Thursday, 23 June 2011

Master Marketer - Interview with Digital Marketing Expert Firas Al-Khaffaf

Firas is an experienced Digital and Social Media Marketer who is passionate about helping people succeed in the new media world. He started off his first steps as a web developer, leading the way in search marketing, moving into e-learning instructional design and then exploring ways to build on open source and web 2.0 technology.

Firas has been involved in e-learning and training development since 2003, developing different types of e-learning modules built to give the end user a fun and engaging learning experience. Ranging from simple e-learning with voiceover to interactive rich media video e-learning content.

During his time of being involved with the several web, e-learning and video productions, he’s also been involved in launching successful digital campaigns for various organizations in both the public and private sector which includes UK universities and awarding bodies like Chartered Management Institute, CAM Foundation and Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. This has lead him to broaden his digital marketing expertise and is now looking to share the experiences and insights so feel free to connect with him on Linkedin and follow him on Twitter.

Question 1: We hear a great deal about Social Media Marketing today. How well are companies focussing too much on these specific tools, and what advice could you give to maximise Marketing Communications overall?

As Social Media Marketing is growing more and more popular, we see more companies introducing this as part of their overall business operation. However, there are many companies that are still hesitating. There are various reasons why this is happening. Some will think that it’s not important for their business. Other businesses are afraid if they open the social media channel, they wouldn’t know how to deal with negative comments.

My advice is to embrace social media marketing. The market place is changing and the Internet is becoming more social. The consumers have expectations; they are now allowed to speak freely online about what they think and express their opinions openly.

At this rate, if businesses don’t adapt to fit social media in their business operation, they will have to eventually.

A client of mine approached me asking for my advice on using Twitter. They said, “Should we start using Twitter to promote our products? I had a look on Twitter and someone has said something negative about our products already. What if we receive more negative comments if we decide to open this channel?”

I responded by saying that there are always going to be people that will say something negative so don’t let that put you off. Also, the negative tweet was perhaps a cry for attention as no one had responded to the individual using the regular communication channels. Perhaps this was a last resort of expressing their opinion. 

Now that you’ve seen that someone has expressed their opinion negatively, it is your job to turn that negative comment into a positive comment. You’d be surprised when you respond to these people how things can change. Once you win them over, they’ll be speaking about you online in a positive manner. 

That’s the power of social media!

Beware that there are some that would just argue for the sake of it. Whatever happens, don’t get yourself into an argument via social media; it can get messy and out of control. Nothing beats picking up the phone and just resolving the issue there and then.

I would recommend getting yourself trained up on Social Media using The Social Media Training Pack on

Question 2: In-bound and Out-bound there is a huge amount of ‘noise’ on Digital Channels. What can Marketers do to cut-through the clutter, in both directions?

We live in an age where there is information being thrown at us from everywhere. Sometimes It’s just information overload and we need to know what’s important and what’s not.

In terms of inbound through the digital channels, marketers need to know and decide which methods work for them more effectively for their business and their customers. For instance, one market may find themselves on Facebook more than Linkedin, so it is a good idea to reach out to that market via Facebook. There is no point setting up several profiles/pages on different social networking sites across the Internet for the sake of it, “just because everyone else is doing it”.

What eventually happens is that it becomes too overwhelming to maintain and respond to everyone, which leads to unhappy people left hanging with no responses to their queries/complaints. All they see is that you’ve provided a way for them to communicate with you, but then you don’t respond to them. It’s like never checking your email inbox.

Inbound is much more effective than outbound, but that does not mean you should rule out outbound completely. For instance, email marketing and webinars are very effective. Being able to reach out to an online audience is more powerful now than ever before because people are hungry for knowledge and finding solutions to their problems.

So it comes down to recognising what is important and what isn’t. Don’t try and do everything because that’s when the huge amount of ‘noise’ develops.

Question 3: Should Digital Marketing be treated as a separate and specialist area within the marketing function (like SEO) or is it better treated as something with which all marketers should be involved?

As the years go by, digital is becoming more integrated in our lives. Soon digital and traditional marketing will merge. For instance, people these days expect you to have a website, blog or Facebook page. They want to find out more about you before they meet you. A website, blog or Facebook page is like an online shop window for your business. This is digital marketing, but is also becoming part of the overall marketing function.

However specialist areas, such as SEO, will always somewhat remain separate, as the processes involved in SEO require time and resources. Not only that, but also extensive expertise is required. Getting websites to rank number one in search engines for competitive keywords is something that
requires a vast understanding of using various SEO tools as well as techniques.

Question 4: How do you see Mobile Marketing developing over the next few years?

Mobile Marketing keeps evolving year after year. Mobiles are becoming as sophisticated as computers.

I remember a time when there was no Internet access on mobile phones. Then came WAP and now we’ve got mobile phones that load webpages exactly like they would appear on your laptop, or games like PlayStation and Xbox.

People have access to their mobile phones more than they do to their laptops. This means you can target them with all sorts of mobile marketing from SMS messages to app notifications. Also to bear in mind, SMS is a powerful form of marketing. There is a higher open rate in SMS messages compared to emails. This in itself has a lot of potential.

My advice is to get involved now. Everything is heading towards digital. People are online and they are easy to find with social sites and search engines. In fact, it’s never been this easy to market your products/services as you can market to the whole world with a few clicks.
Another form of marketing is to have in-app advertising. This means you can promote your products/services within other people’s apps or within your own apps that you give away for free. You can even incorporate videos in your advertising on mobile phones.

Question 5: What advice would you give Marketers who want to improve their performance and job prospects in the field of Digital Marketing?

The Internet is filled with information, which can get you started in the digital field. First you need to know what you want to specialise in within digital marketing e.g. social media, SEO, PPC and so on. Try not to do everything; though do grasp an understanding of what each aspect is.

To those who find the idea of digital marketing daunting, it’s not really that daunting. In fact, you will find similar methods of traditional marketing, which are applied in digital marketing. For instance the principals of marketing communication does not differ much between digital and traditional marketing. This means you can take similar methods and rules and apply them. Over time you will learn certain online ethics, which may vary from offline. However this comes with experience and with time, but shouldn’t be something to hinder you from getting started.

Also, if marketers want to climb higher in their career ladder, I would recommend getting a qualification in digital marketing, such as the diploma in digital marketing for instance. With this qualification, you will be recognised and respected throughout the industry.

There is no better time than now to embrace digital marketing so simply just dive in and get started.

Useful links and resources:

Firas Al-Khaffaf’s Website/Blog:

Follow Firas on Twitter:

Become Friends with Firas on Facebook:

Connect as a Friend with Firas on Linkedin:

Firas Recommends The Social Media Training Pack:

Recommended Digital Marketing Blog:

Download Your Own Social Media Map:

Thank you Firas!

Visit the City Digital Marketing Academy website - Achieve More

Friday, 17 June 2011

Master Marketer - Interview with Branding Expert Prof. Leslie de Chernatony

This interview is with Professor Leslie de Chernatony, whom I first encountered through reading one of his early books on Brand Management when I was studying in the late 90's.

I went on to use his writing in practice, when I became VP Marketing for an International Media Company which owned a worldwide network of luxury goods sites.

Leslie is a global expert on Branding and Strategic Brand management and it is with great pleasure that I publish this interview.

Here is something of his background...

Professor Leslie de Chernatony BSc PhD FCIM FMRS

Leslie is Professor of Brand Marketing at Universita della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland, Honorary Professor of Brand Marketing at Aston Business School, UK and Managing Partner of Brands Box Marketing & Research Consultancy.  Having made a significant contribution to advancing knowledge about brand management, he now bridges the advancement of brand knowledge in his academic role with the application of brand knowledge in his consultancy role.  His cutting edge work on strategically building brands has helped many organisations develop more effective brand strategies.

Leslie’s research on brand marketing is globally disseminated through his books (eg From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation and Creating Powerful Brands), frequent international conference presentations and a significant stream of international journal articles, some of which have won best paper prizes. 

A firm advocate of the need for managers to benefit from his work on brand marketing, he has run many highly acclaimed management development workshops on brand strategy throughout Europe, the USA, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.  His advice  has been sought by numerous organisations throughout the world on developing more effective brand strategies. On several occasions he has acted as an expert witness in court cases over branding issues.

Leslie's work has resulted in TV programmes and radio broadcasts. He is a frequent speaker at management conferences.  

Leslie is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors

Question 1: You are perhaps best known for your innovative work on Strategic Brand Management and Planning. What attracted you to this area of marketing?

About 15 years ago I started to feel uneasy at the way services brands were not getting the attention they deserved and that branding was putting a lot of emphasis on external stakeholders and less on the importance of staff.  My subsequent research, consulting and executive development programmes enabled me to develop and refine a more integrated approach to strategic brand management, applicable to both products and services.  My brand planning framework was then published in the first edition of a book, From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation.  This book attracted interest amongst more people and presented opportunities for applying the ideas across more organisations, in more sectors and countries.

Question 2: What is your definition or explanation of the concepts of a Brand and Branding?

There are a lot of views about what a brand is, often taking a tactical perspective.  My firm belief is that a brand is a cluster of functional and emotional values that enables an organisation to make a promise about a unique and welcomed stakeholder experience.  Ultimately brand management is promise management.  While there may be stunning communication that raises expectation, enacting this through poorly trained staff can kill the fiscal value of a brand. Likewise it is important to involve suppliers and distributors in brand programmes to ensure that there is the correct mix of aligned resources to engender stakeholder satisfaction.  Growing brand equity is becoming one of the key criteria for good brand management.

Question 3: What challenges do organisations face in systematically measuring their ‘Brand Value’? And how can they do this better?

Let’s start by recognising that brand management is about successful husbandry of corporate resources to grow brand equity which in turn then results in the financial brand value.  So firms need to adopt a multi method approach to assessing brand performance, rather than just looking at a few metrics, such as market share or share of voice.  The problem is that some organisations are too short term oriented and see the development of brand equity monitors as costs which they cut.  Also there needs to be an understanding inside firms about the way that movements in some of the dimensions of brand equity (for example reputation or satisfaction) can have different impacts on brand value. So it is not just collecting data about the dimensions of brand equity, it is about understanding how these variables interact to enhance or dilute brand value.

Question 4: In the overwhelming world of Digital Media, how can businesses ‘cut-through the noise’ to get their brand messages across?

Recall that in a digital environment, less can be more.  In other words it’s not the quantity of information that leads to brand success, rather it’s the quality of information.  Consumers are no longer passive recipients of brand information, rather they are active co-producers of brand value.  There is a need to empower consumers through brand websites which enable consumers to tailor facets of the brand to better meet their needs.  Consumers are looking to their peer groups on the internet to help give endorsement or signals about rejection for brands.  They are aware about what brands stand for and even given tools to co-create “their” brand, provided there has been a lot of attention to developing brand values, consumers are unlikely to excessively “stretch” brands into 

unacceptable territory.

Question 5: We see some companies (e.g. Virgin or Tesco) dramatically ‘stretching’ their brands into many diverse areas. What does it take to do this successfully and avoid costly mistakes?

Brand stretch is the dream of many Finance Directors and CEOs who look at their brands as assets that can be inexpensively grown into related sectors to capitalise on the new opportunities.  Alas the driver for interest in brand stretch is often the cost implications.  What is needed is a thorough understanding of the values of the parent brand, what it has stood for in the past and the extent to which the parent’s values can be stretched to meet the aspirations of the new segment and to also consider whether the parent brand positioning is appropriate for the new opportunity.  I smile at those though who think it’s just a one way process.  At the end of the day, the new brand, given correct management, will grow but this may take it into even further sectors which might dilute the value of the parent brand.  So there needs to be some consideration of the longer term impact of the child brand on the parent brand. 

Further Resources:

More details about the work Leslie undertakes can be found at  

His recent books recent books are, From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, h , backed by on-line streamed video  and Creating Powerful Brands, , which is also backed by on-line streamed video

Thank you Professor de Chernatony!

How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day - Hubspot

Facebook - Guide and Infographic

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Market the Substance - Not the Spin!

Excellent article by my friend Richard Groom of the Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.
Contact details below and link to his excellent company the right... thanks Richard
Finding the substance

A year ago in the Chartered Institute of Marketing's 'Marketer'magazine, David Taylor wrote an excellent article about the needfor telling 'compelling brand stories based on substance'.
He was especially referring to the need for marketers to stay onthe right side of the 'Consumer protection from unfair tradingregulations 2007', which came into force in May 2008 andspecifically prohibit misleading consumers.

David cited some examples of brands that have relied on spin oversubstance and others have come to light since then. In April forexample, a campaign by Australian parents targeted 'CerealOffenders': producers of children's breakfast cereals usingmarketing spin that allegedly conflicted with nutritional facts.

(Kellogg's Nutri-Grain cereal was top of the list, with its claimto 'help fuel growing boys' said to be at odds with its 'lowfibre content and high levels of sugar and sodium'.)

Closer to home, earlier this month EDF Energy faced a backlashfrom consumers and competitors when it ran its 'Green Britain Day': the company was accused of spinning its green credentials.
So how can you avoiding relying on spin - or just falling back on the same old tired claims about your product's benefits - whencreating your marketing materials?

The answer is surely to reallyunderstand the product, and to do that you have to find the rightpeople.
I like meeting marketing people in my clients' companies but Ioften find that they are focused on the 'promotion' bit of themarketing mix. Even though they usually have a good understandingof the product, there are sometimes others who know more.

So I want to talk to the people who designed the product, thepeople who made it, the people who sell it and, ideally, thepeople who use it. When I do, I almost always uncover somegenuinely positive information about what the product does andhow well it does it.
If you can get a detailed understanding of the product there'susually no need to bamboozle customers with spin or flowerymarketing-speak.

Sure, well-crafted words are important. But it's the meat thatmatters, and although getting to the meat requires effort andpassion about what you are doing, it is always the bestfoundation for writing compelling marketing messages.

So who are the product experts in your organisation? Buildingrelationships with them is essential for anyone who wants tobecome an effective marketer or copywriter.

Until next time . . .
Peterborough Copywriting Bureau16 Mansfield Court, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 4NE,England

Mick Jagger - and the Archbishop of Canterbury - Gosh!

All too often, in my experience, marketing departments and company's General Management don’t spend enough time really understanding the markets in which they operate.

Marketplace assessments and market research can often be seen as once-a-year activities, to be completed quickly, often as a (subsidiary) part of the annual budgeting process. Worse still, the research budget is often seen as an easy target for tactical cost-cutting. This is short-termism and marketing myopia at its most blinkered.

It completely misses the point. In today’s economic climate, and with the sheer scale of Internet business growth rapid, regular and realistic understanding of the marketplace is vital to business growth.

Marketing tools like the SWOT and SLEPTC analyses when properly used can be a great help, but more fundamentally I think marketers need to consider the 3 basic building blocks in any market.

Enter 3 more C’s – (and Mick Jagger and the Archbishop of Canterbury)

(You didn’t think I could really write for very long without alliterating… did you?)

C’ is for Customers – Traditionally customers have been treated as segments, large aggregations of consumers with common wants and needs, who are likely to be amenable and interested in a common marketing mix.

Recently however I read an article ‘Crash Diets Don’t Work’ by my friend Professor Malcolm McDonald who questioned the efficacy of this approach, and I quote:

‘I am not talking about the a priori rubbish that passes for segmentation, such as socio-economics – Mick Jagger and the Archbishop of Canterbury are both A’s, but they don’t behave the same. Thee there are demographics. All women between the ages of 18 and 24 do not behave the same. Geo-demographics are equally useless, unless used at a very high strategic level Everyone who lives in my street does not drive the same car, read the same newspaper…………..companies who properly segment their markets never have traded – nor ever will trade – principally on price.’
In my opinion customer expect, and have a right to be treated as individuals, markets of one, with an appropriate marketing mix. The Internet makes this possible.

‘C’ is for Competition – Many companies that I now deal with (and several I’ve worked for) haven’t typically done enough research on their competitors. Many will blindly explain their USP – saying things like ‘our products are better’, ‘we offer better value’ or worst of all ‘we are cheaper’ – without really being able to justify these statements.

Unless you have an in-depth knowledge of your competitors offer you are unlikely to be able to deliver a truly UNIQUE sales proposition, which provides value in the mind of the customer and which can’t be easily copied by the enemy.

‘C’ is for Company – Last, but not least, we should not overlook the data that is contained within our own organisations. We get day by day feed back as the customers money (hopefully) rolls in. We know the performance and margin of every product.

Smart companies also have an ongoing programme of New Product Development and research based on the wants and needs of the marketplace, competitor activity and the internal capacity of the organisation.

Looking Outside-In

Linking these C’s together we need effective competitor and customer feedback – many companies have a field salesforce and almost all have a website which can be used to collect market data and measure customer satisfaction, in real-time.

A good market information system is critical to success - is yours fit for purpose?

Master Marketer Interview - Annmarie Hanlon

This is the 1st. of a series of interviews that I'm going to publish with leading Marketers.

I hope that you enjoy the series... please pass on to your friends and colleagues if you do!

Today's guest is Annmarie Hanlon, to whom - Many Thanks!!!

Annmarie Hanlon is a professionally qualified Marketing Consultant and the Managing Director of Evonomie® an online & offline marketing consultancy that helps companies grow market share.

The author of Quick Win Marketing and Quick Win Digital Marketing, books and iPhone Apps, Annmarie completed a BA in French and Linguistics at the University of London in 1987 and the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma in 1991 for which she won the Worship Company of Marketors Award. In 1997 she gained a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Leicester, followed by the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Professional eMarketing Award in 2003.

A Chartered Marketer, Annmarie is currently researching the practical application of social media for businesses.
Question 1:  We hear a lot today about Social Media. How can companies get the balance right between this aspect of Digital Marketing and other areas such as: SEM, SEO, Online PR, Online Advertising, e-mail Marketing etc.

With 30 million people in the UK actively using Facebook every month, social media can no longer be ignored. Companies need to understand their customers, target markets and product offers and essentially what they want to achieve. When the objectives are clear, the most appropriate balance between different elements of social media can be both agreed and integrated.

Question 2:  How do you see Mobile Technologies and Mobile Marketing approaches develop in the future?

Your mobile phone is always less than an arm's length away. Whether it's in a handbag, jacket or on your desk, the future is mobile, the technology is improving and the numbers of smart phone users grows daily.

The challenges with mobile are:
  • improving access to fast Internet connections
  • better design that's easier to see clearly on iPhones and
  • security solutions that remove the need to constantly log in.
The opportunities are to encourage mobile users to better engage and give more reasons to permit contact.

Companies selling online should consider app development and enable customers and potential customers to buy on demand.

Question 3:  How can companies make sure that their involvement in Digital Marketing creates real returns?

Marketing metrics, both digital and traditional, has been the subject of many debates. It is easier to measure a return when a company has set clear objectives and knows what it wants to achieve.

Question 4:  What practical steps can marketers take to improve their Digital Marketing skills?

Professional qualifications are a good place to start. CIM/CAM have developed two excellent courses; the Diploma in Digital Marketing and the Diploma in Managing Digital Media. The pre-cursor to these courses was the CIM’s Professional Award in eMarketing which I took back in 2003. These courses are rigorous and useful - I know at first hand as I’m one of the Digital Marketing tutors for Oxford College of Marketing! 

Question 5:  Finally, what advice would you give organisations who may actually feel a little bit lost and left behind in the new Digital Marketing world?

The Social Media Balance Sheet™ was designed to help companies get started in digital marketing. It is a simple tool that takes a snapshot of competitors' activities. This helps companies see how social media is being used, whether it is working and provides a clear image of what is happening in their market sector. When completed, companies can see what works, what doesn't and how to move forward.

Alternatively read the book or download the iPhone App ‘Quick Win Digital Marketing’ which answers 100 digital marketing questions from ‘Where do we start with digital marketing?’ to ‘How do we prevent brand damage is our employees use social networking sites?’

Recommended Resources:

Annmarie Hanlon on LinkedIn

Latest digital marketing news

Master Marketer Interview - PR Smith (part 2)

In  Part 1  of my interview with Paul, he talked about the evolution of the SOSTAC ®  planning framework for which he is best known.

Here in Part 2 he answers questions about his later interests in Sports Marketing, Sportsmanship and Leadership....

Q4. I believe that you have a new approach to the potentially chaotic Social Media area, please can you tell us something about this?

The Ladder of Engagement  looks at how customers can be engaged at different levels from the lowest level of giving a star rating or a review to the highest level of collaborative co-creation i.e. customers create the company’s products.

This is marketing utopia where customers drive the business, create and test the new products and then buy them and tell their friends all about them. This could have been written 20 years ago, you might say. I agree, except now social media facilitates the Ladder Of Engagement perfectly.  Essentially, social media makes it easier to create a real customer-driven business. That’s why marketers really must master social media immediately – not next year. 

There is an opportunity to restructure businesses around customers via social media and integrating into every aspect of the business.   And with this new responsibility comes the opportunity for marketers to take a seat at every board of directors.

There is always room for creativity. You can see how BBC Northern Ireland and On The Air by FlickrPix  highly creative approach took User Generated Content to a new level in the free downloadable chapter from PR Smith Marketing.

Question 5:   As well as Marketing Communications and Marketing Planning I believe that you are now also involved in Sports Marketing and have written a book about exceptional examples of sportsmanship, which you now use to teach leadership and social skills for all levels and ages.

Great Moments Of Sportsmanship is a collection of true 2 minute stories about sportsmanship. Honour & nobility, integrity & humility on and off the field of sport. Across all sports and all countries and all levels. It is my social media campaign to get sportsmanship back on the agenda of kids, coaches and commentators.

The book has been described as ‘the new bible’ by the BBC. It is not, but it does tap into something deep inside us all. It has sold out in Ireland but I’ve not been able to get the book distributed in the UK. All ideas welcome! I’m about to release a Kindle version. The web site has video clips of many of the stories in the book, plus new stories (and  videos), plus  ongoing discussions, my radio interviewssample storiesposters and most importantly, new ideas for stories sent in by readers [this is the The Ladder Of Engagement].

I really need to find a sponsor so I can really promote this book and maybe give a free copy away to every visitor to the London Olympics?  If anyone has contacts, ideas or suggestions (re sponsors, media contacts, schools/libraries networks) - please do contact me.  

I also have a free educational workbook for schools that want to integrate sportsmanship into several different classes.  I’ve also linked up with the Campaign For Courtesy recently.

Sportsmanship is my personal passion. I really do think it makes a difference and can actually help the world to be a better place. And help to tackle obesity, illiteracy, low self esteem as well as having fun and just feeling good. In business workshops I use it to demonstrate how Social Media’s  Ladder Of Engagement  works. 

I’ve been told that the stories are so inspirational that they would make great stories for a leadership conference. 

You just need to ask me and I’ll do it! 

Other Resources:

Connect with Paul:

Twitter:  PR_Smith
Web site: my web site
Facebook:   PRSmithMarketing my facebook page
Blog: Great Moments of  my sportsmanship social media campaign – please join in.

Smith, PR  & Zook, Z. (2011)  Marketing Communications 5th ed.,  Kogan Page
Smith, PR & Chaffey, D. (2008) eMarketing eXcellence 3rd ed., Butterworth Heinemann 
Smith, PR, Berry C. & Pulford, A. (1999) Strategic Marketing Communications, Revised ed.
Smith, PR (2009) Great Moments of Sportsmanship, PR Smith self published.

Smith, PR (2002) Marketing Essentials series of 10 CDs, PR Smith
Smith, PR (2004) eMarketing eXcellence  10 courses on one CD, PR Smith

Coming Soon SOSTAC ® Workbooks