06 August 2020
Author: Stephanie Meinberg
As a University of Alabama grad and Anderson Twp., Ohio native, Emily Meek has divided her post-collegiate years to exploring Europe and launching her career (often simultaneously). Stonehenge to Dublin to Paris, then Birmingham and now back to Cincy, she’s a hometown girl with a passion for football—she’s also the newest member of the St. Gregory media team. Q: You’ve joined us as our assistant media buyer—tell us a little about your media experience. A: I spent just over a year as an assistant traditional media buyer for the Martin Retail Group, an agency in Alabama focused primarily on automotive clients. My work was with General Motors—Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac—covering TV, cable, radio and print buys for my region, which was about 29 markets. It was basic media assistant work—with my strong background in PR, which was primarily earned and owned media, this role allowed me to transition over to the paid media side, which was really interesting to me … I was excited about learning more from that perspective. Q: So why the move back to Cincy? What appealed to you about St. Gregory? A: I loved Alabama—the school, not the state. [She laughs.] I was really looking for an agency setting, the next step after focused corporate communications where you’re working for the same client every day. The pandemic limited my options, of course, but then I spotted this opening—in my hometown—and with everything that was going on in the world, it seemed like the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, to make the jump. St. Gregory as an agency had a deep roster of clients, a lot of which were automotive, which was my current forte. So, it was that ideal next step—going from what I was doing on just the media side at MRG to a full-service agency that did that and more. It blended my previous PR experience with my current work … all in one job. Q: Thoughts on media—in general? Where it’s going in our highly digital, on-demand world … A: Obviously there’s a lot of focus on digital, but I’m more interested in traditional … more interested in what’s going on in the moment when it comes to advertising, like when I’m watching football in live action on TV (versus paying to skip ads on Hulu when I watch The Bachelor). I think you can go further, do more with traditional media—and I think a lot of people don’t realize all that encompasses … it’s not just TV, it’s also billboards and radio and more … Q: So, your primary role here … and favorite part so far? A: I’m only just now a month in, so I don’t have my own accounts yet. Currently, I’m helping with whatever [St. Gregory media director] Janet needs … forms, adjusting plans and media tools, sending traffic, working with budget sheets, printing invoices, scanning things in for co-op … literally every day is something different. I haven’t done anything twice yet. Which is one of the best parts—I love the option of being able to do different things in different systems with different forms and different setups … nothing is ever boring here.
28 July 2020
Author: Daniel Lally
There’s a saying among litigators that goes something like this: If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither is on your side, pound the table. The thing about that maxim is that it works equally well as a mocking review of almost any argument with which you disagree, or as pretty solid career advice for anyone who aspires to persuade people for a living. Like lawyers. Or advertisers. That’s because marketing strategy depends on having a conversation with your customers that is both relevant to them and highlights the specific benefits of your brand. In the late 1960s, major home appliances like washing machines had become harder for advertisers to differentiate. The performance and features offered by the big manufacturers were pretty comparable, particularly when it came to higher-end models. But one copywriter at Leo Burnett found a way to frame the purchasing decision in a way that ensured his client would definitely stand out. The insight pointed out the worst part of owning a major appliance was when it stopped working. Other, larger competitors pointed to their national networks of factory-trained repair technicians, but based on that insight, they were making the wrong case. And so, the Maytag Repairman came to be. With a single idea, Maytag changed the conversation from which machine was bigger or got whites brighter to which one you could actually depend on. Framed that way, Maytag would continue to chip away at the market share of its much larger competitors for another 35 years or so, when one of them finally gave in and bought the company. Combine a new insight with a creative idea and you’ve got a powerful force. These are the proverbial unicorns—those truly revolutionary products that are exactly what everybody wanted or needed and just didn’t know it until a new gizmo came along. This week in particular, air conditioning comes to mind. But if your brand has real competition, and your customers have real options, you’ll likely benefit from framing the discussion to the context that best suits your benefits. Which conversation you decide to have can make all the difference.
20 April 2020
Operating during Coronavirus is as new for your customers as it is for all of us. Every opportunity counts, while your consumers are changing their behavior simultaneously online and in real life. As these shifts continue, our reaction time as marketers is even shorter. This presents opportunities for your brand—as well as your competitor’s—to capture their attention through your digital content. And your customers want to hear from you. In fact, Kantar found that only eight percent of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the outbreak. Be present This is not the time to go dark—either in your social media channels or your website content. Consumer behavior has changed considerably on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Traffic is up, but visits are more kinetic. It’s as if our collective attention spans have gotten even shorter as we process a flood of new information. Maintaining a brand presence between customer touchpoints is always important and relevant and useful information will keep your brand in the consciousness of both consumers and search engines. Be helpful That relevant information should include ways your organization can help in these unusual times. Have you changed operating hours or procedures to serve your customers and protect them and your staff? Tell us about it. Are you pausing operations but scheduling service for the future? Let us know how your biggest fans can get to the head of the line. Do you have a product or service that is particularly useful during quarantine? By all means, tell us more! Be clear Sharing details about doing business with your brand is really only helpful if it’s relevant to the customer. You’re changing your hours to sanitize your vehicles? Lay out how that affects the customer. Having inventory issues? Communicate exactly what is in-stock, what’s not and when you expect that to change. Phone lines jammed? Share that immediately through every other channel at your disposal. People understand these are unusual times for you, too, and they’re willing to be patient when they have a clear understanding. Be consistent Don’t fall into the trap of communicating with your customers once and calling it a day. Update at least as frequently as you did during normal times. Remember, a good part of your content will be pushed down people’s news feeds by the latest news, along with graduation pictures from 1997. Stay active to stay relevant. Be a connector A major theme in much of the consumer-generated content right now is staying connected. People are feeling isolated and are eager for human contact. If possible, demonstrate how your brand brings people together by acknowledging your online community and inviting them to join with your company—and each other—in some community effort. Salute local amateur athletes who lost their spring sports season. Repost the community theater’s rehearsal video. Recognize local students or civic organizations for community service. Be grateful Remember to thank your customers—and your casual followers—for remaining with your brand through this situation. Thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice to stay healthy and help to shorten the duration. Most important, thank your employees—the line staff, technicians, phone center representatives, all of them—who one way or another are facing new challenges right now. Also remember your vendors. A little appreciation, even when you’re the one writing the checks—can go a long way to keeping your supply chain running smoothly now and when we get back to something approaching normal. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
04 December 2019
Author: Steve Bleh
Any plan for identifying, targeting and attracting customers to your brand almost always involves some sort of analysis of the customer journey. It’s the path from the Zero Moment of Truth, through something like a Sales Funnel, and leading ultimately to the Last Three Feet. Then we’re done, right? Everybody high-five and start filling out the awards submissions. The reality is that last moment of truth is not where the marketer’s job ends—it’s just where it starts over. With some notable exceptions—burial plots come immediately to mind—most of the brands and clients we serve are hoping for something more than a one-off transaction. So, what can we do to keep those customers coming back for more? First, be certain that the earliest customer experience is not only more than they expect, but clearly what they expect. Advertising messages that confuse your audience or imply a different kind of experience will leave guests confused, disappointed or worse. That means that a clear definition of who the product or service is for has to be baked into your strategy. This requires an analysis that goes beyond demographics or psychographics and gets to what customer need that initial purchase meets. It’s fair to say that the MegaMart and the art gallery have very different customer profiles, but patrons of the arts still, on occasion, need batteries or shoelaces. Second, anticipate that there still will be customers who walk away confused, disappointed or worse. Whether it’s because of an operations issue or a disconnect in your messaging doesn’t matter—it’s still marketing’s problem to address. There once was a saying that a satisfied customer tells two people, but a dissatisfied one tells 12. That’s still mostly true, but through social media that unhappy customer could reach 12 dozen or 12,000 in a matter of hours. Have a plan for responding to these situations that in a way that reinforces your accurate brand story and reinforces your commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations. Third—and this where the journey starts over at the beginning—your marketing plan needs to remind all those happy (or at least satisfied) customers about the best parts of their experience invite them back. Many mass-market retailers and food service establishments solicit comments at the cash register or create rewarded surveys. For high-value purchases or those that are less frequent, consider a personal contact to ask about the experience—good or bad—and even to ask for referrals. With so many options for any service or product in the market, brands need to make sure that every step the customer takes with you is on the right path. The first transaction is just the beginning of the relationship. And the beginning of a new journey.
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.
15 October 2019
If it doesn’t feel like we’re almost always in the middle of an election cycle or gearing up for one, you may not be paying close enough attention. It chews up your social media feed, shouts at you on your commute and dominates whichever screen you choose as a refuge in the evening. Nobody feels it more than marketers who need to navigate the complex world of media planning competing for placement with candidates for every office from township clerk to president. And the competition can be even more acute if your business relies on reaching consumers in a contested or (worst case) swing state in the general election. The key is in diversifying your media plan to ensure you’re reaching your customers without having to outbid some campaign or special interest group with deeper pockets. Careful planning early in the process can prevent unexpected costs or preemption later in the game, particularly in that 45-day window before the general election. A simple approach is to make sure you have a good media mix to target your consumers. One way to do this is to move out of higher-demand programming and cable networks that political ads will be buying up. New analytics help make this approach even more efficient. Using audience modeling, we can target the exact same consumers on other networks or programming to mirror the viewing habits we want. This also avoids putting your message in an environment where a flood of political ads sends consumers running out of the room at every commercial break. There’s no need to run away from traditional broadcast during an election. An option we can explore to put in the mix is sponsorships or sports packages, which are less pre-emptiable during election campaigns. While these come with time and budget commitments, they can complement your normal schedule to reach higher targeted-profile programming. An important thing to remember is to make sure you have an open communication with your media partners. By staying ahead of issues, you can work out any bumps in the campaign in advance. Streaming services—referred to in the trade as OTT or over-the-top—also present opportunities to communicate with your customers in a channel where election-year demand doesn’t create as much pressure. Because political campaigns need to focus their efforts on likely voters, your planning can be nimbler and take advantage of opportunities they pass on or simply overlook. OTT channels also aren’t bound by regulations requiring them to offer candidates for political office their lowest unit rates (LUR)—which means there’s more room for negotiation. Streaming audio channels offer many of the same advantages. Platforms like Spotify, Pandora or TuneIn deliver audiences that can be custom-targeted by both geography and interest, as well as by demographics. Campaign commercials may interrupt your favorite show or clutter up your news feed, but a well-considered plan can make sure they don’t spoil your marketing.
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 …
14 August 2019
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table.