New Packaging is a hit for FarmTech Brand

Six months nearly to the day as I write this, I began the task of developing a new brand for Link 4, a farm tech company that uses greenhouse sensors to track environmental data. This data is used by greenhouse growers of everything from blueberries to marijuana to flowers. Interestingly, the tech is also used to grow food indoors in cold weather climates such as Alaska. For Link 4, I developed a new brand, colors, logo, tagline and as you see here: packaging design for several of their most popular items.

As you can see, these are retail boxes being shipped to a new distributor on North Hollywood.

Three Tips for Better Public Relations Success

Every company wants more press, but not all of them properly earn it. As a public relations consultant, I never spam members of the press with wasteful pitches, impersonal requests, or blatant attempts to sell product through weak press releases. For these reasons, I have a great track record for getting genuine newsworthy stories published for my clients. Here are a few tips on better managing your company’s PR strategy:

Be Interesting: So many companies want more press than they deserve. The fact is, many businesses simply are not interesting enough to warrant attention from journalists. After all, the press is trying to serve readers with compelling content – we can’t be boring here. My advice is to look hard at what is truly compelling about your company and don’t use PR simply as a means to sell more product.

Google Alerts: Forget costly clippings services to measure your press reach. A free Google Alert account is all you need. With Google Alerts, you receive an email every time your company is mentioned on the web along with a link to the article. Easy.

Tell great stories: Journalists didn’t learn their craft so they can pitch your products and services to readers. Respect the fact that journalist are amazing storytellers. Be honest and open when sharing your story. Don’t be too self promotional. Don’t be afraid of admitting your flaws – every business has them. By doing this, you will find that journalist have a great respect for your business and will be more likely to write about you.

“Kisses” Video hits 375,000 views on Youtube

Produced with Chicklabs at Chapman University, IMMUNO GUM’s video recently hit 375,000 views on Youtube and is adding nearly a thousand views per day. The video was shot with hidden cameras and features two students offering samples of IMMUNO GUM® in exchange for a kiss. And as with any situation that tests social norms and pushes people’s boundaries, the reactions were priceless.

4 Tips for Marketing a Challenger Brand

Challenger brands have always existed, however, the label is new.

But “challengers” are more than just an underdog category of brands trying harder to topple their market leader.

Being a challenger brand is a markedly different approach to running a company. Like breakout brands, stalwart brands, startups and legacy brands, challenger brands must operate within prescribed constructs.

Labels be damned, let’s stop trying to put challengers in a box and take a closer look and how they can better position themselves for success in competitive markets. If you think you might be a challenger brand, consider these tips for your marketing plan:

Partner with like-minded challenger brands with similar goals

As a challenger brand, understand that you are not alone. While legacy brands may be threatened by co-op partnerships and alliances with smaller brands, partnerships are the currency of challenger brands.

For example, Company A is entering a national market on an advertising budget of $3 million dollars. This budget is small given the market leader is spending $18 million and had pre-paid media in all the right places through the end of the year – essentially blocking any competitors from entering the space. The media providers recognize the practice of exclusivity and will group ads into larger bundles and sell deeper into the calendar year for this benefit. Costs rise under demand and challenger brands are priced out of the market.

This may appear to be an un-winnable situation to the challengers. Despite this, it plays out every day in business.

However, when ad inventory becomes low and prices rise, new media providers enter the market to capitalize on the unspent ad dollars. This is where Company A can benefit. In this case, new media providers appear in the form of challenger brands, eager to take market share from the big publishers.

Suddenly, the $3 million ad budget finds an opportunity with a new publisher. As a challenger brand itself, the new publisher is trying to win market share over its competitor. It is motivated to impress it’s new advertising customer with its innovation and fiscal prowess, vowing to give greater value than the market leader. It is possible that the new publishers will give value greater than the sum of the small ad budget. Likewise, the new publisher enjoys the revenue and opportunity while the advertiser earns the benefits of higher than retail value by partnering with another challenger. The rising tides lift all boats.

Their weakness is your emphasis

Legacy brands often fail to watch their rearview mirror. The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Blockbuster Video failed to see Netflix coming. With challenger brands, it is imperative to market against the weaknesses of your counterparts.

Being a loud, disruptive voice about the problem you’re solving is key to winning market share from legacy brands in two ways: the volume of your marketing voice attracts attention to your brand from the press wanting to introduce new narratives and consumers fashioned as early adopters and brand advocates. You’re the shiny new object. But additionally, your voice is labeling the market leader as antiquated and forcing consumers to second guess their buying decisions and the “problems” they have chosen to live with.

Hire when it hurts

The costs of weeding through endless resumes and paying high recruiter fees can mean you endure without the necessary staff to run your business. Contractors, freelancers and the so-called gig economy can be helpful to challenger brands that emphasize one budget over another – perhaps pumping out ad dollars over hiring dollars.

Take advantage of this gig economy and invest in full-time employees when you need it most. Full-time employees are expensive to hire and even more expensive to lose. When you do make the decision to hire, invest in retention so that valuable information and training doesn’t leave when they do.

Spend money like it’s your own

In this thriving economy, it’s easy to forget how conservatively we ran our business just ten years ago. For challenger brands and the vendors and agencies you hire to help grow your business, it’s vital to spend smart. Hire vendors and agencies who share this ideal and vow to manage your money as if it were their own. Employ analytics to measure output and ROI, adhere to strict schedules and have controls in place that minimize loss. Reduce waste by running a minimal business that opts for digital over print, manufacture products with less packaging, conserve energy and water consumption; being eco-friendly can be cost effective too.

What are the biggest challenges website designers face today?

I recently typed-up my responses to this interview on new challenges facing website designers. I wanted to post it here, as well.

1. What are the biggest challenges website designers face today?
David Reeve: For small businesses, world market freelancers and DIY website-building technology has lowered the costs, lowered expectations and increased competition; quality construction, artistic integrity and lifetime support of a new website is rarely valued in this scenario. Larger corporations and digitally-savvy companies are more likely to buck this trend.

2. Which tools and/or strategies have you implemented in the past 12 months to best overcome these challenges?
DR: I overcome the challenge by bundling the website with other complimentary services. No, not just the obligatory SEO and pay-per-click but instead I offer content marketing, public relations, branding, plus investment and marketing strategy. This ensures that the website is a hub for a company’s marketing activities and business development goals.

3. What part of a website’s design do you feel is the most important for an enterprise’s success (e.g. navigation, font, call-to-actions, images, etc.), and why?
DR: Writing is most important, second to intuitive navigation. Companies often have a hard time explaining (with brevity) what they sell and how to buy it. Writing needs to be clear and free of jargon and ambiguity.

4. How do you spot a design trend from a design dud?
DR: A design dud opts for spectacle over simplicity. The duds tend to jam up browsers while they load their fancy videos and artwork while users search desperately for a menu nav.

5. Which website design trend would you like to see die, and why?
DR: Parallax design in WordPress. I’ve rarely find it attractive, the frame size is too flexible creating unexpected results. It’s become a cliche among WordPress designers.

6. How do you find a balance between equipping a website with all of the latest bells and whistles, yet not compromising its performance (i.e. speed)?
DR: All things in reasonable quantities. A good speed is a reasonable goal and your quality customers will wait an extra millisecond if they truly intend to spend money with you. Page load-bouncers were only window-shopping anyways.

7. What is your favorite design or development tool and why?
DR: WordPress and Adobe. I use mainstream, reliable tools so that my customers don’t feel my methods are niche or non-repeatable.

8. What can a client do to make your job as a designer easier?
DR: My ideal customer will collaborate, invest is using the website – not just building it, be responsible for providing content as needed, and read their analytics reports once in a while.

David Reeve is a freelance marketer, designer, and public relations consultant.
Visit www.eimmarketing.com

Google Shares My Latest Article on Web Analytics

I do a lot of ghost writing, which isn’t as mysterious as it sounds. Busy executives don’t always have the time to write their ideas into published articles for one reason or another. I’m able to collaborate with the executive and extrapolate their ideas and opinions and write in a voice similar to their own. Here’s an example of an article I did for EConsultancy in the UK. This was a very popular article, even getting some generous support from the almighty Google Analytics on their Twitter and Google + page – a great compliment indeed.

Marketing analytics: What Your Web Traffic Says About Your Business

In digital advertising, we have an uncommon ability to collect user data that’s superior to other forms of advertising data; particularly compared to what’s available in TV or print.

However, merely collecting the data can be overwhelming unless a marketing anthropologist can cut through the clutter and give meaning to what the data says about your business.

Here are some tips on how to give meaning to your website traffic or advertising response data.

Separate perception from reality

Often, a business’ perception of its customer is very different than the customer’s actual behavior. Fortunately, analytics can support or challenge your perceptions and help you build a profile of the customers that you attract.

For example, you can determine:

  • Geographic location – Pinpoint city, regions, states or country
  • Demographics and interests – Combine remarketing data with your site analytics to reveal age, gender, and special interests by category
  • Time of day: Do your users peak at certain times of day? What’s triggering this behavior?

Know if your traffic is real

Perhaps you’re seeing spikes of spam bot traffic hitting your site and generating false positives about your foreign audience.

High levels of traffic from Netherlands, Ghana, China, Russia and other faraway lands coupled with high bounce rates are likely an indication of bots hitting your site or gaming your analytics code to appear as a visitor, even if they’ve never been to your site.

The most common tactic occurring now is referral traffic sent to you from suspicious sites. Check your referral reports for names such as “Simple-Share-Buttons,” “Event-Tracking.com” and “Get-Free-Traffic.”

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What is the key to getting a good press photo?

Good PR often depends on your ability to regulate your image to the outside world. A fundamental of this effort is to get a simple press photo.

“Each key executive at your company should have three press photos,” says David Reeve of EIM Marketing & Public Relations.

Each of the three images should serve a different audience and format, he adds. An executive photo session can range in price from several hundred dollars to several thousand, but it’s not always necessary to pay top dollar. Search Craigslist for affordable photographers.

“It is important to have a casual photo, a business profile photo, and one that is unique or reflective of the company culture,” Reeve adds. “And there should be a mix of vertical and horizontal shots, so you are pre-pared to have your photo fill an equally sized space.”

Judging California Dreamin’ Entrepreneurship Business Model Competition

This year I will serve as a judge at the California Dreamin’ Entrepreneurship Business Model Competition, which will take place on April 22 and 23 at Chapman University. As an active supporter of the University’s Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and alumni at Chapman University, I am both honored and thrilled to provide feedback and take part in this event.

Invitations have been extended to other schools to send their best teams in order to participate. These schools have the flexibility to send whomever they would like to, so long as they send a team who are either current students or have graduated within the current academic year at the university.

These student teams will compete in real-world-simulated processes of starting a business and seeking start-up funding, while receiving feedback from the judges to better help them reach their goals. The Competition allows these teams to compete against their peers in hopes to win prize money, become eligible for equity investment, and to have the opportunity to get Angels, Venture Capitalists, and other investors interested in their business.

For more information, visit https://www.chapman.edu/research-and-institutions/leatherby-center/business-plan-competitions/Cali-dreaming-business-plan-competition/.

Some thoughts on Prezi and PowerPoint

You may be hearing about Prezi, a relatively new tool for creating presentations. Prezi was created in 2009 and claims to have 50 million global users producing 160 million Prezi’s. Though PowerPoint remains the go-to application for creating presentations, Prezi has some benefits worth exploring. Here are my thoughts on the pros, cons, and a few tips on when to choose Prezi over PowerPoint.

Prezi is for storytellers. It is similar to PowerPoint, but Prezi adds a visual “wow” factor that improves on PowerPoint’s sleepy reputation. In Prezi, designers are not limited by slides. Prezi has no borders. Designers can zoom in or out and fly through infinite outer space. Instead of pages, Prezi designers create frames around content, grouping words and images and assigning them an order. The format allows designers to manipulate the frame to enhance the story, often providing a cinematic style. Designers can span large frames of content or zoom in to reveal more detail. For example, a Park Ranger is giving a Prezi on a new hiking trail at a national park. The trail extends miles of twisting, turning terrain as it snakes around and up to the peak of a tall mountain. Exploring this trail is an ideal use for Prezi. The Park Ranger may begin the Prezi at the trailhead with frame one, a photo of the trailhead. With each progressive frame, the audience moves forward on the trail, darting left, then moving up to the right as the trail ascends the mountain. Along the way we stop to zoom in on images of exotic plants and pan wide landscape photos of the impressive views from a scenic ledge. Frames move up as we near the top of the mountain, and down as we return to the trailhead.

  • While the presentation is slick, designers will find new challenges in working in this medium as it is without structure. Whereas PowerPoint greets you with a blank slide – Prezi has nothing but empty space. You are truly creating from scratch and it can be intimidating.
  • When I design a Prezi, I will create it on my desktop Prezi application and then make it available via Prezi’s cloud. Sales reps, for example, can share a common login and access the Prezi with an Internet connection.
  • Prezi offers many templates for telling your story, but I always prefer the blank slate as a clean canvas. Templates are widely used and the content just doesn’t look all that unique.
  • Save your work often. I still find bugs in the young desktop version.
  • Prezi’s shape and image library is slim. Incorporate Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to add great artwork and images.
  • Prezi has an awesome application for doing Google image searching in-app, then adding them to your Prezi. No more dragging and dropping. Certainly many copyright issues with adding content found on the web, but the app sure is covenant.
  • Prezi takes about 5-10 hours to learn. Expertise comes with practice and knowledge of visual composition and storytelling.

A brief history of ad blocking shows it’s not a new problem

The history of ad blocking is a virtual time machine of America’s inventors and their entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s lineage may date back as far as 1928, inspired by two American cousins named Edward M. Knabish and Edwin J. Shoemaker, who partnered in a small furniture business located in Monroe, Michigan. They constructed a reclining, upholstered chair perfectly engineered to support the human body in a prone but sitting position. They described their new invention as “nature’s way of relaxing” and held a contest to give it a name. When coupled with a television, the “La-Z-Boy” recliner became a staple in American living rooms and getting up to change the channel during commercials became unlikely while nestled inside in the chair’s cozy, cocoon-like comfort.

Enter American inventor Robert Adler who was experimenting with a process that would enable remote control of a television using radio waves. His remote device, the “Space Command” used aluminum rods that vibrated when struck by tiny hammers, producing high-frequency tones that would be received by the television set, instructing it to change channels. The device was perfected in the 1960’s as Adler’s remote control was modified to allow ultrasonic signals to communicate complex commands to TV sets, enabling the operator of the remote to block ads by changing the channel during a commercial break – without leaving the comfort of their reclining chair.

But television, you are not alone. In the 1930’s Motorola’s AM radios were appearing in many vehicles.

The invention of the “transistor” lowered costs and made car radios so affordable, they were installed on 50m new cars by 1963.Deadly accidents skyrocketed over time as drivers would take their eyes off the road to change the radio station (perhaps to avoid commercials).

By the 1970s, mechanical preset buttons (likely inspired by Xerox’s early user interface machines) allowed drivers to not only change the radio station while safely watching the road, but it also gave listeners a quick solution to skipping ads. Today, if you’re not using commercial-free satellite radio, then you’re likely punching through presets when the ads come on.

It was in 1999 when the first Digital Video Recorders (DVR’s) arrived in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. TiVo and it’s chief rival ReplayTV not only changed how we watch television, but also the ease at which we skip ads. DirectTV eventually acquired ReplayTV while TiVo continued to evolve and thrive, even today. Viewers quickly learned that they could record a show and tune in to the live broadcast 15 minutes late, and by fast-forwarding through the commercials they would catch-up to the live broadcast by the end of the show, reducing a 30-minute sitcom to a lean 22 minutes. Appointment television made famous with NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday nights gave way to viewers recording everything and zipping right through the ads. Lawsuits by Fox and others followed as advertisers and networks challenged the “consumer’s right” to record shows and skip commercials. Legal means of preventing ad blockers were failing in court and new attempts to block advertisers were hitting the market fast and furious.

In 2004, the legal attempts to prevent the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry failed and millions of Americans were empowered to block telemarketing calls by simply registering their phone number on the “Do Not Call” website.

Mozilla – creators of the Firefox Web browser – later introduced its Do Not Track feature that blocked advertisers from profiling a user’s identity and browser history. Today’s browsers all offer standard features enabling users to surf the web in secret, or employ ad blockers – popular with about 16% of US Internet users according to a new report from Adobe/PageFair – that completely free mobile and desktop browsers from banner ads – literally eliminating them from view by preventing the browser from loading the ad.

In 2012, Satellite television provider Dish Network released its new Auto Hop DVR feature that would automatically skip commercials on programs recorded using its PrimeTime Anytime service. Third-party applications created by DVRMST Toolbox, ComSkip, and ShowAnalyzer use technology to locate commercial segments in a broadcast and save the time code as data, later utilized to identify and remove blocks of commercials from recorded video files.

These applications were compatible with DVR’s manufactured by Windows Media Player among others. And recently, TiVo reappears back on the ad blocking market with its new Bolt DVR that tags the start and end of commercials so that viewers can skip over them with the push of a single, convenient button.

In conclusion, history shows us that ad blocking innovation and consumer’s demand for it is nothing new. Panic over recent methods of digital ad blocking must be put in proper historical context and the consumer’s long-held desire to skip ads must be acknowledged. Despite this, we also understand that advertising provides a valuable service in shaping and informing consumer behavior, accelerating our economy, and enabling wide consumption of low-cost or free products – such as apps or music – where costs are deferred with advertisements. Even consumers would likely agree with these benefits or they can often opt to pay for content so they realize the benefit of what advertising subsidizes.

The key for the digital advertising industry remains the same: to challenge ourselves to serve better and more relevant ads to audiences and be mindful of their frustrations with ad clutter and its negative impact on the brands we serve.

Ad blocking is not the end of our industry. It’s simply an evolution point.

(Written by David Reeve/ EIM Marketing for Silverlight Digital and published by Econsultancy on January 13, 2016)