Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Branding Lessons from Binge Watching

Recently, I had some time to catch up on what, for me, was a new TV show. Since I’ve seen every LAW AND ORDER marathon, this chunk of time was dedicated to watching the first three seasons of HOMELAND. With talented actors and a plot filled with twists and turns, I was immediately drawn into the action. Afterward, this experience left me pondering the impact of binge watching on branding, brand experiences, and customer experience marketing.


According to the BBC, "Collins English Dictionary has chosen binge-watch as its 2015 Word of the Year. Meaning to watch a large number of television programs (especially all the shows from one series) in succession, it reflects a marked change in viewing habits, due to subscription services like Netflix. Lexicographers noticed that its usage was up 200% on 2014. Helen Newstead, Head of Language Content at Collins, said, ‘The rise in usage of binge-watch is clearly linked to the biggest sea change in our viewing habits since the advent of the video recorder nearly 40 years ago. It's not uncommon for viewers to binge-watch a whole season of programs such as House of Cards or Breaking Bad in just a couple of evenings - something that, in the past, would have taken months - then discuss their binge-watching on social media.’"

Here are three branding lessons any brand can learn from binge watching:

If a TV series has an unexpected plot twist, viewers may get so upset that they stop watching the series completely. This not only impacts ratings and ad dollars, but it also damages the TV show’s brand equity. I won’t include any spoilers here, but suffice it say, the end of series three of HOMELAND featured an unexpected surprise. Some fans may have wondered if the series would be the same in series four and beyond, and some may have stopped watching. In January 2017, series six begins if you’d like to see how the series has evolved.

Before you make any change to your brand, whether it’s a logo change (recall The Gap and Instagram) or a change in the product’s taste (recall New Coke), it’s critical to consider both positive and negative “what if” scenarios. And, if the negative scenarios could result in going out of business (or in the case of a TV show, getting cancelled), by all means, don’t make the change.

On the other side of the coin, think back to the TV show DALLAS and the third season finale, its “Who Shot JR?” episode, that aired in March 1980. That episode’s mystery lasted throughout the summer of 1980, and the shooter was not revealed until the following season’s fourth episode in November 1980. Everyone had an opinion about JR’s shooter. And, actor Larry Hagman as JR Ewing even turned up on the cover of TIME magazine in August 1980.

In the event that your plot twist or brand change becomes big news, make sure that you have the bandwidth to be inclusive. One major reason that this show’s mystery was such a success was that there were so many possible shooters. Everyone had an opinion and could participate in the discussion.

Back to binge watching, what drew me to the particular show? The plot? The actors? A large chunk of available time? I chose to watch HOMELAND for all of those reasons, but there could have been others.

Understand that your viewers, fans, or new customers can encounter your brand with no previous knowledge about your competitive advantage. With that in mind, provide some basic information about your brand at the outset as a form of introduction.

Have you ever binge watched? What TV show? Please chime in.

If you’d like to read about all seasons of HOMELAND, check out the recaps here:

Oh, and does anyone know where I can get the first and second seasons of the Canadian police drama MOTIVE? Currently, each episode can be purchased separately on Amazon, which is not a user-friendly option.

Image Credits: Exstreamist and Time Magazine

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Brand Experiences, Brand Ambassadors and Brand Advocates, Oh My!

The subset of marketing known as branding, brand-building, brand engagement, brand experiences, and brand equity is my passion, so when I run into someone who shares this passion, I like to talk shop. Years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Elaine Fogel as a result of our social media activity, and over the years, I've enjoyed her blog and insights on Twitter. Recently, I invited Elaine to participate as a featured guest in a TweetChat for a nonprofit organization for communications and PR pros for whom I serve as a Board Member, and her Tweets provided much value to the chat. In case you don't know Elaine, a brief bio appears at the end of this post, which contains highlights from our recent discussion about branding.

How do you define a brand experience?
ELAINE FOGEL: A brand experience is any interaction one has with a brand. Brand experiences include a range of touchpoints including transactions (sales), website visits, inbound inquiries, communications, product or service usage, customer service, and more.

What makes a successful brand experience, and please provide three examples of your favorite brand experiences.
ELAINE FOGEL: A successful brand experience is when one’s interaction with a brand is easy, friendly, customer-oriented, and produces a positive result for the individual. As I wrote in my book, “Your brand is more than its logo, look, and colors. It emanates from the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of anyone and everyone involved in it. And, since success depends on its brand reputation, it’s critical that you do everything possible to ensure that your customers’ experiences are amazing.” No matter what we call it, anytime we interact with a brand, it is an experience.

Here are my faves:
I am an Amazon brand loyalist. Every time I purchase products, the experience is consistently positive. Once when I ordered a marble bathroom accessory set (tumbler and toothbrush holder), the tumbler arrived in pieces. I contacted the seller company and advised it of the situation. I assumed that I would have to return the set with the broken pieces to prove the damage. I was surprised when the customer service rep apologized and told me that it wasn’t necessary. She would credit my credit card for the full amount, and I could keep the toothbrush holder. Now, that experience went beyond my expectations.

Jet Blue Airlines is another example of a successful brand. I will always remember the flight attendants’ style on a flight several years ago. They were jovial and welcoming, making wisecracks and jokes in their announcements. Every seat was comfortable (and leather) and seat backs had individual TVs on which we could watch FREE movies or TV. No nickel and diming here. (That was before it became a common feature.) The flight departure was delayed quite a bit from its original time, and as compensation for our patience, the airline awarded passengers a few thousand miles to our frequent flyer accounts. This proactive approach delighted everyone and made the delay a distant memory.

This last brand experience was shared with me when I was conducting a customer service presentation for internal staff. Once you read it, you’ll know why I never forgot it. A man and woman checked into a luxury hotel. As with many luxury properties, the service was impeccable. After they checked out, the housekeeper noticed the woman’s nightgown hanging behind the bathroom door. So, one of the staff members called the male guest’s phone number to ask how the hotel could return the nightgown. When the woman answered, he explained that she had forgotten her nightgown in the room and he wanted to make arrangements to return it to her. Turns out the woman who answered the phone was NOT the woman her husband was with at the hotel! So, was it a successful brand experience when the intention was to offer 5-star service? What do you think?

How would you define the difference between a brand ambassador and a brand advocate?
ELAINE FOGEL: Brand ambassadors may or may not be compensated to serve as spokespeople for a brand. For example, in the corporate world, brand ambassadors can be experts related to the brand’s products or services. They may have access to "insider" information and be part of an external product team.

Paid celebrity spokespeople are another type of ambassador such as when a professional athlete does a TV spot for a local car dealership. An example of unpaid brand ambassadorship is when a charity’s board members and volunteers toot its horn and help it fulfill its mission.

Brand advocates are the people who absolutely love the brand and engage with it, talk about it, and share their passion.

With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space, and why?
ELAINE FOGEL: This is an interesting question because several studies I’ve read indicate that determining social ROI has been very difficult. In enterprises, there are teams devoted to social media in which they use top analytical tools to evaluate their tactics. For those of us without big budgets, there are many free and cheap tools available.

As a Hootsuite user (and affiliate), I have access to all my social media accounts in one dashboard. It’s much easier to engage with my connections and post links to my blog posts simultaneously. I have access to reports on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ engagement, clicks by region, direct referrers, and which are my popular links.

I also measure how many people follow my calls to action through social media. This is even more important to me as it’s how I capture email subscribers and sell my book.

What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
ELAINE FOGEL: I think the discussion will still focus on the ROI for the time and effort we devote to social media marketing. Even though I participate in it wholeheartedly, I admit that I have been somewhat skeptical all along. Is it producing results equivalent or close to what we put in? Could we be better off spending some of that time and money on more traditional channels? Multi-channel marketing based on a sound marketing plan can be much more effective than relying on one channel like social media marketing.

Much gratitude to Elaine for appearing here on my blog and applause for sharing my passion for branding!

Here's Elaine's Bio:
Elaine is a professional speaker, marketer, brand and customer experience evangelist, educator, and consultant. She has been a contributing writer to The Business Journal, and contributes to MarketingProfs, SmallBizClub (founded by NFL Hall of Famer and author, Fran Tarkenton), Business2Community, and Kingged.com. People in 100+ countries have read her blog, Totally Uncorked on Marketing (http://elainefogel.net/), and her articles have appeared in many print and digital publications. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success (http://elainefogel.com/books/beyond-your-logo/). I highly recommend that you follow Elaine on Twitter at @Elaine_Fogel (https://www.twitter.com/Elaine_Fogel).

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Five #PersonalBranding Tips from Vin Scully

As all baseball fans from Los Angeles, all of America, and all over the world, know, the time has come for a classic to retire. Vin Scully, the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years has announced his final home game for the LA Dodgers. While he will announce three additional games next weekend, the final three games of the Dodgers’ season, he will broadcast those games from San Francisco. There are countless articles online and in print publications recognizing Vin for his spirit, his humility, and his humanity, but as a brand marketer, I believe that everyone can learn five personal branding tips from this inspiring ambassador of baseball.

As Vin’s story goes, he grew up as a New York Giants fan (the baseball team that would eventually move to San Francisco). However, once he joined the Dodgers broadcast team, he could no longer publicly root for the Giants. That said, he dedicated himself to his job and became a rock of Gibraltar to his fans. They knew that whenever they turned on the radio or later, the television, he and his familiar voice would be broadcasting the game.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Vin Scully was the voice of the @Dodgers for 67 years. What can you learn from him? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin always had a story to tell about the ballplayers, both the Dodgers and all visiting team players. He made his broadcasts come to life, because listeners didn’t just hear about walks, strike-outs, and runs. Instead, he painted pictures with his words and the unique cadence of his voice. Sometimes, he even let the roar of the crowd tell the story. After Kurt Gibson hit a jaw-dropping home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Vin said, “She is gone.” Nearly 70 seconds after listening to the roar of the crowd, he uttered a statement that has gone down in history, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” (A fun fact: My dad and I were sitting in the right field pavilion just a few rows up from where that home run was hit, so we didn't hear Vin's remarks until later that night on the TV newscast.)

SHARE ON TWITTER: Everyone has a story to tell, how do you tell yours? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin’s signature greeting was “Hello or good evening wherever you may be,” and to most, this seemed like a greeting from one family member to another. Since many of Vin’s fans never got the chance to meet face-to-face, his easy-going demeanor and friendly style transformed the connection of broadcaster and listener to two friends or relatives.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Do you have a signature tagline? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Once Vin joined the Dodgers broadcast team, he displayed no bias. Clearly, he was a lifelong Dodgers fan, but for the sake of other other teams and competing players, he never used the collective “We” that so many other famous broadcasters used, like Harry Carey of Chicago or Mel Allen of the Yankees. All teams embraced Vin because they knew he was impartial in his broadcasts.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Are you impartial in the workplace? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin always welcomed newcomers to the broadcast booth. From Jerry Doggett to Ross Porter to Rick Monday, and many, many more, he shared the booth and the microphone – and the fans knew it.

SHARE ON TWITTER: How do you collaborate with others? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

From a personal standpoint, my father, who passed away last year, became a Dodgers fan at the age of seven. As a result, he listened to Vin Scully for nearly all of Scully’s years at the microphone and heard many Dodgers highlights from Vin including the 1955 World Series, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, and the many victories in Los Angeles following the move from Brooklyn. According to my dad, Vin often became the 10th man on the field, because he translated the action for fans who weren’t at the ballpark.

On behalf of my dad, thanks for the memories, Vin!

Check out Vin’s letter to his fans:

Check out Bill Plaschke’s article in the LA Times, “Vin Scully is a voice for the ages.”

Click to watch Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run and listen to Vin:

Image Credit: Pinterest

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ten Inspirational #Leadership Quotes

Everyone has read a book that inspires, whether it was a book during youth, college, or adulthood. If you’re lucky, you’ve also been inspired by a parent, a mentor, or a boss. But if not, don’t despair. Inspiration is omnipresent if you take the time to look. 

When it comes to leadership inspiration, I have ten favorite quotes. Check them out below, and I guarantee that you’ll be inspired.

Leadership is not a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others. –Mark Herbert (Twitter: @NewParadigmer)

A proven leader knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around him or her better. –President Obama in his introduction of Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. –Tom Peters

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails. –John Maxwell

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. –John Quincy Adams

A community is like a ship, everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. –Henrik Ibsen in “An Enemy of the People”

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. –Harold R. McAlindon

Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine. –David Ogilvy

Trust is deepened by supporting the team, sharing credit with them, and even sacrificing for their welfare. –John Baldoni (Twitter: @JohnBaldoni)

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. –Maya Angelou

What words of wisdom inspire you about leaders and leadership? I invite you to chime in.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Instagram’s Logo Change – A Look Back

Back in May, you may recall that Instagram changed its logo. With the buzz now history, let's take a look back at how the logo change was viewed by some members of the media as well as the reasons behind the design change.

According to Instagram's blog, "You’ll see an updated icon and app design for Instagram. Inspired by the previous app icon, the new one represents a simpler camera and the rainbow lives on in gradient form. The Instagram community has evolved over the past five years from a place to share filtered photos to so much more — a global community of interests sharing more than 80 million photos and videos every day. Our updated look reflects how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become. Thank you for giving this community (of 400 million users) its life and color. You make Instagram a place to discover the wonder in the world."

Instagram's logo, a retro-looking camera, was one of the most recognizable logos in the entire tech sector. That logo was replaced by a background swirl of sunset colors (orange, yellow, pink, purple) and a white outline of a camera. According to Hannah Jane Parkinson of the Guardian, "As if the camera was murdered - chalk was drawn around its body. Murdered at sundown."

Ian Spalter, Instagram's head of design, said everything correctly in this statement: “Brands, logos and products develop deep connections and associations with people...and we thought we could make it better."

However, Lauren Keating reported in Tech Times, "Instagram lost its mind when it decided to do away with its iconic logo and replace it with the most colorful and vibrant icon we could imagine. It is almost like the purple/pink-fading-to-yellow icon is a metaphor for the end of an era for the app. Sure, it was supposed to signify the changes and evolution of the popular photo-sharing app, but all it does is remind us that the sun has set on its reign as apps like Snapchat continue to rise in popularity. While some may like the colors instead of thinking they stick out like a sore thumb, you have probably noticed how hard it now is to find Instagram by its icon."

There was a different point of view expressed by Lesya Liu in Entrepreneur, "The most recent update is only skin-deep - it did not affect navigation - so it’s very likely people will get over it in a few days, just like they got over the recent algorithm change. After all, Instagram is a very popular platform these days. For a lot of businesses, this is the way to reach millennial demographics, the generation that currently holds the largest buying power. Overall, there are people who really love it and really hate it, which is understandable when one of the respected apps changes something. Yet, the updates are only cosmetic and do not affect the meaning and the value behind the network."

But isn't that the point of a memorable logo? Don't people gravitate toward a logo due to its design? And don't some designs appeal more than others? Think of Nike - its logo appeals and connects more with athletes and runners than those who needlepoint and knit. Think of BMW - its logo appeals and connects more with race car drivers than swimmers. And think of Apple - its logo appeals and connects with techies more than farmers.

Four months after the logo change, do you like the new logo or do you hate it? More importantly, has it stopped you from using the app to share your fave pics and videos? If you're like me, the answer is a big fat NO.

[Images courtesy of Instagram]

Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Online Customer Experience Was Anything But Sweet

I visited an online store recently to make a purchase. The store sells sweets: brownies, cakes, and cookies. The store is also part of a large group of online stores where you can purchase everything except the moon: fruit, flowers, popcorn, muffins, steaks, cheese, caramel apples, and more. 

On this occasion, I simply wanted to purchase something called a Cookie Card, a buttercream cookie and a greeting card. I made the online purchase and provided my friend's address where I wanted the cookie card to be delivered and assumed everything was done.

About three weeks later, when I wondered if the cookie was as delicious as advertised, I asked my friend about the cookie and was surprised to learn that it had never arrived. Disappointed, since I had thought the gift was a great idea and wanted it to arrive in a timely manner, I called the online store.

The first customer service rep I spoke with was extremely rude. You would have thought I was bothering her by calling her during HER WORK DAY. She asked me to repeat my order number several times, because she was clearly not paying attention to me, the customer. Finally, she said that my order was lost. Then, she said that the specific cookie and card that I had ordered were no longer available. She asked me what I wanted to do. I had to go online while I was on the phone (I had not been near my computer or an Internet connection when I made the call) and search through other Cookie Card options. Why couldn’t the rep offer any suggestions? Additionally, even if the company had not been responsible for losing the item, where was the apology, or even better, the statement equivalent to "Let me make this right because we value your business."

I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told, “You will be given the same information.” What information? The rep had not offered to do anything to resolve the lost cookie situation. Since the standard “this call may be monitored for training purposes” had been heard before the customer service rep initially came on the line, I hoped someone would hear my request for a supervisor – that I made three times! At long last, I was transferred to another rep. I explained that my order was lost and asked for another order to be placed immediately.

Once the discussion was over, the new Cookie Card chosen, and the order was placed, I voiced my concern about the first rep, and the second rep apologized and offered to send me a $20 gift card via email. I thanked her but was uncertain if I would ever use it.

Two weeks passed, and I did not receive the gift card. While I may not have used it, the fact that it was promised and did not arrive provided further proof that this company doesn’t care about its customers and repeat business.

So I called customer service again and asked about the status of the gift card. The day after I called, I received an email with a $15 gift discount code, however, it had a date that had already expired – not exactly how I would create repeat business.

I wondered what this company’s leadership team thinks about the importance of repeat business. Upon review of its website, I learned that its mission is to "provide the finest freshly-baked gifts and desserts for all of life’s moments, delivered with warmth and backed by our guarantee of excellence."

It would seem that the marketing/PR team and the leadership team are definitely NOT on the same page. All the proof you need is to read a little more: the company states its promises to customers:
•    Delicious cookies and freshly-baked goods
•    Only the highest quality standards
•    Friendly service focused on excellence
•    Trustworthy, dependable products and services
•    Unique gift ideas and exclusive packaging
•    The strongest guarantee in the business

If I experienced "friendly service focused on excellence" and the “strongest guarantee in the business,” then certainly there’s work to be done!

Can you guess the company? Tweet me @DebbieLaskeyMBA with the hashtag #servicefail.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why Branding and Storytelling Are Linked

While many in the marketing arena believe that storytelling is the latest buzz, the truth is, storytelling has been around since the invention of brands. You just have to look at memorable taglines. Think about Wheaties' "Breakfast of Champions," or BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine," or "Bags Fly Free" from Southwest Airlines.

According to Wikipedia, “A tagline is a small amount of text which serves to clarify a thought for, or designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product. As a variant of a branding slogan, taglines can be used in marketing materials and advertising. The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of an audio/visual product or to reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product. Some taglines are successful enough to warrant inclusion in popular culture.”

Therefore, taglines are the seeds that create stories, and they introduce brands to new customers and solidify them into the lives of long-term customers. When your executive team conducts the "should our brand have a tagline" discussion, ask these five questions:

[1] Would a tagline clarify the brand’s competitive strength or strengths?
[2] Would a tagline speak to the target audience or audiences?
[3] Would a tagline easily align with the visual representation of the brand's logo?
[4] Would a tagline reflect the personality of the brand?
[5] Would a tagline be easily associated with the brand (and be memorable)?

If you can answer all of these questions with a resounding yes, then you're ready for a tagline. Always remember, though, the key for a successful tagline is to integrate it into all aspects of your marketing strategy from online marketing to in-store displays, from email marketing to advertising, from public relations to social media, etc. The tagline has to become an appendage to all of your communications and promotions - and if done effectively, it will become the core of your brand story, thus making your overall storytelling easy.

So, as you contemplate the importance of storytelling for your brand, consider these questions:

[1] How do you decide on a compelling story?
[2] What elements do you include and which do you leave out?
[3] What is an appropriate length for your story?
[4] Do you feature a person (for example, your founder) in your story?
[5] What is the key take-away from your brand’s story, and is it easy to grasp or embrace?

While the publishing industry is undergoing a transition from print to digital, there is one newspaper that embodies its city, The New York Times. While you may not know that the newspaper began in the mid-1800’s, there is no doubt that you've heard of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Art and Theater sections, and its Opinion section. Whenever someone wants to be heard, he or she comments in The New York Times. (Remember Angelina Jolie's editorial when she announced her breast cancer?) The newspaper’s motto was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but on its website, the motto was changed to, “All the News That’s Fit to Click.”

According to Southwest Airlines Chairman/President and CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest was conceived on a cocktail napkin when San Antonio businessman Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met at the St. Anthony Club and etched out what would become the “Texas Triangle,” charting a path for low-fare travel between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The vision was simple: offer business professionals a faster, more efficient way to travel at a lower cost and do it with warm, personable service and a smile.” 

Kelleher knew that in order for his employees to do a good job, they had to have fun. So Southwest allowed flight attendants to wear shorts instead of uncomfortable uniforms and tell silly jokes to passengers over the intercoms. The airline continues to provide peanuts, soft drinks, and juice – when competitors charge or don’t offer any food or drinks. Southwest also invites passengers to travel with their baggage without a fee because according to their ads, “Bags fly free.”

And no discussion about storytelling would be complete without a reference to the master storyteller Walt Disney. There were Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and they were just the beginning. From animated movies to theme park rides to feature films, everything that is part of the Disney brand tells a memorable story.

So take a page from your favorite brand's play book - whether it's from movies, sports, or consumer products - and think long and hard as to why it's your favorite brand. I guarantee that you'll see a story lurking somewhere within the tagline.