Marketing that Gets Your Customers to Tell Your Story

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Once the sole purview of movie stars, sports heroes and celebrities, product endorsements and sponsorships are quickly becoming an endeavor for many entrepreneurially spirited individuals from across the spectrum of society.  While different than traditional product endorsements, today’s virtual based market influencers are breaking new ground in the numbers of attracters. “Now is the first time ever that your next-door neighbor could have a million followers on Instagram,” says Justin Kline, founder of Markerly, an influencer research company. “It’s opened up this whole new world of people who have access to this huge following … which is really great for brands because it allows them to harness all this clout.”

Influencer marketing is much different from celebrity endorsements, which focuses on attaching a brand to a famous actor or sports figure. An influencer develops a relationship between a brand and consumers by earning their trust and developing a loyal following through various media outlets such as Instagram and YouTube. Influencers create their own content and brand message, focusing on promoting authenticity to a targeted audience.

Retailers are recognizing that when it comes to connecting with today’s generation of consumers, a product recommendation from someone they relate to can have far more impact on a purchasing decision than that of an actor or pop star. With billions of dollars at stake, forming a partnership with a successful influencer, regardless of age, can be a big opportunity for retailers large and small.

Earlier this month, Ryan’s World, a toy and T-shirt line created by a six year old first-grader whose YouTube channel reaches nearly 900 million viewers each month, is releasing a line of merchandise to be sold exclusively at more than 2,500 Walmart stores in the United States and on the Walmart.com website. The star of the YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview,” known only by his first name to protect his youthful privacy, helped select the toys and apparel that will be sold at Walmart under the name Ryan’s World. Ryan’s six YouTube channels have captured the attention of children of all ages.

“Clearly what’s emerged in the last few years is they’re watching an influencer like Ryan on YouTube, and he’s their authority,” says Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of toys. “That’s why we thought this was something to really move fast on.” The line of toys and apparel will be expanded in time for the Christmas holiday shopping season at Walmart.

Studies are revealing that influencer marketing can deliver significantly higher return on investment (ROI) than traditional forms of digital marketing. More than 48 percent of marketers who are using influencers intend to increase their budgets this year. Ninety four percent of them believe the tactic to be very effective. The phenomenon of influencer marketing is poised to become mainstream as it expands across a wider range of social platforms, and sellers are working to perfect a system that can be included in the overall marketing strategy.

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.”  – Scott Cook

Finally, the Season of Profitability and Promise is Upon Us

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Unlike the biggest shopping season of the year, the second busiest doesn’t enjoy the same prominence or experience the same anticipation from consumers, unless of course you are a summertime-weary parent. Back to school shopping is the second largest selling opportunity for retailers and it is expected to generate more than $82.8 billion is sales for retailers of clothing, pencils, backpacks and pencils this year. While the final results are still ringing up, consumers are off to the stores and virtual markets all across the country and the keyboard. This year more than half of parents are planning on increasing their “get them out of the house and back to school” spend.

More than 57 percent of the shopping will be at local brick and mortar stores with online sales gaining ground. This year, approximately $6.3 billion will be spent online for school supplies, clothing, and technology. With the shopping beginning in early June, marketers were eager to end up in first place, with more than 90 percent of them offering deep discounts and money saving coupons to consumers from pre-school to graduate school students.

Retailers are following performance data from 2017 and reaching out to the estimated 55 percent of parents who use smart devices to find the best deals. Experienced marketing-savvy sellers are approaching the season’s tasks through omnichannel campaigns. While nearly 55 percent of the consumers will buy early, nearly half of them will extend their buying opportunities past the start of the school opening classes. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) CEO, Matthew Shay, says he expects “a very strong season,” due to growing consumer confidence. For each of their students, parents are expected to spend $236.90 on clothing, $187.10 on electronics, $136.66 on shoes and $122.13 on school supplies. Shay went on to say, “There’s still more shopping to do, and regardless of timing, the economy is healthy and shoppers are confident and willing to spend.”

Compared to the Christmas holiday experience, retailers are backing off on their once massive spend for the back to school season. “It’s not that retailers are spending less on advertising overall,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, “or that back-to-school still isn’t an important part of their calendar. It’s just that they are not investing as heavily in dedicated back-to-school messaging.” It appears retailers are attempting get more bang for each buck during a time when consumers are already spending for clothing and other items that also relate to back to school purchases.

Overall, marketing spending is still focused on using TV and digital media first, followed by paid search. Regardless of the size and method of the campaigns, retailers are excited about entering the time of the year when they emerge from months of red ink into a period of profitability and promise.

What’s Going on in the Minds and Households of the Millennial Generation?

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Much has been said about Millennials, their character traits, work ethic, shopping habits, methods of communication and just about any other imaginable fundamental behavior, and not all the comments have been positive or flattering. The millennial generation usually identifies those born between 1981 and 1996. Arriving in the era of massive technological advances, they have come of age being familiar with the internet, smart digital devices, social media platforms, and all the other technology that often baffles former generations.

Millennials are extremely tech savvy, highly educated and are on the verge of becoming the largest living generation. Learning how to market effectively to them is not an option for marketers and absolutely essential to surviving in the coming decade. “We don’t think of them as special or different any more. They are the core of our business,” says Alan Jope, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever. While some marketers can at least claim a little success in cracking the millennial code, others have just given up and returned to re-focus on what worked to attract consumers in the past. Customer behavior is changing almost daily as technology advances its influence over how consumers make buying decisions.

Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing demographic will not work. Like all market segments, not all Millennials will respond to the same messaging and most are fed up with traditional methods of advertising. According to a study from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, millennials have filtered out advertising on social media and turned to other reference points. Titled, “Born and Raised in the Age of Technology,” the study states, “Millennials consume information when and how they want to.” A campaign of one size fits all is a likely pathway to failure. Erik Huberman, Founder & CEO of Hawke Media says, “Certainly, you’ll want to target age demographics to a certain extent, but your targeting should also be more granular. Instead, go right to the actual attributes of the real customer.”

Quality content across multiple mobile devices is essential to attracting members of this new power generation. An Animoto study has found that 80 percent of surveyed Millennials use videos to conduct research before making a purchase. Video is no longer an option for marketers looking to attract these consumers’ interest. Some 39% of Millennials post reviews of products or brands on social media outlets, and this generation is more likely to listen to and connect with people like them rather than celebrities. Over 60% of millennials would try a product suggested by a YouTuber. Social media reigns supreme.

A select group of analysts was recently impaneled by NPD, in an effort to find out what’s going on inside the minds and households of consumers born between 1981 and 1996. Their insights revealed a group of consumers markedly different from their parents. Millennials tend to be retail explorers, more interested in making memories than acquiring things. They tend to appreciate function over price and often feel less is more. They enjoy experiencing activities more then owning stuff and are inclined to be more focused on home activities. Arguably the group is recognized as being a bit more self-centered then previous generations of consumers. Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor, Sports, says: “Millennials are constantly interviewing brands, meaning that a brand has to prove itself, every day. For Boomers, there were fewer shopping choices, shopping outlets, and sources of product information. For Millennials, those elements are infinite. On top of that, these elements are always available on their smartphones.”

Fully understanding these shifts in consumer behaviors and beliefs will help unlock fresh insights to drive a business forward. The traditional marketing and sales approach used to create “target audiences” based on a profile of gender, age, demographic, or geographic data alone is an approach that will cripple a business’s ability to successfully reach target audiences in an effective way.

Know This, Print Advertising is Not Dead

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In the United States print advertising spend has fallen from $65 billion at the beginning of this century to less than $19 billion by the end of 2016. The steady decline has many suggesting that print media advertising will continue to diminish and fall to the relentless onslaught of all things digital. However, the long history of dominance of print in advertising is making the medium more resilient against the relentless attack of new communication technologies, leading many media experts to declare that in spite of the fall from high, print is not dead. Research is revealing that readers trust the printed message more than any other medium. “The old trope that print is dead is just lazy thinking,” says Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the Association of Magazine Media.

The noise and constant clamor of digital is giving print an opportunity to live beyond the delete button and grab the reader’s attention. The rarity and uniqueness of a written, personalized message is attractive, especially to the C-level target. Luxury consumers still value tangible ad platforms, and glossy quality print collateral can still hold an audience’s attention. To be effective, print ads’ role in advertising will become one that supports the digital lead. “Print ads will be more effective if they are a complement to your digital campaigns already in play and entice readers to interact with your brand online,” says Jeannie Ruesch, of xero.com. The successful printed play will be achieved when it is fully integrated with a total campaign. At Meredith National Media Group, print revenue accounted for two-thirds of overall advertising revenue, and circulation represented 30 percent of revenue in 2017, making it the company’s second-largest revenue stream. “We see it as print and digital; not print or digital,” says Jon Werther, president.

“While digital continues to dominate multi-channel strategies, the art of print publications is not obsolete.” says Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “Junction’s design team is rooted in graphic design with experience designing print collateral and publications for well-established Fortune 1000 Companies as well as small to mid-size business.” To be relevant, print content must be targeted and easily digestible and pass the skim test. The intent and purposefulness of the message needs to be readily identifiable to the reader and visually appealing. “If it looks like it was printed in 1978…the perception will be that the firm is still operating from 1978,” says Gareleck. All those tired, old newsletters must find their way to the burn pile.

Digital’s dominance has made consumers persistent multitaskers, dutifully monitoring our emails and text messages while navigating through daily tasks. Rarely do we give any message our full and undivided attention. Print content offers an opportunity to really focus and engage with the message. And to all those “print is dead” pundits, know this: According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers are most likely to start an online search after viewing a magazine ad.

Junction is a comprehensive partner that can assist with your print collateral needs, aligning with the overall brand goals and objectives. Contact us at 678-686-1125 to learn more about our print design capabilities!

Adobe Makes Major Acquisition to Enhance Competitive Market Position

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The recent purchase of Magento by Adobe has industry and financial pundits crowing support of the move. The $1.7 billion-dollar purchase positions Adobe to better compete with market giants like Salesforce and Oracle.  Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform originally brought to market in 2008. Its new 2.0 version was released late last year. The Magento platform is popular among small to mid-sized B2B and retail companies and the technology supports more than $155 billion in gross merchandise volume. The newest version was released with an aim to provide new ways to heighten user engagement, smoother navigation, improved conversion rates and revenue generation for store owners.

Magento 2.0 promises to address many of the shortcomings of its previous version.  Compared to its predecessor, 2.0 will run, on average, 20 percent faster resulting in more sales and increases in website search engine optimization. The checkout process is more streamlined allowing customers to navigate quicker through the purchase decision to checkout. Additional extensions and better administrative interface help reduce time spent managing the online store. With more and more consumers utilizing mobile devices to complete their shopping, version 2.0 has an improved look and functionality on mobile devices.

Adobe Systems Inc. says the acquisition is its third biggest and is meant to create an end-to-end system for designing digital ads, building e-commerce websites and other online customer experiences. The company is seeking to diversify from the digital media products that made it one of the world’s largest software companies.

John Bruno, a senior analyst at Forrester, called Adobe’s purchase a fair buy and one that opens a door to a segment of the market Adobe has not served well in the past. “Coupled with really strong growth for Magento, in my opinion, it’s a good buy,” Bruno said. “What’s more, this taps into the existential question of what CRM is—it started out as a sales tool and then came to include marketing automation, customer service and now commerce.”

Magento CEO Mark Lavelle will continue to lead the Magento team as part of Adobe’s Digital Experience business. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. While the purchase awaits regulatory approval, each company will continue to operate independently.

For more information on how this important acquisition impacts upgrading to Magento 2.0 and how Junction Creative Solutions can help you navigate to a platform designed to enhance the growth and sustainability of your online store, call 678-686-1125.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, However in Marketing Not Just Any Color Will Do

 

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Are you feeling a little blue? Or perhaps you are feeling you’re in the pink? Color is frequently associated with our moods and how we feel about a topic of discussion or to elaborate on the day’s experiences. While many of these associations can be explained through personal preference, learned behavior or a result of individual culture and experience, some research studies have shown a valid correlation of color to personal motivation and behavior.  An Institute for Color Research’s study found that 92.6 percent of people surveyed said that color was the most important factor when purchasing products, and consumers’ subconscious judgment about products is influenced in 62 percent to 90 percent of cases by color alone.

Some colors can attribute the impact on behavior because of the nearly universal utilization to elicit an unchallenged response. Red, for instance, is the most commanding color of attention, perhaps due to societal utilization of the color red for everything from stop signs, fire trucks and flashing emergency lights. People have been pre-disposed to recognize and react to anything displayed red. It says, “This is important, pay attention!”  Forty-two percent more signs and advertisements are read when the color red is used, and comprehension of the message is increased as well.

Color also plays a major role in product identification. Tomato ketchup apparently is preordained to be red, in part because ripened tomatoes are mostly perceived as being red. Just ask Heinz, who discovered the public’s inherent relationship of the color red and ketchup. In an effort to excite and attract a younger consumer by making ketchup available in various colors, the marketers of fifty-seven varieties soon learned of the special relationship of red to consumers; perception of the product. Can we imagine a brown-colored Pepto Bismol?  How soothing is that perception? Marketers commonly use certain colors because those colors elicit generally accepted emotions.  While many of us react differently, most of us react in a similar way to the paring of colors to products. But there are broader messaging patterns to be found in color perceptions.

Savvy marketers of digital advertising use colors to increase conversion and click-through rates on websites. By utilizing color to differentiate call-to-action buttons or links they are driving user-consumers to take actions and improve the conversation. Understanding how design and color can work together to influence and motivate consumer behavior is a key factor to effective and efficient messaging. Studies have revealed that color can often be the sole reason someone purchases a product. In one survey, 93 percent of buyers said they focus on visual appearance, and nearly 85 percent of respondents indicated that color was a primary reason in the decision to purchase.

Customers will only respond favorably and strongly to a brand if the right color is chosen to represent that brand’s personality, culture and menu of products.  In a study titled “Impact of Color in Marketing,” researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products was based on color alone.  Research has also found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color, and it is extremely important that new brands specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors.

The psychological impact of color on human behavior is neither an exact nor a settled science. But the impact of color on consumer perceptions and motivations is undeniable. So, while roses may be red and violets may be blue, in all things marketing not just any color will do.

To learn more on how color can influence purchasing behavior and enhance a brand’s identity, contact Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) at 678-686-1125.

Opening a New Door to Opportunity

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) is an award-winning strategic agency committed to creating high impact solutions for SMBs and Fortune 500 companies. By combining the intellectual capital of a business consulting firm with the creative execution of an advertising agency, Junction is exceeding growth expectations and expanding by opening a new office in the Atlanta area. Near the Sandy Springs City Center, Junction is centrally located for easy access to Buckhead, Downtown or North Alpharetta. The new location helps better position Junction to meet the demands of its growing list of clients.

Seeing a rise in start-up companies, leveraging intellectual property, soon to hit the marketplace and with our increasing capability to perform quick turnaround Rapid and Custom Development website development projects as well as web-based applications, Junction has added qualified and experienced members to the staff, adding strategic experience across every layer of business. “Junction, for nearly a decade, has remained focused on building a team of talented professionals to not only drive our business but also our clients forward,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction.

The cross-disciplinary team, working for some of the most notable Fortune 100 and 500 brands, has proven that a collaborative, consultative approach can yield the best results.  “Our project management system was designed by engineers to streamline internal and external client communications, improve client satisfaction, and increase overall efficiencies. We don’t just talk about process, we are  passionate about implementing it,” adds Gareleck.

For more on how Junction Creative Solutions, a hybrid agency model for today’s business environment, can help your business meet its growth projections, call 678-686-1125 today.