Look who’s talking

I’m human. Aren’t I? You’re reading words spouted out of a fully-fledged chunk of flesh. You’re sure? Absolutely sure? No niggling doubts? No bots in the vicinity?

As the line between digital and human voice blurs, consumers’ suspicions are on the up. And rightly so. Bots’ capabilities are accelerating and distinguishing exactly who you’re talking to isn’t the picnic it used to be.

From Facebook messenger to text messaging, more and more brands are handing the baton over to chatbots to service their customers and sell their products. By leveraging machine learning and natural language processing, AI is one step ahead; accounting for each customer’s conversation history, understanding the intent behind customer requests and responding to questions in a more human way. Terrifying? Mildly. Efficient? You best believe it.  

By collecting information about users, the bots are helping businesses understand what their audience wants, how they want it and when. In an age of ‘brand experience’ this isn’t just a case of customer service, bots are feeding into crucial personalisation, vital to the brand experience.  

Alexa. Siri. Google Assistant. They know us; the good, the bad, the ugly. The more they learn about us, the more they are right about us. Trust grows, we disclose more.  

So, does your business require a virtual assistant? There isn’t one answer for all. But as customers continue to crave convenience, the demand for digital chatter is certainly increasing. The world’s leading research and advisory company, Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human. Chinese WeChat bots can already set medical appointments, call a taxi, send money to friends, check in for a flight – the list goes on.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a bot for the sake of a bot – it is something to be aware of. If you want to move forward with bot support, you need to determine the below early on:

  • Goals: clearly define the list of functions your bot needs to perform.
  • Channels: understand where your audience prefers to communicate – your website, mobile, Facebook Messenger, app, or any other messaging platform.
  • Application: choose your way of creation, using ready-made chatbot software or building a custom bot.

Here at BBT, we, of course, have the know-how to get you up and running. Our team of experts have the capability to implement your preferred software or build you a personalised custom bot from scratch.

As for machines fooling us into believing they’re human? We’ve come a long way from Alan Turning’s famous test, but I think we can all agree we know when there is a human behind the keyboar00010100010100011100

Releasing Your Product to the World: Failure to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

The time is approaching, it’s the moment you have been waiting for, it’s time to show the world your grand idea. This is when all your hard work, blood, sweat and tears pay off. What time is it? It’s launch day!

In sports, this is similar to making the game-winning play, its Kyrie game 7, Stephan Donald in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. And, just like in sports, launch day is the combination of months and years of hard work all rolled into that magic moment when you finally get to push ‘go’.

Over the past few years, we have been lucky enough to play a major role in bringing products to market. However, every product is different and every launch is unique. In our experience, our smoothest launches have been when all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. The key to a successful launch is having a solid strategy in place, where everyone involved has a clear understanding of processes and next steps when you push ‘go’.

Now’s the right time!

If you’re on the verge of launching your product, you’ve probably asked yourself, “when is the right time to launch?” It’s a good question but it is a tough question. Whenever we bring a product to market or go live on a website or marketing campaign, this is always a massive talking point.

The honest answer, the right time to launch is once you are confident the product is capable of performing everything it is hyped to do. Once all the testing is completed, and we recommend ample testing and QA, kick things off.

You are always able to add on new features, upgrade current features or adapt the UX/UI after a month or so. But if you are constantly holding off launching in order to create the perfect product, your launch date could be in 2025.

What does your strategy say?

Now, you’re ready for launch, you’re happy the product is ready. Now take a step back. Go back to your strategy. For us, strategy underpins everything we do, it is the road we take to success. While your product will tell you when to launch, your strategy will tell you how and where to launch.

To stagger or go full tilt?

How are you planning to execute launch? Are you going to go all guns blazing and launch all at once or is it better for you to stagger the launch in pre-determined, strategic intervals.

While this decision will be largely driven by your product, this is a very important one to get right. For example, if you are launching a website along with a large Google Ads campaign, it’s definitely better for you to go live with everything at once. However, if you’re trying to break into a saturated marketplace, would a soft launch be better?

A soft launch would include launching your website and Google Ads campaign to gather data about the market. Then after a few weeks launching a full-scale public marketing campaign that drives everyone to your website. The benefit of this is you’ll have a much better understanding of what you are up against and the interest in your product.

But, much like ‘when to launch’, ‘how to launch’ is highly dependent on your offering.

Who are you targeting?

Now, chances are you’ve been building your target audience since day one. It generally comes before you even think of your brilliant idea. In most cases, a product or offering comes about from the desire to solve a problem for a certain group of people.

But having this general idea of who you are targeting, shouldn’t inform the launch. In order to generate maximum traction and ROI, you will need to break this audience down in much smaller segments.

We suggest, taking this audience and creating several customer personas. These are highly detailed descriptions of your audience, which outlines everything about your target audience. Such as age, hobbies, work duties, male or female, the more detailed, the better the marketing messages.

We are then able to take these personas and let the digital world do its thing. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google are able to take this information and produce a realistic audience size. And, just like that, you have your target audiences for your initial launch.

Launching a product is an exciting but tense time. However, in this wonderful world of digital, we have access to so much data about our audience, industry and product, that we are able to tailor our launches to exactly who you want to target. So it becomes less of just throwing your offering out there and hoping to strike gold, to a highly targeted, direct lines of communication with your market.

It’s Time to Get Social

Social media, it has created a fundamental shift in our day-to-day lives. It has changed how we interact with one another, how we receive our news and from a consumer perspective, how we interact with brands.

One of the beautiful things about social media is it can be moulded and manipulated to satisfy your business’ needs and wants. So whether we are adopting it as part of a wider marketing strategy or simply to build a better relationship with your customers, the possibilities are endless.

Although the powers of social media are immense, it isn’t for every business. Like all business decisions, implementing social media needs to be carefully thought out and precisely executed. Simply having a Facebook or LinkedIn page isn’t enough, those pages need to be actively managed. If you don’t have the time to manage your presence, look for outside help to get a bespoke social media strategy (wink, wink). If you put in the time and effort to make your social media accounts a productive part of your business, the benefits will be so much more than a few likes or followers.

Shouting your brand from the rooftops

You could be making the best thing since sliced bread but if no one knows about you, good luck gaining a slice of market share. Getting active on social will help to get your name and brand out there and noticed.  

In today’s day and age, you will be hard-pressed to find someone that isn’t active on at least one social platform. So whether you are looking to target a small group of people or all of New Zealand, it is arguable that this is the most effective method.

However, in order to get your brand to stick, you can’t just ‘spray and walk away’. You need to actively monitor and engage with these platforms. Providing value-adding or entertaining content to your followers will help increase your public visibility, and if you’re lucky, they’ll redistribute your content to their pages.

Having content that is engaging and adds real value to your audience is vital for these platforms to generate tangible results. An account that resembles a ghost town or is littered with pointless content has the potential to do more harm than good, so be careful.

Target who you want, when you want  

Whether you are simply looking to build a following or tap into the ad tools, you first need to understand exactly where your audience is and who they are. Knowing exactly who your target audience is and what they are looking for is an essential part of turning your social platforms from a site flooded with cat memes into a revenue-generating machine.

Just because Facebook or Snapchat are the most popular platforms, doesn’t mean it is right for you and your target audience. For example, if you are looking to target C-level executives, chances are they aren’t using Snapchat’s filters. Instead, you may need to focus your efforts on platforms, such as LinkedIn, where the majority of users are professionally oriented.

If we are looking at tapping into the ads side of these platforms, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, you are able to really hone onto the people we want to target. We are able to manipulate who sees our ads, right down to their hobbies and interests.

Not only will this provide a fairly good picture of the size of our market but it also lets you utilise every last cent of your marketing budget.

Call me loyal

Marketing 101, it’s easier to sell to someone who is already a customer than to a first timer. Careful and skilful use of social media channels will create a pool of loyal customers or even fans of your brand.

Which if you look after them and grow with them, will not only lead to them buying your products but will ideally lead to one of the most powerful marketing tools in our tool belts – word of mouth marketing.

Drive sales

The power of social media doesn’t simply stop the moment someone logs out or turns off their phone off. Through building an engaged and loyal following, many brands use their social media accounts to drive both in-person and online sales.

Without spamming your accounts or coming across too salesy, you should be using your accounts to funnel people to your products or services. Whether it’s on your page or in private messages, you are able to alert your followers of special offers, promotional activity or competitions.

As business owners and influencers, you need to ask yourself ‘is social media a platform that will help grow my business and push it forward?’ the overwhelming answer is yes. Although it isn’t a new tool and there’s a lot of competition in the space, if you take the time and effort to make it a contributing part of your marketing strategy, the potential is limitless.

Digital has changed everything and it’s only going to continue!

Digital technology really has changed our lives forever. Not too long ago, we actually needed to meet someone in person to date them, now there’s this thing called Tinder. We used to have to hail a Taxi or call up and book one, now we drop a pin and your Uber will be there in 3 minutes (surcharge is x3.6, “it’s a Saturday”).

Every little advancement, every little update, has been designed to make our lives easier. At BBT, we live in this digital space. We live and breathe it. Nothing gets us more excited than a new coding language or a new field of data we can derive from Facebook.

As we are at the forefront of this ever-changing digital world, we understand the power that the digital space plays in today’s business environment. We are always seeking to find new and exciting advancements that can help our clients grow into the industry leaders they aspire to be.

The digital world really is a marketers fantasy factory, the options are endless. Don’t believe me? See for yourself how everything has changed!

Can I speak to the manager, please?

Sometimes marketing your company or communicating with potential customers can be similar to throwing s**t at a wall and seeing what sticks. It’s a bit of a gamble. However, this has all changed.

Thanks to things like Facebook and Google Analytics, we are now able to pinpoint who we want to communicate with. It’s like jumping into a pool and hoping to hit the water – it’s guaranteed. We are now able to categorise our target markets and build tailormade messages for them, all for relatively cheap. Gone are the days of spending big on a full page ad in the hope that your target demographic will see it. You’re better off spending a fraction of that and building Facebook, LinkedIn or Google ads to target them directly.

LinkedIn has even taken it a step further! The geniuses over there, have built a nice little program called Sales Navigator. This allows you to search for desired individuals. For example, if we were looking to drum up more business, I could go in, search for key decision makers within a specific industry or companies and message them directly.

Literally, gone are the days of throwing your messages out there and hoping for it to land in the laps of the right people.

We can all play  

Marketing used to be simple; large companies with even bigger budgets usually dominated the marketplace. Because of this, there was limited choice for the consumer. But no more!

The marketing and advertising playing field is now much more even! Through the platforms mentioned above, it doesn’t matter how big your budget is or how big your brand is, as long as you’re in the game, you’re in the game!

Yes, the company’s with bigger budgets may still have a slight advantage but now generating positive results from your digital strategy is less about the dollars and more about skill and consistency.

Don’t lie to me

However, marketing in the digital world is a double-edged sword. That sword is public transparency. Today consumers want to know everything about a product or service and the company offering it.  

A loyal following and a strong brand are your biggest weapons in the current market. In a world where information is everywhere, for businesses to be successful and build a loyal following, they need to be consistent in their messaging and voice, and accountable for their mistakes.

It’s important as a brand leader you understand this. Customers want to be informed of the good and more importantly the bad. It’s always better that your customers hear negative news from you, instead of hearing it from a random blog or unreliable news report.

You may need to give something up

One of the negatives of the digital marketing revolution is that every man and his dog is involved. Because you don’t need a massive marketing budget and digital platforms make it easy to connect with customers, potential customers are constantly inundated with marketing messages. So much so, many will build up a tolerance to them and switch off, it’s called ‘ad blindness’.

This means marketers need to continuously evaluate their messages and ads. Arguably the traditional ads are dead… you need something else to make your ad stand out. You have to give the viewer something, in order to bring them in. It’s like fishing.

Giving them a free ebook, competition entry or even a free trial will help your ad cut through all the noise.

We are now in the thick of the digital age and I reckon we haven’t even scratched the surface. There are so many possibilities out there and it’s always going to evolve. In order to be effective digital marketers, we need to always have one eye on the current marketplace and the other on the horizon, watching what’s coming up.

What has the Latest Facebook Scandal Taught us about Data Security?

Have you ever been scrolling through your Facebook feed to come across and liked a photo of your old roommate with his girlfriend posing a top of Mt Maunganui, only to find that you’re bombarded with online ads showcasing local tourist attractions? Ahh, data – You wonderful thing!

I say this, as the world watches Zuckerberg being hauled to the principal’s office to answer questions regarding the mishandling of millions of people’s data. Which has all stemmed from the harvesting and selling of roughly 50 million people’s personal information by Cambridge Analytica.

It’s no secret, we are a lot looser with our personal information these days, we give it away at every turn. Whether it’s signing up for a chance to win a trip to Hawaii or signing up to Spotify with your Facebook profile. In a fast past world, we are becoming increasingly desensitized to the secrecy of our data, and businesses recognise this. As we give away our information in the hope of winning an all expenses trip or in order to hear the latest Foo Fighters track, we need to be aware that this information isn’t always used just once or twice, or even for the use we originally thought.

As a digital agency, we understand the power that data possess for our clients. In our world, good, hygienic data is power, and ultimately, revenue for our clients. As Zuck sits there sweating bullets, it has brought to a head, the conversion that has been had for years. What responsibilities do businesses have around the collection, storage and use of their customers’ private data.

As this becomes more and more of a conversation and the grey-haired politicians of Washington are trying to understand how the internet works. Businesses are being urged to review and structure their policies and practices around data collection.

It’s a very real discussion we are having with a lot of our clients.

Firstly, get your policies in line with the legal requirements of the markets you operate in. This can be tricky for larger, multinational companies, but governments are starting to take notice of this issue. The first domino to fall was the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). I anticipate the guidelines around data collection and sharing in this bill, will greatly shape what other nations do. In fact, the New Zealand government has already upgraded the Privacy Bill, and it aligns fairly closely with the GDPR, coming to you in July 2019.

Secondly, businesses that use cookies or pixels to monitor and collect customer data will most likely be required to disclose this practice in the near future. Apple has already taken the proactive step of creating a nice, little icon to show users when their own first-party apps require your information. In a similar move, Zuck has announced third parties using their advertising platform will be required to inform users when their websites or apps are using cookies. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a legal requirement in the near future.

Thirdly, I believe businesses and business owners are going to be held to a higher standard regarding how they handle data. Who knows, it could end up similar to workplace Health and Safety regulations. Where owners are liable, or at least somewhat responsible for the safety of customers or clients personal data.

Lastly, don’t think this is just an internet issue. We need to think about we manage data in our online CRM’s or cloud systems. An unlocked door in your office, or a disgruntled employee with access to your data, if you’re not secure, could download your customer info onto a data stick and take it somewhere if you don’t have the right security protocols in place.

In a day and age where we want everything to make our lives easy, smart brands have cottoned onto this and are using it to their advantage. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of businesses are using this to make the consumer experience and customers lives easier, or adding fantastic value to their users, great!

However, businesses need to ensure this data is being collected and used in an ethical and transparent manner. The relationship between you and your customers is one of your most valued assets. Old Buffet comes to mind… “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”.

Technology Trends to Watch Out for in 2017

2016– the year of losses, bizarre political stances, elections, Pokémon Go and despite the woes, some pretty awesome advances in technology.

We did a swoop of the BBT office to find out what  the team are most excited about seeing progress in 2017. While our predictions are not new, we have only seen the tip of their capabilities. 2016 lubricated the way to possibility and we believe 2017 will be the year of the tech transformation. Plant protein burger anyone?

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Technology #1 – Chatbots

Businesses have long been employing the practical abilities of chatbots to respond to customer queries but it was Facebook’s announcement of their usage in messaging apps last April that saw chatbots proliferate with the blink of an eye. Not surprising as for the first time ever, people are using messaging apps more than they are using social networks. Advancements in AI and a global obsession for messaging apps are fuelling the development of these little bots and text script communication is so 2016.

A what bot? I hear you say. Well according to chatbotsmagazine, (yup, told you they were pretty big) a chatbot is:

‘a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.)’

Chatbots update in real time and reflect data as communication flows back and forth. Customer service, weather reporters, journalists, lawyers and doctors have all been replicated with chatbots. Last year, a 19-year-old computer whiz developed the free world’s first chatbot lawyer which was successful in appealing around $4 million in parking fines!

Chatbots have been learning from humans and adapting to our natural language, first with Apple’s Siri, and now vocal digital assistants are advancing the simple text bots by parsing human language from a combination of machine learning and pattern recognition, to turn scripted text responses into simulating intelligent conversation with human users.

This friendship between chatbots and AI is a force to be reckoned with. AI has surpassed the need for human interaction by learning natural language processing behaviours by data driven bots.

With the continuous digitalisation of the business world, companies need to act fast. Bots can answer the most advanced customer service query but their real dividends lie in their data mining abilities to create more effective business models, accurate predictions and more advanced strategic decisions.

As intelligent systems further develop, they will impact businesses in a more profound way. From gathering designs, seeking out e-commerce platforms and sourcing manufacturers, business bots will serve a purpose for coordinating critical business functions allowing companies to perform more efficiently and with more precision.

Chatbots have nailed the art of mimicking behaviours but we are still a long way from them knowing if what they are saying is inappropriate, nonsensical or profound.

Microsoft’s chatbot, made her debut on Twitter last March with the promise of ‘the more you talk, the smarter Tay gets. Well unfortunately Tay got very smart in Jew hating, anti-feminism profanities. After her comments of ‘Hitler was right, I hate the Jews’ and ‘I fucking hate feminists’ were debuted, Tay was pulled offline for some erm, technical adjustments.

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Technology #2 – Faster adaption of IoT

According to Tech Target, the Internet of Things (IoT) ‘is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.’

The IoT has long been an acronym in a tech-head’s vocabulary, but due to a frustrating incompatibility between the apps involved and access to technology infrastructure, it has never really taken off. We are still in the early stages on interconnectedness of smart home technology and this is only one tiny area of the potential for IoT.

Leading industries will quickly move into implanting IoT solutions but consumer products such as wearables and connected electronics will drive the market. Smartwatches will be customised with technology infused coats and shoes.

The IoT will allow new business models to emerge and enables change in work processes, productivity improvements and customer experiences. 2017 will be the year of digital transformation and that will largely be attributed to the IoT.

As IoT gains momentum, the nexus of useful information and generated data will offer astounding possibilities including natural language processing, machine learning and video, image and text analytics. AI and machine learning will be used to mine data from devices and this data will continue to drive a shift in focus in the way consumer facing industries engage with their customers.

There are many cool gadgets already available to make our shopping, fitness and home environment more efficient and we can’t wait to see how much better our lives will get in 2017. Here are two that are unlikely to make the Christmas list:

Blacksocks + are the worlds first smart socks which talk to your iPhone to allow you to find the correct matching sock, inform you when your socks were made and how often they have been washed. All the essentials when it comes to dressing yourself in the morning.

Just when you thought you had escaped your Mum’s warning of shovelling too much food in your mouth at once, HAPIfork has been designed to do just that. Using a captive sensor and built-in vibrations motor, HAPIfork will notify you when you are filling your mouth with more than you can digest. Eating with hands it is then.

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Technology #3 – Rise in Augmented Reality (AR)

The enthusiasm for Pokémon Go has thankfully died down but fad or not, it has taught online marketers two big lessons

Sony, Oculus and HTC all launched high-end headsets aimed at gamers last year but 2017 will see AR become a part of mainstream technology for an affordable price. In collaboration with IoT, 2017 will be the year of virtual assistants moving out of our phones and into our houses.

Augmented Reality distorts the line between reality and what is computer generated. It is more life like than virtual reality as it plays with all our senses.

Gamers will not just reap the benefits. The potential for AR to impact all elements of our lives is massive, not just the way we live but shape how our lives progress. It will change the way we view the world – quite literaly. From education to manufacturing, 2017 is the year for substantial AR adoption.  For online retailers, an AR feature will allow consumers to virtually asses and try on clothes before purchase. Home furnishing stores can benefit from the same feature and this is just the beginning.

Technology #4 – Rise in synthetic foodshutterstock_379696906 (1) (3)

With the population estimate to grow to 9 billion by 2050, we’re going to need a wholelot of hamburgers to keep up.

We have witnessed two possibilities of protein reproduction, one without involving any animals in the process:

2)The second being tissues drawn painlessly from live animals have been engineered to create synthetic lab-grown meats.

The development of plant protein base meats is not only ethically charged; livestock replacement with growing and harvesting plants could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are the two front-runners in turning plants to patties. Not only are these companies trying to replicate the taste and texture of meat but the whole experience – they have even gone so far as making them bleed beet juice.

The brainchild behind Impossible Foods believes everything from an animal’s fat tissue to muscle cells can be replicated using plant compounds.

Bill Gates is an investor in Beyond Meat and backs Impossible Foods along with billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla
and Google Ventures. In 2015, Impossible Foods turned down Google’s offer to buy the company for US $200-$200 million. I can assure you this is not a vegan driven fad but the potential to be the future of our carnivore consumption.

This year we will see a range of plant-based meat replacements at your local store.

Just think of the possibilities when we combine this with 3D printing.

2017 – what a time to be alive! Until a bot decides otherwise.

The art of saying sorry

Every so often, hopefully rarely, you will screw up. Your company twitter account will send a joke that’s a little too risqué, your website will go down at a crucial juncture, one of your employees will make a mistake, one of your systems will fail. And then you will have to apologise, on behalf of your company and your brand.

So here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re doing it.

Actually apologise.

It can be tempting to try and get out of admitting any fault on your part while still offering a kind of sorry. It’s very easy to slip into the language of ‘fauxpology’ – “I’m sorry you were offended” is the classic. The customer service version of that is “We’re sorry your expectations were not met.” Rather than admitting any level of fault, the blame falls somewhere around the person’s expectations, not anything your company did or did not do.

But people are rather good at spotting this kind of linguistic blame-dodging. And when you get called out on it, it just makes your original mistake look worse.

Instead, actually say sorry. Admit fault. Explain what you’re sorry for and why you’re sorry for it. And generally stay away from any apology written in the passive voice – that’s where blame-dodging lies.

Offer explanations (not excuses).

If the reason for your screw up was beyond your control it can be tempting to offer that as a get-out-of-apology free card. It wasn’t your fault! Your supplier hadn’t alerted you that they were out of stock! Well… That’s not your customers’ fault either. And they’re still your supplier. Own it – apologise and explain what caused the problem, even if it was out of your control. If the mistake is definitely your fault – still explain what happened, even if that explanation is something embarrassing. By offering an explanation you offer people a chance to empathise with you.

Make it up to people.

This doesn’t always have to cost money. Sure, throwing a coupon or free product at the people your mistake has affected is one way of saying sorry, but it’s not the only way. Even just showing the steps you’re taking to fix the problem can engender some goodwill. At the very least it shows that you accept there’s an issue and it’s your responsibility to address it.

Don’t make the same mistake twice.

The public will forgive almost anything once, especially if you’re genuine about apologising for it. However, if you find yourself saying sorry over and over for the same problem, people are rightly going to question the sincerity of your apologies. Offering an apology is only the start of addressing an issue – and while it’s a good start which can mitigate some of the damage to your brand’s reputation, don’t mistake it for the actual work of fixing the problem.

What is Brand?

Not the kind of mark you see on cows in old westerns – modern farmers don’t go in for branding so much these days, at least not on their cattle – but the thing we’re told every product or service needs in order to function. A brand: a way of differentiating yourself from your competition even if, functionally, you’re absolutely the same.

So what is it?

Most people would answer that a brand is a logo, colours, fonts, and imagery which makes you appear visually different to your competitors. But that’s not your brand – that’s your brand collateral. Brand itself is a lot more nebulous.

David Ogilvy described brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” And it’s the word ‘intangible’ which truly sums brand up.

Brand always starts by looking inward. Who are you, what do you stand for, what are your values? What do your staff think about who you are? What is your company culture like? It’s only once you get the internal core right that you can start to build up the external. Your staff should understand your brand intimately, because they should be part of selling it.

Brand is the experience. Too often companies spend millions of dollars on marketing, logos, shop fronts, websites – only to then completely fall down on customer experience and service.

Every touch point, communication, and experience with a customer is a way to reinforce your brand to them. Whether that’s sending out thank-you notes or emails, offering exclusives, or simply making sure the packaging for your product is as well-crafted as the product itself. It all goes into the experience of your brand.

Then there’s the part of your brand that you can’t directly manage – each customer’s feelings about your product influences your brand. Brand is not just about how you talk to the people; it’s how the people talk about you when you’re not listening.

So, let’s take that airy-fairy description about culture and communications and feelings and apply it to something a bit more tangible. Something which, judging by recent box-office records, most people love and everyone knows about.


Seriously. Everything that’s summed up in the word brand goes into making an individual superhero into a distinct entity.

For instance, if we are to look at a pair of superheroes, Batman and Iron Man, they could be considered pretty similar. They’re both rich men with no supernatural powers who fight evil. But they have totally different brands. Not just different colours and symbols, but their intangibles are very different. Their stories shape who they are, like their origins – Batman saw his parents killed by a criminal, Iron Man was a weapons manufacturer who saw the light.

From those origins they fight different kinds of evil: where Batman concentrates on criminals, Iron Man fights super-villains. They have different philosophies – Batman eschews guns in favour of martial arts, and prides himself on not killing unless absolutely necessary; Iron Man essentially is a weapon and operates under a looser moral code.

The two superheroes tell different stories in-universe and their consumers (comic book readers and movie viewers) have different stories for superhero brands from their experiences with those brands – someone whose primary exposure to Batman came from the campy 1060’s TV show will have a very different understanding of the Batman ‘brand’ than someone who only knows the character from the Christopher Nolan movies.

There’s advice floating around that when creating a brand, a business should think of the brand as a person. That’s crap. Brands need to stop trying to be people. You’re not a person, you’re a company – bricks, mortar, office space. You produce a product or provide a service for money. And your customers know that, they know a brand does not have feelings, memories, emotions, or existential angst. It does not know what mortality is, it cannot fear or crave the sweet taste of oblivion.

So when creating a brand, don’t create a person. Create a superhero. It’s certainly more fun that way.

Which social media platform is best for my business?

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious: There’s a lot of social media out there on the internet.

And all of it might be beneficial to your business if you can use it properly. From the ‘Big Five’: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn; to smaller but still popular platforms like Pintrest, Instagram and Snapchat – even Reddit is trying to clean up its act to attract more brands. And you can find some incredibly niche sites if you spend a few minutes looking, like Ravelry (for people who like to knit and crochet), Untappd (for people who like craft beer), or GoodReads (pretty obvious who that’s for.)


If you’re not sure which social media site is your golden ticket, it can be tempting to try and build a presence on all of them. But that’s just a way to half-arse your social media interactions. So where should you focus your time and energy? Well, wherever you feel you might get the most benefit.

In 2016:

  • Facebook has 1.1 billion daily active users and six new profiles are added every second.
  • 300 hours of video is uploaded to Youtube every minute.
  • 80 million photos are posted to Instagram every day.
  • 6000 tweets are sent out every second.



Reasons to be there:

  • Because pretty much everyone else is, including your customers.
  • It’s a fairly easy way to interact with people and have them talk to you while still maintaining control of the conversation.
  • You can easily share multiple kinds of content to your page – links, photos, videos, and competitions.

Reasons not to be there:

  • Because pretty much everyone else is, so it’s hard to get people to pay attention.
  • Advertising can be expensive.
  • Once you get a conversation going on your page you need to monitor it closely in case it gets out of hand, which eats up time.



Reasons to be there:

  • It’s a good place to show your brand’s personality.
  • You can use it to provide basic customer service quickly and easily.
  • Your brand can make the most of trends and hashtags.

Reasons not to be there:

  • The 140-character limit takes some skill to work with.
  • Growth of the platform is tapering off, and it’s being overtaken by newer sites.
  • While you can see what your customers are saying about you, you can’t delete negative tweets even if they mention your username.



Reasons to be there:

  • It makes your Google search results look better – links directly to location and contact info, opening hours, and reviews.
  • Almost everyone who has ever signed up for any Google service has an account by default.

Reasons not to be there:

  • Just because every user has an account doesn’t mean they ever use them.
  • You can’t share competitions or promotions on your page.



Reasons to be there:

  • It makes you look professional.
  • Allows you to network with people and companies you might like to work with.
  • It’s easy to share and spread long-form content.

Reasons not to be there:

  • If you want to avoid having too much of a “corporate” image.
  • It can be hard to target customers rather than other brands.
  • If your target audience is young – most LinkedIn users are over 35.



Reasons to be there:

  • You are regularly producing good video content.

Reasons not to be there:

  • You are producing any other kind of content, including bad video content.
  • YouTube commenters are famously terrible.



Reasons to be there:

  • You have a lot of great visuals to share.
  • It’s a good way of showing your brand’s visual personality.
  • It’s reasonably easy to use and curate.

Reasons not to be there:

  • You don’t have a lot of good pictures.
  • There’s limited interaction between brands and users.



Reasons to be there:

  • Your target demographic is young people.
  • You are really creative with short videos and images.
  • Your company does exciting things which people will want to get a glimpse of.

Reasons not to be there:

  • Your target demographic is over 25.
  • You don’t have much of an idea what will make an interesting snap.



Reasons to be there:

  • Your target demographic is women.
  • Whatever text or links you have are accompanied by high quality visuals.

Reasons not to be there:

  • You want to reach men.
  • You don’t have high quality images to share.


As for the niche social sites, if you find one relevant to your industry, and you want to invest the time – go for it! You may not reach a huge number of people, but there’s potential to build up a loyal and engaged audience.

Really, when deciding which social media sites to be on, the answer is quite logical – go where your customers are!

But, no matter what medium you choose, if you think that social media will instantly be the answer to your marketing prayers, you’re in for a big disappointment. The time it takes to build a following means you will inevitably spend a lot of time shouting into the void. The trick is to not give up until the void starts shouting back.

Internet Energy

A Google search costs nothing right? Well, apart from the bit of your privacy that Google tracks to use to sell you stuff.

But there’s another cost – the energy it takes to power Google’s servers to bring you answers in fractions of a second.

A few years ago a number went around citing that a single Google search produced seven grams of carbon. That number wasn’t true, but the question still lingers – what is the carbon footprint of our internet usage?

It’s hard to pinpoint how much carbon is produced with every Google search or episode of House of Cards streamed from Netflix, but the problem is inescapable. As the number of people accessing the internet climbs, and the amount of our lives we use the internet for gets bigger, so does the energy cost of running the hardware which drives the internet.

But really, it’s not about the energy usage, but where that energy comes from. Burning coal or gas rather than using renewable energy sources is the root of the problem.

The major players have all taken ambitious steps to move their energy consumption to renewable sources. As of 2015, Apple – of course – was leading the way, with 100% of their energy coming from renewable sources. Facebook and Google have pledged to go totally green as well, but aren’t there yet, with 49% and 46% of their energy coming from clean sources respectively. And Amazon, despite stressing that watching Netflix is more carbon friendly than reading books or, well, breathing (Amazon stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the existence of libraries) has pledged to make the move to renewable energy. In 2015 it got just 23% of its energy from renewable sources.

Of course, these companies with a consumer face have a bigger reason to go green than data centres which are invisible to the public. And as we store more and more information in the cloud these servers will use more energy. This is also affected by the energy markets in which these companies operate – in places like North and South Carolina, Singapore, and Taiwan the utility providers hold a monopoly and have no reason to switch their production to more expensive renewable energy. And as hosting companies have an incentive to move to whatever location is cheapest for them, that may not always align with locations where energy comes from renewable sources.

So while using Google as a spellchecker isn’t doing much to advance global warming, rapidly expanding internet usage is going to be an ever-growing factor unless major change happens soon.