Change the World One Pair at a Time

Inspired by Todd Blog’s Weekend World Change where he highlights an easy way to make a difference in somebody’s life, and then encourages his readers to do the same, I thought I would post about my shoes. Makes sense, right?

Let me clear this up.
I wanted to share my passion for the company TOMS. TOMS sells shoes and for every pair purchased, TOMS gives a pair to a child in need. Their mantra is One for One. It is a very clear and compelling story and cause. The fact that there are people in the world that are living without something as basic as shoes seems very tragic to me. It’s really something that is very hard to comprehend when, for your whole life, shoes have just always been there.

As this is a marketing blog (and an infrequently updated one at that), I cannot help but point out one of the many things that TOMS is doing right here. They are essentially engaging not just in cause marketing but in a cause business model. Where many of these types of ventures or projects go wrong is in showing the final impact of the contribution.

For example, after I bought my pair and told a few friends about them, more than once my excited ramblings about a little shoe company giving away free shoes was met with, “But how do you know they are really doing that?” Seemed a bit callous of a question to me, but they have a point. Many times we are asked to give to organization with no real knowledge of how the money will be spent. I kind of understand why people need proof.

TOMS has done a good job showing the impact. On their Web site and YouTube channel, you can view videos and look at pictures from their Shoe Drops, where they have delivered the shoes to places like Argentina, South America and here in the U.S.A. In fact, if you are so moved, you can go on a Shoe Drop. See some of the results:

Pictures of a South Africa Shoe Drop

Video of an Argentina Shoe Drop

Video of an American Shoe Drop

So help change the world while buying a pair of fleece-lined cords. And remember, in cause marketing you have to show the follow through to really inspire people.


Parenting Mags and Mad Men: Connecting Via Media

Research care of Parenting Magazine notes some interesting findings:

  • 76% of moms feel that parenting magazines have less information of interest to them once their children start school.

  • 76% of moms would rather connect with moms who are dealing with the same issues they are, regardless of their age or the age of their kids.

This research underlies the larger issues that print media is facing. With the level of interactivity social media offers users, users are coming to expect that sort of interactivity from all media they consume. New media makes one-to-one connection possible. In the mommysphere, blogs and online communities are delivering content that allows people to enter into conversations with other moms. Once a mother experience’s that level of interactivity, the stale articles in parenting magazines fall flat.

It’s not just moms who want to connect. All across the media spectrum, people want ways to connect. The user-generated Twittering of Mad Men characters offers viewers of the show a chance to make a connection with the characters that pre-social media viewers could not have imagined. Expect this type of activity to become more prevalent, not less. While the Mad Men characters are simply fans taking control of the brand, there are no doubt marketers that have taken an interest and are planning ways to harness this for other brands.

How do we feel about this as marketers? This sort of phenomenon raises the bar for content. It urges us to take campaigns down to a personal level. That is not an easy thing to do.

But as the Mad Men Twitterers have shown us, if marketers don’t go there, users will.


Five tips for conducting interviews

I am a big believer in informal, qualitative interviews. There is certainly a place for statistical, quantitative research, but when you want to uncover motivations or capture specific details, you cannot beat just sitting down with someone for a good 30-minute conversation. This can be a difficult task, though. Here are five tips to facilitating more in-depth interviews:

  1. Ask why. You may have been told to never ask “yes or no” questions. This is a nice idea in theory, but I gotta tell you, it is nearly impossible in a long form interview. So, instead of simply never asking a “yes or no” question, just follow them up with a “why?” and see what happens.

  2. Ask for examples. This gets people to tell a story. Sure the story may not be riveting, but at least it is a story. This type of question forces people to get down to details. The details are where the real meat lies. And if they cannot give you a real example, then they are probably not answering truthfully.

  3. Ask about the subject. You may want information about something else, but you might want to start by asking about the person you are talking to. You see, it is far easier to talk about yourself. You have more information about yourself and your perspective. This is a good way to get people comfortable with answering questions. Once they are comfortable you can take the conversation to different places.

  4. Tell a story yourself. We live in a sound bite culture. Therefore we sometimes think that the proper answer to a question is short and concise. Well, in an interview situation where you are trying to get to underlying motives or issues, sound bite answers don’t help the cause. Feel free to tell a story about yourself related to the topic. It shows the subject that it is okay to take time to fully answer the question by providing concrete examples.

  5. Don’t try to fill awkward silences. When someone is actually trying to form a solid answer to a question, it is natural for them to think for a few moments. This may create periods of silence, but that is okay. Give them a moment to collect their thoughts.

The idea here is not to try to manufacture conversation. This is not an exercise in controlling the other party. You don’t want to force answers on the other person. Instead, you want to enable a conversation to go where it may. If you do this, you will never be disappointed with the answers.

What are some tips you have on conducting qualitative interviews?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user wok.


Branding in Simple Words and the Worst Movie of All Time

So I have been reading “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. I know. I’m late to the game on this one. But they spend time talking about the importance of simplicity of ideas and how that helps them become sticky. Not sure they meant for this level of simplicity, but Phrazit is taking reviews and boiling them down to mere words.

Phrazit describes itself as “a way to browse and share condensed reviews on anything: movies, sports, restaurants . . . you name it.” Basically, users create a cloud of words and phrases around a topic. For instance, I added “Troll 2” to the cloud around “Worst movies of all time.” This is similar to Brand Tags which creates user generated tag clouds associated to popular brands.

This shows a couple of things:

  1. Brands can be boiled down to simple words. When this is done, it can be scary and exciting.
  2. A big part of brand perception is out of the hands of the branders and in control of the market. To better define your brand look for shared equity, or what you and your customers both find valuable about your company.

So what words would people associate with your brand?


Take Control of Your Brand Experience

Think about all the elements of your customer’s experience that you control. There are many and they all work to shape your perceived brand.

I was grabbing lunch at the Rib Crib in Derby, Kansas yesterday. I got seated, peeled open the menu and noticed that the restaurant was playing a local country radio station over their sound system. Seems to fit, right? A Texas-style BBQ joint pumping out some country pop to add to the ambience of hard wood floors and cow skulls on the wall.

However, when a block of ads came on the air that included a 60-second spot of one of their competitors, this seemed like less of a good idea. I sat there along with every other patron and listened to a catchy jingle and description of mouthwatering BBQ from another restaurant—you may know the place, but don’t be late they close at eight.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not wild on broadcasting competitor’s ads at my busiest time of the day. A few patrons got a chuckle out of it, but you could tell that it was awkward for some of the staff. It has to be hard enough to differentiate one BBQ joint from another, without letting things like this happen.

This should remind us all to look at the details of our customer’s experience that we control. Sure half of your brand value is out of your control and locked within the confines of your customer’s mind. That should not keep you from controlling what you can. Check your music, clean up your space, dress appropriately, smile, make your Web site easy to navigate and say hello to people. There are so many things we can do to make experiences better regardless of what we sell.

These things may be small, but they make a big difference.


New Media Education

Our agency gave a presentation to a little over a hundred business people at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Sunrise Scrambler event last week. I had the privilege of handling the section on new media. A few things struck me about the whole process and initial feedback:

  1. Covering new media is not an easy thing. It involves addressing technology. When presenting to an audience where there are people who know boatloads about the technology and others who could care less, it is hard to strike a balance. I hope that I didn’t bore those who are up to date with new media or that I didn’t lose anyone in the tech stuff. I wonder how others that are educating people about new media manage this issue.

  2. There are many aspects of new media, so it is hard to touch them all. We talked about the changing role of Web sites and search. We touched on SEO, SEM, online display advertising, e-mail marketing and social media. Honestly, it was so much that we couldn’t go too deep into any of these areas. We really scratched surface and left stuff out. Deciding what to cover and what to leave out was very tough.

  3. People want to learn about this stuff. We had initial feedback that the new media was a strong area of interest. Some were trying some of the tactics themselves, while others were just trying to get a better understanding of these new media terms that they had heard so much about. The high interest level gets me giddy, because it means that more and more people are seeing the power of the medium.

Just this week I was also able to attend a local PRSA meeting where a panel of media experts discussed different vehicles. Todd Ramsey was on hand to talk about new media, mainly blogging. It was interesting to see a group of traditional and new media people all talking about the shifts in their business model and how they are all affected by emerging new media.

So, for others playing in the new media sandbox: How have your efforts to educate people on the topic been received? Please comment and share.


Got brand potency?

I had a chance to talk with Jeff Manning, the mind behind the famous "got milk?" campaign, today when he presented to the Wichita Chapter of the American Marketing Association. I was luck enough to sit by him during the event, and the branding genius left me with a few nuggets:

1) We are all brands. By extension, we are branding all the time. We cultivate our brand with every interaction, business and social.

2) Branding is evolving. "Branding" has the tendency to be a catchall phrase. There are definite things that branding is and definite things that it is not. It is not just logos and visual associations. Branding is experiential, organic, conversational and both a long-term and short-term process.

The "got milk?" work is certainly inspiring for us marketers. Beyond the humor and engaging nature of the campaign elements lie deeper issues of deprivation and simplicity that we can all learn from.