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As a grad at AMV, I once saw Peter Mead give a fantastic talk on the secrets of great account management.
As you might expect, it was full of inspirational stories, practical advice and the odd expletive. But surprisingly, for such a paragon of persuasion, there was very little about selling work. Read More
The Spring traditionally sees a peak in car sales, thanks to the issuing of new registration plates. This year has been no exception, with 394,806 new vehicles sold in March 2013 – a 5.9% increase on last year, and the 13th consecutive month of Y.O.Y. growth.
Of course the industry has its problems, ranging from rampant competition, environmental concerns and over-production. But given the state of the economy, these are pretty good sales figures for such a big ticket purchase. More importantly, they are significant numbers for the entire marketing community, not just those who are directly involved in the motor business. Here’s why…
Like many other devices, cars are increasingly becoming connected appliances. But unlike most household objects – think of the intelligent forks, toothbrushes and fridges that are showcased at technology fairs these days – the high price tag of a car can justify the cost for manufacturer and consumer alike, and the multi-dimensional nature of the driving experience allows for a host of genuinely useful applications.
For instance, cars will increasingly communicate with each other about driving conditions; with manufacturers about technical issues; with news organisations about traffic problems and with commercial partners about geo-targeted opportunities for the driver. To put that in practical terms, your vehicle will soon be telling other cars that there’s ice ahead; notifying your garage that the tyres could do with changing; asking the AA about the traffic jam in front and offering you discounts on the restaurants along your route.
Industry bodies estimate that by 2020, connectivity will account for 20% of the value of the global car market. But this technology is already commonplace, with almost all new cars coming as web-enabled, within the next year or so. Hence all the motor manufacturers are already investing huge sums in the field. As are all the major tech players like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and IBM.
However, what’s really interesting is the opportunity for the rest of us. The car is rapidly becoming a medium in its own right. And a pretty major one at that, given the sales figures noted earlier and the fact that the average Briton spends around 10 hours a week in their vehicle (the American figures are about double this).
So as the car becomes “the 4th screen” behind the TV, computer/tablet and ‘phone, we will have yet another channel to consider, whether as an advertising medium, promotional forum, behavioural mechanic or utility. From the insurance company who rewards good driving to the coffee brand who alerts people if they nod off at the wheel, it seems that it’s not only motor brands who will need to get motoring from now on.
I’m not necessarily the world’s fiercest competitor but, you know, I like to feel like I’m doing my best in any given situation be it in sport or doing a task at work or at home. My husband, a runner, is all about personal bests and beating the people in the surrounding area with his fancy-schmancy running app. I must admit that I’ve always been a little bit sceptical.
To say that the newspaper industry is undergoing enormous change would be somewhat of an understatement, but the decline of traditional print media brings new online opportunities. The US Economic Report of the President shows that online publishing was actually the third fastest-growing industry between 2007 and 2011. With news being one of the things people like to share opinions on, newspapers and magazines started publishing free content online and added Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to encourage their online readers to share and comment on articles. Sites like The Huffington Post or Gizmodo, driven by connected content and participation, now get millions of visitors every month, attracted by their combination of news, aggregated content and blogs. The Huffington Post already gets more traffic than The Washington Post or L.A. Times sites, getting closer to NYT.com.
Do you know where the word Dunce comes from? I do – because I come from the same place. It’s the name of my home village in the Scottish Borders and was also the birthplace of a philosopher called John Dunse Scotus (John, the Scot, from Dunse).
JDS (not to be confused with those intellectual giants of our own era, JLS) was one of the leading thinkers of the medieval period. However, his theories were completely at odds with the Church dogma of the time. As a result, “Dunse” became adopted as a term of ridicule and abuse, to the extent that our village dropped the final letter of its name in Victorian times and became plain old Duns. It was only recently that the genius of JDS was finally acknowledged, with the Vatican beatifying him in 1993 and Oxford University naming him one of its top 100 alumni of all time, in 2011.
I was reminded of all this the other day, when I noticed that it was the tenth anniversary of Mark Earls’ masterpiece, “Herd”. If you haven’t read it, you must, because it’s one of the most brilliant, and influential, marketing texts around. But like JDS’s treatises, it wasn’t always seen as such.
You see, Earls’ central thesis was that human beings are fundamentally herd animals, rather than lone individuals. This simple premise was completely counter to classical economic theory. It also went against the political mood of the day. And most importantly, for our purposes, it was utterly out of step with the prevailing marketing thinking, whereby “the consumer” was increasingly seen as an atomistic entity, whose needs were to be understood and met on a one-to-one basis. No wonder one critic apparently told the heretical Herdmeister that “We don’t believe that monkey shit around here!”
Fast-forward 10 years though, and while Earls might not have been beatified yet, his theories have been utterly vindicated. Since the banking collapse of 2008, politicians have been falling over themselves to state that there is such a thing as a society (whether their actions live up to that mantra or not). Likewise, since the rise of Facebook et al, businesses have been clamouring to “get social”. And in marketing circles, the textbooks increasingly question the effectiveness of CRM, rather than praise it.
Of course, there are still pockets of resistance, with some organisations still vain enough to think they can understand an individual inside out (a notion to which Sir John Hegarty recently responded: “Fuck off! Sometimes I don’t even understand myself!”). But generally, the battle has been won.
And for that, we should thank our modern day Dunce.
The 18th century political activist Thomas Paine wrote that “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and Angels know of us.”
I like this distinction.
Traditionally, marketers have spent more time and money on the former: the focus has been on cultivating good appearances rather than doing good deeds. But in the digital era, the notion of Character becomes more important. Because while people aren’t quite omniscient yet, they are increasingly clued up about the companies that lie behind the communications.
Never has it been more true that “actions speak louder than words”. Or that a terrible judgement will be visited on those that behave badly.
A prize to the first one of you who defines your audience as “God and the Angels.”
I’m home now from SXSW and able to reflect on some of the bigger themes that came out of it. There was hard evidence that the “internet of things” is becoming a reality – from Google’s experiments with self-driving cars, a pair of talking shoes and the rise and rise of 3D printing. Software is the future of hardware. And it’s really only just begun.
Related to that is the theme of wearable technology. The Google Glass demo (which I am gutted to have missed) got a lot of buzz. Indeed, according to Mashable, it was the highlight of this year’s conference (http://mashable.com/2013/03/13/google-glass-buzz-sxsw/). Read More
A few advertisers have tried Shazam, we’ve witnessed an exceptional Mercedes campaign (www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/1152769), we’ve got excited about Zeebox…but the potential of dual screening is being realised better and more consistently in the US. The evidence is staring me in the face at a session at SXSW in which two US networks are sharing their work in this area.
In the UK, our broadcasters, like our advertisers, have only scratched the surface so far. While shows like X Factor and I’m A Celebrity give viewers a vote, they don’t acknowledge the viewers’ voice within the show itself. All those tweets and Facebook posts are ignored on air. It’s almost as if the programme makers don’t know what to do with them. Read More