Ask the Pros – with Elaine Fogel

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Daniel Pickus:  You’ve done work for some very well-known brands. What is the most difficult or unusual thing you have tried to do marketing for?

Elaine Fogel: Years ago, while I was freelancing for a Toronto-based ad agency, Procter & Gamble acquired Tambrands, the makers of Tampax tampons. Before P&G made the announcement public, it asked the agency to develop new Tampax sales sheets and collateral so everything would be in place.

My assignment included overseeing a product photo shoot of the entire Tampax product line as well as its competitors, so salespeople would understand the differences and attributes. But, first, I had to purchase every type and brand of tampon product on the market!  

I walked into a local drug store and began to fill my cart with boxes and boxes of tampons. By the time I got to the cash desk, people were looking at me with curiosity and weird expressions. On the spur of the moment, I told the cashier that I ran a girls’ summer camp and needed to stock up for the season. Phew.

The next part was also unusual. Working with the product photographer, we shot each tampon size and brand both dry and wet. It was a long day and one I never forgot as I became a tampon expert.


DP: What do you love about what you do? What do you enjoy doing marketing for?

EF: I love being creative – it’s part of my DNA. So, when I write, develop new ideas, or design something, it feeds my soul. As a former teacher, I have always enjoyed sharing my expertise with others, and that’s why I thrive on speaking and writing.

I like marketing things that touch my heart, are innovative or new, or require a creative approach to stand out. If my clients are nice and easy-going, I enjoy collaborating with them. 


DP: In your book you talk about the importance of consistency of brand identity. "It’s still essential to address your company's brand identity - the visual components such as colors, typography, symbols and yes, its logo. These elements must appear consistently, no matter where you use them." How much of a challenge is this for growing organizations, with an ever increasing number of platforms and channels?

EF: It can be a challenge for businesses that are trying to do a lot with fewer human and financial resources or for those that are growing quickly. The way to overcome it is to develop company brand standards. 

You can start with a simple document that outlines the company’s brand colors in its varieties. For example, to use colors in both print and electronic channels, you need the color formulae in Pantone (PMS), RGB (red, green, blue), and CMYK (full color). That way, employees, who are not in marketing, know how to use the colors in typical office software programs. 

As for logos, it’s a good idea to store them electronically where everyone has easy access. I would recommend storing clearly identified high, medium, and low-resolutions images in jpg and png formats for employee use. The brand standards can explain when, where, and how to apply them.

DP: You suggest we should "put customers at the center of every action" and you give a number of great suggestions on how to implement this. Could you share one specific example with us on how we can effectively put customers first?

EF: One way is to really “know and understand your customers.” You don’t have to be snoopy. Just be friendly and listen to them: their personal stories, desires, preferences, and complaints. 

Collect and record important information in your company’s customer relationship management program, database, or other customer software for reference. This allows you to anticipate their needs and wow them in future transactions.

You can also learn more about customers in social media to see what they’ve shared and posted. Conducting online surveys or telephone IDIs (in-depth interviews) can also help identify specific and valuable information.   

The more you know about them and make them feel valued, the better chances you have at retaining them.


DP: You explore the topic Social Responsibility for small businesses. What are some of the benefits of practicing social responsibility and some practical ways we can begin to act?

EF: I coined the term Small Business Social Responsibility (SBSR) because many people thought that corporations were solely accountable for socially responsible activity. But, that’s a misnomer.

Studies demonstrate how customer affinity rises for socially responsible companies - period. It doesn’t matter the size. 

There are so many benefits to social responsibility including attracting, retaining, and motivating employees; enhancing the company’s brand reputation; promoting customer loyalty; increasing customers and sales; saving money; expanding the company’s visibility; providing good content to share with target audiences; and fostering greater public trust.

And, there are many ways that businesses can take action. One is to ensure that the business complies with any state/provincial labor regulations. Compliance is every business owner’s responsibility and affects brand reputation.

Another is to offer professional development opportunities to employees. Not only do they appreciate additional skills training, they tend to stay on the job longer and are more loyal to the company.

Practicing transparency with employees, customers, and suppliers can definitely help cultivate and sustain relationships of trust. Practicing and reinforcing ethical business practices should be part of company values, procedures, and standards. 

Developing a sustainable workplace is an important one as well. Practice water, fuel, and electricity conservation and reduce waste.  

Connecting with your community through volunteering, charitable donations, cause marketing programs, and advocacy can demonstrate social responsibility in local markets. 

    There are many other examples with concrete ideas in the book. (Hint, hint.)


DP: We are in the particularly interested in the relevance of printed collateral in today's overwhelmingly digitally focused world. What can you tell us about the importance of printed marketing materials?

EF: Printed collateral can play an integral part of the marketing mix. Of course, it depends on the target audience and where they get their information. But, the important thing is not to make assumptions. 

Surprisingly, Pew studies show that those aged 18 to 29 have the highest print readership rates. Who would have thought?

In addition, results from a Two Sides survey show that 81% of respondents preferred to read print on paper when given the choice. In another study, 56% of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method and more than 3 out of 4 small businesses use both print marketing and online efforts combined. This strategy usually offers the best return on investment and gets the best response rates. (“Print Marketing Is Still Not Dead,” AllBusiness Networks)

So, instead of looking at media buy statistics or surveys that show the declining use of print advertising, businesses should look at using print to stand out and complement digital channels. Wouldn’t you rather reach customers and prospects where there’s less clutter anyway? 

DP: Lots of marketing execs are so bogged down by emergencies and fires to be put out that they cannot take time to be more strategic. What are some practical steps marketers or brand managers can take to become more strategic in their work? 

EF: I can’t stress this one enough. Working without a strategy is like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. It can be a very costly endeavor and waste valuable time and energy going in the wrong direction. 

I’d first recommend deciding whether you want to tackle a marketing plan yourselves or seek professional assistance. Realistically, if you lack the time, inclination, or desire to work on the plan internally, and you have the financial
resources, I suggest hiring an experienced marketing consultant to develop the plan with you.

If not, one of the best ways to ensure that your company is strategic is to set aside the necessary time – away from the office – to develop and work on a bona fide plan. There are too many distractions in the workplace to accomplish this.

About the Author

Elaine Fogel is an author, speaker, marketer, brand and customer experience evangelist, educator, and consultant. She engages audiences and readers with lessons gleaned from her diverse career as a singer, teacher, cookbook author, television show host, and marketing executive. Elaine has been a contributing writer to The Business Journal, and contributes to MarketingProfs, SmallBizClub and her articles have appeared in many print and digital publications, and is also the author of Beyond Your Logo – 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.