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?

How LinkedIn Advertising is Changing

With every new shift in consumer behaviour, the rules of advertising change as well. From newspaper pages and billboards to radio spots, TV commercials, and the infamous rise of the pop-up ad, staying informed of new trends – and visible in a sea of competitors – is crucial to success.

Over the last six months, we’ve watched one of these shifts happen before our eyes. One of the digital marketing world’s most well-known platforms, LinkedIn, has seen big changes in its traffic and cost-per-click (CPC) rates. Why is this happening? And more importantly, what does it mean for your company’s LinkedIn traffic and marketing success?

Working (and Browsing LinkedIn) from Home

As many workplaces went remote in the spring of 2020, something predictable happened: radio and TV ad spends became less important, and online advertising rose in prominence. People started spending more time online at home and growing their networks on platforms liked LinkedIn – engagement went up by 50%, with 26% more sessions overall. It’s no surprise, then, that a lot of B2B marketing occurs on LinkedIn, but now B2C companies are turning their attention there, too.

LinkedIn Advertising is Changing - B2B advertising platforms

LinkedIn leads the way in B2B advertising (from Omnicore Agency)

 

At first, that seems strange. Why those changes in Linkedin traffic and ads? But it’s important to note that many users on the site have a high “lifetime value” – that is, the things they purchase will not just be an impulse, but rather the start of a long consumer relationship. Industries like higher education, luxury goods, legal or financial services, recruitment, and automotive needs can all reach high-value lifetime customers, right there on LinkedIn.

The Impacts of Changing Online Activity

One of the biggest consequences of the shift to more online time is over-exposure to advertising. Many users are scrolling past ads on social media even more than usual, hardly even registering its presence. With that said, there are many more users than ever before – looking for new careers and opportunities, or building networks – and they’re ready to engage. They’re simply more picky about what to engage with, and a strong strategy is still a keystone to success.

This trend is combined with a surge in competition in some industries for online advertising space, as they try to make up for lost foot traffic and physical storefronts with increased online spends. For most industries, CPC rates went down – as some companies reduced their advertising budgets due to tighter finances – but for many large sectors, rates increased. Real estate and retail CPCs went up by roughly 15%, and construction and manufacturing went up by 5%. Others, such as home improvement, automotive, education, jobs, and legal services, all saw various increases, too. So if your boss has sent an unexpected email saying “Why does LinkedIn have high CPC?!” in all caps, know that you’re not alone in feeling the effects.

The Future of LinkedIn Advertising

While consumer habits have changed, their needs and wants are still there, waiting to be fulfilled. However, it is no longer good enough to simply make an offer and wait for sales and revenue to roll in, because those days are gone. Post-pandemic consumers want something more – something engaging, authentic, and valuable to their personalities.

LinkedIn Advertising is Changing - Customer Experience Mindset graphic

Keep the new customer experience in mind (from Forbes)

 

Here are some tips that will definitely come in handy for the future of advertising on LinkedIn:

  1. Be “cautiously creative” with new techniques, looks, audiences, and tools. People have moved from work computers to personal devices, throwing off all the carefully-calibrated algorithms of days past. But that’s okay! Experiment with different audiences, retargeting parameters, lifestyle demographics, and even creative tools like graphics and copy. Just make sure it’s not too off-the-wall or intrusive.

 

  1. Aim to help and educate rather than make a sale. Useful resources like blogs, e-books, webinars, and so on may take a while to pay off – but when they do, you’ve made a loyal, lifelong customer, who remembers the help you offered in a hard time.

 

  1. Use your full funnel and always get a way to follow up. With more eyes on your ads, you get more potential customers – but also a lot more dead ends. A properly-constructed sales funnel will guide the best ones to the end. Don’t forget to offer incentives that will help build an email list so you can follow up down the road.

 

  1. Be active when your audience is. The best results for boosted posts have changed to reflect the lack of commutes and office idle time. Wednesdays after 3, Thursdays between 9-10 AM, and Friday before lunch (11 AM–12 PM) are your best bet, while overall engagement trends have moved to roughly 8 AM to 4 PM.

 

  1. Stay upbeat and positive. There’s a lot going on, and people are often looking for an escape. Help them find it with positive messaging, optimistic offerings, and a way to forget their troubles for a moment or two.

 

If you need help defining your strategic LinkedIn advertising plan for the future, coming up with new branding, or creating a full eye-catching campaign, you’re in the right place! Let us know what you’re thinking, and together, we’ll come up with something tailored to your needs – after all, it’s what we’re best at!

Stampede Marketers, Where Art Thou?

Get your cowboy boots, hats, and sunscreen ready, because Stampede season is here!

While the Calgary Stampede is a summer event that Calgarians (and especially us here at WJ) anticipate, there is a noticeable lull this year. Have you felt it?

In 2012, Calgary celebrated its 100th Stampede, and the city was packed with stampede-themed advertisements, decorations and, of course, parties. This year, though, we’re not seeing the same level of Stampede advertising (even the coveted Cowboy’s Stampede party isn’t sold out yet). Although the economy is slowly starting to get better here in Alberta, there appears to be less participation and less marketing from local businesses surrounding the Stampede.

While this is to be expected, we’re here to tell you that the value of marketing and demonstrating your commitment to the community in which you operate cannot be underestimated. In times of economic downturn, the concept of community is more important than ever. While consumers are spending less, communicating the idea that “we’re in this together” can help relate you to your target audience, who will subsequently develop a positive connection with your brand.

This is especially so during the Calgary Stampede – an event which only four years ago brought Calgarians together in a strong, emotional and unexpected way during the chaos and stress of extreme flooding. While spending capital on marketing may seem like it will cast a negative light on your brand, especially when falling oil prices have affected our city so greatly, it’s understandable that you’re cautious; however, a little can go a long way in terms of marketing.

Not sure what to think? Here are some things to consider:

Your brand is your most important asset

Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Organizations which support efforts aimed at improving their brand and reputation are the organizations which are the strongest (and come out with the highest profit margins, even in a downturned economy).  Recessions don’t last forever, and businesses which recognize this fact and think long-term are the ones which succeed. What does that mean for you? Spending capital on improving your reputation and ensuring your brand is strongly represented amongst consumers and the community is not a waste of money. An investment in marketing is an investment in improving your brand equity, and that is just smart investing. See our previous blog on reputation versus brands here.

While your marketing budget may seem like an easy cut, consider this: a cost-cutting analysis of 1,000 firms during previous economic downturns produced by PIMS (Profit Impact Marketing Strategy) found that the most successful firms cut costs in manufacturing, administration, and spare capacity, and those that cut marketing budgets take a much harder hit profit-wise. Research conducted by AdWeek in 2009 similarly found that firms which cut marketing budgets during recessions saw sales fall anywhere from 20-30% over the following two years as a result. That’s a major loss.

Don’t make it about you – make it about them

While you may not have the marketing budget you once did, consider shifting your focus to your consumers who are also affected by the economy. For example, when do you think Calgarians most need your positivity, support and community involvement more than right now?

This doesn’t mean that it’s time for a big budget, flashy billboards and an aggressive social media strategy. What it means is show that you care, that you’re in it together and, most importantly, that you’re willing to show up for them. In other words, make an emotional connection between your audience and brand by playing a part in local and community-driven events, such as the Calgary Stampede. As AdWeek puts it, “word of mouth is a powerful amplifier”, and showing support for your community can build an emotional bond between your brand and your consumers, get mouths moving, and help to improve your overall reputation.

Maybe the economic climate means that you can’t sponsor as big of a Stampede pancake breakfast as you once did; however, there are still ways to add value. Consider how you can save consumers money or time, or think about showing your employees how much you appreciate their dedication by sending personalized thank-you’s for all of their hard work (they are your biggest brand ambassadors, after all). Of course, this advice can be taken into consideration for any relevant community-centred event, not just the ones that involve plaid, short-shorts and cowboys.

Gaining Customers’ Trust in the Age of Millennials

Trust is a shrinking commodity. One might think that with the propagation of exhibitionist social media and an overflow of un-gated information we would feel we know more about each other and our businesses. This supposedly overt transparency is actually making us less trusting. We’ve seen more and more that most institutions and people, from the pillars of our society—big banks and government—to local businesses, athletes, and professionals, are not entirely genuine or upfront about their actions and intentions. People have always known this, but never have we been inundated with examples of people’s duplicity, professionally and personally, so frequently.

Several studies over the past few years (by Pew and others) have found that younger generations are far less trusting than their elders. Of Millennials—defined by Pew as people born after 1980—only 19% believe that most people can be trusted. For them, trust is not assumed. It must be earned.

Millennials are more skeptical of companies’ promises about their services, products, and operations. As the most populous generation, Millennials now dominate B2B and B2C markets. They’re the ones buying your consumer products and making purchasing decisions at companies however they’re even more distrustful of authorities and established entities. This presents a challenge for businesses targeting individual consumers and businesses, but it’s also an opportunity for those able to make a more authentic connection with them and prove they are worthy of trust.

Companies must build a trusting relationship throughout the consumer pathway if they’re to connect with these customers and earn their loyalty. If a customer begins to question a company’s authenticity, capabilities, or promise at any touch point, trust can be irreparably harmed.

In the B2B buying space, this is even more important. In this space, customers are often signing high-value contracts for goods or services that have a significant effect on their company’s bottom line. Often, they are purchasing services or customized products. Service-focused companies or those offering customized products rely on trust and credibility more than any other because the customer is buying something that has yet to be created. Unlike with a product, such as a physical item or piece of software, the customer cannot evaluate a service or customized product before purchase. It takes a great deal of trust to purchase something that doesn’t exist yet.

Here are a few key points to help you establish and protect trust with your customers:

  1. Poor design and copywriting can damage your credibility and a customer’s trust in your product or abilities. Ensure all your marketing assets, from your website to your business card authentically demonstrate your brand, your value, and your professionalism and attention to detail. If your marketing isn’t in order, people will wonder what else isn’t in order.
  2. Social media can make a company more transparent and prove its authenticity. Use social media to give customers a sense of your character and personality. Millennials don’t like to meet sales people face-to-face as much, but you can still help them know you, on their terms.
  3. Offer value with no strings attached. Publish content that informs, educates and presents your perspective. This content is an outreached hand with a true offer of value, not a masked sales pitch. If it’s strong content that is relevant to your customers and your business, they’ll have more trust in your abilities and appreciate your help.
  4. Feature testimonials and customer stories. The second most trusted form of information after recommendations from personal connections is consumer opinions posted online. Seventy per cent of people trust these reviews completely or somewhat (Nielson Global Trust in Advertising Survey 2015). Featuring testimonials on your website or in your other marketing initiatives allows prospective customers evaluating your trustworthiness to see that others have had a positive experience. They’ll trust your credibility, capabilities, and integrity more after reading recommendations from others.

Arts and Culture Marketing

Marketing for arts and culture clients presents unique challenges that are difficult to navigate. Often with limited budgets, arts and culture organizations have an uphill battle to get audiences and attendees to take part in their events.

At William Joseph, we understand these challenges through our continuing work with the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary and Edmonton. Through our longstanding relationship, we have helped the Jube make the most of their marketing investment through a complete rebrand that carried their marketing strategy across many platforms. Modernizing the everything from their website to their staff uniforms, we developed a brand that would engage with both new visitors and returning guests.

For a successful marketing initiative, like our work with the Jubilee, you must be ever mindful of the potential audience while not alienating the core group that continues to return to the venue. To get started, it is essential to define your potential audience to best gear your marketing towards them while ensuring your messaging does not scare away any of your core group of patrons. In addition to this, you must be ever mindful of the limitations your budget may have on the success of your strategy.

There are several industry trends that can be leveraged in the marketing of arts and culture organizations, and allow them to stretch their marketing budgets.
• Mobile: Mobile ticketing and e-commerce is a great way to ensure your patrons can easily find your event, but also easily pay for and attend using only their phone.
• Analytics: Starting a reliable database not only allows you to target your marketing efforts to those who attend your events, but also gives you the opportunity to analyze the demographics of potential patrons.
• Social Media: Engagement, engagement, engagement! Giving your patrons and potential patrons something to talk about is crucial to finding donors and members. Effective social media campaigns are an inexpensive way to stretch your marketing budget and engage with a wider variety of people than a targeted email campaign.

With that in mind, here are three starting tips for a successful campaign to properly market arts and culture:

1. Utilize your budget: Invest wisely in channels that will have the greatest impact on your bottom line by engaging the right audience with the right event.
2. Utilize digital, mobile, and social media marketing: With a decent email database of returning patrons you can gear your marketing towards individuals most likely to return to your venue, as well as analyze the success of that marketing. In addition to this, utilize a complete mobile experience, from e-commerce to e-blasts, to ensure customer ease during transaction and communication. Finally, engage the public with a well-planned social media campaign to promote your venue and events.
3. Utilize your brand: Do not attempt to engage with your potential audience in a way that would push against your brand. If you do not have a clearly defined brand, how can you expect your audience to react to your marketing materials? Start with a strong brand, and utilize it to engage with the individuals most likely to become reliable patrons of your establishment.