By @SimonCocking

Enjoyable interview with Eoin Kennedy @eoinfromzone Coffee fuelled, Cork based, curious Co-Founder of Zone Digital, an Irish Digital Marketing Agency that loves building great Apps ATA @ZoneDigi@CoffeeCork

When did you start the Company & why? :

The origins of Zone Digital actually date back several decades. Colm Murray (my Co-Founder) and I have been friends since primary school in Belvedere, back when we both had copious amounts of hair and wore short trousers!

Careerwise, our paths diverged, and while I studied business and went on to work in marketing roles in companies ranging from Fortune 500 level to start-ups, Colm went into design and built up a very successful branding & design business, whose successes included developing branding for Cuisine De France, Brennans Bread and the Department of Social Welfare, among many others.

A few years ago, as I became more and more involved in digital marketing, Colm and I began to collaborate on a number of projects. The dynamic worked extremely well, and we realized that our combined skillset in marketing, design and digital, as well as our decades of running businesses, really equipped us to bring something quite different to Client projects.

How is your time divided between Dublin & Cork? :

We have offices in Lapps Quay, Cork and Temple Bar, Dublin- both of which are in pretty great locations.

I’m based in the Cork  office (which Cork people will know as the former Eircom building). We’re on the top floor with views directly up the river, and directly across from City Hall. It’s an area of the City which is really becoming the commercial hub, and will be enhanced very shortly by the addition of 1 Albert Quay, when PWC and Tyco move their main offices into the magnificent new office block, currently nearing completion. Our offices in Dublin are in Temple Lane, where our neighbours include the IFC, The Button Factory, the Temple Bar itself, and, very importantly, KC Peaches, whose door is 28 steps away from ours!

Thankfully, our successful use of Skype and FaceTime mean that we can minimize the requirement for travel between the offices.  That said, there is sometimes no substitute for a face-to-face meeting with colleagues to progress projects.

Ultimately, we try to keep these meetings to a minimum, but would have scheduled daily Skype meetings, which are often multi-party, to ensure our projects are kept on track, and that issues are resolved promptly.

The upshot of this is that my time in Dublin can generally be restricted to one day\night weekly.

How do your Clients feel about moving into digital marketing? :

Our clients are generally embracing digital with enthusiasm, but our experience is that for some, especially those in the SME or owner\manager sectors, there is initially a degree of uncertainty about what exactly “digital” can do for their organization.

The key benefits of digital that seem to resonate most with these types of organisations are the ability to engage directly with their target audience, and the measurability of campaigns in a way which was previously impossible.

Our belief is that the term “digital marketing’ will become less and less used in the next 5-6 years, as the traditional and digital disciplines become increasingly integrated. The objectives of both are ultimately the same- to engage with your target audience and achieve predetermined objectives.

We believe the future will be “marketing, but not as we know it…….” to paraphrase the oft used  (mis)quote of Mr Spock

How was the last 12 months for you at Zone Digital? :

It has been a very positive 12 months, to be honest.

The difficulties for our society and economy in recent times have been well documented at this stage, so it is heartening to experience the tangible shift in mindset over the last 12 months, with clients leaving behind the “survivalist” mentality, and starting to re-examine how they engage with their audience in the new (dare I say it) post-recession environment.

Our client base extends from financial institutions, through to retail, hospitality, utilities and education, and we can safely say that virtually all of these are significantly more upbeat about prospects for 2015\16

Two of the areas where we have seen the most significant increases in interest are in the development of Apps, and the number of organisations looking to revamp their branding.  I think a lot of people associate their current branding with some of the negativity of the last few years, and perhaps psychologically want to “purge” themselves of these associations by coming to market with revamped branding which is indicative of a revamped mindset.

For us, Apps and Branding have become core offerings- indeed we are taking a stake in a company commercialising Apps for the education sector. But more about that another time……..

The next 12 months is going to be very interesting indeed!

What tech tools do you use to help with running your business and digital campaigns, and what tech do you wish was already invented?

We are constantly experimenting with a variety of tech tools, some of which, sadly, do not quite live up to their billing. Some of the ones which we have found to be most useful are :

Invision has been of enormous benefit in working through the UX Design of projects with clients and colleagues

Hootsuite is a great tool for effective Social Media management

Various keyword tools are used depending on a number of factors, but the Google Keyword Tool is great for clients to use, and is very accessible.

We would be fans of SEO tools such as Moz Pro also.

Email campaign tools such as iContact, Constant Contact and Mailchimp are all excellent, and have their own individual features. The analytics element to these and the A\B testing features are some of the features we love most.

Obviously, the use of services such as Skype, FaceTime and other conferencing tools make the running of a bi-located company so much easier.

There are lots of other tools we use, but you know, we don’t want to share all our trade secrets!

I have a great interest in food and hospitality, so the tech I would love to see commercialised would be the ability to include scents in Social Media posts- I believe it would enormously enhance the user experience, and offer massive marketing opportunities. I believe this will eventually happen. May not be so good for the waistline though! Can you imagine being able to smell the aroma of  the great coffee and freshly baked pastries your friend has just send you a video of from their holiday in the South of France? I know what I would do next…….

Working between 2 Cities,and being involved in a number of companies, how does that impact on “work-life balance”? :

The 1990’s and 2000’s were, for me, 2 decades of unbelievably hard work, long hours, and huge amounts of time spent in airports as I was doing business with partners in China, Europe, the Middle East and the US at that time. While we were making great money, this was not without significant impact on my personal life.

Unfortunately this business was yet another victim of the global recession, and did not survive. A lot of staff, who were very close to us, lost their jobs- something which was profoundly upsetting for all of us. Around that time, we had just had our first child, a beautiful son who is absolutely the “apple of my eye” and I guess my priorities really changed as a result of that.

Some close friends whose children had been born 10 years earlier said to me they really regretted having been so caught up in work during the early years of their kids lives, and if they could change one thing about their lives, it would be to spend more time with their children at the early stages. That really resonated with me and I very much took that advice on board.

Both my wife and I have very busy jobs (she has also completed a PhD in the midst of everything!) but our absolute priority is to protect family time during the week. Whilst this may mean working until late into the night after the little guys bedtime, this family time is something which is absolutely sacrosanct to us.

It can be very difficult to maintain this sometimes, but I am very open about it with clients and colleagues. In fact, one of the more positive outcomes of the economic “readjustment” of the last 7 years, has been that people have perhaps become less “macho” around their attitude to work and family.

I’m very lucky, in that I absolutely love what I do, so work doesn’t feel like “work” to me. I have sympathy for those who find themselves caught in the trap of “presenteeism”- feeling that they have to be seen at work to “get ahead”. For some people, this is as a result of a lack of options, which must be awful. However, at lots of events you still see people who worship at the altar of presenteeism, and think it is something to admire. It’s not. Believe me.

To these people I would say, simply, “cop on”, because life goes by very quickly. As the old saying goes, “Have you ever heard of someone saying on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time in the office?


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