What I was getting up to the other night…

The Lucre Social Panel Debate:

“Social media can not be ignored, but marketing principles remain the same” was the overriding message at Lucre Social’s debate around the use of social media in the retail sector.

An audience of 40 delegates gathered at the Mandeville hotel in central London to discuss the topic with a panel of industry big hitters from Unilever, Saatchi & Saatchi and Yahoo! Europe/Fanshake.

A write up by Will Ockenden….

Jono Marcus, Group director of social marketing and online strategy, Lucre Social


Introducing the event, which was held to mark the official launch of Lucre Social, Jono kicked off proceedings by setting out his stall with a resounding ‘yes’ to the question; ‘is social media the most important marketing vehicle for retail in 2010?’. He talked about how traditional maketeers are simply trying to sell more and more to their customers, pushing their existing marketing channels harder and harder. Jono argued that a more effective approach is for brands to look at building a more long-term and ultimately rewarding relationship with their customers through social media.

He compared traditional ‘push’ marketing models as being like a firework display but social media like a bonfire, providing ongoing and continuous benefits, with a much more elastic, and long-term ROI.

He concluded by speaking about the need for retailers to view social media as a marketing investment, and not just a marketing spend, and emphasised that social media will gradually and increasingly become the most effective route because of the psychology of the age we are entering.

Asad Rehman, Unilever’s global planning director


Asad started by saying he originally wanted to argue ‘no’ to the question to spark debate but simply couldn’t find a convincing reason to do so. To highlight the power of social media in retail, he quoted a recent stat from Sage saying that as many as 71% of people coming through social media channels when visiting a retail site make a purchase, considerably more than direct visitors. Yet despite this, just 5% of the retailers interviewed in the study were willing to believe social media is an effective marketing tool, something Asad found disappointing.

He also spoke about how the basis of social media is nothing new, and that many of the existing marketing techniques used by retailers, such as CRM, loyalty schemes and referrals are essentially social in nature anyway. He concluded by speaking about the dearth of PR practitioners sufficiently experienced in social media, and how, like other emerging marketing disciplines, it’s important for retailers to not to be fazed by social media and that time is fast running out to move into this area.

Dana al Salem CEO of FanShake and founding member Yahoo! Europe


Dana took a slightly different approach and spoke about her own experiences of engaging with consumers through social media in the music industry, but how the lessons of engagement with young people – the so-called YGen – can be applied to other sectors, including retail.

She spoke about no matter how much things change in society, the more they stay the same, citing how events tend to repeat themselves, including natural disasters like 2009’s Hurricane Katrina and 1969’s Hurricane Camille, and the foreign war protests in 2007 mirroring the Vietnam protests of the late sixties.

Dana also talked about how the key to understanding where social media marketing is going is that people shouldn’t look forwards, but should in fact look backwards, with Hippies from the 60s and YGen sharing many of the same characteristics and preferences. This includes distrust of establishment, anti-war values, organic food and fashion consciousness.

Dana concluded by arguing that the way to reach the YGen is through empowerment and engagement, and no matter what sector, social media is the most targeted and effective route to go.

Toffael Rashid, Planning Director, Asia, Saatchi & Saatchi

Taking a more controversial approach was Toffael, who started his presentation with the statement: “Yes…but so what”. He talked about how the latest marketing buzz is just around the corner; at the start of his career it was around direct marketing, then ambient media, moving on to the internet in 2000. However, he argued that there is a common thread running through all of this; brands looking at ways to get closer to the consumer.

Toffael said things have not really changed, it’s just about applying the marketing principle basics; brands are built, and then those brands need to communicate their messages through channels, and social media is just another channel.

He concluded by saying that while social media is undoubtedly amazing, what retailers are going to have to get better at is predicting what the next emotional insight among consumers is, and how to capitalise on this. And like the other speakers, he spoke about how one thing has never changed; brands, as they always have, need to understand what consumer insights are out there and what trends they can leverage to their benefit.

Speaking about the event, Asad Rehman said: “The event was great and was a change from the ubiquitous talking heads, one-way presentations. I enjoyed the panel debate format; the delegates clearly knew their stuff which meant some really lively debate, with the speaker’s views very much challenged, which is always a good thing. A particular lively discussion was around the potential for a shower brand to create interesting and ‘sexy’ content in the social space, the consensus being that yes, they could.”

Jono Marcus, said: “Feedback from the event has been great and it’s been the perfect forum to officially launch Lucre Social. Dana, Asad and Toffael added some real weight behind the debate and brought distinctive perspectives to the argument. My takeout is simple; retailers cannot ignore social media. But it’s important to not be scared, it’s not a different form of marketing, but rather another tool to use.”

Visit www.lucresocial.co.uk next week for a video of the key note speeches at the event.

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3 thoughts on “What I was getting up to the other night…

    • This report is interesting http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2009/03/despite-recession-more-than-50-of-marketers-increase-spending-on-social-media.php

      And:

      “Financial performance correlates with engagement. Companies that are both deeply and widely engaged in social media significantly surpass their peers in both revenues and profits. For example, the study found that “Mavens” [the most engaged in social media] typically enjoyed revenue growth of 18% on average over the last 12 months, while Wallflowers [the least engaged] saw revenues fall 6%.” (Quote from Marketing Charts- ENGAGEMENT db study) http://www.engagementdb.com/

      Obviously there are other factors, as forward looking companies are naturally likely to be most able to grow through recession anyway.

      Hard to prove a negative though re evidence of companies that are NOT engaging suffering directly because of that lack of engagement. Plenty of examples of companies engaging really well and improving share of voice because of that, from Kodak, to Whole Foods, to JetBlue, to IBM, to Lipton, to Unilever.

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