Marketing ideas for the shoestring bourgeoisie.

Color: One of the Greatest Marketing Ideas

color in marketing

In the world of marketing, there are good ideas, and there are great ideas. Yet, even some of the greatest marketing ideas change over time. One of the greatest marketing ideas that has changed over time is the simple concept of color.

Color to attract wealth

In ancient cultures colors were used to identify rank and socio-economic class. The Chinese, for example, reserved the use of yellow, jade, and red were usually reserved for the emperor, while deep purple, golds, and blue were reserved for the English royalty in later times.

In recent times these color fashions still evoke a sense of richness, quality, and high standards.

Psychological effects of color

The psychology of color is convoluted at best due to the differences in the way individuals and cultures as a whole may react to color. Despite of this, there are some general trends that can be used in marketing. For example, using red and yellow in your logo can evoke feelings of boldness and enthusiasm along with optimism and warmth. Using these trends to project the feeling you want may or may not produce the feelings you want, but it is sure that your logo will be more distinctive and memorable to your loyal clients.

Jogging memory with color

When you think of Cadbury, you might think of their recent legal battle for purple. Not just any purple, but a specific shade of purple that they have been using for centuries as their part of their logo, which naturally markets itself. When Cadbury won their legal battle for the trademark rights to their specific shade of purple, they reaffirmed the importance of color used in marketing and branding. The reason is simple: it jogs our memories when we see these familiar colors along the windows.

Times change, and so do people

While color is still an important aspect of marketing and branding, times are changing along with the impressions of the public. Now, people want more freedom of expression for themselves as the new wave of entrepreneurs start making their claim in the world. Color choices used in branding and marketing area making a swift change with the cultural desires. Etsy, for instance, is well known for their shabby chic, white-washed looks as well as their pastels as well as more unusual color combinations that travel in and out of style. To keep up with these changes, start up company, Insanitek, recommends that new business owners brand according to their own heart and soul, not uncertain psychology of color.

Color truly is one of the greatest marketing ideas of all times. It's versatile, can speak volumes about your company and brand, market your products at a glance, and evoke thoughts and feelings in people as they look your way. So how do you use color efficiently in your marketing? Get in touch and we'll help you figure out your best color schemes to use in your marketing.


More on using color...

Using color can be a powerful tool. It engages us, helps establish brand identities, market products and it increases our memory; but what about using black and white as color? We've grown so accustomed to adding color to almost everything, that B&W may seem uninteresting and boring. Black and white can be just as powerful and elegant as using colors. One benefit of using black and white is less expensive print costs. Using black and white together creates very sharp contrast and eye-catching appeal. Black goes well with almost every color except for very dark values and white goes good with almost any color.

White symbolizes: cleanliness, purity and innocence. In western cultures white is the color for brides, but in eastern cultures white symbolizes death.

Black symbolizes: mystery, elegance, and sophistication. In western cultures black symbolizes mourning.

Did you know?

Black is the absence of color and is therefore not a color. Black absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them to the eyes. Black can affect the perception of size and weight of objects and designs, making things appear smaller. White is the sum of all the colors, therefore white is a color. Light appears colorless or white. Sunlight is white light that is composed of all the colors of the spectrum. You can't see the colors of sunlight except when atmospheric conditions bend the light rays and create a rainbow.

~Idea submitted by Graphic Communications, Inc., specializing in high-profile business solutions used to create a dialog between you and your market. Our services include vehicle graphics, interior graphics, exterior graphics, promotional graphics and design services. Graphic Communications believes small businesses should have access to the same comprehensive graphic services available to large businesses. Our goal is to provide these services without the high costs associated with the graphic arts industry. For more information, visit www.graphiccom.com.

True Colors: Using Color to Build Your Brand

by William Arruda

When you hear “big blue,” what company do you think of?

Some companies, organizations and even people are so consistent and steadfast in their use of color, that they almost own that color in our minds. Think Home Depot, Breast Cancer Awareness, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

Some companies actually do own their colors. Tiffany, for example, has registered its trademark robin's egg blue as a brand asset.

As marketers, you know that color is an important brand asset. It helps clients and prospects recognize your company or product. But color can be used to support goals way beyond just recognition. It can be used to evoke emotion and build that all-important connection with the people who surround your brand.

You can use color to further differentiate your organization from your competitors, revitalize an aging product and engage and unite your employees, partners and customers. When you go beyond the traditional use of color, you can make incredible strides in achieving your goals.

When I worked for the software company Lotus, our color was yellow. Not just yellow—our yellow was a custom color called Lotus yellow.

This unique color was so important to Lotus that our Creative Director, Vartus—a strong brand herself—went to tremendous lengths to ensure that it was being used properly on everything from brochures to signage to coffee mugs.

Every print job cost extra because we had to add our custom color to the standard four-color process. But the cost was just a small investment in an incredibly powerful brand asset. The whole organization understood the importance of yellow and worked to ensure its abundant and appropriate use.

The Lotus corporate color was originally blue. But it changed to yellow when we moved our products into retail. Yellow boxes are more likely to be taken off the shelf, so Lotus Yellow was born. But it was not through retail sales that the yellow had its most dramatic effect. It was with the larger Lotus brand community.

Color activates your brand community

When I first joined the company, I was hit with yellow from all angles; it seemed a bit excessive. But when I went on my first qualitative brand audit, I saw first-hand how powerful color can be. Respondents in cities from San Francisco to Sao Paolo shouted “yellow” when asked, “When you think about Lotus, what first comes to mind.”

And yellow was consistent with our brand attributes: bright, positive, warm, visionary. Our yellow awareness was so powerful, that when we launched TV ads in a letterbox format (the ad was shown between two horizontal bars of yellow) people could identify that they came from Lotus without even watching them. Not bad for general brand awareness. Of course, we hoped people would watch the ads, too!

In the marketing department, we used yellow as a way to express the brand internally. We developed communications and Web-based materials that explained the Lotus brand through creative uses of yellow. Everyone in the company bought into Lotus yellow and proactively supported its liberal use. We even had a “yellow” video that was shown to all new hires during orientation.

From accounting to product development, employees considered how to include some yellow in their day-to-day activities. And business partners and alliances joined in, too. The color yellow, as strange as it seems, was a powerful and unifying force among all members of the Lotus brand community.

Color choice can't be taken lightly

Choosing a color can be as challenging as it is important. There is a whole psychology behind color. And colors mean different things in different countries. Lotus yellow, for example, had a different formula in Japan than it did in the rest of the world. So choosing color for your organization or product is not something you do lightly.

Selecting a color to represent a person can be an even greater challenge according to Brian Wu, Partner and Design Director for Brandego, a company that builds Web portfolios for business people.

“When we build a Web site for an executive, one of the key decisions has to do with color,” he says. “What color or palette of colors will support the client's personal brand attributes and set an appropriate emotional tone—in the way that music colors movie titles?”

Do you know what color or color palette best represents your personal brand?

The most common logo color for American corporations is blue. But blue is probably more often associated with IBM than any other brand.

And IBM takes full advantage of its unique relationship with blue. You will see blue on the corporate Web site, in all presentations, on corporate materials, on signage and in the names of many of their programs: Blue Gene, Deep Blue and Extreme Blue (just to name a few).

While IBM is associated with the most common corporate color, UPS has chosen one of the least-used colors (brown) and turned it into a tremendous brand asset. Its Valentines Delivery press release was titled “Roses are Brown.” In its latest series of ads, it replaced the corporate name with “brown” in the tag line: “What can brown do for you?”

According to color expert Jacci Howard Bear, brown represents steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness and dependability—perfect for a logistics company. These brand attributes are closely connected with the UPS brand promise. Brown is also a highly differentiated color. Can you think of another organization that uses brown?

Color supports differentiation

The ability to identify a company by its brand color is amazing. When you are standing at the bus stop at the airport waiting for your rental car shuttle, you know whether you are looking for the yellow, red or green bus. It's more difficult to identify Budget (orange and blue) and Alamo (yellow and blue). Multiple colors seem to be harder to own—unless, of course, you're Apple.

The rainbow colors are perfect for the Apple brand. Creative. Different. Diverse. Not an inexpensive proposition from a printing perspective, but extremely valuable from a branding angle.

Color can have a double effect

Some organizations and products have colorful names: Orange (the European telecommunications company), jetBlue, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the Red Cross, the Yellow Pages, Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They all benefit doubly from the emotion-creating power of color.

And the music industry seems to have a strong desire to connect sound with color: the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pink, Green Day, Deep Purple, Simply Red, and the Indigo Girls are just a few of the artists with colorful names.

Although blue is the most popular corporate color in the US, red seems to win out when it comes to company names that include color. Red Herring, the Red Cross, Red Envelope and Red Hat Software are just a few of the companies that chose to associate themselves with this color, which often connotes warmth, excitement and aggressiveness.

Color supports a renaissance

M&M-Mars certainly knows the value of color. It revitalized a brand that was at the end of its product life cycle by holding a contest to find the next M&M color. It turned out to be blue, and they launched an extremely successful ad campaign where the other M&Ms, who were jealous of the new blue, would hold their breath so that they too would turn blue.

That was so successful for M&Ms-Mars that it has continued to use color as a way to generate more interest in the brand. In 1992, it held another contest to choose a color. Now M&Ms have lost their color entirely. They are black and white, and so is their packaging. We as consumers can help find their colors again as part of the “Help Find Our Colors” contest.

The potential that color has to unite your organization and support your brand-building activities is tremendous. There is almost no end to the creative ways that it can be used to attain your goals. So think about whether you are getting the maximum value from your corporate color and if necessary, make a plan to color your brand.

Here are 10 ways to make the most of color

Color is powerful. It evokes emotion. It is an important brand tool, so use it wisely. To make the most of your color, ensure that it…

  1. Supports your brand attributes
  2. Is relevant to your target audience
  3. Is always the same shade and hue
  4. Is visible to all members of your brand community, inside and outside the company
  5. Is understood and appropriately used by all employees
  6. Is featured on all your communications materials and sales tools
  7. Is different from your competitors' colors
  8. Works in all parts of the world where you plan to do business
  9. Is applied to more than just your logo
  10. Comes with guidelines on its use for partners and affiliates
William Arruda is the personal branding guru and founder of Reach, a global leader in personal branding, and coauthor of Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand (www.careerdistinction.com).

6 Quick Steps to Improve Small Business Cash Flow

improve business cash flow

Eighty percent of small business owners receive late payments for services rendered, a 2011 survey by PaySimple found. When money is late coming in, it directly affects the small business owner's cash flow and can negatively impact inventory, and the ability to pay operating expenses and make payroll. Of course, it doesn't help the owner's mental health either! Taking charge of your cash flow and minimizing late payments means more cash on hand to grow business. By working through these six steps, you will build up financial management skills that can help improve your cash flow and all aspects of your business.

1. Develop a Cash Flow Chart - A cash flow chart is critical to identifying how cash flows in and out of your company, finding areas that need improvement and staying in the black. List all recurring, variable and one-time expenses, then project your sales, as the SBA suggests. While you may find this challenging at first, you will get better at predicting income after a few months of practice.

2. Stay on top of receivables - As a small business owner, you may put off following up with people who owe you money because you are too busy, you dislike bothering people and you forget to think about receivables until your account balance runs low. Improve receivables by offering discounts or incentives to early-paying customers, offering an automatic bill pay option and schedule follower on your calendar. You may be able to accept payments directly within your accounting software, according to Intuit small business accounting software. This streamlines receivables with other financial management basics.

3. Automate your bills - When possible, set up online bill payments so that all of your bills are paid on time. Not only does this help you avoid late fees, it puts you in control of when bills are paid. Stagger payments out over the month to avoid a mid-month bank account drain, or pay each on the last date it is due to maximize cash in the pipeline.

4. Identify local (or fast) suppliers - Especially when starting a business, determining how much inventory to carry can be challenging. SBA.gov recommends ordering as little as possible when starting out (or when testing a new product or service). Select a supplier who is local or can deliver goods quickly over one who offers a cheaper price but requires more lead time. This way, you can retain more of your cash flow without compromising your inventory or your ability to deliver.

5. Know where to go for help before you need it - If you're having a bad month or you need funds to fix business equipment, a small business loan can help. Before you're in an emergency, identify nearby sources of funding including small business loans, business credit cards and lines of credit. Consider applying for a business credit card or a line of credit for "just in case" emergencies, so you do not have to use personal funds to support your business.

6. Build up your cash reserves - As your business grows, set aside cash reserves to draw on during slow months or for unforeseen expenses. As a general rule of thumb, SBA.gov advises that you set aside 3-6 months' worth of expenses.

improve your cash flow

Sheryl Ray is a venture capitalist who has an eye for businesses with potential.

How to Effectively Use Twitter for Your Business

how to use twitter for business

Media Bistro says 33 percent of the 200 million Twitter users follow at least one brand, and the top reason they follow brands, which could include your small business, is because they want discounts and deals, updates, exclusive content and customer service. Yet Forbes.com reports more than 60 percent of businesses surveyed who use social media including Twitter report no return on investment. Why aren't the sellers-of-stuff reaching the buyers-of-stuff? They're not using the tool properly.

How Consumers Use Twitter

Twitter users connect with the world by following people, which means other Twitter users who have @ before their Twitter handles, as in @BarackObama, @cnnbrk (CNN Breaking News), @Bill Gates, etc.

They create lists of the people they follow and group them into categories, as in friends, celebrities, news organizations, funny people and so on. Those lists can be made public to the people who follow them, or they may be kept private. The advantage of sharing lists is you can filter out noise you don’t want to read, and zoom in on the people who interest you.

Users also follow conversations, which appear as hastags, as in #superbowl, #iphone, #usingmyimagination, and #breakingbad.

Bottom line: People use @ to follow people and organizations, and # to follow conversations.

How Businesses Use Twitter

As a small business, you probably already know your customers, their demographics and their buying habits. But do you know what they talk about? Do you know what problems they have? Do you know what makes them happy or really ticks them off? Find out what your customers talk about, and use a reliable connection such as InternetProviders.com to get in those conversations.

Let’s say you’re a flower shop with five locations, and you live in a large city such as Minneapolis or San Diego. You will follow your competitors, hotel chains, funeral homes, large corporations, local media and your own customers — and maybe they’ll follow you, too. What do most of your competitors Tweet? Here’s a sampling of a florist in San Diego who has posted nothing but self-promotions in the previous seven Tweets:

twitter for business thread

Here is a Minneapolis-based florist who posts Tweets that tell stories:

twitter for business thread

Take a page from Chez Bloom’s book (or petal from her flower?) While Allen's Flowers repeatedly says “Buy stuff,” Chez Bloom tells stories. She helped stage a home, she piqued interest with the man-eating flower, and she helped promote a farmers market.

Bottom line: Get into conversations.

How Much Should I Tweet?

Three to five times a day? What?

Calm down. It's not that difficult. First, you'll use Twitter's tool to allow you to see what's trending in your local area. Get in those conversations.

Next, you'll look into software that allows you to schedule Tweets out. SocialTimes.com lists 10 apps that will help you do that.

Lastly, you'll hire an intern. Hire a college kid to do it for you, especially if he or she already has 10,000 followers (that's a lot — be impressed.) The student will love to get paid to be on social media, and he or she can do your Tweeting on a flexible schedule.

how to use twitter for business

Nikki Siebel’s a native Oregonian who launched her own social media consulting business after baby No. 2 came along (baby No. 3 is on her way, and there will be no baby No. 4).

Freelancing a Path to Freedom & Happiness

freelancing ideas

Setting up a freelance business is one of the best ways to put your skills to work in an environment completely under your control. Whether you start your own business as a part-time enterprise or as the primary way to make a living, it helps to know the steps to successfully launch a new venture.

Finances & Taxes

Before you start up your business, open business banking accounts separate from your personal accounts. After you register your business with the appropriate state agency, open a business checking account and apply for a business credit card. With small business credit cards from American Express, you can select from among a dozen different cards, depending on your needs. Whether you want to earn travel rewards, have the freedom to maintain a balance interest-free for 60 days or get cash back based on your purchases, you’ll probably be able to find the card with the features your new business needs most.

Though the IRS doesn’t require separate bank accounts for individual proprietorships, you’ll benefit from taking time to create different accounts for business expenses. You’ll have tax advantages and the ability to analyze your business performance more accurately. You will also have the ability to clearly see your personal financial status, independent of your business. Keep this in mind, too; if business and family finances are linked, it’s tougher to get a business loan. Lenders are reluctant to extend credit to an enterprise that seems to be just a hobby.

Hire a good CPA who can advise you on paying estimated quarterly taxes and keep track of and explain 1099s, the equivalent of a W-2 from an employer, from your clients.

Recordkeeping

Recordkeeping is an essential function of a successful business. Keeping track of billable hours and total time spent on tasks is easier through any of a number of software programs available. Harvest is an example of a time-tracking tool that also can create online invoices. Chrometa is another time-management tool.

Marketing

The next step is generating business. The best way to attract new clients is by networking. Make the most of your social media presence —through Linkedin primarily — but also through Facebook and Twitter, along with others you regularly visit, such as Tumblr.

This isn’t the time to be shy. Let everyone connected to you online know that you’ve hung out a shingle. Face-to-face networking is critical, too. Attend every networking event you can where professionals gather who may need your services.

Don’t forget business cards. It sounds counter intuitive in the digital age, but executives actually keep business cards, especially those that pertain to their business. Also create a website and include an online portfolio of your best work.

Become a recognized leader through blogging about topics related to your expertise and try to get speaking engagements, even at small meetings, suggests Freelanceswitch.com. To further position yourself as an expert in your field, volunteer to write a guest column in your local newspaper about a subject related to your new business.

Before you know it, you’ll have more work than you think you can handle. Too much work is the best problem you can have.

freelancing

Francis Miller is a freelance writer from Washington D.C., he follows current events like it's his full time job.

5 Great Guerrilla Marketing Ideas

guerrilla marketing ideas

Guerrilla marketing requires imagination and a great creative team. This type of marketing takes consumers by surprise with its out of the box design and advertising. Some great marketing ideas have come out of the guerrilla marketing think tanks.

1. Frontline Takes it From the Top

creative mall advertising frontline

Frontline purchased a full floor space in a multi-level mall. From the second story, customers could lean over the floor and look down on a giant dog. The dog is scratching its ear. The tag line is, "Get them off your dog", and from the second floor, the people walking across the floor look like small bugs or fleas. The floor makes customers look twice at the ad, which is exactly what a business needs.

2. Nestle Uses Imagination

ad kit kat bench

Nestle used their imaginations with a park bench. The bench was slotted and brown--just like a Kit Kat bar. Nestle grabbed the bench and painted half of it with the Kit Kat wrapper. It looks like a candy bar. The image is imaginative and looks so realistic that it makes us want to go grab some chocolate.

3. Advil Stabs Us With Their Message

creative ads advil

Advil used paper and imagination to advertise their pain product. The poster was placed halfway down the pole so the pole came through the poster. The image of the man holding his head on the poster had the pole poking straight through his head. The tagline read, "More Powerful than Pain." Anyone who has had a headache relates.

4. Swiss Skydive Presents a Preview of Your Dive

elevator ad swiss skydive

Swiss Skydive grabbed an elevator floor for their innovative guerrilla ad. The floor is painted in three dimensional fashion to represent how it looks to freefall in a skydive. Imagine looking at the floor as the elevator descends in the building!

5. Ambience Hot Sauce Blows!

guerrilla advertising wolf hot sauce

Ambience Media purchased space in restrooms--on the hand dryers. The picture of the man who seems to be blowing your hands dry represents the power of the hot sauce. It's so hot, you'll blow hot air!

How Can You Use Guerrilla Marketing?

The idea behind these guerrilla ads is to grab attention. Customers look twice at these ads simply because they are so very unique. The ads require a lot of imagination and an outside-the-box attitude, but look at absolutely every surface you come across--there might be a guerrilla marketing opportunity waiting there for you!

Personal to Pro: Selling Ideas Like a Motivational Speaker

public speaking

One of the most important ingredients for a successful, happy and harmonious life is the ability to communicate effectively. Life is built upon relationships, and one of the components of positive, successful connections is good communication. This applies in both your personal and professional life.

Motivational speakers are known for their skilled communication abilities, and we can learn a lot from them. Whether you work for an existing company or are an entrepreneur, the only way you'll be able to sell your ideas is by communicating what you're offering in an effective and compelling way. The same goes for having a satisfying personal life. Here are five of the hallmark strengths of the very best motivational speakers that you can incorporate into your own communication style:

1. Know Your Audience

Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Every customer, individual or group you will be addressing is unique. Get to know their background as well as their primary wants, needs and concerns. Focus on the individual aspirations of each person you speak to, whether it's an employee, a customer, your child or your life partner.

2. Establish Credibility

If you're meeting someone for the first time, you'll likely have to work to establish credibility and earn their trust. If you're pitching new ideas, define a proven methodology ahead of time that you can explain and help compel your audience. Whether your agenda is personal or professional, create a detailed, step-by-step, clear plan for success. Your credibility will rise exponentially if you can point to past successes based upon the same formula.

3. Learn From the Best

When choosing and refining your communication style, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Look to successful speakers and great leaders that you admire and glean ideas and inspiration from them. For example, consider Josh Shipp or Ed Young; according to inc.com, Shipp is a motivational sensei, employing both his youthful spirit and sense of humor to relate to audiences. Ed Young, the founder of Ed Young Fellowship Church, uses a creative communication style that helps to make even complex ideas easy to understand and apply, according to FellowshipChurch.com.

4. Build a Genuine Connection

While this tip will be easier to apply in your personal life, it can be invaluable in your professional life as well. No matter who the person is, no matter what their background or walk of life, you can relate to them on an authentic personal level. All you have to do is speak from the heart and have true empathy for them as a fellow human being. We all want pretty much the same things in life: security, peace of mind and to be appreciated. If you relate to every person you meet with this in mind, your relationships are likely to thrive.

5. Expect the Best of People

A positive attitude and outlook can go a long way toward success in every area of your life. Try and enter into every human interaction with an expectation of the highest and best outcome from the exchange. Visualize your ideal scenario with that person before the meeting begins. Expect the very best from people, and you'll likely be amazed at what transpires.

public speaking

Sean Patterson is an English instructor and is working on his first screenplay.

Brand Conversations: Not Just On Your Twitter Feed

social media marketing

Are you in charge of running a company's social media campaign? If so, you know that your brand receives all kinds of feedback from followers on social media.

In day-to-day monitoring and community management, social media managers are faced with both positive and negative mentions about their brands. From complimentary praise to harmful attack, social media feeds reflect what people think, feel and write about brands and products.

For marketers, this is of top concern. They should be aware of how their brand is being perceived. The three Cs for marketing teams are Content, Conversations and Community. How is the brand developing content? How are marketing teams leading and responding to brand conversations? What's the community vibe of a particular product and brand?

Dedicated Twitter feeds, like the Twitter stream of iAcquire NYC, are growing in practice; Facebook pages are optimizing the use of social opt-ins and digital marketing firms are selling social services to clients across the entire online spectrum.

But it's not the only thing. Where's the conversation about your company happening? It isn't just on your social media stream. It's happening in forums, online webinars, LinkedIn chains, street level marketing events and brand-sponsored tours. How can brands utilize these areas to drive partnerships, bring in new customers and offer up new branding opportunities? Let's take a look:

Buzz Marketing (aka Word of Mouth Marketing)

As Forbes rightly points out, word of mouth marketing just keeps getting better. Why? It's a sign that a company is doing something right, and many people are driven to want its product or service. Brands can use teaser and buzz marketing campaigns to build conversations around some of their customers' best testimonials. For years TV ad campaigns have used customer testimonials. More recently, there are buzzworthy tee-shirt campaigns in urban centers, delivering messages (and sometime free swag) to passers-by.

Street Marketing

Consumer brands should look to street marketing activities for many of their offline campaigns. They can set up booths at city festivals, sponsor local industry functions, and align themselves with local non-profits or worthy causes to boost their community partnership standing.

Marketing Forums

Marketing leaders on all fronts should follow industry insights to benefit their daily roles. LinkedIn hosts a number of industry forums to follow, as do local professional associations. Global and international associations have forums worth following, too.

TV Advertising

A great TV campaign can spark online and offline conversations about your brand. A great product, along with a great message, good timing and a link to the current cultural zeitgeist will help any TV ad campaign. From "Where's the Beef' years ago to the best TV ads of 2013, great TV ads can capture a brand's audience and get them talking about and engaging with the brand. TV ain't dead yet.

Industry Webinars

Marketers can learn a lot from hosting, sponsoring and participating in online webinars. Direct feedback from customers, competitors, and potential new business partners is invaluable to marketing teams. The key to making a webinar valuable is understanding essential industry topics that need further discussion. If your timing is right, then your webinar can have long-lasting benefits. Set it up with a provocative title, invite the best marketers, and host it with one of these top webinar platforms.

Once marketers spend some time off Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, they may find there is another, sometime deeper, discussion taking place. Online and off, it's time to manage the discussion of your brand, with the audience that suits your company best.

big data

Guest post by Lucy Kim. Lucy is a mom and avid environmentalist who runs a social media company from her home.

Marketing Idea #127: Silent Auctions

silent auction

Not only do silent auctions bring in money for your cause, they can also be a great marketing idea for nonprofits seeking new donors. Because you'll need to do a little pavement-pounding to collect the items up for bid, you'll have the opportunity to forge new relationships within the local retail community, leading to future revenue.

Get Organized

Putting together a silent auction is a lot of work, but it isn't as hard as you may think. The first steps are to organize your mission statement, write a letter to potential donors, and create a form through which they can submit donations of merchandise or gift certificates. Set up deadlines on when the items need to be collected and when the auction will begin and end. All this information should be in the cover letter handed out to local business owners and managers.

Recruit Sponsors

Next, you'll need to take a walk. Have two or three of your employees canvas several retail strips within your community. Make sure they can speak intelligently and passionately about your cause. Widen your search for items by advertising the auction on social media and Craig's List. In your online advertisement, you'll have the opportunity to reach out to potential bidders, too. As donations roll in, take a photo of each and share them on Facebook, Twitter, or your nonprofit's website to further entice the bargain-hunters and philanthropists you aim to reach.

Select the Venue

An essential part of a successful silent auction is finding one high-traffic venue willing to host a board of items for a few days to a couple weeks. Small, locally-owned coffee shops and organic grocery stores are both excellent options. Typically charitable, they'll also be hungrier for cross-promotion.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Once you have a bevy of items, a venue, and a schedule, continue to promote via print and social media. Customers can register online, receiving a bidding identification number in the process. Set up your auction board with attached photographs and space for bidders to write their I.D. number and bid amount. Don't forget to supply pencils.

Let Them Know Who Won

Once the auction has ended, collect the bids, and notify all winners by the contact information required for registration. Appoint a time and place to pick up and pay--perhaps your non-profit headquarters over the course of a week. After that week, if a winner has not collected his item, default to the next highest bidder. This part of the process usually takes a while, with winners floating in and out over the course of several days.

Now Go Launch Your Silent Auction

A successful silent auction can bring in hundreds, even thousands of dollars depending on what type of items you receive and how many you collect. While a fair amount of hard work, it's an excellent way to spread awareness of your cause and pull in revenue at the same time.

Contact us for more advice on how to make your small business or nonprofit a success.

A Review of ‘Killing Us Softly’

killing us softly

Have you ever noticed how an actress or model looks seems to play a more vital role in an advertisement than the message they deliver? In her presentation, Killing Us Softly, Jean Kilbourne elaborates how an ad sells better than the product itself. Why? An ad can convey esoteric concepts, as well as simple product value. Concepts such as love, sexuality, dreams of success or normalcy are underpinning currents carried by most of today’s advertisements.

Advertisements tell us who we are and who we want to be. They define a person in ways that even their own heritage cannot. With every other woman on the television or in the magazines looking fair and beautiful, girls in their teens assume this is the norm by which to conform. The kind of clothes, the shoes, the makeup, the must have handbags and even minor accessories like headbands and gloves attract these young minds easily with their color and glamor.

As Kilbourne points out, lured into believing the airbrushed world of advertising by a young age, it becomes easy for girls to lose track of their identities, growing uncomfortable in their own skins. This has been the case with majority of the models in the past decade. Too many stories tell of models and starlets falling into hospitals or rehab centers, where the worst cases face traumatic disorders—sometimes leading to death.

According to Jean, advertisements carry only one main message these days for women and that is to look good. She illustrates examples where women celebrities have admitted to the high degree of photo retouching in their own advertisements. Quoting supermodel Cindy Crawford, "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford."

sexy peta ad

Most women in cinema and fashion have fallen prey to the post-production effort to make them appear slimmer, taller, bustier or fairer. Kilbourne gives various examples of entertainers and models (Kiera Knightley, Jessica Alba and Kelly Clarkson, to name a few) who have been Photoshopped to achieve magazine-worthy looks. Not all actresses have gone along with this quietly, Kilbourne says. Titanic star Kate Winslet has publicly announced she looks nothing like her image on the cover of the British GQ magazine.

Kilbourne feels this treatment of women is equivalent to an act of indirect violence. To live up to this airbrushed ideal, many women resort to dieting and other fast and dangerous methods to reduce their weight. Prime examples here, she says, are the models who grow thinner and thinner, year after year. A dire example, Ana Carolina Reston died of anorexia after being called ‘too fat’ by a modeling agency. Kilbourne asserts such cases have now become an all too common occurrence in the fashion industry.

Continuing her argument, Kilbourne points to the growing objectification of the female form. Many of today’s advertisements are more focused on certain physical attributes of women, further contributing to the not-so-subliminal emphasis given to an unhealthy, unrealistic ideal. The direct impact this has on a woman’s self-esteem is often neglected. This objectification of women has evolved into a form of social violence, Kilbourne says. It has become a public health issue that threatens every female around us and it places upon us the responsibility to hedge our daughters against it.

In today’s world advertisements market the women and not the product. You see nudity in everything. From a simple CD cover to a beer advertisement, women are portrayed in varying levels of nudity. What once was a crime is now a trend. So the most important question asked here is, what is being marketed to women? What does she think when she goes to an agency and is asked to strip off her clothing along with her dignity? In the age where money is paid for any kind of service, most women do not really understand the repercussions of their actions. Either they are too desperate and in need or they simply are not educated enough to look for a better job.

sex in advertising

Jean Kilbourne has done a marvelous job hitting the right points to convey the depth and seriousness of the issue at hand. Her inspired determination to enlighten us about the imagery we are allowing at the newsstands is a wake up call.

As a father of two daughters (and two sons—not to overlook them in the whole self-image crisis,) I have a keen interest in sheltering my children for as long as possible from the damaging effects of "news-stand beauty." Jean's message in Killing Us Softly is loud and clear. I pray it takes us by the throat and gives us the good rattle we need to wake up and break out of our dive.

Matt

big data

Update: August 8, 2013

Dove has done it again. This time, they've taken their argument for natural, untouched portrayal of beauty straight to the creatives holding the smoking gun. This time, it's in the form of an Easter egg--a hidden message or feature in software. When the guilty, image-enhancing creative attempts to apply the skin glow effect advertised by a free Photoshop plugin, they get a message meant just for them. Brilliant.

Enjoy!

Big Data and the Future of Digital Marketing

marketing big data

It’s no secret that the world of marketing has become increasingly sophisticated in the ever-evolving world of digital media. This new complexity is derived from marketing data becoming exponentially more massive and fueled by today’s discerning, fluctuating consumer base. Big data is here, and it's changing everything.

What is Big Data?

We produce and consume roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, and 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years alone, according to IBM. Whether we like it or not, all of the data we’re dealing with and managing in the web marketing space is big data. In a nutshell, big data is information that is gathered from social media, GPS, photo sites and general Internet browsing — pretty much anywhere that thousands of users congregate to post and download information produces massive data sets referred to as big data.

Big Data: The Future of Marketing

Five years ago, the idea of web marketers leveraging big data to deepen their understanding of potential customers was laughable. The cost alone of backing up terabytes upon terabytes of marketing data on a daily basis was almost overwhelming. But now with the advances of storage, managing big data in the marketing environment is easier than ever. Many companies are taking advantage of online backup comparison sites that help ensure realistic and affordable prices for online data storage.

Beyond the lowered cost of managing big data, big data-centric social businesses have received a lot of interest from investors over the past few years. Many of these social businesses — Facebook, LinkedIn, Vitrue, Buddy Media, etc — are all resources that marketers use on a daily basis. This is all outstanding news for the marketing community. Never before in advertising and marketing have millions upon millions of users all congregated in the same place. But the big problem with this social business trend, according to Business Insider, is a lack of effective measurement.

This is where big data analytics come into play. It allows marketers to gain sophisticated data on millions of users and social impressions in a single, unified big data analytics dashboard.

Big Data in Healthcare

One of the major industries benefiting from big data technology is healthcare. Big data technologies are making it easier for healthcare professionals to manage data that both helps increase the efficiency of mission-critical healthcare processes and makes it easier to help patients of all kinds. With the right systems in place, healthcare facilities can easily understand and deliver data to patients and other professionals throughout the facility. Big data streamlines these healthcare processes through a combination of virtual administrative assistants (not unlike Apple’s Siri), data mining and analysis, data collection and market analysis, as TechTarget notes.

Big Data in the Entertainment Industry

Big data is even reaching its way into the marketing sector of the entertainment industry. Take the film industry for instance. The film industry needs to embrace this new era of big data to keep up with the growing demands of tomorrow’s moviegoers, opines Steve Canepa on Business Insider. This idea of big data and entertainment industry marketing even trickles down to the video game industry. As more games become social and rely on sophisticated user data, the only way to keep up is through the use of big data technologies.

big data

Guest post by Sarah Phelan, everyone's favorite IT gal. She does tech reviews on the latest in virus protection software and web hosting.