The cobblers last, digital marketing and reward

By Ian Davidson, Consultant

I was in a branch of Timpson recently where I noticed a cobblers last.  This is a rare sight.  I am old enough to remember when most shoe shops had them in the shop window; a bit like the three *** above a pawn brokers shop.  In reward we have a number of tools that go in and out of fashion like the cobblers last.

Recently I undertook a post graduate certificate in digital marketing with Google Squared in order to make sure that I was using the most up to date tools of the trade, particularly for reward communications.  I learnt a great deal about curation, the customer journey, the importance of content and the enormous power of digital communication in this world that has moved far beyond the technology of the cobblers last.    It also helped refresh my thinking of the roles of imagery, imagination, innovation and illustration in communication.

Reward's digital cobblers last
There are a large number of tools available to reward professionals to help get the message across - particularly in a world very largely dominated by digital communication.  I have used You Tube videos to demonstrate total reward concepts, Podcasts to discuss the latest pay regulations (and the CIPD produced some very informative broadcasts).  And Twitter to publicise interesting reward web content.    Blogs, both written and video, are a very good way to publicise changes and new initiatives in reward.  The raw power of modern personal computers linked with cheap yet sophisticated software packages for producing excellent videos and technically proficient podcasts puts the creative process in the hands of most of us. 

A few months ago I contributed a chapter on risk and reward to a new HR eBook, edited by David D’Souza, an OD professional, called “Humane Resourced”.  This excellent collection of HR blogs stormed to the top of the HR best seller list at Amazon and was even a top ten selling business book on the same platform.  Such is the power of the new media that makes publishers, film makers and broadcasters of us all. 

Networking has been around since the days that humans learnt to communicate further than they could shout.  There are some excellent digital tools for networking such as Google Plus and LinkedIn.  These tools will not just allow you to communicate, but find like-minded people and relevant professional groups for you to meet and join.   There are communities of interests available on any subject; and if you cannot find one to fit your interests, set one up....  I have an interest (but little talent) in photography, largely in the niche field of police and military vehicles; yet my Flickr photography mini site has had over 130,000 views; such is the power of the digital.

Proper and appropriate use of social media and digital technology means that you can generate a consistent message, a new meme, or brand image to a diverse and large audience at little cost except the not inconsiderable time resource and mental commitment to the cause.

Corporate realities - the Empire strikes back
We all live in a corporate reality where blogs, videos, podcasts and the like are controlled by the marketing and PR departments who have a strong fear of brand contamination or social media embarrassment.    I have two responses to this; having a firm grasp of digital media tools will enable reward practitioners to go to the corporate gate keepers with ideas and imagination to kick start some new reward communications.  Second, and perhaps more open to debate, large organisations are, with a few noticeable exceptions, slow moving and not nimble in a fast moving social media world.  Perhaps, just perhaps, reward could help move the paradigm.

Alternatively you may think the entire subject is just a load of old cobblers lasts. 

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.


  • Interesting article Ian. In my simplified vision of the world, I get the impression that too many people continue to approach social media tools in the way they approached PowerPoint in the 1990s - being seduced by possibilities of the the pretty container whilst tending to loose sight of the underlying message they wanted to communicate.

    An excellent PR colleague of mine said (many years ago) that a good communication exercise is remembered more for the impact of its content than for the style of the presentation. In other words .... it "lasts" (ouch).


  • A cobbler,--one who loved debate,

    And, arguing from a postulate,

    Would say what others only felt;

    A man of forecast and of thrift,

    And of a shrewd and careful mind

    In this world's business, but inclined

    Somewhat to let the next world drift.

    Well done Ian for not letting the next world drift.


  • I'd be interested in your thoughts on how the HR function is harnessing the use of digital and social media strategically to improve business sustainability?


  • Thank you for your comments.  Ray, I largely agree, but I view content and channel as being of near equal weight.  Part of my narrative is that it is much easier to be published to a wide audience than ever before - although digital content does not "last"😊

    Grenville, thanks so much for the Longfellow poem, I was touched.

    Chris, thanks for your comment.  I am not wise enough to attempt an answer, perhaps others may.