Prize fighters

Kroger Billboard

Once again this year, the community-minded folks at Kroger devote the month of October to raising money to help the fight against cancer. And once again this year, they turned to us to help them take the fight public – and raise as much money as possible.

Kroger Mailer

Through its annual Fight Cancer Day promotion, Kroger stores in the Fort Wayne area donate a percentage of their sales from an entire day in October to three organizations leading the fight against cancer – the American Cancer Society, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana and Francine’s Friends. In addition, shoppers can make donations at check-out through the entire month of October. The more shoppers who know about these opportunities to help in the fight, the more money raised, of course. Which is where we come in.

Working with the team at Kroger, we identified three store employees from the region who’ve fought cancer and won, connecting them with one of the supporting charities and then showcasing them in a high-profile, cross-platform campaign, including outdoor, print and in-store materials.

Kroger Display

While we don’t know the total amount raise for this year’s efforts, we’re confident our sharing of the inspiring stories of perseverance and bravery shown by these employees will make this year’s total one of the best ever. And, in the process, make the fight against cancer stronger than ever.

That special sauce

Based in Indianapolis and operating nationally, Pure Development is a unique commercial real estate development firm focusing exclusively on office, industrial and healthcare build-to-suit projects for some of America’s largest and most well known companies. Their unique mix of institutional experience and entrepreneurial spirit gives them a competitive advantage – and a special story to tell. That’s where we come in.

In addition to developing an entirely new web presence for Pure, we also created a custom brand video to help explain the firm’s “special sauce” that’s been such a foundational element of its growth and success. To tell the Pure story in a visual, engaging manner, we used a mix of graphics and custom photography to bring its mission, vision and approach into one video – a video representative of expertise, experience and effort the team puts into each project. The video emphasizes the unique nature of the firm, the notable scope of its work and the impressive experience of its principals.

Commercial real estate development is a competitive world, and it can be easy for the “big boys” to muscle out the smaller firms through their sheer size and scope. Pure offers the experience of the big firms and the flexibility and personal attention of a smaller one, offering clients the best of both worlds. And through its new site and new brand video, we’re helping them share their unique story with the world.

Puttin’ on the glitz

You may have noticed that Apple unveiled a slew of new products this week, and they did it in a most Apple-ian way: a highly publicized and closely watched unveiling, with a team of executives taking turns at telling us how each new product is the GREATEST. THING. EVER. It’s the same way they’ve done it since the Days of Jobs and their seemingly never-ending string of industry-creating and market-making products.

There was something different about this particular spectacle, however. Not that the casual observer would have noticed, which is exactly how Apple wanted it.

You see, while the presentation followed the same script they all do, the products were different. Well, they were different in that they were similar to existing products – the new iPad Pro is just like the Microsoft Surface, the new iPhones aren’t all that different from several Android competitors, etc. The new iPad now has a stylus! Groundbreaking stuff, this.

Big deal, you say. What does this matter to me as a marketer? True, the product may not make much of a difference, but the presentation certainly should. Apple’s brilliance as a marketer is largely unquestioned, and this week’s unveiling is another demonstration why. Watching it, you wanted that new iPhone and new iPad, even though you don’t need them – even though you could have bought similar products with similar features well before this week.

The lesson? Style still matters. A lot. We realize we expend a lot of energy telling you how important substance (content, strategy, etc.) is, but if you can’t sell it with style, it’s of limited value. What good is steak, after all, if it doesn’t have some sizzle?

Handle with care

Content, as they say, is king. (Well, at least we like to say it.) Branded content done well serves a very valuable role smack dab in the middle of the sales funnel and offers a ipadunique opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and authenticity in a non-promotional way. As with most things, brands must proceed with caution – content may be king, but it can easily turn your brand into a jester.

Marketers have “finally woken up to the power of content marketing,” proclaims a very smart and thought-provoking recent column in Advertising Age. Indeed, a recent study showed that 59 percent of marketers plan to increase their investment in content marketing in the coming year. (Here’s a helpful definition of content marketing.)

As more and more marketers move into the space, however, more and more opportunities for misuse and abuse of the medium arise. Especially challenging is fighting the urge to “stand out in a crowd” as the amount of branded content grows – this usually manifests itself as content that goes from smart and valuable to content that is overtly and awkwardly self-promotional. “If we simply develop content because we think it’s new, improved, quicker and easier than previous tactics,” the Ad Age column argues, “we’re doomed to get the same disappointing results that we got from banner ads.”

What to do, then, to avoid your content marketing turning into glorified banner ads?

  • Respect the process. Content marketing is more than just developing content. Research and analysis play a big part in it as well. The process of effective content marketing can take time, but it’s time invested and, ideally, well spent. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
  • Quality, not quantity. Less is more when it comes to effective content marketing. Build and maintain a schedule you can realistically stick to. One piece of quality content every two weeks is better than two pieces of low-quality content every week. Focus on value, not volume.
  • Curation, not just creation. Part of content marketing is discovering and sharing quality content from other sources. These could be industry journals, trade publications or other thought leaders. Sharing such high-quality content – with your own insights or analysis added in – can often provide as much value for your audience as your own content.

Yes, lots of marketers are talking about and getting into content marketing. No, that doesn’t mean you should automatically do it – or that it’s easy. Proceed with caution into the world of content marketing – with the knowledge that – done right – it provides great value for your overall marketing strategy and organizational success.




The state of things

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of Silicon Valley’s most legendary and prestigious venture capital firms, having helped give rise to some of the largest and most famous digital_icons_lgcompanies in the world, including Google, Twitter, Amazon, Spotify and Uber.

So when leaders at KPCB talk about the future of the Internet, people tend to listen.

And, as she has for the past several years, KPCB partner Mary Meeker did just that, giving her hotly anticipated and widely read annual “Internet Trends” at the end of May. Even though her presentation – all 196 slides of it – is almost overwhelmingly comprehensive and wide-ranging in its topics, there are several trends it touched on that should be of particular interest to marketers, even if they’re not all that surprising:

  • Ecommerce keeps moving to mobile. Our on-demand culture is meeting head-on with our increasingly mobile culture, meaning brands have to get increasingly sophisticated in order to make their mobile shopping experience as simple as possible.
  • The death of email (again). Proclaiming email overwhelming, too cumbersome and, as a result, on its deathbed is nothing new, of course. It’s just that there’s more and more evidence this is the case – take the explosion of internal communications and collaboration apps like Slack.
  • Users generating content in droves. The explosion in smartphones makes it easier for people to create content on the go and share with their networks. The challenge – a perpetual one – for brands is to monitor, capture and share high-quality content, which gets more and more difficult as the number of content-sharing platforms continues to grow.
  • Speaking of content, a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to writing, millennials are all like, “whatever.” It’s no coincidence that the explosion of visually driven social networks – Vine, Snapchat, Instagram – has come as millennials came online en masse over the past several years. So it’s important for brands – especially ones with younger audiences – to understand that content isn’t just the written word anymore. Indeed, it’s often anything but.

You can view the full report here – as always, it’s a deep dive and very educated guess into what the future holds, especially for marketers.

Do you know your peeps?

For marketers, positive word of mouth + social media = BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE. influencer_marketing

This equation should come as a surprise to just about no one these days, especially to those who work in marketing and brand management.

Most marketers get the social media part of that equation, too, as we continue to better understand and appreciate its power as a platform for communication and engagement. Where we still often find challenges, however, is on the “word of mouth” side, especially when it comes to identifying who the most important mouths belong to.

Any positive word of mouth is a net positive for brands, of course, but not all word-of-mouth is created equal. Where it can really pack a punch, and where it can scale through the reach of social media, is when it’s coming from not only your biggest fans but your most influential ones as well. Simply put, making a positive impression on influential people can make an exponentially positive impression on your brand – and your bottom line.

The studies underscoring this premise are numerous. A recent one, for example, found that 92 percent of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source. Still, generating word of mouth in a strategic, systematic way can be a tricky concept for many brands to get their arms around. To help, the study identified two types of strategies marketers can use to bolster their brands via social:

  • Influencer marketing: Here, marketers seek out and partner with people who have large following on social media and whose interests/focus align with their products/services
  • Advocate marketing: Here, a company leverages the collective power of its most loyal consumers, its employees and other partners to drive a common narrative and positive perception of products and/or services

While there’s some overlap between these two, more important are the areas where they complement and strengthen one another. As the studies referenced above indicate – and as many studies before them have done as well – there’s nothing quite so powerful and potent for marketers as a growing, organic wave of positive perception via word of mouth.

Knowing the potential power of word of mouth backed by social media, the question becomes, do you know who your brand’s influencers and advocates are? If so, how do you engage them? And if not, how do you start finding out?

Who do you think you are?

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. We’re not asking this question in the sort of accusatory, defensive way we often associate with it. Just the opposite, actually. clarity_sm

We ask because it’s such an important question to begin with. We ask because we care. Perhaps the better question to ask – and answer – here is, “Do you think your customers know who you are?”

Social media is a powerful marketing tool for any number of reasons – not the least of which is that it provides a platform for your brand’s personality. This assumes, of course, that you know what your brand’s personality (or voice, as we can also call it) is. We’ve talked about the importance of developing personas for your customers before, and the exercise – and its importance – is no different when it comes to you.

Just ask yourself – “What is our brand voice?” What type of language and overall personality comes through in your Facebook posts, tweets, blog posts, comments, replies, etc.? Is there consistency? Is there character?

If you’re like a lot of organizations, you may have a vague sense of what the answers to these questions are, but don’t have anything concrete and official in place. Or worse, your brand voice on social is that of whatever intern or first-year employee you have managing your social presence.

The easiest way to avoid this type of brand cognitive dissent/brand disconnect is also the most effective: Sit down and define it. Take 30 minutes and as comprehensively as possible, define what your brand voice is – or will be from that moment forward – throughout its social presence and all touchpoints. List out 3-5 personality traits (happy, friendly, helpful, etc.) you want to come through no matter where someone interacts with your social presence. And once you do commit it to memory and make sure everyone in a position to act as a representative of the brand on social is completely and clearly aware of it.

It’s important to understand your customer personas. It’s no less important and valuable to define and understand your brand’s persona. After all, it’s much easier for your audience to know who you are once you truly do.

State of Affairs

When we say we’re a full-service agency, we mean it. Sure, we have “advertising” in our name, but our capabilities and expertise today expands far beyond what many would define as traditional advertising. And, we’re always working to grow those capabilities and expand our service offerings. This week, we did just that.

That’s because this week we officially announced our new Public Affairs division, which will be headed up by the very experienced and capable Justin Busch. Led by Justin, Ferguson Public Affairs offers a team of seasoned campaign veterans with a true command of the political process. And we back that up by working in unison with our existing team of accomplished pros in creative, media buying, public relations, social media, web development and digital, SEO, etc. Put simply – public affairs is a natural extension for us, which is why we’re so excited about it, and why we’re sharing it with you today.

So what exactly will Ferguson Public Affairs do? The easier question may be what won’t or can’t we do, and, just as we have for nearly 40 years, much of what we do will be driven by the unique needs and goals of our clients. That being said, and building on Justin’s extensive experience, we’re focusing our efforts in three key areas:

  • Campaigns. Whether they’re a long-time incumbent looking to enhance their brand and better connect, or they’re new to running for office, we’ll arm candidates with the knowledge, tools and voter contact plan that will lead them down the path to victory.
  • Advocacy. We’ll map a course to gain influence and grow awareness for the organizations, causes or issues that you care about most.
  • Government. We’ll work directly with municipal agencies and organizations at all levels to develop and deliver the message you want the public to understand.

As our Ferguson Public Affairs team grows, so too will the services and capabilities we offer. Today, we’re simply excited to share the news of its launch with you.

Learn more about our new division and Justin’s background here.

Where’s the beef?

1024px-Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_logo.svgChipotle is famous for two things:

  1. Making a mean burrito
  2. Being a nice company

These two things are strongly correlated, which can help explain the company’s rabid customer base and meteoric growth the past couple of years. In fact, most would argue Chipotle couldn’t be known for one without the other.

The restaurant chain recently had a unique and unexpected chance to determine if that was true. The result caught a lot of people by surprise – except for its customers.

Earlier this week, Chipotle announced that it was halting pork sales at roughly one-third of its U.S. restaurants after discovering violations of its pig-housing policies at a supplier. That equates to a lot of customers not being able to enjoy their beloved carnitas burritos which, in turn, could have a big impact on Chipotle’s sales for the quarter and the year, depending on how long the shortage runs. This, in turn, could equate to a lot of unhappy customers and a lot of lost sales for Chipotle.

With that in mind, it would have been relatively easy for the company to quietly reprimand the supplier and make it try its hardest to make things better, all while still using its pork to make those mean burritos. Who would have known, right?

Chipotle would have known, of course, and that was enough for them.They know that being a nice company is a big part of what helps them make a mean burrito – and what has made them such a beloved brand in the eyes of their customers. They counted the long-term cost of using a product that went against their brand philosophy and “Food With Integrity” approach and determined it would be way more costly than any short-term losses resulting from the shortage.

Brands talk a lot about their philosophy, their identity, their essence – the foundation that makes them who they are. And yet it’s still rare – and refreshing – to see examples of brands that practice what they preach. Chipotle has a keen understanding of who they are and how their customers view them, recognizing that their customers love them for more than just their killer burritos. Turning a blind eye to their core philosophy may have saved them some sales in the short term, but it would have made them just another fast food joint in the long run.

New Year’s Revolutions

It may be because it’s the new year. Or it may be because CES has been dominating the news all week. Or, and perhaps most likely, it’s a combination of the two. Regardless, we’ve been thinking a lot lately about what trends and developments will dominate 2015 – in the world of marketing, to be sure, but in the technology that makes those trends possible as well.

2015With that in mind, we were inspired to pull together a quick list of a couple big things for marketing and digital technology in 2015 and beyond.

Get smart. From belt buckles to HVAC vents, anything and everything is going smart, i.e., connecting to the Internet via WiFi and making adjustments to themselves as they “learn” your preferences, habits and routines. While some may be of very limited value in terms of actual impact on your actual life, they all combine to emphasize the growing notion of us always being connected to the “Internet of things” (which we’ve also talked about).

Who are you wearing? Fitness trackers have reached that weird equilibrium where they’re both exploding in popularity and still barely scratching the surface in their potential reach and market share. If CES is any indication, wearables will only get bigger in 2015.

Going mobile. If it sounds to you like the third or fourth year in a row where “mobile” is the next big thing, you’re not alone, and you’re not imagining it. That being said, mobile will continue to grow – especially in the shift of ad dollars and marketing budgets.

And going native, too. Speaking of marketing budgets…native advertising (or brand journalism, as it’s also known) continues to grow in prominence. This is both a cause and effect of the shift to digital among many marketing budgets; because of this, brands are looking for new, engaging ways to connect with consumers, in addition to their traditional digital advertising efforts. This also underscores the importance of content strategy.

As always, the question becomes, “What does this mean for me and my brand?” And, as always, the answer is, “It depends.” For marketers, the most relevant of these may be the growth of native advertising and, more importantly, how it underscores the importance of a solid content strategy. Consistently generating high-quality content, after all, provides brands much more flexibility and possibility in what platforms you use to leverage it (such as mobile).

Beyond that, it is always important for brands and marketers to know what trends and developments will impact their world in 2015 and beyond.

Plus, it’s fun to think about wearing a smart belt buckle. Or maybe that’s just us.