With information on the royal wedding now being announced and experts predicting that it could be a £640m shot in the arm for the UK economy, it seems like Kate & William’s big day is going to spark a frenzy of purchasing within the UK market, by ardent middle class royalists and foreign admirers of British tradition alike.

Who will be the main winners and losers though? I would suggest that long-time champions of the high street, especially those around 30 years ago will benefit; my one tip to do well is Woolworths, even though they are now a pureplay online retailer. Smaller homeware firms will also do well, many china manufacturers are already rushing out memorabilia.

Wedding-related businesses will also profit, as well as destinations associated with the royal couple e.g. St Andrews.

It will be interesting to see how the advertising departments at leading retailers and newspapers differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Royal Wedding tat always goes down well in the UK



Great ad this from Ford, playing on a clever idea and linking it with functionality people genuinely want (unlike some recent car ads that highlight terrible features no one cares about) and another cool brand (the iconic apple headphones and USB cables)

What do you think?

When you’ve been rated as the 18th best restaurant in the world, with a michelin star and multiple AA rosettes, it’s fair to say you’re pretty much sat atop your field. Why then, would you advertise your restaurant’s amazing offering with such a godawful website?!

Sketch, on London’s Conduit Street, is relatively popular: 112 reviews indexed by Google and with an overall rating of 4 stars, and those awards don’t come for nothing I guess. However, when it comes to shouting about themselves online, things are a mess. It looks like they’re going to have a go at revamping the site, (good luck to you Selesti) but they want to retain the “quirkiness” of the current site. Quirky? That’s a funny way of describing an abortion.

If you set aside the terrible visuals, pointless flash animation, (which simply serves to make the site less visible to search engines than it would be otherwise) and annoying sound, which are mere windowdressing to this abomination, some of the main issues are:

  • Usability – there isn’t any. The online booking system should be a focal point for the site, its the most useful thing here. Instead it is simply another difficult to read link on the rotating carousel.
  • Structure – nothing is where you’d even vaguely expect it to be? What happened to the idea of “familiar but different”?!
  • Design – it doesn’t look quirky / clever / quaint, it’s just a mess. I know my opinion on the appearance of a site is subjective, but several designers I’ve spoken to agree that its just bad.

Restaurant websites are difficult things to get right: they have several jobs to do: from processing bookings to giving a flavour of the ambience of the establishment. However, it doesn’t excuse truly horrific websites like that of Sketch making it out of the mind of a mental Hoxton Sq designer and onto the web where it can (and undoubtedly has) put off potential customers.

Give me:

  • good access to a usable table reservation service
  • a flavour of the ambience and food
  • a sense of the welcome I’ll get
  • some testimonials from customers and critics
  • easy access to crucial info like menus, location and opening times.

And in the words of Greg Wallace, I’ll be a very happy boy indeed!

Website health checks?!

Had a dispiriting SEO moment this morning. I was at a seminar organised by a company peddling an IP lookup / website analytics mashup (something I really see value in and would recommend you have a look at).

Their guest speaker was a major digital player at a HUGE multinational B2B. To save her blushes, I’ll not alert their monitoring tools by saying the companies real name – but it rhymes with ITN and they do clever TV adverts. You with me?

Anyway, Ms X was very keen to state she had a budget of hundreds of thousands a year and delivered many millions in product sales. I believe she even said “I’m the person with the money” and “when I call people my phone calls get answered“. Good for you love.

What got my goat was her assertion that each reseller of her product has to undergo a “website health check” from an independent auditor. The purpose of this was to establish the site’s positioning in SERPs and whether it was a usability nightmare. Apparently these cost £200, and “you should be careful because there are some real cowboys out there” who might charge more.

a) “website health check”?? frak me, its 2009, not 1995. A website isn’t a person with swine flu, its a tool. When you’re talking to a room full of marketers you shouldn’t be afraid to say “we perform a site audit, focussing on visibility to search engines and usability.” If a marketer doesn’t know about SEO, conversion rate, and/or PPC advertising in todays online world, they’re deadwood. Lets leave the comparisons between a website and a person in the past eh?

b) The cost. If you want a site comprehensively auditted, especially when you’re expecting it to sell a good proportion of £x million in software, spending £200 is like taking a plastic fork to a gunfight. In order to understand whether a website of that importance is “healthy” (I’ll stick with this terrible phrase for now) you need to:

  • know how you rank for many, many keywords
  • do keyword research
  • understand your audiences browsing habits
  • be investing a lot of time in analytics.

All of these things require tools and human resource – good human resource at that. £200 gets you nowhere. Anyone who says it does is working for free or doing you a vast disservice.

Major b2b players need to be investing in good quality training for people in positions with large amounts of digital budget, otherwise performance will only improve in small increments.

In addition, the practice of promoting based on experience doesn’t particularly hold up for in-house marketing nowadays – if you want to succeed online DON’T just promote people who have spent years in traditional media – traditional methodologies don’t transfer well to the digital realm more often than not. People who are literate in the web, with a passion for understanding and a conditioning for what works and what doesn’t online are the real key to success and innovative marketing strategies.

So if you think your website needs a £200 website health check to make sure its fit for purpose, I have news for you… its dying of neglect already.

Went along to #MSM09 today; a new conference which bought together some of the leading people in the social media monitoring field. The presentations were each insightful in their own ways and many of them can be found over at slideshare. Do check them out.

Monitoring Social Media 2009, feedback and overview of key points.

I particularly enjoyed listening to a practical example of how social media monitoring could help deal with a major online brand crisis from Robin Grant, who’s the MD at WeAreSocial. I’d like to explore how his model could be applied to my Higher Education clients sometime this winter.

Some of my thoughts from / about the conference:

  • As I have long suspected, the idea of applying old media frameworks and mechanisms to new online channels is pointless; things like response planning / embargoes / NDAs are pointless and ‘of another world’.
  • I probably wouldn’t pay for a social media monitoring tool right now, but I would invest in building something like Robin Grant displayed which was a dashboard that ran off free tools (I believe the main component was netvibes).
  • For Social Media Monitoring to develop it needs some universal standards adopting; this could be driven through a recognised qualification in the subject (akin to the GAIQ) and/or through the entry to the sphere of a major player (probably the big G)
  • Having a live twitterstream for feedback enhances the experience, although personally I have grown to hate the banality of people tweeting abridged comments from other people’s talks – its a bit self congratulatory / wanky.
  • No one mentioned Facebook Insights – something I’m using more and more for my social media clients. Facebook was written off as a closed book you can’t get data from – I don’t think this is true.
  • Digital teams musn’t forget that part of their job is still to educate people internally – not just sit in a silo and moan about a lack of investment in what they think is cool.

For such an emerging and exciting industry I think a half yearly conference would probably be necessary – a lot can happen in a year as discussed in many sessions today.

Finally – thanks to Our Social Times for organising – much appreciated – MSM09 was definitely a worthwhile break from my normal workload.

After the fantastic PR garnered for the VW marketing dept by their Top Gear advertising challenge thingummy, I’ve been paying a bit more attention to their ads. Got to say I love this new one:

Here’s a cool idea from Tesco, who are looking to monetise as much of their store experience as possible in the face of tough economic conditions.

Until July 22nd Tesco ATM receipts will double as discount vouchers on a range of products available instore. If successful, it’ll be rolled out nationwide.

I like this idea: it means a previously worthless piece of paper is now transformed into the driver of a sale, and Tesco have another means of pushing you in the direction of products they want to sell, e.g. special offers. These vouchers will work better than clubcard ones which arrive in the post; there is a shorter lag time between receiving the voucher and stepping in store, so the customer is more motivated to buy and less likely to forget to use the voucher.

As a bonus it will cut down on the number of people who leave their ATM receipts blowing round Tescos car parks and also encourage more people to use their ATMs over other providers; great when many tesco ATMs (especially at Tesco express locations) compete with banks and other institutions along the high street.

Tesco hopes to issue 5m vouchers during the trial, and I would be surprised if this form of advertising doesn’t catch on amongst other retailers and high street ATM providers.