Salad Dressing’s Basic Marketing Reminders

Salad Dressing Marketing RemindersAs much as I love food, it’s not often a condiment provides me with such profound inspiration.  Or at least some good marketing reminders.

1. Be delicious. Give customers what they like, or they won’t come back.

2. Be addictive. This is sort of a take-off on #1, but if you are so delicious they MUST have more, that’s a good thing! Make the experience so good, they won’t go anywhere else.  This speaks not only to your product quality, but also your customer service.  Thanking customers for input and compliments, and making good when there’s been an issue.

3. Be creative. Think outside the box to keep things interesting, to keep your customers intrigued. One of my favorite new salad dressings is Buffalo Ranch from Wish-Bone.  I love that they came up with a whole new line of really unique flavors.  (I’m also looking forward to trying their Avocado Ranch.)  Scanning the grocery store shelves, no one else has offerings quite as interesting as these.  And you know what?  It’s going to keep me buying the fun ones and looking for new flavors to try from this company.  Because I know I can count on them to give me something deliciously different.

4. Be open.  Keep letting the good stuff out. But to do this, you have to listen to your customers so you can continue with steps 1-3, and ensure success for you and customer satisfaction.

*Sadly, I was not able to photograph my bottle of Buffalo Ranch because I ate it all.  Off to the store to buy some more!

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Life Lessons from Downton Abbey

downton abbeySeason 4 of Downton Abbey is now over; I admit I’m missing my Sunday night ritual of watching my favorite high-falutin’ PBS drama.  Happily, though, I got a dose of Lady Mary last night when I went to see the new Liam Neeson movie, “Non-Stop”.  Lo and behold, a few minutes into the film, Lady Mary appeared!  Except she wasn’t Lady Mary.  She was Nancy, the not particularly well-developed flight attendant character designed to highlight key elements of Neeson’s character, Bill Marks. Poor Nancy doesn’t even have a last name (although we do find she has a thing for the nerdy-yet-lovable and ultimately brave co-pilot).  But I digress.

It was a bit of a shock to see Lady Mary in contemporary clothes; no, she was not bedecked in jewels and sequined finery,dressed by ladies’ maids.  She was not sitting around a candle-lit dinner table being served by footmen who spoon out gravy with a silver ladle worth more than all my silverware put together.  No, Lady Mary (the very talented and lovely actress Michelle Dockery) was serving others, bringing them blankets and beverages at 35,000 feet.

As I watched, though, I thought about how sort-of proud I was of Ms. Dockery for breaking out of the corset and opting for a more contemporary role (since the last non-Downton role I saw her in was the recent film, “Anna Karenina”).   Some actors stick with their niche because it works.  I mean, how many of us thought that Gwyneth Paltrow was British for the longest time? Yeah, because her niche was playing a very believable Brit. There’s something to be said for the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  When you find what’s profitable, stick with it.  There is wisdom in that.

But Ms. Dockery recognizes that her talent extends beyond the rolling green idyll of Downton. And while I don’t think she’s leaving her series anytime soon, I applaud her for trying something different, so that “the masses,” who only know her as Lady Mary can appreciate her work in a different context.

All of this to simply say that seeing Lady Mary serving drinks reminded me that it’s good to step out of our comfort zones, to walk in the opposite direction of others’ expectations.  It’s an exercise we should all practice every now and again. You never know what you (and others) will discover about your abilities when you do.

Jelly: Not Your Daddy’s Search Engine

In January, Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, and Ben Finkel, of Fluther, launched Jelly, the super-slick “next-gen” search engsearch, search engine, Jelly, Google, Bingine for Droid and iOS.  It’s designed to give users quick answers to their questions by linking to their social networks.  Have you seen it? This ain’t your daddy’s search engine.

I don’t purport to tell you that Jelly will replace Ye Olde Google or Bing, no.  Nor will it take the place of collectives like Quora, Yahoo! Answers or even Finkel’s Fluther.  But rather, I will tell you I believe this concept has legs; it combines the crucial feature search engine and collective users want (namely, finding answers), tenets of basic social media success, and the time-wasting, procrastination-inducing, addictive tendencies of any well-designed app.

The Basics

I’ll start with the basics.  Jelly is part of the new wave of search because it’s social.  And it’s mobile.  During a lunchtime conversation with some friends today, we reiterated to each other what is an undeniable fact: folks get their news and information online, often from social media and not from news outlets themselves.  One friend said, “First, it’s Facebook.  Then Huffpost.”  Another said she looks for breaking news on Twitter.  So it’s no surprise when I started researching that a study by the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found that 8% of American adults get their news from Twitter; a staggering 30% get their news from Facebook.  And we know, too, these numbers will continue to rise. These pals of mine and I are professionals who are mobile and tethered to our devices.  We’re connected to each other on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  We’re texting each other about networking and co-marketing events.  At any rate, we probably should have stacked our phones during lunch, but we didn’t; in fact, one of my companions and I had a Google duel in the midst of our meal, to find the resolution to a query of another friend at the table.  Point made.  (I couldn’t use Jelly because my opponent didn’t have it loaded on her device, alas.)

Social Media Success

After trying Jelly for a few days, I contemplated whether this little app (for that’s all it is, mobile only.  There’s no desktop version, which is another reason it will never supplant the grandpa search engines) was destined to be the future-altering invention Biz Stone believes it to be on the promotional video.  While I don’t think the path of my life will necessarily be drastically altered by Jelly’s existence, I think it is a portent of the future of search.  (Tomorrow’s technology- today! Oy.)

Social media expert Mark Schaefer talks about a vital element of success for any user of social media, as part of a “social media mindset”: authentic helpfulness.  This is the idea that we are genuinely interested in helping others solve a problem, or find the answer to a question, and not to make a sale or seek a business benefit from assisting someone. Jelly plays into the innate human urge to help others.  In a 2009 New York Times article, Dr. Michael Tomasello, author of the book Why We Cooperate, explains that, “[h]umans putting their heads together in shared cooperative activities are thus the originators of human culture.”  This collective effort (as Jelly allows more than one user to answer another user’s question) speaks directly to that need to aid others.

Further, Jelly humanizes the search process.  No more cold links and PPC ads (yet).  No, Jelly makes searching for answers warm and fuzzy, like a giant digital Snuggie.  Content marketing guru and Pure Matter CEO Bryan Kramer promotes the concept of H2H, or human-to-human communication, as part of a successful marketing strategy.  In his February 2014 blog post, “The Rules on How to Speak Human,” Kramer outlines (or reminds) us how simplicity and humanity are the best way to achieve business success. Forget the acronyms and the shop-talk.  Stop selling.  Be HUMAN.  Jelly encourages human-to-human interaction.  There’s no boolean search, no (previously-mentioned) PPC. Simply people asking questions, others answering them.  It’s a different experience than what we’re used to for search.  Dare I say, novel, even though it’s sort of the old-school, pre-historic way to find an answer.  By asking someone.  In this age where machines give us directions, tell us where to be and when, and so much more, it’s nice to just ask someone for an answer.  Plus, with Jelly, you can thank those who give you an answer you like.  Kind of like a digital thank you note.  Your mom would be so proud– such a good boy/girl (insert cheek pinch here).

While I don’t think Jelly will change the way we, say, shop for big-ticket items, I think it’s another tool in our digital arsenal that can make our experience that much more rich and informative.  Sure, you can get reviews on that  new car model online by searching on Bing.  And absolutely, you can get a consumer’s perspective on the digital camera you’re looking to buy.  But here’s another chance to get pointed answers on questions you create yourself– not answers the big search engine thinks you want.

Yeah, It’s Fun

Upon Jelly’s launch, Casey Newton wrote on The Verge that he believes a drawback to Jelly to be that people don’t sit around waiting for questions to answer, and that this will make it difficult for Jelly to build a following.  While he’s not wrong, I do believe that apps hold a different place in our digital psyches than search engines.  Apps are a means to an end, something to help us solve a problem; or, apps are a way to entertain us in the short-term, while we wait to see the dentist or ride home on the train, for example.  So while Jelly may not be a go-to for every.single.search we perform, let’s revel in its helpfulness, humanity, and novelty.  Because it’s fun.

For more information on social media news consumption in the U.S., check out the Pew Research Journalism Project.
Visit Mark Schaefer online and on Twitter @MarkWSchaefer.
Click by Bryan Kramer’s digs online or say hi on Twitter @BryanKramer.

Video

Don’t Be Anti-Social (Media)

Last week, I sat in on a meeting where someone told me they don’t bother with social media because it’s too much trouble. I run into a lot of folks who are overwhelmed by the social media options out there, and therefore ignore it altogether. From a professional standpoint, I think this is a mistake; I believe there’s a lot to be gained by networking and learning through social media, so I decided to do something fun to help encourage folks to give it a shot.  Here I offer some basic, practical examples to those who are just getting started.  Please share this video post with someone you know who might be avoiding the social media stratosphere!

In this video, I offer three tips for getting started with social media:
1. Pick ONE platform
2. Color in your digital picture
3. Give it time

Check out the video for more details!

Logline

film loglineI wasn’t sure how a film industry practice would translate to a business marketing technique; but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  And the more I believe, now, that this is the future of networking, on- and off-line.

Last week I sat in a conference room with my networking group comrades, same as I do every Wednesday morning.  I look forward to this weekly gathering; a few laughs and some referrals are shared.  We’re a motley crue of professionals from different industries, ranging from financial services to law to health care and everything in between.  One of the things I love about this group is the members’ passion for improving their business skills and, thus, building their businesses.  We seem to instinctively gravitate during each meeting to a conversation about best practices or new trends that we can take away and use that day in our own work. It’s stimulating and fun and an hour of my week that I value very much.  So back to last week. Last week, we were sitting in Mark’s conference room and he brings out copies of an exercise he’d recently done during a workshop recently; he felt it was valuable to share with the group. The exercise centered around loglines.

When I first heard the term, the only thing that came to mind was a bunch of Brawny paper towel-esque lumberjacks in a row, wearing plaid flanel shirts and knitted skull-caps.  Apparently, I was wrong.  A logline is a short description of a movie or television show that provides a brief summary and emotional hook to stimulate interest in that work.  It’s a crucial element in the TV and film industry used to pitch new ideas to execs considering green-lighting a project.  Once I understood what a logline was (thank you, Google!), I saw the value in this logline exercise that Mark provided for us.

If a logline is a quick (25 words or less) description of a project intended to entice a buyer (the executive) to purchase the product (the show or movie), why can’t we, as professionals, have our own loglines to encourage our own potential clients and referral sources to purchase our product?  We can! Duh.

The New Elevator Speech

For others, it might be an “a-ha!” moment; for me it was a “duh” moment.  It seems so simple. It’s better and quicker than the traditional “elevator speech.”  In an era where attention spans are shortened to 140 characters or less, the logline is a good way to convey your brand- company or personal- to an audience of potential buyers, and entice them to act.  Short and attention-getting.

Like Ye Olde Elevator Speech, it’s tough to concisely and effectively “sell” in such a small span of time or space.  Consider the following questions used to create a film logline, from Scriptologist.com (with business/marketing “subtitles” a la Jess):

1. Who is your main character (audience) and what do they want (goals/wants/needs)?

2. What challenges or villains does your main character face (obstacles)?

3. What makes this story unique (why are you THE person/company to help the audience achieve their goal?)

Remember, your logline should be short, easy to say and easy to remember.  Try to keep it to 25 words or less, like the movie pros do.  Be patient, take your time.  This won’t come quickly or easily; like your elevator speech, your logline can/should be fluid so you can constantly improve it.  Give your new logline a premiere at your next in-person networking meeting, or consider an online launch for your social media profiles. Make your logline memorable, and make yourself the hero of your movie- because they’ll be buying from you!

When I finalize my logline, I’ll share it with you.  Share your logline with me in the “comments” section!  We can help each other develop a perfect pitch.

Here are a couple of other media industry blog posts to help inspire you in your logline development:

Cracking Yarns
The Write Practice

mac ipad phone

My Digital Ball and Chain

mac ipad phoneThe concept of digital dependence is nothing new. To me. And probably to you. I know I am tethered to my laptop, iPad and especially my iPhone more than I’d care to admit.  In fact, I just had a conversation with someone recently about how my phone has literally become an appendage.  But I always said I could put it down when I need to.  This morning it became glaringly apparent to me that I am probably one of the worst of the digital dependence offenders. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt- I could no longer look the other way and pretend my digital addiction is not as bad as it is.

Yesterday, I upgraded to a new iPhone.  My old 4S had become less-than-reliable, and given my (frightening) level of dependence, I needed a device that wouldn’t crash all the time.  My shiny new 5S is much the same in form and function, and I was able to transfer my apps, e-mails, etc. over to the new phone with little difficulty, making me feel nearly whole again.  But one thing that I had did have trouble transferring was my Photo Stream.  Yes, I back up my phone to iCloud.  I double back-up to Drop Box or Google Drive, too.  And the fellow digital dependent I spoke with on the phone from Apple also suggested that I back-up onto DVD– that’s what he does.

But the idea of not having my Photo Stream on my new phone was unbearable.  I felt like a child who’d lost her favorite teddy bear, her security blanket.  I called Apple to resolve the problem as soon as I got out of bed (note: wait time is very short at 8 am).  I spoke to Isaiah and he was so helpful; he took the time to research the best solution for me, and walked me through every step.  I could feel the stress and frustration at this situation start to lift off my shoulders as we took each step towards freeing my Photo Stream from the confines of my old phone and uploading them onto my new one (with a few steps in the middle).  His halo grew brighter with each photo that transferred over.  As we waited for my Photo Stream to finish uploading, we chatted about the increase in number and importance of these photos with the proliferation of the smartphone camera.  It allows us to capture moments we’d otherwise have to store in our own memories, rather than our digital ones.  We are so dependent on preserving these images on devices; when those images weren’t available to me, I felt a true loss.  When part of my digital memory was missing, part of my own memory felt lost.

Needless to say, I have backed-up and re-backed-up my photos again today.  And one day, I will print them all out so I have a tangible photo collection (Just like back in the “olden days”.  This is a rant for another day– that my kids won’t have the volumes of photos to peruse as I did when I was a child.)  For now, they are safe.  Safe on my Mac, Drop Box and Google Drive.  And now on my 5S, where I can relive my memories on-the-go.

And my digital dependence a-ha moment also made me think about a couple of articles I recently read by Claire Diaz-Ortiz about taking a digital break and digital detox.  I’m thinking I need to take her advice.  Who’s with me?

2014 Olympic Norwegian Curling Team uniforms
Image

The Proliferation of (Useless) Information?

2014 Olympic Norwegian Curling Team uniforms

As a student of social media, I’m always on the look-out for fun, new and/or exciting information.  While these venues are a digital life-force for many of us, it’s always interesting to analyze the trends to see where our digital society might be going next.  And what makes us tick.  In this case, it’s crazy curling pants made me tick.

Recently, my friend shared an article about the Olympics on Facebook.  It’s not about the aerial skiers or outstanding figure skaters, often the media darlings of the Games.  In this case, she posted an article about the Norwegian Curling Team– or at least their pants.  The photo that accompanied this article was certainly eye-catching: the team decked out in their national colors, sporting blinding suits that bring to mind a barber shop quartet with a visually-impaired clothing stylist.  This article got me thinking (always a dangerous thing to occur)…

On the surface, it’s a few words about the Olympics’ quiet little underdog competition (at least as far as the US audience is concerned) and some guys who wear crazy, groovy pants while they curl.  It’s a fun, quirky, entertaining story.  And certainly a PR push for the Norwegian curling team, and the sport in general, as the Olympics take front and center media placement for the next few weeks.  And it’s also a great sales booster, as demand for the pants by consumers is soaring.  I love it.  Perfect PR.

And then I thought more about how I’d never have found this article, nor enjoyed the mind-bending nature of these pants, if my friend hadn’t posted it.  Was reading this article life-changing?  Not really.  But in some small way, I have acquired a broader view of the world; learned something about the planet on which I live, and the humanity that occupies it.  Something I wouldn’t have learned otherwise, if Facebook hadn’t been there to provide a venue to share it.

So in a digital universe riddled with funny cat videos, (sometimes ridiculous) political commentary, food photos and other (seemingly) useless information, I ask you in my first blog post here, to consider how sharing these things connects you with others and even (just a litle bit) opens your eyes.  Or makes you want to shut them, in the case of the Norwegian curling team’s attire.