Monthly Archives: March 2009

The ROI of Primary Research- Taking the Madness Out.

As Seen on ERE.NET– This article marks my debut as contributor to, the online community comprised entirely of professionals who are part of the recruiting industry. I look forward to being a valuable part of such a long-established leader in the virtual publishing field.

Coming up on the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, I am happy to report that I’m in first place in my pool of 35 basketball fanatics. I won two years ago and I’m looking to repeat the performance. The funny thing is that I don’t even follow the sport. My personal secret is my professional weapon: pre-project research.

Research is an oft-forgotten yet essential business tool and can save money, time, and resources. While the cost of entry for my basketball pool was only $25, the stakes are significantly higher when assessing the costs to launch a new branding campaign, career site, or national recruitment program. Small mistakes can create long-term headaches like high turnover, poor performance, or dropped conversion rates.

So before the next round of hoops begins, lets take a moment to look at some of the different kinds of research there are, and when it makes the most sense to launch yours.

There are three kinds of research.

Secondary. Secondary research already exists, and is therefore the least useful in helping you, since every project in unique. Your company, your culture, and your objectives are different from everyone else’s on your buddy list, so you can’t expect to have the same outcomes from similar projects that you launch. (Secondary research did however, account for my early success in the basketball pool.)

Quantitative. Quantitative research is often used as an independent survey tool, but it is most effective when used to validate the findings of your qualitative study. Think quantity, think survey, think slice and dice statistics. It’s much more objective since when the questions are crafted correctly, the answers are unbiased. The costs of running quantitative research surveys have come down considerably through online tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. The trick is getting the right analysis from the data. Make sure that you get a fair-size sample pool across geography and skill sets, if applicable to your project.

Qualitative. Qualitative research should be both the beginning of your discovery process as well as the launching platform for any next research steps. Bring in a small sampling of the “right” types of people and do a focus group, in-depth interview, or telephone campaign. The questions are open-ended and the answers are subjective. A trained moderator will probe to explore the deeper perceptions, opinions, and feelings about your topic. Think quality, ideas, and individual interpretation.

The costs of launching qualitative research vary, but expect a price tag of $3,000 to $5,000 per group, depending on the circumstances, and don’t make the mistake of going cheap and doing it yourself. You’ll be biased and won’t get good data from the effort.

Qualitative research using employees can help define: Internal culture; employer brand and value propositions; alignment of executive strategy with general population; and the strengths/weaknesses of your recruiting campaign among target populations.

Launching internal research using your own employees? It shouldn’t take more than two hours at the max. Get a skilled facilitator and have it off-site. The more people can rely on anonymity, the closer you’ll get to the truth.

Offer an incentive. These can range anywhere from a really nice catered lunch or dinner to $100 gift cards depending on the circumstances. If you’re doing a group with commissioned salespeople, consider that they might be losing revenue from possible missed sales.

Have a well thought-out discussion guide, but allow for the flexibility to go “off-road.” I’ve been involved in situations where from the moment the first group begins, I know I’m in for a bumpy ride. Whether there was a disconnect between assumption and reality or a significant event that shaped the course of the conversation, don’t worry if a group goes somewhere unexpected. Often that’s the precise outcome we’re hoping for because it demonstrates engagement of the attendees.

As in the adage “if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed,” research is the fundamental starting point of any new effort. For a cost of less than $20,000 and a window of 90 days, you’ll reap the benefits from new insights or a confirmation of gut instincts that ensures the successful outcome of your project.

Your Digital Brand Voice – Humanizing the Printed Word

Kal Turner at has offered some rules for finding the right Brand Voice across the newest Social Media. As creative communications professionals, we’re all aware of the all important creative brief- the guiding principles for creating a branded identity and roadmap of communications. But marketing across social media- even in the internal sphere i.e. an intranet, means going back to the Branding 1.0 exercises we learned in school.

In focus groups, we ask these questions to establish a brand personality- are you a Volvo, stable, safe and middle of the road; or a Jaguar – stylish, refined and sophisticated?

Matching your personality to your style of writing is critical in establishing a humanizing brand among your audience.

The Brand Voice of Starbucks is the voice of Brad, who posts on Twitter for them. Here he’s posting a picture of himself with some colleagues, just as any group of friends might do on Twitter.

Brands often go wrong on Twitter by thinking that in order to appeal to a certain demographic segment they need to somehow imitate that group. This is most obvious when brands go after the youth market and awkwardly pepper their language with outdated slang and a tone that is meant to sound ‘trendy’ or ‘urban’.

This post is both conversational, and informative. It’s what you would expect from Capgemini.

This Adobe developer posted about the product he’s working on, and since we’re getting a behind the scenes view of his work, it’s much more compelling than just having the link on its own.

Find Your Brand Ambassadors- they’re closer than you think!

Kal cites a tech specialist who constantly improves the image quality of a camera lens. He could explain all the little details that go into creating a perfect image with such enthusiasm that you would be drawn into his world, and a topic you wouldn’t have guessed would be exciting– suddenly is. Adam Denison, “A PR guy at Chevrolet,” talks about cars without always directly promoting Chevrolet products.

Define your company’s digital Brand Voice and incorporate it into your Brand style guide. Share it, hone it and spread it. It’s as authentic as you make it.

And remember, when you think BRANDing, think BRANDEMiX.
Check out our newly enhanced website. If you haven’t been lately, you’re in for a treat.
Happy Spring!

The Making of BRANDEMiX.COM 2.009

Join us tonight for the premiere as we launch the newly enhanced
BRANDEMiX Website.

The newest release of is the latest chapter in the evolution of an agency and a dream that began almost 4 years ago. This is the backblog, the behind-the-scenes look at its release history- and in the spirit of transparency, names have not been changed.

4/05 BRANDEMiX begins.
Kelly was a flash designer who was going out with my nephew. I was looking to conserve capital, she wanted something for her book. Unfortunately, my nephew broke up with her mid-project and between heartbreak, and my craziness, she was glad to say goodbye. This was the intro and home page that resulted from the partnership.

We never did launch the portfolio, and I didn’t think too much about the website, busy as I was growing the business.

2/07 OPPORTUNITIES abound.
Marlene brought us an opportunity to bid on a really huge web project. Great work and a really professional presentation resulted in our coming in a very close second. We believe we didn’t win because they saw our sight and worried.

9/07 BRANDEMiX re-design begins.
To his credit, Fred tried really hard to find the balance between what I wanted: edgy, out-there and street, and something more representative of the clients we were pitching… Fortune 1000s. non-profs and education. The fighting was ferocious, and after many iterations and one episode of Fred throwing his back out and winding up on the floor for several hours as he waited for the spasm to pass, we finally settled on what you may have seen, if you stopped by yesterday.
These were among the many designs.

1/08 The Winner Is

It wasn’t necessarily my favorite by by now, I was obstructing progress and major decisions were taken out of my hands.

The portfolio always remained “coming soon” and the only people that seemed to care were my competition. It still wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but I resigned myself to minor tweaks like adding a HOME button. Fall 2008, I resolved to move forward.
3/09 BRANDEMiX 2.009 is here.

Sometime tonight the curtain goes up. After almost 4 years, I’m as proud of what we’ve already accomplished as I am to unveil it to you. The requisite gradients and reflections keep with our passion for the latest design trends. And the back-end cms will keep it fresh, so do drop by often.

Just like an academy award winning documentary, there are many people who deserve a thanks and/or an apology for their enduring efforts on behalf of the project. (I never said I was easy.) So Kelly, Freddy, Mat, Asunda, Diana, Anita, Anita, Anita- let’s hug it out.

And to all my valued clients, thanks for signing off on the great work that I’m so proud to display.

And for those of you who aren’t my clients yet, let me say that it’s much easier building websites for other people than it is for myself.

And I promise, it doesn’t always take 4 years.

With a Name Like Best, You’ve Got to be Good.

It’s no surprise that certain names keep blogging up all the time on the BRANDEMiX BRANDEblog. These are the ones that continue to push both the creative envelope and choice of messaging. So, here we again write about Best Buy.

I’ve been following Best Buy’s internal buzz for a while and continue to be impressed with their efforts- from internal operational ROWE (results-oriented workplace) to hologram mall messages, their internal employee community named “Blue Shirt Nation” (influential in affecting changes to the email policy, improving enrollments in the 401k program and setting up systems for employees to communicate between shifts) and now today’s subject Best Buy Connect, they seem to have it all going on.

Best Buy Connect is an external site – its purpose to showcase the people, behavior and unedited perspectives/ideas of those who power Best Buy– their employees. It personalizes the brand, increases accessibility and affects current and future customer and employee perceptions. No small feat.

“If people outside of this company could really feel the culture and drive that makes this place what it is, we can strengthen our reputation, goodwill, and ultimately grow our talent and grow the company. The beauty of that is that we didn’t need to create anything new, people are doing it and we don’t want to control it, we simply want to make it easier for the rest of the world to find the energy and human-ness”. This from Dawn Bryant, Best Buy PR.

The site aggregates employee blogs, Twitter, YouTube and other sources including Tweets and blog posts from Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO. Best Buy employees are already active with the social web, aggregating sources is good for many reasons including creating a central location for employee insights in different media as well as providing additional flavor for the personality of the people that make up the company – at all levels.

A few tips of advice from Best Buy on a social media aggregator:

* A legal team can help with traditional concerns but it can be tricky since most companies aren’t approaching social media with an aggregator mentality. Many are still focused on controlling the message.
* Organizations will lose credibility pretty quickly if they persist in trying to control electronic mediums. ”If you don’t like what you see out there as a company, you need to make changes on the inside”. The truth will manifest outside.
* Don’t mess with the authenticity of the medium (thus, aggregate and don’t try to control)
* This kind of project brings some risk, so think it through and update your PR crisis plan as necessary
* Spread the word grassroots style – promotion via social media using traditional PR tactics doesn’t work
* Revisit with those involved to stay relevant and up to speed with the technology
* Make guidelines public and easy to find – it’s about transparency

During the current economic situation, this kind of transparency is particularly interesting since most companies are probably tempted to control “the message” more now than ever as they deal with lower sales, staff changes & layoffs and inevitable belt tightening. I think by aggregating multiple sources, Best Buy is giving interested readers multiple stories to consider, which gives a broader picture of the organization.

These insights provided by Lee Odden in his Online Marketing Blog were summed up as follows:
“I can say from those interactions and the social participation by corporate and employees, Best Buy really appears to be one of those companies that’s walking the talk both in terms of their public social media projects and the culture of the organization.”

And so I praise Best Buy on the weekend that their former competitor Circuit City is going dark. Coincidence? I think not.