Search Engine Optimization: The Targeted Pathway to a Stronger Brand-to-Client Relationship

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The focus in the last 8 week’s has been on the different ways emerging media techniques can help brands create relationships with customers.  Search engine optimization and marketing isn’t just another data heavy way for IT departments and marketers to target their audience.  While search engine optimization and marketing allows brands to be seen during various key words searches, the process also allows companies to better understand the needs of their customers and how better to serve them.  When the content marketers produce ends up being at the top of their consumer’s search engines, companies are then able to build relationships with even more people than they may have initially invested in, “off of something as simple as a Google search,” according to Dean DeLisle of Forward Progress.

It’s also important for brands to build relationships with other customers and influential brands/individuals in the industry that are going to share or news and links online through their own websites and social media.  Networking with and from a trusted brand will help establish new relationships with potential customers who already trust the individual or company who is recommending your site and sharing links. Using similar keywords they use can also help make the two a common bond without becoming a competitor.

The most basic form of any SEO plan is to make sure you have a healthy website. Have content that is relevant to the search, user friendly, easy to navigate and inviting to the first-time user to ensure they come back to the site.  Victoria Edwards of Search Engine Watch recommends not worrying about keywords and link purchasing as much as providing adequate content, performance, authority and by all means, make sure the site is user friendly.

Following these basic tips will not only allow a brand to be searchable, but should help build deeper relationships with customers as much as any good customer service and social media plan will do.

It’s In Your Nature to Tell a Good Brand Story

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In this week’s WVU IMC 619 discussion, we talked about brand storytelling.  This brand video from Cabela’s isn’t new, but it’s one that I believe captures the essence of brand storytelling in a very meaningful way.  It enables viewers to understand and embrace the brand for what it is.  I saw the ad last year as a :30 television commercial, but the original video is about 1:52 minutes long with more informative content and a more “embracing” feel.  It’s brings the viewer to experience all that the Cabela’s can bring.  The video is showing the uses of its products, but isn’t directly selling any one product or service.  It’s merely telling the story about who is using those products and embracing that brand.  It embraces the viewers by reminding them that it’s “in their nature” to “crave the sounds of crunching leaves” among other activities.  Whether the viewer they’re talking to is a hiker, camper, fisher, hunter, boater or dog lover, Cabela’s embraces their customer’s love for the outdoors further embedding that relationship with them.

There are few critiques I have though. One, I think the narrator says “It’s in your nature” way too often. I understand the concept, but had it been said once in the beginning of the story and again at the end, the same point would have been made.

While this video has not received nearly as many hits as DollarShaveClub.com or Johnny Walker brand videos have, I still think it’s an impressive piece that tells the brand’s story or in this case, the customer’s story.  Would I share it with others?  I’m not entirely sure that I would, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t.  Is it viral worthy? Well, because it’s technically a lifestyle brand I believe it could have gone viral to the people who care about that brand. This doesn’t make it as widespread as I’d like to see the brand go, but that doesn’t mean it’s not getting the consumer response it should. “It’s in your nature” has since become the brand’s great tag line used in ads, websites, social media etc.

A few months ago, this more recent brand video was launched by Cabela’s.  For me, it has the same feel to it and the same affect. It’s a very good sequel to the first ad. How does this one make you feel about the brand’s storytelling efforts? Good, bad, same as the first? Why would you choose to share it on social media, or why wouldn’t you?

The Captain’s Farewell Generates Viral Branding Campaigns

This week was the end of the 2014 season for the New York Yankees, but more importantly, it marked the retirement of Derek Jeter after a twenty-year career as one of baseball’s finest. Since announcing his retirement in February, Jeter has had a lot of buzz around his retirement from the media and other teams celebrating his success and wishing him well throughout the season.  Of course, brands like Nike and Gatorade have taken notice to make their mark on the occasion but not in the typical manner. Instead of merely ensuring the athlete was always wearing/using their brand at all times (which he was), they also created emotional, memorable viral branding videos that will be remembered for years to come.

Gatorade’s purpose was to showcase the relationship between Derek Jeter and his fans. At a press conference on last Thursday night, after his last game with a classic win at Yankee Stadium, Jeter told the media that his fans deserve a Thank You. He is very appreciative of his fans– a noble quality in a celebrity athlete. The black and white videography coupled with Frank Sinatra’s music in the background gives the video a classic New York ambiance. A black and white video will stand out against the clutter of color videos we see all the time. There is no distraction from background colors, you are just able to see Derek Jeter, the city and the fans. Additionally, while the video is filmed in a city where ads are everywhere, this video masks the other brands in the background while the only placement of color is at the end when Gatorade shows their “G” logo with the lightning strike. The video has reached over 7 million views on YouTube  with over 20,000 shares as of today, and according to Natahlie Tadena of The Wall Street Journal, it also received over 275,000 social media interactions as of September 23rd.

Not only did Gatorade kill it with this video, but it also doesn’t hurt to get this send off by teammates using the traditional Gatorade plunge.

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Gatorade isn’t the only brand cashing in on the Captain’s departure. Nike Jordan’s brand “Re2pect” campaign. The campaign is to spotlight Derek Jeter in regards to the respect he has for himself, his teammates, his fans and the game of baseball itself. It stands for sportsmanship and pride in what he does. He’s never had a crisis management situation in the twenty years he’s played baseball and he’s just a darn good athlete. The video showcases fans, celebrities and includes members of the NY Mets and Boston Red Sox rivals bidding the captain respect as he finished his final season. According to Darren Heitner of Forbes.com, the hashtag “#RE2PECT” has been trending on Facebook and Twitter with the video has received over 8.3 million views on Jordan’s YouTube channel along with positive feedback.

The campaign’s slogan is “No matter what hat you wear, tip it to The Captain.” It is the universal sign of respect that really captures the gentlemanly game of baseball. However, the video doesn’t just show Derek Jeter, it also makes sure to place the Jordan brand’s other athletic endorsees like Michael Jordan himself and Tiger Woods. The hat tipping went viral as many fans, including his nephew tipped their hats to The Captain during his last game Thursday night and rival players like Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez who tipped his catcher’s mask as Jeter received a warm welcome from the crowd at Fenway Park.

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While Derek Jeter’s baseball career has now officially ended, these videos are an excellent example of how brands can create meaningful relationships with consumers (and their endorsements for that matter). While Yankees fans were likely the most emotionally affected by these videos, sports fans everywhere can appreciate both ads for their beautiful display of sportsmanship and will remember the brands for these memorable campaigns.

How Mobilization is Changing The Brand to Customer Relationships

This week in my Emerging Media class at West Virginia University’s IMC graduate program, we talked about mobile marketing and how companies are integrating mobile technology, videos and media streaming to increase brand awareness. I wrote a paper on McDonald’s and how their mobile strategy is one of the best, especially for reaching out to the Millennial generation. Emerging media is all about building relationships through new media, thus mobile platforms are an extremely important mechanism to use in order to reach consumers more efficiently and more personally.

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According to a recent MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) report, “Mobile creates one-to-one relationships by presenting marketers with perhaps the greatest tool to realize the promise of one-to-one marketing. As a highly personal device, mobile can open up the possibility of knowing individual customers to a level of detail not possible before. This greater potential for profiling, segmenting and analyzing a brand’s customer base and its buying patterns help to create personalized two-way interactions that are more relevant.” Mobile also deepens relationships using data that provides a better understanding about the customers. This lets the brand more deeply interact with consumers on a better personalized level.

Customer loyalty is one the most important reasons to use mobile tactics in relationship building. “Loyalty communications already have more than three times the open and engagement rates of traditional communications,” says Matt Howland, a guest writer for Forbes.com.  In order to more actively engage with consumers, it’s important to make the mobile experience convenient, interactive and engaging and personalized without forcing more spot ads on them. It’s about deepening the relationship at their fingertips without selling them anything directly. Mobile marketing has allowed brands to create an experience for the customer much better than traditional advertising has ever been able to do before.  In return, customers become brand ambassadors by sharing these experiences about the brand with peers.

Relationship building is important in any form of marketing.  What other mobile techniques can marketers use to improve their relationship with consumers and sustain loyalty?

What’s wrong with free music? Free music you never wanted.

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This week, Apple announced the new iPhone 6, their new smartwatch and the fact that they were giving away 500 million copies of U2’s newest album through iTunes before it’s actual release in October, as stated by Speakeasy blogger John Jurgenson. What an awesome deal right? A free album from one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” automatically uploaded to your phone or downloadable and that can be shared on social media. It’s emerging media at its finest, a cross-promotional digital strategy for both Apple and the band.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt that this free music was so great. The deal has since received a huge backlash from Apple users who are simply not fans of the band, calling it a “digital violation.” It created furious Apple users and according to New Zealand 3 News blogger Paul Cashmere, the band’s reputation of “selling out” will have long-term effects.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands with Irish rock band U2 as he speaks during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino

This “digital violation” is exactly that. Apple in a way was technically violating customers by automatically downloading an album they’d never asked for. It’s now made users angry with Apple and only disliking the band U2 more. While it is certainly a nice gesture paid to U2 for its customers, not necessarily a bad promotion, it’s violation the privacy of it’s users. So what could they have done differently?

For starters, don’t automatically upload anything to your customer’s phones. Maybe the promotion would have been more successful if they had offered the download without it appearing automatically. In addition, while the deal was strictly between U2 and Apple, it may have worked better if the tech company made deals with other music labels and artists.  This way, they may have had albums who appealed to everyone, and again, not had them automatically appear on playlists. Nevertheless, both brands have received press so this promotional scheme did in a way work.

Apple has since let the public know that they are able to delete the album if they don’t want it to appear on the playlist, but what does this mean for other emerging media trends between tech companies and artists? Will we all begin randomly receiving music we don’t want? Is privacy ever a concern for the media, or now that we’ve all gone digital, we all have mobile providers, so does this mean we are at the mercy of whatever these tech companies choose?  Instead of creating good relationships with customers, marketers are beginning to botch whatever relationship they may have had with customers by going to far in violating the public’s digital privacy.

Visual Design Trends: Guidelines or Necessity?

Design trends are inspirational. How many designers have looked to others for inspiration and ideas? Sure, we all have  from time to time, and there isn’t anything wrong with that.  Designers gain inspiration from other designers, design trends can be “inspirational” and could considered guidelines for attracting a trend savvy audience. Today, MarketingProfs author and marketing communications manager at DesignCrowd Josephine Sabin wrote about the top five visual trends important for brands to use. Sabin says, “Consumers are constantly being stimulated with exposure to hundreds of different advertisements daily. To break through the clutter, marketers need to focus on trends that resonate with customers.” While I agree with this notion, it also raises the following questions. Does following a trend or trends help create a brand’s “digital identity” or is it more important for brands to create their own trends?

In this week’s lesson in Emerging Media at West Virginia University’s IMC program, we talked about digital identity. In his lesson, Professor Keith Quesenberry indicated that “today’s interactive world means a deeper evaluation of how to represent your company.” It’s not just about creating a website, it’s about creating a website that is going to be a source for your company’s brand identity in addition to all of the other communication lines brands have to engage in such as social media, blogs, video pages etc. Sabin’s article displays the latest visual trends include “real-life photography, motion video graphics, flat page designs, soft color schemes, and bold, textured fonts.” While I believe it’s important for brands to understand and use what trendy techniques they can to help improve their website or on other marketing materials, it’s also important that they keep their brand identity in tact.  To do this, they need to choose the right trends for their brand.  They need to use “the right” real life photos, “the right” video graphics, “the right” bold, textured fonts etc. that are going to be the best trend update for their brand.

For example, let’s look at Amazon.com. They are product based and personalized. They’re website is easy to read and are clearly successful at what they do. What would happen if Amazon suddenly began using filtered photographs and bold fonts or even flat design that may interfere with the purpose of the site? It might look “trendy,” but the content would be inconsistent, distracting and probably a lot harder to navigate.

Overall, digital trends are important for marketers to be aware of, but they need to know which trends, if any, will work best for their particular audience. “Trends can be driven by new technological advances, new aesthetics or the pure desire of finding more efficient ways of presenting the content to the user,” according to art director Claudio Guglieri. It’s important for brands to keep up with the times and not let their marketing efforts become outdated. That being said, it’s also important that they create an identity that is going to last in the long run, whether or not it can be visually modified with trending design styles along the way.

 

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Children, the Internet and Charitable Social Media Campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge

Is the latest ALS ice bucket challenge positive in teaching kids about charity? Or is it further exposing children to online marketing?  For weeks I have watched friends, acquaintances and family members post their ice buck challenges along with their children in order to donate and/or spread the word about ALS (amyotrophic sclerosis) otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.   While I commend the trending ALS campaign and applaud its success, I can’t help but wonder about how ethical it is to have children be involved and filmed online via social media for the entire world to see. 

Kathy Giusti of TIME this week wrote about her positive experience regarding the Ice Bucket Challenge and the exposure her children have had to ALS.  Giusti explains that although her children knew about the disease previous to the campaign, it wasn’t until the Ice Buck Challenge that they openly discussed it and shared it with friends.  The point of the ALS campaign was to create awareness and receive donations and it has been extremely successful raising $94.3 million for the foundation according to Giusti.  However, is it causing an exploitation of children online and is it teaching brands on how easy it is to reach younger markets?  Because ALS is a foundation rather than a “brand,” does it make marketing to children justifiable? Does it make taking videos of children, sharing them online via social media acceptable or ethical?

I would like to agree with Giusti that this trending and phenomenally successful ALS campaign has been one of the best and teaches children not only about awareness of this particular disease, but as other charities follow suit, will increasingly interest children to be involved and understand the importance of awareness and making charitable donations.  That being said, it is possible that children are being used to market the campaign and are they being “exploited” rather than “exposed to the charity” on social media? Regulators are likely going to perceive the act unjust or unethical, regardless of the charitable outcome.  Furthermore, marketers may be able to use the campaign’s success as a template, realizing that the children will follow a brand if they’re told to do so by their adult supervisors.

My nephew and his friend, getting tneir Ice Bucket Challenge on

My nephew and his friend, participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge