that individuals have a media voice of their own in the social context, it should not be underestimated how much havoc negative tweeting about a brand can do. Brands need to articulate a clear communication strategy for an audience that is well known and defined – including tone of voice, timeliness and relevance, before they commence.

This is clearly not a daunting prospect for a new fashion show on Channel 4’s T4, funded by high street chain New Look, which plans to go further still in its efforts to tap into dual screening. During ‘New Look Style Nation’, which launches on 4th June, viewers will be able to dress virtual models and submit their own designs on a dedicated website, to compete for a job styling the retailer’s ad campaigns. The show will appeal to the chain’s strong youth following (it currently has 100,000 fans on Facebook). The website will also link to the New Look ecommerce site where viewers can buy styles featured in the programme.

Second screen: games, apps and TV

It’s true to say that Social TV is in its early stages and brands are still experimenting with second screen formats, but the idea undoubtedly has a role to play in reinvigorating live TV events and allowing brands to tap into the opportunities therein. While it appeals strongly to a hardcore of users, it remains to be seen how far mainstream viewers will interact with programmes and brands through second screen games and more advanced applications. It’s unlikely that you’ll see your granddad racing online against the Countdown clock whilst tweeting the benefits of a bottle of WKD Blue anytime soon – but you might find him guessing the value of a painting on his Antique’s Roadshow app, even if he doesn’t know how to tweet the nation with the result.
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Effective channel marketing strategy: A Guide

By Danielle Stagg on 14 March 2013

Channel Marketing Definition: The management of the routes or 'channels' your product takes to reach its end consumer, and the cultivating of the relationships these journeys entail in order to maximise your sales and brand awareness.

There has never been a more critical time for brands to engage their channel partners as effectively as possible. A long time seen as the ‘poor relation’ within the marketing mix, Channel Marketing is now proving itself as an essential element in a brand’s journey.

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Creative B2B marketing communications tools

By Danielle Stagg on 12 March 2013

Anton Pace, Client Services Director at London-based marketing communications agency, Clinic, is of the opinion that B2B marketing communications don't have to be dull- and that B2B marketers like things to be pretty too.

Here he puts together a list of effective B2B marketing comms tools or ‘formulae’ you might want to bear in mind when communicating with the B2B community.

(B ≠ Boring)

'B' really does not have to stand for ‘Boring’. I can’t see the ‘B2B’ acronym on a brief without mentally adding a word before it and translating it as “(Don’t) Be Too Boring”. Make your B2B marketing communications interesting and fun, even if the subject matter proves a challenge.

(B = Bright)

When I’m in work mode, the more things that brighten my day the better. Choose a strategy, theme and design that encourage positive communication and doesn't make your audience feel blue. In fact, many B2B marketing agencies favour the colour blue, but unless it’s one of your core brand colours, you might want to try to avoid it altogether!

(B ≠ Buzzwords)

Avoid using marketing industry buzzwords in your B2B communications, even if you think that using them will show that you ‘speak the same language’ as your audience. A large percentage of your B2B audience probably don’t use those buzzwords, so why alienate any of them by using language they don’t like, or possibly even understand?

(B = Busy)

It's likely you're trying to encourage communication with your B2B audience when they are at work, so it's probable that they're quite busy. Do tell them a story, (engage them), but do it quickly… treat the key message like a roadside billboard (you really haven’t got much more than a few seconds for your message to register).

(B ≠ Bragging)

Unless you really are ‘the best’ and can prove it, it might be best to avoid over-stating your skill… at best you’ll just get lost in the mass over-claimers, at worst someone will find you out. But don’t be shy when communicating to a B2B audience– try to provide evidence of how your product/service has positively impacted on someone’s business… And remember that if it’s true, it’s not really ‘bragging’ at all.

(B = C)

One of our creative directors at here at marketing comms agency, Clinic regularly trots out the line that “a B is just a C at work”. I don’t know whether it’s his own line or whether he just ‘borrowed’ it, but I don’t really care, it really is the key thing to remember when developing trade brand comms materials. Any B2B audience, whatever the content/context of the message, needs to be ‘engaged’ in order to take it in - you’re unlikely to be engaging the B2B community or putting out good marketing communications if you're boring your audience to death, right?

Example of a creative B2B marketing campaign

A good example of how using these tools can lead to successful B2B marketing communication is the CBS Outdoor ‘Look for Longer’ campaign. Clinic developed and created the stunningly eye-catching and attention-grabbing (it’s not bragging if it's true!) cross-track 48-sheet posters which appeared all over the London Underground, enabling our client to reach and engage consumer and media trade audiences and demonstrate extended engagement via mobile and other digital media.

It’s definitely a B2B communication, but through using massive ‘consumer’ engagement to prove the science of the ‘business’ product/service, it’s selling too. And look at the interest it generated: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdfafZihRUM
Clinic is an independent, full service creative agency based in Farringdon, London EC1, developing and producing consumer and trade brand communications for clients including Barclays Bank, Network Rail, Arsenal FC, Madame Tussauds and CBS Outdoor.
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