Brand Study: How Less is More at The Masters

Brand Study: How Less is More at The Masters

As marketers, we constantly hear about the importance of adaptation. How it’s “crucial to keep up with the times” or, “if your brand isn’t evolving to meet the needs of your consumer, they’ll find one that is.

With this constant focus on growth and enhancement, we have to ask: are the good old days of simply relying on brand recognition truly gone? Or is it still possible to achieve marketing success without conforming to the latest trends?

We didn’t have to look further than Augusta, GA, to find our answer.  

A self-proclaimed “tradition unlike any other,” The Masters is considered the best and most prestigious golf tournament in the world. For marketers, it is admired as one of the world’s greatest brands. Since 1934, this annual event has continued to gain popularity and prestige, all while changing very little about its marketing and branding strategies. Even amidst all these lessons on evolution, the brand has found marketing success in staying true to its roots and the idea that “less is more.”

The 2019 Masters had only six sponsors, many of which have been associated with the tournament for several years. Each pay an estimated $6 million annually for their title. But even then, sponsor brands have a very minimal presence: no signage on the course or in the concessions area, a shared four minutes of ads per broadcast hour and other strict rules about how their association with this tournament can be promoted.

It may not sound glamorous, but pure association and less competition can certainly pay off. In 2018, Nielsen estimated a total of $128 million in media value for tournament sponsors. Considering these brands don’t get so much as a logo on a caddie bib, their return is pretty impressive.

Several other original aspects of the tournament make sure this experience is not just one-of-a-kind, but also traditional — and yes, extremely exclusive. Official Masters gear can only be purchased at Augusta National’s gift shop. Tickets are either inherited from a family member or won via a lottery. Caddies wear the classic uniform of a white jumpsuit and a green hat.

These are some of the most recognizable elements of the tournament, and without these seemingly small details, the experience at the heart of the brand would be lost.

Unlike other popular sporting events, The Masters isn’t making millions of dollars in revenue through multiple sponsorships or by licensing merchandise outside of the club’s gift shop. It doesn’t sell TV rights to the highest bidder or price :30 commercial spots at upwards of $5 million. Heck, they don’t even charge more than a few dollars for a beer.

The purity of The Master’s identity is one of its most attractive features. It isn’t bogged down by “noise” surrounding the event; the focus is solely on the game, the players and the experience of Augusta National.

Marketing trends will come and go and there will always be a new method, measurement or message to test. But at the end of the day, our true priority as marketers should be staying true to our brand and our goals — even if that means less is more.

How to Maximize Your Trade Show Appearance

How to Maximize Your Trade Show Appearance

So your team has decided that a particular trade show or conference is right for you. But now you have to decide if you want to be more than an attendee or exhibitor. Should you take advantage of any sponsorship opportunities? And if you do, how can you best leverage those available to you? Let’s explore two key ways to maximize your trade show appearance.

1) Choosing the Right Sponsorships

As we always say, start with your goals. What are you trying to gain from this event? Your primary goal is likely lead generation, though awareness or specific product testing and launching are also popular reasons to exhibit at an event.

Whatever the case, go back to the event information and analyze who’s attending and who’s exhibiting. If a large percentage are decision-makers in your target audience, additional exposure may be a good idea. And if some of your top competitors are showing, this may be your chance to get ahead with exclusive sponsorships.

There are likely to be a few opportunities that specifically yield lead information as well as many more that promise prominent logo display. It’s tempting to go for the logo options as a) they tend to be cheaper and b) they seem to promise the most exposure.

But before signing the contract, ask yourself if the quality of that exposure will ladder up to your goals. How familiar is this audience with your logo? Do you have an option to add additional messaging?

If you’re just aiming to be more prominent than your competitor or show you support the association, it can be worthwhile to select several of these broader awareness opportunities.

However, logo prominence doesn’t necessarily guarantee booth traffic. Many attendees go to conferences already knowing exactly who they’re going to visit. Pre-conference sponsorships or advertising opportunities are often the best way to catch these pre-planners.

2) Maximizing Your Event Sponsorship

Once you’ve decided to sponsor, make sure you get all you can out of it. Update your digital marketing content calendar to include event promotion. Post on social with the conference’s hashtag and @ mention their accounts. More often than not, the show team will then share your post to their audience of attendees.

Emails to your database can include a note mentioning your booth number and subtly promote your sponsorships, depending on what they are.

You can also send an email specifically inviting any attendees to meet while they’re at the show. This could be personal emails from the sales team or a well-crafted email to your database (preferably the segment that is most likely to attend — maybe your leads from last year 😉).

If you’re demoing or launching a product at the show, consider inviting customers or potential customers to an exclusive focus group or launch event. A good public relations team can likely help you make this kind of event happen.

For event success in general, it’s also important to carefully consider if you’re sending the best team members to reach your goals. You may have someone who knows the product inside and out, but do they enjoy talking to people? Will they pursue conversation and networking opportunities? If not, consider training a more extroverted team member who you know will get you the most leads for your money.

Sponsorships can greatly help boost your presence at a trade show or conference when done right. Always look for opportunities that get you in front of potential leads, but only if you have the team capacity to really make it work.

TL;DR

  • List your goals and make sure the tactics you choose ladder up to those specific aims
  • Logo prominence doesn’t always equate to booth foot traffic
  • Promote the hell out of your appearance if you go: social media, email, PR
  • Create unique in-booth events for potential customers to attend
  • Make sure your attending team members enjoy networking and interacting with people

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Note: We’re marketers — not lawyers. If you have specific questions concerning ADA compliance and how to avoid legal issues therein, please consult a licensed legal expert.

When it comes to user experience (UX), we tend to think of the things that are immediately noticeable upon visiting a site.

Can I easily find what I’m looking for? How long does the site take to load? Can I navigate through pages on my phone?

But a crucial aspect of UX design involves things that many visitors won’t ever see: accessibility features.

For people living with disabilities that might affect how they navigate the web, these accessibility features are critical to their own user experience, and websites must take into account ways to accommodate their time on site.

And it’s not just best practices to do so — you could end up in legal trouble if you don’t. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed in the early days of the internet, but the courts have set a clear precedent in the last decade that shows just how liable website owners can be if they fail to make their site accessible.

So how can you make sure your site remains a good experience for everyone who visits it? We’ve put together a beginner’s list to website accessibility, which should help you get started towards improving access for every visitor.

1. Unplug Your Mouse

A truly accessible website should be navigable without the use of your mouse. Try unplugging or disabling yours to see if you can get around using the “tab” keys on your keyboard. Not only does this give you a good idea of how well laid out your site flow is, but it also allows you to experience the site from a device-independent mindset.

Cutting a computer mouse cord website accessibility

You could just, like, un-plug it, dude.

Use your “Tab” key to bounce from link to link (use Shift + Tab to navigate backwards) and see how easily you can access the main portions of your site. If you find yourself getting stuck at a particular point or unable to click on a specific portion of the site, make a note to fix that. 

2. Disable “Styles”

We know you’ve probably put a lot of work into making your site look pretty, but when it comes to accessibility, the more important concern is how navigable your site is. To figure that out, you’ll need to disable the CSS stylings that turn your black-and-white code into vivid colors and images. 

If you’re using Google Chrome, here’s how to do that:

  1. Download a web developer Chrome extension
  2. Open the extension, open the CSS options and disable “All Styles”

Now you’ll see your site laid out in all its glorious basic-ness. From here, you can investigate whether there’s a coherent flow to your sitemap and pages. If you’re able to logically follow from one section to another without the aid of images or animations, that means it will be more accessible and navigable overall.

3. Use a Screen Reader

This is another chance to walk a mile in someone else’s proverbial shoes, navigating the web the way someone with limited or no sight might. Your computer should come stocked with a screen reading option under your Accessibility settings, but a quick Google search should help you find alternatives if not.

Much like with disabling styles, a screen reader provides a very basic understanding of what your sitemap feels like without the benefit of visuals. If you find yourself having difficulty finding what you need without the use of visual explainers, you might consider finding ways to bolster the copy on your site. 

For instance, if you’re not already using alt-text on images (which you should be doing from an SEO perspective), a screen reader will highlight the gaps in your site where descriptive text can be given to images.

4. Evaluate Your Color & Font Choices

If your website was designed by a professional web developer, there is less chance that you’ll run into issues with color contrast and font sizes. But if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and put together your site internally, you’ll want to take a closer look at the decisions you made 

For example, certain color choices that might look great when paired on furniture or home stylings simply make it more difficult to read text on a screen. Though not all your color choices have to pass this contrast litmus test, anything you’re using for fonts should. If anyone with average vision has difficulty in parsing some words, imagine how it might look to the more visually-impaired.

Some examples of how color choice affects readability.

Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to fonts no smaller than 14pt. That way, no one has to squint or increase their browser size to read your handy work. That has become increasingly important for mobile responsiveness, as well, where fonts will naturally look smaller on a phone than when viewed on a desktop.

While these are just a few recommendations to get you started, it’s important for any brand to undergo a serious evaluation of Accessibility on your site. Not only will it ensure a smooth, enjoyable user experience no matter who is visiting, it can help keep you ahead of costly legal troubles, too.

Goodbye, Traditional Marketing; Hello, Tangible Marketing

Goodbye, Traditional Marketing; Hello, Tangible Marketing

For all the messages out there telling you traditional and print media aren’t dead, there are dozens more telling you they are. The shiny newness of digital can easily blind marketers to the value of the age-old tactics of traditional marketing — or as we’re now calling it, “tangible marketing.”

Let’s get something straight right away: we love digital marketing. But we love it as a piece of your entire puzzle — not the only one you shoehorn into each and every campaign. And for every good, reputable digital advertising company, there are again dozens more who are less-than-good. And their sales teams are calling us (and our clients) trying to sell a digital-only media plan. Our approach to a media plan takes a more 360° view of things: we’re hard-pressed to think of a client who should only use digital advertising.

Now that that’s cleared up, let’s talk about why we’re calling it “tangible” media. Aside from the fact that “traditional” makes these tactics sound outdated, “tangible marketing” communicates many of the advantages of these tactics.

It’s definitely born partly of the smoke-and-mirror frustration of digital; often the only proof of performance you get are mocked-up screenshots and a spreadsheet of stats. It’s usually a good thing that you aren’t being served your own ads (depending on your targeting), but there’s something comforting in being able to touch, hear, or see your messages out in the world. And there is something vitally important about that tangibility to establish a connection with your customers.

Tangible marketing is also still (more often than not) the best way to reach the most customers at the same time. It delivers that top-of-the-funnel branding and awareness that’s critical at the beginning of a new campaign. This makes it ideal not as a total replacement for digital, but as a layered tactic.

Tangible ads can help prime your customers so that when they see your digital ad, they’ll be more ready to convert. Tangible marketing can even help drive search traffic that creates an opportunity to capture and retarget these now-warm leads with digital ads.

Even more exciting than layering tangible and digital tactics are the new marriages of digital data to tangible media targeting strategies. So now you can take digital data to build an audience profile and then target those audiences at scale. A match made in media heaven!

So when the next rep cold calls you and works hard to convince you that digital ads are the only way forward, remember to consider it in the context of your goals, your sales funnel and your existing strategy. How would this tactic support your goals? Are you ready for that stage of the funnel, or do you need more awareness? Is your digital ecosystem set up to make the most of these possible clicks?

Ready to take advantage of this marriage of digital and tangible tactics?

BKI Brand Study: A Tale of Two (Carhartt) Brands

BKI Brand Study: A Tale of Two (Carhartt) Brands

Founded in 1889, in Dearborn, MI, Carhartt occupies a place in American culture few brands can lay claim to. On the one hand, they are a ubiquitous symbol of the working class, the favorite garment of farmhands, laborers and outdoor lovers.

But they also play a major role in the history of communities like hip-hop, extreme sports and “streetwear.”

So how does one brand manage to appeal to two groups of consumers who likely don’t overlap anywhere else?

Our latest Brand Study explores this tale of two brands.

Rough & Rugged

Carhartt is best known for its no-nonsense approach to workwear. Its iconic duck canvas jacket has been worn for generations, largely in their signature “Carhartt Brown” color.

Whether it is lumberjacks felling trees in the pacific northwest or auto workers in the assembly lines of Detroit, Carhartt’s customers have remained fiercely loyal.

This despite the company’s refusal to ever sell their garments at a premium or in discount stores like Wal-Mart or Kmart.

Carhartt has been used as a political symbol, too. It’s been deployed by politicians across the spectrum to evoke a connection to the so-called “everyman.”

Barack Obama was photographed wearing it during a 2015 trip to Alaska, while the state’s most famous politician, Sarah Palin, has a well-documented love of the brand.

Much like what kind of beer a politician prefers (Domestic? Imported? Craft?) has become a talking point during each election cycle, so, too has wearing Carhartt been seen by some as an attempt to connect with blue-collar workers.

Urban Trendsetters

While Carhartt has spent the last 130 years in the company of the working class, it has also been the favorite of “streetwear” enthusiasts since the mid-1980s.

The brand’s superstar status in this community began somewhat nefariously, having been described by the New York Times in 1990 as the favorite choice of drug dealers who loved Carhartt’s deep pockets.

Fashionable youth took notice, and the famous chore coats soon began popping up in the burgeoning hip-hop communities of New York and Los Angeles.

Carhartt received another boost of street cred from the seminal hip-hop label, Tommy Boy, who gave away dozens of custom-made Carhartt jackets to tastemakers and industry influencers.

The New York Times’ 1990 feature on the Carhartt Chore Coat.

It was during this period that Carhartt caught the eye of two European denim designers, Edwin and Salomée Faeh.

While their original agreement was to import and sell original pieces across Europe, they soon gained enough trust from Carhartt’s founding family to branch out into designing their own fashion-forward interpretations of the brand.

This project, called Work In Progress (WIP), has evolved into what some have deemed “the most important brand in streetwear.”

While much of WIP’s reflects Carhartt’s no frills aesthetic, it also has the elasticity to veer off into much more experimental territory.

A typical WIP launch might include subtle updates to the famous blue Michigan Chore Coat alongside a varsity jacket in technicolor purple or highlighter green. The WIP lines are also typically geared towards a more tailored, skinny cut, whereas the original Carhartt line retains its “working man’s fit.”

Many will also note the significant increase in price across the two brands, but Carhartt and Work In Progress are not selling to the same audiences — they are two distinct yet intertwined brands.

A (Fashion) House Divided Can Stand

So how exactly did Carhartt manage to find itself in the enviable position of appealing to such a wide audience? According to Esquire magazine, “Carhartt couldn’t tell you how it’s marketed to such a diverse group because it hasn’t. The company has followed working class America for 128 years and this is just where it wound up.”

In fact, Carhartt has never employed an outside agency (sad face) for any of their marketing or advertising needs. This is a rarity for a brand of its size, especially considering their proximity to The Big 3 auto companies of Detroit, who for decades were the proverbial “white whale” of the advertising industry.

Work In Progress uses familiar tones in new applications.

It would appear that Carhartt largely cemented its place in the world by simply being themselves. It would’ve surely felt forced had the brand tried to create something like Work In Progress in order to proactively chase the urban youth demographic.

Instead, they recognized that they had been adopted by this group of trendsetting skateboarders, graffiti artists and rappers and allowed their brand to evolve to speak directly to that audience without sacrificing their integrity.

As WGSN’s Senior Menswear Trend Forecaster Brian Trunzo puts it, “Carhartt represents everybody. It represents the right and the left. It represents the fashion folks and the non-fashion folks. It’s a brand folks can rally around. Everything they do is real.”

The word “authenticity” gets thrown around a lot these days, but brands like Carhartt are a great example of what that actually looks like. They stay true to their core mission but allow themselves the flexibility to explore opportunities when they arise. So whether it’s on a ranch in Montana or a skatepark in Los Angeles, you know that gold “C” stands for quality, durability and dependability. And that is some seriously enviable brand equity.

The 7 Fundamentals of Brand Equity

The 7 Fundamentals of Brand Equity

What does brand equity mean? The simple answer is that it’s the value of a brand. But why is brand equity important and how do you build or measure it? Brand Equity is made up of seven key elements: awareness, reputation, differentiation, energy, relevance, loyalty and flexibility. Some of these are easier to build (or damage) than others. Each contributes to the overall value of your brand, and an evaluation of these different elements can tell you where you need to focus your marketing efforts.

1. Awareness
What percentage of your audience or industry is familiar with your brand? Are your logo, name and brand identity as recognizable to your customers and potential customers as the Starbucks mermaid or Target bullseye? And beyond knowing you exist, do they know everything you offer?

2. Reputation
Just because people have awareness of your brand doesn’t mean their perception is positive. What do the people who have heard of you think of your brand? Is your product considered premium? Or are you the value brand? Do you have high quality products but low-quality service or vice versa?

3. Differentiation
Part of the value of your brand is its ability to be distinct from the competition. Even if you have low awareness, you may still have potential equity if your brand has a different personality or the ability to stand out from the pack.

4. Energy
Here’s one more reason that brands want you to think they’re innovative: it gives the brand perceived energy and momentum. If you look like you are always innovating and not just resting on your laurels, you always have something new to say to your customers. And updates convey energy.

5. Relevance
You may have a great product and your brand may check all the other boxes, but if it isn’t useful or important to your customers (anymore or yet) then it won’t do you much good. If it isn’t relevant to the audience you’re targeting, is there another audience or industry that would be interested?

6. Loyalty
What would it take to woo your customers away from your brand? Just a small price cut? An additional service? Or would your customers stay with your brand even if you had to give them bad news? It’s also important to examine why they’re loyal (if they are).

7. Flexibility
If you developed a related product, could you add it in under the same brand? Or would the association with your brand do more harm than good? If your brand is too narrowly defined, you may find it difficult to leverage it for anything else in the future.

Evaluating your brand is a crucial step in making many sales or marketing decisions such as acquisition, expansion, rebranding and even simply annual planning. If you know where your weaknesses are, you can work harder at those areas. If you have multiple brands playing in and around the same market, evaluating the equity of each can also give you the foundation to make changes to your brand architecture.

You were probably mentally evaluating your brand while you were reading through the list, but it’s important to go through these elements thoroughly and objectively if you’re going to make any serious decisions for your brand. It can be difficult to remove emotion from your analysis when you live with a brand every day, but a research firm or marketing agency can help provide an outside perspective.

Want to take a closer look at your brand equity? We’d love to help.

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