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 ushma@brandcottage.com

Welcome to the team Ushma!

Patricia Wilson
President BrandCottage

Visual Content Widens the Branding and PR Gap

The line between advertising, branding, marketing and PR may appear blurry to some, but I believe clarity has arrived.

Interestingly enough, it is the disruptive visual platforms Instagram and Pinterest that are bringing clarity to the overall communications industry.

In a traditional sense, Public Relations practitioners have been wordsmiths; conveying written and (limited) visual messages to the public. PR pros have mainly used words and text to increase awareness and educate people about products, services, controversies, and causes.

But, 2014 has been a tsunami of visuals and images in communication. This has widened the skills gap between branding and PR. For example, research proves that press releases and blog posts containing visuals have significantly higher open and read rates than content with straight text.

Many PR executives and organizations are inserting video snippets or infographics into their press releases. Their goal is to improve engagement and news pitches to reporters. Visual tours are becoming more commonplace with PR, too. Show, don’t tell.

This is a far cry from branding and the visual web that’s unfolding in our industry today.

Who ‘owns’ a company’s brand positioning?

Not the PR department, the mavens of linguistics.

According to a post on TheNextWeb, photo and video posts on Pinterest refer more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ combined.

Storytelling with visuals is driving branding as well. Forty-two percent of all Tumblr posts are photos.

The first commercial camera was introduced in 1873. Today, there are more than 1 billion photos on Instagram.

Welcome to the visual web.

Branding, marketing, advertising, and sales are based on the psychology of influencing human behavior and emotional touch points that convert into revenue.

I don’t believe that students of PR are the most trained, skilled, or experienced  in these areas. This is a far cry from matters such as Crisis Communications, an area of expertise that rightfully belongs within the scope of PR. Public Relations is aligned more closely with media relations than it is with branding. PR has largely owned social media because it’s closely aligned with reputation management.  But the visual web changes all that. Storytelling has long been the role of the Advertising or Brand Agency.

A post on Content Marketing Institute addresses the transformation of brand experience:

Just as Copernicus revolutionized our understanding of cosmology by proving that the sun is the center of our solar system (not the Earth), marketing has gone through a transformation of focus. Historically, we placed our brand at the center of our marketing decisions, which resulted in a lot of wasted effort. Cristina Heise gyro’s Director of Brand Experience points out that we’ve now put the customer in her rightful place — at the center of the marketing universe. “Think about the human at the center and how to make it easier on them. Think about what’s concerning her, what’s troubling her, what excites her, what motivates her, what she wants to accomplish and how you and your brand can help,” she recommends.

The hub of today’s hybrid messaging and modern marketing is the visual web. Analyst Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester says a marketing strategy based around value-driven interactions is vital in meeting customer expectations.

Linguistics and text are a shrinking part of the overall picture.

As the demand for consumer engagement skyrockets, it’s the visuals that show–and tell–our brand stories.

 

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Staving Off the Drama of Net Neutrality

Network neutrality may bring the fast lane to some but it can also lead to a slow and painful existence to advertisers who provide content.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a first-step towards net neutrality, which would offer a two-tiered ‘fast lane, slow lane’ approach to streaming video online.

Currently, the giant providers such as Netflix, Google, and Comcast are on a level playing field with the rest of us. The Internet is free and available to virtually anyone to stream large amounts of video, ads, and content.

The FCC wants the behemoths to pay for access to the ‘fast lane’ technology which allows content to be available at warp speed without interruption and snags.

If the slow lane is reserved for the rest of us, advertisers, and brands could experience significant changes in how we reach consumers on the web.

Online advertisers and small agencies could be hurt by barely moving in second gear while the big boys are running circles around us on the NASCAR track.

A recent post on DexMedia.com explains it this way:

“This might mean, for instance, that it might take a lot longer to load a video ad than the page content around it, depending on who is paying for the better service. In addition, a tiered system could effectively redistribute audiences, making it more difficult to target them whether via online or digital TV platforms.”

For now, we still have a level playing field and net neutrality remains in place, as it should.

If the FCC is looking to discriminate, I would respectfully suggest Commissioners re-read the U.S Constitution. If the FCC wants to create needless drama, Commissioners should tune into an afternoon soap opera or reality show.

A final thought: I don’t want to be in the slowpoke lane. Do you?

 

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Watching Programmatic Advertising Grow Up

It’s not commonplace in the marketing world because it’s too confusing.

That’s the conclusion I have drawn about programmatic advertising, which is defined simply as an automated process to buying online ads. Think Amazon or e-Bay.

Marketing pros who are embracing this (somewhat) new model see a busy and bright future for online display advertising.

On Adweek.com, Mike Shields says programmatic is about buying specific audiences using a lot of data to figure out the right ad, the right person, the right time. “It’s the idea that machines will simply handle all of the process involved in buying media—the insertion orders, the paperwork, the trafficking, the spreadsheets. A few mouse clicks, and you can go home.”

Marketers may be watching programmatic mature, but it’s still not sitting at the adult table just yet.

I like this thumbnail from AdAge:

“For all the ink spilled, you’d think the entire world had gone programmatic, but it’s still just a sliver of online-display advertising. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ buying arm Magna Global projects that programmatic spending will reach $9.8 billion in the U.S. this year, or about 20% of the overall digital-ad market. To move brand dollars, programmatic technologies have to grow up and advance to other forms of media, like TV and radio.”

There is movement in this direction.

A few weeks ago, Google launched Partner Select, a programmatic exchange for video ads.

TechCrunch.com’s Frederic Lardinois explains that almost by default, Google’s customers also want to buy their ads programmatically and spread their investment across multiple publishers. At the same time, many content providers tend to sell directly to the brands that want to advertise around their content.

And with this comes the challenges that brands and agencies are facing. One concern is a lack of quality content that’s available right now for programmatic video.

A second point that is bringing uneasiness into the conversation stems from location.

Programmatic is being hailed as a software tool that saves marketing dollars. But what happens if an ad is placed on a less-than-reputable web page that could do more damage than good?

We’ve seen brands getting burned by fraudster’s who create shell websites with an impressive number of followers and subscribers who don’t exist.

As long as marketers and brands are educated about the growing pains associated with programmatic advertising, we may just find it an efficient and exciting way to influence consumers in real time.

 

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Kicking Around Digital Ads at the World Cup

The 2014 World Cup is just around the corner, and there are some creative digital forums that sponsors and advertisers are beginning to launch.

The world’s largest sporting event kicks off in Brazil’s capital city of Sao Paulo on June 12, and runs through July 13.

One sponsor, Budweiser, has created a microsite to serve as a hub for a weeklong series of events and content. The ‘Rise as One’ platform assures that digital media takes center stage over traditional advertising.

“On top of TV and the more traditional [parts], digital is the lead component of this campaign,” Ricardo Marques, Budweiser’s global advertising director, told Adweek. “One of the things that we wanted to ensure was that we understood the specifics of each platform and made sure that we have content tailored to each platform.”

Adweek’s Lauren Johnson writes that during the games, Budweiser will use Twitter Cards to let fans vote for their favorite players, called the FIFA Man of the Match.

“The beer brand will then award a player after every match and will buy Promoted Tweets to drive traffic to the content. Promoted Posts will also be used on Facebook that direct consumers to the campaign’s microsite to vote,” explains Johnson. “As far as video, the campaign includes two Web series that Budweiser has created with Fox Sports and Vice. The Fox Sports content spans 80 countries for a global push, and the Vice video includes a six-part documentary series.”

Over at Coca-Cola, the company’s largest advertising campaign in its history comes to fruition at the 2014 games. A special logo for the World Cup has been designed by James Sommerville,  VP-global design. He first sketched out the ‘World’s Cup’ logo on a napkin in a restaurant. The logo will be the cornerstone of the campaign, which runs in 175 markets.  “We give the markets creative freedom, but actually they’re all working off the same ingredients,” says Sommerville.

While Budweiser and Coca-Cola are official World Cup sponsors, this tidbit just caught my eye. MarketingLand.com reports that Nike, Samsung, and Castrol are dominating the social video playing field. “That’s according to a report by video metrics firm Unruly, which ranked brands by the total number of shares their World Cup-targeted videos have received on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.”

Nike and Samsung are not sponsors, so it will be interesting to watch how their respective campaigns evolve.

Martin Beck explains on MarketingLand.com: “As of May 22 when the snapshot was taken, Nike led with 1.28 million, and Samsung (971,504) and Castrol (962,206) had just shy of a million. Fourth-place Coca-Cola was way back with 353,067.”

In addition to videos and promoted Tweets, other brands are including Google+ Hangouts and gaming in their media and marketing efforts.   We must not forget mobile.

Let the games begin!

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Tide’s Colorful Twitter Celebration of the NFL Draft Shines

Clean, crisp, and colorful.

That’s how I like to describe the creative and collaborative approach that Tide has taken in its sponsorship of the National Football League draft.

The recent draft in New York featured a beautifully orchestrated marketing campaign on Twitter that was fan and customer-centric.   

Pulling together all of the elements to make the campaign pop, Tide focused its theme on colors, and what they represent to fans, communities, teams, and players alike.

The detergent company, owned by Procter & Gamble, got buy-in from one player on each of the league’s 32 teams. According to a press release from Tide, designated players—dubbed ‘Tide Color Captains’—served as real-time photojournalists during the draft.

“I know from personal experience that our fans make our team better, get us pumped and give us that extra edge out on the football field,” said Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. “There’s nothing better than pulling up to our stadium or running out of the tunnel and seeing that sea of black and gold. It’s something that every player loves. That’s why I’ve partnered with Tide, to show fans how much we appreciate their support and dedication.”

As fans and supporters proudly displayed their team colors, Tide brings us back to the clarity, vibrancy, and richness of celebrating (clean) colors and the big moments that make up big events.

Those following the draft and picks—and the Tide campaign—spent a good part of the evening on Twitter, engaging with @TideNFL and #ourcolors.

The multi-year sponsorship that Tide secured with the NFL in 2012 proves that when brands pluck themselves out of the marketing mix and allow the public to be front and center, there’s nothing better than building momentum organically.

A press release on NFLCommunications.com states: “Tide’s NFL sponsorship allows us to tap into the huge passion America has for the NFL and the emotion that more than 180 million fans have for their favorite teams,” says Sundar Raman, North America Fabric Care Marketing Director at P&G. “The NFL is the ultimate test for a laundry detergent and we’re proud that our brand is one the equipment managers trust to keep uniforms clean.”

Finally, I couldn’t resist ending this post with this observation: Looks like this marketing and advertising campaign has passed with flying colors.

 

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3 Ways to Keep the Real Score in Social Branding

Too many marketing, branding, and advertising pros are going into social campaigns with a lot of information, but are confused when asked the following fundamental questions:

  • Why are you conducting this social media campaign?
  • How will you know if it’s a success?

Yes, these may seem like rudimentary questions, but the answers must be extremely clear to every single member of your team…before the social campaign gets underway. As business leader Napoleon Hill said in the 1940s, it’s all about definition of purpose.

This takes us beyond just watching the number of followers or likes that have accumulated on Facebook or Pinterest. These tallies are good for our egos but they fail to bring the conversions that are at the heart of marketing campaigns, the conversions that drive revenue and business.

It’s time to look deeper into three aspects of the data that is available to us:

Know the value of a visitor. How long does a visitor stay on your website or blog? What was their point of entry and where did you lose them? A person who is on and off the page in 12 seconds cannot be quantified the same as a return visitor who spends 1.5 minutes on your site and registered for a free catalog or white paper.

Look at where your paths cross. By fully understanding consumer behavior, you will be able to pinpoint where your brand intersects with consumers. How did the consumer find you? Was it a search engine, link from another site, or a referral from a trusted friend? Marketing and branding professionals must have access to data (and understand it) as it relates to consumer habits across content, social, mobile, and search.

Disseminate information quickly. Real-time analytics will prove vital to your campaign as data enables you to listen, react, and respond in just moments. Certainly this is important in customer service as consumers take to social channels to air their delight or disgust with a brand, product, or service. But, companies that use free tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and BrightEdge, can monitor keywords and multiple social channels to engage with the public as conversations unfold. Consider it a softer side of customer service.

We are living in the age of the connected consumer.

We must be able to dissect the information that’s going on inside the data.

According to best-selling business author Seth Godin: “The essence of marketing today is to tell a story to people who want to hear it, in a way that resonates with them so they are likely to either respond or connect to you, or tell their friends.”

 

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How Big Brands Are Using Apps to Reach Consumers

Several big name brands are turning to mobile messaging apps to touch consumers.

In February, Facebook announced the acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion. That’s when advertisers began paying close attention.

Apps such as Snapchat, Kik, Tango, and WeChat aren’t simply alternatives to avoid the cost of texting. These social portals are turning our industry upside down and inside out, a trend that will likely define 2014’s digital advertising landscape.

Let’s take a look at Taco Bell’s foray into Snapchat.

Mark Bergen writes in AdAge:

“Taco Bell announced it would premiere its newest taco on the popular ephemeral app with a short movie, a first for Snapchat. By letting companies create pages as regular users, Snapchat allows brands to toy around with its playful format.”

Armed with i-Phones and a mobile editing van, a creative team from Taco Bell filmed its short movie on the MTV Music Awards Red Carpet.

The Taco Bell foray is detailed in a new report from IPG Media Labs. While the report cautions that Snapchat offers no analytics beyond seeing the number of followers, it’s worthy of a closer look.

Nick Tran, Taco Bell’s social media lead, explains the impetus for using Snapchat. In this two-minute video on AdAge, Tran says the fast food chain has been using Snapchat for the past year.

How did they know what kinds of content Snapchat users craved? They asked, said Tran. And then Taco Bell launched ‘Snapchat Fridays.’

It’s what many marketing and advertising pros had previously called ‘focus groups.’

The Evolving Messaging Space

What role can brands and media owners play in the conversation?

“The answer lies in understanding a fragmented industry landscape dominated by a few key players with strikingly different philosophies, product offerings, and geographic and demographic strongholds,” according to IPG. “If you think apps are just a cheaper way to text, you’re missing their potential: they’re content portals enabling 1:1 interaction with friends and fans.”

A Demanding Marketplace

In new research, media analysts David Edelman and Jacques Bughin at McKinsey and Company, write that advertising will evolve in many ways that no one can predict. “But the trend towards ‘on-demand’ marketing is already clear and is placing new demands on marketers’ leadership and skills. Marketers cannot afford to wait until 2020 to be ready.”

Stephen DeAngelis, CEO of Enterra Solutions, agrees. “Digitalization and mobile technologies have placed the consumer in the driver’s seat and have changed the face of marketing forever,” says DeAngelis.

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5 Tips for Media Sellers

(Editor’s Note: The original version of this article was published on MediaLifeMagazine.com on February 1, 2013)

I would wager most media buyers and sellers would agree that the ad buying process has become more diffucult in the past five years with the proliferation of media choices, the lack of reliable research, the decrease in media buyer training programs, the integration of social and mobile media buying into the media planning equation, and the simple lack of time needed to get all the necessary work done in a single day.

Here are five tips for media sellers:

1.Do Your Homework Before Calling on a Media Buyer: As a buyer, we work closely with our advertising clients to understand their business goals, their objectives in executing an ad campaign, their customer insights, and the competitive playing field. If a media sales professional hasn’t done any homework on the client, the competitive landscape or the challenges we face, then how can they possible help “solve the problem”?

2. Spend as much time listening as you do selling. Even if you’ve done your homework, it’s likely you will learn something valuable at a meeting with the buyer or even on a phone call. If you spend the entire time explaining your technology or media, you’ve missed the opportunity to understand how to offer up the solution. Solve, don’t just sell.

3. Try to determine who the decision makers are on a media buy: on the client side, the agency side, etc. I realize this can sometimes be difficult and with limited sales force, there is an instinct to go to just one person who is “making the buy”. In reality, media plans go up the chain in an agency and then up the chain at a client and many people weigh in on its merits, its efficiencies, its content, its value. If you are only calling on a media buyer, you may or may not be at risk up the chain. If you have not worked hard to understand the relationship dynamics throughout an organization, you will be at risk of losing a buy. This is especially true for large budget scenarios. On the other hand, if you are only calling on the CMO and not the media buyer, you will almost certainly risk inclusion in the plan. This is not a power struggle but a realization that the client has hired the media team to do the analysis and crafting of the plan.

4. Ask questions of the RFP and try to understand the top selection criteria for the media buy. We are always pushing our clients and our buyers to clearly state the selection criteria so everyone understands how the media proposals will be evaluated. With so many factors determining a “good” RFP, it’s critical to determine what variables are weighted the highest. CPMs and efficiencies are always a critical factor but as noise increases with media and engagement becomes more valuable, efficiencies alone are not the single highest value. Push the media planner/buyer to help you understand how your RFP will be evaluated.

5. Make it easy for mediaplanners/buyers to find you and your sales team. I cannot tell you how many times the past 5 years we tried to find a key sales rep at a digital company with extreme frustration. Find a way to make easier to get your phone number and contact information.

The marketplace demands are more robust than ever, for both media buyers and sellers. The pure number of available media impressions for purchase has increased at an alarming rate. The sophisticated measurement tools are not keeping pace with the marketplace. The good news is that brands are still spending record amounts of money on paid media. The bad news is that every digital company now has paid advertising as its cornerstone for revenue and that means more sales reps in the marketplace.

At the end of the day, most media buyers are looking for solutions to help solve a client’s marketing problem. The media sales professional who can offer that up in a compelling and clear way and understand what the issues are will be successful. It’s not just selling it’s solving.

4 Topics Every Marketing Pro Must Embrace

Trends twists turns editedThe advertising and marketing arenas are bursting at the seams, and for good reason. The transformation of consumer behaviors based on technology are exciting…and yes, sometimes chaotic.

Are you keeping up with the trends, twists, and turns?  Here are some recent news stories that amplify the shifts in consumer marketing.

Advertising

Long-Form Digital Ad Views Skyrocket

Tumblr: Yahoo Overhauls Advertising Model to Leverage ‘Data Insights’

Dermablend Moves Beyond Shock and Awe of Zombie Boy for an Emotional Connection

Online Auction Site Ganklt.com Expands National TV Media Buys

Facebook to Marketers: Expect a Drop in News Feed Distribution

Brand Voice and Engagement

Big Opportunity for Social Media Campaigns with Emotional Appeal

Can a Payment Tech Company, Visa Canada, Create a Buzz and Shift Consumer Spending Habits?

Is Nike Paying Too Much for Superstars and Endorsements?

Future of Brand Marketing/Tech/Mobile

Mobile Startup Jana Launches New Tool to Reach Next Billion Consumers Via Mobile

Apps: The Future of Marketing

Mobile and the In-Store Customer Experience: How ‘Showrooming’ is Helping…or Hurting

Social Media Marketing Tips for Highly Regulated Industries

Visual Hashtags and Big Brands

Metrics

In Defense of Advertising’s Gross Rating Point

Trends to Act Upon: Avoid the Vortex of Valueless Marketing Metrics

Finally, Chobani Yogurt’s Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness says that part of marketing is innovation. “You have to keep pressure in the marketplace to keep things exciting.”