Archives for category: Digital Marketing

If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?

Quiz nights in the local pub when I was young were often punctuated by the opening lines of the Bread hit, If. Of course it was generally only the first couple of lines that were ever played, mainly for the amusement of the older crowd to sing along to. Not quite as much a crowd participation event as Sweet Caroline, but it was certainly a pleasant interlude. By the way it was a hit in 1971 , as my dad would point out, he of the encyclopaedic pop knowledge for anything pre-1978. 1 point in the bag!

Still, the old proverb that inspired the line “a picture paints a thousand words” remains as true today as it did at any time. With the huge amount of content and knowledge easily accessible at the end of our fingertips (or on our smart devices) it seems we are exposed to the equivalent of 100 copies of ‘Crime and Punishment’ everyday…and sometimes it’s just overwhelming.

Partly this is exacerbated by the need to give our clients, customers or suppliers as much information as we can to help with their decision making. Individuals within B2B companies and consumers are making buying decisions based on the knowledge they gain from search engine sources, blogs, social media and company websites. It’s a seemingly endless task for many of us to keep on top of the additional information we need to provide day after day.

Sometimes it just makes our heads hurt. We are after all a visual species, our learning and memory is very much based on pictures. I can’t be the only one that remembers those memory challenges on Record Breakers with the late Roy Castle. Once they’d completed the challenge, the ‘secret’ of the contestants’’ success was always explained by the way they created a journey of pictures turning words, numbers or objects into a visual walkthrough. Visual representation is an inate way of learning, just look at the learning devices created for babies…A is for Apple.

With the increasing importance of social media as a primary communication channel and the challenge that this creates in getting sometimes complex messages over in few characters, Infographics have become a fabulous tool in any company’s armoury.

Never tried one? Well here’s a few tips in how to create a powerful infographic:

1. Pick a topic.
An infographic can be used for anything. We’ve created them for boots, teaching material, training tips and even a couple of birthdays. Any kind of information can be turned into a powerful infographic.

2. Create/Collate your data
Data, in whatever form is the crucial part of any infographic. Create it, collate it, however works best for you.

3. Framework your information
Before you embark on any design, you must arrange your information on the page.

4. Design
A powerful infographic design has the ability to entertain, inform and take sometimes complex information and turn it into a simple representation. The design of your infographic is the key to success.

5. Links and Distribution
Remember an infographic will need to be carefully distributed in order to be successful. Social Media, blogs, customer service and your website are all key channels. With these in mind you’ll need to ensure your infographic (whether it is a static or interactive one) includes the key links to landing pages so you can monitor successfully.

Infographics are an excellent tool for any business. Let’s face it, would you rather spend hours writing chapter and verse on classroom management techniques or would you rather produce something like this…

A picture really does paint a thousand words, even if I never did get that answer right in the pub quiz. I will now.

Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

When Marty McFly skateboarded onto the silver screen in 1985 to the echoes of ‘The Power of Love’ he set the bar when it came to time travel, skateboarding and Johnny B Goode.

The ability to travel back and forth in time has always excited scientists from the very early scientific thinkers to the modern day.
As business people and marketers we are dealing with a struggle everyday of how to change our future.  How we can win that new piece of business, or keep the customers we’ve worked so hard to get?

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away (wrong film reference I know) marketers would have turned straight to their trusty leaflets and got printing and delivering.  This utopia has long since hit the manure truck, and with good reason.

Four major factors have impacted directly on this form of marketing within the last 5 years.  The first is the obviously and seemingly unstoppable rise in the prices of mail.  Last years rise in the basic price of 1st and 2nd class prices, allied to the redevelopment of the mail weight and dimensions has undoubtedly had an effect.

Second, and linked directly to the first factor is the large squeeze on marketing budgets across the board.  As the credit crunch has hit businesses, the marketing budget has taken the brunt of the cost cutting.  Return on Investment has (finally) become the buzz word from the boardroom across the country.  Expensive large mailings are out unless you can prove where every penny has benefited the business.

Third is the large backlash against ‘direct mail’ that saw huge public campaigns backed by programmes like Watchdog very vocally turning ‘direct mail’ into public enemy number one.

Now those of us within the marketing industry, and particularly those of us who class ourselves as direct marketing specialists all know that the direct mail referred to in these campaigns was really not that.  The direct mail that caused so much outrage (quite rightly) is the unsolicited mass marketing machine gun approach based on simple numbers.  With mass mailings like those, the more you sent, the bigger the number of new customers/orders/sign ups.  This was purely down to using one measure…conversion %.  Not a bad measure, but when this is the only factor you are considering you will always come back to the conclusion that the more you send the bigger your return.  For us direct mail aficionados though, unsolicited mass mailings will always remain the preserve of lazy thinkers or huge marketing budgets.

The fourth and final factor has been the rise of digital marketing, particularly the (relatively) new kids on the block email marketing and social media.  These have undoubtedly changed the landscape and if used correctly can dramatically enhance any marketing mix.  As a huge advocate of these I could go on, but what these new kids have done is create a marketing DeLorean.
The real star of the Back to the Future franchise, the DeLorean, was the vehicle that paved the way for Marty McFly to travel across the fabric of time.  In the same way, the massive leap in digital marketing over such a short period of time has allowed direct marketing to re-define its place as an exciting hoverboard of marketing opportunity.

Let me explain.  For many people, digital and email marketing in particular has replaced many of the functions that some of the larger direct mailings used to do, with added brilliance.  Through correctly executed email marketing campaigns you can see return rates, click rates, create a ‘warm’ sales database, cleanse a huge list of contact emails.

An unfortunate consequence of the rise and rise of email/digital has been to create a certain amount of ‘white noise’.  Remember when your post box was full of direct mail, some of it unsolicited and it all used to get filed…in the ‘special’ draw (ie. bin) without being read.  It is already the same for many emails/tweets/updates.  White noise filed away in the recycle bin without even being opened.

It is these factors that have opened up the 88 miles an hour required for the direct mail DeLorean to come screeching back into the future.

Well crafted, developed direct mail has always played an important role in acquisition or retention strategies, and thanks to digital marketing, its part is now becoming ever more crucial.  Well developed direct mail can have a disruptive effect, essentially breaking the ‘white noise’ created by all manner of other techniques.  After all some marketing lessons remain constant whatever the techniques employed, getting your message seen being THE most crucial step.

Getting through the gatekeeper is the big challenge for many businesses, and it is increasingly a niche that direct mail can fill.  After all, when did you last receive and email?  Minutes ago, seconds ago?  Do you remember what it was?  When was the last time you received a hand-written letter?  Or even a package?  If you’d sent that last sales email in a box in the post (with a nicely developed message) do you think it would at least have been read (rather than auto filed into the recycle bin)?  Probably!!
Obviously once you’ve got your message seen, you need to be able to create all those other psychological factors associated with any great selling tool, as well as representing your brand in the best way.  And it is these factors that distinguish great disruptive direct mail from the average leaflet.

Some ‘flashy’ talkers will talk about distruptive marketing, acquisition and retention strategies being driven by a direct mail piece.  But any direct mail piece must be crafted from a position of understanding, about what you are trying to achieve and where its place is within your branding and overall strategic plan.

Allied to the digital media that are now available to direct marketers, it turns as direct mail piece into a central pillar in any acquisition or retention campaign.  Measurement, click-throughs and most importantly ROI (return on investment) become even easier to track through the use of emails, microsites and links.  Instant sales returns are no longer dependant on timing your follow up sales calls correctly.  The new kid on the block has turned the 1985 hero into a legend in 2013, and it is why the call to go Back to the Future are rising.

But, the most thrilling thing is that according to the Back to the Future franchise we are now only 2 years away from hoverboards.  Now that is exciting!!!



Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

After a month of feverish activity, saying goodbye to Balotelli, and with a spend of £120m,  the footballing transfer window has drawn to a close. 31 days of speculation, hellos, goodbyes and media frenzy.

It’s the end of the first month of 2013, and the footballing fraternity already has one major campaign under its belt. As a big football fan, I’ve watched the campaign unfold over the month. I’ve seen, read and heard a lot of activity culminating in business deals and some happy and not so happy endings (sorry Peter Odemwingie). It reminded me of one giant marketing campaign (minus the multi-million pound budgets of course), and I believe there’s some great lessons to learn from our footballing friends in the way they conducted their own acquisition campaigns.

Be Focussed

All campaigns require a clear focus on the results required and the timescales involved. It helps concentrates the mind.  When there’s a definite beginning and a definite end – there is no choice but to do your business in this window. Being clear about when a campaign starts, when it ends, what you want to achieve in that timescale gives a real focus to campaigns. Being a great juggler helps; during the campaign window it is likely to be business as usual ; often campaigns are running whilst doing the “day job” . Set clear start and finish dates, and have a clear focus on the end result, with regular reminders on how you are performing against your target. Stay focussed on the campaign; even when you are doing your day job.

Acquire Well

This is how the most successful acquisition campaigns run … You’ve got your eye on the prize; the goals (sorry no pun intended) are clear. You’ve done your homework. You know who you want to acquire, you know which prospects will make a difference to your company, and your bottom line. You know how many customers the campaign is to acquire. You will be doing some courting, selling your company and its benefits, there may be a few different meetings required until pen is put to paper, not to mention some negotiation to strike a deal that works for both. The end result is that with the right customers on board, it will make a real difference to your company going forward.


£120m invested in new players. £35m spent on deadline day. QPR, Liverpool and Newcastle responsible for 50% of the spend. All vital statistics. All help measure the success of the campaign. Understanding your numbers and the impact they will have will guide you in making strategic choices. Measure return on investment; the number of meetings gained; the amount of business acquired; the cost of acquisition; the long term value of a new client. Record where your acquisition is coming from, understand who is converting, find more of the same. Work on the basis that you are only as good as your last campaign. It will give you great focus.

Be Targeted

It’s not about the scattergun approach, unless your name is QPR (sorry Harry), it’s about being absolutely specific about the acquisition you want to make. What does your ideal customer look like? What sector are they in? What is the size of the company? What do you know about them already? How much are you willing to invest in acquiring them?  What difference will they make to your business in the long term? Lean, bespoke, highly targeted campaigns with fewer numbers always turn in the best results. It’s about quality over quantity. Well worth the investment, and well worth considering when your database throws out 1000s of records.


The best campaigns are underpinned by everyone knowing their role. The team knows what’s coming, and when, they are aware of the aims and they are aware of their role in the big campaign picture. As well as the spokespeople and the frontline team, there’s plenty of people behind the scenes making it work like a well-oiled machine. All with one common purpose; to make the acquisition as efficient and profitable as possible. It’s a team effort; on and off the pitch.

Everyone’s talking about it

Use as many channels as possible to support your campaign. Integrating your marketing reinforces your campaign giving people the opportunity to hear, see and touch your campaign. Few campaigns attract the interest in the scale of the transfer window where there’s been tweets on which player is being seen where; “Messi spotted at Heathrow” claimed one tweet. The Sky Sports News transfer deadline team Jim White and Natalie Sawyer build up to fever pitch before the 11pm deadline; there’s roving reporters outside the grounds, and an army of pundits commenting on all that’s going on in “the window”. It may not be on the same scale, but if your campaign is different enough and grabs the interest; you’ll certainly know about it .. through a whole manner of media.

For your next campaign, why not create your own equivalent of the transfer window. Good luck. And let me know how you get on. 🙂

Karen Lambert is an experienced strategic marketer and Managing Director of Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and branding agency based in Lancashire, North West England. To learn more please go to

If the Christmas Story was told via Social Media, it might look something like this…

Remember those blissful student days heading down to the local at the prescribed ‘Happy Hour’ to get the 50p drinks.  I say blissful…those nights generally started off blissfully anyway.

Happy Hours were generally just that.

Both on the pocket, and for that hour anyway, a happy place to be.  Everyone happily buying the drinks they would normally be paying double for, celebrating with friends. What you might not have realised at the time was that these simple Happy Hours were a real-life example of what we now call gamification in marketing.

If you’re still interested, Happy Hours utilise the key game mechanic of ‘appointment’ (an action required at a scheduled time)…see you were just playing games all along.

Gamification is essentially about creating game-like experiences for services.  It is a key area of growth in marketing over the coming year and one that has been driven massively by social media platforms.  Games that dominate your Facebook feeds such as Farmville are no longer just about hi-scores.  Gone (sadly) are the days of Spectrum games and broken keyboards, damaged whilst attempting to beat CPU on the leaderboard list of track and field.

Today, gamification is about social engagement, virtual products and emotional connection, oh and rewards.  But one thing that hasn’t been lost is the so-called gaming mechanics that were very much part of those long forgotten spectrum games. Game mechanics are the mechanisms that today’s ‘services’ are utilising and developing to bring even the most mundane tasks into the arena of brand connection.

Seriously, pitching a game that was based on farming tasks, waiting tables or walking around a city would’ve had most dragons saying “I’m out!” But when you understand just what mechanics these games are using, you can begin to see why they are proving such a hit – and why they are such a good guide for other businesses looking to exploit this explosion in game-led marketing.

The list of game mechanics is big, but here’s just a few:

• Achievements

• Appointments

• Blissful Productivity

• Behavioural Momentum

• Countdown

• Free Lunch

• Loss Aversion

• Levels

• Epic Meaning

• Quests

• Urgent Optimism


The list is even longer, but it is these techniques that underpin some of the very biggest and best games you can think of.

All of these can be utilised by, relatively speaking, any business to produce the kind of marketing games that not only enhance your brand, but can create real and sometimes very strong revenues.

The best way to think about gamification is in the value these mechanics can bring to a marketing campaign.  This isn’t just about making a game that leads to free stuff.  It runs deeper than that, indeed starting to develop a game on the basis that it leads to free stuff is almost always a sure-fire way to ensure your game (or marketing campaign) won’t succeed.

Utilising gaming mechanics can even enhance guerrilla and direct mail campaigns, whilst games themselves have the potential to revolutionise loyalty schemes and sales campaigns.  The challenge, as always, is to look past the confusing technical terms at the sound psychological marketing techniques that can be applied and utilised by any brand.

In the meantime I’m heading down to the local student bar to play on my smartphone and drink my 50p vodka and coke…must dash “Happy Hour” only lasts another 2 hours.


Turning the teaching of Financial Education from dull to delightful….


Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

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