How Global Economic Meltdown Affects Small-scale Businesses

downloadSmall businesses constitute a big part of any economy. In the United States, almost half of the workforce is made of small businesses’ employees. With the financial crisis that hit the entire world in 2007, small businesses, in the U.S as well as in other places around the globe, have been the most affected by the crisis. These small businesses are affected on different levels, and it has been hard for many of them to recover from the recession. The effect of this recent recession and the slow economic recovery has led small-scale businesses to either lay off many employees or to freeze the hiring process as the profits of businesses have significantly declined. As a result, the unemployment rate is growing and economic growth is almost inexistent.

According to the 2012 Economic Report of the President, small businesses have a greater dependency on bank financing than larger businesses. The number of loans that banks make to small businesses has decreased by 31% causing small businesses to struggle through this economic hardship. Even if the economy is recovering, it is still yet not enough for small businesses to fully recover. Bank of America said that they made almost $11 billion in new loans to U.S. small businesses in 2013. The bank also plans to hire 200 small business bankers this year, many on the West Coast. Although banks are starting again to give out more loans to small businesses, unemployment rate is still as high. We ended the year 2013 with an unemployment rate of 6.7%, according to the US Department of Labor.

Even if Bank of America made a significant loan to small businesses last year, it doesn’t mean that all the other large institutions are doing the same thing. The problem with small businesses getting loans is that they are mostly sole proprietorships, which means companies with a single owner who controls all business decisions. Sole proprietors often use personal savings, gifts from friends and family, and small business loans to finance their companies. It makes it more difficult for large lenders to allocate them with the money they need to run their businesses successfully.

Because the economy depends on small-scales businesses, and nearly half of the population in the U.S is employed by small-scale businesses, it is important that these businesses have all the resources they need to turn over their losses into significant profits to enable them to be successful. With small businesses taking off again, it will result into the creation of many jobs and the expansion of these businesses, and therefore, an economic growth for the country and the reduction of the unemployment rate, which in my opinion, is still through the roof.

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Manage Your Brand Strategically. It’ll Take Your Business to The Next Level

downloadWhether you are a small or big business, or a person trying to market yourself, managing your brand is one of the most important things you have to do. Strategic branding gives you a competitive advantage in whatever market you are in, or trying to enter. Because your brand is what pushes customers to choose your products/services over another company, it is very important that you carefully choose what you want your brand to be associated with.

For starters, you need to make your brand associations simple enough to be memorable in minds of your customers. Therefore, simplicity is the key. You want people to remember you, and be able to describe what you are about in less than five words. If possible, they should be able to say one word about you or your business that summarizes what you do. For example when you think or hear Volvo, the words that come to your minds are “reliability”, “safety” and “family”. Therefore, someone who is looking for a reliable car wouldn’t go far because Volvo is the answer. It should be the same for your business. However, you have to make sure that your brand associations speak to what your customers value the most. Usually, marketers choose messages that sound good, but sometimes those messages do not align with customers’ needs.  With all the resources we have online today, it is easy to find out what your customers want and need to better serve them. You could run a survey on Survey Monkey to learn about ways to serve them. Once you know what people are expecting from you, it is easy to build your brand around those expectations to make sure it speaks to customers personally.

Besides simplicity, memorability helps your brand a lot. As a business owner, you want people to remember who you are and what you do. For this reason, you need to be very careful when you describe yourself. Your brand associations should be something really clear and easy to remember, otherwise your customers will be confused. You don’t want that. In order to do so, you must often engage with your customers to remind them of you. Remember that effective branding is all about conversation and building relationships. Because of this, it is important to find tools that allow you to do both. In my opinion, social media is the perfect tool to engage into a conversation about your brand with your customers not only to give them a chance to express their feedback (both positive and negative), but also to give yourself a chance to remind them who you are and what you do. It’s not enough to have a Facebook page/account, a twitter or an Instagram presence, you need to start the conversation and continue to participate and give feedback when needed.

Your brand is your reputation, and the quality of your reputation determines if you are trustworthy or not. If you manage your brand strategically, you will keep your current customers loyal to your brand, and will attract new ones. Research shows that when two products are of equal qualities, customers choose the product which has strong brand associations.

 

 

Is Instagram The Next Big Thing? Cool Kids Say Yes

Now that everyone is on Facebook, including parents and grandparents, most kids are looking for something else that could still considered “cool” because their family members aren’t using it.  That other thing is Instagram.

Instagram is the next big trend in the social media world. Following the steps of Facebook, Instagram has become the app that all the cool kids use now. Some people would say that Facebook is still the hottest social media tool used today, but looking ahead, Instagram may have a powerful place in your marketing.

If a business wants to reach that particular cool kid demographic, there is a strong business case for Instagram. According to EverythingPR54% of Top Brands Include Instagram in their Social Strategy (for 2012) and this number will continue to increase significantly as Instagram is gains popularity from big brands and rapidly customer growth.

Nike has leveraged its presence on the social media tool by scoring more than a million followers on its Instagram page. On its page, Nike posts pictures of products and the followers do the rest–they like the picture or they comment on it. That’s free marketing and massive, instant visibility.

Not only does Instagram allow you to reach a specific niche of cool kids, but the fact that pictures and videos there can be directly shared through other social media channels like Facebook or Twitter makes it even more appealing. The social media tool becomes a one-stop shop with tremendous marketing and brand-building potential.

This social media platform works well for small businesses as well as fortune 500 companies. Success depends on how well the organization is using it. For companies selling products, Instagram is the place to showcase pictures, videos and create a buzz around them. If you use Instagram in a smart, strategic way and integrate it with your other social media accounts, you have more chances to maximize your online and mobile presence and reach more customers every day.

Companies, You Must Leverage Your Instagram Presence

Instagram is the next big thing in the social media world. Following the steps of  Facebook, Instagram has become the app that all the cool kids are using. Some people would say that Facebook is the hottest social media used today, I wouldn’t argue completely against that assertion; however, I would say that Instagram is the next big thing and it is right here (to quote Samsung). Now that everybody is on Facebook, even the parents and grandparents, most kids are using something else that is still considered COOL because their parents aren’t using it.  And that other thing is Instagram.

imagesWell, if a company wants to reach that particular demographic, look no more, Instagram is the real deal now. According to EverythingPR54% of Top Brands Include Instagram in their Social Strategy in 2012 and this numbers will continue to increase significantly as Instagram is becoming more and more popular among brands and the number or users has grown very fast since last year.

Nike for example has leveraged its presence on the social media using by scoring more than a million followers on its Instagram page. This number is very powerful as these people choose to follow Nike and it means that they either are Nike customers/consumers or they like the company to the point of following it on Instagram. On its page, Nike posts pictures of products and the followers do the rest — they like the picture or they comment on it. That’s visibility.

Not only does Instagram allow you to reach that specific niche of “cool kids” , but the fact that those pictures can be directly shared through other social media channels like Facebook or Twitter makes it even more appealing because by doing so, you will also reach those people who aren’t on Instagram, but who are using other social media sites.

This cool social media platform works well for small businesses as well as fortune 500 companies. It’s all depends on how well the company is using it. For those companies selling lines of products or introducing new lines of products, Instagram is the place to showcase the pictures of the products and create a buzz around them. In conclusion, if you use your Instagram smartly and link it to your other social media accounts, you have more chances to make the best out of your social media presence and reach more customers everyday and keep in touch with news trends in the business and what consumers want to see you doing.

How Associational Juxtaposition Works in Print Advertising

For an advertisement to be effective, it needs to be credible to the audience. Credibility or ethos is usually found in the product, or the company that sells the product. Another way to establish a product’s ethos is to do celebrity endorsement. When people see that a celebrity that they like and trust is using a product, it makes them believe in both the product and the company. In advertisement, when the ethos of a company or product and the ethos of a celebrity are combined, it is called associational juxtaposition. This just means juxtaposing an image of a product with something more desirable.

Associational juxtaposition is a technique of print advertising in which a product image is juxtaposed with an image of a person, object, or situation toward which the intended audience can be assumed to have positive feelings.

imagesIn the case of Diet Coke, Marc Jacobs’s image is juxtaposed to it because of his reputation as a good designer and a sexy man. The hotness of Jacobs makes Diet Coke looks sexy and infers that people who drink Diet Coke are sexy, or by drinking Diet Coke people become sexy. Diet Coke, a product mostly advertised to women needed a push so that the target audience will have even more faith in the product than before. By combining the strong ethos of Diet Coke as a product and Marc Jacobs’s ethos, it gives Diet Coke a positive image by making it look more sexy and accessible to people.

Therefore, associational juxtaposition is a form that functions and a function that forms. It functions to lead the audience to associate unrelated ideas as closely connected, and consequently, to transfer emotions and attitudes attendant on one to the other. Therefore, the way people feel about Diet Coke is transferred on Marc Jacobs and vice versa. Those who think that Marc Jacobs is sexy will now see Diet Coke as a sexy drink that leads to more sexiness. And those who see Diet Coke as a credible product will trust Marc Jacobs as a designer because they will feel like Coca Cola wouldn’t have hired him to endorse its product if he didn’t have a strong ethos.

Having formed the discourse, associational juxtaposition goes on to form the perceptions and interpretations the audience has of the world. These perceptions and interpretations can impact significantly ways the audience acts, reacts, and interacts with their world. This ad trains on each other’s ethos to enhance the perceptions that people had about both Diet Coke and Marc Jacobs. This new perception of Diet Coke will change the way people see it and will also change how they identify the designer and his products.  Associational juxtaposition, then, can function to form individual and collective perceptions of reality. It can build on existing ethos to make an ad more effective or transferring a strong ethos to a product that would not have otherwise to be credible.

Does CSR come from a good place or just another way to gain publicity?

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) also known as corporate citizenship or sustainable responsible business has changed the way companies are seen and judged today. CSR is policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. Large corporations around the world have engaged in responsible behavior by making sure that all their activities are meet ethical standards, and are not harming society. This range from a variety of activities. For example Walmart has shown its citizenship responsibility by making sure that  it’s reducing both the environmental impact and the cost of waste by working with (i.e. mandating) its vendors to reduce packaging.  Sustainability at Walmart is defines who they are as a business and their values as well as meet the expectations of society of how they should operate.

Since the 70’s when CSR started to become popular, we have seen a great change happening in the business world. Things like Walmart or McDonald’s making sure their activities are not harming the environment and engaging themselves to become more sustainable businesses, Microsoft committing itself to helping nonprofits doing work within communities etc. are a great example of the change that CSR has brought.

However, every time I think about CSR, I always ask myself the question if those companies that are committing themselves to the greater good of the communities are just doing it for the sake of social change or just as a new new of gaining publicity? It is hard to tell if all those actions come from a genuine place. But I came across an article form Forbes and I realized that one way to look at the intentions of companies when they claim to be socially responsible is to look at the idea of social change.

I believe that social change is greater than just being socially responsible by making sure that a business’s activities meet ethics expectations of the people. Being ethically correct is not something a company should brag about because that’s the normal thing to do. So when a company want to brag about its CSR report, it should look at the change it’s making within the communities.  The way to do this is to start by engaging employees in the so-called CSR activities. Employees have to understand why their company is doing so and so and what the impact that those actions will have in the society. once employees understand the reasoning behind all of this, they will commit themselves not to the company, but to make sure that every thing they do at their job is bringing a positive change for them and their communities in every possible way.

If the companies that claim their citizenship responsibility don’t consider social change as the core of their CSR activities, then everything they claim to do for our communities or for the environment is just a new way to gain publicity. If they are in it just for publicity or for looking good, then they should go back to the traditional ways of gaining publicity. And if they are in it for the greater good of society, then CSR is the best thing that ever happened to businesses

Growth of Digital Advertising is changing and shaping the Advertising and Marketing Industry

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Digital advertising, also known as online advertisement, internet marketing, online marketing or e-marketing, is the marketing and promotion of products or services over the Internet. Online advertising began in 1994 when Hotwired sold the first banner ads to several advertisers. With more than 80% of the population in the US using the Internet, no wonder why companies are more and more switching to digital advertising.

People get most of the information they need online. Therefore, if companies want to reach their customers or potential customers about an existing product or service, or about a new product or service, they will have to put that information where their target is more likely to find it. For example, I own a TV, and I haven’t turned my TV on since last December. That’s more than 4 months without using the TV. Don’t get me started on radio and newspapers. Does that mean that I don’t read or watch the news? Does that mean that I don’t watch my favorites TV shows and programs? Of course, not. I do all these things online.

For example, if Clinique wants to reach me and try to convince me to try their new line of skin care products, they will have to find me where I am.

This is the main reason why nowadays companies are doing more and more online advertising. It is the easiest and the most effective way to reach current and potential customers. Online advertising is taking over the marketing and advertising industry, and is giving a hard time to radio and print to get their hands on advertising revenues. In fact, digital marketing produced $36, 6 billion in revenues in 2012, according to the LA times.

The only way radio and print can increase their revenue through advertising is by using their online presence. It is only this way that they will attract companies that are more interested in reaching as many people as possible.

TV is the only medium that is currently resisting to internet marketing. In fact, TV advertising is still dominant and still growing. Most of the revenues that TV gets from advertising come from the Super Bowl. Regardless of how fast online marketing is growing, research shows that

Digital advertising can’t stop the rise of US TV ad spending, though the pace of growth of TV ad dollars is much slower. Still, eMarketer predicts US advertisers will spend $66.35 billion on TV this year, up from $64.54 billion in 2012 and set to rise to over $75 billion by 2017.

Although TV is still the may medium for advertising, the Internet is shaping the future of the Advertising and Marking industry. It will continue to grow and generate more revenues, not only in the US, but also in other parts of the world because of the fast growth of  internet usage.