Digital – The New Face of Branding?

Is Digital the New Face of Branding?Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Eastern Michigan University Center for Digital Engagement. The topic was “The New Face of Branding” with an emphasis on how digital has changed branding.

As I was considering my remarks, I realized that digital really has changed the face of branding, but that two key tenets from traditional marketing need to drive any effort:

  • 1. You need to know who your target market is. With digital’s increased potential to precisely zero in on prospects, this becomes even more critical to maximize efficiency.
  • 2. Clearly articulated messaging is key to success – you need to know who you are, what your advantage is, and how you’re unique. Life moves fast in the digital space. You have even less time to engage prospects.

Initially, my thoughts centered on the notion that strategy was paramount and how this doesn’t change for digital. In fact, digital makes having a sound strategy even more important as it enables unprecedented targeting and customization of message to audience.

But…

Digital HAS changed a lot of things. Do I think it really is “The New Face of Branding”? No. For most marketers, a balanced, integrated program is still the best solution. However, there are two scenarios where digital has been a game-changer:

The Little Guy
Once upon a time, a small marketing budget really limited what you could do. A full-page ad in the Harvard Business Review (one of my favorites) costs roughly $30,000. Assuming you need to run at least 6x, you’ve already eaten up the better part of $200,000. Ouch. But digital is scalable. Using digital display on HBR.org or LinkedIn, you can target these same prospects. Mix this with a solid program of organic and earned social media and you have the potential to be a giant-killer.

The Niche Market
The Internet has enabled makers of niche markets to reach a global customer base. It started with vehicles like Ebay and Etsy, but it quickly expanded to include social media, remarketing, and networked banner buys. Looking to reach customers for organic alpaca yarn in Northern Canada? Need to connect with left-handed engineers in the ski industry? With digital you can target them effectively without the waste built-in to traditional media.

The New Kid on the Block
Digital has levelled the playing field, enabling new products from emerging companies to compete with established players. Using WordPress you can easily create a site that creates a world-class image. Social media helps you introduce new products to established audiences and even target your established competitors.

In short while digital hasn’t lessened the importance of a sound strategy, it has created tremendous opportunities for many companies.

Sean

Contact Us

contact pagePity the poor Contact page. The most valuable place on your entire web site – yet often the most overlooked. I’m stunned by how little thought people put into this page.

Some want a simple “whaddya’ want?” form-to-e-mail fill in. Others put a little more thought into it, but not much. Mostly, they’re designed for the benefit of the host, not the visitor.

One of the key tenets of web marketing we advocate for our clients is a customer-centric view of their web site. Take a moment to think about the reasons you’d visit a Contact page…

• Sales inquiry (the obvious one)
• Looking for a job
• Having a technical problem
• Having a billing question
• Looking for driving directions

Get the idea? There are a lot of reasons someone might want to get in touch with you beyond simply wanting to talk to a sales person. Why not make this easy for them? We recommend a simple e-mail address (like info@yourcompany.com that might go to several people in the intended department. One recommendation – NEVER put in individuals e-mail addresses on your web site. You’re simply inviting a mind-boggling volume of spam.

Number one on most people’s sources of irritation? The lack of a phone number where they can reach a live warm body. Yes, I know you want to reduce your call volume. Too bad – people who aren’t comfortable contacting you through digital channels won’t. They’ll go somewhere else. Let that sink in for a moment.

Another major opportunity is your location, or locations. In addition to helping people find you when they need to this has potential brand value. For example, if you’re an America company and Made in the USA is something your customers. Some customers will want to know your global presence – do they have a location in my country or at least my part of the world? Having this information on your web site offers nothing but potential.

Finally, pay attention to your dialogue with your customers. If you’re hearing that not having something on your Contact web page is a problem – get it on there today!

Sean

Paid advertising on Facebook: the boost your content needs?

Pay us on FacebookIs Facebook marketing – you know, the “free” marketing all businesses should be taking advantage of – becoming a pay-to-play landscape?

In short, yes. But before we start bemoaning our budgets, let’s consider why this shift isn’t really a bad thing.

  1. Facebook realigned its algorithms so that individual newsfeeds focus more on friends and family of the individual, rather than businesses or publishing outlets. While this does make it more difficult to get those organic eyeballs on your business content without coughing up some dough, the move was designed to keep users happy. If the users aren’t happy, or all they see is clickbait, they abandon the platform. In short: we WANT Facebook to keep the users happy so that we have an audience to market to in the first place.
  2. These changes are driven by a desire to cut through clutter and see relevant content – and Facebook advertising has targeting features designed to get you in front of the audience most relevant to you. Not everyone on Facebook wants or needs the product or service you’re selling. As Facebook continues to gather data on its users and adjust newsfeeds to keep them happy, it gives marketers access in the form of targeting tools to make sure we’re reaching the right people.
  3. Social media marketing is only as good as the content behind it. The same few bucks we cough up to target that relevant audience may also make us pause and think “Is this post worth the money?” Does it offer the user something of value or drive an action? Is the wording concise, clear, and spelled/punctuated correctly? Do links point to appropriate areas of your website? No one wants to waste money – we may put more thought into posts we have to pay for.
  4. It’s not THAT expensive. (I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking I should have led with this one, but the three items above are more important.) Facebook offers three different paid advertising levels, starting with the easy-to-deploy and very inexpensive Boost Post. A very minimal investment can greatly increase the number of eyeballs on your content.

No one really likes to spend money, especially on things we’ve been accustomed to thinking of as free. However, it’s worth remembering that your posts may be reaching as little as 2% of your followers organically. A few dollars will not only give you more visibility and increased reach, but could improve your content – and your audience – as well.

-Amy

Don’t Be So Negative – Leveraging White Space

Leveraging White Space While I was attending the Digital Summit Detroit last week, the topic of white space came up in a few presentations. Meanwhile in some projects at the agency we had some discussions with clients who wanted to fill every available square inch.

Early in my career, I was taught that white space wasn’t what was left over after all the visual elements were used – it was a design element just like type or photos. Every day I see examples that illustrate the “cover every square inch” mantra. Like trade show booths with copy down at foot level. Or billboards with 20-word headlines, four URLs, and social media icons for every channel. Sometimes, quite simply:

Less is more.

See how I did that? You read that line because it was all on its own. It had impact, power, and simplicity. Three simple words. With space around them. A few other key benefits of white space:

  • It helps the reader prioritize – when the entire space is filled, the brain can’t process what to pay attention to first. So, your primary benefit could get overlooked entirely.
  • It improves readability – by making elements stand out, they are easily and quickly read and grasped.
  •  It separates and groups elements – keeping copy associated with the relevant visual is a key benefit of leaving some white space.
  • It creates balance – the reader’s eye likes order and balance, thus attracting greater readership.
  • It invokes imagination – by leaving some white space, the readers mind becomes freed to process what you’re saying and engages them to explore the possibilities.

An additional thought – “white space” doesn’t have to be white. When the term is used, it’s simply negative space. The color doesn’t matter, what does is the fact that it’s not filled by other elements.

So the next time you’re tempted to cram in just one more graphic to occupy that “empty” space, consider this:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

-Sean-

Does Your Content Have Superpowers?

Content marketing | Content Superpowers | PWB MarketingA few years ago, while serving on a social media panel during a presentation to a local entrepreneurial group, I casually remarked that, “Content is everything; social media is just plumbing.” In the years since then, I’ve seen this proven over and over both with clients and with brands I follow. In order to succeed, your content marketing needs superpowers.

This post examines some of the content marketing your brand needs to succeed.

Exceptional Audience Relevance

Social – more than any other medium – has to connect with what your customers and prospects want to learn. If it doesn’t, they’re on to the next thing. Too many marketers are pushing content that THEY want to tell customers, as opposed to information that customers are seeking.

Powerful Stickiness

Remember the old days of “sticky” web content? Where your reason for existence was to get customers to return to your web site? Sticky content and content marketing are essentially the same concept. According to a study by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway, 84% of a company’s fans are already customers.  Only relevant, interesting, and fresh content keeps people coming back.

Incredible Engagement

In his book SocialnomicsEric Qualman observes that social media marketing is, “More like Dale Carnegie than Mad Men. Less about selling and more about listening.” Social is a unique channel because of its allowance for real-time dialogue. Harness this ability with content that asks questions, solicits opinions, and takes other actions to encourage audience response.

Robust Adaptability

Successful content marketers generate content for use across multiple channels. A LinkedIn post might lead to a white paper on your web site, expanding on the post topic. A targeted Facebook ad might direct users to a a topic-specific landing page. Great content is great content – just be sure to recognize the unique nature of each channel and modify appropriately. For example, text on a web page won’t make a dynamic Pinterest post without adaptation.

Brand Power

What does your brand stand for? How are you positioned? What is your unique value proposition? Content marketing should clearly and consistently support your brand and values. If you don’t have a clearly defined set of brand values, we can help you with that.

These are but a few of the content marketing superpowers your brand needs. Want to know the others? Or put this to work? We should chat.

-Sean-

Get Your Story Straight

PWB is in the midst of creating several storytelling videos, and we’re finding some common themes and issues emerging. Here are a few recommendations for crafting a successful storytelling video.

  1. Get your story straight – if you haven’t really figured out the messaging for your product, service, or company, you can spend a lot of wasted time wandering in the wilderness.
  2. Understand how it will be used – storytelling videos are an excellent asset in an integrated demand generation program. Taking a step back to see where your video(s) will fit in the buyer’s journey is always helpful. This helps you stay on-message and focused on the viewers felt needs.
  3. Keep it simple – the goal here is simple; to help people quickly “get it” – emphasis on “quickly”. A good storytelling video should be less than two minutes long. Stay focused on that goal.
  4. Bite-sized chunks – two minutes is a surprisingly short amount of time. More complex stories may need more than one video. One of the projects we’re working on is a three-part series. This really enables us to tell the story in meaningful increments. It also gives our client more assets for their demand generation program.
  5. Picture = 1,000 words – use both the visual and narration elements to say more than you could by using just the narration. Some concepts are easier to see than talk about.

At PWB, these are all key elements in our process as we craft your story. Have a complex concept that you want to quickly, simply, and effectively communicate to key audiences? Let’s talk!

-Sean-

Social Media Size Guide 2016

To help our social media clients, we created this handy infographic. Print it out and hang it up somewhere handy. If you need help with social media management or social media listening, PWB is here to help. Contact us at 734-995-5000 or at dialogue@pwb.com.

social media image size guide 2016

Is This The End for Google+?

google plusI hate to say it, but I have a hard time using Google+. In fact I generally don’t promote Google+ much, and find very little value in it. I do have clients who have been forced into accounts since they created YouTube channels or were transitioned to Google+ after they had Google Places pages. Not many of my clients use it though.  Perhaps that is due to individual clients goals, or perhaps it is because Google+ pages that lack any substance, don’t get traction. Regardless, I have a hard time supporting it.

Even as far back as 2011, I had a hard time determining IF my clients needed to set up a Google+ page. Today I ran into an article that brought that to mind again. What I read made me consider that these changes may be the beginning of the end to Google+.

Throughout the last few years, Google has actually been back peddling on several of Google+ mandates put into place. That’s why these new changes, specifically for Google Play, are not that unusual. The changes will ultimately benefit Android users, since very soon Google Play will become less integrated with Google+.

As it is explained in the article, Google Play Services are currently tied to individual Google+ social media accounts. All users are required to sign in, which allows players to continue game progress from any device. Doing so however makes game activity visible to anyone on the web. There are some options to minimize this, however it takes quite a bit of effort on the part of the user to make their game play less visible. Soon though, users will not be required to sign in to Google+ to access games.

I suppose that sounds like a big mess. In some ways it is. Integration of Google+ into “everything Google” has caused a big mess. Certainly Google+ falls short on competing against Facebook, and has backed down from a few other mandates in the past year or so. As we begin to see Google+ unravel, I begin to question the strength of the platform and find myself asking, “Is there value in using Google+?” and “is this the beginning of the end for the social media platform?”

Please add you your thoughts on Google+ in the comments below.

 

Own Your Assets: Avoid Domain Transfer

domain transfer

Avoid needing a domain transfer. Be sure to buy your URL from the start!

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for quite some time. A recent painful experience reminded me that I really needed to get it out there so others can learn.

Over the past year or so PWB has moved to STRONGLY recommending to our clients that they own their URLs. We’ve seen far too many situations where a third-party purchased a URL on behalf of a client. Then the client and the third party part ways, or they go out of business, or something else changes.

Avoiding Domain Transfer

Now the client needs a domain transfer. On the surface, this seems like a simple enough process. And generally, it is. Except when it’s not. We’ve had a few go badly. Generally it’s when moving a URL from a re-seller to a more mainstream registrar. So far we’ve only lost one – a back-up URL that wasn’t key. But we’ve certainly had more than a few hair-pulling moments.

Buying a URL is simple, it puts you in control, and it ensures that you retain control over a key marketing asset. We recommend consolidating all of your URLs with a single registrar to simplify renewals and management. If possible, we like to take it a step further and suggest consolidating your URL registration with your hosting provider. This way everything’s in one convenient place. We like GoDaddy for their simplicity, uptime, and top-notch on-phone customer support – but there are certainly others.

While we’re on the topic, if you’re considering an acquisition, make sure the rights to the URL are included in your terms. While this may seem obvious, it’s an easy detail to overlook in a complex transaction.

We’ve even gone so far as to stop purchasing URLs on our client’s behalf. Own your assets. If you do, the potential risks of losing a URL go down significantly. We hope this helps even one marketer avoid a difficult situation.

 

-Sean-

When Branding Strategy and Product Don’t Align

Branding StrategyBeing interested in both food and marketing, I’ve recently been fascinated by the emerging story that that Mast Brothers Chocolate out of Brooklyn is not truly the bean-to-bar manufacturer they’ve claimed to be.

Helmed by a photogenic pair of bearded brothers, Mast Brothers serves up an inspiring origin story of an apartment-based start-up making it big. The company sheaths its bars – which retail in the $10 range – in gorgeous, high-end paper designed by an in-house creative director. Articles and interviews with the brothers are peppered with words like “authenticity” and “artisanal” and “transparency” – and almost every media mention references the beards and/or the packaging. The Mast empire has expanded to include several factories and storefronts, a best-selling cookbook, and a presence in dozens of high-end retail shops and restaurants.

The problem? There’s speculation that the bean-to-bar concept on which the brothers built their branding strategy; that originally the brothers used re-melted commercial chocolate. The equipment they claimed to have used was called into question. Suspicion over the source further escalated when countries of origin and ingredient lists disappeared from the bars’ packaging – a strange omission for a company that preaches transparency.

Beyond all that, the chocolate that they are making now is considered by experts to be, well, not very good.

What began as a whisper on the fringe of the chocolate/foodie communities has become a full-on mainstream roar. The New York Times even covered the controversy in their Sunday edition. The Masts have gone on the defensive, posting a rebuttal and Q&A on the press page of their website.

While on the outset this may seem similar to the Shinola issue, which Sean previously posted about, in my mind it’s pretty different. In Shinola’s case, while the branding came under attack – is it really “Made in Detroit” if pieces used in the assembly are manufactured abroad? – the product/quality of the product itself never came into question. Additionally, customers rallied around the brand.

 

In the case of Mast, we have a brilliantly branding strategy that doesn’t align with its product, and a customer base that feels deceived and even foolish.

Like Shinola, the Masts continue to defend their brand publicly. It will be interesting to watch how it all shakes out. In the meantime, I think this provides some food for thought (pun intended) to anyone in the process of branding or rebranding a product or service. A strong branding strategy and great marketing can take you pretty far – but it can crumble quickly when it’s not built on the foundation of a strong product.