>Highway Beautification Act

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Ah, the old argument of too many billboards around the city is back in the news again but this time with a new digital twist. Since Clear Channel debuted its digital boards in Cleveland (little known fact… Ohio is often seen as consumer test market) in 2005, the anti-billboard people went nuts.

Did you know for every new digital billboard that pops up, Clear Channel must remove traditional billboards that equal two or more times the space of a digital billboard? Read the latest argument happening in the City of Cleveland in this article. City Council’s President is getting an earful from everyone on this billboard issue. Hey, these billboards still fit within the Highway Beautification Act, right?!?

Lots of controversy this week in our city! Not to mention this is just a few days after the FBI raided the county offices, brush up on those details here.

So would you like to see those billboards gone? Leave your comments here.

~Michelle

>Finally a Sign.

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Logos. What are they and why are they so important? The dictionary describes it this way. “Logo – also called logotype. a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition”.

For those of us in marketing we know and understand the importance of the visual message a logo or typeface can evoke. Yet so many people put little thought into their design and use. Signs in ancient times were symbols of services and goods as many were not able to read or write. Today your image is everything and can cause a decision or mindset before the sales process even starts.

It is with this in mind we always encourage our clients to think about the feel, emotion and message points that their logo and brand will transmit to their publics.

Yesterday we were thrilled when our sign was added to our new location. Now people can find us easier and it is a reminder of our branding that will encourage the connection to our company.


So here is a question – What does our logo stand for? Send in your comments and I will share in my next posting.

Bruce

>Drink from a drop

>I have to thank my brother for this blog idea, as he can always be counted on for finding me out of the ordinary blog items.


This new carafe is designed to resemble a water drop, “frozen in time.” The tip of the drop is removed to become the drinking cup.



Is this a useful, unique item – or is the wacky item market getting carried away?

-Katy

>Loyalty was bought

> If you haven’t already read my previous blog on fan loyalty for sale, please click here to catch up.

Today marks the second full day of Alex Chatfield being a full-blown fan of a team other than the Cleveland Indians. He has written a blog about his experience in placing his loyalty up for sale on his MySpace page.

I have to admit, I was skeptical of just why he did this. But, after reading his blog I do have a better understanding of why he would do this – not saying that I would ever do it, but I empathize.

Alex provides a moving story of going to Cleveland Municipal Stadium back when there were only a few thousand fans in the seats and knowing “the trick” of talking to the players during the 5th inning.

Although the team is not revealed, I have requested him as a friend on MySpace (per his eBay auction notes) to get the low down for you, our loyal readers.

By the way, the part of this that is especially interesting is that Alex doesn’t even live in Ohio! He lives in Davenport, Florida and is originally from Middlefield, Ohio.

Does this make you want to market yourself (or your company) in some crazy, off beat way? Share your thoughts.

-Katy

>Selling yourself

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True, selling yourself on eBay probably isn’t the best idea. But for Alex Chatfield, there was no other way to enjoy the remainder of the baseball season. You see, Chatfield is a Cleveland Indians fan, as am I, and we are somewhat used to not winning lately. Mostly that is thanks to the 10-game losing streak we were on for the first time since 1973. (As a matter of fact, until yesterday’s 13-2 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays we had not won a game since June 27th!)

Chatfield has had enough and decided to list his fan loyalty for sale on eBay. The starting bid is $299.00 for which you will receive the following (as quoted from his ad):

1. I will watch at least one game a week of your favorite team and root as hard as I can for them to win.

2. I will send you at least 3 emails a week telling you how awesome your team is and or discussing what your team needs to do to get better (in my opinion).

3. I will wear (at your expense) any appropriate apparel (meaning Male officially sanctioned MLB merchandise) for your team. You will recieve one digital photo of me wearing this garb for each item you purchase and send to me.

4. I will root for your team for the remaining 2008 season and for the 2008 Post Season, after that, I am no longer requried to root for your team.

5. I will email a friend of yours and tell them why their team sucks, and why your team is awesome. (limit 3 emails – no profanity)

Careful though. If you are a Boston Red Sox fan, that will cost you an extra $3,500. Do you prefer to root for Jim Thome’s team? An extra $1,500. Yankees? Prepare to spend an additional $10,000. What about Roger Clemens? That’ll be $5,000 additional. And Barry Bonds? A whopping $35,000!

This begs the question if Chatfield is a fairweather fan or if simply needs some extra money. In either case, Chatfield is marketing himself to users all over the world – and in a very creative idea. This story has made the local news and the hits on his eBay ad are increasing by the minute.

When in marketing, especially in marketing yourself, ensure you are saying what you want to say and not leaving your loyalty out to dry.

-Katy

>Billboard Advertising Lessons

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It is what it is. A phrase that just makes sense. Recently, I saw it used in a static billboard (non-digital/vinyl/paper). I usually don’t like to point out faults of other campaigns or least not publicly. Everyone has to be a critic, right?

Well, I was driving on 480-east and saw this billboard with large words: “Certified Pre-Owned.” The words were crossed out with “Used” written below. So I’m thinking another car dealership billboard. No big deal. But what struck me was the difficulty in reading the corner graphics. I failed to make out the words. And no, I wasn’t driving too fast as it was morning rush hour (meaning 45 mph if I’m lucky).

I forgot about the car dealership ad until the next day when I was driving on E. 14 about to get on 77 South and there it was again! It was up-close and personal so when I saw in tiny letters, “It is what it is. NoGrapesNoNuts.com” I was shocked!! A GRAPE-NUTS billboard? I understand its a cereal with no grapes, no nuts, it is what it is. But “certified pre-owned/used?” Are they selling used cereal? Huh?

So naturally I jump on the website later that day to find this young actor introducing the history of Grape-Nuts. Its way too long to watch but for the purpose of this entry, I suffered through it. Great, it got me on a website that eventually pointed back to the cereal’s original website. Good job, sort of.

Without pointing out all the wrong and strange elements of this campaign, let’s focus on how you can avoid this train wreck (or is it appropriate to say car wreck? Haha, sorry, that was lame!)…

  1. Make sure your billboard is readable from long distances
  2. Use one theme with one focus
  3. Include big words and one call-to-action
  4. Simple graphics and fonts are better
  5. Keep the flashy toned down when using digital billboards

Let me know your thoughts on NoGrapesNoNuts.com; is it really as bad as I think? Maybe I’m not the demographic, perhaps the younger generations are the target market. Did you see the billboards around town? Send us your comments!

~ Michelle

>Keeping track of the hits

>When I first started to research blogging I was a little confused on how I would keep track of the HUGE amount of traffic coming to our blog.

I first started using FeedBurner, but was greatly disappointed because of the lack of efficiency in the program. Sure, it was easy to use but after weeks of showing not having any visitors I became a little skeptical. I continued searching for more tracking sites without any luck.

I contacted Kristi Gustafson, or as I call her the “real Carrie Bradshaw,” who runs an extremely popular blog for the Times Union in Albany, New York. She guided me to a site called StatCounter.

StatCounter.com tracks not only the number of visitors to your site, but provides you with the length of the visitor’s stay, the pages they visited and even their location. I decided to give it a try, what could it hurt?

Sorry FeedBurner, we are actually having visitors reading our blog daily. StatCounter is reliable, easy to use and my new best friend. Who would have thought you could see a map of the world with markers representing your visitors? StatCounter makes that happen. You can also see which blog topics your readers most often read and their reading pattern throughout your blog.

Go ahead bloggers, give StatCounter a try.

-Katy

>Basic telephone etiquette

>Question: Have you ever been on a phone call and wondered how to politely suggest telephone manner tips to the person on the other end?

I have. Out of a recent conversation about a phone interview gone wrong, it is obvious everyone knowing the basics of telephone etiquette is a misconception. Most of these tips I am sure you have heard before, but here are a few in case you have forgotten.

– When on the phone, smile. Callers on the other end will hear it in your voice and will most likely be more pleasant in response.

– Identify yourself. When initiating a phone call of which the recipient is not familiar with you, make sure you clearly identify yourself, what company you work for and why you are calling.

– Actively listen. Pretend you are face to face with the person on the other end. Become engaged in the conversation and ask questions if you are unsure of the answer.

– Practice makes (almost) perfect. It sometimes is easier to role play the phone call before you actually make it. Practicing may help avoid some stumbling blocks you weren’t initially aware of.

Open communication lines. If you have a voicemail, check it often enough that it remains empty. This will avoid callers receiving a “mailbox is full” message when trying to get in touch with you.

– The wind tunnel curse. We’ve all either been there or been on the other end. If it is windy outside and you are trying to talk on your cell phone, It is highly unlikely the person on the other end of the phone will be able to understand anything you say. Please wait until you are indoors to make a phone call.

– Common courtesy. It is true – “Please” and “thank you” go a long way.

– Umm… you know? Take note of sentence fillers you may say without realizing and make an effort to avoid them.

– Snacking prohibited. Make an effort to avoid eating or drinking while on the phone. The person on the other end will thank you.

– Always return your phone calls. “It is the right thing to do,” as my Mom (and yours) would say.

Try to keep these in mind the next time you are on the phone… after all, anytime you are on the phone you are marketing yourself. Go ahead, give yourself something to brag about.

-Katy

>Helping create the next generation of business professionals

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I recently volunteered as a “marketing consultant” for the 2008 Ohio Business Week (OBW) program at Youngstown State University. This is by 5th year participating in the program that will shape the next generation of business professionals. So what is OBW?

Ohio Business Week (OBW) is a weeklong summer program that brings a diverse group of high school students and established members of the business community together to translate textbook business principles into “real world” business practices. Since 1988 OBW has given more than 5,000 high school students the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship and explore all facets of business in a way unmatched in the high school setting. By attending OBW, students emerge from OBW with the skills necessary to succeed from the classroom to the boardroom.

Ohio Business Week Foundation Founder Ron Nischwitz was former Major League Baseball pitcher for the Detroit Tigers (’61, ’62, ’65) and the Cleveland Indians (’63) turned entrepreneur, Nischwitz understands the importance of having a fair balance of academics and athletics.

“Today’s youth tend to get caught up in the world of sports and the hype of going pro,” said Nischwitz. “Students need to understand that there is less than a one percent chance for an athlete to make it to the pros. A student is guaranteed success after highs school if they pursue higher education through hands-on learning experiences like Ohio Business Week.”

By attending programs like Ohio Business Week, students can show prospective colleges that they are serious about their education and their future. OBW is not just for business-minded students. The skills taught throughout the week can be used in any profession students choose to pursue after they graduate from college.

During OBW, students are assigned to a “company” with 10-12 other participants. Under the guidance of a loaned business executive, each company brainstorms ideas for an imaginary start-up business venture and embarks on the Emerging Entrepreneur Project (EEP). Each company elects officers; researchers and writes a business, financial and marketing plan; constructs a trade show display; creates a web page/magazine ad and radio/TV commercials.

Participants engage in interactive activities designed to teach fundamental business concepts and assist companies in completing their EEP. At the conclusion of the program educational scholarships are awarded to students who display exceptional leadership, entrepreneurship and community service.


Bruce Felber listens to company pitch

In addition to the EEP, participants attend presentations given by several business professionals. I started my involvement 5 years ago as a presenter on marketing disciplines and example of campaigns. I demonstrated through brainstorming techniques they can create a marketing and promotion plan for their products. Over the last 4 years I donated my time as a “marketing consultant” where the companies present their product or service and engage me on how to market. Many times they just need a push or challenge and other times they need to focus their tactics and campaigns.

Many loaned executives share their business expertise and build awareness about career trends and employment opportunities. Also, participants attend seminars that emphasize financial literacy, business ethics and communications. Finally, participants tour distribution and manufacturing centers to learn how raw materials are manufactured and how manufactured goods reach the marketplace.

I would encourage any parent, teacher, high school student or business executive to look into this wonderful program. Visit http://www.ohiobusinessweek.org/ for more information. I challenge my colleagues to get involved with OBW or similar programs.

Bruce

>There’s a new chief in town

>A chief blogger, that is. Larger corporations such as Dell, Coca-Cola and Marriott are now actively recruiting people to tell their company’s story via blogging and try and further engage and interact with their consumers. To date, only a little over 11% of Fortune 500 companies have corporate blogs, according to SocialText.

With the rising popularity of the blogs, this figure surprised me some considering how mainstream blogging is becoming. I feel blogging is a way to express personal opinions on topics and be heard even though you are the “little guy” in the industry – this notion is perhaps why more smaller companies are actively blogging.

Can these small companies go out and recruit the chief blogger, just as larger companies have? Sure. Will they? Probably not. Just as in our company’s case we are certainly not going to go out and hire a chief blogger, but will I call myself a chief blogger if the situation calls for it? Absolutely.