Mom 2.0 Summit 2015


Delighted to announce that TIO’s Annabel Kelly has been invited to speak at next year’s Mom 2:0 Summit, the premier event for mom bloggers and the brands that target them.  Annabel will be sharing her perspective on conducting a robust (and cost effective) survey or poll to develop engaging content.

Reaching China’s Digital Consumers


Annabel Kelly, Managing Director, TIO Agency

In our second installment of “Marketing in China”, TIO Agency reports on the huge opportunities available to Western brands especially through the Chinese e-commerce market.

China is second only to the US for the size of its economy and imports. For some markets, however, China has overtaken the US. The Chinese car and light truck market is now bigger than the US market. What’s more, the Chinese – with their increased wealth and diminishing trust in local brands – have a fast growing appetite for Western products especially those that are consumed in public such as fashion, cosmetics, personal technology, food and drink, movies, and automotive.  In 2013, for example, 60% of all vehicles purchased in China were not homegrown brands, an increase from the previous year.

China not only has the largest population in the world, it also has the largest internet population in the world. Over 600 million Chinese (about half) are internet users equating to twice the total population of the United States. More often than not, the Chinese access the internet via a mobile device rather than a desktop and spend more time online than their US counterparts. Social media and, in particular, instant messaging (through WeChat, QQ and other apps) is huge in China. The Chinese are also very accustomed to using QR codes and ordering from tablets in restaurants.

China is fast catching up with the US’ position as the largest e-commerce market. With few physical outlets (in the smaller cities at least); live customer support; and extremely fast and cheap delivery services; the internet is often the easiest way to purchase both consumer and B2B products. Online brands rarely deal directly with the consumer but, instead, trade in digital marketplaces such as those owned by the now public Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba.

As a culture, the Chinese value the group over the self and so, when it comes to making purchase decisions, they give a lot more credence to word-of-mouth recommendations – increasingly shared through social media networks – than Americans. They are also more focused on the past and the future than their live-for-the-moment American cousins perhaps explaining the popularity of brands with global heritage and the tendency of brand messaging to be aspirational in nature. In China, a chicken dinner, vacuum cleaner, or car all use the same messaging formula of good luck and prosperity for the purchaser.  Tore Claesson, Creative Director at TIO China, feels there is an opportunity for brands to break away from this safe, traditional messaging style and cut a new path: “Advertising in China is in a nascent stage where brands are not quite daring enough to differentiate themselves in an authentic way. Given this situation, there’s an opportunity for smart brands to blaze the trail, break through the clutter with original, creative, and differentiating strategies.”

TIO China, based in Chengdu, works with Western brands to avoid the pitfalls of doing business in China. In addition to translating marketing communications, we also help clients reach China’s digital consumers by developing their messaging; making their websites China-friendly (including striping them of the restricted Google code and fonts); and establishing their brands on popular social media channels, search engines, and in digital marketplaces. 

Image “QR code for Chinese Wikipedia Mobile” by Great Brightstar – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons

China: Filling the Void

Tore Claesson discusses his involvement in the Stevie Awards and how TIO China helps clients bridge the East West culture gap:


Big (Easy) Data

Surveys and polls can be a great way to provide a springboard for your brand. Few are aware of how easy and cost effective a professionally conducted survey can be. Following the success of her survey on parenting stress  for the Clinton Foundation, Annabel Kelly provides pointers on how to design and report on an attention grabbing survey.

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After Viagra was approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction in 1998, its release was boosted by headlines reporting that while older men the world over were aware that erectile dysfunction was a side effect of aging or stress, they did not appreciate that medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes were also significant factors. The new brand also drew attention to the communication barrier between men and their medical practitioners when it came to discussing concerns about sexual function. An early example of a company mining its big data? No, the insights were generated through an impartial third party, Ipsos, through a survey of over 4,000 men aged 40 years and over across Asia, Europe, Central/Latin America, and Africa.

Polls and surveys can be a great way to provide a platform for your brand’s talking points and outreach activities especially if you lack the data to support your observations or you have the data to support a position but don’t want to risk alienating your customer base by releasing it. While many are familiar with the concept of polling, few are aware of how easy and cost effective they can be. Read on for tips on how to design and report on an attention grabbing poll.

Ensure a Robust Design

Polls that attract widespread media attention almost always boast a watertight design. Discerning journalists check press releases for a respected and objective fieldwork partner; a large enough sample size; fieldwork dates, and a robust methodology. While an invitation to respond to a question on your website or social media page can be engaging to passers by, the results of these do-it-yourself polls, at best, only reflect the views of a very limited audience and, at worse, are subject to gaming. Redditors, for example, regularly swarm polls to show support for their very distinct community’s agenda. Needless to say, the results of these polls are rarely picked up by the wider media.

Managing Costs

The  most cost effective public release polls are conducted through an omnibus, the research equivalent of a car pool where a variety of clients commission one or more proprietary questions in a survey but share the cost of recruiting, interviewing, and collecting and processing demographic data. Omnibus surveys are conducted by telephone or, increasingly, online. The gold standard for public release surveys used to be a telephone methodology in order to achieve a true random sample (i.e. everyone within the target population had an equal chance of being approached for interview) but now, with almost universal internet access (87% of American adults as identified by Pew Research in January 2014); the move away from landlines; and an increase in call screening; online surveys of a panel of respondents balanced to represent the population are now a commonly accepted approach.

Define Your Objectives

If you’re thinking about commissioning a poll, the first step is to define your objectives. A good way to nail these down is to develop your ideal press release complete with graphics. While results cannot be guaranteed, having a goal to communicate will help ensure that all your bases are covered in the research design. Make sure your topic is not too self-serving: if you’re a pizza company and your results show people eat pizza, you’re not going to surprise anyone. Also, before getting too far down the road, Google, Google, Google to make sure that your idea hasn’t already been covered by a reputable source. For a pointer that you’re moving in the right direction, look for aspects that have already been addressed and saw traction in comparable territories such as the UK or Canada.

Make Sure It’s Newsworthy

Readers of the general media are most interested in polls on health; the economy/jobs; food; crime/safety; and family/kids (Ipsos 2009). Business journalists, on the other hand, are interested in data that support your business model and strategic goals. It’s always a good idea to talk to your target journalists early on about what they think the information gaps are around your area of focus. A great way to get journalist buy-in is to offer them an exclusive and invite them to contribute to the research design in some way.

If you’re struggling for a subject matter, look to your social investments: would a survey be helpful to your charity or community partners? Many NGOs are desperate for data to support their goals and would willingly partner with a corporation to acquire and communicate it.

What Audience?

When deciding on what audience to interview, it is worth noting that surveys of elite audiences such as C-Suite, medical professionals, legislators etc. are extremely newsworthy. They are also very expensive. Cheaper is to survey people that meet certain demographic criteria – retail workers; parents of kids with allergies; or working moms for example –  through a number of waves of omnibus or specialized panel. Some of the global research companies offer international omnibus.

Provide Context

When designing your questions, make sure you provide context: if X% say they are positive about A, it’s helpful to be able to compare that with how they also feel about B, C and D. Also, don’t blow your entire budget on one wave of research. Providing regular updates on at least one of your key metrics will show which way attitudes or behavior is moving and help your brand command ownership of a topic. The big fieldwork providers offer omnibus on a regular basis so it’s possible to run questions over daily, weekly, monthly or annual waves.

Provide Depth

Give your survey depth by allowing respondents to elaborate on their point of view in their own words. Open-ended questions (that can be coded after interviewing) provide illustrative quotes, greater insights, and humanize the quantitative findings.  You can also add color and draw attention to your survey by inviting relevant personalities to respond to some of the key questions and report their point of view alongside the main findings.

Brand Your Survey

When releasing your results, giving your survey a brand will add credibility and gravitas. Some examples of survey brands include IBD/TIPP’s Economic Optimism Index; Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College; and’s What did you call me?

Time Your Survey

If appropriate, try to time your survey so results are available for relevant events. For’s What did you call me?, a survey of American’s views on their first names, results were published and reported alongside the Social Security Administration’s annual release of the most popular baby names.

Increase Engagement

To boost engagement with and the shelf life of their survey results, some sponsors are embracing the current quantified self movement and inviting stakeholders to respond to the same survey questions before presenting their answers in the context of the wider population and demographic peers. For examples, see the quizzes developed by the Pew Research Center where visitors can compare their knowledge of and attitudes towards different topic areas with the general population.

Annabel Kelly is a 20 year veteran of opinion research.  Her surveys have received global coverage and have spanned topics such as financial literacy, breast implants, innovation, first names, asthma, the food business, the environment, corporate social responsibility, and leadership.  

Image via wikipedia

Growing Pains The Stresses of Being an American Mom

Look out for coverage of the survey TIO’s Annabel Kelly designed and managed on behalf of the Clinton Foundation. The survey looks at what keeps American moms awake at night and provides a platform to discuss the impact of the pressures on the American family as well as highlight effective stress management solutions.

Key findings include:

  • Moms with teen girls report lower parenting stress than moms with younger kids or teen boys;
  • Moms with little kids are most challenged by their children’s behavior and attitude;
  • Moms with teens are most concerned about their children’s schooling/education and current/future wellbeing.


Marketing in China: Mind Your Logo!

Annabel Kelly, Managing Director, TIO Agency

In the first installment of “Marketing in China”, TIO Agency reports on the implications of the language barrier particularly when it comes to the development of a logo.

Excluding Hong Kong, less than 1% of the Chinese population speak English.  There are close to 300 living languages in China but most (70%) speak Mandarin.  With thousands of unique characters and the same symbol or word meaning different things depending on the tone, verbal or written context that it is used, Mandarin is ranked as one of the hardest languages for an English speaker to learn.  With the potential for confusion, even among natives, puns are abound in China as is the incidence of bloopers in poorly translated marketing communications.

Case Study

Swedish baking equipment manufacturer Sveba-Dahlen partnered with TIO China to position the company for the Chinese market.  Before developing collaterals such as brochures and a website, the first step was to develop a name and logotype that was both true to the brand and made sense to its target audience.  Phonetically, the new Chinese name sounds like the original Swedish name, even to a Western ear.  Visually, the first three Chinese characters represent strength and unbreakable quality with the final character representing energy.  The new Chinese name not only sounds the same as the original but its visual presentation is aligned with the brand’s positioning.

TIO China, based in Chengdu, is the only agency in Southwest China with an American and Scandinavian lead.  Through our partnership with Lan-bridge, a translation firm with eight offices across China, we have extensive reach throughout the region.

Cannes or Mannes?

whymomsrule’s Hollie Rapello and TIO’s Annabel Kelly provide an update on female representation on Cannes’ juries for 2014

Great Branding is Invisible

TIO Founder and CEO has published a new article in FastCo Design on the importance of attention to “invisible” details in branding.

Read it here.

Stew Leonard’s, A Parent Friendly Shopping Experience


TIO Agency’s Annabel Kelly’s most recent contribution to marketing blog profiles Stew Leonard’s, the unique Connecticut-based grocery store. The article outlines what it takes to be a truly mom (and dad) friendly brand.

We learn that brand values need to come from within the organization and its people in order for them to be authentically conveyed to stakeholders and customers; not just something some consultants came up with in order to fill the “About us” page.

Read it here.

Image above via shows cloud of words used by parents to describe grocery shopping with young children.

Made in China Quality or Branding Deficit?

TIO Agency’s Annabel Kelly recently contributed to this post on the lack of trust in Chinese food products for Given the myriad of recent food poisoning scares at home* is faith in American over Chinese products down to a real difference in quality or simply a case of better branding?  TIO thinks the latter.

* 33 dead after consuming listeria tainted cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado; nearly 200 people suffering from E. coli after eating spinach from Californian process plant; and the recall of nearly 4,000 American made peanut butter products due to possible salmonella poisoning to name a few.