Maria Dontas

When it comes to social platforms, the size of Facebook’s community continues to lead the pack. Facebook boasts 1.37 billion daily active users worldwide, with the number of Facebook users in the United States expected to reach 207.36 million.

That’s a lot of eyeballs, and if your business doesn’t have a presence on the platform, you’ll unequivocally miss out on countless opportunities to grow brand awareness, and ultimately, increase revenue.

By now, most businesses have at least developed a business-specific page on Facebook that says to users, “Hey, I’m here!” But, consider how you can stand out and wow your existing and potential customers with thoughtful posts and engaging content.

We’ve developed a list of Facebook facts to help take your business to the next level in 2018.

Back to basics
Considering all the flashy features Facebook has to offer, it’s easy to overlook the simple building blocks of effective communication with your customers. Make sure the “About” section on your page reflects your business’ correct hours of operation, contact information, including a telephone number, email and address, and a quick, descriptive line or two about your products or services. If customers can’t get a hold of you, or if they’re unsure of your purpose, you risk losing their interest and trust.
It takes two
If you want your customers to engage with your content, your page and ultimately your brand, make sure you also spend time engaging with your customers and acknowledging interactions. Respond to reviews, both negative and positive. Take the time to “Like” or reply to comments and photos visitors leave on your page’s wall. Highlight positive customer and vendor interactions by tagging them, with permission, in posts. Don’t forget to venture outside of your page and engage on other pages to expand the reach of the conversation.
Video, video, video
Video posts dominate today’s social media landscape and continue to garner more attention from users over other forms of media. Don’t let fear get in the way of taking part in the trend — you don’t need a professional videographer to shoot videos for posting on your Facebook page. In fact, people forgive less-than-stellar production quality video as long as the story keeps them engaged. Do a little research on how to shoot quality videos using just your smartphone. Pro tip: before you post your video, add captioning manually or using Facebook’s automated tool, as more and more users watch videos, but in many cases with the sound off for part or all of the video.
Do it live
Authentically promote your brand by enlisting the help of Facebook Live. This feature provides users a unique, inside look into your business through the power of immediacy. Plus, anyone can do it — simply determine an interesting facet of your business, aim and shoot! Develop your talking points or a full script, whatever makes you more comfortable in front of the camera. The purpose is to increase engagement on your page while delivering content your audience will like. You can also continue the two-way conversation by responding to comments during the live event. And, if Facebook gives live videos a boost using its algorithm — meaning the platform puts your live videos in front of more people — you should take advantage.
Keep it consistent
A successful Facebook page relies on consistency in a variety of ways. Always make sure the tone and imagery of your Facebook remain true to your overall branding. However, you can let your brand’s guard down and use a more casual attitude across the platform, even if your brand typically employs a more formal approach. Remember, the goal remains engaging with your audience, so take note of how they speak and incorporate that into your posting strategy. Most importantly, make sure you post regularly. A Facebook page with stale and outdated content can cause distrust and force your audience to go elsewhere.
Rules of engagement
For those businesses unwilling or afraid to step onto the Facebook scene, rules of engagement provide clear parameters to help guide the conversation on your page. Set guidelines in your “About” section including the prohibition of profanity on your page, the ability to delete comments not related to the post and intolerance of personal attacks. You may need to decide whether or not addressing negative feedback or aggression on your page publically can provide a better customer experience overall. By responding to negative content publically, you can offer a professional and friendly solution that upholds your reputation among other audience members.

At the end of the day, engaging with your audience regularly and authentically through quality content, engaging conversations and meaningful interactions will put your business ahead of the rest.

Facebook’s latest algorithm update penalizes “engagement-bait” material — posts that overtly encourage comments, likes and shares — and prioritizes personal pages and posts over public and business pages’ content. This means Facebook ad space will diminish making inventory more valuable and potentially more expensive. Businesses that proactively engage audiences in organic ways, however, can improve the likelihood of appearing higher and more often across user feeds.

While this blog provided a few tips to jumpstart your focus in 2018, Facebook boasts many additional features to utilize and incorporate into your strategy. Let us know what Facebook features you’d like to hear about or questions you have in the comments section. Or, even better, tag us on Facebook at @abrightidea and let’s start a conversation.

Katie Bouloubassis

With 500 million tweets sent per day by approximately 100 million daily users, Twitter is the fourth largest social media platform behind Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

As new updates roll out on Twitter, it’s tough to adjust, learn and implement the new features quickly. As an ever-changing platform, Twitter requires constant monitoring due to the rapid timeline updates of current events.

With the Tweet Tips below, get ready to actively engage with your current and potential customers on Twitter!

Tweet Actions
Creating original content to post and quoting existing tweets of others allows you to easily engage with followers. The comment you add makes it easy for your followers to understand the reasoning behind the retweet and how it connects to you and your business. Quoting essentially makes the entire tweet yours, so the engagement and impressions garnered from the “new” tweet reflects positively on your account.
What to Tweet
Your followers clicked the follow button for a reason. For the most part, you should tweet about your brand experience. As a business, you’re recognized by audiences for a product or service and they want to hear about it. A key component of any social platform, but especially Twitter, is engaging with others. Take time to find conversations around your industry’s topics and engage others in those conversations with a comment or a quote retweet. While your tweets should relate to your business, don’t shy away from engaging in other conversations that do not relate directly. Any comment added continues a larger conversation, and broadens your follower base.
Post a Poll
Utilize Twitter’s poll feature to expand engagement in a fun and creative way. Propose an open-ended question to your followers on a topic of your choice with up to four answers. A. Bright Idea’s campus recently received a makeover, sparking our own version of the poll-gone-viral, blue vs. gold dress debate. After several disagreements on the new color of one of our buildings, we took to Twitter to let our followers decide — blue or gray. Select how long your poll stays open, whether you want immediate results after 24 hours or a week to collect as many votes as possible.

Trends and Hashtags
Twitter has a daily list of trending topics and hashtags. The trends change multiple times a day, so when you see one that applies to you or your company, use it immediately. Using hashtags allows your content to become easily discoverable and essentially increase your chances of higher engagement and impressions, as well as gaining followers. Twitter bases trends of location, making it easy to select the best option for incorporating into your tweets. You can change the settings to see surrounding cities’ trends or country and world-wide trends. Crafting tweets to include additional hashtags can expand its discoverability, but Twitter recommends keeping it limited to no more than two hashtags per tweet.
Tagging
Tagging people and businesses in your tweets is, in essence, a way to talk to specific people or businesses directly on Twitter. With overly cluttered news feeds, if you have something to say to someone, tagging is the way to go. Additionally, tagging expands the reach of the post, garnering more impressions and in some cases, overall engagement. Giving shout-outs to other businesses through tagging can spark conversation or result in retweets, likes or follows.
Moments and Lists
Personalize your Twitter with Moments — curated stories about what’s happening, powered by tweets. Moments have a variety of topics, such as: Today, News, Sports, Entertainment and Fun. Moments can showcase your company culture, events and announcements for the public. When creating Moments, we recommend you use a mixture of videos, photos, gifs and full-text tweets to keep your followers engaged.Lists serve as a great tool when you want to narrow down your search on a specific topic. As a curated group of Twitter accounts, Lists include accounts that tweet about similar topics in one central location. Lists essentially become a separate timeline of its own, streaming tweets surrounding the designated topic. Create your own Lists or subscribe to those created by other Twitter users to engage in conversations related to your business.
280 Characters
In September 2017, Twitter introduced the roll-out of the new 280-character count to select accounts before officially granting all members usage in November. As advocates for perfect grammar and correct spelling, we enjoy the 280-character limit. Now, you don’t need abbreviations and number substitutions for words to save space. Don’t sacrifice your content’s value for the sake of condensing a tweet — take advantage of this gift and use the extra 140 characters as needed. While some users became outraged over this update, others used the extra space for fun, like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres.

Remember, Twitter is a great tool for you and your business when used appropriately. Have fun and try out all of the features of the platform. Let us know if you plan to use Twitter more in 2018 or ask us any questions about the features mentioned by tweeting us @aBrightIdea96.

Jessy Weiss

Instagram remains one of the fastest growing social media platforms with over 700 million active users. With its ever-changing features, it’s difficult to remain up-to-date on how to effectively use Instagram to complement your business’s overall marketing strategy.

At its core, Instagram is a visual platform. It offers your business an opportunity to present itself in a purely visual manner. Yes, the platform offers captions, hashtags (more on how to use those later), and tags but they are in place to support the photographic message.
When using Instagram, use the following:

A consistent, brand voice is essential for using Instagram. Your audience, especially on Instagram, seeks an understanding of your business’s “personality.” Develop content reflective of your business, but also specific to the platform. Your followers on Instagram will likely vary from those on LinkedIn. With that said, don’t shy away from distributing the same content across several platforms, but give each one its own voice.
Hashtags serve as a great way to reach more people with your content. Instagram users frequently search trending hashtags to discover new content so sprinkle a few hashtags in your posts. While sometimes overused, we recommend, based on our own success rates, between four and seven hashtags. Ultimately, let the content of the post dictate the type and number of hashtags.
Your Photo Feed
Good quality photos make all the difference on Instagram. It’s the platform for beautiful photos, and users know it. That said, while most businesses may not have a professional photographer at their disposal 24/7, it’s still possible to create a compelling Instagram feed. Take photos that represent the brand best and keep it consistent. Make sure all of your photos, professional or amateur, have a cohesive look by using a uniform filter on all of your photos. There is nothing more beautiful than a consistent feed! Case and point: @laurenconrad.
Also, check out Eric Bach’s blog, The Language of Light: How Light Alters Perception, for some tips on how to improve those Instagram photos!

Use stories to share in-the-moment and behind-the-scenes content. This strategy provides another opportunity for your followers to get to know your company’s personality and day-to-day. Get creative with your stories – post a series of videos to create a short storyline or a fun boomerang.
The discover tab gives users, and your potential followers, access to a pool of relevant content based on their existing followers and other Instagram activity. On the flip side, the discover tab provides a resource for your business. Scroll through this panel to see what competitors do on Instagram, and how your followers engage with other accounts to tweak your approach. The discover tab also allows you to find and engage with people who don’t follow your brand. By searching hashtags relevant to your business, you can find users and engage with them.
Carousel Photos
As one of Instagram’s newer features, the carousel photo feature allows users to post multiple images in one post. Strategically order your photos; display your strongest, most compelling photo first, followed by supporting images. Or, use the left/right swipes to create a larger, continuous image, like @subway.

Jump-start your business’ Instagram presence by following some of these tips and tricks. Stay tuned to the A. Bright Idea blog for more advice on how to keep your social media presence on brand, relevant and an integral part of your overall communications strategy.

Shawn Nesaw

Social media moves fast. One minute you’re “poking” someone on Facebook (that’s actually still a feature) and the next you’re responding to a direct message using face filters and emojis on Instagram.

This blog keeps you up-to-date with all the new features social media has to offer. Instagram and LinkedIn introduced great enhancements in July. Read more about the new features below and try them out today.

Instagram

Earlier this month, Instagram rolled out a new feature allowing users to send photos or video replies to stories posted by those you follow. When watching a story, tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen to use the creative tools in the camera such as boomerang, face filters and stickers. When someone replies to your story with a photo or video, you’ll see it in your direct message inbox.

This new feature plays well for friends on Instagram but is also possible for business use. Customers and brand advocates now have the opportunity to engage with your brand using other creative means. Businesses could hold a contest to encourage engagement by awarding a prize for the best creative response to a section of your story.

LinkedIn

Throughout the month of July, LinkedIn released several great new features.

  • You can now customize the notifications you receive with new options including muting, turning off or even unfollowing.
  • It’s now possible to add up to nine photos in a post. Much like Facebook, LinkedIn lays out the photos in a collage. Post multiple photos from an event such as a meeting, conference, or volunteer day to further build either your personal brand or your business brand.
  • LinkedIn now provides insights about your audience. When you post an article or update, LinkedIn provides details about the employers of your target audience, their job titles and how they found your post. You can also see the number of people who reshared your post and who they are.

In the coming months, users will be able to record and share video directly in the LinkedIn mobile app. LinkedIn continues to provide useful features to professionally enhance a personal and business presence.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to update Instagram and LinkedIn apps by accessing the Google Play or the Apple App stores.

Looking Ahead

Check back next month for more social updates with the Social Scoop. Past issues also offer updates to ensure you have all the info you need to succeed.

 

 

 

 

Katie Bouloubassis

Businesses constantly test new ways to connect with their customers. Traditionally, surveys, newsletters and courtesy follow-up calls served as key methods for businesses to connect with customers. While these strategies still hold value, new outreach methods now take center stage thanks to social media. According to Statista.com, 81% of the U.S. population uses social media in some form.

Smart, social-savvy businesses are now using the power of one social media feature, direct messaging, to connect more efficiently with their current and potential customers by breaking through the clutter.

Direct messaging, or DM as it’s commonly referred to, is available on all major social media platforms. Similar to sending a text message to a friend, a direct message allows you to send a private message to a person directly to their inbox, instead of posting on their social feed. DM achieves most of its popularity on Twitter and Instagram.

Businesses use DM to:

  • Connect with new followers and point them to the content or a product on their website
  • Ask questions about buying experience or quality of service
  • Answer questions customers ask on social media
  • Handle negative feedback or complaints privately instead of in the public feed
  • Send targeted messages to different types of followers
  • Request user-generated content for social media feeds

To add to the DM experience, personalize messages using the customer’s name or handle. Also, if you have a large audience list to reach with the same message, create a document with consistent messages you can easily transfer into a DM to help save time and maximize efficiency.

The images below illustrate a few sample implementation strategies for using DM.

Relationship building with new followers

To begin the relationship with a new follower, depending on the platform, a DM may take the form of something like the photo to the right.


Handling negative feedback

To handle a negative comment or feedback, acknowledge the communication and direct the conversation off of social media with a DM like this:

ABI: “We appreciate your feedback and want to learn more about the issue to discuss how we can help ensure the best service possible. Let’s set up a time we can discuss over the phone.”


Soliciting user-generated content

If your fans post great photos of your product and tag your company, use DM to ask for permission to use their photos on your feed. Engaging in this way creates customer loyalty and allows you to harness the power user-generated content. That DM might read something like the photo to the right.

[Pro-tip: If they say “yes,” thank them and make sure to give them credit for the photo in your post, e.g., (📷: @TomEdison96)]


Direct Messages serve as a great way to personally reach customers on social media. While some may scoff at the idea saying, “It’s too intrusive,” DM allows you to speak directly to your target audience. If your business would like to initiate conversations and build relationships with current and potential customers, DM provides a simple, personal touch-point that can lead to new followers, customers or clients.

Test out your DM skills with us! Send us a message via Twitter DM or any other social platform. Let’s start the conversation!

Twitter: @aBrightIdea96
Instagram: @abrightidea
Facebook: A. Bright Idea Advertising & Public Relations @abrightidea

Happy messaging!

Shawn Nesaw

Keeping up with all the updates to each social media platform is a daunting task. With no set schedule for updates, some channels have multiple updates in one month and zero updates in another. Similarly, some channels have numerous new additions in one update, while others don’t.

With social media constantly evolving, it’s imperative for social media pros to stay up to date with the latest from each platform so they can stay ahead of the curve and use new features to address communication goals as soon as possible. Let’s get right into it – here is the June social media update round-up.

Facebook 

June saw a big improvement to Facebook Live video with the implementation of closed captioning. This update provides more access to Facebook Live video for people with hearing impairments. For this feature to work, turn on captioning settings and the captions will automatically appear in your live video.

Safety Check was updated with four new features:

    • Fundraising
    • Expanding community help
    • Sharing a personal note when completing a safety check-in is completed
    • Introducing crisis descriptions

Facebook Messenger’s video chat in feature also received an update to now include animated reactions, filters, masks, effects and the ability to take screenshots of your video chat.

 

Instagram 

We all grow and change and so do our Instagram feeds. The new Archive feature, introduced in June, allows users to move photos previously shared on your feed into Archive where only you can see them.

If you change your mind, select “show on profile ” and the image will reappear in its original spot. Just click the circle arrow in the top right corner of the app to start archiving.

Also rolled out in June, after you go live on Instagram,  you are prompted to share a replay on your Instagram Story to let more people catch up on what they missed.

 

Twitter

In June, Twitter rolled out new features for businesses allowing them to add buttons to drive actions in Direct Messages (DM).

Probably the biggest change in June across all platforms was the Twitter facelift. This generous and well-deserved update to the Twitter user interface (UI) this month showed users that Twitter is still a viable social media player and that it listens to its users. Without getting too technical, here are the new changes to Twitter.

Click to watch
  • Slide right to access your profile, additional accounts, settings and more.
  • Refined the typography throughout the app so headlines are bolder and distinct from the rest of the text in your feed.
  • Round profile pics
  • The icons and the reply button changed from an arrow to a speech bubble and all the icons were slimmed down.

 

Snapchat

Snapchat unveiled Snap Map, which allows users to see what people are up to around the world by using the new maps feature. Pinch on the screen to zoom out and view the map. This feature allows you to also select your location settings so you can decide who can see your location while you are on the app.

Additionally, Snapchat introduced the ability to design custom Geofilters right in the app for any special occasion – birthdays, anniversary parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. Until now, this ability was reserved for desktop and designers. To get started, tap “On-Demand Geofilters” in Settings. Pricing for Geofilters starts at $5.99 in the app.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn received a few updates at once to improve the mobile experience. Now, you can see your connection history. Use this new feature to add some personal detail when you reach out.

Another new feature, Search Appearances, allows you to see how many people found you in search and the companies and job titles of the people searching for you.

Three other minor changes to the platform include:

  • Implementation of a new drag and drop feature allowing you to easily reorganize volunteer and education sections of your profile
  • Ability to add an image to any comment across the LinkedIn platform, when words just won’t do
  • Provide quick reply messages for when you want to reply, but don’t have the time

If you do not see these updates on your phone, go to the App Store or Google Play Store and update the apps to receive the latest features and check back next month for another roundup of social media updates.

Shawn Nesaw

Today, social media is a critical component of the marketing strategy for most businesses. This phenomenon shouldn’t be surprising, as more than 50 million active small business pages exist (Brandwatch.com) on Facebook alone. While there is nothing our social media experts love more than to see businesses grasp the powerful nature of a social media presence, balance is key. When overindulging, it’s easy to spread your content thin across several channels.

The saying “jack of all trades, master of none,” accurately describes this craze. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) create four to five social media accounts with the thought, “If I’m on these social media platforms, I’ll have more opportunity to communicate to our audience.” While a presence on more social channels does provide SMBs increased audience exposure opportunities, maintaining a legitimate presence on each platform is a two-way street. If SMBs publish content frequently but fall short when it comes time to respond and engage audiences past the initial post, audiences will look elsewhere for content.

All too often when a new social media platform hits the market, the first thought is to immediately engage. It’s the “shiny new toy” effect of which Snapchat illustrates best. Many SMB’s who target younger audiences thought Snapchat would be the right channel and for some it was, but for most, it wasn’t. Snapchat takes time to learn, produce content and grow an audience. Yes, Snapchat is great for targeting a younger demographic, but if the SMB doesn’t have a Snapchat strategic plan in place, Snapchat isn’t going to necessarily work.

Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook, SMBs should look at their goals and think strategically. Consider the following criteria when selecting the appropriate channel:

  • Does the channel help meet communication goals?
  • Does your business have the capacity to produce the necessary content to effectively reach the audience?
  • Will you be able to reach and engage your audience on this channel?
  • Do you have a real reason for being part of that social community?

If you answered “yes” to the above criteria, then the social channel in question might be a good fit for your business.

The last thing you want to do is make a semi-enthusiastic commitment to a channel, which ultimately becomes just a waste of time and resources, two things no business can afford. The truth of the matter is, it’s not necessary to be on every social channel.

Before diving in, here’s what you need to know about each social channel.

 

After considering those two channels, we recommend the following social channels after careful consideration of the target audience, brand goals and ability to maintain the channel. Use the descriptions below to help guide you towards the social channels that work best.

Social media shouldn’t be a struggle; it should be fun. It’s where you get an opportunity to talk about your brand, show people who you are and engage audiences you may have otherwise missed. Building your brand on social media is crucial for success in today’s marketplace so choose the social channels that meet your business goals.

Tell us how you engage your audiences through social media by commenting below or engage with us on social media. Let’s start the conversation.

Sources: Social Media Today and Hootsuite

Kristie Sheppard

Marketing your small winery can seem overwhelming and challenging, especially for those small shops with just one, or maybe a few employees. During harvest, there is never enough time to even think about marketing, and by the time you get everything else done from, bottling to distribution, it’s almost harvest again! However, you know creative and customer-focused marketing is critical to the success of your winery.

Adding a few simple tools to your marketing toolbox can assist in strategically and successfully promoting your wine brand. Even a minimal time investment pays huge dividends with the following tips.

  1. Know your audience. Defining your target audience is the first step in effective marketing. Keep in mind your audience is much larger than just wine drinkers. Analyze and organize your current customer base by categories, such as millennials, baby boomers, women or wine drinkers who are new to enjoying wine.
  2. Define your message. Determine a key message to connect your brand with each group of ideal customers. The message should be clear, direct and consistently used so it resonates with potential customers. For example, if your millennial audience group is interested in scores from Parker, make sure your messaging includes your recent ratings. Key messages help tell your story to compel your audience to take action.
  3. Get to know the media. Sending a press release about your upcoming winemaker dinner to the local food and wine critic without building a relationship with him/her will appear self-serving and may get pushed aside. Build a relationship with wine writers and influencers. Read their stories, engage with them on social media platforms and share their stories. Are you getting ready to promote a new wine and want some press? Invite the writer to a private tasting before the release to allow for personalized face time. Prepare materials in advance to make packaging the story easy for the reporter; include photos, content and potential alternate interview contacts.
  4. Engage on social media. Social media used to be about likes and followers. Now, engagement determines success- how many people, when they see your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram post, actually like, share, or comment on that post. Engagement is a two-way conversation. The best way to get engagement is to give some as well. Scrolling through your social media feeds for 10 -15 minutes per day looking for like-minded brands, wine influencers and your customers so you can comment, like and share their posts, will show your investment in the industry. Social interaction creates an awareness of your brand with audiences, who may become followers or customers. Social engagement will keep you in the minds of your customers and strengthen your consumer-producer relationship. Wineries can be hesitant to post on social media because of the Federal Trade Commission laws on advertising to minors, but with advances in data collection on most of the major platforms, you can confidently and legally promote your brand.
  5. Kieran Robinson Wines’ Sparkling Brigade is eye catching and meaningful.

    Let the label tell the brand’s story. If your wine is in retail shops or on display at a restaurant, the packaging is your most valuable asset. You need a label that stands out from the crowd, but also represents your brand and identity. Make sure your key message is translated into the label through visuals or text.

  6. Utilize influencers. Invite top wine influencers to a tasting. Engage with them on social media. Meg Maker, Amy Lieberfarb, Jancis Robinson, Jon Thorson and Antonio Galloni are just a few, but like we mention in Tip #1, do your research to make sure chosen influencers are appropriate for your brand.
  7. Participate in tasting events. For most small producers, providing complimentary cases and cases of wine to a special event may put a big dent in your potential sales, but don’t underestimate the value of attending these events. Yes, you will definitely get quite a few people who are attending the event just to get intoxicated. You will also get serious wine drinkers and media. Many tasting events host a trade/media hour prior to the general public. This is your opportunity to meet media face-to-face and make a lasting impression. Do your research about tasting opportunities. Find out what reporters and influencers have attended in the past. Ask fellow wineries if they have participated and what their thoughts are.

These cost-effective and simple tips will be the start to successfully marketing your winery. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about wine marketing. Comment or share on social media and tag A. Bright Idea so we can reply!

Jessy Weiss

Your NCAA basketball bracket may be busted, but your favorite college may still win with its branding.

As one of the most watched sporting events, the annual March Madness tournament showcases 68 teams for basketball talent. But it also gives universities and colleges one of their biggest marketing opportunities nationally. An estimated 82.5 million Americans fill out their predictions for winners on the tournament brackets, a bonding ritual known as “bracketology.” Many of those faithful bracketologists also work full-time jobs, resulting in an estimated loss of $2.1 billion in productivity during the tourney. The popular pastime also provides the opportunity for many people to learn about some colleges for the first time.

As the NCAA Final Four championship approaches, with many brackets already busted (thanks, Maryland), our Idea Dream Team decided to take the tournament’s Sweet 16 to create our bracket based on branding. We named our process “brandetology.”

Brandetology (n.): A 100% made up word referring to the thorough study of #branding in NCAA basketball to build a #MarchMadness bracket.

We picked our Final Four Brand Champions based on the industry’s top brand strategies (no wagering, please). Our team reviewed the school’s logo, design and color palette, to include the uniforms and court graphics, as well as the team’s social media and website for content and ease of navigation — all tools of a comprehensive brand strategy.

To pick the final four of brandetology, we considered:

Visual Branding (Uniforms, logos and courts)

  • Color and pattern schemes
  • Distinct branding elements that differentiate the school
  • Design integration and consistency across all mediums

Social media (Instagram accounts reviewed as a sample)

  • Dynamic and captivating visuals
  • Balance of video content versus photo usage
  • Shareable and engaging content
  • Diversity of photo topics (court, uniforms, players, students cheering, user-developed content)

Websites

  • Ease of navigation
  • Social media integration
  • Page hierarchy and placement of compelling content
  • Use of impactful graphics
  • Interactive and multimedia content

The Final Four of Branding

Oregon Ducks

With Nike co-founder Phil Knight, an alumnus and strong supporter, Nike’s influence and monetary backing show throughout Oregon’s branding from the uniforms all the way to their top-of-the-line facilities. Oregon scores high marks across the board from a branding perspective, including its court design. When you think of Oregon, you think of forests, and the court features silhouettes of pine trees. The variations in color and layering of trees create depth on a typically flat and one-dimensional court. The muted colors also contrast well with the neon uniforms, so they command even more of a presence.

Photo credit @oregonmbb

With bright and bold colors using neon yellow and green, like the basketball uniforms, most of Oregon’s football and basketball uniforms also incorporate subtle feather design elements. With Knight’s influence, the colors and variations of uniforms push the envelope in uniform design innovation. The bold, bright, reflex colors prompt an immediate reaction, and coupled with the design, make the uniforms memorable. While the logo’s typographic execution uses shallow cap height and letter-width pitch, the unique feel makes it recognizable and works well in the world of sports.

Oregon’s social media presents compelling and consistent content, never forgetting brand identity. The Instagram account uses bold, high-contrast and professional imagery that appeals to viewers and athletics alike.

The website integrates social media content well and has a clean, contemporary aesthetic. The bold imagery and headlines engage the site visitor immediately. The website uses the logo in an interesting way without any type but remains instantly recognizable.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan played for the school, and now his Jordan brand serves as the official apparel of the team. The uniforms feature traditional Carolina blue and argyle patterns down the sides. In color theory, blue often symbolizes stability and confidence. The strength of the Tar Heels branding comes through, with the color dubbed by many as “Carolina blue,” and the iconic logo remains one of the most well known from the team’s consistency at the top and enthusiastic fan base.

The court’s color scheme also highlights the Carolina blue along the sidelines but shines at the mid-court logo with an outline of the state. Even so, the court wasn’t the most compelling of the finalists.

Photo courtesy of @unc_basektball

The basketball team’s social media (particularly its Instagram account, @UNC_basketball) includes a good mix of custom imagery from players celebrating victories on the court to behind-the-scene photos in the locker rooms, giving fans a complete and behind-the-scenes look. The school’s colors appear in nearly every image, maintaining brand consistency. The site features custom graphics and motion graphics.

The minimalist, clutter-free design of GoHeels.com allows for simple navigation. While the design remains static, readers have numerous headline options and access to audio and video footage. Overall, the design falls short of the style of the Instagram account and requires some updates to support the university’s brand elements throughout the site.

 Xavier Musketeers

The Musketeers’ playing surface at the Cintas Center underwent a major facelift in the fall of 2014. The university went straight to its fans for creative inspiration.

In the spirit of true engagement, the university incorporated elements of the fans’ ideas into the aesthetics. The school’s final product, which features the Cincinnati skyline, includes two-toned wood staining and the primary X logo at center court in bold, dark blue lettering.

The basketball team’s Instagram account consistently uses a photo filter to wash the images in a bluish tint to support the brand’s color palette and a type treatment that appears hand drawn with a youthful energy.

Photo from goxavier.com

With an enticing, contemporary color palette and frequent use of iconography to simplify navigation, the university’s website has a very youthful design. During the Musketeers’ tournament run, the school’s athletics website kept the strong graphic content at its forefront, creating numerous splash pages for the school’s game day coverage, even including a countdown ticker to tipoff. These elements create fan engagement and drive traffic to the site.

Baylor Bears

Photo courtesy of @baylormbb

The Baylor athletics logo includes the classic “BU” with gold lettering and green trim with a very conservative, traditional typography. But you wouldn’t feel as if the school’s branding was traditional in its approach with a sharp juxtaposition in its use of glow in the dark colors. To say you can’t miss seeing their uniforms is an understatement. The neon-yellow and green color combination creates a glow-in-the-dark effect unlike any in the school’s athletic department.

Supporting the connection to the team’s lineage, the basketball players wore on their jerseys the names of the “Immortal Ten,” a group of players who passed away in a bus crash in January 1927 while traveling to a game. By paying tribute to the tragedy, it ties together the present and the past, it shows the university cares about the school’s student-athletes of all eras and ties the generations together, an important role for a university to help build pride and support.

The team’s social media accounts thrive on glowing green visuals that reinforce the brand. A social media industry best practice and a mainstay for Baylor, shorter posts drive impressions. The school also employs a strong social media campaign promoting the noted phrase, #SicEm, a phrase used by supporters of the university on game days meaning to attack, or “get them.” With over 185,000 #SicEm usages on Instagram, even the official Baylor University website tells fans how to enjoy the phrase properly.

Upon entering the website during the team’s tournament run, the audience first encounters a splash page honoring the team’s accomplishment and providing details for fans about when, how and where to watch all the action. The site’s main pages integrate the infamous #Sicem phrase and provides easy navigation for fans to find the information they want without getting bogged down in content.


Brandetology Honorable Mentions

(*NCAA tournament participation not required for this category)

With more than 340 schools in NCAA Division I, many schools deserving recognition for branding didn’t make it into the NCAA basketball tournament, but we deemed them worthy as part of our branding honorable mention section.

Court: Florida International Panthers

Photo credit of @fiuhoops

With a design almost guaranteed to appeal to recruits and students in the North watching basketball games on cold, wintry nights, the school’s basketball court has a beach theme with palm tree fronds and waves crashing on a shore in its design. There’s a Panther at center court, but give us sand and surf imagery any day. The court definitely has a strong concept.

Uniform: Maryland Terrapins

Photo credit of @terrapinhoops

As a Maryland alum, I can’t go without mentioning my beloved Terps. The Terrapins continue upping the ante in the branding game, especially since moving to the Big Ten. Much like Phil Knight’s influence at Oregon, Maryland benefits from Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank’s influence as an alumnus of the school and a strong supporter of the athletic program. A former player on the school’s football team, Plank and Under Armour provide Maryland many different uniform combinations. Many of the uniforms incorporate elements of Maryland’s flag design, which sets them apart from other universities giving just enough of an indication without being too assertive, along with full-color Maryland flag trim and seams.

Logo: Georgetown Hoyas

Photo credit of @georgetownathletics

Georgetown’s Hoyas nickname remains shrouded in mystery, with the precise origin of the term dating back to the 1890s remaining unknown. Eventually, the mascot became Jack the Bulldog. The bulldog logo has evolved over the years for the better, without losing its original spirit and character. The newest version of the logo includes a little more personality with expressive eyes, as well as shading for increased dimension and drama. The line quality is very bold and graphic, which helps with scalability and increases the perception of strength.

Website: Florida Gators

Photo of floridagators.com

FloridaGators.com demonstrates a good site that shows off their brand. Several design factors makes this a great online presence. The site features impactful imagery using bold school colors of blue and orange. The simple navigation has large callouts to important information. The callouts themselves include easy access to tickets, scoreboard and the schedule of upcoming games. The site also has large, easy-to-read news articles that grab the reader’s attention.

Instagram Account: Miami Hurricanes

Photo courtesy of @caneshoops

@Caneshoops carries a bit of everything from action shots to pre-game close-ups and team huddles to exclusive locker-room footage. Miami makes you feel ready to lace up your sneakers with a focus on action and intensity. The photo quality is consistent throughout the feed, offering a cohesive look, an important factor to acquire and maintain followers. People follow visually appealing accounts regardless of the subject. Miami takes their followers through a journey with the team, an impactful strategy for those who live and breathe basketball. That kind of slice-of-life content also can appeal even to non-basketball fans. With a minimalist mentality regarding written content, the visuals do the talking for them eloquently. Instagram accounts that invest in producing quality content gain the most and reward their followers with the experience.

 

Shawn Nesaw

Each year on March 14 (3.14), people all over the world celebrate Pi Day. The most popular of all trending holidays celebrates the mathematical constant π, 3.14159, which, if you don’t recall from sixth-grade math class, is used to calculate the circumference of a circle, among other things.

http://archimedes2.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/archimedes_templates/popup.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=146592
Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212 BC) – By Domenico Fetti

You’re probably thinking, “This made up holiday can’t really be legit.” Well, think again, friend.

The date March 14 (that is, 3.14) was designated Pi Day by House Resolution 224 of the first session of the 111th Congress of the United States in 2009.

What gave us pause about this rather abstract holiday was what makes Pi Day so popular around the world? What started out as a holiday for high school math teachers, branched out into a world-wide, social media trending, pie eating fun day, with no age limit or industry focus. Anyone can celebrate Pi Day because, even if you don’t like math or have any interest in circumference exploration, most people like pie!

And that’s where the secret lies – with pie, a close favorite to Pi. Apple, peach, pumpkin, chicken pot, meat or even pizza, all these pies make Pi Day a little more fun. See, for the Pi Day newbies, pie is a key ingredient for making Pi Day awesome for two reasons. First, it gives folks an excuse to eat pie at work. And second, π is used to find the circumference of a circle and pies just also happen to be circular! Mind blown, I know.

For Pi Day this year, we figured we’d have some fun and have a little pie bake-off. The recipes are listed below, if you want to try any of these for yourself.

Bonus: Test your math skills – The earth has a diameter of 7926.41 miles. What is the circumference of the earth? Use C=2πr. Place your answer in the comments below. Also, let us know which type of pie is your favorite. Happy Pi Day!

 

Pi Day Recipes

Peach Pies with Vanilla Wafers
Submitted by Lisa Morris

Servings: 4 individual pies.

INGREDIENTS
1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, divided into 4 equal pieces
1¾ cups chopped frozen peaches (keep frozen until ready to use)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 vanilla wafer cookies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press the pie crust pieces into 4 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine peaches, sugar and cornstarch. Toss to combine. Spoon the peach mixture into the muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the crust is golden. Top each pie with a vanilla wafer cookie and serve warm or at room temperature.

(She will be doubling ingredients to make a large pie rather than 4 individual)

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Coconut Dream Pie (Kraft)
Submitted by Teri O’Neal

Prep: 15 mins – Ready in: 4 hr 15 mins

INGREDIENTS
2 envelopes DREAM WHIP Whipped Topping Mix
2-3/4 cups cold milk, divided
2 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
1 cup coconut, toasted
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell, cooled

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat whipped topping mix and 1 cup of the milk in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed 6 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.
  2. Add remaining 1-3/4 cups milk and pudding mixes; blend on low speed.
  3. Beat on high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
  4. Stir in coconut and pecans. Spoon into pastry shell.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set. Garnish with additional toasted coconut, if desired.

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Baked Spaghetti Pie Recipe
Submitted by Katie MacNichol

YIELD: 1 large pie, 8-12 pieces
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces dried spaghetti
16 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
Pre-made pizza dough

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 inch springform pan, or a 9 inch deep-dish pie pan. If using a springform pan, wrap the outside in foil to avoid leakage.
  2. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil. In a separate saucepot, add the ground beef, sausage, onions, and garlic. Brown the meat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the meat is cooked and the onions have softened, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and 1teaspoon salt. Stir and simmer on low.
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, usually 6-9 minutes. Drain the cooked pasta.
  4. Separate out 2 cups of meat sauce and set aside. Add the cooked pasta to the remaining pot of meat sauce. Stir well to coat the pasta. Beat the eggs, then stir them into the spaghetti. Stir in the parmesan cheese
  5. Roll out ¾ of the pizza dough and lay on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 5-9 minutes (until it starts to brown). Remove from oven.
  6. Pour the spaghetti into the prepared pan on top of the crust. Press down to pack the pasta in the pan.
  7. Pour the remaining meat sauce over the top of the pie. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top. Cut the remaining pizza dough into 1” strips and make a lattice pattern on top of the cheese. Brush lightly with melted butter (optional).
  8. Bake for 15-25 minutes until the edges are crispy. Cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Chicken Pot Pie
Submitted by Shawn Nesaw

INGREDIENTS
1 box of two refrigerated pie crusts
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup whole grain flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 diced chicken breast (cooked)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Make pie crusts as directed on box for two-crust pie using a 9-inch glass pie pan.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour until well blended.  Add broth and milk gradually while continuously stirring. Cook until bubbly and thickened.
  3. Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut 4 slits in top crust.
  4. Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tips: Let pie crusts warm up to room temperature before using.  This recipe makes a thick gravy.  For a thinner gravy add an additional 1/2 cup of chicken broth.  Cook chicken in the same pan prior to making the gravy for additional flavor and less dishes to wash.  Leftover chicken broth can be frozen for later use.