Lifeblood

referrals

Referrals are the headwaters of lifeblood for an agency – new business. We greatly appreciate our solid clients, but to survive and thrive, an agency needs new clients. Agency network Second Wind tells us that most agencies average 15% per year in lost billings due to client turnover.

What this means for us is a continual need to find new clients. And, what’s the best way? Agency development consultant John Heenan recently completed a survey of marketer preferences. In it he found that 51% of marketers prefer to learn about a new agency by way of a referral from a friend, colleague, or peer. The numbers for other methods of contact fall off dramatically.

Another interesting discovery from Heenan’s research is that you are being flooded by agency news business contacts. In this survey, 56% of marketers report receiving 3-10 new business inquiries per week from agencies. And, this was a tremendous reminder of how much we appreciate our loyal clients. Despite being bombarded by agencies promising you the moon, you choose to work with us. Our sincerest thanks for your loyalty!

This is where you come in – we both need and appreciate your help. If you feel you’re getting great work and solid results from PWB, why not tell a friend? We’re not looking only for people who are actively seeking an agency, we love to build solid relationships that grow and evolve. Know a peer at another company who might need our services? Please help us connect. Whether they’re in a marketing role or not (while marketing is best, leaders in other functions are also generally solid), this really helps us cut through the onslaught of agency inquiries.

We appreciate these referrals more than you know, and we’ll definitely show our appreciation in return. We’re not talking “send us a referral and you’ll get a gift card from _______.” We’ll show you in real, thoughtful ways that are personal and indicative of our gratitude.

As a closing thought, those of you who haven’t worked in an agency environment may not fully grasp the challenges of finding and acquiring solid new business. This quote, from one of Heenan’s respondent is both funny, and a bit depressing (if you’re an agency…):

“We do not like receiving unsolicited contact from ad agencies. We do not like them Spam you am. We do not like them in a boat or with a goat. We do not like them while stung with bees or up in a tree. We do not like them Spam you am.”

-anonymous-

How can you help? A conversation with your peer, friend, or colleague would be great. If you’re not comfortable with that, a simple e-mail connecting both parties would be equally awesome. Or we’ll buy you both lunch, or breakfast, or and adult beverage (or two…).

Thanks, in advance for any help you can lend in PWB’s continued success! And, thank you for your loyalty!

-Sean-

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

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-

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-

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.

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-

Image Sizes for Social Media Branding [Infographic]

A week ago when I logged in to a clients YouTube channel to upload some video, I noticed a prompt that made me grown. I was notified that the channel layout was about to change. Again.

youtube changes

“Upgrades” or changes often mean the creative needs to be edited when branding a social media site like YouTube.

What does this mean to me? It means that I will be busy for the next little while adding new creative to each client channel PWB manages. In this case it was alright though, since the client’s (Uniloy) YouTube channel needed new artwork anyway. What I discovered though is that as part of the process, you are “encouraged” to edit your Google+ page.For my personal reference, that is why I had one of our art directors create a new Social Media branding Infographic.

The changes to cover art sizing are frequent enough, and none of the channels – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google+, YouTube – have the same size images. Heck, they don’t even have image sizes that can be easily scaled when branding your social media pages!

So please feel free to use this infographic for your reference when adding branding to any of the popular social media sites! The infographic will help you create the correct size images for your LinkedIn or Facebook cover photos, Google+ channel art or Twitter and YouTube header!

social media branding infographic

When editing social media sites, it is important to remember what size images are for creative branding! Use this infographic as a reference to understand what size images you will need for your LinkedIn or Facebook cover photo, Google+ channel art or YouTube and Twitter header image.

One word of caution. Although my art director created the exact size image for Google+, we needed to trick the system by adding a couple of pixels to the height and width. Otherwise the image would not load to the site!

Some Basic Branding “Don’ts”

Recent social media traffic has me feeling like some basic reminders are in order for companies who are using these channels.

Be your brand. Not something you saw on TMZ.

Don’t #1: Trendy Stuff
By the time you became aware of the Harlem Shake, it was already passé. That’s really swell that your CFO wanted to wear a gorilla suit. But you look like the most interesting thing you could find to say was to copy someone. Be your brand. Not something you saw on TMZ.

Don’t #2: Commenting Excessively on Social Topics
Your personal opinions are just that – yours and personal. Unless same sex marriage impacts your business in some way (for example, you’re a health care insurer and you have some cogent thoughts on the economic impacts of partner benefits) then leave it alone. While we appreciate socially aware companies, this needs to be part of a larger, well thought-out strategy. If you need guidance, watch Patagonia or Target. They both do it well. In fact, go read Yvon Chouinard’s excellent book Let My People Go Surfing if you want to build a socially conscious company. And, no, I won’t loan you my copy. It might be the best business book ever.

Don’t #3: Noise
Don’t have anything valuable to say? Then shut up. Your clients and followers are busy people – they follow you because you deliver value. When you don’t deliver value … well, you get the picture.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Rebranding is ticklish business. There are a myriad of issues and questions to address to achieve success. Do I just update what I have? Do I throw it all out and start over? Is there significant equity in my current brand mark? Do I rename at the same time? All of these (and more) are among the reasons we believe that working with a solid outside partner is practically mandatory.

I ran across an interesting example from the outdoor industry this weekend. With consolidation, a fair number of the major brands in fly fishing are being rolled up into families. The group that owns Sage fly rods also owns Rio fly lines – and more. Scientific Anglers has been under 3M ownership for a number of years. Last year’s acquisition of Ross Reels by 3M was a significant development.

Ross Reels Almost immediately, Ross was rebranded. Personally, I liked the old logo better – it had a lot of equity and was visually unique. But I see now that they’re trying to get the Ross and Scientific Anglers brands in alignment, so as a marketer I get where they’re coming from.

Sage fly rods, Rio fly linesSo now Sage feels compelled to get into the game by rebranding Rio. The old Rio logo looked like an escapee from the 80’s, so it was definitely time to freshen things up.

Here’s where I think it gets weird. The new Rio logo has been in-market for a few months. Something about it has been vaguely bugging me since I first saw it. This weekend I figured out what it was. What do you think?It sure seems to me to look just a bit too much like the new Ross logo. Yeah, I get it, I see the fish. But the basic letterform sure does have a lot of similarities to the Ross logo. And, it gives up one of the strengths of the old Rio logo – the fly line built into the image.

This brings up a key factor of rebranding – adjacency. You can’t just look at what your competitors are doing. What is needed is a holistic view of your segment. Both Rio and Ross are well-known and well-respected brands. I really believe that it would have been a good idea for Rio to consider what Ross had recently done before launching a visually similar brand.

Keep this in mind if you’re considering a rebranding. I think Rio made a major faux pas. One that could have easily been avoided.

But I will give Rio credit for one marketing win. It offered Facebook fans who visited their booth at the Midwest Fly Fishing Show a free hat just for stopping by and mentioning that they were FB fans. Solid way to tie social media to your trade show strategy – nice work, Rio!