What does cheugy mean? When you know…you know.

May 4, 2021

A picture of homemade lasagna with the caption "wait, is this cheugy?"

Cheugy means something or someone that’s just a smidge off-trend and “trying too hard.”  Never heard the word?  You’re not alone.  But why should you care?  Well, if you’re a marketer and you want to reach Gen Z…you should.  You might be using cheugy concepts in your marketing (oh the shame!) and you don’t even know it.

The trouble is, defining what’s cheugy (pronounced chew-gee, with a hard G) is subjective.  And a clear explanation is elusive, despite a multitude of sources that try to define it.  For example:

  • In Rolling Stone:  “…an aesthetic that is somewhere between basicness and cheesiness.”
  • In The New York Times:  “It’s not embarrassing or even always negative.”
  • In The Urban Dictionary:  “The opposite of trendy.”
  • But Insider said it best:  “Ultimately, cheuginess is a vibe, something you can sense without always being able to substantiate why.”

Wait…what?  I just read three articles and a dictionary definition and I’m still not certain I can identify something that would universally be considered “cheugy.”

Perhaps it’s my age.  The term is apparently a dig at Millennials by Gen Zers, implying that all the things Millennials thought were cool in high school are no longer cool.  So I guess if you’re a Gen Xer or a Boomer, you’d probably be wise to stay out of the dialogue.  Gen Z will just come up with another term (that none of us can understand) to describe how “older people” try too hard to use all the young people’s slang.  Or wait…does that just make us cheugy?  I’m so confused.

I remember being a kid in the early 80’s when a friend at summer camp tried really hard to define the word “preppy” for me.  It was another of those “you know it when you see it” kind of terms and I obviously didn’t see it.  She even gifted me her copy of The Official Preppy Handbook (“don’t worry, Grand-ma-ma will get me a new one”).  And still…it was pretty clear that if you weren’t preppy and didn’t have that magical essence naturally in you, simply flipping your collar up wouldn’t cut it.  You imposter.

Cheugy is the same way.  You just have to know it when you see it, so if you DON’T… don’t despair.  Our brains aren’t wired for everything, and just the way you may not understand calculus or be handy with mechanical things… so too, you may not be capable of identifying cheuginess.  Not even if they come out with The Cheugy Handbook.

However, if it helps, here are a few things that seem to be universally accepted as cheugy:

  • Ugg slippers
  • Barstool Sports
  • The Instagram caption “I did a thing”
  • Sneaker culture
  • Being an iced coffee addict
  • Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes

But don’t go thinking you’ve got the definition nailed, even if looking at that list gave you a good idea of the cheugy vibe.  Because even among those who coined and spread the term, there are regular debates about what’s truly cheugy…and that’s not even a permanent label.  Apparently, low-rise jeans were once considered cheugy, and now they’re not.  Try to keep up.

Here’s the big question though.  Now that the mainstream media have written all about the word, giving license for the uncool and uninitiated to bandy it about, will Gen Z even want to use it anymore?  Or will the term itself be deemed cheugy?  We’ll have to ask Gaby Rasson, the 23-year-old software developer who’s credited with creating the term back in 2013.  Gaby – clearly the idol of Gretchen in Mean Girls, who tried so hard to make fetch happen – will always reign supreme as the last word on cheuginess.

In the New York Times article, someone said “lasagna is cheugy.”  Dude, my mom just made a killer lasagna this past weekend and I cleaned my plate spotless.  If that makes me cheugy, I’ll gladly take that label with a side of meatballs and a glass of chianti.

And one last thought.  I recently wrote a blog post about Marketing Lessons from The Princess Bride.  It was wildly popular, but now I’m thinking…is The Princess Bride cheugy?  BRB. DMing Gaby.

The Hiring Chain video: great idea, brilliant storytelling.

April 23, 2021

If you’ve not seen The Hiring Chain video, get ready for a great idea and some absolutely brilliant storytelling.  And it’s not just because legendary music artist Sting is performing the tune.

Click image to watch:

 

GREAT IDEA

First, let’s talk about the idea as it relates to tourism and hospitality.  As the industry roars back from the pandemic, there’s a definite labor shortage on the horizon. Housekeepers, groundskeepers, gardeners, kitchen staff, maintenance and custodial staff, and so much more will be needed.  It’s entirely possible many of these roles can be effectively filled by people with Down Syndrome (which, FYI, is often written as “Down’s Syndrome” too).

CoorDown, the awesome organization that produced the video, has a helpful website on the subject.  Here’s a link to their hiring page to learn more about hiring in your country.

BRILLIANT STORYTELLING

Second, let’s talk about the brilliant storytelling this video achieves, and why.  Marketers, take note:

  • By using the generic career titles – baker, farmer, dentist, barber, etc. – the viewer gets a feel by osmosis for the variety of jobs possible for Down Syndrome workers.
  • By the time the lawyer hires John, it’s clear how the story is unfolding and the viewer starts to anticipate what comes next.
  • The music tempo and vibe emotionally carry the viewer through this journey.  When the baker walks into the barber and the music slows down, it fosters an “a-ha” moment.  The brain has a chance to stop and realize how that whole hiring chain was connected.
  • The ending sequence is pure magic.  Just the simple act of speeding up the tempo implies quantity and depth.  Without saying it in words, it’s like saying, “You see how many jobs were filled and opportunities given just because of that one first move by the barber?  We had to speed things up just to fit it all in.”

It goes without saying that the video production is spot on…and yeah, it doesn’t hurt that Sting is performing the song.  AdAge said it best… “it’s like a jazzy nursery rhyme.”

When you plan your next video, take a page from great and brilliant Hiring Chain video.  They didn’t spell out much in black-and-white words, yet the combo of visuals, scenes, and music told the story better than any descriptive narrative would have.

BTW, you can use a similar storytelling concept with signs.  See some of our faves here.

We’re all just suckers for homemade cake.

February 3, 2021

I speak at tourism and leisure conferences around the world and I gotta be honest:  I can’t recall the food I’ve eaten at any of them.  It’s not that the food was bad… it just wasn’t memorable.

Except for one time.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Miramichi River Tourism Association in New Brunswick Canada, the desserts served after the meeting were all homemade by the committee members of the Miramichi Folksong Festival.   Naturally, my colleague Gina and I had to pose for a picture with the bakers:

Redpoint staff and the Miramichi Folksong Festival committee pose at the dessert table.

And please drool for a moment over one of the cakes:

Picture of chocolate cake with white icing and kisses on top    Close up of slice of chocolate cake with white icing

Now…why is this so fabulous and what can you learn from it?  Three things:

  • It was unexpected to find such a deeply personal touch at a large business conference, so it not only made a memorable impression, but it also warmed my heart.
  • Cakes and pies are all made by SOMEONE, so even when they are purchased and served en masse from a bakery or your catering kitchen, they can still be considered “homemade.”  But the fact that these were made in home kitchens by the very ladies (and gent) who served them spoke to a level of effort and care that made me feel extraordinarily welcome.
  • Seeing all the attendees flock around the dessert table chatting with the bakers about what they baked brought a special warmth and sociability to the event.  It made guests (and especially me, the out-of-towner) feel more connected to both the event and the organization hosting it.

So, hospitality businesses, I’m not saying you need to start baking all your cakes at home and having Ethel and Barb serve them.  But think about how you can bring that level of personal touch, effort, and care to your guests.  Can you tell the story behind a special dish made in your restaurant?  Hand deliver something unexpected to a room?  Give them a small treat at checkout made by your chef (or better yet…your housekeeper, because it’s unexpected?) to enjoy on the ride home?  Have one of your chefs, gardeners, or housekeepers hang out in the lobby one day to chat with guests and answer questions about their job?  You get the idea.

Do these things cost time and money?  Sure.  But if they make a lasting – and perhaps Instagram-worthy – impression, the investment will pay you back in spades.

Need more convincing?  Check out how these tiny design details make a big difference and how even accountants can have fun with marketing.

Hershey’s Kisses fell prey to Satan in 2020.

December 3, 2020

If you’re like me, you had NO IDEA there are people out there whose sanity and well-being rest on the annual appearance of the Hershey’s Kisses holiday commercial.

But not just ANY holiday commercial.  It must be the original commercial that launched in 1989 and has basically remained unchanged, with Kisses doubling as bells that ring out “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  If you haven’t watched TV during the holidays in the past 31 years, you can see that original spot here.

This year, Hershey’s updated said commercial with a twist, like so: (click on the image to watch)

Apparently, this change ruined some people’s lives.  Snippets on the subject from social media:

  • “I’m emotionally scarred.”
  • “Nothing is sacred anymore.”
  • “There was once a time when I loved the holidays and now I feel terrible.”
  • “FIRE THE PERSON WHO SUGGESTED TO CHANGE IT!!!”
  • “2020 wasn’t the year to change it, we’ve been traumatized enough.”
  • “THIS YEAR CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL.”
  • “It fills me with primal rage.”

And those are some comments I *didn’t* have to censor.  Naturally, mainstream media seized on the backlash and made national news out of Hershey’s’ evil decision to ruin the holiday season.

Am I the only one fascinated by this situation?  If you’re a marketer, it’s likely your brand’s recognition is far less than that of Hershey’s Kisses (she says in the understatement of the year).  But if we zip up to the 30,000-foot view of this whole debacle, here’s what you can learn from it:

Consistency and frequency matter.  People are fickle and have short attention spans, and it takes a long time to penetrate their awareness and create meaningful connections.  Your own audience may be proportionately smaller than that of Hershey’s Kisses, but that doesn’t dilute their potential for loyalty.  Keeping your annual marketing campaigns fresh is always a good idea, but keeping a few select elements the same year after year after year can form a bond of repetition that becomes tradition.  Whether this is your “opening for the season” video, or a holiday campaign, or an anniversary message… there are things your loyal guests recognize that strengthen your relationship with them every year.  Marketers often get swept up in the idea of creating new campaigns in order to reach new guests, but don’t be so quick to summarily drop all “old campaigns.” You’ve built equity there that could be harnessed.

Change will always scare some people, so don’t freak out when it happens.  Humans resist change, and yeah…sometimes they can get dramatic about it.  But you’re doing your business a disservice if you lose your nerve every time people complain about a change you’ve made, because you KNOW some will.  Whether it’s a change in hours, name, staff, product, programming, marketing campaigns, or whatever… if you’ve thought it through and it’s the right move for your business, then prepare yourself properly to address (or ignore, if appropriate) any negative reaction.  Related note… if you’re certain the news will be unwelcome, this might help:  Five Tips to Deliver Bad News Gracefully.

Audiences can be unpredictable.  Between the dual social groundswells of gender equality and Black Lives Matter, it’s a safe bet that Hershey’s thought enhancing this commercial with a black father baking cookies with his young daughter would only bring them a flood of positive feeling.  Well…nope.  I guess nostalgia trumps social change in this case?  So, take note:  be prepared for surprises. There’s simply no way you can 100% predict how all people will react to your decisions.

And perhaps one BIG takeaway here is:  just don’t mess with nostalgia during a pandemic.

In closing, however, I leave you with this thought.  Surely the ad agency of the globally-recognized Hershey’s brand has enough research and data in its pocket to know how staunchly loyal audiences are to this commercial… after all, they haven’t changed it in 31 years and I’m sure that was a deliberate choice.

So, did they do it on purpose in 2020 knowing it would cause controversy and therefore get a wider audience and more coverage?  Or did they predict some backlash but felt the upside of the change would be worth it?  Comments on that are welcome… and I’m just gonna sit here and eat an entire bag of Kisses while I ponder it.

Beards and coronavirus: a lesson in fact checking.

March 3, 2020

If you’re a social media marketer, or your business engages in social media marketing, then last week’s beards-and-coronavirus misinformation fiasco should have been a huge wake-up call for you.

Here’s what happened.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware that a new coronavirus (COVID-19) has emerged, and it’s causing concern in pretty much all corners of the globe.  Regardless of whether a country has experienced any cases on its own turf, everyone is glued to the media reports to stay abreast of the latest status, advice, and warnings.

On the morning of Wednesday February 26 2020, someone (original culprit unknown) posted an infographic that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) created in 2017 for workers who are required to use facepiece respirators in their jobs.  It was apparently (and very smartly) timed to align with “No Shave November,” to help those intending to grow beards in support of cancer awareness know what types of facial hair would prevent such respirators from working properly.  The respirators aren’t effective if the hermetic seal isn’t intact on the skin, so this safety message was not only smart but necessary.

The problem is… on Feb 26, 2020, this infographic was erroneously shared as NEW information from the CDC as a warning to the general public about COVID-19.  The dramatically incorrect message?  Men with beards won’t be protected from the new coronavirus unless they shave to one of the styles that work with everyday facemasks.

But wait… it gets worse.

The media, never shy about jumping on new (and especially absurd) angles to fuel a 24/7 news story, seized that nugget WITHOUT FACT CHECKING, and transformed it into headlines such as:

  • CDC Warns Men About Facial Hair Dangers as Coronavirus Spreads
  • CDC: Shave Your Beards to Prevent Coronavirus
  • These Beards May Make You More Likely to Catch Coronavirus

Within 24 hours, dozens of seemingly-credible news outlets shared this incorrect story as fact.  Here’s what the first five pages of a mobile search for “coronavirus beards” returned on the morning of Feb 27:

Now, forget for a moment that we’re talking about epidemics, media alarmism, and the shyster-like use of “click bait headlines” as a marketing weapon.

The lesson for social media marketers is this:  never EVER believe what you read – or worse, share it – unless you’ve checked the facts yourself.  In this case, a quick Google search would have told you that dozens of outlets were reporting on it… but that meant diddly squat, because they were ALL wrong.

So, you can’t rely on “quantity of stories” to verify facts, which is tempting.  Here’s what you CAN do:

  1. Check the original-named source. In this case, one hop onto the CDC website or their Twitter feed would have revealed that they made no such announcement.  But ANYTIME you see a media report that claims that “so-and-so says”… go straight to so-and-so’s website and social channels to find out if it’s true.
  2. Check the media sources best known for reputable fact-checking. Two known for highest standards in accuracy and credible sourcing are Associated Press and Reuters.  If they didn’t cover the story, it casts doubt on the veracity.  (Note:  Reuters didn’t cover the beard thing at all, and AP did just one story… on Feb 27 refuting the claim, with context and quotes sourced directly from the CDC.)
  3. Check the credibility of the media outlet you’re using. A helpful website, Media Bias/Fact Check, has a handy search tool that evaluates the bias and accuracy of media websites.  While it’s by no means infallible or the only source available for such assessment, it’s certainly useful as an indicator. A quick search on this site reveals things like how often a media source uses loaded language to sway emotion vs. factual reporting, how deeply/accurately it checks its facts, and how often it skews facts/opinion to favor a political bias (either left or right).

You may be thinking “well, I’m a tourism destination/hotel company/attraction/restaurant, and I’m not likely to be sharing coronavirus stories, so this sort of fact-checking thing doesn’t really apply to me.”

Not so.  Weird stuff, urban legends, outrageous claims and more are reported in the media all the time (broomstick challenge, anyone?)… and in your quest to keep your own social feeds interesting and relevant, you may pluck one out to spin with your own angle, and share it with the best of intentions.

So, the moral of the story is:  check your facts and keep your beards on.

Bonus (related) tip:  the tactic of using shock-and-scare to get attention isn’t just reserved for online.  Learn about the time Alamo tried to casually scare me into upgrading to a “safer” car.

Tiny design details can make big memories in hospitality.

February 19, 2020

The bedside table at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh made me swoon with joy.

Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh bedside table outlet

It was such a pleasure to be spared the usual contortions of locating the closest power outlet to the bed: it was directly under the outlet icon.  The fact that it was done in such a clever way was just a bonus…and ensured that I’d remember it.

Design details like that might seem insignificant, but actually they wield tremendous power.  Guests on mental autopilot or simply focused on other things are instantly snapped into focus on YOU.  It cuts through their mental clutter and seduces them into being present in the moment, aware of their surroundings, and with a small zing of pleasant feeling toward you.  Without that design detail, they are perhaps allowed to be indifferent toward you…and in the competitive world of hospitality, that will never do.

I thought the groovy-looking fish on this cabinet in a guest cottage at Basin Harbor in Vermont was simply a decoration…

Closed fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

…until I noticed the tiny knob:

Open fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

And when I walked into a gas station restroom in upstate NY, this was the last thing I expected to see:

flowers in rest area bathroom

 

Did it make me smile after two hours of grueling traffic?  You bet it did.  Seems silly, but it really did.

You can unleash this design-detail power in literally any aspect of guest touch points.  You don’t have to do it EVERYWHERE at EVERY touch point… in fact, that would create sensory overload and then dilute the power of the surprise.  And indeed, it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or cost a ton of money…it just has to provide an unexpected “ah-ha” moment.

Look at these Do Not Disturb (DND) signs at The Quarterdeck Resort in Nova Scotia:

Do Not Disturb signs at Quarterdeck Resort

Magnetic DND signs solve soooooo many problems, especially for hotel rooms that open directly to the outdoors.  And anyone who has ever been annoyed by their DND sign falling off the doorknob or blowing away in the wind will instinctively – and involuntarily – think “wow that’s cool” the moment they see these.

But bear in mind that while clever design details are guaranteed to leave a positive impression on your guests, #DesignFails are guaranteed to do precisely the opposite.  Behold, this Montauk NY cottage resort, where our ONLY door to the outside was clearly at odds with the DND sign:

Design fail for Do Not Disturb sign

Luckily, I had a bandaid in my travel bag, so we were able to (literally) doctor the DND sign to the glass door.

And here’s a parting tip.  Design not your thing, or maybe you’re afraid of the cost?  You can achieve the same zing-of-joy with clever signs.

Here’s what “living the brand” really means.

November 5, 2019

There’s a store in Brooklyn called The Superhero Supply Co, which sells – among other things – a fine selection of capes, cans of antimatter (sizes: large and small), and sidekick utility belts (assorted colors).  It’s not a party/costume store, where you’d go to buy a signature Captain America shield or Wonder Woman golden lasso.  It’s where a REAL superhero would shop for his/her OWN gear.  Quite literally… a supply store for superheroes.

Until you get to the shelving on the left side of the back wall.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co hidden doorOne section of the fully-stocked shelves actually swings out (if you know the trick) as a secret door.  What’s behind the secret door?  A classroom, where kids can experience workshops to foster their creative writing and imaginative thinking skills.  There are evening and weekend sessions for kids aged 6 – 18, and they also offer after-school programs, host school field trips, and more.

Think about this:  the entire purpose of this business is to inspire kids to release and cultivate their imagination.  Would this be possible in an ordinary classroom?  Sure.  Is it 10,000 times more effective in a hidden classroom that’s the secret identity of a store that sells supplies to superheroes?  Duh.  Their imagination is sparked before that hidden door even finishes swinging open.

THAT is what “living the brand” really means.

It’s not about having a carefully-crafted mission statement and/or brand positioning written down on paper…it’s about how that mission and positioning come to life at all touchpoints of interaction with your audience.  It’s not saying you’re something.  It’s being that something.  As the ol’ saying goes… walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Let this magical place inspire you to evaluate your OWN state of “living the brand.”

We see brand-disconnects all the time in the tourism industry, such as…

  • Hotels that say they’re gracious, yet nickel and dime guests with fees at every turn.
  • Destinations that say they’re artsy, yet feature boring, standard wayfinding tools onsite and online.
  • Ski resorts that say they’re edgy and epic, yet offer typical F&B options and vanilla interior design.
  • Attractions that say they’re fun, yet make ticket-purchasing and parking acutely painful.

Listen…I get it, it’s hard to live the brand.  Who wants to give up fees?  Or convince owners to invest in renovations?  Or fight town councils on signage regulations?  Or – WTF, Chris? – figure out a way to make parking fun?

But “living the brand” makes marketing’s job less expensive and more effective.  Your marketing dollars will have to work less hard to keep guests tethered, and – even better – transforms them into ambassadors, inspired to share your story with the world.

You may think it’s no big deal if you’re not living the brand at every single turn, but each off-brand touchpoint is sabotaging your trust with guests.  And an erosion of trust sabotages loyalty.  And a lack of loyalty ultimately means…buh-bye.

So, even if the step-by-step impact is intangible to measure and impossible to trace, living the brand is vital to your business goals.  Strap on your own cape and find a way.  The ROI is worth it.

For more information about the creative engine behind the Superhero Supply Co, click here.  Superheroes in Brooklyn, big foot hunters in Boston, secret agents in Chicago, time travelers in LA, and many more…the business concept is just pure magic.

 

Why I love Weed.

October 23, 2019

Last week, as I was leaving Weed Orchards & Winery in NY’s Hudson Valley after a day of apple picking, I uttered the words that every attraction, hotel, restaurant, and destination longs to hear:

We just HAVE to come back here again.

And I wasn’t alone.  A bunch of Redpointers and their families were with me, and they all felt the same way.  Future outings were planned before we even walked to the parking lot.

How did Weed accomplish that?  How did they seduce a bunch of been-there-done-that marketers into a loyal romance with just one visit?  With three smart moves:  energy, experience investment, and onsite marketing.

Energy:  Except for the peacefulness found among the sprawling orchards, that joint was JUMPING.  An emcee/DJ playing music in the front courtyard area and acting like a cross between a circus barker and welcoming committee.  A live band in the back patio and picnic area (near the outdoor bar, how convenient), creating a distinctly different entertainment space from the front courtyard area.  Wagon rides over here.  Wine tastings over there.  At every point, people directing you…guiding you…suggesting something for you to do/try/see.  Impression left on guest:  vibrancy, life, texture… “I would never get bored here.”

Experience Investment: The typical apple-picking attraction playbook is… orchards + farm store/bakery.  You wouldn’t think of spending an entire day there, nor would you think “I could come hang out here every weekend.”  Not so with Weed.  In a well-organized guest experience area, they offer four dining outlets (each serving completely different menu items, one exclusively devoted to cider donuts), two music/entertainment areas, several bar areas, a bakery, face painting, a playground, wagon rides, corn maze, petting zoo, a winery, produce for purchase, and a shocking array of indoor and outdoor seating areas.  And that’s not even counting the pick-your-own orchards, gardens, and pumpkin patches.  Impression left on guest: “I could come here every weekend and have a completely different experience…with my grandma, my neighbors, my besties, or my toddler.”

weed orchard mapOnsite Marketing:  The moment you arrive, you’re handed a map of the whole place (see pic), and then this happens in your brain:  Whoa.  What’s this?  I can pick peaches?  Nectarines?  Vegetables?  When?  Not now?  So, when?  I’ll come back.  Wait… is that a corn maze on the other side?  Where’s the winery?  Oh, there…not too far from the donuts.  And so on.  Supplementing that are the helpful signs around the place, and ohhhhhh… that emcee/barker.  She delivered the perfect blend of fun commentary (“there’s  no donut line right now!”), promo teasers (“don’t miss our pumpkin festival next weekend”), and smooth marketing lines (“tag us on social media @weedorchards”… “bring home a bottle of our crisp Seyval Blanc”… “it’s hot out!…try a wine slushie at the winery…um, not you, kids… adults only”).  Impression left on guest:  I need to come back…there’s so much to do here.

What’s my point?  THEY DON’T SKIMP AND THEY DON’T FUMBLE AT THE GUEST EXPERIENCE GOAL LINE.

I can just hear the objections that would typically occur in the executive planning and finance meetings of such a business:  Why do we need a band when we have a DJ?  Why have different foods at each outlet?  We can’t just hand out a plain old photocopied black-and-white map… it would have to be designed and printed and we don’t have the money for that.  And on…and on…and on.

Kudos to the team at Weed for – in my opinion – making all the right choices.

And if you think they spent too much money unnecessarily?  Well, ask yourself this:  how much are the words “we just HAVE to come back here again” worth to YOUR business?

An Instagram lesson from “The Dress.”

August 14, 2019

Recently, I learned about a dress available at fashion retailer Zara that has its own Instagram account.  At the time of this writing, The Dress had 21,000 followers.

Zara The Dress

The Dress (credit: Zara)

Not being a fashionista myself – whatever the opposite of a shopaholic is (shopaslothic?), I’m it – I figured that following The Dress on Instagram wouldn’t interest me… except as a marketer.  Because the thought of a dress having more followers than some of our clients is mind blowing, and just a teeny bit depressing.  I needed to know its secret.

Before I looked at the account, I tried to imagine what kind of content The Dress could offer to keep an audience engaged and growing (because when I first learned about it a month ago, there were only 13,000 followers).  Pics of The Dress in different locations?  Suggestions for jewelry, shoes, or other accessories that best complement The Dress?  Fan photos sent in wearing The Dress?  It’s true I’m no fashionista… but why on earth would anyone care enough about THE SAME DRESS to see pictures of it repeatedly and voluntarily?

So I looked.  And then I knew:  it’s not The Dress.  It’s The Voice.

OH, THAT VOICE.  The woman who created and manages the account, stylist Faye Oakenfull, sees the world through a clever lens…and that bit of brilliant, humorous cheek comes through with each post.  If she’s even half as good a stylist as she is a content creator, her fashion services should be in demand for eternity.  I scrolled through so many posts, and was smiling the entire time… and even though I’m not into fashion, and I was only looking at this account as a marketer doing research…in the end, I found myself clicking “follow.”

Because if this account brings me a shot of joy every time I see a post, then I’ll make room for it in my Instagram feed.

The Dress – and The Voice of The Dress – offers a valuable lesson for anyone managing an Instagram account in a lifestyle industry like travel, tourism, and hospitality:  you need to EARN your place in a person’s feed.  How?  Here are two useful suggestions:

Be entertaining:  That doesn’t necessarily mean funny… it means ENTERTAIN them.  Bring joy to their day.  Inspire them.  Make them think.  Surprise them.  And yes, make them laugh sometimes. Stop thinking about what you want (or need) to sell, and stop doing obligatory posts (with no thought, and at the last minute) just to check a box and keep to a posting schedule.

Be relevant:  Never ever forget that your audience is made up of individual people… and they are all doing different things and leading different lives at the time they see your post.  Why should they care that you’re having a happy hour special today when they live 1,000 miles away?  Talk to them as humans having a conversation (“This cocktail at today’s happy hour is so delicious, we won’t judge when you lick the glass after it’s gone”… pic of the cocktail, then swipe for pic of person hilariously actually licking the glass), not as a brand doing marketing (“Two for one happy hour specials on the patio today!”).  The former gives them a relevant sensory connection…the latter just pushes a transactional sale.

The Voice of The Dress does both – entertainment and relevance – beautifully.  And when my mother hears that I’m following a dress on Instagram – me!…who grew up as the tommiest-of-tomboys and tried to wrestle myself out of every dress she put me in – she’s going to laugh her head off.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if she buys me the damn thing for Christmas. (New idea for an Instagram account:  Mom Gets the Last Laugh).

Learn more about the story of The Dress here.

Masking tape: the unsung hero of authentic branding.

July 10, 2019

First, a warning:  this post might make you hungry.  I confess to involuntary drooling just while writing it.

Now, let’s talk about authentic branding.  And biscuits.  And masking tape.  And grandmothers.

Recently, as part of a winter tourism strategy and business development consulting assignment for Nova Scotia’s South Shore Tourism Cooperative, I had the pleasure of doing some business coaching for the Anchors Away Family Restaurant & Dairy Bar in Clyde River, NS.  Within this coaching relationship, we studied their business patterns, identified trends, assessed operational needs, uncovered opportunities, crafted marketing ideas, and surveyed market potential.  We also evaluated the visuals and the vibe – internal and external signage, interior design, menus, service – with a branding eye:  how strongly can customers connect to this restaurant and what does it mean to them?

All great stuff, and super helpful to charting their growth path.  But it wasn’t until the menu tasting that the magical branding lesson happened.

I sat there and tasted a bonanza of lovingly homemade goodies, including:  gravy so tasty I wanted to do shots of it, frozen cheesecake that literally melted in my mouth from extreme creaminess, and then…oh, those glorious biscuits.  Flaky.  Buttery.  Addictive.  The perfect balance between light and substantial.  One bite in, I felt like I had died and gone to biscuit heaven.

Me:  “Sweet lord. You could make a fortune selling these.  You make these here?”

Owner:  “We do.  My mother makes them.”

Me:  “YOUR MOTHER MAKES THEM?  Do you sell them by the pack for takeaway?”

Owner:  “We do.” <goes and gets a six-pack of biscuits to show me>  “We just started recently, and I know we need to get more professional-looking labels than masking tape if we’re going to keep selling them.”

Anchors Away Biscuits

Cue magical branding lesson.  Actually, a handwritten label with masking tape is PRECISELY the right label for a pack of drool-worthy biscuits that were lovingly baked in the back kitchen of a family diner by (essentially) someone’s grandmother.  It screams “homemade,” “just baked,” “no preservatives,” “small batch,” and “made with love.”  JUST LOOK AT THE FORK MARKS. I COULD HUG THE BAKER JUST FOR THOSE ALONE. So, the masking tape vibe fits perfectly into the authentic positioning – and unique selling proposition – of the restaurant. 

What’s the lesson?  “Branding” sounds like a fancy and formal concept, and to achieve it, many businesses think they need to standardize, formalize, and professionalize their touchpoints.  Slick, glossy brochures.  Traditionally staged photos.  Professionally printed collateral.  But branding – correction…successful branding – is really just the appropriate visual and emotional expression of an entity’s personality.  Branding means being who you are, not trying to be something that you’re not.  And effective branding makes a connection with the guests you most want to court… whether that means self-serve iPad menus or biscuit packs with masking tape labels.

So… nope nope nope:  Anchors Away, you absolutely do NOT need to get more professional-looking labels for your biscuits. If you did, it wouldn’t feel like “you,” and all the magic would be lost. You should go ahead and lean right the heck into the image fostered by ragged strips of tape and a trusty Sharpie fine point.  I honestly believe it even makes the biscuits taste better.  Draw a heart on the tape and I might even swoon.

And then – bonus – you don’t even have to spend money buying fancy labels. 

PS.  Anchors Away…please start a weekly Biscuit Delivery Service to the US.  You can have all my money.  Just please do it.