It’s fascinating to watch the advertising press get all atwitter (forgive me) about the advent of social media. The simple fact is that a company’s brand has never been defined by lush print advertising, clever TV commercials, or a stunning brochure or website.

The waitress who just forgot to refill your customer’s iced tea? She’s your brand. The door that squeaked awkwardly when your most important prospect walked in? Branding, that could use a little WD-40.

Everything a consumer sees, hears, believes, touches, encounters, smells or feels is the essence of your brand.

The biggest challenge for marketers today is being authentic. Because nothing will torpedo positive perceptions of a brand faster than a negative customer experience.

That doesn’t mean that you, your company, or your service has to be perfect. Consumers don’t expect perfection; they expect satisfaction. What it does mean is that you need to present yourself as genuinely obsessed with meeting your customers’ needs, and willing to step up and make it right when you don’t.

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Austal

In 2008, shipbuilder Austal, USA received a U.S. Navy contract to build the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). With these contracts, Austal had to ramp up employment from 900 to 2400 persons within 18 months. Although unemployment rates in the area have been in the 9% range, Austal needed to attract a highly-skilled and motivated work force to build these technologically advanced warships. After extensive research identified the target audience as action-oriented “doers,” Lewis Communications created “Do Something Extraordinary” to target this very specific audience.

Partner Is Greater Than  Vendor
Partner Is Greater Than  Vendor

When I first started out in advertising, a very smart copywriter told me that you can either be a vendor or a partner to your clients. If your client sees your agency as a vendor, you can do fine work. But, if you can become a true partner with your client, those are the relationships that allow you to do your best work.

For many business people, the word “vendor” isn’t meant as a slight and I certainly don’t take it personally when the term is used. But as my friend Gary Brandon says, “Words matter,” and I’ve tried to be mindful of how I describe the companies that our agency works with to produce marketing and advertising for our clients.

Having just completed a lengthy RFP, the words “trusted partner” have been typed fairly often on my laptop. The truth is, Lewis has dozens of “trusted” and “valued” partners and very few vendors.

A couple partners I’d like to mention just helped us with a project in Haiti. Steve Moe of Wahoo Films here in Birmingham has shot dozens of spots with Lewis over the last 20 years and has long been a “go to guy” for our agency.

Proton, an edit house in New York, is a more recent partner the last five years, but has consistently delivered amazing work.

The video here is a labor of love for a pro bono client, The Joseph School. Steve traveled with our team to Haiti and shot most of the footage. Keith Olwell and James Long of Proton both gave generously of their time to make this project so successful. And, they introduced us to a very cool band from Iceland, Sigur Rós, who has graciously allowed us to use one of their songs as the soundtrack for the video.

So, whether your partner is in New York, Reykjavik, Nashville, Port-au-Prince or Birmingham, remember that you’ll always get their best work if you truly allow them to be your partner.

iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?
iPads and PlayBooks and Xooms, oh my! Are Tablets Game Changers?

Apple launched the much-anticipated iPad in the spring of 2010 amid a cacophony of Mac geeks clamoring to get one, and bloggers and journalists questioning where tablets would fit between smart phones and laptops. Since then, Apple has sold over 15 million units of their tablet, and launched the iPad2, a slimmer, lighter update.

But, more importantly, other computer and electronics manufacturers have jumped into the tablet market with an array of devices that vary greatly by size, OS, functionality and price. Motorola shipped 250,000 Xooms in Q1 alone and the Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry Playbook and a host of other tablets are now flooding the market.

Here at Lewis, we’re using a variety of tablets for work and for play. But what we’re really interested in, is how are you using them? Is your laptop spending more time on the desk and less time at Starbucks? Is your smart phone now mainly for texting and actual phone calls? Or have you postponed buying a tablet in the hopes that prices will fall while features expand?

Click on the link here and take our quick survey on how you’re using various electronic devices. In a few weeks, we’ll post the results in a new blog. You can also enter your email address at the end of the survey and we’ll send you the results.

Take the Survey!

The Branding of Paula Deen
The Branding of Paula Deen

By now people all over the world have heard at least some part of the scandal that Paula Deen is embroiled in. Whether or not you’re pro Paula, one thing should be taken away from all of this. Her brand is now tarnished.

Paula Deen is much larger than her individual self. She’s a brand. She worked on it, cultivated it and watched it grow into the empire that she now enjoys….or did.

Branding works on feelings, perceptions, images and beliefs. There are certain expectations behind a brand experience. As we tell our clients, your brand is everything. Perception is reality. End of driveway talk, social media and a myriad of other things can make or break a brand. How people view your brand can hurt or help you. Brand trust or believability, in this case, has been damaged.

A brand is an inherent promise to consumers. There is a saying that “your word is your bond”. It’s the same for a brand.

Will Paula come back from this debacle? She probably will but it’ll be an uphill battle. The take away from this? Protect your brand, shape it, mold it and above all, guard its integrity.


The new Edelman Trust Barometer Study is out and causing quite a stir among marketing people. The buzz surrounding the report is primarily because it shows a significant one-year decline in the perceived value of “friends” as a trusted source re: brand trial and preference.

Many pundits are gleefully quoting this single datapoint as evidence that the social influence “fad” is starting to fade.

I think this is a big mistake.

For starters, words matter and the term “friends” has been severely cheapened and confused due to the social media lexicon. Real friends will forever remain a source of trust and confidence for Americans. We are greatly influenced by people we know and admire, and as media fragmentation continues, our reliance on these sources will increase.

Secondly, it is important to remember that brand “conversations,” as we define them here, have never been limited to or framed by the social influence movement. We don’t endorse a cannibalizing view of social media and we openly reject the “advertising is dead” mantra.

Instead, our position is that “we do work worth talking about,” no matter what the media. This is not a new position for our firm, nor is it an attempt to promote ourselves with a social media spin.

We are marketing communications experts who are passionate and gifted at stimulating, measuring and sustaining brand conversations — which is vital in an era of “always on, always accessible” media.

Therefore, while the term “conversations” may become a casualty of the social media debate, what should not be lost is a singular focus on helping customers better connect with and through a client’s brand.

This has always been the strength of great agencies and it will never lose its value.

See the good.

The Corporate Myth of Free Social Media Marketing
The Corporate Myth of Free Social Media Marketing

Robert McDonald, CEO of Proctor & Gamble, made headlines this month when he announced to Wall Street that “social media is free” — apparently as a defense for firing 1,600 marketing and other non-manufacturing workers.

“In the digital space, with things like Google and Facebook, the return on investment of the advertising, (1) when properly designed, (2) when the big idea is there, (3) can be much more efficient. One example is our Old Spice campaign, where (4) we had 1.8 billion free impressions.”

A closer look at his statement, however, reveals four glaring flaws in his thinking.

1) Nothing “properly designed” is free. Social media efforts take time and talent to create and well-constructed networks of (sometimes) thousands of people to take root. P&G’s social media channel is no more free to operate than are their sales or distribution networks.

2) No “big idea” is free. Sure, it’s easy to sell Knicks tickets NOW. But big ideas, from Jared Fogel to Jeremy Lin, require some risk and investment upfront before they can be spread in any media, including online.

3) Yes, social media “can be” more efficient – but efficient doesn’t mean free. A Toyota Prius can be more efficient to drive, but you still have to buy one and fill it up BEFORE you can save money on its operation.

4) The Old Spice campaign was the opposite of “free”. It was launched via a massive television buy, was produced with world-class advertising agency, production and talent expense, and was supported by what one analyst called, “a forest of buy-one-get-one-free coupons”.

True, the Old Spice campaign was a masterful effort that re-defined the brand and deftly utilized special media. But to suggest that it garnered 1.8 billion free impressions blatantly misrepresents the magnitude of their investment and their well-deserved return.

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history

On December 1, at the Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association International Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Lewis Communications helped Tiffin Motorhomes unveil their newest model, the Allegro Breeze. The Breeze is a 28′ Class A diesel-pusher that isn’t just a new product, but creates a whole new category in the RV industry. Just as luxurious as Tiffin’s high-end models, the Breeze is smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient.

In an industry where in the past bigger almost always meant better, a teaser campaign was developed with the tagline, “This is BIG.” The campaign targeted dealers and industry media letting them know Tiffin would soon be unveiling something brand new. The Tiffin website homepage included a countdown clock promising something huge at the industry’s leading annual show. Direct mail and social media posts also helped spread the word of Tiffin’s big news leading up to the show.

The actual unveiling at the RVIA show included an oversized curtain with fake wheels pushed out to create the impression of a vehicle almost twice the size of the Breeze.

When the curtain was dropped attendees were surprised to see a luxury RV half the size of what was expected. Miniature pocket-sized brochures were handed out and the wording on the side of the display changed to say “Small is Big.”

The Breeze was named Best of Show for the RVIA Expo and was featured in RV Business and MotorHome Magazine.

motorhomemagazine.com
rvbusiness.com
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