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Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 8.52.48 PMGRM spent some time at the lake this summer. But we weren’t sipping on lemonade. We were hard at work on a branding research assignment, partnering with Resource Branding & Design on a new advertising campaign for Reynolds Plantation.

Reynolds is recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the top 12 private golf communities in the US. New owner MetLife and new development company Daniel Corp. are looking for a new campaign that accurately reflects the future direction of this upscale Georgia community. GRM’s initial role was to develop a brand strategy in advance of new creative work. We conducted qualitative research to solve perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle – how to position this active, successful community to a new generation of buyers. Stay tuned… the proof is in the work. A peek behind the curtain suggests good stuff coming soon!

I have been a mobile customer with Sprint for the past five years. As a college graduate with only $200 to my name, I was enticed by the cheap plans that promised unlimited data and text messaging. Yes, that meant unlimited Facebook and YouTube access for approximately half of the cost that Verizon or AT&T could promise.

Then, to make things even better, Sprint announced that it would be the main sponsor of NASCAR {Insert redneck jokes here.} According to Sprint, there would be a ton of perks as a mobile customer if you were a NASCAR fan: exclusive content in related apps, behind the scenes action, and improved mobile service while at the track.

So, while I have not always been pleased with the service or data speeds that Sprint can provide – I have stuck by their side.

However, there has recently been a constant debate in my household as we plan to finally merge our cell phone plans onto one family plan: Which is better – Sprint or Verizon?

There’s no doubt that Verizon has faster data and better service, but you simply can’t rule out the competitive pricing of Sprint or the NASCAR partnership. (Seriously, I can hear the redneck jokes from here…)

So, how did we solve the debate? Simply put: the customer service I received or didn’t receive via Twitter.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Sprint Cup race in Bristol. With around 100,000 race fans in attendance, it’s doesn’t surprise me if I can’t get service on my phone, even if Sprint tells me I should. However, when I looked over at my friends phone to see that their Verizon service was running just as strong as ever, I became instantly frustrated with Sprint. My reaction? I did what any civil 20 something would do and I tweeted about it.

Sprint Customer Service

Now, let me tell you why this response only infuriated me.

1. It was sent to me the next day – when the race was over and I was home.

2. Sprint is the main sponsor of NASCAR! The events that they put their name on is part of a multi-billion dollar sports industry. So, how on earth would somebody responding to me via Twitter have absolutely NO idea where Bristol is located?

OK, now that I got that out of my system. Let me share with you the response that Verizon provided another day or two later.

Verizon Customer Service

While I admit that the response is less than clever – it is still a response. It shows that Verizon not only monitors the conversation that people are having directly with the brand – it is also listening to what others are saying. If nothing else, Verizon took an opportunity of frustration and turned it into a time of research.

I inevitably clicked that link. And because of that, I will inevitably switch my service to Verizon.

So, who still says social media is stupid? Because, for Verizon, a simple tweet that took 30 seconds to write earned them a new customer.

Seriously, Sprint, share your marketing plan with the rest of your company.

When you think of buying a car, what comes to mind? For many, it’s stress. Hours of wasted time. The dread of dealing with a dishonest car salesman. I’m a planner, so when my car was reaching the end of its life last year, I visited virtually every dealership in town to find the vehicle that would replace my once-trusted sedan. And along with those visits I witnessed a few questionable car-dealership practices of my own. Once I decided the Ford Focus was in-fact the car for me, there was no question in my mind where I was going to purchase it – Allan Vigil. Although I have a unique relationship with the dealer, Allan Vigil is unlike the vast majority of the dealerships I visited. The facilities are amazing and the employees are all kind, knowledgable individuals who are simply there to help you. They’re normal people! So when it came time for a new television campaign for Allan Vigil, we decided to take a different approach. Since Allan Vigil is the “anti-dealer,” The Vigilante was born. 379602_461850640574872_439985482_n Bad dealers beware; The Vigilante is a hero of the people. Always suited-up, The Vigilante is constantly on the lookout to rescue people from bad dealership practices. A silent hero, he swoops in during a time of crisis and hands over a Vigilante card informing the customer where they can go to be treated right: Allan Vigil. This campaign has hit a cord with customers; presenting a very relatable – and oftentimes uncomfortable – situation in a lighthearted manner. Since the first TV spot aired more than three months ago, the dealership has receiving nothing but glowing feedback. What are you waiting for? It’s time to meet The Vigilante.

First there was Vine, and now videos on Instagram. Video is the direction social media is heading in.  People use social media to tell stories—personal stories, celebrity stories, as well as brand stories. The option to be able to use a fifteen second clip to animate a story, brings the story to life and gives it an element that didn’t exist with a photo alone.

How is this different from Vine, other than the video length? Instagram filters, which held much of the platform’s appeal, can be incorporated into your video. The new feature gives you thirteen filters to choose from, as well as cover image options to use when your video is not playing, to keep your Instagram content beautiful and personalized.

Consider some of these options as a marketer when utilizing Vine as part of your content strategy:

Showcase and/or demo products

Video is great way to showcase something about your product that a consumer wouldn’t know by looking at a picture. Think technology. You can showcase a lot more about a complicated gadget with video than you can with just pictures.

Give zealots a behind the scenes look

Show them your office! What goes on behind the scenes? Your most passionate followers want to know everything about your brand. Videos are an interactive way to give them this inside look.

Showcase brand personality

Emotions are hard to convey in photos alone. Think about how easy is it to convey humor in a photo. Videos add an element that allows brands to show consumers who they are.

Encourage engagement

Think emotional advertising. If your products are vacation homes, what’s a more engaging message: a picture of the beach, or a family playing on that beach?

Instagram videos add a brand-new artistic appeal to what you are able to create on social media. Check out Instagram’s promotional video for the new feature to get a glimpse of the possibilities.

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 2.41.28 PMA recent survey by the Hub Magazine notes that Starbucks’ “social responsibility” more favorably impacts their customer loyalty than other category leader brands: Amazon, Apple, Target, Proctor & Gamble and L.L. Bean. Only Patagonia, Whole Foods and Trader Joes matched Starbucks in having more favorable than combined “unfavorable and not a factor” votes.

How has Starbucks has turned social responsibility to a positive brand advantage when many other category leaders have not? A few intriguing conclusions:

One – their stance on social responsibility impacts the less frequent customers. Many responded they are occasional customers and are not necessarily a fan of Starbucks coffee.

Two – they have made their story very visible throughout their store.

Three – many customers admit that they feel better about paying a “premium” for a product that employs fair trade practices.

We know from countless research that consumers want to identify with a brand beyond the rational product benefits. A big part of brand value is what they do to be a good community “steward.” Starbucks clearly has the game plan down in this area.

Super Bowl Sunday is an ad junkie’s dream. It’s one of the only times of the year that the general population actually looks forward to the commercial break. As for GRM, our eyes were certainly glued to the set. We asked some of our team to share with us their top picks. Here’s what they had to say:

April Voris
Tide: “Miracle Stain”
My pick is the Tide miracle stain. It was not only entertaining, but was relevant. It was over the top, but if you are a sports loving obsessed fan (like I am with the REAL TIDE!) then you can highly relate to the comedy of the whole thing. And the payoff was classic and a brilliant way to bring you back to what was being advertised and you actually remember the product. What a concept.


Mike Tyre

Wonderful Pistachios: “Get Crackin'”
Funny, entertaining. Identified product with being fun and lively. Yet, also got a major point of difference – pistachios have to be cracked. They almost always come packaged still in a shell. They played that up in a fun way.


Amanda Kirkland
Kia: “Space Babies”
A commercial filled with baby animals. Come on. How can you NOT love it? The spot actually started out a bit slow for me. But as soon as they hit the montage of astronaut babies screaming as they penetrated the atmosphere, I was chuckling along with the rest of my living room full of twenty-somethings. The spot ended perfectly, with a nice shot of the third row backseat. Plenty of space for more babies in the Kia Sorento!


Sarah Crytzer

Taco Bell: “Viva Young”
I am in LOVE with this clever ad by Taco Bell. Known as a place to get a fourth meal, the company added a whole new dimension to the campaign when they released this commercial during the Super Bowl. Think a fourth meal is only for 20 somethings? WRONG! These old folks show us that it doesn’t matter what your age, you can enjoy Taco Bell (and a night on the town) even in your 80s! I admit, every time I watch this video I literally LOL. Genius marketing, with almost 1.2 million views in a week to prove its brilliance!


Alan Whitley
Mercedes-Benz: “Soul”
As both an ad guy and a fan of the violence and mayhem of football, I see the Super Bowl as two awesome pinnacles in one. It is a contest between the two best American-style football teams on earth, and a contest between advertising agencies that will attempt to set new bars for communication. My top of the heap was the Mercedes CLA spot that featured a pale Willem Dafoe as old Scratch himself. For me, it was the kind of spot that belongs in the Super Bowl. It was memorable for the right reasons, made the right point, showed the product a lot. Basically, it made us lusty for a CLA, which is the exactly what it should have done. Also, it’s just plain fun to spoil Satan’s fun.


Jennifer Germain
Budweiser: “Brotherhood”
Heartfelt! It really evoked emotion. Love. Who doesn’t want to be loved? And the bond between those who love. Plus, I’m a native of St. Louis and am proud of my hometown; the hometown of Anheuser Busch!


Jan Sharrow
Dodge Ram: “Farmer”
I found this very patriotic; more-so than the jeep spot. The photography was beautiful and it was very well written. If the Dodge truck is tough enough for our farmers, that says a lot for the truck.

Let’s be honest with one another – Facebook has never been known for its search capabilities. With such poor results, it’s inevitable that marketers have questioned if social media advertising is truly the best option, especially when it comes to ROI.

On average, Google reaches 90 percent of Internet users, while Facebook only reaches 51 percent. On top of that, Google has an average of 0.4 percent click through rate, Facebook only .051 percent.

However, advertisers need to fret no more!

Facebook has announced Graph Search, which Mark Zuckerberg has claimed will be “a great leap forward for search.” Hoping to overtake Google, LinkedIn and Match.com, users will soon be able to ask Facebook for their friends’ preferences before making decisions on restaurants, vacations, career choices, and maybe even life partners.

Some analysts are saying that Graph Search has the potential to close the gap between Google and Facebook by creating a feedback loop between advertisers and Facebook users. For example, if a business has the most “likes” it could ultimately be at the top of search results. With this being a criteria for higher search rankings, Facebook is hoping that advertisers seeking greater Graph Search results will purchase more ads.

Facebook has yet to release any advertising products that Graph Search will provide down the road, but what they are promising to its users is in-depth personalization and an ability to solve questions to answers that you would not expect the internet to solve for you.

So if you asked me, I would simply tell you that the ability to accurately microtarget in an advertising campaign could possibly result in some of the greatest opportunities companies have ever seen. Good move, Facebook. Let’s see what you do with this brilliant platform.

Social_Marketing_See_Behind_Curtain_TransparencyConsider five key factors in understanding how to develop marketing that indeed “engages” with your core constituents.

1. Your product, service, or brand should have a standout quality in its class. The days of faking performance or relying on promotional copy to cover an inferior product are long gone. It is fundamental to deliver, even exceed what you offer.

2. Creative should be an innovative element. If the product is not innovative (then see point above). Most products or brands have some element that excites your Zealots. So why would you employ boring creative execution to tell that story? Creative should match the passion of your product.

3. Your Zealots are key. Key to gaining core insights to the passion of your products. Key to how to influence and persuade others. And key to spreading the word (referral).

4. Offer your core target – best customers and your Zealots – a peek behind the curtain. Share your category insights, invite their opinion on product development offerings, give them promotional opportunities in advance, arm them with specific offers to share with their friends. Understand this group is predisposed to loving your brand. They are feverishly looking for confirmation and experiences that allow them to reinforce their selection. And, share with others.

5. Integrate. Yes, a well-overused marketing term. But, it’s true. Establish what your brand is about – what it stands for. Then, line up every detail, every tactic. Does each detail and each touchpoint reinforce the brand or not? The world-class brands think through every detail from personal greeting to in-store signage to packaging to follow-up response. As an example, consider the St. Regis Lifestyle Butler Service.   Among the touches – escorting guests to private artist or museum showings.

We’ve lobbied that organizations should have a Chief Brand Officer, but perhaps the better title would be Chief Integration Officer.

If your business is not doing the above you are missing fundamental steps in maximizing the value of your brand. If you are unsure about some of the points made, well that is good reason to call us.

With Hurricane Sandy devastating the Northeast last week, I find myself clicking through photo albums of the destruction, curious to catch a glimpse of what these people are going through. Studying the photos, I can’t help but think of my experience living in Tuscaloosa last year when a massive tornado leveled so much of my beloved town. When I think about the weeks – and months – after the storm, the destruction isn’t the only thing that stands out in my mind. I remember the groups, individuals, and brands that swarmed the city to help those in-need.

Imagine being without electricity – totally disconnected – during a time of destruction. You’re unable to turn on the TV and check the status of your city. Unable to read the news on your laptop. Unable to pick up your cell phone and text your friends and family. That’s where Duracell stepped in, setting up PowerRelief mobile charging stations near areas of destruction. Whether it’s Tuscaloosa, AL or Battery Park, NY, Duracell provides a free place for individuals to charge their electronics, use computers with internet access, and watch live TV news coverage.

After a natural disaster, roads are littered with nails, glass, and sharp wooden shards. Whether it’s your car or an emergency truck making its way down the street, avoiding a flat tire is nearly impossible. BFGoodrich Tires offered assistance, setting up an emergency repair station for individuals and emergency vehicles whose tires were punctured driving through areas of destruction.

During a time of devastation, the Tide Loads of Hope station rolls into town, bringing with it more than 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers. Families drop off their laundry and the Tide crew washes, dries, and folds the clothing for free. Why does Tide do this? “Because, as we’ve learned, sometimes even the littlest things can make a big, big difference.”

For these brands to offer assistance in times of need simply makes sense. These aid stations fit organically with each brand and are undeniably beneficial for the victims whose lives have been directly impacted by the storm. Not only that, but they are infinitely valuable for a brand’s reputation. Whether it’s media coverage of the generosity or the brand’s ability to help a few thousand people – and along with it create new brand Zealots – the benefits are through the roof.

Just look at me. Duracell, Tide, and BFGoodrich stick out so vividly in my memory, I’m telling you about them right now. If that’s not Zealotry in-action, I don’t know what is. Hats off to the brands who are offering their aid during times of need. Do you have stories of other brands who have offered assistance? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

We hear this quite a bit. Many B2B execs view social media as, well, social. And not intrinsic to their marketing and sales communications needs.

Something to consider: how hard do sales people work to establish a personal – or social – bond with their contacts? How many companies employ an actionable database, such as SalesForce? In each case, the goal is to have regular, extended and more personal conversations with their prospects and clients.

So, it is a myth that B2B sales is not a “social enterprise.”  There are various studies that attempt to determine the proper frequency of contact, but two things are certain:

  • Increased frequency will result in increase conversion/sales
  • People will remain “opted-in” when the contacts are relevant, interesting and not an intrusion

What exactly in these two points makes social media not a potentially relevant business communications strategy? As with any medium, it begins with understanding how your target engages with it. And then, how you should participate. The sales person who calls each week to talk football knows his call is welcomed, because we love to talk football. It gives him the access to find out what we are doing that day and see if a further business conversation is warranted. Business is social.

One final bit of evidence – C-suite participation in Twitter:

  • C-level people over 50 years old: 6%  (several times weekly)
  • C-level people under 40 years old: 56%

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