Blog Like the Big Brands: Best of 2012!

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Everybody needs a little inspiration when it comes to creative and fresh blog writing and blog marketing. That’s why, earlier this year, we introduced “Blog Like The Big Brands.” Each week, we dissect the inventive, imaginative and whip-smart company blogs produced by some of the world’s most powerful brands. And every week, we find truly inspirational blogging ideas and techniques just itching to be implemented into our own blogs. Here now is our list of our favorite blogs of the year; hopefully they’ll inspire you, too!

1.) West Elm: Back in October, we gushed over the blogging brilliance of furniture and home accessory company West Elm. Simply put, West Elm has created a gold standard in home decor blogging with its Front and Main blog. Stylish but approachable. Aspirational but artistic. West Elm has accomplished the rare feat of giving design blogging a heart and soul.

2.) Sesame Street: T is for Tumblr. Who woulda thunk that Sesame Street would nail Tumblr better than most hipster clothing labels? Yup. Big Bird and the gang take blogging for business on Tumblr to a new, fun level. The blog manages to be rich with brand identity while speaking directly to Tumblr’s super-cool audience. If your company is considering using the platform, check out how the residents of Sesame Street do it first.

3.) HTC: Nearly every week, we try to point out what regular ol’ bloggers can perhaps take away from the blogs of mega corporations. With HTC, the takeaways were many — but the chief among them was design. Instead of just dryly talking about mobile technology, HTC shows readers how its products work and keeps the design clean and inviting. Uncluttering your blog is maybe the easiest and coolest way to give your blog a face lift.

4.) Jet Blue: The quirky and lovable airline does so many digital marketing things just right and blogging is one of them. BlueTales shows a more behind the scenes look at how the airline runs and reads like a magazine about the industry. But Jet Blue’s strong brand narrative is still present, which makes the read interesting for everybody.

5.) Coca-Cola: Naturally, Coke dominates in the blogging marketing arena but the soda pop company makes our list for managing to juggle several company blogs with precision, personality and innovation. Also, the company learns continually from its blogging mistakes — and that’s something every company should try to do.

Five Biggest Branding Fails of 2012

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Happy almost New Year, Brandsplatters! Instead of our weekly Five Things You Might Have Missed, we’re celebrating the end of the year with our top five branding fails of 2012. Maybe they fell victim to Twitter marketing travesties or botched blog creation. Perhaps it was soggy digital engagement and horrible online PR that brought them down. But whatever it was these five brands provide excellent examples of what not to do in 2013!

1.) Chick-fil-A: Without a doubt, Chick-fil-A wins biggest branding disaster of 2012. Beyond the company’s blatant opposition to gay marriage, Chick-fil-A simply tanks at online marketing and is even worse at digital PR. The company could have used Twitter and Facebook to have an honest conversation with angry consumers but instead the company tried to sweep the entire mess under the rug and kept on posting images of it’s tragically unfunny cows as if nothing had ever happened.

2.) JC Penney: The valuable lesson that companies of every kind can learn from JC Penney is this — if you’re going to rebrand yourself as hip, than you better actually be hip. From Ellen DeGeneres to Target-like advertisements, Penney’s (as our mom called it) was trying to be cool. The only problem? They were still Penney’s. With H&M, IKEA and the aforementioned Target being actually cool and more affordable, the chain seemed irrelevant. Plus limp online videos and social media campaigns didn’t seem to help the company’s cause either.

3.) Facebook: While the company had a lot to cheer about this year (The IPO! A billion users!), the company had just as many problems — getting dumped by GM and Ford, losing younger audiences to Twitter and Tumblr and that IPO. Mainly, the brand slipped from the cutting edge by getting colder and less original with the brand messaging. Let’s hope the next year brings back the Facebook which innovates instead of imitates.

4.) McDonald’s: Oh boy. If you are considering Twitter marketing in the next year, do yourself a favor and look at McDonald’s year in Twitter and then do the exact opposite. #McDStories was the fast-food empire’s bid back in January to get Twitter users to talk about McDonald’s memories. Instead Tweeters used it to bash the brand. Other Twitter campaigns never took off and McDonald’s wound up looking like a big social media joke. Mickey D’s was also under fire over the summer for some questionable blogger bribes during the Olympics.

5.) American Apparel: Speaking of Twitter, American Apparel got spanked on Twitter like a naughty baby after offering a “bored during the storm” discount during Hurricane Sandy. Consumers were less than happy and used social media to tell American Apparel to “shut the hell up” among other things. Granted the company has never really been known for its sensitivity and smarts, but this was low even for American Apparel.

Two Easy Twitter Marketing Resolutions for 2013

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Even the best laid Twitter marketing plans sometimes fail miserably. From forgotten Twitter accounts and failed hashtags to tweet meltdowns and sporadic posts, brands large and small learned in 2012 that Twitter for business isn’t as easy as perhaps we first thought After a few starts and stops and a few more Twitter belly-flops, you might be inclined to dump Twitter altogether. But you’d be making a mistake. Twitter marketing is still one of the fastest and most effective social media marketing channels available, and finding a target audience on Twitter is incredibly easy and effective, too. So before you dump Twitter marketing, here’s a pair of resolutions for the New Year which could very well reinvigorate your Twitter presence.

Stop Waffling: The first resolution to make on Twitter is actually a decision. If you’re going to pass on Twitter, then let it go and stop tweeting every four months.It’s a waste of time and, quite frankly, it looks bad. Also, let’s all stop announcing when we quit Twitter, too, shall we? Nobody cares, and if you’re going to quit just do it. If you are going to go ahead with Twitter marketing, resolve to use 2013 as the year where you take it seriously. Compose a minimum of 10 tweets a week, take some time to brainstorm Twitter-specific campaigns and make the commitment to try it for at least 90 days before you walk away from it. By really making the decision, you’ll quickly notice that a few hours a week devoted to Twitter marketing will make a huge difference.

Tweet Healthier: Maybe you tweet already and all the time but you’re not having much success. It could be a simple matter of changing what you tweet. In the new year, try using Twitter as less of a bullhorn to blast marketing messages and more of a creative channel to talk to your followers. Take part in conversations, retweet posts from colleagues and use popular hashtags to get noticed by new followers. Tweeting healthier also means cutting out the “junk food tweets.” Fatty sales pitches, cheesy humor and bloated political arguments have no place in your professional Twitter diet. Cut them out and what you contribute to Twitter can be a more creative and interesting.

Brilliant Blog Posts: Re-gifted!

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Clever content marketing doesn’t get to take a holiday vacation, so if you’re reading this you, probably don’t take one, either. Thanks to easy access to the Internet and the major holidays falling in the middle of the week, news outlets are reporting that the number of folks working or working from home this year are expected to skyrocket. So in the spirit of working through the season, we’ve recycled some of our favorite blogs from 2012 to help your online marketing stay inspired, all year round.

Funny Makes Money: Our post, Memorable Marketing is All About the Funny, from November is worth a visit if you missed it the first go ’round — or if you just need reminding that the fastest way to our followers’ hearts is through their funny bone.

Ask a Librarian: For a tutorial in online marketing in every platform, your local library has it going on! Social media-driven events, cool and teched-out ways of running promotions and killer blog marketing are just how libraries roll these days, and we’d all be wise to take a page from their marketing playbook.

Ooh La La: Back in June, we raved about My Little Paris. This blog/newsletter is like taking a master classes in both blog writing and email marketing. Plus it’s also a really creative business model to explore for bloggers and marketers looking to monetize their content.

Tweet Terrors: We love to talk about Twitter marketing gone wrong in these page for the sheer educational value, of course. But no other post about the topic covered Twitter marketing snafus better than this one from Halloween. The kicker? We made a boo-boo of our own when we initially published it on the wrong day, proving the that everybody makes marketing mistakes. Even us.

Blogs Heart Facebook: If you’re thinking about ditching Facebook, read this post from the fall first! We make the case that Facebook is still an effective way to promote your blogging for business efforts.

Progressive, Indeed: Last on our leftovers list is this post from August which discusses comedian/blogger Matt Fisher and his battle with insurance company Progressive. It’s a powerful look at how blogs can bring about change as well as being a lesson in blogger-brand communication.

The New Face of Facebook

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Perhaps you logged off on the 21st and didn’t see it coming. Maybe your family’s house is in the middle of nowhere didn’t have WiFi. Or maybe you got really lucky and took a few days off. Whatever the case may be, you might not have noticed the new look of Facebook. Yet, like any big star, after closer inspection, it’s clear she’s had work done. So the big question on everyone’s mind is this: Do these cosmetic changes make Facebook marketing even easier?

With a new timeline design already being tested, “Poke” getting poised to take on SnapChat and even your basic newsfeed pages looking a tad more organized and spiffy, there is no doubt Facebook was at hard work during the holiday season. Drag-and-drop photo boxes, the “what’s going on” status boxes and expanded tool bars are more signs that Facebook is determined to enter 2013 with a brand new attitude. While many of these innovations are fun and make Facebook easier, these changes don’t appear to be tailored for marketing professionals. In fact, it truly looks like Facebook is shifting its focus on monetizing its products and services. After the beating it took on the stock market this year, we can hardly say this is a surprise. From gifting options to easier-than-ever advertising settings, the business of Facebook appears to be getting down the business of making more cash. Naturally, this means Facebook is pushing companies of all sizes away from free Like page marketing and closer to paid advertising.

As the brand continues to grow up, Facebook is bound to keep morphing to meet the demands of the market, and its importance to marketers is bound to change, too. But what do you think, my social media mavens? Are we liking the most recent incarnation of Facebook or has the brand already overstayed its welcome? Sound off below!

Blog LikeThe Big Brands: Santa Claus

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Leave it to the guy who somehow keeps the toy requests of billions of children organized to find time to stay on top of blog content management, too. We’re talking about Santa Claus, of course, though the admirable blog in question really belongs to the United States Postal Office’s Operation Santa Claus. Millions of “Dear Santa” letters flood post offices around the country every year during the holidays. The generous elves of Operation Santa Claus personally answer the requests of needy children who might not otherwise have a Christmas at all. Thanks to blogging and social media, this grassroots efforts garner more attention every year.

While it sounds like something out of one of those tear-jerking Hallmark Channel movies, Operation Santa Claus is a very real cause that helps the Christmas dreams of deserving kids come true. Blogging is a fantastic way for community projects like Operation Santa Claus to reach wider audiences. On its blog, Operation Santa Claus gives the details of how the project works. This year, the project is working especially hard to help East Coast families affected by Hurricane Sandy as well as the school shooting in Connecticut. Therefore, a blog works brilliantly with “call to action” posts to illustrate how readers can help out and get involved. But it’s also Christmas, a time of year hopefully with joy and good cheer. The blog does its part to spread the spirit of the season with family-friendly posts featuring Christmas carol lyrics, puzzles, videos and games. After all, nobody wants a boring or depressing blog written by Santa Claus and his happy cohorts.

Maybe the season is starting to rub off on us, but we think humanity is the best blogging takeaway we can get from Operation Santa Claus’ blogging and blog marketing. It doesn’t have to be a winter wonderland to show our company’s heart and soul. Blog posts that really expose our compassion are the kind of things that elevate us from simple (and dull) robot blogging. No matter what you blog about, you can use blogging to talk about the causes your company holds dear, to celebrate the successes of a fundraising effort and to raise awareness. We’re willing to bet that blogging with humanity will entice new readers — all while keeping you off the naughty list.

Happy holidays!

Five Videos You Might Have Missed!

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Been too busy wrapping gifts and sending off emails to watch the latest and greatest in online video creation? We thought so… and that’s exactly why we came up with a special edition of our weekly list of five things you might have missed — with a viral video twist. Let our driving dogs, lovestruck snowmen and other delights inspire your own video masterpieces!

1.) Life Like the Internet: This series of commercials for Google Analytics from the UK tops our list for being truthfully hilarious. The spots imagine what would happen if a grocery store behaved annoyingly like the Internet with hard-to-find items, suggestions for stuff you really don’t want and an obnoxious checkout system that times out, forcing you to start over. With the charming British accents and laser-like precision for parody, this video campaign brilliantly skewers the very culture it promotes.

2.) Sacred Pudding Cups: We here at Brandsplat have been surprised how few advertisers have tapped into the whole 12-21-12 end of the world hubbub, because on paper it would appear to be the kind of thing ripe for easy parody. We were even more surprised that JELL-O pudding was the brand to make fun of the potential Apocalypse. The commercial features a team of explorers who travel to the top of Mayan pyramid with the offering of JELL-O pudding cups, apparently attempting to appease the Mayan gods. We’ll find out on the 22nd if this idea worked. Let’s just hope they like chocolate flavor.

3.) Grinch-proof Marketing: This touching video for European retailer John Lewis might be our favorite Christmas commercial of the season. A snowman on a mission for a great gift for his snowlady makes for the best almost-cry video since the Hallmark ads from yesteryear.

4.) But Can Your Dog Do This?: Mini Cooper has literally gone to the dogs. In one of the rare “How did they do that?” moments in viral advertising this year, the car company shows a team of talented dogs, mainly the adorably scruffy Porter, that can actually drive. With a short track and a skilled dog trainer, Porter and his pals drive like pros — and we the viewers are left smiling like little kids.

5.) Despite All the Rage: In closing, we thought we would finally satisfy your lifelong curiosity to see people dressed as mice running on a giant wheel inside a huge cage in pursuit of a box of cheesy crackers. Don’t mention it… it’s the least we could do. Happy Holidays!

Have You Lost that Blogging Feeling?

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Let’s be honest: Blogging for business every single day isn’t always a walk in the park. As we inch close to the end of the year and even closer to the holidays, the task of blog creation tends to get more difficult. Finding great topics, staying inspired, creating dynamic posts and then marketing your blog is something that takes a lot of stamina, creativity and good, old-fashioned effort. So falling out of love with blogging isn’t uncommon. But the trick is to keep going anyway. As an early gift to you, we’ve come up with a few ways to keep that warm and fuzzy blogging feeling alive and well.

The first thing to do to avoid blogging burnout is to stop doing all the heavy lifting yourself. Step away from the laptop and have customers, employees, guest bloggers, social media followers and a trusted ghostwriting agency take over for a few posts. If you blog everyday, letting another blogger fill your pages every now and again is an idea that really makes sense; after all, creating 365 unique and dynamic blog posts by yourself is a task that would drain even the most ambitious bloggers. Using outside bloggers can also bring in new readers and followers and frees you up to focus on marketing your blog, a task that’s just as important as the blog writing itself.

Changing what you post can help you avoid burnout, too. This year we saw image-rich posts develop as a major blog trend, thanks in part to Pinterest and Tumblr. Designating a few days a week to quick, photo-based posts, infographics and videos is faster than writing everyday, and it helps create content with a high viral possibility. Shortening the length of your written posts saves time, too. New data suggest that the sweet spot for blog posts is under 700 words. Try to stay on topic and keep it short. This habit fosters a more concise and direct way of blogging while saving you from feeling completely zapped of original thoughts.

Lastly, maybe it’s time to change how you blog. Falling out of love with blogging can happen easily when it becomes a practice filled with anxiety. Instead of feeling rushed, give yourself more time to research and develop posts. Try taking notes as you peruse your news-feeds and pre-plan your posts. Taking just a few extra minutes to map out your blogs for the upcoming week will help keep you head over heels in love with blogging. Chances are your readers will feel the love, too.