By Molly Olten
How does one of the biggest game releases in the history of mobile downloads become a passing fad in a matter of two months?
Pokémon Go, a free, augmented reality game, based on the ‘90s kid show, Pokémon, hit app stores in America on July 6, 2016. The release went far from unnoticed. It seemed that everyone had heard of it, from your five-year-old nephew to your 78-year-old great aunt. Even media outlets swarmed the game. To many, Pokémon Go was seen as a social and gaming revolution. Even social media giants started to sweat when the game’s active user base topped 45 million in the early stages of release.
But now that number is barely reaching 30 million.
Engagement and time spent on the game is also declining.
As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end, but most people hoped the end wouldn’t come so soon. So why were users hanging up their trainer hats? Aside from media negativity and game play issues, the communication, or lack thereof from Niantic, the development company behind Pokémon Go, was the most detrimental mistake to Pokémon Go.
Niantic provides a perfect example of the value of proper communication. Pokémon Go may not have suffered such losses if Niantic had simply communicated decisions made and explained the situation. Niantic’s poor communication with its audiences frustrated players and, in some cases, even prevented them from liking the game.
People simply wanted to understand and enjoy the game, and it seemed as if Niantic did nothing to encourage that.
One of the major game issues Niantic faced with Pokémon Go was server overload. So many people were trying to log into the game in the first weeks of its release, it was almost impossible to play. Instead of letting players know that they were aware of the issue, Niantic continued to expand the availability of the game in other geographic areas, adding further strain to the servers.
Another strike against the company came when it changed an integral part of the game without warning or explanation. Not a single tweet, post or announcement was made. The only information users got in the update was “Minor Text Fixes.” When making major changes, silence is the wrong answer.
Keeping quiet on an issue and not opening up a dialogue about it is the easiest way to lose your audience’s trust.
Focus on your audience
Speaking of audience, it is also necessary to give them the attention they deserve. At one point during the start of all Niantic’s communication issues, instead of posting information about how they are fixing problems or working on an update, Niantic tweeted out at Soulja Boy.
This was a major oversight. After virtually zero communication and an abundance of issues, Niantic chose to break the silence with a celebrity shout out instead of taking a few minutes to acknowledge players’ concerns.
Make it easy for audiences to like your brand
An enormous amount of people wanted to like Pokémon Go (and many still do). However, the magic it held for a few brief moments this summer is lost, mostly due to the fact that Niantic was unresponsive.
Niantic’s blog was updated just once during the launch in July, with the next “update” coming Aug. 4. Both posts fail to acknowledge the issues or updates made to the game. Organizations should make it easy for an engaged, enthusiastic community like Trainers to feel listened to and respected.
Invest in communicators
The bottom line? Invest in people that will help your brand grow. The former Niantic Global Community Manager, Brian Rose, perfectly summed up Niantic’s future problem: “If you’re there with the community, they’ll be there for you when things go south. Bugs can be fixed, but regaining people’s faith is hard.” Moving forward, Niantic needs to make some major changes in its communication habits.
Maybe part of this rant is coming from a bitter Team Instinct player, but the massive losses and wilting potential of Niantic’s Pokémon Go is something gaming companies should take a note from.
By Brittany Green
When Twitter was first launched, people were uncertain how successful it would be. Now in 2016, there are millions of users and more than 500 million tweets sent out every day. People are using Twitter to find news, share information and connect with people and businesses around the world. It has become a very powerful tool, not only for social purposes, also to help businesses market their brands.Some of the most successful companies use Twitter because it allows them to reach a large audience, interact with them quickly and keep them updated with content information.
Chipotle is a great example of a company that efficiently uses Twitter to interact with it’s audiences. According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News Study, 90 percent of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @mentions. Chipotle currently has 743,000 followers that it can interact and share content with. That is certainly amazing, but also something that, in principle, any business can do. If you’re interested in using Twitter to build your brand, here are some tips to help you get started.
Use the search feature
One of Twitter’s most powerful tools is the search feature. It can operate as a “global human search engine” of sorts and allows people to find others on Twitter with relevant information to share. Researchers also can look to see which topics are trending to stay informed and gauge audience interests. Hashtags (#) can help people immensely when searching. Just put a “#” in front of a topic and a lists of relevant tweets will appear. This can save you a lot of trouble and makes it very easy to search.
Know your audience
It is VERY important to know your audience. This will help you communicate clearly and make information relevant to them. If the content is not interesting, they will quickly move on to the next thing that interests them. The search feature can be very useful for learning about your
target audiences. It can tell you what is trending and their opinions on what’s going on. Another option is to look at various profiles and start collecting information. What are their interests and opinions? When are they active? Who do they follow? Which demographic groups do they belong to? These details can help give you an edge when creating strategic messaging for your audiences.
Customize the profile page
This plays a BIG role in visitors’ decisions to either read your content or move on. If your page is boring and doesn’t attract visitors, they probably aren’t going to follow you. The profile page should grab the visitors’ attention and convey who you are and what you’re about. While customizing the profile page, perhaps the most important decision is choosing a good avatar, as it will appear next to every tweet that is sent out. Make it something recognizable and eye-catching. Brand logos often fit well here since they are usually designed with these ideas in mind. An attractive banner image is a nice touch as well, and don’t forget to include links to your other social media accounts and/or website in order to create deeper engagement.
Tweet interesting content
This one may seem obvious, but bland content is still a common mistake that plagues the social media of many businesses. The Twitter feed is built around scrolling endlessly through a series of short posts. To escape the monotony, many people just scroll until something grabs their attention. Content should be fun, interesting and useful. Common themes or ideas in your content can help to establish your brand identity and keep readers coming back. Interesting, personal content is what separates your brand from everyone else, so use it to your advantage.
Engage with other accounts
Engaging with other accounts, particularly those within your industry/field, can be highly beneficial. Building relationships can help to build your reputation, grow your brand, increase awareness, provide sources of interesting content and keep you informed. This can also keep you informed about what your competitors might be doing and the state of the market.
More and more businesses are using Twitter as a professional communication platform, and if you follow these tips, yours can be one of them. On that note, remember to follow Innovative PR on Twitter and Facebook.
By Jamie Jackson
I love Instagram. I really do. It’s fun to post pictures and to get a sneak peek into strangers’ lives (why is this not a weird statement anymore?).
Instagram is a popular social media outlet for personal use, however, it is also becoming popular among companies for branding and marketing. Here are a few tips to get the most out of Instagram for your business (or even your personal account).
Use brightly colored and well-lit photos
An attractive photo stream doesn’t usually involve unedited, dull pictures. Starbucks’ Instagram feed is full of colorful and attractive photos.
However – not all black and white pictures should be thrown in the trash. Leon Bridges’ photo stream has some great examples of how black and white pictures can still be great for Instagram.
Leon is an R&B artist embracing soul music. These black and white images line up perfectly with Leon’s personal brand and the subjects he sings about.
Instagram is effective when people follow you, and you gain followers by giving people what they want. On Instagram, that means aesthetically pleasing photos.
No one wants to see another ad on Instagram. Sure, if you’re a clothing store, post pictures of new arrivals. If you have a great new product, it’s okay to feature it in a post. But Instagram shouldn’t be used as an online store. Try something like this:
Tell stories. Show consumers the faces behind the name.
You are more than an ad agency or a boring, unoriginal company. Show the fun! Unless you really want people to think you’re a boring, unoriginal company – in which case, I’m afraid I can’t help you there.insta
If you use Instagram, actually USE it
Post consistently. Don’t post once or twice, or for a season. If you put an intern in charge of the account, make sure someone else takes over after they leave.
Consistency is key in posting and branding. If you use hashtags on Twitter or Facebook, use the same for Instagram. Use your same logo as the profile picture, link to the same website, use the same voice and use your brand. Instagram provides a unique opportunity to tell your story solely through pictures. As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Steward them well.
By this, I don’t mean try to use modern slang just because it’s used by young people. You risk misusing or misunderstanding words and phrases, potentially losing credibility and followers. Instead, follow current trends and try to stay fun. This post from McDonald’s is a great example.
Celebrate things like hump day. Be relevant in your posts on holidays or during big world issues. This might seem like it won’t affect sales, but an online presence that seems real and personal is so valuable to a company – especially with younger people.
While Insta is more fun and exciting than a lot of other tools, it’s still very measurable and very valuable. Do it better by evaluating your efforts with Instagram analytics tools. Instagram is great for reaching younger audiences and telling your story with photos. Evaluating any social media effort is a chance to show the C-suite their money is being used well. It also gives coordinators a chance to change their efforts as needed depending on what works and what doesn’t. Evaluation helps to refine and target your audiences and determines if you are indeed reaching them. All efforts are wasteful if not evaluated frequently.
Social media is a wonderful branding tool when used properly. Millennials grew up with this stuff, so employ some of them to help you navigate new waters. It’s worth it. Speaking of social, you’ll want to follow IPR on Twitter and Facebook for the latest.
By Jenna Chwascinski
New Year, new me, right? That seems to be a favorite phrase this time of year. For some individuals this could mean the start of a new lifestyle, or maybe letting go of an old burden. But what about businesses? Maybe it’s time for a little update. New Year, new brand?
Rebranding can be a scary task, but it can be the jumpstart a brand needs to push them to continued success. Here are a few things to keep in mind while taking on the beast that is a rebrand.
Why are you rebranding?
As with any significant changes, research needs to be done before anything happens. While rebranding can lead to huge success for companies, it’s not always necessary. It goes back to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If your sales or brand awareness is lacking, it might be a good idea to check out a rebrand. Don’t do this, however, every time you see a dip. It will confuse your consumers and could leave a bad impression.
Consider involving your consumers and employees. Let your employees know what this will mean for the company and consider their input. After all, your employees are your best (or worst) advocates. It could also be beneficial to see what your consumers think. This could be as simple as polling them about new logo options. You may want to offer a contest to create a new tagline or slogan. Getting your customers involved will make them feel more like a part of the brand, and probably more likely to stick with you after the rebrand.
Can we save anything?
Absolutely. Rebranding doesn’t mean you start fresh, it simply means you’re giving your
company a facelift. Some of the most successful rebrands contain consistencies from before the rebrand. Look at UPS. They still offer the same reliable services as they always have, and still sport the same signature brown color people have come to know. They’ve just changed their slogan a few times to appeal to a broader range of professions.
Keep it simple.
Don’t try to do anything too outside the box. I’m not saying don’t be creative, just keep it tasteful. If you’re sticking with your old logo, try to enhance your brand image by using the same colors and fonts. If you’re creating a new logo, keep it clean and readable. Make it something that will stand out against other similar brands so that it will be remembered.
Coca Cola is a good example of this concept. The popular company has succeeded while continuing to use the same colors and fonts in its official graphics over the years.
Planning is everything.
Details, details, details. Since you’re switching things up, it’s only natural to expect some initial confusion. This will often come from your consumers not knowing what will change or what to expect from the new brand. Make sure employees are prepared to address questions they may encounter.
In the end, it’s important to keep the best interest of your company in mind. Not everyone will be a fan of the rebrand and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged by the negative comments, and be prepared to address problems as they pop up.
Who did it right?
Old Spice. This company kept the same logo, but changed its image to appeal to younger
consumers. Old Spice was typically thought of as deodorant that your grandparents would wear, but now they describe their product as “scent vacations.” Plus who doesn’t want to be like Isaiah Mustafa on a horse? “Smellcome to manhood.”
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 Jonathan Haile
James Bond is known to drive Aston Martins. In doing so, Astons became the “heroes’ cars.” Jaguar, another English luxury automaker, doesn’t want you driving its rival, Aston’s. That means if you’re not the hero, you must be the villain. In recent years, the company has done an excellent job playing with that brand strategy, featuring popular actors we recognize as movie villains in a series of ads. The company is not really out to incite global mayhem, but inspire you with a bit of fun.
I sat in Jaguar’s gorgeous F-Type Coupe at this year’s Kansas City Auto Show, and I’ll be the first to admit that the car caused me to smirk, villainously. I wished there was a key fob close by so that I could drive it out of Bartle Hall. I love Jaguar’s ads, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized the brilliance of the automaker’s strategy.
A brand is what the customers and audiences think
I started a free online marketing course, and in a short period of time, I have heard a lot about branding, strategy and messages. The instructor, in a series of videos, explained something I wish I had realized,”The real definition of a brand is whatever the customer thinks it is.” She hit it on the head with pinpoint accuracy. We all have perceptions of a brand. Our experiences with the brand shape those perceptions. It was shown, over time, that Jaguars were the cars of the mischievous, so sitting in the F-Type, I wanted to cause some trouble. That can make things tough for PR and marketing folks.
The Challenge, The Solution
More than 6.6 million people like Jaguar on Facebook. That’s a lot of differing opinions and expectations. Therein lies an exciting challenge. How do you help the customer understand the brand as you see it? The answer isn’t villainous mind games, but creating a solid brand foundation.
Whether you are branding a start-up or re-branding a well-established company in need of updates, there are questions marketing and PR pros must consider. Here are a few:
- Why does the company exist and who is it meant to serve?
- How is the brand positioned in the marketplace?
- What are the competitors doing? What will you do differently?
More specifically for PR folks, how will we communicate with the people who matter most? What tactics should we implement? When the brand is established, the communication needs to be consistent and built to help the company achieve its objectives.
Jaguar, founded more than 90 years ago, isn’t really set on blowing up major cities and manipulating world leaders. Its corporate values are integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility. That said, it’s a British luxury car company with competitors. When you consider the association between Aston Martin and James Bond, you forgive Jaguar for playing the anti-hero.
by Kristina Keeling
My fellow Innovative PR specialist, Nikki McClaran, shared a rather humorous email with me from a small company called Carved, known for making unique cellphone cases. In the email, Carved asked what it could do or say to get Nikki to purchase an item she had left in her cart. It included a picture of the Carved team and told her that if she didn’t like the item, the company would fully refund it.
The email was great. It showed that the company cares about its customers. Who doesn’t love that? Nikki did go with another brand, but the email had her strongly considering purchasing the item.
This email made me explore Carved’s website, Twitter and Instagram accounts and, let me just say, I really liked what I saw. The “Our Story” section has a video that tells how the company began and includes its mission statement. This video gives its customers insight into the culture and shows that it is more than just a small start-up. It showcases the company’s personality; serious, funny and relatable.
How it does it
Carved isn’t the only company using a personal approach with its customers. Incorporating personality into customer relations is taking off. There are many ways a company can use this approach.
This Bar Saves Lives is a start-up with a nonprofit partner. With each bar it sells, it sends a package of food wherever it is needed most in the world. This Bar Saves Lives’ website features a blog with recipes, what is going on in the company and how it “saves lives.” Other start-ups can learn from This Bar Saves Lives’ example, showing customers how it operates and gives insights into its culture.
Another way start-ups can showcase their personalities is through social media. When companies jumped on the social media bandwagon, fans would “like” or “follow,” but there was little interaction. With a better understanding of social media’s uses, companies (start-ups especially) are improving their communication with fans.
Carved and This Bar Saves Lives both boast active social media accounts, retweeting and replying with followers. It is always exciting when we, as fans, see our tweets being retweeted by a company. We feel like they are actually listening to us and want to know our opinions.
The “personable” experience
Carved is dedicated to providing “ridiculously great customer service” and it accomplishes this by being personable to its customers. You can read through hundreds of personal testimonials on its website.
Skimming through the testimonials, I noticed a customer voicing satisfaction after Carved wrote them a personal “thank you” note that had all the team members’ signatures on the inside of the case they purchased. Another customer voiced displeasure with the case they received, contacted Carved and was able to get new one at no extra cost. Going that extra step turns good customer service into a personable experience.
It isn’t just start-ups. Big companies understand that customers want great experiences. That is why customer service is so important. I believe it should be more than just a simple “thank you” after purchasing an item.
by Chelsey Webber
The concept of brand journalism is quickly becoming a trend in the world of public relations and marketing. Some professionals even venture to say that brand journalists will soon be in high demand. With traditional forms of journalism in decline, media and PR professionals could soon find themselves recruited by companies in search of brand journalists. But the question remains: what’s brand journalism?
Brand journalism stems from the idea that companies wish to be seen as more than just sellers of products and ideas. They want to be champions of sustainable efforts, environmentally friendly causes and resources, humanitarian efforts and more. AdAge characterizes brand journalism as a “Modern Marketing Imperative” that focuses on developing a brand’s story by producing creative, customized content. This extends beyond writing news releases and conversing on social media. Brand journalists write relevant and newsworthy stories to help develop a company’s brand beyond its products and services.
Coca-Cola: Brand Journalism Experts
Coca-Cola illustrates the concept of brand journalism brilliantly. Its website is filled with articles that, strangely enough, have very little to do with Coke products. You can find information regarding programs that range from restoring local parks and playgrounds to providing clean water for villages in Africa.
The content found on its website is telling the story of Coca-Cola’s brand. It positions the company as more than just a distributor of soft drinks by humanizing it. Coca-Cola’s brand has established it as not only an industry leader of soft drinks, but also as a champion of community outreach and humanitarian relief. Coke isn’t simply a soft drink; it’s a soft drink with integrity.
My Two Cents (You’re welcome).
My research on brand journalism leads me to believe that, as a whole, the concept is quite simple. As a brand journalist, you are not speaking to the company’s interests. Rather, you are speaking to the interests of the consumers.
In this wonderfully cohesive marriage of journalism, storytelling and brand management, you will find timely, relevant and newsworthy stories, written by brand journalists on behalf of a company. The important thing to recognize about brand journalism is that you are not writing marketing or advertising copy. These are stories that consumers can relate to without feeling bombarded by the never-ending stream of traditional marketing and advertising.
by Ambria Paul
As public relations practitioners, our duties include keeping target audiences in mind—external and internal, but far too often, the importance of internal communication goes unacknowledged. A concept we need to embrace is that good internal communication is the driving force for organizational success externally. What is grounded within the organization defines the quality of what is communicated outward. PRWeek’s Julie Skidmore states, “Internal communications can be seen as the oil that keeps an organization working smoothly.” With the proper system of communication and participation, and climate, an organization thrives.
Two Factors That Negatively Affect Internal Relations
-Dented Upward and Downward Networks
Generally, within every organization there is a hierarchy. For example, in the workplace there are “technicians” and “managers.” According to Alan Jay Zaremba’s Organizational Communication, “communication within an organization is disseminated through an upward and downward network.” Upward relates to communication from technicians to management, and conversely for downward. If the technicians feel as though their ideas, opinions, or concerns are not valued by management, they will more likely feel unappreciated and might grow resentment toward the “top dogs.”
At the same time, if management does not personally engage with the technicians a wall will be created that separates the two. Building and maintaining healthy, interactive upward and downward networks within an organization is essential to productivity and equality. Company newsletters, surveys, opinion polls, and frequent emailing can provide a healthier system of communication within.
Jay Zaremba’s explains, “the climate is the atmosphere in the organization that either encourages or discourages communication.” A cold climate can resemble workers who are tired, cranky, nonchalant, or angry due to excess duties, hunger, feeling unappreciated by fellow employees or management, and confusion.
Creating a warm climate in an organization does not have to be hard. Aside from maintaining a healthy system of communication between employees, an environment less “frigid” can stem from the simple things. Providing snacks for employees and keeping the room’s temperature at a comfortable degree can cure physical distractions of productivity. Having monthly meetings for strictly concerns the employees may have, sending encouraging emails, and having “Employee of the Month” encourages productivity and gives employees a sense of value.
These tactics can have a huge impact on the climate of the organization, further creating more successful internal communication and relations. A good example of a company creating warm climate for employees can be seen with Killer Infographics, a leading visual communications agency. Employees are provided with a climbing wall and two kegerators with locally brewed beer to release stress in the workplace. Sounds like fun to me!
An organization can have every goal of serving the external public, but if it does not start first behind its walls, there will be no outward success. Internal communication is a must!
by Jonathan Haile
Creating a logo is an important, dare I say, sacred part of the branding process. A logo should be recognizable, but should encompass a brand’s identity, values and in many cases, its history. As Major League Soccer prepares for its 20th season, the newly unveiled logo is a different take on what we’ve come to know.
Pictured below, you’ll notice that the new logo in the bottom right. It has an interesting story to tell. The perimeter represents the field of play, the slash represents the speed and energy of the game, and the three stars represent what MLS calls its pillars of the brand: For Club, For Country, For Community.
Evolving over time, MLS maintained the image of a cleat and a soccer ball in its logo, so the update is a definite departure that league is happy to explain:
“The new brand’s design is intended to say ‘soccer’ without the literal ball and cleat. In the end, we decided that the inclusion of a ball and cleat is unnecessary as it dates us very quickly (due to the fast pace of innovation in our game) while many other ways exist to signal we are a soccer league. Our new brand will build meaning over time so that our new crest signifies soccer in North America and has a unique place in global sports.”
Sharing the sacredness with its teams
What’s most interesting to me is the story the logo doesn’t necessarily tell you. Each individual club gets its own MLS logo, featuring the colors of each individual brand. It suggests, to me, a dynamic that you don’t get from the NFL, NBA, or MLB. One could argue that those leagues have hierarchies that place league offices and officials above their teams. This MLS logo suggests that the league cannot function without them. It eliminates the disconnect.
Of course, the logo also a celebration. MLS Next is the new positioning platform that highlights the new clubs, new sponsorships, new stadiums and the excitement ahead, so why not let each club share that excitement?
At first glance the logo seems simple, but when you understand it, it makes a lot of sense. The league’s approach should serve as an example for all aspiring branding experts. There are awesome stories you can help your clients tell. You can take them into account to make something fresh and recognizable.
Image via MLSSoccer.com