Tuesday, January 30, 2007

See the signs, get a marketing plan!

If you've found our blog via our web site, chances are you've already heard the good news that the À La Carte Marketing Programme - the European funded programme delivered by AME Marketing - has been extended until June 2007.

If you are serious about making the most of your marketing in 2007, it is imperative that you make the time to put a plan in place. Marketing on an ad hoc basis will never yield the same results as well thought-out, well-planned, regular activities. During the 'Plan Your Course' marketing training programme, we can take you step-by-step through the process of building a marketing plan. And because the five workshops and five days of one-to-one consultancy are spread out over several months, it allows you the chance to put aside the time needed to carry out this important activity.

Essentially, the course aims to empower Ayrshire businesses like yours with valuable marketing skills and knowledge. It teaches those who are really serious about growing their business how to plan ahead, adapt to market changes and as a result compete more effectively and profitably in the marketplace.

With this in mind, AME Marketing has launched its latest campaign to promote the programme. With the strapline, "All the signs tell us you need a marketing plan!", the campaign aims to direct businesses towards valuable support that will help them grow, compete and become more profitable.

There are three images in the campaign - "Plan Your Course", "No Direction" and "Rock and a Hard Place", so look out for them! We've given you a sneek peek at the artwork for the campaign here, as it will appear on our website, so we'd love to hear your feedback.

In the meantime, if you want more information on the 'Plan Your Course' Marketing Training programme, give us a call on 01292 678920 or click

'Plan Your Course'

'No Direction'

'Rock and a Hard Place'

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Brand takeover

Diesel’s website was ‘taken over’ a few of days ago by two women called Heidi who have kidnapped a young man and are holding him hostage until their demands are met. They are looking for “15 megabytes of fame” as well as a host of other demands, including changing the brand logo to 'Heidies'. Of course, all of this is being done with both parties wearing Diesel’s new range of underwear. Staged?

So far, the girls have made videos of their demands to Diesel, as well as videos subjecting their hostage to whatever their audience has voted on. Activities so far have included waxing Jaun (the hostage’s) legs, giving him a bath in jelly and sending him to work as their maid. User-generated content at its best/worst? What do you think?

The response on the website and on YouTube, where the videos have also been posted, seems to be mixed. Some like the direction the brand is taking while others hate the whole concept. Some just want to see the girls or guy take their clothes off.

Time will tell how well the campaign has worked for Diesel or whether it might damage the brand, at least in some of their customers eyes. I’m undecided. On the one hand I think it is quite clever and brave for the company to try something a bit different to promote their underwear. Famous mostly for their jeans, this campaign is highlighting another product that the company offers. It helps of course that the hijackers are all good looking with great physiques. Two unappealing girls and a not-so hunky male would not exactly draw the same amount of traffic.

However, using YouTube as a vehicle is no longer groundbreaking, at least not for a company of Diesel’s size. Many of the YouTube faithful do not like the fact that marketing is muscling in on the social site either. But without the videos’ presence here the whole campaign would have likely gone unnoticed.

I wonder also how long Diesel is planning to run the campaign for? Too short and they are unlikely to gain the attention that they are seeking, but too long and people will start to get bored. And, for some the campaign might go too far down the road towards porn, but for many it probably does not go far enough. But sex sells, right?

To decide for yourself, visit
http://www.diesel.com/lockin/ You may love it, you may hate it. Does it really matter though? The big question is, will it make you go and buy their pants?

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Want to do a bit of marketing for free? (Well, almost)

Some marketing activities can prove to be extremely costly and as a result, many companies are put off from conducting marketing, believing that they cannot afford to. There are however many activities that can be conducted for little or no money. All they cost is your time.

A Press Release is one such activity. This type of communication is less sales specific than other promotional methods as the focus is on a subject of public or business interest. Unlike traditional promotional methods, press releases are seen to come from an impartial source and therefore appear more credible.

Articles will usually be published at no cost, however stories must be of genuine interest to readers and be in no way obvious sales pieces. And, the likelihood of stories being published can depend very much on the relationship that exists with the editor of your targeted media.

Nevertheless, the pointers provided below offer some tips on how to go about writing and structuring articles to improve their chances of being featured:

  • Before you even start writing, research suitable press. This will give you an idea of the style of writing which would be suitable for the publication and whether the media is targeting those you wish to reach
  • While you are researching, also find the contact details of the appropriate editor. This might be found within the publication itself or from web sites and directories. Always mark your release for his or her attention
  • Start writing. Be creative, inventive, and most importantly - honest. And, remember that your story must be newsworthy and of genuine human, local or trade interest
  • Keep your article short and sweet. One side of A4 or around 200-300 words is about right
    Think of a short, catchy headline to get your news story noticed by the editor

  • Tell your story in the first paragraph. Make it short and then elaborate through the rest of the article
  • Include personal quotes, add your contact details (you might want to give your home number in addition as reporters often work to deadlines outside normal office hours) and include some eye-catching photographs to accompany the story
  • Finally, remember to give details of when you want the story to go public

Your story may not get printed the first time, but don’t get too downhearted. Ask for advice as to where your release fell short and how you can improve in the future. Keep trying.

The more frequently you are in contact with publications, the better a relationship you’ll build and the better the chance of your story being published. So, get writing!


Friday, January 19, 2007

Those crazy tourists...

Since it’s a dull Friday afternoon in January, I thought I’d put up a post to give everyone a little chuckle. I found a number of articles from earlier this month about the silly questions the staff at VisitScotland have been asked by foreign tourists. I thought I would share some to brighten up your afternoon:

"What time of night does the Loch Ness monster surface and who feeds it?" A plausible enough question I suppose for someone who didn’t know much about the legend. And, let’s face it; Scotland has made a great deal of money for many years out of this fabled character. Now, what mythical product could AME Marketing think up….

"Is Edinburgh in Glasgow?" I have to admit that I am slightly surprised by this as I have come across people on my own travels who have never heard of Glasgow, only Edinburgh.

"Which bus do I get from the Orkney Islands to the Shetland Islands?" I would have thought that the clue would have been in the second part of each name.

Pointing to the isle of Iona on a map, one tourist said: "How do I get to one zero NA?" How the staff member kept a straight face at this is beyond me.

One visitor also wanted to know if there were any golf courses in the country. Clearly this visitor had not watched the Open Championship in the last few years or heard about our long, great golfing history.

A few more gems include “Can you tell me where the mountain is in Scotland?"; "Are there any curves in the roads here, or are they all straight?"; “Are there any Sheena Easton museums in Glasgow?" and "What time does the midnight train leave?" This last one I feel slightly bad at laughing at - a young boy visiting Dundee asked to meet Crocodile Dundee, the Australian film character - Aw bless!

Willie Macleod, director of VisitScotland, was quoted as saying: "Our multilingual, expert staff deal with seven million inquisitive tourists a year. Visitors' queries range from the very routine to the absolutely ridiculous and everything in between. But no matter how odd the question, we're always glad to help out." “The absolutely ridiculous” – he’s not wrong.

But, don’t get me wrong; I am not mocking our foreign visitors, they bring in a substantial amount of money to our economy. Besides, I can quite imagine that us Scots abroad ask as many idiotic questions when abroad. And, I could bet that there are as many Scots who wouldn’t be able to find many of our towns and cities on a map. Embarrassingly, I am one of them. So, I’m off tonight to dig out my atlas and start swotting up and next time I’m travelling abroad I’ll make sure I’ve swotted up on the area before I go, otherwise one of my queries might wind up in a tourist site or blog in Timbuktu or the like.

(P.S. Timbuktu is in the West African nation of Mali, and is located on the southern edge of the Sahara, north of the Niger River – just in case you are looking for some basic information before you go!)


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just Try It Out #5: Questionnaire Design

A couple of weeks ago we talked about beginning your marketing this year with a spot of market research. We then brought you a Just Try It Out focusing on Focus groups.

A comprehensive research study also often involves using questionnaires; therefore in this issue of Just try it out we provide you with a few dos and don’ts of questionnaire design to get you started.


  • Make sure your questions provide information that relate to your objectives and is useful to know, not just ‘nice to know’
  • Ensure the first question filters out inappropriate respondents. For example, if you want to know about the views of smokers, ‘Do you smoke?’ would be an appropriate first question
  • Make sure that your questions follow a logical order
  • Put the easy questions first
  • Have more interesting questions towards the end to maintain interest
  • Keep language used simple, especially if the questionnaire is self-completion
  • Be precise
  • Phrase personal or sensitive questions carefully and leave them towards the end
  • Test out the questionnaire and refine it before unleashing it on the masses


  • Make assumptions
  • Ask questions respondents can’t answer
  • Ask questions that overtax the respondent’s memory
  • Ask questions that might make the respondent look stupid or involve a loss of status. For example, don’t ask specifically how much respondents earn. If you need to ask a sensitive question such as this, group answers together in bands
  • Ask leading questions. If you sway their response, your results won’t be an accurate reflection of opinion
  • Ask two questions at once, e.g. “Would you buy this if it was cheaper and better?”
  • Refer to answers other respondents gave

Ultimately, good design comes with experience. Having expert advice and guidance is a good idea, however, it is worth trying to master questionnaire design yourself.

Monitor your results each time you complete a questionnaire and keep trying - practice makes perfect!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Just what we need in Scotland

A new product caught my eye this week while I was reading the Marketing blog – The Sun Shower from Sentavi. We’re all familiar with the ordinary shower, but this one lets you tan while you shower. Just what we need living in a country like Scotland I think!

Apparently, “With this product, Sentavi brings all the goodness of the sun into your bathroom. This exclusive system allows you to tan while taking a shower. Your bath time ritual becomes a delightful experience of water and light, giving you the feeling of freshness and warmth. Sunshower brings beauty, relaxation and harmony of body and mind. Looking great with a minimum of effort! The Sunshower offers a sensible way of tanning, so that a healthy tan can become part of your daily beauty routine and it will stimulate the production of vitamin D.”

I do wonder however how even your tan will be when you are lathering soap over yourself, and indeed, what products would be safe to use in this shower. Will you need to wear those black goggles every time you go in the shower? How much electricity will this thing use? Is it actually safe to tan every day?

It seems that almost every new product that comes out nowadays is trying to combine more than one function. Your mobile phone is expected to do more than just make and receive calls, it has to take pictures, play music, and even let you watch the TV. Your games console doesn’t just play games; it also plays CDs and DVDs. So now, someone somewhere has decided that those of us who want a healthy glow shouldn’t have to slather on fake tan after a shower or take time to go to the sunbeds. God forbid we have to conduct one activity at a time. There just simply isn’t time in all our manic lives.

I’m unsure if this is one such time saving device that will take off. But, time will tell. Given that our fair country is normally devoid of sunshine for around 11 and ½ months of the year, this could be the answer that all us pasty-faced Scots are looking for. Yet, given the amount of rain in this country and the threat of global warming, perhaps we won’t have to buy such a product, the earth will provide it in a matter of years.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Just Try It Out #4: Focus Groups

Following on from our discussion on Tuesday about market research, this Just Try It Out will look at how to actually conduct one method of qualitative research, focus groups.

Focus groups are basically in-depth interviews with a group of between six and ten respondents. When descriptive and detailed information about opinions is needed, focus groups can be extremely useful. The only downside is that this activity can be difficult to manage. As with everything however, you’ll find it easier with practice and our tips below should also help you along the way.

Plan and prepare
As with any marketing activity, you should firstly think about what you want to achieve and formulate a set of objectives. This will then allow you to write a topic guide for the activity. This will form the structure of the focus group, so take time to get the guide right and do it well in advance. Next, set a time and place for the focus group that is conducive and comfortable. The activity should last for approximately sixty to ninety minutes, so ensure that you can progress through all of the proposed agenda in this time. Make sure that you have access to recording equipment; you cannot take notes and moderate effectively at the same time. And, test the equipment beforehand.

Recruit and Confirm
Postal, telephone and face-to-face invitation methods would all be advised when recruiting participants for the group. An incentive of some sort, perhaps financial, may also encourage participants to take part. A word of warning however, be choosy when recruiting. Remember that the group’s characteristics should represent those of your target market. Yet it is a good idea to keep a few potentials at hand in case of last minute cancellations. Confirming attendance a few days beforehand should avoid any problems.

Facilitate and Participate
Before the activity commences, introduce yourself and your role as moderator. Once you have begun, it is your job to make sure that you progress through your topic guide and stick to the issues at hand. You will also have the responsibility of ensuring that all members of the group have an equal opportunity to contribute and express their opinion. Therefore, be prepared to interrupt those who are hogging the floor and encourage the quieter members of the group to state their viewpoints.

Review and Conclude
As you go along, review what the group has discussed to make sure there have been no misunderstandings. Simply repeat what has been said at the end of each issue and ask for clarification if needed. Alternatively, you may wish to wait until the end to summarise in order to ensure the smooth flow of discussion from one issue to the next. After this, all that’s left to do is conclude the meeting with a thank you to everyone who took part.

Analyse the data
Now it’s back to the office to transcribe the session. Once this has been done, the most important issues raised in the group can be picked out and perhaps used to inform further primary research.

So, why not try it out. You can gain a lot of valuable information and you never know, you might even have some fun in the process!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Research, Research, Research

New Year, New Marketing? How is it all going so far?

If you are still unsure what activities to carry out this year or indeed who your customers are / what they want, then market research is the most useful activity you could carry out this year. If you don’t know what your target market’s needs and wants are, how can you market to them? Research should be the foundation of whatever you do in marketing terms. In fact, it is one of the most important aspects of marketing.

Below you will find a simple, step-by-step guide to conducting a basic research project. Try giving it a go.

1. Identify your objectives
What do you want to know about the market and why?

2. Source secondary data
You may be able to find all the information that you need through existing sources or studies, yet it is unlikely what you find will be specific enough. The data may also be dated or biased. Secondary data will however, form the basis for any primary research that you do and is an essential step.

3. Identify an appropriate sample
Think about who to talk to in order to get a representative sample of the target market. Aim to contact a cross section of your target market as well as opinion leaders and specialists.

4. Focus groups
Focus groups provide in-depth, qualitative information. You may decide that you want to carry out this activity to highlight the issues in the market and to help in designing a questionnaire. Look out over the coming weeks for a look at this topic in more depth.

5. Designing questionnaires
Topics in the questionnaire should all relate to the objectives of your research. Avoid asking ‘nice to know’ questions and keep the questionnaire short. Otherwise those completing the questionnaire might give up half way through or not complete the survey at all. We will also look at questionnaires more closely over the next few weeks should you wish to carry out one of your own.

6. Conducting the research
Make sure that it is as easy as possible for respondents to participate, and free. You may want to offer some kind of incentive to participants to encourage their involvement. Choose an optimal location, time and manner of approach. And, if appropriate, ensure confidentiality of their response.

7. Collate and analyse the information gathered
The analysis should be focused on the information needs set out by the objectives at the start of the research. Make sure that the findings are firmly based on the facts and are completely impartial.

8. Prepare the report
Your research report should follow the same basic outline every time – Objectives, Methodology, Limitations, Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations.

You wouldn’t think of making an important investment or purchase in your personal life without doing some research first. Why should it be any different when it comes to making an investment in the marketing of your business?

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Friday, January 05, 2007

What does 2007 have in store for AME Marketing?

I have shamelessly taken this idea from the Weiden & Kennedy London’s ‘Welcome to Optimism’ blog. When doing my usual trawl of other marketing blogs on the net I came across their most recent post, which was a look at the company’s horoscope for 2007, predicted by a dedicated horoscope magazine. Sounded like fun, so I thought I’d give it a go for AME Marketing.

I didn’t fancy going out and purchasing a horoscope magazine however, so instead looked to the Internet and the wisdom of Russell Grant on MSN. Since the helm of AME Marketing was officially taken over by Lynn and Graham on 1st August of last year, I decided to use this ‘rebirth’ as our birth date, which would make AME Marketing a Leo. So, what did our prediction say?

Life in 2007: The first eight months of 2007 continue to be a challenge for you. At times, it will feel as though the weight of the world is on your shoulders…” – Eek! However, “Getting regular exercise will help you handle the stress; it’s a good idea to enrol in a yoga class.“ So that will be all of us off to the gym this year then. Good news though - “If you work hard, you’ll reap significant rewards after September 2nd. At that juncture, you’ll have to reconfigure your budget” – That’s more like it.

What about “Love in 2007”? “You won’t lack for admirers this year; in fact, you’ll probably have to choose between several attractive candidates.” Does that mean that we will have lots of lovely clients fighting for us to work for them?

Loot in 2007. Well, a fortune cookie told us last year that our ‘business would assume vast proportions’, but what of this year? “Your financial prospects will be a bit varied this year. A source of income could come to an abrupt halt on March 3rd…” – Oh no. But, “Fortunately, a Solar Eclipse on March 19th could bring you an insurance payment, inheritance, grant, or legal settlement” – a bit better. And then, “…on September 11th… an exciting new job could fall in your lap. There’s a good chance that this work is related to health food, bookkeeping, journalism, or holistic medicine.” So, looks like September is shaping up to be a good month, if Russell is to be believed.

And finally, “Luck in 2007: Your creativity soars this year. There’s never been a better time to submit manuscripts to agents, publishers, and editors.” Excellent, although that’s perhaps not who we’d be submitting work to, but hey, lets not dwell on the small points. “It’s also possible that you’ll have great success with auditions.” We’d better get those tenders lined up then. “A fun-filled vacation could also be in the cards for you.” And that answers the question of whether we’ll have a good Away Day this year.

All in all then, looks like it’s going to be a good year… if the horoscopes are remotely accurate. Maybe at the end of December we can come back and review how our year went. Do you think our predictions will come true?

(Should W&K happen to stumble upon our blog, apologies for blatantly stealing your idea. And, should any of our readers wish to read Weiden & Kennedy’s predictions, or any of their blog posts, you’ll find them at http://wklondon.typepad.com/)


Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year, New Marketing

A Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you all had a very pleasant and restful holiday period and are raring to start your marketing for 2007.

One effective activity you might want to consider this year is sending out a newsletter to customers and prospects. Newsletters provide a flexible way of improving and maintaining your identity in customers and prospects eyes. They give regular contact with customers and build on your credibility as an expert in your field, thus enhancing your reputation. If done well, customers will not only rescue it from heading straight to the bin, they may also keep it indefinitely.

You might be slightly confused however about how to begin the task of compiling this piece of communication. Below you will find a simple step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1: Think what message you want to send out
Think about what the objectives of your newsletter are and who will be reading it. This is the first step in thinking about what the newsletter will look like, what it’s style will be and it’s content. You may even decide at this point that you do not need a newsletter at all.

Step 2: Size isn’t important
You don’t need to have page upon page. Even just a letter on one page could do the job. Appropriateness is the most important factor, not gloss or weight.

Step 3: Create the content
Make sure that your newsletter is valuable to those who are receiving it. Include content that your readers will keep for reference or show to others. You might want to highlight any changes in your market or discuss the current issues. Also, ensure that your graphics and images are of as high a quality as possible. Involve your graphic designer from an early stage.

Step 4: The proof is in the reading
Always use a spelling and grammar checker (set to the audience’s specific language) when composing your text. Accuracy is critical. Proof read carefully at every stage; read slowly, avoid distractions and try reading sentences backwards too as it helps you concentrate on the words rather than the overall context.

Step 5: Maintain good circulation
Ensure that your readers receive their newsletters in good condition. This might mean dispensing them from a display unit, using a third party for large mailings, having your own customised envelopes or using a specialist e-mail tool should your newsletter be electronic. If you only have a very small circulation you may even want to deliver the newsletters by hand.

Step 6: Perfect Timing
Plan time to produce each edition on a regular basis. How often you wish to produce your newsletter is up to you. You might want a short newsletter each week, or perhaps only quarterly or even annually. Think what would be appropriate for your readers.

Step 7: Speak and tweak
Regularly review your content and the readability of the newsletter. By contacting a cross-section of recipients you will be able to gauge opinion and can use any criticism to tweak subsequent issues where needed.

So, try giving your marketing a boost this year and try something new. Over the coming weeks we will give you tips on a variety of marketing activities you may want to give a bash in 2007 – and, most of them are inexpensive. So… what’s stopping you?