Marketing communications gone wrong.

If you don’t know me, then let me warn you ahead of time that I constantly evaluate my surroundings – especially when it comes to anything related to marketing.  Maybe it’s my passion for the field or maybe my OCD surfacing. Either way, what I’ve encountered is worth discussing and sharing with anyone that is involved in the marketing ecosphere.

Confused Branding. Branding is extremely important when it comes to consumers. How else do you expect your audience to remember you/spread information about your brand?  Logos, especially, help to create a picture that the audience can remember or relate back to the specific brand. I pass a gas station everyday on my way home from work – if you live in Morgantown, W.Va. then you’ve heard of Dairy Mart – and recently noticed that Circle K has acquired them.  The first time I saw their large road sign with a new logo (you guessed it – a ‘K’ with a circle around it) placed over their Dairy Mart signage, I didn’t think much about it. Then I drove past the sign at night.  To my bewilderment, they had placed the new logo over the old and when the sign lit up you could see the words ‘Dairy Mart’ illuminated through the Circle K logo.

I chose to visit the store last night, and to my surprise (well, I wasn’t really surprised) they had not only confused customers outside, but had also neglected to remove the Dairy Mart brand decals from the wall before placing the new Circle K logo over them. In the marketing world, this slip in branding is a real faux pas. First, they have confused their customers – I don’t know if I’m visiting a Dairy Mart or a Circle K? Second, their branding screams, “I don’t care about appearance or accuracy.” It doesn’t make me respect their brand. Third, they can expect that when customers try to talk about their brand they’ll have no idea which brand they should reference or, if they do get it correct, they will probably talk or laugh about how amateur the brand looks.

My advice: If you’re going to acquire a brand, acquire it to its fullest extent. Plan it out…be precise…take the extra time and present the new brand in the most positive light possible. Your brand will suffer if you confuse customers, so avoid it at all costs.

Email Marketing Overkill. We’ve all had it happen. You’ve been so annoyed with email that you take a hiatus from it hoping that when you check it again all the spam and junk mail magically deletes itself. But it doesn’t.  Then you open it up to find 20 messages from the same brand or company that will not leave you alone.  How irritating?  Well, Victoria’s Secret you have successfully killed every retail brand’s hopes at marketing to me through email.  If you’ve ever shopped at VS and given them your email address, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s completely unnecessary to send me an email EVERY DAY telling me about your new product or deal. It’s also unnecessary to send me an email any time after 8 p.m. That’s my “chill” time. Believe me when I hit chill mode, the last thing I’m going to do is buy a product from your brand now that you disturbed my sacred time.

My advice: Email marketing involves strategy; without strategy, you can expect that the email campaign will fall flat.  Consumers are bombarded with junk mail all day, every day, so it is important to avoid sending too many branded emails.  Instead of ensuring sales, consumers are guaranteed to unsubscribe or ignore your brand.  A couple emails per week will be sufficient – depending on your business, unless there is a special occasion. The old adage, “Timing is everything,” is also central to email marketing.  There are certain times consumers are more likely to open an email and actually read it, and times that marketers must respect. My preference is no emails before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.  It may take a few times evaluating the campaign to find an effective time that generates successful open rates, but it will be worth the extra work. Subject lines can make or break the campaign, too. Be concise and compelling to guarantee maxim interest. Remember: Strategy, strategy, strategy.

Spelling and grammar errors kill the brand.  There is nothing that ‘grinds my gears’ more than simple spelling and grammar errors. Some individuals may look past it, but others (like me) will remember it.  Spelling and grammar mistakes scream: Unprofessional.  They also scream: Careless. Lately I’ve seen a lot of these mistakes committed by brands and/or organizations.  There are far too many to discuss specifically, so I’ll just be simple and sweet. Take the extra time to ensure that all marketing communication materials are correct. Make your list and check it twice, because once that material is in front of an audience it can’t be retracted.

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When innovation isn’t a sustainable marketing effort…

A company in Austin, Texas – Blue Marble – is starting to use QR codes in a novel approach to marketing and advertising.   The company will place a QR code on top of buildings that will show up on Google Earth and Google Maps – taking approximately one year to show up.  The service will cost $8,500 plus a recurring $200 support fee.

Rooftop QR Code Source: Mashable.com

Although this marketing effort is a unique way to use emerging media and technology, it does not seem to be a viable advertising tactic.  Blue Marble states that Google Earth is a popular phone application and that placing the code on buildings that show up on the app will allow users to receive rich content from it.  This advertising effort most often will miss its target and additionally not even be recognized by consumers. Consumers will mostly ignore the codes because it doesn’t engage them and it’s placed in an area that they’re not expecting.  The wait time for the QR code to show up on Google Earth and Maps will also prove to be a downfall for the unusual advertising approach.  If QR codes do not catch on to the general public or even if their usage slows in the next year, a company will have paid almost $10,000 for a useless picture on top of their buildings.

This idea is innovative, but does innovation always mean achieving objectives or effectiveness? No.  An ‘A’ for effort, but an ‘F’ for feasibility. 

Source: http://mashable.com/2011/10/05/rooftop-qr-codes-google-maps/

Advertising appeals…is there a correct dosage of sex, humor & fear?

Advertising appeals such as sex, humor and fear can have numerous effects on audiences – some bad, some good.  As the old adage argues, “Sex sells.” With modern advertising containing countless sexual appeals, it can be presumed sex does sell.  Humor, just like sex, can have positive effects on audience attitude and may lead to sales in the long run.  However, advertisers must be cautious when using sex and humor as it may have an adverse effect on the audience.  Humor can create a relationship with consumers, which can enhance their thoughts and feelings toward a brand or product.  When using humor, however, it must be done in a balanced manner – not too much, but not too little.  If a high/extreme humor appeal is used, it may alienate the audience from the message and they may not remember/recall the brand or product advertised. Advertising that creatively incorporates a product or service in moderate humor appeals will be more effective as it relates the message to something entertaining that an audience may later recall. Moderate humor will allow a relationship between the audience and advertiser, while increasing the likelihood of the viewer to decode the message more effectively.

Fear appeals can be somewhat different from sex and humor appeals and must be used cautiously so as to not create too much arousal or anxiety.  A moderate level of fear can motivate an audience to seek ways to alleviate the fears that may be caused by the message.  For example, if a girl watches a commercial about HPV and is afraid that she may get HPV if she doesn’t receive the Gardasil vaccine then she may seek more information about vaccine to assuage her fears. If excessive fear appeal is used, however, it may cause too much arousal or anxiety and the audience will employ defense mechanisms such as ignoring the message altogether. Advertisers and marketers must be wary of the amount of fear they inscribe in their marketing communications because they may alienate their audience entirely.

In terms of effectiveness, gender differences exist – as they most always do – in the manner an audience will respond to an advertisement.  Men may interpret humor that uses more competitive or vulgar appeals better rather than humor that contains less.  While women, on the other hand, are less likely to enjoy raunchy humor.  If an ad makes a jab at another’s expense, women are more inclined to feel emotions and interpret the ad as distasteful. The same goes for sexual appeals used in advertisements.  Vulgar and excessive sex appeals may be repulsive to women, while men tend to welcome escalated sexual appeals.  Biologically, men and women are wired differently in relation to arousal and anxiety.  Therefore, when faced with messages incorporating fear women tend to have a lower tolerance and higher avoidance than men.  Men tend to have higher coping ability with fear-based messages.

Largely, advertising appeals are tricky.  To be used effectively, many aspects of appeals must be considered carefully.  There is not a one-size fits all approach, so advertisers must adjust accordingly to each specific audience involved.

Skype CAN be educational!

According to an article, published by Mashable.com, Skype launched a network in March 2011 specifically for teachers called: Skype in the Classroom. The teacher network now boasts 15,000 teachers worldwide sharing/collaborating projects and video-conferencing with other classes and professionals in their prospective fields. Tony Bates, the CEO of Skype, sat down with Mashable to discuss the impact that Skype in the Classroom has on education. His positive outlook of the teaching network emphasizes the importance of a video-conferencing tool in classrooms.

The article is particularly interesting because there are many positives that can come out of the teaching network. As the article mentioned, teachers are able to collaborate on school projects and share their work with others that would normally be inaccessible.  Skype in the Classroom is invaluable because it allows students to work with others and/or have personal experiences with various teachers and professors across the globe.  Specifically advertising/marketing classes can collaborate in more specific ways with the use of Skype. The platform can also enhance students’ learning and global perspective rather than restricting them to only one regional or national perspective.

It is important for educators from the advertising/marketing world to engage their students with this type of experiential learning.  It can also help students by providing them with a mode of connecting with industry professionals that would otherwise be out of reach.  Instructors should implement these professionals into their classroom instruction whenever possible to enrich classroom learning.  Additionally, teachers in all disciplines and fields should embrace this technology and innovate new ways to use the platform for better classroom engagement. This initiative is of great significance for education overall and even more for higher education. West Virginia University’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism would benefit from outside professional and academic collaboration. Personally, I would have enjoyed my advertising and communication classes more if Skype and other engaging platforms would have been used more often.

What are advertising effects?

The three dimensions of communication effects are: cognitive, affective/attitudinal, and behavioral.  Collectively, the three dimensions emphasize the interrelationship between knowing, feeling, and doing among consumers. The first dimension – cognitive – refers to the beliefs or knowledge a consumer holds about a product or brand. Specific effects of this dimension include awareness, attention and knowledge of the particular product/brand. The second dimension – affective – refers to the way a consumer feels about a product or brand; it represents emotions or opinions. Specific effects of this dimension include liking and preference. The third dimension – behavioral – involves the intentions or actual behavior a consumer has in regard to the product or brand.  The specific effect of this dimension includes purchase.

Most advertisers will say that the most important dimension of communication effects is the cognitive dimension because it includes the awareness and knowledge of a product or brand. One of advertising’s purposes is that it introduces products/brands to consumers so that they have awareness and knowledge of them.  Without awareness or knowledge the consumer does not know that the product/brand exists and therefore cannot make a decision in regard to the product/brand. It can be assumed that if the consumer is not aware of or does not have knowledge of the product/brand than they cannot experience the other two dimensions – affective and behavioral. Ultimately the cognitive dimension is the start of the AIDA model, without the cognitive dimension a consumer cannot make an action in regard to a product/brand.

Unaided awareness, top-of-mind awareness, aided awareness and familiarity are all types of advertising awareness. First, unaided awareness is achieved when a consumer identifies a brand/product without being prompted. Top-of-mind awareness is a subset of unaided awareness; it is achieved when a consumer identifies a brand/product before any other one. Aided awareness is achieved when a consumer can identify that they are aware of a brand/product when they are prompted. Familiarity is a subset of aided awareness.  It is achieved when a consumer not only knows or has heard about a brand, but also knows about the brand and it’s personality.  Top-of-mind awareness is particularly coveted by brands because it is the brand that first comes to a consumer’s mind. According to Kelley and Jugenheimer (2010) research has shown that a brand’s market share can be highly correlated with unaided awareness; market share leaders are often the brands that lead the category in awareness.   Therefore, top-of-mind awareness is the most important advertising effect.

Advertising’s immediate objective should never be strictly sales. Although sales are an important long-term goal, advertising should not be thought of as a means-to-an-end where sales is the only objective and once achieved there is no reason to continue. Even though a consumer purchases a product once, it does not go to say that the consumer will be a repeat purchase or that they will become an advocate for a brand.  Sales are important. However, if consumers do not continue to buy a product/brand more than once than it was a one-time affect that did not increase brand equity in the consumer’s mind. Also, it is hard to isolate advertising sales completely from other factors that could have contributed to sales. Therefore, it will be difficult to measure the effect advertising had on purchase behavior. For these reasons, advertising’s immediate objective should not be sales.  Advertising should focus on the cognitive and affective dimensions of effects rather than behavioral because the cognitive and affective dimensions will drive the behavioral dimension in the end.

References: 

Kelley, L. D., & Jugenheimer, D. W. (2010). Advertising account planning: Planning and managing an IMC campaign (2nd ed.).  Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Integrated Marketing Communications – Is it for everyone?

Integrated Marketing Communication is a marketing model that encompasses building consumer relationships with clear, consistent and impactful messages that are data-driven and consumer focused. The concept of IMC is to produce synergy among marketing efforts to influence and affect behavior in specific target audiences. There are five key features of IMC that effectively build an impactful marketing strategy.  First, all IMC efforts should be consumer focused.  Thus, marketers must acknowledge that consumers are in control and they must understand their attitudes, perceptions and behaviors. Since consumers are becoming increasingly fragmented, IMC is driven by consumer data and analysis. Secondly, all forms of potential contact must be used. Brands must be present where the consumer is; these touch points are always important, even if they are all not equally as engaging. Thirdly, all messages must be consistent and have a clear voice. This is where synergy comes into play. Uncoordinated messages will send an ambiguous message to consumers; coordinated and consistent messages will produce synergy. IMC seeks to build relationships with consumers. This fourth key feature is important because without it one may lose consumers. If you build strong relationships with consumers, the relationships will most likely last and be mutually beneficial. Last but not least, the fifth key feature of IMC is to influence and affect consumer behavior. Affecting behavior is the ultimate goal for any marketing communication strategy; if a desired behavior is not achieved, the strategy was then a failure.  Together, all five of these features produce maximum impact and synergy.

As an advertiser, it is important to embrace IMC because all communication efforts must be clear, consistent and impactful. If advertising efforts are inconsistent and unclear, messages will not be impactful. It is also important for advertisers to be individually consumer-focused rather than mass media focused so that they can segment audiences appropriately for greater engagement. It can be difficult to implement IMC without necessary diverse skills sets. It can cost additional money and human resources to effectively embrace and implement IMC; therefore, the agency must have approach IMC with an open mind.

Advertising agencies may encounter many problems that would impede their efforts of becoming a full IMC agency. First, as mentioned above, an agency may not have money resources to embrace IMC fully. Employees may not possess the skill-set or knowledge to effectively manage and implement IMC efforts. Consequently, agencies would need to resort to hiring more employees to execute IMC. An advertising agency most often will only execute a specific area of marketing communication efforts – advertising. With that said, it would be hard to implement IMC if an agency is only overseeing advertising efforts. Public relations, marketing and advertising specialists would need to be housed at the same agency to effectively coordinate all IMC efforts.

Though IMC may not be for everyone, it can certainly be said that implementing an integrated marketing communications approach to organization/company communication efforts will have a positive long-term effect – for the company and the audience.

Looking for schools that teach IMC at the master’s level? 

Consider the following:

IMC Online @ West Virginia University: http://imc.wvu.edu/

Northwestern University – Medill: http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/imc/

Loyola University: http://www.luc.edu/gsb/academics_msimc.shtml