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Be True to Your Brand

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Dr. Seuss

The same goes for your company and your competitors’ companies. While you may serve similar customer needs, there can be vast differences in brand attributes. Take Ryanair and Emirates. Ryanair is Europe’s “ultra low cost carrier”; it has embraced a “no-frills, low-cost, get-you-from-A-to-B model” that makes air travel “accessible to the masses.” The airline guarantees that it has the lowest fares on flights to all of its destinations. Emirates, on the other hand, is one of the most luxurious travel brands on the planet. From its sparkling fleet of new planes, to high-quality cuisine, the latest in cabin design, and a wide range of entertainment options, Emirates strives to make the “Emirates experience” world class in every class.

The takeaway here is that you can’t be all things to all people, but once you know what you can do better than your competitors, you can polish your brand in ways that appeal to the type of employees you want to hire, customers you want to serve, and partners/investors you want to attract. (more…)

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Will Your Sweepstakes Win You Committed Followers, or Fair-weather Fans?

Last Friday, I caught tweets by two environmental reporters who seemed to cast a jaundiced eye on a sweepstakes launched by the Obama re-election campaign. The competition offers people that complete an online registration form the chance to win a ticket to a dinner attended by the president and hosted by George Clooney. Donations are encouraged, but not required, although donations on subsequent days will “purchase” additional entries to the competition.

My first instinct was that the sweepstakes was a joke. It seemed such a cheesy idea, à la the Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! rom-com of a few years ago. However, it’s real, and continues through April 30.

That got me thinking — if women who are generally supportive of the president think this is a silly idea that tarnishes the presidential brand, what must the general response be? I dug further in Twitter, and while I saw many excited postings, and a lot of jokes, I also saw some who, like me, thought the competition belittled the dignity of the president as well as women voters:

I hate to see our political process turned into a joke. No matter how much I may disagree with some of their policies, I cringed at the public humiliation endured by the GOP candidates during their reality show-debates. For all that I thought President Obama’s appearance this week with Jimmy Fallon was funny, it still bothers me that he must stoop to “slow jam the news” to communicate with the younger electorate. When candidate Clinton played his saxophone on late-night TV, it was something he did for attention, but he pandered less to the public after his election. Watch the brilliant 1976 movie Network, so oddly prescient in its depiction of TV news as entertainment. What then seemed extreme is now the norm — the satire has become reality.

For more information on the reaction to the Clooney sweepstakes, I decided to use a software application from a Sterling client, Attensity, to pull top-line sentiment over five days. I pulled about about 17.5 million comments in social media, with discussion peaking at over six million comments on April 20,, the day after the Clooney sweepstakes launch. The sentiment was more balanced than I expected, with positive reaction more than double the negative.


The Obama camp is lauded for its acumen in using social media and email to engage with supporters. In this case, though, I believe they’ve made a mistake: They’ve overused the new addresses they acquired through the sweepstakes. I registered for the contest; it was time I made another campaign contribution and hey, you never know! Since then, I’ve received an email every day asking me to chip in another donation in order to increase my chances of winning a ticket to the dinner. It doesn’t matter to me that some of the messages come in the name of the First Couple; if the frequency of communication does not diminish, I will unsubscribe — but only after winner notification on May 4th!

When you launch a contest, you need to consider a number of things: What is your end goal for it? Is it to get people talking? To spur people into giving their contact information to expand your database of supporters? To secure donations? The real question is, “Are these people going to remain committed after the contest has finished?” Too often, they “like” your Facebook page or sign up to receive your newsletter only to get that free ticket or chance at an iPhone. Call them what you please but they are not true fans, friends or followers. They won’t recommend your product or service, or canvas potential voters.

In the case of the Obama-Clooney dinner, I venture to guess that many of the people who registered on the site will not turn into committed campaigners. They were attracted to the star combination, and once the event has passed, will hit “unsubscribe.” However, in the short term, the Clooney name has managed to grow the Obama 2012 database and bring in more donations, so can be touted as a success.

In summary:

  1. Be sure that your contest is consistent with your brand image.
  2. Recognize that many of your contest entrants are fair-weather followers, so be careful about making decisions based on the new subscriber base.
  3. Be careful not to over-communicate, as incentive-focused subscribers will have a low threshold for messages.

Lisa Hawes can be reached at lhawes@sterlingpr.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisakayhawes.

Jordan Hubert contributed the sentiment research for this article. Follow Jordan on Twitter at @jahubert.


A Wounded Tiger: Repairing a Tainted Spokesperson and Brand

A360-tiger With the 111th annual US Open starting this week, the biggest story remains Tiger Woods dropping out of the golf tournament due to lingering issues with his left leg. After his stellar performance at the Masters only a few months ago, the Open looked to be Tiger’s opportunity to sway the same naysayers I personally witnessed at last year’s Open in Pebble Beach. This year’s Open, however, looked to be Tiger’s first tournament win since his infamous 2009 sex scandal. But, with him out and now the next tournaments in August in question, Tiger’s future looks as uncertain as ever. Will he remain a tainted figure, or will he roar back?

What is the social media universe saying about Tiger?


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When Tarn-X Won’t Work


What does a company do when — through absolutely no fault of its own — its brand becomes associated with criminal acts, and it winds up a punch line on late-night talk shows? Think about the damaged reputations of Kool-Aid and Jonestown, Bruno Magli loafers and O.J., Nike Windrunner sneakers and the Heaven’s Gate cult, or Ryder trucks and the Oklahoma City bombing.

These companies were in no way associated with the malfeasance of their customers but their brand reputations became tarnished by association. Such a stain can take years to lift. In the case of Kool-Aid, it’s become synonymous with blind obedience and uncritical acceptance of faulty logic — even though evidence indicated it was another flavored drink and not Kool-Aid that was used at Jonestown. While Bruno Magli temporarily profited from the O.J. publicity with a spike in sales, Ryder sold its consumer truck rental division and changed its yellow trucks to white just one year after the bombing. (Oddly, a link not indicated on the company’s historical timeline.)

The latest to fall victim is Casio. Apparently, their budget model Casio F-91W is the casual sport watch preferred by 9 out of 10 Guantanamo detainees.