Facebook Ads just got interesting for Expat Businesses

facebookadsinczechLiving in a foreign country for a number of years now I’ve picked up enough of the language to understand advertising copy pretty well. I’m the exception however. A large part of any expatriate community, when faced with Facebook adverts like those in the image to the left  would have little clue what it’s about. The inclusion of language as an option when entering Facebook ads might seem unimportant to the majority of people and companies on Facebook.

For companies that specialise in servicing particular niches it is an immensely powerful, money-saving targeting tool. Coupled with the new location radius targeting this is going to make a massive change to the efficacy of Facebook advertising to a whole lot of small, local businesses. Facebook advertising becomes viable for them all of a sudden. Consider a company that serves the Hispanic market in a city in the US, a shop selling Polish food in Hammersmith, London, or an English-speaking hair stylist in Prague that doesn’t speak Czech. Now it’s possible for him to specifically target women in their 30s and 40s who live in Prague and use Facebook in English.

Adwords now has some serious competition!

Why can’t giving to charity be more like shopping?

waterpurifierAmericans gave over $300bn to charities last year. UK figures are much lower (hey, we pay higher taxes) but are still over £9bn annually.

But charities always need more money to accomplish their aims – you’re unlikely to come across a charity that says “no thanks, we’re good for this year”. Given the worsening global financial situation, charitable giving is set to suffer – in the last recession corporate giving dropped by over 10%. It’s clear that charities are going to have a shortfall in funding and may be unable to meet their objectives.

Right now charitable giving online is handled in a number of ways. You can go direct to the charity’s website and make a payment online, or set up a recurring payment for a specific amount; you can go to a site like charities.org and do something similar. Some charities like the Red Cross give you a choice from five different sub-causes. One that I really liked, Barnados, lets you purchase ‘ethical real gifts‘ for people in need, a step in the right direction, and not prominently displayed enough in my opinion.

Another problem that charities have to overcome with online giving is that people are often reluctant to give a charity their contact details – they know that they will receive guilt inducing ‘begging letters’ by email, maybe phone calls too – giving to a charity is like painting a target on your back. None of the donation forms I looked at, where you enter all your details offered full opt-out – Red Cross had a checkbox, default checked, saying ‘I may be contacted by email’, Charities.org gave no such option. Neither allowed you to opt out of further contact.

It is the Barnados approach that gave me the inspiration for this idea – that online shopping for charity could be fun AND meaningful whereas most ways of giving to charity online feel immensely impersonal.

So here’s what I propose:

cataractopAn online store that allows multiple charities to list the items they need. Just like any online store, it will have items that go out of stock when the charity has met their target, best-sellers, new releases, and featured items. The items on sale could be electric kettles, microwaves, operations to restore someone’s sight, 24 hours of care in a hospice. Literally anything. It could even allow monetary value donations, if you can’t decide what to buy or can’t find an item that is in your price range. What about asking specifically for money to cover administration overheads – why not let the donor choose how their money is allocated?

When searching for products the donor could shop by charity (like a by brand search on a regular online store), keywords, category, project, target geographical area or age range. The donor gets full control over where their money goes.

Charities that are part of this online store would have to commit to transparency in their costs – a water purifier would have to be priced at a fair value, which could include the cost of getting it to where it needs to be, but shouldn’t include spurious costs, or a percentage for charity overhead.

At the checkout the donor gets to choose, per charity, their contact profile:

  1. Give the charity all my contact details, I’d love to be on their database
  2. Allow the charity to contact me by email exclusively via this website
  3. Give the charity just my name and town, so they can ‘attribute’ the items for their own records only
  4. I’d rather keep my details private and not hear from the charity or this website about this charity.

By offering to be the gatekeeper for the donor’s details we are safeguarding them from unwanted solicitations.

For each item given, the charity is obligated to update the online store with a progress report – sent 30 water purifiers to a village in Mozambique – post pictures. Users can log in to their account whenever they want and see the outcome of their purchases (whether or not they asked for emails).

The online store metaphor could be taken further and even improved upon. It should be possible for couples to set up a charitable giving wedding list, nominating specific charities if they wish, even specific items. Companies should be able to make large donations as part of their charitable giving programme. In the cases of larger, amalgamated donations, a DVD could be produced (automatically, perhaps partnering with Animoto) for the couple to have playing on a screen at their wedding reception or a company to display in its lobby, detailing all the good that has come out of the wedding or giving programme, so wedding guests or employees feel a sense of pride in what they have achieved.

To make this happen would take a monumental effort and a lot of will power. I’m not in any kind of position to make this happen, but I would invite anyone who knows people at Digital River, Elastic Path, or any other large ecommerce vendor to show them this article and ask how it fits in with their charitable giving programme.

Update, 14th April 2009 – looks like I was unlucky in my research not to come across Global Giving, with both US and UK sites. I would recommend anyone looking for an interesting way to give to charity check take a look.

Successful Social Network Advertising – An Idea

grapesSo, according to Nielsen (pdf) the big problem with advertising on social media is:

“The current level of advertising activity on social networks isn’t consummate with the size–and highly engaged levels–of the audience.”


“standard ad models – such as contextual search and standard unit sizes – won’t cut it.”

It’s been obvious to most advertisers for a while that an awful lot of advertising passes by unnoticed these days. An awful lot of content sites have click-thru rates that could be passed over as a rounding error. There are users who install ad-blockers into their browsers, then there are those why have literally become immune to banner ads, skyscrapers and buttons. In studies, content sites that use an ‘advertising style’ for the ads for other sections lose out on traffic because users dismiss these images as ‘just ads’.

The potential efficacy of social network advertising is enormous

Say you’re launching a new pseudo-healthy soft drink in a test market. You could launch it on Facebook using conventional advertising pretty well – you have the ability to demographically target very precisely: Want to advertise to 18-25 year old females living in your target market area? Not a problem. But those adverts in the sidebar on Facebook aren’t going to set the world alight, you’ll need to use old-school Marketing 1.0 tactics to encourage trial – tasting booths at events attended by your targets, in malls, any location that is highly-trafficked by your targets will do.

But if your trial packaging had a ‘become a fan on Facebook/MySpace and win’ splash on it and by becoming a fan and entering a 1-3 word description telling their friends what they thought of the drink, along with the code from the pack, they could win a prize. And every time someone does this, an item about your drink appears in the user’s personal news feed: “Caroline just tried TerriblyBerry Fruit Crush, she says: ‘Yum. Fruitylicious'”, of course this is accompanied by a link back to your page. As long as your product doesn’t suck, people will say nice things, their friends and relatives will be curious and may even want to try it for themselves.

Joining up traditional marketing to an online outpost on a social network you can start some buzz offline then amplify it online. I think we’re going to see a growth in this kind of promotion, driven by the more forward thinking advertising agencies, providing they can get over the fact that encouraging this degree of measurability might not be in their own best interest.

(Pricing) confusion reigns supreme?

99pI came across these signs a couple of days ago and it brought to mind one of my persistent bêtes noires: confusion pricing as a marketing tactic. Anything from presenting your lowest possible price, after quantity discount, or of the least popular option (online retailers and market traders do this all the time), or making your pricing structure so confusing that customers can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison (mobile phone companies).


I don’t recall a section in The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing that said you should aim to bamboozle and confound your customers, yet this must work simply because if it didn’t, companies wouldn’t do it.

Dealing first with bait-and-switch pricing – see the first image – with the ‘from’ in small print. There’s one colour available for 99p (yellow), everything else is £1.99. They could advertise a price of 99p to £1.99 – literally the least and most you will pay for a scarf. In fact this sign was an improvement on another store, they didn’t have the helpful information as to which colour you could have for 99p, surely leading to frustrated shoppers hunting for the promised bargain. The same store also had this large sign advertising 89 colours available inside. All the other signs mention price, the large numeral ’89’ looks at first glance like a price. When there are multiple places selling the same things along the street, the 89 might stand out, bring someone in, then an aggressive salesperson can close the pitch. I guess this isn’t really any worse than the case quoted in Reality Check of the independent hardware store owner who dealt with the opening of a massive competitor next door by changing his store sign to ‘Main Entrance’. It makes me question how this sort of approach makes the shopper feel, is ‘misled’ a good feeling to inspire?

As for confusion pricing, that practice so beloved of mobile phone companies and energy providers, I can understand that there are various nuances to the services they offer, different costs for different things to be taken into consideration, what bugs me is that they create a smorgasbord of price plans, expect the customer to choose one, and fail to tell them if they’ve chosen wrong. I would give massive props to the mobile co that simplifies their tariff offerings AND pledges to always charge you at the optimal tariff for you, not them.

Clear and fair pricing is what we should aim for  confusion leads to doubt, doubt leads to fear, fear leads to anger, and we all know what happens next 😉

Marketing 1.0 still has a place

Marketing 1.0 still has its place – just because you’re hyper-connected that doesn’t mean your customers are. Learn to reach out to them in the spaces they’re in.

Image credit: MildlyDiverting Image credit: MildlyDiverting

With all the buzz about social media, inbound marketing and associated fashionable terms, it is useful to remind ourselves that Marketing 1.0 still has a place. That cumbersome, promotion-heavy, old-school way of marketing your wares isn’t dead yet.

Perhaps it is best explained by the fact that ‘You are not your target’.

I’m reminded of this particularly by a company I have worked with for a few years. They sell compatible ink cartridges. Their site isn’t a virtual community, it doesn’t provide opportunities for customers to communicate with each other on forums, any testimonials on the site are vetted from submissions in emails. The site design is functional, their on-page adverts and the newspaper campaigns they’re often based on won’t be winning any advertising awards for style, yet they are massively effective.

The majority of their business comes from large scale email shots to existing customers highlighting special purchase items and giving BoGoF promo codes for compatible ink cartridges – repeat business is the core of their success and is responsible for the lion’s share of their turnover. New customer acquisition is primarily via national press advertising, followed by the ‘tell-a-friend’ programme; a powerful combination of traditional marketing promotion and souped-up, incentivised word-of-mouth.

Without the old-world medium of national newspapers, they wouldn’t be able to reach their target market and grow their customer base. Their targets are not web-savvy comparison shoppers (because there’s always someone out there with a lower price), it’s people who still buy newspapers rather than read them for free online and are hooked by a ‘buy one get one free’ deal at prices that beat the OEMs into a cocked hat already.

To sum up, if you’re marketing a product that has a broad appeal, you have to accept that not all of your potential customers will be people like you. Understanding your customer isn’t just about gut feeling, it’s about research too. Get out there and meet your customers, meet people who could be your customers and don’t ignore the old-school methods of reaching these groups, just because it’s not hip or trendy.

The obligatory Hello World post

We’ve all got to start somewhere right? My first ‘work-related’ blog since the Pagemill 1.0 authored monstrosity I had at university, my second WordPress powered blog, and boy is this so much easier than it was back in the 90s.

Wondering about the title? Simply put, last year was the 10 year anniversary of my graduation from a Marketing & Multimedia degree. It made me take stock of what I was doing day-to-day and it really didn’t fit with what I enjoy. So I’m returning to marketing full-time. Not just ‘search-engine-marketing’ or ‘internet marketing’ but full on, all-round marketing.

Expect discussion, comment and maybe even images related to marketing, advertising, social media and the occasional bit of general tech. Thanks for dropping by, there will be more soon, I promise.