The Best Branding Idea You’ve Never Heard Of

The competition for your audience’s attention is fierce. In today’s multi-channel, multi-device world, breaking through the noise can feel impossible. Most businesses are focusing their marketing efforts online – which makes sense when you consider that over 40% of the world’s population is online. But if you’re looking to build a meaningful relationship with consumers that lasts, you’ll need to do more than purchase a few banner ads or promoted posts.

brand marketing

While flashy graphics and contests might grab an audience’s attention, it doesn’t help build a relationship with your audience. When a company is able to make a sincere connection with a consumer, that connection helps create a relationship of long-term advocacy, loyalty, and a sustainable bottom line. And no company is making a genuine connection through a banner, advertising placement, or inserting their commercial into YouTube videos (we’re all just waiting to hit the ‘skip’ button). In fact, 51% of people have a lower opinion of brands that use auto-playing video ads. So then how can businesses make a more sincere connection?

As a marketing professional myself, this is often a question that I ask myself when discussing different initiatives or tactics. And up until recently, I didn’t have a compelling answer — but then I met Ross Petty. Ross Petty Productions Inc. (RPPI) was incorporated in 1986 with the objective of producing unique family entertainment for the stage and for television. A holiday tradition in Toronto, the RPPI brought thousands of captive audience members to the theatre, but financing a theatre production doesn’t come cheap.

2016 Production

To inject some additional revenue, Ross has come up with a truly unique concept: shoot commercials with the play’s cast and run them in the middle of the show. I know – it sounds crazy – but it’s the perfect way to make a connection with consumers. By incorporating the play characters into the commercial, the audience was much more accepting than if it was a 30 second television spot. The reason? Context.

The audience stayed engaged because they saw characters from the play they were watching interacting with the different brands and products. They were more inclined to give their uninterrupted attention because it was the right content, at the right time. A completely customized experience that connects brand with consumer.

And don’t just take my word for it. I was not so surprised to find that several big name brands have partnered with Ross Petty to create a totally unique experience for audience members. On his website, one can find a variety of testimonials, quotes, and commercial videos from companies like Lowe’s Canada, Tim Hortons, MasterCard Canada, BMO, P&G Canada, and Aviva – just to name a few.

As the end of 2017 closes and businesses start thinking of ways to connect with their consumers over the hectic holiday season, incorporating one of these commercials into an integrated campaign could help your brand break through the chaos and clutter. It’s likely one of the few moments that you’re almost guaranteed to have your audience’s undivided attention – and a unique opportunity that’s sure to build a stronger relationship between your brand and consumers.

I highly recommend checking out one of the commercials on the Ross Petty website by clicking here.

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Hiring a Content Marketer: Setting Expectations

what is content marketing

With the popularity of content marketing, it’s hard to believe that there are still several companies out there who are getting it wrong. But I assure you, this problem exists. However, it’s hard to put a finger on where this “problem” is originating from – the company or the content marketer? Or both?

Reviewing some of the content marketing positions posted online, I found that several of them included a sales material support component or content management. A majority of the time, the role was 50/50 – which meant that almost half the time would be dedicated to creating sales materials, like collateral, product sheets, brochures, and so on. This isn’t to say that providing sales with materials isn’t important – it’s just not content marketing.

For the record, content marketing is defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content; content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience – to ultimately drive profitable customer action, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). I feel that the key phrase in that definition is “strategic marketing approach” – meaning that content marketers aren’t just production houses — there’s a method to the madness.

This could be where the rift is occurring – companies are lumping all content under content marketing instead focusing on creating and distributing content strategically. A study conducted by CMI found that 60% of content marketers who have a documented strategy rate themselves highly in terms of effectiveness, compared to 32% of those who only have a verbal strategy. Documenting your strategy makes it more tangible for senior team members and gives you the opportunity to clearly define your role and set expectations.

But before you even accept a content marketing job, make sure you have a full understanding of what the expectations are for your role. If half your time is dedicated to creating materials that don’t support your content marketing initiatives, then it may not be the role for you. Having a clear understanding of what you’re looking for and what a company expects is the best way to make sure everyone is happy.

3 Factors Influencing Your Content Marketing Success

Yoda Content Marketing

We’re almost three months into 2015, and by now everything must be going according to plan, right? With buy in from your superiors and the knowledge required to succeed, you must be thrilled. Well – according to the Content Marketing Institutes’ B2B Content Marketing Trends report, that’s not necessarily the case. Despite the fact that 86% of respondents said that their organization uses content marketing, only 38% believe that their efforts are actually effective. So what gives?

There are three primary factors that influence the effectiveness of content marketing:

  1. Lack of a documented content marketing strategy: There’s no “A for effort” in content marketing – if you want to be successful, you have to have a documented strategy – as in written down and disseminated amongst your team. Out of the 83% respondents who indicated that they have a strategy in place, only 35% say it is documented. Having a strategy helps you stay on task and reach your goals. In fact, 42% of survey participants say their content marketing efforts match their strategy “very closely” – and the most effective marketers are those who follow their documented strategy.
  2. Not disseminating your content marketing strategy – or your content: Make sure everyone is aware of your plans and agree with your strategy. You should also create a flow chart, or project calendar, and distribute it to key stakeholders. Providing insights and updates makes content marketing more “real” – as some may have difficulty grasping the more intangible elements. Delivering a document that clearly displays how changing priorities directly impact your content marketing efforts can help others gain a better understanding. Sending out all the great content you’re creating to any employees who may find it beneficial or helpful is a great way to gain support and views. Ideally, employees will share that content with their networks, increasing engagement with your brand.
  3. Share your achievements: Are you one of the lucky few that can successfully calculate the ROI of your content marketing – and by “lucky few” I mean one of the 21% of respondents that stated they are successful at tracking the ROI? Good – now share those metrics with everyone! Still not sure how to determine the ROI? I suggest taking in a few instructional materials to learn how, because it’s one of the key indicators of your success. It’s so important that 46% of respondents have identified “measuring content marketing ROI” as an initiative that they are currently focusing on. Also be sure to share your other wins, like a significant increase in blog views, or publishing company content on a reputable site, or obtaining a great case study.

By documenting your content marketing strategy, sharing it with your team, and communicating your successes, you’re in a better position to achieve your goals and avoid distractions.

Applying “Great by Choice” to Content Marketing

Great by Choice
I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading Great by Choice, written by the notable Jim Collins, after Stewart Lyons, CEO at TeraGo Networks, recommended the book. Full of amazing information, this book holds a great deal of practical advice that one could apply to their career and life. After finishing the book, I found that there were three core concepts that greatly contributed to success; discipline, consistency, and preparation. I then considered how these concepts – or characteristics – could be applied to content marketing, and this is what I came up with:

1. Discipline: Establishing and adhering to a schedule can be difficult – especially if you work in an industry that is constantly evolving – but it’s very important for success. When you follow a schedule, such as an editorial calendar or content agenda, you have the ability to prepare, plan, and track your content. This allows you to build anticipation for your upcoming content pieces (ex. “check back next week when we cover part 2 of…”) and plan any SEO keyword changes.

2. Consistency: Communicating the same underlying values or traits throughout your content is essential when building or promoting your brand. Whether you’re creating content for a large business or small e-commerce site online, maintaining a consistent message is key to building trust. If your blog says one thing – like “we’re vegetarian” – and your recently published whitepaper says another – like “here’s why pork is important” – your prospects and customers won’t know which message to believe.

3. Preparation: One of the examples in the book that really resonated with me was about Bill Gates and his inability to stop working – even when his company, Microsoft, had achieved great success. The fear of facing an unknown obstacle drove Gates to continue working, because you never know when things might change. Since content marketing is changing every day, keeping up to date on all the latest tactics and trends can help you stay on step ahead – and one step closer to being a great content marketer.

This is the perfect time of year to begin incorporating these three concepts into your content marketing career since everyone is shifting into 2015 planning mode. Now, would I recommend this book to everyone? No. This book would only resonate with those who have a passion for the work they’re doing. If you’re not somewhat motivated to grow and develop your skills, then don’t even bother. This isn’t a passive read – it’s meant to provide you with the tools you need to build your own success.

Today’s Workplace Inequalities – It’s Not What You Think

Now let’s get one thing straight – I’m no feminist. But – there is an inequality in the workplace. This isn’t the written version of a bra-burning, it’s simply a feeling that has led to observation. And, after a little digging, I found that I wasn’t the only one to make this type of observation. I found study after study on the impact your relationship status has on your performance, perception, and monetary worth in the workplace. And this isn’t only impacting the female employees – male employees are feeling it too.

women cheaper

The fact that men typically earn more than women in the workplace has become widely accepted (again, anyone can find study after study documenting this fact). However, recent surveys of the American workforce revealed that there’s a shift in power happening. The full time salaries of young women were 8% higher than those of the young men in their peer group. Now, as a young woman, I’m happy to hear this – but I’m also suspicious. What’s behind this “women on top” shift?

After some more digging, I find my answer. There’s a caveat to this study! The women who were making more money were the ones who were unmarried, childless women under the age of 30 who live in cities. The rest of the working women – even those of the same age, but who are married or don’t live in a big city – are still on the “wrong side” of the wage divide.

So now, not only are women battling the wage-war with men – but with other women too. The “family women” versus the “single ladies”. Once again, I did some digging – finding several articles from single women who felt they were treated unfairly by their colleagues or managers for not having children or a spouse. For example, one of the articles stated “the flexible 40 hour work week is typically reserved for parents, while those without children are expected to spend extra hours at the workplace because they don’t have anywhere better to be”.

understanding-women

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has seen this type of scenario play out – where an employee’s work schedule has been planned around a daycare pick up or some sort of after school class – but it doesn’t bother me. Children are a huge responsibility – that’s a universal understanding – so I can’t quite fully support the women who feel they’re being treated unfairly because they don’t have a family to tend to.

In fact, single women should be celebrating! This is good news! Not that I’m saying inequality in the workplace is acceptable – because it’s not – and if you feel that your place of employment is treating you differently for the wrong reasons, you should definitely talk to someone about it (as in HR). However, I’m certainly not upset over the fact that I’m likely to make more than my peers – both men and women. That is – assuming I stay single!

The Social Responsibility of Social Media

“You are what you Tweet!”   -Terms of Service, Twitter

During the SuperBowl this year, everything seemed to go according to plan. One team won, the other team lost, Bruno Mars performed, and large corporations spend millions of dollars to air their commercials. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, in the twitter-verse, there was a storm brewing — a really bad storm.

After the airing of Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” commercial, where the song “America the Beautiful” is sung in multiple languages by a variety of races and family types, hundreds of Americans took to Twitter to post their complaints. In case you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video here:

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Actually — “complaints” isn’t the right word. They took to Twitter to post their racist, anti-gay, anti-multicultural, backwards beliefs. And that’s putting it lightly. Most of the comments danced on the edge of becoming a hate crime – all because a beverage company wanted to celebrate the fact that America is a melting pot. This should have been a “sure thing” for Coke – they targeted every single minority across the country with their message – so what went wrong? In their attempt to include everyone in the messaging – they managed to anger any American who feels that English is the only language that should be associated with the country. And not only English language – but caucasians, too.

As we’ve seen in previous “crisis” situations – such as Toronto Ice storm outage – a diverse community was spontaneously formed on social media, which consisted of three distinct perspectives: Racists, those with common sense, and Moderators. Yes, I’m biased when referencing these groups. For obvious reasons, I can’t support any of the tweets that contained racist, hateful comments. I guess you could say I fall into the “common sense” category – which contains those who stand against such prejudice. For example:

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The moderators played their typical role, preaching “freedom of speech” or “everyone is entitled to their opinion” — but is that enough? Is it really ok to spread such hateful messages through the social media community? When is it time for the company – in this case, Twitter – to step in? If at all?

After reviewing Twitter’s Terms of Service, it quickly becomes clear that they’ve done all in their power to completely disassociate themselves from any content posted by their users. However – they do state that they “reserve the right to remove or refuse to distribute any content, or to suspend or terminate users” – but that’s only applicable to content that directly impacts Twitter the company, or if the content is requested by law enforcement. Nothing about “online abuse” or “racism/hate crimes”.

Digging deeper into Twitter’s Rules – there seems to be more rules regarding “spam” than anything else – including the perpetuation of hateful messages. So what gives? Each of the users you see below are still active on Twitter – their accounts have not been closed or suspended, even though they’ve said some really disgusting comments:

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we speak english

And I assure you – there are hundreds of comments like these online right now. Should Twitter be responsible for taking these types of comments down? If you try to Report the Tweet (found under the …More option) you are required to complete a form indicating the reasons why you feel the tweet is abusive in nature. However, if the tweet content isn’t breaking any of the “Twitter Rules”, then nothing is done. You can easily find any of the tweets above, they’re still out there in the Twitter-verse.

When is it time for the company to take some social responsibility for the messages communicated via their product/platform? Or are we, the users, responsible for policing this social sphere? You may want to think a little harder before you hit the “post” button on your next tweet.

The Economical Impacts of the 2013 Toronto Ice Storm

While the citizens of Toronto and surrounding area continue to clean up after the epic ice storm that occurred in December, many businesses have crunched their numbers for 2013. There were some significant losses as a result of the storm – in both lost sales and discarded products. However, there seemed to be three distinct “groups” that emerged from this economic sucker punch; the winners, the losers, and the referees. How cliche, I know – using a sports analogy to illustrate my point – but stay with me here.

The winners – or economic benefactors of the storm – includes a variety of businesses. There are some businesses who were able to add to their (already significant) holiday revenues. In other words, the rich got richer. Many hotels who still had power sprang into action – taking to the “twitter-verse” to promote special “#blackto” discount prices to local area residents who were without power and not wanting to go sleep at the Red Cross warming stations.

hotel ad

 

hotel promo

Some of the unexpected winners included local business owners. Since many GTA residents didn’t want to venture out onto the icy, debris-filled roads – they shopped locally. Many of the larger malls also fell victim to the mass power outages – like Yorkdale Mall – so even if you made it to the mall, there was no guarantee that you would be able to shop. Local businesses who had power saw a much needed spike in their revenue as a result.

Yorkdale Mall

Yorkdale Mall

On the other end of the spectrum is the losers – those businesses who did lose power and weren’t able to operate during this lucrative time of year. For some companies, it meant ending the year in the red rather than in the black. Not only did they lose any potential sales – but they lost money on discarding any spoiled produce or paying employee wages. In some cases, businesses had to pay the employees who reported for work and waited for the power to return – while other businesses, such as Toronto Hydro, had to pay for additional staff as well as any holiday or overtime rates.

food chain

Any food establishments who served spoiled produce, any hotels who jacked up their prices to get more money out of desperate and cold GTA residents, or any hydro crew members who “appeared to be slacking” were dragged through the hypothetical mud. The moral witch hunt was on – and members of the public participated by pointing their finger at anyone displaying questionable behaviour.

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That brings us to the referees – or as I like to think of them, the “moral conduct keepers”. This category holds the whistleblowers – the ones who put businesses, as well as members of the public, back in their place. They remind us to consider others during this time and to help in any way we – even if it’s as simple as turning off your christmas lights to “conserve power” during the outage. Anyone who disobeyed these unwritten rules became the subject of public shaming. This has left some businesses struggling to survive amongst the negative press.

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The ice storm certainly impacted our economy, and many of our lives, in a variety of ways. No one seems to have been spared by the force of this weather event. As the clean-up lingers, the long term impacts of this storm have remained to be seen.

clean up from ice storm