Brand Marketing in the Digital Age
By Hunter Amato, Guest Contributor for Inland Empire Business Journal
The digital revolution brings with it both challenges and opportunities that never existed pre-internet. Even the concept of e-commerce, now a huge percentage of total brand sales every year, was dismissed as negligible until the last decade or so. But things have changed.
In the modern digital age, new marketing strategies have developed to utilize technological advancements and take advantage of the possibilities offered by a new interconnected world. Here’s how your brand can keep up.
The modern digital consumer is bombarded with content at every turn. With friends, family, and competing brands vying for attention, how does your brand stay relevant?
A large part of getting consumer attention is consistency. Make sure to invest early and effectively into a good design team or designer who can give your brand marketing a visual throughline that will last.
Humans are visual creatures and great at pattern recognition. This means that if someone sees an advertisement or thumbnail for your brand once, they may not pay it any mind. If however, they see it consistently and regularly, it’s more like to leave an impression.
Consistent visual media campaigns and visual branding are great for this sort of thing. Consider a similarity that all your marketing could have, whether that’s a color palette, font family, general layout, etc, and stick to it.
Consistency is also key in matters of tone and personality. In the digital age, all companies should have a specific voice that they stick to in advertisements, posts, public statements, and even customer service responses. Consumers want to feel like they “know” the brands they buy from, and consistency of tone helps in that regard.
Leverage Social Media
A perfect place to develop and maintain a consistent brand personality is social media. More than one million people join social platforms every single day, and 90% of brands use social media to communicate with users.
It’s important to diversify your social media use; don’t just have a presence on one platform. By maintaining pages on different sites, you can reach different demographics and also track where your strengths might lie.
Mastering every social network out there may not be possible simultaneously, but do get acquainted with the basics and make sure you’re active regularly.
Consistency matters not only in visuals and tone, but also in post frequency. Adjust your post and curation rate for each social media site, but never go silent for more than a week at a time.
Social media companies know that brands rely on them in the digital age, so they offer business tools that can be incredibly useful. In addition, social media offers the possibility of working with brand ambassadors, influencers, and even partnering even temporarily with related brands.
Big Data is Your Friend
Another key marketing component that social media offers your brand in the digital age is big data. The big data revolution is making sweeping strides in many fields, from the commercial to the healthcare sector.
Essentially, what big data means for brands is that there are incredible amounts of user data and customer behavior data being generated every day, and that new technological innovations make those massive troves of data searchable, analyzable, and usable for marketing.
Facebook provides a fantastic analytics service, that can be combined with Instagram’s analytics since the former acquired the latter company. Snapchat also includes its own user analytics for official accounts, called Snapchat Insights. Pinterest has its own suite of business tools as well.
Now that your brand has access to big data, it’s important to use it in the most effective way. The primary ways of going about this are by targeting ads to specific demographic groups, analyzing the effectiveness of different brand marketing strategies, and split testing ads.
By utilizing the power of big data, your brand can make smarter choices about where to invest inherently limited resources, and develop a marketing strategy fit for the digital age.
Brand exposure and favorability are more important than ever in the digital world, given the number of choices consumers have at their fingertips.
By maintaining consistent branding in both visuals, tone, and values, your brand will retain consumer attention well. By leveraging the power of social media, you can not only increase e-commerce activity but also further your brand familiarity and develop a positive relationship with your consumers. Finally, the big data revolution has enabled increasingly useful analytics tools that can be used to optimize your brand marketing even further.
20 Years of Spirit in the Making
Inland Empire visionaries, innovators, problem solvers, and risk-takers have been celebrated center-stage at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards black-tie gala for two decades.
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards recognizes the accomplishments and resilience of local entrepreneurs who have strived to build businesses into major contributors to the Inland Empire’s economy. The program was founded in 2003 by Mike Stull, Director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB), and in the years since, more than 200 entrepreneurs have been honored with a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
The IECE, established in 1999, has always been ahead of the curve and launched the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards eight years before President Barack Obama designated November as National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States. Dr. Mike Stull came up with the idea for the awards shortly after becoming director of IECE, when he discovered students in the CSUSB Entrepreneurship program couldn’t name any local entrepreneurial role models.
“Similarly, in my many conversations with leaders in the community, none could cite successful entrepreneurs that were key drivers to the local economy,” Stull said. “To me, this represented a significant gap — we have many successful entrepreneurs in the region, and our students and community leaders needed to know who they were. Thus, I endeavored to bring an event to life that would celebrate and honor local entrepreneurs in a format that would be inspiring, fun, and entertaining. Hollywood had the Academy Awards, so why couldn’t we have a similar event focused on entrepreneurs!”
The annual Spirit of the Entrepreneur black-tie awards program — held this year on November 17 at the Riverside Convention Center — starts with networking receptions, where mingling can often lead to deal-making. The main event is a mix of entertainment, with performances by acclaimed musicians and performers, heartfelt acceptance speeches from featured award recipients from categories such as General Entrepreneur, Service-based Entrepreneur, Social Entrepreneur, Emerging Entrepreneur, and The Mary Anne Fox Top Female Entrepreneur of the Year. At the end of the program, one recipient will also receive the Best of the Best Award, sponsored by Best Best & Krieger LLP. This honor goes to the person who best exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“We come up with award categories in two ways,” Stull said. “First, over the 20 years of the program, we have developed a large number of standard categories that capture just about every type or industry represented in the region. Second, each year we carefully review all the submitted nominee profiles and adjust or add award categories as appropriate. For example, in recent years we have added a Healthcare Entrepreneur category, and in some years we have so many great manufacturing company nominees that we segment them by focus area, such as consumer products manufacturing and industrial manufacturing.”
In order to be nominated, a person must meet two requirements: they need to have been in business for at least two years and have a minimum annual revenue of $400,000. Beyond that, they should be an innovator with a solid character known for having an entrepreneurial mindset and a record of strong leadership and performance. Judges, who are selected based on their business experience and integrity, work independently of one another to evaluate the nominees, with almost all being previous winners of a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
Several notable names have received the signature Spirit Award — Garner Holt, founder of Garner Holt Productions, the late Stater Bros. CEO Jack Brown, and the late Baker’s Burgers founder Neal Baker all were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Looking back on the last 20 years, Stull has countless fond memories of ceremonies past, including performances by Eddie Money and Troy Clarke & His Big Band Orchestra, but his favorite just might be when Holt was recognized with this Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. “We completely surprised him, and his emotional speech was one for the ages,” Stull said.
When the winners are revealed, Stull hopes they feel “all the great positive emotions at once. Surprise, joy, excitement, happiness, pride, gratitude — all those we tend to see from the moment their name is announced to the completion of their acceptance speech. It gives us no greater satisfaction than to see entrepreneurs be overwhelmed at that moment and realize that their hard work and commitment are being recognized in front of their families, team members, the business community, and their peer entrepreneurs. As one past award recipient told me, ‘Mike, this is the pat on the back and recognition that we hardly ever get as entrepreneurs.'”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, there will be a few surprises during this year’s ceremony, with the biggest being the announcement of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Legacy Awards. Two previous Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award recipients — one from the first ten years, and one from the second — will be selected by a judging panel for this special, one-time-only honor.
“The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards has reached an incredible milestone, and we hope that everyone comes out to join the celebration,” Stull said. “Our last full-scale event prior to the pandemic had over 1,000 attendees, so we’d love to see a record turnout in 2022.” Starting with the very first ceremony in 2003, “the event wouldn’t be possible without the incredible nominations we get each year, and of course, the fantastic support we get from our sponsors,” Stull added. “We have nine sponsors that have supported us for more than 10 years, and two that have been with us for 16 of our 20 years.”
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards isn’t solely about recognizing the ingenuity of Inland Empire business leaders. Proceeds from the event go to the IECE’s Spirit of the Entrepreneur Scholarship Fund, which provides grants to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since 2003, more than $225,000 worth of scholarships have been awarded to CSUSB students with measurable needs who are studying entrepreneurship.
CSUSB students also have the opportunity to participate in the Garner Holt Student Fast Pitch Competition. Every year, the IECE holds this innovative semi-final qualifying competition at the event’s named sponsor’s headquarters – Garner Holt Productions a week prior to the Spirit Awards gala. Up to 15 student entrepreneurs have the chance to give a 90-second pitch of their business idea to local investors. The students are judged by the panel, and the top five student pitchers move on to the finals at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards. There, they deliver their pitches in front of the live audience, where the audience will vote to determine the winner who will receive the $4,000 cash prize. In years past, students who presented especially impressive pitches have dazzled investors in the crowd and secured funding for their ventures.
Purva Taur is a graduate assistant at IECE and enrolled in the Master of Science Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) program at CSUSB. An international student from India, Taur grew up in a family where many of her relatives owned businesses, and she knew that one day, she would follow in their footsteps. By working at the IECE with Stull and Assistant Director Stacey Allis, Taur has already noticed a change in how she approaches situations.
“I’ve learned how to be on my toes all the time,” she said. “If there’s a problem, you have to be quick with a solution and back up.” Taur is now working on a business plan to present in front of investors and feels that the comprehensive education she is receiving will give her a boost over her peers. “Being in this program has given me a lot of confidence that not every 22-year-old would have to begin their start-up, or any business,” she said. “I’ve learned how important it is to cultivate your business mindset.”
While Taur is preparing to launch her career, one CSUSB student-led venture named AxoTech is already commercializing technology developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona.
“The company is innovating the diagnostic technology space, and is currently a part of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Foundry program,” Stull said. “Overall, the impact to the region is tangible — over 40 percent of our more than 1,000 entrepreneurship alumni have created one or more ventures since graduation, and a large number of our graduates are intrapreneurs: managers and leaders in existing organizations who are innovative changemakers.”
IECE HAS IMPACT
The IECE has been leading the charge since it first opened its doors at CSUSB, with the mission of inspiring, developing, and nurturing up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the Inland Empire. It is the largest organization in the region supporting small business and entrepreneurial growth, and its staff is there every step of the way as people learn the ins and outs of starting and running a business, meeting with investors, finding mentors, and developing business models.
“We have an incredible team of professionals in the IECE — more than 60 — that are in the community every day having an impact on startup and existing companies,” Stull said. “The IECE has been recognized many times for its growth and impact, most recently by AACSB International, the accreditation body for business schools worldwide, as a Top 35 Program for Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”
There is always something in the works at the IECE, and in 2021, the center collaborated with the CSUSB School of Entrepreneurship to produce the region’s first-ever State of Entrepreneurship Report, which examined the trends and challenges of entrepreneurship in the Inland Empire. This year, the IECE has launched several new initiatives, including the Catapult Business Growth Network. Over the course of this intensive six-session program, entrepreneurs learn how to position their businesses for measurable growth.
The IECE is a driving force behind the economic expansion in the Inland Empire, and the proof is in the numbers — through its counseling, mentoring, and training programs, the IECE has served more than 150,000 entrepreneurs, supported the creation and retention of nearly 40,000 jobs, assisted with the startup of almost 2,000 new ventures, and had an economic impact in excess of $400 million.
“We are very proud that the IECE has grown to become one of the largest university-based Centers for Entrepreneurship in the world,” Stull said. “Since entrepreneurship is such an important driver of our local economy, having such a vibrant and impactful program such as the IECE is critical to supporting local businesses and their startup and growth.”
San Bernardino County State of the County; Regional Business Summit Delivers Strong Message of Opportunity and Growth
American Idol Winner and County Native Chayce Beckham Acoustic Performance Closes Show
San Bernardino County welcomed hundreds of business, government and community leaders to its State of the County | Regional Business Summit held at the Toyota Arena on October 6. The event, hosted by Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman, featured a breadth of information encompassing County data, interviews with business leaders as well as updates on County programs and initiatives that made a difference in keeping residents safe and healthy and helping businesses to thrive.
The Board of Supervisors each delivered a message on critical areas of success in County programs that included education and workforce, economic development and foreign trade, public safety, healthy communities, and increasing equity. Included in these programs was the recognition that San Bernardino County became the first county in California to declare racism a public health crisis. “Our hope is that the equity element group and the conversations that it is conducting will help us to grow a more fair, just and more prosperous community for everyone in San Bernardino County,” said Supervisor Rutherford.
“While this past year has tested each and every one of us, it has not slowed down the pace of progress. Billions of dollars are being invested in San Bernardino County in technology, transportation, healthcare, and new entertainment venues,” said Chairman Hagman.
Chairman Hagman and the County’s new Chief Communications Officer Martha Guzman-Hurtado teamed up to share more news on these developments including an update on the TopGolf entertainment experience being built in Ontario — the first in Southern California, as well as The Boring Company’s plans for an underground transit loop that will shuttle thousands of passengers between Ontario International Airport and the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station.
A subsequent video reported on investments in the County by Brightline West, Starlink, and General Atomics Aeronautical. These innovations were followed by an interview with Ken Ramirez, chairman, San Manuel Mission Band of Indians, who shared more on the tribe’s economic and philanthropic investments including the creation of more than 7,000 local jobs. “San Manuel’s goal is to keep philanthropy dollars in local communities, so that everyone has a chance at success,” said Ramirez.
Chairman Hagman also shared a video featuring the work of County-based MP Materials, the only integrated rare earth mining and processing site in North America, and KIGT, the only and first African-American manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations. These firms exemplify the County’s burgeoning electric transportation infrastructure that benefits the nation and world.
The final business video focused on small business success and young business leaders. “Many of these businesses are founded by young people who are born here, grow up here, and are now ready to invest here because they believe in what San Bernardino County has to offer. In many ways they are community champions,” said Hagman.
The video highlighted the work of local investor and entrepreneur David Friedman of Realicore Real Estate Group, Destiny Muse of Grounded along with the non-profit Youth Action Project (YAP) and its empowering work through its Black and Brown Economic Empowerment Partnership (BEEP) that supports young people who are working to redevelop their communities. “Reinvesting matters to this region. If we can find a way to develop our local region that makes it attractive for residents to stay, to retain our local talent, the County will thrive,” noted Tremaine Mitchell, co-founder and executive director, YAP.
The State of the County | Regional Business Summit closed with a live acoustic performance by hometown star Chayce Beckham, this year’s American Idol winner and Apple Valley native who played his number one hit “23.”
To view the State of the County | Regional Business Summit, visit the link at San Bernardino: San Bernardino (selectsbcounty.com) or on CountyWire at State of the County 2021 Delivers Strong Message of Opportunity and Growth | County of San Bernardino – CountyWire (sbcounty.gov).
2020 Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards available for viewing on YouTube starting Dec. 5
The 2020 Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards gala video will be available for viewing beginning Saturday, Dec. 5, presented by the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino, with the theme “Despite all odds – the Spirit of the Entrepreneur will prevail!”
The recorded awards event will be available to view on the Cal State San Bernardino YouTube channel.
Adapting and pivoting its program model due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards focused on recognizing those entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs who have survived, thrived and played a key role in helping the community adapt and overcome the coronavirus pandemic through their direct efforts.
Mistress of Ceremonies Janice Bryant Howroyd, the founder and chief executive officer of The ActOne Group, presided over the ceremony that took place on Nov. 21. She is currently No. 39 on Forbes list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. In 2014, Howroyd was recognized by Black Enterprise as the first black woman to own and operate a billion‐dollar company.
The 18th annual gala event, presented by Cal State San Bernardino and produced by the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at CSUSB, in partnership with Premier Sponsor City National Bank, recognized nine entrepreneurs selected from nearly 200 nominees and 48 semi-finalists.
During the broadcast from The Fox Theater in Pomona, the recipients of the COVID Hero, COVID Innovator, and COVID Angel Entrepreneur Awards were unveiled. The award recipients included:
- Lisa Wright, Inland SoCal United Way, Rancho Cucamonga –
COVID Hero Entrepreneur
- Zubin and Tenzing Carvalho, SoCal Face Shields for Frontline Workers, Hemet – COVID Innovator Entrepreneur
- Eugene Weems, Vibrant Green for Vibrant Peace, San Bernardino – COVID Angel Entrepreneur
In the tradition of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur, the event featured top-flight entertainment, delivered this year by Vintage Trouble. The Los Angeles-based quartet, presented by Premier and Entertainment Sponsor City National Bank, delivered a scorching two song set of swaggering rock, soulful blues, R&B grooves, and pop ambition blended into a bold and brash brew of infectious music.
FAST PITCH COMPETITION
As part of the event festivities, the Garner Holt Student Fast Pitch Competition was held for five future entrepreneurs to deliver a 90-second pitch about their up-and-coming venture idea to the audience and were critiqued on their overall preparation, poise and professional presentation. The top three pitches were recognized and the top student walked away with a $4,000 prize. The fast pitch, which involves students from Cal State San Bernardino, is sponsored by entrepreneur Garner Holt of San Bernardino. The top three finishers were:
- Emma Biland, Bracelet Bodyguard – 1st place
- Matthew List, 1Knock – 2nd place
- Misty Lopez, She Me – 3rd place
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