Categories for Blog

  • Brand new start required?

    When Sir Alex Ferguson resigned, did an important part of the Man United brand go with him?

    You know the United brand. Even if you have only a passing interest in football (no pun intended), you know the United brand. It’s Munich, it’s heritage, it’s success, it’s togetherness, it’s Best, it’s Cantona, it’s bravura Red Devils, it’s Glaswegian mettle.

    Manchester United is one of the most successful brands in the sporting world, with a reach and level of customer engagement that many a multinational would give an arm and a leg – maybe a whole centre forward – for.

    Yet the club crest hasn’t changed fundamentally since 1970, and the essential club colours of red shirts, white shorts, black socks, were established in 1902.

    People get hung up on the visual dimensions of brand. Dare we change the logo? Have we got the colours right? Is the typeface too funky? But the visual expression of a brand is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more important factors influencing the customer perception of an organisation or business brand.

    Customer experience counts for a lot more. Credibility and authenticity come from delivering what you promise.

    There has been a lot of comment on the new logo adopted by ITV – you’ve seen it with varying degrees of intrusiveness sitting in the corner of your TV screen. It met with ridicule in some quarters when it was unveiled, praise and acclaim in others.

    It was part of a move to show coherence across the ITV channels. ITV Group Director of Marketing and Research Rufus Radcliffe, who led the in-house rebrand, commented on the launch:

    The rebranding of ITV will allow us to further cement the relationship in viewers’ minds between our shows and the ITV brand that produces and broadcasts them.

    We now have a consistent identity across everything that we do, all rooted in our positioning as a media brand that is at the heart of popular culture. 

    The brand roll out is actually part of a five-year transition plan for ITV. Fundamental to that is an emphasis on better programming. Good programming might be a subjective call, but the buzz on social media and in print, radio and TV, is that the like of Downton, Broadchurch and recent comedy and light entertainment shows, signal a return from the mediocre for the broadcaster.

    That all-important ‘delivery’ again.

    In the end, what you do is more important than the visual identity. When Coca Cola changed the recipe for Coke it was a brand disaster. When the FedEx guy was seen on YouTube ‘delivering’ a TV by chucking it over a fence, it was a brand disaster.

    So the truth is, the major risk to the Manchester United brand is that they stop winning. That’s what the customers want. That’s what the team delivered for 25 years or so. The major risk to the ITV brand is that they don’t continue to raise their game and live up to their promises.

    The brand is a lot more than the logo. It’s why you’re in business, what business you are in, how you treat your customers, how you treat your employees, how you pay your taxes, how you invest, the quality of what you deliver, the value you add for the customer.

    Getting your brand right means knowing your audience and understanding their needs, not just changing the logo. That’s why infamous stories about how a new logo for a major multinational ‘cost £1m’, misrepresents what a rebrand entails. That logo is just the visible manifestation of a process that may have cost £1m, but which would have had them look at the core values and business practice of the organisation.  Your brand, hand-in-hand with that understanding will help you make business decisions. Is Messi the right player for us? Is a surreal, edgy comedy right for prime time Sunday viewing?

    A good brand will even help you through the squeaky bum times.

    Oh, and it doesn’t have to cost £1m!

  • What gamification means for your audience

    Increasing audience engagement is a perennial challenge for societies and publishers. An invested audience is more likely to cite a work or renew their membership dues, but with people’s time fragmented by a seemingly endless number of information sources, it can be harder to capture their attention with your content or increase their involvement in society activities.

    Gamification, the process of using game design theory and tools to engage your audience and address everyday problems, is an approach that’s ideally suited to building audience investment. A generation of new customers and staff have grown up hand-in-hand with electronic entertainment that speaks directly to what motivates us, providing feedback on progress and challenging them to reach that next milestone. And from social to mobile, the way we interact with the web makes introducing those familiar elements into business and consumer contexts ever more relevant.

    Gamification has been applied in a wide variety of scenarios, from health and fitness community Fitocracy, to productivity applications such from Salesforce. Consumer brands like Nike have embraced gamification with the Nike+ initiative, and it’s even being used to motivate self-directed learning through the Kahn Academy. The success of gamification methods such as these has led analysts to predict that 70% of the world’s top businesses will be managing at least one gamified platform by 2014.

    Getting gamification right requires a deep understanding of why and how your audience is engaging with a system, process or community. It’s not as simple as simply bolting on a points leaderboard or a badge system – for gamification to work in the longer term, it needs to be designed to complement the underlying task or system, hence incentive models such as LinkedIn which drive you towards an ever-more complete profile, or the coding Q&A community Stack Overflow, which awards engaged users with both special profile badges and access to additional features on the website.

    Gamification is an exciting area that fascinates us here at TBI. We’ll be talking through some of our experiences of how it can benefit learned societies and scholarly publishers in a forthcoming TBI Masterclass – you can register here.

  • Ten things we’ve learnt in ten years of iTunes

    Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the launch of iTunes, and an interesting article in The Times last week (by Ed Potton; paywalled, sorry) had three music industry insiders commenting on what it has taught us. Yes, the analogy between the music industry and the publishing industry is over-used and under-relevant. But there are still some nicely articulated points in this article that are worth pondering; let’s start with this paragraph:

    4/ The album is dead … long live the album:
    It’s also commonly said that iTunes celebrates songs at the expense of albums, allowing us to buy individual tracks without purchasing their parent LP. The UK iTunes store recently sold its billionth single but last year album sales fell by 11.2 per cent in the UK. [Stephen] Bass [co-founder of the Moshi Moshi record label]  thinks that we sometimes over-eulogise the album, a format that “was born by the accident of a record being able to hold approximately 45 minutes of music”. But, he adds: “The idea of a world in which you can only have singles is quite scary.” [Tim] Dellow [director of Transgressive Records] agrees: “There is still an affection for what the album can represent. The challenge is to develop records that are that cliché: all killer no filler, so people are compelled to buy the whole thing.”

    If “singles” and “albums” are exchanged for “articles” and “journal issues”, this provides an interest avenue of thought on the emerging article economy:

    • do we “over-eulogise” the journal / issue as wrappers of articles?
    • do we find the article economy a bit “scary”?
    • is there still an “affection” for what the journal / issue represents?
    • will the article economy (and, alongside it, the move to author-pays OA) start to filter out some lower-value content such that we move towards “all killer and no filler”?

    Meanwhile, the music industry is under-utilising the capabilities of mobile (“‘The functionality and power in a person’s smartphone is just being ignored by iTunes,’ Bass says. We should be able to unfurl an array of extra goodies on our mobile screens, he says, liner notes, photos, links to merchandise and gigs.”) We in publishing also have yet to deliver a truly mobile-first experience for our users, and while I don’t necessarily advocate for “goodies” per se, I do think we need to understand at a much more detailed level not only the mobile behaviours, but also the broader workflows and information needs of our users, in order to better integrate our content and thereby make it more valuable. (Yes, I have banged this drum before.)

    The final point that I think has real resonance for us in publishing is the need to avoid walled gardens. Anthony Mullen, Senior analyst at Forrester, comments in the article on Apple’s “Ping”, an attempt to integrate social networking and iTunes which closed after two years because it was a walled garden (“a lack of integration with music labels and other social networks and … confined to purchased music”). Whether in terms of our efforts at social media integration, or our engagement with other technologies that support research workflows, publishing too is learning that the publisher- or journal-specific walled garden approach just doesn’t work. Successful examples are the exception rather than the rule, because walled gardens don’t reflect or support typical user discovery and usage behaviours. Recognising this means developing and pursuing brand, product, technology and partnership strategies that centre on users rather than publishers or journals – strengthening our propositions such that we can cede a little bit of control in order to reap the benefits of wider visibility, usage and citations.


  • UKSG top takeaways: “open or broken”, intelligent textbooks, research stories

    Several years ago, I started the UKSG blog to report on the organization’s annual conference, which provides a forum for publishers and librarians to network and share strategic and practical ideas. Between 2006 and 2012, I enthused on the blog about topics including metrics, publishing evolution, innovation, research assessment, user behaviour and workflows. All those topics still fascinate me today (expect more on all of these from my Touchpaper postings) – and they were all covered again at UKSG this year. But this year – shock, horror! – I wasn’t blogging about them; my role for UKSG has changed, and others are carrying the blog torch now. 

    This frees me up to take a more reflective look at what I have learned at UKSG, rather than trying to capture it all in realtime for those who can’t attend. So – here on “my” new blog, TBI’s Touchpaper – is my snapshot of another great conference:

    1. Let go of “publish or perish”. Accept “open or broken”. 

    UK academics’ submissions to REF 2020 (the process by which government evaluates academic institutions) *must* be OA at the point of publication. That is surely the game-changer that will mean, from this point on, academics will be trying to submit their best work to a publication that supports immediate OA. We may not yet have completely worked out the kinks, but events have overtaken us; it’s time to satisfice – adopting an imperfect model, refining it as we go. The lack of additional government funding for article processing charges (APCs) means that this particular mandate will have to be met as much by “green” self-archiving OA as by “gold” version-of-record OA. Both publishers and higher education institutions need to be sure that they have a clear strategy for both. (More from Phil Sykes’ opening plenary)

    2. Information resources should be SO much more intelligent.

    We were all blown away by student Josh Harding‘s vision of textbooks that “study me as I study them” – using learning analytics to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, comparing this to other students, adapting content as a consequence, reminding the student to study (“telling me I’m about to forget something because I haven’t looked back at it since I learned it”) and generally responding to the fact that we learn not just by reading, but also by hearing, speaking, and (inter)acting with information. (The highlight of the conference – Josh’s talk is must-see inspiration for all publishers’ product development and innovation.)

    3. Authors need help to tell better stories about their research.

    With increased pressure to justify funding, and the need to communicate more effectively with business and the general public, researchers need to be able to highlight what’s interesting about, and demonstrate the impact of, their work. Journal articles are but one node in a disaggregated network that together makes up a picture of their research. That network needs to be more cohesively visible. At the moment, the journal article is the hub but it doesn’t do a great job of opening up the rest of the network. I think publishers’ futures will be shaped by the extent to which they help academics surface / tell that whole story. (More from Paul Groth and Mike Taylor‘s breakout on altmetrics).

  • Why don’t publishers prioritize digital influence?

    Why don’t publishers prioritize digital influence?

    In TBI’s recent Heatmaps survey, we were a little surprised to find that advocacy and digital influence campaigns were scored as a relatively low priority by publishers for 2013. It’s a very hot topic in consumer marketing circles, so why do we not seem to be giving it much attention in academic publishing?

    Here’s why we think advocacy and digital influence should be on your priority list:

    • Because people value personal recommendations more than they do organizational ones
    • The emergence of social media and altmetrics makes it easier to identify influential members of our communities and give them advocating tools
    • Digital has the power to dramatically amplify influence, so engaging with influential members of the communities that we serve is becoming a critically important part of marketing strategy

    It’s about achieving the perfect mix of the right influencers, with the right conversation in the right place at the right time – see Melinda’s article for more advice on how to put together a digital engagement plan. TBI is also running a webinar about digital influence and advocacy marketing.