Thank you to all the cool people we’ve met, to all the energized kids who cut their teeth and gained a toehold in this ridiculously turbulent fucking business, to all the outright freaks and psychopaths, to the amazingly beautiful, talented souls who graced our place of business. May you find the lives and careers that you’ve aligned for yourselves.
I hope you’ll remember Ding Communications Inc. (A.D. March, 1998 - April, 2014) as a brief, stirring but significant star in your life, as it is in Shelli’s and mine. We had fun. We bear scars that will never heal. We drank too much. Swore too much. Probably thought about our clients’ problems too much. And we brought ideas to life. Some of those ideas were even great. Many were mediocre. Some were absolute trash.
But in spite of it all, we are so amazingly proud of creating something called Ding. Its ring will continue to connect us, regardless. I hope you’ll remember Ding, in whatever context, as an institution that worked hard at asking “What if…?" and then attempted it.
Kimber and Larry, Ding would have never been possible without you. Thank you for making this improbable thing possible.
Yep, we're untethering from a bricks and mortar storefront to a digitally connected network.
With that in mind, please jot down Ding's new digits and add them to your address book:
Ding Marketing Communications, Inc.
P.O. Box 34523
Reno, NV 89523
You know things are completely out of hand when the marketing chiefs from some of the world’s most powerful brands fret publicly about the industry’s chaotic state.
But it’s what we’re all feeling, right? And if you’re not lost in the weeds with the rest of us, you’re either a brilliant Steve Jobs-ish messiah, or the Vicodin has taken permanent hold.
As Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Walmart U.S. division of Wal-Mart Stores, commented at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers (and quoted in this NY Times article), “We as marketers have never had to face this before.”
“This” being the absolute marketing maelstrom that’s occurring mainly as a result of this Internet thing. The WWW’s deepening entrenchment into everything we do has knocked the marketing reins out of our hands. How can a company ever hope to corral – much less understand – even a portion of the many channels, platforms, and services popping up around us today? Just attempting to keep abreast of all the advancement ultimately makes you feel smaller and more insignificant than you’re likely feeling.
The buzz for the past few years is that the consumer is in control. I don’t agree. The consumer is just as bewildered as you and me. But our customers don’t have to make career-defining decisions based upon committing to the latest online channel. They can blithely troupe ahead while casually exploring this quickly evolving landscape. They’re free to hit “Share” whenever the next cool thing crosses their screen. The consumer doesn’t have a lot of skin in the game.
So, what’s a marketer to do in this era of superficial snapshots that are comprised of 140 characters, reposts, Likes, snippets, clips, and other random Internet frosting that is today’s media landscape?
First and foremost, differentiate. Or, as John Costello, the president for global marketing and innovation at the Dunkin’ Brands Group so succinctly put it: “Differentiate or die.”
I’m taking it a step further than Mr. Costello, though. Differentiate your brand, product or service so decisively that a customer can recognize you immediately. They can “get” who you are from the briefest glimpse of the thin Internet digital veneer. And they can understand why you are singular simply by talking with one of your customer service reps.
In reality, this requires differentiation that is effectively both a mile wide and a mile deep.
Differentiation is the purposeful identification of what separates your brand, product or service from your competition. This is seemingly Marketing 101. And it’s probably the most excruciating exercise any of us can do. Why? Because what if, after all this bellybutton scanning, we come up empty? What if we discover that our exact reason for serving a useful business purpose doesn’t really exist? And who wants to invest hundreds of man-hours figuring out what the hell makes our institution stand out, when all we really want to do is generate revenue by selling donuts. Or car loans. Or health insurance. Or __________.
But with differentiation comes serenity. The fog of indecision lifts and the road ahead starts revealing itself. Ok, that’s an oversimplification. But when you do the hard work and can succinctly state your brand’s special positioning, you can then throttle into messaging. Then you’ll understand that by unveiling your brand’s specialness, you’ve come upon your marketing blueprint. Your positioning and messaging indicate the most productive channels. You’re not staring dumbly at the vast bazaar of YouTube, email, outdoor, broadcast, niche print, mobile, viral, guerilla, tweets… Well, yes you still are. But you gain a firmer control over your marketing environment, and you’ll know which channels hold a particular appeal to your customers. And that beats the cheeks off throwing darts and hoping you somehow connect with your audience.
Differentiate. Every company, organization and nunnery has to do it. And it has to be done well to get a handle over your marketing environment.
If you need help defining what it is that makes your brand, product or service special, email me.We’re good at that.
I am what you would call a decor minimalist. My budget is limited and if I have to choose between decorating myself and decorating my home then I will choose buying that royal blue button up blouse every time.
Now, I do appreciate a well-decorated space. I log into Pinterest and waste minutes and hours pinning gorgeous pictures of the furniture that will only exist in my home if I marry a sugar daddy, or win a Keno jackpot, or something along those lines…
The areas of my home that I have chosen to spend some time making a reflection of me/myself are my hallways. They are filled with the musical memories of concerts past. I mat and frame posters from my most beloved concert experiences and hang them in place of what one day may be home to my children’s awkward school photos. My walls are graced with the elongated face of Tom Petty, The eerie art of the Shins, the legend that is Sir Paul McCartney, Roll call artist lists from untamed festivals like Coachella and Bottle Rock, and just about everything in between. Music makes me happy.
While my home décor is sparse, my office décor is anything but. Here is a list of some of the items Ding Marketing Communications houses under it’s creative roof: two pink flamingos, one vintage typewriter, 172 plants (seriously, Greg. It’s like a greenhouse in here), Toy guns, several collector’s beer bottles, advertising plaques, statues and certificates of merit, an autographed basketball, an aged bell, chalk walls and desks made from old doors, a conference table comprised of bent metal and glass, a black widow (that my wuss boss won’t terminate) a book titled, “Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals,” just to name a few…
We aren’t lawyers, realtors, or doctors; we are wordsmiths and wizard artists. We sell creative ideas for a living, so why would our office be anything but wild, fancy and free? If I were a client and I walked into an office that felt like it could be anything other than an advertising and marketing agency- I’d leave and never come back.
Décor evokes emotion, sends a message and it’s important no matter if it’s your body, home or work place. The walls of my home send the message that I have impeccable taste in music and that I am an adventurer. The walls of Ding Marketing Communication show that we have an unwavering dedication to being eclectic, creative, out of the box thinkers and we’re f-ing fun.
The alliance that markets Reno and Lake Tahoe’s meetings and convention hotels, venues and services recently launched the Good Value/Good Values program. It’s a righteously strong social cause and marketing effort geared to elevate the Reno Tahoe Meetings brand in what is a notoriously competitive marketplace. The program steers money to three non-profits (Komen, SPCA and American Red Cross) when a meeting planner books a convention, trade show or association meeting here. Morris Visitor Publications tapped Ding to create the marketing for Good Value/Good Values. We gave it wings.
Check it out.
- Impressions: +796k
- Eblasts: 2,533 click-throughs
- Qualified Leads: 77
- Landing Page Visits: Considerable unique page visit spikes following eblasts
and print ad releases.
After 15 years, we’ve put the kibosh on explaining that “No, in fact we don’t sell phone systems.” Nor do we offer better rates than AT&T or Charter. And really, our understanding of low voltage connectivity is, well, very low.
So, let it be known across the land that we have taken the drastic but definitive step and have formally added Marketing to our name.
It’s Ding Marketing Communications, Inc., from here on out, thank you very much.
We work hard at giving it back. In fact, it’s written into our Vision Statement: “Be good giver-backers.”
To that end we’re finalizing Ding’s new non-Profitable Partnership.
In a nutshell:
- We’ll provide pro bono results-driven strategic direction and creative execution to the non-profit of our Client’s choosing.
- The in-kind strategic and creative services are tiered and based upon a percentage of the Client’s previous year’s overall creative and production fees.
- The Client can augment Ding’s in-kind support to meet the non-profit’s marketing needs.
- The program will be live in September 2013.
You’ll see complete details for the non-Profitable Partnership shortly.
Ringing the Bell.
Sigurdson’s On Your Side
In the world of assembly line law practices, Kathleen Sigurdson works personally with her clients to help them confidently navigate the nerve-wracking waters surrounding personal injury and workers comp legal matters. We are proud to be working with such a dedicated attorney and her committed staff.
For more about Kathleen and her team, visit SigurdsonLaw.com
If you have a data collection form field on your website, do this little exercise. Run to the airport. Stand in line at the Starbucks. Open your website’s form on your mobile. Then fill that sucker out. If you can do it under 45 seconds, bravo! If not, reduce it down so that your customers can finish it in that timeframe. Otherwise you’re sacrificing conversions. And for Pete’s sake, rename the “Submit” button. Nobody wants to submit, literally or figuratively. It’s an opportunity to theme it after your campaign or brand – “I Want A Free Flight!” “Show Me the $$$” etc.
Read more here.
What credit unions need to know to effectively market to Millennials and drive automotive-lending opportunities
We recently released a new Insights&Intel paper on Gen-Y’s auto buying behavior. (Credit Unions and the Gen-Y Connection: What credit unions need to know to effectively market to Millennials and drive automotive-lending opportunities)
The research builds the case that now is an opportune time for credit unions to successfully bridge the generation gap and not only grow loan business, but to add new, loyal members.
I found one point in the paper very telling. Gen-Y/Millennials are apprehensive to sign on the bottom line for fear of being turned down. With the economy pummeling everyone, but this target in particular, they’re afraid that a battered credit score, or a complete lack of a credit rating, means they’ll automatically get rejected for when trying to borrow.
What an opportunity for credit unions to reach out a friendly hand and help that 18-29 year old car buyer get auto loan financing!
The paper is chock full of other marketing and advertising insights and tactics for building a relationship with this next generation of credit union member. Visit http://dingthinking.com/credit-union-gen-y-connection/ to get your copy.
Lead generation in the business-to-business and business-to-consumer world is a company’s lifeblood. Done right, and the world takes on a happier hue of beauty and perfection. But done not so right and the skies darken, tempers flare and money flies out the door.
This post looks at how a couple of minor tweaks helped turn around a lead gen program from an “oh no….” situation to “oh my….” huzzah, literally overnight.
The campaign launched via email and print. It was a pretty cool initiative the client had created, one that kicked off a novel cause-related program as a means of building a B2B lead pool for the sales team. And almost immediately a hefty collection of potential new leads clicked through from the email blast to the campaign’s “modified” landing page (more on this in a second). Likewise, respondents logged on to the landing page in response to the print ad’s call to action. It’s always gratifying to see that our work triggering such a quick response.
But then things got really quiet. Eerily quiet.
There was a ton of click-throughs. But no new leads. No conversions. No action. Nothing.
“Where’d everybody go…?” the client asked, while calmly freaking out.
It didn’t take long to CSI the problem. The landing page was a god-dammed mess.
Up to this point, we had been responsible for everything but the website. Campaign concepting, execution and so on. But we were held at arms length on finishing the landing page. Instead, an existing page had been retooled for this campaign. And that is where the bus lost its wheels.
The original “page” was really nothing more than a humongous form: 16 fields of required information. It was so onerous, I doubt even the most dour IRS agent could appreciate its complexity. And the poor target audience, who spends as much time on a mobile device as they do on a laptop, must have chuckled to themselves as they quickly surfed their way to something less daunting. There was no way a normal human would attempt to tackle such a formidable form on the first date.
As the potential new leads were turning away by the hundreds, the client looked at us wild eyed and said, “Whatwedo?”
So, we retooled the landing page to better follow the campaign branding. Then, we reduced the number of fields from 16 to 4. And then the coup de grace – we killed, eradicated, smashed out of existence – the stupid “Submit” button. It was replaced with a much friendlier, much more approachable campaign themed button that made the target much happier to upload their information into the database.
Note to marketers: “Submit” is a red flag word. It repels humans in the same way a cross wards off vampires.
Then we re-launched the campaign and… hot damn! The lead pool grew by several hundred, while the Request for Proposal submissions reached into the 90s at last count. (FYI: We used the same email list, and did an A/B test as well.)
With this in mind, here are a few key takeaways:
• Review and filter all the components of your lead generation campaign through your audience’s eyes. Be critical. Very critical. Ask yourself: “Is this a form I’d complete?” “Is this an offer that holds any value to me?”
• Keep your forms simple. Name. Company. Email. And perhaps one or two more pieces of information, such as “How did you find us?” or “How large is your company?”
• You can ask for more detailed information once the initial handshake is completed via the simpler form.
• Be sure your page is responsive. Unless yours is an audience of Luddites, people are using mobile devices, so your page has to fit legibly on that screen, as well as a tablet.
• Schedule and send a “Thanks!” auto response soon as the field is completed.
• Consider sending a follow-up piece – a white paper, hosting a webinar, offering exclusive access to an offer or coupon, etc. – within 7-10 business days from the initial blast.
In an effort to fill the sales funnel, we often overlook the fact that what we are doing is asking someone to follow a few very specific steps. So keep those steps simple, obvious and matter of fact. And kill your Submit button.
Thanks to HubSpot and M3Planning for their insight.
There are a few teams I have been extremely proud to be a part of.
1. The 1992 AYSO Bullfrogs
This was my first year playing soccer. We wore neon green and we won the championship in a shootout. Had we lost, I might not have stayed with the sport.
2. The 2004 Express Carpet Cleaning of Ft. Collins Colorado, March Telemarketing Sales Team
This was a phone gig I picked up during my sophomore year of college. It was a night job I took in order to fund my spring break trip to Mexico. It as God-awful but I stayed on the sales team for a month and didn’t have to ask my parents for help. Worst. Job. Ever.
3. The 2006 University of Nevada, Reno Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Team
This was an advertising and marketing class I took in College. We had to build an advertising campaign for a real company and competed against big-name schools like Berkeley, San Jose St. and Chico St. We won the regional title.
Photo: of the 2006 NSAC District 14 winners and the Nationals. Product: Postal Vault Mailbox (I’m the foxy awkward-hair colored gal in the second row, towards the center.)
I guess the third team had the biggest impact on my present life and career. Being a part of this team taught me so much about the advertising world. Mainly, you can never proof something too many times; a well-strategized plan trumps all; you can have fun marketing a mailbox; and great work wins.
We’ve all been involved in group projects with others who couldn’t care less about the outcome, or they never showed up. Oh, and they expected you to do all the work. In those situations I have usually been fine with doing most of the work, as I have some control issues. At least I knew my apathetic classmate couldn’t screw it up if I was the one working on it. This was not the case with the UNR IMC team. Every single person worked his or her minds and fingers to the bone on this project. It was like a full-time job we took on in addition to a full class schedule and our part time jobs. And the outcome was fruitful.
We thought out of the box, developed great strategy and we won the National Student Advertising Competition. While my post-college advertising experience hasn’t been as comparable to the IMC team as I would like, you don’t get six months to build an integrated campaign and I haven’t worked with million dollar creative budgets with additional million-dollar media budgets - the class and the competition definitely prepared me for my career as an advertising executive.
The Reynolds School of Journalism is one of the best Journalism schools in the nation. They have won first at the National Student Advertising Competition seven of the 14 years they have entered. See the university’s coverage of the 2013 NSAC.
Today, I applaud this year’s IMC team and the great work they did building a campaign for Glidden Paint. This brilliant team will be presenting their region-winning campaign at the AAF May 14th luncheon and if you’re in town, I highly recommend you attend. Purchase tickets here. Support the students, support good thinking, support creative ideas and most importantly let’s hear it for hard work.
About Great Works Wednesday: These are blog posts that shine a light on those people, places, institutions and organizations that do wonderful work. It’s a step outside of the daily marketing and advertising worlds that many of us occupy, and calls attention to the outstanding thinking that may inspire or help you see things in a different light. It is an online salute to the power of great works. Click here to see Ding’s Great Works.
Preamble: The following is an op-ed piece I wrote about how credit unions should consider their marketing and advertising progress. But in hindsight, I realize it’s best marketing practices for any progressive company or organization.
Great Works Wednesday: There Is Absolutely Nothing To Be Gained By Building Your Brand On A Competitor's Plight
Finally, there’s a warm wind blowing at the collective backs of US credit unions. Nationally, more jobs are being found than lost. Home prices are rising. Foreclosures are falling. As a country, we’re starting the day off with more good news than bad on the radio for a change.
But the nation's credit unions are experiencing something even more profound. More than ever people are seeing CUs as a viable alternative to their traditional banking habits. Attitudes are changing and new accounts are being opened. Loans are getting written. In general it’s a thrilling time to see an industry earning its due respect and experiencing such a remarkable up swell of business.
But in spite of all the good being enjoyed, I’m troubled. I’m seeing an abundance of advertising and marketing tactics by credit unions from around the country that threaten to darken the shared good will the country is bestowing upon the industry.
A number of credit unions are attempting to build their brands and market their products on the backs of the banks’ soured reputations. I understand the hubris. But here is why I think this is a risky business strategy, not only for the individual CU, but also for the industry in the long term.
First, don’t build your brand on your competitor’s weaknesses.
I’ve been in many a brainstorm session where we fantasized and feasted on the potential of crafting our client’s advertising campaign around concepts that fully danced on the competitor’s soft white underbelly. We would roll through myriad “what if…” scenarios that built the campaign on the competition’s weaknesses. It’s tempting fruit, for sure. But we always turned away from those temptations for one very good reason: When you create advertising that’s centered on a competitor’s shortcomings, what you are not doing is not talking about your brand’s compelling features and strengths, and why your products are better for the consumer. If all you got is your competition’s bruised reputation to hoist up the flagpole, what’s that saying about your organization? My agency’s first rule of thumb is to always take the high road and speak to our client’s strengths. If your agency comes to you with side-splitting assault ads, send them back to the creative cave and tell them to do their job of putting your credit union on the pedestal it deserves.
Second, the low road is an abrupt dead end.
So let’s say you’ve given in to temptation and your advertising strategy is to go all in bashing the big banks. Your ads are funny and the banks are made to look the fool on every level. How sustainable is that strategy? Sure, there’s plenty of low hanging “bad bank” fruit to pluck and design your creative around. But like fart jokes, the jabs quickly lose their giggle factor and simply become trite. And you’re left with a bunch of expensive gag ads that position your brand as mean spirited. The research shows that customers turn away from attack ads, even funny ones. They can leave your credit union looking petty at best. And after all is said and done, all that money and time are gone and nothing positive or relevant has been promoted about your brand or its products to your members or potential members.
Finally, why pick a localized fight that can potentially damage the entire industry?
Let’s be honest. Banks won’t roll over while credit unions peck away at their customer base. Nor will they suffer repeated whacks to their reputation. No way. Banks are marketing machines. They’re well oiled and quite well versed – and comfortable – carrying out aggressive marketing tactics. They’ve been doing it for a long time against each other. I’m not sure that’s a war credit unions want to wage (or finance), particularly when the overall strategic goal should be to build membership and grow loans by positioning the credit union as a legitimate alternative to the typical financial institution.
Of even greater concern should be what happens in the legislative arena. What’s to stop the American Bankers Association from pushing hard to overturn the credit union tax-exempt status? And whether the ABA is behind the challenge issued in Oregon is immaterial. The fact is Oregon won’t be an isolated case, I’m afraid. I’m not saying that the ABA won’t pursue this path anyway, as they respond to the competitive threat posed by the credit unions’ growing popularity. But there is nothing to be gained by antagonizing a well-heeled, profit-focused Goliath through low road, short-term advertising agendas, whether it’s from one credit union or the entire movement.
This is a grand time for credit unions. It’s a time that would have been hard to imagine 10 years ago. And while, a lot of the springboard effect has come because the major financial institutions played fast and loose with their fiduciary responsibility. But with this credit union uplift comes a responsibility to be fair-minded competitors with all your peers, including banks.
Spending the money and building the brand on credit union strengths, individually and collectively, will sow rewards that will be much richer and longer lasting.
For Immediate Release
Greg Fine, Ding Communications, Inc.
(775) 786-3464 x. 1#
A Diamond is a Bell’s Best Friend
Credit Union National Association (CUNA)Pins a Diamond Award on Ding Communications, Inc. for Greater Nevada Credit Union Advertising Campaign
RENO, Nev. – The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), awarded Ding Communications, Inc. its first Diamond Award for the “It’s Time” advertising branding campaign the agency created for Greater Nevada Credit Union. The award was presented at CUNA’s annual awards ceremony in Anaheim, Calif.
“It’s Time” introduces Greater Nevada to the Generation-Y/Millennial audience, who range from 18-34 in age. Incorporating television, print, outdoor, and online elements, the campaign also unveils the iconic orange It’s Time flag. The flag serves as a visual support cue for Greater Nevada Credit Union’s “It’s Time to Live Greater” brand positioning.
“The campaign was one of 1,100 other entries from credit unions and agencies across the country, so we’re pretty jazzed our work was selected,” said Greg Fine, a principal at the Reno, Nev. firm.
While supporting Greater Nevada’s brand slogan, the orange It’s Time flag serves another important purpose. Research conducted by the agency in preparation for the campaign revealed a telling fact about Gen-Y: Plotting a financial path is not a priority. So the flag signals Millennials that now is the time to think about money management.
“The flag is a workhorse of an identity marker, for sure,” Fine said. “It communicates a lot in a small amount of time.”
The “It’s Time” campaign coincides with the credit union’s partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno and the It’s Time To Support the Band partnership, a three-year joint venture that Ding helped author on behalf of Greater Nevada. The sponsorship raises awareness and financial support for the Nevada Marching Band. In its first year, the promotion quickly met its goal and raised $50,000 the band will use to replace instruments, worn out uniforms and fund scholarships.
“Greater Nevada doesn’t do anything in half measures.” Fine commented. “Their leadership realizes that this younger generation is vital to the credit union’s future. So they’re saying ‘hello!’ in a big way.”
The It’s Time campaign can be seen in media throughout northern Nevada.
ABOUT DING COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
Placing a high value on one-to-one relationships in a mass media world, Ding Communications provides clients with effective marketing and marketing communications solutions using creative advertising, design, new media and strategic planning. Ding Communications is located at 527 Lander Street in Reno, Nevada, 775-786-3464, DingThinking.com