Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

What is Digital Disruption?

I had a tremendous time speaking at the Future of Digital Marketing conference in Malaysia last month and they’ve just sent me this short set of questions they asked me about the future of digital and especially disruptive business models.

Filed under: digital marketing, future of capitalism

Talking about Webinar

I realised recently talking to Dan Creigh that some of the household words we use to describe web conferences are in fact proprietary brand names!  Luckily Webinar isn’t one, so here’s a non-contentious clip of me and Darika Ahrens talking about how all the difficult rules of good web content still apply for London’s

Filed under: digital marketing, online video strategies

Charming naivety: what Nick Clegg and Waitrose have in common

This week Waitrose did something on social media that many brands will recognise: they created a hashtag that trended because of sarcastic responses. #waitrosereasons asked people why they shopped at Waitrose, with top results including:

@amoozbouche: I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a dad say ‘Put the papaya down, Orlando.’

@buntygusset: I shop at Waitrose because Boden don’t do veg


@welshben: I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a 6yr old boy in the shop say “Daddy does Lego have a ‘t’ at the end, like Merlot?”

If like me you spend a good deal of time watching brands try to suppress or moderate conversations on social media, you might have wondered what happened to all the back-tracking. Where was the PR department’s defensive post “clarifying [their] intentions”? What about the social media rookie who loses their patience and slugs one back at a troll?

I know from past experience that Waitrose are hot on digital and it could be they simply dealt with an unexpected reaction in an exemplary way. But something makes me think they knew the reaction to such a naive question would be sarcastic – and it might even have been their intention all along. All publicity is, after all, good publicity and it’s not like theirs was about a leaked corporate song or the disturbing manipulation of children’s voices. I’m working with John Lewis (of which Waitrose is a part) again in a few weeks and it’ll be top of my list of things to try and find out.

My suspicion would probably have ended there had it not been for the latest missive from our Dear Leader. A colleague and I conferred two years ago that the best thing Nick Clegg could do was make a “big, open” apology for breaking the tuition fees promise. Now he’s done it, on video, and it was modified and auto-tuned within 24 hours. Again, where were the cease and desists, the clumsy hacks mouthing off about the “plebs”? Has the Liberal Democrat party suddenly learned that the tone of voice a brand needs on the social web is a much more frank, honest and self-critical one? Maybe. But perhaps they intended it to happen all along. Within hours of The Poke publishing it, Clegg’s office had given permission for it to be released for charity and it’s already at number 63 in the iTunes chart.

Perhaps we’re entering into a new fad of charming naïvety where brands do slightly goofy things and get a big sarcastic reaction that’s largely good humoured. I think I could stomach more of this than flash mobs.

@morrisjh sums it up nicely:
Supermarket gets customers to reinforce the message it’s dying to convey, but couldn’t possibly print. #waitrosereasons #clever

Filed under: digital marketing, , , , , ,

Stop wasting money on “corporate video”

Recently I had the pleasure of authoring a report for the lovely people at Econsultancy. “Online Video Best Practice” has, I’m told, been a popular and well-received report on the state of online video.

Writing it was certainly interesting. As someone who spends a good deal of time working strategically on the corporate and commercial use of video on the web it was fascinating to get in-depth input from peers and their clients. The digital marketing sector seems particularly willing to share success stories openly with colleagues, which can only be a good thing for all of our clients and customers.

I was pleased to hear that many of my frustrations about brands’ inabilities to create content that audiences might actually want to watch were shared by the majority of contributors. It’s a shame that things are rarely taken seriously in large companies until something big has gone wrong due to lack of investment, or something big goes well for a competitor. Congratulations must go to brands like M&S who have had the foresight to invest heavily in innovative ideas – I was so pleased to hear how well this investment is paying off when I interviewed the CEO of the company that runs M&S TV, Chris Gorell Barnes.

It amazes me that anyone would still part with scarce budget to produce “corporate video” for the web. Such films are almost always an audiovisual eulogy to the misguided egos of the business owners, that no-one wants to watch. It’s more amazing that most businesses don’t use simple, free tools to measure whether anyone is actually viewing their content. YouTube tells content publishers nothing about how far through their content people are watching, and yet it is still the most popular platform for organisations to host their video content.

Many businesses are hiding behind the excuse that they can’t push the boat out further than headshot interviews and images of office blocks because their brand is “conservative” or their sector “more reserved”. But this view sees the way they experience the world as more important than the way their customers see it and it’s brand suicide. It’s also stupid: making content that people might actually want to watch isn’t about putting exploding chickens on skateboards, it’s simply thinking about what would make your content irresistibly entertaining or unmissably useful. And yes, it usually takes budget to do this. But any brand that wants to gain something from online video would be better off spending £50,000 on a well thought-out strategy that might achieve real, measurable benefits (50% for production, 50% for distribution by the way) than spending even £5,000 on a “5-10 minute corporate video to introduce new customers to our offering and explain our products and services”.

There were many other surprises in the report which you can get a free sample of below. The striking conclusion I’ve reached is that very few brands in even fewer sectors are coming close to realising the benefits of online video. In the next twelve months I expect to see many new flagships launched – and right now, given the scarcity of good branded content, success will earn your brand premium first-mover benefits.

Click here to check out the report.

Filed under: digital marketing

What about words?

Whatever happened to the Ad Men of old? Undoubtedly it’s a good thing that the gross misogyny of Lionsgate Films’ US series Man Men has subsided. But where are the witty strap-lines in adverts today, that were once the preserve of these men?

Advertisers have becomes fixated with price, celebrity endorsement and whiter-than-white imagery. Billboards scream their value propositions as loudly as they can. So-called “blog” copy is hyperbolic rubbish written by marketers who’ve had their common sense glands removed.

The language of advertising has turned from dinner party to Saturday market.

Success in the digital space requires a different approach. Good brands are being established on the old-fashioned principle of delivering a great product and letting the customers do the talking. Screaming about your USPs has no place here. Honest, straightforward language wins.

Just look at

A few words can have tremendous power, especially in digital marketing. There are strap lines from the 90s that I still remember: “I’m a smarter investor: Alliance & Leicester”.

Online or offline: it’s time for a softer approach. Give a customer something in your advertising that makes them think, laugh or smile and they’ll love you forever. Goodness knows you might even stand out.

Filed under: digital marketing, successful businesses, , , , , , ,

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