A word with … Mandi Bateson

A word with … Mandi Bateson

In Interviews by Peter Gearin

M&C Saatchi’s head of social says relevance and quality always speak loudest.

As head of social media at M&C Saatchi Australia, Mandi Bateson specialises in telling big messages in short formats. The former social media leader at Mindshare in Sydney is a go-to spokesperson for what works (and what doesn’t) in the crowded and noisy digital marketplace of ideas and commentary. Some brands, she says, just don’t get it.

Brand Tales: How do businesses grab consumers’ attention on social media?

Mandi Bateson: There is no greater power than being relevant. This may mean delivering a product message at the precise time that a consumer would need it or tapping into an insight that makes a person react “YES! That’s so me!” This is true for all marketing, obviously, but the reason we talk up this when it comes to social is that we’re given more opportunities to be relevant. The targeting opportunities help narrow in on the people you want to speak to, the immediacy helps leverage a moment in time, the social context helps fuel “me too” moments. If you’re ignoring these opportunities to simply put out a stock image to a mass audience, you’re not going to grab attention and you may as well not bother with social.

BT: What is your current pet peeve about social media?

Bateson: How a preference for honest, authentic, raw and therefore less polished content paved the way for a “good enough” mentality of crap quality advertising on social just to get something up and out regularly. Stock images with product shots shopped onto them is no-one’s idea of good content, so why are we doing it?

BT: How do you define the concept of “corporate storytelling”?

Bateson: A brand should have a story to tell. Whether it’s the brand’s purpose, or the unique way its product is created or the problem it’s solving, there should be a narrative that can be communicated to an audience that makes them understand why it’s the brand or product for them. The original business plan probably holds a few hints as to where to start – it’s tapping into the reason for existing in the first place.

BT: How does your belief in the power of long-form branded content square with working in social media for an agency that built its reputation on traditional advertising?

Bateson: I think it’s naive of a social media specialist to think that social solves all advertising problems and money from media plans should be funnelled entirely into social. There’s a role for various types of content, and that includes traditional advertising, albeit with a new lens on how to cut-through in the current landscape. What I love about being part of M&C Saatchi is that my colleagues care about insightful strategies, brilliant ideas, the power of storytelling, building brand fame and efficacy. How this is distilled into a social execution is for us all to discover. Believe me, most creatives would love 2+ minutes of film to tell their story so long form is not an issue!

“You’ll do no favours convincing yourself that someone is hanging out to watch you speak to camera for three minutes about your product.”

BT: What advice do you have for brands and agency colleagues who want to use content as part of their marketing mix?

Bateson: Above all, use common sense. Firstly, sense-check what you have the budget to create and distribute and don’t try to spread yourself too thin. If you compromise in either area you will see the impact on your results. Secondly, sense-check the audience’s appetite to hear from you. Always ask (and answer!): Why would they care? Why would they share? Be brutally honest with yourself here – you’ll do no favours convincing yourself that someone (or thousands of “someones”) is hanging out to watch you speak to camera for three minutes about your product. Finally, create content that’s fit for purpose. Think of where, how and why your content is going to be consumed and make it the best possible experience.

BT: Can you nominate an Australian brand that is producing consistently good content? Why do you think it’s so effective?

Bateson: The content I love most in my feed is from the people who have the opportunity to capture and publish both inspirational and functional content regularly – cafes, hairdressers, wedding suppliers. It’s easy for them to create great content because it happens in front of them daily. Their content is likeable and collectable when searching for trends, inspiration and making decisions about where to go, who to use and what to have. They make it a habit to constantly capture what’s happening around them and that alone makes it easier for them to achieve.

BT: Is there one specific content execution that you really admire? What can other brands learn from this?

Bateson: Ten years ago, Blendtec had a simple idea to put an item into a blender, ask the question “Will it blend?” and film it. It was lo-fi in terms of production value, it ticked the box for product demonstration and efficacy, it gave them a chance for re-engagement with a series of challenges, and it allowed them to tap into whatever popular trend was topical at the time. Someone must have been thinking out of the box when they came up with that one but they worked with what they had to make sure it wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

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