Branding & Advertising

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.

Influencer Marketing: 3 Tips For Finding The Right Influencer For You

photo-634069_1280.jpgIn my last blog I discussed if influencer marketing is right for your business. I highlighted how 94% of those who used influencer marketing believe the tactic to be effective. It appears that when an influencer speaks about a product or service it comes across as a genuine recommendation, not an ad or marketing campaign. It’s believable and people respond. So baring that in mind, I’ve outlined below my three tips for finding the right influencer for you:

  1. Look for an influencer that speaks to your audience. Social media has many of us believing that bigger is better, but this just isn’t so with influencer marketing. Sure, you want an influencer with a big following, but you’re trying to reach a targeted audience – not everyone. Is their audience relevant to your brand? An influencer that speaks to your audience will have the biggest impact on reach, engagement and the bottom line. You’re looking for quality, not quantity.
  2. Evaluate the quality of content they post. Is the content high quality? Does it reflect your brand? Would this person be a good representative of your brand? Are your values aligned? How do they communicate with their audience?
  3. Engagement is a key indicator of what type of results you can expect. How often do their followers respond, comment and share? How active is their social presence?

Influencer marketing takes time. It takes time to find the ‘right’ influencer, evaluate what the value of their content is and also what type of results you may be able to achieve when working with an influencer. Some influencers cost money and, therefore, you do need to invest the time before you decide where to invest.

There’s no doubt though that influencer marketing works, and if you are new to the game and need some help getting started contact CreativeWorks Marketing. We can harness the power of influencer marketing for your company.

5 Tips to Increasing Your Business’s Online Reputation

feedback-1977986_960_720With almost all business being conducted online it’s no wonder that businesses, not just individuals, are concerned about what the ‘online world’ is saying about them. From sites where employees can review their managers to social reviews speaking about brand experience, businesses today need to consider adding reputation management to their online marketing mix.

Reputation management, or online reputation management (ORM) as it’s also referred to, controls how others see you when they look for you online. It allows you to take control of the online conversation. A multi-pronged process, reputation management analyzes, establishes, protects, restores and monitors your brand’s image online. Negative items online can seriously impact your company’s reputation. Reputation management can bury the negative material found on the Internet, defeating it with more positive material to improve your credibility and customers’ trust in you.

The importance of reputation management

Reputation management should be a top priority for any business. You’ve worked hard to build your business but one negative review can negatively impact your company’s reputation and bottom line. We all know that your buyers turn to the Internet when looking for a business and/or to read reviews about your business. And they believe what they read, take a look at these stats:

  • When looking for a local business, 97% of people read online reviews (BIA Kelsey)
  • 92% of users will use a local business if it has a 4 star rating (BrightLocal)
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Forbes)
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more(BrightLocal)
  • Two out of three people see the Internet as the most reliable source of information about a person or a business (Edelman Insights)

Now that you know the stats on how important it is to your business, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you about how to increase your business’s online reputation:

  1. How do you identify and monitor the issues? You’ll need the talent and resources to identify and monitor your company’s reputation on an ongoing basis, as this is not a one-time deal to defeat any negative material and create and promote positive content that will give your company a great online image. At CreativeWorks Marketing we provide Reputation Management Services and can help identify and monitor your online reputation.
  2. What is your company’s online reputation? The first thing we need to do is to determine how others see you when they look for you online. Is your brand and image being perceived in the way that you had envisioned? We scour, search and monitor websites, social media platforms and review sites on an ongoing basis.
  3. We get your story out there. The best way to promote a positive image or to counteract a negative comment is to get your story out there. Positive, accurate content is needed on an ongoing basis to create and/or improve your online presence – blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks… You control the story.
  4. Promote your company on social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook… You need to be where ever your customers live. And social media sites will help your search engine results rankings which can positively impact your online reputation.
  5. Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is very important to reputation management. It can be used to help potential customers find you and to emphasize positive information about your company. SEO is an excellent tactic when trying to bury a negative comment. The negative comment is pushed down and supplanted by positive content, minimizing or eliminating its effect.

Don’t take a chance with your company’s reputation! CreativeWorks Marketing can identify and monitor your online reputation, deal with any negative material found on the Internet and promote a positive image that will inspire customers to do business with you. We know how important your business is to you and we will make every effort see that your reputation is stellar and that you control your digital footprint. Contact us today.

Building a Cohesive Brand Identity

489783302I know companies understand that they need to have a brand, but many miss the mark on creating a cohesive brand identity. Although many may see this as ‘fluff’, creating a strong brand identity can be a complicated process that’s difficult to master.

As I tell many of my clients, brand identity is not just a logo; it’s the entire visual language that your company uses to communicate with its audience. It’s the art of portraying the right message and making a lasting, first impression.

Brand identity answers the questions what do you want your story to be and how do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? I’ve outlined below 7 steps that will I hope will help you in developing a cohesive brand identity:

  1. Review your current brand and your competition: Think about how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace and whether the message you’re delivering is clearly understood and reaching your target audience. It’s not enough to just review your brand; you need to understand what you’re up against. Have you done your market research? If not, now is the time.
  2. Audit your audience: Know your audience! Build a brand around what they want (not what youwant). It’s a competitive world out there. If your customers don’t find what they’re looking for from you, they will find it from someone else.
  3. Choose your theme: Choose your theme wisely. A well-conceived theme creates a powerful and effective communication platform which will deliver a higher ROI. A theme is compelling and engaging because it’s able to communicate your brand identity more effectively. It takes brand identity to a whole new level.
  4. Develop a consistent colour palette: Your colour palette is typically defined by the colours in your logo and is the foundation of your visual brand identity. The colours don’t have to be identical to those in your logo but should complement them. Very important – your colour palette must work well with your website and printed material.
  5. Don’t go overboard with fonts: There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but don’t go overboard using too many fonts that may look creative but are difficult to read. Less is more. You can use a different font for headlines than for body text, but the font must be easy to read, and be consistent across your website and print materials.
  6. Use custom design elements: Looking off-the-shelf isn’t going to help you stand out. Custom design elements can be a huge asset to your brand identity. A professional graphic designer can create your logo and various elements of your website. The images don’t have to be the same throughout your website and print materials but all of the visuals should contribute to a consistent look and feel.
  7. Use a consistent tone of voice: You can’t tell your story without words. It’s important to give a great deal of thought to what style of writing will be consistent with the image that you want to portray in the marketplace and mesh well with your imagery. Consistency is key to a successful brand identity. A professional writer will be able to understand your voice and produce work consistent with it.

Every company needs a cohesive brand identity to compete in the marketplace but many miss the mark because they attempt it on their own. You need a professional marketing agency with strategists, graphic designers and professional writers. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience helping companies like yours build cohesive brand identities. Give us a call today and maximize your return on investment.