Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category

What Can We Learn From RIM?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By now just about everyone knows about RIM’s little mishap last week with Blackberry email. Outages like these can hurt the reputation of any company, but for a tech company I think it’s much worse, especially for a company like RIM that is all about connectivity. Just to pile on a little more, it’s even more problematic for a company like RIM that has been losing market share for a long time.

While I haven’t followed every aspect of this story nor read every blog post that is available, it’s clear that RIM made some mistakes in handling this crisis. And believe me…it is a crisis. Years ago this issue might have gone unnoticed but in today’s world, where social media rules, how come RIM wasn’t better prepared to handle the crisis?

Just like the Boy Scouts say, you need to “be prepared.” Most companies I’ve worked with have policies and procedures in place in the event of a crisis, and I’m sure RIM does at some level. Considering that RIM has experienced outages before, you’d think they would have been better prepared. And I’m not talking about being better prepared to address the technical issues but being better prepared in getting their message out to customers in a more timely way.

Why did it take three days for the CEO to post a YouTube message concerning the problems? Did RIM monitor customer reaction on Twitter or Facebook? Did the company proactively address the issue or reactively reach out to customers? I’m not sure about the answer but from an outside observer’s standpoint they didn’t seem to be prepared at all.

A few thoughts about getting your crisis management plan mapped out.

  • Be prepared. Have a crisis communications plan in place and update it each quarter.
  • Make sure that you now have plans in place that address social media outlets.
  • Investigate the issue and get your facts straight. Guessing doesn’t make the situation any better.
  • “No comment” won’t cut it. And I’ve heard that RIM takes a “we don’t want to talk to the media about anything” stand which makes the situation even worse.
  • Have a chain of command of spokespeople ready. You don’t want the wrong person sharing the wrong message with the public.
  • Empower your communications team to move quickly and cut through the layers of opinion and second guessing so the response doesn’t take days to materialize.

In this day and age I find it highly unusual that companies still can get caught off-guard when a crisis hits. So how should companies like RIM approach these types of very public problems? Do you think that RIM addressed the issue effectively enough to minimize the damage to their reputation?

Portland AMA — Some helpful resources

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Thanks to all of the Portland AMA members who attended the luncheon on Tuesday at Bridgeport Brewing Company.

If you were there , you know that Megan McKenzie provided a number of example of about how companies are using social media – both good and bad.  The key take away for me is the importance of building trust before embarking on any social media campaigns.  It all comes down to have a clear purpose and knowing your Why.

One of the questions that came up had to do with additional resources. For those of you who are working with your executive teams to increase social media activities, sadly there is no magic bullet.  Social media is one of those things where you gain experience by launching a program and building insight and expertise about what works for YOU over time.  It truly does not come with an instruction manual, and the landscape is changing quickly. While there are no easy answers, it does pay to stay abreast of trends and study up on what others are doing and see what applies to you.

Remember that in all cases, social media must be approached with a clear understanding of your Why along with a heaping does of quality, truth and integrity.

Here are a few resources we have found helpful:


Portland AMA talk slide deck

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Here’s the slide deck from the talk Megan Mckenzie delivered at the Portland AMA’s monthly lunch meeting today. We had a great time meeting many of the smart marketing folks from around the Portland area and look forward to hooking up with you again at future events.

Stop social media madness from McKenzie Worldwide


Is the Future of Brand Building Mobile?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Over Thanksgiving my cousin and daughter talked up an iPhone and Android game called Angry Birds.  It’s a very simple game where you launch birds from slingshot to take out egg-stealing pigs hiding behind various structures. Simple in concept…and absolutely addictive.  Believe me.

On iPhone it sold something like 12 million copies for $.99 largely through viral word of mouth and has been the best selling app for many weeks. More interesting, from a brand-building perspective, the game is free on Android and supported by advertising.  The game’s maker Rovio is reportedly making approximately $1 million per month just from advertising and it has already hit over 8 million downloads.

The ads, for things like search engines or cosmetics, are pesky but since the game is so fun and addictive you just skip over them and keep playing. To be sure, you do notice them.  And, hey, if they keep the game free why not? Do they work? Probably too early to tell, but I were a media buyer and wanted to get eyeballs on my message, I would definitely not want to pass this one up.

As smartphones become more and more pervasive, 20 million downloads will seem like nothing. Future games will be in the 100s of millions of downloads globally – turning them into powerful vehicles for building brands. Rovio has cracked the code for how to do it with games.  In this video, put together by Google’s AdMob team, Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka offers some interesting insights on how it’s done. Is this the future?

Tapping your (big) partner’s brand – six strategies that work

Monday, November 29th, 2010

In almost any tech industry segment you’ll find a few very large companies surrounded by dozens to hundreds of complementary smaller companies that do everything from filling in functionality gaps to adding industry specialization or providing service and support. This ecosystem is important to the big company’s success and most, to varying degrees, works to grow and nurture their ecosystems.

But if you’re a small- to mid-size company, being part of a big company ecosystem is anything but a free ride to success.  This is especially true from the PR and marketing side.  Many times I’ve heard small company execs talk about how signing a deal with Oracle or Microsoft will lead to instant credibility and visibility, followed shortly by big sales. They are usually crestfallen when it doesn’t materialize quite the way they thought.

Gold PartnerBig companies have a lot going on. Their PR teams and product managers are invariably overworked, and have a huge number of mouths to feed.  That joint press release you wanted? Not going to happen.  Maybe a quote, if you’re lucky. And the response from the media is worse?  Reporters and bloggers simply do not care that you’ve become a Gold Certified Platinum whiz bang partner of the year. Not only do they not care, but will get pissed if you even send them the press release.

For sure, there is huge brand-building potential from partnering with a big company. How do you tap into that potential, and ride the coattails of your big-brand partner?  Here are six strategies I’ve found to be way more effective than issuing a press release about your partner status.

Target the partner’s bloggers – Most big companies have a thriving cadre of bloggers at various levels within the company. These are not professional journalists. They are looking for ideas and content assistance.  By educating them about how you fit in the big company’s ecosystem and help boost sales or increase customer satisfaction, they may be inclined to write about you in their blog, or you could even supply a guest post.  Be sure to read the relevant blogs and comment often.

Create compelling content – As noted, big company marketing types are typically very busy.  That means they won’t be doing any work on your behalf. However, if you come up with some smart contributed articles, they will often be willing to be quoted, are even add their name to the author byline.  Editors will be much more interested in the article if there’s a big name on the byline.

Support initiatives – Most of the time, the major players won’t give small upstarts the time of day. That can change when the big company has a major product launch.  They are often looking for endorsements and quotes to show how the industry is backing the new initiatives. Be ready with Johnny-on-the-spot press releases, quotes and spokespeople.

Partner events – The big partner events can be a good opportunity to make some noise.  Ideally, you can work your way into one of the keynote speeches.  If that doesn’t work, be sure to place as many of your customers, technical and product experts on panels and workshops as possible, and then funnel information to reporters and bloggers covering the event.

Partner beat reporters – Media outlets, whether online or print, devote inordinate amounts of space to big companies.  Many, such as the Wall Street Journal for instance, have reporters fully dedicated to only covering IBM or Microsoft.  It’s worthwhile letting these reporters know how your company fits into the space. They won’t write a dedicated story about you, but you can get mentioned in other coverage.

Self-publishing and social media – Scrapping for coverage in a brand-centric world is hard work. As a supplement, you can control your message and build your brand on your own.  By using social media tools, and publishing articles, videos and podcasts on your websites you can create significant buzz. This is where engaging the partner can be useful to creating more exposure and building your credibility. For example, you could interview the partner for a news podcast and use that as the basis for a thought leadership, brand building effort.

Working with big partners is never easy. It takes real organizational commitment to building the relationship in the first place and developing product and sales opportunities. The same goes for trading on the partner’s brand name. Done right, however, the payoff can be significant.

What communication strategies have you found to be successful on the partner front?

Customer Engagement and Design Experience Key to Brand Building

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Over the years, I’ve found it fascinating to see how different marketing and creative disciplines define “brand.” My favorite: brand = logo. While the logo is an important visual output of the brand experience, to say that a brand is fully represented by its logo is ignoring a much bigger picture.

Apple is perhaps one of the most obvious companies that truly understands the full view of what it takes to build a powerful brand. This understanding is integrated into its packaging and product design. The marketers at Apple have mastered the customer engagement experience in their stores. Even the clothes Steve Jobs wears are part of the brand experience. And this doesn’t even touch the online experience, cultivation and nurturing of their followers, advertising, PR and overall marketing strategy. All that Apple does makes customers feel they are part of something hip and cool. With a few exceptions of course (that iPhone antennae issue sure didn’t help, but enormous brand equity certainly softened the impact).

This past week Microsoft showed it still has a handle on creating a powerful brand experience with the launch of Xbox Kinect. As the company moves to show Xbox providing something for everyone and being more than a gaming console, it created experiences that connected people to the brand. The launch event in Times Square alone positioned Xbox Kinect as the hottest thing on the market, with dancers showing off the capabilities with R&B star Ne-Yo at center stage. Throughout the year the company has created hands-on experiences for consumers to bring them close to the products and connect them to the brand. Microsoft just raised their forecasted holiday sales for the product from 3 to 5 million based on pre-sales and initial sales since last week’s launch, indicating their brand engagement and launch strategy will pay off. Time will tell in the coming weeks as holiday sales numbers are released.

The moral of these stories? When thinking about your brand, it’s important to consider how you weave the experience through every touch point you have with your target audiences — from your sales associates, retail presence, customer support and Web site to creating experiences that engage consumers directly via events and social media. And design together with innovation plays a critical role, especially in the consumer market where it can make or break the sale.

 Who are the companies you think truly get “branding?”

Building Brand the Old Fashioned Way…By Earning It

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Recently a good chunk of the world watched in nervous anticipation as the Chilean miners were rescued. After 69 days of captivity stuck in a tunnel a half-mile below the surface nobody really knew what to expect. As my family was glued to the TV watching the capsule rise out of the ground with the first miner, we expected him to be weak, emaciated and generally in poor shape. But much to our surprise each miner looked pretty good, had a smile on their face and wore a pair of really cool sunglasses.

But it was nighttime so why the sun glasses? Since the miners were underground for so long they needed the protection for their eyes to properly adjust to the light. As luck would have it, a Chilean journalist had contacted Oakley, explained the situation, and the company promptly donated 35 pairs of glasses with special UV ray protection. I assume that Oakley donated the glasses out of the goodness of their hearts, but what an impact it may have on their wallets.

Oakley reaped a staggering $41 million worth of media exposure for this altruistic gesture. Front Row Analytics broke down this number and even gave estimates for the financial impact in each county that ran the footage. It’s really unbelievable when you think about it.

We’ve talked a lot about brand and building brand equity in this blog over the past year. Assuming that Oakley donated the glasses and didn’t view this simply as a product placement, then they deserve all the free publicity they get. Brand is not simply about having your product on display. As define in Wikipedia, “The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.” In this case Oakley is reaping the benefits of securing worldwide exposure. But in building their brand through this act of kindness, Oakley gets positioned as a company that helps people who are in trouble, and I bet you that people who wear Oakley sunglasses will reference the fact that these are the same glasses that the miners wore when they had their first taste of freedom in over two months.

Building Brand Through Social Media

Friday, September 17th, 2010

For many people, social media is changing the way we interact with one another. To some degree, it’s more about communicating via one-to-many instead of one-to-one. It’s great to be able to find long lost friends from high schooland reminisce via Facebook or to find out what a pro athlete is thinking about during a game via Twitter. None of this is lost on the corporate world.

While the center of most people’s social media experiences are Facebook and Twitter, startups like Foursquare andGroupon show there’s still some new opportunities in the social media landscape for new services. And marketers – especially those building consumer brands – are starting to capitalize. Here are a few interesting examples of how companies have leveraged social media to engage their customers and build a community.

PepsiCo, Mashable and VC firm Highland Capital Partners have teamed up to launch PepsiCo10. It’s a new competition that looks to match startups in fields like social media and mobile marketing with industry mentors and brands within PepsiCo with which they can pilot their products.

Another interesting campaign is one concocted by The Gap who partnered with Foursquare and Groupon. For this campaign The Gap teamed up with popular group-buying site Groupon to offer a nation-wide deal: $50 worth of apparel for just $25. By the end of the day, 441,000 groupons were sold bringing in a little more than $11 million. You can also see what Toy Story 3, AOL and Starbucks have done.

Personally I like what Mountain Dew has done with their DEWocracy campaign. The company launched a campaign last year called DEWmocracy, which allowed Dew’s loyal fans to choose the next Mountain Dew flavor – they ended up choosing Voltage. The success of the last campaign though has spurred a new one where they’ve upped the ante with their Dew Labs Challenge, which utilizes, 50 boxes of Dew, and a lot of YouTube.

Not only are companies using social media to drive sales and build brand loyalty but they’re also getting input on products and helping to develop new offerings. Talk about hearing the voice of the customer!

By changing how they reach customers, companies are helping usher in a new era of communicating, branding and building loyalty. Do you relate better to a company if you’re engaged in one of their community programs? Does it bother you? Do you feel like Big Brother is watching when they send you coupons for a store that you’re walking by?

Successful Brands Get Personal

Monday, September 13th, 2010

This past week I was reminded of the importance for brands to not only understand their target audience(s), but find ways to get personal with individuals. This was spurred by an email I received from Groupon with the subject line “New: Personalize Your Groupon Deals”.

Having suffered Groupon fatigue from the influx of irrelevant offers, I was quite excited to see their effort to personalize the experience. Unfortunately, when I went to the site to take the survey, they only asked for my gender, birth date and zip code. They missed an incredible opportunity to learn more about my interests and preferences and thereby create a strong, long-term relationship based on truly customized deals (not my zip code).

In today’s world, understanding your target demographic is not enough. People expect to have a personal relationship with brands, so companies must take an extra step to understand psychographics- any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.  Netflix and Amazon do a stellar job of this through employing technology that learns about their subscriber’s preferences and then offering up relevant recommendations. There is something very powerful about feeling a company really knows you, and accomplishing this is nearly impossible if the engagement strategy is based off of broad sweeps of demographic profiles.

There’s an interesting parallel between brand engagement and media engagement. Good PR professionals know they must carefully research their target influentials. It’s essential to know what they’ve written about and what topics they care about before approaching them. I’ve seen many instances over the years of PR professionals get slammed for spamming reporters and bloggers with cookie cutter pitches, resulting in irritation, no coverage and deteriorated credibility. In many instances, the guilty “blanket pitcher” who didn’t take the time to get to know their target gets redirected to the junk folder (or worse, called out publicly in an article or blog post).

The lesson for brands: find ways to get to know your customers on a more intimate level or you too are likely to be overlooked.

What brands do you think do a good job of understanding their customers?


The Power of Multichannel Marketing

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The power of video gaining viral legs can create incredible visibility for a brand. One of my personal favorites – the Evian roller babies – brought this brand back to life for me after moving it to the passé section of my mind sometime in the 90s. However, even though I loved the video, I still haven’t been motivated to pick up a bottle. I just smile when I see the logo and pay heed to the creative talent who developed the video.


Interestingly, Evian started running the ads on TV a few months ago. Apparently the sales pipeline thinned out from the online push and they’re trying another approach.

This week, SymphonyIRI released the latest sales data for Old Spice body wash, the product that has risen to the number one most viewed video spot thanks to the muscular Isaiah Mustafa sending messages from the shower.

Bad news Mustafa – sales are down. Apparently these past four weeks, the campaign has been running without a corresponding coupon, leaving consumers less motivated to purchase. Sales have dropped 30-33 percent since the buy one, get one free sales promotion ended, giving Mustafa quite a bit less muscle on his own.

This serves as an important reminder that motivating target audiences to take action requires more than an entertaining video. Today, capturing a consumer’s attention takes a minimum of 3-5 touch points from multiple sources. Companies must create 360 degree campaigns which reach their targets in all the places they are engaged — media, blogs, point of purchase, social networks, online video sites, events, etc.  And there has to be a compelling call to action and/or incentive. For the general consumer, coupons are particularly hot right now as the recession has conditioned us to look for ways to save.

Regardless of your target audience, the importance of having a multichannel marketing plan is imperative. A one legged stool just won’t stand up. Unless of course your only goal is to be the number one viewed video and have people smile at your water bottles. And let’s not forget – viral isn’t a given, so even this goal has no guarantee.

What brands do you think are the best success stories when it comes to multi-channel marketing? Failures?

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