NASCAR and Social Media


NASCAR and Social Media

Last post for the week, as I’m headed to Dover for the AAA 400 this weekend.  Check back here on Monday to see how brands interacted with fans at the track, hopefully along with a few up-close-and-personal images of the cars, drivers and personalities that make the sport go.

Meantime, here’s a great read from my friends at USA Today on what goes on behind the scenes at the NASCAR social media command center, and how that data helps the decision-making process inside the privately-held organization.  Many teams, leagues, and other organizations have integrated a social media command center into their operations over the past year.  With so much being shared about your brand (or product or service or sport), being aware of the conversations as they are happening should be a critical piece of any communication strategy.

What tools does your organization use for social media monitoring, and how have you used that information to improve the operation?  (If you don’t have a good answer, maybe shoot me a note and we’ll see if we can help!)


Dollar Shave Club – Worth Every Penny



I watched an interesting interview clip this morning with Michael Dubin, co-Founder and CEO of the Dollar Shave Club.  In it, he describes their reason for being and some of the products they sell.  Last week, I posted that companies needed to be careful about over-extending themselves.  And Mr. Dubin sums up quite nicely where his business has decided to expand:  “[Our] goal is to own the bathroom.” 

As a fellow entrepreneur, I agree with his take that starting a new business can be an unpredictable ride.  You have to learn how to handle both the highs and the lows – both are inevitable.  It’s something that I have to remind myself of constantly – it’s not always easy.

But back to the Dollar Shave Club.  I was tempted to try it after tiring of constantly buying new razor blades using the latest technology from the leading retailers.  And I have been pleasantly surprised by the results – are the razors as nice as the top-of-the-line brands endorsed by celebrities and athletes?  Not necessarily.  However, they are dependable, provide a clean shave, last about the same amount of time, and are delivered right to my mailbox as often as I want them.  And it costs me much less than a dollar a shave – a pack of four blades costs me $9 and lasts about a month.  Not too shabby.

But it’s their irreverent marketing tone that keeps me coming back more than anything.  I just like the way they roll.  When my razors come, it includes a card thanking me for the purchase.  And, sharing me some information about the people who work there – for instance, yesterday I met Tom who (among other things) likes Michael Jackson.  I know this because he signed off “Sham-On. Hee Hee.”  Their product videos are unique, have gone viral and make me feel that I’m not just a customer but that I’m in on some kind of global joke.

Great idea, unique marketing, solid product.  Three key elements that I hope lead to a successful ride.  I encourage you to give them a shot – use this link if you do.  If enough people sign up, I might get myself some free product!


Coffitivity – It’s Brilliant (and hot!)



Every once in a while, a great creative idea crosses my desk.  Usually, they come from @jhendge, who spends more time exploring new digital trends than anyone I know. 

Today’s great idea is Coffitivity.  Don’t know about you, but I often do some of my best writing at a coffee shop.  But I can’t always afford the luxury of leaving my office.  So, this site brings it to you.  (Unfortunately, not with a piping hot cup of Joe, but that’s what the Keurig is for.)

I’m not sure how these guys will make any money off the concept, but sometimes the goal is just to be recognized for a creative idea.  Way to go Coffitivity team!  The next cup is on me.

Never Too Big to Fail


Never Too Big to Fail

AOL, Kodak, Blockbuster Video, Gateway.  Add Blackberry to that list.

In the technology age, the only thing surer than a quick rise to the top for a successful product is the inevitable downfall as new competitors surpass you.  In addition to the brands listed above, brands such as Dell, Microsoft and IBM who were once dominant, continue to find themselves struggling for relevance (ans beware Apple and Google – your time will most certainly come).

The slow demise of Blackberry, punctuated by the recent news that they will discontinue consumer promotion and seek a buyer for what’s left of their B2B line, illustrates just how difficult it is to stay on top for long in today’s hostile technology environment.  From 70% market share in 2010 to just 5% today, Blackberry is just the latest example of a company who failed to see the future and suffered because of it. 

Here are three ideas on how companies can find ways to stay ahead of the game, no matter what their product may be:

  1. Stay True to Your Core.  Look at Apple – everything (so far) revolves around it’s core products.  The Mac and the iOS Devices.  Compare that to Microsoft, who often tries to get outside of Windows and Office and fails with products like the Zune or MSN (with apologies to the overwhelming success of the XBOX, who I covered in an earlier post).  Stay true to what you do best, and own your silo – don’t overextend your brand into product lines that may drive short-term revenue but expose you to future risk.
  2. Hire futurists.  For Kodak to have become an irrelevant brand so quickly, there must have been a lack of understanding of how rapidly digital photography would change the marketplace.  Kodak had been a trusted consumer brand for nearly 100 years.  Surely, they could have found a way into the digital camera market, or perhaps become a photo-sharing destination (ala Instagram or Flickr).  Instead, the brand that so many of us grew up with, simply went away.
  3. Find a niche.  Some brands can be more successful by not trying to be everything to everyone.  Think of a brand like Rockport, which specializes in comfortable shoes.  Or Lululemon, who specializes in yoga clothes and running gear.  Not everyone needs to be the next Nike or Under Armour.  Keep your focus on what your customers expect you to provide them, and be the best at it – don’t try to overspend on marketing or compete with suppliers much larger than yourselves.  You may find your ad budgets overextended with limited distribution options.

Of course, if it was this easy, no brand would ever go under.  There’s definitely a little bit of luck involved too, and knowing when to get out.  Maybe Blackberry would have been better staying focused on business customers and not trying to compete with iOS and Android.  Then again, maybe it just would have hastened their demise.

What current market leader do you think might find themselves out of business in the future?  Why?

Jonathan Ogden – St. Albans School’s Hometown Hall of Famer



I spend my morning today at St. Albans School in Washington, DC for a ceremony honoring Pro Football Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, who attended St. Albans from 7th grade on.  It’s part of a partnership with one of the Hall’s sponsors, where a HOFers high school or college is presented with a commemorative plaque to celebrate the communities in which they grew up.  Jonathan is one of five former NFL players from St. Albans, and easily the most successful of them all on the field.Image

The ceremony was held in the school gym where Jonathan was joined by the current student body (dressed in purple #75 T-shirts), as well as friends, associates and former teammates.  JO got a good laugh from the crowd when he was asked his favorite part of being a student at St. Albans (“lunch” was the answer, before getting serious about the educators and the opportunities presented at the school).  He also admitted to growing up a Redskin fan and admiring the Hogs – letting the kids know it’s okay to be a Skins fan in DC as well.


The plaque was presented to Jonathan, where he posed with a few dignitaries who attended the event.  But one special moment came when JO posed with the student currently wearing #75 for the school.  No pressure, right?  It turns out that he will be the last student ever to wear #75, as the school announced that it was going to be retiring the number after this season (the first jersey ever retired by the school).


So, sorry @jhendge – unfortunately you missed your chance.

Great honor for Jonathan today, and great job by the Hall of getting into a larger community.


Visiting Fort Wayne



One of my favorite things about my job is the travel.  Yes, it takes me away from my family (not a good thing), and it can involve airport delays (a worse thing).  Plus, late nights, noisy hotel rooms and that un-natural smell of a rental car.  But, I love getting to see new communities and experience all the local treasures that makes each of them different.

Take the city of Fort Wayne, for instance, where I happen to be headed today. My agency is doing some work for the city, so I’ve had the pleasure of visiting four times over the past few months, with two more trips to come.  It’s a small midwestern city, so similar to many others, yet we’ve found some amazing places that makes it completely unique.

Did you know that Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, and that it has over 65 miles of walking and biking trails?  That it’s the final resting spot of Johnny Appleseed (as well as home to the Fort Wayne TinCaps – a Class-A Minor League Baseball team with one of the most incredible stadiums you’ll ever visit – pictured above)?  Or that it’s home to Vera Bradley Designs?  And Powers Hamburger Shop?  We’ve been lucky to meet a number of residents of the city during our time there, eat at some fantastic local restaurants, and experience a place that I may not have ever been if not for work.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to conduct social media training for local hotel properties.  We coached them on how to use social and digital media to become “local market experts” who could provide added value to tech-saavy travelers.  Some of the tools we introduced them to were Yelp! and TripAdvisor.  I still rely on them both every time I travel (along with a smartphone app called GateGuru, which gives me valuable information about the airports I visit).  They help me follow my own golden rule:  If I can see it, eat it, or do it at home, I’m not going to do it on the road.  It’s easy to stick with the familiar, but so much more rewarding to go with the local.

Where are some of your favorite places you’ve visited while traveling for work?  How about out-of-the-way restaurants that we may miss?  Any Fort Wayne-related tips?

Great Customer Service – Marketing in Disguise


Great Customer Service – Marketing in Disguise

I met with a new client last week, and one of the elements we discussed in depth was their approach to customer service.  We talked about it as a brand differentiator against their competition.  It wasn’t solely that they had better reps, more experienced workers or nicer people.  It was that they had a systematic approach to customer service that related directly back to the guests in their stores.  It’s something I am in the process of helping them define as a cornerstone of their brand, and frankly, it’s something that I’m excited about.

In that context, I share with you this article about great customer service – “Bringing the Thunder” to customer service (I love that term).  It’s not just doing it, it’s being rock stars while doing it.  If you (or your clients) are in any kind of industry that involves customer service (and I can’t think of one that’s not), it’s definitely worth the read.

If you’re short for time today, here are the 8 ways to create “service that rocks” from the article (kudos to Jim Knight – @KnightSpeaker – for the tips):

  • “Be like U2.” The band U2 has been around since the late 1970s and “everyone” knows who Bono and The Edge are. But less people know who the bassist (Adam Clayton) and drummer (Larry Mullen Jr.) are. But, “that doesn’t mean they’re less important. They contribute to the sound. In your company, everyone should be singing off the same sheet of music, and everyone has a part to play,” Knight said.
  • Create and embody a guest-obsessed purpose to your business.
  • People crave differentiation — “consider being unpredictable.”
  • Value matters. People will pay more for a Starbucks coffee, or a Hard Rock hamburger, or a Rolling Stones concert ticket because “memorable experiences help justify the prices,” Knight said.
  • “Hire rock stars, not lip syncers, to amp up the band.” Knight suggests hiring unique people with unique experiences, or the “square pegs in the round holes.” If you give them a chance, expect their loyalty in return.
  • If everyone is vanilla, be the chocolate to avoid the 4-letter descriptors about your business, including “fine,” “good” and “okay.” You want more than that.
  • “Create as many pluses as possible to get that mental shelf space,” Knight said. Customers should identify you in their top three favorite brands. If not, there isn’t enough that stands out about your brand to them.
  • Treat each person special, like it’s their first date or their first day at work.