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Scottish Attitudes on Independence Don't Seem Foreign

Scottish voters will cast ballots this September to decide whether they want to separate from the United Kingdom. Given that voting on national independence is a pretty big deal, a Scottish research firm says more than half of eligible voters remain undecided.

The Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey is conducted annually and examines a wide range of questions, including ones about national identity and constitutional preference. The survey is more than a snapshot political poll. Conducted since 1999, it provides invaluable trend analysis about Scottish attitudes.

Political analysts have assumed that the strong showing of the Scottish National Party in 2011 elections signaled a shift in support for independence. However, the SSA survey indicates attitudes about breaking away from the United Kingdom have changed much in the last decade. The survey instead showed were pleased the SNP had done a good job in sticking up for Scotland inside the UK, which is something they wanted.

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Keep Media Relations in the Mix

A new study suggests consumers depend on credible third-party sources of information a lot more than branded content — but after trust is established, branded content can be a valuable consumer resource.Branded content can be persuasive, but it often needs to follow effective earned media efforts that build a bridge of initial trust.

That conclusion comes from a study of 900 consumers by Nielsen and commissioned by inPowered that examined the relative effectiveness on consumers of branded content versus credible earned media. Nielsen found credible, third-party stories, usually the result of media relations efforts, are 80 percent more effective in convincing consumers to make a purchase or establish an affinity with a brand.

What the study affirms is that consumers rely largely on unbiased advice, reviews or information to make buy decisions. The gap between independent sources of information and branded content is much larger than content marketers may feel comfortable admitting.

However, the study isn't a complete indictment on content marketing. It suggests that once trust is established, consumers will engage with branded content.

The bottom line message of the report is that smart marketing plans include a healthy mix of earned media and branded outreach. Or put another way, get published wherever you can, by whoever you can.


Let Your Products Do the Talking

The new rules of marketing don't rely on paid media to attract attention, but rather products and services that command attention.

"The new era of modern marketing is about the connection economy," says prominent marketeer Seth Godin. "It's about trust. It's about awareness. It's about the fact that attention is worth way more than it used to be."

In an interview with Inc., Godin says the success of companies such as Airbnb and Lululemon shows that the market decides what is important, not the companies that make and sell things. "They make something the market wants to talk about," he explains. Marketers don't have to invent a way to spark a conversation about them because the conversation is already under way.

"The first thing is that they need to embrace the weird," Godin told Inc. "Instead of thinking, 'What do the masses want?' they need to think about what the people who care want. The masses aren't listening because they have so many choices. The people who care are going to choose to listen. And by appealing to the people who care, it is way more likely the company will be talked about."

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Finding Your Consumer's Pain Points

Many companies complain they don't have enough content for a content marketing campaign. If so, then they haven't looked hard enough at their consumer's pain points.

Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information to your consumers.  The most reliable way to connect with your consumers is to give them useful, relevant information that eases their pain.

Jerry Seinfeld has a funny riff about Home Depot. He says the super hardware store sells you everything to remodel a kitchen or install a floor — except the expertise to do it. That's why stores like Home Depot and Lowe's post how-to videos for a variety of DIY projects. That's content marketing.

Hardware stores don't have trouble figuring out what pains their consumers — from fixing leaky toilets to killing pesky weeds in a garden. If you think about it, you won't have to strain very much to imagine the problems that drive people to your front door. Those problems are or should be welded into your company's value proposition, the reason why you exist in the business world.

You can extend and deepen that understanding of consumer pain points by engaging with your customers. Talk to them when they are in your store. Conduct quick online surveys. Share some information of relevance to your consumers and ask for their opinions.

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Tale of the Same Tape

A Florida special election proved fertile ground for political spin masters to see what they wanted to see and say what they hoped people would buy.The Florida special congressional election this week is being touted as the roadmap for Republicans to win a majority in the 2014 general election. Democrats downplay the significance of the GOP victory, pointing to lagging voter turnout. 

It is another example of people with an agenda looking at data and drawing opposite conclusions. This kind of self-vindicating interpretation of outcomes is what gives research a bad name.

Solid research isn't equivocal. Findings may not be conclusive, but they should be clear and objective, especially if the questions are unbiased and the sample is representative.

Polling is hardly necessary to recognize aspects of Obamacare are unpopular, especially among Republicans. Whether or not this antipathy has enough legs to propel the GOP to control of Congress is a far different matter.

For their part, Democrats are huddling behind the issue of income inequality as the "winning issue" in the mid-term elections. And they are warning the Democratic base turnout will decide key races. Duh. Turnout always has an impact on contested political races.

Public opinion polling, and specifically surveys for political candidates, often has a point of view to prove or at least test. Most research has a more objective viewpoint to gain an accurate picture of what a target group thinks about an issue, product or idea. While a politician's career may hang in the balance of a political poll, the stakes are often much higher for businesses and organizations that rely on credible research for a branding strategy, product features or pricing.

The takeaway — don't let spinning of election results and post-election polling color your view of market or public opinion research. When done right, survey data can be a trusted guide for a communications campaign to make a sale or win an election.

The tale of two tapes has only one author — spin-masters. You usually don't find them in the Yellow Pages under professional researchers.