23 March 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s no communication playbook for the current public health emergency. Nobody alive has ever faced this particular communication challenge, let alone in the context of worldwide, always-on keyboard commentary. But there are some consistent principles. Make it about them It may be a matter of great professional pride that your IT team has managed to scale up access to the VPN and add remote back-up functionality to your EOS on such short notice, but are these details your customers and vendors actually need right now? Do a quick scan of your inbox folder. How many COVID-19 messages have you gotten in the last week? Or, the last 24 hours, even? How many did you read from beginning to end? Just like we learned to ignore irrelevant online ads, we’ve all trained ourselves to skip over the corporate messages that don’t have meaning or value for us, personally. Skip to the part in your communication where you get to “What This Means to You.” Consider opening with that. And, if your compliance people will go along, consider closing with it, too. Be human We’re communicating in tense times about serious issues. It’s even more tempting than usual to rely on corporate-speak. Utilizing one’s multisyllabic vocabulary when your smaller words will do is not just less clear, it’s exhausting. There’s no reason your news release, customer email, vendor letter or social media post should sound like it was written by a committee of insecure law school applicants. You’re talking to people. Be compassionate Speaking of talking to people, many of them are confused and some are downright scared. The changes you’re announcing or the new process your organization is following might mean anything from a reassurance or an inconvenience to a genuine problem for your audience. Remember, this is about them, so take responsibility for that. To whatever extent you can control, be flexible in individual cases, but mostly, admit that this is an issue and that the people behind your brand are trying their best to minimize the disruption to the people in front of you. Stay in your lane You’re a smart person. You know lots of things about lots of things. But unless you actually are an epidemiologist or a public health expert, don’t sound like you think you are one. Reminding customers and visitors that your organization is following social distancing procedures is fine. But if you want to share best practices, preventative measures or treatment protocols with your employees or outside audiences, direct them to actual experts in those fields. It’s fine if you want to hand out the local health department’s flier or share a link to the CDC website, but shoehorning health tips and other technical information about the wider situation just distracts from what you set out to communicate in the first place. It also risks damaging the credibility of your brand.
19 February 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
Despite an era of digital connectivity and easy access to information, there’s still no substitute for real-life experience. We all want to see the elephant for ourselves. Or the dual-outboard 900-horsepower pontoon boat as the case may be. That’s what we saw a couple of weeks ago as our Client Renfro Productions raised the curtain on their new edition of the Ford Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show. A consumer show for outdoor enthusiasts presents the easy paradox of requiring attendees to be indoors and surrounded by tens of thousands of other people who also prefer solitude and open spaces. And yet they came. For 63 years now, this show has curated the top experts and equipment for fishing, hunting, boating, powersports, adventure travel and more from across North America. But just as important, it brings together enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and secrets. Despite all the technology, people will always want to be around people like them. We are naturally attracted to others with a shared experience (family holiday gatherings excepted). That makes the crowds of other outdoor enthusiasts a feature. Every year around Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, tens of thousands of people who share a different sort of common identity come together to build a city that lasts only eight days. Artists, performers, self-expressionists, individualists and myriad other non-conformists travel hundreds or even thousands of miles just to spend a week with their own tribe. Most (ahem) of what they do in the desert could just as easily be done at home. And yet they come. To belong to something they feel a part of. Like people do.
29 January 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
In today’s world we’ve taken the very definition of multitasking to an entirely new level. We’re bingeing the latest season of The Crowne on Netflix while scrolling through our Instagram feed. We’re listening to a podcast while adding something to Facebook Marketplace. We’re downloading books from the local library and reading another on our tablet. This, of course, is on top of working full-time at a career or as a parent (or both), juggling upkeep with our house, attending the neighbor’s birthday party and somehow remembering to let the dog out. We’re exhausted. And we’re wondering how we can win our time back. Many companies have cracked the tick-tock code: Netflix tells us what we should watch next (time saved on searching); Amazon has monthly subscriptions so we’ll never run out of toilet paper (time saved on trip to grocery store); and bill payments and Rx refills have never been simpler thanks to automatic bank account deductions or reminder texts. #truelove Life seems simpler with all of these technological shortcuts … and yet we’re still running around with our proverbial heads cut off and wondering where the 25th hour in the day is. Take me for example and meet my friend Liz. And by “friend” I mean the influencer I’ve turned to (who I don’t personally know but I pretend like I do) for the past nine years when I need a decision made and relief in my brain. Chicago lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Hello Adams Family has been on the scene since 2011. What first started as a fashion blog has turned into her full-time, focus-on-real-life account from all angles. Her transition from single-to-married woman to mother of two has shown the power of evolution at its finest—all before our very eyes. Instead of writing about what the latest spring trend in raincoats is, she serves up must-have skincare, must-try recipes and must-do activities for children. And I/we love her (and others like her) for it. We see someone else in the same place of life with the same undereye circles just trying to get through the day, and we realize that heck, if they can juggle it all, so can we. Oh, and they’re going to tell me what gifts I need to buy my husband for Christmas? Sign me up. Liz is like the equivalent of the Netflix movie recommendation in human form. And, just like I trust Netflix to know what I’ll love best, I trust Liz, too. But why? I don’t really know her. Because, simply put, she does all the heavy lifting and she gives me my time back. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner because poof! Liz emails me a recipe every Wednesday. I don’t have to figure out which home cleaning product is the safest for my toddler because poof! Liz tells me which one is. She takes a product and makes it relatable—a product that may be hard to sell (hello CBD oil) as well as ones that fly off the shelves (bedazzled headbands). She makes me feel like I need it without being used-carsalesman-y. She makes me feel like her friend—who she is trying to help save time, too. #sharingiscaring It is this uncanny need for time saving that makes me the epitome of a sponge, soaking up every possible human advertisement thrown my way. I’m a marketer’s dream. So how can a company capitalize on overwhelmed, searching-for-extra-minutes consumers like me? They can make it easy, automated and enjoyable. They can showcase have-to-have products in my social feeds, newsletters in my inboxes with curated content, and eye-catching advertisements before my YouTube video begins. They can partner with my friends (cough cough Liz) to talk about their products in a very real way. They can catch me in the small moments I have and convert me into a sale. They can use the power of influence to capture my attention and make me part of their tribe. They can give me my time back.
14 November 2019
Author: Gail Back
Independent and family-owned companies tend to grow up with an ingrained do-it-yourself ethic. It’s part of the attraction: Working in a place where decisions can be made quickly and most tasks can be handled in-house. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to decisions that require specific expertise or where your managers make purchase decisions less frequently. It’s not unlike the annual ritual of selecting health insurance for your team: There are dozens of options, each with different features and benefits, and only limited visibility to what others are paying for similar results. More often than not, you’re better off working with a professional. That’s also true when it comes to advertising media buying. The contracts are complicated. And while you may only make your advertising decisions a few times each year, usually you’re negotiating with professionals who handle the same kind of deal every single day. Often, professional media planning not only saves your company more money than it costs—it also simplifies your life. Your media planner will present you with a couple of options that meet your marketing objectives for timing, reach and frequency. A comprehensive plan will also combine print, broadcast, streaming and digital elements to make the greatest impact for your advertising investment. If you’re not sure about the offers and options you’re fielding from different advertising outlets, take a look at what your agency’s media department can do for you. We can simplify the decision-making process and can also be a business owner’s best friend when it comes to watching the budget.
23 October 2019
The hand that rocks the cradle, they say … Our mothers’ opinions become ours from a young age and when we’re old enough to have our own opinions, we often still trust that mother knows best. Or, at least she sets the starting point. So, where do today’s Millennial moms go when they need an expert opinion in these hyper-connected days? Where they’ve always gone: Other moms. For millennial moms, using social media as a way to reach out to other moms is second nature. What’s different is that instead of having just a close-knit group of mom friends in the family or the neighborhood, there are now thousands of online groups moms can join based on geography, age, special needs, interests … you name it. Every day, these groups are filled with posts by members, seeking and offering up recommendations on the best service providers, baby products, family-friendly entertainment, travel destinations and more. Millennial moms are particularly likely to trust recommendations of other parents on social media. One survey cited in Forbes showed them significantly more inclined to online referrals than even their Gen X older siblings. And these Millennial Moms control a lot of spending power, with mothers making the purchase decisions in four out of every five dollars spent on household products and services. So, as marketers, how can we make sure these uber-consumers know (and share) the advantages of what we’re offering? We need to be part of their communities, both online and in real life. That means building relationships that foster dialogue, not shouting slogans. That means listening more than you speak. We start by identifying the influencers in the market and reaching out personally to offer them something of value in their own lives. This can be a sample for trial, an experience that they can share with their own network, or even an offer they can share with their online followers and offline communities. It’s important that these interactions are conversations, not monologues. Aside from the opportunity to tell the community about your latest offering or enhancement, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and their lives. Join their communities by participating in online conversations. Your company and your brand have access to experiences from other consumers and other families that members will find useful. And when it comes to your own product, there can be no better source for how it’s best used or enjoyed. Influencers have a responsibility to their audience. The community gives them a platform. In return, members of that community rely on them to test products, try services and to share information they can use to simplify their own lives. Companies and brands that become trusted members of the community – that contribute more than just self-promotion – are gaining an advantage in earning the business of this Millennial generation. And the next one.
25 September 2019
Most creatives exist in a paradoxical place of passion and feigned indifference. We work to commit the kind of brilliant, blinding energy every project or concept deserves, side-by-side with trying to keep the heart distant enough to protect it from being quashed if our copy or design gets altered. Or meh’d. Or (ugh) rejected entirely. It’s a realistic part of the agency process (insert “thick skin” idiom of choice). One that ultimately helps fan the flames of creativity from the hope that someday one of our glorious ideas will get the green light, carte blanche. Enter GECU—General Electric Credit Union. A brand-new client who, after decades in business and a jaw-dropping history of success, felt it was time to up their game on brand recognition—a need they pegged us to take the lead on. They wanted it all, across the board. Immediate sales spots for radio and digital (and a brand-new buy to better leverage both). Plus other offer-based versions to follow. But at the forefront, paramount to all others: a soup-to-nuts, full-scale brand awareness campaign that would not only boost prominence with their target audience, but would set them dramatically apart from competitor banks and credit unions. Online, outdoors, on the airwaves and the tube. It was big. Huge. A colossal undertaking that had the marks early on of being a genuine game-changer for them—and to a certain extent, us. Put simply, it was the kind of high-level, big-picture, push-the-limits chance that professional creatives dream about. The starring role, if you will, in building something from scratch with every ounce of talent and vision in our toolbox. Remember that early radio deliverable? A project we pressured ourselves to knock out of the park with new scripts, new talent, new music—finding and establishing a complete GECU voice before we had fully sunk our teeth into how to amplify it. In one of the spots, we came up with a compact couplet we thought described them (their difference) to a T: Member owned, so we can’t be bought. Member run, so our best interest is yours. Powerful, punchy and to the point. GECU loved this line. We loved this line. So much so that it landed a leading role in one of our “big idea” concepts for the comprehensive brand boost. One that also involved 3D props, on-location filming, and most challenging of all, actual GECU members. Not actors. “People just like you.” It was the most ambitious. Definitely the most complicated. And the client went for it. Wait, what? Oh yes. Not only did GECU choose our A-list idea-star, they chose the concept that would force us to stoke our creative embers to full, bonfire-level intensity (and trusted from the get-go that we had the chops to deliver it). It was the concept that also placed the bulk of the first stage of work directly on their own shoulders—finding real credit union members who’d agree to be on-screen and larger than life. The soul of the campaign hinged on being able to recognize and relate to each of these people. Someone you know. And trust. And can relate to. Our challenge was to draw out these everyman connections from the members GECU chose—and then hope that sincerity and “realness” translated on-camera. It did. Of course, there were delays. And second-guesses. Our window of time—with our production company, our photographer, our own creative deadlines, even our media buy—was closing swiftly, and there were bumps and roadblocks none of us could have seen coming. Wouldn’t it be easier to hire talent to play the part of members? It was a thought we briefly entertained as the clock ticked down. It was also a sticking point our ACD refused to budge on, an uncompromising stand we felt was integral to the campaign (remember, soul and all?). But then in the space of a week, it all came together. We found the final participant, secured the last two locations—setting in motion a full-scale shoot that was then only four days away. We scheduled everyone and everything down to the minute: three days, five scenes, five different parts of the city, with close to 20 of us on set at each location—plus editing, voiceover and design work to follow. The stars themselves—real GECU members with everyday lives and jobs and commitments—blew us away with their eagerness and excitement to be part of this. Then blew us away again as their natural personalities absolutely shined on film. From this, we built four unique TV spots, currently running on all major cable and local networks. One radio spot doing the same across the area. Three billboards in nearly 100 locations. Dozens of digital ads and sponsored social posts. Not bad, right? Suffice it to say, the client was blown away. Together, as a team, we created something bigger—better—than we ever imagined. More to the point, we reveled in the fact that we had the chance to do it. Dare we call it our magnum opus? Nah, surely not. (Well, maybe.) Thanks, GECU. We’d say more, but the orchestra has already started playing …
07 June 2019
If you’re an auto dealer (or any local or small business, for that matter), and you missed this blog the first time around, we think it’s worth a revisit—or at the very least, a rededication to upping your ante on giving back. Because doing good is never a bad thing. For a car dealership, name recognition and trust are huge commodities—and the lack thereof can be a big hurdle to business success. It’s important to invest in traditional advertising and social media, although the former can be expensive, while the latter is time consuming. But there’s another way to make people familiar with your brand and garner trust and good will: by performing a community service. It may sound cynical to engage in charitable giving or volunteerism with the goal of increasing your business—but here’s why it’s not: When you dedicate your dealership to a cause—whether by sponsoring a school sports team, letting your employees volunteer while they’re on the clock, supplying cars for a nonprofit that needs reliable transportation, or any of an infinite number of possible goodwill efforts, you are first and foremost making the world a better place. (As long as you don’t try to pull something like this.) Whatever your motivations, doing good is doing good. And the fact that you get to leverage your business’s spending power or platform to amplify all that do-gooding: extra-super-bonus credit. And don’t underestimate the morale boost your staff is likely to feel as a result of being part of something bigger than themselves. Just be sure that their involvement is truly voluntary, and that you’re not pulling them away from urgent work in order to participate. A few tips on choosing a charity: Steer clear of anything overtly political, since you could alienate rather than attract potential customers that way. Seek a charity that complements your brand message. For example, one of our clients, a female-owned dealership, donates cars to help transport women to and from breast cancer treatments. Another dealership group that sells family-friendly cars sponsors an event that benefits our local children’s hospital. Go ahead and invest in a cause that’s close to your heart—and feel great about the trust and name recognition you’re banking for your dealership.
27 June 2016
04 May 2016