Category Archives: advertising

Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

–          Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Community, Compelling

If It Ain’t Broke… Then Just Enhance It

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.

Second, we promoted the sports lounge with news racks near the trade show and pre-show e-blasts to dealers, promoting an NFL replica football giveaway.

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.

The results:

  • An increase in unique engagements over last year, from 800 to 1,150.
  • An increase in average time spent in-booth with attendees, from 28 minutes to 32 minutes.
  • Engagement with more than 350 attendees for an average of THREE-PLUS hours at the off-site sports bar.

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

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Filed under advertising, Customer Experience, Engagement, Measurement, Trade Show

Engaging with the Big Game

There is no question that I will be engaged in the Super Bowl this weekend.  In fact, it has been on my radar for weeks.  The question is exactly how will I choose to engage?

  • Old School —  Just enjoy the game for the game’s sake.  As a native Pittsburgher with fond memories of the Steel Curtain, swirling terrible towels, and chanting “One for the Thumb,” it’s a logical choice.
  • Facebook Fanatic – Participating in the virtual cheers and jeers that are bound to continue between my Facebook friends who have been posting images of Steeler cheese graters, “Stairway to 7” slogans and other signs of their team affiliations for the past several weeks.
  • Professional – As a 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing world, there is the obligation to analyze every commercial so that I am prepared to debate the winners and losers with family, friends and colleagues on Monday morning.
  • Twitter Tags – And there is always the appeal of the Twitter buffet of 140-character musings on everything from the plays, the refs, and the commercials to the Polamalu  vs. Matthews “Hair Bowl.”

The truth is, I will probably engage with the Super Bowl in all these ways, as each appeals to me on a different level.

As a marketer, it is also a good reminder that target audiences are multidimensional and will choose to engage with brands and messages in a variety of different ways with different expectations – sometimes all at the same time.  Communications plans need to be as multidimensional as they are.

Pamela J. Alvord – EVP, Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Filed under Ad Agencies, advertising, Customer Experience, Engagement, Social Media, Strategy

Holiday card selection underscores the importance of segmentation

Being a strategist, writing holiday cards is always a bit more complex for me than the average person.  I am driven to sort, segment and select:

  • Finding a card with a nativity scene for your most religious Christian friends
  • Sending an image of Jolly Ole St. Nick for kids and people who celebrate Christmas in a more secular fashion
  • Ensuring Jewish friends get a blue menorah and Hanukkah greetings (usually sent early, so as not to miss the holiday altogether)
  • Thinking I might need a Kwanzaa card, or at least one with a non-Judeo-Christian message
  • Offering Peace on Earth to those who categorize themselves as spiritual more than religious
  • Avoiding wishes for a Happy Healthy New Year to those with long-term health issues
  • Compromising with snowmen, snowflakes and other winter scenes for everyone else

This year’s round of holiday greeting segmentation got me thinking.  Do most marketers make this much effort to recognize different audiences and message to their needs?  Or do they send the marketing equivalent of a card that simply reads Happy Holidays – non-offensive, but also absent any insight or deep relevance to the recipient?

May I suggest a New Year’s Resolution for most marketers out there?    Take another look at your target audience and ask:  Who are they?  What drives them?  And how does my product/service align with what’s important to them?

It just might lead to a more segmented, personalized marketing plan; one that engages and motivates your target in new and powerful ways.

— Pam Alvord, EVP, Chief Brand Strategist

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Filed under advertising, Engagement

Office Pools – the epitome of compelling, measurable engagement

It’s been said that U.S. employers lose an estimated $1.8 billion in productivity during March Madness.  What is it about office pools that not only drives employees to spend so much time planning, watching, and discussing, but also drives employers to look the other way?

Whether it’s “March Madness,” college football bowl pools, or even the weekly football pick ’em, office pools are a compelling form of entertainment that provides an office common ground in a friendly, competitive environment.

The days of copying a sheet of paper and turning it in to the office pool manager have succumbed to the digital age.  One only has to type ”office pool” into Google to see page upon page of office pool variations with free and pay-to-play websites and software.  Many of these websites and software provide tips and post-pick analytics in real time, so that everyone can see the results and how they rank against the competition.

It’s a time when the office sports geeks and sports agnostics are on the same wavelength, as employees become more engaged with one another.  Water-cooler talk turns from gossip to last night’s upset and today’s Cinderella.

Maybe employers look the other way because it’s an easy way to improve employee morale, or maybe it’s just because they’re in on the action, too.  Regardless, it’s easy to see why something as compelling, measurable, and engaging as office pools continue in the work environment.

With that, feel free to join us in some compelling, measurable engagement by participating in the 2010 Kilgannon College Bowl Pool.  It’s free to play, and you could win a gift card.

— Gary Sayers, VP, Account Director

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Social Media doesn’t mean traditional word of mouth is dead

These days, it seems we can’t make a purchase decision on our own.   We literally have the world at our fingertips, and can seek out the opinions of like-minded individuals, subject-matter experts or data aggregators before we pull the trigger.

In fact, there’s so much talk that some speculate it has watered down the impact of buzz or chatter about a brand.  We “like” things at a frenzied pace, we post and comment, tweet and re-tweet, subscribe and forward.  But as volume increases, so does our desire for more, and our need to know what others think.

Consider these stats from independent research studies conducted earlier this year:

  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product,” 71 percent claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48 percent of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
  • The average consumer mentions specific brands more than 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and coworkers.

If you don’t trust statistics, just think about the power of word of mouth (WOM) when something bad happens with a brand.  In this age of social media, word travels so fast that damage can be done in a matter of minutes.   As Winston Churchill put it, “A lie will travel half way around the world before the truth even has a chance to put its pants on.”

So, WOM is powerful.  But what exactly constitutes a WOM program? The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has been kind enough to provide a list of 11 types of programs:

  1. Buzz Marketing: Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.
  2. Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often digitally or by e-mail.
  3. Community Marketing: Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand (e.g., user groups or fan clubs) and providing content for them.
  4. Grassroots Marketing: Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.
  5. Evangelist Marketing: Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.
  6. Product Seeding: Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, providing information or samples to influential individuals.
  7. Influencer Marketing: Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
  8. Cause Marketing: Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about the cause.
  9. Conversation Creation: Interesting or fun advertising, e-mails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions designed to start word-of-mouth activity.
  10. Brand Blogging: Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere; sharing information of value that the blog community may talk about.
  11. Referral Programs: Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends.

Some may argue that not all these programs should fall under the WOM umbrella.  I would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  Programs like these will get people talking about your brand.  And the more people are talking, the more opportunities you are creating to sell!

— Ellen Repasky, SVP, Account Director

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Filed under advertising, Social Media, Word of Mouth