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DSC00064Marketing Misfire Photo of the Week I couldn't resist taking this photo while walking around in Manhattan. I'll leave the company name out of it but this was their main marketing message on the front of the building. They may want to consider...

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video-300x300Beginner's Guide to Video Marketing Disclaimer: I'm am not a professional video producer. If you've read my blog for a few years you'll know I typically embrace the latest mediums in marketing, learn them, and implement them in my teams'...

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Clean ShirtsHome Delivery Dry Cleaning Case Study: How Performance... Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand...

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Hotel Video Marketing - Good Tool or Not? I recently wrote about an experience I had in Europe staying at Ibis hotels. I was impressed with their marketing of their services and the backing of that brand marketing by hotel staff. The post was...

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Yoda.sized5 Steps To Analyzing That New Marketing Effort I was recently watching the original Star Wars movies with my kids. An absolute timeless series, but it's amazing how much more suspenseful that was when I was much younger. Graphics and special affects...

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Home Delivery Dry Cleaning Case Study: How Performance Impacts Brand Image

Category : branding, general marketing, strategy


Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand how performance directly impacts a brand image.

I despise ironing. There – I said it. I feel much better. I ironed my shirts for many years but as my use of button down shirts grew, it seemed like I spent most weekends ironing. I also dislike spending money on something I can do myself. But, like plumbing and electricity, I decided it was time to outsource. (side note: plumbing and electricity were outsourced as it was determined that I couldn’t do that myself :) )

My wife and I had heard that there were actually dry cleaners that picked up and dropped off at your home and after a quick price comparison we felt the few extra cents might justify the efficiency in this service.

So we searched for Minneapolis and St. Paul cleaners that delivered and we went with Total Care Cleaners. After a few months I was sold. The service was excellent. I put my shirts in a bag and hung them on the door where they were picked up. All the shirts came back in perfect shape ready for wear. We also found the customer service to be very good. No matter when we called or emailed, we always had a live response or one shortly after. Never a lost shirt and never a missed delivery.

Then came some tempting PR for a local competitor – Mulberrys Garment Care. They advertise 100% toxin-free cleaning. From their site:

“At Mulberrys, our award-winning dry cleaning and stain removal experts use pressurized, naturally occurring C02. The use of odorless C02 enables us to return your clothes cleaner and without the chemical smell. Also, because no heat is used, your clothes are finished without the fading, shrinking, pilling or stain-setting common to all other dry cleaning methods.”

We thought it couldn’t hurt to give them a try. I was sucked in by what came back on that first order. The shirts came back on nice wooden hangers and [drum roll please] they had collar stays already in the shirts. Wow! What a great perk for essentially the same price. Although my wife and I are loyal consumers it looked like we’d been lured and had found a new service for my shirts. This was just too good – they’re environmentally friendly and offer some nice value-adds.

Then, the wheels started coming off. First, it was a lost shirt then a lost suit and then a handful of shirts on one order. (Note: all the items were found and returned within a week). It wasn’t so much the temporarily lost shirts that bothered us as much as the lack of response to our emails or voicemails. We actually ventured into their store in a local grocery because we couldn’t get a response and we found chaos. There was no explanation or reason for the lack of response and we got vague answers as to the location of my shirts. For the record, all the people were pleasant and when they got the clothes right, they did it very well. But, we were using up the time we hoped to save by using this service in chasing down lost items.

We also found out they were expanding to other cities. What?! It seemed they were struggling to serve this city. That’s when the analytical business side of my head kicked in.

Total Care Cleaners understood the core needs of their consumer. Clean, pressed shirts delivered on time and the complete order in tact. Not only did they understand, but they did it well and delivered responsiveness when their customer needed it. No big value-adds – just dependable service. Mulberrys already had expanded to nice perks and value added features they knew their customers would like. But, they were missing that reliability and service that makes the extra features nice to have. In the end their brand is suffering because they haven’t mastered their core business the way the competition has.

Hopefully, we all supported Small Business Saturday this last weekend and we all got the chance to see some small businesses in action. I love to support small, local businesses that understand their target markets and the needs of the consumer. Who wouldn’t want to support that? Understanding your core business and executing on that before expanding is key in my opinion.

Any interesting insights around small business from this weekend?

Brand Positioning Case Study: ibis Hotels

Category : branding, campaigns


I was traveling in Europe last week visiting customers and partners and staying in a variety of hotels as it was a multi-country trip. Two of the legs of the trip were in Belgium and the Netherlands where I had the opportunity to stay at a couple of the hotels in the ibis Hotel chain. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in hotel management or hotel marketing but there were some features of these hotels that caught my eye and made me think of a couple very important characteristics of a well-done branding campaign.

Thus, here is a small case study from my experience last week.

I’ve stayed in the ibis hotels a few times on previous trips to Europe and twice on this trip so my sampling for this study is not large. But, I have seen some similarities across the chain that led me to want to highlight them.

The picture to the left is a small stand-up display card located in both of my rooms. The message is letting me know that whatever the problem I may encounter, they will resolve it in 15 minutes or less or the room is on them. Their Quality Assurance page on their website shows the same message in English. In the Netherlands, I didn’t have a problem but there was a minor issue needing resolution. To me it was not urgent and would not have affected my stay, but an out-of-breathe employee was at my door with a resolution in under 15 minutes. He smiled and let me know he had it done in 12. But, the best part – he was proud of it and you could see that.

Other similar displays touching on their level of service were posted throughout the hotel and for each I could probably drum up an example of an employee backing up the guarantee. The advertisements and messaging were created in a main headquarters somewhere – but the execution and strengthening of the message on a daily basis is being carried out by the employees. This leads us to a very key point – a campaign or branding message is nothing without the proper execution of the customer facing employees.

As Marketers we brainstorm creative deliveries of key company brand characteristics but sometimes overlook the importance of making sure everyone understands what we’re trying to accomplish and say. Here are a few key steps in assuring all front line employees can back up your go-to-market efforts:

  • Training: It doesn’t take too long to get key personnel in a room or on a webinar and present a few slides on your branding or campaign effort. The last thing you want is for them to hear of the campaign from a customer. If the customer feels a disconnect between the campaign or message and the employee to which they’re talking, the whole thing has a lot less weight in the customer’s eyes.
  • Give Campaign Material a Dry Run: You’ve got the perfect graphics, presentations, advertisements, brochures, slogans, and imagery ready to roll, but why not take a step back and release it internally first. Yes, you may not hear exactly what you want, but the impressions and feedback from your internal co-workers can help fine tune the materials for the customer.
  • Step Into the Interaction: I’ve made it a habit to travel with salespeople and present our positioning to customers and partners – or watch them do it. How comfortable are they with what they’re presenting? How is it being received by the customer? What questions are generated? It’s not that I don’t trust the feedback if I’m not present, but there is nothing like seeing it real-time.

Again, I’m not a hotel brand expert but the key message is the same across many industries – Employees need to reinforce brand positioning. Any disconnect will trigger a lack of confidence with the customer. I was curious if there was other content floating around about similar topics and there is quite a bit. Here were a few that caught my eye:

Any thoughts from you on this? Any positive or negative engagements with hotel brands you want to share?

Lifetime Fitness Campaign Gets Me Thinking…And Exercising

Category : branding, campaigns


Occasionally, I’ll come across a piece of advertising or messaging that strikes me in some way. Sometimes, I’ll be hit by how bad the advertiser or brand missed the mark and sometimes I’ll really appreciate how they connected with me. In this case, I was definitely impressed with the positioning and messaging presented by Lifetime Fitness.

Lifetime Fitness has built itself up in recent years to be the prominent health club in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. They build gyms that appeal to a broad base of exercise interests spawning generations – from kids clubs to seniors programs. My family belongs to Lifetime and actively use many of their facilities.

A few weeks ago as I was exiting the club I caught the banner – pictured here – out of the corner of my eye. The slogan, “I can do it all in my Lifetime” jumped out at me. My first thought was of the Lifetime Marketing team sitting around a table and having one of those “Aha Moments” when an idea or concept materializes. It’s one of those fun moments to be in Marketing. My guess is that happened here. It also spurred me to whip out a camera in a healthclub and take a picture. Probably not one of my better ideas but, oh well – this post wouldn’t be much without the visuals!

I like the concept, alot (the messaging – not me taking pictures in a health club). Two messages jumped out at me instantly. One, Lifetime Fitness is offering me the chance within their gyms to select from a wide variety of exercise options. This is also presented to me visually by showing a variety of options available to me that I may not be able to experience in my lifetime if I wasn’t a member.

But, I like advertising that could have double meanings and makes me think about what those are. This piece also stirred the emotion that if I utilize the wide variety of exercise options available to me, I’ll put my body, mind, and spirit in a better position to experience more out of life. I’d be curious to know from Lifetime if that was the intention or merely a product of me over-analyzing this.

From a campaign standpoint, it was well thought out as well. Below is what appears on their website and they’re also running some print advertisements with the same concept. But, I didn’t see much on their Facebook or Twitter pages about the campaign. It might have been a good idea to carry it through all mediums they’re using to reach out to their customer base. I’m sure it’s mentioned on a post or tweet but I think having the logos present on the social media presence would have carried the message through nicely.

But, overall, the message made me think and helped to position their brand in my mind – isn’t that what we’re all after with advertising and campaigns?

Packer Brand Appeal – in Honduras?

Category : branding


A bit of a sidetrack for this site, but WOW – talk about global brand appeal.

I was with my family on vacation right after the Super Bowl. We were on a bus in Roatan, Honduras when I saw the Packer banners hanging from this tiny bar tucked away near the West End beach in Roatan. I knew the NFL had increasing international appeal but I never thought it was quite that far.

Granted, the NFL is taking steps to globalize their version of football by starting the season with international games and opening up offices around the world, but I still see the organization as primarily US-centric. The Bleacher Report had a good article from a couple years ago about taking the NFL global which is worth a quick read. To me, it was fun to see the interest in a US sporting team and event in a place with so little US brand exposure.

Or, I could be making a bigger deal about this than it is and the banners could be hung by a random bar owner with ties to Wisconsin!?

What A Way To Buy Wine!

Category : branding, strategy


My wife and I truly enjoy a nice bottle of wine. We enjoy discovering a new variety and finding that perfect bottle. But, one aspect of wine buying that always has frustrated me is the liquor store experience. How many times have you been charged with picking up a bottle of wine as a house warming gift or bringing the bottle of wine to your friend’s house for a dinner party? You step into the store and there are endless rows of bottles separated only by white/red, maybe region where originated, and price. Not a good way to buy wine.

Ugh! You decide that $10 may be too cheap for the friend’s party so you hit that $15-$30 range, but you’re only making that decision because you perceive a $20 bottle of wine to be better than a $10. Is that any way to buy wine? What a shot in the dark.

Well, I was recently in Manhattan for business and was walking down a street in SOHO when I saw a store called Bottlerockets. I fell in love instantly. Voted the best wine store in New York, this place has mastered the wine buying experience.

Bottlerockets New York Wine Store

Need to buy wine for a gift for the boss? How about find a wine paired with a certain food or just takeout? Have an occasion that needs the perfect wine? Or, are you looking for wines selected by famous critics? Bottlerockets has organized the wines based on the consumer’s needs. Whatever your need, you’ll have a variety of options that make the experience fun, educational, and easy.

If that isn’t enough they have a wine book store and a kids nook stocked with toys to further compel the busy parent to take a few seconds and stop in.

This is how you should buy wine. I don’t know enough to walk through endless rows of bottles and select a variety that is right for my tastes or for other factors. I’ll typically go by bottles I know I like or by a price range. Bottlerockets changes that. I’d be more adventurous and focus more on the experience of a good bottle of wine rather the price.

Hats off to Bottlerockets! I wish they had a store in Minneapolis. They’re a small business that has created a buying experience focused solely on the needs of the consumer. Small business marketers can learn a thing or two from Bottlerockets.

Do I have you thirsty for more wine talk? I did a little searching and found some more wine marketing discussions:

How To Brand Your Marketing Consulting Firm

Category : b to b marketing, branding, BrandingWire


I have a feeling this month’s BrandingWire project is going to be popular for many marketing bloggers. I’m hoping it elicits some strong opinions! Our project is to tackle how a small B2B marketing consulting firm should brand and market themselves. I know many bloggers who participate in the marketing blog community and many of them own or work for B2B marketing consulting firms. From branding to search engine marketing, the type of marketing consulting varies but the goals remain the same.

A side note – you’re going to get a different perspective from me. I happen to be on the client side BUT, have some strong opinions on how a marketing consulting firm should go about getting my business.

On occasion over the last few years, I’ve interviewed some local B2B marketing consulting firms to help us with various problems or improvements we’ve wanted to make. Rarely do the engagements go past the first meeting. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but when my small budget is on the line I better have confidence that they can perform the task at hand better than me.

Here is how I believe a marketing firm should market and brand themselves.

Stick With Who You Are: Marketing has evolved so much over the last few years that the amount of marketing functions is hard to track. There is branding, email marketing, SEM/SEO, web design, blogging, paid search, etc. We had considered outsourcing our SEO and had interviewed many consultants. I would ask each firm on the phone if they had SEO professionals in house and each would say yes. When they arrived for a meeting it was obvious the company’s web designer was now an SEO professional or they would say they’re “partnering” with another firm on this project. Well, I know a bit more than your average person about SEO so it was easy to see that they really didn’t understand the trade. I think you need to brand and market to your skills and not pretend you’re something you’re not.

Speak Out: If you’re primarily a local consulting firm, than I think you should be working at getting speaking engagements and local or national industry events. Being seen as a speaker promotes yourself as an expert and therefore shines positively upon your consulting practice.

Be That Company People Have Heard About
: Getting involved in local chamber events and doing the networking side of the business is a must. I believe alot of customer engagements start with meeting potential customers or people that can point you towards those customers at local networking events.

Be Heard: I’ll be honest, the top two or three consultants we had in were people who had blogs that I read or podcasts to which I listened. I felt like I had the chance to get to know them and learn that they were experts in their field before we even met.

Be Search-able: Whatever you do online – whether that is a website, blog, podcast, etc. – make sure you’ve optimized for local search. The first thing I did was go to Google and look for Minneapolis consultants. If I couldn’t find you online, I was going to have a tough time finding you.

Be Prepared: As a buyer of consulting services, I can tell you that I need to know about your company and with whom you’ve done business. In our first meeting I’d like to know how big or small you are, what areas of expertise you have in house, and examples of projects you’ve recently done.

How Will We Work Together?
: This might not be a popular opinion, but I think alot of branding happens as you present yourself to a prospect. I think companies can set themselves apart by how well they present their processes. Too many companies have walked into my office and left me wondering how we were going to work together. Professional presentations and outlines of how you typically go about working with customers goes a long way.

Price Wisely: I’m not the type of buyer that always jumps at the lowest price. In fact, I think the lowest bidder usually gets tossed out of consideration. How you price your services says alot about how you perceive the work you will do.

If I stepped out today and turned the Lonely Marketer into a marketing consulting firm, these are the elements on which I would focus when developing my branding and marketing strategy. Marketing consultants are in a competitive field and each step in the vendor/customer relationship is crucial.

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire! Also, stop by and see what others in the group had to say on this topic: Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Steve Woodruff, Drew McLellan, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard.

BrandingWire: Marketing To The IT Ego

Category : branding, BrandingWire


bw_logo_no_tag-med.JPGFor this month’s BrandingWire case study, we’re taking on a small, BtoB IT company. The company contacted us and volunteered to be the focus of our next collaborative post. Although the company wishes to remain anonymous, we do have quite a bit of information that sets up a very interesting branding study.

Based in Canada, this company positions themselves as a full service IT shop focused on small to medium sized business in their city and the surrounding areas. Some areas of focus for them include:

  • Proactive network maintenance
  • Monitoring of critical systems
  • 24/7 emergency IT support
  • New user set-up
  • Procurement of hardware and software
  • Consulting work

They’ve also entered a new and interesting sector of IT called Green IT which focuses on cutting energy use and waste through environmentally responsible IT practices.

Some challenges the company faces are:

  • Helping customers understand value of their services (helping them justify the price tag)
  • Land better customers who understand the importance of IT services.
  • A desire to position themselves as a partner in customer’s business rather than just a quick repair service.

I was actually pretty excited to receive this study this month. I have experience working in marketing for an IT services company and I currently work for a data hardware manufacturer that targets IT managers in both large and small businesses. One aspect of the IT business I’ve come to realize over the years is that there seem to be three levels of IT consulting companies seen through the eyes of the IT buyer:

  • “Company A” – The Large Worldwide IT Consulting Company: This firm has national or worldwide advertising and brand name, thousands of employees, charges a premium and gets that premium. The buyer has complete faith that the massive amount of money they’re spending on that company is worth it because of brand’s appeal and recognition.
  • “Company B” – The Smaller – More Regional – IT Consulting Company: This group does not have national advertising and their brand is not first on the minds of buyers. They have a smaller number of employees but stretch to offer a portfolio of products similar to the large company above. Their business is driven by a small sales team and/or word of mouth. Oftentimes their proposals are under scrutiny and their prices are debated because they don’t have that large brand name behind them. They have great service but have to work three times as hard to prove it.
  • “Company C” – The One or Two Person Shop: These are the folks that have a small network of customers who call them for the small projects. They have plenty of business but don’t aspire to grow beyond their home office. They also wouldn’t be relied upon for large-scale projects.

I believe that our client for this study is that middle tier. So how does that level of company compete for big business? IT buyers are complex – they are relied upon to be experts within their company. They’ll always be attracted to Company A first because If the network fails due to something they purchased from Company A, they can relax, because – after all – it’s Company A. So what can a Company B to do compete:

  • Go Vertical: I’ve found in multiple cases that when you position yourself as an IT expert in a vertical such as enterprise, banking, legal, etc. you’ll gain extra credibility from the buyer. This company should select major verticals in their area and make it a point to understand the IT challenges faced by those industries.
  • Customize: Create vertically focused proposal and presentation formats that when read and listened to by the buyer instill in them the confidence that they are dealing with someone that understands their pain.
  • White Papers: There is nothing in the IT world that spells quality and knowledge more than well-written white papers. A white paper on the IT issues and recommended fixes for each vertical is needed. To compete with Company A, they’ll need to demonstrate they understand the buyer and his/her needs better.
  • Presentation: IT Buyers are proven to start many searches on Google which lead to websites of companies they’ll consider as vendors. I’ve seen way to many Company B website that brand them instantly as low-budget because the cheap site is cluttered and information is not easily found. A well organized, clean website is a must. If you go with a vertical focus, make sure you dedicate an area to demonstrate your industry knowledge.
  • Be There When They Want You: As long as we’re talking website, make sure it is optimized for local search. If an IT buyer searches on “IT Consultant”, he or she may be looking for Company A or Company B. But if that buyer searches on “Vancouver IT Consultant” they’re more than likely looking for Company B or Company C. Company B needs to be positioned to win that battle every time. A well-optimized website should be on the first page of search results for that localized search and also should be running paid search ads to further solidify themselves as the expert in that area. Don’t let the buyer keep searching until they come across Company A!
  • Simplify: IT buyers have egos. They want everyone to know they know everything about the network and technology. In reality, it’s impossible to know everything with the rate technology advances these days. If they receive a proposal or collateral with jargon they don’t understand, they won’t want to put themselves in a position – in front of their peers – where they may look like a vendor knows more. Walk the line between presenting your company as knowledgeable yet don’t try to overstate your capabilities with too much industry lingo.

I think Company B has an excellent position in the localized marketplace. Understanding a region and vertical industry issues will go a long way to positioning themselves ahead of Company A. Be that brand that gets noticed because you’re in tune with local business and display that brand at every step in the IT buyers buying cycle.

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire! Also, stop by and see what others in the group had to say on this topic: Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Steve Woodruff, Drew McLellan, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard, Matt Dickman, Chris Brown, Cam Beck

Is The Car Dealership Dead?

Category : branding, BrandingWire


bw_logo_no_tag-med.JPGI haven’t been to a car dealership in three years nor have I paid any attention whatsoever to any dealership advertising. I’m also not that excited at the prospect of having to return one day to buy a car. But, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way which begs the question – is the car dealership dying? I’m not trying to spread gloom and doom, but it seems like most industries improve and innovate as time goes on. I haven’t seen that with your average corner dealership. That’s why our topic for this month’s BrandWire study left me wondering if there is even an answer – How would you re-brand and re-image a car dealership?

Here is my process when buying a car:

  1. Spend a few months narrowing down which car brands, types, and models I’d like to test drive. I do this through paying more attention to ads and other cars and trucks on the road.
  2. Take one excruciating weekend and go to dealerships to test drive the cars and listen to bad sales pitches.
  3. Hit the web searching for the best deal, comparing offers, and negotiating with people I don’t believe are giving me a fair shake.
  4. Sign papers and pick up car at selected dealership (while sitting through countless attempts at up-selling)

Maybe it’s the stigma or reputation of the dealership that makes me cringe when having to go. I’m not trying to type cast all dealers – some dealerships are better than others. My point is that car dealerships are what they are. I don’t think any catchy dealership tagline, logo, or branding campaign is going to make me think the way a dealership goes about their business has changed. It’s the process of buying a car that has to be redefined and re-branded.

If the average car buyer could rebrand the process, what would it look like? Well, I’m that average buyer so here is what I would like to see.

  1. I know pretty much the car I want. I’ve narrowed it down to two or three brands and models and now I’m ready to try them out.
  2. Next, I contact a new service which specializes in getting me cars to test drive. I sign-up online and then set up when and where I’d like to do my test drives. The service also offers no sales pitches – just informed people that tell you about the car, answer your questions and have no hidden agendas.
  3. I’ve decided which car I want and am now ready to contact an online service that will find me the best offer. I work with a non-commissioned rep who gets me offers and helps me work out the best deal. Through the process, I’ve also worked out a trade-in, license fees, any additional insurance, etc.
  4. I step into a dealership, pick up my car, and drive away.

Essentially what I’m suggesting is that the stale experience of the car dealership be minimized, the Internet play a bigger role, and new services be developed that help me decide what I want without the pressure.

Is all this possible? To be honest, I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about the auto industry to make exact suggestions. But, I do know enough about being on the buying end that I’d like the process to change.

Perhaps there are dealers out there offering what I’ve suggested above? What are you thoughts on the process of buying cars?

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire! Also, stop by and see what others in the group had to say on this topic: Olivier Blanchard, Becky Carroll, Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Gavin Heaton, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, and Steve Woodruff.

My Experience With The Estes Park Brand

Category : branding, BrandingWire


bw_logo_no_tag-med.JPGI’m taking a little different approach to this BrandingWire project. Martin Jelsema (a member of our team), with his close ties to the town – has put together a comprehensive brief on Estes Park, Colorado outlining their brand and what they want to accomplish. I’m not going to read it yet (but you can on the BrandingWire site). I’m stepping into the role of consumer and am going to try to experience the Estes Park brand from the perspective of a potential customer. My wife and I have small children and we’ve often talked about visiting Colorado and showing the children the mountains and all the natural beauty. Coming from Minneapolis, the trip is not too long and would be a great experience for our family. Two caveats – we’re not campers and we don’t ski. Is Colorado the right place for us?

I jump to my Google browser and type in “rocky mountain national park” (cheating a bit because I know it’s close to Estes Park) – what a great place to see the mountains. Please note that we don’t know much about the area or even for what we’re looking, but we know we want a mountain experience. Here’s what I find:


Ahh…this is starting out interesting. Check out the only paid result – it’s from www.EstesParkCVB.com. Well, I’m not going to cheat and go right to their site so I peruse some of the organic results for starting information on RMNP. Estes Park shows up on page one of these the organic results as well. Very impressed so far…an ad and an organic result on page one for this major attraction. As a researcher, I’m getting the idea that the Estes Park brand is closely tied to RMNP.

I click on the top six or seven results to learn more about RMNP. There is alot of information but not one definitive source – lots of bits and pieces. I get the idea that this is primarily a summer location where you can hike, fish, sightsee, etc. That’s what we need – now a place to stay. Like any good vacationer not familiar with the area, we’d like a central location from which we can branch out and return with ease. Remember, we’re not campers so we’re looking for lodging. Interestingly, most links for lodging lead me to an Estes Park page of some sort. They’re all different, but it seems like that’s the place to stay.

So, I go back to my search results and click on their PPC ad as it tells me they have lodging, dining, shopping and more. I liked the ad because it instantly conjures up images in my mind of a town atmosphere that has the amenities my family needs. Here’s how I’m greeted at their site:


I’ve seen alot of these pictures on other sites – I was really hoping to see the quaint mountain town greeting me with a combination of nature partnering with small town hospitality. We like nature and its beauty, but we also like to return at night to some quality dining and comfortable cabin lodging. I’m guessing that is what they offer, but my first reaction is that this is more rustic than we need. I do like the fact they have summer pictures showing – I was expecting to see alot of skiers when I first started this research mission.

I’m scrambling to find confirmation that this is indeed the place for our vacation. My eyes catch the light text on the site – here is what I read:

The majestic scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park combined with the home town hospitality of Estes Park transforms trips to the Colorado Rockies into dream vacations in paradise. Come for a day, a week, or more to visit this eastern gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The first sentence confirms that this is indeed the small town atmosphere we need coupled with the incredible scenery of the mountains. I do get confused over the “gateway community” term though. Are they just a place to sleep and eat and then drive into the national park each day for all the activities? The next paragraph says they have all the hiking, fishing, etc. but now I’m unclear as to whether the town has that or RMNP has it.

Next I look for family activities, but don’t see anything obvious on the front page.. I search around and find under “Things to Do” tab a link to Family Activities. Again, I’m hoping to see more family related images and information.

Okay…let’s take a break from my consumer point of view and read Martin’s brief….You can too on the BrandingWire site.

So, it looks like Estes Park is alot of what I thought it was which means they’re doing a good job of representing their brand online. It looks like their main challenge is increasing their tax base via increases in tourism while not ruffling the feathers of its residents who prefer little or no development. Being mostly a summer destination, they’re even looking to extend their season into Fall and Spring.

I read some more from their town site and from a marketing perspective, I was impressed with the plan and methods being used to reach their customer base. They’ve segmented their audience into three markets based on geographical location, income, family status, and age. With that data, they’ve put together a comprehensive marketing plan that includes paid search, banner advertising, print advertising, 30-second television spots, direct marketing, radio spots, and public relations. They haven’t missed much!

But something was nagging me about their brand image so I decided to sleep on it…the next day it hit me. I didn’t feel like the town stood on its own. Obviously, the activities surrounding the Rocky Mountain National Park are a huge draw and they need to be highlighted, but Estes Park has a very rustic, small town feel that is unique to the area. Yes, I have limited knowledge of Colorado, but as far as I can tell there aren’t other towns like that close to the RMNP. Why not hit me with that message?
I decided to search on “Estes park” in my Google search engine to see if there was other information I missed. The first result is, of course, Estes Park, but the url is different than their paid search ad??? I click on it and am greeting with more of what I needed to see.


Look what is right in plain view on the main page – “Great Family Getaways” plus a banner talking about Spring which fits with their goals of expanding their seasons. The text leads me to believe that this town is its own destination with options to take in the surrounding national parks. I feel better about this interaction with this brand.

Why the two experiences and messages? Now, in all fairness to Estes Park, I have not seen other marketing efforts such as collateral, TV ads, etc. But if they’re going to market to other Midwestern states outside of Colorado, the web presence should be more consistent and unified. We’re not the only family that uses the Internet to search for vacation destinations.

I’d also recommend something close to what ExploreMinnesota.com did with My Favorite Minnesota. They used user generated content to promote every angle of the state. This doesn’t break the bank to produce and allows people not familiar with the area to see, hear and understand what is so wonderful about visiting.

Estes Park, Colorado looks incredible and I want to visit…soon. I hope they unify their branding message and keep focusing on family tourism. We stay longer than a day, we eat out, we shop and we spend money to give our kids an experience. We also look for off-season deals which could lend towards them having success with extending their brand to other seasons.

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire! Also, stop by and see what others in the group had to say on this topic: Olivier Blanchard, Becky Carroll, Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Gavin Heaton, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, and Steve Woodruff.

FedEx Jumps on Social Media for Branding

Category : branding


I caught an article announcing the news that FedEx has rolled out a new ad campaign. Ad campaigns can be so varied these days so I was curious to dig in and learn more. It turns out that the branding campaign by the shipping company contains a fair amount of social media with videos and employee stories. From the article:

It launched with TV spots that drive users to a Web site at www.fedexstories.com, where online videos feature FedEx employees telling stories of how they have helped customers.

Needless to say I wanted to check this out. I found some positives and negatives to the campaign, but overall I give FedEx an “A” for effort. They’re trying to create a brand image of a global, yet personal service. From the screenshots below (of the TV spots and of a story) you can see what I mean – visually you get the feeling that although they are a global company, they want the shipping of your package to be personal.

Screenshot of a customer story:


Screenshot of a TV spot online:


The stories are engaging and show everyday workers making a difference. The TV spots are quick snippets of stories with the distinct message to visit the website for more. Like I said, they did a good job of presenting the stories and drawing the viewer in.Now, the other side of the coin is execution. The main site is built in Flash so your computer needs to be updated with Flash – not a big deal as most computers are equipped. But, the Flash presentation took close to a minute or more to load. I understand that the site just launched and traffic is probably high, but they should have been more prepared for that. If I wasn’t writing about this topic, I likely wouldn’t have waited around to see the site. Next, it wasn’t 100% clear what I was supposed to do when it loaded. I finally located the icon on the top left of the screen and pressed it launching the next step.

See, I think to really pull off a campaign like this, there can be absolutely no work for the user. Seeing the content is not mission critical to the user and they’ll abandon at the first instance of resistance. Waiting for load and searching for the first step are not good.

I should note that I closed my browser and went back in and it loaded quickly so maybe that was a one-time thing.

I’ll be curious to see how the TV spots look on screen and also to see how strong the call to action is in the upcoming print ads. But, they have the potential to drive large amounts of traffic and I think the “Shipping is Global yet Personal” brand theme plays real clear.

What are your thoughts?