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Who’s the boss?

Call to action. Perhaps the three most important words in marketing – important because they should clearly define why it is we’re doing what we’re doing – be it an ad, brochure, circular, email, etc. What do we want people to do when they see/hear/read this? What’s our call to action? And while prevailing industry wisdom is to keep calls to action simple, straightforward and to the point, a new academic paper shows that something else marketers take for granted may actually backfire on them – especially with their most important customers.

For brands, the tendency to be direct (and even assertive) in their calls to action is obvious, especially in our increasingly fractured media landscape. Nuance is no good when you only have a few seconds – if that – of a consumers’ (relatively) undivided attention. Instead of nuance, brands often emphasize “now” – Buy now! Call now! Order now! Visit now!

And that’s where they can run into trouble, as the paper, publishing soon in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, argues. Simply put, consumers don’t like being told what to do – or even the feeling that they’re being told what to do. Instead, they have an instinctual need to feel like they are making their own choices. The challenge for marketers, then, is to make that choice easy for consumers – but in a way that makes them feel as if they’re making the decision themselves.

Of course, this is a very fine line; one that can be constantly shifting and must be constantly minded. The best results, the paper shows, come from ads that are “informative and hint at action” for the consumer. Informative is easy, sure, but “hint?” How do marketers determine between a hint and a harangue? As we say often, this is where understanding your audience and your customers to an extreme degree is so important. The better you know them, the better you know just how far to push that hint without becoming overly assertive and off-putting.

As if marketers didn’t have enough to fret about, this is something new and not insignificant. The good news, however, is that it’s also a reminder that brands who work consistently to create an ongoing dialogue with their customers are much better positioned to avoid being too assertive – and instead hit home runs with their hints of action.

Greater things

There’s a lot going on in downtown Fort Wayne these days – so much so, in fact, it can be hard to see all the activity as part of a greater vision. Our friends at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. turned to us to help share that vision – and inspire our city.

Working closely with the outstanding team at GFW Inc., we pulled from all areas of our agency’s expertise to produce “Opportunity on the Edge of Greatness” – a campaign and video that focused on the plan, the purpose and the people of our community. Using drone footage and 3D mapping, we pinpointed exactly where each of the downtown’s five key developments will take shape. These five attractions – the downtown event center, The Landing, Riverfront Promenade, GE Campus and STEAM Park – will turn historic Fort Wayne staples into areas of entertainment and community involvement.

Highlighting the success of recent expansions such as the Tincaps Stadium and the renovation of the Embassy Theatre evidenced the supportive, thriving nature of our downtown – and how much potential it still offers our city’s future. A project for our community is one we’re grateful to put our name on. And although it’s a long-term plan, it’s been a long time coming.

In the fast lane

For the recreational vehicle industry, the National RV Trade Show each year in Louisville is a Really. Big. Deal. And we were excited to once again help our friends at Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. stand out in a Really. Big. Way.

The National RV Trade Show is a prime and important opportunity for FCCC to demonstrate its latest products and promote coaches coming to market in 2017 built on its luxury diesel chassis. For this year in particular, Freightliner had two objectives: 1) showcase their impressive new innovations and technology exclusive to FCCC; and 2) introduce the new messaging they’re gearing towards in 2017: “Backed by Daimler. Grown in Gaffney. Driven by You.” – the three pillar statements encompass the foundation, history and mission of FCCC.

Months of conceptualizing, planning and teasing the launched through trade publications and select events led us to bring this year’s booth to life. This included a 360-degree virtual reality experience that gave viewers a lesson on the detail, comfort and convenience of FCCC, as well as a hands-on interactive display to unveil the new Key FOB capabilities. We also had some thematic fun – some Daimler engineering in the form of a 2016 Mercedes Maybach next to some American muscle in the form of “Problem Child,” a 1970 Plymouth GTX painstakingly restored by an FCCC employee. Both were huge draws to the booth – and the VR and interactive displays kept them there.

In addition to the comprehensive booth presence itself, we generated awareness of and excitement through trade advertising in the show-preview issues of industry publications, as well as dedicated public relations and social media efforts. Overall, the show was another huge success for FCCC, helping ensure it hits 2017 at full speed.

Best Foot Forward

For any organization, a successful annual report does more than tell the financial story of the year – it also tells the stories of those who’ve helped make the past year possible. Once again, we were honored to help our friends at Do it Best Corp. tell the story of their successful year – and of the members they helped grow and succeed.

After helping the co-op celebrate its 70th anniversary in the home improvement industry with a look back in 2015, we wanted the 2016 report to look forward. Framed around the theme of “Dream. Build. Grow,” we shared stories of how Do it Best Corp. – the largest privately held company in the state of Indiana with annual sales of $3 billion – helps its thousands of hardware store, home center and lumberyard member-owners throughout the United States and in 52 other countries grow their businesses and achieve their dreams through a comprehensive menu of programs and services.

We traveled to member locations throughout the country, capturing and sharing their entrepreneurial success stories – and how their partnership with Do it Best Corp. helps make it possible. With the co-op’s trademark hammer on the cover, this year’s annual report drives home the achievements and accomplishments of its members and how their co-op partnership gets stronger year after year.

All the way live

You see a lot of pontificating about new year’s resolutions this time of year. (Including some really good pontificating!) You’ll also see a lot of predicting this time of year – and marketing is not spared from the prediction game. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find an article discussing marketing predictions for 2017 that doesn’t have live video at or near the top. The big question for marketers, of course: Can live video work for my brand? And, if so, how?

Okay, so that was technically two big questions, but you get the picture. First, a quick primer: live video is just as it sounds – using a social or digital platform of some kind (Facebook being the most popular choice at the moment) to broadcast live video to your brand page using a smartphone or tablet.

Many marketers and brands – especially those in the B2B space – may look at live video and assume it’s a strictly consumer-focused endeavor. And yet! Live video presents numerous opportunities for unique and valuable audience engagement for brands of all shapes and sizes – and across all industries. A few examples of putting live video to work as a part of your marketing toolbox:

  • Trade shows / events. Trade shows and other industry events are a big deal for brands every year – why not bring the experience to those who can’t be there in person? Live video is a great way to share product announcements/unveilings, booth tours, floor tours, etc. And it’s a great way to engage with your audience each day of an event – if not more frequently.
  • Q+As / interviews. Sitting down with an organizational leader/ambassador for short, real-time Q+A sessions can be a powerful platform to address and discuss issues promptly and transparently.
  • Facility tours. Organizations can show off their headquarters, manufacturing facilities, logistics warehouses, customer service centers – you get the picture. Live-video tours can demonstrate an organization’s technological/physical sophistication and scale in an accessible, engaging way.

These are just a few examples of how, even for B2B brands, live video offers a wealth of possibility and potential for 2017 and beyond. Don’t forget that most platforms record and preserve live video, meaning it can be uploaded to YouTube or other social accounts after the fact to positively impact SEO and online visibility.

So if you thought live video was the shiny new object only consumer-facing brands get to play with, think again. And it’s more than just a shiny new object, too; it’s a promising new tool for organizations of all shapes and sizes to feel alive.

Let’s get weird

We’ve talked plenty about the potential power humor can have on marketing – as well as its potential pitfalls. If you’ve noticed, however, that some marketing these days is blurring the line between humor and absurdity, you’re not alone.

Indeed, over the past several years, brands like KFC, Old Spice, Emerald Nuts, Axe Body Spray and Sprite have embraced and advanced the marketing trend of “oddvertising.” Although the name renders it fairly self-explanatory, oddvertising is humor-based marketing with a decidedly absurdist angle to it – focused less on selling product or making consumers laugh, and more on getting their attention and making them say, “WTF?”

The goal with oddvertising, as you might imagine, is to drive and generate buzz for a brand among audiences who may be more reflexively skeptical to what some would consider “traditional” marketing efforts. That fever-dream of a 30-second spot will serve its purpose in getting people’s attention in the moment, to be sure, but its real value comes in the brand engagement it can drive online after the fact – shares, retweets, likes, comments, “WTF?s,” etc. That’s where oddvertising can cut through the clutter and connect with consumers who may not be easy to connect with.

Of course, the potential risks we discussed with the use of humor are exponentially greater with this type of approach. For example: The common thread among the oddvertising brands listed above? Their audience – millenials and younger. That’s an audience much more predisposed to this type of approach compared with others. And that’s why – as we’ve said more than once – crystal-clear understanding of your audience is crucial at all times.

This isn’t to say this type of approach can’t work with other audiences, of course; it’s only to say that it’s important to know how your audience thinks and consider the degree of absurdity you’re conveying – and the manner and platform in which you deploy it. You wouldn’t want people thinking you’re weird, after all.

New Year’s Evolutions

Jokes about failing to stick to our New Year’s resolutions are as cliched as jokes about New Year’s resolutions themselves. We fail at sticking to our resolutions because they’re so often rooted in radical change – departures from our regular routines so severe that they prove nearly impossible to fully adopt and implement. Which got us to thinking: Instead of wholesale resolutions for the new year, how about incremental evolutions?

For marketers, the start of the new year is as good a time as any to look at the trends shaping our work and how they may impact our strategies and tactics for the year ahead and beyond. Inspired by the litany of 2017 articles discussing marketing trends for the coming year – including this one – we offer up a few evolutions for the new year:

  • Broaden your horizons. The new year is an ideal time for marketers to step back, examine goals and objectives for the coming year – and determine if there are new platforms, outlets, deliverables, tactics, etc., you haven’t used before but may be of more strategic value now. Are there other touchpoints and tactics we should think about using for 2017?
  • Maintain your focus. At the same time, it can be easy for marketers and brands to get distracted by new and shiny, spreading themselves too thin as a result. Having a comprehensive understanding of, and focus on, objectives and goals helps you keep your eyes on the prize, and reminds you that more isn’t always better.
  • Have fun! After all, that’s why we do this, right? Marketers who infuse the brands they’re responsible for with energy, personality and character – who make their brands seem like they’re having fun – connect with audiences on an emotional level. And that’s where long-term, mutually beneficial customer/brand relationships take root and grow.

So instead of whole resolutions, let’s all resolve to evolve our marketing efforts in the new year – identify those opportunities for incremental improvement and change that can make big differences in the year ahead. Sure beats trying to find an open treadmill at the gym.

Work of art

“Part art, part science.”

It’s a common phrase within – and description of – our industry, and one that does a solid and succinct job of detailing both its possibilities and the limitations. The challenge for us and every marketer, of course, is determining how much of each ingredient any particular recipe calls for.

The trend in recent years has been decidedly in the direction of the science portion, especially as digital marketing has grown in stature and the data tools we have access to as marketers have become more sophisticated and detailed. And, after all, marketers have to make a business case – and show a return on investment – for what we do and why we do it. Science (data) helps us do that.

So it can be easy to assume the growth of “science” means a corresponding drop in “art,” right? As we place more value and importance on data, do we place less value on design? That doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – the case, as this recent article happily reminded us. Through all of the disparate examples of major brands uniquely and creatively employing art in recent campaigns a common thread emerges: storytelling still matters.

Indeed, it’s as important as ever, and it reinforces the mutually dependent nature of the relationship these ingredients have. You can’t determine success without an objective way to define it. That’s science. And it’s REALLY hard to find success as a marketer without telling a creative and compelling story. That’s art.

If nothing else, the article serves as a refreshing reminder that art remains a vital ingredient to marketing success. Indeed, in our increasingly and incredibly fractured media landscape, the ability to cut through the clutter by creating some beautiful art may be more important than ever.

 

Behind the Shelves

While they provide fresh-picked produce, gourmet cheeses and delicious baked goods, the greatest, most beneficial things Kroger supplies its communities with can’t be put on a shelf or bought in a store.

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Each year, we work with Kroger’s Central Division – which covers 136 stores in 5 states – to produce their Community Report, which details all the ways the company works to make a positive impact on the populations and communities it serves.

This year, we focused on the stories – their partnerships, sponsorships and relationships. We used their 2015 Community Report as a symbol of the hard work and dedication each Kroger employee puts forth every day in making their communities stronger and more connected.

As most organizations would love to boast their commitment to their communities, you can’t fight facts – and highlighting the multiple ways Kroger went above and beyond in its previous fiscal year came easy.  In 2015 alone, Kroger Central Division invested $13 million in its local communities through hunger relief, K-12 education and additional initiatives.

Sure, Kroger is your neighborhood grocery store – available for all your kitchen and pantry necessities – but it’s much more. Behind the shelves, Kroger operates and thrives as a vital part of each town and city in which they are located – including our own. Although many of their most honorable efforts go overlooked and unheard, they continuously work, day in and day out, to ensure they have a positive, long-lasting impact in each and every community they serve. kroger_2

Putting the Outback Up Front

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Earlier this year, our friends at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo unveiled some awesome additions and updates to its Australian Adventure exhibit. They asked us to help showcase the incredible Australian Adventure to the community – and demonstrate how it brings kids’ dreams to life.

The concept for the 30-second TV spot  we created begins with actual artwork from local children in which we asked them to draw what came to mind for the Australian outback. We then took those masterpieces – and the kids who created them – and used the spot to highlight the Australian Adventure’s many new and updated features, including the Reef, Stingray Bay, River Ride, kangaroo colony and three new aviaries. The spot captures all of the Adventure’s many new aspects while also demonstrating it captures the Australian-themed imagination of kids of all ages.

As the Zoo closes in on the close of another successful season, the Australian Adventure has been a huge hit and popular attraction. We are thrilled with how the spot turned out, and love seeing the new Australian Adventure have an impact on the Zoo as big as the Outback itself.

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