Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Financial services marketing: expanding your customer base in uncertain times

December 2, 2015

Certainly the financial world is keeping one eye on interest rates, but regional financial institutions are more focused on keeping their customer base strong amid tight local competition. Diversified revenue streams help to protect them from over-dependence on interest income, and they must stay nimble enough to compete on a number of different fronts.

Deciding which front to watch most closely is a tough call, with a constant churn of external factors keeping the marketplace waters muddy. Some timely questions may help determine where the best routes lie:

  • Will the emphasis on fee income shift when rates increase, with some customers re-evaluating their balance of dividend-yielding stocks and insured deposits?

Just as the balance sheet benefits from a diversified approach, so too does marketing. The right mix of messages emphasizing local service and a long term view of customers’ financial stability can set a foundation that allows banks to pivot with the landscape. By leading with a value proposition focused more on partnering with account holders than pushing them product, banks can build a layer of trust that will allow them to engage customers throughout their lifecycle.

In an ideal world, that mindset translates into making direct connections with customers. Tactics like social media engagement, highly targeted digital campaigns, direct marketing, and public relations should not be planned in isolation. When financial companies coordinate these elements around a consistent message and thoughtful rollout, they are much more likely to make an impact on the market that will outlast sudden shifts in sentiment. Simply put, a well-rounded approach brings deeper, broader relationships.

Financial institutions have no shortage of challenges to choose from. Whether seeking opportunities to expand geographically, reaching out to a different customer segment, or reacting to a competitor’s new local branch, business and marketing strategies must be fluid and multifaceted. Those companies that embrace a flexible message that transcends any given moment will find their customer base is more likely to grow with them.

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Twitter’s CFO to marketers: I can do that!

May 7, 2015

Newsflash: finance and marketing do not always get along.  Some may even say the disciplines share a unique symbiotic rivalry; they support one another, yet constantly battle over how to define the value of marketing.

Twitter — itself a literal symbol of marketing in the digital era — found a novel way to end that discussion by allowing its CFO to take over the marketing discipline.  The move to appoint Anthony Noto came after months of failed attempts at finding the right CMO  for the company.  So, in a nutshell, it’s just marketing!  Give it to finance!  Even though (or perhaps because) we’re losing money!

…uh…oh…

Stranger things have worked, and maybe this will end up being more about “taking control of marketing spend.”  Or maybe the surprise ending is that Noto is the rare investment banker-turned-CFO who has keen marketing insight coursing through his veins.  But for the time being, this is playing out at the pinnacle of irony, as we see a flood of media coverage about how the floundering financial officer thinks he can do this marketing thing better.

It’s not going to get less weird anytime soon.  The Verge notes that “Noto’s first task may be figuring out how to market himself a little better at the office. [A] source told The Verge, “Twitter employees [are] asking why Noto gets $70 million, but the company can’t afford to give raises, or bring salaries closer to market rates.” Although engineers make around market rate, the source said, non-technical employees do not.”

This saga has everything the modern system is geared to despise – and everything that Twitter is famous for blasting out over the cyberwhatever.  Bloated executive pay, nosediving stock, executive hubris, belittled worker bees…

What’s missing (for starters)?  A good strategy.  A strong message. A vision. Really, anything that investors or advocates can get behind.

While that may come soon, it’s already too late to leverage the first wave of media exposure following the announcement.  I bet a sharp marketing guy could have handled that.  Ahem.

Finally, in honor of Noto’s presumably irrepressible spirit and ambition:

The NFL’s Pink October: Brand Positioning Gone Wrong

October 23, 2014

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore RavensIf you’ve managed to catch an NFL game this October, you may have noticed the “pink-washing” of the game, the uniforms and even the take-home merchandise offerings. For those who don’t know… October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer is a disease that primarily affects women, and particularly now, there are a lot of reasons for the NFL to charm women.

What was perhaps once a respected partnership with the American Cancer Society to raise money and awareness, is at this point a pretty obvious brand positioning tactic gone wrong. The most recent domestic violence allegations against Ray Rice, the subsequent mishandling of the punishment and the entire media fiasco around it all has led many women to finally ask the question amidst all of the pink cleats and helmets: does the NFL really care about me?

And a lot of those same women are coming to the conclusion that, no, it really doesn’t. The NFL has donated $7 million to the American Cancer Society since they began the “A Crucial Catch” campaign back in 2009. While it’s no small chunk of change, that amount is only about 12.5% of the entire revenue generated from pink retail items sold in October. The NFL, along with retailers and manufacturers, keep the remainder. When you look at this in the context that the NFL generates upwards of $8 billion a year in revenue alone, that amount seems hardly generous.

The NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” is a marketing campaign centered on a special cause (breast cancer) that many, many people can appreciate and respect. The NFL, in creating this campaign, hoped to align themselves as a friend of women, as an organization that looks out for women and the challenges they face. But with the mishandling of the Ray Rice case and the spotlight on how the NFL has handled past domestic violence cases against its players, it is pretty clear that the NFL is no ally of any woman. And with that, the credibility of any other marketing campaign they hope will appeal to women, is dashed.

Because at the end of the day, “A Crucial Catch” is a marketing campaign. It ties in (very high paying) corporate partners, advertisers, promotional materials and merchandise. Its intent is to align the NFL’s brand with the American Cancer Society and all breast cancer research and awareness organizations. It aims to reach those of whom breast cancer is, or could be, part of their daily lives.

The NFL certainly could have, and most likely would have, continued on their way with this marketing campaign had the domestic violence issue never been raised. The pink October campaign began very shortly after the Ray Rice situation and all of the fallout from it. There was an immense wave of backlash against it the campaign itself – it now seems insincere and manipulative. The NFL has certainly begun to lose the female fan, and it is going to be challenging to win them back over with anything less than a purely altruistic positioning campaign.

What do you think the NFL has to do to get back into the good graces of the female market?

Another “Thumbs Up” for Facebook

October 2, 2014

fbatlas

At EZG, we have a common request asked of us by our clients – they want to target their advertisements by appropriate demographic and target their audience based on behavior and context.

Simply put, our clients want to be able to do more than just target broad audiences like “Adults 25-54”. They want to be able to reach specific people who are interested in their products or services, and possibly already shopping around for it! Ideally, these potential customers would be talking about it on social media as well.

As advertisers, we’ve had popular search engines like Google and Yahoo! on our radar for years as our go-to sites for targeting. However, there is another advertising platform that is quickly becoming a top contender in the industry – and that heavyweight is social media.

This week, Facebook rolled out a new ad network titled Atlas,(Atlas is a former product of Microsoft that Facebook purchased last year for about $100 million) which now allows the site to follow users across the web and serve ads to them on non-Facebook sites.  The ads they are served will be based on information they have listed on their Facebook profiles.

For example, if a woman posts a Facebook status about recently having a baby, Atlas will allow advertisers to serve her ads relating to diapers, baby clothes, etc.  Sounds like a targeted dream come true, right?

In a blog post posted by Erik Johnson (Head of Atlas) earlier this week, he explains that there is a lot of room for improvement in this type of advertising. According to Johnson, “Today’s technology for ad serving and measurement – cookies – are flawed when used alone. Cookies don’t work on mobile, and are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world”.

Sounds like a flawed system, but Johnson believes that Atlas acts as a way to solve the problem by using something called people based marketing.

As an advertiser, there were a few things that I found interesting about Atlas. First, I think it’s great that Atlas tracks social media users across all devices. Obviously, mobile and tablet use by consumers is increasing, and it makes sense for advertisers to be able to serve targeted ads on these popular devices.

Secondly, I love the measurability that Atlas provides. Johnson writes that “Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales”.  For us, this is a huge benefit of the tool.

Our clients are very careful with how much they like to allocate towards their advertising budget and are very concerned with each campaign’s ROI. This can be a great way to track an advertising campaign’s success and the results can guide us in the optimization process.

I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact Atlas will make for advertisers. I think Atlas could be a real game changer in the industry and hopefully something EZG will implement in our targeted campaigns.

It is really astounding how social media networks are now competing with sites like Google on advertising space. Who knows, will Twitter be next?

What’s in a Hashtag? Entire strategies!

February 27, 2014

Hashtag

Pound sign, number sign, hashtag; whatever you want to call it, this little symbol has impacted the marketing sphere for all who work in the communications industry. It’s hard to remember a time when hashtags weren’t part of marketing campaigns because they play such a significant role when building a strategy. In fact, in some cases the hashtag is the strategy.

Since hashtags are supported on multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest) marketers realize using hashtags can be advantageous for bigger picture gains. Hashtags can be used to reach target audiences in a fun, engaging and social way that other forms of marketing materials can’t. By using hashtags, brands can create a quick connection to a large group, and if brands are really smart, they’ll connect the hashtag with a feeling. Creating an emotional connection enables the hashtag to leverage a positive brand image for an organization or individual. For example, Honda aired its touchy-feely #HugFest campaign (starring Bruce Willis) during the Super Bowl. Honda purposely did not mention their brand within the hashtag, in order to generalize it and position it to a larger group. Honda then went the extra mile and supported the #Hugfest social media campaign by launching a series of YouTube videos. Doing so caused the #HugFest hashtag to take off like a Civic Coupe on a race track. Marketers at Honda clearly know that everybody can use a hug now and then, and were wise to correlate a “warm and fuzzy” feeling with the famous auto maker.

Additionally, hashtags can be used as a fierce weapon to differentiate brands from competitors. For example, Yoplait Greek Yogurt flipped their lid and created a duel with competition brand, Chobani (the Greek yogurt giant). After realizing they would rather win the “who’s better” battle fair and square (instead of swooning shoppers with studly John Stamos) Yoplait formed the hashtag #TasteOff as a way to motivate customer feedback. A risky move that even Uncle Jesse couldn’t combat.

Yoplait invited real consumers to go spoon to spoon and vote in the #TasteOff on Twitter. Ladies and ‘gents, Yoplait won the brand battle right then and there. At EZG, we can stand behind a hashtag campaign that inspires direct engagement with consumers and promotes real brand loyalty across social media. Consumers want to be involved; they want to be spoken to and know when they’re being sold. Through a simple hashtag, Yoplait kicked off the conversation that inspired brand loyalty amongst consumers, a tasty move indeed.

At EZG we participate in hashtag specific campaigns on behalf of our clients. We conduct industry research and survey the conversations taking place on social media in order to be active social listeners. When monitoring hashtags, we filter out the noise and find the windows of hashtag opportunity where our clients can promote their brand, position the brand ahead of competitors, or just simply engage with an existing audience. Whether it is a brand specific campaign using a designated hashtag, or a hashtag that is used during an event, we understand the power that hashtags have and we love it.

What are some of your favorite hashtag campaigns? Comment and let us know which brands you think use hashtags effectively or tweet us @ebben_zall.

Brand Journalism: What is it and why is it great for brands?

January 31, 2014

Over the last decade, marketers, advertisers, social media experts and website administrators have been required to be nimble, flexible and transformative communicators– especially since the media landscape has evolved into an entirely new and interconnected animal. The result?  The art of storytelling is alive and well, but the way we tell the stories is changing at every turn.

That’s why the skill-set of journalists and storytellers remains incredibly valuable, even as the media world has dramatically changed around them.  And with any evolution comes the birth of something new, interesting, and genetically superior (bear with me on this evolution metaphor).
Enter: brand journalism.  It has arrived, and is a valuable approach PR folks can use to their advantage.

Simply put, brand journalism is a strategy employed by companies to create interesting content that educates, motivates or sparks interest amongst a target audience by reporting relevant and useful information. Brand journalists can examine a brand, read between the lines, decipher a story, and create interesting content that connects the audience with the brand by giving readers new information.  It’s advantageous for brands to hire a journalist or media firm that specializes in storytelling because executing relevant information is hard-wired in their DNA strands (For proof of that, check out EZG’s white paper that uncovers how we build brands based on expertise).

When consumer brands execute a brand journalism strategy, the brand journalist is typically required to dig deep beneath the surface of the organization’s brand proposition and cultivate meaningful stories.  For example, a major cereal corporation has had success with their marketing and advertising efforts and the results have been plentiful, but now the organization wants to embark on a brand journalism campaign to add an extra layer of depth. To do this, the same cereal company publishes content to their website or to a 3rd party news outlet that explains to consumers: how to use the cereal in new recipes, why the product is superior to others (using proven examples and facts) and what the employees, founders, and researchers are actively doing to improve the product.  The difference between brand journalism and other forms of marketing is answering the, who, what, where, when and why on behalf of a brand.
So why might brands want to hire a storyteller to ignite a brand journalism effort? Here are a few answers to that question:

  1. Brand Journalists understand the story and why the brand is distinctive.
  2. Brand Journalists write in a way that adds depth to the brand.
  3. Brand Journalists think like an audience member, and are ready to communicate the importance of the message with sophistication and clarity.
  4. Brand Journalists stand at the intersection of where technology meets traditional news reporting.

Of course, as PR professionals we already have a genetic predisposition to support any effort that combines branding and news reporting, but ultimately we have seen proof of brand journalism’s popularity on a few news outlets. For example, news outlets like Forbes, Inc., and The WSJ have altered the way their information is displayed from reporter-centric to expert-centric.  This is a pretty significant indicator that brand journalism has a bright future ahead, as companies and thought leaders will benefit from a beautifully crafted message written by the storytellers who can make a difference.

After all, it’s survival of the noticed right?

Example of brand journalism: Forbes’ BrandVoice Channel:
Forbes_BrandVoice

Ebben Zall Group’s 2014 Marketing Predictions

January 15, 2014

crystal ball2013 was a year with changes that rocked the world of marketing (figuratively and literally, thank you Miley Cyrus and Buzzfeed). From Google’s hummingbird algorithm to Instagram offering advertisements to Twitter going public, media shifted and evolved at an accelerated rate.

At EZG we try to stay nimble and ahead of the curve when it comes to trends and industry milestones, and over the past month or so we’ve focused on setting goals for ourselves and our clients.

Out of that effort, the team raised a few marketing predictions for 2014.  We know 2013 took marketers on a wild ride, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the year ahead!

EZG’s 2014 Marketing Predictions:

  • The value of content will become increasingly clear – and the role of paid media increasingly blurry.  On the social media front, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others will continue to move towards showcasing certain content and sharing user information in an effort to monetize.  Meanwhile, industry news and opinion websites will try to differentiate and draw traffic by competing for viewpoints from thought leaders who have significant networks through which they can share.
  • Ad spend will increase significantly across the world in 2014 from this past year due to public events set up to receive global attention. With the Winter Olympics in Russia, the World Cup in Brazil, and the mid-term elections in the U.S., there are multiple platforms with extremely high viewership that are great opportunities for advertisers to brand their clients’ brands.
  • Short videos will continue to grow in popularity. Whether they are used to show a clients’ expertise, for pitching purposes, or for fun mash-ups that display a firm’s personal side, videos will be included in more campaigns in 2014.
  • Advertisements and social media posts that gain popularity will become more image focused. It’s important that ads are visually digested and that text is kept to a minimum.
  • Interactive advertisements will gain popularity in 2014, and they will need to be more creative than ever. Whether it’s a crawler across your screen or a game that must be played before it will disappear, ads will increasingly become interactive and engaging across multiple platforms.
  • Content strategy is king: With the amount of content floating around the internet and on social media platforms, marketers must (as always) be strategic with their publishing initiatives.  Content publishers, content context and content timeliness will be absolutely vital for the success of brands in 2014 — more so than ever before.

Is online marketing the new dot.com?

December 11, 2013

Here’s a question: is online marketing the new dot.com?  (Hint: the answer is “yes.”)

I don’t pretend to be an economist, but bear with me here.  When Facebook went public in 2012, there was no real revenue model, no real plan, and the economy was stagnant.  The company targeted a $38 opening stock price, which it couldn’t legitimately garner.  Bankers scrambled to make it happen and the world cried foul.

Guess what?  Facebook is currently trading at $50.24, and everyone on the planet still uses it to post pictures of their children in snowsuits.  For now.

In 2013, Twitter headed for the public markets with lessons in hand from the Facebook “debacle” (I struggle to call what is now a $120B company a true misfire).  Smooth sailing, sneaking under the radar at a measly current market cap of around $28B and now trading at the same price as FB.

Forbes.com would have us look at all the ways these IPOs were different.  But surprise!  They’re actually very much alike in the most important way: once again…no real revenue model, no real plan, no clear economic picture.  Just a giant, overly communicative audience at their fingertips.  In the end, the markets bought bandwidth, and little else.

Certainly there’s tremendous value there, as the world runs on connectivity.  There is no shortage of ways in which these platforms can evolve and serve as launchpads to great new ideas and products.  They factor into our daily marketing strategies and serve as a common touchpoint for audiences across every industry.  The question is whether the current iterations will  translate into long term viable business models, or go down in flames and give rise to a phoenix we haven’t yet imagined?

Here’s where I flashback to 2000, though, and this crazy thing called the Internet.  You’re launching a website, you say?  How will you make money?  What’s that, Pets.com, Flooz.com, and theGlobe.com?  Oh, I see: “if you build it online, they will come.”

[Sound of U.S. economy collapsing]

The way we communicate globally is nothing short of miraculous, and creates an incredible new pair of pants into which marketing will grow.  In our glorious tradition, though, we’re assuming value before the fabric is fully cut; my hope for 2014 is that we can find the seams  before we get, well, too big for our britches.

From Cave Drawings to Instagram- Using Photos to Tell a Story is Nothing New

November 1, 2013

Ever since early humans picked up rocks and etched an ox onto their cave walls, we have been attracted to good story telling through pictures. Fast-forward a few million years and the “cave wall” is now the social media feeds that we access every day. The wild popularity of photos on social media and in our ad campaigns demonstrates that while we’re no longer dressing like Fred Flintstone, we are still drawn to appealing visual stories.  This has led to great marketing tools for creatives who have successfully found a way to mesh the art of storytelling and photo sharing together.

When brands use photo sharing to connect to an audience they are usually looking to tap into an emotion. Whether it is joy, pain, triumph, or excitement, campaigns are enhanced by more than just words when photos connect with a feeling.

We’d like to share a few examples from popular brands that we think do a great job at combining simple photos with powerful campaigns:

 Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL) Instagram Campaign:

#psl

Everyone knows that Instagram is a great social media platform for sharing personal photos, and when brands use it, powerful connections with customers are made. This Autumn, Starbucks has used the power of Instagram to encourage real-life drinkers of the pumpkin spice latte to share their photos and connect by using #PSL. As a direct result, a viral marketing frenzy was born. Not only did Starbucks connect with their customers by asking them to share their personal photos featuring the lattes, but they also integrated a collage of the Instagram images into their national ads. Through this effort, customers felt as though their personal stories mattered to the brand and were likely to feel more connected to their delicious seasonal cup of Joe.

IKEA Creates Holiday Ads To Connect With Families:

IKEA

In this ad for IKEA, there is little copy but the message conveyed in the ad is clear: love your home. At first glance, the viewer will notice the word “love” spelled out by the IKEA furniture and models, but the marketing strategy is really appealing to the viewer’s emotional connection to home. The ad is framed this way so that the viewer feels as though he/she is getting a private look into a family’s living room through the birds-eye photograph.  Viewers are instantly gratified as parents with children can identify with two siblings playing by a holiday fireplace.  Instantly, IKEA becomes associated with warm emotions from the viewer and a connection to the brand is made.

RedBull Uses Instagram to Support Their Brand’s Authenticity:

redbull

Photo Credit: http://instagram.com/redbull#

RedBull is a brand that is notorious for appealing to adventure seekers who require a lot of energy. The strategy that they have adopted on their social media channels uses photos to showcase landscapes, sports and individuals who exemplify an active lifestyle.  RedBull has clearly adopted the “show not tell” philosophy for connecting with their consumers, and it worked (with nearly 1million followers on their account).  Consumers begin to connect the thrilling images with the brand which directly makes them excited to drink the product.

 

Using imagery to attract audiences is a vital part to any marketing, advertising, or social media campaign in today’s shareable media environment.  Photos are easily understood, widely accepted, and a great garnish to a written story.  When brands want a medium to share their voice without using text, photos sharing platforms are a great option for a viral campaign. Because a photo can really be worth a million words, we always strive to find images that powerfully communicate our clients’ overall brand propositions.

What photos do you find most powerful? Let us know @Ebben_Zall

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


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