Tag Archives: brand

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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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:


“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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How engagement can fall short

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; the world is changing. People are receiving up-to-the-minute information as news is happening, rather than wait for the 6 o’clock news. News stations (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) report updates on their websites, and Facebook and Twitter posts have become the definition of “current” events. As technology continues to develop, advertising, too, must learn to reach audiences in new, compelling, and engaging ways.

The digital age is upon us, and with it comes more ways to reach audiences than ever before.  Today, audiences are targeted through social media sites, online banners, search engine optimization, and limited online TV commercials. Even though advertisers have many more venues to reach new customers than ever before, it’s a stretch for some of these media to have a discernable impact. But I came across one such campaign that was so compelling, I had to share it with everyone I could.

This campaign was intriguing, interactive, and engaging enough that I wanted to continue “playing” with it long after my first video finished. But after five minutes, could you tell me what the brand was? You may recognize the product and what it can do, but do you know the brand? (The answer is Tipp-Ex, a brand of correction fluid, owned by BIC, better known in Europe). While the concept of this campaign is incredibly strong, the execution fell just a bit short of turning an engaged audience into a new supply of consumers. And, after all, isn’t the end goal of advertising to sell products?

Here are three steps that Tipp-Ex missed that could have turned the compelling, engaging campaign into one with positive, measurable results:

  1. Continue using the product. Clearly, there are many videos that Tipp-Ex produced for this campaign. Allowing me to “use” the product in order to create a new blank would have had me interacting with the product directly. Repetition would have made me recall the brand next time I’m ordering supplies.
  2. A link to the website. There are more than 6.8 million views (at the time of this posting) to this video, but not a single clickable link to their site. Can you imagine what 6.8 million views would have looked like had they been allowed to visit a microsite or landing page? Then, Tipp-Ex would have had a targeted, active audience on THEIR site, and not just some YouTube link.
  3. A call to action. While I enjoyed interacting with the videos of this campaign, once I was done, I was done. The campaign did not provide an opportunity for me to further my involvement with the brand by offering a call to action. A simple coupon (on this yet-to-be-executed website) that could be printed and taken into any office supply retailer to be redeemed will have me asking for this brand by name next time I’m in need of correction tape.

With these three additional executions to the concept, uninterested Web surfers could have become interactive and engaged audiences and converted into measurable consumers, and perhaps loyal brand stewards.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive


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Unconventional Marketing Strategies Work

It’s July and it feels like a sweltering 100 degrees in Henrietta, N.Y, just outside of Rochester. Despite the intense heat, hundreds of neighboring residents descend upon the county fairgrounds with the expectation to enjoy  “carnival” food, amusement park rides, demolition derby, live entertainment, vendor booths, and roaming silent MASKED PEOPLE!?!

Who are those people in the white hoodies and masks?

What’s up with the number on their masks?

Their shirts read, “My insurance company treats me like a number.”  I wonder who they work for?

Upon entrance to the Monroe County Fair on July 17, fair-goers were greeted by a group of people dressed in white t-shirts, hoodies and numbered masks. Expressionless, these masked individuals stood motionless and did not utter a word to those who inquired about their presence at the county fair. It is not until people approached the distinct orange NYCM Insurance trailer with a masked mannequin to greet them that they were able to learn how NYCM treats each person as an individual and not a number.

The presence of the street team coincided with the launch of NYCM’s new advertising campaign, and by all accounts, the unconventional marketing strategy was a success.

Fair-goers were intrigued and drawn to the street team’s presence because of an emotional cord — we all want to be valued as individuals and treated accordingly by businesses. The presence of the street team drove fair-goers to the NYCM booth and website and increased inquiries about NYCM’s home and auto insurance services.

NYCM’s masked street team is a good example of an unconventional strategy that reaped great results. What unique marketing tactic could your company employ to communicate its core messages and set itself apart from the competition?

— Karla Chambers, Account Executive


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10 Reasons Why Marketing Is Like a Road Trip

As families everywhere scramble to squeeze in the last days of vacation before school starts, I am struck by the parallels between the iconic family road trip and the wonderful world of marketing.

With homage to David Letterman . . .

#10:     Before you put the key in the ignition, be sure everyone agrees on where you want to go.

#9:       Map your route and check periodically to be sure you haven’t gone off course.

#8:       No vehicle is large enough to accommodate everything you want to take with you.

#7:       Expect someone to ask “Are we there yet?” long before you reach your destination.

#6:       Changing course when you hear “Are we there yet?” will only prolong the trip and wreak havoc with your schedule.

#5:       That strange noise you hear just won’t go away, no matter how much you ignore it.

#4:       If someone says they don’t feel right, it is best to stop, take a minute and find out what’s wrong.

#3:       Never underestimate the power of plentiful snacks and well-timed “bio” breaks.

#2:       There is never enough time or money to do everything you want to do.

And finally, the #1 way that marketing is like a road trip . . .

#1:       It is always easier to criticize the person behind the wheel than to actually drive yourself.

— Pam Alvord, EVP, Chief Brand Strategist

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Once an iPhone Junkie- always an iPhone junkie

The new Apple iPhone
Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr

Last time I posted a blog entry to our site, I shared a dark secret: I’m an iPhone junkie. Nothing has changed that fact since then (if anything, my obsession has grown), but the news and PR nightmare over the release of the new iPhone 4 certainly gave reason to examine my loyalty to this product and the Apple brand.

As the new products began to hit the doorsteps of millions across the nation, I eagerly awaited the Facebook updates, news articles, e-mails, commercials, etc., that would surely have me boiling over with excitement at the thought of my future upgrade. “Apple has done it again,” I thought, “they’ve actually outdone themselves.” But less than a week after the release, complaints with the new version hit the streets like wildfire. Poor signal strength, discoloration on the screen, the glass scratches much easier than before, defects with the rear camera, and more. It seemed Apple had released a faulty product and disappointed the masses.

Or had they? At the same time the news focused on the higher profile errors of the iPhone 4 and the damage likely to be done to the Apple brand, I also began to see efforts to rally against the bad media and defend the brand and its product. Status updates spoke of pure obsession over the new iPhone 4 and having little or no problems at all. Tweets near and far called for a reality check– these issues could happen with any cell phone! Steve Jobs gave that same check to the nation when he commented, “We’re not perfect…phones aren’t perfect.” As a brand supporter and product enthusiast, I agree with Mr. Jobs. The iPhone is not perfect, but for me, the hundreds of things this device can do right get it pretty close. Opinions like these have slowly started to pop up in articles addressing the issue, as more and more iPhone junkies like me work to have our voices heard and remain devout loyalists to Apple.

Though the issues remain, and more are certain to develop with each new product, I foresee the strength of the brand to continue growing. Apple is loved, admired, and defended endlessly by so many junkies, myself included. Though I won’t deny a dropped call every so often is frustrating, or that having an application close out on me unexpectedly is annoying, at the least, I know I’ll eventually get over it. In the end, it’s worth it to me. It says something great of a brand’s reputation when a customer can take the good with the not so good and remain more than happy with the product. And that those customers go beyond contentment to actually rise up and profess their loyalties to the brand when the going gets tough says even more.

Keep it up, Apple. Now when can I expect the iPhone 5?

— Beth Madigan, Account Executive


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