Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category

Does hacking impact your company’s brand? You bet.

Monday, March 13th, 2017

hackingIf it’s on the internet, it’s real, right? When Sony Music tweeted that Britney Spears had died, the rumor spread like wildfire. Hacker group OurMine recently hacked and then mocked NetFlix by saying, on NetFlix’s Twiter account, “Hey, it’s OurMine, Don’t worry we are just testing your security…” As noted in The Atlantic, even more disruptive was the two-hour morning outage in October 2016 of Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Github, and many other popular websites and services that became effectively inaccessible for many American web users. What was unique about this attack was the perpetrator used a botnet composed of so-called “internet-of-things” devices—namely, webcams and DVRs—to spam Dyn with more requests than it could handle.

“The software uses malware from phishing emails to first infect a computer or home network, then spreads to everything on it, taking over DVRs, cable set-top boxes, routers and even Internet-connected cameras used by stores and businesses for surveillance. These devices are in turn used to create a robot network, or botnet, to send the millions of messages that knocks the out victims’ computer systems.” Imagine coming home to find your thermostat turned up to 80 degrees or your toaster on. It may be funny on the surface but think about the damage this can cause.” –USA Today

Fourth-Hacker-Stealing-Sensitive-Data-from-Game-Companies-Pleads-Guilty-477527-2The bottom line is that we live in a world that’s run by computers and everyone knows that hacking is a major problem. The hacking of social media accounts can range from the annoying to downright scary. For example, hackers stole 32 million login credentials from Twitter in 2016 and then more recently  there have been political attacks like the one on the Democratic National Committee and the reports of Russian hackers impacting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Sadly, there are even YouTube videos that teach people how to hack social media accounts.

While it’s clear that cybersecurity is an issue that impacts all of us, companies need to consider how the attacks can impact their brand, and how they can prepare in advance to combat these issues. While these episodes can be embarrassing, companies need to realize that ensuring customer loyalty is critical. Most people think of this as an IT issue, but in reality it is also an important brand issue. As noted in Chief Marketer Magazine, here are five things that companies can do to prepare for a cybersecurity crisis:

  • Put preventative measures in place. Mimic access control procedures, governance, and policies that your CIO imposes on their IT teams.
  • Train all of your marketing staff on basic information security practices.
  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Make your creative teams aware. If you incur a breach, a savvy move might be to launch an immediate campaign on improving security across the organization as a whole.
  • Get PR involved. Make sure that your internal and external PR teams are involved in developing and implementing a brand recovery plan.

Are you prepared to protect your brand from a hacking scandal? The McKenzie Worldwide team has extensive crisis communications experience and we can help you prepare for and manage through these kind of cybersecurity issues that can negatively impact your brand. Please contact us if you would like to discuss how our team can help your company.

Strengthen your brand without creeping out your customers

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a great opportunity for marketing executives. As noted in Forbes, “Data analytics and IoT – two emerging keystones of the digital economy – are fueling something of a feeding frenzy of grand proportions in the tech space…Much of the action was driven by the push to adopt IoT and data analytics capabilities and intersection between the two.” While the growth potential seems to be limitless, I often wonder if technology is going too far.

customersI read an article in Business 2 Community that talked about how the IoT provides marketers “With such abundant user data and the availability of instantaneous consumer feedback, brands should consider themselves in direct, near constant conversation with their customers.” Shifting gears, I turned to Chief Marketer and read about how “The information from these devices will allow marketers to better understand how customers interact with different platforms. These insights will lead to radically new ways of capturing people’s attention and engaging their loyalty.”

Which begs the question of how do marketers leverage the IoT to improve customer experience without annoying their iotcustomers? We recently placed an article for our client, e-Spirit, about this issue in The Marketing Scope titled “Leveraging The Internet of Things To Turn Content Into Revenue.” What is most interesting to me is the idea of empowering marketers with the ability to deliver personalized content to help consumers make better decisions. For example, what if I’m in a store where my friend registered for her wedding and the location-based app points me in the direction of items on my friend’s registry? That type of service helps me spend less time searching for the gift and more time with my family, which sounds pretty good to me. Plus, I don’t consider it an invasion of privacy or badgering by the retailer.

For marketers the IoT presents a great way to share relevant information with customers without overloading them with worthless information. At McKenzie Worldwide we work with a variety of technology companies that help improve the customer experience. Can we help boost your company’s marketing power?

Building brand the right way

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

brand-2Branding is a buzzword that’s tossed around all the time in the marketing world. I Googled the term—define branding in marketing—and came up with this definition: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.”

Why is this relevant? I just read in the Portland Business Journal that retailer HHGregg is closing all of its 222hhgregg_logo_a_e
stores on Thanksgiving. Company CEO Bob Riesbeck said that “It’s important to us that our associates are able to be home with their families on Thanksgiving, and we are encouraging our customers to do the same – knowing great deals will be available online on Black Friday and through the weekend.”

This giant retailer is not the first company to take this path. But other companies in this space, namely Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s, are open on Thanksgiving as they try to complete with the growing online retailer community. You can argue the issue on many levels but my interest lies in the branding aspect.

Does closing its doors on Thanksgiving so that employees can be with their families make you want to shop at HHGregg and avoid Macy’s? Last year Apple launched its Apple Global Volunteer Program. Locally, Nike has its Nike Community Impact Fund. Do I now have a preference to buy products from Apple and Nike simply because they give back to the community? Maybe and maybe not, but knowing about these types of programs raises my awareness of the companies which, in turn, helps them to build a positive brand.

When your company designs marketing programs, do you take into consideration how the product or program will be viewed? Is it worth it for large retailers like HHGregg to take the financial hit by closing its doors to allow their employees to focus on family first during the holidays? The impact on the bottom line might not be positive, but the impact on your brand and your employee well-being certainly will be.

How successful marketers turn content into revenue

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Delivering the right content to the right person at the right time on the right device is a big challenge for marketers everywhere. With so many channels available to reach customers—desktop, mobile phone, tablet—it’s hard to know which technologies are the best for delivering your message to your target audience. Another important issue to consider is which channel a customer likes to receive content on. Personally, I’m a big fan of email but many people I know prefer to receive content on their mobile device. What’s a marketer to do?

For one of our clients the growth in this area offers a huge opportunity. e-Spirit recently launched FirstSpirit CaaS which allows companies to streamline content delivery across multiple channels. As noted in a recent article in CMSWire, e-Spirit’s Andreas Knoor stated that, “Companies that rely solely on traditional content management will sooner or later find themselves unable to take advantage of the enormous business opportunity the Internet of Things (IoT) presents, or keep pace with app and smart device innovations. The result will be an inability to satisfy the needs of today’s digital consumer.”

iotSo why all the hype around the IoT? Some people feel it’s just a buzzword, but those people are missing an important point. According to research firm Gartner, the IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment. The growth of the IoT is incredibly important to retailers because personal electronic devices can receive fresh content from retailers which opens up a huge channel to connect with customers. How big are the stakes here? Gartner estimates that by 2020, more than 20 billion connected things will be in use across a range of industries and the IoT will touch every role across the enterprise.

As mentioned in InformationWeek, Gartner says that the growing importance of the IoT and how connected devices, along with the data these devices collect, are changing the way IT is viewed within large businesses and enterprises. Gartner also states that “business analysts and developers of information-centric processes need to have the expertise and the tools to implement IoT aspects that play a role in their systems.”

So the question becomes, how can today’s marketers provide their customers with the content they need on the right device at the right time? At McKenzie Worldwide we have extensive experience working with some of the world’s leading Web content management, enterprise content management and customer experience companies. We can help you navigate through the complex worlds of these markets and provide the best communications strategies to help you take advantage of the IoT opportunity.

The impact that partnering can have on your brand

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

amazon-300x300On the surface the idea of having your company partner with a larger company sounds like a good idea. With any luck your company will increase sales and possibly be able to create joint marketing opportunities like presenting together at an industry trade show or by writing a byline article together. However, sometimes there is another side that must be considered when partnering with another company, especially if that company is an 800-pound gorilla such as Amazon. The main drawback is that the larger company might dominate sales and marketing activities and thereby position your company as a small fry that doesn’t merit much attention. What’s even more important is that the larger company can have a direct impact on your customers and your company’s brand.

For example, during Amazon Prime Day (APD), a number of smaller companies spoke about how they approach customer service and want to be responsible for the creating a positive customer experience. One company, underwear retailer Mack Weldon, decided to opt-out of APD in order “to keep its long-term customer experience intact.” Another company, BedBand, sells through Amazon but the founder has “lost all trust in Amazon” when she saw her revenue plummet by half because Chinese companies were undercutting BedBand’s prices by writing positive, albeit false, reviews that appeared on Amazon.

In addition, as discussed in Investor Place, some brick-and-mortar stores, who also sell their products online, like to 2000px-TheHomeDepot.svgpromote the fact that customers can receive hands-on help by coming into the store. Home Depot said that its customers like to come into the store to get a feel for what they’re buying. Similarly, Ulta Salon, which is a cosmetics company, offers interactive experts in their stores for people who like to try different make-up styles and brands at the store.

When your company decides which partners to work with, do you take into account how that partnership will affect your brand? Immediate sales might look great in the short-term, but what about all of the effort you’ve put into building brand equity?

How important is your brand? Is it worth it to increase your sales simply to be associated with a larger partner even at the potential cost of hurting your customer’s experience? Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to put long-term brand recognition ahead of short-term sales, but building and maintaining your brand is a goal that every company should strive for.

What is the brand impact of a CEO Statesman?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

In a recent article titled “On the Stump,” the Economist positions CEOs from tech companies as the new CEO Statesman. “He is an evangelist, out to persuade theStriped_apple_logo world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.” The genesis of the article came from news about Apple CEO Tim Cook who is garnering headlines about privacy and government regulations with regard to unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone. While media-savvy executives and CEOs who seek the spotlight have been around in the tech industry for many years— think Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison—I started thinking about the impact their actions can have from a PR perspective.

“The CEO-statesman is not content with just accepting a job in the government; nor does he simply lobby behind the scenes. He is an evangelist, out to persuade the world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.”

Taking a stand on a legal or socially responsible issue, such as child labor laws, partner benefits or equal pay, is seen as a noble effort. Similarly, Mr. Cook’s issue with the government isn’t about the technology behind the iPhone. Rather, it’s about personal privacy vs. governmental need for security. He’s taking a stand on behalf of his company which, to me, is a noble gesture. Are his efforts helping or hindering sales of the iPhone? It’s hard to say. However, what he is doing definitely has an impact on Apple’s brand.

I see Mr. Cook’s efforts in a positive light. He’s doing what he believes is right, regardless of the consequences, and I applaud him for that. But, what if he was leading a charge against a hot political issue like abortion? Would I stop buying products from Apple because I disagree with his political stance?

Starbucks_Coffee_Logo.svgLook back at what Starbucks head honcho Howard Schultz did last year. At his request, baristas were asked to write “Race Together” on paper and plastic cups in an effort to get people talking openly about race relations. While the media backlash was quite negative, I thought it was an interesting move by Mr. Schultz to get people to start having an open dialogue about an important social issue.

From my perspective, the CEO Statesman can have a huge impact on a company’s brand and I applaud those CEOs who take that role seriously regardless of the impact it may have on their company. For instance, outdoor retailer REI gives employees paid days off to get outside or volunteer in the community and this makes me want to purchase their products. Part of building a brand is about what the company stands for and if I know that a CEO is willing to stick his or her neck out, as well as their company’s stock price, I am inclined to support them and their company.

What do you think about having a CEO Statesman for your company?

How to communicate effectively when “you know too much”

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

presidential debateWatching the presidential debates, I have found the diversity of communication styles from candidate to candidate to be a fascinating study in spokesperson strategies and how they represent a brand. What traits make a spokesperson successful and what may not work in front of the camera or a journalist’s pen?

When you set aside the issues, what’s left are the basic elements of communication, or the strategies a spokesperson employs to convey their point of view and influence their audience while representing the company brand (or party image, in the case of presidential race).

Although public relations has evolved dramatically during the past 10 years, the basic guidelines for being a good media spokesperson have remained the same (with some tweaks). Below are some of the basics that you may already know but I hope they serve as a helpful reminder to anyone who plays the role of spokesperson, whether it’s a quick answer to a few questions or a longer, in-depth interview. As a spokesperson, you represent the company brand at all times, so how do you stick to the key tenants without going off track?

  • Remember, you know too much. You are an expert about your subject matter. So much so, that you likely have a level of understanding that is many levels deeper than the journalist. If you try giving them too much information, you will probably bore them and they may pick up a tangential point you may have mentioned instead of the topic you imagined would be the focus of the article. So keep the conversation simple and focused. This leads me to the next point…
  • Stay on message. There are many strategies for doing this, but in short: Say what you want to say, and then say it again. In other words, identify your core message and supportive key points before your presentation. Then, keep your core message simple and repeat it often so it sticks. You may give a lot of examples and scenarios to help explain your point, but always return to your core message. Another good way to wrap up your interview is to use numbered steps to outline your key points. For example, “ … the three main things I want to leave you with today are 1) …. 2) … 3) …” It may seem obvious, but reporters often appreciate the clear, concise recap.
  • Engage them in the conversation. This seems self-explanatory but when you have a lot to explain, it’s easy to start lecturing. If you feel this is happening, ask questions to make sure you’re not losing or boring them with too much detail.
  • Act as if you’re talking to your most important customer. Although you may be talking to one person, the end result may be an article describing your comments to a majority of your customers. You want it to sound respectful and concise.
  • Silence is golden. Don’t babble on uncomfortably if you get flustered when they stop asking questions. Just stop talking. This gives pause for questions and gives the journalist time to take notes. Also, remember that the questions the reporter asks reveal where he/she is going with their article and may flag areas of concern that you will need to address.
  • Set expectations accurately. No one likes to be let down or lied to, and it’s a real bummer when products you purchased don’t work as described. Be honest and deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll start to sound like a presidential candidate and no one will trust you – OR your brand.

How do you represent your brand during media interviews? If you need help, give us a call! We have media training experts ready to help.

How to Practice Radical Honesty

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

FORSSA, FINLAND - MAY 17, 2014: Sign Volkswagen against blue sky. The Volkswagen Group delivered over 9 million vehicles in period from January to November for the first time ever in 2014.

The Volkswagen scandal serves as the most recent reminder that it is important to be honest with your customers. Once a company has been “outed” by the media—or anyone other than itself for that matter—they have a long and arduous uphill battle to regain brand trust.

Back in the days of the TV hit show, Mad Men, the corporate “spin machine” might have churned out a well-crafted response in a time of crisis and then the public may have given a collective sigh of relief, as trust in organizations was fairly high at the time. But as authors of the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Volkswagen and the end of corporate spin” point out, the public today, as a general rule, errs on the side of mistrusting organizations. Although people can be quite forgiving, organizations seem to be starting at ground zero on the trust barometer scale, and must earn their customers trust over time.

The article points out that those feelings of mistrust, coupled with the landscape of social media along with other factors, has completely transformed the environment in which we must communicate today. The authors suggest that corporations take the notion of “corporate transparency” one step further, employing what they call “radical honesty,” whereby one is proactive about its transparency, making everything publicly available, and quickly.

While “radical honesty” may not seem like your cup of tea, we agree with the authors that, in today’s world, an organization’s truth not only will get out, but it probably already is out. In the spirit of this belief, the article provides some excellent general guidelines to communicate effectively in today’s brave new world:

  • Straight and soon. Get the story out honestly and quickly – always assume you have less time than you think.
  • Flood the zone. Use many channels – you need to connect with different kinds of stakeholders, different generations, genders, cultural backgrounds, with different communication habits.
  • Good, bad, and ugly. Encourage honest conversations about both hopes and fears. Remember that power relationships sanitize information that gets to the top. Ensure people can bring bad news, not just good.
  • Distill and simplify. Keep communication simple and relevant, don’t drown people in irrelevant data.
  • Repeat. Find ways to reiterate the message and build feedback loops. Remember that trust builds slowly and quickly fades once the message stops, or when people see or hear contrary data.

At McKenzie Worldwide, we help our clients communicate their authentic brand voice to customers, as well as guide them through this new world of communication—during day to day operations as well as in times of crisis.

What are you doing to help “keep it real” with your customers? If you need help, give us a call!

Building Brand Takes Bold Action

Friday, October 30th, 2015

REI logoI’m really impressed when a company talks the talk and then walks the walk. Recently REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer, announced that it is going to close its doors for Black Friday. The company said it is going to pay its 12,000 employees to do what they love most – be outside. Why give up one of the busiest days in retail? To stay true to its brand.

Is this simply a public relations stunt? The industry magazine PR Week went so far as to publish a headline that read “REI: Our plan to close stores on Black Friday is no PR stunt”—so I guess it’s not just a stunt.

Outdoor camping Two things about this announcement caught my eye. First, regardless of whether or not it’s a stunt, the move is getting people to talk about the company—industry buzz is always a good thing. Personally, I hate what shopping has done to Thanksgiving so I’m now more inclined to take a look at REI’s merchandise since I respect the move.

Second, it’s all about the brand. REI is all about the outdoors. As it says on the company’s “About REI” section, “But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors. Our passion for outdoor adventure is clear, whether you visit any of our stores across the country, phone us, or interact with us online.”

The company values the great outdoors and wants to help people to enjoy what nature has to offer. Rather than promote huge savings or getting people to look at the next outdoor gadget, the company took a bold step and showed the world that there’s more to life than shopping.

 

Building Brand Takes Time

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Wikipedia logoThe name of the McKenzie Worldwide blog is “Brand Trust Visions” and that name was created after much discussion. If it’s truly our mantra, then we obviously must feel that building brand is very important for companies of all sizes. However, it’s also a term that can mean many things to many people. For this discussion we’ll focus on the idea of “brand trust” which, according to Wikipedia, is about creating “…the foundation of a strong brand connect with all stakeholders, converting simple awareness to strong commitment.”

dmn_logoFor consumer products, like Coca Cola, creating their brand awareness comes from word-of-mouth and a truckload of advertising. For television shows like Lost, DM News editor Elyse Dupre says it’s important to leave consumers wanting more. She goes on to say that creating a sense of community, by providing a place “where consumers can talk about their brand freely”, such as an online chat room, goes a long way toward building trust among customers and potential customers.

But building trust and a strong brand image for technology companies can be tricky. For instance, Gatorade or Red Bull are consumer goods that you can touch and taste and have qualities that can be measured and a coolness factor that, frankly, can’t be measured. But what about technology vendors? How can a cloud storage vendor build its brand when their offering isn’t tangible?

e-Spirit logoOne way for technology companies to help build their brand is by leveraging happy customers and turning them into what we like to call brand ambassadors. Whether it’s writing about your customers on your company blog, as e-Spirit did with customers Geberit and Hamburd Süd, or jointly delivering a presentation at an industry trade show with one of your customers, the ultimate goal is to transform new and existing customers into enthusiastic brand ambassadors. How do you do this? Well, e-Spirit discussed this concept in an article (which we helped them write) that appeared in CMSWire titled Turn Touch Points into Trust Points.

Here are three steps that were discussed in the article:

  • Integrate website content with your e-commerce site
  • Help your content creators do their job
  • Get personal, but don’t stalk

Those are just three ideas about how to build brand but they’re important to a Web Content Management System vendor like e-Spirit.

How’s your company’s brand trust level? We’d love to help you build more trust in your brand…which is always a good thing.


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