Traditional advertising works: ads placed in targeted media with clean graphics and a clear call to action bring in the clients. But do you know about "sideways" advertising and PR campaigns that at first glance aren't targeted, yet increase the PR of a company for everyone's benefit?
1. Social Networking. Are you on Facebook? MySpace? Twitter? LinkedIn? These are “sideways” advertising avenues. They don't take the place of traditional advertising (yet!), but they help increase your brand awareness. In these venues, you're not selling your product; you're selling your story.
If you’ve been reading up on branding, you’ll know that your brand isn’t your logo, your color scheme, your PR or even your product. Your brand is the feeling people have when they think of you. Social networking is just another way to get that feeling across. As Don Draper of Mad Men says, "You are the product, you feeling something. That's what sells."
Example: A very early moment of social networking happened for a group I was president of when someone--not us!--posted a classified in the "Missed Connections" of our weekly alternative newspaper—this was prior to Facebook's launch in 2006. It ran for several weeks and gave our group the aura of being a professional and personal networking group. Membership increased, and two people who met at one of our events were married.
2. Pro Bono. There’s also volunteer work, philanthropy, and community involvement. Again, you aren’t selling your product, and you’re not selling how magnanimous you are; you’re selling your brand, and every brand should have a civic responsibility to give back to their community. These can include “Thank You” ads, support opportunities, and sponsorships. Look for groups that need you and merge with your business’ vision.
Example: A local Santa Fe bank once asked me to design an ad that showcased all their incredible community involvement. I designed an ad that was basically a list of the groups they donated to. This "list" filled the ad space from top to bottom and side to side with just a bit of room left for their logo in the corner. The feeling it gave off was, "Our community involvement is more important than we are."
The bank's marketing director was happy to tell me that a few weeks after the ad ran, the bank received a very large customer who had only a small account at the time. But when they saw the ad and realized how much wonderful work was being done—when they recognized so many of the groups the bank had donated to—they moved their major account to the local bank. And this was a simple "Thank You" ad!
3. Brand Ambassadors. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are your employees, partners, clients or investors that carry your brand every minute. Make sure they understand how important they are in the life of your brand. Review why you make the purchases you do, who you buy from and why. Then look at who you have "carrying" your brand.
Example: Last winter, I was in-between writing and design gigs and I got a call from an old friend. Her phone message went something like, "We think we need one website to coordinate all the different pieces of information we have on the web, but we're not sure how to go about it. We thought you will either know how to do it, or you'll know someone who does." As a sole proprietor, these clients are the best. Their idea of what you do is specific and on-target, and the work is usually a good fit and a joy. I ended up designing their website.
In today’s economy we're all looking closer to home to share what wealth we have, and your business name on someone else's lips is word-of-mouth advertising gold.
• The biggie: Facebook Anyone seen payoff on their ads yet? Let me know!
• Does anyone even use myspace anymore?
• One place I got a great, paying gig was at LinkedIn Remind me to tell you about it sometime!
• It's amazing how alt papers have become traditional ad avenues; try our own alt weekly The Santa Fe Reporter.
• Traditional newsprint ads still work! The Santa Fe New Mexican, and the Albuquerque Journal are two of the best.