Ask Yourself: How social is your brand?

New online tools are changing how we tell stories

Reach far back into history and you’ll find humans around the world telling each other stories. Storytelling is universal because we all have a natural affinity to receiving information in story form. Our brains process and recall stories easier, and audiences are much more willing to listen when we pass information along in story form.

Successful companies have long taken advantage of the human affinity for narratives by crafting brand stories. Brand stories help connect and develop relationships with potential customers by drawing them into a conversation. While this basic premise hasn’t changed, more and more conversations in today’s world take place online. Brands must adapt their brand stories to engage customers and foster relationships through social media.  The following points may help clarify how social is changing the conversation.

Social tells real-time stories

Stories need to be timely. Before social media, marketers were trained with a campaign mentality, spending weeks planning, designing and executing in a sequential manner. Social media demands the ability to react instantly to breaking news, changes on websites and customer feedback. To capitalize on current buzz, marketers today need data feeds that allow them to analyze three types of real-time data:

  1. News feeds from sources such as New York Times, Bloomberg, Yahoo, Huffington Post
  2. Social data from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google +, YouTube, blogs and LinkedIn
  3. Data from websites to answer key questions such as number of people visiting your web properties, content they are interacting with, the impact of reorganizing content and presentation, and speed of response to close rates

Increased use of real-time analytics will boost your brand’s exposure and relevance for the consumer, but real-time responsiveness will also require resources and constant attention to your brand’s social face.

Social offers new tools for storytelling

Four social media tools are changing the way brands tell their stories.

1.    Facebook’s Timeline tells a more compelling brand story

At the end of March, Facebook will require that everyone switch their pages to the Timeline style. Brands can use the new Timeline to display a larger, horizontal cover photo that helps tell their story. In addition to the new cover image, the Timeline page view includes information on how and when the brand got started and company milestones, all of which help marketers tell a better story. Keep the following in mind when converting your brand’s Facebook page to the Timeline view:

Highlight your best stories: By default, updates to your page appear on either the left or right of the timeline which divides the page. Highlight specific posts by rolling over the post and expanding it to the full width of the page, making it more prominent.

Pin your posts: As you roll over an update, you can also click on the edit icon and choose to pin the post, which will make it appear at the top of your timeline, increasing its visibility. Again, you can only do this to your page’s posts, and you can only pin one item at a time. After seven days, the post will return to its regular place in your timeline.

2.       Premium on Facebook treats brands like friends

Premium on Facebook allows brands to build more connections to engage their consumers in an ongoing story. Premium ads will not sit silently on the right side of the screen, but instead they will slip into the newsfeed and be seamlessly integrated throughout the site as if they were regular updates. Facebook places the ads when and where people show interest, which helps small brands (who don’t have an entire team analyzing data) leverage their marketing.

3.       Facebook Offers make it easy to act

Another new Facebook ad option, Offers, will also show up in members’ news feeds and on members’ phones. Members click the ad and the offer is immediately sent to their email accounts. Unlike other Facebook ads, that disappear as the feed scrolls, these offers will sit in email inboxes until potential customers take action, either deleting or accepting the offer.

4.       Twitter and LinkedIn also adding tools

Twitter will soon launch company pages and LinkedIn is planning to offer new opportunities for deeper engagement between users and brands. Keep an eye out.

Social is mobile

In 2012, more than half of Facebook users will access the platform from mobile devices, and Facebook’s new Premium ad placements (see above) will also show up on phones. This will drive interest in mobile social media and force brands to pay more attention to the constraints and preferences of a mobile audience. Some of the most important constraints and preferences to note include:

  • Mobile interactions are quick, one-handed and usually on the go.
  • Mobile audiences want to be able to find out anything, anywhere at any time.
  • Mobile marketing is shortening text-based messages and shifting the emphasis from text to image and video-based storytelling. Mobile audiences want quick, visual reads and prefer to learn through watching videos.
  • We are increasingly buying, consuming and researching from our phones and tablets.

The growth of mobile will affect marketers with both physical locations and those who are virtual. A beverage brand, for instance, shouldn’t just care where its products are sold, it should be focused on any place and time that evokes the spirit of the brand, and then look for meaningful ways where that brand can be incorporated. Retail marketer, David Berkowitz, notes that retailers don’t just want to reach people in their stores; they want to reach people the 99.9% of the time that consumers aren’t in their stores. “That’s where mobile social media has the biggest opportunity,” says Berkowitz, “the 0.1% of the time people spend in the store is just the low hanging fruit.”

Social is the future

For the past few years, brands have slowly incorporated social media icons and have set up Facebook pages and Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.  In 2012, brands must do a whole lot more or they will be swept from consumer consciousness. As marketing comes to rely less on ads, and more on stories, brands will need to enter their customers’ social worlds and offer real-time, relevant information through engaging, visual stories. Give your currents marketing strategies a social score. Make sure they are:

  • Told in story form
  • Available on a mobile platform
  • Slipped into conversations as if the brand were a person
  • Conveyors of relevant information based on real-time analytic
  • Staffed with resources that provide regular updates
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Four IMG Clients Honored By Delicious Living Magazine

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (March 2, 2012) Delicious Living Magazine recently honored four Integrated Marketing Group clients for Best of 2012 supplement and beauty products.

A panel of editors and industry experts reviewed a broad range of products, and announced winners in the February and March editions of Delicious Living. They studied the science behind the ingredients of the best-quality formulas on the market and chose their favorites.

Sibu Sea Buckthorn Face and Body Bar was named the Best Value in the magazine’s 2012 Beauty & Body Awards. Its $6.95 price was dubbed “a steal” by the review panel.

LifeSeasons Visibili-T Eye Health Complex won in the Best Eye Health Supplement category. Visibili-T provides nutrients vital to macular health, facilitates the transport of nutrients to and waste from the eye, and protects the eye from ultraviolet light.

Kyolic, a Wakunaga of America company, received two honors. Kyolic CoQ10 was named Best Heart Health Supplement for its proprietary combination of Aged Garlic Extract and CoQ10. Its Kyo-Green energy supplement drink mix was an honorable mention in the Best Energy Supplement category.

Embria Health Sciences’ ingredient EpiCor was part of the winning product in the Best Immunity Supplement division. Part of Now Foods EpiCor Plus Immunity, EpiCor is a unique, complex ingredient comprised of protein, fiber, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and other metabolites that help support the immune system.

“Integrated Marketing Group is proud to partner with companies that consistently produce high-quality, impactful ingredients and products for better health,” said Jeff Hilton, agency partner and co-founder. “These honors confirm what we’ve always known: we have great clients.”

About Integrated Marketing Group

Integrated Marketing Group is a marketing consultancy focused in the healthy lifestyles category, and specializing in strategic planning, branding, public relations and Web design and development. Its principals have created a marketing firm with a diverse background of creative development and strategic planning skills to serve the healthy lifestyles, food and personal care industries. For more information, or for branding resources, visit www.imgbranding.com. Follow us on Twitter @IMG_Branding or on Facebook.

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IMG’s Jeff Hilton to Speak at Two Nutracon Sessions

SALT LAKE CITY, February 28, 2012 — Jeff Hilton, Integrated Marketing Group co-founder and partner, will present two educational sessions at next week’s Nutracon conference in Anaheim, CA.

Hilton will discuss how new consumers are stepping in where Baby Boomers once ruled in “Emerging Market Opportunities for Supplement, Food and Beverage Sales” on Wednesday, March 7 at 2 p.m. The session will address Millennials, young mothers and their pre-teenage children as often-misunderstood and underestimated marketing targets and how smart marketers can better understand and reach these elusive targets.

In his second education session, Hilton will present “The Changing Role and Influence of Packaging” on Thursday, March 8, at 10:30 a.m. He will help attendees explore the changing role of packaging, hits and misses in the marketplace, and provide actionable strategies and tactics to improve and better target current and future packaging efforts. The seminar, part of the Beverage Innovation Session, will outline how packaging has gone from merely housing the product to the forefront of the selling process.

About IMG and Jeff Hilton:
Jeff Hilton is partner and co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group (IMG), a marketing consultancy focused in the healthy lifestyles category, and specializing in strategic planning, branding, public relations and Web design and development. Hilton has been recognized by Advertising Age as one of America’s Top 100 Marketers and has more than 30 years of broad-based business experience, including more than 20 years spent within the natural products industry. Hilton is the recipient of Nutrition Business Journal’s (NBJ) Personal Service Award in recognition for his multiple outreach efforts including editorial contributions, pro-bono work and webinar and speaking engagements within the healthy lifestyles industry. Visit the IMG blog for Hilton’s branding articles and educational resources at www.imgbranding.com.

About Nutracon:
Nutracon, held March 7 and 8 at the Anaheim Hilton, is the premier conference for ingredient and technology innovation within the health and nutrition industry. The conference helps companies develop new science-supported products in the supplements, functional foods and beverages, and nutricosmetics sectors.

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IMG Hires Zach Zavoral as PR Counsel

SALT LAKE CITY, February 16, 2012 — Zach Zavoral recently joined Integrated Marketing Group as PR counsel and will help manage and grow multiple agency accounts.

Zach’s diverse background includes marketing work with Melaleuca, Inc., a natural supplement company, where he oversaw marketing writing for the company’s Medicine Cabinet and Vitality for Life brands. Before joining IMG, Zach was head of marketing communications for Mindshare Technologies, a customer feedback management company.

His prior experience also includes work as both an editor and reporter for several newspapers. At 17, he was Editor-in-Chief of an award-winning collegiate newspaper and went on to win Associated Press awards as the senior sports reporter at The Idaho Falls Post Register. Zach started a weekly newspaper in eastern Idaho and was editor of a Wyoming paper, as well.

“Zach brings a solid work ethic and understanding of natural supplements to IMG,” said Dave Clifton, Integrated Marketing Group PR director. “Our clients will benefit greatly from his writing skills and his passion for all things health related.”

About Integrated Marketing Group
Integrated Marketing Group is a marketing consultancy focused in the healthy lifestyles category, and specializing in strategic planning, branding, public relations and Web design and development. Its principals have created a marketing firm with a diverse background of creative development and strategic planning skills to serve the healthy lifestyles, food and personal care industries. For more information, or for branding resources, visit www.imgbranding.com. Follow us on Twitter @IMG_Branding or on Facebook.

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Industry Veteran Peggy Jackson Joins Integrated Marketing Group

SALT LAKE CITY, February 15, 2012 — Peggy Jackson, former VIRGO executive vice president and natural products industry veteran of 15 years, has joined Integrated Marketing Group as Director of Business Development.

Peggy will spearhead the agency’s push to significantly expand its client base and expertise in the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets. She will also manage strategic planning and marketing for select clients. Peggy will leverage her natural ingredient and supplement, food, and beverage industry relationships built over the past 15 years with VIRGO, a publishing and information distribution company focused on B2B markets.

“Integrated Marketing Group is entering a new phase of expansion. Our business is poised for growth and we are excited to have someone of Peggy’s stature and knowledge base join our team,” said Jeff Hilton, agency co-founder and partner.

Peggy served in various publishing positions at VIRGO before becoming Vice President of the Health & Nutrition Network in 2009. In early 2011, she was promoted to Executive Vice President of that division, where she helped launch products and build brands into a network worth more than $15 million. Peggy was instrumental in the creation and success of VIRGO events such as SupplySide West and SupplySide Marketplace.

“I’m thrilled to be working with Jeff and the entire IMG team. They have a tremendous depth of both industry and branding expertise, which along with my years leading the SupplySide brand makes this a perfect fit,” Peggy said. “I’m very excited to help promote this great resource to the industry and help Integrated Marketing Group grow its own brand.”

Peggy is a Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine board of trustees member. She attended Arizona State University and Rio Salado Community College. She lives in Scottsdale, AZ.

Peggy can be reached at peggyj@imgbranding.com.

About Integrated Marketing Group

Integrated Marketing Group is a marketing consultancy focused in the healthy lifestyles category, and specializing in strategic planning, branding, public relations and Web design and development. Its principals have created a marketing firm with a diverse background of creative development and strategic planning skills to serve the healthy lifestyles, food and personal care industries. For more information, or for branding resources, visit www.imgbranding.com. Follow us on Twitter @IMG_Branding or on Facebook.

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Supplement or chew: Which do consumers prefer?

Jeff Hilton, partner and co-founder of IMG, discusses popular nutrient delivery formats with nutraingredients.com. Click here to view

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Is gluten-free here to stay?

gluten-free trend

Attention to the impact of gluten on the digestive system originally stemmed from rising numbers of consumers diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. Commonly known as the “gluten allergy,” Celiac’s disease is a hereditary digestive condition marked by sensitivity to any food containing the complex gluten proteins in wheat, barley and rye (University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research.) Celiac was the first type of gluten sensitivity for which diagnostic testing was devised. Since 1975, Celiac’s disease has increased five-fold in the US.

Gluten intolerance demands attention

Even with these numbers, however, Celiac’s disease alone would not have been enough to motivate grocery stores to dedicate entire isles to gluten-free products or to convince hotels and restaurants to jump through the certification hoops required to serve up guaranteed gluten-free dishes. The real dietary trend is “gluten intolerance.” This broad term includes all kinds of sensitivity to gluten, including sensitivity that tests positive as Celiac’s disease. As many as 12% of all American consumer (1 in 9) may be gluten intolerant. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include digestive distress, bloating, migraines, weight loss or weight gain, loose stools or constipation and extreme fatigue.

Gluten-free is major marketplace trend, not food fad

As consumers become increasingly aware of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, more and more are opting to manage these symptoms through restricting gluten in their diets. Introductions of gluten-free products are picking up and aggressive marketplace activity (like Smart Balance’s purchase of Glutino Foods Group for $66 million) continues.

“Does not contain” trend continues

Gluten-free products have joined the sea of products that sell because of what they DO NOT contain. Previous ingredients to make this list are:

  • Trans fats
  • Soy
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Dairy
  • Preservatives

This trend shows no sign of subsiding. In fact, consumers are now more likely than ever to look for indicators that certain ingredients are not in a product. Companies targeting the mommy market should pay special attention to this trend.

Summary

We haven’t seen the end of gluten-free marks on food product labels. Rather, as the number of gluten-free consumers grows, they are demanding tastier options. In addition, as more manufacturing plants become dedicated to producing gluten-free products, it will be easier for companies to manufacture products that can pass gluten-free certification requirements. Watch for more tasty, gluten-free products in 2012.

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Functional Beverages: Trend or Fad?

Jeff Hilton, partner and co-founder of IMG, shares secrets for the successful promotion of functional beverages in an interview with Natural Foods Merchandiser.

Click here to view

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Freshen Up:
Marketing less processed foods

Haagen-Dazs FiveToday’s health-conscious consumers are in favor of fresh. While they may continue to buy processed foods, they consider highly processed products to be less healthy than less-processed alternatives. And other things being equal (cost and convenience), the less-processed option wins out.

More or less processed?

Consumer perception groups foods into two general categories: more or less processed. Consumers recognize that all foods are processed. They know apples are washed and sometimes waxed and that even drinking water is filtered. That said, health-conscious consumers strongly prefer brands that fall into the less processed category. This category includes foods whose processing does not change the nutritional properties of the food. Highly processed foods, on the other hand, are perceived as containing ingredients (sugars, starches, fats, chemicals) designed to make the product more durable, accessible, convenient, ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat. What can a brand do to encourage consumers to consider it a less-processed alternative to other products? Three factors go a long ways towards convincing consumers of a brand’s freshness:

  • Fresh packaging
  • Rough, bumpy ingredients
  • Fewer, simpler ingredients
  • Fresh convenience

Fresh packaging

A brand’s appears fresher if its packaging:

  • Includes an inside view. Many fresh foods now sport a window in the package that allows consumers a look at what’s inside. Visibly recognizable ingredients (such as chunks of fruit, nuts and grains) convince a consumer to slot the product in the less-processed category.
  • Uses natural colors. Brands sporting neon pinks and greens will lose out in the battle for unprocessed food dollars. Packaging resembling the colors in which the food appears in its natural state can convince consumers of a brand’s less-processed status.
  • Shows food in its natural state. Even if the package does not allow the consumer to see the enclosed food product, a product can still convince consumers that the food is fresh by showing images of fresh food on the package.

Rough, bumpy ingredients

Food in nature is rarely ever smooth, so rough, bumpy surfaces seem more real to consumers. Consider the cracker that has bits of whole grain poking out, or the protein bar with nubby bits visible on the surface. Give consumers a bump here and a bulge there and they’re more likely to mentally slot your brand as “less processed.”

Fewer, simpler ingredients

In addition to being rough and bumpy, less processed foods also contain fewer, simpler ingredients. Consider the marketing of Häagen-Dazs 5, a product line whose brand story is built entirely on how few ingredients the ice cream contains (never more than five). Products that can’t get their ingredient list down to five, would still benefit from a visible listing of principle ingredients that are easily recognized and pronounced. Long, complicated ingredient lists are highly equated with heavily processed foods.

Fresh convenience

While buying less-processed food is the goal, if it takes mom’s time to turn foods into snacks, processed foods are still frequent winners. Fresh foods and convenient foods need to find a way to co-exist. Help mom select fresh by packaging food items in snack-sized bites and in snack-sized containers. Apples pre-cut into slices that are then packaged into a snack-sized serving are an example of a fresh food option that saves mom time.

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New Trends in Functional Foods & Beverages

The functional food and beverage sector continues to evolve. Many category watchers are predicting increased consumer movement toward foods that are inherently functional (think blueberries) rather than foods that have added functionality (think orange juice with calcium). This prediction is reflective of consumer trends toward simplicity in ingredient labeling as well as a general public aversion to anything that hints of genetic modification in the food supply.

Naturally Functional Foods

Consumers are asking for foods and ingredients that are “naturally functional” such as blueberries, pomegranates, whole grains, protein, fiber and soy. These are also the types of ingredients that have formed the basis of the functional food offerings we have seen in the marketplace to date as they already have consumer awareness and acceptance. Finally, they are also GRAS for food use and allow manufacturers to make nutritive value-based health claims that are not likely to be challenged by regulators. This development is not lost on the producers of these inherently functional food items. Growers and associations see opportunity and profit in positioning themselves as purveyors of wholesome natural resources that don’t need to be augmented to deliver health benefits including antioxidants, polyphenols and essential fatty acids.

Types of Functional Foods & Beverages

At a basic level, there are two primary types of functional food/beverage products:

  • “Better for you” foods that offer less or none of certain ingredients perceived by consumers to be less desirable. Examples would include low sodium soups, reduced fat mayonnaise, cholesterol and or free baked goods, and no sugar added desserts. These products are not truly “functional” in my opinion, but do offer consumers a way to manage their nutrient intake and moderate the amount of sugar, salt and fat that they ingest.
  • “Enhanced functionality” foods offer nutrients in efficacious doses added to food products for improved consumer health and wellness. Examples include Fiber One bars, Tropicana orange juice with calcium, Special K protein shakes, POM Wonderful and Vitamin Water.  These types of products fit the classic profile of a functional food or beverage.

While both of these categories are growing and consumers are returning to basics and embracing naturally functional, it is added functionality foods that have captured the interest and imagination of consumers looking for the convenience of consuming foods that contain supplement-level doses of scientifically proven, health-improving nutrients.

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