Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reaching the LOHAS Consumer

Here are some interesting demographics regarding the size, media habits and location of Americans concerned with issues of sustainability and health. The all important LOHAS segment (acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) represents a $200 billion rapidly growing market for goods and services that appeal to consumers who have a meaningful sense of environmental and social responsibility and incorporate those values into their purchase decisions. According to Ad Age, the nation's shelves will be stocked with more than 1,500 new products featuring green messages by the end of this year.

This is what the consumer environment, based on environmental values looks like*:
  • LOHAS (19% of U.S. adults): LOHAS consumers are dedicated to personal and planetary health. Not only do they make environmentally friendly purchases, they are active stewards of the environment.
  • NATURALITES (15% of U.S. adults): This segment has a strong personal health focus through consumables. NATURALITES are not, however, as committed to the environment nor driven to purchase eco-friendly durable goods.
  • DRIFTERS (25% of U.S. adults): These consumers have good intentions, but factors other than the environment influence their actual behavior. They are, however, driven to sustainability based on the trendiness of the topic.
  • CONVENTIONALS (24% of U.S. adults): This very practical segment doesn‟t have far-reaching green attitudes, but they do have environmental behaviors such as recycling and energy conservation.
  • UNCONCERNED (17% of U.S. adults): Simply put, the environment is not a priority to consumers in this segment.

The NATURALITES are an interesting niche - a group that has a strong personal health focus but are not driven to purchase eco-friendly products. This is likely a group we’ll see more and more products targeted at with messaging around simplicity and transparency of ingredients. For example, in March 2009, Haagen-Dazs launched a new premium product line called Five. Five was developed with fewer, more recognizable ingredients (the name reflects the number of ingredients in the product: milk, cream, sugar, eggs and a natural flavor such as vanilla bean.) In just eight months, Five sales have grown to account for 10% of Haagen-Dazs business.

In terms of targeted media vehicles, it is interesting to note that the LOHAS segment are heavy users of both magazine and the Internet, while NATURALITES under-index in heavy usage of the internet but are heavy TV users.

Profile of LOHAS Consumers

Heavy Media Usage

% more likely to be a heavy media user



Heavy Magazine User



Heavy TV User



Heavy Internet User



Source: MRI 2009 Survey of the American Consumer

And if you ever wonder what the top DMAs for buying organic food are, here they are:

Top 10 DMAs in which reside adults who buy foods labeled natural or organic:

1. San Diego, Calif.

2. Seattle/ Tacoma

3. Philadelphia

4. San Francisco/ Oakland/ San Jose

5. Washington, D.C. (Hagerstown, Md.)

6. Portland, Ore.

7. Denver

8. Baltimore

9. Sacramento/ Stockton/ Modesto, Calif.

10. Colorado Springs/ Pueblo, Colo.

* source: MRI

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gilt by Association

Today in Ad Age, the magazine honours some 20 brands, some new, some established that have done well despite the recession. These are brands that are innovative in their thinking and marketing approach.

One of the brands that caught my attention was Gilt Groupe. It’s a member only website that offers sample sales on luxury women’s, men’s, & children’s clothing brands and now home furnishings. It was established in late 2007 by two long time girlfriends Alexis Maybank (who was at eBay during the early days) and Alexander Wilkis Wilson.

The sample sale is a cherished ritual of the urban fashionista. Luxury brands hold these events, usually by invitation only, to unload inventory at discounts of 50% to 70%. In Paris they call it the vente privée. In New York the semiannual Barneys Warehouse Sale has them lined up around the block. Sales are always final, so shoppers strip down to their knickers between the racks to make sure a $3,000 dress is a good fit at $600.

The brand promise of the Gilt Groupe is to find the very best brands, for unbeatable prices and remove the stress of NY sample sale shopping. “No lines... No getting strip searched... No crazy women grabbing shoes out of your hands... No sneaking out of work and faking a doctor's appointment. No being forced to pay with cash and running frantically to ATMs across the garment center... No nastiness... No damaged or shopworn merchandise”.

And what a great brand name - I love the play on words. They have grown the brand primarily through word-of-mouth, offering a $25 credit offered to members who bring in a friend that ends up making a purchase. When Alexandra and Alexis first launched the brand, invitations to join Gilt Groupe were sent to every single person the two had ever met. They were aiming to create a viral business model, but it depended on getting an initial critical mass of loyal style mavens to become members of Gilt. Smart thinking – they would be key in spreading the word to their network of fashionistas on tight budgets.

Their target and group of friends -- fashionable, highly educated and tech savvy -- were the perfect demographic for Gilt Groupe, so it took almost no convincing to get them to link to the website and join as members. Membership is free but still gives the brand cache and a sense of exclusivity. Right now, for instance, you are wait-listed and only a couple of new members are accepted each day.

While there are a number of sample sales or luxury brand outlets on the internet, what really makes this site stand out is the sophisticated nature of the site and its blog on “what’s hot” written by the principals that reads like a copy of Vogue magazine with high quality photography.

Gilt counts 1.5 million members in the U.S. as well as 250,000 members in Japan. The retailer is on track to ring up $400 million in sales for fiscal 2010. Not bad for an e- retailer that’s less than two years old.

The success of Gilt is its innovative thinking, highly targeted concept and quality execution that delivers on its brand promise.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Grove School takes root

Last week marked the launch of The Grove School, a “fresh new pre-school” grounded in the philosophy of healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy planet. This is a place where children will learn about the importance of sustainability and conservation, along with reading and math skills. While at play, they’ll spend part of the day practicing downward dogs or planting seeds in the garden. The Grove School is a place where children will learn and grow in creative ways and be prepared for the world they will inherit.

As a brand, what makes The Grove School unique is that the development of the concept has been rooted in an experience versus a product. Burt Rosen who oversees all things digital at The Grove School writes, the…” experience is driven from a top down strategy and everything aligns with the strategy. For example, The Grove School is about healthy body, healthy mind and healthy planet so everything follows those filters. The food is healthy, the curriculum is designed to spur creativity and curiosity, and materials and sensibilities are all focused on what’s good for the planet and instilling those values in our kids and our families”.

Another unique aspect of the brand is its community-based platform. The Grove School utilizes social media tools such as blogging, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to connect families, school activities, and teachers together. is a vital piece of how the school communicates through building a community organically in an environment that nurtures ideas and relationships to support the families and children.

The brand personality of The Grove School has been beautifully brought to life by Tether, the Seattle-based agency who worked with Knowledge Universe in developing the concept. The images, look and feel are very playful and engaging while reflecting the core values of community, wellness and authenticity.

If you happen to live in Cary, NC or in Plano TX and have pre-school children, this is where the first two locations are opening in January 2010.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

the Beauty of the Brief

While companies are working with deeper cutbacks to budgets and staff, marketers are under increasing pressure to deliver expected results. People are working longer hours, taking on more projects, and given excruciating deadlines to hurdle all the while managing personal affairs and holding on to their sanity.

At the office, sometimes a good idea comes out of a meeting but the turnaround is very tight. It’s lobbed over to you or perhaps you volunteered to get it done. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out in your career, resist the urge to simply pick up the phone to your agency or creative department and provide verbal direction to get them working on a project. That might seem like the fastest solution, but often it is not. Without a thoughtful brief, objectives are easily lost and directions misinterpreted; often resulting in rework, frustrated people and potentially a compromised outcome.

Being strategic is about getting everyone on the same page, literally. It’s about providing clarity and direction so people know what’s expected of them and how success will be measured.

I find that a project brief is an excellent communications tool to build agreement and provide direction. There are many examples of project briefs available depending on the complexity of the project. Key questions that should be addressed in a brief are as follows:

What’s the objective?
- What challenge are you hoping to overcome?

What’s the goal?
- How will you know if you’ve achieved your objective?
- What measurement will you use and build into your plan?

What’s the background?
- Why are you doing this?
- Is this a competitive reaction or a brand building opportunity?
- Have you done something like this before? What did you learn?
- What are the obstacles or issues that could be in your way?

Who is the target?
- Be specific

What are the must-haves from the nice-to-haves?
- Are there specific brand messages that need to be communicated?
- Are there legal copy or design considerations?

Approval Process
- Who are the decision makers versus informed parties?
- Knowing this up front can save valuable time and rework costs.

Budget and Timing
- Be specific and realistic

I find that writing a brief is a great discipline. It gives people clear direction and frees them to be creative within known parameters. Briefs require some time and thinking up front but in the long run will motivate your team and ultimately, achieve the best results.

If you have a great brief or idea, please share it or provide a link.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Exploiting Chaos - an interview with author Jeremy Gutsche

The great thing about reviewing books on the Post2Post Book Tour is that you get to meet some very interesting people as well as get a chance to delve into some juicy topics. (If you are not familiar with the tour, it was started by the brilliant Paul Williams over at Idea Sandbox). This month's topic is about trends and innovation.

What? Does the world need another book on innovation?

I'll let you, the reader, decide that. In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to Jeremy Gutsche. He's 31 and is the founder of What makes Trendhunter different is that it's a crowdsourcing site where over 28,000 trend spotters contribute emerging or different "trends" from around the world. The premise of Jeremy's book, Exploiting Chaos, is that instead of retreating in times of chaos, companies should exploit trends to spark innovation and creativity.

Jeremy is a gutsy and creative entrepreneur. He's also an impressive PR machine and promoter. (In many ways, this book's core purpose is to drive traffic to the Trendhunter website - in fact you can download the first chapter by visiting it here).

Each page challenges the reader to think differently. Some headlines are smart "Fight the confidence that you know your customer" and some rather cliche "Cross-pollinate your ideas". For those who prefer more structure, there's also an Exploiting Chaos model.

While none of the ideas or approaches in the book strike me as being that unique or new (my belief is that most companies look at social, economic or even political trends to inform strategy or spark new thinking), the book still has merit. One way I could see using this book is as a thought provoker. One could, for example, pick a concept from the book and use it as the lens by which you view your brand, company or leadership challenge from a different perspective. If you do pick up the book, I'd love to hear your opinion and how you've benefited from reading or using it as a tool to spark innovation.

Okay. Now on to the interview with Jeremy.

KK. What was the goal of writing this book? Who do you think will benefit most from reading it?

JG. People get all absorbed by the doom and gloom of the current recession, but some of the most iconic companies were founded during economic downturns, including: Microsoft, General Electric, HP, Apple, Amgen, Hyatt, EA, and Fortune Magazine. The book was written in a way that it could help to inspire anyone with an idea, from those stuck in large organizations to entrepreneurs alike.

KK. Your book is packed with ideas and images – what’s the best way for the reader to approach your book?

JG. Our reading habi ts have entirely changed in the last decade. Driven by media clutter and our shrinking attention spans, our world has become headline obsessed. Hence, this book is visual and action packed, offering two ways to read:
  1. Consume the content front-to-back

  2. Just read the headlines on each page. They flow together and will help spark your next big idea.

KK. You quote Jay Handleman; “Through cool hunting, marketers are able to identify cultural meaning of trends ahead of competitors” With over 50,000 ideas on, how do you differentiate between a trend and a fad? Should marketers care?

JG. Trend Hunter differentiates between micro-trends and clusters. The front page of our site features 50,000 globally crowd sourced micro-trends or ideas, and then on our research side we crowd filter the best micro-trends and group them into more meaningful clusters of opportunity. If you are looking for bold new idea and inspiration, our front page can help to keep you on the cutting edge, expecially if you are a marketer, designer or innovator. If you are looking for deeper knowledge and trend research, our trend reports offer greater insight into the pulse of pop culture.

KK. Do you believe that innovation spark trends or do you think trends spark innovation?

JG. Both. New technologies and creative ideas enable new trends to exist. Those trends then give birth to new platforms for technological research and creative endeavours.

KK. You write “culture is more important than strategy”. This is certainly bucking the trend from what they teach you at biz school. Can you provide some context for this bold declaration?

JD. Very few CEOs would disagree about the importance of culture. The point of this statement is to illuminate the idea that even if you have meaningful direction, cultural alignment and execution are paramount to success. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how sexy your powerpoint strategy slides are if the organization isn't ready to embrace change, obsess about the customer and pursue an aligned goal.

KK. You have created the “Exploiting Chaos” framework as a key component of your approach. How is this different from other innovation frameworks?

JG. The EXPLOITING CHAOS framework teaches readers how to reinvent SPECIFICALLY during times of chaos and change, whether in an area of growth and bubbling opportunity or periods of downturn and dismay.

KK. For the launch of this book you dressed up in a hotdog suit and had a flashmob high-fiving 5000 people in 5 minutes in downtown Toronto . Can you explain how this event ties in with the message of your book?

JG. The stunt was a fun way to generate extra exposure. On several levels the stunt was meant to exploit chaos. Our experience on Trend Hunter teaches us that flash mobing is hot, high fiving is culturally interesting, Kanye West is the most controvercial guy in pop culture and Ashton Kutcher is the #1 most followed guy on Twitter. At the same time both Kanye and Ashton have sourced Trend Hunter in their blog and twitter respectably. So we combined all of this together and popped out a publicity stung that for $5,000 generated us 320,000 views on Trend Hunter and about 80,000 views on YouTube... And we did it by taking a chaotic event and making it creative, which ties nicely with the title of the book. Through this and other social media campaigns we were able to generate 150,000 downloads of the book's first chapter, and propel it to become the #1 Most Popular book at CEO Read.

p.s. Here's the launch party


Saturday, September 19, 2009

PARK(ing) Day - challenges assumptions and sparks new conversations

September 18 is PARK (ing) Day. In cities around the world parking spots were “reclaimed” and transformed into public parks and social spaces. The annual event is all about bringing awareness and starting a provocative conversation on how urban public space is allocated and used. Started in 2005 by Rebar, an art and design studio based in San Francisco - a city where up to 70% of the downtown’s outdoor space is dedicated to the vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm.

As the group says “PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure”. "In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution," says Rebar's Matthew Passmore. "The strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant urban human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the metropolitan landscape."

This very same question was pondered in 100 cities over four continents yesterday as artists, activists and citizens transformed metered parking spaces into public parks for a day. Over the four years of PARK(ing) Day, the conversation has extended to broader urban issues from public parks to free health clinics, from art galleries to demonstration gardens. PARK(ing) Day participants have claimed the metered parking space as a rich new territory for creative experimentation, activism, socializing and play.

While participation is focused on not-for-profit organizations, there are some commercial enterprises that did participate - businesses driven by a mission to change the world by offering earth friendly alternatives to common needs. One of these common needs is transportation. In Seattle, a “coalition” of transport groups leveraged the event to make people aware of alternatives to owning a car and promoting a healthier lifestyle. Living in the Pacific Northwest is all about access to the mountains. Zipcar was on hand to promote, in a very low key way, their solution as an alternatives to car ownership.

A two year old non-profit, was also out promoting the “undriver license”. Their goal is to reduce car use on the planet and saw the event as a way to playfully interrupt people’s assumptions and inspire them to think about other car-less options.

This is a great example of how genius can be found by re-imagining the obvious and challenging common assumptions. It’s also a wonderful example of guerilla marketing.

Whether you are a non profit or commercial venture, how can you rethink the commonplace into something that innovates or sparks conversations about your brand, mission or cause?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surprise and Delight with Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson and any of his Virgin companies can always be counted on for their creative and remarkable ideas for marketing their products and services. The recession has not stopped any of the innovation at Virgin. In fact, almost the opposite is true. According to Sir Richard, “Bad Times offer an opportunity to show off your brand’s true colors”. He feels that consistently communicating your values and attitude keeps your customers loyal, despite a long and bumpy ride. “If they don’t hear from you, they will lose interest and go elsewhere”

So what has the Virgin team been up to recently?

Screw you Recession – A statement that captured the sentiment of the Canadian populace was turned into a weblog that encouraged user-generated content and money saving tips. The weblog was launched with the provocative headline on a billboard in Dundas Square, the equivalent of Times Square.

Yesterday marked the last day of the site since “the recession is now lifting”. It’s a cheeky site full of attitude and a reflection of the Virgin brand's irreverent personality.

WiFi on board – Virgin America announced a test flight with Wifi and threw a party in the sky for social media/YouTube digerati and friends which was streamed live from 35,000 feet to a YouTube event in San Francisco. In addition, when Wifi went fleetwide, Virgin celebrated the occasion with the first ever Skype chat with Oprah. While Virgin wasn’t the first airline to have Wifi on board, they certainly did a good job reaching their target customer and made a big splash in a way that reinforced their chic yet accessible positioning.

Day in The Clouds - an online scavenger hunt with Virgin America and Google Apps that was held in the clouds and on the ground. The purpose was to showcase and bring awareness of what people can do on-the-go with technology.

Freefest – Music is at the core of the Virgin brand. One of the outcomes of the recession has been the decline in music festival sales as people have scaled back on discretionary spending. Seeing this trend, Virgin Mobile USA was inspired to make their annual summer festival free. “Freefest” was announced on Jimmy Fallon’s show and the announcement was tweeted and retweeted around the country. As a result, when tickets were released four days later, they were scooped up in minutes.

According to Branson, “ we placed more value on warming consumer’s hearts than on ticket sales. My hope was that the festival would be a great day of community and music, while also showing that a daring plan like giving something for free will pay off in ways that money just can’t buy. That is the sort of brand they know will continue to surprise and delight. And who doesn't want that?

credit: PR Week Sept 2009 issue, Boing Boing

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cell phone Karaoke and Symphonies

I'm attached to my cell phone because it keeps me connected to the world but more and more because of all the cool things it does. In fact, I would say that I use my phone as a speaking device only 15% (or less) of all applications. I’m imagining the day when I'll leave the house with only my cell phone and a tube of lipstick. It will be my method of payment, the electronic key to my home, the device that starts the ignition in my car and opens the garage door automatically.

Some of the most innovative applications of the cell phone as social device are related to music making. There’s a whole new “genre” of music that the cell phone is inspiring, making the creation and perhaps even the enjoyment of music more accessible to generations who don’t have the access (or patience) to master a traditional instrument like the flute or violin.

Yet cell phones create both order and disorder. They can be very disruptive, annoying and downright rude. A professor of music from the Indiana University, David Baker, recently premiered the Concertino for Cell Phones and Orchestra. He wanted to illustrate how cellular phones create both order and disorder in our society. "All man-made devices can be used for good and for bad," says Baker, who has been nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy. He adds that while cell phones are great for keeping in touch and getting help in emergencies, they're also very disruptive. The orchestra will alternate between using the cell phones melodiously and as interrupting, annoying rings.

Creating music and disruption has also been used in a fun way by Improv Everywhere who create flashmob events around the world.

Music is social - it brings people together; it's something we love to share. These new innovations will open up a whole new world of applications and creativity.

For other videos on cell phone music making , check out Mashable.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Frugalista - the new cool

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically since the global recession hit. People are acting more conservatively, curtailing their spending, reducing debt, putting more money aside and looking for greater value. According to a study by McKinsey, spending fell in all categories and the reason for belt tightening was both by choice (55%) as well as out of necessity (45%).

What I find interesting is that the savings and debt averages we’re seeing today are in line with long term trends and are not considered abnormal. What has been abnormal is the broad based consumer spending and debt levels seen over the past two decades fueled by easier access to credit.

So what is the new normal going to be?

There is no reason to think that the new frugality mindset will change any time soon. The implication for marketers is to understand how this profound behavioral change will affect strategies fundamental to value creation and sustainable growth for their companies – everything from product development and life-cycle management through to building meaningful relationships and flawless customer service.

Being frugal, however, doesn't mean you can't be cool. Target is jumping on this and even created a new word - the "frugalista". Target is the expert on making discount shopping trendy - now with their "New Frugalista" advertising, blog and videos featuring well known voices in fashion, they want to make being frugal stylish.

My bet is that we'll see a shift in communications and advertising that will celebrate frugality and we'll see more products that are fashionable, affordable and smart because they use recycled materials. Again, Target is doing something innovative in this space with artist designed billboards in Times Square that will launch Labor Day weekend and later be converted into stylish, one-of-a-kind totes designed by Anna Sui.
Expect more, pay less - $29.99 actually.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Social Video - engaging the online video audience

The traditional way of building brand awareness & affinity was to run a cool tv ad that people actually liked. Classic metrics for a broadcast ad campaign are reach, frequency and recall. In social media, success is measured by the social audience - number of viewers that voluntarily download your video. Now anyone with a camera phone can produce a video and post it on-line. There are twenty hours of video being uploaded every hour, every day and some user generated videos like The Evolution of Dance build audiences of over 172 million viewers. While barriers to broadcast are low in social media, the degree of difficulty to breakthrough the clutter is high. For a brand to be remembered, it becomes very difficult indeed.

The pay-off for brands in social media can be huge. A viral hit can reignite a brand’s cache like it did for both Cadbury and Evian in a way that advertising cannot.

On-line, the consumer becomes part of the brand’s storytelling by tapping into the social tendency to share things - sharing the video, sharing comments with friends who pass it on to other friends. A great viral video can create immense separation from competition as did T-Mobile UK Dance and the Samsung HD camera phone. Viewership for a successful viral hit can be stunning, reaching over 10 million views each week for over a 14 week period. Others on the other hand, may reach 1 million viewers and then stall out. Why is that?

What is working?
According to Visible Measures, key success factors for the top viral videos are:
  1. they are whimsical, fun, don’t take themselves too seriously
  2. they challenge the audience and make room for conversations to happen amongst viewers (how did they do that??)
  3. the first week is critical – they need to burst on the scene and get at least a million viewers
  4. they are supported by a broader awareness campaign - offline & on-line - PR, purchased media, social outreach, etc
  5. after the initial burst, they have a sustained marketing effort
What trends are we seeing?
  1. music-video/video-tainment (i.e. Smirnoff Partay, BK Spongebob)
  2. interactive video/how did they do that (T-Mobile Dance, Samsung HD camera trick)
  3. stunts (Nike hyper-dunk , Microsoft's megawoosh )
  4. darn good storytelling (Samsung LED -sheep - my favorite!! Johnnie Walker's Walk)

Do they work?
Ultimately, the question for brands is – can you link these viral hits to business results. According to Visible Measures, the seminal piece of research still needs to be published but brands that do participate in this medium believe viral ads can create greater value because it feels more authentic if their product is promoted by fans.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Keep on tracking....

Not long ago, I wrote a post on the American obsession with tracking. Here's a new application for the NYC bargain fashion retailer Daffys. You can track when/where trucks are delivering new merchandise. You can even sign up on Twitter for updates.

One of my favourite tracking sites is on Zappos where you can watch real time what shoe styles people are buying where.

Don't you think it would be cool if Amazon tracked what people were reading across the country? Now that would be telling. Any other cool sites or ideas you can share?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Optimizing your marketing spend to leverage the Empowered Consumer

The internet has forever changed consumer behavior and the resulting paradigm shift on marketing strategy is both daunting and liberating. There's an explosion of places consumers can assess your brand, compare products and pricing versus your competitors, rate responsiveness to your customer service or judge you by your company's values or actions. The internet also gives brands an incredible number of touch-points and tools to reach out and engage the consumer in very real and meaningful ways. The key for marketers today is to ensure the optimal investment is made at each of the four key touch-points along the consumer purchase decision cycle.
  1. Get your brand into the consideration set - building brand awareness
  2. Get "found" during the consumer research stage - SEO/SEM, product reviews, blogs, etc
  3. Close the sale at the purchase point - conversion online or in the store
  4. Post purchase management - customer service, product reviews, loyalty, Facebook page, etc
I came across this video on the Geary Interactive blog (produced by Twenty-two Squared). It's a great demonstration of the new purchase decision cycle and today's empowered consumer. The savvy marketer will ask: has my marketing mix changed to adapt to the new consumer purchase decision journey? Am I engaging current and potential customers at the right moments to influence their purchase decisions? Are all my customer facing activities integrated - marketing, PR, CRM? Do I know what drives loyalty and have I harnessed it with word of mouth programs? This shift in consumer behavior provides a great opportunity for marketers to be smarter about their investments by giving the consumer the information he or she needs to make a purchase decision, at the right place and at the right time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Extending the Brand Experience: Prius Flower Power

Extending the brand experience outside of traditional retail spaces can be a great way for brands to build brand awareness and reinforce key messages. Toyota has done a great job of doing just that with its solar flower campaign supporting the 3rd generation Prius.

Toyota is planting a number of 18 foot tall Shasta Daisies in major U.S. urban centres that function as benches where up to ten people can sit, relax, recharge their laptop and get free WiFi.

Powered by the sun, the giant flowers sport solar panels behind the petals and inside the stem, generating electricity to outlets mounted in the attached plastic benches.

The flower-power theme builds off their beautifully animated feel-good tv spot that epitomizes their positioning of “Harmony between Man, Nature, and Machine" Linking the flower idea to a functional benefit on board the 3rd generation Prius, the solar panels operate a ventilation system that helps cool the car. The solar panel runs an electric fan that draws outside air in, once the car’s interior temperature reaches (and exceeds) 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

A great brand building campaign that has already generated lots of press in New York and Boston, you can visit the flowers at the following cities:

• Chicago – Navy Pier – August 8 - August 22, 2009
• Seattle – Westlake Park – August 29 - September 7, 2009
• San Francisco – Yerba Buena Gardens – September 12 - September 27, 2009
• Los Angeles – The Americana – October 3 - October 18, 2009

You can also visit Prius on Facebook. Well done Toyota!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Being Strategic - a visit with noted consultant Erika Andersen

Being Strategic is a book that will reside front and centre on my book shelf. Written by Erika Andersen, it's probably the most practical approach I've ever come across on how to both plan out your personal success, as well as how to get a group aligned around a vision and strategy.

What I like about Erica's approach is that she provides a clear framework and excellent examples that help you visualize the learning. She then provides exercises at the end of each chapter to put your knowledge into action.

As part of Idea Sandbox's Post2Post Book Tour, I had the chance to ask Erica about the genesis of her approach and how it might be put to brand and marketing strategy development. Enjoy!

p.s. if you haven't visited Idea Sandbox yet, check it out. You'll find inspirational ideas and more interesting books that have been reviewed by Post2Post participants like me.

My Conversation with Erika:

Me: Most courses on strategy focus on solving a business issue. You start by focusing on the reader - helping them think through their personal goals or challenges strategically in order to build strategic thinking as a skill. How/why did you develop this approach?

Erika: I wanted people to know they can apply the skills and mindset of being strategic to any aspect of their lives. I’ve seen that the more traditional “case study” approach tends not to accomplish this; it implies that strategy is something that only applies to business – and often, only to large complex business. I feel strongly that being strategic is an important capability that can be applied almost universally – to businesses, careers and lives.

Me: Your book seems very timely. Many people are re-evaluating their priorities and goals due to lost jobs and diminished investment portfolios. How have individuals or families used your approach to face these new challenges?

Erika: Over the past few years, my colleagues and I have helped many people – from mid-level folks who’ve been laid-off, to high-potential young women leaders wanting to create a great career, to senior executives re-thinking (as you say) their life priorities – to use this approach to create a vision of the future they most want for themselves.

I was honored that one of our clients, Bonnie Hammer, who runs the USA Networks, ScyFy, and the Universal Cable Production Studios, has said of this work that, “it’s a clear, powerful, practical approach for navigating through tough times.” I truly hope that individuals and families who read my book will be able to apply the skills and process to navigate through these times and create the lives they most want. That was an important reason for writing the book – to make this approach available to a larger audience

Me: The readers of the Essential Orange are interested in how brands come to life. Do you have an example of how you’ve used your approach to develop a brand strategy?

We often work with clients around brand (although we certainly don’t consider ourselves brand strategists) using the being strategic approach. First we help them define their challenge - which usually sounds something like: “How can we establish a brand that expresses our unique value and is truly compelling for our core customer?”

Then we help them clarify their current reality relative to their challenge. After that, we help them focus on two aspects of “what’s the hope,” that is, of their hoped-for future relative to the challenge: 1) who do you hope to have as core customers, and 2) what 3-4 brand attributes best express the experience you want your brand to promise to those core customers? Once they’ve defined their core customer and selected their brand attributes, we generally hand off the client to a branding consultancy to create the “path” – the strategies and tactics to build and implement the brand.

Me: Getting a group of people with competing agendas to agree on a marketing strategy is like herding cats. What advice would you give to a marketing leader faced with this challenge?

Erica: That’s why I wrote the second half of the book! Getting a group to agree to approach their challenge strategically, and then actually to work together to craft good, solid vision and strategy, requires some specific skills and understanding. So, my overall advice is – read the book.

But seriously, one tip; defining the challenge first is a huge step in the right direction. “Competing agendas” often simply means that people are trying to solve different problems, and so will simply devolve into “dueling solutions.” If you can get the whole team to a shared understanding of the key problem they’re trying to solve, then they’re at least at the same starting point.

In the book, I use the example of the marketing group at a mythical company called “” Their challenge in the book is, “How can we define ourselves as the primary authority on “greenness” for parents of young children?” starting with that clarity is hugely helpful – even for made-up marketing people. ;-)

Me: When developing a strategy with a group, it’s hard to be a facilitator while having a stake in the outcome. What tips do you have for managing this process without appearing to have “an agenda”?

I agree that’s difficult. I have two ideas to offer, one more strategic, and one more tactical. On the strategic level, it’s important to enter into the facilitator role only if you are truly open to the group’s conclusion. If you as the leader enter into the process pre-committed to a particular outcome, it will be disastrous. I feel very strongly about this: if someone is pretending to facilitate a group process while trying to move the group toward a pre-determined outcome, he or she will completely lose credibility and forfeit the group’s passion and commitment to the outcome. So, if you as the leader are going to attempt to facilitate this process, reflect deeply beforehand to decide whether you’re going to be able to be a true facilitator for the group.

Now on the tactical level. It’s completely legitimate, as the leader, to go back and forth between the facilitator role and the participant role. The key is letting people know which role you’re playing at any given moment. For instance, during a discussion you’re facilitating, when you believe you have something of value to add as a participant, you might say, “I’d like to take off my facilitator hat for a minute here, if that’s OK with everyone: I have a comment to make from my own perspective.” Once you’ve gotten the group’s OK, say what you have to say and then note that you’re returning to the facilitator’s role. By doing this, you can maintain the integrity of the facilitator’s role and still participate in the discussion.

Thanks Erika. If you want to read more reviews on Erika's book, check out:

Thomas H. Magness, Leader Business

Phil Gerbyshak, Slacker Manager

Monday, July 27, 2009

How brands are using tracking to build trust

According to an article in USA Today, the new American obsession is to track everything from packages to pizza delivery, to tracking how taxpayer money is being spent. To give you an indication of the interest in tracking, in 1995, UPS had a total of 100,000 online requests for the month of December. In 2008, UPS received an average of 27.3 million requests per day for December.

Does this need for tracking address a human desire for control in a chaotic world? Whatever the psychological need, it definitely is a way that brands can engage longer with customers long after the purchase button has been pressed. It’s also a way brands can deepen their relationship with customers by building excitement and trust.

Here are a couple of examples:

Dominos Pizza
Domino's rolled out Pizza Tracker last year which gives consumers a window into the status of their pizzas as well as Domino's a window into the online world of its customers. The Pizza Tracker is used by 75% of Domino's online customers. Besides connecting consumers to their pizzas, the tracker gives the first names of workers who make and deliver their order.

Fed-Ex gets 6 million package-tracking requests daily, and according to Mark Colombo, senior vice president of digital access marketing, "tracking is one of our top drivers for customer satisfaction," "People are obsessed with it." FedEx has 14 tracking "events" for the average package, from pickup to when it gets on the plane to when it's on a local truck to delivery. Consumers can choose to be notified of any of these handoffs.

Some folks are big trackers of flights. That's why Daniel Baker started FlightAware in 2005. It's a free service that receives FAA information and converts it into maps that track almost all non-military flights in the USA and Canada. That's about 50,000 flights a day. The service receives 100 million flight-tracking requests a month. You can also check out, yet another flight tracking service.

Government Spending
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made millions tracking data, is giving New Yorkers the chance to track city agency performance. The website includes 550 data points that residents can track — from the response time of the local fire department to how quickly potholes are filled.


There is also a cottage industry being created through tracking. For example, through you can track the habits of your newborn. The software converts daily data (sleeping, pooping, feeding) into formatted charts. Not sure if those trends help sleep-deprived parents better cope, but for the track-a-holic, this makes for interesting reading.

The Opportunity
Tracking feels like a way to reassure the consumer that their individual purchase or request is important. People don’t have to call a number, be put on hold or get lost in complex phone trees. And while it is an automated feature, is feels personal, allowing you to feel just a bit more in control.

What services do you offer that might benefit the consumer? Here are a couple ideas:

Grocery or Specialty shops – when the truffles are arriving, the Copper River Salmon shipment, Fiddleheads……etc

Fashion Retailer – which shows your buyers are attending or a countdown to a truck show or sale

Photographer/Musician – where are you performing or doing a photoshoot

The possibilities seem endless. Have you seen some cool applications that you can share?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blame it on Canada - Facebook and stricter Canadian Privacy Laws

I had to publish this from Mashable. Not only because of the privacy issue but of the fact that 33.333333 per cent of Canadians are on Facebook. OMG!!! That's a third of country - wild! Oh yes, and did I mention that I'm Canadian so very interested in these cross-border cultural differences.

So here goes:

Facebookcanada - A Canadian privacy commission report released on Thursday says that Facebook breaches privacy laws there.

The report, outlined by Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart at a press conference in Ottawa, criticizes the fact that Facebook retains user information after users have closed their accounts.

Facebook has around 12 million Canadian users, which equates to 1/3 of the population; and yet the country’s privacy commission expressed “an overarching concern” that Facebook’s privacy information displayed to users is “often confusing or incomplete.” Other criticisms were targeted at Facebook’s apps program: the report says too much private data is provided to 3rd party developers.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s retention of data from deactivated accounts violates the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the commission claims.

Facebook has been given 30 days to implement the changes, and has already agreed to “most” of them, according to a release. Facebook (Facebook) Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly is quoted in an AFP report on the issue as saying “We continue our dialogue and have every confidence that we will come to acceptable conclusions. I think the concerns are fully resolvable.”

An Ode To Authenticity - Walter Cronkite's legacy

Walter Cronkite has left this earth. What made him unique was his passion for the truth no matter how difficult or how pressured he was by censorship. He felt an immense responsibility toward his audience. He was authentic, he was someone who spoke your language - someone you could trust. He left an incredible legacy and imprint on all of us. His emotional reporting of the Kennedy assassination through heartfelt tears, his glee and encouragement for the Appolo astronauts flight to the Moon, the debacle of the Vietnam war and a America forever changed.

The world is a different place without this statesman of the truth. As a celebration of Walter's goodness, his authenticity, his wisdom and heartfelt connection to the telling of the human condition, I wanted to share this lovely Ode from Walt Whitman:,

Song of Myself, Part 1

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Walt Whitman was a poet of great standing. His book, Leaves of Grass, published in 1876, is full of inspirational messages for poets everywhere.

Song of Myself, a poem with over 50 parts, is a deep "song" of Whitman, and aptly portrays him as he believed himself to be.