Integrity Is What A Brand Lives By … Or Not

Brand IntegrityIntegrity … a brand lives and breathes by this. Right? All (ok maybe not ALL) business owners live by their integrity as this drives who they are and how they are perceived in the marketplace. Zappos did not become the best online retailer by not living by their brand integrity. Integrity drives as it is that adherence to principles that your customers embrace and gush about. Integrity is the fuel behind the unimpaired excellence that makes customers make you the only choice and have them sit around the campfire and sing your kumbaya. Many brands but cannot achieve that ultimate brand loyalty. It is earned and when there is a challenge of that very integrity that earned the loyalty, the brand image is tarnished. Over the past year or so, we have seen a lot of brand images being tarnished and it is up to us as the consumer to say yes I am in or no no I am going elsewhere. As a HUGE fan of the NFL and of course my beloved JETS I have been challenged by the integrity of the brand that is the NFL.

The Brand of the NFL

The brand of the NFL is huge. Ok bigger than huge. It is a 9 billion dollar industry and growing.  We trust you NFL that you will bring us the best of the best each week and when you do, we buy more thus adding to your revenues. We buy tickets to the games, we fly city to city to support our team, we are so proud to wear our jerseys, sweatshirts, jackets, boxers, socks, clings on our cars … we spend our money to show our support and in return we ask you to maintain the integrity of the brand.

Integrity of the NFL Brand

NFL, we as fans ask you to maintain the integrity of the brand. You are not above any other brand, though sometimes you make us feel that way. You are not there all year round like so many other brands. You are SEASONAL. Yes, NFL, you are seasonal but yet garner more revenues than many companies can even fathom. Forget Hello, you have us with the tingle in our ears from that last whistle in the ProBowl. We are that dedicated. We watch or go to the draft and fully engulf you as we love our teams and because you, NFL bring us our team, you become a part of us. We trust that you will give us what we give to you. We can see that the integrity of the NFL brand is an umbrella as each team and everyone associated with the team has to uphold that integrity. And when our team loses we are not yelling at you umbrella NFL or we used to not … now that umbrella has been flipped! We, the fans, the ones who trusted and believed that you would uphold the integrity of the brand, are screaming at you.

Losing Brand Integrity

The NFL has lost the integrity of the brand. If we did not see this in Weeks 1 or 2, we were slapped really hard in the face on Monday Night Football in the Green Bay vs Seattle game. I recognize that there are contract disputes and each side wants and wants and there is no giving. The NFL knew for months that the contract talks were not progressing, could stale and the refs would be locked out. We as fans trusted that the contract dispute would be worked out. Like any other brand that is in a crisis, we expected them to fix it. The replacement refs were that quick fix but this band-aid seems to be made of dental floss as boy oh boy it is quite thing and is not getting the job done. You NFL have caused chaos, come at a very big price.

Do the NFL refs make a lot of money? YES! But should we care? Really, should we? Some may say we should but, I think the greater question is, is it necessary to keep the brand in tact to pay them high salaries? The NFL refs are part time. Imagine on a part time gig making about 150K – not to shabby. But we have to think about the responsibility they have and how the pressure shifts to THEM to uphold the integrity of the brand. If the refs did not bear the burden on the field to uphold the integrity of the NFL brand, there would be no discussion about the replacement refs. Actually, if this was untrue, the NFL would have crumbled years ago as there would not be many players willing to play, there would not be any fans and without players and fans, there would not be an NFL, which would trickle down to College and then HS and Pee Wee. Game over. Instead, the refs bring a high level of expertise and professionalism which keeps the players playing, the fans coming and contributes to the success of the brand. Now with the replacement refs, the NFL has lost the integrity of the brand. They, the NFL exclusively OWNS the overall brand and the integrity therein, so it was theirs to lose.

Restoring Brand Integrity

Can the NFL restore the integrity of the brand? Sure. Like in any crisis, there can be a turn around. However, a chance was missed when the NFL made their official statement and felt that the replacement refs as well as the replay refs (who are not replacements) made the right call. The NFL created more of a crisis here and while the NFL will survive this, a crater larger than the Grand Canyon has been created. While the blown call is alarming, the official statement send up more red flags than meets the eye. Losses happen but when it comes at the hands of those who could have prevented this, it becomes difficult to swallow. It makes us think what is it going to take for the NFL to realize that there is a huge crisis and it goes deeper than the integrity of the brand. Fans love our teams and our players (though sometimes we are critical of their play) but we do not love you NFL owners and commission.

The safety of the players has been compromised and, as fans, we love them more than we could ever love the overall brand of the NFL. We have to wonder what will it take for the NFL to fix this? A catastrophic injury? As much some may believe that a boycott would evoke change, it would never happen as we love our teams and would never leave our players. You see NFL we do not come for you we come for them, our players. You now have separated the players from you and, unless you fix this right now, I am not sure any crisis communications strategy will bridge the gap you have created between you and the players.

NFL, it starts with you as loyalists like me are not even on the same street as your ballpark. Houston, we have a very serious problem!

What do  you think? Can the NFL repair their brand image?

photo credit: Parker Michael Knight

Facebook Targets Small Business Owners With New Features

facebook logo Facebook, after a less than stellar 8 days on the NYSE, is taking a step back from the big lights and glitz and glamor and is focusing on the small business owners. Small business owners make up so much of the marketplace today and while it may feel as if there is a bit of over saturation for those companies that help small business owners, there are still too  many lagging behind. Facebook was one of them.

Small business owners whose marketing budget does not have a line item for a community director are at a disadvantage as they are not able to hire the third party that will be able provide them will all the features that are afforded to bigger companies. It is an age old problem as regardless of how many hats you wear each day as a small business owner, there are always limitations. Especially online and in the social spectrum as there are third parties that are creating some unbelievable tools for analytics but they are out of reach for many of the small business owners.

Facebook Targets Small Business Owners

Facebook this week had made some highly applauded changes to the company pages. These welcomed changes are a big deal for the DIY small business owner as the functionality that has been afforded to other companies through hiring third parties, has now become available to them for FREE. The changes are not going to save a business nor are they going to attract drones of new customers. They are time management features that allows for better organization and more frequent postings to promote visibility and interaction.

Facebook Introduces Administrator Levels

The administrator levels is not necessary a big deal for the DIY small business owner however, for those that are able to budget and have assistance with their Facebook page, this is a big deal. Control of the entire page is not given to another person. Actually, Facebook has defined the roles and levels to better assist the small business owner with relinquishing some control but with limitations.

Facebook Administrator Roles

1. Manager. The manager has full control of the page from creating posts & ads, editing the page & apps, commenting, deleting comments, sending messages and viewing Facebook insights.

2. Content Creator. The content creator is one step away from the manager and has a lot of authority however, it cannot manage the admin roles.

3. Moderator. The moderator can send messages, respond to messages and delete comments. They are unable to create new posts.

4. Advertiser. The advertiser can create ads and view insights.

5. Insights Analyst. The insights analyst can review and analyze the data only. This is the lowest of authority but it is probably one of the most important. You can create content and ads all day but if no one is delving in to the data, a lot is being lost.  Are you posting and reaching your target market or just random people who liked your video?

These administrator roles are important when we think  about moving forward with how companies utilize Facebook for their marketing efforts. There is a lot of data that that small business owners can capture and act upon to better serve their target market. Allowing for them to set a specific role within Facebook is a step in the right direction.

NOTE: Any new administrators added, by default, are managers. You must go and manually change their role.

Facebook Unveils Post Scheduling Functionality

Scheduling posts! How could you? Automate – ugh never! Well not so fast here. As indicated above, the new features are time management features. Scheduling posts is managing the time. This is not an autopilot feature that will allow for the admin to schedule the postings for the month and never come back but act as if there is a human sitting there. We know better. Scheduling does help many of the small business owners as they can sit late at night and schedule a posting for when their target market is most active and accepting of their posting. Without scheduling, the post probably would not be seen otherwise.

Scheduling of posts does not replace a human. Scheduling posts helps with time management and should be used for that purpose. When there is limited time, the time should be spent interacting with fans which is where the scheduling comes into play. If the post is scheduled then time opens up for the interaction.  Pointless to post and not interact with fans.

How do I Schedule a Facebook Post

1. Status: In your status area, select if you want to post text, a photo/video Event/Milestone. Upload.

facebook page status update

2. Year: Click on the clock symbol at the bottom far left.  “+ Add year” appears. Add the year from the drop down. There is a scroll down as you can back date content.

facebook add year

3. Month: Click on the clock symbol again and “+ Add month”  appears. Click that and the month drop down appears. Choose the month from the scroll down.

Facebook month

4. Day: Click the clock symbol again and “+ Add day” appears.  Click that and the date drop down appears. It appears as numeric days in the calendar and not days of the week. Once you add the date, the Post in the far right goes from Post to Schedule. facebook day

5. Hour: Click on the clock symbol again and “+ Add hour” appears. Click on this and the hour drop down appears. Add the hour you wish to have the post scheduled for.

Facebook Hour

6. Minute: Click again on the clock symbol and “+ Add minute” appears. Click on this and the drop down appears in 10 minute increments. There is discrepancy here as Facebook says that they are in 15 minute intervals. There is not the functionaliy to override and manually put in a minute.

7. Review you posting for accuracy and click on Schedule.

You can month and year stamp your posts without scheduling as the scheduling does not appear until you add the date field. This is useful for those who are managing their timeline and wish to month and year stamp previous postings. If you wish to date the posting, you can as well, and, if it is in the past, it will appear immediately.

How to Unschedule a Scheduled Facebook Post

Changed your mind? It is easy to unschedule.

1. If you have not hit schedule and received the “Your Post Has Been Scheduled Confirmation” you can simply click on each drop down field and scroll up to the top and select the –. This will delete the field.

2. If you have scheduled and received confirmation, all is not over. You can cancel in the activity log via the admin panel by selecting Manage (as seen here in the confirmation).

facebook schedule confirmation

As you can see, these changes are not going to have  much affect on the companies that have already been using a third party to manage their pages. This is really targeting the small business owners to try and balance out the playing field here a bit and promote more user interaction.

Small business owner? We want to hear from you! Will these new features have you spend more time on Facebook? Will you relinquish control and utilize the admin roles?

photo credit: From Anoka…

Does A Brand Need To Be Remarkable To Succeed?

Keurig is remarkableDoes a brand need to be remarkable to succeed or is  “ok”  good enough? We see some businesses that are just ok and are very successful or maybe they are perceived to be successful? Maybe they are bringing in one time sales and no repeats? Or maybe they are hanging on by a string and trying to stay afloat. For some, if the cash register is ringing that is all they need as they must be doing something right if they are converting sales. However, in order to stand above the rest, we need to be remarkable. If not, we become invisible to many. That may not be a big deal when we are invisible to those that are not our target market, but when it is our target market or a segment thereof, it is a problem.

There are too many choices out there and, if we are not viewed as remarkable, we are getting lost in the shuffle. There are over 100 different types of aspirin. 100 different types. Who knew? Certainly not consumers as they have their brand/brands and the rest are ignored. That simple little (s) on the end of brand is what scares CEO’s, CMO’s and business owners. In order for a brand to remain competitive, we need to be remarkable so that consumers purchase us and only us over and over. In other words, we need brand loyalists and lots of them. This begs a 2nd question here of do we need to be remarkable to convert first/second/third time buyers into loyalists? Can we have brand ambassadors without being remarkable? I tend to think not as building brand loyalty is not easy as we know and if we are not remarkable then we run the risk of giving our competitor an opportunity to swoop on in, show our customers that they are remarkable and have our customer become loyal to them.

Being Remarkable

Being remarkable is more than a great product/service, the marketing of that product/service or the service that is associated with the product/service. While it can be a combination of it all, it is actually a bit simpler. Being remarkable is standing above all the rest by performing one thing or multiple things that much better. It also does require having the guts to be remarkable. Keurig® is remarkable as it took something that people were making & buying for years and simplified it. What was Starbucks selling – coffee. Yes but more SINGLE CUP COFFEE. What were you making at home? A POT of coffee. Starbucks told us it was not ok to make an entire pot of coffee when we really only needed a single sized cup; which of course they came in 3 sizes. Boy oh boy did change the way people drank coffee. They had consumers begging for that $5.00 cup of coffee. Keurig brought the making of coffee back home with single cup servings. Fresh as fresh can be. No more burnt coffee smell (now if we could just eliminate the smell of burnt popcorn!), no more making a pot of coffee that goes to waste or is too strong as we put in less water or too watered down as we could not get the amount of grinds and water in proper proportion. They made a cup that has the proper amount of grinds and water ratio.

How To Be Remarkable

Change the way people think. Show them that you are remarkable by changing the way they think about you. Tell them and show them that you are remarkable and when you say this/prove this over and over, people will start believing. You have changed the way they think about you while at the same time you are making them think of your competitor differently. In the example above, being remarkable was nothing more than taking something that already existed and bring it back down to simplicity and making coffee at home.  No more waiting on lines for your own single cup of fresh coffee and spending $5.00 a cup. It can be made in the privacy of your own home, at the office and even some coffee shops and oh did we mention with some of your favorite brands? Even Starbucks has realized that the K-Cups® are the now and while it is taking away from in-store single cup sales, it still brings people into their store to buy some for home, to get that morning muffin or danish. Keurig has taken over the single serve coffee market that Starbucks dominated. Remarkable. As I was finishing this post, I came across an article where Starbucks is gearing up to launch its own single-serve machine, Verismo system by Starbucks, to directly compete with Keurig. Remarkable has its downside … when it is that good, people play copy-cat.

Changing The Way People Think

What Keurig did was nothing new. They changed the way we thought. They utilized some basic fundamentals in marketing:

    1. Identified their target;
    2. Within their target, identified the ones that were willing to switch;
    3. Outside their target, identified the ones that were willing to listen; and
    4. They did something that no-one else was doing.

This allowed them to introduce their product to the market through knowing exactly whose mind they could change  and who would be their word of mouth stream.  They identified those that were willing to listen & repeat  but are not necessarily going to buy.  This segment many overlook as they are not increasing the bottom line directly however, they sometimes are the ones that make the most noise that gets more people to listen as their minds have been changed enough for them to have listened and repeat what they heard.

Brand Image In The Marketplace

You cannot change the minds of others unless you are aware of your brand image in the marketplace overall and also for your customer segments. Just because people buy from you does not always equate to a positive brand image. We buy out of convenience as was discussed with fast food purchasing. The fast food chains while do not have a bad image, they certainly are not winning any prizes with anyone in the medical field/personal training/educational systems, etc. There are more groups that if they came together collectively that would change the minds of many about fast food. If enough hear it from different places, they start to really listen and minds are changed. We feel safer/more willing to trust when we hear the same thing from various sources/resources.

Brand Reputation

Your reputation is driven my your actions and the perception of your actions. There is nothing more maddening when we see company that has employees who treat customers poorly; fail to react in a manner that is expected or justified; and/or just lose sight of their goals and their competition differentiators. Your brand reputation does directly effect the way customers think of you, your ability to change the way they think about you and also how customers will talk about you others.

1. How you respond in a crisis matters.

2. How you respond to a triumph matters.

3. How you respond to nothing matters.

Nothing? how do you react to nothing? It is that place between crisis and triumph, launch and maintenance; kind of an off-season for your brand where your presence is necessary but there is not that much company business going on to talk with consumers about.  Customer satisfaction plays a big role in your brand reputation and that leads to loyalty and also being remarkable. Customers/consumers pay attention to how they are being treated. If the red carpet is rolled out for a $1.49 purchase, we notice.  If we are met with a gum cracking, texting while screaming over us for someone else to open, we definitely are not going to feel good about that experience and that brand. Their reputation suffers every time we talk about them negatively to others. Sadly, they have sent a message that is embedded in our minds – not all customers matter.  Unfortunately, this comes at the hands of employees which no matter how much we train, stand over, remind, etc. sometimes employees fall short of consumers expectations.

In the end, being remarkable is not as difficult- unless we ourselves do not believe that our brand is remarkable. One thing that sets us a part from the rest is one message to change minds. Your image and reputation are just one piece of the remarkable pie that sets the stage for embedding a positive message in the minds of consumers that does not leave any wiggle room for them to have doubt.

Keurig® photo credit: adamdachis

McDonald’s Launches New Happy Meal Nutritional Advertising

McDonalds New Happy Meal McDonald’s has launched a new campaign targeting kids to introduce the NEW Happy Meal. The Happy Meal has been a staple on the McDonald’s menu since 1979 when it was first introduced to compete with Burger Chef (now Hardees). The inaugural Happy Meals were a hamburger or a cheeseburger, french fries, cookies, soft drink and a toy! Brilliant, as kids would now associate going out for burgers with going and getting a toy and that makes them happy and also entertained. The nutritional aspects of the food was not as scrutinized as it is today as it was fast food and fast food is greasy, messy and all around bad for you but it tastes so damn good. Over the years with obesity rates and other health issues skyrocketing, nutritional values of all foods has been given a closer look.

Is the Happy Meal Healthy?

Well, no one has died from eating one that I am aware of so I guess it is cannot be all that bad. Right? If we look solely and exclusively at the caloric intake from a Happy Meal of a hamburger, fries and soft drink, we round out at about 630 calories. GASP! That is a lot of calories for a kids meal. There are other values to consider when evaluating if something is nutritious such as the carbs, fat, saturated fat and of course the sodium. A review of the nutritional values  indicates that this meal has roughly 630 mg of sodium (more than  1/2 of the daily recommended intake for a child between the ages of 4-8). The new Happy Meal with the apple slices, 1.1 oz fries and milk does bring down the calorie count to around 485 but the sodium increases to over 700mg as there is more sodium in the milk than the kids soda.

So, is the new Happy Meal that much healthier where a new campaign would be warranted to “educate” children about nutritious meals? They could have been doing this all along and not have a new offering (or semi-new offering) tied to it. As marketers, we can see why they would tie the campaign to their new offering as the best way to educate kids about better nutrition is through characters and examples of food. Let’s face it, kids have learned for years about the different food groups and what healthy eating is from Sesame Street so if it has worked so well for them, it will for McDonald’s! Ultimately McDonald’s wants to increase sales and focusing on the healthier NEW Happy Meal just may do just that. The kids will be engaged due to the characters and remember that getting a Happy Meal makes you happy because there is a toy and at the same time, it is healthy and eating healthy makes your mom and dad happy so eat a Happy Meal today! Oh boy!

Does the Nutritional Value Matter?

In the advertising itself, no not at all. McDonald’s spends roughly 13% of its overall ad budget or $115 million dollars in 2010 on advertising the Happy Meal. If the nutritional value mattered, they would not have advertised prior to this week as it was unhealthy last week compared to this week, right? So, we can see where the nutritional value does not matter. What does matter? The message. The message here is to kids. How much of the ad are they understanding? How much are they really paying attention to after they hear Happy Meal and immediately associated it with the toy? Let’s face it, kids rely upon their parents to make the right meal choices for them. The name itself Happy Meal tells us what we are to associate the kids meal with. Happy. Eat a Happy Meal and be happy. Eat a nutritious meal and you are happy; yeah, it just does not flow as well coming from McDonald’s.

If the Nutritional Value Does Not Matter, Then Why All the Hoopla?

Because the nutritional value matters to the parents which are the unintended audience (well the perceived unintended audience). McDonald’s knows that kids watch TV and that the parents are present and while many times slightly paying attention they hear the spot and pay attention to see what the NEW Happy Meal is all about and how are they talking to my kid. McDonald’s has now the attention and focus of the kids and also the parents. Not too shabby. Parents do care what they are feeding their kids. We as parents know that fast food is no where near the nutritional value of a home cooked meal. Knowing this why do we buy it? Convenience. Convenience trumps nutritional value every single time. If we were told that fast food chicken products caused cancer in children, no-one would buy them. The scared straight factor is simple. We do not want our kids eating something that could give them cancer. We do not look at the other diseases such as foods high in sodium which leads to high blood pressure, is a precursor for kidney problems and cardiovascular disease as being a deterrent. Why? These diseases happen over time and the “little bit” that we feed our kids fast food will not lead to that.

Fast Food Advertising to Children

Much has been said about fast food advertising and children. A  BBB 2010 study of 38 hours of children’s programming (note: it does not indicate whether this was network only, cable only or a combination of both, nor does it indicate the sample size demographics; (ie age, gender, etc. as well as the time of day that the 38 hours was studied) found that 1/4 of the ads were for the food itself as it was for sedentary entertainment. With this, there was a 9% increase in the overall advertising from 2009. So, in other words, kids are being exposed to the fast food brands, just in a different way; through enticing to visit their website for a contest, game, to view all of the characters offered in the Happy Meals each week (always a favorite of mine as “see kids the one you have is ok but you need ALL of them/or this particular one”).

While there is only 1/4 of advertisers actually advertising their food to children we would be quite naive to think that kids do not know what food McDonald’s has (unless kids have never eaten fast food, driven in a metropolitan city, never watched tv or gone to school). Kids, like adults who have a favorite fast food restaurant or even a causal or fine dining restaurant associate the food offered there with pleasure. All restaurant owners know (or should know this) and while McDonald’s is promoting the new Happy Meal as nutritious (or more nutritious then the previous one from last week) they know that the nutrition part is not why people come to McDonald’s.  Does it help to change some minds that fast food is not all bad? Of course it does but whose minds are you changing? If people are fast food buyers, they would have bought regardless if the fries were decreased from 2.5 oz to 1.1 oz and a bag of apple slices were added to each Happy Meal. Oh, and by the way, you can opt to get 2 bags of apple slices instead of the fries. Maybe if they were really wanting this to be nutritious, they would replaced the fries with apple slices and you have to ask for the fries (even I chuckled when I wrote this). This will not happen as then kids will associate McDonald’s with the fruit and not the fries and really let’s face it, who would rather have fries vs apple slices?

If we all wanted apple slices, the fast food places would be empty as we all would be at the grocery store during lunch to get our fresh apple. We are willing to leave work to get some fast food but not so much on heading to the grocery store to get some fruit. Shows that we do not associate the apple with the pleasure that we do with fries. Fast food chains know this and exploit it. Grocery stores do not even bother advertising a quick visit of grabbing an apple or even the assorted fruits packages that are so nicely cut up as they know it is a waste of money. We would see that as a hassle and inconvenient where the fast food chain (even if a further drive) is viewed as convenient. This has been engrained in our brains and we do not really think about it until someone points it out. Actually for the grocery store, sales very possibly would increase as we know that every time we “run” in to grab a few things we end up spending more.

Kids LiveWell Initiative

The National Restaurant Association has made great strides in the advertising of kids meals. Most recently they received a commitment of their 68th restaurant brand to provide parents with healthy menu choices. These healthy choices are a good alternative for parents to research however it does not cut down on the advertising of meals that are not considered very healthy. Notice a very large brand with happy food is missing from the initiative. Interesting. I guess they are committed to advertising directly to kids that their meals are nutritious but when it comes actively promoting a selection of menu items that meets the qualifying criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations they fall short of the commitment? I guess one could argue that they are doing this, their way, in their new Happy Meal advertising however it seems quite contradictory to their position represented in Chicago Tribune, where McDonald’s calls itself a leadership brand … whether it is for children’s advertising or the food they serve in their restaurants.

I am not attacking McDonald’s here nor am I against advertising to kids as um … sometimes Santa needs some help. As a parent I make the decisions regarding dinner. I am not a fan of fast food so in our house it is a super treat out of pure desperation to pull up to McDonald’s. Chinese food and Italian food/NJ pizza takeout – well … that is a different story! We all have our weaknesses.

Responsible Advertising

I support responsible advertising in all mediums across all targets as does probably everyone reading this and the brands that we see advertising (there are a few exceptions of course).  Is McDonald’s advertising responsible in their new spots?

A pet goat eating a chair, dad’s hair, a hole in a baseball glove that was the exact size of the baseball, paper, etc is funny and will definitely get a lot of laughs especially the dad’s hair but is a child able to see the spot and see the goat’s bad eating as themselves as eating bad? They do not eat paper, couches, dad’s hair, baseball gloves so while they will get a good giggle, it is not very likely that many will see the spot and think of themselves eating better. Which after viewing the spot, the message becomes clear. Come to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. It does say that the goat needs to change his diet to include fruit and dairy (I guess the other food groups are not as important??) and it highlights the 2 changes in the Happy Meal of milk and the apple slices with fruit to eat but product placment of the french fires is very prominent. So kids, while you are having this treat at McDonald’s (which the ad does mention that they go to McDonald’s for a treat; which could mean the toy as it was not mentioned in the spot), of milk and fruit, which you can have at home, you will still be getting your fries when you come here. The spot is super cute and kids will find great entertainment value but is that enough to really say that they are educating kids on nutrition by mentioning that a goat needs to eat fruits and dairy and after he does he thinks he is as strong as an ox? Keyword that jumped out: THINKS. At least Popeye KNEW.

Thoughts?

photo credit: Nation’s Restaurant News

LinkedIn Launches Company Follow

LinkedIn TipsLinkedIn has launched a follow button similar to Twitter and the Facebook Like to increase awareness and engagement with the company pages and users on LinkedIn. Company pages are the forgotten pages as there is not a whole lot of functionality within these pages and previously there was no button or link from your website (other than a share which was more used for a blog article and did not direct users to the company page) to let users know that the page even existed on LinkedIn (there is the share button which was mainly for blogs). While the functionality is still limited as we cannot interact with LinkedIn company pages via posting our comments/thoughts/ideas, etc., at least we can make site visitors aware of them and allow them to follow and share company page updates on LinkedIn.

How Does LinkedIn Company Follow Work?

The LinkedIn Company Follow button works the same as follow for Twitter and Like for Facebook where in order to follow a company, you must be logged into your LinkedIn profile (if not, you will be prompted to log in). While on a company’s website, click the follow button and you are brought to the company LinkedIn page and are automatically following that Company.

The Company pages as you may recall have added employees  through company search as well as products and services for visitors to learn about your company and to see what level of connection they have with your company through your employees. Thereafter, they added analytics for companies to see who is visiting, who is following the company page as well as their industry, company and function (position).

How To Install LinkedIn Company Follow

    1. Go to LinkedIn’s Developer Plug-In Page
    2. If you are not logged in to your LinkedIn, type in your company’s name in the box. If you are logged in, it should automatically populate the field.
    3. Pick the style you wish to have on your website, horizontal with count or without count.
    4. Click “Get Code” and the code will appear.
    5. Copy the code and place it on your website on the page(s) you wish for the button to appear.

Why Should I Install LinkedIn Company Follow?

Simply – awareness and exposure and to keep users up to date on your company. Not everyone will visit your website every single day however, many do visit their LinkedIn profile every day. Your company page updates and new job postings will be featured on their LinkedIn profile which is visible to others. So, not only are those that are following your company page viewing your page updates, so are their connections. Awareness and exposure.

The key here is that you have to make sure that you are updating your company page as if not, why would people want to follow you? This is not like Twitter where we can tweet upwards of 25-50 times a day. No that is too much for LinkedIn users. Update when you have company news or something that is industry related. Remember, you cannot ask questions on your company page as users are unable to answer on your page (utilize the Q&A section, start a Group for Q&A or a poll). If you are not updating your page eventually users will forget about you and unfollow and having the follow button on your website becomes pointless. Update your company page status to get people to know more about your company, share your updates and also refer your company to those in the need of your product/services.

LinkedIn Tips: Find and Follow A Company Video

[youtube jykqF-neZ2I]

photo credit: Mario Sundar

The Value in Good Customer Service

There is only value in a brand if you take care of it!  Find out what our plan looks like…

[Read more…]

Winners and Losers of Super Bowl Advertising

winners and losers of super bowl advertising We are just outside of 3 weeks since the Super Bowl and already some people have to take a minute and think about where it was played (despite NBC saying Lucas Oil Stadium what felt like over 200x throughout the day) who played in the game, who won the game, who won MVP and salsa dancing, there is salsa dancing in football? We know this to be true and we also know that beneath this lies the media buzz, the chitter chatter and pretty much any unaided recall of the commercials. Ouch! That is tough to swallow for any marketer, let alone those that advertised during the game.

Although, those that advertise during the Super Bowl know that these ads are different and while the purpose of advertising is to sell, the purpose of Super Bowl advertising is more about receiving that coveted best ad, worst ad (they receive a lot of free media time that does not always damage their brand) and those that just rounded out the top 10 to get the media buzz via TV, radio and the web. The amount of free mentions  that the best ads and the worst ads receive is almost incomprehensible. That $2.5M investment suddenly is now worth $15M or so. When we say it this way, we have to think why on earth does any big brand not jump in feet first? This takes ROI to new levels.

Purpose of Super Bowl Advertising

Is the purpose of advertising during the Super Bowl to sell? Yes … well. Yes. … well. If you are like me instinctively you say YES! But then there is that little voice inside that says, well – they really want to be named the winner of the best ad but why would they spend millions to just be named the best ad? Well, let’s break this down a bit. Every big brand has a media budget well into the millions. Year after year they spend millions to create and place ads on television so why is there a big deal made about the cost of advertising during the Super Bowl?

Is it because some are spending what would be their monthly budget in 1 day? Ok but then we have to look at the mentions and calculate how much all that coverage would have cost and … Wait, can we say that the mentions are measurable in ad spending dollars? Ads are ads, mentions come with opinions/trust from the person mentioning and sometimes discussion. This can influence the viewer either in a positive or negative way and that cannot be calculated. Saying that increase or decrease in sales would be a good gauge is not practical. There are too many variables. Which brings us back to the purpose of Super Bowl advertising. It is not only to sell. It is to get favorable brand mentions over and over and over again across various mediums as the more mentions the more people are listening and the more people are listening, the more they are compelled to hear what people are saying and hearing so many people favorably speak about a brand does make people look over and consider. With the Super Bowl ads and all the media coverage, it does make us watch many of them again which has us spending time exclusively focusing on the ad and the brand. We know who and what product the spot is for. We see if our thoughts align with what others are saying. If so there are some who are compelled to buy to protect our own self image. Not sure self image plays a role? Talk to someone who has a dinosaur phone and what they say when you pull out your iphone 4G. They immediately try and protect their own image by making the excuses of having a flip phone still.

Super Bowl Ads Mentions Shelf Life

We have become so trained to view, semi-process (enough to hold a conversation) and move on to the next best thing. The next best thing is something remarkable or that beautiful disaster where we shake our heads but rush to the keyboard to burn plastic in getting our comments, shares and blog articles out about it. Do we ever think about how this remarkable or catastrophic ad/action will only have a shelf life of less than 2/3 weeks? Overall, the Super Bowl ads were a bit lackluster this year but there were some really good ads (someone had to win best ad) that we are not talking about anymore.  Did the mentions create enough of an impact upon customers for them to put the product/brand into self image so that it translates into sales? Could we ever really know? Maybe this could answer as to why not every single big brand is not advertising during the game. Yes, the free mentions and the buzz around the commercial/product/brand is enormous and cannot ever be replicated (the amount of mentions nationwide at one time/short period) but it could be too much of a risk to rely upon the positive mentions to influence people who are not customers to become customers based upon what people in the media are saying.

Winners and Losers of Super Bowl Advertising

The winners we think would be the best ads that people are mentioning over and over.  The Super Bowl is a lot about the game winner and loser of super bowl advertisingbut also a lot about the ads. We wait for them each year and boy are we quite elated when a brand we purchase regularly or just love has a really great ad. That makes us feel really good as we have associated ourselves with the brand in purchasing or loving them and a good ad reinforces our image of them and also our own self image and the image of us to others. Image. That is who the winner and losers are in Super Bowl Advertising. If having the iPhone was connected to something extremely negative then we know people in drones would run and get something else. Have to protect our image. Some would be individualists and gleefully get into discussion/debate/argument with anyone who challenges them on keep in the iPhone.

In the end, the winners and losers of the Super Bowl advertising is the image that we as consumers have for the brand and how image in purchasing that brand is viewed upon in the eyes of others. I guess in many ways that keeping up with the Jones’ does exist, when it comes to our self image of course. It is our own little piece of fame that we have when we are associated with something great and recognized for that association.

Thoughts – is it as simple as image being the winner and loser of really any advertising?

 

photo credit: Super Bowl Champs – tedkerwin; photo credit: chess – cogdogblog

Honda Targets Life Stages With New Leap List Campaign

Honda CR-V A new year, new budgets, new campaigns, and the kick off to what promises to be the best of the best in advertising for the Super Bowl. It is such an exciting time for advertising as we wait with anticipation for the spots during the game (unless you peek and watch the ones that were released early). Who ever would have thought that the 1st weekend in February would place advertising and advertisements in the spotlight?

Thereafter, we we start seeing ads catered towards holidays, seasonal ads with spring around the corner and summer knocking as well with ads that try and tie their brand into the event. Many try and many fail as they are forcing their brand to be associated with the event as opposed to their target market connecting their lifestyle to the event and including the brand. It is about the target and how the brand fits their life and not how the brand fits the event which then will fit into the life of the target. Sometimes through the creative process or lack thereof, this is forgotten.

The Purpose of Advertising

The purpose of advertising is to persuade the audience to buy. This is achieved through relating to the target market and convincing them that they need and/or want what you are selling to enrich their lives in some sort of way. There is also advertising whose purpose is stop people from doing things – ie drunk driving, smoking or even stop buying this brand and buy ours. With some advertising the purpose is harder as in some industries price matters, in others social status matters and in others there is that combination of both. Researching and targeting your target market is more than a good headline. It is a headline and marketing message that resonates enough to guide the target to buy. This persuasion encompasses the objectives of advertising which are to build awareness, position and differentiate all geared to build trust. We buy when we trust. Sure, there is buying out of need like groceries but the trust that Ronzoni makes better pasta than the store private label has us willing to spend that $.50 more even if they both taste the same and are made in the same plant.

Advertising the Lifestyle

Advertising the lifestyle sells. This is “you” with an iphone, ipad, a family running the kids here and there, this is “you” and you will have a better life as it will be easier, more convenient, you will be at the cool kids table, etc. Volvo was safety. The family car to protect the most precious, your kids and you of course. Chevrolet putting the focus on Motor City and the deterioration and strength of the City to be again. These are winners. Fiat was a loser as they tried to have people believe that Jennifer Lopez drives a Fiat. Maybe for the commercial she did on a Hollywood set which was supposed to be the Bronx but we all know that she is not driving a Fiat, or, for that matter, driving at all. Her driver drives, she rides. Even the younger generation would not rush out to buy a Fiat because J-Lo allegedly drives one. So, what is a car company to do? Show the car hugging the road, in extreme temperatures up a mound of snow? Meh, overdone and not really a lifestyle as you expect your vehicle, especially a truck or SUV to do that. Have an airplane land in the bed of the truck? Sure, because we all can take our pick-up truck on the runway. This is not lifestyle advertising. It is entertaining I suppose but tells the target nothing about their life experiences/lifestyle with the vehicle.

Honda Targets Life Stages with New Leap List Campaign

Honda has taken the bucket list to a new level by incorporating a holiday of sorts. This year is leap year and while we do not celebrate leap year as we do most holidays, it is an opportunity for advertisers to take advantage of it.  Many advertisers are more than likely planning big sales and ads around those sales. Great but, it is nothing new or different. It is one way communication that is no different than the sales for Valentines’ Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. Honda has done something different and has created the Leap List Campaign for the all new CR-V.

It embraces stages in our lives when we would be experiencing new things such as graduating college, planning a big vacation, running our first marathon, purchasing a new home, getting married and having a child. Not all of these would involve purchasing a new vehicle but it makes us think of the stages in our life and what we will (or want to) to accomplish before the next stage. Brilliant, as it incorporates leap year but does not make that the main focus. It makes our lives and the things we see as attainable the focus. The campaign is run on Facebook and, as you will notice, the contest is not the main tab. It is actually the third tab out of four. The main page is about YOUR leap list and encourages you to create your own leap list. The contest of course is a new CR-V with a years worth of gas to help the grand prize winner complete their leap list. The judging is based upon progress updates so it is not create a list and forget about it the next day as we do with New Years Resolutions. They are making you work for it.

The campaign is very creative, interactive and really just so great. I am not only saying this because I currently own a Honda Accord and have owned 3 other Honda’s. I admit I do love and swear by Honda but SUV’s are not my thing. I love this campaign as they are having us decide when we tackle those big things in life and determine when we would need the CR-V to accomplish them. It is not have a baby and need a safe car or bring the kids to football practice and need a mini-van, it is accomplish the big things in your life and for some of them you may need a CR-V and if you do, we are here.

[youtube Vdf5Szv86hs]

 photo credit: exfordy

Choosing Your Audience Without Apologies

choosing audience without apologies Choosing your audience without apologies is traditional advertising of tv, radio and print as these spots tend to reach the watchers of a certain show, magazine/newspaper or station and not necessarily those that would ever purchase. This holds true on the web as well with sites that have ads that reach the target market and then some who are viewers of the site but do not fit the exact target of the ad. Sure, we look at the numbers provided by the media outlets and strategically place ads based upon the demographics provided by them and see where our target is there and bam, we place and run. There is always an audience that is not the target and some may become and for others, the spot is falling on deaf ears. That is the nature of traditional advertising as regardless of how technology betters, we can never solely attract our target audience. Do we need to apologize for this? No. We have become accustomed to receiving advertising messages that are not for us. Sometimes we listen or sometimes we do not. Advertisers hope we do as they just want a return on their investment.

No Apologies

Discount retailers who are targeting a certain segment never apologize for having discount merchandise or attracting for new customers. They never apologize for not having the size scale or ample amount of merchandise that a non discounter has. They lure us in by giving us merchandise that is sold at a lesser price, which gives us more to enhance our lives in family time and enjoying the opportunity to have new things. They embrace living on a budget and exploit it. They are not trying to make the wealthy like them or dislike them, they are honing in on their target market through targeting them in the moment and creating the story for them and never apologizing for creating the “good life on a budget” story.

Bloggers do not apologize for the reach they get when their article is retweeted. Actually, we thank people for sharing. We apologize if someone does not like our writings but never apologize for the new set of eyes. If we apologize for the new audience then we are making a crucial error as our business model will be flawed. Yes, we need to map out our target market but there has to be a path to growth and expansion. Build your blog community and company by understanding and directly talking/selling to your core audience to create brand loyalty but also be mindful of the larger audience that may not know of your existence. There is no apologies needed to build a stronger business and attracting new customers to help enhance their lives. There are no apologies needed when we are gaining attention for what we believe in and want others to believe in (unless of course it is destructive in nature and sets out to cause  harm). Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ are not apologizing for attracting new people in drones. They are not apologizing to those that choose not to pay any attention to them. Why should other advertisers? Why should we have to apologize if our message is received by someone who would never buy? They make us by lashing out and we are compelled to, to protect the reputation and integrity of the blog/the company.

Creating the Apology

Creating the apology is done when when a tweet or an ad goes bad and people swarm all over it. This is more than people listening, it is where people are listening and reacting. The more popular the negativity becomes, the more attention that is given and people start listening to what you are saying in your apology. Many times this is people who may have never heard of us. This starts to snowball and while it can spiral out of control, it can also attract some new eyes and broaden your audience. No apologies here for bringing awareness so long as it has a positive outcome. When the awareness brings in negativity from the new audience and it continues to linger in the media, it can be damaging. We saw this with Ragu with saying men are incapable of cooking a family meal as that is a woman’s job. They were empowering women as the queen of the kitchen and not apologetic for dissing men who are the king of the kitchen. While we can all appreciate empowering people through advertising for them to relate to the product and the story it is telling to persuade them to buy but when it lends itself to the stereotypes, it starts to turn off certain audiences. Was this damaging enough to Ragu to hurt sales or was it just one select target market that had their attention and it was ignored by their loyal customers who championed them for supporting women with all that they do each day with work and caring for the family?  Competitors had a new target market opened up to them with those that were outraged and certainly were not apologetic to attract this new target.

Do We Ever Need To Apologize When Choosing Our Audience?

Do we need to apologize when we miss the mark? Missing the mark happens where the targeting starts to get broader and we generalize. We select certain criteria about  our target market and hit up those that meet the criteria. There is no way of ever knowing exactly if every single person we are targeting meets all the criteria so we run that risk of pissing someone off. If Hanes started inundating me with mens’ boxers emails, tweets, etc (and while I love Jordan), and I never clicked on, responded or bought, I would get annoyed. I would recognize that they are reaching out to women who would buy for their significant other and while the lil man loves his boxers,  I am not in the market for mens’. Would they need to apologize for targeting me? If I said publicly said something in a tweet I would think they would and remove me from their target list (while adding me to the boys targeting efforts) but do they really need to apologize? They generalized that women, especially of a certain age, with child(ren) would be buying for their man and they may attract new customers with this generalization. Do they need to apologize to me because while I fit MOST of their criteria, I do not fit all (in this scenario, the biggest part)? I do not think so.

When I purchased ONE Giants shirt years ago as a gift and was still getting direct mail and emails to buy more when I bought a ridiculous amount of JETS merchandise from the same company, I was concerned. How can a company continue to send out direct mail and emails that never get opened? I suppose that this is a topic for another post but for right now, do they need to apologize for clogging up my email or my mailbox? I purchased an item so I was added to their targeted list. They had no idea that I would not buy more Giants merchandise. But year after year when the emails went  unopened and offers in direct mail never were acted upon, they should have gotten the hint. Did they need to apologize? No. They just needed to review the information better. This is being lazy and growing the numbers and not paying attention to the buying habits. Maybe they need to apologize for that. Hmh. That would be something. If a company came out and issued a formal apology for not paying attention to the buying habits of people and continued to email them as if they were a regular buying customer (and not creating marketing messages geared to decrease attrition). In other words, we were lazy and did not pay attention and we will improve that. Interesting concept and again probably best flushed out in another post.

When we are targeting with intent to expand upon our audience and improve customer conversion we do not need to apologize unless we offend an entire group. Mistakes happen. Outside of a bad mistake, we are targeting and reaching them to let them know we exist. We are trying to create awareness and the potential customers’ story by identifying the opportunity to buy and fulfill a need or want. It is right here in front of them with the underlying message to trust and act now and buy. Again no apologies for that. It is business and they key word in the headline is choosing. We do have a choice to target them or not.

Thoughts? Do we ever need to apologize for choosing our audience?

photo credit: Arenamontanus

Advertising Isn’t Dead – The Creative Process Is

advertising is not dead, creative process is Every single year we hear advertising as a whole or the various mediums (ie radio, print, outdoor, etc) are dead. And, every year we see new advances in technology and advertising thrive. There are new mediums emerging and we are expanding advertising so, to say that advertising is dead is ridiculous. Advertising is more alive now than it ever has been. I admit, I am a bit old school when it comes to advertising and, like many, think radio, tv, print, outdoor. But, there is a whole other medium that we tend to not necessarily consider advertising: the social platforms; which are very much alive.

Definition of Advertising

Advertising by definition is “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.”  This definition is a bit dated as not all advertising is paid. Focusing in on the “action of calling something to the attention of the public” is what we do each and every single day on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email marketing, etc. We post updates to draw attention to ourselves to start a conversation and listen to those that respond to us. Smells a lot like advertising doesn’t it? If we were not wanting to get noticed then why would we post the update? For shits and giggles? Hardly. When we flip through the newspaper and catch a glimpse of an ad, we stop and look at the ones that catch our eye. Our attention has been caught and we stop to take a second to look at it further. Commercials, prior to the CALM Act being approved and going it into effect next year, were louder on certain networks than the regular programming to draw attention to them. If we believe that our attention is only had when there is a change in volume, then we know that the purpose of advertising has been lost.

Purpose of Advertising

Wikipedia expands upon the definition of advertising and touches the human behavior element which is the purpose of advertising: “Advertising is a form of communication used to encourage or persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to continue or take some new action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering …” Persuade an audience through communication is why brands advertise. If we persuade then we have them take action and buy. If our advertising does not persuade, we fall short and the desired action is not taken (yes, I realize that there are loyalists and some WOM who would buy regardless of and if they have ever seen the advertising). We could argue that there are some ads out there that are so bad that the element of persuasion is lost however, on the flip side, the advertisement has gotten your attention and through being bad and while it may persuade you to change the channel, flip the page or radio station, you paid attention enough to take some action and associate that ad with the brand.

The Creative Process

Persuasion through communication is powerful. It is that one thing that gets you noticed. Billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising; all vying to get attention. It is not only their target market anymore as we have seen with communications going viral. This helps to draw the attention of the target market and persuade them to buy while giving the brand a boost in some free advertising. If it is worthy then it is noticed. Worthy comes in all shapes and sizes as some are noticed for a negative whereas others are noticed for a positive. We saw this develop recently with FEDEX and the driver throwing the computer monitor over the fence but on the flip side where K-mart who has had a push on layaway and had “layaway angels.” If you are like me, skepticism comes into play here for K-mart as hmh, you make a big push for layaway and then suddenly people pay off others’ layaways as an anonymous donor? Ok it can happen but logically when we really think about it, there were that many people that knew that people struggling had items on layaway and they went to their local store and offered to pay for an unknown person layaway? That begs the question of privacy as the store employee pulled up past due accounts and allowed some stranger to pay for them? Or allowed a person to stand there waiting for a person to come  up and then jump in and pay for it? Maybe I am getting too deep but I do not know about you but when I really break it down, it seems a bit off. Did they do this internally to draw attention to the layaway? Did they get the media blitz to bring more people in to buy and boost sales? If so, I can say brilliant if it was internal and it is not exposed. But is it creative insomuch as a form of advertising?

The Creative Process is Dead

Advertising is not dead but the creative process is. How many small businesses create a creative brief for a Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin account? Hell, even mid to large businesses we have to question if they have  that creative brief. The creativity that we once had has been lost on technology. What we say matters whether that be in a print ad, radio/tv spot or on a social media platform. People see it on all mediums and develop their own opinion. FEDEX was championed for talking about the incident and ensuring that this is NOT what is customary for their drivers. They could have taken the avenue of our drivers are pushed the limit and do what they have to do to ensure that all packages are delivered. We looked at their responses and were quick to give them props. While this was a crisis PR moment for FEDEX, they could have expanded their efforts and posted their own video of how a package should be delivered. We all know how it should be delivered but them showing sets the standard and adds an element of creativity where they could have outlined the standards and made us all watch and be their eyes and ears on the streets. The creative process died when they were reactive and quite proactive to responding to the crisis but failed to turn it around into a positive.

Technology is Killing the Creative Process

The technological advances are astounding. We have come a very long way from the early days of advertising. There is more opportunity now to be creative but it is missed. It is easy to create a commercial that has the spokesperson/mascot, the catchy jingle, the stereotype, humor or lack thereof (it obviously was funny to someone) but is hard to create an ad that speaks to the target market well enough to have them take action and that is a viable ad across the various mediums. We can say that this ad will work well on TV but does that translate over to YouTube? Does that Tweet translate well over on Facebook? Is that even considered, especially for a small business?

Exposure across the mediums has become the goal. More eyes, shares, retweets will gain more exposure but does that exposure resonate and equate to action? Creating a commercial requires a story board. Does anyone have a storyboard or something of  the like for Twitter? Big brands have an agency or department that develops the voice of the brand online which is different than creating a spot but is it really? If we think of Twitter and Facebook as a billboard as each time we update as similar to people flying by on a highway at 65 and catching a glimpse then, we have to treat our social media accounts as advertising. Sure, some are able to sit in traffic on the highway and see all the billboards, especially the digiboards that change which again is like Twitter when we tweet more and more. Social media platforms are advertising and should be treated as such when to comes to the creative process. Technology has changed but the laws of advertising still remain. Be creative and think of each update as an ad for your company as with every update, they see your profile attached to it. Create that creative brief, that buyer persona, that voice of the brand and be consistent. Successful companies are consistent and contained therein is creativity that is not lost on the mediums.

Thoughts? Ideas? Agree that advertising is not dead?

photo credit: Annie Mole