The Power of Partnership

Although companies and organizations in the same industry are usually considered competitors, it’s no secret that they are partnering with each other more than ever to accomplish a mutual goal. Business partnerships have been increasing dramatically over the last few decades. Whether the goal is to increase sales, to raise awareness of an organization or cause, or to make an impact in the community, companies and organizations are realizing the power of partnership. Because the truth is, we’re all in this together, right?

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is one of these organizations that discovered the power of partnership.

PetSmart Charities is a non-profit animal welfare organization founded in 1994. It is the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America providing more than $165 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations and has saved the lives of more than 5 million pets through its in-store pet adoption partnership with PetSmart and local adoption partners. In Jacksonville, PetSmart’s local adoption partner is First Coast No More Homeless Pets, Inc.

This year in July, the two organizations came together as a team to accomplish their mutual goal – to save the lives of homeless pets.

The organizations hosted Jacksonville’s Mega Pet Adoption Event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. In this tremendous collaboration effort, the partners helped shelters and rescue groups present pets from Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties. At the start of the three-day event, the massive 50,000 square foot exhibition hall was jam-packed with thousands of pets anxiously awaiting their forever home.

“A record-breaking 1,165 pets were adopted,” said Michael Faulk, general manager for the Gate Parkway PetSmart in Jacksonville. “And for the very first time,” he exclaimed, “every single dog was adopted!”

The power of partnership is real, y’all. And organizations like these realize the power they have to make a difference in the community when they work together. This is just one example of how partnerships can produce impressive results. What could your organization accomplish in your community through partnerships?

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Risky (Rebranding) Business

Ever experienced a mid-life crisis? Apparently, our favorite brands go through them, too.

Essentially, a brand is what people associate with a company. Not only is it about their name, logo, or tagline (though they are all important), it involves the company’s identity; its message, its goals, and its culture.

There are many significant reasons why a company would re-brand, and all of them involve risk. It’s often difficult to change the public’s opinion on a brand. But by using the right techniques, companies can completely reinvent themselves and emerge successfully on the other side of the process.

Because my time as an intern with Brunet-Garcia is coming to an end, here are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about branding, both from the work done by the BG team and from what I’ve observed during large retail companies’ rebranding ventures.

Lesson 1: Outdated brands need to be updated for today’s audiences.

Companies going through a “mid-life crisis” need to turn a new leaf in order to be relatable to 21st century audiences, who are usually savvy with a love for the aesthetic but shorter attention spans.

A great example of this important lesson is the rebranding project that BG did for St. Johns River State College here in Jacksonville. Upon receiving greater prominence after becoming a state college, the college needed to appeal to today’s students looking for an affordable degree close to home but one that would also allow them to compete in the job market after college.

The BG team was able to emphasize the educational attributes that make St. Johns River State College unique with a new brand platform including a new logo, school mascot, positioning statement and more.

Lesson 2: Put new twists on what you’re already known for.

People appreciate reliability and respond well when something can be re-imagined.  Companies feeling exceptionally lucky will sometimes capitalize on past blunders or old misconceptions by putting a clever spin on them. This technique has been known to pay off with younger audiences and often resonates on social media avenues.

For example, Slim Jim recently incorporated an outdated but memorable tagline into a goofy new commercial. The spot targets the 18-25 age bracket and will launch on social media, but companion clips for TV will also be nostalgic for older audiences. It’s my guess that Slim Jim will continue to reuse the tagline in a similar fashion in the future.

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Selfish Giving?

I think we can all attest to the fact that people strive to make connections, especially in today’s fast-paced world. So when a company associates itself with an issue or cause that we care about, we are immediately drawn to its product.

Cause marketing, in a nutshell, is an initiative from a for-profit company to raise awareness, money, and consumer engagement for a particular cause. This kind of marketing is a growing trend: sponsorship by major corporations is predicted to reach $1.84 billion in 2014, according to IEG’s monthly sponsorship report.

Companies have the most success when they connect with causes that are relevant to their products. Here are some examples:

Proctor and Gamble has been a champion of cause marketing, having won the 2012 Forbes Cause Marketing Halo award. Of course, being a large corporation with multiple products makes things easier. For example: one pack of Pampers equals one vaccine; Tide Loads Hope sends a mobile laundromat to disaster areas; and Dawn Everyday Wildlife campaign donates products and funds to clean oil spill areas.







General Mills’ Box Tops for Education campaign was a blowout, encouraging parents to buy its cereals and other products so kids can help raise money for their school. OfficeMax has also done its part for education, with its “Adopt a Classroom” initiative and multitude of student and teacher discounts.

Hanes donated socks to the homeless. Kellogg’s gives free breakfasts to hungry kids. TUMS fights for underfunded fire departments (which is ironic considering that TUMS – the product – fights against heartburn).

Campaigns like these are nearly endless; we could go on forever celebrating increased awareness and funding by generous corporations. With so much goodwill being spread, how could there be any critics of cause marketing? But of course, there’s always a critic.

Skeptics of seemingly caring corporations are seeing what they think is the real motive for the generosity: when a company benefits a cause, it is really just looking for more sales. If a consumer knows that that 10% of sales will be donated to cancer research, they will look at a product and say, “Sure, I’d be happy to buy that.” Yes, cancer research is being funded, but the company selling the product is making the real gains. Critics would claim that the paradox of “selfish giving” is actually true when applied to this situation.

It appears that the main targets of this skepticism are campaigns that promote social movements rather than specific organizations or causes. Materials endorsing these messages are becoming increasingly popular, mainly online. For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” winner of multiple awards and one of the most-viewed ad videos of all time, promotes self-confidence in women. Always’ “Like a Girl” video has also gone viral and conveys a similar message. These videos do not show products and barely even display the company logo, but rather, the ideals they claim to believe in.

Is this wrong? Of course not. But critics of cause marketing would agree that by striving to increase confidence in women, Dove, Always, and other companies supporting different movements (Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad, “America the Beautiful,” encouraging diversity and immigration comes to mind) care more about increasing sales than about supporting these so-called ideals.

In my opinion, these skeptics need to wake up and smell the bacon. We live in a society of capitalism, where businesses are in business to make a profit. If they can make money while supporting a deserving organization, both will benefit and that’s a good thing. If a company can associate its product(s) with a popular movement or meaningful idea, then kudos! Not everyone might see things this way, but in the advertising industry we do because we understand and appreciate the power of connections. It looks like cause marketing will continue to be a powerful player in campaigns across all industries.

We want to hear YOUR opinion on this issue. Comment below or tweet us @brunetgarcia

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Innovation: the Not-So-Secret Weapon

The term “Millennial” is used to describe someone born between the years 1980 and 2000.  Other notable nicknames for this generation include Generation Y, the Echo Boomers, and the Net Generation. That last one might be the most appropriate.

As a millennial myself, I have never known a life without computers, cell phones, or the Internet. But even I can see the rapid growth of technology in global society, and the effect it’s having not only on consumers, but also on the technology companies themselves.

We are in the midst of an ongoing, silent-but-deadly war among the top technology corporations, who are all looking for new, exciting ways to win more users, more sales, and more brand recognition than their competitors. Fortunately, we (the consumers) reap all the benefits.

A majority of the top ten most valuable brands today are technology companies, Google and Apple being the top two (sidenote: Google recently overtook Apple for the #1 spot). Not far behind are Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. These five companies boast the most ammunition and manpower in this technology war. Many times, however, they win battles through the element of surprise, showcasing tricks they’ve been hiding up their sleeves. Here are some recent examples.

Though Amazon is technically labeled as a retail company, it has experienced tremendous brand growth and is competing directly with the top technology companies. It recently released its first smartphone, the Amazon Fire. Not only does it offer typical smartphone capabilities like retina display and a high-pixel camera, the phone is also equipped with Firefly, which will cleverly drive more sales to by scanning barcodes and finding them online. Additionally, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the new Fire at a product launch event that mimicked ones held by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Only time will tell if the new features will be enough to allow Amazon to really compete against Apple and other Android-operating devices in the smartphone market.

Another ongoing battle in the technology war involves Facebook and its hunger to eat up other social media competitors. Facebook may not be at the top with Google and Apple, but like Amazon, it is turning into more of a giant every day. It already succeeded in obtaining Instagram, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy. Facebook had its sights set on Snapchat, which boldly turned down the offer. Now Facebook has released it’s own photo-sharing app called Slingshot, which differs from Snapchat in that it requires a photo reply to unlock an incoming photo message. Other small start-up apps with features similar to SlingShot are claiming that Facebook imitated their ideas in order to compete with Snapchat. Leave it to technology companies to complicate the competition. But in my opinion, it looks as though Snapchat, whose fun photo-sharing features are nearly irresistible, already had this win in the bag.

I could go on and on with various technology battles over the past few years- don’t even get me started on the Samsung/Apple lawsuit. But they all give us the same essential message: beating the competition requires innovative ideas. Apple created a revolution years ago, but Google has made the most of recent times with fresh initiatives that are off its beaten track.

In the advertising industry, we can relate to the tech war in many ways. We want to stand out to our audience and break through the waves of other stimuli they encounter every day. To do this, we need to represent our clients by showing consumers ideas that are new, exciting, appealing, and different. In a word: innovative.

As a millennial, it is in my coding to keep up with the latest happenings regarding the technology battle going on all around me.  At times, I like to imagine living in the world my parents grew up in, when kids would still go outside to play; television sets only had 5 channels; and drivers would pull out a map when going somewhere new. But the reality is that those days are long over. We could argue the debate on whether technology is good for society, but either way, it’s here to stay and will only grow, so we might as well use it. So we can all continue to sit back and watch the technology corporations battle it out while we wait for our next smartphone upgrade.

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