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Fresh Stories for Top Brands.

If you missed it, the Wilson blog was a happening place in 2017. For a quick recap, here are the five most popular posts from the last year, but there are plenty more—check them out.

Destination Marketing: From Barn Roofs to Smartphones

1. Destination Marketing: From Barn Roofs to Smartphones

People plan for and travel differently now. Fortunately for marketers, a variety of tools, technology, and platforms have evolved that enable them to keep pace by being much more targeted with their efforts.

Check it out >

Why Brands Need to Sharpen Their Focus

2. Why Brands Need to Sharpen Their Focus

Does 20% of your audience make up 80% of your revenue? The trend is towards a ratio of 95/5 today! That is a much smaller target and makes finding and focusing on your core audience even more important than ever before.

Check it out >

Brand Offer Five Gates

3. Five Gates of Branding: Offer

Products lose their relevance. But great brands live forever. How can that be? That’s because your brand is not your product: your brand is what you promise and offer the customer.

Check it out >

Five Gates of Branding: Delivery

4. Five Gates of Branding: Delivery

Brand delivery is where your brand finally puts it all together and closes the loop with the customer. All of the work that you have done through the previous brand gates has led you here. Now it’s time for some big decisions: how and where to actually connect with the customer.

Check it out >

Five Gates of Branding: Message

5. Five Gates of Branding: Message

Owning the perfect position, with a great offer, and the right audience won’t matter if your brand message doesn’t connect. It’s that simple. Like every brand aspect, the message must evolve, slightly in some cases, more drastic in others, or the brand will lose its relevance.

Check it out >

Want to learn more about the Five Gates of Branding? Download the ebook.

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Helping The Most Vulnerable

“If anyone is interested in helping out on a project for the homeless in the Cincinnati area, would you let me know?” That’s the simple question that Associate Creative Director, Brett Schindler, posed to the Wilson team. Because the agency is always looking for opportunities to give back to the community, the quick response was a unanimous YES!

The Homeless Problem

Homelessness is a complicated nationwide issue with no easy solution. It directly affects the 3.5 million Americans that experience homelessness every year, and our society as a whole in a number of ways. In Cincinnati alone, the number of homeless is reported at nearly 8,000 by multiple sources. It’s not something that will be fixed in one day, but the return of winter weather and the giving spirit of the Holidays (18 percent of yearly charitable giving happens in December alone) compelled Brett to lead the agency to do something.

Everyday Essentials Are Different When Every Day Doesn’t Include a Home

In addition to the obvious missing shelter, when people are homeless they frequently miss many of the personal items we take for granted every day. Things like warm gloves and socks, toothpaste and deodorant, are barely noticed by many of us, but veritable luxuries for those less fortunate. Blessing Bags fill these basic requirements and add some niceties to those in need. With generous donations from the agency and local businesses, more than $1000 was raised—enough for 100 bags.

It’s in the Bag

Each bag had a variety of items that people might need—things for warmth, hygiene, nutrition, and inspiration. Following are the contents of each Wilson Blessing Bag:

Hitting the Streets

With bags assembled and two cars loaded, the team headed to downtown Cincinnati just ahead of the first real blast of cold weather the area was to receive for the 2017 – 2018 winter season. The need was clear right away. In relatively short order, the team had dispersed the 100 bags and additional clothing they had brought. All of the recipients were very grateful. The sense of community among the homeless was eye-opening. Word spread quickly that the bags were available in order to make sure that others shared in what was available. One local man familiar with others in the area spotted a man pushing a shopping cart around a corner a block away and urged, “Make sure he gets one—he won’t come inside no matter what.” Art Director Andy Sharpe made sure that the fellow didn’t go without, at least for now.

While there were not nearly enough bags to reach all of the homeless in Cincinnati, it was apparent to the team that it mattered greatly to the 100 that did receive them. The only possible regret anyone might have after seeing the situation and talking to people is that they couldn’t do more.

Some Statistics and How You Can Do More

National Homeless Statistics


Cincinnati Homeless Statistics


How You Can Become More Mindful of the Homeless

Take the 30-day challenge, an interactive way to become more aware of the needs of others. Each day you are presented with a simple activity that will make you more aware of the needs and challenges the homeless face. There’s even an app to complete the challenges on the go.

Want to Help?

Find an organization near you:

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Much More than a Logo, Brands Bring Value

Brands contribute significantly to the value of the company. While figures and computational methods vary, some experts put that figure at 30% of the stock market value of a company. For many, it might be the most valuable asset they possess.

Forbes annual ranking of brands puts Apple at the top with a value of $170 billion for 2017, with Google, Inc., ranked second. But the companies that benefit from strong brands aren’t just global tech behemoths. Every business is affected by their brand and every company has one. Whether they choose to renew, refresh, and reposition themselves to evolve with their audiences is another matter. The ones that do can achieve long-lasting success results. Here are just a few examples of brands we love.

We love REI’s commitment to their core. As Bethann Thompson, Project Manager at Wilson relates, “They have stayed true to their camping, hiking, and backpacking audience without trying to be everything ‘outdoors’ like some other companies.” And they live the brand in the store and out. “They value their customers and help educate them on gear and outdoor skills,” says Jess Prater, Hybrid Designer. “They are very helpful in-store so customers can be 100 percent satisfied with their purchases. I like that they would rather get people outside to enjoy nature vs getting people in their store to buy products, like their #OptOutside campaign and closing on Black Friday. And the free posters.”

Bethann Thompson, Project Manager
Jess Prater, Hybrid Designer

Can a reseller have a strong brand? Absolutely! Brian Wilson, President and CMO, points to Moosejaw as an example. “Their brand voice is spot-on with their audience! They have done an amazing job of creating a ‘culture’ even though they are a reseller. Their brand personality carries through everything they do: they have a great Instagram feed, great emails, even the pop-up windows on their website. The writing is so well done and makes me laugh whenever I read something from them. That makes me want to keep reading—and buying!”

Brian Wilson, President

Brands we know and trust make us feel comfortable and put our minds at ease. And when the brands are comfortable to wear as well, that describes Athleta. “I love the Athleta brand because they make high-quality athletic and casual clothes that fit great and are made from excellent materials,” says Kim Saldana, Account Lead. “They seem to last longer and look better longer than other brands.” That’s probably the most important criteria in the competitive fitness-fashion world.

Kim Saldana, Account Lead

Do the work: no apologies, no excuses, no whining. That’s the message the Duluth Trading Company, this writer’s choice, conveys through their products. Their marketing never loses sight of the function of their products, but keeps a sense of humor. And they’re not afraid to gently poke the cage of other lesser products. Or maybe not so gently poke the other’s cage.

Devin Meister, Content Director

Where Does Your Brand Fit?

Is your band on the path to renewed growth? That means different things to different companies. Check out what it meant to these companies, some of our favorite Brand Champs. They range in size and areas of expertise, but have achieved success on their terms with their audience.

Download the Power of Brands

All registered product names, trademarks, and logos are the property of their respective companies.

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How Influencers Can Reach and Draw Your Hidden Audiences

Influencer marketing done well can be a powerful tool, effectively scaling targeted messages to levels that could only be dreamed of decades ago. According to a study by RhythmOne, “destination and tourism brands’ earned media value is $12.50 for every $1 spent” on destination influencer marketing.

So how do you do it well and achieve a similar return on your investment? The key is to define success upfront, then create a strategy and plan of action.

What Destinations Can Use Influencer Marketing?

Any destination, big or small, can benefit from influencer marketing. Even a well-known destination like Las Vegas has seen the power of influencers to reach specific audiences. To reach Millennials, they partnered with Twitter influencers to create short-form videos. By aligning the content with the influencer and interest of the audience, they generated excitement and maintained authenticity. For example, an influencer known for adventure created content about exciting helicopter rides and other adrenaline-pumping activities. In another campaign, a culinary-focused influencer worked with local chefs and showcased dining experiences. The campaign resulted in 79 million total Tweet impressions to an audience that otherwise might not be exposed.

Planning for Success—What You’ll Measure

Before actually committing to and engaging influencers, decide what you want to accomplish and measure. This will impact the influencers you choose for your campaign and what needs to be established beforehand. Five common KPIs include:

  1. Views/ImpressionsHow many times has the effort been seen? What is the ratio of views to the next step in the customer journey?
  2. Social Shares/EngagementActually interacting with your post is a critical step. Social shares multiply your impressions and can be a key step to expanding your audience. Likes and comments all add up to more exposure and potential business.
  3. Click-through rate (CTR)How many visitors click your call to action and/or to your website? On some platforms this requires a special tracking URL.
  4. Referrals to your website from theirsThis relates to all of the website users that have visited your website from the Travel Bloggers site.
  5. Subscribers/follower movementDid your audience grow? This can be one of the biggest benefits of an influencer campaign long term.


Finding Influencers

Once you’ve identified what success looks like, determine which audience you want to reach and look for influencers that speak to that target. Your own native social platforms are a great place to start your research for influencers—and don’t overlook your current followers. You could have a built-in advocate and influencer in your midst already!

Start by searching related keywords and topics to get a feel for both the platform and audiences that exist. Beyond the platform, several tools are available to make this process faster and more systematic. Two of the most established are Followerwonk (a Moz app integrated with the SEO platform) and Buzz Sumo, which include sharing analytics and influencer identification in one dashboard.

When you are evaluating influencers, don’t assume that a bigger audience is better. If you are looking for engagement, an influencer with a tight-knit and rabid audience could help you achieve your goals better than one with a bigger but less enthusiastic group. Remember, people trust those that they know. By going smaller you can be very specific with the selected audience and personalized messages that resonate.

Five Criteria for Evaluating Influencers

Actually selecting influencers to partner with can be one of the most subjective and confusing parts of the process. After all, there are more than 330 million active Twitter users and 800 million Instagram users—only a small percentage of those are viable influencers. Consider the following when evaluating influencers.

  1. Relevance and StyleFirst and foremost, the connection has to make sense and be a natural fit for both you and the influencer. That includes from a tone and visual style where appropriate. Think of it this way: would you naturally associate together? If not, pass.
  2. EngagementDoes the influencer have two-way interactions with followers as peers? Are they leading a tribe from on high with one-way communication? Consider your goals and what you need for your brand.
  3. FrequencyHow often do they post? Is it infrequent but high-value, or a raging stream force of nature? Consider how your content will look to the audience and how much attention it is likely to receive.
  4. AuthenticityWill the influencer’s audience believe the connection? As Convince and Convert has noted, often those “who have a smaller ratio of sponsored content tend to be more trusted and appear more authentic. Personal stories that include a genuine use or mention of a product, service, or brand are more trusted than straight product reviews.”
  5. Cross-PlatformWhile some influencers concentrate on one platform, many have multiple outlets, multiplying your exposure. Influencer marketing third-party standardized measurement company SYLO found that YouTube videos that were cross-promoted scored 47% higher in their measurements than those that weren’t. Create a shortlist and dig into their background. You need to know their history with their audience and opinions, in addition to what their experience has been with other brands. Once the post is out there, you’re ultimately responsible because it’s your brand on the line.


Keep Transparency and Embrace Different Perspectives

Building your audience and expanding your network is smart business. That’s why treating everyone with trust and transparency is key to a successful destination influencer marketing campaign. That means treating the influencers you partner with as professionals and never disrespecting them or your audience. Establish how they’ll be rewarded or compensated up front and be sure to give credit where it’s due. Last note: using a third-party measurement from an unbiased source provides transparency and a verified view into metrics. This can alleviate disputes down the road and ensures that no one is grading their own work. The last thing you want is an angry and motivated social expert. They have a megaphone to the world and they know how to use it professionally.

Check out our Destination Marketing eBooks for more detailed information.

Destination Marketing Trends

Technology for Destination Marketing

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At Wilson, we believe great brands can live forever… if they are bold enough to renew, refresh, and even reposition themselves to evolve with their audiences. We apply this thinking to our own brand, too, which is why you’ll see a fresh look and feel here on our website and across all of our communications.

Our new branding is a clear evolution of our existing brand. The Wilson logo, a compass, still signifies what we bring to brands: a new direction, a roadmap out of a cluttered landscape. Even exceptional brands can lose their way. Our job is to get you back on the road to success. We specialize in working with established brands in mature industries, and it was important to us to get that across in our new look and feel as well.

Distilling the Brand Promise

Our new tagline needed to communicate our brand promise simply and boldly. A brand promise should distill the very essence of what you do and who you do it for. Thus, our new tagline was born:

Fresh direction for established brands.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Good! That’s the idea.

The Yin and Yang of Logos

Our compass is split into two primary colors, red and blue. Red represents the fiery passion of our creative ideas. The blue represents the cool-headed strategic side. These two approaches to our work form our Yin and Yang; one can’t exist without the other. They also come together to point Northeast… forward and upward – the same directions we take brands!

Vibrant Colors and Vibrant People

Our own fresh direction began with a more vibrant color palette. At Wilson, our creative team is exceptionally creative and courageous, full of big personalities with a passion for life and adventure. Our brighter color system communicates the bold uniqueness of our people, the brilliant minds behind our brand. We have also moved further into the technology space over the last few years, building out experiential design pieces, apps, VR/AR, and more which are now among our core offerings. This vibrant, modernized color system was also designed to play well in that space. Our five core color hues were chosen to complement our agency’s proprietary methodology, The Five Gates of Branding: one hue for each gate a brand must walk through to achieve immortality.


Unique Design Elements

We are now using dimensional topography map patterns with our colors applied. These maps are the visual representation of the unique journeys that every brand takes throughout its lifetime. Each brand encounters different challenges, represented here as hills, valleys, and roads. Wilson is the compass brands use to navigate these spaces.

We have also added intersecting lines as graphical elements. These thin lines signify how we plot out your brand’s course, whether that’s its strategic positioning or a multi-channel campaign. Great work starts with planning and exploration. Wilson methodically analyzes brands through deep research and strategic thinking, then plots a course and marks out your brand’s position. Thus, your brand lives here at the intersection of strategic thinking and creative vision – all visually represented by these simple lines.

Our Home Base

Our website uses flat and material design elements to give it a modern, tactile feel. Content is king on our site, and we have ensured all of our content is big, bold, and easy to read. Our site is built to be agile and fluid, ensuring that we can create and promote content relevant to the established brands whose stories we’d like to tell, and the brands who already trust us to help them navigate the future. The type is bold, chunky and confident. That’s because when we say something, we mean it!

Highlighting Our Exceptional Crew

We have also added more information about our incredible crew to our website. At Wilson, we understand that our product is the creative and strategic experience and genius of our team. We have great people, and we want to highlight that!

We hope you’ll take some time to explore our new website. If you’re curious about our methodology, and how we develop fresh direction like this for brands like yours, do reach out to us.

Learn more about how legacy brands can discover renewed growth in our ebook, Five Gates of Branding.

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The Destination Marketing Journey Goes Desktop to Mobile

Mobile first! That’s the rally cry heard ‘round the Internet. The problem is that it is the exact opposite of a traveler’s journey as it stands today; many turn to mobile at the end of the process, during the trip. Most travel planners prefer to conduct their pre-travel activities on the desktop and laptop.

It’s a Multi-Device World

While there are good reasons to make mobile a priority—from the 50% increase in travel-related searches on mobile to improved search rankings to controlling design costs—the perception that everything is mobile or mobile only, is misleading. In fact, what’s more common is using multiple devices during the day and for adults to choose the best device based on their objective.

Research from Expedia Media Solutions in 2017 shows that most of the world, especially U.S. and Canadian travelers, prefer their desktops and laptops for inspiration, research, and actually booking their trips, and by a large margin. The preference is especially prominent for booking, with 83% of Americans and 90% of Canadians preferring their home-based computers for finalizing their plans. It’s apparent that they don’t completely trust the mobile experience for this step. When they are at your destination, it’s a completely different story: it’s all about the mobile. Our experience with our destination-marketing clients mirrors that finding.

Travelers use desktop to book and during the week. Mobile Usage spikes on weekends.

The graph above from the Google Analytics™ service shows web visitors planning their trip in late spring on the desktop for later in the summer, then moving to mobile during the trip. The inverse and defined spikes correlate between the workweek and the weekends during their actual visit. This client’s primary audiences, families with children traveling for extended weekend visits, are heavy mobile users. If your destination involves older adults, longer stays, and greater investments in time and money, expect an even greater split between the home-based computer and mobile visits.

A Single Experience across Multiple Devices

Not only do your customer communications have to wow them on mobile and desktops, they have to carry that experience seamlessly when they move from one device to another. The modern traveler could very well start with a text link from a friend (modern word of mouth) to a mobile site. They might begin the process there, stop, complete more research later on a laptop, and finalize their trip on a desktop. And they would expect their activities to move with them from device to device without hurdles or restarting the process over. That seems intuitive to users, but it can be a challenge for marketers.

Before and After

Because the intent of visitors in both stages is different, segment their journey and your content into two steps: material that impacts the decision in the planning process and the actual experience that visitors have when they visit. They will visit your site and blog. Expect a third of all visitors to search out blogs, articles and other content posted by experts looking for informative content to help them make the decision. Ensure mobile functionality, but make sure you wow them with the desktop by following these steps:

Show them what it looks like.

Take amazing images—big hero shots—that really convey the feeling of your destination and what it’s like to be there at the time of their visit. Whether it’s romantic or peaceful or exciting and action-packed, make sure that it reflects your destination in the best light.

Lead them to their ideal trip.

Make the site easy to navigate by the intent of the visitor, not where you want them to go. It’s their trip. Help them discover what they want to do that you have to offer and deliver it to them the way they want it. If it’s a blog or other text, make it easy to read. If it’s a video, embed it in the site; don’t make them click away.

Make a connection.

When they discover what they want, reach out and make a connection. Offer a specific piece of content or other offer that applies specifically to them. This shows that you understand them. It also enables and gives you permission to contact them again, critical if you’re going to reach them across all of their devices.

Moving Fast

The growth in mobile has been nothing short of astounding. Mobile isn’t going away and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. But as a destination marketer you need to recognize where your audience is in the journey and meet them there. Identify what their intentions are and be mobile ready, but realize that it’s not a mobile-only world. Not yet anyway. Download Destination Marketing Merges onto the Digital Highway to learn more about the latest destination marketing technology.

Check out our Destination Marketing eBooks for more detailed information.

Destination Marketing Trends

Technology for Destination Marketing

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Help Your Visitors Help Your Marketing with Their Travel Pictures

Your future marketing opportunity is right in front of you: your current visitors. They are interacting with your brand and impacting future visits. Almost half of all US travelers are inspired and influenced by travel pictures that are posted by their friends (i.e., the people here right now.)

In fact, they trust their friends more than travel experts. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for user-generated images that operates at multiple levels.

Lighthouse shot

Lighthouse Views

On my recent visit to a lighthouse on the Great Lakes, the tour guide made a point to direct everyone to where they could take the iconic photo everyone has seen. It’s the shot that everyone wants and shares. There were two ways to get it: walk up and down what seems like a thousand stairs to the water’s edge or purchase the image in the gift shop. One way or another, everyone leaves the area with the shot. Whether it’s a long-standing national monument like a lighthouse or the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Chicago, these images come to symbolize the place.

  1. Directs visitors to opportunities
  2. Creates channels for user-generated content
  3. Fits with messages you create

IAmsterdam letters tourist destination

Manufactured Shots

But what if you don’t have an iconic visual for visitors to photograph? You can create one! The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is instantly recognizable and a great example, if not ideal for individual interactions. Recently, cities and destinations have constructed their own signs and placed them where visitors can easily put themselves in the picture. When Amsterdam and Toronto added signs in their cities, the signs became so popular (more than 8,000 photos taken a day in Amsterdam) that residents demanded that they become permanent fixtures. In fact, Amsterdam added additional portable signs that could be moved around the city.

Montana Helena destination selfie-spot

Nudge the Sharing

All of those photos won’t matter if they are not shared with the thousands of friends and followers who are connected with these tourists. You can boost the natural inclination to share with hashtags and fun, onsite reminders, making sure that you mention the platforms used by your audiences. Toronto garnered an estimated 120 million posts on social media with the sign as a backdrop and the hashtag #share3DTO. That’s an impressive reach for a comparatively small investment.

Several destinations have gone beyond one iconic image to create opportunities that tell a complete story. The hotel Ovolo 1888 opened as the first “Instagram Hotel.” With planned “insta-walks” around the grounds, built-in “selfie-space,” and free stays for platform enthusiasts who have more than 10,000 followers, it has fully embraced and actively courted user-generated content from travelers. Others have chosen a simpler route, with “selfie spot” signs and instructions on where to stand for the best results, and contests and rewards for participants.

Multiply Your Exposure

Having user-generated content in the feeds of your social platforms is great, but don’t stop there. Consider adding streams to your website or monitors around your destination. Both will encourage more sharing by your audience as well as increase your reach across channels. Be prepared to monitor the streams to make sure that inappropriate or unrelated content doesn’t make its way to your audience.

Also, consider using images on other platforms or communications in your own efforts. Caution is required here: Just because someone used your hashtag or posted to your site doesn’t mean that you own rights to the image. Follow these simple guidelines for best and ethical practices: contact the user and ask permission; if they own rights to the image, give them credit, and don’t change the image. Additionally, only use the images in the manner that you requested.

Statistic from:

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Destination travelers value the experiences of their friends, experts, and influencers even more than celebrities. They look at their pictures, videos, and stories on social platforms. And they talk to them before they decide. Guide their experience with specific instructions and rewards, and recognize them when they do. You’ll find that your guests can do the significant heavy lifting for marketing your destination. You’ll also learn more about them and what they find interesting.

Check out our Destination Marketing eBooks for more detailed information.

Destination Marketing Trends

Technology for Destination Marketing

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Crossing New Roads to a Reconnect a Brand Audience

When you become a professional chef at 40 years old and franchise your first restaurant at 62 (in 1952), you’ve set the tone for a company that won’t stand still and won’t give up. That’s what Col. Harlan Sanders did with Kentucky Fried Chicken, now KFC.

But even after achieving global success, businesses can’t rest. Brand audiences change. Where people get information, what they buy and where they buy have changed dramatically in the last two decades. It’s up to brands to move with them. Unfortunately, KFC had fallen behind.

Scratching Through the Recession

Like many fast food restaurants, the recession in 2008 hit KFC hard. Hundreds of stores were closed and industry rankings dropped. In addition, the company had drifted away from the brand’s core values. Making real changes to get back to those roots can be hard, but that’s exactly what KFC is doing. Kevin Hochman, KFC Brand President and Chief Concept Officer, told QSR Magazine, “When Kentucky Fried Chicken was at its best and growing the fastest, the colonel and his values were at the center of everything we did. Those values are critical to what makes Kentucky Fried Chicken so great.”

The Original Recipe Gets a Marketing Makeover

“We have to meet the customer where they are. They want to be entertained or they want something that’s going to get their attention, because if you don’t get their attention, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying,” says Hochman. The company has taken that idea to heart and won’t be ignored. Here’s a sampling of recent creative.

They’ve brought back the original Col. Sanders with technology.

They’ve added a posse of imposter Cols., including Norm Macdonald, Rob Lowe, and others.

They’ve sent a chicken sandwich into outer space. (Yes, that’s Rob Lowe.)

They created a robotic Col. Sanders to take your order.

They wrote a romance novel (available on Amazon) for Mother’s Day.

They even made a Little Movie About a Big Chicken.

Buckets of Success

Where previous KFC ads were vapid, the new communications are getting attention and driving results. QSR Magazine reports that over the last two fiscal years sales have grown, ending a nearly decade-long slide and that same-store sales have increased for 11 consecutive quarters. That’s a great start. Based on the most recent push in marketing, it doesn’t appear that it will let up anytime soon. It’s proof that even the most storied brands can lose their way, but by leveraging their biggest advantage—their legacy—in new ways they can fight their way back into the game.


For more insights and trends related to a brand audience, check out these posts.

Rediscovered Brand Audiences


For insight into how brands can nurture renewed brand growth, download our ebook, Five Gates of Branding:

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What would Ogilvy, Burnett, and Bernbach Say Now? Exactly What They Said Then.

Every fan of Mad Men knows that the ’60s brought unprecedented transformation to the marketing world.

Consumers had more media channels than ever before—newspapers, glossy magazines, radio, direct mail and TV—giving marketers vast new opportunities and competition for attention. Amidst the drinks, suits, skirts, and corner offices, principles founded decades earlier in print, direct mail, and radio were applied across all of them.

Today, we’re experiencing a nearly identical marketing revolution driven by a plethora of maturing digital and social platforms, mobile, and changing habits.

The one thing that hasn’t changed for marketers is the need to grab the attention of the audience at the right time and place.

Marketing and Communication All-Stars

In 1965, Dennis Higgins interviewed five stalwarts of the marketing industry and compiled his findings in, The Art of Writing Advertising. While the office culture may have changed (you won’t find anyone smoking inside an office building today), the basic needs that humans share, and how we communicate with one another based on those needs, are timeless.

Here are some excerpts that are relevant to the challenges marketers face today, with emphasis added by this author.

About Working with Data

William Bernbach, Doyle Dane Bernbach

“One of the disadvantages of doing everything mathematically, by research, is that after a while, everybody does it the same way … If you take the attitude that once you have found out what to say, your job is done, then what you’re doing is saying it the same way as everybody is saying it and you’ve lost your impact completely. We’re all concerned about the facts we get, and not enough concerned about how provocative we make them to consumers.”


About Visibility

Leo Burnett, Leo Burnett Worldwide

“I believe that today visibility, sheer visibility, is more important than it’s been, speaking of printed advertising—and that applies to television, of course, too. Sheer visibility is important with today’s rising advertising costs; if you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything. You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally without screaming or without tricks. Something about it that makes people continue to buy it … capturing that, and then taking that thing—whatever it is—and making the thing itself arresting rather than through relying on tricks to do it.”


About Connecting with the Audience

– George Gribbin, Young & Rubicam

“Now here we are running an ad that tells people how much newspapers mean to their daily lives. But it isn’t the ordinary reader of this paper that we’ve got to think of. We’ve got to think, what is the reaction of the reporter on the newspaper who read this. Let’s go through and look at it from the reporter’s view. We then went through it from the publisher’s point of view. We went through it from the standpoint of someone who was on a competitive medium. What would the radio people, what would the magazine people think—how would they react to this? What would a stockholder in a newspaper think about it? You went through this from the reaction of a linotype operator, a man who delivered the newspapers on the trucks, the reporter, the editorial writers, the competitors—you name it, and when you went at advertising this way, you were thorough and you did a lot better advertising.”


About Change

– David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather

“My ideas have changed, but not as much as they ought to have done. My ideas about what constitutes good copy, almost all of them derive from research, not personal opinion. And down through the years, I try to keep up to date with research because from time to time it does throw new light on things. For example, Gallup & Robinson ten years ago told us not to start off a TV commercial with an interrupting device, but to start selling in the first frame.
Well I believed this—their evidence seemed to be pretty good—and I practiced it. But some recent research shows that this is no longer true, if it ever was. That it does, in fact, pay to start commercials with an interrupting device. To grab people’s attention in the beginning.”


About the Idea

Rosser Reeves, The Ted Bates Agency

“It’s either one of the most difficult things in the business to do, or it’s one of the easiest things in the business to do, and it depends on your product. For example, in 1954 two men named Charles White and John MacNamara walked into my office. John was president of M&M Candies. He said their advertising wasn’t succeeding and they needed an idea that would sell. Actually, as I found out after ten minutes of conversation, the advertising idea was inherent in the product. It was the only candy in America that had chocolate surrounded by a sugar shell. At this point the idea lies on the table right in front of you. There’s no searching for an idea at all. At this point the only problem is how do you take that idea and put it into an ad.”


Rushing Forward

While the technology that delivers the message might change, the principles behind what makes it work have not. These individuals were masters of their craft, but more importantly, students of human nature. That’s what made them successful then, and will certainly make you successful today.


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Audience is one of the Five Gates of Branding. Learn more about audience and the steps to renewed brand growth in our ebook:

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It has to be just right.

Whether you’re talking about a product name, tagline, or a theme that is something on which everyone will agree, reaching consensus beyond that it has to be “right” can be more problematic. How do you consider different ideas so that the best of the best can rise to the top? It helps to know specifically what you are looking for. To help reach that goal, a set of questions can help to distil your ideas to those that have “it” and those that don’t, putting you on the track to the right one. When employed in a kickoff meeting or early brainstorming session, it is a great way to get everyone moving in the same direction with an understanding of what the “right one” looks like—more specific than I’ll know it when I see it.

Following are just a few example questions that can serve as a filter to help you find the message and words you need.

Does it align with the brand position?

This is the very first step, no exceptions. If it doesn’t align with the brand position, put it to the side and move on. If you don’t know what the brand position is, you’re not ready to start this exercise. Go and immediately figure this out.

Does it have passion?

No matter how logical humans want to appear or believe that is their motivation, passion is what causes movement. The more the better.

Does it have action?

When your goal is to create excitement and a result (that is your goal, right?) you need action. It’s no secret that more words don’t connote the correct level of action than do. Words like connote. Google™ search “active words” if you’re stuck here.

Does it look forward?

In most cases, you want to your message to be leaning into the future rather than resting on what used to be. Just as a matter of course, pursue the forward options first.

Is it relevant?

The big question for the audience, “why does it matter,” is something that can’t be ignored–or your message will be. Tell them.

Do you have credibility here?

If the message isn’t authentic or realistic, the audience will call [email protected] s#!t. Or they’ll not even bother to call you at all. Neither result is acceptable.

Can you own it?

If there other players in the same area, either competitors or cross-industry organizations talking in a similar fashion, shift to something that is unique and that only you offer. And if there are bit players here that you can beat, beat them soundly in every way possible.

What will be an engineer’s literal translation?

You know this person, the one that never sees any subtleties, just black and white, yes or no. When they read it, what will they take away?

Is it too clever for business?

Will everybody get it? The message should be able to stand alone. Just like when you have to explain a joke—if it needs further explanation, you’ve missed the mark.

Can it be misread?

Does it have more than one meaning? If there are two ways that something can be interpreted, it’s going to happen. And someone will gravitate to the least favorable or flattering option.

These are just a few examples of the types of questions you can ask to get you closer to your perfect communication. What questions or filters would you add?

One caveat is don’t expect any idea to pass all of the criteria. If you’re trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. But be aware of them. When you do that, you’ll know that you found the right one when you see it by all of the check marks beside it.

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What’s The Process Look Like? See For Yourself



Are you interested in other processes that can help lead to more effective communications?

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