A Lesson in Brand Marketing from James Blunt

James BluntLast week James Blunt gave me a lesson in brand marketing. I might not have realised just how good he is at marketing, if I hadn’t seen Alfie Boe a year ago to compare him with.

The story begins a couple of years ago. My wife and I have enjoyed James’ music for many years but we had never seen him live in concert so we decided that the next time he toured, we’d try and get tickets. I figured the best idea would be to join his email list in the hope of getting a heads up. This worked and in fact I was able to take advantage of fans’ priority booking to get some excellent seats.

Okay, it was a means to an end but following James meant I got an insight into his marketing strategy.  He doesn’t post regularly but he does let you know when he has a new video or other significant news and he does it in a very conversational way (or possibly some PR person does). The point is, he clearly has a rapport with his fans and does a lot to cultivate it.

Which brings me to his concert. First off, the support was recommended by a fan- James hadn’t seen them himself. Then James Blunt himself- not acting like a big star, more like an old friend.  Lots of singing along, even to songs on his brand new album. It was like a family get together. Many brands can only dream of this kind of connection.

He gave us the old favourites like You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover. He joked about how miserable his songs are. He treated us to his new album Moon Landing which is his best yet, as sad (and occasionally happy) and melodic as the previous ones, only more mature. I doubt there is a better singer-songwriter among his generation. If you think you don’t like James Blunt, try Bonfire Heart, a perfect love song.

The marketing point is, he doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. He knows what he’s good at and ploughs that furrow brilliantly. He accepts that there are many people out there who hate him and his music. He laughs about it because he knows that enough people like him to keep him in the top ten and make him a multi millionaire.

Now I’m not saying this is a deliberate marketing tactic but it’s one that works. The best brands stick to what they’re good at and only change subtly, if at all. Think of BMW or Kelloggs.  Remember what happened to Coca Cola when they changed the formula? The outcry that followed saw them beat a hasty retreat.

On the other hand, an occasional new product or a little tweek can keep a brand fresh. Just as Marmite had a huge marketing success by exploiting the way people apparently love or hate it, so it is with James Blunt. Stuck with an image of being posh, wet and miserable, he nows exults in it by responding to abusive tweets with witty and often coarse rejoinders which are the talk of the Twittersphere. As a result, his following has soared to 800,000 (to add to his six million Facebook likes) and people who might hate his singing now think he’s a good bloke. Here’s a clean example. He retweets the insult ‘My dog could do better’ and adds the comment ‘Then your dog should try harder.’

And so to Alfie Boe. We went expecting the Alfie we know and love but instead of the outstanding operatic singer of Nessun Dorma and Les Miserables, we got an average country rock singer. I understand that he may feel caught in the operatic genre. We all feel trapped sometimes and want to try something different. But I paid to see the Alfie Boe I knew. So did most of the audience judging by the fact that when he returned briefly to his operatic singing and performed Bring Him Home, he got the biggest reaction of the evening.

The result is, I wouldn’t go see him again and I wouldn’t recommend him. Unless he follows the example of Coke and goes back to what made his name. Better still, he should have a word with James Blunt.

This blog was written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn. A version appeared on the Daily Echo website.

It’s All About You

You are important and you know it. But does the person trying to sell you something know it?

One of the basic lessons of marketing is ‘sell benefits not features’. In other words, tell the customer what’s in it for them. Yet how often do you receive an email, letter, tweet, flier or even a personal call that fails to tell you why you should buy? You can probably find any number of examples that don’t even use the word ‘you’.

Here’s an example from the world of theatre: ‘This show is unmissable.’ OK but why shouldn’t you miss it? What particular rvalue will be added to your memories were you to have this experience? What empty hole will there be in your life if you choose not to see the show?

Maybe it’s a moving play. So you’ll very likely be crying at the end. Better bring tissues.

Maybe it’s a funny play. So you’ll be laughing. Better bring an oxygen supply in case you can’t get your breath.

Maybe it’s a musical full of hits. So you’ll be tapping your feet, clapping along, dancing in the aisles, reliving your youth. Better bring a defibrillator.

The fact that it’s an award winning, long running, critically acclaimed work of genius is very reassuring but so are any number of shows you wouldn’t dream of seeing.

A survey found that the word most commonly used in tweets that were retweeted was ‘you’. Copy- even if it’s only 147 digits- should tell you a story in which you are the star. That story should describe vividly what will happen to you when you go to see that particular show. It should fire your imagination.

If at the end of the story, you say that’s not for me, at least you’ve made an informed decision. Think of all the potential customers like you who never even started on the journey because they were given a list of features and couldn’t be bothered trying to work out the answer to the most important marketing question: what’s in it for you?

This blog was written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.

7 Ways To Get Retweeted

Being retweeted increases the exposure of your ideas or company to potential followers so it’s more than a boost to the ego. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, let’s be clear: the following tips will increase the chances of you getting retweeted, some quite significantly, but you still have to have something worth retweeting. So, content is still king. Leo Widrich at Bufferapp.com did an experiment and found that Tweets are more likely to be shared if they contain actionable tips, news, fresh research or are about your followers.

1. Be Funny. If retweets are gold, a Tweet that people find funny enough to share is the mother lode. I like the one written for the PG Tips account which parodies the popular Pussycat Dolls’ song: ‘Doncha you wish your boyfriend was hot like tea?’

2. It’s All About You. ‘You’ is the word that crops up most in retweets so use ‘you’ and ‘your’ if you want to increase the likelihood of being retweeted. The word that occurs least in retweets is ‘game’ followed by ‘going’, ‘haha’, ‘lol’ and ‘but’.

3. Get the Timing Right. Tweeting when the most people are reading might seem the most obvious factor. For business blogs, that’s between 12 and 4pm. For the rest it’s 5pm when we finish working. However people engage 19% more at the weekend according to research by Dan Zarrella.

4. Use an Image. According to Shopify’s research on viral Tweets, your tweet is nearly twice as likely to be retweeted if it contains an image, especially one using pic.twitter.com.

5. Add a Link. Almost 70% of retweets contain a link, says Shopify’s research. Put anogther way, a tweet with a link is 86% more likely to be retweeted. This may seem like bad news if the link is to someone else’s interesting website but it’s good news if it’s yours. When you use links, shorten them- by far the most popular shortener is bit.ly.

6. Use a #Hashtag. Using a recognisable hashtag leads to approximately twice the level of engagement.

7. Length is Important. 100-115 words is the optimum length for retweeting success. Short Tweets are the least successful.

Bonus Tip: Say Please. Asking for a retweet is very effective, especially if you say ‘please’. Dan Zarella found that 50 percent of tweets with the phrase ‘Please retweet’ were retweeted compared with the 10% figure for tweets that didn’t. Put another way, saying ‘please retweet’- and spelling out ‘retweet’- gives your tweet 23 times higher chance of being retweeted.

Sources: Dan Zarrella Shopify Bufferapp

This blog was written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience based at Hampshire Workspace, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.

Why Social Media May Be A Bad Idea For Your Business

Lots of organisations get involved with social media because they think they ought to but then do it badly and are disappointed at the result.

Part of the problem seems to me to be that social media are ‘free’ and therefore of low value in the eyes of people who are used to spending money on various forms of advertising.

The other part is that it’s difficult to measure the Return On Investment in terms of short term gains, so there’s no incentive to use social media consistently, let alone well, when other more pressing uses of time come up. Certainly you can promote an offer and see how many took it up but much of the use of social media is about increasing brand awareness, building loyalty and spreading word of mouth, none of which provide immediate revenue (although they can be measured against targets).
So, in my experience, many organisations get involved in social media because they think they should but let that involvement slide as soon as other demands on resources come along.
There is something else. Using social media requires a huge change in approach, from the traditional marketing role of leading your customers to the brave new world of being led by them. Many marketing people either don’t understand this or they don’t want to do it. Social media, whether it’s blogging and microblogging (Twitter), social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), sharing (YouTube, Flickr) or forums and comments, is a conversation not a monologue.

So, best not to get involved in social media if you don’t have the commitment or an appreciation of why you’re doing it. All that will happen is that you will produce a half hearted effort that won’t impress your followers and may even alienate them and that will waste your time.

If you want to do it properly, start by looking at my 10 Tips for using Social Media.

How To Sell Last Minute Tickets

No matter what price you put on a seat, it’s a diminishing asset that will be worth nothing the day after the event. If a show hasn’t sold as well as you hoped and you’ve got too many seats left, you need to shift them.

Emails, texts, Facebook posts and Tweets are the media to use for getting instant last minute responses- so put maximum effort into collecting email addresses and mobile numbers (with permissions and preferably interests) and social network followers. Start with your ticket buyers but also use competitions and cheap offers to get audiences to fill in forms with their email address or mobile number. To build your followers on Facebook and Twitter, include lots of interesting stuff about your local community and the arts scene in general (i.e. not just your own organisation) as well as offers (which are a major reason for joining).

Use ‘whats on’ websites (e.g. local newspaper) and other media like BBC local radio that might carry news of last minute offers. Create a story for a last minute press release- last minute hitch, charity event link up, appeal for prop, audience member’s special anniversary- there’s always something.