Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Tale of My Favorite #Hashtags

When I think of social media hashtags, I think of storytelling. These words, shortened words, or combined words preceded by the number sign often tell a memorable story or introduce a story. I have three favorite hashtags, and here are the reasons why.

As a brand marketing professional, my most-used hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is #BrandTip. I share my blog posts, quotes from other branding experts' posts, and highlights from other brand experts' books with this hashtag. I enjoy making new connections especially on Twitter and Instagram, and I've met many amazing people as a result of using this hashtag.

Every Monday, I look forward to seeing #MondayMotivation tweets on Twitter. Two users who regularly share corporate culture, employee engagement, and customer experience insights with this hashtag are @DisneyInstitute and @ValaAfshar. One recent tweet by the Disney Institute was "Spring into action – nurture your workplace by cultivating a thriving team environment." Another was "Ready, set, go. Drive success by providing a clear path forward." Without a doubt, everyone can learn from the business insights shared with this hashtag – and it is also an energizing way to start each work week.

Do you have another name for Saturdays? I do. #Caturday is another way to refer to the sixth day of the week. This hashtag is a fun way for cat owners and fans to share photos, illustrations, and videos of their cats in funny poses, with clothing, or simply playing. While there may be other animal hashtags, especially on Instagram, such as #catsofinstagram or #dogsofinstagram, the fact is, no other animal owns a day of the week.

All three of these hashtags improve overall brand experiences, whether the brand is a product, service, or cat with a stand-out personality (for example, Grumpy Cat). As for me, I enjoy my social media marketing more thanks to these hashtags.

What are some of your fave hashtags? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Disconnect Between Customer Service and Customer Experience Marketing

Many marketers and other social influencers understand that the way to stand out in today’s competitive social economy is to provide an outstanding customer experience. This can be interpreted or played out in many ways. Some businesses offer loyalty programs to repeat customers. Other businesses offer discounts. And others personalize all forms of communication. But what happens when a business doesn’t understand that the other side of service is a positive customer experience?

Recently, I made an online purchase from a small online retailer, which had previously been a catalog-only business since the 1970’s (according to its website). I chose two products, added my credit card, added my mailing address – and this is where it gets silly. I added my email address and telephone number. Remember this as the story goes on.

At the two-week mark, I wondered where the items were. I called the toll-free number and spoke with a customer service representative. After much discussion, we learned that my package had an incorrect digit in the street address and was en route back to the retailer. The shipping process began with FedEx, who then transferred the package to the US Post Office. At no time in the package’s journey, neither FedEx nor the Post Office thought about using my email address or telephone number, which were on the shipping label, to reach out to me to ask for my correct street address.

Instead, the package was simply MIA. The customer service rep had no idea when the post office would return it, so she could not issue a refund. She did, however, offer to take my credit card number over the phone to place a new order, and she even offered to pay for the shipping cost. Wow, a big gift of eight dollars!

I wondered, did the representative have any authority to make sure I had a positive customer experience? Could she have offered to send me one of the two items that I had initially ordered at half price or even free – as a token of understanding my frustration and disappointment? Or was it more important that the online retailer balance its books and ignore the entire concept of customer experience marketing altogether?

Before I ended the call, I told the rep that I understood customer experience marketing and that, if I had been in her shoes, I would have done something to make sure that I did not lose a customer. The Potpourri rep replied, “Sorry,” and hung up. I wonder how long until I notice the refund on my credit card statement. With service like I experienced, I wonder how long this retailer will remain in business.

Have you ever experienced a disappointing customer experience that turned around at the end? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brand Experience Lesson: Think Like A User or Customer

Think back to the time you got your first smartphone. What did you do first? You probably added some favorite apps, such as, weather, maps, news, social media platforms, and games. (There was a time when all people talked about was Angry Birds!) But what happens when a game is no longer supported by its developer? Developers need to put themselves in the shoes of marketers. When the time comes to end a game, developers need to consider their users, customers, and fans.

Nowadays, when a movie opens, there are co-branded retail products, food partnerships, and games. When the movie "The Secret Life of Pets" appeared, there was a game called "The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed." The game featured all the movie's memorable characters (dogs, cats, rabbit, and more) and was fun to play.

And then, one day, a message popped up on the screen. It read in part:
"We've had an incredible time together solving puzzles, but soon it will be time for us to make our final match...The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed will be retired and no longer available."

While the message continued by asking users to play other games created by the same developer, there was something missing from the message. There was no human element, no understanding of the connection that a user had made to the game. Users most likely used the game as a form of relaxation and maybe even used the puzzles as a form of escapism. Or fans of the movie wanted to know how smart the characters could be in challenging puzzles. Above all, users had a clear brand experience with the game that had carried over from the movie.

So, why did the developers end the game with the above-referenced message? Where was the recognition for fan support? Why didn't the developers go further with their goodbye message and add friendlier language? These developers made a mistake by making the final interaction between users and their brand a disappointing one. With so many people placing an emphasis on online reviews and ratings, this developer should have thought a little more strategically before retiring this game. Users may voice their disappointment and/or displeasure where other apps/games by the same developer are listed or sold.

Have you ever had a favorite app or game that was retired? Please chime in with how the developer or brand made the announcement.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Inspiring Leadership Quotes


Recently, I saw five leadership quotes that have remained with me. While there are countless quotes surrounding this important business topic, what separates one from another? Is it the length of the quote? Is it the person who stated the powerful words? Or is it the company behind the person behind the quote? You decide. In the meantime, check out these five memorable quotes and see if they inspire you to be a better leader, to become a leader, or to simply improve your interactions with your colleagues and team members.

"Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.” --Susan Vobejda


"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." --Arnold H. Glasow

"Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." --Mark Herbert

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” --Sheryl Sandberg

"Create an environment that allows your employees to thrive." --Kevin Eikenberry

What's your favorite leadership quote?

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl51


Super Bowl 51 may easily go into the history books as the best in history with its overtime surprise win, but if you live and breathe marketing and branding, the ads are the day’s focus. With a staggering cost of $5 million for 30 incredibly short seconds, is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively and memorably? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad or Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Bottom line, can YOU recall any of the ads?

According to Landor Associates, "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

During the game, Jim Joseph of Cohn and Wolfe in New York hosted the #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole). Although it's always fun to see what fellow branding and marketing folks say about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets, so there were some instances that Tweets referenced ads I didn’t see. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up. In addition to Jim’s party, there were these hashtags that I followed: #BrandBowl, #AdBowl, #SuperBowlAds, and #whartonfoa.

For a complete recap of my Tweets during the #SuperBowlExp chat party, visit my Storify link:
https://storify.com/DebbieLaskeyMBA/superbowl-51-ad-review

This year, many brands and brand icons were noticeably absent. There were no Oreos, M&Ms, polar bears wearing scarves featuring the colors of the competing teams, or the entire group of Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. This year, politics was in the air. According to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, “Great Super Bowl ads this year. Shows the country moving the right direction, pro-women, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, pro-diversity.” Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:

AUDI – A father and daughter were featured with the theme of #EqualPayForEqualWork and #DriveProgress. While some viewers complained about the ad afterward by stating that the company has an all-white male Board of Directors, the critical issue is that equal pay for equal work must be implemented before women will earn a place in the C-Suite and Board room.

BUDWEISER – During a national and international time of immigration crisis, this ad pushed the envelope. Adolphus Busch came to America in 1857, and during his lifetime built an enduring brand, the King of Beers. America represents open doors and opportunity around the world – and always will. Most of us are hail from immigrants – something we must remember. Allegedly this ad was created quite some time ago, but in the current economic climate, the irony was not lost on anyone.

AIRBNB – In an uncertain and troubling political climate full of protests, demonstrations, and political disagreements, AirBnB presented an ad with a powerful and uplifting statement that, no matter where you live, who you love, or what you believe in, the answer is #WeAccept.

KIA – Comedienne Melissa McCarthy appeared as an Eco Warrior tasked with saving the planet. She saved trees, whales, rhinos, and icebergs while simultaneously introducing the new Kia Niro vehicle. Her hashtag was #SmarterWay, and her humor was contagious.

TIFFANY AND CO – This ad featured half-time entertainer Lady Gaga as she talked about being a rebel, being true to herself, determining her own direction, and creating change. Tiffany jewelry has been a timeless brand, always unique – and representative of Gaga’s themes. Created in black and white and without any color, this ad was a good representation of rebellion combined with beauty.


To answer Landor Associates’ questions, these five ads were totally on brand – true to their core brand promises. I will remember the ads, and, all were incredibly timely – just recall Senator Schumer’s comments.

If you’d like to see some stats about how the ads rated, here are some links:

USA AdMeter:
http://admeter.usatoday.com/results/2017

Kellogg School’s Super Bowl Advertising Review:
http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news-events/super-bowl/results.aspx
 

AdWeek Tracker and Roster of All Ads:
http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/super-bowl-ad-tracker-all-about-2017s-commercials-175124/

Don’t forget to check out Jim Joseph’s post on Huffington Post:
http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.com/XHBJj

If you need a Budweiser Clydesdale fix, here’s a link to their party via the #ClydesdaleCam on Periscope:
https://www.periscope.tv/Budweiser/1BRJjEzAvABGw

And lastly, this ending appeared in my post last year, but it’s just as appropriate this year. Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. "The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

So, are you counting the days to Super Bowl 52? Will that mean a trip to freezing cold Minnesota or simply tuning in to watch and critique the ads?



Today's post-Super Bowl game Instagram share.



Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon at the top of this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at www.marketoonist.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Five Ways the New Year Can Jump-Start Your Personal Brand

Image Credit: Nubie.com

With the arrival of the New Year, it's time for clean slates in the marketing arena. Many marketing budgets have been refreshed and are set back to zero. Marketing campaigns have new objectives, and metrics have yet to be met. With all the possibilities in front of your brand, it's a great time to spend time thinking about your PERSONAL brand. In fact, here are five ways that the New Year can jump-start your personal brand.

[1] How does your personal brand look?

Do you need a new head shot for all your social media platforms? While it may be interesting to see someone standing in front of the Taj Mahal, that is not an appropriate photo except maybe for a travel agent – and maybe not even then. Interview photographers, look at their portfolios, and review LinkedIn profiles – and then arrange a photo shoot so you'll have lots of new photos in your personal branding tool chest. If you have a variety of social platforms and are active in social media, you'll want high-quality head shots. If you're a professional speaker, writer, etc., you may want pics taken with different backgrounds. Whatever your needs are, smile for the camera!

[2] What colors reflect your personal brand?
When you think about your strengths, do you think blue, yellow, or orange? What does your Twitter or Facebook profile image say about you? Your color palette should reflect your competitive strengths and positioning exactly how you want to present yourself. If you need a refresher in color associations, see below.



Image Credit: Buffer

And let's not forget the color of the year. Pantone, known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer, has named Greenery as the color of 2017. "Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose," explained Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

[3] What does your personal website say about you and your talents?
This question assumes that that you do, in fact, have an online portfolio or website. If not, do not pass go, don't collect $200 – create a website and reserve a URL with your name immediately. In this era when people buy URL's to hedge their bets that someone may want to purchase them or act with nefarious intent, reserve your name followed by .com. Then create a website with the basics including some of your work, links to your social sites, and your contact info. If you don't want to include your email address, phone number, or snail mail address for security reasons, create a form for a visitor to complete to connect with you – because you never know when Bill Gates may want to connect with you! In the alternative, create an email address specifically for your website. But no matter what you decide, in this social era, you definitely need a website.

[4] What does your personal blog say about you and your talents?
Everyone has an opinion. I've even seen realtors and doctors with blogs. Now I'm not recommending that you write posts about real estate or medical procedures (unless those are your specialties), but there is an abundance of mainstream news for you to read that will inspire you to generate content. Since I started my personal marketing/leadership blog in 2009, and with over 200 posts on my site and more than 200 on other sites around the Internet, my most popular posts have included these topics:

•    Annual Marketing Highlights
•    Annual Brand Tips
•    Annual Marketing Terms
•    Social Media Secrets
•    Q&A with visiting thought leaders (an interview series)

[5] What new social platforms have you tried?
When was the last time you used Snapchat? What about the stories feature on Instagram? While you may not discover the next Facebook before tech journalists at TechRepublic, the Verge, SilconAngle, or BuzzFeed, you CAN try new apps in beta form or test their new capabilities as soon as you hear about them. This is a way to become an early adopter. And if you become an expert while using an app's new capabilities for your personal brand, you can extend the expertise to your 9-5 brand. Imagine your boss' smiling face!

What other ways will you jump-start your personal brand in early 2017?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Do Loyalty Programs Create Strong Brands or Lose Customers?

Do you ever drop your key ring because it carries too many loyalty cards? Or do you use one of the many loyalty program applications on your smartphone to access your accounts, points, discount coupons, and other program perks? Whatever way you access your favorite brand’s loyalty program, there is no denying that loyalty programs are effective tools in the brand-building tool chest. However, there must be smart strategies behind the programs, or they will lose their impact and may even lose long-time customers.

Like you, I'm a member of many loyalty programs. While most don’t provide huge cost savings, the $5 coupons or 20 percent off discounts are welcome.

At the conclusion of the recent holiday season, I received an email from a nationally-known fine dining chain that has been in business for 87 years. While I had dined at the restaurant for special occasions throughout my life, I had not visited in about a year. From the wording used in the email communication, you would have thought my absence was a crisis of international concern. But upon further reading, the email takes a turn to the dark side with terms such as “inactive status” and “no longer.”

The subject of the email was: WE MISS YOU!

The email message follows below in its entirety, and was signed by the restaurant’s President and CEO:
Dear Debbie,

We've noticed that you haven't been in to dine with us for more than 15 months. As a VIP, the points in your account will never expire. However, after 18 months of inactivity, your account status will become inactive, and you will no longer receive the full benefits of membership.

To maintain active status, you can:
* Dine with your VIP card
* Buy Gift Cards or eGift Cards
* Purchase gifts from our shop

If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited, please call me directly at (number). We continually strive to better serve our guests. On behalf of all of us at (restaurant’s name), we look forward to serving you again. (Signed by the President/CEO)

With such a long and rich history, the restaurant welcomes Los Angeles natives and tourists on a daily basis, and during the holiday season, welcomes football teams who compete in the Rose Bowl football game. In fact, publicity abounds for this restaurant during December every year – publicity that every restaurant can only dream about. So why, I wondered, would a communications team write such a strongly-worded email that did not thank me for my lengthy customer status?

Perhaps, a better email would have been:
Dear Ms. Laskey,

We hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season! We missed you during the holidays and would like to welcome you in early 2017.

Our VIP guests are very important to us, and we are thankful that you choose our restaurant for family celebrations and other special occasions. As a VIP, your points never expire. But to entice you to visit soon, we’d like to offer you a complimentary dessert or complimentary glass of champagne (or $25 coupon) during January or February.

If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited recently, please call me directly at (number), so I can address any concerns you may have. Our goal is to continually improve our guest experience, so on behalf of all of us at (restaurant name), we look forward to serving you and your family again soon.

It seems as if my accumulated points are more important to this restaurant than they are to me. All I ever expected from this restaurant was exceptional guest service and delicious food. But based on the tone of the email, despite many years of family celebrations, I will not return to this restaurant. One poorly written email led to the loss of a long-time repeat customer. This restaurant’s loyalty program was an example of an #epicservicefail.

If you think you know the restaurant, chime in. Happy New Year!


Image Credit: Digitalart via FreeDigitalPhotos.net