It’s said that good things and bad happen in three’s. Sometimes in two’s, and a few times they’re mixed, good and bad. Recently several events happened in quick succession and while not good or bad, the contrast between them was stark and yielded a bevy of lessons from a PR and marketing standpoint.
Last Saturday I was reviewing a concert for a classical music site. A cheerful representative of Washington Performing Arts greeted me outside the concert hall, handed me the complimentary tickets and said, “I hope you enjoy the concert.” Stapled to the outside of a Washington Performing Arts envelope containing the tickets was a small, white piece of paper. Typed on the paper in rather large typeface were the words: “Please mention Washington Performing Arts in your review.” A direct message, decidedly low tech, maybe a little bold, simply presented, without color or logo.
The next day, during a sketch troupe rehearsal, I was taking notes on an Apple iPad Air 2. The iPad was housed in a black leather case that includes a keyboard, which I used to make note taking easier. A fellow participant asked about the keyboard. I heartily recommended it to her, pointing out that it was Bluetooth enabled and part of the unit with the protective casing. It essentially protected the iPad and made it act like a small, light PC, good for taking notes during rehearsal, writing and saving scripts etc. I added that I had used a similar product from the same brand on a full-size iPad for a few years previously. I was very happy with that earlier product, too, I said.
She then asked me for the brand name of the keyboard and casing. I searched for a few seconds. The casing, as I said, is black, so I thought the name might be hard to see. I kept looking.
Slightly embarrassed, I said if there was a brand name on the product I couldn’t find it. I told her I thought the brand name was odd, but couldn’t remember it. I promised to find the box that the product came in at home—thank goodness I kept it—and relay the information to her. The following morning I did.
The brand name is ZAGG. In existence since 2005, ZAGG makes products that “protect and enhance mobile devices for consumers around the globe,” its website says. ZAGG is based in Utah, was founded in the garage of Phillip Chipping and trades on the NASDAQ. Its site is useful, direct and contains the usual tabs (about us, investor relations, products, executive biographies) and, oops, at least one broken link on the day we looked at it.
The next day on a walk I passed a small store in downtown Washington, D.C. It was a ZAGG store. Inside I found the folio (the product model's name) and asked the salesperson if there was a reason it lacked a brand name on it. Thinking I had a story for PR News I reasoned perhaps ZAGG feels that less is more and in an attempt to avoid logo-mania, ZAGG elects to go low key, at least on the product I own. Sounded like a good theory and a cool story.
The salesperson was unaware that the product lacked a brand name, unfortunately. He joined me at the display rack and showed me a folio with a white ZAGG logo on the keyboard’s space bar and stamped into the black leather on the case. The logos were understated but visible. He then realized he was showing me an updated folio. Indeed, my model, he admitted, lacked branding.
Edelman represents ZAGG, according to ZAGG’s site, so I contacted the representative listed and asked why there's no branding on my folio. Within minutes an Edelman rep, Alexandra Kenway, responded. She said my question was “relevant” and that she’d have a ZAGG response soon. She also asked me a series of legit questions: Was I writing an article? Where would it appear? When did I purchase the ZAGG product? What was my deadline?
Good to her word, the next morning she wrote to me: “[ZAGG is] really happy you’ve enjoyed the products and would like to thank you for the recommendation to your friend. In regards to your question, they replied, 'As we’ve grown as a company and a brand, we’ve been more intentional on how and where to include our brand on our products.'” Kenway added that she’d be happy to take further inquiries.
Similarly, Washington Performing Arts, which has presented music, dance and vocal performances in the D.C. area for some 40 years, responded quickly to my inquiry about its version of branding for the media. My question to president/CEO Jenny Bilfield, relayed through a helpful media rep, Amanda Sweet of Bucklesweet Media, was: Does this simple, direct message to journalists and reviewers work?
As Sweet promised in a cordial note to me, Bilfield’s answer arrived promptly. Like ZAGG’s response, we print it in full: "It makes me crazy when Washington Performing Arts isn’t mentioned in conjunction with a performance we’ve presented. Granted, we’re an unusual arts presenter in that we don’t have a sole venue that ‘brands’ us, nor a standing ‘troupe’ as in a dance company or theater company. Journalists often assume venues and presenters are one and the same…and in most cases they are. Not the case with us, and the distinction is very important.
We attach a note to the tickets so that writers remember that it was Washington Performing Arts that made the curatorial decision, raised the money, engaged the audience, and put the event together…took the risk. When a writer mentions Washington Performing Arts, then a reader may visit our website and discover more that they like and enjoy from our curated season; whereas, if they trace the performance to the rental or host venue, they’ll not have the selective view of our programs across the city.
It’s our intent to build long relationships with the people who attend our performances and support our programs. By omission, it is inaccurate to document — in a paper or magazine of record (online or in print) — only the location of the event, when the event would not have happened were it not for us."
She then thanked me for mentioning Washington Performing Arts in my review. “Much appreciated. Truly!!!”