New cultural marketing blog posts are available at http://www.culturalbuzzpr.com/cultural-marketing-blog/ as of 4-21-2014.  We are integrating our blog site with our website, and within a month, this blog site will be removed.  Click to go to the new location.

 

 

The begintoo much computer timening of a New Year often helps us to change our habits or to implement new goals for ourselves. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, especially if you are hyperconnected digitally, is to be less connected to digital media. This may sound odd coming from an organization that helps companies to have greater online reach. The reason is simple: we are Human Beings, and Human Beings are not digital waveforms, we are Analog.

Our evolvement as humans on this planet was via Analog waveforms found in nature and of which we are comprised. We do our best work, are the most creative, get the best insights and have the best “ah-ha” moments when we are in an Analog state of mind.  We chose at least two days a week to begin the morning without being connected online. During this time we work on documents, articles, contracts, and anything that might require a pen and paper that is not connected to the Internet.  Using MS Word without the opportunity to start checking email, looking at Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc an be freeing.

This is also our time to sit back and reflect, to conceptualize and to do creative work. The first time we did this that “habit” of feeling that you need to keep checking for emails and texts, did not leave easily. Once we got used to the idea of non-digital work time, ideas flowed more easily, and we became more efficient. We became focused on the task at hand, the way we used to be when we began our Agency. This translated to us becoming more effective and efficient. This led to finally having a day off of work.

As with any communications and productivity tool, being in possession of the tools neither makes you more productive nor efficient nor effective. It is how you use these tools, and how you control your interaction with them. One of the biggest problems in this digital age is that our consumer behavior went from leveraging technology to make us more efficient and effective, to having technology as a social crutch of sorts as well as to create that “need” to always be “in the loop.”

During December, we reconnected with two dojos (martial arts practice studios). One was a dojo where we practice at many years ago. Another was a dojo for a martial art that was practiced as a young child, and one who had some family connections. One of the greatest aspects of practicing a martial art in the traditional way, the “do” way, is that you become connected to the deeper principles involved, and the tactics needed to become a practitioner. One of these aspects is to be focused on many levels. This is the opposite of being connected digitally on many levels. Upon reflection of the different places that your brain and mind “go” when we are hyperconnected versus “martial arts focused,” the former leaves you scattered energetically, and unfocused at deeper levels. Being “martial arts focused” instead will allow you to be hyperfocused on what the problem is, what is going on in your environment, and keeping “outside noise” out.

For those of us who are hyperconnected, the best way to move into the more effective focused area is to unplug, and to disconnect when it is not contributing to developing our business or work skills. Social media can be fun, and our clients have a social media presence, which is needed. However, spending too much time on it if it there is no return on investment also needs to be questioned. Just to be on social media to “be there” is not an effective way to spend valuable time. Being on social media just to be there is not a business development strategy; there must be a business function to that interaction.

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thank you noteOne of our principals has a hobby where she likes to blog about city issues, events, and whatever is of interest. With a passion for helping many small businesses who could never afford professional integrated marketing communications, she blogs about many small and independent businesses, as well as issues and events that occur in the city. We were discussing the topic of good manners, good communications and how these attributes seem to be disappearing.  She commented that their decline is occasionally evident in some small businesses, as well.

There are times when she will feature a business on her popular personal and anonymous blog. She always contacts the store management to let them know when the piece is posted. Recently she experienced abject indifference, not once, but twice! One business that sells baked goods was outright blasé about the concept of free publicity. Despite also making purchases of their pricey goods, and the bakery being open less than a year, they gave the impression that they really couldn’t care less about the customer returning or being featured in a blog. If this store goes out of business, I don’t think anyone who received similar ‘service’ could go along with the excuse of the new millennium that, “it’s the economy.”

Perhaps the piece de resistance was when a particular small grocer opened up, not coincidentally in the same space that a popular niche grocer had been in business. Our personal blogger gal had featured both businesses. The first business owner was just thrilled to have people want to feature his store, welcomed it with open arms and clearly was pleased with community and social media support. The second store in this location had a Manager, who was affable and pleasant, but when our “girl blogger” sent them a message via their Facebook Page, she heard nothing back. Wondering if they received the message (lack of response is highly unusual), she posted it to their FaceBook Timeline. When she checked later, there were no acknowledgements and the post was deleted.

Some of her friends who are also in IMC suggested that she delete that store’s blog post – if they are so rude that they cannot even acknowledge the post then why encourage rudeness? This small grocer does not have a free standing website so they are depending upon people to find them via Facebook. Because it was clear that she was also a new customer, from our perspective (as a consultancy that provides integrated marketing business strategy services), it is very difficult to wrap our brains around the concept that a simple “thank-you” was so impossible to convey for something free and complementary about their offerings.

Our girl blogger said the people at the store were nice… and that the issue is with the person who manages their Social Media on Facebook. Perhaps they don’t understand the “social” part of “Social Media. This lack of understanding can hurt a business. Fortunately our gal blogger just considers this a case of lack of manners, although we all agreed that a lack of manners on Social Media when representing a business is not a good feature, not at all!

There is an incredible interest in the mid-century genre when it comes to fashion and décor. Perhaps the aspect of manners, grace, and thoughtfulness will return as well.  We can only hope.  Boorish and bad manners are so out if you want to develop a good customer relationship and a customer experience that your customers will return for, again and again.

 

 

This is part 2 of a two part piece on Hipsters, written in November 2012

If you are viewing the Hipster lifestyle as one with minimal impact, think again. The movements toward Sustainable Dining, where restaurants and their Chefs work to create a better connection for their patrons between the food on their plates, and where the food comes from, is the sublime intersection between organic foods, organic farming, CSAs (community supported agriculture) and Hipster lifestyle.

Many Hipsters own small businesses, and many patronize them as a preference. Small businesses are a backbone to the US Economy, and for those of you who know the history, even Whole Foods Market started out as a small business. Generally, even our largest corporations started out as a small business. This isn’t to say that the future of Hipster owned business is to create a behemoth; it is to merely point out that everyone and every organization needs to start somewhere.

The difference between most small businesses (defined by the SBA as a company with 500 or less employees) generally relates to ownership. When the founders and owners are still an integral part of a business, especially when a smaller business, the passion is top-down, and more easily a part of day to day operations.

The resurgence of many hand made items is largely a Hipster value, as consumers seek to purchase goods, not from nameless faceless manufacturers, but from people whose names and faces they know. These hand goods are largely made in the USA and frequently are made locally, which also connects into some Ecovalues of purchasing locally made goods.

Upcycling is the current trend of reusing items, adding value to it (via finishing or repairs or both, or other areas to increase value. Upcycling has many benefits, especially where older and better made pieces of furniture are concerned. In many older pieces, there is hand workmanship and artistry that is difficult to find in today’s offerings. Places that do fine furniture repair and finishing can often not only restore old pieces, but in the case where fabrics are involved, a 2012 look can be added to grandma’s old heirlooms, resulting in both elegance and a contemporary look.

Small Business Saturday occurred in many cities on the Saturday subsequent to Black Friday. We participated as consumers, as we normally shop locally. Judging from one of the threads on a local social media site, so is much of the neighborhood. One of our favorite shops sells only handmade items, from papers to various handbags and other items, even some clothing items. With the Holiday gift giving season upon us, remember, it is not too late to rekindle the inner Hipster in us all!

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Marketing communications professionals will often seek to identify those who are considered “influencers.” In today’s world of Internet access and search, one might posit that this is an easier task to do than would be if one relied solely on focus groups and interviews.

Bloggers and forums have many topic groups and topic leaders. On FaceBook and Google Plus, there are many Brands pages as well as individuals who post passionately about their favorite purchasers. You can look at Hauls anytime on You Tube. As a Marketing Communications professional, this would seem “easy peasy” to identify the influencers, early adopters and other key consumer behavior segments, and it is. End of story? Not so fast.

Long before social media networks became de riguer, we had another world where online influencers hung out, and they still do. Before the rise of Google’s material ‘share of search,’ there were many Search Engines and Directories used by many people. Lycos, for example, was one of many which had chat rooms. Yahoo had and still does have private groups requiring membership.

As part of a two year consumer behavior study on Brand Equity relating to a specific couture brand, and the online nature of our platform, we have been able to evaluate where social media influence really exists. Most often, it is tucked away where the average person cannot see it: in a private group. We’ve focused on Facebook for this discussion about private groups.

As the person managing this research, it has been a fascinating study in consumer behavior. There are your alpha leaders, there are the influencers, and of course we have people of all demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. There are two primary challenges in regards to membership. The first is to get into a group, since they are private and require an invitation and approval. The second is not getting kicked out. The latter requires diplomacy and avoiding confrontations on threads that are visible to all group members. Within the space of one year, there have been multiple splinter groups that have occurred, due to members being kicked out of one group. Often they begin their own private group.

Will these groups appear if you do a search on FaceBook for them? Not if they are private. There are several groups for the couture brand we are doing brand equity research on. There are groups for other designers, other couture lines, and just about any topic one can imagine.

When the Influencers in the groups where I have membership are excited about a new limited edition launch, some even receive pre-launch invitations. This information then is shared with group members, adding to the excitement. Many of the members of one of the groups are considered VIC (very important customers) due to a number of factors, no doubt one of them being dollar volume of purchases. These individuals usually have the newest pieces as soon as they are released for sale, and they share photos and the news of these acquisitions within the group.

Most members of these groups are either personal friends, or online friends where they have transacted buying and selling of high end items, via another well known forum for this type of product. To become a member, one needs to be introduced in some manner, by an existing member. In essence, your reputation is somewhat tied to the people you bring in.

What results is a cohesive group of individuals who, based upon the type of purchases, their familiarity with an item and their activity (are their posts providing quality information), Influencers and Opinion Leaders are easily identified, but only within the group, not to the public.

If your clients are savvy with Social Media Platforms and also want to become influencers, joining and participating, with valuable contributions, is where many of the heavy duty influencers are hanging out these days.

When does one use the adjective, “Asian” and why is this so confusing? Today, for the second time in a few months, a guest on a well known Chicago radio station misused the adjective, “Asian.” It seems that there is a lot of confusion about when to use this word, especially in regards to food.

How did this start?
At one time in our nation, we had legalized racism against people who had ancestral lineage from any of the Asian countries. It included prohibiting immigrants from Japan from owning property and becoming citizens as well as race based quotas for immigration. If you were French Canadian, you were part of the Canadian quota; if you were Chinese Canadian, you were lumped into the category that included Chinese nationals, Korean Nationals, Japanese French, etc. This was done with our US laws were designed to separate, segregate and exclude those of Asian ancestry.

Fast forward to the 1970s and the growing adaptation of the Asian American movement. The focus here was to include all groups of Americans who had Asian ancestry, who all had similar experiences of what it means to grow up with an Asian face in America. This was a movement of Identity, which helped the American born of Asian descent to learn about the struggles and horrific racism of the earlier generations, and to understand the common experiences they all shared. These experiences are psychographic and cohort specific, and related to being a visible minority in the USA. A part of this was to focus on the fact that the members of this group are Americans. This is a very important distinction, because even as late as the mid 1900s the attitude was that if you were not Caucasian, you were not American, and the citizen status of Japanese Americans were voided as a result of Executive Order 9066 proved the prevailing attitude. By focusing on the term, “Asian American,” members of this group are identifying with being AMERICAN. The key aspect of this is the dis-identification of being a foreigner who is not an American but from an Asian country.

Now let’s talk about food. The first time I heard the misuse of the adjective, “Asian” was in regards to shark fin soup. A news reporter on Public Radio referred to “the Asian food, Shark Fin’s Soup.” The term “Asian” refers to the people or nations that are part of Asia. The Asian Nations include: China, Japan, Korea, the Phillipines, Afgahistan, Iran, Armenia, India, Pakistan, Israel, Republic of the Philipines, and other nations.

When referring to food, ask yourself if this is consistent food consumed in all Asian nations. If the answer is “no,” then limit your response to the nation where this food item is a specific dish.  Shark’s Fin Soup is considered Chinese Food. Manju is a Japanese dessert item, not an “Asian” dessert item, no more than Lutefisk would be considered a national dish eaten by all Caucasians.

For anyone who truly wants to become more confused, dine in a Pan-Asian restaurant. If you want a little better clarity, seek traditional and authentic dining by choosing a specific national cuisine: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, etc.

Where you dine can also add to the confusion. We’ve been to Chinese restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown that offered sushi, some form of tempura which was not Japanese tempura but definitely not fried shrimp from a sports bar, Vietnamese and Korean food. The presence of Immigrant Chinese was no guarantee that your food with be authentically Chinese. If you find yourself in this situation, check out who is eating what before ordering your food. Bon A petit

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So many times, I hear people lament that it is so hard to find the right marketing agency, or the right SEO person.  Looking at the situation from the client side, this is very understandable.  “Marketing” is a very broad term.  People who sell use it.  If you are promoting goods at the grocery store, you are working in promotions, but is that not a form of marketing? My friend goes to the grocery store to purchase food and says, “I did the marketing.”

“PR” or public relations is another very much misunderstood profession.  Publicity is “getting attention.”  Public or Media Relations has different connotations.  INTEGRATED Public Relations is largely the domain of those of us who come from MSIMC programs (Masters of Integrated Marketing Communications), which involves concepts of business, social responsibility, stakeholders, building the brand through responsible communications, and developing a strategic marketing mission and plan.  Most IMC agencies can also provide business consulting, especially if there are staff members with backgrounds in Entrepreneurship as well as Accountancy.   What we have is a word, “Marketing” to convey a multitude of actions, versus professional training and education.

The SEO Elephant in the Room
In today’s world, the elephant in the room is SEO.   For us, marketing communications is the primary focus of what we do, and we achieve this for clients through a variety of tactics.  One of them is called “SEO” or Search Engine Optimization.  SEO should never be the end all of any marketing project.  SEO should be part and parcel toward achieving a brand’s strategic marketing mission statement, and be leveraged so that you build your Brand.

Add to this confusion the difference between Ad-Words and Organic Search, and the first time website owner is bound to be confused.  How can they not be, when proponents of both methods often focus on different things, yet call both “SEO.”

SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization” refers to the actions performed in order to help a website become more visible during Internet Searches.  In “organic search,” this means that there are a multitude of tactics involved, which include back page meta codes and anchor texts, the latter of which are mostly from outside websites and directories.  With Organic Search, the focus is on the primary set of search terms that users employ to find your business or organization.  In today’s world, at Cultural Buzz PR we also employ what we refer to as “Googlizing” which requires an integrated understanding of the Google Family.  While Google isn’t the only search engine in town, it is where the majority of share of search for desktops and laptops occur.

The use of Ad-Words gets attention.  It uses key search terms in the write-up and definition of how these Ad-Words get picked up.  When you set up say, Google AdWords, you are looking to define as many iterations of search possible.  If your website is primarily Flash based, this may be the best or the only way for your company to go in the short or mid run.  In the short range, this tactic can be cheaper than having a fully integrated organic search implemented.  The difference occurs when you pull the plug on Ad-Words.  Your site’s visibility will begin  to disappear.  When you invest in integrated organic search, you are building your brand for the long run.

Ideally it would be great to do both, and some clients do employ both.  Most of our clients prefer the organic search investment for the longer range implications and benefits, as well as other tactics that can expand a company’s online reach.

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A message from the Director of Client Services:

Because the primary platform we work with is the Internet, we are on it every day.  Our firm does not use advertising profiles and we develop our psychographics the good old fashioned way, via anthropological research and interviews.  We value our client’s privacy, and ours, as well as anyone else’s privacy.

Our fascination, and horror regarding our Internet Privacy was peaked after hearing Professor Lori Andrews in an interview on Chicago’s WGN Radio.  Reading the book did not assuage my concerns, although one point of humor about the type of profile I must have had involves my many searches for:

  • When personally involved with elder-care, I performed many searches and purchases for family member’s incontinence products.
  • While taking a course in Emerging Technologies, a project requirement had us doing searches on specialized weaponry.  Great – who knows what lists we’re all on as a result of that class?
  • Currently we’re doing a Brand Equity research on Grey Market Couture, so there are many searches and site visits regarding information on couture lines and consignment stores.  That really goes well with those previous searches for incontinence products and checking out information on Corgi Dogs (which I adore!), as well as no kill animal shelter adoptions, not to mention raw foods restaurants in Chicago.
  • While a friend of mine was redoing her home, she wanted me to look online while we were on the phone.  Searches included Talavera Tiles, Shower Curtains and 5’ tall statues.

On one site, when my name was entered, I found a profile that described me as a 90 year old woman (who clearly had to use adult diapers and liked 5 feet tall statues).   There is clearly a danger when companies choose to cheap it out and use these types of profiles, versus focus groups (which cost more and generally develop much better consumer behavior profiles).

On June 27th, one week ago, Violet Blue posted a piece she wrote on CNET  regarding a topic near and dear to me, Internet privacy and tracking.   Here it is, less than one full week later that I installed Abine’s free “Do Not Track” – the software has already blocked over 7,174 tracking attempts by social media sites and various advertising profiling companies. You can join the growing population of Internet Users who agree that invading your privacy is not okay and checking out Abine.

Normally we do not discuss products here, whether they are our client’s products or anyone else’s, but this is a topic that we believe is worth exploring.

Mobile phone apps are fun, there is no denying it.  We love the Samsung Galaxy S2 i900.  Sleek, ultra-thin and fast, what is not to like?  The phone is beautiful, and we’ve received many complements on it from our iPhone friends.  And then Monday happened.  Monday is when the emails are their heaviest.   After being out of the office, and going through some 200 emails in the morning, I ended up coming back to the office so that I could sit down and do triage.  The entire time I was thinking about how I missed my BlackBerry Curve, which I gave up when it was clear that I needed a new phone.  The touch keypad wasn’t fun to adjust to, but after a few days, I could type “nearly” as fast as I could with my BlackBerry.  As touchpads go, it was easy to adapt to.

Anyone who has had a BlackBerry and who also needs to deal with a lot of emails and often type long responses can attest to the superior keyboard and ease of writing.  Despite my agility with the touch pad on the very elegant and beautiful  Android phone, I could still type faster and make less errors on the BlackBerry.  I could also mass handle emails much more effectively.  After 4 days with an Android, it was time to go back to BlackBerry.  Enter the BlackBerry Bold.  For business use, this is the phone that gave us what we needed.  Because we need to test how sites look on a non BlackBerry mobile phones, the Android will stay.  It is on a prepaid data plan and is the phone we test visual aspects on.  The BlackBerry, however, is the workhorse.

Many people have chosen to buy phones that run on operating systems powered by Google or Apple, contributing to RIM’s global sales plummet of 58%, according to a recent report by Canalys.  Also according to Canalys, RIM’s US market share fell from 24% compared to June of 2012.  So is future of the Blackberry a bust?  Like any market demographic, one needs to look at consumer behavior psychographics and what drives people to purchase what they buy.

For consumers who are purchasing for individual use, the Apps are stunning.  Being able to watch a film, read a book, and basically have many of the social functions available on a laptop or desktop make these phones fun.  Wait times in long lines are now more than tolerable, as people whip out their Smart Phones and take care of online activities while they wait.  Being able to scan price codes and comparison shop is very handy.  We’ve become a society of consumers who want what we can do on our computers, without lugging around a laptop.  We want what we want, when we want it.

Group identity issues also factor in.  If you are a person whose group identity is tied into others, family, friends, acquantances, etc. embrace the coolness of App “Heaven,” and their opinions are important to you, and /or their approval is important to you, then buying a cool phone with their many amazing Apps would be important.  The same holds for those who love technology and love to be on the cutting edge of technology.  We are in that latter group, which was the reason we first went with the fast, sleek and beautiful Android phone we left BlackBerry for.

While attempting to handle some emails, besides the email management issues, we were becoming concerned that we had client information that should be only correspondences meant for us and the client.  This had not been an issue with the BlackBerry Curve.  We switched back to BlackBerry once we looked deeper into security issues.  RIM, or Research in Motion, has been known for their top-notch security.   Where international markets have been concerned, RIM’s stringent encryption and security network has prevented regulators in certain countries (Reardon, 2010)  from being able to monitor and read the emails and track browsing activity.  The irony is that their core strength that allowed them to grow in markets such as the US has hindered growth in certain foreign markets.  According to an article in CNET by Marguerite Reardon, “RIM’s rock-solid security … has made it such a popular device and e-mail service among Wall Street banks, law firms, local and state governments and hundreds of other security-sensitive industries.”

In an article by Dan Graziano, on April 11th, 2012:

“Trend Micro on Wednesday named Research in Motion’s Blackberry 7 OS a the most secure operating system in a new report titled, “Enterprise Readiness of Consumer Mobile Platforms.”  The security firm compared four of the top mobile operating systems – Android 2.3, iOS5, Windows Phone 7.5 and Blackberry 7 – and found the Waterloo based company’s platform best met the demands of enterprise users.  Blackberry 7 scored a 2.89 rating (the highest rating) based on a number of factors including built-in security, application security, device wipe, and device firewall.  RIM was followed by Apple’s iOS5 with a 1.7 rating.

TechTarget.com’s Eric Parizo hit the topic solidly when he said, “Today, the consumerization of IT has eroded what once was BlackBerry’s position of strength in the enterprise. BlackBerry security has taken a backseat to rivals’ flash and functionality, as users are much more concerned with bringing sexy back to the devices in their pockets and needing a single device for both business and personal use. Many enterprise security teams, some pressured by their own executives, have tacitly allowed these mobile devices onto their networks, choosing to look the other way rather than identify and address the security problems these largely unchecked devices present.”

When we returned to BlackBerry, we would have done so just for the superior email management that BlackBerry provides.  Knowing that our data is more secure via BES is icing on the cake.  Business transactions should be more secure, and private, and not easily hacked into.

 

 

References:

Reardon, Marguerite, BlackBerry Security:  Blessing and a curse, CNET News, August 9, 2010, http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20012981-266.html (last accessed 6-17-2012)

Pachal, Peter, RIM to Refocus on Enterprise, Will No Longer Try to Be ‘Everybody’s Darling’, Mashable, March 29, 2012,  http://mashable.com/2012/03/29/rim-refocus-enterprise/ (last accessed 6-17-2012)

Graziano, Dan, BlackBerry 7 rated most secure operating system, BGR.com, April 1, 2012

Eric B. Parizo, Loss of BlackBerry, security benefits would hurt enterprise mobile security, TechTarget.com, November 20122, http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/opinion/Loss-of-BlackBerry-security-benefits-would-hurt-enterprise-mobile-security (last accessed 6-17-2012)

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Mad Men is back

Anyone who has followed this successful program about “Don Draper” and his business associates can appreciate the complexities of the character and the Advertising industry. When anyone is in the marketing services industry, it is imperative that they are aware of what is happening in popular culture and how this is factoring into emerging trends. The character of “Pete” has been the most astute in comprehending how society is changing and how that impacts the consumer population. It is interesting to watch the events of the 60’s era in contrast to how different our social moirés are in 2012. “Don” showed his front runner stripes when he promoted “Peggy” to a full time Copywriter, at a time when women who worked in companies were still largely relegated to secretarial jobs with very poor options for advancement. It wasn’t about tokenism, it was about someone who showed an aptitude for the job.

Look at what we used to be considered “ethnic”. We used to consider one of the firm’s capabilities as in “ethnic” marketing. The term was then revamped to be “multi-cultural” which should be a more inclusive term. Here at Cultural Buzz PR, several years ago we redefined what we do as “cultural marketing.” The reason for this is simple: we are a nation of multiple cultures, some are subcultures which reflect our personal identities, others are larger subcultures which reflect our group identities, and these traverse into larger identities such as our national identity as Americans in the United States.

These multiple group identities factor in how we effectively reach major Minority Populations: immigrant populations have many different sub cultural identities than their American born children who grow up within the social context of the USA, as does the next generation and the ones after that. If one were to graphically represent these trends, however, they would not evoke an easy linear representation due to the complexities of identity, group identification and subcultural contexts that can cross into other group identities. What this ultimate does result in is a rich social culture that is unique to the United States.

Cultural Marketing should not only be about one’s past ancestral roots, but the present, and the future aspects of our lifestyle. This includes not only what television programming becomes a part of our social psche, but other elements that are a part of our life: Internet use, technology adaption, online and in person socialization, as well as diet and food orientations, for starters. These are all factors that should be included when your agency develops your marketing plansbooks or proposals.

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