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Hayley Prendergast

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Back to School 101: Is Your Campaign Ready?

Back-to-School brings in around $70 billion in sales each year, second to only Holiday in terms of seasonal sales. For many brands, this represents a vital piece of their overall yearly revenue. $70 billion is not an occasion to miss, or even approach halfheartedly. With that in mind, here are 3 essential questions you should ask yourself and consider before you dive any deeper into your BTS campaign planning. Answering the following will help ensure you are on your way towards a successful initiative. What do you want to accomplish and by when? Do you have enough time to execute? We're getting into crunch time with the back-to-school season quickly approaching. If you're not already working on your back-to-school strategy, you're probably going to miss out. A key question to address when laying out the foundation for any campaign is- do you have the correct amount of time needed to properly deploy your campaign? Timing should be paramount when planning because being short on time can affect the campaign execution, while launching too early could catch consumers in the wrong mind frame (still summer loving)- and therefore fail to strike when the iron is hot. It sounds simple, but having an accurate and achievable timeline is one of the most crucial components of campaign planning. Particularly when the campaign you are launching is dependent on seasonal timing. Have you utilized industry learnings to inform and optimize your campaign? Learning from previous campaigns before moving forward with your own plan can help inform your campaign strategy. To help catch you up to speed, here are a few Back-to-School best-in-class examples that are definitely worth a second look.  You will find that the most successful campaigns typically involve highlighting a product, offering a stand-out deal, or even pledging that sales will benefit a good cause. Product features: When catchy creative campaigns catch fire, students typically fall victim to the popular following and can't resist the urge to get in on it too. See: Microsoft, Microsoft vs. Mini Fridge Hard to beat offers: The campaigns offering students legitimate deals leave customers walking away feeling valued, and that the company simply wanted to better their lives by offering such a great promotion. Such experiences will entice students to buy again or consider the brand for future purchases. See: Apple's $100 Back to School Gift Card Profit for Non-Profit: The ability to do good instead of just making a regular purchase is something that stands out in any consumer's mind. Substantial interactions that accomplish two tasks for the price of one is an experience to remember, offering consumers with a positive brand association for back-to-school (and years) to come. See (AMP's work): Staples for Students Does your plan include a post-campaign strategy that continues conversations? Many marketers make the mistake of approaching Back-to-School as a one-off campaign, which is thinking that can only lead to missed opportunities. BTS might be a once-a-year execution, but the customers you create during that time are still yours for the remainder of the year, not to mention years to come. Therefore, it is valuable to have a long-term plan in place for speaking to these same consumers at different points throughout the year. The solution is to approach your BTS campaign as a platform for generating a conversation with your target audience, and then utilizing that platform as a means for obtaining and collecting meaningful information from your consumers that will be used in post-BTS initiatives. Social channels are the perfect tool for initiating and maintaining this relationship with consumers. A nice campaign to reference in terms of generating a relationship with their consumers is American Eagle's 2012 'Live Your Life'? campaign. American Eagle asked consumers to share their individual style by submitting photos of themselves wearing their new back-to-school AE jeans. Fans and followers were asked to vote for their favorites, giving 15 finalists (with the most social votes) the opportunity to appear on the brand's blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. In the end, 15 finalists were also to be featured in the American Eagle Spring campaign. Not only did the 'Live Your Life'? campaign reach and communicate with consumers through all social outlets and ask for consumer participation, it also planned for future engagement (goodbye BTS, hello Spring Campaign) and left fans feeling  truly valued by the brand (social fans are now brand campaign stars). This is in no way a definitive list of ways to be successful during the Back to School season, so we would love to hear your thoughts on other best practices that you have seen. Sound off in the comments below.

Mo' Than Just A Mustache

The latest cause marketing trend to catch wind may not have the same level of brand and celeb notoriety as big charity players like Livestrong, the Susan G Komen Foundation, or UNICEF. But, Movember, the only month when facial hair is this season's hottest and most popular accessory, is growing (pun intended) and becoming an iconic symbol of awareness all by itself.. On November 1st, men everywhere (literally, it's global) committed to become walking billboards for the month-long men's health initiative. More specifically, men will grow a mustache for the month of November, all while collecting donations and raising awareness for prostate cancer and men's mental health. The idea was originated in a Melbourne, Australia pub some 8 years ago'leave it to Australian men to kick start the most rugged cause campaign to date. Only recently has it picked up serious speed; in 2011 854,000 mustache growers raised $126.3 million dollars worldwide! There are several contributing factors to Movember's recent surge of popularity. For example, men's health is known for being low on the charity totem pole. Currently, women's health is the number one supported charitable cause, bringing in the most green and raising the most brows. After a month of wearing pink to support breast cancer, it's no surprise men are jumping at the opportunity to support their own health and well-being too. Marketing professionals have a different take on the recent growth of Movember's fuzz (err, buzz). The equation looks a little something like this: Company^2+Fun Trend*Ancillary Perks=Engagement^3 In other words, more companies than ever are beginning to realize why the Movember campaign is a pretty awesome way to get involved while on the job. Apart from the primary goals (raising awareness, donating to charity, rocking a mustache), there are many ancillary benefits of participation that, particularly for companies, have put-your-razor-down appeal. Let's take a look.. Positive Light. Similar to celebrities and name brands who hop behind well-known charities looking for an image boost, companies who support cause efforts can benefit from the same effect. Anytime a company puts time, effort, and resources towards unselfish giving, the company promotes positive brand health. This newsworthy behavior will land your brand name in print, increasing awareness and splashing your brand out there for the world to see. Togetherness. What better way to spend time together than taking weekly update pictures and checking in on stache shape development? Don't worry, there is plenty involvement available for the ladies as well. For this, I suggest getting creative. In an effort not to divulge too much highly secretive internal information, all I will say is that our ladies are participating in forms of donations, PR, sista stache's, and in only the most involved situations'?¦ grooming. Company Goals. Most corporations have their own internal goals to support charitable initiatives. In the past, this has often been accomplished through participating in walks or donating used goods. While both are great methods of giving, they don't necessarily engage and unify employees to the same extent as an experience like Movember. While banter-worthy mustache growth brings people together, it also raises money to support a very serious cause and gets people to start thinking about their own health. Fun at Work. Mustaches are fun, the pictures are even better. There are an infinite amount of accompanying toys, office supplies, and accessories that make Movember mo' enjoyable for everyone. Personally, I suggest checking out www.Beerstache.com for appropriate beverage props, complete with branding options. Perfect for celebrating your good deed and upcoming holiday parties! (Warning: Movember has a habit of creating the perfect storm of party excuses Positive Environment. Anytime you support charity, it feels good. Competing as a team for the sake of charity? That feels even better! Coming together for the sake of friendly "network" competition promotes happiness and teamwork, both which combine to create the optimal work environment for your employees. Movember can make your workplace a better place to be. Enough said. Here at AMP, we are definitely taking Movember to new evil heights. Dubbed the Evil AMPire, we are crushing our participation and donation numbers from last year, and even holding our own in the competition polls. So far, with only 78 team members, the Evil AMPire has raised $9,077.00 and currently ranked #105 out of 14345 teams nationwide. More importantly, we are ranked #2 in Boston and dominating the 2012 Boston Agency network to boot! If you think the perks and excitement of Movember sound like something your workplace could benefit from, have no fear. Not only will it happen again in 11 months, but there are also many other upcoming cause marketing opportunities that are worth checking out. Here are a few local and national options that could make your work days just as joyful as mustache growth have made mine. Cycle For Survival Habitat For Humanity JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge The Boston Marathon Last but not least, head over to www.Movember.com to learn more about men's health, how many teams the Evil AMPire is crushing (#StacheWars), and how you can still get in on the action!

If You Can't Beat Them, Copy Apple.

As I strolled through the Prudential Center in Boston, glancing down at my low-battery iPhone, I was surprised and excited to catch a glimpse of what could only be an Apple store. The sleek glassy store-front and roaming t-shirt clad employees that have come to symbolize the face of cutting edge technology greeted me. Much to my dismay I lifted my head to find not a glowing fruit, but a colorful Microsoft flag instead. In the following order, I realized: I can't charge my phone. Wow, they really jacked Apple's design. It looks pretty cool. Should I go in there? Image Source: Corporate Eye Hands down, Microsoft has completely and unapologetically cloned Apple's retail position, store design, and cult environment. It's interesting how, complete with a genius bar answer deck, they really aren't trying to fool anyone. Honestly speaking, I am tempted to write Microsoft off for their creative theft and inability to be cunning in their own right. How can cloning the competitor ever reap brand growth and success? Ironically, it just may be Microsoft's smartest move yet. Giving consumers a place to hang and actually partake in a brand experience is a big piece of the brand loyalty pie. Success is never certain, but the validation behind Microsoft's carbon copying approach is. As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke'?¦ Here are a few insights as to why you shouldn't fix it: 1. No explanation needed. Consumers who pass by the new Microsoft stores know exactly what to expect (they have seen it before), and time is not wasted on pitching a new concept to visitors. Instead, effort can immediately be spent on enhancing consumer experience, new gadget exposure, and helping them find those perfect accessories. All of which lead to the ultimate bottom line'making the sale and building a relationship with the customer. 2. Proven success. The Apple retail blueprint has paved the way for Microsoft to find similar success by incorporating the same key elements that consumers are used to and have made the Apple retail business a huge success. When Apple first introduced retail stores, they presented a model that capitalized on consumer insights to keep their customers happy and involved. Displaying their products in a user friendly environment captured people's attention (who hasn't seen a video filmed from an Apple store?). In addition, Apple added a genius bar to serve as a support system for buyers, which quickly became an essential and appreciated element for anyone stuck with a frozen screen or interested in learning more. These two elements may seem like common sense now, but it was an innovative approach that has proven successful. Microsoft made sure to present the same store environment because they know it will keep store visitors playing with their latest devices for hours and coming back for more. 3. Cultivation of a space where brand followers and the tech savvy can come together creates that fuzzy feeling. And we know this because we originally felt that same feeling at the Apple store across the street. Who is to say we won't feel it again? On the behalf of Microsoft, I would like to thank Apple for doing the dirty work. If you were to have mentioned the Windows brand to me a year ago, the Apple loyalist in me would have said Microsoft who? Ask me today, and though still devoted to my iStuff, I would say I'm interested. If that's not moving the needle, I don't know what is.  

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