Stock Photography vs Custom Shoots

When and Where To Use Both Types In Your Brand

 

Google is more powerful than you think. Did you know you can use it to search for images the exact same way you can search for words? We’ll show you how to use Google image search. Let’s take that image at the top of this blog as an example.

STEP ONE: Go to the Google homepage and click images in the top right corner:

 

STEP TWO: Click the camera icon that appears in the search bar:

 

STEP THREE: Now, choose the image you wish to search for. You can do this in two ways:

  • Upload an image from your hard drive.
  • Copy and paste a web-based image’s URL.

Let’s do the latter:

 

STEP FOUR: Now click the blue ‘Search by image’ box, and voila! Google will return a list of visually similar images, and then list the pages that include exact matches:

 

The search results inform us that the stock photograph we chose appears about 1,040 results (1.65 seconds) times elsewhere on the internet. We certainly wouldn’t reproduce a written copy from another website – so why are we OK to use an image that 1,040 other people are also using? If a picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t that a thousand times worse?

What matters is knowing when and where you use stock photography. Stock photography can be a fantastic asset, but there is a time and a place for it – and a time and a place for you to go the extra mile and create custom photography.

 

The Case For Stock Photography

 

  • It’s Widely Available, and You Can Find (Almost) Exactly What You’re Looking For

    The range of stock photography available to the average user in 2022 is frankly astonishing. Worldwide, there are hundreds if not thousands of websites offering you access to the portfolios of countless talented photographers. On websites such as Shutterstock, Getty Images, iStock, and Adobe Stock, you can easily find images covering even the most obscure subject matter. You might not be able to find exactly what you want – but you can get close.

  • It’s Inexpensive and Quick

    Look at the image at the top of this blog once again. We found it available on iStock in under 15 minutes. We are able to commercially use it as part of our monthly subscription. That’s an incredible turnaround compared to taking a photograph of our own. Given that our monthly blogs cover topics as diverse as cybersecurity, oil and gas industry analysis, and seasonal marketing, we’d lose a significant amount of precious time every four weeks if we tried to make original photos for each.

  • It’s A Great Starting Point

    What you see doesn’t have to be exactly what you get. If you have a skilled Photoshopper close by, you can transform stock photos into something unique. We gave WJ Graphic Designer Jessica Taylor half an hour to work her magic on the photo below. This is what she came up with:

     

 

So, versatility, availability, and cost are all positives of stock photography. If that’s the case, then why not use stock photography all the time?

That’s a very simple question: is your company one-of-a-kind, or is it just like a hundred others?

 

When To Use Custom Photography

 

When used in moderation, stock photography can work perfectly for low-stakes media like regular social engagement and blog posts. A striking image – even if it’s not completely aligned with your brand – can quickly draw the eye, and then customized written content (much easier to produce) can engage the reader meaningfully.

Where stock photography must never be used, however, is on anything to do with the core tenets of your company: i.e., your abilities, what you believe in, and who you are.

On most websites, this will be the landing page and the ‘About Us’ section. Think about it from the audience’s perspective: if you are a company based in Red Deer, and all your imagery is from New York, at best, the reader would be confused. At worst, they would be suspicious and question whether your entire company is a scam.

An engaging video where your CEO personally explains your philosophy or a round of images showing your employees hard at work is as important and as humanizing as a handshake. Your company, your story, and what you can do are unique – so be unique!

  • Photography Can Be An Up-Front Investment – But It’s Worth It

    Hiring a professional photographer, videographer, or even a drone pilot can be what seems like a costly upfront investment – particularly when compared to stock imagery – but the vast improvement it offers over stock is that you can tell the photographer exactly the types of photographs you need. Most stock photography is deliberately staged to be vague, in order to sell to as many different clients as possible. A focused photographer with proper direction, however, can highlight your company’s specific strength in specific detail. This is a vital initial touchpoint in building trust with a potential client.

  • One Day’s Work Can Lead To Years of Benefits

    In a standard shoot, a good photographer will produce far more than the one or two ‘hero shots’ you base your website around. The remaining excerpts, b-roll footage, and even captured sound bites (depending on their range of services) can help form the basis of an ongoing social media campaign, for example. By being creative and purposeful, you can greatly increase the return you see on your investment, potentially for years to come.

  • You Can Tailor To The Seasons

    We live in western Canada. Nobody wants to be reminded of summer when it’s -40°C outside. By inviting a photographer to conduct a shoot in winter and another in spring – particularly if your company has outside operations – you can switch between imagery depending on the time of year. This is another subtle way to build trust with your audience. Even on a subconscious level, shifting with the seasons allows onlookers to perceive you as existing in the same world they do – and therefore much more real.

 

At WJ, we recommend every one of our clients plan for at least one round of customized photography or video footage, no matter their industry. Let’s look at it in action in two very different WJ clients:

  • Sheppard Creek Cattle Co.

    https://sheppardcreekcattle.ca/
    As a provider of premium, grass-fed Alberta beef to discerning gourmets, Sheppard Creek’s brand is brought to life by photography capturing life on their ranch. The golden light is timeless and serene, and the ranch hands at work could be from today or a hundred years ago. If a customer cares enough about their beef to source out an individual supplier, they care enough to want to know everything about that supplier. This photography builds trust and entices, simultaneously.

  • Fast Genetics

    https://fastgenetics.com/
    On the other end of the agricultural spectrum, Fast Genetics is on a crusade to create the perfect pig through genetic engineering. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of genetic engineering. What’s key in the imagery here is the humanizing element. Watch the video on their ‘About’ page – it’s filled with scientific equipment, yes, but it’s all in the background. Front and centre are Fast Genetics’ leadership explaining their outlook, industrious workers, and healthy, thriving livestock.

 

Stand Out From The Crowd

 

As with everything in life, knowing when to choose between using stock and custom photography is a matter of balance, insight, and instinct. It’s just one element of an overall successful branding strategy. If you’d like a little help raising your company above the generic on every front, WJ’s business architects are always ready and waiting.

(Don’t worry, we’ll make sure we film you from your good side.)

A Destiny In The Data

How Data Science Can Give Your Small Business The Edge

Richard Branson often speaks of the importance of trusting gut instinct. It’s easy for him to do so – he’s got it right, (almost) every single time. Who you don’t hear from are the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of entrepreneurs who trusted their gut and lost.

Data science offers a useful counterpoint to pure intuition, especially for small- to medium-sized enterprises with less capacity for risk. By using algorithms – complex code and automatic, branching calculations – alongside scientific methods and processes, bulk data is transformed into valuable knowledge. This knowledge can then be applied to your ‘gut feelings’ to distinguish which ideas have logic and reason behind them and which are wild speculation.

Alone, data is simply a tool – but when you ask the right questions, it unlocks meaningful insights that can define future success.

 

What Data Science Can Do

When people hear the word ‘algorithm,’ they often think of a computer screen crunching endless lines of code and spitting out percentages. But data science can be a useful asset in the day-to-day internal running of a company. Process automation, for example, identifies repetitive employee tasks – summarizing, sorting, classifying, retrieving documents, etc. – and handles them automatically, freeing up more time for more productive or creative matters. Data can also aid in talent scouting, searching through online profiles on career websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster for suitable candidates to add to the team, and saving your HR department hours.

However, data science really begins to shine when you apply it externally. Whatever your industry – non-profit, tourism, education – you can back up your theories and ideas by collecting data for crucial market research, client segmentation, and campaign feedback. If you’re a home developer, for example, you can drive sales and engagement in your company by targeting ads to shoppers who have previously visited other home developer sites online. This is represented in data collected through ‘cookies,’ tiny digital tags that identify a specific user ID as someone interested in specific topics.

“Cookies and data really changed the game as far as market research goes,” says WJ’s current Operations Specialist and experienced Digital Analyst Sarah Gavigan, “Before the rise of the internet, getting feedback on an ad’s effectiveness was only possible through surveys or focus groups. As you might imagine, the views of a dozen people gathered six months after the fact didn’t always accurately represent the wider market and where it was headed. Data gained from modern websites and social media, on the other hand, can literally provide you with the behaviours of every single person interested in your product in real-time and can also provide incredibly valuable trending insights. Even more importantly – you can study your competitor’s successes and failures, too.”

 

Using Data Science To Quantify Your Gut Feeling

The quantity and quality of the data you use to back up your gut instincts matter immensely. To paint the clearest picture and maximize the chance of your success – whether that’s expanding your market, acquiring new customers, or launching a new product – gather your data from as many sources as possible. Collecting information from Google Analytics, e-commerce databases, or native social media platforms, for example, gives you a broad outlook on the situation. Collating this data into a unified data frame provides you with a framework for ongoing strategy determining the best way forward through constant monitoring followed by trial and improvement.

It bears emphasizing, at this point, that none of the methods mentioned so far are particularly expensive to purchase or maintain. Google offers a free suite of data tools to cover the basics, and a half-dozen other programs complete an entire analytical set – from SEO and social media management to sales tracking, website strength, and CRM services.

Of course, you may be thinking – how the heck do I analyze data? It might sound overwhelming, but it’s not as complicated as you think. Along with the free suite of tools we mentioned above, Google also runs a free Analytics Academy, offering several short courses you can easily complete at home. That’s a good start to interpreting data, but of course, like in any field, the difference between a beginner and an expert can be profound. A well-trained, experienced data analyst can notice patterns, trends, and anomalies that a less-skilled operator might miss – and that could mean the difference between you or your competitor getting the edge.

“But where?” you cry, “Where could I find such a team of trained data analysts ready and eager to help my company move forward…?”

 

Real Results In A Digital World

WJ’s digital, communications, and social teams use analytics on every online project we undertake. Understanding data has helped us create in-depth websites and drive engagement on multi-platform advertising campaigns, among other accomplishments. If you want to back up your gut instinct with a little hard evidence, we’re here to gather, assess, and inform.

Succeeding at what comes next doesn’t have to be a matter of intuition – it can be empirical, too.

Analyzing Advertising Campaigns

Success Comes In Many Forms

With 30 seconds of air time costing a whopping $6.5 million USD on average in 2022, the Super Bowl ads have become an annual exhibition in which the biggest companies in the world compete for the public’s attention. Since 1989, each year USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter has unofficially proclaimed the ‘winning’ commercial. Sitting atop their top 10 this year was Rocket Homes’ Barbie commercial, in which Anna Kendrick parodies the insanity of the current housing market using Barbie and He-Man figures.

Some appreciated the commercial’s sense of humour, the kitsch aesthetic, and the nostalgia targeted at Millennials. Others found the glib tone about a depressing truth regarding homebuying to be disrespectful.

WJ’s Creative Director, Johnny Talisman, explains how campaigns don’t necessarily need to be universally beloved to be considered a success: “People will interpret things in different ways, no matter what – you can’t stop that from happening. And sometimes, due to things way beyond your control, campaigns become something you never anticipated. This isn’t a negative. Even if you end up in a different place than where you predicted, that doesn’t indicate a failure. In fact, sometimes it makes for one of your greatest successes.”

At WJ, we like to look at things critically and find opportunity in every situation. Today, some of our team share their thoughts on unconventional campaigns – either by design or by unintended results.

 

Spotify – Wrappedspotify advertising campaign

Is it worth owning a flaw in your product to speak directly to your audience?

Analytics – that is, the method of gathering detailed facts about a customer base through examining their ostensibly private information – is a new facet to marketing, and it’s not without controversy. Some people find it at best invasive, while others equate it to a company outright spying on its consumers. Why then, did Spotify decide to base its annual Wrapped campaign around gleefully sharing the information they ‘stole’ from their customers?

WJ’s Social Media Manager, Kira Sideroff says, “Spotify is running with it, having fun. The information they share is all humorous – they ask why someone would stream ‘Sorry’ 46 times on Valentine’s Day, or highlight the strangest playlist titles they encounter.” She goes on: “By outright admitting that they’re tracking their users every behaviour in the application, Spotify is able to invert that fear and turn it into a positive. Overall, it makes Spotify’s brand feel more human and authentic – like, ‘Yes, we’re looking at you, but we’re not being creepy with it.’”

 

Wonderbra – Ongoingwonderbra advertising campaign

What if you offend some people to speak meaningfully to others?

A campaign doesn’t need words or headlines to be effective. As a Graphic Designer at WJ, Yasmine Valim has a keen sense of image. She thinks Wonderbra’s largely text-free campaigns are a perfect example of how visuals alone can drive advertising in the 21st century.  “These ads say so much without actually saying anything at all,” Yasmine explains, “They grab attention, they’re humorous, sometimes they make the audience connect the dots for themselves.”

That comes with some controversy – namely that the ads objectify and sexualize women. “But that’s what’s brilliant about the campaign,” says Yasmine, “Wonderbra are dropping all the pretension away and saying, ‘This is really what you want our product for.’ We know it, you know it – let’s be truthful. It’s direct, it’s honest, and people appreciate that.”

 

Metro Trains Melbourne – Dumb Ways To Diemetro trains advertising campaign

Another of WJ’s Graphic Designers, Logan Anderson tells the strange tale of Dumb Ways To Die, which began life as a safety advertisement for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia. “Metro Trains wanted to do something different from the standard dry stats-based warning,” Logan explains. “So the team came up with a singing, dancing team of animated beans that invariably end up getting horribly killed in some cartoonish way.”

Dumb Ways To Die – ironically enough – then proceeded to catch fire. Becoming one of the earliest examples of a YouTube viral video in 2012, it racked up millions of views that saw the campaign spiral rapidly outwards from its original framework. Merchandise flew off the shelves, videogames and apps were developed, and the entire franchise ended up ultimately being sold to a private company for $2.25mil AUD in 2021.

Not a bad little return for something that was never meant to be seen outside of Melbourne.

“But,” asks Logan, “Was the campaign successful? It generated millions of dollars for Metro Trains Melbourne Metro, for sure – but that was never the campaign’s intention. It was created to stop people from getting hurt on the subway, and that message fell quickly by the wayside. So, should Dumb Ways To Die technically be classed as a failure of advertising? Or does the incidental financial windfall make up for that?”

 

The Right Campaign For You

If your company is looking to announce itself in a new way, reach new audiences, or simply increase its presence, William Joseph can deliver the kind of campaigns you need to achieve your goals, whatever the format, whatever the budget – that, we can guarantee.

What we can’t guarantee, of course, is that you’ll accidentally make millions of dollars due to a YouTube video going viral…

But who knows? There’s only one way to find out.

Is Marketing Dying?

A Changing World Demands New Brand Strategies 

When you think of marketing, what do you think of? Is it billboards? Television ads? Popups on YouTube? It’s more than likely you’re envisioning something that speaks directly to you, clearly explaining what a product is and why you need it in your life. 

Consider, for example, the beer industry. Molson Coors is one of the largest brewers in Canada. Molson Canadian is even the official beer of the NHL. When you turn on a professional hockey match on Saturday night, you see the name Molson under the ice, on the boards, on the JumboTron, in the stands, and in the commercial breaks between periods. 

Molson, Molson, Molson. This is marketing, right? That’s why Molson Coors is so huge. 

How then do you explain the continuing rise of the microbrewery? Between 2013 and 2018 the number of licensed breweries in Canada increased over 260%. This trend maintained pace throughout the pandemic, rising a further 8% to reach a total of 1210 brewing facilities nationwide in 2020. 

That’s a lot of people choosing to drink a beer that isn’t Molson. If Molson’s marketing is so effective, why is it bleeding away so many customers to competitors? 

Doesn’t marketing work anymore? 

 

Evolution, Not Extinction 

Doomsayers have been heralding the death of marketing for some time now. But that only holds true if you believe marketing to be a stagnant, stationary force that is purely reactionary. That is absolutely not the case. 

For example, consider one of the earliest branding exercises ever undertaken by human beings: the great pyramids in Egypt. The pyramids were wrought in stone and took a team of artisans and thousands of slaves many, many years to complete. Was it a success? Absolutely – over 3,000 years later we still remember the name, Tutankhamun, after all. But then came the printing press, which annihilated the need for stone, chisels, and flagellation.  

Did marketing die at that moment? No. It just took on new forms. 

Similarly, in the 1960s – the era of Mad Men – established agencies accustomed to producing minute-long radio advertisements and lavishly painted newspaper spreads had to deal with the intrusion of photography and video. The Don Drapers of the day didn’t throw themselves out of the window the second they saw technicolour on the television. 

They studied, assimilated, evolved, and adapted. 

In 2022 marketing finds itself at another crossroads. We no longer live in the one-way world of billboards and TV commercials we grew up consuming. We now live in a digital era completely surrounded and absorbed by media. Word of mouth still holds resonance, but thanks to social media word of mouth now means both the guy down the street and the girl in Tokyo, too. We’ve spoken previously on some of the trends predicted to shake up the game moving forward, but the general shift in society towards valuing authenticity, relatability, and interactivity means previously proven methods of marketing are now either considered redundant or have assumed an extremely niche role. 

WJ’s Director of Communications Samantha Boyko explains further: “Simply put, people no longer want to be spoken at – they want to be spoken with. Experiences and storytelling are key, rather than taglines and kitsch. A brand that can be lived is much more successful than one which sends a random message out, hoping it will reach the right person at the right time.” 

Samantha explains further: “To add to this, use of hard data and analytics unavailable to previous generations allows us to really focus in and discover what works and what doesn’t, even down to an audience of one. There’s a lot more work done behind the scenes, which people often don’t see. Make no mistake, marketing is evolving – it’s getting more technical and less direct – but it is not dying.” 

 

That Party Animal Is A Real Happening Dude 

So it all comes back to beer. Why is it so many people are turning to smaller breweries over the big boys? Craft beer aficionados would argue it’s the wide array of tastes and the subtle distinctions of flavour that are superior to mass-produced lager, and they may be right – but that’s only half the story.  

More important is the fact that they can argue about craft beer with other craft beer lovers. It’s the fact that they can visit the breweries and take a personalized tour. It’s the fact that they can communicate directly with the brewmasters, learn their history and philosophy, and even argue with them, too. It’s the purchasing of identity rather than product, a one-on-one feeling of intimacy and integrity that Spuds McKenzie can no longer provide.  

(Sorry, Spuds. You had a good run while it lasted.) 

This is the new direction of marketing, whatever field you’re operating in. While some aspects of ‘traditional’ marketing may be falling out of favour, certainly, don’t mistake a subtle sea change for a premature death. Acting proactively is key – by grabbing the bull by the horns and making marketing moves that take your company into previously unexplored territory, you can reposition for ongoing success. Our team of experts here at WJ are always here to help provide the missing link in your marketing evolution. 

Making an Office Reflect Your Brand

Finding the Right Space for Your Company

What’s the best part about being in a comfy, familiar place? It’s the sense of belonging and connection, and the freedom to be yourself and add your personal touches to a space. In architecture or landscaping, the term ‘placemaking’ is used to describe the development of public spaces in an architectural or landscaping sense, with an ultimate goal of strengthening the connection between people and these places. This might mean changing a hallway, the placement of a door, or deciding where a water feature should go in order to get the best views and photo ops.  

This idea fits on smaller scales, too. Though we’ve written before about environmental branding, placemaking isn’t quite the same, because it’s more than logos or layouts. Placemaking is all about getting that perfect spot for your company’s character and values, leading to spaces that your employees want to work and spend time in.  

For example, with our growing team in Saskatoon delivering constant results, we recently decided to move to a new office. We took placemaking into careful consideration through the whole process: 

  • How will people feel when they first walk in? 
  • What kind of décor and personality will tie all the areas together? 
  • Does each employee get an opportunity to make their space their own? 
  • How quickly can the person in the far office get to the coffee machine? (Very important in an agency!) 

The Project for Public Spaces defines a great place as possessing four key attributes: Access and Linkages, Uses and Activities, Comfort and Image, and Sociability. Let’s break these down and take a look at how they played into our choices – and hopefully our experience will be helpful when you’re on the hunt for a new space in the future. 

 

Access and Linkages: Making Places Easy to Reach

Our new office is located right in downtown Saskatoon, overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. There’s no trouble getting to and from the office – there’s plenty of underground parking and public transit access, and the Meewasin river trails run right up to the Victoria Bridge beside the complex. A river stroll (and a sighting of Saskatoon’s famous beaver families) is a great way to destress and get creative, and heading the other way into downtown means there are options for lunch, dinner, or an evening of celebration after a job well done. 

True accessibility also means whether or not people want to access a particular property or area. Remember, the first sight of the building you occupy is often the first physical touchpoint for a customer. A spacious and welcoming office is interesting, while a locked door or plain brick walls can be cold and off-putting. This building has a gorgeous west-facing lobby and a broad glass façade that catches the setting sun from the “living skies”, while our office itself has excellent floor-to-ceiling views of the morning sunrise. 

 

River Landing Office Complex in SaskatoonView of courtyard from inside River Landing in Saskatoon

                                              River Landing East Tower in Saskatoon, SK (from Triovest)

 

Uses and Activities: Love What You Do

The River Landing complex (where the SK office is located) is one of the newest office buildings in all of Saskatchewan – so, as you might imagine, it’s got excellent connections and data speeds, which is perfect when your company spans three provinces. We also made sure to build flexibility in to the floor plan: the office is big enough to allow our regular team to work safely during the COVID era, but large boardrooms on the second floor can accommodate dozens of people if needed for big projects.  

The ground floor of the building has an OEB breakfast spot (and we highly recommend the French toast), and a big tenant fitness centre takes up an entire half of the second floor. Small perks like saving money on a gym membership each month is a great incentive for a potential hire, and the beneficial effects of promoting good health among employees are so well documented by this point that some companies are even taking to keeping their workers on the clock while they work out. 

 

Comfort and Image: Making an Office Feel Like Home

Comfort is more than a good seat and a working air conditioner (though they definitely help). So, we wanted our new office to “flow”, with a sense of space and ease. Having floor-to-ceiling windows – and a noticeable lack of drywall cubicles – lets the light in and helps our staff daydream up creative solutions.  

When we moved in, we gave the office a quick mini-reno so that the interior style matched our Calgary office. Maintaining a sense of unity is important for teams separated by thousands of kilometres, and helps brand consistency as well. After all, when a person is inside our space, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s in Saskatoon, Calgary, Grande Prairie, or anywhere else in between. The experience should feel the same.

 

Sociability (akaWhere to Place the Coffee Machine”)

Sociability can be the hardest one of these to achieve, because it means creating a place where people are comfortable interacting and letting their guard down – in other words, a place to really, truly communicate. We try to work without ego at WJ, and a part of that is sharing a mood or a feeling – and what better place to do that than around a coffee machine, chatting from a comfy chair in a coworker’s office, or over a shared lunch in the boardroom?  

We use features like glass walls so that our team can have their own private space for uninterrupted concentration, but also stay aware of visitors or other people in the foyer. Art pieces on walls and in corners act as conversation starters, and cushioned benches in the front area provide a place to chat and relax. We often find that our best work comes out of these moments!

 

Wrapping It All Up

So, there you have it – the tour’s complete. Our team is settled in and continues to deliver the same quality branding and marketing services for small to mid-size businesses in Saskatoon and beyond. We can’t help you move your desk between buildings, but we can help you form the business strategies that will take your company to a bigger office. And no matter where you are, we’re just a click away!

WordPress Security Updates & What You Need to Know

The Importance of Cybersecurity 

Normally, scoring an 8 out of 10 isn’t bad. That’s an A or an A- by most academic standards. 

Unfortunately, when the United States Government National Vulnerability Database starts awarding your software 8.8s and even 9.8s for critical exploitable vulnerability, that isn’t the case. 

Such was WordPress’s unfortunate example early in January, when an outsider discovered a series of potentially devastating flaws in the WordPress core itself. These oversights – if left alone – might have led to millions of users having their private information stolen. 

Thankfully, WordPress has since announced that they have patched the vulnerabilities, and you can rest assured that our digital team has already updated and safeguarded our WordPress developments, too. But the affair highlights the importance of a thorough process and having the right cybersecurity in place. Let’s start from the beginning. 

 

What Is WordPress?  

WordPress is an open-source content management system used in the construction of websites. Evolving out of a blog publishing system, WordPress now supports other web content types such as mailing lists, forums, media galleries, membership sites, learning management systems, and online stores. Because of its plugin architecture and template system, WordPress is extremely flexible and easy to use, which has led to widespread popularity. As of October 2021, a massive 42.8% of the top ten million websites use WordPress in some capacity. 

Given its versatility, WJ’s digital team uses WordPress frequently. To date, we have delivered over 40 websites to satisfied clients based around the WordPress framework – Energy Resourcing, the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, and STARS Air Ambulance among them. 

 

What Happened With WordPress?

Four main issues were discovered in the WordPress core: 

  • SQL Injection due to improper sanitization in WP_Meta_Query 
  • SQL Injection through WP_Query or plugins or themes used in certain ways 
  • Authenticated Object Injection in Multisites 
  • Stored XSS through authenticated users 

If you didn’t understand that, that’s okay – chances are you aren’t a digital developer. Fortunately, we happen to have a skilled team of devs on hand at WJ, including our Director of Digital and Technology Jason Kessler. He translated the above: 

“SQL stands for Structured Query Language. This basically means it is used to query data contained in a database. While it has many more uses, for the everyday user it would mostly concern a username and password. SQL injection is a method of taking SQL and using it to maliciously attack a website in an attempt to tamper with data, spoof identities, or steal information. Normally, SQL is completely deleted to prevent this from happening, but the WordPress core was discovered to be improperly sanitizing its records. To the right parties, this essentially left the keys in the ignition to millions of websites.” 

So, hackers could have potentially had access to immense amounts of data stored within websites using WordPress databases – personal information, financial details, medical records, browsing habits, you name it.  

Yikes. 

 

What Caused the Problem?

Like any digital developer, the people behind WordPress try to keep to a steady release schedule. Version 5.9 of WordPress was scheduled for release in 2021. There was great expectation surrounding the release, as 5.9 promised to allow users full site block editing capabilities. This would essentially allow complete customization of every aspect of a website, something WordPress’s template-based system had previously been criticized for. 

However, the team ran into problems and had to postpone the release. With such high demand, they were pushed hard to meet the deadline. They continued to barrel forward, even when their own developers began raising large red flags about possible security concerns 

Essentially, they fell victim to this familiar Venn diagram:

 

The Takeaway

So, what’s the lesson we can learn from this whole situation?  

These circumstances show the importance of a solid foundation when constructing digital developments. There is a world of hostile parties out there looking to steal and exploit. Fortunately, in this scenario, the threat was removed before any serious damage was done. However, the potential for disaster remains in the future when corners are cut.  

We never cut corners at WJ. We deliver quality websites that are attractive, functional, and – of course – secure. We even offer ongoing security audits and patches in order to protect your data and keep your site compliant with due diligence requirements. If your company is looking to update your online presence, our digital team is always here to help you design something special.  

New Reality for Marketing

In 2022, VR is no longer the realm of scientists and wealthy tech bros. We have COVID-19 to thank for this. Since 2019, sales of virtual reality equipment have skyrocketed due to people in lockdown seeking to escape the confines of their apartments. The market continues to boom, with Business Wire predicting that the VR/AR industry will have grown by more than $125 billion USD by 2024.

In a previous blog about trends to watch in 2022, we briefly touched upon the subject. Now it’s time to dig in deep and see what this trend might mean for the future of marketing.

 

The Basics

First, let’s get things straight – what exactly is the difference between virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)?

  • Virtual Reality is the user entering an entirely simulated environment – in essence being ‘transported’ to somewhere completely different while their physical body remains where it is. This effect is most commonly achieved through a headset covering the eyes displaying an image with a 3D depth of field, with interaction permitted through controllers held in one or both hands.
  • Augmented Reality is a computer interpreting an image of physical space and imposing graphics upon it – essentially taking the real world and adding digital aspects to it. These digital aspects can be anything, such as text overlays, environmental filters, or representations of simulated 3D objects. While AR can be achieved through VR gear, it is becoming increasingly common through the use of phone or tablet cameras.

 

Augmented Reality

As AR can be utilized with a smartphone, it is already primed for success. Perhaps you remember the Pokémon Go craze of 2016, where hordes of eager gamers would charge around real cities hunting elusive virtual Pikachus? Naturally, it led to robberies, assaults, and extortion, but it proved an eager market existed for AR – even beyond the gaming sector.

Companies have discovered many ways to work AR into their operations in the five years since. Cosmetics company Sephora has found success through an app called Virtual Artist, which analyzes the user’s face and allows them to ‘try on’ different shades of makeup. Other fashion companies have experimented with letting users see how their products look before purchasing – Gucci, Warby Parker, and Timberland among them. Similarly, Ikea now allows customers to ‘place’ furniture to see how it looks in their homes.

 

A Sephora employee tests out the new marketing tool, a virtual reality artist, at the beauty retailer’s new store near Herald Square in Manhattan

Melissa Feliciano tries out the Sephora Virtual Artist at the beauty retailer’s new store near Herald Square in Manhattan (Karsten Moran for The New York Times)

 

The results don’t lie. Shopify recently revealed that merchants who utilize AR at some point in the buying process found a 94% conversion lift on average. When questioned, users replied that they appreciated the chance to ‘interact’ with the product before buying it, more so than they could with images alone.

In essence, AR allows a merchant to tell their story with a richer medium. This has applications for the B2B market as well as the B2C. If you’re working B2B, why not consider the way you present your product to potential customers? A fully interactive 3D object is far more compelling than a still image locked on the page of a catalogue. And that’s just getting started

 

Virtual Reality

Although VR requires a significant upfront investment into specialized equipment, the opportunities it presents are wilder and deeper. Perhaps you’ve heard the term metaverse lately – Mark Zuckerberg got so excited about it he renamed his entire company, Meta. Originally a term taken from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cult classic science-fiction novel Snow Crash, the metaverse has been described as the evolution of the internet.

By utilizing a VR headset, the user can enter a virtual simulation of the world where they can essentially do anything. They can connect with friends, hang out in virtual spaces, consume media, browse for entertainment, attend meetings, work from home, and shop for products, all in a completely engaging environment that holds their complete attention. It is a synthesis of everything that has come before, and its possibilities are obviously massive.

But that’s the future. Focusing on what marketers have available at the beginning of 2022, VR excels in allowing immersive experiences. This is perfect marketing for industries that rely on ‘full body’ products, such as tourism. By providing ‘sneak peeks’ of what the real thing might feel like, travel companies have been able to entice people to visit anywhere from the pyramids to Patagonia. Similarly, carmakers such as Kia have put their customers in the driving seat, so to speak, by allowing them to explore interactive interiors of their vehicles in their virtual showroom.

 

A man uses a virtual reality headset in the woods, while exploring

10 of The Best Virtual Reality Travel Experiences (from travelmag.com)

 

The Best of Both Worlds

While the potential is massive, it is still early days for VR. If the metaverse is the new internet, then we are barely at the beginning of the dot com boom. You may feel overwhelmed, or – for reasons either technological or financial – believe that exploring VR or AR possibilities are beyond your company.

You don’t have to go throw yourselves into the deep end. A great way to move towards VR or AR is to experiment with a hybrid model, something many companies have already gained experience in through the pandemic. For example, live events have always been great sources of marketing – by adding on a virtual element, you gain many benefits, including reducing cost, expanding your audience, and minimizing your environmental impact. Our own series of WJU seminars has seen a solid uptick through the pandemic by going semi-virtual.

 

In Conclusion

VR and AR are here to stay, and will only become more ubiquitous as time goes on. By learning, adapting, and innovating early, you set your company up for success in the future. If you’re curious as to how to pivot into the virtual, we’re always here to act as the guiding Morpheus to your company’s ambitious Neo. Get in touch today, and let’s see where the rabbit hole leads.

Marketing Trends For 2022

Last year we gazed into our crystal balls and predicted the importance of analytics, agility, and humanity for marketing in 2021.

Now we’re back to share what we believe are promising avenues to success for small businesses in 2022. 

 

Hybrid Marketing 

COVID-19 has forced us to rethink many old habits and practices.  

There is no longer strictly digital and strictly physical. Hybrid strategies are a marketing trend to keep your eyes on.  

For example, either hosting or sponsoring live events has always been an effective marketing strategy.  

But with both laws prohibiting social gatherings and ongoing fears around exposure, such events are now a tricky proposition. 

One potential answer presents itself – during the pandemic, global spending on virtual reality products rose 50% to $12bil 

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are now thriving markets easily accessed. 

By hosting events tailored to both VR/AR and in person attendees, businesses can continue to deliver quality brand engagement without risk to their audiences.  

The potential of virtual marketing spreads across many industries:  

    • Real estate companies can invite guests on elaborate virtual tours.  
    • Educational companies can provide complex training.  
    • Retailers can construct explorable 3D spaces, allowing their stores to become, well… Stores. 

Adapting hybrid policies also has potential positive ramifications in the workplace, too.  

By structuring the way your business functions to be around virtual presence instead of physical, you greatly expand your pool of potential employees – meaning you can find the right talent without concerns about the length of their commute. 

 

Consumable Content 

Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that this blog is being divided into short, digestible sentences that are clearly separated. 

The reason for this is that one of the key marketing trends growing stronger is consumable content.  

Consumable content is a steady stream of very short information bursts that your buyers can continuously ‘snack on’. 

By very short, we mean very short – eight seconds or less. Attention spans ain’t what they used to be. 

Think of Pacman in his maze, gobbling pellet after pellet. The short sentences we’re deploying here are those pellets.  

Your social media posts, the video content on your website, your physical branding in your workspace are all those pellets, too – so keep feeding Pacman. 

Don’t get confused. Consumable content doesn’t mean throwing out whatever original material you can produce as quickly as possible.  

Quality and consistency across multiple platforms is key to earning consumer interest. 

Think of a novel, broken down into chapters, then into subchapters.  

That’s your story, told across a variety of mediums – a successful brand identity in 2022 is a page-turning cohesive overall narrative, delivered piece by piece by piece 

 

The Importance of Authenticity 

Naturally, making your story a ‘bestseller’ without it seeming forced can be a challenge.  

People have become very good at spotting ‘fake’ identities, and authenticity is now a crucial element to a successful brand identity. 

It’s more than just noticing plastic smiles and token gestures. With AI boosting data analysis to astonishing new heights, companies have more access to customer data than ever before.  

Utilizing this data, however, can come across as creepy and invasive – and your customers recognize that. 

More than ever in 2022, businesses must have a human core. They must identify who their market is, and not only understand the ideals of that market but live them, too.  

Through direct engagement at every touchpoint all the way to direct philanthropic involvement with societal causes important to their customers, you can build enduring loyalty and identity. 

Philanthropic activity is a great way of building rapport within your own team, too.  

A general feeling of pointlessness is frequently described as one of the leading causes of employee burnout – “If I didn’t file this spreadsheet, would anyone really notice?” 

Allowing your people to deploy their skills to something that has a more obvious and selfless effect can inspire fresh motivation, meaning improved productivity and increased quality of work. 

 

In Conclusion 

Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly how the marketing landscape will change during 2022.  

There’s always curveballs ready to be thrown from beyond the horizon. Be ready to pivot, adapt, and overcome, and you’ll find the success you’re seeking.  

If you feel your pivoting, adapting, and overcoming could use a little guidance, we’re always ready at William Joseph to lend a helping hand. 

 

Holiday Season Marketing: More Than Meets The Eye

Ahh, the holiday season. The blazing heat, the sweet smell of pineapple, the bright cyan of mistletoe, and the grinding tones of death metal drifting softly on the air…

Wait, what?

That’s obviously an extreme misinterpretation. But think for a moment: how would you finish that sentence? What is the holiday season to you? The smell of turkey? The red of holly? The soft crunch of snow beneath your boots?

Good marketing plays on these perceptions. The best marketing engenders them.

 

Tactile Marketing

When walking around a store or café have you ever wondered why it is you buy certain items? Or why it is you went in to buy one thing, but ended up buying something completely different? You can’t quite say what it is that prompted the purchase, but chances are you were being influenced in some way by the environment around you.

In an increasingly digital world, the importance of physical interaction can sometimes be overlooked. Tactile marketing – that is, marketing that utilizes all the senses rather than just those that can be emitted from a monitor – harnesses the power of presenting people with something tangible their body can engage with, even if they are unaware of it.

In many ways, this primal connection is much stronger than the flashiest of logos or the fanciest of language.

 

Scent

Smell is perhaps the most abstract method of influence. How can a smell possibly alter the behaviour a rational, thinking human being? Well, consider that many studies by leading institutions have concluded that of all the senses, smell is most powerfully linked with memory and emotion.

This is partly a matter of anatomy – we could use a lot of words like ‘olfactory bulb’ and ‘amygdala’ at this point, we choose not to – and partly a matter of emotion. The end result is that people are 100 times more likely to remember something they smell over something they hear, see, or touch.

Scent marketing is the deployment of carefully chosen fragrances at different customer touchpoints to provoke such reactions. The most obvious example is in coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants – if something smells good, you want to eat it.

For example, coffee giant Nespresso perfected a hermetically sealed home espresso maker that made coffee exactly as it is served in coffee shops. Despite the machine’s excellent engineering, sales were flatlining. Nespresso soon discovered that re-designing the espresso maker to deliberately release more aroma dramatically improved their business.

That’s right – by making the machine less efficient, they actually sold more.

Such is the logic-destroying power of smell.

Scent marketing goes beyond food and drink. Because scent is so directly tied to memory and experience, companies like Abercrombie & Fitch and Singapore Airlines have taken to developing unique, trademarked fragrances. Every time you step into an Abercrombie & Fitch store or board a Singapore Airlines plane, you will smell the exact same thing. This weds the brand together with the physical sensation in your brain, meaning to you the company seems more real, alive, and vibrant.

This holiday season, the next time you walk into a store pay attention to the smell. If you smell a subtle aroma of gingerbread, mint, or mulled wine – that’s scent marketing, trying to convince you to buy more presents to put under the tree.

 

Sound

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’

You read these words on the page, but the truth is you probably heard them as a melody in your head and that melody made you think of the holiday season.

It works again:

‘Ba da ba ba ba’

You’re probably lovin’ it.

Sound is widely regarded to be the last sense a person loses when dying. It plays a crucial role in helping establish an environment – after all, when humans first climbed down from trees, it paid to be hyper-aware to any lurking threat. Sound can welcome and beguile us, or it can unsettle and provoke us.

Different types of music have different psychological impacts on shopping and purchasing habits. By playing classical music, for example, you can drive customers towards buying items perceived as more refined or cultured. Conversely, playing upbeat music in liquor stores can trend people more towards purchasing beer or mixers rather than wine.

But sound goes beyond music. Have you ever heard birdsong being played in a train station? Nature sounds put us at ease, and convince us we are in a more pleasant place than we actually are. A supermarket in Finland conducted a series of experiments by playing different nature soundscapes to their customers. Too loud or too false, and the customers became irritated. But, with the right combination playing, the supermarket eventually found that sales increased by 20%.

Simply put, if your store is a pleasant place to be, people will want to spend more time there – and people who spend more time in one place tend to spend more money there, too.

 

Sight

The unveiling of Harrods’ department store Christmas window display is a yearly event in London, England. This year they’ve gone with a silver, snowy theme, lit in gold and complemented by an interactive AR element.

Colour evokes base emotion. In this case, the overall pale motif of the display reminds us of snow. Very wintry, yet the silver hints at opulence, too – very much what Harrods is known for. As a contract the gold lighting provides a sense of warmth, inviting passing customers in from the cold.

Consider that greens and blues can remind us of nature, that browns give us a hint of the earthy and the trustworthy, that blacks are mysterious, and that pinks and purples evoke imagery of decadence and royalty.

We bore this in mind at WJ when we recently helped Calgary-based Last Best Brewing & Distillery launch a line of ready-to-drink gin cocktails. Last Best wanted to convey a sense of elegance to emphasize the quality of their gin, coupled with a feeling of energy and dynamism as these cocktails are pre-mixed and easily portable. We chose royal purples, powder blues, and rich salmon – silky colours, colours you might see on somebody’s cravat at a fine gala – and set them against a stark black background. This vivid contrast, as well as the pale filigree on the packaging, really helps it grab the eye when it sits on the shelf.

Think about this the next time you’re scanning the goods at a store – which product seizes your attention first?

 

Touch

By definition, touch is reciprocal in nature. You cannot touch without in turn touching. Consider the handshake, or the way a parent holds their child. These gestures are the foundations of developing a relationship, and by allowing customers to interact and examine their products or services physically, brands can develop a similarly deep connection.

Presentation, texture, and complexity matter when it comes to packaging. Something heavier feels more valuable. Something softer feels more luxurious. Something presented in a simple corrugated box is saying “What’s inside matters.”, something presented in an elegant lacquered case filled with beguiling, scented paper is saying “The experience of opening this matters.”.

We would be remiss to discuss the holiday season without discussing toys. ‘Tis the reason for the season, as they say. If you’re shopping for children this year, look up and down the toy aisle. You’ll see an array of wild colours, and packaging that not only often greatly exceeds the size of the toy itself but also provides a contrast of textures between smooth plastic, rough cardboard, and other materials. This grabs the interest of curious children, who will pick up the product and examine it thoroughly based purely on the packaging alone.

 

The Complete Experience

In the end, tactile marketing all adds up to create an experience that is more than the sum of its parts. How and where you want to emphasise your brand’s qualities is an exciting challenge with a million different potential answers. This month at WJ, with our twentieth anniversary on the horizon, we’re putting together a special something that will tell our own brand’s history. Keep your eyes on the website and see how we put our own theory into practice. And, in the new year, if you think your brand needs a little sprucing up, we’re always here. To help take you there.

And remember – fragrantly, aurally, visually, texturally – have a sensational holiday season.

Stakeholder Storytelling

Poo-Tee-Weet?

Kurt Vonnegut served as an intelligence scout in World War II, where he fought in the battle of the Bulge, got taken as a POW and witnessed the carpet bombing of Dresden. After the war he went on to become a teacher, a husband, and a father, and also one of the most celebrated American writers of the twentieth century.

Why are we talking about a science-fiction writer in a marketing blog? In a previous blog we discussed some of the problems facing the education sector. The answer to many of these challenges lies in telling the right story to your stakeholders.

 

The Necessity of Storytelling

Let’s head back 45,000 years or so. Beyond bones and teeth, the earliest surviving proof we have of human life on earth are cave paintings. Just this year, archaeologists discovered an image of a pig in a cave in Indonesia that is believed to be the world’s oldest. The image is simplistic, of course, but it tells a story nonetheless:  this is us. These are our hands. These are the beasts we have hunted. We belong. You belong.

Cave painting of animal tells a story to other ancient people
Archaeologists find world’s oldest animal cave painting

Indonesia: Archaeologists find world’s oldest animal cave painting. (from bbc.com)

The urge to believe in stories existed, therefore, even in a time before words. Leading marketers have recognized that this basic desire holds true in the quantum age too.

 

Mr. Vonnegut’s Rules 

Back to Vonnegut. Over the course of his career, Kurt Vonnegut developed eight rules for writing stories. We can learn much from some of them.

“Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

We live in uncertain times. Beyond COVID-19, many factors are contributing to skepticism regarding pursuing further education. With rapid automation and robotization shrinking the job pool for many fields, hyper-competitiveness leading some to believe that anything less than a doctorate is worthless, the spiraling costs of education, along with general fears about global issues such as conflict and climate, there are many reasons why prospective students may feel hesitant about committing years of their life to a course of study.

In this case, the character the reader must be made to root for is themselves. Messaging that speaks to ambition, enrichment, pride and achievement can help overcome those fears and replace them with a spirit of aspiration. Integrated communications are vital. Using a concerted, cross-functional and collaborative effort across many mediums, it is possible to create an environment – or indeed tell a story – that people want to be a part of.

This can include digital and physical means, such as an enticing course prospectus, an engaging newsletter campaign, or a strong, modern visual livery. However, an oft-overlooked aspect of many marketing projects is environmental branding. With the right design, your campus itself can become an integral part of the larger narrative you’re weaving. After all, every character needs a stage to play on.

 

“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”

The pandemic has accelerated what was already a gradual shift towards the acceptance of online learning. Now, with academic institutions worldwide rushing to provide e-curricula, prospective students have more options than ever before as to where they choose to study. Competition for attention thus becomes fierce, and time becomes a crucial factor. Google has calculated that even fifteen seconds has a drastic effect on a stakeholder’s chance of rejection.

If we’ve established a prospective student as our protagonist, then that protagonist doesn’t want to be stuck in the prologue – and your website is that prologue. A poorly optimized, confusing, or just plain ugly front page can see a potential Luke Skywalker driven away before they’ve even had a chance to meet your Obi-Wan. Attention must be given to the fluidity and the quality of the enquiry and application process, from the first moment to the last.

 

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

The importance of audience is paramount. We can obviously expand beyond the solitary individual Mr. Vonnegut is talking about in the above case – finding the right group of stakeholders and speaking directly to them will lead to a stronger connection. Web analytics afford greater insight not only into who is looking for you, but how they are looking for you. What words are they using? On what platforms? LinkedIn and TikTok are both potential avenues, for example, but the types of presentation on either are wildly different. Economics or MBA students are unlikely to relate to (or even trust) information given in a thirty-second TikTok video, but creative courses with a strong visual core such as graphic design, film direction or beauticians can flourish.

 

So it Goes…

William Joseph offers a suite of services that can answer all of these challenges. We have a team of expert analysts ready to identify your audience, a cohort of designers eager to develop your brand, a gaggle of web developers waiting to hone your website, and a cadre of writers who understand narrative and all it means. If you think your story could use a little punching up, why not get in touch?

Industry Marketing Analysis: Non-Profits

This pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Adapting to disruption and change became the make-or-break factor for many non-profit organizations across Canada and around the world, involving hard and honest looks at operations and searching for ways to do more with less. While most non-profits have been able to adapt and innovate with their services and programs since the arrival of COVID-19, the situation remains challenging, and now – a year and a half since the pandemic began – it continues to have a significant impact on demand, capacity, and revenue.  

While it may be difficult in the moment, with issues that may go on for a while yet, formulating a cohesive, aligned, and strategic marketing plan will lead to an organization that’s better prepared for the future. A post-pandemic future is on the horizon, so the question is: how can non-profits turn these challenges into opportunities for strength and resilience?  How will non-profits evolve, and how will they adapt to the economic conditions that are likely to remain after the pandemic recedes? 

 

“During the current pandemic, as in past crises, non-profits feel the pinch: They have more people to help but fewer resources with which to carry out their work. 

Reimagine Your Nonprofit to Survive the Crisis, by Steve Zimmerman, June 01, 2020  

Current State of the Industry & Challenges 

The Canadian charity and non-profit sectors are an important part of the Canadian economy and have a huge impact on the lives of Canadians. They serve incredibly diverse needs and are critical to Canada’s social fabric. Non-profits in Canada alone account for 8.5% of the country’s economy, an estimated $169 billion, and employ 1.5 million Canadians full-time – fully 10% of the Canadian workforce.  

The pandemic hit vulnerable and marginalized communities especially hard. The non-profit organizations that serve these communities were forced to quickly shift their operations; Canadian non-profits reported a 30.6% decline in revenue since the onset of COVID-19, with financial losses between $4.2 billion and $6.3 billion.  

COVID-19 has impacted charities across the country as they try to pursue their missions amidst dueling health and economic crises. Research shows that 42% of charities have created new programs and 54% have transitioned in-person programs online since the beginning of the pandemic. In other cases, organizations have been forced to suspend or cease programs all together. 

While the demand for non-profit services has increased across Canada and worldwide, the multiple crises and flux in the worldwide economy since the start of the pandemic have posed new problems for the sector. Despite the obstacles and uncertainty of the past year and a half, it’s inspiring to see how the non-profit community seized the urgency of the moment and pivoted toward a new normal. With that said, though, non-profits of today face a challenging future. 

Even as non-profits inspired transformation within the communities they serve, many realized that in order to maintain and grow their impact in a world after COVID, they needed to transform themselves. For the majority of organizations, the constraints and uncertainty of the pandemic, paired with social distancing mandates, are driving significant shifts to organizational priorities.   

 

Quick Facts: 
  • There are over 170,000 charitable and nonprofit organizations in Canada. 
  • 86,000 of these are registered charities (recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency). 
  • The charitable and nonprofit sector contributes an average of 8.1% of total Canadian GDP, more than the retail trade industry and close to the value of the mining, oil and gas extraction industry 
  • Two million Canadians are employed in the charitable and nonprofit sector 
  • Over 13 million people volunteer for charities and nonprofits. 

 

Why Non-Profits Need Marketing

Non-profits showed their resilience and innovation over the last 18 months, and their ability to pivot, reset, and continue to think outside the box has been inspiring. It is exciting to see non-profits moving up again as we move forward.  

Marketing your non-profit in this new reality doesn’t have to be complicated. Consistent marketing is as essential for growing and maintaining a non-profit as it is for any business, and before COVID-19 hit, most non-profit marketing consisted of periodically updating a website and holding an annual fundraiser or benefit gala. Today, it has become more important than ever to focus marketing efforts on reaching those target audiences, educating the public, and increasing support for your organization’s mission.  

Even the most benevolent organization can’t do much good unless people know about it. Non-profits need those strong relationships with donors, volunteers, the media, and even government organizations to pursue their mission effectively. 

 

How Marketing Boosts a Non-profit: 

  • Spreads your message and mission statement
  • Brings in new donors and revenue
  • Showcasessuccessand satisfies donors 
  • Creates strong relationships with stakeholders 
  • Increasesexposurewith media 
  • Keeps a connection with the audience through sustained engagement 
  • Reaches more people about the work you do 

 

 

Top Non-Profit Trends for 2021 

The Way People Give is Changing 
  • While we hope to see forward progress throughout 2021 and beyond, the unfortunate reality is that demand for support is likely to increase in the months and years ahead.  
  • Services that provide support and connection are vital to the recovery of our communities. As social distancing restrictions are relaxed, non-profits will need to continue to find ways to realign services, increase staff capacity to expand support, and use data to understand and respond to the changing needs of the communities they serve. 
  • The pandemic upended every aspect of our lives, philanthropy included. Research reports indicate that there is a new kind of generosity as people give back to their communities in more imaginative ways, despite facing tremendous challenges. 
  • To tap into this generosity, non-profits are looking for more creative and innovative ways to support the organization’s mission, including:
      • Connecting with people digitally;
      • Non-cash charitable giving (i.e. supporting local restaurants by ordering takeout and continuing to pay businesses for services they could not use);
      • Valuable indirect and in-kind gifts.  

 

It’s Gen Z’s Time to Shine!  

Gen Z’s oldest members turn 25 in 2021, a prime age to cultivate to become charitable donors. This will be the largest consumer generation over the next five years, reaching $82 billion in spend; non-profits would do well to invest in reaching this newest generation of supporters.  

  • For a generation that grew up in the digital world, if the pandemic didn’t push organizations to go fully digital, it’s a ‘must do’ in 2021 to reach these digital dwellers.  
  • Gen Zers value inclusivity. Non-profits need to make sure they dig deep to ensure any sort of communications is diverse and inclusive.   
  • They thrive on being an integral part of their community. According to a recent Facebook report, though Gen Zers value their individuality, they also crave the connections that communities create. Organizations need to create space for community both online and offline to best engage this potent demographic.  
  • Gen Z are truthseekers and they will see right through an inauthentic brand. It’s vital a non-profit brands itself as both transparent and genuine. 

“People want access, authenticity, and transparency. Use video to lift the veil on your work. ”

- Julia Campbell, Nonprofit Digital Marketing Consultant 

 

It’s All About Video      

People want access, authenticity, and transparency. Video lifts the veil on your work and your organization’s mission. If you aren’t using video in your marketing, you’re missing a crucial opportunity. In 2021, creating video content and live streaming should be a key part to any organization’s marketing strategy.  

A recent Google survey revealed video trends for non-profits in 2021 you can’t ignore: 

  • YouTube is the top video platform. 
  • 79% of donors reported that online video ads were the most useful online media marketing they saw.  
  • Video ads tied with email ads garnered the highest and fastest levels of engagement.  
  • 39% of people who watch a video lookup the organization within a day of viewing it. 
  • 57% of people who watch a video for a non-profit donate. 

 

Tell a Story 

Storytelling is a powerful tool when it comes to non-profit marketing. Brand storytelling shows a non-profit’s personality, mission, and values. It says who you really are and what is most important to your organization. It shows your organization’s human side, allowing your supporters and audiences to feel connected to your mission and work. In today’s online world, a brand’s personality is almost as important as their actual purpose. Compelling storytelling is a must-have marketing outlet to let this personality shine through and engage consumers on a unique level, encouraging them to seek more information and get involved. 

  • Share your ‘WHY’ – stories should be as authentic as possible and have impact.   
  • Storytelling connects you to your audience – it establishes emotional relationships and brings in a group that is interested in your cause. It shows the organization as a relational, transformative, trustworthy entity—something they can believe in.  
  • Storytelling sets you apart – a non-profit’s brand is unique, and telling your story is a great way to set the brand apart from other similar organizations. Tell what makes you important, valuable, and unique compared to others in your field.  
  • Storytelling drives action – when audiences see the organization’s personality, they feel a kinship with it and understand what makes it different. This makes them feel more inclined to do something. 

 

All for One and One for All 

In 2021 we are starting to see the lines blur between the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Consumers as well as employees are demanding that businesses add more purpose to their profit-centric model, conversely, we see some non-profits adopting heavily from successful for-profit organizations in search of a more nimble and sustainable growth model. There is a rise in cross-sector partnerships with several social justice movements in 2020 taking centre stage. Consumers (and donors) expect organizations to be more value-driven and take an ethical stand. This is good news for the non-profit sector, as more and more Canadian businesses will be seeking meaningful collaborations and relationships with non-profits.  

Marketing a non-profit isn’t a solo activity. Strategic partnerships can expand the reach of marketing efforts by finding ways to partner with the people or organizations who are in sync with your non-profit’s mission and can help advance your cause.  

 

The Future for Canadian Non-Profits 

While everyone is excited to getting back to normal, the reality is that normal has decisively changed. Our world looks completely different than it did before, so in order to adapt and thrive, the non-profit sector needs to be prepared for what that will look like. Though there will never be a true replacement for the personal touch of a phone call or the fun of a fundraiser or gala, organizations will need to augment and scale their marketing strategies to stay relevant, reach new supporters and support the changing needs of their communities. Today every non-profit is challenged to do more with less — resources are tight and teams are small. These organizations might not operate for profit, but they can still reap value from the traffic, funds, and awareness that good marketing can bring them. 

Industry Marketing Analysis: Tourism 

The tourism industry was one of the hardest hit by the events of the last 18 months – but much like a river, dammed up and ready to burst as soon as it is able, the desire for getting “back to normal” is stronger than ever. Though it may be a trickle for a while before it can fully flow, this gradual return is exactly what is projected for the industry, through 2021 and beyond. 

 

Defining Tourism 

Tourism is an incredibly unique industry, because the very product is subjective to its consumer. For example, every visitor to an equatorial resort can have a wildly different experience: some might love the food, while others might get sick; some may love the sounds of nature, while others will be tired of the crickets by the first night.  

Because of this subjectivity, the tourism marketing opportunities needed to capture a specific audience must target the exact highlights that a potential traveler is desperate to find, relive, or experience. 

 

Tourism Statistics in 2021 

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdowns absolutely walloped the tourism industry – data on International travelers to Canada (courtesy of Statistics Canada, and presented in graphical form here) <CHART> shows that the number dropped to less than 10% of the previous year for January and February. March is starting to show as a relative bright spot, with 16.2% of 2020’s inbound travelers (this data is also from the Stats Canada link above). Further, in the period from January 2020 to November 2020, no Canadian industry sector was struck harder than tourism regarding policies and practices designed to limit COVID-19 transmission (source: page 14). 

In spite of those hopeful upturns, the tourism industry is not quite out of the woods yet. The United Nations World Tourism Organization said in January that international travels fell off by 74% in 2020, that destinations welcomed 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than the previous year, and that this represented a loss of $1.3 trillion USD in export revenues. 

While Canada’s tourism gross domestic product is small relative to the big picture – just $39.72 billion in 2019 versus the slightly larger $1.645 trillion CAD total GDP – other nations are staggeringly dependent on tourism dollars. Macau, Maldives and Seychelles round out the top three nations with the highest percent of 2019 GDP tied up in travel and tourism, at 72%, 66.1%, and 65.8%, respectively – Macau’s GDP plummeted to $24.33 billion USD in 2020, compared to $55.15 billion USD in 2019. That’s a loss of nearly 56%. 

Let’s turn the corner now, shall we? 

Investors are. 

Articles are popping up daily with top picks for big-winner stocks in the travel and tourism sector. We mentioned early on that export revenues experienced a loss of $1.3 trillion USD – but where did it go? From a Canadian perspective, the answer is: nowhere. We still have it. CIBC economists believe Canadians have nested an additional $100 billion CAD in savings, due to a year rife with nights in and suitcases forlorn and forgotten beneath staircases. You can bet that when travel restrictions start to vanish, pens around the world will be busily scratching items from bucket lists that took a pause through COVID-19. 

 

Tourism post-COVID: the New Menu 

Tourism is taking a new form in the post-pandemic era. The very ethics of going from place-to-place came into strong consideration for many before lockdown even began, and now travel itself is entering a new generation. 

Here are the ways we at William Joseph see people engaging with their world: 

 

The Road Trip: Trails Close to Home 

The Wall Street Journal declared RV vacations “The Safest Way to Travel” for a leisure trip. In the year of the pandemic, that should come as no surprise. But beyond that, every word here is a link to a different song. Pick any two words, and you’ll catch the theme. Chances are good you’ll know the songs, too. For many locked to the earth by travel restrictions, the institution of the road trip has taken on new meaning. “Tourist attractions near me” has seen a spike in popularity through the pandemic, with domestic tourism demand expected to rise over 30% in 2021 compared to 2020 (Page 23). It’s about the journey; not the destination. 

 

Workcations 

Work from home? More like work from roam (patent pending). For those who have been dismissed from the workplace in favour of a home office, ask yourself: could you do your job with a steady Wi-Fi connection? Why not take your 9-5 in the off-hours and spend the evening strolling the Champs-Élysées? There’s a great overview of this growing trend here. 

 

The Solo Adventure 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so why not leave your bubble behind? This article from LonelyPlanet sourced a recent poll from booking.com that suggests 30% of travelers would now consider a solo trip, up from 17% pre-pandemic. A trip to discover yourself is substantially harder with your friends and family around, and if social distancing remains something of a concern, solo travel may continue to blossom as a new way to see the world – your way. 

 

The Digitized Experience 

Travel, at its heart, is meant to be an experience. For some, it’s cultural; for others, it’s a challenge; and for others still, it’s catharsis. Technology was already playing a big role, but the pandemic accelerated the importance of contactless, self-sufficient, sustainable places of interest in the travel world. Take a look at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience to see a prime example of this. The comfort of a smartphone, the ease of a QR code, and the cost-to-benefit ratio of a guided tour on an app is a new reality all tourist destinations – and their visitors – face. 

 

Conscious Travelers 

The digitized experience continues to expand across platforms, but, like the road trip, the idea of leaving modern creature comforts behind still holds appeal. Conscious travelers are those who set their gadgets aside and connect with the value of human fulfillment through experiential means. This value add includes a gain of cultural understanding, and a recent poll states that travel ethics are becoming far more important: 78% of travelers are more ethically conscious than they were a decade prior, and 39% are harbouring guilt from previous tourist attractions that may have had negative impacts on an environment or its denizens: swimming with dolphins, or taking a ride on an elephant, for example. 

 

Where Do We Go Now? 

Because of every tourist’s subjectivity, catching and holding their attention while trying to track their individual opinions and philosophies is a defining challenge of the time we live in. But being in the right place to benefit when travel resumes – and it will – will involve in-depth analytics, process evolutions, sturdy and meaningful branding, and perhaps most of all, trips that are absolutely worth it. So, when that day arrives and our familiar four walls can be cast aside for a plane ticket or an open road, make sure that yours are. 

 

How to Create Effective Environmental Branding

What to Know About Environmental Brand Assets

So the hard work is done: your business has an established brand, or has recently rebranded. You know your colours and fonts off by heart, and your essence and tone of voice are outlined in a carefully developed brand guide – a marketing resource that visualizes and articulates the culture of your organization. And now you’re asking, “What’s next?”

A brand strategy looks at the different brand assets that are essential to developing strong brand recall and improving customer satisfaction – and these assets have been shown to increase employee productivity. One of the most important of these, which every business should think about, is environmental branding. 

 

What is Environmental Branding?

Environmental branding is the act of physically implementing brand elements into your workspaces, stores, or shops. Think of this asset as interior design mixed with the power of marketing, creating a “super-asset” – one that can be very powerful if it resonates with people on a deeply emotional and fundamental level. However, in order for it to resonate with people, your brand must be believable at all touchpoints, including your place of business; using elements from your mission statement, colours from your brand palette, and shapes from your logo are all great places start.

If you want to take your environmental branding to the next level, adding in elements of your sustainable marketing initiatives will help drive the most important message of all: your purpose. For example, if your purpose is to be an eco-friendly business, purchase repurposed furniture from Etsy or secondhand stores. Think about the ways you can use your physical space to drive your business’s purpose and explore various opportunities to infuse environmental branding into your business model.

 

Creating a Full Brand Experience for Clients and Customers

Think of environmental branding as interior design marketing, where space is used to tell your brand’s story and make a genuine emotional connection. This means looking at everything – from walls and windows to floors and furniture. Think of your space and the tone you want to set, too: for a tech company, this is likely a cool and sleek experience with areas of fun trickled through the office; for a brewery, you might aim for a cozy and welcoming “home” feel.

 

Ideas to Brand Your Office Space
  • Use a neon sign that writes out a main company value.
  • Choose furniture that has a similar shape to your logo and uses your brand colours.
  • Create a space that emanates a feeling. Want your employees to have fun at work? Add a pinball machine. Eager to encourage outdoor lunches? Add a picnic table to your outdoor space. Environmental marketing is your business’s vibe, manifested into reality and lived out fully.

 

Ideas to Brand Your Shop Space
  • To make your customers feel like family, take pictures of your employees and hang them on the well in eclectic frames.
  • To emphasize your sustainable marketing and your belief in creating inclusive spaces for all people, integrate that messaging and visual language into your bathroom signage.
  • Hoping for a warm space that invites customers through the door? Think sofas, throw pillows, curtains in your brand’s colors, and warm and welcoming low lighting.

 

Environmental Branding at the Office and Home

As you change your office space to be more dynamic and provide a place for your team to get a breather from the work-from-home life, remember that there are other ways to cleverly implement environmental branding. Start thinking of digital opportunities, like offering your team branded Zoom or Microsoft Teams backgrounds for online meetings. Think of ways to create physical opportunities in your space that lead customers and team members to post pictures on their own personal social media. It could be as simple as a feature wall at the front entrance, with a sign highlighting a branded hashtag and your organizational handles.

Environmental branding is an essential brand asset for every business, and when seamlessly integrated into your space, it tells a more complete story of who you are and what you believe in. There are even organizations like WJ’s client and friend, Identity Ink, that can help you bring your vision purpose to life.

For help with your brand visuals and how to make the most of your space, reach out today and get a whole team of experts that can move your brand forward!

Industry Marketing Analysis: Home Developers 

“Home is where my habits have a habitat.”  

Homebuilding may have been one of the earliest activities humans have done, going back even farther than writing. This quote by American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple is one of an easy hundred thousand about the power, value, and importance of ‘a place to hang your hat.’  

As the Canadian population continues to grow, the number of roofs over our heads grows as well. But the last two years have presented a new series of challenges for home builders and developers, and the adaptation is likely not done yet: the next few years may present even greater challenges for the housing market. 

 

COVID-19 and the Alberta Housing Market 

The start of the pandemic marked the lowest gains in five years for housing starts; only $11.7 billion went through in April 2020. The subsequent return rally was quick, however, with May 2020’s total investment topping $14 billion. Since then, a steady rise above $19.6 billion has been enjoyed as late as April of 2021, but the moves are beginning to cool once again 

A major reason for the increased prices through the second quarter comes back to increased costs for materials, including lumber. But increased demand played a role as well; demand climbed for more living space in the wake of lockdowns across Canada. In fact, communities like Ottawa reported the largest annual growth of new housing prices in February, at an incredible 9.5% in just one year. 

This is not so in Alberta, though. Calgary saw the new housing price index drop by 1.1% from February to August 2020, and among 27 census metropolitan areas it was hit hardest of all, while others experienced growth. Other resource-driven communities saw the same trend, like Edmonton (-0.31%) and Regina (-0.96%). Saskatoon saw a modest rise of .10% and Vancouver jumped by 2.35% in the same period.   

Even as prices fell, construction costs for residential buildings rose at an unheard-of pace in Calgary of 31.4%. This combination doesn’t bode well for the housing market – but even so, the foundation for growth is there, compared to last year. The year-over-year increase of single-detached units is 40% for urban housing starts as of July 2021. Business is available, but tenuous.  

Further, the number of rentals available hasn’t been this high in nearly 25 years, adding another layer of competition to a saturated market.  

 

Fundamentals of the Canadian Housing Market 

From the chart here on alberta.ca, we see a significant return to housing starts action since the start of the COVID pandemic:  

Further, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation foresees steady growth in housing prices to close 2021, before rising interest rates slow housing activity for 2022-23. The Calgary Real Estate Board even tracked July numbers as the “best on record”. 

However, the industry is largely fueled by a high quantity of smaller-scale establishments, which service their specific geographic markets – which means it’s challenging to capture significant market share (IBISWorld, 2018). In a competitive market, it’s important for potential clients to see your company as a preferred choice. That, in turn, takes a compelling brand and a clear value proposition.   

Right now presents a great opportunity for brand awareness campaigns to elevate your image, especially given the present state of the market. If the CMHC is right and housing starts dip in the coming years, it’s simply good business to position your company for maximum returns.  

 

Reaching your Ceiling 

So, the industry is packed with competition: what can you do to rise above it? The first step will involve meeting with your team to establish and refine what you’re most proud to offer potential customers. Next, it’s time to upgrade your marketing activities to tell that story at every opportunity. 

 

Build the framework of your brand

The first step is to establish the brand from which the rest of your marketing material will bloom. For more on the importance of brand, see Rebrand Wins & Fails: The Right Way to Evolve a Brand.  

 

Shout it from the rooftops

In today’s world, there are many ways to get the message across. Social media platforms and traditional advertising methods present their own strengths, weaknesses, and demographics, and making sure you’re marketing to the right people is critical for defining your success. You and your team have a story; it might seem boring to the person living it, but someone else is always interested.  

 

Infuse the brand in everything you do

Having your information out there isn’t enough – a strong digital presence makes a world of difference. If you’re participating in social media, a constant and significant presence that aligns with pre-determined brand messaging is going to be critical to your success.  

Is a new build finished? Are you proud of it? Did a teammate achieve a new certification or ticket? It all adds to your story, builds familiarity and social proof, and strengthens your image.  

Marketing is by no means a catch-all solution, but as we head into potentially uncertain times, it’s an important component to future success. For a customized solution that identifies the best way to tell your story at the world, remember that the team at William Joseph is here to help!