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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!

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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.

Are You Missing the Boat with Social Media?

28011015990_8ff191ee0f_bSocial media is buzz word on everyone’s lips, yet it remains a mystery to many people. According to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media—but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use. I can’t tell you how many times I get a phone call from a business saying that social media doesn’t work for them and can I help. Of course I can help and I do because CreativeWorks Marketing has been helping companies succeed in the “social” space for years. I thought I’d take this opportunity to demystify social media for you – explain what it is and how best to use it.

What is social media?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that the content posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the like is social media because we’re using the term generically to describe any online content. Let’s look at what social media really is. The word social refers to interacting with people by sharing and receiving information. Media refers to which virtual community, platform, application or network the interaction takes place.

How can you use social media effectively?

Social media is an extremely effective way to connect with your audience and build relationships. It’s about useful, relevant and engaging conversations. Ask questions, encourage comments and opinions. It’s not a broadcast channel for you to bombard your audience with highly generic content that they will surely ignore. Audiences respond to conversation, not promotion. Conversation seems genuine while promotion is perceived as an advertising ploy. Social media is a meeting place and an integral part of the brand and customer experience.

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Make sure your content aligns with your message
  • Ask questions that start a conversation
  • Respond promptly
  • Share your expertise
  • Provide value
  • Monitor, track and evaluate

Ask yourself these questions before posting content on social media

Many people feel compelled to post, even when they have nothing to say. There must be a purpose and objectives.

  • Who is my audience?
  • What platforms are they using?
  • What type of content should we be posting?
  • Is our content personalized for our audience?
  • Are our social media posts aligned with our messaging?
  • Are we engaging our audience?
  • How can we measure our results?

Is social media for you?

92% of marketers say they have increased exposure through social media, and 80% see positive results for traffic (Social Media Examiner). When used effectively social media offers real opportunities for growth, engagement, increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, improved customer experiences, decreased marketing costs, improved search engine rankings, increased inbound traffic and higher conversion rates. Social media is important for every business! There are over 3 billion internet users and over 2 billion of them have active social media accounts (wearesocial.net).

However, as you no doubt have discovered, an effective social media campaign is very complex with many variables. Contact CreativeWorks Marketing. We have a great deal of experience creating social media strategies as well as ongoing social media services (writing and posting). Let us put you on the path to social media success.

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Lately, We Just Don’t Communicate

Imagine your business is about to launch a new campaign. You are sending out an e-blast to give your customers 20% off their next purchase. You’re confident this will be one of your company’s most successful ventures to date. On the day of the launch, your office is flooded with emails and phone calls regarding your new offering, and while you’re ecstatic, your team is frantic. But why?

While your campaign was crafted to a tee, the internal communications to your staff informing them of the upcoming campaign and its details were non-existent.

There are two sides to any marketing campaign. External marketing allows you to get your message across to your intended audience, and internal marketing allows you to effectively market your campaign within your organization. In order for any marketing campaign to be successful, you need to create a plan for both.

We all know that running a new campaign can be time-consuming and we get wrapped up in the details and often don’t take the time to keep our staff up to date. In order to ensure a successful campaign however, you’ll need to bring your staff up to speed so they know how they are impacted and what, if anything, they need to do.

Here are a few key tips on how to effectively prepare your staff for an upcoming marketing campaign:

Give Advanced Notice

After working with your marketing team to develop a new idea for a campaign, share it with your staff. If a new campaign is being implemented without staff members knowing all the details, it’s easy to get the message confused. Sharing your ideas for the new campaign will allow staff to prepare, and will also encourage them to contribute their own thoughts and ideas towards the new campaign.

Provide Supporting Materials

After giving your team the heads up about the new campaign, it’s time to get ready to launch. Depending on what kind of campaign it is, you will need to provide your team with supporting materials that will allow them to carry it out as you had intended. For example, if you are promoting a new service for your clients and they are encouraged to call in and inquire about it, prepare a script for your front line staff. If calls should be directed to your sales department, then the person answering the phone needs to know where to direct the call. The more informed they are, the increase in likelihood of a successful campaign.

Measurement Matters

It’s one thing to let your staff know about a new campaign; you also need to follow through with them about it. Ask them how the campaign is going; are they getting a lot of calls/emails/website requests? If your team is dealing with customers directly, you need to communicate with them effectively so you can measure the success of your new campaign.

Share Success

Your campaign has just ended and of course, it was a hit! Share this success with your team. Not only will sharing the success encourage your employees, it will also give you a chance to evaluate what went well, and discuss how you can create an even stronger campaign the next time around.

In order to effectively market any campaign to your customers, you need to be prepared to market it internally as well. Keep your staff in the loop when launching your next campaign; you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.