Digital Marketing and ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

digital marketing concept art


Hi, I’m Joel Grabois and I’m a digital marketer.

Digital marketing, unfortunately, lends itself to a common human failing: “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

This is the tendency we all have to be distracted and enticed by the latest “shiny object” – and suddenly we have to have it or use it – because it’s new and different. Nobody wants to miss out on the next big thing.

And, we’re all guilty of it!

For example, social media companies aren’t anything new but they’re constantly evolving to remain relevant, which keeps them in the “shiny object” category for many people.

Here is one of the keys to success in leveraging the often confusing and overwhelming topic of digital advertising. Find balance by letting the strategy lead the way rather than the tactics!

We sometimes have clients who come to us with decisions already made, certain they have to be on Snapchat or Swipe Right or Viber, when, in fact, that channel makes little or no sense for their brand or marketing goals. Right now 17% of you are looking up those last two platforms, and I just made one of them up! It doesn’t exist.

On the other hand, the smarter, more profitable choice is to begin with a thorough understanding of your marketing goals, your brand identity and your current assets, then use that information to determine which digital channels offer the best fit and most cost-effective path to success.

It’s very easy for marketers to waste time, effort and money chasing each new “shiny object” in digital if there isn’t a well-thought-out strategy leading the way.

I encourage you to stop wasting your time – and money.

Make the decision to commit your brand to a sound strategy, call in the experts and let us help you navigate this challenging landscape. It doesn’t cost a thing to start a conversation – (303) 597-9661.

Why High-End Magazines Haven’t Gone Away in the Luxury Travel World

luxury travel magazine image

Change is a constant in today’s world, and the far-reaching impact of the Digital Revolution is both a prime example and a significant driver of that trend. But, in some cases, change occurs around something rather than to it, and the effect is just as noticeable.

One example of this phenomenon is the luxury travel industry where the seemingly “old-fashioned” medium of high-end, glossy magazines — made with actual paper and ink — have not only survived, but are thriving amid the widespread migration to digital-only publication.

Savvy resorts and popular travel destinations worldwide continue to harness the power of these physical publications to reach passionate travelers long before they visit online booking sites like Travelocity or to start comparing prices and making reservations.

Is your resort property leveraging the value of print? In this post, we’ll cover why high-end travel magazines are still such a vital piece in the marketing mix for luxury travel destinations, and how to take full advantage of what they have to offer.


Who Still Buys Travel Magazines?

The first thing to realize is that luxury resorts and popular destinations rely on a very specific target market of passionate travelers. These are not average American day trippers or business travelers who are likely to stay at economy hotels. And they aren’t families who need to bring the kids to Disney World while they’re still young enough to really enjoy it.

These are wealthy, highly educated, upper-middle-age individuals or couples who have both the means and the desire to spend a significant portion of their lives exploring what the world has to offer. These travelers are willing to invest in experiences and adventure. Here are some identifiers:

  • Vacation planning begins months or even years before it’s time to take off.
  • Plans aren’t dictated by approval of a vacation schedule, tight budgets or highly structured timetables.
  • Last-minute deals on popular, low-cost hotel or airfare booking websites don’t influence their decisions.

Overall, these people do not hunt around for a destination running the best deals at the moment or make travel decisions because tickets are only available for the tiny slot where they can coordinate vacation time with their spouse and kids. Instead, their planning begins far earlier in a vital stage we call “the Dream Phase.”

What is the Dream Phase and Why Does it Matter?

People who purchase high-end travel magazines are passionate travelers who make vacation plans based on the experiences they wish to have. When a future vacation starts taking shape, these travelers do not initially look at a computer screen for the best prices on airfare. Instead, they flip through a copy of Conde Nast Traveler or Travel and Leisure — just two of the half-dozen magazines artfully displayed in the center of their coffee table.

Subscribing to these magazines is about having a relaxing or invigorating experience. They might have a glass of wine, turn on some music, and pick up the latest edition of Architectural Digest simply to look at the beautiful homes. While looking at the pictures, they might stumble across an article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona and think, “I’ve been meaning to check out Sedona for years.” That’s where the dream begins.

That’s how this target market begins their buying journey: by losing themselves in gorgeous photographs and highly detailed content that’s geared to stoking the fire of their travel dreams. Flipping through high-end, beautiful pages of magazines with content and reviews they trust is what whets their appetite for adventure.

If your resort, travel agency, airline or national tourism board doesn’t appear in these publications, you’re at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to catching the eye of this highly lucrative and loyal group of consumers.

It’s tempting to assume that focusing the marketing budget exclusively on digital media, search and travel site profiles makes sense in 2017. But if the upscale travel market is one you’d like to attract, these high-end glossies need to be part of your marketing mix. If they aren’t, then by the time they go online to start making concrete plans, they’ll already be heading to the competition.

Why Print is Part of a Well-Balanced Marketing Mix

All of us are attracted to quality content that speaks to our hobbies and passions. The target market we’ve been discussing considers travel their hobby. It’s what they love, and something they invest in routinely.

There’s no denying the fact that plenty of travel-focused content is available online. In fact, all the most popular travel magazines have highly developed online, tablet-friendly publications or blogs that supplement and support their print editions. But as noted above, the demographic of this target market skews older, usually between 45 and 75. As a result, many of them still gravitate toward holding a physical magazine in their hands rather than consuming their favorite content via laptop or iPad.

A variety of tactics are needed to reach this audience and each tactic plays a different role in the purchase cycle. While a strategic mix of digital, TV, radio and display ads are important, advertisers cannot assume everyone goes online first.

Luxury travelers will likely go online at some point, but after they already know exactly what they want to investigate. After they’ve read the article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona, they will likely take the magazine over to their laptop and look each one up individually. This is why magazines should be included in the mix. If advertisers ignore the pre-planning, dream phase, they are losing out on the best possibility for maintaining occupancy rates and profitability over the long term.

Of course, achieving the right balance of media, getting the timing right, and creating the most appealing and persuasive marketing content is a tall order for any business. And, in many cases, tourist destinations employ a smaller team of marketers than might be expected. This presents an ongoing challenge for those professionals responsible for marketing these destinations.

How to Embrace all Phases of the Funnel

To widen the very top of your sales funnel, you need to be highly visible to high-end travelers during The Dream Phase. Accomplishing this requires a strategic mix of advertising and advertorial content in the glossy travel magazines that are most relevant to your location and timed to accommodate your destination’s unique seasonality.

It’s important to remember that most magazines work months in advance to get everything ready for print. The editorial calendar for a magazine focusing on spring break is decided way before families begin to plan a getaway to thaw out from the winter. To get a resort in Hawaii featured in the right issue, a media buyer will watch editorial calendars to get ads and content lined up way before anyone is thinking of swimsuit season so you can be in front of a potential buyer at the very beginning of their journey.

At the same time, it’s important to maintain a thorough online content hub where interested prospects can continue their research and satisfy their curiosity as the buyer’s journey progresses. Whether it’s a blog or a highly active and engaging social media presence, good content resources take your brand and message much further than your profile on Travelocity or They also create opportunity to attract and educate prospective guests throughout the buyer’s journey.

These marketing efforts should be supported and augmented by targeted TV, radio and digital efforts. Finally, as a guest gets closer to making final arrangements, you need to be easily accessible and appealing on those travel websites that they will likely to use to solidify their plans.

By following this process, you ensure not just a rise in occupancy over the next few weeks — the sweet spot Travelocity and similar sites can assist with — but, more importantly, you get on the radar of hobby travelers who consider vacation plans months or even years in advance. This balance promotes short- and long-term success through high occupancy rates across seasons and return business year after year.

Of course, accomplishing this mix can be challenging and time-consuming. It’s easy to spread a marketing budget too thin by trying to attack all media at once.

Where Blue Onion Media Fits into the Equation

At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to look back on nearly 40 years helping resorts worldwide achieve this perfect balance through strategic media planning and media buying services.

The following case study exemplifies the kind of results we achieve for our clients in the travel and hospitality industries:

Blue Onion had the opportunity to work with a major southern California resort that was operating under the umbrella of a larger international hotel group. When that relationship came to an unexpected end, the resort suddenly found itself heading into the busy summer season at a loss of over 1,000 room nights (which had been reserved under the parent company’s membership reward programs). At the same time, they were faced with a name change and had to figure out a way to boost brand visibility, while ensuring that any guests that did arrive were sufficiently cared for.

To address the resort’s need for a high volume of reservations in short order without sacrificing their long-term success in the process, the resort called on us to create and execute a marketing strategy. Our solution included advertisements and editorial content in Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and appropriate high-end regional magazines, along with a layer of radio targeting travelers looking for something new to do during summer vacation.

To address the need for good brand exposure, high-quality reviews and a positive experience, our media strategists leveraged Spanish-language Pandora (an online radio service) to attract enough maids, housekeepers and other staff members to support the resort’s increased expectations for summer occupancy.

The result was an incredible 95% occupancy rate for the vital weekends of that first summer, as well as a smooth transition through the subsequent seasons where their longer-term efforts yielded plenty of reservations and return engagements.

Of course, every destination and set of circumstances is completely unique. That’s why we approach every client and project as a brand-new opportunity to study the situation, explore the options, and develop a fully customized solution designed to get the best value for every marketing dollar being spent.

If you’re struggling with hitting that vital balance of media to promote both short- and long-term success for your tourist destination, contact Blue Onion Media to discuss strategic and creative options.

Why Integrated Media Plans Drive Retail Success

integrated media marketingFor marketers in today’s constantly connected digital world, no conversation is taken seriously if it doesn’t include something related to digital marketing strategies and tactics. After all, that’s pretty much all that’s left for retail marketers to work with if they want results, right?


The digital-only approach is a misconception that many companies and marketing professionals fall into, and it can wreak havoc on a campaign and deplete a budget in short order.

Of course, digital marketing is important. But the reality is that driving reach in retail requires the strategic interplay of many different tactics—including some you might have considered “dead”—with new options and vendors appearing every day. The reason behind this reality is simple:

Customers don’t hear about you for the first time via Instagram

That is to say, if a customer has never heard of your brand, or if they’re unfamiliar with who you are and what you represent, seeing a passing image in a long stream of passing images on an endless social media feed isn’t going to spark a sale. There’s simply too much information passing through every phone screen to expect digital to accomplish that difficult task on its own.

Other media options do a much better job of establishing that initial contact, forming the top of the conversion funnel for most retail brands, including:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Print

That’s right, the “Big 3” that digital was supposed to put out of business are still alive, well and vital to a successful retail marketing campaign even today.

TV, radio and print do a better job of creating an emotional response

Consider how effectively a TV commercial can create desire in the mind of a consumer:

From a shiny black luxury sports car whipping around a slick asphalt oval to a beautifully stacked burger dripping ketchup, 30 seconds of stunning visuals, matched with the right music and voiceover, can produce actual physical hunger or other strong, emotional desire. It’s worked for decades. That’s an effect that your average Tweet or Pin can’t match.

Digital video advertising does have nearly the same impact as TV and radio when it comes to creating the customer’s craving for a product. However, it also contains built-in limitations including cost, reach, targeting and competition, making it more complex and a deeper commitment than most digital marketing tactics.

These tactics also translate better for mass distribution

There’s also the matter of creative bandwidth. While the same TV, radio or print ad can run essentially unchanged on thousands of channels nationwide, every digital channel has its own range of optimal formats. Message length, type and size of image, and means of engagement, as well as unique metrics, must be collected and analyzed to determine a campaign’s success. These requirements can make a large-scale, long-term growth campaign highly labor intensive on digital.

Carrying out a digital-only campaign that produces positive ROI requires an intimate understanding of your target market and their online and mobile habits—a subject that’s constantly evolving due to the ever-changing nature of digital platforms and devices. What works on one major social channel will have no effect on another, and may not even be an option on a third. TV, print and radio, on the other hand, have established formats and options that have remained essentially unchanged for decades, making them comfortable for the audience and predictable for the marketer.

Despite all this, digital is still a vital tray in the marketer’s toolbox

Don’t get the wrong idea when we’re discussing the limitations and challenges inherent in digital marketing. These days, under most circumstances, you’d be foolish to invest in a campaign that doesn’t include a digital element. The key is strategic balance, letting the strategy lead the way rather than the tactics.

Digital marketing, unfortunately, lends itself to a common human failing: “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

This is the tendency we all have to be distracted and enticed by the latest “shiny object” and suddenly decide we absolutely must have or use that thing, simply because it’s new and different. While social media channels like Facebook and Snapchat aren’t actually new anymore, they’re constantly evolving and keeping themselves relevant, which keeps them in that “shiny object” category for most people.

As a result, we have a lot of clients who come to us with decisions already made, certain that they have to be on Facebook, Snapchat or (enter the shiny new app of the day) when, in fact, that channel makes little or no sense for their brand or marketing goals. But convincing them that they’d be wasting time and money entering that shiny playing field can be difficult, to say the least.

The smarter, more profitable, choice is to begin with a thorough understanding of your marketing goals, your brand identity and your current assets, then use that information to determine which digital channels offer the best fit and most cost-effective path to success. That’s what we struggle to teach our clients.

And that’s the choice you’ll need to make as a retail marketer who wants to include a smart and effective mix of digital tactics into your marketing strategy.

So, what about next steps?

It’s very easy for retail marketers to waste time, effort and money chasing each new “shiny object” in digital if there isn’t a well-thought-out strategy leading the way.

Creating that strategy requires collecting and analyzing data to determine an optimal mix of channels and formats unique to each brand’s target market, brand authority and budget. Most retailer marketing departments don’t have the tools and know-how necessary to accomplish this, but Blue Onion Media does.

If you’re ready to streamline your retail marketing strategy by leveraging digital data, contact us today to discuss your options.

Is Your Resort Getting its Fair Share of Group Business?

resort marketing group businessKeeping a resort filled and profitable is a juggling act. Certainly, occupancy rates are important, but success goes far beyond keeping a full house.

To really maximize profitability from your guests, you have to analyze travel trends and seasonal ebbs and flows, adjust marketing and sales efforts, and optimize the highest occupancy on the most profitable days. Also, although beyond your control, unforeseen world events and Mother Nature often create tricky circumstances that can affect your normal short- and long-term scheduling trends.

Travel marketing professionals and resort managers have faced the challenge of unpredictable circumstances for years. In addition, growing competition in the industry and a continually fluctuating economic outlook worldwide is making resort vacationing less consistent than it once was.

However, “expecting the unexpected” can be a powerfully lucrative ability for resorts. With the right approach to resort marketing, it’s not impossible to successfully meet or exceed both occupancy and profit goals for your resort—especially when you learn how to properly leverage group business, which can add consistency to your juggling act.

Gain additional insights by watching this short video from Blue Onion Media’s Pete TenEyck. Want more? Shoot over an email or give him a ring at (303) 597-9661. He’s a pro when it comes to helping businesses effectively navigate the evolving media landscape, and he’d be happy to answer your questions or discuss your pain points.

Leisure vs. group business

Group business on the scale we’re discussing can be an extremely lucrative if you view it as a B2B transaction rather than B2C, which is what you’re probably most familiar with in seeking out leisure guests. In this case, we are focusing on group reservations from corporations, schools, governmental agencies, and others who are organizing a retreat or annual meeting of some sort, and plan to have a large number of guests visit the resort on a given set of days.

The fundamental difference is the identity of your target market. Leveraging group business requires marketing to professional event planners and companies that specialize in managing incentive programs. Not only do these individuals have different motivations and goals than individual consumers and families interested in a leisure vacation, they also read different magazines, visit different websites, and work on a completely different timeline.

Successfully reaching this target market and convincing them of the value of visiting your resort requires a different strategy, media mix, and marketing investment than what you normally use to draw in consumers. And that’s where the real challenge surfaces.

What happens if you succeed?

Before going any further, let’s consider the possibilities. What if you could achieve an optimal balance of group and leisure business, and maximize profitability? In order to successfully harness your resort’s fair share of group business, you have to be willing and prepared to:

  • Better manage your inventory. Booking leisure guests on higher-priced weekends and filling lower-priced weekdays with large groups makes better use of inventory.
  • Get in front of long purchasing lifecycles. Keeping seasonal events top of mind, even one or more years down the road, enables you to plan accordingly to fill gaps. Group organizers often plan long in advance of an event with a process that can include seeing an ad, getting RFPs and visiting the property.
  • Be adaptable. Being willing to possibly bring in several smaller groups during non-peak periods can help fill gaps in inventory.
  • Advertise to niche markets. Advertising to the right target market, specifically to event planners or corporate organizers, helps you make better media buying choices.

Obviously, these are excellent outcomes any resort manager or marketer would want to achieve.

What happens if you consistently lose group business?

Inevitably, your loss is another resort’s gain. Group business is going to go somewhere.

Group business tends to generate a significant amount of repeat group business AND additional leisure business as well. Companies that have a positive experience at a certain resort are always more likely to book that same resort the next time they have a group event to plan. In addition, the individual employees who were exposed to the resort while on business could very well decide to return with friends and family for some hard-earned rest down the road.

This two-pronged dynamic—which is heavily impacted today by the power of social media—makes successfully obtaining group business even more important for resorts the world over. Catering to both group and individual needs should be a priority for your resort. If you ignore one or the other, the gap between you and competitors who nab group contracts will continue to grow in the months and years to come.

What does an optimal resort marketing strategy look like?

A healthy balance of leisure and group business can provide consistent occupancy and profitability throughout the year. In order to achieve this balance, you have to take into consideration seasonality and purchasing lifecycles.

Corporate planners who make decisions on where to stay for group business trips or conferences begin investigating options long before the actual date of the event. It’s important to get in front of them in advance to make time for a site visit, potential RFP process and rate negotiations. Ideally, you can convince this type of booking to happen during off-peak days and off-peak seasons when leisure travelers are less likely to crave resort time by:

All in all, it’s a heavy project to take on, and the concept could overwhelm even the most experienced resort marketing professional. But it’s definitely possible. In fact, it’s vital.

How to accomplish this optimal situation

It’s not likely that you or your busy marketing team can effectively develop the needed skills to make this optimal media strategy a reality overnight. Even with a dedicated budget for experimentation, the process could conceivably take years, and no resort has the luxury to remain uncompetitive for that long. But that doesn’t mean that achieving this goal is out of reach. Rather, it means smart resort marketers know how and when to get professional help.

At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to be able to look back on over 37 years of experience as a premier media buying and planning resource. Since 2003, we’ve specialized in media and buying planning for resorts, helping leaders in the luxury hotel and resort industry optimize inventory, maximize marketing investment and fully leverage the lucrative but underserved group business market. In fact, we invest over $300,000 annually in data resources, including Nielsen TV & Audio ratings, Scarborough, Kantar Media Intelligence and Strata planning and buying software

We’re not a full-service advertising agency. No one on our payroll handles creative, so we’re not looking to propose a particular headline or logo or in any other way step on the toes of your in-house or contracted advertising pros. Rather, our focus is strictly on making sure your message reaches the right people at the right time and in the right format, all at the right price. We work to stretch every marketing dollar you invest and make sure it’s working it’s hardest for you.

See how Omni Hotels generated over $250k in revenue with the right media mix!

QSR Marketing Challenges and Trends, and How Media Expertise Can Help

drones delivering hamburgersThe quick service restaurant (QSR) industry has always been rapidly evolving and highly competitive. What worked last year could be a waste of money today, and every experiment—no matter how wild—has the potential for huge returns … or not.

While this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation for QSR professionals, there are recent challenges and trends in the industry that have snuck up on some and may not even be on the radar of others. These challenges and trends could make or break new and vulnerable operations, and could even put a dent in the budgets and futures of long-standing mega-brands that must constantly fight for their positions as QSR leaders.

One glaring example of a noteworthy challenge that’s impacting nearly every brand in the QSR space is the ever-changing smorgasbord of potential media options and the fact that “being visible” isn’t nearly enough to compete today. Every media buy needs to be strategic, offering positive ROI and growing the value of the customer’s entire experience in relation to the brand.

This is no easy task when new channels open up almost daily, fickle audiences migrate from one to the next in seemingly random bursts, and the ability to track and analyze the resulting data presents its own technological challenges.

Those brands that can successfully meet this challenge will reap huge rewards, including:

  • Greater control over their brand
  • Enhanced customer relationships
  • The multiplying power of customers becoming brand loyalists and ambassadors

Those who don’t are bound to be left in the dust since the trend toward wider and more diverse media channels isn’t going to slow down or reverse anytime soon.

Gain additional insights by watching this short video from Blue Onion Media’s Pete TenEyck. Want more? Shoot over an email or give him a ring at (303) 597-9661. He’s a pro when it comes to helping businesses effectively navigate the evolving media landscape, and he’d be happy to answer your questions or discuss your pain points.

What could make the difference for an individual QSR brand?

Since QSR brands are already used to working in a highly competitive vertical, successful marketing pros in these companies and in the creative agencies that serve them are already adept at experimenting and “failing fast.” However, the kind of strategic media planning and buying necessary to meet this industry challenge is often outside their normal wheelhouse.

Further, the data collection and analysis capabilities required to get ahead of the competition in media planning are either unknown or financially out of reach for all but the largest QSR brands. As a result, many marketing pros with the best of intentions simply can’t deliver an effective media strategy to the level needed to truly succeed in this rapidly evolving field.

The perfect solution would be to partner with an experienced team of media planning and strategy experts that can quickly and efficiently build an effective program nimble enough to remain relevant over the long term. But does such an option even exist?

Before we answer that, let’s look a little closer at the main components that must be considered when forming an effective media buying strategy for QSR brands.

Competitive research and benchmarking

Because of the cutthroat level of competition these brands face, keeping an eye on the competition has to be an integral part of any effective media buying strategy.

This doesn’t just include figuring out what channels the competition is using, but tracking their level of success or failure on each as well. As the saying goes, “a smart person learns from their own mistakes, but the truly wise learn from the mistakes of others.” Understanding the kind of all-encompassing competitive landscape in which QSR brands exist demand specialized tools (such as Kantar, Nielsen, Nielsen Audio, Scarborough, and Strata to name a few) as well as deep insight based on experience.

Effective competitive research and benchmarking can provide valuable direction regarding channel selection, messaging, timing, and how all three of those aspects of a given competitive campaign interrelate. With this data at their fingertips, QSR brands can optimize campaigns across all these areas, improving results and saving money in the process.

Not necessarily ‘following the leader’

There’s also a necessary balance to be met here: a QSR brand that bases their marketing decisions primarily on “what’s McDonald’s doing this month?” is bound to fail in the long run. A “copy-cat” strategy leaves the brand at the mercy of another brand’s costly mistakes. It also runs the risk of watering down or even eliminating the value of the brand itself as similar messages bolster the image of the company they’re emulating.

While keeping an eye on the competition is vital, it should be wise, prudent and influence a strategy that intentionally differentiate a QSR from the competition.

Laser-focused targeting

It’s tempting to assume anyone who eats is a potential customer for a given restaurant. However, there’s no way to sustainably and effectively market to such a wide audience. Effective campaigns are laser targeted on specific demographic and psychographic segments to select the best channel, timing, and messaging to resonated with a specific target market.

Again, locating and effectively analyzing the amount of data necessary to achieve this level of targeting goes beyond what most individual brands or creative agencies can provide. As with the competitive research, specialized tools and databases like MRI offer the only truly effective way to layer the data, analyze it and arrive at an actionable outcome.

It’s impossible to overstate the marketing value of leveraging competitive research with detailed actions and motivations of adult American consumers, which reveal powerful and penetrating consumer insights, including:

  • what people watch, read, listen to
  • what cars they drive
  • how they use the internet
  • their attitudes towards advertising
  • and, thousands of other data points

When a team exists that focuses solely on media strategy and invests in data collection and analysis, an optimal media buying strategy evolves to connect with each target market, no matter how niche-specific or seemingly small.

A wide range of media channels

As recently as 20 years ago, you could count the number of media channels on one hand that offered profitable returns. These days, there are dozens, each with their own combinations of strengths, weaknesses, costs, and level of commitment.

Although the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) method dictates that “less is more,” that’s simply not true in today’s wide-ranging media landscape. The average consumer spends hours each day absorbing content through a huge variety of channels and channel loyalty is notoriously fickle. With a new social network appearing every week and a new streaming service popping up nearly as often, consumers are hopping from one channel to the next quickly and without hesitation.

QSRs cannot depend on a shotgun approach to get their message out on a wide array of channels. An effective media buying strategy should approach each channel as unique and help direct the creative, the budget, and the tracking efforts accordingly to optimize the value of each.

As an example, review this media buying strategy for Arby’s.

A realistic understanding of what media will achieve

In a world that prioritizes instant gratification whenever possible, it’s tempting for brands to assume that a particular marketing investment should be able to provide instant or near-instant results that can be measured on a balance sheet. And, while many of the media channels available today can theoretically provide very quick, measureable results, expectations need to be realistic or the brand risks pulling the plug before the positive impact can be felt.

At the same time, the combination of the naturally fast turnaround in QSR marketing—after all, everyone eats every day, right?—and the speed with which campaigns can be launched and measured through many modern channels does lend itself to experimentation and extensive testing and optimization scenarios. The real key is leveraging the experience and expertise necessary to make the most of those experiments and arrive at the optimal circumstances before the competition figures it out.

A good place to start to determine if a media buying investment is being allocated to the best channels is with an independent media audit. These audits not only confirm that a brand is getting what it paid for, they also show if a target market is being reached most effectively to deliver positive results.

Is it possible for an individual QSR brand to achieve this optimal media buying scenario?

As we’ve already noted, the level of competition and speed of change in the QSR industry creates formidable challenges for most internal and agency marketing professionals who desire to effectively leverage the incredible variety and scope of media options available today. For most of them, the sheer number of available options and the extent to which data can be collected and analyzed for each of these channels puts a truly optimized media buying strategy out of reach.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for QSR brands to benefit to the fullest extent from all the potential this wide variety of media channels offers, because that seemingly unattainable concept we’ve been discussing—a wholly dedicated team of media buying experts with the necessary tools, capabilities, and experience—actually does exist.

Blue Onion Media is Denver’s premier media buying and planning resource, and we’ve been helping companies and creative agencies nationwide achieve optimal results from their media investments since 1979. We’re proud to have a long and successful history working with clients in the QSR industry, ranging from powerhouses like McDonald’s and Arby’s to up-and-coming brands seeking a foothold in the competitive QSR space.

If the idea of being able to effectively track and analyze media buys—from the initial planning stage through the post-buy audit and results analysis—appeals to you, and if you or your client would like to be able to effectively compete across multiple channels as a QSR brand, we’d love to discuss what we can do to help.

See how the right media mix drove a statewide sales turn-around for Arby’s.

Furthermore, if you are ready to get a discussion started on how Blue Onion Media can help your QSR concept overcome today’s marketing challenges, give us a call or shoot us an email. We have much more detailed, targeted QSR marketing insights that we can share with you.

Call (303) 232-1100

Email Peter TenEyck, VP Business Development

Email Eileen Weinert, VP Media

3 Ways Data Helps Creative Agencies Achieve Better Results

data driven media buying illustrationThe ability to get a client’s message to resonate with the appropriate target market is a key goal and measure of success for creative agencies. Whether that message is delivered through traditional or digital media channels, the aim is still the same: produce creative messaging that will drive awareness, recognition and action.

As a creative agency, your team’s expertise lies in making that message as powerful and persuasive as possible. But there’s more to carrying out a successful campaign than crafting a compelling message.

After all, where’s the value in that wonderful message if it gets heard by the wrong people? Or, worse yet, it doesn’t get heard at all? Or what if the timing is off and the target audience hears the message too early or too late in the decision-making process?

In all those cases, your top-notch creative is essentially wasted; leaving little room for a successful campaign.

Learn More about How Creative Agencies Can Make Money in Evolving Media Environments

The Indisputable Power of Reliable Data

The collection and analysis of data is an integral part of reaching the right audience, at the right time, in the right location to increase the impact of your creative efforts.

This isn’t a revelation. Every marketer knows it’s important to base campaign strategy on hard data like demographics, shopping habits and predictive analytics. The trouble is, if you’re like most creative agencies, access to this level of data requires a significant investment on top of the large expense of employing an experienced media team — we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year.

Of course, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to collect generic demographic data via the internet. Even a limited amount of psychographic data can be culled from online searches around specific target markets. However, these low-cost, widely accessible databases are often:

  • outdated and limited in scope.
  • not regularly backed by reliable resources.
  • limited in their analytical tools.

Having access to the right research tools along with media analytics and performance reporting eliminates these issues and ensures a results-driven approach to your campaigns.

Here’s where a strong media agency partnership comes in. By leveraging science and making data-driven decisions, a media agency can provide the following benefits to creative shops and their clients:

1. Targeting the Right Audience via Effective Channels

According to eMarketer, U.S. programmatic digital display ad spending will reach $22.10 billion. It’s true that programmatic digital advertising is gaining popularity fast, but it comes with a challenge familiar to experts in traditional media buying: making sure you are identifying the right channels from the beginning. Whether choosing the right television or radio spot, or deciding between digital media outlets, getting in front of the right people is still an essential part of campaign success.

Using a solution such as Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI) might sound like a dream because of the cost required to access its vast database of demographics, psychographics and consumer behavior. However, strategic media buying does not have to be a wishlist item for your creative shop. By partnering with a proven media buying agency equipped with MRI and other platforms, you can gain access to powerful resources for penetrating insight into the actions and motivations of adult American consumers, including:

  • what people watch, read, listen to
  • what cars they drive
  • how they use the internet
  • their attitudes towards advertising
  • thousands of other data points

This type of data enables us to make scientific decisions to find and reach the appropriate target audience for your messaging; focusing the client’s budget on channels with the best chance of success.

2. Choosing the Best Channels for Placement

Let’s assume your client needs to get their message out to a widespread target market across the country. You’ve crafted a series of fantastic ads designed to carry the brand’s message across television, radio, digital, and print to make sure your client gets maximum exposure. But there’s no way their budget could handle the shotgun approach with such a range of media vehicles.

Having access to the right data points allows your media buying partner decide the best placement for your client’s media to make sure campaigns hit hard and garner the most value.

This is especially important when dealing with nonprofit budgets. For example, we recently worked on a Lung Cancer Awareness campaign with an integrated approach involving print ads in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, digital ads and social targeting. By utilizing a strategic approach to media buying, we were able to guide them on the best investment to reach the largest audience and make the greatest impact. In order to reach both of their target markets (donors and lung cancer patients), we took a 3-tiered approach that included:

  • Broad: cultivated demographic data with gender/age/income, profile of those giving charitable donations
  • Receptive: identified people who follow lung cancer and other cancer organization social profiles
  • Diagnosed: leveraged an anonymized health database of lung cancer diagnosed individuals. Regarding this group we were very conservative with the number of ads that were shown to each person due to the sensitivity of the subject matter as well as to avoid the “creep-out” factor.

Using a data-driven approach to media buying, we chose to deliver the campaign in digital banners and pre-roll video in order to efficiently spread their message nationally and directly send traffic to their website. Here are some of the results from this campaign:

  • Facebook Page Likes – increased from 9,500 in November to 38,000 (as of Jan. 30, 2017)
  • Facebook Engagement on Posts – more than 28,000 likes, shares and clicks
  • More than 30,000 visits to the org website in the month of November
  • YouTube – 2,000 views on LCAM.Org Youtube channel
  • 60 Lung Cancer Survivors shared their story on
  • 20+ Partners Participated in 2016 Campaign
  • More than 25,000 Pins, T-shirts and bracelets distributed

3. Verifying Campaign Completion and Effectiveness with a Post-Buy Analysis

With the amount of money your client spends on creating and placing ads, it’s essential to know that they’re reaching their target market and receiving everything promised in your media buy. After all, media expenditures often represent one of the largest expense line items in a marketing budget. If they’re not getting what they’ve paid for, they’re going to be rightfully upset.

Believe it or not, media stations don’t always deliver what you ordered.

You can ensure your clients that the media partners you’ve chosen to work with are holding up their end of the deal by confirming vital statistics along the way like:

  • Did their schedule deliver the ordered gross rating points (GRPs) or impressions?
  • Did their spots run in the correct dayparts?
  • Did their spots run in the correct programs?
  • Did the correct mix of :15’s, :30’s or :60’s run as ordered?
  • Did they get charged the promised cost per point (CPP)?

Any shortfalls in the above can translate into large sums of money, aka lost opportunity costs.  When we hold the stations accountable to your client’s media orders, their media budget works harder for them — meaning more awareness, sales, and profits.

One of the best ways to gather this information is through an independent media audit. An independent audit not only prevents your client from spending time on this research, but it also provides unbiased scientific data to guide future decisions. Independent audits deliver valuable information such as:

  • Validation of initial research and assumptions used to create the media plan.
  • Evaluation of each placement to determine if actual results bear out the assumptions made in the planning stages.
  • Concrete data you and your client can use to inform strategic decisions down the road.
  • Recommendations on any adjustments to the plan that become necessary as strategy meets execution or placement.

Feedback from an independent audit allows your client’s campaigns to improve over time, which benefits all parties involved.

Creating a Win-Win Situation

It might sound daunting to try and implement all of the tools needed to gather sufficient data to improve your results. However, it is possible.

Creative agencies that specialize in developing killer marketing messages for their clients should continue to focus on this service. The world needs you. By partnering with a team of strategic media planning and buying experts, you can continue doing what you do best and heighten results at the same time. Additionally, working with a media planning partner can add a valuable new revenue stream to your suite of services, directly enhancing your bottom line.

Partnering with a media buying agency like Blue Onion Media creates an optimal situation for your creative agency to provide the most effective media buying and planning strategy for each unique client and campaign. Our team works as an adjunct to your agency’s talented creative team, with no stepping on toes or conflicts of interest, because we are not in the creative space.

Blue Onion is strictly focused on gathering and analyzing the full scope of data available and using it to ensure your clients’ marketing and advertising dollars are maximizing value on every campaign.

You get to maintain and deepen a great, ongoing client relationship where you focus on what you do best and boost revenue without having to spend a fortune or too much time on handling the data side of the equation on your own.

That’s the definition of a win-win for you and your clients.

For more detailed information, download “How Creative Agencies Can Make Money in Evolving Media Environments”!

Media 101 for Multi-Unit Franchise Owners and Co-Op Members

franchise media buyingAdvice: What you should know and expect from your media partner

If you’re a multi-unit franchise owner or a co-op member, chances are that your hands are pretty full running your business. As you’ve learned throughout your career, an important part of excellent leadership is choosing excellent support to help your company move forward. When it comes to developing your media-buying strategy, it’s important to have media experts who are well-versed in helping franchises like yours grow.

Finding the right media buying agency to meet your needs is just as important as the messaging in your ads. Where should you start? What qualities do you need to look for? We’re here to offer some pointers to help you find an agency that works for best you!



Why this is important: Accountability

This is an absolute must. When looking for a reputable media partner to work with, it’s important to see how transparent their process is. Do they have a clear structure for your experience with them? Are you confident with what you can expect? How are they spending your money? Do you regularly receive a post-buy analysis after your campaigns have run?

It’s extremely important to track every media dollar placed and the results that they garnered.  Additionally, it gives you (and your media agency) a better opportunity tweak things as needed. Leading us to our next point: metrics!


Why this is important: It gives you a clear ROI

Creating a measurement system of what worked, how well, and compared to a clear baseline of results is essential for any campaign. You must define metrics that success will be evaluated upon.

Your media partner should be focused on creating a plan that will achieve the agreed upon, desired results. Now, media buyers aren’t magicians, but they should strive to work with you to make sure that you are getting the most out of your media dollars.

In order for a media agency to do its job, and be successful with your dollars, there’s also an expectation of transparency with your data as well. It’s important to have as much information as possible, from both sides, in order to make informed, data-driven decisions. Campaigns should always respond to changes in your needs, as well as changes in the market. It’s a system that is alive and dynamic.


Why this is important: Reliability and Availability

It’s incredibly important for a client to feel a sense of partnership with their media planning team. You need to know you can rely on them when you need them to be there.

For example, when Blue Onion works with a franchise owner or co-op, we take it to heart. This is a partnership – we’re here to help and we want to be involved in an impactful way.

Monthly co-op or franchisee meetings? We’re in! Need to make changes to your plan? We’re there to brainstorm with you.

We deem it important to stay in tune with and on the same page as those we are doing work for. We want to keep our fingers on the pulse of what is happening in your industry so we can efficiently tweak strategies and campaigns as needed.


Why this is important: Keeping strategies sustainable

Understanding budget recommendations and limitations is vital to a successful campaign. Seeing the big picture is just as important as understanding each individual process.

For example, say you have 20 stores in your co-op and a $100k budget for the year. With that, you are expecting that budget to cover a different promotion every month (12 total promotions for the year). It’s just simply not going to be enough as that ends up being less than $420 per store per promotion.

When you take into account the work that goes into identifying demographics, layering audiences, geo targeting to maximize response, and the impressions needed over the month to generate traction…. That budget just won’t cut it for 12 promotions over the course of the year.

With the help of your media agency, identify the most important ones to focus on – making the most out of the funds you have available. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on insufficient budgets, and don’t let a second-rate agency talk you into cutting important corners. Shoddy planning ultimately costs more than it saves.


Why this is important: You can’t fake deep experience or relationships in the space

When looking for a media partner to help grow your franchise, it’s important to choose a team of expertly trained, seasoned professionals who will be with you every step of the way. An experienced team will be able to leverage strong relationships with media suppliers and professionals, as well their repertoire of proven results to help you achieve your goals.

At Blue Onion, we pride ourselves on being navigators of evolving media; our goal is to guide partners to success through wise media investment. With an average 10 years of tenure, our senior managers hold over 20 years of experiences in the industry. They provide the foundation upon which our younger energetic media planners and buyers—who average five to eight years media experience—build your campaigns.


With real love for the media business, our planners and buyers are intimately familiar with today’s media trends and usage. We’re agile, available when you need us, and always ready to offer the support you need for your company’s success. Contact us today and get started on a powerful, headache-free campaign! We put you first. Let us help you make an impact on your market – get in touch with one of our experts today!

Call: (303) 232-1100

Email: VP Business Development, Peter TenEyck

Email: VP Media, Eileen Weinert

Make the Most of a Partnership Between a Creative Shop and a Media-Only Agency

What media buying agency partnership looks like for creative outlets and the benefits that come with it.

It’s one thing to produce killer creative for a client. But, it’s a completely different story when you can guarantee that creative will be seen by the audiences it was intended for. Wouldn’t it be nice if your creative shop could do both? Continue reading “Make the Most of a Partnership Between a Creative Shop and a Media-Only Agency”

Strategic Media Buying: What You Need To Know

Many business owners find themselves wondering how to begin the process of making advertising decisions. After all, creating and executing a media buying plan can be incredibly complex. With a seemingly endless number of placement options, terms, rates, negotiations and headaches, ask yourself this – if you’re spending a large amount of your time on media planning and buying, who’s running your business?

Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a team of media planning and buying experts to do that for you?

An agency like Blue Onion Media can make media planning an easy, enjoyable process. By providing extensive reporting, hard data, and post-buy analyses, we’ll eliminate the noise and make order of the perceived chaos.

Here are some of the key areas we focus on when forming custom strategies for our clients.

  • Structure is the key for success. Having a clear plan with specific needs and goals makes it easier to track your progress and breaks your vision into manageable portions. Working with Blue Onion Media will give you the advantage of unprecedented access to proven strategies that give your business the opportunities it needs to shine.
  • Objectives: What do you hope to achieve in next 12 months? Breaking down processes into tangible tasks helps you stay on top of details while also keeping your overall “big picture” intact.
  • Defining your services and mission. What does your company stand for? Are you a leader in innovation? Are you proud of the level of training you offer your team? Do you focus on community sourcing? What did you wanted to accomplish when you started this enterprise? The answers to these questions can ultimately help you better engage with your audience.
  • What are your main goals? Do you want to expand to a new area or to the national market? Are aiming to initiate exciting new programs that you’re eager to share with your customers? Take some time to list your goals so they can be leveraged in your ads.
  • Your competition. What are they doing that you haven’t thought of? What sets you apart? How engaging and visible are their websites and ads? It’s good to know how other people in your market are communicating.
  • Your target audience. Who and where are the people you are hoping to reach? Knowing the lifestyle, goals, and challenges of your ideal customer will help you create ads that speak directly to them. When you can identify your customers more clearly, it makes it easier for them to identify with you.
  • How do you measure success? There are many ways to measure success, and not all of them involve money. What are some other indicators of a successful company? Maybe it’s achieving your desired social impact or establishing your interest in specific causes. Or maybe it’s obtaining desired licenses, contracts, or exposure. Celebrate each milestone; it gives you some extra oomph for each new step!

Contact us today at 303-597-9661 and learn more about how Blue Onion Media can write the road map to your success. You, and your future customers, will be glad you did!

How Digital Media Planning Helps Your Marketing Mix

Availability and visibility are important parts of marketing. They build trust and interest in your company. The ways in which we reach our intended audiences are constantly evolving. We’ve gone from town criers to the printing press to radio and television. Which brings us to now: the age of the Internet. Are you using it to your fullest advantage?

When you have a strong digital presence, there are far more touch points with your audience, and that creates space for more dialogue and interest to be generated. With some creativity and close listening, you can open up many new opportunities for garnering interest and encouraging action. Not sure how to listen effectively? We can show you how!

Knowing your way around digital media planning is a powerful and necessary part of participating in today’s market. However, many don’t have the time to utilize digital tools to their full potential. For example, do you know how much money should you invest in social media? Which platform has the best ROI? What the touch points are for the most committed leads? Each type of advertising has its own strengths that enhance other parts of the process.

Not all leads, as many of us have learned, carry the same weight and commitment. A lead calling in from a TV commercial may be someone who is further along in the decision-making process and interested in talking to an actual person. A lead from Facebook, in contrast, might be at an earlier stage of interest and may want to keep any communication digital.

There are also subtler ways to give you the advantage, like remarketing. Remarketing shows your ads to people who have already visited your site while they are browsing elsewhere online. It helps keep your services fresh in their minds. People are influenced by how often they see something; the more often they see it, the more credible and familiar the company seems to become. We are creatures of habit, and this helps your audience to become more comfortable and familiar with your business which, in turn, makes them more likely to choose your services.

Tracking pixels are another way to get a good look at the amount of interest and action that your website experiences. They’re the size of a single pixel, invisible to the naked eye but underneath they’re powerhouses of information. Tracking pixels can show you how many people saw your digital ads and engaged with your website. They can also show you how many visited but did not choose to make a purchase, which are helpful tools when fine tuning your marketing strategy.

At Blue Onion Media, we specialize in digital media planning and work to help you navigate this ever-changing process. We know use these tools and many others daily, to give our clients the exposure and feedback needed to take their business to the next level! With us, you’ll never experience costly expenditures with little return, because we us our collective years of experience to help you get the most value for your advertising dollars.

Contact us now to explore every possibility, by calling 303-597-9661.

Media Buying During the Political Season

Advertising during a political season can be confusing for seasoned advertisers, let alone those who are relatively new to advertising. Business owners want to know how their advertising campaigns will be affected—and we’re here to help!

Have a look at this Q & A with Heidi Dater, Blue Onion’s Media Supervisor, for some insight into what it takes to adjust and maximize your advertising presence during an election year.

Q: How does the political season affect media buying? 

A: Depending on the type of advertiser, this season can greatly impact media buying. For example, we had a client whose leads were down over 30% during the political season 2 years ago. They were advertising at their usual levels, but people weren’t watching.  They were muting their TVs or changing the channel when political ads came on. This autumn, they opted to focus on digital marketing instead.

We have another client whose sales were down significantly. For that client, we offered strategies such as buying non-pre-emptible television options, like Closed Captioning sponsorships. We know those will run.  For this client, we are going dark on broadcast TV except for sponsorships, and shifting their TV dollars to cable where there is more inventory.

Q: What do make-goods look like during the political season? Are there benefits to make-goods? 

A: It depends on where you are in the window. At the beginning of the political window, you generally get decent make-goods.  Midway through until the election, the make-goods typically aren’t enough points to cover what came out. For instance, I could lose a late news spot at a 5.0 rating and they give me two spots in Late Fringe that do a 2.0 each. Toward the end, they are literally shoving spots back in anywhere to see if they will stick.  When that happens, we tell the station to just credit our dollars.  At that point the political saturation is at its worst. People are not watching and your spot tends to run in an unideal time period where your target audience may not even be tuned in.

Q: Are there benefits to spending during the political season?

A: For some clients it’s important that to keep their names out there.  If that’s not the case for you, we can try focusing your dollars on more productive outlets such as digital, cable or outdoor.  As an agency, it’s important that we make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We have to take into account the specific needs of each client, their overall goals, and what would make sense for them.

A good media agency keeps two fingers on the pulse of the market at all times. That’s our job, and we’ll make sure your ads are seen by your target market, no matter the season! Contact us today to make the most of your advertising dollars – 303-597-9661.

Programmatic Media Buying: What You Need To Know

According to a recent eMarketer report, programmatic buying hit $15.43 billion by the end of 2015. Yes, $15.43 BILLION – accounting for almost 60% of all US digital display advertising. That’s an increase of over $5 billion from 2014, when programmatic spending hit $10.32 billion.

With numbers like that, it probably sounds like something you should be taking part in and dedicating a percentage of your budget to. But, what do you really know about the programmatic process? Is it worthy of your precious marketing dollars?

It is important to fully understand the pros and cons of the programmatic buying process in order to decide if it is right for you and your company. Here’s a Q&A with Blue Onion Media’s CEO, Joel Grabois, to help break it down.

Q: What is programmatic media buying?

A: “Programmatic” essentially means that the media buying is automated or processed through a machine. One of the most common automated buying platforms is real-time bidding used in computer-run auctions. Ad placements you desire to buy are made available on the exchange by publishers. Computers then identify those placements, place bids and, if all goes well, instantly place your message.

For example, a home and garden client is looking for placements targeting a particular demographic: Women 25-54 who have made purchases at a home improvement store in the last 30 days.

Based on enormous quantities of data, programmatic buying computers will identify those placements based on the demographic requirements. Immediately following identifying placement opportunities, the computer will place bids. If you win those bids, your message will be displayed to your target demographic. Sounds like a lengthy process, right? Wrong. The truth is, this is all takes place instantaneously in less than the time it takes to load a web page.

Q: Why should I care about programmatic media buying?

A: Efficiency. Programming your buy streamlines the process of media buying. It removes friction points, leg work, and execution time, all of which cost you portions of your finite budget.

Q: Can I trust my entire ad budget to computers?

A: No. We want to emphasize that this streamlines the process of buying. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that programmatic is an all-in-one solution.

It’s easy to make the assumption that the programmatic buying system is smart. Unfortunately, that can be a costly mistake to make. The system is indeed smart, but only when it comes to making bids. For the most part, it is up to humans to setup the system based on each brand’s specific parameters and goals.

Once the programmatic buying strategy is established and executed it needs to be tested and refined; a task only humans can do. Goals for programmatic buys vary from awareness to direct sales and everything in between. So obviously, the right setup will vary widely along that spectrum.

Q: What are the risks involved with programmatic media buying?

Pro Tip: Go into this brave new future with your eyes open.

A: That lovely decreased cost-per-thousand impressions is not the whole story. Your actual efficiency depends on how many of those impressions were served to humans. That’s right, while machines were out buying your media more machines were pretending to be people who were looking at your advertisements. This is just one of the many complexities of the programmatic world, along with viewability, arbitrage, private marketplaces, data freshness, cookie expiration, and more.

While this process can be a little intimidating it can also be liberating to have programmatic experts in your corner to give you an advantage in the marketplace.

Bottom Line: Before you dive into programmatic media buying, consult an expert. Find an agency partner that has the expertise and integrity your business deserves. Even if you just have a few questions about what is right for you and your business, an experienced agency can help you navigate the marketplace and establish KPIs that will steer your investment towards the highest ROI.

If you are going to take full advantage of the benefits of programmatic, the right people can help gradually move your organization in the right direction. The good news is that high accountability of the digital medium will allow you see whether or not you’re achieving the desired results.

Programmatic is here to stay. Feel free to call us anytime if you have questions. We’re happy to help familiarize you with this type of media buying 303-597-9661.

This post was written by Joel Grabois, CEO at Blue Onion Media.