Kristie Sheppard

It’s a tale as old as time. Shoppers see a promotion for “joining the club” or getting those special “members-only” benefits and then before they know it, they have more memberships than they know what to do with. Then, after just one shipment, they cancel the membership altogether. How do you keep members around for the long-haul? For wine clubs, it starts with creating brand loyalty.

What’s in your shipment?
Make your members feel like it’s Christmas morning the day their shipment arrives. Leading up to delivery, build up the excitement through emails, social media and phone calls. Make each and every member feel special, as if they are your priority customer. Personalize your packaging by including a note or brief letter. Even better – toss in some extra swag. Think of your shipment as the one piece of mail people look forward to getting. Your club members should be thrilled to receive that big box!
Create brand ambassadors
Use your shipment as an opportunity to cultivate your audience. Include fun tips, tricks and recipes that will make your members want to tell their friends and family, and include a referral discount coupon for them to pass along when they do. Go beyond just delivering a product and include a DIY experience in each shipment that features the wines. For example, with the summer shipment of Sauvignon Blanc, include a dinner recipe that pairs with the wine. Toss in suggestions for table settings that match the label and your brand colors as well as some craft supplies with an instruction card on how to turn that wine bottle into a centerpiece. If a shipment has sparkling wine, include instructions on how to saber it. If you give your members something to talk about while enjoying the wine, they will.
Make members feel special
Communication is the key to any successful relationship. Communicate with your members more often than just notifying them of their shipment. Turn the purchase into a relationship. Send a birthday card or wine club anniversary card. Call them once they receive their shipment to answer questions about the wine. Engage with them on social media by liking their posts, commenting on their activities or creating conversations through a custom hashtag. In order for your members to feel that you care, you have to show them you do.

Do you have other methods for creating brand loyalty? We want to hear them! Tag us on Facebook or Twitter to let us know your tips.

Shawn Nesaw

User-generated content (UGC) takes the form of content, usually photos or videos, created in support of a product, brand, idea or trend. Brands publish the content on social media channels, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, to allow for republishing content on their own social channels to further promote the brand and build loyalty among audiences.

UGC offers a ripe opportunity for businesses to build a community around their brand. Similar to giving a compliment, UGC represents something everyone likes getting because it makes us feel good and encourages us. Similarly, when a business shares content that one of their customers posted on their social media page, the business compliments that person by featuring their content and thanking them for their business. This type of public recognition creates stronger customer loyalty to the brand.

Speaking of loyalty, some may say, “brand loyalty is dead or dying,” but consider these statistics from Accenture describing the behaviors of U.S. consumers:

  • 57 % spend more on brands or providers simply for loyalty
  • 51% show loyalty to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication
  • 55% express loyalty by recommending the brands and companies they love to family friends
  • 14% publicly endorse or defend a brand or organization on social media

Building community around your brand is absolutely still important and UGC can help you achieve the community you want for almost no additional cost to you, the business. Explore UGC with the following best practices.

UGC best practices
After monitoring all your social media properties, it’s clear people tag your business, your products, even your staff in their photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Before you start posting customer content as your own, review a few rules of courtesy to abide by when possible.

  1. Ask for permission to use someone’s photo, video or GIF. Simply message the person using the direct messaging feature built into the respective social media channel. Compliment them and mention how you would love to share on your account. Nine times out of 10, flattered by your request, they happily oblige.
  2. Give photo credit in your post. A photo credit could be as simple as “(Photo cred: @username)” or “(?: @username).”
  3. Recognize the person or business in your post thanking them for their business or support. You can also subtly weave in a key message. Just make sure the post reflects more about them than you.

Examples of great uses of UGC
If you still can’t envision how UGC works or how it looks for your business, read through the examples of effective UGC use below.

Take a look at each example noting the photo composition, the caption and the tag of the photographer. In each case, the brand used short and simple captions, emojis and tagged the photographer. Using the camera emoji or the word, “Regram,” before the users’ tag signifies the original photographer.

Starbucks:
Buffer:
Bass Pro Shops:
Ben & Jerry’s:
Perfect example of expert use of UGC
While the above examples make it pretty clear what UGC looks like in practice, we offer one more perfect example of how a restaurant successfully executed UGC on social media to promote their brand and turn a visitor into a loyal follower.A restaurant wanted to promote their weekly Wednesday ramen night. They monitored their Instagram account for recent posts for public posts tagging their business or their restaurant location was tagged. They found a sharp photo of ramen from the week before that matched the look and feel of their feed.

This execution checked a few boxes for the restaurant. It promoted the ramen night, garnered awareness and attention for the business and boosted brand loyalty for that person.

Have you considered using user-generated content to build a stronger community around your brand? If you already use UGC on your social media accounts, how’s it going? Let us know in the comments or share your best execution.

Marketing businesses using Facebook and Twitter has become a growing tactic in marketing plans across all industries. Social media platforms serve as an effective tool for circulating branded messaging, but Internet usage and trends continue to change every day.

In a recent article, Bulldog Reporter found that 90% of all Internet traffic and 50% of mobile traffic is now made up of photos and video. For growing visual media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, this means an opportunity for continued expansion. Instagram’s more than 200 million users make up an attractive market of young people for PR and marketers. Digital media reporting site Mashable has also found that 1 in 5 U.S. adults are now using Pinterest. These large groups of users of both platforms are at the ready to receive visual content that could ultimately lead to better connecting and capitalizing on consumer and brand relationships.

With the expanding use of visual media, it is more important than ever to control your brand’s messaging. People make decisions based on trust and brand promise. Using photos and visuals helps create another tangible connection to brands. As we can see from these recent statistics, it is becoming a greater means of communication – that old adage “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Having a strategic presence in visual media can serve as a key tool to further brand development as part of an integrated marketing approach. Everything you do or say influences what people think about your brand, so providing them with a visual example of what your brand promises also helps demonstrate that your brand delivers on this promise.

No matter the medium, the ability to connect users with your brand is crucial to developing brand loyalty, and will ultimately lead to a better consumer experience. It’s important to assess your own brand strategy as it compares to trends, as not all trends serve brands equally. With the expanding use of visual media, now is an opportune time to analyze your own brand and consider the most strategic uses of visual media and how it can potentially become part of your integrated marketing approach.

Cari Ashkin

By: Meg O’Hara, A. Bright Idea Marketing Intern

As a rising college senior and current A. Bright Idea intern studying communications and public relations, I have the opportunity to compare the information I have learned as a student with the firsthand experience I have gathered at A. Bright Idea. One interesting recent event had me comparing just that– the academic perspective of what I’ve learned about branding and the real-life importance of protecting a brand.

In the past several weeks, America has tuned into the Paula Deen controversy, a well-recognized and seemingly friendly TV personality, under fire for making derogatory comments in the past. Such events have put Deen’s brand at risk, causing many of her supporters, fans and sponsors to cut ties with Deen and her organization. While she certainly isn’t the first to face a brand crisis, as many athletes and political figures also endure such struggles, it is an important lesson to learn from and topic to address – what measures can be taken to prevent a brand crisis and protect a brands reputation? For certain, strong public relations tactics are necessary to maintain the image of the individual or company including developing a crisis management plan prior to incidents, enabling a proactive response and controlling an organizations message.

Here is a quick list of general do’s and don’ts:

1. Speak early and often. This does not necessarily mean that you have to take the blame for something you didn’t do just to settle the storm, but if you’re in the middle of a PR crisis it is important to remember there is a reason why the situation came about in the first place.  For example, if a brand is being threatened because of an offensive comment that a representative may have made and it wasn’t intended to be construed in that way, apologize for the way it was interpreted and for being unclear.

2. Be clear. Nothing is more important than strong communication. If a statement was misunderstood the first time, reword and explain the points. Preparing a statement prior to notifying the public is critical.

3. Control your message. While it is important to be sincerely apologetic, it is also crucial that a representative be poised, well spoken and have key messages rehearsed and ready. When an image is being repaired, consider that the public needs a reason to rebuild the trust that was lost. If the owner of a company or brand cannot keep their emotions intact on camera, viewers might wonder if they are truly professional and fit for representing a company.

4. Stay consistent. Along with sincerity, the public seeks honesty. When a representative changes a story to repair the image of the brand, it can generate more harm than good. Flip-flopping creates doubt and distrust, further tarnishing the relationship between the company and the public.

5. Keep points concise. Dragging an issue on longer than needed is detrimental to the brand. Every issue settles with time and continuing to harp on the mistake simply prolongs the matter.

Though many companies have faced extreme PR challenges, countless come out successfully. New stories arise diverting the media attention away from the issue, and by taking control of the situation wisely with a plan in place, it is more likely a brand or image can be repaired and rebuilt.

Creative agency will provide strategic marketing, design and advertising support

A. Bright Idea Advertising and Public Relations will provide marketing and creative campaign development support as Stella Maris marks 60 years of elder care and the 30 years of hospice care as Baltimore’s premier provider of long-term care, assisted living and hospice care.

“We are thrilled to work with Stella Maris and welcome the opportunity to utilize our full range of services for a strategic and comprehensive campaign recognizing the organization’s important contributions to the Baltimore community,” said T.J. Brightman, Vice President of Client Relations. “We look forward to promoting Stella Maris’ strong history of compassionate and professional care to the region through dynamic creative.”

This year marks 60 years of Stella Maris serving the needs of the Baltimore community. Stella Maris has been a leader in providing care for elders, with services including senior living facilities, home care, long-term care, rehabilitation, dementia care, as well as a full-service senior day center. Stella Maris is also celebrating another milestone this year, with 30 years of hospice care – one of the first Medicare certified hospices in the state. The anniversary campaign will celebrate Stella Maris’ tradition of high-quality, compassionate care with a reputation unsurpassed in Baltimore.

A. Bright Idea’s experience working with clients in the hospital, physician and health-related industry, as well as past performance results and new strategic recommendations led to the firm’s selection by Stella Maris.

Quotes and common sayings seem to weave their way into our every day dialogue, but have you ever considered where the sayings actually come from? We’ve compiled a list of brand taglines used in advertising, marketing materials and websites that are also popular cultural sayings. Do you find yourself saying any of these?

 

  • “That was easy”
  • “Never let ‘em see you sweat”
  • “We’re cooking now”
  • “…like a rock”
  • “Where’s the beef?”
  • “Sorry Charlie”
  • “Think outside the box”
  • “When you’ve got it, flaunt it”
  • “Wassup”
  • “Have it your way”
  • “Be all that you can be”
  • “Give me a break”
  • “Just for the fun of it”
  • “That’s the cold truth”

 

Now for the true test! Can you tell us from the list above, which ones were taglines first versus which were popular sayings that turned into brand taglines?

 

Now let’s take it a step further, can you match each with the brand they represent? Below is a list of all the brand names associated with the above taglines and popular sayings. How many can you match? No cheating!

 

Brand Names:

  • Denny’s
  • Chevy
  • U.S. Army
  • Apple
  • Gillette
  • Diet Coke
  • Braniff Airlines
  • Budweiser
  • Kit-Kat Bar
  • Burger King
  • Staples
  • StarKist Tuna
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Wendy’s

Send an email to Katie@abrightideaonline.com to see if your answers are correct!

I recently saw a video entitled, “What if money was no object,” narrated by Alan Watts. The imagery was compelling, and coupled with the catchy accent of the narrator, helped resonate it’s important key message and takeaway – life is too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy.

It’s the start of a new year. With 2012 our past, and 2013 our future, it’s the perfect moment to take advantage and get inspired to think about change. Some people are change-averse, while others welcome it with open arms. As we begin this new year, it’s a great time to reflect on the past year or two (or ten) and analyze if you are heading in the direction you had hoped – whether it pertains to yourself, your business, your brand, and/or how you want to be perceived.

Could this be the year that you push the envelope and modernize? Maybe tackle a new market or expand your service or product offerings? Refresh or update the brand you’ve kept since your company’s inception? As time, trends and your customers change, your business strategy needs to account for these changes.

Refining your business strategy, key messages or brand does not have to mean a complete overhaul of everything you’ve established. Rather, it can be more of a refinement of how you identify and present your business to your target audience, and among the competition. What makes you unique, different, a benefit? Why are you trusted, savvy or the expert in your field? In order to stay in competition you have to be the competition. Keeping your business strategy on target and staying tapped in to your position in the market is essential in understanding your marketing and branding strategy, and analyzing your success in accomplishing the goals of your business.

Below are items to consider as you evaluate your branding position and business strategy, as well as your plans on what you intend to accomplish in 2013 and beyond.

Relevancy – Consider the relevancy of your brand or business – externally and internally. Does your brand encompass the business strategy now and how you intend to be perceived now and in the future?

Growth – Does your business have multiple entities or pieces? Consider uniting them under a single brand mark or name. Sometimes, growth warrants change. If your business has expanded over the years, it may be time to refine a stronger brand representing your success. Key messaging may need tweaking with your growth.

Audience – Consider the audience of your business. Does your company want to tap into a new market? Is the current brand suitable for that audience? Changing the business location or new product offerings or services warrants a look into your overall business strategy and goals.

Handling your business goals and branding strategically is a necessity. Making a change can be difficult, but if made with trust and a thorough plan can mean a world of difference.

Take a moment and enjoy the video. Catch a little inspiration and consider what change could mean to you. It might be time for a refinement of your strategy – look back at your one year, five year or ten year plan. Where are you in your plan and how have you performed? Maybe it’s time to breathe some new life into your business or brand. Get inspired by 2013 and make an impact for the years to come!

The planning season is upon us – who are we kidding; we actually begin planning for next year in October or even earlier! However, as we inch closer to the new year, there are still a great number of opportunities for businesses to get ready and tackle their goals with a strategic advertising plan.

First things first, an advertising plan is only part of a business’ larger strategic marketing plan. The marketing plan should outline the organization’s goals, objectives, stakeholders, key messages and tactics – one of which could be advertising.  The marketing plan is essential for businesses to keep on target as they work toward accomplishing goals, and lays the groundwork for the supporting tactics (like advertising) to be effective and measured for success.

Effective advertising comes from good planning and research, proper budgeting, utilizing key messages, including a strong call to action, and of course, commitment. Here are some tips to think about when planning your advertising strategy for 2013.

1. Know your brand – What makes you unique? How are you, your products or services different than the competition?  Review your brand when thinking about your advertising focus for the year.

2. Identify your focus – Will it be branding, highlighting a product or service, or developing a promotional offer? How and why are you planning to focus your advertising on this messaging? How is what you are promoting, different than the competition?

3. Set your goals – A step that goes right along with identifying the focus, establishing realistic and measurable goals is essential to an advertising plan. Is the focus of the advertising in line with your overall business goals? If not, why is it the focus? Don’t advertise for the sake of advertising if your messaging isn’t going to support your business’ goals.

4. Set your budget – Seemingly simple, but truly one of the most important to focus on. Don’t simply say, “let’s do what we did last year.” Work with your agency and take the time to review and analyze your advertising budget and what your goals for the coming year include. Is the amount dedicated to advertising right to support your goals?

5. Identify the appropriate medium – Considering your goals, focus and target audience, work with your advertising agency to identify the proper media mix.

6. Look at the calendar – Is any part of your advertising focus seasonal? Plan your advertising calendar along with your business cycle. Take advantage of down times to brand yourself.

7. Monitor the impact – Keeping tabs on the results is important, but you should also remember that advertising takes commitment. Don’t pull the plug because you didn’t get a call in the first week. Some marketing statistics say a person needs to hear an ad three times before retaining the information, while others say seven and so on. Plus, a person may not need (or think they need) what you’re offering right at that moment. The key is that they think of you when they do realize they have a need.

8. Make changes and learn from the results – This can be done over the course of the campaign, or year. Is your current campaign getting the results you intended and impacting your marketing goals? Maybe there needs to be a change in the key message, product or offer? Or, how can the current messaging be altered to breathe new life into the campaign and build off its success?

Looking for more help? Working with a professional is a small investment that can lead to big results. Call us to see how we can help you get started.

The discussion recently at a four-year old birthday party took a different turn when someone blurted out, “So I’m never eating at Chick-fil-A again.” Several guests joined in, either whole heartedly agreeing or some fervently opposing the view – and voices started to climb the decibel scale. Thank goodness it was time to blow out the candles.

In case you missed the recent coverage, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, whose father founded the business, recently reiterated the company’s belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit.” This led to an outcry from same-sex marriage advocates and the social media sphere blew up with boycott demands. Suddenly neighbors found themselves either pro-delicious chicken sandwich or opting to go to its competitors to satisfy their fast food craving.

When companies and organizations go off the key message cue card and make social or political statements, do consumers suffer? No matter your stance – does consuming a large waffle fry mean you’re expressing to the world your social and political views?

CNN asks this same question in the article “When a sandwich becomes a social statement.” Instead of communicating its appreciation for its consumer base, Chick-fil-A’s PR team has been working double time steer the discussion away from the political game.

Sadly, USA Today announced late week that Chick-fil-A’s chief spokesman for company “died early today amid the furor sparked by his boss’ biblical opposition to same-sex marriage.”  The article noted he had just recently issued a statement “expressing the company’s desire to ‘not proactively being engaged in the dialogue on gay marriage. ‘Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,’ his statement said.”

When an organization goes off-message – it’s important to get back to basics. Revisit your core business and communication goals for your target audience and move forward. Although Chick-fil-A is known for its religious ethos tied into its operations, surely its core goal is to make and serve quality food. As Alan Pearcy noted in PR Daily “Maybe the company—particularly its president—should let the chicken do the talking from now on.”

Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist - A. Bright Idea

We’ve all been there. Your food arrives cold, your online order ships and is different than it appeared on your screen (or three weeks after the estimated ship date and far too late), or the expensive piece of equipment you just bought brakes the first time you use it. Whether it’s a service or product based issue, we’ve all been disappointed by a company at one time in our lives. You may have complained to a manager or bravely took on a 2-hour on-hold session with the Customer Service Department. While it’s likely that some of you received a satisfactory result, I’ll bet for most of you even thinking about customer service mishaps initiate a twinge in the heart, just knowing how unbearably annoying the lack of service can be by a company’s attempts at rectifying an issue.

Now, thanks to social media, consumers have a broad stage to complain on and spread these bad experiences through word-of-mouth (or type-to-tweet) messaging. While some companies have taken the initiative to use these channels to effectively respond to customer complaints, others have shied away from the tool are finding that customers are also shying away from their brand.

In a recent article in American Marketing Association’s Marketing Researchers, Dr. Guy Winch, psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem, discussed how today’s social media channels impact consumers’ complaining psychology.

Many consumers believe that companies could care less about their complaints. The article cited that only 5% of consumers voice a complaint to the company when dissatisfied with a product or service, meaning that 95% will not voice a complaint because they believe it requires too much time and effort. However, if you’re like most consumers, you’ll instead complain to your closest 15 friends/associates. Now, social media channels offer consumers the option to complain freely without involving too much time or effort, and by bypassing lengthy toll free calls and the fear of being put on endless hold or even disconnected when you’re transferred for the fourth time. Consumers have access to voice their complaints in a direct way, which also invites more and more people to do so – those who may not have normally responded to an issue before (impacting that 95%).

While social media is still considered “new” and most of us still have a negative perception toward customer service attributes in response to consumer complaints, some companies, like Wachovia (Wells Fargo) or Delta for example, do monitor these channels and use them as social media Customer Service Departments. They manage responses quickly and use the data in attempts to get better – and it’s visible. What’s more, these platforms offer businesses access to direct consumer feedback – what customers like, don’t like, what they are buying, what they aren’t, etc. It’s a free focus group!

In general, consumers have a good relationship with a business until something goes wrong. It’s up to the company to make it right and mend the relationship. Companies need to find out the details of the situation and show the customer that they are doing something about it. Rather than citing the return policy verbatim, businesses should offer a real heartfelt response and a sincere recognition of the pain a customer has gone through. Customers want to know that they’re heard. Even if their situation can’t be completely rectified, the manner in which it’s handled is the key. Social media makes it easy for customers to complain, but it’s the company’s responsibility to resolve the issue and convert the relationship. Responding to consumers via these channels with a message that says, “We hear you,” ‘We understand there is an issue,” or even “Here’s how to contact us” is just the first, but very important step.

In my November blog post I cited some interesting statistics from an article in Marketing News, which noted that people generate nearly 500 billion online impressions on each other in regards to products and services each year, and Nielsen Online estimates the total number of online advertising impressions comes in around just under two trillion. Now are you listening? In general, people tend to believe and associate themselves with the experiences of other people. If you’re not providing the service quality people expect, no matter how big your budget is and how much of an ingenious marketing campaign you develop, that word-of-mouth negativity can infringe on your brand and erode your profits if your not choosing to rectify these situations and promote that you’re doing so  – turning around those perceptions and making them brand advocates.

Today, we all expect instant gratification. Companies that are not responding to complaints made on social media through social media – or with plans to do so soon – may be impacted in the long run. Monitoring these tools will help businesses better understand their customers and be more attuned to their target audience. When companies do a good job of handling customer complaints and responds to them correctly, customer loyalty can increase exponentially – more so than if there was never an issue. The complaint response creates a story that the customer will share with all of their friends and acquaintances – and most important, it’s a story with a happy ending.