Archive for Brand

Mike McDowell dot com is all mine!

I did it. I did it. I did it! I finally got mikemcdowell.com! And, yes, I am rejoicing with all the fervor and feelings of accomplishment as somebody who skillfully landed the parking spot in front on the grocery store. I realize that I didn’t do much to secure this domain, but I have been chasing it for EIGHT LONG YEARS. I checked in regularly, and as the expiration edged closer, I checked multiple times a day.

I am so happy right now. This is the best way I can express my joy:

 

Next step is, of course, to decide what the hell to do with my domain other than a silly redirect to this blog.

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Cheetos Setting a New Standard for URLs?

There was a point, years ago, that it became a standard practice to add your company’s URL to the final slide of your TV commercial. There’s been an evolution of how that URL is displayed…

http://www.visitmywebsite.com

http://www.visitmywebsite.com

visitmywebsite.com

Now check out how Cheetos has decided to change the game even more. What do you think? I kind of like it!

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20 Resume Tips in 20 Minutes

I was given 20 minutes to impart some resume wisdom upon the eager young learners in the Ad Club at the University of Nevada, Reno. So, I decided I’d give them 20 tips in 20 minutes. Here’s what I told them.

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The Effect of the FTC’s Testimonial Disclosure Rule Change

About a year ago, the FTC updated its guidelines on testimonials. I wrote a post about it on my other blog (for work) if you’d like to read that article. The highlights of the guideline updates were around transparency of results and testimonials. The updates included more guidelines around revealing any “material connection” between advertisers and endorsers. In other words, if the endorser received money or any other kind of payment for their endorsement, it needs to be disclosed.

This past week, I noticed the execution of these guidelines on a couple of TV commercials. Fairly interesting. This first one was the most interesting to me. It was an advertisement for a car (I don’t recall which one). The story line was essentially a couple talking about their future together and how this car was going to be a part of that future, etc. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is the disclaimer line: Individuals were remunerated. What the hell does that mean? I’m probably just a big dummy, but I didn’t know what that statement meant. And I figure most people don’t.

Remunerated (verb)
Pay (someone) for services rendered or work done

reimbursed, paid, testimonial, remunerate

Yeah, it basically means that person got paid to say what they said. This seems fair enough at first. But then it also makes me wonder if this was a “real testimonial” and the people were thanked and given some money, or if they were just paid actors reading lines, parading as “real people.” Either way, they were paid. But I can’t tell if this was an actual testimonial or not. I feel like I’m being duped.

Here’s the other one – an ad for Vonage – explaining that these people shared their stories in exchange for an opportunity to appear on a television commercial. I think the description of this disclaimer is far less furtive. I think it’s much more honest and I applaud Vonage for their transparency in respecting the new guidelines. Don’t you?

testimonial, reimbursed, advertisement

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Fraternity Social Media Policy

Note: this is not Sigma Phi Epsilon.

I spend a lot of time volunteering with college students – most of which is spent with my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. I just received communication from the national organization about representation on social media. The message was intended more for undergraduates than alumni (I think!), but I found it interesting enough to share. We are familiar with more and more workplaces developing social media policies to help protect their brand value. Believe it or not, fraternities (and sororities) are in the same boat. They have a brand to maintain, and with thousands of representatives of that brand all over the nation, it can be difficult to maintain. Especially when there is an interest to reject the “frat boy” stereotype of boozing and womanizing.

What makes it an added challenge is that we’re working with people age 18-22 (generally) who are in the habit of documenting their lives on social media such as Facebook. Posting a photo of you and your buddies hoisting up beer cans or the ubiquitous red Solo cup are badges of honor in a Facebook profile. This isn’t just a Greek Life thing, it’s a college student, high school student, young person thing. We have all seen these types of photos on Facebook. But, the dynamic changes when you’re representing an organization and not just yourself. It will be interesting to see if any national organizations impose a social media conduct policy with consequences for violations.

After all, these are brands built over hundreds of years. Keeping “incriminating” photos off of Facebook isn’t going to protect the brand (it’s made up of so many other factors), but the types of photos that are celebrated on Facebook tend to be the type that entrench Greeks in the negative stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong – these students are doing this to themselves. But they’re affecting a brand that’s larger than them – just like employees who carelessly post can have an affect on the company they work for/represent. We’ll see what happens over time as we deal with a population that’s even more and more entrenched in technology and social media and a habit of documenting their lives – good and bad.

Here is the friendly reminder to the undergrads of SigEp:

“In today’s world, everybody must learn to be careful about how they are portrayed on the internet, particularly on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  We must all be careful about privacy settings, and about what gets posted on a profile, group or fan page—whether public or private.  More and more employers are using these sites to look at potential employees every day.  University administrators are also using these sites to learn more about their students and campus.  As brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon, we should think about how we are portrayed on these websites, and how our actions reflect upon the Fraternity as a whole.

Be conscious of how your chapter brothers are using social media sites, individually and on chapter accounts.  Chapter members should not be identifying themselves as SigEps via usernames, titles, captions, clothing, etc. if they are participating in inappropriate or unlawful behavior, using illegal substances, or failing to live up to the Cardinal Principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love.”

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New Media and SEO at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit

As I posted previously, I had the honor of presenting at the annual Nevada Interactive Media Summit again this year. The Nevada Interactive Media Summit seeks to “bring together business owners, non-profit advocates, publishers, newsmakers, bloggers, podcasters, filmmakers, media, PR and advertising professionals and anyone else interested in interactive media from every corner of Nevada together for hands-on learning, rich discussions, opportunities to meet with local companies working in interactive media and plentiful networking opportunities.” I felt fortunate to be the only presenter to give two separate presentations – one on the New Media landscape and one on the strategy behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the second year that I’ve presented New Media 101, and it was just as thrilling for me this year as it was last year. I really love the opportunity to take these seemingly complex (and to some people, scary) concepts and bringing them back down to Earth where they belong. The SEO presentation was a first timer for me and while I was pleased with it, I’d like to further refine it, and bring some more examples and humor into it. The conference was well worth the price of admission for attendees ($25), and there were so many intelligent minds in one space, and so many new and exciting ideas that it made for a wonderful experience. Thank you to the Summit coordinators who invited me to present my ideas and knowledge.

I’ve embedded the two presentations below. If you’d like me to present either of these for your business or organization, please feel free to contact me.

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Les Schwab Does Good Business

I know that we all have different experiences with companies – sometimes good, sometimes bad. In fact, good brands want to make that experience as consistent as possible from person to person. On this post, I’d like to compliment Les Schwab for the experiences I’ve had with their company. For about five years now, I’ve been visiting Les Schwab for all of my tire needs (although, I recently discovered they do much more than tires well). They’ve earned my trust – and I believe that is paramount in any successful relationship (be it personal life or professional life). Les Schwab is one of the few companies I’ve encountered that I trust to not rip me off. I have a long history of sales experience – I understand how it works, how up-selling works and pushing goals to increase the average transaction price per customer. Businesses can get carried away with this sales mentality, and forget to value the relationship with the customer. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Les Schwab.

I can’t tell you how many times my wife or I have taken our cars to Les Schwab only to have them find ways to save us money, tell us that something would be unnecessary, or simply give us a service for free, thank us, and send us on our way. Are you kidding me? This from someone in the automotive industry – an industry notorious for ripping you off (come in to get a filter changed, and end up replacing your transmission). Now, Les Schwab could easily tell me I need to replace all my tires with the top-of-the-line performance tires. But, instead, they’ll let me know I only need to replace two tires, and then suggest a model that will perfect for my car and find a way to give me a 10% discount on them. Thanks. Just last week, I brought my car in because my brakes had been squealing. I asked them to inspect the brakes and replace them. They inspected the brakes, cleaned them up a little bit and then informed me that they looked great and I was good to go – free of charge. Many other automotive companies would have replaced my brakes anyway, even if they were perfectly fine – and they would at least charge me for the brake inspection.

So, kudos to you, Les Schwab. You value my trust, and you have earned it – and along with it, my continued business. You need to be recognized for that.

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How Good Are You at Spotting Fakes?

 

smile

photo by strollerdos (via Flickr)

I took a very interesting test recently in which I was shown video of 20 people smiling, and was asked to decipher if I was looking at a genuine smile or a fake smile. I got 17 out of 20 correct. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I think that we are all programmed with pretty good bullshit detectors. We can usually tell if somebody is lying to us, giving us a fake smile, or isn’t genuinely interested in us. This can be a client, a new acquaintance, a cashier, a potential love interest or a customer service agent. And we don’t need to see their faces to tell if someone truly cares or if they’re just going through the motions. It’s generally very difficult to glean tone via text alone, but it is easy to tell if a person, company or organization is “phoning it in” even in e-mail or social networks. Yes, it will take you longer to respond to people, and to post new information, but take that time to make it genuine. It may seem like you’re accomplishing a lot when you re-post the exact same information across a dozen different networks or to your entire e-mail database. But, I assure you, you are accomplishing less. We can tell you don’t care about us. We can tell you’re not treating us special. We can tell you’re giving us a fake smile. Take the time to be real and make us feel special.

By the way – TAKE THE TEST

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More on RSCVA Tagline

Hey all. Just a quick link to an article from the Reno Gazette Journal that talks about the RSCVA tagline that I wrote about last month. It shares some decent quotes/perspectives about the challenges of coming up with a good tagline, and a reminder that the tagline is only a small part of the branding. I also couldn’t agree more with the idea presented in the RGJ article that approval by a committee often leads to a watered-down, lame tagline, logo, brochure, TV ad, brand, whatever. Try to avoid making eye contact with the comments on the article – they’re not overly impressive.

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RSCVA Reveals Their Branding Campaign

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) revealed their branding campaign to their Board this morning for approval.

For the past year, the RSCVA has been conducting research to best understand their target drive and fly markets (mostly Bay Area/Sacramento/etc for the drive markets, and southern California for the fly markets). They identified a couple of segments of those markets that made the most sense to target with a campaign – those who hadn’t been to the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area before, and those who had been here before, but not for a while. Through their research, they discovered what we all pretty much already knew – these markets view the area as offering gambling exclusively. Astutely, the RSCVA recognizes that people will gamble once they’re here, but gambling alone is no longer enough to get them here.

For the past seven years (or so), the RSCVA has worked to position the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area as “America’s Adventure Place.” While the area does offer a remarkable number of outdoor and indoor adventures, it was apparently too much of a disconnect for people to rip them away from visions of blackjack and divorce. Ultimately, it didn’t help the decline in visitors to the area for the past 11 years now.

The new brand positioning was described as “refreshingly offbeat.” It’s referring to the idea that the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area is a little quirky, fun, unique and proudly unapologetic for being so. I think this brand positioning can work. When a small group of us were given a sneak peak at the positioning last week, I told Michael Thomas (Executive Director of Marketing) and Ellie Oppenheim (President/CEO) that I thought the positioning would resonate – it would just come down to execution. The positioning of being “refreshingly offbeat” is not untrue. I think we can all accept that this position accurately describes Reno/Sparks/Tahoe. And that’s what a brand needs to give it a fighting chance. It can’t be overly ambitious. It can’t be such a wide disconnect from what exists in people’s minds currently. A brand only exists in people’s hearts and minds. A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a tag line. A brand is composed of the images/thoughts/feelings that are conjured up in the hearts and minds of people when they interact with you/your brand. So, I applaud the RSCVA for understanding and really embracing the reality of one of the brand positions this area can really own. There are certainly others, but this is an absolutely attainable brand position that our region can own. But, again, it comes down to execution.

That being said, the RSCVA and their marketing partner (Mortar) presented some of the creative execution to the Board today to help them position Reno/Sparks/Tahoe as “refreshingly offbeat. Among the creative was a new logo for the area. Noticeably different than the previous logo, in that it graphically separates Reno and Tahoe. This was borne from research that the drive markets don’t buy in to the idea that Reno and Tahoe are one area. They view them as distinctly different. One of the people interviewed in RSCVA’s research said, “It’s not Reno-Tahoe any more than it’s SanFrancisco-Monterey.” Interestingly, the further you get away from Reno and Tahoe, the more people were apt to accept it as one region. In other words, folks in LosAngeles are cool with thinking of the area as Reno-Tahoe. So, the RSCVA didn’t want to abandon reference to Tahoe altogether, but needed to separate the two for the drive markets.

Old RSCVA Reno-Tahoe Logo

Old RSCVA Reno-Tahoe Logo

New RSCVA Reno Tahoe USA Logos

New RSCVA Reno Tahoe USA Logos

The new logo feels a bit retro for me, but I think it can grow on me. I don’t really love the “USA” part of the logo, though. I’m not sure why they felt that needed to be a part of the logo, but I’m hoping they had a good reason based in research.

Among the other creative execution revealed, was a few sample ads, and then the tag line of, “A Little West of Center.” Again, the tag line is not the brand, but it’s meant to serve as a memorable phrase that encompasses the brand positioning. I don’t adore the tag line, and the Board was pretty split on it, as well. In fact, the brand positioning was accepted by the Board, but they rejected the tag line, asking Mortar and the RSCVA to try again. Bummer. I’ve been in that position, where we excitedly present creative work to a Board, and some love it and others hate it. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with and how well the next round is received.

As I mentioned earlier, the success of this campaign will not be attributed to the logo and the tag line (the two things people put the most focus on), but rather the full execution of the brand campaign, which includes a number of integrated marketing communications components such as public relations, communication channel selection, engagement of locals (we ARE the brand in many ways), copywriting, using social media and word-of-mouth, and of course the infrastructure to come through on our brand promises of offering quirkiness and unique events. Stay tuned, folks. Oh, and visit Reno, Tahoe, USA : )

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