Williamsburg and the art of taking ‘the man’ out of brands

I have lived in New York City twice in my life and have had the great pleasure of living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn both of those times. In the two short stints that I have lived there, I have seen a numerous examples of the area’s rapid evolution (or as some like to call it, gentrification). Locals have let me know that the Williamsburg of today resembles nothing of the Williamsburg of ten to fifteen years ago and the area is now fully gentrified; the area has lost its ‘grit’ its ‘realness’.

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge

As an outside observer, there’s not a lot from me to say on this issue. What I do find interesting though, is the way that huge corporate brands have made their way into Williamsburg. It is obvious that these brands had to tread lightly. Sticking up a huge Whole Foods in the middle of Bedford Avenue probably wouldn’t have gone down well, or at least not happened without some community protests about the commercialization and standardization of the area.

 Here are three marketing examples of big brands trying to win over the Williamsburg locals by attempting to ‘take the man’ out of their brands:

  • Attempting to instill a ‘local’ vibe into a big-brand store. Four years ago, there was a grassroots campaign to boycott Duane Reade opening a major store on Bedford Avenue. This store was opening up directly across from independently owned and Williamsburg-staple, King’s Pharmacy. King’s Pharmacy launched their own campaign against Duane Reade, asking customers for their continued loyalty and to ‘fight the corporate bully’. So how did Duane Reade attempt to win the hearts of the locals? Besides offering what the small guy couldn’t (24 hour opening times, cheaper items, a loyalty program and bigger selection), they attempted to put a ‘local’ feel into the store. When you walk into the store you see a huge sign proclaiming ‘Why we Love Brooklyn’ with a list of well-known and loved Brooklyn sights and institutions. Newly opened Starbucks on N 7th also tried to sway locals by offering a ‘local experience’ through regular coffee seminars, displaying work from local artists and having local bands play at the coffee-house. Similarly, when J Crew opened they had a grand opening with local food carts and also featured pieces from local artists.

A growler in Duane Reade’s Williamsburg store

  • Putting the art back into advertising. You won’t find many story-high billboards around Williamsburg, shoving a brand name and model into your face. Many brands have opted to win over the local’s artistic sides by hiring artists to paint their ads onto walls around the area. They are usually quite creative and are never just a boring portrait of a product with the product name underneath. Dunkin’ Donuts on Bedford Ave even has its own deep-fried pastry themed mural painted near its entrance.

A Hendrick’s Gin painted ad in Williamsburg

  • Beer, beer and beer (and maybe a little more beer). Aforementioned Duane Reade and Starbucks have both utilized this tactic. Duane Reade decided to try to sway locals by appealing to the alcoholic in all of us. They offer a ‘Beer Bar’, which includes beer tasting, local, and hard-to-find brews available for purchase as well as a refillable growler beer service. Williamsburg’s Starbucks is also attempting this tactic, by serving beer and wine to customers, which is something only a select few Starbucks around the US does. Though this proposition is experiencing some backlash from locals and its implementation is TBD.

With huge corporations like Duane Reade, Starbucks, J Crew and Dunkin Donuts in the area maybe the final nail has been hit in the coffin that is Williamsburg’s gentrification. It will be interesting to see what other marketing tactics the big guys come up with to try to win the hearts of locals. Or maybe the success of the larger chain stores means that the opposition to the area’s commercialization is no longer in effect, or perhaps just weaker. Only time will tell.



15 Grammar Goofs that Make You Look Silly

Love this list. A must read for all marketers!

April Neill Public Relations

Posted by April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

With the rise of content marketing, being able to write effectively is hugely important. Avoid some common grammar errors with this really cool info-graphic. Enjoy!

We’re big advocates of conversational writing that’s engaging, persuasive, and fun. So that means it’s perfectly fine to fracture the occasional stuffy grammatical rule (and many times it’s preferable).

Grammar Goofs Grammar Goofs from copyblogger

On the other hand, making some grammatical errors just makes you look bad, and hurts your effectiveness. Sometimes we even misuse words simply because we hear others use them incorrectly.

So, we’ve assembled the 15 most egregious grammar goofs into one helpful infographic. With this handy reference, you’ll never look silly again.

Via Brian Clark, copyblogger.

April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO at April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. You can…

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Time 2 ch@ng3 y0ur p@55w0rd5


“Heartbleed” security exploit of OpenSSL causing heartache for millions of internet users. Major websites affected include Yahoo & GitHub, among others.  According to the UK Daily Mail:

Heartbleed, so called because it creates a ‘bleeding’ leak of security, is a flaw in OpenSSL, the software used by the majority of websites to keep data secure.

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On the importance of measurement

“We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot.” – John Hayes


The importance of measuring the effect of advertising has always been an issue of contention for marketers.

Measuring effectiveness is of upmost importance and yet an extreme challenge for marketers. Measuring is important as:

  • It helps to avoid costly mistakes
  • It helps to evaluate implemented strategies
  • It increases the efficiency of advertising; and
  • Determines whether or not the set objectives were achieved.

However, many marketers decide not to measure due to varying reasons like the costs and time associated with measuring effectiveness, problems with research methods and problems with and lack of consensus on what to test.

If management decides that measuring effectiveness is worthwhile to the business there are other factors they need to decide. These include what to test (which is usually guided by set objectives), when to test (pretesting or post testing), where to test (such as in a laboratory, field test or online), and how to test.

Though there are arguments for and against the measurement of an IMC program (including the potential high-cost of research), many marketers recognise the importance of evaluating a communications campaign and its effects on consumers.

As the use of digital and social media increases, so too does the marketers’ accountability for reporting on its value both before and after a campaign. The unique challenges that come with measuring the effects of social media include flaws in current measuring techniques, the difficulty in converting social media engagement to a dollar value, and top-line metrics only indicating a superficial level of success rather than indicating a change or influence on consumer behaviour.

Digital marketing is rapidly becoming an essential element of most IMC campaigns and marketers need to be able to analyse and report on its potential to engage and influence consumers to convince organisations to invest.

Next post I’ll give an overview of some of the best ways to help analyse your next digital marketing campaign.



Why it’s SMART to set objectives


At university, it’s constantly drilled into you to set objectives before starting any assignment. Decide what you want to achieve before you delve into solvin

g any communications problem. Once you head into the real world, however, this idea seems to go out the window. Whether it is because professionals are too pressed for time or whether organisations don’t hold objective-setting in high regard, this seems to be an important yet missing part of the modern marcomms plan. 

I’m dedicating this post to objective-setting remind professionals why it is so important and how it can improve your overall performance.

Why goal setting is important:

  • Setting objectives allows marketers to agree to set goals, enables them to plan and make decisions and measure and evaluate the results of the program.
  • Setting SMART (see below)objectives can lead to a solid and effective marketing plan; helping marketers to plan and coordinate, reach goals and also set a realistic benchmark for future campaigns.
  • By reaching set objectives, marketers can present clear results to clients and be more likely to justify financial investment in current and future campaigns.
  • By not setting specific objectives, marketers will struggle to coordinate and guide the development of a campaign as well as set a benchmark for measuring and evaluating campaign performance.

How to set the right objectives:

Objectives should be SMART in order to provide a solid foundation for effective advertising and promotional decisions. That is:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Attainable,
  • Realistic and
  • Time-dependent 

Marketers often fall into the trap of setting objectives that are vague, immeasurable and do not follow the characteristics of SMART. This sets a weak foundation for future advertising and promotional decisions.

Setting specific objectives is imperative to a successful marketing campaign. Not only does it give a marketer a clear direction for the campaign, it also provides a benchmark of which the success of a campaign can be measured.  So remember to be SMART and to prioritise setting clear objectives at the start of your campaign.


Four things brands can learn from Jennifer Lawrence

jennifer-lawrence-oscarsJennifer Lawrence is America’s silver-screen sweetheart. She can’t put a foot wrong (except perhaps on her way to accept an Oscar, but that’s another story). She’s young, down to earth and talented with an Oscar to prove it.

Jennifer has won hearts across the world. But what is her ‘x’ factor and how can brands learn from her to help achieve brand loyalty? Be sure to channel J-Law next time you come up against a brand dilemma:

1. She’s consistent

Whether it’s during an acceptance speech, a TV or magazine interview or movie premier – Jennifer keeps her messages consistent. She conveys her down-to-earth, positive and likable attitude in all mediums. Whether you are promoting your brand via advertising, public relations, personal selling or marketing – you need to keep it consistent. Is your brand’s personality warm and friendly with a little bit of cheek? Don’t let that go out the window by writing a dry, corporate press release. Keep your brand personality consistent to keep it memorable.

2. She breaks free of the ‘norm’

Jennifer Lawrence isn’t like most actresses, which is a key factor to her appeal. She tells interviewers she doesn’t diet, loves to eat pizza and wants to be a positive role model to young girls – not things you usually hear from your average movie actress. Like Jennifer, a brand should never conform. Just because your competitors are successful, does not mean you should try to replicate their every move. Stay unique and be true to yourself and your target market will reward you for it.

3. She doesn’t take herself too seriously

Yes Jennifer fell down at the Oscars. Yes she sometimes doesn’t say the right thing in interviews. But the important thing is, she doesn’t take herself to seriously when she stuffs up. She acknowledges it, laughs it off and moves on. Rather than hindering her ‘brand’’, these incidents seem to just increase her likability. If you ever make a mistake with your brand or its messages, learn from Jennifer. Admit your mistakes, use humour when appropriate and move on. Your stakeholders will appreciate your honesty.

4. She doesn’t surround herself with ‘yes’ men

Jennifer is very vocal about the fact that her friends and family keep her in check; making sure she keeps herself grounded and doesn’t get ‘too big a head’. As a brand, it’s important you make regular health checks with yourself and your target market. Are you conveying the right messages? Does your target market connect with your brand? Or are they turned off by what you say? It is important to constantly check in with your target market via market research to keep your brand in check.