Transparency Matters

Transparency can mean many things. A business may reveal their products’ supply chain, employees’ salaries, environmental impact reports, or the reasoning behind certain ingredients and charges.

These disclosures have become crucial elements for consumer decision-making, especially when it comes to the millennial generation and younger. The following developments are thought to be responsible for this development:

Online Reviews: It only takes 5 minutes to find online reviews of products/services or entire businesses. Chances are someone has already posted about certain flaws, and consumers have become used to trusting their peers. Being transparent will avoid any scandalous discoveries and public reveals that might unnecessarily damage your reputation. Loosing credibility is easy, restoring it is not.
Distrust: Big business has lost part of its appeal after the financial crisis. Individuals who grew up during this time experienced how a business culture focusing on generating profits can hurt the entire society. Transparency is the best way to build up trust in the long-term.
Social Media: Research suggests humans have an easier time remembering negative stories and experiences. Social media makes sure any kind of scandal will be publicly exposed on a global scale. Reading people’s comments on these stories just makes them seem so much worse than they probably are as relevant context is missing. Being honest and transparent from the beginning will pay off big times.

Are there other benefits to transparency? There certainly are:
• Improves talent attraction and employee retention
• Encourages cooperation, sharing of information, and innovation
• Prevents disappointments and negative PR internally and externally
• Strengthens your brand
• Creates valuable content for social media
• Increases profitability

The big question is: how do you recognize a company truly embracing transparency? Forbes names the following elements:
• Communicate the Company’s Vision and Mission Statement
• Tell the Whole Truth
• Don’t Delay Dispensing Information
• Make Important Documents Available
• Establish Trust Through Social Media

There is so much more to transparency and we would be more than happy to share our own experiences, so please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 309-786-5142.


The Future is Now

The World is changing quickly and organizations like the Global Environment Facility (GEF) are trying to predict and guide these changes in the most sustainable manner. The same should apply to marketers who need to be able to quickly adapt to new environments to stay competitive. One of these developments might drastically disrupt the world of grocery shopping and marketing in just a few years.

It is no secret most car producers and technology companies are testing out autonomous vehicles. You can already use them in Phoenix, Arizona, and it is believed that autonomous vehicles will become a common sight within a couple of years. Now imagine that autonomous vehicles could be used to delivery groceries. It is already possible to get groceries delivered through apps and Amazon just purchased Wholefoods, so this is a surprisingly realistic scenario.

Let’s explore how this development could drastically transform packaging norms and how this would impact the marketing industry. Consumers would utilize apps like Instacart to evaluate and order products online. This mode abolishes the need for flashy and wasteful packaging in the store as the visual marketing function will now take place online. Cereals could be transported and stored at supermarkets/grocery hubs in gigantic containers instead of separate paper boxes and plastic bags. Traditional shopping carts could be replaced by shopping boxes with new functionalities like a section for cereals and a cooler. Instead of purchasing a box of cereal, you would purchase one pound. Shopping boxes would be loaded into large vehicles designed to only transport these boxes. Vehicles would utilize the most efficient routes to reach customers’ homes and allow them to access the box on the side of the vehicle – ideally using their own cereal storage containers. Joel Makover mentions “New, innovative delivery models and evolving use patterns are unlocking a reuse opportunity for at least 20 percent of plastic packaging.”

Utilizing apps for grocery shopping would allow marketers to display more relevant information as apps’ functionalities often include functions allowing users to compare products (see Amazon). You might sort products by the amount of certain ingredients or nutritional values. This system may shift the focus away from visual promotions to a focus on ingredients and how they are perceived by certain audiences. Maybe marketers will be able to add pictures of the communities where products like fruits are grown and highlight the fair-trade aspect. Maybe marketers will be able to add a link to a website with customer reviews and stories. There are countless opportunities and marketers need to embrace these developments as they happen. Who would have expected self-driving cars in Phoenix, AZ just five years ago?


Corporate Sustainability: the new competitive advantage?

Scientists observe effects like natural disasters and decreasing grain yields caused by unsustainable business practices. According to Maslow, mankind’s basic physiological needs are being threatened – needs that must be satisfied before all else. Businesses actively working against these hazards can help consumers satisfy these threatened needs and, by doing so, create a competitive advantage. This new value stems from sustainable operations, which need to be communicated appropriately.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an excellent success story. It points out monetary benefits of corporate sustainability, primarily when it comes to avoiding physical, regulatory and reputation risks. The CDP uses a monetary vehicle and communicates it to their corporate audience using buzzwords like “benchmark performance,” “stranded assets,” “fiduciary duties,” and even quoting support from the Bank of England. Why would the same system not work for the consumer goods market?

The answer is simple: the system requires an educated audience and/or superior communications. Sustainable Reporting Guidelines encouraging transparency, accountability, SMART approaches and even the disclosure of any lobbying efforts and publications with related content are merely a means to an end. They expose the truth, but which end can consumers reasonably analyze a 30-page corporate report and understand topics like the different scopes of carbon accounting?

The solution is simple: corporate sustainability and its positive impacts could be communicated through an educational framework. Consumers need to be informed about threats to their basic needs, how they contribute to them, and why choosing goods/services of sustainably managed businesses can potentially avoid threats similar to avoiding an investor’s risks. By enabling consumers to expose negative impacts, businesses will react to level the playing field, meaning that the early adopter catches the worm. Pointing out whitewashing is crucial as well; some sustainability efforts are more effective and relevant than others and this needs to be understood.

The 16 UN Sustainability Goals provide information on relevant areas. They allow managers to identify relevant sustainability focus areas for their industry, and their communications experts can conveniently “borrow” from the site’s professional content and visuals to serve their audience.

Long story short, marketing departments play crucial roles in fostering informed consumers and establishing corporate sustainability as an accepted competitive advantage.


Welcome, Haley!

Haley Ruch has joined the Media Link family as a Marketing Assistant. She is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in International Business, Marketing, Economics and French at Augustana College. Haley has been involved with numerous Augustana campus organizations:

• Advertising Development Club
• Greek Life
• Active Minds
• Entrepreneurial Center (EDGE)
• Varsity Softball team

When she’s not on the softball field, she enjoys playing guitar and travelling to foreign countries. Learn more about Haley here.


Government Contracting – Well Worth the Effort

Have you ever wondered why we have gained so many government certifications? There are several reasons:

Government Contracting
The public sector purchases goods and services, just like every other organization. In addition to making sure they get the best goods/services for the lowest price, the government is committed to supporting small disadvantaged businesses. You can consider this part of the government’s efforts to improve economic development. Prioritizing smaller businesses helps them compete against big players in the market and helps to even the playing field. It decreases market barriers, creates a catalyst for entrepreneurship and creates a more competitive and innovative marketplace.

Transparency
These certifications require a lengthy process that includes opening up to government entities, providing internal accounting, as well as the business owners’ private financial documents. The government wants to make sure only qualified individuals and businesses profit from this catalyst. At the same time, the government needs to make sure suppliers are financially responsible and able to perform the contract. Let’s not forget these goods and services are paid for by taxes, so making sure everyone benefits is vital.

We at Media Link, Inc. were just recently able to utilize our certifications to compete for a contract. The purchasing agency imposed a 30% set aside for small disadvantaged businesses. We were able to leverage our WOSB (woman-owned small business) and IL BEP (Business Enterprise Program) certifications to be eligible to apply. This entity was also eager to support veteran-owned businesses by imposing a 5% veterans’ goal. This created a unique opportunity to partner with another business and to compete for the contract together. Our partner was a small veteran-owned graphic agency that perfectly complements our services.

You can imagine how rewarding it was to get the award. Not only did this contract open us up to a new client, but finding a new partner makes both of us stronger. This contract resulted in the support of two small disadvantaged Illinois businesses. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in teaming up or just curious about the world of government contracting in general!


An Intern’s Perspective (Blake)

Before this internship, I had next to nothing in experience in the world of marketing and advertising, so I never realized how much work went into advertising for companies. When I first stepped into this internship role, it all just seemed very overwhelming between all the projects from social media to having to create proposals for every single place where we wanted to advertise. My co-workers made it very easy to figure everything out, because they all were more than willing to help out whenever I had questions.

I felt like a big part of the company, because I was able to help with projects such as creating proposals and creating advertising campaigns. Experiencing the unique challenges helped me tremendously when it comes to overcoming hurdles and advancing personally and professionally.

I know I will not forget this experience, because of how accommodating everyone was in order for me to get the most out of this time. I am extremely grateful for Natalie on taking a chance on me and for the rest of the team for helping me out whenever I needed it, even with the probably excessive questioning.


There’s A New Kid on the Block!

We first brought Gabriel on as an intern a little over a year ago where he quickly showed a penchant for humor and writing. Starting with just a few social media posts and blogs for clients, Gabriel quickly began writing full scripts for our clients’ radio and TV commercials, managing all of our clients’ social media and even drafting website text for the likes of Igor’s Bistro.

After the conclusion of his summer internship, we brought Gabriel on part-time to help out as a marketing assistant, while he finished his senior year at Augustana College here in Rock Island. He kept up his hard work, bringing on clients of his own and tackling the many tasks we threw at him with full force. As the school year began coming to a close we decided to make Gabriel a permanent member of the Media Link family. With great excitement Gabriel accepted and took the next step in his career in marketing and with Media Link.

Gabriel has already worked with a wide variety of clients, opening Media Link up to working with local musicians like Daniel Stratman. In his past, Gabriel worked as a research assistant for David Westman & Associates, LLC where his findings were published in FORUM Magazine. During his time at Augustana, he was the youngest member of a student lead committee to develop a strategic communication and business plan for the on campus Career Development Center (CORE) to help better integrate student workers and interns into projects within the Center, as well as provide them with an early platform for professional development. Gabriel also worked in the Augustana Entrepreneurial Center (EDGE Center), where he helped manage college social media accounts and assist fellow students in developing professional portfolios in the form of personal websites. Upon graduating from Augustana College, Gabriel received his Bachelor’s in Marketing, Political Science and Anthropology as well as a certificate in Non-Profit Leadership.

Gabriel also has an extensive professional music background. Working as the chief audio engineer at WAUG.fm he helped build a new recording studio and broadcast booth. Through WAUG he acted as the recording engineer for the podcast Personal Rejection Letter and has been running professional live audio for more than 7 years. Not to be left out of the action, Gabe enjoys playing guitar and bass in his own bands both in Peoria and the Quad Cities where he was a featured artist for the local music festival, Slough Fest. Whenever asked where his clear love of music comes from, he is always quick to tell stories about his father teaching him the roots and playing in bands together.

When he’s not working or playing music, you can find Gabe wrenching on his car, racing with the local SCCA Autocross group or building gaming and video editing computers with his friends.


The Unreachable Generation

You might think segmenting and defining your target audience is the most difficult step necessary to implement a successful marketing campaign, but this has changed tremendously when it comes to marketing to a younger audience. Nowadays, figuring out how to effectively reach younger generations is the new main challenge most of us face. The reason behind this is that we rely on user data to tell us who is using which platform when, where and how.

Millennials and especially Gen Xers, however, grew up in a quickly changing digital environment that made switching from one platform to the next as easy as never before. They grew up using chat rooms and social platforms like Myspace. Facebook then quickly became the new Myspace, followed by new platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Depending on their character and mood, teenagers and millennials switch between Pinterest, Tumblr and countless others. They might be using a mix of eight platforms one day and suddenly focus on their three favorites. Never has it been easier to abandon one for another thanks to smartphones and apps.

Tracking this generation is tricky, and where there is a lack of tracking, there is a lack of data. Without data, our decision-making process is impacted. Reaching this “Unreachable Generation” has become a major challenge, so we wanted to share a couple of sources we found useful:

“Forces of Change: The Unreachables,” Hearts & Science
“Reaching The ‘Unreachable’ Audience With Podcast Advertising,” Forbes
“Outside Voices: How Marketers Are Missing a Generation of ‘Unreachables’,” The Wall Street Journal


The Life of a Marketer

When people think of marketing firms they think commercials and billboards, but there is so much more beneath the surface that goes unnoticed.

To put into perspective what we do as a marketing firm starts at the top with creating our proposals for clients. Our process for constructing the best plan for our customers is rigorous. We know that this is your business. You have the final say in what is done. So, it is our job to not only give you the best options, but all the options (good and bad). From there, we will guide you to what we feel will reap maximum exposure and work with vendors to give you exactly what is needed.

That’s not all we do. After we confirm your advertisement placement; we monitor payments and work closely with our vendors to make sure your spots ran correctly. Since machines and humans aren’t perfect, it is not uncommon for TV Spots or Print Ads to be missed. When that happens, we work with stations/publications to ensure your Make Good commercials not only run, but are worth equal to or greater than the original commercial we placed.

But we don’t stop there. If you are hosting an event, we will make sure your message reaches not just people nearby, but anyone who is able to relate to your message. From posting to community calendars, to scheduling interviews with the press, we do all the back work to ensure your message is seen and heard quickly and concisely. After we get you the exposure, we will research your event, and note each reference to your event.

To ensure relativity for our clients, we also create an extensive list of online listings and the results we find about your business when researched. Many owners do not realize incorrect information about their business is on Google and can hurt their business. Our job is to go in, find those issues and contact the corresponding people to make the change.

Research isn’t the only thing we use with the internet. Social Media is one of the greatest tools ever created for marketers, but it doesn’t come without its fair share of problems. Part of our job is to post on your behalf and create specialized and personal messages to generate positive remarks and discussion about your business. Of course, there are occasional unnecessary comments on some posts, but don’t worry – we also handle your online crises management and ensure feedback posts receive a timely reply with a positive spin.

The final piece of the marketing firm puzzle is the analysis we put together for our businesses. We keep close record of all conversations, monthly reports, meetings or events and carefully decode and breakdown what happened, how well the campaign worked, and where can we make adjustments for the future.

To break it down, our job isn’t just to advertise for you. Our job is to make your message heard and drive more traffic and customers to your business. We don’t follow these steps too purely “go through the motions”, as marketers we know every step we take is necessary for the success of your business.


Diversity & Inclusion in Advertising

Diversity has been a regular topic at the Oscars, especially since there were only Caucasian acting nominees in both 2015 and 2016 – the first time since 1997. The 2018 Oscars additionally focused on the issue of gender equality and inclusion after Hollywood was hit hard by the #MeToo movement. Long story short: diversity and inclusion have become mainstream topics impacting all organizations and industries, including advertising.

Saturday Night Live just recently addressed the challenges of dealing with inclusion and PEPSI has already proven that advertisers will face distinct scrutiny about their actions.

We have assembled a couple of external, and partially controversial, sources with examples, opinions, and food for thought on diversity and inclusion in advertising. Needless to say, this selection does not reflect the opinions of the Media Link Team – it is intended to inspire, spark thoughts, and spur discussions about topics no marketing professional can avoid anymore.

Gender
“Gender equality movements in advertising are making gains,” THE DRUM
This article highlights several gender equality movements.
“Collections: Gender Equality in Advertising,” Ads of the World
This site presents ads addressing International Women’s Day.
“U.K. bans gender stereotypes in ads,” AdAge
This article highlights restrictions on gender stereotyping.
“Conservatives feel the least represented among media’s depiction of women,” Ad Age
This article highlights how political perspectives shape women’s receptivity to advertising.
“Agency exec on scarcity of LGBT people in ads: ‘People fear the bigoted minority’”, DIGIDAY
This interview focuses on the representation of LGBT people in advertising.

Race
“Different Ads, Different Ethnicities, Same Car,” New York Times
This article discusses Toyota’s take on targeting minority audiences.
“The case for diversity in advertising,” Think with Google
This article focuses on black millennials and their stance on media/advertising and Corporate Social Responsibility.
“ProPublica: Facebook advertisers can still discriminate by race,” engadget
This article highlights the legal and ethical challenges of audience segmentation and digital targeting options.
“I am the woman in the ‘racist Dove ad’. I am not a victim,” The Guardian
This opinion deals with the most recent Dove ad controversy.

Tips
“How We Encourage Diversity and Equality in Our Content Marketing,” 6Q
“5 ways marketers can take action to improve diversity,” Marketing Week
“Pepsi’s ad failure shows the importance of diversity and market research,” Marketing Week
“Watch marketing and adland’s top names urge industry to fix diversity issue,” campaign us