WORD-OF-MOUTH: THE BEST MARKETING TOOL

word of mouth

As marketers, we know it’s personal. There are so many tools brands can implement to boost sales, but none are as effective and highly trusted by consumers as recommendations from friends and family. As a brand, it may be hard to conceptualize how to get people talking and genuinely recommending your products. But if you can manage to make it happen, the payoff is big. Word-of-mouth marketing generates twice the sales of paid advertisements.

According to extensive consumer studies, word-of-mouth marketing is the most highly trusted and effective marketing tool. A staggering statistic, 75% of consumers do not trust ads while over 90% of consumers believe brand recommendations from friends. People are four times more likely to buy products when referred by friends.

How can brands facilitate the rise of something as organic as personal recommendations?

User-generated Content

Brands can align with user-generated content to connect to their market. User generated content comes directly from consumers—including positive information about brands and testimonials. This type of honest, organic content builds trust and gives marketers extra material for sharing. 86% of millennials trust this type of content as a good indicator of a brand. Campaigns that work particularly well for compiling user-generated content include viral hashtags and reposting consumer media praising the product or service.

Reviews and Testimonials

Like user-generated content, testimonials garner high levels of trust. 79% of consumers trust product/ service reviews and testimonials as much as they trust personal recommendations. On the brand side, adding ratings and reviews to a website can generate as much as 18% more sales. Companies like Amazon utilize this tool notably well. While showcasing positive reviews, companies must also be mindful of negative feedback. Responding proactively to negative review and testimonials with quick and thoughtful language is essential to getting ahead of any content that may harm your brand. Since reviews come so highly trusted, negative reviews are of equal importance and must not be ignored.

Incentive and Referrals

To elicit word-of-mouth marketing, brands often use an incentive or referral program to create new users. Offering customers a discount or free gift for sharing with friends works well for generating word-of-mouth referrals. Effective examples of this are credit card companies offering cash incentives for referrals and Planet Fitness’ points referral program. For the same reason people love giving gifts, happy customers want to share with their friends. Offering a reward in exchange proves incredibly effective for generating organic outreach.

Influencers

We already know the importance of influencers. They earned their name. In fact, the most valuable word-of-mouth recommendations come not from friends or family, but from influencers. 40% of people said they’ve purchased an item based off their recommendations. Win influencers over with exclusive free product trials or by mentioning them in your brand social content.

How are you using word-of-mouth marketing to build your brand power? Join us in the discussion and tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG.

TOP TRAVEL TRENDS

During a recent tourism conference in Lake Charles, our team learned some valuable information about travel trends. Here’s a snapshot of some of the trends we discussed:

Multi-Generational travel is THE top travel trend in 2018. Families are traveling together to share in vacation experiences with their children and grandchildren. These trips range from revisiting destinations that they visited previously but may also include inclusive experiences such as cruises and European destinations to mark significant milestones. Family members are great companions and parents often foot the bill for Gen Y/Z. This trend has been huge so far in 2018 and we predict it will continue to grow.

U.S. News & World Report names the Skip-Gen travel as THE trend to watch in 2018. This trend comes with plenty of benefits for each generation, including the one NOT on the trip. Baby boomer grandparents are taking the grandkids on vacation while mom and dad work or have a break from the kids. Since most baby boomers are either retired or may have acquired more vacation days these trips serve as an opportunity to bond and plan trips that create special memories. This allows millennial or Gen Y/Z parents to have their own vacation or allow them to work while the grandparents take the grandkids on a trip during a holiday break from school. Deciding on a destination that is the right fit for both grandparents and grandkids can be a bit tricky, but theme parks, guided tours, and cruises are popular choices as they provide planned activities, meals and lots of entertainment.

Business leisure travel, “bleisure” trend is on the rise. Simply put, this is when individuals traveling for business extend their trips by adding leisure nights extending their stay. According to research by Expedia/Luth Research in the “2018 Profile of the American Bleisure Traveler,” bleisure travelers add leisure to nearly half of their business trips within the U.S.  Forty-three percent of the bleisure travelers are attending conferences/conventions or attending client meetings. These bleisure travelers often consider the destination and research cities with great sightseeing locations.  Some of the activities bleisure travelers are looking to experience are beaches, restaurants, culture/museums, and weather (for those traveling from colder weather locales).

Are you marketing to any of these audiences? Join us in the discussion and tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG.

MANAGING FAKE NEWS IN THE REAL WORLD

As you may remember, in 2016, Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” as the word of the year, beating out noteworthy competitors such as “adulting,” “woke” and perhaps my personal favorite, “coulrophobia,” which refers to “the extreme or irrational fear of clowns.” So why, then, was “post-truth” 2016’s word of the year rather than one of its equally made-up-sounding opponents?

Well, for starters, the word is still incredibly timely, even two years later. We may or may not be living in a world where what people want to hear matters more than what’s actually true. Some of you may recognize this all-too-familiar disconnect when you come across what we as a collective have started referring to as “fake news,” or a type of yellow journalism that deliberately propagates misinformation and hoaxes in order to mislead and increase readership. But why would posting false information increase readership? Good question.

On the one hand, readership is already on the side of fake news with more than 80 percent of college students struggling to identify biased content from the facts. Basically, this means that nearly every college student surveyed may be reading fake news—at any given time—and not even know it.

On the other hand, the way we get our news is changing, and unfortunately, it’s changing on the side of fake news. According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of U.S. citizens ages 18-29 use social networking sites (like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to get a daily download of trends and top headlines, while 69 percent of those within the same demographic use the Internet in a broader sense to get their news. In this situation, the “Internet” can refer to anything from USA Today to The Onion (yikes).

But wait—while you’re falling back in your seat overtaken by shock and awe that anyone would think an article entitled “Bath & Body Works Now Offering Free Lotion Tastings” is real news—keep in mind that social media use among those with less than a bachelor’s degree increased to 69 percent in 2017. Those with lower education levels are especially vulnerable to the tricky and insidious nature of fake news, and what’s even worse? Those individuals are the top targets as well as the heaviest disseminators.

Before you get too comfortable up on your high horse, remember that we’re all susceptible to fake news. How many of us have clicked on a sensational headline at the bottom of a webpage or while scrolling through Facebook’s newsfeed just to see what all of the hub bub is about? We’re human beings – it’s in our nature to be curious. Articles that pique our interest in this way are known as “clickbait,” and while their headlines go viral quickly and may seem harmless (if not humorous), sometimes real lives are caught in the balance.

So, how can we escape the vicious cycle that is the fake “newsiverse” (2018’s word of the year, anyone? Oh, come on!)? As marketing, advertising and PR professionals, spotting and avoiding fake news is a necessary part of the job. The last thing you want to do is advise your retail client to offer free lotion tastings because The Onion said it’s trendy. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide, courtesy of the International Federation of Library Associates (IFLA), that depicts how to vet all news sources for accuracy and objectivity.

Have some of your own tips and experiences with fake news that you’d like to share? Tweet at us @DEVENEYMKTG or find us on Facebook here.

THE ART OF DELEGATING

Yes, there really is an art to delegating.

The very definition of delegating is “assigning the responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific duties.” It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, just the thought of delegating is stressful, and most people struggle with the idea of giving up control on a project. Just as in other aspects of business, there is a process and procedure you should use to help you delegate effectively.

Delegating is an opportunity to remove a project or task from your plate so that you can focus on other more pertinent tasks and improve your management skills. By assigning the task or project to another colleague, you are essentially giving them an opportunity to grow and further develop new skills, which helps build an engaged, efficient team.

Assessing Your Team

When considering projects/assignments to delegate, first you should consider your team. It is important to select a team member who has appropriate strengths and skills as well as capacity to handle the assignment. Other things to consider: Is this a one-time project or will it be a recurring task?  Does this team member have the time to dedicate to the task?

Assign and Empower

Once you have identified the team member, be sure to set up a kick-off meeting to discuss the project. Provide all background, discuss the roles and responsibilities and set expectations. Be sure to communicate the objectives, goals, budget and deadlines. Setting up a regular time to meet to check in on your team member’s progress is also a great way to stay in the loop and provide feedback without micromanaging.

Do’s & Don’ts of Delegating:

DO:

  • Share key priorities so your team knows what’s most important
  • Clarify expectations by communicating essential information about the project
  • Provide complete instructions
  • Give your team members the support they need to leverage YOU better
  • Be patient. Let others learn and grow
  • Be clear about your team’s level of authority
  • Check on progress
  • Show recognition

DON’T:

  • Expect people to read your mind
  • Give “drive-by” delegations
  • Underestimate the time it takes to do things
  • Micromanage
  • Underestimate your team’s capabilities
  • Get discouraged if your team asks you for advice
  • Look for perfection

 

A final piece of advice: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton

Do you have a proven method of delegating? Join us in the discussion and tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG

 

 

 

 

CONSUMER ACTIVISM: HOW TO PREPARE AND HOW TO RESPOND

In 2018, brands are witnessing a wave of a new consumer activism. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, since the beginning of 2016, one in five Americans has participated in some form of activist involvement. In all, 27% of American adults have taken part in two or more offline activities, while 18% (representing 24% of Internet users) have engaged in two or more activities online. And, many of them claim they plan on getting more active. Making sure your brand is properly prepared to engage with activists both proactively as well as reactively will be essential to navigating the activism landscape.

Activism Defined:

Activism can be understood as acting to affect social change and can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of forms. It is most often concerned with “changing the world” through social, political, economic or environmental efforts. Activism can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements.

Types of Activism:

  • Digital/Internet/Social Media
    • The use of electronic communication technologies such as social media, email, podcasts, etc. to enable faster and potentially more effective (far-reaching) transmission of oppositional beliefs by concerned citizens who may or may not be involved in a larger movement
  • Protests/Grassroots Movements
    • The protest is perhaps the oldest and most traditional form of activism
    • Individuals (who may or may not be part of the same community and/or organization) who coordinate and assemble a large-scale event bearing witness on behalf of a cause
    • Protesters may organize a protest as a way of making their opinions heard to influence public opinion or government policy, or they may undertake direct action to enact desired changes themselves
    • Can be non-violent and/or violent depending on the situation and can escalate from non-violent to violent depending on the circumstances
    • May take place in one designated location or could consist of physical movement i.e. a walk or march
  • Activist Organizations
    • The activism industry consists of organizations and individuals engaged in various forms of activism fighting at least one perceived injustice; often done full-time as part of the organization’s core business model
    • Often non-profit and/or non-governmental
    • Does not generally manufacture goods
    • May engage in lobbying, or attempting to influence decisions made by the federal government
    • Examples of Activist Organizations: PETA, Greenpeace, ACLU, Black Lives Matter, etc.

Profile of an Activist:

  • Usually involved in larger organization/movement
  • Engage in demonstrations, sit-ins, etc.
  • Act on what they believe to be true and/or what they hold as core values (i.e.: civil liberties, women’s rights, animal rights, etc.)

 

Proactive: Get Ahead of the Curve

First Steps

  • Identify issues that might attract activists’ attention
  • Assemble crisis management plan and team with members in specialty areas who have activism or similar experience
  • Develop specific crisis management plans for different types of possible activism crises
  • Select and train a credible spokesperson for the media
  • Consider conducting dry runs/test crises to make sure your plans will work

Do Your Research

  • Develop media relations plan, community relations plan and risk communications strategy
  • Appoint responsibility to appropriate members of staff who have relevant experience in crisis management (especially when it comes to activism)
  • Develop a written and verbal complaints procedure
  • Consider holding community events or engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility programs – reach out to the community if you think they may turn against you; don’t isolate your brand
  • Identify and keep in touch with the views of all activist groups that may prove a threat
  • Keep track of public opinion of the organization and relevant general issues (environment, animal rights, equal pay, racism, sexual assault, etc.)
  • Do not lose touch with breaking news and trending headlines – always be on top of what’s going on in the larger community that could affect your brand in some way

Avoid:

  • Don’t assume it won’t happen – anyone is vulnerable to a crisis, activism-related or not
  • Don’t play defense instead of offense
    • You may not always have the opportunity to expect the unexpected, but waiting to act until an activism-related crisis occurs is not the way to go unless there’s no other option
  • Don’t expect people/public opinion to be on your side – including employees
  • Don’t release messaging related to a potential crisis without consulting your crisis management team and/or legal counsel– risk of bringing unwanted negative attention to your brand
    • This goes for reactive crisis management as well

 

Reactive: Crisis Management

Protocol:

  • Identify and act quickly
  • Keep calm
  • Do not engage in further verbal or written communication, especially online
  • Be on high alert

Be discreet and cordial

Preparing for a Protest:

  • Identify and act quickly
  • Expect a video camera; this means they may come in groups of two or more

During a Protest:

  • Administrators should handle addressing the protesters, not staff
  • Ideally there is no video footage, but we should at least aim to keep the encounter as short as possible
  • Avoid protesters entering private property
    • Verbal phrases to communicate:
      • “We apologize, but no video camera recordings are allowed on our premises at this time.”
      • “Ma’am/Sir, you’re going to have to vacate the building.”
      • “Please adjourn to public property for your speech.”
    • Continue to not engage in further verbal communication

Avoid:

  • Do not engage in verbal conversation
  • Calmly repeat company policy
  • Do not stray from this script
  • Do not physically touch any of the protesters
  • Do not attempt to take posters or cameras away
  • Do not allow guests to verbally or physically engage

 After the Protest:

  • Do not further engage in conversation with guests about the occurrence
  • Apologize for the disruption
  • Ensure customer safety
  • Contact/update executives

Hard-hitting activist campaigns against big corporations have become part of the business landscape in 2018, but encountering activists doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience. Having a partner like DEVENEY to support your organization and devise a plan ensures that your best foot is forward when navigating the activism landscape.

Want to learn more? Join our conversation by tweeting us @DEVENEYMKTG.

 

GETTING TO KNOW GENERATION Z

As marketers, it’s crucial to continuously research and know our ever-evolving audiences. Our newest target audience? Generation Z.

But who exactly is Gen Z?

There is some debate on birth years, but most agree that Gen Z’ers are those individuals born after 1995/1996. They are 60 million strong, and will make up 40% of consumers by 2020.

Most importantly though, Gen Z’ers are not just an exaggerated version of Millennials – in fact, they are extremely different given the historical context they grew up in:

  • Gen Z’ers have been shaped by the recession and are prepared to work hard to create a stable future for themselves. They don’t remember a time when the economy was booming, so they are much more pragmatic and realistic than Millennials.
  • Additionally, they grew up believing that acceptance is the semi-norm and are generally more inclusive and tolerant than older generations. After all, they witnessed the election of the first black president and the legalization of gay marriage.
  • Gen Z’ers are global citizens. They actually interact with their global peers as the world continues to go online and geographical barriers shrink.
  • Technology-wise, Gen Z’ers are different because they are digital natives. They grew up surrounded by advancements in technology and don’t really remember a time when they did not have those tools. They see technology more as a tool than as an obsession. Technological innovation is not as exciting because they have come to expect it.

So, what does this mean for marketing?

Because Gen Z is such a unique audience cohort and will make up such a large portion of the market, it’s important to understand key aspects of their demo- and psychographics so that we may begin to shift how we communicate brands and ideas. Key takeaways include:

5 screens, 8 seconds: Because they’ve grown up in a world with access to information 24/7, Gen Z’ers have extremely small attention spans – 8 seconds to be exact. Even more, they are consistently plugged in to about 5 screens at a time.To account for this, make your content engaging and concise, and be sure to wow them (they expect it) – show value as quickly as possible.

Make sure your website is updated and works on mobile devices. They judge with their eyes first, and if one platform is lacking, they will notice and criticize you for it.

Tailor your marketing posts to each specific platform while keeping the overall message the same – it’s up to you to find the best way to communicate, and remember: each platform has a different purpose. Overall, Gen Z’ers are typically top users of platforms that allow them to choose who sees their content, and trends show that they prefer visual content over written word.

  • Instagram: conveying style and identity
  • Twitter: learning the news, real-time talk around trending events
  • Snapchat: share real moments in real time
  • Facebook: glean information, but tends to be viewed as an “over-sharing” platform (and thus its popularity among Gen Z is dying)
  • Another tip: Utilize online influencers to connect with the audience on a personal level. Gen Z’ers aren’t naïve and know influencers are paid to endorse products, but they still trust the individuals they follow on social media to make a conscious decision about the brands they work with.

Strong “BS” filters: Gen Z’ers have a very different relationship with brands and companies than their elders – they are less trusting and tend to have the strongest “BS” filter because they grew up having so much access to information so constantly. Overall, they tend to trust individuals more than institutions, so make sure to promote transparency and authenticity in everything your brand does.

  • Another tip: Utilize online influencers to connect with the audience on a personal level. Gen Z’ers aren’t naïve and know influencers are paid to endorse products, but they still trust the individuals they follow on social media to make a conscious decision about the brands they work with.

Empower them to change the world: Gen Z’ers aren’t as impressed by awards and industry jargon – they are motivated by companies that demonstrate a desire to make a positive impact on the world. They are very socially and politically active and want to be involved in the next movement for change. Don’t just talk about how your company helps others… inspire people to join you.

How has your brand shifted to target Generation Z? Tell @DEVENEYMKTG how you did it!

CURATING A CAREER PATH: MY SHADOW ASSOCIATE EXPERIENCE AT DEVENEY

As a New Orleans native and rising junior at the University of Southern California, I felt like I had experienced it all. From L.A. to LA, I have spent my college career in a persistent pursuit of determining what exactly my professional life was going to be. With internships that ran me through a multi-industry gauntlet (international Fashion PR Houses, celebrity stylists and social media startups), I had grown confident that I knew exactly what I wanted to do: visual branding.

This past month I had the opportunity to be join DEVENEY as a Shadow Associate, working with and learning from each of the departments – Digital, Creative/Advertising and PR.

First, I worked within the Digital team. I was blown away by the breadth of platforms, and both the amount and intricacy of platform usage itself. I was blown away by the breadth of platforms, and both the amount and intricacy of platform usage itself.

Second, I worked within the Creative team. I was tasked with gathering logos of companies that the Creative team was working on creating. They even trusted me with finding a stock image to be manipulated by the team for the main image for the quarterly report. Through hands on experience, I truly learned the creative process that goes into developing content.

Finally, I worked within the PR team, where I was brought into the immersive and fast paced world of crisis control. I learned about the importance, and delicate balance, of customer and client relations, as well as the multiple avenues through which brands maintain and craft their images and personalities.

At the end of each day, I found myself questioning more and more what exactly I had originally meant when I said that I was interested in visual branding. As consumers, everything that we see is a communicated message, intentional or not. To be able to curate that message is complicated, nuanced, empowering, and all together the industry of PR and Marketing. Every department approaches communicating information visually in its own way, whether it’s an enticing Instagram with the Digital Team, a strong logo with the Creative Team, or developing a strategic campaign with the PR Team.

Being a Shadow Associate at DEVENEY allowed me to immerse myself in an industry in which you can only learn through participation. I am able to leave this program with both a greater understanding of self and the expansive world that is visual branding. My only regret? That I didn’t apply to be a full Associate and Summer Scholar programs. If you have any interest in the advertising, digital, public relations and/or overall marketing field, make sure to apply by the end of July for consideration this fall. Taking charge of your career through gaining new experiences is truly the best way to curate it.

AR, VR and AI: USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO CREATE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Graphic demonstrating AR technology.

As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, it is important for us to learn the differences between new computer systems and the ways in which they can be used to capture value. All too often, businesses will adjust to and learn to implement only one kind of technology, just for another newer and preferred platform to come along and force them to start this process all over again. Marketers need to be consistently looking to the future and staying up to date on these innovations in order to determine the most practical applications for their companies.

There are three types of technology that we as marketers will be using more frequently (and much sooner than you may think):

  • Augmented Reality (AR) involves virtual enhancement of a real-world environment. AR systems identify existing objects and conditions, and then augment them with superimposed, computer-generated imagery.  AR includes technology like Snapchat filters, the Uber app and Pokémon Go.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) uses an interactive, artificial world to suspend doubt in the user. VR systems combine software and hardware to create some degree of immersion and sensory feedback. Most video games involve some level of VR immersion.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) adds adaptive learning and/or intelligence to computers so that performance is improved. Computers with AI capabilities can learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform some human-like tasks using data collection and storage. AI encompasses anything from smart speakers to self-driving cars.

But how do we use this information to create competitive advantage?

The increasing accessibility of information through social media—and internet usage in general—has opened the door for many companies looking to differentiate their offerings through personalization.

  • Augmenting Customer Realities: By tailoring your company’s products or services for use on AR equipped platforms, customers will be able to view your offering in their physical environment. Ikea’s “Ikea Place” app does this particularly well, allowing customers to preview furniture wherever they plan to place it in their homes.
  • Using the Past to Inform the Future: Data collected by retailers about customers’ historical information from past purchases can be used to create deeper engagement at home or in-store. Companies will be able to suggest and possibly even predict future purchase decisions with the use of AI.
  • Increasing Interest through Interaction: Consumers are becoming less and less interested by traditional advertising in mass markets. It is no longer enough for brands to include a prominent celebrity or an adorable animal in their ad. Advertisements through VR platforms will allow for seemingly real user-product interaction and will likely be more successful in influencing purchase decisions in the coming years.

How will your brand use these tools to capture value for your audience? Tell us how by tweeting us @DEVENEYMKTG

All You Need to Know About the GDPR

European Union General Data Protection Regulation graphic from Composity

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have likely heard about the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR. While this is a regulation specific to the European Union, there are potential implications that could impact businesses in the United States. As members of The WorldCom Group –  an international collection of PR and communications agencies – we are keenly aware that you don’t have to be in the European Union to be impacted by GDPR.

Some companies like Google have already rolled out changes to their privacy policy in advance of the GDPR going into effect May 25, 2018. Other companies like Verve have shuttered their operations in Europe because of it.

In any case, the implications could be minimal or major, depending on what your company is, how you collect and use data, and the audience you reach. If you’re anything like me, the EU’s GDPR was a bit of an unknown and while you may or may not be impacted by it, knowledge is power (right?).

Thanks to some cursory research, we have found this amazing infographic from Digiday outlining all the must-know details of the GDPR. And, instead of recreating the wheel we figured we’d just share it with you here. Enjoy!

GDPR Infographic from Digiday

Have something to add? Tweet at us @DEVENEYMKTG and let us know!