Posts

A More Diverse and Socially Conscience Generation of Consumers

Image credit: Rawstock.com/Shutterstock.com

Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing segment has its pitfalls. Not every member of any group or demographic segment can be expected to see the world from an identical perspective and follow a single behavioral pattern. However, generational differences and behaviors are influenced by disruptive events. The Great Depression and World War II had a dramatic impact on baby boomers, both in the way they saw the world and their role in the future. The technology revolution is generating much of the same impact on Millennials, and to an even greater degree, Generation Z. Such dynamic experiences tend to not only alter established patterns of process but often disrupts the way people reinterpret and redefine fundamental societal norms.

Marketers found measured success in developing strategies that connected with Millennials only after struggling to fully understand the impact of the technology era on those born and reared during the years that saw unprecedented disruption in traditional communication processes. Millennials were the test subjects for social media platforms that were born and that matured during their formative years. Both Millennials and the generation that followed became accustomed to fast paced growth of new technologies and the impacts they have on the world.

Generation Z consists of those born in 1996 or later. They make up 25.9% of the United States population and will account for one-third of the U.S. population by 2020. The most tech savvy and information consuming generation in history, Generation “Z’ers” tend to be less focused on a single thought but are demonstrating an amazing ability to multitask and a lack of patience with a single subject. Since 2018, members of Generation Z spent up to $143 billion and will represent 40% of consumers by 2020. In order to successfully market to this generation, it is important to recognize how this new set of consumers differentiates from the previous generation. While Millennials learned to coexist with the development of digital devices, Z’ers are perpetual in their use and have demonstrated a mastery of everything smart and mobile.

Marketers are experiencing a massive shift in advertising methods and content messaging in order to successfully connect with Generation Z’s shifting values. “When it doesn’t get there fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.” Like their predecessors, this new generation values authenticity. However, Generation Z’ers desire even more transparency from companies requiring brands to alter their approach to focus to a greater degree on social media influencers. This generation of shoppers indicates they are more likely to be motivated by social media influencers than by celebrities. Four out of five Generation Z members say they allow social media to influence purchasing decisions.

Contrary to digitally honed social insights, Generation Z is more socially diverse and conscious than former generations. They are more likely to appreciate face to face relationships, be willing to do great work for an employer and are predicted to be willing to invest years in a job that propels them forward to achieving personal self-development. According to Generation Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.”

It would be easy to button-hole this newest generation of consumers into one market segment, but care must be exorcized to understand that each new generation is influenced by those that have gone before. In reality, while greatly impacted and honed from a lifetime of technology, this new generation may be much more diverse having been influenced by interactions with each preceding generation.

It’s Time to Play the March Madness Advertising Game

Image credit: Al Sermeno Photography/Shutterstock.com

Unlike 2018, the big NCAA 2019 basketball tournament event is not burdened with the pressure of battling clean-up. March Madness 2019 is predicted to set a new record of $1.36 billion in advertising spend, continuing an upward tradition since 2013. The NCAA Men’s Division I Final Four will be hosted by the city of Minneapolis, and is predicted to generate $142 million in economic impact for the area and attract 94,000 visitors to the U.S. Bank Stadium.  “In terms of impact, visitor spending is only one way to think about success,” says CEO Kate Mortenson, NCAA Final Four Minneapolis Organizing Committee. While the city looks forward to the promise of an economic windfall, a list of international brands is gearing up for an opportunity to promote their wares to the millions of college basketball fans who will be tuning in to the weeks-long event leading up to the big game.

The NCAA has announced that this year’s tournament will be streaming across 15 platforms in an effort to keep pace with a more mobile viewing audience. Mobile experiences will be very important to fans and advertisers will need to heed the viewers’ continued gravitational pull away from traditional cable and broadcast channels. The most successful brands will be those that connect all the channels into one cohesive campaign that brings basketball fans together with the brand.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will continue to build relationships between fans and brands. Official March Madness social media handles generated 26 million social engagements across these popular channels last year. Marketers will need to prepare ahead in order to capture prolonged customer attention.  “It’s about speaking to the audience, whether they’re preparing for their bracket or starting a competition with friends and family. And it’s about thinking of the length of time you’re spending with consumers,” says Courtney McKlveen, VP and Industry Lead of Retail, Travel and QSR at Yahoo. “ The word ‘loyalty’ is fun to throw around, but it still exists. In order to build loyalty, it takes time, and it means being there throughout the shopping cycle, and having the confidence to think about your ROI differently.”

Casual-dining brand Buffalo Wild Wings is launching its “That’s March Madness” TV spots and digital ads urging viewers to visit its restaurants to watch the tournament. In addition to their usual broad selection of brew and spicy wings, the 1,200-unit Buffalo Wild Wings chain is rolling out custom-designed “Jewel Stools” in Los Angeles and New York City. “Man caves and technology have divided us, conquered us and allowed a part of our herd to be divided,” says Scot Crooker, associate creative director at The Martin Agency, Buffalo Wild Wings’ advertising agency. “Sports is about finding your tribe.”

Whether you choose one or all of the available channels, there are more ways than ever for a brand to engage with an audience during March Madness. While the digital play provides social analytics that can generate immediate message effectiveness, display and sponsorship advertising often requires an incubation period following the performance to measure success or failure. It’s time to establish a strategy and tip off your best effort to connect with our nation’s college basketball fans.

Marketers Help Distribute Oscar Gold at the Academy Awards

Image credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

The Academy Awards have been an entertaining promotion of the movie industry for decades. At its peak, the 3-hour distribution of the golden Oscar to the industry’s best performances captured millions of viewers and generated unprecedented hype for cinema performers, directors and technicians. The once high viewer ratings have diminished over the past two years due to falling interest in a program that has strayed beyond its stated mission and into the critical arena of politics and overt promotion of controversial social issues.

The prediction for the 91st edition of the Academy Awards was dire at the program’s debut but the ABC TV network managed to garner a record $2.6 million for a 30-second advertising spot on the 2019 program. ABC sells more advertising on Oscar Sunday than any day of the year.

This year’s major brands included:  Google, McDonald’s, Verizon, Walmart, Cadillac and Walt Disney. Nike used the platform to launch a powerful, female-focused “Dream Crazy” campaign, fronted by tennis legend Serena Williams. Embarrassed by a failing sneaker worn by its spokesman basketball star in Duke University’s loss to North Carolina the previous week, the iconic brand needed a big win to erase the memory of that debacle from consumers’ minds.

“The Super Bowl is over. It’s mid-February,” Jeff Greenfield, chief operating officer of C3 Metrics, a media measurement company, said in a recent interview. “I am Walmart. My competitor is Amazon. Where can I go and compete against Amazon on what is essentially a global stage and get reach today? It’s the Oscars. … For a brand like a Walmart, they have to be there.” Despite a falling viewer audience, ABC will rack-up more than $150 million from this year’s event. Apparently, falling attendance and program ratings are having little effect on those brands that are willing to pay a premium to share the world’s entertainment stage.

The once “don’t mix politics, religion and controversial social issues with business” mantra that guided advertising for centuries is quickly being abandoned as marketers perceive changing trends in consumers’ favor for socially conscience brands. Providers of major entertainment like the National Football League (NFL) however, are learning that the diversion from focusing on the quality of the entertainment to the promotion of controversy has its limits with a diverse consumer audience. Going forward, promotors of programs like the Academy Awards may want to temper the rhetoric of controversy and refocus on awarding favor to artistic performance if they want to advance their own brand to a more diverse community of consumers.

This year’s ratings bump was welcomed after years of declining interest among viewers but the impact of the increase may be short lived, or not. The fact remains that the Oscars televised event with all its tarnish still attracts a reliable but fractured viewing audience. For brands looking to reach that audience, the Oscars ceremony continues to be an important venue to promote.

Valentine’s Day Isn’t Just for Lovers Anymore

Image Credit: NeydtStock/Shutterstock.com

Hallmark holidays have always been an opportunity for retailers to rack-up some additional sales. Valentine’s Day, once a day reserved for romance and couples, is trending in some interesting directions. With more than 50 percent of Americans identifying themselves as single and not fully committed to a love relationship, the dynamics of the once romantic holiday are changing.

The changing social norms are not slowing the momentum of spending. This year consumers are expected to spend nearly $20 billion dollars on gifts for their sweetheart, co-worker or favorite pet. Consumers plan to spend just over $26 on pets for Valentine’s Day. But the tradition has not totally gone to the dogs.

The traditional winners in the loving gift department will continue to be candy, flowers and jewelry but gifts of experience are beginning to find favor among consumers.  People aged 25 to 34 will be spending the most on Valentine’s Day gifts this year, dropping an average of $202.76 per person. A poll conducted by the National Retail Federation found “the top reasons consumers chose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day were that they considered it over-commercialized, didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or simply weren’t interested anymore.” Sellers spend less time planning their campaigns in advance of Valentine’s Day than other holidays throughout the year, and most consumers wait longer to shop for their gifts. 

The origins of the lovers’ holiday has been traced back to the second century when Emperor Claudius II executed two religious Martyrs named St Valentine. The original February 14 holiday doesn’t appear to have been about romance or love. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Hallmark Greeting Card Company’s forbearer started distributing Valentine’s Day cards. By the start of the 21st century, more than 60 percent of Americans celebrated the holiday. Despite the falling popularity of Valentine’s Day, total spending during the holiday continues to rise and the bulk of the spending will be for significant others and spouses. Co-workers, family members, classmates and pets will join the rank of favorite relationships in 2019.

Okay, So Even the Venerable Super Bowl isn’t Always So Super

Image credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

It may not be as bad as finding an empty vault in Al Capone’s basement but the LIII Super Bowl Game certainly failed to deliver on the anticipated excitement, either for the fans watching the game or the advertisers who spent a large share of their annual marketing budget to advertise during the event. The estimated $5 million per 30-second spot always comes with a significant amount of doubt as to its real value.

This year’s mega game was the least watched Super Bowl matchup in 11 years and is ranked as the lowest rated in 16 years. CBS says the broadcast averaged 98.2 million viewers and a 41.1 household rating, almost as exciting as the activity playing out on the field. Even the halftime entertainment failed to excite the dulling malaise in the stadium. Perhaps the only star-studded performance of the week was the city of Atlanta and its ten thousand volunteers who put forth an award winning performance.

For advertisers who spent a ridiculous sum to produce a bevy of television commercials, they couldn’t be happy that the coveted number one commercial, as judged by the USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter, was the event’s owners and producers, The National Football League. It’s akin to entering a contest and having the contest organizer take the top trophy at the end of the show. Runner-up was the Amazon Alexa ad about technology gone haywire, followed by Microsoft’s ad about children with disabilities using the Xbox adaptive controller to play video games. The major beer brands’ efforts appeared to be as skillful as the two competitors on the field, just a bit off their best games. It appears as though brewing beer with molasses is a big deal, or maybe not.

The only clear winners were women, whose participation rate in commercials ticked up over previous bowl events. Toyota, Olay, Bumble and Michelob Ultra are among the brands that put women front-and-center in Big Game ads. “It seems like there’s an awful lot of humor and light appeals, and that for advertisers it’s somewhat of a play-it-safe year,” said Charles R. Taylor, a professor of marketing at the Villanova University School of Business. “We’re not hearing about anything crossing over in politics.” A resounding Bravo could be heard from avid football fans that spent more than $2,500 per seat to be entertained and $1 thousand for a bed to sleep in after all the partying.

Now that the crowds have gone home and the Champion’s parade has cleared the streets, it’s time for the marketers who convinced their C Suites that the million (plural in many cases) dollar tab was worth the effort. In the end, taking win place or show in the ad game only matters when revenue is added up. Unlike last year, the players on the margins of ROI won’t have the Olympic Games to soften a rough landing.

One aspect of advertising the big game from year to year is the answer to the question, “Was it worth the money?” It still remains in the wind. Measuring the impact of a single-event television ad is like asking an AM radio personality how many people heard a specific 30 seconds of the broadcast. In reality, the best answer you can hope for is a fair share of the audience that hadn’t nodded-off. The most successful ads tend to be those that elevate the institutional value of the brand over time. It’s sort of “you’re not sure but you’ll know the answer when you feel it.” Regardless of the answer, it is almost a given certainty that most of the admen and adwomen who turned out a team to play in this year’s LIII Super Bowl will return for an encore performance next year. The whole thing is just too good of a spectacle to miss. And besides, would you want to be the marketing manager who passes on the one year that the competition beats you badly at the goal line?

Implement an Effective Narrative to Better Connect the Message to an Audience

Image credit: gerasimov_foto_174 / Shutterstock.com

“Once upon a time,” who doesn’t remember this opening sentence? It is famously known as a preamble to a story whose purpose is to grab attention, teach an important message, and impart an unforgettable impression on the listener or to compel them to take action. Storytelling is part of all our lives.  From our earliest memories stories have been fundamental to understanding just about everything. A medium, when well performed, takes the often mundane specifics of a subject and transforms them into a narrative that is interesting and impressionable to the listener. Imagine for a moment attempting to explain to a four-year-old the concepts and importance of building a strong and comforting abode that will survive the dangers of a foe with a menacing nature. Behold the narrative, “The Three Little Pigs.”

Storytelling is not new. It’s a supportive foundational block in our ability to communicate effectively. It utilizes emotion and empathy to inform and motivate, to explain complex as well as simple messages. In this fast-paced, digital communicative environment, storytelling is becoming increasingly important to marketing efforts. Shortened sound-bites, mini moments and mega-blanket messaging have become all the rage among digital advertising, but the impact of the message is being lost amongst all the noise. Advertisers are returning to the art of storytelling to complete a more comprehensive and effective connection with its audience.

Eric Danetz, Global Chief Revenue Officer for AccuWeather, says, “High-quality, authentic storytelling is critical in today’s fragmented media environment.  With noise and competition for consumer attention and brands targeting for greater personalization and impact, storytelling becomes key to establishing an emotional connection with your audience. In terms people and businesses can relate to, storytelling illustrates how a brand will meet customers’ needs and in turn, builds loyalty.”

With all the attention garnered by the technical aspects of digital media and as the proliferation of multiple social channels continue, the increasingly shorter time spans in digital communication is driving consumers to distrust brands and avoid fact-based, feature-and-benefits methods of messaging. When performed properly, storytelling is combining art, creativity, psychology and data to create improved marketing campaigns. Consumers are interested in being entertained by a message, being educated and motivated by an experience and in messages that engage with them emotionally and personally.  Old school marketing tactics are finding new life with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise.   

Successfully merging the art of storytelling into today’s digital marketing environment requires an understanding of the techniques of storytelling and an investment of time and resources to implement an effective narrative that connects with consumers.

For more on how Junction Creative Solutions’ creative team of professionals can help tell your story, call 678-686-1125 today.

Another Super Event In the ATL

Image credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

With all the excitement in Atlanta, Georgia, one would think it was 1996 and the Summer Olympics were fast approaching. Not since then has the big city in the South experienced this frantic level of anticipation and excitement. No Olympics this time, but rather Super Bowl LIII. For more than 200 days, City planners and more than 10,000 volunteers have been planning, priming and preparing for just one day in February, Super Bowl Sunday, and for good reason. This year’s super football contest between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams promises to generate more than $700 billion for the city’s commerce and a welcome down payment on the costs of the city’s brand new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The new stadium is the most recent mega landmark to grace Atlanta, which extends well beyond the confines of the original city boundaries. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is advertised to be located in the “heart of the City,” but the “City” of the Atlanta is expansive. The Atlanta Metro Area has become one of the most expansive urban Meccas in the country. With many of the world’s largest and best recognized companies deciding to call the area home, it is attracting some of the nation’s most capable young professionals and entrepreneurs who are gravitating to the area’s increasingly exciting lifestyle. The economic impact of the event will be felt throughout the expanded area and will certainly boost the fortunes of a large assortment of business and commerce.

Despite the advanced preparations and planning, residents and attendees will need to expect even more intense traffic on the city’s already frantic byways. For those not planning to participate in the many events prior to and on the day of the game, it may be a good time to consider cooking at home and staying close to the neighborhood. The areas traffic patterns have a reputation for gridlock and aggressive drivers and are legendary among residents and visitors alike, even during normal times.

Marketers are ready for the event that has redefined single-event advertising. A 30-second spot on CBS will cost advertisers about $5 million each, but there is no shortage of brands willing and ready to take a shot of making advertising history. Advertising opportunities are not the only venue for increasing brand awareness.  Billboards, Pedi cabs, vehicle wraps, experiential marketing and sampling are among the marketing collateral available to advertisers who want to connect with the anticipated 1.5 million Super Bowl LIII visitors.

For those looking to attend the Super Bowl this year, it is going to be costly for those who have not yet secured their tickets. Last available tickets for the game are rumored to cost as much as $10 thousand each. With just a few days left before Super Sunday, airline flights, hotels and passes to many of the weekend events are going for a premium. Good news for Atlanta. Who is your pick for Super Bowl stardom?

Playing Games to Reengage Employees and Invigorate Customers

ibreakstock / Shutterstock.com

“Humans have been playing games for thousands of years. Some argue that games predate culture,” said Brandon Marsala, creative director of content and strategy at Mindspace. “Knucklebone dice and painted stones were used by ancient peoples to hone skills, develop critical thinking, or just pass the time. Games are a part of us. Whether it’s competition with others or competition with ourselves, games are miniature versions of our lives: We strive to achieve — to overcome challenges.”

Marketers are learning how gamesmanship can have a positive impact on engaging and motivating customers who are continuously being bombarded with massive amounts of noise in a new digital climate. The effective application of gamification within an organization is not limited to the seller’s relationship with customers; it is finding success with employer and employee relationships as well. Whether internal or external, gamification techniques are benefiting organizations in their efforts to transform disengaged employees and reinvigorating distracted consumer audiences. “Gamification has become a go-to tactic for engaging consumers and employees alike in recent years. By applying elements of typical gaming activities such as continuation streaks, point systems and rewards to a business interface, users can feel like they’re having fun while interacting with your brand.”

Businesses looking to develop a gamification strategy need to first identify those areas within the organization that can benefit from increased sales, customer loyalty, employee retention and motivation. The overall strategy must be relevant and in line with the company’s culture and mission. Keeping the rules of the game simple, easily understood and winnable is important. “The programs need to be easy to play and winnable,” says John Kampas, CEO of Empist. “A lengthy process or extensive rules can be unappealing to participants. You must also clearly outline the details of the challenge and the reward before starting the game.” Focus the development on what works best for your organization, its mission and goals. Leverage existing assets that motivate and drive increased performance and add value to user experience.

Whether it’s a customer loyalty program, progressive purchase reward, performance incentives or personal recognition, gamification is here to stay. Business leaders are aware of the importance of retaining top talent and expanding the list of loyal consumers. The old saying “This is business, not a game” doesn’t quite ring true anymore.

To learn more on how Junction Creative Solutions can help you implement an effective gamification strategy, call us at 678-686-1125.

WordPress, a Leader in the Open Source CMS Market

Image credit: Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock.com

When beginning the process of developing a content management system (CMS), businesses have a number of options to choose from based on the requirements of each individual type of business. While custom designed sites are available not all businesses require the complexities and capabilities of a custom designed CMS platform. Several open source website platforms are available but WordPress accounts for thirty percent of all websites and it has a 60% share of the overall CMS market.

An open source content management system, WordPress has captured the majority share of the market by offering a platform that is free to those who are savvy enough to navigate the technical aspects of setting up their own site. While there is a cost associated with selecting a custom theme, WordPress offers many standard themes at no charge. Adding special features may require technical and creative support from a professional developer and designer in order to enhance the elastic architecture and horizontal scalability or allow for more flexibility, traffic volume variations, multiple machines or an existing infrastructure or a cloud-based system.

WordPress makes it easy to keep the site’s software up to date, a critical benefit to keeping hackers and cyber criminals from invading your site. Software and plugins can be updated automatically. Structured to be simple for search engine crawlers to navigate, WordPress also is compatible with Google’s new criteria for mobile-friendly websites. Scaling for the workload is beneficial for all types of businesses with fluctuating needs, but critical for eCommerce websites that may have seasonal or continual spikes in demand.

WordPress has established a reputation for being a widely used platform, not only for small to mid-sized companies but for larger enterprise organizations as well. Search index plugins are becoming increasingly sophisticated with features like voice search, automatic index and custom taxonomy, making WordPress an attractive method of website development for companies of all sizes.

Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) developers and designers are adept in utilizing the WordPress platform for smaller digital projects as well as fully-executed, customizable platforms. “Junction has built hundreds of WordPress websites for small businesses and larger enterprise organizations. WordPress allows our team to provide our clients economical, smart, attractive and executable content management systems across a broad spectrum of industries,” say Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO.

For more on how Junction’s experienced team of developers and designers can assist you in building an effective web presence, call 678-686-1125.

It’s Important to Select an Effective SEO Provider

Image credit: Creativa Images / Shutterstock.com

Now that you have a well designed and developed website, it is time to turn it on and ready your organization for a deluge of new business. If you are like most newcomers to the digital marketplace, you’re a little uncertain as to why the billions of online consumers in the vast cyber community are not beating a frantic path to your door.
The internet is not unlike a crowded public space where getting noticed by even a small targeted group of individuals is lost among the noise of the masses. The cyber world is a very, very crowded public space with vast numbers of solution providers looking for problems to solve. How is one to get the attention of even a miniscule number of the masses looking for a solution solver? Similar to the author striving to elevate their prose to the Best Sellers list by connecting with a reader audience, marketers must first get noticed, and being noticed often means gravitating your brand to the top of the most recognized digital search lists.

In order for a website to appear at a prominent position on a search engine, it must conform to the engine’s complex and proprietary algorithms. Understanding the SEO process can be convoluted and complex, requiring the expert services of an outside SEO provider. According to imFORZA, 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search. Therefore, omitting search engine optimization (SEO) from the marketing mix is simply not an option. So how do you choose an SEO professional?

According to CIO Magazine, “Today’s SEO needs to understand all of marketing at a deep level, the psychology of the human race, the specific culture to whom they’re marketing, the social media landscape, web analytics, web design and development, viral marketing, content, product, business models and more.” The process will begin by reaching out to a SEO provider who has significant interest and experience in your particular business, understands your unique selling position, can identify and locate your targeted customers and understands the goals of your website and its mission.

The successful candidate should not only have a demonstrated expertise in SEO, but should also be someone who can relate to your vision and have the ability to evoke confidence and work with you in meeting projected expectations. Be wary of those who over promise and over simplify. Successful SEO strategy takes time and constant tweaking. Optimizing the strategy and achieving and maintaining a position on the top of any list takes commitment of time and financial resources. Coordinating website design to better perform with an SEO strategy should be encouraged. Coordination between the web designer and the SEO provider will enhance your website’s performance over time.

The SEO process is a journey that requires adjustments and enhancements to its initial direction. It is often not a direct line but one that detours from a projected plot to capture the attention and participation of various market segments that ultimately make up your most productive market niche.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning marketing agency, realizes the importance of SEO to digital marketing. “We have long standing relationships with leading SEO providers who understand the intricacies of search engine functions and the factors that go into forming a SEO strategy focused on delivering successful connections between our clients and their customers,” says Julie Gareleck, founder and Junction CEO. “We’re experienced in coordinating a client’s total marketing journey from the design and development stage of a website to the initiation of a SEO campaign strategy.”

To learn more on how Junction can help you select the perfect SEO partner, call 678.686.1125.