Building Ultimate Transparency

Social responsibility has become all but a requirement for companies and cause-related marketing has grown into a popular strategic marketing and public relations tool for corporations and charities alike. Studies show that consumers are increasingly social conscious and are looking to support companies that share in the goal of building a better world.

A recent survey from the marketing agency Good.Must.Grow (GMG) found that most Americans care about buying products from companies that do good in the world; 60 percent of people said that buying goods from socially‐responsible companies is important to them and 30 percent of respondents said that they expect to increase the amount of goods and services they buy from socially‐responsible companies over the next year. It’s apparent that consumers are willing to switch brands in order to buy from companies that have positive Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and companies are more than ever aware of this fact.

GMG has done two pieces of research – one on Cause Marketing and the other on Sustainability. While these types of initiatives are fundamentally different, addressing both concepts within the business process can help a company enhance or create new approaches to connect with consumers and even engage a workforce.

Successful sustainable brands demonstrate performance, but also show success against environmental and social criteria. This concern for “people, planet, and profits,” known as the triple bottom line, has increasingly become the standard for any brand that claims to be sustainable.

Think of the great brands that do this already: Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and LUSH. The ranks of businesses that are certified B Corps are growing quickly! B Corp certified businesses are proving that doing good is good for business.

Transparency has always been a critical component of communications, but as the world becomes ever more connected, it has become increasingly important. Today, consumers heavily rely on the opinions and recommendations of their peers when making purchasing decisions, they extensively research companies before becoming brand loyal and they are more inclined to buy from companies that produce goods and services with real rather than perceived value. This is particularly true of Generation Z, an almost completely social and mobile generation that will seek out social media and peer reviews and demand that companies be more honest and transparent than ever before. They want to put their money where it matters!

 Companies can no longer just claim that their products have positive impact and call it a day.  Consumers want to know that companies:

  • Are honest and transparent about its business practices and manufacturing processes;
  • Make products that do not negatively impact people, animals or the environment;
  • Ensure that its suppliers respect human rights; and
  • Pay employees competitive wages and benefits.

According to GMG, 63 percent of people trust company claims about social responsibility only sometimes – but they verify information, by reading product packaging, checking out the news, and doing independent research. Due to this now crowded environment, companies must work harder to communicate how their products and business processes fit sustainable demands.

Companies must have a conscience and contribute to building a better world. If done and communicated correctly, it will demonstrate impact, connect more deeply with consumers and be a form of transparency at its finest.

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Why Mommy Bloggers are still Relevant

Nearly every brand on the market has tried to crack the code of the Mommy blogger! Recently it seems we’ve moved on to target youth, the millennial, and even older adults, but have no fear, Mommy bloggers are still a force to be reckoned with!

Women command 80 percent of, or $5 trilling in U.S. consumer spending power. By 2020, women are expected to have $22 trillion in global spending power. It’s imperative that brands looking to succeed in today’s market must fit into and help to improve the lives of women.

Sometimes labeled as “Chief Health Officers,” moms are goal‐oriented family health managers that are active information seekers. Moms are known to pay more for food or health products that are backed by research and are perceived to contribute to the health and wellbeing of their families. Once engaged in a product, this group serves as influencers for other moms by passing along their knowledge and recommendations freely.

How do we connect with them?

The key phrase is “engaged correctly.” Like when targeting other audiences, brands need to create campaigns that build friendships with Moms specifically and find ways to integrate products into the lives of these women. Women, and moms, ultimately expect brands to treat them like their friends. They want branded experiences that prove a brands value proposition to be true. Brands that can be in touch while also being sensitive are likely to be the ones that moms and women will buy and be loyal to.

Where are they?

Moms and women in general are very active on social networks. Eight out of ten (80 percent) use social media regularly, with 90 percent of those having visited Facebook in the past 30 days, and just over one‐ third (37 percent) using Twitter in that same period. Mothers are also very open to liaising with brands on social networks. More than 42 percent have made a purchase as a result of a recommendation on a social networking site. If engaged correctly, moms can be fantastic promoters of products and services, with more than half recommending companies and brands via social channels.

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Children have a major influence on consumers’ perspectives on personal health and the environment. When people become parents, particularly moms, they develop an emotional connection to investing in a better future through present‐day choices. Sites like thebump.com have online communities filled with soon-to-be or already are moms. With nearly 4 million births each year and nearly $50 billion being spent annually on babies and toddlers, this network allows moms to connect with like‐minded moms, experts and brands that can help them in their decision making process.

Why should marketers be targeting moms?

Moms specifically are 45 percent more likely to use social media and a whopping 3.9 million moms in the U.S. identify as bloggers. Across all cultures, blogging and the prevalence of “mommy blogs” represent a powerful outlet for moms to share their experiences as well as create a sense of digital community.

By connecting with moms, brands can get a lifetime of loyalty and build brand evangelizers who will share information with others. Check out some of the top mom blogs.

Use it, Lose it, or Over use It: Balancing Social Media Post Frequency

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, all company communications channels need to be continuously updated or refreshed with content on a regular basis. Without a content strategy behind each outreach channel, it’s likely that channels can fall to the wayside and become stagnant or over post an drive away followers. The concept of post frequency is a very important part of every communications plan.

Channels with few or infrequent posts are likely to miss the mark with target audiences, yet too many posts can also annoy consumers and drive them away. How often is too often? While there is no cut and dry answer, here is some data that can serve as a jumping off point for posting frequency across social channels.

Facebook:

Social Bakers studied three months’ worth of Facebook content from major brands and found that top brands average one post per day.

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As a general rule, Socialbakers found that posting once per week on Facebook was too low and posting more than twice per day was too much. The 2011 study found that the sweet spot is five to 10 posts per week. The catch is, this data was published prior to Facebook’s recent algorithm change. According to an Edgerank Checker study posted on the Moz blog one way to counteract the recent change might be to publish more frequently.

Twitter:

Social Bakers also studied Twitter, taking a random sample of 11,000 Tweets from top brands. The study found that three Tweets per day is the point where brands start seeing higher levels of engagement. However, the life of a Tweet is short and as one might expect, each Tweet provides an opportunity to engage with consumers, so by tracking Twitter engagement per Tweet, brands can determine how many tweets are needed to reach the highest levels of interaction between the brand and its consumers. However, Track Social found that response per tweet peaks at five and then drops off – so, for Twitter, the sweet spot is 3-5 tweets per day.

LinkedIn:

LinkedIn published a marketing report claiming that 20 posts per month was the ideal number of posts. As one might expect, there is more research on this topic for Facebook and Twitter than many of the other emerging networks. Here are a few other additional tips for LinkedIn users.

It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal of communications across social channels is to strike a balance between being informative and annoying… engaging and overbearing. The line can be thin, so it’s essential for brands to continue experimenting and measuring. Armed with their own data, brands can continuously tailor post frequency and scheduling in order to improve consumer engagement across all outreach channels.

Need Brand Ambassadors? Start Here: Cultivating Employee Advocates

Employee advocacy is a critical element of any brand’s success. By turning employees into trusted brand ambassadors, companies bring their strongest assets and their most vocal internal advocates into direct contact with their customer base. Having an adoring employee base isn’t just great for word-of-mouth marketing, but it’s also good for the bottom line – impacting everything from brand awareness and online word-of-mouth, down to the recruitment of new employees. Empowered employees can be brand advocates and industry thought leaders who can help to increase a brands positive digital footprint. While there are many ways for companies to cultivate employee brand ambassadors, here are five things to start with:

  1. Encourage social media interaction and advocacy. While many companies have limiting social media policies for employees, Zappos is one company that feels that their employees can (and will) use social media for the good of the company. If employees are online talking about how much they enjoy their work, it is probably a good thing for the company! Which has been proven true by Zappos in terms of business development and new employee recruitment. In an article from Mashable.com, according to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who often talks about using social media in ways that foster happiness, “We have about 500 Zappos employees on Twitter, and we’ve aggregated all their tweets together. It’s a great way for to help build the company culture and for employees to connect with each other.”
  2. Reward good work. LUSH, a fresh handmade cosmetics company in North America spearheaded a recognition program that builds on the company philosophy of employee interaction and volunteerism. Using a program called Kudos, LUSH encourages employees to reward each other for good work. Each staff member is given 50 points a month that they can use to reward each other with. In addition, LUSH team leaders have a larger pool of points to give out so that they can reward staff for positive things that they see each day. Employees can earn points by exemplifying LUSH values or for great customer feedback, leading by example, learning skills in new areas, perfect attendance, and random acts of kindness. Once received, the employee can exchange Kudos points for chocolate bars, movie tickets, gift cards, and even a big reward: a day off with pay. The goal of the program is to encourage staff to live in LUSH core values, participate in volunteer opportunities and find ways to thank each other each day.Image
  3. Invest in employee wellbeing. A little goes a long way when it comes to showing employees how much they are appreciated. Zappos celebrates with impromptu happy hours, free t-shirts and props emails, and Starbucks employees receive free coffee and are given the opportunity for flexible work schedules that fit around their other commitments. As described above LUSH uses Kudos points and fitness company Lululemon Athletica, offers goal setting and encourages free fitness through local gym partnerships. In each instance, the company takes an interest in its employee wellbeing and encourages them to live company values both in and out of the office.
  4. Engage employees in building the brand mission and company culture. Create a sense of shared ownership in the goals of the company, and focus on using employee experience and feedback to improve products/services and customer service. Seventh Generation, a green cleaning company, included employees in both setting goals and accountability for achieving them. In 2012, a group of Seventh Generation employees came together to help simplify the company mission into four aspirational principles: Nurturing Nature, Transforming Commerce, Enhancing Health and Building Communities. The principles help to provide year-to-year goals and business plans across all company units and is used as the road map for long term company planning. In addition, the company launched an Annual Incentive Program that tied annual bonuses to company sustainability goals. This was done to help to insure that the company could measure and reward employees that stood for the core corporate values. It also created interest, pride and ownership from employees in the core company mission.
  5. Cheer on Volunteerism. There is a recent trend of companies offering volunteer opportunities and incorporating those opportunities into the company mission. LUSH, Seventh Generation and New Belgium Brewing Company are only a few examples of companies who have volunteerism baked into their corporate culture – offering benefits to those employees who volunteer their time within the local community. The outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia has also been successful in building a loyal employee base for not only the laid-back work environment of the company, but also the emphasis the company places on social and environmental causes. Through the Patagonia Employee Internship Program, employees can take paid leave for up to one month to intern with environmental organizations around the world.  

Employees are not only the face of a company, they ARE the company… from internal culture to consumer engagement and brand image. Employees are the most trusted source of information for customers, so it’s vital that a company’s employees are encouraged to participate in nearly every aspect of company communications – just think of all the great employee social content that could be generated via the suggestions above. The return on investment for the positive online buzz generated from employee social media or from being named one of the “Best Places to Work” may not be as clear-cut as measuring ad value, but the benefits can be extraordinary.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

― Confucius

When employees love their job, it shows, and the ripple effect of that honest and organic company love can be greater than any pre-planned marketing campaign. 

Dad-vertising: The Power of Digital Dads

Dads have always played an integral role in their kids’ lives, but until just recently, it didn’t seem like marketers and advertisers were aware of that role or of the buying power that Dads have as it relates to household decisions.

Recent census figures show that Dads are spending more time at home with the kids and in 1/3 of U.S. homes, Dads are the primary caregiver. During the recent recession three men out of every woman lost their jobs, spurring some men to take on the role of stay-at-home dad. While women still currently make more of the purchasing decisions when it comes to household products, stay-at-home dads now take a close second.

Overall, fathers are participating more in childcare and household chores. According to a recent survey more than half of men between the ages of 18 to 64 said that they identify themselves as the primary shopper in their household; however, only 22% to 24% feel that the packaged goods were actually being marketed to them specially – a key insight and opportunity for marketers!

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Dads are also a growing force in terms of the social media and blogging world. A similar phenomena as mommy blogs and blogger networks were a few years ago, dads have begun to create and share family-related content online.

A recent study from Edelman and the Parenting group looks at what dads are doing on social networks. The most popular activity seems to be posting family-related status updates, which 27% of online dads do daily. They’re also sharing visual content fairly regularly, with nearly 44% posting family-related photos at least weekly, and 25% post family-related videos at least weekly.

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Additionally, the Dad 2.0 Summit provides the forum for an open conversation about the commercial power of digital dads. The Summit gives dad bloggers an unprecedented opportunity to meaningfully connect with world-class brands and provides dad bloggers with the opportunity to learn tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality content, build personal brands, and develop business ideas.

What does this mean?

If brands want to connect with dads, they need to move beyond the beer-drinking, grill master stereotype. Much like women, men want to be valued for their role as caregivers and role models. They want brands to respect them as such.

Recent ads from Tide, Dove Men + Care, and a few car brands are starting to turn the tides when it comes to dad-vertizing, but there is still big opportunity here. By integrating tactics targeting this group into a   communications and marketing mix could help brands break through the clutter, differentiate themselves and help to get noticed by a growing target market—a group that we celebrate this weekend—Dads!

Happy Father’s Day!

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To my dad… and so many others!

Storytelling to Build Social Proof

Even after tragic loss, it is possible to find hope. Raising more than $1.2 million dollars, charity: water continues to inspire individuals to act even years after Rachel started her initial campaign.

A true leader in using stunning visual storytelling to engage consumers, charity: water’s remarkable success in social advocacy and online fundraising is largely built through stunning multimedia. With more than 1.3 million Twitter followers, and more than 210,000 Facebook likes, charity: water has truly mastered the art of getting people to form personal connections with their brand. And, by harnessing storytelling through social media – they have turned followers into activists.

The brand has built a high level of “social proof.”

What is social proof exactly?

Put simply, social proof is the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – and now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that same something.

This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator. As consumers, the psychology of persuasion influences every day choices, from where to eat, to what clothes to wear, purchases to make, and causes to be part of. While the concept of social proof isn’t new, this style of impact has huge potential to grow virally given the way that consumers interact today on social media. According to recent research 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends.

ImageTech Crunch offers that there are five different types of social proof. These range from Expert and Celebrity, which leverage the approval of these individuals to build digital influence to Wisdom of the Crowds, which highlights the popularity or large numbers of users who like a product, service or brand. While both of the above work in some instances, by and large, the most coveted type of social proof is the Wisdom of Friends, because every marketer knows that referrals from friends are the way that consumers now make choices. Friendsreferred by friends ultimately make better customers, activists and givers – hands down.

One of the best ways to build social proof is by leveraging the power of personal stories. Real stories resonate with people and can catch their interest or engage their emotions. Stories are persuasive and more trusted by consumers than statistics, because they are able to transport consumers into the situation – engaging them and making them want to share… and then share again and again. This makes sense on many levels given that storytelling is one of the oldest and most effective forms of communicating.

charity: water uses content to align people with thousands of other people. Their stories and photos are hyper-localized, deeply connecting consumers to the impact they are helping to make. So deeply, that they then encourage others to participate in making impact too – Momentum builds and one by one consumers join the cause because of other friends who are engaged, thus building a dedicated network of brand advocates… or for charity: water, activists and donors.

Social proof IS the new marketing.

Any brand can engage social proof by being candid, authentic and letting testimonials speak for themselves. Through the sharing of compelling stories, brands can become equal partners, rather than corporate entities. It’s no longer enough to rely on pushed messages or advertising.

Through a continued commitment to storytelling via highly sharable digital content, charity: water has built a brand that incites the kind of loyalty, excitement, and inspiration most companies dream of.

It’s the stuff of fairy tales!

General Market Campaigns Are Dead: Meet the Many Faces of Today’s Consumers

Consumer demographics in America are changing rapidly. Ethnic consumers comprise the majority of the population in most major U.S. cities and by 2020 two out of every five U.S. residents will belong to an ethnic minority. To succeed as a communicator or marketer, it’s no longer enough to translate a general market message when trying to reach niche audiences. Instead, brands need to truly understand the cultural and geographic diversity of the target consumer and then cater to those specifics as part of a marketing campaign or outreach efforts. In addition to Latinos, who Bloomberg reports will spend $1.5 trillion on U.S. goods and services by 2015 and African-Americans, who are forecasted to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017,the importance of connecting with multicultural consumers extends to other groups as well. Below are just a few of the more “general market” sub-groups that should not be ignored:

Baby Boomers:This group, defined as age 55 and older, actually has money to spend—controlling 70% of disposable income in the United States. Boomers are utilizing mobile technology and Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus are growing among older demographics. 38-42 percent of Boomers use social networking, and one in five use social media sites as a source of health-care information. According to a study by eMarketer, 49 percent of Boomer/Senior tablet users and 40 percent of smartphone users made at least one purchase within the last year after gathering information on their mobile device. This group is a purchasing powerhouse with purse strings!

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT): Business Insider estimates put the buying power of the LGBT community at over $800 billion annually. Most sources indicate LGBT consumers have more disposable income when compared to the average American household. According to a survey done by Prudential in 2012, gay consumers were more likely to have higher educations, carry less debt, have more savings and were less likely to be jobless with an unemployment rate of almost a point below the national percentage. Marketers should be sure that marketing plans accommodate and are inclusive of this valuable target.

Aspirationals: More than one-third of consumers globally identify as trendsetting consumers who are seeking sustainability consumption. This is the largest consumer segment, with clear dominance in the two largest developing markets – India (42 percent) and China (53 percent). Aspirationals want to purchase with a purpose, so they are a particularly important segment for companies who are making sustainability and “doing good” part of mainstream culture.

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Hipsters, Millennials, Gen Y (oh my!): This generation is different from those of the past and to be relevant to this group, Marketers need to understand their mindset. They value and recognize authenticity and pay for products that feel person to them, which is why character-driven campaigns have had the most success in reaching this group. With a population estimated at roughly 72 million, Generation Y is soon-to-be the largest generation ever. According to marketing research firm Kelton Research, Gen Y’s spending power is almost $200 billion a year – not something to bat an eye at.

evolutionofthehipster-300x198The most successful multicultural campaigns involve delving into the wants and needs of ethnic consumers. This is why it’s essential for marketers to incorporate multiethnic thinking into the core strategy of brand efforts rather than as an afterthought. By exploring new platforms and looking at campaign-related efforts through a multicultural lens, brands have the ability to move away from “translating” general market messages and make a shift toward building outreach efforts that empower specific sub-groups to become brand advocates – bringing products into their own social conversations.

According to an article in Forbes, multicultural audiences have taken the lead in social media usage and mobile technology adoption. Across the board, word of mouth is also the most trusted source of product recommendations, so it’s important that brands build culturally relevant campaigns in order to engage consumers in positive brand experiences and thus building trust. Smart brands are looking beyond the stereotypes – based on the notion that “advertising is a mirror,” implanting cultural relevance and values into marketing campaigns helps consumers to identify with and feel affinity for companies and brands.

Simply put, brands cannot reach everyone with one message or campaign or product. It’s a thing of the past. Each culturally subgroup needs tailored messages in order to effectively connect and fully embrace a brand. It’s imperative for brands to put thought into who they specifically want to reach, submerse themselves in the corresponding culture, ideals and thinking, and then build a campaign from the ground up.

Telegraph and Television to Social Content – Emerging Media Breeds Innovation

When it comes to communications outreach for any organization, emerging media matters. Where once social media networks were only used by niche communities and individuals; today, emerging media, social networks and consumer engagement is far too big to ignore. Social media has changed the fabric of daily life – influencing personal interactions, product purchases, and even the world at large.

Over the course of history, different forms of “new” or “emerging” media technologies helped to cause or create social changes – from the electrical telegraph (which no longer linked communication to the physical transportation of messages) to television (which entertained with sound and moving pictures at homes and paved the way for commercial-driven programming). Today, social media channels can act as a public forum for consumers to discuss important issues, review products, companies or services, express opinions or share stories and feedback. Where once brands had the ability to deliver one-way messages through advertising, it’s now nearly impossible for companies to ignore the flow of two-way dialogue with consumers.

In 2009, Erik Qualman introduced Socialnomics – a book discussing the implications of social media not only on daily life, but also about how businesses could harness social media to increase sales, cut marketing costs, and reach consumers directly. His short video, detailing the expanse of social media, exploded online and in some ways helped to solidify the foothold that social media was having on society through a series of shocking statistics. Now, #Socialnomics 2014 is the fifth version of that most watched video series on Social Media.

The metrics are memorable:

  • 53% of Millenials would rather lose their sense of small than their technology.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest and 2x the size of the U.S. population.
  • More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush.
  • “Selfie” is now a word in Webster.
  • Grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter.
  • 53% of people on twitter recommended products in their tweets.
  • 93% of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media.

According to Qualman, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the choice is how well we do it.” He sure is right!

Within just the past few years, there has been an obvious shift away from the 4 P’s of Marketing (Price, Product, Promotion, and Place) and toward the 4 C’s (Creating, Curating, Connecting, Culture) of digital. Brands are now using different mediums to build and connect with consumers using engaging content. Media has evolved, again! And, as it was with the telegraph and television, this “new” medium is a platform for innovation, connectivity and strengthened collaboration.

This shift in technology gives Marketers the opportunity to create relevant interactions with consumers, rather than bombarding them with traditional one-way messages. However, according to a 2011 study done by Ogilvy & Mather on the impact of exposure to social media on sales and brand perception, traditional media is not completely dead and gone. While it’s true that social media is a top driver of impact, when combined with one or more other channels, integrated programs are aligned with significant increases in spending and product consumption.

Consumers are now influencers who have the ability to greatly extend brand reach by sharing social content through their own networks. Knowing this, marketers need to create content that no only gives information, but is also usable and relevant for each individual consumer. SoLoMo, or the interaction of social, local and mobile marketing efforts, will play a large role in the year ahead. By capitalizing on the rise and increased use of smartphones, brands will be able to offer even more personalized and localized content experiences that will help to fuel consumer engagement and loyalty.

Perhaps a new definition for emerging media, could be called: Social Content. Social Content is what engages consumers through a holistic lens – combining traditional, social and research to build content that is relevant and takes an omnichannel mindest to marketing, integrating consumers in the conversation and using them as a channel to greatly extend brand reach and loyalty.