Thursday, December 17, 2015

2016: The Year of the Big Three...

As 2015 rounds the last lap, it's time to start building your branding plan for 2016. Here are three prompts to get you started:

  1. The Presidential Election: What is its impact on branding? Money and media congestion. If trends hold up, candidate and Super PAC advertising will drive media prices up 7 to 15% this year as well as filling up the airways. This applies to digital and social media as well. Some ways to maneuver your advertising plan during an election year:
  • Avoid booking during surge times such as two-weeks around both the primary and presidential elections. 
  • Plan ahead and buy early and be flexible and ready for changes.
  • Don't rely on just one medium, especially TV. 
  1. Foundations: What do I do and why should my customer care? Launch the new year by getting back to these basics, then make a plan to build on them.
  • Connect your brand with your customer: What is the relevance of your product or service to a customer's lifestyle? Connect your brand to the prospect's daily activities by selling the benefits instead of the features.
  • Review and support your brand promise: Springboard off your company's benefits to develop its brand promises. Then develop sound reasons why your customer should believe them. Then implement a plan on how you are going to follow-through.
  • Develop a clear and focused brand message: Strategy requires focus, clarity, and detail. Are your messages in line with what you want to convey about your company, products, and services? In what ways are your products and services more "genuine" than your competitors'? Emphasize those aspects of your brand to leverage your competitive edge.
  1. Customer Consent: How can I get my customer to want to interact with me? With ad blocking, digital clutter, increased spamming, and broadcast avoidance (read our article on iTV), brands need to aggressively find ways to cut through to reach their customer. 
  • Listen to your customer: Cultivate a dialog with your customer before, during and AFTER the sale. 
  • Ad-blocking (see our article on ad-blocking): The invasion of pop-ups, particularly on mobile devices, has invited a deluge of ad-blocking software. Gain permission to advertise and then use the opportunity to give your potential customers something of value. 
  • Build trust: "It takes 10 good deeds to undo one bad one." That's how fragile trust is. Be authentic and transparent in all your dealings with your customer; be clear about any changes impacting your product line or service offerings; be prompt, responsive, and thorough. 
The "Rule of Three" states that "Good things come in threes." Implement these points and watch your business grow.

Transit Branding: Change minds. Train minds.

Today, transit agencies across the US are taking an active and creative role in their approach to ridership promotion and branding. With a massive shift in design and communication technologies, urban development, and a cultural shift among young professionals, new ways of communicating transit benefits have evolved. With our current culture's love affair with the car, the only way to win the battle with this stiff competition is to reprogram public sentiment...not only change minds, but train them.

There's no such thing as a silver bullet. It's never just one thing, it's always multiple things working together in order to properly communicate who you are and why you matter.

In our years of experience, we've found that the "cool factor" is very relevant to the younger demographic and should be used. Training them to think different about transit is the key toward building what we call "transit champions." This group will not only ride religiously, but tell their friends and families about their experience as well, becoming evangelists. Brand cultivation and marketing to this mother-load of new riders should be each and every transit system’s main goal and objective. Their success will depend on it.

We all know that discretionary riders are the ones who can make a transit agency truly successful. This means every consumer touch-point is important and valuable toward breaking through the media clutter that surrounds this target: from marketing, advertising, and communications (both internally and externally), smart planning, and strategy, to tactics like correct naming, packaging, signage, collateral, copy-writing, advertising, uniforms, and visual design. Every piece of your program should be reviewed and considered.

It comes as no surprise that in order to develop a sophisticated marketing plan with goal-driven, tactical implementation you'll need a team of seasoned professionals to help show you the way.

As we work with many transit groups from all over the country, we continue to see firsthand how branding is making a real difference in customer perception and change of behavior. We joke with our clients and say, "If we can sell transit, we can sell anything." They usually laugh because they understand how difficult change is. They understand the corporate transit culture and how hard it is for transit agencies to embrace innovative marketing techniques. It requires a significant shift in gears, because most agencies focus on service: complex tasks of routing, scheduling, and deployment day in and day out.

Transit agencies contemplating a new branding program will be well served to include a qualified branding firm in its seminal planning stages and initial meetings. The branding firm’s experience and helpful focus will benefit transit agencies enormously as they plan for increased ridership and better brand awareness and perception.

iAdvertising: Harnessing the Information Highway on TVs

Did you notice the commercial breaks during the Republican debates? While Fox is mum on the ad revenues it received from the first debate, it was a big payoff for CNN with its record viewership at 23 million for the second debate. Three hours commanded a price tag for ads that were 40 times its usual rate. (1) This monetary success inspired CNBC to up its ad pricing 25% for the GOP's third debate in October. (2)

However, ad revenues for broadcast networks and cable companies are down overall. (3) In fact, Forbes Magazine reports that "old media [i.e., television programming] is imploding at a fantastic pace right now."(4)

One reason is that viewers are "cutting the cord" to cable and satellite companies, opting instead to dish up their own channel line-up. The landscape for advertising opportunities is definitely changing. In fact, Wired Magazine reports that "about 7.6 million households have cut the cable cord" and that "53 percent of cable customers say they would leave their cable provider if they hand another viable alternative for TV". (5)

The pump is primed for the subscription-based cafeteria: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. These are familiar brands that have forged their way into our lives via the Internet, by-passing cable and satellite companies AND... their preselected, predetermined, 200-plus channel line-up.

The appeal of these Internet services is simply too much to turn down: TV and movie libraries are literally at our touch-screen-fingertips. There's no waiting a week to see the next episode. There's anytime/anywhere streaming. Subscribing to your favorite television programming is customized and most often times cheaper, and there are NO commercials on many of these subscription services. And if you want to watch something that is not available in your subscription, just rent-a-stream through iTunes, GooglePlay, or CinemaNow. Just as cell phones have replaced the home landline and given us room to roam, Internet TV is replacing cable.

So how are television advertising opportunities evolving? The advent of Smart TVs has ushered in interactive television advertising, a.k.a. iTV. Delivered to the TV from a laptop, tablet, or mobile device through a broadband-enabled device like an Xbox, Chromecast, or Roku, this form of advertising is the advertiser's dream with regards to targeting and data mining.

According to Forbes, iTV "can provide marketers with targeting that is better attuned to individual households. Additionally, the interactivity inherent in digitally delivered ads can allow advertisers to view, in real time, whether ads are being viewed, clicked and accessed, as well as allowing them to change ads depending on the success".(6)

In an age where traditional commercials have been rapidly losing ground, it's the companies that embrace the new technologies that add interactive capabilities—games, coupons and informational videos—that will be the ones to gain significant momentum.


(1) CNN Money:
(2) Advertising Age:
(3) Broadcasting & Cable:
(4) Forbes
(5) Wired:
(6) Forbes:

Buy Now! Virtual Shopping Carts

See something on a billboard you want? “Add to cart.” Hear about a product on the radio or TV that you want for your spouse? Forget going to the website to purchase it. Just “add to cart” on your smart phone. Reading a magazine in the dentist’s office and like the smell of that cologne? Use your mobile wallet on the spot and "add to cart."

Powa Technologies (UK) touts itself as the company "providing innovative new sales channels that help customers save time and money." It uses QR-code-like images in printed materials and inaudible signals for TV and radio ads (all dubbed "PowaTags") that will instantly put the advertised product into a universal shopping cart app for purchase.

CEO Dan Wagner says of the technology, "We’re the veneer that fits between the consumer, the brand, and the retailer to make [buying] easier...The credit card firms like it. The banks and retailers like it. The brands like it. And the media owners love it."

Launched in March, 2014, Powa says it now has 1,200 brands and retailers signed up to the system with app downloads numbering in the low hundred thousands. Early December The Mall on Xbox One partnered with Powa exclusively to enhance its users' shopping experience. In mid-December, it formed a "10-year strategic alliance"deal with China UnionPay to avail this technology across mainland China.

Keep it or burn it: New company allows users to create multiple phone numbers

Need a phone number for a day, a week, a month, or longer? Create a number on your iPhone or Android in less than 30 seconds. Keep the number as long as you’d like or burn it when you’re done.

Historically, one landline used to be the main player and the main point of contact in business with questions ranging from operating hours to prices to directions filtering in through this one line. But times have changed and a key difference in today’s market is that there are multiple connection points, including your website and social media.

Enter Burner ( Burner is a privacy layer for the smartphone, giving users the power to take control of their personal data and business communications. The most interesting aspect of this new technology is not just that it's for privacy for personal Twitter or Facebook accounts or for selling on Craigslist, but it’s a useful business application as well.

Use Multiple Phone Numbers to Track Ads 

When Internet companies place ads in different channels (such as Facebook or Twitter), they use unique links to measure traffic. But what happens with non-digital ads? How can you measure where your traffic is coming from if you’re advertising on a billboard, in newspapers, or through partner businesses? This is where having multiple phone numbers is a simple and effective solution.

Now companies can manage these numbers directly through a mobile device. This provides a clear view of each channel’s effectiveness thereby allowing the business realtime response tracking. Obviously this has to fit within your marketing strategy, and if it does, it’s a great new technology to keep in mind.