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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 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 Nikki Carpenter
For public relations students like myself, there is not an experience quite like Innovative Public Relations. To be honest, I did not know what I was getting into when I joined IPR. I had no idea what projects I would be assigned to, who would be on my team, and the skills I would quickly develop. The only thing I had to compare it to was a sports internship from over the summer.
In August, my team learned that we would be collaborating with the firm’s first off-campus client. Larry Schnieders, a retired corporate executive and UCM PR alumnus, wanted to share a story connecting two Kansas City high schools that have been housed at the same location. Both of the schools and their students prospered when all odds were against them.
The focus of our campaign is to utilize a crowdfunding platform to acquire the funds necessary for the shooting and editing of the film. As specialists with marginal knowledge of this unique fundraising technique, we found ourselves spending our time researching everything possible. From tips to statistics to looking at successful pages, we quickly developed a strategic approach in order to raise the necessary funds.
In partnership with Through A Glass Productions, “Together We’re Stronger” revisits the extraordinary story of Bishop Lillis High’s unexpected Missouri basketball state title in 1961. The team consisted of transfer students and a first-year coach. The film will have interviews of the players and coach of this team, who have gone on to be successful. One player was twice-elected mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Another went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
The documentary will also follow Lillis’ legacy through the building’s current tenant, DeLaSalle Education Center. DeLaSalle is a charter school with alternative-style curriculum, and the only school of its kind in Missouri. DeLaSalle relies on donations and fundraisers to provide at-risk youth a personalized education to improve learning and life skills. The film is expected to bring a new audience to the school that has already reached its capacity of 300 students with a waiting list.
The crowdfunding campaign to raise $18,000 will continue until Dec. 7 on Kickstarter. Check out the page here! For up-to-date information on everything regarding this project, make sure to like “Together We’re Stronger” on Facebook and follow the film on Twitter.
Pictures via Hank Young and Kali Schnieders
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 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
by Jackie Meade
Have you ever noticed the ‘Other’ folder on your Facebook message page? If you are like me, you are probably thinking what ‘Other’ folder? What happened to just my regular Inbox?
The ‘Other’ Folder
I did some research and found that when someone sends you a private message it is sent to one of two places: your Inbox folder or your Other folder. The Inbox folder is reserved for messages sent by friends you are connected to, while your Other folder is where spam and messages from those you are not friends with are routed. The Other folder is ignored by some users and its existence is completely unknown to others.
Facebook released an update in 2012 to its messaging system (that I feel was largely unnoticed by the majority of its users) that allows people outside of your network to send a message directly to your Inbox for a small fee. For twice the price of a postage stamp, users are charged $1 for every message they want to send to non-friends hoping it will get noticed. Although the Other folder has been in existence for some time, it cannot be accessed on your mobile app, which is why most of us have never heard of it. While this opens up another avenue for Facebook to make an extra buck, it also opens up the doors for stranger danger.
Beware of Creepers
Although this update was put into action a couple years ago, there are still many ‘creepers’ out there using this system to their advantage today. Check your Other folder if you want a good laugh because you never know what you might find in there. Some of it may just be spam or legitimate messages from co-workers or long-lost friends, but chances are you will find some awkwardly written love notes from a secret admirer. Here are some real messages I found online that Facebook users have received:
So what does this all mean for you?
Facebook hopes the $1 charge will discourage spammers and therefore, decrease the amount of ‘junk’ mail that is sent to you. It will also allow you to send a message to someone you, for example, saw speak at a conference you attended or a potential employer about a job opportunity. You can connect with those who may have been out of your reach, so to speak. Also, it may give long-lost friends or relatives a way of getting a message to you that was previously blocked to them. If nothing else, it may finally give you the opportunity you have been waiting for to ask out that cute girl or guy in your class you have been pining over all semester.
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By Elissa Huck
As a critical consumer of media, it is not often that I’m so engaged in a TV advertisement that I feel compelled to turn to my roommate and say, “That was a great commercial,” but this past week, that is exactly what happened when my nightly viewing of the Food Network was interrupted by a pivotal Subaru commercial.
Not your typical ad
A smashed car, a tow truck, and a junkyard—these are not the traditional things you think of when imagining car commercials, but that is exactly what you see within the first 15 seconds of the ad. Subaru certainly managed to break through the clutter of typical car commercials, which usually depict sleek, fast cars, zooming through scenic back roads or show happy families piling into a minivan. With limited dialogue and a demolished car, this ad catches your attention by being much different from the rest. Rather than focusing on innovative style or powerful engines, the company promotes Subaru’s life-saving qualities.
For more than half of the Subaru ad, these are the only two words spoken between the characters on screen while the audience follows a car from the scene of what appears to be a fatal car accident all the way to the junkyard. The audience is constantly reminded that despite the appearance of this destroyed vehicle, the passengers miraculously managed to survive. By the end of the commercial, viewers realize that the passengers inside were a family who, thankfully, attributed their lives to the safety of their Subaru.
Strong emotional appeals
According to Subaru spokesman Michael McHale, the commercial was inspired from real-life accounts Subaru has heard from customers reporting that their Subaru saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones in nearly fatal car accidents. Additionally, the maimed vehicle depicted throughout the ad is not a stage prop; it is an actual wrecked car where the driver survived. When it comes right down to it, would you rather have a car that travels at breakneck speed or a car that will ultimately save your life? This ad simply projects the messages that safety trumps luxury, and the livelihood of consumers is paramount when promoting products.
By Breann Roettering
Resources surround public relations students at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) everyday. I encourage the students to open their eyes and take advantage of these resources to help prepare them for their career in the future.
The PR Department has wonderful faculty who share their knowledge with the students every day inside and outside of the classroom. Get to know your professors here at UCM. Our faculty members are experienced in a wide range of Public Relations, ranging from nonprofit organizations to agency work and design.
Public Relations students have the opportunity to be involved in UCM’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. PRSSA conducts a number of events annually to benefit students, and to help them start making professional connections. If you haven’t checked out UCM PRSSA, I encourage you to do so. Each year the organization hosts PR Pro Day, an AP Style Workshop and a personal branding workshop that covers social media. PRSSA also gives you an opportunity to meet your peers and network at events in Kansas City such as The KC PR Summit, as well as social event in Warrensburg.
Get to know your classmates
I have already mentioned it briefly, but it is very important to get to know other students in the program. A great place to start making those connections is in the classroom. Your fellow classmates are also going to graduate and become professionals someday. Get to know them and build those connections now. They may become a great source for you in the future and will be people to collaborate with and get advice from when you start your career.
The final networking tool students have at UCM is Innovative Public Relations (IPR.) IPR is a student PR firm housed in University Relations. Every PR student is encouraged to apply for IPR. There is an application and interview process, but do not let that scare you away. Working for IPR will help you gain experience in an agency setting and also is a great place to start networking. You will get the opportunity to work alongside the University Relations staff and gain experience working for real-life clients.
At UCM, students can begin networking right away. It will benefit you to get to know your professors, fellow students and administrators. After you graduate you will already have experience working in a professional environment. Start networking on campus and build a name for yourself now. Those connections may open a door for you to that dream job you are seeking. It will also help you build your confidence as you enter the job market because you will already have experience in networking yourself.
I get excited when Thursday comes around. It’s the day when I get to meet with the entire Innovative Public Relations team. Before the meeting starts, we all grab coffee, then head to the University Relations conference room. We start off by quickly talking about something fun, maybe share a few anecdotes, and then it’s time for business.
There are two teams, each focusing on one client, and together the teams are preparing another Social Media Night. They update each other on their campaigns’ progress and talk about things they can improve on or change. Then it’s time to brainstorm. Though Social Media Night was a huge success last year, it’s important to me that this years’ team leave their mark on the event, or else they won’t get anything out of it.
That’s what Innovative PR is all about. It’s an opportunity to get outside the classroom and apply your skills in real-world situations with real clients (and maybe win some awards while you’re at it). Students take everything they’ve learned in their PR classes and use them. What comes from the experience is a payoff you can’t get from reading and taking tests. You might also gain some knowledge that will make Campaigns a little less intimidating.
As the manager, it’s a focus of mine to find what students think their strengths and weaknesses are. If they struggle with writing, I try to find opportunities to write. If they struggle with presentations, I want to find them opportunities to do presentations. If they don’t quite understand how social media works, I want to get them some experience on various social networks. No matter what the challenge is, Innovative PR students are get practice because they’re exposed to just about everything.
For some, applying to Innovative PR is intimidating. They might feel as though an easier elective is a better investment of their time, or maybe they aren’t confident enough to apply. I was certainly one of those students who was intimidated by the idea of working in a firm as a student, but again, the payoff for me was great.
Don’t feel intimidated. This is an opportunity for your skills to improve. Go to the PR Suite, grab an application, and do the case challenge. You’ll find yourself in a “course” that is challenging, yes, but pays awesome dividends. The expectations are high, but they aren’t unreachable. Do something different. Have fun working with clients. Hone your skills. Boost your marketability.
– Jonathan Haile
Innovative Public Relations Manager