Brand hijacking Abercrombie & Fitch by a “brand readjustment”

A couple of years ago, one of my Michigan State University professors, Dr. Keith Adler, introduced me to the book Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed finding examples brand hijacking in modern culture. For those unfamiliar with the term, Brand Hijacking refers to a group of consumers take over a particular brand, make it their own, and attach meaning to it.

There is a video circulating the Internet and talked about all over the news about a guy who is attempting to hijack the Abercrombie & Fitch brand.  If you haven’t seen it already, check it out!

Brand Hijacking the ‘V is for Vendetta’ Mask

A couple of years ago, one of my Michigan State University professors, Dr. Keith Adler, introduced me to the book Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed finding examples brand hijacking in modern culture. For those unfamiliar with the term, Brand Hijacking refers to a group of consumers take over a particular brand, make it their own, and attach meaning to it.

One of my favorite recent examples of a brand being hijacked is the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie ‘V is for Vendetta.’

Since the movie came out, there have been three notable examples of groups hijacking the mask for their cause:

  1. The first time I saw another use of the mask was for the group Anonymous. They used the masks in their Church of Scientology protests to not only hide their identity from the Scientologists (who are known for suing  anyone that questions them), but also to make their point about the control of the church and some of the governmental protection the church receives.
  2. Then, the supposedly same group, Anonymous, also used the masks to protest against the crackdown on Julian Assange for his website, Wikileaks.
  3. Finally, Occupy Wall Street protestors began using the mask in their protests across the county in their attempt rise up against the government and end corporate greed.

So what does Time Warner, the company that owns the mask think of all of this? Well, they haven’t said too much, but considering that they are paid a licensing fee and it’s one of the top masks in terms of sales, I’m sure they aren’t too terribly upset.

 

For more of my writings on brand hijacking, see the links below:

Social media strategy means starting with a goal and losing control

What burning toilet paper and high school teacher reminded me about marketing and pr

Live blogging, a review

Picture of the Congressional Country Club golf course
The 111th US Open was at the Congressional Country Club. I covered an hour of the US Open via a live blog on June 16, 2011.

For my MSU Social Media and News Journalism Course, we had an assignment to live blog an event for one hour using Cover It Live software and Posterous to post. Below is a quick overview of how it went and what I learned in the process.

Local vs. National Event

Inspired by an FCC Report about the lack of local journalism, I was planning to do a local event, but quickly figured out that a local event would make it very difficult to meet the class requirements for the live blog, which were:

  • At least four links to online references
  • At least two Flickr images
  • At least one video (these could be pre-loaded into the software)
  • At least two Twitter streams

Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of local event where others would be tweeting or taking photos, so I decided to cover a National Event. After skimming the national front for interesting live events, I settled on the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. So, on June 16, I completed a live blog of the US Open.

Amount of Time

At first, when I read the assignment, I thought “Great! This shouldn’t take a lot of time because it is only one hour,” but I quickly found out otherwise. Even though I golf, I found that I needed to do a lot of research on the players, the tournament, the course, etc. to get me up to speed on the U.S. Open. In addition to preliminary research, I knew I wouldn’t have time during the live blogging to pull photos, videos, links and Twitter streams while live blogging, which meant I had to find all of that ahead of time and load it into the Cover It Live software. It turns out, between the research and the media gathering, it took about 4 hours to prepare for a one hour live blog.

Coordination of Technology

Technology is beautiful when it all works the way it is supposed to and frustratingly horrible when it doesn’t. One problem with the Cover It Live software I had was embedding YouTube videos into my live blog. I had preloaded all of the videos into the software, but during my live blogging, they came up blank. I kept experimenting and finally found that, if you put the embed code directly into the writing window, the videos will work.

The other issue I had was integrating the Posterous software with my Twitter account. I could get Posterous to post that I had a live blogging session coming up, but none of my actual live blogging posts, no matter what I tried. I eventually gave up and decided it was more important to focus on my live blogging than dealing with the technology issue.

Bottom Line

Live blogging was a fun way to cover an event, but it is time consuming and requires a good grasp of multiple software platforms and their integration features. If you are interested in live blogging, I would recommend practicing on some minor events prior to a major event where you want to make sure your coverage is flawless.

Post originally published on my MSU Journalism blog, Fit To Type.

Google Adwords credit union campaign example

An example of a Google Adwords campaign for a credit union.

Below is an example of a Google Adwords campaign for a credit union. Michigan State Federal Credit Union is a real credit union, but not a real client. I just used their name and sites for this example.

 

Creative Brief

 
August 2, 2010
 
Presented to:
April M. Clobes
Vice President of Marketing and E-Commerce
Michigan State University Federal Credit Union
 
By:
Nicole Finkbeiner
Michigan State University Graduate Student
Department of Communication
 
Re: Google Adwords Campaign
 
 
Goal for the campaign
  • Increase the number of home mortgage applications completed through MSUFCU during the months of August and September 2010 (as compared to last year and surrounding months)
 

Target Markets

  • People living within the Greater Lansing (including East Lansing and Okemos), Auburn Hills, and surrounding areas who are interested in purchasing a home and looking for a mortgage for their home.  The majority of these people are first-time home buyers.
  • People living within the Greater Lansing (including East Lansing and Okemos), Auburn Hills, and surrounding areas who are interested in refinancing their current mortgage that is held by a different mortgage lender. 
 
Strategy
In order to meet the goal of increasing the number of home mortgages written or refinanced by MSUFCU, this campaign will seek to drive warmed traffic to the MSUFCU home mortgage application site and related sites using Google AdWords.
I chose this strategy because:
  • When people are looking for information, such as home mortgage rates and mortgage lenders, they look online. And, for many people, the Internet is their ONLY source of information. For example, from May 2008 to May 2009, online searching “increased 20.3 percent year-over-year, from 7.8 billion in May 2008 to 9.4 billion in May 2009” (Source: Nielsen). 
  • Google is the number one search engine used in the United States.  For example, in May 2009, Google was responsible for 63.2% of Internet searches (Source: Nielsen).
  • Google Adwords allows MSUFCU to target prospects effectively without the advertising spillage that is present in traditional forms of advertising. 
    • Adwords will allow MSUFCU to target potential prospects demographically.  Using previous data on successful conversions, MSUFCU can narrow who sees the ads for MSUFCU to a specific geographic location, a specific gender, age, etc. to optimize results.
    • Adwords can specifically target prospects who are searching for information about home mortgages.  By using the Google Keyword tool, MSUFCU can see the key phrases that local residents are using to search for home mortgage information, target the ads to show at these times, and include the key phrases in the ad copy for maximum results.
Ad copy
After using the Google Keyword Tool to analyze MSUFCU’s mortgage websites and reviewing the chart below, I determined that there are two main key selling points that can be used in the ads:
  1. The low interest rate. Currently, MSUFCU has mortgage rates as low as 4.0%. This is an incredibly low rate and many competitors are slightly above at approximately 4.1-4.2%.  Buyers know that, over a long mortgage, the point variation on a mortgage will amount to significant dollars, so even a .1% advantage is truly an advantage.
  2. As shown in the keywords below, another top-ranking search term was a mortgage calculator. People thinking of purchasing a home or refinancing a home will use a mortgage calculator as a deciding factor on whether or not to move forward in the application process.  So, MSUFCU’s free mortgage calculator may lead to mortgage applications after they use it.
 Keyword ideas for MSUFCU
 
Using the top keywords above (mortgage, mortgage calculator, interest rates, first time home buyer, and home mortgage), I developed the following ads. These ads are developed using direct calls to action and multiple keywords to have maximum impact. Each, when clicked on, takes the potential customer to the page that most directly relates to their search term and the ad.
 
4.0% Mortgage Rate New Home Buyer Google Ad
4.0% Mortgage Rate Refinance Google Ad
Free Mortgage Calculator Refinance Google Ad
Free Mortgage Calculator Owning Your Own Home Google Ad
Low Interest Rates Apply now Google Ad
Low Interest Rates Google Ad Refinance
First Time Home Buyer Google Ad
Low Home Mortgage Rates Apply Now Google Ad
Low Home Mortgage Rates Refinance Today Google Ad
 
 
Ad set-up
  • When using Google Adwords, the best way to set-up the ads is as follows:
  • Locations: For locations, I recommend using the custom location feature and creating a 10 mile radius around each branch location by entering each location’s address.  Although some may overlap, this approach:
  • Allows the nearest branch address to show in the ads
  • Geographically targets areas near branches (people trust businesses that are local).
  • Limits the amount of advertising spillage. For example, if we chose the Greater Lansing DMA vs. customizing, the geographic area is much larger than from what MSUFCU pulls. These are wasted impressions.
  • Language: English, unless a significant amount of mortgage applications come from those with another language as their primary language.
  • Networks and Devices: Choose all. With mobile technology becoming the primary way that people access the Internet, it’s important for your ads to show on mobile and other devices and networks.
  • Bidding: I advise to keep this as simple as possible and let Google’s time-tested algorithms work for MSUFCU. Focus on clicks, automatic bidding, no CPC bid limit
  • Budget: To stay within the budget given, this should be set at $166 per day. This can be readjusted during the campaign if necessary.
  • Ad Extensions: Again, because of the rise of the mobile phone web-surfing, I recommend adding a Phone Extension to make it easy for potential customers to call.
  • Advanced Settings, Start Date and End Date: Schedule the ads starting today through the end of September.
  • Advanced Settings, Demographic Bidding: Chose the ages and gender (or both) that most fit the target market (and are typical of the majority of your best customers).
  • Keywords: Click on the link that helps you choose your keywords. They are all pre-loaded. Cross-reference these with the keywords and text/intent of the ad and the above Keyword Tool chart.
 
Effectiveness
  • To make your ads as effective as possible, I recommend adding a call-to-action button (Apply Now!) to all of the web pages linked to your ads. For those sites where the button is currently present, I recommend moving your call-to-action button to above-the-fold; meaning on a place on the page that is visible without scrolling when the customer initially sees the page.
  • To maximize effectiveness, I recommend reviewing the campaign daily.  It is difficult to tell as first what ads will perform well and what ads don’t.  By monitoring the ads, MSUFCU will be able to make adjustments to the ads that are under-performing to maximize their effectiveness.
  • Measuring advertising campaign effectiveness is not a perfect science. However, to best measure effectiveness, I recommend the following:
    • Monitoring the performance of the ads using the Google Adwords tools available in your account
    • Adding a feedback mechanism to your online application asking where the applicant last saw or heard about MSUFCU and how they arrived at the site.
    • Training your mortgage processors, the ones that develop relationships directly with the clients, to solicit feedback from applicants about their decision-making process and any prompts (advertising, family & friends) that encouraged them to apply through MSUFCU.
Brief respectfully submitted by: Nicole Finkbeiner

Brand consistency and higher education websites

Brand consistency is important on the web and can be accomplished through the use of templates and style sheets. But there also needs to be room within those templates and style sheets for some customization for each department to suit their individual needs.

MSU website on October 27, 2009 from ArchiveWeb

Michigan State University’s website on October 27, 2009.

MSU website on July 2, 2010

Michigan State University’s website on July 2, 2010.

Recently, Michigan State University (MSU) unveiled a makeover of their website.  The new design is fantastic. It’s much less cluttered than their previous site, the design is more contemporary, they have their latest advertising campaign prominently displayed on the front page, and the site is much easier to navigate. However, as a fellow marketer in higher education, I was curious how deep into their subwebs this redesign went. The answer was: not too far; a single click to the Admission area or the University Advancement area and a different web design appears.

But is this a bad thing? Should a university have a different look for each of the departments on their website or should they strive for brand consistency?  Conventional marketing wisdom would say that all materials within a brand should have a similar look and feel to maintain the brand. Under this wisdom, the web should be treated no differently than maintaining a similar look and feel throughout a college or university’s publications. However, the web is unique in that having variety, keeping interest, and including elements of fun are expected. Under these expectations, college or university departments having some variety in their look may be appropriate.

My belief about branding and higher education sites is that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Brand consistency is important on the web and can be accomplished through the use of templates and style sheets.  But there also needs to be room within those templates and style sheets for some customization for each department to suit their individual needs. As a marketing manager, I tend to be very conservative about this. The college I work for is very small compared to a large university and so I really stress the importance of maintaining a high level of brand consistency and “one voice.” However, where that line is and what amount of customization is appropriate, will have to be determined by each higher education institution as they consider their unique situation, including their size, mission, political landscape, etc. (as I’m sure MSU did). The key is to consider all of the relevant factors and then work towards the level of brand consistency that is appropriate.