Tag Archives: marketing

Is Your Website Outdated?

18 Oct

Remember when this snazzy new thing called the ‘Internet’ came out?

I do. I was around 10 years old when I started crawling through the interwebs. I remember setting up personal websites, feeding my Neopets, and discussing nonsense on MSN Messenger.

Remember those bulky computers?

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Whenever I get nostalgic for the early 90’s, I remember this and get over it.

How about those websites we used to visit? We would be greeted by upbeat music, flash animation, and a big banner that read, “Thanks for visiting my website! Sign my guestbook.” We were all excited about the Internet. It was a big deal. Now, fast forward almost two decades later, we’ve gotten spoiled. We are used to crisp designs with succinct content. We are used to getting what we want, when we want it.

And why shouldn’t we be? We’re rapidly advancing our technology. We’ve already got smart technology, touchscreens, wireless devices, and computers in our pockets. So why then, do outdated websites still creep among us?

Just so we’re clear, here’s my definition of an outdated website:

  • Busy background (i.e. anything that’s not a solid colour)
  • Flashing animations (this should be a crime)
  • A million unrelated things sharing a single page. Please, spare us all and create separate pages for content. Don’t be lazy!
  • Hard to read font colours and styles. In fact, the biggest offenders are yellow and red on anything besides black
  • Comic Sans. I have a grudge against Comic Sans. In any context
  • Different font styles on a single page. This is inconsistent, unprofessional looking, and very distracting
  • Music that is startling enough to give your visitors a heart attack
  • Poor grammar
  • Colour disharmony (i.e. between font and background)

Here’s a very funny example of an outdated website, created specifically for the purpose of informing others.

I’m a Generation Y young adult who grew up on technology. For the last 10 years, I’ve been on the internet almost every day (how many pop-up ads is that?!). I also grew up consuming advertisements on T.V. I’m a critical consumer because I grew up bathed in ads, to the point where I’ve learned to block them out. Like other critical Generation Y and Z consumers who grew up surrounded by technology, I have standards.

Last week, I was interested in working for a particular multinational company. I went on their website to browse and apply for positions. Their website was outdated. It looked like it was created in 2002, and had not been touched since. I was ambushed by tons of unrelated content splashed across a busy webpage. Although I was deterred, I proceeded anyways. After navigating through an outdated career portal, I gave up and exited the window. The outdated website with the user unfriendly design was not only a waste of time, but it came across as extremely unprofessional.

Whenever I find myself on a company’s outdated website, I hit the backspace almost immediately. For one, as a Generation Y consumer, I am used to getting information quickly. In fact, I expect it. A busy webpage with a million unrelated things on it is a major turn off. Browsing through it is simply a waste of time. For two, I assume that the company is no longer active, and unaware that their website is still up. And for three, flash animation and (god forbid) startling music, are obnoxious.

The most important thing about outdated websites is that a single page has a million unrelated things on it. This is distracting, intimidating, and ruins the user experience. Your website should be very easy to navigate through. Related things should be clustered together and easy to find. Even more importantly, your website should be constantly updated. Or, at least appear to be constantly updated. Consumers (Generation Y in particular) are impatient. Don’t be cheap and don’t be lazy. Keep your content organized and easy to find. Your customers will thank you.

There you have it. Honest feedback from a critical (and possibly numb to advertising) Generation Y consumer.

Have you ever come across an outdated website? Did it affect your perception of the company?

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The Most Interesting Man in the World

13 Sep

Police often question him, just because they find him interesting.

His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.

You can see his charisma from space.

Respected archaeologists fight over his discarded apple cores.

He is the Most Interesting Man in the World.

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This is, hands-down, my most favourite commercial. My ears perk up when I hear the smooth velvety narration of Dos Equis commercials. Apparently, I’m not alone. 

This is a pretty big deal, considering I dislike most advertisements. Commercials are usually annoying. Some companies promote their product by throwing together an annoying jingle (that sadly, gets stuck in your head eventually). Others try to be funny by making fun of a dumb character. The most played out theme is a smart wife/dumb husband combo for household products.

Dos Equis is different. Not only are their commercials actually enjoyable, but their commercials are simple, original, and reinforce their brand. They truly stand out in a sea of beer companies and countless advertising campaigns.

Other beer advertising campaigns try to associate good times with their beer. They show you fun parties. And then they show you someone drinking their beer at that fun party! Did I mention there are lots of girls at this party? Aha! So if you buy that beer and throw a party, you’ll have a great time. Go make a run for the beer store. I’ll wait.

Dos Equis is different. Their ads are fun to listen to. I bet they’re even more fun to make. Their marketing team took a fad in popular culture (ahem, Chuck Norris) and gave birth to The Most Interesting Man in the World. What are Chuck Norris jokes? Chuck Norris jokes are one-liners about something comically impossible. Something that defies the rules of logic. Or something downright ridiculous. Chuck Norris jokes are very popular, especially among people in their 20’s. Here are a few of my favourites:

Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories.

Chuck Norris died 20 years ago. Death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell him yet.

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

You get the picture. These jokes are very similar to the Most Interesting Man in the World facts. So why does this matter? Chuck Norris is a famous actor and martial artist. He has a reputation for being tough and masculine. What man, or boy, wouldn’t want to be like him?

The Most Interesting Man in the World is well, the most interesting man in the world. Again, who wouldn’t want to be like him? Even though we know he doesn’t exist, we secretly look up to him. He’s a rare, sought-after human being. He’s a one-of-a-kind celebrity. This is someone who lives life vicariously, something that very few of us are able to do. He’s a smooth-talker that has a way with the ladies. He’s charming and funny. The perfect dinner guest. The perfect date. His life is more rich and fulfilling than ours.

He also drinks Dos Equis beer.

This brand is effective because it targets the main market for beer. Men. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young or middle-aged man. You are intrigued by the Most Interesting Man, and you want to be like him. Just a little funnier. Just a little more handsome. Just a little more worldly. Just a little smarter. Just a little more popular and well-liked. And by drinking Dos Equis beer, you connect to that brand. If you don’t feel like the Most Interesting Man, you’re at least connecting to him. Like he’s a buddy and you have the privilege of knowing him. He’s not there, but you’re enjoying something that he enjoys.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

What do you think of Dos Equis commercials?

McDonald’s Grows Up

10 Aug

Today’s post is about McDonalds’ successful re-branding strategy.

McDonald’s is one of the largest, most successful, and most well-known franchises in the world. Their name and logo (oh, those symbolic golden arches) are as recognizable in the U.S. as in Russia.

The “every day” McDonald’s experience

McDonald’s has a kind of nostalgia. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. You’re a kid in the 90’s. Your family takes you to McDonald’s for lunch one day. You scarf down your Happy Meal and play with the toy. You crawl around the brightly coloured play-place with your friends. It’s just another Tuesday afternoon. But, for you, it’s a special Tuesday afternoon because you got to go to McDonald’s. You’ve shared this moment with your parents. Your friends. Your grandparents. And your neighbours. McDonald’s has a special spot in your childhood.

Does this look familiar?

As you got older, McDonald’s became your go-to spot for a cheap and quick lunch. It wasn’t special anymore. Maybe it even became a part of your regular routine.

Now try to remember a McDonald’s commercial you saw recently. Did you see happy people doing regular, everyday things? Maybe they were enjoying a coffee with friends. Or indulging in a breakfast sandwich alone. Do these sound like things you do?

Yes, they do. And McDonald’s knows that. Their commercials all run on the same philosophy: let’s communicate warmth and a slice of real, everyday life. They even make an effort to stay culturally relevant. Why? Because they need to connect to you. If you see people doing regular things that you do, you’re more likely to connect to them. Oh, and consume McDonald’s next time you’re hungry or in the mood for a coffee. Have you noticed the themes in their commercials? There’s always something season-related. If it’s winter, people are treating themselves to a cup of hot coffee or tea. They’re indulging. They’re cozy. It’s winter. It’s cold. Everyone wants to cozy up to a hot drink. Don’t you?

A recent addition to the McDonald’s menu

So how is McDonald’s rebranding itself? They’re trying to be more health-conscious. They’ve put nutritional information on their website. They introduced leafy salads into their menu. They swear they’re using real beef in their burgers. They’re also trying to be more transparent. McDonald’s is a big company. They’re trying to be honest and close to their consumers.

In this video, a Toronto McDonald’s takes us behind-the-scenes of a Big Mac photoshoot. A lot of work goes into these photoshoots. McDonald’s wants everyone to know that they only use McDonald’s ingredients in prepping the Big Mac for the shoot. What you see is what you get. Except it looks better than what you’re actually eating.

McDonald’s also got a major face lift. The old-fashioned restaurants with cheap beige chairs are long gone. Most of us have grown up with McDonald’s. And now McDonald’s is showing us that they grew up too. Freshly renovated restaurants are sleek and modern. They also have free wi-fi. They’re a great study spot for students. They’re also attracting older crowds with their new environment and classy McCafe menu.

A renovated McDonald’s

Did McDonald’s successfully rebrand itself? Yes and no. Yes, because McDonald’s improved it’s overall image and product line. It’s an extremely successful and multinational franchise. They already have a consumer base. But they’re still making an effort to attract and keep different consumers. They’re also accommodating their aging loyal consumers. Now, nobody can grow out of McDonald’s. Eating at McDonald’s can become a lifetime habit. Introducing salads and McCafe was effective too. You can still eat at McDonald’s if you think you’re too good for their burgers.

While their rebranding efforts were effective, McDonald’s can’t fully shake their bad reputation. At least not now. Documentaries like Supersize Me linked McDonald’s to morbid obesity in the U.S. Other documentaries drew attention to the preservatives used in McDonald’s fries. When foreigners think of the U.S., they think of fat people. And McDonald’s.

One of the most popular pictures on the internet

McDonald’s has come a long way from being a tacky fast-food joint reminiscent of the 90’s. Their menu has expanded and improved. Now, they want you to feel good about eating at McDonald’s. But McDonald’s still has a long way to go. A reputation for driving America’s obesity rates is a hard one to shake.
Do you think McDonald’s can ever be completely rebranded?

Brand Maintenance

11 Jul

Today’s post is about brand maintenance.

We all know that BMW is a luxury sports brand. We know this because they keep reminding us.

If you’ve ever driven one, you’ve felt freedom at your finger tips. Your foot on a cloud. And the wind in your hair.

Take it all in: a breath of crisp freedom.

I’m not a fan of BMW solely because I prefer Japanese engineering over German. But this commercial almost converted me.

All of BMW’s signature elements are there. And not a detail to be spared! Stylish and shiny new car? Check. An accelerating purr? Check. A few crazy stunts and a virtually unscathed vehicle? Check and check.

Most car commercials try to emphasize the first-person driving experience, and how great it feels to drive their car. They expose you to open and picturesque roads, ripe for your ahem, speeding. They don’t show you the things we hate about driving. Traffic. High-maintenance fees. Tight parking spots.

This all makes sense. They want to connect to you. They want you to feel emotionally connected to their product and want it. You want freedom? How about comfort? How about an exhilarating driving experience on a picturesque road? What they’re saying is, this new car will give it to you.

But this commercial is different. It’s unique because it combines art with the thrill of driving. This isn’t just another car commercial. It captures your attention and then holds it, from beginning to end. You’re at the wheel. It takes you on the ride of your life. Then, everything slows down and you can appreciate the beauty of the road. The fragility of nature. And the secure comfort of the BMW M5. It’s over. You’re in awe. Letting go slowly. You walk away with a warmness inside of you. Like you just witnessed something amazing.

With the first-person driving stunts, slow motion scenes, and classical music, this commercial must have been inspired by the movie Drive.

Brand maintenance is all about maintaining an existing brand. BMW is reminding us of the things we love about BMW. It’s sporty. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. You’re a king behind the wheel. BMW doesn’t need to turn cartwheels in desperation for our business. There’s no cheesy dialogue. There is no eccentric driver trying to relate to you. BMW is staying fresh and relevant by playing up its biggest assets. And they know that.

Kudos to BMW’s marketing team for creating such an effective experience that stands out from other car commercials.

What do you think of BMW’s M5 “Bullet” commercial?

Why Consistent Online & Offline Brand Management is Important

25 Jun

Today’s post is about bad customer service. As you know, a brand is communicated through the customer experience.

Case in point: You visit a spa. The walls are painted neutral tones. There are nature paintings on the walls. The smell of wood, musk, and apricot linger in the air. Your masseur greets you with a cup of raspberry nectar tea and some slippers. You’re here to relax.

Get pampered by the roaring fire.

That’s an example of a direct experience. You can also experience a brand indirectly through ad campaigns and social media. Word of mouth works too. Let’s say the spa tweets daily nutrition, relaxation, and beauty tips. Your experience at the spa (healthy, clean, and relaxing environment) is consistent with their online brand, and vice versa.

This consistency is extremely valuable. The customer experience can vary. The company seems great online. Yes, people will review your company online. But who actually puts the time in to write a review? Customers who had a fantastic experience. Oh, and those who had a horrible experience. Be consistent. Reduce the potential for bad reviews and your online brand will attract clients. They will have expectations for a fantastic experience. Be sure to give it to them.

Manulife Financial Canada is a huge insurance company in Canada. It’s also a great example of poor customer service and shoddy brand management. Managing a large company is difficult. Being consistent is a challenge when you have so many sectors and employees. There is no excuse for poor customer service. There is no excuse for poor internal communication.

The CSRs (customer service representatives) are the forefront of the customer experience. They communicate the company’s brand. So why is Manulife so bad? Their employees don’t know how to assist the customer. Or at least, find someone who can. Instead of providing conscious customer service, they parrot scripted answers at the customer. In a flat, apathetic tone of voice. You can hear them reading to you. If you ask another question, they’ll repeat (or reword) what they’ve just read to you. They’ll keep doing this until you pretend that your question was answered. Or get annoyed and hang up. What an insulting waste of time.

Parrot Employee: Hello, you’ve reached Manulife.

They don’t answer letters. They don’t use e-mail. Their website is disorganized and unappealing. It reminds me of what websites looked like in 2002. It takes you longer to find things. Another insulting waste of time. They don’t even have a Twitter handle!  This all speaks to Manulife’s outdated customer service and sales techniques. Someone needs to tell them that it’s 2012. Answer your letters. Get on board with e-mail. Get Twitter. And fix your website, it’s an eyesore.

This is all extremely harmful to the company’s image. I have never heard anyone say anything good about Manulife Financial. In fact, Google “Manulife sucks” and you’ll find a sea of articles and forums, filled with angry customers and employees. Most complaints are about the poor customer service.

What can be done? PR extraordinaire Gordon McIvor has a fantastic solution.

Employees need to understand and believe in what they’re selling.

It’s that simple. Jot it down. Have it on your whiteboard at the next company meeting. Don’t follow in Manulife’s footsteps. These employees need to be properly trained. They need to understand what their role is. What are they providing?

Do they understand what they’re selling? Can they answer questions without reading off a sheet of paper? In Manulife’s case, the answer is no. The high turnover rate of young employees attests to that. Their apathy and reliance on a script attests to that. Unfortunately, this also sends a bad message about young employees. But, it’s not always their fault. These kids are thrown into the deep end. A shoddy employee training program and poor internal communication are to blame.

Large companies like Procter and Gamble are the epitome of great brand management. So, maybe there’s hope for Manulife, too.

Have you ever experienced poor customer service? What kind of message did it send about the company?