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Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Second Life. Oh dear.

This excellent article on should make sobering reading for marketers thinking about creating a space in Second Life. As Pete reported earlier this month, Axa are taking a look, and I'm sure many others are, too. As much as I hate to contradict Pete – and making myself look somewhat of a Luddite – I think spending valuable budget on Second Life is a huge mistake. Finally, here's the proof: Coca-Cola's 'Virtual Thirst' pavilion receiving just 27 visits on "a random day in June…" Just so you know, there are now over 7 million avatars in Second Life.

My big question with FS providers considering Second Life is "what are you offering?" 
  • If you're just creating a space to run your adverts, forget it. 
  • If you could create some kind of advice provision to avatars, that may be better (but fraught with legal issues). 
  • If your underwriters had the stones to create insurance to avatars and their online property, then it would be worthwhile. Maybe.

Second Life is only a worthwhile venture if you create something that Second Lifers need. In that respect it's really not that different from Real Life.


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Equifax report


Having attended a Chinwag event on the 'dark side of social media' a month or two ago I was not surprised to see Equifax release a report on the personal information security issues raised by people's profiles on sites such as Facebook and Myspace.

As these sites often ask for and display information such as date of birth, pets name (often used as passwords)and location networker's can inadvertently provide valuable information to fraudsters.

I changed my personal details on a few of these sites as a result of the Chinwag event - it might be worth checking what information your profiles have on them.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

A funny thing happenend on the forum


We often monitor a range of web sites to see what people are saying about financial issues. One of those sites is thisislondon the web site of the Evening Standard.

It's always had quite active forums and seems to attract posts from a wide range of users. People tend to be very open and honest in forum postings - more so than say in the letters pages.

One of the most recent stories related to increased mortgage rates combining with increased fuel prices all indicating soaring inflation.

The posts on the subject ranged from 'why is there no tax deduction on mortgage payments', 'anyone with a mortgage who hasn't factored in interest rate rises is a fool', 'this is good news for homeowners as their savings attract better rates' to 'if you can't afford your repayments ditch your sky subscription'.

Forums are often ignored as a source of insight into your customers thinking. A few hours a week can throw up some priceless insight.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Digital insults


Today it's been reported that a young girl was stabbed after posting insults on her Bebo page. Not so long ago a flamewar on a forum ended up with one of the contributors tracking down the other and attacking him.

So while digital seems to provide us with a range of new ways to express ourselves we still need to be mindful of the consequences of anything we post online. I suppose this links back to the post I made recently on online security.

What we post today can come back to haunt us tomorrow.

Monday, 16 July 2007

online customer service


It's nice to have your expectations exceeded and here's a public thank you to amazon.

A delayed order email enquiry was answered within an hour with action promised in 24 hours. Quite often I think our expectation is that an email enquiry will disappear into a black hole (actually easyjet have an email address called blackhole@easyjet).

That's the kind of service that delivers trust and I think we need as much of that as we can get in the FS world.

security begins at home


I've just finished reading a short article on identity theft and it does make for alarming reading.

The survey, by Capital One, claims that 2.5m of us throw bank statements into the bin (intact) and 14m of us don't bother to shred personal information.

Yet at the same time 82% of us, according to the Information Commissioners Office, are aware that personal information should be protected. So if ID theft is on the increase, awareness is on the increase what's stopping us all protecting ourselves?

If we go back a few years to when e-commerce really took off we were led to believe that criminals were just waiting to pluck your credit card details out of the ether. While that was never the issue (it's always been more about the storage security)it does seem now that our household bins rather than the recycle bins of our PC are the main target for criminals.

How about bio-degradable statements if we have to have paper based communications?

Friday, 13 July 2007

Digital Double-take

Jo Parker

The thing I love about the digital world is that it really does throw the status quo up in the air.

It really challenges our preconceptions about what we know or at least think we know about people.

Take the fact that a recent survey by shows that young women (18-34) are now the most dominant group online in the UK. Not nerdy teenage boys locked in their bedrooms. Indeed that there are 1.7 times more over 50 year olds than children under 18 active on the internet.

Which is why I loved the story in today’s paper, that to avoid getting hoards of middle-class, middle-aged rockers at Glastonbury next year, the organisers will be offering tickets by telephone to make sure the Radio 1 younger, hip crowd are there instead, rather than relying on the web!

It’s an important sense check for all of us planning communications, we must really look at the stats rather than rely on our pre-conceptions. Cos chances are they are wrong!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Second Life for Axa


Nice to see a financial services brand investigating the world of Second Life with Axa quoted as being close to launching a presence.

Second Life is an interesting place for brands at the moment. The membership numbers constantly grow but the feeling is that the actual number of regular users is quite low and given the global reach the actual number per country quite thin. Add in terrorist groups out to police the virtual world, the rise of concern over virtual crime (sexual crime is of major concern in some European countries for example)and it's fair to say no one can really predict how important Second Life and whatever follows it will be.

My feeling is that it’s a good place to experiment but there needs to be a very clear value exchange between a brand and the inhabitants of Second Life for a brand to be well received. However, just like the real world, some people will love the brand and some will not - there is a risk in everything we do in marketing that it will create a backlash but that alone is not a reason for not trying.

So congratulations to Axa for a brave move forward into the unknown.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Children to receive financial education


Ed Balls, the new Schools Secretary, is ordering schools to teach personal finance as a subject alongside career progression and enterprise.

"It is essential that we equip our children with the financial skills they will need as adults and get young people thinking about careers and how to fulfil their ambitions,' Mr Balls said yesterday.

I'd be interested to hear who has drawn up the syllabus?

Thursday, 5 July 2007

average age is 43


According to a report by MetLife the average age of consumers seeking financial advice is 43 with 53% of IFA's feeling their customers have left it too late for retirement planning.

It's interesting that a recent report on older audiences highlighted that internet usage had overtaken the traditional past times of gardening and DIY.

So how come, according to a recent Argent report, that financial services brands are spending, on average, 7.5% of their marketing budgets on digital activity while online's share of all advertising has hit 10%?

It would seem there's still a lot of FS brands who are yet to recognise the importance of digital.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Digital is a winner


We were asked to take part in a Financial Services Forum debate on integrated marketing recently. Each discpline was represented - PR, DM, digital, sponsorship and advertising, with each being asked to out forward the case for why their discipline should receive an increasing share of clients budgets.

Yours truly was there to sell the case for digital.

A vote was cast at the start and then again at the close to measure the speakers abilities to influence the audience.

I'm pleased to say that digital saw a 200% increase in votes and came away as the winner with PR a close second.

I think the winning point, judging by conversations with guests after the event, was that digital was a platform from which to launch all your marketing activity and as a result the old definitions of what pr or dm is are being revised in light of the digital options open to clients. For example is a brand's facebook profile pr or advertising?

The follow up to that last point is that we still have silo's (budget and personnel) for each discpline that help reinforce the old way of thinking about marketing. It's not only time to re-think attittudes to what is marketing but also to consider how marketing teams are set up.

As financial services brands are heavy users of digital there's a real need to start looking internally at how you are set up and how that structure works in the brave new digital marketing world.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Online reputation


How’s your reputation these days? It looks as if the growth of social sites and web 2.0 content is making us all re-evaluate what constitutes status in the (digital) world.

I picked up on a story a while ago that people in the US were using their character rankings from online games such as World of Warcraft on their CV’s.
Picture this on a CV ‘I am a Mage (wizard) with a Revered reputation and I lead a group of 25 lower level characters’. This person has demonstrated problem solving (Revered is the second to highest level of reputation), commitment (takes some playing to build that reputation) and management skills (25 people must be a small/medium sized company). Probably someone with some useful skills then.

So how else are people ‘judged’ online? Are you an Ebay PowerSeller for example? An Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer? A flickr ‘group admin’ or do you have the most friends on Myspace.

The common theme is that we use new measures to evaluate people digitally and they don’t rely on old world values. The anonymous stranger on Amazon is going to help you make a buying decision purely based on his or her reputation (actually are we all now hermaphrodites online if no one can tell who we are?)

So if the reputation of your brand is important then perhaps you should be asking yourself – how are we scoring against some of these new ‘ratings’?

Maybe online is the new world in which we can rebuild trust in financial services brands.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Five years ago

Sam 2.07.07

Five years ago I was studying a New Media module at university and, as part of the coursework, was asked to complete was an essay with the title: ‘Does the internet change our lives?’

Back then, email, online shopping and net dating were all in full swing, and community portals like FriendsReunited had become a very popular new way for people to keep in touch with one another.

But what struck me at the time was that the internet hadn’t really changed human life. In my view, the advent of web technology had certainly enhanced our lives – communication was vastly simpler, goods were available at a cheaper price and information was much easier to come by – but it hadn’t significantly altered the things we do, only how we do them.

But now, with my introduction into the corporate world complete and Web 2.0 upon us, I’m compelled to reconsider my position on whether the internet is, in fact, a ‘life-changing’ development.

In the financial services arena, too, the web has played a part in influencing public behaviour. Online campaigns by the likes of Motley Fool and MoneySavingExpert – both positioning themselves as ‘consumer champions’ – have prompted huge numbers of people to reclaim bank charges. And the upshot of this, we’re told, is that free banking in the UK may soon come to an end: something that will impact on almost the entire adult population.