strategic communication

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

Archive for the tag “sales”

Bring Your Brand to Life

A successful business or organization owes much of its accomplishments to good branding. Brands are how people find out about services. One may have a great organization, but without a strong brand and clean reputation, the organization will never be seen. What are some ways brands can be used to promote a product or organization?

By definition, a brand is used to “evoke…a certain personality, presence, and product or service performance.” A Business Insider article instructs that the meaning behind a brand must “fulfill a specific unmet need in a well-defined target audience, AND be perceived as special and valuable.”  These two sources stress the importance of not only establishing what you want your brand to be, but to prove to the audience the importance of your brand and how it is relevant to them. Unique brands that take time to reach out to customers are working toward establishing trustworthiness.

One of the most important factors for companies to add value to their brands is to develop a strong social media presence. As I have previously mentioned, avoiding where technology is harmful. The more digital, mobile, and social the world is becoming, the more important it is for brands to adapt to these platforms. Individuals will avoid waiting in line for customer service, or dialing multiple extensions for help if they can. Social media has made brands seem that much closer to customers. The concept of i-Branding features four pillars that all companies should keep in mind:

  1. Understanding the Customer
  2. Marketing Communications
  3. Interactivity
  4. Content

PRNewser posted an article titled “10 Brands That Do Customer Service Right on Twitter.” Each brand mentioned in the article provides examples of responding to customer complaints, questions, and compliments on Twitter. These brands have succeeded in using the four pillars of i-Branding. The fact that someone from any part of the world can communicate with a brand is amazing. Brands that actively participate in conversations with customers show that they really do care what the customer thinks of them, and will work to fix any problems that arise. In 2013, @XboxSupport claimed to hold the “Guinness World Record for ‘most responsive Twitter feed’” and account holders reply to tweets from customers every minute.

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A company’s brand can also use Twitter to promote their new product in a humorous way. The key to these brands having successful Twitter accounts is that they are creating personable and unique characters that relate to customers. People love positive energy, so bringing a brand to life with an enthusiastic personality is great for promotions.

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Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation

Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation.

Sometimes a little bit goes a long way on Twitter. Tim Leberecht mentions that a brand is what people are saying about you when you are not in the room. He continues by stating the importance of simply helping customers and employees to establish a positive reputation. For example, someone was having a bad day and venting on Twitter, and a flower company offered to send that person a free bouquet. Imagine how that person must have felt, and how positive that person’s perception of that company is now! Even if a company cannot offer a concrete product, a simply acknowledgment will suffice. One humorous example is my friend tweeting at the official account for Moe’s Southwest Grill. She tweeted that the Moe’s she went into did not give her the traditional “Welcome to Moe’s!” greeting as she entered the store. Shortly after she tweeted, they replied a personal apology on behalf of that store. She laughed at how serious Moe’s takes their welcome greeting and retweeted it so all of her followers could see the reply. Brands like those of fast food places benefit from reaching out to their customers because it is not always expected, but can be enjoyable.

The Shorty Awards honor the best brands on social media. The 2014 Shorty Award for Best Brand on Twitter is American Express. Reasons for this win ranged from business propositions to personal connections with their customers and followers. Not only did American Express offer specialty prices for those who connected their cards with hashtags, they also hosted a Twitter party for its 163rd birthday. This party showed personalized birthday images from users who wished them a happy birthday. American Express successfully used Twitter to promote new ideas, and establish a strong sense of community with its users. American Express clearly used the four pillars I previously mentioned: they understand customers want convenience and rewards when shopping, they advertise promotions on Twitter, they interact with customers in celebration of a birthday party, and their content is both informing and engaging. The Shorty Awards feature many more nominees of brands that are excelling on social media. It is worth it to take a look and take note of their success!

There is clear evidence how social media helps promote brands, but establishing a social media presence can be difficult. The American Red Cross uses social media to engage in customer relationships and recruit young volunteers. Social media strengthened their relationship with customers and kept them informed by posting information on upcoming events. It clearly improved its brand by being able to reach all of its customers through its Twitter and Facebook pages. However, they reported the struggle with limited time and staff available for keeping up with their pages. A Midwest participant said their region struggles with keeping social media a priority because of lack of staff. Other participants say they simply forget about bookmarked pages.

My recommendation for companies that are trying to establish their brand on social media is to reach out to young volunteers. Most college Communication programs require students to complete an internship. A company would truly benefit from offering a position such as a social media intern because they would be hiring someone who has studied current trends and will work for school credit. Free work along with ideas from someone who knows the best strategies sounds like a win-win for any company. Furthermore, there are recent graduates who are looking work to help them gain experience. These graduates will most likely be interested in an internship so they showcase their talents. A company can hire an intern and if there are clear benefits from the intern’s work, then the company may find value in offering the intern a full time position. Internships prevent staff from being spread too thin and offer learning opportunities for both students and employers.

how-companies-use-interns

Branding and digital advertising go hand in hand today. To show that your brand has personality and value, you must promote it in a way to reach the highest volume of customers. Businesses should make their brands accessible on social media and show customers they are reading and willing to provide the best products and services.

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Disconnecting from the Wall

Greetings from 30,000 feet in the air! I’m currently on an airplane and this is my first time blogging strictly from a mobile device: my iPad. Before now, I used it only for entertainment purposes such as social media, Netflix, and games. I told myself I would use it for my undergraduate classes, but it has served other purposes. This week I am attempting to keep up with emerging trends by completing my blog post as if my iPad were my primary device. I downloaded the WordPress app and so far it’s the same as the website. The fact that I can access my blog on multiple devices, from anywhere, is what emerging media is all about. It is amazing how WiFi is available on airplanes. Clearly mobile influences have a lot of pull on what assets should be available to customers. As of the beginning of this year, 90% of American adults have a mobile phone and 58% use smartphones. Chances are a person will have his or her phone with her at all times, and 67% frequently check their phones for messages even if they do not hear an alert.

Smartphones and tablets have changed everything about how we access information. When it all boils down, a tablet is like a large smartphone while a smartphone is like a small computer. It all comes full circle. Yet tablets are increasingly the most popular device. Tablets are just large enough to offer a desktop-like feel, but mobile enough to take anywhere like a phone. I remember when the smaller the phone, the more popular it was. Today, smartphone screens are getting bigger, almost competing with some of the mini-sized tablets. Phone carries are realizing that more people are spending time staring at the screens of their mobile devices.

The following picture is one that shows just how much mobile media has consumed its users.

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TV is not enough. Individuals are consuming so much information from both television shows/news stories, as well as news/social media on their phones. Organizations should consider this information when promoting their products. If a nationwide event such as an awards show or sporting event is happening, companies should know that people will use their mobile devices post about it. “Live tweeting” has become a popular pastime for those who wish to share their opinions about such events on Twitter. Most live tweeting is posted using the Twitter app on a smartphone or tablet. During the live performance of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood, DiGiorno Pizza brilliantly joined the conversation on Twitter. Throughout the show, the brand took song lyrics and quotes made popular by the movie and replaced them with words that relate to their product.

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Not only was this hilarious, but it made DiGiorno Pizza a trending topic on Twitter with users across the country tweeting at them. Some may think these silly tweets were a risk of not looking professional, but they succeeded in participating with their customers. They understand their target customers’ interests by checking the trends on Twitter and making their product noticed. The younger generations are actually the future of how business will be conducted through mobile, so it is important to get their attention now.

Retail companies are increasing their e-commerce sales. Buying departments are hiring individuals specifically for e-commerce merchandising and sales. Most e-commerce purchasing is from consumers using a PC. Even though it appears everything is becoming more mobile-only, we cannot deny the importance of current PC users. The PC is still used in offices and homes, and people use it for more than just browsing-they are viewing products and shopping. Marketing teams can send e-mail blasts or display ads on their site to ensure PC users are getting the deals. However, to increase traffic to their sites it is important for businesses to have a mobile presence.

Last week I discussed the benefits of media convergence, and converging to mobile is an excellent business strategy. Companies are becoming more efficient in using mobile as a marketing tool. This article describes the benefits of businesses using mobile apps to personalize an experience for their consumers. When a consumer downloads and opens an app, the app enables marketing teams to pinpoint the location, purchase history, and shopping patterns of the customer. This information allows direct targeting for what the customer is looking for from the store.

One of the most fascinating market trends is the feature of geofencing. Geofencing is a location-based service and can be used by businesses to not only promote themselves, but keep customers away from competitors.

Here is a scenario to give you the full effect of strategic geofencing:

Let’s say Company A is an established business with great customer satisfaction. It is connected to customers through an online store, social media, and it’s own app, Suddenly, Company B builds more stores in the same locations as Company A’s stores, and it’s their biggest competitor. How can Company A stay on top?

Geofencing allows certain alerts to be triggered based on location. If a customer enters a certain barrier around the store, that customer will receive an alert (in form of an app notification, e-mail, or an ad display on another app) with a coupon. Instant coupons? Why not go into the store and take a look around? However, it is important to not overdo the alerts and annoy the customer. Integrating coupons and sales information seamlessly, such as providing rewards for checking into the store location, is very effective with mobile-savvy consumers.

Alerts are a great way to get sales information to the customer as long as they are not spamming their phones. Again, understanding purchase history can increase customer satisfaction. If there is a sale for a certain product, alerts should go to everyone who has previously bought that product in that location. Relevancy with specific, personalized ads makes all the difference in whether or not a consumer will read an alert.

To take geofencing a step further, Company A could create a barrier near their competitor’s location so when customers are somewhere near Company B they will receive sales information about Company A. Location services are powerful and should be used strategically for promotions.

Mobile technology is absolutely necessary for future success of businesses. It does not have to be the only used technology just yet, but businesses must understand that mobile technology is changing everything about consumer interest.

The Urgency of Media Convergence

I want to start off this week’s topic, media convergence, with a personal anecdote.

I have begun the post-graduate job search. Using my laptop, I began a simple search on Google by typing in the job field and the location. One job came up that sounded like a potential fit. I clicked the company name which brought me to a page that showed it was owned by a larger company. It was at this point that I grabbed my iPhone next to me, pulled up the Google app, and typed in the name of the larger company to search for more information. 

To reiterate: I was sitting in front of my laptop, but chose to grab my cell phone and click on the Google app.

Why didn’t I just open another tab and go to Google on my laptop? I’ll admit that I have my lazy moments, but I assure you I am not so lazy that flipping through tabs would be too much work for me. The reality is that I have almost been conditioned to do a quick search on my phone.

Google is the most popular search engine on the web, but people are increasingly turning to apps. Clearly aware of this transition, Google embraces convergence by promoting their app on their mobile site.

googleapp

A Wired article shows the decline of the web and explains apps are “less about the searching and more about the getting.” The screen is right there at the push of a button. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, IMDB, and other popular websites all launched apps because of the demand for simple, convenient information.

Switching to apps for convenient information isn’t the only example of media convergence.

Engineers and scientists are talking about “Big Data.” The word big does not even begin to do it justice. Big Data actually describes an enormous amount of digital data. In 2011 1.8 zettabytes of data were created. This amount is double that of “7 billion people on Earth…continually tweeted for one century”

People are creating data every day and digital media is increasingly popular. Another doubling amount is the number of Emmy nominations Netflix received this year. Netflix series received a total amount of 31 nominations combined, an increase from 14 total nominations last year. The shows nominated have never been on television cable networks, rather they are all original series on Netflix’s live streaming. People are watching Netflix on their SMART TV’s, iPads, and video gaming consoles. They can watch Netflix at home, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc. In fact, Nielsen is now measuring television through gaming consoles and broadband connections. Future measurements will most likely include apps on iPads. Digital television is one of the largest front runners in media convergence and it will only continue to grow.

People may forget that Netflix was first enticing because of its DVD-by-mail service. A customer could choose from any movie or season of a show, have the DVD delivered, and keep it as long as necessary. Since 2011, the DVD service has lost “half of its subscribers.” They made changes and amplified the advertising for their live streaming so much that the home screen for Netflix.com only mentions live-streaming. In 2013, 63% of Americans used the live-streaming feature. Overall, there is an increase in live-streaming users and a decrease in DVD-by-mail users. People are looking for instant gratification in entertainment.

netflix

Television networks such as ABC, NBC, and even Showtime are streaming their popular shows on Netflix. When a new season of a show is coming out, these networks know that consumers will most likely binge-watch older episodes in order to catch up in time for the premiere. Shows that had successful runs on cable can also be re-watched on Netflix, causing them to be more popular than ever. NBC’s Friday Night Lights ended in 2011, but every season is currently available on Netflix. People are still watching this show and various Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been created in honor of the show and its characters. To take this a step further, Arrested Development was cancelled on cable television in 2006, but its three seasons were streamed on Netflix. The popularity and faithful viewership actually allowed the show to be brought back for a fourth season in 2013. Netflix is a prime example of how media convergence keeps people talking about shows that would otherwise be irrelevant. Television networks who do not provide online streaming of their shows will suffer from lack of consistent viewers.

In addition to the entertainment industry, retailers have also merged their media outlets to keep connecting with consumers. One example is how Shoe Carnival, a shoe chain of almost 400 stores nationwide, has changed their approach with advertising over the past 3 years. In the past, Shoe Carnival would place an ad insert in the newspaper. Today, inserts can be found in existing newspapers, fliers in the mail, e-mail blasts, third-party websites created for hosting ads, and social media. The combination of both paper and electronic ads has allowed Shoe Carnival to reach thousands of consumers. The company has an understanding of what its consumers want: quick and convenient information for how to save when shopping in their stores.

A specific example of the company staying relevant is its most recent back-to-school promotion. In an effort to reach the youthful target customer for Keds merchandise, Shoe Carnival and Keds selected social media as the main outlet to reach these consumers. Customers were able to take “selfies” with a cardboard cutout of Keds spokesperson Taylor Swift in every Shoe Carnival store. These customers were then encouraged to post their selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #kedscarnival in order to be eligible to win a free pair of Keds. Over 1,000 posts were made, and Keds sales for the time frame were over double from the previous year.

 kedscarn

Other companies are not as ready to jump on media convergence platform, and they are suffering the consequences. The New York Times has been crushed by digital papers that are savvier with attraction to readers. The Times may post a relevant article, but it is constantly overshadowed by “amusing” and informative articles. Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post are both digital news sources that have a strong following, particularly because of the sharing feature on social media. Their articles are oftentimes the first news sources a target audience looks to for information because they are quick, smart, and enjoyable to read. The Times simply isn’t giving consumers what they want, and they will lose much of their readership if they continue to ignore their problems. 

Businesses willing to converge in digital media will be successful. Digital media keeps products and companies relevant to a wider audience. Those who are trying to stick to the “but we’ve always done it this way” approach and avoid media convergence will only fall behind. 

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