Thursday, 27 October 2011

Square versus Oblong! Which is best for profile images on facebook?

In last week's article I looked at a brilliant marketing campaign in Canada, where they'd taken the boring old square shreddie, tilted it to the side, and invented the wondrous new diamond shreddie.

Very much tongue in cheek, but very effective, with the humour really connecting with the audience and hence, significantly increasing sales of the breakfast cereal.

After giving squares such a kicking, I felt a little guilty, so this week I'll look at where they're top of the pile... at least in my opinion. It's an opinion that a lot of 'experts' would disagree with, but I'll give the arguments and you can make up your own mind.

Like many specialists, Marketers will give you opinion and advice and this may sometimes differ from what you'd get from others in the industry. If it's based on theory or personal experience, there's not always going to be a right and a wrong or it might be a new approach or a unique solution specific to the client.

Either way the client has to either simply trust the Marketer or examine their reasoning and past experience, then decide for themselves on the best course of action.

So, as the headline pretty much gives away, the contentious opinion I'm offering today is that a square profile picture on facebook is best, better than the long, oblong image recommended by the majority of Social Media Gurus and experts.

I've written for eskimosoup before on this subject and regularly recommend to clients that they don't use long profile images. However, as facebook and other Social Media platforms regularly update and change their layout and functionality, it's always worth reassessing practice.

One objection I used to hold on long profile images was how they appeared in thumbnails.

Unless a user is actually on a page, they will only see the thumbnail of a profile image. In searches at the top of the facebook page and in the newsfeed, it's the thumbnail that people see. As this is how the majority of people interact with a page, it's hugely important that the image displayed well.

Thumbnails for long profile images used to display a square from the center of the image. Though some savvy design, placing the logo or an appropriate image within this space, could solve the problem, many businesses didn't do this.

Because either they or their Marketing agency had no awareness of the importance of the center of the image, they'd have the vital information elsewhere. The company's name or logo might not display in the thumbnail or be cropped, leaving somewhat abstract thumbnails, looking unprofessional and meaningless.

At this point, we recommended a square image, with a 'bleed' of blank space around what was to be displayed in the thumbnail. It worked and meant that the facebook pages for our clients often had the edge on their competition.

Facebook then introduced the functionality whereby a page could define which portion of their profile image would appear in the thumbnail.

This certainly helped the problem, but around the same time, facebook also removed the horizontal navigation for a page. This meant that if a user wanted to visit the 'photos', notes', or anywhere else on a page, they needed to use the links beneath the profile image.

Unfortunately, the long profile image then pushed this navigation 'below the fold'.

If you're not familiar with this term, it harks back to good old fashioned paper marketing, when a letter would be folded into three before being placed in an envelope. The most important information should be placed in the first section, 'above the fold', as there would be a 'drop off' of people who wouldn't continue reading further.

This same idea applies to the internet, where 'below the fold' is when a user has to scroll down to see more. A large screen may increase the initial visual area, but not everybody has that, and you can actually presume that many may have a lot less, as the small screens of mobile devices become an ever more popular method by which to connect with the internet.

This to me, is currently the main reason for not choosing the long images. As I've said above, that attitude isn't set in stone and may change as functionality and layout changes.

But for the time being though, and especially while facebook and google, the unarguable kings of the internet, themselves choose the square, I'm very confident in recommending the same to our clients.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Are you made of The White Stuff?

Throwing convention to the wind, this Brand Spotlight doesn’t actually focus on a brand. Instead it looks at a generic product that’s available worldwide from various suppliers and features on the majority of shopping lists. No, not jelly beans; good old-fashioned milk.

It’s interesting how many celebrities have endorsed this dairy product, from Nena von Schlebr├╝gge (Uma Thurman’s mum) accompanying the slogan ‘Drinka pinta milka day’ in the 1950s, to the present ‘make mine Milk’ campaign, which has seen Gordon Ramsey, Pixie Lott, Ryan Reynolds, Rupert Grint and ambassadors for the 2012 Olympics all sporting ‘milktaches’. But then the majority of people enjoy milk in some form on a daily basis and it has definite health benefits, so maybe it’s not surprising how much effort goes into its promotion (£7.5 million for the latest campaign, which resulted in a 1.8% increase in sales over the first year).


As for milk TV adverts, oh there have been some beauties! Who could forget Paul Whitehouse from The Fast Show declaring “Int milk brilliant?” in the mid nineties, and the rehash of the Squeeze track ‘Cool for Cats’ a few years earlier? Not to mention the happy milkman and his dancing milk bottles! And then of course there’s the unforgettable classic from the eighties: “Accrington Stanley, who are they?”



So the next time you pour yourself a glass of white gold, something that you buy without question or qualm, rest assured that it will never go out of fashion. After all, with the likes of the new A-Team cast demanding that you drink milk, we’ll be enjoying its wholesome goodness till the cows come home.


A Hull Graphic Design Agency

Friday, 21 October 2011

Have you tried 'Diamond Shreddies'? Don't think outside the box. Tilt it.

In the 60's, the term 'square' became synonymous with being boring and the association endures to this day. A square is uniform, predictable and undoubtedly the least sexy of all the shapes. A marketer can only work with what they have and if what they have is a square, they'll really need to go some to give it the required va-va-voom.

A few years ago, Shreddies sales in Canada where slumping. The breakfast cereal is undeniably square and it's marketing did little to contradict the traditional association. It's image was dry and the audience were uninterested. A boring product.

For a marketing agency lacking creativity, this is a nightmare. They (hopefully) put the product in nicely produced materials on and offline, but have nothing more to offer in engaging an audience. Essentially, it's left to the poor, boring product to sell itself.

For a creative marketing agency however, a boring product is a gift, as it gives the maximum scope to really do something different.

If a product is amazing, it sells itself. A Farrari doesn't need any special effects. People will pay attention. It's eye catching in nature and even dressing one in a sack won't diminish it's appeal.

But a boring product, that's going to take something special.

So how can you make a product which is quite literally square more appealing?

Marketing agency Olgilvy came up with the answer. Rather than think outside the box, they decided to turn it over or rather, rotate it by 90 degrees.

Take a shreddie and tilt it to one side.

Make the square a diamond.

There's nothing more glamorous than a diamond. Since time began they've been a symbol of success, wealth and beauty (let's forget any negative aspects for now, such as their often unethical sourcing). Beautiful men and women drip in them. They have the 'Wow' factor.

Diamonds are eternally cool and at the very opposite end of the "Oh Joy! Look what we've got to push now!" scale from squares for Marketers.

Now of course, this is all very 'emperor's new clothes'. It's still the same old shreddie and nothing has actually changed with the product. It hasn't become sexier or a new emblem for success. It tastes the same as it always has and no one will be wearing them in their jewellery any time soon. Not even Hippies.

But that's the point. We, the audience, get that. We're in on the joke.

In a hyper aware environment, where people know the language of marketing and are better equipped to filter out the BS than ever, congratulating them on that fact and all having a laugh about it together, is a good way to get an audience on side.

Everyone already knows what a shreddie tastes like. There's little to really sell. It's square and 100% whole wheat. That's it.

But if the consumer likes the shreddie seller. If the seller makes them laugh, feel clever and hence, a little better about themselves, then they might give the plain old shreddie another go at breakfast time.

It certainly worked in Canada. Shreddie sales increased by 18% and the campaign itself won the Best of the Best Award at the 38th annual Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) Awards.

In the current financial situation, it's getting harder and harder to part consumers with their money. For a campaign to have the edge and catch the audiences attention, it needs to stand out.

Just going through the motions of your benefits and features may not be enough.

A little creativity is needed. Marketing is supposed to be a creative industry, so make sure your agency has that spark of invention, to give your promotion the edge it needs.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Getting up to Funny Business

Members of the business community are swapping the meetings for the microphone at the first ever Comedy Souper Bowl.

Part of Hull Comedy Festival, brave individuals will each have a five-minute set in which to make their peers laugh, guffaw and chuckle. Funds raised will go to the Smile Foundation, supporting the Hull Memory Clinic, Hornsea Inshore Rescue and Sunshine House in 2011.

The full line-up includes some of Hull and East Yorkshire’s well-known business figures:
  • Graham Jenkinson, Managing Director of Jenko Designs
  • Graham Boanas, Managing Director of West 1
  • Sam Whitaker, General Manager of Hull Esteem Consortium
  • Gary Major, New Media Manager at H&H Agency
  • Paul Hazel, Director of the Hypnotherapy Clinic
  • Rob Penrose, Managing Partner of Andrew Jackson
  • Steve Marsden, Managing Director of the Gargleblasters
  • Rich Quelch, Marketing Manager of eskimosoup
  • Colin Hart, Financial Controller of KMS Facilities Group
Rob Penrose, managing partner at Hull law firm Andrew Jackson, said:
"I am very keen to help the Smile Foundation in its work in supporting local Hull and East Riding charities. I am absolutely hopeless at telling jokes,and always forget the punch line. Doing something like this is completely outside my comfort zone, but it gives me a great opportunity to share my hopeless joke-telling abilities with many others. Why should I suffer in silence?"

Organiser John Gilbert, Marketing Director of eskimosoup, added:
“I think that the frightening reality is starting to set in now for some of the contestants. The thing is that they can only succeed; we are all going to raise money for a great cause and everyone wants to see these guys do well. Hopefully this will become an annual event and maybe next year we’ll get some ladies entering!”

The live final takes place from 7.30pm until 11pm on Friday 11th November at Brantingham Park, Elloughton. Anyone is welcome to attend and show their support. Entry is free, though the Smile Foundation will be collecting donations on the night.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Teacher in Hull suspended for facebook comments: Have you got a Social Media Policy for staff?

News this week that in our home town of Hull, a teacher has been suspended following her comments in a conversation with other teachers on facebook. The teacher in question is now under investigation after making negative remarks about people in the city. Hull City Council are expected to review their policy regarding Social Networking in light of the incident.

This really does highlight the need for strong guidance with an organisation's stakeholders as to their conduct on Social Media. The platform is a whole new ball game and perhaps many don't realise that need, but the head in the sand approach is increasingly likely to cause problems as Social Media becomes ever more ubiquitous.

For a school, where there's a complicated and fairly unique stakeholder structure, including teachers, parents and pupils, it's a difficult issue, but one that certainly needs addressing. Last year we delivered Social Media training to a number of independent schools on behalf of the Association of Marketing and Development in Independent Schools (AMDIS) and their need for a well-defined and dedicated Social Media Policy became strongly apparent as we spoke to more and more schools.

That need isn't exclusive to schools and extends across all three sectors, basically encompassing anyone with a reputation to protect.

Everyone's heard the story of the employee criticising her boss on facebook, forgetting he was her 'friend' on the network and receiving a comment from him instructing her to collect her P45 on Monday.

The problem is that it's not always that simple and clear cut.

Social Media is already vast, yet still growing. It strives to replicate our social life within an online environment. That means there's a constantly increasing array of ways to communicate, with intricate and numerous subtleties of functionality, often tailored specifically to each individual user.

Employees and wider stakeholders may be using any of these methods to discuss your company and subjects directly related to it at any time. A Google alert for you company name or other branded terms will help monitor those conversations when the terms are actually included, but if not, who's to know?

Hopefully, there's already a culture of personal responsibility for a company's image with it's staff in the real world. Hopefully, staff don't denigrate the business when speaking with friends, hopefully, never refer to their boss in negative terms and hopefully, never moan about work... but that's a lot of hope.

If in all likelihood, no matter how good your business, that isn't always the case, their real world network of friends are still a relatively small audience and the comments disappear as the conversations end.

That's not the case in Social Media. Far, far from it.

Everything is recorded in Social Media and has the potential to reach millions of people. The potential danger and damage to a brand is truly massive, as has been well reported with many viral videos and the like. A comment by a stakeholder may not go that far, but it has the potential to and however far it goes, it can still have significant impact.

Even someone making the usual and apparently innocuous comment that they've had a tough day at work could become disastrous. Should the commentor's friends ask why, there's a whole host of answers that could reflect badly on the company.

Perhaps there's been a difficult customer, but do you want a customer criticised publicly? Maybe it was a colleague that made the day tough and if that comes out, it shows disharmony in the ranks and airing the grievance publicly could amplify that. Even if it's just been a boring day, do you want your company described as such?

Whether the comments are of the ilk above or otherwise, the culprit may not even realise the potential damage they're doing. Complexities of privacy and security in the functionality of facebook et al, mean it's difficult for even experts to know exactly who can see what they post.

Should they be punished, especially if there's never been any mention of Social Media by their employers?

Employees and any other stakeholder need clear guidance on their behaviour and the sooner the better.

Within our Social Media Marketing products we include a Social Media Policy as standard because we believe it's now an essential part of any organisataion. Our policy covers all the bases and ensures stakeholders know precisely what they can and should do in Social Media.

If you haven't got a Social Media Policy, get one, before it's too late. If a negative comment goes viral, you could seriously regret not doing so.

Spotlight on eskimosoup's Marketing Director

John Gilbert has an impressive background in marketing and he’s ready to tell us all about it. Working on campaigns for various clients, from the NHS to small businesses, he’s one of our original team members. eskimosoup reporter Rich “I’ve only been here three months” Sutherland caught up with John to find out what his role involves.

RS: John, you’re the Marketing Director of eskimosoup. Can you tell us something about your employment history?

JG: I never really had a proper job.

RS: Short and sweet.

JG: What I mean is I took a quite conventional route to get where I am today but it was more immediate. I studied my GCSEs, then A-levels and a degree, and after that I went straight into working for an engineering firm, looking after their marketing activity.

RS: That sounds like an employment history.

JG: Well that’s true, but it was a very brief history compared to most. After my degree I did an NVQ Level 4 in Project Management, a Masters in Marketing and had become a Chartered Marketer by the age of 23.

RS: Impressive.

JG: Cheers. To be honest I did a load of study and work to try to find what I enjoyed doing. Fortunately I found that I loved marketing and events and I knew I wanted them to be a big part of my life.

RS: So what happened then? How come you left the engineering firm?

JG: I’d been doing a lot of networking in the local area and decided it was time to use my skills for a variety of projects and clients. I knew people and how to help them grow their business, so it was the logical progression.

RS: And what do you do here now, at eskimosoup?

JG: Well, as the Marketing Director of a marketing company, you need to really know your marketing. But it’s not just the skills you acquire during education or even the knowledge you accumulate through experience, it’s important to keep on top of trends and the way businesses work, what people need and how they want it delivering, progressions in social media and printing methods, and of course, the ever-changing way people do business. Keeping myself up-to-date with these factors, I work on our own marketing and business development as well as NHS campaigns and events, all while making sure the eskimosoup team is happy in its work.

RS: Difficult question as you’ve been working in your role for many years, but what would you say has been your favourite project?

JG: I’d absolutely love, and wish I had time, to set up a list of all the projects we’ve worked on, at the very least for nostalgic reasons. I’m really enjoying the current throat cancer awareness campaign, Throat wrecked? Get it checked! It has such clear goals, a healthy budget and will really make a difference to the wellbeing of the local community. It’s also going very well, which helps!

RS: Any others that spring to mind?

JG: We’ve had some cracking results this year; working on Biz Week was amazing and the recent St Stephen's Student Lock-in was even better than we expected. That said, I have to say I’m fairly proud that I managed to shoehorn a Zombie Walk into a public health campaign.

RS: And you said that you get to work with a lot of different clients?

JG: Absolutely. We’re actually really lucky at eskimosoup; we look after campaigns for so many interesting organisations with really passionate staff. When I started out I did business with anyone really, but now we can be more selective and only choose to work with someone when we know there’ll be a good working relationship, which will allow us to deliver first-class results. It makes sense really but it can take a while to achieve this level of business, and it’s very rewarding when you get there.

RS: I think I’d be doing you a great injustice if I didn’t mention the Hull Comedy Festival, which you founded.

JG: I did indeed. Five years ago. I really loved building it from scratch and seeing how far I could take it. It’s progressed to the next level now, running for a full month and attracting international acts like Tim Minchin. I passed on the torch to Rich Quelch this year, who’s now wearing the Festival Director’s (clown) shoes, and it’s great to see someone take to it so enthusiastically. People still see me as ‘the Comedy Festival Bloke’ but there were always loads of contributors who made it work; I was the one in the middle of it receiving pats on the back… and the occasional slap on the wrist!

RS: It’s clear that you have a lot on your plate in your work life. How does your personal life compare?

JG: I have two sons, a three-year-old and a five-year-old, which any parent will understand is both extremely good fun and very demanding. From cooking meals and cleaning the kitchen to playing tig and trying to explain the concept of time travel; there’s never a dull moment!

RS: And you’re a sportsman too?

JG: I’m enthusiastic, if not talented, for football, squash, keeping active, doing my back in, it’s all go!

RS: Cheers, John, you’ve been a great interviewee.

JG: No worries, my pleasure. But make sure you don’t use a photo of me with anything weird going on in the background.

 Next week’s Team Spotlight will be on Shane Cane, eskimosoup’s Graphic Designer who walks and talks in flash animated frames.

Friday, 7 October 2011

"Proof reading your blog posts certainly helps too ;-)"

Last week I discussed the common misconception that Social Media allows everybody to be an effective marketer. This train of thought is widely propagated by a whole host of Social Media gurus and experts, who say just follow their hints and tips, or better still, buy their 'how-to' guides, and you too could harness the power of Social Media for your business.

Unsurprisingly, it's not that simple and these tend more towards those 'get quick rich' schemes, rather than actually transforming people into marketing whirlwinds.

As with any worthwhile outcome, Social Media marketing success takes hard work, knowledge and experience. If a company doesn't have the appropriate resources, they better look to a third party, such as eskimosoup, to conduct their campaigns.

Last weeks article was a response to one appearing in Marketing Week and here's a couple more to support the argument from their excellent writer, Mark Ritson. Very interesting reading, especially to see that even the big brand can get it wrong in Social Media

So moving on, this week I want to talk about a comment I received on last weeks blog entry. From 'anonymous', the comment said,"Proof reading your blog posts certainly helps too ;-)", indicating a mistake in my copy. I only spotted one, but there may have been more.

Of course I do proof read my blog's before posting, but apparently not well enough for the odd typo to get through. It's an important point that whenever you publish anything online, be sure to check and double check it.

With the advent of Social Media, with it's status updates and tweets, we're getting more used to publishing regularly. What we publish is more likely to be a short remark, rather than a long, considered article and this brevity, along with just how often these are posted, can bring complacency with the accuracy of the language used. Even big brands make mistakes if you keep an eye out for them.

Now, obviously the subject of this blog isn't the English language or grammar and eskimosoup is in no way an English School, so I don't feel too ashamed. But presentation is a part of our work and spelling mistakes or typos just don't look good. No matter what company you are and however forgiving your audience, mistakes always detract in some respect from your professionality.

Twenty years ago, before the online boom, when a company's marketing activities might be producing a paper catalogue, some posters and a handful of leaflets, there was a relatively small amount of copy to check and get right. In the modern world, where companies are expected to blog a couple of times a week, post several status updates through each day and constantly tweet, that's a heck of a lot more output to control.

But it does still need quality control. Being quick and responsive is part of the nature of Social Media, so having to wait for the Director to 'ok' everything just won't work. Whoever runs your campaigns needs a certain amount of autonomy, a good grasp of the written language and an eye for detail. They need to consider carefully what they're posting and not rush it or they risk those errors coming through and your brand being damaged.

As last week showed, there'll almost always be someone around to jump on your mistakes and leave a comment. This then puts a big sign up for any other readers who didn't notice, making the whole situation worse. It's much better to simply take the due care and attention in the first place.

Right. Now I've gone and done it and written about proof reading, so I'm really opening myself up with this one. Have I made any mistakes or typos? 'Anonymous', over to you...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Hull Dine Week is coming to whet your appetite!

We're all "souper" excited about Hull Dine Week!

Taking place in various Hull city centre dining venues, you can save money with Buy One Get One Free offers, Kids Eat Free promotions and other great deals whilst filling your belly with mouth-watering meals!

The participating venues are:
Ask (Princes Dock Street)
Ceruttis (10 Nelson Street)
Expressions (Holiday Inn Express, Ferensway)
handmade burger Co. (St Stephen's)
Holiday Inn (Castle Street)
Kings Grill and Bar (10 King Street)
Leonardo's (Princes Dock Street)
Linley's (22-23 Story Street)
McCoy's (Princes Dock Street)
Pizza Express (Princes Quay)
Pizza Hut (Jameson Street)
Portland Hotel (Paragon Street)
Stanleys (Paragon Square)
The Wilson (Freedom Quay, Hull Marina) 

Please note that offers, dates and times vary by venue.

Running from Friday 21st - Sunday 30th October, Hull Dine Week will also host 'Come Dine With Us', an opportunity for anyone to become an online food reviewer and be in with a chance of winning £100 of vouchers to spend in a Hull Dine Week venue of their choice.

Hull Dine Week is run by Hull BID and linked with eatdrinkenjoy.

For more information, please visit the Facebook event.
Oh, and don't forget to wear your best bib!