Business Warfare with Francis Jackson

Tom Lovelock, Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Student


On 13th May 2022, second year students from the Visitor Attraction and Resort Management course at Staffordshire University attended an engaging business strategy talk at Alton Towers from the General Manager, Francis Jackson.

This honest review talk and Q & A from Francis is part of the students strategy module with the university. Alton Towers and Staffordshire University have a successful partnership which is 6 years strong, and this talk is just one of the many opportunities the students get.

Francis started the meeting by giving brief information about his career background and history. He explained about his transfer from a humble Ski Resort in Australia to the theme park giant that is Alton Towers. Francis believes that Merlin is a “Juggernaut in the visitor attraction industry”, but what gives them the competitive advantage?

The group was taught how important the delivery of the Merlin product can be to being one step ahead of competition. From guest experience and satisfaction to how immersive and impressive the theme park looks, Francis covered how important these high standards are to staying on top. However, he also explained how the core values of the company can sometimes get lost. For Alton Towers, ‘joyful’ should be the absolute minimum that guests get out of their day.

Merlin is primarily driven through marketing and Francis revealed to students just how competitive the tourism industry can get. “Business isn’t cozy” – (Francis Jackson 2022) Gaining the competitive advantage can be brutal, companies can use aggressive war-like tactics to overwhelm their competitors. For Alton Towers: third parties, new and innovative products and tactical marketing are all major factors in their strategy to stay on top and be a world class destination.

As the talk came to a close, Francis gave some advice for students as future leaders. Tourism is one big turf war and Francis let students know this. He explained how academic studies and knowledge mixed with heart and passion will make for amazing opportunity and can take you anywhere you want to go.

Protecting The Magic With Linzi Ticehurst

Lucy Moseley, Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Student


On Friday the 26th of November 2021, Year 2 of the Visitor Attractions and Resort Management (VARM) students attended an in-person guest lecture with Linzi Ticehurst (Health and Safety Manager at Alton Towers Resort) on the importance of Safety in the workplace.  

Linzi has been working within Health and Safety at Alton Towers for 15 years as part of a close-knit team of 5 and worked on the ‘Protecting the Magic for Managers’ training with a collective team from numerous Merlin Entertainments UK Theme parks and Legoland Resorts. This interactive training session taught us that safety at Merlin is a whirlwind; it spans from rides, hotels, and restaurants, to the work-shops, contractors and events of every attraction.  As Linzi detailed the responsibilities of the HSE, EHO, and ORR at the park, she included relevant guidance documents and legislative works that must be abided by within each corner of every department – relevant to our own Law and Legislation module that we’re currently studying at Staffordshire University.

Safety should always be a moving target  – it is never complete.”

Linzi Ticehurst, 2021

During the session, the one-and-only Francis Jackson (Alton Towers Resort Operations Director) stopped by for a couple of minutes to offer a few words on the topic – “the ability to foresee; therein lies the challenge.” (Francis Jackson, 2021). Agreeing with what Francis has said, protecting our guests and staff is the primary focus of our safety department. The responsibilities lie not only in rectifying an incident, but to prepare and take away the hazard in order to maintain the magic for our guests.

I, myself (Lucy Moseley) have been a part of the Health and Safety team at Alton Towers for 2 months up to this publication and working close with the rides department as a fresh pair of eyes on the resort has been an incredible, and rare, opportunity. It is my responsibility to complete administrative work, inspect the rides on resort and bring forward solutions to any arising issues – it’s the kind of role where no two days are the same.

Finally, I would once again like to thank Linzi for taking the time to come and speak with us and share her knowledge on the significance of keeping safe at all times whilst working at the resort. The session that she provided was incredibly informative and well structured, so thank you, Linzi.


The FdA Visitor Attraction and Resort Management course is taught in partnership with Alton Towers Resort, part of the World renowned Merlin Group. It includes 20 weeks paid work experience, and the opportunity to top up to a BA (Hons) degree in your third year.

Events for Autumn 2021 in Staffordshire

Here’s a pick of some of the great events available if you are joining us at Staffordshire University this Autumn. There’s also a list of venues and other information sources at the end for more events

Sept

3-5th Trentham Live featuring McFly, The Vamps and Alfie Boe at Trentham Gardens

7th Nick Cave and Warren Ellis at the Regent Theatre

11th Sept to 17th October British Ceramics Biennial , all things ceramics with events all over the city. The main location is the Good Yard just round the corner from the Stoke campus. (I wrote about the longer term plan for the Goods Yard here).

18th LOL Comedy Club at the Regent Theatre

18th and 19th Balloon Festival at Uttoxeter Racecourse

23rd The Vaccines at the Sugarmill

26th Potteries Arf Marathon get your running shoes on or just watch

October

1st Manic Street Preachers at Victoria Hall, Hanley

1st – 3rd Stone Food Festival (the best food festival in the region). Take a short train journey from Stoke to Stone or cycle along the canal path weather permitting.

4th Comedian Josh Widdicombe at the Regent Theatre

8th Scarefest at Alton Towers

8th – 9th Oktoberfest in Hanley Park right next to the Stoke campus

November

9-13th Derren Brown Showman at the Regent Theatre

22-23rd Love Cheese Live at the Staffordshire County Show Ground

23-24th Comedian Jimmy Carr at the Victoria Hall

26th Modfather Paul Weller at the Victoria Hall

Useful entertainment links

University wide clearing – 0800 590 830

Courses available in clearing at the Business School

Call our friendly team of Clearing experts on 0800 590 830 who are on hand to support you through the process, or sign up to one of our free events: http://orlo.uk/VJY7l

Just one of the many great events on this Autumn
Just one of the many great events on this Autumn

Plan and the future will be bright

Paul Walters, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


The event sector which includes hospitality and tourism, has seen a significant decline in commercial activity, since March 2020 and as we come to the close for the year 2020.  Many small to medium size business saw a complete loss of business, this included the festival industry which had somewhere in the region of 7 million visitors attending festivals in the UK each year.  It is reported, the UK prior to the COVID restrictions had somewhere in the region of 400 plus festivals throughout the UK each year.  Even the largest event provider on the planet ‘Live Nation’ experienced financial difficulty and received $500 million from a Saudi investment fund.  Live Nation furloughed 20% of its staff to save $600 million and Live Nation artists were informed by the company to take a pay cut.  This was a similar situation and mirrored in most cases across the Event Sector. 

Companies within the sector that had Interruption Insurance, attempted to make a claim because of the Government shut down.  The sector will fully understand what is meant by ‘interruption Insurance’.  As some insurance companies decided to decline claims on ‘Interruption Insurance.  Insurance companies argued that many claims did not specify or have insurance for the specific type of interruption.  However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, a High Court ruling on the 15th September 2020 which represented 370,000 policy holders who are some way clearer to an answer and pay out under their interruption insurance claim.  So, what do we learn from this, it is not just necessary to have interruption insurance but also specify the type of interruption be that Government shut down, a pandemic and what type of virus, be that SARS, Zika or any other known type.  

Some event companies within the sector made an early attempt to re-engage with their consumers through a different medium. Those that made the immediate change rather than cancel maintained a presence in the commercial marketplace and some saw a significant increase in revenue. 

Image source: https://www.tomorrowland.com/en/festival/welcome

If you haven’t heard of Tomorrowland outdoor music festival, let me refocus your attention. This is a festival that takes place in Belgium and has a 15 year history.  In 2019 Tomorrowland had 250,000 attendees at the festival site.  When the pandemic hit the global economy, Tomorrowland didn’t cancel or postpone, they created over a period of three months an online virtual festival. Two million people registered for a ticket and 400,000 people received an invite.  Some commentators say the industry in the main wasn’t quick to respond to the change to the environment, thus providing a short-term alternative solution for their customers. 

In the North East of England, we saw the first licensed outdoor music event that ran for a period of 6 weeks. With a maximum capacity of attendees each day of 2500, contained in their own Covid secure zones, a maximum of six per zone.  The event was sponsored by Virgin money as title sponsor.  For the event to have a return on investment, a schedule of live performances over six weeks was the only solution.

Image Source: Daily Feed

So, the question on everyone’s lips, will the event industry recover and what will it look like in 2021 going forwards. 

There is no guarantee for this virus to completely dissipate from society even with a vaccine and we as a nation may experience another rise in transmission during 2021 and possible government shutdowns. The events industry must be flexible and ready to respond to the change in the environment to maintain some financial stability and continued growth.  Alternative methods for delivering events should be considered and factored into the planning process with a viable contingency if immediate change is required. 

Get your Hunter Wellington Boots on and book a ticket for Parklife outdoor music festival September 2021.

8 Trends To Keep Your Eyes On In 2018

1. Instagram Stories Drive Upcoming Instagram Trends

Instagram Stories is a big deal and they’re not going away. Daily viewers of Instagram Stories surpassed daily SnapChat viewers just one year after launch, and the growth isn’t stopping.

Instagram Stories was likely the biggest single change in the Instagram UX, and its marketing implications are huge.

A huge deal with Instagram Stories is this: accounts with over 10,000 followers can now add a link within the feature. Considering the fact that the only other place you can put a link on Instagram is just the one buried on your profile page, this is a huge deal, as it multiplies buying or inquiry opportunities by orders of magnitude.

Instagram Stories in particular will be relevant from a marketing perspective because, compared to other transitory video platforms, Instagram metrics are eminently trackable.

A final note on Instagram Stories: Their foundation is social media engagement gold. Video drastically outperforms all other forms of content on every test.

2. Influencer Marketing Makes Major Contributions to Social Media Engagement

Influencer marketing is big business — a billion dollar industry by some counts. There is an exhaustive list of micro-celebrities who earn six figure incomes. And this isn’t a fluke. Influencer marketing is uniquely keyed to exploit certain facts about a growing number of buyers.
As Millennials advance their careers, and Generation Z starts theirs, an enormous population’s purchasing power is increasing swiftly. These two groups — who, combined, literally comprise most of the world’s population — are uniquely influenced by this marketing method.

3. Generation Z to Decide Social Media Trends

We’ve mentioned Generation Z in both of the previous topics for good reason.

RetailDive had this to say about Generation Z and their associated social media trends:

“Gen Z is two- to three times more likely to be influenced by social media than by sales or discounts — the only generation to value social media over price when it comes to making purchase decisions…”

Furthermore, 81% report watching at least one hour of online video per day, or more, according to a study by Fluent, covered by AdWeek. Combine these facts and realize that droves of Generation Z will graduate college and/or start careers next year, and you start to see the powder keg.

4. Messaging Platforms Make Companies Accessible

 

What do you know about WeChat? They’re a wee little Chinese messaging company . . . errr, one that’s looking to cross 1 billion users this quarter. WeChat and WhatsApp are absolutely ubiquitous across either ocean, reaching across many different functions to dominate social media, direct messaging, and even purchasing and commerce.

Every year more and more buyers are Millennials and Gen Z, and fewer and fewer are older. In case you’re not aware of these people’s overwhelming preferences when it comes to talking to a company, we’ll illustrate in their native language:

top-social-media-trends-20185. Live Streaming Explodes

Live streaming isn’t about live streaming. At least not in the way we’re going to be talking about it. You’re going to see a lot more of it in 2018, and the people who do it well will be fully with the times and accelerating. Its prevalence will increase because it works.

But there’s something more at work here.

It’s actually about technology. We get better phones every year. Does that mean that we’re running the same apps better? Sometimes. But once the technological baseline of the average user has clearly moved up a notch, it becomes about making more robust apps that do more and fully take advantage of that new technology.

The smartphones of today are better than what we used to have by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, our data speeds are better, and are poised to make yet another insane leap in the next few years when 5G becomes the standard.

Live streaming is a medium or implementation of social technology that’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of hardware improvements for the next several years. The resolution of an image the size of a phone screen can only get so good before you have to zoom in to see a difference.

But better video processing across the board means all devices involved can handle more streaming at a better quality across more channels at the same time. This is such a huge change that it’s possibly unclear that anyone is even capable of fully understanding the ramifications.

6. Twitter is Going to Change

And they themselves might not even know how just yet.

Twitter has been slowly circling the drain, in some respects, for a long time now. 2017 pulled no punches with the social network, either. Twitter needs to make some big changes to stay relevant, as its growth is the slowest of all the major social media platforms.

7. Online Hangouts Become the Norm

Online hangouts go hand-in-hand with the live streaming trend, and with Generation Z. Consider Houseparty — an app for multiple friends to essentially FaceTime with each other in a group setting.

Houseparty made quite a wave in 2017 with rapid growth, and hit its stride well enough to inspire copycats, including perhaps an effort on the way coming from (no surprise here) Facebook.

The online hangouts trend is also going to intersect with VR. Sure, everyone promised everything this year with VR and AR, and all that ultimately came of it was two weeks of Pokemon GO.

But this year actually has the potential to be different. Many promising programs have another year of beta testing still left under their belts, but the technologies are improving in exciting ways. Once again, Facebook is at the epicentre, with Facebook Spaces.

8. Social Platforms See More Hardcore Moderation

The last year or so has forced the hand of several tech and social media titans to intervene and play a more active role in content moderation. Those manoeuvres, in retrospect, felt more like damage control than any sort of final solution.

We’re likely going to see companies revisit this in a more significant or longer-lasting way, and definitely more proactive than reactive.

As leveraging social media outlets for marketing first took flight, some were dubious of their staying power. The years since have changed sceptic’s into believers, and what’s on the forefront will clearly and easily amplify the channels’ relevance even further.

2018 is here… but were you prepared?

2018 social media trends predict that time on social media platforms will increase. This means you will need to improve your online presence in the year to come.

 

By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student

 

Contact –

Linkedin- Richard Holland

Instagram – Ricardo J

Brand –

Instagram – Ricco London

Twitter – Ricco London

Facebook – Ricco London

E-mail marketing or Messenger marketing?

What Email Marketers are saying

When it comes to email marketing software, marketers are spoilt for choice. But how do they feel about the emails they send?

It turns out that relevance is a huge concern for them. DMA reports that 42% of marketers say only some of the emails they send are relevant, and a whopping 10% say their emails aren’t relevant at all. That’s an issue, with consumers trashing irrelevant email.

Another issue people wonder about is the ROI of email marketing. In other words, is it really worth it? Various comparison’s of email marketing vs social media shows that email outperforms social by miles. And Chief Marketer says the ROI of email marketing is 28.5% better than for direct mail.

So what does Messenger do better?

Well, the big problem with email marketing is that you’re talking at your users and potential customers, not with them.

It’s kind of like being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, one where you have no say until the salesman is finished leaving you with only one response, yes or no.

Messenger though, creates a conversation.

It’s the only channel that solicits real time feedback from your users, the only channel where they have a say and shape the conversation which builds interest and engagement.

Check out the below example from 1800-flowers.

What Does the Future Hold?

Email is a mature channel, one which has been extensively developed and includes various advanced features to help you better market to your customers.

Messenger on the other hand is the new kid on the block.

It’s showing great promise and is getting far higher engagement in the areas where they’re going head to head, but it’s not yet at the level of sophistication email has developed.

Messenger is quickly gaining ground on email in terms of features and is already outpacing the platform in the areas where there’s overlap.

So what should a smart store owner like you do?

Well, what you shouldn’t do is abandon email marketing in favour of Messenger. Right now Messenger simply doesn’t have the advanced functionality and tracking of email.

However, if you already haven’t you should be looking at implementing Messenger on your site ASAP.

Right now, Messenger is the perfect complement to your email marketing. And if the last year is any indication, in the near future Messenger will continue to outperform email in other key marketing and communication areas for ecommerce as the platform progresses.

Right now, if I had to advise some specific campaigns your store needs to be running I’d recommend focusing on:

Messenger isn’t just a nice thing to have on your store or a new fad that will die out. The success rate of stores across the globe and the growing user base points to a new channel that might one day overtake email as the chief ROI channel.

In conclusion:

Email marketing and social media are like parallel universes that communicate with each other.

We suggest using email marketing when you’re looking more for reach, traffic and direct conversions. Social media, on the other hand, is a great tool that can help you engage your audience and assist you with making more sales.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t use both. Just be sure to allocate your resources the right way. Thank you for reading this blog and please leave your comments below.

 

By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student

 

Contact –

Linkedin- Richard Holland

Instagram – Ricardo J

Brand –

Instagram – Ricco London

Twitter – Ricco London

Facebook – Ricco London

Esports. Is it a game changer for UK education?

Staffordshire University Business School has become the first British University to launch an esports degree. The course focuses on the business and culture of esports from developing teams, communities and a fan base to hosting esports events.

Staffordshire University has invested heavily in new facilities as part of a £40m transformation of its Stoke-on-Trent campus and academics feel the University is well placed to plug into rapidly growing sectors like esports which is the practice of playing video games competitively over the internet or via networked computers in venues and stadiums.

Already Staffordshire University has responded to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment’s (Ukie) white paper on esports by introducing a module on esports in their Games Degree.

Back in January, Dr Fletcher, Head of the Games and Visual Effects at Staffordshire University said:

“The module which is available to students on our Games Studies course is a fascinating branch of cultural studies. It looks at the national, and international market for esports, and the cultural aspects that drive it as well as the darker side of cheating and doping by esports players. Games designers are growing up and that brings with it new trends in gaming which comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas.”

Other countries around the world have recognised esports as part of the curriculum for some years.  In South Korea, where the first esports association was set up 17 years ago, they have been accepting esports players onto their sports programmes for four years. At the Asia Pacific University in Malaysia, students can complete certificates in League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In Norway,  the Garnes Vidaregaande high school pupils can opt for esports and can study for up to five hours per week, they focus not just on game play but also combine physical exercise in the mix.

One thing all these esports educators have in common is an agreement that esports provides a vast amount of transferable skills to the participants.

Top skills for esports:

  1. Teamworking
  2. Resilience
  3. Stamina
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Communication
  6. Endurance
  7. Decision Making
  8. Leadership
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Analytical

The students on Staffordshire University Business School’s BA (Hons) esports will also have classes in event management, digital marketing, the legal side of esports and streaming techniques. This will make sure that when they leave university they’ll have all the right skills to prepare them for a great career. With huge growth predicted in this area there are lots of job opportunities.  Many recruitment agencies, like Odgers Berndston have set up separate divisions to deal with esports careers and there are even some new sites that have sprung up like ‘esports Careers’ who are currently listing almost 500 vacancies.  The British esports Association lists over 12 career paths on its website, here are a few:

  1. Shoutcaster/host
  2. Coach/analyst
  3. Journalist/content creator
  4. PR/Marketing executive
  5. Community/social media manager
  6. Broadcast/production crew
  7. Event manager

To find out more about esports at Staffordshire University Business School visit the website staffs.ac.uk.

Rachel Gowers MBA
Associate Dean
Staffordshire University Business School