3 Epic Failures in Branding ‒ What Were They Thinking?

It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s even better if you can learn from the mistakes of others. Here are three recent examples of branding failures you’ll want to avoid: 1.  Kmart  Poor Kmart. In what looks like an attempt to cover for not having enough merchandise on the shelves, Kmart launched its “Ship Your Pants” campaign, assuring unhappy consumers that if their desired item wasn’t in stock, they could pay for it in-store and have it shipped to their homes. OK, it’s a funny joke. But since families are Kmart’s bread and butter, they’ve always maintained an uncontroversial, middle of the road brand image. Suddenly we’re associating the Kmart brand with having a load in our pants. The takeaway: don’t use excrement to promote your brand. 2.  JC Penney In an effort to revitalize drooping sales, the venerable Penney’s brand decided to get hip and appeal to a younger market. So they redesigned their logo, discontinued a boatload of merchandise, got rid of cash registers, and cut the whole concept of sales and discount coupons. The result? The brand’s strongest supporters, customers who’d been shopping at Penney’s for years, were driven away in droves. Now the brand is …

The 3 Keys to Brand Visibility ‒ Simplicity, Sociability, Sincerity

Some people will tell you that visibility is achieved by being the loudest guy in the room; that to win the prize you have to win the shouting match. I don’t believe that’s true. Being loud and persistent definitely gets you noticed ‒ but usually not in the way you’d like. When your brand is both recognized and respected, success will come. To open the door to lasting, positive visibility for your brand, use these keys: Remember the simple stuff Your best publicity comes from your personal network. Nobody wants to see your small business succeed more than your friends, your happiest clients, and your close professional allies. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials and recommendations! If you’re worried about coming on too strong, create an incentive program to reward their support. Not everything has to happen in the online world. Promotional giveaways still work. Try finding a small promotional product that meshes well with your business ‒ a flash drive for your software company, or a canvas tote bag for your recycling enterprise, for example ‒ and get your business name out in the public eye. Use social media Expand your network with social media. Join LinkedIn groups, …

Components of a Strong Brand: Knowing Your Target Market

What is branding? However you try to pin it down, great branding is hard to define ‒ but it’s easy to recognize. Try this little exercise: close your eyes for a second, and picture the customers enjoying a cappucino at Starbucks. It was easy, right? That’s because Starbucks knows exactly who their target market is ‒ so you do, too. Having a clear understanding of your target market is one way to start building a great, memorable brand. Here’s a quick overview of how it works: Define your ideal customer Begin by putting together a profile of your ideal customer ‒ the person who is most likely to purchase your product or pay for your service. Consider as many variables as you can, including age group, gender, location, income level, and marital/family status. Each one of these factors will have an influence on the way you tailor your marketing, and the way that customers will respond to it. Do some hard-core research You might feel like you don’t have the time or resources to put into market research. But research is the nuts and bolts of good branding, and without it you’ll have nothing under your feet but dreams. Organize …

Facebook Updates: Good News for Small Businesses

Is Facebook the number one social media platform for your small business? If so, you’ll be happy to know that two recent updates by this social behemoth are going to make your life just a little bit easier. Looser rules for promotions If you’ve ever run a contest on Facebook, you know that the regulations regarding promotions were pretty strict. In the past, Facebook’s rules prohibited the use of “likes” either to enter a contest or to vote in one. With the new updates in place, these restrictions have been lifted. Users can vote by “liking,” and you’re also allowed to ask for comments or “likes” as a way to join in a promotion. Until now, Facebook contests and promotions could only be run through a third-party app. With the new updates, that’s no longer the case. If you’re up to the task, you can now run your own promotions right on your business page timeline. And if you’d rather let somebody else do the grunt work, you can still use a third party. As always, there are a couple of caveats – it’s now verboten to involve a personal timeline in your business promotions, so don’t ask users to …

Big Branding Backfires: Two Leads You Won’t Want to Follow

Marketing and social media experts spend a lot of time writing about soft metrics like brand image and brand loyalty. We think it’s important to build a brand that’s both recognizable and trustworthy ‒ but maybe if your corporation is big enough, you don’t need to be trusted. Check out what’s going on with these two giants: Coca-Cola’s suspect marketing moves Like McDonald’s and others, the Coca-Cola corporation is under fire from consumers for contributing to obesity. To combat criticism and promote the idea that soda can be a safe addition to a healthy diet, Coke launched a new ad campaign this summer. In Mexico and the E.U. the ads focused on helping consumers burn extra calories. They list the number of calories in a bottle of Coke, and feature some easy ways to use up those calories. But wait ‒ the bottle in the ad is almost half the size of the best-selling sized soda bottle in Mexico. And oops ‒ the European ads forgot to mention that you’d have to do all the exercises to burn up all the calories. Coca-Cola recently pulled the ad campaign from their markets in Mexico and in the U.K. Now that’s what …

5 Quick Tips for Powering Your B2B Marketing With SlideShare

Are you looking for a simple and effective way to reach your market? Having trouble finding a way to make Facebook work for your B2B? It’s time you got to know SlideShare. SlideShare currently pulls in more than 60 million visits and over 100 million page views each month. And unlike Facebook, it attracts viewers who are looking for real information about business, current market trends, research and statistics. Designed to feed users’ hunger for succinct, visual information, SlideShare is a great addition to your content marketing repertoire.  Here are a few tips to help you get started: 1.  The average number of words on a single slide is about 20 ‒ so be pithy, and use graphics to convey information as well as to illustrate important points. 2.  While you should be cautious about being too wordy on any given slide, it’s OK to have a presentation of 40 or more slides. If you have a lot of good information to share, do it. And if you can’t put together at least 18 slides, you might not have a presentation. 3.  Optimize your tags, keywords and descriptions for the best search engine results. Your visibility will soar if you …

Getting Creative With QR Codes

I think QR codes offer a great opportunity for creative marketing. In the interest of transparency, you should know that I’m involved in a venture founded around QR codes. You should also know that I don’t like QR codes because I’m part of this business venture; rather, I got into it because I believe in the marketing power of QR codes. That being said, take a look at these impressive and innovative ways that businesses around the world have put them to work ‒ and consider the possibilities for your own small business. Not-so-traditional advertising Yobi, a new sushi restaurant in London, started a QR ad campaign before they even opened. They plastered the facade of their construction site with QR codes that sent interested passers-by into a little fishing game on their mobile phones. Those who caught fish won a discount at the restaurant once it opened. Gillette presented a new line of razors with a QR campaign featuring access to special videos, product reviews, and even direct-from-mobile purchases. Oh ‒ did I mention that the videos show beautiful women discussing their opinions on men’s body hair? Nice touch. “Activated” QR campaigns How about a beer-activated QR code? Guinness …

How to Manage Your Social Media Presence Effectively

Establishing and maintaining a positive social media presence for your small business can be a real grind. It takes time and know-how to “do social” right ‒ time that you probably wish you had more of, and know-how that you might lack. How, then, do you leverage your resources effectively? Set specific goals Many small businesses make the mistake of creating a social presence just because everybody seems to have one. This is one area where something is not better than nothing ‒ without some specific goals, you’re wasting your time. Create a list of realistic marketing goals for your social media presence. For example, social media can create brand awareness. It can help drive traffic to your business website, or build sales. It might be used to build up an email list, improve your search engine rankings, increase subscriptions, or to research customer preferences and new markets. Find the best fit Once you’ve established some meaningful goals, consider focusing on the social platforms that suit your company best. You’ll need to devote about 30 hours each month for each channel your company uses ‒ so target two or three platforms and no more. Facebook will probably be your first …

Sure-Fire Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Startup

You’ve put in the hours and done your homework. You’ve got a solid business plan and a great team. Now you’re ready to go live, and just one question remains: How do you get targeted traffic to your website? The Basics Use Google Analytics from your first day and every day forward. Measure everything you can ‒ total traffic, patterns of usage, and bounce rates, to name a few ‒ and use this information to guide your decisions and fine-tune your site’s appeal. Make sure you have two or three strong pieces of content on your site ‒ some folks call this “pillar” content ‒ that will continue to draw an interested readership. Good writing and in-depth information should have the legs to inspire sharing and bring more visitors to your site. The Fun Stuff Your earliest adopters will always be the most curious, and the most hungry for knowledge. Satisfy their hunger with a few free tutorials, e-books, or white papers. The better and more useful your offerings are, the bigger your payoff will be. A great giveaway will drive sharing, attract new users, and inspire return visits. Leverage the power of interviews for your site. There are several …

Mobile First: Basic Strategies for Small Business Success

If you haven’t yet taken the steps to adopt mobile technology for your small business, maybe this will get your attention: Facebook’s shares just reached their highest price since they went public in 2012. The reason: they put mobile at the top of their priorities. OK, you’re probably not running a multi-billion dollar company. So what? You can still put mobile at the top of your priorities, and you can still reap the benefits. Let’s start with three basic strategies that any small business can utilize. 1.  Claim your spot The very most important you can do to start leveraging the power of mobile for your business is to claim your business listing on Google. Make sure you’re listed correctly in all the online directories, and don’t forget about the local ones. You want to ensure that your business shows up on maps when consumers search from their mobile devices. 2.  Optimize for mobile The website you’re so proud of is not going to look the same on the small screen of a smartphone or tablet. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and start planning a new site that’s designed responsively. Make sure that when mobile users …