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What’s the Difference in Selling Your Product or Your Brand?

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 12.02.57 PMAs a business owner, you probably hear about the importance of branding all the time. However, I’ve seen many small business owners confuse selling their product with selling their brand. You already thoroughly understand your product, but since 30% of Canadians base their purchasing decisions on their trust in certain brands, it’s essential to note the differences between the two.

When businesses come to me wanting a better ROI on their lead generation, I often find the issue is not with their product, but with understanding the difference between their product and their brand. If we push one without the other, the results can be sales stagnation. Products and branding should go hand in hand. To do this, you’ll need to understand how they are different. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the differences between products and branding and why these differences are significant.

Product

Your products are specifically the objects or services you provide to customers in exchange for payment. They fulfill your customers’ needs. There are likely many competing businesses that offer the same or similar products that would also adequately fulfill their needs, so it’s your job to convince your target market that your products are the best. That’s where your brand plays a key part!

Brand

Your brand is how your target market perceives you. When they think about your business, what words come to mind? If your customer surveys and reviews are coming back with negative descriptors like “slow”, “unavailable”, or “no follow-up”, it might be time to rethink your brand. The goal is for your brand to resonate with your customers.

Your product may fulfill your customers’ needs, but your brand fulfills your customers’ wants. When you and a competitor have similar pricing and quality, the business with the better branding comes out on top; it determines which business they want to purchase from.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. Your brand clearly differentiates your company from your competition, so your audience will not only understand who you are but also clearly identify your value and the benefits of buying your product. Strong branding equals increased business results. Believe it or not, businesses have just as much personality as people.

A short and simple way to remember the difference between your product and your brand is this: You sell your product, but your brand sells you.

For award-winning help with your branding and help determining your brand’s personality and the direction it should take, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

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What We Should Learn from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Fiasco

facebook, social media, marketing, marketing agencyIf you have accessed social media or any news source recently, you are likely just as dismayed as I am to hear about Facebook’s recent data breach.

If you’re not in the loop, here’s a rundown of what happened.

Even if you don’t avidly use social media for your business (which you may still want to consider), there is much to learn from this scandal. Here are my takeaways from a marketing perspective:

Continue Collecting Data

Whether you collect data from surveys, social media, loyalty programs, or any other form of data collection, don’t let Facebook’s data breach deter you. Data collection is essential in marketing. With it you can send customized offers and gain valuable product feedback for future improvements. Marketing without client data is marketing while blind.

Be Honest

When conducting a survey or asking clients to register for your loyalty program, it’s obvious to them what data you are collecting. What isn’t as obvious is what you will use the data for. I suggest including a disclaimer at the bottom of the survey or loyalty program confirmation email that states your intentions. Is there a chance that you may provide their information to a third party? If so, say so. It’s better to be honest now and get one less survey response than to be hit with a lawsuit later.

Review Your Privacy Policies

Now that you know some best management practices for client data collection, ensure that your existing privacy policies meet your clients’ expectations. If they don’t, now is definitely the time to update them with a fine-toothed comb.

Many of your clients likely won’t mind sharing personal details in order to receive some discount or other benefit from your business, but they are entrusting that data to you and only you unless you state otherwise. The trust between you and your clients is essential for your continued success; don’t squander it.

If you would like to discuss how data breaches might affect your business, call CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Celebrating a Milestone this Year? Make it a Marketing Success!

MilestoneCongratulations, your company is approaching a significant milestone! This is cause for celebration. You’re hyped, your employees are hyped, but how can you turn this into a marketing opportunity that also gets your clients hyped?

I believe that an anniversary milestone is a great way to highlight your legacy and communicate with clients what has led to your success. Here are a variety of different initiatives I would suggest to mark the outstanding occasion:

Update Your Brand

If the milestone you’re celebrating is an anniversary, it may be time to consider updating your brand. Your target audience, the market, and technology are constantly changing – perhaps you should too. I’ve seen many businesses keep stale brands for far too long, resulting in clients showing decreased interest.

You are your brand, and it is likely subconsciously analyzed every time a client visits your website, social media, trade show or conference booths, etc.  Updating your brand is a simple yet effective way to inform clients of the milestone and to let them know you are a leader of the future, backed with years of experience.

Generate Leads

I personally think that all businesses should make it their priority to learn as much as they can about their client base and target audience. The celebration of a milestone is an excellent opportunity to urge potential clients to submit their personal information for a chance to win a prize. Social media contests are proven to drive traffic and awareness of the company, so I suggest utilizing all of your existing social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. If you aren’t already on social media, now is the time to start!

For your existing clients that can’t get enough of you, show them your appreciation and generate new leads with a referral promotion. Offer a discount or another milestone-related incentive if they refer a new client.

Client Appreciation

As a thank you to the clients that helped you get you to where you are today, I recommend organizing a time-sensitive sweepstake, during which anyone who reaches out to you receives a small prize. And of course there’s no better way to show client appreciation than to invite them to a party! On the official day of the milestone, invite staff and clients to a celebration with food, drinks, music, and games.

I often find that celebrating important milestones boosts your employee morale, encourages client engagement, and increases your sales, propelling you to towards your next milestone goals. If you require assistance with your milestone marketing plan, give CreativeWorks Marketing a call today!

Does Your Brand Walk the Walk?

k-10-ice-3210-20370-lyj0923-02-brandingWhat happens when brands talk the talk but don’t walk the walk? Well, recently, employees from one of Canada’s largest and most-recognized telecommunications company have made claims that the company does not represent the values it stands for in one of its most successful campaigns.

If you follow my blog closely, you would have read by now the importance I stress on branding and having a brand that is true to what you and your company believe in. But if your brand lacks synergy with the reality of your operations, as is with the case mentioned above, there can be real and damaging consequences to your business.

In my 20 years as a marketing leader and expert, I’ve helped craft brand identities from tried and true methods but have also bared witness to countless brands that have failed to resonate with consumers due to various reasons.

So, what can a brand misalignment mean for your business?

  1. Upset Customers, Bitter Employees
    In today’s digital age, there’s no hiding from a disgruntled customer. Social media and review sites have paved the way for upset customers to air their bad experiences with the click of a button. According to AdWeek, 81% of customers conduct online research before making a purchase. A good brand will ensure that the sales experience is a pleasant one and is based on the entirety of a customer’s experience with your company; not just your logo.

    Additionally, employees have influence over your brand’s perception as well. With websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, future hires and even customers can get an inside glimpse on what it’s like to work for a company – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Bad PR
    There’s the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I would humbly disagree. Remember when the documentary Blackfish was released and SeaWorld’s stock dropped by half since 2013, even though they “protect animals and the wild wonders of our world”? Or how about when Target failed to secure their customers’ data from a breach resulting in a loss of at least $148 million and leading their customers to “expect more” from the company? For a small business, a drastic hit in revenue caused by bad PR would likely mean closing shop.

Luckily, even the most established of brands can revitalize themselves. Here’s how you can ensure you walk the walk when it comes to your brand:

  1. Be True to Who You Are
    A brand can make any claim they want, but they need to be able to back up their claims if and/or when they are questioned on them. If your company is known for its excellent customer service or award-winning products, use it to your advantage! Basing your brand on real, positive experiences of customers will give you an edge over the competition’s brand ambiguity.
  1. Brand Values Start From Within
    Your employees are an extension of your brand. Much like how you would turn to customer perception for assistance in developing your brand, your internal staff should also play a role. Ask them what they think the company stands for, and find a common theme that you can pull from to establish a relatable brand for all stakeholders. The more your employees feel included, the better they will represent the brand in their roles!

No matter the size of your company, a successful brand will ensure that its values are felt throughout the company. In the end, baseless or contradictory claims will only cause more harm than good. If you need help creating a cohesive brand identity, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

What Went Wrong: Dove’s Soap Ad

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Image courtesy of The Daily Dot

In the next of our, “What Went Wrong” series, I’d like to explore a recent controversial advertisement aired by Dove. For years, Dove has created a brand that’s reflective of “real beauty” for women, meant to relate to all women despite their physical characteristics. The personal care brand has launched several successful marketing campaigns in the past; most notably their Dove Campaign for Real Beauty which aims “to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves”, according to the company.

But what happens when your brand values are misinterpreted in advertising, thus resulting in public backlash?

If you’ve yet to see Dove’s latest commercial, watch it here.

Here are the reasons why I think this campaign failed in its execution:

Issue One: Lack of attention to racial sensitivities

It makes sense that Dove would cast models of different ethnic backgrounds in their ads. They are, of course, a company that prides themselves on inclusion. But central to the failed execution of this campaign is the order in which they chose to introduce each woman combined with the product they were selling. This lack of attention to detail led to public outcry of Dove being racially insensitive.

The ad was criticized because many people interpreted a black woman ‘changing’ into a white woman to be an inappropriate message – especially for a beauty company. It’s important to note that the reaction to this ad was swift and clear, with almost no one coming to the more positive conclusions that Dove intended.

Tip #1: Before releasing an advertisement of any kind, show it to a few people who come from diverse backgrounds. This exercise will provide you with important feedback and allow you to make any necessary changes to the ad prior to it going live.

Issue Two: Failure to learn from competitors

Yet again, and much like the last campaign I analyzed, brands fail to learn from past mistakes. Dove is not the first company to be in the spotlight for airing a racially insensitive commercial. Remember this commercial that sparked public outrage last year?

In the past, there are many historical examples of soap and personal hygiene ads utilizing racially charged images. Some of these include overtly racist images of people of colour scrubbing their skin to become white, and some show more subtle images of women using makeup and beauty products to make their skin lighter. However, there are numerous examples of ads with this messaging that have consistently provoked outrage, and it’s important that companies study past marketing mistakes in order to avoid them in the future.

Tip #2: If you’re launching a new campaign, conduct competitor research first to gain insight on what has and has not worked for the competition.

A successful campaign is not necessarily one that has an infinite budget. As a small business, if you put in the time and energy to know who your customers are, you’ll be able to create tailored messages that resonate with your audience, and thus convert more leads. For assistance in finding out who your customers are, contact the team at CreativeWorks Marketing today!

What Went Wrong: Kendall Jenner and Pepsi

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Image courtesy of New York Daily News

In our next series, coined “What Went Wrong,” I’ll be discussing recent controversial marketing campaigns and providing an analysis of why I feel they may have failed.

My goal of this series is to share my analysis of a campaign so that you can see that even the ‘larger’ brands don’t always get it right and also to give you an opportunity to learn from these mistakes and avoid them when it comes to marketing your business.

This week, we’ll look at Pepsi’s Live for Now advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner.

If you haven’t yet seen the “canned” commercial, click here to watch it.

Here are my reasons for why this campaign may have failed to resonate with consumers:

Issue One: Wrong message at the wrong time

It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently in a hyper-politicized state. The intended aim of this campaign was to provide commentary on the current social and political injustices in the country. How Pepsi chose to do this though, in regards to their solution to these injustices, is what led to public outcry.

Shots from the advertisement appear to mimic Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, with a particularly well-known image of protestor Iesha Evans facing two police officers in Baton Rouge. When Kendall Jenner simply hands a Pepsi to one of the police officers, the outcome is joy and applause; if only solving racial injustices was that easy.

Advertisements that choose to make a commentary on societal issues must address them with empathy and sincerity, or risk coming across as tone-deaf, or worse, exploitative.

Tip #1: Be mindful and cautious of the stances you take on politically charged issues, even if your heart is in the right place.

Issue Two: Utilizing controversial celebrities

Celebrity endorsement is nothing new when it comes to selling products or services, especially for big brands. But selecting Kendall Jenner to be the new face of Pepsi proved to not be so wise. While Kendall Jenner has achieved tremendous success in her career, she has also received criticism in the past for appropriating black culture and for copyright infringement.

Businesses must be extremely careful that the public figures that represent their brand have not been involved past controversies. These past missteps should have been taken into account, especially in an advertisement that seemed to mimic Black Lives Matter protests.

Tip #2: Similar to celebrity endorsement for large brands, you may want to choose influencer marketing as a marketing technique. Before selecting an influencer, ensure the influencer you choose aligns with your values and is free from controversy that may tarnish your brand.

Issue Three: Not learning from past mistakes

In 2013, Pepsi-owned Mountain Dew released an advertisement featuring an injured woman on crutches identifying a criminal from a police lineup of 5 African-American men. The ad was immediately criticized as insensitive towards the serious issues of violence against women and systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It’s crucial that businesses understand feedback and criticism and ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.

Tip #3: It’s always important to publicly address negative criticism in the online world. If your business has received a negative comment or review on a social platform or search engine, take some time to respond to the unhappy consumer by addressing their concern and providing any assistance in resolving the manner. That is, of course, if the comment does not contain obscene wording or profanity, in which case deleting the comment would suffice.

As a small business, it’s important that your marketing is executed in a strategic manner. As we’ve seen with this controversial story, one wrong move could lead to the demise of your business. Contact the professionals at CreativeWorks Marketing today for assistance with your marketing campaigns!

What Does It Really Mean Series: Native Advertising

570074655_1280x720Next in our “What Does It Really Mean” series is Native Advertising. This is another one of those confusing industry buzzwords, but one that’s important because native advertising is everywhere. With more people turning off traditional forms of advertising, marketers are employing more subtle forms of messaging. You may have engaged with native advertising and not even know it. Let me demystify native advertising for you.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is paid advertising that’s so artfully created that it blends seamlessly into the non-paid content that surrounds it. It’s designed to trick you into believing that these native ads are actually part of the content. As a result, they’re much less disruptive and more engaging than traditional advertisements.

How does native advertising differ from traditional forms of advertising?

Traditional display ads are the boxes and banners we’re all used to seeing at the top of search engine results pages. These ads are obvious promotions with calls to action; their purpose is to get you to buy. Native ads are totally different. They’re created to match the look and feel of the content they’re seamlessly integrated with so that they appear to be part of the content itself. When executed well, you shouldn’t be able to pick out the native ad in the content. They’re not designed to sell; they’re designed to influence content, generate brand awareness and improve site traffic. It’s quite a piece of clever trickery.

What are the benefits of native advertising?

As consumers, we’ve become ad savvy. We can spot paid ads a mile away and we don’t trust them. Many of us don’t consider traditional ads relevant anymore and as a result we block them. According to a new report by PageFair, ad blocker usage surged 30% in 2016. There were 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide by the end of 2016, 62% (308 million) of those mobile. Desktop ad blocker usage grew 17% year-over-year to 236 million. As a result, native advertising is proving to be more successful than traditional online advertising. On mobile devices the average click-through rates are four times higher for premium native ads versus non-native display ads (Business Insider). Native ads are not easily identified as paid advertising and therefore there’s a greater chance that the consumer will trust a native ad and engage with it. According to Forbes:

  • People view native ads 53% more frequently than traditional ads
  • Native advertising can increase brand lift by as much as 82%.
  • Purchase intent is 53% higher when consumers click on native ads instead of traditional ads
  • Native ads containing rich media can boost conversion by as much as 60%

Are there any disadvantages to using native advertising?

Native advertising is very effective as long as people remain unaware that they’re reading and possibly engaging with an advertisement. The potential problems arise if the ad’s cover is blown. You then risk a backlash by people who feel tricked and could potentially develop a negative mindset against your brand.

If you’re interested in learning more about native advertising or would like to incorporate it into your marketing campaign, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today. Our expert advice, strategy, planning and execution can make a significant difference to your bottom line.