NDG Interactive Designer Cindy Breck, second from left, discussed the importance of branding and web presence with a group of young entrepreneurs.

It’s never too early to get started on a career in business.

That’s why I was honored last week to speak to students with the Young Entrepreneur Academy at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md. As the Interactive Designer at NDG, I jumped at the opportunity to represent our agency and tell the group of 13 middle school and high school students about the importance of branding and a strong Web presence.

The YEA, sponsored by the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, helps young people achieve their dreams of becoming real and confident entrepreneurs. The students develop business ideas, write business plans, do market research, pitch their plans to investors and some even launch and run their own companies.

Each week, the class invites a different speaker from the community to visit and share what they’ve learned in their own careers.

To get started, I asked each student about their business and invited them to share their “elevator speech.” Wow, was I impressed. They had some great ideas—everything from anti-bullying apparel to fish tank accessories. They’d started their business plan weeks earlier and they were well on their way to success.

Now, the pressure was on me. I started by asking them a broad question: “What is branding?” Most said branding was the logo, the color scheme or the slogan. And of course, they were right. Branding is all these things and more rolled into one.

To stress the importance of branding and how it can set the tone for years of success, I showed the students Apple advertisements from the 1970s up until today. By the time I explained that the “funky looking keyboard” in an ad was actually a typewriter, they understood what I was showing them. After all these years and hundreds of products, Apple’s brand remains consistent, strong and memorable.

Moving on to the idea of Web presence, I asked the students another question: “What do you do first when you want to find out more about a product?” And everyone answered in unison, “Google it!”

“Content is king,” I told them. An overused phrase, I know, but it reminded them that a great website doesn’t begin and end with great design.

I showed them statistics that revealed how much better a business does when it uses an effective website and we discussed how important it is to develop a great user experience and targeted marketing strategies. And we wrapped up by reviewing the almighty Web Strategy Pyramid.

I think we can all agree that we’re over winter.

Prospective homebuyers already are looking forward to warmer weather, and now is a prime opportunity to show them a great place to enjoy it. A recent blog post from REALTOR Magazine reminds us that front porches are making a comeback. They’re among the most sought-after features this year.

As a homebuilder marketing your product, how can you take advantage of this?

First, don’t overlook the front porch when staging your model homes. Think porch swings, rocking chairs and hanging baskets. Shoot plenty of photos. Use them in ads and direct mail, share them in galleries on your website and on your social media accounts. Encourage your prospective buyers to imagine a warm summer evening with a glass of lemonade and fireflies dancing in the yard. It’s a perfect perspective to sell the story of the home.

The time to do it is now, with winter throwing its last wild punches and all of us longing for spring and summer and those days just made for rocking on the front porch.

It’s actually a law. As an advertising agency, we have to post a blog the day after the Super Bowl assessing, critiquing and/or making light of Super Bowl commercials. Seriously, it’s a law. You could look it up. It’s probably on the Internet somewhere.

Anyhow, being the law-abiding ad folks we are, below is our list of the most superbly superlative Super Bowl commercials. Enjoy.

Most Likely to Make You Cry
Microsoft: “Empowering”

 

Most Likely to Make You Salute
Budweiser: “Hero’s Welcome”

 

Most Likely to Make Parents Cringe
Hyundai: “Dad’s Sixth Sense”

 

Best Ad That Ignored the Critics
Cheerios: “Gracie”

 

Best Ad That Made Twitter Explode
Coca-Cola: “It’s Beautiful”

 

Most Effective Low-Budget Super Bowl Ad
T-Mobile: “We Killed the Long-Term Contract”

 

Best Use of Teen Wolf in an Ad
Radio Shack: “The Phone Call”

 

Best Sequel to a Clint Eastwood Ad
Chrysler: “America’s Import”

 

Most Innovative Use of Cattle Reproduction in the Selling of a Pickup Truck
Chevrolet: “Romance”

 

Best Use of a Flaming Sledge Hammer in a Local Super Bowl Ad
Jamie Casino: “Casino’s Law”

 

Of all the excuses to head to Las Vegas and escape the frigid East Coast weather, this is a pretty good one.

Members of the NDG team are winging it west next week for the International Builders Show 2014. It’s the largest event of its kind for homebuilders and a great opportunity to learn about the latest, most innovative trends.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the show. Then check back here when it’s all over and we’ll share some of the best things we saw and heard.

And by the way, we’re also eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s National Sales and Marketing Awards. NDG’s “Happiness Is …” campaign for Orleans Homes is one of six Silver Award winners for Best Overall Advertising Campaign. One of the six will receive the Gold Award.

Wish us luck.

 

“A single major retailer will generate more sales data in a year
than the entire real estate industry will in a decade.”

That little nugget of seriously depressing information came from an Inman News blog post this morning, talking about the real estate industry’s fledgling efforts to mine a vast sea of untapped data and use it to sell more homes.

The blog post focused on real estate agents, but the same holds true for homebuilders. “Big Data,” as they call it, is the future. But it’s also the present. The Inman blog equates data analysis with “business intelligence,” and that’s exactly right.

We were early to this party. For years NDG has been incorporating in-depth results analysis and timely response to achieve the best possible outcomes. It’s what drove us to develop RealResults, our proprietary system that integrates content management, prospect management and results tracking.

The most eye-catching ad or website is worthless if it doesn’t deliver. So study everything. Be curious. Always ask why, and always figure out how you can use the answer to your advantage.

Most everyone these days calls themselves “strategic” and says they study results. But to make it worthwhile requires real effort, real commitment and a smart approach.

Changes are coming, and they’re coming fast. Those on the leading edge will reap the rewards.

NDG is going for the Gold.

We’re excited to announce that the “Happiness Is …” campaign we developed for Orleans Homes is a finalist for Best Overall Advertising Campaign in NAHB’s National Sales and Marketing Awards—better known as Nationals 2014.

The campaign was one of six to receive a Silver Award, and a single Gold Award winner will be announced on February 4 at NAHB’s International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

“To be a Silver Award winner is a great honor,” NDG President Tom Nelson said. “But our real reward is serving as the marketing partner for Orleans Homes on a daily basis. Our agency is so grateful for our collaborations with the Orleans team and for this industry recognition.”

“Happiness Is …” came about because Orleans was ready to refresh its “Simply Happy” brand. We built the campaign around true-to-life images and statements that reflect a wide range of homebuyer experiences and motivations.

Founded in 1918, Orleans has a long tradition of building outstanding homes and delivering excellent customer service. Happy homeowners can be found in Orleans neighborhoods from New York to South Carolina and west to Chicago. NDG has been Orleans’ agency of record since 2012.

“Orleans is truly dedicated to creating an enjoyable experience for homebuyers,” NDG Vice President Sarah Eckel said. “I think we’ve been successful in making an emotional connection by bringing to life those happy moments that await new homeowners, especially when they’ve chosen to buy a new home from Orleans.”


 

It’s time for homebuilders to look in the mirror. Or better yet, look at your websites.

We’ve long known that more than 90 percent of homebuyers begin their search online. Now a new national survey of homebuyers reports that far too often, particularly among older buyers, poor websites prompted them to reject a community before ever giving it a second look. One third of buyers over 40 said that they had dismissed a community based solely on its website.

At NDG Communications, we spend a lot of time researching what really works online and developing websites that integrate advertising and marketing and, ultimately, deliver leads.

Here are 7 elements your community site can’t do without:

Clear Message
Statistics show you have just 4 seconds to communicate who you are and what you have to offer. Find what sets you apart and say it. Quickly. The clock is ticking.
Photo & Video Galleries
Home shoppers consistently say that photography is the most useful website resource. Include a mix of location, lifestyle and product shots. Video provides an instant increase in clicks for info and phone calls to sales centers. Don’t forget to include video testimonials.

Interactive Siteplan

This is critical to give visitors the lay of the land and help them envision the community and available lots. “Sold” statuses create instant urgency.
Interactive Floorplans
Let the user have some fun. Interactive floorplans allow them to customize the home, select options and dream about where to put that giant flat-screen TV they’ve been itching to buy. Make it easy for them save, share and print their designs.
News Blog
Use your blog to share updates on community progress or fun social events. It shows buyers that your community brings with it an exciting lifestyle. Encourage readers to subscribe to the blog or sign up for the community e-newsletter. As a bonus, a blog provides a huge SEO boost.
Google API Locator Map
It’s all about location, right? Use a locator map show home shoppers where your community is and how easy it will be for them to link up with major commuting routes and nearby destinations.
Focused Forms
Think specifics. Does the shopper want incentives and promotions, financing info, or maybe a community brochure? Do they want it via email or snail mail? How about an exclusive “Insider’s Club” membership? Maybe they’re ready to set up an appointment with a Community Sales Manager? Give them options. Check all that apply.

You knew, of course, that October is National Book Month.

What may surprise you is that when the NDG team isn’t hard at work for our amazing clients, we have been known to read a bit. And not just those glossy magazines with a Kardashian on the cover.

So in the spirit of National Book Month, we’re kicking off a monthly book blog. We’ll highlight some of our favorites from the NDG Library, handpicked to educate and inspire the team. Sometimes we read books just for kicks. We’ll throw in some of those, too.

What are some of your favorites? Tell us on Facebook.

Management

The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy
The Super Bowl-winning former NFL head coach shares his seven keys of mentor leadership. Arguing that the lessons that served him well coaching athletes at the top of their profession can be distilled and utilized by leaders in all fields, Dungy explains how to get your team to respect and follow you without resorting to intimidation tactics.

 

Account Services

Winning the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) by Google’s Jim Lecinski
This free ebook from Google is filled with great insights for the mastering the new landscape that the online explosion has brought to the marketplace. The Internet has changed the way we learn about products, and the instant a potential customer types a product’s name into a Google search, the Zero Moment of Truth has begun. Here’s how to win the moment.

 

Creative

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
The Brothers Heath came to the concept of sticky ideas from different places, one a college professor and the other in education technology. Together, they wrote this book investigating the common factors that make some ideas memorable and others not so much. Full of case studies and anecdotes making the argument that there is, in fact, a formula for creativity.

 

Off the Clock

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
—From Sara Badr, NDG Director of Account Services

The truth is I didn’t know what this book was going to be about when I bought it, but I was intrigued so I did.

Some cool things about this book:

  1. The cover glows in the dark (yes, I bought the actual book. I’m a paper fiend) 
  2. This book’s main character is a graphic designer but gets a job as a book clerk at this off-the-beaten track bookstore. And I mean WHO doesn’t love old, dusty bookstores?
  3. This book turns into a mystery when we discover a secret book society. It’s a fun book—totally not what I expected but a great read.  

We’d like to congratulate Cheryl Macatangay on her advancement to Senior Graphic Designer. In her new role, she will assist in the development of concepts, collaborate with the creative team and serve as lead designer on assigned projects. Cheryl joined NDG as Graphic Designer in March 2011 and has contributed to the design and creation of cutting-edge products for all agency clients.