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Suppliers and Distributors reported strong growth in 2012 which continued into December.

Archive for September, 2011

Today is the fourth day in a row that I have received (and deleted) an email from Register.com with this subject line:

LAST DAY! Save 25% on Gorilla Online Marketing!

But this blog isn’t about marketing four consecutive “last days.” This blog is about outsourcing your businesses online and social media marketing, which is what Gorilla Online Marketing does.

For a flat monthly fee of $76.95/month, Gorilla will search engine optimize your website, set you up on Google Places, help you get found on mobile and GPS devices, and create a presence for you on Facebook, Twitter and YellowPages.com. The service is targeted to small- and medium-sized local businesses who want to “dominate online.”

A few of my clients have asked me if this service is worth the investment. Of course, if you’re working with me, you don’t need this service.

But, let me wax poetic for a moment about whether or not this is a worthwhile service:

1. Outsourcing your SEO to a company who will monitor and manage it monthly is a smart choice for a medium-sized business. But a good SEO company will cost more than $76.95/month. These are companies who aren’t going to unintentionally hurt your search engine rankings by overloading your site with keywords that have high search volume but little relevance to your site.

For smaller businesses without the budget for ongoing outsourced SEO, a “homemade” SEO foundation – or one developed by your consultant – will suffice. Just think of what phrases your customers might “Google” if they were looking for what your company offers and use various iterations of them in your title, meta and keyword tags. If your website doesn’t have a Content Management System (CMS) with the tools to update your own SEO foundation, you will need your consultant or webmaster to do this.

2. Don’t waste your precious marketing budget on hiring a company to set you up on Google Places. If your consultant hasn’t already set this up for you, fire them. Really. If you don’t have a consultant, set this up yourself. It’s very easy. And very important. And, best of all, it’s free.

3. Mobile & GPS device advertising makes a lot sense…for the right business. Local businesses with a high walk-in rate – and a target audience that is proficient with a smartphone – can use mobile device and GPS advertising to reach customers when they’re nearby. Say you’re a coffee shop. You could push a promotion for a free coffee with the purchase of a pastry, or a coupon for a dollar amount or percentage off, that appears when someone searches for a coffee shop on their device. If you have the budget, this is worth outsourcing. If not, you or your consultant can set these up on Google Mobile Ads.

4. Facebook, Twitter and YellowPages.com can be set up, managed, and monitored independently. If you want to outsource, outsource to a consultant who intimately knows your business. A service like Gorilla is setting you up for social media failure. The point of social media is to engage with your audience on a personal level. It’s an opportunity for you to be real, to feel real. With Gorilla, they aren’t going to know your audience the way you do, they’re not going to know your business the way you do, and they’re not going to engage your audience they way only you can. When it comes to social media, there is no canned, standard, last-day-to-save solution that will benefit your business. Maybe – MAYBE – you want to outsource the set-up of your social media profiles. But the management of them needs to be done by people who truly understand your company and its consumers.

It can be time-consuming to manage all of your social media accounts – but there are tools that can act as a social media dashboard to help you manage them in tandem. Check out this Mashable article about ‘5 Superior Social Media Management Tools.‘ These can help cut down on the time spent (and wasted) on social media management.

Honestly, using a marketing consultant is the best way to ensure your SEO foundation, online and mobile device marketing and social media management are executed properly and effectively. But if hiring a consultant isn’t possible, you can do most of these things yourself. It’s a low-investment-high-payoff situation, so do take advantage of these media channels and marketing activities.

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Dear BrandChannel.com,

What’s your beef with General Mills using Cheech & Chong to tout “magical” fiber brownies? Do you not see the brilliance?

First, fiber has GOT to be the worst thing to have to advertise. It’s fiber. It’s bland and, try as many brands have, fiber doesn’t have a personality. Until Cheech & Chong got all hopped up on it, fiber was one of the least cool things you could advertise.

Second, and you allude to this in your blog, “What Was General Mills Smoking to OK Cheech and Chong Magic Brownie Campaign?” the people who need their daily dose of fiber most are the baby boomers of the 60s and 70s. You think these guys don’t get a kick out of seeing Cheech and Chong tote a new kind of magic brownie? Not to mention, these guys still enjoy the other kind of magic brownie, if you get what I’m sayin’…

Third, launching the campaign socially rather than on TV and other mainstream channels, makes it less controversial – but still controversial enough to be interesting! A little controversy goes a long way with a brand – and not in a bad way!

After all, what did we learn from Nike’s recent ‘Get High’ campaign?

Finally, the series of YouTube videos are immaculately produced – they went big…not home! Instead of scaling back the concept to prevent controversy, they just blew it out of the water! The videos work! They’re funny! Not sorta, kinda, a little bit funny. Really, actually funny!

You know, you’re usually on top of your game when it comes to recognizing a good campaign when you see a good campaign. But this time I’m calling you out! You’re saving your butt from being perceived as endorsing marijuana smoking. I get it.

But, let’s be honest…you really love FiberOne’s new campaign…don’t you?

Best wishes,

-robin

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“User experience design” is a phrase most often associated with digital marketing. It refers to “the creation of the architecture and interaction models that affect user experience of a device or system.” You can thank Wikipedia for the vague definition.

But, then again, user experience design IS kind of vague. Because if we think about a company as a ‘system’ (which, really, it is) then isn’t marketing a type of user experience design?

User experience design is more than designing an easy-to-navigate website or streamlined iPhone app. It is carefully crafting the overall experience that a person has with a company, product or service. Or, carefully crafting the experience as much as you can…

This blog from Jackson Fish Market, a user experience design company out of – you guessed it! – Seattle, “Marketing IS User Experience” is pretty much right on.

I often muse about the disconnect between what marketers say and what consumers actually experience. Marketers promise the moon and the stars and the sun and, um, more stars. And consumers generally get only the moon. And while the moon alone is a pretty sweet deal, it pales in comparison to the stars and the sun and, um, more stars.

The consumer experience is more robust than ever, and it becomes more robust each day. There is the traditional user experience – the way that consumers interact with your company’s online and mobile tools. But then there is the social media experience – the way your company appears through the lens of a consumer’s friend’s experiences. The social media experience also helps a consumer decide if your company’s personality is a match with his or her own. And then there is the marketing experience – the way consumers respond to marketing and advertising messages.

And all of this – let me repeat  – ALL OF THIS needs to jive with the real user experience. The reality of the consumer’s experience when they do business with your company.

In the Jackson Fish Market blog, the author makes a fantastic analogy: If you meet a person and they act one way in one situation and then give you a completely different impression in another, you will not quite know how to feel about them.

Well, I disagree. I would definitely know how to feel about them. They’re two-faced manipulative weasels who you can’t trust father than you can throw them.

So, if you’re not going for a brand image of “two-faced manipulative weasel” then I suggest not making promises you can’t deliver on. A seamless user experience – complete with transparency and honesty – will work.

And if you’re worried that transparency and honesty will hurt your sales, then it’s time to rethink your business’s strategy.

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Sep
26

Google Plus Is Open To All…Now What?

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Well, according to this Read Write Web article, we wait. Business profiles will not be ready until at least Q3. But Google says it’s “well worth the wait.”

Oh, and for the time being, they’re also pulling any personal profiles that have been set up as business profiles.

So, what do we do while we wait impatiently to bombard Google Plus’s 1,000,000,000+ users with marketing messages? Set up our own user profiles and enjoy a marketing free social world. For now.

I set up my profile last night. Well, kind of. Tired from a weekend of chasing my 2-year old daughter around a farm (hayrides and pumpkin picking and a maize maze, oh my…) I did only the bare minimum to activate my profile. But I caught myself wondering, ‘What am I doing setting up yet another social media profile? Do I really need another outlet to read about the drama of my friends’ and acquaintances’ lives?’

But Google Plus promises to be different. How? I’m not sure yet. But, and perhaps it’s because of the necessary Google Plus learning curve that I am facing, I’m not really looking forward to finding out.

This AllFacebook.com blog, ‘The One Google Plus Feature Facebook Should Fear,’ notes a longer time-on-site for Google Plus users, which is a valuable measure for marketers. After reading the blog, it makes sense: we all use Google and its many, many tools to guide our lives. Now (as if our lives weren’t unproductive enough already…) we can see updates from our “circles” while we peruse Google Finance or check our website’s Analytics.

Greeeaaaattt…

Do we not waste enough time on Facebook, people? Do we feel there is a lack of communication in our lives? Do we really necessitate a new social media platform that is even more woven into the fabric of our daily lives than Facebook or Twitter is?

The answer is a resounding NO!

But that doesn’t mean Google Plus won’t be the new “it” social media tool. It will be. And, as a marketer, it’s my job to understand it, live it, breathe it. When business profiles are finally open to the world, my clients are counting on me to hit the ground running with their profiles and social media marketing efforts. So I better tackle this learning curve now…like it or not.

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According to Tom Brady, New England Patriot’s fans have plenty of time to get “lubed up” before the game’s 4:15 start. And if Tom Brady says to get lubed up, who am I not to oblige?

Of course, Tommy Boy wasn’t talking about getting drunk (snicker, snicker…). He just wants us fans to stay hydrated! Riiiiight….

But, all this controversial talk from #12 about getting “lubed up” has attracted the attention of…a condom brand. New York-based NuVo condoms will be onsite in Gillette Stadium’s satellite parking lots handing out free “lubed up” condoms.

Read the Boston Herald’s Inside Track article for the details.

Appropriate or not, and I believe it is, NuVo is jumping on (no pun intended) this last-minute opportunity to piggyback a current event. A current event involving Tom Brady, nonetheless. “Sex sells” stands true on a few different levels here.

Companies that have the flexibility to respond ingeniously to unforeseen current events stand to gain a lot. Recognition, awareness, positioning, market share…

But companies are rarely agile enough to do so. Why? Because they overanalyze their marketing and advertising outreach to the point where the opportunity passes them by.

This Cyphers Agency blog, ‘Step Away from the Ad: Stop Overanalyzing Creative. Please’ perfectly breaks down the process of developing great creative, presenting great creative, your client loving the great creative, and then dismantling said creative into just creative (if you can even call it that anymore).

I don’t think any marketing professional, whether a “creative” or a “suit” has failed to experience this process. It seems every day I end up in a meeting where I hear, ‘Now, word X in the second-to-last line of the third paragraph of this email…do you think that’s the best word. Do you think we should replace it with synonym X? Or synonym Y?’

Dear client: if someone is reading the second-to-last line of the third paragraph of your email, YOU HAVE WON THE BATTLE!

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t feel comfortable with your marketing materials, but sometimes (read: all the time) it’s more important to get your marketing materials out there than to overanalyze them ad nauseum.

NuVo was able to respond quickly to the Tom-Brady-lubed-up “scandal.” I don’t believe this response was overanalyzed – they just took the opportunity and are now running with it.

When you have the chance to piggyback a relevant current event, you need to take it and run with it, too.

And Tom Brady needs to take the ball and run with it (or at least pass it) on Sunday against the Chargers – in front of a very “lubed up” audience, amen.

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9/11 was during my first week of college in Boston. Actually, if memory serves me, it was my first DAY of college in Boston. I was walking through the Common, about to be introduced to the fantastic world of H&M. My mom called, but, being a politically undereducated high school student, the magnanimity of what she was saying escaped me.

In Downtown Crossing, my friends and I noticed more hubbub than normal. Bomb squads zipping through, sirens blaring. But the magnanimity of what had happened still escaped me.

It escaped me until, at line in H&M, we were told that the store was closing. Our purchases would have to wait.

I don’t remember what I was buying. But I remember, at that moment, finally grasping the magnanimity of what had happened. And we all drank bubble tea at the food court in Chinatown before heading to Mass General to donate blood, where we waited for hours and hours and hours before all but one of us were told that we were not candidates for blood donation.

Damn tattoos…

But the fact that I did not understand just how serious the situation was until H&M closed its doors says a lot. The fact that H&M even closed its doors says a lot. I can just hear the execs:

“What are our options?”
“Well, sir. The country has come under terrorist attack. Thousands are dead. I believe our only option is to close.”
“It’s the first week of college! There’s 100,000 kids with mommy-and-daddy’s credit card just dying to spend their money at our store. Closing is not an option.”
“Sir, if we don’t close, the negative publicity alone will counter any financial gain from staying open.”
“Dammit! But you’re right. I hate it when you’re right…”

That conversation happened ten years ago yesterday.

This is the conversation held yesterday:

“What are our options?”
“Well, sir. It’s been ten years since the country has attached, and economically speaking, we’ve never recovered.”
“We the store? Or we the people?”
“Both, sir.”
“Dammit! Well, what if we run a 9/11 tribute ad? Yes…YES! A 9/11 tribute ad! Finally, we can make money off of this national disaster! Yes, we may have closed our doors that fateful morning, and we may have lost millions of dollars in revenue, but lo, LO!, a financial opportunity awaits!”
“Um, sir…”
“No time! We need lot of children…and the rights to some emotionally stirring imagery…”

I don’t believe that it’s wrong for a corporation to make a 9/11 tribute. But there is a fine line between reflection, homage, and profiteering. This AdWeek.com article is a good read for both sides of the corporate 9/11 tribute argument.

So what do you think is tasteful when it comes to corporate tributes? What exactly is it that makes a tribute ad feel genuine versus self-serving? I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

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Stuffed unicorns and rainbow stickers as a tradeshow giveaway? For a technology tradeshow?

Why not?

At Dreamforce 2011, a Cloud Computing convention, inbound marketing expert HubSpot gave away just that. Unicorns and rainbows. They touted their “All In One Inbound Marketing Software” at the convention, using a marketing fact vs. marketing fiction theme. Because unicorns live in a fantasy world and marketing execs can’t afford to.

The goal was to dispel common myths about email, mobile, content, social media and search engine marketing in order to create a higher demand for their software solution. And, according to their website, everyone is talking about their Dreamforce presentation.

I guess that’s true, since a colleague forwarded it to me. You can see it on their website. Just be prepared for a post-download HubSpot sales pitch.

HubSpot allowed unicorns and rainbows to infiltrate even the tiniest nooks and crannies of their tradeshow strategy. Giving away stuffed unicorns and rainbow stickers was the cherry on top. Or maybe it was the pot o’ gold at the bottom of the rainbow? Either way, it was a great idea.

In discussing this with my colleagues, a counter-point was made: Why would you want people to associate your company with the myth?

Um, because fact isn’t fun? And unicorns and rainbows are.

Tradeshow giveaways have one job: to remind people of your company and its key messages, products and/or services. The HubSpot unicorn accomplishes just that.

For your next tradeshow, conference or event, find a promotional item or other branded gift that is fun (in the sense that it has a conceptual connection with your theme) and functional (in the sense that it will be a visual reminder of your company).

So, yeah, find a promotional giveaway that is FUNctional.

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I have a lot of respect for Domino’s Pizza’s transparent marketing efforts over the last year or so. They’ve admitted their shortcomings, made no excuses for them, and (allegedly) gone above and beyond to fix them.

I wish more companies could be so transparent.

Their it’s-all-on-the-table marketing strategy kinda paid off. Domino’s saw 11% growth in 2010. Which is good. Not great. But good.

For sustained growth, Domino’s needs more people to give them a second chance (or first chance). A chance I’m personally not interested in giving them.

You see, I’ve already got my pizza spots. I’ve got a spot for thin crust, Neopolitan-style pizza. I’ve got a spot for deep dish. I’ve even got a spot for tiny little pizzas with deliciously crispy crusts.

I don’t need to give Domino’s another try. And, to date, I haven’t.

What would get me to try ‘em out again? Maybe a free coupon…which is exactly what the pizza mogul has worked out with Old Navy. In a brilliant promotion, Domino’s Pizza offered a free large, 2-topping pizza to any shopper who purchased $30 on Old Navy’s Superfan Nation gear. The promotion was perfectly-timed to run during the back-to-school shopping rush.

Learn more about the Domino’s-Old Navy promotion on this Shop-O-Matic blog.

I can only assume that the Domino’s marketing department is behind this promo (no offense, Old Navy, but your creative is getting stale…). So let me tell Domino’s what I thought was so great about this strategic alliance:

  1. You nailed your target audience
  2. Your brand has now seemingly been “approved” by Old Navy- which will make people within your target audience feel more comfortable giving you another chance
  3. Your offer was big enough. Many free offers aren’t financially valuable enough that recipients care about using them. But a large, two-topping pizza?? I’d gladly cash in on that free deal.

I am very interested to see the results of this cross-company promotion.

Now, as for Old Navy…you guys gotta rethink your creative. Google the campaign. There is more about it on blogs like CommercialsIHate.com (i.e. RANT: IF I SEE THIS DAMN OLD NAVY COMMERCIAL ONE MORE TIME…) than there is on your own website. Why don’t you have your people call my people…I’ll be sure they patch you through immediately.

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My mom bought me a Groupon to a local bakery. It was a get-a-$20-coupon-for-only-$10 type of deal.

She had bought me another Groupon for another bakery closer to my office (Dear Mom, stop fattening me up, please…), which I never used on account of the coupon expiring before I could get there.

I bought myself a BuyWithMe coupon to a Mexican restaurant. I drove all the way into the city on a Sunday afternoon to use it the day before it expired…and the restaurant was closed. $20 for $40 worth of tamales wasted.

My Living Social coupon for a full day at a doggie spa (yes, I bought a Groupon for my dog to get a pedicure, massage and conditioning treatment…) expires in a month. I should probably book him in for that soon…

The point here is that we buy into these great, unbelievable, can’t-pass-this-up kinda deals…only to pass them up. Well, we pass them up a lot of times.

And then we feel guilty buying more “daily deals” when, half the time, we don’t use the deals we bought in the first place. Cognitive dissonance at its best.

But is this why Groupon’s traffic plummeted by nearly 50 percent this summer? Is that why 86 percent of new media professionals who subscribe to these services don’t use them for their own businesses (August 30, 2011 ‘Daily Deal Marketing: The Rise & Fall of Groupon‘)?

Partially, I’m sure. My suspicion, however, is that businesses have caught on to the fact that…

THEY DON’T NEED A DAILY DEAL SERVICE TO OFFER A DAILY DEAL!

Many businesses – specifically food establishments, salons and spas, or any business that just wants new people to give ‘em a try  – benefit immensely from piggybacking the vast contact lists of these daily deal and coupon services.

For example, the Groupon from my mom introduced me to a fantastic local bakery. It introduced me to a magical new world where homemade peanut butter cups live atop a cookie-crust. Where every ingredient is locally grown, 100% organic, or both. I have spent more time (and more money) at this bakery than I have anywhere else in my hometown.

In other words, the Groupon worked.

Other businesses – businesses that need people to do more than just give ‘em a try – aren’t as good of a fit for a daily deal or coupon service. For example, I bought that Living Social deal for a day at a doggie spa. Again, for my dog. It cost $39, but a full day is normally $159.

I have no issue spending $39 to pamper my dog. I do, however, have a huge issue (let me reinforce…a HUGE issue) with spending $159 to pamper my dog. I would never! Not in this economy. No way.

I bought the deal. But that’s the first and last time they’ll see me (unless they re-offer the $39 deal).

But what business wants a one-time-deal customer? A deal like this would have been best offered as a special deal to the company’s Facebook fans…or even just to their own email database. As a way of rewarding their loyalty or promoting a cross-sell.

Unlike the Lipstick Economy article, I don’t believe that the daily deals market is “falling” per se. If it were a dead market, you can be sure that Google wouldn’t be stepping it up a notch. Check out ‘Google Boosts Daily Deals with Increased Promotion,’ and see what the digital powerhouse is up to.

I don’t believe the daily deals market is dead, or is falling or anything like that. I think it’s been Google-ized. Which really means that Groupon et. al. is dead…

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A few current events involving publicity bring me to write this blog. The first, the Are You Miracle Whip? campaign, which we have written about previously. The second, Abercrombie & Fitch’s request that the cast of Jersey Shore – specifically “The Situation” – refrain from donning the brand while on air.

The bold and risky Are You Miracle Whip? campaign – which I still think was a brilliant marketing concept that was wasted on a mere condiment – is now under fire from divorce activists. The campaign, which centers on YouTube and drives couples to upload videos of themselves talking/bantering/arguing about Miracle Whip’s role in their relationship, offers a $25,000 reward to be used towards either a wedding or divorce. This call-to-action is as bold as the campaign itself (though I am still largely uncertain that a condiment can meaningfully contribute to a marriage or a divorce…)

Well, like every good campaign, the Miracle Whip campaign has some haters. Read this brandchannel.com article, ‘Kraft’s Miracle Whip Campaign Under Fire From Anti-Divorce Activists,’ explains the situation.

And, speaking of ‘The Situation,’ Abercrombie & Fitch has itself in quite a PR one. The retailer supposedly offered Jersey Shore’s ‘The Situation’ $1 million to NOT wear A&F branded clothing on the show.

Now – and I hate to admit this – I used to work for Abercrombie & Fitch. (Gimme a break, I was in high school and it was the coolest brand you could buy back then…) I went off to college and the fashion world started changing and A&F lost its lofty position within it.

Now, after “finding themselves,” Abercrombie is resurfacing. And what a brilliant way to resurface! This PRsuasion article explains the brilliance. Why so brilliant? Well, people were once again talking about the A&F brand. For better or for worse, people were talking.

But, then again, their stock fell 9% the day after they released the request. CNN attributes the drop in stock prices to a recent run-up after the company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectation (money.cnn.com, August 17, 2011).

I think they’ll see huge growth in revenue after this PR stunt – as long as they continue to keep their brand at the tops of their target audiences’ minds.

But, whether we’re looking at Miracle Whip or A&F, we can see that this publicity was not incited by the respective companies. Rather, it was an (arguably calculated) result to business and marketing decisions. I have no doubt that getting publicity was part of both Kraft’s and A&F’s strategies – but it doesn’t feel that way to the untrained mind…

And that’s what makes good PR great PR – when it doesn’t feel like PR at all.

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