Email Marketing – The Most Powerful Tactic for Revenue Growth

Email Marketing for Revenue Growth

If you thought email marketing was dead, you’re in for a big surprise. Not only is it not dead, it is a thriving channel and needs to be a critical component of your business in 2018.

I know, you’re saying to yourself “I hate checking my email and I get way too many already. I only check email because I must, not because I want to. Email is a waste and I don’t want to end up in someone’s spam folder.”

I understand that but trust me, top marketing expertsstand firm and proclaim that this is a false mindset.

The myth is not true…email marketing is alive and kicking the bootie out of every other channel.

Email is Not Dead!

Did you know that email marketing has consistently outperformed every other channel since the inception of emails? Hands down, it has the best ROI with an average return of $43 for every $1 spent.

Better than direct mail, paid advertising, social media, SEO, you name it.

Go add up all that time you’ve spent on (insert the social media channel you currently believe leads you to the promise land) and calculate if you generated that level of return. You haven’t. I know it, and you know it.

Not to say that those channels don’t work, but when compared to the steady and consistent email, it doesn’t match up.

In fact, email is still a growing platform. Email addresses are expected to reach 5.23 billion unique addresses in 2018.

Why is Email Marketing so Powerful?

The truth is, email is a marketing channel like no other with numerous benefits, including:

  • You’re in direct contact with the customer or prospect. It is a one-on-one form of communication (when done correctly).
  • Almost everyone has an email they check regularly whereas not everyone has an account on the latest social media platform.
  • You’re in complete control of the message and not at the whim of a social media platform whose interests do not always align with yours.
  • It will increase the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customer. It is easier to sell to an existing or previous client than a cold prospect.
  • Email Marketing allows you to keep in contact with them. You may not forget about them, but they’re busy and will forget about you.
  • With the proper software, you can tailor your message and create offers specifically for them which will lead to better conversion rates.
  • It builds your brand – the key to any long-term viability of a business is the value of the brand you build. Email marketing can elevate your brand’s perception, trust, and authority.

Do you now see why you need to invest marketing dollars into this channel?

Do’s and Don’ts of Email Marketing

Now, before you go and jump into the world of email, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Do’s
    • Be Consistent – in tone and manner and timing
    • Optimize It – you should always be striving to improve open and click-through rates
    • Segment Your List – create emails for your different audiences because no one wants to hear the same message
    • Grow Your List – look for ways to continually to build your list of contacts (note: no buying lists!)
    • Personalize the Message – you will have a greater impact if you are pretending you’re talking to them on the phone or in person
    • Design for Mobile Devices – mobile is only growing and you need to ensure your message has the same readability and design on all the phones and tablets out there.
  • Don’ts
    • Do Not Only Talk About Yourself – if all you do is write about you and your products and services, you will surely lose your audience…and quickly.
    • Don’t Over Sell and Become Spammy – remember, you’re building a relationship so don’t be too eager to convert them.
    • Don’t Use Big Images – the bigger the image, the worse it will look on a smaller device. Review the email on all devices before sending out.
    • Proofing – don’t send without spell check and grammar proofreading, it will lead to a quick death of your list.
    • Don’t Avoid the Analytics – you need to review the statistics of each campaign. Always be improving and learning!

Don’t ignore email marketing! Invest in building that channel because when you email market well, you will increase your top line revenue and lead generation!

About the Author

Erik Ellsworth is the Chief Marketing Officer for SunUp Group and has a passion for helping businesses grow revenue through all forms of marketing and branding.

B2B Marketing Tips for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

B2B marketing normally entails a longer sales cycle than B2C marketing, and usually has a pretty narrow focus for their target audience: VPs and C-Suite level executives. That said, B2B marketing is not easy. There are lots tactics that work, and many tactics that don’t. If there’s one thing to take away from this blog post on what works for B2B marketing, it is this: your mantra needs to be “help, don’t sell”.

Keeping that mantra in mind, in this blog post we’re discussing B2B marketing tips every small and medium-sized business should be focusing on:

Content Marketing

The “Help, don’t sell” concept means that B2B marketers must focus on addressing pain points and answering questions for their target market. B2B clients and customers are normal people, like you and me. They respond to emotional messaging much more quickly and deeply than a sales pitch.

Storytelling is the best way to do this. If you can engage a prospect with content that gets their interest, leverages emotions, and shows them how to solve one of their problems – that is the golden ticket.

A secondary benefit of content that sells benefits to customers is that it positions your company as a thought leader in the industry, which gains respect and rockets you ahead of your competitors.

Social Media Marketing

If you’re still on the fence about the need for social media marketing in a B2B context, please consider this statistic: 55% of B2B buyers say they search for product/vendor information on social media (Source). Social media has become one of the preferred ways for businesses to distribute valuable, relevant content to attract prospects and increase sales.

If you are already engaging fully in social media marketing, make sure you are ramping up the use of visuals. Visuals (infographics, images, charts, etc.) have become essential: 85% of marketers use visuals and 73% plan to increase their use of visuals according to the 2017 Social Media Marketing Report from Social Media Examiner.

In addition, live video is on the rise with 61% of marketers planning to use live video services such as Facebook Live, Periscope and Instagram live video.

Speaking of Facebook, many small and medium-sized businesses are not convinced that Facebook is a good platform for them. Well, in what we’d call a shocking twist, Facebook has surpassed LinkedIn as the most important platform for B2B marketers in the Social Media Examiner report cited above. The verdict: time to get busy on a Facebook business page, if you don’t yet have one or have not been active!

Lastly, Facebook carousel ads and dynamic ads are expected to gain traction in for the end of 2017 and into 2018.


By now, most businesses have optimized websites for mobile. However, B2B companies have always safely assumed that their customers would be researching products and solutions on their desktop. The latest research shows, however, that savvy and busy executives are using smartphones to research products and solutions while they are on the go. The takeaway here is to be sure your content is optimized for users on all types of mobile devices.

The next thing to think about from a mobile perspective is the growing popularity of voice search. People are increasingly using voice search on their smartphones. Start considering this when generating content for your B2B prospects and customers; focus on question-based queries with a conversational tone. Think of it this way: instead of typing “Orange County marketing firms”, a voice search user might say “who are the best Orange County marketing companies?”

Hope we gave you food for thought and ideas you can use to pump up your B2B marketing strategies! Questions? Feel free to Contact us through our website or call 877.609.3840. We are here to help!

The Ultimate Orange County Summer Bucket List for 2017

Utlimate Orange County Summer Bucket List

Long Beach Sand Sculpture Art and Music Festival/Facebook

Summer is here (or almost!) If your kids are already uttering the dreaded “b” word – “bored”, here is an amazing list of fun summer activities for the whole family. So get out, enjoy the beautiful southern California weather, and have fun!

Pick your own berries

Tanaka Farms Facebook

Tanaka Farms Facebook

Strawberries – Visit Tanaka Farms and take a wagon ride out to the strawberry fields ($18). Go soon though, picking is only available through June. Your kids will love eating berries right off of the vine (just one or two!) and then taking home loads of luscious strawberries.

Blueberries – For blueberries, head down to Temecula Berry Company. The season is rapidly coming to a close, so hurry! On Fridays they have movie night and keep the farm open for picking until 8pm. Bring a chair, enjoy a food truck on site, pick some berries and watch a movie.

Visit one or both of the Adventure Playgrounds in Orange County

Adventure Playgrounds in Orange County

Yelp/Charlie G.

We have not one, but two adventure playgrounds in Orange County! Your kids will love the unstructured play –climbing a tree house, wading in the mud, building forts and just being a kid for awhile without the constraints of structured play. Visit the one in Irvine or Huntington Beach.

Take a chocolate factory tour

Take a chocolate factory tour

Chocxo Bean to Bar chocolatier/Facebook

Get a taste of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by taking a tour at Chocxo Bean to Bar Chocolatier in Irvine. You’ll get to see every detail of the chocolate-making process close-up and taste the chocolate in a variety of forms — cocoa nibs, pulp, and liquor.The factory tour takes 45 minutes ($10/adults and $7/kids). Show up hungry, because you will be sampling tons of decadent chocolates on this tasty tour! I’m sure you won’t hear the kids complain about that!

Go to the greatest sand castle contest around

Long Beach Sand Sculpture Art and Music Festival

Long Beach Sand Sculpture Art and Music Festival/Facebook

Held in August, this contest is complete with sculpture masterpieces of world-class professional sand artists, a semi-professional sculpting category, community competition and more. The contest is the longest standing of its kind in the nation and continues to be a staple of our community history and future. Don’t miss it!

Visit an arboretum or botanical garden

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens/Facebook

If you’re seeking the shade on a hot day or just need to let the kids run and play, one of the nearby arboretums or botanical gardens is a great choice.

Fullerton Arboretum: A sprawling, 26-acre greenspace featuring 4,000+ types of plants, walking trails & a museum.

Los Angeles Arboretum: A unique 127-acre botanical garden and historical site located in what was the heart of the historic Rancho Santa Anita in the city of Arcadia. You’ll find a variety of gardens and landscapes that offer both beauty and tranquility.

Huntington Library Botanical Gardens: A gorgeous 120 acre garden near the San Bernardino Mountains that is a bit farther to get to, but worth the trip! There’s even a children’s garden for your kids to check out.

Take a nighttime paddle boarding tour

The Pirate Coast Paddle Co

The Pirate Coast Paddle Co.

On Friday and Saturday nights this summer, you can take a guided SUP Glow Night tour of Newport Bay with The Pirate Coast Paddle Co. The SUPs have waterproof LED lighting, which lights up the calm waters of the bay with an amazing glow. Cost:$45 per person

Build a beach bonfire

Huntington State Beach

Huntington State Beach/ website

You can’t let summer go by without having a bonfire at the beach! Doheney State Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and San Clemente City Beach are the best local options. The fire rings are limited and people stake them out early in the morning, so this is an all-day commitment. Still, is there anything better during the summer than a beach bonfire with s’mores?

Staycation at a hotel with a great family pool

Hyatt Regency Newport Beach

Hyatt Regency Newport Beach/Facebook

Craving a getaway but can’t get away? Consider a staycation at one of the great resorts in the Orange County area. If you’ve got kids, check out the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. They have three outdoor pools and their Oasis Pool features the only water slide in Newport Beach. There’s also a water fountain play area and a kids putting green.

Google My Business: The Online Profile Your Business Cannot Live Without

Google My Business

Looking to improve your local business’s ability to be found by potential customers as well as current customers? There are lots of things you can do, but the #1 online item on your to-do list should be optimizing your ‘Google My Business’ profile.

A Google My Business profile is a critical component of local search engine optimization (SEO). It will enable your business to appear in local search results for queries made specifically for your products or services and the best part is that it is free! Google My Business uses Search, Maps, and Google Plus to make your business visible.

Without a Google My Business profile, your business won’t appear on any local map listings on the search results page that Google displays for the vast majority of local queries.

Here is an example; we did a search for a seafood restaurant in Orange County:

As you can see, Google returned a map with location results for three local seafood restaurants, plus reviews, restaurant details, and an image from each restaurant.

So, let’s discuss the major benefits of Google My Business:

The Maps Pack

The Maps Pack (shown in above screenshot) shows search results presented as a map with pins representing each business. It also pulls information (website, phone number, address) from Google My Business and renders it below the map. The visual presentation of businesses on the map allows the searcher to view the geography of businesses they potentially want to visit.

Knowledge Graph

Having a Google My Business profile is also important because of the effect it can have on Google Publisher. If you have Google Publisher on your website, when a person does a branded search for your business, your Google My Business information will show up in the “Knowledge Graph.”

Here is an example of a Knowledge Graph:

Google Online Profile

An optimized and active Google My Business page allows the correct business information to show in this knowledge graph. Having a Knowledge Graph show up in search results is a great way to gain users’ trust and make them more likely to click over to your business’s website.


Having good Google reviews for your business is essential for getting into the local 3 pak as shown in the first screenshot above. A study by Digital Marketing Works shows a strong correlation between having good Google My Business reviews and the chance of showing up in the Maps Pack in the local search results.

So, the more good reviews you get, the better chance your business has to show up in the Maps Pack search results. And, showing up in the Maps Pack means more traffic to your website.

To recap, if you’re interested in showing up better than your competitors and getting more visitors to your website, make sure you do these 3 things:

  1. Make sure your Google My Business Profile is optimized.
  2. Have lots of good reviews on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo, Facebook, and other reputable review websites.
  3. Have a useful and relevant website.

Want to ensure your Google My Business profile is fully optimized? Contact SunUp Group, Inc. through our website or call 877.609.3840. We are here to help!

2015 Marketing Trend : Post Demographic Consumerism

Marketing Trends: Post Demographic Consumerism
Traditional demographic marketing segmentation by age, race, gender, location, family status or income is not as important as it used to be 10 years ago, as a direct result of the more fluid, open and diverse society we have today. Our society has been reshaping conventional social, cultural, and sexual norms to become a stereotype-free “consumer base” that requires different marketing approaches.

For example, did you know that people aged 45-54 adopt digital technology at the same pace as 16-20 year olds? And Twitter’s fastest growing user group in 2012-2013 was not teenagers, but people 55-63 years old. Lastly, in the UK, the majority of video game players are women over age 44, not teenagers under the age of 18!

The term ‘post-demographic consumerism’ has been developed as a new approach to target consumers of all ages in all markets by addressing their very specific needs, instead of segmenting them by conventional demographic models of consumer behavior.

Diving a bit deeper, let’s look at the four main reasons why we see post-demographic consumerism becoming a trend now.

  1. Access. Consumers of all ages and demographics in all markets are increasingly buying and using products and services from the same mega-brands like Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, to name a few. The familiarity people have with these mega-brands plus the global reach of consumer information enabled by the internet has created a new level of post-demographic shared experience for consumers, from 16 to 60 and from Boston to Beijing.
  2. Permission. Society, in general, has become much more socially liberal as many traditional conventions – from family structures to gender roles – have collapsed. Individuals are encouraged to embrace “the new normality” irrespective of culture, language, age or gender.
  3. Ability. Individuals are able to personalize and express themselves through the product consumption to a greater degree than ever before. Social networks allow people to easily identify with brands, products and services; even those that they don’t or can’t afford to purchase.
  4. Desire. Consumerism and status have always been linked. Historically, status symbols have been material goods, which required money to obtain. However, new status symbols are evolving, which include experiences, authenticity, connection, health, and ethical and sustainable lifestyles. These ‘new’ status symbols essentially change the balance of power between the generations, and are open to all, regardless of age, income and location.

So, what do you as an entrepreneur or business owner do with this information? Here are four key ways to turn this trend into opportunities:

  1. Embrace the new normal. Follow in the footsteps of Coca Cola and Honey Maid. Coca Cola recently launched a multi-racial/lingual, cultural campaign called “America the Beautiful”.  The one-minute ad called “It’s beautiful” was a patriotic rendition of the song ‘America the Beautiful’ sung in seven different languages and was created to showcase our country’s incredible diversity.

    Honey Maid launched a campaign featuring the hashtag #notbroken, celebrating post-divorce families.

  2. Commit ‘heritage heresy’. Rising numbers of consumers are embracing brands that play with, subvert, and even explode their own heritage. For example, Rolls-Royce partnered with Microsoft, making its first foray into the world of gaming with an appearance in Forza Motorsports 5 for Xbox One. As one of the most popular racing video games on the market, Forza will help to bring Rolls-Royce to a younger and highly engaged audience.

    Another example is Sotheby’s partnering with eBay to provide shoppable livestreams from New York auctions.

  3. Adopt cross-demographic fertilization. Shared taste and aspiration among generations provides the opportunity to transfer innovations from a core demographic to another. The opportunities with this one have never been greater. For example, CNA Language School’s model of education allows Brazilian students to connect with retired Americans via webcam for language lessons.

    Another interesting example is P’tit Vélib, the world’s first bike-sharing program for kids, located in Paris.

  4. Develop a micro-niche. Target and cater to a smaller (and ever more accurate) interest-based segments instead of the usual, broad traditional demographics. Consider the example of Lean Machine Ale, a beer that touts itself as a low-calorie beverage that aids in post-workout recovery. Or Vogmask, the first ever stylish, reusable , filtering face mask.

Understanding consumers’ wants and needs remains absolutely critical. However, those that take a broad view and learn from innovations that are delighting customers in seemingly ‘opposing’ or non-traditional demographics will rise above and succeed.

Top 10 Business Schools in California

San Diego State Library - San Diego, CA

College rankings today are full of expensive and exclusive schools. Less than 10% of applicants are admitted to the top schools on many lists, and tuition rates are extremely difficult for most students and parents to stomach.
This list of best business schools takes academic quality, affordability, and accessibility into account, as well as each school’s average GMAT score for incoming, full-time students and job placement rate of exiting full-time students, three months after graduation. For this reason, you will find different schools on this list than the typical rankings list.

We recommend this list for students who want to find a school that has a reputation for high-quality education, marketable degrees, tuition they can quickly pay off, and reasonable acceptance qualifications.

We know you want to get right to it, so here is the list. Continue reading afterwards for the criteria factors and how this list was developed.

  1. San Diego State University
    San Diego

    San Diego State University (SDSU), locally referred to as San Diego State, is one of the oldest and largest universities in San Diego, California. The institution was founded over one hundred and seventeen years ago as San Diego Normal School. San Diego State offers more doctoral degree programs than any other campus in the California State University system.

    National Rank: #19

  2. Pepperdine University:  Graziadio School of Business and Management

    Pepperdine University is a medium-sized, private, university located in Los Angeles, California that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Although completely independent, the university is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

    National Rank: #55

    In-state tuition: $43,930

    Out-of-state tuition: $43,930

  3. University of California – San Diego: Rady School of Management
    San Diego

    Located in the suburban district of La Jolla in San Diego, California, the University of California San Diego (commonly referred to as UCSD or UC San Diego) is a public, 4-year research university that offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. It’s the 7th oldest of the ten campuses that make up the University of California system.

    National Rank: #73

    In-state tuition: $38,337

    Out-of-state tuition: $43,227

  4. University of California – Davis

    The University of California, Davis, commonly referred to as UC Davis, is a public, four-year research university located in Davis, California. The university was originally founded in 1905 as the agricultural extension of University of California, Berkeley, at which time it was called the “University Farm”. It was later converted into an independent university and its name was changed to University of California, Davis. UC Davis has the largest campus of all universities in the University of California system and has the third largest enrollment.

    National Rank: #82

    In-state tuition: $36,449

    Out-of-state tuition: $48,694

  5. University of California – Berkeley: Haas School of Business

    The University of California, Berkeley, more commonly referred to as UC Berkeley, or just Berkeley, is one of California’s top public research universities. The school is located on an expansive 1,232 acre campus on the east side of the San Francisco Bay. In addition to being one of the most prestigious and renowned universities in California, the University of California Berkeley is well-known worldwide for its excellence in higher education, academic achievement and for its exceptional research capabilities.

    National Rank: #84

    In-state tuition: $51,412

    Out-of-state tuition: $53,959

  6. University of Southern California: Marshall School of Business
    Los Angeles

    As its name denotes, the University of Southern California (USC) is located in Southern California in the city of Los Angeles. It is a non-profit, private, research university that was established in 1880, making it the oldest private, research university in California.

    National Rank: #85

    In-state tuition: $50,495

    Out-of-state tuition: $50,495

  7. University of California – Los Angeles: Anderson School of Management
    Los Angeles

    University of California, Los Angeles, more commonly referred to as UCLA, is a public university situated in the Westwood neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles, California. The school offers an extensive selection of over 300 undergraduate and graduate level programs in various subject areas. UCLA is also the largest university in California.

    National Rank: #88

    In-state tuition: $48,722

    Out-of-state tuition: $55,009

  8. Stanford University

    Stanford University, or Stanford, is a private research university located in Stanford, California. Stanford is internationally-recognized for its prestigious undergraduate and graduate academic programs and is often one of the first college choices of talented students. Stanford offers students some of the nation’s best law, medicine, English, and engineering programs.

    National Rank: #89

    In-state tuition: $59,550

    Out-of-state tuition: $59,550

  9. University of California – Irvine: Merage School of Business

    The University of California, Irvine, also known as UCI, UC Irivine, or locally as just Irvine, is located in the city of Irvine California. The university has the fifth-largest campus of the ten campuses that make up the University of California system.

    National Rank: #93

    In-state tuition: $38,450

    Out-of-state tuition: $47,089

  10. Claremont Graduate University: Drucker School of Management

    A private graduate university that’s located about 30 miles east of Los Angeles in the city of Claremont, California. Founded in 1925, CGU is the oldest all-graduate university in the nation. Many notable alumni, business professionals and political figures have graduated from CGU. CGU is composed of nine individual academic school.

    National Rank: #99

    In-state tuition: $50,700

    Out-of-state tuition: $50,700

The factors in this list criteria are: Academic Quality (a great education), Affordability (low tuition costs), and Accessibility (high acceptance rates).

Academic Quality

One of the heaviest factors considered in this list’s calculation is the quality of education offered at each university or school. To assess academic standing, the calculation considers an institution’s categorization and rank published in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, generally considered the gold standard for college rankings emphasizing academic quality and reputation.


This list provides a realistic look at what a typical student will pay for their education at each individual institution, for both in-state and out of state tuition.


Acceptance rate is a major variable in this ranking list. As a general rule, most schools on this list accept a high percent of students who apply, with some schools approaching 90-100 percent acceptance.


Branding News: November 2015

We’re back with another issue of Branding News! If you’re curious about what major, well-known companies are doing in the marketing arena, wondering about the latest trends in branding, or looking for inspiration and stories of creative, unique branding moves, then this post is for you!

These are the top interesting branding stories to come out recently that have caught our eye:

REI #OptOutside

REI Opt Outside Branding News

REI shocked the retail world recently by announcing all stores would be closed on Black Friday. They will have no Black Friday promotions and won’t process any online orders until Saturday. Only a few of its approximately 12,000 employees will be on call, while the rest get a paid day off.

Instead, REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition with its #OptOutside campaign, one that doesn’t involve spending money or buying anything. It has built a dedicated #OptOutside website with resources on local hiking trails and is encouraging everyone to get outside and be active on Black Friday instead of shopping.

REI’s move signals a monumental shift in the way companies are doing business and marketing themselves. The new reality is that as customers become better at managing their many brand relationships through the use of technology, such as social media, they will weed out or ignore companies that don’t understand their needs and deliver value against them. This is the new era of consumerism — empowered, entrepreneurial and enabled.

Target’s Halloween Ad

Target Halloween Ad 2015 - Branding NewsTarget is in the news once again, with many people praising their continued efforts and dedication to diversity. You may remember back in August, they announced they were removing “boys” and “girls” signs from toys in an effort to remove any gender stereotyping.

Last week Target again made headlines with their Halloween ad, which featured a young girl with braces and arm crutches modeling a Princess Elsa costume from Disney’s movie Frozen.

The ad itself went viral after the mother of a child with a disability posted it on Facebook.

“Dear Target, I love you,” she wrote. “Thank you for including a child with braces and arm crutches into your advertising campaign!”

Many others took to Twitter to praise Target for its ongoing dedication to diversity.

Twitter’s New Heart Icon

Twitter Icon - Branding NewsOn Nov 3rd, Twitter announced that the familiar star icon on tweets used to express approval has morphed into a heart icon and is now known as a “like”.

Despite its cultural relevancy, is having a hard time getting a mainstream audience to love it. As such, Twitter is seeking ways to make itself simpler to use and, therefore, more attractive to both users and advertisers.

Akarshan Kumar, a Twitter product manager, noted that the star could be confusing, especially for newcomers. “The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones,” Kumar said. “The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”

Last month, Twitter added a new feature called ‘Moments’, a feature of curated tweets, videos and images of major trending events, including breaking news, major sporting events and concerts.

Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen Logo - Branding NewsWhere to start with this one? American culture has long held a soft spot for Volkswagen. From Herbie the Love Bug to reintroducing the redesigned Bug, to ‘The Force’ ads with a young child dressed as Darth Vader, Volkswagen has become of the most loved and respected brands of all time: a brand that stood for quality, honesty, and a commitment to its customers. A brand—not a company or a product—worth billions of dollars.

Volkswagen now sits in a quagmire of legal, regulatory, and financial problems. The biggest issue, however, could be their image problem. The revelations that it cheated on emissions tests and that its diesel engines aren’t as clean as advertised are obviously not sitting well with its customers, and the trust in Volkswagen is gone.

Joan Schmit, a professor of risk management at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, sums it up perfectly: “That is one of the ironies of reputation — both development and maintenance — that, of course, we have to be who we say we are,” she says. “And if it turns out that we are less than who we say we are, that’s going to be damaging.”

Moving forward, the company will try to redeem itself, but whether customers respond is TBD. Repairing their brand image will be a long road. Volkswagen will have to start with being honest. After that, they need to execute; they must successfully recall the cars, fix the problems and offer incentives to loyal customers, if there are any left.

Hope you enjoyed this issue of Branding News! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch all of our blog posts!

Branding News – August 2015

We’re back with an issue of Branding News! If you’re curious about what major, well-known companies are doing in the marketing arena, wondering about the latest trends in branding, or looking for inspiration and stories of creative, unique branding moves, then this post is for you!

These are the top interesting branding stories to come out recently that have caught our eye:

Neutrogena’s interactive advertising

Neutrogena Interactive Advertising from Brazil

Neutrogena launched a creative new campaign in Brazil recently. A Brazilian weekly, “Caras”, has a special cover that features actress Giovanna Ewbank. Here’s the thing: the cover is interactive; readers can use the included sample of Deep Clean wipes to rub the makeup off her face! It’s a brilliant way to put a product sample to good use.

Studies have shown that when you actually touch and handle a product, you feel a connection to it and are even willing to pay more for it.

“This is a practical product that eliminates skin impurities as well as make-up products, including those that are waterproof. These are features that are evident from this stunt, as the consumer is actively involved by trying it, by feeling it in action and witnessing the result. Our goal was to help and incentivize women about routine skincare”, according to Juliana Sztrajtman, Beauty, Baby and Suncare brand manager from Johnson & Johnson Brasil, which owns Neutrogena.

Stubhub’s new logo

StubHub's New Logo

StubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace, has unveiled a new logo for the first time in 10 years. The new logo, which launched at the end of July, removes the two tickets from the exclamation point.

“This logo update reflects StubHub’s evolution away from a purely transactional ticketing company,” said StubHub Head of Brand and Creative Bridget Burton. “We’re not just about selling tickets anymore.”

The company is expanding its content and would like its website to be a destination where consumers can find information like where to eat or stay, recommendations on transportation, and weather forecasts. Essentially, StubHub wants to help people with everything relating to the event in question.

StubHub’s new look is a more mature, updated version of the existing logo; elements have been subtly refreshed with a custom typeface and an official exclamation mark, which is a departure from the anachronistic ticket stub, indicating the company’s broader business, beyond just tickets.

Whole Foods Asparagus Water

Whole Foods Asparagus Water in California

We couldn’t do this issue without mentioning Whole Foods Asparagus Water(gate). Apparently, a shopper in a California Whole Foods found them selling a bottle of water with three stalks of raw asparagus inside and calling it “Asparagus Water” – with a $5.99 price tag.

L.A. resident Mariel Wakim found the water and posted a photo to Twitter. The photo quickly went viral and the internet went crazy. Whole Foods addressed the outlandish item shortly after, saying “We actually don’t sell asparagus water in our stores. We looked into this right away and found that this item was being carried in just one of our stores in California. It was meant to be water with the essence of vegetables and/or mushrooms to be used as broth (similar to a bone broth), which are typically made over a long period of time soaking in water. The product was made incorrectly and has since been removed from the one store where it was carried.”

So the whole thing was apparently a snafu on Whole Foods’ part, but it was another misstep in the ongoing troubles they have had recently. Whole Foods has been under scrutiny for over-pricing and mislabeling ever since New York City’s consumer chief released details on an investigation in June that showed the chain’s supermarkets have been routinely overcharging customers by overstating the weight of prepackaged meat, dairy and baked goods.

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The Gap: A Case Study of Lost Brand Identity

You may have heard the news recently that The Gap has announced they are planning to close 175 (or roughly 25%) of its stores in North America. They also plan to cut 250 corporate jobs in San Francisco and New York. Many are left wondering what happened.
GAP Sorry we're closed signBack in the 90s, Gap was one of America’s top brands, loved by everyone, including celebrities. “Gap provided customers with a uniform, which worked so well for Generation X,” says Bernadette Kissane, apparel and footwear analyst at Euromonitor International. Their American casual style became their trademark look.

Towards the end of the decade though, things took a grim turn for the brand. What exactly happened? Well, it seems to be a combination of things. First, Millard Mickey Drexler — the CEO during that ubiquitous era who was often credited as the mastermind behind Gap’s explosive growth – came under fire in 2002. Criticized for abandoning the basics and becoming too fashionable, the Gap, Inc. experienced largest sales decline in the company’s history.

Drexler was fired, and the brand had CEOs come and go over the next several years. During that timeframe, the face of retail changed. Online shopping had burgeoned, and fast-casual competitors like H&M and Forever 21 burst onto the scene, becoming increasingly popular and capturing the hearts of Millennials everywhere.

The GAP Closure - Various GAP storesWhile these emerging brands were crystal clear about their unique selling points, Gap’s identity became muddied. “The key problem is that they have not innovated with product,” says Bernadette Kissane, apparel and footwear analyst at Euromonitor International. “It also feels as though neither they nor their consumer know exactly who they are targeting.”

As others have pointed out, Gap’s problem is that it has become the very thing Millennials detest: “basic” – the internet generation’s favorite insult right now, meaning boring, clichéd, blah.

To add insult to injury, Gap has become a mega-brand whose bureaucratic processes seem to be slow and complex, too slow to respond to trends during the digital age when Millennials want everything ‘now’

Analysts agree that for Gap to win over consumers again, it needs to dig deep into what once made the brand successful—keeping in mind that times and retail tactics have changed.

“They need to get their mojo back by resurrecting their innovator spirit,” says Ruth Bernstein, founder and chief strategic officer at YARD, a strategic image-making agency.  “They were never about doing things ‘normally,’ but always about the American spirit of individuality, which made the brand so simply, brilliantly, strong.”

We think this case study is a great example of the importance of creating, developing, and nurturing a strong brand identity. A brand is a promise; it is a vital component of your organization, and its strength and clarity directly impact your success in fulfilling your company’s mission. When you stray from that brand, people notice, and it can take your company from growing, to struggling to survive.

Local Orange County Restaurant, Chronic Tacos, Expanding to 100 Locations by 2018

Chronic Tacos in Southern California - SunUp Group

Chronic Tacos, an Aliso Viejo-based business founded in 2002, is a hometown favorite for locals in the Orange County and Los Angeles regions. The Mexican Grill offers authentic third generation recipes made with locally grown, fresh ingredients bursting with flavors and the atmosphere is so inviting, you may not want to leave. In fact, owner Michael Mohammed encourages his customers to “watch sports on our TVs and have a beer” because he wants to create a comfortable and inviting experience.  What, then, is the next step for this delicious Mexican Grill? To expand of course!

Chronic Taco Facts:Chronic Tacos logo - SunUp Group

  • Offers vegetarian options
  • Offers gluten free menu items
  • Does not use peanut oil for any type of cooking
  • Won OC Weekly’s 2013 readers choice award for Best Taco and Best Burrito in Orange County

With twenty-four locations in California, one in Las Vegas and three in British Columbia, Canada, popularity for the native southern California restaurant continues to grow. Over the next three years, Chronic Tacos will expand its operations to three more states, expecting to hit 100 restaurants and in 2015 alone, the Company’s goal is to open one new restaurant per month.

Currently, there are already six California locations in development in Bakersfield, Costa Mesa, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Redlands and Valencia, and three planned locations in North Carolina. Additionally, the Company recently signed a multiunit franchise deal for twelve locations in Colorado, three to twelve locations in Washington and up to fourteen restaurants in Arizona.

Tacos from Chronic Tacos - SunUp Group

The cost to own a single-unit franchise is $40,000 with discounts for multiunit agreements and veterans. The actual cost to develop a Chronic Tacos location is between $250,000 and $500,000 with average unit volumes are about $620,000. Annual royalties include 6% of gross sales and 2% of ad fund royalties.

For more information on owning a Chronic Tacos franchise, visit their websites here.