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By now we all realize that technology has taken over. Information can be obtained at the speed of 4G. Mobile devices with GPS can pinpoint our every step. Not sure about something? Find the answer with your smartphone in a snap. These are all very convenient tools, and we would be hard-pressed to think about life without them. They have given us the ability to do more, but at what intellectual price?
As producers, we are getting information out there faster than ever, but what is sacrificed is the ability to connect and communicate with others in a meaningful way. We keep hurling more fill dirt into an ever-widening void. We’re like gluttons feasting on so many empty calories. It’s commonplace now to visit the home pages of most major news sites and see numerous “articles” about how to lose weight or top ten lists of the best sitcoms of the ‘80s, all replete with typos and the occasional nonsensical phrase. It’s classified as content. But, where’s the value? Do we really need to know these things? I’ll admit I quite often click on these items, not because it betters me in any way, but because it’s easy. What’s the harm? I think to myself.
None, really – at least not to the consumer of this information. The harm comes to the producers. The speed at which all this data is generated leaves too many opportunities for errors. And those errors will slowly diminish the credibility of a company. Being up-to-the-second and fresh is one thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the bigger picture–your brand.
Although we all feel the pressures of this digital age bearing down, it’s always a good idea to pause and take inventory of what we’re putting out there. Dig deeper, if necessary, to find at least a little piece of information that stands out and resonates with your audience–something that will stick to their proverbial ribs. The extra time will pay off in how your company is perceived and whether they come back for more.
– Kurt Miller, EVP, Executive Creative Director
The digital press check can be markedly different than the traditional press check. In a majority of instances, you never have to leave your office. Here are some basic tips to follow to ensure that you’ll have a successful experience.
1) What You See Is What You Get – When you review a proof for a digital press job, you’ll be looking at an actual press sheet printed from the digital press. And this is a key difference between digital printing and traditional printing. The digital press gives the printer the capability of showing you exactly what you can expect on the actual paper you’ll be printing on. While some proofing systems can run on the actual paper and generally serve the same purpose, you would have to go on a press check to make sure you’re getting an accurate representation of your client’s material. With digital printing, you can check the sheet at your desk.
2) I Can See Clearly Now – Just like any traditional press check, you should carefully check for all the basics like type, color, clarity, crop marks, and any other potential problem areas. Since you’re checking an actual press sheet, use a set of the color printouts of the final file you sent to the printer – this will give you something to check against, just in case there was an issue with the file.
3) The Times They Are A-Changing – Digital printing is the perfect fit when you’re using variable data to reach your client’s prospects. Look at the position of the variable data to make sure it is consistent in placement. Ask your printer to bring you several different press sheets so you can see a variety of line lengths for the names, addresses, and any other area that changes. Remember to watch for type that might reflow in a paragraph due to length of the variable data.
4) Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It – When you have to “color match” a digitally printed piece that was previously printed on a traditional press, ask your printer to run some test sheets so you can see if you need to make any file adjustments. You may encounter this situation from time to time, so it is worth the minimal expense to maintain your client’s brand integrity.
– Tim Kedzierski, Production Manager
I recently returned from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) trade show in San Francisco for our client Manheim. We repurposed last year’s “sports lounge” booth, enhancing a few key elements. Why would we want to use the same sports lounge concept from last year? Well, it worked. How do we know it worked? We looked at the results.
We didn’t just look at anecdotal comments from industry leaders such as Kathy Jackson of Automotive News, who stated in her blog, “They really had it going on at the Manheim booth – sports bar with lots of flat screen TVs and free beer, wine, soft drinks and nuts. You would have thought you were on the set of ‘Cheers.’ The bar was packed.” We also looked at last year’s results, such as 800 unique attendees engaged at the booth for an average of 28 minutes per person.
So going into planning for this year’s trade show, the consensus was to go with what worked last year and aim to make it even better. The primary goals were to increase the number of attendee engagements as well as time spent with the attendees.
First, we increased the size of the booth footprint, making the sports lounge 10 feet deeper. Since the sports lounge was packed last year, we figured attendees may appreciate more seating and more elbow room. And, oh yeah, we may be able to engage with even more attendees.
Third, we secured and branded a nearby sports bar with 31 interior and exterior window banners, two continuously looped, closed-circuit television spots, napkins and cups. We invited attendees to join Manheim and watch the “Big Game” between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6th after the trade show. There, we gave away more footballs, iPod touches and iPads.
So what does it all mean? First, by establishing measurement criteria up front and looking at results, you can evaluate program-to-program performance objectively. Second, even if previous results were good, they can always be better. Third, you may not need to reinvent the wheel to drive results. And finally, people like free beer and sports.
Gary Sayers, Vice President, Account Director
Do you remember back in college when your Marketing 101 professor asked your class, “Who owns a brand?” Even though it was more than 20 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. And I remember my first thought – Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Nabisco… they are the ones that own their brands. Boy did I feel stupid when someone in the class said “the customer.” Of course… the customer owns it. Why didn’t I think of that?
The customer owns your brand. So why is it that so many of us have forgotten it as we progress through our careers? How could Starbucks, GAP and Tropicana, three extremely successful brands with smart leadership, possibly launch new branding efforts that incensed their customer bases if they were paying attention to customer needs and desires? You would think companies like this would be very careful when launching new products, new campaigns or rebranding efforts. Having the knowledge that brings a company closer to the true feelings of its target seems invaluable, but many companies are either going about it the wrong way or skipping it altogether.
Starbucks – Even though they did pretesting with consumers, ever since Starbucks recently announced that they were dropping the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logo, the social media space has been on fire with dissent. Sure… Starbucks needed the “freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee,” but they could have gone about it in a much different way (like by just removing the word “coffee”!).
Starbucks’ blog page is loaded with negative comments. Their Facebook page has thousands of negative posts about the logo. And there are at least 50 new Facebook pages dedicated to bringing back the old logo! And a lot of the feedback is coming from their most loyal customers.
Loyal customers have come out and said that they have “no relationship with the mermaid.” A recent survey by ZURB found that 72 percent of consumers actually “hate” the new logo. And experts have said that dropping the Starbucks name from the logo will confuse consumers who are not as familiar with the company.
Starbucks appears to be much better known by their name and green font, and not by the Siren. Right now they are standing firm and holding their position. Time will tell if it was a smart decision.
GAP – In an incident from last year, Gap changed their design from the classic, blue-and-white lettering to one thatsported a simpler Helvetica font. Outraged consumers ignited a social media storm. Gap responded by crowd-sourcing the design, and then they ultimately pulled the plug on the experiment and reverted back to the old logo. The bad – they didn’t talk to consumers ahead of time and got caught in a massive storm of negative publicity. The good – they quickly listened to the negative response from their customers and took action.
Tropicana – Customers were irate when Pepsi changed the packaging for this brand. They complained through letters, e-mails, telephone calls and social media posts. They said the new packaging resembled “a generic bargain brand” or “store brand,” and made it harder to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana or differentiate Tropicana from other orange juices. Pepsi bowed to public demand and is going back to the old packaging and brand symbol (the orange with the protruding straw). They admitted to underestimating the deep emotional bond that customers had with the original packaging. And they plan on contacting everyone who called or wrote them, to explain that they are changing things back.
There will always be backlash when companies try to change something. That is human nature. But the backlash in all three of these instances was extremely strong and volatile. It makes you really wonder what kind of upfront research was conducted.
There are lots of additional examples – Andersen Consulting creating Accenture, Comcast creating Xfinity, and RadioShack trying to become The Shack. Who can forget New Coke (customers loved the taste of New Coke – the problem here was that they never told focus group participants that they were taking classic Coke away!). All of these have met with more than their fair share of criticism from current and potential customers, and caused damage to their brand.
You must listen to and engage with your customers. Customers need to feel as if they own your brand. With today’s technology and social media explosion, it is easier to do than ever before. Customers can now critique, talk back and connect with each other, and share stories and opinions. Your brand has to be committed to listening to these discussions and engaging appropriately and transparently. This doesn’t mean that the old forms of listening have gone away. Direct discussions, interviews, surveys, focus groups, observation, warranty data, field reports – they are all still critical aspects of finding the voice of your customer.
Once you have the voice of your customer, make sure it spans your entire organization and influences all types of decisions… not just marketing ones. It can help improve processes, service and products. And by all means, please don’t let your brand become the next case study in what not to do!
– Stephen Weinstein, EVP Director of Account Management