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May

25

2017

How to Leverage User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy

Published by in category branding, Content Marketing, Daily | Comments are closed

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These days, the phrase “content is king” still holds true (to an extent). But the rules surrounding content production as well as our understanding of it as marketers has changed. No longer is it about having content in spades, it’s all about quality.

Having one great piece of content is always going to be better than 10 second-rate pieces that don’t add any value for readers. However, if you can consistently produce great content on a regular basis, that’s enough to dominate the online marketing realm.

Unfortunately, about 70% of marketers still lack an integrated or consistent content strategy, based on research from Altimeter. Creating great content is hard, and many marketers still don’t have sufficient knowledge or adequate resources to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. Some produce generic content, which is akin to replicating a cola brand. You’re not innovating and it’ll never be as good as Coke, in which case no one’s going to buy/drink it.

Let’s face it, most brands don’t have the resources or expertise to compete with larger, more established companies with bigger marketing budgets. So how can they create high quality content at scale?

Well, one great way is to crowdsource. No one knows your readers better than they know themselves, and you simply can’t compete with the collective knowledge of an entire audience.

In this article, we’ll focus on why brands should let their users help create value in content.

How to Leverage User-Generated Content

Owned Media vs. Earned Media

Source: The Keep-calm-o-matic

Different types of media can be utilized to improve your organization’s value creation initiatives. One type is “owned media.” This refers to the content that your organization has 100% control over, including your company’s official website, company blogs, and your official social media pages.

Owned media may also come in the form of case studies, whitepapers, and ebooks. These types of media are not only controlled in terms of production, they’re also controlled in terms of distribution, because much of it is “gated”. The primary goal of owned media is to provide value to provide value through content marketing to generate and nurture leads.

Though there are many advantages to having complete control over your content, it doesn’t always work well to build trust with your audience because it isn’t “peer reviewed”. In some cases, owned media can also end up being over-technical, product-centric, and self-serving, hence the lack of appreciation from users. There’s only so much a brand can achieve if all their conversations and interactions are one-way.

The media type at the opposite end of the scale is “earned media.” Simply put, this refers to the media exposure earned by your brand through word-of-mouth. This exposure could stem from your own SEO efforts, high-quality content you publish that goes viral, great customer experience delivered, or pretty much anything else your brand does that compels individual users to create content with your brand’s name on it.

As the title suggests, “earned media” is the type of media or exposure your brand has earned by doing something positive or negative. These also come in various forms, including reviews and feedback, recommendations, press coverage, and articles, amongst others. The reason earned media works so well to build relationships is because it places users into your media channel, turning attention away from your brand and onto your audience.

In terms of building awareness and trust, earned media can be a gold mine. It helps build your community through social proof, and provides you with user-created value that leads to more opportunities for engagement. Not only does it facilitate improved ways to learn about your prospects/customers, it opens up a dialogue for two-way conversations so users can interact with your brand.

Oh yeah, it’s also free.

Benefits of User Generated Content

Why wait for people to start talking about your brand when you can create a channel for them to make themselves heard and facilitate User-Generated Content (UGC)? Every piece of content a user produces on your website or site’s outpost becomes branded UGC. Brands can provide a means for their users to collaborate with them via their website, forums, and social media platforms to power up these channels with activity.

For the users, they create UGC to express themselves and gain recognition. It’s a win-win situation, as brands greatly benefit from the buzz. Here are just some of the advantages for brands:

  • UGC helps brands understand their target audience better.
  • UGC improves site engagement and time spent on the website.
  • UGC increases customer satisfaction through conversations.
  • UGC provides means for other users to connect, which then, builds a stronger community.
  • UGC improves the brand’s search engine ranking and online visibility.
  • UGC is inherently peer-reviewed, making it more trustworthy.

More importantly, UGC creates a competitive advantage for brands that is inherently difficult to replicate because communities can’t just be copied.

Think about the power of sites like Wikipedia, whose moderators are crowdsourced users that help make the site better because they care about being part of an active community. Imagine how difficult/expensive this would have been to accomplish with owned or paid media. Now you see the power of user-created value.

Another great example would be the Inbound.org community, which has over 170k professional marketers who are happy to share their knowledge with other members. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences so this creates an unrivaled source of marketing expertise that makes the community extremely attractive for anyone looking to learn about sales/marketing.

Potential Challenges of Building a Community

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You can’t build an empire in a day. In today’s highly connected world, there are plenty of challenges brands face when trying to build an online community.

While UGC is definitely a cost-effective approach, one bad apple can ruin the bunch. The first problem with UGC is that since it comes directly from users, it can’t be controlled by the brand. This opens up areas for concern with trolling, negative comments and various legal compliance issues, just to mention a few.

As the name suggests, it’s the user that generates the content. Thus, it is their content and they can essentially create whatever they want, whether it’s good for your brand or not.

Which leads us to another challenge, how to maintain and moderate UGC. This is where the community manager comes in. He or she must be able to keep users engaged and set the tone for what themes, subjects and topics users should contribute towards. An experienced community manager should also know how to create content, handle PR issues and provide support to users.

Another challenge is the amount of time need to build a community. It’s not a one-time, big-time deal. Like in-house efforts, UGC requires resources, continued effort and time for it to work.

Some brands launch online communities that offer many features, which can lead to high development costs. For instance, some have extensive communications, search and analytics functions. These features can require huge amounts of resources to develop, all of which could potentially go to waste if the feature doesn’t get used or is fundamentally flawed.

Apart from the above, other potential issues include developing an authentic brand voice, respecting boundaries, keeping your community engaged, and policing content. Though this might seem a little daunting, I can assure you that the benefits of having an active community far outweigh the development and maintenance costs.

How to Encourage Users to Create Value

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At this point you’re probably asking “how do I get users to create value in the first place?”

First, you need to give them a reason to become part of your community. You need to make them WANT to be part of the “squad.” You can tap into their innate desire to belong to a community and help others or you can focus on the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

When a brand engages with their audience online, it sets an example and encourages other users to participate and join the conversation. This is highly evident on social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter where users can communicate with brands directly.

It’s important to know who your audience is at this point, so you can develop themes to ignite their interest. Much like producing owned media, you should first listen to your audience to find out what they’re interested in and what they’re concerned about. Then use this information about your audience to develop themes, topics and subjects that focus on their needs, wants and desires. The more user-centric your system is, the better it’ll work.

To help you along the way, here are the basic principles to creating an online community:

  • Encourage participation through incentivizing.
  • Set a standard for members to follow.
  • Think in terms of the collective.
  • Be honest and transparent with members.
  • Promote your community to attract new members.
  • Be persistent and contribute regularly to develop a voice.
  • Allow members to be independent.

The Power of Communities

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In its simplest form, members of a community help each other grow. Communities offer people support, encouragement and expert knowledge along with providing a sense of belongingness.

For brands, communities can be just as powerful. The stronger your community, the more likely it is that it will help you sustain your business. When it comes to establishing your brand as an industry leader and thought innovator, there’s not much that’s more compelling than having your own strong community.

Not convinced? Here’s the proof:

  • 86% of Fortune 500 companies report communities provide insights into customer needs (Sector Intelligence)
  • 71% of companies use customer collaborations for market research (Aberdeen)
  • 64% of companies state the brand community has improved their decision-making (Innsbruck University)
  • 53% of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands (Convince & Convert)
  • 80% of brands say that their community building efforts have resulted in increased traffic (HubSpot)

Think about companies like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, and Alibaba. The nature of their business models depend entirely on their communities. The larger they are, the more value they provide to individual members. But, keep in mind that these are extreme cases whereby the products are essentially the communities themselves.

Though many businesses won’t have the need or ability to create a community-centered website, they can always have a presence on social media and via blog comments, which can be just as beneficial. Online communities can help further showcase your brand’s products or services and attract new members to come aboard. Bottom line, you need to bring your community into your marketing.

Think of it as a channel for free marketing and PR. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

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Apr

14

2017

19 Statistics About Multicultural Millennials Marketers Should Know [Infographic]

Published by in category branding, Daily, IGSS, Social Media | Comments are closed

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Millennials, or people between the ages of 18 and 34, make up the largest population group in the United States. There are more than 75 million millennials in total, and that number is projected to increased to more than 81 million by 2036. Additionally, this age group is the most active and engaged across social media platforms.

So it should come as no surprise that marketers are eager to learn more about how to capture millennials’ attention, time, and spending dollars.

Download our guide to branding for modern marketers here.

Buzz Marketing Group, an agency dedicated to marketing to this demographic, surveyed multicultural millennials to learn more about their content consumption, purchasing, and social media habits. Among other surprising statistics, 83% of respondents said they like when brands take a public stand on issues they feel strongly about, and 28% reported they went on “digital diets,” or breaks from technology, every month.

Read more about multicultural millennial media and purchasing habits in this infographic from Adweek.

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Apr

6

2017

Help! My Brand Went Viral: 12 Small Brands That Made It Big

Published by in category branding, Daily, Social Media | Comments are closed

When you think of viral marketing, your mind probably wanders to that Oreos “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet, which garnered an enviable 40,000 retweets and Facebook likes during 2013’s Super Bowl power outage. Or perhaps you think of the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches,” a video with more than 67 million views to date.

When these global brands go viral, it’s not a huge surprise.

They have agencies and well-staffed marketing teams standing by to handle the good, the bad, and the ugly that can result when brands go viral. But what happens to the little guys? What happens to small brands that hit on marketing gold, kind of by accident?

Below, we’re taking a look at how small brands have handled their 15 minutes of viral fame. Some struggled, some succeeded, but all of them earned a spot on this elusive roster. Here’s what they did, and what you can learn from their stories.

12 Small Brands That Went Viral

1) Dominique Ansel Bakery (The Cronut)

Image Credit: CNN Traveler

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel was not a doughnut devotee. The French-born, New York-based bakery owner had tasted a few, but he was far more familiar with the croissants he had grown up eating. When someone pointed out that he didn’t have a donut on the menu of his New York bakery, Ansel decided to head back to his roots and invent a new kind of pastry.

Enter: the Cronut.

Ansel’s new confection really gained steam after a food blogger from Grub Street tried a Cronut and documented the experience. Traffic to the bakery website rose by more than 300 percent, and hundreds would line up every day to get their hands on the trendiest pastry around.

Viral Best Practice: Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

Each batch of Cronuts took Ansel’s team three days to prepare. They could make about 350 Cronuts every day in their bakery, which meant the numbers were limited.

By managing the output of his pastries and avoiding the draw of producing more than his team and facility could manage, Ansel created controlled demand that he could meet without sacrificing the quality of his product.

Four years later, you’ll still find a line outside of Ansel’s bakery before their 8:00 A.M. opening. But the true secret to his success? Ansel claims that he’s had one Cronut every day since their invention. I’m really hoping that’s the key to my next promotion as well.

2) ALSA (The Ice Bucket Challenge)

Image Credit: Iconosquare Blog

In 2014, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association launched one of the most successful viral campaigns of all time. Justin Bieber, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates were a handful of the celebrities who took the challenge and dumped buckets of ice over their heads to raise funds and awareness for ALS research.

By the time the videos had stopped filling newsfeeds around the world, the campaign had raised more than $220 million for ALS organizations worldwide. Awareness of the disease rose and it reached the fifth most popular Google search for all of 2014.

In 2015, a year after the the ice bucket challenge went viral, money from the campaign was said to fund research that identified a new gene, NEK1, that contributes to the disease.

Viral Best Practice: They Looked Outside Their Target Audience

True, most of those who made a donation during the video craze have never made a second. But overall A.L.S. contributions have stayed about 25 percent higher than the year before the challenge, and the average donor age has dropped from above 50 to 35.

By shooting outside of their target demographic and trying alternative marketing tactics (video) that might normally take a backseat to more traditional fundraising efforts (galas, email marketing, etc … ) A.L.S.A. was able to bring in millions in one-time donations, raise brand awareness, and gain an overall contribution baseline of 25 percent. I’d say that’s enough incentive to shake things up in your next campaign.

3) Roman Originals (The Dress)

Image Credit: Wired

What happens when your company isn’t even the one behind a viral sensation?

“We woke up one morning and had the world and media coming down upon us,” says Peter Christodoulou, the co-founder of Roman Originals. It started with a wedding photo posted online. A young woman was pictured standing next to a bride, and no one could agree on what color her dress was.

What followed was an international debate dubbed #DressGate.

Christodoulou explained that his company had hoped to sell 200 of the lace-detailed dresses per week, but the UK-based retailer sold 3,000 in just 10 days. Celebrities, global brands, and just about everyone else was tweeting, sharing, and talking about “The Dress.” At its height, the controversy sparked 10,000 tweets per minute.

Viral Best Practice: Other Brands Can and Will Capitalize on Your Success

Brands around the world capitalized on the craze and amplified the popularity of “The Dress.” Dunkin’ Donuts, Legos, and Tide were just a few of the brands that came out with clever dress-themed ads of their own.

A few months later, Christodoulou said his company “won the social media lottery. We’ve had a brilliant year … Hopefully our spring/summer 2016 range will be well-received.”

While the line might not have sparked the global frenzy the original $74 dress had, Roman Originals showed the marketing world that virality can happen to anyone. And retailers everywhere showed that jumping on trending topics can do as much for you as it does for the company that originated the trend.

4) Metro Trains Melbourne (Dumb Ways to Die)

Screen Capture from DWTD on YouTube

Are you already humming that catchy little song in your head? You’re welcome for that all day.

Melbourne’s metro system didn’t have a safety campaign in market before “Dumb Ways to Die” (DWTD). They had information at stations, but nothing that was really influencing safe behavior or showing that the company cared, so they brought agency McCann Melbourne on to help.

Metro Trains’ Chloe Alsop explained, “We kept coming back to the same thing: it’s really hard to get hit by a train. A wrong or careless behaviour is required.” Without a serious tone or tugging at heartstrings, an impactful, memorable, and shareable campaign was built.

By April 2014, the campaign had been viewed 77 million times on YouTube. The accompanying game became the No. 1 free app in 101 countries, and in six weeks, DWTD had garnered an estimated $60 million in earned media. The most important stat that came out of the campaign? A 21% reduction in railway accidents and near misses following the campaign.

Viral Best Practice: Launch Outside Your Target Market to Build Buzz

McCann created the original campaign using North American voices and characters because “the video had to go viral first, later it would catch the attention of the real target audience.”

Today, the campaign has become a franchise used by metro transit around the world. The takeaway for us? As McCann spokesperson John Mescall says, “It used to be ‘Think global, act local.’ That’s no longer true; we need to think and act global.”

The next time you launch a campaign, try thinking about where you might launch outside of your target market to build buzz.

5) Invisible Children (Kony 2012)

Image Credit: NPR

Invisible Children was around for eight years before Kony 2012 turned them into a household name. They got their start by showing a short film called “The Rough Cut” at high schools and community centers around the United States.

The goal was to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, a war criminal responsible for a decades-long civil war in Uganda and surrounding countries, and most maligned for his kidnapping and use of children as sex slaves and soldiers.

The group flipped Kony 2012, a 30-minute YouTube video, to public on March 5, 2012. It was not their first or their last video but it was their loudest. In six days, it garnered more than 100 million views becoming (for the moment) the fastest growing viral video of all time. As the days passed, however, criticism of the video, the organization, and its founders grew.

The San Diego-based company wasn’t ready for the deluge of attention, traffic, or critique the video brought upon them. Invisible Children’s co-founder and star of Kony 2012 received the brunt of the criticism, culminating in a public mental health breakdown a few days after the video’s infamous launch.

Viral Best Practice: Have a PR Plan in Place

In 2015, three years after Kony 2012 ignited the internet’s attention, the company shuttered most of its US operations. Joseph Kony is still at large, and Invisible Children’s downsized African programs have honed their focus to early warning systems and defection messaging.

Kony 2012 is still a divisive subject, but it’s also a cautionary tale for organizations whose aims to go viral may not match their infrastructure or readiness. Site traffic, man-power, and the lack of a PR agency/strategy all contributed to the chaos in the days following Kony 2012’s launch.

6) Sphero (Makers of BB-8)

Image Credit: Shorty Awards

How did a small, Boulder, Colorado-based robotics company become the creator of spherical droid BB-8? Sphero was part of the inaugural class of Disney’s Accelerator tech-development program, which helps companies expand creatively using Disney’s impressive resources.

They happened to be in a meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger as he was scrolling through offerings for Force Friday, a September 2015 toy and merchandising event held in anticipation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Iger asked the crew if they could make the rolling droid, BB-8, and they spent the next 10 months working on the product in time for a Force Friday launch. They sold more than a million robots in 2015 alone, more than doubling their all-time selling record.

Viral Best Practice: Use Social Media in New Ways (and it doesn’t hurt to have Disney on your side)

Sphero hit the jackpot with their Snapchat marketing campaign for Force Friday. The droid’s creators waited in lines with throngs of Force Friday patrons, snapping the hype and excitement of fellow fans.

They leveraged the cast of The Force Awakens, along with Snapchat influencers at five flagship Disney stores around the world to build buzz about the movie and their robot.

It’s been labeled the first global product launch using Snapchat, and the results were impressive with 10.3 million views, 4.76 thousand screenshots, 69.1 million seconds watched, and 411 thousand social engagements.

Sphero also handled media requests and newfound attention with Brandfolder, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform that kept their product photos, company information, and tech specs easily accessible and accurate. For your next product launch, how could you leverage social media in unexpected or nontraditional ways?

7) Niantic Inc. (Pokemon Go)

Image Credit: Niantic

Are you still recovering? Is it still too fresh to talk about?

Niantic Inc. was as surprised as you likely were when Pokemon Go became a global obsession. The company had prepared their server load for game launch with a ‘worst case’ estimate of five times the normal volume.

What they got was an astounding 50 times the expected traffic — within 24 hours of the game’s launch. But frustrated players and downed servers eventually gave way to 2016’s hottest trend.

Viral Best Practice: Focus on Quality and Innovation

After launch, the creators of Pokemon Go ironed out those kinks and continued to innovate on their product. They still release special, limited-time offerings like their ghost-themed Halloween event which saw a 1.3 billion increase in Pokemon caught by players, and a user spike of 13.2 percent globally.

Niantic also resisted the urge to monetize things too soon on a large scale. Instead, they focused on “core game mechanics, learning things on the technical side, the ops and customer support side, the community and marketing side.”

A more natural way for them to monetize early on? Quigley says, “We’re encouraging people to get out and about in their neighborhoods, their cities, their communities — what more natural way to integrate someone into the game than to have these paid sponsor locations that are interleaved among their other locations?”

Pokemon Go is a success story of a company that wasn’t expecting success but, by focusing on creating a quality product and resisting the urge to monetize too soon, was able to create not only a global sensation but a lasting one.

8) Cards Against Humanity 

Image Credit: Cards Against Humanity

You know it, you love it, and you’re embarrassed by it when your mom asks what it is. Your answer is invariably, “It’s like Apples to Apples … but different.”

This self-proclaimed “party game for horrible people” did not come from some hip Silicon Valley incubator. Instead, it was the brainchild of eight friends who’d known each other since grade school in their hometown of Chicago. They had no major outside investment, unless you count their one small crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and it took them a while to even have a business address. “Our main priority is to be funny — and to have people like us,” says game co-creator Max Temkin.

Viral Best Practice: Know Your Brand Voice (and Stand By It)

Cards Against Humanity has always taken an unorthodox approach to marketing. You can download the full game for free on their website (something more than 1.5 million people have done). They once ran an anti-sale for Black Friday where they priced the game, normally $25, at $30 a box. With a tagline of “Today only! Cards Against Humanity products are $5 more. Consume!” the company inexplicably sold more cards. Their marketing strategy (or anti-strategy) would make most marketers cringe, but it works for them.

2016’s Black Friday campaign featured live video of the company “digging a holiday hole” and asking people to donate to its “cause.” They raised close to $30,000 with the stunt. Most recently, they launched their first-ever Super Bowl ad featuring nothing but a potato and a clever article about why the ad “failed.”

Cards Against Humanity is one of the clearest cases of knowing your brand voice and sticking with it. Their copy, creative, and campaigns are uniquely their own, and uniquely unapologetic about it, just like their game.  

9) Chubbies

Image Credit: Chubbies on Instagram

Love ’em, hate ’em, or loathe ’em, Chubbies is here to stay. The founders were four Stanford buddies who bonded over their mutual love of short shorts. Says co-founder Tom Montgomery, we noticed that “If you had a really cool pair of shorts, people would talk about it.” They decided to test their idea for Chubbies out at a Fourth of July beach party before going all in. They donned their “Chubbies,” headed to Lake Tahoe, and quickly found “the shorts struck the same emotional chord with other people that it struck with us.”

Their website launched in September 2011, just a few months before winter, giving them time to prepare for the busy spring months. Chubbies’ team spent that time building up inventory and marketing to their target audience: fraternities.

Witty emails, unapologetic copy, and bro-friendly photography set them apart, and their guerilla-style email tactics spread their name and their product through college towns everywhere.

Viral Best Practice: Build a Strong Narrative Before You Go Viral

In 2014 they raised a $4.4 million round of funding and a steady growth curve followed. They’ve expanded beyond their signature shorts but continue to build the brand around what made them successful in the first place — the weekend. “We’re constantly building this brand around the weekend and the feeling you get around Friday at 5 p.m. When a guy throws them on, the stress and rigors of the work week can be put on hold for a bit.”

That connection to their brand identity creates a strong narrative in their marketing efforts across channels. They speak to their audience unwaveringly, and their audience responds.

10) James Frey (A Million Little Pieces)

Image via: Amazon

Author James Frey had an explosive product launch in 2005. His book, A Million Little Pieces originally marketed as his memoir, was catapulted to overnight success after being named on Oprah’s television book club.

Two million copies were sold, making it the fastest-selling book in the club’s 10-year history. It topped the New York Times Best Seller list for 15 straight weeks and was published in 28 languages by 30 different publishers all over the world.

Unfortunately, months after Oprah lauded his bravery as well as his book, it was revealed that his memoir was more fiction than fact. Winfrey publically chastised Frey on her show, famously asking “Why would you lie?” Frey was dropped from his publishing house and he was hit with lawsuits from many readers.

Viral Best Practice: It’s Never Too Late to Refresh Your Brand

Frey continues to write books, with successes like I Am Number Four being made into movies. Even Oprah apologized for how she turned on him so suddenly. While he enjoys renewed success, Frey maintains a life decidedly out of the spotlight. The lesson here? Well, make sure your marketing isn’t full of lies, and be prepared to stand by your content if Oprah ever picks it up. But it’s also never too late to reinvent yourself and still have a successful career, even after a bad viral moment.

11) Dollar Shave Club

Image Credit: Dollar Shave Club on Instagram

At this point, Dollar Shave Club‘s (DSC) inaugural video is legendary. My first reaction to a shaving subscription service was, “huh?” But with a single video, DSC flawlessly spoke to shaver pain points, poked fun at themselves, and announced to the world that they were ready to shake up a previously forgettable industry

Co-founder Michael Dubin wrote the video, starred in it, and had a friend shoot it in a single day for less than $4,500. It crashed the company’s servers 90 minutes after it went live and catapulted the company to become the second-largest men’s razor seller in America.

Viral Best Practice: Don’t Be Afraid to Poke Fun at Yourself

That video has been viewed over 22 million times, and DSC has 1.1 million subscribers and growing. They earned a $615 million valuation in 2015, and in 2016 they were acquired by Unilever for $1 billion dollars cash. They continue with successful marketing, expertly branded packaging, and a unique presence in an industry that has finally been woken up. All thanks (in part) to a video that poked fun at the company while educating their consumer.

12) Chatbooks

Screen Capture from Chatbooks on YouTube

A four-minute viral video? It goes against every 15-, 30-, and 45-second best practice in the book, but boy did it pay off for Utah-based subscription photo service Chatbooks. The video educates its viewer on how to use a relatively new app that turns your photos into albums so you don’t have to.

Why was it so successful? They nail their buyer persona. The video features a busy, realistic mom. She speaks to the audience with all the advice, sarcasm, and “I get it, I’ve been there” relatability that you’d look for from a fellow cool mom. It closes with a catchy tagline: “done is better than perfect.”

Chatbooks sold 1 million subscriptions in its first 18 months. It’s racked up over 1 million views on YouTube and the company is pushing 200,000 “likes” on Facebook. They continue to put out honest, pain-point driven videos featuring the same now-recognizable mom.

Viral Best Practice: Get Detailed and Personal with Your Personas

It’s easy to phone in your user personas. Instead of just targeting “moms,” Chatbooks clearly thought through how that mom thinks, what she worries about during the day, how she’s spending her time, and how photos figure into her hectic schedule. The result? A video their target audience couldn’t help but share.

The Next Time Your Boss Asks for a Viral Campaign …

It’s nearly impossible to know what will go viral, and trying for that elusive result will usually come across as forced and futile.

Instead, research your target audience, decide if you can expand that audience, and create campaigns that are thoughtful, actionable, and relevant. But before you launch, make sure you’re prepared for the maelstrom that could follow. It’s always smart to have a PR plan in place should the worst (or the best) happen.

And finally, don’t expect for every piece of content you release thereafter to be equally as successful. Continue to create content that resonates with your audience and you’ll do just fine.

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Apr

1

2017

Update: HubSpot Guerrilla Marketing

At HubSpot, we’re big believers in the power of inbound. Time and again, the inbound approach proves its effectiveness in helping businesses grow while providing real value to customers.

We also believe in delighting our customers and giving them the tools they need to stand out in a crowd. Literally.

That’s why we’re thrilled to officially announce a program that’s been in development for some time, the HubSpot Guerrilla Marketing program.

Guerrilla marketing is a creative and cost-effective approach to reaching your audience. On-location activations help brands grow brand awareness through shareable moments and word of mouth — by making a bold, clever statement.

Our new program will offer end-to-end guerrilla marketing services, including:

  • Market Research and Brand Analysis
  • Creative Services
  • Site Production
  • Street Team Management
  • Measurement and Reporting

Be sure to tune in to HubSpot’s Facebook Live at 11:30 am EST, where we’ll be showcasing some of our beta customer guerrilla marketing campaigns, discussing the program rollout and meeting the members of our new team.

The HubSpot Guerrilla Marketing program will be led by HubSpot newcomer, Lisa Rajako, a creative agency veteran often recognized for her previous Cannes Lions award-winning work on  for a global CPG brand across Europe.  And her work with industrial-grade, exploding ketchup packets for the release of horror film, Saw XXVI? The stuff of marketing legend. 

UPDATE: Due to numerous foreseen and some unforeseen circumstances, the HubSpot Guerrilla Marketing program has ended. We’d like to thank our customers, fans and followers for the enthusiasm shown for the program, and we hope to re-introduce the program at a later date under new direction.

You can learn more about the reasoning behind this decision in this Medium post from Guerrilla Marketing Program director Lisa Rajako.

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Mar

10

2017

The Public Apology Letter: 6 Brands That Nailed It

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There are some people who just refuse to sincerely apologize. My favorite example of this phenomenon is taken from a U.S. television franchise called “The Real Housewives,” in which the cast members have become notorious for doling out feigned apologies. Instead of simply apologizing for hurting someone’s feelings, for example, it’s more common for them to say something like, “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.”

That, my friends, is not how you say, “Sorry.”

I get it — it’s difficult to admit when you’re wrong. There’s been so much conflicting data around the word “sorry.” While it’s something that most parents of young children believe should be taught, there have also been claims that apologizing makes a person look weak. In fact, some companies’ stock prices have fallen following an apology, depending on how it was delivered. There are even browser add-ons to prevent the use of apologetic language in emails. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

But to little old me, a sincere apology goes a long way. When I sense genuine remorse, it means a lot to me — perhaps because it’s so rare, at least in my experience. Combined with my nerdy affection for all things marketing, that sentiment applies to brand apologies, too. It’s not so much that I think, “Wow, that means a lot to me,” but more like, “Wow, that company really nailed saying, ‘Sorry.'”

So, who’s done it best? We rounded up some of our favorite brand apologies to inspire you next time you make a mistake — and need to admit your wrongdoing.

But First, Here’s What Not to Do

When I was in business school and searching for an internship, a friend in a creative industry told me to try out a website that was created, supposedly, for people with my skills and background. But when I used the platform to create a profile and upload my credentials, I was turned away with no explanation. A few days later, I received the following email:

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Let’s outline what this apology is lacking:

  • Specificity. The message notes that I was turned away — but it doesn’t explain why. When you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it in full, explaining exactly where you went wrong and why.
  • Remorse. While the email opens with some apology text, that accounts for a minute portion of the email. The majority of the copy is asking me to do something on behalf of the company that wronged me. Think about it — if you immediately ask someone to do you a favor after you apologize for a mistake, how genuinely remorseful will you sound? Not very.
  • Next steps. When you’ve made a mistake, people want to be sure of two things:
    1. That you’re truly sorry for your wrongdoing.
    2. That it’s not going to happen again.

The above email does neither of those things, as per the “remorse point.” It’s also lacking any accountable language to address what it’s going to do to prevent this issue from taking place again, using non-committal language like “I hope.” And if you’re not sure what to do to make it right — ask.

We chose the examples below due to their inclusion of all of these factors and, in some cases, even more.

6 Brands That Brilliantly Apologized

1) Apple

Back in 2015, U.S. pop artist Taylor Swift announced a very public boycott of Apple Music. That was due to the service offering a one-month free trial of its streaming feature — but not paying artists for any of their music that was played during the free period.

To right the situation, Apple enlisted the help of its SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, who went about a slightly unusual way of admitting to the brand’s wrongdoing — via Twitter.

#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period

— Eddy Cue (@cue)
June 22, 2015

We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple

— Eddy Cue (@cue)
June 22, 2015

Not long after this unconventional apology was issued, Swift starred in an Apple commercial, which led some to speculate that the entire incident was an orchestrated publicity campaign. That said, it does illustrate some positive points of how big-name brands can apologize. With two tweets, Apple sent the message, “We hear your grievances, we get it, and here’s what we’re going to do about it.”

2) ZocDoc

It seems like you can use the internet to procure anything these days. From buying specialty products to scheduling meetings, so much can be accomplished and taken care of online.

ZocDoc is one such provider of these services, and provides a platform that connects users with doctors for almost every speciaity in their respective areas. There’s just one problem — sometimes, the doctors don’t accurately update their schedules within ZocDoc, causing users to make appointments for times that aren’t actually available, leading to their subsequent cancellation.

But ZocDoc isn’t one to say, “Not our fault, not our problem.” Instead, it’s constantly striving to gain and use customer feedback to enhance the user experience, like it does with this email:

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Here’s the thing — ZocDoc wasn’t really the one responsible for the cancellation. The doctor’s office was, but despite that, it still negatively impacts the user experience, which ZocDoc acknowledged and offered to make right, by not only asking what went wrong, but offering a gift in exchange for the feedback.

3) Netflix

When Netflix was looking to transition from DVD delivery to a streaming service (yes, we almost forgot about that, too), it had a few missteps along the way.

At first, the company built a system in which its streaming and DVD delivery services would become different entities with separate billing agreements. Before, members had the option of subscribing to both for $10 per month. But the split meant a 60% price increase for current members who wanted both — the new system’s fees were $8 each month solely for the DVD service, plus another $8 per month for streaming. What’s worse, the company didn’t really provide a clear explanation.

But CEO Reed Hastings wanted to shed light on the situation, and did so in an open letter on the company’s blog. He explained why the changes came to be, and noted that Netflix was “done” with pricing changes. But there was a problem — the company wasn’t doing anything to reverse the issue affecting most customers, which was the separation of subscriptions. People enjoyed having the option of signing up for multiple services with one bill. But Hastings didn’t fix that. Instead, he noted that the DVD service would not only remain separate, but would be renamed Qwikster.

NetflixFirstApologySource: Netflix

Qwikster was short-lived, to say the least. Three weeks later, Hastings issued yet another apology. This time, he kept it short and sweet, and essentially sent the message, “Okay, you’re right. Having two billing systems was a bad idea, and we’re doing away with that.” Netflix did suffer some initial damage, with a loss of 800,000 members and a falling stock price. However, the brand has since recovered and currently enjoys healthy financials.

4) Naked Wines

I’ve discovered a pattern to my email-unsubscribing behavior. It typically happens when I’m generally stressed out or overwhelmed, and might snap if I get just one more notification on my phone. The easy answer, of course, would be to turn off my notifications. Instead, I angrily unsubscribe from the well-meaning brand’s newsletters, for which I happily signed up, but didn’t really engage with.

In my case, at least, it’s not the brand’s fault. So if that company sent me a witty, thoughtful email in response to my cancelled subscription, asking what went wrong and what could be done to fix it, I might happily oblige — after I calmed down, of course. And that’s exactly what Naked Wines did with the apologetic email below:

naked_wines.pngSource: Econsultancy

The company openly leads with “sorry,” and acknowledges that the canceled subscription was likely due to something it did. So it asked, “What was it? Let us know, so we can fix it.”

5) Toronto Maple Leafs

If there’s one thing that truly dedicated sports fan would be happy to never hear again, it’s the phrase, “It’s just a game.” And no one, it seems, understood that more than Lawrence M. Tanenbaum — chairman of Maple Leaf Sports — after a devastating loss by the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012.

leafsopenletter_040912.jpgSource: National Hockey League

As a somewhat diehard sports fan myself — go Red Sox — I can understand the desire for accountability from a team’s front office management after a bad season. And with this long, apologetic letter, that’s exactly what Tanenbaum accomplished, with the recognition of not only his team’s poor performance, but also, a public commitment on behalf of ownership to improve things.

6) Airbnb

In December 2015, home-sharing platform Airbnb began to come under fire for racial profiling and discrimination taking place on its site. That month, Harvard researchers released a working paper, which indicated that travelers with “distinctively African-American names are 16% less likely to be accepted relative to identical guests with distinctively White names.” That data was only compounded by reports on social media from travelers who experienced that discrimination first-hand, as well as a lawsuit over such actions.

In monitoring the social media dialogue, it seems like the issue isn’t quite completely resolved. However, Airbnb isn’t trying to dodge it, and is actually quite proactively addressing this (big) problem. It began with this email from CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky:

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Chesky addresses the fault of Airbnb early in the message, acknowledging that the brand was far too slow to respond to the issue of discrimination, and apologized for it. Since then, the company has taken several actions to prevent and put an end to it on the platform, which it outlined in a 32-page report authored by Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. The report documented an audit conducted to evaluate where Airbnb was falling short on preventing discrimination, and the resulting measures that would be put in place. Since the report was released, the brand has very publicly campaigned on a platform of inclusion, capped with an ad that aired during the 2017 Super Bowl.

Of course, this series of events presents a much larger issue that isn’t limited to Airbnb and does raise the question, “How much can a corporation really do?” And while that is far from an easy question to answer, Airbnb seems to be continuing to do its part, and acknowledging its role within this landscape.

So, Next Time You Mess Up…

…you know what to do.

Granted, admitting when you’re wrong is still anything but a simple task. And figuring out how you’re going to make it right isn’t a process that can take place overnight. But one thing you can do immediately is to admit your mistake. Ask for feedback. Be transparent. And remember — “I’m sorry” can go a long way.

How does your brand address mistakes? Let us know in the comments.

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Nov

7

2016

19 Brands with a Cult Following (And What You Can Learn From Them)

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Ever wonder how Dollar Shave Club turned razor subscriptions into a billion dollar exit? Or how LaCroix’s fans strong-armed their beloved bubbly’s way to the top of the sparkling water food chain? The answer is simple. They inspire impressive devotion from their large fan bases.

That’s especially true among Millennials — 62% of them tend to stick with one brand, compared to 54% of the population at-large. How does a brand garner that kind of advocacy? I found myself asking the same question, so I compiled a list of 19 brands with faithful followings, along with the marketing tactics that might contribute to their cult status. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

Note: It’s easy to look at the behemoth brands below and feel a little overwhelmed. From one marketer to another, stop, breathe deeply, and give yourself a break. The strategies these brands employ don’t require billions of dollars or global teams. They’re simple enough that even a lone marketer can incorporate them into their next campaign — that’s why we love them.

19 Brands with a Cult Following (and What You Can Learn From Them)

1) Southwest Airlines

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Source: Brand New

When I say Southwest, you probably think of cheap fares, funny flight attendants, and drink coupons. If you also think of great branding, there’s a reason for that. In September 2014, Southwest unveiled a branding refresh that earned positive media attention and made marketers swoon.

Southwest rolled out a PR campaign for its rebrand, explaining the reasoning and research behind the airline’s new look. It included videos that maintained the company’s playful brand voice while touting the new message, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” Southwest proved that sharing its new identity was as much a part of the rebrand as the redesigned packages of peanuts.

Branding Best Practice: Own Your Rebrand

Your rebrand may not be at the scale of a major airline, but it’s still a big undertaking, so don’t hide the results. And remember, it works in a number of sectors — at least half of nonprofits, for example, say that a rebrand has increased their revenue.

Use your rebrand as a way to create buzz within your industry. Make it clear why you felt a rebrand was necessary, how you considered your audience, and what the positive results will be. Think of it as another way to reinforce your new image and foster adoption of your refreshed identity.

2) LaCroix

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Source: LaCroix

Do you know someone who’s obsessed with LaCroix? Hypothetically, you might be addicted to the fizzy water yourself (raises hand slowly). Sales for the bubbly drink have more than doubled over the past two years, but chances are, you won’t see a ton of LaCroix TV ads.

Instead, LaCroix has executed some impressive social media campaigns, specifically with Instagram. In 2015, the brand grew its Instagram followers from 4,000 to 30,000 in just eight months. Today, it has almost 60,000 followers.

But how? First, LaCroix engages with anyone who tags the brand, no matter their number of followers. If you’re lucky, you might even receive a free case of Pamplemousse for posting a photo. Second, LaCroix is quick to adopt relevant trending hashtags like #Whole30approved (to promote its partnership with Whole30 nutrition) and branded ones like #LiveLaCroix. Third, Instagram micro-influencers are smartly targeted with free products and other perks in exchange for featuring LaCroix in lifestyle images shared with their large following.

Branding Best Practice: Discover Where Your Audience Hangs Out

Find out who your target audience is and where they’re hanging out. LaCroix knew that 55% of online 18-29-year-olds are active on Instagram and doubled down on efforts there. By promoting user-generated photos and rewarding influencers, LaCroix went from sitting on dusty grocery store shelves to becoming a drink of choice for Millennials.

3) In-N-Out

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Source: In-N-Out

Let’s not even get started on the In-N-Out vs. Five Guys and Shake Shack debate. That’s a blog for a different day (and, probably, a different website). But if you’ve been to California, you might have made at least one stop for a Double-Double Animal Style — one of In-N-Out’s more notable menu items. And, the chain maintains its fervent following by knowing that meals like that are part of its brand, even being a bit protective of it.

The brand is comprised of burgers, fries, and shakes, as it has been for 68 years, insulating it from fad-food missteps. And while it’s tough to find an In-N-Out beyond the west coast, the brand extends much further. In September 2016, a pop-up shop came to London, selling out of burgers in an hour. “These events also help to protect the In-N-Out Burger brand,” the company said in a statement, “in important regions like England and Southeast Asia.”

Branding Best Practice: Protect Your Brands

It’s been said that your brand is more important than the product or service you sell. Building a brand strategy, getting buy-in from your team, and sticking to the plan are important parts of ensuring that your marketing efforts reinforce your brand standards.

4) Trader Joe’s

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Source: Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s products draw levels of adoration that would make something like pumpkin spice jealous. (I mean, hello, cookie butter.)

So what’s the secret sauce in the brand’s marketing efforts? Well, the funny thing is, it doesn’t really have any. Trader Joe’s doesn’t have an official Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, nor will you see television ads. What it does offer are great products that the brand is openly passionate about.

But they have discovered one thing that works. The Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer newsletter is one of the brand’s dedicated marketing channels — and people seem to love it. With a selection of featured items and an astonishing amount of copy, the Flyer waxes eloquent on Trader Joe’s hotdogs, apple cider, and more.

Branding Best Practice: Be Strategic About the Channels You Engage In

What the success of Trader Joe’s doesn’t mean: you should shut down all marketing channels and “let your product speak for itself.” Unless you start selling products like cookie butter by the gallon, that strategy probably isn’t right for you. But it does mean that stepping back and taking an unbiased look at which unconventional channels could work for you. What’s your brand’s “Fearless Flyer”? Figure out what makes your brand different, and capitalize on it with something unexpected.

5) Saturday Night Live

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Source: Giphy

Saturday Night Live (SNL) first aired in 1975. And while a 41-year run is prone to its share of tough seasons and dry spells, this sketch variety has remained strong and relevant.

While a talented cast might be the backbone of the show, it’s the weekly guest hosts and musical talent that keep each episode topical and trending. That impressive lineup allows SNL to leverage current events (e.g., when Ronda Rousey hosted after her impressive six-win UFC streak). It also allows the show to test out different hosts and bring back fan favorites, like Justin Timberlake.

Branding Best Practice: Incorporate Guest Contributions Into Your Content Strategy

While having a strong, core content team is important, guest contributions are a great way to keep your brand relevant and credible. But remember — these guests have to be aligned with your brand. Think of it as a co-marketing agreement. These partnerships have to be strategic and both parties have to benefit from it. Check out our tips on how co-marketing works in branding here.

6) IKEA

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Source: Home Designing

IKEA has a simple vision: “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” And while some patrons might give credit to the in-store meatballs — the brand is rumored to sell three million each day — IKEA turns to research to learn what its consumers really want.

But there’s no reliance on customer surveys and downloaded data. Instead, design experts are actually sent into people’s homes to learn what’s important to them and what their pain points are. That information is funneled into content that’s relevant to customers, ranging from the brand’s over 50-year-old catalogue, to the award-winning web series “Easy to Assemble,” which ran for four seasons.

Branding Best Practice: Do More Than Audience Surveys

Understanding your audience goes deeper than sending out a survey. That’s said to be especially true of Millennials, who are more interested in conversing with a brand (see LaCroix’s Instagram example above) than spending time on a questionnaire. Finding out what motivates and challenges your consumers is arguably the most important part of a marketer’s job, which also means you have to allocate your marketing time and resources accordingly. Focus on the conversation — engagement through social media and other conversation-centric platforms can help bring your user personas to life.

7) Dollar Shave Club

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Source: Brandfolder

Razors are not exactly an exciting topic. In fact, they’re probably a topic that most of us avoid discussing — because, gross. But when Dollar Shave Club (DSC) burst onto the startup scene in 2012 with a launch video that people are still talking about, it made shaving worth talking about.

The deep care for the brand is often evident, like in one interview with Brandfolder: “From our packaging to our digital presence, the DSC brand identity informs everything we do.” That devotion to the brand shines through every piece of marketing content produced. From witty emails, to carefully branded packaging that makes you stop and read your razor wrappers, DSC’s brand is carefully and craftily infused into everything they do.

Branding Best Practice: Organize Your Brand Assets

How do you incorporate your brand identity into each piece of marketing you own? With brand consistency. While your brand might have several moving parts, they have to be cohesive — in fact, 90% of consumers expect this kind of consistency across all channels, especially when shopping for a product or service. Not sure where your brand inconsistencies might be hiding? Check out this list.

And once you have achieved that consistency, consider using digital asset management: the technology that makes any of your digital branding collateral — logos, images, and standards, to name a few — easily accessible to your team (and ready to implement).

8) Apple

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Source: Apple

Year after year, new Apple product announcements get people talking — whether it’s industry chatter or consumer debate. So how does the tech giant manage to generate buzz about yet another new iPhone, even now?

For one thing, the launch messages tend to be simple and consumer-focused. For example, the iPhone 7 landing page reads that this version “dramatically improves the most important aspects of the iPhone experience.” See that? Experience. Before I even read the list of features that follows, I’m already thinking about which aspects of my iPhone are most important to me, and how much better they’ll be on this new device.

Branding Best Practice: Keep it Simple

Choose the benefits that matter to your customer and build a marketing strategy around them. And don’t forget to keep that marketing message simple and unapologetic — focusing on too much at once can lead to brand confusion, which might be why 69% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand based on its simplicity.

Focusing on benefits in a no-frills way can also imply confidence. For example, Apple was noticeably unapologetic about removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Instead, the official announcement proclaimed, “Oh yeah … and the headphone jack from over 100 years ago has been removed (shocker) for the more versatile Lightning port.”

9) Starbucks

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Source: TechGenie

Mobile has seen some interesting developments as of late. 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile (versus 42% on desktop), and voice search is on the rise. It makes sense for marketers to be focused on mobile, and Starbucks is no exception.

When Starbucks introduced the “Order & Pay” feature of its app in 2014, it saw adoption rates between 4-10% in stores. The brand capitalized and built on that, creating an in-app experience that remembers and recalls your favorite orders, suggests pairings, and guesses where you’d like to pick up your order.

Branding Best Practice: Invest in Mobile Marketing

If you’re not investing time and resources into your mobile marketing strategy, you might want to get started, especially when it comes to building an app for your brand — 56% of digital time is spent using them.

But if an app is out of reach or not relevant for to your brand (after all, just look at the Trader Joe’s example), how else can you elevate your mobile strategy? Start by making sure your site is mobile-friendly, and look into push notifications or other unique offerings that your organization can use to its advantage.

10) Zappos

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Source: ReferralCandy

Zappos has built its brand around customer service — a brand that CEO Tony Hsieh has defended and protected over the years, even famously saying, “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” At any other company, it might be considered inefficient for a customer service rep to engage in an almost 11-hour phone call with a customer, but at Zappos, that kind of dedication is encouraged.

But it doesn’t stop there. From sending flowers to a bereaving customer, to overnighting free shoes to a best man whose footwear hadn’t made the flight to the wedding, Zappos leads with a customer service story and keeps their fans coming back from more.

Branding Best Practice: Delight Your Customers

In a marketplace where consumers have hundreds and even thousands of choices at their mobile-savvy fingertips, you need to set yourself apart. And sometimes, all your consumer needs to make a decision between you and three other competitors is exceptional service — especially since U.S. businesses collectively lose about $41 billion dollars each year because of bad customer service. (I suppose sending flowers can’t hurt, either.)

11) TED

As marketers, we have our favorite TED talks. Maybe yours is Simon Sinek explaining the golden circle, or my personal favorite, Susan Cain speaking on the power of introverts. Regardless, TED talks have become a go-to resource for quick, insightful information across almost any topic.

In a time when consumer attention spans are shorter than those of goldfish, TED does what might seem impossible to some marketers. The brand holds five million YouTube subscribers captive for talks that average 20 minutes in length. There’s no flashy light show or catchy theme song — just solid storytelling that’s largely spread by word of mouth.

Branding Best Practice: Focus on Quality Content

Put time, effort, and money into creating quality content. While you might be able to grab someone’s attention for eight seconds with a catchy headline, valuable content is what will transform that one-time view into a regular reader, and hopefully, a customer. Plus, quality content is imperative to SEO — without it, your rankings can take a serious hit.

12) Lululemon

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Source: Lululemon

Lululemon is one of the hottest fitness brands in the market today. Ask someone why she spent just short of $100 for a pair of yoga pants, and you might get a lecture on the superior quality of Lululemon’s products. That’s the kind of brand loyalty sought after by every marketer on the planet, and it starts with Lululemon ambassadors.

While consumer word-of-mouth is one form of brand loyalty, Lululemon fosters a more formal type of ambassador in yoga teachers and fitness trainers who have been selected to represent the brand’s values and lifestyle. They lead classes at storefronts on weekends, share photos of themselves wearing the brand, and provide aspirational advertising.

Branding Best Practice: Experiment with Influencer Marketing

Brand ambassadors are a form of influencer marketing — which, according to Twitter, is responsible for 49% of user purchases. Look at who the movers and shakers are in your industry, and learn how you can partner with them through guest contributions, using, or writing about your product.

13) SoulCycle

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Source: SoulCycle

Telling a colleague that you’re headed to the gym can elicit a number of responses. You might hear, “good for you,” or receive a grimace face that says, “I feel your pain.”

But SoulCycle, similarly to Lululemon, has found a way to rebrand your workout. One visit to its website or Instagram profile is all it takes to find mantras about pushing your body to its limits with your #SoulMates and #SoulSquad. By sending the message that exercise is a community-bound opportunity, SoulCycle makes it seem like less of a chore, and more like an exclusive club.

Branding Best Practice: Market to Your Consumer’s Emotional Side

How can you make your product or service sexier? Consider how you can tap into your client’s emotions, and touch on the things that are important to them. In fact, a study that measured consumers’ brain activity in response to ads found that higher activity indicated a 23% increase in sales volume. And considering that 60% of consumers who feel a “high brand connection” are more likely to make a purchase — even at a higher price point — it quite literally pays to understand their potential feelings toward your brand.

14) Life is Good

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Source: Life is Good

Life is Good was founded in 1994. Within 11 years, the brand was boasting $50 million in sales — having never run a single ad — and $100 million by 2015.

What was the strategy behind that rapid growth and success? Say sibling co-founders John and Bert Jacobs, it was simple — “rely on the good vibes and social power of their community to spread the word,” according to Inc.

Instead of traditional marketing, Life is Good pours its advertising dollars into different events for its charity, Life is Good Playmakers. In addition to impressive sales, these efforts have resulted in an avid fan following and even partnerships with celebrity musicians.

Branding Best Practice: Think Outside the Advertising Box

Consider new, less traditional forms of advertising — especially since 84% of Millennials, for example, don’t even like advertising. By sponsoring local events or supporting a charity that aligns with your company’s mission, you could generate more than just good PR. You could also gain fans who respect and appreciate your work. Plus, 80% of consumers believe that corporations can (and should) work to benefit their communities — a win-win for both brands and the people they serve.

15) Moleskine

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Source: The Next Web

Moleskine is not just a notebook. It’s “a free platform for creativity,” Maria Sebregondi, Moleskin’s head of brand equity once said. What’s more, it’s found a way to make paper cool and relevant in the digital age.

The notebook brand expertly balances its heritage past — touting Hemingway and Picasso among its early brand advocates — with the digital present, launching a smart notebook and companion app. This balance of yesterday and today helps maintain the brand’s relevance — and appear to consumers who love the latest tech, but still have nostalgia for paper.

Branding Best Practice: Allow Your Brand to Evolve

Every brand should evolve. Our shortened attention spans aren’t limited to the content we consume — they apply to the products we adopt, as well. It is possible to maintain your brand’s legacy while also letting your marketing evolve, but it requires being flexible and open to your product changing.

16) Chaco

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Source: Chaco

Chaco is a lifestyle and outdoor footwear brand with an active following. Just look at its Instagram profile — it’s packed with user-generated photos of fans hiking, adventuring, and camping in these colorful sandals. And that’s key — such bold visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

The branding also travels well, hitting up music festivals and gear shops around the country in what Chaco refers to as “Z the World Tour.” The tour allows the brand to interact with consumers in-person, advocate for the product, and raise awareness directly.

Branding Best Practice: Don’t be Afraid to Put a Face with Your Brand

Consider taking your marketing on the road. Sales teams often suggest closing deals through in-person meetings and, sometimes, marketing can follow the same strategy. Want to recruit brand advocates? Let them experience your brand in a tangible way.

17) CrossFit

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Source: CrossFit

CrossFit, a workout regimen created by CEO Greg Glassman, is today a billion-dollar business with what some describe as a cult-like following. So what’s in the CrossFit Kool-Aid everyone’s drinking? Great marketing, of course.

Similar to SoulCycle, CrossFit taps into the desire for community. CrossFit’s website wastes no time nodding to that idea with photos of and journal entries from its “elite” pool of members. The brand could have called them “testimonials,” but CrossFit’s careful use of language ensures that its messaging reads more like a movement, and less like a product. Another example of this strategic word choice: describing itself as a phenomenon that’s “harnessing [a] natural camaraderie.

Branding Best Practice: Inspire Ownership in Your Brand

How can you give your audience more ownership in your brand? Simple language tweaks like calling your audience a “community” instead of “members” can go a long way in building brand advocates. That goes back to the idea of shared values that we mentioned earlier — 64% of consumers cite that as the main reason for even having a relationship with a brand.

18) GoPro

GoPro makes handheld video cameras that are high quality and easy to use. The return has been huge — in 2011, less than a decade after being founded, the brand saw a 112% increase in net income after spending only $50,515 on marketing. In 2013, marketing costs went up by $41,000 and income by $28 million.

Maybe that has something to do with the company’s expertise in putting user-generated content to work for their brand. By simply encouraging its audience to use the #GoPro hashtag when posting images captured by its camera, GoPro succeeded in building strong brand loyalty and a powerful content machine. At least, that’s how I see a company with 6,000 user-branded videos uploaded to YouTube every day.

Branding Best Practice: User-Generated Content is King

How is your audience using your product or service? That information might already be out there and on social media — it just doesn’t have a branded hashtag yet. Once you get that information, ask users to tag your brand or submit content for you to post on your own networks. Some companies, like West Elm, are hopping on this trend by almost exclusively featuring user-generated content on their social media feeds — a smart strategy that can conserve your marketing budget.

19) Philz Coffee

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Source: MINT

Philz is a California coffee chain with a rabid following and well-cared for social media channels. In 2014, when content marketer and Philz devotee Caitlin Roberson tweeted her displeasure at the brand’s then-generic Twitter responses, Philz tweeted back their apologies. Today, you’ll find genuine and customized responses to followers on each of the coffee house’s social media channels — especially on Twitter.

For a business that built its brand on delicious coffee and a small shop vibe, that’s an important part of the marketing strategy. Could the social media team get by just fine by continuing to post generic responses to their followers? Probably. But going the extra few steps leaves their fans with anything but a bitter taste — in fact, a personalized customer service experience on Twitter, for example, leaves people 83% more satisfied.

Branding Best Practice: Talk to Your Customers Like They’re Real People

Make sure you’re interacting with your consumers in a genuine and rewarding way. Yes, it takes time to thoughtfully respond to customers through on social media and customer support channels, which are sometimes one in the same. But the benefit to both your brand and your consumers, however, will be well worth the extra brainpower — since Roberson’s noted interaction with Philz, the brand’s Twitter following has nearly doubled.

If You Build It…

Take time to really understand what motivates and moves your audience, and create a content and brand marketing plan accordingly. Stay confident and genuine in your message. Then, share it with your audience in a relatable way. You might just find yourself with advocates who believe in your brand as much as you do.

How are you building your brand’s following? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to branding your company

Oct

20

2016

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget: A 6-Step Guide

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In marketing, it seems like the word “brand” is used a lot — the leading brand, off-brand, personal brand … you get the picture. 

But there’s often confusion around its meaning in business. What does it entail? Do I need to hire an expert? Branding is expensive, right?

To that very last point, it doesn’t have to be. As it turns out, there are some pretty creative ways to brand your business without a ton of cash. And while it can require an investment of time, the ROI won’t go unnoticed — in some cases, it can actually help you save money. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

So read on, and see how you can start building a brand today.

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget: A 6-Step Guide

1) Know your personas.

It’s no coincidence that 82% of companies with better value propositions also use buyer personas — the semi-fictional “characters” that encompass the qualities of who you’re trying to reach.

The needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers dictate how you convey your product or service. Understanding those things helps you determine what kind of media your personas are consuming, what motivates them, and where they “live” online. You can see why having that information helps develop a compelling, effective brand — it helps you reach the right people.

Figuring that out doesn’t have to come at a price. A great way to get started is with our free MakeMyPersona tool, which guides you through a series of questions about the ideal person you want to reach. Take your time with it. The questions are meant to get you thinking about how you want to be perceived and by whom — and that shouldn’t be a quick process.

2) Develop an identity and a voice.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, your brand can start to take shape. That involves creating a brand identity — the things that make people aware of what your brand is — and its voice, which is the tone you use in any copy or public communication.

As a writer, I’m particularly interested in the voice aspect — but what does that like for you? Figuring that out follows a process not unlike the one that’s used to determine your personas. But instead of answering questions about your target audience, you’re answering questions that are a bit more introspective to your brand. What are its values? What does it represent? How do you want people to talk about you? (Check out our guide to answering these questions and more on brand voice here.)

Even if you’re not starting from scratch, establishing a strong(er) brand voice can be valuable. Just take the instance of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation — during its recent rebrand, finding its voice was a top priority. The results? Its overall online presence increased by 343%, with website traffic alone seeing a 63% boost.

3) Have a consistent social media presence.

So, we know who your personas are. And now, we know what to say to them — and how to say it. But where are they?

Since you might have a clear picture of the different pieces of your audience, it’s important to figure out where they’re spending the most time, especially on social media. We’ve talked before how effective it is to reach people where they’re already present — that includes their online behavior, too.

We recommend checking out Pew Research Center’s Demographics of Social Media Users, which profiles the users of five major social media platforms — Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Pay attention close attention to the data. Maybe the majority of your personas spend most of their time on one network. While that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others, it does give you an idea of where to dedicate the most resources.

And once you do establish that presence, maintain it. How many times have you gone to a brand’s Facebook Page only to find that nothing has been posted in the past three months? Chances are, it didn’t have a positive impact on your perception.

That can be avoided by diligently planning and scheduling social media posts like you would with any other marketing calendar. Something like our free Social Media Content Calendar can help, and get you thinking about things like the seasonality of what you post. That’s a huge part of staying relevant to your audience — by sharing content that pertains to what they’re likely thinking about at a given time of year.

4) Blog. 

We’ve covered the importance of blogging before, and we really can’t emphasize it enough. It’s a core part of our Inbound Methodology, especially the “attract” stage — the one that turns strangers into visitors to your website.

In fact, blogging might be the most fundamental step of inbound marketing. It helps you reach qualified customers, like your personas, by creating the informative content that matches the information they’re searching for. That’s why it’s so important to make it relevant to this audience — when you’re writing, make sure the content is optimized for those searches. (Here’s a handy list of places where you can learn search engine optimization).

Believe us — your personas are definitely looking for the information that you’re able to provide — if you write about it. After friends and family, blogs are the third most trusted source of information. Plus, that content will also serve as material to populate your social media networks, and we’ve already covered what a crucial part that plays in branding on a budget.

While blogging is fiscally inexpensive, one of the biggest struggles we hear about is the cost of spending time on it. For that, we reference the joke about a doctor asking his patient, “Would you rather work out one hour per day, or be dead 24 hours per day?” The inbound marketing version of that question would ask, “Would you rather blog for one hour each day, or always have insufficient content to draw in visitors?”

Like planning your social media presence, having an editorial calendar for your blog can be helpful in maintaining consistent timing and fresh content. That’s why we put together a free blog editorial calendar template, complete with instructions and content management tips.

5) Make customer service a priority.

When we hear the name “Zappos,” most of us immediately think, “unparalleled customer service.” The online apparel retailer built this level of service into its core approach to doing business — and into its core values.

Why is that so important? For Zappos, making excellent customer service the cornerstone of its brand actually saved money on marketing and advertising. That’s because it created word-of-mouth among existing and potential customers, which is what we call earned media — the recognition that your brand has earned, not paid for, from people talking about something remarkable you did. (Psst — U.S. businesses, as a whole, lose about $41 billion dollars each year because of bad customer service.)

Whether you’re serving customers or clients, the goal is to create a delightful, sharable experience. And when the client or customer experience is a priority, it shouldn’t cost you much for them to talk about it — remember, your work earned it.

But that revisits the importance of your identity and voice. As you go through these brand-building steps, think about the values that you want to be resonated in those things. Is excellent service one of them? Those values are what shape the brand’s culture, and that influences the voice you project to an audience.

6) Take advantage of co-branding.

I’ll never forget what my colleague Lisa Toner told me when I asked her about negotiating co-branding agreements.

“Larger companies may have a large reach,” she said, “but what do they not have?”

When you’re just starting to build a brand, you might not have the reach that Toner’s talking about. You can take the steps to build it, like we’ve described so far, but that takes time. Until then, one way to get your name in front of a broader audience is to partner with a brand that has one.

But don’t just pick any old brand to work with. Make sure it’s one that’s aligned with yours — the partnership has to make sense in the minds of your audience. Here’s what we recommend in seeking a co-brand:

  • Consider your partner’s audience. Would it be interested in your brand? Is it that difficult for you to reach without this partnership? How well does it trust your co-brand? That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, too — people don’t trust traditional advertisements anymore. So make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence, not doubt.
  • Have something to offer your co-brand. Just like Toner asked, “what do they not have?” The experience should be a win-win-win: for you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
  • Consider selecting a well-known and respected nonprofit as a co-brand. More and more people’s purchasing decisions are based on a brand’s social responsibility — in fact, 85% of millennials say that makes them more willing to recommend a brand.

Get Branding

Building a brand might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when resources are limited. But as we’ve seen, there are plenty of economical ways to not only get started, but to continue the momentum you start with these efforts.

And please, have fun with the process. Of course, there has to be a degree of strategy and logic involved — that’s why we’ve built the tools to help you determine what the different pieces of your brand will be. But it’s a creative exercise, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down in technicalities.

What were some of the first ways you started branding your business on a budget? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to branding your company

 
free guide to company branding

Oct

19

2016

How to Establish an Instagram Aesthetic: 10 Brands Doing It Right

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Since 2010, Instagram has garnered more than 500 million users, 4.2 billion daily likes, and more than 95 million photos and videos posted per day. Brands who take advantage of this unique social media platform often find that the level of exposure that Instagram gives them is unprecedented.

But creating a successful, branded Instagram account requires more than just pretty images. To succeed, you’ll need to establish a distinct brand aesthetic, a well-curated feed, and an effective community management strategy — all stemming from your own unique brand identity. Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips  and tricks.

With millions of active accounts, we managed to uncover five main tips and ten inspiring brands that’ll help you understand how to establish a more cohesive Instagram aesthetic.

How to Establish an Instagram Aesthetic: 10 Brands Doing It Right

1) Know exactly what your brand identity is.

A great part of your aesthetic will derive from your brand identity. What’s your brand personality and tone? What are its values? Is your brand playful? Adventurous? Bold and daring?

Having an Instagram feed that reflects the image and purpose of your brand is extremely important because it creates uniformity. Posting content that is random creates disconnect and confusion. When this happens, it’s hard to commit hitting that follow button. See how Taco Bell and fashion illustrator Megan Hess incorporate this into their Instagram feed.

Taco Bell (@tacobell): 935K Followers

When you think Taco Bell, you think tacos and “LiVE MÀS!” This means that social media accounts will reflect a lot of tacos, bold colors, and a lifestyle that includes living fast and “on the go” like their individual posts on Instagram.

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Since Taco Bell’s main audience has been increasingly attributed to millennials, they have focused on inserting fun and authenticity into their aesthetic, which makes it easier for them to drum up engagement.

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Megan Hess (@meganhess_official): 291K Followers

Megan Hess is an illustrator known for her very beautiful, feminine, and fashion-related artwork. She has built an empire on fashion illustrations that are coveted and aesthetically pleasing. Instagram has become her main outlet for her fans to follow her work and get a glimpse of what happens behind-the-scenes.

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As an illustrator, she’s big on personal brand recognition, so she frequently uses one of her most important brand assets in her posts: her logo. Simple, black, and uniquely hers, the logo perfectly matches her aesthetic and illustrations which makes it easy for her to include it with any Instagram post.

Having a distinctive logo is critical to building your brand, so it’s important to create one that’s easily recognizable and matches your brand identity. If your own needs a spruce or you’re looking to create a file that’s easily adaptable for your social posts, try using Canva’s free logo maker.

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2) Determine your target market and cater to them without compromising your brand identity.

Your Instagram feed is primarily meant to attract existing and future customers, so it’s important to create content that pulls them in and engages them. To do this, start by getting to know what’s important to your target market — what they love about your brand, products, and services. Then, reflect that back to them in your Instagram feed.

Need inspiration? Check out how brands like GoPro and Squarespace are doing it.

GoPro (@gopro): 10.2M Followers

GoPro’s Instagram photos perfectly represent what it means to capture a lifestyle full of adventure and action through the lens of their product.

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Their feed focuses on showcasing a variety of unique moments designed to drive you to want to go out and document your own adventures.

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Squarespace (@squarespace): 52.4K Followers

If we’re talking about well-curated content tailored for an audience, we have to talk about Squarespace’s Instagram. Promising the simplest way to create a beautiful website, the brand echoes its tagline through a beautifully-curated feed.

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Squarespace intrigues followers by using impressive images reflecting the brand’s minimalist aesthetic. Best of all, it features images from clients, showcasing success stories and the wide range of possibilities on how the Squarespace service can be used, which helps to engage followers and inspire potential clients.

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4) Create a story with each photo displayed on the post.

The more compelling your story, the less it would feel to your customers that you’re just selling them something. Narratives tied with your brand identity create the emotional connection your audience needs, giving meaning to your content and making it more relatable.

The story you tell plays a great part in creating brand loyalty from your customers. Instagram is a great avenue for telling this story just as Nike and Red Bull have been doing.

Nike (@nike): 62.6M Followers

With one of the largest followings on Instagram, Nike’s feed goes beyond just great athletic sportswear and footwear. They have created a distinctive “Just Do It” mentality and systematically developed a social media presence to reflect that inspirational brand image.

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As seen in the post above, along with the rest of the recent videos uploaded on their Instagram feed, Nike has done an incredible job of featuring inspiring athletes to promote propel their vision. If you want to perform at the highest level like these athletes, you wear Nike.

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Red Bull (@redbull): 5.6M Followers

When you think of Red Bull, you think high energy. That’s why Red Bull’s Instagram feed includes so many “epic” videos and pictures — each one more thrilling than the other.

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Red Bull associates their brand with a lifestyle that is exhilarating and pushes boundaries when it comes to extreme sports and weekend getaways. Another way they create a narrative is through the cohesive feel of their posts. Notice below how majority of their posts are set in the outdoors. It helps create the image that when you drink Red Bull, you live on the edge.Go-Pro-Instagram-Aesthetic.png

5) Choose a color palette, “feel,” or filter and use it consistently.

Using a color palette, filter, or even texture in your Instagram posts can give you that much sought-after level of consistency in your feeds. The easiest way to do this is to use the same filter on all your posts or edit your pictures all the same way. Try desaturating your photos or stick to bright white backgrounds with pops of color. Or, create your own brand color palette by playing around with three to four color combinations to repeat in your posts.

Check out how Tough Mudder repeats orange and brown in their posts and how Pantone plays around with their featured colors.

Tough Mudder (@tough_mudder): 935K Followers

Tough Mudder has built an image on conquering a military-inspired obstacle that requires teamwork, tenacity, and a whole lot of feeling like a total “badass.” Tough Mudder’s Instagram feed is brimming with pictures that highlight muddy participants sporting the color orange, which helps to signify the brightness and sense of camaraderie that exists in a otherwise challenging situation.

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The beauty of Tough Mudder’s Instagram feed is their ability to capture moments of participants’ emotions throughout the completion of the course. They have mastered the art of evoking feelings of strength and the desire to accomplish a difficult task that only a select group of people has achieved.

The pictures of training hard and being part of a program that pushes you to your limits is exciting as it is rewarding. Tough Mudder showcases a curated Instagram feed that addresses perseverance and toughness, just as its brand name indicates.

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Pantone (@pantone): 637K Followers

Since Pantone is the leading “authority on color,” their Instagram feed reflects their importance and influence.

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As shown in their Instagram feed, Pantone likes to have direction — and their purpose is to be a source of reference and inspiration. Uploaded by season, their feed chronicles how a color palette is derived and takes shape in the real world.

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6) Post content that reflects your brand’s core value.

Don’t be afraid to use Instagram to show off your products or service at work — just get creative. Take detailed shots and create eye-catching flat lays that show off your products in new and interesting ways.

These shots can even encourage and inspire your followers to create their own posts featuring your products to share with their followers. Not only will you increase your brand’s interaction, but you’ll also have user-generated content that’s authentic and organic.

Check out how the Office Depot and Fabletics use products shots to engage their followers and creative a consistent, memorable aesthetic. 

Office Depot (@officedepot): 15K Followers

Through some well-thought planning, the Office Depot is able to showcase its sheer amount of products in fun and interesting combinations. Their “Gear Up for Great” campaign is a great example of featuring products inventively while staying true to its business.

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Office Depot is also great at curating content that’s relevant. They do this by working with themes and seasons like “Gearing up for School”, as well as holidays like Teacher’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.

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Fabletics (@fabletics): 341K Followers

Fabletics — one of the first companies to introduce the subscription model for athletic wear for women — knows a thing or two about performance, quality, and style.

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In a generation where selfies and gym posts are very much a norm, Fabletics makes sure that it sticks to its image of ensuring its customers look good while working out. image19.png

Ready to refresh your Instagram?

With these 10 brands that are rocking Instagram as references, get started refreshing your brand’s Instagram feed and take it to the next level. Happy posting!

What tips do you have for creating a cohesive Instagram aesthetic? Share them below.

how to use instagram for business

Sep

7

2016

18 of the Best Personal Websites We’ve Ever Seen

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Ah, the job search.

Some refer to it as a full-time job in itself, others compare it to dating, and several cats over at BuzzFeed think it just plain sucks. But it doesn’t have to be that way …

When you’re applying for a job, you’re typically asked to submit a resume and cover letter. Maybe your LinkedIn profile. But there are better ways to stand out against your competition, and building a personal website is one of them.

A personal website can serve different goals, but perhaps what it does best is provide you with an opportunity to tell your story. And with 53% of employers reporting that the resume alone did not provide enough information to determine if the candidate would be a good fit, that storytelling element can really help to improve your odds.

If you’re thinking about creating a personal website of your very own, check out the examples below that hit the nail on the head.

18 of the Best Personal Websites We’ve Ever Seen

Resumes

Whether you create a single-page site or a larger portfolio, the web resume serves as a more personalized option for sharing information and demonstrating your technological skills — and it can be used by all types of job seekers.

Even if you have very little work experience, you can leverage a website to build a better picture of your capabilities and yourself as a candidate, while leaning on your traditional resume to provide the basic background information.

1) Gary Sheng

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Unlike a standard resume document, Sheng’s website makes it easy for him to include logos and clickable links that allow his software engineering and web development skills to shine.

We love that visitors can choose to scroll down his page to view all of the website’s categories (“About Me,” “My Passion,” etc.), or jump to a specific page using the top navigation.

The “My System” section reads like a company mission statement, and this personal touch helps humanize his work and make him more memorable.

2) Raf Delorez

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Delorez’s web resume is modern, cool, and informative. It shows off his personality, branding, and developing skills in a way that’s still very simple and clear. Not to mention, his use of color and saturation in his photo puts a face to his name in an eye-catching way.

Want to get in touch with Delorez? Simply click the CTA located under his brief bio to open up an email that’s pre-addressed directly to him. Or select one of the social media icons to connect with him on platforms like Twitter — where his cover photo happens to seamlessly align with the branding of his website. Well played, Delorez.

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3) Brandon Johnson

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Johnson’s incredible resume must be seen to be believed. Beautiful images of planets help to compliment his planetary science background, and animations make his resume more of an experience than a document.

In terms of design, the textured, multi-layered background adds greater depth to the two-dimensional page in a way that evokes feelings of space and the planetary systems, which Johnson’s work focuses on.

As an added bonus, Johnson managed to squeeze in some witty “Easter eggs,” like this message that appears when you try to select the “OFF” button that appears under the section on hyrdrocode:

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4) Quinton Harris

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Harris’ resume uses photos to tell his personal story — and it reads kind of like a cool, digital scrapbook. It covers all the bases of a resume — and then some — by discussing his educational background, work experience, and skills in a highly visual way.

Not to mention, the copy is fantastic. It’s clear that Harris took the time to carefully choose the right words to describe each step of his personal and professional journey. For example, the section on storytelling reads:

NYC, my new home, is filled with the necessary secrets to not only propel my craft forward, but my identity as an artist. With every lens snapped and every pixel laid, I am becoming me.

5) Sean Halpin

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Halpin’s resume is short, sweet, and to the point, which is authentic to his voice and personal branding outlined on the site. The white space allows his designs and copy to pop and command the reader’s attention, which helps to improve readability — especially on mobile devices:

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Best Practices for Resume Websites

  1. Code your resume so it can be crawled by search engines.
  2. Offer a button to download your resume in PDF so the hiring manager can add it to your file.
  3. Keep branding consistent between the website and document versions: Use similar fonts, colors, and images so you’re easy to recognize.
  4. Be creative and authentic to yourself. Think about the colors, images, and media you want to be a part of your story that you couldn’t include in a document resume.

Portfolios

Building an online portfolio is a highly useful personal branding and marketing tool if your work experience and skill set call for content creation. In fact, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, writers, and content marketers can all use web portfolios to show off their skills in a more user-friendly way than a resume or hard copy portfolio.

6) Tony D’Orio

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It’s important to keep the design of your visual portfolio simple to let images capture visitors’ attention, and D’Orio accomplishes this by featuring bold photographs front-and-center on his website. His logo and navigation menu are clear and don’t distract from his work. And he makes it easy for potential customers to download his work free of charge.

Want to give it a try? Click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner, then select + Create a PDF to select as many images as you’d like to download.

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Once you open the PDF, you’ll notice that it comes fully equipped with D’Orio’s business card as the cover … just in case you need it.

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7) Gari Cruze

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Cruze is a copywriter. But by turning his website into a portfolio featuring images from different campaigns he’s worked on, he makes visitors want to keep clicking to learn more about him.

His site’s humorous copy — specifically in the “17 Random Things” and “Oh Yes, They’re Talking” sections — serves to show off his skills, while making himself more memorable as well. These pages also include his contact information on the right-hand side, making it easy to reach out an connect at any point:

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8) Melanie Daveid

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Daveid’s website is a great example of “less is more.”

This developer’s portfolio features clear, well-branded imagery of campaigns and apps that Daveid worked on, and she shows off her coding skills when you click through to see the specifics of her work.

While it might seem overly minimal to only include three examples of her work, Daveid did her portfolio a service by including her best, most noteworthy campaigns. At the end of the day, it’s better to have fewer examples of excellence in your portfolio than many examples of mediocrity.

9) The Beast is Back

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Christopher Lee’s portfolio is busy and colorful in a way that works. When you read more about Lee on his easily navigable site, you realize that such a fun and vibrant homepage is perfect for an illustrator and toy designer.

His web portfolio highlights eye-catching designs with recognizable brands, such as Target and Mario, along with links to purchase his work. This is another gallery-style portfolio with pops of color that make it fun and give it personality, thus making it more memorable. 

Best Practices for Portfolio Websites

  1. Use mainly visuals. Even if you’re showcasing your written work, using logos or other branding is more eye-catching for your visitors.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your personality, style, and sense of humor could be what sets you apart against other sites!
  3. Organization is key. If your portfolio is full of photos, logos, and other images, make sure it’s easy for visitors to navigate to where they can contact you.
  4. Brand yourself. Choose a logo or icon to make your information easily identifiable.

Blogs

Consistently publishing on a blog is a great way to attract attention on social media and search engines — and drive traffic to your site. Blogging is a smart way to give your work a personality, chronicle your experiences, and stretch your writing muscles. You might write a personal blog if you’re a writer by trade, but virtually anyone can benefit from adding a blog to their site and providing useful content for their audience.

10) Everywhereist

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This blog looks a bit busier, but its consistent branding helps visitors easily navigate the site. The travel blog uses globe iconography to move visitors around the site, making it easy to explore sections beyond the blog.

It also features a “Best Of” section that allows new visitors to learn about what the blog covers to get acclimated. The color scheme is warm, neutral, and free of excess clutter that could distract from the content.

11) fifty coffees

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fifty coffees chronicles the author’s series of coffee meetings in search of her next job opportunity, and it does a great job of using photography and visuals to assist in the telling of her lengthy stories.

The best part? Each post ends with numbered takeaways from her meetings for ease of reading comprehension. The high-quality photography used to complement the stories is like icing on the cake.

12) Minimalist Baker

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I’m not highlighting Dana’s food blog just because the food looks delicious and I’m hungry. Her blog uses a simple white background to let her food photography pop, unique branding to make her memorable, and mini-bio to personalize her website.

13) Kendra Schaefer

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Kendra’s blog is chock-full of information about her life, background, and professional experience, but she avoids overwhelming visitors by using a light background and organizing her blog’s modules to minimize clutter. She also shares links to additional writing samples, which bolsters her writing authority and credibility.

Best Practices for Blogs

  1. Keep your site simple and clutter-free to avoid additional distractions beyond blog posts.
  2. Publish often. Company blogs that publish more than 16 posts per months get nearly 3.5X the web traffic of blogs that published less than four posts per month.
  3. Experiment with different blog styles, such as lists, interviews, graphics, and bullets.
  4. Employ visuals to break up text and add context to your discussion.

Demos

Another cool way to promote yourself and your skills is to create a personal website that doubles as a demonstration of your coding, design, illustration, or developer skills. These sites can be interactive and animated in a way that provides information about you and also shows hiring managers why they should work with you. This is a great website option for technical and artistic content creators such as developers, animators, UX designers, website content managers, and illustrators.

14) Albino Tonnina

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Tonnina is showcasing advanced and complicated web development skills, but the images and icons he uses are still clear and easy to understand. He also offers a simple option to view his resume at the beginning of his site, for those who don’t want to scroll through the animation.

15) Bobby Kane

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Kane’s site is aesthetically beautiful. And thanks to the cool background photo and minimalist site design, his experience really stands out. He further shows off his design and coding skills at the very bottom of his site, where he demonstrates his ability to code background design changes. This small touch makes his demo more interactive and will make visitors stop and think, “that’s cool!”

Want to check it out? Pull down the arrow at the top of his site to refresh the background.

16) Robby Leonardi

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Leonardi’s incredible demo website uses animation and web development skills to turn his portfolio and resume into a video game for site visitors. The whimsical branding and unique way of sharing information ensures that his site is memorable to visitors.

17) Samuel Reed

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Reed uses his page as a start-to-finish demo of how to code a website. His website starts as a blank white page and ends as a fully interactive site that visitors can watch him code themselves. The cool factor makes this website memorable, and it makes his skills extremely marketable.

18) Devon Stank

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Stank’s demo site does a great job of showing that he has the web design chops and it takes it a step further by telling visitors all about him, his agency, and his passions. It’s the perfect balance of a demo and a mini-resume.

Plus, we love this highly personal video of Stank describing his passion:

Best Practices for Demo Websites

  1. Brand yourself and use consistent logos and colors to identify your name and your skills amongst the bevy of visuals.
  2. Don’t overwhelm your visitors with too many visuals at once — especially if your demo is animated. Be sure to keep imagery easy to understand so visitors aren’t bombarded when they visit your site.

Need help updating or building your personal website? Learn more about the specifics of writing a great bio and creating your personal brand.

What’s the best personal website you’ve ever seen? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

50 examples of beautiful website design

Aug

19

2016

7 of the Coolest Experiential Marketing Campaigns We’ve Ever Seen

Experiential_Marketing.jpg

Work events are really hit or miss. Let’s be honest: How many times have you found yourself anxiously fidgeting with a paper napkin in the corner of a stuffy networking happy hour?

That’s why I was not only relieved, but also surprised and delighted, when I attended a holiday party that featured a live, interactive version of an arcade game. An entire room had been curated to look like a video game setting, and people were dressed up as characters from it. There was a giant, real-life scoreboard, boppy electronic music, and best of all, there was no tedious small talk.

It wasn’t just another tired work event … it was an experience. And in our line of work, that sort of thing has a name: Experiential marketing.

While a surprising number of people haven’t heard of the concept, it’s kind of a big deal — there’s an entire three-day summit dedicated to it, and 65% of brands that use it say that it positively correlates with sales.

But what is it, exactly? And how has it been used effectively? We found seven of the coolest experiential marketing campaigns that really break down how it works, and how those lessons can be applied to marketers everywhere.

What Is Experiential Marketing?

According to Boston-based 451 Marketing, experiential marketing is the act of “creating unique, face-to-face branded experiences.” Instead of just sending a message to your audience — digitally or otherwise — you’re creating an opportunity to interact with your brand in person.

It might sound a bit like event marketing, which makes sense — experiential campaigns do tend to be event-centric. But there are also times when they have nothing to do with a specific event, as you’ll see from the examples we picked.

And when they are event-centric, they’re less dedicated to the type of event — like a concert, festival, conference, etc. — and focus more on interaction a specific brand. (If you already have an event in the works, you might want to check out this guide to adding experiential elements to it.)

These campaigns can take an integrated approach. The primary purpose is to experience a brand in a tangible, offline way, but you’ll still want an online dialogue around it. When you consider that 49% of folks create mobile video at branded events39% of which is shared on Twitter — it makes sense to incorporate a digital element. A branded hashtag, for example, can get people talking about the experience.

7 of the Coolest Experiential Marketing Campaigns We’ve Ever Seen

1) Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis

One night, when I was watching “The Bachelorette” (it’s okay — I judge myself, too) I started tallying how many commercials told women to change something about themselves. The result: I lost count after about two minutes.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see brands like Lean Cuisine, whose marketing used to center solely on weight loss, stray from diet-centric messaging. And its #WeighThis campaign is a great example of just that.

As part of the campaign, Lean Cuisine curated a gallery of “scales” in New York’s Grand Central Station, and invited women to “weigh in.” But here’s the catch: The scales were actually small boards where women could write down how they really wanted to be weighed. And rather than focusing on their weight in pounds — or anything pertaining to body image — the women opted to be measured by things like being back in college at 55, caring for 200 homeless children each day, or being the sole provider to four sons.

What’s particularly cool about this experience is that none of the participants actually interact with a Lean Cuisine product. No one was interrupted, asked to sample something, or stopped to answer questions. In fact, no one was really asked to do anything — the display itself was enough to make people stop, observe, and then voluntarily interact.

Lean Cuisine figured out what message it wanted to send: “Sure, we make stuff that fits into a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget about your accomplishments. That matters more than the number on the scale.” But instead of blatantly advertising that, it created an interactive experience around the message.

Still, the experience was clearly branded, to make sure people associated it with Lean Cuisine. The company’s Twitter handle and a branded hashtag were featured on the display in large text, which made it easy for people to share the experience on social media. And that definitely paid off — the entire #WeighThis campaign led to over 204 million total impressions.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Don’t interrupt — especially if you’re trying to grab someone’s attention in New York City, like Lean Cuisine was. If you create an experience that provides value to the people who pass by it, they’re more likely to participate.
  • Figure out the message you really want to your brand to send — that may or may not be directly tied to an actual product, and it might be something that your brand hasn’t said before. Then, build an experience around it.

2) Google: “Building a Better Bay Area”

Corporate philanthropy is definitely on the rise. Between 2012-2014, 56% of companies increased charitable giving, and Google is no exception. But when the search engine giant gave away $5.5 million to Bay Area nonprofits, it let the public decide where that money would go — in an unconventional, interactive way.

Google allowed people to cast their votes online, but they also wanted to involve the Bay Area community in a tangible way. So they installed large, interactive posters — in places like bus shelters, food trucks, and restaurants — that locals could use to vote for a cause.

GoogleImpactChallenge

Source: 72andSunny

In the video below, the narrator notes that this experience reaches “people when they had the time to make a difference.” That’s a big thing about experiential marketing: It allows people to interact with a brand when they have the time. Maybe that’s why 72% percent of consumers say they positively view brands that provide great experiences.

And that concept works in this experience, because it takes advantage of a “you’re-already-there” mentality. In San Francisco, finding people waiting for the bus or going to food trucks is pretty much a given. So while they were “already there,” Google set up a few opportunities:

  1. To learn about and vote for local nonprofits
  2. To interact with the brand in a way that doesn’t require using its products
  3. To indirectly learn about Google’s community outreach

With the help of the online voting integration — and a branded hashtag: #GoogleImpactChallenge — the campaign ended up generating 400,000 votes over the course of about three and a half weeks.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Create a branded hashtag that participants can use to share the experience on social media. Then, make sure you’ve integrated an online element that allows people to participate when they learn about it this way.
  • Keep it local! It’s always nice when a large corporation gives some love to its community — in fact, 72% of folks say they would tell friends and family about a business’s efforts like these.
  • Remember the “you’re already there” approach. Find out where your audience is already hanging out and engage them there, instead of trying to get them to take action where they don’t usually spend their time.

3) Misereor: Charity Donation Billboard

When was the last time you used cash to pay for something?

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Tough to remember, right? We’re kind of a species of “mindless swipers” — globally, an estimated 357 billion non-cash transactions are made each year. And knowing how often we whip out our cards, German relief NGO Misereor decided to put our bad habit to good use with its charitable giving billboard.

It was what they called a “social swipe”: Set up in airports, these digital posters would display images of some problems that Misereor works to resolve — hunger was depicted with a loaf of bread, for example.

But the screen was equipped with a card reader, and when someone went to swipe a card — for a small fee of 2€ — the image moved to make it look like the card was cutting a slice of bread.

Even cooler? On the user’s bank statement, there would be a thank-you note from Misereor, with a link to turn their one-time 2€ donation into a monthly one.

Needless to say, this experience required a lot of coordination — with banks, airports, and a mobile payment platform. Because of that, the experience couldn’t just be a one-time occurrence. The people who interacted with it were later reminded of it during a pretty common occurrence: receiving a bank statement.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Visually represent the impact of participating in the experience. People interacting with this display were shown exactly where their money was going — like slicing bread for a hungry family. (Infographics work nicely here, too — check out our templates.)
  • Partner with another brand to create an even better experience. In this instance, Misereor worked with Stripe.com for the payment technology, and with financial institutions to get a branded message on users’ bank statements. (And stay tuned — we’ll talk more about the value of co-branding here later.)
  • Don’t be afraid to nurture your leads. Even if you don’t use something like a branded hashtag to integrate the experience with an online element, find a way to remind someone that they participated.

4) Guinness: Guinness Class

One of my favorite types of marketing is the “aspirational” kind — or as the Harvard Business Review defines it, marketing for brands that “fall into the upper-right quadrant.” Think: Luxury cars, haute couture, and private jets. Things we aspire to owning.

It’s that last one — private jets — that set apart the Guinness Class experience. For a few weeks, ambassadors dressed in Guinness-branded flight attendant uniforms entered bars across the U.K., where they surprised unsuspecting customers with a chance to win all kinds of prizes.

In order to participate, bar-goers had to order a pint of Guinness. After doing that, they would shake a prize-generating mobile tablet that displayed what they won. They could win everything from passport cases to keychains, but one player per night would get the ultimate prize: A free trip to Dublin — via private jet, of course — with four mates.

What we like about this experience was its ability to associate Guinness with something aspirational, like traveling by private jet. And according to Nick Britton, marketing manager for Guinness Western Europe, that held the brand up as one that doesn’t “settle for the ordinary.

That’s important — and can be tricky — for a brand that’s nearly 257 years old: to maintain its authenticity, while also adapting to a changing landscape and audience. But Guinness didn’t have to change anything about its actual products in this case. Instead, it created an experience that addressed changing consumer preferences — for example, the fact that 78% of millennials would rather spend money on a memorable experience or event than buy desirable things.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Think about the things your target audience might aspire to, and that you’d like to associate with your brand. Then, build an experience around that.
  • If you do require a product purchase in order to participate in the experience, make it convenient. In this case, people had to buy a pint of Guinness to win a prize, but they were already in a bar that served it.

5) GE: Healthymagination

Think experiential marketing is just for B2C brands? Think again — 67% of B2B marketers say that events make for one of the most effective strategies they use.

That’s why it made sense for GE to invite industry professionals to experience its Healthymagination initiative. The point of the campaign was to promote global healthcare solutions, especially in developing parts of the world.

GEHealthymagination

Source: agencyEA

To help people see the impact of this initiative, GE worked with agencyEA to create “movie sets” that represented different healthcare environments where Healthymagination work took place: a rural African clinic, an urban clinic, and an emergency room. The idea was that doctors would share their stories — live, in front of 700 attendees — that illustrated how GE’s healthcare technology played a major role in each setting.

When people measure the success of experiential marketing, one thing they measure is how much of a dialogue it prompted. And that makes sense — 71% of participants share these experiences. In GE’s case, the point ofHealthymagination was to get people talking about a pretty important, but uncomfortable issue: Access to healthcare in impoverished parts of the world.

But when you create a way for people to become physically immersed in the issue, it also allows them to acknowledge a topic that isn’t always easy to talk about. And that can have quite an impact — this particular campaign, in fact, won a Business Marketing Association Tower Award.

But fear not: That concept also works for not-so-serious, but equally uncomfortable discussion topics. Just look at how well it worked for Charmin.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Experiential marketing does work for B2B brands. Think about who you’re selling to, and create an engagement that would not only attract that audience, but also present an opportunity for them to experience your product or service first-hand.
  • Get uncomfortable. If your business centers around something that’s difficult or “taboo” to talk about, creating an experience around it can prompt a conversation. But make sure you keep it respectful — don’t make people so uncomfortable that they have nothing good to say about your brand.

6) Facebook: Facebook IQ Live

Facebook — who also owns Instagram — has always understood how much data it has on how people use these platforms. For that reason, it created the Facebook IQ Live experience.

For this experience, that data was used to curate live scenes that depicted the data. Among them was the IQ Mart: A “retail” setting that represented the online shopper’s conversion path when using social media for buying decisions. There was also a quintessential Instagram cafe, chock full of millennial-esque photo opportunities and people snapping them — latte art and all.

The campaign wasn’t just memorable. It also proved to be really helpful — 93% of attendees (and there were over 1500 of them) said that the experience provided them with valuable insights on how to use Facebook for business.

But what makes those insights so valuable? Momentum Worldwide, the agency behind Facebook IQ Live, puts it perfectly: “When we understand what matters to people … we can be what matters to them.” In other words, we can shape our messaging around the things that are important to our target audiences.

And by creating this experience, Facebook was able to accomplish that for its own brand. In creating this experience, it also created a positive brand perception for a few audiences — including, for example, the people who might have been unsure of how to use the platform for business.

Takeaways for marketers:

7) Zappos: “Google Cupcake Ambush”

To help promote its new photo app, Google took to the streets of Austin, Texas, with a cupcake truck in tow. But people didn’t pay for the cupcakes with dollars — instead, the only accepted currency was a photo taken with said app.

And really, what’s better than a free-ish cupcake? We’ll tell you what: A free-ish watch or pair of shoes.

That was the answer from Zappos, anyway. That’s why the brand playfully “ambushed” Google’s food truck experience with one of its own: A box-on-feet — strategically placed right next to Google’s setup, of course — that, when fed a cupcake, would dispense a container with one of the aforementioned goodies.

In order to reap the rewards of the Zappos box, people had to have a cupcake. So while only one brand came away from the experience with an epic sugar high, both got plenty of exposure. And since 74% of consumers say a branded experience makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted, Google and Zappos both stood to gain new customers from this crowd.

But what we really like about this example is how much it shows the value of experiential co-branding. Because Google and Zappos pursue two different lines of business, they weren’t sabotaging each other, but rather they were promoting each other (which is what happens when you pick the right co-marketer).

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Use experiential marketing as a co-branding opportunity:
  • Pick a partner with an audience that would be interested in your brand, but might otherwise be difficult to reach.
  • Make sure your partner would benefit from your audience, too — you want the experience to be a win-win-win: for you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
  • When you do pick a marketing partner, build an experience that requires an “exchange” of each brand’s product or service. That way, the audience is more likely to interact with both of you.
  • Clearly, taking some very calculated risks worked out pretty well for these brands. So when it comes to creating an experience with your brand, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box — and don’t be afraid to work together on it with someone else.

    Invest some time into thinking about the ways people could interact with you, even if it seems a little nutty. If it’s aligned with what you do and executed thoughtfully, people will be talking — in the best way possible.

    Have you seen a really great experiential marketing campaign? Share with us in the comments.

    free event planning and marketing resources

    Jun

    27

    2016

    The Ultimate Guide to Social & PR Branding [Free Toolkit]

    Branding_and_PR_Kit.jpg

    Every brand has a story, but great brands that know how to tell that story well. Whether you’re selling coffee, bookcases, or enterprise software, the reality is that the competition is higher than ever before.

    Having a compelling brand story is key, but remember: your story is more complicated than just words. Your brand story is communicated through visual identity, tone of voice, PR, and social media channels. Sure is a lot to keep up with, huh?

    While churning out endless content hoping something hits the mark may feel like the solution, it’s definitely not. In order to stand out and rise in rank, you have to really connect with your audience. And as much as we wish there was, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ formula for that. Every business is different.

    That’s why HubSpot and MOO teamed up to bring you this Social & PR Branding Kit. From setting goals to vamping up your social media game, we’ve got you covered.

    We’ll walk you through the process of communicating your brand story online, offline, in social media, and in the press to help you win new customers, retain existing ones, grow your brand recognition, and gain that competitive edge.

    More specifically, this kit includes:

    • How to craft a valuable ‘About Us’ page that people will read and remember.
    • How to identify clear objectives focused on your brand vision and goals.
    • What to post on social media, as well as why, and when to do so.
    • A breakdown of different social networks.
    • How to tell if your social media strategy is working.
    • How to build media relationships and write killer press releases.

    free guide to social and PR branding

    Jun

    24

    2016

    How to Write a Great Email Signature: 9 Tips With Real Examples

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    The average office worker sends 40 emails per day. That’s 40 opportunities to market yourself and your business in those individual emails you send, every single day.

    A lot of people treat their email signatures like an afterthought, which makes for a real missed opportunity. Those signatures are a chance for you to make it clear who you are, make it easy for people to reach you, and give people a place to go to find out more — either about you, about your business, or about something you’re working on.

    So if you’re just putting your name and a point or two of contact information in your signature, you’re not taking full advantage of the opportunity to connect and engage with the people you’re emailing. (Although you don’t want to go overboard, either. Jamming your signature full of links and information is just plain spammy and self-promotional.)

    So, what does a great email signature look like? Here are some tips for creating ones that are helpful and professional, including a few great examples. You can use HubSpot’s free Email Signature Generator to make your own professional email signature template and easily add it to your email provider.

    9 Tips for Writing a Great Email Signature

    1) Keep colors simple and consistent.

    Branding is most effective when it’s consistent — and that includes your email signature. Adding color to your email signature is a nice touch that’ll help it stand out from the rest of your email. But if you do choose to use color, be sure to stick to one or two in addition to dark text.

    Use subtle highlights to match your logo or branding, like Brittany Hodak does in her email signature. Notice how her social media icons are the same blue hue as the ZinePak logo.

    brittany-hodak-email-signature.png

    2) Use design hierachy.

    Good design is all about presenting your information in an easily digestible manner. Because your email signature is likely more a list of information than it is a compelling story, you’ll want to use hierarchy to direct readers’ eyes to what they should be reading first.

    Scale your name up to a larger font so that it attracts the most attention, like you would on a resume. Then, pick and choose information to bold and color based on importance so you can help guide people’s eyes logically through the design, as in the example below.

    robert-long-email-signature.jpg

    Image Credit: Envato

    3) Include a call-to-action (and update it regularly).

    One of the smartest things you can do in your email signature is include a call-to-action. The best email signature CTAs are simple, up-to-date, non-pushy, and in line with your email style, making them appear more like post-script, and less like a sales pitch. Choose a CTA that aligns with one of your current business goals, and update it when those goals change.

    Here’s a great example from our own Social Media Manager Chelsea Hunersen. She changes her text CTA depending on her current social media goals. A few months ago, she used it to drive people to HubSpot’s Twitter account.

    chelsea-hunersen-email-signature.png

    Once she created a unique Slack channel for inbound marketers, she switched up her email signature CTA to point people there, instead.

    chelsea-hunersen-email-signature-2-1.png

    Links to videos can be especially noticeable because in some email clients like Gmail, a video’s thumbnail will show up underneath your signature. Here’s an example of what that looks like from our own Emily MacIntyre:

    emily-macintyre-email-signature-1.png

    4) Include social icons linking to your social profiles.

    Your social media presence is a major part of your personal brand because it helps you gain a following in your space and shows people what you care about. You can tell a lot about a person by what they post and how they portray themselves.

    That’s why it’s a great idea to include links to your social media pages in your email signature. It not only reinforces your personal brand, but it also helps people find new ways to contact and follow you.

    Even better? It can help drive traffic to your online content if you’re posting links to that content on social. So if you do include social icons in your signature, make sure you’re keeping your social profiles up-to-date and chock full of interesting, relevant content. (In other words, if you haven’t tweeted in six months, you may want to leave Twitter out.)

    robyn-showers-email-signature-1.png

    Why use social media icons instead of simply text links? Because icons are more easily recognizable for folks skimming your signature — and they’ll stand out from the rest of the text in there. According to research from Neomam Studios, it only takes the human mind 150 microseconds to process a symbol, and 100 microseconds to attach meaning to it. That’s super fast. Plus, icons are big space-savers in a place where you might be packing a lot of information.

    Even if you have a presence on a lot of social media sites, though, try to cap the number of icons to five or six. Focus on the accounts that matter most to growing your business or building your personal brand.

    And if you do include a lot of social media icons, at least try to cut back on the other content if possible so your design isn’t too busy. Check out this example from Freelance Graphic Designer Karen Mareš:

    karen-mcdade-email-signature.png

    Image Credit: Canva

    5) Make links trackable.

    So you put a few links in your email signature, including your CTA and your social media icons. But is anyone actually clicking on them?

    To figure out whether the links in your signature are actually attracting clicks and making an impact, you’ll want to make those links trackable — just like you would any other link in your emails. Follow these instructions to easily make your links trackable. You might switch up the format of your signature or the wording of your calls-to-action from time to time to see what drives the most clicks.

    6) Use space dividers.

    Although you never want to jam-pack your email signature for too much information, there are ways to fit a lot of text into a compact area like this one without compromising design.

    This is helpful for breaking up different types of information, like your name and contact information, your logo, any calls-to-action you have, or even a disclaimer.

    Using space dividers within your design, as in the example below, is one great way to do this. You can also use glyph dividers, which is the vertical bar symbol (i.e., |.)

    jake-crowley-email-signature.jpg

    Image Credit: Canva

    7) Let people book your calendar right from your email.

    If you find yourself emailing back and forth with colleagues and clients who want to book meetings with you, make it easy for them by including a link to book your calendar right in your email signature. Here’s an example from our own Bryan Lowry:

    brian-lowry-email-signature.png

    There are many tools out there that’ll help people book appointments. Bryan from the example above uses HubSpot’s shareable personalized booking link. If you’re a HubSpot Sales customer, you can share your personalized meeting link with anyone who you want to book a meeting with and let them choose from your available times. If you want, you can make it so the HubSpot CRM automatically creates a new contact record for anyone who books a meeting if one doesn’t already exist.

    If you aren’t a HubSpot customer, one great meeting tool is Calendly, which is free for Basic and lets you integrate your Google or Office 365 calendar. YouCanBook.me is another booking tool that goes for $7 per calendar per month.

    8) Include an international prefix in your contact number.

    If you work with people around the world, don’t forget the prefix for your country’s code when you list your contact phone number. Many people overlook this if they aren’t used to dialing international prefixes themselves, but it’s really helpful for your international colleagues and clients to have it right on there. Here’s a list of country codes if you don’t know yours.

    Here’s an example from Kit Smith of Brandwatch, a company that has offices in both the United States and Europe and works with international clients. Having the U.S.’s country code on their helps make it easier for folks in other countries to reach him by phone.

    kit-smith-email-signature-1.png

    9) Make your design mobile-friendly.

    In Litmus’ analysis of over a billion email opens, they reported that 56% of opened emails were opened on mobile devices in April 2016. This figure represents an 8% increase in mobile opens in the past year. The more people who read email on mobile devices, the more you’ll want to keep mobile users top-of-mind when you’re writing emails — including your email signature.

    One major way to make your email signature mobile-friendly is to make your signature’s design easy to read and clickable for mobile users. This is where scale becomes really important. Make sure your text is large enough to read on small mobile screens, and that your links and buttons are large enough — and spaced out enough — for folks to tap on with their fingers.

    Check out the example below, and note how much space there is between different clickable elements like the social media icons. These are great for tapping with your finger on a mobile screen so that users don’t accidentally tap on the Facebook icon when they meant to go to Twitter.

    tyler-adams-acme-email-signature-1.png

    Image Credit: Canva

    Finally, as with any part of an email, make sure your signature looks as good as you think it does by testing it with various email clients. Microsoft Outlook doesn’t recognize background images, for example, so avoid using those. Other email clients don’t load images by default at all. Read this blog post to learn how to optimize emails for different email clients.

    (HubSpot customers: You can preview what your emails look like in 30+ email clients right in the HubSpot Email App, as well as preview what your emails will look like on any device, including desktop, tablet, or mobile devices. Click here to learn how.)

    What examples of great professional email signatures have you seen? Share with us in the comments.

    free ebook: how to grow your email list

    Jun

    13

    2016

    6 of the Best Professional Bio Examples We’ve Ever Seen

    professional-bio-examples.jpeg

    A short, professional bio is one of those things most people don’t think about until, all of a sudden, we’ve been asked to “shoot one over via email” and have approximately one afternoon to come up with it.

    That’s when we scramble.

    And when we scramble, our bio ends up reading like this:

    Rodney Erickson is a content marketing professional at HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Previously, Rodney worked as a marketing manager for a tech software startup. He graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.”

    … Woof, that was dull. Are you still with me? I swear, not even adding a tidbit about his cats would liven that bio up. 

    To be fair, in certain contexts, your professional bio does need to be more formal, like Mr. Erickson’s up there. But in many cases, writing a bio that’s readable — even conversational — is actually a really good thing. That means dropping that traditional format of listing your accomplishments like a robot and cramming as much professional-sounding jargon in there as you can.

    Remember: The people reading your bio are suffering from information fatigue. If you don’t hook ’em in the first line, you’ll lose them quickly.

    I know what you may be thinking … So what? It’s just a bio.

    Why Does Your Professional Bio Matter?

    I mean, how many people actually read those things, anyway? 

    The answer: A lot of people. More importantly, it’s important to remember that there’s no way to tell exactly who is reading it. You always want to be ready for the right people to come across it. And when they do, you want it to catch their eye — in a good way.

    You see, while your resume is only useful for when you’re actively applying for specific positions, your professional bio is much more visible. It can live on your LinkedIn profile, your company’s website, your guest blog posts, your speaker profiles, your Twitter bio, and many other places.

    And, most importantly, it’s the tool that you can leverage most when you’re networking.

    Bottom line? People will read your professional bio. Whether they remember it, and whether it makes them actually care about you, is a matter of how well you present yourself to your intended audience.

    So, what does a top-notch professional bio look like?

    Let’s take a look at some great examples. We’ve curated some of the best real professional bio examples we’ve ever seen online. Check ’em out, and use them as inspiration when crafting your own.

    6 of the Best Professional Bio Examples We’ve Ever Seen

    1) Phil

    Phil is a real estate broker for the East Boston neighborhood, and he’s mastered the art of adding a warm personality to the professional bio on his website.

    First, check out the header of his bio: “Promoting positive community and economic growth in our neighborhood.”

    phil-gutowski-bio-example.png

    The header isn’t all about him, nor is it a hard sell about his business. Instead, he’s chosen to start with a value proposition. Why? Because Phil knows that his value proposition is the core of his competitive advantage. In header text that stands out on the page, he clearly articulates why someone would want to hire him instead of a competitor: This guy doesn’t just sell houses to make money; he promotes community and economic growth in the area. 

    The rest of his bio includes personal touches that make him more human. He does talk about his business history and accomplishments, but he does so while including personal details that invite readers to relate to him as a person.

    For instance, he talks about where he’s from (a relevant detail for a real estate broker), his love of the water, why he started his business, and how he’s committed to the local community. His bio indicates he’s friendly and probably a pleasure to work with, which is important for a real estate broker someone would be working with one-on-one.

    2) Ann

    If you’re a marketer, you’ve likely heard of Ann Handley. Her list of credentials is lengthy, and if she really wanted to, she could go on and on and on about her accomplishments.

    But when people list out all their accomplishments in their bios, they risk sounding a little egotistical. Sure, you might impress a handful of people with all those laurels, but many people who read your bio will end up feeling either intimidated or annoyed. Think about it: Is that how you want the majority of your readers to feel when they read your bio? 

    To minimize the egoism that comes with talking about yourself, think about how you can list out your accomplishments without sounding like you’re bragging. Ann does this really well, choosing a tone in her bio that’s more approachable.

    It starts with the excerpt in the footer of her personal website. Give it a quick read, paying close attention to the opening and closing lines:

    ann-handley-website-bio.png 

    “This is Ann Handley’s website, and this is a bit of copy about her … That’s not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So read more here.” This is the kind of simple, friendly language that invites the reader in rather than shutting them out.

    Follow the link and you’ll be led to a page dedicated to a fuller bio, which she’s divided into two parts: a “short version” (literally a bulleted list of key facts) and a “long version,” which includes traditional paragraphs. There’s something in there for everyone.

    3) Hillary

    U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has different versions of her bio all over the internet. As you can imagine, some are more formal than others. But when it comes to her Twitter bio, she has carefully phrased her bio information in a way that helps her connect with her audience — specifically, through the use of humor. 

    hillary-clinton-twitter-bio.png

    Why would she choose humor, especially when she’s seeking support for such a, well, serious job? Actually, Hillary’s tactic is totally intentional: It’s just one of the many levers she and her team are pulling to rebrand her with a fresh image, while maintaining her already impressive, well-established identity. 

    “In politics, authenticity can be a powerful trait, and it is one that sometimes has escaped Clinton,” wrote Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan for the Washington Post. “In her 2008 presidential campaign, despite some raw displays of emotion, she often came across as overly programmed.”

    That’s exactly why Hillary and her team chose to leverage her Twitter bio (among other marketing channels) to help her become more relatable to her fans.  And for her audience, it’s really worked. The New York Times, for example, called Twitter bios “a postmodern art form.”

    When crafting your own Twitter bio, consider your audience and the personal brand you’re trying to create for yourself. Use it as an opportunity to be relatable. (And check out this list of amusing Twitter bios for inspiration.)

    4) Lena

    When it all comes down to it, your professional bio is no different than any other piece of persuasive copy — no matter where it lives. One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking of it as its own beast, separate from other pieces of writing. If you think about it that way, you’re far more likely to write something painfully uninteresting.

    When you sit down to write your professional bio and you’re watching that cursor blinking on the screen, think about how you would introduce a blog post. You don’t just dive right into the meat of the thing, now, do you? No. You start with an introduction.

    The best bios are often concise (around 200–300 words), so you don’t have a lot of room to play around. But a single sentence that tees your reader up and provides context for the accomplishments that follow could make the rest of your bio that much more persuasive.

    Take Lena Axelsson’s bio, for instance. She’s a marriage and family therapist — a job where empathy and compassion are a big part of the job description. That’s why she chooses to open her bio with a great introductory sentence: “When human beings experience trauma or severe life stressors, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel.”

    therapist-bio-example.png

    Then, she goes into why she’s passionate about her job, how she helps her clients, and how she caters her approach to each individual patient. The necessary educational information is left for the end, after the reader has been hooked.

    Your bio doesn’t have to be super serious, nor does it have to start with a joke. This bio shows how you can capture your reader’s attention by being empathetic or telling a brief story.

    5) Mark

    Mark Levy is a small business owner who’s taken a more traditional approach to the professional bio on his website — but in a way that takes care to speak to his intended audience.

    What we love about his bio is the way he’s set it up: On his business’ “About” page, he’s listed two biographies, which he’s labeled “Mark Levy’s Biography #1” and “Mark Levy’s Biography #2.”

    mark-levy-professional-bio.png

    [Click here to see the full version.]

    Like Ann, Mark’s given his readers two different options. The first biography is a “short version,” which includes a combination of bullet points listing his credentials and a few short paragraphs.

    The second is the “long version,” which is actually even more interesting than the first one. Why? Because it reads like a story — a compelling one, at that. In fact, it gets really funny at parts.

    The second sentence of the bio reads: “He was frightened of public school, loved playing baseball and football, ran home to watch ape films on the 4:30 Movie, listened to The Jam and The Buzzcocks, and read magic trick books.”

    Here’s another excerpt from the middle:

    mark-levy-long-bio-snippet.png

    Of course, the fantastic copywriting isn’t a surprise, given that this guy wrote several books. But the conversational tone and entertaining copy let his quirky personality (and great writing skills) shine.

    6) Corey

    Finally, we have Corey Wainwright, who’s the director of content here at HubSpot. She’s written content for HubSpot’s Marketing Blog for years, and her blog author bio has caught my eye since before I ever started working for HubSpot. (Back then, it started with, “Corey just took a cool vacation.”)

    What I love most about Corey’s bio is that it’s a great example of how to deliver information about yourself without taking things too seriously. And in this context, that’s totally appropriate. 

    Despite having a number of impressive accomplishments under her belt, she simply doesn’t like displaying them publicly. So, she prefers making her author bio a little more “light.” 

    Her bio (pictured below) reads, “Corey is a Bruce Springsteen fan who does content marketing, in that order.”

    corey-wainwright-bio.png

    It works in this particular context because, at HubSpot, our blog authors often prefer to make themselves as friendly and approachable as possible — while letting the content speak for itself.

    It helps that authors’ social media accounts are located right below our names and above our pictures. For folks who really do want a list of Corey’s credentials, they can click the LinkedIn button to go to her LinkedIn page. (You can read this blog post to learn how to create social media buttons and add them to your website.)

    What are your favorite professional bio examples? Share with us in the comments.

    free branding tips

    Jun

    2

    2016

    Beyond .COM, .ORG & .NET: A Beginner’s Guide to Brand Top-Level Domains

    Brand_TLD.jpg

    For marketers, the domain name system (DNS) can be a little tricky to navigate.

    If you’ve ever been tasked with buying a domain name, you’ve probably heard of terms like hyper text transfer protocol, subdomains, top-level domains, and more. Now, whether or not you remember the function of each part is an entirely different story …

    So before we dive into anything technical, let’s start with a quick deconstruction.

    Example: www.hubspot.com

    This address is made up of three main parts: before, between, and after the dot. Before the dot, you’ll find the subdomain (www). Between the two dots, you’ll find the domain name (HubSpot). But what we’re going to dive into below concerns the text that comes after the dot: the top-level domain (TLD).

    Back in the 1980s, the internet was introduced to a handful of generic TLDs: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .int, and .mil. Since then, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has expanded the domain name system, and introduced a new wave of TLDs known as Brand TLDs.

    What’s a Brand TLD? Who has one? And how are they using them? Keep reading.

    What Are Brand TLDs?

    A Brand TLD is like any other TLD (think: .com, .org, or .net), but instead of a generic term, it is the brand’s trademark (think: .bmw, .apple, or .google).

    A Brand TLD is proprietary, meaning only the brand can register second level domains such as drive.bmw, mac.apple, or search.google.

    In terms of security and innovation opportunities, there are many considerations. It starts with understanding that the DNS is the very foundation of the internet. Without the DNS there is no Internet. Everything runs on the DNS. Owning a proprietary space at the root of the DNS offers opportunities for innovation, security, trust, and control that are entirely new. Never before have brands been able to own a proprietary slice of the Internet at the root level.

    In terms of SEO, “early use cases indicate no negative search impact, and even potential benefits,” according to Neustar. “New TLD holders should (as now) focus on building highly relevant content on their .brand and .generic to earn search visibility,” they went on to explain.

    However, it’s important that marketers that are considering a switch continue to monitor the impact that these new TLDs have on the brands currently employing them, as it’s too soon to determine the long-term effects.

    Why Now?

    ICANN is the governing body that sets rules for the internet. In 2008, ICANN approved a program to radically expand the domain name space with the introduction of new TLDs. In 2011, ICANN began accepting new TLD applications from entities across the globe. Any entity could apply to own and operate a new TLD, however, the application fee was a steep $185K.

    In 2012, ICANN announced they received 1,930 new TLD applications of which approximately 1,400 were unique, separated into five categories: Generic, Geographic, Community, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and Brand. Just over 600 brands applied in Round 1. (You can check out the complete list of brands here.)

    What does the program status look like today?

    By February 2014, new TLDs began to rollout. As of May 1, 2016, there were 17.2 million new domain names registered across 978 delegated new TLDs. In comparison, this represents approximately 13.5% of the entire .com population (around 125 million), which took 30 years to reach.

    As of December 2015, there were a total of 314 million domains registered. As 2016 progresses, we expect to see the remaining 300 to 350 new TLDs delegated to the internet. In fact, ICANN just recently announced the program’s 1,000th delegation, stating that there are nearly 50 times as many generic TLDs now as there were in 2013. It’s expected that the pace of change will accelerate as public awareness and usage grows.

    ICANN has committed to future rounds to allow brands and other entities to apply for additional new TLDs. Industry insiders expect Round 2 to be heavily participated by Geographic and Brand TLD applications.

    Why Many Big Brands Are Making the Move

    According to Neustar’s FAQs of New TLDs list, “new Brand TLDs offer a unique and significant opportunity to drive brand affinity, build trust, enhance security, and engage customers.” And that’s largely why we are starting to witness leading brands deploying initial use cases.

    Business leaders are engaging and beginning to understand the new Brand TLD capabilities that can improve business performance. To help illustrate these benefits, let’s take a look at a couple of key selling points:

    1) Cost Benefit

    Naysayers about these new TLDs complain that applying for and operating a Brand TLD will add significant cost burden to the business, and offers little benefit. And they’re partially right: the initial investment is up there. However, it’s important to consider what it means for the future of brand digital identity management.

    For this reason, you should quickly unpack the relative value of a Brand TLD compared to current domain market conditions and status quo domain portfolio practices.

    What are domain names worth?

    Due to scarcity and the power of language, one word domains can be valued in the millions of dollars. On Wikipedia’s list of most expensive domains, you will find market values ranging from $35 million for insurance.com to $3 million for loans.com.

    One-word domains — also referred to in the industry as “category killers”are extremely valuable. Why? Because they are short, memorable, and mean something to audiences.

    Now compare that to the cost to acquire and operate a Brand TLD priced at a few hundred thousand dollars and offering an unlimited number of one-word branded properties that are authentic and trusted. The comparative cost vs. benefit to acquire and operate a Brand TLD is nominal.

    What does it cost to protect a brand?

    It’s not uncommon for a brand to hold multiple domains for defensive purposes. However, doing so results in significant costs — including registrar outside counsel and internal administrative costs. Layer on legal fees to monitor, file, and administer rights protection such as UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) to recover infringing domain names, and the cost of brand protection is massive.

    Then, consider the efficacy of defensive domain activity spend today — and in the future with thousands of TLDs to guard your brand against. It becomes unsustainable from a cost and efficacy point of view.

    Brands who own a Brand TLD will educate audiences to trust websites using their Brand TLD. As this education permeates the market, the active use of a Brand TLDs will begin to reduce the expenditure required to protect your brand.

    2) New Capabilities

    When it comes to Brand TLDs, there are as many use cases as there are business problems. For brands choosing to make the investment, it’s important that they are designing and deploying use cases that specifically address their unique priorities and objectives.

    To give you a better sense of how brands are benefiting from the variety of use cases, let’s check out three potential initiatives.

    “customer.brand”

    “customer.brand” is a customer-centric initiative that can help brands create advocacy-generating experiences.

    Brands can leverage new Brand TLD technology to power customer engagement, motivate peer influence, and harness customer intelligence data. For example: An affinity brand like Nike could permit their best fans to use, under certain terms and conditions, a “customername.nike” web presence.

    Here brands can harness user-generated content and capture customer data to better serve that customer. Brands could even reward customers with points accumulated by the traffic they generate through social influence.

    “channel.brand”

    “channel.brand” is a channel initiative to leverage Brand TLD technology to distribute consistent content experiences across their points of sale with the intent to lift channel performance.

    For example: Insurance firms use brokers to sell and service customers. If each of those brokers had their own “brokername.amfam” domain, it’s likely that they would not only feel supported by the organization, but they’d also be able to encourage trust from their clients.

    “marcom.brand”

    “marcom.brand” is a use case for marketers to create simple, elegant, memorable campaign messages, and deliver engaging web experiences that fulfill the message and brand promise.

    This is the simplest use case to implement — and the easiest to measure ROI for. To determine the success rate of a campaign on www.toyota.com/somethingIforgot vs. one using prius.toyota, you’d simply compare campaign KPIs such as response, engagement, and conversion rates.

    Considering the Brand TLD is easy to communicate and remember, it presents an excellent opportunity for brands to see increased campaign performance.

    (Note: Marcom is an all-encompassing abbreviation for “marketing communications.”)

    5 Examples of Brands Getting Involved

    In the first quarter of 2016, we saw a big jump in the number of brands deploying use cases for Brand TLDs. Most brands are undertaking simple test-and-learn initiatives, but several are more aggressive with full digital transformations.

    Here are a few examples:

    1) America Automobile Association: aaa.aaa

    AAA launched a Brand TLD site to help website visitors find a club in their area.

    AAA_Top_Level_Domain.jpg

    2) Bloomberg: bba.bloomberg

    Bloomberg is using bba.bloomberg to forward visitors to their login portal for Bloomberg Anywhere — a digital service to keep financial professionals current with the latest business news, data, and analytics.

    Bloomberg_TLD.png

    3) BMW: next100.bmw

    BMW designed a website using its Brand TLD to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

    BMW_TLD.png

    4) SEAT: ondinauto.seat

    SEAT — a Spanish automobile manufacturer — has set aside nearly one hundred Brand TLD domains to represent its various car dealers. This serves as a great example of the “channel.brand” use case we mentioned above.

    SEAT_TLD.png

    5) Canon: global.canon

    Canon has begun redirecting traffic from their original domain canon.com to global.canon.

    Screen_Shot_2016-06-01_at_1.37.47_PM.png

    (For even more brand TLD examples, check out brandTLDs.news.)

    Should Everyone Make the Switch?

    A digital paradigm shift is underway with the expansion of the domain name space. And it’s important to remember that we are in the very early days of this. As the next round is processed, the domain name space will only continue to expand.

    A Brand TLD serves as an effective way to secure a brand’s place in this increasingly complex digital ecosystem, where consumers demand authentic and trusted web properties to transact with businesses.

    A Brand TLD is not just another domain like your current flagship URL. It is also not just another tool to build a website and engage with audiences. Brand TLDs provide a platform to increase digital trust and innovation at the root of the internet’s infrastructure.

    But is a Brand TLD right for your business? Is it really worth the investment? Is it necessary for businesses in every industry? In short: It all depends. And it’s probably too soon to make a definitive determination.

    Here’s what we do know: 41% of Brand TLDs were applied for by Fortune 500 companies — mostly financial services, retails, technology, and transportation. For a more detailed look at the current Brand TLD landscape, check out the following chart.

    TLD_Landscape.png

    Image Credit: Neustar

    Regardless of whether or not your brand falls into one of these verticals, it’s important that you’re (at the very least) aware of the changes going on. At Authentic Web, we recommend you take the following steps to help you begin thinking about the shift:

    1. Dig in to understand the market activity and digital implications.
    2. Set up a small and empowered working team.
    3. Seek out advice from industry experts.
    4. Learn from early use cases and ideate on your own.
    5. Audit and grade your own domain name lifecycle change management processes.
    6. Develop a plan to differentiate and lead in your market.

    What do you think about Brand TLDs? How have you seen them used? Do you think it’s the right move? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    25 website must-haves

    May

    5

    2016

    6 Sneaky Places Brand Inconsistencies Hide (And How to Fix Them)

    Brand_Inconsistencies.jpg

    Most marketers and brand strategists understand the dangers of brand inconsistency: without a well-defined logo, color scheme, and brand voice, your brand won’t stand out in consumers’ minds. And if consumers can’t remember your brand, you haven’t a chance against competitors.

    While brands are constantly trying to uphold a strong visual image, the internet is notorious for uncovering small inconsistencies, many of which reside in the most unexpected places. 

    To make sure that you’re covering all the bases, we’ve outlined six sneaky places where brand inconsistencies tend to hide — from the depths of your product descriptions to that email you’re about to send. Alongside these sources you’ll find inspiring examples of world-class brands that are doing their due diligence to keep things consistent across the board. 

    6 Unexpected Sources of Brand Inconsistency (And How to Fix Them)

    1) Content Marketing Clarity: OpenTable’s Voice and Tone Guide

    Whether your content team is made up of two or 20, you’re inevitably going to end up with different writing styles. Having a range of voices is a good way to keep your audience interested, but there’s a fine line between an interesting variation and writing that’s downright inconsistent. And when the writing styles and visual content across blog posts are too drastic, your readers will be confused about the message you’re trying to send.

    How to Fix It

    One way to achieve consistency on your blog is to create a detailed content style guide. This guide can include information such as what types of stock photos to use, whether or not to use oxford commas, and what language to avoid. In addition to sharing this guide with everyone on your internal team, you can also share it with contributors, partners, and press.

    OpenTable’s style guide includes helpful guidelines for what tone their branded content should embody. These tips are used to inform blog content, so writers of all different backgrounds have a basic standard to follow.  

    OpenTable_Voice_and_Tone.png

    2) Search Engine Results: Slack’s Organized Brand Guidelines

    Pop Quiz: If you need information, fast, where do you typically go to get it?

    We’re going to take a gamble and say that your answer was Google. People looking for information about your brand probably have the same train of thought. After all, Google is seen as a trusted method for finding information. Trouble is, this can be bad news for brands. Since Google is so good at scouring the web, they’ll pull up anything and everything related to your brand — even outdated logos, old product shots, and inaccurate company descriptions.

    How to Fix It

    If you’re not keen on chasing people across the interwebs every single time your logo is used incorrectly, try taking a proactive approach. You can prevent brand misuse by showcasing your brand accurately in a single, public-facing location. You can adopt a cloud-based platform like Brandfolder to provide easy, immediate access to your brand assets and their usage guidelines.

    Slack ensures proper use of their brand assets by linking to their Brandfolder directly from their website in the top left corner. They also have a “brand guidelines” page on their website where readers can access all asset usage instructions.

    Slack_Logos.png

    3) Website Product Descriptions: Warby Parker’s Consistent Copy

    One of the biggest culprits of brand inconsistency resides in product descriptions and feature pages. This copywriting is especially notorious for being misaligned with your brand, and with one another, because they are extremely detailed and change often.

    How to Fix It

    The best way to keep your website up-to-date is to conduct a website audit. To ensure the process goes smoothly, be sure to involve leaders from every department. Your marketing team can help refine copy, your product team can ensure that it’s accurate, and your sales team can verify pricing information. Website audits can be especially challenging if you haven’t conducted one in over a year, so try getting into the habit of conducting one every six months or so.

    Warby Parker is a great example of a brand that achieves consistency across hundreds of products. Each pair of glasses has a product description that is similar in length and language. Since people shopping for glasses are inevitably going to look through many different pairs, these consistent product descriptions help Warby Parker uphold the quality and perceived brand value of their product.

    Warby_Parker_Description.png

    4) Email Communications: Hamilton College’s Efficient Style Guide

    Consider this scenario: Your sales team is communicating with a customer about a possible feature upgrade. Your support team is communicating with that same customer to help fix a bug. Meanwhile, you’re crafting the perfect promotional email to send to all your customers. While all of the emails are from the same brand, none of the teams are aligning their email language. As a result, each email sends a radically different message, and the customer retrieves a mixed message about what your brand is about.

    How to Fix It

    Similar to the content style guide we suggested in tip one, an email style guide can serve as a helpful alignment tool. Your guide should include guidelines on how to respond to questions and concerns, and what specific language you should include (and avoid). Start by rounding up the most common questions each department receives, then work with your marketing team to craft on-brand answers. In addition to helping your brand be more consistent, this will also save your team time.

    To make it even easier for writers to follow your brand’s editorial guidelines, simply make your style guide public.

    Hamilton College sets a great example for brands looking to standardize their email writing styles — their Email Style Guide includes directions on everything from acceptable fonts and colors to imagery usage.

    Hamilton_Email_Style_Guide.png

    5) Social Media Profiles: Apple’s On-Brand Support Account

    So your brand has an official Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and — wait a minute, what other social platforms are you on? With so many options for marketing your brand on social media, it’s hard not to feel pressured to have a presence on all of them. However, trying to tackle all of these platforms is difficult — can you really maintain a consistent posting cadence on all of these sites? Even more problematic is that fact that each of these platforms have varying audiences — and not all of these audiences are aligned with your target market and brand strategy.

    How to Fix It

    The best way to stay consistent on social media is to choose a few platforms that make sense for your audience and your product — then master them. It’s also a good idea to do a cleanup of your social profiles and delete the ones you don’t use, or don’t plan on using in the near future. After all, you probably don’t want people looking up your brand on Twitter to find you’ve only tweeted once … three years ago.

    Apple gets it: they’re one of the largest tech companies in the world, but they don’t even have a designated Twitter account. However, they do have an Apple Support account, which offers helpful tips and tricks on getting the most out of your Apple products.

    This actually fits into the greater brand experience that Apple creates. Instead of reaching out to customers with promotional discounts and deals, Apple offers an online support community where people can go to find what they need — similar to their in-store experience.

    Apple_Support.png

    6) Reviews and Ratings: Hotel Indigo’s Informative TripAdvisor Page

    Since product review sites are regulated by people who know nothing about your brand, they often portray the wrong information. Whether your business has the wrong location, or is missing a proper company description, review sites can be a huge source of concern for potential customers. And while there’s not much you can do about the poor ratings and negative reviews on these types of sites, you can take steps to keep your fundamental brand information accurate.

    How to Fix It

    First, reach out to these sites and do whatever you can to correct your brand’s information. It’s the job of the review site to inform their users, so they’ll likely be receptive to your request. Another way to boost your presence on review sites is to reach out to your champion customers and ask them to leave a review (if they haven’t already). This will help filter out the not-so-positive reviews, so people visiting these sites understand both what your brand is about, and what people honestly think of it.

    Nashville’s Hotel Indigo proves that a TripAdvisor profile can go a long way. Their page includes professional photography, accurate contact information, and TripAdvisor’s official “Seal of Excellence.” Nashville’s Hotel Indigo Staff can easily monitor this site to help customers gain knowledge and trust.

    TripAdvisor-1.png

    Now that you’re aware of six places brand inconsistency may be lurking, you can get started on creating your most consistent online brand presence yet.

    Did we miss something? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    free guide to branding your company

    Apr

    22

    2016

    There’s a Problem With Brand Identity: What Marketers Really Think About Brand Experience [Infographic]

    brand-experience.jpeg

    Many organizations know that building a brand identity is critical for any business. That brand identity includes what your brand says and what its values are. But how many of these organizations actually deliver on their brand promise?

    Not nearly enough, according to a study on brand experience by Brandworkz and CIM. The study surveyed 2,200 marketing leaders all over the world about the challenges, opportunities, and best practices for aligning brand promise and customer experience.

    What they found was that only 53% of respondents said their organization had internal-external brand alignment, and only 37% believe all employees understand how they can deliver the brand promise to the customer. Even though most organizations promote brand experience internally, they aren’t delivering that brand promise to their customers.

    But the staff themselves aren’t necessarily to blame: They also found that many senior leaders don’t appreciate the power of brand, and don’t train folks to prioritize it.

    Check out the infographic below from MarketingProfs to learn more about the findings of this study. It covers how marketers around the world feel about brand alignment in their organizations, why aligning your employees behind your brand is crucial, where organizations might be able to improve, and more.

    brand-experience-infographic.jpg

    free guide to branding your company

    Apr

    17

    2016

    22 Famous Brand Slogans (And the Little-Known Stories Behind Them) [Infographic]

    brand-slogans.png

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

    In 1977, Gary Gilmore faced a firing squad — the punishment he chose after he was convicted of killing two men in Utah. His last words were: “Let’s do it.”

    This phrase would end up becoming the basis for arguably the most famous brand slogan of all time.

    Wieden+Kennedy’s co-founder Dan Wieden resurrected and transformed the final words of Gilmore, who was also a native of Portland, Oregon, for a pitch for Nike ten years later. The young shop won the account and the slogan “Just do it” went on to inspire generations of aspiring athletes to get up and get motivated. 

    The source of inspiration for Nike’s famous slogan is surprising, but it’s not the only interesting backstory to how brand slogans have come about. Learn more about the history behind the most famous brand slogans in this infographic from Stratx.

    story-brand-slogan-infographic.jpg

    creative-brief-cta

    Mar

    29

    2016

    Koozies, Spatulas & Guacamole Bowls: 12 Pieces of Presidential Campaign Swag You’ve Got to See

    presidential-swag.jpg

    Pens, t-shirts, water bottles, baseball caps, lanyards … so many lanyards.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of swag, where — in a tremendous display of humanity’s technological prowess — we prove that we can stamp a logo or catchphrase on just about anything.

    In politics, candidates don’t just use swag to raise money. They use it to learn more about their supporters. As Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times reported, “The choice of a product can reveal whether you are a beer drinker, a sports fan or what cellphone you use. It can suggest that there are a lot of joggers headquartered in a specific region of the country, indicating that a campaign may want to direct its health communications to that state.”

    Candidates are essentially using swag sales data to help build out their buyer personas. (Or, in this case, voter personas.) Using the insights they glean, candidates can tailor their messages to the different regions they’re campaigning in.

    But what kinds of products are candidates actually stocking in their swag shops? And what can candidates hope to learn from selling some of the more ridiculous items you’re about to see on this list? Let’s take a closer look. 

    12 Pieces of Presidential Campaign Swag You’ve Got to See

    1) The Obligatory Beer Koozie

    As a presidential candidate in the U.S. of A., you’re expected to do three things on the campaign trail:

    1. Kiss babies
    2. Eat hot dogs (no fancy mustard allowed)
    3. Drink beers with fellow, good ole-fashioned, beer-drinking Americans

    To showcase just how beer-friendly they are — and to keep the hands of their suds-sipping supporters from getting cold — many presidential candidates sell signature beer koozies in their online campaign stores.

    presidential-swag-coozies.png

    I chose to highlight Hillary Clinton’s and Ted Cruz’s koozies in the image above since their campaigns took the extra effort of making (terrible?) puns.

    2) Candidate Coolers

    presidential-swag-coolers.png

    Of course, a koozie is only useful when you’re carrying around a single beer. To carry around several beers, you need a cooler. Fortunately, the Cruz campaign store has got you covered. President Barack Obama’s campaign store sold a cooler back in 2012 as well, and John McCain’s 2008 campaign store sold one too — although McCain opted for an embroidered, soft-sided cooler as opposed to a hard plastic one.

    3) Something With Overtly Millennial Messaging

    presidential-swag-millennials.png

    The first two items on this list may have helped candidates identify who among their supporters were beer drinkers. But with the two pieces of swag pictured above, it’s likely that the Marco Rubio campaign (suspended March 2016) and the Hillary Clinton campaign are trying to target millennial supporters. Rubio’s “bae” sticker and Clinton’s “yaaas” t-shirt both highlight some very recent additions to American vocabulary.

    And while we can’t help you in the “yaaas” department, we do have a flowchart that will teach you when it’s appropriate to use the term “bae” in your marketing.

    Bonus: This 404 error page from the Jeb Bush campaign website.

    jeb-bush-404-page.png

    4) A $75 Guacamole Bowl

    guacbowl-jeb-bush.jpg

    FYI: I discovered that 404 error page from Jeb Bush’s campaign site while searching for his headline-grabbing $75 guacamole bowl. (Since dropping out of the 2016 presidential race in February, Bush’s campaign store is no longer operational.)

    From a data standpoint, this one’s a no-brainer: Supporters who buy a $75 guacamole bowl from your campaign website must LOVE guacamole. You can use the sales data to make sure you’re serving guacamole at campaign events in the regions where guacamole popularity is at its highest. Note: These findings can also help to inform your campaign’s overall policy on guacamole and other snack-related issues.

    5) A Commander-in-Chief Cutting Board

    obama-cutting-board.jpg

    While we’re on the subject of presidential candidate-branded kitchenware, here’s a $20 cutting board from President Obama’s 2012 campaign. Can I prove that this $20 cutting board helped President Obama win the 2012 election? No, I cannot. But I also can’t prove that it didn’t help …

    6) Star-Spangled Spatulas

    presidential-swag-spatulas.png

    Just kidding, these grill spatulas aren’t really spangled with stars, but they do incorporate the candidates’ campaign logos — in this case, President Obama’s campaign logo from 2012 and Ted Cruz’s campaign logo from 2016 — in a pretty nifty fashion. Have a hankering to know if your supporters are BBQ fans? Selling spatulas could be the secret recipe.

    7) The Same. Darn. Water Bottle.

    presidential-swag-water-bottles.png

    Hillary Clinton’s campaign store sells one ($15). Ted Cruz’s campaign store sells one, too ($15). And back in 2012, President Obama’s campaign store sold the same one for — you guessed it — $15. Sales of such bottles, no doubt, have helped candidates figure out which of their supporters are fans of water.

    To be serious for a second, when you see items like water bottles being sold in conjunction with, say, yoga pants, and other athletic items, you can start to identify supporters for whom health and fitness are a priority.

    Speaking of yoga pants …

    8) Yoga Pants

    presidential-swag-yoga-pants.png

    Here’s another example of swag that’s aimed at fitness- and health-focused supporters: yoga pants. On the left are the Ted Cruz campaign store’s pants, which sell for $40. On the right are the pants from President Obama’s 2012 campaign, which sold for $35.

    9) Specialty Shirts & Jerseys

    presidential-swag-specialty-shirts.png

    There’s a lot of presidential candidate apparel out there, and most of it is pretty boring: just a logo and/or slogan printed on a t-shirt or cap. But in some cases, campaign stores take the design up a notch …. or down a notch, depending on your particular fashion sensibilities.

    The first example above is from the Bernie Sanders campaign store, and it’s a t-shirt that was designed by street artist Shepard Fairey ($30). Next is an “ugly sweater” from the Ted Cruz campaign store, which features the candidate’s likeness ($65). Finally, we have a basketball jersey from President Obama’s 2012 campaign store.

    10) Baby Swag

    presidential-swag-baby.png

    Yes, the legal voting age in the U.S. is 18, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from targeting the next generation with baby-sized swag. Also, sales of such swag can help candidates identify who of their supporters have youngsters in their families.

    Pictured above: a “Make America Great Again” onesie from the Donald Trump campaign store ($18); a “Bernie 2016” bib from the Bernie Sanders campaign store ($15); and a onesie from the Marco Rubio campaign store that reads, “My parents love me, so they are voting Marco Rubio 2016” ($25).

    11) Phone Cases

    presidential-swag-phone-cases.png

    Lots of candidates are selling phone cases in their campaign stores nowadays. But back in 2012, Mitt Romney straight up owned the branded phone case game: All six case styles you see above are from his 2012 campaign store. They sold for $40-a-pop.

    12) Swag Bundles

    presidential-swag-bundles.png

    How do candidates identify their most ardent supporters, the supporters who are going to show up at rallies and help spread the campaign message like wildfire? It’s possible they look at the folks who are purchasing massive bundles of swag from their campaign shops. These bundles can include bumper stickers, pins, signs, flags, and more.

    Pictured above: The “Organizing Pack (Large)” from Bernie Sanders’ campaign store ($80) and the “Rally Pack (for 12)” from Donald Trump’s campaign store ($250).

    Know of any other awesome (or awful) examples of candidate swag? Let us know in the comments section below.

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    Mar

    18

    2016

    Converse, Old Spice & More: 6 Famous Brands That Made Inspiring Comebacks

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    Consumer sentiment for a brand is like a fire. During the good times, it’s a roaring campfire, emanating heat and light and making everybody around it happy. During the bad times, it’s the flickering flame of a candle, barely shining through the darkness. And during the really bad times, the fire is roaring once again … but only because everything is burning to the ground.

    The strongest brands are run by marketers who know how to manage the fire. In some cases, that means dousing the flames, and in other cases, it means rekindling them.

    Unfortunately for some brands, one major scandal or financial setback, and that’s the end — they’re just never able to recover. For others, like Chipotle, we don’t know how the story’s going to end. It seemed as though the fast food icon was on the upswing following that multi-state E. coli outbreak. They issued public apologies, updated their food safety protocols, and launched a new ad campaign focusing on how darn safe their food is (now). And thennn norovirus struck.

    But hey, I’m not here to depress you. I’m here to highlight the good stories, the stories about brands that made successful comebacks after nearly burning out.

    6 Examples of Flawless Comeback Campaigns

    1) Converse

    get-chucked.jpg

    Source: Zoe Waritz

    In 1917, Converse launched the first mass-produced basketball sneaker: the All Star. It was lightweight, had a protective toe cap on the front, and sported a pretty nifty ankle patch. In 1932, Converse signed basketball star Charles Hollis (“Chuck”) Taylor to help market the All Star, which is how the sneaker earned its iconic nickname, the Chuck Taylor.

    Following the founding of the NBA in 1946, Chuck Taylors quickly became the most popular sneakers in the league. But by the 1980s, the competition — namely, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Puma — had gotten fiercer. Flash forward to 1998, and Converse was claiming just 2.3% of the market share.

    Ultimately, one of Converse’s competitors (Nike) stepped in and bought the company in 2003. But that was by no means the end of the Converse brand. Under new leadership, Converse went in a new direction by embracing their “old-school” style, which had appealed to generations of rebellious rockers over the years. As part of their brand overhaul, Converse produced special Kurt Cobain and Ramones editions of their Chuck Taylors. They also had fashion designer John Varvatos create a high-end line of Chucks.

    This new, fashion-focused direction for Converse culminated in 2007’s “Chuck It” campaign, which featured black and white photographs of model Daisy Lowe (daughter of rocker Gavin Rossdale). The campaign evoked the rich, cultural history of the Chuck Taylor, and helped reinvent Converse as a lifestyle band.

    2) Lego

    lego-imagine.jpg

    Source: 9GAG

    In the late ’90s, LEGO became obsessed with expanding their brand via new, innovative product designs. And while that might have sounded good in theory, in practice it meant manufacturing thousands of new, unique pieces, and promoting action figure-esque toys that had little connection to the classic LEGO brick systems.

    LEGO felt the repercussions of this strategy decision in 2003, when the company lost $300 million on the year and projected a loss of $400 million for the following year. Turns out all those crazy new designs LEGO created had never actually resonated with their target audience: kids. So when Jorgen Vig Knudstorp took over as CEO in 2004, he took a new approach to LEGO product design: Ask the kids what they want.

    And as LEGO discovered, kids didn’t want to play with pre-built, LEGO-branded action figures. They wanted to build. So LEGO got rid of all those new, super-fancy pieces they had introduced in the late ’90s, and had their marketing team (who had done extensive research) work with the product designers to make sure they were creating LEGO lines that kids actually wanted.

    In 2006, LEGO commissioned the agency Blattner Brunner to create a campaign that reflected this new direction. “Imagine” got back to LEGO basics by showing classic bricks casting shadows that resembled more complex objects, imitating how kids use their imaginations when building with LEGO. This Cannes Lions award-winning campaign signaled LEGO’s incredible comeback.

    In 2015, which LEGO declared its best year ever, the company brought in $5.2 billion in revenue, making LEGO the second biggest toy company in the world.

    3) Pabst Blue Ribbon

    Pabst-Blue-Ribbon-Beer-079728-edited.jpg

    Source: USA Today

    Sometimes the best advertising is no advertising at all. For PBR, a beer born in the 19th century, the key to making their comeback was to forgo traditional advertising altogether. No billboards. No radio spots. No TV commercials filled with sports jersey-clad bros cracking PBRs and high-fiving. Instead, when PBR sales hit rock bottom in 2001 — and they couldn’t have afforded traditional advertising even if they’d wanted to — the company turned to Fizz, an Atlanta-based word-of-mouth marketing agency.

    The agency’s first move was to seek out those few folks who were still drinking PBR and figure out what made them tick. PBR’s core audience, as they discovered, were mostly young people who eschewed mainstream brands. Or “early hipsters,” as Fizz’s founder and managing partner, Ted Wright, called them. Here’s how Wright explained the situation:

    “PBR having no money for traditional advertising was a blessing in disguise. The fact that these young people had never seen a PBR ad was a huge selling point for them … Traditional advertising, particularly of the kind produced by big beer companies in those days, would have killed whatever tiny momentum the brand had built.”

    Wright’s strategy for giving new life to the PBR brand: hit the streets of Portland, Oregon, Pittsburgh, and other cities and sponsor events including art gallery openings, skating parties, and bike messenger races. (No, I’m not making this up.) In the end, this non-traditional advertising strategy helped rescue PBR from obscurity and turn it into the billion-dollar brand it is today. 

    4) Old Spice

    swaggerizeme-010735-edited.jpg

    Source: Vimeo

    Heading into the latter half of the 2000s, things weren’t looking great for Old Spice.  There was fresh competition in the men’s deodorant/grooming products space — Axe — and they were soaking up Old Spice’s market share like an ergonomically designed loofah.

    Axe was a sleek, modern brand. Old Spice, in comparison, was stale and outdated. And sales were reflecting that more and more. One particular thorn in Old Spice’s side was their “Glacial Falls” deodorant scent, which was performing terribly. So they called on the Wieden + Kennedy agency to help them formulate a new name. “Swagger” was what they landed on.

    Kicked off in 2008, the Old Spice Swagger advertising campaign included print ads, TV spots, and even an interactive website: SwaggerizeMe.com (which no longer exists, FYI). The results: Old Spice ended up quadrupling sales of their once floundering product. But the Old Spice brand makeover was finished yet. Wieden + Kennedy still had to help them rejuvenate their line of scented body washes.

    In 2010, the “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign, featuring former NFLer Isaiah Mustafa, solidified Old Spice’s reputation as a modern brand. One ad in particular, which contained the memorable lines, “Look at your man, now back at me,” and, “I’m on a horse,” pulled in millions of views online. Within six months of the campaign’s launch, sales of Old Spice body wash had grown by 27%, and Old Spice was the category leader.

    5) Starbucks

    starbucks_value_and_values.jpg

    Source: Starbucks

    In the early 2000s, Starbucks was expanding like crazy, both in terms of locations and their product offerings. While the chain had built up a loyal following of coffee fans through recreating a neighborhood coffeehouse vibe, Starbucks’ quality of service couldn’t keep up with its rapid expansion. What’s more, by investing in non-coffee-related products — most notably, music — Starbucks was diluting its brand. In the eyes of the public, Starbucks was abandoning its local coffeehouse roots and turning into a cold, calculating corporation.

    By 2008, driven in part by the financial collapse, Starbucks was in dire straits — its stock price shriveling. Some analysts predicted that the coffee juggernaut would fade away into obscurity. In an effort to stay afloat, the once seemingly unstoppable coffee chain ended up closing more than 900 of its stores, laying off a huge chunk of its workforce in the process.

    At a time when cash-strapped Americans were viewing coffee more and more as a commodity, and increasingly turning to cheaper alternatives (e.g., McDonald’s), Starbucks needed a new game plan. They needed to convince folks that Starbucks was worth the extra cost.

    So Starbucks teamed up with ad agency BBDO to launch the multi-million dollar “Coffee value and values” campaign — the largest marketing campaign in Starbucks’ history. The campaign made Starbucks coffee the star of the show once again. Ad copy included lines like ” If your coffee isn’t perfect, we’ll make it over. If it’s still not perfect, you must not be in a Starbucks,” as well as, “Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee. It comes with a price.”

    Thanks in part to this massive campaign that focused on the quality of its core product, coffee, Starbucks was able to reinvigorate its brand as well as its business. In 2014, the company reported more than $16 billion in annual revenue.

    6) AC/DC

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    Source: Morrison Hotel Gallery

    Financial downturns are by no means the only phenomena that brands might have to recover from. And while the band AC/DC and their album (and world tour) “Back in Black” may seem like an odd choice for this list, trust me: there’s an inspirational story in here.

    In February of 1980, AC/DC’s charismatic lead singer and chief lyricist, Bon Scott, passed away suddenly. The band had just started laying the groundwork for a follow-up to 1979’s super successful “Highway to Hell,” but with Scott gone, it seemed unlikely that they’d ever complete it. AC/DC had lost their front man — their leader — and the band’s remaining members weren’t sure they’d ever be able to replace him.

    Eventually, however, they were introduced to (and successfully recruited) singer Brian Johnson, and AC/DC got back to work on their next album. From Johnson’s perspective, it was an intimidating task: Scott had been a renowned lyricist, and Johnson was worried he wouldn’t be able to live up to his predecessor. But Johnson pushed on, and the band came together to produce a little, 10-track album called “Back in Black.”

    Today, “Back in Black” is the second highest-selling album of all time.

    Know of any other brand comeback stories you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments section below!

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    Mar

    8

    2016

    8 Examples of Successful Co-Branding Partnerships (And Why They’re So Great)

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    Anyone remember Dr. Pepper-flavored lip gloss from Lip Smackers?

    I’d venture a guess that many of you do, whether it was a staple of your own childhood or that of a loved one’s.

    There’s something brilliant and memorable about that co-branded product: It’s fun, unexpected, and involves a classic and timeless brand that’s helped the flavor remain popular all the way from 1975 to present day. (Seriously, you can still buy them.)

    Strategic partnerships like that one can be a highly effective way to build a business, boost brand awareness, and break into new markets. The whole point is that the success of one brand will bring success to its partner brand, too. But for a partnership to truly work, it has to be a win-win for all players in the game. The value perceptions, target audiences, prices, and promotion channels need to match.

    So, what do great co-branding partnerships look like?

    There are a lot of great examples out there — too many to list in one post. Below, we’ve curated a shortlist of eight examples of great co-branding partnerships to inspire you. Check them out, and add your own favorites in the comments.

    8 Examples of Great Co-Branding Partnerships

    1) GoPro & Red Bull: “Stratos”

    GoPro doesn’t just sell portable cameras, and Red Bull doesn’t just sell energy drinks. Instead, both have established themselves as lifestyle brands — in particular, a lifestyle that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and usually pretty extreme. These shared values make them a perfect pairing for co-branding campaigns, especially those surrounding action sports.

    To make the partnership work, GoPro equips athletes and adventurers from around the world with the tools and funding to capture things like races, stunts, and action sport events on video — from the athlete’s perspective. At the same time, Red Bull uses its experience and reputation to run and sponsor these events.

    “GoPro camera technology is allowing us to compliment the programming by delivering new athlete perspectives that have never been seen before,” said Sean Eggert, Red Bull’s director of sports marketing. The collaboration allows exclusive GoPro content to enhance both companies’ growth.

    While GoPro and Red Bull have collaborated on many events and projects together, perhaps the biggest collaboration stunt they’ve done was “Stratos,” in which Felix Baumgartner jumped from a space pod more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface with a GoPro strapped to his person. Not only did Baumgartner set three world records that day, but he also embodied the value of reimagining human potential that define both GoPro and Red Bull.

    2) Pottery Barn & Benjamin Moore: “Experience Colors”

    One of the biggest benefits of co-branding campaigns is the opportunity to expose your product or service to a brand new audience. That’s exactly what home furnishing store Pottery Barn and paint company Benjamin Moore did when they partnered together back in the early 2000s.

    The folks at Pottery Barn realized their customers had a special interest in paint color when they realized how many questions they were getting about the colors used in their catalogues. By partnering with a reputable paint company like Benjamin Moore, they were able to give their customers what they wanted.

    Together, the two brands created an exclusive product line of paints, and then added a new section of Pottery Barn’s website that helped customers easily select paint colors to complement their furniture choices.

    pottery-barn-benjamin-moore-website.png

    Image Credit: Dezinable

    “We’re always trying to develop new tools to help consumers with the color selection process,” said Eileen McComb, director of communications at Benjamin Moore. “And the great thing about working with Pottery Barn is that we’re able to narrow down the palette to the paint colors that will work best with their designs. So, it’s providing an extra valuable service to Pottery Barn’s clientele.”

    The partnership was successful for years, although Pottery Barn has been collaborating with paint company Sherwin-Williams instead since 2013.

    3) The Global Fund & Gap: “PRODUCT (RED)”

    INSPI(RED). ADMI(RED). EMPOWE(RED). The PRODUCT (RED) campaign to fight AIDS in Africa, run by The Global Fund, has been around since 2006. Since then, it has raised more than $130 million and is arguably one of the largest partnership efforts ever. And while Gap wasn’t the only company involved (there’s also American Express, Apple, Converse, Starbucks, and more), their partnership is a great example of a company creating new products around a theme — in this case, the theme of change.

    In one of their first PRODUCT (RED) campaigns, the folks at Gap took photos of celebrities like Chris Rock and Anne Hathaway, both as individuals or with friends and loved ones, wearing a Gap (PRODUCT) RED item in a way that expressed their own, personal style. The photos were published in magazines like Vogue, and were accompanied by thought-provoking questions like, “Can the shirt off your back change the world?” and “Can the next generation change the world?”

    gap-red-campaign.jpg

    Image Credit: The Inspiration Room

    This partnership is also, of course, a great example of a business marketing themselves as socially responsible, which can often lead to an increase in sales. In return, The Global Fund received 50% of net profits from the sale of Gap (RED) items. Neither Red nor the companies would disclose revenue or total contributions by company or product.)

    Some question the sincerity of social campaigns like this, arguing that these partnerships benefit the for-profit partners more than the charitable causes. But, while corporate social responsibility isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, it is a way for organizations to benefit from exposure to a new audience.

    4) Bonne Belle & Dr. Pepper: Flavored Lip Balm

    Dr. Pepper-flavored lip balm. I mean, it’s genius.

    Bonne Belle first debuted Lip Smacker, the world’s first flavored lip balm, in 1973, starting with flavors like strawberry, lemon, and green apple. Just two years later in 1975, they’d forged their first flavor partnership with the timeless Dr. Pepper brand. The result? A lip balm flavor that’s been famous for decades among teenage girls.

    If you’re thinking the connection between lip balm and Dr. Pepper is a little thin, consider the copy on one of their vintage ads: “It’s the super shiny lip gloss with lip-smacking flavor… just like the world’s most original soft drink.” And later, “From Bonne Belle of course: the cosmetics company that understands your taste.”

    bonne-belle-dr-pepper.jpg

    Image Credit: Click Americana

    5) BMW & Louis Vuitton: The Art of Travel

    Car manufacturer BMW and designer Louis Vuitton may not be the most obvious of pairings. But if you think about it, they have a few important things in common. If you focus on Louis Vuitton’s signature luggage lines, they’re both in the business of travel. They both value luxury. And finally, they’re both well-known, traditional brands that are known for high-quality craftsmanship.

    These shared values are exactly why this co-branding campaign makes so much sense. In their partnership, BMW created a sports car model called the BMW i8, while Louis Vuitton designed an exclusive, four-piece set of suitcases and bags that fit perfectly into the car’s rear parcel shelf.

    louis-vitton-bmw.jpg

    Image Credit: Louis Vuitton

    Although the four-piece luggage set goes for a whopping $20,000, the price is right for the target customer, as the BMW i8 starts at $135,700. A price like that kind of makes that luggage set seem like a drop in the bucket.

    Not only does the luggage fit perfectly size-wise, but its design and appearance fits perfectly with BMW’s image: sleek, masculine, and high-quality. Turns out both the luggage and some parts of the car’s interior use carbon fiber, strong-yet-light composite material.

    “This collaboration with BMW i epitomises our shared values of creativity, technological innovation and style,” said Patrick-Louis Vuitton, head of special orders at Louis Vuitton. “Our craftsmen have enjoyed the challenge of this very special project, using their ingenuity and attention to detail to create a truly made to measure set of luxury luggage. This is a pure expression of the art of travel.”

    6) Genius & Spotify: “Behind the Lyrics”

    You might guess that two companies like Spotify (a commercial music streaming service) and Genius (a huge, online collection of song lyrics and crowdsourced music knowledge) would go together like peas in a pod. Well, their recent co-branding effort didn’t disappoint.

    Recently, they’ve been working together on a new set of collaborative Spotify playlists called “Behind the Lyrics.” These are pre-populated playlists that show the lyrics of each song as it plays, followed by brief back stories explaining why certain lyrics are the way they are.

    Their first one, “Behind the Lyrics: Hip Hop,” was released in January 2016 and lets users listen to artists like Drake, 2 Chainz, and Rihanna while learning where some of their lyrics come from.

    behind-the-lyrics-1.png behind-the-lyrics-2.png

    The lyrics facts themselves come from the crowdsourced music knowledge already on Genius.com, and the both teams did some extra work to get the functionality right and time the facts to the music. This is a great example of companies that operate in the same space — in this case, music — collaborating on a fun, interesting project.

    (Note: Right now, this feature is only available on Spotify’s iPhone app, and desktop users can check it out on Genius’ website as long as they also have Spotify’s desktop app installed.)

    Spotify has done a series of other, successful co-branding partnerships, including one with Uber to create “a soundtrack for your ride.”

    7) BuzzFeed & Fur Baby Rescue

    Some co-branding campaigns are more complicated than others. This example from BuzzFeed and Fur Baby Rescue is one of the simplest ones out there — and it goes to show a great co-branding effort doesn’t have to take months of planning or millions of dollars.

    For this campaign, the folks at a rescue animal shelter called Fur Baby Rescue wanted to leverage BuzzFeed’s readership of over 200 million people. To do this, they partnered with the folks at BuzzFeed to set up and publish an article called, “We Gave Drunk Girls a Bunch of Puppies and There Were Lots of Tears,” which you can read here. The article is exactly what it sounds like: A few ladies had a few drinks, and then were surprised with adorable (and adoptable) puppies from Fur Baby Rescue.

    buzzfeed-puppies-gif.gif

    Image Credit: BuzzFeed

    The article itself is sprinkled with links to Fur Baby Rescue’s website. Not to mention, the content makes it clear that the puppies featured in the video are, in fact, adoptable — thanks to lines like, “UGH AND THEY ARE ALL ADOPTABLE TOO” and GIFs like the one below.

    adoptable-puppies-gif.gif

    Image Credit: BuzzFeed

    8) Alexander Wang & H&M

    Anyone who’s designer-conscious knows Alexander Wang and H&M aren’t exactly the same caliber when it comes to quality. Shoes by Alexander Wang tend to go for around $350 a pair, whereas shoes sold by H&M tend to go for more like $35 a pair. See what I mean?

    But that discrepancy in pricing is exactly why the two brands decided to partner with one another. To support their brand positioning as trendy and fashionable, H&M has traditionally paired with high-end fashion brands to offer exclusive branded items for a limited time.

    In exchange, those high-end brands — like Alexander Wang — can expose their brand name to “a new generation of potential consumers, who will increasingly aspire to owning more pieces from his high end collection,” writes Michelle Greenwald for Forbes.

    alexander-wang-h-and-m.jpg

    Image Credit: Snobette

    Which co-branding partnerships are your favorites? Share them with us in the comments.

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