Category: bd2 news

It was known as “advertorial” for a long time but then along came the internet and social media and it is now known as “native advertising” and is one of the hottest topics in marketing at the moment.

In essence, native advertising describes the process whereby an advertiser places an ad and its design is created to mirror the editorial content which surrounds it.

Publishers will tell you that there is no intention to deceive readers and, indeed, most publishers and editors are fiercely protective of their integrity and content. Having said that, user trust is key to native advertising success. The content should be clearly badged as an ad to ensure complete transparency. However, the content has to match the platform so it’s a fine line to walk.

Many see this approach as blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, arguing that
If the content looks too much like the editorial content that surrounds it publications can be accused of misleading the reader.

Native advertising is also now rife across all social networks, the most common being sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts or ads on Facebook. Not only are these tactics native to their host, they also carry the power of recommendation, with the sponsored content often implying that ‘Your friend likes this”. Some 65% of native advertising is made up of blog posts.

Social native is attractive not only for its impact, but also for the sheer scale of its reach. With Facebook now being used by well over 1bn users, the potential is huge.

However, the creative limitations are significant as social content makes it difficult to tell a detailed brand story. There are usually a few short characters and, if you’re lucky, a thumbnail image.

There is a worry that social networks might become victims of their own success with users being turned off by the amount of advertising with which they are bombarded. Many publishers, including Facebook and Twitter, have started to limit the amount of native advertising they carry even though it is an exceptionally lucrative revenue stream for them.

An interesting addition in the world of social native is what has become known as “display social”. In this, advertisers piggy back third party sites to increase interest and, hopefully, engagement. The ad becomes, ostensibly, a link to a site of interest such as a fashion site being promoted on a lifestyle site. When the user clicks through, the advertiser’s ad is featured on the fashion site.

The ad then becomes semi-editorial rather than a straightforward ad and the advertiser has his ad appearing alongside editorial relevant to both the user and his proposition.
There are currently no real performance measurements for native advertising because it is still such a new category. The advertiser can see how many shares, likes or retweets a post gets and, from that, extrapolate the amount of interest he is creating.

It is also possible to monitor the number page views the advertiser’s website is receiving and relate them to the appearance of a native ad. However, it is extremely difficult to measure the level of engagement engendered. And that is still the golden fleece of all marketing activity. Or, it should be.

Image is everything

Image is everything, or at least for a photographer it is, so the new site we’ve developed for one of the North West’s leading photographers Malcolm Birkett, is pretty much all image. The site delivers a selection of work from Malcolm’s portfolio at full screen on every type of device by using mobile responsive techniques. The site incorporates a very discrete menu, so as not to distract from the photography, which allows the user to view his work across various galleries – lifestyle, studio, interiors and location.

Take a look at to see the site and Malcolm’s fabulous work, not least of some amazing yachts.

The latest issue of our newsletter ‘brief distraction’ has arrived back from Clive, our Notts Forest supporting printer, who’s done a fine job as usual.

Amongst the usual mixture of projects is a follow up story from the previous edition on a b2b website we’ve developed for client Wax Lyrical which has surpassed expectations achieving real commercial successes.

Other featured projects include a recently developed e-commerce site for Crewsaver, a leading manufacturer of marine safety equipment and an awareness campaign around the recent Welfare Reform changes for Wigan and Leigh Housing Association. A new corporate website and brand refresh exercise for longstanding client Vision Commercial Kitchens is shown, user interface design project for Bunzl Retail, a multimedia DVD for healthcare client Vernacare and a preview of a new in-store presentation using Microsoft Surface devices for jewellers Boodles.

Taking centre stage though is our brand development work for Wigan Youth Zone, a multi-million pound initiative to support the young people in Wigan made possible by three of the town’s leading businessmen who decided to put something back into the community. It’s a fantastic development for the town and its young people and we’ve been delighted to help provide an identity which hopefully matches its ambition.

If you’d like a copy, please email and we’d be more than happy to pop one in the post.

Wigan Expo 2013

It seems that Wigan’s business Expo has become such an annual fixture it might be pre-printed in diaries along with  ‘Christmas’, ‘Easter’ and ‘Bank Holiday’. Even the word ‘Expo’, which somehow sits more comfortably alongside Milan, Zurich or Madrid, is sounding more at home with Wigan.

All 140 exhibition spaces were pre-sold, predominantly to local businesses and nearly 1300 people attended this year  – apparently an increase of over 25% on last year. As in previous years, the event was a mixture of exhibition, seminars, business advice and ‘meet the buyer’ one-to-ones but above all it’s probably a day long rolling networking event. Wigan businesses turned out in force to both exhibit and attend which leads to a local and very friendly vibe with so many recognisable faces to catch up with and chat to.

At bd2, we tried a little bit of a different approach this year with a pop-up marketing surgery rather than a stand. The exhibition space is always busy, but is essentially made up of rows of display stands with someone stood in front of each trying to catch the eye of wandering attendees or bribing them with sweets, cakes or the lure of a draw for a bottle of champagne in exchange for a business card. Our pop-up marketing surgery, which took up the space of 4 stands, was more inside out with enough space to walk into and have a chat, as such it was noticeably very different from the rest. It seemed to work well judging by numerous comments and visitors who received free advice from some of the experienced professionals on our stand – Chartered Designers, Chartered Marketers, Professional Photographers and Copywriters – across a wide variety of marketing issues.

It’s great to see Wigan MBC supporting local businesses, but it’s a real shame that two of the driving forces behind getting the Expo off the ground in the first place and organising the event year on year have sadly been made redundant as part of the Council’s latest round of cost-cutting. There’s no doubt that reducing head count is an essential part of this, but they’ve lost two dedicated, really good and quality people in Keith Molloy and Claire Gomersall.

There’s a mix of comment and images to be found at

Unique double. Unique town.

We’ve been saying for a long time to anyone who will listen, which admittedly is very few, that Wigan is a unique place and not just in an Orwellian sense. Now, however, the evidence is irrefutable as Wigan is the first, and will probably be the only town ever, to hold both the FA and Challenge cups simultaneously. A unique and remarkable achievement for a small but very proud town with a big sporting tradition and a winning mentality.

Both cups are rightly regarded as the world’s premier knock out club competitions in the respective sports of association football and rugby football league, each with over one hundred years of history and tradition behind them. It’s safe to say that Wigan RL’s history in the Challenge cup eclipses that of ‘The Latic’s’ one-off cup experience, for that matter it eclipses all other RL clubs as this, their 19th win, is a record which stretches back to 1923. As such they went into this final as firm favourites and duly ground out a hard earned victory against Hull in difficult wet conditions at Wembley, the same venue that witnessed Wigan Athletic’s famous FA triumph in May which was very much against the odds as they beat 10 to 1 on favourites Manchester City.

Wigan’s undoubtedly a rugby league town, and there is a certain rivalry between the fans of each sport which has intensified perhaps as the football club’s fortunes have improved – bearing in mind that it only joined the football league in 1978 and has only really achieved any success in the last 10 years or so with Premier League status and the FA cup win. However, most true sports fans and genuine Wiganers are delighted for the town and each club’s success.

It was fantastic therefore, to see the RL team bring the Challenge cup to the football club and parade it alongside the FA trophy during half time at Sunday’s game against Middlesborough. In fact the club had rearranged the game from Monday so that it wouldn’t interfere with an open-top bus parade of the Challenge cup through the town. There’s been an increasingly harmonious relationship between the clubs over recent years, despite the odd fall out over the condition of the pitch or fixtures as they share the stadium. Apparently Dave Whelan, the Latic’s vociferous Chairman, took the FA cup into the dressing room after the Challenge Cup win, presumably both were filled with champagne and clinked together to create the world’s biggest ‘Cheers!’

Sweet smell of success

We’ve worked with our technology partner Datel for over 15 years on a wide range of e-commerce solutions which integrate web front ends with their Sage business systems. At their recent customer day, an annual event where their customers are invited in to see various presentaions and innovations from Sage and themselves, they presented a joint Datel and bd2 client Wax Lyrical as a case study.

Wax Lyrical’s journey has been a fascinating one, and the full story can be seen in this video which features in The Telegraph’s business club section:

The company, which manufactures scented candles and fragrances, was bought around 5 years ago by serial entrepreneur Mike Armstead who has turned around a business on the brink of bankruptcy struggling with huge debts and outdated processes, to a debt free and profitable company. This success has been underpinned by an investment in technology and the production line so that now virtually all manufacturing is in the UK rather than the Far East – the business now exports most of its products instead of importing. The company re-branded and repositioned as a luxury British brand and signed some strategic licensing deals with partners such as the RHS.

An investment in a new Sage business management system has been key to this success so that the business has the processes and knowledge needed to operate more efficiently. As part of the drive to achieve operational efficiencies, we recently developed a new business to business website aimed at smaller customers which integrates with their Sage systems. As well as their larger customers, such as supermarkets and garden centre chains, Wax Lyrical supply many independent retailers and gift shops all over the UK and increasingly in Europe. Servicing these customers had been expensive as their sales team were physically visiting stores to collect orders, sometimes driving miles to pick up an order for just a box of candles.

The new website allows these retailers to place orders online 24/7 and to access stock and account data. The Wax Lyrical site has now been live for just over seven months and during this period nearly 700 customers have registered as users which is almost the 12 month target of customers. Around 25% of the sales to independents year to date have been made online which has led to significant business benefits such as a reduction on order lead times as there is no manual intervention required to process orders into Sage. Paperwork and postage has been dramatically reduced as all customer admin is now electronic [invoicing, statements etc.]. Wax Lyrical have a much more flexible marketing list for constant contact along with a fairly easy to manage content management system to engage the customer and entice purchase of targeted offerings. This, combined with convenience, has led to the average order value increasing by approx 50% – being retailers it isn’t always practical to call and place orders during the working day so 24/7 access allows time to browse the full range and place bigger orders. International orders have also increased, so much so that we’re now working on adding multi-lingual functionality to the site.

The site has seen other benefits in the business, such as with the field sales team and head office customer services personnel who can now concentrate on targeting new growth, merchandising the brand in stores and supporting larger customers, rather than taking and processing orders. Wax Lyrical have also been able to redeploy a member of staff previously dedicated to order entry.

Feedback from Wax Lyrical and its customers has been very positive; their web admin team have frequently commented on how much more user-friendly our system is compared to their Magento b2c solution; and a brief survey of end-users reported that they find the system easy and very straight forward to use and that access to account information online was seen as very beneficial as was the ability to use 24/7.

“The feedback on the site has all been very positive.” Comments Managing Director Joanne Barber “Thank you to you and your team for delivering something that is very user friendly. We are certainly pleased with the uptake so far and look forward to the site being a much more important part of our business in terms of sales numbers.”

Wigan wins

True to his word, Wigan Athletic’s Chairman Dave Whelan took the newly won FA Cup straight to Wigan Youth Zone a full week before today’s obligatory open top bus tour of the town. Mr Whelan simply brought the cup round in the back of his Bentley then collared bd2′s design director Stuart who’d just gone to capture the moment – ‘give me a lift with this lad’ – leading to this great photo and rare privilege of lifting the FA cup, albeit in a practical rather than playing capacity.

Bringing the cup into the Youth Zone brought together Dave Whelan’s two great passions – Wigan Athletic and Wigan Youth Zone – both of which he’s backed financially, and in a very significant fashion, as Chairman and Founder Patron respectively. His FA cup story is well documented with this year’s victory bringing some closure and no little satisfaction for Whelan who broke his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the 1960 final. A superb triumph then for both him and the town’s team who recorded one of the biggest upsets in cup history by defeating Manchester City who were as much as ten to one on to win with a team which cost over ten times more to assemble than Wigan’s. There are many intertwined stories and at bd2 we very much feel part of them as Latics fans and Patrons of the Youth Zone, having attended both the semi final and final and getting our hands on the cup, again, at the club’s recent end of season awards.

Challenges await both the football club and the youth zone with the former facing up to life in the Championship following relegation – sadly the first team to win the cup and go down in the same season. However, the future for the stunning new Youth Zone, which opens formally on the 8th June, is very bright but will need the ongoing support of the local community with more sponsors and volunteers required. We continue to be heavily involved despite delivery of the new brand nearing completion, as we believe it’s a great initiative for the town’s youth and if you or your business would like to know more or arrange a visit, please contact as we can forward your interest on.

Online spending looks to have overtaken the high street for the first time this year as analysts predict in-store sales will account for only 40% of spend with online at 54%, the rest being by mail order. Some of this increase has been driven by the growth in shopping on smartphones and tablets, although desktops are still used for around 80% of internet spending, but with use of mobiles up 120% and tablets rising by 280% it’s clear where the future lies.

There’s also been a rise of over 40%  in ‘click and collect’, where shoppers buy online but collect in-store, and this is set to grow further in 2013. This trend offers at least the prospect of some light at the end of tunnel for the beleaguered high street retailers many of whom have experienced a very difficult 2012, indeed several big names have disappeared altogether – JJB, Comet, Clinton Cards and Game – to name just the biggest. ‘Click and collect’ helps bring customers back in-store but of course still places huge importance on an effective online presence as the two must work together. In fact we’re currently in final negotiations with a medium sized retailer, with around 80 stores, to redevelop and relaunch their e-commerce platform and have identified ‘click and collect’ as an important function within the site.

At bd2 we’ve seen similar growth in business to business sales with a continued move towards e-commerce. Business benefits are seen both in the ease of purchasing and procurement but also in access to online services such as account information, order history and stock levels. In fact b2b e-commerce often sees a quicker return on investment than b2c because of the cost cutting efficiencies it brings in terms of reducing or removing manual intervention by linking business systems to a web front end.

Add these cost savings to the potential increased market reach of e-commerce and the business benefits can be substantial as illustrated by one of our customers who is now topping £1M a week in online sales, which has grown from scratch in around 6 years, to account for about two thirds of their overall revenues underpinning impressive 20% plus year on year overall growth.

It’s this kind of commercial success that’s driving businesses who don’t already transact online to seriously look at integrated e-commerce solutions, and is reflected in our workload which includes several large scale b2b integrated projects currently under development and some major ones commencing early next year, including two well known high street names.

Happ-e Christmas and a digital new year!

Setting off with no planned destination, roadmap or even a real sense of direction could be seen by some as a little reckless. But it does make for an exciting journey with, almost inevitably, many unexpected twists and turns. What we did have, at least, was one single and clear objective: To help raise as much money as possible for research to try and find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Jack Johnson, the son of a good friend, client and supplier Andy, was diagnosed with DMD about 12 months ago – a truly horrendous, terminal muscle wasting disease which will, in all probability, see Jack wheelchair bound before the age of 12 and unlikely to reach his thirties. So when Andy and his family decided to start a charity to raise funds to help find a cure, we offered our services unconditionally developing a joined up strategy, a new brand name, logo and the on and offline marketing communications.

The journey since then has been something akin to riding a sky rocket – a very fast, steeply rising trajectory which is exhilarating if slightly scary. The Joining Jack brand has taken on a life of its own and is encapsulated within the ‘JJ salute’ which has spread through the world of rugby league and into the media through a viral campaign, underpinned by the website and social media. Innovative marketing ideas such as this have quickly raised awareness and, in turn, led to numerous events and activities such as the end of season RL derby between Wigan and St Helens becoming the ‘Joining Jack’ game.

The latest leg of the journey took us to Dubai for the Emirates Sevens rugby tournament in which Joining Jack entered a team of true RL legends into the veteran competition – Robinson, Offiah, Betts, Long, Morley, Hampson, Blakeley, Radlinski, Sculthorpe, Cassidy, Carney, Connolly, Joynt and of course Andy Johnson. Despite these star names the biggest of all was actually the water boy, one Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France and Olympic gold medal winning cyclist.

It turns out that Bradley’s a massive RL fan and he has become a big supporter of the charity. Not only did he give up his time to come out to Dubai for a few days to support the charity, which in itself is amazing, he also donated one of his yellow jerseys from the Tour to an auction held at one of the main fund raising events – a barbecue attended by some 600 of Dubai’s expat community. Obviously this real piece of history, presented by the man himself, went for a premium adding to the significant sum raised during the trip.

For the record, the team made it to the semis where they were knocked out by the eventual winners with injuries and a lack of union experience taking an ultimate toll. Elimination from the tournament however led to liberation off the field with training jettisoned for partying – something the players still seem to be world class at. The memory of them practicing scrums and line outs with Mr Wiggins in the hotel bar, followed by Jager bombs, is forever ingrained.

All the videos and images from Dubai [well not all of them] and other events can be seen at and on our Facebook pages.

The community spirit in Wigan is undoubtedly a very strong one. The town has a distinct sense of self and of self-sufficiency. It’s even on the coat of arms which bears the motto “Progress with Unity”. Nowhere is this more evident than in business where Wigan companies like nothing better than dealing with a fellow Wiganer.

That doesn’t mean we’re insular. It simply means we recognise the many benefits of working with companies close to home. It’s a bit like what networking operators call “Know, Like and Trust” and this spirit was evident at the DW Stadium on Friday October 12th during this year’s Wigan Business Expo event.

Over 120 businesses of all sizes exhibited there making it one of the biggest business events in the north west this year. Not surprisingly, most were from Wigan or, at least, representing the local office of a national firm.

Some were worried that there might not be any visitors as everyone in Wigan was already there! They needn’t have been concerned. Visitors turned up in their droves; many from Wigan but from various other destinations too. On our stand, we enjoyed the company of visitors from Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and even one from Bedford!

A huge vote of thanks goes to everyone from Wigan Council and the DW Stadium for staging such a vibrant, positive and enjoyable event – right down to the free bacon butties! The continued support of the Council has seen the Expo virtually quadruple in just three years.

bd2 has long been proud of our ‘approved supplier status’ with Wigan Council and of the work we have undertaken locally. Most recently this includes a new brand for Wigan Youth Zone, an initiative entirely funded by local money and designed for the benefit of youths from Wigan, Leigh and the area. Huge respect again has to go to Martin and Bill Ainscough and David Whelan for putting their hands in their pockets to get the ball rolling.

One of the big successes at Wigan Expo was the Creative Wigan area and, once again, we are proud to have been amongst the instigators of this exciting venture which promotes the skills and capabilities of Wiganers across a huge range of creative disciplines through our directory website

Another indication of this local strength became apparent recently when a survey of over 13,000 football fans from around the country recorded the team they support and their full postcode to establish the average distance each fan lives from their club, and what proportion of each club’s fans are local to their home stadium. And Wigan came top with 65% of fans living in the same postcode as the DW. Local club, local support.

At bd2, we also deal with companies from all over Britain and abroad and they range from small businesses right up to multinational companies turning over hundreds of billions of dollars. And, as we do so, we continually bang the drum for Wigan, its businesses and its people.

Like bd2, Wigan has much to be proud of and Wigan Expo 2012 demonstrated this in a positive and confident manner. Progress? Definitely. Unity? Undoubtedly. And Wigan at its best.

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