Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand, That is the Question

By Megan Quinn

It’s funny how a new look can change the entire feel of a company. Sometimes a business wants a change – whether it is a flashy or subtle one. Starbucks made a slight change to their logo in 2011, but it’s barely noticeable (in my opinion). They opted to keep their signature mermaid symbol, while making some updates to it, and removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logo. In short – their company name in the logo was unnecessary because their brand is internationally recognizable.

Sometimes logo changes are not enough. That was the case with Hotmail. Launched in 1996, this email service has been around for almost 20 years and was one of the first web-based email services. However, Microsoft decided to reinvent Hotmail during the summer of 2013 to become Outlook.com. Hotmail users still got to keep the “@hotmail.com” address, plus their contacts and passwords, but significant external changes took place.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to Outlook.com. Coupled with the growing organic excitement for Outlook.com, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that are accessing email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync,” Microsoft said in a blog post on the day it finished the upgrade. The Outlook.com integration process took only six weeks and was completed on May 2, 2013.

Not only did Microsoft’s Hotmail rebrand, but they also backed up their decision with plenty of ways to keep their customers happy and loyal while gaining new ones. Sounds like rebranding and updating was their key to success.

Not every company needs to rebrand. Sometimes it only requires a surface change. In this case, Microsoft’s Hotmail was due for a huge upgrade – and the company delivered.

Another lesser known success story is that of Burberry, the clothing, scarf and handbag brand. Their infamous checkered pattern actually was digging them into a deep hole. The pattern had become associated with hooligans in the UK who acted violently at soccer matches. A pattern that was once seen as a status symbol was now outlawed, so to speak.

Burberry was in serious need of a rebranding effort to keep their customers. They decided to hire young celebrities to endorse their products and also revamped their trench coats. By staying in the loop and realizing their brand was being connected with the wrong crowd, they kept their successful name.

Sometimes rebranding doesn’t fit in with the company's ultimate needs and goals, or maybe it’s just not necessary, if customers are so accustomed to the old logo. Business won’t exactly improve or could stay the same. There are currently some new brand logos out there that I’m not too fond of, but I still give those brands business because I like their products or services.

Are there any new rebranding efforts you feel made a critical difference for companies? Are there any branding schemes you wish had never changed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Finding the Recipe for Business Success at Breakfast

By Sarah Larson

French toast casserole with apples, walnuts and maple syrup. Quiche. Bacon. Fresh berries. Scones. Sparkling apple cider.

That is how we kicked off a recent workday at Furia Rubel. It was the third breakfast celebration we’ve had in recent months to mark the birthdays of our team members, and each one has been more fun than the last.

But these breaks from the workday aren’t just a luxury, which many companies believe they can ill afford. For the rest of the day after our breakfasts, I noticed our team members smiling more, coordinating efforts better, and just generally being more productive.

That’s no accident.

Fun time at work is an investment in the people and the culture of your company, and that investment pays more dividends in the long run than can easily be quantified.

People are pretty smart – or, at least, pretty attuned to self-preservation. Employees who are treated like interchangeable cogs on a wheel know that they are easily replaced – and they function accordingly.

On the other hand, creating a true team atmosphere, with people who actually like and respect each other, is more likely to foster happy employees who believe in the company’s mission and see themselves as important ingredients to its success.

You don't have to be Google, with free meals, a Lego play station and Broadway-themed conference rooms, to make your workplace into a place your employees want to be. A few creative ideas, some genuine interest in your employees' lives, and, yes, some food, can go a long way to creating an enjoyable workplace.

Plus, any excuse to start a work day with bacon is just a good day, all around.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Return to Sender 10 Months Later?

By Rose Strong

Have you ever wished you could follow a letter from the time you sent it to the time it arrives in the mailbox of your intended recipient? It might be an interesting journey.

As a communications firm, Furia Rubel is ready quite early with our holiday cards and video greetings. We plan for them to go out in the mail about three weeks before the actual holiday.

Last year, our greetings were sent out on or about Dec. 9 from the Philadelphia postal hub. As happens with any mass mailing, some addressees are no longer at the address we have on file. We typically receive these cards back, investigate for the updated address, and resend. This process usually takes 10 to 14 days.

However, we recently received one of our 2013 holiday cards back, marked Return to Sender / Unable to Forward / Not Deliverable As Addressed - more than 250 days after it had been mailed.

Please indulge me as I give a quick and brief history lesson about the United States Postal Service. The organization began as the United States Post Office, a governmental agency first suggested by publisher William Goddard in 1774 as a way to get information out to citizens without the prying eyes of the British postal inspectors. The USPS began moving the mail on July 26, 1775, as approved by the Second Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin was appointed its first postmaster general.

Upon the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the U.S. Postal Service functioned as a regular, tax-supported, agency of the federal government. Still an agency of the federal government today, in 1982 U.S. postage stamps became “postal products,” and the USPS now is funded solely by sales of stamps, shipping and other services.

As of this writing, there are more than 30,000 post offices, stations and branches throughout the United States to handle domestic mail. If you take a gander at the USPS website’s ‘About’ page, you can see the numbers regarding mail volume, the people involved, fleet of vehicles and the department’s yearly budget.  Here are just a few of the numbers, based on 2013 data, that I found interesting:
  • 152.9 million — total number of delivery points nationwide
  • 158.4 billion — number of mail pieces processed
  • 211,654 — number of vehicles — one of the largest civilian fleets in the world
  • 1.2 billion — number of miles driven each year by mail carriers and truck drivers
  • 38.8 million — number of address changes processed
  • If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 45th in the 2013 Fortune 500.
  • In the 2013 Global Fortune 500 list, the U.S. Postal Service ranked 140th.
From those fine facts, it can be concluded that the United States Postal Service is a colossal organization. So, one long lost letter in that sphere of people and mechanical processes shouldn’t be surprising.

I took our returned card to my local post office and asked the postmistress why it could have taken so long to come back to our office. She made a copy and said she’d pass it along to her regional office and see if they had an answer.

Checking in a few days later, the postmistress told me that there was no conclusive answer.

“It could have fallen off the belt in the sorting facility and gotten stuck, and someone found it when the machine jammed or they cleaned and just sent it along on its way,” she said.

Sometimes one doesn’t get answers to the mysteries they question. I guess that’s all there really is to Return to Sender - unless you’re an Elvis fan.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Inbox is Exploding

By Kim Tarasiewicz

My email is bursting at the seams, and chances are you feel the same way. Whether to their business or personal email address, most people get advertising emails that may no longer be pertinent. At some point, I opted into many of these emails, but as work, clients and life changes, so do your interests and promotional needs.

For example, when my sons were young, they loved to play with K'NEX so I was on the email list for alerts when sales came along. My boys are grown now, so I no longer need toy alerts. But I have to admit, it took me a while to opt out of the emails; it was easier to delete them each month than spend time opting out.

If K'NEX was paying per person on the list, I was wasting their money by remaining on their mailing list. However, as a marketer, I would have suggested that they clean their list of customers like me who had not placed an order for years. Sure, my presence was keeping their mailing list numbers high, but that wasn’t providing them with an accurate snapshot of their target audience.

As a consumer, I suggest:
  • Check the privacy policy before you submit your email address to any website. Most websites do not sell your email to others, but some will share your information with affiliates. You might decide not to submit your email address to websites that won't protect it.
  • When submitting your email address, look for pre-checked boxes that sign you up for email updates from the company and its partners. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving these mass emails or at least let you chose which ones you prefer to hear from. There is also a division of the Direct Marketing Association where you can direct what type of mail you would like to receive called DMAChoice.org
  • Set your email software to automatically filter your emails into folders. Google’s Gmail does this for you and other systems have options in their settings that allow you to sort your emails automatically. This allows you to read them at your leisure, view how many you get from certain companies, and then determine if you’d like to opt out.
As a marketer, I would suggest to clients:
  • According to the CAN-SPAM Act, you must provide an opt-out mechanism and it must be available for 30 days after your email is sent. If someone on your mailing list sends a message asking to opt out, you must comply within 10 days. This means every time you send a mailing, you should be running your lists against opt-outs.
  • Keep your lists clean. This may mean keeping up with bounces and unsubscribers or proofing the names as you enter them into your master list. Also, you may want to send an email once during the year asking if your customers still wish to be included. Many companies that you can use to send your emails will charge per name on your mailing list; keeping clean lists saves money.
  • The Direct Mail Association is a great resource for anyone sending email or snail mail correspondence and they advocate for improving consumer confidence in email. They hold a list called “Do Not Mail” for anyone that may want to opt out of all commercial emails. While it is not a rule, it is a good idea to run your mailing lists against these to prevent potentially offending future clients.
Companies would like to believe that every person on their mailing list reads everything sent out to them, but is that really feasible? Why not focus on your true clients and customers, keep your costs down, and bring in the quality business leads you are really looking for?

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