We Can Hear You Now

by Maggie on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 in brand | loyalty | media | product | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Looking back at 2011, it was certainly the year for major corporations – think Netflix, BestBuy, BofA and most recently Verizon – to do an about-face when consumers pushed back.  Check out my guest blog for Steve “RepMan” Cody while he is off hiking mountains in Ecuador. The consumer was more than king this year, but what have we learned?

Read on…


Daily deal customers need more

by Melissa on Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 in media | retail - (0 Comments)

Guest post by Jason Green…

Bleary-eyed, scrolling through the morning’s daily deal e-mails on my iPhone, one of them catches my eye. It is from “Daily News Reader Offers” the daily deal arm of the New York Daily News. Gone are the days of spreading out the Sunday paper of choice on the kitchen table (carefully avoiding the plates piled high with challah French toast) in order to artfully cut out coupons at the request of your mother. The customer experience has been reduced to treasure hunting in mass e-mails before sunrise and I believe this could be the albatross around the neck of companies like Groupon and LivingSocial.

Few companies have grown faster than the daily deal sites in such a short period of time. But rapid expansion often sheds light on flaws in the shadow of stacks of money.  A member of
Stifel Nicolaus’s equity research team correctly identifies Groupon’s risky growth strategy in the Wall Street Journal, “Groupon’s ‘get big fast’ strategy to dominate the local-deals business is bold, potentially revolutionary and wrought with organizational challenges.” A stagnant stock price and growing customer fatigue will force Groupon, LivingSocial and competitors like the New York Daily News to retool its customer relations and deliver more than just an e-mail.

As I thought about it more, it became clear that the New York Daily News and other newspaper companies are well-positioned, in comparison to others, to take on Groupon and
LivingSocial because they built significant brand equity over years of being the most reliable source of coupons. Creating an experience and customer trust was at the center of coupon insert success. And recreating this interaction with customers online is the most significant piece missing from the daily deal business model. Witty descriptions of each deal is not enough to change the perception that we are all just waiting for our daily deal trough to be refilled, so we can eat.

The daily deal market is crowded and competition to stay out of a customer’s spam folder will only get tougher. Ultimately, to gain on Groupon and LivingSocial, companies like the New
York Daily News
should abandon their copy-cat strategy and think about what customers wanted in the golden years of couponing. By reminding customers of whom they used to trust and creating a differentiated experience, I think that newspapers can be a formidable competitor.

One idea to get the New York Daily News team started: Instead of blast e-mails, develop a Zynga-like game that allows customers to create a profile online and connect to other
social platforms, virtually clip coupons, earn greater awards, unlock badges and actually engage with its daily deal provider. I’m interested to hear about your experience with daily deal sites and what you think they can do to improve. So, what do you think?

Public Radio Is Awesome

by Lauren on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 in media | Millennials - (0 Comments)

For the past few months I’ve gotten into running—something I never thought I’d be able to do (or at least do well).  Most runners have a set routine that typically involves a playlist on their iPod. While the majority of other Millennials listen to pop songs and other classic “Jock Jams” to keep their energy level up, I prefer to listen to public radio.

According to NPR.org, the median age for its audience is 50; about twice my age. People between the ages of 18 to 34 tune in at rates far below this benchmark.  That said, I am a complete anomaly.

I love public radio for many reasons. For one, the content is exceptional. It is well researched, thoughtful and human-centered. Unlike newspapers or magazines the content is presented in a more conversational tone. Audio sound bites piece together news and feature stories in a way that allows your imagination to play a part in the digestion of this new information. Unlike social media or television, segments often go deeper than the need-to-know facts and uncover pieces of a story that a network morning show would gloss over.

Read More »

People will buy anything!

by Melissa on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 in media | product | retail | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

So I was working from home last week and had NBC on in the kitchen.  The entire first three hours of the Today Show prattled on in the background with all the typical headlines and nothing really caught my attention.  Then Kathie Lee and Hoda came on and I had to stop, look and listen and this time it wasn’t because I was wondering what they were drinking.  Style expert Bobbie Thomas was on with a slew of “weird and wacky” items she found – crazy new bottled water (it’s black), a boyfriend pillow with an arm to put around you while you sleep (creepy!) and the list went on.  The one that got me?  Cat hair jewelry. Yes, you read that right. Jewelry made out of cat hair.  Earrings, bracelets, you name it.  Really?  And not only jewelry, there is an entire book coming out In November dedicated to crafting with cat hair.  Now I am all for creativity but this is just disgusting.  I spend countless hours trying to rid my home, clothing and
linens of those tiny little balls of gross and these people are making things with it!?   I think the desire to reduce and reuse has gone a little too far in this case. But who am I to talk?  The segment achieved its goal – I stopped what I was doing to watch it.

The Tasting

by Melissa on Friday, September 30th, 2011 in food/bev | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Wednesday night, Maggie and I attended a chef’s showcase and tasting for caterer Creative Edge Parties. We went to their really cool space downtown and were treated to crisp cocktails and a tasting menu that scared the bejesus out of me. (Editor’s note: I am not an adventurous eater and I have serious texture issues). With that said, I did taste everything they put in front of me – from bone marrow to veal heart. Yes, I ate veal heart.  I did not like any of it until Maggie reminded me that if I always ate this way (read: one bite of each dish), I’d be thin. Well, maybe I liked the rosemary cava sangria.  The flavor profiles were incredible but the textures were something I just could not get past.  What I did like was the marketing approach – an elegant, leisurely meal with great conversation, and get this, no sales pitch.  Creative Edge’s Carla Ruben is a genius.  She flew in two adorable chefs from Spain and Sweden who cooked for and charmed a room full of 40 people who were all viable potential clients. While I would not look to create such a menu for any of my clients, I will keep Carla and crew in my repertoire for future
events.  Did I mention the drinks?

I have been a Netflix user since 2006. For years, it was my go-to example of a company with great branding, a stellar service offering and unmatched customer service. But lately, I’ve been singing a different tune. When Netflix introduced the 60 percent price hike I was annoyed, but simply changed my plan to a more affordable rate.  Based on the current stock price and membership numbers, I was one of the few understanding consumers.

In response to the gaffe, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings issued an apologetic letter to subscribers.  Within the same breath, he announced another major change to the company: its complete rebranding of its direct mail platform to, Qwickster. I commend the company’s leader for admitting the mistake and taking responsibility. However, he squashed the opportunity to bring back consumer support with the new branding announcement. Changing the name doesn’t change the problem.

Consumers are smart and can tell that the decision to apologize and rebrand the company came from an executive whose is far too out of touch to notice the opinions and preferences of the loyal customers. This new brand name doesn’t change any of the issues customers have been upset about (e.g. high price points for service, abysmal selection on instant watch, etc.); it does make me think of Qwick-E-Mart (which is not a good thing).  Hastings was right to take ownership of the problem, but he should have left it at that and saved the rebranding campaign for the 2012 marketing plan.

Bucking a Time-Tested Trend

by Melissa on Thursday, September 8th, 2011 in brand | children | moms | product | retail - (0 Comments)

That is what I am calling the fact that I procrastinated starting back-to-school shopping for our twins until yesterday – the first day of school.  The onslaught of sale information (read hurry up and buy!) started in July.  I was involved in creating and disseminating some of it, yet I refused to shop.  I blamed it on work, summer-itis, you name it – anything to avoid starting the annual spending spree.

Well, yesterday was the first day of kindergarten, and guess what?  The girls wore an outfit they have worn several times before and nothing happened!  They looked adorable. And you know what else?  We went shopping today after school ended.  Expecting the worst – picked over aisles and no size options – I was pleasantly surprised.  The shelves were stocked and I discovered something else. I am not the only one.  I met two close friends and another class mom in Target doing the very same thing.

So to all of my fellow procrastinators, just because they say it’s time to shop doesn’t mean it is.  Remember that when the holiday décor and sales start in October.

I Do…Love this Idea!

by Rebecca on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

As a big fan of Anthropologie, I was excited when they launched their highly anticipated bridal collection, BHLDN, earlier this year. The fun bohemian-chic patterns and down-to-earth style the brand is known for would finally be applied to wedding day attire. When the collection debuted in February (on Valentine’s Day, of course), I was a little disappointed. Maybe the winter blues had really set in, but I couldn’t get excited about the various cuts, patterns or overall looks. It felt…dull and a little forced. I was missing the drama and the glamour. Maybe Anthropologie was too down to earth for the wedding crowd.

Like most of us loyal customers do, though, I stayed on the email lists and receive updates from time to time. I have to admit: the collection is getting better. It seems that Anthropologie is finding its groove, balancing tradition with trend. One tactic they use – which I love – is video to showcase the dresses. Unlike pictures, the videos really show how the dresses move and the character they depict. Brilliant. I received the latest video this morning which unveils the brand’s latest endeavor: separates. That’s right, on the day that is all about togetherness and unity, Anthropologie is suggesting brides select separate pieces to create their own dress, perfect for their style and body type.

Looks like a lot of fun to me, especially these days when two, sometimes three, dresses for the big day are more the norm than the exception. By selecting two skirt styles with one top, you can create two very different looks at an affordable (well, more affordable) price. Bravo, BHDLN! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.


How did I get on this marketing list?

by Maggie on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 in brand | media | product | wellness - (0 Comments)

I am all for targeted marketing, and I click on most Opt-In lists when it comes to things I enjoy. Mainly deals for my shopping obsession.  So I can’t help but wonder how a shopping obsession click could have made me the target of “Smart Cremation.”

Talk about morbid marketing.  Now, I know it’s inevitable and something to deal with at some point, but telling me I can plan ahead in just five minutes with an 800 number, and save the world with environmentally cremation was a little bit more than I can handle.  And they reached out to me three times in two months…do they know something I don’t?

I don’t begrudge the marketing, but maybe offer a more targeted approach for reaching and engaging with a receptive audience.  Maybe joint marketing with a funeral home (beyond back of a church bulletin), or working with a life insurance broker, or targeting users who just created their Will online. 

Being none of these, I can’t imagine my clicking on Gilt Groupe triggered the email campaign.  And they reached out to me three times in two months.  I may be wrong here…maybe they know something I don’t.

I am speechless.

by Melissa on Friday, September 2nd, 2011 in children | moms | product | retail | wellness - (0 Comments)

Guest post by Erin Howard, fellow Peppercommer and YAY DIY! blogger.

Well, maybe not. Ready?

So yesterday, the blogosphere exploded with images of this shirt, apparently on sale just in time for back-to-school. The shirt in question was available in sizes 6-16; targeting not only elementary school girls, but girls in that already awkward and confusing time that most of us would rather forget called middle school.

There are so many things wrong with this! There’s the fact that somewhere along the line, multiple teams of people thought this was not only acceptable, but maybe even a money-maker. Because let’s face it. No one designs, creates, buys and promotes a shirt they think isn’t going to sell. Maybe they’d buy this for their child.  And maybe they’re the kind of people who dream of their daughters being First Lady and not President.  I’d like to hope that mentality is held by only a very small minority of parents in this country.

School age girls are impressionable. They believe what people tell them.  One thing they should NOT be told is that
they can’t be both pretty and smart. There are no “roles” or “molds” girls should be taught to fill.  They don’t have to be “The pretty cheerleader” or the “mousy computer nerd” or the “smart girl in Future Business Leaders of America.”  That pretty girl, the one who’s always cast as the cheerleader, or head of the “mean” squad in
the movies?  That girl should be encouraged to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or even President, just as
much as anyone else.

The young women who can fit into this shirt are tomorrow’s leaders – but only if we help them realize their full potential. There is nothing wrong with telling young women that they’re beautiful – there is only something wrong with telling them that beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive.

OK, I’m done.