Top Eight Inspirational Ad Campaigns

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As a marketing communications professional, my first exposure to the world of advertising, public relations and social media was actually through a Nike campaign some 20 years ago. This particular campaign inspired me, pushed me to be better and forced me, even at a young age, to keep going even in the face of failure. Maybe it’s also partially responsible for my brand loyalty to Nike all these years.

Years later, the message behind this campaign continues to inspire me and it’s a message that I reach for when times are tough, when I get low and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It inspires me so much that I even analyzed it in an academic paper.  As a professional storyteller for clients in film, food and tourism, helping them translate their stories for an array of mediums (whether it’s in PR, social media or a blog/print piece); I’ve always felt that a narrative doesn’t have to be long in order to be inspirational. Ad campaigns can go beyond selling something to actually make you feel something and messages also doesn’t have to come from a book, a film or a TV series in order be real, raw and realistic.

Without further ado, I’m going to share some of the most inspirational ad campaigns that have pushed me to be better and continue to fight through adversity and move forward in the face of failure.

1.Nike-“Failure” (1997)

Though far from the first Michael Jordan led Nike campaign I’d seen growing up, it was definitely the first of many Nike campaigns that struck a chord with me. As he’s walking into the Chicago Bulls locker room, one of the greatest basketball players of all time ruminates on all the times he’d messed up, missed a shot or the games he’s lost-and how it forces him to continue to push himself to be better. If there was one message that I continue to carry with me from this campaign, is that failure isn’t the end and that you can-and should-use it to as motivation to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Still a campaign I return 20-some odd years later whenever things are tough and I need inspiration.

2. Nike-“Maybe It’s My Fault” (2008)

Another Michael Jordan campaign that forces you to stand up and pay attention; this was the campaign formed the basis of the academic paper I mentioned earlier. With Michael providing the voiceover, the ad cycles through several significant locations and areas from his life, from his old gym and the locker room at UNC, to the trophies and accolades in the Chicago Bulls locker room. In the voiceover, the man himself talks about how peoples’ misconceptions about his career and his skill set allowed them to make excuses for themselves. At the end of the ad, he forces them to stand up and listen and to stop using him as an excuse for why they can’t play the game of basketball. The message here is simple: just because he was able to do what he was able to do doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. Stop putting him up on a pedestal that you can never reach and start working hard to get to where you want to go.

3. Converse-“Love Letter to Basketball” (2007)

Less of a campaign and more of a personal reflection that inspired a campaign for Converse, this was the video I remember showing a co-worker (herself a basketball player who had to stop playing due to chronic injuries) 7 years ago; which reduced her into a flood of tears. Written by the amazingly talented Dwyane Wade (one of the best currently active players in the NBA today) while he was still endorsed by Converse, it’s an inspirational piece about the struggles any athlete faces in the sport they love. When you struggle with something you love, it can be disheartening, it can beat you down, wear you out and cause you to want to give up. It’s a powerful letter filled with hope that things can get better if you persevere in what you love and don’t allow the cycle of negativity to suck you under.

4. Nike-“Together” (2014)

Are you perhaps sensing a theme in the types of campaigns I find inspirational? Even as a non-Cleveland Cavaliers fan and a casual fan of LeBron James, this campaign continues to cause me to choke up every time I see it. Why? It’s like the tagline says “This time it’s bigger than basketball,” and it was. This campaign was rallying battle cry for the city of Cleveland and it showed. This shared community, this shared love for sport brought out the loyalty, the love and the best out of the citizens of Cleveland. Say what you want about LeBron’s career, his attitude regarding some aspects of celebrity and the controversial move he made to leave Cleveland in the first place, but the man is a leader-and one who is great at rallying people around him.  And the payoff of this? Cleveland won their first-ever NBA championship two seasons later. I’d say the tears LeBron shed were well warranted.

5.Smarties-“Duets” (2008)

An interesting campaign that doesn’t show its hand on what product they’re promoting until the very end, this older Smarties campaign features several Canadian singers in a duet with one another in several different locations from a church and skate park to a city bus. Each pair features a singer with another musician playing an instrument, whether it’s a beatboxer, guitarist or saxophonist. Each one sings a variation of lyrics off of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, substituting the colors for occupations before ending with a flourish on the line “I am everyday people.” While this wasn’t a well-known Smarties campaign around the world or even in Canada at the time, there’s something about seeing people from all different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, singing the lyrics of a song that promotes inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity, especially in the face of today’s many issues surrounding racism and prejudice.

6. Chrysler-“Imported From Detroit (Super Bowl 2011)

While not a huge car fan by any means, this campaign during the Super Bowl in 2011 caught my eye because of the underlying implications. At the time, Detroit was still reeling from the 2008 recession, hit incredibly hard economically with houses foreclosing left, right and center and several auto makers had to be bailed out by the US government. Eminem, Detroit’s prodigal son, was also experiencing a major comeback in his career, having released the great album Recovery, a few months previously. What this campaign symbolizes to me is the revitalization of Detroit, the auto industry and indeed, Eminem’s career. It’s that blue-collar work ethic and the refusal to ever give up that really stands out in this campaign. The use of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ was the perfect soundtrack to illustrate what Detroit and what Eminem is made of.

7. Nike-“Fate- Leave Nothing” (2008)

Directed by the legendary David Fincher, this is by far my favorite NFL football campaign. He focuses on the life-long journeys of pro football players, LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they collide in an NFL season game. In the campaign, you see how both players grew up, got involved with basketball and then football and how they trained for both sports. As the two collide on the field, the message is clear: give it your all, no matter what you choose to do and leave nothing on the table. If you leave it all out there, you’ll have no regrets, no matter what the result of everything you’ve worked towards.

8.Nike-“Let Your Game Speak” (2006)

I thought I’d close off the list with one last Michael Jordan campaign. Unlike the other ad campaigns featured on this list, this one contains no dialogue whatsoever. Instead, this campaign shows several basketball players making slick slam dunks and gorgeous shots on courts all over the world. College kids in tournaments, high school students in the gym, even students halfway across the world in China execute great plays on the basketball court. The ad ends with a basket being sunk due to a great shot from a young Chicago native during the Chi Classic while Michael Jordan stands, proudly watching the next generation-with the words ‘Let Your Game Speak’ going across the screen. Simple, but poignant, it tells you that sometimes, words are necessary to have make an impact. Sometimes, all you need is to let your skills speak for themselves.

That’s my list of ad campaigns that inspire me and push me to do better, move forward and continue fighting. Know any more that I should watch? Let me know!

In the meantime, here’s my list of go-to songs, books & movies that help me beat writer’s block.

Day 4-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers

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Now that you’ve booked a venue and you’re making headway with finding your dream dress and creating your uniquely customized wedding invitations; it’s time to turn your attention to your décor and flowers for your bouquet.

Why are flowers great for your décor and your wedding? Well, they provide fresh ambience and color that other decorations can’t, as well as some creative elegance and sophistication. They also show your guests different quirks of your and your significant others’ personalities.

Before you jump the gun and start buying flowers, let me remind you about the questions that I posed previously that you need to ask your florist:

-What kind of flowers will be or are in season around the time of my wedding?

-Will the available flowers fit the color scheme I have for the wedding?

-How many flowers will I need for boutonnieres for guests?

-Is my favorite flower (rose, calla lily etc.) grown naturally in a color that will fit into my color scheme and if does, will it also fit into my budget?

-Is there a difference between fresh and dyed flowers and if the flowers I want aren’t available in my colors, is buying dyed flowers an option?

These top 3 apps & websites (in no particular order) will help you answer these questions and pick the best flowers for your wedding.

1) GrowersBox.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can order your own DIY wedding flowers, arranged wedding flower packages and even petals of different flowers including roses and peonies. You can also order flower gifts and different types of wholesale flowers that I rarely seen elsewhere, from Asiatic Lilies and mini Gerbera Daisies. You also search for flower by color and purchase dyed flower at your convenience.

2) Wedding Bouquet Ideas

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Why It’s Awesome: This application shows you the galleries of hundreds of beautiful wedding bouquet ideas, designs and decorating. If you have an idea about wedding flower decorations, this application can help you. This app contains the various types and colors of flowers such as : bridal bouquet ideas, bridesmaid bouquets, tulips, roses, gardenia, daisy, hydrangea floral, paper, silk, fabric, jewelry, buttons bouquet, red, orange, blue, cream, pink, white, purple, green, spring, fall, summer, tropical and more.

3) Flowerbud.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can purchase boxes of different flowers such as irises and lilies in different boxes and colors for your wedding as well as bonsai plants and sunflowers. If you get stuck on creating your own DIY wedding flowers, you can talk to their Wedding Coordinator for advice.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating and compiling the best wedding flowers? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of flower arrangements quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your flower orders much easier.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the right flowers that provide your ceremony and reception with some fresh ambience and reflects your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding the best photography for your wedding?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 5 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best in Photography’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 3-How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Wedding Invitations and Save-the-Date Reminders

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You’ve got a wedding date set and the venue to hold it in, now you have to find somewhat to notify your guests about the wedding.

Are you looking to create your own invitations by hand? Or are you going to a graphic designer or a design and print shop for the professional touch? Or, maybe you’re looking for an integrated approach with some new media, a website and an app or two?

No matter what your preference is for your invites, you can’t get started until you answer some fundamental questions about your wedding and what you’ll be sharing about your relationship and your personalities-beyond the wedding date.

What colors are you using in your wedding theme (ie. for décor, flowers and dresses)?

-Beyond color in your wedding’s theme, do you have fun quirks and interests that reflect you and your significant other (ie. music notes, video game characters, a love of books and certain authors) that you aren’t afraid to share with your guests and make a theme out of?

-Are you open to using different materials and media for your invites (ie. fabric, typesetting, engraving etc.) as an option outside of standard paper or cardstock?

– Are you going to be incorporating cultural and/or religious symbols into your wedding as it reflects your heritage (ie. Chinese double happiness symbol, Ukrainian pysanka etc.)?

-Are you open to using an integrated approach with your invites and save-the-date reminders, incorporating physical invites with an app or website?

I will show you the best apps, websites and platforms that will help answer these questions and make the most out of your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders that are easy to use, affordable and stress-free!

Here’s the top 4 apps, websites and platforms (in no particular order) that will help you make the most out of creating your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders.

1) Minted.com

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Why It’s Awesome: This is an great website that not only gives you free invitation samples, the option to create save-the-date cards, postcards or magnet reminders; but also allows you to create thank you and RSVP cards. It’s also one of the few that I’ve seen that gives you the option to create cultural and religious wedding invitations through their website, but also allows you to create minibook wedding invites, wedding announcements and journals.

2) Appy Couple

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Why It’s Awesome: This app is great for connecting with your guests and share details with them that go beyond just notifying them about the wedding. You can create a wedding app and website all in one shot, let your guests know about flight and hotel information and give them a customized wedding code that allows guests to receive information via emails and on social media platforms. With the wedding code, guests can upload photos using the app and share stories automatically.

3) Up Up Creative

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Why It’s Awesome: You browse the website for the design that you like and all invitation, announcement, and photo card designs are available in printed OR printable form. By default, all designs are sold as print-ready files. These files can be printed at home, locally, or online. If you prefer to order printing from them, you can choose to do so separately. Simply click on Add Printing from the menu choices at the top of the site and order from there with 3 options for paper:100lb cover stock in bright white or cream OR upgrade to 100% cotton in white. You can also customize your order. Within 3 business days you’ll receive a digital (PDF) proof of the customized design. NOTE: For an additional fee, you can also choose to customize the fonts used on your invitation or you can choose to use a language other than English.

4) Paperless Post

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Why It’s Awesome: This app is one of the absolute best for event management because you can track cards and invites you’ve sent as well as respond to ones you’ve been sent. You can: receive push notifications for new cards and recipient activity, view RSVPs and replies from your recipients, add additional guests to your recipient list, send emails to groups of recipients by status and exchange private messages with recipients. You can also RSVP to events and comment on cards you’ve received, access event details such as date, time, and location, view guest lists and other guests’ comments and upload photos to event pages from your phone.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating your customized wedding invites and save-the-date reminders? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of invites quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your RSVPs much easier

With the right tools and websites to help you create the right wedding invites that reflect your relationship and your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding your favorite flowers to fit in with your wedding theme?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 4 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 2-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Wedding Dress

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So you’ve found a great ceremony site and an awesome reception venue, maybe you’re currently working on getting your really cool and creative ‘save the date’ reminders out to your guests or trying to find a great photographer. But what about one of the most important dresses you’ll ever wear for a monumental occasion?

There are literally thousands of options for a wedding dress. There’s several different silhouettes from A-line to ball gown and even the option to have unique color accents on a white dress. I’ve seen blue, red and black accents on white wedding dresses.

And if you don’t want white for your wedding dress? No problem! You’ve got plenty of choices, cream, ivory, pink, blue, red, nearly any color you could think of. What if you want a dress that reflects your heritage, such as a sari or Chinese cheong sam? Well, there are a wide selection of dresses to fit any cultural tradition too, all you have to do is look.

But, with all the stress that comes with endless searches, dress fittings and even the horror of having your dream dress permanently ruined, how can finding the perfect wedding dress be fun AND stress free?

Let me show you how, using some of the best websites, social media platforms and apps to find your perfect wedding dress.

Top 4 Websites, Social Media Platforms & Apps for Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress

1) Brides Wedding Genius 4.0

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Why It’s Awesome: This great app comes from by Condé Nast Digital (the company responsible for Brides.com). You can browse for wedding dresses by silhouettes, brand and price and when you land on an image of a dress that you like you can tap it to flip through similar galleries or to locate a store in your area. You can also access more expert tips and Brides advice, save your favorites and categorize ideas in custom folders for easy access and/or to share with vendors and create drag and drop inspiration boards on BridesWeddingGenius.com with items you’ve uploaded on the go.

2) Nearly Newlywed

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Why It’s Awesome: This website turns the concept of buying used or pre-owned wedding dresses on its head. How? Well, you search the website for a wedding dress with the ‘Sell It Back’ symbol, purchase said perfect dress, wear it on your big day and then sell it back to the website. If you sell it back within 2 months of your big day, you can get up to 50% of the price you bought it for-back! If you sell it back within 3 months, you get 40% and you’ll receive 30% of the original price back when you sell it within 4 months of the big day.

3) Wedding Dress Look Book by The Knot

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Why It’s Awesome: Think of it as your on-the-go for wedding dress shopping on your iPhone from TheKnot.com — from wedding dress suggestions, customized to your body type and wedding style, to the bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite designs. With this app, you can: get suggested wedding dress search results based on your body type, wedding style, and personality. Search the hottest new wedding dresses — by style, shape, price, and designer — and bookmark your favorites for later as well as find bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite dresses.

4) Bravo Bride

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Why It’s Awesome: You can search for used dresses on this site based on silhouettes and save them as your favorites. You can purchase and sell your used wedding dress on this site as well as search affiliated wedding boutiques and talk with other brides on the forums.

What makes these apps and websites the best for finding your perfect dream wedding dress? Well, not only can you search for all styles of wedding dresses quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also find where to purchase your dream dress much easier and quicker. You can also create inspiration boards and flipbooks for your favorites as well.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the perfect dream dress, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about coming up with creative and fun invitations that uniquely reflect you and your relationship and spicing things up with cool ‘save-the-date’ reminders?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 3 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Your Own Invitations & Save the Date Ideas’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 1 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Ceremony Site

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After some time to come down from the high of getting engaged, you’ve no doubt slowly started looking to doing some wedding planning. Maybe you’ve even started looking into a few wedding venues.

If that’s the case, let me remind you of 5 crucial questions you must answer in order to choose the right wedding venue:

1) What kind of theme and ambience am I going for with the wedding? (ie. Elegant, Traditional, Quirky, Modern-can also impact color scheme)

2) Are there family and/or religious traditions I have to consider?

3) Will the weather or transportation play a huge factor into the venue I choose? (ie. Are you going for indoor or outdoor? Out-of-town venue? Destination wedding?)

4) What’s my budget cap for booking a ceremony venue?

5) How many people am I prepared to have attend the ceremony?

Have you thought about what kind of theme your wedding will have or what your budget will be for finding a ceremony & reception venue? Are you worried about how long and how much energy you’ll have to spend looking for the right venue?

Let me show you the Top 4 websites, apps & social media tricks (in no particular order) to find the best wedding venue for your city

1) Facebook Graph Search

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Why It’s Awesome: Because Graph Search can look up anything from photos to local businesses-INCLUDING wedding venues your friends like, you can search for ‘[insert vendor need here]– that my friends like’ to get a list of options. The search results show which of your friends has liked each vendor, so you can message your friend to ask questions or get a referral.

2) Eventective

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Why It’s Awesome: This website has literally every kind of venue you can ask for a wedding, from reception halls, to restaurants, resorts and hotels. You can search for venues all over the US and Canada and you can even log onto their online forum to get advice on weddings and other events and read how-to articles.

3) WeddingMapper App

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Why It’s Awesome: This awesome app allows you to create lists of your vendors including your ceremony and reception venues, manage their contact information and other notes and schedule payments as well as track payment information all in one place.

4) I Do Venues App

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Why It’s Awesome: Comprehensive venue app for ceremony and reception venues in California. A comprehensive directory along with full galleries and information on each venues’ layout so you can see exactly how each theme, design idea and color palette will look.

Why are these sites, social media platforms and apps so great for finding the perfect ceremony and/or reception venue? Well, they save you time and energy and eliminates guesswork as well as endless searches on Google for your city’s best ceremony and reception venues.

They’ll give you the tools and the ability to see everything from locations and photos to layouts for each venue and you’ll be able to keep track of your favourite venues using these sites and apps, including tracking the payment history for the venue of your choice.

So with the right tools, sites and apps to get your ceremony and reception venues sorted, what’s next on the list for wedding planning? Figuring out how you’re going to find the perfect wedding dress for such a monumental occasion with Day 2: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Introducing ‘How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning’

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If you’re newly engaged and find yourself overwhelmed by questions from family and friends and the sheer amount of things that have to be done for a wedding, from getting a reception venue to finding a photographer; this blog series is for you.

With this blog series, I’m going to show you how social media can make finding the perfect wedding dress, the right photographer and the best ceremony and reception venues-easier and quicker. Not only that, social media can add a creative marketing flair to your wedding, including helping you discover how DIY elements can give your wedding a unique individual flair not seen anywhere else.

For example, did you know that by using social media to help plan your wedding you can:

-Ask other engaged couples for help, all over the world-no matter what time it is?

-Have a mobile message board & community to inform & converse with guests always on hand

-Find unique and never before seen items and ideas from individualized rings (complete with fingerprints) to DIY centerpieces

-Find a reliable, affordable, unique and fun solution to an expensive DJ or live band

-Discover fun ideas for your first dance and for your vows.

-Always keep your wedding budget (including graphs of how much you’ve allocated to each element of the wedding) in the palm of your hand.

-Curate any and all information (such as flights, hotels & city attractions) for your out-of-town guests to have while they’re on the go

-Grab the expertise from top wedding blogs and incorporate them into your private, online inspiration board

-Keep all you wedding related tasks organized and synced to all of your social media profiles

-Find the perfect venue for your ceremony and reception, no matter how quirky and how big the guest list

For the next 8 weeks, I’ll be showing you how to use social media to do all of these things for your wedding and more.

First up, Day 1: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning: Finding Your Ceremony Venue.

In the meantime, check out this awesome slideshow on a few important questions you should be asking about weddings.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

5 Ways to Strengthen Customer Loyalty

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Whether you own a bricks-and-mortar store, online business or a Fortune 500 company, whether you offer products, services or experiences, you know that customers are the ones that determine whether a business thrives or fails.

No matter the target audience, each and every company needs customers to believe in what they do, to support the core of those beliefs by purchasing products, services or experiences. The type of customers matters too. While you can increase foot traffic and ultimately revenue by increasing the number of customers that buy online or walk through your store, it’s infinitely more beneficial to have repeat customers who are loyal to your brand and who believe what you believe in.

So, besides continuing to offer amazing products, services and experiences that fulfill customers’ needs, wants and help make their lives more enjoyable, how do you build and strengthen customer loyalty?

Here are 5 unique ways you can increase customer loyalty to your brand, both online and offline:

1) Develop a Customer Loyalty Program

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Customers deserve to know that you appreciate their business and sometimes that requires more than a ‘Thank You’ card or a once-a-year holiday discount.

Try developing a loyalty program that rewards your customers for what they do online and offline. For example, you own a fashion apparel store and you notice that one loyal customer in particular is posting several different images of them modeling and sharing your clothing lines and accessories over the course of a few months via Instagram. Without any prompting from you, this loyal customer has become a brand ambassador of sorts for your company and is sharing regular user-generated content on your social networks.

This customer deserves to be rewarded for her brand loyalty online, so why not reward her with a gift bag full of your accessories, a $25 gift card or even a free t-shirt for her repeat business? It doesn’t have to be a huge reward in your loyalty program, just something that shows customers that you appreciate and encourage their repeat business and that you pay attention to their online interactions with their brand.

Conversely, if a customer comes into your store and regularly purchases accessories, beauty products or certain services like a hair cut from you, you should reward them with a loyalty card that allows them to earn point on those purchases and then redeem those points for rewards like a special gift, treatment package or gift card with a larger value.

Starbucks’ loyalty program is a great example of this. You can earn Stars that go towards free food/drink rewards, early access to new products and custom offers on products you enjoy when you opt into the MyStarbucks Rewards email newsletter by using your registered Starbucks, Teavana or La Boulange card to purchase Starbucks products on the app, in store or at your grocery store.

You earn two Stars per day and depending on how many you have, you’re registered into different reward levels. The Welcome Level gives you the following perks: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com and custom offers via email.
The Green Level (which you receive after collecting 5 stars in a year) gives you: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com, custom offers via email and free in-store refills of hot or ice brewed coffee or tea. The Gold Level (after you collect 30 stars in a year) gives you all of the above plus a free food/drink item after earning another 12 stars and a personalized Gold Card.

Every step of the way, you must monitor your customers’ purchasing habits as well as their online interactions with your brand and develop a loyalty program that rewards them for those actions in order to continue to build and strengthen customer loyalty.

2) Foster a Sense of Ownership

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If you’re testing out a new product or service, a great way to solicit customer feedback and foster a sense of ownership in the product by making them feel like stakeholders in the company is to ask them to beta test the product.

Not only is it an awesome way to generate customer loyalty and ensure that they feel they’re being listened to, but it gives your company an actual tested product or service before it hits the market for the general public. That way, you can leverage positive customer testimonials and build a reputation for the product/service/experience before it hits the marketplace.

For example, there are several video game developers and studios that often need their games beta-tested before the actual games hit the market to be reviewed by noted video game critics and websites and released to the general public. Nintendo hires several beta-testers through other third-party companies to help them test out their games to iron out any bugs and make changes before they hit the market.

It’s a great way to foster brand loyalty and allowing customers to foster a sense of ownership in the brand and ensure that their feedback is listened to can be its own form of a intangible reward.

3) Offer Premium Services

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For loyal customers who are repeat shoppers at your store or online business, try offering premium services to thank them for their repeat business. Similar to perhaps to the higher reward levels in a loyalty program, premium services don’t need a sign-up function. Instead, using email newsletter and transaction tracking, reward these repeat customers that you find with perks such as free shipping, free wrapping, extended business hours and even free upgrades on services.

How’s this for premium service? Author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. He sent out a tweet that read: “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” He got off the plane at Newark to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz. Morton’s porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. That’s premium customer service if I ever heard of any. Someone at Morton’s had to monitor Twitter, notify the chef, have the chef make the food and then have it hand-delivered to the right terminal at the airport at the right time. That’s definitely going the extra mile for your customers.

4) Make customers feel special

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Host exclusive events for your top customers off-site and outside the office or profile them via an email newsletter or social media shout-out. Top customers deserve to have a few exclusive perks to let them know how much you value their business.

Vancouver-based security company Tri-Ed hosted an off-site customer appreciation event with wine and beer tasting, Sushi and Oyster bar and a photo booth at an off-site restaurant. Raffle prizes like mini iPad, a Canon digital camera and 32” LED Samsung TV were given to top customers that attended the event. That’s definitely showing your top customers how much you appreciate and value their business.

5) Reward Referrals

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Reward your top customers who refer their friends, family and colleagues to your business with discounts and other rewards. Customer referrals are a powerful tool in new business development and not only does it help to grow your current customer base, but also lets your current customers know how much you appreciate their recommendations.

Julep, an online beauty and skincare retailer rewards referrals with a $15 credit for every person that clicks on your referral link to join Maven along with Jules rewards points with every monthly box and special occasions like your birthday and Maven anniversary.

Stay tuned for more posts on content marketing, building marketing strategies and learning how to use cool platforms. In the meantime, if you want to learn how to incorporate more customer content into your marketing, check out my post on Turning User Generated Content into Sales for Your Company.

6 Unique Ways Instagram Video Can Improve Your Marketing Strategies

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By now, you or someone you know has probably experimented with Instagram, snapping photos with your mobile device and posting them to your account, tagging different people and maybe even sharing them via Facebook and Twitter.

But have you ever tried Instagram Video? If you haven’t, it’s an awesome way to incorporate video into the marketing you’re already doing. Not only that, Instagram’s video capabilities will let you do more than Twitter’s Vine ever could!

For starters, Instagram Video offers up to 15 seconds of video recording time which beats Vine’s 6 seconds. You can also edit the video on Instagram by deleting a specific segment instead of having to delete the whole video at once.

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Instagram also brings their custom filters to their videos the same way you can use them on your photos and just like your photos, any video you create via Instagram can be seen by over 130 million people as opposed to 13 million users on Vine. Instagram Video is also available directly inside the mobile app so you don’t have to download an outside app and you can even scroll through to pick the best cover image for your video, which will help entice first-time viewers to click through to the video. Instagram videos also play in-line on Facebook for desktop users. Like YouTube and Facebook videos, a Facebook user can click and watch the clip right in their Facebook account after logging in.

Now that you’ve seen what makes Instagram Video stand out, here’s 6 different ways it can help improve your marketing strategies:

1) Shoot a Product Demo & Answer FAQs

Sometimes, rather than spending half an hour to an hour answering customer questions and inquiries via email or Twitter, it can be really beneficial to make a list of the most popular customer inquiries and use short Instagram videos to answer them.

If your customers have a lot of questions on how your product works, show them how through step-by-step instructions with narration so they can receive additional helpful info about your product. It’s a great value-add for your customers with the added bonus of being easy to follow and share, rather than paging through paragraphs of text or long pages of images.

2) Create a Visual Portfolio of Your Work

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A post shared by Verve Coffee Roasters (@vervecoffee) on

Remember the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Well a 15 second video has the potential communicate much more than a thousand words. Depending on the nature of your industry (this could work better if you’re in food/beverage, beauty, fashion/style, technology, digital media etc.), try shooting videos of recent work you’ve done for clients as a video look book for potential customers to look through.

Whether you’re a makeup artist wanting to share the latest glamorous looks or a café wanting to showcase a cake decorator’s skill, the possibilities for a video visual portfolio are endless!

3) Highlight Special Offers and Events

15 seconds is quite a long time to promote a special offer or event with video. If you’re holding a contest or if you have a special sale for a certain product/service (ie. massage), be sure to show fans and prospective customers what they can win or what they can purchase for the special sale.

Flipping the camera view mode to record a personal message to help promote the event or special sale helps add a personal touch to your marketing for your customer. Use the description field to emphasize the video message advertising the sale, contest or event and add a hashtag to track conversions and extend your reach. A short video might be just what you need to reach a larger audience.

4) Invite Fans & Followers Submissions Via Hashtags

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Invite your fans to submit an Instagram video with a hashtag of your choosing to enter a contest or help promote your live event. If your audience is on Instagram, this could be a great way to engage them and generate great UGC content and brand loyalty. It’s also a more organic way to get genuine content to promote your live event. Potential fans will be more likely to believe content their friends create and share as being genuine than that from a company.

5) Humanize Your Brand

A glimpse behind the scenes of the #Burberry Prorsum Menswear Spring/Summer 2014 show, #London

A post shared by Burberry (@burberry) on

Social media has blurred the lines of communication between companies and their audiences with brands increasingly turning to real-time, real life social engagement with their customers in order to compete in the marketplace. In turn, this creates a need for companies to be more transparent and open with their audiences.

Instagram videos offers brands an opportunity to do this in bite-sized chunks that showcase their style, their workplace culture and gives customers an inside look on how they do things. It helps a brand stand out from its competitors and connect with customers to show them they don’t have secrets to hide and build trust.

6) Increase Engagement on Facebook

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Videos and photos inspire the most engagement (comments, likes and shares) via Facebook. The fact that you’re allowed to view Instagram videos directly inside the Facebook browser can be a huge help to raising community engagement and allowing fans to leave their questions, comments and shares to the brand directly.

Conclusion

Instagram video gives you the flexibility to engage with potential customers and new fans in a variety of ways that not only increases engagement, but brings more user-friendly features to the table than Twitter’s Vine. Try it out and see how it can increase engagement amongst fans and improve your marketing strategies!

Stay tuned on here for more posts on different strategies for content marketing. But in the meantime, check out how mobile marketing can help you generate leads.

How to Create Awesome Infographics Without Being a Designer

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If you’re anything like me, you learned how to use programs like Photoshop and Gimp out of necessity to do minor changes to photos. You might have even dabbled in some easier graphic design projects for your own website, but it takes you hours to get the image or the design looking just right and you’re left exhausted. You might even spend time looking up tutorials on how to achieve a certain effect and still have trouble re-creating it.

In short, while you do know your way around the programs like Photoshop to a certain extent, it takes you forever and there’s absolutely no way you’d call yourself a graphic designer. But then, you’re surfing around the web and you noticed some really cool infographics on things like fashion, music and food and you can’t help but wish that you could create something like that; even if it’d take you a week.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely possible to create some awesome infographics in any category that you choose, EVEN if you’re not a designer. In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to three awesome tools to create the best infographics, tell you how to use them AND how you can share your infographics in different channels all over the web. So, let’s get started!

Introducing Easel.ly

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First of all, I love the name of this tool, it’s a great play on words using easel (as in drawing pad) to play on easily’.

Launched two years ago in 2012, Easel.ly has hundreds of awesome infographic templates and design objects that even the most design novice can customize and share online. You can drag and drop design elements however you see fit or even upload your own background image from scratch as a template. The best part? Easel.ly is free!

Easel.ly is super popular with students, teachers and business owners who need to put together lesson plans or concepts in easy-to-follow visual forms. In fact, Easel.ly received the 2013 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

So how does it work? Simply go to Easel.ly and click on ‘Create an Infographic’. Once you land on the page, you can pick a blank template or one of the other several hundred and get started!

Choose a category to find the best template that you want and then work your magic, dragging and dropping different backgrounds, themes, shapes, objects and putting in text. Then you can save it and share it through a browser link, a web link you can embed into your blog and share it via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

In terms of going the extra mile in sharing your awesome infographic via social, you could even try attracting new audiences on LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram and even using new tools like Glossi to create a new platform like an online magazine featuring cool infographics before sharing them. Creativity and a little out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way.

How to Describe Piktochart

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Piktochart is another awesome online tool for creating cool infographics. It’s little more in-depth then Easel.ly in that it’s a software platform that allows you to embed videos, change the fonts, colours, add different line elements and even charts.

You can even import Google or Excel spreadsheets to create your own charts and customize the infographic by uploading your own images or using the more than 2000 high-res, print-ready graphics in the Piktochart library. Note: While you can change the colors of the icons and graphics from the Piktochart library, you can’t use the program to change the colors on your own images. You’d have to make the changes on an external program first

When it comes to sharing your Piktochart infographic, you can choose the size and the orientation, down to the paper size that you want to print it on. You can embed it in an email campaign and send it through your email campaign client such as MailChimp, MyEmma or Constant Contact and share it via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ just by uploading it to your status update.

You can even include it in online Flickr galleries and share it in your Google+ communities, LinkedIn groups and Google Hangouts to help make online collaborations a little more creative and visually informative.

How ReciteThis is Different

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OK, so up until this point, I’ve been sharing a couple of really cool infographic tools with you that help you make IMAGE-based infographics. So they’re all a little more visual. But, what if you want to create a cool infographic using quotes or proverbs?

That’s where ReciteThis comes in. You can turn a quote into a masterpiece simply by typing whatever quote or proverb into the text box, or choosing a quote from the ReciteThis database. Then you select a background from a slideshow at the bottom of the page and press ‘Create’.

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Afterwards, you have the option of posting it to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or StumbleUpon to share with friends, downloading it for printing purposes or to share with other platforms like LinkedIn or e-mailing it to anyone you want.

So now you know how to create some amazingly fun, creative and detailed infographics-even if you’re NOT a graphic designer! Keep it locked here for more great tips on content marketing, new social marketing and online tools AND tricks on how to better reach your audiences.

Still looking for more design tools? Check out my post on 34 Content Hacks Part 1 to get cool planning, writing & design tricks!

Generating Leads With Mobile Marketing

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Whether it’s viewing a website on your phone or playing an online game on your tablet, by now, you’ve probably been exposed to mobile marketing.

What is mobile marketing, exactly? Mobile marketing is as simple as optimizing your marketing strategies for people using a mobile device-it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the device itself. According to a Google Report, over 90% of people use multiple screens to accomplish a task.

What does that mean? Well, it means that someone could start reading an article on their phone, continue on their iPad and finish on their laptop. To make things easier for them, your job is to create a seamless, optimized experience for every single device. That means, if a website loads on their laptop, make sure people are also able to view it on their phones.

How do you make sure that every person on a mobile device has a seamless, optimized experience? Well you need to put some thought into responsive design and mobile ROI. When your website has a responsive design, it will be formatted properly across any device and you can start generating leads based on similar tactics I’ve already covered in previous blog posts such as Top 12 Calls-to-Action.

A Mobile Strategy Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Building an App

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If you’re thinking that all mobile strategy leads to app creation, stop it. Mobile strategy is about much more than an app. It’s about driving traffic to your website using responsive design. Responsive design gives users an optimized experience while browsing through your website no matter what they use, from their phones and tablets to laptops or desktop computers. This web design concept automatically re-packages the design so that it fits the device viewing it. What makes it versatile is because you can even use free website building tools like WordPress.com and it will allow you to preview how each template design you’ve chosen or created looks on a laptop, a tablet or a phone.

Top 4 Benefits of Responsive Design

1) Responsive design leads to higher conversion rates

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RW-CO_MobileClose to 70% of users are more likely to purchase a product if the website is mobile friendly. That means closer to 30% of users will leave the website if it’s not optimized for their conversion experience.

Take a look at this example of the RW & CO clothing website. Not only do you have to scroll down quite a ways to get to the clothing items you’re looking for, but every time you want to zoom in on an item, you have to pinch your fingers together, if you want to zoom out, you have to spread your fingers apart. Add that to the fact that you also have to wait for longer load times.

Compare that to Nike US’s mobile website and immediately after you enter the URL, you’re taken to a main page where you can see all the links immediately, the photos load up quick and crisp and navigation is breeze to scroll through. In a few clicks, you can find what you’re looking for.

So remember, the easier it is to convert on a website and for customers to find what they’re looking for, the more likely it is that customers will purchase products on the mobile site. Just help them along by making your website mobile-friendly.
2) Responsive design is less stressful to maintain than apps

Even though it may seem like a lot of work to manage and maintain content and design on several versions of the same website, in fact, with responsive design, you only have to update ONE version of your website because it’s just one device that conforms to the size of the screen. So, with one update, you can still maintain a website that’s easy to access to across all devices!

The result is that you save time, money and energy and you don’t have to have a web developer make updates for you! You avoid bottlenecks, save time on meetings and the approval process, which will help your marketing department become more efficient!

3) Responsive design improves SEO

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As you probably know by now, it’s vital to optimize your webpages with the keywords you’re trying to rank for. By having responsive design, you can update your web pages once and your website will automatically update across all platforms. Responsive design also eliminates the chances of you publishing duplicate content and splitting your inbound links.

Also, one URL helps Google establish indexing properties for your content on the website which helps the site rank better. Google also ranks mobile-optimized sites higher in mobile searches. With 15% of traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s really important how well your website ranks.

4) Responsive design calls for better usability

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Having a mobile-optimized website allows for better usability because it fits all different screen sizes. Moreover, according to Google, close to 75% of users want mobile sites to fit their smartphone screens better, have bigger CTA buttons, scroll up and down rather than left to right and be more clean and efficient.

Responsive design satisfies all these requests from mobile users by fitting into screens of varying sizes, having bigger CTA buttons, be clean and efficient and allow users to scroll up and down.

Now that we’ve covered why and how responsive design works to help you generate more website traffic, here’s 6 tactics that will help you generate leads.

1) Employ Progressive Profiling Forms

Most of the time, web forms can be too small for a mobile site, not to mention all the scrolling and zooming it you’d have to do to see and fill in the entire form.

But forms are vital to marketers, it’s a great lead capturing device, so you can’t exactly get rid of them. That’s where progressive profiling forms come in.

Progressive profiling technology is an extension of dynamic form fields allows you to set up forms that designate what questions appear to each lead based on what you already know about them. That way, every time a lead fills out the form, you’re progressively gathering more information and keeping your forms short and easy to complete. This helps you optimize your mobile site with shorter forms and higher conversions.

2) Create Simpler CTAs.

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This is a topic I’ve already covered in my post on the Top 12 Tips for Great CTAs, but on mobile sites, it’s even more important. Make sure whatever images you use are large enough with clear text on them that get your point across quickly.

3) Provide Discounts and Customer Loyalty

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You can measure your mobile presence through discounts like promo codes and customer loyalty discounts that are redeemable through your mobile device. Starbucks is a great example. Mayors of individual Starbucks stores were able to unlock the Mayor Offer and enjoy a money-saving perk for their frequent store check-ins.

4) Optimize Content for a Mobile Screen

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When you’re writing for a mobile audience, there’s a few things you need to remember. Frontload your content in case people don’t read all the way to the bottom and don’t put the punch line as the last line of the article and make sure the purpose of the article is visible from the beginning. Bold your headlines and make them something that people will want to share. Lastly, test some of your content to see what your audiences like better. Are top 10 lists getting more shares and comments or are how-to articles?

5) Make Your Phone Number an Active Link

When someone picks up their phone, they’re much more action-oriented than if they were on a laptop. Whether it’s searching for a website, opening an app or composing an email, people tend to do a lot more on their phones. Knowing this, one of the most effective ways to get your potential customers to the point of conversion faster is to make your phone number a clickable link. By doing so, they can automatically give you a call for more information. The fewer steps it takes for a potential customer to act, the more likely it is that they’ll do it rather than leaving the website.

6) Try a Text Campaign

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Although this might seem like a riskier option, there is still room in a marketing strategy for you to try an SMS campaign. Take Julep, for example. They ran a SMS coupon campaign for their newest nail polish and Julep was able to track what percentage of their mobile subscribers clicked on the link in their SMS coupon and how many of those subscribers purchased the promotion. This one SMS coupon generated a 34.23% click-through rate, and an astounding 17.44% purchase conversion rate based on subscribers that clicked the link.

How to Unlock Mobile ROI

Online-On Device Conversion

Most businesses allow customers to purchase products through their mobile sites. 61% of consumers have said that if they can’t find a product in that mobile site, they’ll turn to the competitors. The easier it is to convert on a website, the less likely consumers will turn to competitors. You must also make sure that the flow and design of your mobile site is optimized for the best usability.
Online-Mobile Apps

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Apps are popular because they can resourceful and easy to use. Typically, a purchase can be made within two steps, which makes them an efficient alternative to mobile sites.

The travel booking agency Priceline recognizes that 82% of their customers make their bookings less than a day before their arrival. So, they made their app easier to book reservations on the go. On the Starbucks mobile app, you can purchase items, locate the nearest location, reload your Starbucks card or share your purchases via social media.

Offline-Click to Call

Lots of times, consumers want to be able to phone the businesses easily. Comcast makes it easy for users to call them by including their phone number in their mobile site and their search ads. The company built a mobile ad extension that allow people to call directly from the search results.

As a result, Comcast got a 270% click through rate through their mobile ads than their desktop search ads.

All of these points indicate just how valuable mobile sites are to your overall marketing strategy. By providing mobile users with the information that you know they’re looking for, you can guide them through to a purchasing decision; which helps your business and leads to happy customers.

Keep reading every week to get more posts on awesome marketing strategies and tips on how to use different marketing tools. In meantime, learn more about how to understand your customers better!