advertising

helping small businesses with digital marketing

What Small Business Can Learn from Big Brands in Digital Marketing

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Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for shoutoutstudio.com. The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Grant Smith & Kristian Jennes

With the release of new technologies such as augmented reality over the years (or months) and the proven business usability of social networking platforms, the landscape of marketing strategies has evolved from cold selling to the use of digital channels. This new method provides a new experience for the customer, while contributing meaningful insights for organizations to utilize. A study done by Adobe interviewed a large group of marketing professionals from all facets to gain an understanding on best practices. One finding: Sixty-six percent of all marketers think companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach. While larger organizations have multi million dollar budgets to invest in a digital strategy, small businesses feel left behind. There are many lessons that small businesses can learn from larger brands that can be implemented on a smaller scale to generate compelling content for consumers.

Although virtual reality is the more mainstream of the two, augmented reality has been embraced by the masses this past year with Pokémon Go, a mobile application which let’s users see characters in their own reality through their phone. This comeback of the 1990’s cartoon game shows businesses consumers are ready for the AR experience. In fact, over the past year, make up, furniture, and drug store organizations have heavily invested in AR to provide their customers with a new channel to view products. Walgreens has a mobile app called ‘Aisle411’ which immerses customers in new promotions and usually unseen products/deals while walking around the store. IKEA introduced an application that allows buyers to see what a certain piece of furniture would look like in their home. Sephora (cosmetics) now allows customers to see how a certain style of make-up would look on their faces simply by using their front facing camera. Within 8 weeks of the launch, Sephora’s application was bought over 1.6 million times.

Of course, larger brands like Walgreens have the resources to fund augmented reality style marketing strategies. But what about the small town brick and mortar shops- how can AR be utilized without breaking the bank? What they can learn from this craze is this: consumers are ready for a shopping experience that incorporates exploration through different channels other than walk in’s. Simple changes to websites such as including products that are not on the shelves or at a particular location can spark more time on your website and increased awareness of your brand. Augmented reality use by larger brands will also bring a vast amount of insights of consumer trends. Although actual augmented reality applications for organizations require heavy investments, the results and teachings that can be captured online are always free for small businesses to utilize.

Implementing a strong digital marketing strategy is crucial to any successful business, but in today’s cluttered online marketplace, providing consumers with an unforgettable experience can vault a company to the top of its industry. WestJet took the experience a step further, by blending a digital sharing element that guaranteed a large scope and huge awareness for years to come. By posting a video of employees granting passenger wishes, WestJet created a viral sensation that has racked up 41+ million views to date. The combination of an experience shared on a digital platform maximized reach while resonating emotionally with viewers, showing the value of taking a mixed approach to marketing.

Small businesses have not missed this trend and have already begun to take advantage of experiential marketing. One of the biggest ways that small businesses are capitalizing on this trend is by partnering with other small, local companies to provide consumers with a joint event that promotes both businesses and gives consumers a destination that will help the brand resonate with them. A common pairing is often micro breweries with local restaurants, both huge startup trends in large cities that a young demographic will flock to for live music, drink specials, or other events. Companies are utilizing their social media platforms as well as websites to help promote these experiences and gain brand awareness in the community.

One of the biggest hurdles faced in digital marketing is finding a way to resonate with consumers, while reaching the widest range of consumers as possible. When used effectively, contests can be a great way to address this challenge. Dove held an extremely successful contest that instructed users to post a picture of their friend with why their friend “represents real beauty” by filling in two reasons why they find them beautiful alongside their name.  This user generated content not only built the brand’s goodwill, but was free marketing material posted on millions of Facebook walls for viewers to see.

While larger brands often use Facebook as the host for their contests, small business often don’t have the name recognition or following to get these types of promotions to go viral. However, one good way for small business to take advantage of this tactic is to sponsor contests for local sports teams or at large local events. This demonstrates community involvement, spreads brand awareness, and allows consumers to connect on a more personal level. While this takes a much more experiential approach, it can be promoted and marketed using social media and web platforms, blending the two marketing plans into one actionable strategy.
Adobe’s research on digital marketing presented another eye opening result: ‘less than half (48%) of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing.’ Although the digital strategy has shown success, it is a task that consists of significant resources, time, and constant change. Small businesses cannot be intimidated by this fact, with a clear direction for obtainable goals,consistent strategy, and the desire to constantly learn about consumers trends, one can implement a meaningful marketing campaign that models those of big businesses. While a new technology such as augmented reality can add value to an organization, it is unrealistic for smaller firms to have the ability to research and develop something this expensive and time consuming. Instead, small businesses can position themselves to learn. By gaining insight, one can change the layout of their store, add trending products to their shelves, and provide features on the their website catered to consumer needs while being cost effective. One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is sending a consistent message to consumers, regardless of how they are viewing content.  This means that a small company needs to ensure that mobile applications, web pages, and social media accounts are offering the same features, same information, and same usability. To grow a small organization into one with resources to fund large scale digital marketing strategies, owners/managers must stay up to date on trends and take advantage of the strong customer relationships that a small organization can establish. By truly understanding the target market one can decide which digital strategy to model.

brands and politics

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having?

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Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for shoutoutstudio.com. The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Daniel Kuperman & Sean Hynes

When an increasingly complex business environment collides with a decidedly unconventional political landscape, the only certainty is disruption. Although, to many, this bizarre interplay became most visible during Britain’s exit from the Eurozone and the ascendancy of Donald Trump, keen observers noted signs of change well in advance. The prevalence of social media helps facilitate the adoption of oxymorons like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news,’ somehow becoming mainstays in today’s vernacular. These developments point to a deep uncertainty that pervades social interactions, political conversations, and the markets alike. For some brands, this new standard presents a unique opportunity to connect with a targeted audience.

As exemplified by the immigrant-centered Anheuser Busch ad featured during Super Bowl 50, the growing impact of increasing political divisiveness can be clearly seen. It is also no coincidence this commercial — and others like it — were aired during the single most-viewed television event of the 21st century.

Officially, Anheuser Busch played off the immigrant focus as a coincidence. Amidst the contentious debates that followed Mr. Trump’s proposals for deportation, it was quite the timely opportunity for this ad to air. Delving deeper into the elements of this industry leader’s client base and competition lends useful context to this marketing effort. It is no secret that behemoths like Anheuser Busch have been seeing market share erosion for years due to increasingly popular craft beer brands. A common criticism is that such a massive firm adapts too slowly to diverging consumer preferences, whereas its more nimble competitors were founded upon these new tastes. Perhaps this political gesture intended to rebuy the support of millennial consumers using an unapologetically current ad, costing AB as much as $15 million.

Not all companies choose to align with any specific political ideology or movement, but rather embrace a broader theme such as unity seeking widespread appeal. Coca Cola’s #AmericaIsBeautiful campaign aims to evoke a powerful, albeit safer, reaction among their customer base. The ad seems to make the case that despite our differences, we can bond together and enjoy the ubiquitous experience of a Coke. Compared to AB’s commercial, what Coke lacks in boldness it makes up for in mass appeal. For a country appearing to be growing apart on political and social fronts, this may be a wise approach.

The less audacious brands are perhaps in the best company, opting for a neutral stance instead of venturing into potentially hostile social arenas. Well-recognized (and more often than not, publicly traded) companies chose to respond in ways that would not commit them firmly to either support or opposition of Mr. Trump’s actions. A longer-term outlook reveals a danger of staying out of the conversation, however. While this more guarded course of action makes sense from a shareholder-centered perspective, if social tides turn and increase pressure on corporations to take a stand, those who stayed neutral will be first in the line of fire.

As the powers of social media continue to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, this pressure will continue to creep up on corporations. Public relations nightmares have gone from a minor inconvenience to becoming a major catastrophe overnight, with recent occurrences involving Pepsi and United Airlines coming to mind. Whether it was a company releasing the wrong politically charged ad or having employees’ actions reflect poorly on their employers as a whole, companies must be wary of the powers behind making the wrong move, especially with growing pressure to step out of the neutral zone and take a stand. For United, a single failure in PR crisis management resulted in a $250 million net loss in market value.

Individually, these examples are anecdotal at best; extrapolating on any single situation would be ill-advised. Deciphering a best practice may be impossible for industries as a whole, but by engaging with one’s unique audience, companies can aspire to connect on a more profound level with end users.

 

Facebook Ads: What’s Your Relevance?

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A while back, Facebook ads added a little thing called a Relevance Score to their reporting dashboard. Facebook ads are typically a game between what you’re trying to communicate to your audience, and what your audience wants to see. How do you know if you’re playing that game right? Your relevance score is a tool to help balance the game of what works and what doesn’t.

How it works:

Your relevance score is in a scale of 1-10, one being the least relevant to your audience, and ten being the most. The score is updated in real time, meaning that as your ad is live and people are interacting with it, Facebook is updating that relevance score with how people are reacting to it, positively or negatively.

Why you should focus on it:

It can save you time and money. Time because the game of guess and check is reduced to looking at one section of your reporting tool. You can easily assess why one ad within an ad set is performing better or worse than another. You’re therefore spending less money because you are spending less time. You can pause or cancel the ad that isn’t performing as well, or begin a new one, continuing to compare until you get a relevance score that you (and your audience) is happy with. Pretty simple, right?

User experience:

What do I think of the relevance score? I think it’s pretty damn amazing. It tells me what I want to know – whether or not my audience is reacting positively or negatively to my ad. We could run as many ads as we want, but unless our ad is relevant to what our audience wants to see, it’s a moot point.

Another reason I dig the relevance score is because we can run two ads back to back, test the same image and different copy, or different images and the same copy, whichever holds the best relevance score indicated then holds a higher relevance with our audience.

A First Step to Find Your Advertising Audience in Social Media

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Finding the right audience in social media advertising can be a challenge – especially when you’re trying to get to find the ideal mix that gets you the most clicks, impressions, ROI and any other goals you and your digital marketing team are working toward. However, one of the easiest places to find your audience is already provided for you.

Your social media channels.

When was the last time you checked out your Pinterest or Twitter audience insights? In the depths of those often-overlooked tabs you just might find your answer. Anything from what their interests are, to who else they are following. Then what should you do? Create audiences within Facebook advertising for each platform and test it. They all might be a little similar, but each provides different insights into your audience’s interest.

Twitter has a “followers” tab you can check out that contains information from most unique interests, top interests to even who your followers are following. Use this information to fill out a custom audience. Are they interested in fashion, technology, music? Use their interest!

Pinterest audience interests are a little harder to find. You have to go to the analytics tab, then hit ‘interest’ (close to the top). Here you will see what boards/interests your Pinterest audience is interested in. Design, healthy eating? You can create a new audience in Facebook to send ads out to. Compare and contrast Twitter and Pinterest by running the same campaign back-to-back and seeing which works best.

Don’t forget Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool to use to see where your audience is coming from to your site. The best part is you can use that information to your advantage when targeting audiences to advertising using Facebook (or other platforms).

When all of the Facebook audiences have been tested you can take that same strategy to other platforms. Try doing the same test on Pinterest or Twitter! It’s all about working with what you already have in front of you, and then testing other audiences as you go!

Twitter

Twitter: Feeding the Need for Change

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Feeling pressure from investors to change, Twitter is speculated to be introducing an algorithm-driven feed, much like you might be familiar with on Facebook. Currently what you see in your Twitter feed is a continuous flow of content from those that you follow and the occasional insert of a promoted tweet.

At the Citi Global Technology Conference earlier this month, Twitter CTO Anthony Noto said: “the reverse-chronological system that Twitter users for its timeline isn’t the most relevant experience for a user.” Ironically, it’s the very reason why many are such fans of the feed, myself included. I prefer to know that what I’m viewing is the content that’s being posted most recent, and there’s no circulation of tweets from the prior day mixed in with content that’s being published today.

Why the change then?

Even with its 271 million monthly active users, Twitter feels the pressure to continue to grow. And one of the things they believe holding them back from that is the complexity for first-time users (hello, have you been on Google+?). So the speculated reaction is an algorithm-driven timeline feed to organize content.

What does this mean?

Organic reach on Twitter will much likely meet the demise we saw for businesses on Facebook. It might be time to become an adopter (if you’re not already) of Twitter ads and at least start testing to see what works best for you or your brand. If you still want to get the exposure you currently get, you just might have to be willing to pay for it going forward.

What can you do?

If you want to have more control over your feed, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Twitter lists. It’s not a new feature, but sometimes the benefits are overlooked. A list allows you to see the tweets from the list members you’ve created as a separate Twitter timeline…I like to call it my “clean feed.”

Twitter lists allow you to organize people based on relevant areas of interest. For example, I might create the Twitter list for myself that focuses on Content Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. That specific list then becomes a go-to-guide related to that subject matter; eliminating all the conversations in your feed, but content focused more on the specific topic of immediate interest.

You can set Twitter lists to be public or private. If you’re using your list as a business-prospecting tool or maybe to monitor your competitors, private may be the way to go. There are some perks to making your list public though. When you add someone to your list they’re notified and if they’re not already following you it sometimes encourages them to follow back. It can also establish your credibility as being an authority on a particular subject and you might find others will subscribe to your list. Subscribing to others’ lists is a nice way to monitor that feed, but without having to follow all of the members. And lastly, sometimes it’s just an easy way to introduce yourself to someone by letting an individual know you’ve added him or her to your list.

What else can we expect?

Other rumored changes are a more sophisticated search feature and group chat function. What one change I’d love to see is editable tweets! Facebook finally caught on that users wanted that capability to edit their posts. Even in 140 characters, it’s easy to make mistakes. And while that tweet may be short-lived with the average life cycle of a tweet only lasting 18 minutes, I prefer my spelling, mentions, and punctuation to be on-point for the followers who are viewing.

My hope is that Twitter doesn’t succumb to the presses to change from a follower-based feed. My biggest fear is with the continuous updates that all of these social media platforms are making, will we get to a point when no one is unique?

Photo Credit: BeauGiles

I Voted

Political Marketing, and the New Viral Voter

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Politics is a topic we don’t broach often here at Shout Out Studio. As everyone knows you don’t discuss politics and religion with those you want to stay friends with. But I have been thinking about politics a lot lately. Specifically how some political marketing campaigns are and will be marketing to reach their target demographic in regards to this upcoming mid-term elections. As long I try to stay neutral there is no harm in talking about it, right? read more

How Long Does It Take To Create A Successful AdWords Campaign?

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Great (AdWords) Expectations

Paid traffic can be a great thing, but if you are starting a campaign from scratch often there are a few problems. Some marketers sell it to their clients as the end-all be-all solution, and others managing their campaigns themselves usually have a grand vision of their success with the platform. Which usually creates some ridiculously high expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met people usually get frustrated and give up. So how long does it take to create a successful AdWords campaign?

The trick to starting a successful AdWords campaign is to never set expectations so high that they can’t be achieved. If expectations are managed from the beginning everyone involved can feel good about it. Here are some of my tips for managing expectations:

  1. Think of your opening budget as R&D cost, not advertising cost. Consider this money cost of doing business. It’s gone. Don’t expect a return on it.
  2. It’s going to take AT LEAST a month before you will see your campaign start to take shape in the way you want. This opening month is all about gathering information and making adjustments often.
  3. Don’t set goals until AFTER your first week. It’s okay to set goals at the beginning, but honestly you will have no idea if those goals are realistic or not until after your campaign starts running for at least a week. After the first week, set your goals and re-evaluate at the end of every following week.
  4. Track your progress. Whether you are managing it yourself or especially if you are managing it for clients. To see your progress from week to week will help you know what changes you made that are having a positive impact on your campaign and it will let your clients know that progress is being made.

As I said before, AdWords and other paid search options can be an amazing form of traffic for your business, but when you are starting a brand new campaign stay grounded. Keep your expectations reasonable and give it time. Success will follow.

Photo Credit: dullhunkcc

microphone

Talk to Me: Great Brand Voice Examples

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Character and personality are expressed through a brand’s tone-of-voice. Whether it be genuine or authoritative, for example, these are the characteristics that define your communications. From a simple tweet to an advertising campaign, your voice tells people who you are. Here are some of the best examples of great brand voice.

Colin – Newcastle Brown Ale

The voice of honesty: it has some redeeming qualities, especially for brands. One brand, Newcastle Brown Ale, decided it was going to capitalize on the lack of honesty in beer commercials. They teamed up with Droga5 to create their “No Bollocks” campaign, which they have used on every form of media since. From TV commercials (they are well worth a watch), to drink coasters, to street advertisements, Newcastle has stayed consistent in calling out other beers and their advertising tactics. Another way they carried their No Bollocks campaign forward was during last year’s Super Bowl when they launched “If We Made It.” Because what’s more fun than teasing other companies who spent millions of dollars for their Ad spots during the big game? To Newcastle, nothing. Instead they made they’re own versions of every commercial with storyboards and posted them to IfWeMadeIt.com. They’re videos of an annoyed Anna Kendrick and confused Keyshawn Johnson got almost as much attention as the Ads during the game.

Newcastle doesn’t mind being brash and honest, and it has paid off for them both in sales and social awareness. Their Twitter and Facebook pages are very active, and they get a lot of responses from fans and customers. Side-note: they are currently giving a dollar to every new follower on Twitter. They have even moved on from calling out other beer companies by allowing fans to call out their friends on bad social media behavior. It’s refreshing and entertaining to see a brand that takes itself a little less seriously.

Nathaniel – Harry’s

You know a company has the tone right when you can easily create a person in your head, a visual representation for the words you’re reading. That’s Harry’s. It doesn’t hurt that the company name could be the first name of someone you know.

Harry’s is an online, low cost provider of high quality men’s shaving products. Yes, something like Dollar Shave Club but it’s a much different tone. It’s situations like these, comparing brands of a similar business model, where you can really begin to define what brand voice means.

Harry’s is calm. From the website copy to the photography pairing to the packaging instructions, Harry’s tells you exactly what you need to know. They’ve even created an easy going lifestyle blog-a-zine called Five O’Clock.

It all wraps up into confidence without the fuss. There’s no chest beating just the occasional subtle quip. Harry’s communicates a vibe of approachable sophistication and accessible quality that allows you to enjoy the purchase experience and leaves you feeling good having the products on your shelf.

Luke – Chipotle

A great brand voice not only resonates with their target market but also creates emotion in them, and in this case hunger as well. In my opinion Chipotle has developed a great brand voice. It carries through consistently across their billboard ads, radio spots, and web presence. The key to their brand voice is knowing their target market and creatively communicating what they care about directly; ingredients. Chipotle effectively displays their commitment to quality ingredients constantly. So much so that often I can name their chicken purveyor or where their cilantro is coming from. They know what their message is and they communicate it in an interesting way. That is a great brand voice.

Sonya- Burt’s Bees

Burt’s Bees products have become a staple in purses, pockets, backpacks, diaper bags and more. Their message has helped inspire a host of other natural personal care products. How did they do this? Simple, they take care of their customers by providing quality products, and they take care of the environment in the process.

Every time I reach for my bright yellow lip balm and apply, I know I can trust that there’s only good stuff going on my lips, and I’ve got Burt to thank for that. Thanks Burt.

Gretchen – Birchbox

When it comes to beauty products it can be a little overwhelming in understanding what’s going to work and what’s not. I’ll tell you firsthand that I constantly suffer from buyers remorse when I purchase a product that leaves me dissatisfied. So you could say that I would normally stick with what’s tried and true…until I was introduced to Birchbox.

The online subscription based beauty (and grooming) sampling program was launched by young entrepreneurs, Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, in an effort to help cut through the clutter and find products that really work. Products are curated by the Birchbox staff and uniquely selected for you based on your beauty profile.

The brand experience unfolds as you open the box. Each month’s Box is created with a theme, for example this month’s is “Away We Go,” with all the travel-ready sample size essentials you could need for taking that road trip, staycation or far-flung adventure.” The products are introduced with a personal card from Katia, Hayley and the Birchbox Team.

The helpful guide through the beauty world doesn’t just end with your Box though. Their site is chock full of inspiration, information and advice through articles, videos, interviews, and even guest bloggers.

Through their friendly, fun approach and genuine voice, people feel inspired to try new products and have the confidence in their purchases. They not only inspire you to try new things but to share with others what you love.

Marsh – Shinola

One of the oldest names in America has reemerged and has one of the best brand voices going today. Shinola (yes as in you don’t know S@#$t from Shinola) has recreated itself in Detroit.

And what are they doing? They are leveraging everything they can about Detroit; its downfall, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the American passion for manufacturing excellence, into one of the best brand voices going. They are single-handedly positioning themselves as the new American model for manufacturing. They are retraining auto workers to make watches, they are bringing back American pride in everything they make and the way they are telling their story is spot on.

Reemergence, retooling, resurrecting and all in one of the most devastated cities in the country. They are staking their claim on what can be done in America with American ingenuity and know how. From handcrafted leather good, to some of the best bicycles available in the country, to watches assembled in their own Detroit plant they are committed to reinvigorating the American story of great products made in this country by great people who care about what they are doing.

From their website

“Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability? And why didn’t we buy a warmer coat before we moved here? Through three Detroit winters, we’ve asked ourselves these questions. And worked not to find our answer, but to build it.

Because we don’t think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn’t come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough. “

Like it, wait until you watch their video, “Why Open a Watch Factory in Detroit.

 

Photo Credit: Яick Harris

Mark Zuckerburg

New Facebook Changes

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As of two days ago Facebook is on the move to make big new changes in ad features and privacy settings, in addition to Zuckerberg growing up and losing the hoodie.

Ads, privacy, no hoodie?! Oh my…

The fear of the big blue button:

The big new thing is Facebook has added privacy feature to log-ins. Zuckerburg stated during the conference that, “we know some people are scared of pressing the social log-in button if you’re not using an app that you don’t completely trust… then you don’t want to give it a lot of permissions.” Amen to that, Zuckerburg. This new version of Facebook with a fancy new way to log-in anonymously to apps without sharing personal information with developers, is a very welcomed change.

The Wall Street Journal sums it up by saying, “The changes, which Facebook says will be adopted by websites and mobile apps within the next year, will give users more choices about the personal information they share with third parties. By checking or unchecking a box, users will be able to specify if they want to share their friend list, their birthday or their “likes,” among others. Currently, people who log in with Facebook Login don’t control the information they share, including their email addresses, their friend lists and other personal data.”

New Ad Features: Facebook Audience Network

This is huge news to folks like the people on my team who run Facebook ads on a regular basis. Now we can apply Facebook ads that are better targeted towards mobile app users. According to Zuckerberg, this Audience Network will help developers show your audience ads that matter to them with Facebook’s powerful targeting.

So the real question is, what are these changes going to do to small businesses, especially when it comes to analytics and people (such as myself) who regularly rely on those numbers for Facebook ads and privacy settings? Well, I might have a few answers for you:

First, this new Audience Network will be a great open door to people we focus a lot of efforts on ads. We now have a new vehicle to use to target consumers who, like most of us, are on social media through our phones. The privacy feature, while putting a damper on developers, will help people feel more secure on websites and apps that require a log in with Facebook. Honestly, I have a habit of not falling through with those sites. I don’t want my Facebook feed knowing what dress I’m purchasing or if I took a quiz to see what kind of pizza I am. However, thankfully the Facebook team picked up on that and makes that little blue log in button seem a whole lot more inviting.

For more details, check out the full video for your viewing pleasure here: Mobile World Congress 2014

Image via fudyma

Statue with head in hands

Biggest Marketing Mistakes

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Marketers have the great responsibility (and sometimes burden) of coming up with creative, attention-grabbing campaigns, communications, advertisements, and more, and every once in a while there’s a marketing initiative that makes us ask, “What were they thinking?” We’ve compiled what we believe are some of the biggest marketing mistakes from years past and others very recent. There’s something to be learned from them all!

Marsh Williams

So who doesn’t love St. Patrick’s Day? I mean really…all the beer, all the green, all the green beer. So why not honor the Irish with a new product launched in their name on their day. Nike thought it was a great way to tie everything up into one neat bow.

They wanted to introduce a new shoe named the “Black and Tan” in honor of the drink by the same name which is usually made with the Irish staple: Guinness. What they failed to realize is that while Black & Tan might be a perfectly respectable name in Beaverton Oregon, it would never, ever be used in Ireland.

Black and Tan refers to a British paramilitary group organized to help put down the Irish rebellion of the 1920’s. The Black and Tan’s were notorious for their violent and oppressive tactics and are reviled to this day in some parts of Ireland.

So take Nike’s plan to introduce a shoe named Black and Tan on St. Patrick’s Day, an incredibly insensitive and ignorant move, and you have a perfect storm for stupid marketing tricks. The only thing Nike could do to make it worse when they got called out on this gaffe would be to say that “Black and Tan” was the unofficial name and they never intended to use it. Sometime I’d love to hear a company say, “…you know what? We really screwed up and we’re embarrassed by our actions and lack of knowledge in doing this. We’re sorry.”

Colin Smith 

When developing an advertising campaign, companies take everything into account from color to typography. Well, most companies do. Apparently PepsiCo. and Japanese based fashion company A Bathing Ape didn’t double check the latter. They collaborated to create a limited edition can, calling the promotion “Pepsi x Aape” to bring attention to Bathing Apes sub-brand Aape. The two companies decided to use Pepsi’s typeface for the promotion, which seemed reasonable. The unfortunate part of this collaborative print ad, which was featured in a Hong Kong subway, was that some mistakenly thought the ad read “PEPSI x RAPE.” The misinterpreted campaign even made its way on to various other promotional products made for the collaboration. This confusion was avoidable if they had reconsidered the typography they both approved for the ad. Attention to detail is crucial, and failing to do so can lead to some embarrassing public apologies.

Luke Pierce

I realize that I am about to write about a very polarizing subject, so please do not focus on the Obamacare part of these ads and instead look at the approach the ads take. At first glance, the ads promoting the healthcare initiative in Colorado are offensive to millennials. They continue to be offensive at a second glance as well. For those of you who have not seen the ads, you can check them out here. After seeing Wednesday night’s episode of The Daily Show where they aired a report on these ads, you can see why this was the first thing that came to mind when we decided on this subject for our Free-for-all Friday. However, when I sat down to write this, I came across this NPR article which shed a little more light on the story of these ads.

After reading that article I now have mixed feelings about these ads. On one hand, given what they had to work with (a budget of $5000), they seem to have done a pretty good job of getting eyeballs on the ads via social media. But on the other hand, the use of offensive material seems like a cheap trick used to just get some added exposure without communicating the brand message at all. This is ultimately the reason I think this is a huge marketing mistake. At the end of the day, the ads succeeded in getting attention, but they didn’t do anything in the way of relaying the brand message that they really wanted to communicate.

 Gretchen Ardizzone

I was just born the year that this marketing blunder was committed, and while it may be an oldie, there’s certainly a lesson to be learned. Prior to 1981, the portable computer didn’t exist. One company, the Osborne Computer Corporation, saw an opportunity to launch a product that would allow professionals to take their work with them via a portable computer with the creation of the Osborne 1. A twenty-four-pound machine hardly sounds portable when I compare to my current day MacBook Pro, but at the time the product was a true innovation. And with innovation we know comes competition. Big brands Apple and Compaq (who no longer exists) launched their own more advanced versions of the PC. Osborne Computer Corporation felt the need to fend off their competitors with the announcement that they were coming out with a newer, more advanced model. One problem…people quit buying the Osborne 1 in anticipation of something more sophisticated, which wouldn’t be released for more than a year later. It resulted in an immediate financial impact and eventually resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy.

Some of you may have heard of “The Osburne Effect.” The term was coined after this event of prematurely announcing a product launch before the product was made available, and the unintended effects of having a negative impact on product sales. The Osburne Computer Corporation may have been first to make this mistake, but others have since followed. When it comes to product life cycles and innovation, there’s definitely something to be learned here. Timing is everything! It’s the reason Apple stays so hush, hush about their new products, and it’s also what fuels their need for constant innovation.

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos

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