The “Instructional” Campaign

According to the calendar, Spring has officially sprung. And while we are still experiencing some chilly days, it’s undeniable most of us are ready to shed our winter gear for shorts and sandals. As with all season changes, clothing companies are eager to help you exchange your wardrobe.

Recently, clothing company Lands’ End launched their new “How to Spring” advertising campaign, showcasing, “How fun and fashionable it is to add bright colors, graphic prints and floral patterns with a few perfect pieces from the women’s spring collection”. It could be argued that every spring campaign that will launch this season will have a similar goal; however, Lands’ End decided to do something a little different this season by adding a sweepstake to its promotional and marketing strategy.

The sweepstakes works by first connecting with Facebook or entering your email. Once you’ve connected, you are asked to fill out your name, email, and zip code. Filling out this information unlocks the game. The rules are simple, select an outfit and click “spin”. If the outfit that the player selected matches the three tumblers, the player automatically wins a gift card with a balance of $25, $50, or $1,000. That’s it! Simple right? Not to mention, everyone is eligible to enter every day for the grand prize of $1,000 shopping spree. You can view the official rules of the sweepstakes here.

While we like to think that games, contests, and sweepstakes’ only motives are for fun and entertainment, they are actually a smart marketing move – encouraging consumption of the product by creating consumer involvement. This involvement builds fan base, engages the audience, and enables consumers to do your marketing for you. Not to mention, user generated content often provides quality, innovative, and creative ads for free.

In addition to promoting brand visibility, contest and sweepstakes are strategies that provide valuable quantifiable benefits for companies as well. They are cost effective, they help build search engine optimization (SEO), and increasingly important, they provide a rich source of consumer data for the company about existing and potential customers – emails, product preferences, location, etc.

With every click essentially producing some sort of user information, online contests are growing in use on websites and especially on social media. The most popular initiatives include: photo and video contests, tagging contest, hashtag giveaways, and website raffles.

Top Rank, an online marketing blog, named some of their picks of the best contest use on social media.
Facebook: When Frito-Lay began their campaign for searching for new potato chips flavors, the company bypassed focus groups and turned to Facebook to connect directly with the customers who would be eating them.
Pinterest: AMC Theaters have an entire Pinterest board, AMC Giveaways, where all users have to do is follow the board to stay up to date on the latest AMC contests. The basics are simple, when users see a prize they want, clicking on the image takes them to a landing page that collects their information.
Twitter: In a “retweet to win” twitter contest, Doritos tweeted a message that simply asked followers to retweet for a chance to win. The tweet was retweeted over 500 times in a day with winners snagging products that ranged from Doritos to widescreen tvs.
Instagram: As many clothing company are starting to do, Vera Bradely’s instagram contest asked users to post pictures of them and their favorite Vera Bradley bag using the hashtag #VBStyleShare. At the end of the contest, winners received a wrislet, followers of the hashtag could receive fashion inspiration, and staff could see how consumers were pairing their products.

The benefits contests can provide seem like an almost no-brainer for companies to increase brand awareness while also gaining consumer data, but as they start to trend they are also subject to overuse. To combat becoming another form of clutter, companies will have to make sure their contest are increasingly interactive, engaging, creative, or lucrative.

Have you ever participated in an online contest? Did you win? Did it make you feel more favorable towards the brand? Scrolling through your social media feeds have you seen brands using contests similar to the ones above? What are some of the best/most creative ones you have seen?

- Elizabeth Harrington, Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade

Instagram Strikes Ad Deal

Advertising seems to be cluttering most forms of media we consume daily, including our favorite: social media. Facebook is surrounded by personal advertisements, Twitter is filled with promoted tweets, and Pinterest lets the users do the advertising. Instagram, a social network dedicated to images and short videos, is now hopping on the advertising bandwagon. Instagram has recently signed a deal valued around $40 million dollar with Omnicom Group Inc.

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This deal means that Instagram users will begin seeing advertisements within their news feed for certain Omnicom clients, such as AT&T and Pepsi. The advertisements will look similar to native Instagram posts, supposedly making them less intrusive to users. It is already known that Instagram has been a platform for indirect advertising and celebrity endorsements, but this deal will intensify the sense of sponsored advertising on the particular social media.

Instagram has experimented with sponsored advertisements recently with brands such as Michael Kors and Ben and Jerry’s. The reviews from users was mixed. Some felt like advertisements were entering into a place they felt as if they owned, while some felt like it was an inevitable conclusion.

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Instagram is a unique social media in that many use it to gauge their self-worth, even more so than other social media. Instagram is their place to build self-esteem as well as build or tear down other’s self-esteem, and now this “personal space” for doing so is being subjected to advertising.

Many have acknowledged the promise of the deal with Omnicom. The deal is flexible in that Instagram gets a say in which clients Omnicom promotes and the format in which they do so. Instagram wants to make sure the advertisements fit the platform because they want to stay true to their users. Some might think this is impossible, while others might believe it is irrelevant. Ultimately advertisements infiltrate all forms of media, and maybe it was just Instagram’s turn.

Will Instagram be able to stay “true” to their users and advertise for Omnicom’s clients at the same time? Does it even matter?

- Rachel Gracy

Instagram: The New Era of Advertising

Everyday millions of Instagram users spend hours scrolling through their smart phones to view filtered photos, typically those that they “follow” or come across through #hashtags. According to the brand’s website, there are currently 150 million users, 60 billion photos uploaded, and an average of 1.2 million “likes” per day.  (website: http://instagram.com/press/) As consumers, it is understood that these photos are a reflection of such users “brands”, and the photos they choose to share are typically selected and edited to portray a desired image of themselves. Whether it’s goods they just purchased, activities they partake in, or flattering photos of themselves, Instagram gives consumers the opportunity to advertise their individuality for free.

Aside from everyday consumers trying to convey an image of themselves, products, celebrities, and other organizations are able to use this platform to brand themselves however they choose. In some cases, celebrities intertwine their “brand” with a product or service that they endorse. For example, singer Ellie Goulding, who recently became an advocate and endorser for “Nike” products, shares several photos of her outlandish lifestyle to all 2.3 million followers.. Known for her eccentric, hip, and alternative style, Goulding also posts photos of herself in her athletic gear, where there is always a “Nike’’ logo.

Within IMC, it is understood that there are both controlled and uncontrolled messages. Advertising is a a controlled and planned message that is executed through a particular medium to reach target audiences. The “Nike” brand is consistently advertised through Goulding’s photos, however, Nike does not have control over which photos she captures. It seems as though Nike and Ellie Goulding have a sort of symbiotic relationship right now, with Ellie promoting Nike products and Nike in turn supporting/promoting Ellie’s Music.

“Nike and recording artist Ellie Goulding are releasing an exclusive remix album from Goulding’s second album, “Halcyon,” to inspire the thousands of women joining Ellie to run 13.1 miles on April 28.” (Nike inc.)

It is important to note however that Ellie is not an employee of Nike and that while it may be in her best interest to safeguard their relationship could she inadvertantly tarnish the Nike brand without being aware of it? This raises an important question: How much control do companies have over the “brand” that their endorsers convey? In the meantime however the relationship between the two will most likely prove beneficial for both parties as many fans of Goulding follows her on her Instagram page. Will it soon become commonplace for all celebrities to endorse particular products in exchange for publicity of their own?

This social media phenomenon has given advertisers a plentitude of opportunities to shape and select their brand image, and then after share it in a “likeable” manner.

-Austin Johnson, Jade Lester, Jami Rogers, Ty Thomas

Out With The Old, In With The New: Technology Decides It All

Everyday you as a consumer are exposed to hundreds of thousands of brands. Over the decades the shopping industry has exploded with most brands disappearing at the same rate new ones appear, yet some brands have stood the cluttered test of time – one of those is Macy’s.

Created in 1858 by Rowland Hussy Macy the Macy’s store was originally a dry goods store. Macy’s started to gain notable recognition in the 1900s with its holiday window displays and the hiring of Santa Claus for the stores. In 1924 the store moved to its current NYC location, on the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. This year was also the first Macy’s Day Parade, which was organized to celebrate immigrant employees new American Heritage.

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In 1944, Macy’s became apart of the Federated Department Stores, Inc., renamed Macy’s Inc. creating the world’s largest department store. Today, Macy’s has 800 stores in the United States and sells merchandise online.

Macy’s isn’t the only iconic retailer – Sears Roebuck ring a bell? Starting in 1886, the mail order company prospered as it was able to provide low cost alternative to farmers. As mail order plants transitioned into stores, Sears found their place in city life and the retailer soon became a retailer giant. Today the store owns 863 mall-based operations and 1200 other locations including hardware, outlet, tire, and battery stores.

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Nowadays Macy’s and Sears are direct competitors, but it seems Sears, the company who invented mail order, can’t quite figure out online order.

Holiday sales account for a large indicator of profit margins and often depict the health of a company. Sears seems to be in critical condition – US stores suffered a 9.2 percent drop. In decline for some time now, and with little to no improvement, some speculate the store could be gone by 2017.

The history of an iconic brand is something that should be cultivated in your identity – it induces credibility, shows longevity, and prompts nostalgia. Yet being historic isn’t merely enough to remain vibrant. Iconic companies remain iconic because they are able to cultivate lasting relationships with consumers – at all time periods – and that means evolving.

Looking at each retailers attempt to reach customers during the holiday seasons could explain Sears 9.2 percent drop in sales. Both have social media accounts, yet social media presence is widely disproportionate. Macy’s Instagram account has 150,00 followers while Sears has two Instagram accounts – “Sears” and “Sears Style” – yet both of the followers combined don’t even reach 8,000. A huge missed opportunity for Sears – Instagram is leading the way in social media, growing faster than Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest combined.

According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s article “The Road to Black Friday: Macy’s vs. Sears”, the use of social media by Sears is lazy. Choosing to ignore the social media culture they have posted irrelevant and uninteresting content such as a link to one of their commercials and an original YouTube video. While Macy’s post content that is culturally relevant, trendy, and formed around pop culture.

Our culture today has switched, as James Twitchell describes it, “In the last generation we have almost completely reversed the poles of shame so that where we were once ashamed of consuming too much (religious shame), we are now often ashamed of consuming the wrong brands (shoppers’ shame)”. In this day in age a brand establishes and remains relevance by relationship cultivation, reinforcement, and engagement forged through technology – the Internet and social media. It seems Sear’s inability to adapt to technology has prevented them being able to participate in the younger crowds culture leading in profit and brand influence. As an American brand we hope Sears can get back into the groove but as they stand now they are the weakest link.

In what other ways do old brands stay new? Can you think of any others that have had a hard time capturing new generations of shoppers? Or others that have done well?

- Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade, Elizabeth Harrington

Hilfiger says No Filter Needed

Every year, New York Fashion Week is anticipated by people around the world.  High-end designers, fashion photographers, bloggers, and models wait for all year for this week.  But this year, there was another audience counting down the days: Instagrammers.

Tommy Hilfiger hired two popular Instagrammers Brian Difeo and Anthony Danielle to organize an InstaMeet, which is a get together for Instagrammers to take artsy pictures and share photography advice.  It might sound lame to us, but Hilfiger doesn’t think so.  He gave these two (as well as a select group of Instagrammers chosen by Difeo and Danielle) backstage access, seats to the Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Fall 2014 show, and an opportunity to meet the designer.

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InstaMeets are becoming more and more common as a way to advertise events and brands.  Kat Irlin (pictured above), an Instagrammer in charge of organizing Lucky Magazine’s InstaMeet for Fashion Week, looks forward to InstaMeets.  “It’s such a cool way of bringing like-minded people together. People at InstaMeets are super nice and passionate about photography, and I’ve made so many good friends at InstaMeets,” said Irlin.

Organizing an InstaMeet was Hilfiger’s way to cut through the cluttered world of social media.  Using technology like Google Hangout, Instagram, and the incorporation of iPhones into the runway walk is a sign of the times.  Jessica Sfera, digital and social media coordinator at Diesel, says that coming up with the next best thing is the only way to keep up. “It just gets increasingly hard to get through the clutter,” she says.

Some are questioning Hilfiger’s decision to hire inexperienced photographers rather than experts.  After all, Difeo and Danielles have more than 100,000 followers and fashion photographers Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song have more than 1 million followers.  By choosing someone with a tenth of the followers as other designers, Hilifiger may have missed out on some publicity.

Did Hilfiger make the right call?

- Christine Schulze

Water for the People, But A Crisis for the Company

When a natural disaster occurs, it is always encouraging to see how much help, love, and prayers are poured forth from the general public. People and companies across the world donate what they can to help. Recently, the Philippines have seen some of that generosity. The country is recovering from a massive typhoon that devastated communities across the islands. Now the people are struggling to find food and clean water. So when Instagramers saw that People Water was offering to solve that problem, they jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly.

People Water is a company that defines itself as a “for-profit, cause-based business that is committed to alleviating the global water crisis.” Their claim is that for every bottle of People Water purchased, the company will give an equal amount of clean water to someone in need. On November 12th, the picture below appeared on Instagram with the caption “EVERY REPOST = 1 @peoplewater will donate $1 for every repost #peoplewater”.

people water

Cody Barker, one of the founders of People Water, was the one who originally posted this picture. It soon exploded all over social media as people started sharing in support of the Philippines. However, People Water posted on Instagram a day later explaining that they weren’t entirely on board with this campaign. “People Water’s management was not consulted about this campaign before it was posted to our social media outlets,” claimed the post. “In an honest attempt to help those in need, some of our employees hurriedly decided to launch this initiative…Although our employees’ intent was sincere, we are troubled by what may be perceived as an advertising campaign based on those who are seriously suffering.” They go on to say that they will honor their commitment for the first day’s shares during their regular business hours, but that they can’t afford to give any more.

Looking at this from a public relations standpoint, People Water did almost everything right. They were honest with their public and tried to communicate that to them as best they could. They shared the “open letter” on their website and Instagram, making it as clear as possible that they didn’t want to hide anything. As Coombs advises in Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron, People Water minimized their responsibility for the fiasco by making excuses. While this may seem like a cop-out, finding someone else to blame is a successful way to change the way the public views your business. In this case, the scapegoat was Cody Barker. Unfortunately, he didn’t have full permission from the company to post such a generous offer. Because of his actions and their “limited resources,” People Water was put in an awkward place. In an attempt to save their reputation, they had to let Barker go and show their public that they are doing everything they can to ensure this won’t happen again.

But not everything was handled correctly. Many Instagram users claimed that they couldn’t reach the company by phone or email in the aftermath of the crisis. Whether this was due to an influx of phone calls or the company was purposely avoiding their customers, People Water violated the number one rule during a public relations crisis: be accessible. Had they picked up the phone, they might not have so many angry consumers talking smack about them on social media.

What do you think People Water should have done? How should they move forward?

- Christine Schulze

The Top 5 Personal Brand Fails To Avoid In A World Of Cyber-Everything

Presentations are everything in life, and in a sense, we are always marketing ourselves to the public with our voices and actions. These components work together to create a brand image for each person as an individual. James Twitchell claims that a brand “is the application of a story to a product or service,” so it is important to realize what stories your life is telling and what images you are portraying. Many people tend to forget that online communication can be extremely harmful to a personal brand, and often diminish their brand images with common mistakes. The top 5 personal brand fails to avoid have been listed to help strengthen and build who you are as a brand.

# 1 – Oversharing

Although the tailgating and partying of your undergraduate days may be over for the most part, many forget that the pictures and posts that documented all those nights have not. Not only do people look at all of the bits of information people say and share, but posts remain in cyber space long after they are forgotten, and are easily and readily available for anyone and everyone to see.

Susan Adams wrote an article on managing online reputation, one of her key points was this: “Keep private things private, while assuming nothing is truly private.”

Everything about you on the Internet comes together to form a picture of your personality, even if you feel this picture may not be true to who you are. Think treating the Internet as a diary doesn’t matter? Oversharing has been linked to: self-incrimination, break-ins, loss of employment, and failed relationships.

Having trouble entering the workforce? You may need to examine what’s on your social media sites. Employers routinely search applicants to see what type of information, pictures, and statuses pop up. Besides not being able to land you a job, oversharing can also get you fired from one. Monster.com shared how an employee took the day off from work, telling his boss he had a funeral, however, later that day the employee posted pictures of himself at a party. His boss found out, and naturally he got fired.

Every time you go to post something whether it be as a status, tweet, wall post, share, picture, whatever- think to yourself, “Is this TMI? Would I want my employer to see this? Would I be proud of this years from now?”

# 2 – Underestimating Technology

We’ve all heard of Snapchat , the application that allows you and your friends to take ridiculous photos that once viewed, are immediately deleted… until recently. Not only can people screenshot your snap, but a counter-application called Snaphack has brought into question whether or not the photos you are sending are truly being deleted. Snaphack allows users to save screenshots of snapchats. Once saved, these photos can be uploaded to social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter. One of Snapchat’s original uses was for sending racy photos, and Snaphack could easily lead to some very personal pictures being published for all to see.

Snapchat is just one of the many applications that at face value seems harmless and fun, but could easily affect employment opportunities. Being aware and responsible for everything you send via any technology medium is essential to keeping your personal image a good one. So next time you think it might be funny to send a Snapchat of you and your friends doing something questionable, make sure you would be okay with seeing it on the Internet the next day. What you might think is funny during the time, won’t be funny if it is found on your employer’s desk the next morning.

# 3 – Not Staying Up-to-Date With the Latest Social Media Sites and Apps

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, LinkedIn, -the list is constantly growing and evolving when it comes to social media sites and apps available for public use. One of the biggest PR fails that people tend to overlook is not taking advantage of these social media techniques as a way to catch employer’s eyes, and to network.

Understanding and taking advantage of social media sites is essential in a world that is each day growing more reliant on technology. Where in the past employers only had a resume and a portfolio to judge a candidate for a job position, now the possibilities for judgment are endless. So why not take advantage of it? Take for example LinkedIn, a social media site that caters specifically to people to network professionally and allows users to connect with one another and build and maintain a broader network of professionals you can trust. It is a smart way of getting your personal name and brand out there for employers to see.

The website is helping people get jobs, so make a great move for yourself and join if you haven’t already!

# 4 -Talking Badly About Your Boss… Or Anyone For That Matter

In order for anyone to be happy with his or her job there must be a positive work environment. Most of us have had that one job we hated because of co-workers, company standards, the work itself, or the boss. In these sort of situations, trash talking seem to come with the business. So, for future and recent graduates we want to warn you, one of the biggest fails you can make in your career is talking trash about your boss, company, or coworkers online.

Recently, this video, featuring Marina Shifrin quitting her job, went viral on YouTube. You have probably seen it, but please feel free to watch it again and laugh.

Funny right? Except for the fact that her past boss knows how she really feels about him and her future employers will undoubtedly see her as unprofessional. So, as a rule of thumb, always save your rantings and trash talkings for your parents and close friends because if you share your personal (and most likely unprofessional) opinions and the wrong person sees it , you can kiss recommendations good-bye, as well as turn your personal brand image into that of a spiteful person.

(Also, take a look at her ex-boss’s response.) 

# 5 – Poor Grammar

Poor grammar can affect your brand and your career. Anna Underhill, a consultant for a HR firm, said poor spelling and grammar has become a serious issue for employers. Writing is the main way communication takes place via employers and employees and clients. Having poor correspondence in writing undermines the professionalism of yourself as well as your company.

Communication skills are consistently rated in the top 10 things employers look for. Knowing the difference between affect/effect, their/there, its/it’s, should be common sense not consistent mistakes. While shorthand and abbreviations are the norm in social media, that type of writing should never be integrated into business composition.

 Erik Deckers asks for you to think of it this way: If you receive a cover letter from a perspective employee filled with errors, would you hire that person? What sort of message are you sending to potential business partners when your initial email is riddled with mistakes?

Make your personal brand an effective one that highlights all of your best qualities. Don’t be afraid to jump into the cyber world to “sound [your] barbaric yawp,” but be cognizant of the do’s and don’t when it comes to establishing and maintaining a great image.

-Savannah Valade, Jade Lester, Caroline Robinson, Morgan Jones, Meghan Carey