Category Archives: Advertising

Talking Points: Empowering Employees to Represent Your Brand

Who is your spokesperson? Why does it matter? What makes a spokesperson great?

When it comes to putting a face on our brands, employees aren’t usually the first people we think of. However, while professional PR figures or social media influencers are masters of polish and presentation, the very lack of pretense is what makes an employee such a compelling representative. As “outsiders” of the traditional public relations field, employee’s “boots on the ground” experience and insight can make a powerful impact.

So, if you haven’t yet empowered employees to represent your brand to customers, investors, or the world at large, it’s time to give it some serious thought. If your first question is, “But how do I prepare them to spread our message?”, you aren’t alone. Luckily, the answer is simple and aligned with your existing employee engagement and development efforts.
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How to Create & Sustain Brand Loyalty

There are many schools of thought about what creates and sustains brand loyalty (that is, a consumer’s preference for one particular brand over another in the same market space). These range from practical matters of convenience to complex and interwoven psychological factors. In the age of social media, we often hear that “engagement” in an ongoing dialogue with a brand is what creates loyalty. Other marketers swear by the psychology of color in creating consumer preferences.

The reality is much more nuanced than either of these approaches indicate, of course. The deeper drivers of connection with a brand are more subtle than memorable packaging, a brilliant logo, or a witty Twitter mascot. New and growing brands that leverage these underlying factors to connect with customers can elevate their position in consumer consciousness and reap the rewards of brand loyalty and evangelism.
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Casper: Innovative Mattress Marketing for Millennials

The online mattress brand Casper has emerged over the last two years as a force in social media marketing, disrupting the department store mattress racket and building its success on an unlikely target market. Casper’s novel approach bears examination; their path to market, product development, and audience outreach each contain valuable lessons for today’s entrepreneurs.
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Visual Branding in the Age of Social Media

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and today’s consumers are more visual than ever. Due in large part to the dominance of social media, we live in a world that is saturated with images. With so many selfies and “foodie” photos flashing in front of our eyes everyday, we’re over-exposed and yet primed for visual communication.

For marketers and branding experts, the challenge is to cut through the clutter and make your brand and your product stand out (both online and on the shelves). How can you tell your brand story visually? Here are a few tentpoles of visual branding to consider.
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Marketing to Millennials: 3 Key Lessons from Lilly Pulitzers Branding

An estimated 80 to 90 million Millennials are in the United States, and they wield more purchasing power than you likely know. At approximately $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, it's clear Millennials aren't just avid consumers but avid influencers as well. Couple this power with their diverse viewpoints and lifestyles – and their frequent usage of evolving social media platforms – it's easy to see why many marketers spend a large amount of time figuring out how to best speak to this generation. 

So what do Millennials want? 

1. Personalization 

Whether it's videos on YouTube, sponsored Facebook content, or the “deals-of-the-day” promoted on Twitter, it's clear many marketing strategies catered to Millennials are heavily focused on social media.

When Lilly Pulitzer, the world famous women's boutique, set out to design a highly personalized marketing strategy for the Millennial generation, they started by analyzing the influence of the wide range of marketing projects that already existed. In an article in Harvard Business Review, Omar Artun explains,

“Data analytics helped us identify critical points in the customer life cycle and develop relevant marketing programs that best engage the Lilly girl in each situation. The team married insights from this platform with observations of stores and larger marketplace research.” 

While it's clear Millennials are interacting and engaging with one another on social media, simply placing content on those platforms without the usage of analytics won't get you far. As Lilly Pulitzer learned, it was far more effective to tailor unique messages to individuals based upon their purchase history than it was to create an archetypal model of the Millennial shopper. As always, figuring out which analytics provide meaningful returns is key to effectively personalizing your campaign.

2. Online Interaction

Millennials live on their phones and laptops. Everything marketing – inquiring, searching, interacting and, most important, purchasing — is all done on their devices. However, this digitization of life shouldn't make us think Millennials want a dehumanized experience. Instead, this online and digital life should be seen as a form of self-expression and personality. In essence, Millennials online to interact with and express themselves to a wider audience. 

Effective marketing campaigns understand this need for personalization and self-expression. A survey completed in 2014 by The McCarthy Group, revealed that 84 percent of Millennials no longer exhibit trust in traditional forms of marketing. Radio spots, television ads and in-your-face pop-out messages achieve very little, as these types of marketing seem generic and company-focused—the opposite of the genuine, content-driven ads this generation longs to interact with. Meaghan Moraes, a marketing specialist and writer, explains in an article for HubSpot:

“Millennials know what they want and know how to find it online. If they decide they want to go for their master’s degree, odds are that an in-your-face pop-up ad wasn’t the deciding factor.”

Understanding that purchases are seen as a form of self-expression can help determine your messaging. Take Lilly Pulitzer for example. According to Artun in the above Harvard Business Review article, 

“We also found that our Millennial consumers showed a willingness to spend more on brands that focus on quality and authenticity—they valued the fact that the company hand paints all prints in-house and hides special surprises in the patterns, just as Lilly herself did in in the late 1950s.”

3. Shareable Self-Expression

If being a brand participant is a part of many Millennials' identities, then it's important for brands to allow them easy ways to share that information. Going beyond simple social media sharing buttons, this means creating sharable content, unique hashtags, and easily accessible brand stories. Marketing to Millennials should be seen as starting a growing conversation, not a one-way dictation.

For the Lilly Pulitzer brand, this meant creating a unique Snapchat filter. This method got them unique results:

“Engaging with this audience on their platform of choice gave us the opportunity to build an emotional connection and to tell our brand story in a visual way (ideal given that color and print are the hallmarks of the Lilly brand). Lilly was the first fashion brand to work with Snapchat to offer branded Snapchat filters for users that visited Lilly stores. During our first two-week summer campaign, the Snapchat filters delivered 97 percent more engagements than on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter combined.”

Bridging the Gap

So what do Millennials want? Personalized, shareable, digital experiences. This sounds relatively simple, but in the real world, it's rarely executed effectively. I look forward to see how other brands successfully (and unsuccessfully) reach out to this generation that wields so much social influence. And once their day in the sun is over, I'll also look forward to watching Millennials crack the puzzle of marketing to their successors. 

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation. 

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What Does Social Media Do For You? The Case of An “Out Of This World” Strategy

If you're just joining us, our most recent posts have highlighted just a few companies for their innovative and transformational approaches to social media in all its forms. We've covered Dove's changing of the social media conversation surrounding beauty, as well as JetBlue's daisy-chain of human kindness with their “fly it forward” campaign. While each of those campaigns were innovative on their own, it may perfect make sense to you why these companies found success on social media. After all, both of them have their own brand story and personality to share with consumers.

However, one organization's social media strategy proved that even the most white-collar, scientific organizations can gain big benefits from social media

NASA: From Geek to Social Media Guru

No one really saw NASA's social media explosion coming. These brilliant minds successfully guided a man to the moon, propelled rockets into deep space, and held some of the highest knowledge on topics like warp travel and black holes. They were the serious group of people who actually were doing rocket science, not an organization that spent their time on tweets and Vines. So how did it all change? 

A robot. 

In early 2008, NASA had just landed the Phoenix Rover on the surface of Mars. Instead of simply relaying statistics and facts about what the rover had found, NASA's head of communications, Veronica McGregor, decided to make a change. She began relaying playful, lovable, first-person tweets to millions of followers back on Earth. She brought the rover to life! For the first time in a long time, real-life robots were astonishingly human.

Since then, NASA's presence on social media exploded. However, its rise should be a surprise to no one. Posting images of nebulas and new galaxies has given NASA a reputation for content that’s not just enthralling but greatly informative as well. Through a perfect amalgamation of interstellar images, complex universal phenomenon, and down-home, earthly representations of both its astronauts and its organization, NASA has created an avid following that spans all ages. 

Power Your Product with Voice

The most exciting aspect of NASA's social media strategy is its relatability. For an organization that exists in such a complex industry, you'd think it would be hard to tweet to a general audience. However, NASA has found the key. 

So how do you make a Mars Lander roaming across the surface of a mysterious planet a billion miles away relatable? Have it take a selfie!

Last October, while trekking across the surface of Mars, Curiosity paused to take in the view and snap a selfie. The picture was immediately tweeted via @MarsCuriosty, an account made specifically for the robot, with the following tagline,

“No shame in my #selfie game. These pics help my team see the state of hardware over time.”

The space missions became fun. NASA abandoned complex lingo and esoteric language, and embraced commonality using pop culture jargon. It was playful, engaging and sincere. It was a concentrated effort to engage its audience, and its was appreciated. 

Place Your Content on the Perfect Channel

NASA currently operates more than 500 unique social media accounts including a Twitter that recently peaked at more than 15 million followers. However, like Dove and JetBlue, the team realizes it's not a numbers game. Think about it: Would you rather read about a majestic sunrise filmed from the surface of Mars or pull up an Instagram photo of the exact same phenomenon? Even better, think of how amazing it would be watching a Vine of it on your commute to work or while drinking your morning coffee?

NASA has mastered the art of creating social media accounts that interact perfectly with specific platforms and channels. Some of its most effective campaigns can be found on Google+, an often underutilized social media channel. However, Google+ offers NASA unrivaled connection and interaction with some of most active participants. Rick Mulready, consultant and blogger, explains in an article in Entrepreneur

NASA leans on Google+ as an effective channel to communicate and engage with its audience. They also use Google Hangouts to hold live question-and-answer sessions and informational meet-ups for their followers.”

There's no better way to engage an audience than to directly interact with them, and there's no better way to build rapport than to show our audience we care about their individual questions and concerns. Whether they're hosting Q&A sessions, streaming the launch of a new product, or providing customer support, NASA's control across a variety of platform is flawless. 

Relaying Reality

NASA sets itself apart by bringing its audience inside. Whether that's inside a lab in Florida or on the lens of a telescope floating 10 billion miles away from Earth, brand advocates are given real, behind-the-scenes glimpses into the inner workings of NASA. Through this personable and open outreach, NASA has created a legion of followers and brand advocates committed to “making space cool again.”

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation. 

What Social Media Does for Your Business: Dove Changes the Conversation

Social media can be an ugly place. The open, unrestricted and often anonymous nature that's led to the popularity of Twitter and Facebook has also made those environments prone to negativity and ugliness. Even with the top marketing professionals in the world pushing the power of positivity, true positive staying power is rare. This is exactly why Dove's “Real Beauty” campaign was a fantastic example of positive honesty done well. 

In 2004, Dove set out to begin a global conversation about the need for a new definition of beauty after they realized the societal norms had become “limiting and unattainable.” It was Dove's goal for each and every woman to not just realize their beauty but to embrace it with confidence. And, though the campaign remained rather nascent for most of its first decade, it exploded in 2013 through the use of a few imaginative social media strategies.

Quality Over Quantity

Much in line with JetBlue's “Fly It Forward” approach, Dove understood a single gesture that's both effective and genuine could harness more power than dozens of posts, tweets or ads with no direction or purpose. So, in 2013 Dove released its “Real Beauty Sketches” video. In the ad, an actual FBI sketch artist completes two different drawings of the same woman—one based on her descriptions, another based on a stranger's. Every time, the woman's picture was much more beautiful based on the stranger's description than from her own.

The three-minute spot contained a powerful message: Women are far too hard on themselves about complying to a certain “image” or societal body type—and Dove proved it. In less than a month, the video elicited more than 114 MILLION views in more than 25 languages. However, the reactions didn't stop with views, as men and women across the world took to Twitter and Facebook to not only share their reactions but also to offer encouragement and kind words to others. Fernando Machado, VP of Dove Skin, explained,

“The campaign evoked an emotional reaction in millions of people that inspired them to share the positive message with others. Beyond just the millions of views and publicity impressions, it is the outpouring of testimonials from around the world that is exciting us.”

Dove transformed a three-minute spot into a global phenomenon. How?

They truly understood their customers, and they gave them a cause to rally behind and a platform to do it on. In an instant, their brand became synonymous with honesty, transparency and beauty. They gave their customers the cause and allowed them to help spread the word!

Partnerships and Perceptions

For Dove, the “Real Beauty Sketches” video was only the beginning. Now that they had reached their audience on social media, it was time to empower them. They knew powerful partnerships would be a must. 

If an ultra-connectivity had given rise to these negative, unattainable standards of beauty, who better to partner with than Twitter? In early 2015, Dove partnered with Twitter to launch a collaborative campaign aimed at transforming the notions surrounding beauty and also the ways in which it was discussed using social media. The two began imploring women everywhere to abandon typical social media criticisms and adopt #SpeakBeautiful.

However, in order to build both campaign and brand awareness, Dove needed a splash, and it used the 2015 Oscars to provide just that. On a night where social media tends to be overly cynical and judgmental, Dove urged women across the world to tweet positively about body image and beauty throughout the show, while including #SpeakBeautiful! Within hours, the hashtag was trending across the United States.

And the campaign worked! According to research by Vayner Media and Dove

  • In 2015 alone, #SpeakBeautiful was tweeted more than 168,000 times and created more than 8 million social media impressions. 
  • The hashtag led to a massive reduction in negative Tweets about beauty and body image, dropping from more than 5.3 million in 2014 to 3.4 million in 2015–a 36.8 percent decrease
  • The #SpeakBeautiful campaign changed how people thought of the Dove brand, increasing brand affinity and brand sentiment among consumers more than 17 percent.

A Community Conversation

These calculated campaigns have created a community around Dove and its products. Because consumers identify so deeply with the company's mission to change the culture of our society, they simultaneously stand behind the brand while participating in the conversation. Dove's campaign did a great deal of work to show consumers that their brand had a mission for societal good behind their products, which is exactly what the consumers of today desire.

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation. 

No Tall Tales: How Your Brand Can Tell Effective Stories

I recently saw a piece of excellent spec work from some advertising students out of Germany titled “Dear Brother.” I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but the spot is moving, effective and tells an incredible story. In working to produce the spot, film students Dorian Lebherz and Daniel Titz, enlisted the support of Ashton Hinkison, a London-based agency, to get the casting right. As Lebherz says in his interview with brandchannel

Since this spot focuses much more on character than on plot, the casting process was very important to us…[The actors] portrayed that sensible authenticity we were looking for and when they met for the first time, it really seemed as if they'd known each other their whole life.

The power and authenticity of the spot got me thinking about how storytelling is so often used in varying degrees across marketing and branding. 

For most of us, some recurring character or story line has shaped at least a small potion of our experiences with advertising: the Geico Gecko, Progressive's anthropomorphized “Mayhem,” even Verizon's “Can you hear me now?” character. With the growth of social media and the increase in different media the Internet provides, this marketing technique has exploded to great effect. As Lebherz goes on to say in his interview, 

“We wanted to tell a story that captures the audience emotionally in a very short period of time… We believe a cinematic story that creates emotions is always stronger than a rich assembly of different settings without storytelling.”

Let's take a look at why and how these stories can create meaningful connections with consumers. 

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Future Forward: 3 Marketing Resolutions You’ll Need for 2016

If you're like me, you probably have a few resolutions for the coming year: things you'd like to do better, habits you'd like to develop (or get out of), accomplishments you'd like to achieve come next January. And, if you're like me, you understand the difficulty in actually sticking to those resolutions.

Just like 2015 and about every year before that, I expect we'll see plenty of changes in marketing, branding and advertising. Looking to consumers, they'll continue to want more brand transparency, more personalization and more mobile-friendly solutions. As these trends become less novel and more mainstream, it will be wise of us to alter our practices to remain current and competitive. 

If you're trying to determine what your marketing resolutions should be in 2016, we've got a few answers for you. 

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Brand Advocacy: Getting Your Customers to Converse

In the past, many marketers sought to create messages that spoke to a broad audience. Because interpersonal communication wasn't possible at the same speed and ease that it is today, many brands competed to have the largest megaphone, blasting out the most creative message to large swaths of customers. 

More recently, with the rise of new digital technologies and platforms, customer engagement has become an increasingly two-way street. Brands that have discovered meaningful ways to have a conversation with their customers, instead of just talking at them, are reaping the rewards of brand advocacy. Wendy Lea, CEO at Cintrifuse, highlights this in an article for Inc Magazine,

“[Companies are] using social technologies to form meaningful, ongoing relationships that involve frequent online interactions… [and] customers who engage with a brand online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company's products.”

So, how do we get our customers themselves to advocate for our brand? Let's take a look at good ways to start a conversation and build a relationship.

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