Tag Archives: marketing

Success on Weibo, Success in China

We’ve talked about Weibo here on our blog before – it’s only natural, seeing as we’re Chinese media and culture enthusiasts.

Fresh from a 3-month long campaign for one of London’s most significant visitor attractions, we thought we’d share some of our thoughts and findings:

1. Content Matters

‘Yeah, yeah’, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘of course they’d say content matters! They’re a content agency!’ but there’s no exaggeration here – it really does matter, and it matters a lot. The millions of Chinese netizens on Weibo are a discerning crowd, and they won’t follow, favourite or retweet any old thing. In fact, when Weibo first launched its sponsored posts advertising platform, the network was awash with user complaints. They weren’t upset about the advertising itself, however – just about viagra sans ordonnance its quality and relevance! Putting effort into creating engaging, relevant content will yield results.

2. Quality Over Quantity (at first, anyway…)

When American basketball star Kobe Bryant first joined Weibo, his mere presence was enough to garner hundreds of thousands of followers within a few hours – all without saying one word. But we’re not all Kobe Bryant. The rest of us have to start slow and build up brand knowledge and recognition from scratch. This means that for a while, you might be staring at the ‘followers’ figure with a feeling of growing dismay. It takes time to get some momentum going and build follower numbers – in the meantime, focus on the quality of your posts and interactions with existing followers. You’ll see the views for each individual post go up and the followers you do have will be more inclined to recommend you to friends after meaningful engagement with you.

3. Engage with the people who matter

But plenty of quality content will only get you so far – think of it as the first step to establishing your presence. The next step is to reach out to others. Following the accounts of other Western businesses and personalities is a no-brainer, but they’re not the ones you’re marketing to. To get ahead you need to interact with KOLs: Key Opinion Leaders. These are the people with followers in the thousands and hundred-thousands – both real-life and internet celebrities. When they start interacting with you, it’ll get noticed. Reaching out to those with a natural interest in your business is preferable, because they want to talk to you too! Larger, co-ordinated marketing campaigns can benefit from engaging KOLs as brand ambassadors to spread the message far and wide – the cost will vary according to their fame and interests (for example, a super-famous luxury fashion blogger will cost much more than a hobby-blogger history enthusiast).

4. Paid-for Promotion

Paying KOLs to promote you is just one aspect of the many promotional options available. As in the west, PPC advertising is very popular in China and can yield some great results. Last year Weibo launched a sponsored posts system similar to Twitter’s, with promoted posts appearing in targeted follower’s news feeds and those of their friends. You pay per impression or engagement, with a flexible bidding and budget system. China’s biggest search engine, Baidu, offers a similar service, which is comparable to Google AdWords.

The simple reality is that to go the full distance in China and really build up your brand’s presence there, you need the reinforcement of paid-for advertising: your Weibo account is a part of a larger system. But it’s a very valuable one, so why not invest? It’ll be worth your while. At Rhubarb Fool, we’re always happy to advise you.

Header image courtesy of VisitBritain.

Content Marketing, Brand Integrity and Porter Magazine

We always say at Rhubarb Fool that the key to successful content marketing is treating that content the way you would mainstream media, ensuring that you produce a quality product that only stands out for the right reasons.

For example, when we’re putting together a visitor magazine for a well-known UK shopping village, we approach it the same way we would if we were suddenly handed the reins at Vogue.

Despite the project’s overarching commercial characteristics, we still maintain editorial and creative integrity, which results in a high quality end product. It’s the only way to truly achieve the marketing objective: enticing visitors to spend time there, and enhancing the brand’s overall international reputation.

The same must be true of all marketing content, whether it’s fashion magazines, a professional newsletter, or VIP tourist information. Deliver quality content, and you’re far more likely to achieve your aims.

All marketing and content marketing studies come down to the same thing: people are unimpressed by sub-par content, and are only likely to engage with and share the quality stuff that interests them.

It stands to reason – if your first reaction to a piece of branded content is ‘Ugh’ or ‘That’s shoddy’, then you are unlikely to consider that brand worthy of your notice in the future.

One of our favourite content marketing success stories – albeit on a grand and international scale – is the runaway success of new fashion magazine Porter. It is in some ways a companion magazine to the hugely popular designer shopping site net-a-porter.com, but its true beauty lies in the fact that it stands alone as a brilliant publication.

With an inaugural edition that featured none other than top supermodel Gisele Bundchen on the cover, Porter immediately emerged as a serious competitor to the classic fashion magazines Vogue and Elle. Subsequent photo shoots and interviews featuring fashion royalty like Lara Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Karlie Kloss, Penelope Cruz and runway favourite Malaika Firth made it clear that this was no flash in the style pan. Pretty impressive, considering that it was only released in February of this year.

But the magazine is more than just gloss: opening it up you’ll find not only the myriad high-fashion shoots that you’d expect, but insightful articles (covering everything from the prospect of a female president of the United States to a fascinating profile of itinerant photographer Giorgia Fiorio), and little Q&As with celebrities dotted everywhere. What does Yoko Ono think about the Chiltern Firehouse? What art does Claudia Schiffer collect? Find out here.

The real USP of Porter, though, is its e-commerce capability. This is the first publication where you can ‘shop the magazine’ – everything you see is available from net-a-porter.com, and discerning customers can purchase at the click of a button (when they’re using the app, that is). There’s no better way to drive consumers straight from an aspirational article or shoot to your site.

This capability wouldn’t work nearly as well if Porter didn’t stand alone as a desirable magazine in its own right. So take a leaf out of Natalie

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Time You Got A Watch

When Selfridges engaged us here at Rhubarb Fool to put together a luxury Arabic magazine for them, we knew that we didn’t just want to focus women’s fashion and accessories. We knew that truly brilliant content requires balance, and that we needed a fresh shoot concept to offset our stunning fashion and accessories photo shoots.

The answer? A stark, monochromatic men’s watches and accessories shoot to completely contrast with the poppy metallics, brooding florals, and glistening jewels that take centre stage elsewhere in the magazine. We were even more excited when we managed to snag a top still

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life photographer with a particular specialism for watches.

A still life photo shoot is an entirely different beast to one with a model. Upon entering the studio, instead of being met with an array of hair and make up products, there was a plethora of fascinating props. Spanners of different sizes were carefully painted in glossy black, and large razor blade wheels were polished to perfection to match with our high-end hyper-masculine aesthetic.

The early morning saw a rushed breakfast and a

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dash to Selfridges itself to pull some extra accessories to really accentuate the watches. As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of pulling pieces for a photo shoot will tell you, there’s nothing quite like wandering around a department store like Selfridges with the freedom to pick out whatever you like. The only constraint was the shoot brief. From the fantastic selection in-store, we were able to source some great pieces, from classic Rayban sunglasses to stylish Mulberry cufflinks and finely made ties from Saint Laurent and Lanvin.

Meanwhile, back at the studio shoot prep was well underway. Fishing line wire, delicate

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and near invisible, suspended spanners and watches alike on set, and our stylist and photographer worked to contort the finest men’s watches on the market into stunning shapes. The main aim was to show off their best assets whilst at the same time delivering a creative and unique shot. From an early peek at the results, it looked like the mission was accomplished.

But the day wasn’t over – there were still plenty of amazing watches to shoot, ranging from the latest Chanel J12, to classic models from Cartier, Jaeger-leCoultre, Panerai, Parmigiani, Roger Dubuis and more. Once again, the studio was awash with guards keeping a keen eye on their precious charges.

Ties came alive for the background of the second shot – like snakes twisting and looping in the air. The watches themselves shined next to the sharp-edged circles that gave literal meaning to the word ‘edgy’.

In the end, the day flew by. The vibe of the day was contented and confident – perfectly fertile for the kind of creativity required to turn out amazing shots.

A Day In The Life Of a Jewellery Shoot

On one of the first days of spring, there are few more picturesque places to be than the tranquil surroundings of Kew Gardens. The blooming evidence for the new season was everywhere, and the bright rays of tentative new sunshine were reflected in a gorgeous carpet of yellow daffodils.

There were plenty of people taking advantage of the fine weather and enjoying a relaxed walk around the gardens, tourists and Londoners alike – but we were there with an important job to do. Photo shoots, especially those on location, require a great deal of hard work.

Our task? To create images that speak of a tropical world; sultry, humid, and a little dark and brooding, to contrast with Selfridges’ pick of the Autumn/Winter collections’ amazing floral prints and the array of stunning high jewellery that can be found in the infamous Wonder Room.

The day dawned more like our shoot brief – that is, brooding and a more than a little foreboding (thankfully the fog gave way to sunshine as the day wore on). After meeting up with our location contact and our Winnebago driver in the wee hours of the morning, we parked up outside of the Palm House and got straight to business.

The first job was to unpack and put the location vehicle’s built-in rail and steamer to good use. The dresses were like pieces of high jewellery themselves; Mary Katrantzou’s Autumn Winter collection covered with artisanal embroidery and glittering embellishments, Giambattista Valli’s creations finely covered with lace, and Dries Van Noten’s crafts adorned with iridescent silver flowers. Stunning creations from Chanel, Erdem, and Peter Pilotto were also present and correct. The once innocuous rail was transformed.

The crew squeezed in breakfast in between the all-important shoot prep. Photographer Matilda Temperley and her brilliant assistants headed off to the glasshouse to scope out the best locations for shots, and our stellar hair and makeup team set about transforming our model into a tropical goddess.

By mid-morning, we were ready for the final touches – the most spectacular jewellery that money can buy. Each high joallerie brand sent their

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own guard to ensure the safety of their precious cargo. When fastening a gorgeous floral necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels, its guard warned us to be careful – it was worth over £500, 000. As if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, that moment epitomised the extreme high-end aesthetic of the shoot. And the fact that we were in a single room with the equivalent value of several properties!

Each brand got its chance to (literally) shine, with the exquisite pieces showed off in a myriad of original ways. A Cartier brooch found a new use as a stunning hairpiece, and our talented art stylist/art director (Thea Lewis-Yates) played up the glamour of rings by the contrast with earthy branches and overhanging palms. Chanel pearls and diamonds glimmered in the shadows.

The resulting pictures were breath-taking – the shadow-play from the palm leaves overhead and the sunlight just piercing through created the very atmosphere we’d imagined would

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compliment fine jewellery and Autumn/Winter florals perfectly. Our beautiful model and her glamorous gems took the place of Henri Rousseau’s brooding tiger (from the painting Tiger in a Tropical Storm) amidst the sultry palms.

As the afternoon flew on, we found ourselves tasked with everything from guiding bodyguards to scouting around for prop leaves, to fielding last minute deliveries and emails. By four, no one wanted to stop shooting – the atmosphere was too good to leave behind. It was time to turn on the charm with the events manager, and we managed to wangle an extra half an hour to capitalise on the flowing creativity and get those final shots.

With the camera down at 430, everyone felt satisfied. We all knew that the amazing team (including photographer Matilda Temperley and stylist/art director Thea Lewis-Yates) had done an amazing job and gotten some incredible images that will undoubtedly give the magazine the hallmark of high-end authenticity.

A few days on, our best suspicions were confirmed. Selfridges were as thrilled as we are. We can’t wait to share the final product with the world! Keep an eye on the Rhubarb Fool website, because you won’t want to miss these fantastic images when we put them up.

Social media is just like … football Part I

Rhubarb Fool attempts to apply its love of the beautiful game to the challenges presented to small businesses by social media

Gary Vaynerchuk, the best-selling author and the man considered by many to be the king of social media, recently compared social media strategy to boxing. Gary broke down social media strategy into five simple words: “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!”

While we at Rhubarb Fool don’t wish to detract from the pugilistic analogy, our love is for the beautiful game. As such, we’re more inclined to base our sporting analogies on football. At Rhubarb Fool we’re not thinking about “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!” We’re thinking about “Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shoot!”

So what do such analogies actually mean? The passing analogy is useful

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to a point because in a game of football a good pass will create space and opportunity. But the relationship between you and your customers is not really, as adversarial as the relationship between two football teams playing each other. You won’t build opportunity by breaking your customer down. You’ll do it by offering something of value to them. So for the Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shoot! analogy you could read instead: “Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Pitch”.

It could also be reasonably argued that the world of social media is far more confusing, complex and sometimes more overwhelming than a match of football. Social media can be difficult to navigate and its constantly evolving nature is such that only routine use of and exposure to it will allow expertise to develop. Just as the great professional footballer trains every day and maintains a dedicated (and sometimes all consuming) focus on their game: so the social media professional will dedicate themselves to maintaining a position at the forefront of innovation, development and effectiveness in their industry.

But let’s be clear. Most of us are too busy running business to dedicate ourselves entirely to social media. The luxury of staying abreast of all that is new and exciting in this field is simply not viable if you’re spinning a dozen other plates. So please indulge us at Rhubarb Fool and let us critically assess the elements of practice than can lead to mis-placed effort and undesired outcomes. We’ll apply our football analogy to some social media faux pas. In this series of posts we’re going to set out seven of them for your consideration:

 

 

Rhubarb Fool offers some top commercial tips for 2014 Part I

As the absence of posts over the holiday period will attest to, at Rhubarb Fool we’ve all tried (some of us more successfully than others) to enjoy a bit of down-time over the last couple of weeks. If you too have now had your fill of the excesses and indolence of the holiday period, you could also be feeling eager to return to the commercial fray with a renewed boldness and a heaped spoonful of vigour.

So Let Rhubarb Fool offer you five simple tips to help you ensure that 2014 is a year of growth and success for you and your business.

Ask yourself whether you know your business from top to bottom and from left to right

The passing of another year offers you a great incentive to take a long, hard look at your business. Focusing on strategies (based firmly on all of the lessons you’ve been learning over recent years) to improve your business is absolutely imperative to your future growth. So a new year can offer a good time to revisit your original business plan and ask yourself whether you’re still running true to those initial objectives you set for yourself.

Are those initial plans still viable? Are you and your business where you wanted (or expected) to be by this point?

Tackling such questions will highlight the areas that you need to focus on and identify areas that would benefit from reinvigoration and / or improvement. Expanding your business need not necessarily involve more work. In fact, get it right and you could actually liberate your time and enable you to focus on what your business really needs to get done.

A straightforward means of initiating this process is to re-acquaint yourself with your staff team. Ask yourself whether you and your business are allowing them to meet their potential. Do they have overlooked talents that could actually contribute to the growth of the business? Are there individuals working for you who respond well to responsibility? Do you have employees whose extra-curricular activities could benefit your business? Seemingly trivial activities (learning a foreign language, or improving I.T. skills) could be indicative of a staff member wishing to extend their skills and contribute to the functioning of your business.

Of course it’s tempting as an entrepreneur to want to maintain control of all aspects of your business. But utilising all of the talents

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and skills at your disposal can boost staff confidence and encourage staff investment in the growth of the business.

Want to read Part II?

Developing a great brand story with Rhubarb Fool Part III

Your brand – your story

Be consistent. Clear themes and guidelines should inform your narrative and the basis of your narrative. It’s these themes and guidelines that will tie the brand down and reinforce its identity. This process will allow the brand to establish a clear foothold in your customer’s consciousness. Look at Audi. Performance is integrated into every aspect of its narrative. When someone buys and Audi they’re not just buying a car. They’re buying a piece of engineering technology.

Be distinctive. It would be very difficult to promote a brand by re-iterating another brand’s story, or by simply re-arranging a cut and paste. Your brand’s story will need to put some clear blue sky between your brand and its competitors. No matter how many times you rearrange the pieces on a board of draughts, you will never detract from its essential appearance. So if you want your brand to follow a singular path, be singular. Look at the growth of the Relentless brand of energy drink. It didn’t go on about sporting energy, nor did it market itself with breath-taking videos of extreme sports. It simply established a niche that swiftly gained a place in the consciousness of a demographic.

Be imaginative. You want your brand’s story to offer a narrative to its customers. This narrative should strive to create an image of a time that is better than the present. There’s no harm in seeing your task as being to deliver your customers to a better land. And you won’t do this without stimulating some imaginations. So be striking, be bold and never be afraid of ruffling a few feathers. After all the status quo represents little more

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than your opponent.

You want to portray your band as a pioneer. A brand that will define its customers’ futures. The Body Shop’s brand story was of a more organic, integrated and interconnected world; where your entitlement to a great product came with a level of fundamental human responsibility to engage with the brand and it’s ethical objectives. This approach defied editorial convention. However, in doing so, it struck a real chord with many consumers, thereby establishing a broad sector of a big market place as it’s own.

Be specific. You don’t want your brand’s story to engage all and sundry. You can’t be all things to all people, without diluting the essential value of your brand. Your objective is to be talking directly to your target audience. That’s all. So use language that conforms to your audience’s views and expectations of the world.

The Virgin brand (across the market places it has entered) has typically presented itself as the plucky underdog, trying to gatecrash the party of vested interest and complacency. It seeks to

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offer this impression so that it can create a sense among its customer base of being able to offer a better deal. Virgin knows that its audience responds well to the “challenger” narrative. It appeals to people who see themselves as being divorced from the status quo,by virtue of their ability to think independently. Virgin knows that its customers think that they as individuals are quite capable of identify and securing what’s best for themselves. So what Virgin does is identify with this demographic; approaching them as customers, rather than consumers.

Read Part IV here

Marketing a small business on a shoe-string with Rhubarb Fool Part III

Follow Rhubarb Fool’s top tips on marketing a small business

7. Make feedback work for you

Got a happy punter? Trouble them for a little of their time to set out a few words about how you made it all work for them. Most customers are happy to offer a reference if they’re asked, but you can’t expect them to take this initiative themselves. References can open doors to a bunch of new customers. If you’re not seeking them out, you could be missing new opportunities.

8. Go the extra mile.

It can be a lot easier (and cheaper) to keep a customer, than to get a new one. So work your customer base. Establish strong relationships by personalising interactions and making your customer feel that you really understand their aspirations and needs. If you fancy using a broader brush, why not try an email campaign. But be careful with this. You don’t want your customer getting too used to deleting your communications. Make sure you send material that your customer enjoys reading and looks forward to receiving.

9. Count on a coupon

Not an idea that would have much currency in the creative communities of Shoreditch, or Soho; but

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there’s still currency in coupons. Research demonstrates that there’s a feel good factor associated with using a coupon and that people will go out of their way to do so. And when a customer uses a coupon, you can extend their loyalty by offering them another one.

10. Freebies

An important factor of the faith that you have in your product has to be the belief that if someone has the good fortune to try your product, then they’re going to end up wanting more of it. So don’t be afraid to offer out free trials or samples. It’s quite clear that it’s going to be

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easier for a customer to purchase a product, if they know what they’re getting and they know that they like it.

So there we have it. Ten cost-effective marketing strategies will help you to engage customers, enthuse existing customers, extend relationships, and ultimately establish your brand at the forefront of people’s consciousness. Sometimes you don’t have to throw money at a situation to deliver results. A little time and effort can be just as effective in promoting your brand.

Marketing a small business on a shoe-string with Rhubarb Fool Part II

Follow Rhubarb Fool‘s top tips on marketing a small business

2. Look local

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the trees for the wood. You don’t always have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Look around you at what’s in front of your nose. Find out what’s going on in your community. Sponsor your local under elevens football team, participate in a fun run, or sponsored swim. Print bookmarks and leave them at the local library. Think about your ideal customer and where they might want to spend their time. Then identify the opportunities to bring your marketing message to their attention.

3. Collaborate

Establish links with local, non-competitive businesses and establish joint purpose by cross promoting. You can use coupons, joined up website links, shared promotions or social media platforms. By collaborating with other businesses in your community, you can extend your customer base by allowing your company to travel new pathways to the market place.

4. It’s nice to Network

There’s a lot to be said for just getting out there. Shake people’s hands, share a coffee and establish some acquaintance. Personal networking can be a resource heavy activity and the results it can deliver will probably be better measured over the longer term. But personal relationships still have an important role to play in the fabric of commerce. Moreover, a strong commercial network can help any business person deal with the commercial peaks and troughs that are a factor of any business’s development.

5. Put yourself at the lectern.

Public speaking is something that a lot of people will endeavour to avoid. But in

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starting your business, you’ve already stuck your head well and truly above the trench. Look a little in your community and you’ll find no shortage of organisations that offer opportunities to qualified, subject-matter experts, who are able and willing to deliver talks and lectures. So leave that comfort zone behind you and volunteer.

And remember. No-one is going to expect you to

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deliver something from the after dinner circuit. You just need to be clear, informative and helpful. And there’s one important fringe benefit. Like many things in life, the more you do it, the better you’ll get and the easier it will become. Before you know it, you’ll be the local authority in your field.

6. Turn some heads

The public relations sector has changed markedly over recent years, largely as a result of technological advancements. It’s now far easier than it was to interact with the different forms of media around you. Look and you’ll find that there are plenty of media outlets around you that are looking for a story. Find out how such a story could help your company and make it happen.

Marketing a small business on a shoe-string with Rhubarb Fool Part I

 

Before engaging the marketing services of Rhubarb Fool think about steps that you can take

It was the celebrated writer (and Rhubarb Fool

favourite) Mark Twain who observed: “Many a small thing has been made large, by

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the right kind of advertising.”

But please don’t all rush down to the nearest advertising agency just yet. Advertising your company’s products or services can make a dent in the deepest pocket. In times of economic uncertainty small companies often find it easiest to cut their marketing budgets. The results that this activity yields are sometimes not immediately apparent. As such, it’s hardly surprising that activities more closely linked to cash flow can be deemed a higher priority.

At Rhubarb Fool our clearest belief is that the issue of whether you’re operating in markets that are forgiving or unforgiving is ultimately academic to your ongoing need to keep pushing your brand to centre stage.

Recent years have seen small companies operating in tougher market places, as customers (and let’s face it we’re all customers) have had less money to spend. As such, it seems to us imperative that when customers are ready to unburden themselves of their hard-earned, your brand should have a strong presence in their consciousness.

At Rhubarb Fool we believe that social media offers a highly effective and affordable means of engaging your customers and maintaining your brand at the forefront of consumer consciousness. But there’s more to business than social media. Let Rhubarb Fool share ten tried and tested marketing strategies that will enable you to market yourself and your brand in a way that won’t cause your bank manager any unnecessary vexation.

1. Create an “elevator pitch”

Marketing is a full-time activity that shouldn’t be constrained by where you happen to be or what time you happen to be there. Nothing will help you more in doing this than a short and snappy elevator pitch. According to research, the average adult’s attention span is about seven seconds. This isn’t long to grab someone’s attention and mark their consciousness. But if you can get over this first hurdle and engage your target, research also suggests that you then earn a little over a minute to really pitch your product or service. So time spent crafting a compelling and clear elevator pitch represents a canny investment that could yield considerable returns in terms of creating commercial opportunities for your company.