June 8, 2017

Bathroom branding…it’s a thing.

When you’re walking (hurrying?) into a public bathroom, your mental focus is probably pretty singular:  get in, get relief, and get out…with minimal engagement to the actual bathroom itself.

Unless there is a clever sign on the door.

Then…you smile, and even if just for a brief second…you think about the brand that “owns” the bathrooms. Maybe you even take a picture of the sign and post it on social media.  You might even tag that brand, and give them a shout-out for being fabulous.  Or text it to a friend.

The point is…you notice, and a connection is formed between you and that brand.  If the bathroom doors are simply marked “Men” and “Women,” you don’t even spare them (or the brand) a brain cell.  But when they’re unexpected and distinct, you pay attention.  Case in point:

At the Timber Lounge in Halifax, Nova Scotia…a bar at which you can enjoy a spot of axe throwing:

Timber Lounge

At Weylin B. Seymour’s glamourous event space in Brooklyn, NY, the wheelchair accessible bathrooms inspire festive attitudes:

wheelchair

At an Irving highway rest area in New Brunswick, Canada…the LEAST likely place you’d be inspired to care about a brand:

At the Hotel on North in Pittsfield, MA, which boasts a sophisticated-yet-funky-retro vibe (psst… Redpoint designed these):

Hotel on North Bathroom

The point is, bathroom signs are an easy, inexpensive and non-intrusive way to make a connection with your guests.  You’ve got to put signs up anyway…why not let them help further your marketing goals?

And if you ever need to set up port-a-potties…take a page from the Rochester Lilac Festival and GO ALL IN:

Lilac Bathrooms

Lilac port-a-potties, people.  I rest my case.

August 26, 2014

Surprise! Creating guest surprises is harder than it looks…

Last Christmas, the Canadian airline WestJet surprised a plane full of arriving passengers at baggage claim by delivering fully wrapped gifts they had just specifically requested from “Santa” only hours before at their departure gate.  (If you haven’t seen that video, grab some tissues and watch it here.)

To date, the WestJet Christmas Miracle video has received nearly 40 million views on YouTube, making it the envy of hospitality marketers around the world.  Marketers – and their CEO bosses – watched longingly as the media attention spotlight on WestJet grew brighter and the video view count grew higher, and they all had the same thought:  I want a “WestJet video” for MY brand.

Alas, most of them are likely to retire with “I wish I had a WestJet video” still on their career bucket list, and here’s why:  surprises – especially of that magnitude – are bloody hard work.

Pulling off a surprise like that requires precision timing, which requires a recipe of planning, staffing, money, creativity, and problem solving.  You cannot fumble at the goal line.  You cannot plan a “partial surprise.”  You can’t get the timing “almost right.”  You get ONE SHOT.  So you have to make it count, or every bit of investment you put into it is a big ol’ waste.

This leaves no wiggle room for indecision, executive in-fighting, budget paralysis, miscommunication, or distraction from the focus.  And that’s a lot to ask of ANY brand, at ANY size.  That “little” five minute video required four months of singular planning attention, 150 WestJet employees, an extraordinary budget, and extensive marketing resources in two cities.  Such a level of orchestration deserves every bit of brand-envy it receives, because marketers worth their salt know it’s a rare phenomenon.

To determine if your brand has what it takes to successfully leverage the magic of surprise – at any level – ask yourself…

  • Do we embrace fun?
  • Do all our in-house departments work together harmoniously, and if not…can they?
  • Are we comfortable taking risks?
  • Are we willing to spend unanticipated money if needed to protect the surprise all the way to the finish line?
  • Do we complete our regular, non-surprise-oriented projects on time, and with precision?

If the answer to any of those questions was “no,” then you should think twice before investing a ton of resources into planning a one-shot-deal surprise for your guests.  You will save yourself a lot of misery (and money) by using other tools in your marketing toolbox instead.

Parting tip:  If you ARE planning to create a big surprise, keep this in mind…the bigger and cooler the surprise, the higher the bar is set for next time.  Case in point:  for my keynote address at the Vermont Travel Industry Conference in April, Redpoint surprised the audience of 250 people with beer, pretzels, costume accessories, and a New Orleans style jazz band (watch the trailer).  Two months later, the Vermont Ski Areas Association wanted a similar surprise for their annual conference…but what fun would it be to orchestrate the same surprise?  So Redpoint cajoled the kind folks at Ben & Jerry’s to create an exclusive ice cream flavor – Vermont Powder – just for that conference, and we delivered it to the audience in a surprise moment punctuated by a song we “wrote.” (Watch the Hot Sardines perform that song here.)

It was all great fun, and we had a blast doing it.  But now people start to salivate the moment they hear that I’m the keynote speaker, and (sorry, mom) it ain’t because they think I’m pretty.  Lesson learned:  human nature = “oooh, what’s next?”

Ah, well.  Redpoint is up to the challenge.  Save your pity for WestJet…they have to top way more than beer and ice cream.

July 3, 2012

The golden rule of using social media for business.

Beware of the new illness that’s catching among marketers…and their bosses.  It’s called  irrational fan base envy and when it infects you, poor marketing decisions are bound to follow.

You can catch this illness from even the briefest exposure to ANY social media channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.  The infection is often triggered by media reports that sensationalize the wildly positive impact of social media as a marketing tool.  Symptoms, which mirror the frenzied fever associated with a gold rush or get-rich-quick-scheme, include:

  1. Obsessing over how many fans/followers your brand has vs. other brands in your competitive set
  2. Setting arbitrary-yet-super-high fan base targets based on absolutely nothing realistic
  3. Spending money to increase your fan base numbers without spending money to sustainably enhance the quality of your messaging content

Interestingly, social media novices are the most susceptible to irrational fan base envy and they also succumb the hardest.  The more immersed you become in marketing through social media, the greater your immunity becomes.  Why?  Because you discover that having a zillion fans does not impact your bottom line unless you engage them…and engaging them takes time and money, just like any other marketing initiative.  And it doesn’t matter if your competitor has triple the number of fans that you have…what matters is how YOU interact with YOURS.

The golden rule of using social media for business is this:  the success of your social media efforts are in direct proportion to the amount of love you put into them.  If you treat social media like a pesky item on your to-do list (“make post to Facebook today…check;  pin something to Pinterest board today…check”), you can’t expect social media to love you back.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

The only cure for irrational fan base envy is to change your thinking.  Stop focusing on QUANTITY and start focusing on BALANCE.  Engage your current fan base, so that a high percentage of them are liking, commenting, sharing, re-tweeting, re-pinning, and in many other ways becoming a messenger for your brand story.  If you achieve that, it means you’re on the right track to harnessing your fans.

Then…as you add more fans to your community…they have the potential to become more than just empty numbers that look good on a stat sheet.  They can become your brand evangelists, returning the love to your bottom line exponentially.

Just remember…as you start to change your thinking and infuse a little more love into your social media efforts…be mindful of the other golden rule, shared by Redpoint in a previous post:  You Can’t Find Love on a Spreadsheet.  Who knew you could learn so much from ordering dumplings at Buddakan?

June 29, 2011

You can’t find love on a spreadsheet.

Who doesn’t love free dumplings?

While dining at Buddakan recently, I ordered the Cantonese spring rolls appetizer and mischievously asked the waiter if I could possibly try one Szechuan pork dumpling…just because I couldn’t decide between the two dishes.  He winked conspiratorially at me (which I took as a hopeful yes) and went off to the kitchen.

When the food runner came to the table with my spring rolls and my companion’s tuna tartare, I was a bit disappointed.  Did I misconstrue the wink?

But then…the waiter himself appeared at my side, bearing – not one – but an entire plate full of pork dumplings.  As he set them in the center of the table, he said:  “Enjoy these with my compliments.  I know you will want more than one when you taste them.”  (side note:  he was right) 

Now…if you own a restaurant, hotel, or even retail shop, did that story make you cringe?  Were you thinking, “Damn.  If my staff gave away free stuff to every customer who asked for it, I’d go out of business tomorrow.”

But would you?  Let’s do the math.

Buddakan lost out on the $10 or $12 it would have earned from me for the dumplings.  But, on the flip side:

  • I ordered an extra glass of champagne, which I wouldn’t have, sans dumplings ($18)
  • The following week, I told a friend that story and she went there two weeks later with 6 friends ($200 at the bar…$500 at the table)
  • A month later, I took an out-of-town guest to Buddakan because I had told her the story and she wanted to try it ($175)

So that $10 or $12 expense turned out to be an investment that earned the restaurant nearly $1,000…and that’s just the ROI I know about.  Who knows how many people this positive incident actually drew into Buddakan?  When you pay it forward like that, it’s impossible to trace the exponential positive effect on your bottom line.

And there lies the problem the hospitality industry has faced for the past few years.  

The recession has forced us all to become obsessed with spreadsheets, numbers, and tangible-only spending.  If the ROI can’t be traced, tracked, maximized, or guaranteed, we’re not spending that precious dollar.  We’ve had to cut staff, cut hours, cut amenities, cut benefits…all for the sake of making those spreadsheets jive and surviving a brutal phase in the hospitality industry’s life cycle.  And guess what inadvertantly disappeared with all those cuts?  Much of the love, fun, warmth, and graciousness that puts the “hospitable” in hospitality.  We can’t translate them into tangible revenue streams on our spreadsheets and so…they simply don’t get factored into our decisions.

Well, friends…it’s time to bring them back.  People are tired of hearing “no,” and businesses that de-commoditize their experience with fresh infusions of positivity will attract guests with enviable magnetism.  And in this age of social media…when word of mouth is more powerful than ever…creating a pool of evangelists is never a bad thing.

Be inspired by the dumpling incident.  Regain your faith in the power of goodwill and invest in finding ways to make your customers feel loved.  And if your CFO balks at any modest investments you may make, just add a new line item to your revenue spreadsheet:

The Dumpling Effect:  Priceless.

May 5, 2011

Your mom was right…mind your OWN business.

Remember when you were a little kid and your litany of excuses to get what you wanted included things like…”but Jenny has one” or “but John’s mom lets him do it” or – classic – “every single kid in school owns one but me”…?  Your mom’s response was likely some variation of:  Don’t worry so much about what Jenny is doing…worry about what YOU’RE doing.  Sage advice, mom, and after you repeated it a zillion times during our childhood, most of us embraced at least some part of this philosophy.

But apparently, not the folks who handle the advertising for Tasti D-Lite

Pinkberry should send Tasti D-Lite a thank-you note for this ad.

I’ve walked past this ad on Varick Street at least a dozen times now, and damn if I didn’t think it was an ad for Pinkberry, the yummy frozen yogurt company.  But while waiting to cross the street this morning, I actually read it, and was startled to realize it’s really an ad for Tasti D-Lite, one of Pinkberry’s competitors.

Click on the image to enlarge it and you’ll see what I mean.  Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that this ad is obscured by the pole from a street sign.  What’s more damaging is that the very first, and biggest, word in the ad is “Pinkberry.”   And the logo for Tasti D-Lite is a teeny-tiny thing on the lower right hand corner (right behind the pole, actually…brilliant).

Tasti D-Lite is trying to show why they’re better than Pinkberry, but they forgot that we humans are a bit lazy and hard to engage.  So, when glancing at this ad – even every day for 30 days –  what will stick in our minds will be the picture of the frozen treat and the word “Pinkberry.”  (And why they also decided to make the ad’s background pink will remain a mystery to me forever.)

The lesson here is simple.  Don’t spend your money advertising your competitor’s brand.  Even including a small mention of them helps raise their brand awareness…and in fact, you could actually be introducing them to consumers who had previously never heard of them.

So the next time you’re tempted to call out one of your competitors in your marketing efforts, just pick up the phone and call your mom for the “don’t worry about what THEY’RE doing…worry about what YOU’RE doing” lecture.  Even when it comes to advertising…on this point, Mother Really Does Know Best.

And to all the moms out there…especially our own… the gang here at Redpoint wishes you a very happy mother’s day and a grateful THANKS for all you’ve taught us over the years!

April 27, 2011

PR 101: “Spin” is free…6,000 red capes are not.

And did we mention the graphic design fees?

I would love to have been in the room (with a gong) when Workforce Central Florida decided that creating the cartoon character “Dr. Evil Unemployment” — and spending $14,000 on red satin superhero capes to hand out to the unemployed — was a fabulous idea.  True, hindsight is always 20/20, but how on earth could they have not forseen the misery this PR stunt was going to unleash upon them?

Unemployment is a serious issue that does not lend itself well to frivolity.   Sure, some people who collect unemployment are just lazy slackers abusing the system.  But for those people truly desperate to get a job…you’re looking at folks who are stressed out, struggling to feed their families, plagued by feeling unworthy, and seeking avenues to earn back their self respect.  Are these people likely to don a red cape in the hopes of “vanquishing” Dr. Evil Unemployment and take a picture thusly attired for the website photo gallery?  I think not.

Other elements of this $75,000 program include a Facebook contest and quiz (no joke:  “What Superhero Are You?”), photo opps for the unemployed with life size foam cutouts of Dr. Evil himself, billboards, and more.  Is it any wonder the campaign faced such criticism that they had to cancel it after the first week?  (For more details, here’s the original Orlando Sentinel story from April 15, and the Orlando Sentinel blog post from April 20th announcing the cancellation.)

The PR lesson to be learned here?  Do not use goofy, comical PR stunts to draw attention to grave issues…even when you’re the good guy who’s trying to solve them.  Now…if you’re a hotel company trying to showcase your fun side, and want to offer programs like, say…dogs cutting a record at a famous music studio in Nashville or learning to surf in San Diego…well, THAT’S ok.  Even the Today Show would approve of that (click here to see the clip…and yes, Redpoint masterminded this crazy – but successful – program).

But this doesn’t mean that serious issues like unemployment are off limits to PR people.   They just need to be treated with respect.  Take McDonald’s, for instance.  They made headlines in early April by announcing their intention to hire 50,000 people in the U.S. on April 19th.  Sounds amazing right?  Well, guess what?  They hire that many people every April anyway.  But some enterprising PR person in the McD’s food chain looked at that statistic and said, “Hey!  If we link this annual hiring spree to a specific day in April, we could probably get some positive press out of doing our part to reduce the unemployment rate!”  And voila:  they did.

Brilliant.  No cost, confessing to a little spin in their campaign (preventing the media from “exposing” it), and repackaging something they’re already doing to make it sound fresh and unique.  I love it.  Way to go, Mickey D’s.  You’ve done my profession proud.

Want a laugh?  Check out more examples of crazy but successful PR campaigns – including the Instant Gourmet Kitchen, the launch of the Department of Romance, and Playing Dirty During Mud Season – at redpointspeaks.com/results/case-studies/.

November 19, 2010

What potato chips taught me about marketing.

My Great Aunt Pauline taught me a saying as a child that has served me well as a marketing counselor.

Enough is as good as a feast.

It simply means that as long as you have “enough” of whatever it is…you don’t need more than that. 

Now, while I believe she imparted these words of wisdom in response to my plea for the ENTIRE bag of potato chips instead of the – to my mind – miniscule bowl she was offering…it’s handy as a guideline when designing marketing programs.

There comes a point when fleshing out an idea or concept that there are “enough” elements to make it successful…and anything added after that just becomes:

  1. More logistics to manage without adding to the ROI
  2. A distraction of resources from the core focus and objectives
  3. An added cost burden
  4. Too confusing for your audience to effectively “get it”

So, whenever you are tempted to just add that one more thing to whatever program or concept you are developing…think of my Aunt Pauline and ask yourself “yes, this idea might be COOL…but will it be helpful or harmful to the overall objectives?”  Use that checklist above to evaluate each new idea, and if it puts the desired results at risk, either table it, swap it out to replace a less effective element, or toss it.

As to the potato chip debate, however, I still stand by my original retort:  You just can NEVER have enough…so bring on the feast!

November 17, 2010

Dude, no one is going to make you tweet.

“I hate Twitter.  I don’t get it.  It’s useless and a waste of time.”

This provocative comment from the floor at the start of a recent social media workshop at Redpoint’s Marketing Boot Camp sparked an utter frenzy of debate from the rest of the audience.  To tweet, or not to tweet?…that was DEFINITELY the question on everyone’s mind.

The incident gave me a perfect opportunity to pull the group up to 30,000 feet and acknowledge Redpoint’s Three Undeniable Truths about spending your social media marketing dollars wisely.  Resources are at risk of being wasted if…

  1. The person doing the job doesn’t get it, doesn’t like it, or doesn’t want to do it.
  2. Influential senior executives in the company are publicly skeptical about the benefits of social media.
  3. You’re waiting to pounce if it’s not a home run 24/7.

We’ve seen it time and again:  positive energy adds an intangible magic to social media marketing that simply cannot be replicated any other way. 

My advice to this passionate gentleman?  Don’t stress out about it.  If you hate Twitter, don’t use it.  Leverage a different social media tool that better suits your personality, and your brand’s.  Or…don’t.  How you choose to spend your marketing resources is entirely up to you, and there’s absolutely no point in wasting your time on something whose value you question.

Footnote:  while you shouldn’t expect to see this guy on Twitter any time soon, we DID at least get him to uncross his arms and laugh a bunch by the end of the workshop.  (And I tweeted about that.)

August 13, 2010

Er, no…the CPA is NOT your tax guy.

Ever feel like you need a Rosetta Stone course in “online marketing speak?”

I’ve sat in meetings with internet marketing strategists on behalf of Redpoint clients, watching some of the acronyms and terms whiz by me (and everyone else) in conversation.  But then I see clients proceed to make desicions about how to spend their online marketing dollars…while not fully understanding how things like title tags or geo-targeting really work.

Happily, our friends at Search Engine Strategies magazine recently created a handy “cheat sheet” of terms and acronyms used by online marketers.  It’s attached here for your reference.  SES Glossary

Print it out.  Study up.  And make smarter decisions…or at the very least, ask better questions.

Feel free to scribble a few on the inside of your forearm before your next online marketing meeting.  I won’t tell.