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.

New Year – New AdWords Campaign

It’s a new year so it is not surprising that businesses may be considering new marketing techniques to capture a desired audience. Today I want to share some thoughts on starting new online ads, specifically creating a new new adwords campaignAdWords campaign.

The biggest challenge is often simple  – where to start? Will my Google AdWords ads focus on overall branding or target something more specific. By taking the time to develop a CLEAR goal, it will be easier to determine what kind of ad needs to be created. To get started, ask some of the following questions:

  • Are my ads intended to grow sales?
  • Will my ads focus on brand awareness?
  • Will my Google AdWords ads generate demand?
  • What action will a website visitor take when clicking on the ad?
  • Are my ads leading to a lead capture form? Should they lead to a purchase? Do I have a white paper to offer? Can my audience sign up for a newsletter?

In starting out, always identify a goal (or several goals) and know how the results will be measured. Now that the hard part is done, simply create a campaign. Yes, it really is that easy! I do not plan to recreate the wheel though, so be sure to check out this excellent step-by-step AdWords starter guide that Google has. It will get new advertisers started. I would like to add a couple quick tips though that I have learned through experience.

Creating a New AdWords campaign

  1. If possible, help customers take an action. Include a call-to-action then follow that by adding conversion tracking. Doing so will show you how effective your campaigns may be.
  2. Brainstorm a list (or lists) of keyword ideas associated with your brand/product. Certainly Google offers a tool to get you started but often they may not be the keywords that are best for a business.
  3. Consider using negative keywords to improve search. This eliminates those who may not actually be potential customers.
  4. Start with very specific targeting. That may be geographic targeting or AdGroups designed to attract a specific audience. Starting small will help create success early.

These are just a few tips, but they are some of the easiest to implement when creating a campaign, and I would argue that they are some of the most important.

I mentioned above, that measuring campaign results is important, ultimately though it is a must – When creating a new advertising campaign, advertisers need to know what works. Without analyzing results advertisers are flying blind! Test new ideas then build on campaign successes and failure, using a tool (Google Analytics) to help determine what is working and what is not.

Start with the basics and build a new AdWords campaign around success. The size of the campaign matters not if well thought out, so start today!

Does getting started with AdWords seem overwhelming or intimidating? Give us a call at 734-995-5000, we can help to get your campaigns set up or by offering ongoing campaign support.

 

2015 in Review – Recap on Cyber Attacks

In January we predicted that website hacking would up-tick in 2015. That really was not much of a prediction for the year, since cyber attacks have been trending for some time. There has been much more hacking than we would have liked to have seen though.

“Here we are a year later, and looking back it’s one prediction that I wish I was not right about.” says Keith Kopinski, our quasi IT guy and Senior Art Director, “Hacking web sites is out there and we’ve seen a definite uptick like I thought we would. The best thing I can say, is at least there are steps and procedures out there that help combat some of the shenanigans.”

website hacking predictions 2015Sadly, cyber hacking is here to stay, and hackers have gotten much more direct with their “just because” cyber attacks. Check out a few of these statistics on cyber hacking.

This year, we have directed several of our WordPress clients to consider using a tool called SiteLock, a website security tool to help in the prevention of hacking and cyber attacks. Having it installed may protect your site from the damage one hacker can unleash on your website.

What are our predictions for 2016? Look for some insight on our blog in January!

 

Tangled Web – Website Trends

website trends

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a lot changed this year in website trends. We’ve seen some interesting tactics and tendencies. What’s next? Who knows – but I think everyone should consider catching up with what is. Here are a few of my observations from 2015:

  • Web sites are getting simpler; this one seems obvious to our team, but nearly everyone I share this with seems surprised. Reality is that as mobile traffic increases, sites will need to be simpler to be impactful. Ever tried browsing a complex site on an iPhone 4? Yeah, you get it.
  • WordPress is here to stay; think of WordPress vs. Drupal as VHS versus BetaMax. WordPress won. Even hardcore Drupal developers seem to be making the shift. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by over 58% of all web sites using a known CMS – or roughly 25% of all web sites. Read the survey highlights here.
  • WordPress is vulnerable; with its rise as a leading CMS, WordPress has attracted the attention of the hacker community. This year we saw our first attacks on two sites. Protect your site – fixing it after you’ve been hacked is a pain. We’re recommending a solution like SiteLock. Easy to deploy and configure, affordable, and seems pretty robust.
  • Analytics matter; although we’ve preached this for years, it’s been surprising to me how few web site owners understand how visitors use sites. But this year I’m starting to see a change; site owners are looking at traffic, learning, and adapting content to reflect what they’ve learned.
  • Responsive got real; you can thank Google on this one. With the announcement that sites that didn’t meet its standards for mobile responsiveness would be downgraded, Google kicked off a firestorm. Every site we’ve build since April 1, 2015 has had full responsiveness as a key performance requirement. If you don’t know where your site stands, Google offers a mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to check your URL.
  • Mobile arrived for real; most of the sites we work with seem to have an inflection point where mobile traffic suddenly goes from being relatively insignificant to playing a key role. We saw one client’s site do a complete flip-flop from predominantly desktop to overwhelmingly smartphones during a fairly brief period. These trends seem to vary by industry, but it’s definitely happening. Ignore mobile visitors at your own peril.
  • Google is a mystery; while the search side of Google has always been a challenge to keep up with, additional elements are coming into play as the algorithm accounts for other factors. Because of acquisitions and changes (for example the Google Places), many of our clients have found themselves with multiple legacy Google identities. Cleaning these up is a complex, and sometimes impossible challenge. The lesson? As you add new services, consolidate as many as possible to a single account. Merging them later is a giant headache.

Stand by Your Brand

pwb_standbyyourbrandI’m a big fan of Detroit. I love its gritty, get-it-done, Midwestern style. The tremendous legacy of manufacturing. And just spending time in the City. I’ve never shied away from telling people I’m from the Detroit area when I travel. Even though I didn’t grow up in this area, my family has strong roots here. I’m good with Detroit – well, except possibly for the Lions. I tried. That didn’t work out.

So when the Shinola watch brand hit the marketplace, I became a big fan immediately. They proclaimed a strong tie to building their distinctive products in Detroit and the U.S. where feasible. Shinola has particularly applied the “Built in Detroit” brand to their watches. As a fan of both watches and Detroit, this really connected with me. And I’m shocked at the number of people I see with these watches who normally wouldn’t spend over a hundred dollars on ANY watch. The corporate branding has gained traction and its tie to Detroit is a big part of its “cool” factor. And I think the simple, impactful marketing has helped build a solid brand.

Enter the Federal Government. The FTC, already aggressively pursuing Kansas City watchmaker Niall for its “Made in America” claims, recently turned their attention to Shinola. While Shinola’s watches are assembled in Detroit – hence the “Built in Detroit” messaging – many of the movement components are made in Switzerland, and the crystals and hands come from China. An FTC spokeswoman recently termed this “potentially misleading”.

As a marketer I find this interesting. Shinola is doing EXACTLY what the Detroit automakers are doing – sourcing as many elements as is economically and logistically feasible in the U.S. and assembling watches in Detroit. Have you looked at the foreign parts content on a “domestic” car recently? Yet no one threatened Chrysler with its “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

Shinola has said publicly that it won’t back down from its “Built in Detroit” brand mantra. And I – someone who thinks about brands a lot – think this says a great deal about the brand’s integrity. It demonstrates commitment to both their brand position and their support of the Detroit region. Most importantly, it shows they’re living the “we’re tough and we’re not afraid of adversity” spirit of this area. I’m proud Shinola’s building watches not far from where my father was born and that they chose the heritage of Detroit to center their brand upon.

The lesson for marketers is simple – stand by your brand. It will serve you in good times and in bad. By flip-flopping around, impacted by every whim, you only weaken it. If you believe in your brand, be prepared to fight for it because as some point, for some reason, you’ll probably have to do so.

-Sean-

Blogging – Be Your Brand

successful bloggingSuccessful blogging seems to be one of the biggest challenges we see for many marketers. But in my opinion blogging is one of the most valuable activities an organization can do. It’s a chance to dig deeper than you would on your web site, or in other social media channels. You can establish real domain expertise, add depth to your brand, and even accomplish silly objectives like increasing search engine traffic and user time spent on your site.

That’s why when I see a good brand with a great blog, I feel compelled to share it. Recently, I’ve run into November Bicycles – a company dedicated to making great wheels at a great price. They’d received numerous kudos in some online forums I frequent, so I checked out November’s web site to learn more. The web site itself is solid, but simple. Much like their products, the brand was all about high-value without compromising performance and quality.

But even more impressive is their blog. In straight, no bullshit language, these guys mix discussions of the issues they address in wheel design and construction, opinions on the industry, and current promotions in a way that’s engaging, compelling and provides a successful blogging experience! I want to come back and check the blog regularly. It’s interesting and I learn something on every visit. With topics ranging from selecting the right spoke, to the importance of execution for corporate success, there’s something that adds brand richness, and makes me see them as knowledgeable, trustworthy experts.

blogging

Oh, and I bought a set of their Alloy Nimbus T11 wheels for my cyclocross bike. If I like them as much as I think I will, there’s a good chance come Spring I’ll sell my road bike wheels and order some Rail 52’s. I’d call that engaging a prospect. From consideration, to purchase, to repeat purchase. The true “Yahtzee!” of marketing…

-Sean-

Let’s Get Hitched

Been thinking about online engagement a lot lately. I’ve had a few clients who wanted to increase online engagement, especially using social media. That’s a noble goal, but ultimately a bit like jousting at windmills. What is online engagement? Likes? Shares? Comments? Re-posts? Sure, it’s probably all that. But do those things build brand loyalty. I suppose.

But when I take off my marketer hat and put on my consumer hat I don’t think they are the metrics that truly matter. So I’ve been watching tactics others use on social media that attract me. Two come to mind.

Rio Products

Fly line and accessory maker Rio does a solid job on social media. Encouraging fans to post photos, responding to questions, and running contests. But they ran a promotion that really caught my attention. Simple in concept, mighty in impact. Rio posted a photo of their booth on Facebook, with instructions to stop by the Macomb Community College fly show and mention the post – and get a free Rio hat! I love swag, so you know I was all in. And guess what? While I was there, I had a look at some new lines. Even ended up ordering one of the new ones from my local dealer. I’d call THAT engagement.

Stormy Kromer

These folks are brilliant. They’ve taken a goofy looking (but warm and comfortable) hat and parlayed it into a full-blown apparel brand that’s right on-target with the new “lumbersexual” demographic. Genius. Pure genius. And they’re every bit as smart online. Being a visual person, I’m a big fan of Instagram. I follow the Kromer folks and recently they ran a program looking for 19 “Kromer Ambassadors” to represent their products. Since I don’t make artisanal firewood or ride a fixie, it was hardly surprising when I wasn’t selected. But they did something really cool – they sent me one of their Kromer Koozies (these things are sweet – you need one) and a nice letter from the president explaining the overwhelming response. And then they gave me a code I could use for 50% off an online order. And what did I do? Yup, bought a bunch of stuff. Once again, now I’m really engaged on a financial level with them. I’m trying their new products. And I likely become an evangelist for the brand.

What’s this all mean for you? If you truly want online engagement, on a pure and financial level, you have to give some to get some. Will these fit into your social media dashboard? Possibly. Will they move the needle for your brand? You bet.

-Sean-

Digital Advertising Assistance Needed?

Does someone need support for sagging kankles?

Digital Advertising

This example of digital advertising is a good reminder that before running ads, there are several key things to consider:

  1. How many characters are available in the title line?
  2. How many characters are available in the ad copy?
  3. How many lines of ad copy will be visible?
  4. How will my ad appear?
  5. What size image should I use?
It is also a good best practice to review of the ad before it goes live. Read the copy and how it flows, does it make sense to your intended target audience? In this case, we’d really like to know what an ankle bra is.

 

For more information on the specifics of Facebook advertising, be sure to read the Facebook Ad Guide. If you need help with your Facebook ads, Google ads or any digital advertising, please call us at 734-995-5000. 

Tips to Prevent Compromised Facebook Accounts

I always check into my client Facebook accounts first thing in the morning. Often I read what’s happening in the industry and find any “news” that I see coming through the various feeds. This morning at 6:30 a.m. I noticed a post on one of the social media sites I follow, it mentioned a large scale Facebook hacking. By the time I got into work, the story was all over the news, and the sites were taken down temporarily by Facebook.

As compromised Facebook accounts are becoming bigger news, here are several tips to prevent Facebook pages from getting hacked – Essentially it all starts with the basics!

  • Don’t click on strange links – Ever!
  • Don’t click on friend requests from unknown parties.
  • If you come across a scam, report it immediately.
  • Don’t download any apps you aren’t certain about.

Facebook Security

When setting up the Facebook page, consider enabling login notifications. This will alert the page manager (you) by text or email, that someone is trying to log into the account. Consider too, that it is a great idea to review and re-review security settings and to do it often. Settings change often enough, so schedule the times you plan to check the settings.

Lastly, when using Facebook from places like hotels, airports, coffee shops, or anywhere that does not have a secure connection, text “otp” to 32665 for a one-time password to your account!

For more on Facebook security.

Compromised Facebook Account

If your suspect your Facebook page has been hacked, there are a few things that should be done as quickly as possible.

If the hacking is a result of an application, removing the accessibility of the app is also important. To remove suspicious app, go to > Home > Settings > Apps and go through the list. Click the > X next to any application that needs to be removed.

If you need assistance managing your social media accounts, please contact us at 734-995-5000.

Beware of the Vultures: Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Being a marketer can sometimes be frustrating. As an example, frustrations increase dramatically with every reported Google algorithm change – Like the change happening April 21. Certainly these algorithm changes can improve search, but they also release the search vultures. Those predators who create a feeding frenzy in an effort to scare businesses into buying their services. We have received a plethora of messages promising that without website improvements, our company will experience the end of the world as we know it.

Google-Vultures-PWB

Before you buy into the hype though, let’s understand a few things. Most websites built within the last few years are mobile friendly. To a certain level. The trouble is, mobile has changed dramatically within the last few years. Responsive design and even how devices are used when searching has changed. So let’s take a step back and look objectively at the coming change.

The Google mobile algorithm change promises this – that mobile-friendly websites will appear in search results.

“Starting April 21, Google will be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What does that mean exactly? It means this, how your website appears on a variety of mobile devices (iPhones, Android devices, tablets, etc.) may affect how your website is found to those searching for your products or services when they use something other than a laptop or desktop computer. That means that those sites that incorporate responsive design are likely to appear higher in mobile search engine results. In other words, this algorithm change might only affect a portion of those searching your website using mobile devices. To get a better idea of how your website will be affected, run a website analytics report; A very small portion of your website traffic may be affected.

Any time these changes are announced though, I get client calls and emails. To say that anyone can make promises though is foolish. One can ever truly know how a website will be affected due to Google algorithms being proprietary. For this next Google Algorithm change though, I suggest clients use the Google tools to run a mobile-friendly test.

If your site is not as mobile-friendly as it should be, then perhaps it is time to consider updates to change that. Web sites once had a shelf life of several years before needing updates, now however the ideal website needs to have constant improvements at some level. If you need help with making your website more mobile-friendly, PWB can help. Please contact us at dialogue@pwb.com or 734-995-5000.