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BRANDE : blog archives for June 2014

June 28, 2014

Employer Branding Global Trends and Surveys

Employer Brand International just released its 2014 Employer Branding Global Trends Study Report, a survey of more than 1,100 leaders from around the world. The goal was to discover how their organizations use employer branding to attract, engage, and retain talent talent, and their plans for their employer brand’s future. Here are the survey’s most important findings.

Employer branding has expanded beyond HR.

Perhaps the biggest discovery made by EBI was that employer branding is no longer owned solely by the Human Resources department. 36% of respondents said HR was solely responsible for the employer brand, while 17% listed HR alongside other departments like Marketing or Communications. I love the idea of of forming an inter-departmental all-star team to manage the employer brand. I’m also glad to see more organizations catching on to the idea of seeking buy-in and cooperation from multiple divisions, since the employer brand touches all corporate interactions. And more stakeholders usually means more resources.

Social media takes the lead.

An organization’s careers website is no longer the main mechanism to promote its employer brand. 76% of respondents named social media as the chief communications channel, while only 64% named careers sites. That’s a huge increase from the survey’s findings in 2011, when social media claimed just 46%. Today, 58% of respondents said that social media “enhanced” their employer brand, while 11% felt that just having a social media presence was an enhancement. If you haven’t added social media to your talent acquisition strategy, you risk falling behind. And LinkedIn doesn’t count.

Success can be measured.

EBI specifically asked how companies measure the ROI of their employer brand strategy. While 24% of respondents said they still hadn’t defined a useful metric, they may want to look at the other 76% that did. Three of the top five are easily determined: cost per hire (33%), number of applicants (34%), and retention rate rate (41%). The most popular answer was employee engagement, which can be tough to measure but is hugely important to overall company success. CEOs want metrics and budgets need justification. I hope everyone realizes that they can marshal hard numbers in support of an employer branding initiative.

The benefits have never been clearer.

What are the other benefits of an employer branding initiative? Respondents’ answers were pretty evenly divided among a number of positive results: ease in attracting candidates (35%); employee engagement (32%); recognition as an employer of choice (28%); reduced recruitment costs (22%). Many organizations reported multiple benefits. As I’ve noted before, there are so many reasons to create a strong employer brand that lead directly to a company’s bottom line — it saves money and increases revenue. Maybe that’s why, in an uncertain economy, 38% of respondents planned to increase their employer branding budget in 2014.

Help take the next step.

While this survey looked at the larger strategic picture, my own agency is currently conducting a more tactical survey about employer branding — the first of its kind. We’re seeking information about completed employer brand projects, examining factors from budget and goals to procedures and results. We’re already starting to see some fascinating trends. If you’ve been a stakeholder in such an effort, please add your insights. You could win an iPad Air.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

June 23, 2014

Branding Lessons from Cannes Lions

Don’t speak French? Expired passport? No six-figure travel budget? Don’t worry, even if you’re a nobody, a non-profit, or an underfunded start-up, you can still take away some key lessons in branding and marketing from the winners of the 2014 Cannes Lions.

Coca-Cola increases the happiness of a whole country.

The people behind Coke’s Peruvian marketing campaign noticed that the country was ranked #1 in Latin America for economic growth, but #16 in the Happiness Index — which, yes, is a real thing. So Coke set out to correct that imbalance. The centerpiece of its “Happy ID” campaign was to encourage Peruvians to smile for their national ID cards. The company claimed that, one month after the campaign began, 90% of government-issued IDs were “Happy IDs” — featuring a smiling face. Coke also placed photo booths throughout the country, but the camera would only take a picture if the subject was smiling. The “Happy ID” campaign spread to other countries and earned Coke the Grand Prix in the Cannes Lions Media category.

Coke full image

What’s the lesson?
Notice any words missing from the paragraph above? Soda, maybe, or drink? Rather than trumpet how good its product tastes, or how it makes people happy, Coca-Cola decided to make an entire nation happier. This is a perfect embodiment of its wider brand. What is your organization selling — besides a product or a service? Do you provide comfort, security, creativity, freedom? Try making that concept the centerpiece of your messaging.

Chipotle feeds the heart instead of the stomach.

In the PR category, Chipotle was the top winner with its “Scarecrow” campaign. The goal was to “draw attention to food issues while engaging consumers in a memorable and shareable way.” The campaign launched with a video, though it’s more accurate to call it  a beautifully crafted short film. The video draws a clear distinction between fast food giants, run by mechanical crows, and the organic philosophy of Chipotle, symbolized by the scarecrow main character. The campaign included a “Scarecrow” mobile game, where players lead the character through the factories of the evil Crow Foods; winners received coupons for Chipotle.

Scarecrow 2

What’s the lesson?
Like Coca-Cola, the campaign says nothing about how Chipotle’s food tastes or how much it costs. It makes an emotional appeal, telling customers that it “cultivates a better world” through its organic and naturally raised beef. This keeps with the company’s guiding philosophy, “Food With Integrity.” How can your brand reach beyond facts and figures to make an emotional connection with your audience? You may not have the means to produce such a lovely animated film, but what resources you do commit to your marketing reveals how serious you are about your brand promise. So: how serious are you?

Volvo takes stunts to the next level

It’s hard to get people talking about trucks. I’d say it’s hard to get people talking about Volvo, which isn’t a sexy brand. But the carmaker staged a series of car-oriented stunts, each more impressive than the last. Jean-Claude Van Damme did splits across two moving Volvo trucks. Faith Dickey did him one better and walked a tightrope across two trucks. Volvo president Claes Nilsson was suspended in mid-air by one of the company’s towing hooks. And a Volvo truck made its way out of a quarry…driven by a hamster. These amazing stunts were conducted safely, but Van Damme and Dickey were clearly in real danger. The result was the Grand Prix in the Interactive category.

Volvo stunt

What’s the lesson?
The stunts are, quite simply, extraordinary. And what’s interesting is that they don’t highlight the typical truck features, such as towing strength or handling. For example, the “hamster” spot shows that a Volvo truck can drive up the ramps of a quarry, but any truck can do that. Behind the amazing feats is beautiful simplicity: Volvo’s trucks can handle thrown at them — and Volvo is deliberately throwing insane things at them. Also worth noting is that, while every company president stands behind his or her products, none of them actually stand on their products, suspended way up in the air. How can your organization demonstrate its commitment to its products, its customers, or its mission? What doesn’t your audience know about your company that can be illustrated in a fun or memorable way?

Your branding can roar like a Lion, too!

You may not have the resources of Coca-Cola, Chipotle, or Volvo, but you can certainly replicate the spirit and cleverness of their campaigns. All of these winners, and many of others, looked beyond the obvious ways to promote products, and gained buzz, press coverage, and social media shares as a result. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new. After all, a lion isn’t scared of anything.

Jason Ginsburg is Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.

June 14, 2014

The Latest and Best in Social Media Brand Voices

Adding social media to your communications can be liberating, since you can easily share photos, videos, and infographics. But it can also be limiting, since Twitter only allows for 140 characters, and Instagram and Vine have strict time restraints for videos.

Last week, I showed you how to create a compelling brand voice, uniting your content team with clear decisions on your brand’s tone, style, and personality. Along with email and website copy, a lot of that brand voice will be “heard” on social media. How can you keep your brand voice consistent in this interactive realm? And which brands are leading the way with strong brand voices?

Below are some brands that serve as best practices for a brand voice social media. Follow them and be inspired!

Rue La La on Tumblr

I love the mix of classy and causal on Rue La La’s Tumblr. In fact,the online boutique’s sassy brand personality is right there in the Tumblr’s title: That’s So Rue. The brand is also clear about its purpose for this channel: “We want to celebrate, to think, to have a laugh too.” Not only does Rue La La post stylish images from all over the internet, but they ask fans to “Show Us Something Rue,” with an easy-to-use form for uploading images. This Tumblr celebrates the lifestyle of the Rue La La shopper, using brand voice instead of products. That is so Rue.

Tasti-D Lite on Twitter

A chain of soft-serve ice cream shops has to have a brand voice of joy and whimsy, right? Tasti strike that tone perfectly on its Twitter feed. The brand spends much of its time responding to people who tweet their love for its products, things like “awh! we love you too <3” and “glad we’re there for you!” (yes, in lower case, keeping with their brand voice of childlike fun) Know what else I admire? Its restraint; Tasti tweets only a few times a day, and sometimes even skips a day. Let’s face it — there’s only so much you can say about ice cream, especially during cold weather. Tasti chooses quality over quantity, and never bothers its fans with sub-par content.

Tasti Tweet

General Electric on Facebook

Sure, it’s easy for an ice cream chain to have a strong voice on social media. How about a company that makes light bulbs and jet engines? Believe it or not, GE has a fantastic brand voice on Facebook. The brand takes an “ain’t science cool?” attitude while posting about everything from thermal efficiency to electrical power distribution. In keeping with its sage-like brand personality, GE makes a point of answering questions in the comments section of its content. The thermal efficiency post, for example, generated four questions — all answered. The latest response took just 14 hours.

L.L. Bean on Pinterest

The famous outdoor brand L.L. Bean perfectly captures the adventurous spirit of its customers on Pinterest. With 31 boards, the brand celebrates every aspect of the outdoors; galleries are dedicated to fishing and camping and even “Woodland Creatures.” But other boards highlight a brand differentiator, as L.L. Bean has also become a lifestyle brand. So you’ll find a board for “Home,” one for “Weddings,” one board featuring photos of dogs and another featuring cats. In keeping with its brand personality as a partner in its customers’ adventures, the company posts lots of user-generated content, including an entire board of “Your L.L. Bean Selfies.” I think this all ads up to encapsulate the brand’s motto, “Discover something fun with us.”

LL Bean board on Pinterest

Determining your brand voice makes creating social media content much easier. A clear brand voice gives your marketing, branding, or recruiting team a mission statement for what kind of content to post — and with what kind of attitude to post it. A brand voice sets your brand apart even if it’s a B2B company, a non-profit, or a small business.

In closing, just a reminder — don’t forget the rule: Set standards for consistency.

Brandemix has helped all kinds of organizations find and maintain their brand voice on social media. If you need a hand, drop me a line.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

June 5, 2014

5 Steps to a Consistent, Compelling Brand Voice

How can you effectively communicate with internal and external audiences? How do you communicate after a complete corporate rebranding? How do you train the leadership, the marketing department, and internal communications to present a united front? The answer to the questions lies in your brand voice.

Your brand voice is the tone of your communications, the style of your content, the personality behind all your writing. A brand voice ensures consistency no matter who on your team is creating the posts. Without a strong, intentional brand voice, your content will sound to your fans like corporate press releases — or worse, like your brand has no personality at all. Brandemix offers 5 inside-the-agency tips to make sure you’re delivering a consistent and compelling brand voice.

1. Answer 3 Questions:

Who are you and who are they?
A brand voice requires two decisions. First, who are you as an organization? What sets you apart from everyone elseWhat are your mission, vision, and values? How do you speak about your brand to your employees? A legacy luxury brand like Gucci (“Founded in Florence in 1921…”) sounds different from a hip newcomer like Warby Parker (“Let’s find you some amazing glasses”).

Who is your audience?
How do they communicate with each other? Are they formal or casual? Would they rather read articles, look at photos, or watch videos? What sort of content do they create, which you might be able to turn into user-generated content on your own channels? For example, if you notice your customers write something like “I LOVE LOVE these shoes,” then maybe one of your emails should read “You’ll LOVE LOVE these shoes.” Match their voice and they’ll see you as one of them, instead of a corporate robot.

Keep in mind that there is more to “content” than just copywriting. By learning what sort of photos they’re taking and videos they’re watching, you can create more compelling, more effective content. For example, maybe your customers would rather see a behind-the-scenes tour of your offices, while your employees would rather share or pictures of their pets.

Are you a Wizard or a Warrior?
It may seem difficult to distill your company’s attributes into a single personality. But what if I told you that weren’t that many types of personalities out there? Psychologists and storytellers have known for decades that just about every characters falls into one of twelve categories that symbolize all human motivations.

Maybe your brand is the Innocent, which spreads joy and simplifies life; brands like Dove, Snuggle, and Hershey’s. Or maybe your brand is the Maverick, disruptive and rebellious, ; brands like Harley-Davidson, Doritos, or Red Bull. Sages like Google and Morgan Stanley help people understand the world, while Creators like Lego or YouTube give people the tools to realize their visions.

You can find useful Pinterest boards, one for each archetype, here. Of course, your voice doesn’t have to come from this list. Maybe you want to model your voice on the wit and confidence of Tony Stark in Iron Man or maybe your CEO’s personality is the perfect match for the brand. Have fun with it — this is your company’s personality, after all!

2. Set standards
Once you’ve made these decisions, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. Collect all your brand voiec information and some sample content into a brand book. Put it any relevant content information; if you refer to customers as “guests,” (like the Disney parks do) put it in the book. A brand book should also include identity guidelines, to make sure your website, mobile site, affiliate sites, and social channels all look the same. Distribute the book to anyone who might create (or approve) content. It will be a living document, reflecting changes as your organization uses new terms, creates new products, or reaches new audiences.

3. Conduct a messaging workshop
I’ve helped many organizations of all sizes craft their brand voice. I bring all the stakeholders together for an ideation session that takes into account employee surveys, executive interviews, and customer feedback. Together, we determine how your organization currently communicates (to both employees and customers) and how your audience communications. We emphasize similarities and decrease or eliminate differences.

Of course, your audience doesn’t completely dictate your brand voice, and you should stick with your existing values as much as possible. But even a slight alignment in your messaging can create a big increase in engagement, loyalty, and content sharing.

4. Raise your voice!
Creating and maintaining a brand voice can take some time, but once you’ve achieved it, creating content becomes so much easier. No matter what the circumstances, your team will know how to communicate with a consistent style and tone, which will set you apart from much of your competition.

5. Raise your hand!
Need a hand creating a brand or holding a workshop? Drop me a line.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

June 1, 2014

Making Customer Experience Your Competitive Advantage

I facilitate customer experience (CX) focus groups for organizations all around the country. When I ask people to share stories about their most memorable customer experiences, the same names keep coming up. What do these brands know that others don’t? How can marketers tap into customer experience as a part of branding — and how can HR train employees to deliver the desired brand behaviors?

The Best of the Best

One company I always hear in these focus groups is Zappos. For years, the shoe retailer has been named as one of the most admired companies when it comes to CX — an achievement all the more laudable because the company sells only online and never provides an in-person customer interaction. Its #1 core value is for employees to “Deliver ‘Wow’ through service.” Another company that people name is Amazon, which actually bought Zappos is 2009 and began using the new acquisition’s philosophy to improve its own online shopping experience.

Also on the list: American Express, which has ranked first in customer satisfaction among credit card companies for seven straight years. AmEx has endeared itself to its members by offering exclusive ticket deals and streaming live concerts, and to merchants by creating Small Business Saturday, a day on Thanksgiving weekend to patronize small and local businesses.

One last company worth mentioning is GoDaddy, and I can speak to that one personally.

What These Brands Know That Others Don’t

What distinguishes these companies when it comes to customer experience? In a nutshell:

Customer service as a core value
As I noted with Zappos, these four brands consciously make customer service a foundational pillar of their organization. American Express lists “Customer Commitment” as its first company value, while Amazon’s first “Leadership Principle” is “Customer Obsession.” You have to respect a word like that.

Amazon's first leadership principle: "Customer obsession."

Amazon’s first leadership principle: “Customer obsession.”


Customer service in practice
It’s easy to say you value customers, but what happens when a mistake or an irate customer puts that claim to the test? Once again, Zappos led the way, making returns free of both cost and hassle. The brand even provides a 2-minute video showing how the process works. Amazon explains the difference between returning a purchase and returning a gift, and offers the option to sell or trade in any item that can’t be returned. American Express clearly shows how it handles disputes, chargebacks, and fraud differently.

Going the extra mile
There’s no limit to a great customer experience. GoDaddy’s small-business page puts a five-star review front and center: “Their customer service goes above and beyond to make sure all my issues are resolved and products are set up properly.” I also like the company’s claim that “There’s no such thing as a dumb question” — a reassuring idea to merchants building their first websites.

As the owner of a agency, lots of service providers and vendors want to be my ” business partner.” As a New Yorker, I scoffed at the pretense until GoDaddy set me straight.  During a tech support call about migrating a client’s domain, my Concierge (tech support pro) looked over my account and told me there were lots of ways I could be both saving money and making money. He then spent 30 minutes reviewing my features and made changes that resulted in savings of more than $1,000. Did he lose revenue for the company? Yes, in the short term. Did he build a relationship for life? Yes.

Amazon is famous for virtually inventing the recommendation tool, which suggests products based on customers’ past purchases. Zappos has produced more than 300,000 videos, one for every product, that feature employees sincerely describing what they love about each shoe.

One of Zappos' 300,000 product videos

One of Zappos’ 300,000 product videos

How Marketing Can Use This Competitive Advantage

Customer experience is a major differentiator — one of the biggest, in fact. There are any number of reasons why your organization may not have the lowest prices or largest selection, but there’s no reason you can’t commit to and deliver  the best customer experience.

How HR Can Train Employees to Deliver Great Customer Service

Great customer service can be operationalized, starting with a CX promise and then delivering employee training to reinforce the company’s commitment to service.

Consider what metrics and practices you’re using. Are they supporting your CX experience? For example, Zappos’ call center employees are given no time limits for their calls. American Express doesn’t look for call center or financial services experience from applicants, opting instead for experience from cruise lines, retail stores, and restaurants with a passion for customer service and socialization.

HR should recognize employees who demonstrate great service, which may mean enhancing (or even creating) an employee rewards program that embraces the value of service.

Great Customer Experience Produces Results

How will you know you’ve succeeded? Externally, you’ll see increases in sales, website visits, and return customers. You may also see more positive comments on social networks, as customers share their positive experiences and write good reviews. Internally, you’ll see more engaged employees who are exceeding expectations and passionately living your mission, vision, and values.

If you’re still wondering how crucial the customer experience, consider this: Numerous studies have shown that our happiest memories are tied to experiences, not possessions, so it’s possible that the experience of buying your products or services is more important than the products themselves.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.