Branding is Everything

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At 451 Marketing, we believe in brands. We believe brands have the power to transform products, services, companies and ideas. We believe a brand is not a simply logo. It’s not a name. It’s not a tagline, color scheme or mascot. A brand is a compass; it guides both your internal mission and your external messaging. It’s an expression of identity, a statement of value and a customer promise. It is the deep emotional and cognitive connection a person experiences when interacting with a business.

In short, branding is everything.

Our mission is to make people love your brand. As an integrated marketing agency, our approach to branding is holistic: our Public Relations, Social Media and Search Marketing teams work collaboratively to craft, evaluate and refine our clients’ brands.

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In this brand-storming process, we ask ourselves key questions to deeply grasp what a brand represents and how it is perceived. Some of these questions include:

  • What is the company’s mission?
  • What distinguishes the company from its competitors?
  • What value does the company provide its customers?
  • How do consumers perceive the company?
  • How would the company like to be perceived?
  • What is the personality of the company?
  • Who are the company’s customers and what characterizes them?

To most readers, these questions will seem simple and obvious. Nevertheless, companies often forget to ask them. In some cases, startups and other ventures rush to launch without considering the deeper implications of their brands. In other cases, companies establish solid brand identities that become diluted over the years as they fall to the wayside. In a handful of cases, corporations have used the questions above to develop brands which resonate so deeply with consumers that they become timeless and virtually universal. For every Coca-Cola, however, there are thousands of unknown brands struggling to recreate Coke’s secret recipe for branding success.

That’s where we come in.

Whether we are helping a new business enter a competitive marketplace or steering a logo redesign project, 451 Marketing relies on brand strategy to deliver results. We recognize that our clients have entrusted us with their brands, and we reward that trust by generating demand for their products and services. That is our brand promise, and we work hard to fulfill it every day.

 

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Brands Jump on the #RoyalBaby Train

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On July 22, Kate Middleton and Prince William announced the birth of their first child, Prince George.  As news broke of Prince George’s arrival, the world went baby crazy. Clever brands utilized the hype surrounding the royal baby to leverage buzz about their brand by sharing their responses on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

However, several responses didn’t live up to the royal hype. Some brands missed the mark by failing to add excitement and value to the conversation. These responses lacked freshness, originality, and frankly were quite boring. Jumping on a pop culture topic can be very beneficial for a brand by helping it to gain exposure. Before taking the jump, it’s important however, for brands to ask themselves are we really providing content worth sharing?

Here is a look at the royal winners and losers of brand responses:

Failures:

Oreo

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Oreo’s SuperBowl blackout tweet gained the brand much notoriety in the social media world. Since then, the brand has lot a bit of its creativity when responding to major media events. Oreo’s recent tweet regarding the royal baby received mixed reviews. Many thought it was lame. Some were so discouraged they wanted to feed all of their Oreos to their dogs. Others disagreed stating that the concept of a baby bottle filled with milk sitting on a “royal pillow” was spot on. What do you think?

 

Charmin

charminWhile Charmin wins points for innovation by re-imaging the idea of a “royal throne”, they also lose some for appearing distasteful.  Lumping the royal baby and a toilet into one tweet? I’m not so sure Queen Elizabeth II would approve of this joke, and neither did several others.

 

Successes:

Play-Doh

play dohPlay-Doh stayed true to their brand, showcasing what they do best: creating brightly colored, playful sculptures. The brand’s ode to the royal family featured play-doh molded clay figures of the royal baby and parents Kate Middleton and Prince William. It relayed just the right message – excitement from the simplest joys of life.

Johnson & Johnson

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For over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson has proven that it cares about mothers and their newborns by providing quality products and service. The brand’s tweet about the royal baby, featured a new spin on their popular bath product for babies. The simplicity of a bathing baby with a crown of soap on his head is both endearing and effective in inspiring warm fuzzy feelings.

 

All brands have unique identities and should use their differences to distinguish themselves during a social media frenzy. After all, variety is the spice of life. And what kind of world would it be if Charmin and Oreo thought along the same lines?

Do you think these ads are good responses to the birth of the royal baby? Are there any that you have seen that should be recognized?

 

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How May I Help You? The Effects of Customer Service on Brand Reputation

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Online sales are growing at approximately 10 times the rate of brick-and-mortar sales, according to Forbes Magazine. Several companies are feeling the pressure to amp up their digital communications and establish a strong online presence by engaging with consumers through social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Vine.

 

The push for increased online communication is all to improve the bottom line by driving customers through the sales cycle to the point of purchase because engagement can lead to greater customer satisfaction. Greater customer satisfaction means easier brand promotion for the PR professional, but is online interaction enough?

 

Whether delivered online or in-store, great customer service is what ultimately leads to positive brand positioning. Despite living in a digital world, many consumers still value face-to-face, personalized service and therefore prefer shopping in-stores.  A knowledgeable salesperson can help in selecting the best product for the customer, check on stock, and engage with the customer by helping and listening. This creates a personal, authentic, one-on-one experience, and also helps the online shopper narrow down their choices and drive the customer to make a purchase.

 

A personal level of service, with an attentive and savvy salesperson leads to relationship building, which every PR professional knows is the core of public relations.  Positive in-store experiences have the power to create brand loyalty, generate sales and build a legion of customers who will ultimately help position the brand in a positive light.  On the other hand, poor customer service can lead to negative word-of-mouth and a loss of brand loyalty.  After all, social media comments concerning a brand are not limited to online sales alone.

 

One company that excels in customer satisfaction is Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s consistently delivers valuable products and service to its loyal customers and provides a comfortable, friendly shopping environment that meets the needs of its sophisticated customers. By providing an impressive wine selection, the newest in trendy health foods such as chia seeds and mochi ice cream, Trader Joe’s leave its customers happy, satisfied and loyal.  This loyalty has developed a cult-like following of devoted fans that have taken to social media to express their love for the brand.  Essentially, these fans serve as brand ambassadors to their beloved stores, helping to elevate Trader Joe’s in the eyes of the media and other customers.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, lies Walmart. Walmart has been notorious for providing poor customer service.  Since 2008, Walmart has opened new stores and at same time has cut its workforce by 120,000 people. This cutback has led to limited help on the sales floor, poorly stocked shelves and long lines at cash registers. Disgruntled employees and customers have openly made their grievances about the company and its poor practices known online in forums and on social media.

 

In an effort to combat the negative reviews, the company launched a campaign this past May called “The Real Walmart,” which showcased cheery employees and customers in the Walmart stores. While this campaign tries to show how Walmart has been “dedicated” to its customers and employees and urges that Walmart has helped people become part of “an American success story,” the job of the PR professionals heading this campaign will likely prove to be difficult, as they simply cannot make the years of negative press disappear overnight.

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So how can brands learn from the successes of Trader Joe’s and failures of Walmart’s customer service? Providing the highest level of service and knowledge both online and in-stores, generates positive publicity. In contrast, companies who attempt to paint a positive image of their brand in the media, while still ignoring the negative comments from disgruntled employees and customers, run the risk of being seen as inauthentic.

 

Do you agree?

 

 

 

*Written by Written by Consumer PR Intern Chrissy Gerardi, Communication major at Boston University (class of 2014)

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Brands Go Red, White and Blue

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America’s 237th birthday was celebrated with a bang last Thursday as Americans gathered with family and friends to marvel at fireworks, host barbeques, and escape the heat at beaches and pools. Besides commemorating our country’s independence, the 4th of July is also a time for brands to unleash their patriotic spirit and show their support to the troops with all-American campaigns, promotions, and festivities.

 

Pepsi, Budweiser and Disney were just a few brands that took advantage of the spirit of independence to showcase their true colors of Red, White and Blue.

 

Pepsi launched a 4th of July social campaign asking followers to share their celebrations. For every photo taken with the theme “iconic summer experience” in mind and uploaded onto their website, Pepsi donated to one of five charities including USO, the Wounded Warrior Project and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The soft drink company aimed to motivate Americans to share their favorite 4th of July moments and in turn support their troops and enter for a chance to win their very own “iconic summer experience.”

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Budweiser was another beverage company that was eager to assert their American pride. They dressed up their cans in limited-edition red, white and blue with their classic red bowtie. Beyond the patriotic cans, the beer company launched a campaign that ran from May 5 to July 4 where for every case sold, a donation up to $1 million would be made to the Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that gives back to the families of wounded or fallen soldiers through scholarships and other assistance. Further, Budweiser visited military bases across the United States during barbeques to honor the U.S. armed forces.

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“No matter what the package color, shape or size: America’s beer supports America’s heroes because from May to July, buying Budweiser benefits military families,” Director of Budweiser Lori Shambro said.  “Our partnership with Folds of Honor is helping to make a difference in the lives of families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we all hold so dear.”

 

Disney is another brand that launched headfirst into Independence Day with weeklong festivities of “Limited Time Magic.

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Concerts, parades, nightly fireworks displays with special effects and music, and patriotic live entertainment took place at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland to celebrate the 4th of July. Characters in patriotic costumes, American-themed treats (Red, White, and Blue “Baked Alaska” Mousse and a Fourth of July Cupcake with apple pie filling), patriotic merchandise, and special performances dazzled the thousands of families who flocked to Disney’s Independence week for magical experiences.

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These brands all celebrated the 4th of July in style. What about you?

*Written by Marketing intern Kara Niland, Communication major at Boston University (class of 2014)

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Sending your child to school for the first time

Recently, I was speaking to an industry group that hasn’t really done much with social media as a whole. It’s really not the group’s fault; this industry just happens to be heavily regulated when it comes to its communication to investors and end-users. But not surprisingly, as end-users have become increasingly active on these channels, the industry is now being dragged head first into social media and confusion seems to be fairly rampant.

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At the event, I fielded many questions about the concerns these people had about social media. As most of these questions revolved around strategy, and how to avoid any number of potential disasters, I couldn’t help but think how managing your company’s first social media campaign was just like sending your child off to their first day of school.

I know at first this may seem like a stretch but try to think of your “brand” as your first born child. As a marketer or public relations professional you protect it and you try to strengthen it with the right messaging, all in the hopes that your brand will grow to become something special. Of course, you are also nervous about sending it off to the public and losing complete control. It’s a scary world out there, and people can sometimes say things about your brand that it may not want to hear (like the first time your child comes home from school crying)!

Now, I am not the type of person to say that you have nothing to fear about social media. Running a social media campaign without a sound strategy is as foolish as sending your child off to school unprepared. The reality is though, that letting go of some of your control might be exactly what will strengthen your brand, as long as you take the necessary precautions, act intelligently, and monitor it closely.

By venturing into the social web with the right frame of mind and purpose, your brand will begin to learn things about itself that it may have not known before. By allowing your brand to be surrounded by open discourse and direct engagements with end-users, you will uncover new opportunities, and current brand reflections, that will only stand to benefit your marketing initiatives over time.

Remember, as your brand interacts with others, it has the ability to grow. Home schooling is rarely the best option.

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