Make Me Feel Something

A marketer’s job in today’s omnichannel environment is to make the consumer feel something.

A tough ask in most categories, but especially so in technology. When the new news is about being data ready for the future, it’s almost a given that the marketing effort will lead with data. But data isn’t really a thing that evokes emotion in the average human (tech nerds aside).

But this past weekend, Dell delivered  two new power-packed campaign spots in the Beat Again effort, masterfully telling us stories: the “night before” a heart transplant for a pre-teen girl, and the “welcome back” as she returns to school healthy after her heart transplant.

The key elements in the story show emotional engagements between heart surgeon and his child, between mother and father of the heart patient, and between mother and daughter. The data displays are not always central to the storyline, but helpful and in the case of the sushi menu, even entertaining. Edited many ways so the frequency of spots over five days of the WGC golf event didn’t get annoying, the whole package left me feeling hopeful, inspired and in awe of what future data can do for a patient, a family, a surgeon and a community of classmates. Real People. Real Emotions.

To weave a story that connects the emotions of hope, inspiration and awe to the Dell brand all in one weekend is something Dell marketers and its agency partners Young & Rubicam should be damn proud of.

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!



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!



Whistling the Cats

My neighbor is outside whistling in his cats. Like they were dogs. And let me tell you these cats come right in when called.  I love that particular human to cat relationship, it’s a true dog behavior in a feline world of indifference.

These are no ordinary cats. They are outdoor prowlers, still with claws; big Siamese cats that hunt.  I have lived next door to these cats for over 15 years and never petted either one, despite the fact that they both, Sir Bubba and Miss Monica, strut by my kitchen and family room doorwalls every day of the week. They love their parents, but ignore the rest of the humans they encounter. Not so the chipmunks, bunnies and squirrels. Regular deposits at the back door will attest.

But when Dad whistles, they step it up and get on home. It reminds me of when my Dad used to ring this big old brass bell to call us out of the neighborhood games and home for dinner. He meant business and we knew it. So do the cats.

Obedience is a lost virtue. Exploring is so much more fun. But we all crave home, and the call to join the family.  And so, when we’re whistled in, it sort of feels like love. And it is.

Are today’s parents nuts? Retailers can help.

The schools-imposed ban on bringing in peanuts and other common food allergens is, of course, controversial,  especially if you’re a parent of a whiny kid who wants PBJ’s for lunch every day. To get a sense of the current consumer sentiment on the issue, Supermarket Guru recently conducted a poll to expose the feelings of parents on the matter.

A whopping 58% say it’s not fair to restrict the top eight sever food allergens in what kids bring to school to eat. Another 31% said it depends on the ingredient, and accurately noted peanuts as the biggest culprit. Of those, 18% named tree nuts, and 14% named shellfish as ingredients worth banning. Parents, are you nuts?

When my daughter was nine months old, she blew up instantly after she ate her first scrambled egg. When she was ten, we had our first “911” food allergy visit by the paramedics, and a massive incident while at the allergist for skin tests that required too much adrenaline for comfort. Today, at almost 24, she’s out of fingers and toes to keep count of the scary incidents she’s had, most significantly well-managed by super-quick intervention with OTC drugs and the ever-present EPI Pens.  Her most significant allergies are tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish. This “triple-threat” of a young woman now wants a tattoo of a lobster riding a peanut into a pecan tree on her wrist instead of a medical alert bracelet.  A survivor badge of honor is what she deserves.

To all the parents who don’t want to bother altering their behavior when packing lunches and treats for school, I invite you to feel for seven minutes the heart-stopping fear I have had many times with my child. I want you to get a bad case of the cold sweats like I do even now as she recounts events where disaster was averted by quick, decisive action on her part. I want you to feel like I feel so you can think about what you’re voting for.

Fifty eight percent of us are voting for the chance my child could die, perhaps in front of your child, during every day she is at school. Say that out loud to feel the impact. Would you put that on your shirt? “I voted that your kid might die so my kid can eat a PBJ at the same lunch table.”

I know part of the problem is food labeling and retail merchandising. And since only 11 million Americans (three million school-kids) have truly life-threatening allergies, the “industry” is not moving quickly to make it easier for all Americans to shop with certainty that hidden ingredients aren’t lurking in the foods we purchase for in-school consumption.

It takes a lot of time to stop and examine all those labels, especially if it’s not your kid who could die. Interestingly, the poll showed that 68% of respondents would take time to read labels to comply with rules if need be. So there’s hope for change to happen.

We can perhaps think about all of our children as humans whom we need to protect and nourish well. Most of our kids are in local, community schools. Community means sharing and helping everyone flourish. Why aren’t we teaching our kids to be caring toward other kids with disabilities, allergies and other significant issue? Why aren’t we vocally asking our local food market managers to fix the shopping problem we have with allergens so we can comply with protective standards for our children? Remember, 58% of parents don’t really want to be bothered, but 68% know they can and would comply. The insight is this:

We’re willing and likely to shop to comply with food safety standards if it’s easier to accomplish and doesn’t suck hours and hours of extra time in the stores.

I’m advocating that retailers can and should take a proactive step to fix the problem. Get involved with your local school. Retailers can take some shopping trips with parents whose kids have life-threatening allergies, and learn from them how to fix the store so it’s easier to shop and buy allergen free foods. Retailers can help with the time barrier shoppers have thru better merchandising – quickly eliminating the extra hour  it takes to have to scavenger hunt the products across the aisle and scour every detail of the packaging.

58% is a very scary number. It’s our opportunity to raise bright, successful and caring kids in communities that work together to care enough about this issue so as not to put my child at risk of dying in front of your child at school, at a party, in a restaurant or anywhere else on the planet. My child has become a self-protecting adult with ever-present life-threatening food allergies. I want all three million kids in American schools to have that same opportunity.



Why am I a Shopper360 Guest Bloggger?

Yesterday, I began a series of guest posts on the Shopper360 blog. Here’s my debut.

I will post there every Thursday for a couple of months. Why? Because Amanda asked me to. And she and I go back a long way. I think it was about seven years ago we met, when she began to be a part of the IIR Shopper Insights in Action Conference. Now she’s the boss lady of the show, and has done a wonderful job listening and being so very willing to make each and every year a best-ever for a great conference. 2011 looks to be a winner, with Ms. Amanda Powers scoring a stellar roster of big wigs including A.G. Lafley, former head of P&G.

The Shopper 360 blog is a forum for a lot of industry contributors. Smart stuff there and I’m thrilled to be a part of the community.

But, as I’ve warned Amanda and the gang, I’m not mincing words. Next week I going to tackle the mobile shopper marketing topic head on.



Arkansas Black an Opportunity for Walmart?

I tried for an hour to ignore this idea, but it’s like ignoring hunger pangs when you’re sitting in the kitchen. Now I find I can’t accomplish anything until I spew my idea somewhere. So here goes.

Today’s WSJ features a wonderful article about vintage apples and the noble efforts by organizations like RAFT to bring them back into mainstream grocery stores. Bred for travel, most of today’s   apples wouldn’t hold a candle to the spicy, tart and aromatic flavors of the 600 forgotten varieties of heirloom apples that could be gracing the produce bins at grocers.

Price is an issue, as these tasty, super-healthy treats will cost shoppers about double what they pay today. BUT WE ALL KNOW SHOPPERS AND RETAILERS ARE SEEKING STORIES AND EXPERIENCES THAT DIFFERENTIATE! And that was the seed of my idea.

One featured apple variety, the Arkansas Black, thought to be a “Winesap” seedling, was found on a Bentonville, Arkansas farm. If it could grow there in 1870, why couldn’t it grow there again?

Why couldn’t Walmart, as part of its commitment to local suppliers, help farmers in Bentonville replant vacant land to grow this hometown heirloom apple? Certainly a few dozen orchards would not supply the whole network of stores. That’s not really the point. But it could represent respect for Bentonville roots; and be symbolic of true effort in local supply and the healthier feeding on American children. So, come on Walmart.  Try it. Plant those vintage, local apples all over the fine state of Arkansas! And display the harvest at the front door of every store you run in the state.

It would make a fine first chapter in a new story about your commitment to better quality food that eventually, big grocery retailers will embrace for the good of our nation. Among Walmart’s fifty million shoppers, there are at least a few of us who do care about heritage, quality and taste before price and profits.

Photo credit: WSJ, 10/27/2010

Whole Foods Market® Lends $2.5 Million to Local Growers, Producers, Food Artisans

This program started in 2007. Whole Foods made a commitment of $10 million dollars in low interest loans to a variety of local growers and food producers. The money can be used, among other ways, to enhance production so artisanal food makers can keep up with supply needs as they gain more distribution in Whole Foods stores. Smart. At the end of the article, there’s another video link with testimonials from some of the recipients. Nice touch.

Helping a friend I have not yet met!

True story. I began to follow a woman on Twitter. She’s a hockey mom, prefers not to be identified in this format, which I respect. I asked her where her son played after a few weeks. She told me for the MORC STARS – a team in metro Detroit for disabled kids. Well, being a hockey family (NOT related to Uncle Gordie, as in really NOT related) I decided I might be able to help them somehow.

I know Bill Gadsby (REDWING Hall of Famer) from my church, he and his wife are the sweetest folks in the congregation. So I asked him if he could help me round up some stuff for the MORC STARS team, for their annual fundraiser.

Soon, a stick autographed by both Bill Gadsby and Gordie Howe shows up at church for me. It took a few weeks to coordinate the delivery, and it just so happened I was out-of-town the day my Twitter friend came to pick up the hockey stick. I hope it is a big item at the auction fundraiser, and I’m happy to help a friend I have not even met!


I Love Local Parades!

My town, Beverly Hills, Michigan has a memorial day parade that features typical high school bands, boy scouts, etc, but also men with mowers and moms with mops, just a bunch of local grownups playing in the parade. Then a fair where the kids always won 15 goldfish in a baggie, which all died in a week. And the dunk tank, usually with teachers or coaches, big fun for all. Now that my kids are all older, I haven’t gone in a while. But I want to. Because I want to feel the tears well up in my eyes from how absolutely authentic life is for Americans at a parade. I always cried at parades. That sense of pure American family and town spirit is AMAZING. Get out there and find a parade, my friends. And don’t be afraid to feel it all the way to your soul. God Bless America.