Archive for July, 2011

By Shawn Draper

It seems all the rage today for parties of a different opinion to threaten or actually lockout one another from the business in hand. The NFL, the NBA, and potentially the US Federal government all seem to believe shutting down business is the means to an end.

I suggest this is the case with the banks as they lockout homebuilders and homebuyers from the housing market.

home for sale sign 300x218 Time to address the next lockout…The housing lockout

Photo by

Let’s begin by looking at how banks are handling short sales and foreclosures, two approaches to home ownership that should see lightning fast closings.

Turning first to short sales.

Common sense would say the banks have an incentive to sell these properties quickly, as they are now holding, or about to be holding, these properties on their books. They have underwritten the purchase of these homes before, so they should be in a good position to do it again. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Short sales can take six months or longer to close with a fully qualified buyer. This buyer meets the credit score and twenty percent down payment requirements. Yet, no sale. Realtors quoted in an article in USA Today stated they are no longer showing short sale homes because of the uncertainty of the banks to accept offers in any reasonable time, if at all. The article goes on to report that banks earn more from their mortgage insurance than selling the homes as a short sale. If this is the case, allow the homeowners to stay in the house until it is foreclosed upon. The mortgage insurance is paying the bank and there is one less homeless family on the street.

What about foreclosures?

The USA Today article also reports foreclosed homes close on average of 24 days to qualified buyers. Now that’s fast, so realtors should be promoting this avenue to homeownership. Of course, there is a catch. These homes are often sitting vacant and left to deteriorate. A tough sell for the average homebuyer, but a potential boom for remodelers.

There is new construction occurring in a few places throughout the country. This is something like the athletes working out and practicing on their own while the lockout negotiations carry on. For real housing development to occur I suggest it is time for a Housing Collective Bargaining Agreement, or a HCBA.

The HCBA will offer reasonable loan interest rates and requirements, manage sell down of short sale and foreclosed houses in an expedited manner, and set and promote reasonable expectation for home ownership. The banks asking for people with good credit scores and a down payment seems reasonable to me. If it was good enough for my parents and me, it should be good enough for my children. Banks should be proactively working with remodelers and realtors to put the foreclosed houses in sellable condition, offer them at a fair price with reasonable financing, market cooperatively, and close within a timely manner. Now, let’s face it some people cannot afford to buy and own a house. That is fine. A house or an apartment is not a home until you put the people in it. It would make more sense to celebrate the elimination of homelessness than home ownership.

Some people may think or say this is all naïve. It may be but it feels good to think and write positively about the housing market after years of negative talk. The population of the US is growing, the housing stock is aging, boomers are looking for the next lifestyle change, and home ownership remains an important value for the next generation…there is room for both optimism and a HCBA.

By Social Marketing Team

The short answer? Nothing.

The long answer? Get ready for a game-changer.

Since Google launched Google+, its new social network on June 28, the social marketing community has produced a tidal wave of coverage and commentary about the search engine giant’s first successful step – leap really – into social media.

Why? Because within three weeks Google+ has surpassed 10 million members and is demonstrating a strong capacity for prompting users to share content in a way that drives referring visits to top-tier news sites.

Let’s streamline things, shall we? What does Google+ actually mean to brands looking to build or extend their social marketing presence? Let’s start with the basics.

What is Google+?

Google+ is both a social network in its own right, and a socially-powered layer overhanging Google’s existing web services, namely Google Search, Gmail, GoogleDocs, YouTube and Google +1, but soon to include GoogleApps, Picassa, GoogleReader and the dozens of other services Google provides to users.

What’s the value proposition?

Google is attempting to bring a new philosophy to social connectivity, combining the popular features common to social media (friend networking, link sharing, location-sharing, object rating, etc) with a new emphasis on privacy, context and integration; three areas where the leading social networking giants like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare often struggle. The concept is abstract, but powerful nonetheless, as shown in this video from Google announcing the launch of Google+:

Where are the opportunities for brands?

Officially, there are none right now. Several brands, most notably Ford, pounced on Google+ invites in the first week and immediately started publishing updates. But Google quickly put a stop to this, explaining to brands that Google+ profiles are for individuals only, and that a comprehensive solution for their needs will be launched as soon as the Google+ user base has grown to a reasonable size.

To smooth things over with prominent brands and keep anticipation high, Google released a video articulating their belief that: “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses. We just ask for your patience while we build it.” They also offered brands the chance to take part in a pilot program to test out whenever the Google+ business solution is launched. The video below states Google’s official stance towards brand participation in Google+.

What action should brands take on Google+ right now?

Google+ represents a potential – and I emphasize the term potential – watershed for social marketing. In only three weeks, the service has demonstrated:

  1. An extraordinary capacity to grow its membership virally, as the social network will likely reach 20 million members by the time it turns 1-month old. At its current rate of growth, Google+ could rival Twitter in size by early 2012.
  2. An exceptional skill at driving referring traffic to top-tier websites. Google+ members are sharing over 1 billion items each day, and many leading news outlets have already seen Google+ crack their top ten sources of referring traffic.

That being said, Google+ is still in its infancy. There are many serious obstacles that it must surmount over the next few months to demonstrate that it is even sustainable as a network, to say nothing of being valuable to brands, profitable as a business or a rival to Facebook.

At IMRE, we are counseling our clients to take two initial steps with Google+:

  1. Devote time to learning about what Google+ is offering is individual members. The new social network certainly has an appeal, and studying how users interact with it and what draws them to the service can reap huge rewards down the road when developing a social marketing strategy for the platform.
  2. Begin to set aside time and resources for a thorough review of Google+ in late 2011 – Just in time for the social network to mature and the 2012 budget planning season to start. Tell your social marketing teams and agencies that you want to assess the viability of Google+ in late 2011, and that you want to see a clear recommendation about whether or not the new social network will support your core business and marketing strategies.

How Should Brands Assess Google+?

At IMRE, we always encourage our clients to assess a social marketing channel using six criteria, and an analysis of Google+ should take the same format:

  1. Audience – Is your target audience on Google+? What are they using it for? Is there an opportunity to add value to the conversation? Is there a threat to engaging with them?
  2. Connectivity Tools – Does Google+ offer audiences the tools necessary to share your content with others? Who will they share it with? Is their sharing and engagement measurable?
  3. Connectivity Barriers – Where does Google+ limit your brand or the ability of your audiences to share your content? Are these barriers surmountable? How?
  4. Functionality – What will Google+ allow your brand to do on the service? Will you be provided with the features necessary to forge a strong connection with your audience? Can your other marketing initiatives be extending into Google+ without risk and with maximum benefit?
  5. Terms of Use – What will Google+ not allow your brand to do on the service (contests, sweepstakes, direct messages)? Are these restrictions deal-breakers for you?
  6. Analytics – Will your Google+ marketing strategy be measurable? What insights will Google+ provide you? Are these metrics more or less helpful than those offered by other social platforms?
By Matt Saler

At IMRE Sports, we believe in the value of leveraging brand’s spending in sports into increased return-on-investment in the forms of media impressions, consumer feedback and conversation, and on-site activation where applicable.  Sports is an avenue that connects many different types of people (and specifically consumers), and is often the best way to reach a broad audience that is interested in your company.

There are plenty of companies that get involved with sports sponsorships with varying levels of effectiveness.  It’s no secret that sports sponsorships are expensive, but they are also potentially the most lucrative when activated correctly.  It’s important for your brand to be featured in a variety of areas – from logos to key messaging by sponsored athletes, to on-site branding and activation, to the ever increasingly important digital activation – to generate the positive exposure your business deserves when spending money in sports.

Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are leaders in selling items to, and engaging with, the building and construction community.  They’re also both masters of maximizing their sports sponsorship in very different ways.

College gameday logo Touchdown! How the building industry is spending money in sports

ESPN College GameDay, Built By The Home Depot Logo

Home Depot sponsors the popular ESPN show “College GameDay.” The weekly show features recognizable ESPN analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard going to the site of the top college football game of the weekend.  The hour-long show is a must-watch for college football fans, and continually produces high ratings for ESPN.  It also provides great ROI for Home Depot.

The show is titled “ESPN College GameDay, Built By The Home Depot,” which gives the presenting sponsor name recognition in every mention of the title, as well as intertwining the important “built” keyword.  The logo for the show also includes Home Depot’s logo, so fans have visual recognition whenever the show is discussed.

The company does great on-site branding, with the fencing that holds in the thousands of fans that flood the live show draped in an orange Home Depot banner.  Home Depot is also activating digitally, with the Home Depot logo featured throughout the home page.  The icing on the cake are the clever College commercials that feature Home Depot in prominent ways.

Lowe’s has also done a noteworthy job in their sports marketing.  The company has a large stake in NASCAR, including sponsoring reigning five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 car.  The sponsorship includes having Lowe’s logo on the car and Johnson’s racing suit.

This instance is where finding a high-profile athlete to sponsor can really pay off.  Johnson is the best driver in the sport, which obviously helps Lowe’s from a recognition standpoint as he’s always on television or being written about due to his consistent performance.  Although NASCAR numbers are down across the board, Johnson received the most exposure value of any other driver in 2010.

1124 mid Touchdown! How the building industry is spending money in sportsLowe’s goes out of its way to congratulate Johnson on his accomplishments…and simultaneously give its brand more exposure.  Last year after Johnson won his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup title, Lowe’s ran a full-page congratulatory ad in USA Today, as well as a thank-you ad on ESPN.  The company also used its sponsorship to gain exposure around its philanthropic side.  It sold special edition Sports Illustrateds with Johnson on the cover, and with every issue sold, the company contributed a portion of proceeds to benefit Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grant program.

Since Johnson has been such an effective driver, the critically acclaimed HBO show “24/7” filmed a four-episode season devoted to him.  Lowe’s received free ROI here, as Johnson was chosen because of his ability.  “24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona” featured a behind-the-scenes look at Johnson’s preparation for NASCAR’s Super Bowl…while simultaneously showing plenty of Lowe’s.

When done correctly, sponsoring sports can generate an incredible return for companies.  It’s about much more than just cutting a check for a sporting event or athlete; it’s about using those events and athletes as vehicles to reach your consumer.  For the building industry, where many of the consumers also happen to be sports fans, getting involved in sports can lead to more exposure, engagement and recognition.

And most importantly, more revenue.

By Lindsay Muller

30rocksalmaalec l 15 Seconds of Fame: Putting a Value on Product PlacementWhen it comes to product promotion, there are many ways to generate buzz, whether it be for a new or existing product. In fact, all good communications campaigns should include a multi-faceted approach that incorporates traditional and social public relations, social media marketing, web and mobile components. Even B2B marketing campaigns have become more integrated. Now more than ever, your customers, including contractors, architects and designers, are relying on the Internet for education, networking, knowledge-sharing, marketing and sales.

Within the realm of public relations, there are a number of tactics that communications teams can explore to get the word out about new products. Product placement and strategic integration is one way to expose mainstream consumers and professionals to a given product. With shoestring budgets, production houses and scouting agencies are always looking for donations, especially when it comes to building materials and tools. There are countless opportunities to get your products and brand on television, Internet and the big screen.

Everyone wants to be on TV, right?

Well sometimes it’s not worth it, literally and figuratively. And with the viral nature of the Internet, why bother?

While the opportunities for product integration are ever present, the question becomes whether or not product integration make sense. For many industries, like automotive, it’s still big business (take “Transformers 3″ for example). But what about others? To help answer this question, brands should:

  • Evaluate every opportunity. Even if a brand is completely open to supplying product for potential inclusion in a TV show or movie, it is critical to evaluate every opportunity to ensure the program makes sense and will reach the intended audience. For instance, a professional power tool brand may not want to supply products to a TV show that is geared primarily toward a DIY audience. The same is true of a DIY brand if the program’s viewership is comprised of professionals who demand the absolute best when it comes to the products they use.
  • Understand how the product will be used. In addition to knowing the demographic and viewership of the show, it’s important to determine how the products will be used. If a brand is considering a TV show or a movie, it is important to know that the product will be used correctly (as intended) so that it performs well. For instance, horror movies have been known to feature power tools as weapons. Hopefully they’ll tell you what the movie is in advance…
  • Determine what’s involved. Ask up front what other products and brands will be involved in the program and seek category exclusivity. You should also find out what type of brand exposure you will receive. Depending on the product, application and shot, it might be hard to determine the product manufacturer by the visual alone, especially if it’s something like siding or lighting. If you’re interested in the show, work with the producers to get the proper recognition related to your total product investment.
  • Know the costs. Product placement is never free. Huffington Post reported that the “Bond 23″ film will get $45 million from product placement. Of course, there is often a fee, but no matter what, the product donation still has a price.  Most importantly, what’s the value of the exposure? That can be measured in a number of different ways, but most frequently by ad value.

Product placement can be a very beneficial and effective way to expose consumers to new and existing products; however, research and planning is critical. We recommend making a checklist for evaluating product placement opportunities. In fact, we have a criteria and detailed evaluation process for sponsorships that puts a numeric value on every opportunity we review for clients. Set criteria that are important to you based on marketing objectives, this will help you determine if the investment is worthwhile or not.

Can you name some recent product placement examples that made an impact on you, positive or negative?

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