Can you own a Hashtag?

Can you own a Hashtag?

An intriguing new trend has been occurring in the business facet of social media. Hashtags (#), those strange little number signs people online have been putting in front of words for the last decade or so, are now being trademarked.

Made infamous by Twitter, and still the main way of sharing popular posts and subjects, hashtags have since spread to other social media platforms as a way of marking topics for others to easily find.  According to Daliah Saper at Business.com, “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a hashtag as a form of metadata comprised of a word or phrase prefixed with the symbol ‘#’.”

With the right promotion, these can catch on immensely and spread to millions of viewers within a very short period of time.  They have proven to be a formidable marketing tool and are often used in advertisements in addition to the seller’s normal contact information, such as an official website.  To both capitalize on this and secure their sole right to use a given hashtag, companies are now beginning to try registering them as they would other intellectual properties.

But can a single word preceded by a # really be taken as intellectual property?  Copyright and patent law says no, stating that they are neither inventions or ideas, and are too short in content.  However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) disagrees, and allows individuals and businesses to register a hashtag as a trademark.

Of course there are conditions.  According to Business.com, the USPTO looks at 4 factors before granting a trademark:

•    “Context
•    “Placement of the hash symbol in the mark
•    “How the hashtag is being used
•    “Types of goods or services identified

“In short, hashtags must follow the same trademark rules as words and symbols—they must signify a specific source of goods or services.”

One key item Saper points out, which anyone with experience marketing on the Internet will recognize, it that online trends are short lived.  Combine this with the fact that a trademark registration can take around 6 months to complete, your exclusive ownership may be nearly useless by the time you legally acquire it.

Nonetheless, it is an interesting trend and one to be sure to follow as it continues to develop.

 

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

Harvard has hot tips for doing deals

When you’re working to get a deal done as a buyer or a seller and you’re hitting walls, consider five tips from Harvard University.

The Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, which offers seminars and publishes information, recently published the suggestions in an excellent article, which is a long one, but we have the handy highlights with ideas for all phases of the process.

It’s worth stepping back for a moment and getting a clearer sense of what’s going on, if part of the problem is psychological.

Step 1: diagnose the barrier.

People often enough take a dismissive view of what they’re offered, think, “If that were truly important to them. They wouldn’t have made the concession,” the report points out.

“We need to avoid that trap in our own thinking and be careful not to trigger that reaction from others. Rather than trying to wrap things up by putting a reasonable number on the table, for instance, wait for the other side to make a specific request. In this manner, you may increase the perceived value of your concession – and your counterpart’s satisfaction.”

Deadline pressure makes the world go around, which takes us to Tip 2: use the clock

“Negotiations expand to fill the time available. We may not like to make important decisions under the gun, but deadlines can provide a healthy incentive to come to agreement.”

When contracts are due to expire, people are “jolted out of the relative comfort of the status quo,” according to the Program, which draws teachers and students from fields including, business, law, psychology and economics.

“If you anticipate these moments, recognize your priorities, and keep channels of communication clear, you’ll be able to move quickly and wisely when you have to.”

So the deal’s done. Or is it? Tip 3: count your change.

Obvious as it may sound, check everything and be ready for frustrations.

“Confirm that all the key provisions have been covered so there will be no surprises. Even after you’ve gotten a sincere handshake, your counterpart may come back with further demands if she is having a tough time selling the deal internally. (You’ll sometimes be in that position yourself.)”

Indeed, you can’t know for sure if someone is being questionable or if there’s a genuine need for revisions, but “How the negotiation has gone up until that point may offer an important clue,” the article says.

And don’t forget that if someone creates new terms, you get something in return. If you don’t, you’ll motivate the other side to keep asking for more.

Okay, the deal is almost done.

Now it’s time to sign – and Tip 4: pay attention to details.

“Whatever you’ve gained through artful negotiation will go down the drain if the understanding you reached is poorly reflected in formal documents,” the article reminds us.

“The technical side of executing an agreement isn’t glamorous, but it’s where many battles are won or lost. Even if you’re weary, resist the temptation to let the other side write it all up.”

When it’s virtually done, Tip 5: think about letting the other side look good.

“To get a deal ratified, you may have to make your counterpart look good to his constituents,” the report says.

What may seem like subtle differences in how things are done can actually make real differences, according to Harvard’s Program on Negotiation.

Using the example of labor negotiations, the article pointed out that it can make a difference if a union’s offer is approved; its leaders can say, ‘We got the company to accept our proposal,’ rather than, Here’s what we finally accepted.’”

This article was written by Rob Hough and originally published on TraDove.com.

6 Video Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

6 Video Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

In the mad rush to predict social marketing trends of the upcoming year, one thing that most all commentators seem to agree on is that video is on its way in.  And it’s coming in a big way.

We’ve looked at some aspects of video in a marketing and social media here before, but the ideas and ways that it can be implemented seem to be getting more and more creative and innovative every day.  Here are six trends noted by Digital Marketer Steffan Pedersen for 2016:

“1. Lower production quality is ok.”

Brands are trying to replicate the amateur Instagram-style smartphone posts, and Pedersen points to Starbucks as one of the leaders in this visual approach.  It gets the point across in a low-key and relatable way instead of bashing us over the head with blatant commercialism.

“2. Be wary of video bloggers/influencers — they can fall down as quickly as they’ve risen.”

Typically there is a reason that vloggers gain a following, and this often involves one of two things: letting their personal life into their videos or their ever-increasing idiosyncrasies.  In using these approaches to represent your brand, it becomes easy to see how too much of either could be detrimental to both your blogger’s reputation and yourself and brand by extension.

“3. Social/mobile video is here to stay. Look out for 360 Degree, Virtual Reality coming quick!”

Quoting stats ranging from Snapchat to Virtual Reality, Pedersen points to not only the increasing reliance of users on mobile video, but also the blossoming technologies that it will soon spread into.  He particularly highlights 360 degree video and leaves it to the readers’ imaginations how this might be used in our marketing.

“4. Facebook video ads > TV ads: A long time coming?”

With more and more content creators publishing their material exclusively on Facebook, the opportunities for advertising is increasing dramatically.  More importantly, unlike traditional TV ads, says Pedersen, Facebook’s platform allows for very targeted advertising to the exact demographics your brand is looking for.

“5. Instagram: Building out big brand offerings: 30 second cinematic video ads leave a big impression”

Similar to Facebook encouraging content hosting, Instagram is allowing video adverts and even short-form cinematic entertainment content.  Utilizing this new medium, several brands have seen a significant ROI.  Pedersen points to Michael Kors as one of the best examples.

“6. Cord cutting connects brands more intimately with consumers. I’m a cord-cutter, so this was especially interesting for me:”

As fewer and fewer people are subscribing to cable television due to high costs and lack of options, the trend is catching on with hardwired broadband Internet as well.  Many households are now becoming exclusively users of mobile devices.  Along with this shift comes the opportunity for higher-tech advertisements that engage the consumer, using methods such as interactive and real-time call-to-action videos.

Considering the much higher ad completion statistics Pedersen cites, these alternative media source have the potential to develop into innovative outlets for those marketers creative enough to embrace their full potential.

How do you see video playing a role in 2016’s social marketing?  Is your company in position to utilize the medium?  Join the discussion and let us know!

 

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

The 3 C’s of customer satisfaction

It’s easy to find articles, white papers and books about hot, new business trends and ideas; people are intrigued by what’s said to be fresh thinking that may provide an edge (and writers want attention and sales).

As changes swirl around the world and affect buying and selling in ways good and bad, it’s ever more essential, McKinsey believes, to remember an essential, basic element of doing business: the need for consistency.

The point’s made clear from the title – The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency – of a richly detailed paper published by the highly respected consulting firm.

Fair enough, the analytical review quickly notes, that different customers have vastly experiences with “everything from buying a product to actually using it, having issues with a product that require resolution, or simply making the decision to use a service or product for the first time.”

According to McKinsey, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, measuring overall satisfaction, what it calls customer journeys, is “30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction.”

Of course, more satisfaction produces more revenue, and reduced expenses, according to the survey of 27,000 Americans and their interactions with 14 industries.

“Maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent,” the article said.

Reminding customers of the consistently effective operations is important, as well, McKinsey believes.

“A company’s brand is driven by more than the combination of promises made and promises kept. What’s also critical is ensuring customers recognize the delivery of those promises, which requires proactively shaping communications and key messages that consistently highlight delivery.”

There’s a real need to make sure everything is in good order and ideally getting better, McKinsey says, because customers’ expectations have been getting higher.

“Our research indicates that since 2009, customers are valuing an “average” experience less and have even less patience for variability in delivery,” the report points out.

This article was written by Rob Hough and originally published on TraDove.com.

Kids today: selling to Generation Y

Kids today: selling to Generation Y

What does a 26-year-old in Shanghai have in common with 26-year-olds in California, London and beyond? Those in Generation Y, people born between the early 1980s and 2000, share interests, choices and experiences that transcend borders and cultures – and have vast effects on global trade.

With the internet, efficient shipping and manufacturing, and relentless marketing efforts, this generation has always had a huge range of purchasing choices, lots of information and internet access to share their thoughts.

This presents opportunities and challenges for buyers and sellers, and there are fresh ideas about how to succeed in this environment, much as it can seem random and hopelessly complex.

Look at something as quick and easy as getting a beverage at a corner store. Even the little markets offer several kinds of water, iced teas, energy drinks, juices, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages from several different countries. Of course all those brands have websites and social media outlets to reach and communicate with people.

Whether it’s an inexpensive item anyone can buy in a small store, a smartphone or a car, the number of choices creates ferocious competition for customers’ cash.

Walmart is advertising its delivery services via social media, complete with discount offers on “the freshest fruits and vegetables.”

While studies have found that too many choices and too much information can be frustrating for older people, a recent study sponsored by Credit Suisse found that people in Generation Y want lots of alternatives and details as they look for value – good quality for their money, whether it’s a cold drink, a cabbage or a computer.

In taking that approach, those in Generation Y are quick to try new things, which means there’s less loyalty to brands, products and activities.

At the same time, this makes it easier to attract new customers – if you provide good quality at an attractive price, along with helpful, honest information – via social media or otherwise.

As one young person who took the survey – conducted by the University of Stockholm – said, when people in Generation Y find things they like, they’re quick to get the word out and “do the companies’ advertising for them.”

This article was written by Rob Hough and originally published on Tradove.com.