Ilana R. Borzak

Making Trust Mobile

 

“Virtually every commercial transaction has within itself an element of trust,” wrote Nobel prize winner Kenneth Arrow. Arrow’s line describes why banks emphasize consistent and personalized interactions with their customers across all branches– to build trust. Back when an actual bank was central to all banking activity, personalizing customer interactions wasn’t too complex. Executives placed greeters at every bank entrance and favored tellers with the local accent who would address us by name. But as we’ve exchanged our interactions with bank employees for banking apps on our phones, banks have been challenged to adopt their familiar strategy of emphasizing human interactions to our screens.

The technology that enables personalization is consistently improving and I’ve noticed increased personalization in my banking apps. Today, my American Express app, for example, greets me with a message appropriate to my time of day. And my Chase app welcomes me with a background based on my location (as I write this post in the Chicago office, I am greeted with the Chicago skyline). In the words of Chase’s head of digital for consumer and community banking, these apps were built with the intention of “humanizing the [digital] experience” aka giving the customer a digital experience similar to the retail experience, a concept that technology has only recently been able to realize. While the app will never replicate human interaction, it has the potential to master personalized interactions on a scale that is impossible for a bank employee (who can easily forget information or get stressed on the job) to do.

As banks seek to regain our trust after the Recession (Gallup), their increasing ability to create a consistent brand experience across all mediums for their customers is great news. Not only do they signal a bank’s excitement to help us where we are – whether online or in the store – they also bring consistency to the bank’s brand experience, an important part of building brand trust and loyalty (Journal of Consumer Research). The banking industry’s ability to use mobile for building customer trust is certainly something we can expect other industries to replicate.

 

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Marko Knezic

Getting From Point-A to Point-A

Certain brands have mastered content marketing and are creating high-end content that fuses their brand story with a larger, emotional, human story. Red Bull, for example, has intertwined itself with extreme sports and the notion that human beings are capable of extraordinary things if we’re willing to let go of our own perceived limitations – and Red Bull gives you the wings to do so.

So, now that we’re on the same page, you’re saying, “I want in.” However, your brand doesn’t have the budget to send one of your employees on a free fall from space, so you’re wondering if there are any simpler things you can do to improve your content marketing.

Yup. Consistently creating things like blogs and podcasts that can connect with people on a personal level is a great place to start, and here are some tips to help you construct a narrative that will grab your audiences‘ attention.

  1. Think of Each Story as a Circle. And the goal of telling it is to take the reader on an adventure from Point-A to Point-AThink of any movie or book you’ve read. The formula is simply: “Balance. Disturbance. Return to balance.” This formula can be applied to all blogs and podcasts to ensure quality and consistency.  
  2. Establish Your Point-A Opening. What are you trying to say? This idea should be presented in the headline and will serve as the main thought or your blog/podcast. For this blog, it’s teaching why a 360 degree story structure is important.
  3. Establish Your Point-A Closing. Think of a line/thought/angle that’s going bridge your opening and closing lines. Get creative here. This is the chance to drive your point home –and make it memorable. (You’ll have to read the rest to see what I’m going with here.)
  4. Use Main Points to Bridge Opening and Closing. When your two point-A’s are set –the balance and return to balance – it’s time to list out the main points that will lead readers from thesis to conclusion.
  5. Make Your Supporting Arguments Equal Parts Fact and Fun. Now that you’ve cleared a path for the reader to follow, it’s important to use tools and techniques to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Persuasion is about framing, and the goal with this content is to convince someone to agree with your point of view – this is best done by expanding on your main points with humor, logic, ethos, pathos and other techniques that entertain, elevating the reader’s view of your opinion to one they connect with on an emotional level.

This method may seem backwards if you’ve never tried it. Many people are used to working chronologically – from intro to body to conclusion – but if you don’t know where you’re going to end up, it’s tough to determine a logical way to get there. By thinking of your narrative as a journey from Point-A to Point-A, you’ll prevent yourself from talking in circles. (See what I did there?)

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Ilana R. Borzak

Scientology as a Brand

You can learn a lot about a brand from its advertising. Here’s a good example:

(1)  Go to Google.com

(2)  Type “Scientology” into the search bar.

(3)  Look at the top paid result. What do you see?

I see an ad sponsored by the Church of Scientology. It reads, “Truth About Scientology  – You’ve heard the controversy.”

Regardless of whatever prior knowledge you might have about the religion, you can easily see that the Church of Scientology is using the ad to defend itself. The Church, like Mormonism, has never fared well in public perception polls, especially in the past couple of years. In response, the Church has turned to advertising, spending unprecedented amounts to combat the negativity and build a positive brand. Even though the Church’s campaigns are reactive, I believe that other religions can learn from Scientology’s attempt to strategically build its brand of religion.

The Church’s first large-scale campaign was in 2008 right after a video of high-profile actor Tom Cruise acting “manic” during a Church ceremony leaked.  Soon after, ad campaign “Get the Facts” launched. This campaign urged viewers to ignore any rumors and go to the Church’s website to learn ‘the truth.’ Subsequent campaigns also launched in the wake of PR crises but use an emotion-evoking strategy and attempt to position Scientology as the provider of meaning. Ads from these campaigns play inspirational music and speak about one’s existential quest for the truth.

In recent months, the media has increased its mostly negative coverage about the Church. In November of 2012, Vanity Fair published an article claiming that the Church controlled and destroyed Katie Holmes’ high-profile marriage to Tom Cruise. Three months later, Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright published his highly publicized investigative book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief. These, as well as other exposés, encouraged critical media coverage.

In November of 2012, just as this media hype was building, the Church of Scientology launched “Knowledge,” its newest ad campaign. While its underlying strategy isn’t novel, Knowledge’s media strategy represents many firsts for the Church and general religion. In November and December of 2012, the Church played a “Knowledge” commercial 16 times an hour in Times Square, including New Years Eve. In January, they sponsored an editorial-like article in The Atlantic and also aired the commercial during the high viewership AFC Championship and Super Bowl.  According to Karin Pouw, the Church’s spokeswoman, near future plans include airing the commercial on other prime time shows like Modern Family, Dancing with the Stars, Glee, and Vampire Diaries. The Church has never used such widespread and public media to spread its message.

Thanks to the Mormon Church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign, Times Square billboards are no strangers to a religion’s ad campaign. But Knowledge’s other media platforms are and they represent Scientology’s departure from the spiritual realm where religions are supposed to live and its entrance into the commercial-marketing world. Although Scientology is often mocked, I believe other religions can learn from its use of advertising and modern branding. We live in a time when work is replacing religious institutions as the place for social connections (Einstein, 331) and religious membership is dwindling. In many regards, the current religion system is broken. Perhaps it’s time for religious leaders to take advantage of modernity’s offerings and learnings. Brands realized long ago that they need to attract and engage customers to survive. Religions are no different. They need members. Perhaps religions, not just ones like Mormonism and Scientology, should reconsider their marketing strategy.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES

Borzak, Ilana Rae. “Digital Divinity: The Mormon PR Crusade.” Web log post. Http://blog.laughlin.com/. Laughlin Constable, 3 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.

Borzak, Ilana Rae. “The Church of Marketing.” Web log post. Http://blog.laughlin.com/. Laughlin Constable, 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

Cook, John. “Cult Friction.” Radar Online. American Media, 23 Mar. 2008. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.

Einstein, Mara. “The Evolution of Religious Branding.” Social Compass 58.3 (2011): 331-38. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.

Orth, Maureen. “What Katie Didn’t Know.” Vanity Fair Oct. 2012: n. pag. Condé Nast. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

Poggi, Jeanine. “Are Scientology’s Ads Aimed at Recruitment or Retention?” Advertising Age. Crain Communications, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

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Ilana R. Borzak

Digital Divinity: The Mormon PR Crusade

“What’s your favorite advertisement?”

I hear this question a lot. From friends, family, and people like Mike, the guy who sat next to me on my last flight. At this point, my response is instinctual. [Pause]. Then respond, “the ‘I’m a Mormon’ ad campaign.”

“I’m a Mormon” isn’t known for its success. It never won any prominent awards nor is it particularly successful in transforming the public’s general perception of the Mormon religion. In fact, most of the buzz the campaign generated criticized both the campaign and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “LDS Church” and “Mormon Church”). Despite these opinions, I admire the campaign because it not only provides clear insight into both a religion’s perception of itself and its desired positioning, but it also challenges our general understanding of how a religion functions.

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign launched in 2009 when the Church’s longstanding tensions with the American public were amplified. During this time, the Church and its members were taking an active role in the political sphere (ex: Proposition 8 and Jon Hunstman Jr.) while shows negatively depicting the religion, such as Big Love and Book of Mormon, were hurting the religion’s reputation. The media did not respond favorably and the Church turned to global agencies to help them with their image problem. The resulting campaign’s strategy is clear: depict the Mormons as an open and all-accepting religion. Members who defy the ‘Mormon stereotype’ (not just Republican, white, and well-educated) weave their personal stories and beliefs into compelling video clips. These were posted in taxis and on billboards (including two 40-foot billboards in Times Square), phone booths, and YouTube. Every ad directs the viewer to a then-newly revamped website — Mormon.org — where pictures of smiling Mormons from all ethnicities welcome the visitor. The site also provides a forum to chat with a Mormon hand-selected based on information one shares with the site. On every page, the visitor is urged to learn more about the religion. Regardless of whether the Church’s base intentions are retention or recruitment, the Church uses this digital-heavy advertising campaign to extend a friendly hand to the secular community of today.

The Mormon Church’s use of a multi-million dollar campaign shifted the religion from our American understanding of the Sacred to the Profane.  American culture and its understanding of social categories are influenced by its Puritan-Protestant beginnings which distinguishes between a physical and spiritual world. Grounded in these beliefs, American culture understands that spiritual institutions, or in this case religious ones, do not employ commercial tactics.[1] To some, the LDS Church’s use of an ad campaign transformed Mormonism from a consecrated American religion into a commercialized brand, like Gap or Dollywood (for which the LDS Church’s agency is also an Agency of Record).  For others, it eroded the distinction between the religious and commercial world. The advertising forced people to accommodate their schematic understanding of the relationship between advertising and religion, Mormonism, or both.[2]

I believe that the Mormon Church was fully aware that the “I’m a Mormon” campaign communicates more than its basic strategy. The Mormon Church’s public embrace of modern forms of communication that major brands of today’s world freely employ separate it from other more ‘traditional’ religions. Time will tell but I believe that while the “I’m a Mormon” campaign might not have accomplished its perception changing goals, it does mark the beginning steps in revolutionizing how we understand advertising and religion, or at least how a religion uses media.

And that is why “I’m a Mormon” is my favorite advertisement.

 


[1] In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber speaks about this phenomenon in his native North Europe where Protestantism is common. He argues this point when describing the rise of capitalism in this area.

[2] Peter Berger’s Sacred Canopy goes into great detail about how a nation’s worldview is shaped by a certain set of common assumptions.

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Ilana R. Borzak

Riding the slipstream

It’s Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Your feet drag as you walk into the office. You stop by your desk to put your bag down and then charge towards the coffee machine. You pour your first cup of the day. The guy who is always wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt regardless of the weather approaches you and starts chatting about his favorite ad from the game. You take your first sip and before you go for a second, you look up and spot a small group of people heading towards the coffee machine that is not even two feet behind you. They pour their coffee and join the conversation.  Two minutes of commercial-mentioning pass:

GUY WITH BUTTON DOWN (GWBD): How much did that spot cost to air again?

WOMAN FROM CUBICLE NEXT TO YOU: The average price for thirty seconds of Super Bowl air time is 3.8 million.*

GWBD: That’s just for the airtime. Don’t forget about the added costs of actually creating the commercial.

Conversation ensues for another minute until GWBD mentions his workload and everyone returns to his or her desk.

 

The nearly four million-dollar price tag is the highest amount the networks have ever set. Many marketers, such as the creators of Go Daddy’s commercial, point to the volume of conversation their ads created on social media to justify the multi-million dollar price tag. But does a brand need upwards of $3.8 million to take advantage of Super Bowl hype?  Not necessarily. This year, two brands got people talking without a huge price tag:

Oreo Takes the Cake 

Oreo cookie has been declared the winner of the Super Bowl’s blackout, beating other brands that used the power outage as a marketing opportunity. Within minutes of the power failure, @Oreo tweeted a photo of an Oreo cookie in a lit corner against a black background. White text under the cookie read: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The satirical, simple, and relevant message resonated with frustrated viewers, most of whom used the interruption to check their Twitter feed and revisit the snack menu. At the time of writing, the Tweet had more than 16,000 retweets and more than 13,000 related news articles. The photo’s production cost was minimal and the media buy was nothing.

Even with the considerable cost associated with setting up a war room for senior management and the client, this social media execution still cost significantly less than a Super Bowl commercial would. And it got people talking.

The Commercial You Didn’t See

Old Milwaukee Beer’s Super Bowl antics are not novel to 2013. For the past couple of years, Will Ferrel has been writing and starring in “crazy fun commercials” for the beer. He spends very little on production and shoots all of the commercials in small towns like Terre Haute, Indiana. The beer company airs the commercial during the Super Bowl in small markets like North Platte, Nebraska, spending very little on media. They then post the video online and allow the powers of the internet to take over.  The beer company’s adept manipulation of the Super Bowl hype brings awareness to the brand at a low cost. And, despite its affiliation with the hyper-commercialized Super Bowl, they successfully maintain their branding as an underground beer. At time of writing, the 2013 Super Bowl ad had more than 3 million YouTube views and nearly 7,000 related new articles.

 

A huge budget is not a requisite for owning a piece of the Super Bowl conversation. True, some of the bigger spenders own a larger chunk of the conversation, but that’s okay. Perhaps ideal. For a brand like Old Milwaukee, a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t appropriate for the image they are working towards. Their method fits with the brand and thus provides a high value at a low cost. Plus, we benefit from brands like Old Milwaukee Beer and Oreo by seeing how creativity, ingenuity, and wit can take a brand places that no money could ever buy.

 

*Note: While quotes are direct, characters are fictionalized

 

 

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David Rathsack

Social Media and Beer: 3 Lessons for the Beer Industry

Living in Milwaukee has its perks. One being the beer, they don’t call us brew city for nothing. Recently I attended the PR + Social Media Summit at Marquette University. Naturally one of the sessions revolved around how social media is being used in the craft beer industry.

Like all effective social media campaigns, everything comes back to strategy and authenticity. I think panelist Mike Thiel, marketer for Goose Island hit the nail on the head when he said “For every beer that we’ve sold, we don’t do it through big advertising budgets…Everything we’ve done is through one taste at a time. So the way that we view social media is that is an opportunity to reach every customer, one point at a time and help tell a story.”

With that in mind, below are three authentic social media lessons the beer industry could learn from:

Show Personality
Whether big or small, craft or domestic, local or import – beer companies need to determine what their story is and how they want to tell it. Putting a personality
to a brand is one of the easiest ways to build relationships with customers. Beer companies have an amazing opportunity to profile their brew masters and provide insight into why their employees have a passion for their job. If the story surrounds sustainability or other goodwill initiatives, tell consumers why your company cares about that specific cause by sharing a personal connection story. Whatever the story may be, showing personality develops trust with an audience,
online or off.

Infuse communication with packaging
Often times when we think of social, we assume Facebook, Twitter and email are the only ways we can communicate with our customers. We need to break that mold and think about how we can integrate our offline and online communication. For example, Milwaukee Brewing Co. is integrating QR codes on all of their packaging. Although the fad for QR codes may be dying, I still feel they can add value if used appropriately. I honestly can’t speak to where @MKEbrewco is directing user engagement, but for a company that has branded each product with a unique personality, this is a phenomenal opportunity to continue the story and track analytical data for each product.

A picture is worth a 1000 words
Let’s face it, we are a visual people. When we find something we like, we want to see more of it. Today we are seeing more and more companies including visual components to their social media posts. Our consumers expect us to be at the same level as they are, and with the emergence of tools such as Instagram, they have become amateur photographers. According to panelist Dan Murphy, Milwaukee Magazine Brew City writer, “A few bars around [Milwaukee] have done a nice job with Instagram….They’ll take a picture of a new barrel that comes in and post it. I mean, to the beer geeks, it’s beer porn.” Breweries have the opportunity of providing a “sneak peek” at a new products or packaging before hitting the market as well. Recently Blue Moon Brewing Company gave their Facebook fans the opportunity to help brew the newest seasonal beer: Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Untappd yet – I suggest you check it out if you want to try new beers and bars near you.

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Lindsay Abramson

The Rule of Two: How to be a Dateable Brand

In a recent speech at the ME conference in New York, Dana Anderson (the senior VP of marketing strategy and communications at Kraft) discussed the Rule of Two. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this dating guideline, the Rule of Two states that you can only date someone who is two points above you or two points below you. So, for example, if Susie Smith is a 7 she can date anyone from a 5 to a 9. Anderson uses the Rule of Two and applies it to being a great client but I’m going to apply it to being a great brand.

Let’s say you’re a brand trying to win over the right consumer. If your brand is viewed as a 4 what are the odds that the 10 you’re aiming to attract will want to choose you?

The key is to start by thoroughly answering one question. Exactly who is it you want to attract? The best part of dating (in my opinion) is getting to know and love the person you’re with. In a brand/consumer relationship it’s no different.

As Rick Mathieson points out in his book The On-Demand Brand, “Success is not about understanding technology, it’s about understanding your customers – and then capitalizing on that insight across the digital platforms that make sense for your audience, in ways that will resonate most.” The same is true for any platform – not just digital. You need to know your audience in order to know how to attract them.

It’s important to get beyond the basics of key demographics. Get beyond the first date questions. On a real first date you may ask questions like: Where did you go to school? What was your major? Where did you grow up? On a first brand/consumer date, questions are likely to include: Are you male or female? What age range do you fall in? What’s you’re average income?

But you’ll need to know more than that before you get into a long-term relationship, right? So line up dates two, three…and fifteen. Dig deeper. Knowing your consumer inside and out will help you position your brand in a way that is attractive to them. As our website says, “Your brand is single. It walks into the marketplace. What does it do?” It’s time to go bag yourself a 10.

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Lindsay Abramson

The Dream Job Search is Still Alive for Recent Grads. And There’s A Lot to be Learned.

It’s a scary time to graduate. I get that. A year and a half ago I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in professional strategic communications and a dream job in mind: working at an established, award-winning agency in the Midwest.

A brief stint at a coffee shop post-graduation left me a bit dissatisfied, but a career launch at a publishing company and a lot of persistence eventually landed me at Laughlin. So how did I score my dream job? Here are my tips for standing out and making sure that even if you’re not always gaining a job out of your search…you’re gaining something.

1) Don’t be afraid to go the untraditional route.
After endless online applications left me high and dry, I decided to go directly to the source. When I saw a job opening at Laughlin that I was qualified for, I contacted Joyce O’Brien (who had posted the position) via LinkedIn. Instead of just being thrown together with an abundance of online applicants, making direct contact can help you stand out and make you look ambitious. Don’t be afraid to use social media outlets to help you connect during your job search.

2) Realize that an interview is more than a job opportunity.
Interviews are opportunities to learn from someone who is sitting in the seat you wish you were in. Set up informational interviews with individuals at organizations you admire. Ask questions. Learn. When you get an interview for your dream job, be sure to prepare questions in advance. Even if you don’t get the job you should still leave with some knowledge.

3) Make yourself memorable.
Set yourself apart from other interviewees by leaving behind a tangible memento. That way when the company is reviewing candidates, they have something to remember you by that shows off your personality and ability.

4) Follow up with a thank you.
It seems so simple, yet so many people forget to do it. Whether it was a job interview or an informational interview, you should always follow up with a personalized thank you. It can be in the form of an e-mail, a handwritten note, or something a bit more creative (check out this cookie thank you from a recent Laughlin job applicant).

5) Be reasonable.
Recent grads have the tendency to want instant gratification. You know where you want to be and you want to be there now. But things take time and not every interview will lead to your dream job. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your career is a journey and you might have to work at a coffee shop before you get your big break.

Interestingly enough, these five simple tips for the job-hunting grad can also be applied to brand building.

1) Don’t be afraid to go the untraditional route.
Don’t be afraid to try out social media. It’s an ever expanding realm and a great way to reach and engage an audience. However, don’t fall into the trap of throwing out information into the abyss of the internet because everyone else is doing it. Make sure to have focus, strategy and purpose behind your social media usage to ensure that you see the results you want to see.

2) Realize that brand building is more than a business boosting opportunity.
Realize that as you build your brand you have the opportunity to learn. To learn about how your brand is being perceived, about your target audience, about your competitors. The more you know the more successful you’ll be at positioning and building yourself.

3) Make yourself memorable.
You have to have a message associated with your brand that continues to resonate with the audience even after they’ve seen your commercial or visited your Facebook page. A leave behind, take home message that keeps bringing the consumer back.

4) Follow up with a thank you.
Not necessarily literally. But it’s important to show your customers some appreciation and to reward them for their loyalty.

5) Be reasonable.
Brand building takes time and effort. Don’t expect overnight results. Be patient, do your homework and flex those creative muscles.

So whether you’re a recent grad, a brand builder, or both…tuck these five versatile rules into your back pocket and go get ‘em!

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