Insights: The EGC Blog

EGC is proud to present its Creative Highlights of 2014. From TV spots to websites to social media posts, check out some of our best work – ever. It's been a fun year and 2015 promises to be even better, so stay tuned.

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All marketers at one point in time have heard the term "Big Data" thrown around the office. This is a term that everyone hears but not everyone understands. Simply put, Big Data is a large data set that, when analyzed, can be used to reveal associations, patterns and trends.

You may think that the idea of using Big Data to "Construct Big Ideas" came about with the rise of technology in digital, but one of the oldest forms of Big Data is quite prehistoric...

Archeologists may not have known it at the time, but they were Big Data pioneers.

  • Digging for answers
  • Finding the key pieces needed
  • Constructing what they found into something far greater

As odd as it may seem, following this same approach has led to Big Data Constructing Big Ideas. In one particular case, EGC followed these steps when addressing the drop in the website conversion for Dorsey Schools, a group of Michigan Career Schools.

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Challenge:
After some digging, we saw that traffic had increased to an all-time high in 2014 (a 50% increase when compared to last year), but conversions did not follow the same trend (resulting in a 12% decrease).

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Solution:
We found in the data that it was actually mobile that had caused traffic to increase so dramatically – but with great inefficiencies. We began constructing a mobile-optimized website with a responsive design, a homepage built for mobile, consolidated content, and shorter contact forms.

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Results:
After all of these elements were implemented to the site, overall conversions went from a -12% decrease to a 118% increase. This was due primarily to a 291% increase in mobile conversions.

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On Black Friday 2014, as most attention was turned toward sales figures and contemplating our fascination with brawl videos,Chris Messina published a blog post on Google+. And as the tech world (and those who cover it) came back from the long holiday weekend, this piece started to go viral.

Why this blog post? 

This summer, there was concern about the platform’s future (following its notable absence from discussions at Google’s annual developers’ conference, Google I/O). And plenty has been written lately on the platform as predictions have been made about its future in 2015. From Frederic Gonzalo in B2C prognosticating, "“Google+ dies and goes to Heaven” to WordStream founder and CTO Larry Kim's declaration“In 2015 Google+ will die a slow death,” the outlook isn't overly positive.

What has people talking about this particular blog is (aside from its colorful language) is Messina worked at Google – on Google+. The piece is an insider’s take on his own hopes for the platform from what he describes as its “primordial days” to now as someone who has since stepped away from Google, but still cares about its outcome.

Thoughts on Google+ has spread from social blogs like The Social Graf to the mainstream press like CNN. Messina actually added an addendum to his original post, addressing an error in the CNN piece, writing, For the record, Dear CNN, I was never an engineer on Google+ (though I was both a developer advocate and UX designer). Facts, meh.” 

Messina began the blog with an apology for calling out on Twitter what he’d interpreted as a bug that impacted Google+ because of a lack of quality assurance. It turns out it was interference from a Chrome extension. 

 

While acknowledging this wasn’t what he’d originally thought, Messina shares why he was prompted to think it and share it publicly. “When I thought about what motivated me to lob this snarkbomb, I realized I was looking for a reaction. I wanted some kind of defiant response to questions that’ve recently bugged meWhat’s going on with Google+?

Not only does he ask where it’s going, but he questions its purpose. He contends, “…most people would likely describe Google+ as a newsfeed, a kind of Facebook-lite.” He argues that it doesn’t function as Google’s “social backbone” or “locus of control and access” to information or to control their social presence. He adds, while this may be intentional on Google’s part, then “I don’t get it.” 

Messina’s look at the platform becomes personal when he shares: “And damnit all, why and I so disappointed?! When it comes right down to it, maybe I just don’t want to admit that I spent 3½ years working on something that will become irrelevant.” [sic]

Messina writes that when the project’s original name was Google Me, he loved what the name suggested: a humanized, personal look at information about people. “It was like Google was saying, ‘We’re going to be your trusted partner in cyberspace, and we’ll help you surface the right information to the people you choose, at the right time.’ The value proposition was search oriented, rather than social.

So what do we think about Google+ and where it’s headed in 2015?

Our Director of Social Media, Stephanie Frank, predicts:Personally, I think that Google will be forced to find a better function for Google+ in 2015. An important thing to remember is that Google+ has been used and has gained a lot of content over the past few years.” 

“There are celebrities and brands that do use this platform, even if it is not the primary platform for engagement and content distribution,” she adds. Last month, for example, Google+ Hangouts made headlines for hangouts with NASA astronauts and the cast of Interstellar,another with the members of the band One Direction and even one with England's Prince Charles.

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Google is famous (or perhaps infamous) for killing off its own products. Silk has a page dedicated to the Google Graveyard, listing products from iGoogle to Reader. Will Google+ share its fate? Stephanie notes: “It took Google years and years to bury Reader (RIP) and this product is much more valuable than that.”

With so many inbound marketing tactics to choose from today, what is the value in sharing content on Google+? The bottom line is this: content on Google+ boosts the indexing of that very same content on Google, thus improving your discoverability in search. Google+ should continue to be part of an integrated marketing approach.

What do you predict for Google+ in 2015?

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Choosing a school isn’t an easy decision. Converting an admissions lead into a student is even harder. Prospective students weigh many factors when considering higher education including location, size, majors and, most of all, cost. Choosing a career path can be a lengthy process and a substantial number of schools to choose from can make the decision process even longer.

Separating your school from others isn’t an easy feat. And what if you’re not reaching prospective students?  What if you’re not answering prospective students’ questions? An integrated marketing approach helps you reach your audience and convert more leads.

1. Reach Your Audience

Traditional media alone just doesn’t cut it anymore in the world of admissions marketing. Students have more resources than ever with all these different devices literally in the palms of their hands. 

According to Millward Brown a person in the USA spends 151 minutes a day looking at a smartphone. That’s four more minutes than they spend watching TV. If you total all portable devices – smartphones, Laptops and tablets – a person in the USA, on average, spends 291 minutes a day looking at a portable device – 150 more minutes than watching TV. 

Can you afford to miss out?   The first step is to be actively on every screen your audience is spending time looking at.

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Graphic created with data based on Millward Brown’s AdReaction Study http://bit.ly/1nB59Ne 

2. Connect with Consumers at Different  Lifecycle Stages

Reaching your audience on every level is just the beginning of an integrated marketing strategy. Actually connecting with your audience at the proper lifecycle stage is what turns a lead into a student.

All media has a role to play in integrated marketing. Offline media is a great way to start the conversation, but online media keeps the conversation going. 

Once a prospective student becomes aware of your school, the goal is to answer that prospect’s questions on subjects like possible majors, financial aid, etc. through engaging content. Answering in a clear and engaging way builds trust, and most importantly, develops a relationship.

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3. Consistency

Last but not least, consistency is the most important element of an integrated marketing approach that will increase the quality of your admissions leads. Every day there is a new way of reaching prospective students.

An easy way to confuse prospects, and hinder rather than build a relationship, is having an inconsistent voice. The recommended best practice approach to developing effective content and ensures consistency throughout all components of your integrated marketing is to have one entity managing your brand messaging

True marketing integration is critical in our evolving omnichannel world. And just as prospects increasingly expect to be able to find you across channels, they expect consistent, positive experiences across those channels as well. Building the right team to help you manage your message will ensure each component of your marketing approach is aligned with your goals and translates to increased lead quality.

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BreakupBreakups are inevitable. Dynamics change. Eyes wander. Needs evolve. 

Breakups are also bitter and painful. And arguably the most painful part of the breakup process is “giving back the stuff.” That rare Kinks album. The perfectly worn Red Sox hat. The engagement ring.

And of course, the most valuable asset of all, the Google Adwords account. 

If you’re a client looking to change your digital or advertising agency, you might stress and lose sleep over this. Do I own my Google Adwords account? Does the agency? I want to transfer accounts from my old agency to my new agency, what happens next?

First, you are justified in losing sleep to this. Why? Because if you can’t get your account transferred over back to you, or your new agency, you lose the history and all important Google quality score, something built over time. 

Visibility into the account history will have a huge impact on your strategy going forward and in setting benchmarks for success. Maintaining the existing AdWords account will also save time by keeping all your current goal tracking in place. Having to create a new account means having to create and add all new conversion tracking to landing pages.

Here’s what you need to know: 

First, your Google Adwords account should belong to you. Even if an agency is hired to manage, optimize an account for you, the account with all of its history, is yours, paid for by you and should be owned by you. 

As a client, you should always have access to your Adwords account at all times. You’ll want this to be sure your reporting is honest, accurate and fully transparent.

You’ll want the ability to own that data in your account. No matter who manages it, it’s associated with your account, your brand, your company. That data is critical in helpful in predicting future conversion rates, proper campaign structure and how ad copy tests performed. 

But my ex-agency is not playing fair, and won’t transfer access, what now?

While this is not the act of a solid or reliable digital marketing agency, it does happen. Sadly, the time and money you spent in investing in a client manager to optimize your account is gone. Wasted. 

And even Google themselves can’t help you fight an agency that won’t do the right thing.

You are essentially starting from scratch on your quality score. 

Your best option is to have the agency export the account history and data, and move on and start over. 

And at the beginning of your new relationship, make sure you maintain ownership or have contractual language that assures account transfers. Consider it a digital pre-nup. 

A reputable agency won’t fight you. 

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Are you ready to get stressed out about a new change in Facebook advertising? Did the 20% rule get your blood boiling? Did your limit on Page posts on the Timelines lead you to redirect budgets in a hurry? Well now, we have to prepare to be smarter and spend more. Challenge accepted, Facebook.  

Agencies and brands alike have spent hours, sometimes even days, creating content for Facebook and other social networks. The goal is to place the brand message in front of the potential consumer and have them engage with it. Somewhere along the line, brands just got too pushy, and now Facebook is pushing back.

Starting in January 2015, Facebook will not only require Fan Page posts to be unique and engaging, but if a brand does want to post “promotional” content they will have to put money behind it. Facebook is not just a media spend; it is an engagement media spend. You can reach the targeted audience and compete with competitors, but you have to make sure it is meaningful to the end user.

Earlier this year, brands spent time and countless dollars building up their Facebook communities, spending a “Post Engagement” budget in order for 5% of  the “fans” to see their content. With this most recent addition, they also have to make sure their message engages the audience. Every year Facebook will find a way to stir the pot and drive more marketing dollars in their direction.  

A “Promotional” Post according to the Facebook Blog:

According to people we surveyed, there are some consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

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(Posts from Waldbaums and Fancy Feast.)

What is the best formula to reach a community on Facebook now? It seems like agencies and brands will have to budget for a combination of Facebook campaigns, early in 2015.   Growing the community with Like Ads will still be an important vanity metric, but placing more budget behind the Post Engagement ads will be more important than ever.  

It will be without a doubt necessary to design content that speaks to your audience instead of just repeating a commercial or posting about an iPad giveaway that companies have done 20,000 times.  If you plan to execute a smart Facebook content strategy in 2015, you imperatively need to treat this as a media spend on one of the biggest channels in the world.

 

 

 

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communicationIn 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay entitled Content is King.He began, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” 

This phrase has ruled our thinking in marketing to a large extent since then. From Google’s Matt Cutts, Head of the Webspam team, repeatedly saying that what matters in terms of SEO is content (and quality content), to the findings of the latest annual Effies Survey (which found content as being listed in the top three areas that marketers are primary focusing on this year), it’s clear content is a big deal.

But at the same time that content has enjoyed its coronation, there’s been a trend toward shorter and shorter forms of content – with the seeming assumption that our attention spans are getting shorter. Is our fast-moving culture of today, with smartphones and/or tablets always at our sides, and the ubiquitous use of “ttyl” (talk to you later), “totes” (totally) and “b4” (before), among others, literally spelling out the death of language?

Will our obsession with truncation leave language in as sad a state as samples of ancient parchment found in a museum? Are emoji symbols the new hieroglyphs? What does it all mean?

Yes, our daily communication has been transformed drastically. We’re not fully writing out thoughts, feelings and ideas (emphasis on “fully”) in the course of our rapid-fire, bite-sized messages. We’re communicating more and sharing more, with countless social status updates from Tweets to Snaps to text messages. 

Are we hurting language as a whole? And what does it mean for our jobs as marketers when language is such a big part of what we do?

Mobile technology has been very beneficial. And short form pieces can be helpful, providing easily digestible insights. Quick videos and infographics are great tools, too. But is there no room for long form content in the mix?

We are certainly obsessed with our technology. An interesting study from the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) and the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, A Day Without Media — 24 Hours: Unpluggedsurveyed students and questioned them about their love of mobile technology. What were the results? Unsurprisingly, contemplating giving up a mobile device for one single day was unthinkable.

Well… there’s hope for those of us who love language and revel in the powerful storytelling that can be found in long form content. 

On the marketing front, serpIQ found that the top-rated posts in search query results have more than 2,000 words. And KISSmetrics reports that more comprehensive content with multiple pages in a guide increase page views and time spent on a particular site.

Medium found that the ideal blog length (in terms of the time spent on each post) is seven minutes (or 1,600 words). A post with imagery and graphics brings the word count down to 980 words. But still, this evidence strongly disproves the notion that only short form content gets all the attention in today’s world.

Yes, people are busy. Short and sweet works well on social and can bring in high engagement rates. But if what you have to say is worthwhile, or if a brand is sharing content that resonates and adds value to people’s lives they’ll spend time with you. They’ll read, and share, and engage.

So what does it all mean? Marketers have more tools at their disposal for sharing brand messaging, and people have more options for how to receive content.

Still worried about the state of language and the art of writing today? While Snaps are gaining in popularity (and can be an effective marketing tool in a comprehensive advertising plan), for those of us who love the written word, there is a sign that love holds strong. Longreads,a site dedicated to helping people find and share the best long-form stories, currently has more than 91K fans on Facebook and regularly sees healthy engagement with the content it shares.

 

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Ties

While the Mean Girls may have to wear pink on Wednesdays and company dress codes are making headlines, like today’s news on the new Starbucks policies,here at EGC we have Tie Thursdays. Is it company policy? No. We do it because we want to.

Evan-3My first week working at The EGC Group, I did notice people wearing ties on Thursdays, but didn’t think anything of it. We wear ties on other days, of course, attending events and meeting with clients. A few more weeks of people particularly wearing ties on Thursdays and I finally asked someone about it. “Tie Thursdays” I was told.

“Marketing is more relaxed in that, you don’t usually have to wear the suit and tie daily, but every Thursday we try to keep it as classy as we can!” – Evan Calafates (Co-Founder of Tie Thursdays)

Tie Thursdays seemed like a great idea. I get to be a part of a fun office tradition. And I get to show off my great style. Honestly, the first time I put on my tie for Tie Thursday – I didn’t feel so much like the new guy anymore.

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OK. So you’re still wondering: ”Why would people wear ties if they don’t have to?”

“We wore ties every time we would go into a client meeting, which did seem like it particularly happened on Thursdays. So sometime in October 2012 Evan and I decided to declare Thursdays as Tie Thursdays. It’s a nice nod to the classic advertising look. Plus, honestly, we like wearing ties. It keeps things fresh and it’s a great way of unifying the office.” – Jeremy Waszak (Co-Founder of Tie Thursdays)

Wearing ties may seem like a silly thing to some people, but to me it’s an opportunity to bond with coworkers. People compare ties, sparking conversation. The comradery makes this an office that’s enjoyable to work in.

So what does your company do to bring employees together? Bagel Fridays, Goofy Shirt Tuesdays, a Fantasy Sports league… How do you create team spirit? 

Photo: EGC Group President Ernie Canadeo sporting a tie with DMC backstage at the LI Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Paramount in Huntington, NY.

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We sat down with Jim McCune Executive Director, Craft Beverage Marketing, EGC Group. (Well, with all of the amazing things Jim’s working on right now, it was more of chasing him down in the office and asking for a chance to take a peek into what he’s working on, and also to talk about the world of Craft Beer.)  He shared insights into the growing industry, its challenges, and where it is headed.

The craft beer industry seems like it’s exploded recently. What do you think are the key reasons for this phenomenon?

It started this month in 1978 when Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing in the US. It was the precursor to today’s craft beer revolution. As people began exploring handcrafting their own beers, experimenting with new and exciting styles of beer, exploring new techniques and sourcing fresh, local ingredients – they changed the game.

As people experienced these full-flavored beers and acquired a taste of fresh hops, there was no going back. It created a conversation – a movement.

In a marketplace dominated by just a couple of industrial beer companies, craft beer gave us freedom of choice. Now, all of a sudden, we have local freshness and we have flavor.

But without huge advertising budgets, craft beer brands didn’t have the same opportunity to broadcast their message. With the advent of social media, the Locavore and Farm-to-Pint movements (locally sourcing ingredients) quickly gained serious traction. Millennials became early adopters of social media and microbrewing, sharing their passion for the distinctive flavors of craft beer – setting the industry on fire.

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Is there a downside to the rapid rise of craft beer culture that creates particular challenges for craft brands?

The downside of craft beer for the big beer makers has been a solid, fast-growing loss of market share. While the movement has been growing for decades, the sudden recent growth took the industry – and the world – by surprise.

Similar to the fast food and soda brands that faced a massive decline because of the rise of the healthy living movement (and reacted with menu options like fruit and yogurt or brand extensions into bottled water) the big beer brands are reacting.

The loss of 20% of their market share has prompted them to market “krafty” beers to look like authentic craft beer. The downside for craft beer is it has caused some confusion in the marketplace. But one of the things craft beer consumers are is savvy. And there’s a growing backlash.

Another serious issue from the rapid rise is the shift in how retailers are displaying craft beers. It’s the “wineification” of craft beer. It’s similar presumption that wine shoppers don’t seek brand names, but look for a particular style – Merlot, Cabernet, Pino. We’re now seeing craft beers being grouped and sold by style as well – IPA, Pumpkin Ale, Pale Ale.

The loss of shelf-space and sheer volume of choice has made building brand loyalty very challenging.

How are you helping brands overcome these challenges and shape the conversation going forward?

People are tired of mediocrity in their beer and in advertising. They want something above and beyond the norm, and we’re trying to help connect extraordinary craft beers to customers in new ways.

Just like the way Apple’s 1984 ad refreshed the technology industry, digital media is allowing us to reach new customers using magnetic digital content. Our branding philosophy is iconoclastic in nature, celebrating the unique personas of the independently owned and operated microbreweries we work with, and craft messaging that’s authentic to who they are and the quality they represent.

We’re working to educate consumers who haven’t yet been convinced that craft beer is the better value. And it seems to be working.

I was actually recently in Yakima Valley, WA, with our client Hopsteiner the world’s largest hop grower and distributor. We produced a documentary-style video, capturing one of the largest hop harvests in history, which was driven by the sheer volume of aroma variety hops needed for craft beer. So we’re helping raise general awareness about these farm-fresh, high-quality hops, as well as their exciting new experimental hop varieties.

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What trends have you seen this fall?

Seasonal beers continue to grow in popularity. It’s one of the things that really helped craft beer grow.

Cider is another big trend. We’re lucky here in NY to live where local, fresh apples abound. Craft beer paved the way and provided the methodology for hard cider to grow in popularity in half the time.

We’re also seeing the growth of hard cider heavily tied to the Locavore movement, and it is gaining steam with people who want to enjoy a fresh and crisp handcrafted alcoholic beverage.

What do you predict will be the biggest trend in 2015?

Sour beer.

And quite possibly, small and big beer companies working together to collectively make great, tasty beers that are well-distributed. Because when the tide rises, all boats float.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JimMcCuneBev and visit our Craft Beer Portfolio: Craft Beer Branding.

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What doThe Walking Dead, Jane the Virgin, Zach Galifianakis and Transparent mean for your budget in 2015?

October means “premiere season” for some of TV’s most highly-anticipated shows.The Walking Dead premiered last week saw record viewers, making it the most watched episode of the hit series to date. The premiere of Jane the Virgin (an adaptation of a popular telenovela) won the CW network its most-watched Monday in years.

angela-mertz_thOn the digital side, Transparent is making headlines for its rates of binge-watching, and this monthAmazon Prime (new to content production)announced it has ordered a second season. Netflix has seen its Orange is the New Black series become a monster hit, and last spring a presidential interview with Zach Galifianakis on Funny or Die's web-based Between Two Ferns was credited with a 40% boost to visits of HealthCare.gov. (And the episode received anEmmy nomination.)

Despite the pronouncements to the contrary, it is clear TV is not dead. It’s very much alive. And digital is an exciting new frontier for advertisers. So how should brands approach the development of an advertising strategy?

Angela Mertz, EGC Group’s Media Director, shares her insights. “TV is still strong. We need to look at broadcast and online video as part of the same TV budget. They can work together to support each other, increasing brand impressions.”

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ROI is top of mind for brands as they evaluate the effectiveness of their investments. And there’s been a push in the industry to develop a standard metric across platforms.

jarredd-400x400aAnalytics giants like Nielsen are looking at ways to achieve this, but EGC Group’s Jared Del Prete, Director of Digital Strategy & Search, cautions, “Advertisers ultimately want to measure the impact of their ads, looking beyond reach and frequency and homing in on engagement, sales or ROI. TV and digital play a vital role, but because they’re consumed differently, there are still many challenges with adopting a unified GRP-style (gross rating point) measurement.”

Angela agrees. She says just as a PPC campaign can’t operate alone, it requires the support of online and offline efforts that create intent. TV and digital don’t work alone.

“We’ve seen a direct link between TV spots and PPC success, for example,” Angela notes. “The TV ads are a catalyst to action, driving traffic to a brand’s website. We’ve seen when the spots stop running, there’s a definite dip in PPC.”

The way she’s approaching media buying with her clients in 2015 is an integrated approach that looks at TV and digital as part of one overall budget. “It’s like a funnel,” Angela explains. “Think of the top of the funnel as the broad, high-level TV audience, generating impressions, creating interest. As you narrow down the funnel, there are creative ways we can approach targeting specific audiences with digital video, reaching people likely to convert and become customers.”

“SEO, PPC, TV, digital videos – if you marry all of these strategies together,” Angela adds, “planning ahead about the best ways to allocate components of the overall TV budget, you can reach your desired audience in creative ways.”

Brands partnering with media buyers have an opportunity to shift from reactive buys and break down silos that divide spending between TV and digital advertising, moving to a holistic strategic planning approach. It’s time to take a bigger picture view of impact and how to achieve it.

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