Happy Birthday ‘Murica: Our 5 favourite American companies

Wet Hot American Summer: It was a big weekend for the states. Fourth of July celebrations were extended when the U.S. Women’s soccer team won their third World Cup title becoming the first women’s team ever to win three. Woot woot. We wanted to do our own celebration of the good ole’ US of A by highlighting five companies we’re admiring lately.

How we picked our winners: We develop crushes on companies for other reasons than size or market cap. We love companies that don’t let their size (big or small) stop them from innovating, companies that harness new technologies, and companies that use what’s out there to really sell themselves to investors. Here are our 5 favourite American companies, public and private, in no particular order.

1. Under Armour: the one putting socks on the game changers

Under Armour

Branding, branding, branding. Under Armour has developed some of the most viral ad campaigns of the past year, especially their ‘I Will What I Want’ campaign which featured ballerina Misty Copeland and model Gisele Bündchen kicking ass and silencing their haters. The Washington Post wrote that Under Armour “is unusually brand-obsessed, and…c[a]me from nowhere to establish itself as a household name alongside industry titans like Nike and Reebok”. The company makes sure that the athletes representing them also represent the forward-thinking, innovative aspect they want to capture.  Under Armour’s CFO Brad Dickerson said to the Baltimore Sun, “This isn’t about putting a product on a speedskater and sales go through the roof…it’s more about the long-term perception of the brand being innovative.” They’re doing pretty darn well with that lately. Their latest two athletes are the most marketable ones in the world right now: Jordan Spieth and Steph Curry (with the shot). Casual.

2. IBM: the one who wants to harness the world’s data

IBM

If you’ve been hearing the phrase ‘big data’ around lately, you’re not the only one. The idea of big data, while complex, is what a lot of companies want to be moving towards in the next few years. IBM is determined to be the one spearheading this change. They’ve already released a string of ads like this one and this one explaining a little bit about how compiling data can help change the world and how they’re determined to help. The tagline for their big data campaign is, “What do we know today that we didn’t know yesterday?” IBM wants you to Meet Watson, their cognitive data interpreter system, and the #IBMThink campaign distills the complex idea of big data into concepts people can easily understand and will readily participate in. The massive campaign IBM has built is already positioning them as the thought leaders when it comes to compiling the world’s data and putting it to use. That’s a good place to be.

3. T-Mobile: the one using new technology to stick it to the norm

T-Mobile

If you didn’t realize T-Mobile would grace our list, then this must be your first time on the Blender blog. Welcome! (Half kidding). We’ve dedicated a full blog post to the brilliance of T-Mobile’s investor homepage and how we wish every public company would try what they’re doing when it comes to IR. Instead of shying away from elements like live Twitter Q&A’s, behind-the-scenes webcasts, and a branded investor factbook, T-Mobile showed us that adding some new colours to an age old industry isn’t such a bad thing. They’re starting with hot pink. And we’re into it.

4. IEX Group Inc.: the one who wants to shake up the stock market

IEX

There’s sort of a theme going on here, isn’t there? We like the people who aim to shake things up in their industry. The IEX Group is a perfect example. If you’re not familiar, IEX is an alternative platform for buying and selling stocks founded by Brad Katsuyama. The Globe and Mail writes, “IEX was built to thwart the advantages that high-speed traders enjoy elsewhere and to offer a more transparent place to trade”. The company’s main website announces their determination to “institutionaliz[e] fairness in the markets”. IEX is proudly owned by a collection of mutual funds, hedge funds, and family offices. Why else do we think they’re fly? We love the ‘Don’t like it? Change it’ mentality the company was born out of. Katsuyama said in an interview “our intention from day one was to challenge the status quo by building a market that prioritizes the needs of traditional investors”.

5. Airbnb Inc.: the one who got you to trust them

Airbnb

Any startup company whose business model consists of asking customers to allow strangers into their homes has to have a pretty solid plan. We’ve been admiring Airbnb for awhile now (shoutout to their awesome site redesign of last year). They’ve transformed a small rented-lodging website into an empire that connects the world’s travellers and hosts. What else are they good at? Adapting. They’ve gotten into some hot bathwater recently, with many cities imposing tighter restrictions in order to prevent the company’s rapid growth in more urban areas (think: affordable rent getting all screwed up as landlords would rather Airbnb to vacationers than take on full-time tenants). The company’s solution? Expand more and become a professional vacation-rental business. They’re going slowly at first, but hope that this shift will make things cozier at home when it comes to local-government relations.

 

Loved what you read? So why stop now? See how our 5 favourite Canadian companies compare.

Canada Day love: Celebrating our Top 5 Canadian public companies

Happy Canada Day! What better way to celebrate than to acknowledge some of Canada’s best? We picked our Top 5 Canadian public companies, all for different reasons. (And no, not based on revenue and profit, because you could just Google those boring lists). We’ve also added a list of our favourite Canadian startups as well as some companies with whom we’d just like to say ‘cheers’.

Our 5 favourite Canadian public companies

1. Toronto-Dominion (TD) Bank: the Investor Relations Bosses

TD Bank

Can you say IR awards? Because these guys are consistently winning them. TD Bank is an investor relations powerhouse and won 6 awards at the most recent Investor Relations Magazine awards, including Grand Prix for best Overall Investor Relations for a large cap company, best CFO and best IRO. The bank has also been recognized for their innovative use of technology and their success in video and stunt marketing. Last year they made a splash with their #MakeTodayMatter campaign, where random bank customers were given $30,000 and 24 hours to do something great for the community.

2. Loblaw Companies Ltd.: the Master of Old and New

Loblaw Companies Ltd.

Any 96 year old company that was just named one of the ’15 Most Innovative Canadian Companies of 2015′ by Canadian Business deserves some credit from us. Loblaw Companies Ltd. shows that you don’t have to be a fresh young thing to spark new, creative ideas. Canadian Business writes “It’s easy to overlook all the innovative concepts the business has developed.” That’s true, as the word ‘innovative’ usually brings with it images of Apple Watches and Tesla Motors. Loblaw Companies, however, “have been a world leader when it comes to creating an in-house label that is every bit as good, if not better, than the leading national competitors”. Canadian Business also states how they were ahead of the curve with the whole organic food craze, “developing organic foods under the PC umbrella before organic truly became mainstream”.

3. Shopify Inc.: The New Kid on the Block

Shopify

Shopify Inc. is the company everyone has their eyes on right now. With an almost $2 billion US stock market debut at the end of May, Canadian tech companies everywhere are watching Shopify as they too prepare for a future in the public eye. Shopify, the Otawwa-based e-commerce company that allows anyone to sell any product online, was just named the ‘market’s latest technology darling’ by the Financial Post. The company seems to be handling all the buzz gracefully. They also kept their foot on the gas after their IPO, adding a larger number of brands to their roster and introducing a new ‘buyable pins’ agreement with Pinterest.

4. Royal Bank of Canada: The Consistency Titan 

RoyalBankofCanada

RBC is the heavyweight that refuses to be knocked out of anyone’s Top 5 list in the last few years. They’re not only the most profitable public company but also recognized as a Top 50 Best in Class for CSR by Maclean’s and one of Canadian Business’ Best Large Cap stocks. They’re a huge and daunting company and we want to give props to anyone consistently coming out on top. We also love their idea of holding an annual ‘Next Great Innovator-Prototyping Challenge’ for students. Newswire reports that “since its start in 2006, over 2,300 students have participated”.

5. theScore Inc.: The Trend Tycoon

theScore Inc.

theScore is a Toronto-based creator of mobile-first sports experiences, and they’re always looking ahead at new trends. In the last few months, TheScore launched a new eSports mobile app to branch out into the gaming industry. At the end of March, TheScore also confirmed that “its first flagship app will be among the first Canadian-made apps to be available for Apple Watch” (FinancialPost). What’s the brilliance of theScore? They know where the trends are going. They focus on mobile-first technologies, mobile and video advertising, and live-streaming. TheScore’s “media-rich reporting… places an emphasis on telling stories in a non-traditional way”.

In other fun lists…

Here are some more of our favourite Canadian companies (private and public alike) that we want to acknowledge. Some we’d like to pat on the back, some we’d like to be, and some we’d love to buy a drink sometime.

Our Top 5 Canadian Startups

Wattpad

1. Wattpad Technology Inc. 

Wattpad is a story-sharing website that knows their market: mobile. Inc.com reports that “85% of those accessing the site are on smartphones or tablets”. Fun fact: their Toronto office is an old cigar and whiskey shop from the 1800s.

2.Unbounce

Unbounce ranked 2nd in startupranking.com’s Top Canadian startups, coming in right behind Hootsuite. Unbounce is an internet marketing service mainly for testing landing pages. They’re also Vancouver based, like us. Woot woot!

3. Hootsuite

Of course we’re gonna give some credit to the king. Hootsuite has been named the #1 Canadian startup for the past several years, and is one of the biggest names in social media management and social media marketing. And have you seen their ‘Game of Social Thrones’ video?

4. Latergramme

Great example of seeing a hole in the industry and filling it. You can’t schedule Instagram posts with Hootsuite, but you can with Latergramme. The company was just named as one of the 15 of Canada’s Hottest Tech startups by Metabridge. #nofilter

5. Recon Instruments

Recon Instruments has been “quietly and successfully cornering the sport and outdoor wearable HUD market since its first product launch in 2010” (techvibes.com). They take smart eyewear and smart technology and bring it outdoors. Rumours are also floating around of Intel acquiring them. Guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

Companies we’d like to buy a drink 

We think you’re all super cool, so we’re raising a glass to you.

Figure1

1. Figure 1

A smartphone app for physicians where a community of doctors and other healthcare professionals can share medical images, comment, and give feedback. (also dubbed ‘Instagram for Doctors’). What a cool idea.

2. Vanhawks

Valour smart-bike company with vibrating handlebars warning you of blind-spots and other dangers? We’re in. Also one of the darlings of Kickstarter last year.

3. Slack

That. User. Experience. Tho. Also the world’s fastest startup to reach $2 billion. Nothing else needs to be said.

4. Saltworks Technologies

Also Vancouver. We love Vancouver. This company helps resource companies purify water on a massive scale. We love this because they saw what these companies desperately needed, and delivered a service.

‘Pa-Drone’: Patrón steps into virtual reality with new drone marketing campaign

The Art of Patrón

Happy Cinco de Mayo! While browsing the internet for what’s new and exciting in digital marketing trends, we thought it would be fitting today to highlight Patrón’s newest marketing campaign. The world famous Mexican tequila’s new virtual reality experience called ‘The Art of Patrón’ is aimed at giving consumers an up close and personal glimpse at the extreme care and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle.

Through the eyes of a bee 

Patrón, along with FirstBorn agency, decided to immerse the viewer completely in a virtual reality film experience from the perspective of a bee, the brand’s icon. According to PR Newswire, the Art of Patrón: Virtual Reality Experience “is the first by a brand that combines live-action film with cinematic CGI animation”. The experience was filmed in Mexico “using a specialized drone that was custom-built for the project”. The drone was also outfitted with seven different GoPro cameras. The result is a stunning video that takes you from the sweeping agave fields to the heart of the distillery, in just over a minute. The virtual reality experience comes once a viewer puts on an Oculus headset, but for most of us, the dizzying drone-filmed video can be viewed online here (it works great on a tablet, mobile phone, or desktop computer).

Shots of the distilleryGlimpse into the process behind it all

Brands using drones to film projects

The completely immersive experience that’s achieved through filming processes such as these and through virtual reality was crucial for Patrón to capture. The company’s CMO Lee Applbaum stated that “the idea behind the campaign came from the fact that the distillery is located in a remote part of Mexico. The virtual reality is meant to replicate, as closely as possible, the on-site experience”. Patrón are just the latest of many companies who are starting to really see the potential drones and other modern technologies have on their campaigns, and overall brand engagement.

Adweek quotes Applbaum saying, “it’s very ironic that we’re using cutting-edge technology to tell this story of a very traditional, time-honored and ancient process…All of this audio and video from the drone gives you this sensation that you are this bee flying through places that ordinarily you simply could not do.”

Here’s a behind the scenes video of the campaign from the folks at FastCompany:

We interviewed the bank that used transparency to drive business

“Trust random people on the internet with all your savings”. You can’t get more honest than that. That’s the goal of Nordnet, a bank that wants to break out of their stereotype. You might remember Nordnet as the guys who went viral last year with these hilarious ads.

We were really excited to get the opportunity to chat with Johanna Snickars, Nordnet’s Public Relations Manager. So much about Nordnet’s campaign aligned with what we love at Blender—creating original marketing content, being pioneers of innovation, and filming awesome company videos. Read below as Johanna talks to us about the Nordnet transparency campaign, about creating the first bank podcast in Sweden, and about what it was like to see Nordnet’s videos go viral.

What gave you the idea to use transparency as the focus for this marketing campaign?

A lot of people talk about [being transparent] but it’s hard to find cases of people providing it and actually living it. We’re not that big of a bank, but we compete with the other major banks. We don’t have the same finances, so we had to think ‘what’s the most cost-efficient way of reaching a broad spectrum of clients?’ Our customers want a transparent bank with all that it entitles; transparent communication, pricing, services, etc. and we want to be that too.

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Your move toward transparency was a bold one–especially in the banking world. Have there been any challenges or pushback that you’ve seen?

A big [challenge] was not choosing to brand ourselves as transparent or get our employees on board, but to actually walk the talk. This means changing how we work, what we communicate, how public we are about certain numbers. It also means find[ing] the time to create content in order to communicate transparency with customers, shareholders, the media, and the public in all these new channels: blogs, videos, social media, podcasts, etc.

Quote 1Can you speak more about the importance Nordnet places on user-generated content in order to communicate transparency? What benefits have you seen as a result of your blog/podcast/etc? 

We launched a transparent blog in all countries, where we let our co-workers explain any questions our customers might have about our business. We turned it around from [thinking] what should we tell our customers to what do they want to know about…the blog is written by around 50 customers and ‘brand ambassadors’ for Nordnet. It was important for us to not make the blog about [Nordnet], but about savings and investment advice.

We were also the first bank in Sweden to create a podcast. All our brand ambassadors and customers really push[ed] the podcast and rall[ied] for Nordnet. We wanted to have user generated content, [so we] asked on social media ‘What would you want us to talk about in the podcast?’ We haven’t really spent a dollar in marketing in this way. We’ve really gotten popular, and usually are in the Top 10 or Top 20 biggest podcasts on iTunes in Sweden. [Also] the day or day after the podcast we see a big inflow of new customers.

Quote 2 copy 2

What were your main goals in this transparent-banking campaign? Did you feel that you accomplished them?

Our goals were primarily brand awareness, higher customer satisfaction, and to reach all our customers and potential customers to communicate our new brand strategy of transparency…our sales in all countries have increased, but it’s hard to see if this is all due to the campaign. Brand awareness…is easier to correlate, and there we reached our goal. Three things that also came with this successful campaign were an increase in media publicity, nominations for awards within communication and branding, and a [stronger] employer branding. We [measured success] through a combination of ad views, conversions, sales, awards, PR/publicity, and visits to the Transparent Blog.

One of the really exciting things was when we looked at the amount of mentions on social media for our brand and for transparent banking. [Before the campaign] transparent banking was mentioned about 10 times a month, but when [the campaign] was going on it was happening 150 times a day, and most mentioned Nordnet in correlation. This was the best proof that our vision of transparent banking had hit home…it seems like we’ve established that, when people talk about transparent banking, it’s usually in line with our name. Even in the last couple of months that conferences and seminars started using the phrase ‘transparent banking’. It seems like [before] no one was talking about it.

Quote 5 copy long 2

Tell us about what it was like to see your campaign videos ‘go viral’ across the world. Did your campaign strategy change at all once you saw the success?

I came into my office one day and looked at the campaign, and I saw we had half a million views overnight! We were surprised and just watched [the videos] spread organically all over the world on social media…Eventually they were even aired on American TV channel ABC News and won prestigious Adweek’s ‘Best ad of the week’. All in all we got over 2 million views on YouTube. We did have to make some adjustments we weren’t prepared for, [like the] language gap. A lot of [attention] came from the USA. We didn’t have much information in English before, and so much traffic started coming to our webpage and our blog that we [altered] things. A lot of people were Googling us, we thought ‘do we have search engine marketing in other languages?

Has the campaign affected how current and potential clients view Nordnet?

Absolutely. We’re being approached by people both as customers and potential employees because they like our transparent communication and innovative products. We received a lot more job applications, because who doesn’t want to work for a transparent bank? Many of [these applications] mentioned the blog and the podcast. If they apply for the job because they [already] like the strategy, so much work is already done; we don’t have to teach or preach to them about our principles.

Quote 4What are two lessons you learned from this campaign?

Get the customers involved, in what kind of product they want, what services do they need, and what questions do they need answered. [Nordnet’s] customers have good lessons for other savers, I think that creates the whole transparency [point]. We’re not just transparent about our bank and who works there, we’re also transparent about the customers, what troubles they have, and how we can work to satisfy them.

Sometimes you don’t need a really worked out strategy. Start by creating content and be prepared to take that wherever. If the podcast works, take it there. If you do a video and see it’s a success, put your efforts there.

You just launched two new ads with the same concept. What are your goals for phase two of this campaign? 

As the last campaign was so successful, we wanted to build on that concept that seemed to appeal to a broad audience and differentiate us. We’re cost efficient and transparent, so this time we didn’t fly over a film team but filmed [the ads] via Skype. We [plan to] publish it in all our own channels as well as [buy] ads in our four countries.

 

Thanks again to Johanna Snickars and the Nordnet team! See Nordnet’s two new ads below:

Who is Nordnet?

Nordnet is a Nordic online bank that started in 1996 with a vision to democratize savings and investments and make them available for people via the internet. They have local offices in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland and a total of 450,000 customers. They’re also on a mission to be known as the world’s most transparent and honest bank.

5 tips for an unforgettable convention booth

1. Mix it up spatially, but stay approachable 

Sometimes it’s just as simple as rethinking the generic booth set up. Hubspot shared this graphic on their marketing blog about unique ways to set up a trade show booth, while still making sure the design is versatile for different sizes and different styles of show.

booth

Your booth’s look and feel is very important at conventions where first impressions are pretty much everything. Too generic a setup won’t foster potential connections, but you also don’t want people to feel like they’re walking into Dragon’s Den to pitch themselves to you.

Here’s a tip: having good lighting in your booth is a simple and effective way to get more people to simply wander in and chill for awhile. While loud music or crazy strobes may catch someone’s eye for a moment, a softer, more ambient lighting is more inviting and will attract people for longer periods of time. Even though the example below takes some financial means, it could be as simple as bringing a few nice lights from home to make your area more homey and comfortable.

booth

2. Promote interactions with a unique giveaway 

Everyone likes to get free stuff at conventions. Just look how happy Michael Scott is at a convention on this episode of The Office:

It’s a safe bet, however, that one more free pen might send someone into a fury. So get creative (but try to stick within a budget). Clever ideas don’t have to be expensive. Start by thinking of fun ideas to connect people with your brand and your message. Here’s an example of some fun stickers we made for Uranium Energy Corp to hand out at some of their mining conventions:

uranium_stickers_Page_1

 

uranium_stickers_Page_4

If there’s a clever way to incorporate your company in a themed giveaway that’s great, but don’t force it (so no free ‘pet rocks’ from a mining company).

While giveaways are great, at the same time make sure you’re getting something out of it. If the giveaways are part of a game or short contest, have people drop their business cards in a bowl before they play, or have to give you their email in order to receive a free download/ebook/etc.

3. Give demonstrations and let people touch things

Sounds silly, but it’s so effective. People are much more likely to engage with you if they get to see a demonstration of exactly how your product or your company will change their lives. Demonstrations aren’t only for cookware companies or cleaning products. The image below shows an example of a company at the PDAC (Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada) convention. The booth cleverly engages others with their industry by supplying different mineral samples for viewing.

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People checking out samples at a booth at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention

4. Your message should be clear from every angle  

Everything needs to be cohesive. From the moment someone crosses the line from observer to interested party, they should know exactly what you’re selling or what you’d like them to do. An easy way to do this is create a tagline beforehand that cleverly gets your message across. This tagline can be used across every pull up banner, giveaway, and business card you distribute. Can’t think of a tagline? Then start with a cohesive colour to tie all your materials together.

branding
Each giveaway, pamphlet, or banner at your booth should represent your interests and push the same feeling.

5. Pay attention to the people already at your booth; no wandering eyes 

As the old adage goes, quality over quantity (AKA don’t be greedy). Though this may seem self-explanatory to some, we feel it’s still important to bring up the #1 most important element to having success in your booth: listen to those people who have already walked in and give them your full attention. No one feels good when someone they’re talking to is constantly scanning the room for a better offer or a more stimulating conversation.

If you really want to have as many people as possible in your booth, designate a ‘booth host’ or someone who’s sole job it is to greet people outside the booth and direct them inside to talk to a specialist or specific person. It’s important to treat everyone who comes into your booth, even if it’s only to ask where the bathroom is, with the same amount of respect and attention.

If someone gets a bad feeling or feels dismissed by your booth representatives, word will travel fast. Not every conversation will be a chance to sell; sometimes it’s just about building relationships.

Marketing, Animal Style: 4 Lessons from In-N-Out Burger

Introduction: That California Vibe

In-N-Out Burger, the popular American west coast burger chain, is a marketing force to be reckoned with. Last summer, one of In-N-Out Burger’s famous “pop up shops” opened for one day only in front of a restaurant in Toronto, and hundreds of people arrived 5-7 hours early to wait in line before the 11 am opening. An eager man told The Toronto Star, “When you go to one of their locations, you really just get that California vibe.”

What gives In-N-Out Burger that “transporting” quality? Even countries away, people feel like they are sidling up to a booth in California when they eat the company’s product. What is it about In-N-Out’s brand that captures the attention of so many, and creates a following wherever the burger chain decides to open? They’re a company who knows exactly who they are and what they’re about. Here’s four marketing lessons you can learn from In-N-Out Burger: 

Lesson 1: Remember Your Roots

in-n-out-founding-family_
In-N-Out founding family, Harry and Esther Snyder, in 1948.

 

One of the secrets of In-N-Out’s success comes in the brand’s dedication to their California “birth story.” The company was founded by Harry and Esther Snyder in 1948, and is widely believed to be the first drive-thru burger shop in the U.S. Since this iconic moment, In-N-Out’s marketing efforts have revolved around the culture and environment surrounding the burger chain’s birth. Bloomberg Businessweek writes that In-N-Out, in “playing up its roots as a drive-through” is “echoing the days when roadside diners attracted travellers with their kitschy neon architecture, stores strategically placed along free-way off-ramps”. In-N-Out Burger makes sure to infuse a back-story into every marketing strategy. Without even realizing it, you’re not just buying a three dollar burger, but 80 years of road-trips and family memories.

Lesson 2: Sacrifice Makes for Beautiful Simplicity

Current In-N-Out Burger locations.

The AdAge article “What Doesn’t Your Brand Stand For?” notes, “It’s easy to stand for a lot of things, which is where a brand usually makes its biggest mistake. A brand becomes bloated and fuzzy when it tries to stand for too much”. In-N-Out Burger, however, is hailed for its “courage and discipline” in making sacrifices in the name of their brand. “They’ve given up aspects of their business and turned down opportunities that others might have considered vital. But, through their sacrifice, they’ve become [a] worshipped brand”. With a firm grasp on who they are as a company, In-N-Out is able to make calls about what aspects of their brand are crucial to showcase and what others can be saved for another space, or done away with all together. Continuing with their quaint California road-trip feel, In-N-Out elected against rapid expansion, instead seeping ever so slowly into a single state at a time (they only operate in five).

It can seem a bit of a contradiction, but representing less in a marketing strategy can actually garner more attention. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin; trying to represent the interests of everyone will only make your company seem scattered.

Lesson 3: People Remember Quality

2004-10-14-07
The In-N-Out motto.

Quality of ingredients may be what In-N-Out Burger is best known for, and is one thing they absolutely don’t sacrifice. They famously don’t have microwaves or freezers in any of their locations (one explanation for their slow expansion, as they must be located near a distribution centre). A woman who waited in line at the pop-up shop in Toronto said “it’s the freshest burger I’ve ever tasted” while another explained, “I haven’t had one in five years…but that’s how memorable it was.” IN-N-Out Burger’s mission statement talks about serving the highest quality foods, the best service, and a “sparkling clean” environment. The company’s commitment to high quality extends beyond just food: they also support a happy working environment with higher pay and by calling each of its workers “associates” rather than “employees.”

Quality people, quality service, quality product. Sound like your goals? Putting in quality time to perfect your digital marketing strategy is important. Trust us, people remember that stuff. They remember prompt email responses, mobile friendly sites, and eye-catching investor presentations. Every piece of material online with your name on it represents you. Make sure you like what it’s saying.

Lesson 4: Know what you do Better than Anyone Else

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
In-N-Out’s simple menu.

IN-N-Out resides in an overwhelming market; one where competitors have tried everything to make their burger stand out as the best. We’ve seen square patties, cactus burgers, and half-naked women on TV spots munching away in efforts to stand out from the crowd. In-N-Out, knows, however, that they’re not just selling a burger. They’re about the experience, and about trust. There’s a reason that in the 70 years they’ve been operating, In-N-Out has stuck with their simple menu of double-double, cheeseburger, hamburger, and fries (not counting their secret menu with the famous Animal Style burger). They know what they do best, and they know what people like to see.

So what do you do better than anyone else? What is the one message you really want to get out with your digital marketing strategies? One strong, amplified message gains a lot more traction than several scattered ones. The “don’t spread yourself too thin” lesson works here too. Figure out what you do better than anyone else and don’t only highlight it. Specialize in it. Lead with it.

 

Companies move towards brand authenticity in their marketing tactics

“It’s all about being authentic and unapologetic.”

These were the words of Arby’s fast food chain CMO and brand president Rob Lynch after Arby’s launched this very unexpected end-of-the-year ad. According to The Wall Street Journal online, ‘In early October, Pepsi reached out to Arby’s with a friendly reminder: You need to include us in one more ad this year. The problem was that Arby’s already had its end-of-the-year creative ready to go-and it didn’t include Pepsi”. Arby’s admitted that they just plain forgot.

Public company transparency is mandated, we know, but it’s important to remember to not only be transparent with your investors, but also authentic. Take a cue from the three videos below when thinking about being authentic to the interested parties in your company.

 

 

Arby’s creative partners (after a “directive from [the CMO] to ‘make him uncomfortable'”) decided that honesty was the best policy on the air as well as off. And people are loving it. The ad only premiered in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles markets, but since then it has both gone viral online and done wonders for the chain’s digital marketing success.

Adweek calls Arby’s upfront and apologetic ad, ‘another gem from a growing vein of meta ads that poke fun at the marketing process, peeling back the curtain and inviting savvy consumers to take part in the joke’. The most successful of these gems is the infamous 2014 Superbowl ad that never was from Newcastle Brown Ale. Adweek writes that Newcastle knew they could never air a Superbowl ad, since they had ‘ a media budget for the whole year equal to about half the $4 million price tag for 30 seconds of airtime on the broadcast.” So they decided to be honest about their status.  Newcastle created an online marketing and ad campaign called “If We Made It” that ended up “crash[ing] the biggest advertising showcase of the year with refreshingly honest and hilarious online content”.
Watch actress Anna Kendrick rip into Newcastle and tell them to ‘suck it’ in the most popular ad of the campaign:

MediaPost online gives possible reasons as to why more companies are now ‘getting meta’ with their advertising and marketing process (and getting big successes from it too.) “It’s based on the understanding among marketers that social media has atomized marketing–everyone is a marketer now, really, at least to some extent, even if that medium is one’s Facebook page”.

The Canadian telecommunications company Telus has tapped into this ‘honest social media vein.’ They knew that a scathing Facebook review or angry Tweet against their company may very well be seen by hundreds. Instead of ignoring the inevitable complaints, Telus brought the angry tweets to the people in a new online segment on their YouTube channel. The company smartly turns the complaints into a strength at the end of the spot, showing that they don’t hide criticisms, but they’re doing better and now have less complaints against them.

Companies that have discovered a healthy sense of self-deprecation and a ‘joke’s on us’ attitude are getting people listening. MediaPost writes, “meta-ads…work by commenting on themselves, on how they target the target by playing on stereotypes about the target; by being exhibitionist about their social-media strategy…in some cases affecting an ironic, jaded tone is effective”.

Bloomberg Businessweek also applauds the Arby’s ‘Oops, we’re sorry Pepsi’ commercial for their “no bullshit approach”. The man behind the refreshing Arby’s ad talks about what he calls “brand authenticity” and how more and more companies are “slowly catching on.”

This tactic won’t work for everyone, as Bloomberg also states. If every company tried this meta, brand-authentic approach, “shoe companies would have to tell you that wearing their sneakers won’t make you an athlete, and most beauty products would be out of luck entirely…but as long as most companies still pretend that their products will make you happier…a straightforward pitch for drinking Pepsi at Arby’s will grab your attention.”

This internet bank turns customer concern into a marketing tool

Nordnet wants to be your new internet banking buddy. Last week the online banking company, operating out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, cleverly addressed in a series of comedic ads a big concern of today’s banking customers: the lack of bank transparency and the hesitation (as Nordnet shrewdly puts it) ‘to trust complete strangers on the internet with all your savings.’ Their new ‘transparent banking’ ads blend meta-humor with a brilliant ‘anti-marketing marketing tactic’ that’s getting a lot of attention. Agbeat writes how, ‘transparency is an abused buzzword in the public and private sector, and we barely even pay attention to the promise anymore, but Nordnet wanted to stand out and prove themselves’.

When it comes to public companies, transparent is less of a cutsey marketing tactic and more of a mandated element. But Nordnet can still teach pubcos a lesson here. The bank knew that their target market’s main concern when it came to banking was selecting a bank that would be honest with them and work with them when it came to effectively managing their money. To poke fun at this worry and to stand out from the crowd, Nordnet focused their commercials directly at the customer concern. As a public company, whether in times of crisis or trying to win new investors, addressing the public’s concerns head on and without being asked can really be an effective investor marketing tool.

 

Check out this actor in the Nordnet commercial ‘hav[ing] a cup of coffee with another actor’ he’s ‘never met before’.

 

This next one is aptly titled, ‘Trust random people on the internet with all of your savings.

They’ve released four commercials in total, and all are getting great responses online. In addressing consumer concerns head-on, Nordnet establishes an immediate connection and trust with potential clients. While the actor on-screen jokes about transparency, Nordnet’s really saying, ‘Don’t worry, we get it. And we’re different.’ Though the buddy system seems a smart move, AGbeat takes a look at the downside of such promises: “The anti-marketing marketing tactic can work well, but of course, it does set the expectation that a company be completely transparent from head to toe, which is a tall order for a financial institution”.

Nordnet’s ‘transparent banking’ campaign comments on an important element for public and private companies alike. Transparency in marketing and IR communications could win more votes in the long run, and it’s important to ask the question of whether or not it’s more beneficial to immediately address a widespread concern within a company or industry before it causes harm. In Nordnet’s case, they took banking’s lack of transparency and made their ads so transparent that the actor reads straight from scripts and talks about the teleprompter. This clever way to spin an issue into their own expertise is what causes the campaign to stick in the brain.

The ‘Nog Problem: Starbucks Quickly Reacts After Social Media Uproar

This week, we’re bringing you an example of a public company that read the lay of the land when there was a social media uproar, and quickly reacted to ensure their customers and shareholders continued happiness. Nowadays, social media is a great way to take the temperature on a company business move. See what investors are saying about you, and always keep an ear out of things like this!

Who knew this little guy could cause so much drama: 

 eggnog-latte-600x800

Last week, Starbucks Coffee got into a little hot water of their own but quickly hopped out again after demonstrating both an attentiveness to social media feedback and a quick response to waves of negative comments. With the launch of their  annual ‘red holiday cups’ last week, complete with their first new holiday drink in 5 years, Starbucks (and the rest of the world) prepared for the predictable onslaught of internet excitement over the return of the famous red cups and seasonal drink regulars.

Well, the internet freaked out alright. But not in the way Starbucks anticipated.  For this holiday season, the coffee company had decided to discontinue their famous ‘Eggnog Latte,’ leaving it out of the rotation in favor of their new drink. According to Time.com, “Starbucks had dropped the seasonal drink…in an effort to streamline its menu”.

Immediately, there was a social media uproar. 

Countless complaint letters were written and phone calls were made, along with hundreds of scathing tweets and comments on the company’s Facebook page. Everyone demanded the return of their favourite holiday drink.

It looked like people were out for blood. Instead of ignoring the complaints and attempting to further promote their new holiday drink, Starbucks quickly reacted to the feedback and immediately brought back the EggNog Latte. Linda Mills, a Starbucks representative, announced soon after:

“We received passionate feedback from our customers talking about how much they love our Eggnog Latte on social media, through MyStarbucksIdea.com, through letters and via phone calls.These messages were emotional and personal…We heard them and quickly acted.”

This tweet quickly went out only hours later:

What’s more, Starbucks didn’t only fix the problem, they also profoundly apologized to their customers. Says Laura Mills,

We made a mistake…We are very sorry…Starbucks has learned its lesson.

The fact that even a corporate giant like Starbucks admitted that they always have learning to do sat very well with customers, who praised the company’s fast response. This move by Starbucks wasn’t the first time they reacted lighting-fast to criticisms. A few years ago they attempted to reintroduce some of their cakes in loaves instead of slices, but quickly changed them back after numerous complaints. USA Today writes,

For retailers in the social media era, instantly responding to consumer gripes is critical. Quick action is especially critical for Starbucks in the holiday season, by far its most profitable period…One corporate branding expert says that Starbucks knows what many companies still need to learn. ‘All companies need to become more nimble to respond to this kind of feedback…customers can use social media to tell you more about what they want. It’s a new way of test marketing’“. 

Although Starbucks responded to the customer frustration with promises and cheer, that didn’t mean it was easy for them to bring back the EggNog Latte. USA Today notes that “Starbucks hopes to have the drink back in all stores by the week of Nov. 17…the problem is quickly getting enough eggnog from suppliers”. Though it may cause a temporary headache for many at the company, Starbucks showed that it was willing to change original plans if those plans didn’t go over well with customers.Flexibility is key, in any company, as an idea that may seem like a hit might not sit well with the masses. With an ear poised towards the social media conversation, Starbucks was able to swiftly fix the problem and ultimately come out on top. 

Chevrolet Embraces the #ChevyGuy Mishap and it Pays Off

This week, we’re giving you an example of how a seeming PR nightmare can actually be a great opportunity for your company to show their smarts. After the World Series, a very nervous Chevrolet representative seemingly butchered his speech. Instead of sweeping the mishap under the rug, Chevy transparently and effectively communicated with their audience. Read below for some inspiration when it comes to re-thinking your own investor communication!

If you haven’t heard of it already, well, this is the poor Chevy Guy:

His name is Rikk Wilde, and during his sweaty and flashcard-accompanied speech, he probably didn’t know he was about to become an internet sensation. The Chevrolet regional zone manager bumbled through his minute long speech of presenting MLB World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner with a new Chevy Colorado. His most memorable moment came when he attempted to describe the new car:

“Um, it combines class-winning and leading, uh, you know, technology and stuff with, uh, Wi-Fi powered by OnStar, sitting there on the screen…”

Yeesh. Seemed like a pretty embarrassing moment and a bad hit for Chevrolet.

But it wasn’t. The internet blew up with responses. Some were horrified, but most were just amused. Jokes sprang up everywhere. AdAge writes, “Within an hour, ‘#ChevyGuy,’ ‘#TechnologyandStuff’ and ‘#Rikk Wilde’ were among the top 10 national trending topics on Twitter”.

And what did Chevy do? They ran with it. Only hours after the interview, they tweeted this picture, incorporating the hashtag #TechnologyAndStuff.

They also added #TechnologyAndStuff to their homepage and the Chevy Colorado page on their website:

technologyandstuff

Business Insider writes that, “One day after World Series, Chevy edited the end of their new commercial for the Colorado. Instead of ‘you know you want a truck, the all-new Chevy Colorado,’ the voice at the end of the commercial now says ‘the all-new Chevy Colorado, you know you want a truck … and stuff'”.

The internet LOVED the company’s lighthearted response, and applauded them for sticking with their guy:

And the ChevyGuy didn’t just provide Chevrolet and GM with some good stories. According to a Bloomberg report,

“Chevrolet, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball, has received at least $2.4 million in media exposure from Rikk Wilde’s unconventional presentation, much of it on social media, according to sponsorship evaluation firm Front Row Analytics. That’s six times more than the $392,000 it would have brought in with a more polished performance.”

Way to go, Rikk!