Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Changing the Future of Small Rural Communities

Rural populations continue to decline. Since 2010, 1,350 “non-metro” counties have lost population. Though there are exceptions, this trend has dramatically affected rural communities. Mark Vogel, Senior Partner, discusses the importance of Market Planning for rural towns that defines both the physical and human assets to recruit new business and residents.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Your New Business Idea...Good or Bad?

Seven out of ten new business ventures fail.  Mark Vogel, Senior Partner of the Avant Marketing Group, discusses the need for proper market identification through research prior to any business launch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Marketing Matters Podcast #10

While there are diverse production agriculture segments, there are several common characteristics among today’s farmer.  Mark Vogel, Senior Partner of the Avant Marketing Group, talks about these critical characteristics that every marketer needs to understand when marketing to farmers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Marketing Matters Podcast 9

Successful sales meetings focus on RIM – the three fundamental factors of Recognize, Inform and Motivate.  Mark Vogel, Senior Partner at the Avant Marketing Group talks about the importance of using the RIM factors in sales meeting planning and implementation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Marketing Matters -- Episode 8

Mark Vogel, Senior Partner at the Avant Marketing Group, discusses how creative promotional strategies can lead to success and increased market share.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

More and more communities are investing in brand development. Mark Vogel, Senior Partner at the Avant Marketing Group, discusses the right and wrong way to go about community branding.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Marketing Matters -- Episode 6

Mark Vogel, Senior Partner at the Avant Marketing Group discusses both the skillsets and challenges for young professionals seeking a successful marketing career.
Make sure to follow the Marketing Matters Podcast to keep up to date on all things marketing. New episodes every Tuesday.

Go To:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Marketing Matters -- Episode 5

Mark Vogel, Senior Partner at Avant Marketing Group, provides some history about market disruption and the ability to adapt to changing competition – including Internet Commerce.
Make sure to follow the Marketing Matters Podcast to keep up to date on all things marketing. New episodes every Tuesday.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Avant Marketing Group Program Supports National FFA Foundation

(St. Louis, MO – May 3, 2014) – The Avant Marketing Group, a market research and planning firm with specialization in agriculture, has announced a significant donation program to support the National FFA Foundation and the future of agriculture.

According to Mark Vogel, Senior Partner, Avant Marketing will donate $1.00 for each research participant in agricultural studies through mid-February 2019. In addition, participants will be offered the option to donate their research participation incentives to the Foundation.

“With our business focused on agriculture market research, we feel we have the responsibility to support the National FFA Foundation and its efforts to secure resources for the future of education, agriculture and student leader development,” states Vogel.

The contributions will be applied to agricultural market research studies including telephone interviews, in-depth interviews and focus groups.

The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, foundations and individuals. Charitable donations to the Foundation allow FFA to provide sustainable impact on the local, state and national level to recognize member achievements, develop student leaders and advance the future of agricultural education.

The Avant Marketing Group is a full-service market research and planning firm located in St. Louis, Missouri. It provides market research and strategic services in both the United States and Canada. Categories include crop inputs, animal health, financial, best practices and customer satisfaction. Research is conducted with farmers, ranchers, channel members as well as veterinarians.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Marketing Matters #4: Are You A Brand Fanatic?

Are you a Brand Fanatic?  This week’s topic:  Branding – one of the most mis-understood components of a solid marketing program.  Mark Vogel, Senior Partner of the Avant Marketing Group, discusses the difference between product and enterprise branding.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Marketing Matters #3: Focus Groups-The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

In the third episode of Marketing Matters, we discuss ways to ensure the quality of your focus groups. If you have any questions, contact Mark Vogel at: vogelm@avantmarketing.com.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Marketing Matters Podcast -- Episode 2 -- Big Data Versus Marketing Research

Is there still a need for traditional market research when we have near-immediate customer data available to us?  In episode 2 of the Marketing Matters podcast, Mark Vogel illustrates how big data and marketing research works together to create high-performance marketing plans.
Makes sure to subscribe to the feed to stay up to date on all things marketing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marketing Matters -- New Podcast from Avant Marketing Group


You are invited to listen to our first episode of Marketing Matters -- a podcast series devoted to providing a different look at today's marketing issues.

In this episode, Mark Vogel, Senior Partner, talks about his experience with the original "Mad Man" of Madison Avenue and how agencies have evolved from being true "marketing partners" to "order takers" in today's marketing world.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Avant Marketing Expands Call Center Capacity

(St. Louis, MO – January 31, 2018) – Avant Marketing Group has expanded its call center capacity to meet the growing market research needs of its clients. With the expansion, Avant Marketing nearly doubles its capacity to field Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) as well as recruiting for In-depth Interviews (IDIs) and focus groups.

Though Avant Marketing’s market research expertise includes manufacturing, financial, food and beverage and government assignments, its core specialization remains agriculture. Agricultural studies focus on several categories including animal health, crop inputs and ag equipment. Research is conducted with producers, growers as well as with veterinarians and sales representation.

“With our specialization in agriculture, it is important that we maintain a well-trained call center staff,” explains Mark Vogel, Senior Partner. “The farmer’s time is at a premium, and a call center is most productive when a participant feels that the interviewers understand agriculture and respects his or her time.”

Avant Marketing Group is a St. Louis-based, full service market planning firm that offers both quantitative and qualitative market research and analysis. Typical projects are focused on market strategy, product development, channel management, customer satisfaction, price elasticity and brand awareness.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cabarrus County New Brand Gains Attention

Avant Marketing Group conducted the branding research and developed the new brand platform and positioning for Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

Cabarrus County rebrands, gets new logo

By Erin Weeks eweeks@independenttribune.com 704-789-9131 Nov 10, 2017 (1)

Family. Faith. Collaboration. Tradition.

Four pillars that epitomize Cabarrus County culture, both as it was, as it is and as it hopes to be.

These four core values, derived over months of research by an outside marketing firm, form the basis for the new Cabarrus County brand and led not only to a new logo but a powerful new slogan, as well: “America thrives here.”

“This is the first brand we’ve had significant research put into,” county Communications and Outreach Manager Kasia Thompson said. “We used a tagline back in 2005 that was ‘Home of American motorsports,’ and we’ve used the seal since then, but we’ve not had a county identity until now.”

The county hired Avant Marketing Group and Walker Marketing Inc. companies to conduct brand research and develop a logo. Avant headed up the research portion, hitting the ground running with information from the county’s community survey.

“It is really important in order for a brand to be authentic and a brand to live up to its brand promise that the brand be based in detailed research, not just a couple of folks sitting around coming up with a slogan,” Paul VandenElzen with Avant said.

The company formed five focus groups comprising residents, business leaders and county officials. Interviews with county leaders gave the company an idea of where the direction the county wanted to go, and meetings with high school students gave a base for the thoughts of the generation that would lead that future. They asked what people thought was both good and bad about the place they lived.

Through a brand audit, Avant took a look at Cabarrus’ five municipalities to verify what they found lined up with cities and towns. They also looked at past county messaging.

All that information combined into a brand platform, which is based on values rather than certain attributes, characteristics or attractions in the county.

“The reason why we do that is we want to be sure that it’s a brand that is sustainable, and, as you know, anything can change and sometimes dramatically change in terms of what a county offers,” Mark Vogel with Avant said. When you focus on values, you’re focusing on the people that live there, that reside within the area, and by doing so you learn their values, the shared values of the community. And our values don’t change quickly over a period of time.”

Values, Vogel said, tend to form at a young age and stick with people as they grow.

“They become basically the compass point of our behavior,” he said. “It really makes up the texture and fabric of any type or organization as well as a municipality or in this case a county.”

The core values Avant found formed the basis of Cabarrus County culture were family, faith, collaboration and tradition. No one value is greater than the other, Vogel said; instead all four sit in what the company calls an equilibrium, defining what makes Cabarrus County.

“Cabarrus County respects tradition while focusing on progress with a strong collaboration in their business, which is extremely critical,” Vogel said. “When we began our research earlier this year, there was one profound perspective that Cabarrus County has that we do not find in many communities throughout the country, and that is collaboration.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Wrong Way to Brand a City

Municipal brand development can be either extremely beneficial or frustrating for a community. Here is an example of what NOT to do when conducting brand development.

A Midwestern city (population 78,000) determined that they needed support to encourage business for its downtown commercial district. Seen as the “heart” of the community, council members sought a brand identity that would be communicated through destination marketing as well as be applied to a much-needed wayfinding signage plan.

In May of 2015, the city approved funding and gathered an “ad hoc” committee to manage the branding process. The committee was given a six-month timeline to complete the project. The city released an RFP for “Branding & Wayfinding Signage” for the downtown area. Several firms responded and the committee selected a reputable sign design company to complete the entire task for $62,000.

The design firm engaged in the process which included gaining feedback from the community, municipal leadership, and downtown merchants. The firm came back to the committee with no less than seven options for the brand identity. The committee was not satisfied with the work, rejected all provided options, and asked the firm to come back with another round of recommendations.

The design firm provided an additional four brand logos, of which, the committee selected their favored option. The recommendation featured a generic motivational slogan that could be easily applied to the wayfinding signage. No Brand Platform or rationale based on research was provided with the recommendation.

After 47 meetings and 24 months beyond the original timeline, the committee brought their recommendation to the city council for approval. This would be the first time that either the council or the public would see the recommended brand identity.

Receiving a high level of negative feedback from both citizens and businesses, the council rejected the recommendation. Criticism was raised concerning the generic motivational statement as well as for the graphic representation.

Not wanting to dismiss the amount of time invested by committee members, the council commended the committee for its efforts while rejecting the recommendation. It was stated that the design firm had exhausted the original $62,000 in funding. The council approved a change order for the project which provided an additional $10,000 and asked for additional options for the slogan and logo. Though they were highly critical of the recommendation, they could not provide specific input that could be used by the design firm for its additional work.

Now the branding project is top-of-mind in the community and negativity continues to rise through social media, communications to the council and in the community’s newspaper that published and editorial criticizing the effort.

What has thirty months of effort and $72,000 provided the city? Basically nothing – apart from having a frustrated city council, committee, and design firm who probably wishes they never won the account.

Here is what can be learned from this project:
1. Ensure that there is consensus among municipal leadership of the objectives and deliverables for your project. With this city, it is obvious that council members were not in agreement. Some were merely seeking wayfinding signage for the downtown district. Others were seeking a brand identity for downtown while others wanted a brand identity for the entire community. As the Mayor Pro-Tem stated, “This is an important project. It will define who we are.”

Define the assignment with clarity. If you only need wayfinding signage, do you really need to go through a branding process? If you do need branding, define specifically what is being branded. Is it only the downtown district or is it the entire community?
The better the input, the better the output.

2. Hire the right experience and expertise. Though a reputable signage design firm is highly qualified to provide wayfinding signage, the branding is normally supplied to them and the brand development process is very foreign to them. A qualified brand development firm will have the experience and expertise in municipal branding. This not only ensures a quality end-product, but assists in maintaining an efficient approach and proven process to assist the city in its efforts.

Most branding assignments are organized through a committee that includes both citizens and government officials. Though they have expertise in other areas, this may be the first (and hopefully the last) time they go through this process. Having an experienced branding firm to assist and direct the effort will keep it on track.

3. Provide a transparent process. Over the thirty-month history of this project, only the final recommendation was exposed to the public. A branding committee should seek input from both residents and businesses throughout the process on the identity that will eventually represent them. Gaining feedback throughout the process, and well as conducting validation research on proposed recommendations, engages the community in the process and allows them to have “authorship” on the final product.

4. Remember that branding is more than a logo. True branding is supported by a formal Brand Platform that includes the brand’s mission, vision, values, and positioning. Then the positioning is translated into the Brand Essence which can be used as a slogan. The logo is only a translation of the Brand Platform that also conveys the personality and culture of the community. When done properly, a municipal brand will represent the sustainable shared values of the community which resonate with both residents and businesses. It should be engaging, providing a “propulsive energy” which will assist the city in obtaining its future objectives.

5. Be good stewards of your municipal resources. Time and money are valuable to any municipality and must be well-managed with branding projects. The above example reflects several “red flags” throughout the process. Why were all the initial recommendations rejected? Was the proper research conducted? Was the research incorporated into the recommendations? Was it apparent that the skill set of the selected design firm wasn’t adequate? Or was the design firm receiving ambiguous input from a dysfunctional committee? Is the committee as much at fault as the design firm and changes should have been made there also?

When any project begins to exhaust resources without a positive outcome, good stewardship will direct changes. Throwing good money after bad normally doesn’t solve problems.

Municipal branding is both a science and art. Proper brand development includes input and research, analysis, defining a Brand Platform, validation of the Brand Positioning, exposure and testing of any logo development, and brand recommendations based on this thorough process.

Branding should be the “voice” of the community and resonate with all internal stakeholders. It should be an open invitation to anyone (future residents, businesses, or visitors) that share the community’s Brand Values to enjoy the Brand Experience of the community. If the branding is done properly, it will become the “rallying cry” for future advancement of the quality of life and economic development for the entire community.

Monday, April 3, 2017

New Brand For Florence, South Carolina

FLORENCE, S.C. — The city of Florence introduced its new brand "Florence — Full Life. Full Forward." to the public during a press conference Friday morning at the Waters Building downtown.

Council members, community leaders and others attended the brand launch event, which featured a performance by the Wilson High School marching band and the cheerleaders from Wilson, West Florence and South Florence high schools.

Tim Norwood, chairman of the Downtown Development Corporation, said the last time Florence created a new brand was 10 years ago. At that time, the branding wasn't readily publicized but Norwood said he wants this rebranding to be different.

"We're taking this into the community," Norwood said. "This is a cultural difference we're making."

Mayor Stephen Wukela described the brand as a "distillation of the spirit, the strength, the essence of this community."

"It's altogether an appropriate time for us to do this," Wukela said. "We have made incredible progress over just a few years and we want to celebrate those accomplishments and look into the future. Our brand speaks to that progress."

Not only does the brand speak to the vast strides the city has made in recent past, but Wukela said it also captures the nature of the Florence population as kind, hardworking people who live enriched lives in the Florence area.

"There is a richness of life in this community that I think rivals any other," Wukela said. "The progress and success that we are having and that we continue to have and the richness and fullness of life that is experienced here. 'Full Life. Full Forward.' encapsulates that."

Avant Marketing Group and MPA Strategies both aided the city with the rebranding. The groups formed a branding committee and met with council members, city staff, community leaders and hundreds of Florence residents to determine the perception of Florence and after much consideration a new brand was created.

The new logo will be featured throughout the city as the branding committee plans to introduce new directional and venue signs, lamp post and display banners, city vehicle decals, among others.

To further introduce the new brand to local residents, the city of Florence organized a brand launch block party held at 6 p.m. in downtown Florence. The street festival included performances by The Holiday Band, which played a mix of old and new hits plus a special song written specifically for the city of Florence and its new brand.

Food and drink vendors lined South Dargan Street as hundreds of Florence residents came to enjoy the street festival. White T-shirts printed with the new logo and tag line were distributed during the block party so the community could get its first look at the brand.

Florence resident Joan Billheimer was among the first to get her T-shirt and she said she is both happy and excited about Florence’s rebranding.

“I love it,” Billheimer said. “It’s simple. Downtown is coming to life and we’re moving forward.”

Paul MacDonald, another longtime Florence resident, said this rebranding comes at an appropriate time for the city as downtown Florence has seen many improvements in recent years and is moving Florence in a positive direction.

“I like what they’re doing with the new logo. It’s a fresh look on what we hope to be a great future for the city,” MacDonald said. “We’re pretty excited about the future and it’s nice to see considering how far we’ve had to come.”

“If enough people see it, they’ll see what a great job we’re doing and where we’re going.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to Kill Good Creative with Bad Research

You may be familiar with the following scenario:

Your Creative Team has developed the ultimate campaign for your client. It’s right on to the approved creative blueprint, promotes the brand, can be produced within budget, and uniquely communicates the product attributes in an inviting and clever way.

The campaign is presented to the client who comments, “That’s really exciting and impactful.” He goes on to say that the dealer network “will love it!”

Then the client drops the bomb.

“Before we spend anything on production, we better get the concept in front of some consumers for feedback,” asserts the client. “I’m sure a quick and simple ‘disaster check’ won’t interfere with our production schedule.”

The concept quickly goes into research – consumers interested in the category are recruited and a focus group is held with the client, creative team and account management observing. It turns out that the focus group was the real disaster!

Several of the focus group participants took the illustrations literally and felt that the execution cheapened the brand. Others couldn’t relate to the actor/model that portrayed the user of the product. Another simply didn’t like the color scheme selected for the advertising. All-in-all, the concepts did not fare well with the group and the client decides that the creative team needed to go back to the drawing board.

This scenario points out a total misuse of qualitative creative research, and both the agency and the client is at fault in letting this happen.

Just this week we received a focus group request from a government entity in Ohio. The client was developing new brand logos and wanted to conduct two focus groups among the agency’s customers to select the winning logo.

Rather than making a small group of consumers “amateur art directors” for an hour or so, we submitted a research plan that would serve them and their agency well:
1. Conduct qualitative research prior to developing the creative blueprint.
2. Gain input on several positioning and messaging statements to determine what resonates highest among participants.
3. Also test personality and tone of the messaging – a great insight for the creative team.
4. Based on the research input, set mandatory metrics in terms of brand positioning, messaging, tone, and personality.
5. Use the research to support and justify your creative effort – a perfect mix of art and analytics.

When market research is used incorrectly, it only opens the door to creative criticism versus providing valuable input. No wonder many creative teams cringe when they hear market research is going to be used to test their concepts.

Avant Marketing Group has been supporting agency and client marketing communications for over 12 years. Our substantial experience as clients, as well as agency planners, provides us with a unique perspective. We know how to do research right – which means many times, developing methodology that is uniquely designed to meet your communications objectives.

And as market planners, we also have the expertise to assist your agency in expanding its client approach to include the entire marketing mix – specifically: channel management, pricing, and promotional strategies – all developed by gaining a true customer perspective through proper market research.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What the Election Polls Told Us About Market Research

How could so many pollsters get the outcome of the presidential election so wrong?

More importantly, why did so many of the red-faced pollsters not have any clue at what went wrong?

The election did have high amperage shock value for many. This included Hillary Clinton who inherited one of the most sophisticated data systems from the Barack Obama 2012 campaign.

I’ve heard some researchers suggest that the decline in land lines for telephone surveying was a large contributor or that many Trump supporters were reluctant to communicate their true support in pre-election polling. Both may have had minimum impact, but the most significant impact on this year’s polling was this:

Everyone wants the right research, but everyone wants cheap research.

And as we all know, with any marketing investment – you get what you pay for.

The truth of the matter is something that many national pollsters hate to admit – they became “fat cats” with their only focus on delivering results that only supported their highest level of profitability at the lowest cost. It’s a perfect example of how poorly managed research is not only a bad investment, but can critically affect the welfare of your client.

What Went Wrong
From a national perspective, most pollsters would suggest that the 3-4 percent point Clinton win prediction was realized if you look at the popular vote totals. This points to poorly managed research – collecting data and not collecting accurate insight.

1. RELYING ONLY ON DATA MODELING – In the ideal world, we can construct modeling from our marketing data to make both strategic and tactical decisions. Some of the most successful brands are managed from a fully-developed and sophisticated model. Others are less successful with modeling since they don’t understand that the market is constantly dynamic and numerous data sources are needed to measure and evaluate market movement. Modeling can quickly become outdated if not supported by solid and varied market research. Also keep in mind that previous behavior doesn’t always equal predictive behavior.

2. LACK OF RESEARCH SYNTHESIS – Today’s successful marketers understand the importance of synthesizing research methodologies to validate all research findings. When marketers seek the lowest cost research investment, they turn to the cheaper alternatives. Pollsters, as well as some marketers rely heavily on singular methodologies such as online surveying or panels. Smart research plans include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies which automatically validate findings. If pollsters would have paid as much attention to the size and enthusiasm of Trump rallies, they may have questioned their quantitative findings.

3. QUALITY OF SAMPLE – Pollsters, as well as market researchers, are focused on statistical significance of their surveying. The norm is to achieve a +/- 4 percentage point maximum variance.
This goal is achieved through quantity, not quality. Unfortunately, many pollsters utilize online or panel surveying, which has duplicate participants for each research wave. In addition, because of the ease of access and availability, these methods are concentrated on high urban areas with little representation of rural citizens. In addition, representative pollster samples are developed to mirror the general population with state-by-state breakouts – not weighted for Electoral College segmented populations.

4. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS DELIVER THE RIGHT ANSWERS – As with any market research, asking the correct questions lead to obtaining the correct answers. One typical question used by pollsters, “If the election were held tomorrow, whom would you vote for?” only provides hypothetical input. It doesn’t determine who will win votes on the actual election day or even determine if the participant is committed to voting on election day.

What Can Be Learned from Failed Polling
The 2016 Campaign Poll failure only endorses what smart marketers and researchers already know in terms of quality market research:
• Relying only on behavioral data models for strategic and tactical marketing decisions has high risk. Nearly all markets are dynamic and models need to be supplemented and updated by continuous market research.
• A properly executive market research plan will include a battery of research methods – both quantitative and qualitative. Through this approach, all research analytics can be validated on a constant basis.
• Online surveying and paneling should be used with caution. Though these types of surveys can provide statistical significance, they may not provide the correct representation of your market that only traditional research methods can obtain.
• Ask the right questions and you will obtain the right answers. In today’s fast-paced marketing world, marketers trend towards quick answers versus correct answers. Survey content is as critical as the methodology or profile of the sample.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Avant Marketing Provides Theme Song for Bayfield, Colorado Branding

On July 21st the Town of Bayfield, Colorado introduced its new brand identity to the community at its summer block party. The Avant Marketing Group conducted the brand development and developed the identity. As an added part of the brand identity, Avant Marketing also wrote and produced, Back in Bayfield -- a musical tribute to the People of Bayfield. The song is now posted on YouTube.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bayfield Plans Formal Introduction of New Brand

It will be a celebration this Thursday night in Bayfield, Colorado.

The Town of Bayfield will unveil its new brand, "BAYFIELD Where Stars Shine Bright" at the Bayfield Block Party on July 21 on Mill Street.

The block party will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

In January, the town hired Avant Marketing Group to assist in developing an updated brand, logo and tagline for the town. The effort was partially funded through an Energy and Mineral Impact Assistant grant from the State Department of Local Affairs.

Avant interviewed residents and business owners, conducted a town hall focus group and asked Bayfield High School students to survey each other in an effort to discover the community's culture, heritage and aspirations. The information assisted in the development of the brand depicting the positive attributes of the town to current residents, potential new residents and businesses.

"The people who participated in the market research indicated that often Bayfield goes unnoticed," said Mark Vogel, a partner at Avant.

At a June 4 town board workshop, Vogel told trustees, "The community's progress and achievements are many times lost, with little awareness from both outside audiences, and many times, by the town's own residents."

Vogel suggested that "Bayfield has a lot to be proud of, from the school system, state football championship, best library, to growing businesses and neighborhoods. The community has become tired of typical references for Bayfield including 'Bayberry' or simply a bedroom community for Durango."

Town Manager Chris La May stated that "the new brand combines the desire to recognize community achievement, while promoting our natural scenic environment. Where else in the world would you rather sit and watch the stars than in Bayfield, Colorado?"

The brand platform provides a description of the community including the town's brand mission, vision, values and brand positioning, which was ultimately used to develop "BAYFIELD: Where Stars Shine Bright."

Brand mission"We are a community focused on continued prosperity and economic growth while maintaining our small-town values and natural scenic environment."

Brand vision"A thriving community that ensures the quality of life for all residents while maintaining our values and small-town character."

Brand values We respect our heritage - our community work ethic is rooted in the hard-earned achievement of past generations.We respect independence, foster education and value our natural scenic environment.We welcome diversity in our schools, residents and businesses that enhances the cultural fabric of our community.We are a community family devoted to the quality of life for every resident. We are helpful, caring and morally grounded.Brand position"Bayfield is a welcoming community that values diverse growth in our schools, residents and businesses which enhances our cultural fabric. We respect independence, foster education and value our natural scenic environment. We are a community family devoted to the quality of life for every resident - an authentic small-town experience in the Heart of Pine River Valley."

(Courtesy of The Pine River Times)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stars Shine Bright in Bayfield, Colorado

Bayfield town trustees did a change-up Tuesday evening from their preferred town branding image and tag-line.

They liked a new version of the crescent moon and shooting star image that they had preferred at their May 17 meeting (as reported in the June 3 Times), and they switched back to the tag-line of "Where stars shine bright" instead of "Real people, real living."

Mark Vogel from Avant Marketing presented the new option with two pine trees silhouetted in the foreground, hills and starry sky in the background. It doesn't show the valley in the middle, as the May 17 version did.

"I come from a small town," Vogel said. "We assume a lot, the values we have, the things we can experience. I've also thought twilight is the most peaceful time. The time where Bayfield becomes the center of the universe, where stars shine bright. It's all the successes and accomplishments of the community. One of the things we heard in the interviews is most people have a lot of pride in the community, but they don't feel they're getting the respect."

As for the darkness of the image, he said, "There's a richness to this that elevates the brand of Bayfield."

Audience member Jackie Morlan, who has been involved with the branding effort, said, "The tag-line of 'Where stars shine bright' says so much about our town." There are state championship athletes, people who do big things, she said. Plus, "We can see the stars much better here than in Durango."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Branding Work Begins in Florence, South Carolina

The local news media is assisting the Avant Marketing Group in gaining participation of local residents in the market research for the Florence, South Carolina Brand Development Project:


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Florence South Carolina Selects Avant Marketiing for Brand Development

(March 30, 2016, Florence, SC) – Based on a competitive search, Florence, South Carolina has selected St. Louis-based Avant Marketing Group for the development of a branding and marketing campaign for its community.

According to Tim Norwood, Board Chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, “This is an opportunity to tell the story of our community. We have selected Avant Marketing’s process that will provide both residents and businesses the ability to participate and provide needed input for the development of our community’s marketable identity.”

Avant Marketing Group specializes in enterprise branding that includes corporations, associations, government agencies and municipalities.

As part of the process, Avant Marketing will conduct town hall focus groups and interviews with residents where they will provide input in regard to the identity of their community. From this research, the firm will develop the Florence Brand Platform and key messaging to target audiences identified in the marketing plan.

For more information about the Avant Marketing Group, visit the firm’s website at www.avantmarketing.com.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bayfield Branding Begins

Bayfield branding effort begins
By Carole McWilliams

Times Senior Staff Writer Article Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016 2:52pm
Make text smaller
Make text larger
Marketing consultants were in Bayfield this week to meet with community members and start the process of creating a brand for the town.

They arrived Monday and met with Bayfield High School students on Tuesday. They hosted a community forum last night.

No, it's not a cattle brand.

"Our focus is enterprise branding," consultant Paul VanDenElzen from Avant Marketing told town trustees on Tuesday. "Municipal branding is the part we enjoy the most, because we get to go into the community and get to know the people." He said invitations were sent to all town residents for last night's forum. The 90-minute session was to include vision exercises and finding shared values for the participants.

The interviews and visioning are the research phase of the process. Then the consultants will develop a statement of vision and values. From that, they will create visual branding including three logo options to choose from, also letterhead designs, way-finding signs, and website development. There will be a five year marketing and implementation plan.

The goal is to create a unified brand for Bayfield, VanDenElzen said. "We feel a brand can't be just a logo and a slogan." It has to resonate with residents and businesses.

Avant senior partner Mark Vogel said the branding should cause everyone to feel "that Bayfield is a place for people like me. We don't focus on the place. We focus on the people of the place, the shared values and the vision that people have for the future."

They do that with one-on-one interviews as well as community forums, he said. "We believe the internal stakeholders (residents and businesses) are as important as the external audience."

Vogel listed four levels of someone's relationship with a brand:

.awareness (I've heard of Bayfield)

.association (I've been there and know a bit about the town)

.brand affinity (you identify personally with the brand)

.brand fanaticism, which he said is rarely achieved. He gave sports teams as an example.

"The Denver Broncos don't have to pay you to promote their brand," he said. "With an enterprise, you want residents and businesses to be brand fanatics based on shared values and vision." He gave another example of asking a man who mops the floor at a hospital what he does. The man says, "I mop floors." But at another hospital, the man who mops floors says he helps the doctors keep people healthy.

"It starts with your vision, mission, shared values," Vogel said. "(Personal) values are important but difficult to articulate. Through the interview process and the focus group, we'll take people through exercises to define those values. The outcome is to energize and unify your community, turn residents into brand fanatics."

VanDenElzen said the high school students will do some market research, then create recommendations that they will present to the town board.

Vogel commented, "If the input we received today (from the students) continues through the week, we'll have ample material to work with."

Town trustees hired Avant Marketing in January, choosing them out of 12 proposals. Trustees approved a maximum cost of $22,500, with 75 percent of that covered by a state grant administered through the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments. Similar grants are going to Ignacio, Pagosa, and Silverton. All are follow-ups to downtown revitalization assessmets conducted by Downtown Colorado Inc.

Bayfield's assessment was in March 2015.

- See more at: http://www.pinerivertimes.com/article/20160218/PRT01/160219855#sthash.YfDpDzZn.dpuf

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Town of Bayfield Selects Avant Marketing Group for Branding Assignment

(February 10, 2016, Bayfield, Colorado) – Based on a nationwide search, The Town of Bayfield, Colorado has selected St. Louis-based Avant Marketing Group for the development of a branding and marketing campaign for its community.

According to Town Manager, Chris La May, “This is an opportunity to tell the story of our town and community. We have selected Avant Marketing’s process that will provide both residents and businesses the ability to participate and provide needed input for the development of our town’s marketable identity.”

Avant Marketing Group specializes in enterprise branding that includes corporations, associations, government agencies and municipalities.

As part of the process, Avant Marketing will conduct town hall focus groups and interviews with residents where they will provide input in regard to the identity of their community. From this research, the firm will develop the Bayfield Brand Platform and key messaging to target audiences identified in the marketing plan.

For more information about the Avant Marketing Group, visit the firm’s website at www.avantmarketing.com.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Snickers Commercial Earns Top Super Bowl Avant Marketing Score

(February 7, 2016 – St. Louis, MO) – Mars’ Snickers brand television commercial received the highest score in Avant Marketing Group’s Commercial Index Score for the 2016 Super Bowl.

The Index, conducted by Avant Marketing’s market planners, evaluates commercials based on three critical factors: media strategy, creativity, and marketing strategy. More than a popularity contest, the Index provides a true evaluation of the return on advertising investment for marketers.

The Top 5 rated commercials for the 2016 Super Bowl include:
1. Mars’ Snicker Bars – featuring William Defoe and vintage footage of Marilyn Monroe
2. Doritos (Frito-Lay) – Ultrasound
3. Avocados from Mexico
4. T-Mobile – featuring Steve Harvey
5. Turbo Tax (Intuit) – featuring Anthony Hopkins

The Index also identified the commercials that delivered the least in return on investment. These included commercials from LG, SunTrust, Colgate, Squarespace and a small business spot sponsored by Intuit.

The Avant Marketing Commercial Index considers the following factors for the evaluation:

Media Strategy. Advertisers have the opportunity to select placement within the game. Normally, commercials that run during either the first or second commercial break receive the highest ratings. Yet, in close games, a 3rd or 4th quarter buy can be as effective in advertising reach and attention as earlier commercials. The Index not only takes into consideration the advertising placement, but also the status of the game activity and score to rate the placement of each commercial.

Creativity. This rating evaluates the actual commercial creative in terms of attention-getting and uniqueness that can lead to memorability.

Marketing Strategy. This rating focuses on the strategy that the commercial is based. It evaluates how the commercial communicates either the product/service attribute or how the messaging supports the sponsor’s brand.

All three ratings are weighted equally in the Index.

For 2016, the winning Snickers commercial ran early in the game, utilized attention-getting creative and maintained the candy bars’ long-term brand positioning.

Avant Marketing Group is a market planning firm located in St. Louis, Missouri. The firm provides market research, market planning, strategic product development and branding.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Avant Marketing Gives Back to the Community

As the old adage goes ‘We only have what we give’. Avant Marketing is proud of its culture of volunteerism, and in 2015 of Avant Marketing Group has been more active than ever in the community.

In this past year Avant Marketing Group associate Paul VandenElzen became a member of Launch St. Louis, a group of local business leaders focused on connecting young professionals and non-profit organizations throughout the community. Launch St. Louis has partnered with groups such as Friends of Kids with Cancer and Brightside St. Louis to develop supportive networks of young business men and women. These young friends groups fund-raise, volunteer, and plan events to improve the effectiveness of their charity.
According to Paul, he chose to partner with Launch St. Louis because of the exceptional impact that it has on the St. Louis Community as a whole. “What I love about Launch St. Louis is that we aren’t tied down to a single effort or cause, what we do helps to build up many local non-profits. Really, our mission is to create the high tides that raise all boats.”

The most recent Launch St. Louis partnership is with the APA adoption center of St. Louis. The APA Adoption Center is an independent non-profit which has been a fixture of St. Louis for over nine decades. The APA is unique because it is not an ‘animal shelter’, as an adoption center their efforts are concentrated on pet adoptions. In fact, they do such a good job of connecting homeless pets to their future owners that the APA assists many St. Louis shelters by taking on overflow from these organizations.

As highlighted in the Channel 2 newscast below, Launch St. Louis is already hard at work establishing the new professionals group; the Young Friends of the APA Adoption Center. There has been an amazing response from the business community of St. Louis and many prospective youth volunteers have come forward as potential candidates. If you, or someone at your organization is interested in becoming a board member of the Young Friends of the APA Adoption Center, Launch St. Louis and the APA are hosting a recruitment mixer next month, February 11 from 5:30pm until 7:30pm at the APA Adoption Center. For more information, visit the Launch St. Louis website or contact Paul VandenElzen directly at (314) 576-7700 ext. 13.


In addition to Avant Marketing’s work with Launch St. Louis, efforts to fight food insecurity in the community have been more prevalent than ever. This past holiday season Avant Marketing raised over $4,200 which was used to feed 115 families in the St. Louis area as part of our Feed the Need Holiday Food Drive.
Avant Marketing Group is excited to continue doing everything we can to help St. Louis continue to improve. If you have a community project which needs marketing support let us know. We are always looking for the next new opportunity to advance the remarkable community of St. Louis which we call home.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are Super Bowl Winning Ads Also Marketing Winners?

(St. Louis, MO – February 1, 2015). The 2015 Super Bowl continued its dominance in television viewership and the program’s advertisements gain as much attention as the game itself. We all have our favorites and national polls, including USA Today’s Admeter, track the popularity of our favorite commercials each year.

But do the most popular commercials make the most marketing sense?

For 2015, the Avant Marketing Group analyzed this year’s contenders from a marketing perspective to determine which commercials are most likely to succeed in reach marketing objectives. Each commercial was rated in four categories including impact, brand reinforcement, messaging and market relevance.

Based on this analysis, the following advertisers were rated as “Biggest Winners” and “Biggest Losers” for the 2015 Super Bowl.

Biggest Winners
Wix.com – Commercial focused on the website’s key selling proposition – assistance in developing a website for even retired football players. Good use of celebrities and relevant to a football audience.

Dove Care for Men – Expressive and emotional with support of Dove’s brand position. Dads are different than fathers – they care; caring, as well as Dove products, can be a masculine attribute.
Nationwide Insurance – Two spots humanized insurance but ratings were mixed between two commercials. “Pretty woman” spot promoted Nationwide as a company that “sees you” as an individual to meet your personal insurance needs. The remaining spot was viewed as a bit morbid for a football audience.

Snickers – Based on a running theme, Snickers is a solution when you are hungry and “not yourself”. Great use of celebrities including Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi.

Always – Received some of the highest scoring. The spot reflected Always commitment to women with an “in your face” comparison of self-images of girls.

Fiat – Borrowing product benefits from the “Little Blue Pill”, provided a bit of Italian humor promoting the higher performance auto model.

BMW – A commercial featuring Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel with a 21 year-old Today Show clip demonstrating that game-changing technology can be difficult to understand at first – transferred to present day in introducing the I3 BMW technology.

Biggest Losers
Carnival Cruise Lines – Suggesting that a Carnival Cruise will satisfy your emotional need to return to the sea (as narrated by JFK) is a totally absurd proposition. Possibly more suited for Windjammer or another back-to-nature cruise line.

Toyota – Great story lines, but they had nothing to do with Toyota or automobiles. Spots could have been used to promote a variety of products – touching, but does nothing to move the marketing needle.

Budweiser – The “Lost Dog” commercial was the most popular spot in USA Today’s Admeter Poll. But from a marketing perspective, the spot does nothing to position the brand or promote the product. The spot did more to promote Budweiser as a legacy brand (a well-liked brand, but with little or no market share.) Legacy brands in this category include Schlitz and Falstaff. (Note: a second Budweiser commercial did position the brand as a “beer for beer drinkers.” It’s unfortunate that the advertiser did not put as much creative investment in this commercial as Lost Dog – since it defended the Budweiser position against the share gaining craft beer industry.

Weathertech – Poor market relevance ratings for this commercial since floor mats are not a frequent or top-of-mind purchase. In terms messaging, stating that Weathertech floor mats are made in the U.S. is probably making foreign manufacturers tremble in their car seats. Just what America needs – U.S.-made floor mats in their foreign-made cars.

Loctite – Spending nearly all of its entire marketing budget on one 30-second commercial, the only winner here is the Fallon Agency in Minneapolis that talked its client in making this poor investment. If there was some exposure to a more continued promotion (in-store, etc. versus only social media), there might be some payoff to this gigantic investment.
Dodge – The “Wisdom” spot, which was designed to promote the 100th anniversary and experience of the car brand, simply told us that Dodge truly is “Your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Jeep – The “Beautiful Lands” commercial did expand the Guthrie song and lyrics internationally, but attempting to link it to a light SUV was a huge stretch – unless you are planning on driving your SUV to China to visit the Great Wall.

Honorable Mentions
No More – High impact spot featuring a 911 call from an abused woman. Touching, attention-getting, but a true downer commercial at Super Bowl parties. We hope they continue this campaign in more relevant broadcast and media environments.

Other Comments
Go Daddy obviously did not have a backup for its “Lost Dog” spot that was pulled from the game. This was a too serious of a spot to support this brand which has always been positioned as fun and somewhat creative.

Microsoft – Though no one commercial in this series gained “high impact” scores, the series will continue to build brand equity over time as people begin paying attention to the messaging. Simple put – Microsoft technology is a true enabler for all people.

McDonald’s – Good support of the brand positioning and success will be determined by the engagement of customers and frequency of free food offers through February 14th.

Coca-Cola – Great brand positioning, high production values with a contemporary story. Unfortunately, Pepsi owned the Super Bowl by sponsoring the amazing halftime show.

All commercials were rated on the following attributes:

Impact – This rating focuses on the stopping power of the spot which includes creativity and production values.

Brand Reinforcement – Overall reinforcement of the advertiser’s brand positioning, voice and personality.

Messaging – This rating is focused on the selling proposition and what viewers would “take away” from the spot.

Marketing Relevance – This rating is focused on the entire commercial and its relevance to the Super Bowl market audience. In other words, it may be a great commercial, but not best suited for the wide variety of audiences watching a football game.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Has Ferguson Affected the Image of St. Louis?

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and the St. Louis Region have received both national and international attention. We are interested in your perception of how these events have affected the image and economic future of the St. Louis Region. Please complete this very short survey. Go to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/avant-ferguson