Friday, 26 August 2011

Sanity prevails! The Government decide against censoring Social Media

Following the riots last month, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the Government would be looking at the possibility of closing down Social Networking sites during times of civil unrest, as they had been instrumental in the organisation of the rioters. This week Ministers sat down with representatives from Facebook and Twitter to discuss the matter and decided not to seek further powers to restrict Social Media.

This is a huge relief and great news. From a personal point of view, I work almost exclusively in Social Media and it's become an increasingly important part of many organisations across the Public, Private and Voluntary sectors. Any downtime could cause serious problems for those organisation's campaigns and would stop me and people like me from earning a living.

But, to a certain extent those are selfish reasons and there are much broader and more important factors to consider, which should lead Government to never actually seek those powers.

The argument for the powers came from the high use of social networks, especially Blackberry Messenger, by looters in coordinating their actions and inciting further violence. As Police and MP's took a tough stance in the aftermath, two young men were even given jail time for trying to start riots via facebook, despite them never actually taking place.

Anyone who uses the internet regularly will most likely be used to seeing hollow threats of violence all the time, with 'trolls' looking to antagonise whoever they can, safe in the knowledge that they'll never actually come into contact with their targets, but in this case, it wouldn't be tolerated. A crackdown looked imminent.

Immediately following the violence, David Cameron said, "We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

Happily, they have decided it wouldn't be right and a good job too. With the recent Arab Spring uprisings, Social Networking played a similar role to the UK riots; allowing protesters and demonstrators to easily communicate and organise. Again, similarly, the State in those Arab countries condemned the participants as looters and rioters and shut down many Social Networks.

Although there is debate on the motivations of the UK rioters, it would be difficult to cast them in the same revolutionary role as the people who looked to overthrow dictators in the Arab Spring. That said, it's not out of the realms of possibility that future civil disturbance in the UK could have a more defined and just cause than the recent looters and perhaps face a less just Government. If that Government had the special powers in place to censor the internet, we may find ourselves in a familiar and worrying situation.

Whether demonstrators or government was deemed in the right, both sides would draw crucial benefits from Social Media. It even had a plus side during the riots here, with the Public using the platform to avoid hotspots and find family and friends. The Police also found it useful in tracking down suspects and monitoring the spread of the violence.

Pressing the 'kill switch' would lose these positives and also have a deeper moral problem.

Social Media a medium for communication and hence speech. For that speech to remain free, censorship cannot be countenanced, no matter the justification. Otherwise, we head down the road of Iran, China and all those Arab regimes who look to oppress their people. Common sense seems to have prevailed in the UK and that now looks unlikely. Hopefully it will endure.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Marmite: Which side are you on?

Marmite: The thick, dark brown paste with a sharp odour and distinctive saltiness that’ll make your toes curl. Perfect on toast, crackers and digestive biscuits alike; a wonderful accompaniment to many a cheese; and, most importantly of all, either loved or hated, never in-between.

British shops have stocked Marmite on their shelves for over a hundred years. Its basic form was invented in the late nineteenth century by a German scientist, who accidentally discovered that concentrated brewer's yeast could not only be eaten, but enjoyed. The Marmite Food Extract Company was later formed in Burton upon Trent in 1902. The name comes from a French term for an earthenware cooking pot, which the product was initially packaged in until the 1920s when it was replaced by the familiar glass jar. To this day, the logo boasts an image of that very type of pot.

For decades Marmite was regarded and marketed as a hearty food spread, especially popular with vegetarians as a meat-free alternative to products such as Bovril. The discovery of vitamins in 1912 had been a boon for the brand due to it being a source of Vitamin B, and straplines of the 1930s like ‘Marmite definitely does you good’ surely swayed anyone who had their reservations.

During the Second World War, British troops were issued Marmite as part of their rations, whilst housewives were encouraged to spread it thinly to conserve supplies. In the 1950s, the feelgood factor of a secret recipe handed down over the generations, coupled with health benefits for children, helped to push sales; and in 1969, ‘The Marmite Guide to Better Cooking’ came free with purchases. By 1973, ‘The Growing Up Spread’ strapline secured Marmite as a foodstuff for the entire family.


It wasn’t until the 1980s when Marmite’s humorous approach began. The ‘My Mate Marmite’ advertising campaign was launched in 1987, with army privates enjoying well-deserved yeast extract on toast (Marmite and soldiers – get it?), although Jones couldn’t help but give in to temptation even when he should have been falling into line.

However, though Marmite’s recipe has remained largely unchanged, its marketing tactics went through a major adjustment over the years. Marmite marketers recognised there was a blatant segment of British buyers that not only didn’t purchase their product, but loathed it with a passion. Unlike many foods, the paste’s flavour wasn’t one that allowed you to sit on the fence: you either loved it, or hated it. And with this revelation, a brilliant polarised campaign was born.

The Marmite ‘Love it/Hate it’ crusade has been going strong since 1996, with the dual skinned website asking whether you’re a Lover or a Hater. An example of the Lovers’ perspective is when a lifeguard breaks away from his snack to rescue a drowning man, who is then overcome with passion for the spread. Meanwhile, the Haters will surely sympathise with the poor young man whose evening doesn’t go according to plan due to a certain product on his date’s lips.

Over the last fifteen years, the British public has seen a wide range of conflicting Marmite advertising. Branded buses have sported ‘Honk if you eat Marmite’ on one side and ‘You'll Honk if you eat Marmite’ on the other. For its centenary in 2002, Zippy, the greedy character from Rainbow that never shuts up, fastened his mouth closed when confronted with Marmite on toast, whereas Paddington Bear shared a delicious Marmite sandwich with a passing pigeon, with disastrous consequences. The clever thing about this campaign is that, aside from gaining much public attention and being memorable, those who hate the product due to its taste will surely love the brand for its bold strategy and wonderful style.

Marmite is a brand recognised by all Brits. Jars can be found in practically every grocery outlet in the country; there are related products, such as breadsticks, rice cakes, crisps, cheddar, cashew nuts and ‘Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate’; we’ve even seen Guinness Marmite, Champagne Marmite, and Marston’s Pedigree Marmite to celebrate the 2009 Ashes. The branding is so ingrained in the public’s consumer psyche, when Marmite Squeezy was released in 2006 – their first new product in 103 years – the usual typeface was replaced by the words ‘Squeeze Me’ in the characteristic font and colour palette, with no ambiguity whatsoever as to the contents. That year, Marmite Squeezy accounted for 10% of the brand’s sales.

A recent development has been Marmite's Haute (with the jar blocking the 'u') Cuisine, offering simple and delicious recipes brought to us by Dom Joly, available on its YouTube Channel.

Whichever side you take, you can’t deny that the advert below stuck in your mind like brown paste to a blonde moustache. How many of us found ourselves whistling this tune at the bus stop, or absently humming it whilst pottering about the house? I know I did, and I couldn’t stand the stuff until a few years ago. Marmite’s my mate, is it yours?

Friday, 19 August 2011

How should people be directed to your facebook page?

For starters, if you're doing it like in the photo on the right, you're doing it wrong. I'll explain why later.

Since their launch, facebook pages have become an increasingly important part of many companies online marketing strategy. Their versatility and interactive nature have given business a method of two way conversation with their audience like never before, allowing deeper and more reactive relationships.

Add to this the 'word of mouth' element, where a comment or like is seen by a users friends, being something of a recommendation, and it easy to see why facebook pages are becoming just as essential as traditional corporate websites.

For evidence in this, just look to traditional advertising. I've certainly noticed that in television and magazine adverts, as well as billboards, a company's facebook page is often displayed rather than their website. More and more people are being directed to a facebook page, where they can 'opt in' to regular engagement.

But how to direct those customer via offline marketing has always been a problem. With a website, it's easy. Just include a nice, visual link directly through to the page and that's that. However, this is obviously impossible offline.

Company's have attempted this in many different ways in the past, without a single accepted standard developing. People have been invited to 'Find, Join or Search for us on facebook', some times with a search term included, such as 'eskimosoup'. This is what's been done in the picture above; passers by are invited to find the company of facebook, though without the help of suggested search terms.

This was the problem; users did in fact need to search for the page. They would have to remember or guess the search terms, probably the company name and could in fact find a list of similarly named pages, possible visiting the wrong page in the end. Even if they did reach the intended page, it could take work. As with anything online, the fewest clicks means the least effort, so the opposite could cause the people to give up entirely.

This is how it has been, but finally there does seem to be a consensus emerging, with many leading companies employing the same method. And that method just so happens to be the one that we've been recommending for years, ever since the functionality that allows it was introduced.

When a business page is first created, the url/web address will be something like ''. It's fairly plain to see why displaying a web address such as this would be useless in offline advertising. It's too long and difficult to remember, at least for anyone without a photographic memory.

This is why companies got into the habit of directing their audiences to search for them, as they couldn't expect such a url to stick.

As with any web address, the shorter and more memorable a url is, the better. This is especially important in marketing, where one can only expect limited interest and attention from the viewer of a url.

So, how can that be done with such an unwieldy url as a facebook page has?

In the early stages of pages, I identified this problem and would recommend companies direct a sub-domain of their own towards the page, for example, ''. This could be displayed in offline marketing and anyone visiting that address would go directly to the corresponding facebook page.

While other company's audiences had to login to facebook, then use the search box to hopefully find the right page, if they indeed used the right keywords and there was no other page with a similar name, our clients could be confident that their prospects were directed straight to their page, with no chance of going elsewhere.

This was a great, effective workaround, but then facebook itself realised the problem and introduced it's own solution. Pages could now register a new shorter and more memorable url by visiting ''. We quickly registered '' and went about the business of doing the same for all our clients. This url was then displayed in all offline, as well as online marketing.

This was some time ago, but is only now emerging as the accepted best method of advertising a facebook page, included in those adverts and billboards mentioned above. There are however, still a surprising number of not just small page, but also huge, corporate pages who still haven't caught on.

How about you? Have you registered a short url for your facebook page? Have you included it in your advertising? If not, we strongly recommend you do so as soon as possible at

Friday, 12 August 2011

Are #hashtags relevant to your Business?

Last week I talked about using twitter hashtags to promote business, specifically adding trending hashtags to your tweets to increase their reach. I offered a couple of top tips and promised more this week, so here they are.

Relevance is Key - Though you can add a trending hashtag to any marketing tweet, even if they have nothing to do with one another, it's not often a good idea. It will be considered spamming, which means at best, it will be ignored by most but a few, who will follow up with your desired action. At worst, it will irritate many, twitter will receive a report of spamming and your account will be deleted with no prior warning. Not great, if you've spent years building your following.

Relevance can be Flexible - It can be tricky, but with a little creativity messages can be made relevant to the trending hashtag. Remember that it's rare that traditional marketing speak should be used in Social Media. 'Buy now!' doesn't often cut it. Social Media is relationship building, before the sale, so don't think you have to go in screaming about your brand. Even forgetting your brand and just engaging in the conversation around the trending hashtag or making a witty comment will bring relationships for you to build on.

Relevance to your Brand - Except for the geographical targeting above, so far we're talking about a fairly scatter gun approach. Yes, you're reaching large numbers of people, but are they interested in what you offer? If your market is broad and encompasses all shapes and sizes, there's no worry. If not, it depends what you offer. If it's golf clubs, for instance, then there may be lots of activity around famous tournaments and you can presume the trending hashtag audience will be fairly receptive. Other times it may be slim pickings, unless Tiger Woods makes the headlines again.

So, our tips so far are piggy backing on popular hashtags, but they don't necessarily have to be trending to be useful. '#specialoffer', for instance, may not be trending, but if a user sees it in a tweet, they can click it and see every tweet with it included, presumably a list of special offers. Similarly, people looking for info about Sheffield, can search for '#sheffield' and bring up all the corresponding tweets.

If you have a keyword such as these that you suspect people may be looking for, have a look yourself, by typing the keyword, including the hashtag in the search box at the top of any twitter page. If there's lots of recent tweets in the results, then the hashtag is 'live' and good to be added to your tweets. If, on the other hand, there's few and they're far between, it's probably not worth it.

Looking at creating your own hashtags, these can be good for running competitions or having a conversation around a subject, but you'll have to prompt your followers to add them. So, something like "answer this question and include '#yourcompanyname' to be in with a chance of winning" or "Tweet with #ourlatestproduct to let us know what you think of it."

As far as having your hashtag trend, it'll be tricky and may not even be worthwhile. For it to trend, it needs thousands of tweets to include it, so will need to either have a viral element, such as humour, or have topical relevance to current affairs. However, if this has no relevance to your brand, your initial tweet will be lost in the deluge and all those thousands of tweeters will have no idea it was you who started it. It's therefore imperative that your brand or a direct connection to your brand is included.

This will most likely prove difficult, if not impossible, so may well never play a part in your twitter marketing. It's always worth keeping in the back of your mind though, because if the opportunity ever arises, a trending hashtag directing back to you could bring phenomenal success, easily eclipsing everything else you've ever done with the platform.

I often say there's no magic bullet or means to get instant success in Social Media, it takes consideration, work, patience and time. But that said, a trending hashtag as described above, would come pretty close.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pot Noodle: 'It's dirty and you want it'

The best way to begin this brand spotlight would be by pointing out that Pot Noodle is the most recognisable, and surely the most popular, instant noodle snack in the UK, whilst simultaneously the most hated brand of all time. According to a 2004 consumer poll, the majority of Brits simply couldn’t stand the product, though whether this referred to the foodstuff itself, the advertising or its reputation of being not so much junk food as just somehow a bit mucky remains unclear. Granted, seven years have passed since this research was carried out, but no other brand springs to mind that might claim its place if the survey were conducted a second time.

So, how can something that’s loathed by so many people remain on the shelves of every single supermarket and the majority of corner shops throughout the nation? The answer is beautifully simple: by using this public disgust to its advantage. 

A relatively young brand, Pot Noodle was launched in 1979 by Golden Wonder, instant noodles themselves having been invented in 1958 by Taiwanese-Japanese businessman Momofuku Ando. It’s almost praiseworthy how the UK can take something basic and filling (albeit dried and pallid) and make it… well… wonderfully tacky. China, for example, has a few dominant brands of instant noodle with lovely names, such as Ting Yi (‘Master Kong’), Hwa-Long (‘Chinese Dragon’) and Bai-xiang ‘(White Elephant’), whereas in Ethiopia, the trade name Indomie is referred to as ‘Lehulum Tesmami’, meaning ‘suitable for all’. All of these will undoubtedly be eaten with at least a little decorum and most likely function as a meal accompaniment rather than a quick and slimy belly filler. And instead of a chintzy porcelain bowl with chopsticks in a calm family-based setting, our nation gobbles limp, dripping ribbons from a plastic pot, emitting vulgar slurps as the rehydrated peas pop between our molars. Still, the container’s recyclable and there’s little water usage involved, as you don’t have to do any washing up, so it’s not all bad.

Over the last few years, Pot Noodle has truly embraced its reputation of bordering on the sinful, and this has been blatantly portrayed through use of overtly smutty situations. One advert followed a seemingly straight-laced man as he prowls the streets in search of a purveyor of the forbidden snack, and another sees the shooting of a backstreet adult movie, the female star going wild with a classic Chicken and Mushroom. But it wasn’t so much the content that some found offensive, it was the graphic strapline that tipped the whole campaign over the edge: Pot Noodle claimed to be ‘The slag of all snacks’.

And yet, the brand’s marketing department didn’t stop there. Instead they produced posters showing their product resting next to a seedy neon sign buzzing ‘Hurt me you slag’. Situated on bus stops, high streets and billboards, these were swiftly withdrawn once banned by the Advertising Standards Authority; a sad day in Pot Noodle history, but good publicity nonetheless.

Possibly the most intense Pot Noodle campaign featured a man joining his friends in a bar, but being met with surprise and disgust when they notice his badly concealed ‘Pot Noodle horn’, an oversized manifestation of his feelings toward the snack. You can’t help but love the guy’s dedication when, having accidentally knocked a woman off her seat with his instrument of passion, he boldly declares that "It's big and brassy and I'm going to blow it!” This advert soon got shunted on the TV schedule to after the 9pm watershed.

Over time, Pot Noodle adverts have treated us to ‘The Lambshank Redemption’ (a parody of Stephen King’s inmate drama, with the classic phrase "Spanking gorgeous!"), ‘The Moussaka Rap’ ("I'm making vegetarian moussaka with cheese from Osaka"), and the hardworking men and women of the fictional Crumlin Noodle Mine (Pot Noodles are manufactured in Croespenmaen, near Crumlin, Wales, with 155 million units produced annually). So whether you line your kitchen cupboards with Pot Noodles or wouldn't eat one if your life depended on it, you have to admit that the brand is honest, innovative and has a good sense of humour.

Pot Noodle currently comes in about fifteen flavours. Whilst Beef and Tomato and Chow Mein have remained popular, some have been fleeting due to either lower than expected sales or limited availability, such as Bacon Sizzler and the posh-sounding Lamb and Mint. Then there are the seasonal editions, namely Turkey and Stuffing and even Christmas Dinner, ideal for slovenly bachelors who can then claim they prepared a traditional Yuletide meal. A responsible choice is Doner Kebab, as it’s a relatively healthy alternative to its far fattier namesake, albeit an awful lot soggier.

Personally I love Pot Noodles; any meal that can be prepared with nothing more than hot water and a fork is alright in my books. But when I’m eating one, I can’t stop myself from thinking about Lister in Red Dwarf when he shares his opinion on the brand: "I've been to a parallel universe, I've seen time running backwards, I've played pool with planets and I've given birth to twins, but I never thought in my entire life… I'd taste an edible Pot Noodle." 

A Hull Graphic Design Agency

Friday, 5 August 2011

How do you use #hashtags on Twitter for Business?

We do have a tendency to focus on facebook when speaking about Social Media here at Souper News. With good reason too, as having an active usership of over 750 million, it's the undisputed king of Social Media. This means that when a business is looking for a target audience in Social Media, the chances are they'll find the largest on facebook.

But facebook isn't the be all and end all. There's a multitude of Social Media platforms out there and sometimes it's appropriate to branch off from facebook and incorporate more into the marketing mix. If a company, for instance, has some real characters among it's staff, videos may be able to exploit and get that across more than a photo or written word. If that's the case, then Youtube is the place to be.

More than any other platform though, we recommend and use twitter, combined with facebook, in Social Media marketing strategies. Again, it's got a huge usership, but it's more how it's used that's the key. Social Media has always had an element of being something of a virtual version of word of mouth, traditionally regarded as on of the best ways a business can be promoted. Twitter distils this and keeps it simple, making it the focus and in doing so, replicating real world word of mouth more fully than any other platform.

Twitter is simply great at getting the word out. With the right followers and specifically targeting users with influence and good followings of their own, an interesting marketing message can really catch fire and spread far and wide. Though barely any different in essence from a status update on facebook, the lack of 'noise' from the myriad of other things one can usually do on other platforms, means a tweet can go so much further.

If that tweet contains the same keyword as many others posted at that time, say the name of a celebrity in the News, then that keyword may 'trend'. This means that it will be displayed as trending on the twitter home page, as well as various associated apps. Users may then click on the trends and see all the related tweets.

Hashtags (preceding a word with '#', i.e. '#eskimosoup') take this further, by converting the keyword to a link in the actual tweet, going through to a page displaying all the tweets containing that term. Recently, with the Murdoch scandal in the News, '#hackgate' became popular, so anyone interested could click on that hashtag and see every tweet containing the term.

So how can this be useful to Business?

As I always say with Social Media and often with the Internet in general, they're still young and are only just beginning to explore their potential, so many ways may yet be to come. Below though, are a few top tips from us about using hashtags on twitter. It's by no means exhaustive. We may know more, but sorry, we're not telling. If we did that, everybody would be as good as us! ;-)

Watch the Trends - By definition, trends are popular. If a hashtag is trending it means thousands, if not millions, of people are writing and reading them right now. If you can drop your message in there, by adding the hashtag to your tweet, that's a huge audience.

Trending where? - If you're an online business with e-commerce trading internationally to everywhere covered by twitter, it doesn't matter. Otherwise, it does. If your market is the UK, hashtags containing 'UK' are an obvious indicator, as are those with city names, though they might have a narrower reach. Words specific to UK news could also be right.

... and I'll leave it there.

'What?! Only two top tips! Where's the usual ten I find everywhere else?', I might hear you cry.

Oh ok, we'll have some more next week, looking at how relevance is key in using twitter hashtags and how best to create your own.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Spotlight on Nick Bolt, Lead Developer

Nick Bolt began his career at eskimosoup as a developer, before swiftly rising to the challenge of Lead Developer. Having completed an industrial placement in Bradford, focusing on software development, attained a First Class Masters Degree in Computer Science from Hull University, and even demonstrated his skills at that very institution for two months prior to joining us, the man certainly knows his onions… or at least how to code some virtual onions.

eskimosoup reporter Rich Sutherland entered Nick’s web of… web stuff… in order to ask him a few questions, which the tech-minded mastermind was kind enough to answer in jargon free English.

RS: Nick, you have a Masters in Computer Science. What qualification did you get before that? I’m guessing it was in a similar subject.

NB: Certificate in Psychology.

RS: Ah.

NB: I plan to combine the two in order to create an online intelligence that will take over the world.

RS: Really?

NB: No, not really.

RS: Right. So moving on, what is it that you do at eskimosoup? (In layman’s terms please, as I need to write this down.)

NB: I enable dreams…

RS: Lovely.

NB: …by amalgamating the needs of the client and the design plans of our creative team into a fully functional, dynamic website. Our designers provide a mock-up of what the site should look like, so it’s a case of building it on those foundations. Aside from looking good, the site needs to be easy to navigate, fast and efficient, and able to be updated frequently.

RS: And what would you say has been your favourite project at eskimosoup so far?

NB: Probably the virtual sexual health clinic for the NHS that I’m working on now, as it incorporates elements from every aspect of my job. It’s also security heavy, which is always a motivating challenge, and has a very high level of functionality. It’s a varied site full of interesting content and has to be speed sensitive, so there’s lots of nice techie stuff for me to be getting on with.

RS: What about outside of work, what do you get up to in your spare time?

NB: I take part in badminton with team members when they turn up, boxing with a friend when he turns up, and karate when I turn up. Aside from that I seem to be finding myself cleaning the house a lot. Does that count as a hobby?

RS: No.

NB: Fair enough. In that case I like reading (I’m going through the Game of Thrones series at the moment), travelling to small gigs in Leeds and Manchester, and growing chillies.

RS: Growing chillies?

NB: I use them in my homemade chilli con carne.

RS: Nice. Anything else?

NB: I’ve got two guinea pigs called Winston and Fizzle and two hamsters called Mort and Roy. Roy’s a girl but she was wrongly sexed at birth and it’d seem wrong to change her name after all this time. Plus she feels like a Roy, you know?

RS: …So anyway, you’re eskimosoup’s Lead Developer, you know your stuff when it comes to all things technical; weird question, but what’s your favourite equation?

NB: Ooh, it’d have to be y = !x = !z = true

RS: Interesting. And what does that mean?

NB: It’s what it doesn’t mean that’s so interesting.

RS: Okay, what doesn’t it mean?

NB: Exactly.

RS: Nick Bolt, it’s been an absolute pleasure.