Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Unboring Billboards

Posted by thecastlegroup on May 26, 2010

The new digital billboards are taking the medium out of marketing’s dark ages by acting as a source of information and entertainment in line with today’s electronic age.

There are two digital billboards I pass on my way to and from work. While sitting in traffic, they are a minimal form of entertainment, with idle drivers waiting to see what’s next.

The boards are being used in two different ways. One is a steady rotation of ads for local businesses, interspersed with messages about local charities. It provides a way to get information on a wide range of topics in a short period – the fundraising walk is next weekend, the Beacon Grille is serving brunch on Mother’s Day, etc.

The other currently acts as a brand channel for Coke – messages about new products, deals, contests and cause marketing campaigns provide a mix of messages and show the broad scope of the company’s products and its CSR commitments. Here’s a snack bundle deal at a retailer, here are the new Coke mini cans, here’s how we’re supporting a charity.

Nicely designed, the Coke channel is engaging, has personality and adds another dimension to the marketing of one our most ubiquitous brands.

What applications will digital billboards have in the future? News headlines, live video feeds from breaking stories, stock quotes, weather updates, maybe even Twitter streams. What do you think?

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Why everything your company does is marketing

Posted by thecastlegroup on October 5, 2009

This Saturday I visited a financial institution and a chain restaurant. Both seemingly simple transactions were fraught with frustration.

While a bank and a restaurant are different businesses, at the retail level, they are essentially the same. They offer customers products, services and the promise of consistency – you should have the same experience at any location, whether you’re in Boston or Chicago.  

As organizations grow, consistency becomes harder to achieve. That’s why training is so important and why, ultimately, execution at the retail level has the ability to make or break your brand promise.

Marketing platforms can be developed in any number of ways. You can identify your key strengths and play to them. You can listen to customer feedback and respond accordingly.

Or you can create an aspirational platform – what do we really want to be? How can we fulfill a customer need? The problem with this approach is that when what you want to be doesn’t align with who you are – and what you can really execute – it’s a false promise, one which is ultimately set up for failure.

In this day and age of transparency – and social media, where consumers can instantaneously weigh in on their experiences – it’s more important than ever to take a grounded look at your business from the bottom up before developing a marketing platform. And the need to continue that examination does not stop.  

Everything needs to work in alignment in order to fulfill the brand promise and deliver the right customer experience. Better to put the time into the effort and training up front – and delay the launch of an expensive ad campaign – rather than risk failure on something that isn’t supported at the store level.

What are your experiences with feeling the brand of the companies that you interact with?

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Take the marketing Hippocratic oath

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 26, 2009

Like doctors, marketers should do no harm


Do we need our own oath to protect our brands from product mishaps, malfunctions and bad press?


As I was channel surfing last night, I stopped for a how-to segment on a syndicated show. During the segment, there were a number of product demonstrations that appeared to be paid placements.


The host was unable to demonstrate one of the products. It was a very simple product but just would not “perform.” The guest jumped in to help to no avail. It went on…and on… and on… to the point where a staffer ran in from off stage to try to help.


The marketing director for that product was surely near collapse at that moment.


As my significant other said, “Well, that did more harm than good.”


If you are considering a paid product placement, ask yourself the following questions:


o        Can I rely on the product to perform perfectly every time?

o        Do I have the opportunity to personally demonstrate the use/features of the product to the host/producer in advance?


If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, your marketing dollars may best be spent on another activity.


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Products, packaging and PR – critical marketing steps for package design

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 25, 2009

Today’s Boston Globe looks at recent product packaging redesigns as a way to maintain competitive advantage on the grocery store shelf. In these times, manufacturers are fighting for each sale and need to do what they can to get consumers to notice and purchase their products.


In the packaging design process, manufacturers also need to consider gearing the right products toward the right consumers.


Look at the spaghetti sauce aisle at your local supermarket. Between the jarred spaghetti sauce, individual ingredients to make spaghetti sauce and the pasta itself, there is an entire aisle devoted to this one dish.


With so many products crowding the shelf, it all becomes a blur to the consumer, who is then forced to shop on price or specials. The wide variety of flavors and styles, along with low-fat, sugar-free, lower sodium and other options, necessitates consumers becoming students of labels in order to make the right purchase. Grab and go is a thing of the past.


By creating more well-defined “looks” for each product extension, then backing up the packaging with targeted marketing efforts that support specific lines, manufacturers can drive sales in each channel and create greater consumer satisfaction by directing them to products that best suit their needs.


For example, a “no sugar added” pasta sauce line could be marketed to diabetics through targeted advertising in diabetic publications, sampling at diabetes health expos, blogger outreach, media relations and co-marketing with other diabetes-related products — and sit in the pasta aisle with increased awareness alongside mainstream competitive products.


Exposing the target audience to products at a variety of touch points will help quickly guide them to the right product on the shelf.


This is where PR, branding and strategy all align, and why marketing conversations need to happen in lockstep with product design.

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The Simple Things

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

A colleague recently said, “In difficult times, there are those who cry, and there are those who sell handkerchiefs.” While some of our clients are scaling back in 2009, some are staying the course, others are increasing their budgets, and still others are shifting marketing tactics due to changing goals. Regardless of how your company is faring right now, every company needs to take a hard look at expenses. Yet even if you’re downsizing, there are straightforward marketing recommendations to consider: 

1. Long lead times. 
The efforts you put forth today can yield significant results six months from now. If your product needs to be featured in monthly magazines during the spring or summer, you have to make it happen now. The news and event cycle will pass you by if you ignore long-lead opportunities.
2. PR is not a one-shot deal. 
PR works best when there are both long- and short-term corporate goals included in the program. We once had a client that ended his contract with us because we “did such a great job getting the company visibility” that he “didn’t need us anymore.” Guess what? The visibility ebbed away and he came back.
3. Good news is suddenly news. 
If you communicate momentum, your targets will see momentum. I just read a news brief about a company that secured $1 million in financing. A number that low would never have hit the press last year. Further, one of our clients recently hired 12 people and had two banks vying to offer them a significant line of credit. That certainly wouldn’t have been newsworthy a year ago, but it is today. 
3. Leaner times can create internal opportunities. 
If business is slow, you may have talented staff who can be redeployed to support marketing objectives: a salesperson with the soul of a writer or an IT person with a creative flair who can improve your website or collateral.  
4. Bring your audience to you. 
Think about your office or retail space. Can you create opportunities — seminars, roundtable discussions, networking events — in your office and invite colleagues, customers and prospects? Face-to-face communications can still be the best marketing tool there is.
5. Get out…do more.
Go to networking events and conferences. Leverage your memberships beyond event attendance; meet with association executives to see whether you might be able to be an event speaker or moderator. You’ll get visibility through the sponsoring organization AND have opportunity for that face-to-face at the same time.
6. Consider your assets.
Do you have a creative presentation that can be repurposed for your website, as a bylined article, and as a speaker abstract? Take inventory of the marketing materials that already exist and creatively leverage them to create new opportunities.
7. Partner wisely.
Consider a marketing co-opportunity (event sponsorship, co-authored op-ed, online promotion) with a non-competing organization that targets similar audiences. You can leverage your marketing dollars by sharing resources and achieving a similar goal together.
8. Review your online presence.
This is a good time to make the most of your image online.  Make sure you’re maximizing SEO opportunities, posting new materials to your site, participating in online groups through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twittering and blogging. All free, and all marketing. 
Be the company that’s making the most of this downturn. To revisit the saying referenced earlier, sell handkerchiefs. B2B and consumer demand still exists — the winners will be those that best continue to meet those demands. If you can afford to maintain or increase your visibility, your handkerchiefs will look pretty good amongst all those tears. 

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