The evolution of branding through the digital agency

By Desireé Gullan, Co-founder and Executive Creative Director of G&G Digital

One of the most valuable assets for any business, no matter its size or sector, is its brand.

While many marketing professionals consider a brand to be a corporate identity consisting of carefully considered fonts, icons, image guidelines, tone of voice, themes and values, the emphasis in the digital era should be on the experience. Consumers no longer see a difference between their experience of a brand and the brand itself.

Over the past decade, digital agencies have become vital in offering brands the reinvention they crave through the ability to be ever-present (mobile), dynamic (data-driven) and most of all, a joy to use (interaction design), all of which can develop an almost unbreakable bond between brands and consumers. Using these same insights, we are witnessing a disruption of sectors like never before, take Uber and Airbnb as examples.

Before you think of adding another analogue brand to a digital world, here are some factors to consider,

  1. Become a digital first brand
    Businesses can no longer afford to spend time, money and effort creating analogue communications. The digital experience has to lead the strategy.
  2. Digital is the better brand steward
    How often do you first interact with a brand on a digital platform? The answer is probably — always. Despite the age of the brand, its digital presence is pivotal in understanding the consumer and engaging with them.
  3. Embrace the tech-brand
    While most new brands are born with genetics rooted in technology, legacy brands should embrace technology to stay relevant. Take Glossier as an example, a young brand positioned as a tech company in the make-up business. Sephora, a legacy brand, has embraced the use of Augmented Reality to evolve their brand experience and reach today’s tech-savvy market.
  4. Evolve. And evolve fast
    Consumers have reached a point where they prefer streaming content to owning it. They see TripAdvisor as the replacement to a traditional travel agency and prefer mobile banking to making a trip to the bank. Brands have to adapt at the speed of digital.

Digital agencies are well poised to offer deep digitalisation strategies and implementation. The age-old truism about first impressions hasn’t changed, what has changed is the difficulty for a brand to recover from a bad digital first impression, especially in a time when a consumer just needs to tap, click or swipe to get the instant gratification they desire and to share their opinions.

Your brand’s digital interaction with your target market is the most significant branding to consider. Lead with the digital experience and let your other channels play a supporting role.

How your brand can navigate a world of mistrust, misinformation and multiple mindsets

By Desireé Gullan, Co-founder and Executive Creative Director of G&G Digital

We live in contradictory and conflicted times, with ongoing debates around diversity, inclusion, gender equality, identity and hot-potato culture. What’s more, consumers no longer trust brands without serious consideration.

As marketing professionals, you may be wondering how all of this will impact your brands and bottom line, what the next major platform will be, content trend, device or viral sensation. Here’s G&G’s thoughts on what influences will shape the future and how we can source solutions through digital innovation.

  1. A digital world without borders
    Our world is essentially borderless, enabling us to communicate digitally with others from around the globe through in seconds. This isn’t just a collection of platforms, it’s the ultimate representation of globalisation.South African marketing professionals need to be mindful how much our local target audiences are influenced by global trends and we need to remain relevant. What’s more, we need to be even more strategic in our channel selection and targeting to reduce waste and ensure effective reach.
  2. An audience that is always-on
    People’s FOMO is seeing them being more involved, interactive and co-creating at all times of the day and night. They expect brands to communicate directly with them in an honest and authentic manner––and to take responsibility to have the right values and drive cultural change.Brands can no longer just be about making a sale. Marketing professionals have to interrogate what real value their brands are adding beyond just their features and benefits and make sure they are leaving the smallest environmental impact and the greatest positive impact on the community.
  3. I’ll share if you share
    Consumers have a heightened awareness of digital surveillance and data capture while understanding the value of their personal data to corporations and digital channels. Their behaviour goes from just “accepting cookies” to wanting something in return.
    Marketing professionals should carefully consider the type of data you truly require in order to understand your audience and to ensure you ask for the bare minimum from them to engage. Ensure your tone is conversational, humorous and most importantly, honest.
  4. Difficult but necessary conversations
    Whether #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo or #MindYourBusiness, many important conversations are taking place and shaping our culture, right now. Never assume your brand can simply join the conversation and get easy exposure along the way. Many brands have been called out attempting this.Brands wanting to be part of a movement must approach with sensitivity and authenticity. Examine your brand values, messaging and communication to make sure it genuinely belongs and can add value to the conversation.
  5. Be locally legit
    Social media allows us to travel without actually travelling and gives us access to various cultures, trends and mingling with communities. That said, people still identify with subcultures based on where they live, work and play.Hyper-localised targeting is the new benchmark for successful audience reach. What’s more, your brand can still remain global in outlook, but local in culture, by celebrating its origins and sharing local cultural nuances with your audiences.

Though 2019 and beyond may seem daunting, it’s an exciting time for brands and their marketing partners as we’re forced to introspect our values, remain focused and authentic and make a positive impact on the world around you. The options of finding new ways to reach your audiences with deep insights, smart strategy and breakthrough creative solutions has never been more exciting.

 

It’s 2019, is your website keeping up?

The internet is evolving at breakneck speed and your brand’s digital assets – your website, emails and digital marketing has to keep up in order to survive, let along thrive.

Here are a few handy insights to assist you in making sure you are not being left behind.

Ensure your website does what it is supposed to

What is your website’s purpose? Is it to create awareness, to share information, to educate or to get inbound enquiries? Whatever its purpose, make sure it’s designed and optimised to achieve your objectives.

Most websites, whether business-to-business or -to-consumer are there to generate sales, increase market share and make your brand available on the most important consumer touchpoint. In today’s competitive internet it requires a lot more than including “click here” buttons on your home page and watching the leads pour in. Last year there were 1,8 billion active websites on the Internet, so you’ll have to be much smarter than that.

G&G recommends marketers take a strategic approach to ensuring your website investment gets the return you want.

Convert visitors into leads or enquiries

A visitor becomes a lead when they click on a call-to-action (CTA) on your website or blog. That CTA takes them to a landing page, which includes a form used to collect the visitor’s contact information. This information then triggers a process in your business to close and convert that lead into a customer.

Remember to benchmark your current lead generation so you can track your success and determine where you most need improvement. Some of your pages might make excellent lead generators and you don’t even realize it.

Website audit

G&G will start with an audit of where most of your online traffic comes from, such as,

  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Blog posts
  • Inbound links
  • Google search
  • Banners

Once we identify where your leads are coming from, will optimise these pages in order to be relevant to their interests. We’ll update pages with content that keeps them engaged. We will also ensure all information is up-to-date and provides all the correct supporting facts to ensure trust is nurtured.

Optimize each step of the lead generation process

G&G recommends A/B testing two versions of a landing page to find out which one performs better and to see which CTA tactics perform better. We will identify various elements and split test them one element at a time, such as

  • Buttons
  • CTAs
  • Slide-out CTAs
  • Thank you pages
  • Colours
  • Information
  • Subscribe to
  • Downloads
  • Special offers

G&G has seen up to 30% increase in lead generation for a B2B client by simply A/B testing their landing page using the above strategy.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Blog content is another way G&G recommends you enhance your website’s performance and increase its ranking on Google. Organic visitors who come from Google are looking for solutions to a problem you can solve. Make sure your website helps.

G&G recommends keyword research on a topic relevant to your industry, and then create quality content in the form of articles, white papers and videos. You can make this content, or part of it, readily available or as a download, which will then become another way to convert leads.

Live chats offer excellent customer service and lead generation

Live chat services are increasing not just in their sophistication, but in how many people expect them. G&G recommends an audit of your website to see which pages your visitors spend the most of their time on. Should live chat be a good strategy for your brand, G&G will install a live chat tool on the pages where customers need the most assistance or information. This allows you to casually collect and log insights on their product needs while answering their questions.

G&G recommends you integrate your customer service team with your live chat feature. This ensures every website visitor has their needs addressed no matter where the conversation goes.

Personalize content the ultimate goal

Once you’ve ticked all the boxes above, you could consider serving dynamic content that caters to the experience of each, unique web visitor. People who land on your site and see images, buttons, and product options tailored to their interests are easier to convert into a customer. This can include,

  • Personalized CTAs
  • Welcome back headers
  • Products of interest.

Email marketing

Once a lead leaves your website you want to stay in touch and continue to nurture that lead throughout their relationship with your brand.

G&G recommends a strategic email marketing strategy based on your business needs and budget. It can be automated based on the lead’s actions or can be a scheduled email according to your communication needs. According to Forrester Research, companies that stay in touch with their leads –– and their existing customers ­­­­–– see 50% more sales than their non-nurturing counterparts at a 33% lower cost.

Don’t let your website and digital properties hold you back this year, or ever. Audit, optimise and test regularly and transform them into hard working assets that will increase your brand’s visibility, convert traffic into leads and assist with meeting your objectives.

 

Boxed in – the great email tragedy

By Charles Ash, Senior Front-End Developer at G&G Digital

In the current great creative explosion of our time, I’m all for freedom, bucking the system and doing the unconventional. When it comes to the really big things though, one quickly realises that unbridled freedom can be a major bugbear in getting even the simplest things done.

Heck, I’m even losing my faith in humanity ever agreeing on the big, really important things, like achieving consensus on matters of the environment, objective morality and global justice, when we can’t even all agree to drive on the same side of the road.

World Wide Web or Wild Wild West?
If you’re in the web development world, you’ll have an even greater appreciation for the global adherence to standards. Not too long ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the WWW in your favourite URL stood for Wild Wild West. The browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and standards and methods of rendering data on your screen differed wildly from browser to browser.

The greatest villain in this technological sham was Microsoft with their divergence from any semblance of technological sanity. The result was the birth of the Firefox browser and the Mozilla Foundation which sought to bring technological consistency and sanity to the world’s browser market.

Almost immediately, Firefox started eating away at the Internet Explorer fiefdom and Microsoft was brought to heel through market loss and other players (including Google Chrome) taking a more co-operative, rational approach to the enforcement and adherence to web standards.

The email challenge
The email market now finds itself at the same nexus the browser market found itself in 10 years ago. The market is fractured and wildly inconsistent. With the rendering of HTML in email clients varying so wildly, it’s enough to bring even the most accomplished web developers to their knees.

You see, while the world races ahead technologically, the market for email clients and the rendering of HTML emails has remained obstinately stuck in the past. Even the lowly animated GIF and transparent PNG enjoy very spotty support (at best) in email clients.

That jaw-dropping design your creative team produced for the next award-winning mailer? You may want to rethink those background images, paddings, margins and CSS3 effects. Unless you’re planning on emailing a link for people to see your creative wizardry in their browser.

The case for simplicity
So how does one distill sanity and send out functional, viewable mailers that don’t bring the design team to tears; alienate the client and don’t cause your developers to want to immigrate to Antarctica? You can start by taking a back-to-basics approach.

Uppermost in your mind is that most of your end users will likely be viewing your emails on their mobile phones, so it makes sense to target this particular segment first and scale up your design to cater for users who may be accessing your emails in Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird and heaven-forbid, Lotus Notes or Groupwise.

Only one click away
Until the technology underpinning the rendering of email gets dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we need to shed the notion that the HTML email must be as creatively expressive as the website you’re trying to lead the end user to.

This isn’t 1999, where only a select group of people had access to the web and so it made sense that the email touch point be as flashy as the website you hoped to lead them to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that almost every recipient of your email in the world today, is just one click away from the website you’re trying to lead them to.

Be realistic. Save time. Save tears. There’s wisdom in simplicity.

Digital and TV, sitting in a tree

By Kathryn McConnachie, Head of Copy & Content at G&G Digital

When it comes to powerful marketing combinations, digital and TV go together like peanut butter and syrup. Sushi and wasabi. Thick-framed eyewear and creatives. It’s the yin to TV’s yang, or the Kim to TV’s Kanye. Here’s why:

Digital is growing
While digital has historically been considered the elite playground of the higher LSMs, the data is starting to suggest otherwise. Facebook, for example, is consistently seeing digital engagement across the spectrum in South Africa. This is hardly surprising considering that 19-20 million South Africans are now online thanks to increased smartphone penetration and lower data costs.

TV is no longer the dominant screen

A large percentage of mobile phone usage is happening at home – while users are in front of the TV. Watching TV as an activity has evolved to become less of a passive experience and more about active engagement. And this engagement is happening online, in social spaces where audiences can feel connected. This is particularly during live screenings, major events and (especially for South Africans) weeknight soapies and popular dramas.

People are curious
If a viewer wants to know more about a character, they’ll Google it. If they missed something in the show plot, they’ll Google it. If they’re intrigued by an ad or product, they’ll Google it. In fact, a significant 27% of ‘second screeners’ look up product information online after seeing a TV ad.

This means that if you’re doing TV but not looking after your digital presence – and more specifically, your search presence – you’re missing out on a major opportunity to get closer to consumers and potentially close the loop in the path to purchase or conversion.

Measurable impact
Adding a digital layer to a traditional campaign can provide a new level of insight into the impact of your marketing effects. Going well beyond reach and impressions, proper digital monitoring and measurement can tell you sentiment, track user behaviour and correlate awareness with sales.

It can tell you, to a large extent, what type of action your TV campaign inspired. Whether viewers Googled the backing track of your ad or immediately went to purchase your product online. It’s an invaluable tool to evaluate the success of your above-the-line marketing.

Adding depth
If you invest in TV media, you should ensure you get optimal value from the extra exposure for meaningful brand interactions. If a TV ad piqued the interest of a viewer enough to have them type your brand’s name into Google, make sure that when they find you, they like what they see. Also make sure your digital platforms are optimised for conversions – whether e-commerce or building a consumer database, close that loop.

Better together
To get the most out of digital to support a TV campaign, its essential to ensure the campaign is aligned from the outset. This means digital cannot be seen as an afterthought – it should form an integral part of the original conception and ideation phase.

Establish your conversion objectives upfront and gear your TV collateral to drive people to your digital platforms. Research shows that when TV and digital are used together for a campaign, there is an 18+ point increase across all brand markers.

The bottom line? Don’t waste the opportunity.

Awards baby, awards

We experienced the sweet taste of success in 2015,
And we’re hungry for more.

So in 2016, let’s do the work that matters.

Let’s take on the campaigns that make your competitors think: ‘Damn, wish we’d thought of that.’

Let’s create unforgettable experiences.

Let’s create out-of-this-world content.
The content that makes people stop mid-scroll on Facebook.
The articles that make you stop, think and ask: ‘Hey, did you see this?’
The videos that you just have to share. Immediately. With everyone.

Brave ideas need to be backed by even braver clients.
So let’s push each other to think bigger. Think smarter.

Let’s solve problems.
Let’s make an impact.
Let’s win some awards.
Let’s make 2016 the year we break through.

Let’s do this.

Getting the PR and influencer relationship right

By Kerry Simpson, PR Account Director at G&G Digital

Public Relations has undergone a massive shift in the past two years with the digital landscape opening up far more opportunities for brand exposure. Everything and everyone is online, and media (in the traditional sense) are no longer the primary conveyors of information.

Bloggers and influencers have become an important publicity channel for brands to tap into to amplify brand messages and gain credibility and authenticity from third parties. However, the key to successful influencer engagement is finding the right fit for your brand. As we enter 2016, here are a few tips for getting the relationship right with influencers:

Research, research, research
When identifying influencers do your homework. Check their social media accounts to gauge their audience, reach, number of followers, engagement and interests and see what topics they’re talking about. Have they been involved with competing brands or do they engage in any controversial topics that go against your client’s brand and values? Make sure you know the answers before taking things further.

Build relationships
Developing good influencer relationships takes time. The secret is to engage with them via their social media platforms on an on-going basis. Get involved in their conversations, show interest and enthusiasm and get to know them personally. That way, should you approach them to be part of a brand campaign in the future, you’re already half way to securing their involvement.

Have an informal agreement in place
Once you’ve got their buy-in, put everything in writing – no matter how good you think your relationship is. It’s not as formal as a contract but it’s vital to outline specific details of the campaign and establish a clear understanding of what the expectations are – for both sides.

It’s also important to state clearly upfront whether there will be any remuneration or reward for their involvement. Have clear terms in place should the influencer decide to pull out at the last minute or during the campaign (these things happen).

To pay or not to pay – that is the question?
A few years ago, bloggers and online influencers were happy to receive products and services from brands and would often reciprocate with coverage. But as they’ve gained credibility and become increasingly influential, they’ve rightfully realised their worth.

This means simply sending free product and hoping for coverage can actually do more harm than good – especially if your product has absolutely nothing to do with anything the blogger is interested in. Treat bloggers and influencers as creative partners rather than just another channel. Involve them in your thinking – let them add their insights at the conceptual stage to get optimal value from the relationship.

Find some form of reward, trade-exchange or remuneration that works for both the brand and the influencer. Obviously, it goes without saying that celebrity endorsement is a different kettle of fish and if this approach is taken, it almost always involves a monetary compensation and should be budgeted for upfront.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Respect the influencer’s opinions or decisions as you would a journalist. Remember they’re an influencer for a reason and the amplification of your brand message will only have gravitas if it aligns with the voice and personality of the influencer. For example, a sarcastic post might be their way of engaging their audience and will still extend reach – if it fits with your brand.

Don’t forget about them
Once your campaign is over don’t just forget about them, you never know when you might need them again. Relationships have become more important than ever in this digital environment where there is such a lack of personal interaction.

Nurturing your influencer network is key to building long-term partnerships – pick up the phone and chat to them once your campaign is over, ask them what they did and didn’t like, take them for a coffee and continue to chat with them on their social channels. A little bit of care can go a long way.

G&G wins Best Online PR Campaign at New Generation Awards

Ending 2015 on a high note, G&G Digital scooped an Outright Gold Award for the Canderel #SugarFeelingTheCrunch campaign at the recent New Generation Social and Digital Awards.

Desree, Mike & Kathryn

Taking top honours in the Online PR category, #SugarFeelingTheCrunch was a collaboration between G&G Digital and Hammerhead TV. Subverting the concept of a traditional product launch, Canderel eschewed bland press releases and an expected event for a completely integrated online and experiential campaign to launch new Canderel Crunch – a granular sweetener that looks and tastes like sugar.

A real-life Sugar Cube caused havoc during the weeklong launch campaign in a desperate attempt to cling to relevance after the launch of Canderel Crunch. From threatening to sue Canderel for identity theft, to harassing shoppers and coffee shop patrons, the Sugar Cube’s antics were captured in a series of videos directed and produced by Brendan Jack.

The Sugar Cube took his battle for relevance to social media with a dedicated (and desperate) Twitter account (@SugarCubeMan) as well as guerrilla tactics including a LinkedIn profile and job-seeking posts on Gumtree and Careers24.

During his very public sugar highs and lows, Canderel took on the role of a brand doing crisis communications, sending out media blasts with updates and posting statements across social channels. The result? A highly memorable campaign that made the message stick – Canderel Crunch looks and tastes like sugar.

“The creative team really put their hearts into making this campaign the success it was, so it’s wonderful to receive this recognition,” says Michael Gullan, MD and co-founder of G&G Digital.

“The digital space presents so many unexplored opportunities for unconventional PR, and #SugarFeelingTheCrunch truly was a trail-blazing campaign straight out of left field. We’re very proud of the results.”

Sweet results

  • Total PR QPI to date of over 2 million
  • Campaign ROI of 32:1
  • Over 78 000 views of the video content on YouTube and Facebook to date
  • Over 18 300 organic views recorded after campaign spend stopped
  • Organic reach on Twitter of just under 290 000 unique accounts
  • Almost half a million organic impressions served on Twitter

Digital marketing trends for SA in 2016

By Desiree Gullan, Creative Director and Co-founder of G&G Digital

Even though the year’s skidding past at breakneck speed, it’s important to stay in touch with sweeping trends – they might just force you to rethink how to speak to your desired audience. Here are four key trends that will shape the approach to digital marketing in 2016.

1. Eschewing product-focused content

The ‘infomercial’ approach to branded content on social media and digital channels isn’t working for anyone. You cannot claim to be successfully mastering storytelling if your story is: “Our product is the best thing on the planet and is 10% more amazing than everything else. Everyone who bought it lived happily ever after. The end.”

Think about the way Dove went from generic soap ads to transforming their brand narrative through the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.

To broaden your perspective on branded content, think of your brand as a person – consider what their interests would be and draw your content pillars from that. Compelling storytelling involves removing the product blinkers and looking at the broader context within which your brand exists.

Consider your scope of content as a series of concentric circles. The bigger the circle, the broader the appeal and the greater the potential objective value of the content.

A-new-approach-to-content-marketing

2. Paid content distribution

As content marketing becomes the new normal for brands, the reality is setting in that publishing content and having it discovered online are two very different things.

Even the best content needs to be backed by spend to spark engagement and broaden reach. As a result, in 2016 brands will begin to see content distribution strategy as being just as important as content production itself.

Facebook has emerged unequivocally as the most successful paid content distribution platform for brands and publishers alike. With the right targeting strategy and the right content crafting, Facebook is the most effective way to put your content in front of the right people at the right time. And it doesn’t hurt that a quarter of all global web traffic is currently channelled through the platform.

That said, brands will also be experimenting with new opportunities for native advertising as publishers explore new mutually beneficial models.

3. Engagement analytics and ROI

As brands invest in creating higher quality content, they’ll also demand a higher standard of analytics to prove ROI. Looking beyond vanity metrics such as impressions and reach, brands will want to measure value by deeper metrics such as time spent on site (and specific articles), comments and, all-important, sharability.

In line with this, it will also be increasingly important to analyse the quality of referral traffic driven by paid content distribution platforms. All of these insights must be fed back into the content production and optimisation process in a constant feedback loop to ensure optimal ROI.

4. Influencer relationships and content co-creation

As content takes centre stage, it will become increasingly important for brands wanting to win at content marketing to partner with the professionals. This means working with video production experts when video is required, photographers for amazing imagery and professional writers and journalists for compelling articles.

(Hopefully) gone will be the days of influencer endorsement simply for a once-off fee. Audiences see straight through the one-dimensional ‘endorsements’ and influencers and brands alike lose credibility because of them. Brands will need to be thinking in terms of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships based shared values and the desire to create quality content.

The year ahead in social media in SA

Every year there is one social report that dominates all others in terms of accuracy and insight. The Social Media Landscape for 2015/2016 released by World Wide Worx and Fuseware, is a roadmap to help South African brands navigate the ever-changing social terrain.

The biggest takeaways from this year’s report? If you’re not already investing in quality, original rich media creation, you’d better start – soon. If you have your own brand content hub, you’re already ahead of the curve. Go you. And if you think LinkedIn is a stagnant platform, you are very, very wrong.

Here’s a look at the key stats:

Social Media Landscape2016

Got questions? Want to start a video campaign, like, yesterday? Want to know more about what this all means for your brand? Reach out. We could shoot the breeze about this all day.