Thursday, February 24, 2011

Final Presentation: A Short's Story

This post was originally created as class assignment #10, the final assignment for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 29, 2010.  The slide presentation (without presenter notes) is reproduced below, and was presented to the class on December 4, 2010.

This presentation is the story of how a company called Short’s can build a tall brand. It outlines a comprehensive, integrated marketing plan for the Short’s Brewing Company, including defining the unifying theme, outlining the strategy, describing the tactics, and discussing the budget, timeline and performance metrics.

Are you asleep yet?

If this presentation were to deliver a traditional marketing recommendation in a conventional PowerPoint format, you just might be. But wake up! Short’s Brewing is anything but traditional, and for them, neither “old media” solutions nor “death by PowerPoint” will do.

Instead, this presentation is about unleashing the power of social media – with a promotion anchored by YouTube consumer-generated video content and supported by Facebook, Twitter, blogger outreach and more – to unlock the potential of the Short’s brand. In other words, it embraces the New Rules of Marketing and PR . Moreover, the information will be conveyed by following a few “new rules” for presentations, too, as outlined in Garr Reynolds’ book, Presentation Zen .

So, like the one-of-a-kind beers Short’s brews, this “prezo” has been “hand crafted” to reflect the style, personality and voice of the company and its founder, Joseph Short. Joe’s approach to the business of brewing and distributing beer is casual and hands-on, with an emphasis on creativity (his and his team members’) and an obvious nod to the natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle of his corner of Michigan paradise – on the shores of Torch Lake.

This presentation is deliberately designed to look a little “grungy” around the edges, like Joe Short. But don’t be fooled by informality -- as a business man, Joe is wise beyond his years, not just about brewing, but marketing too. So the presentation must deliver the goods, including specifics about how and why Short’s should take their web and social media efforts (which are already off to a great start) to the next level, and how it can help their bottom line.

With that introduction, here’s the presentation:

In look, voice and content, it aims to be true to the essence of this very intriguing brand. The goal is to keep Short’s friendly, “beer-next-door” brand feeling as they prepare for an expansion that will make them a much larger company. To meet that challenge, this plan engages consumers in a new way, encouraging them to tell their own stories.

It’s hoped that the campaign will not only help Short’s sell more beer, but in the process, align the brand with the state’s current zeitgeist and celebrate Michigan’s great stories.

photo credits:  Taps, Joe Short on the River, and 3 Shorts, all by Shorts Brewing Company

Short's Brewery: Using Social Media to Write the Next Chapter in a Great Story

This post was originally created as class assignment #9 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 22, 2010.

Short’s Brewery is a great Michigan success story – right when our state really needs one. The goal of this marketing plan is to leverage the power of social media to take this promising brand to the next level.

Below I describe the thought process behind the plan, and outline a 10-slide presentation that will serve as a roadmap for getting there.

A little bit about Short’s
In 2004, after honing his skills as a brewmaster with several downstate microbreweries, WMU grad Joseph Short returned home to the shores of Torch Lake, MI (northeast of Traverse City) to transform a former hardware store in the small community of Bellaire into a microbrewery and restaurant so that he could feed his obsession with making great beer while feeding his soul with the beauty and laid-back energy of northern Michigan.

Since then, Short’s Brewery has experienced impressive growth in production capacity, product portfolio, and statewide distribution in restaurants, bars and retail. They recently announced a significant investment to nearly triple their production capacity, to be completed in March 2011. Clearly, now is the time to get the word out about Short’s!

The ingredients in Short’s recipe for success
  • Passion -- for the craft of brewing beer, and for the northern Michigan lifestyle
  • Personality – a unique voice that begins with founder Joe Short, but doesn’t stop there. The Short’s brand personifies friendship, family, community and fun.
  • Product – In just six years, Short’s has developed a portfolio of craft brewed beers, including both annual beers and seasonal specials

Short’s is on the threshold of establishing an enduring brand; theirs is a story that draws you in – after spending just a few minutes on their website , their Facebook or their YouTube channel , and certainly after sampling one of their very unique beers, consumers will want to be a part of the action.

The marketing objective
Energize people all over the state to not only taste, but feel and be part of this lifestyle brand, resulting in a larger, more loyal customer base for Short’s.

Short’s has the recipe right, yet something is missing: the voice of the customer. In order to create the kind of community of loyalists needed to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, consumers who will repeatedly choose their brand (which at $10+ for a six-pack, is not a “given”) and, more importantly, recommend it to their friends, we recommend harnessing the power of social media.

The good news is that Short’s is already using most of the main social media tools (blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr). The challenge is to evolve their social media presence from “me” -- telling a one-way story about what’s going on with Short’s to “we” – incorporating their buyer’s voices to enrich the story.

An Integrated Marketing Theme: Short’s Stories
Encourage customers from every corner of the state to create and share their own Short’s Stories, through a unique social media contest involving consumer-generated video content.

The contest will be promoted through a robust social media conversation involving Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogger outreach. Budget and timeline specifics will drive implementation, and ongoing analytics will gauge how the program is contributing to building the Short’s brand.

Presentation Outline
  1. Slide #1 Meet Joe Short: An introduction to the man and the brand
  2. Slide #2 Beyond Living the Dream: A business overview detailing the vision that launched the business, and their driving principle: “Life is Short’s. Drink it while you’re here.
  3. Slide #3: Beyond Living the Dream (continued): more background on the business, including a huge planned expansion, and why that should drive a more aggressive marketing push
  4. Slide #4 Short’s Stories: Introducing the “big idea” of using consumer-generated video as the core of a program to foster a larger, statewide “community” that connects with Michigan’s current zeitgeist and celebrates Michigan’s unique places and people, with Short’s beer at the center of the action!
  5. Slide #5 Short’s Stories (continued): The Who/What/Where/When/How and Why of the video contest
  6. Slide #6: Getting the word out: blogger outreach (including a novel way to get influential bloggers invested in the idea), Facebook, Twitter, Short’s own YouTube uploads and more
  7. Slide #7: Time is money, and they have neither: outlining the budget (which will be tight as their cash is tied up in the expansion)
  8. Slide #8: Time is money, and they have neither (continued): Recommending a timeline/project plan to help Short’s small staff budget their human resources to execute the plan. (Even though the heart of the program is customer-generated content, there’s still a ton of legwork to make it a success.)
  9. Slide #9: Getting the recipe right: establishing the metrics and analytics tools that will be utilized to measure success
  10. Slide #10: Bottle it and sell it: Summary/closing comments

 The Who/What/Where/When/How/Why of the Short's Stories Competition:
  • Who: consumers (age 21+) from Michigan
  • What: consumer-generated content in the form of short (no pun intended – 3 minutes or less) videos that tell the story of how they enjoy Short’s in their special corner of the state.
  • Where: their videos can be uploaded to a special “Short’s Stories” channel on YouTube, where viewers can vote for their favorites
  • When: during a 4-month promotional period beginning in March, 2011 (coinciding with Short’s increased production capacity)
  • How: Viewers can vote for their favorite videos, and the top vote-getters will advance to be judged by a panel of “experts” (combining audience and professional opinions a la American Idol)
  • Why: for great prizes, and the chance to go viral!

photo credits:  closeup of bottles by d. magette; joe in the plant by short's brewing company

Using Google AdWords to Promote "The KC"

This post was originally created as class assignment #8 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 15, 2010.

Thank you for the opportunity to present a few ideas for utilizing paid search advertising through Google AdWords to promote the Kellogg Center (“the KC”).

Before we begin, let’s quickly recap your primary businesses and the audiences you target:

Currently, The Kellogg Center Hotel and Conference Center markets the following “products” on your website:
  • The State Room Restaurant
  • KC’s Lounge
  • Full-service Hotel
  • 35,000+ square feet of Conference /Meeting Room space
  • Gift Shop

Content on the website currently targets the following audiences:
  • Business customers – looking for meeting, conference, trade show, or banquet space
  • Wedding customers – looking for banquet space for wedding receptions
  • MSU parents, fans, alumni – visiting East Lansing for various MSU events, and needing overnight lodging
  • Local restaurant customers – looking for fine dining options
  • Local bar/lounge customers
Let’s now consider the advantages that online advertising, and specifically paid search advertising through Google AdWords, offers the KC to help you reach your marketing objectives:
  • Environment: Consumers have come to rely on Google search as an integral part of their shopping experience. Being present in the search environment is a vital at every stage in the purchase “funnel” – from building awareness to consideration to purchase intent to purchase – and even providing post-purchase feedback.
  • Precise targeting and delivery - Online advertising using AdWords lets you deliver a targeted message to a consumer exactly when and where they are looking for it. (unlike traditional media advertising, which requires the advertiser to commit a dollar amount based on an estimated audience, with very imprecise methods of estimating whether the target sees the ad.
  • Affordability and Efficiency -- Advertisers only pay when a consumer clicks on their ad, eliminating wasted impressions. Traditional media is very limited in its ability to determine whether and how a target acts on an ad message.
  • Market Knowledge -- AdWords provides detailed analytics to measure the effectiveness of a given campaign
  • Flexibility -- AdWords provides the flexibility to continuously improve effectiveness – based on the data reported, clients can change the parameters of their campaigns – including the keywords selected, ad copy, timing, daily budget, etc. – as they go. So you’re not stuck with a campaign that’s not working.

An efficient Google AdWords campaign can be designed for each of the product/prospect connections indicated on the above grid. For this presentation, and for the KC’s first foray into online advertising, we’ve chosen to design three individual campaigns that can run concurrently, each addressing a key business objective. This will allow the KC to put several different messages into the marketplace, evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and making adjustments as you go forward.

Campaign #1: “The KC Means Business”
Objective: Attract event planners and business executives looking for a venue for upcoming corporate events, company meetings, etc., and encourage them to request a quote using the KC’s online RFP tool.
a. TIMING: Using Insights for Google to look at the popularity and seasonality of keywords relevant to this category indicates that there is very little seasonality in search activity related to business event planning, but that there is a dip in activity during Nov/Dec.

A six-month plan (Jan-June) is proposed, with weekly adjustments to keywords, overall budget, ad creative, etc. to fine tune the campaign as more is learned.

GEOGRAPHY: This plan is limited to searches that take place within the state of Michigan. Businesses outside the state would be unlikely to choose Lansing as a destination for a conference or meeting (but this parameter could be changed if KC wishes to explore other regional targets)

AD PLACEMENTS/DAYPARTS: This plan assumes that professionals will be searching for venue options during regular business hours. Therefore, ads will be served up M-F, 8a -6p EST.

KEYWORDS:Beginning with a short list of potential keywords (such as “conference center”) along with the KC’s web URL, we used Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool to develop an initial keyword list for the campaign.
The following 18 keyword phrases are recommended for inclusion in the initial test:
  1. banquet halls
  2. business conference
  3. conference center
  4. conference center hotels
  5. conference center offers
  6. conference hotels
  7. corporate events
  8. event management
  9. event planning
  10. Hotel conference center
  11. hotels near conference center
  12. Kellogg conference center
  13. Kellogg conference center east lansing
  14. Kellogg conference center hotel
  15. Kellogg hotel & conference center
  16. Kellogg hotel conference center
  17. lansing conference center
  18. Meeting space
ADS TO BE TESTED:  Three text-only ads will be rotated throughout the campaign so that we can test the effectiveness of alternate copy approaches.

Meetings and Conferences
Best Event Location: On MSU Campus
Plan Your Event and Get a Quote

Hotel & Conference Center
Hold Your Next Event on MSU Campus!
Plan Your Event and Get a Quote

 (NOTE: In both of these ads we have chosen to focus on the functionality of the KC website to allow visitors to request a proposal using the online form referenced above.)   
Business Event Planning
Hold Your Next Event on MSU Campus!
Let Our Event Experts Help You

(NOTE: This third ad takes a slightly different approach, promoting the KC’s helpful event sales staff. This link redirects visitors to the staff directory page )

Campaign #2: “The KC is Your Wedding Destination”
Objective: Attract soon-to-be-married couples, parents and wedding planners looking to plan a wedding reception in the greater Lansing area, and persuade them to find out more about holding their reception at the KC.

TIMING: Again, we used Google Analytics to look at a key search terms.  Traffic was not highly seasonal, but definitely drops off during the holiday season (Nov-Jan.)

GEOGRAPHY:  This campaign targets potential customers within the state of Michigan. It is assumed that East Lansing is an unlikely location for a “destination wedding,” in other words, one of the families involved lives within the state.
AD PLACEMENTS/DAYPARTS:  All days and dayparts are to be considered for this campaign.

KEYWORDS SELECTED: Beginning with a short list of potential keywords (such as “wedding reception”) along with the KC’s web URL, we used Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool to develop an initial keyword list for the campaign.
The following 21 keyword phrases are recommended for inclusion in the initial test:

  1.  wedding reception
  2. wedding reception michigan
  3. wedding reception venues
  4. wedding reception halls
  5. wedding reception locations
  6. wedding reception halls in michigan
  7. wedding reception venues michigan
  8. banquet halls in michigan
  9. wedding reception planning
  10. wedding reception places
  11.  michigan wedding receptions
  12. wedding reception ideas
  13. places to have a wedding reception
  14. wedding receptions michigan
  15. wedding reception banquet halls
  16. banquet facilities
  17. banquet halls in michigan
  18. banquet rooms
  19. kellogg center msu
  20. msu kellogg center
  21. kellogg center michigan state university
Plan the Ultimate Wedding
Hold your reception on MSU Campus
Inquire Now About Special Discounts

This ad will send inquirers directly to “Planning a Wedding” page

Campaign #3: “Sparty On at the KC”
Objective: Attract MSU loyalists – including sports fans, parents and alumni planning trips to East Lansing for upcoming events in November and December (notably the remaining home football game, home basketball games and Winter Commencement), and encourage them to book accommodations in the hotel.

TIMING: This campaign is built around a specific promotional period of November 15- December 28. This time frame corresponds with remaining MSU home football game (11/20), the start of men’s basketball season (home games 11/16 – 12/31), and fall commencement (12/10, 12/11). It is recommended that a special Sparty discount be promoted during this campaign.

GEOGRAPHY: Since both parents and fans may come from around the country for these events, the entire US has been selected for this campaignAD PLACEMENTS/DAYPARTS – This campaign assumes that the audience may search anytime, 24/7, and any day of the week.

KEYWORDS SELECTED: Since this campaign will run nationally, the keywords selected all include a geographic reference point:
  1. east lansing hotel
  2. East lansing hotel deals
  3. East lansing hotels
  4. East lansing mi hotel
  5. East lansing mi hotels
  6. Lansing hotel deals
  7. Lansing hotel
  8. Lansing hotels
  9. Lansing mi hotel
  10. Lansing mi hotels
  11. Hotels near MSU
  12. MSU hotels
Note that campaigns can also be built around additional promotions, such as the upcoming Visiting Chefs Series promotion and Specials in the restaurant, lounge and gift shop, as soon as a promotional calendar is announced.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of each of the three campaigns, we will activate the campaigns at an initial test budget level set high enough to facilitate competitive bidding for keywords yet low enough to experiment with a variety of ads and keywords while keeping overall out-of-pocket costs low:
  • Campaign #1 (Business): maximum spend of $25/day
  • Campaign #2 (Wedding): maximum spend of $25/day
  • Campaign #3 (MSU): maximum spend of $25/day
After approximately 2 weeks, AdWords can calculate a Recommended Daily Budget for each of the campaigns, the amount necessary for ads to appear as frequently as possible for the keywords selected. We will then compare the Recommended Daily Budget with the Test budget levels to determine whether and where additional spending may be warranted.

From that point forward, we will evaluate and modify each ongoing campaign weekly.

photo credits: Kellog Center 1 by John M. Quick; Meet by joe schlabotnik; The Spartan by A. Blight; Lavender Wedding Cake by Jessica Higgins; Thank You by RobeRt Vega.

Social Media Smackdown: David Meerman Scott vs. Dr. Seuss

This post was originally created as class assignment #1 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on September 27, 2010.

 Reading David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR is revelatory. I haven’t found so much “I need to use this right now” information in one book since I first read The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Seuss.

What? You don’t have The Sneetches on your office bookshelf next to your AP Stylebook ? I won’t share any details that could spoil it for you; I’ll only say that if your days involve human contact, you need it. Every story and every lesson is priceless for business (and for life).

The same is true of New Rules of Marketing and PR. Especially for a marketing communications practitioner raised on traditional media and methods (like me), every chapter is a game changer.
I’ll admit, my march toward social media is a reluctant one. I’m a child of Big Advertising, with all of the biases and misperceptions Scott so ably unravels. In taking apart those prejudices, Scott makes the case that the old ways of gaining a consumer’s attention – buying it (advertising) or begging for it (public relations) – no longer apply. Today’s internet marketing is about earning it by acting more like a publisher and less like a huckster. Fortunately, he draws a pretty clear map, including plenty of landmarks where others have succeeded. In the process, he’s taken a lot of the fear out of this sea change for me. He’s also places himself in a head-to-head contest with Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) for the spot of honor on my bookshelf.

It was Scott’s ability to turn convention (not to mention my career path) on its ear that made Dr. Seuss’ book, and in particular the title story, come to mind. No doubt I’ll butcher its finer points (which are many) by even attempting a synopsis, but here goes: The Sneetches is a tale of one group of creatures (called Sneetches) with stars on their bellies, who discriminate against another group of Sneetches without stars on their bellies. A man comes along with a machine which, when walked through, can add or remove stars from bellies. Much confusion (and hilarity) ensues as each group scrambles to have stars added, then removed, again and again in a furious attempt to be with the “in” crowd, until no one can remember which Sneetch was in which group, and everyone lives together happily ever after without the class distinction that formerly separated them.

Who are Scott’s Sneetches? Old guard advertising and PR professionals, stuck with identities and assumptions that prove irrelevant when the new media “machine” is turned on. But just as Dr. Seuss leaves the Sneetches in happy collaboration, Scott’s story too, offers a happy ending for old media specialists from both sides of the tracks. I thought I’d feel left behind after reading “The New Rules of Marketing and PR ” like a star-less Sneetch, but instead, I’m armed with a strategic framework and proven tools so I can stop looking at my belly and get busy connecting.

So, pitting Scott vs. Seuss, who wrote the better business guide? Hard to say. Both are marvelous teachers, because (and Scott returns to this point again and again), neither says a word until they understand the issues driving their audience. I’m content to have them share the title. Dr. Seuss introduces us to a machine that can free and unite us. David Meerman Scott shows us how such a machine can work. I can’t wait to switch it on for myself and my clients.

photo credit:  sneetches by emceedowell

Monday, November 8, 2010

How I plan to sell my client on using YouTube

This post was originally created as class assignment #7 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 8, 2010.

I have a client that belongs on YouTube. To get them to take the plunge into online video, I need to make a compelling marketing case for investing their time, energy and (a small amount of) money to put their brand and their product line “in motion”. Here, I’ll outline the main points I plan to make to convince them to add online video to their marketing mix (in the form of answering the questions I anticipate they’ll ask).

The client:
A distributor of hand crafted wines (mostly from California), serving a defined region of the northeastern U.S. They sell their products to liquor retailers, restaurants and bars.

Note: At their request, I’ve left my client’s name and location out for the purposes of this discussion.

Their marketing challenges:
  • Liquor laws in the state where they operate are strict, limiting the marketing levers they can use to impact their business. They cannot sell direct to consumers. They cannot discount their products. They cannot use promotions on popular products to encourage trial of new or lesser-known labels.
  • Customers (bars, restaurants and liquor stores) are reluctant to stock or serve wines they are unfamiliar with, as well as wines with a higher per glass or per bottle cost to serve.
  • Currently, company sales representatives call on individual customers, opening bottles to pour samples (bottles which cannot be given to the customer for resale, but must be disposed of), which is an expensive tactic for building brand awareness and encouraging trial.
  • By law my client cannot sell direct to consumers. Currently, they must rely on the marketing efforts and recommendations of their retail customers (bars, restaurants and liquor sellers) to position and promote their products to wine drinkers. Most of their customers do little or no ongoing promotion of their brands.
  • Wine drinkers are reluctant to try unfamiliar labels without credible recommendations.
  • When purchasing a bottle of wine at retail, wine drinkers often rely on visual recollection of a wine’s label.
  • Most of the 36 wineries my client represents have websites. Only 3 feature video on their sites, but several brands were found in a YouTube search, indicating that there is content out there to make use of and build upon.

How can video help sell wine?
Marketing wine is all about storytelling. Wine enthusiasts are often as excited about the story behind a wine as they are about the taste of the wine itself. Telling a wine’s (or winemaker’s) story in a memorable way is a key step in elevating a specific wine on a wine lover’s must-try list. (It’s much the same challenge Valentina Trevino faced and met with her video art blog .

As the “middlemen” in the process, my clients’ challenge is to get the story of their wines out – both to retailers, to encourage them to stock/serve the wine, and to end consumers, to get them talking about – and asking for – the wine in stores and bars.

Here’s a great example of how a quick biographical video of a winemaker (a brand my client carries) helps position his brand and improve name recognition:

Scott Harvey Wines

Here’s another colorful example of how a brand my clients sell tells their wine’s story by connecting it with music:


Can my clients create great video content like this?
Yes!! After reviewing online video content in the wine category, I’m convinced that my clients can improve on much of what’s out there, while also leveraging some of the strong content some of their brands are currently creating (like the examples above).
My client company’s owners are creative, charismatic and passionate about the brands they sell. In addition to being able to produce in-house content about their wines, they also regularly visit the vineyards they represent, and conduct local tastings in their area, creating additional opportunities to capture video for use in marketing.

Initially, I would recommend that they create a template for producing simple yet compelling descriptive videos about each wine they sell. As an example, here’s how one of the brands they represent does this with virtually no creativity. With very little effort or expense, my clients can improve significantly on this approach:

Crane Brothers Brodacious

Once this initial step has been taken, I would recommend that my clients expand on that content by developing a video blog (to live on both YouTube and on their site) that captures their own personality, reviews and discusses the wines they carry, and provides additional lifestyle content (restaurant reviews, area events, etc.) relevant to the region.

Some inspiration for this: Gary Vaynerchuk:
Wine “superstar” Gary Vaynerchuk has proven that there is an audience of wine enthusiasts who will tune in for entertaining content. His video blog has grown from a very crude self-produced show to a multi-faceted business that extends well beyond reviewing wine. All because of he let his personality and passion shine through on video

Gary V

Once they have a plan for content, can they develop an online video strategy?
Again, YES!! Components of the strategy would include (but not be limited to):
  • Creating an on-site video blog and promoting the site to their region (reaching both their customers and end users/wine enthusiasts) via keywords, Google AdWords, etc.
  • Creating their own video channel on YouTube, and posting to Facebook and tweeting out each time a new video is added (they have a Facebook fan page, and efforts are currently underway to encourage their customers to follow them on Twitter)
  • Budget permitting, develop a Promoted Video campaign on YouTube. This would be an appropriate tool for them to use:
  • It’s as easy as Google AdWords to plan and place a buy.
  • It’s targetable – since their trading area is clearly defined as one portion of one state, this is essential
  • It’s affordable, since you only pay when your video is viewed
  • It has “legs” beyond the media buy, since viewers can comment, rate and share videos. This could prove highly beneficial for generating the “word of mouth” recommendations so critical to a wine’s success.
  • It’s measurable – YouTube offers analytics (YouTube Insight) similar to Google which can help shape future video content and distribution.

Beyond YouTube, are there other tools my clients should use?
No other video posting site comes close to YouTube in traffic, or features, or ease of use. Using a recent review of video sharing websites , I explored other sites and compared them with YouTube. I would recommend getting a YouTube-focused strategy up and running first, before exploring others.

That said, I’d probably make one exception: vimeo. Vimeo positions their site as “a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make.” Since wine enthusiasts may share other erudite pursuits (independent films, etc.), vimeo’s more upscale, less cluttered environment might be worth trying and evaluating. They also offer a number of free services, including some cool widgets to enhance the client’s website and blog, and the ability to organize groups of viewers with similar interests. For example, they currently offer 37 groups focused on wine; a group specific to my client’s region could be added. An example of wine-related content on vimeo can be found here.

I would also recommend that as they create their basic product video library (giving viewers a simple review of the wine and a good clear look at the label), those posts, along with still photos conveying the same info, be posted on Flickr.

I’m looking forward to working with this company in the days ahead to help them get their video marketing strategy online. They have great products with great stories, and a passionate audience with which to connect online. Video will allow them to use sight, sound and motion to connect with both their customers and their customers’ customers to raise awareness of their brands in a very crowded marketplace.

photo credits:  Palermo Wine Splash by ciccioetneo; Corks by Josep Ma Rosell

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rough, Tough Social Media Monitoring: Carhartt

This post was originally created as class assignment #1 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on September 27, 2010.
This post was originally created as class assignment #6 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 1, 2010.
The first step in creating a “listening strategy” FOR Carhartt is to listen TO Carhartt. The descriptions they share on their official website (which they go to lengths to brand as “official”) about their company, product line, distribution and target audience provide a quick sketch of the brand’s marketing footprint. That insight will help guide the creation of a social media strategy for them, and will provide a benchmark for determining how what others say about the brand compares with what the Company is saying.

Company: Carhartt is a Dearborn, Michigan-based clothing manufacturer. “For 120 years, Carhartt has created and manufactured premium work clothing known for exceptional durability, comfort, quality of construction, and fit that you can feel in the fabrics and see in the performance.”

Products: “Expanding the line from the traditional outerwear pieces, Carhartt now offers a complete product line for warm and cold weather alike that includes jeans and work pants, shirts, sweats, shorts, tee's and accessories. A variety of features such as premium fabrics, rugged construction, and comfortable fit are just some of the hallmarks of Carhartt workwear that fit our customer's needs in the toughest conditions.”

Distribution: Carhartt men’s, women’s and children’s clothing is sold primarily via a network of independent retailers and chains, as well as direct online and via a number of online retail partners.

Target: Carhartt summarizes their target market as follows: “As a choice brand of those who work and play outdoors, Carhartt is proud to serve a variety of workers in many industries including construction and manufacturing along with farmers, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Carhartt’s current social media profile:
Carhartt participates in the social media conversation. Their website includes several new media features, including a number of blogs (currently 7, including product, and customer service, and topical), an online promotions (the October promotion, “Built to Outperform Sweepstakes” is assumed to be representative example of their ongoing activity), and they also engage via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

Scope of Social Media Monitoring Strategy:
For the purposes of this analysis, we will assume that Carhartt has a current strategy and system for capturing and analyzing the conversation that happens on their own website and social media channels. Test monitoring indicates that Carhartt representatives promptly respond to questions, comments and complaints left on their site and communicated directly to the company through social media. The monitoring strategy outlined here will expand on that, helping Carhartt monitor what’s being said outside of their “official” channels.

Who and what to monitor:
Carhartt can mine a tremendous amount of actionable information by tuning in to the social media conversation. The following categories are recommended for inclusion in their ongoing monitoring strategy:
Consumer reactions to products, including
  • Core target: Feedback on Carhartt’s own product performance claims (durability, warmth, etc) from users in their defined target (construction workers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.) will help Carhartt gauge whether they’re putting the right stuff in the market, and whether it’s performing as promised. Test monitoring confirms that this audience is not shy about providing feedback
  • The “Anti-Target”: Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of monitoring Carhartt in social media is listening to Carhartt wearers the company is NOT expressly targeting: This group wears Carhartt for an “urban cache” they associate with the brand. Test monitoring indicates that this target is young, urban, and draws trend inspiration from street sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX bike racing, etc., as well as hip-hop and rap music. Even if Carhartt chooses never to court this buyer directly in the U.S., these consumers reflect the critical youth voice in fashion and culture, and can greatly expand overall market awareness of the Carhartt brand (or, if they chose to, could brand Carhartt as a loser).
  • International – a quick look at their own link to Carhartt Europe and comments monitored both here and abroad indicate that outside of the U.S., this “Anti-Target” is a primary target.
  • Consumer and Influencer reactions to advertising and promotions – Carhartt recently launched a new tv campaign and cross-media promotion, which generated significant response from both consumers and the media. Interpreting this feedback will help them determine whether and how to modify the campaign going forward.
  • Price/discounting/promotional information – which promotional levers are getting people’s attention (since Carhartt retailers appear to have significant latitude in how they price and promote, it would seem that the company could learn a lot by listening to retailers are going to market). For example, in test monitoring, a promotion through Cabela’s for a t-shirt selling for under $5 generated significant conversation.
  • Competitive information – At the very least, Carhartt should be monitoring what’s being said about core competitors like Dickies, Columbia, and Patagonia. Test monitoring indicated that consumers are choosing between these brands, and looking for recommendations from others.
  • Sentiment: In each of the above categories, a mechanism must be in place for evaluating whether mentions are positive, negative, or neutral; all impact brand awareness and resonance. Some monitoring tools allow the user to evaluate and manually assign sentiment, while others provide an automated assessment. Carhartt should be cautioned that automated assessments of sentiment are not perfect (it’s difficult for a computer to determine whether someone is happy or angry).

Keywords to monitor:
Primary keywords to track would include:
  • Carhartt
  • Work clothes, work clothing
  • Competivie brand names, including Dickies (Williamson Dickie), Patagonia, Columbia
  • Urban fashion brands (as determined by an expert), such as Stussy
  • Keywords specific to promotions, such as “Built to Outperform”
  • At least initially, also consider tracking “Carhart” to compensate for possible misspellings

Tools for Monitoring
Since this strategy calls on Carhartt to monitor numerous categories of information, a comprehensive tool or set of tools with broad functionality is called for, specifically:
  • Multiple social media platforms: Simply monitoring tweets will not provide adequate; blogposts, news mentions, and shopping sites must be monitored as well. And since Carhartt has evolved into a “lifestyle” brand (for both their primary and “anti” targets), sentiments shared on Facebook pages are also relevant to understanding and monitoring brand image and trends.
  • Team monitoring capability – the strategy must include a plan to divide listening responsibilities (and corresponding analysis and response duties) among experts within the company, and the monitoring tools must have this capability. If feasible, individuals currently responsible for monitoring Carhartt’s own channels should expand their monitoring to include the external conversation.Since Carhartt is currently monitoring and responding to comments on their own sites.
  • Reporting and Analytics – the effort is only worthwhile if actionable information is not only captured, but aggregated and analyzed. Ultimately, whichever monitoring tool or tools Carhartt chooses must be able feed into a comprehensive dashboard that all users can access (even though it is recommended that one administrator have oversight, working with each “listener” to summarize information.

I’m reluctant to recommend specific tools based on the information available to “free test drive” users like me. But among the monitoring tools offered for consideration, I would recommend that Carhartt explore HootSuite Pro (a paid upgrade):
  • It monitors the major social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, PingFM, WordPress, MySpace, Foursquare)
  • It can accommodate multiple users
  • It provides advanced reporting and analytics (even the ability to be combined with Google Analytics).

Incorporating Google Alerts into the listening mix would round out the strategy, providing additional monitoring of blog and news mentions.

(Carhartt may also wish to investigate having a more customizable monitoring system. A good place to start the search might be a social media monitoring resource wiki like this one.

Initial Findings from Test Monitoring:
The tool I used to conduct test monitoring was SocialMention, a free monitor that combined much, but not all, of the functionality recommended in the strategy. (It lacks some features like the ability to conduct and save multiple searches simultaneously, although it does provide for exportable CSV data).

A real-time monitoring of the keyword Carhartt on SocialMention illustrates just how much social media monitoring could reveal about Carhartt’s brand image:
  • Carhartt is being talked about, and overall sentiment is neutral-to-positive
  • Carhartt’s new TV campaign is being talked about (and in general, the reaction is positive)
  • Facebook mentions confirm that Carhartt is a go-to brand when the weather turns cold
  • Consumers are debating between Carhartt and Patagonia for cold-weather dressing – a competitive brand to watch
  • Examples of the “Anti-target” from Twitter and YouTube illustrate that a younger, edgier audience sees the brand as cool on its own, and by association with other lifestyle brands: Twitter: “Drooling over this setup…The Kona Bicycle Co, Jake the Snake, bike rack, Carhartt threads, and Smith optics”

Most amusing thing heard on Facebook, from Alaska news source the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman:
“Today a reporter from an Italian fashion magazine called to ask me for the name of Sarah Palin’s fashion consultant. I wish I’d thought to tell him ‘that’s Carhartt, with two Ts’.”

photo credits:  Label by mrdrei.andrei; Overalls by rasenicks

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sleep Better with Google Tools

This post was originally created as class assignment #5 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on October 25, 2010.

I was awake half the night last night thinking about Google Tools. Actually, that’s not exactly true. I was awake because my husband was snoring. But since sleep wasn’t likely, I got up, logged on, and explored Google Tools.

Are there Google Tools that could help me get a good night’s sleep? That might be asking too much, even of Google, so here’s a different question: If I came up with a way to stop snoring or help people sleep better, are there Google Tools that could help me build a successful business around it?

Insights for Search: Am I the only one who can’t sleep?
I suspect that lots of folks are challenged by a snoring partner, but to see if indeed there is a market for a non-snoring business, I turned first to Insights for Search, a tool that helps you learn more about what people are searching for.

It’s quite simple to query Insights for Search. I began by selecting a “Search terms” comparison, and arbitrarily trying a few snoring-related terms. Within the Filter category, I first selected a Web Search, focused on the U.S. (again, arbitrarily – it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the sleepless in Singapore), and looked at searches that took place in 2010. I also focused the search on the Health category. Here’s how that query looked:

Turns out, snoring is just a subset of the larger category of “sleep.” Sounds obvious, but that insight could prove important when determining the focus of my sleep-related business, and developing ad messaging, choosing keywords, and even planning blogposts (assuming this new business will employ all three). Focusing on sleep as a health concern, rather than just snoring, might be a smarter marketing strategy for this hypothetical business.

The top searches and rising searches associated with Sleep, another analytic tool available through Insights for Search, provide still more insight into what sleep-related issues are hot on consumers’ minds right now.

Google Analytics: Is my business putting people to sleep?
If I were to start an online business related to sleeping better (and why not? I have plenty of time, since I’m not SLEEPING), Google Analytics could tell me all about visitors to my site:

* Who’s new to the site and who’s returning (assuming those returning visitors are really sleep-deprived)
* Are they sticking around or leaving quickly (“bouncing”)?
* What sites and searches drove them to the site? This info can help me identify the keywords I should be choosing, and Google Adwords can be easily incorporated into Google Analytics to track the performance of paid search efforts too.

Without having an actual site to analyze, I couldn’t play with Analytics, but I’m anxious to. There’s SO much data to crunch here, it could help any business work smarter (and any insomniac sleep better!) Seriously, the sophistication of the data you can include on your dashboard is impressive.

I’m just beginning to explore the benefits of these and other Google Tools. I could use Google Blogs to see what sleep-related topics are being discussed in the blogosphere, using either Google Alerts, a Google blogsearch gadget on my homepage, or a blog search feed through Google Reader. And I haven’t even explored how I might use Google TV advertising to target people when they can’t sleep – that’s another great option!

I’ll be spending much more time working with Google Tools down the road. But right now, I think it’s time to try and get some sleep!

photo credit:  sign by dmjarvey