Full-Service Agency vs. Specialty Shop

When looking to hire a marketing agency, one major question comes to mind: do you hire a full-service advertising agency, or a specialty firm? While this decision is fundamentally based on your business needs, you should consider whether you are looking to fix one piece of your marketing pie, or if you are in search of a “one stop shop” which offers fully-integrated solutions.

If you’re looking for a fully-integrated and synergized marketing solution, a full-service ad agency is your best bet. As the marketing sphere can be highly saturated and hard to navigate, particularly when it comes to Energy, it’s imperative that you to make an informed decision about where you invest your marketing dollars. Given the oil and gas industry is on the upswing, the right investment now will prove rewarding in the coming days, months and years. So, what makes for the “right investment,” and what makes full-service advertising agencies different?

 

Full-Service Advertising Agency: A complete service, fully-integrated marketing agency which is adept at handling all marketing and advertising requirements that you, your brand or your business may have in-house. From strategy and branding to event management and creative, advertising agencies aim to translate your corporate identity through a wide range of mediums to successfully promote your business. In other words, they offer a complete solution.
Specialty Expert: Advertising specialists, such as a firm which specializes in video production or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), are highly focused agencies with streamlined capabilities, and which are experts in their respective area(s). They are generally slightly smaller than full-service agencies and do not offer fully-integrated marketing solutions; however, they have precise expertise in their given field as they have a smaller focus than a full-service ad agency.


So, what are some of the benefits of employing a full-service advertising agency versus a specialty expert?

 

Industry Knowledge: If you think the reason you’re not generating enough leads is due to your lack of SEO, you’re likely to approach an SEO specialist. But, what if the issue is something other than your SEO? What if your brand’s primary issue is misdiagnosed solely because the specialist agency cannot provide other solutions? Consider this – specialists have an in-depth understanding of a specific, limited area. Agencies which have experience dealing with a larger range of industry segments are likely to have a broader and, in a sense, greater understanding of the industry as a whole. Given the dynamic nature of the oil and gas industry, a greater understanding is a major advantage.

It’s important to look at the very foundation of your business and use it as a basis for developing in-depth brand, insights and tactical recommendations. In other words, don’t misdiagnose. Find an agency who’s expertise allows them to conduct thorough research and analysis to help determine the challenge, and overcome it.

One Point of Contact: Unlike specialty agencies where you may have separate contacts for your SEO strategy, video production, PR, web design and so on, full-service agencies are your one-stop-marketing-shop. Employing a full-service ad agency means you will have a designated Account Manager who will be your one point of contact for all questions, concerns or praises. Looking to develop a brand strategy, targeted SEO, plan a photoshoot, and anything and everything in between? Your Account Manager will be your business representative, and will work within the highly qualified team of strategists, programmers, copywriters and creative suite to build and implement strategic campaigns that connect with your audience at every stage of your project.

Cohesive Strategy: Full-service ad agencies are in constant communication between departments and Account Managers. That means that each team member that touches your project has a detailed understanding of your brand and what other marketing initiatives you’re currently pursuing. They will also have access to your brand and insights documents, allowing them to ensure consistent branding and key messaging across all forms of marketing. Efficiency at its finest, saving you both time and money.

Cost-Savings: While specialty agencies may appear less expensive than full-service agencies, this is a common misconception. Full-service agencies almost always offer competitive pricing models, with the option to “bundle” marketing services together depending on the level and depth of your project needs.

To have value, marketing must drive performance. While strong individually, teams are stronger together. Having an experienced partner that allows you to conquer challenges and achieve your boldest ambitions is essential to rising above and standing out in an industry inundated with competition.

Top 5 Marketing Design Trends for 2017

In today’s highly digitalized world, brands are in constant competition with one another. It seems to be an ongoing fight for attention and a battle to see who’s marketing efforts reel in the best ROI. In the past, the most effective (and most popular) marketing mantra was to “sell, sell, sell” as quickly and as aggressively as possible. Now, effective marketing requires an entirely new way of thinking. How do we compel, attract new consumers, retain current consumers, and also accurately represent our brand?

While not always considered a priority, clever marketers realize that innovative design should be ingrained in any brand’s marketing. Whether or not you realize it, the design of your marketing tactics, from print collateral to web and digital promotions, should communicate who you are, what you believe in and what you sell. Smart design strengthens your message and brand, while also sparking curiosity and inspiring action from your target audience.

So, what makes for an effective design when it comes to marketing? We sat down with WJ’s Creative Team to discuss our Top 5 Marketing Design Trends for 2017.

  1. Bold Photography, with Minimal, Impactful Content

Embracing minimalism, and being purposeful in the content you use, is a current trend. This doesn’t necessarily mean using a neutral colour palette. Rather, this style is often based on a simple yet consistent colour palette combined with interesting font styles that personify a brand or company. All words are used intentionally and are compelling, meaning minimal copy is most effective to tell a clear story. Based on the small amount of copy used, websites which feature this design are very easy to navigate, while ads featuring this design are easy to read and have power behind them.

 

 

  1. Louder, Brighter Colours

The trend of using louder, brighter colours is a result of the recent popularity from the 1980s, and is a popular trend within the music industry as well as with experiential marketing. This trend uses saturated images with bold typography and minimal content. While this trend has been growing since 2016, it has really picked up traction, especially when brands demonstrate support for charitable causes. It’s important to note that too much colour, unless representative of your brand, is overkill. However, using a bright palette with neutral backgrounds can prove to be effective in giving your company a fresh look.

 

 

  1. Cinemagraphs

Animation has become a major design trend in 2017. While a cinemagraph is not an animation, it certainly looks like one. You may or may not have heard the term “Cinemagraph.” They are still photographs where a small portion of the photo moves such that it looks like its moving. Often times, the part of the photo that moves is quite minor, such as a person under an umbrella will not move but the rain around them continues to fall. Essentially, a cinemagraph creates a dynamic design through the use of small movement, creating a video clip or GIF, to give your photo life. They can either be visually captivating, or visually annoying, so finding the right balance between simplicity and complexity is vital to the success of using them.

 

  1. Gradients

Ahh, gradients. The trend that you never thought would come back in style. In using the perfect blend of complex and simple design, gradients are a great way to use contrast against a basic design. Take for example the Apple IPhone X ads, where the gradient phone backgrounds surround the simplistic design of the phone. Even the social networking app Instagram recently updated its logo to include a gradient reminiscent of a Microsoft Powerpoint slide. By using gradients, basic designs become more complex, allowing brands to communicate a clear message without being boring or lacking ingenuity.

  1. Modular Design

Modular design, or building with style as we call it here at WJ, is a visually appealing design that does not overwhelm consumers. In other words, modular design makes for a tactic that is easy to navigate and easy to understand. These designs will often center around usability. Consider social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram, and how their simplified design allows for information to be presented in such a way that users get information easily and quickly. Similarly, the design of apps, and websites that act like apps, are very important to consumers. While mobiles are a prevalent way for consumers to access the web or get information, the demand for people to do so on their phone and be able to get the information right away is extremely high. Modular design, or simple design, helps that happen, and is a major trend for 2017.

Examples:

https://waaark.com/

https://www.apple.com/ca/

 

 

Sources for Reference 

https://webdesignledger.com/9-graphic-design-trends-need-aware-2017/#bda5c17ab9

https://www.ballantine.com/7-emerging-marketing-design-trends-2017-infographic/

http://www.theshineagency.com/our-work/svl/

How to Market to Millennials

Millennials – The most tech-savvy and media-connected generation of all, and yet, also the generation which demands the most attention and dedication when it comes to creating relevant content. Millennials are born digital natives, constantly adopting new platforms and have taken the lead in the technological era. This means even big-name brands are having to work harder and get more strategic, to connect with them.

In 2016, Accenture estimated that millennials were spending $600 billion a year and, according to RetailLeader.com, this spending power is only increasing. In fact, RetailLeader.com estimates that they will spend $10 trillion in their lifetimes. As one of the largest generations in history, millennials are transforming the economy and the way we buy and sell. In other words, they are an emerging market that you need to capitalize on to be successful.

So, just how do you do that? Here are a few tips and tricks.
First, what is a millennial?

Born between 1980-2000, Google defines a millennial as “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century”. Keep in mind, millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change with substantial technological advancements, making them arguably the most digitally-savvy generation to date.

How do we market to them?

Here are our top four tips:

  • It’s all about them: Research by Crowdtap shows that millennials are constantly connected, and that they are engaged in some sort of media for approximately 17.8 hours a day. As digital natives, they are constantly exposed to various ads, campaigns and messaging. How do you grab them? You relate to them, and develop content specifically with their attitudes, needs and wants in mind. Trends suggest marketing to millennials can be most effective when using emotion and visually-stimulating content that can alter their mood and prompt them to share. In other words, content marketing is key.
  • Content Marketing WORKS: A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. As mentioned above, content marketing, or developing strategic and relevant content for a specific audience, works. Content marketing focuses on the ‘individual experience’ rather than merely selling a product, service or brand. Learn more about content marketing here. [link to our content marketing blog]
  • Mobile Marketing is key:com reports that 85% of millennials own a smartphone, and BazaarVoice found that 73% reported to have made purchases directly on their smartphones. That stat speaks for itself.
  • They are brand loyal: Brand loyalty is simply one of the reasons why investing into a great, authentic brand is important along with making an effort to develop a memorable, positive reputation in the digital sphere. RetailLeader.com found that millennials often form intense brand loyalty, with 70% claiming they come back to brands they prefer. Still even more staggering a statistic is that 84% of them indicate user-generated content, or other millennials’ opinions, have some influence on what they buy, your brand is more important than ever.

What brands are doing it right?

Starbucks

Without question, Starbucks, has it right when marketing to millennials. Fortune magazine found that consumers aged 18-24 accounted for 40% of the firm’s overall sales. As Jeff Fromm from Millennial Marketing asserts, the phrase “let’s go get a coffee” almost always results in said coffee being shared by said millennial through various social media platforms.

So, what are they doing to attract such devotion? Other than starting a rewards program to reward those repeat millennial customers for their brand loyalty, Starbucks put a major emphasis on digital content marketing, sharing relevant content in an open environment, and inviting conversation and two-way communication. Starbucks’ main Instagram account has more than 14.8 million followers alone.

Dove (Real Beauty Campaign)

With it’s Real Beauty Campaign, Dove champions the idea of healthy body image to a variety of audiences; however, millennials are eating it up. A stunning campaign with a positive message, Dove has capitalized on major trends to attract their audience. These include partnering with Snapchat to “filter out negativity and promote positive body image” as well as boosted social posts, a targeted digital strategy and emotion-evoking videos, photos and content. MediaInCanada.com found that Dove’s Snapchat partnership proved extremely effective, and made more than 1.7 million impressions through messages and stories in the first day. Go, Dove!

 

 

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday

Oh Canada! As we gear up to celebrate the sesquicentennial of our home and native land, marketers revel in Canadiana as they vie for advertising supremacy. This year, we’ve seen creative campaigns that fall into three categories: those that pull on the heart-strings with feel-good vibes, bandwagon jumpers waving a maple leaf for no rhyme or reason, and those unexpected campaigns that succeed with their originality.

As advertisers and brands try to articulate what it means to be Canadian in 2017, one thing is certain – Canadians are proud of the values our country champions: diversity, community and equality. An emphasis on values over cultural history in Canada 150 advertising opens the door to more brands, including those non-native companies that want a piece of the tourtière.  What’s important when dabbling in patriotism is forming an authentic, emotional connection. Instead of merely relying on assumed Canadian iconography, it’s important for brands to tell an authentic story and embody the values they’re pushing. The task herein, then, lies in how effectively and creatively brands position their identity within the Canadian landscape.

There’s no denying that Canada is having a moment; our cultural capital has skyrocketed over the past few years thanks to the likes of our celebrity exports (Ryan Gosling, the Biebs and Drake, to name a few), our photogenic Prime Minister and our reputation for being inclusive, welcoming and kind. With so much cultural relevance to draw on, brands have had to determine which angle they’ll take when crafting Canada 150 campaigns. Whether it’s a nod to our heritage, a tribute to our current social street cred or a focus on the future, Canada is a hot commodity. Better yet, the official Canada 150 logo is free to use, even on items for sale, (as long as companies apply for a license from the Department of Canadian Heritage).

Here’s a look at how some of Canada’s biggest brands are celebrating, and marketing our 150th birthday.

Loblaws
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, Loblaws created a heart-warming video that is an ode to unity, diversity and community.  Running just under 3 minutes, this video spot marks a clear departure from the usual ads we’ve come to expect from the grocery giant and excels in storytelling, while providing a coy commentary on Canada’s cultural qualities that have helped define our nation.

Loblaws held a contest under the theme of eating together, and has used social media to ask Canadians to talk about their own culinary influences and how they are inspired by the diversity of cultural backgrounds.

Hudson’s Bay Co.
The Bay is launched a 58-piece collection of souvenirs and apparel in all 90 of its stores across the country and online, including Canada-themed keychains, mugs, iPhone cases, and t-shirts. The retailer’s Canada 150 campaign focuses on raising funds for the Great Trail project, which will connect 24,000 kilometres of trails across the country into one route by the end of this year. Ten per cent of the products’ sales will be donated to the project, and two products – a $20 mini-canoe paddle keepsake and a $5 paddle keychain – will direct 50% of sales to fundraising for the trail’s completion and future upkeep.

Roots
The Canadian clothier mecca created a Canada 150 campaign that includes a Canada Day countdown, capsule collection, special edition bags honouring our diverse landscapes, plus travel tips for Canadians and fun facts about our nation. The campaign lives on its own independent landing page on the Roots website and is an informative and it is fun.

RBC
RBC launched its #Make150Count campaign before the new year and is giving more than 3,000 young Canadians $150 for community projects. The #Make150Count project asks the recipients to share their stories, which will be used as content for social, digital, TV and print ads running until July.

Understanding Push and Pull Strategies

Companies, both B2B and B2C, engage in a range of marketing strategies to get their message and product to customers. One way these strategies are categorized are as Push and Pull or Outbound and Inbound marketing.

What are Push and Pull Strategies?

Simply put, a push strategy is to push a product at a customer, while a pull strategy pulls a customer towards a product. Push strategy is a quick way to move a customer from awareness to purchase, while pull strategy is about creating an ongoing relationship with the brand. Both serve a purpose in moving the customer along the journey from awareness to purchase, however pull strategies tend to be more successful at building brand ambassadors.

While some companies decide to adopt one or the other it is important to find a complementary balance between the two. Choosing your marketing strategy and tactics should be done carefully and with a thorough understanding of your business, current brand awareness, and target audience. For example, launching a new unknown product would require more push than an established brand.

Push and pull tactics within the larger strategy should work together seamlessly to move the customer through their journey. For example, the impact of a flyer in the mail is lost without a website for the customer to visit to learn more. Modern consumers are savvy and require several interactions with a company and product before engaging.

Facebook: Using Push and Pull within the Same Tool

Facebook continues to be one of the most popular social media sites with 1.94 billion monthly users worldwide (March, 2017).  As a platform, Facebook provides an easy to understand model of how to create a complementary balance of push and pull marketing strategies. For example, drawing users to your page can take a combined approach.

Push Strategy: Facebook Advertising and Boosted Posts
One of the necessary tenants of push marketing is to know your audience. Once you have established your audience you can target them through Facebook advertising and boosted posts. Facebook allows you to specifically target users by age, demographic, location, socio-economic status, and interests. An ad that runs in a potential customers feed will push them to your Facebook page and/or website to make a purchase.

Pull Strategy: Search Engine Optimization
Potential customers who have a need will search keywords. If you have a robust Facebook About description and an active presence on Facebook, top hits will pull users to your Facebook page.

Now You’ve Got Them: Keep Them Engaged
Once potential customers have been pushed or pulled to your page, the next step is to keep them engaged with your company or product and convert them into brand ambassadors. Avoid broadcasting to your followers, but instead start a conversation that pulls them to you. A strong conversation and interesting content will generate word of mouth.

Watch other social media channels and track trends to know which conversations to have and how to keep things relevant. Cultural commentary can often be just the thing to pull others to your brand.

Analytics Are Your Friend
Traditionally, push strategies were targeted and pull strategies threw a wide net in the hopes of catching the right prospects. Online or on Facebook you are still throwing a wide net, but digital mining and analytics help to understand who is engaging with what you put out there. Use these analytics to better understand your audience and then apply this knowledge to your push strategy by further targeting your ads.

Facebook analytics will help you to understand who comments on your posts and most importantly who clicks to purchase as a result. These analytics are key in understanding what works and what does not.

Conclusion

Like any marketing strategy or initiative, push and pull strategies require planning and consideration of the audience and the marketplace. Each tactic and campaign should be monitored, reviewed and revised on a regular basis. Digital analytics enable marketers to develop a comprehensive understanding of their audience allowing them to determine the best possible push and pull strategies to move their customers from awareness to purchase and beyond into raving fans and ambassadors.

5 Tips for Effective Networking

Love it or hate it, networking is an important part of business and career development. In an increasingly insular, digital world, face-to-face conversation is somewhat of a lost art and daunting for some, outright terrifying for others. Effective networking is a skill and a powerful tool for building business relationships. If your go-to move at a networking or business event is to shake hands, introduce yourself and your business, pass out a business card and then walk away only to repeat the same song and dance throughout the engagement, read on. Think of any business engagement as an opportunity to expand your network of contacts and connections, but also an opportunity to develop your personal brand. Be genuine and be yourself; people prefer authentic connections. The following tips will help you connect with purpose and make the right impression at a business function.

1. Drop the Sales Pitch
The purpose of networking is to connect with new colleagues and build relationships, not to overtly sell yourself. Avoid self-promotional or boastful jargon in favour of more natural, meaningful conversation. Mention achievements and successes if the conversation allows, but when doing so, reflect on learnings and how the experience shaped your future endeavours, and not just to brag. Keep your exchange easy and enjoyable; when meeting someone new, the idea is to casually start a conversation and see where it goes from there

2. Ask Questions
When meeting someone new, one of the most effective ways to establish a genuine connection is to ask questions. Asking questions not only shows a genuine interest in the person’s experiences, but can provide valuable insights into your industry or career path. It’s important that the questions you ask be thoughtful and not too intrusive; use this opportunity to learn more about your colleague and set a solid foundation for follow-up and future conversations. Asking questions helps form a genuine connection, makes you more memorable and your interaction more meaningful.

3. Listen
Let’s not forget that networking is a skill, and skills become more acute with practice. To be an effective conversationalist requires conscious communication. Be a listener, not a talker, and guide the discussion accordingly. Listen to what your colleague is saying without losing focus by getting caught up with what you’ll say next. Looking your colleague in the eye and repeating their name are simple yet powerful ways to make your colleague feel respected and appreciated. Some of the most successful networkers are skilled at making others feel special and value.

4. Share Your Passion
Networking presents an opportunity to develop and define your personal brand which can inspire a memorable conversation between colleagues. Your interests, skills and assets, and the ways in which these inform your identity not only shape who you are as a person, but who you are in the workplace. Speak with enthusiasm about your work, and weave in anecdotes that reference your interests. Talking about the things you enjoy allows your counterpart to share their passions too, which makes for an enjoyable, authentic exchange.

5. Follow-Up
Passing your contact information to just anyone that you meet can seem forced and unnatural. If you’ve had a great conversation with a new colleague, share your contact info and open the door to future communication. If you’ve made a new, genuine connection, connect on LinkedIn or reach out by phone or email. It’s best to follow-up within 48 hours of the exchange so your connection is still fresh in your colleague’s mind. If possible, reference something you both discussed to make the exchange more personable. Remember, networking is where the conversation starts, not where it ends.

Great Networking Questions:

How did you get involved in your industry?
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Did you always want to work in your field?
What advice would you give someone just starting out in your industry?
How has your industry changed or How do you foresee your industry changing in the future?

To Succeed, Create an Emotional Connection with Customers

When trying to connect with customers before, during, and after purchase, it is essential that we reach them on an emotional level. It’s true that logic always plays a part, but emotion is what captures a person’s interest initially and in the end, compels them to make a decision and act. More factual criteria, like the features and benefits of a product, are most powerful after a person is paying attention and before they take a final illogical leap to a decision. But, at the beginning of the decision process and at the end, emotion is key.

Decisions are Both Rational and Emotional

It’s the emotional aspect of decision making that first captures a person’s interest, enables them to purchase, and maintains their attachment. When buying a car, rational aspects include the engine, number of seats, mileage, top speed, and many other factors. Emotional aspects are more intangible and numerous. They could include how the car makes a person feel (accepted, rebellious, bold, safe, etc.), expected experiences (fun family moments, mountain adventures, or bond building road trips), and the personality a person ascribes to the brand (cool, popular, or delightful for example).

Any decision you make today to engage with a company will be both emotional and rational. Emotional decisions are fast and often subconscious. Rational decisions are laboured and intensely conscious. We can distance ourselves from emotions and seek to exclude them using logical tools and methods of analysis, but ultimately we can only minimize their effects.

First Impressions are Key

First impressions with a brand are important because though we often evaluate options analytically, that process is biased by an emotional front-runner. Through bias, we tell a rational story to substantiate early impressions. The entire process is coloured by an initial more emotional impression that is communicated by elements of the product or service’s brand.

Decisions Are Always Emotional

Once we have weighed all the options, emotion again plays a key role in decision making. Choice is complex, and even when we can overcome early impressions and biases, there is often a gap that logic cannot cross. That emotional gap, where the facts don’t fully line up or can’t concretely point to one outcome, is another area where emotion plays a prominent role. In studying people with damage to their brains that prevented them from feeling emotion, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that these people could not make decisions—he wrote a book on the subject. They could follow the analytical process right up to the point of deciding but could not make a final leap and arrive at a conclusion. That is because decisions often include less rational considerations that require emotion to move forward, such as conflicting pros and cons.

How You Make a Customer Feel is Most Important

The most successful products are often not the best, and many excellent products languished for decades before making a strong emotional connection with customers, such as Nike, Jack Daniel’s, and Starbucks. Any attempt to attract, engage and retain customers or clients in a B2B or B2C context must successfully incorporate rational and emotional elements. We believe how a business makes a customer feel is most important. To successfully attract, engage, and maintain a customer or client, all businesses must craft an experience that goes beyond the more rational functional and pleasure-seeking/pain-avoiding criteria. That’s not to say that the rational aspects are not critical to a customer or prospective client’s decision-making process, but we believe, and many studies support, that they only confirm a person’s desire to purchase a product or engage a company.

Customer Loyalty Programs: Worth the Investment?

Customer loyalty and reward programs are popular initiatives for everything from earning points towards flights to exchanging stamps for a free cup of coffee. Many businesses believe that they need to have a loyalty program to retain customers and increase profits, but loyalty programs and their potential benefits are not that simple. Implementing loyalty or rewards programs should be done with careful thought and consideration and as part of a larger business and/or marketing strategy. Loyalty is another customer touchpoint and should be done in a way that doesn’t upset or alienate customers.

Understanding Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs take many forms, but most often involve receiving a benefit (perceived or real) from engaging with a product. The most successful programs tend to be reciprocal where the business is as loyal to the customer as the customer is to them. Airline and hotel programs often provide free seat and hotel upgrades and access to exclusive airport lounges. In exchange for these privileges customers will almost always use that particular hotel or airline.

American Express takes a lifestyle approach to their benefits and rewards and include them as part of the overall product experience. Benefits are a natural part of engaging with the product as opposed to the add on that many loyalty programs are. This is evidenced by their cardholder/brand promise:

We think the world is full of untapped potential. That’s why we’re here, to help make things happen. We’ll help you out 24/7 anywhere in the world; our customer service teams can go the extra mile so you don’t have to. We’ll help you treat yourself to something special with access to rewards and special offers. We’ll provide access to some of the hottest shows, dining and events. So get ready to enjoy life’s memorable moments.

American Express cardholders are first in line to purchase concert tickets, and titanium card holders skip lines and receive free table service at popular nightclubs. In addition to the tangible perks, American Express has created a sense of exclusivity and privilege that is associated with the use of the product.

Many loyalty programs are based on rewards and more transactional in nature where the customer needs to spend to receive points that can be redeemed for travel, cash or various other items. These tend to be the least effective loyalty programs in terms of increasing profits and building brand advocates. Successful programs, like American Express, have a blend of loyalty privileges, rewards, and prestige.

Know Your Audience

Programs should be well thought out by companies with a clear understanding around what motivates their customers and what the objective is for the loyalty program. Loyalty programs are an opportunity to introduce an additional touchpoint with your customers, but be careful that the program is not presented in a way that is more of a deterrent than a benefit. This can happen when a company applies a one size fits all approach to their loyalty programs.

Nordstrom introduced a successful rewards program in the US, but the same program does not translate well for Canadian customers. Previously in the US, rewards were only available to Nordstrom credit card holders which was often a deterrent for membership. Nordstrom restructured their program to create a rewards program available to everyone. In the US, customers receive 1 point for every $20 they spend and Nordstrom credit card holders receive 2 points for every $20. In addition to this, a Nordstrom credit card enables customers to open different tiers of memberships in correlation with spending. Benefits in these tiers include exclusive access to sales and pre-shopping, VIP rewards, alterations, and exclusive points events. This rewards program has the potential for high returns as millions of customers are expected to join and once they have will likely become motivated to apply for a credit card to unlock the next level(s) of membership.

In Canada, the Nordstrom’s Reward program is limited as the Nordstrom credit card is not available in Canada. Because of this, the program is 100% transactional in that its only function is to spend money and earn points. There are no opportunities to upgrade or access the different tiers of membership available to US customers. Also in Canada, on-line orders do not qualify for points. By not taking the time to understand the Canadian audience Nordstrom is delivering a Rewards Program in their Canadian stores that is limited and not a good fit, yet it is still costing them money to implement.

Considerations to Make

These are just a couple of many examples of loyalty and rewards programs. When looking at implementing a program be creative and think about what would add the most value to your business and to your customers. Develop a program that aligns with your brand promise, has a return on investment, and gives you an additional positive touchpoint with your customers. If you cannot meet all of these objectives a loyalty program might not be a right fit. In this case, there could be more damage in not doing it right than not doing it at all.

Crisis Communications 101

When the wrong film was announced as the winner of Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, all eyes immediately fell on a befuddled Warren Beatty. Moments later, after he shared his side of the story with the millions watching at home, scrutiny fell on PwC, the accounting authority responsible for overseeing the ballots. For an organization whose reputation hinges on its commitment to due diligence, accuracy and integrity, a gaffe of this magnitude required a swift response.

Welcome to the world of crisis communications. It’s important for businesses of all sizes, and the individuals associated with them to understand the importance of concise communications in a crisis, so key players can respond proactively, not reactively. While the definition of a crisis can be broad in scope, as it relates to businesses we will focus on three main threats: public safety, financial loss and reputation loss.

Recently, the cities of Calgary and Fort McMurray experienced crises that affected public safety, namely the flood of 2013 and the fire of 2016. Whether the crisis in question is environmental, operational or personal, a strategic communications plan is imperative. Let’s explore some best practices and principles surrounding crisis communications which aim to moderate threats to reputation, finances and security.

1. Stay Ahead of the Story

Don’t wait for an issue to break and never allow the narrative surrounding your business to be dictated by external sources. It’s important to always stay one step ahead by taking initiative if there’s an inkling that unfavourable news will break.  Communicating with stakeholders quickly, directly and openly is critical in keeping control over what news is being shared and why.

2. Stay in the Know

The sooner you know about an issue that may hit the headlines, the better. Be pre-emptive and monitor a variety of news sources relevant to your business daily to stay apprised of any media mentions. Conduct frequent scans of relevant information sources like social media tools, traditional media and blogs, and connect with those responsible for reporting. If and when an issue is detected, you can act accordingly to issue an appropriate response and mitigate the impact to your organization.

3. Communicate with all Stakeholders

It’s imperative that all stakeholders are informed when a crisis breaks, including those who are directly and indirectly affected. Employees, the board of directors, the media, partners, suppliers, and government agencies are groups that likely require immediate information, and as such, messaging tailored to each group should be created. There is nothing worse than hearing about a crisis from a third-party, so be proactive with your communications and respect your stakeholders’ right to information.

4. Honesty is the Best Policy

As the old adage goes, honesty is incredibly important, especially during a crisis. Providing a truthful account of the situation is paramount to maintaining credibility and integrity, so consider all the facts when crafting your communications. A crisis is not always a threat, and while it may appear as such, it can evolve into an opportunity. The way an organization responds to a crisis can shape the public’s perception and leave a lasting impression, so respond honesty.

5. Have a Plan

It’s important that everyone is on the same page in times of crisis. While many organizations have general communications guidelines regarding disclosure and procedures, a dedicated crisis communications plan is invaluable. A strong plan should provide the following:

  • A list of key contacts within the organization responsible for communications, media and public relations, including work and home phone numbers. The list should also include senior management and board members, where appropriate.
  • A list of key department contacts covering all areas of operation.
  • A directory of media and stakeholder contacts.
  • A template to record media contact and track activity.
  • An overview of the organization’s public relations policies and procedures and its core values.
  • An action plan outlining key personnel, their roles within the organization, action sequences and scenarios.
  • High-level organizational overviews that can be distributed to stakeholders and the media.

Overcoming Network Effects when Launching Your App

Increasingly, entrepreneurs in Calgary and Saskatoon are coming to us looking for advice on how to market platforms that mediate networks, such as apps or websites that act as a sort of middleman for consumer services or products. Several inspire confidence with their well-thought-out launch plans and knowledge of the challenges of building a sustainable network around their platform. Others are so focused on developing the platform that they have yet to consider the challenge of building the network to support it. This article explains the basics of how platform mediated networks function, the challenges of building one, and the means to overcome those challenges.

Stated simply, a network is a connected group of people of any size. A network must have multiple participants, and a network can be made up of either one type of user or many types of distinct users, such as in a marketplace where there are buyers and sellers.

Network effects are the positive or negative effect an additional user has on the value of a product or service to other people. For example, the more people who have phones, the more valuable phones are to each person, as users can connect with more people. Credit cards, a two-sided network with multiple user types, become more valuable to cardholders as more shops accept the card and more valuable to shopkeepers as more people carry the card.

Often a network is mediated by a common platform where users (the network) interact directly. Facebook is a platform, one that becomes more valuable to each user as additional users join the network. LinkedIn operates similarly, although the dynamics are becoming increasingly complex as it ties together multiple user types, such as professionals, content creators, content consumers, hirers, and applicants, among others. eBay is a platform as well, one that connects buyers and sellers. The value of all of these services increases as the number of each type of user increases.

What is the value of a service like SkipTheDishes (an online food ordering platform), if there are no restaurants on the service, no drivers to courier food, or no customers to make orders? That’s the challenge inherent with any product, platform, or service influenced by network effects. They must reach a critical mass where the network contains a sufficient number of users of each type to support the network and provide enough value to make it worthwhile to all user types. Overcoming these effects can take years, and often different user groups must be supported in early launch stages until each pillar of the network is running independently.

When it launched in Saskatoon in 2012, SkipTheDishes had 20 restaurants. The pitch to restaurants was compelling: no cost to list, no burden of delivery, and utilize excess capacity with no additional fixed costs. Still, I expect these first restaurants were secured through direct business development, and perhaps also co-opting other restaurant-exclusive online ordering platforms, similar to what Airbnb did with Craigslist but likely not as borderline illicit. Skip then hired drivers through more traditional channels, such as job boards. Everything was in place to serve customers. It wasn’t as compelling and fully functional as it is now, but Skip had just enough restaurants and drivers to capitalize on the simplicity and convenience of the platform. To secure customers, it used PR, promotions, and advertising, among other tactics. The lesson here is that Skip was methodical in growing each pillar of the network. It used varied tactics to attract each of the user-types it needed to support its platform.

Too often, startup platforms are almost entirely focused on the technology of the platform itself. It is not enough to build an app, launch it, and expect both sides (or multiple sides) of a network to begin signing up in droves. Do not expect to launch your platform and overcome these effects in a matter of months. A proper platform rollout must be methodical and orchestrated months before launch so that it is properly supported by a carefully cultivated network.

There are many strategies to overcoming network effects when launching a platform, but here are some tactics to consider for yours:

Tactics to Help Overcome Network Effects

  • Reduce barriers to entry (Ex. Painless sign up through Facebook connect)
  • Provide a sign-up incentive ($10 off your first order)
  • Provide intrinsic value to one side or both sides of the network so that the platform has value without a fully functioning network (MINDBODY offered scheduling and online booking software to club owners).
  • Make it shareable (Airbnb gave travel coupons to the referrer and referee)
  • Have first mover advantage (Yahoo! dominated auctions in Japan mostly because it launched there before eBay)
  • Launch in a smaller market or niche so that it is easier to directly build each side of the network and reach a critical mass to provide enough value (SkipTheDishes started in Saskatoon and expanded)
  • Act as one side of the network yourself during a limited launch (Have the founders or friends fulfill one side of the network at first to build the other side of the network)

Digital Trends for Businesses in 2017

As businesses gear up for a new year, a look at digital marketing trends can help inform your marketing strategy and up your digital game. Now, more than ever before, the way businesses connect with their customers online can mean the difference between a long-lasting relationship or a one-click stand. We’ve included our five favourite digital trends that we think can be most easily adopted by businesses big and small. By adding the following trends to your list of New Year’s resolutions this year, you’ll help maximize your marketing initiatives and streamline your strategy.

Video Takes Centre Stage

One of the biggest digital trends this year is an emphasis on video content. Video is one of the most captivating and powerful ways to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. In the past few years, the rise in popularity of video on social media platforms – think Snapchat and your video-heavy Facebook newsfeed – not to mention the sheer dominance of YouTube, proves that video is here to stay. Businesses who haven’t yet dabbled in video content have a world of opportunity at their lens. As always, strategy and consistency is key. Marketing agencies, like William Joseph can help clients establish a digital presence through video that is on-brand and consistent with their business goals and objectives.

Live-Streaming

Consumers crave authentic connection, and live-streaming allows businesses to create engaging, interactive experiences with their customers. New and improved live-streaming technologies combined with faster connection speeds make live-streaming more accessible to all.  Platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope make it easy for businesses to go live, whether it’s to announce a new business initiative, promo or product launch. With enhanced interaction at the forefront of your strategy, consider live-streaming to increase user engagement while creating an experience that looks and feels authentic.

Content Is King

In the realm of marketing, content reigns supreme. An emphasis on bigger and better content in 2017 is paramount to a successful digital strategy. With attention spans on the decline, a need for dense, creative content is what will set your content strategy apart. To establish yourself as an industry leader, you first need to be a thought leader – not always an easy task in an oversaturated market of brands all vying for a piece of the pie. Focus on the quality of your content over quantity. Don’t blast your audience with generic messaging; keep your content informative, relevant and engaging. Time is money, and the longer you can hold your viewer’s attention with captivating content, the better.

Email Renaissance

Email and newsletter subscriptions are one of the most powerful metrics for measuring the success of your content marketing strategy.  Targeting specific user actions through marketing automation makes it easier than ever to create customized, relevant e-newsletters to grow your audience base and build brand loyalty. Move away from generic email content and towards content that creates compelling customer experiences. E-newsletters can become your most influential marketing tool when used strategically. Give your emails the attention they deserve and watch your subscription list rise.

Big Data

With an influx of consumer data on-hand, it’s easy for marketing strategists to focus on right-time metrics. We know on what day and during what times users are most active, and a trend this year will be an emphasis on data-driven marketing strategies. Connecting with your customers when they’re most active online ensures that you’re maximizing the exposure of your marketing spend. Data visualization tools can also help you understand and make the most of an often overwhelming supply of data. Tools like Tableau and Raw will help you visualize the metrics that mean the most to your business and can help position your business for success. Enlisting the help of experienced data technicians will help you make sense of your metrics. Developing a marketing strategy that takes into consideration the data surrounding your consumers’ behaviour will ensure your strategy is strong and help bring you success.

Today’s technologies create endless possibilities to connect with your customers through strong, strategic digital marketing campaigns. Knowing where to begin can be a challenge, but aligning with marketing professionals who are well-versed with the latest technologies can help your business achieve its goals. We think these five digital marketing trends can be easily adopted to help you build a successful strategy. The team at William Joseph is ready to tackle your marketing challenges and help position your business for success. We can’t wait to see what the new year holds.

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.

Digital Throwdown: Online Shopping vs. The Mall

While I wouldn’t consider myself a seasoned mall rat, I would say that I do love a good monthly jaunt to the mall – despite several protests from my wallet.

I am very familiar with the frustrations of navigating through a sea of stores in a mall, particularly after discovering that the store that I need is at the furthest possible location from where I stand. I also never seem to be able to find the directories in the mall, or when I do, the footsteps seem to take me back all the way to where I came from when I started looking for the thing. Would it be more efficient to cut out the mall altogether, and turn to an online shopping? Or, is there a digital solution to my dilemma? As I would normally do when faced with a problem, I turn to my iPhone… can I Google it? Is there an App for that?

Luckily, there is. As malls continue to combat the increasing online shopping trend across the country, mobile applications have become a popular tool to make the mall experience more convenient, more accessible, and more fun. Malls such as Toronto’s Eaton’s Centre have launched mobile applications for iPhone and Blackberry devices, allowing users to easily navigate through their malls, find the most efficient routes, and ultimately have a more enjoyable shopping experience. More importantly, they also provide up-to-date store promotions so that, if you’re like me and love a good deal, you can be sure that you make the most of your shopping expedition.

As a marketer, I can’t deny that I love mobile applications. I love them even more when they’re used effectively to market products or enhance the guest experience. While the use of mobile applications in the retail environment is still in its early stages, the potential is significant.

Imagine being able to go to the mall, search for the product you need, and have it reply with a list of mall retailers that carry the product, the price, and whether or not it is in stock. Sounds a bit like online shopping, doesn’t it? These kind of capabilities are very likely as “mall mobile apps” evolve. Retailers in the United States have also started using mobile applications for in-mall loyalty programs and incentive programs in order to enhance the mall experience.

Nevertheless, the question for retailers is whether or not these applications are worth it. In my opinion – the answer is yes. At the end of the day, will a mobile application drive me into the mall? Probably not with the current features that are available. Will it stop me from making an online purchase? The answer is a solid no. But, will it make my experience at the mall more enjoyable and encourage me to come back next time? Definitely.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Kris Hudson explores, mobile applications are just one of the ways malls are fighting the online shopping trend. If you’re going to fight digital, you might as well fight it with digital.

To read more on this topic, and information on mall mobile applications:

Market Watch’s Kris Hudson: Malls Test Apps to Aid Shoppers  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704336504576258740640080926.html

Toronto Eaton’s Centre Mall Mobile Application: http://www.mobilefringe.com/retail-shopping-center-mobile-platform/