Comments and observations on business, marketing and life: by Martin Donohoe

Category: advertising

Social Media – Confusing Communities

I seem to use price comparison and insurance brands as frequent examples, I suppose this is because in the UK they are very heavily promoted and have strong on and off-line presence.confused screen grab

The latest tv ad to catch my eye is a dreary effort from (the one with the singing cartoon character), but what catches my eye is the comment at the end of the ad, something along the lines of “ 18 million strong and growing”. This seems to be an attempt to move from being a transactional website to some sort of community. But surely there are a few issues with this:

  • What exactly does 18 million refer to? Is it 18 million site visitors (over what time period) or 18 million quotes given
  • How exactly does this stack up as a community? Getting a quote from a site doesn’t mean I see myself as part of their ‘community’ or that I want a relationship with their business, at the simplest level, I wanted to get some quotes!
  • What social activity exists to support the community? Well, I haven’t checked their site recently, but I’m still getting an email newsletter which whilst technically a form of social marketing, doesn’t really push down the community route

The web and marketing world is littered with the corpses of failed social media enterprises. Although confused might know something about me eg contact details, basic personal information etc. that doesn’t mean I’d want them to leverage that knowledge to include me in their community. The most successful communities grow through word-of-mouth and natural viral growth – not because someone thought “hey we’ve got lots of details of people, let’s call it a community”.

A community grows through common interest and engagement, getting a quote for car insurance is something that I’d probably have in common with you, but doesn’t mean we’re going to best buddies (sorry!). What does confused hope to do with this community concept – challenge Facebook? build market share? add value?

To my mind is living up to its name, promoting an idea ‘our community’ that seems to have little to do with their primary purpose of price comparison. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops in 2011.

For a slightly harsher (but amusing) review of the ad, see this link

What could do better:

  • Pick a brand strategy and give it time to work
  • Explain why you’d want to be a part of their community
  • Make their offer stand out from meerkats, tenors and the rest!
  • Provide genuine value & content on their site – customers will naturally migrate to it

Behaviourial Retargeting & Bathplugs…

Behaviourial retargeting was one of the those things that I was aware of, but wasn’t really aware of, if you know what I mean. I could tell you what it is and why it is used, but in the course of my work, I’ve never (knowingly) deployed advertising that uses it.

But there are a couple of things that I’ve noticed recently which would appear to be retargetting efforts and whilst with my marketing head on, they were novel and appropriate, I’m beginning to think (with my consumer head) that it’s just downright annoying.

I recently had a leaking bath (tragic I know) and so I used the online DIY superstore that is Screwfix to identify the part that I needed (bath overflow unit, with integrated trap and wastepipe if you’re interested). However, I actually ended up buying the part over the counter of the local Screwfix depot. Given that they insisted on taking my postcode, you’d think their CRM system would tie up my sale with my website intentions. No such luck, numerous sites have subsequently been trying to tempt me with a bewildering array of Screwfix bath appendages – even though my need has been fulfilled. Sigh. Online marketing is great and continues to have huge potential, but it seems to me that the implications aren’t always thought through.

To be fair, you can click through on a small ‘i’ that takes you to a preference page for Criteo, the operation behind this system. So, if it’s really bugging you, you can opt out. My argument isn’t with retargeting, it’s more the lack of ‘closing the circle’ and showing me things I’ve already bought.

Of course, I shouldn’t just pick on Screwfix. I recently bought some mobile phone accessories from Mobile Fun, a rather good online supplier of mobile accessories in the UK. In a similar way to my bath woes, I’m now bombarded with additional offers for my HTC mobile. Now I understand that some people having bought some accessories will go back and buy something else – but not everyone does. Having already made a purchase, I don’t want to be nagged non-stop otherwise it’ll just make me buy my accessories elsewhere on principle (spiteful, I know).

Behaviourial retargeting is clever and useful internet marketing. Like most online marketing technology, if it’s used in a considered manner, it’s tremendously powerful and useful, fulfilling both customer and business needs. If it’s used in the same mindset as spamming then it becomes tiresome and for some people a little bit sinister (how did they know I’d be looking at…).

Here’s  hoping for better use of behaviourial retargeting.

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