A Look Inside Tourism Marketing: Relationship Marketing and Why It Matters

Consumer engagement via relationship marketing is the top trend in today’s tourism marketing landscape. More than ever before, tourism brands must create opportunities for engagement with today’s travelers, and brands that utilize and leverage digital tools are best-positioned to make a direct impact on visitor traffic and increase destination awareness.

According to Eye for Travel, a leading resource hub for senior-level travel executives, there are a few “need-to-know” statistics that tourism brands should consider when completing a marketing strategy. These statistics, which highlight the impact of digital influence and relationship marketing, include:

  • Every minute, there are 139 reviews written on TripAdvisor
  • Over 60 million tweets mentioned hotels in one year
  • 70% of followers have taken some action after seeing travel related content on social media

Based on these statistics, it is clear that destination locations must deliver authentic brand experiences in order to stand out from the competition and drive visitors. To do this effectively, tourism brands need to understand that marketing efforts are shifting more and more from traditional mass media, to individualized experiences that are shared across a wide range of media channels, i.e. dynamic websites, social media, YouTube, partner marketing, blogs and reviews.

With an understanding of relationship marketing and a strategy that embraces individualized experiences, tourism brands have the opportunity to leverage digital marketing in a way that can have a direct impact on word of mouth influence, consumer advocacy and brand awareness. Effective use of these owned media opportunities, can position a brand to have an impact on the target audience’s purchase decision and destination selection.

At Sparxoo, we understand the value of relationship marketing and the importance of creating unique experiences for targeted audiences. With our team of tourism marketing leaders, we have applied our expertise in digital and relationship marketing to some of Florida’s leading tourism brands, including Visit Natural North Florida and the City of Clearwater. Below are examples of our work with both of these brands:


Visit Natural North Florida:

Visit Natural North Florida (VNNF) is a governmental entity that was formed to promote tourism in north central Florida. The region encompasses Florida’s Big Bend coastal area, spanning Wakulla County in the west down to Cedar Key/Levy County in the south, east to Gainesville, and north to the Florida-Georgia state line. The Task Force is a founding partner of the official tourism marketing organization for the state, VISIT FLORIDA.

As part of the organization’s primary marketing objectives for 2015 and 2016, VNNF prioritized digital efforts, with the goal to increase the number of U.S. and international travelers who visit the north Florida region.

One major component of VNNF’s marketing efforts was the recent redesign and development of the organization’s website (www.VNNF.org), which launched in early 2016. A best-in-class feature of this site includes the trip planning tools that are embedded throughout the site. These tools help create meaningful customer interactions, increase on-site visit time, and encourage repeat visits.

As demonstrated on www.VNNF.org, the site includes a dynamic trip planning feature, that prompts users to begin their trip planning by visiting either a.) The VNNF customized map of “Things to Do,” “Places to Stay,” and “Places to Eat” or b.) the “Trip Planner” page, which provides informative instructions for how to use the Trip Planner.

Looking beyond the organization’s website, VNNF has big plans for the rest of 2016, including plans to create more customized user experiences on the website and a target digital advertising campaign to key markets.

City of Clearwater:

The City of Clearwater is an ideal destination for travelers of all ages and interests, occupying prime real estate along Florida’s stunning Gulf Coast. As a top, year round location for both leisure and business, Clearwater boasts an endless supply of sun, warm weather, great dining and shopping, along with extensive outdoor activities both on land and at sea.

Recently, the City of Clearwater embarked on a rebranding initiative. A significant part of this initiative included activating the new brand to target audiences, including: tourists, residents, and the community. Sparxoo worked with the City to activate the new brand using digital platforms including social media and video.

Understanding how important social media is, we worked with the City to elevate the brand on social media in order to engage followers and potential tourists. Our efforts included: social media contests, branded social templates and content recommendations.

A social media example included the launch of a social contest where social media followers could enter the contest by using the hashtag #BrightandBeautiful (the City’s new tagline) and a favorite picture of the City. This contest enabled the City to not only promote its new brand, but also engage with tourists and residents.

Relationship marketing provides brands, especially those in tourism, with the opportunity to build loyalty and prolong the customer lifespan. As demonstrated by VNNF and Clearwater, digital-focused marketing efforts are excellent opportunities for tourism brands to make an impact. To learn more about Sparxoo’s work with other clients, please click here.

Summer’s in. Brands are Hot.

Well… If you ask us, brands are on fire all year around. But this summer, there are a few that simply can’t be ignored. Whether old, new, or thriving as an underground rage, different brands have their ways of getting and staying hot. What’s their secret? It depends. Each untouchable brand has their way of securing success through constantly reinventing themselves, leveraging their matchlessness, or catering to a niche.

Riding the Wave: GoPro

GoPro has actually been around since 2004, but they’ve suddenly gained contagious popularity. Video cameras aren’t exactly a new thing… so how did GoPro become such a rage?

It’s not just a regular video camera. Once the brand came to its full design, GoPro had created a new need in the industry, and fulfilled it: a versatile, indestructible, rugged, convenient, and quality camera. It makes perfect senseScreen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.05.19 PM for anyone, as it offers an array of capabilities, from standard to high-definition, and still frame to video.

In this case, the brand offering itself is what allows the marketing to be exponentially impactful. GoPro is iconic because the camera has been associated with the active, edgy lifestyle. It includes everything – from built-in WiFi to any mounting accessories. It truly is the world’s most versatile camera, which has allowed for the creation of a community rooted in sharing great photos that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise. The camera has the feel of RedBull, and uses similar tactics (such as sponsoring extreme sport events) to become associated with the active lifestyle. In doing so, GoPro has become a social phenomenon: those who catch never-before-captured footage feel like they are a part of something – a visual community.

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GoPro is an empowering camera – it makes the experience that much better, since you can collect untouchable footage. While GoPro offers one type of product, it can still be taken anywhere: cycling, surfing, skiing, kyacking, water rapid-ing, or snowboarding, or taking a jumping shot while traveling the world. Whatever you’re doing, you’re the hero.

First and foremost, GoPro’s product is unique. Then, they catalyzed the attraction to their brand through powerful commercials, great footage, and strategies that get their name and offering to spread in a viral way. A truly durable, quality, and branded video camera was an untapped market.

Building Their Own Sand Castle: Chubbies

Chubbies is building a never-before-seen empire somewhere down the beach this summer… and more and more people are starting to help them. Chubbies is a new brand, and probably relatively unknown to the world. They are, however, extremely popular in their niche.

How has this short-shorts company ignited their wild success? They created a cult following. The Chubster Nation, the Cargo Embargo, whatever you want to call it, Chubbies attracts the fun-loving frat-guys to join the club.

Their marketing tactic? Be simply ridiculous. Simple by offering one type of shorts, and ridiculous by changing the design and taglines to say something that just makes you shake your head and keep laughing. The “Trophy Husband?” The “Khakmeisters?” The “Walk of Fame’s…” Hey. If you have a cult following and lovable product, it works.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 9.15.10 AMChubbies designers have the passion to drive the business; it’s so unwavering and genuine that it fuels their hilarious and disruptive presence. The business is rooted in fun memories and a love for the weekend. Being that there wasn’t really a distinctive “brand name” is men’s shorts, Chubbies was able to run with the idea. The shorts blend casual and classy, and Chubbies exemplifies the cohesion of a social following, community of fun, and crisp, effective branding.

So cheers, to Chubbies’ first summer as a dominating shorts brand – “Sky’s Out, Thighs Out.”

Diving in to Refresh: Budweiser

A classic, yet still the norm. Timeless brands like Budweiser have found their brand nirvana: maintaining fundamentals, while excelling with small but notable deviations from the norm. Budweiser’s been around for 133 years, and when most people think of beer, it’s likely that they think of Budweiser: (insert bellowing deep voice) “the king of beer.”

As an evolving classic, Budweiser thrives on constant reinvention. The brand is always offering a new twist that’s just enough to spark a craze, and keep it dynamic.

  • Example: this May, Budweiser disrupted the norm by making changes to their classic 12-ounce can. A well-branded, multi-faceted move:
    • The name, “bowtie can,” keeps it classy.
    • The design fits with the logo and makes you feel like an improvement has been Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.22.48 PM
      made.
    • It excites people with something new and interactive to post on social media, a new life given to an old can… A trend:
      • “We know there are a large number of consumers out there looking for new things, the trend-seekers,” Anheuser-Busch’s VP of innovation Pat McGauley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We expect both our core beer drinkers and new customers to try it.”
    • The can is more eco-friendly, using less aluminum (which prompts consumers to pay more).
    • It’s functional & fun by allowing for an easy grip, and more identifiable and distinctive experience.

Budweiser inherently speaks to a diverse market – beer drinkers. So their two marketing tactics – American baseball & Clydesdales – may not directly speak to every beer lover. Therefore, it’s important to stay relevant through refreshed campaigns.

  • Budweiser sponsors huge music festivals, and has active digital initiatives. You can “track your Bud” online or make your plans using the Budweiser “Happy Hour App.” Robust social media efforts pair well with their competitions to win trips or join the “Bud Lite Fan Camp.”
  • They also offer “Lite” beers, “Here’s to the Heroes” campaigns, and aim to be the American classic, part of occasions to honor, celebrate, relax, and make memories.
  • Regardless of the campaign, Budweiser tells a story and offers an experience: their beer is a legacy and they want to make you part of their story, and make the Bud part of yours.
  • To get the message across, Budweiser uses funny and memorable commercials, and always-witty campaigns. The focus is devising new ways of communicating the same fundamental offering.

May the Summer of Brands Begin

Imagine the summer party you could have if you put all of these brands together… yikes. Close-up snapshot pictures of a chubby guy in short shorts getting drunk? Hmmm… now that’s a reason to be thankful for niche marketing, right?

Which brands do you find hottest? How do they do it?

10 Tips to Keep your Creative Team Inspired

Monotony has its place in life. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – like in the case of paying bills and checking emails. And sometimes it’s a good thing… like brushing your teeth. But within those routines, it’s important to find the room to mix it up.

Lucky for us, there’s rarely a dull day in the office. But that’s only because we make it a point to re-invigorate our creative juices: brainstorm sessions, photo shoots, and spontaneous smoothie field trips.

Digital and branding are about interaction and creating an experience. How are we going to do that if we don’t keep our communication and inspiration skills sharp? So to keep a brand dynamic and enticing, it’s important to maintain a fresh perspective – both as individuals, and as a team. I sat with the team and collected our top ten “must’s” for creative growth and productivity:

1. Be adventurous: Everyone agreed that trying new things helps keep them going. Being adventurous keeps your thought process active, which spurs innovative thinking.

2. SUP: For our designer, immersive experiences kindle the creativity. In digital design, you certainly can’t do the same thing twice.  “That’s why I try to always leave time for spontaneity,” Ryan says. To be honest, I think we’re all a little jealous of his lifestyle. “Immersion lets me recognize what drives emotional appeal. I’m able to more quickly dive into the mind of the client and design what they desire.”

3. Commit to enjoyable engagements: As marketing lead, Adrienne has to be a wealth of strategic and stunning messaging and content. Meanwhile, her unofficial role is to to keep everyone laughing. Everyday. I know – I’ll have what she’s having, right? But if we had to point the finger at the work-around-the-clock-er, it’s Adrienne. So where does she draw the line? “Planning everything is really helpful,” Adrienne says; she can judge where to stop, and get ahead when there’s time to spare. “I also make sure to schedule enjoyable commitments, so that I don’t cancel, but I’m always glad once I get there.” Otherwise, she says, “I try to chose entertainment that sets me up for new discoveries; I never know what I’m going to get… which great for communication innovation. “

4. Take a Breather: Search Marketing can sometimes make you feel like you’ve reached a plateau. But Jonathan achieves success because he knows when it’s time to take a break. He focuses on his analysis, but doesn’t ever get discouraged when it takes a little time to see results or make a discovery. Instead, he steps away (usually for a smoothie, or a cruise in extreme cases), and comes back ready to dive in. And with a pair of fresh eyes, he usually has a break through pretty soon after.

5. Schedule your fun: I’m sure you’ve read countless articles on founders and CEOs taking a break. David exemplifies the work-life balance. He makes it a point to be efficient and effective as he responds to challenges with precise questions that get the job done. David says that what keeps him sane is a commitment to exercising, scheduling his time to work just as precisely as he schedules his social life, and keeping the promises he makes to himself.

As a team: Not only is taking time to “live” crucial to producing good work, we also take the time to constantly nurture ourselves as a team.

6. Collaborate: Since everyone owns parts of each project, getting on the same page is a must. And we never fail to come out with feedback. Daily uncut discussions are important for perspective and progress.

7. Recap: After all the brainstorming and creative strategy that goes into a client project, there are three recapping practices that amplify what meeting ROI:

  • Work out the kinks. A dry run of our meetings ensures that we achieve our intentions, and that presentations run smoothly.
  • Recap asap. After the meeting, thoughts are fresh in our heads, so we reflect on client feedback. It’s a prime time to recognize opportunities for improvement and devise preliminary next steps.
  • Recall. Before the next meeting, recall what happened last time, what has been undertaken in the interim, and how advances have been made.

8. Get outside the office: In a team setting, it’s important to naturally mesh. And time outside the office accelerates the process. Whether it’s on a daily basis, like walking to grab coffee together, or to celebrate a project or new team members, quality team-time is invaluable for natural productivity. For example, last week was the CEO’s birthday: cupcakes, a little rowdiness & bad singing voices = bonding.

9. Reward & compliment: We all work hard, but recognizing stellar performance only encourages more stellar performance. By giving positive feedback, leaving nice notes, gifting employees with holiday time off, a rewarding that team member who has been working especially hard, everyone feels like their hard work is recognized.

10. Create a workspace wonder: An open and comfortable workspace inspires inspiration. We work from a cozy loft downtown, with wood floors, brick wall halls and a heaping candy bowl. Not only do the open air and natural light work like an instant dose of happiness, we’re also only ten steps away from the Tampa culture, and can work or brainstorm in our room equipped with whiteboard, armchairs and refreshments. So, there’s not much room for secrets… But there’s always a reason to laugh.

How do you make sure you don’t get burnt out?

What is Responsive Web Design?

This is a question our agency answers weekly, if not daily.

“So Adrienne, what you’re saying is you don’t have to build separate sites for each device?”

“Hold up now Jonathan, you mean to say I can actually save money on web maintenance with this responsive web design.”

Yes, a single site. And yes, cost savings amounting to over 50%.

We love web design. And honestly, we don’t mind answering this or any other digital question. And with that, we’d like to invite you to our Responsive Web Design party.

When: Now. Today. Yesterday, and ongoing indefinitely.

Where: That crazy place called the World Wide Web. And any and all devices that accesses it.

Why: With the advent of responsive web design, brands no longer have to develop a mobile site in addition to their traditional site. Typically, these were the sites with the “m.” in front of the URL, signifying the mobile version of the website. These also typically involved hefty bills for companies. Today, a single website can be designed that can be responsible across the growing number of platforms, browsers, and devices your target audience is accessing them from.

The way your audience consumes digital is changing each day. Today, 40% of consumers have turned to a competitor’s site after a poor mobile experience. While 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. With these statistics leading the charge, the importance of a responsible web design is more visible than ever before.

RSVP: Contact our awesome Sparxoo advertising agency team to see how we can help you today.

Why Website User Experience Matters to Brand Loyalty

We want you to get lucky with your customers. And we’re not just talking four leaf clovers and shamrocks. We’re talking brand engagement, and further increasing brand loyalty. We know what you’re thinking: this is blarney. But in reality, these two can truly work hand in hand together. The more engaged a consumer is with your brand, the more loyalty they will naturally develop towards it. And with that, we’d like to introduce you to our friend, user experience.

User experience isn’t simply the look and feel of a company’s website or products. It makes up all aspects of the user’s engagement with the company. Your user experience sums up how well you’re meeting the needs of the customer.

Don’t Press Your Luck
2.6 seconds. That’s how long your website has to make a great first impression. In those two seconds you have to garner enough interest and engagement for a user to stay and navigate through your website (or your bounce rate will skyrocket, and your SEO will sadly suffer).

So just how do you do this? You can’t just give customers what they want (simple, easy to use, pleasant to look at). You must anticipate their “tomorrow needs.” They are not going to tell you they need a website that is easy to navigate, but they do. They need you to make their experience as seamless as can be—through interface design, back-end design, marketing and graphics.

Dance a Jig
Here’s a scenario, would you rather read about a hilarious dance, or see a picture of it? Simple enough, you need to see it to get the full effect. This is how your consumers feel. You must show, not tell on your website. A single image can replace hundreds of words of text.

The text on your website also plays a significant role in user experience. Your copy must be magnetic. Your brand’s voice must come through with each sentence. In today’s time poor, information rich society, every word really needs to count. Gone are the days of pages upon pages of text. Today, best practices in user experience tell us that users have limited time to read, and prefer concise, to-the-point copy.

Pot of Gold
Pop Quiz: What’s your job?

Incorrect.

Your job is to make your consumers’ jobs easier. Your job is to be the solution. When we look at how we can do this, we see that user experience plays an enormous role.

  1. Usability: No one can use your website if they can’t find it. How does your SEO hygiene look? If a simple Google search for your offerings doesn’t yield your company, chances are, it displays your competitors.
  2. Eye Candy: Humans are visual beings. To truly create the engaging experience with your brand, you must capture their attention through striking visuals that are relevant to their needs.
  3. Be Obvious: Please don’t play hard to get. Clearly show and display your product and service to your consumer. Don’t make them guess what your capabilities are.

At the end of the day, user experience starts and stops with the end user. This is your consumer, and your strategy must be driven at benefiting them. Don’t make your website content all about you. The consumer has a need. And your job is to be the solution most tailored to them.

How Can I Get More People to Find My Brand?

No facet of a good digital presence operates independently of another; in a good brand, every aspect of its existence leverages and showcase the other aspects.

Every time we work on a creating new brand strategy – incorporating the ideas from every perspective – it excites me (and kind of blows my mind) how seamlessly a comprehensive plan comes together into a living brand. To show you howsocial media marketing possible it is to fuse all of the digital components into a functional brand, I’ve broken up the brand’s digital presence into three components (or “-abilities”), which I examine from the search, content, and user experience pillars of a brand strategy. 

Disclaimer: I’m just breaking it down into basics, to show the importance of making sure that everything fits in at every phase of the brand’s presence.There’s much more to all facets of good branding.

1.    Findability

Search: Great product, brand design, target market… As much as I love social media, visual content, and blogs, all of that only matters if your site gets found. The essentials?:

Keywords: You’re proud of your brand, of course! But for search purposes, it’s important to leverage words related to your brand/industry that will get searched. You might have the sleekest imported brand, the “Ronshai boutique bursa,” but if your targeting a market that likes high-end leather purses – that’s what they’ll search: leather purse. If your content is laden with company jargon, people who are looking for you (but don’t know it yet) won’t find you.

Technical Analysis: A functional technical foundation is the premise for digital branding – make sure that nothing is blocking search engines from crawling your sites, have site maps, and have tracking on your pages. You can have a million pages – but without links or traffic to your page… well… nothing will happen.

Readability: It’s hard to believe sometimes… but Google can’t actually read. To help it know what your site is talking about, readable html content is important, since people won’t always have browsers that show images or turn text into speech. Oh, and by the way, Google wants to see natural links, too… so getting your brand talked about in the digital community is irreplaceable; it makes you seem like a thought leader when real links are driving traffic to your site (i.e. comments on other articles). Being findable also comes from being visible. The Internet is a community, and a digital brand is a part of it.

Content:

The quality: When creating content, it’s important that you use words that people will search. Design blog titles around what people typically type into Google. Visual content is enticing to your consumers, but being “findable” requires relevant words first.

The quantity: There’s no such thing as “too much” (quality) content. If I had to pick one thing that a brand can’t live without (note: yes, brands are living things), it’s good content. Why? Because Search engines and people love content. If a search engine sees that your site is active, they like that. If a person has content to attach to, they’ll fall in love with your brand.

User Experience: Using data is great for getting a pulse check: Once your brand is up and running, analytics provide a strong foundation for brand optimization. With an inherent quantitative tendency, though, it’s important that you use data only for leverage, and to qualitatively optimize. Use the numbers to guide your brand (i.e. know what people like and where your traffic comes from), but don’t let the numbers define your brand. Remember – the reason you have the numbers is because you’re an engaging brand: keep engaging. Just refine. And refine… and refine.

2.    Navigability and Usability

The Logic: Your website isn’t a store, but needs to be just as easy (if not easier) to navigate. Website design and user experience need to (naturally and subtly) align with SEO components and facilitate enjoyable, natural navigation. In economics, this is called “choice architecture:” design the sight based on the nature of the users – know what people want, and cater to that. Embrace intuition, then let your creative abilities (the wireframing layout planner, the genius copy writer, and the design ninja) do the rest.

In fact, just like with many creative strategies, this concise and clean format forces the creation of stellar brand collateral. The narrowness inspires high quality.

Search: The design of the website should include the content and the right words that the search engine will favor. Know your search foundation, and then differentiate the brand further. For example, “call-to-action” buttons or newsletter sign-ups represent an example of the blend of search and user experience: search data lets us know the impact of each web layout approach, and we can alter the web design appropriately.

Web design and content: Users want simplicity – but you have a lot to tell them (we hope). How does it all come together? Use the search as guidance, design a navigable website, and place appealing content (blogs, images, company newsletters and brand showcases) within the conceptual design. Also, be sure to frequently touch base with the search expert when writing blogs: it’s an art and a science. And a nice way to vent.

3.    Lovability

Like I said with the user experience – these people aren’t with you. You’re digital presence is doing the talking. Similarly, you have to create content for personality. Whether people know it or not, that’s the aspect that they will fall in love with in the online arena. TOMS? Shoes for a cause. Chubbies? Pants with a sense of humor. IBM? Industry-giants. Why do we “know” these brands? They have a personality – which is created and maintained by an active, pristine, and personifying digital presence.

Search and content: If you’re optimizing SEO in all the right ways, social is a great place to disseminate your content, as well as maintain brand exposure, voice, and personality (and more platforms = more Google love). Blogs and page build-outs will help showcase pages that aren’t as readily “findable,” and will be an asset in the search engine world. Optimizing content – by theme, key word utilization and internal linking – helps to make your info. not only findable, but also attractive and personable. And that’s what I’m getting at:

 There are creative minds, and technical minds. In digital – you can’t have one without the other: You can be attractive and personable, but you have to get found. Or, you can get found, but have to make people like what they find. One option is useless without the other.

Batan_Handoff

It’s not that complex. But consistently fusing the different streams of thinking into all brand counterparts can be (in an exciting way) overwhelming.

In sum, there’s a precision involved in building a website that gets found, looks great, and locks in an emotional connection. It’s a blend that must be constantly strived for in order to have the most successful brand possible. The key: take a piece of each branding specialty and find how it fits into every branding pursuit.

What does it take to be a social brand? Exploring Social Marketing

Let’s cut out misconception number 1: “We are social… we have social media accounts.” If that’s you – keep reading! Alright, so you’ve got the foot in the door: social media accounts; certainly a must. But what I’m really talking about here is how to be a social brand: dynamic, living and engaging. A brand with a personality – that’s what people love.

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In the social sphere, your brand is always on: it has to spark engagement and generate a buzz in order to have a relationship with your customers. And once you’re brand is pristine in concept, design, and identity, you’ve got to keep the ball rolling with social marketing.

Social media and digital strategies let us share content, expertise, and personality. Having managed a diverse bunch of accounts – across industries and social platforms – I learn more every day about how to communicate brands’ personalities and spark engagement.

The vastness and potential of the Internet are overwhelming and invigorating… So, in thinking about what  I’d like to share with you, I realized was that it’s most revealing to share what comes to mind first. Here are the ideas that I hold near and dear when working to give brands life through social marketing:

Diversity. It’s important to post a wealth of content across all mediums. And I mean a wealth. I try to circulate between industry news, engaging posts, visual posts (the short-sweet-and-to-the-point secret weapon), and company-generated content (such as YouTube channels, infographics or blogs… P.S. check out the chance for a double-whammy here, with company-relevant expertise and visual, a.k.a. the social sweet spot).

On Facebook, I try to cycle through all of these styles daily. I’ve noticed that the industry-news-lovers linger in the early morning (unless it’s relevant to the general population – any time will do); the visuals are great to gain the “likes” of those who surf mid-afternoon and early evening; and you should try to post the content that generates traffic back to the website smack-dab in the middle of the week (3pm on Wednesdays).

There’s lots of content that expresses or builds brand personality, but isn’t quite drawing enough to catch Facebook engagement: Can you say tweet? Tweet frequently; I recommend at least 6-10 times/day. Tweets can include quotations, pictures, team jokes, brand-specific info, or re-tweets. Due to the fast pace of Twitter, it wouldn’t hurt to post your company content, like blogs, once in the morning, and then later when it feeds from your 3pm Facebook post. Which brings me to my personal favorite Twitter/blog trick: keep an eye out for tweets that share perspective related to something you’ve blogged about. Then – jump in the conversation and link to your company page.

In all of this, the beauty of social marketing is that you don’t ever have to explicitly market your brand. Instead, provoke appeal toward your brand. All of the conversation mediums allow for you to showcase your brand as genuine, as if it has a heart and mind of its own (which, if you ask us, all good brands do).

B2B vs. B2C: I should also differentiate how each type of business should use social media. B2C’s have an easier time posting information about their company because, instead of seeming “self-promotional,” they’re informing and helping their consumers, the main fans and followers of their social media. For example, our client Fuse Pilates’ social media utilizes the dynamic nature of digital and social to showcase schedule times and class offerings. It’s just inherent to the B2C.

Web DesignB2B’s, like Sparxoo, have to build social personality from the ground up. Who knows who our fans could be? And where they could lead? Our consumers are businesses, but our industry is creative and personable. A B2B’s social approach should be to showcase expertise, as well as engage an audience – a mix between industry and brand persona. The exception that allows for self-promo is a B2B that generates an extreme amount of content (such as IBM, with studies for every interest group). And if you’re B2B, you BETTER-B on LinkedIn and Google+. LinkedIn is a place to post once per day about industry news or company expertise and content. Google+ (Facebook’s cousin for the time being) can be used kind of like Facebook: visual posts, and attractive content (i.e. unique and concise).

It takes a lot of work to maintain an endless, cutting edge pool of posts to pull from (pardon the alliteration – it was an accident!). However, it’s that constant diversity and engagement that will keep a brand alive. Post in creative ways – keeping it relevant, but witty. Don’t just tweet: retweet and have conversations. Post on Facebook in a way that elicits engagement (comments and shares are the stamp of approval in social media marketing). And share: get your brand where conversations are already happening.

And my favorite new way to show personality: Pinterest. While it’s a great way to feel productive and creative, there’s so much more to Pinterest than planning your wedding or pinning inspirational quotes. This business, people! You can easily tell from the Fuse Pilates Pinterest: Nothing personifies a brand like a collection of visuals in a digital scrapbook.

What does this all mean for you, social media managers? Due diligence:

  1. You can’t count social media platforms on your fingers anymore. Nor can you count the minutes that you need to manage them. There’s no cutting corners. Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest… and all equallyHero_CauseARuckus_Blog important and with their own assets. You know what that means? Yup – lots of passwords. Seriously, though: Your brand needs to be on all platforms, optimizing their B2B or B2C content diversity. It’s incredible what can happen if you post daily and diversely.
  2. The caveat: If you want all of these means to meet an end, your brand must create content. Whether a blog, Youtube channel, or infographic, content shows expertise and personality, which builds trust, and locks in a connection that resonates perfectly via social influence. In fact, we still get retweets on the Brand Color App that our CEO designed. Why? Because, all wrapped up into one, the content is visual, engaging, fun, informative, and revealing of what our company has to offer.

I could go on… but then all of this content wouldn’t be as effective (another tip – keep it valuable, but concise). Stay tuned for more on social marketing – and how to best keep your brand online all the time to generate leads. How do you stay social?

The CEO Sound Off: Fuse Pilates, a Lifestyle Brand for the 21st Century

Sparxoo founder, David Capece’s take on Pilates start-up client, Fuse Pilates.

1)  When and why did Fuse Pilates first start working with Sparxoo?
Fuse Pilates hired Sparxoo shortly after they launched their first pilates studio in Washington, DC in the summer of 2011.  Their goal was to build a presence as a premiere pilates studio in Washington DC in the short-run, and as a lifestyle brand for the long-run.

2)  What were your initial reactions to the brand and their current outreach efforts?
Upon kickoff with Fuse Pilates, we were immediately impressed by the passion and expertise of the founders:  Mariska Breland and Roxanna Hakimi.  They shared their vision of building much more than a studio.  They had ambitions to build Fuse Pilates into a lifestyle brand and a community.  They had a desire to build Fuse Pilates into a differentiated brand with a cutting edge personality.

3)  What are some of the challenges that Fuse Pilates faces in getting their message heard?
As with any startup, there is so much to do and limited budget. Like most startups, the advertising budget was limited, so the focus at Fuse Pilates was primarily on building a digital footprint, winning at earned media and encouraging word of mouth.  In terms of economics, it would be financially beneficial to apply marketing across multiple locations; however, at startup, Fuse Pilates had just their initial location.

4)  What are some of the lessons that other brands can take away from how Sparxoo and Fuse Pilates have worked to overcome these challenges?
Over time, Fuse Pilates has built a loyal and engaged following through high customer satisfaction and by creating an experience.  Other startups must recognize that it takes significant marketing resources and time to build customer relationships and create buzz.  For example, our pr initiative took several months to gain traction.  Since then, Fuse Pilates has been featured in a number of publications including Pilates Style, the Washingtonian, Washington Post, and DC Metro Mom.  Likewise, Fuse Pilates is now optimized on several key words which took months to achieve.  It is important to prioritize marketing initiatives ahead of time and account for the time and effort that is necessary to achieve the desired goals.

5)  Fuse uses a fun and very distinct brand ‘voice’ in their social platforms (especially Facebook), how has that helped defined them?
At Sparxoo, we believe it is critical to present brands in a creative way that breaks through the clutter.  From our perspective, Fuse Pilates has done a great job at breaking through the clutter.  In particular, their photos are unique and different.  They convey the hard core message in a way that connects with their target audience.  Likewise, Fuse Pilates brings its attitude and inspiration to Facebook with light hearted humor that is surprisingly edgy yet sophisticated.

6)  How does Fuse Pilates ‘connect’ with their target demographic?
Fuse Pilates uses every touch point to effectively communicate with their target audience.  On digital, Fuse Pilates makes a great first impression through its web site and continues to impress through its newsletter, facebook, social marketing, and even its mobile app.  In person, Fuse Pilates has great signage, collateral, and art work throughout its studio.  Finally, the Fuse Pilates team and instructors bring the brand to life.

7)  What has been the number one most significant factor that has improved and increased their reach since Sparxoo started working with them?
Fuse Pilates has tremendous customer satisfaction.  As branding and marketing experts, we always say that you need to have a great product to be successful in the long-run.  Fuse Pilates really does have a great product and they care deeply about being the best. They are also able to reach their target audience through a variety of channels, even posting workout videos digitally.

Closing Notes: One thing that’s very important is remaining relevant and fresh with Fuse’s demographic. Check out this New Year’s infographic we recently created for them.

 

Disruptive Branding: The X-Ray View

Let’s start with one key characteristic that makes a brand disruptive: “BE FIRST!” The brand needs to “be first” in three ways. First, it’s important that, whatever centralities the brand is providing- product, service, emotion- have never before been experienced by the consumers. Being a leader makes the brand admirable standing out far more than any “follower.”

What makes being first so magical in the disruptive brand composition? Risk. A brand that takes a risk makes consumers feel that the brand has exposed themselves in order to impress and win the love of the consumer. This dedication and vulnerability makes consumers relate to the brand. After the first big risk, the brand is inflated with consumer support, and can then work to achieve the next step: STAY FIRST! Winning in the market is the groundwork that gives the disruptive brand a fighting chance in the vicious market place. Then, the brand needs to must maintain that lead.

Now–

To cap off this blog series, I wanted to give you some case study evaluations… some X-ray views that point out the core elements- the back-bones, if you will- that fuel disruptive branding champions. If you’ve been keeping up with these posts, I’d say you’re qualified to take a look. What do you think, Doctor?:

TOMS=Emotion+Strategy+Consistency+Authenticity+Storytelling+Unique+Be first!=Disruptive!

Offering so much more than a pair of shoes, the “one-for-one” campaign clearly plays upon emotional chords. Not to mention the consistency and authenticity that comes with the fact that the CEO travels so often- immersed in his mission and constantly generating new ideas. TOMS’ storytelling unites all of their elements- consumers see the enactment of the one-for-one promise, making them feel attachment and that their shoe-purchase made an immediate difference. Not only has the emotion turned into a trendy fashion-statement– a down-to-earth appearance that is in lines up with the “save the world” sentiment- TOMS was the first, and has maintained that outstanding brand leadership.

Apple=Emotion+Quality+Strategy+Consistency+Unique+Be first!=Disruptive!

Apple was absolutely first with their iPhone, and to make the sleek, sexy, virus-free Mac. And they have stayed strides ahead as the notable “Once you go Mac, you never go back” quality providers. Apple is consistent with its ever-improving, genuinely high-quality machines that consumers simply fall in love with. In fact… I have never heard anyone say anything bad about their iPhone. Why? There is such careful attention put into developing the absolute best product that consumers could dream of… quite a strategy. That core strategy is then complemented by kindling a relationship with Apple users- customer service, ever-improving products, and a feeling of connection with the genius behind what makes your life better. In addition to being a fashion statement, a product that people LOVE, and seemingly the definition of technology, Apple has a story… they were almost bankrupt at one point, but took a risk to stay in the game. Good choice.

IKEA= Emotion+Strategy+Unique+Be first!=Disruptive!

IKEA gives furniture a personality- and shows the infinite product combinations; this lets you find furniture personality that fits your personality. While IKEA may not provide top-tier warranties, or even delivery/assembly services, they’ve made a booming place for themselves in the furniture industry. Everyone knows and embraces their presence. They’re huge, and deservingly so. IKEA leads the furniture market as a low-price, variety-providing home décor company. Aside from trendy, attractive home products, there is much more that sustains IKEA’s consumer base… You can find furniture and home essentials elsewhere… but IKEA brings everything that you could imagine together under one roof. It’s a one-stop-shop: you can buy silverware in the same place you buy your bookshelf; a baby mobile and dorm room organizers; a fruit bowl and a light fixture. And there’s more… IKEA tops off its distinction by offering services that no other furniture or department store can boast. Can you drop the kids off at the in-store daycare while you shop, and then pick them up for a lunch at the Swedish-meatball-snack bar at other furniture stores? Can you see how your sought-after kitchen table would look in both, a modern or an old-world modeled kitchen? IKEA’s open, bright atmosphere that showcases its array of products is more than just a mega furniture store. The all-encompassing nature gives it an enjoyable emotional appeal; when people shop at IKEA, they get their home needs, and the experience.

Pinkberry= Emotion+Strategy+Unique+Be first!=Disruptive!

Pinkberry is another disruption exemplary. The idea- delicious simplicity- has spread and become a fashion craze. The CEO admired Apple’s style of branding, and took the risk- Santosa simply dropped work for a week to prepare and present the branding pitch- only to uncover great success. Embracing minimalism and plastic chairs, complemented by out-of-ordinary frozen yogurt toppings, going to get frozen yogurt is fun and trendy. Pinkberry is perfectly exploiting an entirely new, profitable, stylish niche in the “going-out-to-get-desert” market.

Redbull= Emotion+Quality+Strategy+Consistency+Storytelling=Disruptive!

Red Bull sells one basic product. What fuels such massive profits? Their target audience was young people- so they took the inside approach to establishing the brand. Red Bull found well-connected  (“cool”) college kids, and gave them a supply of the energy drink. An interesting platform… risky, but effective! The result: college kids (a fast-paced word-of-mouth vehicle) endorsing their product. This free-samples task force, mixed with the energy drink’s association with extreme sports is Red Bull’s simple, well-articulated, consistent, appealing, stimulating, original and invigorating strategy to build a distinct brand identity.

ZipCar= Strategy+Consistency+Unique+Be first!=Disruptive!

ZipCar lets travelers make an account, then hop into a ZipCar when they need vehicular transportation, and leave it where ever is convenient for them (in a legal parking space, of course). This is the ideal alternative to the commitment of a rental car; with ZipCar, you can have a car at your disposal without any hassle. Unique? Yes. The culmination of a “be first” strategy? Yes. Built-in advertisting? Yes!

Starbucks= Emotion+Quality+Strategy+Storytelling+Be first!=Disruptive!

Starbucks is undoubtedly the best-known coffee brand. And what makes them so? A long list… Starbucks gives your coffee a personal aspect (get any flavor- in a cup with your name on it!), and going to Starbucks is an experience: it is about reading the cultural, simple, yet diverse, marquees, then absorbing the sentiment of sitting in the coffee shop. Their drinks are delicious… and trendy to carry a Starbucks cup. Ultimately, Starbucks transformed a commodity into fashion statement.

Why a VC-funded Company’s CEO Brand Matters

Why a VC-funded Company’s CEO Brand Matters

You didn’t get to this point by blending in. You didn’t get to this point by standing still. And you did not get to this point by being mediocre. If you are CEO of a VC-funded company, your personal brand should be anything but ordinary.

Your personal brand as CEO matters.  Like any great brand, your personal brand must continue to stand out. You can create magnetic appeal to your startup by elevating your personal brand.  And if you don’t take the time to build your brand, your market will define your brand for you.  If you are skeptical, take it from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Great brands consistently share the same message, and so should you.  As CEO, you should find your unique way to exude a combination of great attributes, while being just as calculated in how exactly you are standing out.

From 2001 – 2010, “CEO Vision” rose from the 7th most important factor to the 4th most important factor that VCs look for in their portfolio company leadership, according to a Spencer Stuart NVCA  Study in 2010.  Accordingly, use your head to inspire with a big and aspirational vision of the future. 

  • Develop an aspirational vision for your company that frames your venture in the context of the industry.  Make your vision interesting and impactful:  beyond the elevator pitch, use stories and facts to bring your vision to life. You should become synonymous with your vision.

According to that same study, ethics and integrity was ranked the #1 factor that VCs look for in their portfolio company CEOs. People respect leaders who have a purpose and genuinely care about their organization’s mission and vision.  Set a mission and key values for your organization. So go ahead and show heart by exuding passion to challenge the status quo.  Love what you do, and let it show.  Your public face needs to be encouraging even in the face of great obstacles. Passion is contagious. And at the end of the day, passion never stops.

Valuable connections can catapult a venture.  By exciting others, you can motivate them to propel your brand forward.  There is potential value in everyone that you meet.  Radiate an energy that excites everyone around you.  As you see accomplishments and success around you, celebrate successes of your team and your peers, and build upon it.

And importantly, venture Capitalists are looking for an athlete with worldly skills.  In baseball, scouts look for a 5-tool prospect. “The number of tools you need to be a successful CEO has expanded,” Stephen Bloch, general partner at Canaan Partners.  VCs prefer experienced and proven venture-backed CEOs with experience in unrelated sectors to promising entrepreneurs with strong sector and technical knowledge but no prior CEO experience.  So make sure you are branded by your track record of past successes, and the key skills that helped you attain those successes.

Beyond living the CEO mindset, you should focus on a few key attributes (read: adjectives) that the startup community should use to describe you.  For example, you can be known as a source of innovation, a fearless leader, a do-er, or the winner who leads the team to victory regardless of the challenges.

As you establish your voice and your brand, execute on tactics to prove your message.  For example, if you want to be known as the source of innovation, establish yourself as a specialized expert and go-to resource (i.e. op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, appearances on CNBC, frequent quotes in industry journals, author a book).  Present new ideas and innovations at conferences via round-tables.  Toss out the dull presentation and replace it with cutting edge materials including video to bring your concepts to life in an inspirational way.  Inspire and teach other entrepreneurs by presenting at universities, incubators, and other entrepreneurial hotbeds.  If you want to be known as the winner, get recognized with awards such as the Top 40 Under 40, the Fast 50, or even as one of the most fit or healthy organizations.  The awards you and your company win will be proof points to reinforce your message.

As CEO, your bottom line matters, but your great personal brand will give you greater flexibility to manage and lead, because others will have greater trust and confidence in you.  Take your vision, passion, energy, and world-class skills and build your CEO brand.  Be inspired, be innovative, and be disruptive.  And in the words of marketing guru Seth Godin, “As our society gets more complex and our people get more complacent, the role of the jester is more vital than ever before. Please stop sitting around. We need you to make a ruckus!”