There's nothing better than the sweet feeling of spring in the air. After a chilly winter and short days, its the perfect time to shake off the dust and get stuck into a spring clean.
But it's not just our homes that we should work on. The beginning of spring is also a great opportunity to get our digital houses in order, too.
Cyber clean - why our digital worlds deserve a declutter too
Although we’ve found innovative ways to collaborate and work remotely over the past 12 months, there’s still plenty of opportunities for things to go awry when you’re not under the same roof.
In fact, our research of 200 UK marketing professionals - now available over at The Drum - unearthed some startling statistics.
Although 91% of marketing decision-makers reckon having up-to-date brand guidelines is important, 43% haven’t reviewed them in the last 12 months.
Understandable really, with so much going on.
But when authenticity and consistency are more important to consumers than ever, it’s worrying that 42% aren’t sure where guidelines are saved and 37% say there are multiple versions in different locations.
Time to get those digital ducks in a row.
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A picture’s worth a thousand penalties - take stock of your images
Last year, Computer Weekly reported a German marathon runner and photographer was seeking up to $4.5m in legal penalties from individuals and companies for illegal use of his images. Marco Verch uses automated image recognition to find people and companies who’ve mistakenly used his snaps when trying to follow licensing terms.
But this is a more common problem for businesses than you’d think.
Our research paper, The Great Suppression: Why Marketing Teams Need More Freedom, revealed that almost a quarter (23%) of marketing professionals accidently used stock images that they didn’t have the rights for; 44% admitted they may have made this mistake in the past.
With terms like rights, royalties and creative commons being thrown around, staying on top of things can feel overwhelming; previously, we took a deep-dive into the world of stock image licensing here to try and cut through the jargon.
But for brands that are trying to juggle hundreds of thousands of images - all with different usages rights and expiration dates - investing in a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system could be the answer. This solution ensures all images are credited and used appropriately – avoiding the risk of a hefty fine. But even just adding ‘educate new starters about image rights’ into your internal processes is a great place to start; 29% of those surveyed who ‘made a mistake’ with stock images were under 35 compared to 18% who were older.
But it’s not just images that are causing confusion.
MarTech mayhem - finding the tools to stack up to your strategy
At the time of writing, there are an estimated 8,000 MarTech products available online.
And when you’re dealing with such a massive selection of products - not to mention every marketer and their dog recommending the next best thing - it’s easy to build up a stack of solutions you just don’t need.
And despite the landscape changing at a breathtaking pace, our research revealed that 86% of marketers review their MarTech stack just once a year.
And with 8000+ solutions vying for your attention, where on earth do you start?
According to Scott Brinker, best-selling author and founder and editor of ChiefMartech.com, it’s about finding a balance with your major platforms and the specialist apps that integrate with them. For example, HubSpot with Dear Lucy.
The advantage for marketers is that “...you pick the major platform that you're going to build your marketing stack around, and you have a relatively finite set of choices there. And then based on that, you can look at the specialised tools that integrate with the platform you chose,” he told us last year.
So, instead of looking at the bigger picture, it’s about finding what’s out there that works with the bigger systems you’re working with. Makes sense.
"...hopefully, this will actually make it easier for marketers to harness all that innovation without having to just look at it as a big scary mess of 8000 companies,” he said.
Another ‘big scary mess’ that can get put off for months on end is the dreaded editorial calendar. Unfortunately, when things get frantic it’s often the first thing to fall by the wayside.
But research suggests that, perhaps, it should be higher on the list. Because when 58% of marketers say brand awareness is the priority this year, it’s worth giving that content calendar a good spring clean after all.
Words are still a powerful medium (but only if they’re your own)
Many of us have found ourselves reading a little extra this year.
And we’re not just talking about Times Bestsellers...
Our research shows that 53% of marketers are consuming more written content for work than the previous year (2020 vs 2019) - including over three whitepapers/eBooks.
But that doesn’t mean creating content for the sake of it. Especially when, as Moz estimates, around 29% of the internet is already duplicate content. Instead, it’s about creating something with enduring value that separates your brand from the pack; editorial that starts a conversation instead of regurgitating it.
However, it’s not just the written word that’s important. Our research shows that podcasts and webinars are becoming widely consumed. Here’s the full split by gender and age:
- Industry podcasts and blogs are preferred by females (F 44% vs M 36%/F 41% vs M 37%).
- Industry mags (print) and whitepapers are preferred by females (M 43% vs F 38/M 34% vs F 24%).
- Over 35s prefer print mags (47% vs 31%) and whitepapers (31% vs 26%) but eBooks and blogs seem to be liked across all ages
Now’s the opportunity to invest a little more time on editorial, planning a content strategy that positions you as a thinker - not a reactor.
If there was ever a time we’ve had to react, throwing the best-laid plans out the window, it’s been the past few months. But even if we can get back to our old ways of working soon, maybe we shouldn’t do a complete 180° on everything.
Back to the future - don’t dismiss what you’ve learned this year
95% of marketers in our research agreed that they would exhibit at virtual events again. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to make sure your company’s fully equipped for this - whatever happens over the coming months. Eventbrite has offered some useful advice on how to make virtual events a bit more special than the average Zoom panel.
Working within limitations has forced marketers to be more creative recently - which surely, in this industry, is no bad thing.
In fact, 58% of our respondents agree that creativity will play a crucial part in campaign planning this year; 37% believe attribution is more important.
But Shara Senderoff, President/Partner at Raised In Space, says that creativity takes a human’s heart - not the mind of a machine.
“As the need for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking rises, most are focused on how to use technology to drive change. But at the end of the day, culture is driven by humans, not computers,” she told Rolling Stone. Our new world will be formed through innovation in empathy and the understanding of the people we work with now more than ever.
Take the collaboration between Creative Director Bill Tspalas and various artists around New York for example. By painting murals on the makeshift outdoor spaces around eateries, they encouraged future customers to stop by and reinspired restauranteurs in the process.
But this idea would never have happened if they weren’t so restricted.
So whatever you clear out this spring, don’t stop collaborating. Because, rain or shine, creativity never goes out of style.