Blogging Your Brand, Branding Your Blog

Individuals blog, companies blog; each for a different purpose. Some use blogs as a diary of daily musings, opinions, and experiences while others use theirs to promote or advocate a purpose. In any case, (most) people put information on the web to share them with others.

You may be a popular brand within your industry or general population but how much do people really know about you and your products? Sure, they can go onto your website and read canned information on company history, your mission statement, what products you offer, and etc. This information, however, is generally static and is only there for informational purposes. Moreover, it is difficult to give corporate websites a personal touch because they are first and foremost intended for establishing a professional presence. A web presence is the first step in getting closer to your audience but it is not enough to establish and foster interactivity and engagement. Here is where blogging can help:

  • It gives your brand a voice and helps you communicate with your target audience.
  • It can help set your company apart from the rest of the pack. One reason is because a blog is updated (ideally) on a regular basis and gives you the edge over companies whose websites have not been regularly maintained.
  • It allows you to discuss topics that would not fit in neatly with the rest of the content on your website.

But it is not enough to just blog randomly about everything and anything under the sun – you need to identify the reason why you are blogging (hopefully not because everyone else is doing it) and what your blog should be about. By giving your blog a focus and purpose and aligning these with the qualities of your brand, you can strengthen your image and extend your reach. The focus need not be too narrow: just ensure that you always stay relevant and true to your purpose.

Take the food and beverage industry, for example – here are 3 things that restaurants can do to maximize the value of blogging:

  • They should identify their intended audience and tailor their blogging style accordingly. If you want to reach out to a teen crowd, do not write pieces that sound like they belong in a business report. The medium helps get the message across.
  • They should conduct some preliminary research into what their audiences like to do and what they would enjoy reading. The company may find food ingredients a fascinating topic but your audience may actually be more interested in learning about what staff do behind the scenes to create the brand’s mouth-watering products.
  • They should see what their competitors are doing well and offer something more. Is Restaurant A blogging about its company roots? You can take a slightly different approach and blog about how your company history relates to your audience. Is Restaurant B posting about their newest locations? You can blog about why you picked your new branch locations and what makes these communities unique (and perhaps share a fun fact about the places).

Are there any other ways in which a restaurant can benefit from blogging? What steps should they take to understand their audience, and are these methods more suitable for the food and beverage industry than for others? I would love to see examples of restaurant blogs that you like.


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Facebook, Fan Pages, and Timeline

Nowadays, most brands have already established their presence on Facebook by setting up Fan Pages. The recent (forced!) migration to the Timeline layout has had a significant impact upon both personal accounts and Fan Pages alike, with users scrambling to renovate their pages and content to better fit the new format before the changes officially kicked in. Unfortunately, there is no way to opt-out and go back to the old layout (cue the collective moans). As blogger Pam Moore writes in her article, however, the best way forward is to adapt to this change and make things work to your advantage. The advice that she gives is valuable to both companies with existing Fan Pages as well as to those who are considering starting up their own pages.

Fan Pages do not become successes by themselves – they require careful planning, dedicated resources, and innovation in order to help them stand out from the crowd. After all, why would a company bother to create a page but not care whether people will view and “Like” it?

I think that the Fan Page for RW & Co., a Canadian fashion brand, is well done and a good role model to other, similar-sized clothing brands.

What are some of the things that the company is doing right?

  • They have a relevant and appealing cover photo. As of today, the picture shows a stylishly dressed couple who look as if they are on their way to a party, which is very different from the typical fashion advertisements where models look as if they are dressed for the runway. This casual image reinforces the company’s motto of “effortless & original styles for Him & Her”.
  • They post on a frequent basis – approximate 3 or 4 times a week. They also maintain a good balance of photos and text. I especially like how they minimize the use of large photos by grouping their picture uploads, which has the effect of displaying the images as thumbnails on the main page. Together, these efforts keep the content fresh and make the page look clean and easy to read.
  • They are quick to respond to user comments and provide helpful information instead of just giving brief and not-so-meaningful replies. For instance, when a user asked when a certain product would be in stores, the company responded by saying that the product is from their Holiday Collection and would arrive in stores late October to end of November. Not only did the company answer the user’s question, they also provided an additional tidbit of information to advertise the product.
  • They hold contests whereby users simply fill out a form as well as those that encourage users to submit their own content. One notable example is their annual wedding contest where users can submit pictures of themselves wearing RW&CO. clothing at their own weddings.
  • The company sets up polls to gauge whether certain products or trends will be popular amongst its audience. This encourages users to provide direct feedback to RW&Co. that the company can use to shape their strategic decisions.

Although the company already is doing a great job of maintaining its Fan Page, there is always room for improvement. For instance, the company could consider some of these suggestions:

  • The Fan Page thumbnail should be congruent with the theme of their corporate website. It is not immediately obvious how the blue background relates to their overall colour scheme and branding (black, grey, and white).
  • Commenting on polls should be enabled so as to encourage users to discuss their poll choices and share their opinions.
  • Encourage users to share the company’s posts – e.g. “Hit “Share” if you think that this will be the next trend!”. Although Shares require more user effort to complete, this helps to disseminate information beyond your existing fan base because friends of your fans will see these Shares on their own news feeds.

Do you have any examples of Facebook Fan Pages that you feel are well done? What is it about the page that makes it appealing to users?

Are there pages that you think would benefit from a complete overhaul? Share your picks below and tell us how you would improve them.

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Talking About IKEA

I recently accompanied a friend to IKEA to help him pick out some bedroom furnishings. While he perused the aisles looking for the perfect ceiling lamp, I noticed that there were still a good number of shoppers in the building. I know that IKEA is generally the go-to place for affordable furniture but I had not realized that sales would still be brisk during weekdays. It is no wonder that the furniture giant continues to expand its empire worldwide.

Each year, Interbrand (a brand consulting firm) puts together a list of Top 100 Best Global Brands. In 2011, IKEA ranked 31. I then wondered: what is IKEA’s popularity amongst the web community?

I used a tool called Twitalyzer to help me get a snippet of the brand’s activity on Twitter. I focused my sights on IKEA Canada.

Here are the results that the tool returned:

IKEA Canada has an average Twitalyzer Impact score in the last 30 days of 7.3% (putting them in the 93rd percentile of all Twitter users) and is classified by Twitalyzer as a Everyday User (having a small circle of influence but great potential.)

When we last looked about 0 minutes ago, IKEA Canada had 16,411 followers and was following 928 other Twitter users.

Note: impact refers to “a combination of the following factors: the number of followers a user has, the number of references and citations of the user, how often the user is retweeted, and how often the user is retweeting other people, and the relative frequency at which the user posts updates.

Although numbers usually tell a splashier story, I have a bias toward qualitative data because I find that the results offer a deeper insight on what is actually going on. I wanted to use Twitalyzer to look at tweet content but was disappointed to find that the free version of the app only shows a list of the most recent 10 Twitter users who have @mentioned IKEA Canada; the app does not show me the actual content of their conversations. To get around this, I manually browsed to each of the individual Twitter accounts to hunt for the specific tweets.

Here is where qualitative data can get interesting. How do you determine the meaning behind the content? First of all, you need to code the content based on the emotion of the conversation. A typical scale used in marketing is to code negative comments with -1, neutral comments with 0, and positive comments with +1.

Here are 10 recent mentions for @IKEACanada along with my coding noted within parentheses:

eleenie @eleenie
@MaybellineCAN #BBCream Shopping spree at @IKEACanada. Seriously in need of some organization solutions in my home.  (+1)

Jenn Petrichenko @JPetrichenko
Well, slept in until 1500 today, so mot much done. But I DID have a successful shopping trip at @IKEACanada #Coqutilam. Hurrah shelves! (+1)

HoTtawa @its_hottawa
Why are @ikeacanada carts so impossible to maneuver ? Everyone’s carts are horizontal to their forward-facing bodies. (-1)

Ryan Kirkpatrick @Ryan3yyc
When @IKEACanada screws up and doesn’t put critical parts in their boxes they should have to deliver missing parts. #wastedafternoondriving (-1)

Eileen Fisher @YMCbuzz
Love these decor finds from @IKEACanada that @SarahGunnStyle loves. I’m all inspired now 🙂 (+1)

Jeff Leiper @jleiper
Thanks to @IKEACanada for taking my word on non-functioning lamp bought last weekend, lack of receipt, no packaging. Easy exchange! (+1)

Theresa @tsacreations
Thx @IKEACanada for addressing my issue & generously compensating me. Much appreciated! Now my place will look more like your catalogues 😛 (+1)

Sarah Gunn @SarahGunnStyle
My top decor picks from the new IKEA catalogue….what’s your favourite? (0)

Nicole Nielsen @nicolernielsen
I have so much respect for @IKEACanada , in their new store in Richmond, they reserve all front row parking for hybrids! #livinggreen (+1)

Jay Gee @Rozzy80
@elmeebaterina @IKEACanada Can we just have a freezer stocked full of their meatballs? (0)

The result of this activity:  a +4 rating.

Although Twitalyzer shows a low Impact score for IKEA Canada, it seems as if the overall sentiment expressed about the brand is generally positive. Of course, a sample size of 10 is definitely not representative of the Twitter population but this exercise really drives home the idea that you should not rely on one single tracking tool to monitor your brand. Because each tool tracks something different (or tracks the same thing differently), companies should identify additional monitoring mechanisms so as to ensure a more accurate representation of reality.

Which tracking tools do you find the most useful for your purposes? Do you put more weight on quantitative data than on qualitative data, vice versa, or equally on both?


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A New Era for Public Relations

A press release is a key component of a public relations toolbox and is created for the purpose of disseminating information to the public and generating awareness. Here are a few examples of the types of activities that would warrant a press release:

  • When a company wants to announce a new or upcoming product
  • When a company wants to advise the public of a new merger or partnership
  • When a company wants to state its views on a certain issue

While press releases are still well suited for traditional media outlets, the advent of social media has cast doubt onto whether this tool has relevance on electronic platforms. Large blocks of text are difficult to read on a computer screen and, hence, rather unappealing to potential audiences. Moreover, because the conventional press release format packs so much information into one document, trying to pick out key points becomes an arduous task and deters web users from sharing the information with others.

To take advantage of the breakneck speeds at which Internet communications take place, companies and PR professionals need to repackage and tailor their messaging so that it is readable and sharable.

A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. recently put out a press release in celebration of its recent fundraising event for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. To illustrate my points above, I have adapted this piece into a social media release:

A&W’s Cruisin’ for a Cause Day Raises Record $1.25 Million

  • A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. is proud to announce that its fourth annual Cruisin’ for a Cause Day raised $1.25 million in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its mission to be a leader in finding a cure for MS and enabling the lives of those touched by the disease.
  • A&W restaurants across Canada helped raise funds through the sale of cut-outs, customer contributions and donations of $1 from every Teen Burger® sold on August 23. Cruisin’ for a Cause (or le Rendez-vous A&W pour stopper la SP as it is known in Quebec) raised both funds and awareness of multiple sclerosis through a variety of events including classic car gatherings, retro music, car hop service and car hop relay races, and Great A&W Root Bear® visits.
  • In total, Cruisin’ for a Cause Day has raised more than $3.3 million over the past four years to help end MS in communities across the country.

4th Annual Cruisin' for a Cause Day: On Thursday, August 23, A&W's Cruisin' for a Cause Day raised over $1.25 million for the MS Society of Canada. On this day, $1 from every Teen Burger® sold across the country was donated to help end MS. Pictured here: Paul Hollands (left), President and CEO, A&W Food Services of Canada, and Yves Savoie, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada, were joined by the Great A&W Root Bear® during the kick-off for Cruisin' for a Cause Day at Bayers Lake A&W in Halifax, N.S. (CNW Group/A&W Food Services of Canada Inc.)"

“The ongoing enthusiasm and commitment to this very important cause has been outstanding. On behalf of A&W, I would like to thank and congratulate all of our customers, staff, franchisees, car clubs, the MS Society and other supporters across Canada who helped us reach this significant goal.” – Paul Hollands, President and CEO, A&W Food Services of Canada

“When our partnership with A&W began four years ago, we had no idea how much Cruisin’ for a Cause would grow, or how much impact it would have in communities across the country. This year, over 750 A&W restaurants teamed up with us to make this day a success, and help us raise awareness and funds on behalf of Canadians living with multiple sclerosis. Thank you to the entire A&W family for their commitment to further MS research and to help support those touched by MS.” – Yves Savoie, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada

For more information:

Claudette Villena
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
T: 416.922.6600×3177
C: 416.996.0400
Brenda Jones
Hoggan & Associates
T: 604.739.7500
C: 604.312.1070

Do social media releases carry the same amount of professionalism and authority as their conventional cousins? And as a general rule of thumb, should all press releases be created in both traditional and social media friendly formats? In which instances would one format be preferable over the other?

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Where Have All the Gamers Gone?

The rising popularity and convenience of smartphones have paved the way for success for casual games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Infinity Blade. But do not let the term “mobile gaming” fool you – according to a survey by Mocospace, 96% of respondents play mobile games at home.

What does this mean for people in the video game industry? The good news is that these folks are still raking in the money. The bad news? Game sales are “on their lowest level since 2006”.

If you were a video game giant, what would you do to resuscitate sales?

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Protected: Improving Branded Content

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Top 10 Standout Marketing Campaigns Related to the 2012 Olympics

Two posts ago, I had blogged about Visa’s Go World social media campaign to support Team Visa athletes. Though the Olympics have come to an end, it has not failed to spawn a multitude of marketing campaigns. I want to take this time to share some standout examples:

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My Foray into Digg

“Hi, my name is Winnie and I am a latecomer to the Digg party.”

Digg has been around since 2004. The realization that it has taken me 8 years to join in on the fun has started to sink in. Because the site has been rebuilt from ground up and was relaunched on August 1st (a mere 4 days ago), however, I can console myself with the fact that I am among the first crop of people to join the Digg v1 party. I am mentally digging this sense of personal accomplishment as we speak.

To celebrate my new membership, I submitted for digging an article called 5 Tech Companies That Get Content Marketing Right.

Wait, I should backtrack a little bit. Continue reading

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Testing Your Social Media Campaign

With the explosion of social media, companies have been scrambling to get into the game, oftentimes without strategic thought, planning, and preparation.  Not only is this a risky move but it is also not an efficient use of valuable time and resources. Unfortunately, even large scale corporations who are no stranger to social media initiatives can also get caught in the web of failure. Continue reading

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Personifying a Brand

What is “personality”?

According to Merriam-Webster, personality can be defined as a set of distinctive traits and characteristic or as the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group.

Your personality is how you present yourself to be. Each person has his own personality that sets him apart from others in a crowd, but why are some people more easily recognizable than others? The key here is the difference in visibility. People will more easily notice you if you project your personality and make it easily “accessible” and viewable by others.

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