BrandCottage adds Ushma Patel to Oversee Digital Strategy.

umaBrandCottage is excited to announce the addition of Ushma Patel to our team of media experts. Ushma has over 10 years of media planning/buying experience and spent much of that time in the digital arena. Ushma was most recently digital marketing manager at Carter’s Inc. Previously she held digital media planning roles at agencies including Nurun, Breathe, OMD, and JWT.

As we continue to grow, our clients demand more digital expertise. BrandCottage is fortunate to have someone of Ushma’s experience and skill set to help elevate all of our clients’ media plans to deliver audiences cross-platform. In addition, Ushma will further advance our media analytics offerings to the brands we serve.

Ushma can be reached at

Welcome to the team Ushma!

Patricia Wilson
President BrandCottage

The Evolution of Marketing and Advertising: 10 Insights From Brand Stars

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Brand Masters Conference has left marketing, branding, and advertising professionals feeling energized about the coming months.

The event, held in Hollywood, FL from February 26-28, is considered the premier annual conference for Brand Marketers.  Top advertisers gather to share important Brand insights and trends.

The seismic shift in consumer messaging sparked discussions on campaigns, strategies, successes, and missteps from companies such as Samsung, Taco Bell, CitiGroup, and Chobani.

Here are 10 takeaways from the various sessions and panels:

On the New Customer Relationship: “We are shifting from marketer to publisher with the vision to create, curate, and co-create with customers.” -Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, Taco Bell

On Millenials:  “Show me that you know me.”-Millennials Panel Discussion

On People and Brands: “We don’t always see a brand as a person. They should be human though. We do think each person is a brand.” -Gen Y Panel

On Functions: “Brand is not a marketing function. It’s the core of the business and should involve all functions.”-Greg Revelle, Chief Marketing Officer, AutoNation. Noteworthy: Revelle said the auto industry spends $15 billion a year on ads.

On Innovation:  “Innovation shouldn’t just be the role of marketing. It needs to be instilled in the DNA of the organization.”-Andy Callahan, President, Hillshire

On Differentiation: “Connect your brand to something that impacts a consumer’s life in a meaningful way and people take notice.” -Elyssa Gray, Director, Head of Creative and Media, NA Marketing, CitiGroup

On Storytelling: “We’re breaking the mold with storytelling that demonstrates what the brand is all about.” -Mike Accavitti, Senior Vice President, Automobile Operations, American Honda Motor Company

On Relevance: “The world is changing and we need to stay relevant…Flavor and ritual are the two things we think about most. We innovate with what’s new and what’s next.”-Chris Fuqua, Vice President of Brand Marketing, Dunkin’ Donuts. Noteworthy: Dunkin’ Donuts launched 100 products in the past two years.

On Culture: “Don’t build a brand, build a culture. Build trust.”-Todd Pendleton, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung

On 2014’s Next Tech Trend: “Wearables are all about context. Deliver information based on where you are and what you’re doing. There is massive market potential with wearables. Brands can focus on utility, not simply brand marketing.”-Christina Warren, Senior Tech Marketer, Mashable

Finally, three words were prevalent throughout the ANA Conference: Authenticity, trust, and innovation.


Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic

Everyone knows we trust our friends’ opinions more than we trust brand advertising.

So naturally brands are testing social media to learn how best to create brand advocates.  A CMO said to us recently, “If we can get our  FaceBook fans to tell their friends, that will be more powerful than paid ads and we can create more efficiencies.”

 Nobody doubts that statement.

Unfortunately, turns out to be not quite that simple. It’s a lot of work and takes a 24/7 always -on approach. And the biggest challenge remains creating scale anywhere close to paid media in order to generate desired sales lifts.

In our media brand practice, we’ve tested everything from influencer programs to blogger programs to multiple facebook brand initiatives. We’ve had  varying degrees of success.

We’re  bullish on social media but testing has proven that social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.

Social Media should NOT be a stand alone brand tactic.  Here are some reasons why:

1. Social Media is very hard to scale on its own.

2. Social Media should part of the overall communication of the brand and work in unison with all other brand touchpoints.

3. Social Media, when done well, is integrated into the total business goals of the brand, not just the marketing goals.

4. Social Media is a long tail strategy and takes a period of time to realize results. Social Media is not inherently a fast audience builder.

5. Social Media should constantly tell a brand’s story (through video, blogs, photography, scribing) with rewards and incentives ocassionally thrown in to keep fans motivated. It should not be solely a broadcast vehicle that is only about brand selling.

6. Social Media, supported by paid advertising, can scale quickly and social content can be amplified to a much larger audience.

7. Social Media, when integrated into customer service, can help reinforce the brand attributes with customers and create happy customers.

When brands integrate social media with other marketing and business strategies,  the results are greater response rates, greater reach, greater brand engagement, and deeper overall metrics.

Don’t isolate  social media marketing into a siloed marketing tactic.  This approach greatly limits the ability of social media to be a force in strengthening the brand story.





Brands Shift into Online Video at Record Speed

In our media planning and buying practice, the biggest shift we have seen by advertisers in the past year is to online video. Our brand clients have embraced online video and we have seen tremendous success with driving traffic and growing engagement through digital video media buys. Big and small TV advertisers have been shifting a portion of media budgets to online video.

Brands who cannot afford TV are now producing video and buying across the web in a very targeted manner. The results we see are unlike anything we’ve seen previously online in terms of engagement and click rates.

Digital research firm eMarketer says video is the fastest growing form of digital advertising, with spending increasing 46% last year and outpacing search ads and display ads.  eMarketer estimates digital video will be a $4.14 Billion industry this year, doubling the 2011 numbers.

March 2013 comScore online video numbers are impressive, as well:

Consumers watched 39 billion online videos in March 2013, according to a new report by comScore.

  • Ads accounted for over 25 percent of all videos viewed.
  • 84.5% of the U.S. population viewed Video in March.
  • 52% of the U.S. population saw a video ad in March.
  • The average number of video ads per consumer was 82x

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise of TV as the dominant form of media by advertisers (it is estimated to be a $66.35 Billion industry this year) but online video is growing and gaining a lot of interest and ad dollars from national advertisers. As media buyers prepare to enter the annual television upfront marketplace, digital video has found a respected place among advertisers.

How Often Should Your Brand Post to Facebook?

Have you ever seen a TV ad just one too many times and become totally annoyed? How about that “stalker”  banner ad (behavioral targeting is the official term) that will not leave you alone?

In media planning for brands, it’s common to set  frequency goals for various media. In digital advertising this is known as “frequency caps”.  The idea is to cap the number of times a consumer might be exposed to a message to prevent them from being completely annoyed. It also enables ads to be served to a broader group to increase reach and manage  frequency.  Too much exposure to an ad often results in a tuning out of the message, having the opposite desired response. At some point for all ad campaigns, the brand reaches a point of  diminished returns. This is usually when a fresh ad is integrated into the mix. I mean how many times can we see the truck pull the space shuttle?  There are volumes of statistical research that  supports effective frequency theories, over decades of tracking ad campaigns. But what about frequency in social media?

I began thinking about this the other day when I realized I was getting social media fatique from some of the over-posters on facebook.  Because social media learning is so new, it has not yet adopted some of the best practices from other media: like frequency caps. The default theory seems to be: post often. But a deeper look into what early “experts” say shows that posting on facebook 1x per day seems to be the prevailing wisdom at the moment:

1. Socialbakers proprietary tracking shows that Brands post on average 1x per day and media companies (news sources ) post  an average 7x per day. In fact posting more did not increase engagement and likes and actually decreased engagement. Posting 1-4x per week received 71% higher engagement than 5+ times per week.  

2. At the AllFaceBook Marketing Conference in December, Facebook asked a roundtable of experts and the belief then was Brands should post no more than 1x per day.’s Customers for Life VP Michael Jaindl suggested that most professional users should only post one or two times a day. “The interaction rates are 19 percent higher,” he explained. Glyder director of social media Blake Jamieson agreed, saying he only posted one or two times a day.

3. Jeff Bullas wrote a great post that showed quality of content matters more than quantity of posts. In fact, more frequent posting of 3+ times per day shows less engagement than posting 1x per day.

4. In a recent Mashable article on top social media mistakes, Facebook suggests that brands start out with one or two posts a week to feel out the platform and see what works. Many brands post once per day, and many find that posting more than once per day can actually have an adverse effect on engagement. Facebook indicates that the average user “likes” four to six new Pages each month, so your content is constantly fighting for more attention from its fans. It’s better to post one excellent item per day instead of two decent ones. Bottom line: don’t overpost.

In media planning, there is a wealth of research over decades of ad testing, that supports effective  frequency levels for maximum response and maximum brand awareness. Much of the recommendations vary depending on brand category, the competition, the consumer profile, the message.  In social, it will take much more time to build an arsenal of reliable research on social media to know with certainty what frequency is most effective.

The best direction is to create compelling content, understand what your audience wants to hear, and don’t overdo the posting frequency…as it will likely wear down the audience and create an annoyance reaction.

How often do you post and how to you feel about people or brands who post too often?

7 Twitter Tips Every Marketer Should Know

Twitter has been around since 2006 and many companies still struggle with how best to use the platform. When done well, twitter can be a powerful part of the integrated marketing mix.

Whether you’re new to Twitter, a veteran, or somewhere in between,  here are  some helpful Twitter tips.

Post a clear and concise bio and take advantage of opportunities to brand your Twitter Page 

Twitter allows you 160 characters to post a bio on your profile page. Humanize your bio.  Choose your keywords wisely and describe your product or service succinctly. Add a link to your website or any page you want your followers to click on to get more information out there about your brand. Take advantage of the new cover photo feature Twitter rolled out recently. Use the extra page real estate to promote a campaign or new product you offer. Much like the cover photo feature on your Facebook page, take the opportunity to use this space effectively to communicate more about yourself and your brand.

Offer value on your stream

If shameless self promotion is your only strategy, you’re doing it wrong. Sharing information about your brand and services is important and sharing posts about your campaigns and events is important; however, sharing information relevant to your audience is most important. Take the opportunity to build your thought leadership within your community. Share information that will help your community grow and learn new things about your industry or business. If people like/value your tweets, they will suggest you to their friends. Take note that 69% of follows on Twitter are suggested by friends.

Be present and proactive 

It’s interesting to note the latest Twitter statistics state 56% of customer tweets to companies are being ignored. Engagement and relationships built with customers are key to acquiring loyal followers. Watch your @replies and make sure you reply to questions and inquiries made by your followers. Joining in conversations will also allow you to better know what your customers need. It is good practice to be have a consistent presence to build your base, not only when you have a campaign running. Relationships are not created overnight. Be patient and stay at it.

There are now more searches performed on Twitter  each month than Yahoo and Bing combined ( 24 billion on Twitter, 4.1 billion on Bing and 9.4 billion on Yahoo.) If your competitor is present on Twitter and you are not, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Make use of hashtags 

The hashtag on Twitter is a tool where in keywords in messages can be categorized and searchable. Including the # symbol before a relevant keyword or phrase in a tweet makes that word a search term and will bring up a Twitter search page for that term when clicked. Create your own hashtag or follow hashtags to access relevant and real time search information. When creating your hashtags, make sure you don’t over do it. Choose one or two keywords in every tweet and make sure it is relevant to what you are tweeting about. If you want to know more about hashtags and how to use then effectively, check out this article from Mashable. Hashtags are also a great way to monitor your tweet stream to see who is talking about your brand and monitor mentions related to your product or service.

Take advantage of photos and videos in your Tweets 

Twitter recently rolled out a feature  where users will see better search results that highlight visual experiences. Search results now include photos and videos shared on Twitter. Take the opportunity to share your stories via photos and videos. When someone searches for an event or a hashtag, users will now see a grid of the most relevant media above the stream of tweets.  With more people tweeting on the go, users can also see media embedded in search results on smartphones phones and mobile devices. Photos and article summaries automatically show previews offering a tree top view of what’s happening at the moment.

Participate in Twitter Chats 

Twitter chats are a great way to get more exposure on Twitter, find great people to follow and encourage people to follow you. Oneof my favs is  #MMchat for marketers on Monday at 8P EST for  marketers and advertising pros who are interested in all things social media.  If you want to create your own Twitter chat, check out to find out how to go about creating your own chat or get a list of other chats to follow. If you have the budget, why not sponsor a Twitter chat that is relevant to your brand and take the opportunity to connect with people in your industry.

Add a Twitter button to your website 

According to MediaBistro  there are about 500 million registered users on Twitter and 50% of active users say they follow companies and brands on social networks. 79% of active users will recommend brands to their followers and 67% say they will buy from brands they follow. Make it easy for people to share your brand story with their friends by adding a Twitter button to your site. This will make it easy for people to share your content with their networks. Don’t forget to add a “follow” button to make it easy for people to follow you. Twitter offers several free widgets  you can use on your website or blog.

Twitter is a powerful social media tool you can use to compliment your marketing campaign. Knowing how to utilize this social networking platform will help you gain insights about your customers, what’s trending and what is being said about your brand. I hope these tips will help you take advantage of Twitter for engaging and building your community. Are you using Twitter as part of your advertising and promotional strategy? I invite you to share your experiences here. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Featured Image Courtesy of All Free Downloads

“Always On” Media and What it Means for Marketers

Multi-tasking is the norm these days. Especially in media usage. Consumers view two to three screens at a time when consuming media. People watch TV, interact with shows using their tablets or smart phones and react via Facebook and Twitter.

This has never been more pronounced than during the 2012 Presidential campaign. A report by Forbes stated that 39% of US adults used social media to discuss politics. President Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention sparked 2.5 million online conversations alone and during the record-breaking first presidential debate, more than 10 million tweets were sent. ABC reported there were more than 6.4 million tweets about the election and there was an average of 3,000 tweets per minute from people declaring they “voted!”  Expressing views while watching TV is becoming popular whether it be about politics, entertainment or anything in the news that affects people’s everyday lives.

At the start of 2012, I wrote here on my blog that advertising is not dead and it was just a matter of adjusting to technological innovations and consumers media habits.  I thought it would  be good to see how consumers are behaving in terms of media consumption now that 2012 is drawing to a close. Nielsen recently released their cross platform report for Q2Let’s look at the trends and the impact on marketers.

TV is Still Ahead in the Number of Screens in Use

According to the Nielsen report, Americans spent over 34 hours per week in front of their TV sets watching traditional TV, DVDs and playing console games in Q2. There is also a growing amount of content consumed via the Internet connection through services like Hulu and Netflix.  Americans also spend another five hours on average in front of their computers consuming online content including streaming video. Smartphones now have a market penetration of more than 50% and tablets are already in almost 20% of US TV homes.

Consumers Want More Content at Their Finger Tips

Consumer behavior has changed tremendously over the years. From being tethered to the desktop computer to access online content, they now want the flexibility of being able to access their favorite social networking sites, connect with friends, check emails and shop online anytime and anywhere.  Smartphones and tablets are the devices that give consumers that flexibility they’re demanding. More so since data plans have become more affordable.

The Second Screen Phenomenon 

Data from Nielsen reports that 40% of Americans use their tablets or smartphones while watching TV at least once a day, and twice as many do it at least once a month. In the past, it was through their computers and laptops that consumers connected online, but now with the emerge of tablets and the smartphones, accessing online content is easier than ever before. No waiting for boot up, faster connectivity and on-the-go capability is what makes the latest tablets and smartphones more and more people’s favorite device to get online.

It’s also noteworthy to point out that because these devices are now in most households, connectivity and the adoption of new technology is no longer limited to the young and tech savvy. According to the Nielsen report, “while watching TV, 36% of people age 35-54 and 44% of people age 55-64 use their tablets to dive deeper into the TV program they are watching and nearly a third of tablet users age 25-64 check sports scores.  Across the board a majority of users use apps while watching TV”

A New Connected Community 

According to Dounia Turrill, Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Practice Lead, “when we now talk about this growing connected community, we really are talking of a group comprised of multiple generations, crossing ethnic and racial boundaries and breaking down socio-economic barriers.  With these trends pointing to continued increases in media consumption, it could be said that consumer choice is driving more than watching, it’s also creating stronger bonds with audiences of all sizes and in all places.”

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

It is imperative more than ever advertisers understand the correlation between TV consumption and Internet consumer behavior using portable devices as it opens doors for brands to create a dialogue and influence purchasing behavior to happen instantaneously.  Advertisers must take advantage of social media because of the huge impact it has in terms of increasing consumer interaction. Forty four percent of 18-24 year olds and close to 50 percent of 25-34 year olds visit social networking sites on their smartphones during both commercials and programs while watching TV.  Ads on TV must also match the advertiser’s online marketing message and their products or services be readily available for consumers to buy on their mobile devices as 29% of 25-34 year olds shop on their smartphones while watching TV.

Not only do marketers and advertisers need to focus on their message, it is also crucial to make their website content mobile and tablet ready. To get a better picture of how mobile friendly your website is, you can test it’s mobile readiness here or view your site as it might look on a  multitude of devices here

One can also choose to employ a responsive design on their site. The idea behind this concept is instead of using mobile sites or themes, the design utilizes media queries to determine the best way to display the content based on the user’s device.

Whatever option is most compatible for your marketing budget and time, it is imperative to do it now. Consumers are not waiting, they are adopting mobile at record speeds.  Consumers want access to more content at their finger tips. Is your brand ready? How are you adapting to the changes? I would love to hear your thoughts.



Why All Brands Need to Refresh and Integrate Social Media

I started BrandCottage seven years ago after I moved from Atlanta to New York. I had worked for large advertising agencies in Los Angeles and some amazing smaller creative agencies in Atlanta. The motivation for me at the time was my belief (and witness) that the media landscape was changing rapidly and I believed smaller/nimbler shops were better prepared to adjust and react than large agencies.

Admittedly, none of us had any idea media and marketing would change at the pace it has…and continues to evolve. All of it driven by technology.

I have been a media specialist for over twenty years. My experience has given me deep insights into how consumers use media and how brands can tap those insights to build brand loyalty.  I’ve always believed you have to use a medium extensively to understand how others use it. About two years ago, I embarked on social media as a practitioner and student. I could not possibly be a media expert and not add this to my skill set.

A groundswell was starting. Many marketing people were still critical and thought it would be a passing fad. I always believed it was more a trend than a fad. I remember the first time a client asked me about facebook: “Do you think we need a facebook page?” That is how it all started. I told my partners, if we don’t do this, we will have huge gaps in our integrated media plans. They weren’t so sure at the time. Neither were clients, to be honest.

Twitter changed all my thinking and turned me into a believer that something very transformational was going on with consumers. I believed social media would change the way brands and marketers engaged with consumers. Nobody could predict how fast and deep that change would be.

Twitter is about engagement with the world, in ways that are both mass and intimate. It is two way communication. It has the profound ability to make you feel as if you are chatting with a friend in a coffee shop while also being part of the world’s biggest newsfeed.

I have met amazing people on twitter and call many of them friends (even though my kids remind me I taught them not to talk to strangers online). To my kids’ credit, there are some snake-oil salesmen, opportunists and people posing as experts when they have little to no experience. You have to be alert and wise. And do your homework if you decide to engage beyond the internet.

But, for the most part, social media engagers are people who want to share, to learn, to network. I met two of these amazing people on twitter: Peg Fitzpatrick and Paul Biedermann. We tweeted with each other for over a year, participated in many twitter chats together, and eventually took it offline to IRL (in real life).

We hired Peg and Paul and their company re:DESIGN to refresh our BrandCottage look and feel, as well as to integrate more social sharing on our website. The goal was a website that seemlessly integrated with our digital footprint on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.  I wasn’t the easiest client to work with, as I’m sure is true for most entrepreneurs. Between my own strong opinions, those of my trusted advisors, and lack of sufficient time to devote to the project (clients’ work came first), it took a lot of patience from Peg and Paul. But they endured, they answered every challenge, and they did it with grace under pressure.

All businesses need to evolve into the social world. All businesses need to keep their look and feel refreshed. I’m happy I found two trustworthy people to help BrandCottage elevate our brand online.

 Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.

Super Bowl XLVI: A Tipping Point for Social Marketing Innovation

The Super Bowl has long been thought of as the incubator for advertising and marketing innovation. For Super Bowl XLVI, this is more true than ever.

For the past couple of years, marketers and advertisers have filled Twitter and social media channels with Super Bowl conversations — about the ads as much as about the game. On February 5, when the game airs, Super Bowl advertisers will be working overtime to see that the general public tweets about their favorite commercials as well.

Shazam! Super Bowl Marketing Gets Social

“Super Bowl XLVI marks a tipping point for the anticipated explosive growth of interactive TV and will be a glimpse of what’s to come with emerging technology in this space,” said my friend, Susan Borst, a social media consultant. “Notable this year is the first live streaming of the big game by the NFL and Verizon (NFL Mobile), with an estimated one-third of ads being Shazam-able on smart phones. With more than 60 percent of fans watching the game tied to a second screen, this truly will be the most social Super Bowl ever.”

This year, advertisers are going all out to connect their brands to social media channels. The potential, based on last year’s social media results, is tremendous:

  • Super Bowl XLV was the topic of more than 4.5 million tweets (Semiocast).
  • During the final moments of the 2011 game, fans sent 4,064 tweets per second (The Huffington Post).

“Having spent record-breaking sums to secure the most valuable television slots in advertising, global brands from Coca-Cola to Volkswagen are looking to leverage social media to extend the buzz and reach of their ads,” writes Yinka Adegoke for Rueters.

Super Bowl 2012: Social Media Highlights

More than 150 million people will watch the game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. This year, it is estimated that the average 30-second spot will cost about $3.5 million, up from last year’s average of $3 million. (All this in a down economy, I might add.)

Some of his year’s reported social media highlights:

Century 21: Behind-the-scenes advertising footage via its app.

Coca-Cola: Along with the TV commercial featuring the Arctic polar bears, the bears will also be active on social media channels, including their own #GameDayPolarBears hashtag on Twitter. “The computer-animated bears will appear in a video stream running throughout the game at, a site hosted within Facebook,” reports USA TODAY.

Mars M&M’s: Touting a new candy, Ms. Brown, with an @mmsbrown Twitter handle.

Pepsi: Featuring X Factor USA winner Melanie Amaro performing the song, Respect. Fans can download a free video on their smart phones using a Shazam app.

Volkswagen’s Audi: Highlighting young vampires who are stunned by the Audi S7’s LED headlights (a spoof on the Twilight series), with continued conversation on Twitter: #SoLongVampires.

Super Bowl Ads: Not Just for TV

“Super Bowl ads aren’t just for TV anymore,” writes Carolyn Said at SFGate.

Said notes that many companies already have and others will share clips on YouTube. Companies are also extending their messages offline. Kia Motors, for example, is running teaser ads in movie theaters.

The trend in social media with the Super Bowl has been building over the past two or three years,” says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor, in a story. “This year, we’re really seeing it go to a totally new level where marketers are making social networking a core part of their Super Bowl efforts.”

Do You Have to be Young to Work in Social Media?

This blog originally appeared as part of a series of contributions to Ann Tran’s blog, “An Expectation To Be Young In Social Media?” Ten of Ann’s social media friends were asked to respond to the statement: To work online or in new media, there’s an expectation for you to be young.” The following is my response:


My clients want two things: brand insights and knowledge based on my years of marketing experience and proof that I can harness technology within the media landscape to deliver customers.

What’s unique today is that innovation happens at such a rapid pace, we no longer experience the generational adoption gaps. My son blogs. So do I. My young staffers tweet, pin and Facebook. So do I.

What about working in the high-tech world? Are younger people better? Can older people still contribute?

Age doesn’t matter. But you have to stay innovative, passionate and adaptive to change. You can’t be stuck in the past.

Hiring young people does help keep everyone current and moving forward. Experienced workers contribute with business insights that come only from years of experience.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic.