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November 27, 2014 | Author:

So it is here! The long-awaited John Lewis Christmas advert – sequel to last year’s much-feted The Bear and The Hare – has hit the media. Now in its 8th year, the John Lewis advert has become a Christmas institution, a signal that Christmas is on the horizon. The John Lewis advert has essentially become a Christmas event in its own right.

According to Tom Heyden, of BBC blogs, there are a few things you can expect from any John Lewis Christmas advert. These include emotive narrative, a saccharine-rich cover of an old song, a vague moral to the story and animals or kids as the main characters. Most of all, no overt references to John Lewis or its products. “John Lewis has hit on this very seductive formula,” says Patrick Burgoyne, editor of Creative Review, an advertising and visual culture magazine.

This year John Lewis has picked a CGI-animated penguin called Monty to lead its Christmas marketing campaign. The advert – which cost about £1m to make, features a young boy and what appears to be a real penguin playing together, going sledging, visiting the park and bouncing on the trampoline.

The music chosen for the advert is the John Lennon song Real Love, performed by young British singer-songwriter Tom Odell. The lyrics of the song include the lines “don’t need to be alone – no need to be alone” which perfectly encapsulates the warm fuzzy feeling of the advert. Throughout most of the advert the penguin does appear to be real and it is only at the end – interestingly when the boy presents another penguin to Monty as a Christmas gift – that it is revealed as a toy.

This year the overall John Lewis Christmas campaign is costing around £7m. As well as the television advert, the campaign includes a specially created smartphone app, and a story book and soft toys which will be available to purchase from John Lewis stores. This year there will also be in-store events including a chance for kids to see their toys brought to life with the aid of experimental gadgetry.

Another significant development in this year’s John Lewis campaign has been increased use of social media marketing. The first television showing – on Channel 4 – was preceded by a week of teasers featuring Monty and the hashtag #MontyThePenguin

#MontyThePenguin also ties into a Twitter campaign which promises to light up followers’ home pages and send a tweet to all their friends as the John Lewis-sponsored Oxford Street Christmas lights are turned on in London. This use of social media marketing is a significant development and a clever and exciting twist in the traditional John Lewis repertoire. It echoes our recent blogs about pro-active use of social media and how businesses ignore it at their peril as part of any effective digital marketing strategy.

Perhaps the reason why the advert has – yet again – melted hearts is that it presents the illusion of a perfect Christmas. In the words of Dr Sheila Keegan, a chartered psychologist: “There are no rows, no unhappy people, no mess and no overindulgence”. Instead there are “all the elements brought together by John Lewis to give that perfect experience. This is a very nostalgic ad but still very contemporary and a recreation of the bygone themes of family and love but brought up to date.”

It remains to be seen whether #Monty the Penguin will open wallets as well as melt hearts. But one thing is for sure: the John Lewis advert leaves you longing for this perfect Christmas, a John Lewis Christmas.


November 25, 2014 | Author:

At Xcite Digital Marketing we are often asked what value we can bring to a business’s digital marketing strategy.  In this blog we explain this in more detail, and also feature a client of ours who has attracted recent press attention!

Our digital marketing approach is four-fold. We expand your customer reach by using multi-channel digital marketing to:

  • Find – through research and monitoring
  • Engage – by creating conversations and developing platforms
  • Convert – through conversion funnelling
  • Retain – by building loyal communities that drive advocacy

At the heart of our digital marketing strategy is the ACCELERATE programme which has been proven to achieve greater results than conventional marketing approaches. ACCELERATE is a complete digital marketing programme put together through years of collaborative experience from previously highly successful campaigns. It has been developed into a multi-channel marketing formula that can be applied to any consumer focused business, and is proven to turn prospects into customers.

ACCELERATE works because it enables businesses to understand their customers’ buying habits and the sales funnel using a range of activity to promote a consistent message that drives brand awareness, builds credibility and leads to conversion, loyalty and advocacy.

The ACCELERATE programme includes:

  • Creative communications
  • Search marketing
  • Social Media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • CRM marketing
  • User Experience Analysis
  • Website Design and build
  • Mobile
  • Analytics

One client has found the ACCELERATE programme has helped them to hit the ground running – literally! run2work is a rapidly growing movement in London that aims to encourage commuters to run all or part of the way to work at least once a month on #run2workday, the first Thursday of the month.

run2work is sponsored by the Evening Standard, and also recently caught the attention of the national press. The Daily Telegraph ran an article earlier this month that focussed on the trend for “run-commuters”. It described run-commuters as workers who choose to pound the pavements for at least part of their commute rather than sit in traffic or squeeze into trains and buses.

A recent study by the Royal Holloway University of London – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – indicates that the number of run-commuters has tripled in the last two years. Motives for run-commuting are very varied, and include general fitness, marathon training, dissatisfaction with public transport, and a desire for a better work-life balance.

The run2work campaign is spearheaded by Gordon Lott. He confirms the increase in people choosing to run-commute, and suggests that the results of the Royal Holloway study provide “a clear message to employers and the Government – they can do much more than is currently being done to enable people to be active and healthy.” At Xcite Digital we are pleased and proud to endorse and extend this message by managing the digital marketing strategy of run2work.

As well as promoting the monthly #run2workday, run2work are campaigning for better facilities for run-commuters and also tax breaks for equipment, equivalent to those for urban cycling initiatives.  Gordon Lott believes that these measures could have a significant impact on the health of the nation.

Likewise we hope that the successful growth of the run2work movement clearly demonstrates that Xcite Digital’s Accelerate programme has a significant impact on the health of a business and can really enable them to hit the ground running!

KLM Surprise

November 21, 2014 | Author:

From time to time our blogs feature examples of a business using social media in an inspiring way as part of their digital marketing strategy.  Today we want to look at a creative marketing campaign by KLM the international airline.  The aim of the campaign was to surprise its customers.  The results were surprising in themselves!

The unique digital marketing campaign took place In November 2010.  As selected passengers checked in at Schiphol Airport, flight attendants greeted them by name and gave them a personalised gift.  These gifts were specifically tailored to the passenger; for example one woman travelling to Rome to go hiking received a sports watch that tracks walking distance and speed. Another woman traveling alone was upgraded to first class seating and a man traveling to Mexico to do voluntary work was given a therapy package of ointments and bandages.

KLM was able to select appropriate gifts for these passengers by doing research on social media.  Different social media platforms were searched for those mentioning flying with KLM.  Intelligence gleaned on social media was also used to decide on an appropriate gift for the individual.  The individuals were then tracked down on KLM’s customer database so that the gift could be presented to them on their arrival at Schiphol.

Around 40 customers in total received the KLM Surprise but the effects were significantly more far-reaching. News of these surprises spread like wildfire across a whole range of social media.  During November, the KLM Twitter feed was viewed more than one million times! KLM created a website and Twitter feed dedicated to the KLM Surprise campaign and posted a video about the campaign on their YouTube channel and the KLM Facebook Fan page. This increased the impact of their creative marketing campaign even further as it enabled them to interact with customers on these platforms, and to get a greater understanding of their customers.

The social marketing was so effective that KLM Surprise was repeated the following summer and we would not be surprised to see it resurface at some future stage!

At Xcite Digital we are very much known as an ideas agency and would love to help you come up with something completely different.  Who knows; maybe it will be your business and your creative marketing campaign that causes the next social media storm and will be blogged about for years to come!

Starbucks – #TreatReceipt Campaign

November 19, 2014 | Author:

Starbucks’ “TreatReceipt” campaign offered customers a discount on a drink in the afternoon if they had already bought a coffee that morning.

Starbucks used Twitter to publicise the campaign and tagged announcements of the offer with the hashtag #TreatReceipt. If a customer could provide the receipt from their morning coffee they would be entitled to receive any grande sized beverage for only $2.

The campaign succeeded in bringing back traffic from the morning and gave the customer the opportunity to try something at a discount price that perhaps they normally wouldn’t purchase. As well as increased sales, the campaign provided Starbucks with another way of interacting with its customers and influencing customer patterns.

TreatReceipt is now a recurring campaign at Starbucks and always proves to be a success.


November 18, 2014 | Author:

In a recent blog, we explored the power of social media marketing. Never has this been more evident than this year where there has also been a visible increase in the use of pictures, videos, and mobile devices. Recent research by Postcron indicates that Facebook posts with less than 250 characters get 60% more engagement. Research done on Twitter by TrackSocial backs this up in that tweets between 70 to 100 characters achieve the highest engagement percentage.

In parallel with the trend for fewer words is the finding that Facebook posts that include pictures get 104% more comments and 53% more likes. Another significant development is that the use of Instagram also grew 1179% over the past year!

As marketeers we ignore these trends at our peril! We need to go with the flow and include visual elements in all our social media marketing. This way we can interact more with our target audience, both to promote our products and services and also glean intelligence to feed back into our digital marketing strategy and make it more effective.

To use images effectively it is important to know the best sizes and resolutions to use on each of the major social media platforms. So today we summarise the latest versions of this information that we are aware of for each of the platforms.


Cover: 2120 x 1192 px – max / 480 x 270 px – min

Profile: 250 x 250 px

Feed: 360 x 360 px

Shared image: 497 x 373 px

G+ Cover.png

Google + will automatically resize images to display on different devices.  But to ensure maximum quality across a range of devices we recommend you upload them within the size range between 920 * 250 px and 1080 * 608 px to avoid losing some of the content.

Cadbury take full advantage of the Google+ cover photo requirements by uploading a visually stimulating image of a cake made using Cadbury chocolate.


Cover: 851 x 315 px – should not contain more than 20% text.

Profile: 180 x 180 px – displays as 160 * 160

Shared image: 504 x 403 px

Facebook cover.png

Keep in mind that with Facebook, logos take up a lot of space on cover photos so it’s suggested that the focus of the image (John Lewis’ penguins in this case) should be positioned at the centre and right hand of the cover photo.


Cover: 1500 x 500 px

Profile: 400 x 400 px

In-Stream: 440 x 220 px – vertically centered with a radius of 2:1. Maximum size 3MB.

Twitter Cover.png

Similar to Facebook, the profile picture can take up a lot of space in cover photos. Twitter will automatically shrink the size of your cover photo when you go directly to a Twitter profile page, so the main thing to remember is to choose images that are simple and of a high quality.

Too much detail, such as text that has been pasted across an image, should be avoided as not all of the image will show when users visit your brand’s profile.


Profile: 646 x 220 px

LinkedIn Cover.png


Channel cover: 2560 x 1440 px

Video: 2560 x 1440 px

Youtube videos display size will adjust automatically to the device on which they are being accessed as follows:

Device        Display size

Tablet        1855 x 423 px

Mobile        1546 x 423 px

TV        2560 x 1440 px

Desktop        2560 x 423 px

YouTube Cover.png


Profile: 110 x 110 px – any sized image will be cropped to this size

Shared image: 2048 x 2048 px – max – with Instagram camera;

612 * 612 px – max – if exported via mobile

Instagram Cover.png

Starbucks are one of most active brands on Instagram, see how they try to involve customers and a range of their products on a lot of images they post on this social network.


Profile: 165 x 165 – can upload up to 600 * 600 px

Board: 238 x 284 px

Pins: 238 x scaled height

Pinterest Cover.png

As a brand to pioneer the use of Pinterest for marketing products, Etsy put extra care into choosing the best board covers from their 11,000+ pins.

Although Pinterest doesn’t give you the option to create cover photos like other social sites, you can personalise the cover images for boards like Etsy has done.


Profile: 300 * 300 px

Dimensions to upload videos:

Device                                Upload size

Standard Definition                4:3 ratio    640 x 480 px

Standard Definition                16:9 ratio    640 x 360 px

720p HD Video                1280 x 720 px

1080p HD (Plus/PRO)                1920 x 1080 px

Vimeo Cover.png

We hope that this article has provided some useful information to help you with your digital marketing strategy. As a leading digital marketing company, Xcite Digital would be happy to provide further advice and ideas for you. It is critical to create a good first impression on social networks otherwise you can waste valuable opportunities to reach new audiences.