Next to Super Bowl television ads, very little gets the industry more excited than the announcement of a new corporate logo.
Pop Quiz: What do logos and opinions have in common? Answer: Everybody’s got one!
Personally I think way too much time, effort and money is put into creating logos. They are, after all, just a brand mark designed to represent the entirety of the organization.
No company ever succeeded or failed because of its logo. Still, like everyone else, I am curious about new ideas and developments. And with the unveiling of the “new” Microsoft logo, I realized a new trend in logo design: squares (like nerds) are suddenly very popular.
Consider just a handful of the major global brands (The Gap, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, JCPenney and Microsoft) that have launched new logos in the past year or so. Lots of blues and reds, lots of squares (and squares inside of squares) and a couple of colossal flops.
As you likely heard, the Gap logo was so disliked by loyal customers (or so we are told), the new logo disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. As for JCPenney, the fair and square initiative has failed so miserably that customers and investors have forced management to alter its plans and eliminate all sales from future marketing, which may actually turn out to be good news and good business.
So what’s the big deal with the squares? I mean, I get why a company like Square would have a square within a square logo (even if it is a direct ripoff of the Target logo), but why are so many heavy hitters headed in that direction. Maybe, these four-sided structures reference the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west)… or perhaps the four major seasons (winter, spring, summer, autumn)… or the four cosmic elements (suns, moons, planets, stars)… or the four common phases of human life (birth, child, adult, death)… or perhaps the four prime elements (fire, earth, air, water).
Or maybe the designers just like squares.
Intrigued, I visited yonanas.com and learned about a new kitchen gadget that can turn overripe bananas into delicious, healthy soft serve ice cream. This marketing seemed directed right at me. I’m often faced with the dilemma of what to do with the last banana in the bunch that I just don’t want to eat. And as someone who loves ice cream but hates how bad it is for me, I thought the marketing and product was a great idea. There was even a video on the website showing yonanas featured on The Today Show. A quick scan of the yonanas Facebook page reveals a few people who saw the stickers and plan on purchasing a machine.
While this is definitely an unorthodox marketing strategy, it was a critical reminder to think beyond the obvious marketing strategies. In the case of yonanas, using the banana peel as advertising space made absolute sense, and they used smart creative and a clear call to action to support their message. This is an excellent example of using an ad to engage rather than invade. Rather than being offended to find an ad on my banana, I actually appreciate how well the company understands their target audience.
For your next campaign, consider how can you reach your customers with an ad that makes sense in their daily lives. There is no limit or shortage of possible locations for your next ad.
We are constantly finding new online tools that keep us fresh and provide inspiration. Check out our top three picks that have been inspiring us this week!
1. Media Relations Tool: When it makes sense for their brand, many marketers are using Twitter to connect with media. But, check out this Pinterest board featuring leading media brands on Pinterest to discover what they are interested in, and get inspired to deliver better pitches: http://pinterest.com/pinterestpower/media-brands-on-pinterest/
2. Video Inspiration: YouTube has taken the liberty of gathering some impressive examples of creative video marketing. Check out some excellent video case studies here: http://www.youtube.com/showandtell
3. Branding: We love TrendWatching.com’s monthly Trend Briefing reports. March 2012 focuses on the theme of Flawsome: the idea that brands that behave more humanely and show flaws are more well-received by consumers. For a longer explanation, the research behind this idea and real life examples, visit: http://trendwatching.com/briefing/
Not that anyone will ever see this film or even care… it is worth reporting that Morgan Spurlock has now done for the branding and advertising community what he previously did for the fast food industry.
Though not due for release on DVD until August 23, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was released domestically at theaters back in April. The production budget was $1.8 million and box office receipts to date are $636,928, meaning not a lot of people have seen it yet.
It is, in a sentence, “A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.”
A staggering 82% of the people who saw it gave it a rating of A or B, and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine says: “I’m buying into Spurlock. As ever, he makes you laugh till it hurts.” I say, “It is a riches of embarrassment.”
As a movie fan, I love it. As a tenured industry insider, I must admit that the my laughter was eventually replaced by muffled cries of sadness. In his own entertaining way, Spurlock manages to shine a light on all the worst that exists in our business, surprising even me at times.
[Editorial Disclaimer: Though I did not sponsor this film with product placements, I nonetheless highly recommend it.]
Lush, a manufacturer and retailer of fresh handmade cosmetics, serves up a very powerful brand experience when you visit their retail stores. I was just at a Chicago store in April and had the opportunity to visit a Philadelphia store this week to stock up on my favorite Lush products. My recent experience at both stores was very much the same.
Not only are the employees excellent sales associates, but they are very well educated on the products. They openly share their favorite Lush products and once they determine what you like, they immediately rush you to the sink and the product testing begins.
The sink is where the magic seems to happen. Sales associates lather you up with the latest soap or scrub and you get to experience what makes Lush products so fabulous. On my most recent visit, the sales associate applied Ocean Salt Cleanser to one of my hands. As soon as my hand was dry she told me to compare it to my other hand, and just like that I was sold. The Ocean Salt Cleanser made my skin feel softer and actually look brighter.
The sales associates court you throughout the entire store and share information about what’s in the products and why it’s good for your skin. While this can sometimes be overwhelming, the Lush store employees strike a balance between shopping with your best friend, being passionate brand ambassador and a good sales associate.
Their passion seems to override the fact that they are up selling you on almost everything you are buying. And I’m sure the longer they keep you in the store the more likely you are to spend more money.
Shopping at Lush is truly a brand experience and something the company has worked very hard to perfect from store design to employee and customer interaction. If you never had the opportunity to visit Lush, stop in next time and experience how the company’s employees serve as its front line brand ambassadors. It is clearly a reminder that branding doesn’t end with the marketing department.
Media are always on the hunt for new products they know readers will love; and some will even refuse to cover anything other than brand new products from a strict “product review” perspective. But just because your company is not launching a new product this year is no excuse to not reach out to media and get your fair share of media coverage.
Following are six strategies to get coverage for your product, no matter how old or new it is.
1. Dial into a new or resurfacing trend. Do a bit of research and identify a hot trend consumer and media are already talking about. Find a way to tie your existing product into the story.
2. Take a seasonal approach. Do you notice a spike in sales or website traffic during a specific time of year? Pitch your product as a solution for a specific need during a holiday, special event or seasonal change. Not sure exactly where your product fits? Check out this detailed listing of daily, weekly and monthly holidays from national car care to grilled cheese month: http://www.brownielocks.com/
3. Use customer feedback to identify new uses for your product. Document customer testimonials and consider issuing a brief survey polling customers on their favorite way to use your product. Then, package the most unusual and ingenious uses into a pitch to educate media and readers about more ways they can put your product to work.
4. Share advice. Provide a list of tips and inside advice on a topic related to your brand or product, and ensure at least one tip offers your product as a solution. Have an all purpose cleaner? Provide tips for preventing and cleaning up the toughest household messes. The stranger and stickier, the better.
5. Align with a cause. If you have the budget to make a sizeable donation or produce specialty product packaging in support of a charitable cause, this is something you can promote to media. Otherwise, use your product as a means to bring attention to a cause you are passionate about. For example, a company that produces a yoga product can educate media on the health benefits of yoga and how easy it is for anyone to try.
6. Pose a challenge. Does your product always outperform a leading competitor, or does it just do something you have to see to believe? Get media excited by posing a challenge and offering them the chance to participate using your product – make sure you provide a product sample if they accept.
Need help securing media coverage for your company or products? Contact me at kayleigh at sweeneypr dot com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
Industry awards and accolades can add credibility to your brand and establish your company’s position as category leader. While it is a nice surprise to be notified of an award or recognition without applying, many programs require a thorough application process to even be considered.
How can you quickly identify which awards are worth your time and which are just worthless? Below are key questions to ask when deciding if you should devote the time to applying for an industry award or recognition.
1. Is the award credible? Consider how long this award has been around, which company is sponsoring it and how important it is to other industry leaders. Check the website for past winners; are they brands you recognize? Admire? Aspire to be like?
2. Do my customers care? Take some time to do a bit of research. Are competitive past winners calling attention to the award on their website, in a news release or in ads and other marketing materials? Are customers in your target audience talking about the award, the ceremony or past winners with merit on blogs, forums, Twitter or Facebook?
3. How does the focus of the award align with my marketing goals and key messages? Perhaps the focus is on innovative product design, and your goal is to position your product as such. Perfect fit, and it sounds like you will be a contender. But don’t waste time applying for eco-friendly awards when the best idea you can submit is a corporate recycling program. Ask yourself if you can make a strong case as an entrant and whether winning the award fits into your larger marketing plan.
4. Will the award support additional business objectives? Will winners have the opportunity to network with potential customers at a ceremony or event? Is the recognition something key consumer and trade media outlets would be interested in? Can this accolade act as a key selling point in a sales presentation?
5. Is there an entry fee? It is common for a reasonable entry fee to be associated with an award application. In fact, nominal fees may indicate a certain degree of formality – like a third-party judges panel – that add to an award’s credibility. Extremely high entry fees for awards that fail to deliver any tangible benefits should raise a red flag. On the flip side, a free application shouldn’t be an automatic invitation to throw your hat in the ring. The key is weigh the benefits you will achieve with a win versus the cost of entry.
While there is no exact combination of correct answers to the questions above, they should all factor into your final decision of whether to apply for an industry award. Ultimately, the decision is about whether the time and effort you put into the process will yield results that add value to your business.
Being a consumer is a full-time job. It takes time, patience and persistence, which I don’t really have. So as a consumer, I appreciate companies that make my job easier. And I will continue to be your customer, if you do!
Over the past month, I had two very different experiences with two online retailers – Zappos and Overstock.
I ordered a new pair of running shoes from Zappos and selected their ground shipping option, which is free. But in less than 24 hours of ordering my shoes, they were on my front porch. Amazing! Zappos apparently likes to sometimes reward its customers with free overnight shipping… which I love!
However, the shoes didn’t fit, but no problem. The next day I logged onto Zappos.com, printed the return mailing slip and dropped off my box at the UPS box. The best part about it is the return shipping is free!
I will be ordering new running shoes from Zappos as soon as I get my “store” refund. I’m already guaranteed free overnight shipping again for doing this rather than Zappos crediting my credit card.
(Warning: This section is meant to be lengthy and exhausting to read. It was a long drawn out process that is still sucking the life out of me.)
I found a great coffee table and end table on Overstock.com. The furniture had great reviews by Overstock customers and the shipping was free so I felt I couldn’t go wrong.
After about 10 days of waiting for my furniture to arrive, I checked the tracking report. To my surprise it said the shipment was sent back to the warehouse. I called Overstock and the representative said he didn’t know why that “happens.” I couldn’t believe that this seemed to be a reoccurring issue and they weren’t doing anything to fix it. Nonetheless, the rep assured me they were sending me another shipment direct from the warehouse as soon as possible.
I waited another week or so and checked the new tracking reports I was sent from Overstock. They came up blank. UPS had no information on the shipment. By this point, my blood was starting to boil. I called Overstock again and the rep said their tracking department would look into it, but of course that would take another 1-2 business days.
In the meantime, I received the end table, opened it and the furniture was not the same color that Overstock had pictured online. I called Overstock and asked that they just stop the shipment of the coffee table. This wasn’t an option, and I had to wait for the shipment to be sent and then return it. Which was no surprise to me because Overstock does not pay for free return shipping, and shipping furniture is not cheap.
I complained a bit and the rep agreed to free return shipping. I eventually received the coffee table, but a few days later, I got the same shipment again! Now instead of 3 big boxes sitting in the house I had 6, one of which seemed pretty beat up.
I contacted customer service online using the online chat option, an option Overstock pushes pretty hard on its web site and even when you call their toll-free number. The rep agreed to have UPS pick up the merchandise at my house (since I now had 6 big boxes instead of 3). I communicated at least twice that I needed return shipping labels for 6 boxes. Well… I only received 2.
I called Overstock again and explained the label issue. The rep I spoke with said I should have called to communicate this rather than using the online chat. What? Then why do they promote online chat?
So after a month of this back and forth with Overstock, I still have 6 boxes in my house waiting to be picked up and no coffee table or end table! You can be sure that I will never again order from Overstock.
The Bottom Line
Since both these companies sell commodity products, customer service and the overall brand experience is the only way they can set themselves apart from their competition. Zappos clearly nailed it and Overstock didn’t. It is unfortunate that this is my first and last experience with Overstock.
Brands beware that you only receive one chance to make a good first impression. And unfortunately more people tell their friends, family members and co-workers about the bad experiences compared to the good.