The Changing Economics of Produce

PMA High Performence Mgt Conference

Slide from my recent session at The Produce Marketing Association High Performance Management Conference.  I’m still working out the challenges and opportunities from this trend, but digital communication with consumers will play a big role. What do you think?

 

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is an award-winning digital marketing expert and CEO of RedRopes Digital, a consulting firm focused on building strong digital brands. Check back in a few days to access her December 5th presentation at the PMA High Performance Management Conference . Meanwhile, connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin.

 

What Home Depot’s Tweet Tells Us About Staffing Social Media

home depot2Once again, a major brand gets in trouble over a tweet. In case you missed it, Home Depot posted an extremely offensive tweet yesterday which they of course then promptly took down and marshaled their PR force to apologize profusely across the media sphere.

Since the tweet was posted by Home Depot’s outside agency, you wonder whether the same people were deployed to apologize as posted the offensive tweet in the first place. It’s really a bizarre world that we live in now where brands pay outside agencies to handle their social media and then have to pay again to field a crisis campaign to apologize for their mistakes.

But, it’s really less a bizarre strategy than it is a result of the short-sighted way that social media is staffed. I wrote here about  lunacy of having interns and lower level employees be responsible for strategically deploying the brand’s message out to millions of consumers every day and in the case of Twitter, to thought leaders in those communities.

In no other part of marketing do we expect  entry level employees to  have the strategic experience to broadcast the brand message without supervision. It’s not fair to the employee and it certainly does very little to help the brand.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is an award-winning social media expert and CEO of RedRopes Digital, a consulting firm focused on building strong digital brands. You can access her Sept 27 presentation at ExpoEast on Social Media Marketing for Socially Conscious Brands here  and connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

Don’t Let An Intern Handle Your Social Media

internIn the early days of social media, when it was difficult to measure engagement levels and platform analytics were sketchy, it may have made sense to devote the least number of labor dollars on social media. No one really understood this new tool and what role it would eventually play in the marketing mix.

As the medium has evolved, though…management practices haven’t.

I’ve often heard the excuse that interns and lower level marketing folks are “digital natives” and take to the social media more easily. I think we can put that one to rest after almost a decade of social media.

But now, when the Internet is The Leading Influence in consumer purchasing choice… trumping all other sources, including advice from friends and family having perhaps your most important consumer contact handled by your least experienced person doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact having your social media updating divorced from the brand management function, silo-ed all by itself or worse handled by one junior person who manages the function for a number of brands almost guarantees missed opportunities, garbled messaging and loss of focus.

Instead, let’s think about a different strategy. In our agency, the brand team has social media site updating as part of their account management responsibilities. Immersed in the brand essence, they are fluent communicating the brand message through copy and images to a variety of audiences because they work closely with the client and creative teams to do so in a variety of different forms.

Mid-senior level managers are the only ones with the experience with legal issues that can crop up, wording that works or doesn’t work for the brand and a real understanding of the target market, through the research they analyze and use to develop all of the creative programs for the brand.  More experienced managers are focused. They work on one or maybe two brands, so are immersed in the brand(s)…unlike a social media intern or community manager who may work on 5- 10 brands performing one function of the marketing mix. Mid and senior level managers by stint of years of experience in marketing, can think strategically about posting and responding and creating community in the social space.

So, as we have more mid and senior managers do final edits on copy and review final creative and really write up any sensitive communication that needs to be explained to upper level management, shouldn’t we use those skills to communicate with the most important person in the mix, the consumer?

(And just to put a plug in for the intern – internships are supposed to be about learning from more senior managers. Get your interns involved in helping you do the tasks on your plate so they can learn. Having them take over the entire social media function doesn’t help the brand or the intern.)

(Photo credit http://blog.onthebar.com)

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. You can access her Sept 27 presentation at ExpoEast on Social Media Marketing for Socially Conscious Brands here  Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

The Art Of The Hashtag for Brands

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I was reading this morning Mashable’s hilarious post about “Hashtags Gone Wrong”. While these are the most egregious (and hilarious cases) of poor planning, hashtag development doesn’t really get the same forethought as say, headline development, to the great detriment of the brand.

Although I was an early Twitter user, I accidently stumbled upon the first usage of hashtags in 2007 following #sandiegofire and have developed and used them frequently both personally and for brands with which I work. In my experience though, as I’ve found in so much of social media, the thinking that goes into developing hashtags has about as much relevance to strategic branding as taking the lunch order.

Yet another example of how social media tends to be developed around tactics without a thought about strategy in advance. (And we wonder why brands struggle with determining ROI?)

So, let’s discuss hashtags- what they are for and how we can use them successfully.

Hashtags serve two purposes

1)      As a tag or search term. A hashtag inserted into a post on any number of social media platforms becomes a “search term”. Users can “search” the hashtag to find similar posts.

I know, your initial thought is: great, I’ll think of a really unique hashtag and then everyone can find my tweets easily. Uh – magical thinking. The reverse is actually true. Using a hashtag that people are already searching means your tweets are more likely to be seen. Too many brands think that creating a unique hashtag for each promotion – that matches the ad headline, and the POP and the PR campaign is the way to go. Better to develop one hashtag that the brand can use all year and over time becomes associated with the brand.  Savvy brands use popular hashtags started by others to get your brand noticed when tweeps search a popular subject such as #Thanksgiving or #Fashionweek

2)      As a side comment. A hashtag can also be used to express a corollary idea.  This usage probably came about because of the Twitter 144 character limit. For example, the hashtag #fail is generally used instead of writing, “that didn’t work out to well!” or “what was I thinking?”. Using too many hashtags in each post though, just ends up making the post difficult to read and confusing.

To use hashstags effectively managers need to both understand the nuances of the various social media platforms and the brand essence…and be involved with the brand and the platform on a daily basis. Too often hashtags are created by those in the creative department with little input from those working the social media platforms. Community managers too frequently work on multiple brands and have the platform knowledge, but not always be privy to upper level management brand messaging, again missing the mark on truly great hashtags.

Creating great hashtags that speak to the brand’s message while avoiding hijacking therefore seems easy, no? Not really. The devil is in the details…and nuances and understanding the, sometimes perverse mind of each platforms’ users. But, that’s another blog post!

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

Social Media Marketing For Socially Conscious Brands

Just returned from the Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore. What a great show! I’ve been attending the Expo West show for the last 5 years or so and have watched it explode until now it is bursting the seams at the Anaheim Convention Center. It looks like Expo East is headed in the same direction!

Lots of interesting sessions and some innovative new products. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be part of the program and talked about my approach to social media – Integrated Digital Branding, in this presentation. Thanks @momcentral for attending and the kudos after the session. A special thank you to the man in the back of the room who yelled out, “this is the clearest presentation of social media I have ever seen!

Whole Food Moms – Don’t give me TMI!

Photo courtesy of: smartypantsmama.com/

Photo courtesy of: smartypantsmama.com/

While the natural and organic shopper is typically portrayed as higher educated/income older baby boomers and younger single millennials, an important and growing segment is popularly labeled as the “Whole Foods Mom”.  Based on the recent top natural food trends that market is poised to explode.

Those trends – more shopping for Convenience, greater awareness of Allergens, growth in Meat-free meals, increased focus on Buying Local, and the trend toward it being Cool To Care don’t necessarily speak only to moms, but play a large role in her grocery purchase. This is, of course why you rapidly are seeing dedicated natural and organic sections in traditional grocery chains.

But moms still represent a small percentage of purchases of natural and organic food. Much of that is not due to lack of need, but rather from lack of understanding. Over 75% of new moms and moms of young children have bought SOME organic foods. Newish parents are information hungry and natural media and manufacturers do a good job speaking directly to their concerns about health and safety.

It’s when those moms attempt to branch out to a greater variety of natural products that the whole process bogs down. Whole Food’s moms STILL have health and safety of their children as their first concern. Natural brands though are too often guilty of TMI. (Too much information).

Moms are busy, working, still doing the majority of child care and household tasks. They along with the vast majority of the American public are still pretty confused about the various terms we use in the industry – natural, organic, certified, non-GMO. And frankly, they don’t have time to learn it all.

Green brands that focus on Whole Food’s Moms greatest need – health and safety for herself and for her family will find the going easier than educating her on the differences in terminology. Restrain from sharing TMI. It’s almost always a good thing.

 

 

headshot new Maryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

SmartPhones Taking Over Shopping!! Can We Please all Calm Down.

Headline after headline screams about the coming mobile shopping revolution

Shopping ‘popular activity with mobile phone users’ claims one article, then goes on to say a full 37% of shoppers have bought something on their hand set. Wow! That sounds like a big number.  Oh.  Lost in the details it is revealed that most of that is music, books, games, DVD downloads and movie tickets.

Mobile Taking Over E-Commerce proclaims another post and goes on to say…” By 2017, smartphones will account for 27% of retail mcommerce sales”. OK. Fine. But if the numbers above are indicative of exactly WHAT consumers purchase with their smartphones  -  much of that is going to be downloads and tickets.

While this is certainly actionable news for e-commerce sites that focus on downloads and service sites that sell tickets to everything from airlines to concerts…retailers and manufacturers of physical goods should probably put this on the “things to worry about later” list.

While tablets of various types, do and will see continuing growth in ecommerce sales of everything from groceries to tool sheds and brands should ensure they have a shopping friendly platform, I just don’t think the smartphone will revolutionize the sales of clothes or food or even consumer electronics.

That said, the way consumers USE their smartphone in store is something to which we should all be paying attention because How Mobile Is Transforming the Shopping Experience in Stores  is actually a big deal.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

The Smart Watch – Revolutionary or One More Thing to Carry Around?

gearThe big buzz in the tech world this week is Samsung unveiling the Galaxy Gear at Berlin’s IFA trade show. Though the tech press has been gushing about the Smart Watch recently and consumers have been scratching their heads, this trend has real potential to change the way consumers access mobile and…change their shopping/buying/socializing habits as well.

Curiously, the problem the smart watch solves, has already been solved by smart phones. With fewer functions than the typical smartphone, one might wonder how a smart watch addresses an existing consumer need – since you don’t actually REPLACE your smart phone with a smart watch….you add it to the tech you carry about with you.

Frankly, I haven’t worn a watch in years! Why would I start wearing one again when my cell phone does such a great job of keeping me on track and on time?

Not so fast, though. Remember back when the iPad was introduced? It was positioned as a “mobile computer” – intended to replace lugging around a bulky laptop, Instead the tablet computer has actually formed its own niche, one that most tech writers and manufacturers did not predict – as an entertainment tool, for use in the home as much as on the road.

So regardless of how Google and Samsung and the raft of other players intend consumers to use this watch, it will find its own function within the closet of technology consumers currently tote around – or not.

Looking beyond these first generation watches, can a wrist computer replace a smart phone? Do we all need to switch from thumb texting to “middle three fingers of the right hand” keyboarding? Is the screen big enough to let me read my email, play my games and post pics on Facebook? How do I hold my wrist to take a picture anyway?

These are just some of the questions that come to mind – the ergonomic ones anyway.

Looking at the bigger picture, I think the accessibility of a Smartwatch can defiantly increase interaction by consumers at store level (much easier for moms to snap a QR code with toddlers are in tow) – revitalizing that waning technology. Improvements in voice activation could fuel demand for this technology as will GPS functionality which would make it much easier to access our maps while biking or walking…even driving.

The big question still come down to screen size and the consumer’s willingness to tote around yet another piece of technology. The eventual niche smart watches fill could surprise us all.

professional content creationMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firm focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin

Kids Go Back to School While Mom Gets Down To Business

It’s been a nice summer break, but with August over and kids back in school, the focus for social media moms, primarily prolific bloggers, shifts back to business.  While mom blogs proliferate, many still serve as an online diary for friends, family and the odd reader who appears via organic search. These, while perhaps still in the majority, are not of interest, at least on a professional level, for those of us working for brands.

Those blogs that can deliver verified readership numbers are a different breed. Mom bloggers with any history usually have received multiple requests from brands for product reviews, blog posts and participation in social media events. And, over the last 5 years, more and more have expected to get paid when they provide readership via their blogs and networks of social media contacts. Not an unreasonable request.

Approaching mom bloggers and analyzing the ROI of working with one, though, is still in its infancy. In this era of big data this perhaps comes as some surprise. But it need not be difficult – just start here.

1)      Verify Readership – Bloggers who work with brands treat their publishing empire as such. They can provide readership numbers, impressions and a variety of information upon request. Many subscribe to data services and can provide access for you to their reports.

2)      Explore their Properties – One of the key benefits of working with bloggers is the ability to reach a very niche audience. Unlike larger publications, bloggers have much lower overhead and can support a quite robust following of an extremely niche market – perfect for smaller brands.

3)      Approve Content – Another bonus of working with bloggers is the ability to not only approve content but specify exactly what content is covered and what keywords are used.  While it’s important that bloggers speak in their own voice to their audience, most are willing to work with brands on editing and revising posts.

4)      Use Tracking Links - Developing specific tracking links for each blogger to use on all of their properties when linking back to content on your site allows you to closely monitor click-through and ecommerce sales.

Working with social media moms, of course requires experience and technique to maximize return, but these few simple steps can lay the groundwork for a robust marketing program.

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Marketing, a consulting firms focused on green and sustainable industries, fresh produce, food, Hispanic marketing and marketing to Moms. See her at ExpoEast Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore, speaking on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands, September 27, 2013 Connect with her on Twitter @maryanneconlin