Research Firm Clutch Ranks KeywordFirst a Leader for Internet Marketing

Research Firm Clutch Ranks KeywordFirst a Leader for Internet Marketing

Marketing

I am pleased to announce that KeywordFirst been ranked by research firm Clutch as a leader among Chicago-based internet marketing companies. The ranking marks the third time Clutch has evaluated KeywordFirst as a leader in 2017-18 – including the categories of Chicago-based digital marketing and pay-per-click agencies.

The ranking validates our evolution from search specialist to marketing partner. KeywordFirst is the independent alternative to large agencies.

The Clutch report is especially meaningful for two reasons:

1 The evaluation is rigorous and objective

Clutch is an independent a business-to-business research firm. The company evaluated and ranked Chicago-based internet marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors ranging from the agency’s market presence to client reviews.

2 The ranking is based largely on input from clients

KeywordFirst’s clients provided strong reviews of our capabilities and work style. Here is a sample of the input:

  • “They excel in attention to detail and are personally invested in our success” — a luxury resort provider.
  • “It’s been nice to know that we can have a partner that will adapt to us and not charge extra for every little item” – home improvement company.
  • “Their learning process has been continuous, and they’ve never taken the one-size-fits-all approach for us” – retail company.

Clutch’s research also noted the breadth of KeywordFirst’s skills in areas such as digital strategy, social media marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. The complete KeywordFirst profile, including client reviews, is available here. In addition, here are all the companies ranked.

KeywordFirst is proud to be a trusted partner that builds brands through digital. We are working hard to earn the kind of feedback that our clients have provided Clutch. Contact us to discuss how we can help you improve your digital performance.

Google Pushes Businesses Toward an Augmented Reality Future

Google Pushes Businesses Toward an Augmented Reality Future

Marketing

I recently blogged about businesses adopting augmented reality to make the consumer experience more dynamic and exciting. On March 14, Google reminded businesses that augmented reality is coming whether they use it or not. The search giant and media company said that it has developed a tool that makes it possible for developers to turn Google Maps locations into augmented reality enhanced make-believe settings.

In a blog post, Google said,

The mobile gaming landscape is changing as more and more studios develop augmented reality games. In order to mix realities, developers first need to understand the real world — the physical environment around their players. we’re excited to announce a new offering for building real-world games using Google Maps’ tried-and-tested model of the world.

Game studios can easily reimagine our world as a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city. With Google Maps’ real-time updates and rich location data, developers can find the best places for playing games, no matter where their players are.

Now let’s connect the dots about what’s going on here. Remember how the skyrocketing popularity of Pokémon GO turned real-world businesses into make-believe Poké Stops and Gyms where Pokémon GO players could do battle with Pokémon and collect rewards? Well, nearly two years later, millions of people still play Pokemon GO, proving that a game using augmented reality:

  • Has staying power.
  • Can draw people to real-world location – creating foot traffic and sales for brick-and-mortar businesses such as coffee shops, stores, and restaurants.

Now, we’re seeing an explosion of more games that will probably have the same impact on businesses – experiences such as the forthcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World, and Walking Dead: Our World.  All those augmented reality games are coming in 2018, and the Jurassic World, Ghostbusters, and Walking Dead games were developed with the Google ARCore toolkit for developing augmented reality experiences.

Here’s what’s going to happen this summer:

  • An uptick of augmented reality promotions from the studios producing the movies associated with the games. These promotions will likely involve co-brands with restaurants and other locations where fans can play the games.
  • Brick-and-mortar businesses jumping on to the augmented reality bandwagon when they see how many consumers are using their mobile phones to play the games near their locations, even if those businesses don’t co-brand with studios. We’ll have businesses promoting themselves as the hottest place for Harry Potter fans to battle Lord Voldemort, and stores offering promotions for fans to celebrate the joy of playing Ghostbusters together – just as brick-and-mortar companies did with Pokémon GO at the height of its popularity.

At the center of all this action: Google. Google, like Apple, is developing the tools to make augmented reality spread. Google sees the future and wants to be an active participant by creating augmented reality based marketing and advertising of its own. And Google has the power to shape that future.

By making an augmented reality toolkit available, Google is opening the door for many, many more augmented reality games to get developed way beyond the major titles being released by studios and Niantic (creator of Pokémon Go and the new Harry Potter game). If Google has its way, more businesses and developers will work together to create their own customized games relying on a business’s location. The development could become huge – or also create some augmented reality burnout if too many games get developed at once. Ultimately, consumers will decide which games win and which ones fall by the wayside. As Pokémon GO showed, people will respond to an experience that engages them.

To discuss how to create a more engaging digital brand, contact us. We’re here to help.

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

Marketing

To honor International Women’s Day, we’ve thought about the women who lead our industry through their ideas and actions. These women are not only leading the advertising and media industry, they’re also leading businesses, period:

  • Jerri DeVard, EVP, chief customer officer, Office Depot: she inspires by showing how a legacy company can keep its brand fresh online and offline – and in her spare time, she’s on the board of directors of three companies.
  • Carol Dweck, author: at businesses across America, her book Mindset is required reading to inspire people to embrace self-improvement and better performance. She is an inspirational TED speaker and teacher with a far-reaching impact.
  • Patty McCord, consultant and author: as chief talent officer at Netflix, she helped build the company’s renowned culture of innovation and agility. Now she teaches other businesses how to get better.
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo: you always find her on lists of the world’s most powerful women, but she’s also led the building of one of the world’s most powerful brands – and one that is innovating with its products and marketing.
  • Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet: in a male-dominated field, Ruth Porat stands apart for her leadership of a company whose stock price and market value continue to climb. She ensures that all those moonshots make fiscal sense.
  • Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios: as president of NBC Entertainment, she managed more than 40 television titles including popular shows as such as This Is Us. We can’t wait to see what she does with The Lord of the Rings series now that she’s head of Amazon Studios.
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube: 180 million people watch YouTube, and more than 400 hours of video content are loaded a minute. YouTube continues to extend its influence under her guidance.

These are just seven names among many women at all levels across industries who lead. We salute the women we work with and admire!

How the Oscars Have Adapted to a Declining TV Audience

How the Oscars Have Adapted to a Declining TV Audience

Marketing

It looks like the 90th annual Academy Awards will go down as the least watched in history. Preliminary numbers show that overall viewership will dip below 30 million for the first time ever. Until now, the least watched Oscars telecast occurred in 2008, when the Academy Awards garnered 32 million viewers.

And the numbers appear even worse when you realize that the Oscars have been experiencing a ratings decline for four straight years. By contrast, in 1998, the Academy Awards were watched by 55 million people, an all-time high.

Should the Academy be worried?

My take: the ratings decline is simply a sign of change in the way people experience televised events. In fact, the Academy is already doing what any smart brand should do: adapt.

As we’ve noted on our blog, television continues to present its share of limitations for advertisers. Viewership for major events, such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, and Academy Awards, continues to drop as people shift their viewing habits from sitting in front of their TV sets to multi-tasking with social media and catching snippets of content on their mobile phones. Interestingly, Josef Adalain of Vulture points out that the Academy Awards will continue to be profitable for ABC because it’s still one of the few opportunities for advertisers to share their message with a mass audience.

But the Academy is not simply feeding off a smaller audience. The Academy Awards meet viewers where they are with a number of digital experiences. For example:

  • Oscars: All Access makes it possible for fans to get a look at what happens backstage via well placed cameras that catch interesting little moments such as how stars react right after they walk backstage after receiving their Oscars. The All Access feature appeals to people on their phones and laptops who are looking for a fun second-screen experience, especially for cable cord cutters who are shut off from the actual show.

  • With social media, the Academy engages fans through Facebook Live broadcasts, contests, and shout-outs to fans who are tracking the show online. On platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the Academy cranks out a mix of visual content to tell the story of what happens onstage and in the audience. The Academy has turned the Oscars into a year-round brand by using social to keep fans engaged with content. You can even watch Oscar-nominated shorts on the Academy’s YouTube channel.

Advertisers are also adapting. We’ve already seen many instances of businesses creating real-time social media content to capitalize on memorable Oscar moments, while other brands, such as AT&T, have used advertising dollars to sponsor the Academy’s digital content, such as Oscars: All Access.

The Academy Awards offer a lesson to businesses that emerged in the age of linear TV. In the age of digital, you can still have your audience. You just need to meet them where they are. To maximizing the value of our digital spend, contact us. We’re here to help.

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

Marketing

Glasses. Lenses. Apps. Games. Ads. These are all examples of products and experiences being shaped by augmented reality (AR). While not entirely new, AR will become an increasingly popular tool used to engage shoppers throughout 2018.  Various apps and games are currently being introduced into the App Store and Google Play, and many more are in the process of being developed using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Consequently, incorporating AR technology into new tools or games for phones, tablets, and laptops will become the new norm.

The last few years have brought a glimpse of what augmented reality can do. Popular apps such as the Pokémon GO game, Ikea Place, Fitness AR, and MeasureKit introduced the world of augmented and virtual reality to our actual reality. Unlike VR, which creates a false reality, AR enhances your surroundings and adds to your current reality.

Snapchat

One example of a brand already incorporating AR is Snapchat. Snapchat introduced AR advertising features through its lenses and is launching a new AR Lens Studio. Brands are able to use these lenses to advertise their products as well as their brand name on social media in a more interactive setting. What sets these lenses/filters apart is the more engaging and lively nature of the tool. Customers are generally more inclined to convert when they are given an actual experience. The lenses also make for a more memorable and fun way to target millennials.

Shopping Ads

Augmented reality will also enhance how shopping ads operate. Online shoppers sometimes miss out on the in-store experience when searching for a product or service through the web. The use of AR will help create this virtual experience for online shoppers, increasing engagement rates, building brand awareness, and potentially drive conversions. AR will enhance these ads to be more interactive and memorable because AR makes it possible for users to view much more than a flat image. Imagine being able to view a product in its actual setting, sampling clothing without having to drive to a store, or even taking a 360-degree tour of how furniture will look inside your own home before you decide to make a purchase. In fact, the Ikea Place AR app provides this functionality already. Place allows for users to sample furniture within the comfort of their own homes.

Another app similar to Ikea Place is from Houzz. Its app allows the users to virtually remodel or redecorate their homes before actually committing to these larger, more permanent changes. AR makes it possible to configure a potential purchase from the comfort of your own home, saving you time from having to make returns when a product doesn’t work well, or even previewing renovation changes before they take place. Experiences such as these represent the future of shopping ads.

What to Expect

Apple and Google have already created their own AR software kits and introduced them into their operating software — Apple’s ARKit in iOS11 and Android’s ARCore. Many resourceful apps have already been launched using this technology. In January 2018, Apple announced that many “customers are now enjoying close to 2,000 ARKit-enabled apps spanning every category on the App Store.” From these platforms, we can expect to see more apps include AR features. From games, fitness tracking and coaching apps, to shopping tools and travel apps that include interactive maps — the list of uses for augmented reality goes on and on.

The technology to improve these apps will still be developing well into 2018, but we can expect to see more and more businesses incorporate AR into their marketing strategies. ARe you ready for what 2018 and the world of augmented reality will bring?

 

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

Marketing

The days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday were a nightmare for Newell Brands, maker of the iconic Crock-Pot, thanks to an unexpected crisis triggered by a TV drama that involved a make-believe death caused by a Crock-Pot. Following is a closer look at how a fictional event caused a real-life problem for a $13 billion business – and how quick thinking contained the problem.

What Happened

The show, This is Us, an emotional drama that follows the generational story of the Pearson family, took television by storm in the fall of 2016.  The series averages about 15 million viewers a week in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Spoiler alert: in one of the episodes, the family’s beloved father, Jack, suffers a heart attack as a result of a massive smoke inhalation caused by a house fire. On January 23, during the episode “That’ll Be the Day,” viewers learned what caused the fire in the first place: a Crock-Pot.

Viewers watched as an elderly neighbor delivered a used Crock-Pot to the young, newly married Pearson couple. The neighbor said that the Crock-Pot’s power switch was a little temperamental but assured them that they would still be able to enjoy some good family meals. Flash forward to years later as the couple, now with teen-aged children, celebrate the Super Bowl.  The show ends with Jack turning off the Crock-Pot switch before going to bed. A spark flashes from the faulty switch, igniting a fire, and the house quickly becomes engulfed in flames.

Crisis Time

As I watched that episode with my husband, the marketing gears in my head immediately started turning. I thought about the backlash that Crock-Pot would be facing as it was revealed the product was responsible for the beloved character’s death. I told my husband that I hoped Crock-Pot’s PR team would immediately start working on a plan to offset any damage incurred by the revelation. I suggested they flood social media with a response ASAP so as to minimize the negative impact. It was then I realized that we could very personally be affected by this unforeseen series of events: my husband is employed by the company that owns Crock-Pot, Newell Brands.

By the next day, Crock-Pot was headlining news stories:

And while it may seem silly to think the death of a fictional TV character could cause such a hardship for a long-established household brand, the facts were hard to dispute. People were tweeting about throwing away their Crock-Pots. The safety of the product was called into question. The value of Newell Brands stock fell by 24 percent, and the loss was immediately linked by many to the Crock-Pot fire disaster. In reality, the stock plunge occurred after Newell Brands announced disappointing guidance for 2018. But nonetheless the brand was under attack after a perceived safety hazard.

Newell Brands Takes Action

The Crock-Pot communication/social team immediately jumped into action. For instance, the brand worked to restore trust in its product by releasing a statement. Here is an excerpt:

For nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.

(The full statement is available here.)

This is Us creator, Dan Fogelman, also followed up with a tweet defending the company’s product:

Crock-Pot quickly created its first ever Twitter Account “CrockPotCares,” engaging with concerned consumers as the social media storm continued to ignite. While all of these responses were appropriate and wise measures to take, Crock-Pot knocked it out of the park when the brand teamed up with NBC and Milo Ventimiglia (who portrays Jack in the TV show) to create a hilarious new promo ad for the show’s much anticipated Super Bowl episode February 4.

In what appears to be a political ad, Milo starts off in a somber tone speaking about how the country is divided and how we need to come together. As he continues to talk about forgiveness, the camera pans to him scooping up a bowl of chili from, you guessed it . . . a Crock-Pot!  The brilliant ad ends with a black screen with the Crock-Pot logo and the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent.

Results

On February 3, after the promo ad was shown, digital content engagement around Crock-Pot increased by 84 percent, and there were nearly 2,000 tweets using the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent, with sentiment around that hashtag being 57 percent positive — the most common sentiment being that it was hilarious and a brilliant promotion for Crock-Pot.

Lessons learned? If a well-established brand such as Crock-Pot can incur such negative consequences from a fictional TV storyline, it should be a warning to every company about the importance of having a solid strategy in place to combat such challenges. Reach customers quickly through social channels and look for a unique way to re-establish your brand’s positive image. Time is of the essence — so act fast! In a matter of a few days, Crock-Pot succeeded in turning a PR nightmare into a successful restoration of trust  in its brand.

Why 2018 Is the Year of Influencer Outreach

Why 2018 Is the Year of Influencer Outreach

Marketing

Influencer outreach took a major hit in 2017 through some dubious events such as the collapse of the Fyre Festival, which relied on influencer outreach to lure tourists to a disastrous music festival. But influencer outreach is alive and well and will continue to thrive in 2018. Why? A few reasons stand out:

  • Businesses are feeling new pressure to rely on influencers. As reported recently, Facebook announced that the world’s largest social network is devaluing content from businesses in users’ news feeds and amplifying content from people. Brands that publish content on Facebook are looking for ways to rely on people to tell their stories, which, of course, includes influencers.
  • People still tend to trust other people more than they do brands. Time and time again, consumers, especially millennials, say they place higher levels of trust in other people than they do businesses, including word-of-mouth recommendations and online peer reviews.

In 2018, I expect to see more reliance on influencers, but not necessarily more spending. Instead, businesses will get more micro-targeted with influencer outreach in 2018, segmenting audiences more carefully and building outreach around influencers who index high in popularity and credibility with those audiences even if those influencers lack national cache. Influencer outreach will become more targeted and scientific, relying on tools that make the process more precise and measurable.

In addition, brands that do partner with high-profile influencers should invest more time and energy vetting them, giving them the same level of rigorous review that they would give a new hire. We’ve seen a number of instances of high-profile YouTube celebrities embarrassing themselves with reckless behavior and remarks. All it takes is one foolish incident for an influencer to destroy their credibility. Businesses are well advised to review influencers’ social media personal track record, including their personal content on their socials.

Finally, understand how to work with influencers. Know their rules of engagement and research how they can be most effective for you. Influencers who are big on Instagram might be the best choice for supporting, say, an event, whereas bloggers who write longer-form content might be more appropriate for product announcements or news events that require more thoughtful analysis.

For more insight into influencer outreach, read this KeywordFirst post. And contact us for more insight into building your digital brand.