Marketing and Communications ideas – popped!

Waiting By The Phone

teletableNot too many years ago, there was a thing called a “telephone table”. It was a little desk-like bit of furniture, designed to hold the family telephone and to provide a place to sit for the person speaking. I remember my Grandparents had one in the hall outside the living room. I say the family telephone because extension phones were rare in private homes.

The telephone table, long a mainstay of the North American Home, fell victim to extension phones. Where once we had one phone, in the hallway, now we had one in the kitchen, living room, and the master bedroom. Once the phone company stopped charging an exorbitant fee for extension phones, the cork was out.

I bring this up today as I contemplate huge shifts in how we communicate. As most of you know, this site started life as a pitch for a job. In today’s job market you need to cut through the clutter, same as you need to with your marketing.  And really, isn’t applying for a job just marketing yourself? Once I found that I’d made it to the next step in the application process, I started my own version of “waiting by the phone” for that next step to be scheduled.

Back in the telephone table days, when waiting for an important call, one, “Waited by the phone”. Literally. You hung around the house, and kept within earshot of the ringer, so as not to miss that important call when it did come. You didn’t want to go into the basement or out in the yard.

That started to change with extension phones. It really started to change once cordless phones became common in the 1980s. Suddenly you could visit the basement or the yard while still “waiting by the phone”. You were, of course, still stuck at home.

All this seems so out of place compared with our incredibly connected society. Most of us now possess devices, in our pockets, that can access the entirety of the world’s knowledge and contact almost anyone else that you would care to communicate with. Once we became a mobile society, terms like “wait by the phone” became irrelevant. No one says that anymore. Now, waiting by the phone for an important call consists of making sure your phone is charged, and making sure you don’t wander outside your carrier’s coverage area. Since much of the populated portion of North America is covered, you can wander pretty far afield without worrying about missing a communication you may be expecting.

As I wait by the phone in my pocket for that important communication, ponder this: does your marketing use terms that should long be retired? Do you say things like, “wait by the phone”? There’s a certain younger portion of the population that has no idea what that means. In your display advertising, do you use pictures of desktop phones? A lot of people don’t even have home phones now. What’s a “tape”? Soon enough, it will be, “what’s a DVD?”

Things change. In fact, things change much faster than they once did. If your marketing uses phrases or images that are not current, you don’t connect as well as you could. Do an inventory of your message. Is there anything in there that doesn’t relate to today’s world?

Know your audience, and know how to talk to them!

The Other Side Of Miley

A remarkable thing happened on Sunday night. The President of a multi-million dollar for-profit corporation executed a very successful re-branding campaign on live television, in front of countless viewers…and almost no one realized it.

If you’ve read “Brand Like A Rockstar” by Steve Jones, you know that the music industry has a lot to teach us about successful branding. Shocking though it was, Miley showed us all a thing or two.

There is a company in America called “Smiley Miley Inc.” It does millions of dollars in business in the entertainment industry, with projects in film, television, live concerts, and of course branded merchandise. It, like all for-profit corporations, has one purpose: to make money for its’ principals. There is another company, called “Hope Town Entertainment”, that handles even more business related to Smiley Miley Inc.

Recently, the primary brand of Smiley Miley Inc has been growing stale. It’s been stuck in a tween-related era, where much of the target audience has outgrown the brand. Half hearted re-branding attempts were made, but not to any great success. After all, your brand isn’t what you think it is. It’s what your audience thinks it is.

And so, the President of Smiley Miley Inc, one Miley R. Cyrus, likely in consultation with the President of Hope Town Entertainment, one Tish Cyrus, planned a re-launch of the primary Miley brand. It needed to be earth shaking. It needed to make a very loud statement. It needed to shock. Starting with her red carpet arrival, and culminating in two performances, the re-branding was on.

Miley-Cyrus-and-Robin-Thicke-VMAsI think you’d agree that President Cyrus shocked everyone out of the lingering “Hannah Montana” brand. So much so that the performances were lead story material around North America. The story occupied the first block on TV alongside much more serious stories like the situations in Egypt and Syria. One national newspaper was moved to write an only slightly tongue-in-cheek obituary for poor Hannah Montana. Social media was, very nearly literally, on fire. Shock and awe indeed.

Let’s compare a few similar brands who have done what Miley has done. The good, the bad, and the ugly, if you will.

Amanda Bynes: She skipped the carefully planned re-branding exercise and went straight off the deep end.

britney-spears-vmas-snakeBritney Spears: Britney also suffered from a lingering childhood brand, despite the provocative outfit in the “Baby One More Time” video. The mouse ears hung on long past their useful life. So, at the MTV VMA show in 2001, she came out onstage singing her new single, “I’m A Slave 4 U”…while wearing a giant snake. The world was as shocked then as it was this week. Britney, however, had shed the mouse ears forever. She went on to much more success before she became a victim of that success.

xtinaChristina Aguilera: Christina was another adorable mouse ear adorned ragamuffin who started a music career. Even with the suggestive lyrics in her debut single, “Genie In A Bottle”, she was presented in a cute, wholesome way by her handlers. This worked for a time. Then, as with Britney, it became clear that the Disney image was holding her back. Christina also then planned a re-brand. Not at the VMAs this time, but in a music video. A shocking, racy, sexy video called “Dirrty” that transformed cute little Christina into Xtina. Once again, many were shocked and appalled, and foretold the impending end of the human race as we knew it. Had twitter existed at the time, it would have melted down at the debut of the video. Christina came out the other end as a very different artist, and kept that branding through her career. No one applies “wholesome” to Xtina. Xtina, however, is very successful.

Time will tell whether the re-brand of Miley Cyrus works for her and the Principals of Smiley Miley Inc, or if she’s destined for head-shaving and car-denting. No doubt she’s left a few of her Hannah Montana fans firmly in the dust, but if it works out they way she wants, she’ll open up a whole new market.

Social Media Automation. And, why it’s a Very Bad Thing(tm)

People like to simplify their lives. Our always-on, forever-connected, instant-information society breeds a need to simplify. People and brands that use multiple social media platforms are often innocently lured into one of the biggest social media potholes, automation.

There was a time that social media automation was “in”. That time did not last long as the downside of it became apparent.

When you automate social media, you are not engaging. When you aren’t engaging, you aren’t using social media right.

Here’s an example. We all have people in our Twitter feed that automatically cross-post everything they post on Facebook. That’s such a bad idea, because: (time saver tip, the last point is the most important)

  • Twitter allows 140 characters. Facebook has no such limit. So, that three paragraph missive you facebooked about how great something was…your Twitter audience saw the first 100 or so characters and then a link to Facebook to read the rest.
  • If a particular Twitter user doesn’t use Facebook, and you don’t have your post set to “public”, that person can’t read your message at all. It’s been wasted.
  • Even if they do use Facebook, if your post is not set to “public” then that person has to waste more time by logging in with username and password. Is what you have to say really worth all this extra effort by your tweeps?
  • Here’s the big one. You aren’t engaging the Twitter audience you could be. Your Twitter followers chose to follow you because they are interested in what your brand has to say. By Facebook crossposting and forcing the discussion to take place on Facebook, you say to your Twitter followers that you aren’t interested in what THEY have to say. You don’t want to engage with Twitter, and so you’ve automated it. How do you think that makes your twitter followers feel? They navigate away from that click with a negative impression of your brand.

What about scheduled tweets, then? Also a brief fad when Twitter’s API first rolled out, it is also generally something to be avoided. I say generally this time, as there are some limited legitimate uses of scheduled tweets. @NextOnTCM comes to mind as a brilliant use of scheduled tweets.

Very Important Things(tm) to remember about scheduled tweets:

  • As with crossposts, there’s the danger of a lack of engagement. Monitor your feeds for replies to automated tweets, and address them right away.
  • If the information in an upcoming scheduled post changes, make sure to change the post before it goes live. Don’t set-it-and-forget-it.
  • If something big happens in the world, or even in your community, having unrelated, obviously scheduled tweets being posted while the twittersphere is engaged in a huge conversation will show you as unconnected and out of touch. I remember the worst example of this, during a school shooting, when many marketers’ automated twitter feeds were merrily chirping away about great ideas, great products, and the great state of things, while North America was in total shock. Completely inappropriate. Be ready to call an audible and dump the scheduled tweets when your audience is otherwise engaged.
  • Most importantly: use sparingly and very carefully.

Each social media platform has unique methods of engaging. There’s a different culture that’s developed around each channel. Fail to respect that culture and your brand will suffer.


Christmas Tree Advertising

Christmas trees are a beautiful thing. You see one, there’s visions of eggnog, family time, presents, and of a magical time of year.

Christmas tree advertising is not beautiful, not one little bitchristmas

Radio and TV ads are most susceptible to this pitfall, but display ads can fall prey to the temptation. The temptation is always there, trying to get you to add too much information to your message.

This can become an issue easily with a large group discussing an ad, or it can happen with inexperienced advertisers.

What is Christmas tree advertising? It’s when an ad is being developed and people keep hanging things on it, like so many glittery bulbs.

  • “Oh, let’s get in our phone number!”
  • “Don’t forget the 1-800 line!”
  • “Get the website in.”
  • “And the facebook page too, right there at the end!”
  • “We really need to give directions to the showroom. Don’t forget, it’s off highway 2, take the second exit and go for 375 meters!”
  • “We have to mention the return policy!”
  • “Can we talk about the three different promotions we have on this week?”

It’s all clutter. Pretty soon you’ve got an ad that’s messy, cluttered, and full of a LOT of unnecessary points. Clutter equals tune out. No one will read/watch/listen to a message that is that messy.

“We’ve got an awesome sale on couches! While you’re here, check out the great prices on appliances. Also we’ve got the best service and prompt delivery! Call us now, 555-1313, or 555-1414 from out of town, 1-800-555-1212 from anywhere else. is where you can find us online, and don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list while you’re there!”

Ugh. Let’s be honest. We’ve all seen or heard ads like that. They don’t work.

Keep it clean. Keep each message about one thing. Isn’t one thing so much easier to remember than ten? If you sell couches, talk about couches and what makes yours the best. Keep Christmas for Christmas.

If you make the right offer to the right person at the right time, they’ll find you. You won’t even need a phone number in the ad.

What’s your personal brand?

You’ve all seen them. The disclaimers on social media profiles that say, “My views do not represent the views of my employer”, or “these tweets are my own”, or, “my views do not reflect on my employer”.hello

Let me say this:

  1. If you said, “I think poverty should be eradicated”, your disclaimer now makes it look like your employer supports poverty.
  2. Who else would own your tweets?
  3. Yes, yes your views do reflect on your employer.

Despite the fact that some firms require this of their employees, these disclaimers have absolutely no legal standing. They aren’t going to save you from being sued if you say something slanderous or libelous. They aren’t going to prevent your employer from being concerned if you tweet something that affects the brand.

Let’s look at an example, based on those ubiquitous Pepsi ads. The one where the Coke guy’s truck  breaks down and the Pepsi gang offers a ride.  What if the Coke guy, whose Twitter profile dutifully says, “these tweets are my own!”, tweeted, “Wow these Pepsi guys rock!”?

How long do you suspect Coke guy would be working for Coke after that? Even with the disclaimer?

Everything you do online, professionally or personally, contributes to your personal brand. Everything. Who you are reflects on you hired you. If you post personal drama on social media, if you post about how drunk you got on Friday night (and include pics of said debauchery), if you have nothing but a solid stream of complaints on your feed, your personal brand is what I would call “bad”.

Even who you follow is a comment, there for all to see, on what you stand for.

Make no mistake, potential employers are checking you out. New friends check you out. Something as simple as how a business responds to a customer service issue posted on Twitter can hinge on your personal brand.

Shouldn’t your social media presence represent the positive and engaged you?

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