What is The Essence of Hampton Roads?

Flag of Hampton RoadsMarketing within Hampton Roads is hard enough. But what if the task at hand is marketing Hampton Roads period? Or, to make things more complex, what if the task at hand is branding Hampton Roads? That’s the task that this year’s group of emerging community leaders in “LEAD Hampton Roads” has taken on as a class project. LEAD is a yearlong development program that is a part of the Hampton Roads Chamber, boasting more than 1,200 alumni in its ranks.

As an alum and a former board member, I’m pretty close to the LEAD mission. The group is very connected and passionate about building both a strong region and a strong leadership base for the region as it grows.

I was honored to sit on a panel with some esteemed friends and colleagues at a recent LEAD retreat to talk about the history and background of the market, the never-ending naming debate, and what it would look like to promote the “brand” of Hampton Roads. Each panel member brought a rich background of marketing inside, outside and aboutDelcino Miles, Mike Carosi, Joel RubinHampton Roads. I can tell you that in the hour-plus that we talked, we (see the sidebar for who “we” are) barely scratched the surface of what I feel is the real issue the group needs to grab hold of.

The group has to be clear about the objective of branding the region in the first place. There are two very-high-level targets and objectives: 1) those who live and work here, and 2) those we want to live and work here (for purposes of growing the region). If I were this year’s lead class, I would focus on point number 1 first.

I’ve written before of what a brand is and what it is not. It’s easy to get caught up in what it is not. A brand is not a name. It’s not a logo, or an image. It’s not a tagline or a spokesperson. It’s not the number of people that can recall the name. It’s not a product, it’s not a service. These are all elements of the brand. The brand is the embodiment of all of these elements (and more) and their ability to be linked together instantly and subconsciously in the mind of the consumer to conjure an impression. That brand impression is what creates a behavior, and marketing is all about creating behavior. More on that one in another post.

There is, already, a brand that is Hampton Roads. It defines where we live. It has attributes. It has features. It has strengths and weaknesses. It is compellingly different from other regions, cities, and areas of the country. For instance, the fact that our hometown is NOT identifiable with one specific major city (a la New Orleans or Charlotte or Cincinnati … all similarly sized markets) makes it unique. That lack of a central hub fosters geographic and lifestyle diversity different from any of those markets. There are brand impressions, created by the various symbols, cultures, geography, names, trades, communities and historical elements of the brand.

At the core of the brand: essence.

Brand essence. What does the brand stand for? How do the people who ARE the brand Project Achievability Testdefine it? What are the organic and emotional elements that make the brand unique and lasting? Why do people come here, live here, thrive here, STAY here? These are all impressions that exist and are deeply, justifiably rooted. When a marketer creates a brand strategy for an existing product, or in this case a region, he or she must define the core essence of the brand, starting with the legacy that already exists. From there you can imagineer a bold brand strategy that embodies new elements and begins to transition impressions over time.

Promoting the brand of Hampton Roads means both understanding the essence of what the brand is and creating a strategy for what we want it to be over time. That is a daunting task. There must be a lot of overlap. Consider the existing essence as a firmly planted pivot foot. If we know where it is planted, we can pivot 360 degrees, addressing all types of audiences and opportunities, without contradicting the true essence of the brand.

A brand core essence is very succinct, but it is not a tagline and it most likely will never appear in an ad. It guides both business development and marketing communication. It is simple, believable and defensible. Most importantly it is honest. All stakeholders need to understand it and believe in it.

What does a core essence look like for a market? Take a look at Las Vegas. I don’t know if the marketing team for the city has articulated a core essence, but to me it’s simple: “unbridled adult fun.” Vegas has always been about fun — the kind of fun you can’t have anywhere else. You can see why a slogan like “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” is so fitting. But that crazy experiment in the early 90’s to market it as a family destination? Clearly a pivot foot violation.

So my challenge to the class of 2016 is this: define the core essence of our region. Forget about the name. Forget about a tagline. Not important right now. Explore the work that Chris Bonney and the folks at Bonney & Company did in “Envision Hampton Roads” as a starting point. Help plant the pivot foot, and that alone will be a huge accomplishment. And call me if I can help.

TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Roads

Is your ad strategy on course?

If you’re a business in Hampton Roads weighing your advertising options, traditional TV (broadcast and cable) continues to provide huge reach and impact. But how people consume various media, and more importantly how their video viewing habits are shifting, is essential for you to know to effectively plan where your advertising dollars should be spent.

Microsoft Word - proofed_TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Ro

Nielsen numbers show that US consumers still watch over four hours of traditional (Nielsen calls it “live”) TV every day. But that number has dropped from four hours and 29 minutes per day in 2013 to four hours and 11 minutes over the past two years. The pace is precipitous and consistent. The amount of DVR viewing has held pretty steady, but the amount of time spent on smartphones has nearly doubled.

Three very important points to keep in mind here:

  1. The shift to online/streaming viewing is generationally driven. A recent report from ABC showed that 28% of TV watched during prime time by 18-34-year-olds is online streaming or video on demand, compared to 11% for those age 25-54. Microsoft Word - proofed_TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Ro
  2. This shift will accelerate. Smartphones are already in the hands of 80% of US consumers, but the lion’s share of mobile online TV is viewed by only 20% of those folks. This is not an “80-20” rule that will stand. As network apps and “TV anywhere” gain awareness, that number will experience a hockey-stick effect. Add to that the fact that nearly 60% of households now have an Internet-connected TV, and the opportunities to stream video skyrocket.
  3. These are no longer individually unique media consumption behaviors. People don’t consume one medium at a time. Look around in a restaurant, airport, doctor’s office—or your own family room. Who is looking up, and who is looking down at their mobile device? Nielsen reports that 84% of smartphone and tablet owners use those devices while they’re watching TV. YOU NEED TO BE IN BOTH PLACES.

The graphs here are published data from Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report.” It’s a great deep dive to understand what’s going on in the world of media consumption. But to help understand what’s happening, and what will happen with TV viewership locally, I reached out to some local media experts for insight.

The bulk of ad spending for local broadcasters and cable still ties to traditional TV advertising: :05-:60 spots inserted into linear broadcast (that includes cable) programs. And, of course, the stakeholders feel that will continue. “Local newscasts (including weather, traffic and high school/college sports) remain some of the highest-viewed programming on local broadcast televisions in any market.” Says Doug Davis, president and CEO of WAVY. “Newscasts provide a daily, engaged viewer for local advertisers…a viewer who is watching the news…not DVRing it.”

Kari Jacobs, WVEC president and GM, agrees. “I believe TV viewing will remain strong largely due to locally produced news, live sports and big events (e.g., the Oscars). It will be interesting to see which (streaming) delivery methods (Netflix, Roku, etc.) will excel.”

But Gordon Borrell, CEO and president of Borrell and Associates and nationally recognized expert on local market media trends, is a bit more pragmatic. “The fact is, people are watching more ‘video’ than ever, but it’s the old model—broadcast TV—that’s in trouble. I wouldn’t recommend that a TV advertiser necessarily cut back TV. Rather, I think an advertiser needs to determine the appropriate mix of media available today that is needed to support whatever promotion they have at the moment.”

Local broadcasters, as well as Cox, have long offered digital advertising packages and online content to help you diversify your media mix and reach their viewers online. “We certainly recognize the impact digital has on traditional viewing patterns,” Jacobs adds, “and our digital options for content and advertising options reflect this change and will continue to evolve.”

But with the shift to streaming and on-demand viewing through Internet-connected devices, advertisers are clamoring for a way to measure their text boxvideo advertising investment that makes sense online and offline. That shift is underway. Sharon Fanto, vice-president of Cox Media, explains. “Most [advertisers] want to measure how they reach consumers with a metric of impressions rather than simply gross rating points (GRPs). Those impressions are found on multiple screens across multiple devices, which makes sense since consumers are spending more time with video on multiple devices. Our focus has to continue to be making it easier for our clients to reach consumers wherever they are, on whatever device they are using.”

This shift in planning and measurement from GRPs to impressions, cost-per-impression, and ultimately cost-per-conversion (sale) tied to your impressions are what ultimately open the door for effective cross-platform planning. Hopefully, all media reps, planners and buyers are headed in this direction because digital advertising options will drive it.

An impressions-based video strategy can level the playing field in comparing costs for reaching TV viewers in a mass broadcast audience vs. an individually targeted and streamed insertion online. Add to that the efficiency that real-time bidding (the ability to set budget limits on how much you are willing to pay for each individual impression) online can bring, and you have the ability to make your video advertising achieve results that you could never afford in a broadcast-only world.

Your online-to-broadcast mix percentage will vary based on your objectives as well. In Borrell’s words, “TV is the number one medium for branding. No one can touch it.” But if your goal is to drive online engagement, having at least a companion digital video strategy is vital. The Virginia Dental Association, in a statewide campaign that has been running for the past three years, has been able to increase traffic to a targeted page from 200 page views a month to over 500 A DAY by integrating a targeted digital video campaign. That’s how effective it can be.

Bottom lines:

1. If you are a local advertiser whose ad strategy is heavily leveraged in TV, and you are not already consistently and diligently deploying a SIGNIFICANT online video component to your strategy, you are behind the times.

2. If you’re are a local business that has not been able to afford TV advertising because of budget or geographic scope, you could be losing ground to competitors who have learned to geographically and demographically target video messages online to your prospects and customers.

Video advertising is king. It carries more emotion and credibility than any other medium. Consumers will find it wherever they go. More and more, they are going online with devices in hand. Your media mix needs to recognize that.

Outdoor Stands the Test of Time

Outdoor stands the test of time–and technology.pic4

Billboard, the most well known facet of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, has long had a bad rap in Hampton Roads. Many communities have enacted and currently enforce strict signage regulations that severely limit the number of locations and their availability. Still, even with the seismic shifts in media consumption brought on by untethered Internet access, OOH remains an impactful and efficient medium for location-based and brand messaging. As more boards convert to digital signage, the limited space can accommodate more total advertisers in rotation. The future of buying that digital space – in fact, all OOH – will continue to get caught in the wave of technology change that is programmatic planning and buying, but that is a topic for a future conversation.

To get a broader perspective, I reached out to Rob Smithwick, VP of OOH media strategy for EMC Outdoor, to answer a few questions about the comparative state of OOH in our market.

Q: How does Hampton Roads compare with other markets its size relative to billboard saturation?

A: Hampton Roads struggles with billboard coverage in its largest cities: Virginia Beach (containing about one-third of the market’s population), Chesapeake and Hampton. These cities’ laws governing locations are so strict that finding approved and available locations to build on is very difficult.  Many years ago, Virginia Beach created laws to remove all boards through attrition. As time passed, and roads were widened, boards were lost forever.  What good locations do exist in these cities are expensive due to demand. Coverage is “good” in comparison to other markets / cities in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Suffolk.

Q: What does the conversion to digital signage look like?

A: The space owners have converted their BEST locations to digital, just like they did when Trivisions were the newest option (mechanical, three-sided, rotating faces).  Those “best” locations provide more advertisers the ability to reach their targeted traffic / demographic by offering up to eight “spots” per complete rotation. Each spot stays up for eight seconds as a national average, in most cases nationally.  Some space owners run six advertisers at 10 seconds each. Both would allow each ad to be seen about once per minute.

Q: What percent of boards are digital?Kathryn Moore, Media Director for Seventh

A: On a percentage basis, the number of digitals may seem low, but keep in mind that the space owners are only converting those boards with the highest client demand and traffic, so their impression counts are good.  In Hampton Roads, about 4% of the total number of boards are digital. That percentage will certainly grow over time.  The cost of the construction and installation of digital faces is coming down with the national demand.

Q: What has that meant to the industry?  What should advertisers expect in terms of cost/exposure with digital v. static boards?

A: Digitals have basically expanded the quantity of “faces” in the best locations. There are no production or installation charges; you can change creative throughout each day, week, 4-week period or day-part, and much more. In my opinion, there are downsides.  You now share that space with other advertisers, so your Impressions are lower than buying a comparable static board, because of the increased number of advertisers. Additionally, the space owners have determined that they can charge a premium for each “turn” on each board.  While it is less than buying its static neighbor, per 4-week period, it is not one-sixth or one-eighth of the rate. If a static face in the same area has a cost of $8,000 per period, one digital turn, with the same traffic, would likely be $4,000 to $5,000 per period.

Q:  Any comment on overall spend – up or down here, and here vs. nationwide?

A: BilWonder what your billboard design wouldlboards in Hampton Roads are about 15% more expensive than other comparable markets, and evenly placed coverage is a struggle. You have to buy a little deeper (or more boards) to achieve your TRPs.  That is why we offer alternatives like trucksides, gas pump tops and transit in Hampton Roads, and other markets with similar challenges.

Q: Anything different about outdoor here that advertisers, big or small, need to know and be aware of in planning their advertising?

A: There are good billboard opportunities to be found.  Like most businesses, occupancy drives rate, so checking on availability often, buying at the right time and finding the best locations to reach your target audience is key. Don’t buy boards that you, your family and friends see.  Buy boards that your POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS see. Keep your target in mind.  Leave your ego out of advertising. Again, considering other Outdoor Media options may be helpful, and there are many in Hampton Roads.  Most advertisers stop at Billboards.

 

Bottom line, as a part of an integrated strategy, OOH is a traditional medium that bears strong consideration in your media mix. Digital conversions should continue to help provide inventory relief. While not comprehensive, these maps will give you a good feel for locations across the market.

Hampton Roads Poster Map-EMC

Hampton Roads Digital Map-EMCHampton Roads Bulletin Map-EMC(1)

Back to My Marketing Roots

Joe GenieMarketers go through a lot of stages and phases. Consumer Behavior changes. Technology changes. The economy, the competition, the demographics; they all impact the work we do, and what we focus on. But I’ve found, as I’ve added a new challenge to my marketing bucket list, that the fundamentals never change, and it’s important to get back to your marketing roots.

You see, along with my work with ad agency Seventh Point, I’ve added another business challenge–that of a local franchise owner. It’s one of the reasons this blog has seen a bit of a hiatus. In my search, I wanted to find a business that IS NOT technology driven, IS in-demand and will be for the foreseeable future. A stable business model that I can build through MARKETING. I’ve found that business and brought the first “Window Genie” franchise to Hampton Roads. You can learn more about the company by clicking on that link, but the focus here today is those fundamentals of consumer marketing that this whole initiative has reinvigorated in me. The five key pillars that are key to any business owner operating a small business in a competitive market place…which is 99.7% of all employer firms in the US, according to the SBA.

The same way a pro athlete practices the physical fundamentals of his or her sport on a daily basis, it’s important to stay grounded in these marketing fundamentals, evaluate your business and your plans against them and make course adjustments to stay on track.

My five key pillars of Business Marketing Success

Build a Memorable Brand5 Pillars

I love this oversimplified definition of brand: “The variance between your product and generic.” Everything that follows will contribute to your brand and what consumers perceive about you, but the important word here is memorable. In a hyper competitive world your brand look and feel needs to be something that sticks in the psyche of your target consumer. Working with (purchasing) a franchise operation can give you a huge leg up, and it was one of the key elements I searched for.

The brand look and feel has to differentiate your company, stimulate Top of Mind Awareness and inspire confidence in your company. It also has to be consistent in look and customer experience in order to build presence and over time.

Promote and Deliver Recognizable Value

Businesses can’t survive if everyone is the low-cost provider. Consumers don’t demand the lowest price, they demand the best value and perceived value is a huge variable from one consumer to the next. Marketing price, whether a retail product or a transactional service like cable TV or even window cleaning does not have to be the lowest price, but it does have to be competitively positioned and attractive enough to drive lead traffic.

Finding one key price point and driving it home can establish value, aid in recall, drive leads and protect your margins, all at the same time. Want a couple of examples? Watch for Stihl’s seasonal price point advertising. That same entry-grade blower is $149 every time. Looks like a sale, but it never is. Weber grills, same thing. Window World windows, home of the original $189 window. Price point advertising at an established value for a memorable brand does not have to put you in a race to the bottom.

Execute Persistent, Targeted Paid and Owned Promotion          

Diversity of promotion is the key here. Identify your target consumer, but now more than ever you have to reach them through as many channels as possible.

  • Be where they are in a communication form they are comfortable with. Social media and content marketing, the types of information you can own (and earn) present a level of authenticity and engagement that fosters referrals.
  • Targeted disruptive channels, digital, direct mail, print, outdoor, etc. build awareness and drive leads.
  • Build your online presence so that you are easily found and well positioned.
  • Event, guerilla and sponsorship marketing create association and personality in the environments where your customer lives.

Develop a balance in all of these areas, track and be persistent. Advertising shouldn’t be looked at as something that just drives short-term leads. It is the road map that builds long-term business.

Focus on Customer Loyalty

Inevitably, a start-up business has to spend a disproportionate amount of time dumping new customers and leads into the top of the bucket. But nurturing customers and relationships is something that has to be done from the onset. It is critical to building loyalty and no matter what your product or service is, your success will be built on your ability to create loyal customers.

Every employee must know his or her role in delivering high quality customer service.

That means strong training not only in the areas of product or service performance, but also in understanding the expectations of your customer. The employee’s ability to see his or her performance through the eyes of the customer is vital to truly satisfying or delighting customers. It’s the only way to create repeat business, and the best way to develop referral business.

Have a Plan and Stick To It

Every new business, even a franchise operation in a new market, needs a strong, well-developed business plan. Identify the market, know the competition, project sales, seasonality, profitability, Build the plan that drives leads and plan for the resources to deliver top quality service. Disciplined business and marketing plans are critical to success. It’s easy to start second guessing, but one key, vital attribute for successful businesses is this:

Successful businesses plan for success.

That takes courage. It takes vision. It takes discipline. It takes effort and late nights. Develop your plan and follow it. Go back to your original plan. How far off are you and how did you get there? Track and allow for course corrections, but make them quickly and deliberately.

So those are my big five. There are thousands of marketing books and even more marketing gurus who will provide variations. I believe you will find these key elements inherent in most of that thinking. If not, I would propose that something big is missing.

Try an evaluation test with your company or business. Run an audit against these five pillars as sort of a tune-up. You’ll find that returning to your marketing roots is a healthy exercise; one that should be repeated regularly for your personal marketing health, as well as your business.

A Meaningful Brand for NSU

NSUNorfolk State University is at a crossroads as it charts a course to rebuild its “brand” in the wake of the image hits it has taken over the past few years. The discontinuance of the school’s associate degree in nursing program due to low passing rates on the national licensing exam; the firing of a president; and, most recently, being placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), an accrediting body that oversees NSU and colleges in 10 other states, are incidents that have had a profound impact on how prospective students view the school.

The university’s marketing team is in the process of searching for an outside partner to help create a “unified brand identity.” But the team needs to be careful and meticulous in how it goes about the process. “Brand” is an enormously dynamic thing. There are two vitally different areas of perception to deal with: those within the university’s control and those outside of its control.

Brand standards—the colors and designs, what is said and how it is said by the university—can be controlled. Brand position, how NSU identifies itself as different from or even better than other schools, can be controlled. The physical properties—academic programs offered, facilities built or being built, as well as which are promoted, can be controlled. But brand image, the perception that students, prospective students and even those not connected with the university have of the school, is beyond the control of any school or company.key to branding

Brand image is the perception that lives within people’s minds and is formed based on the individual’s experience with the brand (or school). Forget about what the brand is saying, what matters is the experience. An appliance dealer can scream all day long that they have the lowest prices in town, but if my experience in the showroom is one high price after another, my brand perception is very negative. And brand perception, the consumer’s image of the brand, is all that matters at the end of the day.

The university holds what I assume is a fairly comprehensive proprietary study detailing the perception held by prospective and current students. Hopefully it contains opinions from alumni and those not necessarily connected to the school as well. The new outside partner will be privy to the information in that study, and it will be critical in creating a successful plan to achieve growth, particularly since enrollment has dropped more than 15 percent since 2012.

The brand message and the brand experience have got to align for NSU to be successful in building its image and building enrollment. Make no mistake, there are a lot of good things happening at NSU and a lot of truly positive momentum. The nursing program overall is vibrant, bolstered by a brand-new 140,000-square-foot nursing and classroom building. NSU will play the lead role in a $25 million effort to educate a new cybersecurity workforce at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the school is ranked among the top 30 HBCUs in the nation, and new facilities continue to energize the campus.

campus aheadSo with all of that, NSU has to continue to focus on delivering an experience that is relevant to prospective students and relevant to the Hampton Roads community. The University is an educational system that sees the need, for students as well as employers, and is building programs and facilities to meet demand. That alone is a strong focus on improvement.

Do the research within the market. Pinpoint and focus on the careers here in Hampton Roads that are in high demand. Then find the academic programs that Norfolk State has built and is delivering in excellent fashion (cybersecurity vaults to the top here.) Build the brand position and messaging around that, so that the experience is one of a high-quality, in-demand education.

The next step in ensuring growth and sustaining the experience for the future is to focus NSU’s academic development on those needs and careers that are in high demand, but where the university is not quite ready to claim excellence. Admit that. Chart the course to achieve excellence. Communicate the steps that are being taken and manage the expectations of current students as well as future students. Readiness for the future is what higher education is all about. NSU is at a pivotal point of growth, and it starts with aligning the message with the experience. That will build a unified brand for Norfolk State University.

The Crowded Higher Ed Marketplace

Zero to bachelor’s in 2.5. Bring a spark, light a fire. From here, go anywhere.Higher Education Marketing, Higher Education, Marketing, Hampton Roads

Those college taglines are comfortingly familiar to Hampton Roads residents. On any given day you’ll hear a radio ad with one, whiz by a billboard with another.

Which one are you most familiar with? If you answered #1, stay tuned.

With 5 traditional universities (including 2 historically black schools, Norfolk State and Hampton University), 2 colleges (including the second-oldest in the nation, William & Mary), the world-renowned Eastern Virginia Medical School, and a robust community college system, Hampton Roads is spoiled for choice when it comes to higher education.

But the competitive pressure continues to escalate from for-profit schools, most of which are based outside the region altogether. Perhaps the best-known locally is ECPI, which is HQ’d here in Virginia Beach—and who belongs to that ubiquitous tagline #1. (Recently replaced with “The best decision you ever made.”)

And that’s pretty telling. You know ECPI’s hook—but do you know ODU’s? Virginia Wesleyan’s? (It’s #2 above) NSU’s?

If you’re struggling, it’s not your fault. Chalk it up to market saturation.

When you add up ALL higher ed advertisers, including those outside the region, a staggering $25.4 million is spent on higher education advertising in Hampton Roads each year, with an additional $80.6 million spent on marketing and promotion. That’s to reach an audience of 718,820 TV households and 1.5 million adults in Hampton Roads. (Nielsen)

In 2014, regional schools spent close to $3 million on higher ed TV advertising in Hampton Roads (Kantar). More than half of that $3 million was ECPI. In other words, excluding ECPI, local schools purchased less than 15% of all higher ed TV advertising in Hampton Roads last year.

You see, it’s not just about competing for enrollment anymore. It’s competition for airtime, for screen time, for ears and eyeballs.

And in Hampton Roads, that’s some pretty fierce competition. In fact, if you add up the total number of colleges, universities, trade school and tech school locations within Hampton Roads the options total over 250!

So, higher ed marketers in Hampton Roads face big hurdles to break through the noise and capture the attention of prospective students.

Aside from having the deepest advertising pockets—how do you stand out in Hampton Roads’ crowded higher ed marketplace?

Higher education is a service-driven industry—just like health care, real estate or banking. Any lofty ideas about the Ivory Tower or historic campuses need to take a backseat to deciding what your school excels at, and how to sell it.

Maybe start with recognizing that the average local student looks very different from even 15 years ago.

Hampton Roads is home to one of the world’s largest populations of military personnel, many of whom earn GI Bill benefits. Those are adult students whose needs are very different from those of 18-22 year olds. Students, Hampton Roads, Higher Education, Marketing

Many of them are pursuing education while serving full-time, or they are retraining for a new career and want to complete their degrees as quickly as possible. They’re looking for shorter semesters. (Hence the appeal of “2.5,” brought to you by ECPI’s 6-week sessions).

Incentivize military and adult students. Spotlight any benefits unique to military. Explain how your school can help with any red tape. Bear redeployment in mind: is the coursework portable? What are you willing to do to retain students or help them transfer? And what about those shorter sessions—can your school compete?

Student veterans seek out degrees in business, criminal justice and intelligence studies. Promote these programs if your school offers them. If they don’t, start a conversation.

Norfolk State is leading a $25 million effort to educate a new cybersecurity workforce. That’s a massive opportunity to connect with military and veteran students and help them on the path to a future career with local defense contractors.

Beyond the military community, consider the growing adult student population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2000 and 2011, enrollment of students aged 25+ rose 41%. From 2011 to 2021, NCES projects a further 14% increase.

Hampton Roads has over a half-million adults with “some college” education, and over 194,000 say they plan on going back to school in the next 12 months.

These students enroll for a variety of reasons—to join growing industries such as health care and technology, retrain for a new career after job loss or retirement, or to enhance their current career. Those goals don’t typically translate to a 4-year undergraduate degree. More students are seeking 2-year degrees and certifications, while many professional students want graduate certificates or master’s programs.

Find out what adult students want—and let them know you’ve got it. Don’t forget most of these students are working while in school, too. Regent University’s grad program just switched to two 8-week terms for spring 2015. That’s a good sign it’s listening to the needs of its MBA-seeking students, many of whom likely work full-time.

The smart higher ed marketer is also engaged with Hampton Roads’ top employers and tying those opportunities into their messaging.

Help prospective students envision themselves in a future career. Share real-life success stories (Regent University and ECPI have done this for years), or show that your school positions graduates to land the “hottest jobs” in “growing industries.”

According to Sonya Schweitzer, University Director of Marketing at ECPI University, “We’ve been using real graduates or students for our TV ads for quite a long time—testimonials.” She added, “Every effort is made to show graduates who represent different demographics, as well as making sure their stories are believable and represent the average student.”

Make the most of integrated multimedia marketing. Seventy percent of prospective students go to the college website first. But remember, the path to enrollment is long and winding and needs to include traditional media as well as integrated digital methods (online and social media marketing).

Schweitzer explained ECPI’s perspective: “Even though most people will have seen an ad or a billboard in this market, they will convert through our website, or search [marketing], at a much higher rate. We use social media to have a conversation with our prospects, as well as our current students and grads. It is a very strong selling tool for prospects who are researching who we are. They can hear it from people other than ourselves—unfiltered. That is powerful.”

Meet these prospects where they are, through targeted marketing such as programmatic buying, and through artful social media marketing. Aim for a conversation, a relationship—not just a one-size-fits-some banner ad campaign.

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So, ready to graduate with honors from the Hampton Roads school of higher ed marketing? Look over your campaigns and make sure you’re not overlooking any of these opportunities. If you are, take some time to regroup, reimagine and revitalize. With any luck you can still enhance your efforts for fall 2015 recruitment.

And bear in mind that statewide, Virginia public college enrollment declined in 2014—for the first time in 20 years. Things just got a little more competitive.

If you have questions about anything in this article, feel free to post or contact me at jdelatte@seventhpoint.com

Do You Get This Stuff Yet?

confused 1The three simple elements of Programmatic Buying and Real Time Bidding

On a daily basis I’m asked by advertisers in Hampton Roads and beyond  to explain what these huge buzz words really mean. The ad industry is still clamoring for a sexier and simpler word than “Programmatic,” but my money says it will never happen. (I remember Cable’s battle cry from the ’90s: “Someone find a better name than Pay-Per-View!”) Once a clunky name sticks, it sticks.


The important thing to know is that this system of targeting, buying and tracking advertising is transforming the industry.


The Journal of Financial Advertising reports that more than 50% of financial brands utilize it within their media mix. Some reports have more than 70% of major advertisers shifting significant portions of their digital budgets to programmatic and online TV (video) buys.

So how can you break it down? Well first, if you’re a seasoned media technician working in this stuff every day and you never have a reason to explain what you do, STOP READING NOW. What follows will seem way over-simplified. But what follows is proven “light switch” wording that has helped folks, from the CMO to the front line, understand how this all works.

First, several definitions (there are other important ones, but let’s just start here):

Programmatic means that, instead of picking up a phone and calling a media rep at a network or publisher’s office, I’m using a computer platform to scan, plan and buy available ad inventory that’s listed on other computer platforms. As much as 98% of Internet inventory is available in this world.

Real Time Bidding means each impression is identified, bid for and placed by the same computers each time the viewer loads a page where the ad is served.

A Demand Side Platform is the technology that lets a human media buyer pull it all together—look out across all of the available inventory, target consumers, schedule buys and measure performance.


The following three elements have worked the best for me in explaining the basis of how it comes together:

1) Target People, Not WebsitesProg 1

Almost everything you touch today leaves some type of data-based thumbprint behind. That “Big Data” you keep hearing about is a compilation of billions of activities, affiliations, purchases, friendships, likes—you name it. It’s collected, sorted and made available by data companies for programmatic planners to build profiles of targets that advertisers want to reach. Your “data thumbprint” is embedded in your browser, viewer or app. The Demand Side Platform sees the thumbprint or profile of the person and only serves your ad when it sees your target.

2Prog 2) Bid for Each Impression in Real Time

When the media buyer set up the plan, he determined how much he was willing to pay to serve your message to each person who matches one of your customer profiles. If the market is low, you pay less. If competition is high, you will have to pay more. It can vary by time of day, location of the ad, industry, DMA, zillions of variables. And the value you bid can change as well. Bid higher for customers that have bought from you before, or who live closer to your restaurant. The bids are entered into and managed automatically by the system, so it all happens in nanoseconds.

3) Continuously Optimize and Improve Every CampaignProg 3

The system tracks and reports every activity: ads served where and when; who clicked to where and when; how much impressions and conversions cost. Every day, technicians are sitting at desks looking at what worked well and shifting the budget to do more of it. They test and find what doesn’t work well and throw it out. Day after day they work to improve bid pricing, lower conversion costs and provide up-to-the-minute reporting.

Programmatic buys are placed across websites, video platforms and mobile apps using all sorts of static, animated and full-motion video messages. The system lives mostly in the online world today, but programmatic technologies are moving quickly into more traditional media—television and radio in particular. The ability to target a TV ad to an audience of one isn’t far away.


One thing is for sure: The more sophisticated advertising gets, the more we need to find ways to explain what’s happening. Hopefully this version helps. If so, pass it on. If you’ve got comments or additional thinking, please add it. Love to hear from you!

You’re gonna see an ad anyway,

 it might as well be something you like…Marketing Hampton Roads

One big debate these days in advertising circles (of course there are many) revolves around privacy, and just how much we as advertisers know about our prospective targets. Healthcare.gov’s recent wishy-washiness about sharing consumer privacy information helped fuel the conversation. While I’m not a fan of privacy invasion or over-the-top hacking and snooping, I do fall firmly on the side of the statement above. I know I’m going to see ads on websites, in apps, in TV programs and ahead of that tile-grouting video I just searched for. My sense is, it might as well be an ad for something I give a hoot about as opposed to something totally unrelated to my world. In fact, for me, the more relevant the better. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.

 Three ways to see who’s watching you online.

If you’ve ever wondered who’s watching you, or who knows what about you, it’s not hard to get a good view. Just about everywhere you go online…no matter what platform…you’re picking up cookies or in some way leaving a trail of data. Here are three ways to get a glimpse of when someone’s watching and who knows what:

1.)      Website trackers

Ever wonder who’s lurking behind the browser? Who’s warehousing data every time you mouse over a picture or click a link? Fly over to Ghostery and click on the button that says “Add to (whichever browser you’re using).” After you do you’ll be treated to a magical looking-glass on each page that looks something like this:Ghostery

The list will change from page to page and site to site, but it shows you who the data aggregators are that have placed pixels and are collecting data on that page, as well as the ad exchanges and traders that are serving ads on that site. Clear your cookies if you want, but every time you come back they will still be there. Your only choice in thwarting them is to block cookies…but remember, you’re gonna see an ad anyway…

2.) What Facebook thinks of you

Those guys at Facebook are so smart, and transparent, that if you want to know why you’re seeing a certain ad, all you have to do is ask. Not only that, if you’re not seeing what you want, you can actually add to your preference list. Here’s how:

a.     When you see an ad on Facebook, hold your mouse over the upper right hand corner until an X appears. Click on it, then click on “Why am I seeing this?” Another box will pop up with the answer. Could be you’re the right demo. Could be you like to do certain things or go certain places. Or it could be a lot vaguer, like “this company wants to reach people like you.”

b.     Within the second box, click on “Manage my preferences.” Within the box that opens you can see everything Facebook thinks it knows about you relative to the ads you see. Click on each content area to see individual data tags relative to your content, profile or activities within the site. Some of it will be dead wrong, some right on the money.

c.      If you think Facebook has it wrong, or is missing some things, you can actually customize this profile. You can delete individual preferences, or, at the top of the page is a box that allows you to add preferences. In fact, you can do this whole exercise on practically any ad on any website. Click on the arrow or box in the upper right corner of an ad, then look for the link to manage your preferences. Rather see ads about Disneyworld? The NFL? Here’s your chance. Because remember, you’re gonna see an ad anyway…

3.)   What the Shadow knows

On the creepier side, try out the Digital Shadow and let it build your virtual profile. The site, which is really a clever app built by Ubisoft to market the game Watchdogs, lets you log in using Facebook and then builds a rather eerie, contrived picture of you and your life using your profile data. With claims like, “We know who you are,” “We know who you care about,” “We know how to find you” or “We know what you’re worth,” you can’t help but feel paranoid. If you’re like me, you’ll find quite a bit of it laughable (yeah, try looking for me in the Bahamas). But the idea of getting a glimpse at how data trackers may see you is interesting.

Bottom line is that advertising will continue to become, more and more, a technical business. As an advertiser, you want to know as much about your potential customer as possible. Data trackers and online profiles help you do that, help make the online user experience more relevant, and I believe make it more efficient for all of us. So go ahead, serve me ads for SCUBA diving and sport fishing off of Freeport. Because, hey, I’m gonna see an ad anyway…

The Technology Is Pretty Simple

 It’s the Stuff That’s Complicated

Just ask a digital media buyer.Chevy Guy

Technology and stuff sure make us marketing executives sweat. The whole world found that out firsthand when Chevy’s Rikk Wilde crashed the MVP party with his now-famous #technologyandstuff description of Madison Bumgarner’s new Chevy truck. And of course it wasn’t the technology or the stuff that had Wilde beading up with sweat, it was the national stage.

But the Chevy exec and lifelong baseball fan drew national attention to a big topic, one the digital advertising and media world grapples with daily: finding a way to make high-tech advancements simple enough for everyone, even really high-powered people like marketing execs, to understand.

In local market advertising, even a fairly big local market like Hampton Roads, VA, advertisers grapple with the question of how, when and where to shift marketing dollars into digital media, and how to know when that strategy is working. While pay-per-click advertising can be pretty straightforward if the consumer is properly motivated to click, digital display advertising has fallen out of favor. Measuring response has been difficult, primarily because of the way it has been bought and tracked.

Enter #technologyandstuff.

The highest-tech, most cutting-edge system and tool within digital media buying is a sophisticated system called a Demand Side Platform (DSP), which allows an operator to buy media programmatically and bid on digital advertising inventory in real time.

Whew. See? Sweat beads.

You can read a great blog describing some of the DETAILS of the stuff that makes up programmatic buying here, but let me tell you that what the technology does is make sure that the advertiser’s ad only shows up when a targeted customer is actually surfing. And the advertiser only pays what he or she has bid for that targeted customer. And then all this stuff measures what is working best, and the buyer tells the technology to do more of that. The same stuff measures what is not working so well, and the buyer tells the technology not to do so much of that.

While I don’t exactly expect you to follow all of that particular technology and stuff explanation, I can tell you that as an advertiser you should gain an understanding of programmatic buying.

In one form or another, it will become the way advertising is bought and sold going forward.

It is automated advertising buying compared to manual buying, and it will drive the efficiency and measurability among all types of advertising. And that includes traditional forms like broadcast and cable, outdoor and print.

Even some of largest local advertisers will admit that, although they have a very diverse media mix and an ongoing focus in driving social as well as real-life connections to their brand, the plans are not very well coordinated, and they lack the ability to measure how effectively their digital advertising is working. Technology is going to continue to open up more media mix opportunities. Find someone to help you understand the stuff, and you’ve got the secret ingredient to make it work.

 

Will Your Customers Unlock the Door?

There are 728,800 potential problems every day in Hampton Roads.

Market a message of trust and deliver on it.

A man at your door with a van in your driveway. If you’re the consumer, as a marketer I know two things about you for sure: 1) you have a problem, and
creepy Guy With Shirt2) the biggest decision you will make is whether or not you are willing to open the door. If you’re a marketer in the home services category, everything involved with your marketing strategy and your advertising campaign has to deal with these two fundamental precepts.

The sheer amount of advertising weight aimed at this category would seem to indicate that a huge chunk of the 1.5 million adults living in 728,800 households across Hampton Roads must have a problem every day. The most popular broadcast-media dayparts in particular are chock full of HVAC, plumbing, pest control, kitchen remodeling, carpet cleaning (name your favorite problem) spots every day.

A man (OK, could well be a woman…I didn’t create the category name) at your door with a van in your driveway. Really, by the time the van is in your driveway, you’re most likely going to open the door. The decision was essentially made prior to or during the phone call you made to the company. According to Bill Day (@Bill_Day_) with consumer research company Frank N. Magid Associates, whether you will be comfortable opening the door and letting this company, or person, in your house is the first and most emotional decision you will make. The marketer and the business owner must project and establish a level of trust. When the consumer has a problem, he or she will make a decision to invite that company to his or her home based on an existing perception of trust for the company or brand.

That relationship, an urgent response based on brand perception, is at the core of why a company like Michael and Son, one of our market’s most persistent promoters, spends so heavily and so consistently. I talked with Eiman Bassam, founder of ESB Advertising based in Northern Virginia, and agency of record for Michael and Son. “We don’t know when someone will need us, so we have to stay top of mind,” Bassam said. For that reason, it doesn’t do any good for the company to focus on specials or sales.

“Price,” Day said, “is one of the least effective tactics for convincing consumers.” Magid’s Advertising Performance Research — a series of dozens of local studies done on markets from coast to coast with local consumers — bears out the most important attributes of advertising for this category:

What you say.

How you say it.

Where you say it.

“And production quality counts,” Day added. “Being your company’s own TV spokesperson is not for everyone.” Without naming names, I believe we have some in our market that could be putting themselves at a disadvantage on this point. It’s not hard to test commercials in a focus-group setting.


What you say, and how you say it.

Make no mistake, this is a business category driven by marketing. Think of 728,800 households with potential problems; the best marketer is going to win here. For a company that’s not based here and has only been operating here for about three years, I believe Bassam and Michael and Son have a winning formula. Maybe you didn’t know that Michael and Son isn’t locally owned. That “and Son” in the name makes it sound small-biz and local-yocal. The brand imagery and truck design is not over the top, and the advertising is well produced for the category but not expensive in look or feel. And even a highly recognizable voice talent, unique in sound, conjures an image of a helpful office person as opposed to a professional announcer. “Absolutely that’s on purpose,” Bassam said when I asked. “We have to look local from afar. When 70% of the decision-makers are women, we know we have to be trustworthy.” And consider the jingle/slogan, “If you can’t, we can.” Well at least they give me credit for trying.

Where you say it.

The most recognizable and the largest service-industry companies are fairly visible in traditional channels: @123bugfree, @MichaelandSon, @OneHourVirginia, @RSAndrewsinc, @VB_Plumbing (Atomic), and others. And most in the category spend a considerable amount on search marketing, which is necessary. But 2015 marks the point when advertisers will be spending more in online video and display marketing than search due to the advanced-targeting capabilities that behavioral data-tracking, ad exchanges and real-time bidding bring.

If you own or operate a business in this category, you should be considering what a more profound digital strategy could do. TV works well aDigital Advertisingnd will continue to work well in driving brand awareness. Not all players in this category can afford TV, but those who do should be looking to align their messages across all screens — TV, PC, tablet, and mobile. New data and technology advancements make that very possible and effective. If your budget doesn’t place you on TV, it’s even more important that you learn about new online-targeting tactics that can raise visibility of your brand. These advancements make it more efficient than ever to be top of mind for the right target.

So will the consumer unlock the door? It’s a matter of trust. Trust in you, and in what, how, and when you say it. And it all makes the assumption that the man (or the woman) at the door doesn’t look like Freddy Krueger.

If you have questions about anything in this article, feel free to post or contact me at jdelatte@seventhpoint.com