Category Archives: Compelling

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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It’s Déjà vu all over again

As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.

I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.

Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.

As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing.  And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.

Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.

The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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Filed under Compelling, Engagement, Measurement

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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Engagement the Steve Jobs Way

Carmine Gallo recently summarized 10 key takeaways from his book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs:  How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.  As I read them, I was struck by how well these guidelines apply to the development of engaging marketing messages.

  1. Plan in Analog
  2. For marketers, this is an endorsement of the simple tissue session.  Nothing separates big ideas from tactical one-offs faster than a stack of paper and a supply of Sharpies.

  3. Create a Twitter-Friendly Description
  4. Challenge yourself to clearly communicate your message in 140 characters.  The MacBook Air undoubtedly has numerous attributes, but Steve Jobs simply promised, “The world’s thinnest notebook.”

  5. Introduce the Antagonist
  6. Every good story needs a hero and a villain.  While your marketing campaign may never feature your villain as boldly as Mac does, a clear understanding of your antagonist is a powerful way to ensure your brand is positioned as the hero.

  7. Focus on Benefits
  8. Most brands use laundry lists of features to promote their product or service.  However, people are more likely to be motivated by benefits that address their problems.

  9. Stick to the Rule of Three
  10. Three is simply easier to remember than four, six, or eleven.  Plus, three has inherent drama; just ask any playwright or comedian.

  11. Sell Dreams, Not Products
  12. Most products are swiftly becoming commoditized.  Even truly revolutionary products are not likely to stay that way for long.  What can a marketer do?  Build emotional connections.  They last longer and even can transcend a misstep or two

  13. Create Visual Slides
  14. For marketers, this means looking beyond product photography.  Macs are beautifully designed, yet they don’t appear in the Mac vs. PC television campaign.  Instead, the personification of each brand establishes visual imagery far more powerful than what even the most beautiful product shots could have created.

  15. Make Numbers Meaningful
  16. Numbers often need context if you want people to truly understand them.  Communicating that it only takes one dollar a day to feed a starving child certainly puts a different perspective on the plea for a $365 annual donation.

  17. Use Zippy Words
  18. Adopt powerful language.  Ban the buzzwords.  Even create your own terminology.  Thanks to marketing, terms like scrubbing bubbles, ring around the collar and wassup are universally understood (and strongly associated with the brands that created them).

  19. Reveal a “Holy Smokes” Moment
  20. The creative brief might call it the net takeaway, the single most important idea, or the insight.  Call it whatever you want, just make sure that it is dramatic, motivating, and powerfully represented in your final creative product.

Steve Jobs’s final presentation tip is to practice – practice a lot.  For marketers this means to continually test, measure, evaluate, and optimize.  If not, our fate will be Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

— Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Chief Brand Strategist

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Compelling Business Tactic or Religious Fanatic?

As a native Atlantan, I had the fortunate experience of learning how to drive in our fair city. Anyone who prepares to battle the weekday rush hour, Atlanta Police Department, or Sunday traffic could understand how getting behind the wheel, at any age, can be considered a triumphant occasion. But this past Sunday afternoon, as I was stuck in a line of an automotive exodus leaving church in the heart of Buckhead, I encountered a particularly amusing observation, which for the moment relieved me of my temporary road rage. I witnessed a pedestrian cursing the fact that Chick-fil-A was closed on Sunday.  I found this consumer’s epic FAIL quite humorous.

But I could relate. All too often I have woken up on a Sunday morning with a craving for Chick-fil-A; a craving that seems to be so much stronger on Sunday than any other day of the week. And I know I’m not the only one. In fact, when asked about craving Chick-fil-A on a Sunday, I received the following responses:

“Always”

“Their morning biscuits would be wonderful on the drive to Sunday school!”

“It’s like every Sunday is when I want it and then I suddenly sadly remember it’s Sunday….my poor tummy.”

We believe that great communication is the only way to engage our audience with our brand. We assume, incorrectly, that the only means to have a brand name “top-of-mind” is with the aided awareness of great marketing. Not in the case of Chick-fil-A. It could be argued that closing on one of the busiest days of the week would be a devastating blow to their business, but a February 2010 report indicates that “Chick-fil-A generated more than $3.2 billion dollars in sales in 2009, and the chain has enjoyed sales gains for 42 consecutive years.” It seems that Truett Cathy, creator of Chick-fil-A Restaurants, was making more than a religious decision.

But one could argue that Truett was a marketing genius. By craving Chick-fil-A more when it is closed, a consumer is already engaged with the brand – and Chick-fil-A isn’t spending a dime to have the brand be top-of-mind. It is the classic “want what you can’t have.” But loyal customers are engaged with the brand, even when it’s unavailable. And isn’t that, ultimately, the goal to obtain brand-loyal customers?

Think about it next time you are craving Waffle Fries on Sunday. In the meantime, what do you do to engage your audience, outside of traditional or digital communication?

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Compelling is a matter of respect. Advertisers should show some of it.

Ever gone out to dinner with someone who constantly cuts you off to talk about themselves? Ever work next to someone who bores you with what they did over the weekend while you’re trying to work? Or maybe you have a mother-in-law who continuously explains to you how things are supposed to be done while you’re trying to finish your chores. You probably get the feeling these people don’t really care what you think. And you’d most likely be right.

So why do advertisers interrupt and bore their audience with monotonous, dumbed-down messages? Some advertisers think the public is an idiot and they’re hopeless. Some are simply testing only for brand recall and a few copy points and feel this works for them. And most likely they don’t see it as their responsibility to entertain you.

I’d like to propose that it is an advertiser’s responsibility to provide a well-crafted, compelling message that not only informs but also entertains. There is enough visual and aural pollution in the world already. Walk down a commercial street and you’re most likely looking at ugly signs, litter, billboards and transit advertising, and listening to noisy cars, buses, and music coming from storefronts. The world is a very tough place to win attention. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=56750

Back in 1970, in a famous book, sociologist Alvin Toffler warned of information overload (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_shock). Today, there is a lot more media in our lives, and the pace of change is rapid. Messages need to do more than break through clutter; they must stand out in a torrent of media, much of which is actually designed to be engaging.

So how can a brand compete? Two ways. With big, targeted, and expensive media buys. Or with smart, engaging content that people actually want to see. It’s obvious that there is a responsible choice here.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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