Using Emerging Media Platforms to Build Brand Equity: The WVU IMC Program

]I think a great example of a brand that has successfully utilized digital/social media to build brand equity is none other than the master’s program I am currently enrolled in – the WVU IMC program!

WVU IMC program logo

My first exposure to the program came way back in 2007 after I discovered it in a Google search. At that time, the program website was very different from what it is now but it still outshined competitor brands such as the online IMC/marketing programs at EMU, Golden Gate U, and Southern New Hampshire U, etc. Today, many more competing programs in IMC and Communications (including Northwestern, Marist, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, FSU, etc.) have entered the online space but the WVU brand continues to project a powerful presence in the marketplace. The WVU program was the first of its kind in the nation, and has served as a template for other programs to follow. My first direct encounter with the WVU IMC brand was when I registered for an online information session. At that point, it had been eighteen years since I finished undergrad, and quite a lot had changed. I figured that the ‘online’ info session would be a good trial-run to see if I was comfortable with an online environment. Sure enough, it was a very informative and helpful session and the technology never got in the way of the interaction of the attendees. After taking off for Morgantown and attending the 2009 IMC Weekend Conference (now called ‘Integrate’), I decided that when the time was right, I would give it a shot and apply for admission. Three years later, I applied to the program and enrolled in Aug. 2012. With all that said, however, it was the compelling program website that made me want to take the six hour drive to WVU to see things for myself. The website was much more comprehensive than any other program by far. The highly informative content (detailed course information, admissions procedures, faculty bios, knowledge base videos, etc.) really ‘sold’ me on the program. Even though I did not apply to the program for several years, I really got a feel for what the program was like, what it offered, and what the expectations of its students were. I seriously looked at three other schools, but their static, one-dimensional webpages were not even close to providing the quality content that I was looking for. The other thing that I was impressed with is the fact that the IMC program website and social pages are continually updated and refreshed. Here is a link to the program website if you are interested in learning more about it: http://imc.wvu.edu/ The student bloggers and video testimonials served as very powerful ‘proof-points’. It is one thing to read a ‘fact-sheet’, but it is quite another to hear multiple students tell their stories and ‘meet’ some of the professors via their online videos. They sold me on the quality of the program. In early 2010, the program created a Facebook page which now has almost 2500 likes. The page offers an array of posts featuring links to student blog posts, job listings, announcements, and links to helpful articles. They also utilize the page to highlight student and faculty achievements, promotions, etc. The program created a Twitter page in May 2009, and it follows a content strategy similar to that of its Facebook page. To date, there are over 1500 followers of the page. There is also a LinkedIn page which has almost 1600 members. The program also boasts a YouTube and Vimeo channel, where it features videos of student testimonials, instructor and course introduction videos, as well as clips from prior presentations at Integrate. Here is the latest storytelling video promoting the program:

Finally, the program does a good job at ‘being found’. Just for fun (marketing geeks do this) I used search terms on Google like ‘online masters in integrated marketing communications’; ‘online IMC programs’; and even ‘masters in IMC’. Each time WVU was at the top of the organic search results. Depending on the search terms, there were also instances of paid-search links to the program homepage as well. In short, the program practices what it preaches – it utilizes an IMC approach with a unified brand message across many differing platforms via its website, social media sites, the online-information sessions, the Integrate conference, and its print collateral as well. The emerging media landscape has changed the nature of marketing forever. The program’s coordinated efforts relating to owned, paid, and earned media have paid off handsomely for the brand, as it is one of the largest and most respected IMC programs in the country. The program successfully employs an ‘outbound’ strategy to generate interest and engagement, and the rapid growth of the program is a testament to its effectiveness. As I noted earlier, the WVU program has served as the model for a number of other online programs that have recently been developed, so that too speaks volumes. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the program, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. For my classmates, I’d love to hear what suggestions you have for the program to improve its marketing and branding efforts. This will be the last blog post for my Emerging Media class. Thanks for reading and digging into the topics I explored on this blogging adventure! I’ll leave you with this song. Happy Trails!!

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Quantity Vs. Quality Of Social Media Business Site Followers

Quality vs. Quantity Tweet Birds

It is easy to assume that simply acquiring more likes/followers on social channels like Facebook or Twitter will result in success. It is tempting because measures such as these are “…verifiable, quantitative, and logical, but the true significance of likes and followers to the success of a social marketing campaign is greatly overestimated”. That said, there are still benefits to trying to increase these numbers but it shouldn’t be the driving focus in a campaign.

I’m sure that at one time or another we have all ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ a friend’s business page out of a feeling of obligation. I own a funeral home, and I’m sure that many of my friends ‘liked’ my page out of loyalty to me and my family (I doubt that liking a funeral home is on anyone’s top 10-list). I think it is safe to say that many of those that like/follow a page are indifferent users: they do not directly correspond to a line of revenue, nor do they correspond to a level of brand awareness. The bottom line is that the number of followers is nowhere near as important as the type of followers.

It is far better to have a smaller number of active and engaged followers who share your content and respond to calls-to-action than it is to have a large number of ‘do-nothing’ followers. “How you build a following matters. If you consistently post quality content that makes people think, laugh, smile, or share with their friends, people are going to follow you. If it’s content that’s relevant to your industry and relevant to your brand, you’ll eventually build an audience of people who are genuinely interested in who you are, what you post, and perhaps most importantly, what you’re selling.” The key is interactivity, which is always a good indicator of audience quality. The goal is to have your audience take action: to register for a contest, to sign-up for a newsletter or a download, to make a donation, or to make a purchase.

In addition to effective communication, businesses of all sizes will need to understand new and changing platforms, collect and analyze data, and find new tools to work more efficiently. In the end, high-quality content wins the day, and informed, data-driven decisions will determine success. If you provide quality content, quantity will come naturally. Check out the cheat sheet below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

SOCIAL MEDIA -         Social Media Cheat Sheet for Small Businesses... #empowersocial #social media #online

Ello, Ever Heard of Me? I’m the New Anti-Facebook Social Network: Wanna Get Acquainted?

Are you tired of the ever-growing commerciality (I’m pretty sure this is a word) of popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others that are becoming less user-centric, less fun, and more cluttered with each passing day. I frankly am. Do you wish there was an alternative to sites that feature an endless array of annoying ads that appear in your feed? Do you wish your social networking activities were really private with no data being collected and sold to data brokers? Well then, say hello to Ello (or maybe that should be ‘ello, Ello).

Ello Logo

Ello is a social media network that was launched in March 2014 and began to gain traction in the social media space in September of that year. It was created by a small group of artists that became increasingly fed up with the ‘mainstream’ social networks who seemed to have abandoned many of the things that made them great in the first place. Today, data mining, targeted advertising, and other monetization models are the rule of the day for most social networks as they try to appease stockholder demands for ever-greater profitability.

Like Facebook, Ello offers high-res imagery, text, GIF’s, video, sound files, search, real-time alerts, private messaging, private groups, and more. The difference: no ads, no plundering of your data, and much less clutter (more white-space for you design geeks). An article on Gizmodo noted that “Ello is setting itself up to be the anti-Facebook, and apparently people are flooding it—it’s at least getting a lot of buzz”. Below is a screenshot of their manifesto:

Ello - Manifesto

To be honest, I received an invitation to join Ello last fall from a classmate (you used to have to be invited but now anyone can join), but I never took the time to sign-up. While it is intriguing to me, I’m not sure that I’m ready to join – Facebook and LinkedIn are enough for me right now.

The Gizmodo article provides a synopsis of the new platform, noting that “It’s a clean, hipstery, black and white interface that shows your friend list on the left-hand side with little circular avatars and your feed on the right-hand side with what your friends are posting. Clean and simple—although the look is trying a bit too hard and the actual user experience is a nightmare… It takes some getting used to. The thing is, if you’re trying to be the anti-Facebook, it means you have to be different than Facebook. So Ello has to buck that straightforward kind of navigation, which means it sacrifices some of the intuitiveness of the whole experience. But the look is insanely simple! You can organize your pals into two lists: friends and noise…Your feed is fluid. You navigate by scrolling down, kind of like Twitter on the web without the character limit or promoted messages clogging up your pipeline.” Here is the link for further reading: http://gizmodo.com/what-is-ello-1639054383

Here is a sample screenshot:

Ello - screenshot sample

While Ello has largely kept its growth numbers to itself, it was able to raise an additional $5.5 million in funding during its growth spurt last fall. Wisely, it has invested in a redesign of the site to work out a few glitches as well as to create an iOS app and a planned app for Android.

Will these improvements be enough to lure disgruntled Facebookers and keep them there? More importantly, since their business model is based on being ad-free, how will they pay their bills? In their ‘About’ section on the Ello website, they explain that soon they’ll be offering “special features” that people can pay for if they’d like to add them to their account. Co-founder and CEO Paul Budnitz noted that “The launch of the Ello app will start driving a corresponding increase in active users, and the company’s first step towards making money from those users will be allowing them to sell things right in their feed. While Ello has no plans to introduce ads, a user or brand will be able to post things in their stream that other users can click on and buy.” Ello, of course, will take a small cut of the sale. It remains to be seen whether this monetization plan will carry them to the social media promised land given their pledge to always remain ad-free (several other social networks have broken their pledge). We shall see.

Will Ello become a mainstream social network? Will it end up being nothing more than a niche community for those paranoid about their privacy? Or, will it disappear altogether? What do you think? See my answer to these questions below:

Ello - Sad Face 1

Behavioral Targeting: Convenient…or Creepy?

The 1988 science fiction film “They Live” is a futuristic tale about a homeless drifter (played by tough-guy Roddy Piper) that accidently discovers that the ruling class and powers-that-be are actually aliens that are able to disguise their appearance to look human. The ruling class has been keeping people ‘asleep’ through the use of subliminal messages in mass media such as TV, magazines, newspapers, etc. The hidden messages (‘consume’, ‘obey’, ‘marry and reproduce’ ‘watch TV’ and ‘sleep’) pervade all mass media and are designed to manipulate people to spend money, reproduce, and don’t question authority (stay asleep). When Piper accidently finds a pair of special sunglasses, he discovers that they enable the person wearing them the ability to ‘see’ who is an alien and who is a real-person. Realizing something must be done, he enlists the help of a new-found friend to find a solution. Below is a still from the film:

They Live - signs

Although the movie is a little cheesy, it remains one of my 80’s favorites. I won’t spoil things by telling you the plot or the ending, but I can tell you that it features:

– An all-time great one-liner (delivered Clint Eastwood style) from the hero (Roddy Piper) to the bad guys. He’s ‘all out of bubblegum…’

– An 8-minute fight scene that will either leave you at the edge of your seat or will make you want to gouge your eyes out – your choice.

– One memorable final gesture to the aliens before he dies (and saves the world!) at the end of the movie. Absolutely epic!! Ok, enough of the shameless plug for the movie.

They Live - poster

So, what the heck does a movie from 1988 have to do with behavioral targeting? Well…you can decide for yourself.

In essence, behavioral targeting allows marketers to profile the prior behavior of online users in order to determine which ads those users will see next. Have you ever used a search engine for a particular product or service, only to see an ad for said product or service on your social media feeds or other websites for the next few days or weeks? Ever wonder why? It ain’t no accident!

“Behavioral targeting uses web analytics, computer applications and cookies, browsing and search history, and IP addresses, to create user profiles of individual consumers. With that information, the website’s ad server will then generate relevant and targeted content or advertisements that appeals to their interests.” http://www.marketing-schools.org/types-of-marketing/behavioral-marketing.html

These marketing techniques stand in direct opposition to more traditional marketing initiatives such as brand awareness and direct-response (direct marketing) advertising which both tend to employ a one-to-many approach rather than a truly targeted, personalized, timely, and relevant message to the consumer.

Today, marketers have a number of powerful tools at their disposal, including the ability to harness the power of relational databases and specialized CRM (customer relationship management) software to amalgamate data from a variety of sources, including your social media pages (likes, comments, interests, geographical location, and even your friends) such as Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Armed with this data, retailers, organizations, and even politicians (at least during the election season) can then create behavioral profiles of customers. What sites do you visit? What links do you click on? What did you post or tweet about? They already know. These activities allow for a deeper level of ad customization, giving businesses insight into the habits and desires of consumers. Here is a video that explains the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Y4Efyxmk4

For marketers, targeted messaging such as this helps to increase the likelihood that you will behave as they would like you to: buy something, donate, vote, volunteer, register/sign-up for something, join an organization, etc. The net effect of these initiatives is that over time, the consumer response rate will increase, companies will be better equipped to personalize the website experience to the users past behaviors, and businesses can provide ads, text, videos, etc. based on each visitor’s past actions.

It should also be stated that many consumers are eager to receive these types of messages, since they are ones that hold some degree of interest to them. Additionally, many enjoy the fact that the browsing experience is more personalized and meaningful. I for one would rather see banner ads for concert tickets in my area than for ladies bathrobes.

On the other hand, many are concerned about privacy. While ethical companies have been ‘anonymizing’ their data anyway, the FTC has taken steps to ensure that privacy is respected (no data is personally identifiable). In addition, web users can adjust their privacy/security settings to disable cookies, but their browsing experience could suffer as a result.

Behaviorally targeted advertising is here to stay…and it will only become more accurate and precise as time moves forward. Still, you can’t help but wonder if the futuristic ‘hidden’ messages from “They Live” that are telling us to ‘buy’ and ‘consume’ aren’t somehow alive and well today. What do you think? Is behavioral targeting convenient…or just plain creepy?

Bloggity Bloggity Blog: The Big Deal About Blogs

 

A blog (short for weblog) is defined as a website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc. They are typically written in an informal style and often reflect the musings and interests of the writer. In addition, they often contain images, graphics, videos, and links to other websites. Thanks to a range of easy to use programs and websites, even the most technically-challenged person (like me) can create and maintain a blog.

Today, blogs are everywhere and are used by consumers, businesses, governmental institutions, schools, universities, and religious organizations, among others. They reflect a wide array of topics from current events, politics, music and the arts, product information/promotion, and scientific research to sports, humor, culinary interests, spirituality, and child-rearing. If you can think of a topic, there is likely to be a blog that reflects that area of interest.

Blogger - 5 Types

What is the Value Blogs Provide to Consumers?

Aside from informational and entertainment value, blogs are increasingly impacting the way that consumers obtain information about various products and services. Research shows that blogs are exerting more influence on consumer purchase decisions, as they tend to be more trusted sources of information than traditional advertising in TV, radio, or print media.

A recently released study from eMarketer noted that blogging has given rise to several types of bloggers. These bloggers are referred to as hobbyists, corporate bloggers, entrepreneur bloggers, and professional bloggers. Among all these types of bloggers, hobbyists and professional bloggers frequently write about brands. And it is the professional bloggers that have earned the highest level of trust among their readers. “Whether it’s about discovering new products, deciding on a product or service, refining the choices, seeking expert advice, inspiring a purchase or taking consumers to a point where they can actually buy a product or services, professional bloggers have a major role to play.” https://consumerbehaviourmcgill.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/blogging-vs-consumer-buying-behaviour/

How Companies Use Blogs to Fulfill their Business Needs

In a sense, a blog can act as a sales tool or a lead generation tool because if the blog is perceived as being trustworthy, then whatever information or recommendations the blogger makes will generate instant credibility among the blog’s loyal readers.

There are many advantages to be gained from creating and maintaining a business blog. Among them are the following:

  • Develop a casual dialog with your customers – Through a blog and its associated blog comments, you can create a casual conversation that builds real relationships.
  • Fast communication of current information – A blog allows you to provide up-to-date information to your customers quickly and easily, and it’s much easier to update than your website.
  • Increase your visibility in search engine results.
  • Share multimedia content – Multimedia content such as videos, photos, and podcasts can be easily included in your blog, allowing you centralize all of the content from your company,
  • Unlike social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc., which are run by other companies, you have direct control over your blog.
  • Be seen as an expert – Blogs allow you to showcase your knowledge and to be seen as an expert in the field. http://socialmediadiyworkshop.com/2009/12/how-does-a-blog-help-my-business/

If you’re a business owner (or work for one), check out this informative video about the benefits of blogging for business: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sn7eCs6nEQ

Did you ever wish to share your thoughts about a topic you are passionate about with the whole world? Would you like to show-off your expertise in a given area? WordPress and other popular blogging platforms allow you to quickly create and design your own unique blog in a snap. Best of all….it’s free…and fun. Give it a try. What would you blog about?

Digital Detox: Going off the Grid

I’ll begin this week’s post by asking you to watch the following two minute video entitled “I Forgot My Phone”. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8

This powerful piece really causes you to think…is that me? Am I connected 24-7? Do I need a digital detox?

In just the last few weeks, two of my Facebook friends made the decision to depart the world of Facebook as well as other social media channels. Both are heavy users who post frequently and tend to recount their daily activities (some interesting and some mundane) for the world to contemplate. Both made a ‘dramatic’ announcement that as of such and such a time on such and such a day, they would be disabling their account so that they could ‘reconnect’ with the real world. Long story short – one did actually leave (betcha $100 she’ll be back in less than a month or two) and the other apparently couldn’t do it (I knew it)…she’s still a full-time Facebooker!

I think it is kind of ironic that while most consumers and companies the world over are obsessed with being connected, some brands are going in the opposite direction and are coming up with creative ways to cater to the ‘digital detox’ crowd. This is a segment that is sure to grow as the social space continues to evolve and as people continue to use their mobile devices more and more.

An article entitled “Stress-Free 2014: It’s a Choice Between Digital Detox Versus Tech Apps” begins by surmising that if the late Timothy Leary was alive and tweeting today, he’d be telling the hyper-connected masses to “Unplug and tune out” instead of stating his famous 1966 mantra, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,”. Here is the link to the full article if you are interested: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/stress-free-2014-a-choice-668783

The article notes that the ‘unplug and tune out’ mindset is the new battle cry for going off the grid and the whole digital detox movement. This movement ranges from things as simple as noise-canceling headphones to meditation apps (yes, even digital devices and apps are getting into the movement). Apps such as Headspace provide different guided meditations for 10 minutes each day. There are also meditation goggles that provide a program of “…synchronized sequences of sounds and flashing lights paired with guided meditations”, which supposedly slow brain waves and help to alleviate stress.

More exclusive services include device-free retreats, spa trips, and nature junkets, with many in exotic settings. Other ‘detox’ amenities include spa treatments, hikes, tai chi, wellness, meditation classes, yoga, and body-cleansing rituals such as abstaining from sugar, caffeine, etc. along with a complete ban on clocks, cellphones and other electronic devices.

Thomas Cooper, of Emerson College, notes that “Media now takes eight hours of our day — imagine what you could do with that much of your life back under your own control, rather than controlled by Madison Avenue, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood?”

I’m not sure that I would be interested in any (or need any) of these ‘detox’ events, but it certainly does raise the issue of trying to achieve a sense of balance between one’s online time and actually participating in the real-world. What do you think? What do you do to achieve digital balance in your life?

Check out this fascinating infographic for great tips on how to unplug:

The Ultimate Guide to Unplugging: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/12/unplug-technology-guide-infographic_n_4071982.html

Apps: How Big is your App-i-tite?

The latest research from the Pew Research Center reveals that 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. For many, these devices are a key entry point to the online world and certain groups rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels. Specifically, these groups include young adults 18-29; those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment; and non-whites, most notably Latinos and African Americans. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/

Today, smartphones are widely integrated into the daily routines and activities of our lives, from researching topics relating to our health to accessing educational resources and job opportunities. A majority of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with breaking news and to share information within their communities and with friends. For others, it literally helps them to navigate the world around them, from turn-by-turn driving directions via GPS apps to assistance with public transit, etc. The smartphone is fast becoming our device of choice for a wide array of online activities as shown below.

Smartphone Features&Uses

While smartphones offer users the ultimate in portable connectivity and convenience, there are potential risks associated with app and smartphone usage. For those few who might not know, the term “app” is short for application. Essentially, these are smartphone compatible software programs that are designed to perform one or more specific tasks. Examples of popular apps include: flashlights, music players, compasses, weather apps, sports apps, games, and more.

What are the risks? For one, smartphone app use can increase the likelihood that you will be victimized by scammers, hackers, and identity thieves. Many apps are legitimate and safe, while others constitute a BIG risk.

One common method that scammers use to take advantage of smartphone users is through application scams. These are apps that appear to have a legitimate function, but are in fact developed by criminals who are hoping users will download and install the application. These tactics allow criminals access to the Smartphone’s system as well as possible user information (credit card number, social security number, account number and passwords) that can then easily be retrieved. Malware (viruses, Trojans, worms, etc.) is another common way a Smartphone user’s privacy can become compromised. Malware installs things such as logging software, spyware, and other things which are then used to obtain personal information.

With this in mind, there are several things smartphone users can do to protect themselves. Recommendations include:

  • Install an anti-virus software program that protects against spyware and malware.
  • Research apps to determine if they are safe before downloading them. Make sure the software is reputable and is kept current through frequent updates.
  • Enroll in a backup program that also provides the capability for your phone to be wiped. This will help protect the information on your phone should it become infected by malware.
  • Be sure to look at who developed the app. For most large companies the company should be the developer themselves. If the app is new, or not well known, do a quick Google search to see if there are any reviews of the app.
  • Review what information you are allowing the application access to when you accept the terms and permissions.

http://www.ikeepsafe.org/cellphone/weighing-the-pros-and-cons-of-mobile-applications/

Finally, check out this informative video about the use of potentially dangerous apps your teens might use. It offers several helpful tips for parents worried about their teenager’s social media use.

If you have a big ‘App-i-tite’, following a few simple precautions can ensure that your smartphone apps will help you enjoy the benefits of this technology, while minimizing your risks for danger.

From Hogs to Heartstrings: Digital Brand Storytelling At Its Best

Can you tell me another story…please? Do you remember asking your parents this question at bedtime or perhaps on a lazy, rainy summer afternoon? How about telling ghost stories around the campfire or perhaps at a Halloween party? I remember those innocent times well and it has come full circle, as my children often ask those same questions of me as a parent (at least they did when they were younger).

‘Storytelling’ is as old as humankind itself: from the timeless parables and stories of the world’s great religions to the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans; from the tales of the old west to the stories of our day. They are an important part of our culture and transcend both language and time. As such, they have been used to pass on traditions, teach morals, and to entertain us, enlighten us, and fill us with emotion.

They have been shared through written text, art (paintings, sculpture, etc.), and music. Many parents and teachers still read Aesop’s Fables to their children. Aesop, a slave and storyteller, is believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BC. His timeless stories have been shared and translated into many diverse languages and mediums, and continue to delight children and adults to this day. Here is a 13th century example of storytelling through sculpture (a medieval fountain) that depicts two of Aesop’s Fables: The Wolf and the Crane and The Wolf and the Lamb.

Aesop's Fables

Today, storytelling is increasingly being created and shared through the use of multi-media digital technologies. Brands of all sizes are jumping into content marketing and sharing it through social media channels and a variety of other platforms as well to tell their ‘brand stories’ in authentic, creative, and compelling ways.

Below are five critical components that brand storytellers must understand in order to create real stories that engage and connect with their audiences: http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2013/02/05/5-secrets-to-using-storytelling-for-brand-marketing-success/

  1. Speak truthfully.

Honesty and transparency are paramount in brand storytelling. While these are ‘stories’, they must be ‘real’ and truthful – it is not fiction. Brand storytelling must accurately depict the reality of the brand, its mission, its products, and its essence. In this day of pervasive social media use, frauds and phonies are quickly ‘called-out’, often by thousands of consumers in just a matter of hours or days. In such instances, you have the recipe for a brand disaster.

  1. Infuse personalities into stories.

Brand stories are not ads, nor are they sales pitches. In short, they must accurately convey the persona of the brand, but do so in an engaging way. Boring doesn’t cut it today!

  1. Create characters your audience will root for.

Character creation does not necessarily refer to fictional examples like the “Jolly Green Giant” or actresses such as “Flo” from Progressive Insurance, although both are powerful brand characters. Instead, brand storytelling requires only that you create characters your audience will like and cheer for. Brand stories can be told from the perspective of the customer, employees, etc. The most important point is to create characters that enable your audience to become emotionally connected to them to such an extent that they will follow the story to its conclusion.

  1. Include a beginning, middle, and end.

Brand stories should follow the same structure and arc (a beginning, middle, and end) as those often used in the world of literature. The beginning should start strongly and establish the setting and the characters. The middle should set up your main character’s problem or conflicts that present challenges/roadblocks to the character. Finally, there is resolution in the end. Great stories take the viewer/reader along for the entire journey. If they enjoy it, they will tell other people about it, share it, and come back again and again.

  1. Don’t give it all away.

Finally, leave the audience wanting more so they will continue to want to interact and engage with the brand. The use of ‘hooks’ and ‘teasers’ about other content can direct people to the brand’s website, mobile app,  social media pages, or in-store visits where more engagement can take place. The overall goal is to surround consumers with brand experiences (including stories), so they can self-select how they want to interact with your brand.

Here are two great examples of brand storytelling in action (If you haven’t seen them, you’re in for a real treat. You tough Harley folks better grab the hankies if you watch the Google video):

The Harley Davidson Experience – Live By It

Google Search: Reunion

Please feel free to give me your thoughts on the two examples above – I’d love to hear them! Can you think of any other great examples of brand storytelling?

CHANGE IS NOW

In a very short time-span, our world has grown infinitely smaller. The means by which we communicate, work, recreate, socialize, buy and consume have all changed forever. Digital, social and mobile technologies now allow us to be continually engaged with the world around us each and every moment of our waking (and sleeping) lives. These forces at once are exciting, frightening, and inspiring.

These disparate forces driven by advanced technology are evolving faster than we can begin to process it and adapt to it. I often think of the Dick Tracy watch…the stuff of childhood fantasy. Now, we can enjoy wireless and hands-free connectivity 24-7 with a wide array of ‘wearable tech’ gadgetry like the Apple Watch. Coming soon to a store near you will be the redeveloped Google Glass, a type of glasses that feature an optical head-mounted display. It displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format and allows wearers to communicate over the internet via natural language voice commands. Smartphones might quickly become ‘yesterday’s news’.

As I noted, our world is getting smaller by the day. Connecting with each other…and all the positives and negatives that go along with it are a click, a post, or a tweet away. This new digital landscape offers the benefit of real-time access to information, entertainment, etc. that is presented in a way that is reflective of our personal interests and relevant to our needs at any given time.

The most dramatic way that this new technology has affected our lives is in our use of social media. An interesting article from Mashable discusses five important ways that social media is changing our daily lives. Here is the link:

http://mashable.com/2009/10/16/social-media-changing-lives/

What are the Changes?

  1. Where We Get Our News

Traditionally, we turned on the TV or checked out the local paper for our news. Today, with our 24-hour news cycle and multi-screen access to the internet, news arrives as it happens in real-time. Instead of conventional news sources, many now obtain their news from their social media feeds or online news channels. For many, they see what is trending on Facebook or Twitter and they can choose what news they wish to receive and what they wish to ignore. We can also quickly digest and share news information and send it to hundreds of others with the click of a mouse. Friends on social media are quickly becoming people’s trusted sources of information.

  1. How We Do Business

Social media gives businesses of all sizes the ability to engage with others and promote their products and services. In the past ‘doing’ business limited you to a particular geographical or trade area. Today, social media postings, blogs, tweets, and video posts have served to open entirely new markets for businesses large and small.

  1. How We Meet and Stay in Touch with People

We utilize social networking sites and other media to engage in activities like gossiping, dating, discussing the game scores, or conducting high-level business meetings. Emerging media technologies now make time and distance irrelevant.

Today it is easier than ever to find others who share a similar interest, hobby, or passion. Would you like to ‘talk’ with other Ford Mustang owners? There are online communities with thousands of people who love their ‘Stangs’ just as much as you do. Would you like to hear some grooming tips for your new Calico kitten? There are numerous sites that show photos/videos with the information that you are seeking. Do you struggle with diabetes? Help is a click away.

In the business world, digital technologies now provide face-to-face video-conferencing and other real-time innovations via platforms like GoToMeeting and others. Time and distance are no longer an impediment to personal interaction.      

  1. What We Reveal About Ourselves

Today, people use social media as an outlet for sharing thoughts and feelings. Words like ‘transparency’, ‘organic’ and others describe this new paradigm in thinking. Social media allows its users to reveal their personalities, interests, vulnerabilities, and capabilities. We use it to celebrate, vent, complain, and share – it’s almost like an online support group for the masses.

  1. What We Can Influence

Today, mainstream media no longer holds the power and influence that it once did. Some individuals on Twitter now have a million or more followers. YouTube videos go viral and reach millions within hours or days. Most importantly, the bulk of this content is coming from regular people, not corporate-owned media organizations. As new media forms continue to expand, the ability of people to influence public opinion and policies increases exponentially. Today, people are active participants because they have a voice – they are bystanders no more.

Check out this fascinating video entitled: Does Social Media Have the Power to Change the World?

Conclusion

In the end, the technology that drives emerging media is not all that important – it is merely the vehicle that transports us to a new place and new possibilities. What matters is what these technologies provide us on the most basic human level: the age-old need to connect, listen, share, and engage with one another. Change is now, indeed.