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Tuesday, 22 December 2009
With house prices on the up, Quantitative Easing measures seemingly working and consumer confidence in their ability to accrue savings climbing for the third consecutive month in November there are reasons to be cheerful.
But, given the irrepressible march of RDR and impact on adviser/provider business; ongoing uncertainty about the impact of personal accounts and continuing brittleness of investor sentiment (as evidenced in the immediate aftermath of the Dubai revelations)… 2010 could well have some interesting twists and turns in store!
Monday, 21 December 2009
However there were plenty of other stories breaking. There have been huge moves in the search arena with Microsoft launching Bing, Yahoo! seemingly giving up and jumping in with Bing and Google trying to take over the world and all the while real-time search partnerships being announced by pretty much everyone along the way. It still wasn't quite the year of mobile despite the fact that HTC's, iPhone's, N97's and Palm Pre's all faced off against each other.
It wasn’t all good news either. Geocities finally closed down, Microsoft lost a ton of staff, Myspace had to completely reinvent itself and E-bay's profits fell hugely as the recession bit. And all of this against a backdrop of the Digital Britain report in which the government attempted to encapsulate Britain's approach to Digital over the coming years.
So all in all a real rollercoaster and here it all is, in links
One billion unique users on the Internet
Facebook changes terms of service creating big frustration with user community
Speculation about Twitter charging brands for commercial use
Many e-mail campaigns alienate customers
Facebook beats Google in steering niche traffic
Google Releases Behavioural Advertising
Social Networks Pass Email in Usage
Over 60 percent of people who sign up for Twitter do not return to using it the following month
Brand Mentions Preferred over Ads
Google releases Google Me
Internet surveys combined with traditional research methods are becoming the norm
Microsoft announces Bing.com
Google reannounces Google Wave
Online Video Usage Up 53 Percent in ’09
Forrester Predicts Huge Growth for Social Media Marketing
Facebook beats Myspace traffic in the US
Time spent on social networks doubles in a year
Facebook user names for user profiles and Facebook pages
The government releases the Digital Britain Report
iPhone release the 3GS against the Nokia N97
Social media use soars among b-to-b marketers
Microsoft now powers Yahoo! search
Google announces their own operating system: Google Chrome OS
Facebook gives users more control over their status updates
Google Caffeine: Google’s New Search Engine Index is unveiled
Facebook announces real-time search
Twitter announces an API to help control, standardise and mainstream retweeting
Facebook up their challenge to Google with the purchase of Friendfeed
Twitter gets an (unofficial) app store
Brands become mainstream on Twitter- mentioned in 1 in 5 Tweets
Companies increasing spend in web 2.0 technologies
Google releases Sidewiki
Geocities goes out of business
Bing announces Tweets to appear in search results
Technorati release their State of the blogosphere
YouTube is routinely serving more than a billion video views per day
Yahoo stops using meta keywords for search
Linkedin and Twitter integrate
Twitter creates Twitter Lists
Salesforce.com announces Chatter, social computing for enterprise companies
Twitter Starts Testing Features for Businesses
MySpace and Facebook sign real-time search deals with Google
Facebook Pushes People to Go Public
Time spent on Facebook by 18-24 year olds declines
Google Announces New Offerings in Real-Time, Mobile and Social Search
Morgan Stanley state 'Mobile Internet Market Will Be Twice The Size of Desktop Internet'
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Teamspirit has hired a 5-strong digital team to join its existing digital team and strengthen its offer to clients. The new team comes from Peterborough-based Lightstone who announced they were closing last week.
The team headed by David Simpson have worked together on brands such as Alliance & Leicester, BGL, Ascentric, Yorkshire Building Society, Nestlé and the BBC over the last 6 years. David joins as Digital Director to work alongside Teamspirit’s Crispin Heath. All of the team will be based in Teamspirit’s office in Farringdon, London.
Commenting on the news, Jo Parker CEO of Teamspirit said “The digital work we do for clients has nearly doubled in the last 2 years and we see that growth continuing next year. What we really loved about David and his team is not only their experience in developing great websites both b2b and for consumers, but also their passion for integrating what they do with the offline world so that the customer experience of the brand is seamless. This is an exciting addition for us at the end of a successful year.”
David added “Financial services has been our focus for many years, so joining Teamspirit is a perfect match and an exciting new opportunity for all of us. We’re looking forward to working with the rest of the team to deliver great, results for clients across a wider range of channels.”
For enquiries please call:
Jo Parker, Crispin Heath or David Simpson on 020 7360 7878
Saturday, 28 November 2009
His latest piece for the Guardian gets beneath the enormous numbers that have been flying around in the past couple of years and helps to show us what the really big numbers really mean and when to understand that Roman Abramovich's £7 billion fortune is mere pocket change.
Click to view enlarged version
To view more of McCandless' visual loveliness I suggest a visit to his website:
Head of Digital
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Teamspirit won overall Most Effective Integrated B2B Campaign for Prudential, which was also commended in the most effective advertising campaign category for the same work, with sales increases for Q1 2009 exceeding all expectations and APE sales up by at least by 290% for some wrappers.
Legal & General Retail Investments work was also highly commended in the Most Effective Integrated B2B campaign and also in the Most Effective Public Relations category.
This was a fantastic result for our clients and shows that marketing effectiveness, especially in such challenging economic conditions, is at the heart of what we deliver.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
And the real reason that we need this kind of performance is that as a species we prevaricate. It’s only when the problem is looming that we start doing. And when it comes to retirement that’s very bad news. Starting retirement plans in your 30s is simply too late, and even your 20s is leaving it a bit late. No, the real answer is to start preparing for the end of a life when it’s just beginning. Start investing an achievable £178/month at age 1 and you get £1,000,000 at age 66, needing only 5% pa compounding; to get the same sum starting at 30? A slightly less achievable £898. To get that nice round million using £178/month over 35 years that easy 5% pa has to rise to a slightly less easy (and probably more risky) 12.09%. And of course most pensions start later.
So if I’m lucky enough to have grandchildren one day maybe I’ll do something super sensible and take out a pension for them. That really would be a gift that kept on giving!
Client Services Director
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
I don’t think so. I agree with Professor Goffee, of the London Business School that “It could be that sections of the economy never recover in the way we understand them now. Financial services will not be the same. Consumers will think about value harder.”
The financial services world will never be (nor never should be) the same again. It truly has been Re-Set. And here’s why.
To quote Mervyn King :“The sheer scale of support to the banking sector is breathtaking. In the UK, in the form of direct or guaranteed loans and equity investment, it is not far short of a trillion (that is,one thousand billion) pounds, close to two-thirds of the annual output of the entire economy. To paraphrase a great wartime leader, never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform.”
Not surprisingly, confidence in financial services companies has sunk to a new low as it emerged this month that British consumers even trust the media more than they do the finance industry. Just 7 per cent agreed with the statement “In the current economic climate, I trust the financial services industry to look out for me”, while 60 per cent disagreed. Only 18 per cent of those surveyed said they trusted the financial industry, compared with 34 per cent for the media and 19 per cent for the government – the two sectors traditionally occupying the'bottom rungs of the trust ladde'. Four in 10 added that they no longer had confidence in banks’ marketing messages. (source: DMA Oct 09)
So what is the new Re-Set paradigm for financial services? My personal view is that - there will be retailers who enter the market and put the service back into financial services - who really know how to look after consumers. See O2 money, watch out for Tesco, Boots and Metro Bank. They will all change our relationship with the sector. The new Re-Set world will be about service and experience, not profit and performance.
And consumers will also want reassurance and transparency that they are being treated fairly and the Government will step in and regulate and simplify products – which will mean a brand’s reputation and the social contract they offer with their customers will be critical as a key differentiator.
This Re-Set world should give us all in the sector the opportunity to Re-Start. To think about services and products from the consumers perspective, rather than continuing with the status-quo.
But how many financial services companies are planning for the Re-Set world now?
Friday, 13 November 2009
For some reason the two companies have decided to use a peanut butter and chocolate analogy that sounds slightly weird but hey that's silicon valley for you. Tubs of spreads are close to those guys hearts.
But what of the Twitter #In combination? At first it seemed to me a rather unholy alliance, but on reflection it's probably an excellent combo with real obvious value for both parties.
Recently Twitter has definitely been striving to be perceived as more of a business tool than it had been previously. The recently added list feature proved this. By integrating with Linked In this seems like the perfect way to connect and demonstrate Twitter's utility to a huge community of social mediaites on Linked In that have failed to see the point of Twitter up until now.
On the flip side Linked In has suffered the opposite problem. It's been stuck in an enterprise user rut and isn't seen as particularly cool. Activity on Linked In can seem like it moves at a snails pace in comparison to other social platforms, but by integrating Twitter suddenly the platform becomes a realtime bonanza.
Time will tell what the impact will be, but this week's most unlikely alliance could definitely prove a winner.
Head of Digital
Friday, 6 November 2009
At the end of last week Twitter launched lists. Lists allow registrants to create or follow lists of Twitter users that are useful or interesting to them in a more segmented way and without necessarily having to follow those individuals.
In one very carefully calculated move Twitter has managed to filter the noise incredibly successfully. The idea was jumped upon by the early adopters and by Monday morning there were over 6.5 million lists created.
The move by Twitter coincided with the first major newsworthy celebrity defection (or so everyone thought), followed by announcements by sports teams and the entertainment industry that they were asking their stars to either pull out of using the platform or limit their interaction to conversations outside their core job.It would appear that Twitter is moving away from being a media fuelled celeb filled vanity vehicle, towards being a more powerful social utility. It's a method of linking, connecting, researching and discovering, which has always been there, but had been run over by the media bandwagon driven by Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears and the like.
The move hasn't been without its critics some have said that Twitter should have concentrated more on its core functionality before launching lists. Others (and very influential others) have argued that lists actually exclude those that are not yet power users and therefore hampers potential mass adoption. This is an argument that simply didn't wash with Robert Scoble who argued that social media isn't always about one big love in, but actually sometimes needs to be filtered so that users can find the conversations they are most interested in.
Despite these arguments lists have been siezed upon as a tool by organisations who wish to aggregate content more effectively, notably news organisations which have started to filter and segment vigorously. We're at the peak of the hype cycle with lists at present, but frankly the trough of disillusionment isn't going to be very deep. Twitter has definitely taken a giant leap forward in its battle with its competitors and by all accounts it's not finished yet.
If you're not following lists yet we have a few suggestions for you:
The Teamspirit team
Interesting Financial Services commentary
A list of IFAs that Tweet
Most popular Twitter lists
Head of Digital
Friday, 16 October 2009
Recent reports told us that the savings ratio jumped in the second quarter of this year to 5.9%, the highest it’s been since late 1993. The figures are a sharp turnaround from the first quarter of 2008 when the savings ratio went negative for the first time. We’re even apparently saving more than the Japanese, for the first time in 30 years, and they are famously cautious as a nation.
And let’s be honest this isn’t being driven by attractive savings rates is it? According to Bank of England figures, the average cash ISA paid interest of just 0.41% in August, a tenth of the level a year ago. Consumers have also been reducing their unsecured debt at the fastest rate since records were first kept in 1993, repaying £300m a month.
Predictions are that the savings ratio could go even higher, into double digits (in the last recession it was 12%) and the UK is still below its’ long-run average of 8%.
All good news, on the face of it anyway.
But what I was mulling over as I was waiting for my flight back from Edinburgh yesterday, was this.
Surely we should be thinking about how we move the nations’ relationship with money away from boom and bust? Are we happy that we only save as a country when our financial system goes into meltdown and we are worried we are going to lose our jobs? Just as the Labour party looked to move the economy away from boom and bust, shouldn’t we be doing the same with saving and lending behaviours as well?
So this is what I think the FSA should do next.
They should do a consumer campaign now about how much people are saving to reinforce the behaviour and appeal to our herd mentality (read Nudge for more!). Make people feel like they are missing out if they’re not. And they should keep reinforcing it over time.
So what they shouldn’t do, is a one-off big bang campaign. And it should certainly not be advertising led. It should employ the best in brand engagement communications from social media to getting key influencers talking on their behalf. They should make saving the next cool. (Oh and by the way, if the FSA read this, I know a great agency that would do a great job on this, just call 020 7360 7878 or tweet me @joteam)
It was reported this week that the economic downturn has dramatically hastened people to switch their media purchasing behaviour. In place of paid for paper and magazine purchases people are turning to online news for their fix begging the question, what is the future of paid for content?
The print media is going through a rather protracted period of angst around the subject of their long term survival and how best to extract value from the original content they produce. As Nick Crocker pointed out last week in Mashable there is a lot the print media has to learn from the music industry. The printed media industry is increasingly sticking to their guns, becoming more litigious over the years and without (up until recently) really shaping or engaging with the future production and distribution models of paid for content, in much the same way as the music industry has for the past decade or so. Their failure has been in identifying what is of greatest value to readers. It is conveniently forgotten that shortly after Radiohead released 'In Rainbows' as part of a 'pay as much as you want' model, that they followed up with a retail release of the album through XL Recordings and have gone on to sell over a million copies worldwide. This was a brilliant piece of marketing and PR, backed up with sound commercial sense, an innovative model that should be a bench mark for the thinking around the packaging of content.
If the traditional media are to have similar successes they need to be similarly innovative. The media moguls - led by Rupert Murdoch of course - have been increasingly looking at ‘paid for’ as the new way. However some of the echoes of the music industry have been heard in recent days with Murdoch decrying search engines and in particular Google for stealing News Corps' content. This sounds more like a man fiddling while Rome burns than one that’s engaging with the new world. The reality is that over the past few years the news industry has got rid of highly qualified, quality journalists and replaced them with syndicated content and bulked out lifestyle pieces. That has resulted in original content being commoditised and in the process hugely devalued.
The industry does appear to be embracing Murdoch's idea of pay walls based along segmented lines. It seems like a good experiment and should tell the industry a lot about their customers' habits. The trick will be not to introduce it on a blanket basis and thereby alienate the whole market in one fell swoop. If that happens people will switch off and find an alternative. It's never been easier to switch allegiance, so the industry needs to tread carefully.
Head of Digital
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Given the past year and the stock-market's nose-dive, expectations were not high. My level of interests were high, however, as my pension is the primary mainstay of my standard of living from retirement to pearly gates.
So what information does the provider I have entrusted with this important task give me? A standard letter telling me this is my bi-annual statement (I knew that) and a lovely statement with standard projections, confirming the decline in my pension (I guessed that). Nothing else. Nada. Zip. Same letter (apart from the date) as I got during boom time in fact.
I had a hundred questions. How much of the drop in my pension was down to poor provider performance (say, in relation to benchmarks) and how much down to markets? Were there elements of the underlying funds that were performing fourth quartile and I should ditch?
Frankly, a little added value from my learned provider would have been appreciated. What was my learned provider's view on the next six months? Their view on fund classes? Of changes in legislation and taxation that could benefit me. What about an outbound phone call asking me if I have any questions. I just feel they are taking the money sometimes. They are charging me after all. I've had to change providers over the years and, unfortunately, I can report that the same experience is meted out by all the household name providers I've been with.
Research (and common sense) shows that the receipt of statements has a direct impact on perceptions of the provider's brand (and from there my likelihood to recommend them or buy other products from them). Unhappy experiences we also relate to friends and relatives, passing on our perceptions. Wouldn't even cost much, if that's the barrier that's put up.
Pension statements are often the only direct communication brands have with their pension customers, so isn't it an opportunity to give a little thought to?
Oh yes, I'm changing providers in the next two months, did I tell you?.
Client Services Director
Friday, 2 October 2009
Like thousands of teenage boys in the mid 70’s watching Kung Fu was the TV highlight of the week. I used to daydream of being able to floor Philip Hughes or Gareth Penman (the school bullies) with the same ease that Cain despatched the unscrupulous gold prospector or corrupt sheriff.
Although the short-lived fight scenes in Kung Fu were always good value, my favourite bits of the show were Caine’s flashbacks to his time in the Shaolin monastery, where Master Po would dispense liberal amounts of Confusion wisdom to ‘Grasshopper’, Po’s nickname for Caine.
For old time’s sake I watched an episode on a re-mastered DVD. A couple of things surprised me; firstly how slow the fight scenes were compared to today’s martial arts films, and secondly how interesting and authentic the ‘wisdom’ actually was. In one particular episode ‘Dark Angel’, Master Po tells Cain “The present is rooted in the past. It is through these roots we draw nourishment and strength.”
What’s all this got to do with advertising? Recently a freelance digital designer was trying to convince me that a blue square was an idea. I said it wasn’t. He disagreed and tried to convince me otherwise explaining how the colour and shape could dominate takeovers and expandables and ‘carry the message’. What message? I asked.
Professionally my ‘roots’ in advertising were from a time when there were no Macs, photo libraries or You Tube. An idea had to be robust enough to stand up to interrogation without all the extra ‘loving-up’ modern technology can add. A good idea has always drawn nourishment and strength from within itself, its own depth, ingenuity or novelty. I’m not one of those creatives who bemoan technology; I love it. But let’s get honest about what is an idea and what isn’t. And when it ‘isn’t’ let’s not dress it up in digital king’s clothes.
Later on in the episode Dark Angel Master Po asks Caine “What is a tree without roots?” I’d say it’s a bit like a concept masquerading as an idea only to be blown over by the slightest intellectual interrogation.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Google quietly released a new social tool this week called Sidewiki Sidewiki is an addition to the Google toolbar, so far, so innocuous. However this could possibly enable the most visible feedback online brands have yet to face.
The Google Sidewiki toolbar allows any user with a Google account to comment, on any page, on any site. That effectively means users have the ability to graffiti corporate sites. Google say they are monitoring comments and have provided a reporting tool if posts are deemed malicious, however if the criticism is constructive, instructive and therefore destructive then the implications are massive.
Over the course of this year there has been a greater and greater demand for brands to listen from consumers, technology companies, agencies, in fact too many voices to list. In a way it's been convenient for companies to ignore it. If it's all going off on Twitter, or Facebook or “some blog” then it's out of sight and therefore out of mind (of course this an absurdity). What Sidewiki does though is bring it to the doorstep and now anyone can graffiti all over your front door. Now it's already been declared dangerous and doomed to fail and simply a way of Google monetising the whole web, but this is a Google beta product and it'll inevitably change and over time integrate Google's other features. And in the meantime the comments are going to start cluttering up the doormat and they're going to be difficult to ignore.
This kind of interwoven peer to peer feedback is the future of the web. It's going to force companies to change the way they operate so once again with gusto. Start listening and start taking heed.
Head of Digital
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Fast forward a few years (actually more like 4 decades) and the going rate for that first tooth for my daughter is a mighty £2.00. That’s a massive 2,000% increase or 52% year on year.
Compare that to house prices over the same period: 1,477% (source Nationwide); FTSE All Share: 1,396%. Less a sterling performance more an enamelled one!
But a more important point is that my daughter at 7 struggles to comprehend what that £2.00 will buy. The maths lessons at her primary school still have calculations involving buying cakes for 3p. 3p!!!! When did you last see a cake for 3p? Or 8 Mojos for a penny for that matter. Parents and schools need to get kids to understand how money works and the real prices of things as early as possible or we’ll be stuck with bad financial habits for another generation.
As for me, anyone know how I can access the Tooth Fairy index?
Client Services Director
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
A lot of it is still rate led (even though advertising a rate of 2.80% would have seen as madness not that long ago).
Much of it is just boring.
Take the NatWest ads. The tv ads are about helpful banking and then in press ads they tell us “This year, we’re making £12.2bn available to help the property market.” It’s not wrong. It’s just all rather worthy and hard work.
HSBC ask us to “Realise the retirement you want with the help of our global expertise” with a photo of a lady having a golfing lesson. I’m not sure where the benefit is.
Halifax are more inspiring, encouraging us to save for the special things in life and for life’s lumps and bumps. But it all seems rather everyday.
So what’s missing?
Brands outside of financial services are much more optimistic. They make you smile, they thank-you for their attention. Budweiser are sure “Good times, they’re out there.” Even the rather marvellous Child Poverty work doesn’t lecture us, it gives us inspiring facts to get us involved in their campaign.
In financial services, the ‘meerkat factor’ has wowed and the results are astonishing for comparethemarket who work in a highly commoditised marketplace. I miss the ‘I want to be a slug’ ads from the Pru, or Allied Dunbar’s ‘We won’t make a drama out of a crisis’.
Consumer finance advertising just needs to get more engaging, more entertaining, more emotive, less left brain.
Given the news last week that the debt owed by British consumers has fallen for the first time since records began, it feels like now is the right time to be motivating, not confusing or mundane.
Oh and by the way, I do know that advertising is only a small part of the picture here. It’s about how a brand behaves. But actually I do think advertising is a window into brands and their businesses and what is missing is the desire to inspire.
Friday, 4 September 2009
With the power of tweet and other instant microblogging services, we could get updates from them telling us of the progress of the queues. It would certainly be handy for most of us Londoners who can nip out of work knowing we won't be faced with a huge queue at Barclays.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
The reason I asked in the first place was I just can't get along with Linked In. I'm a big fan of social networking and in terms of it's educative qualities it's been an enormous addition to my professional development. Twitter has almost completely surplanted my RSS feedreader as a research tool. Friendfeed helps me to understand who influences those that I choose to follow. Facebook keeps me in touch with friends who due to family pressure I don't get to see much and cousins I don't see regularly, you know the score. Delicious and Digg help me to share my bookmarks and content I like.
All of these platforms help me be social and hopefully helpful. They allow me to be myself but also keep on top of business and that's where I part the way with LinkedIn. It's not a social networking site, nothing about it is social. It's about networking, but not the ecademy way, it's more the bad glass of sweet white wine and guard up kind of way. It's not intuitive, it doesn't aid in the sharing of information, in essence it's far too closed.
I concede that it is great at finding professionals and if you are looking for a job, but Twitter and Friendfeed do that as well as everything else and as an added bonus you're likely to understand whether you'll get on with them on personal level as well which for me is just as important.
In my opinion it really needs to step up it's game if it's going to continue to grow, there are rumblings that there is a major overhaul in the planning stage, I just hope it's a significant improvement.
Head of Digital
p.s. I did have an amazing response to my question when it was posed on LinkedIn but it still isn't enough. I know, I'm too dogmatic.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
All the talk yesterday was about the long awaited Yahoo/Microsoft search deal, but that was only half of the story when it came to how competition in the search market has ramped up.
The launch of Bing in May finally paved the way for the 10 year Yahoo search deal and the search engine will now be integrated into Yahoo as it's search platform. There is no doubt that the deal furthers Steve Ballmer's insatiable need to take on Google and with just under a third of the search market Microsoft finally look like they could gain some traction.
However, what Google and Microsoft have yet to crack is the newly emergent real-time search model. Two developments occurred on Wednesday that took this into new territory. Twitter relaunched their homepage and switched the emphasis away from followers and into search and arguably turned itself into a destination portal. Some argue that this won't actually benefitted users, however as websites become less important to users and the importance of web presence becomes more and more essential the body shift from Twitter makes sense. At the same time the newly launched Collecta.com improved it's already impressive offering by adding an additional layer of search capability with video and images.
Microsoft has got bingtweets in beta and Google launched search options back in May but the improvements in realtime search is going to keep the big boys on their toes. Ultimately the smaller players look like acquisition fodder, but the longer they stay ahead of the curve and hold out against a takeover the more expensive the battle's going to be to win. Certainly Wednesday will go down as a pivotal moment in the field of search and certainly from the marketing community's perspective Wednesday's announcement was music to the ears.
Friday, 10 July 2009
From a digital perspective you'll hear many commentators stating that the trust model now lies squarely with peer to peer relationships. You'll trust your friends, those your linked in with, your followers etc. before anyone else, but why? When it comes down to it, alot of what we're relying on is someone's (and yes it's often one person) opinion or experience. On the whole they're unlikely to be an expert in the subject (unless you have a profiled set of friends that can provide you with expert insight across your entire consumer need portfolio) and maybe that's fine if you're buying a T-Shirt but actually if you're looking for a SIPP product or a new mortgage you'll still need some advice even if you've had a decent lead.
In terms of the maturity of online ratings and advice models across a whole spectrum of products we're not there yet in the UK and while peer to peer recommendation is becoming more and more important aggregating that opinion in a meaningful way is not there for every sector yet.
In Financial Services we've still got some work to do before we can reach the same sort of user experience as Mint.com in the US. There are some emerging in the UK. Martin Bamford recently announced the imminent arrival of Brilliantwithmoney.co.uk which if it fulfils it's promise will provide a powerful knowledge resource for personal finance, but we're going to have to be a wee bit more patient before we throw all our eggs into the peer to peer basket. We're seeing glimpses of what the future could hold but we're currently at the bottom of what could prove a huge mountain.
Head of Digital
Friday, 3 July 2009
Well I’m actually a bit of a fan of Lord Turners, but it just goes to show that a little Hero worship is a dangerous thing!
For no sooner than he releases it, than this week he announced that he got his sums wrong and that my expected retirement age of 68 is just too much of an aspiration. No for me I must head back to the marketing salt mines for another two years until I’m the ripe old age of 70.
What for me, is the crux of this story is that, on the plus side we are seeing a continual improvement to life expectancy this positive spin is however challenging the retirement income market to almost breaking point.
On an almost on a daily basis we’re told that the funding of retirement will continue to be a major concern for future governments and generations alike. Recently to give some scale to this issue a phrase has been bandied around that means that you should stop worrying about the ‘Credit Crunch’ and start to worry about the ‘Demographic Crunch’.
There was a great article by Dominic Lawson in this weekends Sunday Times that outlined the issues and scale of the problem well.
Anyway I’m off back to the salt mines and will be scrubbing Lord Turner from my Christmas Card list upon the way.
Group Planning Director
Friday, 26 June 2009
Is it me? But are we giving labels to advisers for one set of products and not for all? Yes I know investment products are the most complex and risky. But as a consumer, most would say getting unbiased mortgage advice is pretty damn important too (most of us think of it as our biggest investment you know). And if commission is still available on other products, then consumers will still think that all advisers get commission won’t they?
And when I decide to have investment/pensions advice, I will get to choose to pay a fee or offset it against my investment (but if a provider thinks this is against my best interest, I may hear back from them)…
Oh and there is moneyguidance, basic advice, restricted advice and independent advice (possibly simplified advice tbc). Hmm…
So why doesn’t the FSA decide to regulate advice or products, why does it have to be a bit of both? I know there are lots of good reasons why it is the way it is, really I do and yet…
Is it me?
(Ps: By the way I think it is great for independent advisers and that is great news!)
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Happiness is mainly an attitude of gratitude and acceptance. (Think dog). It’s definitely not about money. All the research says, once you’ve reached a salary of £35,000, most people won’t become any happier with more money. (Bollocks!) And just in case you really want to know…happy people are open to change and have a positive outlook on life. They engage in purposeful activities that test their abilities, and develop relationships of respect and closeness. (I read that in a book somewhere).
According to Juliet Schor, Professor of sociology at Boston College, there are huge opportunities in helping people achieve higher levels of happiness. (Look at the growth rate of mentors, life coaches and psychologists in the UK). But most current products and services promise happiness and only deliver short-term satisfaction. Successful brands understand the ‘happiness trend’. They know they can’t sell happiness because true happiness is something people create for themselves. Smart brands choose to be facilitators so people can create their own happiness.
And savvy consumers know the difference between brands that want to sell happiness and brands that want to facilitate happiness. And they will endorse those brands that help them find and create happiness in themselves. As the majority of blogs will show, most are focused on bad customer service experience.
So who is getting it right? Which brands are helping people create happiness, well the obvious one’s are Apple and Innocent, they have a positive outlook and are looking to make the world a better place. But even brands that have got it wrong can start to put things right. Remember Dell Hell? Jeff Jarvis used the BuzzMachine to slam Dell for his horrific customer experience buying a laptop four years ago. This series of posts epitomized growing dissent against the company, and served as a channel to punish the Texas computer maker for bad products and customer service experiences. By listening to their customers and responding to what made them unhappy they have begun to turn it around and now have an incredibly loyal community across the web. At the start of this 49% of blog posts were negative. Today, overall tonality is only 22% negative.
So next time the client provides a brief, try asking this simple question: How is this product or service going to make the audience happy? A damn good service always works for me.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Twitter has been such an essential part of the information flow out of the country that they and their IT vendor NTT took the unprecedented step on Monday of putting off essential site maintenance for a day to ensure that the channel remained open for Iranians reporting on the ground as their blog outlined. Interestingly it emerged today that it was the US state department's intervention that led to the suspension.
What this starts to reveal is the maturing role of citizen journalism and the mainstream media's willingness to use it as a major contributory source within their own reporting. It may lack quality, it may need far greater verification, but in terms of speed and it's ability to reveal the true picture there has yet to be a more effective medium for information flow.
Head of Digital
Monday, 15 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
We need to evolve, no mistake. But, we need to recognise that the good, strong, traditional, PR skills have never been more important than in the age of the social web. As a sector, we know how to generate interesting, engaging, relevant content that people take and make their own. A PR professional should know the right people, who are in the right place at the right time and then be able to mobilise these influencers. This is underpinned by our core skill, identifying and then mitigating reputational risk.
There are of course fundamental differences in how we have to work, not least of which is equipping our team with the skills to distil a vast amount of information on a continuous basis. But, as an industry, the social web presents a massive opportunity to prove the value of PR. The lemmings just need to step away from the edge.
Associate Director - Teamspirit PR
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
The upshot was that my mum went to work in an office until she married and my brother, sister and I came along. Her artistic frustration then expressed itself, helping me express myself; in paint, in pencil and plasticine.
One of my earliest sources of inspiration came from her war-time school art book. Two things struck me about it. The paper was coarse with bits of wood in it, and she’d used both sides of each page. Even pre-pubescent schoolgirls did their bit fighting the Hun by conserving precious materials.
The reason I reminisce was brought about by something our head of digital told me. During 2009, more information will be created and ‘put out there’ to consumers than all the messages created since the dawn of time: which is quite simply mindboggling.
It’s wonderful that today we have so many mediums and opportunities to talk to each other and to consumers. As a communicator it’s great that we no longer have to be held back by a lack of resources or materials. Metaphorically, we no longer have to use ‘both sides of the paper’. And fathers have generally become less restrictive too.
However have we lost something with the ease in which we create messages in the 21st century?
I’m not advocating a return to pre-Guttenberg days, with the only sections of society able to communicate being the wealthy institutions or privileged intelligencia. However, how on earth are our messages going to stand out in such an ocean of information?
I believe the answer lies in imagination, craft and ingenuity, and in taking the time and consideration to apply them properly. One of the greatest gifts digital messaging has given us is time. Yet how often is it squandered? Why change things at the last minute just because we can? Have we lost the ability to commit to a message and design before the night before the presentation?
Like most creative people of my generation Bill Bernbach is a hero. This is one of his many insights to the creative person: “…every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.”
In other words every detail is a precious commodity. Let’s use them wisely, just like they did with paper in 1939.
Executive Creative Director
Friday, 29 May 2009
For the past 12 months up and down the land at the gatherings of suburbanites, around the offerings of Marks and Spencer’s or Waitrose people have been left almost dumbstruck due to the rapid decline in house prices.
Without the obligatory chatter about how much our house or property portfolio was worth, compared to this time last year, last month, week, or hour, candle lit suppers had lost their sparkle. We were for the longest time, left with conversations based upon nothing other than our inability to fathom just how a mortgage backed security that was used to leverage or offset a derivate risk in the US, could cause RBS to loose huge value from its off balance sheet lending, which then lead to the downfall of dear old Bradford and Bingley. This less than riveting chit chat has led to less and less invitations to come and dine at number 74 Acacia or indeed Blossom Avenue and the dinner party was put well and truly on the endangered species list.
Well good news, we can all rest assured that that our usual keeping up with the Jonse’s discourse is likely to return any time soon thanks to Nationwide’s announcement that house prices are back on the up.
Phew! I’ll put the Mateus Rose on ice and see if the Hyacinth is available.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
These days it’s all about people power. It’s within everyone to know what they want or need, they just have to be excited, inspired and rewarded in order to become engaged.
So come on, let’s make it interesting! Creating entertaining communication with a great story at its heart is the place to start. Giving the audience an opportunity to tell us what they think is the way forward. And listening to them when they are giving us the answers is the future. After all, a great performance isn’t the only way to get your audience’s attention, (but of course, it’s a great way to start).
Client Service Director
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Being in PR, I have lost count of (but am still angered by) those that suggest social media and, in particular, blogging will lead to the demise of traditional media. I agree that the days of print might be numbered but the market for quality journalism has never been stronger.
Just as the VCR was hyped as a major threat to cinemas, yet drove interest in film and ultimately cinema visitor numbers, so consumption of information and opinion (from any source) has led to an increase in demand for traditional media, albeit online.
But the Telegraph hasn’t just attracted its seven million plus unique users by being in the right place at the right time. It truly understands the dynamic of the social web and embraces rather than competes with bloggers and tweeters. Online editorial is driven by trending topics of the day, therefore benefiting SEO (a third of all visitors come from search engines), the newsroom is structured around delivering across multiple media and tools like Digg and Twitterfall are embraced. Most importantly, The Telegraph is not afraid to let go of its brand a little – users can interact with and build content online and can personalise their experience.
So what next? News Corp has recently gone public about its intentions to charge for online content and as offline readers decline this is likely to be a trend others will follow. But how to strike the balance between keeping those user numbers up (and ad revenue) while still monetizing content. I would suggest looking to itunes for inspiration: a single user experience no matter what the music or record company, easy to use and based on micropayments. Although to make it work for media I suspect we will be talking nanopayments instead.
Managing Director - Teamspirit PR
Thursday, 14 May 2009
So, what should Financial Services brands be doing? Well at an absolute basic level there should be a core centralised listening strategy. If you're not monitoring what's being said, where it's being talked about and who's shaping the discussion across the whole of the social web (whatever that is) then you can't hope to reach engagement. That means developing a set of tools of which there are a multitude and analysis of the output tools that informs all the functions internally that the conversations touch.
Once that's done you can start to filter the conversations to understand what's really important and what can be realistically ignored for now.
Then it comes down to basic marketing and PR principles. Identify the content that will be of interest, arm the right set of people internally to use that content. Frame the message in a way that is helpful and concentrate on the message not the medium. Once that's done you can engage.
A classic recent example of how to engage positively and helpfully was Norwich Union's engagement with Ade Bridgewater on Twitter. Ade a journalist and influential twitter user had had a terrible experience with a Norwich Union customer care call and decided to really take them to the cleaners through his Twitter profile. However, Norwich Union were listening, they got in contact with him directly and put him in touch with the relevant department to sort out his issues. As a result he had nothing but good things to say on his profile thereafter. Job done.
Engagement has to be approached differently. Think of it as turning the sales process on it's head. You do all the aftersales first and then you can get to a sale sometime in the future. If a brand is thinking of engaging it has to be helpful, useful, valuable, trustworthy, an ally and a facilitator to users whether they are conducting a personal or a business transaction. Until you are all those things and you are conducting all of those functions where users are, you can't expect people to start trusting you.
Once they do begin to trust you though you can think about developing social destination points, whether that be a Facebook group or a Twitter brand embassy. After all you've put in the work to earn the right to be there and people will eventually come to you as long as you continue to be an advisory centre rather than a sales channel.
In short social media engagement should happen in five stages:
Listen to the conversation – identify where the chat is
Identify what you hold internally that would be useful for an external audience
Where’s the influence? – don’t worry about every single comment or post
What’s the real sentiment? – how is it weighted?
What does your audience want to be hearing?
Need to be developing editorial content that is engaging
At all multi-layered customer touch points
Focus on message not medium – go to your audiences and build trust first
Finally become a destination point
Become an enabler for conversations that enhance reputation
Build brand embassies
Get all this right and you can create huge equity as we move onwards towards an era of social commerce.
Head of Digital
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Monday, 11 May 2009
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 1.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2009. Hotels, restaurants, transport, storage and business services all fell in terms of output in the 3 months to February this year.
And yet I look at my share portfolio and it has risen – significantly - in recent weeks. April was the best month for the FTSE 100 in six years, and the media are reporting that we are now officially in a bull market having risen more than 20% from the recent lows in March.
All of which leads me to one question. Are we experiencing a ‘W’, a ‘U’, a ‘V’ or even an ‘L?’ Are we positively talking our way out of things or is the widely derided ‘global rescue package’ actually working? Should I capitalise on my short-term gains and hope the markets plummet over the summer, or should I wait and keep my fingers crossed that stocks keep slowly rising back up?
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter that much – this is just a bit of fun for me. But for the estimated 1 million Britons that are due to retire this year, the answer to this question has a profound impact on the rest of their lives. The new guidance and information opportunities suggested as part of the Thorenson Review will help. But perhaps our thinking should be more profound than this. Perhaps we should stop thinking about equities being the investment vehicle for mainstream retail products and look to alternatives?
Client Services Director
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Boots the high street peddler of cough syrup, toothbrushes and beauty products has announced it’s considering a regulatory status and selling personal banking products throughout it’s 2600 chemists and retail stores.
This begs the question just why do these business believe that they have the credibility, and what it takes to offer an overpriced current account and a second rate customer experience!
Well in fact they don’t, what they do have however, is an understanding of the imperatives that drive commodity purchases and a depth of knowledge about creating a great customer experience. That and of course they have the experience of using them in both the real and virtual world.
For many years Financial Service brands have used affinity deals with retailers and other brands in their pursuit of new customers, mainly because they found it difficult to travel across the emotional gap between their businesses and what their prospects valued and desired.
What they didn’t realise in undertaking this strategy is that in so doing they transferred all of their expertise, knowledge and credibility to their affinity partners, who while happy in the short term to share revenue streams, ultimately gained a longer term prize of being recognised as a capable financial provider.
This of course has all come at a time when consumer trust and belief in the financial institutions they grew up with has been shaken to the core, with the nationalisation and collapse of the Banking sector.
So while the retailers of today who are looking at the banks of tomorrow should have a lasting gratitude to organisations such as MBNA. Perhaps it’s time for the Banks of today to really sit up and take notice of what will become of retail in the future.
Ps. You might also find it slightly ironic that MBNA was set up in a Newark, Delaware supermarket, just goes to prove, what goes around, comes around.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
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Friday, 3 April 2009
Did you see Tesco is launching 30 in-store banks by the end of the year under the brand name of Tesco Bank as part of the expansion of its financial services operation?
The supermarket, which has been trialing the concept in Glasgow since 2006, will use the banks to offer insurance, savings and credit card products from Tesco Personal Finance (TPF). Tesco is also planning to launch a current account within the next two years while mortgages are also being considered. Interesting times don’t you think?
Friday, 20 March 2009
- Total organic sales fell by 11% in December 2008
- Tracker funds under management in the fourth quarter of 2008 were £19.8bn, down 5 per cent on £20.9bn in the third quarter of 2008, while Ethical funds under management in the fourth quarter of 2008 were £4.4bn, down 7 per cent on the previous quarter.
It will be interesting to watch consumer behaviour over the next 12 months and see if the saying ‘a principle is not a principle until it’s cost you something’ holds true.
Client Services Director
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Two entries struck me and started me thinking. One was about the all pervading (and intrusive?) Facebook. Mr Hollis was saying that most analysts believe Facebook will started monetizing data, using it to target advertising.
So my status notes I am looking forward to my trip to Nepal, and Facebook delivers me Travel Insurance ads. Handy for me, great for advertisers and even better for Facebook. A truly targeted piece of advertising. Brilliant – probably a little irritating after a while and even bordering on slightly creepy, but brilliant nonetheless.
Two weeks earlier Hollis discussed the importance of locally applicable retail, citing the FT article focusing on how the Shanghai launch of Marks and Spencer had not gone according to plan in spite of 20 years experience trading in nearby Hong Kong.
So, what can we gain from this? That some have grasped that what works in one region often fails in another…and that those who want to make a success need to start targeting (and therefore making more cost effective) their communications.
As the world supposedly becomes more global and uniform, it still seems to amaze some that highly targeted advertising, messaging and positioning is important.
Love may be the global language, but communication is by nature essentially local.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Well the answer is clear, we can't. Trust has gone bust, but not just in financial services. That's because in society we don't trust like we used to. We question governments, businesses, Drs - we check out what we are told on the internet and we make our own decisions. The only person we really, truly, trust these days is ourselves.
So, let's stop this debate once and for all. The question we really need to focus on is “How do we engage better with the Recommendation Generation?"
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
1) That he expected the FTSE to close the year at 7,200 pts.
2) That property was still showing significant signs of growth with no real evidence that it was about to drop.
Now luckily, through sheer inertia I didn't take up any of his advice and stuck the lot across two high interest savings accounts while I figured out what next?
What next was I sat down 13 months later - last night to be precise - to decide what to do with the money that's now languishing accruing 4 pts less interest than when I opened the accounts a year ago. My wife and I spent 2 hours discussing our next move - we decided agaist an IFA - we decided against taking advice from my brother-in-law (a wealth manager) - we decided against buying property, because who knows.
We ended up deciding to go to the Caribbean at Christmas, frankly there appear to be so few options out there at the moment you might as well spend it, it's devaluing anyway. Any better options will be considered and probably disregarded.
Head of Digital