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Banner – True Native

female shop assistant holding open sign

Business reopening? How to be reassuring…

By | Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

I’ve just bought a carpet. If you’d told me in January when we moved house that I’d have to make an appointment to visit Tapi Carpets, would be met by a lady in medical gloves wearing a full face visor, and be asked to sanitise my hands before so much as flipping through the shag, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s just what happened, and you know what, it didn’t feel as strange as I thought it would – we just got on with it. A few jokes about the store never being cleaner… “just imagine the germs that were on credit card terminals before – yuck!”… and we were done.

As I walked home, I started to think about the reason it didn’t feel that odd or unwelcoming. Obviously, we’re a few months into this now, so we kind of know that when we buy products or services it’s probably not going to be conducted how it was prior to COVID-19. However, I think the main reason it wasn’t completely weird was because Tapi did a great job in preparing me for the experience.

From the phone call booking the appointment, to the email setting out what to expect, everything was reassuring. We were told we’d be the only people in the store, that their staff “may look a little strange” in PPE, and that the credit card machine would be sanitised with “fluid alcohol or a bleach solution after each use”. This was their first day back open since the government closed all non-essential shops, and they nailed it.

The UK is nervous 

As someone not in a high-risk group, I’m more comfortable than many – we’ve already booked a holiday; I’d be fine getting on a plane in the next couple of months. In short, I’m not representative of the UK. According to a YouGov poll in April 2020, just 32% of us would feel comfortable going back into a pub or restaurant and only around half of adults would be happy to go back into a clothing store (54% men, 42% women). Given these findings, how businesses communicate reassurance is going to be key to attracting physical customers back.

Crafting comforting copy

We’re currently working on many campaigns which include reassuring copy – from a developer offering socially distanced show home viewings, to a university explaining why joining a virtual open day will be just as good as being there in person. Here’s three things to think about when writing re-opening copy:

1.     Be upfront. Don’t pretend that COVID-19 hasn’t changed things – we all know it has. Instead talk honestly about the changes you’ve had to make for the benefit of both your staff and customers

2.     Be detailed. Long form copy gives you the freedom to explain exactly how things will work. Unexpected surprises will unnerve those who are already anxious

3.     Be upbeat. It’s a positive that you’re able to serve your customers. Don’t focus on the negatives. Tapi told me about the “success” of their opening trial and some great reopening offers, not that I might have to wait for an appointment and can no longer just turn up to their stores

If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on brand content in the age of COVID-19, you can find them here

Family with two kids in masks in airport

Pitching for tourists: How and when to market post COVID-19 travel

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content Marketing, main blog, Uncategorized

Unquestionably, travel has been one of the hardest hit sectors since COVID-19 hit. New data from Pubmatic has revealed a 96% drop in ad spend from the first week of March to the second week of April, as country after country locked down, and airlines pulled flights.

As we hurtle towards June, we’re starting to see some green shoots, as thankfully infection rates decline across Europe. Flights are once again being scheduled, with British Airways predicting “a meaningful return” to the sky from July.    

The importance of tourism

Many countries who are heavily reliant on tourism, such as Spain and Italy (around 12 – 15% of GDP), already have plans to bring visitors back as soon as possible. Sicily announced that it will discount plane tickets and pay for every third night in hotels in an effort to lure back tourists. Spain’s tourism minister has said they hope to welcome foreign tourists back by the end of June.

After the banking crisis in which the country was badly hit, Iceland turned to tourism, which now accounts for 9% of GDP.  The country is already preparing for tourists in June who will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at Reykjavik airport.

In Britain, the focus has turned to domestic tourism to save the summer season. Visit Britain have proposed an extra bank holiday later this year to help businesses who were closed during the first stage of lockdown. Domestic tourism alone is worth £80 billion a year to the UK economy.

Advertising when?

The Irish Examiner recently reported that Tourism Ireland are tendering for a COVID-19 research programme. It’s essentially a piece of work designed to tell them when to begin marketing Ireland as a tourist destination again.

This week, Visit Scotland reported “a slow but steady return to traffic on visitscotland.com and an upturn in long lead (90+days) flight bookings.

Given the long consideration phase when booking a holiday (see our blog on Why long form content is key to influencing travellers) and strong signs that we’re moving to a more optimistic phase (see Why your brand content should now be optimistic), perhaps that time should be now?

Hitting the right notes

Getting the tone right in the current climate will be key – I’ve already seen some great campaigns including Visit Switzerland’s activity-packed “Dream now, travel later”…

Visit Britain have grouped a selection of quintessentially British content together, creating a hub containing everything from recipes you can make at home, to 360 degree videos, and articles on binge-worthy British TV shows.

Finally, Travel Saint Lucia have been hosting live streams twice a week, showcasing activities from kite surfing to live island sunsets. There’s also been interactive content you can join in with, from cooking classes to yoga classes with a stunning backdrop!

Remaining front of mind

All these campaigns have one thing in common – encouraging us to think ahead to when we can travel again. Those that remain front of mind will benefit the most when people start booking in serious numbers again.

Let us help you generate some wanderlust ahead of re-opening. Contact us today to see how we create and distribute inspiring on-brand travel content that performs.

 

Family seaside holiday

Why your brand content should now be optimistic

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content Marketing, main blog

I’ve just booked a holiday for the first week of January. Will it happen? Probably, but there is of course a chance that it won’t.  Does that matter? No, it’s fully refundable. Like many, I need something to look forward to. It seems I’m not the only one – social platform Pinterest has just released some interesting stats on where they believe consumer sentiment is right now.

Four phases based on consumer trends

Pinterest have split their timeframe into 4 parts:

Phase 1: Triage + Information (First 21 days)
Phase 2: Empathy + Relevance (Days 7-45)
Phase 3: Escapism + Optimism (Days 45-120)
Phase 4: Recovery + Rebound (-10 days from quarantine lift onward)

In the first few weeks of lockdown searches centred around recipes and things for kids to do. These have now levelled off in line with phase 3 according to the platform, with planning for the future now growing strongly. Thoughts have once again tuned to categories such as travel and wedding plans.

This mirrors what we’ve seen across our own network with engagement across food, home and garden performing exceptionally well during April and education campaigns for September university courses taking off during the past few weeks, as students plan their future.

The research phase lengthens

Whilst we may be entering a more optimistic phase, one thing that has changed is how we research potential purchases. New research from Bauer Media found that 32% of consumers now take longer to look up and consider a product or service than they did pre-lockdown. Notable category finds were that:

“59% spend longer when buying kitchen equipment, and 52% spend longer when purchasing entertainment electronics”

Cars, houses and holidays

We know big ticket items have a far longer funnel even in more normal times. As we explored in a previous travel blog, research from Expedia shows that in the 45 days before making a purchase, British consumers visit websites an average of 121 times!

The journey to purchasing a car typically lasts around 24 weeks according to Facebook research. 13 weeks of that time is spent researching and building knowledge online through content before a potential customer even sets foot inside a dealership.

Buying a new home can involve an even longer consideration period (16 months), with online research lasting 7 months before an active search begins according to the digital house hunt (Google).

Planning content ahead of trends 

Given that the research and consideration phase has more likely lengthened during lockdown, it makes sense to be in market with useful content to aid the buying journey now, ahead of expecting consumers to be comfortable with booking travel / visiting a dealership / viewing a show home.

Even if people aren’t ready to commit to booking the trip of a lifetime right now, they have almost certainly started the process. Producing and distributing optimistic content now will sow the seeds for conversion when the time is right.

 

corona virus covid-19

Brand content in the age of COVID-19

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

We’re now several weeks in to living life as we’ve never known it before. Coronavirus has changed everyone’s plans, from that city break that never happened, to multimillion-pound ad campaigns. But in times of crisis there are opportunities for some brands, as consumers take comfort in certain products and look for leadership from companies they trust.

Let’s split this into three parts: who consumers want to be advertising, who is advertising and who is succeeding in advertising during these uncertain times. And when I say advertising, what I mean is communicating. If you’ve never read Jeremy Bullmore’s definition of “What Is Advertising” – perhaps now is a good time as it’s a great read – his 1976 definition basically stands true today:

‘Any paid-for communication intended to inform and/or influence one or more people.’

Who do the public want to hear from?

So, let’s start with who consumers want to be advertising. Rather than make the bold assumption that now is not the time to be communicating, selling, or even discussing coronavirus, Opinium asked the British public just that.

The first surprising finding was that majority or those surveyed wanted to hear the same amount or, in certain sectors, more from brands – it wasn’t deemed to be a time to go dark by most. Perhaps less surprising were the sectors people wanted to hear more from:

Healthcare and pharma – 33% wanted to hear more
Supermarkets – 33% wanted to hear more
Food and drink – 28% wanted to hear more
Retailers – 21% wanted to hear more
Household goods – 20% wanted to hear more

When looking at who should be fronting the messaging, the response, without question, was those in the front line, with influencers and celebrities coming bottom. Practical, authentic information is in demand during a time of crisis. A 12 market brand trust report from Edelman found that brands should sell solutions…

84% percent of respondents said they want brand advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges.”

Who’s active right now

Aside from the Government, the most active sectors according to Winmo have been FMCG (comfort food in particular), home improvement (homes & garden) and entertainment (subscription streaming services, toys, computer games). There’s also been a big shift in channels with OOH and print budgets shifting online. From our own perspective, we’ve seen incredible engagement with home and garden content as people spend every day at home looking at all the jobs they’ve put off!

Who’s succeeding

Brands seen to be adding value by directly helping with the crisis are generating plenty of brand love online – from Barbour manufacturing scrubs, to Tesco donating millions to food banks, but there’s also plenty of space for those brands helping the public maintain some sense of normativity – Nike, for example, has made it’s training club app free of charge.

We’re currently helping brands react to the new “new” by using long form content to communicate information. Our tips on how to communicate in a crisis are here, or feel free to get in touch to see how we can help you distribute brand content across premium publisher’s here.

 

Hands showing signs

How to produce brand content that performs in 2020

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

January, by its very nature, often allows for a period of reflection. The madness of Q4 has passed and it seems like an opportune moment to take a look back at what worked well in 2019 and do more of the good stuff in 2020. With that in mind, I’ve been revisiting some of the most successful content we ran last year to see why it worked so well.

I’m going to keep this quite top line as we’re planning more regular sector specific pieces throughout the year (health, property, fashion, food & drink) – if you missed our recent travel content tips, you can find them here.

So, in no particular order, here’s some recommendations for your future brand content campaign:

Be authentic

We’ve been running multiple articles for a leading London hotel over the past 12 months. Whilst London recommendation pieces have worked well (arts, restaurants, events), the most powerful theme was actually under our noses – the hotel itself. Writing about the history of this iconic hotel and how you can feel it in the building proved to not only to be the most successful content in terms of engagement but also CTAs. The audience were keen to discover how they could buy into the magic.

Be useful

Campaigns that provide useful information based on the specialism of the brand continue to perform exceptionally well. Examples include an eye drops brand explaining how you can tell if you’ve dry eyes via a blink test, a housebuilder detailing exactly how Help To Buy works and a children’s food company with top tips for teething toddlers. If you’ve earned the right to talk expertly about a subject, use it for all its worth!

Be inspiring

It’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re in the market to sell something, whether that be the wider brand or an individual product. Think about how the content you are creating gives the reader inspiration to do something, whether that be create a spectacular cheeseboard for Christmas, start a new university course, or go and explore a new country. Three very different outcomes, but all successful this past December.

Computer keyboardBe data driven

Whilst the creative process is unlikely to be replaced by AI anytime soon, a good content strategy should make use of the wealth of amazing insights we can now report on. For several brands this year, we’ve tested advertorial content alongside softer, less product led content. Each article produced different outcomes, but broadly we found that advertorial content produced better CTAs, with the content marketing style pieces producing better CTRs. Map these to your business goals to produce better outcomes going forward.

Finally, if you do all these things, don’t be ashamed that you’ve something to sell in return – It’s what the value exchange is all about!

Contact us today to discover how we can help you create meaningful engagement with your target audience.

 

5 things we learned planning 2019 clearing campaigns

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, Education, main blog

It’s been a busy few months developing university clearing campaigns with our agency partners. As students start to receive their results, applications will soon be flooding in. Here’s 5 things we’ve learned so far….

  1. Clearing is not as scary as people think, so communicate that

Clearing can seem daunting to students who don’t understand the process, whereas in actual fact the whole point about clearing is that it allows students to talk directly to universities. They’re able to quickly find out what courses are available to them and apply straight away, sometimes there and then over the phone.

Clearing cuts red tape and makes it easier for students to apply, meaning more students in the right courses, and more places filled up for universities. It’s up to marketing teams to get this message across to potential students.

Some of our best performing headlines and articles have been reassuring pieces, helping guide students through the process. At the same time, long form content gives institutions the ideal opportunity to position themselves as a viable option and provides potential students with the confidence to contact clearing teams.

  1. Consider your audience groups

Universities spend large budgets targeting potential students and signposting key courses, but should they spend more time thinking about who their audience is?

Whilst students will ultimately make the final decision on where and when to apply through clearing, they don’t have to do this on their own. Parents, teachers, tutors and heads of year all have an impact on a student’s decision, so universities also need to be engaging with these influencers and giving them the best possible information for them to pass on. It’s certainly worth considering producing bespoke content for these groups.

Young people on smartphones

  1. Don’t just focus on traditional school leavers

This year we have seen more universities expand the audience of their content campaigns to engage with mature students who are considering returning to university (or attending for the first time) to change or progress their careers.

The messaging to these potential students has to be really eye-catching and inspirational to encourage consideration and cut through the wealth of marketing aimed at more traditional clearing audiences.

Unlike school leavers, mature students don’t have parents and teachers drilling key application dates into them, so they often don’t realise its application season or fall foul of the ‘there’s always next year’ syndrome. Universities need to reach these students, often found in the local catchment areas, and explain the benefits of career focused courses. We’ve found messaging around career changes or progress have had the biggest impact across our network.

  1. Be strategic with your budget

We know results day is an incredibly important time to reach students as they have a very short window to make a decision. As a result, advertising spends on results day have become mind-blowing due to the sheer amount competition driving up the prices of biddable media.

With a click on Google sometimes costing upwards of £100 have you considered other DR channels like Native Display to diversify your results day strategy?

Another option to take the pressure off a very narrow window is to engage with students in pre-clearing. This gives universities a chance to get their message across with longer form, less DR based content.

That way when students reach clearing, they have already engaged with the university, have some understanding of its offering / courses, and see it as a viable option. Therefore, pre-clearing brand engagement can massively increase performance of your activity on the big day and get more out of your overall campaign.

Young adult at laptop

  1. Try out different content approaches and react to performance

Every university is different in their approach to the content they create. You often hear that copy needs to be authentic, and written in language that students will engage with, but what does that mean?

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to producing content – whilst we’ve a wealth of experience writing for student audiences – it’s still worth trying different approaches; analysing and optimising towards what’s performing best.

For us, that might mean testing an advertorial article full of facts about courses, campus locations and teaching against a softer content-led approach, written to engage students with the brand.

Both have their place in the recruitment cycle, but looking at engagement with the content, CTAs from the article page and back end data from clearing landing pages, you can understand which approach works best for your audience and optimise towards those articles, giving you the best value for your advertising spend.

 

engaging content student audience

Why engaging with students requires engaging content

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, Education, Native advertising

The shifting landscape

Declining application numbers have been a shock to the system across the higher education sector and have led to several major shifts. This year we witnessed a squeeze at the top, with the highest ranked 20 institutions competing for the brightest. Russell Group universities accepted ABB in the summer which had a knock-on effect right down the rankings and led universities to rethink their recruitment strategies.

Students are aware that it’s a buyer’s market, so are now shopping around, visiting multiple campuses to find the perfect university for them. Others are leaving it later to apply and some are waiting until August in the knowledge that even higher ranked institutions will offer places through clearing and confirmation.

Last year St George’s University became the first to offer medicine through clearing. This year, universities that used to mop up their last few places on results day, still had courses available days after to accommodate for late demand. Most institutions now offer a clearing open day to engage with students before they apply.

Making a first impression

The university is a unique institution, in that it’s marketing team must work to a particular cycle, communicating with a largely new audience each year. This presents a great opportunity to fine-tune your brand over time.

As a result, it’s crucial to make a high quality and lasting first impression with each student, each year. It makes such a difference if potential students understand who you are and what you’re all about before they are signposted towards course lists, prospectuses and open days.

student content

The power of your brand

With tightening budgets to work to, most unis are opting for high-intensity campaigns at key periods – January deadline, open days and clearing. This offers maximum impact and ensures that students are given every opportunity to register or apply. A downside of this strategy is that ads that feel transactional are less likely to influence students in making an important decision.

This problem is compounded by the intensity of competition for share of voice, making it hard to be heard above the crowd. Students are likely to see multiple university ads in a day, so how can any one ad stand out above the rest? Will students click on the first one they see? The most colourful? The most relevant? The most impressive stat?

Or will it be a brand that they have engaged with before and feel they recognise and want to explore further?

Education agency, SMRS, recently drew attention to the importance of brand in their HE marketing survey. 97% of respondents pointed to the increased importance of brand, above other recent impacts such as Brexit and the Teaching Excellence Framework.

student content

Being inspirational

When we talk about online brand engagement, we refer to the execution of meaningful, prolonged interactions with university content. Campaigns are often judged on the price of their clicks and the traffic they drive to a site, but this isn’t always the best way to build lasting and impactful brand awareness. Sometimes we should look beyond the click to really understand the results of a piece of activity.

We should consider the potential student’s experience and ask ourselves what students want from their interaction. If the aim is to win hearts and minds, we can’t be pushy, sending students to fill out a form without having something to offer. Universities are great at producing content but not so good at sharing it!

Departments, lecturers and student groups produce fascinating research every day and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that grabs attention and excites young people about getting stuck in and starting their student journey.

Be the one to spark that idea, that conversation, that inspiration, whilst quietly reinforcing your brand identity as an authority on the subject.

Engaging with a digital generation

The last few years have seen the rise of programmatic display ads which have led to campaigns that mine for direct response, opting for quantity over quality. At the same time, a digitally savvy generation has started holding advertisers to a higher standard. To have a chance of generating quality engagement with potential students, interactions have to become less transactional and more inspirational. To get engagement you must be engaging!

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