Category: Tips


How Brands Can Reach College-At-Home Consumers

October 15, 2020
brand engagement online college student

The college experience is changing rapidly, perhaps forever. Less frat parties, more Zoom. Fewer lecture halls, more…Zoom. Like it or not, Generation Z (18-23) remains bunkered up at home. As of this writing, only 21.3% of colleges have opted for a fully or primarily in-person class model for the Fall 2020 semester. And even with this reduction, there have been major issues across the nation’s top academic institutions.

As a result, college students are largely at home, in front of their phone and computer screens. Knowing this, it is important for brands and marketers to better understand this rapidly evolving landscape. How do we appeal to Generation Z college students in a way that is welcome and unobtrusive? Market ourselves authentically and compassionately? Address their immediate cares and concerns?

To illustrate, we lay out a day in the life of “Amanda,” a college student dealing with the realities of living at home and attending school online.

college home consumers brand engagement7:15 AM – Wake up

Amanda’s alarm goes off and she fumbles for her cell phone. A push notification reminds her of the activities that will filter through her day. She gives her social feeds a cursory glance.

7:32 AM – Breakfast

Amanda reaches for the cereal she likes (not the healthy one this time). It reminds her of a video she had seen on Tik Tok involving a PR stunt with a free box offer. She makes a mental note to send in her receipt and heads back to Tik Tok and social to see what’s new.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: High-visibility social videos and clever promotions can keep a brand top of mind and grow affinity and loyalty. Creative direction, strong execution, and the involvement of others (influencers, brand partners) will help grow the reach exponentially.

10:43 AM – Break

First round of courses complete, Amanda is feeling motivated today. A virtual yoga session fits her mood. She unrolls her yoga mat, pulls up YouTube on her computer, and searches for a yoga workout. She scrolls through a mixture of organic and advertiser-sponsored videos, pausing for a moment on a Fabletics workout gear advertisement. The ad is well made and she watches it all the way through. She chooses a popular yoga influencer’s video. She knows it will be good.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: Utilize video advertising by placing your branded pre-roll commercials on platforms like YouTube. Be strategic and intentional with well-made advertisements that mimic the programming in theme and quality to stand out and be relevant. 

12:34 PM – Lunch

Having completed another class and a quick virtual instructor one-on-one meeting, she takes a breather and checks Instagram. A chef-crafted entree from a better-for-you casual dining chain pops up, followed by a paid ad from GrubHub. The dots connect, reminding her that it is lunch, and she is getting hungry. Within seven minutes, lunch is ordered and on its way.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: Think about running your social media advertisements and posting content at times your audience will most likely interact with it. Also, use geo-targeting to ensure you’re hitting the right areas for ad placement.

1:50 PM – Study Group

Getting set up for her study session, she pops in her AirPods and sees a push notification from her favorite podcast. The newest episode features the founder of a company she adores. The first few minutes are the perfect backdrop to her prep, and she’s already hooked.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: Guesting on trending podcasts can be a savvy way to integrate into the daily lives of your audience and give your brand a definable personality, speaking to your own inspiration and values.

3:04 PM – Quick chat

As the virtual study group ends, a new message pops-up on her screen. A friend from the group wants to chat about an assignment where more help is needed. Amanda recommends an online course and tutoring system she uses herself. She sends her friend the link and her personal referral code.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: Word of mouth is still alive and well. Having easy and memorable ways for brand loyalists to share your content is key, along with a reward system to thank your valued customers.

5:36 PM – Dinner

Amanda’s friend group on WhatsApp is bombarded with messages. A couple of friends want to find a place to grab a bite. She Googles it. The first thing she sees is a well-crafted ad for an up-and-coming burger chain. They have WhatsApp for Business Messenger, so she sends the burger place a message, asking if they are open for dine-in. An autoresponder provides her with the answer, along with a link to frequently asked questions.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: As restaurants and other venues reopen for dining, close, and open back up, it is important to stay current with Google Ads and other paid media. As students search for their needs on Google, use these tools to communicate with your audience and uphold your reputation during times of uncertainty. If you have a service-based company, consider adding a personal touch with one-on-one message services like Facebook’s WhatsApp for Business.

9:17 PM – Downtime

The end of a long day. Amanda settles down to a recent movie on Hulu. Before the movie, a series of commercials appears. One of these is clever and entertaining and reminds her of that car she’s been thinking about. In fact, the commercial turns out to be better than the movie. So she browses the automotive company’s website and starts customizing her favorite model. She saves it for later and decides to look into it more over the weekend.

Brand Touchpoint Opportunity: Branded video advertising on streaming services like Hulu and Peacock may be a great way to capture audiences while they are enjoying their favorite shows. Branded media can also be a powerful way to associate your product with a popular show or celebrity. 

Reaching Coveted College-Age Consumers

Amanda’s story is similar to that of many college students who are dealing with the new reality of life (and college at home). Without Google, social media, apps, and other platforms, college would be a very solitary experience. As a result, students are more dependent than ever on screen time for entertainment, social interactions, and education.

Even as campus life becomes a reality again, it’s likely that the college experience will look very different: smaller class size, custom tailored academic tracks, and less of a centralized “campus” experience than generations prior. So for brands and companies looking to reach younger consumers, evolution is absolutely critical.

Get in touch with Double Zebra

Fortunately, our team is here to help champion brands grow and evolve.  It’s what we do.

Consult with a senior brand marketing expert who will evaluate what’s been happening recently with your existing approach (with kind yet honest feedback). Together, we will put together a high value, actionable plan for the coming year.

PS: Want more? Here are three quick foundational tips to help engage with the coveted college-age demographic:

Utilize Social Media Content

To reach a specific group of people, your best move is to go where they already are. In the case of younger consumers, that means having a strong social media presence for your brand, and devoting time, budge, and energy towards it as a priority. A well branded and curated social channel, with fresh and interesting content throughout the month, will put you in a better position to interact with a younger demographic.

Use Text Messaging

People open their text messages fairly quickly. If you have a customer’s phone number, and they have opted in, you can text them with offers, incentives, and requests for feedback. Using text messages makes it easy for customers to give feedback to your business so you can make it better. It’s quick, easy, and convenient. All of these are important to appeal to younger audiences who often feel like they already have too many demands on their time. Make it as accommodating for them as possible.

Stand for Something

Younger consumers are loyal to businesses that take a similar stance on issues relevant to them. Because of this, cause marketing (when it comes from a place of authenticity) can draw an affinity audience. Opt for causes that naturally align with your company’s brand. Produce media that helps get the word out without the hard sell. When done well, the result will feel genuine to those involved in your business, including team members, customers, and other stakeholders.

These three approaches (maximizing social media, using text messaging, and taking a vocal stance) are a good starting point to draw younger consumers, and to keep your brand fresh and relevant over time.


How To Build A Rabid Online Fanbase Around Your Company

August 25, 2020
online fanbase audience love

online fanbase audience loveSo many companies, even well known ones, are outwardly struggling with audience engagement right now. And no wonder. There are new internal priorities to contend with. Seemingly endless factors competing for audience attention. Like it or not, the rules have changed. So what is the secret to cultivating not just followers, and visitors, but a thriving fan base of enthusiasts?

It’s not enough to check a box anymore, and produce content for content’s sake. The audience sees this coming. They know that they are being served up placeholders, or warmed-over rehashes of the same old talking points. It gets old after the third post.

It doesn’t work to be dry, factual and informative, either. This gets lost in a sea of gray. Ex: yet another product demo video absent of context or storytelling? Yawn city.

The audience needs to care first before they get enamored by features enough to influence purchase behavior. So tell them about the product benefits once they know, trust, and feel like they belong to a community. Not as the jumping off point. After all, people don’t fall in love with their car’s owner’s manual. They get attached to the brand itself and the emotional benefits. This is what needs to come alive online.

But We Have a Big Following!

Even if the numbers are there (ex: Cristiano Ronaldo-sized Instagram following), this doesn’t necessarily translate to an engaged audience. Maybe they are sticking around, waiting for something to happen. Maybe they clicked on something they half-liked years ago, which was the last time they were actually impressed with what they saw. The longer it goes without a real strategy or care for the audience, the more apathetic they will become. Then, when you actually have something big to say? It will hit the web with a resounding ‘meh.’

The presumption here is that you want your company to be treated like an iconic brand. And to jump the line for undivided audience attention. If so, there needs to be a consistently high benchmark for everything put in front of your audience, ie:

  • Is there a definable brand voice and personality?
  • Are there opportunities for two-way engagement?
  • Is there an overarching creative direction?
  • Is there a well crafted execution?

If it’s just pretty pictures, it’s a wasted opportunity. The solution – be active, attentive, and purposeful with your audience interaction. Let’s look at three ways to accomplish this:

Deep Social Media Audience Insights

By now, it’s common knowledge that having an active social media presence is crucial. For starters, it increases your company visibility. Even better, it integrates your brand into the lives of those you want to reach. But beyond likes and comments, how do you know who is actively enjoying the content? How do you inform the messaging strategy? And further, ensure that all relevant audience segments are being covered? The answer lies in metrics-driven audience insights.

To achieve this level of audience awareness, social analytics experts like ours create compelling data stories. These are generated through years of practice and increasingly sophisticated software platforms. By looking at the results across different channels, it opens up new levels of understanding. It enables us all to see who is just consuming the content vs those with genuine purchase intent. This way, the strategy across all channels (ex: organic, paid) can be adjusted to match the audience’s engagement level.

After a short time, we can start developing trends and courting new audiences. We can even get into predictive revenue, leading to a way smarter and better informed social strategy. Goodbye, content for content’s sake.

A To-The-Moment Relevant Website

Another way to cultivate a more loyal following online is to update your website frequently. Regularly updating your website helps your customers know that things are moving and not stagnant. Does the website looks the same as it did three weeks ago? If so, there is no incentive to visit again.

To counter this, consider implementing an overarching web engagement strategy. This could consist of a branded campaign with content that is unique to your website only. As the campaign rolls out, from teaser to interactive features, your audience will be hooked. They will know they are a part of something exciting that is specifically for them. Then, bring new variations on the theme to life throughout the course of the campaign. This will give your audience a reason to come back over and over.

Again, letting your website grow stale will detract customers. So make sure to update it frequently and keep the highly visible features current. This will build trust and loyalty. And as a side benefit, actively curated websites perform better in online searches over time than stagnant ones.

To the casual observer, your existing website may seem like it represents the brand well. However, chances are it can go even further. What experience does a first time visitor have? How are they moved to react or act? As the primary entry point to your company, the website should have emotional appeal and integrated into the browsing experience. Make the brand story come to life and keep it current!

SEO – The Time-Tested Audience Driver

If the company website stands up, then SEO helps to ensure that the right audience finds it. Is your company looking to grow audience engagement? If so, don’t underestimate the power of SEO or see it as a cost only. Instead, integrate SEO into any long-range promotional activities, with a monthly program in place. Between onsite, technical, and offsite, SEO marketing tactics are designed to improve visibility on the web and in search engines. For example, content should be semantically written. Also, it should have a content strategy behind it. If not, it will likely be outranked by competitors. Putting SEO to work for you, as one of many coverage areas, will increase the popularity of your website by making it easily accessible to your valued audience.

What Next?

Of course, we’re only scratching the surface here. If you have an iconic brand that deserves more love than it’s getting with current audience engagement, drop us a line.


How to Use Social Marketing without Coming Across as Virtue Signaling

August 20, 2020
cause marketing virtue signaling

Does your company care deeply about societal issues? Do you want to make a difference in the lives of the communities you serve? It may be time to weave social marketing into your business practices. Social marketing is a marketing initiative or campaign that utilizes social issues to unite people. We call this approach Super-Aspirational because it makes us all want to be better as a society. But how do you accomplish this without coming across as virtue signaling — trying too hard to openly win praise or admiration?

What Is Social Marketing?

First, it is important to understand what social marketing is. Social marketing has a different motivating force behind it than product or service-centric marketing. Instead of focusing on encouraging people to buy only, you’re also trying to influence behavior change on a mass scale. By focusing on one or more societal issues, and taking a stance as a company, it helps people to identify with the values presented. This doesn’t stop at raising awareness, however. Social marketing involves implementing actual sustainable change that will make a difference not just now, but in the future.

Choosing Your Cause

However passionate your company may feel about global social issues, you cannot adopt every cause into social marketing campaign. Doing so would lead to overly ambitious messaging that would come across as either vague or convoluted. In order for your campaign to be truly effective, you must pinpoint the one cause your company feels most passionate about. Ask yourself these four questions:

  • Which cause speaks to the internal team?
  • Is there a personal connection to the founder that rings true?
  • Have you learned of something your audience is asking you to take a stance on (outwardly or implicitly)
  • Might there be a core feature of your product or service that solves for a human need that also has greater societal benefit?

The best advice here is to stay inside your lane and get involved with something you (as a company) actually care about. That way, your words will come across as authentic, as intended, without seeming like pandering. No matter which cause you choose, your company should have a direct correlation.

Let Your Actions Speak for Themselves

In order to get others to care about your company’s chosen social issue, you cannot just repeat the same mantra over and over again. Let your actions speak for themselves. Be a visible presence in the community. Sponsor livestreams with activists and thought leaders. Be vocal on social media with considered and articulate content. Doing so will show your customers that you are unwavering in your dedication — so much so that you are trying to influence change in the world, not just move more units than competitors.

At first, social marketing may seem like virtue signaling. But over time, with demonstrated commitment, you have the power to change people’s perceptions about themselves and their behavior. One post expressing sympathy or solidarity won’t do it. Your company can make a difference, but you have to step it up.


Why Do Marketing Companies Ask For Your Budget?

February 19, 2020
marketing budget

What’s your marketing budget?

“I don’t know.”

These three words drive fear into the hearts of courageous marketing companies. It makes our heads spin, and we need Advil and electrolytes to recover. If there is a fainting couch nearby, we might darn well use it.


Because knowing your budget is essential to making the best recommendations. It gives us parameters to work within, and tells us how to think and act.

When we hear a budget, we make mental calculations in real time and start gameplanning. If there is no defined budget, this could mean one of two things:

  1. “There is absolutely no money to invest into marketing.”
  2. “You know that one dream strategy you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t justify all that A-list Hollywood talent on the payroll? That’s for us!”

The reality is probably somewhere in between these two scenarios. There is money to put into marketing, and there is (unfortunately) a ceiling into how far the budget will go (you’re off the hook, Clooney).

But here’s the thing – if you don’t know your budget, we don’t know it either. The best we can do is to make assumptions. We could dig deep into your financials, with your permission, but even that may not present the most accurate picture of what to spend. So how do you gauge your marketing budget, to provide an informed and confident answer?

To start, here are a few questions to consider:

“What Would A Highly Skilled Employee Cost?”

Think about what you are asking your potential marketing company to accomplish. Think about the skills and expertise it will require to work on your behalf. Now, take stock of what it would cost to hire an employee each month, with all the talents and skills you are after. What is this amount?

You can validate salary assumptions with job boards like indeed or ZipRecruiter. For equitable comparisons, look at listings for seasoned professionals, not early career postings. Got a rough idea in your head? Great – this is now your starting point for the budgeting conversation.

Keep in mind that a marketing company on a limited engagement will command a higher per-hour rate than an in-house employee. So it will likely be more cost effective to engage your marketing company on a monthly retainer, as opposed to an hourly billable structure.

Also, know that with a marketing company, your budget may stretch much further than hiring only one employee with a specific skill set. With a marketing company, you will have access to a full team of specialists with a diverse set of talents. So don’t look to undercut what you’d pay an internal team member. Instead, think of it as a redistribution of marketing funds to partner with an experienced marketing company, and all the benefits that come with it.

“What Do Our Competitors Spend On Their Marketing Budget?”

Think about your industry leaders, as well as your close competitors. How established are they, and how trusted? Is their website more effective than yours? Are they dominating search engine results? Try to see things as objectively as possible, without championing your own company for a moment.

If your competitors are ahead in one or several areas, then it’s very likely you’ll want to make marketing a top-level priority. This doesn’t mean you have to outspend them, or to carbon-copy their approaches. But it does point to devoting money towards marketing, and to investing a reasonable amount each year into building your presence, market position, and community engagement.

Do a little recon, if possible. How much do competitors spend each year on marketing? If your budget is in the same ballpark, with the right marketing team behind you, then you have a nice chance of going head to head. This is true even if you’re the underdog – marketers love a good fight. But if you’re spending a fraction of what they are, it’s likely you’ll end up with the same fraction of market share, year after year.

“What Does It Take To Become Our Customer?”

We can’t all sell umbrellas in the rain. Purchasing from your company may be a complex and nuanced process. Even if you sell a relatively simple product or service, consumers may agonize over the decision. They may want to read, learn, ask peers, and engage in any number of ways before making the commitment. And what if your product or service actually is complex and nuanced?

Education and behavior change are two of the more challenging types of marketing. Talking people out of what they know and are comfortable with, and into a new solution, takes time and patience. It can be very rewarding, but there is a lot of ramp-up that goes into educating consumers and giving them reason to trust you.

So how much do you spend? If your product or service is a new or revolutionary concept, then you’ll likely want to spend 1.5x or more the typical marketing budget to get the word out. Give your marketing team room to experiment, to prove out the concept, and show you what connects with consumers. This will give you a foundation to build from, and point the direction to next steps.

Once you’ve hit critical mass, and your product or service is virtually selling itself, then consider dialing back the marketing expenditure. But until then, you’re facing an uphill battle. Equip your team accordingly.

So, About That Marketing Budget…

All this is great, but how much should your marketing budget be?

If you go straight according to the numbers, look at spending 5-8% of your total gross revenue to maintain your current marketing position. If you are looking to grow, and take on competitors, then 10-12% of total gross revenue will be more appropriate.

Of course, this estimate varies by industry. It may not account for direct costs like ad spend, or your internal marketing team salaries. But now you have a benchmark to start with, and another way to determine how much to spend on your marketing initiatives. As goals are achieved, don’t make the same mistake that a lot of companies do and cut your spend. Instead, consider budgeting more towards marketing, to experiment, evolve, and gain a larger competitive edge.

Working With Your Budget

No matter your marketing budget, we will apply what you have to work with and use it most effectively. Healthy budgets let us cover more ground, and in many cases work faster. We are able to devote more team members, time, and higher level expertise to your projects.

Slimmer budgets give us a starting point. We may be able to cover one or two areas of your marketing, with the shared understanding that we are working within limitations. To take on your entire marketing program, or work with fewer constraints, the budget would need to be adjusted accordingly. But don’t be afraid to share your budget, and the figure you are able to devote towards marketing each month. We will always provide insights into how to apply this budget most effectively.

Marketing budgets drive business. They create excitement, momentum, and community around your company. They attract, educate, entertain, and inform your desired audience. They set you apart from the competition, and they set the trajectory for the next 5-10 years. They are an essential component of achieving your business and marketing goals.

So, with all this in mind, what’s your marketing budget?


How to Hire a Dynamite Content Marketer for Your Team

October 18, 2019
dynamite content marketing visual

Creating and executing the perfect content marketing strategy requires more than a goal. It depends on having the right people running your content program. Today’s business landscape demands high-quality content in order to be seen, and to stand out. However, hiring the perfect marketer can be a little challenging. The following list details some of the things to keep in mind when searching for your next content marketer.

Look for These Attributes

Everyone is different, which means you are going to see a variety of personalities when you begin to interview. According to TINYpulse, the best way to hire for the job is to understand which attributes you want in your content marketer. For example, a lot of content marketers and writers are introverts. Because of this, your candidates may not demonstrate leadership qualities in an interview setting.

Is this important? It may not be, unless you are hiring for a management position. Instead, focus on the specific needs of the content role. Seek someone who’s organized, has excellent communication skills, and who is honest. Look for an individual who can write snappy headlines and also long-form content. Narrow down to candidates who can effectively and concisely communicate your brand’s value with creative ideas and energy. This may sound simple, but these are the attributes that make all of the difference for a good long-term hire.

How to Identify Favorable Attributes in a Content Marketer Candidate

Learning about a person’s strengths is often impossible during one 5-minute interview. Therefore, we highly recommend implementing procedures that help you to get to know the potential employee, and vice versa. As The Hire Talent suggests, pre-employment tests can be used to measure a candidate’s behavior, personality, reasoning, competency, integrity, skills, and cognitive ability. These tests enable you to observe the candidate in action. They also ensure that you consider all qualified candidates equally, without inadvertent bias.

Specific Questions for the Content Marketer Position

There is no doubt that you will come across excellent candidates for the job. However, one of the most common mistakes made during the hiring process is choosing someone is not suited for the type of content you produce. Even if they are a strong writer, they may not understand the intricacies of your industry. Or, they may not be able to grasp the needs and pain points of your target audience.

Because of this, it is crucial to ask questions to determine the interest of the candidate. For example, do they like to research? Are they willing to dive into your company and industry to learn about the nuances? These types of questions will help determine their suitability for the position.

Whether you’re seeking to hire one or ten content marketers, the process will no doubt be challenging. However, by simply adhering to the list above, you will begin to lay down a solid foundation for your future interviews. And if you are looking for a high-caliber external marketing agency to take over your content marketing program, please reach out to us for a proposal.

Looking for more marketing tips? We recommend: 5 Tips for Being “Social” on Social Media.