A 2015 retrospective.

December 26, 2015 / Branding, Sales/Marketing
branding retrospective

At this time of year, it’s customary for bloggers and other industry pundits to look back at trends in the business — and extrapolate what it all means for the future.

Well, it’s been quite a year at Partners & Harrison, with lots of new projects and the addition of high profile clients like American University.

In the branding business, every year brings its share of insights. Here’s what we saw in 2015.

1. Digital technology continues to shrink timelines — everyone seems to be working on speed dial. And in some cases, 24/7.

2. Websites and microsites are becoming increasingly visual and cinematic. Large, visceral photography and video have become the norm, with copy being kept to a minimum.

3. Packaging design is getting more creative (in terms of form factor) and visually appealing as more and more companies realize the importance of brand design in influencing consumers’ buying habits at the point of sale.

4. Corporate responsibility and citizenship seemed to dominate many campaigns thematically this year. Consumers want to know what companies stand for as much as what they sell. (This year’s Super Bowl contained a plethora of socially-conscious advertising. A few standouts were Coca Cola and Dove.)

5. Experiential marketing — the growing importance of brand experiences and their emotional component — remains a dominant trend. We truly have entered the “human era” of branding and marketing.

6. And of course, the upcoming presidential election is dominating all forms of media — social as well as traditional.

Well, that’s the year as we saw it. Here’s to new exciting trends and clients in 2016. It’s still a fun business — and one that’s constantly changing.

Photo:  Jim Hickcox (Creative Commons)


TV advertising still rules.

June 12, 2015 / Advertising, Sales/Marketing
TV watching

TV is still the most effective advertising medium. That’s the finding of a new study conducted by marketing-analytics company MarketShare. From 2009 to 2014, TV outperformed digital and offline channels in driving sales and new accounts for major advertisers.

“TV is the giant megaphone,” said Isaac Weber, MarketShare’s vice president of strategy. “When you want to get a message out, that’s still really the most powerful means to do it.”

One word of caution, though, especially for brands with smaller ad budgets: TV, while efficient in terms of results, is expensive to do right. And TV advertising with poor production values doesn’t do anybody any good.

If you have the money for a quality execution, TV advertising still rules. But you can’t do it on the cheap. (Don’t even try.)

Photo:  Eric Driggers (Creative Commons)


Micro-targeting is here to stay.

micro-targeting marketing

IBM is now in the micro-targeting business.

A year ago, it acquired Silverpop, an Atlanta-based company that automates digital marketing and uses customer profiles to define audiences on social, Web, email and mobile platforms.

And just recently Big Blue negotiated a deal with Facebook and The Weather Channel that will enable IBM clients to find look-alike audiences for their customer segments on Facebook for the sake of targeting prospective buyers — and zeroing in on consumers with the propensity to purchase specific items.

With the customer data IBM is acquiring on its cloud, marketers will know everything from customers’ previous purchasing histories (even which products they left abandoned in Web shopping carts) to the weather forecasts in their specific geographic locations.

We’ll be seeing “micro-targeting” to the nth degree: marketers like Nike and Adidas will be delivering customized shoe ads to customers based on what kinds of athletic footwear they prefer — and what climate they live in (and whether it will rain tomorrow).

According to Deepak Advani, general manager, IBM Commerce, this data will allow “consumer-product companies and retailers to quickly and easily gain deeper insight into what their customers expect and in turn provide them with compelling experiences that bridge the physical and virtual divide.”

Facebook will soon be joining IBM’s new Commerce THINK Lab initiative, billed as “a research and collaboration environment in which the companies will work directly with brands to accelerate development of new technologies designed to personalize customer experience. IBM researchers, Facebook experts, domain experts, designers and other partners will be available to work side-by-side with clients to identify specific areas of need and generate new solutions.”

Who knows where all this will lead — and just how “personalized” and micro targeted marketing will become?

Big data is having a big impact on our business. And we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Photo: Scooter Simpson (Creative Commons)

This year’s most admired companies.

March 11, 2015 / Branding, Sales/Marketing
Branding Companies

Fortune has just published its list of Most Admired Companies for 2015.

Not surprisingly, tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon top the list. (Berkshire Hathaway edged out Amazon for the #3 spot. Amazon made fourth place.)

Starbucks, Disney, Southwest Airlines, American Express, GE and Coca Cola make up the rest of the top 10.

The list is based on a survey in which top corporate executives, directors and analysts are asked to rate global companies in their respective industries based on a variety of criteria, including investment value and social responsibility.

As branding experts, we look closely at this list each year to determine trends and what they mean. Here are some interesting observations.

  • While McDonald’s is still in the top 50, it slid from #22 last year to #46 this year — testament to the turmoil that’s going on within the company as it figures out a direction to stem its loss in profits and market share. The company that’s taking some of the Golden Arches’ market share, Chipotle, made it to the top 50 list for the first time.
  • Target also had a precipitous decline – from #29 last year to #48, in large part to the major security breech that occurred last year.
  • Financial companies went up in rankings this year — with Wells Fargo, American Express and Goldman Sachs all moving up to the top 25.
  • CVS Health’s decision to give up selling tobacco products has apparently helped its reputation, as the company made the top 50 list for the first time.

It will be interesting to see if it stays there.

Photo:  Brandon Watts (Creative Commons)