A Week In Advertising’s Double-Edge Sword Of Gender Equality

The brand and ad work around International Women’s Day and an industry confronting its own demons.

The newest ad in The New York Times‘ award-winning “The Truth is Hard” campaign launched this week, featuring headlines from global women’s rights stories, and in its own description, “elevating women’s voices and exposing those who would otherwise silence them.” It’s another powerful spot from a pretty flawless campaign. And yet, it was created by agency Droga5, which in February was forced to fire its longtime chief creative officer Ted Royer, citing the need for a “safe and inclusive work environment.”

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What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

In this article, we will be looking at GDPR from the perspective of how it will impact upon your marketing strategy and therefore, what does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018? The bottom line is that – as long as you are using data that has been ethically collected to market your business in a fair and transparent way – you have nothing to worry about. Furthermore, we consider GDPR to actually be a positive step in the right direction when it comes to the appropriate use of data by organisations who wish to raise awareness about their products and services to prospects and customers, in the hope of generating additional sales in some way or another.

The best advice we can give you is – don’t panic! This legislation is a relatively simple piece of good practice CRM housekeeping that we feel is absolutely necessary to protect the rights of all individuals globally, in an increasingly invasive dynamic digital world of big data marketing solutions. If you take on board the underlying principles upon which GDRP is based, not only will you keep on the right side of the law, but you will also in all probability develop better relationships with prospects and customers – and therefore deliver more effective marketing campaigns too.

GettyImages-500509967-1024x683 What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

No one likes someone who intrudes! It’s the same when it comes to respecting your data.

Why not put yourselves in the shoes of the people receiving your communications, and try to see things from their perspective? Do you think they value receiving materials from your company in all the different ways you communicate with them? If not, perhaps you ought not to send them. We pretty much all dislike receiving junk mail through the post, but most of us do enjoy receiving tailored and relevant communications from brands we love from time to time. Why is this the case? Well, if you work out the answer to that question, then we guarantee that you will have an incredibly strong foundation for your organisation’s future communications strategy…!

As many will already know, GDPR stands for ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, an EU regulation coming into force on 25th May 2018. It sets out the rules by which companies must abide if they gather, hold and process anyone’s personal data. It sounds innocuous enough but has generated some unnecessary panic in certain quarters – whipped up by self-interested parties who may seek to benefit in some financial way through their unhelpful scaremongering – with the sense of metaphorical iron doors about to close between companies and any customers who haven’t positively expressed their willingness to receive communications.

Although true for some communication channels, it’s not true as a whole. Nor should anyone get into a flap over the stipulated fines for offenders of up to £17 million or 4% annual global turnover. Yes, these are eye-watering numbers, but these would only be levied for the most serious breaches.

In fact, so many stories of imminent doom have been circulating about the impact of GDPR that the body with responsibility for enforcing the regulations in the UK, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), has felt the need to create a blog debunking some of the myths that have arisen. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, on the matter of those fines:

‘It’s scaremongering to suggest that we’ll be making early examples of organisations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm. Last year (2016/2017) we concluded 17,300 cases. I can tell you that 16 of them resulted in fines for the organisations concerned.’

So, as you can see, there is no need to panic! Yes, GDPR does involve a bit of effort, but it will ultimately help to create databases that emphasise quality over quantity – and that showcase your business in a better light to its customers. In fact, being proactive when it comes to GDPR governance could actually end up giving your business a long-term competitive edge in its marketplace…

What is behind GDPR?

GDPR affects how marketers are allowed to approach customers, and what they can do with the customer data they collect. Rather than a radical overhaul of the system, it is more a consolidation of existing practice preparing for GDPR – “less of a leap and more of a small hop!” as one commentator put it. The EU have set up a website specifically to provide information about GDPR at https://www.eugdpr.org/ that shows that the aim of the legislation is to “protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches”.

do-not-panic-1024x683 What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

You shouldn’t feel vulnerable when companies approach you to use your details.

Of course, here in the UK, we are (at time of writing!) not very far away from ceasing to be EU citizens, but whatever doubts about the Brexit deal (if any) that we end up with, it is already known that we will continue to abide by GDPR rules, as well as those under another regulation coming in at exactly the same time as GDPR, the e-Privacy Regulation. In fact, it is the latter that has generated much of the anxiety about the impact of the new regime.

The e-Privacy regulation specifies the processing of data in connection with electronic communications and will replace the current Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). As well as encompassing phone calls, email and SMS – all previously governed by the PECR – the new regulation will extend to VOIP interactions (such as Skype), web-based email and the IoT (Internet of Things). It requires organisations – including marketers – using these channels in a B2C context, to have obtained the recipient’s consent to be sent communications. Every communication must be ‘transparent’, i.e. a message for marketing purposes must be clearly framed as such, state who it is from, and provide a simple option to opt out of future communications. Please note, by the way, that there is an overlap between B2B and B2C, in that the rules governing B2C marketing apply when dealing with sole traders or partnerships, even if one is communicating to them as businesses.

Consent
None of this seems unreasonable to us, and our sense is that most organisations will need to make few, if any, changes to comply. The main issue to consider is whether, and in what form, consent has been obtained from B2C customers. To comply with the e-Privacy Regulation – and GDPR – consent must have the following characteristics:

Separate: A consent request should be separate from any terms and conditions and not a precondition of signing up to a service unless necessary to receive that service.
Granular: Customers must be given options to consent separately to different types of processing. For example, separate consents should be obtained for sending emails and making telephone calls.
Named: The organisation and any third parties that will be relying on consent must be clearly and unambiguously named.
Active opt-in: Unticked opt-in boxes or similar must be offered. In other words, customers must take a positive step to opt-in. Silence or pre-ticked boxes cannot be construed as consent.
Documented: Records must be kept to demonstrate what the individual has consented to, and when and how they consented.
Easy to withdraw: It must be as easy to withdraw as it was to give consent – via a simple, effective mechanism (e.g. a clear ‘unsubscribe’ option within emails).

happy-customer-1024x683 What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

Know your rights and feel comfortable with who uses your data.

Where organisations are already working to these standards, the consents they have obtained prior to 25th May 2018 will continue to be valid. The e-Privacy Regulation does not govern B2B marketing communications (except to partnerships and sole traders), nor non-electronic marketing channels. In these areas, while it is true that organisations can rely on consent – to the same standards described above – as their ‘lawful basis for processing data’, consent is not the only lawful basis available. In fact, the ICO itself says:

‘The GDPR sets a high standard for consent. But you often won’t need consent. If consent is difficult, look for a different lawful basis.’

In addition to consent, there are five other lawful bases for processing data. One is ‘contract’ which can be invoked where communication is necessary to fulfil a contract or provide a quote, but the one most relevant to marketers is ‘legitimate interests’.

The ICO suggests that the legitimate interests basis ‘is likely to be most appropriate where you use people’s data in ways they would reasonably expect, and which have a minimal privacy impact, or where there is a compelling justification for the processing’. In a marketing context, a company promoting its wares will not usually impact seriously on anyone’s privacy, especially when recipients of their promotions can unsubscribe at any time. The ICO continues:

‘There are three elements to the legitimate interests basis. It helps to think of this as a three-part test. You need to:
• identify a legitimate interest;
• show that the processing is necessary to achieve it; and
• balance it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms.

The legitimate interests can be your own interests or the interests of third parties. They can include commercial interests, individual interests or broader societal benefits.’

So, if you have a commercial interest in holding a customer’s data, this in itself can be a valid reason for you to hold and use some data about them. If following this route, the ICO requires you to balance your interests against the individual’s. ‘If they would not reasonably expect the processing, or if it would cause unjustified harm, their interests are likely to override your legitimate interests.’

To rely on legitimate interests as a basis of consent, organisations must carry out a legitimate interests assessment (LIA) and record the results to help demonstrate compliance. The legitimate interests should also be explained in the organisation’s privacy notice, which should include:

• how long personal data is retained,
• details of any sharing of personal data with third parties,
• an explanation of any profiling activities undertaken,
• how individuals can exercise their rights to opt-out or be ‘forgotten’,
• where to send complaints and if non-EU countries will process personal data.

The impact of GDPR and the ePrivacy Regulation on different aspects of marketing

Much of good practice under GDPR is about good communications between organisations and their customers – which is what good marketing is all about. As the Chartered Institute of Marketing puts it:

‘Whilst GDPR affects everyone within an organisation, marketers are particularly well placed to ensure GDPR compliance throughout their business. With a superior knowledge of the customer, marketers are able to enter into a dialogue with consumers regarding the changes GDPR will enforce, and understand what customers are willing to tolerate.’

If marketers are to take the lead in instilling GDPR into their organisations, they need to understand the effects of GDPR on the various communication channels they use.

With email marketing, GDPR doesn’t distinguish between B2B and B2C, but the ePrivacy law does – so opt-in consent must be obtained from individuals, including sole traders and partners. B2B marketers can continue to send marketing emails if they have completed their legitimate interests assessment, as described earlier.

Direct mail will be largely unaffected, as long as the means to opt out of receiving it is provided. There is no one opt-out service, so senders should, therefore, say which service they refer to when checking if people have opted out or not, and point people towards it if they would like to opt out of receiving their mailings. Current services include the DMA’s ‘Your Choice’, the Mailing Preference Service and the Royal Mail’s Door-to-Door Opt-Out. Expect to see direct mailing in a B2C context to increase, at least in the short term, because no opt-in consent is required from the customer.

Regarding telemarketing, the ePrivacy Regulation recommends the introduction of an ‘opt-out consent regime at a national level’. In the UK, we already have this in the shape of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Telemarketers are already required to refer to the TPS, and not call anyone who has opted out of receiving calls (those still bombarded by messages telling them they’ve been mis-sold PPI will appreciate the tighter enforcement that is being promised!).

Data gathered on social media, where it stays on the platform, will be covered by the platform’s privacy policy. However, if data is exported from the platform, for example by being added to a company’s CRM, it is then the exporter’s privacy policy that counts. Note that it will not be permitted to take a customer’s email address supplied when joining a social media platform and then use it in any undeclared email marketing.

The use of bought-in data lists may be limited by GDPR and the e-Privacy regulation. If individuals have to give their explicit consent to receive specific electronic communications from an organisation, that consent cannot be extended to other third parties. Companies who sell data as a major part of their activities may find this is no longer open to them. In response to the ICO’s draft guidance on consent, Experian said:

‘On the whole, the Guidance was in line with our expectation apart from the requirement to name all third parties with whom personal data would be shared. Our view is that this requirement if applied could create significant challenges including for SMEs and start-up businesses who do not have an existing database of prospective customers that they can engage with to generate sales.’

The impact on how marketers interact with customers and prospects at different points within their strategic bowtie marketing CRM solution (that communicates to both prospects and customers) could be significant. As suggested above, we may see significant growth in non-electronic communications, such as direct mail, being used to generate leads and build databases to add new contacts to the left side of the bow. At the same time, with some routes to gaining new B2C contacts being cut off, retaining and developing existing customers will become even more important: the more of those who can be turned into advocates and ambassadors, the more they will help bring in new contacts that companies can no longer reach directly. Jim Conning of Royal Mail Data Services adds:

‘If you’ve got a relationship with a customer, and you develop that, so it’s an accurate conversation, and you give the customer the opportunity to opt-out every time you communicate with them, then you’re going to get more business from that. It’s much cheaper to develop a customer that you already have than find a new one.’

Marketers (along with everyone else) must also respect consumer rights

GDPR not only provides rules that organisations must adhere to when handling data, it also sets out specific rights for individuals, namely:
1. The right to be informed about how their data will be used
2. The right of access – an individual asking what data is held about them and how it is used must be given that information
3. The right to rectification of inaccurate or incomplete data
4. The right to erasure – known colloquially as ‘the right to be forgotten’
5. The right to restrict processing, e.g. preventing data’s use if it is inaccurate
6. The right to data portability, allowing individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data for their own purposes across different services
7. The right to object to data processing based on legitimate interests (so the individual’s right to say ‘No’ will generally outweigh an organisation’s right to hold and process data based on its legitimate interests
8. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling

big-data-1024x576 What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

Knowing who holds your data and what they use it for, is your right!

The last of these rights is particularly significant given the increasing use of automation in managing and using data. People must be informed about how their data is held within databases/CRMs, including any profiling done with it. In a recent Marketing Week article, John Mitchison, Director of Policy and Compliance at the DMA, offered the following advice:

‘If you’re doing something straightforward like segmenting your file based on the consumer’s age, what they have bought in the past or where they live in the country, that’s fine – you can explain that very simply. However, if you were doing something much more intrusive – maybe you’re going out to third parties and getting additional data about the income of the household or the car they drive – while you may have a very good reason for collecting that data, it might be more difficult to do that under legitimate interests. If you’re doing-particularly sensitive profiling, you might have to ask for consent.’

The post-GDPR environment

The new regulations will be a good thing for marketing. Bad practices, which irritate and alienate customers, will be clamped down on, with marketing’s overall reputation theoretically rising as a result. GDPR will help to make consumers aware of how and when their data is used, so successful brands will be the ones trusted to handle data correctly. (Campaign magazine recently reported that seven out of ten customers would boycott a brand that mishandled their data.) That’s why the fines that could be levied for breaches are in many ways a side issue – far more important will be the impact on a brand’s reputation if the ICO finds it manifestly failing to safeguard data.

Viewed positively, the need to comply with the new regime from 25th May 2018 represents the perfect opportunity for organisations to review and tidy up their databases, data handling processes and data analysis strategies. All databases of any reasonable volume are bound to contain outdated or redundant entries that ought to be cleared out anyway as a matter of good governance, let alone in the interests of legislative compliance. Yes, databases will end up smaller, but they will be more accurate and up to date, potentially leading to more targeted marketing and better responses from recipients.

Consumers gaining awareness of the data held about them – and its value – with the ability to access and review it at any time, will effectively become owners of their data, the use of which they have full control over. This opens up the prospect of individuals even selling rights to companies to handle and use their data. No doubt there will be some developments none of us can foresee – rules and regulations almost inevitably lead to unexpected and unintended consequences, so it will be interesting to see what plays out.

The existing data protection regime was established before many of the platforms so familiar to us today were even invented, and the new GDPR and e-Privacy Regulations are largely concerned with catching up with the fast-changing world of digital communications. Inevitably, technology will continue to advance faster than legislators can keep up with it, but the new rules applying from May 2018 create a sound set of broad principles for those handling data – including marketers – to follow. They represent a chance to build greater trust and engagement. As the Direct Marketing Association puts it,

‘There is no need for marketers to fear GDPR, far from it. Use these new rules as a catalyst to become more customer-centric as an organisation, rather than thinking of it as merely a legal requirement.’

preparation-1024x725 What does GDPR mean for marketing in 2018?

General Data Protection Regulation which will come into effect on 25 May 2018 – Are You ready?

What to do next

1. Audit and, if necessary, clean up your existing database

2. Decide which lawful basis for processing your organisation will operate under.

3. If you use electronic communications to communicate with individuals, sole traders and partners, the only lawful basis for processing their data are to have their opted-in consent, so use multi-channels to encourage as many of them to opt-in prior to May as you can.

4. If you will be using the legitimate interests basis, carry out a legitimate interests assessment.

5. Update your privacy notice and make sure it easy to find on your organisation’s website.

For more detail, the GDPR section of the ICO website provides helpful and detailed checklists to work through to ensure you meet the requirements of the GDPR and e-Privacy Regulation.

Keep up to date

The world of GDPR changes all the time. To keep up to date with all the latest news is almost impossible, but you can keep on top of things by following us on social media – TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. If you would like to have a conversation with us about GDPR, please contact Stephen Brown on 020 7795 8175 or stephen.brown@abacusmarketing.co.uk – you can also visit our website at www.abacusmarketing.co.uk to find out more.

What will be the impact of GDPR on marketing strategy in 2018?

In this article, we will be looking at GDPR from the perspective of how it will impact upon your marketing strategy in 2018. The bottom line is that – as long as you are using data that has been ethically collected to market your business in a fair and transparent way – you have nothing to worry about. Furthermore, we consider GDPR to actually be a positive step in the right direction when it comes to the appropriate use of data by organisations who wish to raise awareness about their products and services to prospects and customers, in the hope of generating additional sales in some way or another.

The best advice we can give you is – don’t panic! This legislation is a relatively simple piece of good practice CRM housekeeping that we feel is absolutely necessary to protect the rights of all individuals globally, in an increasingly invasive dynamic digital world of big data marketing solutions. If you take on board the underlying principles upon which GDRP is based, not only will you keep on the right side of the law, but you will also in all probability develop better relationships with prospects and customers – and therefore deliver more effective marketing campaigns too.

Why not put yourselves in the shoes of the people receiving your communications, and try to see things from their perspective? Do you think they value receiving materials from your company in all the different ways you communicate with them? If not, perhaps you ought not to send them. We pretty much all dislike receiving junk mail through the post, but most of us do enjoy receiving tailored and relevant communications from brands we love from time to time. Why is this the case? Well, if you work out the answer to that question, then we guarantee that you will have an incredibly strong foundation for your organisation’s future communications strategy…!

As many will already know, GDPR stands for ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, an EU regulation coming into force on 25th May 2018. It sets out the rules by which companies must abide if they gather, hold and process anyone’s personal data. It sounds innocuous enough, but has generated some unnecessary panic in certain quarters – by self-interested parties who may seek to benefit in some financial way through their unhelpful scaremongering – with the sense of metaphorical iron doors about to close between companies and any customers who haven’t positively expressed their willingness to receive communications.

Although true for some communication channels, it’s not true as a whole. Nor should anyone get into a flap over the stipulated fines for offenders of up to £17 million or 4% annual global turnover. Yes, these are eye-watering numbers, but these would only be levied for the most serious breaches.

In fact, so many stories of imminent doom have been circulating about the impact of GDPR that the body with responsibility for enforcing the regulations in the UK, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), has felt the need to create a blog debunking some of the myths that have arisen. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, on the matter of those fines:

‘It’s scaremongering to suggest that we’ll be making early examples of organisations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm. Last year (2016/2017) we concluded 17,300 cases. I can tell you that 16 of them resulted in fines for the organisations concerned.’

So, as you can see, there is no need to panic! Yes, GDPR does involve a bit of effort, but it will ultimately help to create databases that emphasise quality over quantity – and that showcase your business in a better light to its customers. In fact, being proactive when it comes to GDPR governance could actually end up giving your business a long-term competitive edge in its marketplace…

What is behind GDPR?

GDPR affects how marketers are allowed to approach customers, and what they can do with the customer data they collect. Rather than a radical overhaul of the system, it is more a consolidation of existing practice preparing for GDPR – “less of a leap and more of a small hop!” as one commentator put it. The EU have set up a website specifically to provide information about GDPR at https://www.eugdpr.org/ that shows that the aim of the legislation is to “protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches”.

Of course, here in the UK, we are (at time of writing!) not very far away from ceasing to be EU citizens, but whatever doubts about the Brexit deal (if any) that we end up with, it is already known that we will continue to abide by GDPR rules, as well as those under another regulation coming in at exactly the same time as GDPR, the e-Privacy Regulation. In fact, it is the latter that has generated much of the anxiety about the impact of the new regime.

The e-Privacy regulation specifies the processing of data in connection with electronic communications, and will replace the current Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). As well as encompassing phone calls, email and SMS – all previously governed by the PECR – the new regulation will extend to VOIP interactions (such as Skype), web-based email and the IoT (Internet of Things). It requires organisations – including marketers – using these channels in a B2C context, to have obtained the recipient’s consent to be sent communications. Every communication must be ‘transparent’, i.e. a message for marketing purposes must be clearly framed as such, state who it is from, and provide a simple option to opt out of future communications. Please note, by the way, that there is an overlap between B2B and B2C, in that the rules governing B2C marketing apply when dealing with sole traders or partnerships, even if one is communicating to them as businesses.

Consent
None of this seems unreasonable to us, and our sense is that most organisations will need to make few, if any, changes to comply. The main issue to consider is whether, and in what form, consent has been obtained from B2C customers. To comply with the e-Privacy Regulation – and GDPR – consent must have the following characteristics:

Separate: A consent request should be separate from any terms and conditions and not a precondition of signing up to a service unless necessary to receive that service.
Granular: Customers must be given options to consent separately to different types of processing. For example, separate consents should be obtained for sending emails and making telephone calls.
Named: The organisation and any third parties that will be relying on consent must be clearly and unambiguously named.
Active opt-in: Unticked opt-in boxes or similar must be offered. In other words, customers must take a positive step to opt-in. Silence or pre-ticked boxes cannot be construed as consent.
Documented: Records must be kept to demonstrate what the individual has consented to, and when and how they consented.
Easy to withdraw: It must be as easy to withdraw as it was to give consent – via a simple, effective mechanism (e.g. a clear ‘unsubscribe’ option within emails).

Where organisations are already working to these standards, the consents they have obtained prior to 25th May 2018 will continue to be valid. The e-Privacy Regulation does not govern B2B marketing communications (except to partnerships and sole traders), nor non-electronic marketing channels. In these areas, while it is true that organisations can rely on consent – to the same standards described above – as their ‘lawful basis for processing data’, consent is not the only lawful basis available. In fact, the ICO itself says:

‘The GDPR sets a high standard for consent. But you often won’t need consent. If consent is difficult, look for a different lawful basis.’

In addition to consent, there are five other lawful bases for processing data. One is ‘contract’ which can be invoked where communication is necessary to fulfil a contract or provide a quote, but the one most relevant to marketers is ‘legitimate interests’.

The ICO suggests that the legitimate interests basis ‘is likely to be most appropriate where you use people’s data in ways they would reasonably expect, and which have a minimal privacy impact, or where there is a compelling justification for the processing’. In a marketing context, a company promoting its wares will not usually impact seriously on anyone’s privacy, especially when recipients of their promotions can unsubscribe at any time. The ICO continues:

‘There are three elements to the legitimate interests basis. It helps to think of this as a three-part test. You need to:
• identify a legitimate interest;
• show that the processing is necessary to achieve it; and
• balance it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms.

The legitimate interests can be your own interests or the interests of third parties. They can include commercial interests, individual interests or broader societal benefits.’

So, if you have a commercial interest in holding a customer’s data, this in itself can be a valid reason for you to hold and use some data about them. If following this route, the ICO requires you to balance your interests against the individual’s. ‘If they would not reasonably expect the processing, or if it would cause unjustified harm, their interests are likely to override your legitimate interests.’

To rely on legitimate interests as a basis of consent, organisations must carry out a legitimate interests assessment (LIA) and record the results to help demonstrate compliance. The legitimate interests should also be explained in the organisation’s privacy notice, which should include:

• how long personal data is retained,
• details of any sharing of personal data with third parties,
• an explanation of any profiling activities undertaken,
• how individuals can exercise their rights to opt-out or be ‘forgotten’,
• where to send complaints and if non-EU countries will process personal data.

The impact of GDPR and the ePrivacy Regulation on different aspects of marketing

Much of good practice under GDPR is about good communications between organisations and their customers – which is what good marketing is all about. As the Chartered Institute of Marketing puts it:

‘Whilst GDPR affects everyone within an organisation, marketers are particularly well placed to ensure GDPR compliance throughout their business. With a superior knowledge of the customer, marketers are able to enter into a dialogue with consumers regarding the changes GDPR will enforce, and understand what customers are willing to tolerate.’

If marketers are to take the lead in instilling GDPR into their organisations, they need to understand the effects of GDPR on the various communication channels they use.

With email marketing, GDPR doesn’t distinguish between B2B and B2C, but ePrivacy law does – so opt-in consent must be obtained from individuals, including sole traders and partners. B2B marketers can continue to send marketing emails if they have completed their legitimate interests assessment, as described earlier.

Direct mail will be largely unaffected, as long as the means to opt out of receiving it is provided. There is no one opt-out service, so senders should therefore say which service they refer to when checking if people have opted out or not, and point people towards it if they would like to opt out of receiving their mailings. Current services include the DMA’s ‘Your Choice’, the Mailing Preference Service and the Royal Mail’s Door-to-Door Opt-Out. Expect to see direct mailing in a B2C context to increase, at least in the short term, because no opt-in consent is required from the customer.

Regarding telemarketing, the ePrivacy Regulation recommends the introduction of an ‘opt-out consent regime at a national level’. In the UK, we already have this in the shape of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Telemarketers are already required to refer to the TPS, and not call anyone who has opted out of receiving calls (those still bombarded by messages telling them they’ve been mis-sold PPI will appreciate the tighter enforcement that is being promised!).

Data gathered on social media, where it stays on the platform, will be covered by the platform’s privacy policy. However, if data is exported from the platform, for example by being added to a company’s CRM, it is then the exporter’s privacy policy that counts. Note that it will not be permitted to take a customer’s email address supplied when joining a social media platform and then use it in any undeclared email marketing.

The use of bought-in data lists may be limited by GDPR and the e-Privacy regulation. If individuals have to give their explicit consent to receive specific electronic communications from an organisation, that consent cannot be extended to other third parties. Companies who sell data as a major part of their activities may find this is no longer open to them. In response to the ICO’s draft guidance on consent, Experian said:

‘On the whole, the Guidance was in line with our expectation apart from the requirement to name all third parties with whom personal data would be shared. Our view is that this requirement, if applied, could create significant challenges including for SMEs and start-up businesses who do not have an existing database of prospective customers that they can engage with to generate sales.’

The impact on how marketers interact with customers and prospects at different points within their strategic bowtie marketing CRM solution (that communicates to both prospects and customers) could be significant. As suggested above, we may see significant growth in non-electronic communications, such as direct mail, being used to generate leads and build databases to add new contacts to the left side of the bow. At the same time, with some routes to gaining new B2C contacts being cut off, retaining and developing existing customers will become even more important: the more of these who can be turned into advocates and ambassadors, the more they will help bring in new contacts that companies can no longer reach directly. Jim Conning of Royal Mail Data Services adds:

‘If you’ve got a relationship with a customer, and you develop that, so it’s an accurate conversation, and you give the customer the opportunity to opt-out every time you communicate with them, then you’re going to get more business from that. It’s much cheaper to develop a customer that you already have than find a new one.’

Marketers (along with everyone else) must also respect consumer rights

GDPR not only provides rules that organisations must adhere to when handling data, it also sets out specific rights for individuals, namely:
1. The right to be informed about how their data will be used
2. The right of access – an individual asking what data is held about them and how it is used must be given that information
3. The right to rectification of inaccurate or incomplete data
4. The right to erasure – known colloquially as ‘the right to be forgotten’
5. The right to restrict processing, e.g. preventing data’s use if it is inaccurate
6. The right to data portability, allowing individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data for their own purposes across different services
7. The right to object to data processing based on legitimate interests (so the individual’s right to say ‘No’ will generally outweigh an organisation’s right to hold and process data based on its legitimate interests
8. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling

The last of these rights is particularly significant given the increasing use of automation in managing and using data. People must be informed about how their data is held within databases/CRMs, including any profiling done with it. In a recent Marketing Week article, John Mitchison, Director of Policy and Compliance at the DMA, offered the following advice:

‘If you’re doing something straightforward like segmenting your file based on the consumer’s age, what they have bought in the past or where they live in the country, that’s fine – you can explain that very simply. However, if you were doing something much more intrusive – maybe you’re going out to third parties and getting additional data about the income of the household or the car they drive – while you may have a very good reason for collecting that data, it might be more difficult to do that under legitimate interests. If you’re doing particularly sensitive profiling, you might have to ask for consent.’

The post-GDPR environment

The new regulations will be a good thing for marketing. Bad practices, which irritate and alienate customers, will be clamped down on, with marketing’s overall reputation theoretically rising as a result. GDPR will help to make consumers aware of how and when their data is used, so successful brands will be the ones trusted to handle data correctly. (Campaign magazine recently reported that seven out of ten customers would boycott a brand that mishandled their data.) That’s why the fines that could be levied for breaches are in many ways a side issue – far more important will be the impact on a brand’s reputation if the ICO finds it manifestly failing to safeguard data.

Viewed positively, the need to comply with the new regime from 25th May 2018 represents the perfect opportunity for organisations to review and tidy up their databases, data handling processes and data analysis strategies. All databases of any reasonable volume are bound to contain outdated or redundant entries that ought to be cleared out anyway as a matter of good governance, let alone in the interests of legislative compliance. Yes, databases will end up smaller, but they will be more accurate and up to date, potentially leading to more targeted marketing and better responses from recipients.

Consumers gaining awareness of the data held about them – and its value – with the ability to access and review it at any time, will effectively become owners of their data, the use of which they have full control over. This opens up the prospect of individuals even selling rights to companies to handle and use their data. No doubt there will be some developments none of us can foresee – rules and regulations almost inevitably lead to unexpected and unintended consequences, so it will be interesting to see what plays out.

The existing data protection regime was established before many of the platforms so familiar to us today were even invented, and the new GDPR and e-Privacy Regulations are largely concerned with catching up with the fast-changing world of digital communications. Inevitably, technology will continue to advance faster than legislators can keep up with it, but the new rules applying from May 2018 create a sound set of broad principles for those handling data – including marketers – to follow. They represent a chance to build greater trust and engagement. As the Direct Marketing Association puts it,

‘There is no need for marketers to fear GDPR, far from it. Use these new rules as a catalyst to become more customer-centric as an organisation, rather than thinking of it as merely a legal requirement.’

What to do next

1. Audit and, if necessary, clean up your existing database

2. Decide which lawful basis for processing your organisation will operate under.

3. If you use electronic communications to communicate with individuals, sole traders and partners, the only lawful basis for processing their data is to have their opted-in consent, so use multi-channels to encourage as many of them to opt-in prior to May as you can.

4. If you will be using the legitimate interests basis, carry out a legitimate interests assessment.

5. Update your privacy notice and make sure it easy to find on your organisation’s website.

For more detail, the GDPR section of the ICO website provides helpful and detailed checklists to work through to ensure you meet the requirements of the GDPR and e-Privacy Regulation.

Why have Facebook CPMs increased by 110%?

As it stands, Facebook’s ad supply is outweighing the demand, impacting advertising costs as well as user behaviour on the platform.

In other words, while ad spend is increasing rapidly (spend more than doubled in the first half of 2017 alone according to Adstage data), the number of ad impressions available remains level.  This means that advertisers are currently paying more for the same number of impressions.  So what’s actually been happening to prices on the platform?

Research by Adstage analysing more than 1.7 billion ad impressions across Facebook, Instagram and the Audience Network has shown the average cost per thousand (CPM) increased by 110% in 2017.  The average cost per click (CPC) also increased 109% to $0.54.

While CPMs and CPCs are on the rise, click-through rate (CTR) is flat, so it’s costing marketers more to maintain the same CTR month-on-month.

The main factors causing higher Facebook CPMs are:

  • The number of advertisers on Facebook, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, is growing rapidly based on Adstage data.
  • Advertisers are increasing social media budgets to remain competitive. In 2017, 73% of advertisers increased spend on Facebook according to a survey carried out by Hanapin Marketing.

Other factors which may be playing a part in boosting advertising prices:

  • The growing popularity of video ads combined with the fact that advertisers are willing to pay more for these types of ads. In fact, video is taking over across the board with IAB’s latest report showing online video spend has overtaken spend on banner ads for the first time!
  • Algorithm changes impacting user behaviour has led to people spending less time on the platform. 2017 saw a 5% drop in the number of time users spent on Facebook, according to Adstage data.
  • The first-ever decline in Facebook daily users of 1 million was seen last year in the US and Canada.

Adstage also revealed that the number of advertisers active on Facebook reached more than 6 million by the end of 2017, gaining two million within one year.  This growth is showing no signs of slowing, as this is only 9% of the 65 million businesses on Facebook.

Interestingly, it’s particularly smaller brands turning to the platform.  Perhaps because Facebook is so accessible, cost-effective and straightforward to set up.  In other words, many businesses will be able to use current assets on the platform and already be very familiar with it (seriously, who isn’t?).

Touching on the changes in user behaviour mentioned earlier, it’s also recently come to light that websites have seen a significant fall in traffic from Facebook.  Statista shared the below based on Shareaholics’ report:

Over the past ten years or more, Facebook has become one of the main sources of traffic for many websites and even been a bigger driver of traffic than Google for some, as pointed out by Statista.

However, Facebook referrals as a percentage of overall traffic fell 12.7% in 2017.  This trend is likely to be due to changes in the way users behave on the platform with them posting less as well as spending less time on Facebook.

This, together with the most recent news feed changes pushing content from friends and family, as opposed to brands and businesses, means the decline in Facebook traffic to sites may well continue.  Although, a decline for Facebook sees a rise for Pinterest and Instagram…watch this space!

So as Facebook’s ad auction remains very competitive, it’s suspected that more and more advertisers will turn to Instagram to drive conversions and even Messenger ads too.  Nevertheless, one thing’s for sure, the growing number of Facebook’s advertisers and ad costs is not slowing down yet!

Related posts:

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Google is selling Zagat to a restaurant review company

The search giant bought Zagat seven years ago for $151 million. Since then it’s integrated Zagat’s listings and ratings into Google Maps, while letting Zagat’s website and publications be outdone by other restaurant review companies. Now, Google thinks it has gotten all the use out of Zagat it can and is selling the brand to …

The search giant bought Zagat seven years ago for $151 million. Since then it’s integrated Zagat’s listings and ratings into Google Maps, while letting Zagat’s website and publications be outdone by other restaurant review companies. Now, Google thinks it has gotten all the use out of Zagat it can and is selling the brand to The Infatuation, a nine-year-old restaurant review company, reports the New York Times. In a statement, Jen Fitzpatrick, a vice president of product and engineering at Google, said:

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Using Google Lighthouse for page speed

Google wants a faster web, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. They’ve recently made announcement after announcement that shows that improving the page speed of the web is one of their top priorities.

First, they’re making page speed a ranking factor. They also announced that they’re deploying a specialist team to accelerate the development of the WordPress ecosystem.

Even the sheer number of tools they’ve released to help improve page speed is impressive. There is the good old PageSpeed Insights, and more recently a feature for Winning On Mobile.

Finally, there is Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a tool that was primarily built to help support the development of Progressive Web Apps. But we’ve actually found it much more useful as a tool to help expand our Site Speed Audits.

Usually, a Site Speed Audit would be built around PageSpeed Insights. A classic Google tool, it’s been around for a little while. Combined with other tools like WebPageTest and GTmetrix, forms the basis of most Site Speed Audits.

However with PageSpeed Insights, while detailed, many suggestions will be impractical, if not impossible, for webmasters to implement.

For example, we’ve tried to optimise towards 100/100 on our own front page. But even though we stripped away basically everything, and hardcoded it in static HTML, we were still only able to achieve a score of 91.

This is because PageSpeed Insights is essentially flawed in the way that it works. Some of the metrics that it pulls out, especially for the Harvest homepage, are impossible to do.

Insights has marked us down for not leveraging browser caching. Seems legit. But when we look further into it, we can see that the resources that need caching are analytics tags or social resources. It wouldn’t make sense for us to cache these any longer.

Google Lighthouse

Lighthouse, on the other hand, is much more practical. Google has built it to re-enact real-world situations. It simulates visiting your site over a throttled 3G connection from a slightly underpowered device, to replicate real-life scenarios.

Lighthouse puts more emphasis on not just the site being fast but also feeling fast to the user.

And this is what makes them different. PageSpeed Insights is about the speed of your page, whereas Lighthouse is more about what users notice. Users aren’t going to notice the length of a cache life. All they care about is the fact that the page has loaded.

To that extent, Lighthouse has a bunch of completely different metrics to PageSpeed Insights. And it’s important to know which parts to pay attention to.

Lighthouse Metrics

Performance

Performance is your key group of metrics to pay attention to here. It’s split into Metrics, Opportunities and Diagnostics.

Metrics

Lighthouse uses the following metrics to measure the performance of your mobile site:

  • First meaningful paint – this determines the length of time it takes for some substantial, noticeable content to appear on the screen. You should be aiming for a low score here.
  • First interactive – this shows when a page first becomes interactive, even a little bit. It’s judged by whether or not UI elements are interactive, and if the screen responds to user input at all.
  • Consistently interactive – this shows when a page is fully interactive.
  • Perceptual speed index – the speed index measures how quickly the contents of a page are populated, and visible to the user. Your target here is a loading time of under 1,250ms.
  • Estimated latency input – this metric shows how long it takes for your page to respond to user input. You should be looking to get this as low as possible. Google’s target is less than 50ms.
  • Critical requests chain – this network waterfall shows what resources are called on in order to render the page. You should prioritise asset loading in the critical rendering path to speed up the page.

Once you’ve mastered these metrics, you’re able to draw a lot more insight for your clients than you would do from the more basic PageSpeed Insights.

Opportunities

As well as scoring your site against the above metrics, Lighthouse also gives you a list of opportunities to make your site speed faster by optimising certain resources. These include render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, resizing images and fixing offscreen images.

Diagnostics

Diagnostics gives you a bit more information about how well your site performed. These audits can be quite useful, especially parts like Critical Request Chains. Other audits, like Minify Javascript and Optimise images, you can get from PageSpeed Insights.

Progressive Web App

The Progressive Web App section is obviously what Lighthouse is pushing you towards, but we don’t really use it.

Accessibility

This section covers how easy it is for people to use your site (or web app). It’s more of an extension of previous Google WebDev tools, e.g. measuring when buttons are too close together.

We’ve been big on accessibility for a little while, so seeing that Google also measures accessibility somewhat validates a drum that we’ve been banging for a few years now.

Best Practices

This section covers what Google refers to as ‘recommendations for modernizing your web app and avoiding performance pitfalls’. Some of the audits here are useful but don’t get too hung up on the score here.

Audits such as Uses HTTPS, and Uses HTTP/2 for its own resources should be easy to pass, but one of the audits in this section will always be failed, especially if you’re using WordPress, and that’s fine. This is the audit marked ‘Does not open external anchors using rel=”noopener”’.

This is to prevent Reverse Tabnabbing. WordPress adds these tags by default, and some webmasters have also adopted it. So don’t worry if you fail it.

SEO

The SEO section is a new feature and is still incredibly basic. It features 10 basic SEO audits, including whether the page has a title.

If you’re not scoring 100 on this section already, I’m worried for you.

 

Once you’ve got all your feedback, you should be looking to work these into various audits for your clients. Don’t simply focus on PageSpeed – even though it’s the primary reason you’re here. We use the accessibility part of Lighthouse to run UX audits, for example.

How to use Lighthouse

To work with Lighthouse, you simply need Chrome 60 or higher, and you can get it as an extension. For those of us who aren’t developers, this is the easiest way to get a solid Lighthouse report. All you have to do is press Generate Report!

Lighthouse can also be run as a node module if you’re into that kind of thing. You can find the instructions to do that here.

Another tool for the toolbox

We’re not saying that Lighthouse is the one site speed tool to use above all others. But it’s definitely a good step up from simply using PageSpeed Insights. Using Lighthouse, alongside tools like GTMetrix and WebPageTest, can really help you drive the most value for your clients.

Related posts:

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Luxury brands or luxury blands?

Something very disturbing happened last week. I was in a dentist’s waiting room flicking through a copy of Vogue. Without thinking I put it back on the table and started reading Golf Digest instead, but this type of behaviour is very unusual for me. So why did this happen?

The immediately obvious answer: Vogue is boring. Or, at least the first twenty pages are. As the clearly labelled tin suggests, Vogue simply presents the current prevailing styles and fashion. It is not a literary classic. But I am someone who loves fashion, and I am eminently stylish (winky face in tow). So Vogue, and for that matter any other vehicle for advertising luxury brands like it, should appeal to me. I therefore decided to undertake a little research project to explore this incident in more detail. Here’s what I found.

Question 1: why are luxury brand advertising campaigns (LBACs) currently so lifeless?

Same-same, but not different. LBACs have become indistinguishable and entirely interchangeable. Some of the most revered establishments – the Guccis, Pradas, and Diors – no longer have clearly identifiable brands. In fact, if you were to replace the logo on almost any one of the current LBACs with that of a competing brand, it would require a very discerning eye (perhaps the sort that gets paid to authenticate artwork) to notice that something was out of place.

The human clothes horse project. Models are simply being used by luxury brands to hang their products off. The mannequin model method (or as I like to call it, ‘mmm’) of advertising is monotonous.

The superiority complex. Luxury brands are, to my mind, overly fixated on a sterile suavity and sophistication they think their high-society clients embody. But – and it is an important ‘but’, much more so than those of our mannequin models – it must be remembered that consumers at the very top of the ‘spending’ spectrum (and all of us, for that matter) are human and subject to everything that comes with it. For richer or poorer, the consumer is an emotional beast.

The emotional void. And this is the point. LBACs are not establishing an emotional connection with the consumer. It seems to me that they are giving very little consideration to the power of meaningful messaging. There are some people that would find this argument astonishing. They would say to me that luxury brands trade only in the purely superficial and it is unrealistic for me to expect something deeper than that. But, those of us who know and love the industry understand that it can and should mean much more.

A useful illustration of this argument is Dior’s campaign with Jennifer Lawrence. Search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – Dior’ in Google Images and then search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – emotions’. The contrast is staggering. The latter shows her to be, as if we didn’t already know, an utterly compelling character stuffed to the hilt with emotional possibilities. But, she has been presented by Dior, as far as I can see, like all other models. She has been dulled to the extreme and drained of her clearly abundant feeling.

Question 2: how can LBACs reinvigorate themselves?

Break the… in fact, forget moulds entirely. When I say forget the mould, don’t forget your brand’s raison d’être or product. That would be disastrous. What I mean is that you should not take your lead from other sterile LBACs. This seems to be the convention at present. Of course you will be aware of others’ campaigns, but when you start the creative process, don’t let this be your benchmark. Dig deep – very deep if need be – for novel, different, inspiring ideas; wrapping the product in emotional values. If your own brand identity is clear and simple, the scope for creativity arising out of it should be limitless.

The hidden depths. Luxury brands are in the luxurious position, inevitably, of being able to work with celebrities who have done and achieved wonderful things in their careers. Jennifer Lawrence, to use the same example, is an Academy Award-winning actress and now counted amongst Time’s 100 most influential people. Aside from her beauty, these are obviously reasons why she was chosen by Dior, but does that richness of her character and her almost iconic status come out in the campaign? Sadly for me it does not. Luxury brands must do their utmost, without being too brazen, to make sure the depth of their campaigns are fully understood by the consumer.

Make me feel. “Emotion drives most, if not all, our decisions”¹. LBACs must therefore at least try to make an emotional connection with the consumer. This doesn’t require over-sentimentality. Far from it. To be effective it simply requires the campaign to convey something which is human and meaningful. And far from being something to fear, the genuine exploration of an emotional angle (albeit not a very British behaviour) is likely to open up even more creative opportunities.

One such luxury brand which has been successful in making an emotional connection is Patek Philippe. Their campaigns heavily feature the image of two generations within a family alongside the brand’s well-known tagline: “you never actually own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation”. This is effective because:

  1. It is different to competing companies who invariably opt for the simple watch-wearing celebrity campaign
  2. It implies that owning this extraordinarily expensive watch is not about vanity; it is about heritage. You have become a custodian of a special tradition
  3. It resonates with people’s family values
  4. It still oozes the sophistication that is a prerequisite for all those who can afford a Patek Philippe

And so, to draw my thoughts to an end, it is obvious that luxury brands have to maintain extremely high levels of refinement and elegance in all that they say and do. That is the nature of their industry, but the basic principles of advertising apply universally. And the fundamental rule that at the heart of advertising lies the heart of the consumer is one that luxury brands must not forget.

That is not to say that the task of achieving (or balancing) both sophistication and a meaningful emotional connection is an easy one. Quite the opposite. It is an unenviable task. But it’s not an impossible one. And in the current saturated luxury marketplace it is a critical one. Not least because, if undertaken successfully, it will happily mark the end of the era for the luxury blands.

Looking to discuss your branding requirements? Check out our case studies and drop us a message on info@bearlondon.com to find out more about our services.

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[1] Scott Badbury, Nike and Starbucks. ‘What great brands do

Is the right side of our brain really more creative than the left?

Be it through linguistic exploration, visual interpretation, the usage of differing media, or a combination of these approaches. This got us thinking about how the brain processes these differing influences, and spurred by a conversation at BEAR HQ about the notion of left-brain and right-brain dominance and its relationship to creativity, we did some research into whether this concept stands up under scrutiny…

Like the study of physiognomy in the Renaissance and its evolution into phrenology and various sub-branches of comparative anthropology, scientists, writers, sociologists, and even lawmakers have sought to equate and predict our personality traits based upon our physical appearance. Though not as immediately observable as the shape of your nose or the distance between your eyes, the notion of a left-brain or right-brain dominance in people as indicative of personality traits, skills, and differences of interaction within the world could be seen to follow this historic line of thinking.

How did scientists first learn of this supposed propensity for the hemispheres of the brain to process information in differing ways?

Discovered during the 1970s in the treatment of severe epileptics, neurobiologist Roger Sperry, who, in cutting the neural pathways between the left and right sides of the brain effectively split the brain of his patients into two. The goal of this pretty absolute and severe treatment was to quell the excess of electrical activity that triggers the seizures.

line drawing of human brain on yellow background

Through the conducting of various experiments that relied on both lingual and spatial cues, he discovered the brain’s hemispheres operate with a separate consciousness and can process information independently of each other, even when there are no neural connections between the two hemispheres. His ‘split brain’ subjects’ results showed that the ability to process language resides in the left hemisphere, and spatial in the right.

From Sperry’s initial findings, a type of pop-psychology grew… (what some scientists would refer to as ‘woo’) ascribing the differing and opposing traits to the left and right brains – a dichotomy. The left was considered the seat of critical thinking, fine mathematical skills, language, and reason. Whereas, the right was the seat of visual-spatial processing, facial recognition, music, the recognition of emotions, and intuitive reason.

That is why it was assumed that left-handed people (and thereby right-brain dominant) are more inclined to be creative, more empathetic, and have a propensity to learning problems like dyscalculia and dyslexia. Whereas, someone who is right-handed and left-brain dominant would be logical, critical, and have better literacy and numeracy skills. However, it cannot be as simple as this, as traits such as creativity are found in both left- and right-handers.

Much like phrenology before it, the left-brain/right-brain dominance concept has been almost entirely discredited.

Our left and right brains work together complementing the processing of information, best explained by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, May 2009.

”No matter how lateralised the brain can get though, the two sides still work together. The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specialises in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language, tuning in to the slow rhythms of speech that carry intonation and stress.”

Our brain’s hemispheres have the ability to independently and concurrently process information, and Zimmer outlines in his article that perhaps this dominance can switch – much like how breathing through our nostrils alternates between left and right.

Every time anyone takes this online test, for example, we get a differing result stating the particular dominance of either our left or right brain. It is not that our brains have fundamentally changed, but it is the way we perceive the information that is changing, and this can be influenced by many external and internal factors – for example: is the room noisy, are we hungry or tired, have we just been involved in an activity that requires mathematical skills?

It takes both the left and right sides of the brain to process the information that we get from the world, solve a problem, draw a picture, and understand language.

A person’s handedness isn’t necessarily going to automatically denote them more creative than someone who has the opposite handedness. However, this concept does make for neat shorthand and has helped to sell countless self-help books, online courses, and brain-training apps. Even here at BEAR our creative team regularly has a ‘right-brain breakfast’ to discuss and explore cultural and creative concepts outside the bounds of client briefs and current live projects.

Looking to discuss your creative requirements? Check out our case studies and drop us a message on info@bearlondon.com to find out more about our services.

Staying relevant: The habit of constant evolution

Three young people wearing burberry

A very suave, sophisticated and successful businesswoman recently told us that the key to her success were her good habits; habitual exercise, healthy eating, and learning. She said: “entrenching these habits is hard work, but once you have them staying on top is relatively easy.” She also pointed out that “being on top can be just as attractive in your personal life, as it is in your business life!”

Ignoring the unfortunate innuendo and her slight smugness, we thought to ourselves that the same rings true for branding. Trends, cultures and consumers evolve constantly.

It is vital that brands do the same to create and sustain customer trust and loyalty. Making a habit of constant evolution is therefore crucial to any brand. It unfortunately does not come without hard work and an element of risk, but these are components of any successful story, and the alternative, a failure to progress in a rapidly changing world, will inevitably lead to a brand’s downfall anyway.

In our minds, three things will help brands to get in the habit of constant evolution.

1. Click refresh – this feed does not update automatically!

Brand refreshes should happen regularly. It might sound simple but make sure to put it in your diary to review each year. This will force proactivity, create forward thinking and help you to stay ahead of the game. Apple is probably still the best example of a brand which wholeheartedly embraces the need for constant change as a principle of success as it continues to enthral with its relentless product innovations. This type of continuous evolution removes the need for drastic reinventions after periods of stagnation, which are often more difficult to execute. The disastrous attempt made by JC Penney’s former CEO, Ron Johnson (also formerly of Apple), to radically reform the dowdy US retailer between 2011-2013 is a gloomy example of what can happen when brands are allowed to gather dust.

Modernised version of JC penny logo against old logo

2. With respect to Eminem, don’t lose yourself!

In a chaotic world where we are incessantly peppered with new information, customers will not want to waste their time trying to work out exactly what lifestyle demands your brand is claiming to meet; it has to be very obvious. Often brands overcomplicate what they are trying to offer in an effort to modernise. They end up losing their identity and alienating core customers. If the essence of your brand is straightforward, it is much easier to remain faithful to it, whilst also delivering new and surprising ideas which strengthen it. So keep it simple!

Prior to 2006, Burberry was a classic example of a brand which had over-complicated things. It moved away from its pure British trench-coat identity, which had seen over a century of success, and tried to deliver on all kinds of fashion apparel and accessories in an effort to keep up with global expansion; dog coats, leashes and kilts were some of the lowlights. They very nearly destroyed the brand’s identity as a result. When Angela Ahrendts (now of Apple, surprise surprise!) took over in 2006, rival luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton had more than 16 times Burberry’s revenue. She quickly restored ‘the Ethos of the Trench’; the idea that their most iconic item, with its esteemed British heritage, had to be at the core of all their brand creativity and innovation. The turnaround was startling. By 2012, they had doubled their sales revenue. For the last five years consecutively, they have been recognised by InterBrand as one of the top 100 Global Brands. This year, Fast Company placed it as the seventh most innovative retail brand in the world. It almost seems illogical that their simple commitment to evolving around one historic item has allowed the brand to stay relevant today, but it has and it is a great lesson for other brands.

Car with burberry pattern and lots of graffiti

3. “Oh yes he is!”…“Oh no he isn’t!”

Looking towards the yearly Christmas bedlam, remember that audience participation is not restricted to pantomime. When brands tell their story, their audience needs to be involved too. An open and ongoing dialogue with your audience will give you a better appreciation of their lifestyle demands, which will direct your brand’s evolution. It will also give you an idea of when they are ready to receive your latest innovations. If they are not, you can get them ready. And, assuming you have not been blessed with entirely satisfied customers, their honest and critical feedback will be a powerful driver of change.

Yahoo appeared to get this wrong a few years back during their ‘30 Days of Change’ campaign. It revealed a new logo every day for 29 days leading up to the release of its actual new logo in September (perhaps a play on Google’s logo adaptations). It was a slightly contrived attempt to involve their audience in a working process, in which they actually had no involvement at all. Audience involvement must be real, or it could do more harm than good.

Coca-Cola has a strong tradition of involving its customers in its evolutionary process. One illustration of this is its commitment to respond directly to all its social media followers. Another example is its use of crowdsourcing to generate content for future brand evolution. Not only do its consumers feel like that they are truly part of the brand’s development, but Coca-Cola’s resulting awareness of what its audience wants helps it to stay relevant.

So, our suggestions to try to ‘stay on top’ are:

  • Take steps, even if they seem artificial at first, to ingrain a culture of progression within your brand. Evolving a little and often is a far easier than revolutionising every now and again
  • Keep one or two straightforward principles at the heart of all your innovations. It is easier to cut through all of society’s brouhaha if the message is clear and simple
  • Genuinely engage with your core audience. It is your awareness of their wants and needs, which allow for successful evolution

Following these suggestions will, unfortunately, neither guarantee that you remain relevant nor that consumers engage with your brand. Much will still depend on the quality of your innovations and the execution of your brand strategy. It will, however, help get you into the habit of constant evolution; a habit which no brand can survive without given the ever-increasing pace of change.