Offline is mimicking online fervor. All the ‘kids’ are doing it. Multiple facets of business are better discovered, engaged, and shared on the Web. We do and will see ongoing shifts. Consider Danny Sullivan’s observations of the WSJ. How about WSJ’s coverage of Verizon’s spectrum deal?
Online is the place to be. Like printed-news counterparts, magazines are making online transitions as well. A NY Times article showcases a unique off-to-online transition. How does getting ‘fit’ online sound? No, Self magazine isn’t teaming with Nintendo Wii (though the digital world is creating strange ‘partnerships’). Today, the mag has plans to introduce an online game, hosting the name of an offline, ‘Self Workout in the Park’ event.
The online event is brand new. The offline event has been taking place for 19 years in New York and other locations. Women are primarily the target market; online games involve health and wellness implements as well as elements of beauty and fashion. The goal is to closely emulate the offline version while implementing online avatars, puzzles, opportunities to win goods, and get (your avatar?) in shape.
Though Self Magazine’s iteration of online play is new, the online gaming notion is not. We know ‘social games.’ Think Farmville and Badgeville.
Self is reported to invest a mid-six-figure amount toward the marketing effort. That’s a lot of magazine sales. In addition, marketers (BlackBerry, 7 for All Mankind) aligned with the Self game, have invested several hundred thousand dollars for sponsors.
Why? I think New York Times author, Stuart Elliott hits the nail on the head:
The Self effort is part of a growing trend that reflects how profoundly legacy media like magazines are rethinking how they seek revenue from advertisers and consumers.
Okay, brands with similar ideas, perhaps you’re inspired; however, as a marketer with intense interest in branding and reputation management, I naturally take notice to genuine intentions and how implementations ultimately…play out. Consider this article by another Times’ reporter. Who’s playing who regarding ‘gamification’? I wrote about gamification on my personal blog a few weeks ago.
My advice is to engage in gamification for the right reasons, such as to build an online community and strengthen connections with your brand’s users. In addition, don’t assume participants are in it for genuine reasons as well. Do they want prizes or do they really champion your brand?
I know some online marketing tactics seem intriguing and really innovative; but, will they specifically work for your brand? At this point in your brand’s history? Is the process the right fit for your brand and users?
In his post, Elliott directs attention toward the odd dynamic of a fitness brand endeavoring at intriguing its brand users to ‘get fit online.’
It may seem odd that a magazine dedicated to encouraging its readers to improve themselves — whether through its editions in print, online and on mobile devices, its mobile apps, a mobile texting diet and events like Workout in the Park — would offer them an opportunity to stay sedentary and play a game in which their avatars, rather than their physical selves, try to shed pounds and buff up.
If you neglect your ‘self’ in offline life, your body shows it. If you neglect your online ‘Self’ avatar, it shows too, shadowing ‘reality.’ Will Self’s community be interested in staying fit and intrigued offline and on too? Self needs to ask itself that question and so does your brand before online game engagement.
Thanks for reading. Please comment to make my post better.
Technology! It’s exciting! It’s eye opening! It may be hurting your brand! Technology is moving at…modern-day computer speeds; it’s getting faster with each passing moment. Yesterday, I wrote upon Apple’s newest iPad and analyst forecasts of mobile devices killing the ‘PC star.’
In Apple’s case, advanced technology is modifying the brand, filling iPad revenue streams and drying paths stemming from PC sales. For the Ford Motor Company, technology may have lost it revenue as well as reversed the brand a few rungs on the ladder of reputation.
Two years ago, Ford began producing vehicles with the MyFord Touch system (developed with Microsoft). Great idea, Ford! Align your brand with a bastion of technology. Was the maneuver beneficial? Not presently. Ford’s customer ratings plunged along with brand reputation. It’s time to check under the hood, Ford.
Of course, MyFord Touch was an ostensible implementation of progress. A touch screen (where are our traditional buttons going?) replaces traditional knobs and buttons. Wise men say only fools rush in… From a New York Times article:
“I think they were too willing to rush something out because of the flashiness of it rather than the functionality,” said Michael Hiner, a former stock-car racing crew chief in Akron, Ohio, who bought Ford Edge Limited last year largely because he and his wife were intrigued by MyFord Touch.
Ford needed to rev up celebration of its nascent touch technology. A major upgrade attempts to resolve issues related to fickle systems (crashing and rebooting), slow touch screens, and questionably-keen voice recognition systems.
What I personally celebrate about Ford’s endeavors to remedy the situation is their direct contact with customers. Upgrades are being sent to customers (the new software is installed via a USB flash drive in about an hour). Are you amongst the 300,000 Ford customers awaiting a flash-drive upgrade in the mail this week?
The horn was initially blown on MyFord Touch last week by Consumer Reports (Ford is now parked at 10th place on the 2012 Automaker Report Card). J.D. Power & Associates drove Ford further from its accolades; the former dropped the latter from 5 to 23 in its most recent quality survey.
Is your brand moving too fast? We hear about the mishaps of the big brands but I’m sure a lot more brands are frustrated regarding the insurgence of technology and the anxiety to produce bigger, better, and faster. Can your brand keep up? If not, when do you say when? When your consumers begin turning on you? Isn’t it too late then (especially for a smaller brand)? Ford has a long-standing name and is likely to brook this reputation storm.
Citibank got itself into similar trouble with smartphone applications recently. Similarly, Citi is a big brand, likely to leverage its already standing reputation to move past the mishap. SMB owners, whether related to online platforms or offline technology, are you chasing tech toward a reputational cliff?
Anthony, does this relate to SEO? Yes, I think it does. WebiMax’s Todd Bailey recently posted on Search Engine Guide about Google’s numerous updates. Our search engine optimization industry warrants daily-to-hourly perusal in order to stay up-to-date with Panda updates (Kevin Gibbons), new SEO approaches, Google privacy changes, ( I could go on but it’s likely I’m missing industry news as I type – I gotta go)…
There are a lot of smart minds out there; please contribute. It makes my post better.
What’s the importance of a business’ personality? That might seem like an odd question; isn’t your business a thing, not a person? Sure, but creating associations to your company is a large part of branding, a process not to be ignored. I referenced personification this week in a post about getting consumer attention. Maybe for some, it’s easier to regard your business as a person; entrepreneurs are a suitable population to personify. The group has a lot in common with aspiring businesses.
I read an article earlier in the New York Times on attributes of successful entrepreneurs. I thought it would be helpful to apply some of the characteristics to online businesses.
Entrepreneurs may display ambition through 80-plus-hour workweeks. An ambitious business needs to put in extra hours as well, working on online marketing objectives. I made reference to the ambitious notion of working weekends recently. Perhaps you’re ‘open for business’ five days a week; but, if you’re online, a place that never sleeps or closes, then it’s ambitious to contribute to your marketing campaign each day. What can you do each day to contribute? Online marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ambition does not curtail with success; in fact, the opposite is true in many cases. I remember seeing an interview with Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers years ago; Jerry, who had an impressive career and is often referenced in ‘best wide receivers of all time’ discussions, admitted how hard he trained on a regular basis to ‘maintain his edge’ and mentioned how he was haunted by thoughts of other receivers training harder than him. How hard is your brand training?
Creativity is a relative term, but it usually requires some thought and planning. There are many online tools available, facilitating creative opportunities. Consider the Sonic brand’s latest move, reintroducing former spokesmen through a crafty social media campaign. A creative entrepreneur finds ways to make progressive motions; a creative business does the same, making creativity an objective. Don’t be creative for creativity’s sake; analyze your target market, relating to them in a unique way. It could be something different, or a new take on an old success, as the Sonic brand applied.
Entrepreneurs we wind up hearing of may have had to collect their respective bumps and bruises along the way, learning, revising, and trying new approaches. The online marketing process is the same. It’s an evolving process as search engines deliver penalties, new sites arise (Are you using Pinterest?), and marketing trends change. A majority of small outfits fail within the first three years; even eventually-successful entrepreneurs had to reinvent themselves several times over. If you’re in it to win it (online marketing), then prepare your brand for a long haul. When negatives occur (and they will for any business), is your brand going to deflate or bounce back?
Are you listening to SEOs or your customers? When it comes to online marketing, perhaps it’s wise to listen to intuition. After all, each business knows its respective industry well, likely more so than marketers. What notions make the most intuitive sense for your brand? How are your target consumers embracing goods and services? Where is the brand-to-consumer dynamic taking your business? Ensure your separating outside advice from your business’ intuition. It’s also important to listen to workers; they’re ‘in the trenches’ and can deliver great insight on applicable, future notions.
Take a look at your brand’s competition. What separates your business from the rest? Are your services and products starkly contrasted from your competitors? Be honest with yourself. It’s likely there aren’t huge differences. However, it’s difficult to engineer similar brand personalities. Show your brand’s personality. I’ve suggested how brands can showcase personality from blog posts and social media participation. I like how SEOmoz uses blog posts to introduce its workers to its public. The process enforces branding and distinguishes the company from others in its vertical. How is your business personifying itself?
How’s your brand getting attention today? There are in-house and external ways to beckon attention. Seek search engine optimization information; vendors offer an array of choices, addressing technical, social, and copywriting needs. Do you want ongoing commerce from customers once you have their immediate attention? While SEO offers opportunities to drive traffic to your site, your company has the power to make your brand a ‘regular hangout,’ enjoying endless attention. That’s what you want, right?
I read a Search Engine Land article this morning by Myles Anderson; he gives good ideas regarding improving local business commerce. His notion of the death of traditional PR caught my eye. I agree; some things have changed. The approach has been tweaked, but the end goals of public relations initiatives remain worthy of pursuit.
Traditionally, PR initiatives spread awareness about a brand, conveying internal and external news. That’s still highly valuable and will always be (it’s a part of ‘branding’); while SEO and online marketing get attention, relating to the public (your brand’s customers) helps maintain commerce, offering (free) marketing via word of mouth and other ways consumers communicate…like through social media.
Press Release Exposure
While a press release gets brands mentioned in several news sources, the price of ongoing releases can add up. There are alternatives. Does your brand leverage Facebook? CEOs and executives want press releases to get read and spark brand-associated conversations. Brands can do that on a weekly (or more often) basis using Facebook. Why direct fan attention toward a static page when you could direct attention toward your brand’s dynamic Facebook page? While some platforms allow you to upload images and video along with your release (usually at an extra charge), your brand can implement all the media it desires directly on its (free) Facebook account.
While a brand can garner attention from emulating a press release from a social platform, the additional exposure a press release could attract should not be completely put to rest; additionally, getting an inbound link from a high-authority news site helps SEO. Read this Neil Patel post on attracting authority links for additional insight.
PR spreads word about a brand, encompassing its services, products, and messages as well as the people behind the brand. Is your brand introducing its team ‘players’ to its public? Are your executives writing guest posts, speaking at conferences, and offering insight on major news stories? Great Web sites ask for contributions all the time. Do research in your respective industry, finding guest post opportunities. You could find guest post opportunities using Twitter, as featured in this Ethan Lyon post.
Companies use press releases to better familiarize the public with the respective brands. This can be performed from a company blog or a dynamic ‘about us’ page. Let’s face it; competition is fierce in all verticals. How is your brand different? No, not your services and products; how is your brand different than that of competitors? I often encourage brands to make copywriting selfless, to address the consumer rather than the brand’s vanity, but the ‘about us’ sentiment is the exception. This is where you want to sing your company’s praises, where you want your consumers to ‘get to know’ a brand’s personality and the people who comprise it. Be genuine and transparent. Why should consumers champion and revisit your brand? Address those questions for them via one or a series of dynamic, ‘about us’ sentiments. Read how transparency helped the Domino’s brand.
The culmination of the football season is knocking at this weekend’s door. Who’s going to win the big game!? My personal excitement is feigned; I share sentiments with another ‘Googler.’ However, I do hope your consumers view your brand as a ‘giant’ in its industry and a ‘patriot’ regarding customer service and meeting mission statements.
While brands can spend a lot of time addressing online marketing and search engine optimization needs, it’s likely the pursuit of data-driven results, bumps in rankings, and links attached to ‘coveted’ words and phrases are creating a tunnel-vision-like perception. The irony: while your brand keeps its eyes on the ‘prize,’ the ‘views’ of others may get neglected. Don’t forget about consumers and associated perceptions.
I watched Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday segment on an associated topic earlier today, elucidating ironically-hidden factors related to online marketing success. I say ironic because as referenced in the opening, with so many online options, tactics, and suggested tips, a brand could invest a lot of time considering how to improve elements of marketing while forgetting about overall brand perception.
Be Who You Say You Are
I used to be a teacher of English and writing. One of the first things I learned regarding teacher-student relations is to be who you say you are; young kids are savvy and quickly ascertain contradiction and ‘deception.’ One point raised in the Whiteboard post was ensuring your brand can ‘deliver’ on marketing promises. This is important to consider across the board, and holds true down to the tiniest minutiae of brand sentiments. For instance, is marketing text and links structured to render what a browser likely desires or is it somewhat (mis)leading them to some sort of brand-serving landing page? While facilitating ‘conversions’ is at the heart of online marketing, it’s important to gain trust. While ‘link baiting’ may produce desired results, it’s likely building sentiments of mistrust with browsers.
I consider ‘branding’ to be the process of creating and solidifying associations to your brand. What comprises a brand? I think services, products, executives, employees, behaviors, logos, slogans, just about ANY ELEMENT directly (sometimes indirectly – read how misunderstandings between an established SEO and business partners may influence future perception of the former’s brand) associated to your brand is a reflection on the brand and perceived by immediate consumers and the public at large.
How to build trust:
- Make your team transparent. Make executives and team members visible from your Web site and marketing material. Don’t hide behind company logos. I think this is especially true regarding social media. How many brands have generic, company logos as Twitter and Facebook accounts? I understand, you want to expose your brand, but would a person (CEO, PR rep) build more trust regarding social accounts?
- Internal news can help build trust. Traditionally, press releases did this in the past, but in modern times, a brand could use ongoing blog posts (ironically, less corporate brands are blogging these days) to build ongoing trust and familiarity with immediate consumers and the public.
Of course, a brand must find a fine balance, especially online. You could be the most trustworthy, genuine brand on the planet, but if the brand is not making online strides regarding social media fans, rankings associated to keywords, and producing linkable, informative copywriting, then it’s difficult to gain exposure, attracting enough attention to build a level of ‘trust.’ However, is it easier to make ongoing progress related to online marketing and search engine optimization or build trust? I think both are slow, methodical processes, but while a claw on the wrist by a Panda may set your site back a few initiatives a reputation is a lot harder to ‘update.’
Thanks for reading
A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about the changing dynamic between consumers and brands. It could be the pesky, tenacious “recession,” that won’t go away like socially-inept relatives after the holiday season, making consumers a bit more perceptive and sensitive in the pocket. Additionally, it could be the popularity of social media platforms and daily usage by consumers within all business verticals. Considering a number of major brands have pulled “180s” last year regarding major decisions due to the reception of its consumers, it could be a sign of the times. Will 2012 be the year of the consumer?
Today, as usual, I got up with the sun and headed to a local coffee shop for some caffeine and the New York Times. I’m a creature of habit; I know to have a five in hand. Four goes toward the price of the paper and coffee, and I leave one for the baristas as a tip. However, this morning the baristas got $.50. Why? The Times now charges an extra $.50 for its daily weekly. This was unbeknownst to me, their consumer, avid reader, and loyal fanboy, who often links and mentions the brand in my posts.
As a consumer with social media options and a “virtual” voice, I reacted, tweeting to them regarding the near $20 ($2.50 each weekday plus $6 for Sunday’s edition) I must invest to peruse the Time’s pages each week. I haven’t heard back, but I reckon I’m not the only consumer who took notice and took action.
Perhaps my personal sentiment is not salient enough to persuade the Times to reconsider, but as we saw in 2011, if enough people take action, a brand will take notice.
- Recently, the Verizon brand issued news about a rise in fees, charging customers who pay bills online or by phone, an extra $2. Consumers, along with federal regulators, voiced their disapproval; Verizon recanted the extra fee sentiment soon after.
- I wrote a post last week about Go Daddy’s fickle nature regarding their stance on SOPA. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes’ level of perception to figure public perception had a hand in the brand’s stance on SOPA.
- Let’s not forget the rollercoaster ride of fanfare the Netflix brand experienced after the summer season. Due to public reaction, the brand did modify intentions of uniting its DVD-by-mail element with its Internet-streaming process, yet did not reconsider its rise in prices, and the public reacted.
- In November, Bank of America took back a sentiment issued five weeks earlier regarding a to-be $5 price increase imposed on debit card users. Consumers “no likey” price increases; therefore, brands must consider the reception of such things before making final arrangements.
Will my reactive sentiments save myself and other readers $.50 on the weekly Times? Will open communication, facilitated by social media platforms and the availability of information sharing in real time, be a champion for consumers in times to come? As a consumer, I hope so. As an online marketing practitioner, I hope brands are taking notice of a growing trend and inextricable need to consider consumers in 2012.