Case Studies for Innovative Branding: Fashion

In this article we’ll be taking a look at integrated sponsorships and how innovative marketers are using them to build their brands. This time out, we’ll look at Alloy Online’s recent partnership with Seventeen Online, and see how a smart, integrated sponsorship was created that truly marries the right brand with the right content environment.

By now, we’ve probably all heard the reports — over the next few years banners will decline as a percentage of overall web ad spending and sponsorships will rise dramatically. eMarketer’s just released report underscores the shift — its estimates show banners will shrink from 52 percent of all dollars to 26 percent, while sponsorships will increase from 40 percent to 58 percent in the same period.

Why is this happening?

More stats from eMarketer point out the obvious reasons why: 1) over 99 percent of banners don’t get clicked on; 2) almost half – 49 percent — of users don’t even look at banners; and 3) only 9 percent of web users even look at banners with any regularity.

Rich media holds the promise for a more intrusive and powerful branding message (and will certainly succeed when broadband becomes more widespread). But the question is still: What can you do for your brand or client that will produce an impactful, interactive strategy and/or campaign today?

The answer may lie in creating a highly integrated sponsorship to provide a more involved brand experience. Furthermore, working in partnership with a web publisher who clearly delivers your brand’s target both in demographics and psychographics, and who will work with you to create a sponsorship that uniquely meets the demand of your brand strategy, will produce winning results NOW.

The Alloy Online partnership is an example of this kind of deeply integrated sponsorship. And, the company further increased the odds for success by partnering with Seventeen Magazine Online, thus combining the power of two leading trans-media brands for teen girls.

The partners created a multi-faceted model that maximizes integration and ROI by: 1) driving user registration for Alloy, 2) branding Alloy through association with Seventeen, 3) creating excitement and buzz through unique promotions, and 4) building traffic on the Alloy site — all in a single sponsorship.

Alloy is a leading Internet destination providing community, content and commerce for teens. Alloy has as its primary goal the creation of Internet media partnerships designed to drive customer registration.

To meet this objective, Seventeen Online built a co-branded registration area housed within the Seventeen site. Each month a different promotion will run on Seventeen.com to drive registration — an example is the current “Perfect Prom Thingies” sweepstakes to win prom accessories. These promotions will run throughout the site via banners and fixed buttons in key content areas and on the home page. Online newsletters will also be incorporated into the mix with links back to the co-branded registration area.

In developing this part of their program, Alloy again utilizes a basic rule of web success: Bring your content, promotion, and/or message to where the customer is, instead of focusing 100 percent of your energy on the difficult (and often unsuccessful) task of diverting consumers to your site and away from the place they’ve chosen to be.

The other goal of this campaign is to drive traffic to Alloy Online. This is accomplished by running banners throughout Seventeen.com with messages like “Get Free stuff at Alloy” in order to incentivize Seventeen’s audience to visit the Alloy site. Additionally, Alloy’s popular “Virtual Makeover” content is integrated within the Style File fashion area on Seventeen.com with links back to Alloy.

Since Alloy and Seventeen share similar audiences, Alloy is able to link its brand with the Seventeen brand, and through this partnership ally itself with a premier fashion source for female teens. In doing so, it gains the rub-off power of the Seventeen brand, as well as capturing the Seventeen audience while they’re in a “fashion state of mind.”

Alloy’s VP of Business Development, Andrew Roberts, sums up the value of this partnership best. “As a leading Internet site for teens, we are very selective in how and where we spend our online ad dollars. With banners alone, it’s very difficult to create a strong emotional connection to our brand without completely partnering with a site. When advertising on other sites, we realize that our targeted user has self-selected that destination.

“Our goal is to find the best way to involve them with the Alloy brand on another site’s turf,” Roberts added. “We are always looking for innovative ways to integrate our brand’s message with the site’s content. Our partnership with Seventeen Online is a great example of how we are delivering our great contests and cool content to our targeted consumer in an environment that enhances the Alloy brand.”

Building Credibility: Your Good Name

Building Credibility - Your Good NameYes, it’s obvious, but if you don’t start here, there’s no sense in doing anything else. Doing your job well is obviously the single most important thing you can do to build a positive reputation for your small business or startup. Customer service is a close second. But let’s be honest. In today’s competitive marketplace, customers expect you to win. They presume you’re competent and they demand exceptional service. Today, building  your business’ reputation is about doing your job well and then going the extra mile—using your marketing muscle—to make sure that your customers and potential customers know that you’re accomplishing more than they expect.

Write Articles. Part of any plan to build your reputation should include getting published. First, you’ll need to find an editor. This is not as hard as it may seem. In fact, the growing number of print and Web-based publications with insatiable appetites for content means there are more opportunities than ever to find a home for your article. But you have to take the lead. Contact editors that might be interested in publishing your articles. A good place to start is with the publications you already receive, or those that are targeted toward the audience you want to reach.

Introduce yourself to an editor by sending an email about a story you’d like to write. Or, when a publication runs a feature that addresses your area of expertise, phone the editor directly. Volunteer to write an opposing viewpoint or provide timely information that adds a new twist to the topic for any follow-up stories that may be running.

If finding the time to write is an issue for you, there are several creative ways to share the workload. For example, you can join forces with a colleague or co-author an article with one of your clients. Collaborating on an article is a great way to deepen your working relationships. Moreover, your partner may have already established a relationship with an editor.

Another option is to hire a professional who can create a content marketing strategy for your startup. Some marketers charge by the hour and you’ll find reputable ones whose rates are reasonable. Also, you must remember to take time to provide your digital marketer with clear and specific direction. After all, it’s your reputation that’s on the line.

Give Speeches. Speaking engagements put you in front of a captive audience with a keen interest in the topic you’re addressing. If you fear public speaking, recognize that thousands of people— even famous individuals on the high-priced speaking circuits–feel the same way. Overcome your fear of public speaking by facing it head on and developing the skills you need to be successful in front of an audience. Take a presentation skills course each year or visit your local Toastmasters on a regular basis to practice giving presentations. But don’t pressure yourself. Start by addressing a small group of friends. Ask them to honestly critique your speaking skills and heed their comments. Gradually work your way up to larger audiences and you’ll soon find a comfort zone.

ccept speaking engagements

And, don’t get discouraged if finding a podium seems difficult at first. The competition for speaking opportunities is usually focused on exclusive, high profile events. There are hundreds of local and national industry organizations looking for speakers that are often overlooked by those seeking a podium. These venues are not only good practice arenas—they are great places to find clients.

Get Quoted. A study found that people that call you after learning about you in the media are substantially more likely to hire you than those that “cold call” you or that you call first. Needless to say, it behooves you to make connections with the media. Before making your first contact, however, remember that your interactions with the media are business transactions and nothing more. You’ve heard the warnings before: nothing is “off the record” — and stick your talking points.

Also, do your homework. Think about what sets you apart from others in your business and pay close attention to headlines in publications your customers regularly read. See who gets quoted and why. Review the editorial calendars and find reporters who are dedicated to issues that pertain to your practice niche. Read what they write and get familiar with what excites them. As you take these steps, you will begin to define the kind of an expert you want to be and you’ll start to see how you can dovetail your message with the hot issues of the day.

Get quoted

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to acquaint yourself with local reporters. Find out who their audience is and how they select stories. Elaborate on your areas of expertise and provide leads for current stories. Ultimately, you want them to see you as a valuable resource and place your name on their list of experts in your area. Avoid jargon at all costs and practice using colorful language that clearly states your point of view. Great command of plain language will make you quotable. Keep at it and they’ll come around.

Most importantly, make it easy for the media to find you. Consider listing yourself in media directories such the Yearbook of Experts. These searchable databases will maximize your online exposure and make it easier for the right people to find you. And, remember to return calls QUICKLY! Reporters are always on deadline; they can’t wait four or five hours to hear from you. Another source is just a phone call away.

Make the Most of Each Activity. And speaking of deadlines, today, everyone is strapped for time. To build your reputation by writing articles, making speeches and getting quoted, you must find a way to optimize your efforts. The best way to conserve time is to use what we call the “Core and More” principle. Simply put, for every core reputation building activity that you perform, there should be at least 3-5 more ways for you to capitalize on that single effort. For example, for the suggested tips listed above, go for more by working with a firm whose expertise lie in digital  marketing.