Follow Our Lead

Our new campaign, #FollowOurLead, launched this past week to coincide with our efforts to not only broaden our business’ scope and impact on the industry but also to start paving the path towards a new endeavor that will give creatives an outlet to experiment and gain access to the marketing world that will benefit our clients and artists alike.

Hence the campaign name. We’re taking the path not least traveled but untraveled entirely. Our business plan is ready and our eyes are to the future. We challenge you to join us by following our lead.

You jelly?

Jellyfish are amazing, terrifying and inspiring creatures. Oft misunderstood by the world, vilified in children’s cartoons (you can bounce on the tops without getting stung, right, Marlin?), regarded as predatorial, some have even called them monsters of the seas.

For a second, without preconceptions, consider their appearance. They’re truly beautiful. In the right light, their luminescence borders on alien. Without our preconceptions about them, would we be so afraid? After all, they were here first.

Jellyfish out-date humans, fish, even dinosaurs. Scientists have found fossilized evidence dating 500 million years back that prove this intrepid if aimless, water invertebrate…is a force of nature that is quickly dominating the ocean – even halting human interference in the seas.

What does this have to do with marketing and more specifically Dexter J. Knox Marketing? We’ve decided to revere the jellyfish and what it can teach us.

Marketing companies are a dime a dozen in the social media age. We know this and (pardon the pun) understand that we are just another fish in the sea of digital commerce.

Many marketing companies maintain a laser focus on the current business landscape. Doing this is ill-advised given how the market is shifting. Some say we are on the verge of the death of social media.

We could argue against the numbers, present conflicting data or bury our heads in the sand. But, that isn’t us. Which is why we’re announcing plans to diversify what our business does.

As we’ve always promised to be, our efforts at remaining transparent during this coming wave of change is what prompted us to provide this update.

Our team is currently drawing up a new business plan that we hope will entice clientele and investors that will help us manifest a new vision for marketing in the future. Our plans include creating a full-service production facility that will house more than just our offices – it will provide an artistic landscape and canvas for creators to flourish in. Click To Tweet

We won’t go into full details at this point given every day we improve on our plans. Suffice to say: this undertaking promises to broaden artistic endeavors and possibilities for everyone in our area and abroad. We’re talking video, photography, exhibits, event space, equipment, tutorials, invention, and more – all in one location, all with the goal of helping the world see our clients in new ways.

John Lennon encouraged the world to IMAGINE. Imagine with us and be a part of spreading that message.

DJK Marketing will approach our new ventures with the same fluidity, flexibility, and ease that’s kept jellyfish a part of this world for half a billion years. It’s worked for them.

And sure: jellyfish sting…but only if you get in their way.

They were here first, after all.

Remember Dorey's wise words? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just. Keep. Swimming. Click To Tweet

Trauma alert: the facebook page do no harm protocol

The new Facebook News Feed algorithm has taken a sizable chunk of flesh from brands that had become highly reliant on their pages for driving consumer interest. We could even argue that the 50% drop since it’s inception seven months ago was more than a chunk of flesh. Possibly an arm, a leg, or two of each.

As we’ve stated before, marketing is always in flux, and this change was a game-changer that should compel marketers to reevaluate their landscape. But what of the immediate need to staunch the bleeding? Can the limbs be saved?

To answer that question, first, you’ll need to assess the damage and get your brand to Trauma Room #1.

DO NO HARM

 

If you’ve had a successful Facebook Page campaign in place in the past and have seen it suffer under the weight of the new algorithm, look to your history for a place to begin administering an antidote.

There’s no shame in going back to square one when your brand’s life hangs in the balance. In fact, the most basic steps and tools for rebuilding what was lost are still useful.

Marketers that scramble for a new experimental campaign tactic might find it blow back on them if they don’t return to the foundation that first served them well.

The Hippocratic Oath is cemented on the premise that medical professionals should only do what they believe will benefit the patient, hence the term DO NO HARM.

Approach your marketing tactics in the same manner. Nothing will tear away what’s left of your consumer base and engagement like something that doesn’t match your brand’s tone and message.

TRAUMA 101

Facebook Page interaction is geared towards the marketing world’s bread and butter: creating organic reach that in turn can drive traffic to your real money maker (read: website, retail outlets, etc.) and boost profits. That hasn’t changed.

The effectiveness of what had become commonplace, if not easy, digital marketing…that’s what’s changed.

Tackling the cause before focusing on the effect will require more thought, timing, editing and creativity.

VALUE

When the desire to push content overcomes you, before expelling any energy on it, decide if it actually has value to your target audience. Is it helpful? Can you deliver it? Will it solve an issue?

If it isn’t helpful. Drop it. If it isn’t something you can actually give the audience. Move on. If there is no issue, there is no need.

Bottom line is, as marketers, our initial reaction to any possible profit is to push for the dough. When your possible exposure is limited, best to save your words for when they’ll actually count. Consumers hate useless posts and product pushes – that’s what their friends and family are for.

TIMING

Timing is everything. Might as well get it tattooed on your face if you’re a marketing professional. The rule is even more important now given that the algorithm holds no steadfast timing window that fits every company.

Sure, Facebook users frequent the platform constantly but the window for actually grabbing their attention and holding it is rather limited.

Hootsuite’s marketing team found the best times for them to share content on the site was limited but illuminating:

  • 12-3 p.m.
    • Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays
  • 12-1 p.m.
    • Saturdays and Sundays

Different brands won’t find those times to be necessarily as beneficial to them. Head back to the drawing board if they don’t. Your best friend now is the Facebook Page Insights. The data is worth more than gold.

VISUALS

We touched on this yesterday but it bears repeating: BE VISUAL. Human beings are drawn to what they see and no algorithm can combat that. Whatever you’re serving up, make it eye-catching but keep it on brand.

Page posts that contain images are more than twice as likely to be engaged with.

Video, while initially over-sold, still has it’s place as well. Images catch the eye, but video keeps attention spans longer – even if it is just a matter of seconds.

In order to keep your videos prevalent and highly interacted with, try changing up their formatting. Facebook’s Live feature has proven useful in some instances. Producing your own content in varied presentations can lead to better engagement. Consider educational videos. Go behind-the-scenes. For some brands, even posting quotes with compelling imagery works.

LINK IT UP

Brands that create their own self-sustaining image across platforms often excel. Your website, while the likely prime target, still needs to NOT be the only option.

Websites and social commerce stores need to also include links to your Facebook page. That includes Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. When customers are done viewing one outlet, give them the push to check out your Facebook Page with the promise of a different environment and content – deliver on that promise.

CONTENT IS KING

Timing, value, visuals and linking in will only get you so far if your content doesn’t fit the platform’s expectations.

Facebook users like to interact with posts that bring them into the conversation. The easiest way to do this is to keep it short, simple, sweet and ask questions.

As we can clearly see given the current political climate, people love to voice their opinions whether it’s about bipartisanship or their favorite pizza topping (just not pineapple). Brands can capitalize on this by understanding two things:

  • Short – The average consumer’s attention span is drastically short. If your visuals manage to get them to read, you’ve done great but it’s only half of the battle. Think about tweets on Twitter. The shorter they are, the more likely users are to read it, retweet it, comment, like, etc. Facebook is no different. Keep your long posts to your website or blog. This isn’t the place for them.
  • Questions – Take a look at your own personal news feed. Notice what draws you in. You like a picture here or there. Comment if it’s a friend or family member. What if it doesn’t meet those parameters? More often than not, Facebook users want to have a voice. So, ask a question relevant to what you’re marketing. Make it open, vague, friendly. Avoid controversy of any sort. No one wants to buy a product or service from a company that stirs the pot a little too aggressively.

RESUSCITATE

These are just basic ways to help improve Page engagement in the short term. Marketing in the digital age requires that we constantly learn from our failures and adjust accordingly.

Given that engagement is only expected to drop further, make sure your strategy starts simple, gauge its impact using metrics, and build from there.

Just remember, your brand isn’t dying. It’s just going to have to learn to breathe while Facebook tries to keep its head above water.

The Facebook Engagement Purge

Facebook Pages visits are down 50%. If that simple fact doesn’t strike the heart of marketers reading this, you’re likely not valuing or applying your best to the pages you manage. Facebook, for years now, contributed greatly to the bottom lines of brands, bringing their products and services exposure unforetold in the forecasts of traditional marketing. This steep decline is a deafening alarm for those who’ve grown heavily reliant on the social media giant for attracting new customers.

SNAPSHOT

Buffer, the company behind a social media platform, brings us startling new numbers that reveal just how bad the bleeding out has become since January after analyzing 43 million Facebook Page posts from the top 20,000 brands on the site.

The numbers reflected in the graphic above were made in partnership with BuzzSumo, a content reach measurement tool. What we see is not a steady but a sharp decline in engagement – so much of a drop that it’s time for marketers to reassess strategy and brace for impact.

THE CAUSE

On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in January Facebook updated it’s News Feed algorithm with the promise of more prominently displaying the posts of friends and family. The move greatly reduced the prevalence and efficacy of brand pages almost instantaneously.

It wasn’t as if brands didn’t see the writing on the wall but many weren’t prepared for the sheer swiftness slashing the social outlet’s sway for consumers’ spending patterns brought.

The algorithm remains unchanged in that respect and if market experts are right, it could only get worse.

HEMORRHAGE

Page engagement is possibly the most important aspect of any Facebook Page’s analytics. It gives marketers an indicator as to whether they’re heading in the right direction in attracting possible customers.

In eighteen months Page engagement has dropped 50%. Beyond that, individual posts are seeing an even greater drop, falling nearly two-thirds.

Around the time of the algorithm change, Facebook began to urge businesses with pages to use new avenues to generate traffic in the form of live video. The promise of increased engagement hinged on alleged 6X the level of customer interaction. We’ve since seen that number plummet.

Despite their insistence, videos and links continue to be outpaced by image posts.

As the graph above clearly reveals, even image performance is abysmal. From the Q1 2017 to Q2 2018, engagement with images dropped 63%.

The knee-jerk reaction from marketers has been to flood the platform with as much content as possible. The study notes that Pages post numbers increased by 24% in the same time frame.

It brings to mind the argument over quality versus quantity, but even that golden rule is proving oddly disparaging. Pages that posted less than one post per day saw the greatest engagement yet, overall, saw the lowest interaction.

In other words: post more, less engagement. Post less, less engagement. Screwed if you do…screwed if you don’t.

The drop in engagement has hit retail brands in the gut, dropping an average of 50%. They have it a lot better than artists’ Pages, seeing a decline of 70.6%.

NO TOURNIQUET

Sadly, the decrement is expected to only continue. Facebook itself predicted in its Q2 2018 earnings call that the platform’s growth will decelerate over the next two quarters. User growth is stagnant. There is no plan to alter the algorithm that’s been hinted at.

Brands and marketers have to reevaluate the landscape and find new ways to attract Facebook users. What that will look like depends on the originality and creativeness presented. With little time on the stage, actors with bit parts have to make their mark before the spotlight moves on to the next scene.

📌 Social Media’s Dark Horse

The idiom “dark horse” is often used to describe an entrant into a race that wins to the chagrin of those who stacked the odds against them. Often times a “dark horse” is lesser known than other contestants, undervalued, full of secrets and schemes that, once revealed, render them the victor.

Many marketing professionals have yet to capitalize on the dark horse in the room that’s getting brighter by the day.

Pinterest. Yes, that social media platform where people “pin” things they like to ever-growing “boards” that amass ideas and wants/needs for consumers covering everything from weddings to herb gardens and man caves, is underestimated, though investors are quick to question whether it overestimates itself.

This past week Pinterest revealed that the company’s user base is growing – fast. Monthly active users are up 25% with two hundred and fifty million using it each month. That’s a fifty million user increase compared to September of last year.

The number of “pins” is growing even faster with a staggering 175 BILLION now reported – 75% increase year-over-year.

The company itself is growing with the user base, increasing it’s employment numbers by 32% since 2017.

It all points to what investors are wondering with an IPO on the horizon, likely mid-2019. Can Pinterest live up to it’s expected valuation of $12.3 billion?

One need only look to the feature of the site that’s growing in popularity: “pins” that directly link to items for purchase at retailer sites. It’s the fastest growing aspect of the site, up 115% from 2017.

Sure, Instagram is making a play for a similar social commerce offering, but Pinterest has been quietly integrating this ability for years. It’s true value to anyone offering a service or product is in its veiled ability to convert users into buyers.

SNAPSHOT

Why Pinterest has grown so quietly and dramatically is anyone’s guess, but we have learned recently a lot about when and where consumers are using the service. Users studied showed that the lion’s share of their time on the service was spent while watching television (45%). Read between the lines: consumers are finding their “wants” while your costly ad spots are airing and paying Pinterest more attention.

How can brands draw attention back to their products and services? By first seeing the value in Pinterest’s sneakily covert ability to get people to buy…anything.

Fifty percent of users now report that they’ve made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin on the service. That number is shockingly high. Even higher is the 67% of users that have discovered a new brand or product simply scrolling through a seemingly random series of images. Fish in a barrel, as they say.

The user base is, not surprisingly, predominately women, who comprise 41% of those using the service. Of the entire user base, 84% are ages 18-64. That’s a lot of fish with a lot of dough.

55% of Pinterest users use the social networking site to shop.

Getting the picture?

MARKETING ON PINS AND…BOARDS

Lucky for brands, Pinterest has been laying the groundwork for successful, free, and easy marketing.

The first step is establishing a Business Account on the service. Think of it as a secondary storefront to your website. Build it as you would any other page but think heavily on the visual element keeping your brand’s voice. Much like your website, SEO needs to be a major concern – Pinterest pages weigh heavily in search results.

Customize your page to reflect your brand’s image. It’s the same as any other social media site: cover photos, board cover photos, titles, descriptions, etc. Don’t just copy and paste from your site to Pinterest. The two need fluidity but need a different feel given your goal is to first catch the eye, then the wallet versus your website where you’ve likely already managed to grab their attention for them to arrived there.

Speaking of websites, Pinterest has a number of tools that can further integrate the service into your existing site. Adding Pinterest’s “Save Button” is akin to letting someone bookmark an appealing purchase for later consideration. It might not grant you instant gratification but it guarantees that they’ll see your product again later, and be that much more inclined to purchase.

Rich Pins add another layer to the service’s integration providing summarized information through a branded portal that keeps your products and services more prevalent to users on both web and mobile.

Then there are Product Pins that bring your web store into Pinterest itself. These pins connect to your site’s catalog but allows users to add them to a Pinterest “bag” that reroutes them to your site at the end of the visit – where they can make the purchase.

PIN IT

As with all social media, being active on Pinterest is by far the most important part of successful marketing on the service. Keep your posts regular, product updates synced and co-mingle with users to build trust.

Once you’ve got your footing, Pinterest’s own analytics tools will help you hone your skills and increase the service’s impact on your marketing efforts.

BOTTOM LINE

A free service exists that brands can utilize and grow from, yet marketers are still mirroring the proverbial “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Take a sip. I promise it’s not poison.

Natural Disaster Marketing

Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the U.S. East Coast bringing with it the threat of potentially deadly wind forces and a deluge of rain that some estimate could pound areas with 30-40” of flood waters. Experts even estimate that the storm could dump 10 TRILLION gallons of rain on North Carolina alone.

Residents facing the brunt of the impact are scrambling for basic necessities like food, water, and shelter as the storm made landfall this morning.

Some brands might shy away from natural disaster marketing – a wise but unfortunate choice. Yesterday we talked about the thin line of tone in social media marketing and in the instance of a hurricane, that line is even thinner. With proper framing and kid gloves, brands can actually walk that line while building trust and profitability in the future.

EYE OF THE STORM

Companies often shy away from situations that could align their brand with anything destructive or damaging. For good reason. A gun manufacturer doesn’t exactly want to get media attention for paying for the funerals of the victims of a mass shooting. It implies complicity.

Yet, other companies have leveraged tragic events to their benefit while coming off as “good guys” to a customer base they could have only dreamed of.

Remember when Tide sent free mobile washing stations after Hurricane Katrina? Yes, it was the right thing to do. It was also marketing genius.

Their products were featured across networks and from there trickled down to local affiliates. Paying for a national ad spot or even a local traffic slot likely far outweighed the exposure they double-downed on.

Hurricane Florence is no different in that respect. Sure, not every company has a product they can easily apply in a philanthropic manner. At least not at first glance.

DISASTER MENTALITY

The first step in marketing amid chaos and dysfunction is identifying needs. In the case of Florence, people need inland shelter, food, water and down the line funding and tools for recovery.

Nearly every brand, regardless of their industry, can contribute to these needs…and benefit from the generosity.

That’s not to say that companies don’t give out of the kindness of their hearts, but let’s be honest, the cost-benefit-analysis still whispers in the back of marketers’ minds.

Florence has already shown us two instances where brands saw this potential.

U-HAUL

One of the first major companies to step up to the plate with a giving hand was self-moving and storage leader, U-Haul.

The company announced Tuesday on their blog and Twitter an amazing offer to people looking to protect their most valued possessions.

U-Haul Companies is offering 30 days of free self-storage and U-Box container usage at nearly 50 facilities in the path of Florence.

Imagine in the coming years the number of people who took the company up on that offer. Do you think they’ll go to a competitor in the future when they need storage options or a truck rental? Unlikely.

In the meantime, the locations offering the free storage option fill empty spaces that were doing nothing for the company except impacting heating and cooling costs. Win-win.

AIRBNB

Airbnb has grabbed the bull by the horns in natural disaster marketing, having just activated its “Open Homes” program in preparation for Hurricane Florence. The program, which has been in place for some time, offers free housing assistance to “displaced neighbors” and “relief workers deployed to help” during and in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The company reports that over 300 hosts have opened their homes to those in need in just a matter of days since the program was activated in this instance. At this point, the company plans to keep the activation in place until October 1st.

This level of philanthropy is massive in its scope given it stands at the ready for any kind of disaster in areas where Airbnb offers its service. A simple click sends a message to homeowners with listings on the site asking if they’re willing to provide shelter, and boom, there it is. They can opt in or out.

Not only does this build trust for the brand, but it fills a need. And, much like U-Haul, those rooms and homes would likely be vacant and are now being used to help others.

Possible customers, even those who didn’t use the service during this storm, will likely remember Airbnb and the hosts that offered up safe shelter.

BE THE UMBRELLA

So what of brands that don’t have something in heavy demand during tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, and wildfires? A jewelry design company isn’t going to send gemstone laced silver bracelets to lift spirits.

Look to the most basic of necessities and find a way to brand it. Use what you’ve got as a billboard. It may seem heartless but it works.

Send aid in the form of palettes of water, canned goods, mobile charging stations, umbrellas, blankets, etc. The options really are endless if you open your mind to them.

Load them up in branded vehicles and trucks. Go with them for delivery. Shake hands, comfort the heartbroken and leave your brand on the side of the truck. Be human, let your brand speak for itself.

Trust me, you’ll be seen and heard all while doing something that helps save lives.

The above examples are the simplest way of understanding that being philanthropic in natural disasters is actually beneficial to a brand’s image and builds a sense of goodwill (read: trust) among potential consumers.

Watch your tone or pay the price

In the age of social media, brands have a direct line to their customer base, 24/7/365. Whether it’s endearing themselves with emoji or building community with hashtags, the possibilities for communicating a positive image that translates to a better bottom line are endless. That is if marketers understand it’s a double-edged sword that if yielded incorrectly, could leave you with your brand’s blood on your hands.

Millennials are arguably the most influential audience on social media, and they aren’t of the baby boomer variety when it comes to advertising. Recent numbers tell us that 84% of those millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. Bread and butter tactics, long proven effective, are now still required by companies looking for revenue, but they aren’t doing the trick.

If there’s one lesson all marketing professionals can agree on it’s that trust is imperative. Consumers do not willingly buy items, in any regularity, if they don’t trust the source/brand. Given we now know that millennials lack that key element, brands are back at square one and the tools at their disposal are exactly what can save them, or hang them out to dry.

TONE IS EVERYTHING

Students of marketing know the name Albert Mehrabian for setting the standards of communication with his study that tells us our words don’t count for much. Only 7% of communication comes from words alone. Human interaction is predominantly conveyed through body language (55%) and tone (38%).

Social media drastically alters that comprehension by removing more than half of the pie. One could argue, likely correctly, that this increases the importance of tone and the words that accompany it. Subtext, context, and connotation can often be misconstrued by a customer base that can’t see you eye-to-eye.

Despite this most basic premise, compounded by the rise of social media, marketers simply don’t agree: 81% believe brand experience outweighs conversation. That’s a shocking number given an estimated 879 million complaints were made about brands on social media…in one year.

FRIENDLINESS VS PROFESSIONALISM

Tone matters when it begins to blur the line for consumers between friendliness and professionalism. A conversation lacking fundamental trust that’s laced with overt familiarity and conviviality is bound to backfire. We’ve all been taught not to take candy from strangers (except on Halloween).

Yet brands that adopt a stiff, professional demeanor (read: tone) online can just as easily lose a customer’s interest for lack of character.

Finding the balance between the two is the real walking-the-high-wire trick for brands hoping to leverage social media for a beefier bottom line.

Many brands have toed that line, for better or for worse. Take Wendy’s who on #NationalRoastDay in 2017 began a campaign that propelled the brand’s Twitter handle to “stardom” for it’s dry, irreverent, cutting, take-no-prisoners tweets:

Their tone, while playful, won them great media hype and likely boosted sales. This could have easily backfired for any brand whose logo isn’t that of a prepubescent girl with red pigtails. Their image lent itself to ironic irreverence – a pairing that 99% of brands could not get away with.

KNOW YOUR BRAND

Perception is the only scope brands can take when trying to establish an appropriate tone online. Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes before you try to sell them new shoes.

Is your brand a part of an industry that can use comedy to its benefit? If not, step away from the mic, Shecky.

As fun as it is to be the class clown, remind yourself what that kid grew up to be. A joke.

Knowing what your brand already means to your existing customer base is the best measure for deciding how to phrase your messages and how to frame your tone.

If you aren’t sure where to start – you aren’t ready to be in front of the keys. Assess from the beginning and decide where you want to go from there.

GRAMMAR NAZIS

Every heard the term “textisms”? If not, time for a lesson. We’ve covered how heavily body language plays into communication; so what has society deemed a suitable replacement? You guessed it: grammar and punctuation.

Mind your p’s and q’s, cross your t’s, dot your i’s and watch your manners. Studies show that punctuation and the implied framing it provides count big when appealing to a target audience.

If your team doesn’t already have one of “those people” who will spend half an hour extolling the importance of distinguishing they’re, their and there – hire one.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T…

Talk about sex. Or religion.

Just. Don’t.

READING BETWEEN THE LINES

Branding isn’t just pretty images, catchy jingles and slogans or proper public relations anymore. It has its own language and it requires a finesse that can backfire if applied too conservatively or liberally – and it doesn’t even have to do with politics (unless you inject it – another DON’T).

Know your brand and you’ll find your voice. Just make sure you speak softly…and carry a big stick.

Branding with #️⃣Marketing

Marketing, as a discipline, is in a constant state of flux. Variables come and go with fads and services – many of which flash in the pan faster than a firework. The rise of social media outlets came with a new, deeply integrated feature that many users have yet to fully comprehend. Worse yet, brands aren’t exploiting the power of an entirely FREE marketing tool that they can grow from with a few taps on their keyboards.

Hashtags have evolved into a filing system in the digital world unparalleled in it’s growing complexity and widespread use.

The first service to flex its ability to use hashtags was Twitter. Instagram has since become the epicenter for their use with users often listing dozens of hashtags to drive interaction.

The confusion over hashtags and their proper place in the digital world isn’t reserved for just passively active consumers. Even Twitter users with 1.5 million followers still question their existence, such as reality TV star and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel:

A surprising number of respondents thanked me for clarifying why hashtags exist.

As a marketing professional, it took me by surprise. Hashtags are a part of the arsenal of any active brand. Yet, efforts at using them are greatly downplayed by target audiences for lack of comprehension.

WHY WE HASHTAG

The tweet above encapsulates the indexing value of hashtags, but what of its effectiveness in marketing?

At our own company, we adopted #DJKMarketing because it creates a “file” on the internet that can be searched across all platforms. We add it to all tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts. We do this for a number of reasons.

#PORTFOLIO

Companies that provide products or services both equally can benefit from the adoption and continued use of a hashtag unique to their brand. Firms across the world have found benefit in branding a hashtag for product lines, slogans, even events, and non-profits. Take #DJKMarketing, for example. We attach the hashtag to any of our content, visual or otherwise, that is original and from our shop. You can Google or search that tag on any platform and your results will present our product and the example it provides for potential clients.

Any brand can do this for free.

#COMMUNITY

Hashtags, in and of themselves, can be looked at as sub-communities for direct-to-consumer startups and those who focus on social commerce.

Consumers now hashtag as a way of participating in a community of fellow users of a service or product. A brand that adopts a specific hashtag can use this to their advantage by monitoring engagement, participating in discussions and even using the social media conversation in its branding marketing tactics.

Take for instance Austin-based Snap Kitchen, a health food-focused pre-made meal outlet that in the past year made its first foray into the growing demand for meal subscription services. #SnapKitchen has brought together its target audience – customers that are willing to spread their appreciation for their product. Their hashtag is now attached to just at 10,000 Instagram posts alone.

#ENGAGEMENT

As briefly mentioned before, the creation of a community using your hashtag not only gives you a better way of measuring interest in specific products or your brand as a whole, it also opens a dialogue with your customer base.

Regardless of the industry, providing a product that appeals enough to a consumer that they use a hashtag to spread your message (again, FOR FREE) is a win-win. It also denotes that your consumer base wants to be a part of the conversation.

Not only does this allow for brands to directly interact with its audiences, it also gives them an entry point for selling additional products and services.

Additionally, it gives brands an opportunity to respond to criticism or complaints in an arguably less public forum.

#STICKWITHIT

The most imperative directive for any brand hoping to harness the power of hashtags is continuity. Whatever your hashtag is, don’t deviate. It muddies the waters and destroys any possible sense of community by fracturing the ability for consumers to easily discover products or sub-brands.

Sure, different marketing campaigns are often undertaken with different hashtag variables by major corporations who can splash their latest hash on billboards and on shopping bags. Banana Republic’s #ItsBanana tag didn’t deter their adoption and cross-promotion of #IntheJeans.

Obviously, not every shop can contend with a consumer base confused by too many options.

Simple and steady is always best when introducing a new tactic to your brand’s arsenal.

FINAL #THOUGHTS

Hashtag marketing is easy, fast and free to any brand that can find a way to introduce it into its branding strategy.

That being said, the free price tag should flash neon in marketer’s mindset. Entering into hashtagging expecting immediate and continual profits is ill-advised. Revenue and profit come with time and measuring whether a hashtag campaign contributed to that growth has yet to be made simple. Tools do exist for understanding the return of investment on a free social media venture – but they’re far from perfect at this juncture.

Do it for your customers. Build a community. Participate in the conversation.

Your brand will thank you. #DJKMarketing

Smart speakers: the new frontier

When John F. Kennedy famously said “We’re standing on the edge of a new frontier”, he wasn’t wrong. The United States was on the precipice of what would become arguably the most dynamic change in culture and politics in modern history. The 1960’s brought about social change unprecedented, and with it came a shift in technology that forever altered the American idea of success.

If one could afford a color television or a microwave, they’d made it. This was the era of the nuclear family ideal.

From the 60’s on, the pace has only quickened and become broader in its scope. Smartphones have multiplied, laptops now cost less than the phones in our pockets. Tablets turned out to be more fad than necessity. Things we once heralded as game-changers now sit on shelves collecting dust.

Brands now foot the bill for miscalculated risks when it comes to hedging bets on where their advertising budget is allocated. Invest in wearables, an insofar untapped marketing outlet? Dicey given only one company has truly managed to create a device that sells continually and that company happens to be Apple, the most highly valued company on the public market.

Modern advertising has to take into account all of the options, not just the tried and true. As we’ve seen in the past, what works one day, won’t necessarily work the next. Recently we’ve taken a closer look at the deepening trend of visual and contextual expression in the case of emoji marketing for brands. It’s useful but hinges on consumers’ ability to see the forest for the trees: vision is a necessity. Yet, a new contender for consumers’ shrinking attention span omits this sensory titillation.

THE RISE OF SMART SPEAKERS

They say that seeing is believing. Marketing depends on this simple proverbial promise. Visuals compel consumers and drive spending. It’s one of the most basic principles of the premise. Yet, new data just released by Adobe Analytics reveals that marketers with their sights set to the horizon might need to turn a blind eye and learn to listen.

Monday, Adobe Analytics released new statistics that reveal that after surveying 1,000 U.S. Consumers, smart speaker ownership has risen quickly to roughly a third of the population (32%) – that’s up from 28% in January of this year.

The market is now calling for a form of advertising that, until now, was relegated to FM dials. Radio spots had previously been the only widespread auditory marketing medium. In 2018, we now face a new mountain to climb – one that doesn’t have commercial breaks.

Amazon broke the mold on November 6, 2014, when it released the first iteration of it’s popular Echo speaker. It shook the technology industry and prompted Google to release its own smart speaker variation, the Google Home line, driven by its own personal assistant app, Google Assistant. Other companies have followed suit, but four years later the two mega-companies still dominate the market and show no signs of slowing any time soon.

SMART SPEAKER DOMINANCE

Sales have risen, bringing with them a better understanding of just how consumers are actually using these devices. Adobe’s new data gives marketers a window into just where they can better target their audience via smart speakers:

 

Playing music on the speakers is, not surprisingly, the most dominant usage at 70%. Getting weather updates comes in at 64%. These two statistics belie the underlying issue with smart speakers from a marketing perspective: where can brands inject their message into commands that have no place for advertising? They can’t.

Further into the statistics is where marketers have to find their hope. Just under half of the polled users (47%) use their smart speakers for online search results. This is where SEO and content distribution across social media outlets and on the web becomes even more paramount for companies seeking exposure sans visual elements.

Those brands with a product to sell have even starker numbers to encourage exploiting smart speaker marketing: only 30% of owners have used the devices to shop. Why? We don’t know why the number is so low though we can theorize it is likely because of the simple fact that spending is directly tied to actually seeing what they’re getting.

Shoppers are already having to give up the tactile pleasure of touching a product before purchase. They’ve already foregone the thrill of instant gratification. What, you expect them to give up seeing the new-something-shiny, too?

This is why smart speakers require digital marketers to think about the full scope of what drives consumers to purchase a product, and from there remove each sense, independently from the others.

Want to sell a candy bar without flashy graphics? Imagine what the blind will need to hear to encourage them to try it. It’s just like any sales on the web without the ability to touch a product. We find a way to entice buyers by imagining their wants and needs by just using the ability to see.

This is where the marketer’s worth their salt have to think through the process. First, they’ll hear the message and want to know more. That’s half the battle. Beyond that, traditional marketing becomes necessary as Adobe’s data reveals. Yes, 30% use their smart speakers for shopping but those users confirm that predominately that third use the speaker to make an initial search. They actually end up on other devices to make final decisions and order products.

A SURE BET

Reassessing the marketing landscape is a necessity for any brand looking to grow and dominate when consumers are increasingly adopting devices that strip brands of the allure of visual stimulation. The market now demands it.

Smart speaker ownership is expected to jump to 48% of the population following the coming holiday season. 45% of current device owners report they plan to purchase additional devices for personal use. 23% of the same sample group plan to gift a smart speaker this holiday season.

As mentioned before, tablets went through a similar trend in the years following the first release. The fire burned bright but dwindled to a spark languishing in the wind. How do we know smart speakers aren’t really just a fad? That they aren’t sitting unused on side tables?

People are actually using them the longer they have them. More than three quarters (76%) say their use of smart speakers has increased over time. 71% use them daily and 44% report they use them multiple times a day.

Google and Amazon have even kept their expanding lists of skills and routines a part of people’s weekly email routines. Every week each sends out digests of what they’ve enabled the week prior. They serve as a constant reminder to users each week that there’s always something new to try that might make their lives easier or more entertaining.

BOTTOM LINE

Where tablets failed, smart speakers are poised to capitalize on a market variable that’s only just now being tapped by marketing prowess.

The initial trepidation of seeming foolish by early adopters has been squashed. 72% of users now report that they feel comfortable speaking to their imaginary personal assistants in front of others. The stigma has faded.

As Amazon, Google and others flesh out different variants of their smart speaker lines, marketers need to take stock as well. Identifying where and how to lure customers that have always relied heavily on visual temptation without the sense is the new marketing frontier. Can you see it?

🤪Emoji: Marketing’s Trojan Horse

Nearly 20 years ago in a land far far away (Japan), a new mode of communication was created that would quickly and drastically alter our understanding of language worldwide.

Emoji have become the most effectual visual representation of human thought since our ancestors painted on cave walls. Their widespread adoption and use blurs boundaries and conveys a universal language unparalleled in known history.

The lexicon of emoji continues to grow, as does their ability to be harnessed by brands. Many major companies have already taken note of their usefulness.

SNAPSHOT

In 2016, emotional marketing platform Emogi estimated that 92% of the world’s population use emoji regularly. That number has likely grown as the proliferation of smartphones and other devices become more accessible.

Emogi found that age and gender played little in how often people used emoji. One small disparity found was the consistency of use. 56% of women were likely to use the symbols multiple times daily. That’s versus men who came in at an average of 44% of regular daily use.

Why is this important? It tells marketers that emoji are a rarity in the advertising world: it truly appeals and can be used by anyone with access to an enabled device. One need not know a certain language or dialect. They simply need the ability to see and comprehend.

In 2016, an estimated 2.3 trillion mobile messages were expected to use emoji. Imagine if a brand found a way to use that level of exposure to its benefit. Many already are.

SHIFTING IMPACT

Emoji are more than simple clip art of smiley faces, eggplants and monkeys. They’re part of a growing library of an increasingly fractured visual language that, despite its simple beginnings, is becoming harder to leverage.

Device compatibility has presented different collections that at times don’t translate from platform to platform (i.e. Apple vs Android). Political correctness in light of mass shootings has turned the gun into a water pistol🔫. Outcries of racial and gender prejudices diversified the flock👨‍⚕️👩‍⚕️. App makers are muddying the waters by introducing growing collections of “stickers” which roughly translate to larger, more intricate, clip art versions of already existing emoji symbols.

Despite the varieties, 75% of U.S. Consumers want more options and they want easier access cross-platforms.

 

Google Chrome now has a right-click emoji sub-menu, making the middle finger symbol all that much easier to inject. Just this week Instagram brought your most used emojis to the forefront of its commenting system. Let’s not forget that Facebook, after years of calls for a “dislike” button, debuted its six “reactions” feature. In a digital world, what consumers want – they better get.

The complications shouldn’t deter marketers, especially those who understand the basic premise of Occam’s Razor: all things considered, the simplest solution tends to be the right one.

So, how do brands properly tap into the emoji gold mine?

EMOJI BRANDING

Occam had it right. Simple is best…unless you’re part of a company with millions to throw at the problem. We can learn from their examples, of which there are many.

Brands like Chubbies, Domino’s, GrubHub, Coor’s and Pepsi have all proven that emoji is a cheap and viral social media vehicle for exposure. Each teach us, in their own way, how smaller companies can do the same.

Arguably one of the most memorable and effective smaller company marketing campaigns in recent years continues to be clothing maker, Chubbies. For having been around a matter of years, not decades, anyone that’s come into contact with their ads is likely to remember their name.

From playful emails to quirky tweets and Facebook posts, the company just “gets it”. They also “get” that emoji isn’t just for your bestie or Mom. The result? The company’s fan base is growing, fast.

Pepsi Co. and Coor’s beer have jumped on the brand wagon as well, going as far as commissioning their own custom emoji available on varying messaging apps. A modest investment given Emogi found that 45% percent of messaging users were more likely to use Pepsi branded emoji or stickers than the default option. That number jumps even higher in Coor’s case, hitting 59% of users.

Consumers love their emojis. They love their brands as well. Combine the two and you have the perfect cocktail of marketing genius.

Examples aren’t limited to the majors though – unless we’re talking about the New York Yankees. The team’s PR team now holds a yearly Emoji Day at Yankee Stadium.

Pizza Hut went as far as releasing a menu composed entirely of…you guessed it…emoji.

Snapchat has taken it a step further, bringing automation into the mix. Ever noticed that some of your contact list seems to have emoji seemingly randomly assigned to the end of their username? It’s no fluke. The company uses a number of factors that add these emoji based on everything from frequency of contact to the person’s zodiac sign.

As with anything marketing, context is everything. Take it out of that scope, and you’ll misfire.

GrubHub makes use of the simplest of the emoji library and pairs it with the simplest form of communication: email. Anyone who uses the service and subscribes to their service has likely noted that they occasionally place an emoji in the subject line of their marketing emails. Your inbox seems black and white until a 🚩 makes an appearance.

🏁 FINISH LINE 🏁

We now live in a world where a language exists that knows no bounds. It speaks to nearly all of the world in a way never seen before. Marketers who have yet to see the value in that are missing a key opportunity to reach target audiences easily and at minimal cost.

Brands across the board need to speak the language, regardless of whether they have a product to sell. Take the case of the Dallas Police Department on July 17th of this year, #WorldEmojiDay:

DPD has no product to sell, but they saw the value in participating in the celebration because it was, what? Good for their image and literally cost them nothing to do.

Two years ago inserting an emoji into a text message required the download and workaround of installing a separate app/keyboard that was likely only available on mobile platforms. Now, keyboards have them built in. Emoji use is now as common as the language you speak – maybe even more than that.

Textual branding is great, but have you tried visual branding, for free? Or does your brand not speak the language?🙈🙉🙊