Author: Bonnie Harris

Lego Marvel AvengersEven for the biggest brands, launching a new video game can be a significant challenge. In a market where any game competes against thousands of other titles, many with long life cycles, it’s tough to get consumers’ attention – and money. And this is not a new phenomenon. As the popularity of video games has risen over the past 40 years, so have the number of titles available at any given time. Recently, one particular marketing and advertising campaign for Lego Marvel Avengers stood out among the rest as an excellent example of integrated marketing communications at work. The game’s success earns it one more accolade, our IMC Campaign of the Month. Lego Marvel Avengers was released on January 26, 2016 by TT Games. TT Games was careful to coincide its television advertising with cartoons that targeted the key demographic – primarily younger consumers who have both an interest in Lego toys and superheroes. Cartoons presented a perfect vehicle to hitch to Lego Marvel Avengers ads. With compelling previews of game play and live action shots from the latest Avengers movie, the television spots had kids eagerly awaiting the release of the game in January.

Facebook advertisingSocial media has opened up a world of affordable, highly visible advertising. Understanding this world requires a solid grasp on marketing and computer science. Facebook advertising  offers more than one form of audience-specific advertising platforms, each of which has its own legal, fiscal and promotional considerations.

1. Custom audience advertising makes your company look big

For as low as $50 per month, Facebook will put your ad onto a viewer’s feed. Facebook advertising charges per impression, or each time the ad shows on a page, so it is important to put the ad on the page of someone who will care about it. The best place to start is with people who are already familiar with your services. Facebook’s custom audience ads let you upload your customer email list, so your ads only show on these people’s feeds. Because the users do not know that you specifically targeted their page, it gives the illusion that you have a successful business and the marketing budget to support it.

2. Lookalike audiences are the next step

After you have your base audience secured, it is time to bring in new customers.

Brand transparency is directly related to industry trust, company loyalty and long-term revenue. As an integral part of relationship marketing, transparency is foundational to creating long-lasting consumer-business relationships. Yet most small businesses confuse transparency with authenticity and have misconceptions about the uses and parameters of positive brand transparency. Understanding how transparency works to develop consumer-business relationships is essential to developing a revenue-building marketing campaign.

Transparency Mitigates Conflict

Relationship marketing is a strategy that focuses on establishing, developing and maintaining successful personal interactions. Sales are not the primary emphasis but an associated outcome of a healthy consumer-business relationship. Conflict minimization is the most important factor in relationship development, and transparency is the best way to reduce conflict. When customers feel that they are well aware of the ins and outs of a company’s policies and procedures, they are less likely to perceive conflict, even if they do not like the outcome. Most large companies have their corporate docs available on their websites, but smaller companies tend to forget this step. At the very least, make sure your mission statement and executive bios are available for everyone to see. If you can make other information available without giving away proprietary company material, do so.

eWoM Still Has Eyes

In the days before digital media, much of marketing was done by word-of-mouth (WoM). Salespeople traveled from home to home, soliciting purchases and asking for leads. There was something about looking a person in the eye that helped to develop a relationship. A handshake was more important than today’s online consent form. Consider social media a digital version of WoM marketing. As such, it relies heavily on trust. The BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey found that

Most small business owners do not start or buy a business because they were interested in becoming marketing geniuses. Yet marketing is a critical success factor for any business, small or otherwise. And it's easy to take a wrong turn where marketing is concerned. Recently we spoke to Mark Montini, Chief Results Officer for m2M Strategies, a franchise marketing firm, about the biggest mistakes most new small business owners make. Known for his ability to architect fully-integrated distributed marketing programs, Mark has helped franchises, Fortune 500 companies, startups, non-profits, and even political organizations increase revenue. His work has been featured in newspapers across the country including the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today. [caption id="attachment_11811" align="alignright" width="200"]Mark Montini, m2M Strategies Mark Montini, m2M Strategies[/caption] "Small businesses can eliminate a lot of frustration by addressing the common marketing mistakes I see on a frequent basis," says Montini. "Those mistakes are usually centered around focus - on the wrong data, the wrong tactics and even the wrong message." Montini says there are three primary marketing mistakes that can cause failure for any small business right from the start. 1. Focusing on the wrong metrics

Large and small businesses alike have hundreds of options when it comes to choosing items to carry their company logos. Mugs, mouse pads, and wall calendars in myriad configurations abound, just waiting for a little decoration before they start displaying a business’s name to the public. But what are the best items to choose from among the offerings (there are literally hundreds of options)? Here are some factors that can make or break your branded merchandise. Use - No matter what size your business is, you want to put your logo on items that will be useful for the recipients, especially if the merchandise is a free giveaway. Items that are free for customers but not useful are more likely to be discarded. So it’s best to imprint your logo on tools that current or potential customers use every day. Here are some examples:
  • Writing utensils such as pens and pencils
  • Office supplies like magnetic clips
  • Paper products such as sticky notes and note pads
Electronics - If your main customer base is made up of tech-savvy Millennials, you can target them with useful electronic items that are likely to be in heavy rotation on a daily basis. Consider these items for putting your company’s name at the top of their minds every day:

social mediaVisual media is an important element of your marketing. It grabs the attention of the viewer and tells a meaningful story in a glance. Visuals help you create brand recognition, highlight events, promote products and create a curated catalog of your business. The kiss of death for any visual social media is poor-quality photos. You don’t want blurriness, undersaturation and low exposure to distract from the content of the photo. There are many ways you can go about the production of your social media photos, ranging from a professional photographer to a high-quality smartphone camera. The following tips will help you create the best photos and videos for your social media marketing campaigns:

Professional Photographer

If you have the funds for a professional photographer, hire one. Professional photographers have the artistic expertise and the camera equipment needed to produce outstanding photos. The photographer should at the very least have three different lenses, a tripod, a detachable flash and studio lights. You can generally hire a photographer for a project-based rate, rather than an hourly rate. Make sure to check out online profiles when you shop around for a photographer. A portfolio gives you an idea of the photographer’s range; it reveals if he or she is a one-trick pony or if he or she can take high-quality photos in multiple genres with a variation in tone.

DIY Digital SLR

If you own a digital SLR,

marketing planA strong marketing department or a marketing consultant in whom you have confidence can relieve a lot of the stress of running a business. In this business we tend to get fancy with our concepts in order to feel like we're bringing some new, innovative strategy to the table. As important as it is to understand the "customer experience" for example, or to maximize "sales enablement," we can get distracted by the bells and whistles. The customer experience is the collection of steps people take to buy your stuff. Sales enablement means supporting your salespeople with the best processes, tools and training possible so they can do their thing. Whether you're a CEO of a Fortune 500, a growing company big enough to afford a marketing person or two, or a small business where you're wearing the CEO, CMO and a billion other hats it all boils down to a few basic things. Here are five simple things to remember when you're building or reviewing your marketing plan in 2016:  
  1. Marketing is about failing forward. No one really knows what works 100% of the time. As market conditions change, tactics that used to work sometimes stop working. For those reasons and others you should think about the concept of failing forward. Learning from what doesn't work can be just as important as learning from what does. Fear of failure paralyzes a lot of businesses. It's why many small businesses stick to their tried and true print ads. Or why large corporations "steal" marketing departments from others to try to mimic their success. Look how well that worked for JC Penney. Develop a marketing mindset that expects results but welcomes the failures, particularly early on.
  2. Have confidence in your approach and stick with it. The problem with most business owners (and often shareholders) is that they don't have the patience to give tactics time to work. This doesn't mean that you should throw away money for years, but marketing takes time.  If you're frustrated that something isn't working, check yourself so that you're not reacting out of impatience or fear. And if something does fail, analyze it carefully without beating yourself or anyone else up. Remember those failures contain nuggets of valuable information. Staying true to strategies but tweaking your tactics is one way to think about it. (Here's more on strategy if you're intrigued by that idea.)
  3. Don't rely solely on the numbers. It can be very easy to live in the left side of your brain, especially if you do a lot of digital marketing because numbers are comfortable. Numbers are great but they don't tell the whole story. You need to apply some creativity and have at least a couple of qualitative goals in your plan. Not only does this help keep your tactics evolving - which is important when things stop working - it keeps you moving forward. I teach a marketing course for PRSA, and I've seen many KPI-dependent communicators experience "aha" moments while we're brainstorming on strategy and tactics. Numbers aren't always right and they don't always have to add up. Chew on that one for a while.
  4. Keep your eye on specific, targeted customers. I always talk about knowing your best customer and your plan needs to be focused on those people or businesses if you're B2B. Just like a camera lens, a good focus might need some adjustment from time to time.  The more confident you are that you know your best customers, the more confidence you'll have in your plan. And again, don't just rely on numbers and demographics. Know them as people, with hopes, values, and the like.
  5. Finally, keep your marketing plan short and actionable. My plans must be less than five pages, and I shoot for two pages.  If you hire a marketing consultant and they bring you a plan that you cannot implement then they have failed. Your plan should have measurable goals with strategies and tactics that clearly align with those goals. The main points should be ones you can stick on the wall and look at often.