Anna Curtis

The Top Ten Moments Of #MUISS

Laughlin Constable was proud to sponsor the 2014 Insight Summit Series Digital Advertising + Marketing Summit, held at Marquette University on 3.19.14. There were many moments that made this year’s event special, but here are our top ten favorites:

  1. LC Shines – Who can resist an opening keynote that includes Beyoncé, Elon Musk, and Flappy Bird? Or a UX presentation from a former punk rocker. Or workshops that unlock the secret to SEO success and how to get the most out of Google Analytics? Many thanks to Paul Brienza, Sean Barry, Trisha Krautkramer, Erin Ebert, and the rest of the LC team who made this year’s Digital Summit a success.
  2. Tweeting Up A Storm – The Digital Summit was a success, and attendees let everyone know via Twitter. Within hours, #MUISS was a trending topic in Milwaukee, generating 1.5 million potential impressions and @LaughlinOutLoud was mentioned hundreds of times – a  perfect representation of the digital world we live in.
  3. AOL Gets Programmatic – Michael Treon, VP Platform Solutions at AOL, discussed programmatic advertising and how it will shape the future of marketing, merging creatives and engineers to come up with time-saving solutions.
  4. Google Rewind – With the massive search engine changing almost every day, it was entertaining to walk down memory lane with Jen Keller, SEO Specialist, and see what Google looked like in the late 1990s, mid 2000s, and just last week.
  5.  #SketchNotes – Jennifer Torres (@jentorres) stole the #MUISS Twitter show with her creative and visually engaging SketchNotes
  6.  UX Drunk Test – Laughlin Constable’s User Experience Strategist, Brady Pierzchalski, highlighted how UX shouldn’t make users feel stupid by showing this video of a person using Windows 8 for the first time.
  7. Tell a Story – Closing speaker Susan Sachatello, from CUNA Mutual Group, encouraged brands to focus on what they stand for, and tell that story to your audience well. She also urged marketers to recognize who your audience is, but who they aspire to be and meet them there with your brand story.
  8. Embrace the Chaos – Taulbee Jackson from Raidious talked about real-time marketing and how advertisers must embrace the chaos. “You have a real time focus group happening all the time, whether you know it or not.”
  9. #SwipeRightForFun – Did you know? The dating app Tinder was originally going to be called Matchbox. And co-founder Jonathan Badeen has indeed been on a Tinder date.
  10. Sell out! – The Digital Advertising + Marketing Summit, including pre-summit workshops, sold out for the second year in a row. Don’t miss the next Insight Summit Series event.

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Michael Jeary

Where have all the silos gone?

Not long ago the advertising business was characterized by a landscape of fiefdoms populated by silos. It was a place where marketing disciplines such as: public relations and promotion, direct marketing and strategic planning, creative ideation and media, were each housed in separate companies and, if not, were certainly grouped in discrete divisions within an agency. Each discipline was isolated from the other; focused on perfecting its own response to a client’s business challenge and motivated by garnering a larger share of a client’s budget.

Today, compelled by shrinking revenues/margins, pushed by consumer-empowering technologies and demanded by impatient CMO’s, those fiefdoms have morphed into sandboxes and the silos have given way to open floor plans where interdisciplinary teamwork is the culture and a fully integrated strategic plan is the common goal.

At Laughlin Constable, we consider ourselves lucky to have forecasted early the impact of these prevailing winds. Today, LC is an independent, fully integrated, mid-size agency. We work with clients of all sizes; across many sectors and disciplines. Our defined and repeatable processes are employed on every client engagement. They are designed to identify the ideal “organizing concept” which is then translated into every element of the integrated marketing plan. Our objective is consistent messaging that connects with the consumer at every step along his or her decision journey.

 

What this means for our clients is a unique agency partnership, where we team seamlessly and efficiently between and among brand strategy, creative, PR, social, digital, media and tracking analytics to develop and consistently execute integrated marketing program in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

 

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Jenny Futrell

3 Facts About Email in 2014

2013 was quite the year for email. It seems that more emails than ever are being sent. (16 million to be exact for the LC Email Marketing team — one of its busiest years on record.) Additionally, more emails are being opened on mobile devices, quickly making email the number one activity performed on mobile devices and the second influence on mobile shopping.

Looking ahead in 2014, marketers should anticipate how this effective channel will continue to grow and change in the New Year.

47 percent of emails are opened on a mobile or tablet device, according to Litmus, with mobile opens predicted to reach 50 percent by early 2014. How can marketers capitalize on this trend? Two words: responsive design. Two of my favorite emails that embrace a mobile-first approach include the:

  • Wisconsin Traveler email: See the completely responsive email, re-designed by the LC team, as you move the corners of your browser in and out and watch the design move and change to best fit the size of your screen.
  • ESPN Fantasy Football email: This weekly email’ outdated template was updated to utilize mobile-friendly design techniques, such as large call to action buttons and a single column layout. View the before and after and be wowed at the difference these design elements make.

Testing can make a difference, in millions. Through more and more testing, emails will continue to be improved and optimized in 2014 — improving the experience for subscribers and the results for marketers. Continue A/B testing different elements of your campaign, such as offers, send days and times, subject lines, call to action placement, and other design elements to maximize your results. Just how big of a difference can testing make?  According to this Business Week article, A/B subject line testing by the Obama email team brought in an additional $2.1 million — for one email.

It’s email, not e-mail. You’re going to be seeing more email and less e-mail in 2014. It was just announced that the New York Times has updated its stylebook and joined other hyphen-less supporters like the Oxford English Dictionary and the Associated Press. Merriam-Webster, however, still supports the hyphen. While less business-oriented than my first two facts, it’s one that hyphen haters (like me) can appreciate.

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Steve Laughlin

The Year Of Opposing Forces

Steve Laughlin was a speaker at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast on Friday, January 17 in downtown Milwaukee. For those who couldn’t attend, here are his remarks on the year ahead. 

What no one predicted for last year was that people who study language would discover a universal word that has the same meaning everywhere.  As reported in the New York Times on Saturday, November 9th, 2013, the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics discovered that across all 5 continents languages all had a strikingly similar word.  What is universally understood worldwide is the word, “huh?”  Whatever confuses us as humans we all react the same.  We say, “huh?” The Max Planck Institute is named after the physicist who came up with the theory of quantum physics.  So you might wonder why they would study psycholinguistics?  Well I have a theory about that.  Physicists are always tackling stupifying questions that leave the rest of us saying “huh?”

Interesting coincidence, though, technology will drive marketers to be more universal in their language in the future.

We do know that regardless of where things seem to be going, they are getting there faster.  Technology is accelerating the pace of change.  According to Moore’s law computing power doubles every 18 months.  The implications for marketing and technology are that expectations will also accelerate for faster downloads and richer content.

I’d like to look at 2014 as a year of opposing forces.  There’s a kind of spy vs. spy backdrop when we think of the collection of big data by big governments or big companies and how vulnerable we might be to those who hack or abuse it. Target is one company very visibly caught between these two forces right now.

Another opposing force is the trend for the big to continue to get bigger, creating a vacuum that will be filled by smaller start-ups creating an opposing force of risk takers and innovators.  This phenomenon has created a brand landscape that can be easily illustrated over a few beers – familiar reference for any Milwaukeean.  If you’re going to buy a couple of cases of beer for a weekend with friends, you might pick up Coors Light or Miller Lite.  Ironically, big market forces mean they now come from the same company.  But, you’d also be likely to throw in a six-pack or two of Spotted Cow, a perfect example of a small, craft beer taking advantage of the opposing force that drives people to also want something special and different.

This same thing is played out in chain restaurants versus a growing movement to locally grown and sourced foods – the farm to table movement.  Or the consolidation of huge package-goods companies while competition springs up from small brands begun by artisans and entrepreneurs.

Another opposing force to watch is the ongoing battle between price and quality.  It’s going to get even tougher through technology.  The ability of people to access the cheapest pricing through the Internet plays into the hands of the low-cost producers, accelerating the decline of companies offering parity products with higher cost structures.  Conversely, the survival instinct will drive competitors to add real value through better service, product improvements or whole new products.

There’s been a lot of media coverage of the growing gap between the richest Americans and the rest of the country.  Beyond the political implications, these opposing forces will impact marketing with even greater price, promotion and packaging competition for existing mass brands and even more innovation leading to added value start-ups and more line-extensions from premium brands.

Technology will be the centerpiece for product innovation.  At this month’s Consumer Electronics Show, appliances talked to one another and to the consumers who use them.  Now you can text your new LG refrigerator and tell it, “I’m going vacation.” Your refrigerator might text back, “Great shall I go into low power mode?” We’ll really have something when it can tell you that you have three eggs, fresh spinach and a bit of feta cheese in case you’d like an omelet when you get home.  You can bet someone is working on app for that.

Last fall, our company needed dozens of inexpensive model lungs to scatter around Seattle, Washington as part of a viral marketing campaign for the Lung Cancer Alliance.  We couldn’t find a vendor to do the job fast enough or cheap enough, so we bought a 3-D printer and made them over a weekend.  If you’re in manufacturing or marketing, you’ll have your eye on 3-D printing’s potential for product development in 2014.

Remember some years ago when people predicted the interactive television?  Your remote would let you stop a program and buy something?  Well smart TVs arrived in 2013, but the real news is that they got smart about delivering content in new ways, bypassing DVRs and Blue-Ray players to let you directly access on-line content sellers.

What’s really interesting is the interaction that was predicted came from other devices. Without interrupting our viewing, we used our phone, laptop or tablet to interact elsewhere.  And not just some of us, Forbes reported that in 2013, over 60% of adults watching television were texting at the same time.

For the first time TV, which is viewed about the same amount of time as ever – about 271 minutes per day – has been surpassed by the use of digital devices.  People spend an average 310 minutes of their time a day on their PDAs.  This might explain why the Internet is now getting 25% of all advertising dollars being spent by marketers.

Marketing is essentially the sharing of information that can lead to a sale, or increase customer loyalty.  In this regard technology and marketing will intertwine in many more ways.  Big data will make it easier to target customers and understand their behavior, those who opt in to marketers will be more willing to compromise their privacy for a richer experience and higher level of service.

Also, in 2013 for the first time, most web searches originated from a mobile device.  This trend could have the greatest impact on marketing and technology initiatives for business in 2014 and beyond.

Businesses will need to create mobile friendly content, instantly available content and richer content. In both b2c marketing and b2b marketing, mobile will drive how customers and consumers interact with your content.  Sales people or consumers accessing product or service information will be expecting everything they seek to be available on a mobile device.

All other things being equal, content management will play a big role in winning and losing in this year’s marketplace.  Basically if you have old data in old places that can’t be combined and shared with new data from new places, you’ll have some new problems.

CRM, or customer relationship marketing, will explode given new technologies of big data and more accessibility through smart media devices to the kind of content that drives loyalty.

Here are a couple corporate opposing forces to keep an eye on to have a sense to where the rest of the marketplace will go…

Google vs. Apple.  This isn’t just Android versus IOS operating systems at war.  This is Google maps versus Apple’s new commitment to an open-source mapping platform out of Europe called OpenStreetMap.

Google has an armada of people and vehicles with cameras roaming the earth to provide real photo accuracy to all their maps.  Open source will let Apple’s platform be updated directly by people in the neighborhood.  For example, local merchants can upload updates depicting changes in business facades as they happen.  Either way, the information we get from search will be incredibly more detailed.

With most searches now originating on a mobile device, it’s increasingly important for the search algorithm to consider the location of the searcher in providing results.  In the future, for device makers and content managers, having the most accurate maps and related content will be a new battleground.

Marketers, the future is now.  Your content has to be mobile friendly and your messaging has to be locally relevant.  Advances in mapping technology are creating a huge opportunity for you.

Netflix versus Cable.  Netflix took on Blockbuster by putting the CD movie library on-line and shipping content overnight for less.  Then they bet the brand and invested in streaming.  Then they raised the stakes and a year ago entered the production business creating their own proprietary content with the show House of Cards.  Last Sunday evening one of their stars, Robin Wright, took home a Golden Globe award for that show.  Marketers, the message here is you need to look ever farther into technology and ask yourself how you can use it to get ahead of the competition.  Those who stick to their business models because it’s what they’re known for – think sending movies by mail – might be reminded it’s really having the best movies and being the only placed to get them.  Another lesson we can learn from Netflix is it’s not enough to aim at your target customer, with the pace of change in technology today, you can’t be afraid to lead that target a bit.  Or you just might miss.

I started with a reference to researchers looking for commonalities in language.  I think they may have overlooked a few universal words that marketers and consumers have known about for years.  They’re called brand names.  Coke.  McDonalds, Hilton, BMW, Nike, IBM even OshKosh B’Gosh have the same meaning on all five continents. English will continue to be the default language of marketing, but because of cultural differences you’ll have to choose your words more carefully than ever.

But there’s another reason choose your words more carefully on the horizon . . . and this is the biggie.

The Oxford word of the year in 2013 was “selfie.” Technology allows us to take more and share more pictures than ever.  Think of the rapid rise of Instagram and Pinterest and then think about the impact they will have on marketing.  It’s the rise of pictures over words. If your product or service gets pinned, there’s a real good chance it will also get purchased.  You’ll be telling your story visually.

These changes are coming fast.  If you want to know how fast just ask the 400,000 people who worked at Kodak a few years ago.  Or the 13 people who worked for Instagram when Facebook gave them a billion dollars for their start-up business just little over a year ago.

So what do I really know about the coming changes in marketing and technology?  It’s that none of us want to be the one standing around afterward who’ll be saying, “Huh?”

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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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Casey Flanagan

Where Does Your Map Lead?

The world is moving faster. And getting more complex. It’s natural to want a map to help you navigate the new – or changing – terrain. Maps provide direction. Certainty. A proven path. In addition, maps can help you see where you are. And how far you may be from your desired destination.

But marketing cartography isn’t so straightforward. Consider the result of following the industry’s map. If you follow the same data, best practices, rules of thumb, industry standards, white papers, conference notes, twitter feeds… you’ll end up with similar ideas, approaches, strategies and tactics to the rest of that map’s readers.

If your industry all follows the same map, the destination for all will undoubtedly be The Sea Of Sameness.

Looking for a new result? It may be time to chart a new course.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

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Ilana R. Borzak

Like Ripples in a Pond: Driving Brands with “Why”

 

 

The Golden Circle. It’s how author Simon Sinek visualizes a person’s decision making process. The “why,” representing a higher cause, directs the outer circles. The “how” ring, or value proposition, and the “what” ring, the process that realizes the “how,” are intuitively guided by the Circle’s core, the “why.”

Successful businesses and leaders, Sinek says, follow this pattern. They start by giving people a reason to believe in them before offering practical details.  As a brand, Apple started with a purpose: to challenge the status quo. This “why” drove the design and innovative technology found in all Apple products — the “what” and “how.” In turn, people believe in the company’s cause and allow their actions to follow. They overlook Apple’s executional blunders (ex: the antenna on the iPhone 4 and Maps in iOS6) and continue to believe in its cause and show religious-like devotion. The pattern can even be seen in historical events. As a civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gained prominence for his beliefs and convictions, not the specific plans he laid out for achieving civil rights. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (not “I Have a Plan,” as Sinek jokes) attracted over two hundred thousand supporters who believed in his purpose and allowed it to guide them to DC. His legacy lives on well after the passing of Civil Rights Act just as Apple’s will even after their market share wanes. Sinek concludes, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do.”  Communicating from the inside out drives behavior and creates long lasting relationships.

Recent studies in psychology and biology reveal the distinction between meaning, the “why,” and happiness, the outer two rings. Achieving meaning is allowing the “why” to drive the “how” and “what” and often necessitates a person to sacrifice along the way.  On the other hand, happiness is an emotion for the present. It is achieved by fulfilling fleeting needs and desires and then it fades as a person’s needs change, much like how a business’ “what” and “how” must evolve as the culture and technology around it change. The pursuit of meaning, researchers find, often counteracts “happiness” but ultimately leads to increases in overall well-being, life-satisfaction, and self-esteem.

We as marketers often speak about creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with our customers. Advances in our understanding of the human mind point to the necessity of a brand or company standing for something people can relate to, believe in, and trust. This purpose, the “why,” should be the starting point for a brand. The details will follow.

 Sources:

  1. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/
  2. http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

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Ilana R. Borzak

The Church of Marketing

The marketing practice of creating branded communities has a lot to learn from religious communities. These communities developed over time as people transformed the individual experience of spirituality into a group activity in order to add meaning and belonging to adherents’ lives. Religious rites, no more than instinctive human activities modified to fit within a religious framework, became the membership card. Dressing according to a specified standard, abiding by dietary laws, and attending group worship are expressions of religious belonging that create and sustain religious communities.

Much of today’s marketing follows a similar model. Marketers idealize branded platforms that organize like-minded people into a coherent community that transforms its members into brand advocates. The successful ones build their communities around already existing activities. Nike+ and Vail’s Epic MixApp for example, use running and skiing, traditionally isolated experiences, as a metric for community membership.

While branded communities rise in prominence, according to recent Pew surveys, religious community membership is dwindling. This growing group of what Pew calls the “unaffiliated,” are much more likely than the overall public to say that religions are too concerned with money, power, and politics. They continue to pray and pursue spiritual transcendence but on an individual level. I suggest a causational link between their critical views of religious organizations and their lack of affiliation. Simultaneously, the diminishing “affiliated” group has increasingly been describing their religious observance in terms of church attendance and other social, religious activities. Thus, religious affiliation in 2012 is increasingly defined by community membership and the pursuit of meaning.

Brands building communities can learn from the current state of religious membership. People have an inborn desire to belong to a community of like-minded individuals but, as learned from the increasing numbers of the “unaffiliated,” not at the expense of other morals. Brands desiring to be prominent members of their consumers’ lives should aim to fulfill not only man’s primal need of belonging to a community but also appeal to man’s sense of meaning.

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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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