Category branding

Why Now Might Be the Time to Use Tik Tok to Promote Your Brand

Tik Tok image by Kon KarampelasMany people are listening to the medical community’s advice (or the government’s direct orders) to stay at home during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

As a result, many of your potential customers have turned to social media for information and entertainment during this time.

Many of these people have delayed their purchases until they know what their economic future has is store.

As mentioned in the last post, while connecting with your customers on social networking sites might not lead to increased sales in the short term, it might be a good idea to find ways to be there for them to help them get through this difficult time. This might be as simple as finding ways to alleviate their boredom by providing entertainment on social networking sites.

With this in mind, now might be a great time for your brand to start looking for ways to use Tik Tok to entertain and inform consumers.

If you can make them smile or forget their problems even for a little while, it might make a difference when the world gets back to normal after we find a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19.

It’s Something That Your Marketing Team Can Do While Working From Home

As with every social networking site, getting started on Tik Tok starts with learning what works on the platform.

Chances are that your marketing team is telecommuting. There is also a good chance that are they are a little stressed.

Asking them to try out Tik Tok might be a way be a great way to help them alleviate some of this stress. They can then report back and offer suggestions as to what they think would work for your brand.

But, beware, the app is addictive.

Therefore, it is a good idea to set up guidelines as to how much “work” time should be spent on the app.

Trying Tik Tok is one way to learn about the app. There is also a lot of good advice out there to help suggest how to use the app in your marketing efforts.

For example, HubSpot is a great place to start if you want to find out how to generate leads using Tik Tok.

Remember, Now Is Not the Time For “Selling”

I can’t say this enough.

For many brands, now is not the time to “sell” to your customers.

If they need your product, they will buy it. If they don’t, they are probably going to wait to make the purchase.

However, given the fact that people have a lot of time on their hands, now might be the time to connect with them in more subtle ways on social networking sites, including Tik Tok.

This effort should lead to increased sales when things get back to normal.

Photo credit: Kon Karampelas on Unsplash.


Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Why It’s Important to Know What Your Brand Sounds Like

Sound boardThe idea of having a distinct sound that people associate with a brand is not a new concept.

For many years, businesses large and small that used radio and television ads to reach their target audience created specific sounds or jingles that customers came to recognize and associate with the brand.

However, sonic branding is becoming even more important today as more consumers start to use smart speaker technology and other household items get connected to and become part of the Internet of Things (IoT.)

And, when you factor in the already almost ubiquitous use of smartphones, there are even more opportunities for brands to use sound in their marketing efforts.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many businesses are starting to realize that they need to think about what their brand sounds like.

Sound as Shorthand for the Brand

As mentioned, businesses have used sound to create a connection between the brand and consumers for years in their radio and television advertising.

However, many businesses that haven’t made the investment in radio or television have often overlooked the powerful impact that sound has on consumers.

This is changing quickly as technology evolves.

As more transactions become automated in the future, tones can be used to communicate with consumers to let them know that they had an interaction with the brand without blatantly announcing it. This keeps the brand top of mind with the consumer.

Sonic branding can even provide some peace of mind to the customer by reminding them that they are dealing with a trusted business.

Mastercard Debuts Its Sonic Brand Identity

When it debuted its new signature sound in early February 2019 Mastercard joined many other brands, including one of its direct competitors, Visa, in creating a sonic identity developed specifically for the new connected world of the 21st century.

According to their press release, “Mastercard tapped musicians, artists and agencies from across the globe, including musical innovator Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.”

“What I love most about the Mastercard melody, is just how flexible and adaptable it is across genres and cultures,” said Mike Shinoda. “It’s great to see a big brand expressing themselves through music to strengthen their connection to people.”

“Audio makes people feel things, and that’s what makes it such a powerful medium for brands,” said Matt Lieber, Cofounder and President, Gimlet. “With the explosion of podcasts, music streaming, and smart speakers, an audio strategy is no longer a “nice-to-have” for brands – it’s a necessity. A sonic identity – the audio calling card for a brand – is now just as important as a brand’s visual identity.”

Additional Strategic Considerations

As mentioned earlier, many businesses have overlooked sound as a way to connect to their potential customers.

Does this mean that all brands that aren’t using sound in their marketing efforts need to spend millions of dollars to develop a new sonic identity?

As with all business decisions, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

For some businesses, sonic branding might not makes sense at all.

Jumping into sonic branding also doesn’t mean that brands should forget about visual branding. For maximum effect, both should work in concert with the other.

It is also important to note that brands might not get it right the first time. This is something that Mercedes-Benz learned the hard way.

And, as time goes on, there is also a possibility that we get a sort of sonic branding overload or sonic branding fatigue if too many businesses start using sound in this way.

That said, being among the first to create a sonic identity could help establish a deeper connection with consumers.



Photo credit: Tony Steward on Flickr.

Video credit: Mastercard News on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Cashless Stores: Ahead of Their Time or Just Bad for Business?

The end of cash?For years now, many experts have predicted the demise of cash.

Those who make these predictions are encouraged when companies like Apple report increased usage of proximity mobile payments. In fact, Apple’s Q4 2018 earnings report and conference call reported:  “Triple transaction volume year-over-year for Apply Pay.”

But even with more consumers adopting alternative ways to purchase items, it appears that cash isn’t going away anytime soon.

In fact, this is something that Jeff Hasen, one the pioneers in mobile marketing, often points out on Twitter.

Cashless Comment Jeff Hasen

A recent article on CNBC supports Hasen’s argument.

“Cash remains the most frequent method of payment in the U.S., representing roughly 31 percent of consumer transactions, more than electronic, credit, debit or checks,” the author of the article writes.

According to the same article, “Use of cash by U.S. households is consistent across most income levels, around 25 percent, and goes way up at the lowest incomes.”

That said, this is not stopping some stores from trying to follow Amazon’s lead and eliminate cash as a payment option.

I think that it’s good that stores are trying different things to see what works.

However, as you might have expected, stores that try to go cashless are often met with some resistance.

Amazon Is Leading the Way

The headline of a recent Bloomberg article says it all, “Amazon Will Consider Opening Up to 3,000 Cashierless Stores by 2021.”

If you are not familiar with the AmazonGo cashierless store concept, the basic idea is that shoppers enter the store with a smartphone app downloaded to their phone, they scan their phones as they enter the store, they shop and leave with the items that they want to purchase without having to stop at a cash register.

As the Bloomberg article points out, “Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take and bills them automatically, eliminating checkout lines.”

In this scenario, cash is not an option.

While not going all the way to cashierless stores, other merchants are experimenting with the idea of eliminating cash in order to cut costs.

The Cost of Accepting Cash

While accepting cash as a payment option has been the norm for many years, accepting cash actually costs more than some of the other common payment options.

A USA Today article highlights some of the expenses involved in processing cash transactions, as reported in an IHL report.

According to the article, “Besides the time spent counting bills and making change, they include ensuring registers have enough change, running cash to the bank, bank fees, armored cars, employee theft and robberies, the report says.”

“All told, such hassles cost retailers an average of 9.1 percent of sales, ranging from 4.7 percent at grocery stores to 15.5 percent at restaurants and bars, IHL says. That compares to the 2 to 3 percent transaction fees credit-card companies charge merchants,” the USA Today article reports.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that some stores are looking to eliminate cash.

But this has its downside.

Going Cashless Shuts Poor People Out

This is the main point of a recent article published on The New York Times website.

According to the author, Ginia Bellafante, there are several arguments against going cashless.

“The strongest objection relates to the ways in which rejecting physical currency plays out as a bias toward the poor; advancing segregation in retail environments,” writes Bellafante.

“According to government data, close to 7 percent of American households have no one in them with a checking or savings account, while an additional 19 percent are considered “underbanked,” meaning that they rely on products or services outside the conventional financial system,” the author continues. “These include money orders and payday and pawnshop loans. The majority of people who fall into these categories are nonwhite.”

Laws Are Being Written to Prevent Cashless Brick-and-Mortar Stores

When the article on The New York Times website was published, many people wondered if it was even legal to go cashless.

As Jarrod Frates points out on Twitter, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise.”

Cashless Comment Frates

Given this fact, it is not so surprising that lawmakers in New Jersey and New York City are trying pass bills to prevent stores from going cashless.

As an article on The Motley Fool website points out, New Jersey politicians are trying to prevent cashless stores because not accepting cash can prevent certain groups of people from making a purchase. This is the same argument that was made in The New York Times article mentioned earlier.

According to The Motley Fool article, Massachusetts is currently the only state that requires brick-and-mortar stores to accept cash.

Is Cashless Bad for the Brand?

While it’s estimated that only 31 percent of consumer transactions are cash, not offering cash as an option can create hassles beyond the bad PR it is getting for creating barriers for the unbanked.

Finding out that they can’t use cash until it is time to pay can be a source of frustration for some customers.

Even customers who rarely use cash can find it frustrating when they are asked to use a credit card to pay for a last-minute addition such as mayonnaise or another condiment at restaurants or even small items at a retail store.

Cashless Complaint 1

Cashless Complaint 2

Final Thoughts

Given that customers can and often do vent their frustration publicly on social media, going cashless might be more trouble than it’s worth.

With this in mind, it is fairly easy to see why Jeff Hasen often reinforces the fact that cash isn’t going anywhere, at least in the near future.

It is also not surprising that some merchants that tried to go cashless have decided to change their minds.

Cash is Back Spero

However, as the author of the post on The Motley Fool website points out, while going cashless might not the best way to go now, stores will never know whether it is a good idea to go cashless in the future if they aren’t even allowed to try.

It does seem like there might be some easy workarounds that stores or restaurants could offer if they do want to go cashless at the checkout line. The most obvious would be making an ATM or vending machine available to customers that would give them the option of buying prepaid debit cards.

This would give customers access to the store, while still encouraging them to pay via other payment options.

I’m not sure if this would satisfy lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York City, or any other place that makes going cashless illegal.

If you know the answer to that legal question or if you have any other comments or suggestions, please feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: Nic McPhee on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Product Packaging—Valuable Real Estate in a Mobile World

The package that a product is sold in is valuable.

In fact, sometimes it can actually be the reason why a customer chooses one product over another.

Malcolm Gladwell highlighted this in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.”

In the book, Gladwell talked about Louis Cheskin’s work with package design, which on more than one occasion led to dramatic increases in sales.

Paco Underhill also addressed package design in his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond.”

And, if you look, a quick search on Google could uncover a lot of advice from designers that you might find useful.

But, what I find interesting are some of the things that brands are currently trying that not only can influence sales, but can also provide value to customers, encourage sharing on social media, and can be an additional source of revenue.

Here is a list of a few examples that I have found recently, each of which encourage customers to use their smartphones in one way or another and ultimately help get customers talking about the brand online.

While the examples listed do not include packaging found on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar retail store, the lessons learned could easily be applied there as well.


A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Amazon Minions Boxes

When a customer purchases an item from, everyone who sees the product get delivered knows where they bought it. With its arrow that looks like a smile, the logo is easily recognized.

However, when sold the space on their boxes to advertise Minions, it created a lot of positive buzz for the brand and the movie.

Aside from the novelty factor (this was the first time that non-Amazon ads appeared on the boxes,) they also encouraged customers to take a photo of themselves holding the box and post it on social media sites using the hashtag #MinionsBoxes for a chance to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card.

Therefore, they not only generated some extra revenue by selling the space on their boxes, they shared in the spotlight when customers posted their photos on social media.

And, a lot of people posted these photos.

You can still search the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for examples.

Zappos #ImNotaBox Campaign

As an article on points out, “Zappos wants you to think outside the box. Beginning with the box itself.”

“On June 1, the online retailer will begin shipping some shoes in a very cool new box (designed in-house) that features a collection of template designs printed on the inside—encouraging the recipients to fold, cut and otherwise reuse the box into item [sic] like a smartphone holder, a children’s shoe sizer, a geometric planter and a 3-D llama,” the article continues.

Similar to the box, Zappos is encouraging customers to share the creative things that they do with the box on social media.

The boxes haven’t started shipping yet, but there is little doubt that they will get some people talking about the brand online.

For additional information, go to

McDonald’s Turned a Happy Meal Into a VR Headset

In March, McDonald’s Sweden launched a promotion that they dubbed “Happy Goggles.”

According to Adweek, McDonald’s Sweden created 3,500 Happy Meal boxes that could be turned into virtual-reality viewers. These special Happy Meal boxes were available in 14 restaurants over the weekends of March 5 and March 12.

“The push is tied to the Swedish “Sportlov” recreational holiday, during which many families go skiing,” states the Adweek article. “With this in mind, McD’s created a ski-themed VR game, “Slope Stars,” for use with the oggles [sic] (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them.”

As the Adweek article also points out, it is similar to Google Cardboard.

This is just one mobile marketing campaign that McDonald’s has recently tested.

They also recently tested a placemat made from a special paper that works with a smartphone and an app that allows customers to create music while dining at McDonald’s restaurants.

They called this special placemat the “McTrax.”

Alas, this campaign was only available in the Netherlands. Last month.

It appears that McDonald’s lets its European customers try all the cool things first.

Final Thoughts

As a result of Louis Cheskin’s work, we know that package design can have a huge impact on sales.

We also know that smartphones are a huge part of your customers’ lives.

Therefore, it makes sense that brands encourage customers to engage with the brand in various creative ways using the packaging that their products are sold and shipped in.

As with everything that we do in the marketing world, it is important to test and monitor the effects that these creative package designs have on sales. Because, as pointed out, the packaging can influence sales in both positive and negative ways.

That said, if you don’t try new things, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity to create buzz around the brand that can impact your bottom line in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Sometimes It’s What a Brand Doesn’t Do That Loses the Sale

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.In almost every instance where a business is trying to sell a product or service, it takes multiple positive interactions before a prospect becomes a paying customer.

The average number of positive interactions, or touches at various touchpoints, required typically varies by the type of product or service being sold.

Furthermore, while multiple positive interactions with a brand can lead to a sale, the reality is that negative interactions can also prevent a sale from taking place.

Sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that causes a prospect to choose the competitor’s product or service.

There are some things that can be done to combat this problem. However, it does require some effort.

To illustrate this point, I am once again going to use my recent smartphone purchase as an example.

The Incumbents: Motorola and Verizon Wireless

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since I moved to Louisiana back in 2006.

When I moved there, I asked some of the local residents what provider they recommended since U.S. Cellular wasn’t an option in the area, at least at that time.

Nearly everyone who I talked to suggested Verizon Wireless, because they felt that Verizon Wireless had done the best job getting service restored after hurricane’s Katrina and Rita.

I took the advice of the residents of Louisiana and 10 years and two states later, I am still a customer.

As for the device, I think that all the cellular phones that I have owned up until this year were Motorola phones. (Some of my earliest cellular phones might have been made by Nokia, but I am not sure.)

Something that I am absolutely sure of is that the phone that I purchased when I move to Louisiana was a Motorola, as were my first two smartphones. And, my satisfaction with the brand was extremely high.

That was, until Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, announced that they plan to phase out Motorola and only offer the Moto phones.

The Choice: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

I was now faced with the option of getting one last Motorola phone or make the inevitable switch to Samsung.

During my initial visit to the Verizon Wireless store, the salespeople who I talked to spoke highly of both phones, but seemed to slightly favor the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Needless to say, I left the store that day still undecided.

So, I did what many people do and asked for advice on Twitter.

As you can see, the only response that I received was from the Sprint Forward Twitter account.

They recommended the Samsung Galaxy S7.

I then got a promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless offering a free Samsung Gear VR headset with a purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. (At the time, Best Buy was offering a similar promotion.) (Note: I think that this was the promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless. If it wasn’t, it was very similar.)

That was it, I was almost certain that I would make the switch to Samsung.

I only needed to check out some product reviews from CNET and a few other sources. All of which confirmed that Samsung was the best option available at the time.

The Choice: Sprint or Verizon Wireless

Given my past experience with Verizon Wireless, it was going to take more than a contact on Twitter to get me to switch to Sprint.

That said, if my past experiences with Verizon Wireless hadn’t been so positive, I might have switched to Sprint or even went to Best Buy to purchase the smartphone.

And, Sprint definitely has my attention if for some reason I need to change wireless carriers in the future.

But, Verizon Wireless did offer a good data plan, had a great offer, and has provided excellent customer service—so I remained a customer.

Final Thoughts

Had Motorola reached out on Twitter or if someone would have recommended it, I might have purchased the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if for no other reason than to get one last Motorola phone. But, nobody did.

And, Motorola already made the decision to phase out the brand that I was loyal to, so it made my decision to switch that much easier.

In this case, the brand lost a loyal customer because of what they did (plan to phase out Motorola phones), what they didn’t do (reach out on social media or anywhere else at right time), and what other people did (recommend the competition.)

In contrast, while Verizon Wireless didn’t reach out this time, they at least did use a promoted tweet to get my attention on Twitter and create awareness of a great offer. And, to their credit, they did reach out to me a few years ago when I wrote a post about how access to high speed wireless data can have an effect on a brand’s mobile marketing campaigns.

But, in reality, it was the fact that they have always provided great customer service in the past that kept me a customer. That, and the fact that their data plans are competitive with the other carriers.

What this example shows is that in the same transaction, one brand kept a loyal customer by providing competitive pricing combined with great customer service, while another lost my business because of what they did, what they didn’t do, and what other people did.

As pointed out, sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that can have a negative effect on a sale.

With a little foresight, there are things that brands can do to combat this problem and bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

However, it does require some effort.

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.


Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Luxury Shopping Bags: Status Symbols and Social Media Props

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr.People love to shop and they love to let people know about it.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that for many years luxury retailers have given their customers the ability to let their friends, neighbors, and just about anyone else know that they have just spent some of their hard-earned money by providing trendy shopping bags to carry proudly as they walk through a busy mall or city street.

As Maggie Lange pointed out in a 2013 article on The Cut, “The shopping bag isn’t just utilitarian, it’s symbolic of taste, preferences, and pursuits. In his book Living It Up, author James Twitchell compares people holding shopping bags to “the powder on the heinies of migrating bees as they moved from hive to hive.” It’s a souvenir of where you went and a glossy declaration of conspicuous consumption.”

With the rise of image-driven social networking sites like Instagram and Pinterest, the design of these shopping bags might be more important than ever before.

The Shopping Bag Should Reflect the Brand’s Image

In a 2011 Luxury Daily post, Kayla Hutzler highlights the fact that luxury shopping bags are visible to many consumers and therefore should positively convey the image and feel of the brand.

As Chris Turbyfill, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Design Packaging, is quoted as saying, “That bag reminds consumers of the brand and [therefore] it should look like the store. It is all involved in what we call the customer experience.”

“That bag needs to reflect the imagery and feel of the brand,” says Turbyfill. “And when consumers go home and put the bag on the table, it is a subtle reminder of what happened in the store.”

The post goes on to point out that the shopping bag can be seen by many people as customers walk around in public, particularly in major metropolises.

However, the post doesn’t mention another role that the shopping bag can play.

Use the Shopping Bag to Get Included

As Juliet Carnoy, Marketing Manager at Pixlee, writes in a post on the Pixlee blog, “Customer photos of your products are the purest form of earned media. When a customer posts a post-purchase photo of your product on social media, it’s a 5-star visual review of your brand.

For the brands that make the products, this is great.

However, the retailer that sold the products might get left out if they don’t give the customer some way to visually represent the store in the photo. This is where a visually appealing shopping bag can play the role of photo prop and help get the retailer included in the story.

In some cases, if the shopping bag is really visually appealing or is a part of pop culture, customers will post photos of the shopping bag alone just to commemorate the shopping experience.

When a photo of the shopping bag is posted on social networking sites, it will not only be seen by all the people that that customer passes on the way home from the store, it could potentially be seen by thousands of people online.

A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Personal Case Study

One of the best ways to explain something is to give an example. And, what a better way than to give an example from my own personal experience.

About two weeks ago, I visited the local Verizon Wireless store with the intent of renewing my contract and purchasing a new smartphone.

The phone that I was looking for was actually sold out at the local store. Instead of waiting for the next shipment, I drove to the nearest store that had one available.

The customer service at both Verizon Wireless stores that I visited was excellent, and I walked out of the second store with a new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

In keeping with the current trend, I prepared to take a photo of my purchase so that I could post it on Instagram.

This could have just been a photo of my new smartphone.

However, Verizon Wireless had just given me this beautiful shopping bag with the purchase that just begged to be included in the photo. So, I did just that.

After posting the photo, the marketer in me realized that by giving me the shopping bag, Verizon Wireless had found a way get included in what would have been user-generated content that advertised Samsung. By adding the shopping bag, it made it a user-generated ad for both Verizon Wireless and Samsung, if not primarily Verizon Wireless.

In my opinion, that was brilliant.

If only they had included a hashtag on the shopping bag, it would have been perfect. This not only would have encouraged customers to take photos of the shopping bag, but it would have also helped customers connect with other customers, brand advocates, and the brand.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, it is the smallest details that can help get customers to mention and indirectly endorse brands on social networking sites.

And, as study after study has shown, consumers trust recommendations from people they know more than other traditional advertising methods that brands have relied on in the past.

By offering customers trendy shopping bags that properly reflect the brand’s image, retailers can now be included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr and @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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The Geography of Marketing: The Global Marketplace

As technology advances, it is becoming easier for people to connect with other people around the globe.

Rapid advancements in technology are also opening up new markets to businesses that wouldn’t have even dreamed of selling their products and services internationally just a few years ago.

Although international marketing is not my area of expertise, I believe that it is going to become more important for businesses of all sizes in the very near future. With this in mind, I have begun to do some research on the topic.

In the early stages of the process, three things are already becoming clear. 1) The quality of the product or service is becoming more important as businesses compete with other businesses that are located anywhere on the planet. 2) Marketing campaigns need to be tailored to appeal to individual markets and cultural differences need to be recognized. 3) It is becoming increasingly more important for businesses to do the research to identify what the previous two items on my list actually mean to the business and its potential customers (i.e., how do individual markets define quality and what factors influence how effective a marketing campaign will be when it is used to target potential customers living in other parts of the world.)

Globalization Does Not Imply Homogenization

In an article in the September 15, 2010 issue of the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News, Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown Inc., states, “Culture—the history, beliefs, customs, habits and values of a group of people—determines the ways in which we respond to the world around us, including the brands we buy. Local culture helps establish our values and priorities. It determines our taste for food, aesthetic preferences and communication.”

“Increasingly, however, people everywhere are exposed to foreign cultures through commerce, travel and media,” Hollis continues. “But just how strong is the influence of this global culture when compared to the local cultures in which we are born and raised? While the global culture grows increasingly prominent, my research suggests that the influence of local culture still is very important to brand success.”

Hollis goes on to point out that for brands with global aspirations, the influence of local culture can present significant problems. The combination of product formulations, positioning and communications strategy that made the brand successful in one part of the world may need to be adjusted to build a connection with consumers in new markets. Of these, Hollis feels that communication is probably the most susceptible to the influence of culture.

He also warns that the days of big brands gaining huge market share just by introducing their products and services to new markets are over.

According to Hollis, “It used to be that multinationals could launch a brand into a developing economy confident that their product would be better and more desirable than the local competition. Increasingly, this expectation is unwarranted. With product superiority no longer guaranteed, brands must compete for hearts as well as minds—and to win someone’s heart, you must engage him on his own terms and in his own language. Foreign brands increasingly will need to blend into local cultures if they are to become successful.”

He also points out that the Internet may, in fact, strengthen the connection that consumers have to their local culture.

“People in countries as diverse as China, Turkey and Brazil evince a strong desire to maintain their local culture,” writes Hollis. “In the future, they may celebrate their own cultural identities by choosing local foods, goods and entertainment over Western alternatives. And far from promoting a global village, the Internet actually may be promoting hundreds of local ones. The success of local Internet brands such as search engine Baidu in China and social network Mixi in Japan—as well as the growing trend toward local language blogging—suggests that far from undermining local culture, the Internet instead may be empowering it.”

The Middle East & North Africa Region

A recent report that was released by JWT MENA, titled “JWT MENA: 8 Trends for 2013,” provides insights about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Interestingly, the report appears to verify that Nigel Hollis was indeed correct, at least for this particular part of the world.

According to the JWT report, “‘Arabification’ is definitely back. Whereas in the past, Arabs have looked to the West for inspiration, today, the region in entirety is looking inwards, supporting entrepreneurialism and its own national best interest. Rather than wallow in negativity, Millennials are optimistically looking forward and up, with a resilience and resourcefulness in addressing adversity. Consumer Confidence is up +6 points in KSA and +5 points in Egypt vs. 2011, shaping the ME of tomorrow, which will be pioneered by the dawn of ‘great brands from the Middle East’ as opposed to ‘great Middle Eastern brands’, towards self-sustainable individuals and economies.”

The report goes on to point out that about nine in 10 MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are of better quality,” and a similar percentage agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are ‘unique.’” Furthermore, about three quarters of MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are cheaper.”

The report concludes that, “At the end of the day, people are not just buying national brands, they’re buying a great brand and that’s the most important thing.”

If your business is marketing its products or services to consumers living in the Middle East or North Africa, I’d suggest reading this report. It provides great insights about the Middle East and North Africa, including interesting case studies from brands that have been successful in this region.

Final Thoughts

It is my belief that advancements in technology, including the increased reliance on the Internet, will make International marketing even more important in the near future.

However, while the Internet gives businesses the opportunity to sell their products and services to markets that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of just a few years ago, just introducing a product or service to a new market is not enough.

In order to be successful, brands may need to adjust everything from the communications strategy to the product itself, in order to appeal to consumers in other parts of the world.

As Nigel Hollis states at the end of his article in the AMA’s Marketing News, “Successful global brands will embrace the diversity of individuals, communities and cultures around the world, rather than seeking to impose one-size-fits-all templates irrespective of local needs and desires.”

Photo credits: stevecadman and Staeiou on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Think Outside the Bubble

We all live our lives in different ways.

Often, we interact with people in our ecosystem and forget that life is very different for people outside of our little “bubbles” of reality. For example, some people on the bleeding edge of technology might only interact with people with similar interests, thus they forget that most people outside of their bubble aren’t as informed about the latest and greatest software, apps, and websites.

Furthermore, people also tend to have different opinions about the best ways to approach a problem.

However, many people tend to think that most people think the same way that they do. This is definitely not true most of the time.

In fact, even if you fill a room with like-minded individuals, there is going to be a least one topic where you are going to find some disagreement.

If the topic that is being discussed is philosophical or personal in nature, the worst thing that can happen is that you might make someone else mad or possibly lose a friend.

However, if you continue to live with blinders on and think that all people think like you do when you make business decisions, it could end up costing you a lot of money in the long run.

People See What They Expect to See

In their book, titled “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” (affiliate link) Al Ries and Jack Trout explain, “Ask two people of opposite persuasion, say, a Democrat and a Republican, to read an article on a controversial subject. Then ask each one if the article changed his or her opinion.”

“You’ll find that the Democrat gets out of the article facts to support one point of view,” the authors continue. “The Republican gets out of the same article facts to support the opposite point of view. Very little mind changing takes place. You see what you expect to see.”

Marketing Your Product or Service

When marketing a product or service, brands shouldn’t look for the solution in the product or service itself.

And, because they are so close to the product or service, know more about the product or service than others do, and have a built-in bias towards their product or service, brands shouldn’t try to create their marketing messages based on their own opinions.

Instead, brands need to build their marketing messages based on the current perceptions of the product or service from the prospect’s point of view, not the reality of the product as the brand sees it.

Marketing Recommendations from Experts

In my opinion, even marketing experts tend to forget that they also have a unique reality that is different from everyone else’s. That is, once they have achieved a certain level of success, they tend to give advice based on what is currently working for them. In the process, they forget how difficult it was to get someone to listen to them when they first started out. And, it may be the case that the current environment is a lot different now than it was when they first got started.

Therefore, if they have a certain level of name recognition and respect, the advice that they give might work for an established brand, but it might not work so well for an up-and-coming brand or even a small “mom-and-pop” business down the street.

As Chris Brogan likes to say, “Your mileage may vary.”

It is for this reason that I was happy to see that Mr. Brogan recently started a new Twitter account to see how “big name” people respond when they think the tweet is coming from a no-name guy with only 45 followers. This is an exercise that I think all successful marketing consultants should participate in from time-to-time, on Twitter and in other marketing vehicles that they give advice about. This will help remind them of the difficulties that a new startup or company might encounter.

Final Thoughts

We all live in our own little “bubbles” of reality. That is, everyone lives a different life and forms opinions about reality based on what they have experienced in their lives.

If a person has formed a strong opinion about a topic, even the most solid evidence against that opinion might not persuade them to change their mind.

Therefore, when a brand creates marketing messages that are intended to try to persuade consumers to purchase their products or services, they shouldn’t try to change the mind of the prospect by telling them things that go against the prospect’s current beliefs. Instead, they should create marketing messages that use the prospect’s current perception of the product or service to the brand’s advantage.

Furthermore, in order to provide the best advice to clients, marketing consultants need to avoid making a similar mistake. That is, they need to keep in mind that what works for them is not necessarily going to work for a brand that hasn’t made a name for itself in the marketplace.

In other words, brands and marketing consultants need to think outside the bubble.

Photo credit: Trodel on Flickr. Original by Mila Zinkova, edited by Alvesgaspar on Wikimedia Commons.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Why Is Cause-Related Marketing So Important? For Many Brands, the Answer Is Y defines cause-related marketing as, “Joint funding and promotional strategy in which a firm’s sales are linked (and a percentage of the sales revenue is donated) to a charity or other public cause. However, unlike philanthropy, money spent in cause-related marketing is considered an expense and is expected to show a return.”

A recent AdAge article pointed out some statistics from two studies that highlight the importance of cause-related marketing.

The first study mentioned was the 2012 Sponsorship Report by IEG Consulting. According to that report, cause-related marketing in North America is projected to grow 3.1% this year to $1.7 billion.

The second study mentioned in the AdAge article was the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study. That study pointed out that in 2010, 83% of Americans over the age of 18 wished that more of the products, services and retailers that they use would support causes.

The last figure alone should help brands understand the importance of cause-related marketing.

For brands that sell products and services that are targeted to Gen Y consumers, cause-related marketing might be even more important.

Cause-Related Marketing and Gen Y

Generation Y (Gen Y), also known as the Millennial Generation (or Millennials), are particularly interested in supporting brands that support the causes that they care about.

In a blog post on, Jeff Fromm, SVP of Sales, Marketing & Innovation at Barkley, points out that, “This generation’s purchase decisions are heavily influenced by their opinions of a company’s cause marketing initiatives. They also value charitable contributions via cause marketing because of the ease of participation and the scope of impact that a corporate-based charitable program can have in comparison to an individual donation.”

Fromm goes on to mention that showing Gen Yers that the brand cares is critical for brands that are searching for ways to engage and tap into this generation of consumers.

Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., and Jayne O’Donnell also emphasize that cause-related marketing is important to Gen Y consumers.

In their book, “Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail,” (affiliate link) they state that, “Indeed, one of the more popular means of getting close to Gen Yers is through their interests and their favorite causes. Gen Yers, in part by virtue of their age but also because of our more superficial society, are yearning for purpose and want to belong to something bigger than themselves. They are often genuinely attuned to and passionate about causes, but there are other reasons why this technique has worked so well. Causes also add purpose and meaning to shopping—and sometimes just enough added benefit to rationalize a purchase. Being seen by others as being passionate about a cause is en vogue—and it unites people together.”

Yarrow and O’Donnell also point out that, “Businesses that support causes also appear to be more compassionate and socially responsible than those that don’t, which is reassuring and a stamp of quality to Gen Yers. Many Gen Yers make it their business to support the brands and retailers that they perceive to be good to their employees, good for the environment, or doing something good for the world.”

Final Thoughts

Cause-related marketing can potentially be a win-win-win for the cause, the brand, and the consumer.

The cause/nonprofit organization that the brand partners with gets support in the form of money or other resources.

The brand will hopefully get an image lift with consumers by being associated with the cause, which should translate into increased sales. (Note:  Cause-related marketing could potentially backfire if the brand comes off as insincere or hypocritical. As the AdAge article points out, brands also might not receive the desired results if the cause is not aligned with the target market.)

Finally, if the cause-related marketing campaign is properly executed, consumers benefit by being able to feel like they have made a difference as a result of making a purchase. In the process, they get a positive feeling about themselves and the brand.

As shown, Gen Y consumers are extremely receptive to cause-related marketing campaigns for many reasons.

Gen Yers are also very comfortable with technology and social media, in particular.

Therefore, if a cause-related marketing campaign resonates with them, there is a good chance that they will let others know about it online. In other words, cause-related marketing could potentially generate positive word-of-mouth mentions.

This is why brands that are trying to reach Gen Y consumers should consider adding cause-related marketing to their marketing mix.

Photo credit: becomeunreal on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Your Successful Marketing Campaigns Might Be Hurting Your Business

Photo credit: billibala on Flickr.When you measure the success of your marketing campaigns, are you looking at all the right metrics? And, are you defining success correctly?

Depending on what you are measuring and how success is defined, some of your most successful marketing campaigns could be hurting your business in the long run.

Need an example?

Okay, let’s focus on email marketing.

Specifically, let’s look at the most dreaded form of email marketing: Spam.

Spam Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Merriam-Webster defines spam as, “unsolicited usually commercial email sent to a large number of addresses.”

In his book, titled “The Big Red Fez: How to Make Any Web Site Better,” (affiliate link) Seth Godin says that he doesn’t have a definition of spam. Instead, he believes that unsolicited email is whatever the recipient defines as unsolicited.

He gives an example of an email that he felt was unsolicited.

As a result of receiving the email, he trusts the business less, is less likely to read their email, and is less likely to sign up for something new from them.

Godin goes on to say, “Did the brand manager get a 5 percent sign-up rate? Probably. Was it profitable, at least in the short run? Definitely. But some day, they’ll realize that it cost them something big with the other 95 percent of their customer base.”

Now, yes, I am aware that this is only Seth Godin’s opinion, and an n of 1 does not constitute a trend.

But, Seth Godin is a very intelligent guy. And, I think he was on to something.

In my opinion, this is a concept that businesses should think about more often.

Final Thoughts

As I have said before, businesses need to measure the success of their marketing campaigns in order to make adjustments and justify the expenses to senior management.

There are many ways that marketing campaigns can be measured. This is particularly true in the online world.

However, some of the marketing campaigns that businesses consider successful and profitable in the short term might actually be costing them more than they think when lost customers and future revenues are factored in.

This concept doesn’t only apply to email marketing.

The long-term effects of a marketing campaign should be considered when businesses do any kind of marketing.

This is just something to think about.

Photo credit: billibala on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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