Blogging Made Me a Sceptic

I compare my experience with blogging to a journey of self-discovery. The realisations I’ve made along the way include:

  1. It’s easy to spout your opinions without reasoning simply because you think you’re right. It’s much harder to explain your thoughts with substance.
  2. The freedom to create your own work schedule seems appealing but can be dangerous. Staying on track requires a special kind of motivation.
  3. It’s good to be a sceptic. Analyse what you’re reading and don’t be easily swayed by other’s opinions or false information. But if you do find a reputable source and learn something new, allow your views to change. This is how you grow.

Personal reflections aside, I’ve found professional value in blogging as well. In my opinion, the most significant aspect of blogging is its ability to connect you with others who have similar interests. Sadly, my closest friends and family do not jump at the opportunity to discuss marketing theory at length. Blogging has allowed the students in our module to continue our lecture discussions outside of the classroom. Additionally, I’ve come across some fantastic professional marketing blogs that I plan to continue visiting regularly. Some include Marketing Land, Content Marketing Institute and UnMarketing if you’re interested.

However, apart from connecting with other marketers, I don’t see much professional use for blogging as an actual marketing tool. The issue I find with company blogs comes down to authenticity.

As consumers, we are commonly sceptical of advertisements (Holtzclaw, 2014). If a business was to run their own blog, we would assume they would only write posts in the interest of profit. So why should we believe them?

To overcome this issue, I’d say the best route is to partner with the people who have already captivated your target audience. Provide the product or service and then leave the blogging up to them. Personally, I prefer to read lifestyle and beauty blogs run by people my own age as I can easily relate to them. I highly value the opinions of some of the bloggers I follow because I’ve tried and liked many of their recommendations over the years. They’ve gained my trust. Because of this, I compare a blogger’s review of a product to a word of mouth recommendation from a friend. And that is one of the most powerful forms of marketing to date (Nielsen, 2012).

So will I continue to use blogging in the future? Yes, as a tool for industry knowledge and communication. But as an actual marketing tool for business? Not likely.

Can you see any value in blogging for businesses?


Holtzclaw, Eric (2014) Authenticity and the Opt-Out Generations. Available from: Accessed: 14 November 2015.

Nielsen (2012) Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages. Available from: Accessed: 14 November 2015.


Geo-fencing: Too close for comfort?

Take a moment and think about the last ads you saw on your mobile. Did you find them intrusive? Did you find them interesting? Did you even notice them at all?

Personally, I don’t normally see mobile ads as invasive. However, through my discussions in the Digital Marketing MOOC, I found that some participants thought of mobile ads as invasions of privacy. They predicted that the public would reject these ads because they viewed their mobile phones as such personal objects. Although I disagreed, their opinions do have merit. A Pew Research study found 46% of smartphone users claim they cannot live without their phones (2015) and another study reported that participants experienced anxiety when separated with their iPhones (Clayton et al., 2015). Mobiles as an extra limb, perhaps?

Regardless, we can’t deny the opportunity it creates for marketers. 93% of UK adults own a mobile that they use for around two hours each day (Ofcom, 2015).

pa_mapTo fill this channel, one of the most direct (and potentially invasive) forms of mobile marketing used is geo-fencing. First, businesses create a “fence” around an area. The business knows once you’ve enter their fence through the GPS on your phone. They can then send you offers when you’re nearby as incentive to shop with them. But how do you feel about companies knowing your location at any given moment?

While this strategy may seem intrusive if retailers begin sending too many ads (Mobile Commerce Press, 2015), it turns out the majority of people don’t actually mind sharing their location if it results in more pertinent offers (Amodwala, 2014). A case study with ASDA proved this method to be quite successful as well. Ads sent to mobiles within a certain radius resulted in a 67% increase in store visits (xAd).

Personally, I am with the majority on this issue. I do not see geo-fencing as too intrusive. In my opinion, the relevancy it provides outweighs my need for privacy. Before moving to Southampton, I often used a navigation app called Waze. I was on a long trip and wanted to stop for food, but I didn’t know the area well enough to find a place on my own. Before I had the chance to open Yelp to find somewhere to go, Waze displayed an ad for a sushi restaurant two miles away. Because of the timing and relevance of the ad, I not only “fell” for the geo-fencing strategy, but I was also grateful that it made my decision that much easier.

Do you see geo-fencing as intrusive? Do you see it more as a risk or opportunity for marketers?


Amodwala, Juhi (2014) Mobile Marketing Using Geolocation Targeting. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Almond, A., Clayton, B., Leshner, G. (2015) The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 20 (2). Pages 119 – 135. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Mobile Commerce Press (2015) Intrusive Mobile Marketing Boosts Suspicions Among French Shoppers. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Ofcom (2015) The Communications Market 2015. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Smith, Aaron (2015) U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

xAd (Date unavailable). ASDA Case Study. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2015].

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REI: Black Friday? No, thanks.

As I’ve scrolled through my e-mails this past week, one fact has become increasingly clear; the countdown to Black Friday has officially begun. When it comes to marketing for the big day, Chief Research Officer of Kantar Media, Jon Swallen, was quoted saying, “If you don’t advertise, you’re not conceding defeat, you’re assuring defeat.” I’ll admit this quote did not surprise me. In my experience, Black Friday can only be described as “huge”. Huge sales, huge lines and huge spending.

So how do you stand out in a massive influx of Black Friday related ads? According to REI, you take a walk.


This year, REI launched its #OptOutside campaign. The company has announced it will close its storefronts on Black Friday and pay the co-op’s 12,000 employees to “go outside”. The REI website will be operating, but the company will not be actively marketing customers to shop online. While the company has not publicly shared its past Black Friday sales figures, REI’s CEO has said that it’s one of the company’s top ten sales days. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers spent $50.4 billion over the Black Friday weekend last year and $57.4 billion the year prior. So is it really a smart move for the company to close its doors on the kick off to the holiday shopping season?

I would argue yes.

I believe most powerful move that REI has made has been aligning its marketing strategy with the company mission. Per their website, REI is dedicated to “inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” The campaign’s commitment to this mission creates a sense of authenticity for REI customers, as the company is actively promoting a day spent outside, rather than a day spent shopping indoors. Once consumers regard businesses as authentic, they tend to assign them a higher value (Carroll et al., 2013).

Secondly, the company has humanised itself. REI is empathising with employees forced to work on Black Friday, and in some cases, Thanksgiving Day. Last year specifically there was an increase in retailers opening on Thursday. I recall my parents discussing how sad it was that companies were tearing employees away from their loved ones on such a family-centric holiday. By rejecting this practice, REI has shown compassion for its workers and their families.

As a result, the company has successfully produced an influx of positive word-of-mouth advertising. I actually found out about #OptOutside through a Facebook post shared by a friend. REI has created a sort of social good campaign that encourages its customers to be active and spend time with loved ones, rather than support consumerism. This publicity will likely generate an increasingly positive brand image for REI and subsequently lead to increased customer loyalty (Belén del Río et al., 2001). As such, the positive brand association produced by #OptOutside will be more valuable long term when compared to the profits made from Black Friday. Customers will be more likely to shop with the company for an extended period of time, rather than just a single day.

Overall, do you support or reject the strategy of REI’s #OptOutside campaign? Was it a smart move? Do you think this type of campaign would work for all retailers?


Belén del Río, A., Iglesias, V., Vázquez, R. (2001) The effects of brand associations on consumer response. Journal of Consumer Marketing. 18 (5). Pages 410 – 425. Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Carroll, G., Kovács, B., Lehman, D. (2013) Authenticity and Consumer Value Ratings: Empirical Tests from the Restaurant Domain. Organization Science. 25 (2). Pages 458 – 478. Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Coleman-Lochner, Lauren (2014) Black Friday Fizzles With Consumers as Sales Tumble 11%. Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2015].

REI Co-op (2015) #OptOutside. Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Ziorbo, Paul (2013) Black Friday: How Much They Spent Convincing You to Spend. Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Why should we pay tuition to take a free course?

Over the past month I’ve explained the definition of a MOOC to most of my close family members and friends. Granted, I had never heard of MOOCs before coming to Southampton, so I can’t fault them for lack of knowledge. However, it turns out these massive open online courses are becoming more well known. They allow students to format education around their schedule from any location, as well as connect with others from around the world. And the best part? The courses are free and only require an Internet connection to enrol. What’s not to love?

However, I believe the question to ask here is not, “are MOOCs good or bad?” but rather, “are MOOCs better?” I know this is not a valid question for many people. For some, MOOCs may be the only viable option due to time, money or location, and for those people, I say MOOCs all the way! I ask this because as part of one of our modules we were asked to forgo six hours of live lectures over the course of the MOOC to allow time for our participation in the Future Learn course.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 6.52.32 p.m.Personally, my initial thought was, why are we paying tuition to take a module in which partial assessment is based on our participation in a free course? I was so focused on this point that I failed to see the value of the MOOC as a whole. Yes, my coursemates and I were (mandatorily) helping facilitate discussion in the MOOC, but we were also interacting with thousands of students and professionals of all ages and cultures. In my experience, diversity of thought leads to growth and there was certainly no lack of diversity to be seen in the MOOC.

Through commenting on the course, we’ve been learning which type of questions get responses, how to start discussions, and essentially how to reach and interact with people. All of these skills will be essential to our success as marketers.

However, the one aspect of the MOOC that I still have issue with is the read through portions, as I do not consider these an equal trade for a live lecture. I relate this to the fact that I’m a largely auditory learner. As such, live lectures and videos are easier for me to analyse. Additionally, I find lectures significantly more interesting because of the opportunity for real time discussion and reaction. Feeling the tension during a live debate or even hearing your coursemates laugh cannot be replaced by a words on a screen. For me, those experiences help internalise the subject matter more than reading about it alone.

So all-in-all, was the MOOC a fair trade for the live lectures? Now that we’re nearing the end of the course, I’ll admit yes, although I would not have been opposed to having both the lectures and the MOOC (more is more?).

To my fellow coursemates; did any of you have qualms with the MOOC initially as well, or were you on board from the beginning?

Let me sell you lies…

On the first day of this course I had a conversation with my classmate, Mohammed, regarding YouTube and product promotion. We were both aware that YouTubers are often paid or sent free products as payment for featuring the product on their channel. But can we believe what they’re saying?

YouTube directs content creators to the FTC (US) and CAP (UK) for clarification on the rules regarding endorsements and product promotions. The general rule of thumb encouraged by both organisations is for YouTubers to make it known when they are being compensated. Some suggestions include verbally stating it within the video or including “ad” in the video title. Basically, don’t hide the fact that you’re being paid for a video or that you received a product for free. However, the majority of the language used on the FTC and CAP pages seems to fall within a grey area filled with “suggestions” and “considerations” rather than clear rules.

When it comes to actual false advertising, the FTC states that companies must make a “reasonable effort” to monitor the YouTubers that are promoting their products. But what if one falls through the cracks? According to the FTC…

“…it’s unlikely that the activity of a rogue blogger would be the basis of a law enforcement action if your company has a reasonable training and monitoring program in place.”

So overall, it seems that YouTubers are not held to the same standard of ethical CSR as the companies that sponsor them. But do they actually need to be?

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 12.01.07 a.m.In my opinion, no. YouTube is a largely opinion-based platform. Heavier regulations from outside the platform would likely infringe on YouTube’s most appeal aspect; the creative freedom.

We have already seen examples of YouTubers defending the credibility of their endorsements. To avoid more outside regulation, I believe these content creators should come together to form a regulatory body of their own. Who better to understand YouTubers than YouTubers? They have the insider knowledge needed to create fair regulations. They already know the inner workings of sponsored videos. They already know true endorsements from fake promotion.

Another motivator for compliance with ethical standards would be the need for respect. I’ve noticed an example of this between my coursemates and I within the dynamics of a group project. We are essentially self-regulating ourselves to contribute our best work in order to be seen as valuable and to be respected. Nobody wants to be seen as the weak link. Likewise, I imagine the YouTube system to work as a positive form of peer pressure. Content creators would follow the rules to maintain acceptance among their peers. It would discourage YouTubers to post dishonest content for fear of being exposed and losing credibility.

Do you think a system like this would work? Do you think there needs to be a system at all?


CAP (2015) Video blogs: Scenarios. Available from: [Accessed 15 October 2015].

FTC (2015) The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking. Available from: [Accessed 15 October 2015].

YouTube (2015) Paid product placements and endorsements. Available from: [Accessed 15 October 2015].

Photo source:

Why study digital marketing?

Why do you want to study digital marketing? My coursemates and I were asked this question during our very first lecture. Although Dr Molesworth received mostly crickets in response (likely due to our shyness or lack of sleep), I know we each have our own explanation as to why we chose to pack up and move across the globe to become postgraduate students at the University of Southampton.

My story can be summed up in one word; YouTube. As such, I have the feeling that the majority of my posts here will be YouTube-centric (you’ve been warned). The obsession began in 2009 with a beauty video linked from the homepage. A seemingly innocent “Christmas Gift Guide” introduced me to an entirely new world. The beauty videos soon branched into comedy, news, lifestyle, and fitness. These days, I regularly favour watching YouTube videos over traditional television shows. I was excited to find that my coursemate, Pasinee, has a similar story, as I’m sure do many others.

YouTube has come a long way since its inception in 2005 and is now a billion-dollar business. The site has allowed some of its content creators to earn 7-figure salaries, create their own beauty brands, and star in their own television shows, not to mention create (and subsequently sell) their own production studios. As Dr Molesworth put it last week, these “girls showing you how to put on lipstick” have caught the eye of major brands and are turning hobbies into careers. This is exactly why digital marketing appeals to me. I aim to take my “hobby” and move from the consumer end of YouTube to the business end by joining the companies that work with the content creators.

Now to tie this all in with MANG6262. An interesting topic we’ve spoken about in lecture is globalisation and how it leads to cultural exchange. Per Dr Molesworth’s lecture, digital technologies collapse distance, and I could not agree more. I’ve experienced this first-hand through watching British content creators. Although I had previously visited the UK before moving here, it’s safe to say that I’ve learned more about British culture and products through watching day-in-the-life video blogs (or “vlogs”), than from my own past experience or research. For me, there’s something more appealing about hearing a person you’ve been subscribed to for years vouch for a product or rave about a meal, as opposed to hopping on Trip Advisor or MakeupAlley. Before moving, I had already drafted a list of products to buy and restaurants to try without once referencing the traditional review sites.

So my question for this first post will come as déjà vu for most of you; why do you want to study digital marketing? Hopefully it will be a bit easier to answer this time around since we can all respond safely from our keyboards.

Also, have you experienced your own form of globalisation, whether it be from YouTube or any other platform? If so, do you consider it to be positive or negative?

Lastly, if anyone has their own YouTube channel, feel free to leave a link below! No judgement for self-promotion here.