Who wins the fight of fear vs. magic?

At today's IABC event, Tammy Nienaber of Great Clips slipped a fact into her talk - she implemented a social measurement strategy at the company in 2009. This enabled her team to build customer and marketplace insights, bridges for her team in the organization and make more proactive decisions. 

Seven years ago. Seven years. Of listening, tweaking, educating, updating platforms, analyzing, observing, recommending. 

An overnight sensation? No. Baby steps of educating, tweaking, analyzing, recommending, yes. 

Measurement strategy is more than just tagging, throwing some money at a platform or making a pretty report once in a while. It's a mindset of accepting that we may not always have the right answer. That something better is out there to go after. That the smallest of adjustments to a campaign may make the most good happen. That - most of all - if we understand customer behavior first and think marketing tactic second, that we're on our way. 

After several years of R&D, Google launched its new enterprise platform into beta this week. Based on the concept of micro-moments - moments of need and decision in a customer's day - it promises to both simplify and deepen marketers ability achieve more. 

The fear of measurement sometimes comes from the idea that the magic is erased by data. Instead, let's understand that the data can create the environment for us to achieve more than we think is possible. 





Holy Helmets! "Bike Batman' uses the internet for good!

Ever had your bike stolen and experienced that feeling of it disappearing into a black hole? "File a police report, ma'am" is the typical response. Not worth the insurance deductible is the other. 

One Seattle resident, increasingly frustrated at how bike thefts were creating negativity in his hometown, decided to do something about it. 

"Bike Batman" (who remains anonymous) uses online sites such as Craigslist, OfferUp and other online marketplaces to track down stolen bikes, then to return them to the owner via Bike Index, an online resource that allows people to log their stolen bikes. Even better, he's in cahoots with his local police, who support his efforts and appreciate his tips. Bike Batman even sets up in-person "stings" for the cops to participate in. Risky? Yes. Admirable. Hell yeah. Go Batman, go!

Read the article here. 

Photo courtesy of Bike Batman via The Guardian. 3/15/16.   

Photo courtesy of Bike Batman via The Guardian. 3/15/16.


What is the best way to "plan for disruption?"

(Wait, isn't that an oxymoron?!)

A client proclaimed to me recently:  "Laura, you know, the way forward has to be digital." As a small business owner she's realizing - albeit a little later than others - that digital is a force to be reckoned with. 

Many large organizations have recognized the power of digital for years but it is only recently that "disruption" has become an accepted topic of conversation in Corporate Committee Meetings. 

Why? Because "digital disruption" is no longer a buzzword. It's real, and it's causing organizations to change not only the way they go to market, but their function from the inside out. It's no longer a passive "our industry is being disrupted by technology" observation but becoming more about how brands can proactively change their impact. 

At yesterday's "Digital or Die" event here in Minneapolis, renowned writer Brian Solis shared his thoughts on the importance of planning for disruption - not just to gain advantage, but in some business cases (such as T-Mobile) - essential for survival. 

  • "Take others point of view and add it to your own." This combo of the Henry Ford and Dale Carnegie wisdom is a reminder not only to acquire audience insight but have it drive your strategy. Some, like Chinese phone company Xiaomi creates new features on request from their audience (then loudly promotes them) or others such as Target are getting laser focused about perfection in the mandatories of experience (such as fully stocked shelves) in addition to the other experience "frills" that are so important to brand definition. 
  •  "Think 10 years ahead." Capital One's acquisition of renowned UX agency Adaptive Path sent shockwaves around the financial services and marketing sectors. Why? Because a financial services organization has realized that owning digital experience will be the key to winning the digital wallets of all generations moving forward. 
  • "Baby steps - good. Shortcuts - not so much." Planning and executing "disruption" can mean changing business models, org structures, vendor relationships, budgets, authority assumptions - it touches every piece of your company. Make the mistake of skimming the surface, and the experience cracks (e.g. whether with supply chain not fulfilling a brand promise) will soon show to your customers.
  • "Reinvent what happens in your customer's moment of truth with your brand." Planning for disruption is overwhelming. But, if you can zero in on the most important moments your audience has with your brand and transform those - you can win trust and loyalty. 

Disruption is not to be feared. It's an exciting wave of momentum that is combining organizational potential with audience demands. It's only going to get more intensive. 

If you want to learn about how to get your company ahead of digital "disruption" we'd love to talk with you. You can reach us here

A strategy of love from NOLA

Sometimes all it takes is recognizing what already exists.

Non-profits are battling demands on their time, budget, services and mindshare of donors. An astonishing $358bn was given by individuals and corporations in 2014, but the struggle to drive people to take a few minutes out of their day to donate is an ongoing struggle. 

By connecting to the "love", this NOLA based organization has taken a story-telling approach to awareness and activation to remind people not only to care about NOLA, but to continue the effort to rebuild. And, it's working.....

See the many love letters to NOLA here. 



Considering using digital to incentivize behavior?

Think through the customer experience before you start. 

Incentivizing people to be more active by using a digital tool may seem like a good idea (it generally is) but limiting benefits to usage of the tool without disclosing the data aspects to your customers is not as wise. Vitality - the South African owned health insurance company based in the UK - just learned this with controversy surrounding its partnership with Moves - now owned by Facebook.

While Moves doesn't track vital health info, this partnership has aggravated many policyholders and is a cautionary for tale for marketers as they consider how to engage their customer base. It's also a note to brand strategist to ensure that the execution of a great idea - such as Vitality's "we make it cheaper and easier to live healthier" shouldn't rely on experience handcuffs.

Read more here. 


Avoiding the "gotcha"

Nationwide has come up against a barrage of criticism following its Superbowl ad which focused on the story of a young boy who died. The insurance company claims that the spot was created to generate awareness, start a conversation about accidental death, and how their one true business mission is to help parents avoid such tragedies. 

While it may be true that Nationwide has a history of supporting this issue, the mistake Nationwide - and it’s agency - made last night, was to unleash a"gotcha".

It’s tempting, when you want to create change, to slap people across the face. It creates an impact. Makes you seen and heard amidst the noise. 

But, it’s risky. Nationwide probably will have received more traffic last night and today than in their entire history. But, is it the type of traffic they desire? Will those visiting the site, or talking about the brand take action on the “movement”. Will lives be saved? Will customers renew their insurance policies? Only time will tell. 

If you’re an organization considering a similar path, be sure to think about the following:

Don’t call a campaign a “movement”. Don’t claim to start “a movement” without explaining what the movement is. Simply giving people information about an issue isn’t a movement. Creating a website isn’t a movement. Spurring conversation isn’t a movement. A movement means you create a vision for a new future, one that requires cultural, societal change which you drive. And you invest heavily in that movement (beyond advertising). Where is evidence of Nationwide’s investment? Do they give 50% of profits to the movement? Maybe, but that evidence is hidden. 

- “Media” is no longer just a :30 spot. Consider it an experience and where you place your brand in that experience makes a huge difference. Running this spot before the cartoon-like Katy Perry halftime show created guilt and consternation from many viewers. When most of the Superbowl advertisers were previewing their spots in the week leading up to the event, Nationwide had an opportunity to do the same. Maybe Nationwide was advised that this would “soften the blow” but, in this case, with this timing, the message, the emotional impact….that is everything. Don’t try to be clever. Use audience’s eyes to see your brand and they will absorb it in their way. 

Don’t take credit, let the audience give it to you. By burying the affiliations to the two organization who actually help with the issue - Nationwide Children’s and Safe Kids Worldwide, the “gotcha” feels like a sleazy sales pitch because the substance of the “how” is lost. If your brand is considering a similar move, minimize your brand to almost beyond the pale. Enable the movement, by all means, but don’t take that credit. Treat the audience with respect and they will return it. 

Align your creative strategy across all channels. See those happy smiling babies on the Make Safe Happen website? The dad snuggling with his kids? Where’s the “Dead Boy” now? When you fail to make the connection with your creative strategy - and especially when you lead with the negative and then flip to the positive - people keenly feel the “gotcha”. 

I feel for Nationwide and its agency - the intent to improve a tragic issue is valiant. But, it’s further evidence that fully understanding your audience and carefully planning your brand strategy is crucial to achieving success with today’s increasingly savvy audiences. 

Getting social at work

Facebook today announced its pilot of Facebook At Work…it’s new work-only social tool. It’s big news for organizations looking to help their teams connect. 

 In recent years, larger organizations have been wavering along the “enterprise social” spectrum. Some have blocked social media entirely, mainly causing resentment and the inevitable workarounds. Many have thrown mind-blowing budgets into new tools, taking a “Provide and Pray” approach - build it, launch it, then cross our fingers that people use it. Most have taken the path of least resistance by allowing social access, then throwing millions into employee intranets or document repositories to take care of the rest. 

Invariably, few of these approaches have realized their goals. Some have fizzled out, with a few ardent loyalists clinging on hoping that the powers that be will let it live-just-a-little-bit-longer. The intranets built to “drive collaboration” take so long to create and fill with content (or link to the plethora of legacy system content) that employees and the organization experience “initiative fatigue”. 

The reason for this disappointment? The focus is placed on the tool, not the person. Instead of understanding what employees want to share, hear, learn or join, the “tool” has become the blunt object. Seduced by wanting to tap into the power of “social”, organizations default to “plug and play”. 

People at work are still people. They’re overwhelmed with tools and systems to manage to accomplish even the simplest task. People so often don’t use the complicated enterprise software mandated to them, and instead find hacks to work around in their way. Start-ups such as Asana and Basecamp have seen great success with designing with the user in mind and enabling collaborating through intuition. But social has not yet found its footing. 

Social is about people connecting together, forming an authentic bond, sharing knowledge, intelligence or just friendship. Often, “social” is less about the work, more about the cultivating the energy and mindset related to being successful at work. And that involves more than a tool. 

So, when considering “social at work”, gather intelligence first on:

1. What do we expect from our team members in their daily lives as “employee”?

2. What is it about our company culture and our expectations for the team that we need to support?

3. How can we best empower our team members to accomplish their goals?

4. What does collaboration look like at our company? How do people work together (or want to work together)?

5. What type of information does our team need to share?

6. What tools do we ask our team to use today, and how are they used?

7. What barriers exist today to team members creating stronger bonds together?

8. How can the company enable the non-work social fabric of the team?

If the people are put first, the connections will come.  

Nice jedi mind trick, Groupon

Typically, unsubscribing from unwanted email either turns me momentarily jubliant at my triumph over the robots, or makes me grumpy that it’s taking the 0.05 seconds out of my day that I otherwise would be using…doing something else. ..really important…

However, today, I laughed. I unsubscribed from a Groupon Goods email, and was met with a page telling me that it was “Derrick” who thought it would be a good idea to send it to me, and I could “punish Derrick” now. Sure! I’ll punish Derrick! Bastard!! I hit the button and a 10s video plays of a colleague walking up to him, berating him then throwing a cup of liquid over him. 

AHA, how I chuckled in my evilness. Then felt instantly guilty for poor D and considered resubscribing. 

Now that’s good…..

A content resolution for 2015

It’s the time of year for trends, themes, observations, resolutions….while we’d all love click-bait to go away and for brands to commit to mobile-first design so users could actually consume the content that has been so carefully curated, here’s my one wish.


That publisher brands put their <money> content where their mouth is.

The Big Guns are finally jumping on the innovation started by General Mills several years ago with their own publishing platforms. With great fanfare, Coca Cola said goodbye to its corporate website in late 2012, replacing it with “Journey”, a self-described “media platform" featuring branded and non-branded content.  In 2014 Coke rolled out multiple global versions and now has a dedicated newsletter with tens of thousands of subscribers. Coke has been smart - they've hired a team of content experts, and they’re using analytics to drive the editorial process. They're getting over a million visits a month, so it is generally deemed a success.


But yet, look a little closer, and Journey is still just curated content within a corporate website wrapper (see that investors link? That footer? That careers tab?..yep, all still there… ). We all know how challenging it can be to create real innovation in Big Corporate and in Coke’s defense, “Journey” is a big step forward, even if its content simply crowds out the corporate mandated noise in the short term to prove the validity of the idea.


In 2015, I’d love to see more brands take audacious steps in creating meaning and impact with their content while still driving their business goals. For so long, compelling content and meeting business goals have seemed to be mutually exclusive (despite the engagement analytics evidence to the contrary). It’s almost like Big Corporate just won’t commit.


Sure, we all love to read about the one-legged soccer player while we’re waiting for the toast to pop (and we always need light heartwarming entertainment in our day) but how it is positively affecting my life, other than filling up fuzzy brain time? Coke may argue that it doesn’t care, because the ROI it’s getting from my data, the proof points it captures from my engagement metrics and my cookie that is now has to track me into the back of beyond have repaid its efforts handsomely.


But what if Coke could still win me as a user, then leverage that interaction with ongoing brand connection, where the brand helps me or an idea or cause close to my heart be successful? Even if it is simply adding a feature or section to that one-legged story that helps me share an idea related to sports, or disability or a local team that needs help. Or an incentive for sharing the story which then translates into dollars given, credibility lent and connections shared. We're not always talking huge new initiatives - links to existing programs would be a start.


The goal should ALWAYS be to increase ROI and business value with content, not for content simply to support, and by committing to deepening the role of content, this is possible.


This isn’t about mining for ideas (like this excruciating Hersey’s video on its corporate site…), this is about being a brand that makes an authentic commitment to ideas that will truly impact change. 2014 saw a big leap in the democratization of invention and ideas - Quirky is a great example of how easy it can now be to share an idea, win support and funding and see success.


At the mima Summit in fall 2014, Dean Kamen, one of the inventors of the Segway, described how he recruited Coca Cola for his latest invention - a water purification machine that has the potential to save millions of lives. He had the idea, he’d built the prototype, now he just needed one of the largest and widely distributed brands in the world to support him…Luckily, he had contacts there due to his partnership to reinvent the soda fountain  and by his own account, Dean Kamen was irritatingly persistent with his requests.


We’re not all Dean Kamen, but we do all have ideas, passions and we all read online. Hopefully 2015 will see brands take advantage of that for the good of all.

Fairlife's campaign sent packing by the Twin Cities

Fairlife, the new “premium”/nutritionally enhanced milk brand from Coca Cola did a decent job on its new site…purpose driven content, good looking stories and photography, plenty of benefit statements and health appeal. 

Then, Fairlife revealed its ad creative. OOOOH No. No. No. No. 

This week, The Guardian wrote an appropriately searing piece, criticizing it for sexism - accurate especially considering how strategically off-base the campaign is …aren’t 30/40 something women your major target audience? Why on earth would you position them as subjects of allure and humor? And seemingly nude with milk “dresses” spurting up around them like a model on a Maxim cover? And standing on scales?..What woman ever wants to see herself standing on scales, milk dress or no milk dress?

Funnily enough, the <Not-So-“Fair”-To-Women> Fairlife website has been updated, explaining that while the product performed well in test markets - the Twin Cities being one - apparently we savvy Minnesotans told Fairlife where to stick their sexist ads….they won’t be returning and new ads are in the hopper…

A classic example of a brand trying too hard? Sure, hire an innovative artist who thinks differently. Sure, connect that artist to your target market. But forget to weave the heart and authenticity into your campaign and you’ve just taken 10 giant steps backward. 

Instead, I’d like to see this brand build an advocacy base by continuing with the smart content themes already present on the site…focus on being a savvy choice for parents (heaven knows we always need help with milk over juice with the kids), ..prove the taste message by trials with local innovative fitness communities (like The Firm) to tap into existing health loyalists, along with compelling information on lactose intolerant/wariness … mix all that with create curiosity and a sense of responsibility around the traceability and farm-finding aspects of the source and we’re getting somewhere. 

In other words, capitalize and build on today’s trends instead of going back in time!

Waitrose goes native with Roux & Co

Waitrose - the high end grocery store in the UK - has announced a new partnership with Channel 4 with their first full TV series ”Weekend Kitchen”. It features Michel Roux, who recently quit the BBC due to “commercial interests” and other members of UK Chef Royalty (Heston, Delia…).


"Native advertising" (or publisher-produced brand content) is not a new concept but it’s becoming the go-to strategy for brands wrestling to win the hearts and mins of consumers. (Funny, some of my first PR successes as a young account executive were editorials (or advertorials as we called them) in the UK nationals. In an interview at Fallon, I shared my portfolio and the interviewer - who was running the Lee Jeans account at the time - was astounded that we created such coverage with no ad buy. I shrugged, saying it was just the way we built relationships with our media, and the way our media worked with us. I swear to this day that the interview thought I’d fabricated that coverage!)


Waitrose has been employing a more organic strategy recently - using charity and nature as communications cornerstones and creating low-fi spots while donating the millions that it would have otherwise used to charity. Its latest recent campaign promoted the company’s employee-owned structure and was sweet, authentic and emotive (although nowhere near as popular in social channels as the Disney-like John Lewis mega-productions.

 The editorial approach for Weekend Kitchen will need to balance its Chef Power with this more organic approach. Roux and Co will need to be real, and emotionally connective with the audience - not just an extension of a product placement. The bigger question is - do Waitrose shoppers still need chefs to show them how to use ingredients? (Sainsbury’s used Jamie Oliver for 11 years at a cost of over $15m). With the saturated UK cookery show market, will “Weekend Kitchen” viewers even differentiate from “Saturday Kitchen”? My guess is no. But, nonetheless, Waitrose is smartly covering its bases -  this spectrum of exclusivity -> organic roots, should give them the depth and breath needed to stay in the fight.