The Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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Social media advertising is a key component today for mass scale marketing. As blanket advertising is dying off, it is vital for companies to adapt campaigns for the correct target audience. With 2.27 billion monthly active users on Facebook as of September 30, 2018 (1), it’s a specialised task to determine the intended group.

Cambridge Analytica offered a solution providing services to businesses and political parties who to wanted to use their data to change audience behaviour. It could analyse large amounts of data and used social science to identify behavioural groups to target with specific marketing material by using social media platforms such as Facebook. In 2016 the website’s founder Alexander Nix said it “was to address the vacuum in the US Republican political market that became evident after [Mitt] Romney’s defeat in 2012” in an interview with Contagious. He saw an opportunity to increase digital engagement and took it.

Through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, informed consent was used to research several hundred thousand Facebook users- saying that the results would be for academic use. Facebook’s layout allowed this app not just to collect the personal information of the people who consented for this survey, but also of all the people in those users’ Facebook social network. Information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time Facebook failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals. This data was used to build a system that could profile users and target them with personalised advertisements.

This data was key influencing for political campaigns. However, it was also used as a “full-service propaganda machine” said Christopher Wylie, an ex employee and whistle blower.

Cambridge Analytica worked on Trump’s campaign for presidency. It analysed millions of data points for the most persuadable voters and their specific issues they cared about and after sending them messages to “move them to action”. In 17 states, voters were polled every day by social media and online adverts sending them messages. Cambridge Analytica claimed that it boosted the donations and voter turn out and as a result contributed to his victory.

Alexander Nix told Members of Parliament that his firm did not work for the leave vote campaign for Brexit. However, this has been strongly disputed by Arron Banks- one of the founders of Leave.EU. The Information Commissioner’s Office has made an inquiry into data and politics, with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook being a key focus. Not only this but the Electorial Commission is investigating the role of that Cambridge Analytica had in Brexit.

The UK general public were left in dark and wanted answers about what had been going on. In early 2018 both Facebook and the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, included a parliamentary inquiry on fake news: that the company did not have or use private Facebook data. However, Wylie provided evidence to UK and US authorities of a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers sent to him in August 2016, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been collected by Global Science Research, the company set up to harvest the profiles, despite Facebook saying that it removed the app in 2015 and required that the copies of the data had been destroyed.

Although its important that this technology has been identified and the truth pulled to the public eye, it does seem too late, as much of the consequences of these political campaigns have already happened not just the UK and US but India, Colombia, Kenya, Malta and Mexico. Data is what allows for modern marketing techniques to thrive, however it is important for companies to realise the full effects of what their service can do and consider the ethics behind it.

Greggs’ vegan sausage roll campaign

January has arrived, and along comes people’s new year’s resolutions, changes for self-improvement and people plastering ‘new year new me’ all over their social media. One trend that has grown in popularity since 2014 is attempting Veganuary-  meaning to try a vegan diet over January.

Demand for meat-free food increased by a staggering 987% in 2017 (1) and going vegan was predicted to be the biggest food trend in 2018 (2). Fast food chains now have growing pressure to sell vegan and plant based products. PETA released “PETA is calling on Greggs to heed this growing demand, add a vegan sausage roll to the menu, and watch the cruelty-free treats fly off the shelves”.

So what have Greggs done about this?  

First off, the leaked email. Probably one of those savvy marketing ‘accidents’ that companies do for an alternative was of attracting attention. But who cares? It was effective and enticed a devoted group of vegans to anticipate the release.

Next up, the surprise mock Apple-style release

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Poking a bit of fun at themselves, they released dramatic music that could have been in an episode of Game of Thrones, paired up with that classic white packaging along with ‘designed in Newcastle’ over the well known ‘designed in California’. This really has made an entertaining first impression.

It has even caused a tad of controversy over Twitter:

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With Greggs’ social media team responding back with a host of witty responces on their twitter account to people, including big names like Piers Morgan, its really shown that the word is out- resulting in them trending on twitter. The sales numbers over this product will come of much interest to not just me, but other fast food competitors who may be also considering to release a vegan product to their range.

The importance of creating an atmosphere in a retail store

The image a retail company wants to project is clearly projected by the atmosphere they create within the stores. Although you may not be able to define or measure an atmosphere, a customer will be able to feel it. When a store is enticing, not only does it attract customers, but also enhances their experience.

In consumer societies, such as the UK and the US, customers increasingly seek more from retail shopping than just to find specific products as shopping is now an activity in its own right. It has been shown in surveys that less than a quarter of shoppers in malls actually went in there to shop for a specific item, so rather than looking for for ‘that item’ consumers often use shopping to reduce loneliness and boredom, avoid problems and obligations within their lives, seek fulfilment of their fantasies or to simply just entertain themselves. So, if it is this that motivates many consumers, this needs to be take into consideration when the store is designed.

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Retailers such as Hollister, shown in the image above, hire designers and architects to create the ‘right’ atmosphere and spend extortionate amounts of money on things such as decorative lighting, wooden floors and special hangers.There are times when this does work, and equally there are times when is doesn’t. At the time that you get a professional designer to layout your store they will already have an idea of what the store should look like to make it be original- in there eyes. However, this can backfire as it could ironically mean that by trying to look original like every other store means your store looks like all the others trying to do this.

Personally, I think when a company develops the concept of the store that they are looking for, it works best. For an example, if you had a children’s store you could go all out and have a rotating floor in the middle of the store, a slide at the other going from one end of the store all the way to the exit, with excitable music in the background and have children’s characters to play with the customers. Some customers will adore it and others will think it is bizarre- and may even dislike it. But ultimately people will remember your store and it’s true originality.

Stores can just provide entertainment value to customers. Just like how a comical advert entertains people for long enough to process a message through, a store can entertain customers for long enough so that they purchase their goods. For example, I noticed in a Waterstones store there was a section where customers could sit down, play and read. Therefore attracting families so they are able to enjoy their experience and linger in the store.

When you take in mind that customers can easily shop from the comfort of their own home, it is important that the retail store is a special place that is worth the time going to.

Was it ecommerce to blame for Black Friday’s anticlimax this year?

So i’m sure you have all seen the images of people fighting over a flat screen TV or even a pair of trainers in the Black Friday sales, like in the image below, however this year it did not seem to live up to all the hype it has been made out to be and this is proven by sales in the US falling by about 10% from $11.6 billion last year to $10.4 billion in 2015.

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Why is this? I think there are several reasons; a key one being the increase in popularity of Cyber Monday, this year sales in the US sales increased by a surprising 16% from last year in the US. Now there are a host of reasons for this, to start with the obvious, it is a lot more convenient for consumers to do their shopping from the comfort of their own home and not have to face the crowds of people in the sales. Yet there are also a few other reasons such as that many stores had the same offers on for Cyber Monday as they had for Black Friday, delivery methods are now easier than they have ever been- with the addition of services such as Amazon Prime and some stores even have the option to order products online and give them the option to collect it at a local store.

If you take a look at some of the reasons for this occurring- it makes you wonder is it because consumers have more confidence to purchase on their mobile phones, personally think it is. So while ecommerce may not have crushed store sales this year, it has become clear that online shopping has increased  while shopping in stores has decreased.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Black Friday, rather there could be a shift in the way customers experience their shopping to online.

How to use the marketing mix to advertise a service online

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What is ‘the marketing mix’?

This is a term used for a whole range of choices an organisation can make in the process of bringing a product or service to their market.

There a four P’s, that are:

  • Price
  • Product
  • Place
  • Promotion

Price

This concerns the amount of money that customers pay in order to purchase the product. There are a number of decisions in relation to price including price setting, credit, discounting and cash purchases as well as credit collection.

Product 

The goods and services that your business provides for sale to your particular target market. When developing a product you should consider quality, features, design, packaging, customer service and any following after-sales service.

Place

This is in regards to location, distribution and methods of getting the product to the customers. This includes the location of the business, distributors, shop front, logistics and the potential use of the internet to sell products directly to consumers.

Promotion 

Communicating the benefits and value of your product to consumers. Then persuading general consumers to become customers of your business by using methods such as direct marketing, advertising, personal selling and sales promotion.

So, how are we going to do this to advertise a service online…

Pay-per-click search adverts

There are millions of terms that are searched online a day, so a great way to attract customers is to have your website pop up after they search for something on the internet. Some of they key search engines are Google, Yahoo and Bing. Also, it is worth considering using Youtube and Amazon. With these sites you have the capability to reach millions of potential views.

To find out what comes out when someone searches for a product or service like yours, make a list of of the sort or key terms a prospective customer may use and put them into the search engines you want to use. As a result of this you will you will get pages of listings, some of them commercial. These commercial listings are usually paid for on a usage basis, this means that the marketer pays a fee each time a person clicks on the listing. So basically, you will never pay for an advert unless it is used.

Adding banner adverts 

This is the online version to display advertising in a print medium or outdoor advertising on a billboard. They are good for building awareness of your brand; but that is about it.

Banner-Ads

The ad needs to get across as a clear, simple message that engages a person. Using just a single brief headline with a image and minimal words effectively. Or, you could use a brand name and illustration. Whatever you do, it must be simple and bold so that it attracts the viewer’s attention long enough so that a point is made. In addition, you have to make sure that the banner advert isn’t too lengthy. People don’t want to read loads of text, and if there is too much text you will loose their interest.

If you don’t have a big budget you will be able to find templates online that you can use. But it is worth investing in getting a web design firm to make a banner that is designed to fit your marketing campaign more specifically. So don’t be afraid in paying more to get this as it may add enough value so that it pays itself off and more.

Once you have designed a good banner advert, it is important to consider where it is put. Using a dedicated landing page is needed and you also need to find out the best sites on which the banner ad is placed. Finally, you need to also conciser the amount of traffic a website gets and you will be set to go!

Creative display adverts 

A effective way of online advertising has multiple forms in it such as:

  • Buttons
  • Half-banners
  • Square pop-up ads
  • Pop-under ads
  • Skyscrapers

Also, online adverting agencies offer lots of creative options, such as widgets, these are banners with an overlay of pop-up interactive box that usually asks for an e-mail address in exchange for a chance to win a prize or contest.