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Laura Lynch

Laura Lynch

Laura is the senior writer at MOVE Communications. She specializes in blogging, content marketing, and brand research. She graduated with degrees in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh, is an avid reader, and takes every opportunity she can to explore the world.

Branding is more than just a logo.

We talk a lot about branding: brand awareness, brand reputation, brand storytelling… But what is a brand to begin with? A logo? A product? A font set and some fancy style guides?

All of these things make a brand, but a brand itself is more than the sum of its parts.

What does your company stand for?

Does your company hold transparency and efficiency as core values? Is environmental sustainability an intrinsic part of your organization? Maybe you believe in giving back to the local community, or lowering technological barriers through open-source software.

Whatever your values are, they should form a key part of your brand. But they won’t if they aren’t embraced by your company, because your customers need to see these values to believe in them.

In other words, you may say you’re an honest person. You may even care very much about honesty. But if you don’t behave in a honest fashion, then no one will perceive you as being honest. If your company says it values transparency, but isn’t actually transparent, then transparency isn’t part of its brand.

Your relationship with your customer defines your brand.

At the end of the day, you can’t define your brand as any single, concrete element of your company. It’s more of an abstract concept: anytime anyone interacts with your company, they experience your brand. That means they experience your brand when they:

  • look up your website
  • receive an email from a member of your company
  • enter your office building or brick-and-mortar store
  • make a customer service call
  • see you on social media
  • hear about your business from a friend

So if you want to build your brand and incorporate into it the values you hold dear, then those values have to be present in each of those interactions:

  • If you value transparency, your customer has to be able to find the information they need when they look at your website.
  • If you value efficiency, your emails should be clear and to the point without leaving out crucial information.
  • If you value environmental sustainability, your customers should be able to find recycling bins when they walk into your location.

Your brand is defined by how a customer feels whenever they interact with your company. Have you made that relationship a positive one?

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"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person." —Jeff Bezos

How well do you guard your reputation? If you're like most of us, you care what people say about you. You want to leave a positive impression, and you want to be remembered for your good qualities.

Your brand represents your company in the same way your reputation stands for you as an individual. How well do you care for it?

#WeeklyWord

#MOVEahead

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How to make an advertisement into a podcast feature

My brother recently introduced me to a new podcast, Mystery Show, which, if you haven’t listened it it already, you should. The premise is simple: if you have a mystery in your life which needs solving, Starlee Kine will be your sleuth. The only rule is it can’t be solved via the Internet.

Starlee narrates her investigation with all the intimate, disarming charm inherent to the podcast genre. However, as endearing as the show is itself, it also features my newest favorite advertisement—for Kind Snacks.

Starlee’s advert on her podcast begins in the standard manner: she reads off some scripted ad copy leading up to one of Kind’s taglines: “ingredients you can see and pronounce.” This is where genius strikes: The Ingredient List.

Get the cast involved

The Ingredient List is a show within the show. In my favorite installment, “Cinnamon,” one of the cast members explains, “Kind snacks are made from ingredients you can see and pronounce, except: little kids can’t pronounce cinnamon. So can we just have kids trying to say cinnamon for 30 seconds?”

And then follows 30 seconds of the host of the show and other cast members trying to coax little kids to say cinnamon. It is cute, funny, memorable.

What’s impressive here is that the ad is new every time. The Ingredient List features a new ingredient from a Kind snack each week, and then it plays around with that ingredient. “Quinoa,” for instance, which you can’t pronounce when your mouth is full. Or “Mixed nuts,” which you can see, pronounce, and use to prank your friends.

And much like the “MailKimp” ad from Serial, the success of this ad hinges on authenticity. Because we can hear the cast having fun with the ad, we believe them when they promote the product. And from their side of things, they get a chance to run an ad that stays in keeping with the spirit of their show.

Turn your ad into a segment of the show

Mystery Show’s Kind advertisement does something that very few advertising campaigns are able to accomplish: it advertises the show as much as the product. It’s kind of like how half the Super Bowl audience tunes in for the legendary commercials rather than the game itself. The advertising entertains so well that we want more of it. We look forward to it coming on. When it starts, we ask others to be quiet so that we can listen.

So if you’re looking for a podcast to sponsor, here are our top takeaways:

  • Don’t just pick a podcast based on its audience size. Think about who they are, and if they fit in with your brand. Do the hosts like and use your product? Will a promo from them feel authentic?
  • Involve the cast in the writing of your ad as much as possible. Have them work with your writers so that they have something that feels as much a part of their podcast’s brand as your own. Think about the ad spot as if you are promoting each other.
  • Podcasts are a more intimate, casual genre than other mediums, so don’t be afraid to do something that sounds more off the cuff.

Do you run a podcast? What kind of relationship do you like to build with your sponsors?

#MOVEahead

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Which numbers matter on social media?

Social media is full of metrics: How many impressions did your advertisement have? How many likes, shares, retweets, and faves did your post generate? How many people clicked through to your website? How many followers do you have?

All of these mean different things depending on the channel you’re on, but the question is, which of these numbers are the most important? The metrics can largely be broken into three groups: audience size, views, and engagement. Here’s a breakdown of what they mean and how you should value them in relation to your sales efforts.

How big is your audience?

On Facebook, your audience size is determined by the number of people who like your page, while on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, your followers are your audience. Different nomenclature, same concept. These are the folk who have asked to hear from you, specifically, and your posts will appear on their feed. You don’t have to pay anything to speak to these people, so the larger you grow this number the lower the cost of getting your message out.

As we said previously, you want to give your fans a lot of love, but don’t push a sale too hard or you’ll push them away.

Who’s seeing your content?

When you make a post, you want to know how far it goes. This is usually measured by the number of impressions the post received, or by how many people the post reached. The difference between the two is that while reach measures the number of people who saw your post, impressions measure how many times it was seen (even if it was seen by the same person multiple times).

The number of impressions can get quite high, particularly if you’re putting money into an advertising campaign. However, their value is limited. Imagine you’ve put up a billboard on the side of the highway: the number of people driving by who see your billboard are equivalent to your impressions. But you don’t know if “seeing your billboard” means if they responded to it, or even if they read it fully.

This doesn’t mean impressions are worthless. They do help build awareness for your brand, meaning that if someone sees your advertising repeatedly they may become more familiar with who you are. It is, however, important not to be too focused on them simply because they are a large number.

What is your engagement rate?

Engagement is measured as your cumulative likes, shares, retweets, clicks, comments, etc. In short, any time someone interacts with your content in a meaningful way, it counts toward engagement. These numbers will always be significantly smaller than your impressions, but they carry much more weight because they express interest. Track your engagement numbers month-to-month and compare them against averages in your industry to get an idea of how you’re doing.

Will these numbers help me build sales?

When you get down to the brass tacks, marketing efforts that don’t lead to sales at a certain point waste your time and money. Selling on social media can be fast for some (online retailers) and slow for others (B2B services), but only dedicated effort will get you there.

With all the excitement and publicity viral videos bring, there can be an illusion that social media is a fast track for success. In the real word, social media is much more like a workout: show up every day, put in your best effort, and over time you’ll build your brand and see the result in sales.

Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.

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Building a fan base for your brand on social media

For decades, traditional advertising appeared as an interruption to daily life. Television and radio, billboards and magazine inserts were all about grabbing your attention during otherwise routine activities: the ad itself was never the destination.

Until the Internet.

Today, social media channels, while not ads per say, have provided a venue for advertising that audiences have voluntarily chosen to be a part of. Consumers have adopted brands as part of their identity. They have become fans.

This is not to say disruptive advertising is a thing of the past: most advertising is still an interruption (and it probably always will be). If you’re new on the scene and trying to get people to know who you are, you have to say “hello” somehow. But once people have shaken your hand (i.e. opted-in to your social media channel), you’re no longer working with a cold audience. You’re speaking to people who have chosen to listen to you.

You have to prove your value to them. And that means NOT treating your social media like an advertising feed.

Avoiding the hard sell on social media

In order to have an effective presence on social media, you must stay focused on your audience. They are not interested in a relentless stream of sales pitches.

Imagine you are a tire company. You could waste a lot of time (and money) on social media pushing a lot of coupons and sales that will get exactly zero people excited. Why? Because no one buys tires on impulse. They are in the market maybe about once a year or so (per vehicle they own), or seasonally depending on your climate. If you’re trying to convince them to go buy tires TODAY, you’re wasting your breath.

Instead, you want to be sure that on the day they choose to go buy tires, you are the first company that comes to mind. And you do this by establishing trust and providing value up front. For instance: You could put out tips for how to check your tire pressure, advice about which tires will work best for your climate, and safety infographics about how keeping your tires in good order will help prevent accidents.

And then, when Fall rolls around and the opportune moment arrives, you can promote a special sale on winter tires. Because by then, not only do you have their trust, you’ve earned it as well.

Respect your audience

Cultivating a fan base is about putting them first. It’s about showing them you’re worth their time by giving them value and not asking too much in return. It’s about the relationship you’ve built with your customer, about dialog, and about being a good listener more than just a good talker.

Because in the end, social media is about people. As in: real human beings on the other end of that Internet connection who will be liking, sharing, and retweeting your brand pro bono, simply because they love you and they want other people to love you as well.

Treat them well.

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Is there such a thing as efficient procrastination?

One thing the team over here at MOVE loves doing (maybe too much) is talking about how to be better:

How to be more efficient, more fun, more dynamic.

How to build a process as a team without stifling the workflows of individuals.

How to tell a better story—for ourselves and for our clients.

Recently, I’ve been advocating for a “working ahead” strategy to take some of the stress off of approaching deadlines and allow more time for the approval process. Anxiety is like carbon monoxide in a work environment—an odorless, stifling killer—so anything to take the pressure off seemed like a winning strategy.

And then I read this article in the New York Times on the virtues of procrastination. It connected with a few other things jangling around in my head and shook loose some of my assumptions regarding time management and creativity. If procrastination can lead to more creative thinking, could there be a way to procrastinate efficiently?

Is that as oxymoronic as it sounds?

Surprisingly, I think not.

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When we think of creativity as something mysterious and magical, we put it out of our own reach. Creativity is for everyone, not just the chosen few.

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Fear of failure raises our inhibitions and keeps us from being able to make the creative leaps we need to produce extraordinary work.

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The MailChimp ad.

Do you know the one I’m talking about?



The one from Serial?

For those of you who don't know, in the fall of 2014, Serial took the podcasting world by storm in a way no one could have predicted given the largely niche appeal of the genre at that time. With admirable compassion, it told a tragic, compelling, and immensely complicated story which captured the attention of millions and, in the process, made Serial the first podcast to break into mainstream popular culture.

Taking, along with it, the MailChimp ad.

If you’re a fan of Serial, you know the one. It’s such an ingrained part of the show that it’s almost a second theme song—impressive, given how iconic the actual Serial opening is. The audience connected with it to such a degree that, among the lists of crazy “who did it” conspiracy theories, the “Mail …Kimp?” girl made it on the list. Somehow, Serial wouldn’t be the same without it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the MailChimp ad became almost as much of a phenomenon as the show itself. People care about this ad. They’re fond of it. They miss it when it’s not there. And as achieving that level of cultural identification is every marketer’s dream, we thought we’d take some time to look at the ad and share some of our insights into why it is so beloved.

1. It sounds like Serial.

Over the course of the show, Serial interviewed a wide range of speakers in a variety of settings. So hearing the successive voices saying “MailChimp” at the beginning of the ad didn’t feel like an interruption. This makes sense, since apparently Serial produced the ad themselves (with copy provided by MailChimp). 

2. “Mail… Kimp?”

The mispronunciation is endearing, but the long pause that precedes it is what really grabs your attention. You know what she’s supposed to say, and you’re hanging in suspense for the word to finish. “Kimp” hits you like an elusive punch line at the end of a rambling joke. And those two things, operating in conjunction, are what make the ad memorable.

3. The imperative tagline.

I love imperatives. I try to use them as much as possible, because it cuts down on the number of synapses that have to fire in the brain in order to transmit ad copy into actionable information. There’s nothing to decode or interpret, just a command to follow: “Send better email.” Why yes, I will, thank you. 

4. Social Proof.

“I use MailChimp.” “You do!” “Yes!” The little line at the end seals the deal. It’s that tiny bit of serendipitous dialogue caught, almost by chance, after the ad seems to have actually ended. No one wrote that line—it wasn’t part of the script—but it’s the part that convinces more thoroughly than any other that MailChimp is a product you want to use, because other people use it, and love it so much that they volunteer that information with no ulterior motives.

Takeaways

So, if you’re feeling inspired to try an ad in the Podcasting world, here are a few lessons you can draw from MailChimp:

  • Know your audience. Podcasts are a much more intimate medium than other forms of entertainment, so sponsor a show you have a good relationship with, and see if there’s a way you can work together to create your spot.
  • Be memorable. You probably won’t have to find someone to mispronounce your name, but you will want to make sure something stands out.
  • Be concise. The MailChimp ad is only about twenty seconds and thirty words long, but nothing’s missing.
  • Get someone else to back your product. You’re not cool if you say you’re cool. If someone else says you’re cool, you’re cool.

You want to create an ad your audience is willing to invest in, emotionally. There’s no magic formula, but starting here will put you well on your way. 

And, for the record… 

I use MailChimp.

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Leadership isn't about anticipating trends or outshining your competition. It's about forging a path and being a guide to those who follow after.

#weeklyword

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How a small airline stands out from the crowd

When was the last time you flew with a truly memorable airline?

Anyone who flies regularly will be very used to the routine of airline travel. In spite of their best marketing efforts, very few airlines seem to differentiate themselves from their competitors, unless it's due to infamously strict baggage policies or a reputation for cheap-as-you-can-get, "no frills" service. The most any of us can expect from the majority of airlines seems to be a slight variation in the quality of in-flight entertainment, the amount of leg room, or the standard of food service (if there is one). 

This is why, on a recent flight with Icelandair, I found myself both surprised and delighted by a completely unique experience.

What makes Icelandair so special?

 The moment I stepped on the plane to find my seat, I knew I had a winner. Although the plane itself appeared a cut above average in terms of technology (it came equipped with obviously new high-resolution screens on the back of every seat), the touch which first charmed me came in the form of little conversational tips on the headrest of each seat. They said things like:

Good night is "góða nótt" in Icelandic. It has a soft and cuddly sound.

"Hraun" is the Icelandic word for lava. It sounds strong and durable.

The throne of Ó∂inn was named Hli∂skjálf. We just call this one: your seat.

My blanket came with a similar message: Missing the hot springs? Warm yourself with this instead. Even the pillow came with an Icelandic lullaby printed with an English translation. 

Once I turned on the display on the display screen, the start-up played through several advertisements for Iceland, as well as a small boast from Icelandair itself: instead of frequent flier miles, Icelandair will allow you to extend your stay in Iceland for up to seven additional nights at no extra cost (and they encourage you to tag your pictures with #MyStopover). They even filmed the standard safety announcement to tell the story of a woman hiking through the Icelandic countryside.

#HumbleBrag 

Perhaps what I found most special about the airline was that very few of these little touches promoted the airline itself, but rather served to showcase the natural beauties of Iceland and the quirks and accomplishments of the Icelandic people.

This is what, in Internet hashtag terms, could be known as a "humble brag": something which manages to be both proud and self-deprecating at the same time. Although these can take on an obnoxious tone when used wrongly, because Icelandair chose to employ their boasting toward the benefit of Iceland the country and the Icelandic people, it felt more like a person boasting about their best friend rather than themself. 

Icelandair's strategy works well for them, because promoting Iceland as a great travel destination indirectly promotes their own airline as the best means of reaching it. Meanwhile, their humble-bragging strategy succeeds because it plays into your psychology: we're more likely to trust what someone says about another person's merits than what they say about their own.

So if you happen to have a business that might benefit by promoting others, don't be afraid to #HumbleBrag about your friends. 

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We all view ourselves as the protagonists of our own life stories. Connect to that in your marketing, and your buyers will respond.

#weeklyword 

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The fastest way to build brand loyalty is through a company culture your target market identifies with. Lead with the thing that gives your company purpose, and customers will follow. 

#weeklyword

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Good advertising is about clear communication. Speaking directly to your target audience may turn some leads away, but that just means they weren't your ideal customers to begin with.

#weeklyword

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Millennials are a notoriously difficult audience to appease, but we think Fiat Chrysler's chief marketing officer has hit the nail on the head with this observation. Whether you think they're confident or cocky, picky or discerning, reaching this group is all about showing them something new.

#weeklyword

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What can baseball teach us about branding?

Possibly the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera made his career on one pitch: a cut fastball with such a reputation for shattering bats that opposing hitters dubbed it "the razor." They used to face him with backup bats to spare their best from utter destruction. Rivera refined his signature pitch to devastating effect—so much so that at the peak of his career it comprised over 80% of his pitches.

Find your one pitch

As in baseball, so in life. A successful brand strategy doesn't require you to be all things to all people. Instead, it's about finding the signature characteristic that sets you apart from your competition and marks you as a leader in your field. 

Concentrating on one skill also provides a clear story about your brand that can be easily transmitted through your marketing efforts. Rivera once summarized his job as "I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower." That's the kind of succinct messaging you build your marketing around.

The Mariano Rivera Principle

Rivera's dominance set records for over a decade, gaining him the respect and admiration of his bitterest rivals. But he didn't need a broad repertoire to achieve this feat; he only needed that one pitch.

Focus your effort on establishing a key message about your brand. Let it become your trademark. Have one thing you're good at, but be better at it than anyone else.

That's the Mariano Rivera Principle.

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Marketing on the web isn't about forcing yourself on others—it's about providing value that will draw them to you.

#weeklyword

 

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Show me your granite countertops.

Imagine for a moment you're a prospective homebuyer. Which of these descriptions sounds more appealing?

1) Fantastic, spacious kitchen!

2) Gourmet kitchen with granite countertops.

The second one, right? Do you know why?

"Fantastic" is a matter of opinion. "Granite countertops" aren't.

What words to use in real-estate copywriting.

If you're a fan of Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt's book Freakonomics, you may remember an excerpt from Chapter 2 in which the authors list a number of words commonly associated with real-estate ads. They are: fantastic, granite, spacious, state-of-the-art, "!," corian, charming, maple, great neighborhood, and gourmet. The authors then pose a simple question: which of these words do you think are correlated to a higher sales price, and which to a lower?

The five words most commonly associated with lower sales prices are: fantastic, spacious, charming, great neighborhood, and "!". These are all wiggle words. They're vague. They avoid the truth.

On the other hand, words like "maple," "state-of-the-art," and "corian" conjure specific images. Even if you aren't the sort of homebuyer who gets excited by the mention of "maple wainscoting," someone else sure is.

Be specific.

Specificity in marketing is an important but anxiety-inducing exercise. When you pin yourself down to an exact product or service you inevitably lose prospects who aren't interested in your offer. But when you don't narrow your focus you risk becoming generic, bland, and unappealing. Something vaguely but indefinably "fantastic" with an insecure "!" tacked on the end out of sheer desperation. 

Don't be afraid to get picky about your target market. Prospects who want your product will be more likely to choose you once they make a connection to your unique offer. Because marketing isn't about pleasing everybody—it's about finding and pleasing your people.

It's about providing them with something they can really grab hold of.

It's about showing them your granite countertops.

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