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Volvo catching up with BMW

volvo-vs-bmw

Volvo has been struggling with sales over the past several years, but the launch of a new luxury SUV may put the brand back on top. Ronn Torossian says that sales for the new SUV may even rival Volvo’s long-time German competitor, GMB. Excitement for the new vehicle is already at a fever pitch after a tantalizing marketing campaign that only revealed portions of the new XC90. Now, the SUV is hitting the market and already gaining momentum on its climb to the top.

According to Torossian, the furor from the XC90’s launch could reverse the downward slide that Volvo has had since being owned by Ford Motors from 1999 t0 2010. Now owned by a Chinese company, Volvo is returning to its roots and only using Swedish parts to make its vehicles. The company hopes that the XC90 will help to double sales of Volvos in the United States by the year 2020.

Volvo began to reveal the XC90 with a tantalizing marketing campaign that featured photos of parts of the new SUV, but never unveiled the entire vehicle. Back in June, the interior was finally revealed. A big flatscreen in the console, blonde wood trim, and all the bells and whistles make the XC90 a top of the line luxury SUV, and the recently revealed exterior is just as attractive.

One of the major selling points of the XC90 is that it is the first car in fifteen years to be made entirely from Swedish parts. It is a complete relaunching of the Volvo brand after the legacy left by Ford Motors. After being purchased by Chinese company, Geely, Volvo has undergone several changes including an all-new, ultra efficient engine that will be cleaner than the Toyota P
rius.

Such advances, however, do not come cheap. The XC90 is priced at $66,000 dollars initially with a limited edition version that jumps to $91,000. Only 1,927 of these will be sold. The price may seem steep for what Volvo has done in the past, but the company is confident that the new SUV will compete with other vehicles in the same price range such as the BMW X5.

Torossian says that Volvo has made huge strides in rebranding itself and earning back a share of the American market with the XC90. A slow marketing campaign was key for intriguing potential buyers, and now Volvo is confident that they will be able to compete with car companies such as BMW.

5 tips for Online Fundraising

Increasingly, nonprofits are finding a ready market of willing donors online. The days in which giving was suspect are over. Nearly everyone pays almost exclusively with plastic these days, and eight out of ten consumers are accustomed to making transactions online.

Given this trend, many nonprofits are looking for ways to expand their donor base online. But if you are just getting into this game you have missed the early days where you get to make the rules. Online donors now have expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, you should expect to lose out on otherwise willing donors.

Saturation

Donors are not interested in hunting for your “give” button. Put it in a “top third” spot, prominently but not obnoxiously displayed on every single page. Viewers realize you are a nonprofit and you need funds. If you make it convenient without being rude, they will understand. And they will respond accordingly.

Offer options

If your group or organizations gives to different causes or supports various different aspects of a single cause, let people know. All donors have a basic desire to give, but this charity is also motivated by a specific internal call to action. They want to make a specific difference, not just a difference.

Make it mobile friendly

If anything about your donation process is not mobile friendly you are losing a huge percentage of Internet users. Desktops, and even to an extent, laptops, are a dying technology. Everyone is on a mobile device these days. You better be ready, or your donor will move on.

Monthly donations

If you don’t already have one, create a program for which donors can make monthly donations. Sure, you love those big ticket corporate sponsorships, but, increasingly, people are opting for smaller, monthly donations. They never miss the money and it can make a big difference for you.

 

Be grateful

Always remember to say thank you, both in your landing page and with every opportunity you get. Any chance to say thank you is an opportunity to touch that donor one more time, keeping your group nearer the front of their mind.

While these tips cannot guarantee a nonprofit organization will increase their donations through online means, better digital communication makes this much more likely.

3 ways to Get Ahead Without Burning Bridges

If the statistics are right, and in this case, they are overwhelming, you will not end your career where you began it. By some measures, the average Millennial will have around 14 different jobs between college and their mid-thirties. Why? Well, there are a lot of different reasons, but that’s a topic for another article. In this article, you’ll discover some ways to move on without burning bridges behind you. Because if there’s one universal truth in business, it’s this: “Who you know, and what they think of you, matters.”

But what happens when it’s time to move on? When there is more opportunity for you somewhere else, but you still appreciate and value the people where you are currently working? How can you move on without setting fire to the bridge you crossed to get you to that place?

Here are 3 proven ways to answer that question:

Plan ahead

If you are planning a change, it is almost always better to know well ahead of time. If you are not “one of those people” who plans six months to a year out, you need to change. You will never succeed long-term in business until you can project where you will be in a year and work backwards. So set a date and get those plans in motion.

Offer notice, even when you don’t “need to”

That’s not to say you should tell your bosses immediately once you have a date set. That could easily backfire on you. However, if you know six months out, don’t wait until the week you are leaving to let someone know. Give them 3 to 6 weeks notice in order to get the right person in to replace you. Offering to help train your replacement will also bode well for your future relationship with those leaders.

Don’t let vision cloud your vision

If you are like every other entrepreneur on the planet, then you have big dreams that cannot be contained in your current position. Fine. But understand, you are at work to be at work. Work on your master plan on your own time. Focus on one job at a time. Take the time to build your enterprise correctly, so, when you do tell your bosses you are leaving, you won’t be back in six months, hat in hand, begging to get your job back.

Now, I have to say, these methods are not foolproof. If either you or your employer chooses to behave foolishly through the separation process, you might end up sparking a blaze without intent. That being said, these procedures can help protect you and prevent that possibility.

GM stuck in an extended negative PR tailspin

gm-crisisWhen your public image continues to take body blow after body blow, you need to stop the damage before you start taking shots to the face. Unfortunately, some brands just can’t seem to get that. Instead, they stand there like a punch drunk boxer, taking a beating without ever trying to defend themselves. Then, when the opportunity comes up to get free, they try to slip the jab only to get caught with an uppercut that sends them to the mat. Ronn Torossian says GM may just be falling for that same ol’ rope a dope.

Just when General Motors thought they were beginning to get clear of the ongoing ignition switch crisis, a Georgia state judge reopened a case. The decision came after GM tried to stop the case brought by victim Brooke Melton’s parents.

A little background…

Last fall, Melton’s parents settled with GM for an undisclosed sum. The settlement came after an accident involving Melton’s Chevy Cobalt, which claimed Melton’s life.

Then came the recall, and the admission that at least some GM employees knew about potential issues leading to the recall years ago. The Meltons allege GM knew about the flaw and lied about it to get out with a smaller settlement. They have sued to overturn the settlement, and proceed to trial. Melton’s father admits his daughter was driving over the speed limit and was probably moving too fast for conditions, but there is no doubt that, given the current climate, sympathy is definitely on the side of the victims.

GM responded by saying it was “disappointed,” and said it believed the Melton case had been reached “in good faith.”

While that’s pretty much all that GM can say at this moment, they do understand an extended trial, including the case that eventually helped blow the lid off the ignition issue to begin with, could be disastrous from a public relations perspective. And an extended one. The case is not expected to even see the inside of a courtroom until spring 2016. That means more than a year of snowballing negative PR from a string of poor decisions that began several years ago.

GM’s consumer PR standing may very well ride on what happens next with this case. The Meltons do not seem to have any interest in backing down or in settling this time. They are fighting mad … and at this point, GM may not have an answer.

Layoffs May be Good for Business, but Bad for PR

layoffsMacy’s announces 2,500 layoffs and five store closings; their stock increases eight percent. Sony slashes 5000 jobs and sees a 3.9 percent stock increase. Hewlett-Packard reveals another 11,000-16,000 job cut, in addition to the 34,000 previously announced. They are rewarded with a six percent stock jump for the quarter and 27 percent increase for the year. Barclays will deliver another 19,000 pink slips in the next three years. Wall Street cheers, and their stock rises seven percent.

While this is great news for investors, “job killing” is not great for PR. As Ronn Torossian points out, the court of public opinion does not wait to pass judgment. In order to thrive, or sometimes just survive, some companies must eliminate jobs. When a small number of individuals lose their jobs, even though those workers survival is at risk, the public can understand a few job losses. When the layoffs number in the thousands however, people are not so forgiving.

Layoffs are often necessary, but never pleasant. Strategic planning and effective messaging can help minimize the negative PR that layoffs generate. Large job cuts are rarely ever a spur of the moment decision. Companies need to utilize the time before the announcement to put a PR strategy in place. Offering decent severance packages and help finding future employment will help lessen some of the impact.

The message should show that management realizes the hardship of the layoffs to both the terminated employees, and those staying with the company. The business should not sugar coat the severity of the job losses, but should highlight the positive outcome for the health of the company. It should also stress any sacrifices that top management makes.

When Barclays announced its restructuring, part of the message it broadcast let people know that the CEO, Antony Jenkins, had not taken a bonus in two years.

Ronn Torossian explains that the company also needs a clear, well-defined vision of the company after the layoff and communicate this effectively. When Macy’s CEO, Terry Lundrgren announced their layoff, he had specific details on departments and stores affected. Macy’s also relayed information that all 2500 employees would receive severance.

In order for the public to forgive such massive layoffs, the business must focus on the health of the company and not the bottom-line for investors. Otherwise the risk of seeming uncaring multiplies, which could ultimately have a very chilling effect on the bottom-line.

Australian TMNT Poster Baffles and Enrages

australia-tmntWhen it comes to movies that make a political statement or cause national controversy, you may not think a film about mutated ninja turtles who learn karate from an anthropomorphic rat would be in the running.

But, Ronn Torossian said that’s exactly what happened when the promoters of the live action sendup of the 1980s cartoon released their promotional collateral in Australia. One of the most prominent posters included the four titular turtles leaping from an exploding inferno of a skyscraper in NYC.

Not a big deal, right? I mean, how many summer blockbusters blow up sections of New York? Only … pretty much all of them. But, did we mention that the movie opens in Australia on September 11.

Yes. They. Did.

If your action movie opens on September 11, you would think that someone – SOMEONE – would suggest that your promotional art not include the heroes leaping from an exploding, burning skyscraper. You might think that, but this failed to occur to a room full of creatives promoting the movie. However, it almost immediately occurred to the denizens of the internet, particularly on Twitter.

The reaction to the poster and online advertising featuring it was visceral. They shared and reshared and reshared again, all the while growing increasingly enraged. What started as passing upset and mild offense at oblivious PR people snowballed into a frothing discontent. Will all that anger stop people from seeing the movie? Probably not. In fact, MORE people might go because of all the controversy.

So, is this a case of all publicity is good publicity, or have these promoters crossed a line that should be chiseled into granite?

What do you think? We’d like to get your take. Leave your comments below.

Upsells may not be a Slam Dunk for Dunkin’

dunkin-donut-upsellTrying to upsell a customer is nothing new. McDonald’s made a cliché of the practice by asking billions and billions, “Do you want fries with that?” And, their success has hardly gone unnoticed. From grocery stores to coffee shops, polite – and sometimes not so polite – nudges to add a bit to your order are commonplace. But, Ronn Torossian says, even if they are expected, upsells are not always the best PR move. A lesson Dunkin’ Donuts may soon learn about.

Now, it should come as a shock to absolutely no one to learn that Dunkin’ Donuts does most of its business before lunch. Sure, the afternoon crowd will pop in for an iced coffee on a regular basis, but the cash crop flies off the shelves in the AM hours. In response, Dunkin’ Brands CEO Nigel Travis has told reporters he directs his employees who are taking orders to upsell to afternoon customers. Because most afternoon customers are in no rush to be anywhere, employees have more time to engage them in conversations, most of which begin: “How about a donut or cookie along with that drink?”

While franchisees might be excited about this news, consumers might not be so pleased. Sure, they expect it at McDonald’s, but sooner or later the practice wears thin. Mainly because the strategy works so well, so often. The average person might feel they are above such emotional manipulation, but the numbers say otherwise.

And, let’s be honest, when you go into a coffee shop or fast food joint, do you find yourself glancing back up at the menu board or into the case long after you have decided what you planned to order? That acknowledgment of temptation, according to research, translates into being more susceptible to a friendly suggestion from a smiling cashier.

So, will this new edict turn customers off? Well, we’d like to think so, and some of us may even say so. But, the reality is much different. We will still go, and we will still buy. Because they may make it feel like it was our idea.

Driving Social Media with Integrated Marketing

Social media snafus can happen to anyone. It’s fairly common. Chances are, sometime—probably in the last few days—you’ve seen a post on Facebook or Twitter and winced, just a little. Maybe it was something you posted. Maybe something you saw in your feed. Either way, if you don’t stay on top of your social media output, it can quickly get out of control.

This is why any reputable marketing program involves an integrated marketing approach to social media. Translation: your social media activity must be part of a multifaceted Public Relations approach. A piece of the puzzle that fits snugly in place. Leveraging social media as part of a larger approach to online reputation management can pay perpetual dividends.

Connective PR

Social media is not necessarily the best place to post original content. While the content could be your own, the most important thing is that the content you post on social media is popular with your current fans, and the fans you are trying to attract. It needs to connect. While you may post in-depth articles on your blog and share them on social media, you may find that you get much more mileage out of videos, images, or survey questions than you ever do with even the most well-crafted article.

 

Funneling PR

The most important aspect of your social media is that your page or post should not be a destination. It should be a funnel. All of your connective content should either get your fan base to do something or go somewhere, or it should tell you something about your fans. In other words, your social media content should grab a larger group, and push them toward a place you really want them to be.

 

Tribe building PR

Every aspect of your social media PR should work to continue bringing in new prospects, while also transforming your current customers into fans. This is where your best social media efforts should be invested. Once they are connected, get them excited and then give them reasons to want to get other people excited.

 

If you can approach your social media PR as part of a larger plan instead of a cure-all or a simple means to an end, then you will begin to set yourself up for greater social media PR success.

Dog Eat Dog PR Wars

pet-food-marketingWhen it comes to pet food PR, it truly is a dog eat dog marketplace. Currently, the industry is dominated by brands you know well, Purina, for example. But, Ronn Torossian is following the ascent of the nation’s fastest growing player in the dog and cat food marketplace, Blue Buffalo. The company, which markets its kibble as the “all natural” alternative to traditional pet food offerings, has certainly struck a chord and is making major waves in the marketplace.

Torossian believes this is because Blue Buffalo has connected with an as yet underserved – and enthusiastic – market segment. The company connected with this market using some tried and true marketing methods that founder and Chairman, Bill Bishop honed at Kool-Aid, Tang, and SoBe, a beverage company he founded in the 1990s.

Pet Food Marketing & PR

One of these principles, which doubles as smart public relations, is the presence of a noticeable and memorable mascot. SoBe had that omnipresent lizard, now Blue Buffalo has the American buffalo. That may have absolutely nothing to do with pet food, but it doesn’t have to. That sort of brand characterization focuses consumers and makes a brand instantly recognizable to folks who are accustomed to looking for a competitor on the shelf. It offers a focal point that imbeds in consumer memory, so they will know it again when they see it. Plus, the emblem’s familiarity compels another look, and that’s when new customers are really captured based on better features and added benefits.

And, it is at the point of decision when Blue Buffalo really proves it knows its customers. Bishop says his marketing and advertising approach intentionally targets “pet parents,” those who are most likely to make a health-conscious choice for their pets. The ones whose pets are family members with carefully considered diets.

By making their brand memorable and connective, and by knowing their market well, Bishop and his team have been able to craft a PR message and a market presence that speaks directly to their intended target, a group that has responded by making a buying decision again and again.

Amazon Phone: Will it Crash and Burn?

amazon-phoneAmazon got some bad news recently when it was announced that poorer than expected profit numbers led to stock prices dropping, by nearly double digits in some reports. Some blamed intense market scrutiny that accused analysts of making too big a deal of micro level numbers. The implication then, is that companies such as Amazon or Pandora, which also showed a significant slip, are simply the latest victims in an increasingly minutia-inspired game.

Others are blaming recent expansions and what some are calling missteps for investor uncertainty, while there are some who are coming right out and blaming the Amazon Fire smartphone, calling the device a commercial albatross. And, since a smartphone is the product most consumers can identify with, that’s the story that is getting the press.

 

Amazon unveils new cellphone despite lower than expected profits

Because so many consumers are buying their mobile devices based as much – or more – on brands versus features and functionality, new players in the market really have to do something special to stand out. And that, say the critics, is where the Amazon Fire, much like its larger sibling, the Kindle Fire, fails. The larger Fire failed to differentiate from the industry leading iPad and gradually gaining Samsung Galaxy tablet. The cute commercials with the SOS answer girl may have come too late to save the Fire, as it still lives in the single digits in market share.

It may have been possible for the Fire phone to come on strong and make a major market splash in the same way the Samsung Galaxy did, but the phone released with little fanfare and even less market identity. People were not give a REASON to switch over, and the competition was giving them plenty of reasons to stay.

This scenario is a sharp consumer PR lesson for Amazon and any company with two distinct business arenas – stuff that the market understands and stuff that the average consumer cares about.

Even if investors understand why consumer confidence is down, many still like to play it safe, putting their money where the consumers’ mouths are. And, in this case, Amazon looks to be the loser. Does that mean they scrap the phone and concentrate on the market lines that made them an international powerhouse? Probably not in the immediate future, but that’s a question only Bezos’ team can answer.

In the meantime, the PR team promoting the Fire needs to get on the stick. Their time is almost up.