But regardless of how much money you do (or don’t!) have, there are always ways to stretch those tight resources a bit further, and to use what you have more effectively.
Here are six tips to help any marketing budget go the distance:
Perhaps this might seem too simple or obvious, but it’s the first place most organizations need to start — and don’t. “Knowing your brand” isn’t as easy as it sounds, however, particularly if you take into account that your brand isn’t what you want it to be, but rather what your customers and constituents think it is.
It’s about having a real understanding of not only what and who you are — honestly — and knowing why people do, and should, care.
Knowing your brand, inside and out (internally and externally), makes it easier to stay on course with every facet of your marketing plan. The more you spend precious marketing dollars trying to convince your audience that you’re the Harvard of this or the Google of that, the more money you’re taking away from helping people understand and appreciate the things that actually make your organization unique, special — and most importantly, worthy of support and advocacy.
Be you. Your organization wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people who care about you just as you are. And that’s what people want from you: the best you you can be.
Believe me, I’ve been there: in an environment of constrained resources, there’s extraordinary pressure on the marketing department to fix, well, everything. Want more buzz? Marketing. More sales? Marketing. More donations? Marketing.
While our hyperconnected world means that people now enter Ye Olde Marketing Funnel from any number of different places, the phases they experience remain the same: awareness, comprehension, participation, loyalty, support.
The bad news? You can’t fix each one of those phases at the same time (at least, not without all that money you don’t have…).
The good news? Your organization invariably needs a tune-up in one of those areas more than another, and that’s where the majority of your marketing dollars should go. It can be so tempting to take a small budget and spread it thin, putting a little to advertising, a little to ticket sales, a little to product development… all to little results.
But if people aren’t giving you money or buying from you, they’re probably not engaged with you in some other way — and that’s a problem you need to solve before you can get the results you want. Do they know what you do? Do they believe in your mission? Do they know how your brand connects with theirs?
Wherever you focus money on a key point in the continuum, the phases after it will benefit, as well (though admittedly not as directly). So focus your attention, and your dollars, on the highest level problem. Solving one thing well, rather than many things poorly, can pay real dividends.
When using “sequential focus,” you want to make sure the money you spend on each problem phase lasts. In other words, you want each dollar to buy you time. Creating something completely new every time you create requires an expenditure of time and money you can ill afford to lose (not to mention lost opportunities for reinforcing the brand you’ve worked so hard on).
So figure out ways to spend once — or as close to it as you can — but reuse often. With design, for example, that means investing in a comprehensive graphic identity that goes beyond just a logo. Wise branders create a system of design elements that can be combined in myriad ways — and still suit your brand. Use templates that can be easily updated from initiative to initiative, event to event, and create guidelines to make sure your identity stays intact across different formats.
The same framework approach applies to messaging and content strategy, and even to print and digital communications.
Think continuity, not campaign. Repeatable, not radical.
There’s a lot of marketing spending that goes to “what we’ve always done.” It’s time to realize — for better or for worse — that what you’ve always done has gotten you exactly where you are right now.
If that’s working for you, great. If it’s not, question it, especially if it costs money.
If you don’t have any evidence that people are engaging as the result of money you’re spending in one channel, stop spending it there. It’s just that simple.
And be especially wary when folks tell you that you just have to do this or that “because everyone else does.” Trying to play catch up with larger, richer companies and organizations — just because “we have to be there, too” — will put you on the fast-track to doing nothing well… and ultimately failing to reinforce your brand.
Boredom — your boredom — is the enemy of your brand. Brands are built through consistency: of message, of look, of interaction, of delivery.
But most marketers, by nature (and I’m one, too), are easily bored — we’re always looking for the next new thing.
We forget, however, when we’re building a brand, that consistency and familiarity are our best friends. And that it takes much longer than it does for us for our audience to get bored with our logo or message or ad campaign.
Your getting bored with a direction is a good thing — because that often means you’ve been doing whatever it is long enough for it to start sinking in with your target. Usually the itch to change, unless it’s driven by real evidence, is instead an indication that it’s best to hold steady, and to put your creativity to good use somewhere else in your marketing plan.
There has never been a time when there was so much high-quality advice out there for free (or close to it). But you have to seek it out, and ask for it.
Find the websites, blogs, and communities that provide real value to you, and use them. Ask questions. Get feedback. Talk to people outside your organizational bubble who can give perspective, and offer rich lessons from their experience. Asking for help is an investment of your time that will pay off for both the organization you work for and your own professional development.
Reinventing the wheel is expensive, in terms of both time and money. And those are two things you can’t afford to waste.
And on this last one I’ll follow that last piece of advice and ask for help: what would you add? How have you made your marketing dollars stretch further?
(Haven’t read Part 1 yet? Head here to see the first video in this series.)
Several discrete (yet intersecting) needs drove the new brand program for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra:
The organization’s breadth and depth––a symphonic orchestra, three choruses, youth orchestra, mix of classical and contemporary presentations, education and community programs, recordings, tours, and more––had generated a disparate set of communications that made it hard for would-be attendees and supporters to understand and connect with the organization –– and even harder for the Symphony to get “credit” for all its efforts;
More specifically, well-intentioned staff and consultants had created many different identifiers (logos and logotypes) that further separated parts of the organization, and added additional diffusion to the organization’s image;
And a lack of shared visual and verbal conventions (or guidelines) meant that people spent a lot of time and money to generate communications that weren’t serving the organization as well as they might.
The new brand program addresses these needs. But much as a brand doesn’t “exist” until it’s internalized by an organization’s constituents “out there,” a brand program doesn’t really exist within an organization until staff, leadership, and volunteers take hold of it as their own.
Much of the burgeoning success of this new program has to do with how it was introduced, championed, coached––and the tools and training that helped all to see how the brand system could advance their initiatives, help them to connect with their constituents, and add both efficiency and creativity to their jobs.
I continue my conversation with Charlie around the drivers, design, and launch of the Symphony’s new brand in part 2 of this informal video. And some of the tools and output of the new program are called out below the video.
A comprehensive brand book, in print and digital formats, captures the brand strategy, messages, and visual system––and shows the system “at work” across different applications and opportunities.
An eight-page quick brand reference tool reads in one direction for the performing brand, and from the other direction for the presenting brand. The two “halves” meet in the middle: typography, imagery, and color are in common to both brands.
Communicators from across the organization––from marketing, development, education––are producing print and digital communications that both do their tactical jobs well, and work hard to build the brand.
Staff has found lots of new ways to employ the new brand system: new signage, merchandise, and, as shown here, the new identifier projected at a party.
Congratulations to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on a successful launch of their brand system!
Let’s face it: the Apple folks are brilliant.
Call me a “fanboy” if you wish, but they’ve done a fantastic job of keeping all of us Apple users (and the ever growing population of Apple converts) eating out of the palms of their money loaded hands.
Recently they executed a quiet launch of a new product: the Magic Trackpad. The device seemed a little strange at the time, and though one of our employees (a Mr. Michael Eads) went out to purchase one… he returned it shortly thereafter.
I don’t mind using the trackpad on my Macbook Pro, but I know many folks carry mice around with them because they can’t stand the experience. Which is fine… each to their own, right?
Then — while watching the livestream of the Apple special event, in the midst of a brief demo of the upcoming OS 10.7, entitled Lion — it dawned on me: Apple is setting us all up for a completely new desktop/laptop experience with this product.
Notice something in the description below?
“Get in touch with your desktop.”
We’ll be waiting months and months for this new blend of OS X and iOS to be released, yet this Magic Trackpad has been released to ease us into a new mode of computing.
They’ll get everybody used to “swiping” around a few things in OS X… and then unleash this power in a whole OS, and let you take in the magic on your massive 27″ iMac screen.
You have to admit, that’s pretty brilliant.
When the iPhone and iPad were released, people were already used to the touch experience. Now, when 10.7 Lion is finally released, users will be pre-trained to swipe, scroll, and rotate — all with their fingertips, during their daily computing tasks.
And the best part? All this from a company who forced us to use a single click mouse all those years…
Categories: Digital Media
With my cat, Monster, snuggled in my lap by our warm, sunny window, I found myself flipping through one of my fashion magazines this past Saturday morning. I was admiring the glossy spreads of gray suede wooden wedge booties, oversized sweater vests, and (my favorite!) the Lanvin fall couture collection, when I caught of glimpse of Ms. Heidi Klum — photographed with another model draped in a full-length black maternity gown.
It was pretty easy to figure out the pull of the ad: Ms. Klum, having been made famous for her style during her multiple pregnancies, decided to leverage her image with the creation of a maternity collection.
No brainer, really.
The ad didn’t strike me as anything more than a standard ad placement for a clothing line. And it took only a few seconds with the photograph to “get it”.
Until I got to the logo and brand name.
A pea in the poo?
What? That couldn’t be right.
But what the photo made clear was suddenly made a little more confusing by an awkward logo.
Consider this: a designer (me!) who creates logos, has an intimate knowledge of typography, and has built-in understanding of this industry—branding, advertising, etc.—still did not read the logo correctly.
I knew what the ad was for, before I even got to the brand name. And still, I read it wrong, several times.
The lesson here? Just because your identity might bathe itself in obvious context, does not mean you should assume your logo will be clearly identifiable.
Typography, as with all the other design elements, is crucial to your logo’s success. Design execution is crucial. Overall clarity is crucial. It doesn’t matter how good something looks if it doesn’t communicate immediately and accurately what your audience needs to know.
So why risk losing your audience with an unclear choice?
Sametz Blackstone team members Eric Norman and Tamsen McMahon headed off to Las Vegas last week to join thousands of other participants at BlogWorld Expo ’10.
They came home with heads full of information — and tons of learning and ideas to share.
A more extensive recap post will arrive a little later this month, but for now, here’s a quick video chat Eric and Tamsen had about the value of conferences like BlogWorld Expo:
You can also take a look at the following daily recap videos from Eric:
More thoughts and takeaways to come… stay tuned!
I go to the fourth floor to visit Callie at least once a day, and she’s usually sleeping contentedly in her crate, or making eyes at Kerri to open her cookie jar just one… more… time.
Today, I received a photo on my iPhone of Callie in her new fall gear from Michael — yes, we text from floor to floor, as well as emailing, IMing, phoning, paging, and dropping by to visit one another here at Sametz Blackstone, like any well-c0nnected office — and made an immediate detour from what I was doing to go down and check her out.
Kerri made the sweatshirt you see in the photo above from one of her own, since most pet clothing companies don’t make togs for big dogs — but you’d never know it wasn’t made from scratch for Callie herself.
So we thought we’d share a little of the fall fashion around here with you, our faithful ‘Round the Square readers, and send some sunny (you can see how sunny in the photo!) autumn wishes from our Boston brownstone.
The summer is just a humid memory now, and we’ve got tons of projects ramping up as the temperatures start to drop. Our valued collaborators are finally back in the office, or at school, or wherever they go to do what they do, from the symphony hall to the museum wing.
They say fall is the loveliest season in New England, and I can confirm it’s true, as a recent transplant from Western Canada.
And we’re all suited up to enjoy it at Sametz Blackstone — both bipedal and quadrupedal team members alike!
Categories: Quadrupedal Posts
The video above (courtesy of TIME’s Techland) is full of rather colorful and accurate metaphors to describe the gap that Microsoft is attempting to fill with its new mobile OS.
Apple’s hardware policy, much like its software development paradigm (note: that post is somewhat dated, and Apple has made some concessions since its publication), relies on strict first party control over all hardware production and implementation. Google’s Android OS, on the other hand, is practically open source for hardware manufacturers.
Microsoft’s policy seems implies that these two polarities are unreasonable extremes in need of a happy medium. The company will open up its operating system to multiple manufacturers, but with an approval process that maintains a set of minimum guidelines. As the above video puts it, a splitting of the difference.
But in a smart phone market where even Google struggles against a very established Apple, can Microsoft really hope to compete for a legitimate market share?
The Windows OS demo is receiving some strong press. Similar to the Microsoft Zune’s GUI, the operating system is pushing the boundaries of what’s expected from a mobile OS in a surprising and refreshing way. But as with the Zune, critical success may not translate into consumer popularity, in the same way that the best-reviewed independent movies bomb with theater-goers sometimes… especially when there are too many blockbusters in theaters.
That said, Microsoft has a few gimmicks which may give it an additional edge from the get-go, like Xbox Live tie-ins and neat Silverlight tricks. I certainly hope they bring the type of competition that pushes the market forward, and don’t evaporate from the scene before they get the chance to issue that challenge.
Categories: Digital Media
Back in 1997, when Bob Dole was just one year removed from his landslide loss to Bill Clinton, we began work on the annual financial report for a local university (hint: they’re across the river and bathed in crimson).
Now, fourteen years later, we’re about to wrap the latest edition of that same report and I’ve been struck by how much things have changed since then… and how much they really haven’t at all.
Back then, I transferred files from a chunky hard drive to a brick-like portable drive (remember Syquest or Bernoulli cartridges?), packaged it up with carefully annotated (black and white) lasers and a few transparencies or 35mm slides to be scanned, and sent it off via a courier or FedEx. And perhaps I did it while listening to Paula Cole’s breakthrough track “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”!
Flash forward to 2010: I released a similar set of files a couple of weeks ago, but the collection is now comprised of high-resolution digital files for the images, and just a PDF to reference in place of yesterday’s lasers—all compressed into a ZIP file and uploaded to the printer’s FTP server. And all these bits and bits of bytes were sent in seconds from my desk and laptop, while my Twitter feed was happily purring in the background.
Most definitely, but what’s even more interesting are the things that remain consistent about the final product, even fourteen years later. The report is still an elegantly designed, thoughtful book that reflects the values and aesthetic of the organization that publishes it—and still the result of a wonderful relationship with clients who value partnership, collaboration, and trust. It’s a favorite project around here for that reason alone—the opportunity to work with great people.
So much has changed in the way we work—even since last year, much less last decade—so it’s quite reassuring to recognize what has remained the same across the years. The way we do what we do has changed dramatically in so many ways, but what we do, and our commitment to collaborating with mission-driven organizations, certainly hasn’t.
What has changed over the past few years about the way you work? And what remains the same?
And, as a refresher course, back in 1997…
Tiger Woods won his first Master’s Tournament at age 21… The first Harry Potter book was published in the UK… Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith sleuthed around in Men in Black… a gallon of gas cost $1.22 and a movie ticket was $4.50… the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Green Bay Packers… Woolworths closed its last remaining store after more than 100 years… Ally McBeal began a five-year run on ABC-TV (and was not available On Demand)… Steve Jobs returned to run Apple Computer and Microsoft bought a minority stake in Apple for $150 million… OJ Simpson was found guilt in a civil court… WorldCom and MCI Communications announced the largest merger in history (at the time)… you were probably still dialing up at home… the Dow Jones closed the year at 7908… the UBC Thunderbirds beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees 39-23 in Canada’s university football Vanier Cup.