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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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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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.”

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.

 

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.  Salesforce.com’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?