Often, it’s hard to think about how much the world has changed in reality during our lifetimes. The younger you are the easier it is, after all, change is a particularly well executed process this millennium. However, if you, like me, are just a bit, or a lot, older than the Gen Z’ers, change can be quite a tough thing to quantify and its scale hard to appreciate. The classic examples are frequently based on technology; look at the internet, look at computer hardware, look at mobile phones etc. But one of the oft overlooked sectors is money. It’s almost been 3 years since the five pound note became polymer rather than fabric, ok it had been cloth since 1853, but governance moves slowly no matter the century. Now theres a good chance anyone reading may have had or know someone who has had a child in the last 3 years, they will never know about the notes we can pretty much guarantee most of us had become accustomed to. Strange, but let’s take it a step further, while not fully adopted till a decent while later, contactless payments began in the UK in 2007, a year after chip and pin became compulsory for over the counter shopping. This means, there are children starting their secondary education who have probably never known the idea of signing receipts for authorisation of a purchase, even the possibility they see ‘having to type a pin number into a keypad’ as a rare inconvenience, let’s not even start on cheques! So, considering the fact we can now swipe our phones over a console to pay for fairly considerably sized purchases it’s probably worth asking: We’re contactless, are we also going cashless?
With only around 35% of UK payments in 2017 made with cash, it was around 60% a decade before, you can truly see the rate of progress away from physical transactions. More and more people are becoming almost wholly reliant on cards and electronic wallets to take away the burdens of carry all their liquid capital around with them. As usual the most progressive and ‘laid-back’ countries are the one’s really progressing this narrative. While Britain’s rate of 35% is fairly good as a worldwide comparison, places like Sweden and Canada are when the cashless revolution is really taking hold. Canada is slowly doing away with coinage, comparably to New Zealand, having taken the penny out of circulation in 2013 and likely on the move to make 5 cents redundant soon as well. They also boast less than 30% of transaction volume as cash, significantly less than the UK but not good enough to take the payments crown. Sweden snatches victory in these terms, having lowered its total cash transactions to a mere 19% countrywide. This feat can be viewed with even more awe considering that some of the top financial bodies in the country believe it will, effectively, be a cash-free utopia by 2030.
Bearing all this in mind it’s best to analyse the ideologies behind champions and dissenters of this new paradigm. Most supporters of the move towards electronic payment, much like the even-minded amongst their opposites, stress that they would not support the pseudo-dystopias frequently seen in popular science fiction where all transactions are meted out via a swipe of some internalised bio-tech across a scanner. Simply put they think electronic payments should become the ‘normal’ way of things, with small reserves of cash kept by establishments for situations in which, for whatever reason, digital methods are not possible. Even most supporters of the cash system back this form of futurisation but with slightly less emphasis on the ‘normal’ and more complicated checks and balances placed on the mediator software and companies.
The benefits of embracing the move are several-fold. As mentioned, and not worth underestimating, the fact no one will be forced to carry germ covered, weighty and, hand-‘perfuming’ cash creating a hopefully cleaner and less stinky society, corporately, having to use less physical space and storage devices is invaluable. The other reality of the change in monetary usage is the upgrade in security and safety. One of the most prevalent forms of crime throughout history is robbery, from pickpockets to highwaymen via pirates and through to muggings, people have been stealing other people’s money for basically as long as the concept has existed. The ability to hold all of your money ethereally within a digital sphere only accessible via a secure electronic device is a vastly better solution than carrying around a hefty safe, or even if you own a business, having money in a till or locked office, lest we overlook burglary, ram raids and shop hold-ups. It means better security for your company in another way as well, financial fraud is something it seems is becoming more and more prevalent in the media, having only a limited, trackable, online channel of finance, money flowing in and out via spreadsheets apps and databases, means doing your taxes and being audited has never been simpler and hence possibly, never cheaper. The advent of the cryptocurrency is the constant enigma of the modern finance market, is it taking off or is it fading into faddy obsolescence? either way it is interesting to consider as a medium. Effectively acting like universal mediator currency to transfer funds from one person to another without any need for bank transfers, government interventions or conversion. It seems the goal of these currencies is to create a safe haven outside of the current fiscal system where monetary checks and balances are kept track of and their validity checked entirely by computer systems, essentially removing human error and greed from the financial oversight of the world, but not from its creation or the ownership of this oversight, it costs a lot to ‘use’ bitcoin in real terms so lots of people are making money being essentially bitcoin brokers even if they can’t influence the way the currency is traded, making it a true double edged sword in terms of value to society.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses, as mentioned there are those who don’t think moving wholly to a cash-free community is a great move, and they do have their reasons. The main reason, rather ironically, revolves around security as well. Holding all of one’s wealth in a virtual space is very good at stopping you being mugged or pickpocketed on the street, but humanity is nothing if not innovative, so what happens when you get digitally mugged? The general rise in tech and computing savvy individuals as the years roll on also means an increase in the ability of people to devise methods of extracting information and therefore, money via electronic means. With every iteration of banking software, ATM, online banking, wallet apps, those wishing to steal are repelled briefly before producing new work arounds and so the cycle goes. As is the case for most lines of questioning about cash-free the real problem is not that cash holdings are diminishing but more that having electronic means without any form of paper based back-up system exposes even multi-billion pound industries to the possibility of just having to cease any form of trading if say; a information leeching trojan horse or worm is released upon them, a server buckles under the load, or god forbid a prolonged power-cut fries some systems. The only other real objection towards the increase of electronic transactions is again rather disturbingly based on human nature. Study has revealed that giving people easy access to financing digitally can have a strong correlation with consumer debt. The ability to go into a store and buy something without having to see a cashier or even type in a pin number means the line between when people spend and how they view each transaction has become skewed. With less deterrent surrounding purchasing and a much easier customer journey comes the fact people don’t keep a true idea of their financial situation as well as they may like. And what happens when you suddenly find you have run out of money that month? You can probably go on the banks website or app and apply for another credit card or loan, easily accessible with background checks done, sometimes, in well under an hour. Consequently, some correlation has been observed between the rise of low cash society and debts compared to household incomes, a scary thought.
Whatever your view point on the future of cash, I’m sure we can all agree it has an interesting and uncertain time ahead. Maybe in another 12 years we will actually have all gone the way of the Swedes and the children born of 2031 will have no real concept of a wad of notes, a couch full of change or ‘making it rain’!
In 1990’s hundreds if not thousands, true statistic unknown, of women walked into their hairdressers and asked for ‘a Rachel’. 2019 not 1995 it would likely have been a trending hashtag within, and for, a day. Sufficed to say at the pinnacle of friends fever the most popular hairstyle in the land was Jennifer Aniston’s famous barnet. It can be seen as one of the biggest early viral phenomena, long before the widespread uptake of the internet and without a gif in sight. It also is one of the earliest and biggest displays of celebrity shadowing, the subtle art of copying things someone famous does, other great examples being things such as the way princesses dress or which boots footballers wear. While poor Jennifer was an innocent tend-setter these latter two are more blatant advertisements. Frequently famous women will be supplied with their dresses for free by aspirational or in many cases established designers under the proviso they are credited when they are inevitably asked ‘who are you wearing?’. Football as a sport is a highly charged hotbed of sponsorship and advertised activity their shoes are no different, often big money footballers will associate with only one brand of sportswear, with it becoming their uniform on most visible occasions, in return for a lot of fiscal advantage of course. So, endorsement has been around about as long as the very concept of celebrity, what does that mean in 2019? It means the same thing it has always done … but more!
The rise of internet has effectively meant almost anyone, with the will and wits to match, though some only need the lack of wit to be entertaining, can become a ‘pseudo-celebrity’. I put pseudo-celebrity in inverted comas there because the amount of reach most of these people have is likely to even out strip the amount of people someone would meet in their lifetime a mere century ago, the concept of celebrity has moved on a lot even in the last 30 years. In this era then how is celebrity endorsement handled, simply put in the same way it always has been, lots of celebrities are offered the chance to advertise big expensive things with recompense for tv adverts, magazine shoots and being a ‘brand ambassador’ in their everyday lives, more on this later. The interest comes with these pseudo-celebs and their role. Now they may ‘only’ have an audience of a few tens of thousands, maybe even a few hundred thousand, fans however, generally they come at a much lower cost than those people tens of millions have heard of. Hence the role of Influencer is born.
In simple terms an influencer is anyone who has an online presence that a company may consider to hold sway over an interesting demographic or audience and hence could be a useful way of marketing. The key notes to understand about the practice of Influencer marketing are these, it is not a fool proof method of engaging anyone and the laws governing it are not as concise or clear as those around celebrity endorsement, just because its true for Messi doesn’t make it clean for your Influencer.
Some of the most notorious influencer channels, in fact almost all influencer channels are centred around social media. The biggest channels are currently Instagram and YouTube by quite a large margin, though this shouldn’t be expected to continue forever, maybe as little as 7 years ago it’s likely Facebook would be running a much closer race and numbers of YouTube users has diminished recently, dropping in line with the rise of streaming services like Twitch. What do these influencers do? Essentially influencers are generally allowed a lot more freedom over their product endorsements than old-school celebrities. Often influencers have their own ways of using their social media channels and its frequently shown that using an influencer to market should be fit seamlessly into their normal schedule. The modern world of online celebrity, though it may not seem it is a hotbed of routine and order, no red-carpet appearances or press conferences but the pressure of constant and regimented content creation is a lot more work than wearing particular clothes to your day job.
So, what makes for a good Influencer marketing campaign. Let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons of using an Influencer to market your product or increase brand awareness.
Why not go straight to the big one, costs. As previously mentioned, when comparing the relative cost of celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing its very easy to focus on the fact influencers are generally much cheaper and less demanding. It shouldn’t be neglected that most of those over 25 were born to an existence where the internet did not dominate all things and almost all influencers parents likely held ‘normal’ jobs. They weren’t sent to stage schools or born to aristocracy many of them are very happy to be making money in some way other than serving drinks, fixing pipes or answering phones all day and as such have a greater appreciation for financial recompense. On the other side of the argument is the looming reality that in 2019 hiring an influencer is not the inexpensive task it was in 2015 or earlier, more companies are jumping onboard and with demand comes a rise in prices. Alongside this general rise it should be considered that the costs associated with an influencer marketing plan can outstrip those of classic periodic advertising campaigns as it is often effectively hiring an employee, maybe only for a month, but that is a continuous month of oversight and pay rather than a discreet cost of a stable message as an advert.
Second let’s consider the idea of popularity. The nature of influencer marketing trades its usefulness in essence on popularity. This is of course true of celebrity in a general sense, however, influencers, being for the most part regular people means they are under a more continuous scrutiny than most celebrities. Their every post and mention are scrutinised by their (and other peoples!) followers in essence as soon as it is put into the online environment. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It creates instantaneous fervour, the influencer you are employing for peanuts just had a post on the front-page of this week’s hottest platform, they grew their audience 3-fold within 2 days while promoting your product! Or maybe your influencer just had a genius insight about why we call them chicken breasts … and a mob of feminist vegans shut their twitter feed down with bilious comments within a few hours, it cuts both ways. Often, it’s best to back the favourite horse, the safe bet, maybe it won’t make you a millionaire in one race but it’s better to win a tenner consistently than fall at the first fence.
Finally, it’s worth considering the value of specificity. Many times, the most vaunted aspect of a celebrity endorsement is the fact people want to follow a trend their celebrity is involved with, a subconscious yearning to be part of the culture. However, this may not be the biggest benefit to the business. The biggest benefit is likely that this form of advertising has for a long time been the most specific form of targeting outside of posters in your own shop window. Celebrities of all shapes and sizes are actively sought out by the potential marketee just by the celeb going about their lives making movies or playing sports, zero effort on the part of an agency with a target audience almost wanting to see the advert, it’s the dream! Applying this to the Influence, they make their own content, effectively marketing themselves and their audience is an already made target market susceptible to the opinions of the advertiser and hence more likely to buy or remember the brand. Of course, this does throw up its own problems. For a truly great marketing campaign the audience needs to be accurately profiled to make sure they are the right fit for the product as well as to make sure they’re real! What with the power of this sort of marketing there now exists a lot of companies available to create false audiences for social media users. On top of this in recent months there has been a rise in and subsequent crack down on Influencers marketing potentially harmful substances and practices to children, something becoming an increasing problem with the easy availability of Influencers to an unfiltered public.
Sufficed to say influencer marketing is only set to grow in 2019 with over 60% of marketers questioned in a recent survey suggesting they will be spending more on this strategy during the year. As with celebrity associations and traditional advertising strategy Influencer marketing needs to be treated with a certain amount of reverence. Just as there has been a tonal shift in most other forms of advertising the facts being uncovered in this forms infancy suggest the things that work best are open and unambiguous endorsements coupled with proven usage. So going forward influencing or marketing make sure you’re honest and clear however you get it done and you can’t go wrong.
A quick little prologue to today’s entry. It’s often hard to create truly personal content in this sort of corporate context, especially given that we try and make so much of the articles that fill the bloggo-sphere straight lace, unopinionated and informative. But, who said we can’t try and use a mix of both. Consequently today we are going to discuss the efficacy and advantages of using apprentices in your company, with particular reference related to our company and the staff who work here, Seelocal.
First it’s probably best to discuss the origins of Seelocal. It was created as sister company to 8-digital, a channel marketing company started in 2008 by two well-travelled and experienced entrepreneurs. As 8-digital grew and took on more customers with more varied needs there arose the need to employ more members of staff. Consequently, the partners bought two new members into their small cadre, those two were Laura and Alex (names have not been changed, let’s just hope they don’t mind). Being very much of the world and brought up to respect hard-work, and with an understanding of the opportunities they had been afforded, the partners had hired Laura and Alex as apprentices. Alex was a commercial whizz with great business acumen and a good head for marketing theory, while Laura was an eager brand creator and designer with a creative flair. To help cope with the increased demand and new services they got asked for the partners decided to split the business keeping 8-digital as a B2B channel marketing enterprise and creating Seelocal to deal with online marketing for small to medium businesses, uniquely, in their own localities. Having excelled and flourished during the time they spent as apprentices the partners felt Laura and Alex were the natural fit to take on the challenges of building this business from the ground up, made them into partners in the new business, and they didn’t disappoint. Several years on Seelocal has become a local advertiser with an ever-increasing influence and several big names on its books! Sufficed to say this experience has informed the policy of Seelocal from its very earliest incarnation. Now in its third year as an innovator and marketing expert the company goes from strength to strength, but pays homage to its humble origins by employing a bevvy of dedicated and go-getting apprentices.
One of those apprentices, though too humble to consider themselves go-getting, is at this very moment writing this blog. So, if you’re after unbiased reporting maybe best to stop there! If, however, you’d like to hear more about the possible benefits of hiring an apprentice for your business, lets continue.
Currently apprenticeships in the UK are undergoing something of a renaissance. Having been popular for many hundreds of years in manual industries, in more recent times the reduction of primary and secondary industry in favour of tertiary and quaternary meant the number of apprentices took a steep dip. However, in the late 2000’s, especially when university applications far outstripped places even after the huge increase in tuition fees, apprenticeships were flouted by the government as a viable alternative for the youth to further education. Given more structure, more funding and governmental support they soon began to become a mainstay of the employment industry. Without being heavily supported and subsidised by the government their growth would likely have been much less prolific. The way this works is while an apprentice is in place the business pays them as it would a normal employee. They do, contrary to some people’s belief, still have full employment rights and in most cases enjoy the usual holiday and healthcare benefits of their peers, however they are exempted from the usual minimum wage rules and held to a significantly lower level. Coupled with this apprenticeship programmes involve out of work training in theory and practical skills associated with an academic institute. The main bulk of governmental subsidy comes in here, they will, for the vast majority of young apprentices pay all their education for them and the business. The fiscal side of things can be boiled down to, ‘the business will receive a young inexperienced but willing, and with a good ability to learn, employee. They will give on the job training for somewhere between 1 and 3 years, paying them likely half or less the wages of a regular employee to hopefully, by years end, be able to perform all the tasks anyone else might’ the cost is usually one day or less a week out of work training. So far so good? There really is nothing else to say, no big catch, if you have an able and obliging person who wants to learn your trade but has no experience and you’re willing to take them on at a reduced rate of pay while they learn to be an effective member of your team you should definitely consider the possibility of taking them to a college or recruitment company to see if they will take them on as an apprentice.
Many employers will still see apprentices as 16-year-old children with no desire to work or learn that still cost you a lot of money. The reality is decidedly different. With the growth of the apprenticeship market and support for apprentices by learning institutions never having been higher, there is a decided move towards these roles becoming the way people who really want a skilled but non academically driven career follow. You have to remember, todays 18-year olds, who would have been going to university in 2008/9, are a decade later contemplating apprenticeship as a possibly more profitable course of action, both in terms of financial stability and future prospects. While apprentice numbers have grown significantly in the construction and manufacturing industries where the true heart of the modern wave of roles lies are in the finance and tech sectors. Almost any vocation can have an associated apprenticeship programme, with almost purely beneficial information being passed on both in work and outside, a clean un-cluttered style of education. As for the argument of naivety or inexperienced juvenile applicants; I sit here, a 30 year old apprentice doing something I never really believed I ever could, surrounded by several other apprentices from 17-25 and completely unable to dissect their considerable abilities, after their 9 months of training, from the people who have been in the industry decades, they having trained them of course. The take away, the advertising industry, like so many others doesn’t require 7 years at medical school or 1000 hrs flying a plane as an entry point. It requires hard work, dedication and desire. That is rarely more present in a 40-year industry veteran than a complete novice. If you’ve got the time, patience and a bit of money you really can create the next generation of marketers in your companies’ image. A point proven by 2 young, enterprising marketing apprentices, and the company they built with a view to being the best online local advertiser around. They really are the living proof it works.