Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yeah, I’ll Take a Free Panini!

It’s a new year and your back to counting calories and packing your lunch. Well, your favorite eateries are on to your intention to eat smarter. To get you back, they’re launching resolution-approved “healthy alternatives.”

A “Power Panini,” eh? Ok, I’ll try it!
If only I could register….

Originally shared with Corner Bakery’s eCafé members only, the offer went viral. (Get your free sandwich here. Hurry, the offer expires at the end of January). And so, the first few hours of the promotion were plagued with site outages, user frustration and abandonment.

I’m reminded on a larger scale of KFC’s inability to meet demand back in 2009 when offered coupons for a new, healthier variety of grilled chicken. While Corner Bakery built and iron-clad registration process to keep back-end redemption management in check, they neglected to adequately plan for registration on the front-end.

Back-End / Redemption Management:

Success! The promo asks participants to select a specific store, date, and hour for redemption. All decision points possess a decreasing balance of free product available. Emailed coupons are only considered valid during the selected one-hour window of time; thereby ensuring stores the ability to juggle promo redemption alongside regular foot traffic.
Front-End / Promo Distribution:

Fail! In trying to better handle redemption, Corner Bakery had to develop a multi-step and somewhat cumbersome registration process. That, coupled with under-estimated popularity and response, led to site crashes and slow and spotty availability.

(I finally did get my coupon).
Beware of Social-Share!

The important thing to remember is that you can’t let historic email response rates be your guide. When you encourage your target market to share a promotion on Facebook and Twitter; you have to plan for exponential response. It’s a great way to grow your digital marketing list and incremental sales, but can quickly turn south if you severely underestimate anticipated response and neglect to commit adequate server bandwidth.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Facelift | Faceoff: C.TRAC

Facelift | Faceoff: C.TRAC

A Whole New TRAC…

C.TRAC is a data-focused, interactive marketing outfit located in Cleveland, OH. It’s also where I got my start. And while during my tenure I prevailed over all things marketing/branding, I didn’t get to weigh-in on either of the logos here.  I inherited the first and departed before the second.  

Still, having been there for nearly 6 years, how could I not have an opinion?

In that spirit, we continue our Facelift | Faceoff series with a review of a brand near-and-dear to my heart.

But first, the required backstory.

We’ve preached ad nauseam that a logo should capture a company’s essence. It is logical then that whenever an organization shifts its strategic focus, brand should follow suit.

From its inception in data entry and inventory management to a more recent stint with direct mail and data analysis, C.TRAC is no stranger to evolution. As the firm looks to commemorate its 40th birthday, a new logo and website were launched to usher in another new era – one which places email marketing and custom web development at the forefront.

As a truly interactive service provider, C.TRAC needed a logo to match. So let’s see how they did.

Before the facelift:
….zzZZzz.zzzZz zzz…Oh, I’m sorry. I just fell asleep.

In place for over a decade, the previous company logo was very….safe. In paring basic blues with plain block letters, it merely gets the name across. “Information Solutions” was included to better codify in the minds of the customer that C.TRAC had evolved beyond its competitors; seeing data compilation and direct mail as incomplete absent the power of analytics (very new-age for the early-2000s).

I always struggled to explain the creative element to the left of the name. Internally, we referred to it as “the bug” (which, being a data/computer org., would not have worked externally). It wasn’t until I was years-deep that I first came in contact with the ad firm that created it and finally got a half-baked answer. “It’s 4 “Cs” coming together.” What those Cs stood for, no one could recall.

So there you have it: the C.TRAC of yesterday. Very ambiguous and business-like. Trustworthy, but dull.

After surgery:
The infusion of bold orange set against the basic blue and gray is electrifying. By retaining the “dot” and all-caps treatment, C.TRAC makes an otherwise drastic change feel familiar with long-standing brand advocates.  All the dead air that hung between the letters in the previous logo is gone, leaving the new treatment to appear more fit, trim and cutting-edge.

From 4 to 3. “The bug” was replaced with "the blade," a new trio of Cs and this time, the team was clued in to the implication behind it. Communicate. Compile. Comprehend. What do these mean to the customer? I’m not sure – hey, it’s not my job to make that connection anymore. ;)

30k Ft Weighs In:

Radically different and yet, the same.

The new iteration of C.TRAC’s brand repairs all that was wrong with the previous version.
Better situated to represent a fast-paced, interactive marketing firm, the new logo has both life and a personality. Lower-case seems all the rage with hip tech/social start-ups. I would have like to have seen a version with dropped casing to really shake things up. Still, quite a successful transformation! I hope it resonates well with the clients.

Happy 40th Birthday, C.TRAC! And might I add, you don’t look a day over a 5-year-old start-up!

Weigh in. Do you think C.TRAC’s new look feels more in line with their new interactive service lines?  
Which do you prefer?

PS: Bonus Points awarded for the way in which C.TRAC launched their new brand. Company President, Susan Williamson presided over a “countdown to demolition” of the old site/brand; ushering in the dawn of a new era, Vegas Strip style! Nice touch.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simple Elegance Delivers a Dynamic Story for LEGO.

Have you happened upon one of LEGO’s free standing US stores? Jam-packed. Every day. Is it just me, or did LEGO wait far too long to step beyond the confines of partner retailer’s shelves? Think of all the lost revenue!
Well, they’re here now, and despite the rising prevalence of shiny, high-tech competition in the toy industry, LEGO is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.

I’m a Proud, Self-Admitted AFOL…

That’s “Adult Fan of LEGO.”

I’m not afraid to admit I continued to play with LEGOs well after my collection of Hot Wheels and Ninja Turtles were carted off to Goodwill. Heck, I was still pushing LEGO racecars across the carpet when I was old enough to drive a real car.

And still today, I build (and sneak my collection of bricks into the real world anyway that I can).
But enough about me.

Let’s talk marketing.

LEGO email, catalogs, and packaging are all visually stunning. Truly, the best in the biz. They arrange products in a captivating, action-packed way. Whether showcasing CITY, space, pre-historic or licensed product groups, LEGO brings their building sets alive; drawing buyers in. 

And now, a print ad elegant in its simplicity. From the team at San Francisco-based Pereira & O’Dell, four panels visually highlighted with nothing more than a single, 2x2 colored brick.
In each of the first three panels, light gray copy tells a different tale of adventure; all made possible through LEGO’s growing library of product categories.

As if the typography, (with its varying degrees of kerning and tracking) wasn’t enough, the magical stories draw you in.  They know no bounds – jumping between time periods, real and imaginary. One minute you’re flying toward the Great Wall of China via spaceship. The next, you’re crossing the finish line in your Formula 1 race car.

But that’s precisely what playing with LEGOs can be.  

While video games and other interactive toys have predefined levels and parameters, LEGOs has never been about boundaries. Each day; a new nonsensical adventure waits!

The final panel is highlighted by a single yellow brick (the first piece and color LEGO created back in 1958).It is devoid of copy. Instead, blank lines and a parting sentiment;

“Every LEGO brick tells a story. Build yours.”

Less Is More.

The ad truly captures LEGO’s essence. Fundamentally-speaking, they just build bricks. You build the adventure.

Dubbed, “Toy of the Century” (FORTUNE, 2000), this corporate brand-building ad garners a certain respect and esteem due to an organization that’s exhibited incredible stamina in an industry besieged with short-lived fads. 

We don’t have an “Ad of the Week,” but maybe we should...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Social Life Audit - (it's time you had yours)

Forget about Klout for a minute.
Ulitmat Vodka brings us the first-ever gauge of one’s offline social life.  

You may be cool on the web, but Ultimat contests that doesn’t immediately translate to the physical world (albeit, scores depend heavily on the content you post online – a bit of a contradiction, no?).
Let's get started!
How does it work?

The “Social Life Audit” (SLA) is a down and dirty breakdown of cool. Unlike Klout, which measures audience engagement and amplification by number of likes, comments, and retweets, SLA reviews the general make-up and quantity of friends tagged in posted photos and check-ins.

For example:

Mood Analysis uses Facebook’s built-in facial recognition API to gauge how much fun the people around you are having (smile vs. frown, eye contact).

Gender Analysis looks at male-to-female ratios, percentage of tags that are single and overall attractiveness (determined by facial expression).

What gets weighted?

The audit takes into consideration:
  • Approval rating: (% of photos/check-ins that receive “likes”)
  • Gender Breakdown: (more points awarded for being with the opposite sex*)
  • Popularity: (based on total number of different people in your photos)
  • Social Status: (defined by the average number of photo tags per week)
  • Crew Size: (average number of people in your photos)
  •  “Hookup” Potential: (% of tagged people that are single – again, emphasis is on opposite sex*)
      *Unless you’re gay. Sorry, HRC. You can sit down now. Simply self-identify by clicking the gay/straight box and Ultimat recalculate’s your score. (Nice touch, guys!)

Here’s how I faired:
::shameless gloating::
But wait,
Where’s the marketing tie-in?

“Overworked? Under-played? Join the club.” –except from the site’s intro video.

It’s all part of Ulitmat Vodka’s new strategy; “Find Balance. Find Ultimat.” (We blogged about it last week, remember?) An interactive nugget of brand stickiness.

Ultimat wants to remind the ladder-climbing, workaholic in all of us to take a break. Get out from behind your computer and start living! That’s right, sign off Yammer and out of email. Close your laptop. And go crash the first Happy Hour you can find!

Work will wait for your return. Youth, maybe not. :P

Get your Social Media Audit here.
…what did it say? Let’s compare scores!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Manicures and Made-to-Order Sushi…at Walgreens?

Believe it.
CHICAGO -- Today marks the grand-opening of a new “flagship” location for the nation’s largest chain of drugstores. Chicago-based Walgreens has returned to the corner of Randolph and State, a location where it operated a store between 1926 and 2005. The 2-story, 27,000 square foot concept boasts an exclusive collection of innovative offerings unexpected at a drugstore.
Erik Unger / Chicago Business
"This store brings together our most innovative, forward-thinking initiatives under one stunning roof," said Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson. "Just as we did with our store here in the 1920s, we're again offering the ultimate in service, convenience, assortment and community pharmacy. Customers will be delighted by a drugstore unlike anything they've ever experienced." (source: BusinessWire)
Innovations include:
Food and Drink
Food offerings can feel like an afterthought at traditional drugstores. At Walgreens’ “Up Market,” there are hundreds of fresh food items designed for life on the go. With made-to-order Smoothie and Sushi bars, self-serve frozen yogurt, and Baristas brewing exclusive State & Randolph brand coffee, the new Walgreens feels more like a boutique grocer.
Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune
And with a sheik, modern wine room boasting more than 700 labels, patrons have at their fingertips everything necessary to get the party started.

Self-taken. I find the wine conveyor belt at the top entrancing to watch...
Health and Beauty
The new store debuts “LOOK Boutique;” a concept boasting on-site beauty advisors and dozens of niche cosmetics, skin and hair care brands not typically found in drugstores. Additional prestige comes from an on-site manicurist and eyebrow-shaping station. And at the “Virtual Makeover” kiosk, Walgreens gives customers the ability to “try on” new cosmetic shades and styles virtually.
Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune
Pharmacy and Clinic
Encouraging greater interaction between pharmacists and patients is an on-going trend. Here, it’s taken to a whole new level. Armed with iPads and virtual health apps, the new pharmacy makes navigating a wide range of health and wellness products, services, and resources easy. The pharmacist is pulled from behind the glass and seated at a welcoming, “Ask Your Pharmacist” desk. The enhanced, open space now includes consultation rooms, “Express Rx” kiosks for fast checkout and even a multi-purpose area for hosting health-oriented community events.  The “Take Care” clinic is equipped to handle immunizations, basic diagnoses and treatments.
Erik Unger / Chicago Business
There’s Already One on Every Corner...
The market for drugstores in the U.S. has reached maturity. To grow same-store sales without cannibalizing traffic at next-closest locations requires the drugstore concept to be reimagined. By enhancing both the breadth and depth of products offered, drugstores must show patrons that they’ve grown to carry more than mere ‘essentials.’
Walgreens focused last month’s holiday commercials on generating precisely that type of awareness. The 30-second spots explored the notion that Walgreens was a less-crowded and -hectic, yet viable holiday shopping alternative to big box competitors like Wal-Mart and Target.  
From drugstore to “daily living” destination
The store at Randolph and State definitely raises the bar for drugstore retailing and sets Walgreens apart from its competitors. And although I wouldn’t expect the concept to be rolled out on a large scale, it remains a physical manifestation of Walgreens intent to expand beyond the traditional perceptions of what a drugstore can be.
The new flagship store is certain to erode market share from boutique retailers and grocers alike, as well as area fast-dining establishments and stat care units.
Are you intrigued yet?
Self-taken. I wonder why "CVS" isn't on the list? They have quite the presence here as well. ;)
If you’re planning a visit to the Windy City this year, be sure to swing by the new store! It’s right next to Macy’s!

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Unsubscribes in 2012!

Wishful thinking, I know. How about at least reducing the number of unsubscribes by becoming a smarter marketer?

With each New Year, I make a conscious effort to purge all the clutter I’ve amassed over the past 12 months. January, (at least in Chicago), blesses us with nightfall before 5:00 and temperatures colder than one can bear. Forced indoors, all of life’s assets are up for renewal. Clothes that have fallen out of style or become too tight - Goodwill. “Important” documents that have long since lost their purpose - shredded.

And then, there’s EMAIL
Starting Jan 1, I try to suspend the natural inclination to simply send unwanted messages to the trash. Instead, I take the time to sign in on an actual computer and unsubscribe.  It’s mostly new emailers who get the ax – businesses with whom I bought from for the first time over the holidays. But there are always a number of long-time relationships with which I decide to sever ties as well. In veritably, it’s the people from whom I hear too often.

I suppose there is no golden rule, and “expert” opinions will clash. The ideal frequency of emails varies greatly by industry/product type and by level of customer engagement. Maybe the most important thing to do is go back-to-basics and look at your metrics. We’re talking opens, clicks, and click-throughs.

Quality over Quantity

Although monetarily-speaking it may cost very little to deploy an email, marketers must bear in mind the pitfalls of customer fatigue. Weigh the cost of damages to brand equity (and sales) associated with recipients who have begun to instinctively send your emails to the trash. If they aren’t even seeing your offers, they can’t react favorably to those which are relevant.
You don’t want to reach the point where you’ve been reduced to white noise. Less (can be) more. 

Here are a few of my inbox’s top offenders from 2011:
(In no particular order)

Here is a retailer whose business model is designed around gifting for life-events. On the web, customers can create a profile, save important dates, and opt-in to e-reminders when said dates are approaching. Perfect.

For a long time that’s how our relationship worked; silence until a self-identified date was approaching. Then, bam! – an email reminder, complete with last year’s gift selection and similar offerings; a target marketer’s dream!

But lately it’s been an email a day. Sometimes two, if a “sales deadline” is approaching. No specific event, no personalization whatsoever.

The Opt-Out Process:

1-800-Flowers has an opt-down clause (see below), but limits it to a reduction of one email per week. Still too much for me. Once unsubscribed, I was dumped onto a blank page; whether or not the opt-out was a success remains unknown.

Banana Republic
Sure. It’s my “last chance” for a midweek treat. Until next week. And don’t worry; there will be a near-identical sale tomorrow – aptly named for the weekend.

Every morning like clockwork, before even getting out of bed, another BR message gets deleted. I love you Banana, and your sales are usually quite good. But enough already – potassium overload!

The Opt-Out Process:

And it’s “change my email preferences” to the rescue! Another last-minute save brought to us by the opt-down! Unfortunately, BR still has some work to do. You can’t adjust frequency here. Instead, you can narrow solicitations by gender (and further for women with “petites”). Not as robust as I would have liked.

HotWire “Deals”
Allow me to set the stage for my aggravation. I was planning a beach vacation last August, and decided to explore a few rental car options. Another member of my party booked a car through their service and I abandoned search. I still get weekly emails alerting me to three-cent swings in price for rental cars in Myrtle Beach - my “personalized” deal.

What have the good people at Hotwire found to be the average window of time one explores rental car options prior to making a choice? Do they really think I still need a compact in Myrtle Beach, some six months after my initial search?

The Opt-Out Process:

Here, we have a more robust amount of choices at our disposal, including opting-out of “personalized” alerts vs. “general” savings notices, big deals and specific trip watcher services. Well done, HotWire! Still, it would be great if there was a way to earmark specific “personalized” offers as no longer relevant. There was a feedback box to describe one’s experience on the subscription page (below). You better believe I made the request.  
GREAT addition, guys!
So there you have it. A small sample from my email “dump list” for 2012.

As Marketers, what can we do?

Does anything really require daily emails? I can’t think of one brand or product that I’d want to hear from every day. If you’re emailing your prospects daily, just stop. That’s the first thing.

Also, look at your open-rates. Consider isolating a group of individuals who have left your emails unopened for a while. Cease all communication with them for a few months. Then, hit ‘em with a marquee offer. See if their open rate changes. Absence may make their heart grow fonder.

Next, segment, segment, segment! With your new found insight, begin to break your customer list down by frequency of open/response. Rate offers by varying degree of marketability and only deploy to customer tiers most likely to responds.

Ponder what you can move to Social Media. Variety is the spice of life. You want to announce a week-long promotion via email, fine. Don’t count down the days of the sale with follow-up emails. Instead, opt for tweeting the promo or reminding followers on Facebook. If you’re struggling to come up with new content, it’s a good sign you don’t have enough to say to warrant an email in the first place. Send out a quick 140 on Twitter instead. Your email and social media audiences might not be a complete overlap, but you can work on that integration later.

And above all else, replace Opt-Out with “Opt-Down.” I was amazed by the number of big name brands that still favor one-click unsubscribe over an opt-down option. It’s what saved me with Banana Republic! Give your customers the ability to define your relationship on their terms. It sure beats losing their attention all together!

Who did you purge from your inbox the holiday season and why?
How easy or effective was the opt-out process? Share!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Facelift | Faceoff: TCBY

The Country’s Best Yogurt plays catch-up…

In many ways, TCBY was ahead of its time. I mean, they were pairing fruits and nuts with their low-cal alternatives to ice cream back in the 90s. Well, it’s the 2010s now, and the nation’s obsession with “fro-yo” has reached epic proportions. So why is it NKOTB like Pinkberry and Yogen Früz seem to better capitalize on TCBY’s turf? It’s simple. They are sexy, TCBY is not - correction: was not (read on).
Never underestimate the power of a logo!
Ok, maybe we’re putting too much credence into brand. Still, a logo should capture a company’s essence. It is the physical manifestation of their aura. It should resonate with identified target markets and instantly articulate value.
In this spirit, we continue our Facelift | Faceoff series with a review of TCBY’s latest attempts to breathe new life into their brand.
Before the facelift:
Nothing about this logo says “healthy.”

The red and white colors are overdone and invoke a feeling of fast-food. The fun, somewhat erratic type-face is juvenile and unlikely to resonate with current frozen yogurt enthusiasts that skew college-bound and young professional. And, is that waffle cone brandishing healthy yogurt or fat-laden ice cream? I can’t tell the difference.
There you have it; the perception of health completely thwarted by dominant industry logic.  
After surgery:
Wow! The new logo drops to a thinner, lower-case, replacing the red and white with a more palatable pink and gray. The “y” is built to resemble a cup. Unlike the cone, it goes yogurt-free. Instead, three berries are suspended in a free fall, further emphasizing a “lighter than air” feeling of health. Revived at the far right is the long-hand the country’s best yogurt” for which TCBY stands.  
30k Ft Weighs In:
We know our rulings have favored a disproportionate amount of “Afters” but with TCBY, who can argue?
Set next to one another, it’s as if we are looking at two different companies catering to two very different markets. The new logo screams health.  The influence of Pinkberry and Yogen Früz can’t be denied, but if TCBY can’t be the first-mover in the recent “fro-yo” craze, at least they’re finally aligned with current category leaders.
And who knows? The 80s craze has got to end, and a new-found adoration for the 90s is likely to follow. Paired with its new healthy look and feel, perhaps TCBY can capitalize on dormant brand equity and rekindle pre-existing adoration.
Weigh in. Do you think TCBY’s liposuction was a success?  Will it help revive the brand?
Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Find Vodka?

Hard liquor is back on Madison Ave!  Not literally, as in the days rehabilitated in AMC’s Mad Men, but on client rosters.

As vodka consumption enjoys a certain renaissance in the US, distillers are debuting new labels, flavors, and packages. Have you tried Effen Cucumber? How about Pinnacle Cake or Whipped Cream? Scrumptious! (Tried in the name of research, of course).

While brands jockey for position in the minds of a growing pool of consumers, certain images and slogans stand out.

From the top shelf resounds Kettle One’s “Gentleman, this is Vodka.”

Further down, we find Svedka’s self-proclamation, “Voted #1 of 2033.”

And who doesn’t recognize the iconic, long-standing simplicity of an Absolut ad?

More recently, Belvedere went beyond any specific tagline or look; invoking raw emotion with their unwavering support for Project (RED) and the global fight to eliminate AIDS.

Introducing, Ultimat.

Heard of it? Neither had I. Owned and operated by Patrón Spirits Company, (purveyors of Patrón tequila) Ultimat ditched their previously held “Live Ultimate|ly” campaign for something equally fixed on garnering the attention of affluent drinkers.

Agency: Amalgamated
Find balance. Find Ultimat.

What’s the connection between maintaining a solid work/life balance and this particular brand of vodka? I’m not sure. But with the economy still in a slump and value-based competitors looking to undermine the perceived superiority of “premium brands,” the new campaigns resonate with their intended audience.

The ads are clean and cool. Their message of 'balance' works on both a functional and emotional level.

Ultimat promises a smoother taste; a harmonic balance of wheat, rye, and potato.

The ads breed relate-ability. You deserve Ultimat because, hey - you work hard. Too hard, even.

Ultimat is that one friend who always reminds you to take time off and indulge. And, at $39.99 for 750-milliliters, Ultimat Vodka is the perfect ulta-premium beverage with which to balance time outside the office with family and friends.

Ultimat Vodka is one's reward, self-given for achieving professional acclaim.
(Or at least that’s the impression they want to leave)…

Conspicuously placed at bus and train stops heavily trafficked by the mega-professional, the captivating ads may just be the boost Patrón needs to increase their stake in the domestic vodka market.

Like ‘em? Hate ‘em? Have something to add?
Let’s hear it!