Author Archives: Jake

Halloween is Over…Are You Ready for Christmas?

jinglebellsRight around the end of September, a lot of big businesses—especially retail giants—start the Holiday rush. This starts off with putting out Halloween-themed items and merchandise which slowly allows the Christmas stuff to trickle in. It seems that the Christmas stuff comes earlier and earlier every year, as if the retail giants are trying to use the idea of Christmas cheer to convince us to spend Holiday-level cash for even longer.

Whether it’s honest or dishonest, consumers have simply accepted it, around the beginning of November, start to take Holiday shopping seriously.

Even if you aren’t in retail, there are a few ways you can start prepping for the Holidays and let your audience know that your brand will be participating in the Holiday rush. And you can do it in a few ways that won’t make you seem like you are only trying to take advantage of everyone’s Holiday spirit.

Here are two examples.

Countdown to Holiday Specials: This starts with coming up with a discount, offer, sale, or other special event that you’ll be having during the last half of December (or, if you’re ambitious, the entire month). Starting November 1st, you can start counting down to your Holiday event. Consider fliers and advertisements featuring the countdown. You can even put a countdown clock on your website. This is a great way to keep the special in the minds of the public for up to a month and a half before the event.

Community Service:  There are countless great causes to get behind during the Holidays. Think about getting involved in Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Child. Aside from that, see if there are any local charitable programs that you can sponsor or get behind. Never make this all about business, though.  No one will bring you business if it is evident that you are only supporting these causes as a means of advertising.

What are some other ways you can think of that can get you on the fast track to Holiday success without coming off as a Scrooge?

How Branding Mistakes Are Like Horror Movies

screaming-womanHappy Halloween, folks. In the spirit of the day, we’re going to take a few moments to compare your business decisions to a horror movie.

Bad marketing and brand building is exactly the same as some of the dumb moves characters tend to make in horror movies. Sure, this might be a bit of a stretch…but it’s Halloween. So let’s have some fun and see what horrors we can unravel.

Your failure to embrace social media is the equivalent of the stupid woman that runs up the stairs rather that outside when the maniac is chasing her.

When you ignore the power of social media, you’re going to end up trapped in a house with a monster that is going to kill you. There’s no hope—no way out.

However, if you had have wised up and run outside to where there is all of that sweet freedom is (and cars to escape the monster), you would have seen the whole world open before you. AS a small business, social media does this exact same thing—it brings new freedoms to you and the world is literally at your fingertips.

Your failure to try new modern strategies that your evolving audience wants to see is the equivalent of poking the “dead” monster one last time so that it will spring to life, grab your ankle, and tear your throat out.

As technology changes, so do the expectations and desires of your target audience. While sticking with certain traditions is certainly noble, it can truly hurt your brand if you stay mired in the past and ignore the present wants and needs of your customers.  If you keep poking at dead ideas and strategies, it’s just going to end badly.

Work towards the obligatory sequel and give it an upgrade.

A writer and director’s dream is to have a movie that warrants a sequel. The fans and the box office income demand it. But rather than churn out the same movie, sequels usually give the characters and plot a twist of some sort. Let this be a lesson to your marketing successes. Don’t become a one trick pony—always be prepared for the sequel and have a few new ideas in mind.

The Successes and Pitfalls of Sharknado

The chances are pretty good that the majority of people reading this blog might have missed out on the weird pop culture phenomenon of Sharknado.

(A pause here, to let that title sink in).

sharknadoSharknado  was an original movie that aired of SyFy Channel earlier this year. B all accounts and purposes, the movie should have been a laughing stock, like most of the original movies that SyFy churns out. In the days of video stores, it would have been in the rack with B-movies that people only enjoyed because they were so terrible.

But something special happened with Sharknado. Thanks in part to social media and the surprisingly effective marketing by SyFy, the movie became a hit. People are still talking about it nearly three months after it aired.

So let’s take a look at how SyFy was able to make a terribly cheesy and poorly done movie inot a pop culture phenomenon.

A Simple Message: The blurb for the movie was literally this: “Sharks in a tornado. Sharknado.” While venturing into WTF territory, there’s something simplistically awesome about this.

Live Tweeting: Live tweeting allows the audience to discuss the movie during the movie, powered by hashtags. People have done this with TV shows and live sporting events in the past, but never n the level of tweets during Sharknado. Even well-known celebrities got in on the fun, further bolstering the movie’s fame.

It’s Okay to Be Silly: With a premise like the one in Sharknado, SyFy basically threw out any hope of the film being taken seriously. And, thanks to social media, that became one of its main sticking points. People loved Sharknado because of its absolutely insane premise.

It’s Okay to Go Over the Top: if you’ve seen the movie, you know how crazy and absolutely maniacal some of the action sequences were.  This item plays heavily on the above item of not taking yourself too seriously.

Of course, some argue that a film like Sharknado could actually hurt SyFy, despite the movie’s success. The channel has legitimate programming on it that some critics believe could be hurt by this new branding of ridiculously crazy movies.

What are your thoughts on Sharknado? Genus programing by a channel that often suffers in the ratings or a waste of money and film?

Going Psycho: Getting in the Heads of Your Audience

emotional-experienceIf you want to get your brand’s message across in the most crucial way, you need to be able to play on the two primary interests of your audience: their wants and their emotions. This is why beer commercials usually feature big-breasted women, truck commercials feature adventure scenarios, and greeting card company commercials pull at your heartstrings.

They want to be remembered at the very core of your emotional responses.

So what can you do in order to make sure your brand is hitting all of these crucial elements in marketing and copywriting?

Keep It Simple and Relatable: If you have a great concept that you feel is going to resonate with your audience, don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t cram symbolism or subliminal messages into your message. Strip the concept down to its barest bones; it will then seem honest, relevant and truthful. And when your brand can be all three of those things at once, you’re succeeding.

Understand Your Audience’s Intent Upon Hiring You: Why did your client hire you? Or, more to the point, why are people calling you or visiting your website? What is their intent? If you know these answers, you can better direct your approach in terms of marketing, advertising, and shaping your brand for the future.

Speak Louder Than Your Competitors: While it’s never smart to lie to your audience about your goals or abilities, there is nothing at all wrong with showing them that you are just like them and can identify with them. Use common links between your personal self and your average customer to show that you truly understand them at a base level and can help them excel.

When you find these similarities, drive them home in a strong way that will appeal to not only your target audience, but your competitors’ clients as well.

As you can see, if you can get inside the heads of your audience, it becomes easier to cater to them. You can almost get to the point here you will be able to predict their wants and emotional responses.

What are some other psychological tricks your brand has employed in the past with positive results?

What Do Copywriters Do, Anyway?

We spent all of last week ironing out the details of some of the basics regarding effective copywriting to help build your brand. As a refresher of sorts, and as a way to finally clear the air for those of you that may not deal with the copywriting aspect of your brand, we thought it might be a good idea to answer a questions that sometimes gets a few different answers.

funny-man-writing“What does a copywriter do?”

Glad you asked.

To the severely uninformed, many people get the work of a copywriter confused with the legal aspects of protecting an idea or creative property. That is not what a copywriter does.

In all honesty, the duties of a copywriter can be quite varied and hard to nail down to just a few aspects. Yes, they work with words to convey a certain message for their clients. Yes, the good ones know how to tell a story with only bland details and a sketchy outline to work with.

But the work of a copywriter is so much more than that. In today’s fast paced technological world, a copywriter must also know:

The ins and outs of web readability: What works on a brochure or flier is not going to work on the internet. A copywriter has to be able to adapt to their medium flawlessly.

Social media: many copywriters are writing the content for their client’s social media accounts.

How to work with designers: many times, copywriters may have only a small amount of space to write; it often depends on how much room a designer has left them on any given page.

To write a catchy headline or slogan: Any great slogan you’ve read was likely created by a copywriter. And those snappy headlines that make you click a link…that’s their handiwork, too.

Understand several audiences at once. A copywriter has to know what tone and voice to write in if they want to communicate with their client’s target audience. When you have 3 or 4 clients at once, this can become harder than most would imagine.

So as you can see, copywriters do more than just fill your blogs with content, make your brochures sound snappy, and make sure you clients have something interesting to read in your newsletter.

What talents do you look for when it comes to hiring a copywriter to carry your brand’s message?

5 Twitter Mistakes That Will Hurt Your Brand

Yesterday we took a look at some of the best Twitter accounts from a different variety of brands. But on the flip side of that, there are some habits that can severely damage your brand’s reputation if you don’t know how to use Twitter the right way.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes that brands continue to make far too often.

Silence: Having a Twitter account is a complete waste of time and resources if you aren’t going to use it regularly. Sure, we understand that there are times when the day gets too hectic and social media has to take a back seat. But if your tweets are as infrequent as once or twice a week, you’re doing it wrong. Consistency is key on twitter, especially when you’re trying to build up a steady number of followers.

Blindly Building the Numbers: One rule of Twitter etiquette states that you should never follow people just to build up your numbers. Only follow people you are legitimately interested in following. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to always keep your number of followers lower than the number of people that are following you.

Stop Tweeting Long Conversations: There’s a character limit on twitter for a reason—to keep lengthy rants off of Twitter. If you find yourself using several tweets to convey one message, you’re likely annoying your followers.

Keep Your Personal Life Personal: There’s a pretty broad line between your personal life and your business. There are some places where it’s okay to overlap. For instance, maybe you want to praise the great cup of coffee you got while dropping a link to the coffee shop’s account. But you don’t want to go on and on about your wife, kids, or political affiliations.

It Is Never All About You: Some self-promotion is okay. After all, you need to get the word out about special offers somehow. But don’t make that all you tweet about. Engage in conversations with others and never keep the focus entirely on yourself.

What are some Twitter no-nos that you have seen that have left you cringing?

5 Twitter Accounts that Are Doing Branding the Right Way

In the land of Twitter, there are some brands that are getting the social media game exactly right and some that are doing it pretty poorly.

Today, let’s take a look at some of the better examples before having a laugh or two at some of the worst examples tomorrow.

If you really want to do branding right in the social media world, here are some Twitter accounts worth following.

Ford: Ford’s Twitter account is a great example of how to ix up content between articles, simple tweets and photos. They are also great at authenticating their brand and their account by linking and RT’ing other brands that mention them.

Dell: While they may not be the go-to source for computers, the way they have segregated their various accounts is smart business strategy at work. They have separate accounts set up for sales, customer support and then the master account. This makes it easier for customers to contact the account they need while also using multiple accounts to establish their Twitter presence.

Sharpie: while it may not be an obvious brand to follow, Sharpie is doing everything right. Known for interacting with tons of customers on their account, their humor and sarcasm is unmatched in most social media circles. This is a brand that is simply fun to follow.

Starbucks: Their Twitter account makes use of all of their other social media accounts as well. And while some people claim they do tend to promote themselves a bit too much, their expert ability to flawlessly do so in their brand voice makes you not care quite as much.

The Travel Channel: If you follow these guys at @travelchannel, you’ll notice that they don’t really engage with other much. But their enormous amount of links to relevant videos and vital travel information for nearly every location, age and culture more than makes up for it.

What are some other Twitter accounts that you think really represents what social media branding is all about?

The Slippery Slope of Self Branding

When internet newspapers started to really take over the media landscape, many journalists that worked with traditional newspapers were left stranded and looking for work. Some of them turned to the internet, creating blogs to build their craft around.

Some found success in this. Some failed miserably. Others found a happy medium, bouncing from site to site and contributing guest content.

Regardless of where they landed, the job of the online journalist highlights a sticky issue: self-branding.

For journalists or any other individual that writes or speaks for a living, there is a fine line between building their brand (which is really just their online personal) and blatant self-promotion.

For those of you that have had to wrestle with this—journalists, self-published authors, bands, artists, and so on—there are a few strategies to make sure you are simply building your brand and not constantly shoving news about yourself and how awesome you think you are down the throats of your interned audience.

Talk To People, Not At Them: This is especially important when it comes to social media. If you follow a person, make sure it is because you have an interest in them or their industry. Don’t do it just to follow people that you have no intention of really caring anything about. Engage in conversations by leaving comments or tweeting to others. Make sure that when you do this, it is because you are an active part of their industry and not just as a clever ruse to pick up more followers and attract attention.

Not Everything is About You: No matter if it’s blogs, tweets, Facebook posts or your Pinterest boards, make sure you are writing and posting about more than just you. To build a brand, you need to show others that you are well-informed on all things within your industry. This is great because it means you have several areas of interest to write and talk about—and not just you.


Have you had to wrestle with the beast of self-promotion? How have you been handling it?

How Your Brand Can Learn from Horror Movies

With Halloween right around the corner, have you given any thought to your favorite horror movies lately? As a business owner that’s trying to build a brand, you probably don’t give that much thought to horror movies, but believe it or not, classic horror movie tropes aren’t all that different from the strategies you should be employing to help strengthen your brand.

A few cases in point include…

Don’t Show Everything Right Away:  In horror movies, the big reveal of the monster or killer isn’t shown until at least halfway through the movie (although the best ones are able to save this reveal until the end). This is a great practice for our brand as well; save something for your customer to discover after the fact. This could include unexpected offers or even services that you only offer those that are loyal to your brand.

Keep Building Mystery: In movies, the ability to keep the audience on the edge of their seats is something you want to get for as much of the film as you can. For your brand while you may not want to keep people guessing, there is a certain allure to having a certain air of mystery about you. Try not to reveal every single thing about your brand in your marketing efforts—leave some of that up to the word of mouth from your satisfied customers.

Know Your Audience: While it might be hard to tell with the generic remakes and needless sequels, the horror crowd can be fickle—especially the purists. It’s only those directors that know their audience well than can effectively surprise an audience that believes that they have seen it all. If you can manage to do this with your brand, you’re sure to keep your audience happy and coming back for more.

So how well versed are you when it comes to horror movies? Did you ever think your strategies for marketing your brand could be lifted from some of their bloody plots?

Maybe this Halloween you should unleash your inner monster and try borrowing some of these clever ideas from horror masters.

How Your Brand Can Use Halloween to Scare Up New Business

Whether you want to admit it or not, Halloween brings out the kid in us all. For some, it’s just a reminder of what childhood was like.  But for others, it still brings about the fun spirit of getting dressed up and getting competitive with your friends with your costumes.

As a small business owner, that competitive spirit has likely shifted to growing your business. But the good news is that you can actually use Halloween to show a new side of your brand. Here are a few ways you can rely on the Halloween theme to add some excitement to your brand without recycling the same old tactics other business are using.

Halloween Party (With Costume Contest): You can keep this party to just your staff and their families or open it up to your clients, too. As we already said…Halloween brings out the kid in us all and a great Halloween party gives everyone an excuse to let that side of us out. Spring for some spooky decorations and make wearing a costume mandatory. You might be surprised at some of the costumes and the people who wear them.

Social Media Fun: Hold some Halloween themed contests to get customers involved. You can engage your customers with some friendly contests such as posting their best costume pictures to your Facebook page or tweeting a link to a picture of an awesome jack-o-lantern. Halloween is a time to go all out, and that includes on social media as well.

Jack-o-Lantern Contest: This is another area where the competitive streak can come out. It seems that year after year, jack-o-lantern carving becomes even more popular than the year before. Promote a contest among your clients with a great reward up for grabs. And to get in on the fun, try carving your brand’s logo into a pumpkin and keep it around the office.

How about you? Do you have any great Halloween branding ideas?