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Posted by Stefan

25 Jun 2015 9:32 AM

I am often asked for advice on writing promotional mailings - targeted emails to be specific. I have long thought that there must be some simple formula to refer people to, and for such purposes, I have come up with the following H.O.P.P.A. acronym:



H = Hook


This is really your email subject or title, and should consist of an appealing offer or contain a promise of some degree of enlightenment if the recipient reads further. Many professional people receive 100’s of emails each day, so you have to project something which stands out and seems worthy of their time.


O = Occasion


With hundreds of emails received, they obviously need to be prioritised in some fashion - messages with near due dates usually take priority. Which is why it’s important to include some degree of urgency / time limit / immediacy into your body copy, frame it as an event - or else the email may never be prioritised to be read or dealt with.


P = Personalisation


I pretty much delete immediately anything which is not addressed to me personally. ’Dear Stefan’ or ’Hello Stefan’ is the absolute minimum. If I see ’Dear Member’ or similar - it’s straight in the bin. It’s also best practice to have the email be signed off by a real person - it’s much friendlier to know who you are dealing with, and being able to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.


P = Persuasion


Once you’ve hooked someone in with an enticing offer, you need to back up that offer with sound rationale - it needs to contain just the pertinent details and be quick to the point (inverted pyramid) ... naturally drawing the reader towards the actionable part of the mailing. Too little text looks insubstantial, and too much simply won’t be read - normally 2-3 short paragraphs are optimal.


A = Action


All proper marketing assets must have an actionable function - that is to say a singular call-to-action. Even if it is just ’contact me personally for further insights and information’. You should offer multiple contact options so that the recipients can get back you via their preferred means. As I mentioned above, some sort of event / briefing with a near due date increases the importance of your mailing. The more singular your purpose,

... H.O.P.P.A. - The 5 Rules of Promotional Mailings
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Posted by Stefan

25 Jun 2015 12:15 AM

Upon recently advising my older brother on marketing strategy, I realised the obvious parallels with military planning - in terms of how you set objectives, gather intelligence, select targets and deploy assets with laser-guided precision. I advocate the scientific approach to marketing which simply means following up measurable objectives with progress reports and final analysis.


Here follows the analogy:




The starting point is of course setting the goals and defining the aims of the campaign - what are you trying to achieve and how do you know when you have reached those objectives.




This is what you are intending to aim your cross-hairs at, or specifically the ’target audience’ in marketing terms. For the mission to be succesfull you need to know exactly whom you are targeting, their motivations, movements, and key modes of behaviour.




You need to know your targets really well to have a good chance of success. Some further field work or research may be necessary to supply the full operations intelligence you need in order to precisely calibrate your plan of attack.


Field of Engagement


Where will you most reliably encounter your targets and where can you strike with the most impact. In marketing we need to know where our targets gather in significant numbers - whether this is on certain websites, membership associations, publications or communities, TV spots or even passing by placements of certain billboard ads.


Joint Strike Force


To strike with full force and achieve maximum penetration as it were, you probably need a multi-level approach. In military operations you may combine air, sea and land forces to hit the target with the best chance of success. For marketing you need to use typically more than one channel too - be it direct mail / email, banner advertising, editorial, sponsorship, call-backs and otherwise. You need to maximise your likely contact points and multiply the ’opportunities to view’ - for in order to achieve any degree of lasting effect requires multiple impacts.


Assets & Ordnance


Your weapons of mass distraction are your marketing materials - ad copy, literature and other forms of promotion. Each asset has a different purpose and is suited to a particular task

... Military Strategy in Marketing Campaign Plans
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Posted by Stefan

23 Jun 2015 12:36 PM

’New and improved’, ’Transformative’, ’This changes everything’, ’Younger and more supple’... These are several phrases that are more likely to make us sit up and listen, some slightly tired now and over-used, but others which are still successful in hammering home a definitive competitive advantage for those that make use of them. Yet there are still far too many copywriters that do not take benefit from setting themselves a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Framework when composing their functional prose.


At Affino we always encourage our Clients to create a full Brand Profile, where they list the various Brand Values, Keywords and Phrases that the company / product / brand stands for. Much like with SEO work - where there should be a degree of repetition and reinforcement, so should be the case with marketing communications - that is to say you use component words and phrases repetitively to drive home a positive association for your potential, intended and current customers.


It’s an advanced form of word association and context. The idea is that positive words or words which inspire positive values, will help your consumers develop a positive image of your company. The aim is to steer wholly clear of any negative words, as consumers focus on differnt things, and may grasp the wrong meaning, may recall the negative rather than the postitive, or simply just see the words in isolation and wrongly associate them with your brand.


Affino’s current positional strapline is ’Collaboration. Solution. Success.’ - in effect encapsulating what we do and what our ’offer’ as such is to our customers.


In our articles and communications, we frequently mention current hot potatoes - ’Unified Platform’, ’Complete digital front-end solution’, ’Seamless customer journeys’ and ’Single customer views’. We also talk significantly about digital business transformation, evolution and innovation. We also touch on improving commercial activities and generating new sources of revenue. All these form a positive image of what we are about and connect those positive actions and activities directly with our brand and our work.


There’s another significant element that needs to be mentioned too - which is

... The Importance of NLP in Marketing Communications
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Posted by Stefan

16 Jun 2015 12:57 PM

There are some who still aren’t fully au fait with the different types of advertising available, so we will start with a brief introduction before explaining the merits of each. Anyone who has bid for Google AdWords will have some degree of understanding of the basics of Programmatic Advertising. Even though Google AdWords is not exactly display advertising, rather text-only search results advertising, it is still the same basic automated mechanic which gives advertisers / media buyers direct access to buy ad-space. In traditional advertising you have the clients negotiating with their agency / media buying teams, who in turn deal with people working for an ad sales department of a publication / broadcaster / digital property. Programmatic Advertising in effect cuts out all / most of the middlemen and additional commissions allocations and gives those wanting to advertise direct access to the ad-buying process, in theory at more favourable rates too.


In the above visual, I have pictured the most advanced form of Programmatic Advertising - where a signed-in ad-buyer can see the ad slots available on-site and bid for whichever ones are deemed positionally and topically appropriate. With this most advanced version, a would-be advertiser can buy a slot and upload their artwork through a fully-automated process. In most cases though there is a separation between ad-buying and slot allocation. A lot of Programmatic Advertising is very much about Real-time Bidding (RTB), which should be familiar to users of eBay - where you have several buyers bidding to get the best slots / positions available to them. Depending on how the automation works, ad-buyers can buy the placement slot outright, or secure a priority / first-view placement on the rotation, and those who pay less appear further down the rotation. In most cases of Programmatic Advertising there is usually some degree of human involvement needed, even if it is just to approve the artwork for suitability for display.


If you look again at the visual, then you can see that the News Article in the bottom left hand corner has a ’----- Sponsored Article -----’ label appearing underneath it, which is currently considered best practice for displaying / identifying Native Advertising. For Native Advertising, think Advertorials of old - often articles which have been written by the

... Programmatic Advertising vs Native Advertising vs the Future of Digital Advertising
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Posted by Stefan

12 Jun 2015 9:06 AM

The above visual demonstrates the impact of Cookie blocking on a typical commercial website; all 3rd party services on the referenced site have been blocked by a privacy tool like Ghostery, meaning:

  • No Ads
  • No Registration / Sign Ups
  • No Search
  • No Social Sharing
  • No Classifieds
  • No Native Ads
  • No Sponsorship
  • No Analytics or Tracking
  • No Personalisation
  • No Video
  • No Lead Generation

These are just some of the services that are typically rendered via 3rd party cookies, and all of these can be blocked by privacy tools


We’ve been talking about Cookie Armageddon for over a year now, and its impact and influence is finally nearing its rapid growth phase. A recent Economist article estimates that 200 million users already use some form of Ad Blocker or Privacy Protector Tool. This means that for many publishers, advertising and other commercial revenues have been impacted by as much as a 20% annual reduction, and this will obviously escalate exponentially when Apple’s new Safari browser (9.0) is soon launched with its own cookie-blocking extensions:


"The new Safari (9.0) release brings Content Blocking Safari Extensions to iOS. Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content." - from Apple iOS Developer Library pre-release documentation: Here


Our CEO Markus called this one several months ago - warning publishers then that certain platform owners - with Apple the most likely, would build Privacy options into their application platforms and browsers. As Flash advertising falls away also for similar reasons, publishers have a pressing need to know what options are still available to them for deriving revenues on mobile and online.


Affino has long been preparing publishers for the onset of ’Cookie Armageddon’, including co-hosting breakfast briefings at the PPA. If you missed the March briefing, you can catch up by reading the summary PDF: Here


Affino’s last PPA briefing was on Integrated Digital Platforms for Publishers, and the next one will be about Programmatic Advertising on June 25th.


If you need further information on any of these subjects, our CCO Jonathan Collins would be delighted to give you a recap, with additional insights. You can contact him at or on +44 (0

... Impact of Cookie Armageddon growing and set to escalate further with new Safari browser
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Posted by Stefan

09 Jun 2015 1:30 PM

I have been writing for several years now about the need for retailers to fully integrate their online / digital and in-store services - i.e. evolve a properly joined-up service solution. Most high street retailers still maintain several different disparate inventories - physical stores, online and outlet for instance. This usually means that there is typically no correlation between what you search for on your desktop or mobile and what is available in-store. It usually means that you receive some kind of marketing mailer or social alert - announcing new goods, which you click through to view on the website, but when you physically get to the store they are either not stocked locally, not arrived yet, or already sold out - in your chosen size, colour or otherwise. I am beyond frustrated with so many of my in-store retail experiences. Shop service has markedly dwindled for me these past 10 years, most noticeably at M&S which used to be the bastion of good service. My local Waitrose is now where I get the most consistently good service, while I find John Lewis not quite as good as is used to be and service can be inconsistent.


I have lost count of the number of times I have been told in-store that something I was after was ’not-in-stock’. Fair enough, and understandable, but what is not understandable is that you typically get no follow-on - so OK, it is not in stock - is it back in soon? Available somewhere else? Are there like-for-like alternatives? Only once in these last 12 months have I received what I would have thought should be standard service - and this was at T.M. Lewin on Jermyn Street. I had started out at their Strand store - which is where their website directed me to go for the item in question. The Strand store staff told me ’not-available-in-store’ and said I should check out their flagship store on Jermyn Street. Here I was met with courteous and well-considered service, as it quickly transpired that the item I wanted was only available ’online’. The lady shop-assistant swiftly retrieved an iPad and walked me through the whole ordering process for next day delivery - all beautifully and efficiently done, and exactly as I would expect in this day and age.


Yet how many times have I had to eke out, bit-by-bit any kind of service in-store - having to cajole and prompt a shop assistant

... Retailers are still failing to provide a Seamless Shopping Experience
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Posted by Stefan

05 Jun 2015 11:35 AM

A big part of our daily operation involves design - designing logos, icons, screens, applications, infographics and interfaces. We spend many hours browsing through image, video, sound and font libraries - all in pursuit of the best possible results. The trickiest thing about design though is the language of communication and reference, maintaining objectivity and overcoming the challenges of singular perspective and personal bias. There is a subjective component to design for sure, but we try to reduce its impact to the minimum, so that the end results can be properly weighed up and judged by all.


When I worked in advertising, I quickly realised the importance of a good brief - this is essential for efficient management of resources, reducing wastage and actually achieving the right result. For each design task, there are a thousand different paths that can be taken, but only a few will yield the optimal outcome. This is proper ’applied design’ which I often term as ’results-oriented-design’. Another of my essential lessons from advertising is that every marketing asset / deliverable should have a measurable function - usually some sort of call to action / call and response.


The difficulty most people have with design is threefold - consolidating and organising their ideas coherently; separating their own subjectivity and bias out of the mix - so that they can tackle the brief wholly objectively and from their customers’ perspective; and thirdly - how best to communicate requirements clearly and without obfuscation (confusion!) ... which leads me nicely into automotive, cake and housing analogies.


Automobiles, Cakes and Houses


Before you design anything, you really need a clear idea of exactly what you are looking to achieve with the design. In advertising, we often used car analogies, and I will explain some of those approaches here. First we will talk about cakes! - think of the design brief as being a collection of ingredients which you need to bake your metaphorical cake - however, unless you know what kind of cake you are aiming to bake - i.e. have a proper recipe, a list of disparate ingredients on their own simply cannot work - you need the recipe first before you start mixing up the ingredients or the results will be less than palatable.


In terms of Cars - I always say that

... Using Scientific Principles in Design and Branding
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Posted by Stefan

02 Jun 2015 1:10 PM

Much has been written about Facebook’s new service and its benefits to publishers. Selected content is pre-loaded to devices allowing for much faster page upload speeds once content is clicked on. This means certain content providers benefit from a significant hike in service levels, which should lead to an improved experience for those accessing said content on mobile devices. At the launch of Facebook Instant Articles, there were 9 content partners - The Atlantic, BBC News, Bild, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic, NBC News, The New York Times and Spiegel Online.


There has already been a bit of a backlash from advertisers who rightly bemoan that their paid-for-services are now being superseded by another source. In some ways I am entirely in favour of this, as I detest interruptive / interstitial advertising, and would much rather have everything served up on a Native Advertising / Advertorial basis via sponsored articles - which in many ways these are.


The hidden impact of all of this is what it’s doing to the customers’ Data allowances. Most users of 4G are typically on some sort of Data Plan - as am I. I have never been happy that advertisers use up my Data Plan by uploading their unsolicited content and eating away at my allocation - there is a real cost to me for all this loading up of advertising. With Facebook pre-loading content, this is yet more of the same. I would love to know the exact algorithms applied, as Facebook Instant Articles is in effect loading up a load of potentially unsolicited content into your browser or app - much of which you will never choose to access. You are in effect paying a storage / penalty fee for items you might not know or care about - and might never access.


What is slightly more insidious is that this is going directly against Net Neutrality by giving preference to a small number of content providers. You end up with a 2-speed system by the back door - where some content takes the pre-loading express route, while other content is relegated to secondary level. It may just be me, but I seem to have noticed that some images and videos in my Facebook newsfeed are not loading up as quickly as they used to - conceivably because some other content is being pre-loaded preferentially in the background. By specifically discriminating in the preferences of the delivery

... Is Facebook's Instant Articles a sly move against Net Neutrality?
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Posted by Stefan

26 May 2015 4:22 PM

There’s been much in the media recently about the relative merits of the Responsive Design approach versus creating platform-specific Apps. Firstly, it goes without saying that a great number of Apps get their input / database feed from a master website of some description. For many companies, the best strategy would be a mix of both of the aforementioned formats. Yet here we will line up the pros and cons of each to help you figure out which overall approach may be strongest for you:


Responsive Design



  • IMMEDIATE - customers can connect with you instantly
  • MORE REACH - anyone can access your content, on any device, without any special preparation or significant requirements
  • MORE SEAMLESS - customer is using variations of the exact same interface and exactly the same content on all devices
  • MORE CONNECTED - Customer can easily switch access points and link from newsletters, emails and alerts - which don’t typically link into Apps
  • MORE UNIFORM - It’s the exact same framework and content for every customer
  • BETTER SEO - first Google and now the Bing search engine gives preference to mobile-optimised sites
  • INSTANT UPDATES - new features, functionality and updates immediately rolled-out and available to all
  • SINGLE CUSTOMER VIEW - customers and business owners alike both get singular overview interface which unifies all activities for all users
  • MORE SOCIAL / MORE SHARED - all users can interact and collaborate directly - regardless of what device or platform they subscribe to
  • MORE CHOICES, MORE USER INFLUENCE - customers can choose a variety of browsers and utility plugins to aid and improve experience on their own terms, versus Apps - where the device platform and developers totally control the environment


  • BEST FIT APPROACH - responsive experience cannot be optimised for each device like an App can
  • BROWSER VAGARIES - some municipalities, libraries and government deparments still running very old versions of Windows and IE, many customers using Privacy Tools and Ad Blockers, which can curtail and impact on specific services and total experience

Native Apps



  • OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE - customer experience optimised for and on each device
  • MORE CONTROL OVER ENVIRONMENT - you can assert higher functional control over how the App works and looks
  • BAKED-IN FUNCTIONALITY - you can enforce specific
... Responsive Design vs Native Apps
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Posted by Stefan

23 May 2015 3:37 AM

A number of our customers are having to face up to the paradigm shift of the transition towards mobile - a recent study by Pew Research reveals that almost 80% of the top fifty news sites are seeing more traffic on mobile devices than desktop. Many of those used to writing for traditional print media are finding the switch to digital formats somewhat tricky - particularly those who don’t have a history of writing for tabloids. It’s no secret that BuzzFeed is the master of mobile content - in terms of reach, monetisation and social sharing, and their format of short listicles with clickbaiting titles is certainly a winning combination. You of course don’t need to copy BuzzFeed entirely to be successful, though there are obviously a number of lessons that can be learnt from them.




Attention Grabber


You need to stand out and have immediate appeal - this means finding ways to differentiate yourself from competing media - without appearing crass or overly irreverent q.v. Editorial Tone of Voice. We know that readers have an increasingly short attention span, so you have a limited time to catch their attentions. You need to find unique and interesting angles which distinguish you clearly from the competition. Use of video and smart, cleverly selected photography is key as both can give you a critical advantage / edge.




Editorial Tone of Voice


With the added competition a global media markeplace brings - it has never been more important to have a distinct personality. In order to encourage comments and debate you can no longer really report news wholly neutrally - you need to take a position. Taking a position on a news article or feature encourages support / disagreement and debate - which is exactly what you want. The more your article is commented on and shared, the bigger your impact and reach. You don’t need to be overly sensationalist in your headlines, but you cannot afford to be neutral and bland either. You should also use the byline to reinforce / mitigate the nature of your headline. The future success of your media business will be all about ’tone’.


Inverted Pyramid / Digest / Short-form


All journalists should be familiar with the inverted pyramid format - that it to say - including all the key facts at the very top of the

... Writing Content for Mobile
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