It stopped my multi-touch gesturing fingers in their trackpad tracks. One of those rare occasions when social media pushes your pause button and makes you think. A tweet caught my eye long enough for me to physically write it down on a piece of honest-to-goodness, gen-u-ine paper (well, a sticky note counts). @hunterwalk tweeted, “Your brand is not your logo, name or tagline. It’s the promise you make to your community.”  Read the rest of this entry »

I was out of the office last week attending the funeral of my grandmother.  In her mid-eighties, this woman had survived the Great Depression, raised 5 children and lived long enough to dote on and enjoy 13 great-grandchildren.  Over the years, she hosted countless parties and holiday gatherings for huge numbers of people.  Her door was always open, and there was never a better hostess.  However, what many of us remember most about my grandmother are Sunday dinners, where it was “just us.”

Even during these simple Sunday meals, Grandma insisted on setting the table with the “good” dishes.  When her kids or grandkids would ask why or complain about having to do the prep and clean-up that went with that task, she always had the same answer: “We do this because your family is the most important company you will ever have.” Read the rest of this entry »

Using Lingo in Business Communications

Imagine you have just walked in on a conversation-in-progress between long-time friends when one references an inside joke that prompts rolls of laughter. You might smile politely, if not a little uncomfortably, and wait for one of them to explain the “you had to be there” moment. Although the story won’t prove to be all that funny (because you really did have to be there) there is no expectation that you should get the location joke without a point of reference. You are an outsider.

Inside corporate jargon is a lot like a location joke, and if you are the outsider who doesn’t get it, you could be missing (or misunderstanding) critical information.  Conversely, if you are the offending party using undecipherable business-speak, you could be unwittingly alienating the people with whom you are trying to communicate.

So what is proper business etiquette surrounding business-speak? Is it incumbent upon the outsider to get up to speed, or should the acronym-happy insider have more consideration for his audience? As with all social mores, it depends entirely on the situation.

Effective communication is about creating clarity and understanding.  If you are a new employee, then you had better dive in and learn the company lingo.  If you are a potential customer, then you should expect thoughtful communication that you can clearly understand without the need to interrupt to ask for definitions.  When creating marketing collateral, corporate jargon that refers to internal structures or product nomenclature (that is not a registered trademark) can easily confuse your audience and should be avoided entirely.

Rules of etiquette are created to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and knows how to behave in specific situations.  If your spouse or your grandparent wouldn’t understand corporate-speak, don’t use it when addressing them or anyone who isn’t part of your field. And above all, don’t assume your clients or customers understand your vernacular; you need to use theirs. It’s polite, and it will help your business.

We had a great client meeting today about a new product they wanted our help to launch. And during the discussion, the client casually mentioned another company who had produced a video last year that was “supposed to go viral.” But, of course it didn’t; the client, and we, both recognized you can’t just prescribe for a video to “go viral.”

Coincidentally, when I got back to my desk after the meeting, I had an email from my brother with a link to a YouTube video for TNT in Europe. I clicked on the link because I trust my brother’s taste. I clicked the play button. I laughed. I covered my mouth in horror. I watched the whole thing. I immediately tweeted to 1,000+ followers that they had to watch it.

The video was posted yesterday. As of 2:30 today, it has 4.5 MILLION views. Now that’s what I’d call viral.

Why did one video “go viral,” and another not? Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will work and what won’t. But in comparing the 2 videos, a few things become obvious.

DON’T:

  • Make your viral video 6 minutes long.
  • Introduce it with large corporate logos.
  • Introduce it (after the logos) with a lecturer and definitions.
  • Make it hard to understand (both the plot and the audio).
  • Use a fake setting that looks almost real, but is obviously low budget.
  • Host it on your own servers. (While the video was also on YouTube, the company hosted it on their website in their own player.)
  • Use the same topic and approach as several other videos. (One similar video on YouTube had 40,000 views, but was obviously done in a tongue-in-cheek, cheesy, humorous style — and was easily understandable.)

DO:

  • Make your video brief.
  • Use a dramatic opening.
  • Use good pacing.
  • Use suspense.
  • Use real human emotion.
  • Use humor and pathos.
  • Throw in some unexpected plot twists.
  • You might also add guns, a girl in a bikini, and a football player or two for good measure.

In short, it’s just like telling a story. People like to pass on good stories. And in order for a video to go viral, it needs to have that same kind of emotional tug.

Your thoughts?

With all the great debate swirling around primaries and parties this season, I have become oddly intrigued by a rather unusual issue, one that has absolutely nothing to do with my politics.  Read the rest of this entry »

Long before I joined the VantagePoint team, a bug crawled out from between the cushions on a couch in the middle of our art department during a daily traffic meeting. This one bug surprised the unsuspecting account executive who sat on the couch that morning—who, in turn, forever dubbed this couch, “the bug couch.”

I’ve never actually seen a bug descend from this couch, yet I still call it “the bug couch” like my colleagues and carefully eyeball the cushions before taking a seat. And last week, when a new account coordinator joined our team, what did we do? Warned her of the bug couch, of course!

My point? This otherwise clean, well-structured, comfortable couch had one bug many months ago, and its personal brand may never fully recover.

Read the rest of this entry »

There are a lot of executives in B2B companies who wouldn’t count themselves among early adopters of social media. Many have educated themselves on how to monitor or connect with their kids on Facebook, and they might post the occasional picture or micro-thought. Some have a Twitter account that goes largely ignored, and most have a LinkedIn account with a fair number of connections.

Are these executives deeply immersed in the realm of social media? No. But they aren’t newbies either. They have just enough personal experience to intuit that there is more they could be doing to promote their brand in the social media space, but business-to-business marketing seems to present a unique set of challenges. How and where to begin?

The most practical place to start going deeper is LinkedIn. If you are thinking to yourself, “I already have a profile,” then you are missing out on a whole world of opportunity. LinkedIn is more than just a place to post a bio and make some connections; it’s a place where you can demonstrate thought leadership to a very targeted audience of potential customers. The easiest way to get started is to join (or start) a LinkedIn group.

LinkedIn groups are forums where people of similar industries share information. If you are a newcomer to groups, your first inclination might be to join groups formed by those who do what you do. (I am a business-to-business marketer; therefore, I will join a business-to-business marketing group.)

A subtle shift in thinking is the key to opening the world of LinkedIn. I am a business-to-business marketer that does business with transportation clients; therefore, I will join transportation groups. I don’t want to blast them with sales information that will be ignored and diminish the value of the group. I want to provide keen insights on their industry with regular frequency so that they start to see me as a go-to resource for information. Providing content of value to selected groups and regular frequency is the best way to demonstrate thought leadership in these forums.

Beyond content and frequency, there is one additional factor that can mean the difference between a good LinkedIn group strategy and a great one: engagement. Imagine a LinkedIn group as a cocktail party. You wouldn’t walk in to a cocktail party and start shouting factoids at other guests. You would engage in conversation to find similar-minded connections. The same is true within groups. Sometimes, asking a thoughtful question says more about the depth of your industry knowledge than a bold statement ever could. The discussions (and connections) that arise from a carefully crafted question may surprise you.

If you suspect that making a foray into the realm of social media should be a part of your marketing strategy, then mastering the art of engagement within LinkedIn groups is a great place to start. Not only can it elevate your brand, but it can pave the road to success on other social media platforms.

I had the privilege of attending a recent client event in Charlotte that reminded me of the importance of corporate social responsibility and serving broader industry needs in branding and reputation management. Read the rest of this entry »

Duds. It doesn’t take more than a swipe of a page in a trade pub to spot them. Not duds like the clothing you wear, but duds like the 4th of July fireworks that don’t ever go off. You know, the ads that seamlessly camouflage themselves with everything else. Shiny stainless steel products, smiling operators in action, the next best “innovation” claim. Or maybe it’s the ad that tries so hard to be clever, but only turns out to be corny — yes, lots of those exist in the pubs I read. Read the rest of this entry »

Chevy Camaro grad commercialSo I’ve heard some folks spent tonight watching a football game. Me? I was too busy watching commercials, and that means it’s time for VantagePoint Marketing’s third annual Super Bowl commercial review. Here are my admittedly biased first impressions of each national ad (and a few locals too). I’ve tried to capture them as they happened, from kickoff to the closing plays, as they aired here in Greenville. (Want to catch them again, or see the longer version they couldn’t afford to air on the Super Bowl? Check them out on the NBC Sports website or on YouTube.)

So, without further ado:

Bud Light Platinum
Nice production values. But forgettable. Why do we need a platinum beer, exactly?

Audi Vampires
This is a perfect example of telling a story that supports a brand benefit – Audi’s relatively unique LED headlights. Very nicely done, with great editing and a well-crafted story (not to mention playing off the vampire theme that I’m sure more than a few folks would like to see come to an end very soon!). The end is a great touch (I won’t give it away if you haven’t seen it). Nice use of a Twitter hashtag in the commercial as well.

Pepsi
Not sure what a costume drama has to do with Pepsi, but it’s interesting to watch. At last Elton John has a real reason for an over-the-top costume, though. And the blackletter title screen is a nice touch – kudos to the art director.

Hyundai Velostar Turbo
Yep. A cheetah’s always a good way to demonstrate speed. Not sure we needed to see the critter turn on the guy, though. Pretty effective – you can’t leave the commercial without getting the impression of speed.

Bud Light Platinum 2
Yawn. Just another beer commercial with fake, good-looking people.

M&Ms
A naked M&M? Why, exactly? I love M&Ms, but have never really been a huge fan of their current commercial theme of turning-what-you-eat-into-a-character. And this one is less effective than some of the other previous incarnations. Pass.

Best Buy
“We created Words with Friends.” On a plane. Great touch. But I was so distracted by the joke that I didn’t get why Best Buy was doing the commercial. Not really effective in my book.

Coca-Cola Polar Bears
The CGI looks less “real” than some previous commercials. And not sure I really get the theme in just one viewing. Bring back the old bears!

Chevrolet truck
Very effective way to show the Chevy Truck is strong. But the apocalypse theme is a little too depressing. (In fact, some scenes looked a little 9/11 New-Yorkish.) The “Dave didn’t make it. Dave drove a Ford.” “Twinkie?” exchange adds some important light-heartedness, though.

Bridgestone
You know, I really wanted to like this commercial. A football made of tire tread had SO many opportunities for comedy and demonstration. But they threw it all away (pardon the pun) with a bizarre curving pass and a Deion Sanders temper tantrum.

GoDaddy
Predictable. You can’t help but notice the dot-co domain pitch, but other than that, the innuendo is nothing new.

Lexus
Pretty ordinary car commercial. There was potential for much more drama and suspense, but the directing and editing (and even music) didn’t allow it to build properly. And why is this Lexus particularly different, other than the front grille?

Battleship movie
Transfomers with smaller robots. I really wanted them to say “G-4″ or “you sunk my battleship” at some point. But they didn’t.

Budweiser Prohibition
Very cinematic and gorgeous to watch. (Love the guy from the barbershop with the shaving cream still on his face.) Nice way to show heritage.

Doritos
Snack food as bribery. Canine-human communication. Post-it notes from dogs. Funny. (Poor Fluffy.)

Chevrolet Camaro
“Hey, Mr. Johnson just stole my car!” Great premise, clear tie to the brand, compelling story, funny. (I love how the innocent jogger passing by gets drawn in to the celebration.) And was created entirely by a 26-year-old dude from Long Island. Very nice.

GE Turbines
Informational, nicely lit and shot. And then they throw in the beer thing? Grasping at straws a little. Maybe even pandering?

John Carter movie
Creatures in the sand threaten the world, and we’re all rescued by some rugged-looking hunk. SURELY this has been done before. Right? Sigh.

TaxACT
Really? Watching a little desperate kid finally decide to pee in the pool? And linking that to “free”? Is that the best they could come up with to compete with H&R Block and TurboTax?

The Lorax movie
Entertaining, fun voices. But I’ve seen it before. My opinion: if you’ve paid for a SuperBowl spot, PLEASE show an original commercial!

Volkswagen, Dog/Vader
This was a good — not great — commercial. Until it “ended.” And started again in (pardon my limited Star-Warsian knowledge) some bar on a distant planet in a galaxy far, far away. In VW’s attempt to reproduce last year’s awesomeness, I think the commercial just got confusing.

H&M
David Beckham, in all his tattooed and skivvy-clad glory. I guess it’s ok, if you’re into that kind of thing — and $15 tighty-whities. (The ad buyer did realize the Super Bowl is football, not futbol, right?)

Coca Cola Polar Bears #2
Ok, I get it. He’s playing football and not even realizing it. This one is more fun, despite the image quality. Was the first one just a setup?

Chevy Sonic
This is a lot of fun, and the agency made a great choice for the soundtrack. Definitely shows the edgy, fun side of a car that Chevy is working hard to sell to fun-loving twenty-somethings. I love that they start the commercial with a full-screen “don’t try this at home” disclaimer. And a “Please.”

Star Wars 3D movie
I guess here is my opportunity to learn about the location of the bar in the VW commercial. And in 3D, no less.

The Avengers movie
Well, I knew it was going to be for a movie. I just wasn’t sure which superhero was going to get title billing. (I almost thought it might have been a satire.)

Telefora
“Guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated. Give, and you shall receive,” she says. Ok, well, maybe in some guys’ dreams (see Kia Optima, below), but I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated than that in real life. However, the commercial is memorable for its simplicity and immediate link to Teleflora. I bet it’ll sell some flowers.

Skechers Mr. Quiggly
The CGI looks awkward. As does Mark Cuban. And while the new shoes may have some benefit (not sure what “midfoot strikers” means), it’s certainly not evident how they tie to a pug that runs faster than greyhounds.

Xbox Kinect
Using the NFL Films announcer is a nice touch, but it’s a really boring commercial. No entertainment value. And therefore, in this cast of very capable characters, I lost interest before the ad was 10 seconds in.

Cars.com
Ok, the falsetto singing back-arm is just a little freaky. Not sure it does much to sell Cars.com, even if it does give you “confidence.” I just couldn’t quit looking at the singing back-arm-thingy.

Doritos
Grandma-in-a-motorizing-wheelchair endangering a baby by turning it into a strapped-in projectile? Where is Health & Human Services when you need them? (Here’s hoping some nit-wit doesn’t try to emulate the commercial.)

eTrade
The baby is back. With a friend “speed dating” in the nursery? It’s gotten to the point where I don’t pay attention to what the baby is saying anymore; I just look for the gimmicks. Which means I’m not learning much about the brand.

G.I. Joe movie
Explosions. Machines. Bruce Willis. Works for me.

NFL
Win a million bucks. And waste it through sheer excess. Why, exactly? I guess an elaborate scheme to get your contact information.

Camry
Touching. Including Rusty and Mr. Sprinkles with their heads out the window. I love how they turn the car into a story.

Hulu Plus
Mint-flavored brains. Mmmmm. Yummy. (Huh?)

Bud Light
Nerds at the Halftime bar, that they got confused with the real halftime. Yawn.

Chrysler
Halftime in America, narrated by Clint Eastwood. Nice followup to last year’s imported from Detroit ad. Perhaps a little too sappy. And if I hadn’t seen the glimpses of Chrysler products throughout and figured out what the gig was, I might have felt a little betrayed. Nonetheless, the “halftime in America” is a pretty effective phrase, and nicely used for a halftime ad.

Jack in the Box bacon burger
I’ll admit I don’t have the insatiable hankering for bacon that some other folks do. But “you may now eat the bride” is just plain funny. Kudos to the copywriter.

Fiat 500 Abarth
I’ll admit I’ve seen this spot before, but not sure if on regular TV or not. So I’ll pretend this was the first time. The foreign language adds a bit of mystery at the outset, but I don’t get the payoff. Too much screen time for the Italian model, not enough screen time for the Italian car.

Pepsi Max
Ha! An ill-timed traitorous purchase of a Pepsi Max means that Regis awards Pepsi Max for life to the Coca-Cola delivery driver. Nice spin on the ongoing series.

Toyota Camry Reinvented
Ok, so I laughed and laughed at this one. It makes it obvious they have reinvented the Toyota Camry. And what’s not to like about a reinvented DMV with golf and ice cream (although the lady behind the counter is still spot-on-DMV-employee!).The deadpan announcer is perfect as well. Maybe not the best spot, but fun to watch.

Coca-Cola
Ok, back to not getting the point.

Dannon Oikos yogurt
So I’m annoyed with this commercial right away. First, I have no interest whatsoever in watching grown couples tease one another with food. Just not my thing.  And then the violence . . . over yogurt? Not appealing.

Century 21
How many celebrities can you cram in a commercial? At least they all have ties to the new “smarter. bolder. faster.” tagline. And no, Donald, you don’t get a do-over.

Acura NSX
This has Jerry Seinfeld, some great lines and a great surprise at the end. But it’s a lot of money for Acura to throw at a commercial for a product that only a few thousand people will buy, is three years away (says the fine print), and has little if any tie to an Acura you can buy at your dealer today. Fun commercial. Waste of money.

GE Appliance Park
Better than the turbine commercial. A little mundane, and self-congratulatory, though — how does the fact that you’ve created new jobs matter to me, the customer? I’m probably not going to go out and buy a GE fridge as a result.

Budweiser Heritage #2
Again, a nicely filmed review of the last century following prohibition, with Budwesier at the center. I repeat what I said earlier – an effective way to show heritage, and bring the brand into 2012.

Bridgestone
Here we go again. Tire technology on a ball – a basketball this time. And why does a quieter basketball matter? I just don’t get it, Bridgestone.

Honda CRV – Matthew Broderick
Fun, and a good way to carry through the “bucket list” theme that Honda has been using for the launch of the new CRV. I’m just a little bothered throughout by thinking that Mr. Broderick would probably be driving something far different than a CRV on his day playing hooky . . .

Act of Valor movie
Intriguing. Real Navy Seals? (Can they do that?) Looks like it could be a good movie.

Met Life
So Snoopy wasn’t enough? Nearly every cartoon character ever invented shows up for Met Life this time? Not sure I get why they are all involved — I got distracted trying to identify characters and missed the message.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Car as a life support device. Now that’s a new one. I like how Mr. Henderson becomes “Bob?!” after he appears to have passed on.

Bud Light
I’m predicting “Here we go” will be one of those phrases that gets WAY overused. And I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for that poor dog Wigo (Wego? Weego?). He just LOOKED weary.

Kia Optima Dream
Motley Crue, massive sandwiches, hot babes, and a  . . . Kia Optima? Really? The premise is good, but paying off with a Korean sedan as a “dream car” just doesn’t ring true. Bugatti, Ferrari, even Corvette, and I’m sold. And Mr. Sandman is just plain creepy looking.

Careerbuilder
Those monkeys were funny the first time. Now – at least at first watch – they come across as a bit creepy. If I worked with co-workers that bad, I would have left my job LONG ago. (Since I work with the wonderful folks at VantagePoint, that won’t be happening any time soon! Sorry, Careerbuilder.)

Samsung Galaxy Note
It started out looking like a repeat of a previous commercial. Fortunately I stuck with it – did everyone? It gets a little over the top, though. And I wish they’d spent more time explaining why it was a better phone (my Palm Pilot, circa 1998, has a pen). Have to give them some credit for admitting “that was over the top” at the end. (And I promise – I typed it before they said it.)

Cadillac ATS
I’ve driven some really good Cadillacs on a racetrack, and I’ve “driven” (on Playstation) the Nurburgring. But this was one ordinary commercial. Sorry, Cadillac.

GoDaddy
If 14-year-old boys were the primary audience for web hosting, this would be a great strategy. However, last I checked, they aren’t

NBC Sports Network
Ok, so I haven’t been commenting on NBC promos. But I have to give a shout-out to this ad. Touching, inspiring, and nicely narrated. And local hero George Hincapie makes an appearance about 3/4 of the way though, at the end of last year’s Tour de France.

My favorite? Probably the Chevrolet Camaro ad, with the Audi vampires spot a close second. That’s my opinion – what’s yours?

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VantagePoint's integrated approach to b-to-b marketing combines keen insight with bright ideas to strengthen your brand's market impact, no matter what the economy. Let us help you get a fresh perspective.

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