Paying 100 euros to suffer for 42kms : The economics of marathon running.

Part taking in a marathon is a big deal, and a big financial deal. I recently ran my first marathon in Paris and was lucky enough that my registration was sponsored by a banana producer (true story) and Bonjour Darling, so I did not have to worry about the fees. However, through the process of training for and running this race, I really wondered: would I ever pay this amount of money to take part in a race? and Where on earth does this money go?

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

Most big marathons cost around 100euros (e.g. Paris), some up to 200 euros (e.g. NYC); so there is a real business going on.

Where does the money go?

The truth is that registration fees actually do not even cover what a runner costs. A study done by the Washington Post  showed that with a $99 entry fee, you can roughly cover race operations ($36 for toilets, chip timing, rubbish…), security ($34) and entertainment and advertising ($34). This leaves the cost of staff, vehicles, utilities, race t-shirts and medals, food and aid stations, registration systems, etc. All of this can add up to over $50, and this extra cost is is usually covered by sponsors.

Ok, so in fact, there is a rationale to this crazy price. But still…

…if it is so expensive, why do people register?

There are many reasons why people want to run an official race (because, really, you don’t need an official event to run 42km if you really want to). For me, it was a personal challenge, after a few years of running and 3 half-marathons under my belt, I wanted to take it to the next level. However, I was also anxious about my ability to make it. With a set race day, all my friends and family knowing about it and a preparation programme to stick to, I knew it would be much harder to bail out and that I would make it despite the fear.

For others, it is for fun, or to challenge themselves (a friend of mine was running his 16th marathon!). There is a form of self-presentation as well: becoming a marathon runner is quite something and the whole glitter around an official event makes it all the more appealing. Beyond those reasons, running a marathon is also a way to prove something to yourself and others, to test your body’s ability and fitness, and to defeat age or illness, or even to raise awareness for a cause.

Would I pay for it in the future?

It’s important to know that, beyond the event registration fees, running a marathon also incurs a lot of other “hidden costs”: getting the right gear and equipment, eating proper, travelling to the even location and staying there…Even if I did not pay registration this time, I must have spent a solid 350 euros on that race. I think I might do it again, and pay the fees this time; because I understand it is not a ripoff and I know the thrill you get doing it is totally worth it. Sure you can run a marathon on your own, but you won’t have the fancy medal, the aid stations, the music along the road or the people cheering you all along.

All in all, it comes down to the price of a nice little holiday, assorted with leg pain for a solid 3 days afterwards…but also a lot of fun!

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

Essentials of social media engagement [research infographic]

Engaging their community on social media is what all community and brand managers are striving for. Social media may be the best place to interact with audiences, but without clear understanding of the psychology of how people engage , brand efforts may fall flat and fail to reap the expected social media ROI.

In my latest paper, I discover top characteristics of social media engagement every manager should keep on top of their mind.

who-engages-on-social-media-1

The paper goes on to explains in more detail driving factors of social media engagement and its benefits for brands. It is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Management – watch their space or get in touch for more details.

PS: To find out more about creating an infographic from research papers, click here and here. This time, I created mine with Canva

Is marketing dead? Two trends turning marketing thinking up side down.

The traditional marketing “segmentation-targeting-positioning” approach requires you to try and find a homogenous customer segment with specific needs, and serve it with a product that answers that need. Some people advocate that this approach is dead, stupid and outdated. I don’t think so: it is just that it has slowly been robbed from its utility.

The reasons for this are twofold: product overload & technology dominance

“With markets overloaded with products, opportunities to truly create disruptive innovation and new products are scarcer”

The reality is that most marketers in their daily jobs are dealing with existing products, not truly inventing new ones. Let’s admit it, consumers are overloaded with products as they are.

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source: syntagmaviaggi.it

Truly engaging in new product creation is more and more rare, and the best marketers can usually do now, is bring them tiny incremental innovations, to try and sell more of them to increasingly bored consumers.

Think you are going to go and work at Unilever and revolutionize the global ice cream industry? (dear students, I am talking to you) Think twice. The segmentation-targeting positioning framework is obsolete because we don’t truly innovate anymore.

Another reason why we don’t innovate so much in marketing anymore is because more and more product innovations are concentrated in the technology/digital areas. And believe it or not, technology products are not so much ideated by marketers, as they are by IT guys or engineers. Technology specialists gain more and more marketing skills and use their own product development tools.

“Tech specialists are taking marketers’ jobs

Yes, IT guys like them. Source: The IT Crowd.
Yes, IT guys like them. Source: The IT Crowd.

As a result: a) adjust your expectations if you are going into marketing and want to do product development and b) if you don’t want to adjust your expectations, get into technology…or social marketing. With the world turning its head upside down an markets as well as economic and political climates being more and more uncertain, there is dire need to design solutions with social and societal impact (but even then, you will probably need an IT guy on board!)

 

From research/school work to infographics

As visualisation becomes the best way to get attention, being able to turn complex academic work (research, school projects, dissertations) into infographics is becoming a valuable skill.

bw-data-templateYet, demystifying the content of heavy academic work is a tough task. As authors, we are immersed into our work, which took us months or years to craft, get out there and, ultimately, in the best cases, publish. Once the whole hassle of fighting for this article (collecting data, writing up, submitting, revising, answering comments, editing, etc.) is over, all you want to do is relax and see the citations come in.

“Synthesizing long research projects into a small visual is a challenging task for academics.”

However, digital dissemination of research content is increasingly useful in attracting citations. This is evidenced by the growing popularity of research blogs edited by individual researchers, research groups, and universities, schools and research organisms. Why does everyone bother to simplify their academic work into blogs and infographics, if this is not worth it?

“Crafting an infographic from a piece of research has been a challenging, yet very rewarding effort that helped increase its visibility of my work on social media, a way to get more citations in the future.”

Yes, it was challenging, because it was like trying to fit an elephant in a match box.

After doing it a few times, here are a my top tips on how to create a good infographic out of your research project

  1. Create a story.
  2. Think of the big idea.
  3. Think of your audience and what they expect from an infographic.
  4. Select a tool to do it.  Easel.ly  Canva, Venngage, Piktochart, etc.
  5. Visual, always visual. (I love The Nounproject for instance).

To have the detail of these 5 tips, read my full article on the JMM blog.

More infographics to follow!

Does Amazon Go sign the death of traditional grocery shopping?

As retail companies are trying to integrate digital technologies and innovative process into their business, former pure player Amazon strikes hard with the introduction of Amazon Go.

Amazon Go is the first check-out free shopping experience: simply enter a shop, grab your items and leave. Using a blend of technologies like sensor fusion, which captures the orientation of an item in 3D, Amazon Go allows to just grab your groceries and automatically add them to your virtual shopping cart. When you leave, your saved bank details are used to charge you – simple as that. Amazing, right?

I think this development is highly interesting – not so much for the technology is uses, but for showing that physical shopping is not dead and just needs to be improved with a blend of technology to become more convenient and relevant for busy, hyper connected consumers.

Seeing a pure player come to the physical space, however has big implications for traditional retailers, and not only pleasant ones. First, Amazon enjoys strong popularity and reputation as a top service provider. They can build on this existing image to bypass all awareness and reputation building with their physical store and steal mind shares from traditional retailers. Second, as some industry experts point out, this poses a major threat to physical business models relying on cashiers, and some fear the job loss implications of the Amazon Go format. Third, pure players like Amazon have long mastered the art of managing big consumer data: another competitive advantage compared to many physical retailers still struggling with this practice.

I think however that such models are only the next step of improved shopping experiences. Self-check out already exist everywhere, some people purchase in-store on their mobile apps, others prefer ordering from home and picking up, or being delivered with Amazon Dash. I think Amazon Go is not the death of physical stores and jobs, quite the opposite. It only creates a different kind of experience to accommodate the needs and preferences of highly hybrid, urban and busy shoppers.

The first pilot store has been launched in Seattle but is not open to the public yet – the plan is top open over 2000 shops in the introductory phase according to the Wall Street Journal. I cannot wait to see it open in Europe. Let’s hope it’s before 2030!

The Instagram fitfam project #contribute

Do these pictures seem familiar? You’ve seen them on dozens of health and fitness accounts on Instagram…the so called #fitfam.

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Source: @blogilates Instagram account

A student of mine, Maureen, had the great idea to do her dissertation on this community and debunk the real effect of the fitfam on consumers attitudes and perceptions. The #fitfam is crazy, annoying, irritating, weird, yet many of us follow these accounts, get inspiration from them and, let’s admit it, secretly like them. 😱 What are the marketing implications of this craze?

If you are on Instagram and follow accounts about fitness, health, workout and other smoothie bowls, take 6 minutes of your time to answer our questionnaire! Not only will you help Maureen graduate but you’ll also take part in one of the first marketing research projects on the topic.

Exciting!

The survey is –> this way (and in English) #thankyouall #biglove 🙂

Snapchat: 10 seconds to convert teenagers into consumers

I was asked by Harvard Business Review France to contribute with an article on the latest trends in digital marketing. So, I wrote for them my thoughts on Snapchat and why it should be used by brands. Here is the English translation of the original article

The phenomenon

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has the highest penetration rate among teenagers and young adults, according to Statista’s latest figures. It has already clearly asserted its strength in certain regions like North America, and is now in full expansion in Europe.

Snapchat has now become the holy grail of media companies and advertisers are flocking this new platform. The reason for this craze is simple: Snapchat is one of the only media that truly allows capturing and maintaining the attention of the younger generation, thanks to two of its core characteristics: transience and authenticity.

Snapchat in figures

Snapchat’s target market is the 13 to 34 year-old segment, with a core target of 13 to 24 year-olds. In the United-States, 60% of this segment that owns a smartphone is a Snapchat user. With an expected revenue of $300 million for 2016, valuation at $20 billion and 150 million active daily users worldwide, Snapchat has nothing to be ashamed of, even in the face of the other big social networks which have existed for much longer. It even had the luxury to turn down the 3 billion acquisition offer of Facebook in 2014. More than just a fun network for teens, Snapchat offers real opportunities for marketers to engage with a highly captive audience and convert young users into consumers.

Marketing applications

Snapchat offers various opportunities to brands. First, brands can pay to have their ads displayed in the Discover Channels. On these channels, media companies such as CNN, National Geographic or Vogue publish informational and entertaining content, in a digital magazine type of format. On these feeds, brands can display their ads, like they would on TV. Video format is the most popular, with more than 10 billion daily views.

Live Stories are published by users, often in relation with a particular event, and can be linked or sponsored by a brand. Coachella festival in California, for instance, saw its popularity peak with this technique, as they virtuality gave access to the festival to over 40 million young users worldwide. Practically, a Snapchat user attending the Coachella festival could make a video of his experience and submit it for review to Snapchat, which would then broadcast it on the Coachella Live Story, making it visible to all. Brands can also sponsor geographic filters, which are stickers with creative designs that can be pasted onto content posted by users. These filters use geofence and are thus only accessible in a designated geographic area.

coachella_visual_main2

Snapchat naturally monetises all these marketing actions, as none of them is free for brands. A brand can also naturally have its own Snapchat account and post content for free through this account. However, in this way, the content is only visible to users who are actively following the brand.

Two keys to success

Attention. Content disappears after 24 hours on the platform, and it can only be seen for a maximum of 10 seconds. For a manager, it can seem absurd to invest in content that is not made to last, however this transient aspect is precisely what makes the platform so attractive : content is instantaneous and rare. The reason for the success of transient content can be explained by the “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO), which is typical of generation Z. For them, happiness can never be reached because they cannot experience everything : modern day teenagers are thus constantly dissatisfied. This fear of missing out is so strong and deep for that generation that they try and consume as much content as possible to live as many experiences they can and stay « in ».

Thus, this functionality of a disarming simplicity is in fact the reason for Snapchat’s success : by making content ephemeral, they increase its rarity. Because of this, users are 100% attentive to what they watch, since they only have 10 seconds of their precious time to sacrifice to see it.

Intimacy. Since content is transient and because it disappear, shared content can be much more personal. In the same way in which it is consumed, content is produced rapidly, without fuss and with the emotions of the moment.

For these two reasons, brand have the ability to interact with an extremely engaged and receptive audience. By launching campaigns on Snapchat, brands can increase their visibility, reputation and relevance for young adults and propose innovative forms of content. WWF, for instance, launched a campaign called #Lastselfie, where they surfed on the selfie trend and aimed to raise awareness of endangered species. The campaign was one of the first international campaigns on Snapchat and it raised unexpected levels of attention and awareness, with over 5000 tweets seen by 6 million users in the first 8 hours following its launch. Their visibility objective was thus achieved and they won a Webby Award for the campaign.

lastselfie

Tips for businesses

  1. Creativity

The first crucial element of communication on Snapchat is creativity. The tool has developed a wide array of functionalities to increase creativity : emojis can be placed over pictures and videos to express emotions, as well as coloured text or filters. Young people look for entertaining content: using a light and humorous tone is thus key. In order to know and get to grips with what makes young people laugh nowadays, the easiest way is to recrute one of them internally. Many businesses now have Gen Z consultants in order to improve their Snapchat strategy. Companies such as GoSpooky in the Netherlands are flourishing: they were created by teenagers in order to provide strategic insight to business and manage their Snapchat campaigns.

  1. Relevance

On Snapchat, there is no complex algorithm that pushes specific content on people’s feeds: from the moment that someone is following your account, they have 24 hours to view what you have posted. Thus, contrary to platforms like Facebook where you have to publish regularly in order to be well positioned in people’s feed, Snapchat does not have that problem. As soon as there is content posted on your account, your followers can see it and decide to visualise it or not. This way, it is only relevant to post something if you really have something to share – otherwise, it would just be noise. For instance, if a music festival is happening during the summer, its Snapchat can burst with content during the event, but have much more spaced out posts during the rest of the year. Activity can then resume when pre-sales are opening, for instance, and this would not be a problem.

  1. Verticality

Posting on Snapchat means entering a logic of verticality, a little bit similar to magazine content, given that smartphone are most often held vertically. This means that creative content creation needs to be adapted to this new format. If Snapchat users have to turn their phone in landscape to be able to enjoy the content, it creates frictions and disengagement.

  1. Exclusivity

Snapchat, is a platform where content is not embellished. Like its target audience, Snapchat is raw, authentic. Therefore, a way to engage Snapchat audiences is to make them perceive the real and authentic aspect of a brand; to invite them to see behind the scenes. This makes exclusive content particularly appreciated on Snapchat: the most popular celebrities on Snapchat are those that let their fans enter their every day lives, posting selfies without make-up, with their real friends or families, such as Kylie Jenner or Macklemore. This genuine aspect sets Snapchat aside. In this line of thinking, brands can decide to launch a Takeover, whereby they give control of their account to a chosen influencer. Using consumers insight and (quite literally) their lens is a fantastic way to signal that your brand is authentic and bare.

These methods can help brand willing to engage the 13-24 year-olds on a relevant medium with high engagement potential. By telling a fun, authentic and relevant story, opportunities to differentiate on markets that are not yet « Snapchat mature », like France, should be grasped.

This article was initially published in French on the website of  Harvard Business Review France on this page. You can reach HBR France on LinkedIn.

Autoethnography, or when your hobby is your work

You might know that I enjoy sports and in particular Crossfit; I wrote about it in a post in 2014 where I explained what it was I why I liked it. This was during my PhD and I was up to my eyeballs with my research. At the time Crossfit was really just for fun.

Recently, I put on my marketing goggles and started thinking about Crossfit as a consumer. I also thought about the brand and what it represents – trying to debunk the massive craze around it, which has now also spread to France, thank you very much.

So here I am now, annoying every body at my Crossfit gym (which by the way is amazing, check it out if you live in or visit Bordeaux). I’m interviewing the owners, coaches and members, taking pictures and hanging around with my computer, taking notes…basically pretending to work out between two interviews (or maybe the other way around).

Another great aspect of mixing work with fun is to be able to use yourself as a case for investigation. Indeed, I am discovering how to do an auto-ethnography (analysing my own practice as a Crossfit consumer) and it is really fun…and confusing! I guess as an every-day life consumer and researcher I kind of always analyse my own consumption patterns, but doing it consciously and with a purpose is different.

I do not have yet firm results to present but I will share them here when I do. In the meantime, I’m already thanking all my masochistic participants and great colleagues who are with me on this journey. I welcome all feedback and questions on the topic, especially if you know about extreme sports or auto-ethnographies 😉

And to finish off, a true statement by my favourite vilain #thejokerisalwayright

crossfitmeme5

 

August is for personal branding

Preparing for the start of the year in academia is a new thing for me and I am excited to be working on a lot of new courses, all mainly in the area of digital marketing. One topic in particular is getting me super motivated at the moment: digital personal branding.

To learn more in this area, I have bought the Udemy course “Building a personal brand by Gary Vaynerchuck”. Gary V is a very polarizing character, and some aspects of his full-on, “in-your-face” type of personality do slightly irritate me, but I find him really inspiring here.

The ONE learning from this course is to be self-aware, to reflect on who you are. Too few of us really activelly practice self-awareness. I’m doing the exercise: it is worth it, and boils down to the following:

  • Ask yourself what you love (your passion);
  • what you are good at (your strengths);
  • and what you suck at (your weaknesses).

In the process, be true to yourself.

younger-self-reflected-in-mirror-reflection-tom-hussey-6

What you love is what you’ll be able to do every day for the rest of your life. Then come your strengths and weaknesses. The advice is to go all in on the former, and try and delegate the latter. Easier said than done, I agree. Or maybe it seems easy and you already have the answers. In any case, I recommend taking a moment to do it. You may even ask your friends what they think.

What better time than August to reflect on yourself, you career, your goals and aspirations for the year to come? Holidays are ending and it’s back to work, or back to school: be a little more self-aware!

Laurence

Photo credits: Tom Hussey.

 

Meet the brand that shakes fashion: Made & More

First of all, greetings from the UK! I hope you enjoyed my series of guest blogs on customer experiences. Teaching is ow almost over and I’m entering the conferences season, with a first stop in Bradford, UK, at the Global Brand Conference. The topic of the conference being “brands that do good”, I want to showcase one of my favourite ethical brand.

I’m not a die-hard ethical consumer. I try to be better, I pay attention to the origin of what I buy, and try to do good. It’s not always easy, but some brands are stiring us in the right direction, like Made & More, in the fashion industry.

This industry has a global yearly revenue of over $600 billion. (that’s about the GDP of Saudi Arabia, if you are wondering). A florishing industry indeed, that inevitably uses a growing flow of natural resources to produce ‘Fast Fashion’ goods.

Fed up with the way clothes are produced and consumed, The Slow Fashion movement is promoting a more conscious and respectful fashion industry, which is conscious of the way garment is produced and consumed, and respectful of all stakeholders involved.made&more6

Made & More is an e-commerce that lives and breathes slow fashion. Here is why I love them and why I think they set an example of good marketing practice:

  • Educating consumers: because slow fashion is not commonplace for most and there still needs to be an awakening of consciouness, Made & More helps their clients to “get there”. There are tons of resources on the website and social media to learn more about slow fashion and why it matters. That’s, to me, the key of a great content strategy.
  • Sourcing the right products: Made & More does not compromise on the quality and transparency of the garment they sell on their e-shop. Every brand is carefully selected, producers are true craftmen, and the goods have a story. Small videos presenting the creators in their workshops are often posted, and they really transport the consumers there.made&more5
  • Having a real brand mission and positioning: Made & More has a clear, zero fuss positioning: to provide sustainable fashion and transparency on who made your garment and how. This transpires from every pore of their shop: from the detailed product information on site, to the way they ship and stock the goods in the background.

For these reasons, I think Made & More (and they are not the only ones in this business) are doing a great job. My only concern with slow fashion is that it remains more expensive that what we are now drilled to consider “normal” price for clothes.

However, it’s all about consuming less and better, so if instead of purchasing 3 cheap t-shirts made in Vietnam you only buy one made in the UK, it works. What do you think about slow fashion and Made & More?