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 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 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 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 Stephanie Harvey
During the holiday season an estimated 40 percent of shoppers use social media to plan out their shopping. Despite people being busier during the holidays, consumer interaction rates increase by about 46 percent on the most popular social media sites. Facebook is expected to be “the channel of choice” for the holidays, as 92 percent of marketers are planning extensive campaign efforts for the social media giant, alone. Instagram is also going to be a big tool during the holiday season; an estimated 73 percent of marketing professionals believe Instagram is going to be a breakout platform for this year’s holiday season.
The holidays are a great time for companies to connect with their publics on a more personal level. Audiences can relate to companies when they see pictures of Christmas trees, Christmas cards, or photos from holiday parties.
Use images often
No matter which social media platform a company uses, it is important to use images in posts. Research suggests this type of content can increase engagement; many times, leading to increased sales. Because of society’s love for visuals, it is strongly recommended that image-based content be used especially during the holidays.
By simply changing a cover photo to a holiday inspired photo, many companies see increased engagement. They might get even more involved with their audience by having have followers send in their holiday photos as participants in contests.
Create a contest or giveaway
Businesses also increase social media engagement during the holidays by implementing contests or giveaways. They also offer holiday special discounts or offers, for example, Applebee’s gift card deal. If a customer buys $50 or more in gift cards, they get a free $10 bonus card.
Companies might also offer free shipping for the holidays. Target is stepping up the retail competition this year, offering free standard shipping on every order until December 20. This not only gets shoppers to spend more money with Target, but it also gets them talking about the free shipping on social media. They may “like”, “share” or “retweet” content about the free shipping to followers and friends. Those friends may, in turn, “like” or “share” the post for all of their friends to see as well.
Bluefountainmedia.com suggests that it’s still important to make sure to use the 80/20 rule when it comes to posts. The 80/20 rule means that 80% of all posts should be interaction driven while 20% of posts should be about sales and offers.
The key to engaging publics during the holiday season is producing content that is holiday related and entertaining. The key for companies is to have audiences relate to them on a more personal level while producing content that gives them exclusive holiday deals.
By Jonathan Haile
It might trouble the Innovative PR specialists (at least one in particular, I can imagine) to know that I had never heard of Kate Spade New York until yesterday. After all, I have no use for or pay any attention to ladies handbags or jewelry. That said, I appreciate a good integrated campaign, and Kate Spade is on top of that.
Anna Kendrick and “The Waiting Game”
This year, Newcastle made a few waves online with its “not Super Bowl” commercial, featuring Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick. It appears Kendrick, quickly becoming the queen of integrated and online campaigns, is back in this Kate Spade’s holiday ad, “The Waiting Game.”
The short and clever video shows the misadventures of Kendrick as she returns home from the retailer and quickly realizes she doesn’t have her keys. Watch the insanity ensue.
Why is it integrated?
When you find yourself on Kate Spade’s Facebook and Twitter pages, the first thing you see is The Waiting Game. It’s what makes social media so beneficial. The two minute and 30 second short film can play in the digital space, whereas it couldn’t fit as a television advertisement. Low and behold, you’ll probably find a 30 second version of it hitting your TV set as we get closer to Christmas.
It’s also instantly shareable. If you wish, you can easily send it to a friend or two, or you can tweet about it, using the hashtag #missadventure. Any time you search for that hashtag, Anna Kendrick and Kate Spade’s Twitter accounts are suggested to you in the results.
There isn’t just The Waiting Game video. I admire brands that give us these short films, but also give us behind-the-scenes access. When you watch the video on Youtube, another Kate Spade/Kendrick video is featured to the right.
It’s just a hunch, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that newspapers and fashion magazines will probably have Kate Spade print ads feating the young actress. Kendrick continues to build her star power and brand, and she is easily recognizable.
What can we learn from this?
Of all the things I touched on above, the thing that sticks out to me the most is the hashtag #missadventure. While it’s cleverly derived from the word “misadventure,” it helps the reader understand that this is a comical story about a character before they watch the video.
Again, it’s easily shareable and designed to get the user to the Kate Spade social media pages. It allows all the people talking about the video to find each other, interact with each other and interact with the company. If you don’t believe me, check out this tweet:
As PR students and professionals, we often have to explain to friends that we’re not in marketing and advertising, but those three ideas are often interwoven in integrated campaigns. Kate Spade does this brilliantly. It doesn’t surprises me that this was AdWeek’s Ad of the Day.
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