cally hocknell

“What’s the point of marketers like me, why would you commission research, when an egg knocks Kylie Jenner off the top spot on Instagram?!”

There were jokes and sharp insight in equal measures in music marketer and Chatty Penguin founder Cally Hocknell’s presentation at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam on Friday.

She was referring to the recent campaign that saw a photo of a boiled egg become the most-followed Instagram account. After noting its canny use of hashtags in the comments rather than just in the description, Hocknell pointed to the egg’s emotional message.

“There’s an emotional appeal here. A plea. ‘Help us get to number one’ like Rage Against The Machine against X Factor for the Christmas number one. ‘Knock Kylie Jenner off the top spot!’ That emotion resonated with the whole of Instagram, and it worked.”

Before founding Chatty Penguin, Hocknell was director of marketing and communications at Universal Music’s UK live division – with marketing roles at The O2 and Budweiser among her past jobs. Her FastForward presentation zipped through some current marketing trends, including her suggestion that 2019 is a year for the advertising and marketing industry to regain consumer trust.

“In 2018 we had GDPR coming into effect; algorithm changes; privacy scandals; Facebook had an absolute nightmare with some data-sharing issues; and Twitter had to shut down a load of troll accounts,” she said.

“So 2019 is a bit of a repair year: it’s about getting back trust from the consumer… In 2019 millennials expect more transparency from brands than from politicians! But it’s an opportunity.”

Hocknell suggested that for brands (and artists) one of the opportunities now is to explore more-private ways to use social media: from private accounts on Instagram to groups on Facebook.

“As a brand, I would say go for groups. You can send notifications, buck the algorithms, you can talk one on one and get feedback,” she said. “Groups are great: and you can now post as a business page, and update groups with stories and videos.”

The rise of the ‘stories’ format has been something music marketers have been thinking a lot about over the past year. Hocknell cited a report from May 2018 suggesting that 970 million accounts across WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat were posting stories on a daily basis.

“They can be a great addition to your content, but don’t drop everything. Some people think all we have to do now in marketing is stories,” she warned, although she added that it’s a format that deserves exploration.

“The ads are cheaper in stories, because there’s less auction competition. And at the end of 2018 stories overtook feed in terms of popularity and consumption. I’d just experiment with them: they’re fun! And if you get them wrong, they’re gone in 24 hours. You can’t f*** up that badly with stories. That’s not a challenge, by the way…”

Hocknell warned marketers off making their stories look over-produced – rawer and shot on a smartphone avoids the danger of looking “try-hard and naff” – and also stressed the benefits of filling the vertical screen, rather than simply repurposing landscape video and leaving blank bars at the top and bottom.

She praised recent campaigns for the Beatles’ 50th-anniversary remixed White Album, as well as 3D imagery used for posts about Netflix’s House of Cards and Def Leppard that move as people scroll through their feeds. “It’s a cool way to grab someone’s attention.”

That’s a key task for modern music marketers, as Hocknell pointed out. “Every single week we scroll a greater height than Big Ben on Facebook. We scroll a greater distance than we walk! That sucks!” she said. Especially for marketers trying to grab attention.

“1.7 seconds is the attention span we’ve got. It’s less than a goldfish! So how do you grab it?”

Hocknell talked about Jonah Berger’s theory on the importance of social currency: “People love to brag, so give them the first announcement, make them sound in the know,” she said. Emotion (“If people care, they share”) and practical value (“Why are you sending me this email? Am I going to save £2?”) were also cited.

She also sees engagement after a fan has taken action – like buying something – as something the music industry could do better. For example, after buying a ticket. Hocknell thinks music could learn a thing or two from sports, where clubs treat their regular fans as members, and email them in between matches with news updates and other information.

“Building a community is just as important as sales,” she concluded. “I know you have to pay the bills, but there are other things that affect sales.”

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