Posts filed under ‘Branding’

A Tale of $10,000 Tweets

By Sally Saville Hodge

Despite being a faithful (if abashed) reader of celebrity publications like People magazine, I somehow missed the hubbub over one of my favorite pseudo celebrities (not): Kim Kardashian.

Kim, of course, is emblematic of a new phenomenon with the American public: The elevation to star status of people who have absolutely no discernible talent or skills, but have been smart enough to hire effective publicists. (See Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.)

She does have one thing going for her, however. She Twitters. Over 3 million people actually follow her tweets. That apparently gives her some degree of influence over the masses. And so, in a new twist on a time-honored marketing ploy, Kim is now in hot demand as a celebrity endorser via Twitter.

It’s called “sponsored Tweets,” a gentler term than advertising and presumably one that resonates more positively in an environment where authenticity supposedly rules.

Kim is at the top of this particular heap and reportedly rakes in a cool $10,000 per tweet. She’s not the only “publisher” to do so – just for lesser amounts. Dr. Drew is a big draw and so is Lindsay Lohan and her ex, Samantha Ronson. Even business groups with a big following – the CBOE and Stock Futures Forecast – are registered as being available via the leading matchmaking platform, Ad.ly.

The whole business raises a lot of issues relative to transparency and authenticity, the ultimate barometers of successful social media interactions. Ad.ly claims that the endorsed tweets it brokers are identified through the “#advertising” disclaimer at the end of each post.

But a growing number of concerns are entering the fray and may not be so principled. And unfortunately, while the Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines on celebrity (and other) blog endorsements last year, requiring full disclosure, it somehow left the Twitter issue to fall between the cracks.

Ultimately, the $64,000 question is whether a Twitter post by Kim or Dr. Drew or even the CBOE is going to pay off with new business. At least one expert says, “Not so much.” At last month’s Ad Age Digital Media Conference, Yahoo’s principal research scientist Duncan Watts told the audience: “If I had a fixed budget, I could get more value from a small amount of very influential [influencers], or a lot of smaller influencers, on Twitter. If you recruit enough people who, on average, influence just one other person, you could get a much better return on investment if you aggregated them and altogether paid them a tenth of what Kardashian gets.”

I’d settle! And to that end I’ll need to build up my followers. Follow me at @sallyshodge so I can give Kim a run for her money.

Advertisements

May 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Steve Jobs, Apple and Alfred E. Neuman: “What, Me Worry?”

By Chris Scott

apple_jobsIf you’ve never had a front-row seat at a corporate communications debacle, just Google “apple jobs illness” and pull up a chair for a lesson on how not to work the media when it comes to a serious health issue with a company CEO.

The results page generates everything from “Do shareholders have a right to know?” to “It’s a nutrition problem” to “SEC review under consideration.” Is this the image that Apple, or Jobs, wants to dominate headlines versus continued trumpeting of the success of the new iPhone 3G S?

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs has persevered in various health issues: a cancerous tumor in his pancreas diagnosed in 2004; a speech at Apple’s 2006 Worldwide Developers Conference that raised serious questions about his unusually gaunt frame; and this year’s “hormone imbalance” that prompted a six-month leave of absence ending this month. Finally, there was the disclosure of a liver transplant in April that took several days to confirm.

There’s also no doubt that Jobs deserves a certain amount of privacy when it comes to dealing with these serious medical issues. But the wunderkind who founded Apple in 1976 — and spearheaded its stunning comeback upon his return to the top spot two decades later — appears to be following the standard script for Apple when it comes to disclosure. And the Securities and Exchange Commission has definite regulations on disclosing situations that could affect the company’s financial health.

Apple’s legendary secrecy about products and new developments, of course, make sense. (The company has no problem quickly firing employees who blab about new products in development and even successfully shut down the Web site http://www.thinksecret.com over its leaks of what Apple considered proprietary information.) But investors, the media and federal regulators are correctly questioning why Apple has repeatedly failed to provide accurate, timely information on the status of the person who is often hailed as being personally responsible for driving the computer maker to its current successful state.

SEC rules prompted Coca-Cola to report in 1997 that its then-CEO, Robert Goizueta, was suffering from lung cancer, the disease that killed him that October. And following the sudden death of McDonald’s CEO Jim Cantalupo of a heart attack in 2004, successor CEO Charlie Bell decided to resign less than a year later before he died of colon cancer. Tragically, Bell was forced to have surgery a little more than two weeks after taking over as CEO, a fact that was prominently, but appropriately disclosed by McDonald’s at the time.

These multinational companies were able to meet federal requirements while protecting the privacy of the individuals involved. The evasive nature of Apple’s corporate responses to inquiries into its CEO’s health could be attributed to a corporate culture that is used to keeping secrets. It also might be part of the orders from the top that Jobs’ medical condition is his and his alone to be concerned about.

But Jobs decided to come back to work and that complicates the already troubled public relations effort. (Some reports put him on the campus of One Infinite Loop in Cupertino last week, before his officially scheduled return on Monday, June 29.) If he had decided to retire, his medical condition and prognosis would have no public component unless he decided to divulge their status himself. Unfortunately, his corporate communications team continues to work between a rock and a hard place with a sick CEO who sees no reason to adhere to SEC rules and Wall Street investors who rightfully contend that disclosure from Apple is appropriate and long overdue.

Alfred E. Neuman, clearly, has nothing on the keepers of Apple’s current public gates.

June 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm 1 comment

Understanding and responding to the consumer mood

Sally Saville Hodge

Job No. 1 to creating a truly differentiated brand is developing a deep understanding of your customers and using that as a basis for words backed by actions that anticipate and meet their needs and concerns.

That’s true in good times and bad, but it’s a dictum that is particularly pressing in an environment like the one we’re living through today. The public today is both skeptical and fearful, and not particularly trustful of just about anyone in just about any position of authority.

Hyundai got that and got it early. It recognized (while the Big Three sat paralyzed) that people were avoiding car dealerships because they were scared to death of getting downsized and then stuck with a big-ticket financial commitment. Its buyer assurance program – allowing people to return their new cars if they got laid off after their purchase – made a huge difference for Hyundai in overcoming the fear factor that’s keeping pocketbooks shut tight. Its sales rose 5 percent in both January and February as a result.

JetBlue, despite the occasional and well-publicized toe-stubbing on the operational front, has always used its keen grasp of the customer’s relationship with air travel as a basis for its messages and action. It doesn’t want to live up to the typical low expectations that we have for an optimal customer experience.

A big part of its persona is irreverence. Here’s a three part series its corporate communications team produced that’s more than just irreverent. It hits the public sentiment chord exactly with spots worthy of SNL. Enjoy.


April 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

PR and the respect factor

Sally Saville Hodge

rdPublic relations has always been like the Rodney Dangerfield of the communications field. You know: We just don’t get any respect.

Our collective inferiority complex has been self-created, to a significant extent. The tendency by many in the profession to use overstatement and hype as their stock in trade hasn’t helped the cause. And high profile ethical lapses haven’t added any to the practice’s luster. (Remember Ketchum PR’s payment of $240,000 to minority radio broadcaster Armstrong Williams to tout on air and with his peers the No Child Left Behind program?)

That’s on the public side. Generally speaking, PR is low on the totem pole among business professionals as well. Never mind some of the more unfortunate associations that play down PR’s value. The term “free publicity” is emblematic.

I’ve always thought much of it related to how much of a budget PR commands and controls, particularly vis a vis the far weightier purse carried by Marcom and advertising. After all, money equals power, and it’s not unusual to see ad budgets of the big players in the millions of dollars – hundreds of millions, even. On the other hand, a million-dollar PR campaign is considered exceedingly healthy.

The irony is that for all the disrespect, and for whatever reason, it’s PR that really has the power to build a brand. For all of traditional media’s failings (and recent flailings, for that matter), it’s the news coverage that PR helps bring about that carries credibility, not the “they’ll say anything to make you buy” advertising messaging that’s so transparent to the public. And that’s only part of the powerful overall PR package.

We’re hearing more stories these days of some recession-hit businesses cutting their marketing budgets, but diverting more funds into PR programs instead. I don’t know that I’m ready to call it a trend, unfortunately. We just haven’t managed to do the job of convincing our partners in marketing (and higher up the food chain) that we can be more than simply masters of spin.

Or have we, but marketing leadership just can’t bring itself to respond accordingly?

Michael Dunn, Chairman of Prophet (full disclosure: a client since 2001) has just authored a book called The Marketing Accountability Imperative. It’s a heavy read, but a must-read for senior management. But apropos to this conversation, here’s a pullout worth thinking about:

    “Our 2007 senior marketer survey showed that B2B companies believe that public relations is the most effective activity for long-term brand building and the third most effective at driving short-term sales (after field sales activities and outbound marketing). No form of advertising came close to PR in its perceived long- or short-term effectiveness. Despite this, B2B marketers spend only about 1 percent of their budget on public relations and over 20 percent on advertising. The effectiveness of PR is also rated higher than advertising among B2C marketers and their contradictory spending relationships are even more pronounced.
    …[M]arketers’ behaviors seem somewhat puzzling – they do not believe that the marketing activities that they are spending the most on are the most effective, yet they are unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to quantify this performance.

Puzzling, indeed.

April 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm 1 comment

On jargon and buzzwords and really tired phrases

Sally Saville Hodge

It’s needless to say that a lot of words and phrases are over-leveraged in today’s written and spoken dialog.

You see? I just did it with barely a thought.

I will be the first to admit that I occasionally – okay, often – fall into this “let’s show people how smart I am by the number of buzzwords I can weave into my writing” trap. I do try to stay away from really stupid phrases, but sometimes, well… okay. I just got through writing a proposal and used the word “leverage” four times. It would have been more, but I cut a few out. It’s not that I think the use of such verbiage makes me look smarter (really!) but it does show I can use the language that my audience of businessfolk uses – I can relate.

Language and its use and misuse is a favorite topic of those of us who love it – done right. One of my favorite bloggers is Dan Santow of Edelman PR, whose Word Wise blog is the ultimate in grammar and style and all things related. I also recently happened upon Lake Superior State University, which since 1975 has issued a “banished word” list – some evergreen, some having taken on new disfavor with political and cultural shifts.

    Among my favorites from that particular list:

    • Maverick. I can’t even think the word without a correlating vision of Sarah Palin as its chief utterer.
    • Staycation. A made-up word that everyone glommed onto – the non- or anti-vacation.
    • Not so much. The ultimate in overused snarkiness.

    Among the evergreens:

    • Paradigm shift. What a grandiose term for the simple matter of change.
    • “I, personally.” Would it ever be impersonally?
    • 24/7. This phrase must have caught on for its appeal to everyman’s inner geek.
    • Fairly, almost, one of the most (etc.) unique. Either it is or it is not one of a kind.
    • “At the end of the day.” Versus at its start. A single word will often do in place of pseudo descriptive phrases. Try “ultimately.”
    • Make it sticky. This has been around for awhile and I still puzzle over what, exactly, it’s supposed to mean.
    • Outside the box. We can also all try to be just plain old creative or innovative and leave the box out of it.

    There are so many ways to make your writing sing without having to resort to tired and hackneyed language. Here’s to working on better melodies in 2009.

    January 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm 1 comment

    Blagojevich: Nobody’s buying this decimated brand any longer

    By Sally Saville Hodge

    “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.”

    Such heroic words. From just about anyone else, they would be inspirational. Send a shiver up your spine for their passion. Make you raise a fist in the air in support.

    But these are, in fact, the defiant words uttered by Illinois’ own Rod Blagojevich, the governor who was hoist by his own petard – caught on tape trying to sell the president-elect’s Senate seat, shake down the Chicago Tribune, and hold up the CEO of a leading Chicago children’s hospital for a big campaign contribution.

    The man is totally clueless as to the damage he’s done to his personal brand, not just through his most recent actions, but pretty much throughout his tenure as Illinois governor. His denials of culpability last week only served to denigrate his brand even further – though with an approval rating of 8 percent, it’s hard to imagine it could be more tarnished.

    You read a lot about brand these days, but most people tend to think of it as a business buzzword, associated with products (Sony, Starbucks, Apple) or a broader experience (Disney, Google, Amazon). But the principles that are behind an effective business brand management strategy are just applicable to a personal brand strategy. Both must be carefully managed, because a brand is very difficult to repair once damaged.

    It’s regrettably easy to compromise a brand. Ask Elliot Spitzer. The jarring disconnect between his public persona as a crusader against corruption (including prostitution) and his private choice to utilize the services of a high-priced call girl destroyed his credibility.

    It takes a lot to rebuild one – and sometimes that only occurs with unforeseen outside assistance. Prior to 9/11, Rudy Giuliani’s brand was probably on par with Spitzer’s today, though not sunk by the nearly same weight of negative equities that mark Rod Blagojevich’s. His stunningly impressive seizing of the leadership reins in the minutes, hours and days after 9/11 attacks renewed his brand enough to ultimately make a presidential run possible, just not strongly enough to make it successful.

    Credibility. Authenticity. Quality. Integrity. Leadership. These are among the aspects that combine to uphold the strongest brands, providing that’s the way the public experiences them. At this stage, Blagojevich’s protests are just as empty as his promises. Nobody’s buying this brand anymore. It’s time to give it up.

    December 23, 2008 at 5:36 am 2 comments

    A few choice words: What makes a good slogan?

    Judi Schindler

    Having developed slogans and taglines for numerous clients over the years, I know first-hand how difficult a task it is to encapsulate a brand with just a few cogent words. It gives you an appreciation for the really good ones, which Inc.com recognizes in a new list of the 10 top advertising slogans of all time.

    Among them?

    Apple – Think different
    Wheaties – The breakfast of champions
    Wendy’s – Where’s the beef?
    M&Ms – Melts in your mouth not in your hands.
    Miller Lite – Great taste. Less filling.
    Nike – Just do it.
    Maxwell House Coffee – Good to the last drop.
    Clairol – Does she, or doesn’t she?
    United – Fly the friendly skies.
    Coca Cola – It’s the real thing.

    They’re hard to argue with, although I would have preferred the Apple copywriters to think “grammatically.” I personally don’t relate to the notion that the last drop might taste different from the first – for any brand of coffee. And with the long-standing labor problems at United, it’s hard finding truth in the “friendly skies” tag.

    On the whole, though, these all pass my personal criteria for a good slogan:

    1. Is it memorable?
    2. Does it ring true?
    3. Is it distinguishing?
    4. Does it speak to benefit?

    Against that set of standards, here are a few on my own list of favorites.

    Fed Ex – When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.

    This worked for launching a brand new concept from a brand new company. The slogan both explains the service and makes it sound absolutely, positively credible.

    Loreal – Because you’re worth it.
    Volkswagen – Think small.
    Smucker’s – With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.

    All three are noteworthy for turning a negative into a positive. Loreal is expensive compared to competing products. The Volkswagen was introduced to the U.S. market when big, honking cruisers dominated the highways. And, with due respect to Mr. Smucker, he has a funny name. His agency wisely used that fact to advantage.

    KFC – Finger lickin’ good.
    Disneyland – The happiest place on earth.

    Two more I like – simply because they are evocative. You can imagine yourself eating something so good, you want to savor the last taste off your finger tips. And what conjures better images than spending a day at the happiest place on the planet?

    If you are interested in refreshing your memory or just want to look up old slogans, here is an online database with a very extensive collection. And please share your favorites – as comments – telling us why you like them!

    September 11, 2008 at 3:29 pm 2 comments

    Older Posts


    Contact Us

    Questions? Other comments? E-mail us: info@hodgeschindler.com.

    Visit our Web site at www.hodgeschindler.com.

    AddThis

    Bookmark and Share

    Follow Us



    Feeds

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 4 other followers

    Recent Posts

    Categories