Tag Archives: branding

Five Nuggets from the Internet Summit

The Internet Summit was last week in Raleigh, NC and I want to share with you five nuggets I took away from the panel sessions I attended.

1) Blogging is Not Dead
Didn’t really think blogging was dead, but I guess with a few bloggers ditching blogging for micro-blogging some were wondering where the blog fits in.  The take-away is that blogs should be a hub for your online marketing initiatives.  For B2B folks, they’re great for thought-leadership positioning too.

2) Search Marketers Start with Google
Google AdWords is easy to use and on the platform where more than 60% of search traffic resides.  Unless you know your audience is on Yahoo/Bing, or your budget is significantly lacking, Google is where you want to start. One other theme around search marketing is that it can also be used effectively for branding purposes.

3) Analytics are Increasingly Important
Think measurement first. Tie your business goals with analytics (read: reverse engineer the goal to the measurement).  Include KPIs as part of budget discussion.

4) Email Marketers use Best Practices
Be relevant (know your audience)
Think holistically (where does email fit into your overall marketing campaign)
Segment and personalize emails (this ties back into relevance)

5) Twitter is Versatile
Great for monitoring brand (customer service) and as a content distribution medium. Expectations are that niche providers like Yammer and the like will start gaining popularity in 2010.

What do you think?  Did the Internet Summit 09 get it right?

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Marketing Sync

Marketing messages and branding efforts for your products and services need to be in sync with your business.

If you promote the sizzle without serving the steak, no amount of marketing will overcome the negative perception your brand will engender in the minds of customers who’ve experienced a reality without any red meat. Be honest with your brand; find and promote what you do best and if your target market values this, promote it.

Walmart should never market itself as a retailer with exceptional customer service.  This doesn’t mesh with their business model.  But a message that promotes how they save shoppers money meets our expectations and works for those who want to save money more than they want exceptional service.

When you develop messaging, make sure your message actually resonates with what your customers experience.  Advertising can help lead your brand perception where you want it to go, but ultimately your business must deliver what you promise for it to be effective. It needs to be in sync with reality.

Advertising without proper marketing research is a waste of money.  Knowing the pulse of your customer’s needs and their perception of your brand is way more useful than crossing your fingers and hoping your hunch on what you do well and what your customers want pans out.

Match what you do well with what your customer’s want and the message you promote will not only resonate with your customers, but also build up the value of your brand and carve your business niche in your market.

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Is Apple Evil? – Part One

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

The Apple brand has been racking my brain lately.  With their ongoing battles with Microsoft and others, I’ve been wondering how such a glorified brand is able to maintain their image in light of actions I’d describe as “evil.”  In Part Two of this post I outline why Apple is evil, but first I want tell you about my Apple Store experience last week and share the big news.

Apple has stopped selling it’s category-changing iPhone 3GS.

This past Friday, I took a trip to the Apple Store.  I decided I was going to join the “cool crowd” and get an iPhone 3GS.  I went to the store around 6:30PM and noticed a line outside the door.  I’ve seen this before when Apple releases a new product but this was a different story.  As I peeked inside I saw at most 50 people inside and caught a glimpse of the iPhones I was about to take home with me.  That was until I was stopped at the door by an Apple Store employee.

My conversation with an Apple Specialist (AS) outside the Apple Store

Me: “You guys are pretty busy today.  Huh?”
AS: “Yes.  The weekends can get pretty busy.”

Me: “I’m interested in getting an iPhone 3GS, but have a question. Do I get the AT&T plan when I purchase it here?”
AS: “Great! Yes you can get the AT&T plan with it right here or go online and fill out your info beforehand, I’d recommend doing it online so it’s quicker when you come back.”

Me: “Okay, cool.  I’ve been debating whether to get one, but I’m ready to take the plunge.  Can I buy an iPhone now?”
AS: “No. We aren’t selling the iPhone anymore today.”

Me: (Hmm) “Okay.  Are you out of stock or something, I think I want a white one.”
AS: (Interrupting me mid-sentence) “No.  We have every iPhone in stock. We just aren’t selling the iPhone at this Store location anymore.”

Me: “What?  You have the iPhone I want(I point inside the store to it), but I can’t buy it?”
AS: “No.  Sorry, we are only selling computers now, this line is for people buying computers.”

Me: “So how can I get the iPhone?”
AS: “You can come by tomorrow.  Just make sure you get here early enough so we can sell it to you.”

Me: “What? Are you sure I can’t buy it now?…  I have legal tender.”
AS: “No.  Sorry, just come back tomorrow and we’ll hook you up.”

Me: “Okay.” (Somewhat perturbed)
AS: “Have a good day.”

Me: (Walking away dejected, and talking to myself) “It’d be a lot nicer if you could sell me a freakin’ iPhone.  What the heck just happened??”

This past Friday was particularly busy retail day in North Carolina because it was a tax-free weekend.  In light of that, Apple made the decision to only sell their presumably higher margin computers, which from a bottom line business perspective makes sense, but from a customer service perspective stinks!  If I had traveled much farther than 15 minutes and was turned away, I would have been pretty mad.  If I driven an hour or more to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone and was turned away in this manner, I would be livid and likely considered boycotting the Apple brand.

Needless to say, the Palm Pre is looking much more attractive now.  Despite my bad experience,  I’ll be back to the Apple Store this week to see if Apple will actually sell me the iPhone this go around.  I’ll let you know how it goes and ask you to weigh in on whether Apple is evil.  Stay tuned, Part Two  of “Is Apple Evil?” should be up later this week.

UPDATE:  My second attempt to buy an iPhone was unsuccessful.  After failing to port my number, the Apple Store told me my number wasn’t eligible for porting; said I should to try to buy an iPhone at an corporate AT&T store, but implied it might not work there either due to porting rules.

My third attempt was successful!  AT&T ported my number in a snap and transferred my contacts from my Treo 755P to my new iPhone 3GS (something the Apple Store apparently can’t do).  I’m in business and enjoying the WordPress for iPhone app for this post. Hoorah!!

What do you think?  Should Apple have turned me away without an iPhone 3GS in hand?

How Sephora’s Earth Day Marketing on Facebook Can Work for You

This year Sephora ran an awesome promotion that I’d like to share with you.  The campaign turns virtual tote bags into a word of mouth marketing promotion that generates revenue while boosting their brand image at the same time.

sephora_facebookWith the help of Facebook’s Gift Shop, Sephora launched a Facebook campaign that promotes a tote bag giveaway in honor of Earth Day.  Users can send the virtual tote bag to their friends that will give them a code to redeem the real thing through Sephora.com.  The virtual tote bag campaign achieves two great things.  First, this type of promotion is viral. The promotion can spread like wildfire through word of mouth on Facebook and aligned social media outlets.  Second, it makes money.  By offering a limited edition tote bag that is redeemable with a promotional code from the virtual gift, the campaign’s effectiveness is directly measured to every marketer’s delight!

Another benefit with the promotion include the positive brand equity that assoiciates Sephora with a good cause, Earth Day.  Sephora reaches a growing segment of people who seek organic, natural goods.  This segment is keenly aware of Earth Day and supportive of companies that share the values of the Earth Day movement.  With these product lines highlighted, Sephora can reach a new market that I suspect doesn’t generally associate Sephora with natural products.

If Sephora really wanted to push the envelope, I would suggest they provide an additional incentive for becoming a fan of Sephora’s Facebook page so the campaign has a lasting effect of driving traffic to Sephora.com. One good strategy to recruit more fans would be to ask users to post a photo, which requires you to become a fan, in order to get an additional percentage off their purchase or some other additional incentive.  This would allow them to continually promote future campaigns more easily and allow their evangelists to continually evangelize the Sephora brand.

With over 100,000 fans so far, Sephora’s Facebook marketing strategy has been very fruitful.  Retailers could learn a thing or two by monitoring their strategy and emulating the things that work.

Why Negative Online Reviews are Good

When it comes to Web 2.0 and social media, many organizations hate the idea of losing control over what is said about their brand or products.  For many years, companies avoided engaging in newer online technologies that facilitate customer feedback in public mediums for this very reason.  How could they these mediums, monitor them all, and get any value out from them?  It was scary and social media scares many companies today.

Even negative review can be good.

Even negative reviews can be good.

Take the Dive

More recently, companies have plunged into social media, but there are still concerns about negative reviews.  I believe this to be counter-intuitive thinking.  If your product is great and your customer service is fantastic, social media is your friend.  If your social media strategy listens to, interacts with, and gives your customers a means to voice their opinions you are on the right track.

When I think about businesses, particularly B-to-C companies, that avoid entering social media out of fear, I pause and question whether their products are good enough to take the plunge.  The truth is social media isn’t for every company, but if your products are good and your customer service is great, negative reviews can actually improve your brand.

Company Case Studies

Companies listening to and engaging with their customers are finding that negative reviews capture nuggets of information that allow marketers to better understand their customer.  From the design, delivery, and return of a product, negative reviews can actually help companies improve their brand image.  Still don’t believe me?  Perhaps these companies case studies will show you how negative reviews can be beneficial.

Rubbermaid  – Rubbermaid has had success listening and responding with better product design.  As this post shows, sometimes it’s not your product that needs help, its communicating how to use it properly.

Dell –  Distinguished itself for bad customer service and as a consequence has structured itself to address it very well online. At last check, Dell employs 35 “community ambassadors” who troll the web listening and conversing with customers on popular social networking sites, blogs, all over the world.

Merck – Merck was very resistant to using blogs and allowing comments on it because of regulatory fear (having to monitor and report posted adverse effects).  At first, the launch of one of Merck’s blogs saw a negative drug review and they wanted to take the comment off the site.  Soon, however, supporters of their life-saving drug flocked to the site criticizing the negative review and singing the drug’s praises and the preponderance of positive comments put the drug in a favorable light.

Negative Reviews Really can be Good

Ultimately, negative reviews are good for:

1. Better understanding your customer’s needs and experience  –  This knowledge will allow you to better communicate usage; features and benefits; and shed light on potential opportunities to make a better product that meets customer needs.

2. Righting what’s wrong  –  Turn an annoyed customer into a delighted one by acting swiftly and unexpectedly.  If you had an issue with a product and posted something online and all of a sudden a someone addressed your issue by going above an beyond your expectations, you’d be impressed. Imagine how one of your customers would feel if you responded in an unexpected way.

3. Generating positive attention – The adage any publicity is good publicity may make you cringe, but the positive publicity your company can garner by addressing the negative review (righting what’s wrong) can turn a frustrated customers into customer advocate.  Think of all the referrals a customer advocate that already has proven they will talk about your brand could generate because of the goodwill you’ve created by addressing their issue.

Winning Brands in Uncertain Times

As a follow up to my last post about the opportunities that abound in our depressed economy, I was thinking about what type of products and brands do well during these times.  In uncertain times, what type of products do you find solace in?

The products and brands that are winners to me are inexpensive and comforting.

Comforting Products & Services

It’s often the simple things in life that make life great.  For me, wireless internet and with a cup of coffee at my local coffee shop, Cafe Driade, or an inexpensive luxury like a 12 minute chair massage at the mall are cost-conscious comforts I enjoy.

pedegg

PedEgg = Simple Luxury

Simple pleasures like a $19.95 Snuggie, a $10 PedEgg, or  a $3 tube of Burts Bees lip gloss are winners.

This downturn is a fantastic time to launch new products and services.  And for companies with existing products, opportunities abound for you as well.  While others are cutting back on development and offerings, you could be offering a simple pleasure to your product or service line that will put a smile on your customer’s face and improve your bottom line.

Super Bowl XLIII Winners & Losers

Super Bowl Sunday offered a lot of entertainment on the field Sunday night.  The commercials off the field, not so much. If you missed them, you can view them here.

There were a few interesting commercials, but overall the quality and freshness that Super Bowl ads usually provide didn’t add up to the glitz and glamor most of us have come to enjoy.  The packaging of commercials seemed more like a promotion for NBC Television shows and their associated corporate entities.

The Winners:

  • Pedigree – You can’t go wrong with animals, and their Adoption Drive campaign endears me to their brand.
  • Doritos – I love that they ran another contest to give people nationwide the chance to shoot the Super Bowl ad.  Everyone can dream of genie, but not everyone can throw a snow-globe at their boss. With the Wish upon a Snow-globe ad,  crotch humor is alive and kicking.
  • Coca-Cola – Coke’s vivid imagery was engaging and well received by the Super Bowl audience.

On the Fence:

  • Hyundai – The Assurance campaign is winner in the sense it addressed the unemployment fear that is sweeping the nation.  The campaign is a loser in the sense that it doesn’t do much for its brand and it wasn’t unveiled Sunday night as I’ve seen it many times before.
  • Hulu – The counter-intuitive message didn’t make me want to go to Hulu and watch my stories.  Why would you make a case that watching TV is not a good thing when your service is the vehicle to do just that? However,  the Sponsorship of funneling viewers to Hulu in order to watch the Super Bowl Ads was extremely effective.
  • Monster.com & CareerBuilder.com – First the good: Both Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com had funny and relatable ads.  Now the bad: Neither commercial capitalized on what the people afraid of losing their job want to hear: Come here for new and plentiful job openings that will remove you from the unemployment lines.

The Losers:

  • Pepsi Max – There is a lot of buzz around the Pepsi Max campaign, I just don’t think it did anything to make its target audience buy it’s product unless getting beat up makes you thirsty for a diet cola.
  • Gatorade – Since ‘G’ already means so many things to me (think ‘money’ and ‘Warren’) it will never mean Gatorade to me.  The whole ad was more about of a question of what? Who is wasting money on this ad?
  • Sobe – Dancing around like last year’s ad isn’t new or effective way to sell what is otherwise a really good product.

What are your thoughts?  Are there any ads you liked or disliked that deserve mentioning?