What did it take to shoot a TV ad during South Africa’s lockdown? Over 75 hours of Zoom meetings, 48 Skype casting calls and four remote callbacks, six hours of online cast rehearsals, five virtual location reccies, over 1500 WhatsApp messages, 200 emails, hundreds of phone calls, and a very unusual kind of shoot day.
All this to bring the new A.Vogel Echinaforce TV commercial to screens in time for winter and generate much needed income for over 35 people, mostly freelance professionals whose earnings would be among those hardest hit by the lockdown.
Initially as commercial director Dani Hynes raced home from Dubai ahead of the 27 March lockdown date, she assumed her next production, the Echinaforce TV ad, would be cancelled. Agency A Country for Jane and their client, SA Natural Products, were thinking the same thing.
But as lockdown commenced, a story of determination and ingenuity started up in the lounges, kitchens and even bedrooms of the team tasked with making this advert.
Hynes explains: “We’d been looking forward to making the advert as the product has some great new clinical evidence to share and the creative concept was beautiful and very different to normal cold and flu adverts. When lockdown was announced it initially seemed impossible. But then, Echinaforce is an immune support product, and right now immune health is everyone’s priority, so getting this ad out became something of a personal challenge and mission for all of us.”
With the natural order of work severely disrupted, and Levels 5 and 4 lockdown regulations prohibiting TV shoots, a monumental behind-the-scenes effort to prepare for an uncertain shoot day got underway. What was normally due process, became constant improvisation.
Team members, used to working closely together, had to now consult over Zoom. Production, used to working with reliable suppliers, now found them unavailable. This necessitated a complete rethink around props, costumes and location reccies.
“The script called for a florist shop, where Shaleen Surtie-Richards personifies the Echinaforce brand with her warm and nurturing performance. She’s way more than your average florist, offering nature’s healing support to worried customers who need help,” says Ursula Mcdonald, A Country for Jane MD. “It’s there, as she arranges echinacea bouquets in that enchanting setting, that the benefits of Echinaforce come to life. And that’s where our challenges began. We needed just the right location to create that special shop. Yet we couldn’t even leave our homes to scout for potential locations.”
“The location reccies were unique,” explains Hynes. “We had to request photos and videos from possible locations or have the owners ‘walk us’ around the properties using FaceTime. Not being able to visit the sites, see how the light comes in or get a proper feel for the space was challenging. In the end we were only granted physical access to the location the day before the shoot.”
Hynes continues: “Another challenge was the fact that we needed a lot of Echinacea purpurea flowers. Knowing they wouldn’t be in bloom in autumn, we’d originally planned to create them from silk. Now our silk couldn’t be flown into the country and we were out of time. The only option left was to digitally create them in post-production.”
The wardrobe team and cast had their ‘new normal’ work cut out for them too. Without access to online shopping just sourcing shoes and accessories for the cast was a logistical feat. Actors, normally used to interacting with each other in lively script reads, had to learn the art of auditioning and rehearsing over Skype or Zoom with only the director to interact with.
While permission was finally obtained to shoot towards the end of Level 4, only a limited number of crew, donning masks and adhering to regular temperature checks and hygiene protocols, could attend the physical shoot. This left the client and agency team behind computer screens approving the footage remotely.
Locked down in Durban, the Echinaforce marketing team had to watch the live action in Johannesburg over their computers. “Normally you’re at the shoot, you meet the cast and you can give immediate input and direction on your brand. Now we were trying to watch takes via a dodgy YouTube Live link, while liaising with the agency and director over WhatsApp,” says marketing director Estie Schreiber. “Not seeing the cast’s performances live or knowing what Dani was aiming for in the moment was difficult. Eventually we were approving takes via WhatsApp clips. How they pulled this off and delivered such a beautiful production is testimony to this whole team’s remarkable tenacity and professionalism.”
After seven weeks of fielding numerous logistical lockdown curve balls and the delayed shoot date leaving just three days for post-production and final approvals, the Echinaforce TVC material was ready and delivered to stations on deadline. And over WhatsApp, the teams celebrated a ‘new normal’ success story in very abnormal times!
The potential value of data inspired British mathematician and entrepreneur in the field of data science and customer-centric business strategies. Clive Humby to claim “Data is the new oil.” And in the right hands it is.
Because by using data, people can be manipulated. And that constitutes power. The recent scandal involving arguably the most powerful head of state and the largest social media platform is a perfect example of this.
In what is considered one of the biggest data breaches the world has ever seen, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had for many years allowed 3rd party apps to harvest its users’ data without their knowledge or consent.
In 2014, researcher Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality quiz app based on something similar created by the psychometrics Centre, a Cambridge University Lab where Kogan had previously worked.
The app, which Kogan had developed for Facebook, quickly went viral with around 270 thousand Facebook users installing it to their profiles.
This is where it gets interesting.
Kogan’s app not only gave him access to its user’s profiles but also the data of each user’s Facebook friend, allowing him access to around 50 million profiles.
Instead of deleting this information as per protocol, Kogan stored it in a private database and later sold it to Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British political firm working alongside Donald Trump’s election team.
From there, Cambridge Analytica used the data of these unsuspecting Facebook users to create 30 million “psychographic” voter profiles.
Trump’s election team allegedly used this information, along with a carefully constructed social marketing strategy, to create personalised political ads targeting specific American voters; essentially manipulating them into voting for Donald Trump.
How do we know all this?
In 2018, whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, came forward with these allegations and exposed the alleged scandal to the world. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica denied any wrongdoing, but Facebook still lost an estimated 50 billion dollars in market value due to Zuckerberg’s involvement.
In March 2018, UK Committee approached Zuckerberg and asked him to testify. He did and in 2019, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer produced and directed “The Great Hack”, a documentary focusing on the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Trump is a wildly successful businessman, so it’s not surprising that he went the marketing route to win the elections.
Here’s how he did it –
Trump created not one, but two brands. One for himself and one for the competition. He then used social marketing tactics to portray his ‘brand’ as being superior to the competition. He painted each of his opponents in a negative light by giving each a condescending nickname such as “Crooked Hillary” (Hillary Clinton), “Little Marco” (Marco Rubio), and “Crazy Bernie” (Bernie Sanders). The goal was allegedly to negatively influence the voter’s opinion of his opponents
Digital Marketers use similar techniques to influence consumer buying behaviour.
This data is also used more subliminally to influence consumer opinion using a strategy known as social marketing. Social marketing (also known as behaviour change marketing) is a marketing tactic designed to prompt social change, rather than benefit a business directly. It’s most commonly used in the health, safety and environmental sectors to encourage people to change their (usually malicious) behaviour.
In short, instead of promoting a product, social marketing “sells” a behaviour in order to get the desired results. Instead of showing why a product is better than the competitor’s, social marketing takes a psychological approach by competing against undesirable thoughts, behaviours and actions or associating the product with positive, desirable behaviours or lifestyles
The Bottom Line – is it ethical?
In the Facebook Cambridge Analytical Scandal, personal data was allegedly used to create voter personas and influence voter behaviour. Marketers use data to create buyer personas and use this to influence consumer behaviour. So is there a difference, and is it ethical? To try and answer this we need to look at two factors – intent and transparency.
In the case of the voting scandal the data there are major questions around how the data was gathered, firstly many people were not aware their data was being recorded and almost certainly none of them knew their data was sold to Cambridge Analytical to be used for political campaigning. Add to that the argument that by creating over 30 million psychographic voter profiles they were able to manipulate voters by building a campaign on perception rather than facts. And finally there is a big difference between influencing a person on which washing powder to buy and who will be your next president. All of these factors bring intent and transparency of the Trump social media presidential campaign into question.
While there are obvious benefits for marketers using data to create consumer personas and developing personalised marketing communications, in order to remain ethical the intent should be to create a better experience for the consumer rather than to manipulate them into making a purchase they normally would not. Also the data should be gathered in a transparent way and be given voluntarily. It should be noted that by far the majority of marketers support the ethical use of data and understand that the downside of being accused of unethical marketing far outweighs any advantages they could bring.
At the IMM graduate school we believe that ethical marketing is beneficial to both the consumer and the marketer and aids in building strong customer relationships based on trust and as such we instil ethics as a theme in all our programs and courses. To find the right learning option for you browse our many options on our website.
The impact of AI on Customer Relationship Management and the Customer Product Adoption Processes
Dr Myles Wakeham, Mr Carl Wakeham and Ms Maria Hamman
INTRODUCTION TO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the creation of human-like intelligence that can process, learn, reason, plan, and discern natural language. AI comes in three forms, namely, narrow AI, which we are involved with on a daily basis and which is designed to perform specific tasks within an area (technology with intelligence in a particular domain) and general AI which is not area-specific and can learn and perform tasks anywhere and finally strong AI, which is an artificial super intelligence. Thus far, we have only managed to master narrow AI.
The application of AI uses amongst other technologies natural language processing, speech recognition, robotics, machine learning (ML) and computer vision. An example of AI that you may already be engaging with is SIRI presently available on Apple iPhones who reacts to your voice on command. SIRI will in addition have the ability to “learn” from you as you request information in the future.
According to Carolyn Frantz (Microsoft’s Corporate Secretary), AI will have a major influence on business and will equally have a dramatic impact on jobs. Frantz asserts that in the future, AI will make as much as 75 million jobs disappear in the USA but will be replaced by 133 million more challenging and less repetitive roles. Besides its impact on HR, AI will also influence operations and production, inbound and outbound logistics, Supply Chain Management (SCM), finance and as importantly, marketing.
One of the ways that AI is influencing marketing is with AI marketing assistants like IBM Watson’s Lucy, which is a cognitive problem solver (in contrast with emotional), which acquires knowledge through a determined leaning process. Lucy can be used to determine market segments, develop products, conduct competitive or market analyses, media planning, providing the numeric marketing data needs in writing a marketing plan, assisting with salient information in developing a marketing strategy, creating structured marketing content through a process called Natural Language Generation and so on. According to IBM, Lucy is a powerful tool that marketers “…can use for conducting online research, segmentation and planning and it is so powerful that it can do more in a minute than an entire team of marketers can achieve in months”. Needless to say, the advantage of a marketing assistant like Lucy is that it can digest and analyse literally all the data a company possesses and once it has absorbed all of this data, marketing personnel, according to Watson can ask the following questions, when attempting to solve marketing problems:
What are the personality characteristics and attributes of the organisation’s target audience based on a set of predetermined variables?
Which segments, towns or regions should be targeted first in order to maximise sales?
What content mix should be created for the target audience to maximise the attainment of the marketing and promotional mix objectives? and
What is the current competitor activity and how can the organisation use such data to make better marketing decisions specifically within environments like retail channels?
The above are questions that companies need to answer in order to formulate marketing strategies that achieve the marketing goals as set by the enterprise. Lucy and similar AI marketing assistants can, therefore:
Create viable segments of a company’s target audience so that it can develop highly personalised content that is designed to appeal to such an audience (target market);
Assist in the planning of marketing strategies by interrogating the needs and wants of the target market and how best to maximise sales and profits because of such market intelligence through programmatic targeting as an example.
Implement and control the different strategies so that the firm’s objectives may be realised based on data feedback loops put into place; and
Create promotion content that is customer-specific so that the organisation’s strategy and promotional mix can be directed specifically at satiating customer and organisational needs and wants.
According to MIT’s Brian Bergstein’s article, which was published in the MIT Technology Review in February 2020, AI as it currently stands:
Cannot question decisions so it is basically led by data which could be incorrect;
Cannot explain the decisions it has made to qualify or quantify the decision;
Cannot understand causation (why things happen following on from an occurrence);
Cannot measure psychographic typologies;
Cannot reason qualitatively, e.g. how people feel about a brand; and as importantly
Cannot understand the concept of, for example, customer loyalty outside of quantitatively ‘crunching’ numbers.
So, from the above points, AI must not be seen as a cure-all for an organisation’s marketing woes but rather a tool to assist the firm in achieving better results in the marketplace.
APPLICATION OF AI IN MARKETING
AI, and systems like Lucy (there are numerous others), will undoubtedly have a huge impact on content marketing as they become more affordable and more popular. They will help companies better understand their audience and the data that are garnered by means of AI will allow marketers to position brands more effectively in the minds of current and future customers and put together more effective strategies so that organisational objectives may be attained. AI will also help them understand what outcomes they can expect by pinpointing accurate customer expectation so that customer-specific targeting can be better planned based upon more reliable forecasting and market intelligence. According to the publication Smart Insights: The Financial Brand (March, 2018), the applications of AI in marketing can be found in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1: Application of AI in marketing
At present Cookies and other engagement tools follow customers as they interact with websites, products, and applications by providing various data sets that will form a personal ‘ecosystem’ that is programmatically targeted by tools and systems. Here relevance is the key to successful engagement by the consumer with variable pricing bases upon the propensity of interest and purchase.
As can be observed in Figure 1 above, AI can have an explosive impact on marketing throughout the organisation’s relationship with its customers… from demand generation through to the instilling of customer loyalty. It can therefore be used to cement strong and mutually rewarding relationships with customers and help to maximise the lifetime value of the customer. It can have a profound influence on the marketing mix, the consumer adoption model and as importantly Customer Relationship Management (CRM). In essence it can generate awareness, instil interest, create desire and likewise important, facilitate action (AIDA). To further explore the above figure and its content, let us examine the four stages of the application:
REACH: Reach is the initial stage of the buyer’s relationship with the marketer. The idea is to attract potential customers and provide them with an appealing experience that will lead to product trial. Reach commences with smart content curation (selection), which is the stage showing potential customers content relevant to what customers with similar perceived needs are interested in. The second phase is concerned ad targeting, with using programmatic media buying. In other words, by using propensity (tendency) models to effectively target advertisements at the most relevant customers. AI can be used to identify the best media and sites (web pages, areas etc.) to place advertisements. Thirdly, AI generated content writing programmes can select the right customer appeals and then personalised content for targeted prospects. Lastly, AI can be employed for voice search (made use of by Google, Amazon and Apple) to improve structured search traffic by applying digital assistants like Lucy as discussed above.
ACT: The second stage of the customer journey (Act) is intended to grab the customer’s attention and make them aware of a firm’s products and services. It consists of four elements, namely propensity modelling, which uses copious amounts of historical data to make predictions. AI at this juncture helps the marketer to direct customers to the correct messages and locations on websites and to generate outgoing personalised content. The second element is predictive analytics which employs propensity models to process large amounts of data that perform best on selected people at specific stages in the customer buying process, which permits more effective advertisement placements and message content than traditional methods. The third element is predictive analysis. This is implemented to determine the likelihood of attracting customers, predicting what price they are prepared to pay for the offering and equally important to establish what customers are most likely to make repeat purchases. The last element under ‘act’ is lead scoring, which is the process of using predictive analytics to determine how interested the potential customer is and likewise if the lead (potential customer) is worthwhile pursuing in order to covert him or her to a supporting customer.
CONVERT: This is the stage of converting a prospect into a customer. Here the first element is dynamic pricing, which uses AI (machine learning) to develop special offers for potential customers that are most likely to purchase the product or service. By doing this, one can increase sales and maximise profits. The next element is re-targeting, where once again, propensity models are used to determine what content is likely to bring customers back for more. This facilitates the re-targeting of advertisements to make them more effective and customer-centric. Re-targeting is often based on the past customers engagement levels with the initial product offering and interest at the onset. This is frequently based on a series of the same or similar advert / content being sent to the customer and the interaction multiple times and during various traffic and time zones dependent on the brand and category. The third element is web and application personalisation, which once again employs propensity models to personalise a web page or application in the position where the customer is in the purchasing decision making process. Lastly, chatbots use AI to mimic human intelligence in order to interpret customer enquiries and to complete orders. Facebook has created instructions on how to build Chatbots.
ENGAGE: Here we find the stage after a purchase has been made. Where traditionally once a sale was concluded by a salesperson it was customary to make a quick exit before the customer changed his mind. In a modern context however, it is important for a firm to continuously engage with customers in order to build mutually beneficial relationships and to facilitate recurring business and referrals. The first element here is customer service, where AI, though predictive analytics, can be used to determine which customers are most likely to become dormant (stop purchasing) or stop supporting the marketer altogether. With this insight, the firm can reach out to these customers with offers, prompts or assistance to prevent them from churning. The second element is marketing automation. This is when AI is availed to determine when (the best time) to contact customers and what message to use when such contact is made. This facilitates insight into where the firm can improve the effectiveness of its automated marketing. The last element is dynamic emails where predictive analytics using propensity models can use previous custom behaviour to market better targeted offerings via automated email as part of the customer acquisition and retention strategy. The results emanating therefrom can be employed to improve future results by uploading them into the models.
As can be seen from the above, the greatest advantage of AI in marketing is its ability to deliver personalisation in a customer-centric manner and in a large scale. In today’s rather complex world, with numerous channels of distribution, complex supply chains, many customer touchpoints and retail options, customers are being overwhelmed every day with messages on traditional media and on digital/social platforms in novel and unique ways. This random bombardment of marketing messages has already fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes as people want to be treated individually and no as a number. The beauty about AI is that it can help organisations to create consistency and personalised experiences across channels for their customers over the long term.
AI AND ITS IMPACT ON CRM PROCESS
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with the company to improve business relationships, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving up sales growth. CRM is also known as a strategy that companies use to manage interactions with customers and potential customers and helps organisations streamline processes, build customer relationships, increase sales, improve customer service, and increase profitability.
The relationship usually starts with the customer becoming aware of the organisation (marketer) via the marketer’s promotions activity or by means of word-and-mouth. When commercialisation of an offering begins, marketers use various aspects of the promotion mix to create product and brand awareness, and thereafter attempt to facilitate product trial and then retrial (repurchase of the offering). By astute and customer-driven marketing, the next step for a marketer is to attempt to generate customer loyalty, then insistency and finally advocacy. By performing the latter, loyal customers become the marketer’s unpaid salespeople in the marketplace. Furthermore, the cost of promoting goods and services to these loyalists and ambassadors reduces as they have already built a strong relationship with both the marketer and its offerings. Finally, being risk adverse, loyalists and advocates, they are nor very price sensitive, which makes them very profitable.
When one examines Figure 1 above, one can see that AI can be used as a strategic tool to acquire new customers, motivate them to try its offerings and then through the use of technology and marketing savvy, retain them by creating long-term relationship based upon mutual trust, understanding and co-dependence. This path to purchase ultimately results in mutual need satisfaction for both the marketer and its customer. So, with a closer understanding of what customers want and need by means of the effective and efficient employment of AI, closer relationships can be forged thereby making it easier for the marketer to manage the mutually binding relationship.
AI AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CUSTOMER ADOPTION PROCESS
The Customer Adoption Process is a 6-step mental process which all customers experience while adopting a product; from learning about a new product to becoming a contented and loyal user of that product. During the process the customer may choose to either decline to buy the product or defer the purchasing thereof. The process of a customer moving from a cognitive state toward the emotional state and finally reaching the behavioural or conative state is another way to explain the Customer Adoption Process. The three stages are as follows:
Cognitive State, which can be defined as being informed and aware of the product and marketer’s existence;
Emotional State, which can be defined as the preferences of the customer; and
Behavioural or conative state, which can be explained as taking the decision to purchase, decline to purchase or defer the purchase.
By examining the three above-mentioned points and Figure 1 above, it can be noted that AI can be used to create awareness of the product and the marketer, influence the decision-making process, reinforce preferences and finally assist in motivating the potential customer to buy. According to Cunningham (2018:178), the customer adoption process has six steps. In Table 1 below, one can observe these steps/stages as well as how AI can influence the process:
Table 1: The customer adoption process
Level of adoption
Influence of AI in relation to the various AI stages
To be created by the marketer in order to inform the customer of the existence of the offering
Reach stage: Reach is the initial stage of the buyer’s relationship with the marketer. The idea is to attract potential customers and provide them with an appealing experience that will lead to product trial. AI uses technology not only to make potential customers aware of an offering and organisation but to use information that has been garnered to ensure that the right message is communicated to the right audience. The strategy at this stage is to alert the potential customer by means of employing the right promotions mix. The idea even at this early stage is to lay the foundation on which future relationships will eventually be built.
Interest and information
The marketer needs to spark interest so that the potential customer is motivated to look for more information
Act stage:The second stage of the customer journey is intended to grab the customer’s attention and make them familiar of a firm’s products and services. The focus here is on stimulating interest so that the potential customer may want to obtain additional information about the offering and organisation. AI at this juncture helps the marketer to direct customers to the correct messages and locations on websites and to generate outgoing personalised content.
Here the customer evaluates the offering against competitor products or product substitutes
Act stage: At this important phase the potential customer seeks as much information as possible so that he or she can make a constructive and well-balanced decision about the offering compared to that which is offered by alternative marketers. During this phase AI employs predictive analytics to determine the likelihood of attracting customers, predicting what price they are prepared to pay for the offering and equally important to establish what customers are most likely to make repeat purchases.
Here the marketer desires the customer to try the product, its features, advantages and benefits. The idea/strategy is that hopefully this will lead to retrial and permanent adoption as a product or brand
Convert stage:This is the stage of converting a prospect into a customer. AI provides dynamic pricing to ensure that the targeted customer can afford the offering and to also re-target where once again, propensity models are used to determine what content is likely to bring customers back for more. This facilitates the re-targeting of advertisements to make them more effective and customer-centric.
Here the customer has adopted the product with the marketer’s intent to retrial, loyalty and insistency
Engage stage: Here we find the stage after a purchase has been made. Unlike in the sales orientation stage where sales were transactional in nature, here the focus is on continuously engaging with customers in order to build mutually beneficial relationships and to facilitate recurring business and referrals
Should the offering fully appease the needs of the customer then he or she will move from insistency to advocacy where he or she will be willing to recommend the product
Engage stage: The first activity here is customer service,where AI, though predictive analytics, can be used to determine which customers are most likely to become dormant (stop purchasing) or stop supporting the marketer altogether. A customer recovery strategy should be put into place to establish why the customer is not purchasing or why he or she has migrated to competitors. With this insight, the firm can reach out to these customers with offers, prompts or assistance to prevent them from churning. AI also facilitates marketing automation to contact customers at a convenient time and what message to use when such contact is made. This facilitates insight into where the firm can improve the effectiveness of its automated marketing. AI also uses predictive analytics and propensity models to investigate previous customer behaviour to market better targeted offerings via automated emails as part of the customer acquisition and retention strategy. The results emanating therefrom can be employed to improve future results by uploading them into marketing and business models.
Source: Table developed by Wakeham, M., Wakeham. C.N. & Hamman, M.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: It may be noted in Table 1, that AI can have a profound impact on the way a customer adopts a product, service or retailer. Organisations should therefore use AI as a strategic tool to enhance customer satisfaction, appease the needs of all the stakeholders in the equation and finally enjoy the benefits of a co-dependent relationship. An organisation that does not pursue this strategy will be myopic and will do so at its peril. What an organisation therefore needs to accomplish is aptly depicted in Figure 2 below:
Figure 2: Migration from descriptive analysis to prescriptive analytics
Looking at all the analytic options above can be a daunting task. However, luckily these analytic options can be categorised at a high level into four distinct types. No one type of analytic is better than another, and in fact they co-exist with, and complement, each other. In order for a business to have a holistic view of the market and how a company competes efficiently within that market requires a robust analytic environment which includes:
Descriptive analytics, which use data aggregation and data mining to provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?”
Diagnostic analytics, which uses data to provide insight into: “Why did it happen?”
Predictive analytics, which use statistical models and forecasting techniques to understand the future and answer: “What could happen?”
Prescriptive analytics, which use optimisation and simulation algorithms to advise on possible outcomes and answer: “What should we do?”
AI has a profound impact all of the above types of analytics and should be used in a marketing context for the benefit of all the stakeholders who are involved with the firm.
The Rise of The Meme – Is It Still “Just A Trend”?
Unless this is your first time browsing the web, you’ve definitely come across a meme before. They’re everywhere. But, if you think that memes were invented by a millennial or Gen Z’er, get ready to take notes.
The word “meme” can be traced all the way back to 1976, when biologist, ethnologist, and writer Richard Dawkins first used the term in his book, The Selfish Gene. At the time, Dawkins used the term to refer to anything that went viral but It’s meaning has changed over time.
So, what is a meme in this digital era?
We could tell you what a meme is but –
Nonetheless, the Merriam Webster dictionary says that a meme is – “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.”
Over the years, the “meme concept” has been reinvented over and over again. In our tech-driven, always-connected world, memes have become a vital part of the internet. The main goal was once to create relatable, funny, and easily shareable visual content.
Now, with it being so easy for internet users to skip online ads, marketers have turned to memes as an effective, low-cost way to get in touch with consumers.
According to BusinessTech, the average South African spends around 8 hours a day browsing the web – dedicating a third of that time to scroll through their social media feeds.
With that much time being spent online, they’re bound to come across a few memes. Modern internet users respond well to visual rather than text-based messages, and brands know this.
So, what is meme marketing?
Most people think memes exist solely for their entertainment, but as it evolved, brands and businesses have caught on and have begun using it as a powerful marketing tool to revamp their current social media strategy and engage with their audiences.
The secret is to stay clued in on the latest digital trends and create memes that reference them.
Businesses that are interested in trying meme marketing have two options –
They can either take the road less traveled by creating their own unique meme
Or, they can meme-jack another brand’s meme and edit it to suit their own style and tone.
There is some good news for brands that choose to become meme-jackers though, they don’t have to worry about the plagiarism police. With so many websites offering free images, brands can copy a competitor’s high-performing meme and change it to include their own unique brand message.
On the other hand, brands that choose to create their own memes from scratch should be ready to always stay on top of the latest trends and have a good understanding of what the meme represents. Something perceived as “harmless” today can easily become malicious overnight.
Make your own meme
We have some bad news – there’s no specific meme formula. But, if creating a unique meme sounds like a good idea, these are the basic steps you’ll need to follow.
Step 1: Know what memes meme
For starters, you need to know your memes. Not only do you need to understand its meaning, but you’ll also need to consider whether the audience will understand it too.
Do some research to find out what it takes for a meme to go viral. What works for someone else, might not work for you but you can pick up some valuable guidelines online.
Take a look at what the competitor is posting. Examine their memes to see what they are posting about, and how the audience reacts to it.
Step 2: Choose the right tool
This step isn’t mandatory – you don’t need to use a meme generator. The great thing about memes is that they are really easy to make. There are plenty of free websites on the web that will create a meme that meets the brand’s requirements. These are the top five meme generators –
If you decide to create the meme from scratch, you’ll need to find a suitable image. Consider the brand’s style as well as the genre – do you want the meme to be funny, serious, sarcastic, or thought-provoking? Find a relevant, ideally free visual that will suit the message.
Step 4: Write the Caption
This is the fun part, the possibilities are (almost) endless; you still need to keep it relevant. Now that you have an image and a message, it’s time to put it all together.
First thing’s first, find out how many text boxes are available. Find a way to word the message in an easy-to-understand, shareable way that will encourage audience reaction. Summarise the message so it will stay within the word limit.
Then, it’s time to make it look good. Play around with different fonts, text sizes, and colours, but make sure that it won’t obscure the image.
Step 5: Put it out there
Finally, share the meme on social media and ask followers to comment on and share the meme. Also, encourage suggestions on what type of content they would like to see in the future.
There you have it. That’s how you create a great meme.
Rules of marketing with memes
Before jumping on the meme wagon, let’s go over the do’s and don’ts of meme marketing first.
Keep it relatable. A brand’s meme requirements depend on the audience. If a clothing brand posts a meme about cars, it’s highly unlikely that its audience will get it. It’s best to stick to what you and the audience knows.
Time it correctly. Unfortunately, trending memes have a relatively short lifespan – it can get old really fast. So, if a brand decides to meme-jack from a competitor, they need to make sure that it’s still relatively new and trendy.
Choose a controversial image. This is why doing prior research is so important. Imagine choosing an image because it’s funny or suitable to the message, then having the comments section bombarded with messages telling you that the person featured in the meme was recently involved in a scandal. That would be really bad for business.
Use a meme just because it’s popular. This ties in with the previous point. Brands need to understand exactly what the meme represents and consider how others might perceive it. Ask the following questions: is it relevant to the brand? Will the target audience understand it? Is it funny? and, is it shareable? If any of the answers were ‘no’, find another meme to use.
Good vs. bad memes – this is the difference. The Good – “The Distracted Boyfriend”
We’ve all seen this one. This image can be used in multiple contexts and continues to be well-received.
Meme generator: ImgFlip
The Bad – “This is Sparta” Bob Ross
Bob Ross memes are usually very successful, but someone decided to make a “300” reference. Two words – Epic Fail.
The Bottom Line
Meme culture is always changing. They’re still funny, ironic, sarcastic, and relatable to the right people, it’s just that it’s been reinvented as another useful marketing tool meant to attract and retain the right people.
Are you interested in learning more about meme marketing and other popular marketing tools and tactics? Go from newbie to marketing guru with IMM’s one-of-a-kind Applied Digital Marketing Certificate. Applications now open. Hurry up and secure your spot! Visit https://imm.ac.za/ for more information.
The relationship between, and the importance of, a Value Chain; a Supply Chain and Supply Chain Management.
The recent outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of Supply Chain Management (SCM), as a sudden increase in demand for certain products and a complete standstill in demand for others has left many suppliers reeling. However the man in the street can still find it difficult to distinguishing the features that contrast a value chain, a supply chain and finally supply chain management (SCM).. Although there is a strong relation amongst these three activities, there are key differences that make them stand apart from one another.
Essentially, a value chain is a set of activities that a firm performs in order to deliver need-satisfying products or services to a defined market or markets. It is also known as a high-level model of how businesses receive inputs and then processes such inputs via the conversion process (operations) into finished goods and services. This is achieved by adding value to the inputs in such a way that the morphed final offerings will hopefully satiate varying customer needs, better than the competitor. The ultimate objectives of the value chain are the appeasement of both customer needs and wants (in the form of superior goods and services), and, as importantly, revenue and profits for the enterprise.
Created by Michael Porter in 1985, the value chain consists of primary and support activities. Primary activities include inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and service. The key goal of these activities is to create value that exceeds the cost of performing the activity, thereby generating higher organisational sales and profits. Support activities on the other hand comprise procurement, human resources, finance, technology development, and the firm’s infrastructure. These ancillary activities within Porter’s Value Chain, assist the primary activities by forming the foundation of the organization on which the primary activities operate. A support activity such as financial management for example is of great importance for primary activities as without finance, these activities cannot be performed. Likewise, without effective Human Resources Management, the organisation will not have the requisite human capital to produce the required goods and services, market them and finally distribute them to…
The right organisation.
At the right time they are need.
To the right person who will be using the goods; and
At the right price so that their delivery to the targeted end-customer via fellow supply partners will enjoy the value that the offering has been designed to deliver.
The strength that underpins Porter’s Value Chain Analysis is its approach, as it focuses on the customers as the central theme of the business rather than on departments or people. Being a system approach to operating a business, the system links other systems, people, departments and activities to one another and demonstrates how the approach impacts on value creation, costs and profits. Consequently, the analysis makes a clear picture of where the sources of value and loss of revenue can be found in the organisation.
The supply chain is the network of individuals, firms, technology and resources that are involved in the creation and distribution of offerings from the source of the inputs (raw materials, components and so on) via the distribution network to the final consumer. The main challenges of the supply chain, or better still the supply network, are the ever-changing needs of the consumer, its complexity (especially international supply chains), supply risk and as importantly supplier risk. The recent outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic has underscored the importance of a smooth-running and seamless supply network as without it operating effective and efficiently, more people would have been struck down by the virus. This would have undoubtedly increased the morbidity and mortality rate throughout the world as well as the negative impact the outbreak has had on the global economy.
Supply chain management (SCM) is about creating value. Early efforts at managing supply chains often focused on cost reduction in order to make the chain leaner. Unfortunately, these efforts sometimes reduced the ability to create value thereby negating the key purpose of the supply chain. In essence, there is more to creating value through effective SCM than simply wrestling costs out of supply chain’s primary or support activities. Being an agile supply chain in a modern context, is probably more important than wrangling lower costs as it translates into quicker market entry and better customer service.
There should be value-creating activities that reinforce supply-partner and customer centrism. Because there can be many supply partners in the equation, managing supply chains requires a balancing act among competing and oftentimes self-serving interests. To illustrate this, note the following example. The seller of raw materials (supply chain inputs) would naturally like to enjoy the highest possible price he can muster from the manufacturer in order to maximise profits. The manufacturer on the other hand might probably demand to procure the goods at the lowest possible cost in order to be competitive in the marketplace after he has incurred the time and cost to produce the goods. It is these conflicting requirements that require supply partners to be flexible so that these opposing needs may be realize.
The above is underpinned by the advent of the recent Covid 19 virus and how the interest of supply partners can differ, even in a life-threatening emergency such as the pandemic. In the USA, where the outbreak has reached mammoth proportion, Federal and local governments competed for life-saving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) hoping to procure such goods at the lowest possible prices. However, because of supply and demand issues, and pure unadulterated opportunism, sellers put up the prices of their PPE goods to exorbitant levels in order to maximise profits at the expense of the people who were ill and dying in hospitals and old age homes. The sad reality is that there was no cohesion and coordination on a macro scale regarding to the procurement and delivery of such essential equipment, apparel and medication. Instead of Federal Government (central government) acting as the catalyst for the acquisition of such goods and services, it competed against states and hospitals, thereby increasing the cost and delaying the delivery of the imported life-saving offerings from Europe and the East.
SCM can be defined as the design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain management systems, with the objective of generating value by synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance on an international basis. Where once it was considered to be a philosophy, in today’s terms it has become an essential business activity that is designed to ensure the delivery of superior value-add services so that all the players in the chain may benefit there from.
The supply chain, not only links organizations e.g. suppliers, producers, and customers. It produces upstream and downstream flows, which move products, information and payment (cash) out of and into organisations.
The value chain however integrates a variety of supply chain activities throughout the product/service life cycle; from the marketing function determining customer needs and wants, operations converting inputs into goods and services and finally to outbound logistics, which consists of order processing, warehousing and distribution. The main intent of a value chain is to increase the value of a product or service as it passes through stages of development and distribution before reaching the end user. So, through effective supply chain mapping and streaming, organisations in the supply network can accurately direct their mutual efforts at providing value-add services to the next-in-line customer. The above hopefully illustrates the relationship of the three critical business activities, their relevance and as importantly how they provide value to all the members of the network, including the end consumer.
Names, like sticks and stones, can hurt you. Just ask Corona — the beer, not the virus.
The coronavirus is currently a trending topic and a major public health hazard worldwide. But at the same time, it is also not doing the Mexican beer brand of the same name any good. Being linked to something like the corona virus is something you absolutely do not want as a brand. The name corona virus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a solar corona.
In a recent article published by nytimes.com (2020) the following statement was made – Grupo Modelo’s Corona beer drew attention about a month ago after consumers mistakenly associated it with the fast-spreading Corona virus, which by that point had already begun its global march. Corona has become the subject of memes and videos shared on social media as the toll from the virus climbs worldwide. Reports of an increase in online searches for “corona beer virus” and “beer coronavirus” show the Mexican beer hasn’t been able to escape the association.
Even if the vast majority of people aren’t making the association, there still could be damage to the brand’s goodwill just because of the similar names. Trademark attorney and founder of Gerben Law Firm, Josh Gerben, notes: “The vast majority don’t think they’re tied. But you don’t know what the subliminal messaging is here.”
One must ask the question – Who is to Blame? If anyone is to blame for turning a perfectly good word meaning crown into a modern synonym for a deadly virus, it’s the scientists in the late 1960s who decided that the protrusions on the virus they were examining under a microscope looked rather like the bright gaseous ring visible around the sun during an eclipse. One thing is for sure – the word that will emerge from the current crisis battered and vilified beyond all recognition is most certainly corona.
As we can imagine Corona beer is potentially facing a PR nightmare. But they’re not the first. Other brands have felt the pain of homonymy too, for example:
a soda called Sars – marketed in Taiwan
a chocolate called Isis (in fact a pharmaceutical company and a wallet app have been called Isis as well)
Golden Gaytime is an Australian ice cream bar. Their slogan: “It’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own.”
An appetite suppressant candy called Ayds – “Ayds helps you take-off weight and helps you keep it off.”
It also does not help that Corona, like Ayds, seems to have an ill-chosen tag line. In case Ayds didn’t already remind you of AIDS, the motto “Ayds helps you take- off weight” drove the point home. Likewise, Corona’s pitch for its new “hard seltzer” flavours is: “coming ashore soon.”
The name Corona is now on everybody’s lips. And in marketing terms, that is never NOT an opportunity. In other words, should Corona leverage the negative attention and spin it in a positive way?
Times change. In the case of brands there’s simply too much value built into a successful name. But that can change overnight, if world events overtake the marketing department.
So what does a million dollar brand like Corona do? Some products have tried to shed their old names and start a new life:
The Belgian Isis brand chocolate bar changed its name to Libeert.
The Isis pharmaceutical company changed its name to Ionis.
The Isis Wallet app changed its name to Softcard.
Ayds ultimately changed its name to Diet Ayds — but it was not an appreciable improvement. That brand disappeared from shelves.
Corona is, of course, a bigger brand than any of these. The most likely course — and possibly the best one — for them is to wait it out.
“You sit still and wait for the storm to pass” said advertising legend Harvey Gabor, who’s been through this. Richard Nixon had a great line. “The memory of the average American is one week. Just sit tight”
Trademark professionals would advise to keep an eye on the way the name is being used and ensure against issues of dilution or disrepute in the marketplace. It’s important to make sure that no other brand is being opportunistic to use their name in combination with the virus to tarnish the brand. It’s unlikely that another beer brand would take such a serious global situation as an opportunity for a cheap advertising pot-shot, but the lines of parody can be blurry and it’s not unfeasible that the beer’s name could be implied with a relation to the virus. The brand will want to keep an eye on media mentions of the virus that don’t clearly distinguish between the beer brand’s name. Were coronavirus to start being written about without the ‘virus’ suffix, then Corona would need to act.
Is It OK to Make Coronavirus Memes and Jokes? Humour can relieve anxiety; it can also stoke tensions or spread misinformation. So, the answer isn’t simple. In fact, a South China Morning Post article details some of the memes that have already spread around the internet relating the beer brand to the deadly virus. One picture shows a bottle of Corona placed opposite a group of Heineken bottles with a facemask covering them. While it isn’t exactly a PR crisis, this obviously isn’t a situation that Corona’s PR and marketing teams want to be in. That’s not to say it can’t be turned into an opportunity, despite the tricky connotations. And herein lies the lesson: This is a great case study in making the most of difficult circumstances.
It’s also an important reminder to have an action plan in place so that your organisation is prepared to deal with any bad press that comes its way.
The brand will want to keep an eye on media mentions of the virus that don’t clearly distinguish between the beer brand’s name. In fact, Corona may be able to increase its brand reputation – provided that any attempts are not read as cynical and opportunistic. This could help build some equity in your brand in otherwise unfortunate circumstances.
If AB InBev (Belgium owners) don’t keep engaging with the Corona beer stakeholders, others in the media fill the vacuum. It also leaves the door wide open for speculation and innuendo.
At the end of the day it is evident that the beverage has nothing to do with the coronavirus, but it may be an ideal opportunity to turn negative association into positive by offering even just a fraction of their marketing spend, for example, to helping mitigate the spread of the disease. Just imagine all the goodwill and free press this will bring about…
So then what do you do if your service or product, and ultimately your brand, are on the receiving end of widespread negative social media attention?
Be Proactive – be decisive yet thoughtful in your response — a brand’s reaction can mean the difference between a classy recovery and fanning the unwelcome flames
Respond with Speed – An organisation’s survival in a crisis, depends enormously on the speed of its responses.
Continued Strategic Engagement – The lack of engagement inevitably raises concerns about how transparent the company has been in handling this crisis
Plan and Prepare – As soon as you realise your brand is going viral for the wrong reasons, commission real-time social research to uncover the hotspots of heated criticism
Anticipate and adapt – The better you have anticipated the possible scenarios, the more prepared you are and the more confident you will be in implementing the changes
Apologise if need be
Take action and stay connected
Adjust your marketing strategy – Brands need to adjust their media investments based on the moods and expectations of consumers.
This is not a time for the Corona marketing team to panic or for that matter any other marketing team that is faced with the challenges of today. Don’t throw your brand into a continuous stream of frantic tactics. A frantic response is not the way to build a powerful and resilient brand. It’s a time to focus on the purpose of the brand.
Businesses that are aligned behind a compelling purpose will inspire their employees, connect with their consumers, and earn love and loyalty that will persevere in times of change and times of hardship.
And ultimately ensuring the longevity of the brand.
Lessons shared by an institution that has been doing it for a while.
The role of learning and teaching in a digital environment has been catapulted into the spotlight as many educational institutions which have not paid much attention to it, are now grappling with where to start to put systems in place or brush up on their neglected or under-utilised learning management systems. The now clichéd expression ‘the new normal’ holds true for higher education as well. Digital education as part of a blended learning mode of delivery, is here to stay, has been waiting in the wings and is now coming into its own. Higher education can never go back to what was, nor relegate digital education to the dark recesses of educational minds again. The definition of mode of delivery needs to be overhauled and redefined.
Over the past number of years having been digitizing our programmes and drawing on technology to augment our learning and teaching activities, we have learnt many valuable lessons. Perhaps these lessons will assist those struggling to attune their thoughts to digital conversions of their learning programmes as turning digital is much more than putting webinars on a server and a must for education into the future as our clients in higher education are mostly digital natives who have never known a world without technology.
2. Lessons we have learnt.
Here are some lessons we have had the luxury of time, to learn.
2.1 Educational Principles in Learning and Teaching in Virtual Space
Learning and Teaching principles and theories must underpin the strategies which inform the digitization of educational programmes to achieve successful learning and teaching in the digital space. Cognitive theories indicate that student performance is linked to how learning is structured. Designing your digital education space cannot be a haphazard knee jerk reaction to a crisis and be left that way. It is imperative to bear in mind how students structure knowledge and to develop learning and teaching in the digital space in line with how students structure knowledge. Gagne, Wagner, Golas & Keller’s (2004) nine levels of learning, also relevant in a virtual world, should be a good starting point to consider in the design of instruction.
Digital education lends itself very well to the creation of individual learning pathways, which is a buzzword for future education, and blended learning which has been around in education for some time. Individual learning pathways meets the individual learning needs of students through a variety of methods, and the various types of blended learning which is a combination of teaching methodologies including contact and digital, synchronized and asynchronous online teaching combinations, remote access to classrooms, among others.
2.2 Questions to Consider
A number of questions need to be considered. What research will support your decision to include or exclude features in your design, e.g. a theory developed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) which still holds true today, discusses the 3 presences which should be evident in the virtual module. One of these is the social presence. How will you ensure that you have a sound social presence bearing in mind that many South African Students are field dependent learners? The cognitive styles of Field Dependent (FD) and Field Independent(FI) learners must be catered for in the design of digital learning spaces. Simplistically stated, FD learners have a strong need for structure and teacher guidance, whereas FI learners prefer a measure of autonomy. What will you do to reduce the anxieties of FD students especially if compounded by a lack of online learning experience?
What resources need to be included and why. How do resources need to be included? How does the lecturer increase their social presence in the module? How can a discussion forum increase opportunities for communication on the learning content, between lecturer and student? Is there a need for synchronized or asynchronous tutorials or both and what would be the frequency of such tutorials? How would all these resources integrate to create a coherent whole in the digital education space rather than be a cluster of uncoordinated learning resources? What teaching methodologies will be adopted? How skilled and experienced are teaching staff, in online learning and teaching?
2.2.1 Lecturer Skills and Student Centred Learning in the Digital Education Space
Education in the 21st century needs to be student centred whether in a physical or virtual classroom. Lecturing to a passive group of students is teacher centred and not conducive to the inculcation of higher order thinking skills. The combination of lecturing in a synchronized or asynchronous tutorial and students who are field dependent, is a recipe for ineffective learning and teaching. At higher education level, the responsibility of the institution is to develop critical thinking and problem solving abilities in their students, not just focus on content. Lecturers that have been compelled in this difficult time, to turn to online webinars should consider what teaching methods to use to encourage participation. Tutorials which are purely in lecture mode are least effective.
It is not a given that someone who is an experienced teacher or lecturer, will know how to conduct online learning and teaching. Many of our academics are from a generation a couple of times removed from the generations we find at higher education institutions at the present time. The chasm between those lecturers and students who effortlessly navigate through the elearning space and those who struggle with basic computer literacy is significant.
The reality is that many lecturers and students have little experience of online learning and teaching and frequently try to transfer the contact classroom methodologies to the online classroom. As mentioned, the danger is that real learning does not take place, real learning in the sense of teaching students higher order thinking and problem solving as part of their mastery of the learning content. The lecturer will need to think about and understand the link between effective teaching in a digital environment far removed from their students on the one hand, and the nurturing of higher order thinking among their students.
Then there are the peripheral aspects to bear in mind, such as how you introduce the tutorial. So many, forget a simple principle such as providing students with the objectives of the tutorial. Will the background behind the lecturer be a distraction? Duration of the tutorial is an important factor. Too long and students lose focus. Too short and students feel hard done by. Poor lighting and students can’t see the speaker’s face and they comment on that. Preventing disruptions such as pets, children and others interrupting the tutorial is another small but important aspect to consider.
The above suggest that there is a need to do ongoing skills training among teaching staff and evaluation of the quality of teaching. How do you train lecturers? Ongoing skills development sessions in virtual space, allows teaching staff to attend via their computer or cell phone or view recordings of training sessions. Teaching staff should also be given a voice through a dedicated discussion forum. How does one maintain the sense of community among the academic community of the institution? Create a dedicated space on the learning management system which will serve as their virtual meeting room.
2.2.2 Student Responsibilities in the Learning and Teaching Process
How do you get students to participate in a tutorial, whether synchronized or asynchronous? We have learnt that few students participate in the live sessions and we have speculated, surveyed and read about the reasons for this. A couple of these reasons include, the time scheduled for tutorials, and students being reluctant to prepare for the tutorial where they may be required to participate. We have found that most students prefer to view the recordings.
Students who view recordings of lecturers view them passively and are disinclined to engage with learning content. How would you try to engage students even when no student has pitched up to the etutorial? How do you design your etutorial to encourage critical thinking and problem solving? How will you assist your students to engage with learning content as they work through it?
What role will continuous assessment play in encouraging students to actively engage with learning content? In this day and age of immediacy, providing students with immediate feedback to short continuous assessment activities is an effective way for them to gauge how well they are achieving the module outcomes and provides them with immediate feedback and incentive to progress through the learning content.
2.2.3 Guidance to students
Students too, need training on how to navigate the learning management system and how to respond to activities set for them. Short ‘how to’ clips placed strategically in relevant spaces in the digital module, providing clear instructions on how to use specific areas in the module can easily be produced with simple software such as screencast or other such software. This kind of guidance goes a long way to making students feel more secure and providing them with the direction they need.
2.2.4 Keeping in touch with your clients aka students
The management of communication is key in the digital environment. In the physical space, information is often conveyed through students and staff sharing information incidentally during the course of their interaction within the physical space. Non-verbal cues assist in understanding the messages conveyed. This provides a context for the information. In virtual space, however, these incidental and non-verbal cues are often reduced or lost. There needs to be a balance between flooding students with information, on the one hand, and ensuring that everyone has all the information they need. The more balanced the dissemination of information is, the fewer questions born out of confusion, frustration, or insecurity, are generated, but without overwhelming students with information.
What communication strategy will you put in place to keep both teaching and support staff and all importantly, students, informed yet avoiding cluttering their mailboxes? What processes and digital means will you use to ensure that you are listening to your students and what they need? A number of strategies to be considered may include the following: Strategically timed announcements keep students informed of changes, new developments and any other information they need to be cognizant of. Information and question and answer sessions, in virtual space between faculty and students, help students feel part of a community and that they concerns are heard.
Consider how you can integrate various social media , such as facebook, whatsapp, Linkedin and others, into the communication strategy. Slack and Team are further vehicles for communication and collaboration, which will no doubt enhance the field dependent student’s learning experience.
A strong student support department with dedicated well informed support staff assisting students timeously with queries is a vital component in assisting students with all kinds of queries. A dedicated communication channel, which is continually monitored, for students to query technical aspects, e.g. unable to upload an assignment on the learner management system, assists in reducing frustration and anxiety among students. A key component is the turnaround time for responses to student queries.
2.3 Technical aspects
The choice of learning management system will be decided by what the needs of the institution, are. Will it be outsourced or maintained by the institution? What security features are built into the system? Will the management system be flexible enough to ‘bend’ and adapt to your learners’ specific needs without necessarily calling in the expertise of outside service providers, which will only serve to increase costs and force you to be dependent on them for any changes. Open source learner management systems are just as good if not better than many of the smaller, lesser known ones which have not been around for long and which may not always have the variety of features which the larger ones do. One also needs to ensure that you are certain of the longevity of the learning management system which you select. Will they be around in 20 years? Does their track record show that they are in tune with cutting edge developments in digital education? Are they constantly upgrading their features in line with the needs of the education? What is their support like?
Does the learning management system offer a mobile and desktop app version, which are imperative as there are very large disparities of access to technology and data accessibility among students. These apps often serve as a lifeline to those students who are in outlying areas as they provide students with offline access to their learning materials and uploading of assessments via smart phones and desktop apps.
Accessibility, privacy and security are all extremely important aspects to consider when selecting any software in education. Will you need to provide data to assist disadvantaged students to download the app on their smart phones?
’Traffic’ on the learning management system, provides valuable information and identifies students who are not visiting the learning material or visiting too infrequently. Data provided by the learner management system provides important information about students at risk, and allows teaching staff to be proactive rather than reactive through timeous interventions.
The choice of software for synchronous and asynchronous tutorials will depend on the purpose for which you need it. What security measures are there to ensure your tutorials won’t get hacked? Does the software company respond to the tightening of security features? From a learning and teaching point of view, does the software include a whiteboard feature? Can you share your screen? Does the software record videos, which you included in your tutorial? Does it have a chat feature? Can you conduct polls during the tutorial? Can students write on the whiteboard should you require of them to do so?
How does the uploading of interactive content impact on server capacity? How will your server cope if all your students access the online module at the same time to upload an assignment?
2.4 Other skills required in the development and maintenance of the digital education space
Digital education is not only the domain of the academic. Apart from the academic input into the digital development of the module, consider the opinions of those who are more attuned to the marketing side of your learning management system. Other vital input from departments such as IT and administration contribute to the creation of coherent digital education space. These teams need to collaborate on a regular basis. Work closely with the IT department on server related issues especially when you introduce multi-media and other software such as plugins into your digital education space. How can administrative processes be adapted for greater automation? Listen to student observations. Is the learning management system, user friendly, i.e. is it easy to navigate? Is the space visually pleasing so that students want to visit the site and find it easy to find their way around it?
Technology can enhance the facilitation of learning and teaching or hinder it. The secret in thorough planning in order to keep things simple, to keep your finger on the pulse of the dynamic nature of students’ needs in conjunction with best practice in online learning and teaching and adapt when necessary.
List of Sources
Gagne R, Wagner W, Golas K, & Keller J, 2004, Principles of Instructional Design, (5th ed), Cengage Learning Inc.
Garrison, D. Anderson, T. & Archer, W. 2000, Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2, 87-105.
Martin M & Godonoga A, 2020, SDG 4 – Policies for Flexible Learning Pathways in Higher Education Taking Stock of Good Practices Internationally, UNESCO, International Institution for Educational Planning, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000372817 Downloaded 24 April 2020
Q & A with IMM Graduate School – Leaders in technology-enabled education
Resilience. It’s a very apt word to describe South Africans and the same can be said about the businesses, organisations, and institutions that keep this great country of ours moving.
In the past few months, and even before that, IMM Graduate School has shown not only resilience, but also how much they care about their students and the success they will achieve. They’ve gone more than the extra mile. Years of constant innovation and drive to do better for their students have lead to IMM becoming front-runners in technology-enabled education, and during our age of Covid-19, it has proven to be exactly what their students need.
We had a quick chat with Charmaine du Plessis, Chief Marketing Officer at IMM, to find out how they’re supporting their students during Covid-19 and their recently launched BCom in International Supply Chain Management.
IMM has been around since 1960, and for the slightly older generation, we are the ‘household name’ for marketing qualifications. We currently offer 10 qualifications across higher certificates, diplomas, degrees, and postgrad. Our areas of expertise are marketing, business, and supply chain.
Focusing specifically on our marketing degree, these qualifications are fairly business-based, hence the BBA or BCom designation. The implication of this is that our curricula include modules such as financial management, business management, statistics, and a reasonable amount of quantitative work. Of course, the core theoretical marketing modules are in place, as well as various, very interesting, ‘applied’ marketing modules as you get to 2nd and 3rd year.
IMM is predominantly an online/distance/digital provider of qualifications. We have students from all over. There are almost 1 000 in Zimbabwe, but we also have various students in places such as the UK, Australia, India, and China. Our courses, content, and delivery model are set up to be able to support students remotely, which is ideal right now as you can imagine.
We also provide face-to-face tutorials for students who require additional help or prefer the discipline associated with a formal class schedule. Our largest Student Support Centre is in Stellenbosch, where we have over 500 students.
We like to define ourselves along 3 key dimensions:
Best-in-class qualifications: We have been offering degrees for many years, and we continually update. Many of the core principles remain constant but the case studies and applications are updated regularly.
Compelling delivery: We are probably the most flexible institution in terms of learning style. Simple yet compelling study guides, live and recorded webinars, digital interactive content, and face-to-face tutorials. We try to cater to all the various requirements and study styles.
Empathetic student support: This aspect is often overlooked by online education providers (in my opinion) and it is probably the biggest ‘gap’ between a traditional face-to-face university experience and online. Online is anonymous and it is difficult for lecturers to know when students are struggling. Because of this, we have implemented a series of interventions – not least of which is our help desk – where we are able to answer students’ questions within 15 minutes (during working hours) and slightly longer after hours. If you are to study remotely, this is a very important aspect to consider in any provider.
2. Covid-19 has changed the business landscape immeasurably. What steps will you take in the coming months to support your students?
Since 26 March, the IMM has been working non-stop to ensure that our students’ academic journey remains uninterrupted. Our various teams have not only been keeping the ‘engine going’ from home but are actually developing new products, content, platforms, and systems to make sure that our students look back at this semester as a successful experience and one that continues to push them toward their career objectives.
Our CEO, Dalein van Zyl, has been emailing students regular updates on all the important tweaks and changes to this semester’s schedule, emphasising some of the important items:
Assignments: Our assignment submission processes are ‘tried and tested’ and fully digital, or in other words, can be completed and submitted remotely, but the submission deadlines for most modules have been extended to allow a bit more flexibility for our students.
Examinations (Final Assessment): We decided to mitigate ongoing social distancing policies, so we have redesigned all the exams to allow for remote completion and submission. We’ve also put together memos and videos to help our students prepare and write an Open Book Assessment. The exam/final assessment schedule has also been tweaked and pushed out by 1 week.
Student support: Through our committed staff and our digital platforms, we have continued to provide support to our students almost 24/7.
3. Please share with us one of the courses you’re most excited about.
We recently launched our BCom International Supply Chain Management. It is an extremely relevant and interesting qualification that prepares students for the complex global trade and supply chain management sector. If you consider the most disruptive industries, as well as interesting businesses, it is not easy to ignore Amazon, one of the most valuable companies in the world. This qualification was mapped against industry standards and needs in order to develop skills that are job and industry relevant.
4. What are you looking forward to when it comes to the future of IMM Graduate School?
IMM Graduate School is at the forefront of technology-enabled education in South Africa. We have invested hugely over the last few years in systems and processes, and the result is a best-in-class combination of technology-enabled functionality with a human touch or support. We are able to offer our qualifications anywhere in the world and support students with equal intensity notwithstanding their location. At the same time, our talented and highly skilled faculty ensure that our curricula remain relevant to both graduates and future employers alike.
by Jani Grey . Q & A with IMM Graduate School – Leaders in technology-enabled education, Job Mail. Available here. [Accessed on 25 May 2020]
Euromonitor International: How is Covid-19 affecting the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends in 2020
It is May 2020. Students of the IMM Graduate School are busy writing their Final Assessments, not in a traditional examination venue, but rather on a computer, possibly at home. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, the world has no idea how long the coronavirus will directly and indirectly affect us. What we do however know is that every individual, every company and every institution, has indeed been affected by the coronavirus in some way or another.
In this regard, Euromonitor International, a London based independent provider of strategic marketing research, did a comprehensive study to forecast how Covid-19 will possibly affect consumer trends over the medium to long term. To accomplish this, Euromonitor International re-analysed the 10 global consumer behaviour trends it identified for 2020, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The objective was to potentially predict consumer behaviour once life return to (the new) normal. Below is a summary of the findings:
Trend 1: Beyond Human
According to Euromonitor (2020), prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus consumers looked at technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots to take over certain human functions. Using a robot will certainly be welcomed by many families in completing mundane tasks such as washing dishes, ironing and even making a good cup of coffee. Companies were investigating how AI can be used in their long term strategies to improve efficiencies.
But now, during the pandemic, people are either in quarantine or lockdown, some choosing self-isolation. This has led to a need for contactless services and technology. There has been a rise in the selling of voice controlled technology, the use of chatbots (to obtain information) and the demand in smart speakers and – household devices.
Companies are now investing in robotic automation for example in some medical sectors. Walmart, is using robots to clean its floors. As people are increasingly becoming comfortable to use robots, robots are going to move from a novelty item to an essential item.
Example: Meituan Diaping (China)
Meituan Diaping, in Beijing, China, is a leading food delivery company. Since February 2020, it has been using autonomous vehicles to deliver its foods. Even though this was technology that the company was developing pre coronavirus, the pandemic forced Meituan Diaping to implement the technology sooner than originally anticipated. Their no-contact delivery has allowed it to respond to consumer demands firstly, but it also addresses environmental issues, as the vehicles ease traffic congestion and the electric cars are more environmentally friendly than normal fuel-operated cars.
Trend 2: Catch me in seconds
Through the internet and digital technology, consumers were used to receiving more content in less time. People were not interested in reading long-winded advertising messages. They were seeking personalised, authentic and appealing messages and communication channels. The consumers were expecting brands to identify the most useful content for them. They needed brands to reassure, to provide engaging narratives, and consumers therefore demanded short, speedy and multisensory messages.
Now, amidst the virus pandemic, social distancing and fewer face-to-face interactions have become part of our day-to-day lives. Consumers are worried by the virus and its implications. They are distracted by the merging of work-, home – and play life, all in the same physical space. When reaching out to consumers now, brands must rather be reassuring and supportive, as opposed to selling a product. Brands must show what they are doing to fight the virus and improve public health. Consumers want to be engaged and have fun with brands in these difficult times.
Companies would need to be agile and relevant to engage with people who are preoccupied and scared. This will place them in a good position post lockdown. The world is possibly going to face the worst recession ever, consumers are going to be extra careful on where they spend their money. Brands that were proactive during the lockdown will possibly stand out and be favoured above those that that did not engage in positive ways with their audiences.
Example: Giffgaff (UK)
Giffgaff is a mobile telephone network. The company launched an advertising campaign called ‘putting community first’ with the objective of providing people with the means to be there for each other and be able to share, through a mobile virtual network. Giffgaff went further to provide consumers with information and tips on how to deal with isolation and mental health concerns. Its focus on people rather than product or services allowed the company to build positive brand associations.
Trend 3: Frictionless mobility
People had the freedom to move around in congested cities. This has, in developed economies at least, shifted the consumer’s mind-set from ownership of some form of transport to access of transport. People had the freedom to move around and used apps and technology to access transport and pay for transport tickets.
The coronavirus has stalled this mind-set – people movement is limited and people are vigilant and cautious when it comes to mobility. People have moved away from sharing transport due to the inherent health risks, and in some cases are starting to use their owned transport again. There has been an uptake in cycling again – in Germany pop-up cycle lanes have been created, specifically designed to have enough space to allow for social distancing amongst cyclists.
Whilst consumers will slowly start resurfacing once the worst of the epidemic is over, flexible working hours will be more of the norm. Over the longer term, frictionless mobility will still be important, but maybe not to the extent as pre covid, i.e. rush hour traffic may be something of the past or at least the intensity of rush hour will be substantially reduced. Companies should be looking at investing into alternative sustainable solution, which include the removing or limitations of health threats that transport sharing brings about.
Example: Wheels (US)
Wheels, an electric bike start-up company, suffered huge losses due to the contamination scare. Wheels partnered with Nanoceptic, a company manufacturing self-cleaning service products. Nanoceptic develop a skin on scooters’ bike handles which continuously self-cleans. This allows Wheels to safely redeploy their fleet of scooters, and to adjust rental pricing plans for better deals with regular users.
The bottom line is that companies need to actively limit any health threats to their consumers.
Trend 4: Inclusive for all
Consumers were demanding that companies develop products and services that are accessible to all people, including those with physical or mental disabilities. Consumers wanted brands, products or marketing initiative which make inclusivity the foundation of their business – companies had to embrace people with disabilities, and actively try to understand the needs of such consumers. Business had to enable fully immersive opportunities for everyone.
Now, with the Covid 19 virus in full swing, this trend has become even stronger. Anxiety levels are high, especially for disabled people as they tend to have lower immune systems which makes their risk of catching the virus even more pronounced. Disabled people also requires carers, which makes social distancing impossible in some cases. It has become even more important for disabled people to have access to information. As the general public has a better understanding of the disabled’s world due to themselves being in isolation or lockdown, there has been an increase in community spirit. People are investing their own time in helping such people and putting pressure on companies to do more.
Disabled people, on the other hand, benefit from technology, for example, a greater ability to access virtual reality. Online communications enable more people to interact virtually and participate in a variety of activities. This certainly helps people with mental health problems as well as physical disabilities.
Example:UNESO World Heritage (Machu Piccu)
UNESCO, with their immersive virtual tours, allows all people, including those with physical disabilities, to access Machu Piccu in Peru. It allows viewers to really get a feel for the greatness of the site. Uvisit, the platform that UNESCO uses, enables any business to set up a virtual tour or event, allowing it to reach new audiences.
Trend 5: Minding myself
People were focused on mental wellbeing, including preventing the physiological effects of stress, worry and sleeplessness. Traditional stimulants such as alcohol and tobacco was used by practicing so-called ‘responsible stimulation’. Companies provided products and services enhancing mental wellbeing.
It has now become a matter of rebalancing, of creating a new normal. People need to manage their anxieties, therefore consumer behaviour will focus on self-care. Now, during Covid 19, people are secluded, and many are living in fear of the unknown and even claustrophobia due to living with family with no outlet for physical and/or mental space. People need to learn to live in the new state of unprecedented normality. As there are higher levels of anxiety levels due to the lockdown, people are using products and services that helped them manage their feelings and handle the severe emotional and physical situations. Herbal products and legal cannabis products are in higher demand. Social networks are used to fill the gap left by lockdown and social distancing. The uptake on relaxation and medication apps have increased.
Even after the dust of the coronavirus has settled, mental health will remain a focus. Consumption patterns will focus on the ‘self’ and good mental and physical health products will be in demand.
Example: Mindhope (Spain)
Mindhope provides mental health services. The company started a new therapy platform which connects consumers with psychologist. The platform also facilitates online appointment bookings, and is very easy to use. People who are already struggling can therefore easily cope with the use of the technology.
In general, mental wellness orientated solutions will become increasingly important as Covid-19 has already demonstrated its huge impact on physical and mental health – the ease of use and accessibility for all are key success ingredient.
Trend 6: Multifunctional homes
With the advent and growth of the coronavirus spread, people started cocooning themselves – home became a shelter from uncertainty. Businesses are actively exploring and implementing remote working and the world has seen a rise in the use of technology to make it easier to work, shop and play from home.
Now home equals the office. People are socialising in virtual space. Social media has replaced people’s previous social gatherings. Every day has become casual Friday as people are working in casual clothes from home.
School going children of all ages have moved online and people attend gym -, cooking -, and other classes online. People are now celebrating birthdays both alone and online. Consumers are using online platforms less to promote themselves, as in the past, but rather to stay connected with others. Livestream and video chats are increasingly being used by all.
Euromonitor (2020) predicts that the transition from home as the hub is here to stay. It may not be to the extreme that it is during the lockdown, but working from home will certainly become a greater reality. Consumers will furthermore change their at-home-habits – more working from home and more casual dressing will become the norm. Virtual lifestyles will run parallel with physical activities and – lifestyles when the world ‘comes out’ again.
Example: Zoom (US)
Zoom is a communications technology company. It provides functionality for companies, groups and individuals to create and attend virtual meetings. These services are offered free of charge to schools in some countries. It has become a social platform where people do remote video chatting, share drinks, do quizzes and party.
Companies need to invest in technology and other equipment to facilitate employees to effectively work from home.
Trend 7: Private personalisation
Early in 2020 consumers wanted to received tailored products and services. But there was a general hesitancy in providing personal information due to fears of who has access to data and how will such personal data be used. Business was forced to heavily invest in secure data collection methods in order to ensure privacy.
Now, people are more worried about the virus and more prepared to share data in the name of public health. Privacy concerns are put on hold in the short term. There will be a widespread increase in online ordering and payments, also amongst older people who tended to shy away from this previously, not trusting online shopping. Online shopping has become a necessity and is not a choice anymore. Companies would need to make privacy messages clear, especially for new audiences. Companies would furthermore need to review how they communicate to customers on the benefits of sharing personal data.
Example: Sentinel Health Care (US)
Sentinel is a health tech start-up that monitors consumers’ health remotely. It has launched a fever tracker application, enabled from a wireless thermometer, that sends real-time updates about an individuals’ health to healthcare systems, healthcare providers and so on. Sentinel identified a gap in the market which they were able to leverage by engaging with healthcare professionals to provide a personal solution that appeals to consumers’ desires to have a health monitor join the crisis. But consumers realised that they need to share personal data in order to be able to use Sentinel’s application. The benefits of sharing personal data, in this instance, far outweighed general fears of the potential mismanagement of data.
Trend 8: Proudly local going global
Consumers want products that both have both a local and national flavour. Covid-19 has catapulted this localisation. Consumers are searching for both national and local products and brands that highlights their local cultures, social norms, and traditional habits. Niche brands rode this wave by accentuating the localness of brands as part of their global marketing strategies. Businesses started increasingly to focus on local suppliers as borders were closed, whilst multinationals increasingly localised their overall operations. The virus has created a sense of ‘getting through this together’ through local business and communities support.
Post coronavirus consumers’ fear of contagion will still be strong enough to drive demand for local products. Local producers would need to provide stock and make the products that consumers want. Supply chains will become more transparent as consumers will want to know where their products are sourced. There will be a continued support of local business. The expected recessions after Covid- 19 will force multinational companies to invest even further in local manufacturing and supply chain services to provide more local products.
Example: Withies Delicatessen (UK)
Withies is a delicatessen in Somerset, United Kingdom, that offers local produce. With the outbreak of Covid, Withies started offering a new delivery service of freshly baked products to anxious or self-isolated consumers. Companies that adapt and introduce new services or products secure future trust and loyalty from consumers. In addition, they are expanding their reach to new consumers.
Trend 9: Reuse revolutionaries
Ethical consumers wanted a waste free future where products lasted longer and less waste was produced. Previously legislation surrounding the use of plastic shopping bags have changed in many countries, ranging from the banning of plastic bags under certain circumstances, to the consumer having to pay for plastic shopping backs in other. Such changes had led to the sharing and reuse of plastic in general. This trend lessened through Covid as people were afraid to touch products previously used, even if cleaned. There was a temporary move back to single use – and disposable products and staying healthy and safety.
Now, brands need to rethink – it is more about being clean than being green, as anxiety has moved consumer’s focus to health and safety. Over the medium term consumers will be worrying more about reinfection than green products.
But over the long term sustainability will still remain high on consumer’s agenda. Consumers will slowly return to sharing, reusing, renting and refilling. Companies will still need to embrace the reuse trend and educate consumers about the safety of reusable options. This will include clear instructions on how to reuse and recycle to avoid the spread of the virus.
Example: Refill APP (UK)
Refill APP allows consumers to refill their water bottles from a tap at specific points in the United Kingdom, free of charge. Water is generally found from either fountains or businesses which provide clean drinking water to the public. But now, with the close of many companies, Refill App’s listing has changed. For those companies, however, that can continue to safely provide drinking water, Refill still provides their locations on the app, but with an included message on health and hygiene.
Trend 10: We want clean air everywhere
Younger generations have increasingly raised concerns on air quality and demanded companies reduce emissions to provide these generations with a sustainable future. Awareness of air pollution impacted where consumers travelled and ate. Consumers favoured brands that were doing something about air quality. Companies globally continued to look towards technology to fight pollution.
Limited travel due to the coronavirus had a reversing effect on climate change. Furthermore, there is less room for eco-anxiety. Rather, the focus will shift to indoor pollution, where people will be anxious about their own health, and cleaning, washing hands, disinfecting things and so on will continue. As the lockdown loosens, consumers will refocus on sustainable living to the advantage of both people and the planet. There will be a combined focus on both the prevention of air pollution as well as being clean as the impact of pollution on people with respiratory problems will increase respiratory viral infection.
Consumers will seek solutions against pollution and require companies to actively innovate in their drive to prevent pollution.
Example: BYD (China)
BYD is the biggest electric vehicle manufacturer in China. With the coronavirus epidemic, BYD adjusted its production lines to supply face marks and hand sanitisers, to the volumes of five million face marks and 300 00 bottles of hand sanitisers produced per day. The switching of BYD’s production to manufacture protective equipment captured consumers’ hearts. Companies such as BYD may, post lockdown, be ahead in terms of consumer goodwill relative to companies who did not similar things during the virus spread.
As per Euromonitor International (2020), the coronavirus has to a greater or lesser degree, impacted all the pre-identified consumer trends for 2020:
The trends ‘multifunctional homes’, ‘beyond human’, ‘minding myself’, ‘proudly local’, ‘going global’ and ‘inclusive for all’ experienced an immediate spike as a result of the virus. This was followed by a long term shift in consumer behaviour relating to these trends.
‘Catch me in seconds’ experienced an immediate spike but is expected to follow its pre-covid patterns.
‘We want clean air everywhere’ has not changed, but may be even more pronounced due to the correlation between poor air quality, the coronavirus and respiratory problems.
‘Frictionless mobility’, ‘reuse revolutionaries’ and ‘private personalisation’ were trends that saw an immediate drop but which will expectedly recover after normalisation.
The key take-aways from this research conducted by Euromonitor (2020) are:
Currently, both consumers and business are dealing with extreme disruption, necessitating the need for rapid adaption. Brands need to be repurposed as being useful, helpful and supportive.
In the near term people and companies should use this time effectively to do tasks that they have not had time to do before. Planning should focus on returning to a new normal.
In the long term companies will be forced to reshape their future strategy planning, build in flexibility, prepare for multiple scenarios and possibilities and overall embrace technology.
Angus, A (2020). How is COVID-19 affecting the top 10 global consumer trends 2020?, webinar file in How is COVID-19 affecting the top 10 global consumer trends 2020?, Euromonitor International. Available here. [Accessed on 15 May 2020]
IMM Graduate School is offering fast-paced express courses that you can do in less than 1 week for just R475 per course while in lockdown
Covid-19 is here and it’s not going to disappear overnight. South Africans still have a long way to go in the fight against the corona virus before life returns back to normal. With the country in lockdown for 21 days, millions of South Africans are beginning to feel the pinch as businesses start to cut salaries and in some cases jobs.
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