Content marketing is hot, but is it time to kick a few platforms to the curb?

Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, cayenne pepper or Tabasco. “Content marketing” is hot.

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is now an institute devoted to the study of this thing that didn’t exist a couple years ago, that we all now need), defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Keep_Calm_Create_contentContent marketing has been facilitated by many changes, most notably growth of the internet, mobile devices, tablets, social media, and the impact of the financial crisis on budgets and traditional media spending. Really, it was the perfect storm.

So this week I’ve pulled some top line insights from a very interesting study on content marketing, that I wanted to share with you. And I’m going to make a case for how to use those insights to dominate your niche by doing LESS. Interested? Read on…

The B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America study was produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and sponsored by EnVeritas Group. The global study was conducted in July and August 2014, with 5,167 recipients representing a full range of industries, areas and company sizes. The report findings I’ve used in this piece represent findings from 307 respondents who were B2C marketers in North America. You can download a full copy here: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2015_B2C_Research.pdf

77% of B2C respondents were using content marketing. Clearly, content is now king. Here’s a summary of the effectiveness of various tactics, how success was measured, what platforms were used, and how often new content was published.

Effectiveness ratings for B2C tactics

  • Enewsletters 66%
  • In person events 63%
  • Photos 59%
  • Social media content – other than blogs 58%
  • Blogs 54%
  • Videos 54%
  • Articles on your website 53%
  • Mobile apps 49%
  • Webinars/webcasts 46%
  • Online presentations 45%

Tools used to assess content marketing success:

  • Website traffic 66%
  • Sales 54%
  • Higher conversion rates 39%
  • SEO ranking 39%
  • Time spent on website 38%
  • Qualitative feedback from customers 35%
  • Subscriber growth 34%

B2C Content marketing social media platform usage:

  • Facebook 94%
  • Twitter 84%
  • Youtube 76%
  • LinkedIn 71%
  • Google + 68%
  • Pinterest 59%
  • Instagram 49%

How often B2C marketers publish new content:

  • Daily 17%
  • Multiple times per week 31%
  • Weekly 16%
  • Multiple times per month 11%
  • Monthly 10%
  • Less than once per month 9%

42% of B2B marketers publish daily or multiples times during the week.

B2C marketers are now using an average of 7 social media platforms to distribute content, compared with 6 last year. All platforms experienced some level of increase this year, except for LinkedIn, which stayed the same. The average company is now creating content for 7 (yes, seven) social media sites? No wonder everyone is so exhausted, and taking a sip from Twitter feels like blast from the fire hose! Quite simply, I don’t think it is possible to dominate a niche with your content marketing by focusing on so many channels.

Social_media_fearThis study clearly demonstrates the value of content marketing, but it also show how we are all running with the masses, afraid to not jump on board, for fear we are missing the next big thing. But really, maybe it’s time to step back and assess and kick to the curb the underperformers. I think our efforts might be better spent picking the top 2 or 3 platforms where our target audience spends time, and then developing great content that they will share on their platform of choice. Having a focus is king in content marketing. Maybe it’s time to have a focus not only on content but also on the platform for delivery?

5 Reasons why a picture is now worth 10,000 words

They used to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now it’s worth at least 10,000 words and perhaps more. Here’s why: In a world of ready access to visuals with the prevalence of smart phones and easy to use photo editing software, combined with social media platforms that enable and encourage sharing, one photo can easily reach 10,000 viewers even if it is only accompanied by one or two words.

Humans have been reading words for hundreds of years, but we’ve been reading visuals for thousands of years. We are hardwired to be attracted to visuals. In fact consumers post 2.5 billion images every week according to Engadget, a tech blog. There’s good reason why visual platforms such as Instagram, Pintrest, Youtube and Vine have generated so much growth. And it also explains why platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become much more visually oriented.

Here are 5 reasons why visuals are now hot:

  1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We absorb visuals 50 times faster than words.
  2. Posts to Facebook are more likely to engage and be shared if there is a visual image. Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than posts without.
  3. Facebook posts with images on average receive twice as many comments as posts without.
  4. Tweets with images get 2 times more engagement than those that don’t.
  5. Visuals express ideas quickly – in a snapshot. This breaks through the overwhelming clutter of online content.

I’m sure I could give you a list of 20 reasons if I researched a little further. The point is this: if you are not utilizing visuals well in your online, social media or enews marketing efforts, you’re likely missing out on views and shares.

The magic for marketers of course happens when narrative details and brand value can be communicated in a single photo. Let’s look at a recent example by Shell gasoline. To celebrate 30 years of refining in Alberta, Shell brought back 1984 gas prices at 8 secret locations on Wed Oct 8th across Alberta. For that morning only, they lowered to price to .39¢ per liter – the price it was 30 years ago. (For American readers that’s about $1.56 a gallon).

Shell_39¢_promoOf course, gas attendants pumped up the 80s theme sporting big hair and shoulder pads. Some even wore Oilers jerseys – 1984 was after all the year Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup! The cheap gas of course generated frenzy at the pump, necessitating line control, and even traffic enforcement by the police. At the heart of the promotion was the fact that it was easily shared visually and the offer was appealing. Folks snapped photos of price signs, their SUV full on a $20 charge, and of course big hair, shoulder pads and Oilers paraphernalia proved irresistible, especially since Gretzky and Messier were part of the Edmonton Oilers doing a reunion tour that week in the province.

Big_hair_1980s_pricingAnd of course there were selfies.

1984_pricing_selfiesThe promotion also generated significant media coverage by local and national newspapers, TV and radio stations. Check out this clip from Global:

http://globalnews.ca/news/1604493/shell-brings-back-1984-gas-prices-to-celebrate-anniversary/

The lesson? Visuals are now worth at least 10,000 words, and countless more in free promotion if you happen to generate interest from the media.

 

Inspirational small business stories to celebrate “October small business month”

This past week Small Business BC hosted INSPIRE, and annual event to celebrate entrepreneurship, and a kick off to Small Business Month in British Columbia during October.

Moderated by Judy Brooks, a serial entrepreneur in her own right, having launched built and sold three successful businesses, guests were treated to a panel discussion and insights from some of BC’s emerging and successful business leaders. Here’s a run down on the panelists and some insights from the evening that might benefit your business.

Kyle Vucko, Co-Founder, Indochino
As a University of Victoria student struggling to find a well made and good fitting suit at a reasonable price, Kyle recognized the potential to shake up the men’s online fashion world. He saw a missed opportunity in the space – delivering men’s custom apparel cost-effectively. So he dropped out of university, and spent three years in Shanghai, building a vertically integrated company that has done for the suit category what Zara did for fast fashion – deliver the goods quickly and inexpensively, and in Indochino’s case, custom fitted. While it initially was an exclusively online offering, he experimented with pop-up retail locations and today he has over 120,000 customers in 130 countries, and showrooms in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. Not bad for a guy who gave up on business school. http://www.indochino.com/

Brian Scudamore, Found 1-800-got-junk, WOW 1 Day Painting, and You Move me
Inspired to launch 1-800-got-junk in the late 1980s while sitting behind “Mark’s Hauling” truck in a Kerridale McDonalds drive through, Brian realized there was an opportunity to apply good branding and a strong customer focus to traditional service-based offerings such as junk removal. The rest as they say is history. Today, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has more than 850 trucks on the road throughout 170 locations in Canada, the US and Australia. In 2012 he met the founder of a unique, one-day painting company and together they created the WOW 1 DAY Painting franchise. Brian launched his third brand, You Move Me, a different kind of franchised moving company in 2013 in response to his own bad experience. I would venture a guess that this high school and university drop out knows more about business than many of his previous teachers.
http://www.1800gotjunk.com/ca_en
http://wow1day.com/
http://www.youmoveme.com/ca

Jim Wyse, Founder & proprietor, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
For 25 years, Jim was a property developer in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Oklahoma City. In 1993, serendipity led him to purchase relatively inexpensive and abandoned vineyard land south of Oliver that has since become Burrowing Owl Vineyards, specializing in award winning wine, a fine dining restaurant and guest house.
http://www.bovwine.ca/

Ravy Mehroke, CEO & Co-Founder, Bombay Brow Bar
Who knew there was business opportunity in convincing women (and maybe a few men) that monthly maintenance of their eyebrows, just like their hair, was a necessity? In 2010, sisters and founders Ravy Mehroke and Amy Minhas opened their first brow bar in Yaletown. In just five years, Bombay has grown to a highly coveted beauty brand with additional locations in Kitsilano and the Shangri-la Hotel downtown.
http://www.bombaybrowbar.com/

Although there were many great insights from these panelists, three themes really emerged as things to note for your own business growth.

  1. Great brands are wrapped in a story. Each of these entrepreneurs saw a problem or opportunity and solved it in some unique way that was hard for others to copy. And in doing so, they created an endearing story that has become the heart and sole of their branding and identity. Does your business have a story? And can you tell it in a compelling way?
  2. Mentorship matters. Without exception, all panelists credited strong mentors with helping them achieve success. Brian Scudamore spoke of his self made MBA – as his “Mentor Board of Advisors”. One of his notable mentors, Fred DeLuca, the founder of Subway, became a fast friend after Brian read his book and simply called him to talk. When is the last time you read an inspirational business book cover to cover and then contacted the author?
  3. A founder first inspires but ultimately must lead. It was very evident that all of these company founders were inspired to grow something unique and had no problem catching others up in that enthusiasm. But shifting to the leadership role had been a hurdle for some as the company grew.

I shared these highlights with subscribers of my weekly enewsletter last week, and then asked my readers to tell me their own small business story. In the spirit of highlighting small business in BC, I’m sharing their additional two stories below. Because not every business necessarily gets the recognition it deserves, and maybe this blog can help spread their stories.

Rowena List, CEO & Founder, Getting it Together After a successful career in sales and a move into management as a trainer, Rowena saw a need for self employed women to be more organized. At the time she started helping them organize their home office and clothes closet. Word quickly spread about her ability to simplify life and her clients expanded to corporate women in business and stay at home moms. They all shared one thing in common: overwhelm. Rowena helps clients keep it simple, live with less, live with purpose and get rid of overwhelm. http://gettingittogether.ca/

Natacha Beim, CEO & Founder, CEFA (Core Education & Fine Arts) Seeing herself as a teacher first and an entrepreneur second, Natasha established CEFA, Canada’s first private junior kindergarten school in 1998, for infants and children up to five years old. As a passionate and trained teacher, she was frustrated with what she saw as a gap in the market: preschools and daycare’s offering care and play based settings, but nowhere was there a place offering pre-learning in reading, writing and math, and exploring the arts. She saw an opportunity for creating an enriched curriculum combining core subjects such as reading and math with fine arts, including drama and yoga, to provide children with the freedom to learn and grow through play. Following the successful launch of her first school, she is now franchising the program across North America. Link here for her full story interview video.

http://www.natachabeim.com/

http://www.cefa.ca/

As you can see, these additional two featured entrepreneurs have similar themes to their success as the SBBC INSPIRE recipients: their business and brand is wrapped in a story inspired by personal passion and they are leaders with a vision to help others.

 
 

 

 

Five steps to fuel word of mouth: Learning from Tim Horton’s recruitment pop-up store

Suppose you need to get the word out about something, don’t have a huge media budget, and you want to stand out from competitors. Sound familiar? It’s a challenge that pretty much every business has faced, but now, more than any other time in recent history, we actually have the tools to accomplish it. Enter social media, the increasing popularity of photo and video share platforms, the prevalence of mobile devices, and traditional media hungry for eye catching stories in order to stay relevant. Add a dash of creativity on your part and mix with human nature’s craving for story telling and sharing, and voila! It’s a recipe for success. So how do you do it?

Let’s look at a real life example from this past week: Tim Horton’s

While many Canadians are still reeling from the news of the imminent arranged marriage of their darling to US based Burger King, a suitor with dated plastic décor, seemingly oblivious to health trends with heart stopping massive burgers and a creepy plastic faced “King” mascot, they understand that to grow, financing and distribution inroads are needed. Of course the real challenge will be in growing the Tim Horton’s brand in the US beyond Border States, but in the mean time, the company is shoring up strength in the homeland.

Enter the campaign to find employees as quickly as they can to open restaurants. Tim Horton’s is looking to hire 5,000 new employees nationwide, of which 2,000 will be in Alberta and 250 specifically in the Calgary area. The communications challenge was simple: generate interest and excitement to work at Tim Horton’s in Canada. The traditional approach would have been through recruitment ads in store, online and in newspapers across the land – expensive and of questionable ability to actually deliver.

Tim_Hortons_pop-up_houseInstead the company created a pop up restaurant overnight in SW Calgary at 303 Oakfern Way in Oakridge. Literally, they transformed a home in a family neighbourhood into a Tim Horton’s restaurant overnight, with the objective of being open 6am-12pm Sept 23 only, and generating as much publicity around the surprise event as possible. The distributed gift baskets to the neighbours, conducted random acts of kindness, such as raking leaves, and of course treated the hood to breakfast with free coffee and donuts (the Next door-nut) with the message, “thanks for being our neighbour”. They had treats for dogs and their early morning walkers, and even used street chalk art to send the neighbourly message to come on down for breakfast. Promoting the use of #TimsNextDoor hash tag, photo sharing was encouraged to get the word out on social media.

Neighbour_donutAnd of course they invited traditional print and broadcast media to cover the event. In short, they generated buzz for the brand, which extended across the country courtesy of social and traditional media, and created an atmosphere of inquiry about working for the iconic brand. As a stand-alone stunt, it was no doubt expensive to execute, but I would argue the value of word of mouth, mouse and mobile via social media and traditional media could not have been purchased.

Link to Global BC news video coverage: http://globalnews.ca/news/1577925/calgary-home-transformed-into-tim-hortons-for-a-day/ This news piece alone generated 32,000 Facebook shares within a day, and over 600 Tweets. And that was just one news organization among hundreds. Print and broadcast outlets went crazy for the story because of the human-interest value to Canadians, and frankly the curiosity of the story.

What can we learn from this example about generating word of mouth these days?

  1. Stage an event that can be wrapped in a story: It’s human nature to want to share entertaining stories.
  2. Tap emotional triggers: In this case patriotism, and being a good neighbour were used. Humour is also a great trigger.
  3. Remember why people share: It’s about them, not about you. Give something to make them look connected, insightful, and in some way on an inner circle of knowledge. This piece got shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds because people wanted to be the first to tell their friends the crazy story or document the fact that they were there.
  4. Make sure the event is visual: With the increased prevalence of smart phones and photo and video sharing social media platforms, you want to invite sharing. Make it visually appealing and invite easy sharing and tracking with hash tags.
  5. Seed social media initially, but leverage traditional media as the second punch. Know that the reach of TV, radio and print will generate exponentially more online sharing, so make them a critical part of your media plan. News outlets need content, so be newsworthy.

Of course all this seems simple enough, but obviously having the creativity to come up with an idea is key. Well done Tim’s. And thanks for still spelling it “neighbour” in Canada despite those new American owners!

Fashion versus style is like social media versus email

Fashion forever tells us to do what other people are supposedly doing: favouring certain colours, cuts and lengths for the season. Style tells us to use what flatters our personal figures – those few pieces of clothing or furniture that we’re perpetually drawn to and consider drop-dead good-looking regardless of current favorites. Fashion comes and goes. Style is timeless.

Fashion_fades_style_remainsSocial media is currently in fashion. While it would be foolish to ignore the incredible power that a well-strategized and executed social media campaign can offer, for many companies, the time consuming efforts to keep up with various social media is a fashionable distraction. This is especially true if they are chasing the recent hot social media platform, simply because everyone else is and they don’t want to miss out. Sounds a little like fashion to me.

Direct marketing via e-mail may not be the latest hot fashion trend, and many companies in Canada had their customer contact lists kicked in the teeth by CASL legislation. But e-mail marketing has style. Somewhat timeless in its ability to connect directly with customers on a personal level, if executed well, it brings measureable results: engagement, brand affinity and sales.

A 2014 McKinsey research report found that email is 40 times (40 TIMES!) more effective that Facebook and Twitter combined. Click here for the full report: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sale /why_marketers_should_keep_sending_you_emails

Direct email marketing speaks to an existing base. And the customer you’ve got is 3-7 times more likely to be a repeat customer. Quite simply, we get caught chasing the romance of new customers when the one we’ve got is more likely to buy again and buy more. Think about that for a while. Good email campaigns have these things in common:

  1. They are reasonably short and can be read quickly, respecting reader’s time.
  2. They are personal and invite interaction with readers.
  3. They are scheduled with some sort of regularity.
  4. They contain useful or entertaining information for a highly targeted reader.
  5. They are soft sell by nature, favoring positioning and top of mind awareness as a gateway to future sales. But they do invite sales, especially after a relationship has been earned.

Your biggest asset is your list of customers. The next biggest asset is your list of prospects. At the end of the day we shouldn’t over complicate things. Really only three drivers matter:

  1. Getting more customers
  2. Getting them to buy more
  3. Keeping them longer

Direct e-newsletter marketing can satisfy 2 & 3 easily, and arguably 1 if prospects are converted or if current customers share it. That is a meaningful and measurable result. It’s a longer-term investment in style over fashion. If you’d like to receive my weekly “5-Minute Marketing” e-newsletter, click here and choose, join our mailing list.  It will arrive Sunday morning, and in less than 5 minutes to read, you’ll gain some marketing insight to put to use in your business. That’s my promise. And of course you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you’d like to check out past issues first, click here.

 

iKea’s iBook Book – Brilliant marketing

Amidst the marketing flurry around the latest announcement from Apple about their much-anticipated iPhone 6 and wearable technology, comes a brilliantly timed piece of marketing from Ikea.

In a world of high-tech, sometimes going low-tech or no-tech is the way to stand out. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I’d like to acknowledge how Ikea has taken a “page from Apple’s playbook” with the release of their 2015 catalogue.

Enter the bookbook. Or as I’ve decided to call it the iKea iBookBook.

iKea_iBookBookIf you have yet to see it, you MUST have a look at this ad. It is brilliant in it’s use of hyperbole to emphasize the attributes of the 2015 catalogue, framed from a play on technology perspective, meant to yank us back to the reality of enjoying a good old fashioned book, or in this case, a catalogue.

View the ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0

The spot opens with, “Once in awhile, something comes along that changes the way we live, a device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar…” It then goes on to note that the new device has no cables or power, comes fully charged, uses tactile touch for navigation to browse, has no lag time loading images, and can be downloaded free through your mailbox or in person.” So why does this ad work so well?

  1. Timing. Make no mistake, in the world of advertising, this was a well-timed execution, meant to go viral on the tails of this weeks announcement of much anticipated new product from Apple.
  1. Parodies work. Especially when a company with a lot of online traction and social followers such as Apple, is the object of the joke. The parallels and poking clever fun at the way the product features are announced compared to an Apple commercial are striking. Parodies go viral because they are usually funny and entertaining, two key components for getting material shared.
  1. They zigged when the rest of us where still zagging. While it seems many brands jump on board the latest trends, getting caught up in technology and social media, Ikea was different by drawing attention to the old fashioned attributes of book browsing. In an age of ebooks and online everything, it made them stand out. Plus it called out the elephant in the room, the fact that people still like to browse a catalogue to shop, and it made it socially acceptable to admit it. Well done.
  1. It was optimized for social media. Of course this ad could have been placed on TV, but when the objective is to make it viral, allow your army of Ikea followers to use their media channels, and to no doubt generate free publicity and pick up from traditional media such as TV and print, why would you? Putting it on Youtube and making it easily sharable through social channels was a brilliant media strategy.
  1. Simple works. The communication is simple and the visuals are simple, in an iconic Ikea design sense. Even though the audio is in English, and much of the play on words rely on this, the concept of what is being communicated can be understood through visuals.

Well done Ikea. This is brilliant marketing.

Drones, sharing economy delivery & revamped postal services: Distribution experiences disruption

The internet has offered a revolutionary way to promote and sell online globally, but at the end of the day, unless you’re selling something that can be digitized, it still needs to be delivered. As yet, Samantha can’t wiggle her nose and teleport it across the ether. Apologies for the age specific pop culture reference, but I just experienced a Bewitched moment!

The distribution and delivery of goods is experiencing disruption. Government postal services are reeling to reconfigure their infrastructure to handle more parcels and less letter mail, as much communication shifts online. Encumbered by expensive fixed costs and union contracts, this has been a challenge. Indeed, in Canada we are headed for a 5-year phase out of door-to-door delivery of letter mail in many urban areas. But parcels, that stuff you order online, are likely destined to become Canada Post’s bread and butter. At least that appears their hedged bet. Canada Post officially opened a new $200-million, 700,000 square foot processing centre by Vancouver International Airport recently. It’s meant to capitalize on major growth of e-commerce across Canada and the Asia-Pacific Rim. On an average day, the new centre will process 4 million pieces of mail, letters, and parcels. Being close to YVR and Canadian Border Services is very strategic. See a video tour of the new facility here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO6oo_K8bD0

Clearly Canada Post sees their competitive future in what traditionally have been the courier business, and the domain of FedEx, Purolator, UPS, Canpar and DHL. They’ve essentially gone from a crown corporation to a private business, whether they realize it or not.

On the other end of the distribution disruption spectrum, in the small packet local one-day delivery category, is Zipments. Launched in the US, and brought to the local Vancouver market in 2013 by Rob Safrata, owner of Novex Couriers, the business model is part of the “sharing economy”, a huge growth trend lead by successes such as vacation rental, Airbnb.com and private taxi service, Uber.com. Zipments (http://zipments.ca/) utilize drivers already on the road to deliver packages, mostly from retailers to customers who have ordered items online. Based on a similar model to Uber, a sales representative, a commuter or even a Mom already driving from A to B, is contracted to deliver the package. Drivers are independent contractors who earn $6-18 per delivery. They can log in with an app, and deliver packages when it works for them, based on their current location and where it needs to go. Safra has 25 lifestyle couriers working for him, and the company uses Nova Couriers as the back up. The company has signed on several large local companies such as MEC and Purdy’s and is solidifying agreements with several large national retailers. This is definitely a disruptive and innovative move in the same day delivery service category.

prime-air_high-resolution011

And then there’s the promise of drones, those remote controlled helicopter things that Amazon and Google are looking to use to completely innovate and disrupt the delivery category. Amazon has applied to the Federal Aviation Authority to allow the commercial use of drones for package delivery, essentially allowing the shopping giant to map the sky. Click here to see a video of Amazon Prime Air in action – quite something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98BIu9dpwHU

So what’s the marketing lesson in all this? I’d say there are two. Even something as traditional as distribution and delivery of goods can be disrupted and businesses have to respond to remain competitive. Big or small, this example illustrates that competition can come from many different angles. And given some of these changes afloat, if you’re in the business of delivering goods purchased online, as a marketer, you’ll likely see opportunity in these examples from a cost and speed perspective.

Leveraging your personal brand – the Sam Sung story

I love Apple products, but I have to say right now I’ve become a huge fan of Samsung, as in “Sam Sung” the man, not necessarily Samsung the product. Sam is a former Apple employee, an irony not lost on many, when reading his business card that states: “Sam Sung, Product Specialist, Apple.”

Sam_SungNow working for Halloway Schultz & Partners, a recruiting firm in Vancouver, Sam put his name on the line recently through eBay for a good cause. He auctioned off his old Apple uniform and business card to raise money for Children’s Wish BC and Yukon, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill children. The auction closed on Aug 15, and the top bid was $2,653 US ($2,894 Cdn) from a buyer in Germany. While there were several bids topping $10,000 they were later proved to be invalid by eBay. He plans to donate back all funds raised. What an incredible gift to a worthy cause.

Sam_Sung_auction_finalAvid readers of my blog and past newsletters may well recall my interactions with Sam Sung. It all started when a customer of his Pacific Centre Apple store posted a photo of his business card and it went viral. You can read the original post here: http://fiveminutemarketing.com/2012/11/sam-sung-a-specialist-for-apple/

While I picked up the viral chatter initially from a friend in Australia, and then another in the southern US, I was actually able to confirm it was indeed true, rather than a hoax, as many were speculating at the time. I subsequently had several interactions with Sam as an employee at the store (and yes I have his business card), and we’ve stayed in touch since his move into recruitment. Perhaps most memorable is his wicked Scottish brogue, having moved to Vancouver from Glasgow Scotland several years ago. The juxtaposition of his accent and obvious Chinese heritage was somewhat disarming in Vancouver, a heavily Asian populated city.

This selfless act to auction off his former uniform and business card for a good cause is a terrific way to have leveraged his personal branding and identity. Indeed Sam has noted that while an employee at Apple he was quite uncomfortable with all the attention his name drew. It was only after he had left that drawing attention to it seemed appropriate, and then not specifically for personal gain.

Still we can note that he has brilliantly leveraged his name, brand and identity via a social cause. While his chosen charity was the primary benefactor, there is no doubt that his identity as a recruiter will benefit in an industry where personal integrity is critical.

This story really helps drive home the fact that when you do things for others, it will no doubt benefit you, perhaps just not directly. It was far easier for Sam to gain publicity around this initiative since he made it about others and not himself. His name and the irony of being a former Apple employee had curiosity, but it was the charitable component that gave it traction and made it attractive to the media. By giving people a reason to share his story he gained far more coverage and social media sharing than he would have otherwise. Both a terrific cause and a great guy benefited. It was brilliant marketing.

 

Achieving authenticity: What can your marketing learn from a misfit vegetable?

This week I’m looking at authenticity. Initially I’m going to introduce you to a cool campaign out of France utilizing authenticity in food marketing, but we’ll end by contemplating a grander application of authenticity and what you really stand for, in your branding and positioning.

Really, should your strawberries have cosmetic enhancement and look like they are fresh out of botox treatment, artificially enhanced for show? Or should your chicken look like it’s been on steroids at the gym prior to hitting your plate? North Americans have been culturally programmed to believe that bigger is better. Pumped up and genetically enhanced, “supersize me” has taken on a whole new meaning in the produce and poultry isle. While the organic movement has shifted some behaviour, it is a segment of the market only. In much of France to call something organic or free range is actually redundant, at least at small shops and the markets. A lot of food in France has been indigenously organic for years. Slightly imperfect or blemished is more apt to be considered authentic than subservient, if we could apply a class structure to produce. But in North America we largely relegate the undersized or imperfect to waste. And apparently this wastage was becoming a creeping issue in France as well, at least at the supermarket and food chain level.

Enter the inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign.

Intermarché, a supermarket in France was inspired to take action after a global study estimated that 1/3 of all food produced, or 1.3 billion tons, gets wasted each year. While it can be assumed that there is also waste contribution from restaurants, there is a lot of produce grown that never makes it to the shelf, simply because it is not pretty enough. Shallow but true.

The inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign was an appeal to the head, utilizing rational thought and the desire to not waste food, rather than the heart, tapping emotion, and perhaps empathy for unwanted misfit veggies, admittedly an angle North Americans likely would have responded to.

Normally double pronged carrots, incompletely formed lemons and not exactly elegantly morphed eggplants don’t make it to the shelf. But why shouldn’t they? They’re good food.

17912This Youtube video, currently at over 2 million views, demonstrates how the campaign used logic, rather than emotion, and authenticity to move produce. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2nSECWq_PE

Consumers were urged to eat 5 different varieties of previously rejected fruit and vegetables and receive a 30% discount on their purchase for doing so. They were assured the taste was good as the usual variety, a claim reinforced with the production of inglorious soups and fruit juices made from the produce. Intermarché bought from growers the products they usually throw away. They gave them their own labeling and their own isle.

The results?

- 1.2 tons average sale per store during the first two days.

- An increase of 24% overall in store traffic.

- Increased awareness about food waste.

- A lot of conversation in social networks – over 13 million people reached after one month.

- A media frenzy of publicity and free coverage.

At its core, this was a campaign based on logic: stop food waste. But ultimately it demonstrates how their marketing process was authentic. They told and sold the way it is. They showed the way fruit and veggies actually look when not edited.

While I love the cleverness of the campaign, it’s the invitation to consider how powerful being authentic can be in your marketing efforts that excites me. When you are clear on what it is you do, what you stand for, how you are different without apology, and you tell and sell that message truthfully, you’re left with something pretty authentic. I think it would be refreshing to see businesses dump some of the botox or steroid enhanced boastful marketing, and just show up the way they really are, being personable and knowledgeable. That’s the approach I strive for in my e-newsletter and blog, and I thank you for your continued readership.

Opportunities in the sharing economy

Sharing, it’s a hard concept for some to grasp, particularly when our society has been driven by acquisition and ownership as a demonstration of success. I’ll admit freely that as an only child (albeit with cousins by the dozens that often made me feel like a sibling), I didn’t get schooled early on sibling rivalry and sharing. Thank goodness my own kids, a little over 3 years apart, seamlessly interact and support each other almost like twins. They get sharing. So do many of their peers and those in their early 20s. It’s an interesting millennial phenomenon, as offspring of their baby boomer, often ex-hippy, parents.

sharingeconomy_globeslide-920x517Largely aided by technology, the sharing economy is turning the traditional business model on its ear. This new model is based on facilitators connecting supply and demand, where the company doesn’t really own any assets per say, but they connect people who do, who want to share. At a basic level it teaches people to trust each other again. Think hippy commune attitude, helped by technology and layered with an app, add a dose of capitalistic commerce and a dash of social responsibility, and you get the sharing economy.

One of my regular readers, pointed out last week in an email how there is likely heavy industry advocacy in certain sectors to prevent taxi style find a ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft from entering certain markets. Indeed Uber has been incredibly successful in 41 countries and over 84 North American cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. But yes, Vancouver is not one of them. And I loved the observation about the missed opportunity for car share companies like Zipcar and Car2go placing cars on either side of BC Ferries terminals. Indeed with pricing topping $80 for a car a driver on some routes, the prospect of being a walk on for $15 and simply grabbing a car on the other side is an appealing one. It’s possible BC Ferries has made it difficult to secure parking stalls for car share vehicles, but I suspect it wouldn’t take a huge slice out of their revenue pot to facilitate it, and they could regulate the number of cars with the privilege. They might actually get more walk-on business in the process, and since this option would only fit the needs of a small segment of car and driver ferry business, it’s not a huge threat. Frankly I’d call it a missed opportunity for both parties at this stage.

So let’s tour a current list of sharing economy businesses and then brainstorm ways this trend could be applied back to your own offerings…

Airbnb: Travelers can rent a room or a whole home. They service over 34,000 cities and have over 600,000 listings in 190 countries. This San Francisco startup is the poster child of the collaborative consumption/peer economy sector. www.airbnb.com

SnapGoods: A site for lending and borrowing high-end household items, such as cameras, kitchenware or musical instruments. www.snapgoods.com

DogVacay: Rather then begging friends and relatives to take fido while then take a holiday, dog owners can leave their dog with a host offering a cheaper option than a kennel and a more comfortable place to stay. Available in Vancouver right now, this one is apt to take off on a larger scale. www.dogvacay.com What a CTV news spot about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIZTbgmHRuE

Taskrabbit: A mobile marketplace for people to hire people to do jobs and tasks, from delivery, to handyman to office help. The site has 4,000 Taskrabbits on the service nationwide who bid to do tasks that are posted by people looking for a service. www.taskrabbit.com

Tabl: An offering of pop-up restaurants by individuals, who perceive themselves to be handy in the kitchen, post glossy menus and invite people to dine in their own homes. Offering an enticing and adventurous dining experience, currently in the UK, people can list their in home restaurant offerings or dining event on the site. This one is bound to take off on a global scale. www.tabl.com

Getaround: This service allows people to borrow cars from others. Owners who are out of town can also leave a car with Getaround, who will rent out the car, clean it and take care of it. The company covers a $1 million insurance policy, and currently operates in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and Portland. www.getaround.com

Zaarly: Kind of like Taskrabbit, but focused specifically on house and home care services such as cleaning, painting and lawn and garden care. It’s basically a marketplace of handyman services where you can hire someone or list yourself for hire. www.zaarly.com

Lyft: A ride sharing service that allows folks to secure a ride from regular drivers who then take a “donation” for their service because it is not a taxi company. www.lyft.com

Uber: Using everyday cars for everyday use, and claiming to be better, faster, and cheaper than a taxi, Uber invented the ride share concept.

Fon: Enables people to share their home wifi network in exchange for free wifi worldwide when traveling from anyone of the 7 million people in their global network. www.fon.com

Poshmark: Buy and sell clothing by shopping the closets of women across North America. www.poshmark.com

The New Customer

So who is the primary target for the sharing economy? 18-34 year olds – let’s call them the “new gen renters”. This largely millennial group currently makes up 31% of all rental travelers and is the primary target for other shared services and goods. Psychographically and behavior wise, they make their decisions not only on cost savings, but on achieving unique experiences – and that is a key understanding. There’s also a healthy dose of anti-establishment and pride in breaking from traditional ways of doing things. Often a social responsibility angle will seal the deal.

So bearing in mind this target group, what other areas might be prime for the picking in the share economy?

- If we can share cars, why not boats? (Granted I’m sitting on a cottage deck right now watching boats out of Pender Harbour, so it’s a top of mind response, but why not?)

- Cottages? Cabins? (Still trying to regionalize myself on the terminology. Sorry, but my back east roots are hard to change, if it’s on the water, it’s a cottage…) While Airbnb no doubt covers this on some level, a service specializing in unique or remote getaways is an experience with a desirable share component.

- How about city tours? Hire a local guide or hire yourself out a la Taskrabbit style. Guides could specialize for foodie interests, the sports enthusiast, or other specialized interests.

- How about childcare? I realize this is a more precious asset than a car or perhaps fido, but I see definite potential in linking young Moms and shared childcare arrangements. While this happens informally in many areas anyway, being able to find care via an app wherever and whenever you are like Uber or Lyft for a ride could be an amazing offering.

The sharing economy is a disruptive business model, and one we would be well advised to consider, rather than dismiss. What marketing opportunity might you find in this trend? I’d love to hear your ideas.