Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mascots, Mobile And Much Ado About Data At Advertising Week

The Takeaways From Advertising Week XII

Advertising and marketing is changing at a rapid pace, with cross-screen digital and mobile the new formats churning the waves of disruption in an industry built on print and television.

At Advertising Week XII, which took over midtown Manhattan the last week of September, 2015, the higher-ups in the industry used buzz words and terms like “convergence,” “ad blocking,” “mobile first,” “cross-screen,” “programmatic,” and “transparency” to describe the current and growing trends.

The four-day event featured panel discussions and workshops led by some of the finest minds in advertising and marketing, as well as big celebrity names, like Lester Holt and Chuck Todd from NBC, Fox’s Megyn Kelly, funk legend Bootsy Collins, actor Titus Burgess, “Big Bird” portrayer Caroll Spinney, NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick, and singer Gloria Estefan, among others.

Sports marketing is on the rise, as many sports-themed panels, like the one with Harvick and another with NBA star Ray Allen, proved. The immediacy of sports and the high profile of its stars, especially on social media, are what’s moving the needle. But the true stars of the week were those who saw the marrying of technology with data and creativity as the best way to lead trends in advertising.

“One thing that’s been a big evolution is that there’s a lot more math. You have to have another set of capabilities with using data and statistics,” said Gary Briggs, CMO at Facebook.

“We can’t lose the balance of the creativity. When you put data and creativity together you can really create special things,” said CMO Deirdre Bigley of Bloomberg.

Reaching people at a local level was also a big point of discussion, with several panels looking to uncover how to connect with people at the right moment on their devices wherever they are, on a personal level.

“It’s not just saying, ‘Here are listings of places nearby,'” said Steven Rosenblatt, CRO of Foursquare. “It’s saying, ‘Here are listings of places nearby that you’ll be interested in.’” But he pointed out that any efforts to reach into someone’s device with local and location-based services must benefit the user. “It has to be organic, it has to be creative, it has to be relevant.”

One of the most fun events during the week was the induction of two new advertising mascots into the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame. A collection of life-sized mascots, from Smokey Bear to the M&Ms and Mr. Peanut, took over the TV studio at the NASDAQ exchange in Times Square to ring the final bell for the day before the winners were announced, making for a surreal and hilarious photo op. Ultimately, the two mascots took their place on the Walk of Fame – Chester Cheetah from Cheetos, and the Icee Bear. Two slogans also made their way into the Walk of Fame as well – “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” by the Forest Service, and Gatorade’s “Is It In You?”
Advertising mascot icons ring the final bell at NASDAQ.

A big takeaway from the week was that the conversation is increasingly being led by the consumer and the user experience. Social media is driving immediate conversations between marketers and consumers, and that split-second feedback is driving innovation.

Sarah Personette, VP of Global Business Marketing at Facebook, summed up the new vision for advertising’s future with a positive outlook.

“It’s the golden age of advertising because we can marry so much of the story and deliver it to the right person.”

Nobody knows exactly where advertising and marketing will go in the next few years and what technology will move the needle, but the minds at Advertising Week XII are the ones leading the way. Read more about the happenings during Advertising Week at the LinkedIn Hub blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Should You Pay For College? Smartly.

College costs have risen over the decades. Bloomberg reported that costs rose 500% between 1985 and 2013. As such, paying for school has become a big concern for parents and students alike, since many students are graduating saddled with mounds of debt. The Institute for College Access and Success reported that the average for 2014 grads was nearly $30,000.

A recent Gallup poll noted that seven of ten parents said they were worried about the issue and that paying for school is a top money concern. So, how you borrow to pay for school has never been more important.

The same Gallup poll found that 73% of parents turn to their financial institution to help them through major life events. Many credit unions are doing their part by offering fair-value private student lending, along with financial wellness programs. This helps members choose what kind of funding is right for them and how they can maximize their dollars.

One thing every student should do before selecting funding options is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filling out that application and sending it in as soon as possible will leave you open to more forms of funding.

Here is a short primer on student loans and how credit unions are working to help students and families cover the costs of college.

Types Of Student Loans

Grants and Scholarships
The best way to get money for higher education is to get it for free. Scholarships can be given by schools, businesses, community groups and other organizations, and usually an application process is involved. You can earn scholarships for academics, extracurricular activities, sports, volunteering and other factors.
Grants are based on need, meaning your ability to pay, and are given by the federal government, local governments or private and non-profit organizations.

Find out about grants and scholarships available here and here.

Federal Loans
Federal student loans are the main source of funding for many students, and Federal Direct loans are usually the least expensive option. You must repay these loans with interest. Find out more about Federal Student Loans here.

Work-Study Programs
Federal work-study programs provide part-time jobs for students to help them pay for college.
Find out more about work-study programs here

Private Student Loans
These loans mostly come from your financial institution, like a credit union. They provide a low-rate loan to cover educational expenses. Many parents and students use these loans to cover what scholarships and Federal loans do not. Credit scores are often checked for these types of loans, meaning students may need a co-borrower. Make sure to check rates to get the lowest one possible with the best repayment terms to make things affordable. Oftentimes credit unions will have the lowest rates, and with partners like Credit Union Student Choice, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Credit Union Student Choice
Credit Union Student Choice is a credit union service organization (CUSO) that partners with credit unions to offer a comprehensive solution that helps them deliver fair-value private education loans and corresponding financial education to students and families, including navigating the various obstacles of attending college.
The program is supported across multiple channels, including helpful seminars at partner credit unions and local high schools and colleges. An online financial wellness platform helps students and their families make effective personal finance, student loan, and career decisions. This platform, featuring financial literacy tools for college students and recent graduates, helps before, during and after the college years, providing resources and information on schools, career paths, budgeting and workplace expectations. There’s even an interactive job bank to help graduates find employment in cities across the country.
For more information, visit here.

Whatever choice you make for funding your education, you’ll be more prepared to pay knowing that there are multiple options available to you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All Good Marketing Tells a Story – Part 2 (of 3)

Tap Into Your Roots To Tell Stories That Make a Deeper Connection
Telling your company’s unique story gives it a chance to stand out from the pack. The problem many companies run into is the fear factor. They are afraid to be different or open up, lest they stand out or receive negative feedback. Or they’re afraid that their story is not interesting. So, rather than digging into their roots they stick with clichéd marketing speak that sounds exactly like all the other bland sameness out there. Why do you think you hear so many businesses offering that they’re a “one-stop shop” that is “family owned and operated” and “goes the extra mile”? You’ve heard all those phrases before and they now probably wash over you like a lukewarm cup of water with a side of milquetoast.

Using common clichés and bland phrases don’t enhance your brand. Instead, they cast you amongst the masses, hiding your real story. Start by thinking of different ways to say those tired phrases. Instead of being “family owned and operated” tell people that you’ve been “vested in success for generations.” Instead of being open “24-hours” tell people you’re “ready anytime you need us.” Little things like this can help you open up to your real story and make that consumer connection.

Consumers want a reason to connect with your brand

Developing a deeper relationship with your consumers means taking chances. It means being more transparent and giving telling details about your company, even if it may feel uncomfortable or you fear the unknown.

I once helped craft such a story for a local staffing agency in the Pacific Northwest. The agency had dated marketing materials that made them look like every other small company that launched in the ’80s, and it showed in their outdated logo and website and a color palette of teals and yellows that looked beyond tired. Plus, the language they used was very “safe” – it was corporate, cold and didn’t have the personality of its owner, which was odd because the owner was a community icon and champion of local charities. Convincing them to tie the staffing brand to the owner’s positive image and personality, and highlighting the things that he had done to build the business and his community, brought positive recognition to the company and led to a larger and more loyal customer base over the next year. We updated their website to include the owner’s community stature, spruced up the colors and fonts, and brought the owner’s story to the forefront to create a greater connection to the community of employers and employees that would use their services.

Lying or being vague about your company can only lead to difficulty down the road. Just look at nearly every sports scandal currently being investigated. Being proactively transparent can help improve a company’s image. Look at a company like Buffer, a social media scheduling and analytics company that grew from humble beginnings in 2010 and now serves over 2 million. In 2013 they posted a blog that spoke to one of their founding philosophies – “Default to Transparency”. The blog openly talked about their revenues and the salaries of Buffer employees, with the thinking that “transparency breeds trust.” The blog led to hundreds of comments, many positive, and raised the profile and revenues of the company.

Even companies as big as Chipotle and McDonald’s have benefitted from telling stories that resonated. Chipotle recently made a positive PR move in its pledge to cook with only non-GMO ingredients, and McDonald’s put up a site called “Our Food, Your Questions” to get in front of their own food ingredients narrative. 

While you may not have the budget of those bigger companies, you can still tell your story inexpensively in many ways – through social media, your website, press releases – to help build that trust early on. The path to success changes for every business, but telling your story helps get you noticed. So hone your message, talk with a marketing, PR or advertising professional and build that story.

Up Next: How to Craft Your Company’s Story

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Switch To Smart Cards Is Coming Soon

The official switch-over to the EMV smart chip card is coming. With an October 1, 2015 deadline looming for retailers, credit unions and banks, now is the time to inform cardholders and future cardholders about the benefits of these smart chip cards.

The Lowdown On Smart Cards
Credit union members around the country will soon be able to use their credit and debit cards in stores with a new layer of protection against fraud in the form of a small microchip embedded in the card. The chip is designed to communicate with specially outfitted card reader terminals used at the point of sale that will authorize each sale based on various PIN and data verification processes. This effort to improve payment technology has been years in the making and has been shown to deter most forms of theft and fraud. It has been used in Europe for years – EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa – and it has been successful in the countries where it has been implemented.

How It Works
The card – which looks similar to your old credit card but with a distinctive metallic square embedded in its face – is equipped with a small micro processing chip that stores individual data and more, including the card number. Unlike the old magnetic card strips, the information contained within the chip, accessed only by the special processing terminal, uses dynamic data authentication, encryption, and often PIN verification to protect against counterfeit, lost or stolen cards. It is nearly impossible to duplicate, and it protects against “skimming” machines, which fraudsters use to scan information from magnetic strips. This advanced Cardholder verification helps ensure that the person attempting to make the transaction is the person to whom the card belongs.

Are You Ready For The Switch?
By October 1, 2015, most major retailers and financial institutions should have switched to these new smart cards, issuing new VISA® and MasterCard® credit cards to all current cardholders and those signing up for new cards. While some smaller retailers are not ready for the change, most will have changed over, so updating systems and educating cardholders is key to a smooth transition.

Make Your Transition To Chip Cards A Smooth One
Now, during the slower months of summer, is a great time for credit unions to put together a targeted campaign to educate members about the importance of having a card that protects them more at the point of purchase and be ready for a fall roll-out. MPI has the tools credit unions need – print, eMarketing, multi-channel distribution – to help you reach as many people as possible with your chip card transition. Maximize your opportunities with creative content and deliverables. Call us at 888-641-1215 or email us now.

Learn more about the advantages of EMV cards here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Tips For Hosting A Successful Home Buying Seminar

A broker in central California has been holding first-time home buyer seminars since 2003. The seminars are designed to relieve the apprehension renters may feel as they get ready to jump into the marketplace for the first time. She uses a pressure-free setting to educate attendees on every step of the buying process, start to finish.

The result: She generates 25 to 30 percent of her business directly from the seminars, which on average draw 15 to 20 people. Some clients are recommended to her from friends and relatives who attended the seminars, she says.
“If you’re looking to build a business relationship with the community, holding a seminar is worth it,” she says.

Hosting a home buying seminar is about providing sound and truthful information and developing trust. Many times, potential home buyers haven’t taken the first step and have no idea what is in store. The job of your seminar is to put them at ease by giving them the best information about what the process is and answering their questions.

So, how do you prepare and plan for your home buying seminar? Here are ten tips that may help get you started.

1. Strategize! Decide what type of seminar you want to host: First Home Buyers, Refinance, General Home Buyers, Retirement Pay-down; and choose a partner like real estate professionals or other specialists.
                        First decide the goal that will determine what a successful Home Buying Seminar looks like, besides just getting bodies through the door to snatch up your snacks and free pens. This will help you target an audience and increase the chances of attracting qualified leads. Potential customers usually needing the most help are first time home buyers. However, those who haven’t bought for a while, those who want to refinance and those who want to pay their houses down before retirement offer other opportunities for more niche seminars. Decide how much to cover and be succinct, since you don’t want the seminar to last longer than the attention span of your attendees.

2. Send out invitations, gather materials and start promoting your seminar.
                        Work with your marketing team or agency to put together smart online and printed materials to send out to potential seminar attendees, both within your membership and outside of it. Then promote your seminar in branch with posters and handouts, online with your website and on social media with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other platforms. Use your email list for invitations and promos.

3. Incentivize!
                        Offer gift cards or a drawing for a prize for those attending. Offer breakfast, lunch or snacks, depending on what time and day you choose for your seminar. Little things that don’t cost a lot can draw in more curious people, who may turn into customers.

4. Give them honest information.
                        Not everyone will qualify, but helping everyone understand what’s in store will let potential buyers know what they’re in for. Let people know that a lot goes into how much house they can afford and what they have to do to qualify. Let them know the advantages and disadvantages of home ownership, what their credit score has to do with their potential loan amount, and what a home truly costs over the length of the mortgage. Transparency throughout the process will create trust.

5. Help them find a realtor.
                        While this is not a must, having a short list of reliable and trustworthy realtors to recommend is a good idea. Having a realtor at your seminar to answer questions can also help inform your audience.

6. Guide them to buy based on reality rather than emotion.
                        In other words, inform them not to buy a house based on how much they love it. The seminar is there to help them sort through the particulars of the home buying process and separate emotion from fact. Most homeowners make decisions based on their love of a particular house. Your seminar should help them look at the property with a more critical eye so they don’t end up with a money pit.

7. Make sure they know that getting pre-approved is hugely important.
                        This isn’t the same as being prequalified, although some people use the terms interchangeably. Being pre-approved gives them a realistic number to use while house shopping and can also give an edge if multiple people are placing offers on the same property. However, make sure they are realistic about what they can actually afford versus what their bank-approved limit is, which could stretch their finances.

8. Describe all the benefits of buying a home.
                        There are many benefits of home ownership, aside from just having a place to call home and raise a family. Have materials ready that accent things like equity, property values, independence and tax benefits.

9. Make sure they know their financing choices and acquaint them with all the requisite home buying documents.
                        First-time home buyer breaks, refinancing, rate vs. term and other financing options should be covered. Also, have all the forms they will need to apply for financing and what they will need to fill out when they decide to get pre-approved and buy.

10. Have a loan specialist there to start the pre-approval process on the spot.
                        Don’t pressure anyone, but let them know that there are loan specialists they can talk with right there for more information and to get pre-approved. Catch them when they are informed and excited to begin the home buying process. Often, buyers are preoccupied with finding the home of their dreams and may not have given any thought to a decision about working with a mortgage specialist. They’re busy thinking about houses, so it’s partly the job of the seminar to get them on track financially, so they know how much house they can afford so they can shop smarter.

There are many things to consider when hosting a home buying seminar, but this should give any credit union, financial institution or other potential hosts a head start on making it all work.

To find out more about setting up successful home buying seminars, contact MPI. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Digital Media Immersion For A Day

By Tracey Wells

In today’s marketing environment, digital reigns king. That’s one key thing I learned attending the first Baltimore Digital Summit (#bds1) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Sept. 30. Held in conjunction with Baltimore Ad Week, the audience was a mix of advertisers - creative types and executives - entrepreneurs and digital media enthusiasts.

We learned that digital’s growth rate eclipses all other channels with seemingly no end in sight. This combination creates a web of decisions in the best use of digital media for your brand’s success. It was one of many strong points made during this informative and inspirational seminar.

Here’s what You NEED to Know:

1. Social Media is not a PR platform.
Please don’t mistake social media with a channel to brag about your brand. People do not want to listen to you promote your own awesomeness on social channels. The primary goal of social media is engagement. Finding a connection with your customers is the holy grail of digital media. Revenue is a secondary goal, followed by the growth or adoption of new fans. Use social to build your brand, not flaunt it.

2. Content is key.
Compelling content remains important in digital media, much like in all marketing channels. Your audience is distracted by media clutter. Be unique. Compelling information doesn't always need to push a positive angle, though, so long as it engages. Consider this “baby” campaign from Durex:

3. Don’t SPAM the media.
If you are using the press to spread your message, digital media experts like Mario Armstrong (@marioarmstrong) and Roger Mecca (@rogrmecca) advise to engage in one-to-one contact. Don’t SPAM the media using email or Twitter. Send an individual message using a single channel, otherwise it just feels like stalking, or worse, impersonal.

4. Put your content where your audience is.
Research and understand your customer: Where are they? What are they saying? Be there to solve their problems and deliver a solution where they are, not where you think they should be. Are they using mobile or desktop applications? Content marketing is more about content discovery than search. For example, a search for low rate credit cards could lead to content about a debt consolidation loan, providing additional helpful information for the searcher.

5. Take calculated risks. Don’t be afraid to fail.
“Fail forward” was the one quote that resonated the most from the summit. If you are taking a calculated risk and fail, then you are failing forward. Be prepared to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. Henry Ford did not create the first automobile without risk and failure, but where would we be without his fortitude? A recent risk taker that took off is Tessemae’s Salad Dressing, a family company whose founder left a steady employee benefits representative job to start a company and is now making millions selling salad dressing. Honestly, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t listened to the story first hand. Learn more here

6. Engage. Connect.
Let your customers tell their story. This allows them to engage with your brand and connects you to the community. While the customer story is the body of the content, your business is the halo.

There is no one-size-fits-all for social media. Each brand will find a few channels that work best to deliver their message. Within each channel, brands must deliver in an appropriate voice for that channel’s identity. In other words, Twitter will have a different voice than LinkedIn or Facebook. 

Listen to your customers, whether through your own research or listening services like Adobe Social. Find your influencers and join the conversation.

Certain concepts that shape all aspects of marketing also hold true in digital media, while others may sound like a foreign language when heard the first time around. Digital media has turned marketing on its head, and continues to spin it to places that excite and challenge even the most seasoned professionals.

Reading List
Top Dogs by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
The Startup Playbook by David Kidder

Apps & Resources to Check Out

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

All Good Marketing Tells A Story

All Good Marketing Tells a Story – Part 1 (of 3)

By Kyle O'Brien

The phrase “every person has a story” applies equally to business. Every company, business and corporation started somewhere, and their stories – their origin and history, the passion and motivation of the people involved, and the reason for their continued success – beg to be told. Each business is unique, and whether it’s a century-old corporation or a year-new upstart, it has a tale to tell.

The problem some companies have is that they haven’t yet told their story, perhaps because they don’t see it as important, or they don’t know how to put what they are all about into words and images that fit today’s methods of communication. To consumers, yours is just another business trying to get their money. Creating the “why” of the business, the unique selling or marketing proposition, then getting that proposition heard is what leads someone to buy. It makes them care.

Businesses need marketing in some form to help them tell their tales. Successful companies bond emotionally with their customer base. This dramatically increases their chances for brand loyalty and for long-term success, and that happens when they hone their ability to tell meaningful stories about their businesses.

From Retailer To Storyteller
An example I was proud to be involved with was a radio-based campaign for a local outdoor goods retailer in Portland, Oregon. The store was already popular, and the two owners had their names and faces on the side of the building and in their printed and online sale ads. Their business appealed to the independent and outdoor-minded people of the city, but they hadn’t really reached beyond their core customer base, and they had never really told the story of why they originally got into the outdoor retail business.

After sitting down with the two in a meeting, I found they were natural storytellers, and funny as heck to boot. So, I put them in front of the microphones at our radio studios, asked them questions and just let them go for over an hour. What came out of it was a wealth of engaging stories – they were friends since boyhood and had numerous, and often hilarious, outdoor adventures growing up, ranging from comically overturned kayaks to epic motocross trips – which we edited into 60-second commercials that aired on the indie rock station. The campaign, which also included banners and streaming ads on the radio station’s website, not only helped tell their unique story but also entertained in the process. The campaign continued for a year, kept fresh by rotating in new stories every other month, and it led to a widening of the store’s customer base with an increase in brand recognition, and ultimately sales. Letting the public into the owners’ personal world through smart storytelling helped bring them closer to their customers, which broadened their appeal and cemented brand loyalty. The listeners of the radio station felt they were learning intimate details about a local business rather than being sold to, which empowered them to shop at the store with confidence.

When stories like these are told, businesses and marketers win. But businesses need to open themselves up to the storytelling process. They have to understand that people want to know more about them and that this sort of transparency and detail can lead to greater brand loyalty.

See the next chapter of this blog for more about telling stories that make a deeper connection and how to create your story in elevator pitch form.