The Power of Social Media to Affect Corporates

Social Media, Activism, Brand Awareness, Activism


Recently, Social Media has once again been in the spotlight for its ability to force larger corporates out into the “open”, engaging in public debates and allowing smaller activist groups to force changes on larger corporate institutions. Think of examples like Cell C (Trevor Noah and 4G), Woolworths (Christian Magazines), BP, Gareth Cliff and our favourite…Barack Obama

Social media, by definition, has allowed info-activism (or internet activism) to reach new heights of visibility and accountability from larger corporate participants in the media. This form of global connectivity (Facebook, Twitter, Emails, Websites) have allowed local polarised groups and internal causes to engage with a potentially much larger audience, seeking to swell the support for their cause without people being forced to leave their homes.

So why is Social Media so powerful? In a recent article on, called Why Social Media Is Reinventing Activism, Sarah Keller pinpointed three based elements that showcase the awesome power of the channel:

  1. Social Media allow us to more easily connect with support structures, allowing people to affect social and business changes without bureaucratic support.
  2. Social Media also allows people to co-ordinate their activist activities to a much larger scale. 100 000 people shouting in the same direction does make a difference
  3. It allows you to not only connect easier but also to “shout” much loader
  4. Forces Corporates to consider new levels of accountability, where individual grudges (Dell Hell) or isolated incidents (Nestle) can quickly get out of control

So what should Corporates and brands understand about Social Media to engage appropriately and avoid similar fates as the ones mentioned above. Walter Pike distilled this down into a few great thoughts, which I’ve furtherThank God for Exclusive Books adapted to the below:

  1. Understand, and accept, that conversations about them and their brands are happening as we speak. You can’t changes this, or stop it or move it to a private meeting so either engage with the conversation and gain some level of interaction or burn as they’ll talk about you anyway
  2. Create a community space for your brands to engage with you, Social Media cuts  through a massive amount of red tape
  3. Let the conversation happen, don’t try to through your weight around and don’t react as if the Titanic were sinking every time a random thought pops into someone’s head about your brand
  4. If you have a good service or brand, trust in your consumers to act as activists for you as well.

Other great references on the discussion can be found below:

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academy

PS. As a last thought let me include a segment of Gareth Cliff’s response to his level to the president. Simple put, it brillaint!

“What is impressive about this exercise is the increase in the scale of the public debate thanks to the internet. Immediate, insightful, evolving threads of discussion have unwound from the dissemination of the original letter and this is very encouraging. I am pleased to see that so many South Africans care so passionately about our country, regardless of whether we agree or disagree. The old “letters to the editor” means of airing issues of importance has been replaced by an organic, direct and instant forum for conversation. Surely this is something we can be very proud of? Newspapers, radio stations and television seem to lag behind ever more as we all become broadcasters online. Let it never again be said that young people in South Africa are apathetic, disengaged and ill-informed. There are new ways of finding facts, starting arguments and getting to the matters which matter. The Fourth Estate is no longer the province of a few editors and spin-doctors.”


The Death of the Book (As we know it)

Musty Old Bookstore

Musty Old Bookstore

In the last few months I seem to have had similar conversations regarding the death of the bookalbumnewspaper as have been reflected in the media and among digital experts over the last several years. What’s worse is that this realization rests with the senior management structures of each of these companies, and that they appear to be powerless to stop this transcendence *as if you could stop it*. We need to understand and accept that products as we know them will “die” and here are the reasons why:

  1. We need to understand and accept that no-one purchases our products for the inherent manifestation or benefit of consuming the physical embodiment of our actual product, or content. So, in plain speak, the true benefit of our products is the content.
  2. The only reason why our products exist in the form and manner they do today was because no way existed for consumers to get our content in a fast, aggregated manner as and when they needed it in the past. David Weinberger describes this best in his book Everything is Miscellaneous as follows “Bundling songs into long-playing albums lowered the production, marketing, and distribution costs because there were fewer records to make, ship, shelve, categorize, alphabetize, and inventory.” This explanation is relevant to songsbooksnewspapersmagazines or any physical elements where content is bundled together.
  3. Our businesses are not going to disappear into the ether because the format of serving our products are going to change. We might see an initial fall-out as companies fail to adjust and change to this new business models but those organizations that flourish will be those that are nimble enough to change quickly and those that are able to continuously keep abreast of where the customers minds are going.

! By dying I mean changing the manifestation of the products. Books would go digital (eBooks) and Music is available for direct download (MP3’s). Bookstores functions will also change, and become more social and collectable (think coffee table books)

Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the core pillars of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and can deliver one of the highest returns-on-investment (ROI).

Simply put, email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic means to deliver commercial messages to an audience. It is one of the oldest forms of eMarketing (established in 1961) and is also still one of the most powerful. The power of email marketing is based on 4 pillars:

–          Extremely cost effective with a low cost per contact
–          Highly targeted through niche segmentation
–          Customisable on a mass scale
–          Completely measurable

Furthermore, email marketing is also very powerful because it reaches audiences at their most prolific touch point to the internet, their inboxes.


Email started out in 1961 as a method for users to leave messages to each other on the same computer. It was only in 1971 that Ray Tomlinson created the first working network email application. He initiated the use of the @ sign as well as the address structure we use today (username@hostname). Email was used to send messages to computers on the same network and is still used for this purpose today.

Only in 1993 did large network service providers such as America Online start to connect their proprietary email systems to the internet. This began the large scale adoption of internet email as a global standard. In conjunction with the standards that we created in the past 20 years, the Internet allowed users on different network to send messages to each other.

The first spam message dates back to 1978. According to Microsoft over 97% of all emails sent over the net are unwanted, and can thus be considered as spam.

Direct marketing (snail Mail, Catalogues) have long played an integral part in marketing campaigns, but the high costs associated with it meant that only large companies could pursue this course of action. However, with the growth of the internet and email adoption, marketing has found the costs dropping, and the effectiveness increasing.

Varieties of email communications [Marketing perspective]:
–          Transactional emails
–          Newsletters
–          Promotional mailers
–          Emails to suppliers
–          Emails to affiliates

These emails can be divided into two types of commercial emails:
–          Promotional emails: Direct and focus on enticing the users to take an immediate action
–          Retention emails: Focuses on providing information of value to the user, geared to long term relationships with the user

There is also a host of other emails that are sent on a daily basis, while I have just listed the most common ones from a retail perspective.

According to Quirk there are 9 basic steps to execute and email campaign, I have looked at 8 of these steps as Interaction handling needs to be a fundamental practice before even reaching the email execution stage.

The 8 Steps to Executing an Email Campaign

1. Strategic Planning

The first step of any email campaign should revolve around understanding the goals you want to achieve. This should be in line with the objectives of the larger campaign r strategy with email forming part of the communications marketing mix. Key performance indicators will also be established at this stage.

Promotional mailers will have immediate goals such as:

–          User purchase
–          downloading an item
–          Requesting further information

Key performance indicators include:
–          Open Rate
–          Click-through rate
–          Number of emails forwarded
–          Return on Investment through sales

2. Define your list

Running a successful email campaign requires that the company has a genuine opt-in list. This database of willing receivers is the most important element of an email campaign.

Lists can be acquired through several means:

–          Purchasing a validated list from a third party: Not a great idea as people will not have been exposed or associated  with your brand in the past. You are basically relying on their involvement with a third party to give validation to your campaign
–          Third party joint promotions: Running a joint campaign with another company through which you can then gain access to their list
–          Campaign databases: These are normally obtained through campaign interactions with the incentive for customers to win a prize
–          Organic lists: These lists are normally growth organically from newsletters, website interactions and forward messages. This list is considered the most valuable

Lists should include the following information:
–          Email address: This is the only element actually required in order to send out emails
–          First name, surname and title
–          Gender
–          Date of Birth

Any other information that you gain on consumers are incredibly valuable, but not necessary. Each bit of information will assist you in further defining\understanding your recipients and as such allowing you to more closely segmenting them.

3. Creative execution

Emails can be executed, and viewed, as either plain text or HTML. Always bear in mind that some email services render all emails into plain text, HTML included, so bear that in mind when designing visual mailers.

Elements of an email:
–          Header
–          Subject line
–          Personalised greeting
–          Body
–          Footer
–          Unsubscribe Link

It is always easier, and generally shows better results, if an email communication forms part of a larger campaign or communications platform. Also bear in mind that you should have a uniform brand image which carries through all communications, in-store elements and the rest of a company’s offerings. In-store promotions and offerings can be used to drive people to sign-up for email communications and so increase your database.

Also bear in mind that custom landing pages, in order to make the content more relevant, should be created.

5. Personalise the Message

One of the key components and offerings of email marketing is mass customisation. Even small changes can improve results dramatically. Customisation starts with using the recipient’s name and making use of preferences to segment communications to improve relevancy. Segmentation is a powerful tool and can be carried through to detailed levels of control.

6. Deployment

Create valuable content, establish the correct frequency and test an email for display and deliverability. Also bear in mind that consistency and timeous delivery also fosters trust. Remember to also test best sending times, as well as delivery preferences.

7. Generating Reports

As with all things digital, reporting, measurability and accountability are some of the fundamental benefits and attractors to eMarketing. Optimisation allows us to change, in a comparably short time, elements that might not have produced sufficient results and as such reporting must be setup in a user-friendly manner.

Elements for measurement include:

–          Delivery rate
–          Bounce Rate (differentiation should be made between hard and soft bounces)
–          Open rate
–          Unsubscribe
–          Forward rate
–          Click-through Rate and Conversion Matrix

8. Analyse Results

Once reports have been generated it now time to understand what the numbers mean, and how we can improve on these results moving forward on the next mailer.

At this stage A/B Testing (or Split Testing) can also be ascertained or employed to determine what elements would provide better results. Split testing simple means testing two variables to determine which variable provides you with better results. It can be as simple as testing the colour of your headlines, button variations, different call to actions and the price of the offer. Elements that we focus on for email marketing are:

–          Different subject lines and delivery times
–          Optimal number of links
–          Copy style, length, visuals, call to actions
–          Impact of Video

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academ

Brands, Branding and You

“…brand is the difference between a bottle of soda and a bottle of Coke…”

Branding as a term first arose a few hundred years ago as a means for cattle owners to distinguish one herd of cows from another. A hot iron was placed on the think hide of the cow, searing the skin and leaving behind the permanent mark, usually the initials or simple image, of the owner. Now branding and brands mean a completely different thing, having evolved in meaning in conjunction with the Western World.

What is a brand?

Branding has evolved over the past few hundred years to encapsulate far more than what its original purpose intended. According to Wikipedia “The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.”

So what are the 7 basis characteristics of a brand?                                                                                     

1. Brands are intangible: Brands per se are embodied by a host of physical markers, the logo, product, service of company but brands are not these items themselves. All these elements merely allude to the brand itself. Can you touch Nike’s brand?

2. Brands are psychological: Human beings feel the need to associate psychological aspects such as feelings, thoughts, experiences etc. to a brand. This is called the Brand Image and is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service. How happy does Google make you?

3. Brands are experiential: Called the Brand Experience, the brand is the sum of all points of contact between the stakeholders and the company, service, product etc. Imagine all the McDonalds touch points you experience every day.

4. Brands have attributes and benefits: Brand Attributes are simply words used by consumers to describe a company’s brand characteristics. What are the benefits of Woolworths?

5. Brands portray a set of values: The brand also says something about the producer’s values. Thus Mercedes, for example, stands for high performance, safety, prestige and so on. The brand marketer must figure out the specific groups of car buyers who are seeking these values.

6. Brands have a culture and personality: The brand may represent a certain culture. The brand can also project a certain personality. If the brand were a person, an animal, or an object, what would come to mind? Sometimes it might take on the personality of an actual well-known person or spokesperson e.g. Richard Branson.

7. Brands suggest a user: The brand suggests the kind of consumer who buys or uses the product. The users will be those who respect the product’s values, culture and personality.

So how can we then best define a brand? The Brand Masterclass states it best “A brand is the personification of a product, service, or even an entire company. Like any person, a brand has a physical “body”: like a person, a brand must mature and change its product over time. But its character and core beliefs shouldn’t change. A product is something that is made in a factory; a brand is something that is made up of trust and relationships. A product is an object; a brand is a personality.  A product is sold by a merchant; a brand is bought by a consumer. A product can be easily copied by a competitor; a brand is unique.”

Types of brand positioning and building philosophies [Information from Brand Masterclass]

Branding by Planning: Branding is approached as part of a formal planning process. The typical approach includes application of portfolio and product life cycle concepts together with competitive positioning. The Information is distilled and analyzed through each individual brand’s performance in terms of market share and margin contribution.

Branding by Imageries: Branding is being approached in a more functional manner. Usually advertising agencies take a leading role and advertising is linked to branding. The level of brand building consists mainly of advertising. Marketers and agencies closely link the brand to creative advertising execution. Sometimes the burden is given to celebrated art directors and photographers.

Branding by Experience: Companies see customers taking functional benefits, product quality and a positive brand image as a given. What they want is products, services and marketing communications that dazzle the senses, touch their hearts and stimulate their minds. Here the customer becomes the most important part of the brand. Service design and\or usability usually a core part of these experiences.

Branding by self-Expression: companies put the role of brand-building partially in the hands of the consumers. Consumers also do not want to use the brand to endorse or reflect his or her personality; rather it contributes to building a personal or individual brand. Users are actively participating in creating meanings for the brand and using it as a symbolic representation of his or her inner self.

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academy

The Impact of the Internet on Society and Marketing

Some eight thousand years ago a hunter paused across an open field, as he surveys the abundant fields of fruits and vegetables cultivated by neighbouring tribes, providing food for their tribes in the hard winter to come. Seven thousand nine hundred and fifty years later room-sized mega-computers started to fill institutions in the world and 2 years ago a shack-dwelling student in Soweto followed a page on Facebook.

Today I am looking back to look forward, for, as de Toqueville observed, “As the past has ceased to throw its light upon the future, the mind of man wanders in obscurity.” We have to think using our memories of the past, but our actions take place in the present, and define the future.

So, what are the similarities in the three strange occurrences described above?

What we’ve just examined explains three of the four most impactful Social Revolutions during the course of recorded human history. So, how are Social Revolutions applicable to the impact of the Internet today?

Social Revolutions

The term “revolution” has been used in the broader context of history to also denote greater changes outside of just the political sphere. Such revolutions are recognized through their transformation of more than just the political (As was the case with the French revolution) but rather societal, cultural, philosophical as well as technological. Some can be global, while others are limited to single countries. One of the classic examples of the usage of the word revolution in such context is the industrial revolution (note that such revolutions also fit the “slow revolution” definition of Tocqueville). Looking at the above we can understand how the internet has “transformed society” and affects us on a global scale. Social revolutions are also characterises by the transitional nature of phases between revolutions as well as the rate of increase of adoption of subsequent revolutions.

If we then examine the time it has taken for each revolution to take place it can be deduced that the Internet and Social revolutions combined have taken less than five thousands of the time than agricultural revolution has taken.

Figure 1: Time Relative to Each Social Revolution

The Impact of the Internet

The Main considerations of the impact of the emergence of the internet are based around the socio-ecological elements as a whole, but on the following aspects in particular:

  • Nature of Work: Remote Work, physical traffic and driving patterns, business conglomerates and resource sharing and allocations, social interactions, Globalisation
  • Privacy: Legal and law enforcements haven’t had time to adapt to new technologies.  Sacrifices in privacy in exchange for getting connected socially and to the cloud
  • Ownership: Does ownership ‘now’ still equal physical possession. Who owns the thoughts in the cloud?
  • Security: Whilst it is certain that security technologies will continue to improve, it is at least, if not more, important to reassure consumers that the online interactions in which we engage are secure.
  • Environmental: Rate of climate change. Waste material and recycling. NGO and activist participation. Green Technologies
  • Co-dependence: The creation of geo-tribes and localised centres of interest. Are we becoming co-dependent to affirm our existence? New notions of belonging, new modes of distribution of information (media), new management models and economics, neo-tribalism: all will be accelerated by this shiftiness in social scale.
  • Convergence: Technological convergence. Convergence of use.
  • Marketing: Content Consumption Model, Marketing Research, Access to the Long-Tail, New Channels, Niche engagement, Brands become consumer-facing and removed-from-the-board, Social Media

We have reached a critical “tipping point”. Moving forward the internet and social media will light up even the farthest corners of human existence, the individual will become the new group, small will be the new big and links will be the new news. Everything will live in the cloud, and the cloud will become the only required touch point to access everything.

All I can say, as William Bison wrote, is that “The future is already here. It is just unequally distributed”