Category Archives: Marketing

Online & Offline – Where Telly Meets The Web

Following up from her previous well-received guest post, we asked Pascale, friend of Arena and online marketing guru, if there was another topic she fancied sharing her thoughts on.  Sure enough, there was.  So here’s a very interesting discussion of how the web and TV and other media are getting increasingly intertwined and changing the way clever marketers get us to buy from them.  It’s certainly given us some food for thought for various partnerships we’re currently negotiating.

Search doesn’t occur in a vacuum

It’s a very familiar concept for marketers that no marketing channel (offline or online) works independently from another.  Exposure to advertising in print, television and radio commonly results in online traffic and of course, online search.  Offline push, online pull.  A survey by iProspect, 2007 showed that 67% of respondents searched online as a direct result of exposure to an offline marketing channel.

Whilst the concept is familiar, the potential benefit of the search demand created by offline advertising isn’t always harnessed effectively online by marketing departments or agencies and it is worth considering search behaviour when engaging in any offline marketing.

Using search prompts in offline campaigns

Increasingly, companies and organisations recognise this relationship and attempt to guide the consumer by encouraging them to “search online for [brand/company/campaign]” within the advertising campaign, rather than listing a long and often forgettable URL or telephone number.  Government campaigns have been doing this for some time – for example,’s Act on Co2 campaign in 2007, in which consumers were prompted to “search online for ‘act on co2’” in all the offline media.

The public duly responded, and there was a large increase in searches for the term “act on co2” (below is a screen shot from ‘Google Insights for Search” showing search interest for ‘act for co2’ between October 2006 to Jan 2009).

Act on CO2

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Arena Flowers! Princess Diana's Wedding Dress! And all for Charidee…

Just three good reasons to mosey on down to the David Lloyd Health & Fitness Club in Raynes Park, South West London today (Saturday 24 January) where yours truly will be exhibiting the floral fineries of our rapidly growing wedding flowers arm Arena Weddings at the Wear It Pink Wedding Show.

On display will be some of Judith (one of our award-winning florists)’s beautiful floral work especially created for this very special wedding fair in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The arrangements have also been designed with seasonal, ethically sourced flowers and take into consideration today’s tough economic climate, which has had an impact on wedding budgets up and down the country this year.

We at Arena Flowers want to make sure every bride feels like a princess without breaking the bank on their wedding flowers, making us the first choice for wedding planners throughout London and the South East. So it’s no wonder we’re fast becoming one of Cosmo Bride’s favourite stockists!

And talking of princesses and the glossies, come along to the event and you will also get the chance to view a stunning private collection of vintage wedding dresses dating from Victorian times, including a sample from Princess Diana’s iconic wedding gown.

Come join the fun from 11am-4pm. Entry fee is just £1 – which goes direct to Breakthrough Breast Cancer – and kids go free, so no excuses if you’re in town!

Wear It Pink Wedding Show
David Lloyd Health & Fitness Club
Bushey Road,
Raynes Park
London SW20 8TE
Click for directions

Full report with piccies to be posted next week – but if you need an immediate wedding flower fix, check out this post, this post or even this post about sourcing flowers for gothic wedding bouquets. Bride-tastic!

Businesses Twittering: Fun, Useful & Full Of Surprises – That's Why We Twitter Anyway!

What started as a trickle at the end of last year has become a deluge in the New Year, with headlines in the most popular newspapers in the UK showing incontrovertibly that Twitter has moved into the UK mainstream this year and established itself as the papers’ latest web darling.  Their interest is doubtless due, at least in part, to celebrity “tweeters” – celebs sell newspapers, so the papers are going where the celebs are and trying to grab some “Twitter scoops”.

Recently Jemima Kiss, a prominent blogger and journalist, revealed Jonathan Ross’s intention to discuss the service with keen Twitterer and web aficionado Stephen Fry on his first show back from suspension.   Yesterday, the Times Online made a story out of another of Ross’s “tweets”, publishing an article about his “announcement” that he would be hosting this year’s Bafta Awards.  There’s no end of celeb twittering going on, so if you’ve always wanted to know what John Cleese had for breakfast or are desperate to learn how Lance Armstrong’s comeback is going then here’s your chance.

There have been a few “bah humbug” articles too (hey, this is the British media after all) – work place concerns focus on how Twitter may hinder productivity, whilst some media sources simply complain about the lack of juicy gossip from celebrity tweeters.


We twitter too.  So we figured we’d share some of our thoughts on Twitter and Web 2.0.  In 2007 we launched our blog with a post explaining why we would be blogging.  Basically, as a new business in the impersonal online world we felt the blog would help give us a more human a voice, would enable us to communicate more personally with our customers, and would allow us to share interesting or fun insights or snippets on flowers and the online world more generally.

Since we started blogging, the “Web 2.0” movement and the social web have expanded significantly, offering additional channels and tempos of communication to complement the “older” channels.  The most obvious change is that the flow of communication is no longer as one directional or contrived as it once was. New media, to differing extents, encourage a balanced and more frequent communication between businesses and customers / visitors.

The most important difference though, in our opinion, is that new media channels enable real time, easy going contact between parties in a way that has never been possible before.  Historically, interactions between a business and a customer have been about hard nosed selling by the business and the making of informed purchasing decisions by the customer.  Social media communications are, in most cases, far more laid back.  If old media channels are like a full on business meeting in the office, then Web 2.0 channels are more like the “getting to know you” drink in the pub afterwards.  Consequently, the conversations are sometimes utterly inane and pointless but it doesn’t really matter as there’s not so much pressure on the communication to deliver immediately or at all (at least not as far as we’re concerned).

Many prominent brands have embraced Web 2.0 channels, with varying degrees of success.  Some examples of doing it right:

A Merry Christmas And Some Machiavellian Marketing

Father Christmas

Unless you’re  living in a cave somewhere, you’ll know it’s Christmas very soon indeed – Google has even added holly and sweets to the ads shown for Christmas related searches.  It’s very busy at Flowers HQ right now too, as well wishers send flowers home to loved ones.  We’ve even sold out of Father Christmases (though Steve got all sentimental and decided to keep the last one as a memento).

Given the economic environment and the weakness of the pound, we’ve spent an awful lot of our time recently trimming unnecessary costs to make sure that our customers continue to get great value for money out of every pound they spend with Arena.  We try very hard to deliver a great product at a great price and we hate wasting money.

One example of where we’ve trimmed cost is in our marketing.  Like other online businesses, we always look at our marketing channels in peak periods to see how we can bring in new visitors and orders cost effectively.  This Christmas we have been amazed how much some of our competitors are willing to pay to buy traffic and orders, especially given it’s “credit crunch Christmas”.  One might expect marketing budgets to go down in this environment, but in fact some companies are being extremely aggressive and, frankly, throwing their customers’ money away.  Who pays? The customer of course, with a substandard product being delivered as there’s no money left for flowers because of the inflated marketing spend.

Here’s a concrete example from one of our competitors, to illustrate the crazy commission deals currently on offer and some of the tricks they’re using to try to claw some of that cost back.

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Falsely Identified As Sending A "Virus or Unauthorised Code" – Thanks For That, MessageLabs!

Yesterday was a busy day for anti-fraud newsflow plus some good old fashioned web fear mongering.  Don’t get me wrong – web fraud happens and needs to be combated but there is often something shrill and hysterical about the reporting of online fraud, especially in the UK.  “Everyone PANIC!” would seem to summarise the editorial style of quite a few media channels.  Before people lock up their PCs or throw them in the river, they should remember that they are significantly more likely to be a victim of crime and fraud when venturing into the real world than they are when venturing online.

There’s no doubt that education is key in battling web spam and other forms of online fraud and Get Safe Online in particular does a fantastic job of putting out clear, moderate and easy to understand information on how to take care of oneself online.  Common sense recommendations include running regular updates for your browser and operating system, having up to date antivirus, antispyware and firewall software and not responding to unsolicited emails or giving away key personal and account information online.  Often, sites like Get Safe Online recommend third party software vendors, such as AVG or McAffee.

Understandably, reputable online businesses recognise the challenge of building trust and at Arena we work very hard to address potential trust concerns of visitors, such as payment methods and checkout integrity, site security, quality / value / freshness of product, and data protection and privacy policies.  After all, if we’re asking customers to hand over their money without ever having met us face to face, then they will need to be convinced that we are who we say we are and that we’ll deliver on our promises.  We try as much as we can to be clear and transparent about what we do (posting to our blog regularly is part of that…I hope it’s clear that this post isn’t being written by a scammer in Eastern Europe!).  The key is not to slip up as, as they say, “trust is hard to win and very easy to lose”.  Once you have it, do your very best to hold on to it.

It’s therefore incredibly frustrating when a lot of hard work is potentially undone by a company that really should know better – MessageLabs (who were, incidentally, purchased for a whopping $700m by Symantec yesterday).  To explain, last week we sent out one of our regular marketing emails to our subscriber base.  So far so good.  But soon after the send, we started receiving emails from concerned customers.  They had received the following email from their mail client, Message Labs:

Subject: WARNING. Someone tried to send you a potential virus or unauthorised code

Body of email included the following: The MessageLabs Email Security System discovered a possible virus or unauthorised code (such as a Trojan) in an email sent to you.

Possible MalWare ‘Exploit/Phishing-paypal-1054′ found in ’7782603_2X_PM3_EMQ_MH__message.htm’. Heuristics score: 202

Now, I don’t know what you think, but if I received an email like that from my firewall supplier, I’d look very hard at any future communications from Arena and quite possibly unsubscribe immediately. After all, MessageLabs are a $700m company so they must be right, yeah?  Surely, they wouldn’t send out an email that slams a genuine business’s legitimate, opt-in marketing activity so thunderously by mistake?  Big boys like MessageLabs are bound to have complicated checks and balances in place to avoid accidentally torpedoing the legitimate marketing efforts of other organisations.  A web security firm in particular would understand the importance of online reputation and the hard work that goes into building trust.  And in any case, Arena has been sending regular marketing emails every other week for over two years, so no doubt MessageLabs would be able to use characteristics of our mail sends, such as previous send frequency, an unchanged IP address, subject lines etc etc to double check the validity of the send.

Nope.  It was a complete, 100% misdiagnosis by MessageLabs, as they subsequently confirmed.  We learnt that the reason that our email got hammered is that we put the word “PayPal” into the subject line yet we are not PayPal.  Blimey.  Sophisticated stuff.  We had PayPal in our subject line to let our customers know that they could win £10k cash if they paid for any order with PayPal during PayPal’s very generous 10th birthday promotion.

Obviously, customers of large online companies and banks, such as PayPal, can be targeted by spoof emails. However, our marketing email prior to this email also had PayPal in the subject line and email body and there was no backlash.  Also, I find it hard to understand how the word PayPal appearing in our mail can lead someone to imply we’re sending “viruses or unauthorised code”.  A virus would typically be an attachment of some kind, not a word in a subject line. I feel bad for PayPal too – we get way way more fraud from people who pay with credit cards than we do from people who pay with PayPal.  Fraud on orders paid with PayPal is virtually nil.  We much prefer people to pay with PayPal.

One of the first emails we received was in fact from a MessageLabs sales rep (who’d previously bought from Arena and who’d therefore received the MessageLabs warning email direct). His mail:

Please remove me from all your mailing list right away as you are sending viruses.
I can assist you with possible solutions however I was unable to reach your IT department.
MessageLabs Anti-virus solution has a SLA of 100% protection from all known and unknown viruses, phishing, trojans and other forms of malware.

Thank you

10/10 for being a pushy sales rep but frankly this mail was not terribly well received as you can imagine.  You wouldn’t want this guy consoling you if you broke up with your partner. “I’m afraid you’ve been dumped but I’m a pimp – have you considered paying for sex?”.  You’d then be even more upset when you found out that it was this guy that had caused the break up with your partner in the first place.

We also noted that, unlike the careful wording of the automated email sent by MessageLabs’ system, his email did not talk about “possible” viruses but came straight out and said “you are sending viruses” which was patently untrue. A rather terse email exchange followed, as you might expect, though not litigation as might have been the case with our American cousins (we’re too British for that).

In any case, I eventually spoke to the UK’s head of corporate sales who unsurprisingly was more reasonable and sort of / nearly / just about apologetic (although he too did suggest we bought their software, admittedly more tongue in cheek that his sales chasing colleague).  He gave me some spiel about how great MessageLabs is and how they use  complicated predictive algorithms to filter mail which all sounded good but didn’t stand up very well to “very nice, but it was just the word PayPal in the subject line that triggered this mess and you misdiagnosed it as a virus anyway”.

The frustrating thing about this is that MessageLabs has several million installed users in the UK, particularly in big, wealthy organisations, such as the government and banks etc.  These are obviously valuable potential customers and exactly the kind of people we’d love to retain.  Unfortunately we have no way of knowing how many such customers have now had their hard won trust in Arena dented or destroyed by MessageLabs’ misdiagnosis and there is no real way for us to fix this (bar writing this cathartic blog post!).  The chap at MessageLabs said “Sorry” but it’s not going to make any difference.  It’s clearly no coincidence that this email performed far worse than any other we’ve ever sent; it can realistically only be down to our MessageLabs mishap.

Maybe to add insult to injury MessageLabs will read this post and then use some of their freshly coined $700m to blast us right off the face of the earth and have done with it.  Ah well, you live and learn.  They didn’t do it on purpose but it certainly hurt.  I guess no matter how careful you are, there will always factors beyond your control, coming from any and all directions, that might disrupt your business.  The best laid plans of mice and men and all that…

Update: Following the post, we were featured on Mail on Sunday and other popular news channels. Read Mail on Sunday’s article on Arena Flowers here. The Register, one of the UK’s leading technology publishers picked up on our concerns and featured an article about Arena Flowers here. The article also featured on Softpedia, a leading technology related online publisher. Read the article on Arena Flowers here.