Author Archives: Nick

Living in Manhattan, I’m always surprised when I somehow manage to stumble upon a bad restaurant, a moody store owner or just generally bad customer service. The reason it surprises me is that there are so many good restaurants and retail establishments in Manhattan. With so much excellent competition, I don’t know how the good ones stay in business, much less the bad ones.

Plus, New Yorkers are notoriously… um… particular, which makes it all the more wonderful when an establishment is able to stand out above the rest. I’m speaking, of course, about that wonderful New York City bastion of grocery excellence, Fairway. What began as a fruit and vegetable stand in 1933 is now a nine-store juggernaut of high-quality food in the greater NYC area.

But that’s not what makes Fairway great. First of all, it seems like I always go grocery shopping at the wrong day or time. I’m always bumping elbows at the deli counter, dodging baguettes by the bakery or having my toes run over by stroller-pushing mothers in full yoga regalia. Fairway is great in spite of all that, much of which I attribute to my poor planning anyway. That’s because pretty much every employee I’ve ever encountered at Fairway has been helpful and human.

I’ll give you an example. One day I decided to go to Fairway right after work. As every working person is wont to do after work, I was rushing to get home. So I gathered my jerk turkey, dark chocolate with mint, greek yogurt and honey-glazed almonds, and jumped in the express line.

The customer in front of me was completely bonkers. One of those women of ambiguous age with an alien-esque stretched face and stringy hair, she was losing her mind because the cashier accidentally added an extra zero to some quantity of vegetables, making the grand total something around $400 for her handful of items. The cashier, handling a barrage of insults, patiently explained to the customer that she would get a manager to simply void the transaction. The manager came quickly, and, before voiding the transaction, asked the cashier what happened.

It was too much for the customer to handle. She kept screaming “I refuse to pay that much!” After voiding the transaction, the manager then offered the lady free delivery. I would have called a NYC Animal Control Officer to “crate” her for a while. When the debacle was over, and it was my turn at the register, the cashier and I looked at each other and both burst out laughing. It was a little slice of humanity indicative of what I always find at Fairway and supporting what Fairway says about itself: “Fairway: LIKE NO OTHER MARKET.”

 

Confession: I don’t own a smart phone. I think I’m the only one in my office, and possibly in the world of PR and Marketing, who still uses a flip phone. It’s not that I don’t want one. I do. It’s not even that they’re too expensive.

The reason I don’t own a smartphone is that, every time I attempt to peruse the lovely, shiny, thin phones, I’m convinced that my service-provider has secretly entered me into a meticulously-coordinated retail version of the Hunger Games.

Upon entering, the potential customer has to sign in at the kiosk. After that, the real action begins. Angry customers ahead in line are reaching the end of their ropes, having stood around for almost an hour. Others are feeling screwed. Having entered the store with excitement about the prospect of a new shiny phone, they quickly descend into depression when extra, all-but-obligatory “options” are sold to them. The guy next to them has not purchased those options, and now has a broken phone or has gone over his monthly allotment of data thingers. Grandmothers unused to this new retail model enter the store and immediately approach seemingly-available salespersons, only to be rejected, told to sign in, and leave confused.

I want a smart phone. I even need one. This should be a win-win for me and the cell phone company. But this dance is enough to make a man leave empty-handed and call his buddies on his flip phone to meet elsewhere for drinks. Instead of models in flashy pink dresses or bold phone coverage-area proclamations, the cell phone industry should start by simplifying and improving its in-person customer service model. Do you hear me now? Good.

Cell phone store or Hunger Games scene?

You’re not Jeremy Lin, you say? Ok let me back up a step. By now you’re probably aware of the spectacular rise of Harvard grad and NY Knicks’ new point guard, Jeremy Lin. Before he was passed from team to team in the NBA, he was passed over by Division I colleges for athletic scholarships. Then, when he got his opportunity with the Knicks, he made some recruiters feel pretty sorry. Essentially, Lin’s story is the American dream come true. That’s why you are Jeremy Lin. You, as a consumer, empathize.

Lin’s success tugs on the heartstrings of many demographic groups. There’s the highly educated contingent because of his Harvard education, Asian-American fans and players who don’t have an idol to look up to in the NBA, regular Americans who love a good underdog stickin-it-to-the-man story and Knicks fans who just wanted some wins (and just happen to live in a giant metropolis). And those Knicks fans have seen the Knicks brand limp along through some …er… let’s say “character concerns.” From former Head Coach Isiah Thomas’s legal issues and .456 win percentage to secret pre-draft workouts and Carmelo Anthony’s failure to deliver thus far, the Knicks brand lacked excitement and hope.

When you think about it, it’s an ideal scenario for the Knicks, the NBA and anyone whose income is dependent upon ups and downs of NBA viewership and game attendance. Is there a lesson here, though? Or, did the Knicks get really lucky by choosing a guy they probably thought was talented over another guy they probably thought was less talented?

I think there is a lesson: Brands and businesses can be made or broken by the degree to which consumers can empathize with what they buy. Whether or not that happens as a result of strategic decisions or blind luck can probably be influenced by those businesses or brands making those strategic decisions. Other NBA teams, take note: I have been practicing my free throws and can make almost 50% of them. You sure you don’t want to take a second look?

Post by Kendyl Wright

As the daughter of a sports fan, I grew up going to conference tournaments, national championship games and everything in between. I think my first love for brands was discovered through the free treasures I received during pre-game, halftime or post-game activities at these big events. Who doesn’t love those t-shirts cheerleaders shoot up to the nosebleed seats?

As I got older, my initial love for the giveaways turned into an obsession to visit each booth at the expos to find the actual good stuff. I have a vintage State Farm Insurance tee from a SEC basketball tournament I attended in 2002 that I still wear to the gym – I love it. Subsequently, I’ve picked up and thrown out hundreds of other random items from a variety of brands that I cannot recall. As I got older, I would ask the booth workers (which I now know are known as brand ambassadors) how they got their job, how they like it and what they do during a typical day.

How appropriate that my job now consists of helping brands identify what to put in those booths, hiring those brand ambassadors and teaching them how to engage consumers in a meaningful way at these events. My end goal for my clients is always to find something that won’t get thrown away, either literally or figuratively. In a sea of endless brand logos and promotional crap like pens, noisemakers, temporary tattoos, etc., how do you stand out? I can no longer look at an event without judging the brand activations and imagining ways to do it better or envying those who do it best.

I have been extremely lucky to run sponsorship activations and campaigns for brands at some of the world’s biggest events including New York Fashion Week, the Chicago, New York and Baltimore Marathons, Food & Wine festivals and more. But I have yet to represent a brand at the Super Bowl. Along with the NBA All Star weekend and the Olympics, it’s my pie in the sky goal.

While other people are excited for the Super Bowl commercials this weekend, I’m excited to see how the brands engage on the ground with consumers at the game. What’s the point in spending millions of dollars on a flashy ad if you are not able to interact with the attendees in your target audience? Furthermore, what’s the point of spending millions of dollars in sponsorship if the consumer doesn’t take anything memorable away from the experience? Besides, who needs one more foam finger in their garbage can on Monday morning?

What’s the most memorable item you’ve ever received from a brand? For me it’s that vintage tee from State Farm (I hate when brands pass out the standard XL White logo cotton tees) and a box of customized fridge magnets from Daily Candy that I received at NY Fashion Week in 2008. Tell us here for the chance to receive a box of branded goodies from past sponsorships!

*Image via Chicago Tribune

Even though we’re surrounded by exciting and useful digital and social media with which to connect consumers and businesses, face-to-face interactions can’t be left behind.

On a recent jog I was taking through a neighborhood near my local grocery store, I noticed something really exciting: a new specialty beer store. I’m talking about the kind of place hopheads dream of. Shelves of seasonal and craft beers flank the customer on both the left and right, ending at a small bar with four taps for tasting and growler refills. Promising.

Not only did the store have an excellent selection, it had a black chalkboard with Twitter, Facebook and website information for customers to “check out.” Really promising.

But that was where my excitement ended. As soon as I began browsing the shelves, the woman behind the cash register yelled out, “The soda pop is over there, Hun.” She was clearly speaking to me, and I looked at her, confused. “You aren’t twenty-one!” she yelled back. I explained to her that, yes, I was of age to buy alcohol, but because I had come from a run, I didn’t have my I.D. with me, and couldn’t prove it to her. I didn’t even have any money and didn’t plan to buy anything at that time, so I left, fuming.

What really angered me about the interaction was not that she thought I was underage. These things happen (even though I did have a full beard at the time), and I recognize the importance of making sure consumers of alcohol are of legal drinking age. What angered me was her approach. Had I tried to buy something, she should have simply carded me. No problem.

What shocked me was that she, the proprietor of a new business, would immediately take an action that could jeopardize alienating a new and (let’s be honest) repeat customer. The establishment may have had a killer social media presence and a great selection, but forgot a cardinal rule: when meeting your consumer face-to-face, you are your customer’s experience. In this era of digital and social media, being able to interact with your consumer in person is a great opportunity. Businesses, take note.

Photo Credit: www.stickynotethinkers.com