ClearVerve Marketing, LLC

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Posts Tagged ‘Branding’

What dog-watching and marketing have in common

Friday, July 25, 2014 — 


It’s the dog days of summer, (well, July and August are supposed to offer the most sultry, high temp days of the year, anyway) and for me, recently, it’s been more like dog daze.

One cute, furry hamster aside, we don’t have pets. No dogs, cats, fish. Nada. So our schedule was in a bit of a tailspin last weekend when our neighbor asked us to watch his visiting son’s 5-year-old, blind-in-one-eye, American bulldog, Bianca, while they spent three days at an out-of-town golf outing.

Our experience with Bianca ended well and with a big bag of thank-you chocolate truffles. But here’s what three days of dog sitting reminded me about marketing.

Take time to learn your brand.  It was important for us to get to know Bianca before we started rubbing her ears and scratching her back. The same is true for your brand. Do your research. Get to know your brand’s personality. When you do that, you’ll know if your marketing fits appropriately.

Cheap, fast and mediocre doesn’t cut it.  Our sweet, placid bully deserved a good weekend too. One quick 10 minute walk wouldn’t do. We needed to spend quality time with her. Clients expect the same. There isn’t one in the world who wants fast, low quality results. So put your hours in and be awesome every time.

Be social.  It’s amazing what a dog on leash can do for your social life. We were out there pounding the pavement and ended up having conversations with neighbors we thought were afraid of daylight. It’s just about the same with social media. You have something to talk about; you have a story to tell (ours was no, we didn’t get a pet), so get out there and start talking.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Building a better workplace is similar to building a brand: it’s about believing in it


People engage in movements, places or ideas because they believe in them. They think the thing is important; they care about it.

They’re all in.

At least that’s the truth Chester Elton, founder of the global training and consulting firm The Culture Works and co-author of three New York Times bestsellers about workplace trends, believes. Elton was in town recently to speak at the 10th annual @TECMidwest Inspirational Leadership Conference. His presentation mostly focused on empowering managers to inspire a new level of commitment and performance and creating a culture of belief. He teaches leaders how to engage, enable and energize their workforces. The formula of E +E+E outlines how high-performance organizations deliver extraordinary results by creating a vibrant, productive culture where people believe what they do matters, and that they can make a difference. Elton says managers of high performing workgroups create a  culture of belief. In these distinctive workplaces people believe in their leaders and in the company’s vision, values and goals. Employees are not only engaged but also enabled.

After listening intently, laughing and crying at the lively and touching presentation, it occurred to me similar concepts are true when it comes to marketing a product or building brand awareness.

Believable brands generate buy-in. Marketers do this by showing and sharing features, benefits and advantages of the product. They get others to speak for it and commit to the culture; try it.

Why should you work to get your customers to believe you and what you’re trying to achieve? Because you are engaged in something important and something you care about. To have any hope of succeeding, you need to get in the corner with you. You need them to be all-in.

For the betterment of your brand, nonprofit, community, school or family you should remember there is great power in building a culture where people believe. When that element is there and when you show your heart, people will follow.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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How do you get people to care?


Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Rich Meeusen of Badger Meter speak at the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Listening to Rich speak is always an experience. He is funny, energetic, and at one point or another probably managed to offend nearly everyone in the audience!

At the end of the presentation, Rich was asked why homes are not built with the same water-saving technology that is used in vehicles such as boats and campers. Rich responded that he believes it is probably because consumers are not demanding it. This is partially because consumers are charged the cost of delivery for water, not for the value of the water. That’s why water in Milwaukee is more expensive than water in Phoenix. In Milwaukee, water is plentiful and should be inexpensive, but the cold winters mean that pipes break and our system requires more maintenance. In Phoenix, the pipes are newer and require little maintenance. People generally don’t value things that are inexpensive. If water has little monetary value, there is no reason to conserve it. If there is no reason to conserve it, people won’t care about conserving it. We have other things to worry about.

Many of our clients deal with the same challenge. How can you get someone to value something they don’t understand? If someone doesn’t understand the value of your service, how can you compete without resorting to competing on price? If you’re marketing a cause (such as water conservation), how do you get people to care?

The answer is education and patience. For a cause, such as water conservation, the answer is a lot of education and a lot of patience. Rich shared a story in which his father threw a bag of trash from McDonald’s out the window of the car while he was driving down the road. His father thought it was his right to do such a thing. Rich, who grew up with Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear, would never have dreamed of littering like that. Rich admitted that he runs the water while he brushes his teeth but his granddaughter shuts off the tap. Sometimes it can take a generation or more for the message to sink in. Of course, as an organization you may not have the time to wait for an entire generation of people to grow up so that your message can be heard. But some messages are big enough and important enough that it could take an entire generation for the message to sink in. Be patient (when you can). Remember that no matter what you do, some people may not be receptive to your message. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply focus on those who are.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Thanks to some terrific customer relationship management (CRM) software, I’ve learned that patriotic, World War II era-theme American Girl doll, Molly McIntire® and her best friend, Emily, are moving to the American Girl ArchivesTM.

Though Molly has been around since 1986, she’s only been part of our family for about six years. Somewhere along the line, we splurged and bought her a party dress and a pair of pajamas. A girl needs more than the same blue skirt and sweater in which she arrived, after all. Then, finally, about three years ago, we made a trip to the AG salon in downtown Chicago to get Molly’s hair re-braided.

And now, we’re in the American Girl CRM database.

CMR is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current (and future) customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service and technical support. And to American Girl’s credit, they’re doing a great job of using their collected information wisely and correctly.

Somewhat sadly, we haven’t played with Molly (or her bitty baby sisters) for years. Yet after receiving the letter from American Girl telling us of Molly’s departure from the period dolls line, we were quick to hop on and snap up a few other items from the Molly collection that were also biting the dust.

The American Girl brand does it right when it comes to marketing. Not only are the dolls and the dolls’ stories well-researched, they know a lot about their customers, even after just three encounters with the company.

As we bid Molly a fond farewell we’re reminded (in the letter) that her story lives on and that we can continue to find books about Molly’s adventures online and at booksellers nationwide. Now that’s good marketing.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better marketing materials. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Sponsorship switch brings recognition

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 — 


When possible, I try to catch a glimpse of (sort of) hometown hero and 2012 Daytona 500 victor Matt Kenseth. My favorite morning radio guys chat with Kenseth here and there and since I like to be in the know, I pay attention.

I ended up missing the final lap of last Sunday’s race in California, but when I was watching, I noticed Jeff Gordon’s recognizable candy-colored car wasn’t there. Well, he was there and his Chevy was there, but not the huge DuPont logo that’s been zooming around NASCAR ovals since the early 90s.

I did a little research only to find out that 24’s hood makeover was inevitable. DuPont, for what made good business sense, sold its painting and coatings division in February to what is now known Axalta Coating Systems. The logo swap that debuted at the beginning of June is a pretty big deal for the Gordon brand and his sponsor.

The NASCAR fans I know are loyal. They have an emotional attachment to drivers and the drivers’ sponsors. While this change might be tough to get used to, I’m sure they’ll want anything associated with it.

Gordons’s new uniform and new paint job it will probably prompt some merchandise sales, even though he’s not having a great season. He hasn’t won a race yet in 2013, yet, he’s a winner. Viewers always watch for him and Axalta has agreed to sponsor him for three more years. But, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, the biggest winner in all of this is Axalta. There was some explaining and educating to do about the brand, which can only be good for the company. Afterall, I didn’t even realize what the giant “A” logo adorning his car’s hood was about, but I do now.

I’m betting Axalta believes using Gordon as its brand spokesman is a worthwhile investment. He brings more recognition to the Axalta name than anything else could. Other companies spend substantial amounts on advertising. By sponsoring Gordon, Axalta gets an automatic platform for getting the company name out there. I mean, c’mon, who goes around talking about coating systems?

By the way Kenseth is ahead of Gordon in the Sprint Cup standings.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to create and communicate smarter, better marketing materials. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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10 questions to ask when redesigning your website

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 — 


I was waiting for my summer highlights to process when I started daydreaming about how exciting makeovers are. If you’re like me, you can sense when it’s time for a change. You start doing some research, talk to a few professionals, ask questions, take the plunge and come out looking fabulous.

Same goes for website makeovers. If you’ve had the same site for more than three years, it might be time for a redesign. Here are 10 questions you should ask before redesigning your website.

What’s the goal of my site?
Before redesigning your website, you must determine what it is you want the site to do for you. Once you have a strategy in mind, it will be easier to build your sitemap and decide what applications need to be included. You don’t necessarily need to rebrand your site, just re-engineer its goals.

What are my customers’ needs?
Start with understanding the expectations of your current audience and then your targeted audience. Are they different? You’ll want to use any metrics available to figure out how your site is used, where it’s viewed, what pages do well and what pages don’t. Find out where viewers are coming from. Let the data drive your decisions. Plus if you consider search engine optimization while building the site, you’ll be served up at the top of many searches.

Are your customers tablet and smart phone people?
Desktop and laptop computers are no longer the most frequent place websites are viewed. Make sure your website can respond to varied screen sizes and conform to the touch feature found on many mobile devices. Clear Verve (and the industry) calls these sites “responsive.” We basically design three versions of your site so that it looks good wherever it’s seen.

What do I really need?
Don’t let fancy design or technology get in the way of functionality. Keep your site’s navigation intuitive. In general, it’s still a good practice for people to be able to find what they are looking for within three clicks.

Should all this chatter about content affect my redesign?
Absolutely. You’ll want to fill your site with compelling content that in some way helps your audience. It can entertain them with stories and photos, inform them with announcements or survey them for ideas. An occasional sales pitch is even OK. Your content should benefit you as well. The right combination of content will significantly contribute to your business leads, search engine optimization and digital marketing. Also be sure you add a sharing function. You’ll want to repurpose your content to social media networks such as Instragram, Facebook and Twitter.

What type of content generates the most response?
Content is more than text. Images actually get more clicks than word-based calls to action. Use well-designed, interesting buttons and graphics to keep visitors on your website longer. Imbedded videos, for example, speak to people and trigger their curiosity to explore more.

What about the technical piece?
There are great Content Management Systems available today that allow you to change things on your site whenever you want. Be sure your new design has a CMS behind it. And for the love of Pete, make sure your server is fast and reliable.

Do I need better marketing?
Your website is just one piece of your marketing puzzle. It should be integrated with all your other efforts, both online and off, to drive customers toward your desired results.

When’s the best time to relaunch my site?

Timing matters, but it must make sense strategically. When your newly designed site goes live, it will have an impact on your traffic. Consider launching at the beginning of new campaign or when your business has a change. You’ll want to leverage the new site so it creates some buzz for yourself.

How do I ensure a smooth transition?
It takes time to get used to a redesigned website. Don’t sweat it. You can always post a tutorial as a guide for your users to help them adapt to the changes.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to create and communicate smarter, better marketing materials. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Delivering controversial news


When I visited Alterra the other day, I noticed this sign outside the door.

This is a great illustration of one way to handle a politically charged, sensitive, emotional issue. Of course, it won’t work for every sensitive subject. But Alterra found a way to be legally compliant, funny, and inoffensive WHILE maintaining their branding. Great job!


Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Three A+ marketing tips for back-to-school


If you’re a parent of a school-ager, chances are you’ve had at least one rotten experience with your kiddo’s school. We all have. And it’s such a shame.

While some schools simply forget how important community relations and marketing communications are, there are others that flat-out lack marketing communications know-how. As a parent, I just want to be informed. A school is a brand; I’m buying what it’s selling, which is mostly trust (more about that in a minute). Just make it easy for me … like maybe pre-fill registration forms with last year’s information and let me edit if needed, for example.

So parents, here are three things you may impart upon your school principal or PTA president on how to kick off the 2012-13 school year with high marks.

1. First and most importantly, communicate. Schools sell trust – trust that it offers a safe environment, trust that good teachers work there, trust that all students get the opportunity to succeed and achieve, trust that money is spent wisely. Parents will buy this as long as they are engaged in open, honest two-way communication that educates and informs. Encourage the faculty and staff to communicate with parents, and give us time to react.

We’ve got email and voice mail. We’re on Twitter. We’re on Facebook, well about 149 million of us anyway. According to Nielsen, social media accounts for 25 percent of all the time we spend online. Schools should use any of these social media options to let us know what’s going on: tell us your good stories, share official statements and polices; introduce ideas and plans, control rumors, gain support garner insight, build awareness for a cause or issue. If we parents are confident you’ll share info with us, we’ll join you’re your online community as soon as you begin the conversation.

Also make sure your branding is consistent across all media channels: email, website and in print. Ensure staff use their school (branded) email address when communicating with us. Also, use your website to tell your story. Make your site the primary marketing outreach tool. Promote it, keep it fresh and train us parents to visit it often.

One more thing, we’re all busy. More than half of the parents of the students in your building work. So, take a note from business. Make your communications clear and concise. Cut to the chase, use bullet points and spell things correctly. Beware of using jargon in your communications. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it can usually be avoided.

2. Customer service and training. Make sure faculty and staff are up to date on school policies and procedures—especially where interactions with parents are involved. It’s critical that everybody in your building be on the same page with this information and is able to clarify the goals and objectives for the new school year.

3. Work to maintain mutually beneficial relationships. Every school has its own way of making this happen, but the common element is to have plan. A well-thought-out public relations plan will help ensure that a school carries out its mission and meets its goals with the support of its staff and community. Schools just like corporations can follow a four-step process for developing a plan.

  • Research – up front analysis on where the school stands in regard to all publics it wishes to reach.
  • Action plan – developing public relations goals, objectives and strategies that go hand-in-hand with the district’s overall mission and goals.
  • Communicate/Implement – carrying out the tactics necessary to meet the objectives and goals.
  • Evaluate – looking back at actions taken to determine their effectiveness and what changes are needed in the future.

Lastly, you are not going to be able to please everyone, but everyone will see that you’re aiming to please and that’s about all we ask for. When you do this for us, we’re happy to volunteer and partner with you for the good of the students.

Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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The Social Olympics Challenge


Social media has changed the way we live, and true to form, stands to change the way we experience the Olympics. For many athletes, especially those in sports that don’t tend to get a lot of traditional media coverage, the Olympics are their once-every-four-years chance to connect with the world in a way that can help them earn a living for many years to come. Because of its ability to help people connect on a more personal level, social media will certainly be a huge part of most Olympians’ Summer Games experience.

Of course, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is dealing with many of the same challenges that everday companies face when it comes to dealing with the use of social media. They need to provide guidelines that will help the athletes make good decisions, decide what to do when they don’t, and preserve their relationships with the high-paying media outlets that cover the games. It doesn’t always work. Several athletes have already come under scrutiny for their use of social media, most notably a Greek triple jumper who was expelled from the games for posting a racist tweet. Maybe that’s because having rules, and the IOC does, doesn’t prevent people from saying or doing stupid things. Experience does. And so does guidance. It’s important to remember that most athletes are young, and young people don’t always think things through all the way to their logical conclusion. Many businesses face this same problem when turning their social media accounts over to their youngest staff member because they know the platforms so well. But they fail to provide them with guidance, which puts the company at risk.

Maybe in addition to providing rules about how athletes should tweet, the IOC should include statements reminding athletes to think about their overall goals. Any good marketing plan is tied to goals and if anyone on earth knows about setting goals, these athletes do. My guess is that if more people (not just athletes) asked themselves if what they are posting fits into their plan for their life and their career, there would be a lot fewer people tripping over their words and landing virtual face plants.

Wondering how to deal with this challenge in your company? Check out two documents we created to help: the Social Media Guidelines or Policy Template and the Reacting to Social Media Flowchart. Both can be found here.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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What does your content sound like?


If anyone has ever told you to write like you talk, do so with care. On the surface, it’s a good idea and is an easy way to start a draft. It is not, however, the way you want your final work to appear. Written grammar and spoken grammar are pretty different. While slang and shortcuts are common in speech and in email, such looseness with written language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors.

This isn’t just a generational issue. It’s a skills issue. Just because so many of us are accustomed to texting and social networking doesn’t mean it’s OK to toss grammar and syntax to the wind.  It’s important for your corporate communications to be spot on when it comes to grammar and style. Professional correspondence should never have a typo or grammar gaffe. While corporate brochures should be solid examples of clear business writing, websites don’t have to be quite as formal. Still, website content should not be written as if you were speaking to a friend. You can, of course, have a little fun, use a certain dialect and write at a different level. But no matter which style you choose, it must me correct.

Language is evolving and though it seems like the rules of usage are eroding, you mustn’t skip proofreading. Read over what you’ve written for mistakes and then read it again out loud; take a listen to it before publishing. If you don’t, you’ll end up with disorganized, repetitive pieces that lack inflection and tone.  Spoken language has an inherent rhythm that’s brought about by a variation of sentence length. If you imitate it, your writing will achieve an air of naturalness. So instead of just throwing out your thoughts, strive for the rhythm of speech, not the actual words.

Force yourself to vary the length of sentences. Try it. Write and rewrite; delete and backspace all you want. Generally short, sharp sentences give emphasis while long, involved sentences add depth and color. Together with the medium-length sentences, your writing will achieve tone and rhythm. You’ll soon see it’s easier than you think to cut a sentence down, add on to one, join two together or split a long one in half. Gradually, you’ll find your own voice and discover a cadence for your writing.

In today’s world you’ll succeed if you can write well for print plus be able to text, tweet and communicate on Facebook. Unless you’re at the dinner table with your father or out for coffee with your English teacher, your words are not likely to get corrected. But your published copy always will. Inescapably in print, you and your company will be judged by your language and grammar. Your audience, readers and customers will notice your mistakes and form an opinion. Do what you can to make it a good one.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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