You have to respect the ad agency that recommended the AFLAC duck.

by: Charles Gaiennie on

This week we had sales reps from AFLAC stop in to share the benefits of their insurance plans for our growing company. They were professional and very helpful, and we may take a look at their products. Please don't tell them this, but what really stood out to me during their presentation was that big, white duck.


As they flipped through their presentation binder I just couldn't help but focus on the duck — that silly bird that has become the iconic symbol of AFLAC. While the duck is now well established as the symbol of the company, as a marketing guy who regularly makes recommendations on company branding, it made me reflect on the courage and vision of the agency that stood up before the executive management of AFLAC to make a recommendation of a duck  as the brand in an industry known for its conservatism and status-quo mentality.


Here's the picture in my mind...


Ad agency: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time today as we set the course for what will be the public identity for your company."


(stone face stares)


Ad agency continues: "In developing your new brand, we have carefully considered the leadership position that AFLAC has earned in the market and the vision of its executives who have brought us to this moment."


(nods of self-approval).


Ad agency readies for the big moment: "And now, your new brand!"


(pulls the drape off the easel to reveal - a duck)



(stunned silence)


Did it go down like this?  Who knows?  But the point is that suggesting a duck as the leading image of an insurance company had to take guts.


This leads me to the observation that in branding and communications the message is ultimately not about you but rather what the market remembers about you. For AFLAC, we are pretty sure that a duck has little to do with the insurance industry. Had the ad agency followed the safe route, AFLAC would likely be an also-ran insurance company doing business as American Family Life Insurance of Columbus (pardon the yawn). Instead, they are busy touting their climb to the 125th spot on the Fortune 500. Maybe the duck was a good idea after all.


So when it comes to branding, have a little backbone. You just never know where it might lead you.

Consistency

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Consistency


How do you like our use of different colors in the title of this week's Marketing Minute? Annoying, isn't it? Possibly even bordering on obnoxious. But in true Marketing Minute style we are using eleven different colors to draw your attention to the absolutely essential requirement of consistency in your branding, marketing and advertising.

Here's why...

In marketing, you are constantly competing for space in the minds and hearts of your market. This is true whether you are Coca-Cola or Slop-E-Joe's Barbecue Shack. (we just made that name up so apologies is there really is a Slop-E-Joe's out there somewhere) Success in gaining ground in that mind and heart space starts by making it ridiculously simple for someone to recognize you immediately whenever and wherever they encounter your brand.

Here are three rules to guide you.

Rule 1 - create a brand that is clear, simple and recognizable.
Rule 2 - don't allow your latest flight of creative fancy to mess up a perfectly good brand.
Rule 3 - use the un-messed-up brand with perfect consistency as to colors, font styles, images and tag phrases every time, all the time.

By following these three important rules, you are avoiding creating confusion about your brand in a marketplace where confusion is already the norm.

So whatever you do, when it comes to your marketing, advertising and branding,

Stay Consistent! :)


Flashing your customers

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Everyone loves a pretty picture. The same is true with websites. Everyone loves a web that moves and rotates and does interesting things when the mouse hovers over something on the site. Sites in this category typically are built with a technology called Flash. Flash sites are especially popular with creative types like bands and photographers where image is everything. And while they are very pretty, we never recommend a total Flash site for any serious business application of a website. Here's why...

Flash is essentially a picture, not text. Why should you care? The reasons are many but the primary ones are these: indexing or the ability of search engines to find your site, the need to have Flash player installed on the computer that is viewing the site, troubles rendering the site where the viewer has slow bandwidth and the technical expertise required to update a Flash site. Let’s take each one in turn.

Building a site is one thing. Having your site found and viewed is another matter entirely. Other than someone knowing your exact website URL, most people who are looking for something on the web will Google a name or keyword to find what they are looking for. What this means is that if you are ever to be found by a keyword search, you must have – get ready for it – WORDS on your site. Flash, you’ll recall, is not words but a picture and while there are ways to add captions and tags to a picture, you are creating a barrier to viewers who are trying to find you by creating a picture-based website.

Also, if you’ve ever been to a site and been greeted with a blank page but for a message such as “download Flash plugin” or something similar, what you are seeing is evidence that Flash requires that something be installed on the viewer’s computer. While most up-to-date PCs will have it already installed, that is not always the case. Downloading the plugin is easy and free but in our opinion, why create one more barrier between you and your clients and prospects?

Another rub with Flash is the inherent issue of pictures requiring more internet bandwidth and computing horsepower to view than text. Again, many current configurations of internet and PCs blow right through this to allow nearly any size image to be viewed, but this is not always the case. Also, if the viewer is in a business setting, the company may prohibit images from coming through their firewalls or create other barriers to the images being rendered.

The final trick of Flash is that in order for you to update a Flash-based site, you must own and know how to use Adobe Flash – not the freeware reader but the actual fully-licensed program. Not that it’s impossible to learn, but just to let you know that we have college-trained professionals using Flash and they spend a good deal of time keeping up with the changes and evolution of the product. Again, one more layer of complexity that really does not have to exist.

Are we saying don’t build a Flash-based site? Absolutely not. What we are saying is consider deeply the purpose of creating your website. For most of us, our websites are places where we encourage interaction with our markets. They are places where information is ideally updated frequently. The more barriers and risks we build into our sites, the less likely it is that they will yield good things for our companies.

So before you expose yourself to flashing your customers, consider all that is involved.

Get Out of the Board Room and Into the Chat Room

by: Charles Gaiennie on

This week's marketing minute goes out to all of the big shots - you know who you are - who have pretty much written off this social media thing as a passing fad, not worthy of their attention, the realm of their teenage daughter whose main focus is growing virtual crops and creating polls about which "Twilight" vampire she's most like. But alas, oh Great Ones, be cautious in your judgments since the truth is that social media, in the right hands, is a very powerful and relevant business tool that even grownups like yourself can learn to use.

We made the statement in last week’s Marketing Minute that success in social media is all about quality content. So the question becomes then, from whence doth quality content come? To answer that question, let’s visualize a scenario that we think will make the point.

Let’s all go to an imaginary meeting of some board of directors. In your mind’s eye, scan the boardroom table and who do you see? Is it the administrative assistants? No. (Even though we all know that without the AAs no one at the table could have found anything they needed to get ready for the meeting.) Is it the delivery drivers? No. (They’re out making money for the company right now.) It’s the big cheeses, the CEO, top managers, key investors, owners and founders of the company, and so on. And why, we playfully ask, are these particular people at the table? It’s because it is these people who have the insights and knowledge that is most relevant to the company, and, by extension, to the market in which they operate. Stated differently, it is these people who are the owners of QUALITY CONTENT.

These people are also often the public face of your company, and are the persons customers most want a relationship with. Why not consider giving them a voice through a company blog? A blog that is written with true personality makes readers feel like they know and trust you. It is, after all, these people who are assumed to have the greatest knowledge and the credibility. For example, when you get sick, whose advice do you seek, the doctor or the receptionist?

But don't just assign the blog to the secretary or the student intern. In many cases it should be the CEO writing the blog. Yes, we know the CEO's time is valuable, but so is that of your readers so don't waste it with insights that are just veneer. An enthusiastic and personable CEO bursting with insights into your industry is better advertising than you can buy.

When the CEO Shouldn't Blog
Not every CEO should have a blog. A good blog is based on candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness and controversy. If your CEO can't commit to regular blogs that include at least four of those items, try another medium or choose another employee, or, better yet, hire an insightful and innovative PR firm. (We just happen to know of a great one right here in town.) The point is casual interaction with customers/readers, so your blog must be written in your voice and not in that of a press release or annual report!

The Power of Friendship

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Does this sound familiar?

Hey. Have you tried that new restaurant in town?

Yeah. A friend from work ate there Saturday and they said it’s really good. The place was packed but the service was good and they had some really interesting things on the menu.

Cool. I think we’re going to try it tonight. Thanks.

Based on this conversation, would you be willing to give this new restaurant a try? We guess that you would, and, frankly, so would we.

But did you notice that something was conspicuously absent? Did you notice that marketing, in the traditional sense of the word is nowhere to be seen in this exchange? No $3 million-a-minute Super Bowl ad, no Hollywood spokesperson, nothing really but a casual – yet powerful – affirmation that is almost certain to result in a new customer for the restaurant.

Could there be something here? You bet there is. It’s the power of a legitimate referral, not made by you, but done on behalf of you from a trusted source. It’s called referral marketing and it is powerful stuff when done right.

So how does it work?

To begin with, you really do have to have something of value. No marketing can make up for a poor experience and, in fact, if you really don’t have something that can legitimately be referred, stay away from encouraging referrals until you do since failing to live up to an expectation is worse than having never created the expectation in the first place.

But when you do have something great, make it easy for others to share it. While there are many ways to do this, some methods clearly stand out. Email marketing, for example, is a great way to allow persons to refer to a friend. Sure, they can just hit the forward button on their email, but it’s far better to embed within the email an opportunity to forward to a friend. With Constant Contact, for example, forwarding to a friend is not only easy, but doing so allows you to collect new contacts to allow your distribution list to grow over time.

Another method is to get social. Social media by definition is a perfect medium to get others to share information about you. What you are looking for here is a Facebook fan page that is about your company. Be careful not to try to use a personal Facebook page to promote your business since Facebook frowns on the practice and may cut you off for doing so.

What the two methods have in common is the ease of making the referral and the potentially unlimited number of times a referral can be made with absolutely zero time and expense on your part. You also gain the ability to track referrals depending on the method you choose. In any case, referrals done electronically are huge and provide an effective and affordable way for you to get your message out.

So what more can we say other than, if you enjoy reading our Marketing Minute, we would be most grateful if you would, Tell a Friend.

When you’re ready to have a one-on-one conversation with a few thousand people, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form.

Until next week. 

 

A Mass Market of One

by: Charles Gaiennie on


It is sometimes said that the sweetest sound is that of our own voice. What this means is that if you want someone to really pay attention, talk to them, about them. But in marketing, where the mediums of communication often include billboards, television commercials, newspaper advertisements and radio ads, there is a fundamental conflict in doing this – by design, these mediums are designed to reach the broadest possible audience with the broadest possible appeal. But in successful marketing, saying the wrong thing to the wrong audience is worse than saying nothing at all. So what’s a company to do?


Here are some suggestions.

Start by recognizing that your total market is actually made up of a bunch of smaller markets, each with its own set of characteristics and preferences. It’s called segmentation and it’s key to identifying who your market is and what they are interested in. It’s the foundation of approximating the experience of talking just to them about what interests them the most.

Take me as an example. I am an avid guitar player. Not a great guitar player, but an avid guitar player just the same and I love to get advertisements about guitars. So you would think then that guitar stores should be loading me up with whatever guitar-related message they can, right? Well, not quite right. To begin with, I am not just a guitar player, I am an acoustic guitar player and I have very specific preferences as to the brand and type of guitar I like. So any guitar store that sends me catalogs about their latest ax-shaped shredder guitar is just going to annoy me and cement in my mind a commitment to stay as far away from their products as possible. However, send me something about the anniversary line of solid wood, spruce-top Martins, Guilds and Gibson flattops and you have my undivided attention for hours! Get the point?

If all of this sounds hard, don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you might think, but it does require that you have the right tools at your disposal to identify and get in front of the right audience with your message. Advertisers are getting really good at this with cable, website and newspaper advertising, bringing on some very sophisticated techniques to help you get the right message to the right person at the right time.

Take our friends over at Charter Cable, for example. Got a new Cajun Seasoning Blend? They can drop your message right in the middle of the Paula Deen Show on the Food Network right alongside the Kraft Mac and Cheese spot. And it won’t be people in Minnesota seeing it, either, it will be the people in our community who can then get right up and walk into Rouses to get a can of the stuff.

Our buds at the Courier/Comet can do something similar as well based on key words you use to look up a story. Type in “sports scores” for example and, in addition to the latest scores, you’ll see information about the latest and greatest in sports and exercise equipment available locally. Many other great examples exist.

So when you’re ready to have a one-on-one conversation with a few thousand people, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form now.

Until next week.

Getting recognition for getting it right

by: Charles Gaiennie on

In this week's Marketing Minute, we are going to break from our normal focus on you to a momentary focus on us. We almost never talk about ourselves but we just have to share with you some very exciting news! 

As you may know, our firm is a certified partner with Constant Contact, one of the original email marketing companies in the world and an undisputed leader in that industry. We use Constant Contact to create the Marketing Minute you are now reading.

Well, apparently someone up there noticed what we have been doing on behalf of our clients with Constant Contact and awarded us their prestigious All Star Award. It’s not like we won the Oscars of email marketing or anything like that but in the field of consistently adhering to best practices in email marketing to get tangible results for clients, we stand pretty tall.

Here's what they said about us...

Kudos to you! As a Constant Contact Business Partner, you helped your clients do email marketing the way it's supposed to be done in 2009. You helped them stay in touch with their customers or members with regular email communications. You made sure their contact list was up to date and that everyone on it gave permission to receive emails. Finally, you helped them deliver engaging information that their audience was eager to receive, open, and read.

It goes without saying that we are both proud and excited to have been recognized with this award. What's really important, however, is not that we received the award but rather that we received a solid affirmation that what we are doing with email marketing is effective for our clients.

So, congratulations to us, but more importantly, congratulations to the 50-plus companies that we’ve helped tie into the affordable and effective world of email marketing with Constant Contact.

Whoohooo!

May we have your permission, please?

by: Charles Gaiennie on

In this week’s Marketing Minute, we address the issue of permission-based marketing and why it is so important to gain permission from your customers and prospects before you communicate with them. It is an important process since permission is often the difference between growing a relationship or abruptly and permanently closing that relationship off.

Let’s start with a definition of permission. For marketing purposes it means that someone has either explicitly asked you to communicate with them or it can be reasonably presumed that they are open to communicating with you.

Explicit permission comes in many forms but here are a few of the more common ones. A customer completes a satisfaction survey, signs up for your newsletter on your website or calls or emails you directly for a brochure, a quote or for information about your products or services. The common thread here is that they have initiated the contact from their side with the expectation that you will follow up. The second form of permission is where it can be reasonably implied that contact is OK. This also comes in many forms, such as someone hands you their business card at a meeting or trade show, the person has done business with you in the past or is actively using your products or services now, there is some established relationship between you and the person such as you serve on committee together or know each other in a way where they clearly know you and what you do. Basically, this is a group of permission givers that while they have not explicitly asked for you to send them information, they at least know who you are and can easily identify who you are when you reach out to them.

With this understanding of permission in hand, let’s move on to why this permission thing is so important.

Many people assume that marketing seems to be all about them, what they sell and do. In reality, however, marketing done well is all about someone else – your customers and prospects and what they want and what they need. When you’ve grasped this concept, you begin to understand where this permission thing fits in. In gaining permission before you communicate, you immediately make the statement that your message, and by extension your products and services, are all about fulfilling someone else’s need, not just your own. And, WOW, what a powerful message that can be. In fact, marketing that does not follow these rules is generally tagged by the market with phrases such as “junk mail” or “spam,” not descriptions you want applied to your message, we’d guess.

The Marketing Minute is actually an example of permission-based marketing. Everyone who receives this fits into at least one of the two categories we mentioned. But even with the permission in place, we still respect the right of all our contacts to not receive this message by immediately presenting the option to unsubscribe.

If you are interested in learning more about permission-based marketing, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our contact form now. There is also a great summary of permission-based marketing you can download now free from our email technology partner, Constant Contact. Oh, and by the way, when you call or complete the form, we’d like to thank you for giving us permission to contact you.

Why is this Twitter Thing Important?

by: Charles Gaiennie on

To get this week’s Marketing Minute off to a rockin’ start, please click here to enjoy the intro to one of the most fun songs ever recorded, "Rockin' Robin," performed by Bobby Day. (You might want to turn down the volume or plug in the headset if the boss is around.)
What a great song. It's also a great lead in to this week’s Marketing Minute as we delve into the question on the minds of many businesses, “What is this Twitter thing all about and why should I care?”

The answer lies in a single word: “engagement,” or the process of drawing your customers into a relationship built around a conversation. That’s what social media is all about, really – engaging in a conversation with your customers. Okay, so if engagement is the key, let’s think now about the more traditional opportunities for engaging your customer. Mostly there is a physical element to it. They have to come in, call, encounter you at a business meeting and so on. Even if you were to do the engagement thing all the time – something no one has the time to do – there will always be people you never get to engage simply due to limitations of time and space.

Ah … now is it becoming clearer? Twitter and other social media outlets allow you to engage your audience on an ongoing, persistent basis without the limits of time or space. It even allows the conversation to go viral (as we say) by having what you said “re-Tweeted” to other people you probably don’t even know. Arguably, among the various social media tools available, none is as purely conversational as Twitter with its fairly informal exchange of ideas and perspectives that mimic a live conversation.

The key word here is conversation. Ever get into a pointless and deadly dull conversation? Typically it’s the ones where the topic is “Me, me, me. I, I, I.” While we may suffer through it, we definitely are not going to feel engaged and we will probably do everything we can to avoid, not engage, that person in the future. By contrast, good conversationalists focus not on what is interesting to them, but what is interesting to you. It’s called quality content, and in the world of successful social media, success is ALL about quality content. It’s also about listening.

In next week’s Marketing Minute, we’ll go into the details of what quality content is, and where you should go within your organization to produce it.

So until next week we say, “Blow Rockin’ Robin ‘cause we’re really gonna rock tonight! Tweet! Tweet!”

There's a strong Brees blowing

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Are the Saints the new America's Team?  Some say they are. And it’s more than just a title; it’s potentially the greatest windfall of attention and focus ever to blow into our state. With their fame comes an almost irresistible urge for businesses to find some way to associate themselves with the Saints' success. 

In this issue of the Marketing Minute, we take a look at the question of should you, can you, and if so, how do you “be in that number”?


In the weeks between the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, there was quite the controversy as the NFL sought to flex its licensing muscle to claim the rights to, and hence the money from, the use of the phrase, “Who Dat.” Under extreme pressure from everyone from Congress to Tom Benson, the NFL attorney-types finally backed off and let the licensing rights issue fade quietly away, but for you, chances are pretty good that they won’t be quite as generous.

So what’s an enterprising, Saints-minded business to do? One option is to employ the roll-the-dice method. Black and gold, that’s pretty straight forward. Fleur de lis stencils – easy cheesy. All you need now is a coat hanger and a street corner. But wait…is it worth it?

Basically, here’s the deal: The NFL and the Saints actually WANT you to sell things using their name. They encourage it. They want their name on pretty much everything. The thing is, they just want you to PAY for it first. It’s something called a trademark and guess what, the Saints identity, in all of its forms, is trademarked by the Saints and by extension, the NFL. So if you want a Saints association with your company, you can either buy all of the already officially NFL-licensed items you can handle, or you can approach the NFL for permission to have your products licensed. It’s not easy but if you really want to give it a shot, here’s where to start: https://www.nfl.info/NFLConsProd/Welcome/index.html. Sorry, sometimes it really is all about the money.

Since I have this vision of a disappointed groan after reading this, let me end with a little hope brought on by a couple of ideas of marketing finesse. Try this: While you probably can’t lay claim to a Drew Brees endorsement of your company, you can perhaps remind the market how the leadership, hard work and perseverance needed to win a National Champion has been a part of your business since <<Insert Date>>. You can also lay claim to being from the state that produced the Super Bowl Champions, which by association, makes you a part of a winning team. You get the idea.

So with full acceptance of the risks of violating NFL trademarks, we join with you all as we shout out loud, “Who Dat?! Who Dat?! Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?! Who Dat?!”

© Copyright The W.L. Gaiennie Company 2016