Brand Story

brandstory

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, was founded by two guys; Ben and Jerry in 1978.  They ran the company until it was bought by Unilever in 2000. They come across as a couple of regular guys, and they were the authentic face of the company for more than 20 years.

In contrast Häagen-Dazs is a name invented to sound Danish, and included maps of Denmark in its original branding.  They’re not the only company to hijack a nationality for their products, Australian Homemade, a chocolate company, was founded in the Netherlands by a Belgian.

Other companies have invented a company backstory to give their company a nostalgic veneer to their company’s branding. The Hollister clothing company rests on a fictitious founder John Hollister Snr, and uses a date of 1922. The company promotes a hippy-ish nostalgia and encourages employees with stories of the founder’s adventures “He and Meta sailed around the South Pacific, treasuring ‘the works of the artisans that lived there,’ and eventually settled in Los Angeles, in 1919.” The only problem? The guy apparently never existed and the company was only founded in 2009. Does it matter? Teen-aged shoppers don’t seem to care.

Liberty's of LondonIn the 1920s Liberty’s of London built a wonderful mock tudor department store in the heart of London. I’m sure that anyone who thinks about it realises the building is 500 years old, but it does give the company an air of age and stability beyond its establishment in 1875. As creative backstories go it less explicit than creating a founder with an adventurous past.

All the best business books talk about authenticity, all the communications and branding talks about authentic stories. Yet customers are buying a feeling not a truth. So do the brand stories need to feel true or be literally true?

Image: Dave Gutter; Rustic Overtones  |  Todd Heft  |  BY NC 2.0

 

Building Your Content Calendar

Content calendar

Using social media creates a content monster that needs to be fed. In most organisations a lot of thought and planning goes into the concept, design and development of content. Today’s post is a framework for building that content plan. I am focusing on social media, but the principles of building this plan work for other types of content.

Think about your content in terms of layers.

Content can be broken out into three types; evergreen, events and spontaneous. Each requires a different approach but when used together will increase the impact of your social media presence.

Evergreen Content

Sometimes also called drumbeat content, evergreen content can be planned and developed ahead of publishing.

  1. Use dates that are important in your industry
    Think more broadly than company specific dates. For example Philips, manufacturer of X-ray machines, posts on Marie Curie’s birthday.
  2. Build out from campaigns and events
    If you’re running a campaign on a specific product build brand content that supports your campaign message. For example, if a bank is running a campaign around savings products then the brand content could include articles on the psychology of saving.
  3. Build a theme
    Even if there is no specific date to connect it to you can build content around a theme, for example designate May as “Internet of Things” month and produce content around the trends, technology and developments in this field, of course you can connect this content to your own connected products,
  4. Build a series
    Use a specific rhythm to activate one idea. For example there’s a “Meatless Monday” trend in certain healthy circles if you’re a food company you could use this and promote vegetarian menus every Monday. Alternatively use a series of longer articles to go into depth on a specific area of your company’s expertise. f

To make this work

Research relevant dates for you and determine which themes/ series you want to build on.

Develop quality content, which means spending on design, photography, writing or filming the content you need.

Don’t be afraid to re-use this content, either posting highlights onto twitter/facebook, or repurposing it for other platforms.

Keep cultural differences in mind, not everyone celebrates the same thing, in the same way, or even on the same date. (Mother’s day is widely celebrated – but not on the same date).

Events

There are already a number dates to use on social media; those company announcements, conferences, events and campaigns that your company attends or produces.

Product launches are known months, or even years in advance, adding brand content to support the launch can increase the impact of the campaign.

Company leaders attend and speak at events throughout the year, decide which of these would be of more general interest, take any “infographic” or suitable images from presentations and re-use them on social media.

To make this work

Add the known events and campaigns to your calendar, include the event/campaign contact person.

Work with the event/campaign lead to develop content that supports their plans.

Use a simple hashtag for your own event/campaign and encourage a wider audience to publish under it.

Spontaneous

Your company wins an award, there’s the announcement of a merger (or divestment), you’re finally in the ranking you’ve been working towards, you hear of an significant date that matches your company’s portfolio – on the date itself.  Every content team I’ve ever worked with has “last minute” content needs. So while I’m a big fan of planning ahead you also need a little flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

To make this work

Prepare likely potential images for your asset library, eg relating to awards ahead of time. The more diverse your asset library is the more likely you are to have a suitable image to hand.

Use your social listening tools to monitor awards in your industry, and watch for the announcement of relevant rankings.

Maintain good contact with the colleagues who handle last minute announcements. Explain to them that you don’t need to know the content of the announcement which may be confidential, but if you know the timing and the sort of content they’ll need you can work with that. Encourage their input into the asset library, to build relevant assets.

Putting the three layers together we can see that the impact of your content, whether measured in exposure or share of voice, increase when the layers are combined.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 21.42.05

Planning Ahead

All three forms of what does a content calendar need good planning to be successful, but how far ahead to you have to plan?

The honest answer is “it depends”.

For this blog I have a plan that’s about 2 months ahead, with a content deadline of about a week before publication. But that timing needs to change if you’re collaborating on content with a team or you have approval steps needed. Large organisations are more likely to have deadlines further ahead of publication and the plan for content themes is probably running 6-12 months ahead.

Tools

I use a google calendar, I can look at anywhere, on any device, I can add assets and links as I go. But my blog drafts are written directly into wordpress (not best practice). That works for a one person company and would probably scale up to a small team. For large companies there is an amazing array of sophisticated tools on the market. They enable planning and collaborative development of content, publication, sharing/editing of posts and assets, and reporting on content performance.

None of this is that hard to work out, but maintaining quality content requires a rare combination of creativity and discipline, with a dash of flexibility to take advantage of those out of the blue opportunities.

Image; Paper Craft Calendar | Berlin | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3 Ways to Release the Content in Your Organisation

Balloon_ReleaseAt a recent meeting of Digital Experts (run by Advatera) the most common challenge raised for social media managers was sourcing content. Most participants knew there was content somewhere in the company but struggled to release it for use on social media. Most reported that they’d asked people to give them content but that hadn’t helped. The reality is that few people will think about your content needs and will need to be led into giving you the content you need.

One common cry from over-stretched social media managers is “I ask for content, but I don’t get any sent to me”. I recognise the frustration, but I can also see things from their colleagues’ perspective; it’s something extra in a busy day. However if you can lead them to give you content you’ll unlock the company stories needed for your social media presence.

Repurpose the ugly stuff

Almost every company produces reports on a grand scale, inside these reports are ugly tables of data. You can use that data to create infographics which have a visual impact that works on social media.

For example, the UNHCR’s data on refugees is transformed into a visual showing the scale of the crises in refugee source nations in the last 24 years. This is shareable, the original report is not.

RefugeeData

Take another look at your annual report, sustainability reporting and employee satisfaction reports. Very often these are produced with infographics, add a requirement to the briefing that a certain number of “mini-infographics” are produced for sharing on social media. It’s much easier to build this into the production stage than add it afterwards.
Tweet this
Look also for other data in the company, years ago we included “cups of coffee drunk per day” in a series of company data images. Of course that was the image that got the most attention.

To make this work

Add specifications for images for social media in your designer briefing. You’ll need to say the size, file format, any limits on the image and as far as possible identify the data points you think would be worth sharing.

Leadership Quotes

Your executives speak at events, press announcements, Annual General Meetings, staff meetings and write statements for company publications.

Pull quotes from these sources and present them in a branded template with a head shot, add a link to the report or event, and magically you have content to share.

You can also create events for them to speak, it would powerful if your leadership posted their new year’s resolutions for example. You can make a simple template for this

To make this work

Start early, particularly if you’re looking for new quotes, leaders’ calendars are stupidly busy and finding time to ask them for thoughtful input can be challenging.

Employees as Ambassadors

I guarantee your employees are active on social media, there will be people willing to co-create the content and share company’s branded messages on their own social channels. This has the benefit of reaching a different audience from your own company’s channels, and showcasing your employees pride in the brand.

In some countries – including the Netherlands – this is tricky, the Works Councils/Unions are really concerned at any expectation that work life crosses into private life.  Philips found a way to build a brand ambassador community that didn’t pose that risk using an employee community on the internal social network. They addressed potential concerns by;

  • Using an ‘invite-only’ community on the internal social network
  • Members invited once they’ve completed their initial social media training, ensuring social media knowledge of all participants was at a good level
  • Members are invited to contribute to content
  • Sharing content is always voluntary for each campaign
  • The company does not list, share, or monitor personal accounts of employees

The model of working was first tested on world coffee day in 2014. A series of image templates was developed that met house guidelines on brand and left room for a coffee slogan. On the brand ambassador community members were asked for their ‘coffee slogans’, those with the most likes were used to create assets for world coffee day. And all community members were able to share the images on their own social accounts. Here’s one from my former colleague.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 08.27.46

To make this work

First build a community of people willing to contribute to content, and promote your brand. Work with your brand experts to develop templates for use across campaigns. For each campaign collect the internal input 2-3 weeks ahead of the campaign date, this might sound last minute by other campaign standards but this step can help build momentum for the publishing phase.

You’ll notice that to make each of these work you need “pre-work”, there are no quick fixes. Years ago in digital it felt like we were the last to know, we’d beg for content and then get it right before it needed to be published because the running assumption was that publishing was no more than pushing a button. I think we’re seeing the same sort of tension for a lot of social media teams. The answer is to have the discussions about what’s needed for social media earlier in the process, join the editorial process earlier and discuss with the content writers what will work on social media.

Image; Balloon Release  |  Garry Knight  |  CC BY 2.0

Twitter Basics: Companies on Twitter

twitterbasics4_cropI’ve written about some of the basics of using twitter in earlier posts, now I want to take a look at how companies are using twitter for a business purpose. I want to focus on companies getting it right – but I will point out some #fail moments!

The first thing to think about is what is your purpose for using twitter, I’ve broken it down to five options, but of course most companies use a combination on the same twitter account. Which you use will depend on your business; but make sure you have the customer service sorted out first.

1; Customer Service

One of the most common ways of using twitter is as a customer service channel, sometimes known as webcare. This means answering people’s questions online, regarding your company’s products and service – sometimes even when the question hasn’t been directed at you. Here are some examples of customer care tweets. I think you need to have good customer service in place before trying the other options here, otherwise you will hear complaints where you are trying to have a discussion.

Companies doing this include; ING, Citibank, O2, Yahoo (or flickr), AT&T and Delta.

2; Customer Engagement

Beyond supporting your customers with service you can use twitter to have a conversation with your customers.

Here’s an example from Dutch airline KLM.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 17.14.37@SusanAretz posted a picture of a KLM plane from Madurodam, a miniature village filled with scenes from around the Netherlands. She tweeted “I’m curious where this @KLM flight is going”. Soon after KLM responded “Hello Susan, this is a special flight, destination ‘Dreamland’ :-)”

KLM uses social media really well, providing good customer care around the clock and connecting with customers using humour.

3; Marketing

Twitter can be an effective marketing tool, it can be used to promote events, generate leads – by offering whitepapers via email signup, and offer discounts or coupon codes. Those three options can be used for free, but their effectiveness is going to depend on your existing following.

You can also use either promoted tweets, or a promoted account. It’s hard to find accurate figures on these because twitter promoted tweets uses a bidding process similar to internet ad words, and the promoted account costs are based on a cost per follower. You can however set a budget so you can cap your spending for a twitter marketing campaign.

4; Online Brand

Twitter, and social media generally, is a great tool to share your online content. Companies use it to increase the reach of all sorts of content from press releases to timely product information. For example we’ve just had a series of electric storms in the Netherlands and ING tweeted a link to their general storm advice, including information regarding insurance.

5; Build a Customer Network

Providing quality help/support, sharing selected information on twitter first, hosting relevant tweet chats will all build a strong customer network. If you can build a customer network on twitter they will share your content by re-tweeting, expanding your reach. They may also answer questions about your brand on your behalf, and in times of crisis can help by spreading your crisis news and reactions.

 Some Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Acquire a twitter handle that matches your brand, usually your brand name.
  2. Use your logo as an avatar, it appears next to each tweet in your followers’ feeds
  3. Use a brand related image as your header image
  4. Specify the hours the account is monitored and responding; note if you’re an airline there’s an expectation that this will be 24/7
  5. Verify your account; with the official blue tick if you can (this is available for really famous people or for those with a decent ad spend on twitter). Link from your twitter account to your company site, and from your company site to twitter – this provides some verification for your followers if the blue tick isn’t an option
  6. Choose the right person/people to manage your account, they need to know twitter but they also need to know your company.
  7. Identify who is posting if multiple people manage your account, the convention for this is ^name or ^initials
  8. Set up guidelines  for your account including the purpose and tone of voice, this is especially important if your account is managed by several people
  9. Control sign-on, there have been a number of cases where employees tweeted from a company account by mistake – thinking it was their personal account. Consider using separate tools or apps to prevent this happening.
  10. Use hashtags – carefully – there are plenty of examples of hashtags going wrong.
  11. Tweet regularly, daily.
  12. Respond and RT.
  13. Listen to and understand your followers – the more expert they are on social media the greater the opportunity to interact.

Avoid these mistakes;

A final word

Keep your original purpose in mind and listen to your customers/followers, don’t be scared to try new things – and be prepared to adjust or abandon ideas that didn’t work. Finally – share what you learn, that’s what makes the twitter world go around.

Next Week; in the final post in this series I’ll look at some of the trolls, fakers, hackers and scams you may encounter on twitter.

Four-oh-four

It’s the page you get when there is no page. For the user it’s the frustrating error message when you’ve typed in the wrong URL, or clicked on a link to a page that has been removed from a site. For the website, or company providing the website it’s an opportunity.

Renny Gleeson has a funny take on the whole thing at TED.

I think “breaking a relationship” is a bit too far, but I agree that 404 pages are an opportunity.  Many companies have taken the opportunity to provide help to their customers and manage to have some fun with their 404 pages including;

  • Coca cola; offers some choices to help you, uses simple English, and manages to include the word “refreshing” which links to their brand.
  • Siemens; apologises, offers some help, and includes a fuzzy graphic as if you’ve gone to non-existing tv channel – points slightly to their brand as a technology player.
  • Suredev; admonishes visitors as if they’ve broken something, it’s an approach that not all companies could get away with, they also provide some links and a search bar.

I was really disappointed with the SouthWest Airlines 404 page, they manage to do so much that it cool it’s a shame they haven’t paid a little attention to their error page.

A good error page should

  • help the visitor get back on track, by giving them links or a search box.
  • provide a way to contact the webmaster
  • use plain language – avoid tech speak (so the technical message “404 file not found” shouldn’t be there)
  • connect to your brand – by design, by tone of voice, by the use of humour (where appropriate)

It’s inevitable that customers will occasionally land on the 404 page, the least website managers can do is make it helpful and clear, add a connection to your brand you’ve got a more positive experience for those customers who got a little lost on your site.

Apprentice 8: Brand Me Baby!

margateThis weeks challenge is the most difficult so far, the teams are charged with rebranding – updating the seaside town of Margate. I’ve never been to Margate but I can’t say I’ve been impressed with UK beaches in general, and the Apprentice site itself refers to Margate as having “Once a jewel of the Kent coast, Margate still has a faded grandeur, but it is up to the teams to bring a much-needed sparkle for the 21st century.”

Their job is to produce posters and information that will attract new tourists to the town – and pitch their campaigns to tourism industry experts and residents of Margate.

Debra led Mona, Howard and James for Empire and they quickly decided to target the gay market – over Mona’s objections, she didn’t think it was “suitable” for Kent. Yasmina lead Kate, Ben and Lorraine for Ignite and target the family market based on the logic that in the current financial crisis families won’t be able to afford foreign holidays.

The pitches were well done by Howard and Kate, but the posters and brochures were horrendous. Extremely old fashioned looking and with way too much text on them, in the case of Empire the brochures weren’t finished. In the end the experts and residents gave Empire a total of 8/20, and Ignite 14/20.

Picture 20Debra bought James and Mona back into the board room, a great debate started which Sir Alan quickly labelled it a “Punch and Judy Show”. Debra tried to pretend that the “gay market” wasn’t James’ idea, and tried to claim that she couldn’t make decent posters out of the content sent to her.

Debra played a smart boardroom game, keeping relatively quiet but pushing all Mona’s buttons. James isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’d pulled his weight on this task – even so Debra managed to neatly discredit him.

But it was Mona’s half-heartedness for the task that seemed to bother Sir Alan the most, after deliberating for a minute or two he pointed the finger at Mona and said the words she feared hearing “You’re Fired”

photo of Margate beach from anaru via flickr