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Are You A Social Media Rule Breaker?

Posted By Martin Thomas, Social Business Consultant, Tuesday 9 January 2018

social media regulations

by Martin Thomas, author of the forthcoming Financial Times Guide to Social Media Strategy, published by Pearson Education, late summer 2018

Martin Thomas will be discussing this topic in more detail during a Social Media Marketing Masterclass in Dublin on 1st February 2018.

Are you and your teams aware of the regulations governing the use of social media as a marketing communications tool? Could you be forced to scrap your next social media campaign or find yourself in trouble with the regulators?  According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), more than half of marketers have little or no understanding of the regulations affecting social media marketing.

The CIM was so concerned by the illiteracy of marketers when it comes to social media regulations that it launched a ‘Keep social honest’ campaign to promote the transparent and honest use of social media. Its chief executive Chris Daly says: ‘Businesses face a serious risk of regulatory or legal action, but they also need to understand that the penalties for misleading customers on social media go beyond that.  Brands are putting their reputation at risk too.’   I would add that marketers are also putting their own reputations at risk.

There are three primary areas of regulatory risk that marketers need to be aware of when it comes to social media marketing:

1. Breaching advertising codes or regulations.

A social media post or tweet is considered as advertising by most regulators.  This is particularly important in highly regulated sectors such as alcohol, healthcare or financial services, where there are strict rules governing all forms of customer communication.   Diageo was recently forced to suspend its use of SnapChat for a global Captain Morgan campaign following a decision by UK regulators that it was likely to appeal to under-age consumers.  This highlights the risks of working with social media channels that rely on the self-verification of users’ ages.  Although Diageo’s lawyers argued that the creative work was targeted at over 18s, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK was less convinced by the integrity of Snapchat’s age controls.  It also suggested that the creative concept, which involved the creation of a Snapchat lens to make the user’s face appear like a pirate, was likely to appeal to under 18s.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has issued Digital Media Best Practice Principles to provide guidelines on the placement of advertising in ‘the digital media space’.   Similarly, the Central Bank of Ireland regulates advertising for financial services and products, including the use of social media.  It would be interesting to know when Irish marketers working in these sectors last read the regulations.

The burden of regulatory compliance is further complicated by employees’ use of social media.  The codes governing appropriate communication apply as much to posts or tweets issued by employees as they do to the official corporate channels: for example, an Instagram post issued by a drinks company employee - showing consumers clearly in an intoxicated state whilst enjoying one of their brands - is actually in breach of drinks industry advertising regulations.  The same constraints apply to employees of financial services or healthcare businesses.

And don’t think they can hide behind the disclaimer that ‘these views are mine and not those of my employer’. Forbes Magazine, in an article appropriately entitled Why Twitter Disclaimers Like 'Views Are My Own' Won't Save Your Job quoted the opinions of various legal experts who confirmed that a disclaimer, irrespective of the wording, has no legal effect and would not enable employees to avoid legal liabilities.  In the words of one of the lawyers quoted in the article, Dan Schaeffer from law firm Neal & McDevitt: ‘It’s not going to prevent your employer from firing you if you say something that reflects badly, and it’s not going to prevent people from associating your views with your employer.’  

2. Failing to disclose the payment of influencers.

The use of influencers or brand ambassadors has become a core element of most brands’ use of social media, but it risks blurring the boundaries between advertising and editorial.  The view of the regulators is unequivocal – any paid-for endorsement must be clearly identified.  The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (The ASAI) introduced new guidance on the ‘Recognisability of Marketing Communications’ in January of last year, to ensure that ‘Irish consumers are not misled by influencer marketing through online advertisements on blogs and social media websites.’  The ASAI reinforced the requirement to make it clear where an endorsement is paid-for and also recommend the use of clearly identifiable hashtags such as #Ad or #SP.  Bloggers and online influencers are already required to adhere to The ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland.

Regulators have been slow to respond to breaches of the regulations, but there are signs that this is beginning to change.  One of the world’s leading brand owners, Procter & Gamble, was forced to remove a make-up tutorial that appeared on its Beauty Recommended YouTube channel.  Despite a clear message at the beginning of the video stating that the content was sponsored, the ASA ruled that it was in breach of one of its CAP Codes because it was ‘not obviously identifiable as marketing communications’. 

3. Misusing personal data 

Data privacy is a serious issue in many countries, which is why governments are increasingly legislating against what they consider to be the misuse of individual consumer data.  EU legislators have threatened large fines for any organisations guilty of misusing personal data and this includes data sourced from social media.  It is acceptable for researchers and marketers to look at individual tweets or posts that appear as part of a Google search, but as soon as they use them for research purposes they need to be aware of the sensitivities of using private data.  Jeremy Hollow, founder of Listen & Learn Research, a specialist social data analyst explained to me how his analysts are careful to abide by the market research codes and ethics: ‘We will look at publically available social data but we always make sure that comments or other forms of content are not attributable to a specific individual, which means we either aggregate the data with that of other individuals or change the details so that the specific individual is not recognisable’.

It pays to be cautious when using personal data – even featuring someone’s tweet or post in a public forum is effectively a breach.  Marketers should also ensure that everyone likely to use social media data is fully aware of the relevant regulations governing permissions and ‘opt-ins’.

Marketers and their teams are failing consistently to comply with industry regulations or codes of practice when it comes to social media.  In the eyes of the regulators and the general public, ignorance is no excuse.  And if something goes wrong – a social media campaign violates advertising codes, the payment of an influencer is not disclosed or a customer’s personal data is misused – it will be the marketer that is in the firing line.  

These are my suggestions for how you can avoid getting on the wrong side of the regulators:

1. Make sure you and your teams understand the relevant regulations and codes governing your industry sector;
2. Stay close to the regulators, as the rules governing social media are in an almost constant state of flux;
3. Establish the appropriate systems, compliance processes, policies and training to ensure that your team and your agency partners abide by the rules;
4. Avoid pushing the boundaries, especially when it comes to the identification of paid-for activity – honesty and transparency should be non-negotiable. 
5. Stay vigilant – social media has a nasty habit of producing unexpected or unforeseeable challenges for marketers.

Martin Thomas will be discussing this topic in more detail during a Social Media Marketing Masterclass in Dublin on 1st February 2018.
We have created our Masterclass series for senior-level marketers looking to take a deep-dive into a specialised topic, to enable them to make insightful decisions and better choices for their business. The series is focused on helping you develop competencies specific to the knowledge, skills and mindset required of senior marketing leaders. We will host a Masterclass with Martin Thomas on Thursday 1st of February. More information on this Masterclass can be found here. 



martin thomasMartin is a highly experienced marketing communications consultant, trainer and author. He is course leader on digital and social media for the Institute of Directors UK. He has enjoyed a highly successful career in advertising, PR, sponsorship and new media, including senior management roles with some of the world’s leading agencies.

He has advised many multi-national corporations on their marketing and communications strategies, including Xerox, Citibank, Bacardi Global Brands, Sony Ericsson, Royal Mail, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive. Much of his work in recent years has focused on the business response to new, digitally-empowered patterns of customer behaviour and changing expectations: a subject on which he has become a highly-regarded writer, speaker and commentator.

Tags:  social media 

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The importance of 'borrowed' media

Posted By Martin Thomas, Wednesday 20 December 2017

We have become familiar with the concept of 'owned', 'earned' and 'paid-for' media, but the social media that provides the greatest value for organisations and brands is 'borrowed'. These are the social media accounts of the senior management team, other company spokespeople and anyone else in the organisation using social media in a professional capacity. I describe these as ‘borrowed’ because they are not owned by the organisation and unlike 'earned' media, they can be relatively easy to harness on behalf of the organisation with the right mix of persuasion, training and support.

The overall reputation of an organisation is shaped more by this 'borrowed' media than it is by its corporate channels. This is partly about reach - the cumulative follower numbers that can be potentially reached through 'borrowed' channels are invariably much higher than those of the official corporate channels - but also about impact: we are far more likely to engage with social media content shared by a person than by a faceless organisation. According to research undertaken by LinkedIn, employee networks on the platform are ten times larger than those of official corporate channels and when employees share content on LinkedIn the engagement rate is twice as high as when the company shares the same content.

An employer’s ability to leverage its 'borrowed' media by mobilising its employees and harnessing the collective reach of their personal social media networks is therefore one of the easiest and fastest ways for any organisation to increase its profile and enhance its reputation with customers, clients, prospects, potential employees and other stakeholders.

No one should be forced to use their personal social media accounts as a mouthpiece for their employer, but they can usually be persuaded that the support they can provide through something as simple as liking, sharing or retweeting the occasional corporate post or tweet, can be incredibly useful.


We have created our Masterclass series for senior-level marketers looking to take a deep-dive into a specialised topic, to enable them to make insightful decisions and better choices for their business. The series is focused on helping you develop competencies specific to the knowledge, skills and mindset required of senior marketing leaders. We will host a Masterclass with Martin Thomas on Thursday 1st of February. More information on this Masterclass can be found here. 


Martin is a highly experienced marketing communications consultant, trainer and author. He is course leader on digital and social media for the Institute of Directors UK. He has enjoyed a highly successful career in advertising, PR, sponsorship and new media, including senior management roles with some of the world’s leading agencies.

He has advised many multi-national corporations on their marketing and communications strategies, including Xerox, Citibank, Bacardi Global Brands, Sony Ericsson, Royal Mail, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive. Much of his work in recent years has focused on the business response to new, digitally-empowered patterns of customer behaviour and changing expectations: a subject on which he has become a highly-regarded writer, speaker and commentator.

If you want to learn more about the best way to harness 'borrowed' media, drop Martin a line at


Tags:  Social Media 

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Mintel Announces The Global Food And Drink Trends For 2018

Posted By Jenny Zegler, Mintel, Wednesday 13 December 2017
Updated: Friday 8 December 2017

Mintel food and drink  trends 2018

In 2018, expect to see transparency and traceability for all, regardless of income. From ingredient scares to political bombshells, self-care has become a priority for many and one that includes choosing food and drink that will address perceived nutritional, physical and emotional needs. Further, opportunities will be plentiful for natural, tantalising and unexpected textures, like chewy beverages for instance. 

Meanwhile, retailer and manufacturer access to personal data has opened up the doors for them to personalise offers and promotions. This ties up with the growth in online and mobile shopping, and even voice activated search that fuels consumer expectations of their desires being catered to and satisfied almost effortlessly. 

Looking ahead to 2018, Mintel has identified the major trends predicted to play out in the global food and drink market, beginning with the trends that will gain wider traction in the months ahead to emerging trends that are influential, but just on the fringe in many regions. Below, we’ve showcased three of these trends which we can predict will work their way across the Island of Ireland in the year ahead: Full Disclosure; New Sensations; and Preferential Treatment.

Full disclosure
“In our new post-truth reality, consumers require complete and total transparency from food and drink companies.”

A sizeable number of consumers around the world lack trust in regulatory systems, manufacturers, and even their fellow humans. This compounds a pre-existing wariness about food and drink because of product recalls, scandals, and suspicion about large companies. The need for reassurance about the safety and trustworthiness of food and drink has led to an increased use of natural as well as ethical and environmental claims in global food and drink launches. 

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), natural product claims appeared on 29% of global food and drink launches from September 2016 to August 2017, up from 17% of global food and drink launches that used natural claims between September 2006 and August 2007. Similarly, ethical and environmental claims such as environmentally friendly packaging as well as animal and human welfare claims have risen to 22% of global food and drink introductions between September 2016 and August 2017. This is up from just 1% in the same period from 2006 to 2007.

As shown by the growth in natural, ethical, and environmental claims, widespread distrust has increased the need for food and drink manufacturers to be forthcoming about their ingredients, production processes, and supply chains. This places pressure on manufacturers to offer thorough and honest disclosures about their products. Food and drink transparency can take many different directions but the various claims serve a singular purpose: to help consumers feel more confident about the safety and purity of the food and drink they purchase.

In addition to disclosing more specific transparency details, the next wave of clean label challenges manufacturers and retailers to democratise transparency and traceability so that products are accessible to all consumers regardless of household income. Making transparency attainable to consumers reflects the principles of Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Balancing the Scales: Health for Everyone’, which noted that healthy food and drink are not to be considered luxuries.


French milk brand C’est qui le patron?! (which translates to “Who’s the boss?!”) surveyed 6,850 consumers online about half a dozen criteria from farm gate price to packaging in order to develop its product.

New Sensations
“Texture is the latest tool to engage the senses and deliver share-worthy experiences.”

Encounters that appeal to multiple senses can provide consumers with escapes from the routine and stress of their lives, opportunities to make memories, or generate ‘like-worthy’ social media posts. Mintel’s 2016 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Eat With Your Eyes’ observed the potential for food and drink to involve more of the senses through colour, shape, fragrance, and other formulation elements. In 2018, the sound, feel, and satisfaction that texture provides will become more important to companies and consumers alike.

Texture has a particular opportunity to follow the lead of colour, which has become a popular feature in formulations that aim to allure more of the senses. Food and drink products have used a variety of ingredients like turmeric, matcha and activated charcoal to create vibrantly hued drinks, snacks, and other food that attracts attention, especially on Instagram and other image-centric media. Colour will continue to be important, but texture is the next facet of formulation that can be leveraged to provide consumers with interactive—and documentation-worthy—experiences.
From chewy beverages to multi-textured concoctions such as freakshakes, texture can make products more captivating for consumers who continue to seek food and drink that is perceived as fresh, functional, filling, or simply fun. To align with this trend, brands can ensure products contain multiple, contrasting textures, which allow for a complex and engaging consumption experience for consumers. 

Asia is a model for the potential of unexpected applications of texture in food and drink because the region hosts a range of beverages with pulp, tapioca pearls, and extra carbonation along with food that also boasts innovative textures that might be unheard of in other parts of the world. The latest textured beverage to take Asia by storm is cheese tea, a bubble or iced tea drink topped with cream cheese, leaving the drinker with a telltale cream cheese moustache. 

In 2018, more products can be developed with combinations of textures that surprise and delight consumers. As with colour, more companies have the opportunity to add texture via natural ingredients, such as the pulp of fruit or vegetables, the tingle of spicy peppers, or carbonation resulting from fermentation as with kombucha. Production processes also can be utilised to enhance or innovate around texture, such as freeze-drying fruit for snacking or twice-baking salty snacks.

Nabisco Oreo honored US Independence Day celebrations with a limited-edition chocolate Oreo with red and blue popping candy inside the cream.

Preferential Treatment

A new era in personalisation is dawning due to the expansion of online and mobile food shopping. 

Motivated by the potential to save time and ideally money, consumers are sampling a variety of channels and technologies when shopping for food and drink. The latest evolutions in shopping offer consumers prompt and affordable delivery, a curated adventure courtesy of subscription services, ease of automatic replenishment, and simplicity of synchronisation with smart home devices.

Busy consumers are drawn to e-commerce sites, mobile apps, voice control, and other online and mobile options because they are advantageous to their busy schedules and potentially their budgets. As technology helps to make shopping as effortless as possible, an era of targeted promotions and products is emerging. The adoption of voice-enabled smart home accessories, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, will make it easier to add items to shopping lists. On the supplier end, brands, companies and retailers can leverage technology to establish new levels of efficiency, such as customised recommendations, cross-category pairings, and resourceful solutions that save consumers time, effort, and energy. 

Moving beyond convenience, technology will offer new possibilities for personalised recommendations of products and individually targeted promotions. The personalisation made possible by new technologies could draw in more consumers, and the main benefit for brands is that personalised offers will make the marketing spend more effective.

The rapid expansion in the variety of food and drink retail channels will fuel the opportunity for recommendations, promotions, and product innovations that are based on actual consumer behaviour patterns. While this offers opportunity, it also could compromise brand discovery and endanger brand loyalty because custom offers might prioritise benefits, such as convenience, value or time, over brand. 

Finally, companies also could tempt consumers by creating products, suggesting combinations of goods and other options across consumer categories that align with online and offline behaviours. This new era of plentiful places to shop will pressure all brands to be more relevant, efficient and/or affordable in order to retain customers.

Amazon launched a range of private label products in 2017 under the Happy Belly and Wickedly Prime brands, offering exclusive brands for online grocery shoppers.


Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trends are the result of collaboration among 60 of of Mintel’s global expert analysts from around the world. These global conversations have led to key trends that reflect overarching consumer themes including trust, self-care, stress, individuality, and sustainability. To showcase the relevance of the five future-looking trends, our analyst insights have been supported by evidence gathered from Mintel’s proprietary consumer research, innovative developments observed by Mintel’s expert team of trend spotters, and international food and drink products collected in Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). To download a free copy of the report, please visit:



Jenny Zegler is the dedicated trends analyst on Mintel’s Food & Drink platform, blending Mintel Trends expertise with food and drink specific topics, such as health and wellness, formulation, sustainability and premiumization. In addition to contributing analysis to Mintel Food & Drink, Jenny has been part of the team that creates Mintel’s annual cross-category trends since 2014.

Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand. For more information on Mintel, please visit Follow Mintel on Twitter: or join the Mintel LinkedIn group: For more information about how Mintel can help your business, contact Ciara Rafferty, Director, Mintel Ireland on +44 (0)28 9024 1849 or  

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Javelin on what it is like to be 30 in Ireland today

Posted By Javelin, Tuesday 12 December 2017

Javelin we are 30

Javelin are celebrating turning 30 with the release of “We are 30”. A short documentary on being 30 in Ireland today, shot over 12 hours by award-winning director, Garry Keane.  Joe Dobbin, Javelin MD said “one of the things we set out to do to celebrate our birthday, was to look forward and gain a unique insight into a very singular and important target audience for marketers today – Ireland’s 30 year olds.  Our film participants were born in 1987, a tumultuous year in Ireland, and the world. Things are changing -  things always do, but the latter part of this decade sees the birth of a generation that will grow up through a time of unprecedented change. From boom to bust to boom to the mother of all busts. Now, 30 years on, we’ve heard from 30 young Irish men and women, they grew up with the Web, they can’t imagine not having a computer in their pockets. They have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of ‘friends’. They have been deeply scarred by the Tiger. “We are 30” is an honest film, that we have really enjoyed making, that gives voice to the generation that is now on the cusp of taking over. Who are they? What do they believe in? What do they not believe in? Like the rest of us, they have hopes, and fears. And here they are”. 


Watch the trailer below or the full film here.



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Here Come The Clever Bots – bursting with artificial intelligence?

Posted By PR Smith, Tuesday 5 December 2017

here come the clever bots

Here come the Bots

A few years ago, the Gartner Group forecasted that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human (Gartner 2011).  So let’s have a look at bots. Part 1 explores What are Bots? What are Chatbots, Slackbots, Good Looking AI bots?;  Types of Bots (including Sales Bots, Lead Generation Bots and, wait for it, AI Marketing Assistant Bots as well as CRM Bots). Part 2 explores the Importance of Bots; Intelligent Bots; How to develop successful Bots.


What are Bots?

Bots are fast becoming a very hot topic in marketing since social media and mobile apps gave us messaging apps. Some bots (e.g. basic messaging apps like watsapp, viber, facebook messaging, Yahoo Messenger, playstation messages, skype) are now bigger than social media (see the chart below).  Bots are defined as software that performs an automated task over the Internet e.g. a shopping bot that searches for the best prices and recommendations. Or chatbots that engage in text conversation with customers. Since texting has become so popular, it’s not surprising to see that ‘chatbots are the next logical step in tech innovation’ (Cerny 2016). Soon most of them will become voice operated (like Apple iPhone’s Siri). Who knows, they may, one day even become thought operated. They will become more aesthetically pleasing.

messaging apps growth

Messaging apps have, for the first time ever, surpassed even social networks in popularity. McKetterick (2016)


What are Chatbots?

Chatbots are ‘special programmes that are integrated into messengers to interact with customers’  (Suvorov 2016). They are like apps that talk back (via text). The level of friendliness and sophistication depends on the quality of the natural language processing technologies and the level of human effort to develop appropriate (friendly) responses. Although we are still at a relatively early stage of Conversation Commerce, it is worth looking at Ivan Suvorov ‘Shopping in messengers article’ to see how four different retailers use chatbots to deliver varying degrees of satisfaction. Meanwhile good chatbots ask salient questions at the right time. Currently, complexity and common sense, limit chatbots for now (particularly in more complex businesses). However, it looks like there’s no slowing down the bot revolution & some of them will create competitive advantage.


What are Slackbots?

Bots can be added to Slack (which is a is a relatively new type of messaging for teams). Slack integrates with many other tools such as Mailchimp, Google Chrome, Calendars, DropBox, twitter). Team conversations are organised into channels (e.g. departments, office locations, projects or anything). Public channels are open to anyone in your team. Private channels are for specific invitees only. You can share files, images, documents, spreadsheets simply by dragging them & dropping them into the right channel.  Private direct messages. Plus direct messages to groups. It sends alerts. Everything is searchable and in synch across all devices. No more email!


What are Sophisticated, Good Looking AI Bots?

Bots will become more aesthetically pleasing & more intelligent.

Bots are always on and will become nicer looking and more intelligent as:


  • AI (Artificial Intelligence)
  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Facial & Vocal Recognition

all continue to improve.

Some customers will be willing to pay for good advice or to have good conversations with particular bots that can help them solve various issues such as dating, marriage, divorce etc. Perhaps there is a gap for an ‘Oprah Bot’ (see below). Very personal stuff can be managed by robots, if initially, they don’t look like robots. Perhaps we might be happy to be advised by celebrities’ bots. After all, celebs are brands and research shows that many people (in the UK) trust brands more than they trust the church and the police.


The Uncanny Valley – Real Human Looking Robots Scare Children (today) 

In the 1970s, Japanese robotics engineer, Masahiro Mori, observed that the more human his robots appeared, the more people reacted positively towards them. But when robots look too similar to humans (but still seen as a robot) people saw them as ‘visually revolting’.

bots looking human

 Human Looking Bots can upset children

Mori called this ‘The Uncanny Valley’ – the chasm between ‘fully human’ and ‘nearly human’.  More recently audiences didn’t like the very realistic looking Final Fantasy movie animation (some children cried). Was this the ‘Uncanny Valley’? Dreamworks Studios were aware of this when producing Shrek, particularly when they tested their product (test screenings). They discovered that children perceived the movie to be spooky because the animations were almost real. Dreamworks then changed the characters to be less real and more cartoon-like. [Source: PR Smith 2016]


The Importance of Bots

Bots’ massive user base (see previous chart) is relatively young.  And they like the new interface which is no longer cumbersome texting but rather, it can be language-based (or voice operated), hands-free and, essentially easier and friendlier to use. Major players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are making announcements about bots (McKitterick 2016). Skype have their own too.

Skype bot

 Skype’s New bots

Remember, however, to succeed, the whole Bot experience must be all about helping customers (or entertaining them or informing them etc.). This can also mean saving customers time &/or having a ‘meaningful impact’ on their lives or their businesses.

Mobile messaging apps are massive. As Will McKetterick (2016) says: ‘The largest services have hundreds of millions of monthly active users (MAU). Falling data prices, cheaper devices, and improved features are helping propel their growth. Messaging apps are about more than messaging. Popular Asian messaging apps like WeChat, KakaoTalk, and LINE have taken the lead in finding innovative ways to maintain user engagement. Media companies, and marketers are still investing more time and resources into social networks like Facebook and Twitter than they are into messaging services. That may change as messaging companies develop their services and reach, and ultimately, provide more avenues for connecting brands, publishers, and advertisers with customers. Is this already happening as mentioned, messaging apps have, for the first time ever, surpassed even social networks in popularity (McKetterick 2016)?


Types of Bots

Shopping Bots

Cooking Bots

Marriage Bots

Oprah Bots

Golf Bots

Mechanic Bots

Election Bots

Customer Service Bots

Research Bots

Sales Bots, Lead Generation Bots & Retail Bots


Shopping Bots

Have been around a long time. I even predicted ‘shopping bot wars’ more than ten years ago when hovering hologram shopping bots cause queues as they argue with cashiers and bus drivers about prices (Smith 2005). Well the wars haven’t happened and the bots have been slow to appear, but they are coming. They are growing. Marketers need to familiarise themselves with them because message apps (early bots) are already bigger than social media. And they are getting cleverer as AI and access to multiple databanks kick in.

shopping bot kip

Shopping Bot by Kip

Kip helps to co-ordinate team purchases by pinging a message to staff re ‘who needs office stationary & equipment?’ Then items are added to a standing order & eventually bought with just one click.  Kip can also be used for personal shopping and even encourage customers to use emoji’s and photos to ‘discover new things’. Kip describes itself as ‘your personal shopper’.  Kip uses emojis and photos to ‘discover new things’. People can ask the bot for different things like “Chocolate” or “Coffee” and it will return a list of products. Then Kip earn a percentage on each transaction.

Kip Bots use emojis


Cooking Bot

While the bot will tell you that swapping Cumin for Coriander is okay in a certain recipe – it can also send you an article that talks about “5 Sriracha Infused Recipes That Will Leave Your Guests In Awe” (sponsored by Sriracha of course).


Marriage Bot

If you want anonymous marriage counselling, Ross Simmons et al (2016) suggest that ‘”Marriage counsellors can charge anywhere from $75 to $200 or more per hour depending on where you live, the experience of the therapist, and the type of setting can all play a factor in how much counselling costs. Bots could help marriages, at scale, at a much lower price point and be more accurate in their advice by leveraging the data they receive from their frequent interactions” (Simmonds 2016).


Fitness Bot

These bots can offer tips and tricks on how to stay healthy and use affiliate links to send people to fitness products that have affiliate links associated with them. They can even run an interactive training session with you, inviting you to do the next exercise, if you have completed the 50 press-ups. Layer in additional data from fitness apps and you will probably see a nation becoming fitter as they compete with their own previous performance and simultaneously form relationships with their fitness bots.


Oprah Bot

If you need life advice – why not get ‘personal advice’ from a high profile personality brand with whom many millions already have a positive relationship. This branded app in the form of a bot could be scaled up and yet still give personalised answers from your favourite celebrity, in the strictest of confidence. Data privacy is, of course critical with all of these bots.


Borris Bot

Could you imagine it? Britain’s new Minister for Foreign Affairs advising the nation after pulling it out of Europe?


Golf Bot

Wouldn’t we all like one of these? Interestingly, I’m told many American Business Masters Programmes have an optional half module called ‘golf’ – which includes golf etiquette, golf tips and networking skills.


Mechanic Bot

for information on your car, how to maintain it, service it, and maybe, a premium priced bot for how to fix it.


Election Bot

The New York Times Election Bot gives you live results and updates/alerts.  You can also submit questions to the newsroom directly. There are more and more bots piling into this marketplace such as Purple  which is one of many election bots.


Research Bot

Wondering what millennials are thinking about the next election? Ross Simmonds et al (2016) says: ‘There are bots that you can pay to do the research for you. While I haven’t come across any bots that are doing this today, it would make a lot of sense for Q&A bots to offer this type of service.

Bots like disordatbot are already asking people simple ‘this or that’ questions. Event planners can decide which music act to book for a particular event. Rather than using an expensive research firm or inaccurate focus group, ‘you can run a research campaign with disordatbot and ask users in your city whether they prefer Radiohead or Nickelback.’ (Simmonds 2016)

What separates disordat from a simple ‘either-or’ bot is that disordat bot questions also have an option to get for more information. If the user taps “Huh?” In response to these questions, the bot sends a link that gives more information.

 didordat bot

DisorDat bot helps customers make decisions Image Credit: disordatbot


Sales Bots (retail sales bots)

These will encourage customers to ask them (the bots) questions such as ‘do you have any Adidas football boots? The bot will immediately answer ‘Yes’ here are our most popular 3 adidas football boots. Was there a particular style you need? And what size would you like?’ The bot then presents the information (e.g. a photo, product sheet, video, a 3D model and perhaps soon, a virtual hovering hologram/bot). The prospect then buys the product similar to buying on a web site, but perhaps, eventually, with voice control options. Meanwhile, it is worth reading Ivan Suvorov’s  (2016) ‘Shopping in messengers article’ to see how four different retailers use chatbots to deliver varying degrees of customer satisfaction.

H&M bot

H&M Bots help customers  Image Credit: H&M


Lead Generation Bots 

Independent knowledge bots (not associated with a particular brand) could be set up, promoted and used to help people get information about any particular area of interest. In return for giving tailored, relevant and useful content/information, the bot asks “Is it ok if I pass this along to someone who can help you with some special offers? The Bot owner gets paid a commission. In fact bot owner can become an affiliate to several suppliers earning commission each time the bot affiliate passes prospect information to a particular company.

Ross Simmonds et al (2016) suggest that ‘Slack Bots that don’t have a Q&A focus could also leverage this model. If you’ve built a bot that offers valuable content on a regular basis to a niche audience, organizations who want to connect or sell to that audience might have an interest in conducting research campaigns via chat.’


Sales Assistant Bots

Given that sales people spend too much time filling in reports, or researching customers,and arguably, too little time talking with customers, chatbots could do the form filling and also equip sales people with a cheat sheet with some nice ice-breakers tailored to the buyer they are going to meet along with any key information or dialogue the company has had with them.

So there you have an introduction to bots covering:  What are Bots? What are Chatbots, Slackbots, Good Looking AI bots?; and Types of Bots.


Part 2 explores artificially intelligent marketing bot; How do you create smart AI driven bots? The key to successful bots; taking humans out of the loop by 2020? 


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See also: 

SOSTAC® Certified Planner Portal   

SOSTAC® Guide to Your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan

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PR Smith trains and advises a range of blue chips as well as smaller innovative businesses through bodies such as the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the UK Government's Growth Accelerator Programme. Paul’s eMarketing eXcellence book is a recommended text and his new SOSTAC® Guide To Your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan is very popular. His four other books are translated into seven languages. Paul's SOSTAC® Marketing Planning System is used by organisations around the world and has prompted Paul to set up SOSTAC® Registered Consultants and Learning Centres. Paul's NFP social media driven edutainment programme, The Great Sportsmanship Programme, is designed to inspire a new generation of global citizens through true two minute stories.

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Bachman, R. (2016) The limits of A.I. and chatbots: How not to fail like Microsoft VB Live, 22 June
Campbell, R. (2016) Introducing DisOrDatBot , Readme.mic, 18 April
Cerny, B (2016) Why chatbots can’t do much more than order you an Uber…yet 22 June, venture Beat
Gartner Predicts (2011), Customer 360 Summit, Los Angeles, March 30 – April 1
McKitterick, W (2016) Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks, Business Insider,15 June
Meeker, M. (2016) 2016 Internet Trends Report, KPCB, 1 June
Rogers, S (2016) Shopify acquires Kit, the artificially intelligent marketing bot, Venture Beat 13 April
Simmonds, R et al (2016) How will bots make money? Here are 7 business models, Venture Beat, 9 June
Smith, PR & Chaffey, D. (2005) Emarketing Excellence, 2nd ed. Butterworth Heinnemann (bot wars)
Smith, PR (2016) SOSTAC® Guide To Your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan V2,
Suvorov, I (2016) Shopping in messengers, Chatbots Magazine, May.

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