4 Steps to Be Ready When “Chewbacca Mom” Boosts Your Brand

Maybe you’ve seen the video Candace Payne posted quite spontaneously on Facebook that resulted in 153MM views and a big boost for Kohl’s.  You can’t plan for stuff like this…but you can be ready.

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Kohl’s didn’t plan that video. This is not a case of a strategic influencer campaign or a big push for user-generated concept.  Like many a crisis that galvanizes marketing into action at a moment’s notice, this video simply appeared one day and drove Kohl’s into trending territory on social media and in the press.

While the video wasn’t planned, the response by Kohl’s was.  Kohl’s re-posted Payne’s video on their social channels and created new posts around Payne’s video. Kohl’s developed a response (gifting Payne with a stash of Star Wars merchandise) and recorded a response video, posting it on their own Facebook page and getting video traction of their own.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s similar to the steps taken when a crisis develops at a company or organization. A warehouse set on fire by a cartel; a tiger attack, a revolution, a recall – all crisis I’ve been involved with in my career, require pulling out the “Crisis Management Plan” and crafting a response. So do positive developments…with the opposite objective. Crisis plans aim to reduce the sensational nature of the crisis.  When a consumer video goes viral, when a celebrity is spotted in a brand, when a positive tweet gains traction, the goal is the exact opposite.

While the objectives may be different, putting a plan in place in advance avoids the frantic fire drills that occur in either situation. Call it a “Good Fortune Management Plan” and include these steps.

  1. Designate team members to be involved. This will most certainly include someone from the P.R. team, a social media manager, someone from the brand team and agency. It may also include legal, customer service and like in a crisis plan, other members who could potentially be involved.
  2. Create a checklist of steps – this might include some of the same steps taken during a crisis – identify the problem, plan a response, etc. Some may be new, for instance, how to increase exposure instead of minimize.
  3. Set a Timeline – In a “Good Fortune” incident, unlike in a crisis, the media and public is ready to move on long before you are, so knowing in advance how long you have to launch your response before the news cycle moves on is critical.
  4. Develop a list of possible scenarios and detail the response – celebrity spotted with product, Facebook video goes viral, Instagram hashtag trending. Do you give away product in every situation? Is a video response always required? When and how much should your social media accounts be involved? Should you issue a press release? Who will handle calls from the press and what information will they provide?

If you’re ready to go when good fortune comes your way, you’re more likely to be able to take advantage of it!

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FOLLOW HER  ON TWITTER @maryanneconlin


Which Social Site

Love this Infographic from Neil Patel. I’ve written about the importance of not getting totally carried away and joining every social site here, here and over here too. Obviously new channels Snapchat and What’s App and a few other developing sites are not on here yet, and the stats are a bit out of date, but this is a nice overview of the largest platforms.

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It’s tempting when you look at big brand sites and see them all over every platform to try to be there too. But, social media is like any media and is growing more like them every day – there are a multitude of choices, you need to pick the ones that work for your product and  target market. This is particularly critical due to the total time suck that social media can be, whether you are a billion dollar company or an entrepreneur…especially if you are trying to grow a company.

Taking the time to think through a strategy and decide which platforms are best for your brand can make a big difference in your marketing program and is you are a do-it-yourself-er…your life.




FOLLOW HER  ON TWITTER @maryanneconlin


Instagram Joins Twitter & Facebook in Ending Free Reach

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After 10 plus years of social media growth, we’ve finally come to the place where we can admit, social media is media and you have to pay to play. Boutique platforms and quirky accounts will still occasionally go viral, for a time, but with Twitter and Instagram joining Facebook with algorithmic timelines, we now have to look at social media just as we would any other marketing tool and allocate resources accordingly.

If you’ve done any marketing on Facebook in the last year or so, it has become clear to you, that without boosted posts and paid ads, the level of traction and engagement that you can get organically is limited. Facebook’s algorithmic timeline (showing you what you are most likely to want to see based on what/who you liked/clicked in the past) effectively blocks traction for new content that isn’t pushed out by Facebook ads or supported by other advertising or P.R. efforts (hopefully both.)

Now Twitter and Instagram have joined Facebook, print, T.V. and radio in offering real value for advertising dollars. Yes, it’s still important to create content and have a P.R. program, but perhaps even more than in traditional media, it’s really important to have an ad plan. In other words, please stop believing that social media is the “cheap” way to market a business. Social can be viewed through the same lens as any media, as a tool – it’s part of the P.R. plan. It’s part of the advertising plan.

In some ways it’s more expensive that traditional media. It’s much more content heavy. It requires a high level of skill that has to be both quantitative and qualitative. It’s constantly changing, so it’s difficult to devote the resources to manage it in house.

On the other hand, it’s a key part of any marketing plan. Network TV watching is dropping rapidly as binge-watching on Netflix, etc. increases (up to 35% less!). Print has been on a downward slide for years and radio is impacted by the rise of music apps. On the other hand, over 80% of consumers are on social media.

In some ways, it’s a relief that the top social channels are acting more like traditional media. Less mystery and more strategy will make it easier to create great programs and effectively measure the results.



FOLLOW HER  ON TWITTER @maryanneconlin


Back to The Future Want to Waste Ad Dollars? Count Clicks


A recent White Paper summarized in this post The Myth about Clicks brought on a severe case of déjà vu. I believe we had this same conversation in the’90s.

Advertisers looking for consumers to make a purchase, visit their stores or other real world business objectives continue to waste advertising dollars when relying solely on clicks…

Research found a few different issues that lead to the scary conclusion that we’re wasting money on ads if we just count clicks

  1. Page Visits – Visitors who come to sites through any other method besides ads view twice as many pages.
  2. Fat Fingers – Unintentional clicks are increasing as more and more of us use smart phones
  3. Dropped Clicks are Increasing (due to network issues) 25.9% for desktops and up to 57.4% for smartphones.

All of this basically, says, as more and more we search, watch videos, read articles and basically use our smart phones instead of our computers, the less we can rely on standard measures of CTR (Click through rate) and CPC (Cost per click).

So what do we do now? I’ve shared some articles recently here and here and here about relying less on pure data and bringing the marketing back into marketing. This means viewing advertising holistically, the way we have traditionally measured advertising (radio, TV, outdoor, print). It’s not all about the output metrics (clicks), more attention should be paid to input metrics (impressions/frequency) and hard results – page views, page clicks and ultimately dollars spent.

There is a role for online advertising. It should be a big part of any ad campaign, simply for the reason that we more and more go online to listen to radio, watch TV and read articles. It’s how we measure its effectiveness that needs to change.



FOLLOW HER  ON TWITTER @maryanneconlin


5 Tips for Travel Industry Brands

It’s seems like infographics, though trendy will remain in the digital marketer’s toolkit for the foreseeable future. I’ve made several for clients using Canva – time consuming, but a great way to provide information in visual form.

Here’s one that I really like that covers the basics of where to invest in digital this year. It’s similar to a post I did for LinkedIn last week – Digital Checklist for Real Life Brands. I was actually thinking about a hospitality industry client I have when I wrote it!


Travel Marketing Budgets 2016 #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Big brands already have a team and a strategy in place to implement these key strategies but, small and medium size organizations, especially those not specifically in the digital world will find both this infographic and my post good starting points for developing a plan.

Thanks to MGA advertising for this infographic. Nice job.



FOLLOW HER  ON TWITTER @maryanneconlin


Pioneer Today – Leader Tomorrow


I read an interesting study, titled Digital pioneers now, CPG market leaders tomorrow: GMA. It went on to discuss how proactive CPG companies that use digital marketing today are ahead of the game and positioned to be leaders in the future, apparently leaving those not currently investing in digital marketing in the dust.

The urgency of getting on the digital train is backed up with statistics showing exponential growth in e-commerce for CPG goods. I’m not exactly sure I would use that particular statistic to back up the fact that forward thinking CPG brands should be using digital marketing.

First off, until we find the secret sauce for selling fresh grocery items on the web, e-commerce for CPG goods is unlikely to take off. That said, once again a new round of entrepreneurs are tinkering with the same ideas that WebGrocer and other online grocery start-ups failed miserably at 15 years ago. Technology has come a long way since then, though so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this latest bunch will find success.

The more important reason that CPG companies should pursue a digital marketing plan is because of the change in the traditional purchase decision making model. Consumers are much more likely to research brands than in the past and look for thought leaders online for validation. The decision-making process clearly involved the consumer spending a substantial amount of time online prior to purchase. That should be as good enough of a reason as any for CPG companies to step up their digital marketing programs.

Photo Credit Rick Bolin on Flickr

headshot newMaryanne Conlin is an CPG trained marketer and an award-winning digital expert. She specializes in helping growing brands develop strategic digital marketing plans and execute them effectively.

Does Your Company Get Digital Marketing?


With 3 simple steps, most companies can move their digital marketing to a new level.

I’ve met with many CEO’s of mid-size companies who tell me, “We have somebody handling digital” and then go on to say, “You know, they update Facebook and stuff like that”. With recent studies showing a solid digital strategy can increase brand loyalty and drive sales, “handling digital” needs to be more than that.

If your company’s digital strategy needs a re-boot, consider 3 simple steps.

  1. Be Everywhere – While we complain about information overload, it is key for brands to be in those places on the web where their consumers go. For most brands, this isn’t exactly “everywhere”, but it’s everywhere important. Take a few minutes to figure out exactly the sites your target market frequents and be there with your message (and a link to your website).
  1. Sell Everywhere – Even if you don’t have “National Distribution”, you probably do if you sell on Amazon or in any of the large chains with e-commerce sites. We’re an impulsive nation. Consumers expect 24/7 product availability – so link those messages you post “everywhere”, not to your home page but to your “Where to Buy” page and feature your 24/7 retailers prominently.
  1. Engage in Dialogue Marketing – The holy grail of social is sometimes seen as consumer engagement, measured by comments, follows and likes. For a social program that actually sells product though, it takes a bit more than engagement; it takes dialogue. Try measuring your social program by how many thought leaders have your digital manager’s email and how often you involve them in your marketing program development. A small group of Brand Advocates working with your marketing team becomes a virtual advisory group that can both develop and promote your marketing programs.

Digital marketing is easier to implement and simpler to measure than most managers think…if you “get” digital marketing.


professional content creation Maryanne Conlin, CEO of RedRopes Digital  draws on her years of blogging, posting, tweeting, shooting and editing experience to create great content for her clients and sometimes for herself.

American Apparel and The Art of the Editorial Calendar

After a seemingly silly mistake, American Apparel posting a shot of the Challenger exploding with the heading #smoke, #clouds on Tumblr, national media decried the stupidity of brands who don’t supervise their social media staff.



The bigger question is…why would any brand be posting something so trivial and unrelated to the brand in the first place? Yes, social media is a conversation with the brand’s consumers, constantly selling is not a good plan. But the brand DOES need to stay on message all the time.


That’s why building an editorial calendar is such a great idea. Rather than having a bored intern posting random thoughts just to keep to the schedule of posting on Facebook 3 times per week, what if he or she had a specific goal for the week that related to the brand message?


An editorial calendar lays out social media goals and topics week by week, considering holidays, new product launches and category events. It outlines the topics to be covered each week and focuses the conversation by platform. For example, last week during the Independence Day holiday, American Apparel’s calendar might have said:


Week Of: June 29- July 5

Theme: 4th of July

Pinterest: Posts pics of picnic/ holiday themed wear from our stock photos

Tumblr: Blog posts on: Made in USA, wearing basics for summer and pics from Pinterest ( linked)

Twitter: Post picnic pics, join in conversations on Made in USA

Facebook: Happy Independence Day graphic, BBQ photos

Note the broad nature of the theme, yet specific message about American Apparel that plays nicely into Independence Day. This keeps the posts on message while allowing for the individual creativity of the social media staff and the opportunity to have conversations with consumers around these themes. Ideally, the annual editorial calendar is included in the marketing plan and updated as needed.


Obviously, I did the above example rather quickly, but even this type of rough direction would have prevented the silly #smoke #clouds posts. As for American Apparel’s other problems….I don’t even want to go there!

Stories That Caught My Eye. 6.30.14

I’m a news junkie, marketing geek and sometimes normal person who likes to share. Here’s what I found interesting last week. Share your stories in the comments!

For Econ Majors and Those of us who only really enjoyed “Money and Banking”

But the real story is here in a 1990 paper she work with DH – Waiting for Work – that discusses exactly why the labor force participation rate could be so low

This week’s marketing trend’s to watch

Just fun stuff if  a little geeky

John Green’s World History Part II preview


 – Maryanne


3 Brand Best Practices In a Natural Disaster


As hurricane season starts in Florida and wildfire season continues in the California drought and tornadoes barrel through the Mid West, it is tempting to capitalize on the news event in social media. This is of course what trips up brands on a regular basis.

Social media managers around the world wake up each morning trying to figure out the best way to make their brand relevant that day, putting brands squarely in the middle of the challenge traditional media has struggled with for years- if you’re not a hard news site, what do you talk about when everyone is focused on a natural disaster.

In the food industry, it’s tempting to post, bone warming recipes and tips explaining why your product is just the perfect one to stock up on in the case of an emergency.

Try to restrain yourself.

Instead follow these three tips for posting about your product when everyone is thinking of something else.

  1. Be subtle . Yes, it is correct to let consumers know you are aware of the situation, but not by tying your product into the emergency. Offer your thoughts and/or prayers, but don’t sell.


  1. Be Relevant without being pushy. If your product IS one that is typically, emphasis on typically, included in an emergency situation ( canned soup, bottled water, dry foods) offer your audience tips. …but focus on the bigger picture and include your product in an entire list of  emergency products.


  1. Enter into the conversation only when invited. It’s tempting to jump into a conversation with the hashtag du jour, but when lives and livelihood are a stake, even a simple, ”be safe” can be misinterpreted. Stay on the safe side and acknowledge rather than drive the conversation.

Does this post capitalize on the current situation? Possibly. It was on my mind this morning as I made my morning posts. Hopefully I’ve shared appropriately. You can let me know.

Maryanne Conlin, CEO of RedRopesDigital likes maintaining relationships especially when they lead to good conversation    and good food.