Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum

LONDON - Is exposing your brand to untried media channels a risk worth taking?

O2-run mobile network Giffgaff is to use controversial video chat service Chatroulette, hitherto avoided by advertisers due to the risk of brands being hijacked, to target 'free-thinking' consumers.

YES - Mike Welsh, Chief executive, Publicis Dialog

A self-broadcasting site that connects you to another random 'chatter', webcam-to-webcam? Can't say I'm tempted to click, but 1.5m others do, on a daily basis. Starting from a 500-visitor base less than five months ago, Chatroulette has certainly shown impressive growth.

Brands need to be where their audiences are, not waiting for people to seek them out. Although they can no longer control, they can still engage, influence and change the conversation.

If a channel's new but looks interesting, get in quick. Trying something different will get a brand talked about. It requires less bravery than you'd think - don't forget that Facebook and Twitter offered uncharted media territory less than four years ago.

Of course, it's worth quantifying and minimising any risk, and making sure there's a Plan B. Online reaction time should now be thought of in terms of hours, rather than days.

If it doesn't work, move on. There will always be something new to try.

YES - Andy Bird, Co-founder and joint managing director, Brand Learning

Marketers must do all they can to make the most of the fantastic range of emerging new media opportunities. Brands should approach untried channels with an innovative mindset, looking to test and learn in order to build experience and insight.

Avoid innovation for innovation's sake, though. It's important to be clear about the role any new channel will play in your brand's overall communication strategy and what you want to achieve by using it. Set metrics as a reference point for success: without them, you have no indicator of how effective your brand's voyage into the unknown has been.

If there are risks involved, think them through. Don't expose your business by entering territory where things could backfire. Ensure your business can live up to consumers' expectations and be prepared to handle any adverse reactions quickly and openly.

Be prepared for success, too. Consumers can be incredibly responsive to brands that connect with them in brave and relevant ways. No guts, no glory.

MAYBE - Ingrid Murray, Founder, WeBuyNearby.co.uk

A good rule of thumb has always been to split the media budget 70/20/2010 - 70% for media that you know work, 20% for experimental media and 10% for research and evaluation. You will know what constitutes acceptable risk.

Queensland Tourism achieved global reach and $70m-worth of publicity from its $150k budget with the 'Best job in the world' campaign, an ROI of 467:1. So the figures are tempting and the formula simple. Engaging idea + YouTube = WOM, the propensity to spread like wildfire clearly dependent on audience engagement.

Giffgaff has engaged its audience with caricatures on Chatroulette, a points-for-cash system for those willing to recruit other members, and even asked its audience to create their own ads to post on YouTube. The jury's out on these just now, but it is interesting to note that Microsoft's forum of choice to reposition Google search as information overload was a TV ad. Viewings of its YouTube video have been poor - it's nowhere near as engaging as the latest TV ad.

MAYBE - Louise Fowler, Business leader for brand and marketing, CFS

It depends on the brand, type of media and how you assess the risk. Some brands look good surrounded by a bit of raciness or risk, even if it means the brand manager isn't entirely in control, but it can be scary to step back and let things happen to your brand.

I think a lot of people have grown weary of what they perceive as a cynical manipulation of them and what they buy by the media and marketing industries, so there could be upsides to a more organic approach for some brands. Unfortunately, though, I won't be taking risks of this kind.

When you are dealing with people's money, as we are at the Co-operative Financial Services, we would not be thanked for taking risks like this. We are known for having a values-led and ethical approach. That's too valuable to put at risk, even if it means we might miss out on some exciting new media opportunities in the short term.

The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to championing marketing in the UK

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