Take a look at some of the press photos from Frankfurt and you’ll see some cars that make the Batmobile look low-tech: it’s pretty easy to make a car look interesting if it’s a concept vehicle decades away from production – stick a jet pack on the back or use doors that open upwards and someone is bound to take an interest. Getting people interested in a ‘real’ car though, one that will be in showrooms in 2012 and actually has to work, is a different prospect.
The seventh Rugby World Cup is upon us. Joy for rugby fans, not so much for everyone else… Being an Englishman (Sean) with only an interest in victory when it comes to anything other than football, I’ll pick it up at the semi-final stage. But we have some expert pundits amongst our client base so after discussions of car insurance, whisky and peer-to-peer lending, discussion turned to the sport I know little about. I fancy the Americans this year! But what did everyone else think? The reading is interesting…
Robin Reames, chief claims officer at AXA and swiftcover.com
- Winner: All Blacks (I think that’s New Zealand)
- Player to watch: Zac Guildford
- And the home nations: Scotland don’t make it past the pool. England and Ireland lose in the quarter finals. Wales surprise everyone and lose in the semis
Jade Trimbee, marketing manager at swiftcover.com
- Winner: South Africa (what a surprise, Ms South Africa…)
- Player to watch: Tendai Mtawarira (The Beast)
- And the home nations: Wales make it to the semis. Scotland and Ireland knocked out in the quarter finals. England lose in final to South Africa!
Elizabeth Obee, head of business marketing at Funding Circle
- Winner: Australia (one guess where you’re from…)
- Player to watch: Sekope Kepu
- And the home nations: Fairly well…close to Australia’s form but not enough to beat them!
Nigel Short, chairman at Penderyn
- Winner: Australia
- Player to watch: George North
- And the home nations: Not well, the Welsh and English being the biggest let downs
John Carter, captain of Oxford and ex Sale Sharks
- Winner: New Zealand
- Player to watch: Rory Lamont
- And the home nations: Ireland and England will do well…not sure about the rest!
Tim Stevens, general manager at Oxford University RFU
- Winner: Australia
- Player to watch: Will Genia
- And the home nations: All to qualify from their groups, but only one semi-finalist
Mark Davies, managing director at Scarlets
- Winner: All Blacks (New Zealand)
- Player to watch: Dan Carter
- And the home nations: England to semis, Wales to quarters
Joshua Van Raalte, managing director at Brazil
- Winner: New Zealand (with a wife from Timaru, NZ, he can’t say anything contrary)
- Player to watch: Israel Dagg
- And the home nations: Not very well. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England all out in the quarters
So, it looks like a New Zealand (or Oz) v Wales final! I’ve sure there would be a bottle or two of Penderyn drank in Wales if that was the case…Read More
Earlier this year, we were appointed by Funding Circle to help them with very ambitious business plans. It’s an interesting businesses – the best place to find out about the company is on its website, but in a nutshell, the idea is that savers invest in individual businesses rather than saving through banks. Cutting out the middleman means that savers get higher returns and the good feelings that result from helping out small businesses, and businesses are able to borrow at a lower rate than they would if they were to take a loan from a bank. The idea has been extremely successful: in less than a year, Funding Circle has made more than £15 million available to small, creditworthy UK businesses, and paid out an average yield of 8.3% to savers.
However, this isn’t the only successful application of crowd funding, which, in recent years, has proved to be a credible alternative to conventional funding models in today’s tough markets. The idea has spread like wildfire, and a range of companies are now using this idea to link investors with good causes. Some of the most successful examples of this are in the arts world – a great way for artists involved to protect themselves from public sector cuts and maintain a relative degree of independence.
Two excellent examples of this are Africaunsigned.com and artsurge.org. Africa Unsigned is a website dedicated in profiling undiscovered African musicians around the world. Artists who make it through an initial judging stage are given support gain support to help them raise funds for the production, promotion and distribution of their music. US-based artsurge.org, set to launch soon, is based around the idea of “microphilanthropy”, and aims to link promising artists with donors in order to provide artists with the resources they need to bring their projects to life.
Crowd funding is clearly a powerful tool – as evidenced by the millions of pounds lent to small businesses by Funding Circle – so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when other sectors get in on the act too. Crowd-funded invention, anyone?Read More
Since 1985, Honda has produced more than two million cars in its 370 acre factory in Swindon. These British-built cars go on to be driven around the world. Step into a Civic Type R in Japan and you may well find that you’re sat in a British-built car.
British drivers are incredibly supportive of their local industries, and many motorists actively look to ‘buy British’ when they buy their new cars. The trouble for Honda is that, being a Japanese company, not everyone realises that Honda produces cars in Britain. Honda wanted a campaign that would highlight Honda’s British credentials to consumers, and together with digital agency Collective, we put together the Made in Britain campaign.
The campaign encourages British ‘makers’ to submit their creations, and centres around a Facebook page. The very best entrants, British makers who are trying their best to turn their hobbies into a business, will each win a £1,000 development grant from Honda.
Where does Brazil come in? Working with Honda and Collective, Brazil has put together a campaign to spread the word about the competition, and make sure that it reaches as many people as possible. The campaign only kicked off recently, so the really exciting stuff is still to come, but already we’ve lined up star judges from Shortlist, Stylist and New Design Magazine, as well as a fantastic competition with links to the campaign on the Sun’s website. So, if you want to see the best British makers out there – or better still, if you want to showcase your work – head over to www.facebook.com/hondamadeinbritain and take a look at what’s going on.Read More
This month Facebook announced that Warner Bros will be using www.facebook.com to allow its customers to rent and stream films.
Launching with The Dark Knight, users will pay $3 (roughly £1.85) per to rent a film for two days. Crucially, if Facebook decides to use personal data to decide which films to suggest to you, the outcome will be scarily targeted, and the move into this sector makes Facebook a serious challenger to iTunes and Spotify.
However, the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind films will have a big effect on the current user experience. This may prove something of a challenge for Facebook, as users are accustomed to rapid browsing and not staying on a single screen for more than a few seconds.
Working as a Facebook app, another issue may be content management. Facebook currently has no facility on the site to track your apps or list them in order of preference, and with more apps available than we can count, it is likely that items such as this may get lost in the games, shop and other retailers all fighting for the space on your Facebook homepage.
Stores such as ASOS already allow products to be bought directly from the Facebook page, and at this rate, it won’t be long before Facebook controls your entire web experience. It’ll be interesting to see what rivals can come up with to even the scales.Read More
The last thing the internet needs is another post with a five step plan telling you how to “do” Twitter. Instead, we want to point you in the way of someone who’s doing it well. Last week, we chanced across Sevenoaks Police’s Twitter page. What’s so special about it? In a world full of social media experts/gurus/ninjas (delete as applicable), its a breath of fresh air: instead of the endless self promotion, retweets and follow Fridays that fill Twitter, this police force concentrates on original information that people following it are actually likely to find useful. it’s a way for the force to demonstrate what it does, and also to get warnings out to the people it serves.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking that this is not the first time that a police force has used Twitter, and you’d be right – Greater Manchester Police famously took to Twitter last year with a hugely successful project where the force tweeted every call that came in. However, this is no publicity stunt; police forces are using Twitter for its own sake, and it’s very interesting to see what they’re able to do – check out this picture of a siezed cannabis farm found by Salford North Police – especially given that these guys are operating on public sector budgets.
It’s not perfect (from a PR point of view, it’s probably unwise to tell people about successful speeding prosecutions) but it is refreshing to see Twitter used to inform rather than promote.Read More
Plenty has been written about social media as an effective tool for global brands, and growing number of small businesses have been getting in on the act too. Penderyn, the Welsh whisky distillery, has won praise for using social media to punch above its weight and develop an international presence, for example. While researching local businesses for this month’s Swift Awards, we’ve found that more and more local businesses are getting in on the act too – using social media to keep their finger on the pulse.
A desire to attract new customers and keep existing ones is vital to local businesses’ use of social networks. As a result of its uptake, service will no longer stop when the doors are closed. People are constantly connected and a 24 hour working day is likely to become a reality, at least as far as customer service is concerned.
One Swift Award winner consistently using social media in a local capacity is Reading-based poultry breeder Widgit’s Birds. Businesses don’t come much more local than this, but enterprising staff members are using Facebook to keep in touch with existing customers and build the business’s reputation. As well as the usual customer service support, the suppliers offer free advice, particularly important when keeping animals during the winter months. It’s great to see social media catch on locally – a clear sign that it’s here to stay.Read More
PR, like any other marketing discipline, is going through major transitions, and in 2011 I think we will see a number of significant trends which may evolve our industry further.
Here are five for your consideration:
1. No More PR Boxes
Everyone has their own perception and interpretation of exactly what PR is – thus the difficulty I had in explaining to my mother what I actually did for a living. However, the boundaries of this loosely defined discipline will blur even further in 2011. We are now seeing brand owners looking for creative campaigns rather than generic PR support – so PR can’t be put in a box and must innovate and collaborate in order to maintain a stand alone image.
2. Social media – common sense please!
Possibly more of a wish than a definite trend, however we’ve becoming increasingly jaded by the plethora of “social media gurus” and specialist social agencies trying to capitalise on the ignorance of marketing directors.
Much of social media is a combination of common sense and old fashioned communications techniques – it shouldn’t cost an arm and leg to implement nor should it be mandatory for all businesses to jump on the bandwagon.
We have journalists, we have bloggers and we also have journalists with blogs. However 2011 be the first year in which those seeking a way into journalism become a bloggers with a loyal following first, with newspapers and magazines giving commissions based on the popularity of a blogger. Those with the most followers win!
Everyone who is anyone has a smartphone now – and 2011 will see a further evolution. While those brand owners who produced an iPhone app last year probably think they are leading the way in mobile communications, in reality “mob.com” will be about much more than designing “cool” (but often useless) apps. QR (Quick Response) codes are starting to infiltrate popular society and there is great PR potential in developing mechanisms not just for data capture, but driving traffic to websites, shops, retail outlets and brand-related events. Also watch out for how PR can use augmented reality on mobile can engage with consumers in new and creative ways.
5. The Price is Right
The retail space is constantly being challenged. Twelve years ago the revolution started when online retailers went head to head with their “bricks and mortar” counterparts, and the pressure hasn’t subsided. This year we will see how retailers can connect to savvy consumers to offer instant deals, special offers and exclusive products. KGB Deals and Groupon have already made inroads into this market, and this model will be replicated (and improved) by established retailers, and of course shamelessly promoted through social media.