Hacking is the new pastime.

On Friday, September 9 a hacker group called “The Script Kiddies” took control of the @NBCNews Twitter handle posting false reports that Ground Zero had been attacked days before the 9/11 ten-year anniversary. Though this was not the first time that a news agency’s Twitter account has been hacked, it is the first time that the hacking was considerably alarming due to the significant terrorist attack 10 years prior.

Recently, hacking groups have targeted organizations and the government to spread false information and/or hacked confidential information.   These hackings underscore the importance of social media security.  A brand’s and/or product’s credibility and reputation can be greatly affected if hackers are able to take control of their social media feeds/accounts and post malicious statements. It is increasingly important to maintain a secure online presence as to not jeopardize brand equity.  Advertisers/marketers must keep in mind that social media is a great way to engage their audiences, but if it falls into the wrong hands it can damage a brand’s entire reputation in a matter of minutes.  The take-away: Brands must be selective when allowing access to their SM feeds and must monitor them regularly to be abreast of any unusual or malicious activity.

Mashable:  Hacked NBC News Twitter Account Issues False Reports of Ground Zero Plane Crash

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Positioning – it’s all the rage! But beware….

Product positioning is an important aspect of marketing; in today’s ever-cluttered world of marketing and advertising a product/brand must have a clear benefit or competitive position in the marketplace to successfully differentiate itself from the competition.  Even if a marketer does partake in positioning a product, it does not mean that the positioning will be successful every time. Common mistakes in positioning CAN happen.

Under-positioning is disadvantageous to a brand or product because marketers do not position it strongly enough.  They do not associate the brand/product with a clear benefit or competitive edge so that consumers know what exactly sets it apart from other competitors. Therefore, consumers may not have a strong connection with a brand and instead buy products from the competition because they don’t know what advantages it will provide them.  For example, the Flip video camera was discontinued because they did not establish a good positioning strategy against mobile video cameras that were easier to use. Consumers were not willing to buy an extra device when they already had one on their mobile phone.

Over-positioning can happen when there is too much focus on position, ultimately giving the audience a too narrow depiction of the product.  This mistake can ultimately alienate consumers from the product, creating a narrow group of customers that can actually identify with it.  If the target audience is too small it limits potential consumers of the product.

Confused positioning happens when marketers either change their position too often or has benefits that contradict each other that an audience becomes confused of what the product actually offers.

Apple is the first company that comes to mind when I consider successful positioning strategies. During Apple’s lifespan it has successfully positioned itself in the mind of consumers as the company on cutting-edge technology innovation with an ease-of-use appeal and design that is for individuals who think differently. Apple offers a sense of prestige, stature and creativity.  Companies, consumers and admirers all look to Apple for the newest and coolest products and accessories. Their products are not only visually sleek and simple, but their software also oozes the simplicity that other systems so often forget. The “Get A Mac” campaign emphasizes the creativity and well-thought-out design of Apple products. Apple differentiated itself from conservative PC brand by offering products that would enable creative individuals an outlet to get their creative juices flowing.  When I see someone that has a Mac, I assume that they are creative, liberal, innovative, and have a some-what higher amount of disposable income. Their product differentiation has been extremely successful and has given them accolades such as “the world’s most valuable company” in August and having more money than the U.S. government.

One thing is for certain: a brand must have a clear position in the marketplace to be successful. 

Millennials…more selective than ever.

According to an article on AdAge.com, Ford has tapped into the mind’s of millennials on Twitter to establish key marketing tactics that will allow them to effectively engage the millennial audience. Since millennials are a coveted market audience, many brands are seeking specific techniques to sway this young generation into becoming brand consumers and enthusiasts. Ford’s marketing team delved into these young minds to uncover insights that they realize is necessary to have a meaningful brand relationship.

First, Ford illustrates that self-expression is important to the millennial generation because it allows them to customize their car – transforming it from a mere vehicle into personalized “lifestyle enhancer.” Second, Ford notes that connectivity is all the rage with this ever-connected generation. With that said, connecting the cell phone and its features to automobiles is not an option – it’s a must.  Next, they identify gamification and its increasing importance. By incorporating gaming into automobiles, it will increase the engagement of the millennial consumer.  Access to the brand is becoming an important aspect to the young generation. They want –and have even come to expect – interaction with brands.  Last, Ford emphasizes that brand as content is important to always observe; by watching what millennials do with brands, marketers can constantly educate themselves on how to best reach and engage with them.

The key marketing tips presented from Ford’s perspective of millennials can be applied to many brands seeking to enchant the highly sought-after generation. Self-expression, connectivity, gamification, access, and brand as content have become increasingly important in every aspect to the millennial consumer.

Not only automobiles can be customized, many products such as shoes or phones or computers are customizable. For example, Nike reached the young demographic many years ago when it introduced the ability to customize everything about the shoe you order on their online store.  Millennials can be described as being self-absorbed. As a millennial myself, anything we can make more personal to us will make us fonder of the product.

When it comes to connectivity, the millennial consumer is the epitome of demanding everything at their fingertips. Brands must seek ways to incorporate this connectivity at any second they can. Once a millennial loses touch with their connection, they become disengaged will all surroundings – it’s their life-support.

Gamification keeps the youthful consumer occupied and entertained. Brands must be able provide methods of constant engagement that keep the consumer coming back for more. Foursquare has evolved from just checking-in, to a simple game that keeps users coming back to earn and win prizes.

As mentioned before, millennials are self-absorbed; this causes them to expect access to brands on “their” time. Brands must be willing to actively engage this youth when they say it’s time. And last but not least, mining data and information from this important demographic is ever important. Learning their content sharing characteristics and expressions is a guaranteed way to always be abreast of their changing trends.

If brands can find techniques to achieve these key marketing tactics they will undoubtedly increase their brand presence with the millennial generation. In the end, the millennial generation can either make or break a brand. So brands must tread carefully.

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