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?


References

Holtzclaw, Eric (2014) Authenticity and the Opt-Out Generations. Available from: https://www.ama.org/publications/MarketingInsights/Pages/Authenticity-and-the-Opt-Out-Generations.aspx Accessed: 14 November 2015.

Nielsen (2012) Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages. Available from: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2012/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html 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?


References

Amodwala, Juhi (2014) Mobile Marketing Using Geolocation Targeting. Available from: http://www.waterfall.com/blog/mobile-marketing-using-geolocation-targeting/ [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: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12109/full [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Mobile Commerce Press (2015) Intrusive Mobile Marketing Boosts Suspicions Among French Shoppers. Available from: http://www.mobilecommercepress.com/intrusive-mobile-marketing-boosts-suspicions-among-french-shoppers/8519347/ [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Ofcom (2015) The Communications Market 2015. Available from: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/cmr15/UK_1.pdf [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Smith, Aaron (2015) U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. Available from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/ [Accessed 12 November 2015].

xAd (Date unavailable). ASDA Case Study. Available from: http://www.xad.com/case-studies/asda/ [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Image Source: http://cbcelements.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/pa_map.png

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.

REI

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?


References

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: http://www.iei.liu.se/fek/svp/mafo/artikelarkiv/1.309856/The_effects.pdf [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: http://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/orsc.2013.0843 [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Coleman-Lochner, Lauren (2014) Black Friday Fizzles With Consumers as Sales Tumble 11%. Available from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-30/u-s-consumers-reduce-spending-by-11-over-thanksgiving-weekend [Accessed 11 November 2015].

REI Co-op (2015) #OptOutside. Available from: http://www.optoutside.rei.com [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Ziorbo, Paul (2013) Black Friday: How Much They Spent Convincing You to Spend. Available from: http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/12/04/black-friday-how-much-they-spent-convincing-you-to-spend/ [Accessed 11 November 2015].