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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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I stumbled across a blog post from HubSpot the other day on the benefits of business blogging ("The Benefits of Business Blogging: Why Businesses Do It, and You Should Too" by Corey Eridon). Among the top benefits cited in the article were the following:
  1. Blogging helps drive traffic to your website,
  2. It helps convert that traffic into leads,
  3. And it helps establish your authority.

In short, business blogging drives growth. It can increase brand awareness, website traffic, credibility, leads and revenue.

Yet, a 2010 study by eMarketer found only 40% of businesses were using blogs for marketing purposes. While we can be certain that number is higher today, I continue to encounter businesses who still don't blog. If your business is among those who haven't tried blogging, maybe it's time to consider it as a potential growth tactic.

Still not convinced?

Consider these recent content marketing statistics:
  • 79% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve brand awareness goals (Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, October 2012)
  • 77% of Internet users read blogs (Social Media Today, August 2013)
  • Social media sites and blogs reach 8 out of 10 U.S. Internet users (Content Marketing Institute, February 2012)
  • Companies with active blogs have 97% more inbound links (Content+, February 2012)
  • B2B companies who blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don't (Social Media B2B, March 2012)
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post (Social Media Today, August 2013)

We live in a world of acronyms.

This was true before Twitter and, more recently, Instagram and Facebook. Thanks to social media platforms like these, acronyms have taken on a new form – the "hashtag" – and have become so much a part of the vernacular that the term was added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2014.

A hashtag is an acronym or cluster of letters, preceded by the # symbol (which, incidentally, is known in Europe as a hashmark). Hashtags were originally used on Twitter to mark topics and keywords so that others would be able to search on them. Instagram and Facebook began supporting hashtags in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Anyone can create a hashtag.


It can be difficult for users, particularly new ones, to know what a hashtag means. So on Friday, Twitter rolled out a new feature to users of its iPhone app that explains the meaning of hashtags. When a user searches on a hashtag (e.g., #icymi), the app will display an explanation of what the hashtag letters stand for, followed by a series of tweets containing the hashtag.

Twitter iPhone app users can now find quick and easy explanations for common hashtags like #icymi, #tbt, #iot, #yolo and others. It's all part of a concerted effort by Twitter to widen its appeal by making the user experience more intuitive.

The American fast-food segment is highly competitive. Competition among brands is fierce – with respect to price, food quality, service, location, and the condition of each restaurant. Established brands are struggling and, for many, same-store sales are declining.

So when rising food costs caused Chipotle to raise U.S. menu prices an average of 6.25% to 6.5% during the second quarter of 2014, analysts expected a negative impact on store traffic and sales. Instead, Chipotle's same-store sales grew 17.3% for the second quarter, despite a weak U.S. economy. This was preceded by a strong first quarter, with 13.4% growth, and a steady history of extraordinary growth since the company was founded in 2003.


Chipotle's growth is unique among its peers in the U.S. restaurant industry, whose same-store sales rose a mere 0.3% in the second quarter of 2014. In an attempt to lure customers and boost sales, many of Chipotle's competitors now offer lower-cost, "value-meal" or "healthy choice" menu options in addition to their standard fare.

Chipotle has taken a different approach.

Instead of trying to be like everyone else, Chipotle is redefining the customer experience. Chipotle believes food served fast doesn't have to come with the look and feel of a traditional "fast-food" experience. Their "Food With Integrity" promise is a strategic gamble that American consumers would be willing to pay more for food with great taste and nutrition. It's also evidence of their commitment to sustainability – that educated consumers would place a higher value on food that is sustainably raised with respect for animals, farmers and the environment.

The market research firm, PlaceIQ, recently profiled fast-food customers at several competing restaurant chains and found Chipotle customers to be among the best-educated. And as Chipotle has shown, better-educated consumers are willing to pay more for a product that is better and more sustainable.

For more on how brands are using sustainability to redefine and differentiate their customer experience, please see:
How Doing One Good Thing Is Making a Difference
Beyond Green: The Transformative Nature of Sustainability
A FRESH Approach to Going Green
Maximum Fun Meets Minimal Impact

I received an automated Twitter message the other day, in response to my decision to follow a health and wellness company that provides expert fitness advice and nutritional guidance.

Since 2009, when I first opened my Twitter account, I've received thousands of these direct messages. What made this one stand out was its personal nature; specifically, the inclusion of the phrase, "I'm Neil – Community Manager @fitnessrepublic."

I've always believed people place a higher value on relationships with other people than they do on relationships with a brand. So when a brand reaches out to me in a personal way like Fitness Republic did, it's easy to notice. In this instance, the direct message I received from Neil inspired me to check out his brand's website. I liked the content I saw and bookmarked it for later reference.

With over 4,100 followers, it's becoming harder for brands to get noticed by me on Twitter. Brands like Fitness Republic, who add a personal element to their communications, are increasingly the ones who catch my attention and make enough of an impact to warrant further action.

If you're still sending canned communications from your brand, consider adding a personal touch. Make a greater impact with your customers by introducing them to the people behind your brand.

For more on the role relationships play in your brand communications, please see:

How Well Does Your Branded Content Invite and Reward Conversation?
How Volunteers and Community Managers Serve Brands, Too
Social Media Is About Building Relationships

The other day I gave one of our Storytelling for Executives workshop programs. In it I showed one of my all-time favorite videos, the Turbo Encabulator.  I show it to demonstrate the best and worst aspects of using jargon. Most people do not even realize how much jargon they use in his or her various communications. This video is a humorous way of gently reminding everyone to minimize jargon. One of the program participants asked me for the actual text of the video (see below), prompting me to write this post.

You owe it to yourself to watch this one and half minute video to be completely awed at the delivery by a truly gifted presenter, Bud Haggert. If it wasn't for the fact that nearly every important word is made up, you might actually believe he is talking about a very technical, highly complex piece of machinery, the Turbo Encabulator.

Director Dave Rondot shares the background of how the video came to be...

This is the first time Turbo Encabulator was recorded with picture. I shot this in the late 70's at Regan Studios in Detroit on 16mm film. The narrator and writer is Bud Haggert. He was the top voice-over talent on technical films. He wrote the script because he rarely understood the technical copy he was asked to read and felt he shouldn't be alone.

We had just finished a production for GMC Trucks and Bud asked since this was the perfect setting could we film his Turbo Encabulator script. He was using an audio prompter referred to as "the ear". He was actually the pioneer of the ear. He was to deliver a live speech without a prompter. After struggling in his hotel room trying to commit to memory he went to plan B. He recorded it to a large Wollensak reel to reel recorder and placed it in the bottom of the podium. With a wired earplug he used it for the speech and the "ear" was invented.

Today every on-camera spokesperson uses a variation of Bud's innovation. Dave Rondot (me) was the director and John Choate was the DP on this production. The first laugh at the end is mine. My hat's off to Bud a true talent.


Wikipedia has an entry providing some nice background information on the origin of the Turbo Encabulator idea, posting by Time Magazine (I bought the issue), the actual GE product data sheet included in the General Electric Handbook (see picture below), and more.

Here's the text. Enjoy!

For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator.

Now basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance.

The original machine had a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdle spring on the "up" end of the grammeters.

The turbo-encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and it’s being successfully used in the operation of novertrunnions. Moreover, whenever a forescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm, to reduce sinusoidal repleneration.



I read an article in Forbes magazine a few years ago about purpose-driven branding, which spoke to the difference between a brand promise and a purpose. The article went on to say that while every brand makes a promise, not every brand has a purpose. Brands with purpose forge deeper relationships with their customers, differentiate themselves from their competitors and are worth paying more for.

Your brand promise is ultimately how customers will experience your brand. Your brand promise is a statement of what you will do for your customers. A brand promise is to your brand what features are to your product.

Without a purpose to support it, a brand promise is empty. The brand purpose is the "So what?" of the promise. It answers the question, "Why?" Why do your employees come to work every day? Why do customers buy your products? It speaks to the benefits your customers will receive when they buy from your brand.

Consider the example of a hybrid automobile.

While the brand promise might read something like, "We make lower fuel consumption and emissions possible," it does not speak to the "So what?" of the promise. The purpose speaks to how customers will specifically benefit from the lower fuel consumption and emissions that are being promised. Define that purpose (e.g., We make our customers' lives better through cost savings and cleaner, healthier air) and it becomes easier to see why customers would want a deeper relationship with a brand that genuinely cares about their financial and physical well-being. It's also a good reason why customers might be willing to pay more for a hybrid automobile.

Just as a good salesperson knows the importance of articulating benefits in the sale of premium products, a good marketer knows the importance of defining a purpose for his or her brand.

A common fear among CMOs and other marketing leaders who have yet to embrace social media is losing control of their brand's online reputation. Social media is, after all, an open forum where anyone can share an idea or express an opinion.

And yet, not having an active presence on social media platforms like Twitter does not completely shield non-social brands from unsolicited social media mentions, either positive or negative ones. The people who have something to say will either find a brand's Twitter handle (even those that are relatively inactive) or often guess at one for brands who do not have one.

Non-social brands, which I define as those that are not proactively engaging people online, are letting others speak for them. By their silence or, worse yet, their limited reactive engagement, they are ceding control of their online reputation. Think about it for a moment. Do you really want people characterizing your brand's reputation as #behindthetimes, #worstcustomerserviceever and #noresponse?

Build your reputation as a proactive brand. Listen to and communicate with your customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Anticipate their needs and make an effort to demonstrate your brand's value before your hand is forced.  

For more on the intersection of branding, social media and online reputations, please see:
Social Media Marketing Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"
The Power of Social Media in Brand Storytelling
Social Media: Why You Need to Tell Your Own Story

There is one day left to register (click here).  Here's the top 10 and a bonus reason why you should register right now and not miss this!

1.  Don't miss the best entrepreneur author and business speaker expected in dc this year,
2.  Unleash your why to inspire, align and resonate with your clients - catapult your growth
3.  Enjoy the great entertainment by business owner and EO member Jim Reznikoff's jazz group "The Rez experience"
4.  Win a chance to get coffee one-on-one WHY TIME with Ridgely before he leaves DC
5.  Get to see behind the scenes at the inspiring and fun Performing Arts Center, The Atlas
6.  Get to know one of the hottest growing DC neighborhoods: the hopping H Street corridor - before the streetcar comes online!
7.  One of the top 50 business books will be being handed out too!
8.  Get $100 worth of free tickets for you and a date to a performing art event in dc - or for you to handoff to your executive team!
9.  Lock in the steepest discount available for the next Ignition Shift event.
10. Join several DC entrepreneur and thought leaders of EO YPO VISTAGE and CEO groups who will be here
11. Meet the handful of business owners flying their teams in from other cities just for this event - they are all growing extremely fast - learn their secrets!




As a business leader, you know how important it is to have alignment between your team, staff, and your vision. The alignment comes from truly understanding the "Why." And the challenge is to turn your vision into specific steps your team can take to discover, understand, and unleash the power of your why to make your business grow. You have to get your whole team rowing the boat in the same direction at the same time.

Simon Sinek (FaceBook) (TED presentation) talks about Learning your Why. How would you like to experience your own "Why" discovery?


Next Wed, on June 18th (register here), one of the best entrepreneurial minds and authors, Ridgely Goldsborough, is joining us for a one night only IgnitionShift event with the tools, exercises, and direct coaching we guarantee will drive you and your executive team to:

a) Discover your "why" -- your passion for what you do and why you do it
b) Understand how your "why" can catapult your business forward in specific ways
c) Align your team and get the right people in the right seats based on their "why"
d) Connect on a powerful level with your clients and your marketplace

Join fellow high growth CEOs from Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Young President's Organization (YPO), and other regional leaders - along with their executive teams - for this one time only experience.

* Learn how to dramatically stand out from your competition.

** Sponsors will be providing door prizes and give-aways. The first 50 guests to arrive will receive a special gift. **

Register for the event before it fills up! Grab space for you and your team today! Early bird rate ends tomorrow, June 11.


IgnitionShift is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

On June 1st, Timothy D. Sands took office as the 16th president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly known as Virginia Tech). In a recent discussion about faculty promotion and tenure, he spoke of the importance of patents and other signs of innovation and entrepreneurship. He cited these as "evidence of impact," which he defined as "how that work changes the marketplace, how it changes the technology, and how [it enables] people to do things they couldn't do before."

It's easy to see how this notion concerning "evidence of impact" can be applied to marketers. For example, if you've spent the last few years researching, developing and implementing your organization's new marketing strategy, what evidence of impact can you provide? How have you changed the marketplace? How have you changed the way technology is used in your industry? How are you enabling your customers to do things they couldn't do before? Are you inventing the future or are you just following everyone else?

The answers to these questions are potential game changers. They look beyond more traditional measures of sales and revenue growth, profitability and ROI. They are what differentiates market leaders from their competitors.

As I have said before, activity is interesting, results matter. It may be time to look at your results and what lies beyond them. What evidence of impact can you provide?

As a speaker, I have a very high bar before I recommend other speakers. Ridgely, without question, exceeds the bar. He's personal, insightful, warm, and an expert at what he does. I had the pleasure of being in Ridgely's program several months ago sponsored by Entrepreneur's Organization in Baltimore (Ridgely's bio is below).

We were able to get him to come to the Washington, DC area to present his "Unleash the Power of Your Why" on Wednesday, June 18, 4:30 to 8:30, in Washington, DC.

Join us for an entertaining and transformational workshop where you will:

- Discover your WHY in an interactive format—yes, you will learn the exact process you can apply at home and at the office
- Create WHY-based messaging for your marketing
- Learn how neuro-science drives behavior and how you can use that in your personal life as well as your business
- Use your WHY to build an inspired organization—a WHY-focused organization
- Know how your WHY can drive the culture of your company


Click to register. The event is hosted by IgnitionShift. This is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.


altAbout Ridgely Goldsborough

Author and international speaker, Ridgely Goldsborough, known in the Latino market as Richeli, has spent the last 20 years as an expert in personal growth and development. Much like Napoleon Hill did in the early part of the last century, Ridgely has interviewed titans of business and industry in person, for his television show and on the radio. Based on the principles learned from these interviews and his own personal journey, Ridgely continues to write books and create audio and video programs to help us all on our journey to success.

In Business
- Started his first enterprise at the age of 16. In the past three decades, he has created 36 companies, with 400 employees in 35 countries.
- Founded, as the publisher, Network Marketing Lifestyles, the first ever four-color glossy magazine distributed on the newsstands for the industry of direct sales and multilevel marketing, in addition to three other magazines.
- Continues to develop various businesses in a diverse array of industries, with a passion for personal growth, particularly in the Latin market.

As a Writer
- Written nine books, including The Great Ones, The Power of Belief, Masters of Success, Skinny, Happy and Rich and four others.
- Shares his columns and inspirational articles, in English and Spanish, on over 30,000 websites.
- Created over 60 audio programs on personal and professional development.

As a Speaker
- In the last twenty years, Ridgely has given thousands of presentations on motivation, personal and professional development and business education, on five continents, in both English and Spanish.
- Conducted well over 100 interviews with titans of industry on the themes of success, prosperity and wealth accumulation.

Radio and Television
- Created 50+ inspirational and educational programs entitled A View From The Ridge that played on the radio across the Midwestern United States.
- Created his own television program, Modest To Millions based on interviews of successful business men and women who shared their keys to prosperity and wealth.

In Summary
If you are looking for a first class speaker with years of experience in both the English and Spanish markets, who entertains, motivates and educates all at the same time—and who is one of the world’s premiere experts in personal growth, prosperity and wealth accumulation, contact us today to book Ridgely for your next event!

Ridgely splits his time between Latin America and Pensacola, Florida, where he lives with his wife Kathy and their four children.


Brokerage firm E.F. Hutton was best known in the 1970's and '80s by the advertising tag line, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen." Their television commercials typically involved a conversation between two people. When one of them mentioned his broker was E.F. Hutton, the others around them would suddenly stop what they were doing and listen intently to the one who was talking.

If you are talking on social media, are people listening? Do you have "E.F. Hutton" credibility among your community of followers? Are you posting content on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook that people are acting on? How do you know?

One way to tell is by measuring your Klout. Klout is an online measure of your brand's social media influence. It measures influence based on your ability to drive action. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout score (as of June 2013, the average Klout score was 40).


Why is online social media influence important?

As you may recall from the E.F. Hutton television commercials of 30 years ago, the market landscape included so many competing sources of financial advice that it was often difficult to break through the noise. The same is true of today's highly competitive content marketplace. Even if your content is amazing, it won't have an impact if no one is listening.

For other insights on Klout and how you can increase your brand's online influence, please see:
Why a Good Social Media Marketing Strategy Includes Content and Engagement
5 Insights for Marketing Your Brand On Social Media
Does Your Brand Have Klout?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My #FirstTweet

Everybody has to start somewhere.

I reached a few social media milestones last week and it got me thinking about my own start on Twitter. When did I send my first tweet? What did I say? Was anyone even listening?

Luckily for me, the good folks at Twitter recently launched a website, called '', that lets users search for their own (or others') first tweet. Turns out, my first tweet was sent on December 30, 2009 and it was a New Year's wish acknowledging the previous year and decade.


Over 5,500 tweets and 3,900 followers later, I've come a long way. I guess someone was listening, after all. My active social media accounts now include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Snapchat, Klout and Kred. More importantly, my social network consists of thousands of followers, professional connections and friends who I've had the privilege of sharing some really great content with since December 2009.

These last four years have been a period of rapid growth for me and my personal brand. My Twitter community has grown at an annual rate of 46%. My online social influence, as you might expect, has also seen tremendous growth. Kred, a tool that measures social media influence, now ranks me in the top 5% of influential social media users in the Global Kred community (i.e., all of Twitter). 

It's been an exciting time for me and I've enjoyed the ride. If you're not on the social media bandwagon, why not climb aboard and join me for the rest of the ride? If the past is any indication, it's going to be a fast one!

For some of my earliest blogs on social media, please see:
Social Media – Are You Connected?
Are You Embracing Social Media?
Business Storytelling for Social Media
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
• Extend Your Brand's Reach with Twitter

In my last post, you may recall my mentioning the findings of a recent e-commerce study by predictive analytics firm Custora.


It was largely a good news story for email.


Customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years. Email marketing is a growing trend in e-commerce and customers acquired through the email channel have a higher Customer Lifetime Value than those acquired through most other channels.


If your brand is looking to acquire new customers through the email channel, here are some tips for optimizing your e-commerce strategy:

1. Make it to the recipient's inbox.
In the sales world, this is the equivalent of "earning a seat at the table." Avoid spam triggers in your subject line. Target customer segments and buying patterns.

2. Get opened.
In a March 2013 Customer Experience Survey by Kentico, 48% of participants listed email as their preferred form of communication with a brand. Use a familiar, recognizable name in your return email address. Make sure your subject line is relevant to the needs and concerns of your target audience. Include an eye-catching image in the body of your email.

3. Give the recipient a compelling reason to act.
Create a call to action. Provide the recipient with 3-5 reasons to click through the link(s) in your email. Add social share buttons for increased click-through-rates (CTRs).

4. Make it easy to read from a mobile device.
Data shared by Litmus during Marketing Sherpa's 2014 Email Summit indicate that close to half of all emails are opened on a mobile device (i.e., smartphones and tablets). Use simple and short subject lines. Reduce copy to accommodate reduced screen real estate.

5. Invest equally in other elements of the customer's purchase journey.
Google research tells us 90% of consumers have mult-screen brand experiences. Provide your customers with a brand experience that is at once seamless and specific to the nature of the device they are using. Examine it from the mobile user's perspective. Optimize the entire path to purchase, from the landing page through the shopping cart.

Done right, email marketing can be one of the most valuable tools in your e-commerce strategy. What other ideas do you have for optimizing your strategy?


If you're like me, you unlikely suffer from email overload. Multiple email accounts (I have 4) across multiple devices (I have 5, including an iPad and an iPhone) and not enough hours in a day to actually read all of the emails I do receive. It would be easy to conclude from what I've just told you that email, as a marketing channel, is no longer an effective way to acquire and retain customers like me.


Not so fast. 

As I was researching material for an upcoming guest lecture I'm going to be giving on digital marketing, I discovered evidence to suggest the opposite may be true. Here's why...

"...research shows old-fashioned email is still far more effective than social media in attracting customers to your business online."
     - Forbes, 'Why Email Is Still More Effective Than Social Media Marketing,' October, 1, 2013

"Email subscribers can also deliver something that traditional websites and social media struggle with: loyalty."
     - Adweek, 'Don't Count Out Email Newsletters,' April 15, 2014

A 2013 e-commerce study by predictive analytics firm Custora found that customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last 4 years. Email marketing is a growing trend in e-commerce, with increasing numbers of retailers building communities, collecting email addresses and converting email subscribers to customers. The study also found the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) from customers who arrive through the email channel is 12% higher than average.

If you're a marketer, be sure to include email in your marketing mix. And visit us again next week when I share some tips with you for optimizing your email marketing strategy.

I've spent a good portion of my sales and marketing career on the front lines of a handful of successful rebrands – post-divestiture AT&T in 1984, spin-off Lucent Technologies in 1996 and start-up Avaya in 2000.



My job was to maintain our momentum in the market (i.e., achieving sales growth and profitability targets) while helping customers to understand the impact of the rebrands (e.g., new name, brand promise, values, message and image) on them. Customer feedback varied and opinions were strong, as you might expect when a brand whose heritage spans more than a century of innovation and reliability undergoes a change so significant it requires a corporate rebrand on three occasions during a 16-year period.

The key to my individual success – and the success of these rebrands – was an extraordinarily high level of employee engagement across the business. Employee videos and TV ads, like AT&T's futuristic "You Will" campaign in the early 90's, brought the new AT&T brand to life and gave us a glimpse into a future filled with the promise of innovation. They inspired us to believe in what was possible. The integration of the new Lucent brand into our onboarding and training processes helped transform us into passionate brand advocates and evangelists. And volunteering along with 250 other Avaya employees in community service projects like the cleanup and restoration of City Park in New Orleans, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, gave us a sense of purpose.

These rebrands succeeded because senior management had the foresight to engage us often and early. They shared ownership of the rebranding processes with us and made sure we were emotionally invested in their outcomes. In short, they "sold" us on the new brands so we could confidently and articulately "sell" them to our customers and the communities we served.

For more on the importance of employee engagement in your organization, please see:
How to Lead Change In Your Organization
One Team, One Goal
What Makes Your Company a Best Place to Work?

Howard Schultz, the Chairman and CEO of Starbuck's, once said "The most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart."

I added a Pin that included this quote to the 'Brands I Love' board on my Pinterest account a few months ago. Since then, I've garnered 8 likes and over 50 repins.


The Pin, which featured an inspirational message about life, provides us with a simple illustration of how branding often imitates life. As in life, we are drawn to brands that are sincere and authentic. Powerful and enduring brands, like people, are not simply imitators content to blend in with the crowd. They stand out. They differentiate themselves through innovation.

If you want to build a powerful and enduring brand, stop trying to find yourself. Start creating. And do it from the heart.

Since I was a little kid, I can remember fondly playing Monopoly over the years with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Every time. Every time there was a twist on the rules. If I was a gambling man, I would hazard a guess that I never followed Monopoloy's written rules.

When I learned that Hasbro is revitalizing the Monopoly brand through a clever social media campaign, I read with interest. Hasbro created a Facebook page where anyone can post and vote on their favorite "house rules." These are rules made up by individuals to suit personal styles of play. The top house rules will become part of the next official rules.

With "more than 6bn little green houses and 2.25bn red hotels 'constructed' since 1935" and "more than one billion people" playing the game, the giant in the board game industry is breathing new life into its product.

Leveraging social media and word-of-mouth is a brilliant idea. Social media is built for this kind of outreach. Here is the request, the call-to-action from Hasbro. It's simple, short, and spurs action.

We all know there are many ways to play Monopoly…and they’re not always according to the rule book. Here’s your chance to see your favorite house rule become a part of the Monopoly game! The top global house rules are up for debate over the next ten days.

State your case to Mr. Monopoly for why this house rule should be added!

As of time of publishing this blog post, the Monopoly Facebook page has over 11 million likes with nearly 21,000 people "talking about this." There are quite a few adamant fans, the purists, touting the joy of following the rules. And many, many more sharing their love of the game with a variety of house rules.

What creativity can you bring to a product or service that is perhaps lagging, peaking, or not meeting expectations?


Here are a few of my favorite comments:

I have helped Mr.Monopoly enough I bought 52 different monopoly boards over the years !! And I want the new 75 anniversary edition of {The Wizzard Of Oz}

I've occasionally deliberately chosen someone's favorite token just to disorient them and throw them off their game. (Ira's note:  does the token really matter that much?)

You are my #1 most favorite bored game from when I was little till now. Don't ever change. Love u

One other rule that we thought was a rule but it isn't (and should be) is that when you are in jail, you cannot collect any rent. Otherwise, there is too much incentive late in the game to stay in jail to avoid paying rent, while collecting it yourself.

Here are a few of my favorite house rules:

Land on go collect $400.00 instead of $200.00. But if you pass go but do not land on it just collect the usual $200.00 (Ira's note: I play this way)

Land on a train station, you may pay the owner of the station 50.00 to ride to the opposite station. If it is not owned you may ride for free. If you own the station you may ride for free. This helps players avoid Mayfair and or other hotel heavy sections of the board.

$500 dollars from the bank is placed in Free Parking after anyone lands on it.

If someone lands on a property you own, YOU must ask for the rent. Otherwise, no rent is owed once the dice are rolled again.

1) When owning both utilities, you could put one house on each to represent a power station, and then the rates went up to 15 or 20 times what was shown on the dice
2) A house got put on jail, representing the jailhouse, and increased the cost for getting out of jail to $100.
3) When you own all 4 railroads, you could put a single house each to represent a train station. This would double the cost of rent when you landed on it to $400 instead of $200



Here is more scientific proof that great visuals are integral to great presentations.  You need both. You need great stories, great messages, great content. And you need to ensure your PowerPoint/Keynote are also done well to ensure your audiences remember and act on what you say.

"As it turns out, there is merit to the Chinese proverb 'I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember,'" says graduate student James Bigelow. James and his colleague Amy Poremba PhD recently published "Achilles’ Ear? Inferior Human Short-Term and Recognition Memory in the Auditory Modality" in the Journal PLOS ONE, which "features reports of original research from all disciplines within science and medicine."

Medical News Today writer David McNamee, summarizes the study nicely. "We have a harder time remembering things we have heard, compared with things we have seen or felt." He goes on to quote the study: "We tend to think that the parts of our brain wired for memory are integrated,' says Professor Poremba. She also says the team's findings may indicate that the brain uses separate pathways to process information. Even more, our study suggests the brain may process auditory information differently than visual and tactile information, and alternative strategies - such as increased mental repetition - may be needed when trying to improve memory."

About this time last year, I wrote a post on brands with low customer retention and the likely causes of it. I used a then-recent experience I had with my purchase of landscaping mulch to illustrate the importance of differentiation in selling a commoditized, low-interest product.

Earlier this year, I received a personalized email from my mulch supplier asking me to consider another purchase. The email included a chart that showed what I purchased last year and how much it would cost me to purchase the same quantity this year. It mentioned nothing about the scores of other mulch suppliers in my neighborhood or how their prices compared. Instead, it spoke to the things that mattered to me: a simple order process, easy payment terms, an early and convenient delivery.

I share this story because it is a telling example of how great branding and sales strategies intersect. Every great sales pitch begins with a clear and compelling brand promise…a brand promise that differentiates and communicates real value: "simple, easy, early and convenient." My mulch supplier’s brand promise is what makes their mulch special and worth paying more for.

Brands who lack differentiation and whose products are viewed as a commodity are forced to compete on price. Without the brand promise I just mentioned, the email I received from my mulch supplier might have included a chart that compared their price to those of one or more other suppliers (which would have invited me to shop around for a lower price). It might not have included information on last year’s purchase and how that equated to this year’s (which would have made it harder for me to make a buy decision). And it might have come from someone I didn’t know and trust (which would have decreased the likelihood of my opening and reading the email in the first place).

What makes you and your products different? How effective are your brand’s sales pitches against those of your competitors?

For more branding and sales insights, please see:
Great Brands Really Are…Different
If You’re Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You’re In Sales, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
What Makes Your Company Different?
How to Tell the Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sharing the Moment

Last week, I wrote about brand storytelling in the collaborative economy. I touched on the human relationship between brands and their customers, along with the importance of sharing in that relationship. And I included this quote from SnapChat, which said, "It's about the moment, a connection between friends in the present, and not just a pretty picture."

The recent Oscars gave us yet another powerful example of how brands are using social media to create and share moments like the ones envisioned by the founders of SnapChat. When host Ellen DeGeneres handed a white Samsung smartphone to actor Bradley Cooper so he could take a "selfie" of himself and other Hollywood stars surrounding her, she created a moment. She invited the audience to share in that moment by asking us to retweet the selfie during the show, eventually setting a record for the most retweets (over 2 million retweets during the show, including one by me).


Since the Oscars, much has been written about Ellen's now famous selfie. Was it planned or unplanned? Was it a brilliant answer to the ad-skipping now prevalent with digital video recordings? Or a great story about product placement in a show that was watched by 43 million viewers here in the U.S.? Which brand received the most mentions on social media? Was the overall sentiment on social media positive, negative or neutral? All excellent questions.

For me, though, it was about the moment and why so many people like you and me felt compelled to share in it. It was fun, entertaining and engaging. Instead of just watching the Oscars telecast, Ellen invited us to actively participate. With a simple and spontaneous retweet, over 2 million of us helped create and share in a memorable and historic moment. And for that, we have The Ellen Show, Samsung and, of course, the Oscars to thank.

I attended a roundtable for senior marketing executives recently that featured a panel of social media thought leaders. The roundtable was appropriately titled, "Social Media Outlook 2014," and the keynote speaker and panelists shared their insights on the latest marketing and social media trends.

Among the insights that were shared...  
• The collaborative economy is not just buying and selling, it's sharing (@rohitbhargava).
• Brands must think of themselves as "H2H," rather than B2B or B2C (@LeighGeorge).

The panelists spent much of the early part of the discussion talking about Snapchat – the next big thing in social media marketing. Snapchat is a new way to share. As Snapchat will tell you, "It's about the moment, a connection between friends in the present, and not just a pretty picture."


We learned from Leigh George, VP/Digital Strategist with Ogilvy Washington, that Snapchat provides a way for brands to share previews, behind-the-scenes stories and more intimate moments with their target audiences. A recent article in Ad Age talked about how brands like McDonald's, Taco Bell, HBO and Juicy Couture are reaching Millennials by connecting short-lived images and video clips to form and tell larger stories.

The economy is evolving and social media marketing is changing with it. Is your brand up to the challenge of storytelling in the collaborative economy?

My wife and I recently ordered a surprise Valentine’s Day delivery of cookies for our son who is away at college. Not surprisinlgly, he told us the warm cookies he received were “great!” What did surprise me, however, was the amazing customer experience I had with Campus Cookies in spite of a heavy snowfall that threatened to delay their Valentine's Day deliveries.



Customer experiences like the one I had with Campus Cookies don't just happen. Let's look at some of the elements that make them.

You need more than an outstanding product. You need a solution. For Valentine's Day, my wife and I wanted to do something special for my son who is away at college. We wanted to put a smile on his face. And because of the distance between us, we were looking for a way to deliver a personalized experience that did not require us to be there. We found a solution with Campus Cookies, a small business specializing in the delivery of warm, gourmet baked goods to college campuses like his.    

Your communications need to be personalized, timely and relevant. The first emails I received about my gift order on Valentine's Day were from the owner of Campus Cookies, Scott Davidson. He was writing to let me know that because of the heavy snow that had fallen, there was a possibility of a delayed delivery, even in spite of their best efforts. I continued to receive email and text updates on the status of my order throughout the afternoon. As the sun began to set, I received an email telling me my order had been scheduled for an evening delivery and the team would bake the cookies right before they were delivered. I received another email after that confirming my order had been completed.

Costs vary and positioning yourself as the low cost provider is not always the best approach. I can get chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies almost anywhere…and probably for less. What makes Campus Cookies special and worth paying more for is they are "baked with love and sent from the heart." The text message I received as the driver was heading out to deliver my gift order read, "Duane, Your order was prepared by Chandler, Erin, Chloe, Kevin, Caitlyn and Austin, and is now on the way to your recipient with our delivery driver, Alec." Awesome!

Everything about the Campus Cookies experience is designed around customer convenience. Delivery times are scheduled in advance at the convenience of the recipient, so when the cookies arrive they taste like they just came out of the oven. They are delivered warm and with a smile. Orders can be placed anytime, anywhere and from any device. Communications are timely and relevant and are also accessible from any device.

If you look closely at each of these elements, you might notice a secret ingredient...people. Every great customer experience starts with people. While the CEO or owner is responsible for creating a culture that enables his or her employees to deliver an amazing customer experience, it's a team effort by people who are passionate about their business and who take pride in delighting their customers. Successful brands like Campus Cookies know relationships with their customers are important and go the extra mile to build and sustain those relationships.

How would your customers characterize your brand’s personality? Is it corporate, formal, standoffish and perhaps a little too impersonal? Or is it casual, friendly, engaging and human?  If you were to ask your customers to use pictures to describe your brand’s personality, which images would come to mind?

Your brand communications – direct mail, email, website, blog and social media posts, advertising, sales pitches, job ads, etc. – are all windows into your brand’s personality. Your personality is what sets your brand apart from others in your market or industry. It’s why people choose and remain with your brand.  It plays a role in how people perceive your brand and its reputation. And it’s a foundational element in building trust and a community of passionate brand advocates.

Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at your brand communications. Is the content original, relevant, engaging and friendly? Is it from a recognizable person within your organization or a generic title or department? Do your blogs and social media posts include an image of a person’s face (with a smile, hopefully) or corporate logo? Are your communications one-way or interactive? Are your customers telling others about your brand and, if so, what are they saying?

For more on brand communications and personality, please see:
• Great Brands Really Are…Different
• Just Having Fun In My Lifetime
• How Human Is Your Brand?
• Your Customers Are Talking. Are You Listening?
• Your Tone and Voice Are Your Brand

If you unfamiliar with Tripp and Tyler, they "are a sketch comedy duo most known for their hilarious and viral YouTube videos" (website link). Leadercast, a business leadership event and information company, "commissioned the comedy duo of Tripp & Tyler to create this hilarious take on a conference call in real life" (blog link).

I agree 1000% that the video (YouTube, A Conference Call in Real Life) is hilarous and captures the very real essence of bad telephone conference calls. Where the video becomes disconnected, and consequently the message, is at the ~3:30 minute mark. Once the conference call is over, the video transitions to Tripp talking about the Leadercast annual leadership event.

The video should transition and make it abundantly clear the connection between the good natured fun of mocking the conference call and the annual event, which Tripp has hosted for the past five years.

One sentence...just one sentence would have made it clear. I was confused. As such, I clicked on the Leadercast website link, and explored. Did I do what the Leadercast marketing team wanted me to do? Nope. It has to be more than just click a link. It has to be more than just going viral (5,246,688 views in ~3 weeks). It has to be about generating action, generating activity by your target audiences with the information provided--a call, a request, an email, signup, something.

Do you think video was effective?


Social media is changing the way we sell.

As most of you know, I am an avid Twitter user (@duanebailey). Last week, I added a handful of new followers to my Twitter community. In a short time, one of those new connections decided to follow me back. In most cases, the engagement would have ended there. In fact, many of the direct messages I receive (and send) in acknowledgement of new followers are pre-set auto replies sent from apps like HootSuite.

This time would be different, though. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my new connection was busy doing her homework. She reviewed my Twitter bio, which includes a link to my LinkedIn profile. Once on my LinkedIn profile, she was able to see the companies I work for, what I do for them and what I have achieved.

And then, the following exchange occurred …

What just happened?

Aileen just made a cold call to someone who looked like a good prospect. The entire process – lead identification, qualification and engagement – occurred over social media. No phone call or voice message. No email. Just a simple, personalized and friendly interaction at a nominal cost.

And while she wasn’t able to close the sale this time, she did end our conversation on a positive note. I was so impressed with the way she handled this interaction I invited her to join my professional network by connecting with me on LinkedIn, as well. Who knows? We may yet have an opportunity to work together in the future.

I tweeted this quote by American humorist Will Rogers the other day: “People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.”

If you’re selling (and, if you really think about it, we’re all selling something), this quote speaks to what it takes to close the deal among an increasingly skeptical and informed buying audience. Most people I know say they don’t want to be “sold” on something; they want to see how a decision to buy is going to impact their lives, the lives of others around them or their business. They want to see proof that what you are telling them is going to happen. And they want to feel good about their decision to buy.

As you are crafting your sales strategy, look beyond the message (the “tell”) and focus on the proof (the “show”). Tell your story with endorsements, testimonials, facts and figures, and images and videos that let your customers see for themselves. Give them a reason to believe in you and what you are selling. Doing so just might make the difference between a hard sell and an easy one or a short and costly customer relationship versus a long and profitable one.

Sustainability marketing is fast becoming a business best practice.

With its focus on social justice, economic prosperity and environmental protection, sustainability is really all about addressing the needs of people, profits and planet. Sustainability marketing, when done right, is a holistic marketing strategy that enables a brand to do good things for people in the community, make a profit, save people money and reduce environmental footprints.

Yet some brands pursue sustainability strategies with a singular focus on the environment. Their marketing strategy is built around products that are green, a premium pricing strategy for green products, promotional events that bring people together in support of the environment and distribution channels that meet green certifications and standards equivalent to the brand's.

Green marketing is a niche strategy. Its appeal is limited to a targeted segment of the population consisting of active environmental stewards. Sustainability marketing is a broader strategy. With a more holistic focus on people, profits and planet, it is more likely to appeal to a wider, larger group. Millenials, as an example, will have enough buying power to become the largest U.S. consumer group by 2017. The millennial generation understands and values lifestyle choices that enable them to help others, save money and reduce their environmental footprint.

Brands that recognize the big picture and pursue a sustainability marketing strategy are likely to see larger growth opportunities than those that limit themselves to a smaller niche.

For more insights on sustainability marketing, please see:
• Sustainability Marketing: Driving Change with the Right Message
• How Doing One Good Thing Is Making a Difference
• Beyond Green: The Transformative Nature of Sustainability

While doing some searching on the Internet, I came across an article on public speaking. The speaker said early in every presentation, he tells people

“This presentation is for you. So don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions. In fact I encourage you to argue with me.  I’m here for you. In fact, I challenge you to throw me off.  That’s what makes this fun.”

While his intent is positive, how I could not DISAGREE more with most of what he said. Sentence by sentence, here are my comments and suggestions:
a) This presentation is for you
> I like it

b) “So” don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions.
> “So” is a filler word. It is one thing to say it and another to write it. Don’t include it in your writing. One thing to note, “so” is one of my filler words and I continue to work on removing it from my speaking

c) “don’t hesitate to interrupt me and ask questions”
> “interrupt” is a negative word, 1,000%. It means to stop someone from doing what they were doing. No one likes to be interrupted.
> instead, say something like, “don’t hesitate to ask questions” or make it more positive by saying, “please ask questions at any time.”

d) In fact I encourage you to argue with me.
> Really, you want people to argue with you? In public? In front of everyone else in the room? In front of your superiors, colleagues, friends?
> I find this statement illogical. Can you think of any time in your personal or professional life you wanted to be sitting next to or standing next to two people arguing? People run from conflict…it’s human nature.
> Part of his audience are global professionals. There is a huge disconnect here as global audience members never ever, never ever, challenge the speaker.
> Make people feel good about interacting with you, the speaker. Perhaps something like, “if you have experiences different than what I am talking about, please share them. Different perspectives are helpful to everyone.”

e) I’m here for you
> It’s okay

f) In fact, I challenge you to throw me off.
> see comments under (d)

Here’s my suggestion for a revised introduction.

“This presentation is for you. Please ask questions at any time…don’t hesitate. If you have experiences different than what I am talking about, please share them. Different perspectives are helpful to everyone. Hearing from you is what makes this fun.”

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2014

Everyone at The Chief Storyteller® wishes you a warm, safe, and relaxing holiday season. Here's a little humor we shared years ago with our first holiday greeting card.


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