By Hank Kellerman
You’ve seen it in cartoons: A freshly baked pie is steaming hot and placed on the window sill to cool. The tantalizing aroma begins to drift around the house and finds a hungry character. With a quick flick of it’s cherry scented finger, the character slowly floats up a bit and begins to follow the wonderful smell.
Simply put, this is a great example of inbound marketing. In recent years there has been an explosion of inbound marketing across all types of businesses, but more specifically smaller businesses. Inbound marketing is the process of developing online content that is compelling, informative and fulfills your audience’s hunger for the product or services they want or need. Inbound marketing focuses on bringing customers to you versus having customers go out looking for them. This can be done in a multitude of ways, but some of the more common methods include blogs, social media discussions, forums and SEO optimization.
Before you jump head first into the rapid currents of inbound marketing, strap on some water wings and follow these guidelines for developing an inbound marketing strategy.
Develop Buyer Personas
How do you know and write for your audience? If you just write about topics without the proper research, you could fail to reach your desired audience. One tool that can help you create some excellent audience-specific content are your buyer personas. Buyer personas provide the inside scoop about what your customers are like. They can tell you numerous demographic and psychographic details such as their age, income, hobbies, day-to-day activities and more. Developing buyer personas enables you to accurately create specialized online content to address questions and topics focused to your customers.
SEO and Keywords
Most people know it is extremely difficult to show up on the front page of Google. Google uses digital spiders to crawl across the Internet and search for the most relevant content on that matches the needs of the search query. To get on the front page, your content must be optimized for search engines by using keywords.
There are a multitude of tools that can be used to find keywords, including the Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Long Tail Pro. These tools help you search for relevant keywords with regards to your topic and also can show you things such as how often a certain word is searched every month, its keyword competitiveness and other sites that use this keyword. If you find the right keyword and include it in your content’s titles and main body paragraphs with great surrounding content, your page will be much more likely to rise from the depths and find itself on the first page of Google search results.
Content is Key
This phrase has been uttered by marketing and public relations professionals millions of times. It also has never been so true. Creating compelling content that is relevant to what your consumers are searching for is only the beginning. For a successful inbound marketing strategy, your content has to be better than great. It has to be amazing.
Anyone can write a blog post about how to rebrand a business, but it takes a talented individual to write an in-depth, informative and star-studded post. You need to create content so great that other sites want to back link (the process of other sites linking to your post or site) to it. This also aids in the chances of your site being found organically by search engines. Search engines will view your site as having more credibility with more back links and, in turn, will lead to your site appearing higher up on search engine results pages.
How Do You Put This All Together?
Grab your mixing bowl and get ready to bake that aromatic fruit-filled pie that will have your audience flocking to your content. Do your research. Developing buyer personas, finding relevant keywords and writing amazing content all take time and effort. Spend the time to develop these three items and get ready to watch your consumers come to you. The world of marketing is changing rapidly, and the power of the Internet makes it is much easier for your consumers to find you on their own time than it is for you to reach out to them. So what are you waiting for? Start doing your research and that content-rich pie sitting in the window will be too irresistible to pass up.
by Andrea Mason
In case you somehow missed it, Marvel and Disney are releasing “Avengers: Age of Ultron” tomorrow. That’s right, you have less than a day to prepare for its awesomeness. Over the last decade, Marvel has built an incredibly strong brand. It continues to strengthen in the midst of the film’s release with different promotions, merchandise and capitalizing on a minor crisis. Let’s take a look at a few ways Marvel is achieving this:
Making the most of a minor crisis
Marvel planned to release its first trailer for the movie during an episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” last October. However, according to Variety, an internet troll beat Marvel to the punch, leaking the trailer before it was scheduled. This was not good news for Marvel because there was already a strategic plan to release the trailer. Still, Marvel was able to turn the crisis into an opportunity by posting a tweet that just said, “Dammit, Hydra.” This simplistic tweet–a nod to Captain America fans–received more than 30,000 retweets and 20,000 favorites. Marvel played off of this misfortune and blamed it on the fictional antagonist, which is quite genius.
Reaching out to women
Oddly enough, a mega-franchise like the Avengers hasn’t resonated with female audiences as well as the studios wish. Marvel knows how to change that. Cinema Blend explains that for “Age of Ultron,” Disney released one of its largest licensing programs ever around the film. If you see Iron Man, Thor or Captain America on packages of Sage Fruit, Conagra, Crunch Pak or Chobani, that is Marvel’s strategy to branch out to the female audience. All those products have a significantly high female customer bases (65-67%).
Gillette Razors from Stark Industries
Marvel teamed up with a number of well-known brands to promote “Age of Ultron.” The Mary Sue lists a few of these brands like Harley Davidson, Gillette, Doritos and Audi. Gillette unveiled a clever campaign with different men’s razors that resemble Avengers characters. With young men being the film’s biggest audience, this partnership makes a lot of sense. Even though these products aren’t real, the idea of using a superhero razor could bring out that inner 9-year-old and make shaving more enjoyable.
Marvel’s brand is well established, but the studio is successfully promoting the movie and continuing to create lasting impressions. Let’s just hope the movie lives up to crowd expectations.
by Evan Whittaker
In today’s professional world, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t recognize the logo of technology industry giant, Apple. In addition to how strong the company’s brand identity is, consumer perceptions of it are overwhelmingly positive, as evidenced by its current standing as number five on the Fortune 500 list for 2014. Those perceptions are so strong and positive, in fact, that people wait in line for days to receive the company’s newest products while knowing virtually nothing about them.
So, how has Apple managed to amass such a loyal audience and create a powerful brand identity? The answer can be found in the company’s consistent design principles and genius marketing techniques. Let’s take a look at a few of the elements that contribute to Apple’s success.
Improvement, not innovation
You might be surprised to learn that smartphones, portable music players and tablet computers all existed before Apple made its foray into these markets. Many find this surprising since Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad have dominated these respective markets since their releases. If Apple wasn’t the first to introduce these products, why have its versions become the most popular? The answer is the company’s focus on improving and refining existing products to entice consumers.
These refinements take various forms: reduced device size for increased portability, simplified operating systems and construction using premium materials. While these may seem like trivial changes, the results are anything but. Consumers would pick up a rival product, then compare it to Apple’s thinner, lighter and more attractive version. Given that, is it any surprise that many would lean toward the latter? There is certainly something to be said for Apple’s focus on improved aesthetics.
It’s not a device, it’s an experience
Apple creates products. What Apple sells, however, are experiences. It’s not a phone with a camera, it’s the ability to capture memories. It’s not a video-chat feature, it’s the ability to be there even when you’re not. It’s not an app store with more than one million apps, it’s infinite possibilities.
Much of Apple’s marketing focuses heavily on emotional appeals. Rather than highlighting what its devices are capable of, Apple highlights what you are capable of if you own those devices. By connecting its products with sentimental activities consumers can relate with, those consumers, in turn, connect Apple itself with those activities.
It’s quite clever, really. Can you really put a price on sharing moments with your loved ones? As it turns out, you can if you’re Apple – it’s $199 with a two-year contract through your wireless carrier.
Join the club (read: cult)
Humans are social creatures. We have an inherent desire to feel included. So when a brand becomes associated with luxury and exclusivity, consumers tend to want it merely in order to feel like they’re a part of the club. It works for high-end fashion and high-end cars; it works for Apple as a high-end technology company.
This is an interesting development that has occurred over time as Apple has employed the marketing tactics listed above. Think of it as a passive benefit the company has attained through active processes. This is not to say that Apple hasn’t acted strategically to drive desirability for using their products, though. Features like AirDrop, iMessage, FaceTime and AirPlay offer improved functionality for those who want to connect with other Apple device users. Now that Apple has managed to position itself as the industry standard in terms of high-end technology, every new product release has consumers clamoring to drink the Apple iKool-Aid.
Apple did an incredible job of establishing itself as a technology industry giant. Although its products may not be the first of their kind, premium materials and effective marketing techniques are sure to convince many that they are the best. With all of the hype surrounding the new Macbook and Apple Watch released this month, Apple’s streak of successful product launches and sustained brand loyalty are showing no signs of stopping.
by Kristina Keeling
Product placement in television has become more important to marketers because of the way people are watching television. Viewers are able to skip over commercials and enjoy shows without any interruptions. Product placement advertises to consumers subliminally, if done correctly. However, marketers are becoming more aggressive with product placement promotions to reach their audiences.
How does it work?
To put it simply, product placement is when a company pays to have its product showcased on a television show or in a movie, but a lot more goes into product placement than we think. The film, “Man of Steel,” had more than 100 product partners, earning close to $160 million before it hit theaters. Product placement is also in books, video games and even on YouTube. When done successfully, product placements can have lasting impact on viewers. Some agencies actually specialize in product placement promotion because of high demand.
HERO, an advertising agency in Los Angeles, specializes in product placements. Its clients have placed products on well-known shows, such as “Two and a Half Men,” “Glee,” and “The Good Wife,” just to name a few. Its website states that “the brands in a viewer’s favorite shows have a much higher likelihood of becoming that viewer’s favorite brand.”
House of Cards
The Netflix original series “House of Cards” is notorious for its not-so-subtle product placements. The series had such an overload of notable products that the Los Angeles Times said, “House of Cards? More like House of Product Placement,” mocking the hit TV series for its poor use of product placements. The very first sentence of the first episode referenced a Toyota Prius. Netflix spent a total of $100 million producing the first season, but offers no disclosures of any paid product placement, only crediting the product partners by saying all logos were “used with permission.”
Now that “House of Cards” is in its third season it is confirmed by Advertising Age that Anheuser-Busch is the exclusive beer brand for the series, along with Samsung being the tech-of-choice. Anheuser-Busch is not paying for this placement however, but rather supplying production with its product. Samsung also offered its customers Netflix subscriptions when buying select Samsung products. It is rumored that Coca-Cola, Dell and Nike are all working with “House of Cards” for similar deals.
The Emmy Award-winning series, “Modern Family,” now on its sixth season, is another show littered with product placement. Steven Levitan, executive producer and creator, said the show turns down about 90 percent of its product placement offers, and for a good reason. ABC wants to stay true to the characters on its show. The Toyota Prius, an environmentally-friendly car, appeared on the first season, driven by Mitchell Pritchett, who is an environmental attorney. It wouldn’t make sense for him to drive a gas-guzzling truck.
“Connection Lost,” a recent episode of “Modern Family” has sky rocketed to the top of the list of brilliantly used product placement. The episode was shared with viewers entirely through Claire Dunphy’s MacBook Pro. In the episode, Claire is trying to find her daughter after having a huge fight, but she is stuck at the airport and has to use Facebook, iCloud, the app, Find Your iPhone and FaceTime to track her down. The episode didn’t feel like one long commercial, cleverly blurring the lines between entertainment and advertising.
Is this all too much?
Products are everywhere. Your favorite character is going to have to make a phone call or use a computer for research, so why not have them use an Apple product to do so? What do you think? Have “Modern Family” and “House of Cards” gone too far with product placement? Let us know in the comments below.
by Jonathan Haile
Stock photos are obviously staged, somewhat awkward and often very expensive. There is rarely anything unique about them. The same thing can be said about promotional campaigns for upcoming movies. There is usually a poster, then a teaser, then a trailer, and finally TV and print ads. The funny thing is that when stock photos meet film promotions, you find a fresh way to get people interested in your movie. Kudos to marketers behind Twentieth Century Fox’s new film, Unfinished Business.
About the film
In the movie, actors Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco (playing an inexperienced business pro named Mike Pancake) head off to Europe, bidding to win the business of a huge client, but the trip goes awry. With Vaughn at the helm, you can expect this won’t be a film for families.
The images, available for free on Getty Images, are perfect spoofs of easily recognizable stock images. In the series of photos, you’ll see Vaughn, Franco and Wilkinson (clearly Photoshopped) looking positive and productive, and positioned to exude ideal business professionals in their ideal work environments. While a lot of companies aim to be more appealing to the public with senses of humor, it’s not hard to imagine seeing this on a website soon.
Why this is great
As I touched upon above, movie promotion involves a formulaic process. The process is the most effective way to get people into theater seats. That’s why studio films make money hand over fist, and independent films don’t. The process is boring, but marketers do a lot of things, big and small, to energize the campaigns. My favorite example is (bear in mind, for a television show) HBO’s placement of a giant dragon skull on an English beach; a promotion for its hit series, Game of Thrones.
Granted Fox’s use of stock photos is significantly smaller, in scale and effort, than a beach dragon, doing something new is always appreciated by marketers and film fans, alike. Will the movie be good? That remains the big question, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to commend whoever thought of this idea. I hope those looking for business-related photos on Getty Images are doing double-takes and laughing at what they find.
by Andrea Mason
If you’re like me, you’ve flipped through the television channels and a commercial for Calvin Klein comes on with Justin Bieber in his underwear, accompanied by Lara Stone. You may wonder, with an exasperated sigh, “What is Bieber doing now?” The answer is that Justin and Lara are promoting the campaign, My Calvins. Though is it actually helping the brand?
Recognizing the brand
What do celebrities and companies have in common? They are both looking to gain publicity and brand recognition.
As many consumers and fans are aware, Beyoncé is the face of Pepsi. This gives Pepsi the advantage of attracting Beyoncé’s fan base. This ongoing partnership that began in 2012 helped Beyoncé appear at the top of Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list in 2014. Beyoncé is a very well-known celebrity who creates a positive reputation for herself, Pepsi and the other brands she promotes. Putting two well-known brands together, such as Pepsi and Beyoncé, is bound to generate recognition.
Celebrities cost money
Celebrity endorsement is nothing new. A company’s main goal is to increase sales. Some brands even feel the need to take on more than one celeb, such as Nike using Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and a long list of other athletes. After surveying a group of consumers in 2014, Ace Metrix found that 55 percent believe celebrities are actually a wasted investment due to the damaging impact they can have when promoting a product or service.
Although Jordan retired in 2003, which is more than 10 years ago, the Air Jordan’s Brand is still a highly sought out shoe. When thinking about the investment Nike pays, Jordan still receives an estimated $90 million a year. This is obviously a lot of money, especially if you add Jordan’s $90 million to the other salaries of athlete endorsers who partner with Nike. It is evident that the money Nike funnels into these partnerships exceeds some companies’ worth. A brand has to go through an immense amount of research and planning before a company decides to hire a celeb endorser.
The importance of credibility
Consumers buy a particular product or service for many reasons. The Ace Metrix research study also found that 57 percent of consumers are more willing to buy a product or service they see advertised, if there are statistics with supportive evidence.
For example, during the 2015 Sunday Super Bowl, one commercial that stuck out was T-Mobile’s ad with Kim Kardashian as its celeb spokesperson. Kardashian tries to gives some information to back up her message by saying, “Each month millions of gigs of unused data are taken back by wireless companies…” Though, knowing her reputation for celeb drama, viewers likely wonder if she’s really that credible.
by Erin Robinson
Millennials. We have all heard the term, but do we understand its meaning and importance? Before exploring the challenges of marketing to millennials and some helpful ways to overcome them, let’s take a look at who millennials are and why marketing to this generation is so vital to the success of companies and brands.
Who millennials are and why they’re important
Millennials are individuals born from 1977-1995 and they represent 25 percent of the US population, according to Barkley’s report, “American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation.” There are millions of them, over 82 million to be specific. They spend money, with an annual purchasing power at $200 billion. Lastly, they are making gateway purchases, which Bulldog Reporter Editor Talia Sinkinson defines as, “choices that can influence brand allegiance for the rest of their lives.”
Overcoming millennial marketing challenges
While every company may have different challenges in its efforts to market to millennials, I am going to focus on a few of the most common from my own perspective as a millennial.
#1: Grabbing millennials’ attention
We are exposed to thousands of marketing messages every day, so creating something that is going to stand out in the clutter and remain in our minds is no easy feat.
Fix: Make us feel like a part of your brand, use visuals to engage us and inspire us to take action. Do what hasn’t been done. We like new and bold.
#2: We don’t like when you try to blatantly sell us things
Millennials can sniff out an advertisement from a mile away. We are so inundated with advertisements that we begin to resent them all together and we find ways to block them out any chance we get.
Fix: Sell your story rather than your product. Find a way to relate your brand to us personally and tap into our emotions a bit. We love a good story and want to support things that make us feel good about ourselves. When companies or brands find ways to engage us without yelling “BUY ME!!!” we appreciate it.
#3: Keeping up with us isn’t easy
Our world is constantly changing, especially when it comes to technology. We are also always connected, so we are aware of what is going on around us.
Fix: The companies and brands that keep up with changes and trends in technology and adapt their marketing messages to what is going on around us will be the most successful. Pay attention to what we are talking about and find a clever way into the conversation.
Moral of the story
Marketing to millennials should be at the top of companies’ priority list and will benefit them tremendously if done the right way.
by Jordan Rafferty
Over the past few months we have seen it all over our Facebook newsfeeds, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Some of us are annoyed that it has been the only thing we see. Others don’t mind it because they know it is for a good cause. BUT IS IT FOR A GOOD CAUSE? Protestors say people are wasting clean water to avoid having to donate. The numbers speak differently. The Ice Bucket challenge has generated more than $100 million in donations, not to mention how much awareness it has raised. Like many others, I didn’t even know what ALS was until the Ice Bucket Challenge appeared.
Just what does the Ice Bucket Challenge have to do with PR?
If I were the PR person for the ALS Association, I would be rejoicing! Their goal is obviously to raise the awareness of ALS and generate donations and the challenge did EXACTLY that. The only problem is that the PR person did nothing. Their goal was met, but not by them. A group of friends started the challenge, meant to be just between them, and it went viral. Now, according to a Huffington Post article, nonprofit organizations are rethinking how they are spending their money, meaning they want to cut back their public relations budgets.
Are we going to lose job opportunities because of this?
Organizations are now thinking that maybe they don’t need to spend as much money on public relations efforts. They believe they just need to come up with a creative way to generate buzz about their cause. The problem with this is that, yes, it will work sometimes, but this “accept a challenge or donate to charity” is just a fad. Although I agree that it is an awesome thing to raise awareness, I just don’t agree this tactic is right for every organization. There have been attempts to imitate the Ice Bucket Challenge. An example of this is the Rubble Bucket Challenge. This is to raise awareness of the aftermath of the airstrike against Gaza. Instead of using freezing water they are taking buckets of rubble from the streets and dumping it over themselves. While it generated some buzz, it didn’t generate enough. This is just one example of a failed Ice Bucket Challenge imitation.
Because of this I don’t believe that nonprofits are going to be cutting back their public relations dollars like the article said. Instead, I believe they are going to want to spend more. The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS was a coincidence. Those people who started it did not know it was going to be so popular. That isn’t going to happen for everyone. Organizations are going to want to hire creative minds to think of similar ways to generate awareness and donations. Who knows better than public relations folk?
by Amanda Plachte
A large part of what we do in the public relations industry is all about opportunity; keeping up with current news and trends, finding ways to get an organization in the press and creating positive publicity.
So what about newsjacking?
After the unforgettable and surprisingly successful engagement following Oreo’s Superbowl tweet, everyone and their brother have been trying to recreate the magic of “dunking in the dark.” From the infamous Suarez bite to Tim Howard saving everything to Brazil’s history-making defeat at the “feet” of Germany, companies were giving their best shot to take advantage and score big on Twitter during the World Cup. That’s what we call newsjacking.
Real purpose or overhyped tactic?
Encore Alert, a company that sorts through brand tweets and identifies marketing opportunities, wanted to get to the bottom of it. The goal was to find out what works, what does not and why. An experiment was conducted with 18 companies of varying sizes with various numbers of followers. The research firm monitored the brands’ tweets during a timeframe prior to the World Cup and again during the World Cup.
Writer Matt van Hoven explains the results in his article. Eight of the 18 companies had positive “lift,” while 10 had negative. The results found some trends that could explain the engagement that came from each brand’s efforts. Those with positive lift, like Castrol, had well-timed, brand relevant tweets that truly engaged the fans. For a brand that normally has fewer favorites and retweets than can be counted on two hands, the motor oil company saw an impressive 21,960 percent lift during the World Cup.
— Castrol (@Castrol) July 4, 2014
Those with negative lift had poorly planned, self-serving tweets that were not overly interesting to true #WorldCup fans. McDonald’s fell in this category.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) June 21, 2014
Digiday’s Brian Morrissey shares some other companies that went too far with the newsjacking during the World Cup in his article. Also, in James Gadea’s article, we’re provided with three tips for harnessing global Twitter trends:
- Be informed.
You can’t fake knowledge.
- Be timely, clever and brand-relevant.
Just look at Castrol.
- Be on guard.
Find opportunities within the audience; listen, connect, and score big time!
Images via: Digiday and Encore Alert
by Amanda Plachte
Everyone has a story to tell and if told just right, it could appeal to anyone. This applies to all stories: those shared among friends and those shared with the world.
Adweek author Tim Nudd highlights the storytelling in his article about Skype’s successful campaign “Stay Together.” It initially included three “family portrait” vignettes that featured emotional stories of people connected through Skype. It is the fourth and final spot in the campaign that sent Pereira & O’Dell straight to the 41st Annual One Show Awards to receive a gold pencil award.
In Nudd’s opinion the ads have a few flaws: they are lengthy, manipulative and highlight a service that Skype cannot provide. However, he says it is irresistible. This is all because of the story, which is flat-out incredible and clearly real and heartfelt.
The story is about two teenage girls: Sarah from Nappanee, Indiana, and Paige from Auckland, New Zealand. Both born with only one arm, the two girls have a unique bond and friendship. Never having met in person, their mothers found each other online while in search of support for their daughters; eight years ago Sarah and Paige began to Skype. The friends reached out to Skype when the video chat company asked for customer stories about long-distance connections.
Adweek author David Griner gives a behind-the-scenes look in his article about Pereira & O’Dell working with Paige and Sarah.
Agency co-founder and CCO PJ Pereira says, “One day, we’re just running through submissions and I kinda walk through the agency and I see a copywriter wiping away tears and I say, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘You gotta see this.’ Then I was in tears.”
The agency instantly fell in love with the girls’ story and began to gather further information about them.
“It’s not just a regular friendship,” Pereira said. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I knew that was a story we needed to tell.”
The heart of the ad, the story, and the entire campaign is when the two friends were given the opportunity to finally meet in real life. All thanks to Pereira & O’Dell, Sarah and Paige get a dream come true and Skype looks fantastic for having facilitated the first eight years of their relationship. According to Pereira, “That single moment told that entire story in four seconds.”
Grab a tissue and see for yourself.
Why do stories work?
Elena from PR in your Pajamas explains in her blog how storytelling is scientifically proven to be an effective communication tool.
Hearing a story activates more areas of the brain than consuming purely factual, textual content. Areas of the brain light up, as if we were experiencing the story ourselves. The listener puts themselves in the protagonist’s shoes and, as far as the brain is concerned, experiences what’s happening in the story. As a result, emotions are aroused and thoughts are planted in the mind; the listener turns the story into their own idea and experience, then acts accordingly.
Storytelling works in PR and marketing because it allows us to take the audience on a journey — one that stimulates the feelings, ideas and attitudes consistent with our marketing goals.
Image via Adweek