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Charity Runner: The Beginning of a Fundraising Journey

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.Note: This post deviates from the regular voice of this blog. It is meant to document the beginning of my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I am posting it because it will give some context to future posts. It also lets readers know where else they can find me on the Internet.

This year is my fifth year serving on the event planning committee for the Twin Cities Take Steps Walk, a fundraiser that benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

As their website points out, “Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis is the Foundation’s largest fundraising event of local community walks dedicated to raising funds to find cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Participants and teams raise funds throughout the year and come together at the Take Steps walk event to celebrate their fundraising achievements!”

As part of the event planning committee, I help plan one of the Take Steps walks to help others raise money for this important cause. However, I never actually took part in the fundraising efforts. That is, until this year.

From Crohn’s Patient to Charity Runner

I chose to help with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Take Steps Walk because I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1995 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Without getting into all the details, I can say that I was able to keep the disease in check for nearly two decades with the help of medication.

However, in September of 2013 I was told that I would have to have surgery to remove my colon because of complications that were caused by the disease.

In the months that followed, I decided that it was time to try to increase my fitness to prepare for the surgery.

This is part of the reason that I started running in the summer of 2014.

In fact, at the time, I decided that if I was going to take up running, I would gradually train myself to run the full 26.2 miles to complete a marathon.

The first year I ran several 5k races.

In 2015 I increased the distance to 10 miles and then upped the mileage to 13.1 miles in 2016.

Then, just before my 43rd birthday, I called up the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to say that I was ready to raise money as a Team Challenge charity runner in the 2017 Chicago Marathon. (Team Challenge is similar to Take Steps, but participants run instead of walk.)

Documenting My Team Challenge Run

In an effort to document my training for the marathon, I started a sideblog on Tumblr (charityrunner.tumblr.com) and a YouTube channel (Charity Runner).

You can also connect on mapmyrun.com.

I am also going to be posting on my Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. I am @chadjthiele on all three of these social networking sites. (Note: I try to keep my Twitter focused on marketing, but I post running updates every once in a while.)

And, of course, there is the fundraising page on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation website.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, I have helped other people raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation for a few years. However, I didn’t take part in the actual fundraising efforts.

That was, until this year.

At the end of the journey, I plan to document some of the things that I learn along the way. (For example, company matching donations are awesome!)

Until then, please follow me on the social networking sites that I mentioned above and donate!

Thanks in advance.

Chad Thiele (Crohn’s patient since 1995, #nocolonstillrollin since 2014)

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.

Video credit: Charity Runner 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Your Online Content Might Reach More People Than You Think

Photo credit: magicatwork on Flickr.Digital marketers spend a lot of time assessing the effectiveness of their online content by looking at things that can be tracked and measured  (e.g., clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc.)

However, if we only pay attention to online metrics, we are most likely underestimating the reach and efficacy of our marketing messages.

This is due, in part, to the fact that we still “live” most of our lives offline.

Therefore, marketers really need to find additional ways to measure the success of our marketing activities.

However, because a lot marketers still create content for branding purposes, sometimes it is difficult to accurately judge the effectiveness of an individual piece of creative at all, because the influence of branding messages need to be evaluated over a longer period of time.  (This is something that Bob Hoffman, CEO of the Type A Group, pointed out in Episode 413 of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.)

Most Word of Mouth Happens Offline

In his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that most word of mouth happens offline.

According to Dr. Berger, most people tend to think that around 50 percent of word of mouth happens online.

However, most people are wrong.

“The actual number is 7 percent. Not 47 percent, not 27 percent, but 7 percent,” writes Dr. Berger. “Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online.”

Dr. Berger goes on to point out that even though we spend a lot of time sharing online, we spend more time offline and offline conversations are rarely documented.

Furthermore, he points out that while online conversations could potentially reach a lot more people, many of these potential recipients don’t actually see every online post.

What Gets Shared Online Is Also Shared Offline and Vice Versa

If the content that we create is compelling enough, people will share it.

The problem is, people share content the way that they want to.

That means that after you post something online it might get shared by people online.

However, a person who sees your content on one social networking site might share it on another social networking site.

Or, they might call people over to their computer or smartphone and say, “Hey, look at this.”

They might also just mention it in passing when talking to friends, family, or coworkers in their day-to-day conversations.

And, as other experts have pointed out, what is shared online could potentially reach the right person with the ability to spread the message through other more traditional media outlets.

For example, back in 2012, Tom Webster highlighted the fact that 80 percent of people claimed to have received information from Twitter because it was relayed to them in other media (e.g., television, radio, other websites, etc.) Even back then, 44 percent said that this happened almost every day.

I would guess that both of these numbers are higher today, given the fact that both of the current presidential candidates know that when they post something on Twitter there is a good chance that what they post will be cited in the evening news or in other media outlets.

While most businesses don’t get the attention that presidential candidates do, their posts still have a chance of being shared in many ways once it is posted online for everyone to see.

Final Thoughts

As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”

Since business leaders often need to justify their budgets, it might be more accurate to say, “What gets measured gets funded.”

Because there are so many ways to measure the effectiveness of the content that we post online, measurement has become a very important part of the content creation process.

And, the good thing is that some very smart people are constantly working on ways to improve the accuracy of the analytics that marketers use each and every day.

However, as I have tried to point out in this post, we still have a long way to go, particularly when examining how content is shared.

It is therefore often necessary to find alternative ways to measure how effective your content is in accomplishing the desired goal in order to justify creating it in the first place.

That said, in some cases it might never be possible to measure all the ways that your content influences your bottom line even when there are some analytics to help guide you along the way.

That is, unless you stop creating content altogether and measure the decrease in sales over time.

The problem with this is that it probably will allow your competitors to grab the attention of your potential customers.

Therefore, this is clearly not the best solution.

Instead, the best solution is often to measure what we can, but realize that our content might be influencing sales in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: magicatwork 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Note to Marketers: Holidays Help Connect Us to Others… and Every Day Is a Holiday

Photo credit: Qfamily on Flickr.The idea of creating a marketing campaign that is focused on a holiday is nothing new.

Businesses have been doing this for years.

They do it because it works.

Part of the reason why it works is because people often want to feel a connection to the world around them, and holidays tap into that need.

In a 2013 post on the Everyday Sociology Blog, Dr. Karen Sternheimer, sociologist at the University of Southern California, points out that the rituals associated with the end-of-year holiday season help us feel connected to the rest of society.

As she writes, “Sociologist Emile Durkheim saw rituals as a form of social glue, holding societies together. Shared experiences, like religious and secular celebrations may help create a feeling of commonality. As sociologist Diana Kendall discusses in her book Framing Class, during the holidays media coverage tends to highlight giving to the less fortunate more than other times of year. She found that news stories tend to be more sympathetic and less critical of the poor, highlighting their humanity and stressing our common bonds.”

“Whether the rituals are gift giving, religious worship, or other cultural practices, they serve to unite us with the people we celebrate them with,” she continues. “Wishing strangers “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy New Year,” extends these bonds beyond our immediate social group.”

Every Day Is a Holiday

While Dr. Sternheimer was talking about the end-of-year holiday season, this enhanced feeling of connection to others as a result of celebrating holidays can happen during any time of the year.

And, marketers are in luck, as there are many reasons to celebrate all year long.

In fact, as you will find with a quick Google search, every day is a holiday.

Sure, you might think that many of these obscure holidays seem hokey or just plain made up. And, it’s okay to think that because many of them are.

In fact, many of these holidays were made up by the man who founded the Foodimentary website.

However, people often celebrate these made-up holidays.

Peeps Aren’t Just for Easter

In an effort to expand their sales beyond the Easter season, Peeps, the brand of marshmallow candies that is over six decades old, introduced Peeps Minis with a marketing campaign that attempted to link the brand to some of the more quirky and obscure holidays.

According to a 2014 New York Times article, “Todd Condie, a copywriter with the Terri & Sandy Solution, said the concept for the campaign sprang from the idea that Peeps were associated with special occasions.”

“What we kept coming back to was that what really defined Peeps as a product was the fact that it was associated with special times, so we tried to figure out what made every day special,” Mr. Condie is quoted as saying in the article. “And it set us off into this world of weird, quirky holidays that really fit the quirky nature of the Peeps brand.”

Fast forward two years and it looks like Peeps Minis did not go over so well.

However, if you visit their Twitter page or any of their other social media accounts, you will notice that the people in charge of marketing Peeps haven’t abandoned the idea of using holidays to sell their tasty treats.

Using Holidays to Fuel Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Given the fact that holidays tend to make us feel more connected to each other, it makes sense that brands use holidays in their social media marketing campaigns, as social media is all about connecting and sharing with others.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that in the Market Motive/Simplilearn Advanced Social Media Certification Training, Jennifer Cario, President of SugarSpun Marketing and Author of Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day, suggests incorporating holidays into a business’s content mix to catch the attention of current and potential customers.

As she states, “Do you have some type of holiday tie-in? If you sell GPSs, can you do something around Columbus Day that’s got some humor to it? Do you want to push your specific candy as the perfect topper on National Ice Cream Day? There are legions of websites out there that list every single sub-holiday that exists.”

“National Tweed Day and, again, National Ice Cream Day, and Share a Hug Day,” she continues. “There’s millions of those, and there’s the opportunity to produce content around all of them. Then to creatively use some promotion and some viralized concepts and feeding things out to influencers to get people talking just based off the excuse of what’s basically a made up holiday.”

“But, again, if it gets people interested, and it catches their attention, it can be a fun way to put some content together,” says Cario.

Final Thoughts

As Dr. Karen Sternheimer pointed out, the rituals associated with holidays unite us with others and extend bonds beyond our immediate social groups.

This is something that brands have taken advantage of when creating marketing and advertising campaigns over the years.

As experts have pointed out, marketers don’t need to wait until the next big holiday to tap into the positive feelings associated with the major holidays sprinkled throughout the year, because every day is a holiday.

In fact, there is a holiday for just about everything.

While some of the holidays seem a bit hokey or contrived, that’s okay.

If celebrating the holiday fits the brand’s image, creating content built around the holiday can still create the sense of unity.

This will help connect the brand with current and potential and customers in a light-hearted way that will likely be a welcome distraction given some of the more heavy and somber issues that people need to deal with in their everyday lives.

Photo credit: Qfamily 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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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 Amazon.com, everyone who sees the product get delivered knows where they bought it. With its arrow that looks like a smile, the Amazon.com logo is easily recognized.

However, when Amazon.com 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 Adweek.com 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 Amazon.com 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 www.imnotabox.com.

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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Customers Love Coupons, but Hate the Fine Print

Photo credit: torbakhopper on Flickr.There is a lot of evidence out there that coupons help drive sales.

This is partially due to the fact that customers like coupons.

In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that customers love coupons. They love to receive them and the love to use them.

This is supported by a 2014 study that was conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of RetailMeNot.

According to an article on marketingcharts.com that cites this study, “Some 68% of respondents agreed (top-2 on a 5-point scale) that they are likely to tell a friend about a company that uses online coupons or promotion codes, and an equal 68% agreed that they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers online coupons or promotion codes. Lest that loyalty be to price rather than brand, the survey also indicates that half are more likely to buy a product or service at full price later from a company that offers online coupons or promotion codes.”

And, while the percentages vary, most sources indicate that nearly all consumers will use coupons at least once in a while.

Furthermore, according to a press release found on Quotient.com, research conducted by GfK on behalf of Coupons.com found that, “heavy digital coupon users shop 47 percent more often than the average shopper, spending $6,081 annually on groceries and household goods alone — an incredible 114 percent more than the national average.”

Research has even found that coupons make customers happier.

However, while customers do love coupons and even expect retailers to offer them, there is one aspect of a coupon that can provoke ire in even the most loyal customer.

It’s in the Fine Print

If you ask any retail employee, they could no doubt list a countless number of times when customers were happy with the savings that coupons provide.

On the other hand, they could also point out the many times when customers left dissatisfied with the store because they found out that the items that they intended to purchase were excluded. And, the only way to find that out was to read the fine print. Which, by the way, they probably didn’t do, so they brought the items to the register and were forced to pay full price or abandon the purchase.

Matt Brownell, consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance.com, summarized the frustrations that many consumers have in a 2013 post.

In the post, he states, “When retailers run sales and coupons, they include fine print that limits what the deal actually applies to. In most cases, it’s relatively harmless — it defines the effective dates of the promotion, and may exclude select items like gift cards and jewelry.”

“But problems arise when retailers go totally overboard and try to exclude half the store,” he continues. “Department stores like Sears (SHLD) and Macy’s (M) tend to hold sales that exclude dozens of brands from the discount, and earlier this year Guitar Center took some heat for a coupon that excluded more than 300 brands.”

He goes on to say, “Sure, in a perfect world everyone would read and understand the fine print. But it’s not unreasonable for someone to see ‘20 percent off everything’ and assume that it applies to most of the merchandise in the store.”

And, he’s not the only one to point this out.

Here are some of the tweets that I found posted on Twitter in the last few months.

If these people got mad enough to vent their frustration on Twitter, it is more than likely that there are countless others who just walk away feeling a little less satisfied with the store.

Some businesses have acknowledged the frustration that customers have with the fine print by adding a little humor.

It’s Not Always the Retailer that Is to Blame

A 2015 article by John Matarese for WCPO in Cincinnati also highlights the frustrations that consumers can experience when trying to use coupons.

As he points out in the article, “Perhaps it would be easiest if the coupons simply listed the brands where you can use them.”

However, he also lets retailers, in this case Dick’s Sporting Goods, defend themselves.

According the article, Dicks explained that “manufacturers, not the store, make the rules, and typically do not allow markdowns on current season merchandise.”

Nevertheless, most customers don’t know this and it is the retailer, not the brand, that often takes the hit in customer satisfaction, trust, and brand loyalty.

Final Thoughts

Customers love coupons.

Research has shown that not only do they drive sales and lead to increased brand loyalty, but they could also lead to future sales for full-price items. Researchers have also found that customers who are heavy digital coupon users shop more than the average shopper does.

Therefore, there is no question that coupons are good for business.

However, retailers need to keep in mind that when they offer a coupon that excludes too many of the brands that shoppers really want, it can backfire and actually harm the store’s reputation.

Photo credit: torbakhopper 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using #Hashtags to Connect to Consumers on Social Networking Sites

Photo credit: Alan Levine on Flickr.In the United States, there are a lot of consumers who use social networking sites, many of whom access them on a mobile device. And, these numbers continue to increase as time goes on.

Knowing how to connect to these consumers is a very important skill for all marketers to have.

While there are many tactics that marketers can use, having a basic understanding of hashtags is a must. Knowing how to effectively use hashtags can be an important way to reach consumers on social media.

A Brief History of the Hashtag

A 2014 post on the Adweek SocialTimes blog gives a brief history of the hashtag.

As the post points out, while Twitter popularized the hashtag, it didn’t invent it.

“Once more commonly referred to as the pound sign, online use of the hashtag began on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the late 1990s, where it was used to categorise items into groups,” writes Shea Bennett. “In August 2007, designer Chris Messina asked his followers how they felt about using the pound sign to group conversations on the micro-blogging platform, and thus became the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter.”

“After that, Twitter never looked back, and the hashtag was eventually adopted by Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and seemingly every other major digital platform,” the article continues. “Today, hashtags are everywhere and an important part of every modern marketing strategy.”

What Hashtags Can Do for Business

In almost every social networking site, hashtags help users find content by linking posts with the same hashtag. In other words, users can search for similar content by clicking on the hashtag to get access to other posts that use that hashtag.

With this functionality in mind, it is important to research what hashtags your customers and prospects will find.

This includes finding out what hashtags your customers, prospects, and influencers are using to talk about your brand, your products or services, your competitors’ products or services, or anything else that relates to your products or services or the industry that you are in.

In Twitter, hashtags often show up in the trending topics if they are used by enough users. If the topic is relevant to the brand, you should consider using the hashtag. However, keep in mind that this tactic can backfire if your posts seem too self-promotional, off topic, or if joining the conversation is just generally in bad taste. (Note: There are also similar ways that trending hashtags will show up in other social networking sites, as well. The same things need to be considered on these social networking sites, too.)

Hashtags can also show up in a search engine results page (SERP) on Google or any of the other search engines. Furthermore, there are tools that can be used to find the most used hashtags on various social networking sites. This is another way that hashtags help increase the reach of your content.

If you create a hashtag with the intention of getting users to engage with your brand or share your content, be aware that just because you want users to use the hashtag, doesn’t guarantee that they will.

Furthermore, as several brands have found out, creating the wrong hashtag can backfire by encouraging people to share negative things about your brand. Therefore you need to proceed with caution.

Finally, it is important to realize that hashtags can also be used to convey a message to users even if they don’t use them for their ability to search for other content (e.g., #fail, #lol, #tgif, etc.) This is particularly important on social networking sites like Twitter, where brevity is often encouraged or even required. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to check out the YouTube video featuring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake that parodies this concept.)

A Few Ways to Integrate Hashtags Into Your Other Marketing Campaigns

As already mentioned, hashtags help encourage customers to share their thoughts about your brand on social networking sites.

If done correctly, hashtags can help customers connect with the brand and other customers, thus building a community around the brand.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.By including a predetermined hashtag on your packaging, it can encourage customers to use it when they share the love of your products on social media.

Including hashtags on your advertising in other media (e.g., television ads, print ads, webpages, etc.) can help increase the reach of these campaigns and continue the conversation about the brand.

You can also run a contest on various social networking sites and offer a prize to users who share a specific type of content and use your predetermined hashtag.

Finally, if you are organizing an event or gathering where customers and prospects would benefit from hearing what other attendees are saying about the event or topic being covered, create a hashtag that allows them to connect and share with each other on various social networking sites. This content can then be displayed on a video screen so that people who do don’t use the specific social networking site can also see what other attendees are saying.

Last year, Ceci Dadisman, Consultant and President of Cardinal + Company, wrote an article on ArtsHacker.com that gives further examples of how to use hashtags for audience engagement. You might want to check it out.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags have become a part of the way that consumers communicate with each other on social networking sites. Using them can also be a way for customers and prospects to communicate with your business.

Given the fact that smartphones have given customers the ability to access social networking sites wherever they are, social media and the proper use of hashtags should be something that all marketers are aware of and trained on.

If used incorrectly, hashtags can backfire and encourage people to share negative comments about your brand. Therefore, it is important to monitor what people are saying on social networking sites and, if appropriate, respond accordingly.

When used correctly, hashtags can help increase the reach of your messages, create a community, and give customers a place to share the love of your products or services.

 

Photo credits: Alan Levine and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Video credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Reward Customers for Good Behavior to Generate Positive Word of Mouth

Photo credit: leyla.a on Flickr.The world would be a better place if we all treated each other a little nicer.

Maybe if good manners were assigned a monetary value, more people would be on their best behavior.

This is exactly what a few restaurants and coffee shops have done.

In the process, they have received positive coverage from bloggers and other online media outlets.

In the age of where news stories can be found on search engines for years and people can spread the message via social media and online review sites, this kind of coverage can definitely make a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Here is a list of some of restaurants and coffee shops that I have heard about lately that have used this tactic to get people talking about their businesses.

Rewarding Parents When Their Kids Are on Their Best Behavior

Back in 2013, a Washington eatery got mentioned on TODAY.com for giving Laura King and her family a $4 discount on their bill to cover a bowl of ice cream that the owners gave the family because their children were so well behaved.

As the article points out, “Rob Scott — who owns Sogno di Vino, the restaurant King visited — said he routinely offers complimentary desserts to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt.”

“An image of the receipt quickly went viral after one of King’s friends posted it online,” the article continues.

While not all the mentions that the restaurant received were positive, the discount got people to talk about the restaurant on social media sites, which led to some great coverage in the national news media. Furthermore, articles about the post still show up on a Google search engine results page (SERP) over two years after the post went viral.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

As an article on The Huffington Post points out, several restaurants have tried to encourage better dining etiquette by offering a discount to customers when they put their smartphones away while they are at the dinner table.

Other restaurants have even gone so far as to ban the use of cell phones in their restaurants all together. As the Huffington Post article mentions, this policy has sometimes been met with outrage.

Whether people agree with this type of policy or not, it has generated some attention. Furthermore, it has gotten people to talk about whether or not cell phones should be used as much as they are at the dinner table.

Photo credit: Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that this policy does prevent customers from taking photos of their food and sharing them on social media sites.

This, too, can be a great way to get people talking about the restaurant and possibly get them to visit the establishment in the future.

Hummus Diplomacy

In October of this year, NPR featured a story about an Israeli restaurant in Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, that is giving a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who eat together.

As reported in the NPR article, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated, “Are you afraid of Arabs? Are you afraid of Jews? By us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel!”

According to NPR, “His post was shared more than 1,900 times, and news of the deal has made headlines around the world.”

At the time the article was written, the offer had only been redeemed by 10 tables. However, business has increased by 20 percent. The article mentions that a substantial part of the boost was from local and foreign journalists.

Please and Good Morning Saves You Money

Offering customers a discount for good manners can also generate good will and positive mentions online.

For example, a small coffee shop in Australia has a sign in front of the shop that says that the coffee is $5. If you say “please,” the coffee is $4.50 and it’s only $4 if you say, “Good morning, a coffee please.”

According to an article on the Daily Mail, the owners of the coffee shop don’t enforce the policy. However, they said it brings a smile to many of their customers’ faces and many customers go out of their way to be courteous.

Even if it isn’t enforced, the sign has created enough attention to be covered by online media outlets.

It is interesting to note that this idea was copied, with similar results, by a French café.

Free Meal to the Lonely on Thanksgiving

Okay, this one isn’t really about getting customers to change their actions.

In fact, it is actually the restaurant that is going out of its way to be courteous to its customers.

The buzz started when a customer posted a photo of a sign that was hung on the door of George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan that stated that anyone who would be home alone on Thanksgiving could come to the restaurant and get a free meal on November 26, 2015.

Not only did the story go viral on social media, it was covered by many of the traditional media outlets, as well.

And, while the restaurant will probably be giving out more meals than it originally planned, the free publicity that it received is priceless.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, the world would be a better place if people chose to be nicer to each other.

Businesses often have an opportunity to remind customers of this.

As shown in this post, incentivizing good behavior is not always met with open arms. In fact, sometimes, it is met with outrage.

However, when done correctly, little things that remind us that we need to coexist peacefully and show respect for others can get people talking about the business online. Sometimes, this will lead to further coverage in more traditional media outlets.

Furthermore, social sharing is only part of story. When customers search for information about the restaurant on Google or any of the other search engines, a positive story like this is likely to appear on a SERP well into the future. That might be enough to get potential customers to visit the restaurant long after the deal ends.

And, if nothing else, the business might start a conversation that can make the world a better place.

Photo credits: leyla.a and Social Media Dinner 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Not Your Father’s Super Bowl Ads

In recent years, when you tuned in to watch the Super Bowl, you could expect to see some beer commercials, car commercials, an occasional movie trailer, and a GoDaddy commercial or two that featured scantily dressed women who encouraged viewers to host their web sites or register their domain names with GoDaddy.com.

This year, you shouldn’t expect the scantily dressed women—at least from GoDaddy.

Last fall, GoDaddy announced that in 2014 they are going to take their advertisements in a new direction.

According to a press release issued in October of 2013, GoDaddy confirmed that this year’s Super Bowl commercials won’t have the risqué innuendo viewers expect to see in a GoDaddy Super Bowl advertisement.

The press release states that “GoDaddy’s marketing has evolved with the company’s overall transformation under new CEO Blake Irving, who is committed to maintaining GoDaddy’s edge, but in a way that speaks inclusively to the customer base and demonstrates the value the company provides to small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

In other words, GoDaddy is making an effort not to alienate women.

Less Cheesecake Is Good for Business

A recent Adweek article that was written by Kat Gordon points out that Super Bowl ads typically haven’t done a good job reaching female viewers.

According to Gordon, “Sadly, so far the track record of the work has been pretty degrading in their depictions of women. In 2013 we saw waitresses turned strippers, scantily clad women tackling each other in the dirt, and a supermodel sloppily kissing a computer programmer.”

“Those were the major marketing fumbles of the day,” continues Gordon. “Not only were these ads off-putting to women, but many men also tweeted their wish for something other than lowest-common denominator creative. And the old adage that “sex sells” is being refuted with research that says that brand recall dips when the brain is busy processing ta-tas.”

That alone would make some brands take note. However, it is some of the other statistics that Gordon points out that may have caused GoDaddy and other brands to show a little less skin this year.

“According to Nielsen demographic data, 46 percent of the Super Bowl viewing audience is female, and more women watch the game than the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys combined,” writes Gordon. “She-conomy.com reports that women influence the majority of consumer spending across all categories, and onlineMBA.com published a report that found women comprise the majority of Twitter users (59 percent). Finally, women out-tweet men by 60 percent, per a study of 1,000 British Twitter accounts by Brandwatch.”

This points to the fact that female consumers are not only very influential when it comes to making purchase decisions, they are very vocal about it.

This makes the female consumer a force to be reckoned with.

That would explain the fact that this year’s Super Bowl ads are going to feature a lot less cheesecake and a lot more beefcake.

Note: For additional information about what to expect in the 2014 Super Bowl ads, check out this USA Today article.

Final Thoughts

Each year, brands spend millions of dollars to reach consumers during one of the most watched events of the year.

Given the fact that nearly half of the Super Bowl viewers are female and they tend to be the most vocal online, it is not surprising that brands have stopped ignoring this important demographic and started to create ads to meet their expectations and desires.

In 2014, it is important that brands create ads that appeal to both men and women in an effort to maximize their return on investment.

Photo credits: Rocky Mountain High and torbakhopper 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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A Huge Social Media Fail—Or Is It?

In the short history of social media marketing we have seen a lot of brands post things on the Internet with the hope that the content would resonate with consumers only to have it backfire.

In May, BuzzFeed posted an article, titled “19 Companies That Made Huge Social Media Fails.”

The list includes many examples that leave you shaking your head and saying to yourself, “What were they thinking?”

Now, let’s face it, it is very tempting for brands to join the conversation when news breaks in order to gain exposure for their brand with very little time or effort involved.

If the event is positive or lighthearted in nature, then joining the conversation is just good business. (Oreo showed how to do it right earlier this year after the lights went out at the Superdome during the Super Bowl.)

As Mike Mikho suggests, even negative events that involve celebrities can be fair game. (I’d add that this is true only if no one is seriously injured.)

However, if consumers’ conversations are focused on tragic events (e.g., terrorist attacks, school shootings, natural disasters, plane crashes, etc.,) then joining the conversation might not be the best thing to do. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can create a huge headache for your brand.

In my opinion, the best thing brands can do to when a tragedy happens is to remain silent for a while. (And, yes, this means delaying those automated posts that were planned in advance.)

If you feel that a comment is required, pay your respects to the victims or find ways to be helpful without being self-promotional. This is a good rule to follow if your brand doesn’t want to find itself on a list similar to the one BuzzFeed posted.

Some Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Having a lot of people criticize your brand for saying something insensitive is generally not a good thing. And, showing up on a social media fail list probably isn’t going to help generate sales.

That is, unless you’re Kenneth Cole.

If you go back to the BuzzFeed list, you will see that Kenneth Cole was number 1. Kenneth Cole earned a spot on the list by making light of the protests in Egypt in 2011 by posting this on Twitter: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”

The tweet created its own uproar—this time on the Internet. (This was exacerbated when pranksters added the tweet to the window on the Kenneth Cole store in San Francisco.)

According to CNN, Kenneth Cole apologized within an hour of posting the tweet. Cole is quoted as saying, “We weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historical moment.”

Cole then posted on his official Facebook page, “I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

However, as it turns out, while the tweet may have been considered inappropriate by some consumers, it also was good for business.

In the October issue of Details, Cole is quoted as saying, “Billions of people read my inappropriate, self-promoting tweet, I got a lot of harsh responses, and we hired a crisis-management firm. If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”

Given this, it is not surprising that Cole used the same tactic again when he tweeted this about the Syrian crisis in September of this year, ““Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear”

Again, it had people criticizing Cole for being insensitive.

And, that is most likely what Cole wanted people to do.

Why It Works for Kenneth Cole

So, why does it appear that Kenneth Cole gets rewarded for saying something on social media that would have a negative effect on other brands?

Is it the type of product that he sells? Maybe.

Is it the type of consumer that he is selling to? Could be.

Is it because social media is a nonissue? I’d argue no, because the data he presents show that his shocking statements on social media actually generated business.

Could it be that we are trying to be too politically correct and Kenneth Cole’s customers are supporting someone who stands up and says screw conventional thinking and is willing to take a risk and make fun of a horrible situation? Could be, but I doubt it.

Is it that all press is good press? Maybe.

So what gives?

First, we need to remember that social media is just a vehicle for people to get their message out to the world.

Before social media, people were saying things that made other people criticize them. Kenneth Cole is no exception. In fact, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. is known for its controversial and sometimes tasteless advertising.

On the other hand, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. is also known for its involvement in charity and social causes, including its involvement in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS. Its target audience might be aware of this, which could explain why Kenneth Cole is given a pass when other brands would suffer.

But, then again, others would point out that the controversy Kenneth Cole creates actually helps the business.

The reason for this is something that I can’t quite explain. It could be a combination of many different factors that can’t be controlled for.

What I can say for sure is that this tactic is only going to consistently work if the brand delivers a great product in the first place. And, there is where I think the real answer is. Kenneth Cole makes great clothes. So, therefore, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. might be able to get away with things that other brands can’t get away with.

In the end, I wouldn’t recommend using Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. as a role model for your online communication strategy. That is, unless you can deliver great products on a consistent basis and are willing to respond to complaints from consumers who might not be so forgiving.

Photo credits: mikest and davitydave 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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