UCD Smurfit Seminar Series – Hubert Grealish
by Eamonn O Raghallaigh
Hubert Grealish, a skilled international media and communication specialist and former global head of brand communications with Diageo in their spirits business delivered a lecture on the evolution of the ‘like’ economy. With experience managing a Facebook campaign for Smirnoff, which was seen as pioneering in this emerging field, Hubert discussed how businesses are becoming dangerously short sighted in their Facebook marketing campaigns; being obsessed with getting ‘likes’ as opposed to engaging with users. It’s a temporary phase in his opinion.
Hubert discussed how brands have been forced to change the way they think because of the effects of digital – not just online, but offline also. Digital has put the power into the hands of the consumer; the message is no longer owned nor controlled by the brand. He discussed the dichotomy of artful marketing versus search and metrics based figures and how we can we blend these to make them purposeful for companies. Hubert went on to discuss that in the early days people were keen to be creative. We are in a very human world; “it’s all about connecting people, connecting ideas – the social landscape is really exciting”. No one can control the internet; the social media cat is out of the bag and it’s never going to go back in.
Hubert went on to discuss the fact that gathering ‘likes’ is not sufficient – there is a need to build advocacy and to engage product champions. Consumers become brand ambassadors; they believe in the product and recommend and champion it to their peers and associates as well as through their social channels (both online and offline). They become a de facto field sales force. Hubert also discussed the concept of putting the ‘ing’ back into marketing; the concept of action and ‘doing’ as a new marketing paradigm. He described how practitioners need to keep up with the short attention spans of consumers.
Hubert explained that to be successful companies need to listen to customers on social channels as it has become a very important tool for research. They should capitalise on the potential market intelligence this brings and develop their marketing strategies around it. He discussed the concept of broadcast reversal – instead of the company owning the top down message – the process is now in the hands of the consumer. The role of advocacy has taken the power out of the hands of the publishers; human beings like to trust what’s going on in a friend’s life as opposed to a big faceless corporation.
He went on to give an account of the ‘halo effect’; this is where a company has a clear and distinct message for their primary product or service, as opposed to multiple messages for each of their products. The company’s message and values also need to be authentic and genuine as consumers are not easily fooled in today’s world of social interaction and connectivity. Consumers will respond negatively and aggressively if they feel a company is attempting to be underhand in their tactics.
Hubert went on to complete the lecture by discussing a practical campaign he managed while he was working with Diageo. This campaign focussed on the Smirnoff Brand and the strategy was to create an association between unforgettable fantastic nights out and Smirnoff; in the same way as Nike is to running and as Apple is to trendy. He discussed the Smirnoff brand and what it’s attributes and values were and how these were applied to the campaign. He then discussed how the campaign engaged followers, built advocacy, integrated brand activation and social and created hype. He discussed the concept of ‘thinking globally but acting locally’ which worked very well for the Smirnoff campaign, which attracted over 10 million ‘likes’ in the end. It positioned Smirnoff as the leading Vodka brand globally and was seen as a groundbreaking social media strategy.
Key Take Away Points
Hubert gave a very interesting lecture primarily on the topic of Facebook marketing and who better than someone with the provenance of the Smirnoff campaign under their belt to do so. It was seen as one of the most successful campaigns in the history of Facebook marketing in its day and attracted a massive number of likes.
Hubert’s thesis that it’s not all about the number of likes holds true in today’s world – in my own experience, companies are obsessed with gaining likes to give the optical illusion that they are popular as opposed to building a niche following of qualified and targeted fans. What is the point in having thousands of followers if over 90% of them were coaxed to like your page through a competition and will ultimately disengage from your updates. Albeit the allure of popularity through optics is appealing, the lack of engagement on such pages will ultimately have a negative effect on brand image.
Communication and engagement is key to managing a Facebook campaign – this personal touch will empower product champions and brand ambassadors and turn them into your unseen sales force. With them engaging with and sharing your content, their social influence within their peer network will drive sales and awareness better than any other advertising media. Keep your message simple and authentic and be consistent and over time you will build a powerful marketing platform. Remember to keep it simple; quality, not quantity.
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