Welcome to The Stream: Allison+Partners’ content hub that features the latest news and trends making the biggest waves in media and marketing.
1 in 5 young adults now listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, and more podcast content is being created than ever before. No wonder then that brands are trying to get in on a slice of the action.
Andrew is joined in the London studio by Digital Account Manager and podcast aficionado Jess Docherty to discuss how brands can and should get involved in the world of podcasts, from creating their own to sponsoring content we already know and love.
Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.
By: Sian Hobday
Getting content to perform well on mobile is no longer optional – it’s essential to improve user experience and increase views.
For better or worse, mobile phones are now the most popular way of accessing the internet. In 2018, 62% of total time spent online was on a smartphone, according to Ofcom. The average UK person spends more than a day online each week, with 78% of the population now checking their smartphones within five minutes of waking up.
Most brands now adapt their existing content for mobile, and the most successful companies create content mobile-first. Nearly a quarter of all ad spend now goes on mobile, Ofcom notes. By evolving your content strategy to match user behaviours, your readers will thank you for it with views.
Here are our five top tips for ensuring your content is mobile ready:
Consider reading patterns
There is a lot of research on how we consume content on our screens. Heat maps trace where our eyes and mouses travel as we navigate through a website or app. In most cases, it follows an “F pattern,” where users focus on the top left-hand side. The first few words and sentences are important for these types of readers. Others may only scan headlines and subheadings. Think carefully about the placement of key content and make it easy for users to take the next step.
Format content for the small screen
Keep content short and simple, so it can easily be scanned. Shorter headlines attract clicks too. If you need help, tools like Hemingway Editor can show how to improve your writing. Don’t forget simple tactics, such as bullet points and headings, to break up longer pieces of content.
It’s important to check how your content actually appears on mobile. Does it fit onto the screen? Are the images too large? Is the copy easy to read? Something as simple as the fonts and background colour can affect legibility.
So much content is shared on social media now – the average person has seven social accounts, with most of them connecting via mobile. How “shareable” your content is on mobile devices is increasingly important. It can provide a great opportunity to increase views if you make it as easy as possible for people to share.
Optimise for Google
Optimising for Google featured snippets has become more important due to the changes in the way we search for content. These snippets have higher click-through rates than regular organic search results. They also feature on the first page of the search engine results page and aim to answer queries as specific as possible.
Can you make summaries of your content or numbered lists that answer the most common search queries, so they are more likely to appear as a featured snippet?
Use images and video to add value
Images and videos have become the key drivers of attracting users’ attention online. This isn’t limited to simply using more photos or pictures of your product. Infographics or appropriate GIFs are a great way to enhance your message. Be wary of size and avoid taking up too much space, as large media makes content hard to read and can distract from the main purpose of the content. Too many images can have an adverse effect and cause users to switch off.
Finally, make sure it loads quickly!
The optimum time for a web page to load is three seconds, according to Google. Any longer, and users lose patience and click away. More than half of mobile website visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. And for every one-second delay in site load time, conversions fall by 12%, according to Google.
Sian Hobday is an Account Manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.
By: Sarah Johns
Over 14,500 cybersecurity professionals and 400 suppliers descended on Olympia London this week for Infosecurity Europe 2019, arguably the most important cybersecurity event of the year.
Given the size of the event, it was no surprise to see vendors pulling out all the stops to grab the attention of attendees. Stands were adorned with arcade games, water features and escape rooms, and there were freebies galore, with stands giving out everything from free pens to socks and webcam covers to popcorn doused in liquid nitrogen.
It was great to see brands building awareness of their cybersecurity tools and engaging potential customers through gamification and other marketing initiatives in the exhibition hall. However, the conference programme remains an equally important part of the event, giving companies the chance to hear from each other’s security experts on the key challenges they are facing and how they can counter-act threats. So, what were the key takeaways?READ MORE
Cybersecurity professionals face increasing complexity and uncertainty
What came up time and time again was how challenging cybersecurity work has become. CISOs and their teams must contend with an increasing number of threats. In fact, according to the National Cyber Security Centre, the average number of cyber-attacks on UK businesses has grown from four in 2018 to six in 2019. These threats are also more complex, as highlighted by the commons public accounts committee in The Times. Jane Frankland, author of “Women in Cybersecurity,” stressed that one way companies can deal with this complexity is by hiring more diverse teams. Non-homogenous groups can offer a wide range of approaches and perspectives, therefore often proving more adept at problem-solving than ones primarily made up of personnel from similar backgrounds.
Humans remain the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity
Whether it’s using easy-to-guess passwords, not using multi-factor authentication or configuring the cloud incorrectly, all too often human error is to blame when it comes to cybersecurity. On the keynote stage on day 1, Dan Raywood, contributing editor at Infosecurity Magazine, chaired an excellent panel discussion on rethinking cyber defence to combat complex risks, threats and vulnerabilities. He discussed the many reasons for it but noted that humans are usually at fault. An interesting point was that it is human nature to assume you will not experience “the worst,” such as a major hack unless it has happened to you.
However, as recognised in the discussion, organisations are cottoning onto this and improving their security procedures following high-profile breaches such as the global 2017 WannaCry attack. This case was somewhat of a turning point for many organisations, serving as a widespread awareness campaign and prompting many organisations, not just those affected by this particular ransomware, to patch their systems more regularly.
Technology is key to bridging the gap
In conversation with one systems engineer, it was noted that no matter how many employees a company has in its SOC (security operations centre) team, there simply will never be enough to deal with all the cyber alerts and incidents manually. Technologies such as AI, automation, and analytics are therefore playing a vital role in helping security teams do their jobs well. For example, there was software being demoed at Infosec that enabled employees to constantly monitor for threats and gauge their risk to the organisation, and easily see which ones they needed to prioritise in order to manage their time effectively.
Infosec 2019 has been another hugely valuable opportunity for European cybersecurity professionals to review the most pressing issues facing the industry today as well as share best practices for securing networks, from cloud to endpoint. But it is not just security specialists that have a responsibility to stay secure. It is up to all of us to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our networks and all the data stored on them.
Sarah Johns is Senior Account Executive in Allison+Partners London office.
By: Emma Poleszuk
From the influencer-backed Fyre Festival that didn’t exist to the Kardashian’s controversially promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop, the authenticity of influencer marketing has been brought under the spotlight recently and covered widely in the media across the globe.
However, it can be argued that there is a genuine benefit in engaging with influencers to promote your cause-led campaign, whether this is related to charity, animal conservation or fundraising.READ MORE
Authenticity is Key
Consumers have become increasingly social media savvy as platforms and the concept of influencer marketing has continued to develop, often scrolling past paid promotions and #sponsored posts deeming them disingenuous.
Engaging with those known for dedicating their lives to your cause such as raising awareness of plastic in the oceans, for example, would be a natural fit to promote your latest recycling initiative, with resulting content coming across as more authentic. Chances are, their following will also be passionate about whatever cause it is you’re promoting and find the content engaging, making them more likely to make the necessary call-to-action, whether this is buying your product, signing your petition or donating to charity.
Celebrity Isn’t Everything
It’s easy to get hung up on numbers, and assume the higher the following, the higher the return on investment. However, the rise of the micro to macro influencer, defined as those with between 10k-100k+ followers, has shown that an engaged audience often lies in these numbers, with followers choosing to engage in content that resonates with them and the passions and causes they align themselves with, as opposed to the following of the latest fleeting reality star who click subscribe because 1.5+ million others have.
It’s worth noting too that your brand’s influencer army doesn’t have to be led by celebrities in the traditional sense. Those who can carry an authentic message for your brand and mission can range from industry leaders, lecturers, and business executives to politicians and charity ambassadors, again boosting the integrity of your message with backing from respected SMEs.
The platform you broadcast your message on should also vary depending on the content, with digestible videos and memes working better on Instagram and polls or links to longer articles gaining more traction on Twitter. Once you know who your audience is, you can work out who they listen to and where they consume their content to ensure maximum exposure and awareness of your cause.
People want to help
Consumers can feel bombarded with paid promotions, brand collaborations and #gifted content across social media, and if it appears to be pushing materialistic products for corporate profit and gain, it’s easy to switch off. The ratio between this kind of content and influencer content looking to genuinely make a difference and raise awareness of issues in society is likely quite uneven. Focusing on cause-led content increases the chance of your message standing out, giving those scrolling something worthwhile to engage with.
A recent survey from The Charities Aid Foundation found that whilst 59% of charities believe they are using new technology and social media effectively, only 29% are using tech effectively to increase giving and donations, which as discussed, is where influencers can help. Digital platforms and the influencers that inhabit them are key to reaching new audiences with your cause-led message and could result in unprecedented results for your campaign.
By Andrew Rogers
Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and even if you have been – you’ve no doubt been hearing the buzz about podcasts. In a matter of a few years, podcasts have gone from niche medium to mainstream phenomenon. Many podcasts now boast more listeners than radio shows. Increasingly too, the boundaries between podcasts and radio are becoming blurred. BBC Sounds, for example, mixes them all up into a single audio product.
1 in 5 young adults now listens to podcasts at least once a week. The biggest series have a huge reach, as well as an audience that generally skews towards more affluent and influential consumers (1 in 5 podcast listeners earn over £100k and 42% are business decision makers). The sheer variety of podcasts now available also means you can target consumers with specific interests or demographics.
It’s a no-brainer that any marketing professional should at least consider using podcasts as part of their 2019 plans. However, as with anything new, getting involved can be intimidating.
Never fear though – we’ve put together our very own podcast marketing quick-start guide. Here are the three main ways that your brand can get involved in the wonderful world of podcasts.READ MORE
Be a guest on a podcast
Podcasts and traditional radio shows have plenty in common, and that includes the need for great guests. While some podcasts have the same hosts each week, many more will include guests to keep each episode fresh.
For brands, this means opportunities to secure guest slots for spokespeople or talent. For consumer entertainment brands, placing talent on podcasts is a great way to plug their upcoming projects. For B2B brands, placing a CEO on a key trade publication’s podcast can mean speaking directly to the decision makers in your target industry.
Importantly though, you need to do your homework and pick the right podcasts. Guest interviews work when they’re engaging and where there’s real chemistry and conversation. Pair the wrong spokesperson with the wrong show, and you’ll get a flat interview that may never see the light of day. Get the combination right and you’re in for an episode that’s entertaining while getting your key messages out there.
Sponsor a great podcast
Sometimes it’s best to go for the direct approach, particularly when you’re looking to drive sales or subscriptions. Sponsoring podcasts is effective, measurable, and easier than you might think. While you can go ‘door-to-door’ for some of the smaller podcasts to ask about advertising rates, most now work through bigger podcast platforms.
Take Acast, for example, which represents some of the most popular shows including The Football Ramble, My Dad Wrote A Porno and The Allusionist. By bringing so many popular podcasts in one place, brands can now advertise at scale. New technology also means that ads can be placed into podcast episodes for a limited time period, or for different geographies. You can now, for example, run ad campaigns that target just UK listeners, even for shows produced in the US.
Podcast advertising is highly effective, with 76% of listeners taking action after hearing a brand advertised. It’s also measurable by using a system of bespoke trackable discount codes. Most of the time, you can even get hosts to create the ads for you, making them more engaging and authentic.
Create your own series
Want to take things to the next level? If you have plenty to say and want to get a clear message out to the world, you might want to create your own podcast series. Podcasts make for great content and are a much more digestible way to get your thought leadership across, particularly for B2B brands. As we become increasingly time-poor, many of us prefer to listen to opinion through headphones than to read it on our screens.
This is, of course, the more time-intensive of the three routes. You will need good content, an engaging host, and guests that create enough conversation. Podcasts also need at least one series – a single episode won’t cut it.
The potential pay-offs though are huge. Podcasts take thought leadership to the next level or can create a series that entertains while sharing key brand messages. Take for example the Why We Eat What We Eat podcasts which were created by the meal-box delivery service Blue Apron. The show uses popular food author and historian Cathay Erway to look at a new interesting food story each week. The podcast delivers content that a foody audience will want to hear, and by building that audience creates the perfect space to share their brand messages and drive subscription sign-ups.
Have we whetted your appetite for podcasts? Our team can help you to get onto the right podcasts, or to start creating your own. Just get in touch with the team to find out more.
Or if you want to listen to more podcasts yourself, check out our list of the top 5 marketing and PR podcasts you should subscribe to right now.
Of course, technology is well-known as a male-dominated sector. According to Tech Nation, only 19 percent of technology workers, and only 22 percent of technology directors are women. All companies with 250+ employees need to publish figures comparing the average pay of men and women across the organisation. The tech sector did not do well. An article by Wired found that across 18 major tech companies, women earn a mean average of 85p an hour for every pound a man earns. Women also receive bonuses that are around 35 percent smaller.
Sexism in the industry is also rife. A recent global survey by Ivanti found that 63 percent of women think gender bias continues to damage their professional opportunities. It also undermines their work environments. In a separate piece of research by Kaspersky Lab revealed that over a quarter of female IT decision makers say they witnessed mansplaining in their day jobs, contributing to the feeling of gender imbalance.
This International Women’s Day, the Campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter. The aim is to promote a more gender-balanced world. The technology sector needs to embrace this ideology. Even at the most prolific tech industry events, the gender imbalance is evident: where are the female attendees? Why is there a lack of women keynote speakers? It is time for a change.
What can we do to tackle gender inequality in tech?
Fortunately, there are a range of initiatives and technologies being created to tackle the problem. Firstly, technology companies themselves are trying to get more women to work for them. Sky is offering five women a £25,000 bursary, as well as an expert mentor, to inspire them to get into technology. Yes, it’s only five – but it’s a step in the right direction.
There are also several mentoring programmes for women in technology springing up around the country. Structur3dpeople and DevelopHer want to empower women. They want to bring women together to network and share knowledge to help them progress in what is a tough environment in which to excel.
There’s an app for that
In addition, there are a few new UK start-ups which are tapping into a need for employees to discreetly report sexual harassment. Vault Platform, uses blockchain technology to enable members of staff to record a private, time-stamped reports. These reports can include evidence such as text messages, voice recordings and emails. Then the victim can choose when they would like to submit the report to human resources. A digital receipt of the report is then kept on the blockchain, so it can’t be changed, stolen or deleted on purpose or by accident.
Are the big players helping?
Some of the major tech players have recognised that they are part of the problem. They are willing to spend some time and money to help. Apple has recently launched its Entrepreneur Camp, a programme designed to support women entrepreneurs building businesses around apps. The initiative incorporates an intensive technology lab, specialised support, and ongoing mentoring to help support women into a tech career. Google has a similar initiative with its Women Techmakers programme. A range of networking events all over the world which acts as a platform for women in technology to help further their careers.
Sadly, gender inequality in the technology industry is deeply ingrained and won’t disappear overnight. International Women’s Day is particularly significant as it can serve as an important milestone to track progress on an annual basis. More importantly, it helps to create a gender-balanced world.
Technology buzzwords galore
As anticipated, topics including AI, cybersecurity and IoT were hot on the agenda. Talks included a session on how we can democratise AI and avoid algorithmic bias, how to secure a connected digital society and how we can maintain consumer trust in a digital economy. Indeed, with GSMA noting that 81% of consumers have some concern about the safety of their personal information, there were also talks around the use of consumer data in the mobile industry. There was also a full programme on IoT and even a dedicated Internet of Things Zone which invited attendees to try out new products and discover how IoT is changing business.
However, there were two indisputable stars of the 2019 show, foldable smartphones, and the connectivity buzzword on everybody’s lips (and Twitter feeds), 5G.
Foldable phones excite
Mobile phone providers already face fierce competition for sales, and last year, the global smartphone market experienced its first annual decline ever – a fall of 3 percent (Source: IDC) So, there is more pressure than ever before to secure consumer interest, drive sales and grow market share. This is prompting manufacturers to pull out all the stops when it comes to new mobile design and innovation. It’s no surprise then that we’ve seen so many manufacturers reveal their first foldable phones at this year’s show. These flexible phones are a great example of out-of-the-box thinking and breaking away from tradition. It’s exciting to see the industry as a whole attempt to literally break the mould of what a smartphone should look like.
5G took centre stage
It wasn’t just folding phones that were on display. MWC continues to be huge for companies involved in the back end of service delivery and legislation around communication networks, and the work they do this year will be pivotal to the future of 5G connectivity.
There is a lot to be done to conclude the testing and rolling out of 5G infrastructure and decisions to make around how we can properly regulate the use of 5G. At MWC, we witnessed several important discussions on the challenges we are facing around 5G deployment, particularly from a regulation perspective. For example, Gilles Bregant, CEO of the French administrative body and National Frequency Agency ANFR and Ricardo Tavares of consultancy TechPolis Inc had their say on how we can align 5G technology and policy.
Overall, MWC was a great success. From innovation in mobile phones to creative approaches to 5G deployment, there’s no feeling quite like witnessing how technology is changing the world literally in front of your eyes. Still, there is no doubt industry players have an uphill battle to climb when it comes to the myriad of challenges they face, including responding to changing consumer demands for innovative new tech, keeping data safe and rolling out 5G connectivity.
The industry urgently needs to break out of its siloed mindset and take a more holistic approach to meet the challenges it faces, working for common goals instead of corporate and national self-interest. By adopting such an approach, improving global connectivity and inspiring the next generation of mobile industry leaders will be achieved faster than you can say ‘foldable phone’.
Plastic waste is a mainstream concern for consumers across the world. As we try and become more ethical consumers, plastic waste is now in the firing line. Inspired in part by the latest series of Blue Planet and high-profile initiatives such as Sky News’ Ocean Rescue, the fightback against plastic waste is very much on.
All brands should consider what they can do in 2019 to reduce plastic waste. Even small changes at the consumer level can make a huge positive impact on the environment on aggregate. Meanwhile, brands and industries that don’t appear to be doing anything are often called out on social media and in the press (The Independent recently looked at the beauty industry). At a time when consumers want to support brands that align with their values, make sure you’re on the right side of history.
It used to be that setting yourself challenges was something reserved for the New Year. Now consumers are setting themselves new challenges all year round. From Veganuary to Movember, consumers are always looking for a new challenge that they can engage with. Not only does it give people a great opportunity to connect with their friends both near and around the world, but it also lets them show off what they care about most.
Brands can and should be encouraging consumers to set goals and be a part of their success when they smash them. Just look at all the promotion for alcohol-free brands of beer during January. Brands need to act as cheerleaders, making consumers feel better, stronger and happier.
Tackling social isolation
The way that brands have used social media and online marketing has evolved over the last 12 months. This is because social media is no longer viewed as something overwhelmingly positive. Consumers have a more complex relationship with online services. For example, research shows that people feel more isolated when they use social media more.
Brands in 2019 need to think about how to make connections, both online and offline, feel more meaningful and real. Building a community of passionate fans online is meaningful. Seeing an influencer that only makes you feel worse about yourself holding a product is not. Brands that can bring people together and help them disconnect from their digital lives will find a willing audience of happier and healthier consumers.
We’re redefining adulthood?
What it means to be an adult has changed massively over the last few decades. Young adults might be running a Tough Mudder race with their friends, while their parents would have been looking after their new baby. Young families today are more likely to be renting, spending money on experiences, and living in cities. Their needs as consumers are therefore different (think subscription boxes instead of out-of-town mega supermarkets).
Consumers are also happier to jettison the ‘traditional’ parts of adulthood that they don’t want. As social pressures fall, more people live lives that don’t fit the mould. No wonder that more adult couples without kids are visiting Disneyland, while the growth in so-called ‘kidult’ toys shows no sign of stopping. Brands shouldn’t be afraid to embrace this change and adapt to consumers trying to live their best lives.
It used to be that brands that fell behind on consumer trends used to look a little old-fashioned. No longer. Now brands are being called out online when they don’t keep up with what consumers want. Make sure that in 2019 your brand is delivering campaigns that make you look relevant and fresh, and not last year’s news.
By Lizzy Chesters
Last week, the great and the good came together at The World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Due to the high calibre of attendees, the discussions that occur during the event have the potential to make a huge impact on global affairs and across many industries.
Globalisation 4.0 was the key theme for this year. So, who was saying what over the past seven days? Here’s our round-up of the tech news stories that deserve your attention.READ MORE
Global rules on technology
A common subject that encroached into several speeches was a need for countries to collaborate on the tightening of global rules on technology. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that his country would use its chairmanship of the Group of 20 nations this year to develop an official international protocol for oversight of data use.
Angela Merkel also supported the need for a “common digital market” across the EU to cope with the ongoing problem of data misuse.
And yet, Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, came out against the necessity for increased tech regulation. Ma said he is “not a person who likes regulation first”. He believes that implementing strict regulation could stunt progression. Especially when humans are still fledglings in the evolution of technology. He argued, “We should not make a pair of shoes for a three-year-old boy and say, ‘All your life you have to wear these shoes. We know so little about the future.”
Europe is falling behind in the space race
The changing competition in the international space race was also highlighted. According to Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, China and the US are forging ahead in the space race and Europe should start to worry. He said, “It is very important for Europe to get their act together and define a clear vision for European space and for us a European supplier… The US and China are definitely moving faster right now.”
China’s recent mission to the dark side of the moon, which proved an enormous success, sparked Hoke’s comments.
One announcement particularly relevant for Great Britain is the new partnership between the UK and World Economic Forum. It’s intended to help lead a regulation revolution in the country. It will also help the companies, industries and services that will emerge as a result of new technologies.
The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, spoke out about the new relationship, saying, “The speed of technological innovation across the globe is faster than ever. New technology is creating whole new industries and business models”. Clark championed the UK’s position as a leader in fostering an effective regulatory environment. There’s a focus on the protection of consumers whilst preserving an openness to innovation. Mr Clarke claimed that the British framework has the potential to be replicated around the world.
Bitcoin is doomed
2018 will forever be remembered as the year of cryptocurrencies. Despite its recent fall from grace, it was to be expected that that future of this technology would crop up at some point during Davos 2019.
Yet, it seems that the success of bitcoin is still up for debate. During a panel discussion on the future of blockchain technology, some participants were skeptical. In fact, founder of BCG Digital Ventures, Jeff Schumacher, commented that bitcoin is on the trajectory to zero. He claims that the technology behind the cryptocurrency is full of potential. But it will never become ubiquitous because “it’s not based on anything”.
Digital skills gap
The STEM skills gap is one that keeps rearing its head. It popped up again during the ‘Making Digital Globalisation Inclusive’ panel discussion. Bringing together the CEOs of Microsoft, HCL, Dell and Salesforce, all the leaders expressed their growing concerns about the widening skills gaps that are facing our industries.
Headlines in the media about how robots are set to steal our jobs are all too common. But Dell founder and CEO, Michael Dell, rebuked these concerns claiming, “Countries that are most roboticised actually have the lowest unemployment rates, so I’m not convinced that technology is necessarily a big part of the problem”.
In a separate panel discussion, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, also highlighted the topic of STEM skills, when he asked the audience, “We know that the jobs of the future will require different skills, so how do we equip the youth of the world for these jobs?” In all cases, reskilling and upskilling were heralded as the most appropriate means of tackling the problem across the board.
There are many concerns about how the role of technology is going to transform the future. Let’s hope that the conversations held during Davos 2019 will prove to be a starting point in helping to address these issues going forward.
By Andrew Rogers
While Christmas feels like a distant memory for most of us, the toy industry is busy getting ready for the next one. January kicks off some of the world’s biggest toy fairs where we get a first taste of the top toy trends for the year ahead.
What will be the must-haves in Christmas 2019, and how will the wider economy affect the toy trade? Here are our 2019 toy trend predictions for the year.READ MORE
Pocket money toys will help keep parents on trend?
Pocket money toys saw strong growth in 2018, and 2019 will be another big year for the category. With growing uncertainty in many parts of the global economy, parents are turning away from bigger box items and instead picking up smaller pocket money items.
These usually cost less than £5 and provide a fun gift for kids without a big investment. After all, the biggest risk is that expensive toys are quickly discarded by kids if they get bored. Cheaper pocket money buys reduces that worry. Plus, they have the advantage of being stocked across a wider range of retailers, including smaller supermarkets. This year, as trends continue to evolve, pocket money toys will provide a great way for parents to stay on-trend without breaking the bank.We haven’t reached peak kidult yet
Kidult toys are products aimed at an adult audience but with the usual appeal of kids’ toys. Often, these are collectables. Think of the runaway success of Funko POPs or the LEGO Millennium Falcon replica. 2019 will see the kidult category increase its share of overall toy spending, as more adults buy more toys, more often for themselves.
This is in many ways linked to long and short terms economic factors. As mentioned, 2019 looks to include more economic uncertainty. This will likely reduce consumer confidence in big purchases such as holidays. But it may boost smaller treat purchases such as kidult toys. In the same way that economic slowdowns increase demand for fancy ready meals as a substitute for dining out, kidult toy spending should be an overall winner in the toy category.New licenses are here, but the big names will still dominate
It’s no surprise to say that big licenses will be important once again in 2019. What will change are the licenses battling for our attention. 2018 saw the popularity of video game Fortnite explode worldwide. 2019 will be the year when we see the brand everywhere, from toys to collectables. If they see strong sales in Q1, expect to see even more video game studios follow their lead.
That said, it’s important not to overstate the effect of new challengers. It will still be the usual big names licenses that dominate in 2019. But predictions can of course follow the biggest film and TV releases. Expect new lines to accompany the fourth installment in the Avengers series and a new line of toys as Toy Story 4 returns after almost a decade.Toys will compete for the biggest ‘wow’ moment
Like never before, toys in 2019 will compete for the biggest wow moments. Thanks to the rise of toy unboxing on YouTube, toy manufacturers will compete to make their toy’s introduction to the world as exciting as possible. Expect more mystery with random collectables, or big moments when the toys are revealed. LOL Surprise was just a taste of what’s to come.
As well as making products exciting in the hope they go viral with toy influencers, toys will battle for organic sharing from parents. With parents sharing more of their kids’ lives online, big toy moments will also make for better Instagram stories. The battle for 2019’s biggest wow moment is now well underway.
One thing is for sure – it’s set to be another fun-filled year for the toy industry. The fight to be Christmas number one has already started, and products will continue to innovate. So reload those Nerf guns, power up those Buzz Lightyears, and charge up those RC cars as we head into an exciting 2019.
By Jess Docherty
We all know how important it is to keep up to date with the latest news and opinions within the industry. While creating our latest Marketing Trends report, we found increasingly people are turning to podcasts to stay informed. They are exceptional resources for inspiration and help us reflect and improve our own campaigns. It’s also a great way to level up an otherwise uneventful commute!
With over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes to choose from it can be tricky to know where to start. In this post, we share some of our favourite Marketing and PR podcasts to inspire you and hopefully(!) improve your campaigns.
Let’s get started.READ MORE
Buffer’s content is consistently high-quality, and the team focuses on community and authenticity. So it’s no surprise they turned to podcasting as a way of connecting with their users. This weekly podcast is bitesize at an average of 15 mins so even the busiest person out there can squeeze in some time for social. They give updates on the latest and greatest news in social and often include case studies with clear metrics of success which makes it easy to reflect on how you can improve your own campaigns each week.
By Holly Tucker
If you’re looking for a lift and a little inspiration this could be the one for you. Founder of Not On The High Street, Holly Tucker, host a new founder each week and chats through the highs and lows of building their business and shares plenty of advice and inspiration along the way. Previous episodes have included innovators like Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella, Jo Malone, Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Company).
This weekly PR-focused podcast explores the state of Public Relations. It covers a range of topics and entry points so it’s great if you’re just getting started. Each week they interview a new guest on the show and regularly discuss successful and controversial campaigns. If you want to keep up with current events and crisis communications, this is the one for you.
By Sonia Simone
Copyblogger FM is crammed with useful tools and how-tos. What sets this podcast apart is that the host really tries to break down advice into actionable steps. It’s a weekly podcast that covers everything from content marketing to copywriting, to email marketing and much more. If you’re looking for a regular way to improve your all-round marketing efforts, this is a great place to start.
By Social Chain
Started in August 2018, this British podcast is a recent addition to my favourite list. The team invites guests to take a deep dive into the latest social media headlines. A key theme of this podcast that I find particularly interesting is how social and an always online world is impacting human behaviours. So if you’re keen to learn more about how social media is changing the way users and brands interact on social, then give this a listen.Share your favourite Marketing and PR Podcasts
Do you have a podcast you enjoy? Or maybe you run a great marketing or PR podcast? Let us know, we’re always looking for new content.
For those not already familiar, Twitch is the largest online community for video game live streams. If you’re looking to watch the world’s best speedrunners race through Super Mario Sunshine, or pro esports players dominate in Overwatch, Twitch is the place to be. The platform currently sees an average of 15 million daily active users, putting it on par with many national broadcasters . There’s also a very large and active community of content creators. Over 2.2 million Twitch creators broadcast their games live on Twitch monthly.
Twitch has been the go-to video game streaming platform for a few years now. It’s been grabbing even more attention recently thanks to gaming phenomenon Fortnite. Many would argue that without Twitch, Fortnite would not have ballooned into the global juggernaut it is today . It currently stands as the most streamed game on Twitch.
For those not familiar with gamer culture, Twitch can feel like an intimidating and impenetrable platform. This shouldn’t put brands off, even those slightly outside of the video games industry. Any brand looking to appeal to Twitch’s core demographic should consider how they can partner with the platform and its community of creators. Many have already done so, as Twitch’s Partner Programme has now climbed to 27,000 Partners . Before you get started though, make sure you’ve considered the following:Is the Twitch audience the right demographic for my brand?
There’s a risk of stereotyping gamers too much. Too often, we see gamers as young, male, and perhaps even a little antisocial. This stereotype is completely out of date. Gamers are more diverse than ever before, and Twitch itself has run initiatives to encourage more women and LGBT people to watch and stream.
That said, some of these assumptions do still ring true for those logging onto Twitch. Twitch’s core users are 82% male, and 55% are under 34 . If your brand is targeting older, female consumers, then Twitch may not be for you.Can I get a streamer that fits with my brand?
There are thousands of streams available at any one time on Twitch. So why do some channels do so much better than others? As with any other influencer marketing project, it all comes down to the personality of the streamer. Twitch users have their favourites for different reasons, whether it’s the way they react to games, the kinds of games they play, or the way that they speak to and engage with their audience.
There is plenty of variety out there. So brands need to make sure they put in the time and research to find a streamer that fits well with their brand. They need to uphold your brand values too, so make sure you’re watching their streams to avoid bringing on board a potentially embarrassing and damaging ambassador.Have I briefed my streamer properly?
Twitch content is live, and any activity should come with the usual health warnings. You won’t be able to edit or amend what happens or what is said, so your streamer needs to make sure they’re fully on board and understand any brand messages you’re looking to include. Put in the work ahead of time to avoid any nail-biting moments when the live streams go out.
Twitch is only growing in popularity as watching people play games becomes a more accepted way to spend time online. As more money is pumped into global esports, Twitch will also continue to grow. Don’t shy away if you’re not a video gaming brand – Twitch can and should be a consideration for your digital marketing strategy.
By Gina Mossey
We’ve just released our latest report, this time looking at the marketing trends that were tipped to be big this year – how are they faring?
Both consumer habits and developments in marketing platforms seem to be changing consistently. If there’s one thing we’re hearing from our clients it’s a desire to stay ahead and try new things… but how do we make sure we show ROI from these shifting marketing tactics?READ MORE
In the report, we look at what’s changed since this time last year. We delve into how the trends are performing and where brands are putting their money. But more importantly, where should they be putting it? From affiliate partnerships to the role of broadcast in PR; getting Gen Z right to revitalising retail. It’s all here.Download the report today
By Gina Mossey
Smaller scale affiliate marketing partnerships are certainly on the up. Our recent report on micro partnerships revealed that the number of marketers investing in this tactic has doubled year-on-year; 8% in 2017-18 vs. 16% planning to invest more for 2018-19. We can put this down in part to shifts in influencer marketing. Many influencers now have affiliate deals of their own in place with certain retailers across their social channels and blogs. Companies looking to work with them have to integrate with the existing partnerships or offer them something better.
But is an affiliate programme right for your brand? And how can you make sure you’re getting the best ROI for your efforts?READ MORE
Should I be doing affiliate marketing?
If you’re a company who sells product through a large retailer such as Amazon, chances are you’re already benefitting from affiliate partnerships even if you didn’t create them. They have successful existing programmes with many online media sites, bloggers and social influencers already on board. So, when you secure coverage with these, they’ll link to your Amazon product page. You get the traffic to purchase and the sites get the commission. Win win.
However, if you’re looking to drive traffic to your own site, you’ll need to create your own branded affiliate programme. Here, the main currency is the time and resources to manage your affiliates, ensuring they have enough content to be able to successfully drive traffic through to your site, and that they are performing as they should. Make sure you have the resources to manage a programme before you start one.Secrets to success
Speaking of content, this is a crucial area to get right. To get the best ROI from your affiliate programme, you’ll need to supply your partners with assets to engage their audiences and drive them through to purchase. Be sure to carefully consider what the audience will connect with.
If it’s a smaller scale purchase, such as a beauty product or a children’s toy, this may be as simple as a special discount. If it’s a more considered product like a camera, for example, you need to think about what will engage your potential customers at that point in their purchasing cycle. Do they need educating on the different features offered by different cameras? Do they need a how-to guide? Match your content to your end user.Knowing me, knowing you
It’s crucial that your PR, influencer marketing and link building teams have a solid understanding of your sales strategy at all times. If you are wanting to drive traffic to your own site, but any one of those then secure coverage with a site with an existing affiliate relationship with Amazon, the result will be pointless. Publishers will always stick with their affiliate partner, no matter how nicely you ask them to include a different link. Teams need to take a thorough look at their online target sites at the beginning of a campaign to ensure each will be willing to include links through to your call-to-action page. If not, either the call-to-action needs to be changed, or the site is out of bounds.
We predict that brands investing in affiliate marketing will continue to rise as the number of publishers in affiliate partnerships increases. Be wary of following the crowd; doing the upfront research to make sure it works for your brand will pay dividends further down the line.
A keyword map brings together your keyword research, content strategy and competition for your key topics and interests. It is best to gather all this information into a single spreadsheet. On there you should include data that shows how difficult it might be to try to rank for each keyword or phrase. The end result is a clear map. It tells you where to make improvements to existing content and offers a space to track the rise (and sometimes fall) of your target keywords and topics. By keeping a close eye on this you can improve the visibility of your site to customers at their point of need.
Google serves millions of search results in less than a second. Not ten seconds. Not even two. All because we don’t wait around that long for answers. Therefore, asking your target audience to patiently scroll to the 20th, 13th or even 6th position just isn’t realistic.
Human beings are pretty lazy. So, we don’t like to scroll and we trust search engines to provide us with the best information for our query without much relative thought. This becomes even clearer when you consider the Google Click Through Rates (CTR) by position:
1 – 41.91%
2 – 16.35%
3 – 10.06%
4 – 6.66%
5 – 4.76%
6 – 3.56%
7 – 2.68%
8 – 2.14%
9 – 1.67%
10 – 1.46%
[Data from Advanced Web Ranking’s CTR Study – International Desktop Search in June 2018]
On the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 79.74% of all the clicks. So when people go looking for answers, how do you make sure you’re first in line? A keyword map is a good place to start. It can help you not only assess the quality of your existing content but also identify gaps in your strategy and track your progress.
It’s not enough to say ‘I want to rank number one’ for any given keyword. Similarly to most big goals in life and business, it’s best to break down this down into achievable steps. That’s where your keyword map comes in. It is the backbone of your digital strategy. In my mind, there are a few key pieces of information that any good keyword map should offer you. So, let’s go through them now:
One, it should be easy to identify any pages that do not have a unique keyword allocated to them.
There is nothing worse than spending time creating awesome content for no-one to see it. In the first place, make sure that each new page you create (and those already on your site) is optimised for a unique keyword or phrase.
Two, it should give you the details of which content currently ranks for your chosen keyword.
This gives you a great place to start pulling ahead of the competition. By reviewing your competitors’ strategy and content you can identify changes you need to make to your content to help get the edge.
Three, it should show you the gaps in your strategy.
Your keyword map should open up new areas and topics for consideration where the difficulty is low and potential reward is high, so don’t forget to track this.
Four, it should prove its own worth.
A great keyword map should give clear metrics and focus to your content strategy. Correspondingly, with each new piece of content you add or edit you make your keyword map should make it clear and simple to see what’s driving more traffic and hopefully sales!
Once you’ve mastered your keyword map you can start to set your sights on the holy grail: SERP features.
If you need help building your own keyword map, we’d love to hear from you.
Our research reveals UK marketers are flocking to invest in small scale, mutual benefit collaborations. They are cost-effective, and when done well they can show great ROI and add heaps of value to your brand.
But what are they? Why are companies investing? Who should you partner with? How do you measure the impact? Our report reveals all.READ MORE
We collected from marketing decision makers across sectors; the information shows which partnership types are coming out on top and which are in decline, from brand collaborations to influencers, retailer relationships to affiliate marketing. What’s evident is that the individuals and organisations brands are partnering with and how much they’re spending is changing.
Jill Coomber, MD of Consumer Marketing, Europe says, “What’s interesting is the shift away from traditional sales metrics towards more meaningful brand value measures; a trend that really takes shape in this report. While they aren’t without their challenges, micro partnerships are great for moving the needle for both awareness and engagement over the long-term. Brands are seeing that in spades now. This means the challenge becomes how to tool up to be able to evaluate and prove that impact.”
To read more on what’s hot and what’s not, entering the right micro partnership and proving ROI, download the full report here.
By Andrew Rogers
It’s no understatement to say that the video game, Fortnite, has become a global phenomenon. Even those that don’t actively play the ridiculously popular Battle Royale game will have seen front-page stories about children who supposedly can’t stop playing the game, worries about its promotion of violence, and teachers concerned about its effect on students’ sleep. Everywhere you look, there is Fortnite. Its popularity is driven by a combination of competitive gameplay, watchability and it’s totally free to play.
Free-to-play is not a new concept in the games industry. As it became clear that mobile gamers wouldn’t pay high prices (or any price really) for smartphone-based games it was adopted by default. Candy Crush, Pokémon Go and Clash of Clans have shown how lucrative a game can be using the freemium model with unlimited optional micro-transactions.
However, micro-transactions have faced criticism recently that they made games frustrating and boring to play – a criticism aimed at the recent Harry Potter mobile game – or they give such big advantages in-game that playing competitively online for free is a waste of time.READ MORE
Fortnite: A level playing field?
Fortnite sidestepped these criticisms by offering micro-transactions that give players weapons and costumes that look different but don’t confer any real game advantages. This means theoretically there’s a level playing field between a brand-new player and one who has bought everything on offer. There is one less barrier to entry for new players to jump into online play. Unsurprising then that the launch of the Nintendo Switch version of the game was downloaded 2 million times in under 24 hours.
Does this strategy work though? New research carried out by LendEDU says that it absolutely does. On Fortnite, 69% of players have bought in-game purchases. The average spend is just over $85, in line with the retail price of a ‘traditional’ boxed game. Interestingly, 1 in 5 of those spending didn’t realise that paying for items didn’t give them an advantage during play.The need for a clear communications strategy
Crucially though this all highlights the need for clear and transparent messaging when it comes to in-game transactions. Free-to-play games are the standard and consumers won’t accept price increases in the best games. So faced with rising development costs, it makes sense to turn to in-game transactions as a revenue stream. However, gamers want to feel that these transactions are clearly explained. EA’s recent problems with Loot Boxes have shown what happens when a muddled communication strategy makes an entire game toxic.
Engaging with influencers and stakeholders is key for games companies. Transparency on how transactions work and why certain revenue models are adopted engenders loyalty. This filters down from the most passionate gamers, to average gamers and then to gaming forums like Reddit and YouTube.
There is, after all, a fine line between being the next Fortnite and being the next Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Get it right, and you’re a global phenomenon. Get it wrong, and it can be Game Over.
It seems that the real secret to success lies in the implementation of an effective intelligence platform. A platform helps guide the business and IT team through the digital transformation process.
For businesses that haven’t succeeded in digitally transforming their operations, they typically have one thing in common – they view technology and applications as individual tools which need to be implemented rather than as part of an overarching ecosystem. As a result, many IT teams will continue to have their applications sprawled across their entire internal network and their data stored in disconnected pockets in much the same way (where little meaning can be derived from the numbers).
As such, the success of any transformation project, whether it involves disrupting business models or not, should depend on that organisation’s ability to create a connected business: a business which brings together people, processes and technology investments, at scale.
As companies attempt to achieve the status of the connected business, they must first ensure all systems and apps – whether on-premise or in the cloud – are communicating with each other, as well as sharing activity, accurate data, and enabling the right investments. This is where digital intelligence platforms come in – allowing developers, ops and technical teams to measure and monitor the performance of their applications simultaneously and successfully.
For smaller retailers, especially, investing in an effective digital intelligence platform early on in the digital transformation process will lead to greater visibility into relevant data sets which, then, can be effectively used to calculate their return on investment and help them to then make smarter decisions as their online presence begins to grow. This is invaluable when investing vast amounts of money in your company’s digital presence.
By implementing a digital intelligence platform, firms are able to monitor whether their digital transformation is successful through real-time metrics which then enable them to address issues early, as well as understand cloud infrastructure and how it might best be leveraged for their success.
One major challenge in retail – whether on or offline – is customer service and keeping customers coming back again and again. If businesses are monitoring their staff’s customer service skills in store, the same should be happening for their website online – does the customer have everything they need? Do they know where to go for a particular item? How and where do they pay? These are all questions that retail customers need the answer to wherever they are, and digital intelligence platforms allow businesses to provide that same level of customer care – and therefore customer loyalty in future – online.
For instance, via an external platform, a business is able to track performance issues on their site which can be identified and addressed in real-time, thus minimising the chances of a customer becoming frustrated with a website which has broken links and choosing not to return again.
Similarly, through relevant metrics businesses can monitor how long it takes for a customer to make a purchase and whether this time is too long and needs to be addressed. For instance, is the website difficult to navigate for new customers, and, if yes, are they leaving behind their purchases because they don’t want to have to fill in so many details. In the same way, you would hire more staff if this was the case in store, you can decide to change the buying process on the website and monitor how a reduction in buying time may or may not lead to a surge in profits.
Digital intelligence platforms, and monitoring your website’s metrics through them, are key to an effective digital transformation process which – if executed properly – could see the savviest retailers taking advantage of the demand for online sales and become the newest e-commerce giant.
By Sian Hobday
Mobile gaming is taking the gaming industry by storm. Now making up more than half of worldwide gaming revenue. Its growth is expected to reach 59% by 2021, more than the steadfast console or PC Games.
The rise of mobile gaming can be attributed to improvements in handsets, screens, and speed but it also reflects a change in lifestyle. We simply don’t have time to dedicate sitting down to play on a console as much as before. Our busy day to day lives means we are out and about more so we play on the train, tube or bus. In 2017, games were the most downloaded type of app.READ MORE
The ultimate 90s comeback
The 90s is back in fashion and the trend has recently spread even further into the mobile gaming world. It started with Pokémon and you can even play the classics like Battleships and Bust-A-Move too. Now the playground is coming to your mobile device once again: The latest game to stage a comeback is POGs. Yes, we’re surprised too. The twist here being it’s had a 21st Century tech upgrade – players can now use Augmented Reality (AR).
You’re probably wondering how? Well, by using AR, players use the camera on their phone or tablet to scan in their collection of POGs and slammers. The principles are the same as the original cardboard POGs. But now players don’t have to carry around a stack in their bag or risk losing them.
The news of the POGs return came within days of Pokémon Go announcing a new trading feature to reclaim some of the initial hype for their AR game. It’s a feature that was in high demand from players and original fans.
Pokémon Go broke boundaries with AR by finding a real-world application for this exciting new technology. As with all new tech, AR predictions may have gone wild initially but it’s great to see it prove valuable in mobile gaming.AR and mobile gaming – a match made in heaven?
AR technology has found a place within the mobile gaming world, making it accessible to everyday folk. POGs are another example of developers exploring what's possible with AR. By using this new tech in entertainment, we can start to assess how people interact with it and what functions will be both possible and enjoyable for the consumers of the future.
As camera quality, WiFi and bezel-less screens improve on mobile devices, AR has more opportunity to grow. Performance and high screen resolution capabilities will need to remain a focus for mobile manufacturers for their next device iterations to cater for the increasing mobile gaming demand. There are also plenty of other classic 90s playground games that are yet to make a comeback. We’d love to see Crazy Bones or a mobile version of Crash Bandicoot make a comeback in the app store next. Which classic 90s game would you like to get a 21st Century reboot?
By Jess Docherty
When it comes to the social media platforms you use – less is more. Try to focus on creating awesome content and sharing it with your target audience. If your customers don’t dig Snap or they just don’t use LinkedIn, don’t sweat it. Focus your efforts on making sure the channels you do use are crammed with useful and remarkable content that your customers can’t help but share and react to.
Here’s our top ten list of the brightest and best tools to enhance your social media strategy.READ MORE
Social media scheduling, made simple
If you do manage multiple channels, there’s no better scheduling tool than Buffer. You can manage any type of post across all the main channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest.
The customer support is incredibly personal; Bonnie and the team are there to help you get the best out of Buffer and your social media channels. They are only ever a tweet away and we really rate their blog and podcast for keeping up to date with the latest trends and tips for optimising ROI on social media.
Gifs glorious gifs
With more than 500 million tweets sent per day and a staggering 800 million active users on Instagram each month, it’s never been more difficult to make your content stand out and capture the attention of your audience.
If a picture tells a thousand words then, according to Giphy’s CEO, Alex Chung, “the average GIF is capable of conveying 60,000 words – the same as the average novel”. It’s easy to grab your followers’ attention with relatable gifs from Giphy’s extensive library, or even create your own for free.
Social super intelligence
Track brand mentions, respond to customers and analyse sentiment with Brandwatch. We love this tool because it gives you real-time updates on customer conversations wherever they happen online. Identifying influencers is a breeze, meaning you can put your budget behind amplifying proven campaigns and individuals.
Brandwatch regularly releases insightful research papers that can help direct your overall digital marketing strategy, so even if you don’t have the budget for the tool now, go ahead and sign up to their mailing list and check out their research papers and guides.
A marketing assistant in your pocket
Get tips for growing your social presence. This friendly chatbot acts as your marketing assistant. It asks you to outline your social media goals and recommends what to do to reach them. Plus, if you’re ever in any doubt about what to post next, then the article recommendation engine has your back.
5. The Latest
Explore the topics everyone is talking about
Content curation is a hugely important part of effective social media management, but it can also be a huge time sink. The Latest is an automatically generated list of the top ten trending links on Twitter at any moment. Use this neat tool to keep on top of trending news in next to no time.
Stay ahead of the trends
Ever feel like no matter how many social media schedules you put together there’s always some trending topics and celebration days that slip the net? If you do, then go ahead and check out the monthly calendar that Twitter share on their business blog. If you want to take it a step further, add this nifty tool to your bookmark. Forekast helps you discover unofficial holidays and popular events, you can even upvote the ones you like the sound of and plan to post about.
Create visual assets optimised for any platform
Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than those without and LinkedIn posts that include images receive a whopping 200% more engagement than text-only posts. So, it’s important to make sure your visual assets stand out and are optimised for each platform. But each channel has its own requirements when it comes to image dimension and resolution. If, like a lot of us, you’re not a professional graphic designer, then I highly recommend giving Canva a try. Canva’s templates, magic resize and brand functions make it super simple to keep your content looking its best.
This one makes memes… it’s as simple as that.
Explore your twittersphere
This tool allows you to explore your network on Twitter. You can see how any Twitter user is connected to others with MentionMapp. It visualises all of your connections, making the landscape easy to understand and navigate. It’s a great way to find relevant influencers to follow and to discover the topics and hashtags your network engage and react to most.
Automated social media management
Research on almost 1 billion pages by Ahrefs found that 91% of content online gets zero traffic from Google. Zero. Don’t waste your content!
Edgar asks you to categorise your existing posts and choose which channel they should be shared on, then produces a schedule for you to help you get the most out of your evergreen content. So, if you have created tonnes of great content but just don’t have time to manage your social media manually give this tool a try to make sure your social media schedule never sits empty.
GDPR and the waves of real (Wannacry) and feared (Russian state actors turning off our water/broadband/electricity) are pushing cybersecurity to the top of the media agenda and, possibly, have made cybersecurity a strategic issue for businesses and public bodies.
Like no other year before, Infosec will be buzzing but many will be asking what’s the next big thing?.READ MORE
By Daniel Couzens
May has been a merry old month for cybersecurity PR. Deadline dates for both GDPR and the lesser known NIS regulations have fallen in the month, and long PR and communications campaigns have reached a frenzied crescendo.
So, June should be a time of thankful rest with marketers and PR teams resting on their laurels and taking a well-earned rest.
Well, don’t expect the biggest cybersecurity tech show, Infosec, to be an oasis of calm, free from heavy marketing clamour.
Artificial intelligence and its application in security data analytics (even early detection and prevention of attacks) and remediation (AI and robot process automation that does the difficult work of ensuring a security posture is up to scratch or does the clean up to shut down and quarantine an incident rapidly and cleanly) are going to be common themes. Another will be how, like other industries, there’s more talk about cybersecurity platforms (previously AKA as firewalls and devices) and doing more cybersecurity in the cloud. The latter is particularly profound as a short time ago cybersecurity and cloud were regarded as close to being an oxymoron. Today, vendors are following their customers into the cloud, bringing forward security solutions to protect apps and data in the cloud, as well as leverage the cloud itself to run the faster, more data-hungry analytics and proactive prevention processes required for how organisations run their operations digitally.
And when it comes to those regulations, after May the trend will be how to stay complaint and avoid being the first big name fined for a breach – so systems that expose and give early warnings of vulnerabilities and threats are going to be key. But, how to rank the best options will hinge on how much they avoid information overload and actually help a stressed CISO prioritise what to do and even automate fixes and patches.
Setting aside how much Infosec can be about FUD (fear, uncertainty and dread) marketing, some parts of the exhibition floor should reflect themes of cybersecurity as a strategic issue for both business and technology leadership. How good cybersecurity gives organisations the power to be stronger, more confident and successful digital businesses or agencies of government, and how the next wave of cybersecurity will be smarter and use developments in AI to prevent attacks happening in the first place.
For the above, you’ll still need to kick the tyres of the slogans plastered across stands and stalls at Infosec. Like any show, there’ll remain a tendency for exhibitors to be fairground hucksters, enticing visitors to death by PowerPoint with a stress ball, candy floss or Alexa Dot (I did badly last year and only got a pair of green socks).
Sample these pleasures but also check out after the show and online how much their spokespeople are quoted in the media talking about organisations’ pragmatic ways of making cybersecurity a positive capability rather than a panic attack.
The old days of cybersecurity PR being about chasing after every breach and offering pithy comment are dimming; the new game in town is thought leadership that raises cybersecurity as a preventative philosophy, empowering not blocking digital transformation and a discipline that everyone from CEO to consumer to citizen should know and promulgate.
By Gina Mossey
While integrated marketing campaigns are now commonplace and winning praise left, right and centre, it can still be tricky to ensure the implementation of PR and digital tactics happens smoothly, and different teams are able to work together. One of the areas we most often see this is between PR activities and link acquisition campaigns, despite these two disciplines arguably having the most in common; both are audience-centric, content-driven and based on relationship building.
But fear not, this can be avoided with a few simple checks and considerations. Here are our top tips.
Repeat the mantra: make once, use many timesREAD MORE
Provided the content is suitable for it, anything being created for PR should be used for link building wherever possible, and vice versa, along with use on social media, newsletters, events, websites, and in-store. However, it’s surprising how often this doesn’t happen. Not only does it make for a much more cost-effective strategy to invest in one piece of content to use for multiple purposes, but it also creates a streamlined brand identity. Whichever touch point your audience engages at, they will have the same experience.
Get everyone aligned
Whether you have separate agencies or in-house teams looking after PR and SEO or they come under the same umbrella, make sure everyone is aware of the content being created and any other major activities plus, crucially, the timeframe. Both PR outreach and link building take time to complete, so make sure both sides are aware at least six weeks in advance of any timely or topical content (something tying into a TV series launch or national awareness day, for example) so they can really make your assets work hard.
Embrace the overlap
Just one referral link secured with a high authority “golden” site has the power to catapult your website visits and sales. But a lot of these key titles will be sitting on your PR team’s media list as well as your link target list. Our best advice here is to keep the targeting strategy clean and avoid the publication being approached by both sides; being contacted about the same thing multiple times is a real bugbear for journalists.
Realise the measurement potential
Traditionally, PR has been notoriously difficult to measure, but with the increased integration of PR and digital comes a wealth of opportunity to prove ROI. Sitting your PR campaign side by side with your link acquisition efforts allows you to see which content and coverage is really doing its job – driving all-important traffic and conversions. The data gleaned here is invaluable when it comes to planning future strategies, so make sure your KPIs are defined right at the beginning.
Collaboration is key to any successful marketing strategy and the relationship between PR and SEO is no different. Defining a process for effective collaboration early on in your campaign makes it much more likely to succeed.
We have already been seeing a steady growth in the importance of information security over the last couple of years, however, recent news means we can expect to see even more of an increased focus on it and the need for organisations to prepare for cyber-attacks.
In October’s Gartner Survey of over 3,000 CIO’s, digital security was ranked as the second most problematic technology to implement (following AI) for 2018. 36% stated they planned to implement a plan, while 35% had already (at least in part) begun to address digital security concerns. This is a huge step up from the same priorities that were set for 2017, in which infosec was ranked 7th on the list of CIO primacies, and it will be interesting to see how recent events affect this.
Throughout 2018, as the need for information and cyber security grows, we can expect to see infosec gain traction in the market place, and undoubtedly for spending in this area to dramatically increase.
Tackling the skills gap
A huge priority throughout 2018 for the infosec community will be addressing the lack of skilled workers there are in this industry. The statistic that by has been thrown around a lot, meaning that in the case of an attack in the future, organisations will be less able to respond. This deficit already puts organisations at risk in the current infosec climate, and as the threat landscape develops and matures the potential cost to the UK and European economies could be immeasurable. So, over the next twelve months, and indeed for the foreseeable future, a focus for the infosec community will be tackling the skills gap, and the management of data protection while operating at a skills deficit.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate against the lack of skilled workers in this arena. In fact, at Infosec Europe, there is a talk devoted to implementing cyber security on a budget and ways to stretch resources. This includes advice on what skills are key to building a strong team, how to develop security professionals and what strategies are needed during the recruitment process.
It’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when’
One quick look at the Infosec event website shows that a huge number of the speakers will be focusing on improving an organisation’s network defenses, as companies come to terms with the likeliness of cyber-attack, and these strategies cannot ignore the financial consequences. Across the UK, companies are facing the stark reality that they have no financial back up plan in the event of a breach, with 80% of businesses polled at the Cyber Beyond IT event this year admitting to being concerned about the financial implications of a cyber-attack, and 1 in 10 business leaders saying they would pay over £1m ransom to retrieve their data, if stolen.
Throughout the InfoSec conference, we’ll see talks on building in-house response teams, defending the borderless enterprise and strengthening defense to mitigate cybersecurity risks. With high profile attacks, including the NHS, Target, and FedEx, companies are facing the reality that bad actors cannot be stopped, and cyber-attacks are now an inevitable cost of doing business.
Information risk and GDPR
Thus, with the acceptance of attack comes a shift in mindset, coinciding with the implementation of GDPR. As organisations accept that they cannot prevent attacks, we will witness a shift towards addressing the information behind the firewall.
Data clean-up is at the forefront of the European business mindset, as the race to ensure compliance before implementation of GDPR in May ensues. However, data privacy and clean-up is something that, regardless of regulation, would need to be addressed by organisations as the importance of information security takes hold. As companies face the fact that, currently, they are lacking in proper defences, then reducing the impact of attack by limiting the amount of data stored will become a focus.
So, there we have it, a look into some of the infosec trends for 2018, both at InfoSec Europe and in general. As we continue through the year, it will be interesting to watch how recent events continue to shape both these trends, and other technological developments in the sector that will emerge for 2019.
It’s no secret that high-street shopping and consumer spending have been in tricky waters for some time now, and the latest data from Visa showed that UK consumer spending in January fell for the first time in five years, despite the draw of sales. Shoppers just don’t like going out in the cold and prefer the comfort and warmth of their living rooms and iPad.
Miscellaneous goods, including things like health, beauty, and jewellery also performed well in January, seeing an increase of 6.1% in January, suggesting that small products were preferred over big-ticket items. Transport and comms suffered the most, however.
Market challenges: the high-street battle
The online vs bricks and mortar saga continues to roll on into 2018 as we have already seen the likes of Toys R Us making headlines as it faces bankruptcy, but online sales are performing well.
One solution that seems to be succeeding with Londoners is turning in-store shopping into entertainment experiences. It’s not just about offering the latest toy or gadget at a good price (though pricing is obviously an important factor as many online alternatives offer competitive rates), it’s about offering experiences to consumers when they come to shop. Things that have proven popular so far include celebrity meet and greets, and in-store fitness classes.
In 2017, Barclaycard revealed that consumers were happy to spend more on entertainment and experiences, as Brits coughed up 10.5% more than before. This shopping experience trend is proving to be a winner for retailers where fine margins are everything: retailers enjoyed a 14% increase Year on Year in 2017 as a result.
Did someone say Brexit? GDPR?
These two factors will undoubtedly have an impact on UK retailers, the service they provide and how they market themselves to consumers, ultimately affecting where money gets spent. How customer data is collected and used will be impacted, and it remains to be seen how the Brexit deal will change retail spending and consumer confidence.
Tech consumer spending trends
So, in the tech market, where will shoppers are looking to spend their pennies? What markets should brands be looking out for?
Smart home technology has become the new must-have tech. As the smartphone market begins to level out, tech giants are battling it out in the smart home world, continuously innovating to become top dog.
It’s not just early tech adopters or the more enthusiastic tech folk that are buying them either. Smart home speakers, heating and lighting have become much more mainstream as the tech develops and becomes more affordable. After a slow start, consumers are seeing the reality and benefits of a connected smart home. According to GfK, 25% of us own a smart home device, leaving plenty of opportunities for brands to stake a claim to a piece of the market.
Wireless tech: headphones and chargers
Upon taking a closer look at the wireless headphone market, it is clear it’s enjoying major growth. 15% of the headphones and mobile stereo headsets sold in H1 2017 were Bluetooth-enabled (GfK).
Positive music experiences are becoming more important in general. The increasing use of smartphones for streaming music, movies and watching funny videos from friends on Instagram is driving growth in this area. Furthermore, the health and fitness trend means people are looking for wire-free, hassle-free headphones to listen to their favourite workout tunes.
With this increased use of mobile streaming, battery life is being gobbled up even more. In steps the wireless charger. Global Market Insights expect the market to hit $14bn by 2024 as people look to stay fully charged whilst on the go, and phone manufacturers continue to work on improving battery life.
Whilst inflation, market uncertainty, and pressures may continue to dent consumer confidence and overall spending, there are still plenty of opportunities for tech brands in 2018, as consumer choices of where to spend their hard-earned cash evolves.
By Andrew Rogers
The 65th annual Toy Fair at London’s Olympia exhibition centre was once again full of fun and magic, making it one of the best-loved trade shows on the planet. While those exhibiting at the show were full of optimism for the year ahead, NPD this year announced that UK toy sales had fallen for the first time in three years. Compared to the 12 months, toy sales in 2017 were down 2.8%.
The industry need not be too alarmed. The UK is still the largest toy market in Europe, and toy sales are still worth a whopping £3.4 billion. However, what the figures do show is that the toy market may be set to become even more competitive, and as crazes amongst kids (and adults) change rapidly, toy makers need to make sure they’re keeping up.To help you get up to speed, here are just some of the toy trends that we’ll be keeping a close eye on for the year ahead.READ MORE
Fidget spinners kicked off the craze for tactile toys, and there’s been no stopping the category since. This year the buzz is around squishy toys. If you can squeeze it and squash it, then kids are going to want it.
Squishy toys have also seen a boost thanks to the online craze for making slime. By way of a reaction to increasing screen time, slime has become hugely popular both for kids and adults as something fun but also relatively low tech. Slime is just one of many toys kids can really get their hands into. But it’s far from the only one, as foam characters capture the hearts of kids looking for something squishy that they can hug and collect.
Tactile toys aren’t just for kids either. Adults – even those without children of their own – are flocking to toys they can spin, squish and slide. Adults are buying more toys for themselves than ever before, and the toy industry is seeing so-called ‘kidult’ toys as a major source of growth.
Tactile toys aren’t alone in appealing to both kids and adults. It’s thanks to its broad appeal that collectables were one of the best performing toy categories in 2017, with growth of 17%.
One of the top toys for last Christmas were Fingerlings Monkeys (small monkeys that you can hang off your fingers as if they were clinging to a miniature tree). Kids love them, and many wanted not just one, but the full set. The collectibles category has also seen a big increase in mystery collectables. While practically not all that different from a Kinder Surprise, there has been a flood of new entrants into the market, partially thanks to the massive popularity of unwrapping and unboxing videos on YouTube.
L.O.L Surprise dolls were a massive hit at Christmas, with each mystery pack containing an adorable collectable doll inside. Hatch and grow toys have also seen growth, with Hatchimals and similar products continuing to sell strongly.
Mermaids, dinosaurs and superheroes
It’s no secret that the big licenses, particularly attached to blockbuster family movies, will dominate the toy shelves each year. Increasingly, they’re also spawning entire categories of similar products that while not directly connected to the license, are certainly inspired by it.
Expect to see lots of mermaids and dinosaurs in 2018, as cinemas gear up for a new live-action Little Mermaid movie, and the latest installment in the Jurassic World series. It will come as no surprise that Star Wars will dominate yet another year, as the standalone Han Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts.
Industry watchers might also want to keep their eyes peeled for superhero-themed toys. Not only are there a raft of new Marvel movies planned, Disney and Pixar will also be lifting the lid on the sequel to the hugely popular Incredibles.
While new crazes can be difficult to predict, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen some of the biggest sellers for Christmas 2018 at this year’s Toy Fair. Whether it’s a squishy stress buster or a cute collectable, there should be some fantastic products under the Christmas tree this year.
By Gina Mossey
2017 was a big year for influencers. More and more brands wised up to the value of working with them, while the influencers themselves widened their brand collaboration horizons.
The focus has very much been on “bloggers and vloggers”. These online influencers are very popular based on their abilities to create videos and written pieces that will engage their audiences, from the product reviews and challenges right through to more personal “letters to my former self”-style content.
But is this surge in popularity clouding what we mean when we’re talking about “influencers”? Here are a few examples of influencers you may not have thought of.READ MORE
It seems obvious, but journalists must also be considered as “influencers” in a good integrated PR and marketing campaign. They are specialists in their areas, like to make meaningful connections with brands to do their jobs, and have the power to elevate a company from a sleeping giant into a market leader. While the approach may differ, the strategy for journalists and social media influencers must be aligned for a campaign to succeed.
Local groups and communities
Whoever your audience is, you can guarantee that online and print sources are not the only way to reach them. Think about what else your target customer might do in their spare time and who might be able to connect with them there. It could be a running club in one of your key sales areas, or even a psychologist using your products to demonstrate their theories. Always remember to think outside the box.
Never underestimate the power of your workforce when it comes to advocacy. These are the people with the ability to sell not only your products and services but your company culture and values. Collectively, what they say holds a lot of sway in the wider world. You can harness this in a number of ways, whether it’s profiling someone with a Q&A on social media, or running a full employee advocacy programme, using their insights to improve your business.
The influencer landscape is changing fast, and so is its definition. Thinking strategically about your objectives, as opposed to tactically about the latest “it” influencer, will keep you ahead of the curve.
For many banks, engaging with millennials is a key objective. This demographic, made up of 20-35-year-olds, is soon set to have the highest purchasing power of any other group, making up 1 in 4 of UK adults, so it is essential that marketers understand what drives its behaviour.
Today’s consumer is bombarded with more information than ever before. It’s pretty challenging to cut through the noise and make an impact, especially when it comes to millennials who, according to some reports, spend up to six hours a day online! So, how can you capture and retain the attention of younger audiences?READ MORE
Ensure a top-notch digital presence
Mobile banking apps are soaring in popularity among a generation that barely remembers life before the internet. In a world where the answer to any problem is “there’s an app for that!”, it seems only natural that millennials are increasingly turning to apps to manage their finances. This has led to a new breed of mobile-only “challenger banks” gaining traction in the market, launching a full suite of banking products including current accounts, debit cards, overdrafts, and savings – all of which can be managed via the app.
Smartphone-wielding Millennials communicate with their bank in different ways compared to Baby Boomers – and are up to three times more likely than the general population to want mobile app notifications for things like credit limit warnings or suspicious transaction alerts. They are also twice as likely to want technology like video conferencing with their advisers. Having grown up with technology, they expect it to “just work” and one in five browse exclusively via mobile or tablet, so make sure your marketing is mobile-ready.
Earn their trust
Millennials major concerns around banking are data being leaked (56%), credit card cloning (54%) and identity theft. Cybersecurity has been a massive issue this year, so it’s understandable that these issues are front of mind for millennials when managing their finances. You should reassure them and highlight what you are doing to keep their money safe.
Understand what makes them tick
The worldview of millennials has shifted considerably compared to previous generations. As well as being the most technologically sophisticated generation, millennials are also the most socially-conscious, with more than half of millennials saying they would happily take a pay cut if it meant that they could work somewhere that shares their values. In the same way, they are more likely to “vote with their wallet”, choosing to spend their money in businesses whose values align with their own.
This greater emphasis on social responsibility translates into stronger brand loyalty for banks. If you’re trying to attract millennials, ask yourself what you are doing to make the world a better place and how you can communicate this to your audience. Lloyds is one of several banks that run matched giving schemes, where the bank will match funds raised by staff for charity. If you have a similar initiative in place, be sure to emphasise it when speaking to your millennial customers, as it is something they value deeply.
Create authentic, meaningful content
In a cluttered digital landscape, millennials are bombarded with marketing content and will scroll through adverts with ruthless efficiency, ignoring all except the most relevant or attention-grabbing. But how exactly do you go about grabbing their attention? Well, authenticity is key here. Santander is one finance brand that has gone down this route, abandoning its traditional purpose-led strategy to talk to customers in a more “real” way with user-generated content. Check it out here.
This need for authenticity means that millennials prefer personalised marketing – traditional outbound methods like direct mail campaigns won’t work, as they are too impersonal and company focused. One study revealed that 84% do not trust traditional advertising. You should instead focus on improving your customers’ lives with informative content – this might include blogs or social media posts that provide tips on budgeting or navigating tricky transactions. Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts and 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.
Offer opportunities for collaboration
Millennials see themselves not only as consumers but also creators – so you should think about how you can offer customers the chance to participate. That could take many forms, from running fun competitions on social media to open up a conversation, getting them involved in advertising campaigns or asking them what new features they’d like to see in a banking app.
By Gina Mossey
Digital and social media have become an integrated part of the broader PR picture, contributing to open conversations and interactions between the companies and their audiences. PR campaigns are more often focusing on creating content that people would want to talk about and share on social channels. If you treat social media as a key part of your PR and wider business strategy you can certainly achieve real business results, and as social media has become such a vital part of the public relations practice, greater importance should be placed on measuring it.
In 2015 the PR industry launched the updated Barcelona Principles to measure the value of PR. This new framework for measuring the performance of communications has been updated to reflect the changing media landscape and to put emphasis on the importance of measuring social media impact. The revised principle recognizes that social media measurement tools have evolved to a point where there is a greater potential for consistent measurement on engagement, along with quantity and quality.Here are three reasons why measurement should be an important part of your every campaign.READ MORE
Measurement is a great way for you to understand how social media fits into your business and which platform is most appropriate for your business objectives. It’s important to think about your audience and where they are on social media when choosing a platform.
Trying and testing the different social media platforms available allows you to see just how effective they are for you. Understanding your business objectives and your social media use will enable you to see how they co-operate and coincide with one another. When you see how social media fits into the bigger picture you should see that your overall strategy relates directly to your business goals.
There are many ways in which social media ROI can be measured, such as lead generation, sales, revenue, new customers, clicks, registrations, etc. and which of those will be incorporated depends on what one wants to achieve within the campaign.
2. Are Your Social Media Efforts Attracting More Customers to the Business?
Gaining visibility for your business is highly important, but your number one goal should be to drive real results. There’s nothing wrong in analysing the number of comments, retweets, shares and likes a certain post or tweets gets, but there’s even more data that can make a bigger impact.
The question you need to focus on is how the retweets and likes transfer into paying customers. That is the data that can bring real value to your business and will provide an insight that can help you achieve your goal.
Google Analytics is a great tool to help you find out if you really are attracting more customers to the business. If you’re putting more effort into your social media and social traffic is increasing, then you are on the right track.
3. Review Your Results and Reset Your Goals
Through measurement, you can determine whether your social media initiatives have led to positive results. Furthermore, if they haven’t, measurement can help understand what adjustments are needed.
Based on your findings you can then reassess your goals depending on what you are aiming to achieve with your campaign. Examples of new goals might be to improve brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, reach new audiences, or generate leads.
The way to determine ROI for social media is not the same as traditional media like TV and digital. It should be measured independently of other channels. But at the same time, it is important to apply the same standards. PRs should focus on business goals, by shifting social media measurement metrics from ‘activity’ to ‘value’ metrics. In the world of social media, people share and amplify the impact of other media, and therefore a value needs to be attached to this.
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