Jumping Back into the Judges Chair

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I was so thrilled to be invited to sit as a judge on the panel of last year’s Economic Developers Council of Ontario Awards. It was a great chance to get an inside look at marketing, branding & advertising campaigns from all across Ontario. In November, I’m headed back again.

Categories that I adjudicated for last year’s competition were mainly advertising and branding related, and consisted of everything from simple awareness raising campaigns to complete brand overhauls for economic development regions.

Of the 20 entries I had the opportunity to look at and judge, some clear themes emerged in terms of what is being done right in the industry, and what needs some major rethink when it comes to marketing/branding your latest initiative.

A few of my do’s and don’t’s from last year’s experience.

DO your research. I was shocked to see how few departments actually conducted research prior to spending tens of thousands of dollars on marketing outreach. Too many organizations are diving into big spends without considering one of the highly critical marketing ‘p’s’ – people. Who is your audience? What are they interested in? What things do they enjoy? Everything from imagery to fonts to colour schemes should be based on what you feel will best relate to your audience. Too often marketing initiatives are based on what a particular committee thinks is great with no real thought to what your potential client or customer needs to see. Demographics should be your very first stop in determining any brand campaign. Be clear about WHO you’re targeting so that you can create the best campaign to reach them.
DO spend money on good graphic design. So many entries were conceptually great but suffered from graphic design that did not evaluate the audience or give it the respect it deserves. Many organizations look at having in house graphic designers create branding elements as a cost cutting measure – this is a big no no. If you’re planning to spend any amount of money on marketing your new initiative make sure it’s rock solid out of the gate – and that means clean, clear, legible design that invites your audience to look closer – doesn’t turn them away.
DO NOT use dated photography or video in your brand-spanking-new campaign. Many initiatives had beautiful new branding elements. Logos, websites, YouTube pages. These suffered due to the incorporation of photography & videography that was done 4 or more years ago. Technology moves fast, nowhere more so than in the world of cameras and online video. Image quality has gotten consistently better year over year. Make sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by incorporating photography or videography that was shot more than 3 years ago.
DO NOT blow the bank. Spending large amounts of money on a flashy bus campaign or large advert in a well known paper does not marketing success make. Creativity and talent is what counts.
DO the math. So many initiatives were thwarted by not having the proper analytics in place to gauge metrics on campaign success or failure. How will you ever know you succeeded if you don’t have benchmarks to measure against? Use free technology like Google Analytics to tackle web hits and easy measurements like in-person surveys to clock uptake from your intended demographic. Marketing’s a game – make sure you’re making educated guesses.

This year’s awards will be handed out in Hamilton on February 12th. See you there!