BRANDE : blog archives for February 2015

February 23, 2015

Succeed at Social Media by Playing the Game of Thrones

It may not seem like social media marketing has much in common with the world of Game of Thrones. Instead of tweeting, characters send actual ravens into the sky. Instead of Facebook, they have Faceless Men. And the closest they come to Snapchat are the ephemeral visions in Melisandre’s flames. But the people and events of Westeros can teach us important lessons about social media strategy. See what I mean below. (Examples are from the HBO series — no book spoilers here).

Stannis faced a recruiting problem: While he had the most legitimate claim to the throne (that we know of) after Robert’s death, he had few resources: an outnumbered army, an isolated castle, and better-funded competition — including his own brother, Renly. So what did he do? He re-branded! He updated his corporate culture (from the Seven to the Lord of Light), brought in a consultant (the mysterious Melisandre), and changed his sigil to differentiate himself from his brothers. Besides attracting top talent with these tactics, Stannis also promoted from within, elevating Davos Seaworth, a former smuggler, to be his right-“Hand” man. And Davos has proved his worth time and again.

Stannis Baratheon: Social Recruiting Expert

Stannis Baratheon: Social recruiting expert

Learn from Stannis: 
Sometimes your social media platforms need a complete refresh, from strategy to design to content. Look at your channels and your posts and make hard choices. What needs to change? What new tools and platforms can you try? Has your audience moved from Instagram to Pinterest, or taken to Snapchat? Is there someone in your organization who deserves to be in charge of your social initiatives? It may feel like you’re shouting all alone form the towers of Dragonstone, but a change in direction can make you a legitimate competitor to your customers — and the Iron Throne.

Tyrion is a misshapen dwarf. He can’t fight. He will never be king. He may not even inherit his home throne of Casterly Rock. His solution is one of the most quoted lines from the series: “My mind is a weapon. And a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” He uses knowledge to escape from a death sentence, outmaneuver his cunning sister, and to eventually ascend to the court at King’s Landing. All without lifting a sword or throwing a punch. Well, pretty much.

Tyrion Lannister: Thought leader

Tyrion Lannister: Thought leader

Learn from Tyrion: 
You and your organization are experts at something, whether it’s a glamorous field like fashion or a B2B industry like airplane parts. While Tyrion shares his ingenuity with only a few, such as Varys and Bronn, you shouldn’t keep your knowledge to yourself! Share your expertise via your social channels and your website. Post infographics, link to articles, and give away reports to anyone who retweets or comments. Make sure that all of your fans and followers learn something every day or every week. You’ll become known as a thought leader in your field. Just as Tyrion earned the right to command his own troops at the Battle of the Blackwater, you’ll soon command the attention of customers, vendors, partners, and even the general public.

Daenerys has one of the hardest journeys of any of the main characters: Orphaned, exiled, widowed, and surrounded by schemers who see her as a means to their own ends. Of course, she possesses three powerful dragons, but she knows she can’t burn and destroy her way to success. What’s her strategy? She listens. She turned a simple handmaiden and a nameless soldier into her closest advisers, because their “street smarts” were more true and valuable than the “wisdom” of aristocrats. After conquering Meereen, she holds court every day, allowing anyone to offer their thoughts or ask for help. She consistently puts the people first, even if it means overruling her friends’ objections and delaying her return to Westeros.

Daenerys Targaryen - Social engagement specialist

Daenerys Targaryen – Social engagement specialist

Learn from Daenerys:
 Social media is a two-way conversation. No matter what your organization does, customers and fans will interact with you on your social channels. They’ll ask questions, make suggestions, and lodge complaints. You can’t ignore these messages. Like the Mother of Dragons, you must apologize, offer assistance when possible, and direct people to email or a phone call when necessary. And if the posts are compliments, show your gratitude! The point is that you should check your social platforms every day and respond to issues in a timely manner. Daenerys earned the respect of her court and the love of her people with this simple strategy.

Ready to be bold and make your claim for the Iron Throne of social media success? Let Brandemix be your maester with our expertise in social media marketing, branding, and recruiting campaigns. We can help you build a wall against the White Walkers of bad PR and turn you into a brand as popular and beloved as the Knight of Flowers. Sample our magic at brandemix.com.

Jason Ginsburg is First Lord of Interactive Branding at Brandemix.

February 16, 2015

Employer Branding Taglines and Why They Work

I’ve always said that employer branding has a lot in common with consumer branding. That includes a memorable tagline that engages an organization’s ideal candidates. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite employer branding taglines, including why they work, how they stand out, and why they send the right message to top talent.


Tagline: Do cool things that matter

Why it works: Only a cool company like Google could get away with putting the world “cool” in its employer branding tagline; most firms would go with “exceptional” or “remarkable.” That word alone conveys a young, hip atmosphere. But I like all five words, since it contains two of the job traits most desire by workers: challenging work (“cool things”) and a sense of purpose (“that matter”).

How it can work for you: As the word “cool” shows, it’s not just what you say — it’s how you say it. Are you speaking the language of your employees and ideal candidates? Is there a way to express that your employer brand, without changing the meaning, that conveys a different personality?

Southwest Airlines

Tagline: Welcome on board the flight of your life.

Why it works: This is an extension of Google’s tagline above. Southwest uses the language of their industry, “Welcome on board,” along with the word “flight” (instead of “company” or “career”). “The flight of your life” has a dual purpose — it implies that the employee will be with the company for a long time, and it sounds exciting. Who wouldn’t want to take the flight of their life?

How it can work for you: Think about words, phrases, and sentiments that you can “own,” which can set you apart from other companies and maybe even competitors in your field. Another good example is ESPN’s employer brand, “Together we triumph,” a reference to sports that wouldn’t make much sense at, say, Protcer & Gamble.

Southwest Airlines employer branding


Tagline: Whenever you join, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime.”

Why it works: I’ll admit this is a little longer than the usual tagline. But it’s hard to argue with the results: The firm formerly known as Ernst & Young won ERE’s 2014 Creative Excellence Award for best employer brand. The ERE judges (I was among them) decreed that the tagline’s message is “that you can learn at EY, lead at EY…and there is a culture of inclusiveness, flexibility, and giving back.” I like the implication that workers are welcome to come to EY mid-career (“whenever you join”) and aren’t faulted for eventually leaving (“however long you stay”). In my mind, the E’s of “Exceptional experience” go with “EY” very well.

How it can work for you: Don’t be afraid to include more than one thought in your tagline, even if that makes it a little longer. You also don’t have to “judge” your employees, as EY’s “whenever, however” conveys. Like other organizations on this list, EY doesn’t talk about “careers” or “companies” — it’s “the EY experience.” That’s a lot more than just a job.


Tagline: What will you make with IBM? 

Why it works: Here’s a tagline that, instead of reinforcing a company’s image, defies it. For a long time, IBM had none of the cool cachet of Apple or Google. It was viewed by many as boring, rigid company with little to offer in terms of corporate culture. This tagline reverses all that. The use of “you” instead of “us” shows the emphasis on the individual over the company. The idea of “making” something, like a factory or a workshop, counters the perception of IBM’s office as rows of cubicles. And the fact that the tagline is in the form of a question, rather than a blunt, confident statement, shows indicates flexibility, exploration, and an inquisitive spirit. It’s a bold choice and I love it.

How it can work for you: Sometimes you have to challenge the perceptions of your company, your industry, or even your location. Maybe you’re a large non-profit but have the culture of a start-up, or maybe you’re a small business with ambitions to cover the country. Just as your mission statement reflects what your firm wants to be, your tagline can sometimes reflect where you’re going, not where you are. Put your goals into your tagline and you’ll attract workers with similar goals.

Putting it all together

All these taglines work on another level as well, by connecting to each company’s larger strategy and goals. Google shows it’s looking for cool people to do not just cool things but cool things with a purpose. Southwest Airlines and EY are both looking for lifelong employees, with Southwest providing “excitement” and EY offering an “exceptional experience” far beyond that of a professional services firm. IBM is trying to alter its antiquated image and keep up with the latest tech companies — both in consumer perception and in talent acquisition. The best taglines aren’t just catchy or clever; they also reinforce a brand, an employer brand, or both.

My agency, Brandemix, specializes in employer branding. We’ve crafted employer value propositions, missions statements, and taglines for organizations large and small. Through surveys, group sessions, and one-on-one interviews, we determine what sets you apart as an employer and create an employer brand that engages top talent and energizes your current employees. Want to see how we can help you? Contact me for more information.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

February 9, 2015

The Death and Rebirth of Email Marketing

Email marketing is dead. Or is it? Savvy customers, email filters, and new online platforms made it seem like email marketing was no longer effective or worth the time/cost investment. But recent reports indicate that email marketing is actually trending upwards. Here’s how this marketing strategy cheated death — and why it continues to flourish.

Accounts of email’s death were greatly exaggerated.

A few years ago, I started to see articles with titles like Proof Email Marketing is Dead and Email Marketing is DeadThe authors pointed to open rates dropping to 12% and then to 9%. People received too many emails to read, they said. Customers only opted in to newsletters to look for deals and then ignored them or unsubscribed. Glitchy filters were catching too many messages and sending them to the dreaded spam folder.

At the same time, Google Plus had just arrived, threatening to become a major social network (yes, we really believed that). Pinterest and Instagram seemed to come out of nowhere and were grabbing the attention of customers and job-seekers. Mobile phones started to outnumber desktops, taking people away from their inboxes. Above it all, Facebook was achieving dominance through its offsite “like” button and Messenger app. Who needed email when there were all these new ways to reach people?

Now it’s early 2015 there are even more mobile devices. There are new social sites like Swarm and Ello and new messaging apps like Kik and Yik Yak. Gmail now features a “Promotions” folder that automatically hides marketing emails and forces recipients to actively look for them. Inbox “cleanup” apps like Unroll.me and Mailstrom condense or delay how customers receive marketing communications. And guess what? Open rates are around 30%.

Believe it or not, email marketing is still big — and getting bigger.

66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a direct result of a marketing email, according to the Direct Marketing Association. The DMA also claims that every $1 spent in email marketing has an ROI of about $45. Forrester Research recently found that 19% of consumers read every email newsletter they receive to see if it includes a discount offer. Exact Target says that 70% of consumers always open emails from their favorite companies, while only 18% say they never open commercial emails. Email marketing is projected to $2.5 billion in 2016; not bad for a strategy that’s supposed to be dying.

So what happened?

Open and click rate chart

Best practices make email marketing the best.

Innovative brands, firms, and agencies have created email strategies that reach customers wherever they happen to be, and are too engaging or personal to ignore.

For example, many brands offer an “opt down” choice along with “opt out.” Opting out means that customer is gone for good. But opting down lets people customize their messages and their schedules, allowing them to only receive offers for a certain product or service, or condensing multiple emails into a weekly or monthly digest.

Clever marketers also create more specialized email lists, allowing for more personal and target emails. It’s tempting to create one great email and send it to everyone, but a married mother of three in Topeka shouldn’t get the same language as a single Millennial male in Brooklyn. A Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report found that brands using email list segmentation experienced a 39% increase in open rates and a 28% decrease in unsubscribes.

Email services like Constant Contact make this easy, and you can even do A/B testing, determining the best words, calls-to-action, and subject lines in a matter of weeks. My agency’s own monthly newsletter has seen its open rate climb as we’ve better targeted our content to our customers and improved our subject lines.

And all those mobile users? They require emails that are mobile-friendly, with concise copy and easy-to-click buttons. Charts and lists are out; simple graphics and close-up photos are in.

No marketer has to go it alone. Plenty of firms, like MailChimp, have conducted studies on topics like sending frequency.

Email marketing requires a strategy.

Despite all the predictions four or five years ago, email marketing didn’t go extinct. Instead, it adapted and remains one of the most efficient forms of marketing because it doesn’t require much in the way of start-up costs: just an email service and a list. But though the bar of entry remains low- make no mistake- email marketing has evolved into a science based on real data, and and only effective when executed based on strategy and accompanied by compelling copy and eye-catching art.

My agency, Brandemix, has led a number of email campaigns for marketing, branding, and recruiting, and we use email to market our own services, events, and webinars. I’d love to help your email marketing efforts come back from the dead. If you’d like to learn more, contact me and we’ll talk.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.

February 2, 2015

Transformational Trends in Internal Communications

Many communications professionals aren’t aware of the new technologies and new philosophies that will transform internal communications in 2015 and beyond. I’m a big believer in the power of employee messaging, so to help you better engage your workers, here are the latest trends in internal communications.

Getting visual

While emails, intranets, and employee newsletters are still important, many companies are moving beyond them with visual communications. This means more photos of employees at events, volunteering, or celebrating milestones. It also means creating infographics, a visual trend that I love. Infographics can make any subject interesting and are great for conveying complex information — like, say, changes in leadership or company benefits — in simple, eye-catching ways. Organizations are also speaking to employees through video, since it has become so easy to create, with a camcorder on every phone. The HR Trend Institute calls these “Explanimations,” and recommends they last 75 seconds or less, and “avoid talking heads!”

Speaking of which, these photos and videos should feature real employees, your real workplace, and real events. Many HR experts and forecasters agree that stock photos are on the way out, since they seem insincere. This dovetails with another trend of transparency, which means communicating bad news to employees and making messages less polished and more human.

Employe benefits infographic on Pinterest - small

Going mobile

“BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a grass-roots movement that is happening in your organization whether you like it or not,” writes organizational communications expert Shel Holtz. While some workers are being issued mobile devices from their employers, more workers are simply using their own phones and tablets at work. This presents an opportunity to send them internal communications via text message. It also allows you a chance to let them access the company intranet through their mobile device — even when they’re out of the office. To optimize this opportunity, companies must make their intranets and company emails responsive, so they can be read on a phone screen without having to zoom in and scroll around, one of my pet peeves.

With text messaging, there’s nothing to design. Open rates usually increase because the message goes to the employee’s phone, not their (probably crowded) inbox. And it gives the employee more chances to see the message and engage with it, such as on the commute to and from the office.

Being social

As with so many other aspects of business, social media is seeping into internal communications — and from both directions. On the inside, more companies are using ESNs (enterprise social networks) like YammerChatter, and MangoApps. Social networking engages employees, helps them collaborate, lets them learn from each other, and is often more productive and efficient than email. Engagement is important, since Gallup just found that nearly 70% of American workers aren’t engaged in their jobs.

On the outside, some companies are speaking to employees through public social media channels. UPS has led the way with its @UPSers Twitter account, which “celebrates the heart and soul” of the company — its people. I’m also a fan of Marriott, which poses questions to its thousands of employees on Facebook, with no fear of inappropriate or snarky responses. These are bold moves, and the workers appreciate them. I think both peer-to-peer communications and real-time responses will be part of the future of internal comms.

UPsers Twitter

Gaming on

Gamification is the one of the latest trends in corporate wellness and employee rewards, and I’m beginning to see it in internal communications as well. Companies can reward employees for simply reading internal communications, or for sharing them with their peers (using an ESN, perhaps). You can create quizzes based on recent messaging and publicly recognize the winners. What about giving prizes to employees who live the company’s values — which are communicated through the intranet or newsletters?

Accenture is implementing some of these ideas in its Spain office. The company created a solar system on its intranet of company values. It created a game to help employees reduce their carbon footprint, an initiative that I don’t think would have worked as well as a brochure or an email. Finally, Accenture turned its recognition program into an internal communications tool, making it both individualized and team-based, and basing it on the company’s values, which were communicated through a video and a blog.  “Level of participation is higher when the initiative entails gamification, beating participation in other internal communications initiatives between 30% and 50%,” says Paloma Cabrera, the company’s marketing and communications director.

Which of these four trends can your organization take advantage of? Do they all sounds scary or difficult or expensive? My agency, Brandemix, has done internal communications work for Chico’s, Estée Lauder, and Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. I’d love to share my expertise with you to help you engage your employees and increase productivity. Contact me for more information.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.