Posts tagged #branding

Scoring Strong with Email Marketing

Email marketing is still viable. Social media consultants, gurus, and (even me included) have spent the past decade telling you it’s all about the social networks. And there continues to be a LOT of value in those channels. However, the truth is that through it all, I have never abandoned the email channel.

In an effort to explain this email I'm an avid fan of the Orlando City Soccer Club (MLS) and the Orlando Pride (NWSL); I'm also and insatiable fan of great marketing. Weird, I know. Therefore, when I saw opportunities for future marketing success I thought to share it with everyone, not simply the team's outline. That said, read the following email looking through the lens of how best to market to some of the greatest fans in the MLS and NWSL.

Here are some suggestions and best practices for successful email campaigns:

All content must be responsive:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile
  • Wearable (tiny screen)

Create an email marketing SOP that aligns with your brand standard manuals for all scenarios. This manual will be a biblical introduction to the next point:

Modular template environments

Modular Template Environments – Type 1: Like any publication, you need to create an environment where different departments and calls to action (CTAs) can be represented, categorized, and moved based on need and action.

Modular Template Environments – Type 2: Ads are getting overlooked or confused with real content because sizes for each are the same. Therefore a user will skim an email and not know what’s an ad or an article. So you must change sizes and locations. Example: header, 50/50, 1/3, 1/4, panels, etc., assigning a character count or word count for each.

Modular Template Environments – Type 3: Sizing and layout options. This way, assets will be consistent when you’re collecting and assembling them from various vendors or departments.

Rewarding VIP Status

When creating a revised email programming campaign for SeaWorld, the first item on the list was a newsletter/email for “Pass Holders” and “Non-Pass Holders.” It’s essential for retention efforts that the park offers exclusivity to those with annual passes.

Here is how we could apply that philosophy Orlando City Soccer Club season ticket holder and fan emails. This action should be replicated for Orlando Pride as well.

Contextual emails: Invite users to update their email account to give them a more personalized experience. Right now you only talk about yourself and it plays thin and will eventually work to your detriment. 

Suggestions might be:

  • "Club & Country” – emails about OCSC/OP and all MLS
  • OCSC/OP – calendar alerts
  • “This day in Soccer” – random history and trivia
  • Player Spotlights
  • Soccer EDU – history, trivia etc.
  • Gear Head – product reviews that piggyback merchandise and e–commerce efforts
  • Social Roundup – fans not only love social media, they love to read what they might have missed from other fans. Create a BuzzFeed-like weekly email that highlights 12 great posts from around Central Florida. This is a great “social proof” area as well “70% of people that read the article on our last game agreed that the red card was understandable”

These emails should be designed (in color, voice, and contextual directive) and sub-branded uniquely to avoid confusion with other segmented emails.

Hearing your email subscribers is key confirmation and welcome messages are a must.

Length: With more email options you’ll be able to cut down on your copy. Your current footprint is trying to be all things to all people and it comes off as noise.

Deployment consistency: You need to drop an email on every “X” day. It’s fine if you want to run alternate days for special categories or quick alerts. Just don’t overdo it.

Custom iconography: Create a series of icons that can be subtended throughout all your emails to indicate sales, events, recent news, coming soon and alerts!

Add motion: GIFs and click–throughs to video are eye-catching and a way to repurpose your efforts with channels like

There are NO ASCII links in your email: This is a HUGE red flag. More people will click on a hyperlinked word than they will an image.

Heat mapping: Run heat mapping on your best and worst emails and find out where/what people did or did not engage with.

Spam scoring: Run all email wording through a spam scoring algorithm. I prefer Apache Spam Assassin – this procedure will lessen the blow on some email servers that might blacklist your content due to trigger words or perceived illegal formatting.

Subject lines: Run “split testing” on outgoing emails to see what a small percentage of our lists will open the most. Once activated, deploy the highest-testing subject line to your audience for maximum results.

Test email launch variables:

  • Subject line
  • Copy amount
  • Image amount
  • Offer/CTA
  • Time of day of send
  • Placement of the CTA
  • Personalization variations
  • More ads, less ads etc.

Create age–specific content: If you intend on cleaning the list (going back and asking your audience to confirm receipt of emails and allow for further customization of content), this is a perfect time to profile your user in basic terms: age, race, family, and other bits of basic demographic granularity will allow you to serve up better content for their needs.

Add native advertising in your written content: Allow brands to pitch association to teams within content outside of events, and make the association within the content as well. “After the game, the club was treated to a BBQ dinner from [sponsor] followed by a night on the town at [sponsor].” etc.

More contests for fans: T-shirt designs, shout-outs, video programs, etc.

Add buttons: Your emails are currently only using the images as linking mechanisms. Keep it simple in for folks to connecting to additional content and offers.

Squeeze emails and quit to reengage: With inactive email accounts, send out a series of emails stating that you’ll be unsubscribing them giving that they’ve not opened their emails in “X” # of days/weeks/months. This allows you to clean your list, as well as “poke” inactive recipients into reconnecting or disconnecting.

Cheat sheets: Send more PDFs and infographics to facilitate deeper learning and understanding of the game and allow them further interest in team members. For instance, offer things such as a “game day” lineup and so on.

Feedback emails: Send a minimum of two emails per season asking fans what they want from their email. This email is an excellent way for them to simply reply or for you to link them to a survey.

Humanize your brands: In player spotlights for example, create content that connects fans in a personal way with causes or groups that players are passionate about. This galvanizes fans to subject matter that they will then positively associate with the teams.

Encourage activity: Create email content where you TELL fans what do. Step-by-step; FYI; DIY and tour-based content works well in this format.

Use social and cultural trends: Connect to current trends by using tools like leverage topical positions that incentivize participation in programs.

Thank you emails: Announce and reply to fans regarding successes and participation in events and programs.

Use the "Inverted Pyramid Method: It drives users to a CTA or actionable button.


A Snapshot Self Branding Litmus Test

One of the many questions that I get about personal branding is "how do I know if my efforts are working?" While the low hanging fruit there would be, if you get a genuine sense that more and more people are hearing about you and your activities. People with strong personal brands seem to be everywhere. They seem to be engaged in the conversations of people with smart SMEs and high thought leadership. This takes time and a boat-load of work. Needless to say, people still want to know if they are improving based on their efforts.

Here is a quick list that you can benchmark test your personal brand:

  • Conversational threads on your Facebook "page" are continuing independent of your engagement.
  • Do a Google search for your name:
    • Do you own the first page?
    • Does Google images index you or multiple folks with your name?
    • Are the images of you consistent, or do they range from various locations/times that you built profiles over the course of your digital experience?
  • If you're using tools like HootSuite, sprout social and or others a standard thumbs up is a consistent percentage growth in your followers, subscribers and communities.
  • Google analytics shows more people on your website or blog. "Dwell time" ( the amount of time people spend with your content) is an important metric to show, even if in a small way, the sentiment and value to your audience.
  • Do a backlinks check on your blog.
  • Do a free SEO ranking.
  • While I'm not 100% sold on it for a great number of reasons, monitoring your account will also give you a qualifying rank that you can use as a benchmark to improve upon.
  • If you utilize live streaming or community-based services such as periscope, meerkat or conduct life are you noticing growth in the following that attend?
  • Do a Google search for the title of any of your blog posts:
    •  Did you get the number one hit? If not, start to construct (while still injecting SEO keywords) more creative titles that have unique value.
Posted on August 6, 2015 and filed under Brand, Process.

What is Your Wawa?

I talk about branding constantly. Just ask the poor guy who sat next to me on a flight to NYC last week.

One of the many things I always hit on is the “essence” of a brand. But in many cases, a brand also has a physical manifestation.

That point hit home for me in a personal way when I was driving to the taco joint ... um, I mean Whole Foods ... a few days ago and eyeballed a Wawa convenience store/gas station under construction in my neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know Wawa, there is nothing more fabulous when it comes to a convenience store.

The brand has roots in the Northeast, but has progressively found a home in the South. The first Orlando location opened with the amount of fanfare we normally reserve for visiting celebrities and high-profile court cases. My wife and I eagerly stood in line the first week awaiting the opportunity to use Wawa’s DIY touchscreen sandwich maker and get a whiff of their multiple coffee flavors.

Now I am getting a Wawa less than a mile from my home. From a brand standpoint, something hit me like a ton of swizzle sticks while I sat at a red light and surveyed the construction site. At least in our region, all the new Wawa stores have a consistent architectural style defined by a sloping roofline that covers the gas pump area. 

And guess when they build that pavilion?

They construct it before the first yard of concrete is poured, and before they erect the walls for the building that will dispense those heavenly sandwiches.

Sitting at that red light, it suddenly occurred to me that Wawa takes advantage of a brand-centric pre-marketing device like no other. For months before the new store opens, that roof structure spreads the gospel like a street-corner preacher promising to deliver us from mediocre gas-station food and bland coffee.


What other brands have this effect? 

Back in the day, Taco Bell used to have a little “bell” niche on the building’s facade that might have given you an indication. For those who remember the freestanding restaurants, Pizza Hut had a distinctive roofline. You can probably think of others.

So what is the Wawa for your business? More specifically, when you deploy a product or service in a new marketplace, what signals your arrival? This question has actually haunted me for a couple of weeks. I’m tuned into it every time I see a building under construction. And that’s easy here in Central Florida, where new shopping centers, restaurants and banks pop up like zits the week before prom.

Pre-marketing takes on a lot of forms:

  • Actors, musicians, and miscellaneous celebrities always spin a good tale about the next big thing they are involved in
  • The traditional “coming soon” sign
  • Certainly doing a press release creates some momentum, but only with specific customers and businesses through the right media channels
  • Capitalizing on social media and asking the audience to share expansion updates with friends in new markets
  • Blogger buzz, immersive marketing, and outdoor advertising may also get the needle to twitch 

However, I’m fascinated that Wawa can announce its arrival without any typical media spend. The physical structure already does the job.

Now I would like to challenge you to see if you can identify any other brands or products that employ this tactic whether or not they know that they’re doing it. The challenge is great but I think you’re up to the task.

Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Brand, Process, Strategy.

“Plinko” Content: Zig and Zag Your Way to Brand Awareness

Storytelling is the most powerful messaging tool available to us. It doesn’t matter if that story comes from blog articles, video, podcasting, or other channels. Nothing can convey the heart and soul of brand essence like a solid story that can be retold (shared) with all the contemporary social tools. However, there is also a fallacy in the assertion that a great story is all you need...

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Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Brand, Advertising, Strategy.