FTW: When Brands & Consumers Connect

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Working in digital marketing on a day-to-day basis, it makes me stoked to see when brands and consumers truly connect. When a brand takes a beat and steps back to reflect and understand what their consumers really want. Even cooler, when a brand reinvents part of itself to be with the times. One such brand is Banana Republic. Perhaps I’m biased, because they now sell so many leather oriented clothing, but so what? Here’s what we can learn from BR as of late:

1. They Hired a Kickass Creative Director – one to help reinvent BR and shape it into a new, cooler, fresher brand. Marissa Webb. I salute you. You took BR from being a stuffy, conservative office brand to one that women are excited to wear. The brand now exudes confidence, sex appeal, and best of all, amazing clothes that fit just right.

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2. The advertising fits the new brand – The new ads are edgy and they standout. Best part, Marissa herself touts the clothes, makes personal ads through her instagram (without being an ad), and allows people to connect with the brand in a way people never could before. In a way, (sorry Tory), she’s the new Tory Burch. She is a visionary for the brand. Is that a bold statement? Perhaps.

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3. They are human – By far my favorite characteristic. The brands replies, comments, and favorites posts by its fans. They thank people for purchasing their clothes. Reward them with fun loyalty gifts. And best of all, are just kind and nice. Not to mention, Marissa herself “favorited” my last tweet about the brand. That is huge in my book!

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What brands stand out to you? Which brands make you say – yes, I love this brand?

Note: This post was originally written for Marketing on the Rocks. 

Five Influential Boston “Tweet” Hearts

Having lived in Boston for ten years now I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people in every field of business. Looking at the social media and marketing scene specifically — I have met many unbelievably talented people and I could make this list miles long, but I will save the novel for another time…

And since the well-loved/hated Hallmark holiday is around the corner…here are five KICKASS “Tweet” hearts for your drooling pleasure!

1) Tamsen McMahon: A gorgeous woman who the second I met, I knew I we were going to be friends for years to come. She is not only a delight to have a coffee (although she does not drink caffeine – major warning folks) with, but one of the most intelligent and inspiring women in digital marketing here in Boston. She spoke to my MBA social media class last Fall and every student raved about her presentation on the science of social media. Yes, the scientific method is not just for chem class folks — it is actually applicable to everything you do in social media marketing. Thankfully you don’t need safety goggles this time around. Want to know more about Tamsen – check our her work for Sametz Blackstone Associates or catch her Tweeting away via @tamadear…you will not be disappointed you “checked her out.”

2) Mike Troiano: A man I describe as a mix between the Sopranos and Mad Men. You may catch him with a Manhatten in hand after toiling away for many hours at the office of Holland-Mark (HM), but otherwise he is kickin’ ass and takin’ names as the digital man of HM. I admit, I had the pleasure of working with Mike, and I can say full-heartedly that it was one of the best learning experiences of my marketing career. Sssh dont’ tell  my profs of my MBA program, but Mike may have taught me more invaluable lessons than some of them did. A HBS alum, a previous ad guy, and now rockin’ the digital scene and preachin social media wherever he goes, he is a man who doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk. Also found at @miketrap.

3) Janet Aronica: This young 24 year old, may be young in age, but she is wise on social media unlike most females I have met. She rocks the oneforty scene with her content strategy, marketing genius, and quirky personality that would make even the most pessimistic person crack a smile. She is a female who has come a long way in a short time and is not just a community manager…I think a new title must be made for her to truly show her unbelievable work for the startup. If you haven’t conversed with this young social media hottie yet, check her out on oneforty or @janetaronica before you miss out!

4) Alison Zarrella: When I met Alison, I almost did not recognize her because her Twitter avatar does not do this chica justice. She is not only hot (obviously), but she is a talented community manager, blogger, and now author. Did you know she co-wrote the Facebook Marketing book? If you haven’t you must pick a copy and peruse it because Facebook is not a fad, people. Neither is Twitter. But maybe I’m biased. This female rocks the social media scene in Boston helping out the Brand management of the company she works for with social strategy that is not only valuable but relevant to their target market. Aka, Alison is a Tweet heart to follow at @alison and in her many influential efforts to demonstrate she does not take her career lightly. She is passionate about it every step of the way.

5) David Gerzof: This gentleman is not only easy on the eyes (sorry he’s married, ladies), but he knows how important it is to teach students social media and how it impacts the life around them. Not only is David a social media professor at Emerson College, but he also runs Big Fish. Yes, another over achiever who likes to make sure he has no time to sit and take a breather. But hey, you may be able to catch him with a beer at a local Tweetup where he is not only easily approachable, but a pleasure to hang with. But if you cannot seem to find the time to catch him at Emerson or Big Fish or at the next local event, hit him up at @davidgerzof for a Tweet or two.

Hope you enjoyed drooling over these five amazing folks…I know I sure did!

Brands who Blog: Win

Some blog to talk about their thoughts and feelings regarding things in their daily lives, others blog about their wedding plans, some about their cooking adventures/endeavors, many about their career focus, and others about their life passions and hobbies. Whatever the reason, I truly believe that the chance to express oneself is key for both individuals as well as brands.

It is a perfect “tool” for brands to “humanize” themselves and show their audience that there are “real people” behind their name, not robots clicking away.

1. Humanizing a brand is unbelievably important to show one’s audience a personal touch. For example give your brand’s audience a chance to get to know the team behind the name. Holland-Mark does a great job at this when they share cool facts about their interns, holiday party photos, and other things you wouldn’t normally know.

2. Engaging one’s audience after a post has been published is a crucial step. This way you can have an actual conversation after your blog has been tweeted out like BostInnovation does on a regular basis and build a loyal readership/consumer/fan.

3. And, then hopefully building “loyal” relationships which will stand the test of time  — like withstanding brand backlash such as the Toyota fiasco, Dominoes youtube mess, and others.

So whether blogging for personal or brand reasons – take the time to go a little deeper and share a personal side and allow your audience to get to know the person(s) behind the name.


FutureM Un-Conference

Unfortunately due to my silly MBA classes, I was unable to attend any of the FutureM events earlier in the week, but I was able to hit up a couple events Thursday night. Holland-Mark‘s Digital Man Mike Troiano spoke about “Scalable Intimacy,” siting their client example Notch Session (which I must admit is some exceptional beer — especially if you want a few without that headache the next morning). The set up of this event was particularly interesting, since it was a contest where the winners received on the spot social media advice from Mike himself. (Full disclosure: I did work for Holland-Mark and loved every minute of it.)

And who were the winners?

3rd Place: Creative Crafts for Creative Kids

2nd Place: Formaggio Kitchen

And the 1st place winner is….United Way of Mass Bay!

All 3 received specific advice on areas they were having trouble in – whether it be content strategy, which social media tool to focus on (depends on where your target market it), etc. Lets just say, the crowd was not yawning, and they were not leaving early. Mike knew how to keep the crowd laughing and entertained while teaching the crowd on how best to utilize social media to your advantage. And if you are now sorry you missed this, you can see check out the full deck from the event.

And as I tweeted from the event last night: “Remember the social, not just the marketing” – Mike Troiano.

After saying “great job” and “c ya later”, I quickly ran off to Mantra where Cyberbrew had been kicked off. There was an eclectic crowd of veteran “cyberbrewers” and newbies (such as myself). Unfortunately I missed the open bar, but I did meet some interesting folks and ran into a few good friends (Jason Rush from Boston Interactive and Joselin Mane from BostonTweetUp). Familiar faces always make an event that much better. While I laughed at the men who “networked” from one female to the other, I drank my glass of wine and chatted away…until next time FutureM, you sure did rock!

The Art of Branding: learning in the classroom vs. the workplace

As I sat in my MBA Global Branding class last night, I couldn’t help but laugh. As the professor went on and on about how brands need that “one word” which consumers will recall at the drop of a hat — I thought back to my time at Holland-Mark (HM). HM coined the term “One Simple Thing” (OST), which is that one attribute that most well defines the brand. For example, as my professor asked in class “what do you think of when you hear Coca Cola?” Everyone should be thinking of the same word (unfortunately for some brands this does not always occur). Supposedly the “OST” for Coca Cola is “happiness” — did you think of that? Coke would hope so! And so would their marketers!

As I sat there in my seat, I started to realize that the concepts the professor was teaching were processes and terms that I had become well acquainted with during my time at HM. And with the hands-on learning and experience, I learned way more than reading cases and discussing them in a classroom. Now, I am not knocking my MBA education — it is definitely valuable and am happy to be a candidate for 2011 spring graduation — but learning these concepts in a work setting where you are automatically putting them to use is not only rewarding but helps one (or at least me) recall and understand things way more.

It was pretty awesome to be sitting in class and feeling that I had a firm grasp and knowledge of the topic (at least so far — it’s only been a few weeks into the semester). And I owe this knowledge and understanding to the exceptionally bright and talented folks at HM — especially Mike Troiano who if you haven’t heard speak — you should!

Now I ask you — where did your best knowledge and understanding come from?

Social Media n’ Boston

Boston has always been full of culture, and today, it is full of culture AND become a hub for social media. There are many prominent firms including Holland Mark, Cone Inc, Schneider Associates, Arnold, Hill Holiday, MNET, Mullen, One Pica, and many others which demonstrate that Social Media today, is not just a “buzz” anymore, but becoming the norm in today’s marketing world. Even more so, there are great, motivated, and creative minds at play throughout the city, many of which can be found at your local tweetup, or on your Twitter feed. Have you spoken with @Bostontweet, @michellemmm, @justingroy, @chrisbrogan (among many others)? If not, you should hear what they have to say, because today it is not always about what’s in the local paper, or on the news, but what do your “colleagues” have to say about what’s going on?