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Archive for April, 2010

Trend Tuesday: Relationships rule.

With the growth of web-based social networks and a desire for transparency, trust and peace-of-mind messages, it shouldn’t be surprising that relationships rule these days in marketing. Like in life, relationships are everything. When you build relationships with consumers, you also build a band of brand loyalists that can become your most powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing, brand advocacy and brand guardianship. Building these lasting relationships with consumers is far more powerful than making a quick sale and turning your head to the next individual. Marketers and communicators are understanding the importance more and more and are starting to leverage the social web to interact with people around the world and build relationships that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.

It wasn’t long ago that business relationships were generated from networking events and face-to-face interaction such as trade shows. However, in today’s technology driven world, relationships are commonly built by using the tools of the social web. The Web has created a whole new way of building relationships, and we (as marketers) are no longer forced to focus on traditional (or monologue) marketing, where the marketer only talks to the customer. Which usually results in the customer to react and say something along the lines of “I am or am not interested.”

This new way of connecting to customers is exactly the same way we do with our personal relationships nowadays. That is, we utilize different communication channels such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Come on, is it not easier to drop Aunt Betty a wall post rather than picking up the phone to be ear strained for an hour. This same technique applies to business, where by using these connection points you get to build a conversation. Would you want to talk about the simple and strategic messages that are created? You have short quick messages in real time that are focused on a single idea, not run-on like the phone call with Aunt B. Get to know your customers likes, interests and address them personally and strategically (via your message or medium of choice) about any issues they may be experiencing. Utilize this information to strengthen the relationship which in turn will help create better (and quite possible more) influencers among their social networks and potentially even create/design products and services they might want.

Step outside your comfort zone and get personal with your existing and potential customer base. It will not only change the way your business is viewed, but will bring you much success from the ambassadors you create.

It’s Alive! A new image for Doner

How often do we see advertising companies “rebrand” themselves to be more hip, edgy and ahead of the trend curve? If you say a lot, you’re wrong, because they usually just go and buy a start-up that already holds those traits or create their own subsidiary with a name that sounds like an indie rock band, something like “Feet Full of Soda Pop”. But in the case of Doner it was like a digital team of Extreme Home Makeover came in, tore it down, and rebuilt it to be 500x better than the original (although I highly doubt it was originally littered with black mold, dilapidated windows and some ill-fated resident).

With a new site that displays it’s creative work like a red-light district worker in her window. You know from the beginning the goods you will get by going with this hook..err company. Make no mistake this is an advertising company so they should know how to at least advertise themselves, and if this is any indication (including the work provided) new business and retention shouldn’t be hard to come by. What is even more remarkable is that this is all being done in the state with one of (if not the) worst economic conditions (the lovely Murder Mitten, as known by the citizens of Flint and Detroit).

The site accomplishes two things a advertising companies needs, display it’s creative work for clients and look for new employees (still waiting on my interview). Four simple navigation links help guide the user to the companies work, top brass, info about the company and finally industry news (mostly about them, but they’re allowed to give themselves an “atta boy”). Filled with Flash-based guidance you can create a symphony of noises when hovering your mouse over topics such as; socializing your brand, strategic planning and creative approach.

You know you’re in good hands when the company has two CEO’s. One the strategic minded prophet and the other an award winning creative, two always important pieces for a successful campaign.

Check it out for yourself at Doner.com

SunChips goes green on Earth Day

This year SunChips will celebrate Earth Day with the launch of the world’s first 100% compostable chip bag.

The new bags are made with plant-based polylactic acid (PLA), a renewable material that also allows the bags to fully compost in approximately 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin. Today, the bags are in full distribution in North America, a great way to mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

As a part of the launch, SunChips is launching a national composting education initiative via strategic alliances with the U.S. Composting Council and Earth 911 to promote composting through educational materials, consumer outreach and other awareness-building activities. The goal is to reach more than one million American households directly through this effort.

While the green revolution has exploded over the past few years, and garnered much attention, the implementation of businesses or individuals adopting green practices has been a bit slow. To get inspired, below are some links to Earth Day initiatives that features ideas you can incorporate today in your business and in your life. The practices ultimately help to protect the environment we live in, but also can help save organizations some green. Even though Earth Day only comes once a year, we – as business owners and humans – should focus on supporting the environment every day.

Today, make an effort to take a step in the green direction like SunChips. I’m going to work on driving less and invest in a new bike. This might be hard to accomplish in a tie, but I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to make it work. What steps are you or your organization taking to stay green?

10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green
A great actionable list of simple things you can do today to help reduce your environmental impact, save money, and live a happier, healthier life.

Create The Good – Go Green
Create The Good is a movement started by the AARP to connect people with positive opportunities, in whatever way works for them. Their “Go Green” campaign provides a list of ideas for you to support the environment at work, in your community, and with friends, including ideas for those of us who are over-scheduled and pressed for time.

Earth Day on Business.gov
This is a collection of green resources and guides just for businesses. The site includes a Small Business Guide to Energy Efficiency with tips, advice, and resources to help businesses save on energy costs: from energy saving tips to information on grants, loans and incentives available for making energy efficient upgrades to your facilities.

Earth911.com Business Solutions

Earth911 is an environmental services company that provides tools to engage consumers, track recycling and proper disposal programs and demonstrate compliance. The web site provides information about reducing your impact, reusing what you’ve got and recycling your trash.

Pick 5 for the Environment

Pick 5 is an international environmental effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of State. From the website, you choose 5 actions you will take to support the environment, then sign up and make a pledge. You can print out your list so everyone in your household or office can follow along.

It’s not the size of your BLOG. It’s how you use it.

When you hear the expression “all the cool kids are doing it”, do you think of snap bracelets and Vanilla Ice? Maybe even Thundercats and Punky Brewster? (If so, you’ve just been dated, as well as me). But for companies all the “cool” ones have blogs. If this was a party, it would be Apple, GoDaddy, Southwest, and many more, we can even make an exception for Ford Motor Company (think Wooderson from Dazed and Confused). It’s one of the simplest tools each company can use is the blog. This handy little piece of communication allows companies the opportunity to reach customers, industry leaders, employees and the almighty media. It allows sharing your vision of the company, looking for potential feedback, best practices and even can help battle negative perception.

Before you rush into setting up your company blog (slow down there Ricky Bobby), it wouldn’t hurt to do a little research on your competitors blogs (if they are smart enough to have one), maybe pick up a book about blogging from Amazon (or Borders-they need the sales) and even looking at Technorati to see who has the best blogs out there to give yourself something to aim for (besides Sarah Palin). Your blog is only as good as writer(s) though (I grant myself an exception), so you will want to make sure the person (or people) contributing are knowledgeable about your company and the industry. Your CEO is probably the best primary voice of your blog. Take into consideration Southwest Airlines, their CEO Gary Kelly, posted a question on the Southwest Blog about possibly changing the seating arrangements which “die-hard” Southwest customers came to love. This possible change erupted into hundreds of comments ultimately resulting in the company keeping their current seating policy. This was smart, take the idea to the people, the ones who in the end are putting dinner on your employees table and paying for that Ice Rink of a engagement ring (did you go to Jared?) you just bought your future ex-wife.

It’s a medium that allows you to be yourself and candid, share your thoughts and expect feedback. You may not like all of it but if you can’t learn from your customers you’re doomed to fail (I’m looking at you NBC-your time is a ticking). Speaking of NBC, blogs and their viral appeal helped bring back Chuck (I was one of the many –according to the ratings- who never seen it). It was a grassroots movement started by those who embraced the show and fought for it. We live in a time where this is going to happen every day and products that were once gone are back because of the revolution of the devoted followers that took to their blogs and bitched long enough and loud enough for the change to work. So…what do you want to blog about in hopes of bringing back? (And do not say George W. Bush or New Coke).

Go Bananas!

Guerilla Marketing, a term coined and defined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerilla Marketing, is more about matching wits than matching budgets. “Guerilla marketing can be as different from traditional marketing as guerilla warfare is from traditional warfare. Rather than marching their marketing dollars forth like infantry divisions, guerilla marketers snipe away with their marketing resources for maximum impact (Levinson, 1984).”

Since the 1984 release of his book, Levinson has created an innovative new trend in the marketing industry and as an avid fan of guerilla marketing tactics, I would like to share with you one of my favorite examples. The following is brought to you by T-Mobile in an effort to promote their slogan: “life is for sharing.”

Now, it may be because I am a devoted Beatles fan or the fact that London is one of my favorite cities; but how remarkable was that? It gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. As someone in the marketing and advertising industry, this is what inspires me. These are the types of campaigns that bring life and creativity to our industry. This is what people remember. Yes, you may come up with a great television or print ad that millions of people will see; but it is the crazy, out-there guerilla marketing that people remember. Take for example the Truth Campaign for anti-tobacco education. It has talk value and has created a huge buzz since the launch of the campaign in 1998. What created that buzz you ask? It was their outlandish, bold and risk-taking marketing tactics. Everyone wanted to see what it was all about, which ultimately created success for their campaign.

I see so much value behind guerilla marketing. It can be simple and cheap yet creates the buzz every company wants and needs; so don’t be afraid to take risks and be creative!

A sandwich with a special ingredient: buzz.

It’s not surprising to see yet another specialty sandwich or bucket of chicken out for a limited time only from KFC. However, this time its different. This one comes with no bun and a little buzz! On April 12, KFC is introducing its first-ever bunless chicken sandwich: the KFC Double Down. This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel’s Sauce.

During the product’s test market phase last year, high consumer interest and demand drove people to travel for miles to sample the Colonel’s tasty new creation. From online chatter speculation to late night talk show mentions, the Double Down generated more buzz than any test market item in KFC history.

So, what about the buns!

In addition to the already heightened buzz around the product, KFC is mixing in a little PR for what seems a feeble attempt to avoid the negative focus on the sandwich’s nutrition. To celebrate the launch of the new product, the brand will donate both buns and funds to food banks across the country, starting with the Dare to Care Food Bank in KFC’s hometown of Louisville, Ky.

It is truly astonishing the amount of attention centered around this new sandwich. I’ve come across prank videos to KFC’s customer service to cold hearted protest for the sandwich’s release. All in all, the new innovation has garnered new conversation and growth opportunities for the organization that could pay huge dividends in the future.

Businesses, while you may not be able to create buzz, you can influence it. Search for that special ingredient, observe your consumers reactions, respond and watch the magic happen!

Trend Tuesday: Marketing’s turn towards transparency

No longer are organizations making such a valiant attempt at crafting the perfect sugar coated marketing message to their audience. Consumers have lived through a variety of negative events throughout the past decade, and they’re no longer willing to accept anything businesses tell them. This means that organizations have looked to evolve their communications practices and enter into the glass walled world of transparency.

Photo by: Nick Maslen

Being transparent in marketing means being honest, sincere and open without giving away your game to your competition. It means potentially revealing information which would affect the health of your consumers without having to suffer the Michael Moore effect (eg Supersize Me). It means paying attention to the values which your customers hold dear, and correcting your business practices if they run counter to those values. It also means being able to say sorry the moment something explodes in your organization’s face, and being truly remorseful about it through sincere corrective measures.

Brands that make a concentrated effort to be honest and open in their marketing communications will actually work to their advantage. Ultimately, generating positive consumer responses, which can lead to brand loyalty and brand advocacy. Additionally, the people who use an organization’s products or services may be curious about what goes on behind the scenes. Tell them how much you invest in training your staff, or how intensive your product is tested for safety before going to market. Share with them your CEO’s dream and vision, as well as the pains that you take to ensure that every ingredient for your yogurt is organically sourced.

Like in any relationship, building trust is the most important thing, and once you’ve earned it, you need to make sure you keep it. Transparency and trust are no one night stands, they’re an ongoing effort that should be built into the the practices of your organization.

The Truth about Tweeting

What are your thoughts on Twitter? It seems as though all of the cool kids are doing it these days. Don’t get me wrong, it is great for telling all of my followers what I ate for lunch, what I am currently jamming to on my iPod and my plans for the weekend (because I am sure they are all extremely interested), but is it really beneficial for companies trying to expand their business? The fact that Justin Bieber has been one of the top trending topics for more than two weeks can make me think one of two ways: a.) he has a great publicist and Twitter is a marketing gem or b.) the majority of Twitter users are females age 11 to 15. I was able to answer my own question with some brief research on the average Tweeter’s demographic from Quantcast.

As you can see, the average Twitter user is not a pre-teen Bieb-aholic, so I’m going to go with option A and say that Twitter must be pretty darn useful (and/or Justin Bieber is a much bigger deal than I thought). Twitter seems to be a great social marketing tool for businesses, but the real question is how can you utilize Twitter to make it beneficial for your company? I found the following nine tips in an article by Jason Snell at macworld.com and I believe they highlight the best strategies for company tweeting.

  1. Don’t automate it
  2. Be conversational
  3. Follow people who are relevant
  4. Make sure your people are on Twitter, and refer to them
  5. Answer your mentions
  6. Search for your name
  7. Consider creating sub-accounts for sections of your business or customer base
  8. Use Twitter to ask your customers questions…and get good answers
  9. Be a good Twitter Citizen—help your followers and they will help you

Good luck and happy tweeting!