Monday, February 16, 2015

Brand 911: The best way to handle a crisis

Two weeks before their scheduled release, episodes for the third season of House of Cards, a popular political drama from online broadcaster and streaming service Netflix, jumped the gun on their true release date on the said platform. Netflix was able to pull out the episodes out in an instant, but not fast enough to thwart worked up social media. Netflix apologized to the series' excited and perplexed fans, and followed up with a witty tweet: "This is Washington," it said. "There's always a leak."

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Online gaffes far worse than Netflix's technical glitch have happened in the last few months. Just last December, for instance, Hollywood was shaken by an elaborate hacking of email exchanges among the executives of media empire Sony weeks before the release of The Interview, a controversial satire of the North Korean government and its despotic leadership.

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Trifling or massive, marketing gaffes should be dealt with in the simplest and sincerest way possible. Often, the way to go is for the company involved to apologize humbly, admit to its oversight, and acknowledge that it could have done something to prevent it.

Most blunders result from a company's failure to observe and monitor trends before crafting its messages. For instance, social media trained the spotlight on Entenmanns, a bakery, on July 2011, but for the wrong reasons. Entenmanns used the #notguilty hashtag, one that was used to condemn the verdict of the high profile trial of Casey Anthony, to position their baked goods as sinful treats. A tide of angry replies and comments came its way. But to the company's credit, it issued a succinct but heartfelt apology, briefly explaining what happened and expressing remorse over the lack of sensitivity.

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Lastly, the company should offer a meaningful, proactive solution moving forward. It can create a public series of initiatives to enforce change. If customers were complaining over the Internet about automated, off-tangent messages, the company should start responding to queries with personal, real-time feedback. No other proof of sincerity can be as concrete as taking action.  

Spiro Baltas and his team of experts at Gotham Brand offer cutting edge solutions for boosting and protecting brand image. Visit this site to learn how to manage social media brand presence.

Monday, January 26, 2015

REPOST: Where your brand is going wrong with social media

Social media can make or break a brand. Rosie Spaughton of The Guardian believes that the foundation of a business’ successful social media presence are cordiality, going easy on the business-speak, and spending time interacting and laughing with followers. More of her insights below:

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Piece of cake… follow these tips to master how your brand engages fans and followers on social media.

Working for a digital agency, I know how much money clients will spend on the important things such as branding and websites, but they fail to recognise the importance of social media: leaving social accounts dormant, letting just anyone control them and posting tired, self-promoting posts. Where is the relationship building, the fun, the passion? Just as your company needs a strategy for success, so does your social media presence. Here are some basics.


Word of web

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on branding, marketing and advertising; it all comes down to how well your products are perceived. These days the internet makes these perceptions accessible to anyone who wants to listen. That’s why we use Google before we buy anything. To me, word of mouth – or should I say, word of tweet, status, Vine, video, Pinterest and Tumblr – are gospel.

A quick way to demonstrate how great your company is – and to fight off competitors in a web search – is to use a star rating through Google’s My Business. I will always pick a business or service that has a star rating next to it over one that hasn’t. These ratings, even an average one, show people that your customers are happy with the service they receive. But don’t panic about getting five out of five stars; a perfect rating can look suspicious and besides, seeing true ratings and testimonials can tell you areas that you need to improve on, so get some honest feedback. Plus, a star rating helps you to rank higher on Google search results pages.


Tone of tweet

Every company understands that the way you run your online accounts reflects your business. But people will be expecting more than a professional-sounding tweet. Companies that just tweet business updates via business-speak don’t let their personality shine through, which is a shame. They need to have a think about their values and how they can get this across. Are you a caring company? Then adopt a more soothing tone of voice.

Demonstrate who you are, not just what you do. Being slightly tongue-in-cheek gets you noticed. Have some banter with a celebrity and watch your retweets go mad. Even if you manage to get followers, subscribers and likes, you won’t retain them by being boring. Use a mix of media: tweet videos, infographics, Vines, gifs and links. Interesting content gets shared, commented on and liked.



By providing a relevant service, companies may immediately attract a fair amount of followers, but gaining followers isn’t everything; you need to retain them. People are picky about who they follow and need an incentive to interact with your brand. A good way to keep your followers happy is to play games and competitions with them, and reward them for getting involved. Helpful hints and tips are a great way to keep people checking your page. I’ll be honest here, I buy a lot of clothes, but I don’t follow every clothing store online – just the ones that post outfit ideas I adore. Give people a reason to check your posts.


Every social platform counts

Having plenty of followers on Facebook and Twitter is all well and good, but you shouldn’t stop there. Each social media platform has its own unique audience: for example, Generation Z – those born after the millennial generation (so those born around the early and mid 2000s) prefer quick blasts of communication, such as a six-second Vine. Millennials, meanwhile, will turn to Tumblr. As a brand, your aim is to reach everybody, so sticking to the same channels with the same limited audience is redundant. Research other methods on social that could boost your company. Time is money, so spend the time online.

Once you are on these channels, keep using them. If you stop posting, your followers and customers will assume you are missing in action and won’t actively follow you. If they have a problem and are ignored, they will become frustrated and are more likely to tweet angrily about the situation. Relationship ruined.


The most important bit

Make friends and spend time interacting, chatting and laughing with them. Retweet, favourite and compliment them. Remember that it’s not all about you. Traditionally, if a person liked a shopkeeper they would continue to shop, despite competition, because of the friendship. Build lasting, meaningful relationships with happy, satisfied clients.

By having conversations online – rather than spamming people with your latest offers – relationships are built that can create the foundation for a successful business, brand or campaign.

Spiro Baltas and his team at Gotham Brand help businesses create an individual identity and personality through effective branding strategies. Follow this Facebook page for more discussions on branding and networking.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marks that matter: What makes a brand valuable?

With increased accessibility of goods fostered by social media, consumers are becoming more aware, and therefore more careful in selecting brands for specific products. Social media has played a significant role in evolving consumerism.

As advertisements become frequent and mainstream, brands are challenged further tp stand out in growing markets. Buzzwords and creative, innovative, and interactive strategies are being deployed, but studies show that consumers eventually overcome the desire to partake in glamor or high-caliber product performance. Brands that foster the creation of a meaningful life are now making more impact.

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Global surveys have identified meaningful brands based on how consumers interact with, react to, and act for the products on offer. The following enumerates the marks that matter:

• Personalized: products and services allowing for innovation, and personal interactions as in the case of Amazon;

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• Simple: favors ease of use, with considerations even applied to logo selection and creation. It has been found that about 95 percent of trusted brands have logos that are easy to view and decipher; • Drive for quality: consumers favor consistency in performance, living up to promises and loyalty to standards, as in the case of Ford and FedEx;

• Memorable: allows for consumers to take an active part in the creation of a unique experience, and encourages them to forge connections, as in the case of Starbucks;

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• Hopeful: such as those that sell happiness like Coca-Cola and can-do attitude like Nike.

Consumers are wiser nowadays. Companies, products, and service-providers are trusted for how they put value to establishing truthful relationships with the consumers. Focusing on making a consumer highly satisfied proves to be of the greatest advantage in a marketing strategy.  

Spiro Baltas is the founder of Gotham Brand, a full service branding firm that works with clients in crafting unique and individual brand identities and personalities. Learn more about how his branding firm changes the landscape of doing business here.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The benefits of LinkedIn as a personal branding tool

LinkedIn is a social network with a focus on professional connectivity and partnership, and is one of the best platforms to build one’s personal brand online.  Here are just some of the advantages professionals can get from the powerful networking site: 

1. LinkedIn is a round-the-clock service, providing a venue to showcase one’s brand to headhunters and decision-makers from around the world.  It displays one’s capabilities and achievements clearly, and makes it easy for others to initiate contact and maintain communication. 

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2. LinkedIn significantly expands one’s network, making it easy to find, work with, and create a professional relationship with other like-minded professionals.  

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3. It has a tool that allows others to validate one’s capabilities.  Colleagues can create endorsements for featured skill sets, as well as provide testimonials that can be highlighted and promoted. 

4. LinkedIn offers insightful topics and articles within one’s field, providing a steady stream of educational resources to keep one’s portfolio up-to-date.

5. Building a LinkedIn profile is free and stays there as long as the social network exists.  However, the site also offers a “premium” service which, for a monthly fee, greatly enhances the exposure and coverage of the account. 

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A sound strategy for enhancing one’s personal brand is a must to get ahead of the pack and boost one’s career.  LinkedIn offers some of the best tools and coverage to help one jumpstart that strategy.

Spiro Baltas is the founder of Gotham Brand, a branding firm which helps clients create top-notch brand identities. For more information about Mr. Baltas and his fields of specialization, visit this LinkedIn page.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

REPOST: Branded a fool

Names can make or break companies. The Economist article below talks about the unspoken rules in creating brand names that appeal and “stick” to public consciousness:  

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SEVERAL years ago, Johnson lightly mocked a new reverse-auction website for legal services. The concept annoyed lawyers by asking them to bid down their fees to win a client's engagement. But it gave a good belly-laugh to language and branding experts with its—to be charitable—offbeat name. Shpoonkle, alas, is no longer in business.

Unhappy families, Tolstoy tells us, are all unhappy in different ways. But unhappy brand names commit a few of the same sins over and over. Alexandra Watkins, the founder of a branding agency called Eat My Words, distills seven deadly sins in an infectious little book called “Hello, My Name is Awesome...How to Create Brand Names that Stick”. She devotes an acronym, SCRATCH, to the mistakes that make potential customers scratch their heads. While slightly-too-cute acronyms are not Johnson’s thing, the advice is spot on: Spelling-challenged, Copycat, Restricted, Annoying, Tame, Curse of knowledge, Hard to pronounce. Though she avoids linguistic jargon, some of her rules touch on interesting deeper issues.

Take the first injunction, to avoid odd spellings. Speesees, a now-defunct baby clothing-maker, was a head-scratcher. One was meant to see it as a childish misspelling of “species”, but the namers didn’t bother thinking about how often a tiny child has occasion to write the word “species” (nor, as Ms Watkins points out, that it rhymes with “faeces”).  Any name that requires explanation makes a customer spend time learning and remembering the explanation (“You see, it’s how a four-year-old might spell ‘species’...”).  People avoid extra effort every chance they can; a name that is hard to spell or remember is harder to Google and buy from.

Other names are difficult to pronounce. How Saucony and Diageo have succeeded with names that can be pronounced several ways is a mystery to your columnist. Memorability again rears its head; if sound and spelling reinforce each other easily, the brain has less work to do, and cognitive ease makes people favourably inclined to companies. One study among Americans found that of fictitious Turkish brokerage houses, readers trusted identical research reports from the easily pronounceable Artan over the head-scratcher Taahhut.

Getting a brand to cross borders is not easy. But of all the problems that company-namers fear, one common one is surprisingly unlikely. Unless your brand is truly going to be found in every corner of the globe—not common for beginning entrepreneurs—you are unlikely offend speakers of a language you have never heard of.  The famous Chevy Nova flop in Latin America is a myth; though "no va" means “doesn’t go”, “Nova” is pronounced with a different stress than "no va", and Spanish-speakers did not make this association. Sweden really did have a toilet paper called Kräpp, but it was never on sale in Cardiff or Cleveland.

Pronounceability in a wide variety of languages may be more important. Reading recently about Rocket Internet, a German e-commerce company-builder, Johnson was struck by how the company seems to coin names that are boring but predictably pronounceable. A mostly consonant-vowel syllable structure makes Zalando, Lamoda, Lazada, Jumia, Dafiti and their like easy to say in a lot of languages. Some languages like English and German have lots of long consonant clusters; others like Japanese and Italian do not. Speakers of the latter have a hard time mastering the pronunciation of the former.  Some sounds (t, p and m for example) are found in many languages. Other sounds (the English j and th sounds, the German and Scottish ch, etc) don’t travel well. Finally, some letters (c, q, w, j and x) have very different sounds even in closely related European languages, and are best to avoid if you aim for global domination.

Finally, an evocative name sets off a chain of associations in the mind. Among small companies, a public-relations shop called Firetalker and a yogurt chain called Spoon Me are two of Ms Watkins’ darlings. The first aptly implies brassy confidence, and the second evokes not just food but cuddling. Among big brand names, Kryptonite bicycle locks (neutralises criminals’ powers) or Nissan’s Leaf electric car (a twist on the “green” cliché) are among her favourites. Combining two words cleverly (Groupon, Pinterest) into a portmanteau both pronounceable and evocative is a double win. And she advises clients not to be afraid of a longer name, if it is memorably perfect. Previously Owned By a Gay Man, a second-hand home-furnishings shop, beats the stuffing out of tech companies like Atmosphir, Tweegee and plaYce. As a bonus, a name made of short words unusually combined is likely to avoid trademark-infringement claims, and is likely to be available as an internet domain.

Rules are made to be broken, of course. "Google" is a cutesy misspelling of the mathematical term “googol”. "Apple” is pretty tame, one of Ms Watkins’s things to avoid. And Johnson learned from "Hello, My Name is Awesome" how to pronounce “Bulgari” for the first time, a fact that hasn’t stopped that company from selling jewellery at astronomical prices. The fact remains, though, that a bad name makes an entrepreneur’s job twice as hard—especially at the start. Most companies fail. But if Shpoonkle had spent just a bit more time on the obvious dos and don’ts of brand-naming, it might just have had a shot.

Spiro Baltas and his team at Gotham Brand work to create customized brand identities that positively affect their clients’ business. Learn how branding helps companies grow on this website.

Friday, September 19, 2014

REPOST: The Top 10 Questions Every Brand Must Answer To Grow In 2015

Establishing a strong brand requires an eclectic combination of effective leadership, social media management, clear objectives, and a distinct identity. Read this article to know which tools and resources you should use to place your brand closer to customers.

Every marketer faces a dizzying array of choices in terms of strategy, tactics, and tools through which to reach their customers and inspire them to buy your products. As the media landscape becomes more fractured and the tools more varied, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on the right priorities that will ensure short-term and long-term success. With that in mind here are the top ten questions every brand must answer if they hope to grow in 2015. 
1. What is your brand’s purpose? Every marketer is now aware that Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Z are looking to brands to be more responsible in exchange for their product purposes. As such, a clear definition of your company purpose is critical to capturing their attention and converting their support to sales. 
2. What is your brands story? Once you have defined your brand’s purpose, mission, and vision you need to be able to distil that into a brand story that employees and customers want to share. Only then will you unlock the power of social technologies to amplify your message and build your customer community. 
3. How do you align your leadership, employees, and partners around that brand story? Too often marketers think only in terms of how they will share their story with customers and ignore the need to create a company culture that is in alignment with that story. 
4. How do you align your corporate citizenship, sustainability and foundation efforts? For decades each one of these areas had been treated as distinct silos within a company matrix. As such, they are often insufficiently connected or aligned with a brand’s story. Only when they are all pointed in the same direction can they amplify one another to generate marketing efficiencies that improve your bottom line. 
5. How do you align your company and product brand stories? Many corporate brands have chosen to remain effectively unknown and lead with their product brands. With the new demands for transparency and accountability, company brands are now rising to the challenge of defining their story and aligning their product brands within it. 
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6. How do you align your external marketing with your internal culture? There is nothing more destructive to a business than for a customer to discover that a brand’s marketing is very different to the customer’s experience. By extension, very easy for an employee to become disillusioned when they see that a brand is telling its customers one thing when their experience inside the company is another. 
7. What strategies must you use to tell your story effectively using social technologies? Too often brands bring a broadcast and self-directed mentality to social tools that turn on dialogue, interaction, and intimacy. It’s not surprising then that they find that their employees’ time and marketing spend is wasted. 
8. How must you use each social media channel to capture the attention of existing and new customers? Each channel presents a unique way to command the attention of different audiences and to inspire them to amplify the company’s brand story. Only with clear communication architecture can that story and these channels be sufficiently aligned to build the brand and its business. 
10. How do you establish your leadership at a global level? Irrespective of your company size, you can now lead a global conversation once you have clearly articulated your point of view on a given cultural conversation related to your products and their benefits. Any ambition smaller than that undervalues the reach and impact of the web, social media, and mobile phones. 
Each one of these questions is important in their own right, but taken together they are critical for the short and long-term success of a brand in today’s social business marketplace. 
At the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit on October 7-8 in Los Angeles, each attendee completes Social Branding BlueprintTM over two days that addresses all ten questions. Insights and support are provided by an incredible line-up of global marketing leaders including: Aaron Sherinian, VP of Communications and Public Relations at the United Nations Foundation; Marc Mathieu, SVP Marketing at Unilever ; Christopher Crummey, World Wide Executive Director of Sales – Social Business & Exceptional Digital Experience at IBM IBM +0.13%; Rick Ridgeway, Vice President of Environmental Affairs at Patagonia; John Roulac, founder and CEO of Nutiva; Derk Hendriksen, General Manager for Coca-Cola ’s EKOCENTER Project; Andy McKeon, Global Customer Marketing Lead at Facebook, and Karina Kogan, Executive Vice President, Digital for Participant Media/TakePart.
Spiro Baltas founded the branding firm, Gotham Brand, to help businesses craft unique brand identities and personalities to maximize their market performance. For inquiries, click here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Infuse ideas they can use: The new strategy in brand building

Entertainment used to spell success in brand building on the Web until people realized that the Internet is not only a medium for finding something amusing but also for sharing pertinent information and sparking meaningful conversation. 
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Content marketing---delivering news, expert advice, and other ideas that can empower the consumer---has then become a potent tool for communicating a brand's values and core message. To maximize its potential to engage consumers and increase sales, it pays to strategize with branding experts, like Spiro Baltas and his team at Gotham Brand, and get started with these tips:

1. Focus on the quality of information. People surf the Internet not necessarily to find something to purchase but to gather information and share whichever they find useful to them and their loved ones. The more usable the ideas are and the more engagingly they are told, the more people will talk about the brand and buy it. 
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2. Disseminate content to as many channels as possible. Out there is an almost infinite range of platforms, both online and offline, to educate consumers on the product or service and its benefits.

Brand presence in blogs and social media is a must, but strategic planning must be carried out to ensure the content matches the capabilities of the online platforms on which it will be posted. Meanwhile, content intended for delivery in forums, conferences, and other offline events should be versatile enough to cut across demographics. Whatever the medium, it's imperative to supply newsworthy, original, and relatable content. 
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3. Strive for proactive content. What's viral nowadays is information that saves lives, makes life easier, and gets people to partake in a shared cause or experience. The best online articles and multimedia projects are those that invite discussion and debate, and solve problems while or even before they can happen.

Content marketing is one of the latest trends that brands can peruse to get ahead. Give your strategy an edge with the help of Spiro Baltas and his team of experts at Gotham Brand. Visit this site to find out how.