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.

 

(Image via)

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!

(Image via)

 

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.

(Image via)

Big News! The Small Screen is not Shrinking

Despite conflicting opinions and research, millennials continue to watch a lot of Television. Yes, TV viewership among young adults has lessened over time…but the decrease isn’t significant enough to warrant widespread panic. There’s also no need to compete for advertising dollars, thanks to a new technology that syncs the two screen consumer experience.

But first things first.

According to Deloitte, in March, 2013, 54 percent of leading millennials watched TV on any device.

During the last quarter of 2013, Nielsen reports that TV viewership among young adults isn’t fluctuating as much as people think. (Source: MarketingCharts)

“Nielsen’s most recent study indicates that Americans aged 18-24 watched a weekly average of about 22.5 hours during Q4 2013. That was a 47-minute drop-off from Q4 2012, which in turn had been down more than 2 hours from the year before.”

Other highlights from MarketingCharts reveal:

  • In the space of two years, Q4 TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by three hours per week
  • Most of that decline came between 2011 and 2012
  • The decline in viewing between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013 amounted to less than 7 minutes per day
  • Percentagewise, traditional TV viewing among 18-24-year-olds in Q4 2013 dropped by only 3.9 percent year-over-year

Clearly, Nielsen has a vested interest in TV viewership numbers, so we must seek balanced and fair research from numerous and non-biased sources.

Stop Fighting for Ad Dollars

How can the chase for billions of TV advertising dollars come to an end?

Andy Nobbs is CMO at Civolution, a technology provider that manages and monetizes media content. He writes on TheGuardian.com that syncing the consumer experience with automatic content response technology can benefit both TV and digital.

“ACR technology and content triggering allow applications running on second screen devices to automatically recognize the content being played on the television screen and synchronize the displaying of a digital ad unit in real time. So the man in the city who wants to drive the exotic car can locate the nearest dealer and even schedule a test drive right at the moment of piqued interest – just as the TV ad has been viewed. The marketer doesn’t have to go through the costly process of re-locating this potential buyer on the internet—and the potential buyer doesn’t have to “remember” that empowering feeling of theoretically rocketing the sports car through the doldrums of the daily commute. What applies to the sports car can also apply to everyday consumables as well – anything from a pizza meal to video-on-demand.”

Nobbs goes on to explain that everyone can win because advertisers and brands ensure their content is seen rather than skipped, content providers can sell ads more effectively and appropriately, and viewers can move that much more quickly to act on that stirring instilled emotion: aspiration.

I have to agree with Nobbs when he says Television can make people take action unlike any other medium.

There’s no small screen shrinkage here.

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.

5 Essential Branding Questions About Google and comScore’s New Partnership

life in the cracksScore one for instant gratification in the measurement of digital advertising. Google has announced an agreement with global ad metrics firm, comScore.

The plan:  Google will integrate comScore’s measurement platform, Validated Campaign Essentials (vCE), into its DoubleClick ad business.

The anticipated result: Google corners the market on big brand advertising by providing instant tracking of online campaigns and consumer behavior. If a marketing initiative isn’t performing as companies had anticipated, quick changes can be made to improve results. Industry execs won’t be waiting 24 hours to receive analytics; the data can be available within minutes or hours.

The integration of vCE will allow Google to drill deep into the segmentation of digital consumers’ habits, preferences, and behaviors. vCE promises agility to brands watching from the sidelines.

In theory, Google hopes to woo advertisers who spend billions of dollars a year on TV out of traditional media and onto the Internet.

Isn’t the web the place where instant gratification is magnified in real time?

But as brands, advertisers, media companies, and tech firms continuously create this trajectory of opportunity that brings immense power, I have to wonder:

  • How are consumers reacting to this news? (Let’s not forget consumers can make or break a brand)
  • In the wake of security breaches and hacking, will a stepped-up level of online monitoring leave a bad taste in the mouths of online shoppers?
  • Are  powerhouse companies like Google considered too ‘sneaky’ for their own good?
  • Will lawmakers try to legislate this piece of our industry?
  • What role, if any, will comScore’s rival Nielsen play in the transformation of TV advertising?

Executives from both Google and comScore say that for now, the multiyear agreement covers display ads and advertising on video and mobile devices. It will likely also extend to future ad products, technology and platforms that Google may develop.

As the advertising and branding landscape transforms at warp speed, we’ll continue to watch the measurement side closely.

The colossal impact that new measurement tools can have on potentially billions of online ads each day brings us into uncharted waters.

Are brands prepared to manage the convergence of instant gratification, agility, and sneaky? Is it even possible?

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.