Don’t Ignore Brand Islam

There is always a clamour to find new ways to sell products and to tap into markets that no one is exploring yet. This is one of the most important ways for businesses to grow and develop their brand and a firm that is not actively looking into new markets will find that they get left behind. One of the emerging brands in the United Kingdom is “Brand Islam”.

This is a term that has only been used for the past 5 years, but it provides immediate access to a group that can be targeted, accessed and promoted to, much in the way of any other demographic group in Britain. With Census figures showing that the Muslim population in the United Kingdom stood at 2.9m, this is a market worth looking into. This figure is just under 5% of the entire UK population, a demographic size that should not be overlooked by businesses.

As with many demographics groups, there is a lot more benefit to be gained by drilling down into the group. Of the 2.7m people, there are around 100,000 people who have converted to Islam. Of this 100,000 group, it is said that close two thirds were women. There is enough evidence to suggest that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United Kingdom, making this a market that businesses should be looking to engage with. Not only that, in the global context, the Muslim market is huge, ranking alongside the billions that India and China can call upon.

The sheer scale of numbers alone suggests this is a market to look for

The size of the market is staggering with a quarter of the population in the world being classed as Muslim. More importantly, there is evidence that suggests that over half of the Muslims in the world are 25 years old or younger. The fact that this demographic is growing and has a young base to develop from makes Brand Islam essential for all businesses. When it comes to the developing economies in the world, in 2011 it was Brazil, Russia, India and China combining to make the BRIC while in 2013 the world looked at the MINT group with Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, the influence of Muslim people in these country can all be seen. In this way, the Muslim population is as much of a driver as it is a factor to look out for and promote to.

Businesses need to engage

The opportunity for businesses to thrive and prosper with the Muslim community is enticing but clearly it is something that cannot be taken lightly. A business will have to indicate willingness and courtesy to integrate with the Muslim market and to meet the characteristics of the demographic group. As the size and power of the Muslim community grows and develops, so the personality and nature of the community grows and become more visible. This is where parallels have been drawn to the increase in the importance that the African-American community has placed on their own history, heritage and identity. Firms learned to promote to this demographic group by being involved in the community and engaging in a proper fashion. There is no quick fix or immediate solution for long-term success with Brand Islam activities but for firms that are happy to engage seriously, there will be an opportunity to flourish and grow. Given the long-term projections for the growth of the Muslim community around the world, this would be an extremely sensible approach for many businesses and industries to take.

Given the size and scale of the market, there is no doubt that Islam Marketing is going to become an increasingly popular discipline in the years to come. This means that firms, businesses and even individuals will need to show that they offer a professional and private standard that is becoming of the market they are keen to work with. This means that for many people, the old stereotypes of the marketing industry may not sit easily with the Islam Branding opportunities. However, with so much money at stake, it is an opportunity for firms who can show they are able to work with respect and due reference to the culture and beliefs of the Muslim community.

Big Data Opposite To Social Media

Many have been trying to get their heads around this new buzzword; Big Data. Essentially the amount of data that we’ve started to accumulate is going to combine with our ability to mine that data for key intelligence and we’re all going to become much wiser about human behaviour. Marketers with everything to play for are desperate to get to their point where they know exactly what you’re going to do next, ideally before even you do, so they can position their clients in exactly the right place to pick up any money that falls from your pockets as you pass by.

This strikes me as being the opposite of marketing via social media. Here the aim was to give a brand a personality and enable it to have one to one relationships with consumers in an almost conversational style. Mining data to understand what you’re going to do next and having cosy conversations about things that interest you, what two ideas could be further apart?

Yet isn’t all of it flawed? The problem is that consumers are becoming wiser about the techniques that marketers use to try to get a deal from them. The slightest sniff that we’re being sold to and we run a mile.

Social media, done well, can make a brand and we’ve seen examples where it’s been done badly and it has done a lot of damage. Big data is just a process and it will need to be applied. It’s in the application that I think brands are going to risk hitting difficulties.

Does anyone have an algorithm for a ‘light touch’?

American Express Content Marketing Case Study

While it would be fair to say that American Express is no longer the leader in its industry, VISA and MasterCard are clearly the big players, American Express still understands what it takes to reach out to people. The company has a two pronged approach to bringing new customers into the American Express fold while also battling to maintain their existing customers. Given the competitive nature of the credit card industry, retaining customers can be a challenge. It is easy to provide low introductory sign-up rates which entice people from other firms or to sign up initially but when the initial period is over, many will look to move away to another credit card company where they can benefit from the sign-up benefits on offer there.

This is where American Express knows that they have to provide benefits to existing customers that can also play a part in signing up new members as well. The notion of content in marketing usually centres on the written word and content on web pages. This is crucial for many businesses but it is also important to consider the sort of tangible content that can be delivered to users. Any business looking to properly engage and interact with their users should be able to provide them with benefits that they cannot get anywhere else.

American Express has focused on providing exclusive content to many of their users and one of the most successful approaches the firm has had comes from the American Express Unstaged campaign. This is where they stream live gigs by some of the largest names in the music industry. The company gets some of the biggest directors in the world on board to take control of the footage.

In addition to the concert footage being streamed, the company also provides exclusive videos before and after the gig. This provides people with an opportunity to see some of their favourite acts in a way that they would not be able to do so in any other way. The company caused a huge splash when they got Coldplay to play a gig for them in 2011. The show became the biggest single artist event that YouTube had ever shown and American Express was right at the heart of it.

It is also important to understand the importance of YouTube.  It is the second biggest search engine in the world, second only to Google. It is also a place where people hang out, make recommendations and interact with their friends. In many ways, YouTube is the equivalent of Facebook but with added search engine capabilities.

Not only did American Express manage to score themselves some major celebrity endorsements with these gigs, but also the company’s name was displayed all over one of the biggest search engines in the world and it was in the place where millions of people were hanging out. This is the sort of promotion that money can very rarely buy and American Express owned it.

There is a lot being written about content at the moment and people tend to think of it in terms of articles. You have to ask how many more articles can the the Internet take. However, content is more than that. It includes music concerts and films and many brands are now looking for ways in which they can offer this sort of content exclusively to their clients in order to gain attention in the crowded market. Consider this; what if One Direction singles were only available to customers of a specific mobile phone brand? Okay, it may sound implausible and there are credibility issues when brands become too involved with artists. However, if American express can own a Coldplay gig what else might happen?

Betting Wars

Last year betting firm Ladbrokes invested funds in a new e-commerce and digital division after making a two-part deal with Israeli software firm Playtech. Their aim was to reinvigorate the company’s online presence.

Ladbrokes took advantage of Playtech’s software in order to increase their revenues across the web, with the second part of the deal seeing the company launch a new suite of casino-like games through a tab on their website labelled “Vegas”. There was also be the possibility for third parties to launch services on the company’s website as part of the deal.

The CEO of Ladbrokes, Richard Glynn, said: “Ladbrokes has made significant progress over the past two years by investing in our core technology, revitalising our brand and making our customer offer more competitive. The next phase of this reinvigoration will see us work closely with Playtech to increase customer lifetime values through enhanced CRM.” The betting firm’s emphasis has always previously been focused on the mobile market, with Andy Lettings, head of new channels, noting that Ladbrokes were a “mobile first” company, and highlighting how important iPhone users were to the firm. He also revealed plans to launch a bespoke app for the iPad at some point in the near future.

However, competitor William Hill, owned a 29% stake in Playtech, and apparently tried to stop the partnership by buying the software firm out of the deal. Betting is notoriously competitive and this is an interesting example of some really aggressive tactics with a large company using a strategic shareholding in a supplier to try to block a competitors strategy.

The right to be forgotten

Following on from my article on Marketing Lens about the European court ruling that has been described as ‘the right to be forgotten’ there has been a huge amount of coverage in the media about what it means. Here are some further observations.

The media is generally describing this as an issue for Google. It’s not just Google, it’s all companies providing search. Perhaps the right to be forgotten should describe any search provider who isn’t Google.

The ruling does not mean that information will be removed from the internet, just that it won’t show up in search. Perhaps this is no different to it being removed from the internet.

The ruling is final, so this is going to happen. This will not just impact stalking but such areas as recruitment, where it has become the norm for people to search job applicants histories online.

The most important detail is this. The ruling excludes situations where the sharing of information (the link) ‘justifies a preponderant interest of the public in having access to the information’. There has been much hysteria about politicians and sex offenders trying to cover up their dodgy past. Google (et al) will probably adjust search so that it doesn’t have to deal with thousands of requests to remove links. However, if it were to be brave and stand firm, forcing people whose history includes certain types of crime or immoral behaviour to take them to court, with all the extra publicity that this would entail, they may find that fewer people try to make them take down links.

This is a very interesting situation in the development of search. It’s going to be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Giving away product as a marketing exercise

For many small and medium-sized businesses, finding a new and exciting angle for a marketing campaign can be something of a challenge as, let’s face it, most successful strategies have been done before. Instead of racking your brains to come up with something new, therefore, taking a known marketing technique and adapting it to suit the needs and style of your business can by far be the best option.

Giving away samples of a popular product has long been lauded as the optimum way of grabbing the attention of potential customers. Now, while giving something away for free may seem counter intuitive, countless studies have shown that this is in fact an excellent way of strengthening the bottom line.

This technique is especially useful at trade shows or networking events, as crowds in attendance tend to know a little bit about the area of industry in which your business operates. However, it can also be effective in your own place of business, especially if you operate in a retail environment with a high consumer turnover.

Standard free gifts tend to be pens or key rings emblazoned with your company logo, but thanks to a flooding of the market in this area, some thinking outside the box may be required in order to stand out. Focusing on the customer base you wish to attract, therefore, is essential.

For example, if your business revolves around hair or beauty retail, perhaps a hairbrush or set of makeup brushes carrying the company logo would be an ideal and inexpensive feature of a large marketing campaign. Similarly, caterers or those in other areas of the food industry may wish to market their range by offering passers-by small taste samples in return for accepting a business card or signing up for an email newsletter.

Offering products for free rather than for a discounted price allows consumers to see what your company has to offer with no strings attached – even a small fee can put people off the idea of picking up a sample given the current economic situation in the UK. By advertising your giveaway on your social networking page, the combination of these high profile marketing events can draw in large crowds and potentially increase your client base by a large amount.

Play the silly office games but win money

There is an old saying along the lines of ‘you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’. This is very true but there is another group of people you cannot choose who you spend time with; your colleagues. Okay, if you are the boss or the head of HR you have a say in who you get to spend your time with, but for the vast majority of us locked in the hamster wheel of the working week, you have absolutely no say in who you spend the majority of your waking hours with.

Think about that for a minute. How many days, weeks, months or years do people agonise over finding their soul mate, the one person who they want to be with for the rest of their life? It can be a thrilling journey but it is one that you need to invest a lot of time in. The thing is, during the working week you are lucky if you get to spend 4 to 5 waking hours with your loved one and, even then, these can be the tired and grumpy hours. Compare that to spending at least double that amount of time with these people who you don’t know, who you have very little in common with and who you have been forced to work alongside in the best hours of your day.

Whatever they pay you at work, it clearly isn’t enough! Then again, we’re all in the same boat so it’s not as if there is anything to be gained from moaning about the situation, you may as well make the most of it. This is where a forced sense of fun comes into play in the workplace. For some people, forced fun is actually fun, because their home life is so devoid of entertainment or excitement this remains the best part of the working week. For other people though, the idea of being forced into a stupid costume or having to perform a song and dance routine with their work-mates is the living embodiment of hell on Earth.

Smartphones capture everything these days

Of course, with Smartphones, every stupid action and activity in the workplace can be captured with photographs and video content. Before you have even adjusted your stupid hat, the phones are clicking on and your glorious smile is winging its way to Facebook and YouTube. This way you get the opportunity to allow your friends and family members to have some fun at your expense, letting them peer into the void that is your working life and reminding them of why they are so important in your life. Basically, if your friends in real life weren’t there, you may actually be forced into getting on and socialising with your work colleagues, a fate that many of us run from but sooner or later we find it unavoidable.

One of the biggest issues in modern life, especially in the work place, is that absolutely everything you say or do is going to end up in social media. Hopefully nothing that results in a sacking will end up there, but you just know that everything you say, eat and even think will end up on some site. Have a think to the past week and you can bet some of these incidents happened:

• A post on your Facebook wall regarding a “funny” incident a work
• An Instagram picture of someone’s lunch
• A hashtag “lol” moment at some comment made at work

It’s going to happen, so you may as well prosper from it. The 9-To-5 Buddies promotion from Jobsite encourages people to send in snaps of them and their workmates getting up to crazy hi-jinks in the office. Ordinarily, this shouldn’t be encouraged but the site is giving out prizes to plenty of snaps, so at least you’ll be selling out for the right reason. If you fancy getting your hands on a share of £250 or getting tickets to a great day out, make sure you and your work colleagues show the world how brilliant it is to work in your place of work.

Coca Cola hopes not to go flat

It can be a hard life at the top and this is something that Coca Cola is probably feeling at the moment. Much in the same way that a football team who is used to success suddenly feels tired and jaded after losing a game or two (hello Davie Moyes), when you are at the top of your industry and your profits and revenues start to decline, you get a bit worried.

Coca Cola’s figures are impressive, but when you’re at the top of the game the competition is with yourself. With Coca Cola announcing that the global profits for year on year fell by 4%, to a mere $1.2bn, and that net revenue for the three months leading to the end of December 2013 also fell by 4%, you can see why there has been panic and consternation at Coca Cola HQ. A 2% drop in revenue for 2013 and a 5% fall in operating income make grim reading for the shareholders and people at the top of the company. Again, a bit of perspective should come with the fact that the operating income level for 2013 came in at over $10bn but in business, trends can often be more important than the figures.

Big changes are needed to keep Coca Cola at the top

Clearly Coca Cola needs to make some changes and the firm has announced their strategy. They are going to squeeze their supply chains even further, reinvent that money into more marketing and all will be well with the world. The Coca Cola plan is to increase their marketing expenditure, which is great news for anyone lucky enough to be on the Coke bandwagon.

These changes will see the people responsible for the production of Coca Cola being forced to work under tighter constraints with more pressure, however, as long as the marketing executives get to throw a lot of cash at the problem, things will be just fine.

Here are some things that Coca Cola might think about doing to improve their product, but very probably won’t:

• Reduce the amount of sugar in each can or bottle
• Give better pay and workers’ rights to the masses employed by the company around the world

Coca Cola is always going to be a product that sells well, that is the way it is because tt is a product that is so ingrained on the minds of consumers. The world is changing though. Many people are looking into the background of firms and Coca Cola, like many others, are being out under scrutiny for working practices around the world. Many people are looking at what goes into drinks and the sugars and other products involved with Coca Cola are turning some people away in an increasingly competitive market.

The tactics employed by Coca Cola will bring about some success, of that there is no doubt, but the company needs to be wary of reaching out to an audience that is no longer interested in hearing what the firm has to say. Throwing more money at a problem is not always the best solution.

Facebook marketing case study

Since the smoking ban was rolled out across the US, UK, and much of Europe, the face of smoking has changed inexorably. On the one hand, science tells us that the act of inhaling a paper tube of tobacco leaf, tar, polonium-210, arsenic, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide is a very unhealthy thing to do. On the other hand, careful marketing and generations of film stars and celebrities have reinforced the message that there is something undeniably cool about lighting up and exhaling a few seductive tendrils of bluish smoke. It is not surprising, therefore, that those with an aesthetic attraction to the art of smoking have responded to the smoking ban in force. The result is Vaping, and it has taken social media marketing by storm.

Keeping Popular

Vaping is a simple concept. Users buy bottles of liquid nicotine and an assortment of paraphernalia that can be anything as simple as a ready-made pipe to a complex array of wicks and coils that can be self-constructed into a vaporising device. The pipes themselves come in an array of styles, from handcrafted wood to found objects to elaborate steampunk inspired designs. The real money, however, is in the different flavours, which are known as juice. In the US these can sell for up to $30 a pop despite costing virtually nothing to produce, and the trend is spreading to the UK. The sheer variety of possible flavours is what makes this so attractive for Facebook as a marketing platform. For instance, UK based company Vape-It has a weekly ‘Free Friday Flavour’ for everyone who ‘likes’ its page (for example Peach Lemonade). Rewarding people for visiting Facebook sites with free gifts or prizes has proven to be a great way to find and keep followers, and the idea of a small, local, off-the-radar company accessible by a Facebook page has huge marketing appeal.

Visibility

The small company Vape-It uses Facebook to update followers about changes to their main website, to provide links to new products, and also for their own market research purposes. For instance, just like larger companies like Marmite smaller companies can use the tactic of opening up social media debates into the best flavours, the best ways of using a product, packaging preferences, and gaps in the market. This activity, which is incredibly low cost, allows fledgling companies to interact closely with their target audience whilst learning a considerable amount about their market’s preferences.

In this way a small company or new brand is able to have comparatively high levels of marketing visibility whilst directly gaining from the audience exchange.

Case study: Tesco Loyalty Card

One of the most successful marketing studies in the United Kingdom was conducted by Tesco prior to the launch of their Tesco Loyalty Card in 1995. A year earlier they hired a company called Dunnhumby who analysed the shopping patterns of the UK consumer. The study included looking at what customers were placing in their baskets, their shopping trends, geo location purchasing as well as spending averages across the United Kingdom. Just three months after taking on the study Tesco Chairman (at that time) Lord MacLaurin said, “What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years.”

Dunnhumby’s ability to analyse the data that they collected lay down the foundations for building a huge advantage over competition, as well as putting in place a loyalty scheme that would far outshine any other ever undertaken before, not only increasing Tesco’s position as a major supermarket leader but establishing a strong brand loyalty that still exists today. Dunnhumby’s case study identified a total of eleven areas of where Tesco could focus and take advantage of over their competitors. These included trends, basket building, right product in the right place and cross-selling. The study and ensuing scheme has been so popular that books have been written on its success and the impact that it has had on the modern day supermarket industry.

There is no doubt that the way that Tesco implemented its loyalty car scheme was, at the time, the most effective of its kind to date. It remains to this day one of the most successful loyalty schemes across all industries and it is testament to the brilliant execution of a fairly simple idea.

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