Debbie Laskey, MBA

Have you ever spent hours working on a document for work? That’s a silly question because most of us who recognize Microsoft software and SlideShare have spent countless hours working on executive briefs, lengthy project reports, presentation decks, and much, much more.

Normally, we give our work product to our supervisors or give our presentation to our teams and then move on to the next project. But on that rare occasion when someone suggests, “Why don’t you put that document online,” there may be severe ramifications that must be considered.

For those who call the legal profession home, the theme of this post will come as no surprise, but for others who are not lawyers, paralegals, or other legal support staff, it’s hard to know where the line is drawn when it comes to the enforcement of online copyright infringement.

Allow me to share a recent incident. While I receive regular Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts via email for my name, every so often, I conduct a Google search featuring my full name. While my name is not as common as John or Jane Smith, odd as it may seem, there are still other Debbie Laskey’s in the world.

However, since I am a guest blogger for 10 blogs and have an extensive digital footprint with profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, SlideShare, About.me, Quora, and others, this recent Google search yielded many pages of content that appropriately related to me. In fact, the first 10 pages of content correctly referred to me and my work.

But then something odd turned up in the Google search: There was an appearance of one of my presentations that I had posted to SlideShare (entitled Social Media Marketing 101), and it appeared on an unknown website. The entire document was mine – nothing had been changed. But my document was on someone else’s site, a site that promoted itself as “the premier online destination to start and grow small businesses.” The site further explained that it housed over 20 million documents. But, there had been no request for featuring my document. There had been no communication whatsoever from the site owner. And there was no link back to any of my websites.

This copyright infringement caused me great concern. I looked around the website for contact information and to see if there were any FAQs that addressed this issue. I found an email address and sent a request to immediately remove my document. A few days later, I received an email with a form to complete. “This form and reporting copyright infringement is to be used for purposes of requesting the removal of copyrighted content only because the person who posted it did not have the right to post the material.” Either the website posted my document or someone else submitted it – but in either case, I wanted it removed.

A few days later, I received another email indicating that my document had been removed from the website. But this entire experience has raised an important issue in our social era. How can we protect our digital assets? How can we protect our profile names, our digital designs and logos, our work product, etc.?

The reality is that, since there is so much information being added to the Internet every second, no one can really monitor every single appearance of our personal brands and corporate brands. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is, don’t place data online that would severely impact your brand or your business. Don’t place confidential data at risk. Don’t place logos or photos that are not approved for widespread use or specifically for media use. Don’t place videos on your site featuring your C-Suite leaders in interviews saying questionable things.

The Internet is a resource for doing business smarter and reaching existing and prospective customers, but don’t let it negatively impact your business by allowing your corporate brand assets to be infringed upon.

Debbie Laskey, MBA

Do you use Thanksgiving to thank your customers and, in the process, build your brand equity and awareness? If not, you’re missing a big opportunity.

With November in full swing, don’t make the mistake of focusing only on revenue from Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and after-Christmas sales. Instead, add a component to your marketing strategy that includes a nod to Thanksgiving, which will allow you to think about your customers and the overall customer experience you provide.

How often does your business communicate with your customers? Do you send weekly emails or monthly emails? Do you maintain a presence in social media? Do you update your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram pages on a daily basis? Do you interact with your customers on social networks with contests or sweepstakes? Do you engage with your customers and invite them to share product or service reviews? Do you text your customers? Do you have a mobile-accessible website? And lastly, how do you target new customers? It goes without saying that the messages you create and distribute to prospects should not be the same as those you create and distribute to existing customers.

With communication as priority one during this time of year, Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to thank your customers for doing business with you. You can send an email, a text message, or even an old-fashioned letter or card through the US postal service. (Imagine the impression your company will create since few people send holiday cards via snail mail – you will definitely stand out.)

Whatever mode you choose, take advantage of the time of year. Take advantage of everything positive that this time of year represents: gratitude, renewed friendships and business opportunities, happy get-togethers, and new beginnings.

Let your customers know that you are grateful for their business, that you appreciate their feedback, and that you look forward to providing them with even more products or services in 2014. Your outreach will be remembered – and your business will reap the benefits. Be the brand that thanks – not ignores – its customers.

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Debbie Laskey, MBA

By the time you read this post, hopefully the buzz surrounding Miley Cyrus and the Video Music Awards show will have evaporated into thin air. But there was another related story surrounding the event that generated a ton of buzz on Twitter.

On the day after the awards show, an editorial appeared on the The Onion’s website featuring the photo, name, and title of the managing editor of CNN.com. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite some inappropriate language that did not seem fitting for the managing editor’s position, it appeared that the post had been written by the person stated.

But later that afternoon, Meredith Artley, Managing Editor of CNN.com posted on Twitter:

August 26 – 2:46pm:

To clarify, I did not write this.  But I accept all compliments and deny all accusations. Tx for the page views.

August 26 – 3:01pm:

@socialnerdia @TheOnion I’m reading it as more of a joke than something to call the legal team about.

However, many readers were misled. The editorial could easily have been written by the Managing Editor of CNN.com because her name, photo, and title were prominently displayed at the top of the page. The content was detailed enough to understand the nuances of the CNN website, despite some unprofessional word choices.

But at the end of the day, what recourse did Ms. Artley have? Sure, the CNN legal team could have sued The Onion for defamation of character for both herself and the news site. But, would that have been the best use of financial resources for CNN? Would that have looked bad for CNN? Would there have been a conflict of interest if one journalism entity sues another for freedom of speech? And how many celebrities do you know who have sued the tabloids for defamation? Most lawsuits are long and drawn out, difficult to prove and even harder to win, and let’s not forget, very expensive. There have been famous defamation lawsuits filed by Carol Burnett, Kate Winslet, James Franco, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and Oprah.

But, let’s consider the little guy – you and me. What would we do if a similar situation happened to us? How can we make sure that someone out there in Internet-land doesn’t assume our identities and upload inappropriate posts with our names?

Do we need some form of biometrics to upload content to the Internet? Is that the wave of the future to protect against these types of situations? What do you think?

Debbie Laskey, MBA

In today’s crowded marketplace, how do brands stand out? How do they get as much positive brand awareness and exposure as possible without spending more than their marketing budgets allow? In addition to providing excellent customer service and creating amazing customer experiences, one way is to add co-branding to the marketing mix.

According to Wikipedia, “Co-branding, also called brand partnership, is when two companies form an alliance to work together, creating marketing synergy. It is an arrangement that associates a single product or service with more than one brand name, or otherwise associates a product with someone other than the principal producer. The typical co-branding agreement involves two or more companies acting in cooperation to associate any of various logos, color schemes, or brand identifiers to a specific product that is contractually designated for this purpose. The object for this is to combine the strength of two brands, in order to increase the premium consumers are willing to pay, make the product or service more resistant to copying by private label manufacturers, or to combine the different perceived properties associated with these brands with a single product.”

Here are five examples of effective co-branding:

[1] Intel Inside: During the 1990’s, Intel provided processors for computer manufacturers’ machines in return for endorsements by the manufacturers with a sticker that read “Intel Inside”

[2] Nike and Apple: The Nike+ chip is embedded in its running shoes, and Apple promotes the app in its app store

[3] Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld: As the official airline of SeaWord, Southwest features Shamu on three of its planes

[4] Yum Brands: Two of this company’s restaurants are often built side-by-side: Taco Bell and KFC or Pizza Hut and Wingstreet

[5] Chiquita Bananas and Despicable Me 2: As part of the movie, small characters called Minions developed a love for bananas, thus, the resulting partnership – check out this great website.

While both brands in a co-branding arrangement or partnership can benefit from joint publicity campaigns and positive word-of-mouth marketing, there can also be downsides. If one brand experiences a crisis, the negative events or negative publicity can damage the second brand – even if it was not involved directly. This is why it is critical to carefully evaluate the goals and objectives for a co-branding partnership in advance.

So, would co-branding be an effective method to increase customer loyalty for your brand? Chime in and share your co-branding experiences.

For more examples, check out my Co-Branding Board on Pinterest.

Debbie Laskey, MBA

If you’re a marketer, you probably spend a great deal of your day checking Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Depending on your industry, you may also spend time on YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, and any number of other peripheral sites. But did you know that Twitter can be your best friend in the social media milieu if you’re a brand marketer?

Here are the top five reasons why you need to be part of the Twitterverse:

[1] Keep up-to-date on marketing, branding, advertising, and social media news.

[2] Keep up-to-date on your specific industry news as well as competitors.

[3] Learn from experts in your industry – many tweet regular updates.

[4] Learn about and resolve customer issues/problems/complaints – in real time.

[5] Participate and host Twitter Chats.

Here is a list of ten Twitter chats that you may wish to participate in:

[1] #CXO: customer experience chat – takes place Monday 12noon ET/9am PT.

[2] #MMchat (Marketer Monday): takes place Monday 8pm ET/5pm PT.

[3] #CustServ (Chat): takes place Tuesday 9pm ET/6pm PT.

[4] #MktgActionChat: takes place last Tuesday of the month 9pm ET/6pm PT.

[5] #brandchat: takes place Wednesday 11am ET/8am PT.

[6] #smchat: Social Media – takes place Wednesday 1pm ET/10am PT.

[7] #MobileChat: takes place Wednesday 10pm ET/7pm PT.

[8] #HBRchat: Harvard Business Review – takes place Thursday 1pm ET/10am PT.

[9] #mediachat: takes place Thursday 10pm ET/7pm PT.

[10] #blogchat: takes place Sunday 8pm ET/5pm PT.

So, how should you spend your time on Twitter? Plan your time strategically:

[1] Develop a Twitter plan – include goals for engagement, a calendar for content, and a schedule for time commitments.

[2] Craft your brand’s and/or company’s official voice – depending on industry, this may be formal, informal, or conversational.

[3] Decide who will tweet on behalf of your company and use initials so that followers will know who is tweeting (the initials should clearly correspond to full names in the “About Section”).

[4] Engage your audience or followers – ask questions, offer coupons, use polls, etc. – and respond to each person individually if possible.

[5] Decide how you will handle customer complaints – and be consistent.

Above all, be true to your brand by being consistent. Don’t tweet content that you wouldn’t include in your annual report or share on your company’s blog or website. Remember, your Twitter account may be part of the social media landscape, but it’s just as much a reflection of your brand as any other piece of the marketing pie.

But because Twitter exists in real time, your reach can be, and is, immediate – which sets this tool apart from all of your other marketing efforts. Use this difference to your advantage.

Debbie Laskey, MBA

There has already been too much written, rewritten, and discussed about the funny vs. annoying vs. heartwarming ads, the surprising power outage and why it happened, and the close score of Sunday’s Super Bowl, so don’t worry. I’m not going to focus this post on any of that. Instead, I have a question to ask: Which brand stood apart from all the rest, and why?

Before you throw out Coca-Cola, Budweiser, GoDaddy, Oreo, Jeep, or any of the other brands, I invite you to consider Hyundai. Initially known as a throw-away car, Hyundai introduced an industry first more than a decade ago: the 10-years or 100,000-mile power-train (engine and transmission) warranty (whichever comes first). By comparison, other brands offer 5-years/60,000 miles or even 3-years/36,000 miles. Most automobile manufacturers realize that they must consider similar warranties to remain competitive – because customers expect a lengthy warranty. The Hyundai brand attracted buyers as the company evolved with a focus on quality. The automotive press began to recognize Hyundai, and people admitted to owning its vehicles. In fact, today’s Hyundai vehicles include interior features and high-performance engines that rival high-end European vehicles.

So, therefore, it’s really not that surprising that Hyundai wants exposure to share its brand evolution story. And where else can a few well-placed ads be seen by so many eyeballs? Yes, that’s correct, by being a sponsor of a single day event watched by over 100 million viewers around the world.

What would you do differently if you were in charge of Hyundai’s marketing budget?

By Debbie Laskey , MBA

Did you see the sequels for Rocky, Star Wars, or Harry Potter? If you did, then you understand the concept of a movie sequel. Some characters are the same, and some plot lines continue, but above all, the brands remain the same. Directors and producers spend millions to make sure that the movie brands remain consistent for the viewing audience.

Recently, what I named, THE GAP LOGO – THE SEQUEL, took place. Thanks to Steve Baird and others here on DuetsBlog, some interesting viewpoints were shared. But, as an alum of UC-Berkeley and a scholarship interviewer for prospective students for many years as a member of the UC Alumni Association, I jumped at the chance to weigh in on this issue when Steve graciously offered me a trip to the DuetsBlog podium.

There seems to be something afloat these days when it comes to brand identity and corporate identity. Whether we can blame social media or tiny marketing budgets, the bottom line is that businesses as well as non-profits are trying to reinvent themselves without spending the necessary time to conduct marketing audits or brand audits. Therefore, we see haphazard marketing and too-many-to-count fragmented brands. These results confuse customers, prospective customers, and employees.

You may recall some redesigned logos that were unveiled during 2012. Twitter launched a new logo without its company name, just the blue bird. Then there were JC Penney, Wendy’s, eBay, and Microsoft. Logos are a piece of the marketing pie that allows a brand to form a relationship with consumers and customers. Consider the Nike swoosh or the Coca-Cola script – these logos reinforce the brand promise and are instantly recognizable.

Now, let’s return to the issue at hand: the proposed new logo for the University of California (UC), the public university system of the state of California that encompasses ten campuses: Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Davis, San Diego, Irvine, Santa Cruz, and Merced. Most, if not all, alums, students, and faculty indicate which campus they are affiliated with. The overarching “UC includes more than 220,000 students and more than 170,000 faculty and staff, with more than 1.5 million alumni living and working around the world. Starting in September 2012, UC introduced a new logo and identity. No design credit given. And no specifications shared as to how, or if at all, this logo affects the unique logos of each of the ten campuses.” However, the news hit the mainstream media in December.

While many asked, what were they thinking, here are my two cents. The original logo that included a book with the tagline, “Let there be light,” also included the year the university system began: 1868. How many brands include a year in their logo? This is why that element is important. The book and tagline represent education as well as the value of aspiring to learn more. The new proposed logo was blue with a yellow C for California. To be honest, I think the C was for cheap, since the logo looked cheap and couldn’t have cost much to design.

Anyhow, since we live in the era of instant communication, thanks to social media, everyone saw the new logo. Harken back to the logo fiasco when The Gap launched its logo two years ago: people were upset, but it took one week for the company to listen to all the comments in social media outlets to realize that they had to backtrack and revert to their original logo.

However, within just 24 hours of the announcement of the new UC logo, the UC Regents (the university’s leadership) realized that a mistake had been made and the original UC logo must return. Facebook was instrumental because a page sprung up immediately entitled “Stop the UC Logo Change,” and thousands of people “liked” the page and linked to the website where they could “sign a petition” to voice their aversion with the new logo. 50,000 signed the petition via change.org. What an uproar (pun intentional, since the Golden Bear is the mascot of Cal-Berkeley, and the Bruin is the mascot of UCLA)!

As a marketing professional, I believe these were unanswered questions:

  • What does the new logo tell customers/stakeholders?
  • How is the new logo’s story different from the old logo’s story?
  • How does the new logo fit with the university’s culture and mission statement?

In the words of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom to the President of UC: “Perhaps now is the time to return to the use of the old logo and allow the University community a cooling off period to concentrate on the long-term health of the University. Instead of being creative with the UC logo, we should be searching for creative solutions for funding the University of California.”

Bottom line, the proposed new logo was introduced without any input from the UC alumni, student, and faculty community. It came out of left field. The fact that it was nothing like the original and lacked any continuity with the original branding was at the core of the uproar. Not to mention, no one, not an alum, current student, faculty member, or prospective student would want to associate himself or herself with that new logo. Go Bears!

A final note: check out this video that attempted to explain the new logo, but failed miserably.

So, last Friday we covered this story: Critics Flush New University of California Logo.

Now, we can report that the next morning, the Los Angeles Times wrote this story: Maligned UC Logo Shelved; “Time to Move On,” Officials Say.

Putting aside any possible questions about cause and effect, is there a difference between flushing a logo and shelving it, just wondering?

In any event, stay tuned, one of our distinguished guest bloggers — Debbie Laskey — will address the social media aspects of this decision after the New Year.

By Debbie Laskey, MBA

Today is Cyber Monday. If you sell farm equipment or airplane engines, you probably don’t care. But if you’re like most of us and you survived Black Friday, then you probably care.

According to Wikipedia, Cyber Monday is “the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, created by companies to persuade people to shop online. The term made its debut on November 28, 2005, in a Shop.org press release entitled “‘Cyber Monday Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year”… [In the years since], Cyber Monday has also become an international marketing term used by online retailers in Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, and Chile.”

Often, people use Cyber Monday to comparison shop, find great deals, learn about new and exciting things on websites they often visit, and take advantage of wish lists they have been adding to all year long.

So, to take advantage of Cyber Monday, did you create specials for the day? Did you send promotional emails in advance? Did you create special landing pages just for Cyber Monday?

Did you join with vendors or other strategic partners in order to reach the as many consumers or customers as possible? But above all, did you make any changes to your brand to appeal to customers in a unique or different way?

Does your brand mean the same thing on the days following Thanksgiving leading up to the December holidays as it means every other day of the year?

But take note, if you change your brand by partnering with lower quality vendors, you are damaging your brand. If you simply want to sell more units, your brand equity may suffer. And once the damage occurs in the minds of your customers, you may not regain lost market share or devoted brand advocates.

And what about customer service? Do you have enough staff to handle the increase in business either by phone or online chats on Cyber Monday? Don’t allow the surge in business to become an excuse to sacrifice service – a less-than-satisfactory customer experience could negatively affect your brand for an unknown amount of time.

Bottom line, don’t get greedy and focus on the possibility of huge sales from one day. Instead, incorporate a strategy for Cyber Monday into your overall annual marketing plan and invite your team to participate in the implementation of the day’s strategy.

Debbie Laskey, MBA

No matter what you sell, apples, office furniture, or airplane engines, it’s a good idea to regularly check if your marketing campaigns are aligned with your target customers and your overall brand message.

In the words of Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, “A brand is a living entity. It is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

Therefore, in the spirit of David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists, here are my top ten tips or strategies for effective brand marketing.

[1] Clearly and simply explain your brand promise in your employee handbook – most employees won’t visit your website or read your brochures.

[2] Define your brand and what it represents to customers and stakeholders – and allow your brand’s unique personality to stand out among the competition.

[3] Create a company name that is memorable as well as easy to pronounce and spell.

[4] If you include a tagline with your company name or logo, make sure that it adds value and doesn’t just repeat the business name or initials.

[5] Create a style guide that explains how to reproduce your logo (color, size, font, etc.).

[6] Ensure that all your marketing, advertising, website, press releases, logos, signage, corporate communications, etc., convey the same message.

[7] Determine your competitive advantage – what makes your product or service unique and makes it stand out from others in your industry.

[8] Think very carefully before launching brand extensions – they must fit with the overall brand and not cause confusion – they could unintentionally result in loss of market share.

[9] Social media may be a useful tool for your company or brand to tell a story and participate in conversations.

[10] Always remember, all of your employees are brand advocates whether they work as official members of the marketing department or not – therefore, reinforce the brand’s key attributes by educating all employees and spend the time to create a positive culture where employees are recognized and rewarded so that they will become enthusiastic brand advocates.

If you spend the time to implement these ten strategies, your workplace will be a great place to work, your employees will be amazingly convincing brand advocates, and your brand will be an industry leader.