Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marketing Your Brand Through Online Search

Companies large and small that understand how important search marketing is to their overall online marketing strategy are reaping the reward of a strong ROI. A former manufacturing client from a previous agency called to check in and rave about how well his pay-per-click campaign is working. They've added a substantial amount of new business from integrating paid search into their online marketing strategy. This is just one example. I hear success story after success story from companies that are looking to grow and using online search marketing as a core component of their strategy.

Case studies like this prove just how valuable search marketing is.  Also, the proof is in the data.  According to data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Internet advertising reached $23.4 billion in 2008 - a new record high. Search was largely responsible for that growth at 19 percent over the previous year. 

To succeed at marketing today, businesses must have an online brand that people desire and must be easily found through search and/or other online marketing tactics. Marketing online does not utilize a "build it and they will come" strategy. You must be proactive in helping people to find you.  Just remember search is only half of the equation, the other half is how professional and relevant the online brand you've developed is perceived to be by your target audience.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Do-it-Yourself Brands Winning in Tough Economic Times

Information Resources Inc (IRI) reported its findings on the most popular new food and beverage and new non-food brands. The results indicate further how consumers are adapting their lifestyles to save money and realize value during difficult economic times. 

The results in a nutshell indicate the following:
  • While some premium brands like Starbucks are suffering, brands seen as quality value brands such as Dunkin' Donuts Coffee (which was the 2nd of the top 10 food and beverage brands) have performed very well.
  • Also in the food and beverage category, brands that cater to the health conscious seem to be doing very well as evidenced by Gatorade's G2 occupying the top spot in the top 10 and Progresso Light taking the third spot).
  • Consumers are trying d-i-y products at home in many instances versus going to a professional first. For example the Ped Egg is on the top-ten list of non-food brands showing that pedicures on the home are on the rise. Not good news for spas but nonetheless people still want to be pampered even if they have to or choose to do it themselves.
The top 10 brands for Food and Beverage were as follows:
  1. Gatorade G2
  2. Dunkin' Donuts Coffee
  3. Healthy Choice Cafe' Steamers
  4. Progresso Light
  5. Hormel Compleats
  6. Digiorno Ultimate
  7. Smirnoff Ice Flavors
  8. Pepsi Max
  9. Tyson Any'Tizers
  10. Diritos Collisions
The top 10 brands for new non-food products were:
  1. Zyrtec
  2. Alli
  3. Charmin Ultra Strong
  4. Ped Egg
  5. Secret Clinical Strength
  6. MiraLax
  7. Dawn PLUS
  8. CoverGirl LashBlast
  9. Maybelline Define
  10. Tidy Pure Essentials
Bottom line: brands that show value and or innovate in these economic times have a better chance of prospering.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Premium Brands in a Recessionary Economy

I read an article this week in Business Week about premium brands that despite the ailing economic times are not looking to change their pricing strategy to accommodate financially conservative consumers. Panera Bread and Apple were two examples specifically mentioned in the article. 

The article got me thinking. Who is smarter here (from a marketing perspective)? The companies that are adjusting their prices to reach more consumers or those who refuse to accommodate cash-strapped consumers? Some premium brands like Starbucks have certainly felt the pain of the recession and as such have created new lower-priced product offerings with the hopes of appealing to more people looking for value. 

In my own experience, each time I have been to the mall recently or out to eat it seems everyone is running a sale or special. I think (and I could be wrong here but will say what I think nonetheless) that premium brands who refuse to budge will be hurt by this decision. As more people continue to lose their jobs or fear losing their jobs, savings grow and spending tightens. As spending tightens more people will look for values - particularly premium values.   I guess my thinking here is that even premium brands have to be adaptable to survive in the long run and part of that adaptation is adjusting to economic conditions. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Can the World Forgive Vanilla?

Vanilla Ice Apologizes for 'Ice Ice Baby' in Virgin Mobile Ad, Not for Flowing 'Like a Harpoon Daily and Nightly' (Video)

I think Virgin Mobile's use of Vanilla Ice in their new commercial is just too funny. Vanilla Ice is a great case study on branding based on authenticity. Given that the whole Vanilla Ice debacle happened years before the social media evolution...it will be interesting to see if people are willing to give him another chance.  

Visit the link here and you can view the spot and at the end Virgin points to a website where you can vote on whether or not you can forgive Vanilla. 

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, March 23, 2009

$4 Foot Long? Quiznos Versus Subway.

I was just reading about Quizno's latest ad campaign, which is apparently going to be promoting $4 footlong sandwiches in an effort to try to steal market share from Subway. I haven't seen the TV spots yet but read on Adrants that the spots use a sexy theme...using phrases like put that foot long in me. Even though I haven't seen this yet, I just want to say WTH are they thinking?

First of all, $4 footlongs just doesn't roll off the tongue with quite the same ease as $5. Okay, I guess if it's an all-out price war then maybe Quizno's will up its volume for the short term. A temporary solution to the overarching Quiznos problem. Problem: Quizno's is a me-too brand in the sandwich category and has yet to develop its own meaningful brand identity. I mean who are they? I honestly can't say. Subway, on the other hand, has long-standing brand recognition. And healthy and fresh coupled with price is what Subway claims to be best at. 

Secondly, using sex to sell sandwiches may not be the strongest approach...especially against a solid family-centered brand like Subway.  Tying to differentiate this way will likely backfire. I really think Quiznos just needs to figure out how they're different from Subway versus trying to just be cheaper. That works for Wal-mart but not for everyone. And it only works on wooing consumers who solely care about price.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Nike "Believe in the Run" Spot - Another Great Demonstration of the Nike Brand

Okay, just watched the new Nike "Believe in the Run" spot and I am literally ready to jump out of my office chair, run home, throw on my Asics and my running gear and hit the pavement. Wow! I'm including the link to the video (below) on the blog so you can watch it.

The Nike brand is simply one of the best brands in the world...it may be thee best brand in the world...although that's a matter of opinion. Personally, I run in Asics shoes because of the stability, but many, many, many people swear by Nike.  I also should mention that 75 percent of my running gear (shorts, pants, tops, hats) are Nike. Why? Because Nike is synonymous with style, quality and functionality. Their products look good, last for many wears and actually work. Take the Nike Dri-FIT product for example. I have several Dri-FIT shirts and I will keep buying more because they actually work.

One more thing I want to mention about Nike is that they know their audience and they have this amazing ability to target them. Back to the new running commercial...only Nike could develop a spot so emotionally and theatrically realistic to its running customers. Kudos to Nike for developing one of the coolest most innovative brands of all time and to the Nike agencies who again and again demonstrate the power of great creative.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Brands Become Movements

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. Irish or just pretending to be Irish for the day's festivities.  I see a few individuals wearing green and hear talk of after-work plans for celebration. My mind wanders and I contemplate how St. Patrick's Day really is a brand. The brand of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  I can't help but think how this one person became a brand (known throughout Ireland and now the world) that became a movement. Because today, people of all races and nationalities and beliefs celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing green, eating and drinking certain Irish foods, watching the parade, etc. It has moved from a person to a brand and beyond a brand...to a movement.

Where we saw this happen most recently was in the Obama for president campaign. Obama is a man, who became a brand who transcended to become a movement. A movement of hope and change. This movement is what led to his success. The other candidates had brands but none with the kind of traction and emotional appeal of President Obama.

Another example of a brand becoming a movement is the Livestrong effort led by highly-respected athlete Lance Armstrong. Livestrong is the brand for Lance's foundation.  As most people know, Lance successfully overcame cancer only to win the Tour de France again and again and is very passionate about the fight against cancer. His Livestrong brand apparel as sold by Nike contributes 100 percent of its profits to cancer research. This brand and this cause has grown into a movement that people connect with.

When brands become movements their success is often a sure thing assuming the brand attributes are positive and desired by consumers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Marketing & Media in a Down Economy

On my drive into work this morning I heard on the radio that the popular morning show Today is making some adjustments to its content to better relate to its target audience during these less than stellar economic times. Today has been doing a "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" segment - showcasing exotic places all over the world. To be more practical given economic times, Today has decided to take a different approach.  Matt Lauer and the other Today folks will take road trips within the U.S. instead of traveling abroad. This is interesting because it is a way for msnbc to cut back on the show's production budget and also a way to better relate to its viewers and make the show more relevant to them. 

After hearing the news about Today, I got to thinking  about something my boss said recently about positioning and how not only is brand positioning about the company, its competitors and customer wants and needs...but it also must align with market conditions. Today is adjusting its content based on market conditions much like Target has adjusted their messaging to better reach out to people looking to shop at a better retailer but still get value. Target's "Fabuless" campaign conveys that point precisely. They haven't changed their position but have adjusted their messaging to better reflect that position given market conditions. 

With so many retailers going out of business and experiencing declining profits, maybe it's time for them to look at their brands and assess where they started, where they are and what can be done to refine the brand's appeal and messaging given today's market conditions.  Promotions may be helpful to reaching out to cash conscious consumers but in the long run will probably not be strong enough to sustain success for the retailers.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Little Brand Nostalgia

It's funny how times change. Back in the 1950s, most women would never have thought of coloring their hair.  At that time it was not socially acceptable to do so. That was the premise behind Clairol's famous "Does she or doesn't she?" advertising campaign.  In the campaign, seemingly respectable women who had changed their hair color were shown...but even getting the ads published was a process! Life magazine and some TV stations would not run the ad because they felt the language was too suggestive and may offend women readers or viewers. Hard to imagine that this campaign would be offensive given today's standards! 

To get the ad campaign approved to run, Clairol asked Life to survey a group of their own women employees to see if they were offended by the ads. The women didn't mind the ads so the campaign was launched and it was a highly successful marketing effort for the hair color company and was instrumental in the freedom we have today to express ourselves through changing our hair color.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Report Shares Insight Into Effective Marketing Strategies & Tactics

In a recent report titled Marketing Wisdom for 2009, Marketing Sherpa and its sponsor Omniture share interesting insight into what types of marketing work best given the plethora of options available today: email, web 2.0, search marketing, mobile marketing, landing page & website design, B2B marketing, B2C marketing, lead generation, direct mail, customer intimacy, testing and metrics, advertising, public relations and video. The report's information is derived from  real life examples of marketing professionals. I recommend reading the full document but prepare to invest a little time as the pdf download consists of approximately 50 pages. If you don't have time, I've summarized what I feel are the key takeaways below.

Some of the key points I have taken away are as follows:

  • In today's economy don't underestimate the power of personalization - in email campaign, in direct campaigns, etc.
  • Keep things simple. If a customer or prospect doesn't understand your offer how can they respond to it?
  • Use social media to leverage your company and your staff's credibility. It will require an investment of time but one that is necessary to develop your online brand and compete in the online market, which continues to grow exponentially.
  • Concerning social media, integrating channels is important to success for brand building and developing quality relationships that translate into business efforts.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of search marketing: both paid and organic. It works and is a relatively cost-efficient way of reaching your target audience online. To be really effective with search, make your pages relevant, use keywords that have been tested or identified as being the most relevant options and continue refining your efforts to maximize your results. Because search is dynamic it requires ongoing effort.
  • Quantifying results is becoming more and more important. Marketers want to know response rates, click-through-rates, overall marketing ROI and so on. Metrics should be a part of the way we as agency people communicate our successes to our clients.
  • Always factor in the customer wants and market conditions into any of your marketing tactics because if your offer does not align with the economy or customer wants and needs it will be dismissed. Some of our agency retail clients are performing exceptionally well versus their competitors because the way they are positioned and the creative that we are developing for them are strategically right for present market conditions and customer wants and needs.
To download the report, visit www.marketingsherpa.com/freestuff.html and select the Wisdom Report.

To discuss building your brand on or offline send an email to pachladis@prodigalmedia.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Media Savvy

In asking both marketing and non-marketing business professionals about their thoughts on using social media tools for business development and branding, I am faced with the reality that many people still don't have a grasp on what social media is and thus are not sure if and how they should be using it to promote themselves or their businesses. Social media is an integral part of a company's online brand and should be utilized wherever it makes sense strategically.

I thought it might be helpful to provide a brief article on what social media is, identify some of the categories and key category players in the social media space and provide an overview of the benefits and limitations of each media.

First, we'll start with a basic definition of social media. According to good old Wikipedia, social media are primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.

Now we'll briefly describe some of the most popular and emerging social media types and properties.
  • Blogs - blogs are an online based communication tool where a user can publish articles, links and media on a topic of interest to them. Blogs are widely used by celebrities, business professionals, sports teams and also many everyday people who simply like to write and want to have an online voice. This blog, which I recently created is a place where I can discuss my thoughts on branding and various marketing related topics. Key players in the blog creation world include Blogger, Typepad and Wordpress.
  • Microblogging - a form of multimedia blogging that allows a user to send brief text updates up to a certain number of characters to various media outlets like a blog, facebook page, etc. The most commonly used tool for microblogging is Twitter. Other key players include Plurk and Pownce.
  • Social Bookmarking/News - Users save links to articles or web pages that they want to remember or share. It's a simple way of aggregating and organizing information about topics that interest the user. For example, I use Google Reader to subscribe to and review dozens of blogs related to branding and marketing as well as running. Additional examples of social bookmarking sites include Delicious and Stumble Upon. Social News sites like Digg and Reddit are user-controlled news sites where articles can be submitted and commented on and voted up or down. Think of it as dynamic online news.
  • Social Networking Sites - online communities that allow people to connect with friends, family, coworkers, clients, etc to follow their thoughts, activities and more. There are a number of sites frequently used for various groups and reasons. Key players here include MySpace, Facebook, Linked in and a handful of others. MySpace is mostly targeted to the younger demographic. It is extremely popular with teens. They can create their own page and customize it with content they like, meet new people, connect to existing friends, listen to music, watch videos, share photos, etc. Facebook is similar in some ways as MySpace though it is more heavily used by the college population and educated young to middle-aged adults. Facebook allows users to connect to other people and share photos, information, links, notes, join groups, etc. Linked in is really purely an online networking tool used heavily for business people who want to stay connected to certain people and/or groups. It can be used for business development, professioanl development, etc.
  • Media & Information Sharing - there are a number of sites for sharing pictures, music and information. Some of the more popular ones include Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but rather an introduction to popular types of social networking tools and sites. The best way to understand this new media is to dabble with it yourself. As you use and interact with these media you will have a sense for what may or may not work for promoting your business or cause.

If you'd like to have further discussion on this topic please feel free to email me at pachladis@prodigalmedia.com.

Pepsi - Logo of the New Generation?

I'm sure by now almost everyone has seen the updated Pepsi logo. It's interesting to talk with people about their thoughts on the new logo and advertising campaign as I often hear mixed reviews. Certainly logos of iconic brands like Pepsi should be updated overtime, but how often I can't say. 

I don't know that there was anything wrong with the old logo but rather that Pepsi wanted to update its logo as a sign of the times. In looking at the new Pepsi logo, I can't help but think some of the inspiration must have been derived from President Obama's logo. 

For years Pepsi has claimed that it is the cola of choice for the "new generation". This positioning clearly helped Pepsi to close the gap on Coca-Cola's market share. I don't know that I particularly care for the look of the new Pepsi logo but must admit the change was a good strategic move. With Obama taking office, many in the U.S. and across the world feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm, hope and direction. Why wouldn't Pepsi want its brand to be associated with that kind of positive motivational "change" to think like a "new generation"?