All posts in Marketing

How Content Marketing Can Benefit Your Brand

Before we get into how to benefit from content marketing, let’s first talk about what content is. It is any kind of information or experience that a user finds value in. Content marketing is creating and sharing that valuable content in a way that will appeal to your target audience.

Although content marketing has become very important in the past few years, it really isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s been around for about 120 years. In 1895, John Deer’s The Furrow was published, and is considered to be the unofficial start of brand publications. This was a quarterly magazine that included advertisements, but focused on articles and farming advice to educate the reader rather than trying to sell them something. Since then, content marketing has taken on new forms and has expanded to virtually every industry. Some of the most common examples of content marketing include:

Blogs – Blogs can be used as great content on their own, but also as a way to push your other information out there. If you’ve created an infographic, podcast, video, ebook, or any other kind of material, write a blog post about it.
Social Media – Social media networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the single most important factor of a content marketing strategy. Successfully utilizing these platforms can extend your brand’s visibility and help you deliver your content to a larger audience.
Infographics – these are the most shared and viewed type of content. They can be a very powerful way to get a lot of information across in an easy-to-read format.
Podcasts – Podcasts are one of the easiest types of content to create. All you need is a decent microphone and basic knowledge of recording software.
Videos – The great thing about video is it can be used with any type of content. It’s perfect for adding some personality and character.
Ebooks – Ebooks are a good way to generate leads and to share a bit of your knowledge with other people. Have your visitors fill out a simple form with some basic contact information in exchange for the Ebook and you’ve got a new lead.
How-To Guides – Want to really show your knowledge on a subject? Teach your readers something.

This can all seem like a lot of work, so you may be asking, “What’s the value behind this content marketing stuff?”

By linking your content to other pieces of information, you can get visitors to spend more time on your site viewing and interacting with material you’ve created. Another benefit is if you update your site with really great, frequent content, it will improve your search rankings. Using the right keywords for the different pieces of content will help you appear on the first page of results when prospective clients search for you.

The one thing that all good content has in common is value. If your visitors don’t find value in what you have to offer, they aren’t going to use or share it. You want to offer your customers something they can’t get anywhere else. Content marketing is a great way to show your customers that you know what you’re talking about, and by simply providing information that your customers are looking for, you have already begun to service your client’s needs.

In the end, if you want to stand out, you’ve got to create something worth sharing.

A Look at 3 High Profile Sports Industry Rebrands

These days, it seems that everyone in the sports industry is updating their brand. Whether it is a team that has been historically bad looking to begin a new era or a franchise with a storied history looking to maintain success, identity updates are sweeping the sports world. We decided we would take a look at three of the more notable sports industry rebrands of the past year to look at what was done well and what could have been done better.

University of Tennessee Volunteers—Nike

 

Since the announcement of the partnership between The University of Tennessee Athletics and Nike, there has been a lot of anticipation and excitement about what the sports giant would do. Nike did not disappoint when it rolled out their new logo, brand identity, and uniforms for all of the school’s sports.

Nike’s goal after the initial brand audit was to unify all the school’s teams through a slightly redesigned “Power T” logo. This included the decision to cut the “Lady Vols” nickname from all of women’s sports except women’s basketball, which met with some criticism from fans and student athletes alike. The Nike Power T is not much different, although it is slightly slimmer and a brighter orange. Nike has also created a unique Tennessee lettering that resembles the shape of the state, which will eventually be used by all sports programs to promote unity in the athletic department.

As for the uniforms, Nike delivered what has come to be expected from the sports equipment giant. The alternative “Smoky Gray” football uniforms look great, especially the helmet, complete with images of the nearby Smoky Mountains. The home and away jerseys are simple and clean, although I would have liked to see a little more design elements, maybe along the side. All of the jerseys look pretty good. You can check out more pictures of all the uniforms here.

Overall, Nike did a pretty good job with this brand update. Personally, I would have liked to see them step out on a limb a little more with the home and away football jerseys, but the Smoky Grey looks awesome and gives the fans something to get excited about. The most impressive part of this redesign was that Nike found a way to modernize Tennessee but also stick to the traditional Volunteer style.

Major League Soccer – Athletics & Berliner Benson

mls new_old

Major League Soccer has been around since 1996, and has grown to 19 teams worth an average of $103 million. The league has begun attracting older European superstars (think David Beckham) looking for the chance to dominate in their remaining years, while also cashing in on the chance to live in America. Recently, the MLS has also benefited from American success in the World Cup, spurring domestic interest in the sport.

Drawing on this recent success, MLS decided to rebrand itself, and aims to be among the best soccer leagues in the world by 2022. Their new logo looks more like a badge or a crest, and aligns the MLS, at least visually, with top European leagues. The slash through the shield represents the energy of soccer and the rise of the MLS, while the stars stand for the three pillars of MLS: Club, Country, and Community. Each club also has a version of the crest where the red and white sections are replaced with team colors.

This new crest is distinctly North American with a European flavor to it, a goal the league had in mind during the redesign. The applications of this logo look really good, especially the promo layouts the league has mocked up. The league took a chance on this design by leaving a good amount of white space, but I think it is a great combination of the league’s uniformity combined with the individuality of the teams and players that make the MLS unique.

Los Angeles Clippers
clippers logos

As any basketball fan can tell you, the Los Angeles Clippers have had a tumultuous history as the black sheep of LA sports. The Clip Show has made the playoffs just eight times in its 31 years in LA, and has never gone deeper than the second round. However, recently the franchise has experienced unprecedented success, reaching the postseason in the last four years.

Following former owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks in 2014, Steve Ballmer bought the franchise in August 2014 for $2 billion. Ever since he purchased the Clippers, Ballmer has expressed interest in rebranding the team and establishing a new, more respected era of Clippers basketball.

Ballmer decided to roll out his new brand on Conan, along with Clippers superstar Blake Griffin. The new Clippers logo doesn’t look to be quite finished at first glance. The “LAC” monogram logo looks quite similar to the Chicago Cubs “C”, and it seems like they tried to incorporate too many different styles. The emblem can be broken down into three partial logos, most likely in an attempt to expand the line of merchandise fans can buy.

The applications of the logo are better than the logo itself, and the Clippers are certainly doing everything they can to get LA fans excited about the new look by handing out t-shirts and hats in their #GearUpLA campaign. Some of the merchandise looks pretty good, but the jerseys leave a lot to be desired. The away jersey is not as strong as the home, and the lack of hierarchy on the away jersey is…different. In the end, the logo lacks consistency, and creates a confusing system of emblems throughout the brand. Only time will tell if the fickle LA fans will accept the logo, but as of right now it isn’t looking good.

Rebranding is not a simple endeavor, especially in the sports industry. Players and fans have sentimental connections to their team’s identity, and change is not always embraced. That being said, rebranding is a necessary part of business to remain relevant or redefine company goals after they have outgrown their original mission.

Lead Generation Tips: Call-To-Action Placement

A call-to-action is the best way to drive traffic to your offers. But it’s completely useless if it doesn’t capture people’s attention. There are a few things to keep in mind when placing your call-to-action.

  • First, make sure your call-to-action is located in a spot where it will be easy to find and that it follows the flow of the page organically. You are trying to get people to act on something, and you want it to require as little work on their part as possible.
  • Ideally, your call-to-action will be placed “above the fold”—the area of the page that a visitor will see without scrolling down the page. Any content placed below the fold is only viewed by about half of the individuals that come to your site. By increasing the impressions on your call-to-action, you can greatly increase the amount of leads you get.
  • If you do decide to place your call-to-action below the fold, make sure there are cues leading your visitors to it.
  • Size is another thing to consider. You want to make sure your call-to-action is large enough to see from a distance, but not so large that it detracts from the rest of the web page.
  • Be sure to use contrast and/or whitespace to help your call-to-action stand out. The last thing you want is for your call-to-action to blend in with your site so much that people don’t even know that it’s there.
  • Use a “Thank-You” page to promote another offer or some different content.

Calls-to-action are placed in all manner of advertising, such as product pages, email, social media, and even display ads. The more people who see your call-to-action, the more leads you will have.





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Lead Generation Tips – Element of Scarcity

“Order within the next five minutes and get a second one free!”

“Only four left, order now!”

“Everything 50% off while supplies last!”

Have you ever seen one of these messages before? Of course you have. They rely on scarcity, whether real or invented, to help make a sale and have been proven selling techniques.

The most basic economic principle is the idea of supply and demand. When supply is low, demand is high. So by adding the element of scarcity, either in limited quantity or limited time, there is an added pressure to buy now. It is this fear of missing out (FOMO) that pushes people to buy right now. There are two main types of scarcity used to make a limited offer:

Limited Time Offers
These are the most common type of limited offers. They work based on the idea that this offer will only be available for a short period of time, so you better act now in order to get this deal. Once the offer has ended, that’s it. eBay is a great example of this because of its auction format. If you don’t bid right now, someone else will win.

Limited Quantity Offers
These are another familiar type of limited offers. Because there are only so many left, there is a sense of scarcity again, just as with the limited time offers. After the store runs out, you may not be able to get the item ever again, or at least not for a while. This limited quantity also indicates social proof that this is an item worth purchasing. Kickstarter is a good example of this. Sometimes, there are only so many people that can receive a certain item if they pledge so much to a project. (i.e. the first 100 people to pledge $50 can get the item before everyone else).

Kickstarter reward for Pebble Smartwatch

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 2.47.38 PM

 

 

Some companies even combine both of these into limited time and quantity, like Amazon and Groupon. Amazon has “daily deals” where an item is for for sale for a limited amount of time, and you can see the percentage of that product that has been claimed, so you know how many are left. Groupon is similar in the way that there are only so many offers that can be claimed, and they must be claimed within a certain time period.

Amazon’s “daily deals”

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 2.36.01 PM

 

These limited offers can be great for increasing sales, but be careful not to overuse them. If you do, they can decrease the public trust of your brand.





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Why the New Tennessee State Logo is a Bargain at $46,000

New TN Logo

 

Okay, right from the start, here’s the deal: I don’t like Tennessee’s new state logo. I’m sorry to say it.

Now, generally, I don’t comment on such things. I’m in the business myself, and I don’t make a practice of running around critiquing the work of my colleagues. Having said that, I do still have a “personal aesthetic.” I simply respond to things that I see just like everyone else, and I don’t like the new logo (I confess here, as well, that I don’t like two-letter state abbreviations either, but that’s another matter).

Having said that, I think my colleagues at GS&F should keep every penny they earned in doing this project. Allow me to elaborate.

GS&F spent 9 months working with 23 state departments and hundreds of state employees and governor’s office staffers to arrive at what has been characterized as “something a fifth-grader could make.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. But it discounts something very important. It’s called process. And the process is perhaps the most valuable, if regrettably mostly invisible, part of developing organizational identity systems.

Mark Twain once said, “I would have written a shorter letter if I had had more time.”

Developing a new identity for an organization as complex as a state government requires a laser focus on making that identity simple, easy to use, easily reproducible at multiple sizes in multiple media (from paper to computer screens), and easily recognizable by hundreds of thousands of users.

Under that criteria, this logo is incredibly successful.

I know how this project likely went. It’s a plum assignment. It’s a big deal, in my opinion, and I am certain GS&F didn’t go into this lightly.

So, you’re hired. You get into the heart of it. You do “discovery.” You spend hours and hours interviewing the “stakeholders” – the people who use the logo on a daily basis. The legislators, commissioners, administrative assistants, the pressmen who actually print the letterhead, the governor himself. You identify the problems with it. You collect all of the printed pieces on which the logo is used and you make printouts of its use online. You also collect materials where the logo has been misused and distorted. Maybe you post all of that to a big wall in your conference room so you can see it all at once. You call in your entire staff to discuss it, pick it apart, make suggestions. You write on the wall. You make notes on post-its. Taken together, it’s massive. Hundreds of pieces of material, from forms to glossy brochures to website landing pages.

That part of the process alone is a ton of time. And you put your best people on it, because – you know – it’s for your great State of Tennessee, and you want to do a great job. And you put a good number of people on it. And those people bill by the hour, because you’re in the business of creative intelligence. You sell know-how. Intuition. You sell your brain and your experience. It’s partly art and partly science. And some of it is plain old luck. It’s a bit of alchemy that is sometimes hard to explain unless you’re in it.

Then you get into ideation. You throw out ideas. You sketch. You look at other state logos. You critique the work. You revise your first assumptions. You sketch again. You invite people to look at your ideas. They love some and hate others. They like combinations of some. They don’t like that font. They think one’s too simple. Another’s too complicated. Somebody’s brother-in-law likes another color better. Yes, it’s largely subjective, but it’s also made a bit more objective because it’s informed by a lifetime of collaboration with other clients doing the same kind of thing.

You start over – again. This cycle can continue almost indefinitely, back and forth between agency and client.

You’re only at month 4 and you’ve burned through roughly 5 times the budget you agreed to.

Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you put 10 agency staffers on the project (5 designers, 3 account people, 2 principals) and they each put in a very conservative 10 hours per week. They do that for 36 weeks (9 months). At an industry average fully-burdened (taxes, insurance, rent, expenses) aggregate hourly rate of $150/hour, that would equal $540,000. Is it worth that? Of course not, but that’s why $46,000 is a bargain.

Forget the hours. What’s the value of that logo? Will it save the state many times its cost in how it provides continuity across a complex and diverse organization over the next decade and beyond? Absolutely.

When we go to a restaurant and order a $30 steak and eat it, when presented the bill do we say to the waiter, “You know, I don’t think that steak is worth $30. I could’ve cooked that steak at home. I’ll give you $5 for it.” No, we don’t.

There’s an old story about Pablo Picasso bumping into a woman on the street in Paris. She was so excited to meet one of her heroes. She asked him, sheepishly, “Mr. Picasso, I’ve wanted to meet you all my life. I love your art. I’ve always dreamt of having you draw a portrait of me. Would you?” He said, “Of course, madam!”

He pulled a notebook and pencil from his coat pocket and began to sketch. After about 10 minutes of sketching furiously, he showed the final portrait to the woman. “Oh my goodness! This is so beautiful! It’s just as I imagined. What do I owe you?”

Picasso replied, “$10,000.” “$10,000?!” the woman said, aghast. “How in the world is this worth $10,000 when it took you only 10 minutes?”

Picasso replied, “Because it actually took me a lifetime plus 10 minutes.”

GS&F didn’t push the “logo button” on the computer to generate the new state logo. They invested a lifetime of experience and charged a fair price for what was likely much more time than they had estimated. They generated value.

Keep the $46,000, GS&F. You earned it. And please forgive me for saying that I don’t like the logo. It will probably grow on me.

UPDATE: Here’s a post on Medium from GS&F that details the process and shows a good bit of context that the news outlets aren’t reporting. “Tennessee’s 23 State Agencies Have Always Worked Together To Do Great Things For The State. Now They Have A Visual Identity System That Works Just As Hard As They Do.

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Chuck Morris is founder and principal of Morris Creative Group LLC, a 25-year-old Knoxville-based marketing and branding firm.