Avoiding the Marcom Graveyard: Tricks for Selling Your Story and Staying on Brand

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It’s that spooky time of year. Darker days, cooler temperatures, scary movies to stream, and pumpkins to turn into jack-o’-lanterns. As our team at DKY acknowledges this ghoulish holiday, there is one thing we strive to avoid at all costs: NIGHTMARE MARCOM SCENARIOS.

Below are some “monster-like” scenarios and “tricks” from our subject matter experts to elicit “treats” out of these unfavorable circumstances:

Branding:  Brian Dahl, President and Brand Marketing Expert

It can be daunting to create or refresh a brand identity. Companies must stand out among their competitors, convey trust, and deliver on their promises while fulfilling a real need in the marketplace. You can’t sell inauthenticity or hand out vegetables to trick-or-treaters if you want to make an impact. And one has to understand that branding is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to win over consumers or to earn that reputation for being the house on the block that gives out the best candy.

A ghastly example of poor branding was McDonald’s Arch Deluxe burger debacle. You may recall the fast-food giant tried to introduce a new burger in 1996 in an attempt to appeal to adults’ more sophisticated palates. Or so they thought. The $100M marketing campaign flopped because adults said “boo” and never wanted a different burger in the first place.

When building an authentic, on-target brand, all campaigns, product launches, and other tactics should: 

  • Match your mission and values by communicating a clear purpose.
  • Meet your target audience’s needs, perceptions, and motivations.
  • Showcase what makes your brand unique and appealing.

Copywriting:  Tom Probst, Creative Director

A true creative professional is never afraid of input or constructive criticism. That said, there’s nothing scarier to a creative team than the phrase, “I ran this past my brother-in-law, teenage daughter, or other relative, and they think…”

We all tend to conflate ourselves with our target audience; the ability to step outside our own perspective and look at things from the point of view of the people who we’re trying to reach takes training, discipline, and practice (not to mention genuine market research).

To avoid scaring your creative teams, it helps to:

  • Avoid a sample size of one.
  • Remember that the target audience’s frame of reference, needs, preferences, and communication style may be different from your own.
  • Remain open to unexpected solutions—after all, that’s what good creative teams bring to the table.

Creative Production: Hayley Monsma, Production Artist

An important project can quickly become a tangled web if the original vision clashes with the implementation. Have you ever crafted a seemingly perfect ad only to discover the copy needs to work for an e-newsletter, a digital magazine, a billboard and a flyer? All requiring different sizes and specifications. This can be a chilling scenario for a production artist to navigate. To avoid this wild broomstick ride, here are a few foolproof tricks:

  • Incorporate buffer time in the production schedule. Every good production artist knows adding a cushion to the timeline will increase your chance of success.
  • Establish a clear vision. When you understand the goals and purpose of a project, it’s easier to stay on the right track.
  • Be consistent. Follow branding guidelines to use colors, images, logos, and fonts that increase a project’s visual appeal and fosters a stronger connection to the overall brand.

Digital/Website Development:  Donnie Potter, Vice President of Digital

Building a website can be a frightening undertaking since it involves multiple tasks, and is one of the primary ways that consumers engage with their customers and stakeholders. Your website shouldn’t have bugs or bats if repeat visits are the ultimate goal.

To avoid a Frankenstein approach, consider these important steps for success:

  • Establish clear goals and use cases.
  • Embark on a robust “discovery” phase to determine scope, timeline, and budgets.
  • Make the customer experience front and center via UX Research and Customer Journey Maps, Information Architecture (IA), and a strong UI design.
  • Integrate brand, content, and marketing strategies to maximize overall impact.

You’re not out of the dark woods yet, though. It’s essential to continuously monitor your site and evaluate key performance indicators so your audience remains engaged.

Public Relations:   Katie Fitzpatrick, Director of Content and Public Relations

Any PR practitioner will tell you the biggest nightmare in our profession is the unexpected crisis. In other words, a skeleton coming out of the graveyard. Consider Jet Blue’s colossal mistake, when, facing an 11-hour delay because of inclement weather, the airline kept nearly 1,000 people onboard planes at JFK airport, rather than letting them deplane. Passengers described the experience as “horrific.” At first, JetBlue defended its decision to keep people on the runway, but following a government debate about passengers’ rights, the company apologized and established its own “Passenger Bill of Rights.” The incident turned out to be grave for JetBlue—one it could have avoided had it followed the most basic tenets of crisis communications:

  • Respond immediately.
  • Be accountable and transparent (no ghosting).
  • Show empathy, care, and concern.
  • Take corrective action and do better going forward.

SEO/Email Marketing:  Tim Karlberg, Director of Digital Marketing

Few things in the world of digital marketing—and SEO in particular—are as haunting as realizing search engines can’t find your content. With rare exceptions, it’s the goal of every business to not only be found in Google, but to be the first listing of the search results.

I’ve come across a number of technical SEO blunders, but a select few were truly scary to discover. One that comes to mind was a household name consumer electronics brand whose eCommerce site was completely absent from Google’s index due to an alarming “noindex” tag.

Upon screaming with fright upon this discovery, I connected with the company’s CEO on LinkedIn to share the big red flag. When I explained the concern—no one had apparently noticed or brought it to his attention, he replied or trembled, “Holy smokes!”

What led to this spooky discovery of a missing eCommerce site was significant—and in the end, embarrassingly simple. A few lessons learned include:

Social Media:  Kendall Bird, Social Media Manager

There is perhaps no greater fear than committing a blunder on social media, where a typo, misplaced link or ill-advised joke can potentially taint a brand’s reputation. Many companies employ large teams to swiftly review and address bungled social media posts. However, all too often, I’ve seen cringe-worthy responses to errors in which the company comes off as insensitive and creating an even worse PR nightmare than the original blunder.

People aren’t the only ones adding to the terrifying problem, though. Social media bots that respond automatically to customers outside of business hours have been known to provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the brand at a time when no one is available to correct the mistake. Tips to avoid these shiver-worthy instances include:

  • Create a game plan for all customer service and brand response scenarios.
  • Respond to users on social media within 24 hours.
  • Be transparent in every response.
  • Provide helpful and empathetic responses.
  • Evaluate problematic issues as they happen.

Sometimes, it may feel like you want to scream during a tough project, but don’t fret. DKY has the experience and know-how to guide you safely through a scary marketing scenario that may be lurking around the corner – Halloween or not. To learn more about our tricks, please contact us.