Product placement, does it work?

Does product placement really work?

Last night I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I couldn’t help but notice the strategic product placement from various companies (and bands) strewn throughout the movie.

The bad-ass, tech-savvy computer hacker used her Macbook Pro to help solve the murder mystery. The writer in charge of finding the killer printed high quality photos throughout his research using his Epson printer. Even Nine Inch Nails made an appearance both on screen and on the T-shirt of one of the characters.

And this doesn’t just happen in the movies. Reality shows like Top Chef use product placement in their programming and don’t do it inconspicuously.

During most of the cooking contests on Top Chef, the chefs are seen picking out their food at Whole Foods and driving there in whatever car is being featured on that episode. And of course the $100,000 they win at the end is always “furnished by”…

But as we are inundated with commercials, brands and the next best thing you should buy, does product placement really help us to make decisions when purchasing our next computer, car, or picking out which grocery store to go to?

Some say product placement has minimal impact of viewers. Research from YouGov suggests that 70% of respondents interviewed said their perceptions of a brand would not change if they saw it on a TV show or film.

Though I can’t argue with numbers, I can say that as I watched this film last night sitting next to my friend who is a PC person, it took all I had not to elbow him and say “see, she’s using a Mac.”

Though it is difficult to track the sale of a product back to a product placement in a film or TV show, it is another way to connect with your consumer, promote your brand and keep your business top of mind.

As annoying as you might think it to be, I do think it can help bridge the gap between consumer and brand. The fact that this strong, tech-savvy woman was using a Mac computer to find missing pieces of a murder makes a certain implication about Mac computers and the people who use them, don’t you think?

By using product placement it also gives a business the opportunity to show its consumers what their product does instead of telling them what it does. Epson can tell you their printers print great quality photos but doesn’t it make more of an impact when you see it for yourself?

Though some believe it has minimal impact on the buying cycle of a consumer, I tend to lean towards the fact that product placement can help a business promote their brand. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are influenced by what our peers, and the people we look up to, do. And when we see them using certain products, we can’t help but be intrigued and want to try these products ourselves.

What do you think? Does product placement have an impact on you?

Working social media both on and offline

Towing companies are a necessity in Vermont. From mud season to winter and everything in between, at some point or another you’re going to need a tow.

Each day on my way to work I pass by a towing company on Route 2 in Richmond. They have a small billboard on the side of the road which usually has some sort of creative message promoting their business. This week they went with the Avatar theme and wrote “We tow in 3D, no special glasses needed.” (I know, the picture is a bit fuzzy – but I was taking a picture while my husband was driving).

Though I have no idea how much business they get from that billboard, I have to imagine that this gives them some exposure to a good percentage of our  bedroom community (4,000+) who pass that sign everyday on their way to work.

After a little research I found out that the company has a website and a pretty active Facebook page and oddly enough, most of the time the messages they display on their billboard can fit right into the status bar of Facebook or Twitter.  They’ve completely integrated their billboard with their website and Facebook page. Nice job!

This is a great example of what social media is all about. Their billboard is viral (I took a picture and am currently writing a blog post about it), its humorous and timely, and it shows a personality behind their brand. Let’s face it needing a tow sucks but this company has creatively made it okay with their lighthearted updates, speaking directly to their consumers.

It’s good to see local companies embracing social media and integrating it with their offline marketing strategy. The sign may be the first point of contact and it’s fun and catchy and may prompt people to visit them online. Then all of a sudden visitors become fans and fans become part of their community. And guess what, when they need a tow or their friend needs a tow, who do you think they’ll call?

I’m not saying you have to make jokes to promote your brand successfully but what I like most about this company is that clearly they know their customer. That’s really the most important thing to know before you dip into any marketing strategy. Know your customer, find out where they live and play both on and offline and then don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them.

How to efficiently use coupons to market your business

I recently took advantage of a company discount at a local dry-cleaning business. And though I am not going to complain about how inefficient their discount process was because they didn’t have to give me a discount, I can’t help but offer a suggestion for a more efficient way to reward customers.

Here’s how it went down. Usually at my company we get a 10% discount at surrounding businesses. I decided to use my discount at a local dry-cleaning company. But when I went to pay and redeem my discount, the clerk said I couldn’t redeem it right then, and that they would give me a gift card with the amount of the discount on it. Figuring it was only 10% I wasn’t going to argue. So I paid and left the store.

A few days later I received an envelope in the mail. Inside the envelope was a gift card made out to me in the amount of $7.43, 10% of what I spent. And though I appreciate the clerk’s follow-through I can’t help but wonder if there was a more efficient way to reward their customers.

There are many reasons to offer discounts. You may want to get people into your store and introduce your product, you may want to reward your loyal customers or you may want to promote a particular product or service that you’re offering. Whatever the reason, redeeming the discount should be easy and efficient for you and your customer.

Here are some suggestions to streamline the process:

  1. Create a paper coupon redeemable at time of purchase – include details like expiration date, whether or not it is valid with other offers, company name, address and contact info.
  2. Create an online coupon redeemable at time of purchase – include a code for the customer to submit for redemption for tracking purposes.
  3. Create an ongoing discount card for frequent shoppers to redeem each time they purchase something at your business.

I really do appreciate the 10% discount and regardless of the discount I will frequent their store again. However, the envelope, the card, the stamp and the labor to coordinate it all seems like a bit of a waste for $7, don’t yout think?

Using Google’s Local Business Center to promote your business online

One of my retail clients recently had a customer come in to her Massachusetts consignment shop and redeem a Google coupon that we created for her business! First off, the fact that a customer printed, cut and redeemed a paper coupon is a miracle in itself but also this customer found the coupon in the Google business listing while searching for one of our targeted keyword terms and that just tickles me pink.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about you should probably read on.

Like most businesses these days, my client has a limited marketing budget and wanted to spend all her resources online (smart woman!). And there is so much you can do online that is absolutely free. Yup, that’s what I said folks, FREE. Aside from social media, which is a whole different blog post (if not book), there is a ton of marketing you can do online that doesn’t cost a dime.

But where to start you ask? Google, of course.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to list your business in the Google Local Business Center. Aside from the possibility to show up at the top of the fold on some pretty competitive keyword terms, you have the opportunity to further promote your business with coupons,  photos, videos and product reviews. And all for the low, low price of…wait for it…nothing!

Once you have listed your site in the local business center you can enhance your listing with photos, videos and coupons. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Create a coupon to get people into your store
  • Link to the coupon from your site or other sites, blogs, etc.
  • Retrieve data on how many people viewed your listing and took action (# of impressions, # of actions, top search terms, where driving directions queries come from)
  • Upload up to 10 photos
  • Upload videos
  • Include store hours and contact info
  • Utilize tags (words that people might use to find your business)
  • Display customer reviews

Here’s what it looks like from a visitors point of view:

If you have not yet listed your business in Google’s business listings. Stop reading this now and go do it.

For tips to creating a great listing visit Google’s business center support page

Just remember all listings are ranked on relevance to the search terms entered so, as always, make sure you write relevant content pertaining to your business.

This is just one of the many free opportunities out there to further promote your business online.  It’s just a matter of getting creative and utilizing all the tools out there effectively.

Good luck.

Is your business using the SEO Pyramid?

Trends are showing that businesses are cutting back on their marketing budgets this year. This of course comes as no surprise given the state of the economy. But it has left some small business owners in the dark when it comes to where to put their marketing dollars and how best to spend their budgets. Let’s face it there are an endless supply of online marketing tools out there. The question is, which one’s should you choose and where do you start?

While searching online for a visual to show to one of my clients, I came across the following SEO Pyramid and I thought it was a great visual to help pave the way to greater online visibility.

seo-pyramid-large4

Basically, to more efficiently market your business online, the following rules should be in place (and they are in order of importance):

  1. You have compelling web content
  2. Your content and page elements are optimized
  3. You’ve created and are maintaining a linking campaign
  4. You business is visible in the social media space

Compelling web content – First and foremost, your site must have compelling and relevant content; useful content that will attract and retain visitors and offer them something they can link to. You want your visitors to buy your product or service and come back for more. So give them something to come back to.

Optimize your content and page elements – Your web content should be keyword rich. Establish a list of keywords that people search on to find your product or service and include these in your content. They must be relevant to each page so don’t go overboard. These keywords should be weaved into not only your web content but all your page elements (i.e. title tags, meta tags, H1 tags, etc.) as well.

Linking campaign in place – Spend some time finding relevant sites to link to and from.  The more relevant sites that are linking to you the more likely the search engines are going to find you.

Social media plan– Once everything else is in place, build your business page or group in a social network that speaks directly to your audience. Start a conversation and start networking. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a blog. Yes, it takes time to upkeep but it’s well worth it in the end. Not only does it give your business a personality, it augments your SEO strategy. Get out there, get networking. It’s free!

And finally, BE PATIENT! Gaining visibility online takes time. Keep at it and be patient. And remember you get out of it what you put in.

Good luck!

DVR ads still making an impression

I have to admit, there are some TV commercials that I absolutely love; the “I’m a mac and I’m a PC” ad, the Comcast commercials with the Slowsky’s, various Geico ads with that famous gecko and the cavemen commercials which come complete with their own website called The Caveman’s Crib. But will I pay attention to them when I’m watching a show I recorded on my DVR? Studies say yes. So for all you ad agencies and companies creating and paying for these brilliant (and not so brilliant) advertisements fear not.

There are three things that happen when viewers are watching their favorite show on DVR; they are either skipping the commercials, scanning them or actually viewing them. Though it may seem a waste of time and money for advertisers when viewers are scanning and skipping, a recent study shows that logos and brand images are still being viewed and later referenced by consumers.

A study from researchers at Boston College found that even when DVR viewers fast forward through the commercials, the information displayed still creates brand memory despite losing sound and dropped frames. According to eMarketer’s article entitled, DVR Ad Skippers Retain Brand Memory, researchers tracked eye movements while viewers scanned through ads and found that branding info placed in the center of the screen was still effective.

This is good news for consumers as networks and cable companies debate whether viewers should or should not be allowed to fast-forward through the ads on their DVR (ABC wants to kill ad-skipping). Consumers like to be in control of the information they receive. Besides, it might just put the pressure on ad agencies and companies to come up with more creative and entertaining ads.

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