Posts Tagged ‘Experience’

Back to Marketing Basics at the Blackberry Farm

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

This year I started a new tradition with our Strategic Planning Group at Bridge Worldwide. We’ve been taking the afternoon of the first Friday of each month to get out of the office and experience something together. While it’s great to do some team bonding, the main reason for these events is to give ourselves some firsthand experience in something new that might spark insights and ideas for the work we do every day. After all, marketing to me is really about figuring out how the world works and what people want. So by getting some new life experiences and seeing people in different situations we can be better at our jobs. Last week I decided to take the team blackberry picking, and the purpose of this post is to share a few things that we took away from the experience.

We spent last Friday afternoon across the river in northern Kentucky at Barker’s Blackberry Hill Winery. It is literally a mom and pop farm located past a maze of gravel farm roads that barely register on Google Maps. We all eventually managed to find the place and discovered a lovely few acres of blackberry vines at the top of a small hill. The older couple who runs the farm pointed us to a pile of buckets and boxes and set us loose picking up and down the rows of fruit. Within minutes our hands were purple from picking the delicious fruit and—being strategists—we all started working out the best way to find and pick the most/best blackberries possible. We shouted tips and discoveries over the vines and smiled as some of our team members’ children shouted with glee. After picking for about an hour we headed back to the small farm shack to weigh our berries and pay for hauls. I think the price was something ridiculously cheap, like $2 for a bucket, and $2 per pound of berries. As we left, the owners gave us printouts of blackberry storage tips and handed out Popsicles for the children.

It was a great afternoon, and we finished it off by debriefing over beers on the backyard deck of one of our team members. There were a few key takeaways that we all agreed on:

  • There is something powerful in the “return to basics.” The more digital we become as a society, the more people will start to feel a desire to “unplug” and have some RL (Real Life) meet-ups and hobbies. And the more things we can consume cheaply, the more people will start to feel a desire to invest time and money in things that are rare and antique, and that take time, skill, and patience to attain. We see this in the rise of knitting shops, organic farming, backyard chicken coops, and letter writing on hand-printed stationery. An interest in growing and picking your own produce is a great example of this return to basics. We enjoyed seeing our hands turn purple and us getting lost on gravel roads just to get a few pounds of fruit.
  • Experiences are everything. One of the quotes that I threw out a lot for our team is that, “For the rest of your lives we will remember going blackberry picking together as a team activity.” I have often written in this blog about the impact of experiences, and data that shows how people value and recall experiences at very high levels. Building on the previous point, at a time when anyone can get anything they want online or in stores, we are compelled to look for the new and the rare in experiences that are truly unique and more memorable than any mere purchase.
  • It is something children and parents can enjoy together. As a parent I can tell you that it seems increasingly difficult to find activities that everyone fully enjoys together. I feel like I have to drag my kids to my favorite restaurants, and they have to drag me to watch the latest kiddie movie at the theater. But blackberry picking is great fun for anyone, and something even more enjoyable when you do it together. One parent’s son said that blackberry picking was like “hunting for treasure” and I think he really nailed something deep for me, too. There is something deep and timeless about exploring the outdoors and discovering the treasures of nature—whether it is a plump blackberry, a turtle in the creek, or that perfect climbing tree.

Of course we also gave some thought to how brands might embrace small farms and handpicked produce to advance their marketing objectives. A few brands are already getting close to this area. For example, Kraft’s Triscuit brand is starting do things to embrace and encourage the home farming movement. At this website, the brand shows a map of home and community farms throughout the country. It is also teaming with an organization called Urban Farming to start 50 community farms, and included seeds in specially marked boxes. Meanwhile, the Cascadian Farms brand at General Mills, which is one of the largest organic food companies, has taken to the Facebook world of FarmVille, where people can grow virtual, branded organic crops.

I think there is a big opportunity for a leading food brand to do more to help create experiences like ours. What if a brand such as Cascadian Farms, Green Giant, or Birds Eye actually discovered small farms near major markets like the one we visited and partnered with them to encourage more people to have a picking experience? There could be various ways that the brand could partner with local farmers—perhaps investing a few dollars to improve their operations or upgrade their websites. (This one for our blackberry farm is broken, for example.)

But the bigger lesson here is that we all need to get away from our desks together once in a while and return to the RL. You just might discover a new way to build your business, and yourself.

Bounty Experiments in Brand Experience

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

bounty mess outside

On Tuesday I shared the story of my visit to the American Girl Store during a Spring Break trip with my daughters to Chicago. It is one of the longest-running and most-successful examples of meaningful-marketing experiences. While I was in the area, my girls and I also had a chance to check out one of the newest examples of a brand experience—the Bounty Make-a-Messterpiece. This new concept aims to give kids a place to learn, play, and create—without worrying about messing up the house. And while it’s too soon to say that these will be sweeping the nation, it’s a brilliant way for a brand to test out its purpose and to learn by doing.

(Full disclosure: Bounty is a client of ours and I am definitely biased in my reporting here, so please take this more as a personal example than a deep analysis.)

Located in one of those new kinds of outdoor malls in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, the Make-a-Messterpiece concept offers a place for parents (I was the only dad there, even during their Spring Break) to bring kids for an hour or two. Upon walking in you notice a large, open, and friendly space with several sections of specific activities. Parents pay $10 for their children to enter and get access to some of the basic art centers, and there is an additional $5 cost for a special-project area. This seemed like a smart pricing idea, as it provides options for multiple budgets and time availabilities, and gives kids a chance to choose.

I let each of my daughters choose an activity for both of them to do. First, they did “The Drum Roll”—which is essentially a special room with piped-in music where they banged on drums filled with paint. No art was created, but they had a blast. Next they painted pictures in the open workspace in the center of the room. Finally they finished with a project in which they made bird feeders using old Bounty paper towel rolls, honey (for glue), and birdseed. I was happy that the instructor for this project taught them a few facts about birds along the way.

My kids had a great time. They came away with paintings, bird feeders, and some nice memories of the experience. It was something they said they would like to go to again some time. (We’ll need one to open in Cincinnati, though.) From a parent’s perspective, I liked the chance to disconnect from the real world with them for an hour, and I felt much better about bringing them to this option rather than something like Chuck E. Cheese’s. The staff was all young, smiling, helpful, and smart—basically like a group of the world’s best babysitters.

As a marketer, I liked the Bounty Make-a-Messterpiece for a few reasons. Overall, it is a way for the brand to truly bring its Brand Purpose to life. Bounty’s purpose of a brand is to encourage families to “go for it”—to have fun, tackle projects, and basically enjoy life together without worrying about the messes and spills that freak us parents out far too much. What I love about this is that as a parent it completely resonates with what I have come to discover about myself as a parent. We all have these moments when your child, say, asks if she can make the peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Your first thought is how it will turn into a mess and it would be easier for you to just make it. But then something clicks, and you realize that she needs to learn, she wants to learn, and you’ve got plenty of Bounty on hand to clean up the mess. That’s why you work hard for the money to afford quality paper towels. And you go for it.

In creating this actual experiential business, the Bounty team has a chance to take its brand purpose to the next level. Instead of watching parents and kids in focus groups, the team can take a road trip to see real families engaging with a real experience that the brand has created. For a marketer, there is nothing more important than seeing how your brand can directly impact people’s lives.

Of course this was very effective marketing for Bounty as well. The brand is seen as enabling this clever idea and fun activity. There are plenty of Bounty cleanup stations throughout the facility. And the premium feel of the experience ensures that Bounty has a premium reputation for all who enter the facility.

I can’t say if this store is turning a profit or whether we can expect to see dozens of them opening up in a city near you. But I can say that my family had a great time and will treasure our time at Make-a-Messterpiece. And I give tremendous credit to the Bounty brand team and its experience agency, Gigunda, who took risks to turn this idea into reality.

Here are some additional fun photos from our trip:





Best Buy Plays a Meaningful Note with Instruments

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

best buy pandora

In my final post of takeaways from last week’s iMedia Brand Summit I wanted to give props to a competitor who I admire, Clark Kokich, Chairman of Razorfish. Clark got the second day of the conference started by asking the room to think less about digital tactics and more about marketing strategy. He shared a handful of examples of work that brands are doing that start with big, strategic ideas that happen to lead to some killer digital work. For example, the Nike Human Race 10k, and Fiat’s new tool that allows people to upload information about how their driving is impacting CO2 emissions. But my favorite example, and something I just had to share here, is that of Razorfish’s work with Best Buy in selling musical instruments. This story shows how getting into a new product category is a great way to launch with meaningful marketing at the center.

Business Challenge

Just a little more than a year ago Best Buy first announced it was getting into the musical instrument business after a successful pilot in a handful of stores. This seems like a no-brainer. After all, Best Buy has one of the largest selections of music and music equipment, and its vast stores certainly have enough room for some instruments. According to Kokich, “They could have just run ads telling people that Best Buy now sells instruments.” But the reality is that this is not a big market, and it is currently dominated by specialty retailers such as Guitar Center. So the challenge for Best Buy was: How can we stand out in an existing market that needs a lot more buyers?


Best Buy saw huge untapped potential among adults who always wanted to learn how to play an instrument. The rise of games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band showed the potential.  But the biggest barrier is that many people are afraid and intimidated. People who work at guitar stores are mostly “stoners… who resent you for being able to buy the instruments that they cannot afford.”  So many potential buyers hate even going into the leading instrument stores.


Best Buy’s strategy was to “become a partner in helping you rediscover your love for music.” And by starting with this overall, customer-focused strategy, it was clear that just running a 30-second ad wouldn’t work.  The company started with the purchase point, and created a “store within a store” with trained musical instrument specialists. Each store also offers group and individual lessons. In terms of marketing support, digital has a leading position. Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO said this about the company’s approach:

“Our musical instruments department (in about 100 stores nationwide) is all about experience. Everything is plugged in and ready to play. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable. We carry professional-grade gear from brands like Fender, Marshall, Roland, Yamaha, and Drum Workshop. We are working on building awareness of our musical instruments department, but more importantly, building credibility and authenticity. We hope to inspire people.

Digital allows us to connect with our customers in new and exciting ways, and our digital experience is meant to tap into that potential. Later this summer, we want our customers to create “dream rigs” from our inventory and share them with their friends on the social platforms they use.  We will be using the power of digital to let our employees, musicians from communities around the country, and our customers share their passion for music and their insights. Instead of just telling people that we have these great instruments, we want to show them, and help them experience them in the digital space in unique ways that go beyond catalogs of products.”

Kokich described how his team is inspired by the call to “become a partner in helping people rediscover their love for music.”  One example is a unique advertising effort with Pandora. Again, instead of just skinning Pandora with big ads for Best Buy, the company created a unique ad (above) that actually shows what instruments are being played in each song. (On a side note, I can’t find that tool anywhere at Pandora–what a lost opportunity!) He shared some glimpses of work in progress including Facebook tools to help people form a band and ways for people to build an interactive wish list. This should be an exciting space to watch in the months ahead.


It is too early to call this a success, as Best Buy has only just begun supporting this effort in earnest. Of course, I welcome any comments from Barry Judge (@bestbuycmo). But the real lesson here is that a new marketing strategy is a great opportunity to rethink your approach to marketing–and make it meaningful from day 1.

BONUS: Kokich on Client Organizations

One of the biggest challenge of shifting to a meaningful marketing model is the existing organizational behavior of clients. As our boss, Sir Martin Sorrell said at the P&G Global Alumni Reunion back in June, “The amount of time we see our clients wasting on bureaucracy and infighting is appalling.” Kokich also drew attention to this key issue in his presentation. He made the point that “digital” can be sales, CRM, advertising, research, and customer service.  But clients have kept each of these functions in separate silos (“and they all hate each other”) for so long that it is difficult to take advantage of the opportunities.

Chick-fil-A 100 Hits Cincy

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Last Thursday I was driving to a client meeting in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason when I drove by a Chick-fil-A restaurant. It caught my eye for some reason; maybe it was the fact that there was a grand-opening sign but more likely because the grass around the restaurant was covered in tents. Luckily someone at the meeting I attended that morning told me about the “Chick-fil-A 100,” and I learned about yet another fantastic example of Marketing with Meaning.

If you are one of the unfortunate few who has never eaten at Chick-fil-A, let me just say you’re missing one of the greatest fast-food chains in the world. Like me, the brand grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. It began in 1967 with a killer chicken sandwich and has since spread to nearly every state and more than 1,300 locations. The brand has always retained certain eccentricities. Due to religious beliefs of the founders, Chick-fil-A is always closed on Sundays. And the brand is loved for its outdoor ads featuring cows who spell out “EAT MOR CHIKIN.”

Back in 2003 at store opening in Goodyear, Arizona, the local Chick-fil-A opened with a large parking-lot carnival. One of many promotions of the event was a promise to give the first 100 customers coupons for a free combo meal every week for a year. Since then, the company has offered a similar benefit for the first 100 at every store opening, which ends up attracting people who camp out in tents for several days and drive from hundreds of miles away. The video from a local news station below is one of many great snapshots of these events:

Chick-fil-A has discovered a very smart formula for success with these meaningful store opening events. The key business objective of any local store opening is to generate awareness and traffic as early as possible. The Chick-fil-A 100 makes for a picture-perfect local PR event. Local newspapers and TV stations can’t resist stopping in to see people waiting out all night for free meals, and the national attention and attendance from people who drive for miles to join in adds to the impact.

Aside from the initial awareness boost, Chick-fil-A benefits from the thousands of fans it creates each year through these opening-day events. Like people in London who sang together thanks to T-Mobile, those who join the opening-night experience enjoy a special moment that sticks with them forever. And, let’s face it: These experiences can really stand out as special in the rural communities and exhurbs where Chick-fil-A stores are mainly going up. No wonder that a contact of mine with a connection to Chick-fil-A told me that the brand has a higher Net Promoter Score than Apple.

The next Chick-fil-A opens in Gaffney, South Carolina, on May 28, a town also known for its large, peach-shaped water tower off I-85. Road trip, anyone?

T-Mobile, McDonald’s Make Memories

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I am happy to report that two of the biggest traditional interruptive advertisers are finally getting it. This week I discovered incredible examples of how T-Mobile and McDonald’s are launching marketing that creates meaningful experiences for their target consumers. Both examples happen to take place in London; here’s hoping that their model spreads both geographically and habitually.

Over on our Marketing with Meaning community space on LinkedIn (where 367 people and counting have joined despite little promotion), Jonathan Levy shared a video of T-Mobile’s recent event in Trafalgar Square. The brand distributed 2,000 microphones, and more than 13,000 people joined to sing The Beatles’ ballad, “Hey Jude,” together. Here’s what it looked like:

This event is part of a campaign from T-Mobile called “Life’s for Sharing,” which brand representative Lysa Hardy calls, “…something that’s unexpected, wonderful, and exciting that you want to share with your friends and family.” The surprise sing-along was aired for the first time on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent last Sunday. This campaign execution follows a few months after the brand filmed a commercial in which dozens of improv dancers spontaneously appeared and performed at a Tube station in London.

After enjoying a special moment in Trafalgar Square, locals and tourists might have ventured over to Piccadilly Circus to take a picture with an entertaining digital sign from McDonald’s. No, it wasn’t another high-tech tool for ordering a Big Mac from your cell phone. Video describes it better than words:

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

Both the T-Mobile and McDonald’s examples are clearly examples of Marketing with Meaning. More specifically, they fall under what I refer to in my upcoming book as Branded Experiences. What I love about both of these campaigns is that they deliver on what the brands hope to stand for in their target consumers’ hearts and minds. T-Mobile recognizes that mobile phones are used in a very emotional way by people who want to enjoy and share life together. The McDonald’s vision statement is to make every customer smile. Instead of continuing to show us commercials that tell a story of some other people (actors) enjoying life and smiling, the brands finally understand that they have the ability to make special moments happen for consumers—through the marketing itself.

One similar example that I share in my book is that of De Beers and its “When Forever Began” event in New York City in December 2008. The brand created a romantic stage in Madison Square Park and offered kissing couples the chance to be photographed with a 360-degree camera. Instead of more staged actors and TV ad copy, this time De Beers enabled couples to experience and remember a very special moment together. The brand created real moments—through the marketing itself.

There are some downsides to both of these branded experiences. First, there were a few comments on the T-Mobile sing-along that suggested the enjoyment of the event was weakened by the fact that it was organized by and for a brand. This cheapened a special human experience for some people.

Another complaint could be that both programs are difficult to scale up to replace the millions of eyeballs that are lost when TV or print dollars are shifted to expensive events. After all, how many people were in London on April 30? How many Big Mac buyers will get to Piccadilly Circus this summer? There’s no easy answer to this complaint, but I believe such events can be very effective. First, they generate a significant amount of sharing through photos on personal networks—in effect breaking through the clutter with a trusted endorsement. The YouTube video above already has more than 200,000 views, and imagine the PR coverage that comes from taking over a global city like this. Second, I believe it can succeed by winning lifetime loyalty from a core group of consumers, rather than spreading interruption across millions of eyeballs and hoping some tiny percentage actually buys your brand (only because they were unconsciously seeded).

So here’s something to think about over the weekend: How is your marketing creating special, personal moments for your target consumers? Needless to say, 30 seconds of a canned message times a few million pairs of eyeballs won’t cut it.

A Recipe for Brand Experience

Friday, February 27th, 2009

When marketers think about a “brand experience,” we often jump straight to a big, bold example, such as branded stores in Times Square or something like the Virgin Airlines on-plane fashion shows with Victoria’s Secret models. Frankly, such examples scare the heck out of a lot of marketers. We wonder how our meager brands can afford the large budgets and commitments required to create an experience. But tiny investments on smaller brands can create experiences that are just as meaningful and maybe even more profitable. This weekend a simple recipe provided me with a great example.

About three years ago our President, Jay, rewarded me and the rest of his C-level team with a membership to the St. Supery wine club. This moderate-sized winery in Napa Valley has a great range of high-quality wines. Jay had recently joined the wine club and wanted us to share his experience of cooking the featured recipe that is paired perfectly with each wine. He has kept us on the club for three years now, and while I’ve enjoyed the wine thoroughly, I have never actually cooked a featured recipe—until this weekend.

The latest wine shipment of a 2006 Malbec came with a recipe for wild mushroom risotto that sounded amazing. Combined with the fact that my wife and I had a subpar Valentine’s Day due to mutual illnesses, I figured it would be a good idea for me to do some cooking. I’m not a frequent chef, but I do enjoy rolling up my sleeves in the kitchen every once in a while. Cooking this risotto dish was a lot more work than I imagined—I frankly had no idea how risotto was made, and my arms got quite a workout as I got the rice to absorb 5 cups of beef stock in nearly 40 minutes of constant stirring!

We put the girls to bed and enjoyed the dish with a lovely salad, a date movie (Love Actually), and the bottle of St. Supery Malbec. The meal, wine, and movie were all great together, and for a few hours we forgot about our laundry list of chores and stresses.

Thus, St. Supery brought me more than a great wine: Its simple recipe unlocked an experience of cooking and enjoying a lovely meal with my wife. And I cannot wait for the next wine and recipe shipment. The cost was merely that of a simple, folded newsletter tucked into the shipment box.

I plan to spend more time thinking about how other brands (especially my clients) can similarly do simple things to build experiences like this. It also would be interesting to test what kind of brand loyalty results. My hypothesis would be that St. Supery club members who cook the recipes are far more likely to stay in the club and buy more wine for themselves, while encouraging others to join, too.

What can your brand do to stage an experience? It might be simpler than you think.

Teaming Up for Mutual Experiences

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

As I was putting together material for our upcoming book, I came across several examples of two brands working together to create a mutual experience that benefits both equities, and especially their joint customers. One example I ran across while staying at my regular W Hotel in NYC (541 Lexington) is the above offer for a free ride in an Acura MDX. I didn’t have time to take a ride, but I saw another great example of Marketing with Meaning.

This is a clear example of a win-win-win for all three parties. W Hotels gets to offer another service under its umbrella brand of “Whatever/Whenever,” which itself is a great way to differentiate their hotels from the many choices business travelers have around the world. And this comes at zero cost to the hotel chain. Acura gets a chance to connect with W Hotel customers, likely the kind of young, higher-income crowd that is in the sweet spot for its vehicles. These people can be difficult to reach with traditional, interruptive ads. And a free ride is a great chance to let prospects sample the vehicle in a low-pressure way.

Of course, let’s not forget the benefit to the customer. He or she gets a free ride in a cozy car by a considerate driver who knows his way around town. The customer also feels appreciated, and may feel a little like a big shot or movie star. This is a meaningful experience for the customer that connects her closer to both the W Hotel and Acura brands.

I have run across a few other examples of diverse brands hooking up to build mutually valuable experiences. A while back I wrote about Honda and Mattel hooking up for a special-edition Hot Wheels collectible car. There’s the Nike/Apple join-up with the Nike+ system. I read recently about the story behind how Fox and 7-Eleven partnered to create a dozen branded Kwik-E-Marts to support last year’s The Simpsons Movie. And I also recently came across the story of how Victoria’s Secret put on a fashion show last year in the aisle of Virgin Airways. (Check out the photos below for a glimpse of these diverse experiences.)

These experiential tie-ins seem to work best when the brands share both a common target customer and brand equity elements. The Simpsons and 7-Eleven both target 18-34 Men, for example. But they also take corporate organizations that are willing to give up some control and ownership to the other side. It’s a great exercise to conduct for your own brand: Think about other relevant brands in your customer’s life and consider the synergies that lie around a partnership, and then pick up the BlackBerry and reach out. Chances are there will be another marketer out there similarly looking for ideas to something new and meaningful.