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Norwegian CMS startup Sanity wants to kick content creation out of the 90s

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As a digital marketer, you’ve more than likely to have had a run-in with a content management system (CMS). If you’re lucky, you might even get to use one every day.

Whether it’s WordPress, SilverStripe, Drupal or Django, tucked away in the backend, it’s easy to take these painfully functional workhorses for granted, but one Scandinavian startup thinks the status quo is well overdue for an overhaul.

Sanity is the product of Norwegian digital agency Bengler and co-founders Øyvind Rostad, Simen Svale Skogsrud, and Even Westvang, who want to build a CMS native to the connected world its forebears were never designed for.

“Most people working today don’t even want to think about their CMS systems,” said Westvang, Sanity’s CPO, to Business Insider Nordic; “I think it’s obvious that existing solutions [have] been stuck in the late 90’s for many years.”

The idea for Sanity stemmed from its founders’ own “personal discomfort” with CMS, who found the most common platforms were time-consuming, and ultimately, no longer fit for purpose in a digital ecosystem built on seamless connections between website, smartphones, social media and video.

Sanity is trying to eliminate a reliance on page structure as the governing principle of content creation. The product acts to centralise all content within businesses while taking into account new technologies and platforms, and also caters for real-time edits to the same content across numerous sources.

“For many companies, the website becomes the primary source of truth on what they’re doing,” said Skogsrud; “What you should do is structure your content around what your company actually tries to achieve – the projects, the people and the clients – and get rid of the page as the organising principle.”

Enabling for real-time content collaboration across teams, Sanity stores content in one database, allowing for distribution via integrated APIs to smartphones, web pages, or even brochures or coffee tables books – the key point being, that where the content ends up should not need to be predefined.

According to BI, the idea came about at Bengler when working for client OMA, a Dutch architect. Using one data source, a combination of “architectural images, presentations, books, crediting and timelines”, the team were able to create a website, business development tools and print-ready portfolios.

“Working with structured data let us unlock achievements like looking up their buildings on Instagram over APIs and adding a content curation interface to the CMS to allow adding them into the data repository, and onto the website,” explained COO Øyvind Rostad.

“Along with external news sources and their own activity we created a real-time narrative of how their works are being used.”

Backed by a suite of clever features and integrations, what Sanity really gifts to the market is a refreshed (and well overdue) perspective on content creation and its place within branding strategy and communications.

It’s not a stretch to imagine forward-thinking agencies adopting Sanity for their clients. At the same time, however, it’s also easy to imagine that many companies will be reluctant to kick their old addiction to the archaic.

Sanity is now looking to expand what it hopes to be a “category-defining” offering following a $1.1m (£880k) seed round from tech investors and founders in its home market, with sights set on San Francisco.

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‘Bang for our buck’: how MSIG's first-ever CMO plans to reinvent insurance marketing

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As the first-ever person to hold the chief marketing officer role at MSIG Holdings (Asia), Rebecca Ang Lee believes her most immediate priorities is to ensure alignment of the insurer in the online space, develop a regional sustainability direction, and promote digital transformation through innovation within the company and industry to stay relevant.

MSIG, which is a part of the Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company within the MS&AD Insurance Group, promoted Lee, who oversaw brand and communications and business excellence across ASEAN, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand as senior vice-president, in October.

Lee has wasted no time in getting down to work, ensuring that MSIG customers can expect dynamic websites with better user experience across its markets in the region. MSIG Vietnam was the first to complete the revamp early this year, with Lee pushing for more markets to complete their respective websites in the next couple of months.

“The new website was built with the users’ experience in mind and I am looking forward to getting our customers’ feedback. Content on our social media channels are also progressively evolving to better serve our customers,” she explains. “A success story to quote is MSIG Indonesia – we started out with less than 1k followers and achieved a substantial leap to about 90k today just after a year of introducing refreshed content.”

“We hope to replicate this success in the other markets, taking local preferences and nuances into consideration. Ultimately, our goal is to engage our customers with useful content that can aid them in their insurance purchase journey.”

MSIG’s sustainability agenda is now managed by the brand and communications team, which is led by Lee, after the creation of the sustainability taskforce for Asia. She explains this means she can embed the key messages into the group’s internal and external communications, therefore strengthening its brand building efforts.

“The goal is to ensure MSIG’s medium-term management plan ‘Vision 2021’, which emphasizes sustainability as a key focus for the group, is carried on. “With the creation of the sustainability taskforce for Asia, we hope to complement our group’s initiatives and achieve greater impact together,” she says.

“As sustainability is becoming an issue of growing importance around the region, and in the world, we have a responsibility to support this agenda. We will need to build a sustainability mindset and culture from within the organization, and are looking to collaborate with partners to engage and educate all staff.”

Lee is also trying to promote innovation within the company and industry through partnerships to catch up with its rivals like NTUC Income, which ranked the highest in Singapore when it comes to being future ready for digital transformation, while MSIG came in 22nd. It has since signed a deal with start-up accelerator Plug and Play which will see it become a founding anchor partner of Plug and Play’s Insurtech platform.

The platform aims to invest in and help local and international fintech and Insurtech startups to grow through connecting them to major financial institutions and insurers. It will also allow MSIG to build relationships with start-ups that are developing new technologies and solutions.

According to Lee, this partnership will help MSIG innovate and explore revolutionary ideas as technology is changing at a pace where it is forcing the industry to undergo digital transformation especially in the more mature markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

“From the angle of internal communications, we explored different ways to engage our employees, creating thematic town halls that infuse the creative use of digital apps and tools to create a mindset change from within,” she says.
“The pace of technology also impacts the media channels and landscape. Digital no longer just means website and social media channels. While people are consuming news through social media, they are also getting their entertainment from Netflix, using more smart devices and creating smart homes to manage their lifestyle. This means that consumer digital touchpoints are increasing with new channels to reach out to them. However, budgets are always limited, and the challenge is deciding where to place them to reach out to our desired target audience.”

MSIG's marketing strategy and its relationship with its agencies

With limited budgets and facing the challenges of reaching out to its desired target audience even as they get more connected than ever before and expect seamless experiences when they interact with brands, MSIG wants to focus on its unique selling points of providing great service quality and offering a seamless claims experience for its customers.

Lee, who spent more than two years in total working at agencies like Leo Burnett, Dentsu and Y&R before joining MSIG, is keen to tap on her experience as a communicator and a leader having been on both sides of the fence, to ensure MSIG’s marketing strategy over the long term is relevant and that the company will continuously innovate to improve customer experience.

For example, in Singapore, she points out MSIG was the first to introduce straight-through claims payout using FAST bank transfer, eliminating the time to process cheques and in Thailand, it introduced MSIG SpeeDi, where motor insurance customers are able to get phone assistance within 60 seconds with the touch of a button, have their location triangulated by GPS and sent to a motor surveyor who will arrive on scene within 30 minutes. For Malaysia, MSIG optimized its processes to save claims processing time by over 98% so that customers can get their payment quickly.

“It’s about putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes and challenging the status quo. We have a few customer segments depending on the insurance need, and we target them through consumer insights, behavior and content marketing both offline and online,” she explains.

“The advantage of using online channels is that we’re able to measure our KPIs. However, it does not just stop there, the data needs to be analyzed with follow up action plans to improve on future communication and targeting of our products to customers.”

Lee is also keen to stress MSIG’s marketing strategy cannot succeed if it is not open and honest with its agencies, the key to forging a successful partnership, as they will help them understand the company’s challenges. MSIG’s creative agency is M&C Saatchi and its media agency is Wavemaker.

In addition, she also sees agencies as an extension of her own team and will take time to share information and insights in MSIG’s discussions with its agencies.

“When I joined MSIG two years ago, our branding efforts were only beginning. We were looking for partners who understood our starting point and were keen to grow with us. Two years on, we see both agencies as partners in this journey of brand building, supporting us in our vision to develop MSIG Asia as the centre of excellence,” Lee explains.

Cutting through the noise

Presently, the insurance industry is a saturated one with both life and general insurers vying for a share of voice. It also does not help when there is little differentiation between life and general insurance brands in the eyes of a consumer.

Moving forward, Lee says MSIG approach is to get a ‘bang for our buck’, to be more strategic and creative in its messaging, positioning and targeting. Digital is always a part of MSIG’s media mix as it enables the insurer to target its customers better and is a more cost-effective channel.

“However, we still try to adopt a holistic approach as our research has shown that a combination of traditional and digital media still works best for us to achieve high awareness for a campaign. Also, apart from advertising, it is important to integrate all other customer touch points in the entire buying cycle, from discovery to purchase to repeat customers,” she explains.

“It’s about the synergies of messaging through 360 marketing including in-store experience, PR and research. Pre- and post-campaign research is crucial in understanding the most effective media channel and the research results are always used to improve the media mix for the next campaign.”

There are daunting tasks facing Lee as she tries to future poof MSIG for the future, but moving Lee into the newly-created CMO role is the first step by the insurer to getting there.

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West Midlands Trains appoints Impero to create branding for two new rail brands

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West Midlands Trains has appointed Impero, to create branding, positioning, and communications for their two new UK rail brands – West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway following a competitive pitch.

Impero is tasked with updating the branding and visual identity for both brands. The agency will create branding and visual guidelines, brand positioning and communications strategies to support the £1 billion investment programme.

West Midlands Trains operates under two distinct brands; West Midlands Railway connecting Birmingham and the West Midlands region, while London Northwestern Railway serves London Euston, Tring, Milton Keynes, Birmingham New Street, Crewe, and Liverpool Lime Street. The West Midlands Trains franchise started in December 2017 and will run until 2025/26.

West Midlands Trains' head of sales & marketing Penny Allen said: “We are very excited to have Impero on board. Throughout the pitch process, they acted like our true partners, bringing fresh thinking and superb creativity to the table. We feel it's going to be a great journey and partnership to bring our £1 billion investment programme to life."

Michael Scantlebury, Impero creative director, added: ”We’re thrilled to be a part of the West Midlands Trains story, and to create compelling identities and communications that get people excited for these two new great train brands."

Impero is an independent creative agency working with brands including Beefeater Gin, Havana Club rum, Chivas Regal and Richmond Sausages.

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‘Hate is a status symbol. If you’re not being hated you’re not in the game’ says celebrity branding guru Jeetendr Sehdev

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New York Times bestselling author Jeetendr Sehdev believes that chief marketing officers need to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage with.

Ahead of his keynote, ‘Human 2.0: Sacrifice Everything If You Believe In Something’, at The Future of Marketing on November 22, Sehdev chats to The Drum about his book ‘The Kim Kardashian Principle’, how the Nike Colin Kaepernick campaign implemented his rules to create their success and why brands should embrace the hate from social media.

An era of unrest and unease – this is the new reality for brands and businesses. Does that mean businesses now need to learn new rules for branding?

You bet. Anyone who’s serious about competing in this new reality needs to recognise that there are new rules of the game. In fact, there are six of them that I sum up in a framework called S.E.L.F.I.E. in my book The Kim Kardashian Principle.

Are there any examples of who’s doing it well?

I would have to say the Nike and Colin Kaepernick campaign. The media reported on how Nike had applied the rules of The Kim Kardashian Principle to create the breakthrough campaign. And how their headline ‘Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ was inspired by one of my branding rules ‘sacrifice everything to believe in something’. Given it’s become one of the most talked about advertising campaigns in recent history, and generated $163.5 million worth of brand exposure, I would say Nike followed the new rules well.

Every single business is talking about being authentic and driving some sort of purpose. There is so much noise. What piece of advice would you would give to marketers, when trying to connect with consumers?

Yes, but every single business is talking about being authentic by striving to be perfect, and that’s a problem. Which brand, CEO, organization or individual today can claim the mantel of perfection anyways? What’s right for one consumer might not be right for another – as marketers we need to respect that.

My definition of authenticity has always been about focusing on what you believe and what you want to create regardless of the blowback. It’s not about living up to other people’s standards but living up to your own standards, and that requires tons of courage. It’s about breaking through by becoming your own champion.

In today’s world where consumers have finely-tuned authenticity detectors and value those who march to their own drum beat, The Kim Kardashian Principle is the only definition of authenticity that’s going to get you noticed.

What is that one thing that CMOs should change when doing business in this changing world?

CMOs have to start thinking differently about the younger generations they’re struggling to engage. It’s easy to demean and degrade others for being different. Narcissistic, lazy, entitled, stupid… How many times have we heard millennials and generation Z being labelled that way? You don’t like the fact that a YouTuber promoted himself to fame by playing video games, made $15 million on his latest endorsement deal, brought some followers to big himself up? It doesn't matter.

Instead of playing the moral police, look at ways to empathize with a new generation with a different value system. What drives them to do what they do? Understand it, empathize with it. It’s especially important for us because we’re in the business of building emotional connections. That’s the value of a brand, right?

You talk about breaking rules, what are the risks CMOs need to be aware of when considering “bold and dynamic” messaging? How should you balance risks and failures in this increasingly connected world?

It’s no secret that the largest most sophisticated brands are struggling to engage younger audiences today. The biggest risk CMOs will take today is not taking enough risks! Traditional marketing tactics are no longer working, the competition is too intense, audiences are too savvy. Hiding your true opinions as an organization – from social to political to financial to environmental – in an attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator is just not a viable option for brands anymore. Younger audiences are value-driven, and they want to engage with brands that have similar values… so, you’ve no longer have a choice but to show your true values.

When it comes to brands or celebrities, in terms of influence, what can the two learn from each other?
So much. New world leaders like Kim Kardashian can teach brands how to cultivate develop and lead a new generation of consumers. Any brand that is serious about engaging their audiences needs to be paying close attention to Kim.

Talk us through the top two key themes that will ignite brands in the future?

First off, hate is a status symbol. If you’re not being hated you’re not in the game. There’s no avoiding hate with social media. Everybody has a platform to voice their opinions now, besides I’m a big believer that everybody has both a right to their opinion and to be heard. You’re not going to please everybody and any attempts to cater to the lowest common denominator will only be seen as inauthentic. So, embrace the hate and learn to love it.

Secondly, it’s not about creating fans but fanatics. Those who have blind faith and are willing to see through to the intention of your idea. That’s a much deeper level of emotional bonding that brands will need to achieve in order to compete and fend off future competition.

‘Business as usual’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Transformations are radically altering our lives, making it more daunting than ever to make a positive impact on our wellbeing, our productivity, and our world. How should we manage this challenge?

Don’t resist it. Embrace it. Run with it. Even if you don’t fully understand it. With greater innovation has also come greater levels of forgiveness from audiences if your idea, product or service doesn’t quite work out.

Sehdev will attend The Future of Marketing on November 22. You can purchase tickets for the event at The Crystal, London here.

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