Merry Trendmas!

‘Tis the season…for trend stories. Yes, along with the ringing of jingle bells and the airing of grievances, nothing marks the most wonderful time of year quite like a torrent of trend stories aiming to demystify and decipher the year ahead in the world of marketing. Lucky for you, dear reader, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you – we’ve digested the best looks at marketing trends for 2019 and identified what we think are a few of the most important. It’s our gift to you, you might say.

As we look to 2019, here are a few of the trends discussed in the myriad of articles that we see as important and notable:

  • Humanization, not hubris. Or, put another way, brands will focus more on customer experience and culture – and less on promotion and persuasion. While the struggle to break through the deluge of content consumers digest on a daily basis is not new, the ability of brands breaking through by being more human and focusing more on experience will only become more important.
  • Storification of social. There’s no easier way to understand the growing and lasting popularity of Instagram Stories than to see the rush of competitors to get their own versions of the service – which enables users to post short and short-lived videos – on their platforms. What makes Stories and its ilk so attractive to brands – and positions it for big growth in 2019 – is that it enables them incorporate video more fully into their content strategy without having to, you know, invest a ton in video. It also provides an engaging and easy way for brands to embrace the humanization trend mentioned above – Stories can be used to show behind-scenes videos and snapshots that make brands more personable and approachable.
  • Savvier social ads. It’s no secret that Facebook continues to “incentivize” brands to promote their organic content through paid support. As more brands throw more budget behind paid content, it will only become more important for that content to cut through the clutter and connect with audiences. Simply put, brands will need to put the same savvy, creativity and investment behind paid ads and content that they do behind their organic output.
  • Listen up. Brand engagement on social isn’t just about talking – social listening will continue to grow in importance in 2019. Indeed, listening to audience members is just as important a part of the engagement equation as talking with them is. Further, listening – which involves analyzing specific conversations, phrases, and other details – can provide attentive brands a decisive advantage over competitors and help fuel adaptive social strategies.
  • Safety first. Data breaches and other security crises seem to crop up on an almost daily basis, making security and privacy an only bigger area of focus for brands in 2019. The debut of GDPR and the need for companies to be compliant only increases the focus on digital privacy and security. Certainly across their owned digital platforms, as well as their social ones, it’s more imperative than ever for companies to understand this aspect of their digital strategy – and communicate it clearly with customers and other key audiences.

It’s important to remember that each of these trends is already under way, meaning the need to understand and adapt to them doesn’t wait until next year.

There are many more potential trends for 2019 to unwrap under the Trendmas tree, of course; if you’re so inclined, you can read about more of them here and here.

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.

 

The missing Link?

Most people think of LinkedIn as an individual, as opposed to organizational, marketing tool. And sure, it’s quite a potent tool for a lot of professionals – salespeople and HR teams, for example. (And aspiring motivational speakers, judging by one’s feed on certain days.)

Companies who overlook or neglect their company pages on LinkedIn, however, may be overlooking an important and undervalued weapon in their enterprise marketing arsenal.

In addition to the marketing value LinkedIn offers individuals, its company pages can be a potent tool for organizations as well. While they function most similarly to Facebook pages – content posting in a single-column, reverse-chronological feature – their features (and potential benefits) differ slightly. For almost all brands, the most important features and benefits of a well-managed LinkedIn company pages include:

  • A captive audience. People are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, for personal experience as often as for professional reasons, if not more. Not so with LinkedIn, where users are almost exclusively focused on professional stuff.
  • Corporate communications tool. A LinkedIn company page provides an excellent secondary channel for corporate communications like press releases, product launches and links to positive media coverage.
  • Culture communications platform. Company pages can be a real asset for HR teams in their recruiting efforts, by providing a good platform for highlighting all aspects of company culture and employee experiences.
  • Industry research and intelligence source. Company pages for competitors, vendors/suppliers, trade media, etc., can be rich sources of industry trends, developments and opportunities.
  • Content marketing. Company pages are also great secondary channels for blog posts and other content you’re already generating as part of an overall content strategy.
  • Driver of website traffic. Facebook’s ultimate goal with everyone – brands included – is to keep them contained within Facebook as much as possible. LinkedIn company pages, on the other hand, can be a useful tool for driving incremental traffic to your website on a consistent basis.

It can be easy to overlook the LinkedIn company page as an important tool for brands, especially when dealing with limited time and resources. The good news? They can also be easy to integrate them into an overall social marketing plan – and almost always worth the time and resources.

Social Anxiety

Company CEOs are responsible for a lot. From setting the long-term strategic future of their companies to driving their short-term health and success, CEOs play several important roles. There seems to be one role, however, too many are avoiding.

A recent study from CEO.com shows that more than 60 percent of large-company heads have no social media presence at all – not all that surprising, actually, when you read further and find how many view an active social presence as more negative than positive, especially when it comes to their brands.

Those leaders opting to stay on the social media sideline are missing out on big – and unique – opportunities, unfortunately. While still in the minority, the list of CEOs becoming active on social continues to grow – and continues to demonstrate daily why it’s a smart marketing move for CEOs and their companies:

  • It sends a message about their brand. Perception is reality, we’re reminded all too often, and usually because of negative circumstances. On the flip side, however, savvy consumers perceive CEOs who maintain an active presence on social media very positively. And that perception often extends across the entire brand.
  • It’s where your customers are. As companies grow, so do the layers of insulation around CEOs. Sometimes, this insulation gets to the point that it’s hard for a company’s leader to truly know what’s taking place on the front lines, especially when it comes to customers and their experiences. In addition, social provides a window into what customers really think about their services, their products, and their people.
  • It helps build trust, inside and out. CEOs must consistently fight against the perception – there’s that word again – that they’re removed, insulated and out of touch. An active presence on social media can help leaders change those perceptions – and build a stronger level of trust with both employees and customers in the process.

If you’re a CEO fearful of becoming active on social media, fear not! Instead, embrace it. Employ it. Enjoy it. You, as well as your customers and employees, will be glad you did.

 

Range of emotions

Back in September, we discussed how Facebook was considering giving users additional options to react to posts beyond the thumbs up / like button. As you probably heard last week, they finally did it! And just like the new feature itself, users – especially marketers – had a range of reactions to the development.

Most importantly: The long-anticipated change wasn’t simply a “dislike” button, as many had hoped for and requested. Instead, users can now select from a range of emotions – love, anger, stress, etc. – to better convey how a post makes them feel.

This has some marketers clicking the Stressed emoji. As we explained in September, their biggest fear is that Facebook has made it that much easier for users to react negatively.

Instead – as we also mentioned back in September – marketers should be welcoming the new system. For starters, they’ll get exposure to a richer and broader data set than they could previously access.

Secondly, it creates richer and broader opportunities when it comes to content strategy. Too often, marketers turn Facebook content into fishing expeditions, looking to lure in as many likes as possible. The new system lends itself to more versatile storytelling and more opportunities to connect with audiences on an emotional level – and, in turn, strengthen the emotional connection to their brand.

Bottom line: Like most things in life, the new system is not without its challenges and potential pitfalls. This doesn’t mean it should be feared by marketers, however; it should be welcomed as an opportunity to broaden their content strategy and tell more compelling stories. And that, as we said in September, deserves a big thumb’s up.

You can read our full post on the topic from September.

Mad science

Marketing, the saying goes, is part art and part science. Good marketing, the saying also goes, is determining how much of each part a client or campaign requires. Social media, it turns out, is becoming increasingly valuable when it comes to figuring out how much science is needed for success.

Of course, amassing and mining all that data used to be a Herculean – if not impossible – task for most in the marketing world. Social media has made the process of data analysis much more accessible, efficient and effective. You just have to know how – and where to look.

After all, each like, share, comment, retweet and regram on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., adds to the growing, valuable pile of social data attached to your cumulative social presence. Facebook Insights, for example, makes it easy to see and understand everything about your activity and presence. That includes making it easier to answer the questions most commonly asked by marketers:

  • Are we connecting with the right people? Social sites make demographic data of your followers available, which helps to ensure the people you’re talking with on social media are the people you want to be talking with – your customers and other key audiences. Further, they are getting increasingly sophisticated at providing psychographic data as well.
  • What’s generating the most interest and engagement? You can view data attached to the content you’re sharing on a post-by-post level to determine which types of content generates the most engagement among your audience. Better understanding which content is most effective – and which content isn’t – helps you answer the next question.
  • What do we need to change? The additional beauty of social data is that it enables you to make changes or refinements to your strategy in real-time. If we find content that is performing markedly better than everything else, how can we adjust our content strategy to increase its role? Conversely, how can we minimize or eliminate the content that isn’t working? This can apply to every detail and aspect – even to the days and times you post.
  • Is what we’re doing working? Answering this question is the ultimate goal when leveraging social data, and answering each of the questions above, ideally, makes it easier to answer this one. It’s important to remember that this question – and how you answer it – is fluid and ongoing. Set touchpoints on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) to sit down, dive into the data on a deeper level and reach this conclusion.

Data plays a crucial role in understanding the science part of the marketing game. Social media has democratized the process of compiling and understanding data – and using it to positively impact your overall marketing strategy and business success. That’s where the art comes in.

 

Smooth Sailing

Smoker_Fishing_BRWhile summer boat season may seem like a distant dream (or cruel trick) right now, it’s right around the corner for our friends at the Smoker Craft family of boat brands. Indeed, ‘tis the season for those thinking about purchasing a new boat – be it fishing, pontoon, water sports. ‘Tis the season, then, for us to help Smoker Craft make the decision easy.

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We’ve been working hard the past several months to produce high-quality, beautiful brochures for each brand within the Smoker Craft family of boat brands. With each one, we faced a similar challenge – balancing the uniqueness of each brand while carrying through the overall value that comes with being a part of the Smoker Craft family of brands.

The books are now done – and are already getting potential buyers pumped about boating season and warmer months. After all, when you have the right co-captain on your marketing journey, it’s sure to be smooth sailing.

 

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The Rea Way

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Rea Magnet Wire occupies a unique and challenging space for a brand. As an unquestioned leader in its market – many, many people know the name, but a lot less know what exactly it is they do – or, for that matter, everywhere they do it.

That’s where we came in.

Recently, the team at Rea found itself with this unique challenge, wanting to clearly communicate the full scale and scope of its global reach to leaders at its core customers around the world. And, naturally, it wanted to do so in a concise and beautifully designed package can be even harder.

Our new corporate positioning for Rea serves as a transparent, comprehensive corporate report to these key stakeholders while telling the full story – the past, present and, most importantly, the future. This positioning offers insight into their current initiatives, their plans for the future of their business and the various ways they are working to be the best choice as a business partner for existing and prospective customers. It also provides a transparent view into Rea’s unique company culture, evidencing teamwork and trust as their core values.

Rea’s goal with their corporate positioning was to reinforce its position as a company key stakeholders can trust, with in-demand products, that also aligns with their personal values. Rea Magnet Wire wanted to ground their status as all of these, and strengthen their relationship with customers in the process. From the Magnet Wire Capital of the World (that’s Fort Wayne, by the way), we’re proud to partner with one of the industry’s great brands to tell their story.

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Escape from Marketing Island

As marketers, it can be easy to feel like we exist on an island. To bury ourselves in our work and maintain an exclusive, almost laser-like focus on…well…our marketing. Because that’s what we do. The same can be said of salespeople – existing on their own island, maintaining their laser-like focus on…well…their sales. Because that’s what they do. But what if working together – building a bridge between those two islands – made both sides better?

Sales and marketing are often lumped together in terms of how a business operates, which makes the seas that can rise up between these two islands all the more surprising – and disappointing. Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all, and neither does sales.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Indeed, as this recent article helpfully reminds us, “by collaborating with sales reps during the content development process, marketers can create content resources that will better meet the needs of salespeople.” And, in turn, such collaboration means salespeople can help marketers more effectively create such content.

How? Well, as the same article explains, there tend to be six levels or degrees of personalization when it comes to content marketing. These cover the full spectrum, from generic (no personalization) content to lead-specific (highly personalized, one-on-one) content. Marketers can often see the most productive use of their time spent at the more generic end of the spectrum – delivering the most content to the most people – while salespeople often want to spend the majority of their time at the more personalized end of the spectrum – building and maintaining individual relationships with customers and prospects. How, then, can we bridge this divide?

For marketers, the key is to move further down the personalization spectrum. While true one-to-one content marketing isn’t always feasible or practical, making content more segment- and audience-specific can empower sales people by providing them with a marketing asset that’s more personalized and targeted.

Equally important is the ability of marketers to train, equip and support salespeople to either personalize existing content, or create individualized content for their end of the spectrum. “The conventional wisdom,” the article continues, “has been that salespeople should not be spending their time developing content.” There are certain types of content, however, that are best left for a member of the sales team to develop.

Salespeople can help marketers become more effective in developing more personalized and targeted content. And marketers can help sales people become more effective in developing content of their own in the right situations. This is where collaboration between sales and marketing – bridging those two islands – can be so valuable and profound.

Push and pull

We talk a lot about social media, content strategy and digital marketing ‘round these parts. And for good reason, of course; an active and engaging social presence, backed by a high-quality website, provide your audience a high-profile destination befitting of a leading brand like yours. This very important aspect of your overall marketing shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, however. After all, what good is a great destination if no one knows it exists – or how to find it?

In the marketing world, we call it having a healthy balance of “push and pull“. The “pull” comes from your destinations – those platforms you manage (website, social channels, etc.) The “push” is how you proactively connect with your audience, promote your pull presence and, ultimately, drive them there.

It was this article, in fact, that got us thinking about push and pull – and about ensuring that “push” in particular is a key component of your overall marking effort. The important question, then: What are some ways we can push awareness of our social media and digital presence and pull them to it? Here are a few for you to consider:

  • Email marketing. An incredible, outstanding example of which you’re reading right now! Odds are, you have an impressive database of email addresses for current customers, prior customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Email marketing – developing and delivering an informative/education email on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.) – is a great way to both demonstrate your company’s industry expertise and to drive them toward your social/digital presence.
  • Email marketing. Wait, what? Didn’t we just cover this? We did, but there’s also an easier way to use email to drive awareness of your social and digital presence – include it in your email signature. While, at first thought, it may not have the same impact as the email marketing discussed above, consider the cumulative effect of everyone in your organization including links to your social presence in their email signatures – and then how many emails you send on a daily basis. That can drive a lot of awareness.
  • Everything else. Do a deep, comprehensive audit of all the many different touchpoints you have with your current and prospective customers – business cards, print ads, signage, product packaging, on-hold messaging, etc. How and where can you drive awareness of your social/digital presence on any or all of them simply by adding links and/or logos?

From your own email marketing strategy to simple email signatures, there are a number of effective ways you can drive awareness of your social presence to your key audiences and pull them in. All it takes is a little push to get started.

 

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