Say It Loud, Say It Proud

Avoid scrutiny by ensuring influencers clearly state their connection to your brand.

Instagram, Facebook and other social media outlets make giving shout-outs to your brand so easy. But if you’re incentivizing brand ambassadors to sing your praises, the Federal Trade Commission has some stern words for you: full disclosure is required.

The FTC’s Endorsement Guide is just as applicable to social media influencer posts as it is to print or broadcast advertisements. Recent concerns expressed by nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen led to the commission sending a series of warning letters to a group of endorsers and brands that failed to state their connections in a reasonable manner through social media posts.

The guide states that if a material connection exists between a brand and an endorser, that connection needs to be conspicuously and clearly elicited by both parties. This means if an A-list celeb touts the wonders of your latest product or service on Twitter, a simple #IgotpaidbybrandX tacked on to the end of the post will not suffice.

The FTC rules, in a nutshell:

1 Disclosure is mandatory.

Audiences must be able to understand clearly the relationship between an influencer and a brand. Disclosures are required when influencers receive any form of compensation such as payment or product, tickets, discounts or invitations. Recommended language includes ‘Ad’ or ‘Sponsored’.

2 Disclosure must be clear, visible and close to each applicable message.

Diclosures must be on the same page as the sponsored content, or within a user’s feed. Additionally, each message in a campaign is required to have its own disclosure.

3 All posts must be honest and accurate.

Sponsored posts from influencers must represent the brand truthfully; no brand can permit or encourage false or inaccurate claims about a product or service.

4 Disclosure must be within the same medium of the post.

Text disclosure in blogs is acceptable, but video testimonials require disclosures to be stated at the start of a clip and included in title text under the video.

5 Disclosure must be placed before linking off the page.

If viewers or readers are being asked to navigate away from the page, disclosure statements must be included ahead of the link, and before any truncated text.

One-Stop Custom Shop

FIVE MINUTES WITH Adam Walterscheid

If you’re a fan of all-in-one options, you’ll find a friend in Adam Walterscheid. The president and CEO of T-Shirt Tycoon in Garland, Texas, has kicked the private-label game up a notch by creating YourCo., a custom solution that allows distributors to sell decorated apparel under their own personal brands with the help of a modular sales system. Read on to learn more about Walterscheid’s innovative approach.

PPB What inspired you to offer a private-label option for your clients?

Walterscheid  It was toward my last year still running my previous business, Pony Xpress Printing, and I saw a lot of small retail apparel brands asking what it would cost to get a tagless label inside the neck of each tee. Hanes had gone completely tagless and had published a report on how 16 out of 17 consumers preferred a tagless label.

So my confidence and creativity in the idea began to run wild. Month after month of pondering the what, why, when and how, my conclusion was that in a branded business, real brands want their own brand inside each  and every tee.

PPB How does a private-label option like YourCo. benefit small and midsized distributors?

Walterscheid  It helps them compete in multiple facets:

1. Private-labeling a t-shirt is the ultimate annuity. The competition will have no idea what to use to replace your efforts with the exact same fit, fabric, size range, soft-hand print, plus their own brand on a tagless label. Once your clients start using their own brand to label custom shirts, they will never quit it. No one quits their own brand.

2. The YourCo. solution is made to help small to mid-sized distributors compete by being able to offer products from the largest category in our industry with the highest customization, in the lowest quantities and within the quickest turnaround times. It doesn’t matter if the distributor’s client is a promotional or retail buyer—that should be music to their ears.

3. YourCo. offers such innovation inside a well-merchandised, modular sales system that anyone can truly get to market faster, and manage fewer purchase orders (P.O.s), because of our single P.O. offering. Our private-label option is really about having a proud, silent, third-party supply chain partner that has built a solution with small to mid-sized distributors in mind.

PPB What kind of training and sales assistance do you provide distributors who want to sell your decorated apparel to their clients?

Walterscheid  We prefer to book a free consultation with prospective clients, during which we discuss the distributor’s distribution model, explore strategies using case histories, target product economics and review logistics. We can do this in person for a facility tour, or over the phone. From there we deploy our sales tools, samples and kits to help us build sales. Our dedicated team of private-label experts help clients with project management once they are on board.

PPB  How does your business model/production process allow you to offer lower minimums and to build a sales kit/portable showroom for your clients?

Walterscheid  We have built a module system with which to merchandise each project. Talking about pricing is easy when our clients also have an end-user catalog with sample hangtags that cross-reference all relevant ordering and pricing information.

PPB  Do you think custom sales kits like yours are a feasible option for suppliers of other types of goods that can be decorated in multiple ways? If so, what should a supplier examine within their business to determine if such an element is beneficial to them or their clients?

Walterscheid  Absolutely! We have built a modular sales sample kit system that builds up to a continued education path focusing on our capabilities and customization options. We have determined that this is the easiest way to teach a complicated product and processes. I think we will see more of this type of continued education from suppliers that choose to lead through innovation. A supplier should look at how much customization is inherent in their products and processes. How long does it take to train an employee to be well-versed in this knowledge? Suppliers should figure out how they can teach their employees and distributor clients to speak the same language, specific to their products and services.

Convincing Conversations

Learn to be persuasive, not pushy, when trying to win someone over.

Whether you need buy-in from bosses on a new idea, or you just need customers to buy more of your product, these three simple guidelines from DriveTime General Manager David Brennan can help you become more persuasive without coming across as pushy.

1 Be Knowledgeable

Persuasive people are invested in their argument; well-thought out pitches are backed by knowledge and a true understanding of what’s at stake—as well as what’s possible. Educate yourself on the value, cost and other elements of what you’re trying to pitch. Seek out the holes in your proposal and patch them up before you present. It’s equally important to buy into your own idea; audiences can tell when someone doesn’t believe in what they’re selling.

2 Be A Better Listener

To be better heard, you must become better at hearing your audience. Listening helps build trust, which in turn leads to audiences becoming more open to your pitch. It’s not passive listening, though. Reflective listening enables you to recognize and repeat concerns, questions and thoughts, and to show that you can provide the desired solution.

3 Be A Problem Solver

The insights you gain from reflective listening set you up to become the problem solver. Once you identify the audience’s biggest challenge, frame yourself as the most qualified person to eliminate the problem. Is the client concerned about going over budget? Explain how your solution saves them money or tracks spending in real time. Is corporate buy-in a concern? Show your bosses that the program you want to implement is designed to reward employees for participation. Communicate your solution in the language of your audience, and they’ll more clearly see how it will benefit them.

The Enemy Of My Enemy

Google is adding an ad blocker … what will its advertisers think?

Why would an online company thumb its nose at its greatest revenue earners? That’s what tech experts are asking about Google and its decision to build an ad blocker for desktop and mobile versions of Google Chrome.

While the company reportedly earned upwards of $20 billion in ad revenue in 2016, Chrome users are among the legions who are sick of online ads—ad blockers are downloaded from the Chrome Web Store by millions of users; AdBlock and AdBlock Plus are the most popular.

Though Google hasn’t revealed which specific ads will be blocked by the extension, the effort is aimed at reducing pop-ups, pre-load landing pages and auto-playing ads that feature sound. The theory is that if users are happy with the ads that are showing up, they’ll be more likely to continue using Chrome as a browser, and less likely to block ads on their own. In addition, advertisers may be more inclined to develop online ads that are less intrusive.

Exponential Exposure

Find inspiration in the stories behind small brands that found sudden fame.

What happens when you don’t like donuts, but you love dough? If you’re pastry chef Dominque Ansel, you make a mouthwatering donut-croissant hybrid that takes the breakfast-treat world by storm. The ‘cronut’ became the hip pastry, thanks to a kind word from a popular food blogger.

With such a ramp-up in rabid fans, Ansel could have either increased output to keep up with demand, or remained dedicated to a quality product—even if it meant some patrons missed out. He chose the latter, and today the cronut continues to win new converts with every sweet, flaky bite. The lesson? Choose quality over quantity and your consistent results will bring in a lifetime supply of loyalty.

Social media outlets may still feel like a new phenomenon, but the truth is one year probably equals 10 in the social media world, thanks largely to the built-in ability to input new information constantly. But one robotics company found a way to teach the old social media dog a new trick—launching a product on a global scale with the moment-capturing app Snapchat. Denver-based Sphero was asked by the CEO of Disney to develop a rolling version of the “Star Wars” droid BB-8 for a movie-related toy and merchandising event.

Not only did Sphero build and present the droid at Force Friday, but the creators stuck around and recorded the excitement for posterity using Snapchat. That posterity turned into profitability, as the Snapchat campaign resulted in the sale of more than one million robots in 2015.

What can you learn from this? There’s more than one way to use social media—think outside the box to get more bang for your marketing buck.