Posts Tagged ‘brand’

Why Understanding the Customer Leads to Effective Advertising

March 21, 2014

I took a psychology class in college that was titled; the art of persuasion.  In the class, we were taught how to understand what is going on inside a person’s mind and how to persuade him/her to your way of thinking—sounds creepy right? Well I loved it, which told me advertising was the right field for me. Not because I like manipulating people, but because I like the idea of putting myself in other people’s shoes, to identify what their problems might be and working towards a solution.

On a professional level, advertising is all about problem solving, it’s how we create a desire for our client’s products and services. Advertisements pose problems and provide solutions all the time; do your feet stink? Use our client’s foot cream and the stench will disappear. Do you want longer eyelashes? Use our client’s brand of mascara and you will instantly have long, beautiful eyelashes.  The key to effective advertising is not only in the creativity, but in the solutions presented to the audience.  The question grabs the audience’s attention, but the solution provides a reason why the product or service is ahead of its competition.

In a recent branding campaign for one of our automotive clients, we made a point to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. We asked ourselves, what do customers want out of their car buying experience? The answer we developed was: they want to feel important.  Some people might assume that price is the driving factor and yes, people do want the best price for their car, but every dealership highlights their low prices, so what is the one thing that can really set a car dealer apart? Their attention to customer service (see what I did there, posed a question).

In order to differentiate our client from the competition, we wanted customers to feel special and realize they would receive a VIP experience when purchasing a vehicle from this dealer.  In fact, customers become an exclusive member of their “club” after making a purchase!

The crux of this campaign relies on the customer needs- the moment the customer walks through the door, he/she is treated like royalty.  Additionally, the customer is regarded as an insider who receives exclusive deals, tips and tricks and other perks, all while getting the best prices and customer service possible.  Now, tell me that is not a customer service dream come true.

Another campaign that communicated what it’s like in the customer’s shoes was Lincoln’s MKZ campaign.  The commercials are recorded from the point of view of the customer, in an interview format.  The potential buyer interviews two separate cars; an MKZ and a competitor (such as Lexus). The customers are asking the two cars important questions like; what kind of suspension do you have?  This campaign is a great example of the customer being in control of his/her purchasing experience and decision making, and they love that.

Lincoln Commercial can be found here:

While it may be common sense, it truly does make a difference for advertisers to know their audience on behalf of clients. We learn time and time again that customers are not solely focused on price, but also the experience the product/service provides. Being aware of that can sometimes be a challenge to advertisers, but can also be an advantage. Hey, at EZG we’re all about solving problems.

If you have an advertising problem that needs to be solved, reach out to us at


Which brands won at the Oscars?

March 7, 2014

Sure, everyone loves a good awards show.  Glitter, glamour, gowns, and stumbling celebrities make for great theater.  And while the nation (world?) tuned in, there were a few brands that deserve special recognition for making of the most of their exposure:

  1. Best Intentional Product Placement: Samsung
    Samsung takes home the prize for what’s been dubbed “the selfie seen around the world.”  Host Ellen DeGeneres set social media on fire when she whipped out a white Samsung Galaxy, grabbed some pals, and took a selfie with Hollywood’s hottest stars.

    What a spontaneous coup for Samsung, right?  But the plot twist is a familiar one: Samsung paid big sponsorship dollars for product placement through the evening, and the selfie was a smoothly executed part of the plan.  Yes, we’ve seen that one before, but high marks for execution and follow through.  Bravo.

  2. Best Surprise Product Placement: Big Mamas & Papas Pizzeria

    Big Mamas & Papas Pizzeria scored an unexpected on-air win when Ellen called on them for a celebrity delivery.  They knew they’d be tapped for backstage hunger pangs, but didn’t realize their pizza would be shared with the A list.  According to NBC Los Angeles, “The restaurant didn’t spend a dime on the stunt and received advertising for free, all thanks to DeGeneres’ desire to feed her celebrity family.”

    The store is now trying to capitalize on their Oscar appearance by selling their apparel right on the homepage.  Can they roll the momentum into a sequel?

  3. Best Unintentional Product Placement: Coca Cola
    Coke doesn’t necessarily deserve free advertising, but they got it when their logo appeared on those surprise pizza boxes.  See?  Stay loyal to Main Street and reap the benefits.

    Having the brand splashed on camera (and all over social media) was made sweeter by the fact that Coke yielded its traditional Oscar sponsorship to Pepsi this year.

  4. Most consistent brand to take 2nd place: Pepsi
    Ah, Pepsi.  Will you ever win?  Or are you destined to spend blockbuster dollars, only to yield the spotlight.  Perhaps Leo should take over as official Pepsi spokesperson.  Yeah, I went there.

Stay classy, Hollywood…until next year!

Live-Tweeting: A Powerful Way to Connect

January 22, 2014
©Esther Vargas

©Esther Vargas

With so many users on social media in 2014, it is nearly impossible to simply watch T.V. “Tweet-watching” would be a more accurate phrase to use when describing how we interact with television shows this season.

Program viewers like me live-tweet during programs as they air and share opinions in real-time with other viewers by connecting with hash-tags. Live-tweeting television shows using designated hashtags has taken over Twitter, with #Sherlock , #Scandal  and #GoldenGlobes emerging as trending topics as they air. By using Twitter as a communications tool to connect with others T.V. fans, thousands of people are watching, tweeting and interacting with each other at light speed.  Because of this, television is no longer a passive activity but an interactive experience.

The shows also encourage live-tweeting as they often include the desired hashtag to use on the screen, and ask viewers to tweet @ reactions to the show’s Twitter handle. For example, when the airdate for the third season of hit BBC drama Sherlock was announced, the show introduced the hashtag #SherlockLives on the side of a hearse. Fans instantly took to the new hashtag, and used it in their tweets when Sherlock returned on January 1st, 2014. The BBC used the hashtag as they live-tweeted their reactions and exclusive photos and content for the three episodes of the series. By connecting through advertising, show promotions and Twitter, fans were able to share in the experience of the show’s premiere instead of simply observing it.

However, live-tweeting is not just reserved for TV’s biggest fans—brands are also tapping into the benefits of live-tweeting and using it as an advantage.   For example,   DiGiornio Pizza is one brand that excels at leveraging the power of Twitter conversations.  During NBC’s Sound of Music Live! DiGiornio live-tweeted the entire show which resulted in hilarious tweets and free media coverage for the brand. Using #SoundofMusicLive (the second highest trending topic that night) DiGiornio was visible to a large audience, which resulted in hundreds of retweets and catapulted the DiGiornio brand as a trending topic. While the Sound of Music and frozen pizza seem to have nothing common, the people behind the DiGiornio social media campaign created funny and clever ways to tie their tweets to the broadcast and connect back to their brand.

More Examples of DiGiornio’s Creativity here:

Live-tweeting is a new way for social media managers to garner attention for their brands on social media. While live-tweeting might not work for every brand, it is an intriguing new way to use Twitter and users are already starting to get on board. If you’re confused about how to get started, I’ve included a few helpful tips below:

  • Think before you post
  • Be spontaneous
  • Find clever and creative ways to engage
  • Bring the conversation back to your brand/program/event

Live-Tweeting has already shaped the way that broadcast outlets, brands, and consumers connect in real-time. With the rise of social media platforms like Snapchat, it shows that there is now slowing of the need for immediate stimulation. Because of that need, I feel that live-tweeting will become much more common. It will be interesting to see if more brands will utilize the potential of live-tweeting and how sales will be directly impacted—who knows we may even cover that topic on the Ebben Zall Group blog.

What I have learned about using video in public relations: 3 Valuable Takeaways

October 21, 2013

As an intern at EZG, I have seen several video projects begin with a simple idea and transform into a valuable part of marketing campaigns.  Part of my responsibilities at EZG include helping out with a variety of traditional and new media initiatives for the PR team, but I’m most interested in the video production process and how it fits into the client strategy.  What I have learned so far is that producing informative marketing video requires a great deal of creativity and legwork—but the results are worth it.

As more digital channels become available to for us to utilize in public relations, we have seen the demand for viral content increase.  Just look at the way we share news today, often through popular sites like Newsy.   I have personally seen the demand for videos rise during my internship time at EZG—which is a good indicator of things to come.

At the end of August, EZG posted about the benefits of using video to help boost a client’s brand.  Today, I want to take an opportunity to share a few tips that I have learned from my leaders and mentors while editing PR videos here at EZG.

  • Shoot more video than you need: This tip seems like common sense, but I have found myself in the position of needing more footage when I have assumed that there was enough. It is always better to have too much footage than not enough.  For example, filming fifteen minutes of footage for a two-minute video usually provides enough usable content in the end. It is always better to get too much content during the original filming of the video than to have to go back and re-shoot more footage later; it can be very difficult to re-create a scene.
  • Tell a story: Like everything we do in PR, video is another tool that helps us tell a story.  Without a clearly defined message within the video, the story will get lost and inevitably the work will lose value.  To stay away from this misstep, I always try to connect the edited clips in a way that the story is told fluidly.  Our videos are not scripted, so we often end up with a wandering narrative until the source clearly defines their main points. It can take people awhile to get to the point, but it’s the video editor’s job to hear through the words and amplify the most interesting points in an easy to understand story.
  • Use the correct tone for the video:  Our EZ|TV videos are designed to show our personality, and we think that’s great—but not every video will have the same feel.  When creating videos for our clients, I have to remain mindful of their branding messages to maintain consistency with their other marketing materials. Design, music and font choices are all part of distinguishing the client’s brand in the video, and are used as an accent to highlight the expert content that is communicated to the audience.

It is important for videos to be professional, engaging and creative in order to appeal to target audiences and inspire viral pick up.   In the public relations field, we are constantly required to attract attention to messages that reflect our clients’ brands.  Simply put, the videos that we produce are not just footage of talking heads, they are multimedia vehicles meant to teach, inspire, and motivate.

If you’re interested in learning more about video used in PR campaigns please check out these articles:

Two great brands that tweet great together

October 4, 2013

Just a few weeks ago I posted about “staying on top of the media mix,” looking at how the industry lines between PR, advertising, and social media are blurring to create effective marketing campaigns. I discussed how Honda’s #WantNewCar campaign strategy implemented all three elements cohesively and engaged with target audiences.  And guess what? Honda is at it again!

In my opinion, the car-maker is blazing past other automotive companies when it comes to utilizing social media as a powerful marketing medium. Honda has taken to Twitter to promote a new feature added to the 2014 Honda Odyssey: a tiny, built-in vacuum that is fueling a social media surge that has sucked in the Twitter feeds of major consumer brands. Yes, a minivan and a vacuum have started a conversation that turned into a viral marketing sensation. The promotion of the newly designed Odyssey kicked off with a series of cute commercials, featuring the vacuum at center stage. If you haven’t seen the clip yet, check it out here:

After Honda captured viewers with the commercial, the marketers turned their attention to twitter. While scrolling feeds on October 1st, I noticed that Honda began tweeting @ other brands, using the vacuum as a conversation starter. Honda posted tweets that demonstrated the sucking power of the vacuum using products from companies like Oreo and Lego.  Consequently, those brands began to retweet the clever pictures and captions to their own audiences, and the campaign gained viral stardom.   

Who would have ever thought that Oreo and Honda would engage in a cross-promotional twitter strategy that appeals to the mass market?  Here’s a slide show of the images and tweets posted by Honda:

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More and more on social media we’re seeing corporate brands using digital platforms to push their overall brand or a specific product. Whether they’re taking advantage of timely content (like Oreo’s Super Bowl Blackout ad), or launching a planned campaign  like Honda’s Odyssey vacuum effort, social media helps to get the message directly in front of the consumer.

Honda’s social media strategy was successful because:

  • The tweets were short and to the point.
  • They targeted brands that share their audience (families with small children) – parents can relate to lost Lego’s and cookie crumbs on the floor of their car.
  • Targeted popular brands with a large following, and using dynamic images that were designed to be easily shared amongst large groups of people.

In public relations, we are our clients’ storytellers, so it’s our duty to know which mediums act as the best platforms to get the message out. In our work with automotive clients at EZG, keeping up to date with campaigns from brands like Honda is a no brainer, so we always think of ways that we tie broader corporate campaigns to our local clients. Whether companies use other brands to help push their message, piggy back off of a corporate campaign, or blend traditional advertising and PR with social media, integrating messages and media is what delivers the best and most convincing campaigns.

Boosting brand with video production

August 15, 2013

Public relations – and marketing in general — never seemed boring to me.  Even in the early days when I was faxing letters to the New York Times (yes, faxing), the ability to convey a story through channels that reached such a wide range of audiences was a fascinating exercise.

Today, the core of that buzz is the same.  It’s about the story.  And yet the channels available to us have expanded tenfold (stay tuned for more on this from EZG TV).

Video production is a great example that we’re seeing more of every week.  A medium that used to be reserved for big budget clients looking to mass-market has now become a tool we can use on a variety of levels.  I dug into this a little in PRNews, examining when it’s appropriate to use film clips in-house and when it makes sense to seek out a production house.

That’s a valid discussion, as we use deploy video for quick Facebook clips, YouTube channels, multimedia press kits, corporate branding exercises, and of course B-roll and commercials for more traditional broadcast placement.  We have longstanding relationships with production professionals who can do a far better job than we can of creating sophisticated, crisp content that will play well with more discerning audiences.  Those studios are expensive, but they play a key role in maintaining client brands in some circumstances.

Hemenway & Barnes, investigated these options earlier this year.  H&B is the oldest law firm in Boston (celebrating its 150th year in 2013), an EZG client, and was looking for a way to convey its traditional values through a modern vehicle.  When it came to developing a video overview of the firm’s history, a high end production house – in this case, Moody Street Pictures – was absolutely appropriate for the job.  Our internal team could certainly have filmed interviews and spliced together clips that conveyed H&B’s character, but to capture a culture that has persevered for centuries it was more powerful to invest in a higher end product.

The resulting video series has generated outstanding awareness of the firm and stayed true to its traditional values.  For H&B, it speaks well to the firm’s client base and influencers; for EZG, it becomes another effective storytelling device as we interact with the media.  A lower-budget effort would have cheapened the look and feel, and in this case the brand itself.

We know more video is on the horizon, and likely more innovative channels through which to distribute it.  PR continues to bring the ultimate media mix to the table, keeping us engaged at every corner.

Soup, sincerity, and social media

August 28, 2012

Just add substance and stir

Too often, social media and traditional media are separate thoughts. Why this is, I’ll never understand – I’ve always been vocal about social media as an outstanding tool, but not as a replacement of traditional media.  The fascinating part is interacting with these two channels, as it becomes clear from the public relations side that each one informs the other…when they’re working together, they create a powerful combination for brands.

A recent act of kindness captured on Facebook serves as a great reminder of this.  A good story travels a long way, and social media helps propel legitimate topics into the spotlight.  This month, we saw a story unfold organically that typifies how media channels can interface, and the difference between making noise on the Internet and telling a real story.

In this case, we have a Facebook post from a New Hampshire resident looking to fulfill one of his grandmother’s last wishes: a bowl of Panera Bread’s clam chowder. Both PR Restaurants (a Panera franchisee) and the family got more than they bargained for, as the post went viral, traditional media saw the story, and the PR team was able to help extend its reach.

The post was simple and heartfelt:

My grandmother is passing soon with cancer. I visited her the other day and she was telling me   about how she really wanted soup, but not hospital soup because she said it tasted “awful” she went on about how she really would like some clam chowder from Panera. Unfortunately Panera only sells clam chowder on Friday. I called the manager Sue and told them the situation. I wasn’t looking for anything special just a bowl of clam chowder. Without hesitation she said absolutely she would make her some clam chowder. When i went to pick it up they wound up giving me a    box of cookies as well. Its not that big of a deal to most, but to my grandma it meant a lot. I really want to thank Sue and the rest of the staff from Panera in Nashua NH just for making my grandmother happy. Thank you so much!

Facebook fans grabbed onto the good deed, and the story spread to over 731,000 people. As popularity and ‘likes’ continued to grow, the genuine, human aspect of the story stood out among the countless posts that cross the desks of traditional media members. What started as an innocent “thank you” became a signpost that captured the spirit of Panera’s brand, garnering local and national news from television [WMUR], daily newspapers [Nashua Telegraph], and online media [Huffington Post, Yahoo!, etc.]

On the public relations side, this stands as a culmination of several elements…maybe corny to call it a minor “perfect storm,” but let’s go with that.

  1. A brand ambassador (the Panera Bread bakery cafe manager) acted in perfect coordination with the values of the company.
  2. An end-user recognized the act and became another ambassador for the brand in a social media setting.
  3. The sincerity of the exchange overcame the skepticism of traditional media when it comes to online endorsements.
  4. The PR team had the opportunity to extend the story without tarnishing its sincerity.

This last point is among the most important, because we hate spin.  We hate the thought of spin and we hate the perception of spin even more.  We are, on the contrary, storytellers – and that’s a significant distinction.  Sometimes our team finds the story, and sometimes the story grows on its own.  In all cases, we work with the media to bring the story to life using the tools at our disposal.

If we were to separate channels and say that social media and traditional media stand alone would limit our ability to pass the story on: they are intertwined, and always will be.   This case is a perfect example, showing us how social media legitimized a beautiful story for traditional media, and four elements – the Panera brand, Facebook, the media, and public relations – pulled together to make it visible.

[Note: special thanks to EZG’s Jenn Tatelman for lending firsthand insight to this post.  She is an absolute warrior.]

Extreme Makeover: Public Relations Edition

November 30, 2011

Why are we here?

The Public Relations Society of America is making over its own definition of “public relations.” Its 1982 version still stands as the official wording, even with a few past attempts to update the look and feel of the profession: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”  Yikes.

A call for entries from both industry pros and the public has been issued and submissions are being accepted via blog online form (deadline is Friday, December 2).

The results from most PR pros may stand to be the least shocking. After all, we love to manage the message, don’t we?  In our industry, we’re constantly tasked with defining ourselves and our clients, drawing on terms from day-to-day routines and global context. Expect to see familiar friends like “communicate”, “messaging”, “audience”, “media”, “effective”, “convey”.

Most curious, however, may be what non-PR audiences think of us.  Based on an outsider’s view, what is public relations and who are we as its representatives? If opinions are based on fictional depictions from  films and TV, expect terms that either flatter us as savvy trend-setters (“social”, “eloquent”, “notoriety”), or depict us as swaggering spin doctors (“schmooze”, “smear”, “pester”). Or suggestions might illustrate once again that a sizable audience actually has no idea what we do, supporting the notion that the definition of “Public Relations” has been ambiguous for far too long.

The results of the online form will appear in a “word cloud” on the PRSA’s PR Definition blog. While we’ll have fun guessing who submitted what, we may also get served a slice of humble pie.  Feel free to chime in: what IS public relations?

Brand don’t fail me now, or “Why Fenway will be full in April”

October 19, 2011

Clearly, Dee Snider has had enough of the Red Sox. But that will change.

Ok, ok, I’ll weigh in on the Red Sox, because we absolutely haven’t heard enough about their “epic collapse.”  But maybe instead of focusing on what an outrageous disappointment the 2011 team was and is, we could instead look at the incredible job ownership has done polishing the brand for these exact circumstances.  Yes, let’s do that.

Here is the knee-jerk: the players quit on each other and their fans.  Ownership is out of touch.  Fans are angry and, in the immortal words of Dee Snider, “We’re not going to take it anymore.”

But guess what?  We are.  Or, if me and you and the guy down the hall aren’t, many hundreds of thousands of others are.  Because ownership has done a masterful job of repointing a brand that was previously directed solely at baseball purists; they shaved off some of the hardcore exterior in order to draw in a higher percentage of the young, eager, “see and be seen” demographic (yes, the “pink hats”).

True Red Sox fans know what .406 means, who Jimmie Foxx was, and why the wave is asinine.  Those fans are incensed at the way they’ve been deprioritized by ownership and some may feel the apathy of the current roster reflects that.

None of it matters, because next April the true fan will forgive and hold out hope that the team will rebound and show some grit.  And the apathetic fan will be cheering regardless, either unaware or un-invested in the team’s apparent lack of respect for them and for us.

Therein lies the genius of the club’s foresight and brand execution.  For the past several years, there have been cries that ownership played to both segments – fans tried and true or untested and false, it made no difference.  How could a 40 year Fenway grandstand veteran possibly share a row with Sweet Caroline enthusiasts?  There would have to be a breaking point, right?

Wrong. The law of positive brand says that the deeper, stronger, and wider the brand appeal, the more likely it will hold up under significant stress.

Sox ownership took a century of hardcore history and diluted it with a theme park atmosphere. Idealistically despicable?  Perhaps.  But now they will enjoy that brilliant diversification of their base.  What they’ve built simply cannot be undone by a bad month of play and a worse month of off-field press: when Boston baseball makes its comeback in April, as will the brand.

[Editor’s note: To be clear, none of this means I embrace nonsense like the lightning show that accompanies Jonathan Papelbon’s 9th inning entrances.  I hate it.  It’s an insult. But I do love baseball, you bastards…]

Big Google and the puppy dog defense

October 21, 2010

In a nation where one in 10 is unemployed and countless others are underemployed, during a time when people are networking like next month’s rent is riding on it (because it often is), what could cause a recent college graduate to pull herself off every social networking site she ever joined?  Ask Karen Owens… if you can find her.

After graduating from Duke, Owens created a fake senior honors thesis and submitted it to “The Department Of Late-Night Entertainment,” otherwise known as three of her friends.  What happened next was predictable.  One of those three sent it to someone else, and they sent it to someone else, before Owens had any idea what was happening, the online world was propagating and publicizing her somewhat severe personal missteps in judgment.

The details of her thesis aren’t appropriate for discussion here, but its rise to infamy is.  (more…)

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