Advertising

Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?

Second Place Is A First-Rate Strategy

With almost 20 years in this business, it’s not that often that I come across a TV commercial that actually gets me excited, but Classico’s pasta sauce competition commercial has done it. It’s not because of the creativity or the out-of-the-box thinking, but because of the strategy! The commercial establishes a pasta sauce competition, the opponents being a group of Italian “Nonnas” and Classico pasta sauce chefs. When the winners are announced, the Italian Nonnas take home the gold, while the Classico group stands cheering. It ends with a voiceover that says:

“Homemade pasta sauce will always win, but with inspiration from the regions of Italy, we’re a close second.”

WOW! I wasn’t expecting that ending! And that is why the commercial is so effective. The commercial has the ad sponsor, Classico, celebrating the fact they didn’t win a pasta sauce competition, and promoting the fact that their brand was, indeed, second place in the pasta sauce game.

Brands usually don’t take this type of risk by admitting defeat, but by doing the unexpected and taking this risk, and creating a strategic approach, it’s a win-win.

Classico hasn’t created a major marketing campaign for over 10 years, so this ad needed to create some serious dialogue. After conducting some market research, Classico found that their consumers frequently make homemade pasta sauce on the weekend and believe that a store-bought pasta sauce will never live up to something made from scratch. They also found that; while their consumers appreciate homemade sauce more, “for those nights when they want to deliver a great meal, but don’t have a lot of time, they want a high quality pasta sauce alternative.”

Knowing this, Classico launched their “Second only to yours” campaign. Admitting their sauce will never beat a delicious homemade sauce appeals to consumers looking for brand honesty, and as I discussed in last week’s blog, honesty is key in a marketing campaign. Classico knows their consumers value high quality sauce, so by informing them that while they are not going to beat their homemade version, they are still a close second, appealing to this busy target market.

In 1962, this strategy was also met with great success when Avis embraced their second-place status as a way to hype the brand’s customer service with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” They retired the slogan last year after finally slipping into third place behind Hertz, 50 years after the tag line was created.

As we can see, this risky strategy worked well for both companies. Classico’s ad has now become a viral video, and Avis produced a popular slogan that was used for half a century. However, if everyone started a marketing campaign claiming they were number two, we might be in trouble. These two case studies are great examples of how well-researched marketing strategies can go against the grain and pay off big time.

The Blurred Lines Between Advertising and Social Media

When Ronald Reagan’s Chesterfield cigarette ads premiered, did we really believe that he smoked a pack a day? Probably not, because we knew it was an advertisement. When we see pictures of Kylie Jenner posing with her FitTea on Instagram, do we think that she drinks it every morning to maintain a healthy weight? Maybe.

The introduction of social media has blurred the lines of advertising and real life significantly. Before we had Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we were able to recognize advertisements easily. Now, it’s difficult to determine if our favourite celebrity really does like Coco White Teeth Whiteners, or if they’re being paid to say they do.

Influencers on social media have thousands of people following their every move, so it makes sense that companies would want them to advertise for them. The problem is, a lot of influencers are not informing their followers that they are being paid to post. As a result, Ad Standards Canada has revised its rules regarding advertising with blogs, celebrities, and social media influencers. Bloggers are now required to include statements in their posts that acknowledge they are working with a company to advertise a product, and social media influencers will be required to include hashtags like #sponsored or #ad to ensure the public knows they are being paid to post.

After working in the marketing and communications industry for over 20 years, I am able to spot an ad on my social media feed easily. Unfortunately, a lot of other Canadians are not as media literate and are therefore feeling tricked after they have purchased a product discretely advertised on social media.

One of the main functions of marketing is increasing brand loyalty. Customers are unlikely to purchase a product or stay interested in a brand when they find out they have been lied to. Customers look for authenticity in the brands they follow, so acknowledging that a celebrity is being paid to promote your company is just better business. While famous celebrities might not actually use your product in their everyday lives, if your overall marketing strategy is strong enough, people will want to buy your product.

If you or your organization is considering social media advertising with an influencer, make sure your customers know they are being marketed to. Having a celebrity face is a great way to increase interest in your product, but honesty is key to maintaining customer loyalty.

4 Tips for SMB In-App Advertising

adhereiphoneAs a SMB, you may not have considered advertising on an app (in-app advertising) because at first glance, it may seem complicated or far removed from the services you provide. But with the average user spending 198 minutes in apps while on their smartphone each day, compared to just 22 minutes on the mobile web, it’s time to consider this area of advertising for your business.

One of the reasons I feel in-app advertising is growing is because it provides a better solution to capture targeted consumer attention and entice them to interact without interruption. Here are my tips on in-app advertising for SMBs:

Research

Invest the time to do your research as to which app might make the most sense for your service or product. Look at what apps could be relevant to your audience and what type of advertising would be a good fit for this medium e.g. do you want them to download something, watch a video on a product, or answer a poll?

Information

When using an app on your mobile device, a pop-up usually appears asking you to share your location information. This location information is one of the reasons why in-app advertising works because it uses this data to understand and engage with your audience. Think about how this data can help you get a complete picture of what is going on at a certain location in real-time and how combining it can help you to find the right audience for your message.

Format Options

In-app ads, like banner ads, have various placement options. Apps offer banners that appear at the top or bottom of popular games, as well as more advanced social media auto-play videos and sponsored posts.  Depending on your business and marketing goals i.e awareness vs. click-through offers, you’ll need to test which ad placement and format works best for you.

Creative

There is no doubt that to get the attention of your audience, you’ll need to step up your “game” on your creative approach. To get noticed, you will need to create relevant, non-invasive and compelling ads that are uniquely targeted to your audience.

I encourage you to take a look at in-app advertising because not only is it more targeted, it has proven to perform 11.4 times better than standard banner ads, making it almost as effective as Google searches.

 

3 Things to Consider to Overcoming Privacy Concerns of Cookies

CWM TuesdayYou may have heard of the term “cookie” or come across it in your online experience. But what does it mean? What does it mean for consumers? And what does it mean for you as a business owner or manager?

Have you ever noticed when booking travel destinations online that the next day or time you are on the internet, ads or messages will appear from other travel sights? This is not a coincidence – this is as a result of cookies tracking your purchasing and surfing behaviours.

Cookies are therefore a key tool that we marketers can use to track customer behaviour and purchasing choices. They can help your business understand your customers so that you can provide them with tailored content specific to their behaviours.

From a marketing perspective then – cookies provide us with a pull-push approach, but the challenge is we need to make sure our campaigns are transparent and therefore we need to utilize cookies in a way that the customer does not consider invasive of their privacy.

I wanted to share with you a few tips that will help you overcome privacy concerns raised by cookies when planning your next online marketing campaign.

  1. Show transparency

The most important thing to consider when using cookies is that privacy is the biggest concern. Let your customers know when they visit the site that you are using cookies to provide them a tailored experience.

One popular approach is to provide a notification on your website. For example, a website will post a notification like this:

Company X sites use cookies and similar technologies. By using company X sites, you are agreeing to our revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our cookie policy.

A simple notification like this serves to provide both knowledge and consent. The choice is then on the consumer to continue using the service. Your customers will appreciate that you are being transparent with them, and that they are being given a choice.

  1. Value-added, permission-granted

Make sure you have a strong value proposition. Based on consumer behaviours in downloading Apps, if you can provide them with the tailor product/service they need, and the value is there for them, they will grant you permission to track them.

  1. Make it part of a larger strategy

For a cookie to be effective, it should be used as part of a larger marketing automation strategy. Just simply placing cookies on your site only tracks users on your site, and does not give you much “intel” on what your customers are doing and where they are going online. You’ll need to track them across many sites, to gain a richer understanding of who they are and how you can push them targeted content.

With all of the exciting automated marketing technology that is available to us today, we need to always put our customer first and ensure they are not feeling their privacy is being compromised.

Do the benefits of cookies overcome its potential danger to privacy? Do you have other online strategies for understanding your consumer behaviours?

3 Myths About Programmatic Advertising Every Business Should Know

programmatic-topt-tipsContinuing along the theme of automated marketing, I wanted to discuss programmatic advertising as it has changed the face of online advertising. As a fairly new concept, I wanted to debunk a few myths that are already surfacing about it.

“Programmatic” ad buying is like using machines to buy ads. Software purchases digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves human negotiations and manual insertion orders.

Myth 1: Robots are replacing people
Yes and no. Technology is being used to replace some of the more menial tasks that humans have historically had to deal with, like sending insertion orders to publishers and dealing with ad tags, but they’re still required to optimize campaigns and to plan strategies. Programmatic technology will probably mean there are fewer ad buyers in the world, but it could also allow both marketers and sellers to spend more of their time planning sophisticated and customized campaigns instead of getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

Myth 2: Programmatic advertising takes humans out of the buying equation
While it is true that digital ads were bought and sold by ad buyers and salespeople and that programmatic advertising technology has replaced them in this role, the human element in programmatic advertising is in the strategy. Think of it like this – the machines are the brawn and humans are the brains.

Myth 3: Programmatic advertising is the same as real-time bidding
Real-time bidding (RTB) is a type of programmatic advertising but not all programmatic advertising uses RTB. Programmatic advertising refers to the purchase of ads through real-time auctions, but programmatic software also allows advertisers to buy guaranteed ad impressions in advance from specific publisher sites.

Programmatic ad buying is definitely on the rise and some agencies are eager to buy as much media as possible through programmatic channels. Some major brands have also dedicated programmatic ad buying to their in-house teams.

Although it is still mainly online ads that are traded programmatically, it is clear that on the horizon and coming to an agency near you is the opportunity to buy “traditional” media this way, including TV spots and out-of-home ads!

Do you think programmatic advertising is something only for large brands and agencies? Are you currently using programmatic advertising for your company? After reading this blog, will you be considering this for your business? I look forward to your comments.

Do You Know Why Your Customers Choose You?

customer-loyalty-mj-experiaWith more and more competing services spreading around the world, it is becoming easier to create look-alike companies and services. And yet, standing out from the crowd is one of the most important requirements of any company. Being different gives customers a good reason to choose your company over one of the many lookalikes.

There are many ways to be different. Offering a unique and better service is a good place to start. However, adding layers of innovative services or developing a brand with special attributes can also make you look and feel different.

One of the most important roles that market research can play is to find out what your potential audience wants and needs, and use these findings to help differentiate your company or service offering.

With almost two decades of market research expertise, I have outlined below a few compelling reasons as to why you should survey your customers. As for the process of creating the survey, how the survey is conducted, and what methods can be used to follow up, I’ll leave those for another blog later in the month!

Customer Loyalty: Understand the magic – what they like about you and what they dislike. Knowing what keeps them coming back over and over again is the secret to your success. Loyalty is the magic when they start talking about you and referring you to others.

Customer Satisfaction: Satisfied customers are those who do not have outstanding negative issues concerning you on their mind. This doesn’t mean everything has always been perfect. Sometimes things may not have gone all right. In all such situations you gave your customers a chance to talk to you. Sympathetic listening to customers is essential. An online survey, or better yet, a personal phone call from a third party, provide an excellent way for your customers to have a chance to get their side of the story out without being interrupted. A second essential is follow-through. Proper tools of analysis will help you segment your customers into different categories based on what you need to do in return. Then show them you “heard” them and are putting their words into action.

Effective Communication: By inviting customers to talk to you through careful design of your survey or asking key questions in a telephone conversation can effectively inform your customers about things they may not know or remind them of important changes or innovations in your organization. This is clever because customers will take your survey more seriously than most other communication you send them.

Spotting Trends: Beyond understanding the drivers behind loyalty and satisfaction of your customers, you can benefit from the wisdom of the masses by asking them for their ideas and spotting patterns in their feedback. Spotting such trends ahead of competition could offer you a significant advantage.

Think about your own loyalty as a customer and why you choose certain brands or companies to work with – heck, knowing what your customers value is what’s behind those great beer commercials who put their customer in their brand experience! Listen to your customers; let them show you what they value and once you act on their input, enjoy watching your business grow!

When was the last time you conducted a customer survey? Did you send out an online survey or did you call your customers? Did you follow up on the customer feedback and if so, how? Do you feel you did a professional job or do you think you should have hired a marketing firm to conduct it for you?