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