Connecting Ideas to Drive Results: A Brandsmart Recap

By Jessica Schaeffer, Director of Marketing, LaSalle Network

A clear theme emerged at 22 West Washington Street on April 28th as some of the biggest minds in marketing gathered to share insights around the brands they manage. The theme: the new wave of marketing: the power of storytelling to build relationships and trust with your consumers and clients.

Chicago American Marketing Associaton’s BrandSmart offered a smattering of perspectives from not-for-profits, ad agencies, big brands and up and coming brands.

Here’s a peek at the day in case you missed it, or just want to compare notes.

Session 1: Marketing for Tomorrow Starting Today – First Session

The day kicked off with a tag team effort by Ron Bess of Havas Worldwide and Zain Raj of Shapiro + Raj. Their message? Great brands (both your personal brand and an organization’s brand) build enduring bonds by fulfilling relationship expectations and sharing brand control.

Raj highlighted eight actionable relationships a consumer has with a brand – the best being a devoted relationship and the worst being a passable relationship. While every brand should strive to achieve devoted relationships with their customers, a mere 12% of customers say they have a devoted relationship with a brand.

So how do you deepen attachment and improve the experience? Raj shared five tips:

  1. Create a new focus: Begin with your most devoted customers to convert your most attractive prospects. Stop going after customers who don’t LOVE your brand.
  2. Try a new approach: Treat customers with respect, trust and loyalty
  3. Adopt a new mindset: Brands need to be perpetually evolving and try to improve
  4. Build a new model: Every company needs to be focused on cutting costs and producing faster
  5. Solve a new equation: Values x Authenticity: The strongest brands know they have to have commendable values, and LIVE those values

Bess closed out the session by drawing parallels between Raj’s presentation and personal branding. Just like a company’s brand, your personal brand is tied to the results you produce and the relationships you build. As a professional, you need to be focused on building trust, respect and loyalty.

Session 2: Transforming the Cubs Brand

Director of Marketing at the Chicago Cubs, Allison Miller, gave attendees a glimpse into the challenges the Cubs’ brand has faced during her tenure. Chief among them understanding and honing in on their target market.

Miller joined the Cubs and realized quickly they were selling a bad product. The Cubs had an aging team, the third highest payroll in the league and amenities that were deteriorating. They had a large, diverse fan base, and yet they knew nothing about them. They were marketing to everyone, without a clear focus of who would really move the needle for the brand.

Miller began the process by segmenting their customers and creating a fan and brand promise. The Cubs took time to understand the different brand personas and talk with these customers. Then, they worked to develop a brand message, campaigns and experiences they wanted these customers to have.

The findings helped the Cubs narrow their marketing, target their messaging around changes within the organization and bridge what the community wanted to do with the stadium with what the Cubs needed to do to advance the organization.

Session 3: Redefining a brand through a cause partnership

Chuck Gitkin, SVP of Brand Marketing at Smithfield Foods gave attendees a glimpse into a strategic partnership with Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, moving assistance and financial assistance among other things.

If you aren’t familiar with Smithfield Foods, Gitkin says you probably aren’t alone….packaged meats isn’t the sexiest or most well-known industry, and that’s one of the primary reasons behind partnering with Operation Homefront. Not only does Smithfield Foods believe in giving back and supporting those and their families who protect our country, but the partnership helps bring visibility to both organizations.

Gitkin explained that cause marketing has allowed the company, which has a limited marketing budget, to create more exposure for less. They’ve brought in spokespeople to help champion Operation Homefront, and by default, Smithfield Foods. They’ve also created special packaging that a portion of the proceeds is donated directly to Operation Homefront.

Session 4: Panel Discussion: Getting Creative with the B2C agency of the future

Maybe you’ve seen this commercial. What you may not know is that Wrigley and ad agency, Energy BBDO worked collaboratively to create it. The two companies, which have been working together for years, gave us a glimpse into their relationship with John Starkey, VP, Gum, Mints and Media at Wrigley talking with Lianne Sinclair and Andres Ordonez of Energy BBDO.

The trio shared how their relationship has evolved over the years – emphasizing the fact that Energy BBDO is an extension of the Wrigley team, and explaining that now Energy BBDO is brought in earlier in Wrigley’s process. Wrigley is also exposed to Energy BBDO’s “unfinished product” to gauge their temperature and get their input on a project before it’s nearly complete.

Session 5: Hear the Brand: The Rise of Audio Branding: How to get the Most from Your Sound

Colleen Fahey sang, hummed and tapped her way to her main message on Thursday: leave an earprint with every piece of brand communication.

Fahey runs Sixieme Son, an audio branding company that strives to express brand values through sound. The audio brand of a company, Fahey explained, is everything from its on-hold music, to its app sounds, TV and radio spots and sales presentations.

Fahey argued a few key reasons why every company needs to consider its audio DNA.

  1. Music is a language that is universally understood
  2. Music moves behavior
  3. Sounds lead to sales
  4. Sounds speeds search
  5. Audio branding builds brand value

Not convinced? Check out these great examples of audio branding successes Fahey shared: Samsung, Tropicana, and Michelin.

Session 6: Insurance Agents are Rock Stars

Assurance Agency has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the Top 100 Places to Work in the Country. This is one of dozens of awards the company has won throughout its tenure, and VP of Marketing, Steve Handmaker argues it’s been good for business, too….but it hasn’t always been this way.

Assurance wasn’t always a great place to work. In fact, staff was disengaged and profits were suffering as a result. In 1998, Assurance brought on new leadership to right the ship. They decided to focus on people.

Their philosophy was simple. Happy employees = happy clients. Handmaker borrowed from fellow marketer Seth Godin’s theory of purple cows, explaining that Assurance’s culture was their purple cow, the one thing that makes them truly remarkable and sets them apart from competitors in the insurance industry.

Since that decision, not only has Assurance invested in staff to build an incredible culture, they’ve also effectively marketed employee engagement programs to ensure the country knows they are a purple cow.

“Our culture doesn’t automatically mean we win, but its’ getting us to the finish line and helping make us a part of the conversation.” – Steve Handmaker

Session 7: Brand Building and Data Driven Demand Generation

Data paralysis.

Ad resistant.

Craig Greenfield, COO of Performics explained that in today’s world, marketers are overwhelmed by data, and consumers are resistant to our messages and skeptical of our ads.

How do we overcome this? We have to better understand our customers and what they want. We have to identify customer intent before they want express it. As marketers, we can do this by measuring time on site, bounce rates, coupon downloads, the list goes on and on….any piece of content that captures data about our audience.

If you don’t have the data you want, Greenfield says to identify needed data, then create audiences, design experiences and then plan, launch, test and learn.

Session 8: The Impact of Content Creativity with Always on Brands

In typical Leo Burnett fashion, Vincent Geraghty, EVP and Head of Production at Leo Burnett, wowed us showing some incredible campaigns, with one of the most poignant being the Runlikeagirl campaign created for Always.

This was about as conventional as it got though, as Geraghty discussed how his greenhouse team is changing the way Leo Burnett does business. The greenhouse content team is run like a newroom. They’ve adopted a “maker mentality,” where concepting is no longer good enough. They are executers, doers, creators.

This team has allowed Leo Burnett to streamline the approval process, execute on trending ideas quickly and efficiently.

The Greenhouse team is focused on telling great stories that are finely crafted full of human insights. Their goal is to deliver content that entertains, resonates, and weaves the brand into the insight and story.

Session 9: Panel: Getting Creative with the B2B Agency of the Future

According to Linda McGovern, SVP Global Marketing at USG, and Mike Hensley, President at Gyro, the B2B agency of the future is one that understands how to curate brand touchpoints, one that is able to expand and shrink based on the needs of its client, and one that is insanely focused on user experience and content creation.

Like speakers before them, McGovern and Hensley echoed the need to create experiences, not just compelling messages. They touched on the importance emotion plays in the decision making process, and how marketing today needs to connect with the customer.

Session 10: Think Differently: Opportunity Identification or Breakthrough Ideas

After Lindsay Avner stepped off the stage, there may not have been a dry eye in the house. Avner, who founded BrightPink, shared her story of undergoing a risk reducing double mastectomy at the age of 22 to help prevent a future seemingly inevitable diagnosis of breast and ovarian cancer.

As Avner shared her passion for education and getting one step ahead of cancer, it was clear that her powerful message was reaching the right audience because of unique marketing tactics.

Avner explained that she borrows the equity and brand recognition of powerful partners like Arie and Paul Mitchell to communicate BrightPink’s message. The not-for-profit has created highly visible campaigns around Mother’s Day, with the most recent being the #goaskyourmother campaign which urged young women to talk about family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

BrightPink created an online assessment that allows women to assess their risk of breast and ovarian cancer quickly and easily.

Avner’s philosophy is: awareness doesn’t save lives, action does…and all of BrightPink’s marketing efforts are judged based on that simple premise. Has our content, our partnerships caused people to make a change?

Session 11: LUV Lessons: Building a Brand from the Inside Out

He may be retired, but Dave Ridley definitely still has it….the former head of marketing at Southwest Airlines reminded the audience of our biggest brand advocates, our employees.

A few key quotes from his speech sum up his message:

  • “The business of business is people” –Herb Kelleher
  • To develop a great brand, start from the inside out.
  • “I still bleed canyon blue” – as marketers we need more of that diehard marketing. That commitment and dedication to our brands
  • It is a privilege to lead people – you get to invest in the hearts and minds of people
  • Everyone is a CEO…a chief encouragement officer, that’s the number one way to make a difference in people’s lives

Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Ten Tips on How to Win Awards

Marketing is a creative enterprise and, when all is said and done,a highly competitive business internally as well as externally. To measure creativity, various organizations hold competitive award shows for the different projects marketing people do. For instance, web design, print ads and of course,  TV show commercials.

By the time most marketers have five years experience or more they’ve participated in, and maybe even won an award or two, from such an event. Of course, if you’ve entered and didn’t win you may be feeling a little discouraged about the whole experience. Perhaps you think you lost because the judges work for a rival company or because they knew the winner personally.

As someone who has judged a number of shows for organizations such as the Business Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association, I can tell you that while both of these suppositions may be possible, they are highly unlikely. Almost all shows are set up to avoid any kind of favoritism. First, judges are asked to excuse themselves from judging work produced by their own company or by anyone they know well. And in most competitions individual entries are judged on their own merits not in comparison to others.

But there are real reasons an entry can lose even with a great concept and super execution. If truth be told, all too many losing entries are handicapped from the start because they were entered incorrectly. Below is a list of ten guidelines to help you make the most of every competition you enter and seriously increase your chances of winning.

  1. Enter the right show
    Most award shows are geared toward a particular niche in the marketing industry such as highly innovative design or business-to-business marketing that has produced measurable results. So before you consider competing with your peers make sure the piece you’re entering is suitable for that particular competition. No matter how funny that radio spot for a leading toothpaste is, it does NOT belong in a business-to-business marketing show. On the other hand, if you designed a killer trade show display for widgets, make sure the show you’re entering has a category not only for trade show displays, but trade show displays with budgets similar to yours. Furthermore, entering the wrong show is a waste of time, effort and money because your entry may be disqualified before any of the judges even see it. And even if it remains in the competition, the judges will be expecting it to be something that it’s not. However you slice it, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.
  2. Enter the right category
    Every show has different criteria for each category, and if you don’t pay close attention to these specifications you may find yourself competing on an uneven playing field. For example, it would probably be a mistake to enter a multi-dimensional promotional piece in a competition for direct mail packages. Even if a note or response device has been included with the promotional piece, it still may be an inappropriate entry for a category designed for letter packages. When a piece is entered incorrectly it confuses the judges and this alone will cost you points.
  3. Make your entry statements brief, clear, and memorable
    As in almost all other aspects of marketing, when it comes to award show entries, less is more. Don’t try to impress the judges with your knowledge of industry jargon and acronyms. Just give them as much information as they ask for on the entry form in clear, succinct prose. If you must use acronyms, define them the first time you use them. (Keep in mind that different companies and industries may use the same acronym for two totally different things.) Tip: Include factual data about the positive results the entry has made to your client’s bottom line. It’s amazing how demonstrable profitability can add a patina of beauty to even the ugliest design.
  4. Answer all the questions
    In shows where results are highly valued, answering questions regarding sales outcomes can make or break your chances of winning. Of course, you may not always have results to submit either because they are not yet known or because the client never shared them with you. In the former case, include this explanation in your application. In the latter case, call the client and ask if they have any insights they can share. By the way, it is not enough to say “the client was pleased.” Or that “the piece met their expectations.” Remember, the point of the question is to give the judges an objective measurement of what your work accomplished. So share as much information as you can to help the judges understand why you’ve submitted this particular piece in the first place.
  5. Include all the pieces
    If you’re submitting an entry with several parts to it make sure ALL of them are included in your presentation. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to properly judge the entry fairly and your score will reflect it.
  6. Show the real thing, not photos of it
    Pictures may be worth a thousand words but a two-dimensional presentation is never as effective as one in 3-D. Unless your submission is a trade show booth, all parts of the ACTUAL piece should be included in your entry.
  7. Show “before” and “after” when appropriate
    If your assignment was to update a look, re-brand a product, freshen a logo, etc. show the  project“before” as well as the “after” you worked your magic. It’s much more impressive, especially if the piece you’re submitting isn’t all that creative. You can still impress the judges by showing how much of an improvement your work is over what had been done before.
  8. Take your entries seriously
    Award shows can help you cement current client relationships and develop new ones. After all, leaving a show with an award in hand not only confirms your expertise among your peers, it confirms your client’s good judgment in choosing you as their agency. (Not to mention that clients been known to switch their business from one agency to another based on which Creative Director took home an award!)
    Take some time and effort with your entries. Use the entry form to explain why your piece is better than all others. (Yes, it is extra work but so is a new business pitch.)  Have the folks who actually worked on the project fill out the forms. They know the full story of how and why a piece was created. Inside tip: Telling a good story about the development of your piece can help you win as much as the piece itself. Second inside tip: Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s the key to producing winning entries. Third inside tip: Writers are generally better at this sort of thing than art directors/designers. If you’re a design shop and a copywriter wasn’t involved in creating the entry, you might want to consider hiring a wordsmith to help your designers tell their story.
  9. Neatness counts
    Type your entry form if at all possible. Remember the entry form is a marketing tool – use it well.
  10. Don’t hurt your own brand by entering junk
    Every piece you enter in a show is a reflection on the brand and reputation of your business. It’s better not to enter anything at all then to submit less than excellent work. Enough said.

Hope this helps make your next foray into the world of awards a successful one. Good Luck!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

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