Fast Forward - June 2016


Keep Your Friends Close … And Your Employees Closer

Don’t freak out, managers, but half your employees may be thinking of leaving. At least, that’s what a Gallup study estimated about the nation’s workforce as recently as January. To keep employees satisfied with their current position and improve retention in your company, the folks at Marketing Innovators encourage you to employ these four strategies:

1. Train your management. If you’re at the top of the pyramid, with managers supervising employees all the way down to the bottom, it’s up to you to make sure the leaders in your organization are equipped to foster a growth-sensitive environment. Make sure managers know what motivates their team and are setting realistic goals for individual and group work.

2. Facilitate Growth Through Challenges. You’ve surely heard the phrase, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” For many employees, passion for their work is the driving force behind having and keeping a job, not the salary that comes with it. Help establish a work environment that pushes your team to develop and improve their professional skills. Ask individual employees what excites them the most, and what you can do to help facilitate growth.

3. Provide Feedback. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, biannually or even after every completed project, feedback that is constructive and applicable is invaluable to employee growth and retention. Let employees know when they’ve done well, but also let them know where and how they can improve the quality of their work as well as the quality of their working relationships with you and other team members.

4. Show Them What Lies Ahead. Employees with a considerable number of working years ahead of them want to know what those years will hold. If there’s a way for an employee to move up in your organization, or for them to branch out laterally and carve out a niche elsewhere in the company, show them how they can do so.

Five Minutes With Aubrey Collins

As the marketing and communications director for Parsippany, New Jersey-based supplier MediaTree (UPIC: tni), Aubrey Collins knows a thing or two about communicating the importance of a brand. Collins tells PPB how she ended up in the promotional products industry, and how good business communication skills can boost a brand’s impact.

PPB What is your academic background, and how did you end up in your current role with MediaTree?

Collins I have a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and a master’s degree in creative writing. My writing background runs the gamut from teaching creative writing workshops to copywriting to corporate communications. I came to MediaTree after doing some freelance writing for them. While I was freelancing on a large-scale project with them, they had a need for someone to head up their marketing team. From learning so much about the unique product line while freelancing, I was excited at the possibility of taking on the role. Now, nearly five years later, I am still just as excited and can’t imagine doing anything else or working with any other team.

PPB How have you been able to incorporate your unique skills into your job?

Collins My creative writing degree has been an unexpected asset in my professional life—which is a big relief because after I graduated with the degree, I felt like I had made the most frivolous and irresponsible decision of my adult life.

A decade later, I’m happy to say that with marketing’s shift toward focusing on content and story, it was a solid decision. Plus, having the unique combination of a creative writing background along with experience writing across multiple disciplines and channels has been a huge asset. I can easily shift my approach, style, and tone depending on the piece and the target audience. On any given day, I can be found writing taglines, email blast headlines, blog posts, copy for a client, press releases, content for flyers, slides for a pitch deck, emails to prospects and funny copy for self-promos … to name a few. Once I even wrote tongue-in-cheek legalese from Chewbacca.

PPB How do good communication skills help companies promote their brands?

Collins Brand architects who have good communication skills tell a story people want to hear, one they’ll care about. In other words, they connect. A brand story should tell the audience who you are and how you add value. And people who are excelling in this area know that even when it’s about you, it’s really about the customer. Communication and outreach always have to serve the customer.

Also, the brands that are doing it right, in this industry and beyond, know that good communication is more than the copy on their website or blog. They are using storytelling and narrative in everything they produce. From product copy, emails and social media posts to podcasts, infographics and videos. With the technology available to us today, the possibilities are endless. And that’s awesome.

PPB What kinds of communication mistakes or oversights do you often see in this industry?

Collins Despite all the talk in the media about content marketing and the resurgence of story and narrative, I don’t see many brands using communication to help themselves stand out and stand apart from the rest. Most businesses don’t focus on what makes them unique.

Additionally, I don’t think enough businesses focus on quality copy and content. Too often people think that because they can write, it means they can write. Like design, writing is a craft. We need to remember that it takes skill, technique and practice to write crisp, clear, compelling copy.

PPB What tips do you have for companies who want to improve their business and brand communication efforts?

Collins Invest in communication. If used right, brand communication is one of the most powerful tools you have. Don’t trust just anyone with your content. Just as you shouldn’t hire your neighbor’s nephew’s girlfriend’s uncle to design your website, you should be just as discerning and selective when you are looking for someone to help with your brand message. With the wrong messaging, a brand can come across as boring, disingenuous and self-serving. And in today’s society, that could be fatal.

Show the real you. Talk about the challenges you’ve faced along the way. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable, you can connect to the vulnerability of others and your story will be relatable. But the bottom line? Have fun with it! We are living in a very exciting time where basically anything goes.


Best Foot Forward

Online shoe retailer wows festival crowd with unique body painting booth

Visitors to Coachella, a Southern California music festival, typically sport a bohemian style reminiscent of the ʾ60s hippie culture. This year they received a major upgrade to their fashion game thanks to online shoe retailer ShoeDazzle. Playing off the beloved but overstyled festival trends of flower crowns and metallic flash tattoos, ShoeDazzle opened a Floral Foot Painting station at an event hosted by Nylon magazine.

ShoeDazzle hired a local face and body artist to paint custom art on women’s feet and ankles while they lounged at the event and took a quiz to match their shoe styles to ShoeDazzle offerings. The various styles of art, based on each woman’s style, paralleled with ShoeDazzle’s business model. The newest ShoeDazzle product collections were on display for the women to check out while they waited to receive custom body art.




The Original Mobile Marketing Strategy

Two brand giants have kept their unique approach rolling along for 80 years

Marketers run themselves ragged hoping to maintain brand recognition among tech-savvy consumers, but two food giants are sticking to one roadworthy tactic that has proven its worth for nearly a century.

In the mid-1930s, sister brands Oscar Mayer and Planters (both part of the Kraft Foods family) hit the streets with quirky thematic vehicles—the Weinermobile and its lesser known counterpart, the Nutmobile. Today the hot dog giant gets more than 10,000 requests for Weinermobile appearances, and the Nutmobile has secured a place in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is viewed by millions across the nation each fall.

Both creations have gone through several variations over the years, and today’s versions criss-cross the nation on promotional tours every year.weinermobile The Weinermobile travels roughly 500 miles a week through the country; the Nutmobile logs about 30,000 annually. The strategy may seem old-fashioned, but the companies have deftly transitioned into the 21st century with social media and even smartphone apps. The notion of literally driving a brand has proven clever enough to be copied by younger brands including Peeps marshmallow candy and Red Bull energy drink.

The Peepster car is a springtime phenomenon that comes out to cruise the tri-state area (Peeps’ parent company, Just Born, is headquartered in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania). And Red Bull’s energy drink-adorned vehicles are a centerpiece at its marketing events nationwide.


Bridging The Culture Gap

How does a company that finds a market for its services convince the community to welcome it with open arms? This was the challenge for The ORPEA Group, a high-end senior care provider based in France that wanted to make inroads in China. The eastern nation has a strong tradition of caring for elderly family members at home, and though the population continues to age, sending seniors to nursing homes is still not widely accepted.

International ad agency Fred & Farid Shanghai created a video ad for ORPEA that both embraced Chinese culture and appealed to sensibilities regarding senior care. The ad, “Helping Hand,” features seniors engaged in traditional activities—with a sole visual focus on their hands.

ORPEA still

Photo by FF Shanghai

ORPEA opened its first nursing home facility in Nanjing in March, catering to residents over age 80, those with disabilities and those with Alzheimer’s. ORPEA began welcoming its first residents to the 140-bed facility soon after opening.


Building Better Events With 3D Printing

Detroit design firm ups its design game with latest trend

Not content to simply offer rental equipment for events and custom-designed displays, Detroit, Michigan-based Display Group has opened a 3D creation studio to complement its suite of services. With the assistance of high-tech equipment for miniature fabrication, 3D scanning and routing, Display Group is creating one-of-a-kind items for clients to use at trade shows, sets, exhibits and outdoor events. Recent projects include a rocket-shaped monitor frame for Rocket Mortgage, and a series of 24 oversized vintage bobbleheads for a local FoxSports promotion.

Display Group finished rocket

Bobbleheads at Atwater Brewery

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