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.

What the 2014 Brit Awards tell us about how social media works

The Brit Awards had a spell where crazy things would happen. Whether it was Jarvis Cocker upstaging the questionable King of Pop Michael Jackson, Chumbawamba showing New Labour exactly what they thought of them or Cat Deeley riding a champagne bottle, the awards show has always had a streak allied to the nature of British rock n roll. It has been exciting, edgy, a bit ridiculous and a bit of fun. There was a spell where the producers got quite edgy about the show, minimising the amount of alcohol on offer to guests and delaying TV coverage for a night. These actions were about as un-rock n roll as you can get but in recent times, there has been a loosening of those controls. Okay, One Direction are about as far removed from the firebrand political slogans of Chumbawamba as someone sitting in the back row of 1D concert is to the band but at least the Brit Awards has been taking steps in the right direction.

Nowadays the “rock n roll” is found in the moment and in the engagement of people in the instant. With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, there has never been a better opportunity to immediately connect with people and this is something that the organisers of the event have been keen to do. In the run-up to the event, hosted by James Corden, there was an announcement that the host would unveil a special hashtag for the event that people could use on Twitter and cast their vote for the Social Vote Award for British Video. What a great idea to get people involved and to make everyone feel part of the event, right? Wrong!

It is almost as if people organising hashtag events have never examined the results or outcomes of any previous hashtag event. Twitter is a fantastic medium and there is a genuine opportunity for people to connect and engage in the real-time. Any business or company that is keen to explore what their target audience is thinking in a pure and concise manner, Twitter is one of the best platforms they will ever find. However, a business or organisation looking to foist a hashtag trend onto people and then expecting to obtain genuine and usable responses back is pretty misguided.

By sheer volume of fans and intensity of their actions, this award was a guarantee for One Direction. The boys may not make great music but when it comes to shifting units and being popular they are huge and you can argue that they deserve to win an award. Music, as an art form, is fairly subjective but you would have to be subjectively out of your head to suggest that One Direction deserve to be winning any sort of award for creativity, talent, skill or anything else which should generally be rewarded and applauded in the music industry. In this regard, the event organisers pulled off an excellent result. They got the band to appear, they guaranteed them an award, their fans were hooked, viewing figures were great, the social media response from their fans was positive and the most important thing was that the sponsors and commercial backers were happy. In that regard, which was the most important regard for the organisers, this campaign was a success. Music lovers would argue otherwise but it has been a long time since music lovers were a relevant factor to people organising music award shows.

Even before the event started there was uproar on Twitter about MasterCard giving out tickets to journalists on the condition of positive tweets promoting the event being sent out. Some journalists were more than happy to do this; after all, it got them tickets to an event where they could be within 1 mile of Kylie Minogue and Beyonce, so why wouldn’t you do this? Of course, some journalists actually remember what their role means and decided to flag this up on social media sites. Once the cat was out of the bag, the hashtag #PricelessSurprises was very quickly trending, but not in the positive manner that the organisers had hoped for.

You shouldn’t go away from the Brit Awards 2014 thinking that Twitter wasn’t highly involved though. You only had to look at the trending topic of #scottishBowie after The Thin White Duke, via Kate Moss, let slip that he thought Scotland should stick with Great Britain rather than looking for independence. This led to people immediately taking to social media to debate this and, of course, Bowie song titles, albums and phrases were immediately given a Scottish twist. The Man Who Fell To Perth, Fife Years, The Spiders From Deep Fried Mars Bars and Jean Jeanie came from the minds of people looking to engage with others.

It may not have been in the way the organisers intended but the 2014 Brit Awards showed that Twitter can be utilised in a highly effective and immediate way.

Business more ‘astute’ users of social media

LinkedIn has published a report that says that 9 out of 10 small businesses either use or plan to use social media. The report also says that businesses are becoming more astute users as they learn more from practice. Good, it would be disappointing if that was not the case. What does more astute use actually look like in practice? From my own experience the following seems to be the case:

Businesses are taking a less scatter gun approach to social media. Instead of trying to cover as many networks as they can they are focusing on a smaller number and using them more effectively. This is bad news for some of the less powerful networks or those which have an unclear niche. You can see some of them changing, trying to increase their relevance.

Some of the larger networks are also suffering because they are not as relevant. LinkedIn themselves have a problem which is acknowledged by many professional users. If you post a question in a forum it is often lost in a deluge of replies from all over the world, many of them irrelevant or people promoting themselves. I have often heard this referred to as ‘spammy’. Smaller closed networks are starting to be talked about.

As people learn how to use Twitter their attention is migrating towards people who genuinely have something interesting to say. People who tweet recycled jokes and quotes are finding it harder to get attention and Re-tweets. People are now finding their way to the source.

There is still a lot of spam and pointless activity on social media but it is becoming marginalised, just as poor websites are finding themselves marginalised from Google’s search results.

The emerging landscape is one of more sophisticated users who are eschewing spammy and poor content users and gravitating towards genuine expertise and insight. That can only be good news.

9 simple SEO guidelines for creating new web pages

Web address typed onto computer
Here are some simple on page SEO guidelines for creating new web pages.

1. Each page should be dedicated to one keyword / phrase which is in the meta title and meta description. Avoid meta keywords, Google is starting to use them to identify spam. At best they are not necessary and at worst they may be becoming toxic.

2. The ideal target is 300 words of useful content. This means that you don’t fill it with words that don’t mean anything. Google has started to identify meaningless content and ignore it, so you may think that you have written 300 words but Google will only see 10 if only 10 words are meaningful. Think semantically about your content. If you don’t know what that means it is essential that you take a Youtube tutorial on it after you have read this and before you write anything.

3. Keyword / phrase should be repeated in the whole text four or five times but not more than six. Make it relevant and useful but don’t use it too much thinking that will help. It won’t and you’ll be identified as a spammer.

3. Avoid spelling mistakes. You should do this for SEO and also for your own credibility. The most credible websites have the fewest spelling mistakes.

4. Any image used needs to have a relevant name and relevant alt tag (which is the description of the image that ‘would describe it to a sight impaired person’).

5. Use only one H1 tag and then other H tags in order; H1, H2, H3 etc. You can have more than one H2, 3 etc but never more than one H1.

6. Link to other pages based on usability and only choose the best pages to link to. You can check them out using online Page Rank checkers and Alexa but nothing beats actually reading the content you’re linking to and using common sense.

7. Regular updating is important. Google favours sites with fresh content.

8. Social media is very important. You must have share buttons clearly visible on your content and you should check them. So often I try to share something and the buttons create unusable text. Don’t people check their own websites as if they were a user?

9. Share your own pages as you update them with a bit of a story; ‘We’ve updated our XYZ with ABC because …’, or ‘This is Fred in the office’s favourite product because …’ etc. Stories and characters are important. ‘Cold’ shares which don’t actually say anything or shares that are too sales focused are a turn off.

I hope you find these basic on page tips useful. I’ve tried to keep it simple on purpose; there’s so much information out there that sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Get these basics covered and then you can move on to other advice.

The most important thing to consider these days is to be useful. Write for your readers, provide them with information and solve problems. There is a lot of content out there and you need to stand out, not just be another ‘me too’ writer.

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