4 ways to improve your personal brand

Our agency does quite a bit of branding work for clients. In fact, our first engagement with new clients is usually a brand audit, which fleshes out values, ideals, differentiation, target market, etc. Basically, we give companies a personality that they can feasibly deliver on. In doing so, we focus on four elements to ensure a strong brand essence:

1. Credibility
2. Relevance
3. Differentiation
4. Consistency

Without these four elements it is still possible to have a good business, but it is likely that you won’t have a memorable brand.

But in this era of economic downturn, we aren’t doing as many brand audits. In fact, many people in the advertising industry are getting let go. So how are these people going to get new jobs? The best way, in my opinion, is to leverage their personal brand. It’s really their reputation, but if you think of it as a personal brand, it can be easier to dissect for these four elements to ensure it is working for you instead of against you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Credibility
Are you credible? Do you pad your resume unnecessarily? Do you over-embellish details of the stories you tell? Do you have a reputation for being truthful?

Relevance
Are you up to date on your industry? Do you have a reputation for being a dinosaur or for being inflexible?

Differentiation
What makes you different than any other applicant out there? What do you stand for? What are your three best attributes?

Consistency
Are you consistent in your behavior? Is it consistently good or bad?

Even if you can answer all of these questions yourself, your should corroborate them with colleagues and friends – ask for honest feedback. I think if you have the temerity to go through with this exercise, you’ll get some surprising results, but valuable ones, all the same. In fact, it can be the most valuable brand audit you’ll ever go through.

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Are you Loopt into Blip.fm?

PC World magazine has just come out with a list of 10 web sites that will matter in 2009. I always take these lists with a grain of salt. Generally about one in five seem to really break through and capture our collective attention – and our fascination period with these new sites also seems to be waning. I read an accompanying article that’s already throwing Twitter under the bus. So, it makes me wonder how impactful these new sites really will be or how long they’ll be around before we apparently tire of them.

Most of the sites listed represent a continuing evolution in social networking, which you’d expect. The two that really got my attention were Loopt and Blip.fm.

Neither are groundbreaking, but they’ve combined new technology with social networking – and they’re both dead simple to use, which always leads to higher adoption.

Loopt is meant for download to your iPhone. It uses GPS to show you where your friends are at any time. It also allows you to see what their preferences are with respect to shops, restaurants, etc. As an app for the iPhone it almost has to be easy to use and I think it will be very popular – if you want your friends to always know where you are (I don’t. But hey, I’m an old curmudgeon).

Blip.fm kind of reminds me of last.fm but it has a cool twist to it. The songs you listen to are brought up by other DJs (what they call every member) on the system. Basically it’s a huge referral system for songs circulated through a Twitter feed. Of course, you’re also given the opportunity to purchase the mp3 from Amazon while it’s playing.

So enjoy these new sites. But I guess the lesson to learn is – don’t get too attached. Tomorrow, they’ll be so yesterday.

Am I too dumb to be marketed to?

gmc_truckAdvertising is generally guilty of assuming its audience is much denser than it really is, but there are some commercials out there, in my opinion, that assume we know more than we really do. I was watching football this weekend, which generally means having to endure a generous slew of truck commercials. After viewing what seemed to be the 83rd truck commercial of the day, I realized that I have no idea what they’re talking about. More specifically, what the little acronyms in the financing offers entail. I don’t profess to be any smarter than any other consumer out there, but if I work in advertising and I don’t know what ARP or OAC mean, how does the average consumer? Should I be surprised that these statements came from American car manufacturers?

My advice to car companies (and all other companies who advertise) is simple. BE simple. If I don’t understand what you’re selling me, odds are I’m not going to buy it.

Oh, by the way, ARP stands for Annual Rate of Payment and OAC is On Approved Credit.

Can you think of any other commercials you’ve seen where you don’t understand what they’re talking about? I’m thinking of starting a support group.

4 reasons why ad agencies no longer have value (and a few things we can do about it)

moneyPeople keep asking me what the future of general service advertising agencies looks like. As they are today? Not good. Here are four reasons why these agencies are in trouble and a few things they can do to fix themselves.

1. Information asymmetry no longer exists. Clients used to come to agencies because we had proprietary information they didn’t possess. Perhaps it was unique media knowledge, or intimate research on consumer behavior. Regardless, clients paid us partially because we knew what they didn’t. Today, with the internet, clients have just as much access to information as agencies do. So, professing unique knowledge as an advantage doesn’t wash anymore.

2. Desktop publishing is widespread.
Ten years ago clients had no idea what Adobe Photoshop was, let alone how to use it. Today, almost everyone knows about it, or enough of its use to put together an ad or some collateral. The expertise we possess in our software tools has been compromised.

3. The defection of agency personnel. This isn’t a new story, but more and more agency folks are defecting to client side and bringing all of their knowledge with them. Generally their first course of action is ‘ditch the agency’ because they feel that they possess all of the required knowledge (it also helps them make a good case for their own remuneration).

4. Marketing departments need to prove ROI. Generally speaking, ten years ago, marketing budgets were deemed ‘necessary evils’. “I know I’m wasting half of my advertising budget. I just don’t know which half.” No one understood what was working, therefore no one knew what to cut. Today, a need to prove a return on marketing dollars spent is raising marketers’ scrutiny of the work they receive from agencies. Agencies that do not address this need are in trouble.

Okay, there’s the bad. Now here are a few things we can do about it:

1. Be accountable for ROI. This is an area we are aggressively researching at our agency. Tie our compensation to the performance of the campaign.

2. Narrow the scope with respect to software and knowledge. Anyone can know a little bit about everything. But few people know a lot about one thing. Agencies that focus on fewer things will possess expertise and will increase their geographical market. The analogy I use is the difference between a GP and a Brain Surgeon.

So there is hope, but only if we’re willing to change. Of course we can also close our eyes and hope that nothing changes, too. But anyone who has been in this business for any length of time will tell you – our industry is all about change. To ignore it will be at our peril.

11 Tips for getting the job you want right out of school

gradEvery so often I am asked to speak to business co-op students at the local universities about breaking into advertising. The truth is that advertising agencies hire people much like any other business does. So, if you’re interested in getting the job you want right out of school, here are 11 tips for getting hired at an agency or any other business.

1. Don’t just be interesting, be interested.

I’m sure your trip to Thailand last year was fascinating. But I want to know what you know with respect to my industry. Do some research about the company you’re interviewing with before you walk through the door. Know about the industry, the competition, and the clients/customers. At the very least, have a good understanding of the kind of position you’re seeking.
2. Ask good questions.
Leading with “So, how much vacation time do people get around here?” only leads to the door. If you lead with “I noticed that retail sales tend to fall off after Christmas, how do you overcome this challenge?” I’ll take notice. Remember, the more the I talk, the better for you.
3. Schedule informational interviews.
I have yet to meet an employer who has turned down a request for an informational interview. Why? We love to talk about ourselves and our companies. You should also schedule interviews with people who have jobs you’d like to get. For example, if you want to be an account coordinator, go meet with one. And believe me, it’s much easier to meet with an account coordinator than it is to meet with the president.
4. We’re not interested in what we can do for you – We’re interested in what you can do for us.
We know you’d like to make some money to move out of your parent’s basement, but we’re not a charity. If you can’t tell us what you can do for us, you can look forward to more of mom’s cooking for the next while.
5. Smile.
A great attitude is everything at the entry level. Don’t walk in to an interview looking like you’re passing a gallstone. Who wants to work with that guy? A company I really admire, Westjet, hires for attitude and trains for skill.
6. Have someone rate your handshake.
Sounds cheesy, but it’s a first impression. There is nothing worse than a limp handshake or when someone doesn’t look you in the eye. It says ‘I’m not confident’.
7. Spell check your resume.
True story. I received a resume from a Communications Professional who misspelled “Comunications”. No, she did not receive a callback.
8. Tell people you’re looking.
Most jobs come from weak links/acquaintances (people you’ve only met once or twice). So the more people who know you’re looking for a job, the better for you. And be specific about what you’re looking for.
9. Carry business cards.
Much as you’d like me to, I won’t store your resume on my desk and look at it daily. You need to communicate with me on my terms. That means get yourself a business card.
10. Suck it up and network.
Give your resume a face and personality. Go to industry functions and meet your potential employers.
11. For god’s sake, follow up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given my business card out to a room full of students only to have 4 of them actually contact me. If you want to separate yourself from the pack, pick up the phone and call me.

There’s a great book I’d recommend to anyone looking for a job. It’s called Work The Pond, written by a former colleague of mine, Darcy Rezac.

How to create ads that talk back

This is the tag I created

This is the tag I created

Microsoft has come up with (or reprised – Japan has another kind) a revolutionary new technology called Tags. These tags are unique barcodes that can be placed in almost any media environment. If a cell phone picture is taken of one of these tags, it automatically redirects the user’s cell phone browser to a preloaded web site, v-card, etc.

For example, you could take a picture of the tag at the top of this post and it would redirect you to (gasp!) this blog. More exciting uses would be to put a tag on the bottom of a movie poster, which could redirect someone to a trailer of that movie. Or a restaurant could place one of these tags outside its doors which redirect people to its online reservation page. The options are endless. A colleague of mine suggested that porn stars could tattoo their tags on their bodies, that led to their personal web sites.

For now, the technology is free while Microsoft beta tests it. Phones supported are the iPhone, new Blackberry models and a few others. Naturally they need to have a camera and an internet connection. You’ll also have to download the software to your phone first. To learn more click here.

To create a tag click here. It only took me about 30 seconds.

Do you have any suggestions for interesting ways this technology could be used?

5 Tips For Recession Marketing

deathWith the current state of the economy, many companies are bracing for the worst and are adjusting their expenditures accordingly. Typically, the first casualty is the marketing budget. While common sense is what CEOs and CMOs cite as their reasoning for a reduction in advertising and marketing (less share of wallet available from consumers), prevailing research supports just the opposite. In fact, studies show that a recession is the ideal time to increase marketing budgets and augment market share and sales versus competitors.

A McGraw Hill/American Business Press research study of business practices during the 1981-82 recession reveals that companies that maintained or increased their marketing and advertising spend during the recession experienced an average of 256% higher sales than their competitors who reduced their marketing over the same period. What is really telling about this research is that the sales figures quoted stayed constant for three years after the recession had ended.

A similar study conducted over same period by research firm Meldrum & Fewsmith concludes that aggressive advertising did not only grow revenues; it even increased profits.

In 2001, a study comparing marketing practices during the 2001 recession determines that aggressive recession advertisers increased market share 2 ½ times the average compared to all businesses in the post-recession.

Why?

For the full text of this article can be read in the PDF found at the following link:

5 Tips For Recession Marketing