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Engaging with your audience in the digital world

Some of you might remember Kyle Campbell following his guest blog in October 2013: Are You a Digital Superhero?  After being inspired by our latest seminar Driving Actions and Reactions Online, he has taken to hsi blog once more. He's convinced that 'the distinction between digital and marketing is a thing of the past. It’s not about working in silos and delivering your strategy document, it’s about collaboration and reacting to the trends and developments around you.

We thought it was a great read, so wanted to share Kyle's second guest blog here: 

Strategy vs reaction

It’s quite easy to set up a binary with this sort of thing. Strategy is your autonomous document, your script, while reaction is the chaos that distracts from your goal. This is an outdated view. A better way to look at it is that strategy is your general direction, powered by your effective delivery of reactionary tactics. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but the most successful campaigns I’ve seen in recent months have been those that seized an opportunity or just ran with an idea that was on trend. Take Bodyform as an example:


This brilliant example of tactical marketing helped revive the Bodyform brand. The antagonist, Richard, mentioned in the video, posted a message on Facebook “exposing” the myths of women riding on horseback and roller skating during their period. Bodyform’s reaction was swift and intelligent, making a personal response for Richard that was self-aware, entertaining and that gained the brand more exposure than any other of its marketing efforts to date.

Adapting your content for its context

About 10 years ago “digital” meant website. This was before the advent of smartphones and when social media was in its infancy. There wasn’t much need to think about the device content was viewed on – it was either a desktop or a laptop – and your website was at the heart of your customer’s experience. That centralised experience has changed with the proliferation of apps, social networks and community review sites – all of which now feed into your customer’s decision-making process. In order to react to this we have to be constantly evaluating our strategy, ensuring that we remain relevant and are reaching people in the right place and using the correct tone.

At Aston University, we are currently building our second app that is specifically for prospective students on open days.  We’re integrating NFC technology, so that users will automatically receive relevant information when they enter an area of the University. It’s all very clever, seamless and makes for a lovely user experience.

One of the things we had to review for the app was our use of video content. We currently have a 4-minute tour of Aston, which we use as a general recruitment tool. It’s performed well over the years, getting over 27,000 views, but its tone and broad range of topics aren’t suitable for personal communication on a mobile device.

To response to this we have produced smaller, more natural videos of students on campus. We didn’t provide a script and asked students to say what they thought prospectives ought to know about campus:



These videos will be embedded in the app and play when activated by an NFC tag. The user will also be able to navigate to the content independently as part of the Open Day Guide. If you compare the two types of media, the general tour and app videos, you can see that we have striped out corporate messages, kept topics light and gone for a more authentic feel, which is ideal for a mobile context.

Creative transformation

These are the projects you embark on when your existing assets – your CMS, digital tools and media – aren’t making enough of a splash. It’s when the game changes and your competitors are on the move. Projects like these aren’t a quick turnaround, but their final impact more than justifies the means.

It’s Aston’s 50th anniversary in 2016 (yay!) and some of our competitors, including Warwick, are getting ready for their own celebrations as well. The next few years are busy ones for anniversary calendar, so it is important that we stand out from the crowd.

Firstly, we decided to develop an area of our website for the 50th campaign that had a distinct look and feel. It would be different from the rest of our site because it would need to promote content about the history of Aston and the impact our research has had on individuals. For this, we created a magazine style landing page that encourages the user to browse content, share their story and get involved with celebrations. Each panel of the design is interchangeable, so it’s easy to keep fresh with new material.

We also incorporated several digital assets into the design, notably Disqus, Pinterest and TimelineJS to bring the content to life. All of these tools are free and easy to use. In fact, you will find that the key to be a good marketer is knowing how to use Google.

We continue to create lovely things for the anniversary site. Right now we are working on a parallax web design showing the development of campus since the 1940s. I’ll be writing a blog post about the development process shortly, outlining the best way to approach such a project and not drive your development team crazy.

So what does it all mean?

Prioritise clever things that open up conversations, rather than broadcasting scripted messages. Strategy can be the host who moves the conversation in a general direction, but it should be your audience who decide the things they want to talk about and share with their peers.

Write your strategy, but be prepared to bounce around with new trends. There’s a lot to be said about seeing a good idea and taking action for your organisation. Be inspired and remember that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This week, search out some digital innovations and plan what cool things you can do now, soon and within the next few months. The most successful marketing teams “think big, start small and move quickly.”

The full blog and others can be viewed here: Kyle Campbell - Engaging With Your audience in the Digital World.