Category Archives: Brand Awareness

Social media lesson of the day

OWN your blog, OWN your email lists. Make sure you are connected with your friends and fans through your own independent networks that have nothing to do with being in this cloud everyone keeps trying to push us all in. They are not doing it to make our lives better. They are doing it for the sake of profit. And when you don’t pay anything for the tools you use, YOU are the product they are selling.

This could happen to you. How would you connect out with your network?

QR Code on the back of our event van

Fun with QR Codes

Whenever I take the event van out, I get annoyed and frustrated with people tailgating. Everyone should have to drive a cargo van so they understand that when you get right up on the bumper, the driver, really, really can NOT see you behind him. Nor can he see you when you drive behind the right quarter panel.

Apparently large, bright spot lights and air horns are illegal in most states. That is really what I want to shine and blast when I know someone is back there but I can’t see him. Instead, we dipped into our bag of skills and thought we might have a bit of fun with technology.

QR Code on the back of our event van

Who knows, maybe one day QR Codes will replace the “How’s My Driving” on the back of trucks. Shoot the left QR Code for “really crappy driving;” shoot the right one for “outstanding, good job!”

PS Shoot the QR Code in the photo.. I know you are dying to see where it leads….

Stocking your social media shelves

I found myself explaining a social media program to a colleague of mine the other day who was confused about all the bits and pieces flying around.

“It’s like setting up a retail store,” I said. “You have your shelves, signs and counters and then you have your inventory. You start by setting up the shelves and filling them with inventory. And restocking when you sell stuff.”

The metaphor clicked with her and so I thought I would share it with you.

Setting up a social media framework for a company/brand is pretty straight-forward. Setting up a blog, establishing a twitter account, building a facebook fan page, claiming a foursquare and yelp location are the basics. It’s formulaic, it has deliverables, it has a start and a stop. Those are the shelves.

Setting up the accounts is the easiest part of a social media program. There are many, many experts out there that can do all of this stuff very quickly and for not that much money. Obviously the depth of design, the level of integration and the reason you would want each of these accounts varies with experience, particularly within each industry. A good expert would know that a Yelp! Account does very little for a fabric store but is essential for a restaurant. Choosing your expert wisely will advise you in not overbuilding your “shelves.”

Most experts stop here, hand the clients the keys and wave them a curt “good luck!” And this is where I think Social Media is going off the tracks. While there are tons of shelf-builders, there are very few skilled craftsmen making content to fill them.

Content — inventory in our metaphor — is the stuff that gives Social Media life and a soul, but it is also the thing for which clients want to pay the least amount of money. Nobody wants to keep writing stuff, taking photos, crafting tweets, etc., or — more correctly —nobody wants to pay for this activity for any length of time, at least not the length of time they need to. It requires patience and faith, two things that run counter to the veracious appetite of a rapid ROI expectation.

“How do we automate the tweets, the bog posts, the Yelp responses?” is the first question.. or at least the first thought. “Certainly there is an RSS feed of industry news we can subscribe to…”

The inevitable answer is “no.” As an expert who provides content with a unique personal point of view, there is no syndicated content. If there were, the social media world would not need your voice. You would not differentiate yourself within your industry. Your company would remain just another me-too.

As expensive and soul-tearing as the process of creating inventory is for your social media shelves, there is nothing that will reproduce a human-created blog post or photo. Words and photos have souls and it is these souls that speak to a customer or potential client. It is their passion that will reach into their soul and connect with your brand.

If we must claim an ROI for social media, it will be found in the very fuzzy edges of the inventory we place with care and craft on our social media shelves.

This article originally published as a guest post on

Are your tweets, retweets and blog posts complicit?

Yum Brands expects damage throughout the remainder of the year over a lawsuit brought by a California women in January who later dropped the suit voluntarily in April.

How many people knee-jerk tweeted, retweeted and wrote blog posts about the quality of Taco Bell’s beef filling? I would guess hundred of thousands of digital messages were sent flying around the Internet on this topic. One only wonders how much incremental damage was done with each tweet sent.

Perhaps Yum foods is wondering too. How much is one tweet worth? Maybe they can do a calculation based on your Klout score. If you rank high, maybe you are worth damage in the millions. Should Yum have the ability to sue you for libel if you tweeted, retweeted or blogged damaging tweets?

Something to think about the next time you want to hop on a band wagon and bash a brand. You may want to check the accuracy of your information first. After all, since we can now measure influence, we can also measure economic harm your social media activities create.

You may want to check into that umbrella policy.

Who are you really branding in social media?

I was discussing the state of social media and how Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter are shaping — actually engineering — us. I said, “For example, take that Ford commercial where the recent college grad makes fun of her parents for only having nineteen friends…”

“Ford?” she said. “You mean Toyota.”

“What? Whatever,” I said. “Ford, Toyota, it is a commercial for Facebook.”

Oh, snap.

This does not matter one little bit. Unless you are the brand manager at Toyota.

Makes you think about who really has the power over your brand, doesn’t it?

Retro commercials, Boomers and Hipsters

I found myself in Times Square this past week, waiting on my daughter to finish her “quick” run into Forever 21 when my eye caught the giant Hershey chocolate bar ad stuck in the advertising mess that the corner has become. I found myself singing the Hershey bar jingle, “Hershey is… the great American chocolate bar…”

And I realized that all these brands that have been around forever that are now fighting to regain relevance already have it in the vast libraries of retro commercials. Boomers will revel in nostalgia — like I did for a brief moment — and Hipsters will connect with the retro commercials to retain their cool status.

The upside of this for brands is they can “produce” at least a year’s worth of media and marketing all for the lower cost of royalties instead of new creative costs. Will they do it?

Five blind men, an elephant and social media

I was reading this blog post from Mitch Joel and his first paragraph reminded me of the old joke about the five blind men describing an elephant.

I think a lot of companies are so busy trying to figure out if social media is communications or customer service or advertising or –insert function here– that they do nothing and miss the opportunities social media would give them if they just DID something.

Social media is that elephant. If you feel comfortable with it being advertising, start there and do advertising. Then, when you have another blind guy in your company that claims social media is engagement, add him to your mix. Then customer service, then public relations…

Keep adding blind guys. The social media elephant is large enough to be all these things.

But don’t do nothing simply because you can’t all decide on what the elephant is. You’re always going to be somewhat blind to what social media is to the guy who is touching it most intimately.

Why every business needs a twitter account

I ran across this great story of someone who was so excited about a company that he showed up to the new hire orientation even though he had not been hired. Read the story, but he turned out to be the best hire the company ever made.

“Wow,” I thought, “this is so cool that lots of other people would like to read this.” So, I looked for the retweet button on the article, found it and clicked. The message included BNet, but not the company’s twitter handle. No problem, I clicked over to their website to include it.


If you are moderately successful, someone will eventually write about you. Even if you don’t buy into all the social media hype and don’t tweet regularly, twitter is a quick way “connect” you out to a larger audience that reads other media.

Look, man. We ain’t Starbucks

This past week, I was visiting with a friend in New York. There is a shop around the corner from his office. We stopped in on our way back from lunch to grab some coffee.

“I’ll have a small,” he told the guy behind the counter.

“Tall? Look, man, We ain’t Starbucks,” the server shot back.

Even if you overlook the server’s obvious hearing problem and surly attitude, you can’t ignore one of the biggest problems coffee shops have — how to order the size you want.

There used to be three sizes, small, medium and large. Then along came Starbucks who sought to change the coffee culture. Everyone in the “club” would be ordering coffee their way, short, tall, grande, venti.* It was fun; for a while. Now, it’s really a giant pain in the butt as other shops look to reproduce that magic cultship.

The next morning, I went to a Dean & Deluca’s for a coffee. They had three cups on the counter labeled small, medium and large.

“I’ll have a medium,” I ordered confidently knowing exactly what I was going to get. No sass-back, no attitude, no inferiority complex. Just coffee.

Here are the two basic problems all coffee shops have. Fix them tomorrow.

Coffee sizes labeled
It used to be cool for Starbucks to “own” their unique ordering language when they were hip. Now, they are the McDonald’s of coffee. Most people go to a Starbucks because they know what they are going to get. Almost no greater than than.

I can’t memorize your sizes. I don’t want to. Can you just put a display with the cups clearly labeled with how you want me to order? I’ll say “tall” if you prompt me to say the right thing. All I know when I belly up to the barista is that I don’t want the small one and I don’t need the 55 gal drum of coffee. What do you have in the middle? I’ll take that. Call it what you want.

Coffee-only line
I know you are supposed to suggest sell me when I order just coffee, but when I really, really, really only want coffee, selling me your daily baked good for only 1.99 just ticks me off. If you had a coffee-only line, it would move quickly and you would be setting some explicitly clear expectations for us both right from the start.

Set up a “coffee-only” line. You could even make it self-serve and we would not mind one little bit pushing our own button that says “tall” and swiping our own card.

The coffee shop did more damage to their brand in five little words than any twitterstorm or social media intern going wild could have done. They did it in real life, to real people who visited their shop every afternoon. And they exported their brand damage four states over and to several thousand readers, all sipping on their Sunday morning coffee, nodding in unison.

At least we know this ain’t Starbucks.

*I had to Google for the sizes. Really.

Who does that?

“Who does that,” he asked? But that was not his real question. The answer to that question was simply Google for someone.

I was talking with an associate about an animated instructional video I had found that illustrated how to use a complicated product. The video boiled the product down into its basic functions and presented it clearly and concisely. He wanted an animated video for his product that was equally as complex.

His real question was:

“How do I find someone who knows what I need and want, won’t take me to the cleaners, won’t frustrate me by making me responsible for the tiny details of the project and will just handle it? How do I find someone I can trust?”

Be that person and you have a loyal client for life.