Five Taglines that Flat-line.

Taglines have long been the cornerstone of good branding.  A bad tagline is like a bad pickup line.  Lately, I kind of wonder what you’re all smoking. 🙄

I have 4 daughters, and I know good and well, before settling on a name, I went through hours of any way these names could be used against them.

Why, then, when in a branding exercise, do some destinations and communities settle on the ridiculous?

Here are 5 sh*tty taglines, though we won’t name names.  But, hey, call me – I’m a good brand therapist. 😉

  1. Welcome home.  
    • What in the living blue hell is wrong with you?  You are marketing to travelers.  Operative word being travel.  If I wanted to be home, I’d just do that.  This one tops my list as the most insane decision.  I can picture the room and that conversation.  “Everyone feels so comfortable here and they identify themselves with our city.” Ok, fair enough.  But, let’s poke that box a little, shall we?  “Find yourself”, “Let X city introduce you to the real you” and “Meet the you you’ve dreamed of.” are all better than, “welcome home” for travel.  “Welcome home” as in, I can walk around in my underwear?
  2. Like no where else.
    • Another turd of a line.  First, if you have roads, trees, sky and people – that gauntlet thrower holds no water.  Second, how is this a selling point?!?  Hell is like nowhere else, but you can save my invitation.
  3. Uniquely (insert destination name)
    • This one, which is RAMPANT, pushes my bore button almost as hard as it pushes my lazy button.  Some branding agency, who could not find anything redeemable about your place, decided to sell you “unique” for a good 6 figures for 6 minutes.  Unique is what you call the weird kid, the smelly band geek, the person who’s personality is so alarming.  But, “bless their hearts, they are “unique””.  If your city sucks, fix it.  A truly good partner in marketing won’t tell you otherwise and take your money.
  4. Simply (insert destination name)
    • Simply is slightly better than uniquely, but still a pile of day-old pizza.  Simply does a better job than the former, as it conjures natural assets.  But, I can throw a dart at a map of the US and hit  the “simply” tag line 100 times.  It lacks being “unique”.:-P
  5. Visit (x)
    • Another lazy one, and by far my most loathed.  About a decade and a half ago, we finally figured out that no visitor on the planet knew what a CVB was.  A whole damn slew decided to change their official names and “Visit XYZ” blew up.  Like, really blew up.  Like “Jennifer” in 1974, (thanks Mom) blew up.   So, this is fine if that’s what you have as your official name, but some of the violators have gone further – they dropped a tagline all together.  As if, merely pulling an Ike Turner, and demanding they visit, will make them comply.  It’s lazy, it’s demanding and it’s getting no brownie points.  Why am I visiting, what am I going to do when I get there, why do I have to visit?  I have questions.

 

I realize that some of you DMO leaders were saddled with a tagline approved by a committee.  Because, we all know committees make the most creative decisions. 🙄  At least use your campaigns to emotionally connect with your audience.  I visited a website of one of the “Welcome Home” violators, and as I was browsing the web for other things later in the day (most likely, “My kid swallowed a dime, what to do”), up served were remarketing banners from said city.  First, a big kudos for working the pixel. My delight changed to anguish as I read the ad.  The ad did not ask me if I’d like to pick up where I left off choosing attractions.  It did not give me an incentive to return. You know what it did?  Repeated the tagline and generic city shot.  XYZ City.  Welcome Home.  Cheese and rice on a cracker!  How is this enticing, why would someone re-visit or finish planning a trip?

I am self-aware that my latest bits are getting preachy and maybe even a little aggressive.  For that, I apologize.  But, I will not apologize for the truth encased in them.  It’s the first step to change.  It’s the one who challenges you that will make you better.  Be better, demand more of yourself and your community.  Really test how that tagline plays for your brand, and make sure to compare it to others using the same.

Today, it is not your brand, it is not my brand.

It’s our brand, yours and mine.

The users, the visitors, the tweeters and the grammers.  The brand belongs to us.  Let’s talk about it.

Dear YouTube, are you *sure* you want to do that?

Another major shift in an Internet giant points to a classic mistake of following the money.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know about the YouTube Ad Apocalypse. If not, here’s the TLDR version:

YouTubers gain a huge following by creating content people want to watch. (no surprise). Sometimes they say things that are controversial. (yeah, got it) Brands who spend millions in ad spend got scared they would get flack if their ad ran on said videos, and pulled their ad budget. (uh, oh) YouTube did two things, and the Internet lost its mind. 1) They converted new video content from major YouTubers into ‘restricted mode’, aka can’t be viewed. 2) Subscribers to said channels were unsubscribed and could not resubscribe to their favorite channels.

With me so far? Good. Seems pretty logical on the surface. Revenue was threatened, teach those wiley YouTube kids that they need to stay in line if they want to use “free speech”.

When people (or corporations) start to make an insane amount of money, the primary focus is protecting and growing that money. Often losing sight of “where they came from”. The breakdown in this business model shift is the fault of the platform and the advertisers.

First, why is this a bad thing? “I mean, c’mon Jenn, there’s some pretty nasty content on YouTube and we need to protect people from being exposed to anything that’s not “PC”. OK, George Orwell, calm down. Do you think YouTube blew up because users only uploaded videos of kittens and rainbows? Admittedly, I’ve watched my fair share of cat vids. But, the titan blew up because it was an unfiltered user-generated television channel. In short order, people learned how to create content that people loved and YouTuber became a very lucrative job. See ya, ‘starving artist’. I see this spanking and content censoring a very bad thing. These guys have millions of followers. Let that word set in, ‘followers’. If content and entire channels take their views and videos somewhere else…they will probably take those viewers, AKA potential customers of advertisers with them. How valuable are those advertising video views going to be when you are losing content and viewers? Admittedly, that’s a dystopian view of an internet brand as much a household word as their owner, Google. But, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that market share could shake. The internet is still, at it’s heart, a place for people to gain access to new media entertainment. When something stops being cool, the people of the Interwebs just leave.

In this point summary, this is bad because censoring free and popular speech makes it less cool. And, content creators who now are making 1/2 a paycheck bc subscribers and views took a dive, will move and take the fans with them. After all, “mess with my money, you mess with my emotions”

Second reason this is a bad thing? Advertisers need to get a clue. If you are using behavioral marketing, your target audience just might be watching a PewDiePie vid on a topic they are curious about. Demographic, overly-managed demo targeting didn’t work. We tried it, and we found out the individual does not live in a neat, little box. Sometimes, behavior is erratic and not associated with “boxed research”. I don’t care what my customer does on the web, I want to be in front of them if they’ll be a good match for my product. Here’s why: all money is green, it is not my place as a marketer to judge anyone, and business/politics/religion/free speech do not mix. By pulling your ad from website or video that you don’t agree with, you are judging your customers. And, people don’t buy from judgy-mcjudgerston.

Bottom line: YouTube made billions by owning nothing on the backs of user-generated content. Now, they are taking millions out of their pockets in order to appease and keep more billions from brands who can’t understand an ad roll does not mean endorsement. It’s been 20 years for these brand dinosaurs to learn about digital marketing. I understand a learning curve, but get your sh*t together, fr.

This is 100% personal opinion and I am not saying don’t use or advertise on YouTube. I’m just saying, it might go vanilla and the world wants sprinkles.

What is a futurist and do I need one?

Futurists are the most endearing of the geek family. Some of us are your card-carrying sci-fi fanatics, the we-are-going-to-live-on-mars, robots-will-take-over, we-will-all-be-chipped-by-2021 daydreamers. And, the get-your-butt-in-gear-and-don’t-miss-it variety. I tend to be the latter. Pragmatic prognosticators understand the business case of futurist work. Futurists can provide C-suite execs advice that will help them avoid disastrous strategies.

Let’s start with the first question I get all the time, second only to “Can you make me go viral?”.

What does a futurist do?:

  • They tap into their experience in a field of work and notice the patterns that make their next bet a pretty sure thing.
  • They coach out the old. Often, a futurist will reduce risks of a competitive edge shift or market shift for a client.
  • They find, address and reorganize missed opportunities for client growth.
  • They help with clarifying goals and realistic actions for the clients near and long term needs.

Do you need a futurist?:

  • If your strategic plan has or does not include a “disruptor” factor.
  • If you *think* you are on top of your marketing game, but don’t have the empirical data to prove it.
  • If you do not have at least one risk goal and dedicate 10% of your team and budget to it.
  • If you still care about your website.
  • If you or your team has been in this job for 5+ years.
  • If you aren’t the disruptor in your industry.
  • If you want to test your strategies against market shifts.

Of course, I’m never going to tell you there is a situation that wouldn’t benefit from a second opinion from an experienced futurist. But, you should be clear on why you are hiring them and for what specific purpose. We do not read crystal balls, and predictions are only about 5% of what a good futurist relies on.

The best way to put it is this:

Futurists are strategists that have enough experience to look ahead 5 or 10 steps.

When I receive resistance from a client, I often find out it’s because of fear. Getting a strategy audit feels a little like getting called into the principal’s office. Your internal monologue may go a little something like this:

“They are going to “find out” everything your organization is missing, messing up on. And, they may ask you to change. I mean, hell, don’t you work hard enough already and haven’t you added on 17 new media outlets in the last 18 months already. There’s only so much a human can do! So, back off with your challenging, easy-for-you-to-say strategies. I’m doing just fine at keeping my job as is, thankyouverymuch!”

Here, have some truth: You are not meant to just pay bills and die. In between “keeping up” and being a market leader is a damn fine career you can be proud of. A good futurist will understand the fear and find solutions based on your situation. We are not going to ask you to change gears and start selling flying cars (but wouldn’t that be cool?).

What a futurist is not:

  • They are not a “guru”, only entry-level punks use that word.
  • They are not your parents. If you give an excuse not to do something, they are not going to write a note to the “powers that be” to get you out of gym class.
  • They are not “growth hackers” Another buzzword I loathe, why on earth would you want the word hacker associated with a professional career.
  • They are not soothsayers. Looking back at my trend prediction scorecard, I’ve missed a few due to the fact that I’m not psychic (which would also be cool, btw)
  • They are not tacticians. A lot of the time, when a fururists job is done, it’s easy for the client to ask the futurist to do the work for them. Nope, nope, nope. Stay in your lane. You can’t see the forest for the trees, and all that jazz.

To close out this little futurists are viable consultants manifesto, I will tell you why I am a futurist. I’ve done the work and managed it, delighted and disappointed clients, won and fell on my ass, done the never-been-done and fulfilled the overlooked. I pay homage to my path, because I demand that of myself. My experiences have given me a special talent to foresee strategy in an unique way, to understand client fear and limitation, and the path to clear up and move forward on any directive. I do it to honor those who have worked with me. I do it because that’s the talent I’ve been bestowed. I do it because I cannot live life any other way.

 xoxo, jb

In advertising, we trust.

In recent surveys, it turns out that 61% of Americans trust the advertising they see, and 72% view all advertising as honest.  A 16% jump from the last two years.  Meanwhile, only 32% of Americans trust the news.  The NEWS.

*sources:  Gallup, Axios

What does this mean?

Below are my predictions:

  • Media costs will skyrocket, again.
  • PR will be less effective.
  • Video ads will be the big winner.
  • Promoted content on news sites just lost ALL ITS VALUE.
  • Impressions mean something.  Remember the poll was about advertising they “see”.  The messages are getting through and they are deemed as truth.
  • Real-time metrics will become less meaningful.  Clicks this hour will not represent attention or trust.  They’ll be a reversal of economic impact measurement while the market works out the buying cycle to trust.

The advice:

  • Saddle up with emotionally connected, honest campaigns.  Really invest in high production quality.  Try hiring a consultant who can pull together a Cadillac crowd-source of talent.
  • Choose disruptive platforms.  Streaming shows with uninterrupted commercial time is a good bet.  Re-marketing pixels that deliver believable benefits on a repetition.
  • Double down on media spend.  Media buys should be your number one priority of the moment.  Shift budget from sources that are viewed as untrusted.
  • For the love of Pete, hire a media strategist that has been in the trenches longer than Facebook.  With this type of opportunity on the line, you should not be taking risks.  Just because someone knows how to push the buttons for your media campaign, does not mean they know “why” someone will or won’t respond.
  • Strategy and measurement will be very important.  Hire an agnostic party who is a media veteran and can guide and measure the process in a more modern way than web traffic, clicks and shares.

Good luck, it’s about to get real crazy out there for advertisers.  As always, if assistance is needed, give me a shout.

~~~~~~~

Jennifer Barbee is a 22 year media veteran and advertising futurist.  She’s been named a Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Advertising & Media by the Stevie Awards and a Top 20 Mom in Business by StartUp Nation.

The Revolution will not be Televised.

Five years ago, the technology of today seemed like science fiction. In the late 90s and early 2000s, when I was young and attempting to sell websites to businesses, I received a barrage of negativity that the web was “just a phase”. As recent as 2008, an executive told me, “I don’t understand people who spend 10-15 hours a week on the Internet, but then again, I don’t understand pedophiles.” What the WHAT?!? Did this man just discount the web and call me a pedo in one breath?!? I should tell you he went on to be one of my biggest fans and wrote one of the most compelling, sweetest reference letters of my career. He just needed patience and empirical data to shift his perspective. I was happy to provide.

Let me now spill the tea. What you think you know about the next 5 or 10 years in communication and advertising is completely wrong. Dead wrong. Even futurists are conservative in their prognostications, in my opinion.

Smartphones have reached the masses, this means the trends are about to shift. Already, the desktop is an accessory to the smartphone. The iOT (Internet  of Things) is rarely understood, but already plaguing our daily lives.  I interviewed 37 destinations and businesses over the summer of 2016, and NOT ONE had plans to use iOT as a marketing channel.

Augmented Reality (AR) seems a kitchy buzzword to many, reserved for the “geeks” who play Pokemon Go.  BIG MISTAKE.  HUGE.

Before you can steer your marketing spend in the next direction, consumers will already have adopted AR in a natural habitat.  The world, with a lens of information.

The future is deviceless.  And, it’s not 20 years away.

You meet someone for the first time and AR delivers their social profiles and cv to explore.  You stand outside a restaurant and can view a layer of customer reviews, menu and daily specials.

The next (near term) phase of technology and communications will come on so naturally, smartphones will be viewed like the 80s brick cells. And, you won’t be ready because you are still catching up on digital marketing that you began too slow.

I’m not even going to get into the “robots” and AI (artificial intelligence/machine learning) that has already become so standard, you might not even recognize it’s all around you.

Here’s some brutal truth you need to hear:  Your search strategy is shit.  Your social media marketing is mediocre, at best.  And, you are going to miss the boat of another tectonic shift in communication because of fear.

Imagine if Destination Marketing Organizations had understood and heavily invested in websites/Internet in the 1990s.  There would be no OTAs, DMOs would enjoy, not only market capitalization, but booking fees to fund their smart city.  Instead, DMOs are behind the market, fighting for bed tax not collected  by the OTA d’jour.

I implore you, to look at shifting strategy NOW before technology out paces your media plan.

As always, I’m available for counsel with my fellow rebels with a cause.

Yours in tech solidarity,

Jenn

The Need for Destinations to Invest in Local Businesses Now

Traditionally, DMOs have helped local businesses market to tourists in a myriad of ways:  co-op campaigns, premium exposure on DMO owned media, ads and listings in travel guides and sales missions.  The “trickle-down” marketing strategy has run it’s course.

With self-run, low cost digital promotional opportunities, the small local restaurant has just as much of a chance of over-booking travelers and capturing brand attention as, well, the destination itself.

The problem is, by relying heavily on advertising and marketing service agencies, most DMOs don’t have the capacity, the trade secrets or the incentive to properly train local businesses.  This is unfortunate, and leaves local businesses to rely on their own budget to market, often with costly mistakes.  Even with self-published media sites like Facebook and Google, a lot of ad budget can be wasted if the nuances of closed loop marketing, remarketing and drip marketing are not fired or understood.

I’ve spent a career (hell, almost a lifetime) of 20 years educating, innovating and leading DMOs to their digital success.  In that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain access to practices and tools that are not widely talked about outside the halls of global media firms.  At that, very few marketing service firms for destinations employ many, if any of them. I desperately want to shout to the DMO community what a disservice they could be doing to themselves…and if you’ve heard me speak – you know I do!jenn_speaking

I fully realize after working with over 400 DMOs and their stakeholders, that the most effective way to gain a competitive edge for their destination is to make each and every one of their local businesses an absolute powerhouse of digital marketing.  Teaching those businesses how to *actually* connect ROI to earned media, how to pitch and land media exposure every time and the trade secrets to sponsored media opportunities that yield 300x return will give your travel marketing a boost so significant, your board won’t believe it.

Imagine your city/region/state with dozens or hundreds of self-contained digital marketing media shops.  Instead of a stakeholder complaint about a listing or co-op media, imagine the praise lauded by a business owner whose profits have doubled due to the training gained.  Sound too good to be true?  Let’s talk about Destination Amp Camp.

Have we forgotten how to tell a story?

I don’t know about you, but I became obsessed with the Netflix original series, “Stranger Things”.  This phenomenon took me right back to middle school and every Steven Spielberg movie I have ever seen.  Upon reading about the young writers who created the series, I happened upon this Spielberg quote that inspired them to write about the 80s, set in the 80s.

People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
~Steven Spielberg

This made me think of a few things, one of which is our society tends to only celebrate beginnings.  “Oh, you’ve started law school!”  “You are writing a book!”  “You have this new product!”  In good ol’ fashion American Dream-esque pride, the beginning of something is lauded.  But, are we doing a disservice to our brands by not telling a middle and an end?

Doesn’t a great story deserve to be fully revealed?

We may think telling a brand story about the end means an exit strategy.  Not necessarily. And, though we may not know the end of our brand story, don’t we have goals for it?  Isn’t that an ending of sorts?  Can’t we at least develop a middle that keeps brand ambassadors engaged in lieu of a shotgun approach of .. “hey, look at this new thing!”?

I don’t have a specific answer that will fit all brands, but I do know that good stories need to be well told.

Think about our communication as a screen play.  Who are the characters, what genre is it, what kind of people engage in this type of entertainment?  Fully develop these story-lines, if even in your mind, and give your brand the life it deserves.

Are you posting in social media just to get your count up, to sell, to get in on viral trends?  How does that really serve the story of your brand?  Let’s say you’re a tourism marketing organization and adventure travelers are a prime target audience. Share stories (think drip story telling, not one blog post) about other adventurers.  How did they hear about you?  What struggles did they have to overcome?  What was the lasting story that stuck with them?

Draw your listeners in and pretend this is your show….now howya’ going to get those ratings up? (^^,)

 

 

You missed the exit.

Dear friends, the shift has hit the fan.

And, your proverbial ass is on the proverbial line.

While you were attending board meetings, tending to operations and only buying media that pitched to you….well, this happened.  We have officially gone past the tipping point in omnichannel communications.  Search has been revolutionized, some even say it’s dead.  Swipe has replaced clicks, as once again the romance industry tells us what’s up.  Banking on your smart phone has increased a bazillion percent (OK, actually 560%, but who’s counting).  Big data has mystified the most seasoned marketers.  Ad agencies are closing doors faster than you can say, “But, the client said…”

So, you didn’t see this coming so fast, you still rely on your cousin/friend/dog sitter because they are “techy”.  Pull up your big girl panties, because I’m about to tell you how to pull this s*** show back on the rails in three (not so easy) steps.

  1. Ruthless Accountability.  You know why it’s easier to sell painkillers than vitamins?  We are quick to go to the doctor when it hurts, but we are (mostly) negligent in preventative care.  You buy into new concepts IF a sales person calls on you, and you make large commitments to the “it” thing.  That doesn’t make you hip.  That makes you lazy.  But, it’s OK.  A little marketing exercise will get you back to Olympian status.  Here’s the straight dope:  You need data-driven decisions. Google Analytics is anecdotal.  Your site traffic is anecdotal. Social listening is anecdotal.  Know what’s not?  Live studies (dare I say Big Data again) that cultivate possibilities instead of history reports.  Stop doing what doesn’t interest anyone.  Start doing what scares you. Kill that crappy site; use Facebook, Pinterest  even SnapChat as brand/store fronts.  The Internet is addicting because it’s fun.  Sales suck because we know you want our money.  Get the data right, give yourself a break then do the thing that scares you the most….breakup with your questionable vendors. Every. Single. One.
  2. Take back control.  Marketing was so much easier when the channels were finite.  Those damn kids have ensured that new marketing channels are infinite.  Television, movies, radio and print have forever changed.  So, how do you control media when the outlets grow an exponential percentage daily.  Yes, yes I said daily.  And, even that is slow as hell in communication that never sleeps.  Hire the smartest people you can find.  Hire them, make them happy, challenged and keep them!  Bring it all in house. Tap into SMEs (subject matter experts) to guide your team, go through them like tissue paper to stay fresh.  The secret to control is marketing that’s not marketing.  Put the trends first, sales second.  When you commit to this strategy, the magic happens.  Taking major risk leaps in media has a payoff either way.  Either you succeed or you learn.  Executing a tactic once or twice and scrapping it because it didn’t impress your boss, isn’t prudent…it’s a lack of faith.  My mentor used to say, either it’s a competency or commitment problem. 
  3. Hyper-responsive is the new snooze.  It’s not enough to “answer” your customers or follow your competition.  Being responsive in marketing is no longer doing your job.  All the while you are building database driven websites, you’re waiting for that brand audit and tweaking your PPC, someone is revolutionizing your industry.

You see, responding to trends isn’t good enough.  Creating trends is your only chance for survival.

OK, so if you have a large enough budget, you’ve probably fooled yourself into thinking you are doing omnichannel media.  Betcha’ a nickel, I can find 10 holes in 15 seconds flat.  Because it’s never “done”, it can’t be done because innovation will never be done.

This may turn some of you off, you might think it’s “preachy”, I prefer to call it persuasive.  I’m that good friend that tells you that you do, indeed, look fat in those jeans.  But, I’ll also shop all day with you and a bottle of good cab stashed in my bag to help you find the ultimate look.

 

Destination NOW: When “content” planning steals the magic

I’m a big planner, my lists have lists.  I like to know what I’m doing and the warm feeling of predictability.  I frequently speak and coach on the power of storytelling and encourage my clients to think forward.  Recently, I have discovered how damn wrong I’ve been. Don’t get me wrong, you can plan around events, happenings and themes (like Holidays), but pre-writing social posts for a month (as some clients ask agencies to do) steals the authentic communication between you and consumers.  Social Media experts may have guidelines to promote a product, but you can’t predict brand banter, fan shares or – God forbid – crisis communication.

The power of NOW is the key to engagement.

The Internet moves as fast as the Internet.  If your content planner can accurately predict a month out what’s hot online; please have them call me – I’d like lotto numbers.

You need hyper-reactive master communicators to really glean the best interaction with your followers/fans/friends.  A bit of a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.

WHAT YOU CAN PLAN:  Blog posts, press releases, events, special deals and offers, campaign themes

WHAT YOU CAN’T PLAN:  trending hashtags, news stories, daily banter, fan shares, anything that needs authenticity

Getting into the Now of communication is the key to dating your audience.

And, that’s what you need – someone excellent at dating:  listening, flirting and closing the deal.  A measure of trust is required, because you aren’t 100% sure what’s going to post next.

Down the line of dating, think back (if you’re my age) – you know where you are going and how you are going to dress – but I know you haven’t planned out the conversation like a script.  If you have, please get help.

“Content”, which is such  boring word, should be natural, curious and respond to your audience.  Think Journalism vs novels.  Journalists respond and listen, novels are a one-way communicator.

So, before you buy a “pack of 50 social posts” from a vendor, ask yourself what you are really paying for?  Stop buying yesterday and invest in now.  Let your fan base guide your process.  Stay curious, keep listening, joke, play and respond until they let you put a ring on it – aka – convert to buyers.