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

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.



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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.

Executing Content Marketing

If you want to know “How Effective is Content Marketing”, you could do worse than reading this article in Forbes. Beyond discussing data based on surveys, the author manages to insert one line that should resonate with anyone who has tried content marketing:


As with social media it’s not the theory that’s controversial, it’s the execution.



Somewhere between concept and measurement, effective execution seems to get lost. Mostly this is the case when brands jump from theory right into execution without the planning step in-between.

But, making content marketing work means taking the time to develop a strategy, starting with:

  1. Selecting vehicles by measuring impressions –Should you put your efforts into publishing on your own site or focus more on placing content on complementary sites?


  1. Following Best Practices regarding keywords –Are you using a keyword tool to ensure your posts are found by consumers who might purchase your product or service?


  1. Keeping it short and sweet – the more information available, the less we want to read. Short yet powerful posts rock.


‘Nuff said.




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.


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

Crowdsourcing Needs Expert Opinion

courtesy another great post on crowdsourcing http://tinyurl.com/qbk4xul

photo courtesy another great post on crowdsourcing http://tinyurl.com/qbk4xul

The headline for this article caught my eye since…it just seems to me that so much could go awry.

Crowdsourcing Gone Wrong: How Brands Can Avoid Messy Marketing Mistakes

Like focus groups…if you ask the wrong question or in the wrong way, the answers you get will be umm… at the least inaccurate, at the most disastrous.

I spent some time in my career in market research doing focus groups and original research for big brands…and some time in call centers, down in the trenches listening to how questions are asked and their responses.


If there is a recommendation for how to use crowdsourcing most effectively, it would have to be take your time. In our rush to use Big Data and quickly crowd source the marketing process, we’ve forgotten those small but important qualitative touches – what we used to call “mother-in-law” research.

Continue reading

Social Ads – What Next?


socialfun-300x225With the recent news about both Pinterest and Tumblr pursuing an ad model…or at least a model that brings in money, I’m starting to think about media ad allocation in the social space. To date, there have been only a few big players, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube…and a fairly clear understanding of how advertising on each of them impacts a brand’s advertising goals.

As a marketer really, really neurotic about objective based marketing, I’ve tested and tested advertising on the Big 4 and have a good feeling for the target I can reach with each and how to most effectively reach that target. Adding in two more platforms starts to make it a little fuzzier.

Social ad dollars, in general foster fewer click through than banner ads and other ad vehicles on publication sites, but much better brand engagement.  In other words, I know what I am looking for when I place an ad on Facebook or promote a tweet on Twitter.  What I’m not sure about is how much overlap there is going to be on Tumblr and Pinterest or if either of those platforms are going to add a lot of incremental value.

I’m planning on recommending tests on both for some of my clients, but I’ll be looking hard for metrics.

Just sayin’



professional content creationMaryanne Conlin is CEO of RedRopes Digital. She likes to crunch numbers about any social media platform…and think really hard about the value.