Branding 101: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

We live in a world FULL of advertising. We constantly receive messages from brands on what to buy and why to buy it.

But these days, for consumers to choose one brand over another, the specifics about the product or service matter less. What really matters is what the brand is saying, how it says it and what it does to back that up. People aren’t only buying products or services anymore – they’re buying experiences and they want to buy from companies they trust.


At South by Southwest Interactive in March, many of the marketing sessions I attended followed a trend of encouraging brands to become better listeners and more authentic communicators.

The key to gaining the trust of consumers and getting them talking about your product/service is to take strides in becoming more human and more relatable. The first step is to become a better listener.

Be a Better Listener

Listen up! According to the “Analytics of Social Marketing” session at SXSW, a report by IBM and EConsultancy found that 81% of brands say they know what their customers want while only 37% of customers felt that brands understood them. So how can you build long-term relationships with customers or develop content for your audience if you don’t understand them? If you’re not listening to what your audience is asking or don’t know what they want from you, you’re only hurting your cause.

Here are a few ways to open your ears to your audience:

  1. Socialize: One of the best ways to listen to your audience is by finding out what’re they’re saying on social media. Are there frequently asked questions? Do you know how to answer those questions? What kind of content gets shared the most? And what kind of content creates the most engagement? Your competitors may talk about subjects that interest your audience so make sure you check their social profiles, too. Use your findings to modify your posts to produce content that generates more interest.
  2. Solicit feedback: Include a survey link on your website, receipts, emails or social media accounts to receive feedback from your customers. Use this information to make improvements in your communications and address your customers on a more personal level.
  3. Think outside the box: Interact with customers in your store, pick up the phone or hold a product/service demo. These actions allow you to interact with customers directly, adding a personal touch to your communication. For example, ask customers if they have questions about a product, what changes they would want to see, how they use it, etc.
  4. Walk a mile in their shoes: Check out your own website, test your products and read your blog, social media posts and press releases, and try to see all these from their perspective, not yours. If you find yourself turned off by what you’re saying, make changes immediately. According to TheGood.com, brands shouldn’t make consumers look and listen to content that disrupts them or disinterests them. In fact, the more time you save consumers from irrelevant content, the more they’ll love your brand.

Be Authentic

Be transparent and more human. A 2013 survey by Cohn and Wolfe Brands found that consumers around the world are demanding that the brands they use become more honest and more authentic in their communications.

You want to give customers a reason to feel good about doing business with you. Creating an authentic brand takes time, all the more reason to start now:

  1. Establish your brand identity: Levi’s, for example, ties its marketing activities closely to its history and values. The company’s advertising strategy is to highlight its legacy while its social media channels help raise awareness for causes it cares about. Know what your company stands for, know your company’s values and stick to them no matter what.
  2. Make decisions thoughtfully and stand by them firmly: According to the “Smart Ad Campaigns: Not about the product” session at SXSW,authenticity is best measured in actions. If your company chooses to tap into cultural and social issues like Pantene did in 2013, make sure it’s true to your brand DNA. A lot of criticism stems from wondering if a brand is being genuine or if they’re just hopping on the social issue bandwagon. Show your customers you mean what you say by reinforcing points in your campaigns and being consistent.
  3. Be more human: Companies need to speak like humans in order to build authenticity. If you engage your target in a relatable, down-to-earth way, you can get your message across without even showing your products/services. Consider using customer experiences to create authentic stories. You can ask customers to submit stories about how they’ve used your product/service and what it means to them. This will help your brand engage with and be supportive of your customers and their lifestyles without having to sell them something. Check out how Squarespace does this in their Field Stories ad campaign.
  4. Keep content fresh: Don’t repeat yourself. In order to sound more genuine, spice up your content by finding new things to talk about on social media and not solely advertising your brand offerings. At M/C/C, our social media posts follow the “Rule of Thirds.” Our philosophy is that content should be one-third promotional, one-third educational and one-third cultural. This means you should post some content about what you offer, provide links/videos to content that educates users about a topic and share content that engages and interests users.

These days, people don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be engaged with and they want companies to care about them. In order for your brand to succeed in the long term, you must start making strides now to becoming a communicator that meets the needs and wants of your audience.

Remember, you can always measure success by ROI, but sometimes it’s the things you can’t measure (i.e. emotional connections you make between consumers and your brand) that make the most impact.

What brands would you consider to be good listeners and authentic communicators? Comment below.

If You Feel You’re Being Followed, You Are

Have you ever researched prices on Amazon.com or shopped for a new pair of shoes on Nordstrom.com? If you are like me, then the answer is “yes.” If you are still like me, you run out of time or need to switch gears to a different task like looking up weather forecasts for your upcoming trip. And what to your wandering eyes should appear, right next to the weather predictions, is an advertisement for the exact same item you were researching seconds ago. In my case, a step tracker. How is it that the item has followed you to a totally different site? You, my friend, have been retargeted.

Blurred mobile phoneWhat is retargeting?

While retargeting is not a new advertising tactic, many outside of the advertising world are still unfamiliar. Retargeting is an innovative method of online display advertising that serves targeted banners to visitors that have abandoned your website to draw them back for a desired action (purchase, RFQ, registration, etc.) AdRoll.com, a retargeting service provider, gives a straight forward description of how retargeting works:

“Technically all that is necessary is to place a JavaScript tag in the footer of your website. This code creates a list of people that visit your site by placing anonymous retargeting ‘cookies’ in their browser. This list allows AdRoll (or other retargeting vendors) to display retargeting ads to your potential customers as they visit other sites.”

Like my example, I was browsing a specific item on Amazon (a step tracker) when a cookie was dropped on my computer which then allowed Amazon ads to “follow,” or more accurately, retarget me on Weather.com.

Types of retargeting

From a strategic perspective, there are several types of retargeting methods that are beneficial for B2B and B2C clients. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a basic overview.

Static

Static retargeting is the most basic form of retargeting. Banners are served to people who abandoned after visiting your website. The banners are not contextual — served based on the exact content that was viewed — but rather brand-specific. Static retargeting can be used for multiple objectives, such as awareness or e-commerce.

Dynamic

Dynamic retargeting is an excellent way to personalize and specifically target customers. It features the exact content on the Web that was recently viewed (i.e. my infamous step tracker) or the item that was abandoned in the shopping cart. This form of retargeting is typically used for B2C but can certainly be used in B2B depending on objectives. Both static and dynamic retargeting can occur within social platforms like Facebook, in addition to standard websites. It just depends on the type of retargeting program you are working with.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM retargeting specifically retargets your email database with ads across the Web. It allows you to re-engage with past or present customers, once again bringing your business top of mind. The benefit is that as the database profiles become more complete to include the customer’s activities, the ads can be more relevant and targeted to those customers.

Why choose retargeting?

M/C/C recommends implementing a balanced advertising plan that includes programs that meet specific objectives like driving e-commerce sales as well as ongoing coverage from key programs. When considering ad programs, keep in mind that retargeting alone is not the answer to improved overall ROI. For it to be successful, you need to drive traffic to your site in order for your audience/customers to be retargeted. Traffic can come from social media, PR and other digital advertising efforts. Cutting all other digital advertising efforts is not the way to go. Instead, think of it as an ingredient in your overall marketing mix. You’ll definitely want to try other methods like native advertising and programmatic advertising.

Retargeting has become a strategic part of the majority of M/C/C’s clients’ advertising plans, and we include it as a foundational program due to several key factors:

  1. Retargeting Nurtures Relationships

Retargeting is a consistent way to nurture an existing audience that has already expressed interest in your brand. By serving ads on “unexpected” sites via AdNetworks through retargeting, prospective customers are more likely to click content relative to them. Here’s how we used site retargeting for our client, Hudson and Marshall.

  1. Retargeting Works

Our ongoing research shows considerably stronger engagement from our retargeting programs than other digital advertising efforts. Not only are they more likely to click on the ad, but those who have visited your website before are more likely to engage with your content after the click.

  1. Retargeting is Cost Effective

Retargeting costs less than traditional digital advertising efforts, allowing you more bang (impressions) for your buck. No more wasting impressions on an audience that may not be interested in your brand.

Have more questions about retargeting or want to get ramped up? Whether it’s programmatic advertising or retargeting – shoot us an email and we’ll get your program started!

Don’t Let the Challenges of Data Get Your Digital Marketing Down

The top four digital priorities for 2016 among companies, according to the EConsultancy Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2016 Digital Trends report, are targeting and personalization, content optimization, social media engagement and multi-campaign management. Among these priorities, there is one point of focus: customer experience. The element that joins them all together: data.

The value of data is increasing exponentially, as it is proven to create a competitive advantage and become a crucial element of decision-making. While data currently has value in demonstrating what happened for a given campaign and sales effort, the goal is ultimately to increase the value of data from the “what” to the “why,” “when” and “how.”

Isometric data analysis infographic

For most companies, data via raw numbers and standard and ad hoc reports are used to report what happened with a campaign or marketing effort. It’s valuable when optimizing future campaigns and creative and making long-term decisions based on trends. Once data is analyzed, there is a level of business intelligence that comes into play and knowledge about “why” something happened can influence decisions. Next, the goal is to develop predictive models that can help determine what is likely to happen. Lastly, the ultimate goal is to develop prescriptive models to provide insight on how to make it happen. These stages help a marketing organization start with data and end with action on the part of the customer.

These stages are essential in addressing the four priorities mentioned above. If we look at personalization as an example, data can help marketing evolve from the basic personalization of adding a “Hello, Bob” or “Welcome, Amy” to a Web page based on data from a form to delivering content in real-time based on a customer’s actions, previous websites visits and other interactions. When this happens, new content can be served based on the path the customer takes, providing information that is most relevant at the customer’s current decision-making stage.

But getting to that point is tough. And allowing data to drive digital marketing is not without its challenges.  The sheer volume of data generated can be overwhelming and create obstacles to using it effectively. At the same time, internal challenges also can thwart success and efficacy. Let’s review a few of the potential challenges:

  1. Time

According to Accenture and Peerview Data, “not enough time” was one of the top two issues sited when companies were asked what their challenges were with data analysis (Cost was the other.) With data coming from multiple sources, the ability to review, analyze and then make actionable decisions quickly is critical to having a competitive edge. Data integration can be a solution to help offset the time crunch. Integration quickly visualizes data from multiple sources to assists with making decisions. For companies that do not have large technology budgets, there are low-cost tools available such as Tap Analytics.

  1. Processes and cultural change

With digital marketing, collaboration is essential to a campaign’s success. But all too often, distance between the data organization and marketing communications creates siloes that make it difficult to leverage the analysis generated and use it for campaign promotion and support. Analysts and marketers need to work together to make real-time decisions and generate effective campaigns. C-suite approval and support also is critical to the success of using data as one of the main drivers for marketing. The idea that roles and thought processes have to change comes from the top down. Flexibility is another cultural change. Decisions need to be made faster, content is needed faster and more abundantly to support trends and user behavior, and people need to be willing to change direction quickly based on what customers want. For many large organizations, change can be difficult, but it’s essential for long-term success.

  1. The right people

Really looking at your organization and making sure you have the right people to drive and leverage opportunities are important. Marketing roles need to change as the people that occupy these jobs need to become proficient in data – understanding what it means and how to use it.  Jim Terry recently wrote a blog about human expertise in the world of automation that touches on the importance of the human role in using tools and the data that comes from them. These changes are leading companies to hire more data analysts, data scientists and marketing people that have a background in analytics, in addition to establishing new senior roles, such as chief marketing technologist – a role that combines data analytics, business intelligence and marketing.  Often the ability to hire for these roles is much harder than it sounds, so companies are becoming more open to outside help. According to research from the CMO Council and Ebiquity, nearly three-fourths of marketers plan to seek outside help to deal with their data needs.

So what kind of results should you expect if you embrace data as a key driver of your digital marketing efforts? According to Bain & Co. and Salesforce, companies that use analytics are two times more likely to have top-quartile performance, five times more likely to make faster decisions and eight times more likely to improve operational outcomes. These results are clearly desirable for any company, but getting infrastructure, people and processes in place to really reach them is the hard part before data can truly be the panacea that we are all looking for.

As one of our digital campaign team’s favorite topics, we would love to discuss it more with you.  Let us know what stage you are at and the value you see data providing. We can take it from there.

When It Comes to Successful Creative, It’s a Numbers Game

“So, what exactly are your career goals as a marketer?”

“I want to work in the creative department at a digital agency and eventually become Creative Director.”

financial worker analyzing business data and working with tablet

I have heard this conversation more times that I can count. It seems like everyone from freshmen in their principles of marketing course to soon-to-be graduates on the job hunt, and even folks who have been working in the industry for years, all seem to share the dream of one day landing one of those coveted creative positions. This is likely the result of the romanticized portrayal of advertising creatives in pop culture (Mad Men, anyone?). Maybe it’s just that creative is the most visible or tangible part of an agency. Or maybe it’s just that creative has long been considered the lifeblood of an agency or that a shop’s success is determined by the quality and creativity its ads.

But that’s no longer exclusively true.

Analytics. Big data. Data visualization. These are the current buzzwords thrown around conferences and advertising blogs and rightfully so. They are the signposts of the next phase in the digital age of marketing and with the next phase comes a new champion to fight for the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of advertisers. Please welcome to the ring, The Analytics Team.

As clients start prioritizing an agency’s ability to glean valuable and actionable insights from the excessive amounts of data available, as well as their ability to put a numerical value on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and ROI, agencies are beginning to prioritize data analysts and the analytics team. In a survey of corporate marketers, 43 percent of respondents claimed to have “unmet business needs,” specifically with “measuring and reporting the business impact and ROI of marketing and advertising programs.” Another 28 percent lacked “taking advantage of Big Data opportunities.” Both of these needs can be satisfied by a good analytics team.

In Jim Terry’s blog post about the challenges CMOs are facing in the world of Big Data, he explains that determining what to measure, how to measure it, turning information into insights and the ability to act on the insights are what CMOs currently must overcome. A solid analytics team would be more than qualified to achieve this goal.

While demand for these roles at agencies and in-house marketing teams has been steadily growing over the course of the digital age, the supply side is just beginning to catch on. And with such a deficit in qualified candidates, the role is about to get much more enticing for advertisers and marketers everywhere.

Salaries for agency employees in analyst and data scientist roles are up to 30 percent higher than other agency positions at similar levels, according to AdAge. Additionally, some universities have started to offer marketing courses and even entire marketing degrees tailored specifically to digital media, analytics, data mining and data visualization. These factors open the door wider for analytics roles at ad agencies and show the next generation of advertisers what the future looks like.

As more professionals combine analytical skills with advertising backgrounds and education, more creative agencies will be able to leverage the skill sets of these employees. Now creative campaigns have an increased chance at success. Better A/B testing, stronger analysis of performance and insight into consumer behavior are a few of the many benefits the creative team and the rest of the agency can use to improve performance and better serve the client.

As part of a relatively new facet of advertising, the future of this role is still undetermined. The only certainty? There’s a new crop of aspiring advertisers, all equipped with an excitement for report season like you’ve never seen before. And even though the job responsibilities change just about as fast as you can write a job posting, isn’t the fluidity and promise of the job never being stagnant why we all got into advertising to begin with?

Man Versus Machine: Automation and Technology Don’t Trump Human Expertise

Man Versus Machine

Everywhere I’ve turned in the last few months, marketing tools seem to be there. From client conversations to sales pitches to public relations and Web content, they seem to be everywhere. And they’re multiplying at a dizzying pace. I’ve just returned from the Digital Summit Dallas conference where marketing automation tool companies dominated the exhibition space and sponsored what seemed like every session. Marketing tools are the bright shiny objects of the industry and have captured the attention of marketers everywhere.

The reason for the proliferation seems obvious to me – these tools work. When used thoughtfully, they save man hours, automate routine operations, create efficiencies and deliver powerful information and analytics. At M/C/C, we are constantly evaluating tools that we can leverage for our clients’ benefit. We use technology and tools to help us identify potential issues and new opportunities for Search Engine Optimization programs; automate, compare and improve email programs; programmatically buy targeted advertising in more efficient ways; optimize Pay-Per-Click campaigns; and a slew of other external programs. We are big believers in the value they provide.

There’s no doubt that these technologies and tools have their place in a marketer’s toolbox and we use many of them, but at the end of the day, they are tools. They have limitations – they can’t think; they can’t be creative or use emotions; and they can’t replicate the expertise and decision-making of humans. Without the right craftsman to operate the tool in the best manner, they fall flat.

The influx of automation tools and the attention that they’ve gained in the marketing space can be dangerous for companies looking for a silver bullet to deliver successful programs. There is no silver bullet. Companies will fail if they’re looking to a tool to “set it and forget it,” having it bear the responsibility of connecting with customers. Creating content, scheduling its distribution and iterations won’t magically lead to prospects connecting with your message and falling into lead buckets based on brilliant lead-scoring methods.

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Practicing What We Preach: Leveraging Research To Drive Business Forward

1015-3If you know one thing about M/C/C, it’s probably the value we put on research. Understanding internal and market perspectives and the gaps between them are invaluable to developing a marketing strategy. So, it’s only appropriate – natural, really – that M/C/C performs some research on itself from time to time. Day in and day out, we need to deliver against our clients’ business objectives and their personal expectations of us, their marketing agency.

Over the last couple of months, M/C/C embarked on its own research study to reset its understanding on what marketers – our clients and prospects – find important and value most. Understanding this perspective should help keep our existing relationships healthy and impact our approach to reaching and securing new clients.

M/C/C polled marketers on a variety of subjects, such as:

  • Importance and priority of decision-making attributes
  • Current pain points and marketing issues
  • Qualities of an ideal agency

The results shouldn’t really whip our heads back. Hopefully the results will just help confirm what we already believe to be true and be in sync with our current approach to managing and building new relationships. Let’s take a look.

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To Gate or not to Gate Content? Yes is the Answer.

The demand for high-quality leads continues to be a priority for many marketers. Based on a Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study, 57 percent of research is done online before contact is ever made with a company.

Content Marketing Marketers are increasingly using content to attract prospects, position their company and align their products and services with solutions to industry problems that lead to a sales contact. If 57 percent of the research process is completed before contact is made, it is not a question of question of, “To gate or not to gate?” Rather, the questions we should be asking are:

  1. How much content should be public (ungated)?
  2. What type of content should be ungated?
  3. What kind of content should be gated?

In our experience the most important factor in the decision to gate content is based on the value of the content offered. A well-executed strategy includes mapping the customer journey and providing appropriate content along the way. In the earliest stages of the journey, content should be made available for anyone to access. The ideal scenario is to provide open access to quality content to establish credibility and value with your prospect and then lead them to the next chapter, or the next content level, where they have access to higher value content in exchange for contact information.

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How to Establish Advertising ROI Baselines

what gets measured gets managedOne of my favorite proverbs, which continues to be proven on a daily basis, is “what gets measured gets done.” The quote, or its variation “what gets measured gets managed,” is often attributed to famous management consultant Peter Drucker; but its origin appears to date back to scientist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, who specifically referenced that a lack of numbers leads to unsatisfactory knowledge during an 1833 lecture.

In an age of digital marketing decades since these quotes were made, the application of science to advertising has never been truer. Measuring your success, as Hannah Woodham covered in a recent blog post, is very important; but knowing what to measure against is critical to determining success. Enter advertising baselines for return on investment (ROI). Continue reading “How to Establish Advertising ROI Baselines” »

Pay No Attention to That man Behind the Curtain! Uncovering the Mysteries of Programmatic Advertising

The digital media world is ever-evolving; and Yellow Brick Road sometimes we as marketers feel like we’re clamoring to keep up with the latest tools and technologies. The current discussions around programmatic media and theories about how it will alter the media landscape are hot topics. We’re on an epic journey down the yellow brick road, but what’s behind that great green curtain of Oz (or in this case, programmatic media)?

In a recent study by eConsultancy, 62 percent of marketers are using programmatic buying for brand objectives with an expectation to increase over the next two years. It seems that programmatic is quickly becoming the norm for digital media buying in display, mobile, video and sometimes TV.

Arming ourselves with the Lion’s courage, the Tin Man’s heart and the Scarecrow’s brain Continue reading “Pay No Attention to That man Behind the Curtain! Uncovering the Mysteries of Programmatic Advertising” »

Now Streaming – Meerkat and Periscope Go Toe-to-Toe

The latest live-streaming apps allow you to record or watch broadcasts from your mobile device. Two apps in particular, Meerkat and Periscope, seem to be capturing the most attention and attracting the most users. The buzz surrounding live-streaming apps really kicked off with the launch of Meerkat at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive. Many labeled it the “sweetheart” of the interactive conference, and not since the launch of Foursquare in 2009 had SXSW produced such an app hit. It didn’t take long for Meerkat to get some serious competition. As the app was gaining steam at SXSW, Twitter purchased Periscope to get in on the action and go toe-to-toe with Meerkat. Twitter even went as far as cutting off Meerkat’s ability to port people’s social connections over from Twitter to its own service. More on that here. General functionality of the apps is fairly similar, but let’s see how their features compare.

Now Streaming

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