Simon Fryer, MD of KISS Communications
Backgrounder: KISS Communications is an integrated agency dedicated to keeping it simple. It provides design, digital, advertising and PR services prepared against clear strategic plans and concise success measurement, delivered by experienced professionals with creativity, agility and passion.
MD Simon Fryer started KISS Communications with Richard Bland (former creative director at Ware Anthony Rust) in 2007. Simon’s commercial focus and strategic ability has been honed through extensive experience of working with international brands including SOCOG, the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, The Woolmark Company, Electrocomponents, and many other blue chip names.
Responsible for executing pan-European and pan-Asian communications, off-line and on-line, Simon has also worked client side with the responsibility for launching one of the first wireless internet connectivity services for Telstra, Australia's dominant telecommunications provider.
Apart from working for a number of corporates and various advertising and design agencies, Simon has also worked on new business start-ups. In 1996 Simon broadened his focus to include digital, starting and building a digital agency delivering digital strategy, web sites and comprehensive online marketing campaigns for B2C, B2B, R & D national and international organisations, central and local government.1 How important is its brand to a business?The brand is the business. A strong brand must resonate with its main market enabling businesses to differentiate their products and services and target marketing resources. If your employees, customers and suppliers don’t value your brand then pricing and profitability will always be under pressure; you know your brand is in trouble when the first item on the agenda is price.
The brand is at the heart of all marketing communication and has to be clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders. A regular brand and communications audit helps businesses to understand, value and manage one of their most important assets. 2 How aware are executives of the commercial benefits of optimising their brand in your experience?Ranging from not at all to acutely. This has improved significantly in recent years, although it still very much depends on the culture of the business and the individuals within it.
I come across big businesses that have lost their way and small business that have been successful despite themselves. With the introduction of a marketing-led approach, brand optimisation and an appropriate level of investment they could be superstars.
In the UK technology sector, at an early stage anyway, businesses tend to be run by the entrepreneur or development team who came up with the original idea or invention. Exceptionally clever as they are, there is a tendency to believe that this brilliance is transferable to marketing, sometimes with very disappointing results. Compare this to the US model of getting the marketers involved at the start and we may start to understand why the US has so many gorillas that come here and feed on us.3 Thinking globally, what would you say are the best three or four brands in the marketplace and why are they successful?Google, out of nowhere, in 12 years has become one of the most dynamic and well recognised brands in the world. Some brands innovate, others copy, but very rarely do they succeed by creating a new business model, paid for search. By having an absolute focus on the customer experience, the Google web site design and navigation are a lesson in clear thinking and simplicity.
Apple certainly has positive brand momentum. The latest iPhone and iPhone apps are red hot, but don’t forget that in the late ’90’s Apple was seemingly all out of ideas and it is widely believed nearly out of business. Saved only by the return of Steve Jobs, who by rebranding Apple, and introducing some fantastic products, had consumers believing that by owning Apple they were showing their superiority from everyone else. At $100 million the re-brand did not come cheap but by creating an emotional bond between the brand and consumers Jobs saved this iconic brand and the business that owns it.
The Olympics is a truly global brand with no competition. The international and national committees, host countries and sometimes the athletes may not always act in its best interests but we will forgive them and continue to believe in the philosophy behind the Olympic ideals. The brand that will still exist in 100 years time? My money is on the Olympics.4 Do company bosses fully understand the difference between Public Relations and Marketing and what effective strategies in these areas can do for their business?I think they do. However, they often underestimate the significant benefits of the two disciplines working closely together. Effective Public Relations and marketing strategies need to be built on a firm understanding of the business plan.
There is often confusion over these two disciplines but generally, marketing aims to reach consumers and make them think, believe or do what you want, whereas PR is more focused on influencing and shaping reputations, either corporate or personal.
PR is really about warming up target audiences and providing independent endorsement. At the end of the day, people don’t buy a newspaper to read the adverts, they buy a paper to read the editorial. So if your company is mentioned in an article it will always carry more weight than an advert will.
Companies need both marketing and PR to remain successful, grow their business and ensure a loyal customer base. 5 Do they pay enough attention to image generally – encompassing design and brand issues and how they communicate with customers and stakeholders?I think many company bosses focus on the importance of top levels of communication and forget that every brand touch-point plays its part from the receptionist’s manner to the mug shot of the CEO on the company website.
A clearly defined image and brand enables customers and stakeholders to buy into your products and services, they then act as networked brand ambassadors, the best sales force in the world.6 Advertising on the internet has just overtaken TV advertising revenues for the first time. Do executives properly appreciate what the internet and digital marketing can do for their business –– do they even trust the worldwide web as a communication medium?I think executives still underestimate the power of internet, and the positive and negative impact it can have on their businesses. Many businesses still have little understanding of the medium and simply transfer their offline thinking to online, missing much of the opportunity.
The benefit of internet advertising is that it can offer companies targeted advertising at the point of interaction. An advert marketing your company, product or services is always going to have maximum impact if it's being seen at the point of use for a consumer. That individual is going to be far more receptive.
The smart players are developing marketing strategies with digital marketing activity fully integrated with off-line, which can often multiply the results.7 Are companies likely to communicate more effectively if they keep PR and marketing in-house with staff paid to know the business inside out rather than employing external consultants who may not understand every nuance?There are pros and cons of both in-house PR and marketing and using external agencies. In an ideal world companies should strike a balance between the two. An in-house team can play a key part in helping to extract business priorities and helping to ensure the brand is on message and that campaigns are aligned to marketing and business objectives.
However, in-house teams can be too close to a business and whilst being very good at reactive media relations are perhaps less creative when it comes to proactive PR. One of the key advantages of using an external agency is the ability to utilise a broad range of skills and depth of resource. 8 Have financially-pressed companies again made PR and marketing budgets a scapegoat during the recession or have the majority learned the lesson of previous downturns and fought to maintain visibility?Overall levels of investment in PR and marketing are down; however there seems to be a greater understanding compared to previous recessions, of the need to retain a level of marketing communications that will help to deliver competitive success when the economic climate stabilises.
Where this falls down is where the business model needs changing. There is no point in investing less, the same or more on PR and marketing if the business model does not work anymore. This can be very painful for previously successful companies and an opportunity for challenger brands.9 When companies sometimes only get one shot at winning a new client are they courting danger by trying to design brochures and other promotional literature in-house rather than employing external professionals?Winning new business is a team effort. Understanding what the client needs and having the right strategy will win new clients. Bringing in expert partners gives the odds of winning more business firmly in your favour. One poorly executed piece of communication can easily undermine investment that has already been made in building a brand.
In the main, companies that bring their services in house underperform in their chosen market because they are not focusing on their core business. Companies that work with external marketing partners have the ability and access to resources to accelerate their growth.10 What is the most effective piece of communication you have witnessed in your working lifetime?The `Avis, we try harder` campaign is still running today, nearly 50 years later.
In 1962 the leader in the car rental business was Hertz, with Avis and a range of other brands lagging way behind. Advertising Agency DDB, told the Avis management that before investing in any advertising they should overhaul their customer service and product. Bill Bernbach, co-founder of DDB reasoned: “It's always a mistake to make good advertising for a bad product.” The campaign repositioned Hertz and the market dominance of Hertz became a weakness.
Just before the first 'We try harder' advertising campaign, Avis was unprofitable with 11 per cent of the car rental business in the US. A year later Avis was making a profit, and by 1966 had tripled its market share to 35 per cent. During that period the advertising budget quadrupled.