Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thks

Blink:
Thks is the new thank you. Think about the number of characters or all the nanoseconds people save by not typing in the an and replacing the you with a s. What do people do with all the nanoseconds they save using online, real time jargon?

Read On:
Question: If one nanosecond (ns) is one billionth of a second or as one second is to 31.7 years, then how many nanoseconds does a 24/7 individual experience? Answer: A lifetime.

We now live in a fast paced, high speed internet, wireless mobile, text messaging, instant foods (just add hot water), VIA™ society. Technology has driven our culture to the nanosecond. The smartphone you bought last week is already out moded. What you learned yesterday on the Going Mobile 2011 webinar is obsolete. Forget about the great app idea you conceived this morning while showering, someone has already beaten you to market. Remember: Don’t blink or you will miss it. Every nanosecond counts!

Thks 4 reading my post GTG in a ns need my #Starbucks MCAAHNY

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

National Regifting Day

Blink:
Ever wonder how you can get rid of the hideous set of Atlantic City placemats your in-laws gave you? How about what to do with the three extra copies of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point that thoughtful friends gave you? No worries – tomorrow is National Regifting Day.

Read On:
Alright I recognize that some of you people reading this blog are saying to yourself, how crass, how tacky; while others are cracking a smile having regifted or been recipients of a regift. If you think regifting is in bad taste, then I suggest you think about Jacqueline Onassis who was a very classy woman. I once read that back in 1971 she regifted a watch her first husband JFK received from a socialite to her second husband Aristotle Onassis. The watch later auctioned for $150,000. Imagine Onassis’s original reaction when he received the gift – “just what I need another #!!*%$@ watch.”

Let me share two other reasons regifting makes sense. First, you can get a jump start on cutting holiday expenses. Second, you can now claim to be a committed environmentalist resolute in helping save our planet since regifting is technically a form of recycling.

For those reading this blog, I hope I have provided some insight and a suggestion of how to finally get rid of those reindeer slippers you have never worn. Let us all celebrate National Regifting Day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bravo

Blink:
Bottom-line social media is social interaction enhanced by web-based technologies. Furthermore, social media facilities buzz marketing. Hundreds of years ago, the first evidence of buzz marketing was people who were paid to stand up at designated passages of the opera to applaud/yell “Bravo!” These people were known as a claque.

Read On:
I learned this tidbit of information in a great book, Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand written by Marian Salzman, Ira Matathia and Ann O’Reilly. By means of anecdotes and case studies, the authors explored the subject of buzz marketing, a topic about which I am extremely passionate. P.T. Barnum was a pioneer of buzz marketing. Ford Motor Company was an early adopter of buzz marketing when they introduced the Mustang back in 1964; first at the New York World’s Fair and then by providing free cars to select BMOC (Big Men On Campuses – jocks, DJs, etc.). Fast forward to the digital world of 2010, buzz marketing movements are being executed daily, thanks to the advent of social media platforms.

This past weekend I needed to take a break from my digital cocoon and decided to go see
Waste Land (http://www.wastelandmovie.com/) a documentary for the second time. That is correct, a second time. The film follows contemporary artist Vik Muniz's journey back to his native Brazil for a good deeds art project. He recreated out of garbage, photographic images of catadores (people that work picking out recyclable materials at Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest garbage dump). He then sold his art and gave all the proceeds back to the catadores for equipment and education. Before entering the theater, I slyly suggested to my Mother that we were going to test being a claque and applaud at the end of the film. I am proud to report, we were a successful claque. More importantly, by writing this blog, I hope to further spread the buzz about Vik Muniz, artist, social activist who continues giving back to the impoverished people of Brazil.

Bravo!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Santa Goes Mobile

Blink:
Today is Black Friday, the day that marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers will be gauging sales to see if we have turned the corner from the recession. Retailers are also on the alert. Ho, Ho, Ho; Santa is going mobile!

Read On:
Mobile marketing is on the rise thanks to more Web-enabled smartphones in the market. According to the October 2010 U.S. Mobile Briefing conducted by The Mobile Marketing Association, 59% of mobile consumers plan to use their mobile phone for holiday shopping compared to 25% in 2009. The briefing also revealed that 64% of the respondents that plan to use their phone to facilitate shopping, will check their phone before even stepping foot into a store. Asians, Hispanics and adults ages 25-34 are the three demographic groups that will use their phones the most; 13% of mobile holiday shoppers expect to use their phones to purchase or pay for their gifts.

Marketers understand the mobile channel facilitates a way to cut through the clutter. Consequently, in recognition of how consumers interact with content, they have geared up to provide an enlightened mobile experience this holiday season. Big-box, mobile commerce pioneer, Target is leading the surge. To demonstrate my point, let us get into the shoes of a typical, 25-year old Target consumer that is going to utilize their iPhone this holiday season. Yesterday, while sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, under the table they were busy checking out Target.com to prepare for today – store specific maps to better navigate the store to find Black Friday deals; searching the main Christmas category for gift ideas by age group that includes photos, ratings/reviews, availability and aisle location; managing their shopping lists. Today after sleeping in, they will wake up to a notification of Target’s daily deals complete with some scannable mobile coupons and then text their friends to exchange gift ideas. Later, they will check in from their local Starbucks in their weekly quest to become a Foursquare mayor and view Red Robin’s new YouTube video for the Gingerbread shake since there is a Red Robin across from the Target store they previously selected on their store locator. Once they arrive at the store, they will check in and be busy texting, tweeting, updating their Facebook pages, checking out Facebook Places to see the latest Gap deals, etc.

Santa, face reality, technology has taken over. You now live in the new age of social commerce. I suggest you get online to listen to all the social engagement that is influencing consumer behavior since the experts are forecasting that holiday mobile usage for 2011 will jump to 75%. I also suggest, instead of sweating over your gift lists, go down to Red Robin, purchase some gift cards to get your bonus bucks for your bucks and don’t forget to have a Gingerbread shake with your burger.
OMG!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leftovers

Blink:
Last Thursday I wrote about America’s culinary preferences for their Thanksgiving feasts. Today I would like to address the sober topic, the number of people that are not enjoying the bounty of food in our country. According to the USDA, approximately 50 million Americans are food insecure.

Read On:

Food insecurity: The limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods for all household members. As stated above, in the USDA’s new study, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009, revealed that 50 million (16.6%) Americans are food insecure – 1 in 6 Americans. More alarming, the report indicated 1 in 4 children; 17 million in total are food insecure. In a report commissioned by Feeding America and The ConAgra Foods Foundation, Child Food Insecurity, failing to provide children with adequate nutrition not only results in health and physical developmental issues, but it impairs their cognitive learning development.

The good news – the Senate unanimously approved the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act in August which commits $4.5 billion to various child nutrition programs over the next ten years. The bad news – the bill is currently stalled in Congress. Why has the bill been stalled? Ironically, members of Congress and anti-hunger groups are protesting the funding because the Senate proposed taking money away from the future food stamps program. I apologize for being repetitive, but bottom-line, we have a hunger problem here in America, just ask the 50 million Americans that might not be enjoying turkey with stuffing, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie Thursday. Maybe Capitol Hill can find the money somewhere else.

So let us all be thankful Thursday for our good fortunes. I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving holiday. I am off to New York to celebrate with my family, but will be back Friday with Santa Goes Mobile.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Everyone?

Blink:
Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving next week. Consequently, I have been inspired to write a two part series about the holiday. Today I would like to address how marketers and trend watchers are gearing up to monitor our nation’s culinary preferences.

Read On:
For those reading my post that are hosting Thanksgiving this year, you are probably beginning to experience “what am I going to serve?” angst. Don’t worry, you are not alone. Last year in a New York Times article I read that searches for Thanksgiving recipes on Google have increased steadily over the past five years, doubling between 2007 and 2008. No surprise, people tend to wait until the last minute, thus by Wednesday there will be a surge in search volume.
Allrecipes.com last year reported that by 5 p.m. 410,000 people had queried turkey recipes. According to its President, the site builds its server capacity the day before Thanksgiving to handle their hourly volume of one million page views.

Search data not only reveal Regional preferences, but also give marketers a snapshot of the cook’s age or behavior. Younger cooks tend to view "how to cook or roast a turkey" videos on YouTube (over 7,500 videos), while the exotic chefs check out recipes for turducken (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey). May I share a few more Thanksgiving bytes:

Sweet potato casserole continues to be the most popular search nationwide – 37 out of the 50 states.

Number Two? You guessed it, string bean casserole; 605 out of every 1,000 searches.

Pies locked up the next three spots on the search list – pumpkin, pecan and apple respectively.

New Yorkers led the country in the number of searches for caterers; Oregon in the number of searches of how to make Tofurkey.

Why wait until next Wednesday? Just click on
Allrecipes.com and save yourself some angst. Monday I will post part two of my Thanksgiving series, Leftovers.






Monday, November 15, 2010

Three Smart LinkedIn Tips for Professionals

Blink:
Commitment, commitment, commitment.

Read On:
Don’t worry this is not going to be another one of the typical social media posts written by another one of the self proclaimed, online social media gurus. Instead this is a post written by a networking junkie who has failed numerous 12 step programs. I developed my networking habit pre-Web 2.0. Thanks to LinkedIn, my habit has gotten worse.

LinkedIn is a great networking tool that supplements my classic networking modus operandi. The one common principle that pertains to whether I network online or offline, I made the commitment early on. I established a goal to be a long-term sustainable networker who values relationships. So the three smart LinkedIn tips I would like to share are: commitment, commitment, commitment.

Examples:

· Once you start, stay committed.
Great networks are not built overnight.

· Once you start because you need to find a job, when you land the job, stay committed. In this turbulent economy, chances are you might get fired again, and again, and ……….

· Once you start because you are looking for a business opportunity that does not yield immediate results, stay committed. One of my best business opportunities surfaced after ten years over a cup of coffee because I was committed and remained connected to the individual who looked me in the eye and said: “You are right, I need a business plan.”

· Once you start participating in a discussion group because you read a whitepaper on How to Use LinkedIn for Business, stay committed. Maybe you will not truly engage/connect with anyone, but worse case you will learn that LinkedIn discussion groups are a great place to learn. The same applies to participating in Q&A.

· If you read a blog about how important it is to engage with people you connect with via LinkedIn, stay committed. Authentic engagement takes time to cultivate.

In closing, I have met my fair share of networkers in my lifetime, but I have only met a handful of great networkers. What makes them great? They make the commitment!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Juking the Stats

Blink:
Are our social media gurus Juking the Stats?

Read On:
The expression Juking the Stats was made popular by David Simon, creator/writer of the highly successful HBO series, The Wire. Simon believes America is populated by people willing to manipulate the system, make whatever they are doing appear right to achieve their goals.

I am still learning when it comes to social media. Thanks to working with companies that are just beginning to formulate their social media movements, I have disciplined myself to research and experiment in this new media world on a regular basis. Candidly, I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I filter through all the information/data. However, I do concur with all the self-proclaimed experts (a.k.a. social media gurus) that we all need to listen first, act second. Listening equates to finding/building your community. I believe building a community requires hard work and you build an engaged community one member at a time. Others believe in loading the numbers or Juking the Stats. Let me share:

· Consultants are beginning to use third-party software to increase their client’s number of followers like uSocial for Twitter. The more followers you have, the more people instantly know what your business is about or do they? Better yet, are the followers in your target market?

· Rewarding fans for “liking” a brand on Facebook has become common practice. In my industry Einstein Bagels offered a free bagel to new fans. In three days their community exploded from 4,700 to 350,000 fans. Is this a prudent way to recruit an authentic fan base long-term? A recent ExactTarget Study on How and Why Facebook Users Interact with Brands revealed that 39% friend a brand to show support for a company; 40% do so to receive discounts or promotions; 36% to get a “freebie.”

· Be on the alert for Mommy Bloggers who have been recruited to be
Brandies and become a Facebook fan. Recently I was monitoring a pizza chain restaurant that offered fans a free gift card if 100,000 signed up by October 31st. By the middle of October, I realized they were falling short of their goal. Then I began to read on their Facebook page that people indicated that the Brand Ambassador or TheMomMaven.com sent me; each new fan was welcomed. Out of curiosity I drilled down and discovered two Mommy Bloggers that posted a contest on their sites, enter to win $25 if you became a fan of the chain. Authentic? Faux? Your call.

· Beware of “Black Hats,” search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that are designed to achieve higher search rankings in an unethical manner – keyword stuffing or using hidden text or links.

Are you honestly building your social media community one member at a time or
Juking the Stats?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Opacity

Blink:
Opacity prevents change.

Read On:
I love words. Consequently I have disciplined myself to utilize the dictionary whenever I come across a word with which I am unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Today, in an op-ed about the current state of affairs in America, the author wrote: “Opacity kills.” I then learned the concise definition of opacity is dullness. I immediately made the connection to two blogs I wrote about the subject of status quo;
The Waiting Place and A Lesson From Charlie Bottomline, status quo, doing the same old thing, breeds mediocrity; to me mediocrity is a form of opacity that prevents change.

Recently I received a Pitney Bowes direct mail piece for their new Mailstation 2™ digital mailing system. Made me question: 1.) Marketing is moving to Web 2.0 and utilization of social media tools. What is the market potential for their product; and B.) I hardly use snail mail anymore. Why was I included in their target market? Answer: Pitney Bowes suffers from opacity.

Don’t be the last to change with the times. Remember, opacity prevents change.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Business as Usual

Blink:
Success, both personal and business, has been the spine of my October blogs. To close out the month, I would like to explore what happens to a successful company that conducts business as usual. Nokia is a great case study.

Read On:
In 2004, three years before Apple introduced the iPhone, Nokia’s series 60 Sybiam development team presented prototypes to their senior management. The Internet-ready, touch screen smartphone prototypes would give Nokia the world’s largest maker of mobile phones at the time a powerful competitive advantage. The software needed to produce the handset would have added an additional cost of $2.05 to each unit. The team also conceived an early design for a Nokia online applications store similar to what Apple launched in 2007. The design team was shot down. As a result, management’s decision opened the door for Apple, Research in Motion of Canada (BlackBerry phones), Samsung and LG of South Korea.

Why did this happen? Nokia’s early success in mobile phones created a top heavy organization that bred a culture of infighting among management teams with competing agendas. The Sybiam series were considered too costly/risky at the time. In addition, Nokia’s top managers came from the network equipment side of business, thus had little knowledge to keep up with the shift in the industry from communications hardware to software-based services. As a result, innovation was killed, Nokia stayed with its playbook too long, complacency set in.

Where does Nokia stand today? According to research firm Strategy Analytics Nokia controls approximately 40.3 percent of the worldwide mobile market. In the U.S., their smartphone share has slipped to 8.1 percent from 9.1 percent from the previous year according to ComScore. However, despite their shortcomings their smartphones will account for 16 percent (approximately 75 million) of the 475 million phones they plan to produce this year. As a point of comparison, Apple reported selling 33 million iPhones through June 26. Nokia also decided to go outside its management ranks and hired its first non-Finnish CEO, Stephen Elop, a Canadian who ran Microsoft’s business software division. His mission will be to address the company’s suffocating bureaucracy and get it back on track.

Will you be conducting business as usual next year?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Enterprise Zimbabwe

Blink:
Poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Success is to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition.” Richard Branson, founder of the
Virgin Group, will leave his mark.

Read On:
Zimbabwe is perceived by many to be one of the most arduous countries in Africa to lend a hand. Its GDP has pummeled to $1.8 billion from a peak of $13 billion. Its unemployment rate is 90%. To further compound matters, its long time leader, President Robert Mugabe is notorious for suppression of his political opponents. Bottomline, Zimbabwe is considered a failed state.

Not to billionaire optimist Richard Branson. Once again he quietly challenged conventional wisdom a year ago by establishing Enterprise Zimbabwe. The founder of the Virgin Group, with the help of several other organizations, has attracted money to open hospitals where nurses are getting paid and distributing textbooks to primary schools. Branson made his organization’s official launch back in mid-September at a gathering of the
Clinton Global Initiative to raise more money.

Richard Branson, once again validates his successful optimism.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The First Gretzky

Blink:
Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky was asked, what makes you so great? He responded: “I am always skating to where the puck is going to be.” His rebuttal has forever resonated for me. Nestlé is skating to where the puck is going to be, thus becomes SMARTKETING’s first Gretzky award winner.
Read On:Nestlé announced this past month that they were making two major R&D investments, but will not yield a return on investment for years to come.

The first was that they are planning to build a R&D center and two manufacturing facilities in India. Their plan is to primarily use local ingredients and spices, as well as utilize low-cost Indian research, engineering and labor to make products for India and the rest of the world. The R&D center will be their 30th worldwide. As a marketer I am not surprised by Nestlé’s move. Leading Western companies like Kraft thanks to its acquisition of Cadbury, General Motors, DuPont and Bristol-Myers Squibb have all made the move to India. They are targeting emerging markets where fast growing economies in conjunction with younger populations will expand a consumer base that can afford consumer goods. What does impress me is the commitment that Nestlé made public: A.) Their R&D center will cost an estimated $50 million to build and hold 100 employees. They do not plan to outsource any of their R&D work; and B.) Currently India only accounts for 1% or $1.1 billion of their overall worldwide sales of $108 billion. Their goal is to achieve 45 percent of their total sales from emerging markets by 2020.

Nestlé’s second announcement was about their plan to create Nestlé Health Science and expand into the flourishing health and wellness market. This new wholly owned subsidiary will include an R&D unit in which they plan to invest over $500 million in pioneering a new industry between food and pharmaceuticals. Their products will assist and treat disease prevention that are the leading cause of deaths globally – diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.

The Swiss food giant is aggressively investing in its future, a great example of planning for long-term results – skating to where the puck is going to be. Nestlé gets the Gretzky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Long-Term Results

Blink:
Long-term results are mainly determined by short-term decisions, plus practicing patience and fortitude.

Read On:
As a Business Catalyst that strives to make things happen, I get to work with clients on a wide range of projects – new product introductions, strategic alliances, buzz marketing movements, etc. The one area I enjoy the most is strategic planning, especially now that I have been afforded the opportunity to work with companies that are beginning to formulate their plans as it relates to the new world of social media. The part I like the most about strategic planning is not just the overall process, but providing recommendations that each client then reviews and makes appropriate decisions that will impact their business. As I stated above, once these short-term decisions are made, if a company practices patience and fortitude, long-term results will follow.

I do not choose to write a lengthy blog about the strategic planning process to which my company subscribes. I respect that every company has a process that works best for their needs. Instead, I would like to share five rules that I utilize when developing business plans. They are the following:

Rule One – Do not over process. Remember, you still have customers to service.

Rule Two – Be focused during the planning process. Establish realistic measures.

Rule Three – Execute the plan. Otherwise it will end up on the shelf and gather dust.

Rule Four – Be flexible. “Nothing endures but change.” – Heraclitus

Rule Five – Don’t fear failure. Expect it! Learn from it!

It is time to make those key short-term decisions.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Success

Blink:
What is success?

Read On:
suc●cess \sək-‘ses noun (1537) 1: outcome, result. 2a: degree of succeeding b: favorable or desired outcome; also the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence 3: one that succeeds.

“The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary.”
- Vidal Sassoon

“It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success.”
- Diane Rankin

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
- John Wooden

“Success is measured by the memories you create.”
- Unknown

“Success is never final."

- Winston Churchill

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Craving & Grazing

Blink:
We’re walking, we’re talking, we’re craving, and we’re grazing. Having grown up in an era of technology, our mobile/wired Millennials have developed an “of the moment” mentality. No surprise, their snacking behavior is a result of their spontaneous lifestyles.

Read On:
Earlier in the year, Technomic’s released the 2010 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trends Study that documented consumers snacking habits. Versus two years ago, 21 percent indicated that they snack more often; 55 percent of those surveyed indicated that they snack at least once per day. A larger percentage of snacks are bought at retail locations and eaten at home. However, consumers aged 18 to 24 are more likely to snack outside the house. To me this further validates the Millennials 24/7 on the go, got to have it now, craving frame of mind.

The study also indicated that the top three driving snack consumption factors were convenience (62%), portability (59%) and price (48%). All bode well for foodservice operators targeting Millennials, especially by offering an attractive price point. Cost control is a major driver of their food choices, since this group has been hit hardest by the recession – unemployment 19.5% in the first quarter versus the 9.5% average for the entire workforce.

Other relevant snacking information that I read recently was provided in a study conducted by the research company Mintel. Peak snacking occurred between 3 to 6 PM (37 percent of their respondents), but people tend to spend more between 6 to 8 PM, an average of $4.26 per person versus $3.79 across all other time periods. A majority of the people snacking were looking for beverage (64%) or something portable (61%). Over half (52%) craved something indulgent, while a smaller percentage (32%) desired a healthy option.

Closing thought: Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Will Americans have time to sit down for their traditional Thanksgiving meal or will they make the move towards “grab & go?”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brandies

Blink:
I find all the recent articles about brand advocates, people that recommend brands (products or services), without being paid to do so, very stimulating. Moving forward, thanks to social networking, aggressive marketers will learn how to better indentify and inoculate these individuals better known as Brandies.

Read On:
The term viral marketing became popular in the late 90’s. It described the new marketing strategies that were being utilized to creatively convey a marketer’s message that ultimately resulted in the message’s exponential growth and overall influence. The analogy to a biological virus was best framed in the 2003 book Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand by Salzman, Mathia and O’Reilly. They documented three definitive stages:

· Inoculation – The point of where an individual is introduced/exposed to a pathogenic organism.

· Incubation – The time period elapsed between exposure and when symptoms/signs of the virus were apparent.

· Infection – Full blown spread of the virus.

No surprise, the social media revolution has further enhanced viral marketing. As I have shared in numerous blogs, tech savvy marketers are actively listening and engaging with their online communities. They are looking to identify brand advocates, people who are the key/mass influencers in your online community. They will move the needle on your business as your virtual sales force, spreading positive word of mouth and attracting new customers. I call these people Brandies. Once Brandies are identified they need to be inoculated.

One simple form of inoculation is recognition which I addressed in my blog Anticipation. Companies are now learning to utilize loyal product users as a source for open innovation. The case study I shared was Kimberly Clark’s Huggies MomInspired Grant Program which is awarding $250 thousand in seed capital and resources to mothers with great ideas to market. In my industry, foodservice, Papa John’s created the Specialty Pizza Challenge. The contest attracted 12,000 Facebook entries; by August the entries were narrowed down to three finalists whose creations were menued. The big winner was Los Angeles Brandie Barbara Hyman. Her “cheesy chicken cordon bleu” pizza creation accounted for 45 percent of the 250,000 specialty pizzas sold by Papa John’s in August. Papa John’s contest was a viral success.

Whether you are a B2C or B2B company, it is time to identify, inoculate via recognition, your Brandies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Toddler Steps

Blink:
Numerous articles are surfacing indicating that a majority of companies jumped into the social media frenzy without a cohesive game plan or measurement in place. Being a classically trained marketer, I am a strong advocate of strategic planning, but when it comes to social media,
I recommend toddler steps.

Read On:
Back in June, Digital Brand Expressions released findings of a study they conducted among 100 companies – 49% were less than 100 employees, 32% had 50 to 999 employees and the remainder, 19% had more than 1,000 employees. Key Learning: 78% of the respondents indicated that they were utilizing social media; only 41% had a strategic plan in place. If my math is correct, 68% of the business universe does not have a social media plan. What resulted were a plethora of articles providing tips of “how to” formulate the perfect plan. Blogger Parissa Behnia said it best in her piece titled Cosmopolitan and Social Media; we are always reading how to articles to be more successful.


Over the remainder of the summer, all the social media gurus began addressing the need to listen and find your community, engage with your community, find the right content to deliver to your community, find the right platforms, etc. What I did not read were two basic building blocks for the foundation of a solid social media plan that would require toddler steps:

· Culture – Famous adage;
"Culture Trumps Strategy." Your entire company has to embrace the need and commitment for social media. Otherwise, you can develop the most brilliant strategy, but if your corporate culture is composed of tree huggers that insist on doing it the same old way, culture will trump strategy every time.

· Resources – How are you going to manage the process? Best practices address that it should be internal, an inner voice, thus the responsibility of a PR department. Not every company can afford these resources, thus need to implement a team approach. Responsibilities and time commitment need to be clearly defined.

Referencing ancient Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Remember when it comes to social media, the journey begins with toddler steps.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flip Flops

Blink:
“Velcro parents”, now that you have dropped your children off at college, chill. Even as you review your credit card bills complete with charges from Best Buy, Linen & Things,
Apple Store, etc., put things in perspective, you saved on footwear thanks to Flip Flops.

Read On:
I was motivated by curiosity to pinpoint the origin of modern day flip flops and learned that they evolved from a plant based, flat and thonged Japanese sandal known as a Zōri. It is documented that the production of the rubber soled version were first produced in Kobe, Japan back in the early 1930s. Flip flops first appeared in America after World War II when soldiers bought back the Japanese Zōri, including the cheaper rubber soled editions as souvenirs. Historian Edward Tenner wrote in his book “Our Own Devices” that their low cost of production and consumer demand fueled Japan’s economic recovery post World War II.

The original designs of flip flops have virtually been unchanged for 80 years. It was in the 1950’s as “pop culture” evolved, bright colors were added and the name was coined thanks to the sound they made. At first, flip flops represented the informal lifestyle of California and surfing as kids wore them to the beach or to the pool. Rubber flip flops could be purchased everywhere – dime stores, surf stores and supermarkets. Then platforms became more stylized (e.g., wood, bamboo, leather) and by the 90s they were part of the fashion landscape, thus worn all the time.

Worldwide, especially in many countries with low GDPs, flip flops are a practical, affordable form of footwear that protects the soles of people that would otherwise walk around barefoot. Here in the US; the estimated overall market for footwear is $45 billion with flip flops accounting for $2 billion. One article I read indicated that with an average price of $10 per pair, $5 Wal-Mart specials to designer Gucci’s over $200, there are approximately 200 million pairs sold annually.

What? You just noticed on your credit card bill a $150 charge for a pair of Swarovski crystal studded
Jean-Paul Gaultier flip flops. Cheer up! Think about how much money you will save on clothing when Target introduces unisex Kimonos next year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Senior Boomers

Blink:
I understand marketers’ obsession targeting youthful consumers between the ages of 18 and 49. Rationale: This group has not yet committed to their favorite consumer goods while older folks have. Marketers, time to shift your focus to Baby Boomers, soon to become Senior Boomers in the next decade.

Read On:
Baby Boomers according to the US Census Bureau is someone born during the Post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964; an estimated seventy-six million Americans who now range in age from 46 to 64. Some facts marketers need to take into account as Baby Boomers mature in the next decade:

· Market researchers forecast that the younger generation known as Millennials or Gen Y will have fewer children, leading to smaller households, thus fewer consumers to lure over the next decade. On the other hand, the over-fifty crowd will grow 21% in numbers.

· Baby Boomers have an estimated annual spending power of $1 trillion. More specifically, the over-50 crowd outspends the under-50 crowd by $400 billion. As a frame of reference, Walmart net sales in 2009 were $401.2 billion.

· Myth: Boomers are too old to embrace technology. Wrong! A recent Forrester study indicated that 60% of Baby Boomers are avid social media users. Their usage is up 40% throughout the various social media platforms versus a year ago. They also account for 40% of customers paying for wireless (don’t forget most are still paying for their children’s mobile phones) and 41% of the customers buying Apple computers.

· An estimated 40% of all Baby Boomers are grandparents; over 55% of all grandparents alive today are Boomers. On the flipside, due to divorce, some grandchildren have more than one set of grandparents. Bodes well for the amount of disposable income spent on grandchildren over the next decade. Advertisers need to evoke the emotional chord of Boomer grandparents.

Sounds like advertisers need to now recognize the shift in demographics/market dynamics and focus their marketing dollars. Senior Boomers are going to be where the buying action is over the next decade. Senior Boomers are going to be the young “old”.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Integrated Generosity

Blink:
The Chronicle of Philanthropy calculated that fund raising excluding Haiti relief, grew a median of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Despite the economy, America’s giving spirit also continues to proliferate as it relates to consumer products or services with a charitable component – what I title integrated generosity.

Read On:
My first exposure to social enterprise was back in 1982 with Newman’s Own salad dressings. Actor Paul Newman’s food company pioneered the concept when he donated 100% of the proceeds after taxes from the products he marketed to various charities – currently over $300 million and still counting. It was American Express in 1983 that coined the term “cause marketing” with their efforts to support charitable causes, specifically the Statue of Liberty Restoration Project.

Flash forward to 2009 when the term Generation G surfaced. Consumers disgusted by corporate greed and a shaky economy, recognized the importance of “generosity” as a community mindset, thus wanted to support socially responsible businesses. In response corporations are implementing what trend watchers call “embedded generosity” strategies that make giving and donating relevant. A classic example is IKEA’s SUNNAN LED desk lamp powered by solar cells. For every unit they sell worldwide, they will donate an additional unit to
UNICEF to give to children living in remote areas without electricity.

What‘s next? Integrated generosity where consumers connect with their communities online via social media to champion a cause. My personal favorite is
Tasty TwEats, a cookbook conceived by world travelers that conduct a weekly conversation on Twitter. People submit their favorite recipe or sponsor a page for a minimal donation of $25, with all proceeds going to Planeterra a global grassroots organization that matches each donation 100 percent. People then select the project or cause they want to support. This coming September, integrated generosity will take center stage in the restaurant industry during Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out. The mission of this event is to raise funds to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. Restaurateurs will be utilizing numerous social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) to engage with their guest’s to promote participation in the event running from September 19th through the 25th. Mark your calendar, the
Great American Dine Out tweet-a-thon is scheduled for Monday, September 20th. You can sample integrated generosity first hand and eat some good food too!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anticipation

Blink:
The seventh annual Boston Consulting Group survey on innovation indicated that seventy-two percent of respondents revealed that their company considers it a top-three priority this year. However, thanks to the economy; companies are gearing their innovation toward minor improvements to existing products and services. Why is everyone behaving so cautiously?

Read On:
The BCG ratings were the highest in the seven year history of the survey. A majority of the companies, sixty-one percent, indicated their company would boost spending, but only 26 percent planned to raise it significantly (by more than 10 percent). When probed, C-level executives and decision makers revealed that the two biggest factors holding down spending on innovation were a risk-adverse corporate culture or lengthy product development times. I am going to take the liberty and add a third factor – over processing.

Back in 2009 in my blog titled
Good Thinking, I wrote that innovation is essentially about making unexpected connections between things (looking for new places to make connections). Unfortunately we are all guilty of getting caught up in the day to day firefighting of maintaining our business or staying on budget. As a result, we tend to overlook making those connections. When companies finally decide it is time to innovate, a majority tend to practice closed innovation and rely on their R&D departments or other key employees to fuel the lengthy process. Henry Chesbrough from the Center of Innovation at UC Berkley challenged our thinking back in 2006 when he published his book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting Technology. He advocated that companies need to use external ideas as well as internal.

With the advent of social networks, I now believe open innovation will thrive more than ever. As a result, companies will be able to reduce innovation spending – external online feedback notwithstanding the cost to monitor it, is relatively low cost. Let me share two great examples:

· Outback Steakhouse back in June posted a survey on Facebook asking their fans what favorites from the last twenty two years should they bring back. They fielded 600 comments. This approach appears more streamline than conducting internal brainstorming sessions, product tastings, product testing, etc

· Kimberly-Clark has been tapping into the various communities of young mothers for over a year now. Their listening validated research conducted by Babson College that documented women have been credited with starting businesses at nearly twice the rate of men, but still experience a difficult time raising venture capital. As a result, Kimberly Clark cleverly launched the Huggies MomInspired Grant Program providing $250 thousand in seed capital and resources to bring great ideas to market. Sounds like a great way to fill Huggies innovation pipeline.

Thanks to our “pull” economy, consumers/communities are constantly buzzing daily about products and services. Market leaders, take note, this is not the time to act cautiously. Make innovation your number one strategic priority – listen and anticipate.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pets USA Revisited

Blink:
I recently read an interesting tidbit – Americans spent $17.6 billion on pet food in 2009. This figure reminded me of last summer’s blog
Pets USA. Time to revisit what is going on with pet ownership.

Read On:
According to the American Pet Products Association, the number of U.S. households that own a pet is still 71.4 million, but spending will increase to an estimated $47.7 billion in 2010 versus $45.4 billion in 2009. Detailed below are some new products/services now available to dog owners:

· PAW SpotLight GPS Pet Locator – Your dog can now wear a business card size device on their collar and you will be notified via text message on your mobile device if he or she leaves one of the zones you have designated. You can then track your dog on your phone to relocate or call AKC Car, a 24/7 recovery service that has partnered with
PAW; a monthly service for only $20.

· Maybe the reason your dog wanders is because he or she is wound up. For $17.50 per ounce you can buy HomeoPet’s anti-anxiety formula and spike their water.

· Maybe the reason your dog wanders is because he or she is getting old. May I recommend Purina One Vibrant 7+ Senior Formula, a remixed formula with botanical oils that increases brain function in older dogs – $45 for a 34-pound bag? Better yet, may I suggest you start early with healthy habits by feeding your puppies
Stella & Chewy's line of food made from organic fruits and vegetables and meats that are free of antibiotics and hormones. Don’t forget to get a PetZen dog treadmill for $500 to $900 to keep your dog in shape so he or she does not get obese. The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 40% of U.S. dogs are overweight.

· Want to make a good investment for potential carpet mishaps? Look at companies marketing pet cleaning devices: Proctor & Gamble’s line of Swiffer products (e.g., SweeperVac for dog hairs) or Bissell (e.g., SpotBot Deep Cleaner, a steam cleaner for tough spots). Arm & Hammer’s carpet deodorizer OXICLEAN® still works for those on a tight budget

The anticipated $2.3 billion increase in pet spending represents a 5.1% increase in a down economy. Bow Wow!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cell Me The Snacks

Blink:
Today’s post is the first of my annual summer series under the umbrella theme of What’s Next USA? I will start with M-Commerce – Cell Me The Snacks! Other blogs that will follow:

- Pets USA Revisited
- Anticipation
- Integrated Generosity
- Senior Boomers
- Flip Flops

Read On:
I debuted my new stump speech titled Millennial Marketing last month in Boston. Later that evening, I went into Cambridge to treat myself to dinner at Legal Sea Foods. When I looked around the restaurant, I observed several teenagers with their parents, disengaged, busy texting away with their flying fingers. They only validated what I had presented earlier in the day; M-Commerce is ready to explode to the next level.

As a marketing geek, I always enjoy reviewing/evaluating data. Detailed below are some key highlights from my speech that corroborate how M-Commerce is ready to positively impact the foodservice industry:

· According to Nielsen, 13 to 17 year olds now text on average 2,899 times per month. If my math is correct, that equates to 93.5 text messages a day. Given that an average teenager sleeps 8.3 hours per day, do the text math per hour. Earlier in the year, the Kaiser Family Foundation report on media usage for 8 to 18 year olds revealed 118 text messages per day for this group. More importantly, only 14% had parental controls for the amount of time they could spend texting. Apparently there were no parental controls at Legal Sea Foods last month.

· The same Kaiser Family Foundation report revealed that this group packs 10.45 hours of media usage into 7-1/2 hours per day. Imagine their multi-tasking skills in five years time.

· One of my leading sources eMarketer predicts that 49.4% of mobile users will be accessing the Internet from their smartphones by 2013. In the past six months they indicated 40% of smartphone users purchased something besides an application via their units. Age was not factored into these numbers. Personally I think these numbers are light, given that Juniper reported that there were 2.4 billion applications in 2009 and this figure will jump to 36 billion by 2014.

· A study conducted by one of the major contract feeders in America indicated that 35% of the meals eaten by Millennials were snacks; they eat on average 4.3 times a day.

What is the implication for the restaurant industry? A blurring of dayparts – operators need to begin planning their current menus beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner. They will need to develop convenient (grab & go), portion control (400 calories or less) snack items to address the grazing eating habits of our mobile/wired, 24/7 Millennials. M-Commerce will be a great way to drive traffic via SMS promotions, videos, loyalty programs, etc. Cell Me The Snacks!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Disconnect

Blink:
I am not surprised that I am now beginning to read numerous articles about social media addiction. Given the approach of the July 4th holiday weekend signaling the beginning of summer vacations, now is a good time to re-evaluate how much time you spend on social media. Suggestion: Time to disconnect.

Read On:
By the numbers:

· Facebook with its 400 million plus community would now rank as the fifth largest country in the world, behind China, India, United States and Indonesia. The ongoing Retrevo Gadegetology Report indicated that 56% of its members check in everyday, 12% every couple of hours. The under 25 crowd revealed that 19% of those surveyed definitely check in if they wake up in the middle of the night, 32% as soon as they wake up. No surprise given that the Pew Research Center indicated 83% of Millennials sleep with their mobile phones.

· For those reading this blog over 25, according to the same Retrevo survey, 20% sometimes check their Facebook account if they wake up in the middle of the night, 21% as soon as they get up.

· Experian Simmons just released their
2010 Social Networking Report last week which indicated that 43% of adult Americans check their networking sites multiple times a day.

· The only relevant Twitter numbers I found for this blog was comScore who now estimates that the number of tweets per day has gone from 20 million per day in July of 2009, to over an estimated 50 million per day this year same time.

In closing, my personal Millennial guru, Sharalyn Hartwell wrote a great post earlier this month about a study conducted at the
University of Maryland to determine students connection to media. Two hundred students were asked to go without media (mobile phones, laptops, iPods, television, etc.) for twenty-four hours. Conclusion: They felt withdrawn, isolated, dysfunctional, unwilling to be without their links to the world.

So now I challenge everyone to disconnect over the holiday weekend. Take timeout to enjoy your family time, the beach, barbecues, etc. At the end of the weekend ask yourself that tough question: Have I become too addicted to social media? I will be interested in your feedback.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

OMG

Blink:
Interesting tweet:
Who wants free late-night shots @ Mercadito? @foodietheapp does! Head in after 10pm, everyone order all-u-can-eat tacos, get shots. Easy.

My query is did Mercadito go beyond their tweet to generate viral buzz better known as OMG.

Read On:
We all agree that Web 2.0 has provided us with the tools that facilitate real time conversation. As a result, we are now experiencing a “pull” economy. Brand marketers are rushing to field their social media presence on the Internet – follow us on Facebook and Twitter being the standard play. What puzzles me is how limited the focus has been on generating positive viral buzz, especially in the food industry. To date most of the viral buzz has been negative word-of-mouth. Two examples that illustrate my point:

- Greenpeace's assault on Nestlé Kit Kat bars usage of palm oil a byproduct from deforestation, thus calling them out on the carpet to clean up their supply chain. Their
Have a break videos have been uploaded 1.1 million times and still counting. They have facilitated a community of “not fans” on their Facebook page prompting their Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letamthe to post a letter calling for a moratorium on destruction of rainforests.

- Danone had to counter a
viral attack in Argentina on its Actimel yogurt brand being harmful.

So what about designing movements to generate positive buzz in the food industry? One master is
Ramon DeLeon out of Chicago. He learned the hard way when his Domino’s crew made a servicing mistake, thus coined the expression: “Put social media fires out with social media water.” Now, thanks to engaging with his customers via numerous social media tools, Ramon has created positive viral buzz.

Back to Mercadito’s original tweet which was retweeted, a form of viral marketing. However where was the OMG factor (Oh My Gosh; Oh My God!)? Why did they not walk up to a table of all you can eat taco guests and say “Tacos on us”? Imagine if they did, plus videoed/photographed, then posted their reaction on their Facebook location or Flickr. Why did they not announce they would be rewarding another free table at midnight? I bet the tweets/texts would have been flying off their guests’ fingers. Why did they not walk up to an individual and present a $50 gift certificate for being the best dressed? Again a video/photograph of that individual’s reaction would have generated positive viral buzz and potential organic growth for Mercadito and Foodie.

The food industry needs to begin capitalizing on the positive viral buzz that is at their finger tips when it comes to spreading the good news. It is that simple. Oh my gosh! LOL.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

LGBT

Blink:
“Don’t ask, don’t tell”, the controversial military policy will hopefully be resolved by 2011. In the interim, while a majority of Americans are finally recognizing the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community; savvy marketers are meeting today in Los Angeles for
AdweekMedia's Gay & Lesbians Consumers Conference.

Read On:
The acronym LGBT originated in the 1990’s, still ignites controversy. Members of the community view the lettering as an attempt to be politically correct or a categorization not truly representative of the issues pertaining to each individual group. Regardless, marketers, especially when targeting consumer groups, always tend to develop buckets that best describe their target audience – demographics like women 35 to 49, college educated, $70 thousand plus income etc. AdweekMedia’s two day Gay & Lesbians Consumers Conference is another convenient bucket created to help businesses across a broad range of industries target the $700 billion gay and lesbian market.

IKEA back in 1994 was the first company that actively targeted gay consumers, when they aired a commercial depicting two men shopping for furniture. Soon after IKEA’s strategic move, it was estimated that 36% of Fortune 100 companies began advertising directly to the gay and lesbian market. Extrapolating data from multiple sources, advertising expenditures targeting LGBT, today are in the neighborhood of $300 million (gay print media, LOGO gay network, B2B, digital, etc.). However, critics argue that targeting gays and lesbians is not an indication of social acceptance, but an attempt to tap into an affluent market. Some research nuggets that advertisers and network executives are spotting – gays and lesbians index over twice as likely to be professionals or managers with an average household income of $85 thousand plus.

Here is the irony of directly targeting the LGBT community. A study released earlier in the year by SF based Community Marketing Inc., revealed that purchase decisions were impacted more by what you do, not by what you say. Only twenty-two percent of the respondents indicated that advertising in LGBT newspapers and magazines influenced their buying behavior in comparison to forty-five percent by a company’s social policies – non-discrimination in hiring or recognition of domestic partners. Top tier companies perceived to be gay-friendly identified in a consumer study (Prime Access/Planet Out Inc.) are Bravo Network, Apple, Levi’s, Absolut, Starbucks to name a few.

As a marketing geek, I always find product positioning, especially when it comes to identifying the target audience challenging. I plan to review the outcome of AdWeekMedia’s conference. For me, when it comes to addressing the needs of the LGBT community, it is not about a company’s advertising, but more about its overall corporate policy. If a company decides to advertise specifically to the LGBT community, then it needs to get its messaging correct, a lesson McDonald’s is now learning, thanks to its controversial French TV ad,
"Come as your are."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ATP Revisited

Blink:
Last month I conducted a radio interview about a networking modus operandi I value, ATP (Authenticity Touch Points). As a result, I was reminded of my 2009
ATP post, specifically as it related to navigating LinkedIn. It is time for a six month ATP review.

Read On:
For starters, LinkedIn has grown by 15 million people and now is a worldwide business oriented community of 65 million registered users and still growing. Personally, I have made numerous new connections, some of which are not even in my immediate sphere of business. Regularly I only engage with a hand full of people. I even engage with an individual on the other side of the globe in Australia. Notice I use the word engage, versus saying that I am connected. That is the spine of why I wanted to revisit my concept of ATP.

I have lost track of my time vested in LinkedIn in the last six months, but this much I have concluded. There are two buckets into which networkers fall: Situational and Sustainable.

Situational networkers are driven by the “what’s in it for me” networking philosophy. They are looking for connections to either expand their personal or company’s network. Situational networkers have bought new definition to the word ephemeral. A typical example: I post a comment to an individual’s discussion in a group, they respond with a thank you, plus an immediate invitation to connect on LinkedIn without even knowing what business I am in. Once we are connected, I invariably receive one of their huckster solicitations. Oh by the way, I am amazed by how many of the situational networkers are coaching gurus with 500+ connections expounding “How to Build Your Business”.

The second bucket, about 10% of the people I have met via LinkedIn are sustainable networkers. People that value people relationships long-term, thus expend the energy to nurture these relationships on a continual basis. Nurturing takes engagement. That is where ATP (Authenticity Touch Points) comes into play. The initial step is to ask questions – classic phone calls or emails are a great way to learn about each other’s businesses, background, etc. Information exchange via articles/links is another element of ATP. Thanks to travel, I even have had the opportunity to physically engage live with LinkedIn connections over drinks or coffee, but unfortunately, Australia is not in my immediate travel plans.

I value being a sustainable networker. Thanks to experimentation, I have honed my ATP skills, which now serve as an excellent filtering tool as I selectively connect and then engage with new people in the LinkedIn community.

ATP Revisited is the first installment of my three blog June Alphabet Series. My next post is titled LGBT.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Breaking the Code

Blink:
Switch, the new book by the Heath brothers, uses story-telling narrative, to illustrate transformative change. As a Business Catalyst, facilitating change is my mantra. Not an easy task, but it is all about breaking the code.

Read On:
I am heading to Chicago tomorrow for the National Restaurant Show. I will have the opportunity to share with my peers how foodservice needs to move from the status quo and enter the conversations that are going on out there, exclusively with their key customers guests’ conversations. As a result, foodservice must now focus on more “pull” versus “push” marketing strategies – execute
hybrid marketing, the topic of my last blog. So how am I going to break the code?

For starters, I am going to keep my message simple: social media is one new strategy that needs to be executed consistently in conjunction with a manufacturer’s current marketing mix. You do not have to be all things to all people. Explore and choose the platforms that works best for you (e.g., company blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc.).
It is never too late to implement a social media strategy.

Next, I plan to strike an emotional chord with my audience. I will benchmark success stories from other industries, as well as share some hypothetical examples based on my research. I will advocate “Baby Steps” since change represents a new way of thinking. Back in 1989, who would have guessed that Americans would be paying $3.00 for a cup of coffee – Starbucks anticipated.

Markets are composed of consumers; consumers have to eat in order to survive. Thanks to Web 2.0, consumers are sharing information online about what they eat, where they eat, even as I post this blog. These are the conversations we need to tap into. As I addressed in
The Waiting Place, stay away from the status quo and enjoy the places you will go.

Time to fly to Chicago and break the code.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hybrid Marketing

Blink:
Marketing boot camps are the current rage – a local gathering of marketing professionals exchanging ideas, more often than not, about the “buzz du jour”, interactive marketing. We now live in a digital age, but the real winners will know how to balance new and classic strategies, thus implement hybrid marketing.

Read On:
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the business classic
The Cluetrain Manifesto. The book predicted the end of business as usual. To paraphrase authors Locke, Levine, Weinberger and Searls: "A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies." Note this book was released in 2000, pre-Web 2.0.

An established brand that implements hybrid marketing well is M&M’s® candy. First launched in
1941, M&M’s® has utilized classic marketing strategies to grow their business internationally – product extensions (including color), packaging changes, television and print advertising campaigns and multiple channel strategies. The M&M’s® Characters made their debut in 1954 and have evolved into America’s favorite spokes candies. In recognition of their characters popularity, M&M’s® jumped into interactive marketing full force. On their website, in addition to product information, recipes, a merchandise section, M&M’s® Racing club, they have a fun & games section (downloads, e-cards, videos and ads) to engage their customers. People can follow them on Facebook (over 950 thousand people worldwide). They used this social media platform to sample and launch their latest new product, M&M’s® Pretzel (FYI: not all of the comments posted were favorable). There are Twitter accounts for each of their colors/characters since they are currently running an integrated campaign across all medium to have their fans vote (online or via text) for their favorite color. Given that M&M’s® understands hybrid marketing, I would be remiss not to mention that they launched two classic marketing strategies in the past few years – an upscale strategy with premium candies; an exclusivity strategy offering consumers customized M&M’s®.

Marketing is morphing given all the new technology. More importantly, tech savvy consumers now want to engage with their favorite brands; have a voice. In spite of the advancement of Web 2.0, smart marketers understand the balancing act they need to now perform between executing new and classic strategies, better known as hybrid marketing.

I forgot to ask, who is your favorite M&M’s® character?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Perfection Has Its Price

Blink:
What time is it? I just take out my BlackBerry for the answer. Some people look at their Rolex watches.
Perfection Has Its Price.

Read On:
Disclaimer: I am not a watch person.

According to Business Week, Rolex is one of the world’s most valuable brands. Since the Swiss company’s conception in the early 20th century, they have been renowned for manufacturing precision wrist watches – their
brand's stamp. Over time they tapped into the luxury market of watches. Their product line is exclusive, synonymous with the timepiece of choice for the wealthy, status-conscious and celebrities. A quick search on the Internet revealed a Presidential line for both men and women timepieces ranging from seven to thirteen thousand dollars. With another pixel, I located on Amazon.com the Rolex Oyster Special Edition Cosmograph Daytona Leopard Men’s Watch for $51,600. I wonder if the owners of these watches are any more punctual than Timex owners.

FYI: Roger Federer is a spokesperson for Rolex. Enough said. Perfection Has Its Price.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brand Stamps

Blink:
I would like to share some words of wisdom with all the tech savvy, non-classically trained social media marketing experts out there, specifically as it relates to branding. The message: “Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there” – Margaret Carty

Read On:
Marketers are utilizing social media tools to reach their customers enabling them to sustain and build their brand’s reputation. Thanks to the Internet, their ability to reach more consumers globally has increased radically. However, with everyone competing against direct or indirect competitors for consumers’ attention, it is now more important than ever to carefully fine tune your social media strategy. For starters, remember you cannot be all things to all people. Revisit the core essence of your brand, better known as your brand’s DNA, a topic I first addressed in my blog
Luxury Brands Rock Asia.

The DNA of a strong brand is all about two significant components. A perfect example is
Cirque du Soleil:

Code – What does the brand stand for? What is its core promise? Cirque du Soleil is a theatrical circus, absence of animals, but continuous live music and performers, rather than stage hands changing props.

Cue – The sensory signals that capture the attention of consumers. Consequently, credibility is developed over time, thanks to authentic, consistent performance – 19 shows in 40 plus countries on every continent except Antarctica, spanning 26 years.

Somewhere in the branding process, marketers lose their patience/focus. Brand Ego sets in, brand refreshment ensues. Marketers begin deviating from their brand’s core promise. Remember New Coke? I provided a classic case study back in 2009 with
Airwalk.

Social media now provides new platforms to refresh brands. A marketer’s dream! I just would caution all the tech savvy social media experts to remain consistent with their brand’s DNA. Cirque du Soleil has taken that approach by developing a YouTube video of their upcoming
2011 Michael Jackson show which they post on Facebook and Twitter. They also use these tools to talk to their tribe, better known as Cirque Club. Over twenty five years they have stuck with their core promise of reinventing the circus – theatrical street performance without the animals.

Brand stamps! Stick to one thing until you get there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Big Mobile is Watching

Blink:
Last weekend I read an article in the
NY Times about the advancement of couponing printed from the Internet or sent to mobile phones. Throw in the evolution of geolocation software, your mobile device will enable marketers to profile all your movements. Big Mobile is Watching!

Read On:
There are a lot of numbers floating out there about mobile phone usage, but for this blog I am going to focus in on eMarketer indicating that currently 34.5% of mobile phone users access the mobile Internet at least monthly; 50% by 2013. They also reported that two-fifths of smartphone owners reported buying something nonmobile over their phones in the last six months. According to Motorola’s Global Survey of in-store holiday shopping released in January, 51% of consumers tracked over 11 countries, used their mobile phones for in-store shopping – comparison shopping, product information, coupons, etc. The percentage jumped to 64% for Gen Y (ages 18 to 34) shoppers. In February, Target positioned itself as a leader in mobile retail where consumers can now download their gift cards (Target Mobile GiftCards). Other retailers are now following suit by going mobile with their loyalty rewards programs. Last, there is the rise of
Foursquare and other location-based social networking sites that facilitate people to “check in” with each other. Foursquare is a real windfall for marketing savvy Retailers that target and reward “Mayors”, consumers that frequent their locations.

So what am I advocating here? M-Commerce is beginning to rule our lives. Consumer profiling companies are surfacing. They are accumulating mega consumer data based on monitoring your Internet searches via your mobile devices, your geographic Retail preferences (e.g., restaurant and bars you frequent), etc. Your mobile usage is then being coded on the bar code that you eventually swipe from your phone to buy promotional products/services. In the future, with the advancement of geolocation software and the increased marketing knowledge of Retailers, they will touch you every time you are within physical proximity of their location.

As I stated earlier, Big Mobile is Watching. Sounds like the Federal Trade Commission will have its work cut out in the future to tighten online advertising rules.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Move

Blink:
I first addressed Ms. Obama’s
Let's Move campaign February 28th. Thanks to a recent road trip, I have come to the realization that the First Lady has a long road to travel, but at least she has taken the first steps to educate America on healthier habits (eating and physical activity).

Read On:
Let me share with you stop by stop what I witnessed firsthand:

- Campus #1 – Visited a prototype of a new campus C-Store being operated by one of the leading foodservice contract management companies in America. Impressive! It had a separate aisle for organic foods and a refrigerated section for healthier selections like salads, fruit, etc., but both sections paled in comparison to all the snack foods and soda that were being merchandised. My mission was to study the frozen foods section. One out of the four freezer windows had plenty of vegetarian and organic options, but I learned that the most popular items were Bagel Bites (200 calories per 2 piece serving, 50 calories from fat, 4 pieces per package), individual DiGiorno For One frozen pizzas (790 calories, 320 calories from fat) and a box of six White Castle sliders. I wonder what the average college student’s preferred beverage of choice would be for these items. Beer? Sounds like a separate research project.

- Campus #2 – While waiting for my interview, I sat in a campus café watching students inhale their food between classes. Read a recent Technomic snacking report that indicated people have increased their snacking and 35% indicated that their snacks were healthier. I must have witnessed the other 65%. I also noticed a table tent promoting the campus’s Burger challenge: a free T-Shirt plus your photo on the campus’s Burger Wall of Fame if you and a friend can clean your plate in 30 minutes – a 13 lb. burger. I wonder if any of the contestants actually ask for a side of French fries.

- At the Marriott Courtyard in the Baltimore harbor, I observed families of four tackle the $10.95 all you can eat breakfast buffet. In the February blog as referenced above, I indicated that if we were going support Ms. Obama’s campaign, it needed to start at home, thus I quoted an American writer: “Parents teach, institutions instruct.” I did not witness any teaching going on in the restaurant of the Marriott, but I will correct myself, parents were on holiday away from home, so they were entitled to a break.

Time for my closing thought. America, we need to start walking the talk if we are ever going to win the war on obesity. Our First Lady has pointed us in the right direction. We need to start taking those baby steps down the long journey ahead.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Birthday

Blink:
Today, April 1st, I would like to share with you a unique bio posted on my LinkedIn Boston Marketing Group. An American success story!

Read On:
Today is my 50th birthday. I own a successful interactive marketing company located in a cool loft in South Boston. I lead eight awesome teammates. This year will be a record year. We will book over $6 million. I am 24/7 thanks to my iPhone 3GS with 32 GB complete with 217 apps, but I must confess I have not taken a real vacation in four years.

You can follow me on twitter @ admon81. I have 14,511 followers, I follow 2,367. On LinkedIn I have 500+ connections, 814 to be exact and I participate regularly in 16 groups. I have two Facebook accounts; one corporate, one personal. Candidly I have lost count how many friends I have between the two. I have three blogs; one corporate, one family and one film blog. I love film trivia.

I own a mega mansion in Marblehead, 5,100 square feet complete with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a state of the art kitchen with 2 refrigerators, 16 cabinets and a walk-in pantry. I have a wine cellar stocked with 189 bottles of choice wine, estimated value $10,000. I eat out on average, six days a week.

I have a three car garage; I own three cars – a 2009 Mercedes CL Coupe, a brand new Lexus Luxury Utility GX 10 and a classic, fully restored 1965 Mustang Convertible. I love my Harley, a 2008 Softail® Deluxe 105th Anniversary Edition.

I have been married twice, divorced twice. I have four beautiful children; one in graduate school, one in college, one in Tibet and one in pre-school. They all texted me today :-) Bday Dude.

I am sitting here solo in my favorite Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown. I just ate two plates of my favorite Dim Sum, one order of Lobster Cantonese, one bowl of brown rice and I drank two bottles of Tsingtao beer.

My fortune cookie read: “Get a life.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Man’s Best Friend – An Update

Blink:
Subsequent to suggesting in my previous
blog that spring is in the air, I have set up residency in Washington Square Park here in Philadelphia. Plenty of fun observations, but again validated cell phones, not dogs, are now man’s best friend. It’s a good time for an update.

Read On:
CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry is wrapping up its spring show (CTIA 2010) in Las Vegas today. They reported, that as of June 2009, there were 276.6 million wireless subscribers which equates to a wireless penetration of 89% of U.S. Households. That compares to 39% of U.S. Households that own at least one dog; there are approximately 77.5 million dogs in the U.S.

In my original
Man's Best Friend blog, I utilized Nielsen statistics that indicated there were 263 million subscribers of which 203 were texting. On average, people were texting more than calling (357 texts vs. 204 calls per month). No surprise, teens lead the pack. Nielsen now indicates American teens send an average 3,146 texts a month, an average of 10 per hour when they are not in school or sleeping. According to Nielsen, overall texting will continue to grow as this segment of the population ages, plus older generations’ text with them to stay in contact.

All these statistics were floating around in my head as I sat in Washington Square Park, since I recently had the opportunity to present my current stump speech Cell Me The Snacks at an industry conference. I addressed how mobile marketing is exploding, based on the potential of short codes, marketing messages sent via text messaging and the advancement of smartphone technology. Consumer behavior will be monitored 24/7. As a result marketers have developed five different psychographics of cell phone users. Two popped to top of mind as I sat in the park observing more people on their phones than walking dogs. The first being mobiratis, 19% of mobile phone owners that represent a generation that has grown up with cell phones and could not imagine life without them. The second being social connectors, 22% of mobile phone owners – communication is central to their lives, their phone is the conduit to their social world.

The mobiratis and social connectors have been out in full force this past week in my local park, but candidly no one appeared as connected as the few dogs that showed up. Observe dogs; they have a nose for connecting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness

Blink:
Between following the social media pundits tweeting last week from
SXSW 2010 to monitoring the NCAA Tournament, in concurrence with my daily internet surfing, I am experiencing March Madness.

Read On:
Last month I read an article in the Economist titled
The Data Deluge. The crux of the piece was how the quantity of information is soaring. One source estimated that the world created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005; this year it will create 1,200 exabytes. If my math is correct, the amount of information in the last five years has increased 8 times. The increase resonated for me, since I have committed myself to working the various social media platforms in the last six months. Between navigating discussion groups in LinkedIn, reading numerous daily blogs and following select social media gurus on twitter, I actually think my information intake has far exceeded 8 times the amount I experienced a year ago at this time.

Now it is March 22nd. Thanks to all the tweets from Austin last week, ranting about the benefits of Social Media and the excess of news items related to the NCAA Tournament, I am finally experiencing my own personal March Madness. As a result, I am suffering from a bad case of TMI (too much information) overload. Here is a recommended plan moving forward for all those in a similar situation:

· Time to get back to basics when it comes to marketing. Despite all the buzz regarding Social Media, we must not take our eye off the ball as it relates to the DNA of marketing – listening to our customers, providing solutions for our customers and concisely messaging/communicating our POD (point-of-difference) to our customers.

· We must filter through the staggering mountain of information we are faced with on a daily basis and find those bytes that are relevant to our immediate and future goals. The rest is noise. Let go! One way to filter through the information is to connect with reliable Mavens via twitter or within your valued network you can trust. They will assist you in mining for those special bytes.

· Practice time management. Balance life and Social Media. In regard to college basketball, remember there are still 15 more games until a NCAA Champion is crowned in April. More importantly, remember that spring is in the air. Go down to your local park, sit on a bench and watch your neighborhood come back to life after a long, dreary winter.

One last thought: Don’t forget to listen to the birds chirp. They are not suffering from TMI.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women’s History Month

Blink:
March is
Women's History Month. To celebrate, below are some words of wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Read On:
Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

To handle yourself, use your head,
To handle others, use your heart.

Anger is only one letter short of danger.

If someone betrays once, it is his fault,
If he betrays you twice, it is your fault.

Great minds discuss ideas,
Average minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.

He who loses money, loses much,
He who loses a friend loses much more,
He who loses faith, loses all.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature,
But beautiful old people are works of art.

Learn from the mistakes of others,
You cannot live long enough to make them all yourself.

Friend you and me, you brought another friend and we started our group,
Our circle of friends, and like a circle, there is no beginning or end.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Portion Distortion

Blink:
National Nutrition Month initiated by the ADA (American Dietetic Association) in 1973 as a week-long event, morphed into a month long observance by 1980. Their campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices, as well as cultivating sound eating and physical activity habits. What about portion distortion?

Read On:
The ADA’s theme for this year is
Nutrition From The Ground Up. I recommend spending some time on their website. Great content! A recommended reading list, as well as educational resources covering off on a range of nutrition and lifestyle topics, interactive games (e.g., Nutrition Sudoku), quizzes, promotional ideas, etc. A majority of these materials are also available in Spanish. Good thinking!

In spite of this wealth of great information, there was minimal reference about portion sizes which is now one of the driving forces behind more reliable nutritional labeling being championed by the FDA. It is called portion distortion. Portion size is the amount of food served in a single eating occasion (meal or snack). Serving size is the standardized unit of measuring foods established by the FDA. The FDA is now considering updating the serving sizes listed on nutritional labels in recognition that their portion control recommendations are outdated. One example would be potato chips – a serving size is one ounce or six chips. How many servings did you eat during the Super Bowl? Muffins are usually sold in sizes that constitute two servings. Do you only eat half a muffin with your coffee?

The restaurant industry, despite its attempt to become more responsible by posting nutritionals, tend to offer large or super size portions. Large portions communicate value – value drives customer traffic. Think about the last time you ate a steak in a restaurant. What was its portion size or the size of the bake potato that accompanied it? In my last blog I referenced pizza. A good industry friend Nick Sarillo, founder and owner of
Nick's Pizza & Pub challenged my pizza example. He shared with me the nutritionals of Nick’s 14” Cheese pizza: only 240 calories, 80 calories from fat for one slice and then commented: “The point needs to be over consumption and lack of a balanced diet. The point could be made about almost any food group over done is going to be unhealthy in some way.”

Caloric intake (calories in, calories out) is integral to weight management. Beware of
Portion Distortion.

Oh by the way, for anyone living in or visiting Chicago, I suggest you go to Nick’s Pizza & Pub. I bet you cannot stop at one slice. His pizza is that good.