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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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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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.

 

 

 

 

“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.