10 May 2013
An interesting story caught my eye last week concerning British
heavy metal legends Iron
Maiden. I have something of a soft spot for 'the Irons', they
were the first band I ever went to see, it was Wolverhampton Civic Hall
and I was 14 - and whilst my taste in music may have mellowed a
little since then, I still keep a passing eye on what the old boys
are up to. This story however, didn't concern their last touring
schedule, album release, or even their music at all. It was in fact
to do with beer. Iron Maiden announced that it has sold out of
pre-orders of its first ever beer "Trooper" and
Cheshire-based family brewer Robinsons is now brewing three batches
a day for the first time in its 175-year history to meet demand.
The Sun, over a quarter of a million pints have been pre-sold
in the UK alone ahead of the May 9 release and over 100 countries
have applied to stock the cask ale.
This immediately struck me as genius! In an industry where your
core commodity is increasingly worth less - in this instance
albums, singles and other traditional music sales - it makes
perfect business sense to diversify into other products which your
current customer - i.e. Iron Maiden fans - will be interested in
buying. Iron Maiden has nothing to do with the alcoholic drinks
business but it only took a little creative marketing thinking to
diversify the brand into this new product area. Marketing 101! (and
great PR too).
So this got me thinking, with nearly 40 years in the music
business and a brand that is currently stronger than ever, what
other business and marketing lessons can we learn from Iron
1. Timing is everything
In 1990 Iron Maiden had their first and only UK number one
single, the BBC-banned song 'Bring Your
Daughter… to the Slaughter'. The band - aptly - released the
single alongside Cliff
Richard's 'Saviour's Day' for the 1990 Christmas No. 1, but due
to not being officially released until the week after Christmas it
knocked The Peter Pan of Pop off the number one slot in the
following week and went straight to No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart
on 5th January 1991.
In a world before X Factor had Christmas number one sown up in
November, everyone wanted to be
Christmas number one , so all the big bands and artists would
go head-to-head for the honour, nobody in their right mind released
a single in the week after Christmas. Therefore statistically this
was the easiest week in the year to secure number one with the
lowest number of sales - so that's what Iron Maiden did.
Lesson: Anticipate when you can make the biggest impact and
identify a period when you can galvanise your customer base to
2. Multi-task to cut costs
This top tip could also have been 'no job is beneath management'
or 'continuous investment pays dividends'.
In the 1990s lead singer Bruce
Dickinson trained to become a commercial airline pilot flying
Boeing 757s for UK charter airline
Astraeus. Since 2008 Dickinson has been the band's official
pilot for overseas tours. In a band that prides itself on running
cost-effective, lean tours, this is just one example of
'management' taking control and multi-tasking to cut costs.
How many UK MDs could cite such innovative examples of where
they have managed to reduce costs on their bottom line?
3. Your best talent could be anywhere - even in the
Of the current Iron Maiden line-up two-thirds have left the band
only to subsequently re-join at a later date. The line-up is
considered to be the strongest ever and key to the band's
resurgence in recent years.
So consider this, when a good member of staff leaves and heads
off to pastures new, do you leave on good terms and let them know
the door is always open for a return; or cut them off, never to be
given a further thought?
If it's the latter, then you might have lost a star employee not
just once… but twice.
4. Don't be afraid to test new markets
Costa Rica, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and
India are not traditional countries that rock bands tour in. But in
the last 10 years Iron Maiden has been to all of them.
The message here is that if you want to grow, then you
have to keep finding a new audience, new customers and new markets
for your service or product. And if you're a little bit niche, then
you might just have to push the boundaries just a little bit
5. Relentlessly give your customers what they
Finally, if you have a loyal customer, never take them for
granted and continuously work at giving them a consistent product
that aligns with the core values they originally fell in love
Since 1975 Iron Maiden has played over 2000 live shows and
studio albums (plus a further 18 live and compilation albums) .
That's approaching one release per year for 38 years. Not many
software companies could attest to such work rate and
* Stats and references are taken from Wikipedia and from my
own encyclopaedic and mostly useless knowledge of classic rock
, marketing | Leave comment
13 February 2012
This week, I've seen a crazy amount of articles and blog
posts talking about Pinterest.
So, why not add one more. I joined Pinterest a few weeks back, as I
wanted to see what all the fuss was about. According to some, it is
the 'holy grail' of the internet, and apparently this website is
what the internet was made for.
I guess for those of you who haven't heard about it, or are
still trying to figure out what it is (which I am too, to a certain
extent), you could describe it as a "visual pinboard of dreams".
It's a place where you can gather all the things that you love and
show them off to the world, by sharing your pinboard with others.
It is also a place where you can dip into other people's dreams and
inspirations; you see something you like, you pin it. Someone likes
what you have Pin-ed and Repins it, and so on.
Having been around for a few years, Pinterest has only in the
last few months started to gain traction, and people are starting
to pay more attention. Having taken a while to surface, Pinterest
is slowly but quickly becoming mainstream and I fear we only have a
short window before we see it hi-jacked by brands, and the
monetisation opportunities become all too apparent.
However, brands taking advantage of this "next big thing", is no
bad thing. It is a site that should definitely not be overlooked by
marketers as there is huge potential here. Not for direct customer
engagement as this is not a platform where you want to invade
someone's social space, but more of a situation where you provide
the content and wait for the magic to happen.
A brand can showcase its products and allow its audience to take
them far and wide. Tailoring is key here, as the content shared
needs to be carefully selected to attract the attention of a brands
desired audience. Brands can offer 'sneak peaks' of new product
launches, then sit back and watch people share and spread the
Pinterest is a platform that complements the likes of Facebook
and Twitter, as these platforms can be used as a pathway to draw
people in to your "pinboard of dreams". As it becomes more
and more familiar to brands and consumers, the viral nature of
Pins/Likes/Repins will prove to be wildly successful and, when
absorbed into a company's existing social engagement strategy, we
will see its content spread to a much wider audience.
The buzz around Pinterest is increasing at a rapid rate and as
more and more brands and consumers flock to check out this new and
exciting platform, the flow of content will continue to grow and
create a visual explosion of what the world thinks is, well,
marketing, Social media, Pinterest | Leave comment
10 February 2012
Last week, a team of Octopedes arrived in the city of
dreaming spires for the Oxford Advertising, PR and Marketing Fair.
The quest was to chat to hundreds of students about communications,
what Octopus does - and with any luck, meet some future
For me, having only graduated from University in June, the
situation was all too familiar; students wandering round with a
look of eager anticipation on their faces, not knowing who to
approach first, whilst gradually becoming weighed down with free
USB pens, notepads and bags full of printed leaflets.
To buck the trend, we arrived armed with cupcakes, bean bags and
even the prospect of a day's work experience with the Octopus
Group. Our colourful stand soon attracted over one hundred
students, who had studied a range of subjects from PPE to
Chemistry, English Literature to Physics. We were showered
with questions including "what is PR?", "how much can you earn?"
and promisingly "how can I apply to Octopus?".
Whilst we were chatting to students on the exhibition stand, the
event also saw members of several different agencies taking to the
stage to give talks on advertising, brand insight and PR. Inspired
by the nuggets of wisdom imparted in these lectures, here is a
summary of the key points which may help prospective PRs or
marketeers land their first break after University…
1. Gain experience - gone are the days when
your academic qualifications are enough. Whether you've written for
the student newspaper, organised a University ball, or if you've
completed a day, a week or a month's work experience (in house or
in an agency), make sure you include it on your CV. It shows
commitment, drive and focus.
2. Be social media savvy - although a lot of PR
and marketing is still firmly grounded in traditional methods, the
internet has transformed PR into a two way conversation, where
social media sites play an important role in a brand's reputation.
Use those hours spent on Facebook and Twitter (rather than starting
that dreaded essay…) to your advantage, enhancing your knowledge of
the social media space.
3. Find a voice - in communications, you may be
asked to write an opinion article, confidently communicating a
client's viewpoint. By reading the papers and blogging or writing
(in a creative or journalistic capacity) you can hone your
argumentative and written skills, equipping yourself for the
4. Be hungry, astute, true and brave - If
you're passionate about the industry and possess these core Octopus
values you should have no trouble persuading a potential employer
that you can do the job.
From an Octopus perspective, the day was a great success, giving
us the chance to meet students with a wide range of interests and a
varied skill set. If you're passionate about PR, marketing or brand
insight and you're hungry, astute, true and brave we look forward
to seeing your CVs and applications rolling in!
PR, , marketing, University, graduates, communications | Leave comment
This week Octopus, in conjunction with our pals at PR
Week and Marketing, held its Future5 Live Event to showcase the
type of campaigns we think are starting to signpost the future of
the PR industry.
It was a cracking bash with the PR industry seemingly in fine
fettle. Fifty communicators from all sectors coming together to
have a look into the future and hear from some of their peers who
have conceived and executed cutting edge campaigns over the last
There was much positive debate, discussion both in the Q&A
and over coffee afterwards. Here's a quick summary:
1. The campaign of the future will be
So to be a Future5 award winner in the future, campaigns will
need to use all, not just some, of the trends - research and
planning, brand partnerships, audience participation, use of
technology, and of course what we've termed, the BIG Idea. And
maybe even more that will evolve in the future.
But to deliver those campaigns there needs to be a new skill set
for agencies and in-house teams. Not just the core skills of media
relations but content development, video, design, production, app
development, influencer relations, direct communications, even
traditional advertising. The list goes on. PR is doing lots of
stuff it's never done before.
Of course you can get all of these different skill sets from
individual agencies, but we're convinced that the more forward
thinking ones (ahem, like us J) should be able to offer all of
these services under one roof.
Any PR agency, or in house team, failing to innovate at the
moment won't be here in a few years.
2. Managing risk versus trying new stuff
PR people are good in a crisis. We've long been the guardians of
corporate reputation and let's face it, doing new things can be
risky. So how do you minimise risk but maximise campaigns and new
approaches? Well Future5 shows it's through research and planning,
something that PR agencies have been slow to embrace.
Unless campaigns start with an insight into the audience -
spotting gaps and new channels - we think they are at best
ineffective, at worst risky to the brand. And lots of the Future5
winners demonstrated this.
3. Outcomes not outputs
One trend we've seen over the last couple of years with Future5
is the need to drive audience participation and action. This has
been brought about by the growth in social media channels, like
Facebook and Twitter, where encouraging 'likes' or 'follows' is
easy and demonstrable. But increasingly PR is being asked to
predict and goal ourselves on direct action not coverage.
This can be a problem for those who don't have the integrated
mindset or the ability to benchmark. Without this foresight and
confidence, you can't build more direct metrics around direct
outcomes - sales leads, registration or online feedback - which
undoubtedly is the way we're heading.
4. PR relationship with the business and who
One comment made was that it seemed less about whether PR and
marketing owned the campaign, and more about what tactics made it a
success. An encouraging sign. But often, in reality there are still
barriers. There is still the perception from many in marketing and
beyond that PR is butting in on a conversation if it requires
anything beyond the press release.
So what's the opportunity? The opportunity for PR is in coming
up with campaigns, not just story ideas, and to go and find money
from other parts of the business to bring these to life. Thinking
bigger and more long term. Because in reality, the overstretched PR
budget alone cannot do everything.
So, what was the message from the floor? Coming out loud and
clear was think bigger and PR practitioners can all be rewarded
with the opportunity to do more and evolve their roles. Develop
well-planned ideas, integrated approaches and a focus on outcomes
from your campaigns and your agency partners. And try and push
outside of our comfort zones occasionally and not be scared of
failing sometimes. Which is after all, the very essence of what
Future5 is all about!
You can learn all about Future5 from our website pages or why not read all about
the campaigns in
PR, , PR week, marketing, Future 5, Campaigns | Leave comment
Do you remember your first mobile phone? Peeling the
protective cover from its screen and admiring the device in all its
'latest technology' glory, you felt a sense of security knowing you
could be reached anytime, anywhere. The satisfaction of dropping
"You can catch me on the mobile" into conversation was delicious.
How times have changed.
The dramatic evolution of mobile technology means the basic
functions of any mobile handset have been eclipsed by the seemingly
unlimited uses of today's smartphones. From emailing and surfing
the internet to online shopping and listening to music, today's
consumers have an endless and ever growing list of uses for their
smartphone, and as each individual uncovers a new reason to rely on
their mobile device, their very own "Mobile Dependence Day"
The introduction of the smartphone has revolutionised the mobile
market, resulting in the need for marketers to embrace this new
platform when considering their mobile strategy. The US smartphone
market alone saw a growth of 60% from February 2010 to February
2011, according to comScore, and market trends suggest this
unstoppable expansion is set to continue with the International
Data Corporation predicting a worldwide growth of 49.2% in
So as more and more of us experience our individual "Mobile
Dependence Day," the impact on purchasing behaviour is cause for
marketing teams to re-evaluate their approach, ensuring that they
feed the individual demands of each and every "mobile
According to insights taken from ExactTarget's research
'Mobile Dependence Day', the latest in its Subscribers,
Fans and Followers research series;
- 89% of US online consumers aged 15+ own a mobile
- 41% own a smartphone
- 48% own a feature phone (typically limited to calling and
- Just 11% don't own a mobile phone
When it asked consumers what they would be willing to give up in
order to keep their smartphones, 40% said they would give up their
laptops, 69% would part with their tablet computers and a mobile
addicted 13% would rather live without their refrigerator
than face life without their smartphone.
When looking at what consumers use their mobiles for, the top 5
functions of a smartphone are fairly obvious. Calling, texting,
email, internet and Facebook are all daily uses, but the activities
carried out by users are becoming more sophisticated.
Location-based services (or "checking in"), quick response codes
and barcodes, comparison shopping, mobile coupons and push
notifications seem to be the front runners in the list of
activities that are gaining popularity amongst smartphone users. As
mobile dependents adopt these activities in their daily routine, it
is important that marketers identify the purchasing behaviour of
their target consumers.
As "Mobile Dependence Day" creeps up on more and more consumers
and the mobile dependence army grows in strength, marketers need to
be mindful that the continuous evolution of devices and networks
will shape the mobile market for the foreseeable future. Mobile
isn't simply a channel, it's a cross-channel platform that will
continue to evolve....
, marketing, mobile, smartphones | Leave comment
We like to think we get our campaigns spot on most of
the time, but the minute you relax and take things for granted is
when it all starts to fall apart like the proverbial house of
cards. I guess, to some extent, that is what Future 5 is all about.
Not taking anything for granted, and making a genuine attempt to
find out what needs to be happening next with our industry, making
sure that we are doing it - and doing it well!
There are many companies that invest billions into analysing the
future direction of their respective industries. We don't have
billions of pounds, and unfortunately we don't have a
time-travelling DeLorean. What we do have, however, are some of the
brightest and most capable minds within the comms industry at our
beck and call - which turned out to be more than enough when
hosting our "Future 5 Breakfast Briefing" with PR Week.
The morning was a great success. This was all helped along with
Haymarket's Philip Smith pithy chairing of the event; our very own
Jon Lonsdale dealing with the cut and thrust of a questioning
audience; and two further great presentations from Steve Kirk at
Honda and Jamie Harley of Deloitte.
More details on the Future 5 trends/campaigns can be found
Feedback from the guests was brilliant, and I know that the
majority of people in attendance were pleased to know their comms
programs were starting to head in the right direction but also saw
areas that they knew they could improve on.
However, one thing that did strike me was how hard some of our
brand-side peers have to fight to get experimental and innovative
ideas through. Agency side, you kind of take it for granted that
you are encouraged to be as creative as possible, but this is sadly
not always the case with our friends across the divide.
I hope Future 5 has showed our guests that to be brave you
sometimes have to be willing to put your neck on the line and think
At the risk of sounding like a Honda advert, one of Steve Kirk's
remarks stayed with me that day - a quote from their founder, Mr.
Soichiro Honda. "99% of success is failure." Basically, don't be
afraid to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Be brave,
pick yourself up and be prepared to (boldly) go where no PR has
gone before - that is what Future 5 is all about.
PR, PR week, marketing, Event, Future 5, Deloitte, Honda, Haymarket | Leave comment
As I stepped onto my tube platform this morning on the
way to work I was greeted by the polite lady on the tannoy
announcing that there was a good service on all lines. Good news!
Five packed tube trains later and I was still on the platform
trying to start my journey to work and the polite lady on the
tannoy was still trying to convince me that there was a 'good
service on all lines'. My levels of annoyance, frustration and
disappointment were mounting and 'miss irritating voice' had not
helped with her false promise.
This got me thinking about brand promises, consumer expectations
and avoiding disappointment. If the tannoy announcement had said
something along the lines of "Really sorry folks, we've got some
problems today, it's going to be tough but we will get you there
eventually" I think I'd have had a resigned smile on my face and
kicked back and relaxed...or got the bus.
There's no doubt that we are now in an age of brand transparency.
Communications professionals have been banging the 'transparency
and honesty' drum for some time and many brands and companies are
doing this well. However, this hasn't reduced the desire for brands
to have the most compelling selling lines and claims they can.
Nowhere is this more evident than for functional foods (I'm
thinking Activia and Actimel) and beauty products with their pseudo
science of ceramides and peptides.
Here's the 'but'. Will the ever-more cynical Generation Y and
after them Z still respond to these types of claims? Maybe, if the
products truly deliver but a disappointed consumer can be a
consumer lost for life. Personally I'd like to see a bit more
realism in product claims, avoid disappointment and consumers will
Eat Special K for breakfast and lunch, you'll be starving but by
eating less, exercising more you will lose
Everyone grows old and gets crow's feet. Use L'Oreal Revitalift
every day and your wrinkles will not disappear but they'll look a
little less prominent.
Pampers absorb a lot of baby wee and are
designed to prevent even the messiest number two's from spilling
out the sides. Making parents lives a tiny little bit easier.
I for one would find this approach totally refreshing. It might
also mean that marketeers could spend less time worrying about the
articulation of a strapline and more time making sure their
consumer insight is right, their product is good and their
customers are happy.
marketing, branding, Brand promises, consumers | Leave comment
I love it when a plan comes together.
And that's exactly what happened when our creative team and a
few of our social media gurus got together recently to figure out a
way to step e-marketing up a notch or two.
The result was something we're calling the Three 'S'
The three Ss (sense, speak, and share) combine social media
insight and outreach with first-class creative to deliver highly
targeted and relevant online communications.
We've put together a very short slide show that explains how it
all works. If you're interested to see it, send a request to
marketing, Social media, intergration, newsletter, soci | Leave comment
While a career in PR isn't likely to leave you with as many good
tales to tell the grandchildren as a job in something like international
espionage might, it does have its fair share of moments where
you can sit back and think "that was pretty cool". Of course,
public relations does tend to involve a lot less being shot at as
well (particularly bad review meetings aside), and you don't have
to ask the grandkids to sign the Official Secrets Act either, both
of which are integral parts of the Octopus benefits package.
A few of the Octopus gang were privy to one of those "Ain't It
Cool" moments just recently, as we brought together the judging
panel for Cisco's Customer
Kings campaign - a partnership with Real Business magazine to
find the UK's best customer focused small firms, and one that
Octopus and Cisco picked up a
PR Week award for in 2009, thankyouverymuch.
Joining Cisco's head of SME and Commercial , David Critchley,
the judging panel included MoneySupermarket genius and small
business supremo Simon Nixon (now running the fabulous travel guide
SimonSeeks), The Daily
Mirror's resident careers, finance and small business expert Tricia
Phillips, and Real Business' Charles "I've written
about more brilliant SMEs than you've had dinners, hot or
With our four judges assembled, it was a bit like having a small
business version of the A-Team in the room; the SMB-Team, if you
like. And a good thing it was too, because we needed every iota of
their entrepreneurial and small business expertise to pick the
winners from the many, many fantastic entries to the competition.
Yes, this day was cool for two reasons - not just for being
slightly star-struck at our judging panel, but also for being able
to see the raw brilliance and passion on display from our
Quite literally just like the judging day...
From those that have come up with a smart, unique idea and just
run with it to those who have spent years crafting their business
into a well drilled, slick and yet - dare we say it - lovable
company, Customer Kings is a wonderful reaffirmation of the breadth
of talent and drive that exists amongst the UK's small businesses.
When times are tough, these businesses continue to put the customer
first, and that's what has made each and every single one of our
winners not only a Customer King, but also a roaring success of a
small business in their own right.
Stay tuned for the announcement of the winners when the March
8th edition of Real Business hits the
streets. We love it when a plan comes together.
octopus awards, marketing, Technology | Leave comment
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