Festive marketing with online advent calendars


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We’re only three days into December and I’ve already entered or signed up for half a dozen online advent calendars, and I’m on the lookout for more!

The problem is, some of the prizes I’ve signed up for I’m not really sure I want (and I certainly don’t need), so why do I enter? Just this morning I entered Liverpool Echo Arena’s 12 Days of Christmas competition to win tickets to The X Factor live show. Do I like The X Factor? No I certainly do not! But I’m sure should I win that there is someone I’ll be able to give the tickets to.


I think it’s because everybody enjoys the good feeling they get when they win something, and even if that prize isn’t something they want they can still attain that nice feeling by giving the prize to a friend or family member and making them happy. The benefits for the organisations that create these calendars is that they’re often shared via email, social media and word of mouth so brand awareness is increased, and there is also an increase in the amount of people signing up to their mailing list so they can make their potential customers aware of their products or services all year round.

I’m such a fan of these calendars that I suggested that my own work created one for our website, renshawbaking.com. There is a mix of offers behind each calendar door, from 25% off discount codes and free delivery offers, to ‘share to win’ prizes and exclusive festive recipes.

Advent Calendar final

There are a number of reasons I thought it would be worthwhile creating a Renshaw Baking calendar.  One reason is to thank our existing customers; we’re rewarding those who already shop with us with money off orders or free delivery. These offers may also incentivise new customers to shop through the website.

There is also a great social element involved with the Renshaw calendar; twice a week we’ll be encouraging followers on Facebook and Twitter to share that day’s calendar door for a chance to win a voucher for the website, or sign up to our newsletter for a chance to win a product hamper. If a prize is won by someone who is already experienced at decorating with icing or by someone who is just starting out, winning and using our products will hopefully encourage them to continue to buy from us in future.

Advent Calendar door

Sharing posts raises awareness of our page to those with an interest in baking and cake decorating, who will then ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ us. The benefit of this is that through social media we can get direct feedback on our products and see what the new sugarcraft and cake decorating trends are among our customers, so we can then create content that they will enjoy. So the more people we connect with on social media the better for all.

By encouraging people to sign up to our newsletter we can keep them up-to-date with our latest product launches or offers, and share links to our latest blogs and recipes.

There is also content for everyone in the advent calendar, not just incentives to buy, share or sign up to our newsletter. We’ve included exclusive festive recipes behind some of our calendar doors which talk people through how to decorate each design with our products, so that they can make something nice at home for their family and friends over the Christmas holidays.

I’d love to know what you think of the Renshaw Baking advent calendar, and if you have any of your own to share then please do.


How the NHS can utilise digital marketing to its advantage


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As I have previously worked in an online communications role for the NHS, the use of digital media is something I strongly feel they should make more of, particularly when the NHS has been the target of so much negative media, digital media could help to spread more positive messages.

Video Content

I worked with another colleague at Liverpool Community Health (LCH) NHS Trust on the International Nurses Day (IND) 2013 campaign. My colleague worked on staff engagement and I focused on external engagement. I created a dedicated section on the LCH website where I hosted blogs written by Nurses on their day-to-day activities, and an online form for members of the public to share their positive memories and experiences of the NHS.

I considered that some visitors to the IND web pages may not have time to read the blogs in full, or more than one blog, so I decided to create some video content too. I filmed Nurses from a variety of services in short 1-2 minute videos talking about what made them proud to be a Nurse. I used my iPhone to film them which was handy for catching Nurses in between visits to patients (there was no need to set up camera equipment), and the quality turned out quite well.

This video content, I felt, was incredibly emotive and very effective in promoting positive messages about the NHS; every one of us has either been a patient, or has known a family member or friend to use an NHS service, so to hear first-hand accounts from Nurses can be very personal and moving. You can view more of these videos on the LCH website.

Video content of NHS staff, patients and their families is something I believe the NHS should invest more in. How often do we see videos shared on our social media timelines? It is the perfect format for viral sharing, provided that you get the content right. We all enjoy watching video content that makes us feel happy or positive, the more the NHS creates this type of content the more likely the public are to use the services and stand behind them.

Below is another example from my time at LCH; this video shows how the Walk for Health scheme has helped change the lives of the attendees, both from a health and social perspective.

Social Media

All of the content on the IND campaign web pages was shared through LCH’s Twitter account which has over 5000 followers, which was great for raising awareness of the campaign and the positive work that NHS staff do.

What I also found through my time at LCH was that Twitter was helpful for connecting with other NHS organisations and advocates, and influential people in the local area to the Trust such as politicians. Letting these influencers know before hand of any social campaigns you may be launching or important messages you want to promote would be beneficial for helping to share these among a wider audience.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s Organ Donation campaign is a good example of using social media for raising awareness of the importance of registering to the NHS Organ Donor Register. They balance the serious and moving messages with light hearted ones, and tie in to trends and popular culture through Twitter to keep spreading their message further. They use visual infographics that are easy to view and understand to highlight organ donation statistics, and encourage people to share the fact that they’ve signed the register.


However, for those NHS Trust’s that may not have the budget to launch such a campaign, or whose focus is on a local area and not nationally, the same principles apply. Understand what your audience are talking about (trending topics, seasonal themes) and align your messages or health campaigns to these to improve the chances of your audience reading them.

Use health statistics that will make an impact with your audience, but try to make these positive too! Sometimes scaring people with health issues isn’t always the way to get a message across; for example, ‘We helped … people in Liverpool to live more independently through our Physiotherapy Service’, or ‘We’ve helped a record number of people quit smoking this year, there’s still time for you to be one of them!

What else?

NHS Foundation Trusts have a database of Members whom they keep in touch with and send email updates to. E-newsletters are a perfect way to share your positive digital content with an audience you know are interested in what you are doing, and if they like what you send them then they will be more likely to share this with friends and family. Try adding social links in to your email newsletters.

If you have seen any other good examples of digital marketing in the NHS then I’d love to see them, please comment with links or social accounts that would be worth following.

John Lewis: Champions of viral marketing


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For the last couple of years I’ve read emotional tweets and Facebook posts from friends sharing the John Lewis Christmas advert, wondering how an advert could make them cry and wanting to share this feeling with all of their online contacts.

This year, this happened several days before the advert was even launched; people were counting down the time until it was released, wondering how John Lewis could top last year’s ‘The Bear and The Hare’ and were already on the verge of an emotional breakdown in anticipation.

John Lewis stepped up their campaign this year, taking to social media to tease their eager festive advert fans with #montythepenguin on Twitter, weeks before the advert was launched. This was soon trending on Twitter, and John Lewis had successfully created hype and conversation before anybody knew anything more than the fact that, surely, a penguin would feature in the advert.

The added build up to the advert resulted in a record number of YouTube views in the first day of its release for one of John Lewis’ campaigns. The emotional element of the advert also meant that it went viral quickly too; it’s not bad enough that people cry at adverts but they want their friends to cry too! That said, the advert is very sweet, about a little boy with a penguin called Monty for a best friend. Monty begins to long for a female companion, which the little boy gets him for Christmas (mail order bride, anyone?), summed up with the phrase ‘Give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of’.

John Lewis has also struck content gold with the use of a cute animal in their advertisement. There are plenty of social media accounts dedicated to animals like @TunaTheDog (TunaMeltsMyHeart), a dog with an overbite that won over the hearts of millions in the online social world. Animal images also receive in excess of 20,000 likes on Instagram, and often go viral so it’s a good idea to use this hook to promote a brand.


The fact that John Lewis also invested time and money in creating a CGI penguin for their Christmas ad, rather than using a trained real one was praised by Peta, who awarded them with a Compassionate Marketing Award. Another hook to get animal lovers sharing the video, which has received over 17 million viewers so far.

The Christmas campaign has also stretched to dedicated Twitter accounts for Monty and his friend Mabel, Monty having over 34,000 followers. Monty’s account has been engaging followers with activities like ‘Monty’s Mixtape’ – Christmas themed songs that will go on a mixtape for Mabel. This engagement is a great way of sustaining interest in the campaign for longer. The launch of the advert through Twitter was also a great choice when the site now has over 284 million active monthly users.

So with this year’s campaign already a success, it’s intriguing to think what John Lewis might do next year to top it. And even if the advert didn’t make you cry, the £95 price tag on their penguins just might…

User Generated Content: A piece of cake


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We’ve recently been discussing User Generated Content (UGC) in the Emerging Technologies module of the MSc in Digital Marketing at Liverpool John Moores University, and it’s an area I’ve felt very engaged with.

Since starting my role as Digital Marketing Executive (in the sugarcraft and baking industry), I’ve been encouraging more opportunities for consumers/fans of our brand to share images of what they’ve been decorating or baking with our products. There were several reasons I thought it would be useful to gather more UGC through our social media channels.

Firstly, our brand website is full of professionally made and professionally photographed images of cakes, biscuits etc., which does not represent the type of ‘home baking’ that many of our customers do. By sharing what our customers have made with the rest of our followers we can give potential customers, and those with varying sugarcraft skill levels, a realistic representation of what is achievable using our products and inspiration for what they could make themselves.

Secondly, by putting an individual and the cake they have made into the spotlight on social media, which then gets recognition from others in that ‘community’, it makes that individual feel proud of what they have made and more likely to continue baking more and using our brand products. They are also likely to share this news with their wider friends and followers through social media, increasing brand awareness and followers of our accounts organically.

Thirdly and finally, user generated content helps us to see what trends, themes and colours are new and popular at the moment, which helps to inform blog posts and recipes that we write for our website, and new product development. It also means that we can develop our products to attract custom from a new (and usually younger) audience who have just started taking an interest in baking through the success of shows like The Great British Bake Off. By adapting we can ensure that our brand will continue to exist and hopefully grow.

Dominos have recently partnered with two popular Vine ‘stars’ Huw Samuel and Leslie Wai, who have over 127,000 followers between them, to produce a series of short videos on a quest to find the perfect slice of pizza, while facing obstacles such as the ‘Pizza Wizard’: https://vine.co/v/OMdYbOiKDOj/embed

By working with Samuel and Wai, Dominos are hoping to drive organic traffic to its blog (launched around a year ago) and set themselves ahead of their competitors in terms of organic reach. The short, humorous videos (which is the Vine video style) will feature on the Dominos blog as well as the Vine accounts of Samuel and Wai.

So far only Wai out of the two ‘Viners’ has included the video on his stream, with moderate applause and amplification rates compared to someof his more popular posts. However, as he has only a fifth of the followers of Samuel, the popularity of the Dominos sponsored Vine may increase once shared on both accounts.

Online fashion retailer ASOS have also been heading into the realm of UGC by encouraging customers to use #asseenonme for Instagram and Facebook images to showcase what they have purchased and their personal style, which has been hugely successful given that online fashion bloggers have become immensely popular over the last year or two.

ASOS also have a dedicated section on their website for this campaign, allowing shoppers to browse what other customers are buying and wearing, and gives those featured their moment in the spotlight, which I’m sure will result in brand loyalty to the ASOS range. The As Seen On Me campaign may even be something I take part in myself soon enough.


The #asseenonme feature on asos.com

Digital Marketing and Me


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I’ve recently taken two massive steps in my career, the first was deciding to leave the NHS to join the private sector (from health to baking!), and the second was to begin an MSc in Digital Marketing at Liverpool John Moore’s University.

I started considering Masters courses around a year ago, I graduated in 2010 and joined the NHS 9 months later, but I felt like I needed a new challenge and that the time was right to start preparing myself for when I wanted to take on a new job.

As luck had it there was an announcement at the same time that John Moore’s where introducing a new Digital Marketing MSc, and two months before I started the course I was offered a Digital Marketing role for a leading manufacturer in sugarcraft and baking ingredients.

The modules that will be covered in the Digital Marketing course are:

Semester One
• Digital Marketing Current and Emerging Technologies
• Marketing, Consumer and Business Insights
• Digital Marketing in Context

Semester Two
• Research Methods for Digital Marketing
• Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning
• Digital Marketing Campaign Management

My undergraduate course was in Film Studies and Media at Hope University, and I had never formally covered marketing, so for me the Marketing, Consumer and Business Insights module has been beneficial in gaining a formal understanding of how marketing should work across the whole of an organisation, and not as a stand-alone team.

This is something that I recognised within the NHS, each member of staff from clinical to corporate is responsible for ‘marketing’ in some way through the interactions they have with patients, colleagues and external partners. Marketing is also about how an organisation and its’ staff can work together, and put simply, happy staff equal happy service users or customers.

In the organisation I now work for they already have a strong community following through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, so the challenge for me is to make my own mark and look for new ways to engage digitally with our potential and existing customers. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to continue with what has worked well in the past, but I would like to see more of a correlation between our social media activity, website blogs/recipes and our sales through our website.

I’m looking forward to Semester Two in the course as I think that Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning and Digital Marketing Campaign Management will be useful for me when it comes to planning in campaigns across seasons, looking at ways to keep people interested and engaged with baking and sugarcraft, and looking at how we can improve the user experience on our website with content that appeals to all skill levels of sugarcrafters, as well as improving sales through what is a fairly new site.

I will continue to update this blog on my progress through the Digital Marketing MSc and also any thoughts I have on current digital marketing trends or campaigns that I find particularly interesting.