3 Ways to Build a Platform to Communicate With Customers

Recently, authors and bloggers have been writing about the importance of establishing a “platform” for individuals and organizations. Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of the enormous publishing company, Thomas Nelson Publishers, discusses this in his book, “Platform” that how you frame your message is as important as what you say.

Recently, authors and bloggers have been writing about the importance of establishing a “platform” for individuals and organizations. Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of the enormous publishing company, Thomas Nelson Publishers, discusses this in his book, “Platform” that how you frame your message is as important as what you say.

Regardless of how much you agree with this premise, what isn’t up for debate is everyone needs a platform. No one is going to create it for you, and its importance cannot be stressed enough to build and maintain a vibrant culture in your organization. It’s essential that your strategic messages resonate with your customers and helps them find the answers to their most critical questions.

The biggest problem with much of today’s communications is that it needs to fight for attention simply because it is not well differentiated. If your goal is to build awareness for your business you’ll need both a strong visual and textual message to be successful. Simply stating your organization’s vision and mission statements is not going to persuade anyone to feel drawn toward your organization, unless your communications resonate with their needs.

In other words, primary communications without a specific purpose, such as a new product and program, will spin yours and your audience’s wheels with weak results. Focus is essential. Otherwise you risk talking at your audience with little impact. Here are a few things you can do to build an effective platform.

  1. Place your messaging in the order that your customers prefer.

A simple example is not feeling the need to alphabetize your pull-down menus on your website. If your top topic starts with an ‘S’ put it on top to make it easy to find. Make it obvious. Things that go first have more importance than those that go last. Obviously this necessitates you understanding what customers value most.

  1. Figure out what your customers want to learn.

Place your customers’ interests at the center of everything you do. Highlight it. Don’t feel the need to build up to a crescendo as if you’re writing a symphony. Communications is about making critical information easy to find and understand, and a lot of drama is not required to be successful. In fact, too much drama can inhibit successful communications.

  1. Research and track the results of your communications.

Figure out what people spend the most amount of time looking at, push to the back areas they are less interested in and consider eliminating them altogether if they’re ignored. Don’t keep sacred cows! In communications, it is equally important to figure out what not to include, than what is. No one likes to have to weed through large amounts of information.

The critical mass of all of this is that effective communications start, develop, and reinforce meaningful relationships with your customers and prospects. Making it easy to talk with you forms a strong relationship. To accomplish this, it’s essential that you build communications they will enjoy, versus pushing your communication messages too hard. Remember to be creative and persuasive, but not overly aggressive.

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Tom Marin President of MarketCues, a national consulting firm wants to hear from you! Follow MarketCues on Twitter for strategy and related tips. Tom also welcomes emails, new Linkedin connections, calls to (919) 908-6145 or learn more at: www.marketcues.com.

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The Keys to Protecting Your Brand Online

When your brand is online, it is in jeopardy. Competitors may use your brand terms in keyword searches, pirate your slogans or unfairly label their goods with your brand. There are roughly a million ways for the unscrupulous to abuse your brand, and only one way for you to protect it — diligence.

Jolly Roger Flag: Protect Your Brand
Credit: Skull and Crossbones Flag on Flickr by Jennifer Gensch

When your brand is online, it is in jeopardy. Competitors may use your brand terms in keyword searches, pirate your slogans or unfairly label their goods with your brand. There are roughly a million ways for the unscrupulous to abuse your brand, and only one way for you to protect it — diligence. Protecting your brand starts with consistency of use and message, and requires a meticulous process to protect your brand value and your legal rights.

Best practices require that you establish your rights before you even go online if you can. I consulted renowned Trademark and IP attorney Maureen Kassner, partner at K&G Law, who offered this advice:

“The most critical steps you can take towards protection of brands and trademarks take place long before they are used. Trademark rights are national in scope. Once you have narrowed a list of potential brand names for your new product or services, the list should be searched for availability as a trademark in any countries in which it is proposed for use on significant scale. US trademark attorneys oversee this process in the States, and many have a network of colleagues who can assist with international trademark clearance. Ideally, the list should list potential names in order of priority so that once a mark appears to be available for use there is no need to undertake additional searches.

The United States, unlike most countries, recognizes trademark rights acquired through use as well as those conferred by registration. For this reason, trademark clearance searches should include not only the federal and state trademark registry for applications and registrations of prior marks but should also include common law (i.e., unregistered) uses, many of which can be found on the internet.    Demonstrated use of identical or similar names for related goods or services is a red flag that it will be difficult to create a strong brand identity and garner recognition in the marketplace.”

Once you have settled on an available trademark, it is up to the brand stewards to protect it, bringing in your marketing, corporate and legal resources for that purpose. The legal team will need to secure the rights to the brand. According to Kassner, this would entail:

“… not only filing an application for registration in countries relevant to the business, but also securing relevant domain names and social media handles. In addition, it is important to use the appropriate designation whenever the mark is used to indicate to the public that the term is proprietary. (In the US, “TM” may be used for any mark; the ® symbol can only be used after registration.)

Legal language identifying the rights claimed in a brand should be included in small print either at the end of an ad or at the footer on your proprietary website. Distinctive logos, slogans, favicons, and jingles which are used consistently in connection with the goods or services are great ways of building brand recognition among your target audience and can be registered separately as both trademarks and (with the exception of slogans) copyrights.”

Infusing your owned properties, like your website, with a consistent and appropriate brand presence should start with a brand guidelines document that is shared with all the internal and external partners that represent you online. Have your trademark attorney review that document. Once reviewed and approved, this cements a common understanding about the desired brand presentation.

As the brand evolves, of course, the document will need regular updating. Use those brand guidelines across social media platforms, in emails, and any public communication that represents your brand to ensure the consistency that ultimately helps to support your claims should you need to defend them.

The sad truth is that even with all the appropriate legal precautions and process, infringements routinely occur. Regular monitoring is required to find and minimize the impact of these infringements across channels and platforms.

Search activity is a common point of trademark infringement. Per Google’s rules (simplified) others may bid on your brand or trademarked terms but may not use the trademarked language in their ads. Get familiar with the search engine’s official policies and report bad actors in a timely manner both directly to the search engine and with a letter to the offender.

Schedule a weekly competitor check to see the bidding strategies of those most likely to benefit from your brand. Do regular branded searches both online and in social channels that extend to include your other trademarked items to see who is misusing your property. Include typos and the URL of your brand (www.BRAND.com) in your searches as consumers often type that into a search bar.

Your agency partner can and should provide this service, but there are also trademark monitoring services that can offer a broader package of monitoring and resolution. Be advised that the path to resolution with offenders is often lengthy, frustrating and filled with bureaucracy and forms.

Keep good records of all incidents and correspondence and don’t rely on third parties to reach the conclusion you need — this is a battle won by the diligent.

Why Brand-Tracking Needs an Overhaul

Have you noticed how disconnected brand-tracking has become with actual consumer behavior? You might run a great new ad or build a new positioning in the market, and the tracker may even show an uptick in brand consideration. Nevertheless, when it comes to hard behavioral metrics (such as purchase volume), they remain unaffected.

Branding
“Branding,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Limelight Leads

Have you noticed how disconnected brand-tracking has become with actual consumer behavior? You might run a great new ad or build a new positioning in the market, and the tracker may even show an uptick in brand consideration. Nevertheless, when it comes to hard behavioral metrics (such as purchase volume), they remain unaffected.

Underlying Trends

According to a new study by Trinity Mirror, almost 70 percent of consumers don’t trust advertising and 42 percent distrust brands and view them as self-serving. Several other studies are finding similar conclusions. Despite this trend, it may be premature to say that brand advertising no longer works. Rather, the larger consensus seems to be that brands must find new ways to convey authenticity and sincerity beyond the ad. In many cases, brands are responding by focusing on brand purpose and brand experience in addition to traditional brand communication.

When it comes to brand-tracking, the problem is that most trackers are still tied to the traditional linear relationship between stated brand consideration and sales. While always a bit tenuous, the relationship made much more sense in the era of push marketing. Now, however, the consumer’s purchase decision process has fundamentally changed. More and more, consumers develop brand preference through experiences and by observing brands living up to their stated brand purpose. Not only does this new dynamic take time to measure, more importantly, but it also requires a well thought out measurement strategy. Let’s assume one of your brand propositions is “valuing the consumer’s time.” In this case, more important than measuring consideration is tracking if the consumer actually views you as valuing of their time. Furthermore, where in your transaction chain are you living up to that promise and where do you fail? Can you confirm this through behavioral data, such as a decrease in abandoned website shopping carts or fewer billing inquiries?

How Brand-Tracking Needs to Evolve

First, brand monitoring needs to be part of a larger consumer intelligence database. Integrating brand with NPS data, customer experience data and behavioral data is critical to understanding how your brand is performing. One significant advantage of this approach is that you may find that all the underlying brand principles are tracking upward, but brand consideration remains unchanged. Knowing this early may save you millions in investments on a brand strategy that is potentially not providing the market advantage you hoped for. Without tracking the underlying brand principles, you would be left wondering if the strategy is bad or if the execution is not working.

Next, build a custom brand measurement strategy. Because great brands are now structured around a unique purpose and experience, measurement strategies cannot be off the shelf. I commonly encounter brand-trackers that create more questions than they answer. While this can be spun into a positive, in pragmatic reality it wastes time and delays decisions. The underlying reason this happens is that companies fail to measure the specific changes and perceptions they are uniquely trying to affect.

Revisiting the brand proposition of “valuing the consumer’s time,” do you know how you will actually measure success on this proposition? When is the right time to ask the consumer? Is it solely the consumer’s responsibility to tell you how you are doing? What other ways can you listen to consumers besides a survey? What can you know from their behavior?

Having a clear vision of the underlying experience, behaviors, and perceptions you are trying to create and knowing how you will measure them will go a long way toward understanding how your brand is resonating in the market.

When I Remember September 11: Every Day

It’s Monday, September 11. When I board my flight today bound for New York, I will be certainly aware it’s perhaps the safest day to fly. You see, September 11 is always a part of me.

It’s Monday, September 11.

When I board my flight today bound for New York, I will be certainly aware it’s perhaps the safest day to fly. You see, September 11 is always a part of me.

On a warm, sunny morning in September 16 years ago, I was prepping for my monthly cross-company privacy team call at Harte Hanks in our Greenwich Village office.

As we opened the call shortly after 8:45 a.m. — my colleague peeked his head in the door of the conference room, “I just saw a plane hit the World Trade Center.” I paused the call for a moment, went to my office, and saw smoke and what seemed to be a small hole atop the north face of the North Tower. It was crystal clear outside, there were no weather issues, how could a plane hit the tower? I returned to the conference room, and asked meeting participants to postpone the call until later.

As I re-entered my office, that’s when I saw the second passenger jet flying low heading south over the Hudson River. I knew something was not right … Please, please, please do not hit another building. It actually passed the World Trade Center, and I was shortly relieved, but then I could see it banking right to make the return at an angle to collide into the South Tower. We are under attack, here in New York.

I remember throwing my fist into a file cabinet in futility, not quite understanding the tragedy unfolding, but realizing this would change everything forever.

My office mates and I stood mesmerized and shocked as we watched the hell play out one mile south of us.

Then one by one, we did our best to take an office head count, get in touch with loved ones, take inventory of who was supposed to be where — and as the day wore on, our hugs and collective tears gave us strength, each began the long trek home. I asked my colleagues to leave their office doors open, so I could stay and answer incoming calls to let those calling know the person they sought was okay, at least physically. Then at day’s end, I walked home alongside New Yorkers.

It took me 15 years to to muster the strength and courage to visit the September 11 Memorial. I’m very glad the civilized world has this extraordinary site, to honor those persons from 60-plus countries who died that day. In my heart, I have never accepted this was an attack only on America — I’ve always believed this was an attempt to undermine global peoples striving to live harmoniously. I remember President Bush, in perhaps his greatest moment, being quick to call out this attack in such perspective.

To this day, I see the “other” as those who try to disrupt such vision of harmony. These “others” in my life are not only radical Islamic terrorists, but also those who parade down the street in Charlottesville, shoot black men without provocation, use power to build walls instead of bridges, and accept no moral responsibility for refugees or children born in this country. Domestic or foreign, these “others” are all measures of the same thing to me: fear and hate. Where fear and hate are used to deny people freedoms and rights, and to erode principles which build our nation, as well as those enshrined in the founding charter of the United Nations, it’s then that I see the “other.” We should learn to identify the “other,” even in ourselves. I, myself, am not always so loyal to this vision.

September 11, it was a tragic day — but it is also was a day that solidifies for me one beautiful, hard truth: only love can win in the global competition of ideas, and it takes persistence and patience and a whole lot of courage and communicating to get there. No terrorist, no fear, no hatred can change that truth.

Brilliant Marketing: Why Thomas Edison Was Light-Years Ahead of His Time

Ask the average American to name an inventor, and inevitably most will cite Thomas Edison. But did you know he had extraordinary skills as a marketer and brand manager? I recently watched the PBS film on Thomas Edison and was surprised by his brilliant marketing mind. Here are a few examples:

Ask the average American to name an inventor, and inevitably most will cite Thomas Edison. But did you know he had extraordinary skills as a marketer and brand manager? I recently watched the PBS film on Thomas Edison and was surprised by his brilliant marketing mind. Here are a few examples:

First, Edison branded everything with his name, his face, and his signature. He understood that he was himself the essence of the brand. And he promoted the name on every product and in every advertisement. He was one of the early adopters of the trademark concept, still nascent at the time. He was so successful at promoting his brand, that it became quite valuable. As a result, he spent time warding off unauthorized usage of his brand. When his son, Tom, sold his last name to a homeopathic medicine company, Thomas Edison senior paid his son to change his name to “Burton Willard”! How’s that for protecting your brand integrity?

Brilliant Marketing: The Thomas Edison Brand
Credit: © 123RF.com by nicku

A second example of his marketing prowess also caught my attention. A little context is required so bear with me. Edison invented the electric light, and in order for cities to electrify homes and streets, they needed power stations and power distribution. Edison was a proponent of Direct Current (DC) power that you see in a battery. One wire or terminal has 1.5 or 5 or 12 volts, and the other wire has 0v, and the electricity flows from the former to the latter. It is simple, and needs very little math to understand. The problem is that you cannot send it very far over wires. After a mile or two, the voltage drops to near zero. The power distribution solution is to use Alternating Current (AC) instead, such as the 110v AC we all have in our homes today. It can travel many miles, and the higher the voltage, the further you can send it with minimal loss in power. Edison didn’t invent AC, he preferred his DC, and instead of out-inventing his AC competitors (Westinghouse and Thomson-Houston) he attempted to out-market them!

As the sales for new power stations with cities were increasingly won by his competitors, because their solution was clearly superior, Edison determined that he needed to show the public just how dangerous AC was. He started a campaign to discredit his competitors. He wrote in a pamphlet “It is a matter of fact that any system employing high voltage jeopardizes life.” There were accounts suggesting that he electrocuted dogs and horses with AC to prove his point. But then he went one step further.

Edison had been a life-long opponent of capital punishment. But such was his zeal to defeat his competitors that he offered his expertise to New York State to help them shift from hanging to electrocution (with Westinghouse AC of course) because it would be more “humane”. You have to admire his understanding of brand attributes and his attempt to associate AC with death.

In the end, the campaign had no effect on his competitor’s success, and eventually Edison General Electric merged with Thomson-Houston and became General Electric. Welcome to marketing 130 years ago. Today’s marketers take note: Thomas Edison, brilliant inventor, brand manager and some-time campaign manager, was light-years ahead of his time.

How Not to Be a Tone-Deaf Brand

Pepsi is clearly not the only brand to take a wrong turn in their ads or other communications. A few recent examples include Match.com, Nivea, and most recently, United Airlines. The Internet is poised to identify, amplify and vilify brands that make these kinds of mistakes. So, how can a brand avoid being tone deaf?

A lot of news sources have already unpacked and dissected the many missteps in the recent Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. It was live for all of one day, but it will live on in brand infamy forever. Here are a few of the sources covering the cringe-worthy effort, if you want to dig deeper into this example:

Nivea "White Is Purity"
The official Nivea page on Facebook is putting out ‘pro skin whitening’ adverts with the slogan ‘white is purity’
Source: Facebook

Pepsi is clearly not the only brand to take this kind of wrong turn in their ads or other communications. A few recent examples include Match.com’s misguided characterization of red hair, freckles, or eye color as imperfections, as well as Nivea’s portrayal of “White is Purity” that earned immediate online fury. Most recently, United Airlines compounded their operational, planning and basic humanity missteps with a decidedly tone-deaf CEO communication that instead of calming the public outcry further fueled it.

The Internet is poised to identify, amplify and vilify brands that make these kinds of mistakes. Meanwhile consumers marvel at how, in this day and age, brand and creative strategists make the poor decisions that pass the many layers of consideration and reviews of these expensive efforts. It’s a fair question.

So, how can a brand avoid being tone deaf?

The Brief

If your ad vision and subsequent brief’s objective is to tune into recent global trends or to otherwise tack onto complex societal issues, go back to the drawing board. You are not qualified to establish world peace, nor is it your brand mission. You can brag a bit about a sincere and established philanthropic effort or partnership, but that right is only earned after you have had a real world impact. Better yet, promote the effort, rather than the brand, and let the public laud you indirectly. The halo effect is very flattering.

If you have doubts about an approach or messaging platform under consideration, now is the time to trust your gut and voice those doubts. Spend some time and resources testing consumer reaction to get a direct read on how your vision could be perceived.

Crocs: Can Celebrities Save a Brand?

Were Crocs ever cool? No, I’m not being snarky (not really) … I never wore them, because they seemed to be geared toward a younger demographic, and when they debuted I was 22 and very much not interested in colorful, plastic shoes.

Crocs kitten memeWere Crocs ever cool? No, I’m not being snarky (not really) … I never wore them, because they seemed to be geared toward a younger demographic, and when they debuted I was 22 and very much not interested in colorful, plastic shoes.

Mario Batali loves them. Movie stars such as Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Garner have been photographed wearing them. So apparently they’re not just for children.

But there are definitely haters of the plastic clogs. There are blogs. There are Facebook groups. Now, both of those examples are a little older, because, well, Crocs kinda fell off the radar around 2008/2009.

According to CNN:

Crocs, the distinctive colorful clogs loved and hated in equal measure, first hit stores in 2004 and were an immediate hit. By 2007, the Colorado-based company was selling 50 million pairs a year, reaching $850 million in sales. Then it all went south. The economic collapse in 2008, combined with a saturated market, created what Crocs CEO John McCarvel described as a “perfect confluence of events.”

Since then, the shoe maker has ventured into the world of ballet flats, wedges and a faux boat shoe-looking piece of footwear (doesn’t fool me). And then there’s the reboot campaign:

https://youtu.be/AYw-URcN0GU

As part of the latest campaign, “Come As You Are,” Crocs has worked on a “manifesto,” and with the help of celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Yoona, John Cena and Henry Lau. But … I don’t know. Is it really going to help the weird plastic shoes?

I can applaud the positive message, but aside from TOMS, does that truly sell shoes? And yeah, TOMS are a little weird looking, but nothing like this:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKjRITjBwUl/

Um … no. You won’t catch me in rock-bejeweled Crocs anytime soon. That said, what do you think? Is this the right move for Crocs to stay in the game, or would they better be left in the fashion history of the early 2000s?

 

How to Suck Less at Your Personal Pitch

The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.

i am uniqueWhen you meet someone for the first time, the question “What do you do?” inevitably makes its way to the conversation. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of this question. It is not a great question to ask, nor is it fun to answer.

Let’s explore some reasons for why this question is not so great. “What do you do?” implies you are asking what someone does for a living. This makes people define themselves by how they earn a paycheck. What if they are in transition? What if they hate their job?

So you can see how this simple and common question can quickly make someone uncomfortable. Plus, you are not really getting to know that person.

Here are some alternative questions to ask instead:

  1. If you won the lottery what would you do?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What do you like to do?
  4. What is your favorite thing that you own?
  5. How do you spend your days?
  6. What are you most excited about right now?
  7. What are you working on?
  8. What are you most proud of?
  9. What’s the number one item on your bucket list?
  10. What gets you up in the morning?

The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.

Now let’s examine some ways to answer “What do you do?” because you will undoubtedly get that question. Do you say, “I’m a marketing manager” or “I work for ACME Corporation”? My guess is 95 percent of you answer with something along those lines.

Don’t let your work define you. How would you answer that question if you are currently between jobs? You might feel a little deflated when someone asks you that, especially if you haven’t given much thought into what you should answer.

What if you designed a different way of answering that question? What if you told a story? For example, I might answer that question with, “Right now I am really excited to be launching a new product that will help marketers manage their personal brand in only two minutes a day.”

It’s not true, but if that sounded interesting to you, let me know, and I may just start working on that.

To start to tell your story, think about these three things:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. How do you serve them or provide value?
  3. What results are achieved?

Sensory Appeal, in Video Form

In a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

VideoIn a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

With all of the media consumers consume daily — about 11 hours a day, for all channels combined — we’ve become dependent on interactive digital experiences that take little more effort than listening and watching. And we don’t even like doing that for more than two minutes. Our media usage has changed our interest levels, or maybe its our willingness to read or watch long documentaries — as we are now used to getting news, and now possibly the State of the Union, in Twitter posts.

Rising to fill the gap from our changing media consumption is video — short, entertaining snippets of two to three minutes that entertain, inform and, hopefully for those who produce them, inspire us to engage, inquire and buy something. It’s working.

HubSpot shares some powerful statistics showing how video is impacting consumer behavior and why you need to jump on this bandwagon, too. Here are just a few:

  • Videos in email lead to a jump in clickthrough rates of between 200 and 300 percent
  • Videos on a landing page can help your conversions increase by 80 percent
  • Videos combined with a full-page ad can boost engagement by 22 percent
  • Videos can increase likelihood of purchase by 64 percent among online shoppers
  • Videos included in a real estate listing can up inquiries by 403 percent
  • Video inspires 50 percent of executives to seek more information about a product
  • Video inspires 65 percent of executives to visit a marketer’s website, and 39 percent to call a vendor

I could go on … but I think the point is clear: You need to create videos if you want to engage customers and sell more products. And because YouTube is the second-largest search engine, next to Google. Enough said.

I’ll Say More

Another reason you must include video in addition to all of the above is most of your competitors are doing it and that can leave you out in the cold if you are not. Okay, so more stats from HubSpot:

  • 87 percent of online marketers use video content
  • 22 percent of small businesses in the U.S. plan to use it
  • 96 percent of B-to-B organizations use it

Most importantly, 90 percent of video watchers say they help them make purchase decisions and 92 percent of those viewing them on mobile devices share videos with others.

The one challenge is that there are a lot of videos competing with each other, as evidenced by yet another statistic: On average, users are exposed to 32.3 videos a month, or roughly one a day.

So how do you create videos that build your business and use them effectively in your marketing mix?

Like all things you do in any medium — print, digital, mobile — your content needs to have value, and that value can be improving someone’s circumstances, inspiring them to live a better life, or guiding them to do their jobs better, so they achieve their goals and advance their careers. Your videos need to create an emotional reaction that drives them to contact you for further information.

Here Are Some Tips

Regardless of your business genre, keep videos short and to the point. This is not your attempt to produce a Hollywood blockbuster. It is simply a way to tell your story with a medium that appeals to our senses and makes your brand come to life. Your videos should not be more than two to three minutes long. Go more only if your content justifies it.

Before you debut your videos publicly, test them. Ask non-employees and even non-customers to sit through your videos and give you feedback. Good questions to ask include:

  • Did it keep your interest?
  • What was the main message you took away from this video?
  • Did it inspire you to inquire more about our product or service? If yes, why? If not, why?
  • Was the length appropriate?
  • Did you think the production quality of this video was in line with other brand videos you have watched?

Like any marketing communications, always include a call to action and a response mechanism. Stay away from promotions, as they’ll expire before you’re ready to stop using the video. Make it clear how to contact you for more information through your email, website, phone numbers and social channels.

Keep your videos short. No one wants to spend more than two to three minutes watching a video that they know is intended to sell them something. Use their time and yours wisely, and keep your content on-task.

Use professional footage and images. Your video can be a slide show, with text fading in and out, or it can be a true video with all of the moving parts. Regardless of the format you use, use the highest resolution and quality possible. Your reputation is on the line, per the quality you project. If you are a high-tech company and you use low-tech video, that transfers to the perceived quality of the products you sell.

Create a YouTube channel to house all of your videos. You can archive videos on YouTube and on your website. For either option, include a transcript of your video to help you achieve higher SEO.

For B-to-C, you can add a little more fun and focus on life messages, not just brand messages. Coca-Cola does a great job of this. Its channel has more than 1.2 million subscribers and its views have topped more than 22 million for a single video. Coke’s “Happiness Truck” video, which shows a Coke truck dispensing gifts to people on the streets in Rio, has more than 1.6 million views — another inspirational message that worked to build the emotional equity of the Coke brand. Interestingly enough, its video with 22.3 million views as of this writing is about spending more time offline and enjoying the journey of life in the real world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiu9PcEyQ5Y

B-to-B Video Tip

For the B-to-B world, here are some tips:

  • Create product demo videos to showcase the features that set your products apart.
  • Show how your products compare to competitors, when applicable, and how your products fulfill the needs of your viewers.
  • Include statements from your company leaders to show their vision and help tell your brand story.
  • Include customers talking about their experiences with your product and your team. Video testimonials are powerful, because viewers can see the body language, the smiles, the looks of relief and hear the excitement in voices that written testimonials do not provide.

Again, consumers like to see brand stories in which they can see themselves. They want to be the proud father, or the mom being thanked by her Olympian child as shown in Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” ad series that makes many moms cry, no matter how many times they watch the videos. Consumers want to be the vacationers on the beach, the newly engaged couple, the happy family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ3k6BFX2uw

Find ways to associate your brand with what matters most to your consumers and then get creative and start writing video scripts that tell your story in conjunction with the goals they have for their lives.

With 140 Characters Comes Great Responsibility

With the introduction of social media came the birth of many new marketing channels, which businesses have fallen over each other trying to leverage and master. But, are they doing so effectively and responsibly?

Social media light bulbHistorically, when a business person speaks “off the cuff,” his or her PR staff quickly steps in to minimize any fall-out. Today, Twitter is the new “off the cuff” megaphone — but in most businesses, tweets are carefully controlled; crafted by someone in PR or marketing and often passed by legal. Despite that structure, there are plenty of instances of irresponsible business messaging (for example, Home Depot’s racist photo) and their typically instant consequences — like the loss of a job.

The world has already been exposed to President-elect Trump’s unfiltered “off-the-cuff” tweets, and his most recent slam of Boeing had an immediate impact on Boeing’s stock price — which leads me to my point.

With the introduction of social media came the birth of many new marketing channels, which businesses have fallen over each other trying to leverage and master. But, are they doing so effectively and responsibly?

Our agency posts daily tweets on behalf of several of our B-to-B clients. To keep them on topic and relevant to their brand and their followers, we are very thoughtful and selective about what we tweet and retweet under their brand name. But this does not seem to be the norm.

When looking at the tweets of those they follow, there are thousands of messages unrelated to the business at hand. During this divisive election year, there were plenty of tweets about one candidate or the other — a topic I would recommend any business shy away from unless they are looking to alienate part of their customer base. Sometimes, they share a cartoon or other form of humor; one business posts the latest stats on the chances of winning the lottery.

Are these important, responsible and relevant posts? Do they help their stakeholders feel more engaged with their brand? Or are they merely checking the box that they’ve tweeted each day?

As our email inboxes continue to fill with unwanted email solicitations, and our personal Facebook pages become overrun with commentary from our friends or family that require us to scroll by and eventually unfriend, I’d like to suggest that any business using Twitter — as a channel to promote and build relationships with their fans and future brand evangelists — should use a filter before they hit the “Tweet” button.

Tweeting is not about volume. It’s about maintaining a dialogue with your followers on relevant topics of mutual interest that serve to enhance your brand. And without applying any sort of personal filter on your efforts, there will be consequences. Just ask the guy who used to work for Home Depot.