Tag Archives: authenticity

Social Media Branding – Are You Boring People?


Let’s be honest with each other here – most organisations / brands using social media these days are boring.

I believe this is so because when it comes to social media branding, their mind-set is stuck in the old communications  approach to advertising, media releases, sponsorship and marketing materials. An approach that tells people what you want them to hear.

The thing is, even when the social media approach is altruistic, an organisation’s tone and personality often can’t shine through. This is because the minute it comes to marketing communication – the brand personality is wrapped up in cotton wool a.k.a. brand guidelines

Now don’t get me wrong, brand guidelines are necessary, but SME owners / marketing managers really need to revisit their engagement methods with the modern day consumer. In the current whirlwind of connectivity, people want organisations to be more ‘human’.

They want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic. They want to be able to ‘message’ brands when, where and how it suits them.

[ctt template=”4″ link=”r4d18″ via=”no” ]People want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic – #oconnorandkelly[/ctt]

So why then, when brands dive into the social media pool, are they still doing the doggy-paddle and not learning new swimming strokes. In fact, the swimming strokes don’t have to be new – they only have to be interesting. Why? Because interesting, gets shared by people across their own platforms.

If you’re not interesting, therefore, you may be boring.

My own opinion of most brands on social media is that existing identity ‘style guidelines’ are curtailing natural expression. By all means, adhere to identity guidelines but hey – why not draw up separate ones for your online activity. In fact, I’m delighted to say that more and more of our clients are requesting assistance with this element of their marketing.

We can help you with your social media style guide also – if you wish, just contact us here.

Employees should be allowed to share business stories naturally. It’s a human thing. Them doing so then becomes part of the brand story. Not allowing them to do so, results in the real personality of the organisation remaining behind closed doors. That is why so many organisations appear to be boring when communicating online.

By the way, old fashioned, interruptive style advertising does not help the situation either – good article here from Brand Quarterly on this topic.

Look at it this way, it’s no coincidence that the content most shared by people is that which involves human emotion be it entertaining, informative or educational. Behind-the-scenes videos, staff profiles, subject matter experts, interviews and product stories are all ways in which people make brands come alive.

If people from any organisation are unshackled from brand guidelines and allowed to be themselves, within reason, they will become advocates of the brand. I’m saying nothing new here – business owners and marketers have always known that it is customers and staff that are the essence of a brand.

The Role of Social Media Branding.

Let’s quickly agree that branding is important for marketing. We know this because it can help provide an advantage over competitors through differentiation, help reinforce reputation and manage visibility.

It is also true to say that branding guidelines are necessary for consistency. However, that is not to say that having guidelines means there is no room for change / flexibility.

The branding may change but the brand should remain the same. So, if we take branding here to include activity on social media – then being flexible can only enhance marketing activity.

As part of modern day marketing, social media plays a role in search results. This means it can be used for not only driving traffic to your business but also to build trust and relevancy (reputation) with people online. In fact, recent surveys have shown the strong influence of social media on shopping habits:


By creating a dialogue on social media, a brand owner (especially in a business start-up situation) can obtain genuine feedback and build authenticity. As already alluded to, however, consistency is essential – online activity must mirror a brand’s purpose just as much as a paid campaign would.

If your organisation is only starting your social media journey – here are 4 excellent tips from the guys at Social Media Examiner, to start you on your way,

Be More Likeable on Social Media – Not More Boring

We’re not going to write this blog post and pretend that gaining attention on social media is easy. It’s not. As you well know, most of your competitors are now using social media in an attempt to improve search results and customer experience. The thing is, amidst all that online noise, being genuine helps you to stand out and be more likeable.

Being genuine means being real and not just using social media as a promotional tool. By providing some value (content) you will be in a position to develop your following. Also, people will like you more if you engage by inviting both a discussion and feedback.

If you’re good enough, smart enough and tell a good story – people will like you.

Before I finish on this topic, I should mention one more thing. Most marketers will agree that having a clear brand positioning is essential for long-term business growth. However, there is a danger in all of this attitudinal change to social media branding that the fundamentals of brand strategy may be neglected.

For instance, we are all too aware of ‘keeping up with the latest’ trends which have enticed a lot of brands online. The thing is – many organisations are not basing its social media usage on tangible business benefits.The risk, therefore, is that with all the focus being on social, the overall brand strategy can be overlooked. As a result, the brand message and experience gets fragmented across an increased number of platforms.

This can undermine other marketing activity and indeed the brand equity itself.

Don’t get me wrong – social media offers a great new way of engaging with connected customers it’s just that your brand strategy probably needs to be rebooted for the modern customer. A reboot might include a revisit to the purpose of the brand i.e. the role of the brand in a customer’s life; a deeper understanding of the customer (personas) and developing a simple and clear visual brand message.

What next for social media?

What’s the future for social media branding? Bearing in mind the caveat alluded to above about brand positioning and the tips below, here are some observations gleaned from around the web.

– A standardisation of various platforms i.e. biggest platforms are mimicking each other

– Video is getting close to the peak – live video is hot and circular video is growing

– Augmented Reality / Filters adoption is growing

– Increased competition amongst the big search engines

– Platforms becoming business tools and not just for social

– Tech filled glasses (spectacles) and live-streaming

– Better geo-filtering for ad targeting

– Microsoft bought LinkedIn – so watch this space

Tips for successful social media branding

We meet different organisations from various industries that have many brand variables when it comes to being smarter about their marketing online. The one bit of advice we always give them is not to waste their time on networks that don’t work for them.

Here are a few other tips that you might also consider:

  • Know your audience – many platforms offer free audience insights so use them
  • Define your goals upfront – helps motivation towards better results.
  • Have clear and consistent branding – create a visual experience for your customers.
  • Develop a clear voice – your language shows the personality behind the brand
  • Leverage influencers – they can help you reach a greater, relevant audience
  • Track and measure results – replicate the good and stop the bad


The likelihood that your target audience is on social media has never been higher. Statistics show that there are nearly 3.4 billion internet users worldwide. Of those, 2.3 billion have social media accounts. The challenge for organisations is to be able to use social media as an element of its overall marketing activity – in a human way.

Being human means allowing your personality to shine through, knowing your customers better and providing a mix of interesting and relevant content.

Always ask yourself – are you guessing what your audience wants and even if not, are you addressing the right issues? Get the answers to these questions right and you’ll never be boring on social media.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

What Santa Never Told You About Authentic Storytelling


In previous blog posts, we have long stressed the point of view that a key marketing trend is that of authentic interactions with people. One acknowledged way of interacting with people, in a real way, is through storytelling. Disney does it and just look at how Santa and his helpers has been doing it for years.

How do they do it in a seemingly effortless way? We’ll use this post to examine ways of crafting an effective story for your brand – in case Santa doesn’t leave instructions under the tree.

Admittedly, marketing agencies have long used the story approach to campaigns but we believe times are changing. Instead of a brand telling a story, why would it not use all of its elements to allow customers connect with a story they want to be part of?

As we approach the Festive Season, we believe that perhaps technology is not such a threat to bricks-and-mortar retailers that everybody is writing about. This is mainly because shop owners can still offer the human touch. The one caveat here is probably the influence of weather conditions on travel.

Of course, these retailers must augment the experience for the shoppers with multi-sensory and multichannel experiences but the real challenge is to enter the world of the customer and to be a part of their story.

How brilliant would it be if brands could move people from being observers into being part of a story, why? Because us marketers have known for eons that stories activate emotions which in turn motivate people to act i.e. to get involved.

To help you visualise what we’re saying, let’s look at a potential scenario using a standard story structure:

  • The consumer is the protagonist in the story
  • The experience is what happens (the touchpoints – where it happens)
  • The competitors are the obstacles for the customer getting to what they want
  • The product or service is the reward / the outcome

The point we’re making here is that brands should have a look at how they structure their stories. It’s not about telling it – it’s about engaging customers directly in their storylines by taking them on a journey and providing a reward at the end. This reward may be for the customer or even somebody else e.g. a charity cause.

Here’s a thought – could brands help people with their own stories? Could they help people change their lives (or others) through what they buy? The thing is storytelling can make a difference so why aren’t brands using it to make a difference for their customers and ultimately their bottom line.

People might not remember your brand, but they will remember a good story.

We mentioned above that storytelling makes a difference. Let’s see how it might – using a Leinster Rugby story as an example.

Story version A – “Jim decided to come into our shop and buy a Leinster Rugby jersey. He had the option of an array of colours, sizes, and excellent cotton quality. There was also an online option.”

Story version B – “Jim is a long-time supporter of Leinster Rugby and had an old club jersey that had seen better days. The team’s on-field performance was going through a lull and supporters were getting disgruntled. To show his continued support Jim purchased a new jersey from our supporters’ club outlet, looks great and is now delighted to be part of the team’s resurgence.”

This is a made-up example, but anyway – which one will you remember most? The second one I reckon, because we provided elements that you might relate to. In version B, we tried to use the standard story structure outlined above i.e. a character, a reason why, a little conflict and a resolution.

Our example stresses the point that promoting the features of your product / service in the structure of a story doesn’t really work. Set yourself apart by incorporating your brand elements into an authentic story that people can relate to.

Here are the elements of a good story:

  • Characters – give your audience somebody to relate to so that they can empathise
  • Plot – this is the build up to the conflict which leads the audience to want to know what’s next
  • Conflict – something has to go wrong e.g. the Leinster team above were going through a lull
  • Resolution – show your customer how it was solved and the takeaway (your product)

Tips and Timesavers.

Have a look at how you are structuring your current brand story. How is your tone and are your visuals appropriate? Look at testimonials or case studies that you can use. Always have a look at whether you are creating a great story or just telling people what you offer.

Facts (product features) are useful but let’s face it they are not as powerful as stories. Anyway, stories are how we experience life. We read books and blogs, watch TV and listen to the radio. We watch sports and share stories with friends at parties – so why wouldn’t we be open to more storytelling?

The beauty about the current, connected environment is that brands have many more tools at their disposal for extending stories and for people to share them. As alluded to above, there are more opportunities to be authentic with your brand and thereby immerse people into the essence of your brand.

Here are 10 elements to consider when i) creating a story and ii) when outlining your story

           Creating a Story

  1. Enhance the appeal of the story by explaining where your brand comes from
  2. Discover what attributes your brand can credibly claim that are appealing to your audience
  3. Associate meaning to a weakness that might turn it into a strength
  4. Create a sense of exclusivity or scarcity
  5. Demonstrate the value to users
  6. Use influential users of your service/product to add credibility

    Outlining a story

  7. Be authentic and tell your story with emotion
  8. Relate your story to your customers and highlight the benefits of your product/service
  9. Take your customers on a journey through the matching of your values and theirs
  10. Humanise your story and don’t be afraid to use humour


The myth that some brands are clinging onto is that people want to hear about their brand. They don’t! They want to be drawn into an experience that’s relevant to them – not you.

This makes sense really as any story should aim to please the person to whom it’s told. Self-promotional stories told by brands are unlikely to strike a chord with the intended audience and just end up annoying them.

Here is a really comprehensive storytelling guide infographic I found on hubspot.com. We hope you have a wonderful Festive Season.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Sponsorship Engagement won’t be effective if left to chance.

questioning sponsorship engagement

Sponsorship tips for all parties – even the guerillas.

In today’s high-speed world, is your sponsorship activity engaging enough to cut through the noise? Like all elements of a successful marketing campaign, sponsorship engagement needs to be authentic. When people are aware of your involvement – authenticity ensures a better chance that they will believe in you. And they might even care that you are a sponsor.

Honesty, passion and uniqueness may well be marketing ‘buzzwords’ nowadays but even so, they must form the basis of your sponsorship engagement. As a consequence, if they are not elements of your sponsorship portfolio, people will not change their attitude or ultimately, their behaviour. This defeats the marketing purpose in the first place.

A big step towards making sponsorship engagement genuine is if it is made accessible and inclusive. – O’C&K

In my day, a question I always asked the AIB Bank sponsorship team, when we were evaluating a particular involvement was, “if we weren’t involved, would it make any difference”? Our advice now? – do the research and if your target audience doesn’t mind if you sponsor something or not – pull out. By the way, I’ve long been a supporter of the word ‘partnership’ rather than ‘sponsorship’ – but that argument is probably for another day.

Aidan and myself were talking at a student forum earlier today (BICS Forum), discussing the difference between sponsorship and fundraising. The main points we made about sponsorship is that a) it is a joint marketing activity and b) it is a partnership (see slide below), where the partner, the rights holder and the audience become completely interdependent over a sustained period of time.

engaging sponsorship model

Our mantra, in this regard, is that it is always more than ‘just about the money’.- O’C&K

Unfortunately, to this day, sponsors use events just to raise their profile and are disappointed when research shows apathy towards their brand, amongst the targeted public. Brands must demonstrate the ‘why’ of their involvement and ‘how’ it is relevant to people. Otherwise, it is an engagement opportunity lost and at worst, a waste of time and money.

Logo exposure is NOT sponsorship.

As already alluded to, in its simplest form – sponsorship has two objectives: changing people’s attitude (or perception) and thereafter, people’s behaviour. Smart sponsors know that placing a logo on a shirt or pitch-side hoarding does not contribute to either of these objectives.

The word ‘leverage’ is used to describe what a brand does to make a sponsorship work towards achieving its business objectives. Good leveraging focuses on aligning and connecting the brand with the target market and most of all – it adds value to people’s experience. It is easier for brands not to leverage their sponsorships because it costs less and it appears very measurable (eyeballs, opportunities-to-see etc.), and that’s where the ‘numbers’ people win (and the brand loses).

When a sponsorship is creative (online and offline) and strategic (based on business objectives) it becomes the most flexible, and in our opinion, unparalleled marketing medium there is.

Here is a list of questions that a sponsor should ask before deciding to engage:

  • Is the target market relevant to my business objectives and will we have we direct access?
  • Could we get similar exposure without this partnership or what unique exposure will we get?
  • Is there a natural ‘fit’ for us and will the audience care, if we sponsor it or not?
  • Are competitors involved and if not – why wouldn’t we do it?

The sponsorship game is changing.

As we meet with more and more clients, who are planning events, we are stressing that they must create a seamless, multi-channel experience around their event, that is measurable.

Event owners are struggling a little bit with the advent of technology. The rights-holders (and their agencies) are required to develop integrated communication campaigns that facilitate ‘sharing’ online. Fans / supporters / viewers are demanding more ‘ownership’ through interactivity of their team.

Rights owners must facilitate this change and relinquish the old model of considering the fan base to be a ‘wallet’. They must treat them more as brand partners (e.g. Leinster Rugby). For sponsors, this is a very welcome development. Now they can integrate their own involvement within the narrative and, as mentioned above, drive interdependency and eventual brand affinity.

In fact, the involvement is even more measurable as website visits, Instagram uploads or app usage for instance, can be measured in detail. The provision of content has also become a welcome ‘value exchange’ element of a partnership.

How about guerilla marketing and sponsorship?

Guerilla marketing is a form of marketing and not one that should be ignored. The difference is that it uses unconventional advertising methods to differentiate a brand amongst others. Many ‘signed-up’ sponsors see it as a cheap way to cash-in on an event etc. In our eyes, an existing sponsor should be on top of their game anyway and thereby make the ‘pretenders’ look like an add-on.

This type of marketing can be as simple as car stickers or promotional gifts being handed out but, just like all forms of marketing – it needs to be fresh and memorable. Let’s face it, any advertising needs to be seen to be effective. So what guerrilla marketing focuses on is, it been seen in a different way especially by being public and in the right place to surprise and to build hype. The one caveat is that it must not annoy.

It should also be remembered that this form of marketing activity still only serves to raise awareness. A brand needs to follow it up by providing people with an added value experience. This is where the ‘signed-up’ sponsors should be able to win the battle for hearts and minds. Through the sponsorship, they have a captive audience –  if they leverage it correctly.

Tips and Timesavers.

The most important thing about sponsorship is that all parties involved; the brand, the partner and the audience, must gain value from the activity.

Rights holders:

  • Don’t mix up the financial shortfall of the event with the potential value of the sponsorship
  • Customise your sponsorship introduction letter and proposal
  • Look for a long term investment and not ‘go-away’ money
  • At the first meeting – stop selling and listen to what the sponsor is looking for
  • Provide the sponsor with ‘leverage’ ideas, based on your experience of the event
  • Do not assume that you know what the sponsor’s business objectives are
  • Remember – sponsors don’t care about you – they care about your audience


  • All sponsorship decisions should be based on business objectives
  • Ensure that all internal disciplines have access to the sponsorship
  • Agree a budget for leverage (1:1 is good), or you should not get involved
  • Be creative and strategic and measure your leverage activity
  • Agree with the rights owner what success will look like for all parties
  • Ensure that the sponsorship ‘fits’ your overall marketing strategy
  • Check that the timing is dovetailing rather than overlapping other sponsorship activity


From both the rights holder and the sponsor’s point of view, the most important element of any partnership is the audience. It is only when the sponsor and the sponsee collaborate on leveraging, for the benefit of the audience, will the ‘deal’ be sustainable.

People often ask us should in-kind sponsors be treated in the same way as cash sponsors and our answer is always – yes! But whatever type of sponsor you are or have, keep engaging with all parties as inertia will kill any relationship dead.

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here.

Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we can grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K