Archive for the 'marketing and promotion' Category

amazon’s split personality

For Brands, Cure May Be Worse Than Disease

Cycle-World-Amazon-2016-11-30-at-11.31.28-AM.png

Read It Free Helps Subscription Rates How?

As I grow increasingly comfortable with online shopping as an alternative to chasing hard to find items in brick and mortar storefronts, rationalizing clik to add to shopping cart becomes easier and easier as the cost of shipping tumbles. Then came Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is by all indications a very effective loss leader in the effort to tether consumers to mega-site Amazon for all their internet purchases. Patterned after the big box membership warehouse experience, Prime, for a modest annual fee, delivers not only free 2-day shipping on most items, but includes a bunch of other perks as well.

The price is right – for as long as it can last.

The included music feed is perfectly acceptable, eliminating having to subscribe to Pandora, Spotify, or Radio for a premium listening experience. Ditto access to online t.v. content, books, and a number of other features that save time and/or money.

I just discovered that a number of familiar, favorite, and free periodicals are available as well, viewable online or as downloaded Kindle content. Which is how I came across Cycle World, Bonnier’s flagship pub in their motorcycle group stable of powersports publications, as a free read on Amazon.

I’m not sure how the business model for offering up your vanguard bike magazine for free reading moves the bottom line needle. It’s not an option you’d expect to find in a typical subscription pitch; “12 Whole Issues For One Year’s Worth of Reading Only Zero Dollars and Zero Cents!”

Since consolidating the spectrum of motorcycle pubs several years ago by purchasing those niche assets from Hearst first, then Source Interlink, the overall health of print continues to circle the drain, excepting a few standouts like Garden & Gun. The price is right – for as long as it can last.

defining the retail user experience

calling customer service

The Retail Chain’s Weakest Link

When I want to enjoy a retail shopping experience, Tampa’s International Mall is a perfect destination that’s just 30-minutes away. There’s an Apple store, a Williams-Sonoma, designer label signature storefronts galore, and the pedestrian traffic is an instant education in current style trends.

Parking outside Nordstrom’s, where both the professional display techniques and downright good food of their in-store restaurant are hard to resist, is convenient.

Holiday shopping always includes a visit to Neiman Marcus for their distinctive American Classic box set dessert sampler featuring a variety of six liquor infused cakes.

This year I noticed a big gap in how I, Shopper A, was interpreted. Nordstrom’s personnel were ready to offer immediate help, but not to the point of smothering. If I’d been looking for something in particular, catching the eye of a sales person would have only needed a glance.

First, be able to answer every question about what you’re selling.

Neiman’s, on the other hand, presented a challenge. Because of a change in packaging I did have questions; the ensuing search for help made me wonder if a set of railroad crossing bells would have been useful, and checkout, achieved only after some few minutes of confusion, caused further annoyance at a process that should be anything but.

Two top-tier stores. Two totally different outcomes. Know your products. Recognize your customers. Create an experience that doesn’t lead to a comparative blog post.

how logo design affects brand

Aligning Your Look With Your Mission

When it com133es to promoting a business, nothing is more critical than the brand logotype. Getting it right goes a long, long way towards making an impression on a distracted public that sees thousands of visuals on a daily basis.

To be successful, a corporate mark requires design integrity, repetition in the marketplace, and a connection to the goods or services it represents. Whether abstract or literal, the Nikes, Apples, and Coca-Colas of the business world rely on a recognizable visual that connotes quality and trust.

Emoticon, Meet Emoji

Looking at the before and after (above left) of IHOP’s haircut and a shave, it’s difficult to imagine how the approval process resulted in what struck one reviewer as a “sinister” smile beneath the word mark.

It’s arguably more legible, but only slightly, and that’s about where it starts and ends.

The IHOP acronym, in case some may have forgotten, stands for International House of Pancakes. But that’s not what I see when I try to decipher the new and improved visual. Emoticon, meet emoji.

HOW Design recently interviewed Siegel+Gale, a New York based branding agency known for their standout work, on the recent spate of chain restaurant logo overhauls. For anyone who follows corporate design, the candid remarks by the agency’s designers are for the most part an indictment of the perils of lackluster graphics.

A couple of things stand out in this collection of shareholder dependent corporate eateries. First, it’s more than okay to overhaul the corporate brand on an as needed basis. Nothing says stay away like an aged, dated, and most importantly irrelevant logotype. Second, once having decided on a freshening, make sure you’re just not slipping sideways.

Design updates should – probably – include references to historical looks that over time successfully represented a company to its public. But don’t let fear of letting go put up unnecessary barriers to a truly fresh, inspired interpretation that acknowledges the past while extending the future. Bon appétit!

when it snows it pours

pinellas-cty-tourism.png

Selfie Marketing Pitch Popular

Florida’s Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the state. It’s also the smallest, but that has never affected its ability to draw tourists from around the globe, intent on visiting world-class beaches from Caladisi Island State Park on the northern end to Fort Desoto County Park guarding the entrance to Tampa Bay.

With gas prices at their lowest level in years, an economy that’s on the rebound for the first time in years, and a brutal winter that continues to lash the northeast, convincing northerners to turn their wanderlust into momentum and head south isn’t a heavy lift.

Will Winter Ever End?

Nonetheless, Pinellas County’s marketing arm, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, came up with a rock solid bit of creative when they launched a campaign centered around a family of nomadic snowmen who began showing up in slush and dirty snow blanketed New York and Chicago.

The edgy “WinterBlows” campaign plants irresistible (and guaranteed to have lines forming for selfies) faux snowmen on the sidewalks displaying sandwich boards headlined “Sunshine or bust!” and the WinterBlows.com URL.

Is it working? I’d have to say yes, considering how congested the main two-lane north-south beach artery, Gulf Boulevard, has become in recent days. There’s nothing that can match a smart, well executed, marketing solution.

b-to-b needs softer approach

Improve B-to-B With Creative Storytelling

b-to-b gets a creative makeover

The January issue of Advertising Age takes a look at B-to-B marketing as brands continue to sort out what works and what doesn’t for industrial communications in the digitized age.

The conclusion is that brands can’t rely any longer on a business marketing process that doesn’t address the issue of  “wonderful storytelling,” according to GE global creative director Andy Goldberg. In other words, the old way of sexing up a page from a parts catalog and hoping it flies are long gone.

Like every other area of corporate communications, from PR to advertising, the social in social media is the leading influencer effecting the creative upgrade.

finding new media outlets

For GE, that means taking advantage of previously untapped platforms like late night talk, boosting “Fallonventions” on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate the brand’s human side.

Others describe the new approach as moving from data to gut, and doing what connects emotionally. United States Gypsum (USG), hardly a warm and fuzzy candidate for storytelling, did just that in their “It’s Your World” ad series.

With user experience driving this new approach, the goal is to connect potential buyers using content that explains a brand’s product in an engaging and educational manner. How well that will work with traditional buyers used to making dollars and cents decisions based on bottom line performance will determine B-to-B creative in a way that could be hugely transformative.

And if its proven effective in the long run over traditional methods, the need for involving creative direction that’s familiar with social media will be paramount.

facebook says party’s over

Brand reach plummeted after Facebook hit the brakes on organic.

Ogilvy Social describes how brand reach plummeted after Facebook hit the brakes on organic.

Brands, Markets, Budgets Strategy

Once not so very long ago, retail business had a narrow choice of media for advertising and marketing; the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and broadcast. Depending on the size of the market, a newspaper or two may have offered competitive rates, along with radio and t.v. But unless your business was cars, clothes, furniture or groceries, it was pretty much hit or miss.

As broadband began rolling out there was a brief moment when print was cruising laid back at altitude while digital media was taxiing for takeoff. Didn’t last long. Overnight, print and the public airwaves found themselves powerless to head off the rush to the exits by marketers chasing the promise of free forever online homesteads. Woot. Continue reading ‘facebook says party’s over’

facebook and google get aired out

Facebook and Google battle for the same audience. Do you need both?

Facebook and Google battle for the same audience. Do you need both?

Facebook Caught Padding Paid Likes

A video critique posted by web site skeptic Veratasium on how Facebook is at the very least midleading business pages seeking to increase their page likes struck a nerve.

Facebook responded to Derek Muller’s claims by dismissing them. Here’s his Facebook page response to their dissembling: My response to Facebook’s response to me – fixed so you don’t have to solve a captcha to share.

Veratasium’s claims go into the hopper of debate over which is best for business, Facebook or Google+, neither or both. It’s a complex decision made more difficult for small businesses with neither the budget nor talent to support a dedicated online social effort.

It isn’t just an either or decision. Despite their respective shortcomings, read more on how both channels can be effective legs in a social marketing strategy in this comparison.

social media for business

Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.

Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.

Your Business On Social – It’s Really Not Personal

A six-month social media marketing consultation for a multi-line powersports dealership that reps several metric makes, a domestic brand, and PWC and OHV inventory was the inspiration for this post. Located in a large Southeastern market, a neglected social media program wasn’t producing the growth one might expect given their footprint.

Management depended on traditional automotive push marketing techniques based largely on motivational training and consisting largely of clichéd slogans and a steady diet of overwrought memes. Making matters worse was content posted by employees who didn’t understand that the approach required for a business page had nothing to do with their personal life online.

a waste of their money and my time

When I got involved the CMS vendor hired for site design and management had just set up an incomplete Google+ page and a lamentable blog that immediately failed. These “assets” joined a struggling Facebook timeline and an abandoned Twitter feed that, together with a local weekly bike night, made up a dysfunctional marketing strategy that defied the concept of content coordination.

The social goal was easily defined: increase organic growth, reach, and engagement using proven social media business techniques. In the end it was a waste of their money and my time. Based on my direct experience with this dealer, I came away with a Five-Step Program for improving your social media marketing assets.

Here are my Top Five Social Marketing Essentials: the minimum elements a social media marketing program needs in order to have any chance of success.

5) Management Engagement

Christmas in july 2

This ad for snowmobiles in Florida stayed up for months.

Would you expect to see snowmobiles sold in Florida? In July? This embarrassing post by the client’s CMS vendor and web site IT, a well known powersports service provider, stayed up for weeks because management wouldn’t look at their own channels. I won’t comment on the use of transparent background PNGs against a lime green <IMG> tag background color.

Lesson? Stay engaged or risk the consequences.

4) Coordinate Activities

Social didn’t have a seat at the table when sales, promos, or events were planned by the sales manager. OEM marketing opportunities came and went without generating earned publicity. Result: a failure to connect using basic tools like page event apps to promote engagement and activity.

Further muddying the waters — multiple managers had independent control of multiple channels. Result? A total lack of content direction and coordination.

Lesson? Assign one manager as point-of-contact, with authority for all content and the option to grant multiple contributors access to team functions.

3) Understand Social Stats

Facebook personal page used to drive likes

Personal friends list used to prop up skewed reach.

Stats can inform or mislead. When they’re manipulated, the result can be deceptive and misleading.

Despite a favorable (chart at top) 68% male-31% female fan mix, the reach skewed heavily towards women, not men. This disconnect is traceable to flawed post content by the lobby greeter’s attempt to pad metrics by polling her personal Facebook male friends for likes. This shifted the ratio alright, but only by creating a false positive that distorts the desired organic results and won’t fool Facebook.

Lesson? Manipulated stats disguise reality, lead to bad decisions based on false facts.

2) Understand How Social Media Works

Social marketing is about pull, not push. Understanding the general strengths and weaknesses is essential.

It’s a unique medium that requires regular care and feeding in the form of professional attention. Audience engagement can’t be forced; only quality content of interest will attract interaction. Google knows this, and you should also.

Lesson? Quality content continues to be the prime ingredient in a successful social campaign.

1) Speak With One Voice

The number one requirement for a successful social marketing program? Speak professionally, using one knowledgeable voice.

The dealership’s in-house voice, a former barista turned lobby greeter with zero motorcycle knowledge and a dysfunctional writing “style”, was allowed to post disconnected content online, without review, like the incoherent example below.

This sad word salad, intended to boost OHV sales, was posted to the dealer’s very public Facebook brand page. It clearly demonstrates why writing pros should be responsible for social media messaging. (Subtitle: Don’t write stoned.)

 

Off-roading enthusiasts love the adventures and the risks and adrenaline associated with it. Speaking with the novice portion of this crowd, one of the most commonly inquiries is, “Do you know where I can ride these?” It’s a very just question. Now a great place to cross off your bucket list is the Apalachicola National Forest. Located in the panhandle, there is 195,000 acres worth of lush, loamy nature. They conveniently have about 80% of their trails marked very well. However, it is also rumored to have many undiscovered trails with very little traffic. Yeah it’s a bit of a trip, but do ya really plan on staying at home for the rest of your life?

 

I rest my case. Lesson? Social programs too often see Nike’s success selling shoes as an easily copied meme. Reality? Without professional creative talent efforts aren’t just wasted, they’re counterproductive.

social channel growth: a job for pros

Don’t be this dealer. Commit to using the prestigious power of social media. Make it count. Engage your qualified market.

aimexpo set to launch

Powersports Gets New Show

Recent news from Advanstar that the Dealernews February Dealer Expo, held in Indianapolis after moving west from Cincy in 1998 but suffering badly from lagging attendance and exhibitor disinterest since the high water mark in the mid ’00s, will move to Chicago in 2014 means the newly formed AIME consumer show faces a much lower bar to overcome as a cross-channel powersports industry marketing event.

Orlando has enjoyed major motorsports industry success as a destination for years. Ironically, after welcoming thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of attendees since moving the event south, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) expo, held in OCCC’s North-South venue since 2001, returns to Indy this December as part of a SEMA brokered reunification with the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS, aka, hard core racing).

I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.

“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”

SEMA registrationI’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.

So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.

“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)

This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.

Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.

  • Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
  • Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.

“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.

In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.

For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.

One Booth You’ve Got To Visit

For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.

Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.

GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.

Where Ya’ At?

When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.

Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.

Who’s Driving!

Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.

Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.

In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.

PRI, to its great credit, put together a fleet of convenient and timely hop on board show buses that operated around the clock during event hours and included the (understatement) popular Beer On The Bus after each day’s close. AIME hasn’t said, but the difference in scale probably precludes anything similar.

If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.

What’s For Dinner?

Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.

If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.

If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.

I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.

What To Do Besides

Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.

Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.

Welcome to Florida!

choosing your content platform(s)

Brian Solis' conversation prism shows social media relationships

Brian Solis’s latest Conversation Prism illustrates the increasing complexity of Social Media content management.

conversation prism displays social media relationships

Brian Solis recently updated his hugely popular Conversation Social Prism which charts the best known channels in the social media spectrum.

Dozens of major social channels have been categorized under 26 distinct headings representing social’s broad range of interests. The list includes the best known, not every social channel on the web.

It’s an eye-opening experience trying to comprehend the near limitless opportunities he presents while deciding on priorities. To get an idea of how far digital media has come, you might want to compare his prism to my web universe sketched only four years ago.

how successful your rank is depends a lot on where you publish

The two most popular platforms for individualized content publishing are brand-here-dot-com websites and/or blogs.

Blogs are dynamic, while publishing as a straight html web page tends to be more cumbersome even though it allows greater flexibility. It’s a trade-off that should be considered with an eye towards time management, creative skills, and frequency.

Social sites are also widely used for content, but are restricted in one form or another as to length and type of content. To put all your eggs in one basket, i.e. Facebook, places the cart before the horse. Pinterest, SlideShare, YouTube, Behance, and others offer a wide variety of options as well as optimized content management. But none offer the overall flexibility of a native domain. Further, crawling and indexing social sites may not be as optimal as a dedicated site.

using only social media has its limitations

Publishing Content Management System (CMS) web site or blog usually means a one-look theme that’s template based. I publish to both platforms: HTML material to my site, and this blog for short updates like this. What this means is that my dot-com web platform maintains a consistent look with the option of inserting one-off pages if desired.

Most small businesses should find blogging only very well suited to establishing a reputation for customized content, especially if that blog is self-hosted.

Once you’ve decided on a workflow and have begun publishing, the next step is promoting that quality content. Today, that means social media and email.

While it’s obviously impossible to cover the entire spectrum of social media, the trick is to focus on a half-dozen or fewer sites and make sure they’re well integrated into your prime channel.




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