What’s in a brand?: Debating the Pros and Cons of Brand South Australia

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brand-south-australiaEarlier this week, the South Australian Government lifted the lid on a new brand for the state created in collaboration with international branding firm, Kato Partners, and Adelaide creative agency kwp!

To say the reaction was mixed would be disingenuous. If a Metacritic score existed for it, it would have an average of 21% based on Adelaide’s reviews. Or to put it bluntly, the natives were really pissed.

There already are a few excellent blog post about the brand (such as Sputnik and Erica Nistico, amongst others) so I won’t bother rehashing what is and isn’t a brand but  summarise what I liked and didn’t like about the logo and the brand.

Things I like about Brand South Australia:

  • It’s bold, clear and to the point.
  • It’s flexible and actually does work in different contexts. Don’t like the colours? Drop in an image that better represents your organisation (if I were still working at Adelaide Uni, a graduation shot of Bonython Hall would be in there so fast).
  • They certainly solved the main problem they identified in the research (“no one outside Australia knows where South Australia is”).
  • The projection on the Festival Centre was really quite excellent.
  • The insights driving the strategy seemed spot on and the methodology thorough.
  • I can get on-board with the doorway idea. We already are in some areas (arts, wine, mining) so hopefully we will also aspire to be in others.

Things I don’t like about Brand South Australia:

  • The brand values – “Creative. Innovative. Industrious.” – seem hollow and amorphous. While a staple of corporate brand guidelines around the world, in this context, they feel too intangible nor provide direction.
  • It looks like it belongs on the Pope (of Chilli Town).
  • What happened to Tasmania?
  • It’s geared too much at an international audience. South Australians know where South Australia is. Ultimately we need to be the biggest advocates of the brand so it would have been nice if there was something more than a door for us to rally behind much like the oft mentioned Canadian maple leaf.
  • That font is really uninspiring.
  • The hashtag was confusing. The original, compact #brandsa devised at the media briefing was replaced by the official #brandsouthaustralia which inexplicably gained a few letters before the event was over #brandingsouthaustralia

For me, the verdict is still out. Although I’m not in love with it right now, I can see myself growing to like, even love it, if we as a state becoming the living embodiment of this new brand narrative.

To the Economic Development Board’s credit, the government agency tasked with this mammoth undertaking, they never said a change was going to overnight and it would take time for South Australians to identify with it.

And whether we like it or not, a stake has most clearly been put in the ground that has polarised the state. But as every marketer knows, if what you’re doing doesn’t piss someone off, you’re not doing it right*.

* Hats off to Central Institute TAFE Marketing Director Kenley Gordon for lending me that one from the Social Media in Tertiary Education Conference. I now use it everytime I’m pitching a new idea.

** Also a big shout out to Adelaide City Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood who showed me his socially-enabled calendar i.e. every event in his diary now comes with social media notes including relevant hashtags and the Twitter handles of anyone he’s meeting with.


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Why I Chose Hubspot

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Now marketing automation if you haven’t heard, is the new black. Or at the very least, it’s going to be huge this year and for years to come.

If you haven’t come across it before, it allows you to automate marketing activities such as email newsletters, reminders and notifications, allowing you to more effectively nurture prospects and retain customers. Done correctly, it lets you perform marketing at scale which is pretty vital for small marketing teams that can’t afford to dedicate someone to doing email communications

The number of marketing automation suites has grown exponentially in the past few years with most offering a similar set of features. However, while there were some well-established players who claimed an impressive list of clients, after a fairly lengthy evaluation process, it was clear there was only one for me: Hubspot. Here’s why:

They rebuilt it from the ground up

Hubspot wasn’t always a marketing automation suite. They started life primarily as a unified social media and search dashboard but after acquiring a Performable in the last couple of years, rebuilt the entire system from scratch as an integrated marketing suite. That showed some serious commitment on their end rather than merely bolting on new features.

They’re transparent…

Even before I became a Hubspot customer, I was a huge fan of their content. Their marketing resources are quite possible some of the best in the industry and I’ve been referring to it for years. This also extends into the way they talk about their product. I didn’t just know what they had done to date, they gave me a glimpse into their roadmap so I also knew what was to come. Marketing automation isn’t cheap and this made me feel comfortable I was partnering with someone who was going to stay at the forefront of technology.

Their API documentation was also really well put together and simple to understand, which got our developers seal of approval.

And funny

When you talk about Enterprise software, you instantly think corporate and boring but Hubspot’s copywriting is also outstanding. It’s funny and informative, both very important if you’re going to be spending a large part of your working week in there.

hubspot-captionIt’s easy to use

Hubspot is probably the antithesis of most Enterprise software in that it’s incredibly easy to use. The compulsory training is actually really good and hardly a chore, but most impressively the UI is constantly being refined making it easier and more intuitive to perform simple tasks without having to jump around to different sections of the software.

Next time you’re evaluating software for your business, look beyond the feature list and look what’s lying beneath the surface. Are they a company that is going to continue to grow with you and aligns with you now and into the future, or is what they’re offering now as good as it gets.

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My promise to you

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Wow – it’s been over 3 months since my last post which, if you’ve ever heard me talk about social media best practice , is definitely a case of do as I say, not as I do.

The truth is, I’ve been incredibly busy which isn’t much of an excuse since there are a lot of amazing people who are even busier than I who still manage to pump out great content daily. And since I’m about to embark on a new adventure in the next few weeks (more on that later), I either needed to hang up my shoes or recommit fully to this blog.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to post once a week at a minimum to this blog about the things that are grabbing my attention in digital marketing in addition to the regular Communication Junction podcast – or at least as regular as Sarah, Jason and my schedules will allow.

There’s so much really interesting stuff going on in marketing today that there’s no excuse for not having anything to talk about. Even with so many other distractions competing for my time, I still love blogging both as a way to share what’s on my mind and to force me to think through the issues I’m facing daily. Hopefully it’s a win-win and we’ll both get more out of it.

BTW…. if you read this on the website and not in your RSS reader, you might notice some theme weirdness. I’ve got itchy feet again and am playing around with some new themes including customising some older unsupported themes which I still really like (I’m nostalgic in that way)

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Social media in higher education: Where do we go now?

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The following is my guest blog post for the Higher Education Development Association to be published mid-June.

Social media is everywhere. Particularly in higher education, every institutions home page now proudly boasts a complement of follow buttons from the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to the fast growing Pinterest, Vimeo and Google+. Matter of fact, some publications estimate as high as 98% of institutions are active on at least one social media platform.

So how are we going?

While it’s hard to make a call on how effectively we as a sector are using social media, it’s a safe bet to assume that most institutions are struggling to understand exactly where it fits into the existing communications mix and what they should be posting which is ironic given the sheer volume of content we generate. The problem is that social media is often treated like another channel, lumped in with television, radio, print and (to a lesser extent) email without much consideration to the seismic change it has had on society, culture and the way we interact with each other.

Social media isn’t just another channel to broadcast messages. It is more than a specific platform but a monumental change in human behaviour.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the students who are the lifeblood of our institutions:

  • They are as old as Amazon and eBay
  • They grew up with instant messaging, mobile phones and SMS
  • They have always turned to Google and Wikipedia anytime they have a question
  • They rely on social networks to stay in touch with their friends and make plans for the weekend

Most tellingly, the way they communicate is in stark contrast to how their parents do. They are no longer ‘locked in’ to a medium but are happy to converse non-linearly across multiple platforms. A conversation that begins in the classroom can spill over onto Facebook and IM before finding its way to a blog a few days later igniting a debate in the comments followed by rebuttal post on another blog. This is accompanied by a back channel discussion on Twitter with complementary photos uploaded to Instagram and indexed using the same hashtag. While this may seem confusing to digital immigrants, for digital natives like them, it is very much the norm.

Free social media

The future isn’t coming; it’s already here.

As a sector, higher education has typically required that people engage on our terms when we are ready. The level of paperwork and hoops prospective students must jump through to study with us not to mention deal with while they’re here sends a clear message: you must do it out way.

For our students, technology and the Internet isn’t something new to be fawned over; it’s been part of their lives as long as they can remember just like electricity, gas and water that’s it’s just expected.

We must take off the kid gloves and fully embrace social media. It must be taken out of development, walled off from the big, bad world and put into production.

In a world where we can pick and choose the mediums we participate, organisations can no longer dictate the rules of engagement. For higher education to continue to engage students and remain relevant, Universities must deliver dynamic, transmedia experiences that respond and adapt to the learning style of each individual student, a la the Khan Academy, or risk alienating future cohorts.

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Stop Reading, Start Doing

Marketing, Social Media6 Comments

My buddy and fellow higher ed digital dude, Nick Leigh, recently shared with me his motto for 2012: “Stop Reading, Start Doing.”

Which is funny, because as new media practitioners we spend so much time researching and absorbing as much new information as possible because we know how quickly this space moves. One change to Facebook or Google’s algorithm can force you to rethink your entire strategy.

So we convince ourselves that we need to read every blog post that catches our eye and keep drinking  from the social media firehose, all in the name of ‘research’.

But the reality is that we don’t need to always be consuming content left, right and centre. The voracious near-obsessive consumption of content, while beneficial to a point, is asymptotic as the knowledge you gain becomes incrementally smaller and smaller and never ending as the landscape continues to evolve. This ultimately can have a paralysing effect as you wait for more information to validate your approach, often to the detriment of doing any meaningful work.

I am, by very definition, an infovore. While I’m fortunate that this also happens to be my passion, the very nature of my job means that I need to stay relatively current with my knowledge yet I no longer feel compelled to read, listen or watch everything. In fact, my Google Reader – which would always be cleared out at the end of the week – now routinely sits at 100+ unread blog posts. Instead, I focus on staying up-to-date on a few blogs by thought leaders that deliver me the most value on a consistent basis (think Mitch Joel, Avinash Kaushik, Christopher S. Penn), a single industry e-newsletter that curates the best posts from around the web, and when I have a spare moment, I trawl through a Twitter list of industry leaders for links and commentary. In a relatively short amount of time, I’m able to get a read on what’s happening and hopefully come across something valuable that I can put into action with the rest of time I have left.

Do you think there’s too much information out there? What tips do you have for managing your time and the flow of information?


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