Is there anything I’m afraid of? What should I think about?

Last night as I tucked my 13-year-old daughter in bed, we said “I love you” and I answered the two questions she ritualistically asks me each night: Is there anything I’m afraid o…

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Is there anything I’m afraid of? What should I think about?

Last night as I tucked my 13-year-old daughter in bed, we said “I love you” and I answered the two questions she ritualistically asks me each night: Is there anything I’m afraid of? What should I think about? To the first I emphatically, cheerfully, and optimistically say, “absolutely not!” To the second I often give her a Disney princess, a favorite TV show, book, or other fantastical story that I hope will provide her with a nugget of playful creativity to spin her own story and lull herself to sleep. Then I shut off the light, closed the door, and walked back downstairs to the CNN coverage of the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice. As is my nightly ritual, I opened my Facebook page to check in with my community and catch up with friends and family. As I did, I saw what my little one had written as her status update right before we said goodnight and I learned that she did indeed have something to be afraid of and something very important to think about:

It’s times like this when –
No. It’s times like now, times like all the time now, when I feel useless.
As a youth.
As a younger teenager.
As a minor.

I feel as though I can’t help, as though I just have to step back and watch my world fall apart. My world that was so bright and hopeful and Broadway! And film! And teaching! And writing! And hope! But I feel as though, if we keeping going the way we are, generations and generations will never get the world the way they wanted it, the way they see when they look at old pictures, of happy people living happy lives not even caring to lock the front door because
“who cares? we’re neighbors and even though we live right near the ‘bad part of town’ we don’t have to take precautions because it isn’t so bad.”

Though it probably wasn’t that way. It seems like it is, because now is so much worse.
I want to help. I want to stand for peace. I want to spread the message of self-love and neighbor-love and world-love but how am I supposed to do that if I can’t be taken seriously? If my message won’t reach far enough? If I’m too quiet?

Well, I can start by speaking a little louder, by sharing a little more of my mind, by not second-guessing my well-thought-out words. I can be sure of myself and the message I’m spreading.
I want there to not be a new tragedy every month, every week, every day. I want there not to be violence. I want there not be stupid guns and stupid bombs and stupid trucks who can’t think.


we can do this. sorry if this was all over the place. my mind is.

Reading it I was at once sad, proud, hopeful, and I am reminded of this other teenage girl with wisdom beyond her years:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”        Anne Frank

So, let us find our voices, speak a little louder, and not wait a single moment.

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Future Implications

Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

When I was growing up in the 1970’s I remember my mother telling me that people would “honeymoon on the moon” when I was out of college. Those of us who came of age at that time tell similar tales of dreaming of a future when we’d fly through the neighborhood like George Jetson, converse with charming (or evil) robots, and everyday life would be made oh so easy through computers like the “futuristic” home at the end of the Carrousel of Progress in Walt Disney World. While we are not yet using hovercrafts on the highway, we are starting to see drones in use and “smart homes” computerize all aspects of our daily tasks. That great, big, beautiful tomorrow didn’t arrive with a splash, but with an evolution so subtle that in many respects we didn’t see our total reliance on technology until the day we tried to get somewhere without a GPS.

So if the future is continually evolving, what are the kinds of things that will impact a company as it strategically plans for sustainable success? Where is technology leading us and what happens when that technology meets humanity? And, what is the role of social media marketing for brands of today that want to continue to be brands of tomorrow?

Sometimes You Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

While dreamers of the atomic age envisioned a somewhat cold and calculating future self, it is clear that people are using computers not just instead of human contact but actually to provide human contact. Facebook has become the online end-of-the-day cocktail party where friends, family, and acquaintances meet to share feelings and provide life updates real time. Twitter is the place where a personal connection can be made with people of all walks of life around the world. LinkedIn is the water cooler around which the working class networks and makes connections. Brands need to embrace the personal aspects of social media and get ready for the next level. As smart homes turn the lights on when the owner arrives, smart retail stores should provide a personalized experience for fans when they arrive. Imagine that you’ve “liked” a brand’s Facebook page or checked into a store on FourSquare and your device notifies the employees when you arrive so they can greet you by name and immediately know your preferences. It’s a little like George Orwell’s 1984, and a lot like Norm on Cheers circa 1982.

Going Mobile

When Pete Townsend sang about Going Mobile in 1971 he had no idea what it would come to mean in 2014. Mobile is not the wave of the future; it is the wave of today. The more capabilities there are on mobile devices, the higher the expectations are. We are surprised when we don’t have a cell connection, annoyed when the Wi-Fi isn’t working, and are completely appalled when a store can’t scan a coupon from our phone. When packing for a trip of a lifetime, a camera is not even considered but a tablet is essential. We want – some would say need – everything at our fingertips at every moment of every day. Brands need to play in this mobile space. They need to make sure the mobile experience is as good if not better than the desktop experience and that both reflect the brick and mortar experience. Certainly, mobile pay is looming on the horizon and providing brands with great opportunities to bring the shopping experience to the consumer rather than waiting and hoping for the consumer to come to them.

Haters Gonna Hate

One particularly unpleasant aspect of humanity is our inclination to bully and that trait has found fertile ground in social media. Social media is the great equalizer. With the anonymity of the computer keyboard, everyone is the same. It doesn’t matter if you are attractive, smart, or rich; you have the same power as anyone else. A brand must be aware of the potential for bullying on the brand pages. The bullying might present itself among the tribe so that fans resort to name calling when others don’t share their point of view. In this case, a brand must be protective of the sentiment on its page and establish and enforce codes of conduct to prevent hostility. In a different way, the brand itself might be the subject of lobbying, cajoling, badgering, or even bullying. Brand pages can be hijacked by individuals who are trying to make a change for one reason or another. The brand must be prepared to reign in the animosity and regain focus on the positive aspects of its products.

Think about the brands you like and the social networks you’ve joined.How would you like to see those brands interact with you on those social networks? Where do you see that great, big, beautiful tomorrow heading?


Marentis, Chris: 5 predictions for the future of social media
Bastian, Jill: 3 Mobile Marketing Strategies That’ll Light Up 2013
Weissman, Saya: 6 Awesome Brand Responses To Social Media Bullies
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Viral Marketing Initiatives

In the context of biology, when something is viral it is not a good thing. It is a bad thing, a scary thing, a seemingly out-of-control thing. In the context of marketing, when something is viral, it is a good thing, a positive thing, a brand-building thing. What both of these have in common is the notion that a viral entity is organic, passed from person-to-person, and somewhat out-of-control.

Germ Warfare

In marketing, a viral campaign is a germ of an idea that quickly becomes bigger than itself as it is shared and spread on the internet and through social media channels. Campaigns that seem to have the best fighting chance of going viral are those embedded with a sense of humor, an element of surprise, a dose of reality, and a sense of greater purpose, while at the same time being very easy to share and spread. Just as in biology, hands (on keyboards) and mouths serve as the fertile breeding ground for any viral marketing campaign.

  • Funny Bone

They say that laughter is the best medicine, but in terms of content with a likelihood to be shared virally, funny things are inherently more likely to be shared. Like the ability to tell a good joke, if a marketer has the ability to set its message in the context of humor it has a proven winner. Those that share the piece get to be in on the gag, forwarding it via social media platforms in a “did you hear the one about …” kind of way. Humorous campaigns are even sometimes self-deprecating allowing the brand to make fun of itself in a way that says they’re one of the gang.

Kmart achieved more than 20 million views for “Ship My Pants” (via

  • Shock & Awe

Have you ever watched a video or read a story and the plot is twisted in such a way that it takes you by surprise? The element of surprise (or even shock) can be an important tool in developing viral content. Although the current trend of tabloid style headlines – She thought she was babysitting and then THIS happened – seems like they’ll overstay their welcome (at least on my personal newsfeed), those stories that have that added unbelievable and unexpected twist at the end are likely to be shared over the electronic water cooler.

WestJet surprised its passengers AND 35 million viewers of its Christmas miracle (via

  • Reality, What a Concept

When Andy Warhol famously predicted that “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” who knew that the future would arrive less than half a century later? The start of the current millennium will be recorded in the tweets, texts, and selfies of the average person. When everyman is the new celebrity, it makes sense that crowdsourcing content has a good chance of spreading. If a person can make her mark on a brand by being part of its campaign, she’ll likely want the world to see what she’s done!

With their Do Us  A Flavor campaign, Lay’s crowdsources new flavors while garnering press and impressions (via

  • Dr. Feelgood

If you can convince yourself that time spent on social media is not all wasted, in fact some of it is spent helping humanity, it feels good. It’s the justification you need for whiling away the day watching YouTube videos or trolling someone else’s Facebook posts. Whether your changing your profile picture to a pink ribbon in the month of October, using a hashtag to share your allegiance to a particular cause, or simply sharing your school fundraiser website, incorporating a philanthropic element to your sharing is sometimes all the justification you need.

More than 20 million people watched Bill Gates dump cold water on his head to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the global ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (via

  • That Was Easy

To paraphrase a famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams, if it’s easy they will share. There are many programmers and developers working countless hours behind the scenes figuring out how to make online participation easier for the user. From auto-filling common words, to clicking a “like” button to share a moment, to using an emoticon instead of the laborious activity of putting letters together to form words, ease of use leads to ease of (and increased) participation. When stories are easy to share, they’ll get shared and shared again.

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Baubles, Bangles, Bright Shiny Beads

How does a small state designer take on the big brass world of fashion jewelry and win? By thinking differently, acting differently, and being different(ly). Have you ever been behind a woman in the airport security line, frustrated as she removes about twenty bangle bracelets from her wrist prior to walking through the metal detector? Chances are she was wearing twenty different made-in-America-from-sustainable-resources-infused-with-positive-energy Alex + Ani bangles. If you haven’t yet become familiar with the cult that is Alex + Ani, the next time you see someone wearing several thin wire bracelets around her wrist ask her about them. They’ll each have a special story, a special meaning, and they’ll each have been “Made in America with Love™”.

Alex + Ani = Positive Energy

The first decade of the 21st century must have been fertile ground for young up-and-coming female jewelry designers. In 2004 Rhode Islander Carolyn Rafaelian began a jewelry business called Alex + Ani (named for her two daughters) and just a few years later Pamela Love started making and selling jewelry from her Brooklyn apartment. Both exhibit a casual youthful style (not the clunky expensive look of Pandora), both created from recycled materials, and both boasting that they are made in America. The founders for each company also proclaim themselves to be spiritual which serves as part of their inspiration. The distinction between the approaches of the two businesses is that Alex + Ani have turned their lofty ideals into not only their company’s mission but also their company’s approach to marketing. While Pamela Love updates Facebook followers with product images and news, Alex + Ani use their space to send inspirational quotes with hashtags such as #movtivationnation and #positiveenergy. Pamela Love’s style is definitely a safe business model for a marketer while Alex + Ani takes more risks from a pure product marketing standpoint but they reap the benefits of sending messages with a better chance of being shared. In fact, a search of the hashtag #motivationnation yields a plethora of inspirational messages bearing the branding of Alex + Ani.

It’s Personal

Focusing not just on its product and its product’s place among the many fashion jewelry options in the market but also on its “jewelry as social change” mission allows Alex + Ani to differentiate itself in a very competitive space. It is not just an American jewelry company; it’s THAT American jewelry company that shares positive messages. And those positive messages are not just shared across social media; they are shared on every bangle worn by millions of women (and some men) around the world. The Alex + Ani message then becomes a very personal message for the wearer and those individual messages are shared across social media through user-generated #charmedarms images (wrist selfies) flowing into such platforms as Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. While Pamela Love is gaining a foothold in the fashion space by sharing images of models wearing their jewelry, Alex + Ani is gaining a foothold in the emotional space by sharing images of everybody wrists in everyday places. Their social media marketing strategy encourages brand ambassadors to promote the brand in personal ways that reinforce the brand’s own goals.

Pictures Are Pretty, But Numbers Don’t Lie

As good as Alex + Ani can feel about their social mission, it is truly the numbers that set a brand free. And Alex + Ani’s numbers show that their efforts are paying off both from a company engagement standpoint and a revenue standpoint. Their Facebook fan base is nearing 711K, 144K follow them on Twitter, 285K on Instagram, 33K on Pinterest, and they are on Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, and LinkedIn too. According to Dom Nicastro from the March 28 2014 CMS Wire, a single Facebook ad campaign waged between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year yielded $1.6 million in sales and their annual revenue is estimated to be $240 million. So, the next time you share a #motivationnation quote to your Facebook family or see a #charmedarm in the airport, know there is a business behind the bangle and profits generated from the #positiveenergy.

Want to learn more about Alex + Ani or Pamela Love? Check out these sites for more information:

Additional sources:

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4 Tips To Creating An Oscar-Worthy Blog

1. Start With a Great Story

Just as every great movie starts with a compelling story, every great blog also starts with a strategy, narrative, or story to tell. Before creating a blog for your brand, you should spend some time understanding your story.

  • What do you want to say?
  • What do you want your customers to hear?
  • What will be compelling enough to attract new and retain existing customers?

Attracting new and retaining existing customers is the ultimate goal for every brand and all marketing efforts including your blog should work hard to achieve that goal.


The Disney Babies Blog


Disney Parks Blog

One of the most well-known brands in the world is also a great storyteller at heart: The Walt Disney Company. Although their company blogs are not fairytales, they do have a distinct strategy and story line. Disney Parks Blog was created to fill the need of the Disney fans who need to be in the “know”. The blog offers a “behind the scenes” look at the Disney Parks giving readers up-to-the-minute information about such things as park hours, renovations, special events, and merchandise.

Conversely, as overtly branded as the Disney Parks Blog is, the Disney Babies Blog is a bit more subtle (as subtle as House of Mouse can get). While one is written for the true Disney geek the other is a source of inspiration for moms who happen to also like Disney. Certainly, the brand is well represented, but blog posts about nursery décor and popular baby names are equally present.

2. Casting Call

Once you have your blog concept, it’s time to cast it.

  • Who will represent your brand to the audience?
  • Will you have one leading actor or will it be an ensemble?
  • Is your voice authoritative, humorous, maternal, or intellectual?

Your blog’s voice should be consistent with the audience you are hoping to attract. It should read and look like your brand.


Wegmans Fresh Stories Blog

Wegmans Fresh Stories Blog gathers an ensemble cast to reach out to its customers. Each contributor represents a different part of their business and their posts speak about their area of expertise. Their blog covers everything from a behind-the-produce look at the store, to recipe ideas, allergy advice, and consumer information. They also make it easy to navigate by creating a laundry list of clickable topics.

3. Trust the Editor

The leading lady may get all the press, but it’s the editor who really helps her performance standout. Just as in films, the editing of your blog is key to attracting and retaining followers. Editing is crucial in two ways. First of all, nothing says unprofessional as quickly and easily as a typo, misspelled word, or poorly constructed sentence. I confess to having a sore spot for the often misunderstood apostrophe and when I see “it’s” that should be “its” I cringe. You don’t know what will be your reader’s Achilles heel, so your best bet is to read and re-read your blog several times before publishing.

Even if the grammar police don’t cart your blog away, the verbose nature of your writing style may. As jjames writes in 12 Easy Ways To Improve Your Blog:

“most people have severe Web ADD and giant blocks of text will be not be appealing.”

Take out your scissors and trim words to keep your blog easy to digest and remember.

4. Connect With The Audience


Whole Foods Market

The best movies make a connection with their audience. They make them laugh, cry, and think. To achieve success with a blog and ensure that it is read and shared, you too need to create a connection with your audience. Your reader should trust you and what you have to say as a subject matter expert, whether it is because you are a brand representative or because you are a user of the product just like them. Whole Foods Market connects with their audience through their Whole Story Blog by focusing on their strength: food. Their blog leads with many fabulous photos and easy recipe ideas. They also strategically use links to connect their readers with their other social media channels.

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It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets Hurt

The Little Mother Goose (1912), illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

Do you remember the nursery school rhyme about the little girl who had the curl right in the middle of her forehead? When she was good, she was very very good … but when she was bad, she was horrid! When I think of social media, I think she is that little girl. When social media is good it is amazingly good (think of American Airlines actually seeing a customer’s tweet and holding a plane for him so he wouldn’t miss it), but when it is bad it can go terribly wrong for even the strongest brands. Although there are many ways that social media can go awry – from typos to just basic mistakes – the types of situations which endanger brand reputation the most fall into three basic categories.

1. Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

Empowering your team to act as brand ambassadors and encouraging them to be spokespersons across social media channels can be a good thing. It promotes evangelization, ensures more hours are covered, and gives the company a real personality. The flip side of these real benefits is the risk of losing control over your messaging. The more people there are who hold the keys to your social media, the less real accountability you have and the greater the chance that workplace dirty laundry will be aired. UK entertainment retailer HMV learned this the hard way the day employees with the keys to their Twitter account were being terminated. Their tirade was broadcast across the Twitterverse live from the human resources office where the layoffs were being handed down. hmvThey’d lost so much control over their social media channels that the management didn’t even know how to shut down the account once they realized what was being Tweeted under the brand’s handle!

2. Just A Little Epicurious

When a brand develops a personality through its social media channels, it increases the emotional connection to its consumers. This is important and vital for companies that want to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive environment. Within social media one way that a brand can reveal its personality is by how it responds to events in the real world. Whether the event is a particular holiday, a local sporting match, an election, or a natural disaster, how a brand acknowledges or doesn’t acknowledge the event will be scrutinized by present and potential customers. The timing has to be right, the issue has to be relevant, and the response has to be respectful. When the Canadian Olympic hockey team skated over the Swedes to win the gold, upstart Calgary airline WestJet (the ones made famous for the viral Christmas YouTube video seen here) were quick to Tweet celebratory comments. west jetThe timing was spot on and the event was relevant to its customer base. The comments were lighthearted and enthusiastic; all-in-all a great way for a brand to show that it is part of and aware of events outside the fuselage of its aircraft. Contrarily, when the internet foodie site took to the same channel shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, the timing was all right but the message was all wrong. Their lighthearted messages implying that a good breakfast treat can make you forget the course of events was seen as misguided at best and snarky opportunism at worst. In this case, no acknowledgement would have been better.

3. If Life Gives You Lululemon

What would your life be like if a camera followed your every move and recorded each word you uttered? Welcome to the world of global round-the-clock social media, a real life concern for every brand. Now more than ever each time a company representative makes a statement it is fodder to be dissected, analyzed, and replayed in a continual loop. No matter how well scripted and rehearsed spokespeople are, there is bound to be a misstatement or something taken out of context. The issue gains more complexity when the spokesperson is in any way outspoken or flamboyant in his or her points of view.

Enter Phil Robertson of TV’s Duck Dynasty, Paula Deen of southern cooking fame, and Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, each wreaking considerable damage to his or her brand simply by making revealing statements that were picked up by nearly every traditional and social media channel.

If all of these social media stories sound too scary for you, don’t worry. Just like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, social media can be very very good for you and your brand. Just remember to think twice before Tweeting once!


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