Crackin’ with McCracken

A few years back I sat in a conference hall enjoying this jitter-bug kind of of guy flit about the stage and roam up and down the aisles ranting about human culture and marketing.

I was riled up, excited by this McCracken guy, being a former student of both anthropology and marketing… and then of course I had to go back to work.  I’m lucky my work combines these disciplines nicely, working through various models for innovation and insight.

Today, I’m more excited than ever, reading Grant McCracken’s new book “Culturematic” because the main theme is about blowing up the models and provoking the world with experiments that probe the possible.

It’s easy to love this kind of a book. It’s hard to get paid to do the kind of work he’s recommending. But it’s 100% possible to invigorate your mind with this thinking.

I’m gonna get crackin’ on finishing this book and give my mind a nice big long rope to play with. This is business conversation worth joining.



Conviction – Blessing or Curse?

What sword will you die on? Think about it.

What matters MOST, besides faith in God, love for family and the ability to get back into a better attitude?

The above convictions are not a problem now, and have never been a problem for me.

The hard part is what happens in business. Should it be different? Can you really be “convicted” enough to refuse something lucrative? Is it okay to get on a soapbox in the name of passion and experience and desire to work a certain way?

I’m guessing my convictions will now either limit or expand my opportunities. So be it.

The slow sword is a way worse fate.


We are judging this man by his shoes!!

Meet Matt.

Matt’s looking all buttoned up this morning!

Yesterday some stranger took his bag off the train on the way to Newark Airport. As any traveler knows, Newark Airport can barely feed a traveler well, let alone replace everything Matt needed to complete his business trip to the Mosaic office in Chicago.

So Matt, while enduring the inevitable flight delay out of Newark, figured out a plan that would prevent him from wearing shorts and a t-shirt for three days. He called four Target stores in Chicagoland, and found one that stays open until 11:00 PM.

Landing at O’Hare, Matt jumps in a cab, arriving at Target only 15 minutes before it closes. Like the game show where one races through the store on a stop-watch, Matt tosses in the cart boxers, socks, shoes, jeans, two oxford shirts, travel sized shampoo, facewash, toothpaste…you get the picture.

This morning, he realized he forgot to buy a bag to take it all home. We think Target should donate a duffel bag!  Frankly, this group of shopper marketers are duly impressed with Matt’s initiative. So impressed that we are about to vote his $256 tab as “shopper research”. Plus, the women in the room love his new shoes!

You can always judge a man by his shoes!

Of frames and frameworks

My life lately has been full of frames. For my dear friends’ daughter who was recently married, a Waterford picture frame to help her forever cherish the memory of her wedding day on June 15 to a man that is truly her soulmate.

For my son, a new flexible frame backpack that he’ll use for a life-framing trip to Isle Royale National Park up in Lake Superior that begins on June 22.  May he find the flexibility to succeed despite any obstacle he encounters.

For me,  a month’s worth of work that revolves around patterns and frameworks. Big picture thinking brought info focus by developing frameworks that will guide differentiating actions. This work frames up why I absolutely love what I do for a living.

And also for me, an injury to my frame. And the potential to deploy a lesson I know well in business and now need to apply to my personal life.  “When you hear a voice say “I’ve got your back” that voice should really belong to the person who faces you in the mirror every day.   I’ll certainly be taking the fitness of my “frame” more seriously as I go forward.

Which comes first?

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The sale or the system? The process or the team?

I think the answer to all of these is a combination of effort and trust.

When the bird goes through the effort to lay the egg, she trusts in the opportunity for either a meal for someone else in the food chain, or the chance for a next generation.

When the smart person sells an idea that is great, they trust the organization that they represent will put in the required effort it takes to build the system to make it happen.

And when a process comes first, it works in theory, but sometimes its the sheer effort and trust (read KARMA) of a team can shine like a beacon to lead a client through new or muddy ground toward a big win.

And that is why some of us keep our heads high and our reputation on the line every day. Bring on the chickens and the eggs. We’re building a feast!



Solving for Shopper

Many people in shopper marketing seem to think and act as if the shopper is the problem.  That’s a different and, in my opinion, incorrect way of putting the shopper at the center of the universe.

In Chapter 26 of the second edition of the book Shopper Marketing, Matt Nitzberg, an EVP from dunnhumbyUSA defines shopper marketing, when done well,  as “an expression of shopper-centered thinking and a deeply rooted shopper-centered culture.”

That’s number one on his list of five. Number five is “managed as a dynamic set of activities benefiting from continual measurement and improvement. ”

It’s a great chapter, full of frameworks to think about and use to build better shopper marketing practices. But, simply combining two key points in his definition premises gets me right back to my point. Solving for Shopper. Understand. Measure. Improve.

I’d ask you, as a practitioner, if you’re measuring improvement in sales in your category at retail, but ONLY if you’re also measuring an improvement in how the category (or your brand) is improving the shopper’s experience while shopping or life when he/she is using or consuming the products.  If all you can report is yes to the short term sales lift, you’re missing the whole point.

The shopper isn’t the problem. But she probably HAS one.  True shopper-centered culture means you’ve dug deep enough to understand the problem, and through your actions, are doing everything you can to alleviate it on her terms across her purchase experience. That is how you earn behavior change. When you can measure that type of improvement, which may take many versions of test and learn, you may actually be able to get to that elusive thing called loyalty.

It’s simple, yet we make it so hard. Matt lists eleven things that typically get in the way of the true promise of effectiveness in shopper marketing. In my twenty years, I’ve seen a lot of these things in play on a very regular basis.

As Matt Nitzberg says so eloquently in Chapter 26 of the Shopper Marketing book,  it’s important to understand how to stay on track with the shopper so shopper marketing doesn’t become “yet another way to rent market share from week to week.”

“Focusing on attempting to change shopper behavior through fairly irrelevant brand or store-centered initiatives must be subdued” in order to focus on the shopper, says Matt.

Those that do it well will use the continual cycle of test, learn, measure and improve to show results that reflect an ability to solve for the shopper’s problems. And that’s when the magic happens, and shoppers start sharing your stories, says ShopperAnnie.

FYI for my readers: I am NOT compensated in any way to write about this book. I did receive a complimentary copy of the book from the editors, based on my tenure in the industry. My choice to write about specific elements of the book reflects the passion points I have always supported; first and foremost a true commitment to face the shopper as the center of the universe.

The fishy business of Shopper Marketing

I’ve got a voracious appetite for reading. This weekend I’m trying to catch up on a few industry reads. This morning I’m browsing through the 2nd Edition of Shopper Marketing, published by Kogan Page Limited in 2010 and updated in 2012. I like it because it has 36 chapters, each by a different professional from across the globe,  many of whom are colleagues and friends.

The subtitle of this new book is called “How to increase purchase decisions at the point of sale” but it’s hardly ironic that my favorite chapter is about what happens at home.  Because it is truly the day-to-day patterns of our everyday lives that shape not only what items we impulsively toss in the cart on a given shopping trip, but what brands become inscribed in our sub conscious brains as cultural preferences.

It’s also no surprise that Harvey Hartman wrote the chapter. Shopper marketers, especially those in insights areas of the discipline, tend to drone on about need states. Harvey, (whom I know and admire for his frankness) will tell you, correctly so, that experiences in our homes generate cultural tasks, not need states. In a nutshell, the study of culture trends and shifts matters greatly to all things shopper.

His story in the book gives me a fond memory AND true understanding of exactly why I used to buy Gorton’s fish sticks, and why, since picky eater toddler finally grew up, I no longer ever need to buy them again, but feel connected to the brand in a positive way.  It also explains why my husband continually sneaks regular Ritz crackers (and liversausage) into the cart despite the daunting nutrition label and its impact on his physical heart. The impact of Ritz crackers on his emotional heart is just to strong to resist.

At the end of the day, it behooves (love that word) every marketer who is accountable to the shopper (read as: ALL of us) to back away from thinking just about in-store behaviors. It’s prudent to move some of your research and personal reading time to understand the culture of preference and the impact of life at home to the deep-seated preferences we all bring with us to the stores.

The Hartman Group, encompassing a fine group of smart and intuitive humans that surround the always outspoken Mr. Harvey Hartman himself, have continually provided true depth and dimension to my reading and to my understanding of the fishy business of shopper marketing. They helped shape my non-stop shopper-centric focus in the business.

For now, I’m on to a chapter called Too Many Choices, a situation that actually prevents sales at the shelf. This chapter will likely explain why I love small stores and farmer’s markets!

What’s on your reading list?


Hello Kitty

I’ve always been a fan of the Hello Kitty brand, mostly because the founders never “gave” the brand a positioning, It was always about letting the consumer define what it meant to her. I loved that.

Until yesterday, I was cool with that. But yesterday I wandered around the Chicago Cultural Center (which is an amazing space) during a break from the 8th Annual Marketing to Women Conference, into an exhibit that was a celebration of type and fonts and words. (very cool exhibit, btw)

Being a marketing woman for decades, I must say the exhibit was super engaging and I took a bunch of pictures and fully enjoyed the visual stimulation.

And then I found this image titled “Hell No Kitty” and it made me sad. Especially since some guy, named Zach Schrey, whoever he is (and I’m NOT googling him) exhibited this screen print he did in 201o of the Hello Kitty image.

a sad day for women

I’m sad because this was and is an iconic brand that always inspired women to create their own meaning, which is an uber-powerful concept, especially in marketing, where the norm is to push your brand meaning out and on to your target audience. Hello Kitty trail-blazed the idea that women, even young girls, had power to create meaning in the world.

And then,  some random guy who I don’t even know just trashes all that goodness with what he calls art, titled “Hell No Kitty.” All I can say is UGH! Well, I could say more but it might be profane.

I’m posting his “art” even though I don’t want to give him any press. But I am posting it so women might be inspired to rise up and say “HELL YES KITTY” as an anthem for women to make their own mark and their own meaning in the world of marketing today.

That is the inspiration I got from the 2012 Marketing to Women conference called She’s Got the Power. She does, and she is me and you and us. So let’s just use that power. Shall we? I plan to use mine by buying and gifting Hello Kitty merchandise to all the young girls I know. Will you join me?





I’ve spent many years in my career(s) being responsible for looking out the front window of the car, being responsible for having a view on what to think about next, and what to do about it. I’ve always called it the “So What, Do What” capability.

Now that I am an independent consultant, I find this to be the most valuable asset in my portfolio of services. Today’s pace of change is reminds me of a hot day in July a few years back, where I literally put the pedal to the metal and raced my little red BMW down the back road at 120+ mph. Windows open, wind in my face…..thrilling.

Scary? Sure, for the one second I thought about getting a ticket. But the thrill of the pace totally outweighs the fear. I’m not saying I’m going to race my car down that road again. But it sure is a thrill to be working in a space that feels so similar. 


When she met Facebook

My oldest daughter graduated from high school in 2003. All during the fall of 2002, she anxiously awaited word from from her “only choice” school on admission. Once that was done, she again waited on the scholarship award date, and only then, in April of 2003, did we pay the deposit and SHE GOT THE COVETED EMAIL ADDRESS. 

Because that was the ticket to getting on Facebook. Only college students with valid .edu emails were allowed. 

In 2003, Facebook was THE CONNECTION to your upcoming life of all new friends. And parents, siblings and nosy relatives were forbidden. Blind roommate choices became known entities, room decor was decided via Facebook.  Swim team cohorts, male and female, all connected via half naked pictures and award winning swim meet times – before they ever got in the pool. What a brave new world it was to be that transparent for all the college student world to see.

She is 27, the same age as Mark Zuckerberg. If only she had had trouble getting a date. She might have invented it herself. Who would have predicted that Facebook would ever be what it is today? Ah well, who needs $28 Billion, really?

Instead, off she went to Denison University in the fall of 2003, only to meet and still be connected in real life and via Facebook to students/friends from all over the world. Thanks, Mark, for the technology that keeps them all so closely connected. And thanks for letting the rest of us in.

Imagine how nice it was for my daughter today, on the day Facebook files for its IPO,  to read on Facebook and hit the LIKE and the SHARE button that her alma mater Denison was just voted the #3 most fun-loving schools in the country by Huffington Post!!

And P.S. – daughter number two attended the #2 most fun loving school…….no wonder they each have 1,000+ friends on Facebook!