The 3 Things This Esurance Ad Will Teach You About Brand Storytelling

An online ad for Esurance caught my attention and got me thinking about brand storytelling.

This commercial perfectly balances good storytelling structure, a simple brand promise, and the perspective of Esurance’s ideal buyer:

Here’s how to apply these 3 elements of brand storytelling to your content:

1) Your content should have an arc and relatable characters, like good fiction

In brand storytelling, your reader relates to and often actually is the character. Of course, the most compelling character in this ad is a thinly-veiled reference to this infamously inarticulate Miss Teen USA contestant.

Miss Teen USA South Carolina

But the compelling character (“sorta Marge”) is not who Esurance wants you to relate to. Rather, this ad implies that you are the protagonist – you’re “real Marge.”

The story arc in this ad is simple: a foreman on a construction site searches for Marge and finds another, less competent version of Marge operating heavy machinery. This is a great outline for brand storytellers: a character’s routine is disrupted by a high-stakes problem the solution to which is your company’s product or service.

A story arc should be easily repeatable structure for future content.  No doubt, we’ll see more Esurance ads in which incompetent imposters make a mess of various high-stakes workplaces.

2) Your content should fulfill your brand promise

As mentioned, this ad’s story arc presents a high-stakes problem that disrupts the protagonist’s routine. It does not present a universal problem, such as “not having insurance” but focuses on one that a select demographic faces. The solution to your specific problem constitutes your brand promise. Esurance solves the “one-sized-fits-all insurance” problem with the promise that their product is customizable.

Coming up with a brand promise is easier when you know your customer. Which leads me to the last element of your brand’s story:

3) Your content should speak to your brand’s buyer persona(s)

You can easily create a brand promise and a story that fulfills it, by drawing up a detailed buyer persona.

Esurance created a brand promise that seems to appeal to first-time insurance buyers with unique employment or finance needs. The irreverent, referential tone of the ad screams millenial, so I’d guess that the persona this ad targets is a young person looking for one-on-one insurance guidance. 

This ad resonated with me and many other viewers because it solved a common problem for viewers like me in an entertaining way.

What kinds of branded content sticks with you? Tell me in the comments!

Owned Media: If You Build It They Will Come

Owned Media: If You Build It They Will Come

As a digital marketer, there are three types of media at your disposal: Earned, Owned, and Paid media. Each type has its own advantages, so let’s start by exploring what makes owned media so special:

Owned Media boosts visibility and SEO with content that users will find useful or interesting. It’s not the only way to gain visibility online, but not having any content of your own reduces the effectiveness of any paid or earned media that your brand has acquired. It’s easy to lose someone who has landed on a rather skimpy or uninspired blog, after clicking an ad or inbound link.

Basically, if you build it, they will come. Owned media is the content that your brand creates for itself, to attract, entertain, or educate online visitors. This can range from blog posts, to videos, to ebooks or white papers: as long as its relevant or useful to your ideal customer or persona, it’s fit to publish!

The downside to owned media is that it is time-intensive and results are not always immediate. The upshot is that failures can be leveraged: metrics from every piece of content generated can be used to better target your key demographics.

Owned Media is forever. What’s great about owned media is that it’s your brand’s property forever and ever. Unlike paid media (which is limited to your ad sales budget) or earned media (which can be negative or fleeting), owned media exists on your company’s website for as long as you keep it (and I’d suggest keeping it, to avoid dead links that affect your site’s SEO).

Owned Media is your best bet for brand reputation maintenance. You can’t control what others say about your brand online, which makes earned media a bit of a crap shoot. Owned media, on the other hand, allows you to guide the conversation around your brand, and the industry in which your brand operates.

In fact, you can do as one Bay Area restaurant owner did and turn bad earned media into an opportunity to create your own positive brand story.

Speaking of brand story: try not to make your content all about you! A good rule of thumb for creating effective owned media is to avoid the hard sell, and focus on telling your brand’s story. This means avoiding shallow, fragmented, or irrelevant self-promotion and focusing on what matters to your audience. It also means acknowledging where in the buying cycle a particular user may be.

The restaurant owner in the above example probably figured that those who visited his website from Yelp were in the “research” or “consideration” phase of the buying cycle, and used humor and a creative call to action (discounts for a bad review) to get them interested in making a reservation.

Next week, I’ll talk a bit more about how Yelp and other online forums and publications play into the “Earned Media” aspect of the “Owned, Earned, Paid” triad.

Has owned media helped your company or employer reach its goals? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments section!

What's the Difference Between Customer Service and Community Management?

What’s the Difference Between Customer Service and Community Management?

According to, 75% of Community Manager job descriptions demand customer service skills. But, there are subtle differences between a traditional Customer Service position and a Community Management one. Here are a few key distinctions:

1. Customer Service values consistency and transparency, but Community Management requires these at lightning speed! A Community Manager must respond quickly, transparently, and consistently with her brand’s guidelines, since her interactions with customers are visible to all other potential customers.

2. Community Managers must have the human touch. Brand followers know that Community Managers are actual individuals, and those followers expect a personable and approachable interaction.

3. Along the same lines: a Community Manager can give more personal reasons for errors. As Evan Hamilton puts it on The Community Manager blog: “‘Sorry, I was hiking & had no service’ is more effective than ‘sorry for the delay.'”

4. Community Managers are expected to deliver real, relevant content. A traditional Customer Service Agent may direct someone to a one-size-fits-all FAQ or a dry whitepaper, but a Community Manager creates shareable, dynamic social content that meets various users at all stages of the buying cycle.

There’s no secret formula for content, but the principles discussed in this post – along with marketing goals and brand identity – should guide a Community Manager’s content strategy.

How different do you think Community Management is from traditional Customer Service? Tell me in the comment section!

Ragan’s PR Daily posted The 36 Rules of Social Media, an infographic created by Fast Company.

Do you follow these? Are there any you disagree with?

I like to keep #12 and #33 in mind: #12 because accepting failure comes with the territory when you’re working with an ever-changing and context-based medium – try predicting everything when building a new brand’s social media strategy. It’s pretty difficult/impossible#33 I enjoy as a mantra for marketing and business in general. It’s important to remember that your brand (if it’s a successful one) represents not only your product or service, but the people who use it. Your fans should interact with, and ultimately have a hand in generating content for your brand. Think of it as a 21st century take on “the customer is always right.”

Week 3: The Klout Experiment (Why One Bad Week Won’t Sink You)

This week, I learned that a downturn in engagement isn’t always a bad thing.

Every week, I document my Klout Experiment: a vain and foolish attempt to match Sarah Palin’s Klout score of 72 by January 1, 2013.

Generally, you’ll find me nerding out about all things Social Media, but I’m also looking for full-time work in Social Media. So, reading recent articles on the importance of Klout and other social scoring tools in recruiting got me thinking about the ways in which we determine our online influence.

Each week, I record the results of my Klout Experiment in a weekly social media engagement digest.

As we learned last week, my efforts to increase frequency across platforms proved ineffective, reducing my score to 60 from a glorious, glorious 61.

This week, I’ve actually managed to damage my score further, as I’m left this week with a measly score of 59!!!

After discovering my score decrease and short-circuiting my Macbook with bitter, bitter tears, I took a moment to re-consider the weight online brands put on their social influence scores..

What I realized is that a Klout score only reflects a small snapshot of my network’s engagement. So what if I miss the mark one week? Presumably, the measly 59 Klout points worth of engagement is from people who’ve enjoyed my overall online persona, before this week. Those followers will stay with me unless I start posting way too much on social media or I post something that really pisses them off.

The conclusion I came to about my decreasing Klout score applies to businesses, too: wavering metrics don’t mark failure, but a learning opportunity. And the fans who stick with you are the most evangelical, and thus the most likely to help you reach future benchmarks. 

How have you or your company leveraged a bad week? 

Week 2: The Klout Experiment (Why Twitter Might Not Be Worth It)

In my Klout Experiment, I attempt to match Sarah Palin’s Klout score of 72 by January 1, 2013 and record my findings.

Somehow, despite my best efforts to increase frequency and vary use of my social media outlets, I lost a point this week! I believe this may be related to how I divided my attention between Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare this week. I only posted on Facebook 4 times this week, as opposed to the 24 posts I had last week.

I decided to increase the frequency and interactiveness of my professional Twitter handle this week, replying to and RT’ing a few tweets from local comedians and Social Media Marketing bloggers. Although your Klout score accounts for only engagement (likes, comments, replies, RTs) and not frequency, I figured that tweeting more would help boost my score by potentially boosting engagement.

Getting traction on Twitter takes far more frequency (and great content, of course!) so  my hunch about increasing Twitter activity to increase my social influence score was partly correct: 1% of this week’s score originated from Twitter interactions, whereas last week’s score was 100% Facebook. But, that new Twitter contribution did not make up for a lack of engagement on Facebook and ultimately, my Klout score suffered.

Do you or our company think Twitter is worth the time and extra output?  

Twitter Gaffe

Staying Relevant On Twitter: A Checklist

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of noticing and deleting the following tweets I had scheduled for two of my clients: a curated month-old article on how to deal with “Supply Chain disasters” and a link to a report that named India as the leading consumer of green technology in 2011.

Why delete these posts? Because the word “disaster” has a heavier meaning in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and just that morning, Cyclone Nilam ripped through Southern India.

Twitter Gaffe

Image Credit:

As the social media administrator for 3 separate brands from widely disparate industries, I have similar social media brushes with death almost daily. Like any content strategist, I schedule the bulk of my clients’ tweets in advance. However, if accidents like Celeb Boutique’s awful Aurora Twitter Fail have taught me anything, it’s that updating based on relevance is a high priority in the fast-paced world of social media. Not doing so can mean sacrificing quality, diplomacy, or worse, accuracy.

So how can I avoid generating insensitive or inaccurate content and stay on top of current events and industry news without being glued to the news, the blogosphere, and my Twitter feed for 23 hours a day?

Here is my must-have check list for maintaining frequent and relevant online content:


  • Give your editorial calendar a once-over (10 mins)

If nothing else, this is great for spelling and grammar (yes, that still matters!)

  • Take a look at Twitter trends (10 – 15 mins)

You never know what might come up – maybe a celebrity has worn something truly awful to a red carpet event and your working for a fashion blog or a designer. Also, don’t be afraid of a little snark… it’s what secretly fuels Twitter. Can’t think of what to write? Feel free to RT, but only as a last resort.

  • Take a look at the headlines (10 – 15 mins)

Reading the news can save you from accidentally tweeting something that may alienate a large portion of your audience.

  • Take a look at celebrity gossip/pop culture sites for top stories

May I suggest: Buzzfeed (WTF and Viral tags), PerezHilton, or Gawker 

  • Check Google Alerts

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend making google alerts for your brand name and industry

  • Check Google Reader

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend getting the RSS feeds for any and all industry blogs you read. It saves lots of time and screen space.

  • Get offline!

I know this is sacrilege, but sometimes talking to friends, family, and coworkers in person can give you nuance and context in a way that just can’t compare to your best friend Internetz. If you’re feeling especially stuck, schedule a walk to the water cooler or a midday coffee date with your chattiest friend.

All-Star Klout-Off!

The Klout Experiment – Raising My Klout Score by The New Year

As a Social Media Strategist or as my mom puts it,  “professional Tweeter,” I pride myself on not only finding and engaging online influencers, but being one myself. It’s my humble opinion that in order to engage your brand’s most active users, you must walk a mile in those users’ shoes.

After reading Seth Stevenson’s remarkable piece on the growing ubiquity of the Klout Score – and its importance as a professional and personal tool – I attempted to take stock in my own online influence by taking a look at my somewhat inactive Klout account:

  • I could only register one of my Twitter accounts. I have 2, but the one associated with my main email address (and thus searchable by potential employers) is only 2-months old. So I went with my personal account, which has more followers.
  • I’m a Facebook addict – this is where the bulk of my new points derived
  • I’ve just started to use Foursquare. I absolutely love it and have earned quite a few “first check in” badges. I only have about 9 friends, though, which has more of an influence on my overall score.
  • Linkedin is a resource for me as a young professional, but sadly, I linked my Klout to the Linkedin page for my previous employer and have lost access to enable me to revoke permissions.

After this narcissistic digital dissection, I decided I needed to dig deeper. I needed to figure out exactly what it would take to become the kind of influencer my future employer(s) need to engage. As an individual with a Klout score of 61, I’m taking my cue from the job-seeking subject of Stevenson’s article, and conducting a weekly experiment:

I will try to raise my Klout score to 72 by January 1, 2013.

Why 72? Well, according to’s infographic, Sarah Palin’s people have managed to get her that score.  Since I tend to tweet for brands and individuals far less cuckoo-bananas than Ms. Palin, it would actually pain me not to match or exceed her publicists’ Klout score.

All-Star Klout-Off!

At least I have a higher Klout score than the Aflac duck.

So, here’s to (completely amateur) scientific inquiry!

Do you track your Klout Score? Tell me in the comments!

Why I’m Watching a Viral Vid from 2009

While waiting for a ferry to Toronto Island a few weeks ago, my friends and I overheard a gaggle of teenagers singing this with unbridled enthusiasm: “At the red houuuuuse: where black people and white people buy furniture!!”

We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. Presumably, neither could they when they first stumbled upon the youtube sensation from which the song originated… in 2009.

What intrigued me wasn’t the initial popularity of the video – which generated over 2 million views in 1 year – but its resilience. The kids singing this ironic jingle couldn’t have been older than 16. Their spoiled 13 year old selves could have been streaming this video on their new 2009 iPhone 3Gs all those years ago, but as the vid’s current views top 4 million, it’s likely they found it more recently through searches, social media sharing, or Youtube recommendations.

Why is this a genius concept for a commercial? Its content defies context. A simple furniture store jingle exalting the joys of racial equality can be surprisingly relevant in any number of contexts. Obama had only been in office for a year when this video was originally posted, so its popularity could be attributed to the issues of race and race relations Americans were discussing at that time. But the video could easily be embedded in any number of satirical columns, humour lists (think Buzzfeed, Cracked, or College Humor), or any other content related to 2012 presidential race, low budget commercials, song-writing, race-relations, furniture, or the South.

Digital content doesn’t need to be high concept or high budget to go viral: if it’s funny enough, it will beg to be shared beyond the context in which it was created!

Increase Blog Traffic, Online Content | Bay Business Help

Increase Blog Traffic, Online Content | Bay Business Help

Simple, straightforward advice on how to stay current and searchable when blogging for SEO. Another tip: subscribe to “events” RSS feeds to keep up to date on local happenings and holiday celebrations.