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September 2010

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Pieces of Flair

By Pamela Norton-Shelpuk

“Each piece represents how much he cares about being an individual and being a team player. You see, you can be both at once . . . somehow. But that's not important. What's important is the flair. Always be prepared to 'express yourself.'” - Office Space

There are certain movies that always seem to provide conversation fodder. Sooner or later, folks at the party (usually the guys) offer lines from Caddy Shack, Forrest Gump, or, when in more culturally refined company, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For my crowd, the lines from Office Space seem to crop up regularly, specifically for the marketing folks and businesses who often find themselves jumping on - or sometimes battling -- the latest trends.

In Office Space, the employees of the cheesy food chain Chotchkie's sport, round, playful buttons pinned to their uniforms to show their “individuality, authenticity and personality.” Jennifer Aniston's character is chided by her boss for only putting on the “minimum pieces of flair,” while her boss compliments her irritating coworker, Brian, who has more than 37 buttons.

Like so many employees and businesses in their marketing efforts, the folks at Chotchkie's miss the point and think that loading up on pieces of flair somehow makes them more expressive and unique. In this column, I will explore how to not get caught up in the marketing whirlwind and lose sight of what makes you truly different. This week, we're talking - and maybe even tweeting - about social media.

Let's start with what social media is…and what it isn't. Everyone, including us at ideologie - is doing it … at least for our clients. We are brand experts, and it's our job to stay up on the latest tools and trends and to know how to leverage them in a powerful way for our clients. The power of social media, when used correctly, is undeniable. Our clients have enjoyed heightened awareness of their companies, better relationships with customers and sales growth as a result of their social media campaigns.

But, despite its effectiveness for my clients, I would have to admit we've been slow to adopt it in a formal way at Ideologie. While it is a rather loosely defined term, social media must be done with intent and focus. I suspect you may have experienced the same situation and asked yourself: Why have we been so slow to use it in our own business? Here's what we found.

Priority paralysis.
For one, I think many of us suffer from the reality of putting our own marketing needs last. We are busy people, after all, and since there are only so many hours in the day, clients come first. It's challenging to have the discipline to pay attention to your own marketing needs. But it's a challenge we've taken on, and it's paying off.

Lack of a clear strategy.
Secondly, for Ideologie, I knew I wanted to use social media in our business, but I wanted to be focused and strategic about it. We can easily see how social media benefits companies that market directly to consumers. It builds awareness, loyalty and boosts sales. But when it comes to consultative and creative industries, so much of what we see out there are just companies bragging about themselves. Not that we don't have a lot to brag about…I just don't want to be that girl…or Brian the Flair King.

Need for outside advice.
Finally, we knew we had to be part of the conversation so we got over the obstacles, and did what our clients do when they hire us to do their marketing- we started working with experts who have a lot more experience than we do. In our case, we began talking to Web pioneer and social media strategist Aliza Sherman, who co-founded Conversify, one of the first social media marketing agencies and one of the few with more than 20 years experience in the industry.

New companies in Colorado that specialize in social media for specific business disciplines are popping up as well. Recently, we met Luke Wyckoff of Social Media Energy in Denver, a new company that specializes in social media for human resource departments. Our PR and advertising friends are doing great work in this area, as well, including Ground Floor Media, XStatic and Vladimir Jones. Last month, Burns Marketing Communications and the Nurse-Family Partnership were recognized by the Colorado chapter of the American Marketing Association for a viral Facebook campaign that reached millions of users.

Bringing in outside help helped us create a structure for moving forward with social media in a way that makes sense for us. I have a list of things to do, and I know what our strategy is. I'm not going to promise you won't ever see us tooting our own horn, but I'm far more interested in connecting with and elevating our marketing community here in Denver. That's why we're doing things like helping with the rebranding of The Review magazine and the Colorado AMA. And now we have social media plan that supports this goal.

I'm excited, and a little nervous to reach out in this new way and to see who reaches out to us. Social media is on one hand a new frontier and on the other, to quote another favorite movie, a box of chocolates - “you never know what you're gonna get.” But look for us at the party. We'll be launching our efforts over the next quarter, and I look forward to connecting, staying in touch and adding our own pieces of flair. My first button will say, “I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore.”

Pamela Norton-Shelpuk is the principle and co-founder of Ideologie, a boutique branding and communications agency. At Ideologie, she applies her strengths in strategy, positioning, branding, product and new business development to ensure the company provides the best possible solutions for their clients' marketing challenges. Pam has been involved with the launch of many successful technology and consumer brands, and has provided strategic leadership on marketing and branding campaigns for companies such as United Airlines, AT&T, American Express, Dell and IBM and many new product and service start-up ventures.

Pam holds a BS degree in Business from Regis College in Denver, Colorado, and spent several years studying International Relations at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. She is an active member of the Colorado American Marketing Association, the Denver Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Denver Partnership and the Colorado Council on the Arts, all of which help her keep current with the latest trends in the creative economy, business management and consumer behavior.

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