Monday, June 29, 2009

Blue Collar, White Collar, No-Collar and...Green Collar?

By Philip Wocken

Traditionally, workers have fallen into one of three categories: blue collar, white collar, and no-collar. But today, there is a new shirt in the closet: and it comes with a green collar. With (very) aggressive backing from the U.S. Government and a trend-hungry society, green industries are looking at very bright and profitable futures. Regardless of your political views, it is obvious that green is “in.” Homeowners eagerly rush out to buy the latest “environmentally friendly” products and companies unabashedly promote their energy conservation efforts. Five years ago, the general population had no clue what “LEED Certification” meant. Now, LEED Certification has become a marketable competitive advantage.

This obsession with green reminds me of a key marketing principle: perception is reality. Consumers and companies have fully jumped on the environmental bandwagon. It doesn’t really matter why car drivers feel that they need to drive a Prius, what matters is that they feel that they need to drive a Prius. As marketers and entrepreneurs, this “need” is the key. The next ten years will provide substantial growth for those who are willing to take risks and capitalize on the environmental movement.

America was built by entrepreneurs. When colonists wanted to settle the Wild West, someone needed to build the covered wagons; someone needed to provide supplies and medication; someone needed to lead the expeditions. Those who capitalized on those opportunities were dutifully rewarded. America is still growing because of entrepreneurs. With the dawn of the “environmental revolution” already upon us, some innovators are already reaping the benefits. So how can we grab a piece of the pie while it’s still fresh out of the oven? How about inventing a new product that will cater to a green-specific niche? How about crafting a green marketing strategy that differentiates the company from the competition? How about rebranding your agency as a company that specializes in green marketing strategies? There are plenty of entrepreneurs and companies looking to stand out from their competition by launching into the green movement. We, too, need to stand out from our own competition. Why not target the “green-trepreneurs?”

New industries, new companies, new brands, new opportunities, new niches, new needs. Someone has to take the shirt out of the closet; it might as well be you. Besides, everyone wears green well.

Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached at http://BuzzBrains.Biz and he can be followed on Twitter @BuzzBrains.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Tri-Message Marketing: The Power of Three

By Drew Dahms

Lately, it seems brands and marketers have been focusing on social media and how it can be used. That’s fine. However it’s not a silver bullet, but rather one more tool in the marketing toolkit. Just like with traditional media, you cannot rely on one channel to get your message out. The market is fragmented, people are more mobile and “on the go” than ever before. You need to integrate many channels that can reach your audience at many times and many places.

Here are three channels I think can be a powerful tri-messaging strategy: Email, Social Media and Mobile. Each one serves a valuable purpose in communicating to your audience-in different ways.

EMAIL. The old standard for the past two decades. Companies have invested time and resources in building email lists and campaigns. Email is still effective and good for including a lot of content, links and images. If you’re using a good email program and have some design ability, you can create some nice looking layouts. But they take time to create and read rates have dropped to as low as 10%. Today’s society is out of the office more than ever before. Even though emails can be read on smartphones, the majority of people don’t own a smartphone. Plus emails (like HTML web pages) don’t display well on mobiles. Email and websites are a good foundation---a foundation to build upon.

SOCIAL MEDIA. The latest craze. Actually social media (SM) has been around a couple years, but is only now getting attention. It seems if you’re not on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or some other form of social media, you’re out of the loop or a dinosaur. It’s a great opportunity to integrate a social presence with traditional media efforts. However, a small percentage of your target audience may actually use these sites. Not everyone wants to tweet or be on Facebook. Think of all the people you’re NOT reaching. And now you are inviting comments and opinions to be posted that everyone can read. How do you manage that? Yeah it’s cool to have a few hundred or thousand followers, but how many are really customers of your brand or just a casual fan?

MOBILE. The new kid on the block and at the Early Adopter stage. Everyone has a cell phone. Text messages (SMS) can be received all mobile devices and read rates exceed 95%. (Did you ever get a text you didn’t read?) Mobile allows you to send relevant, timely and personalized content that invites engagement and generates real-time responses that can impact business in ways social media and email can’t. Brands are building valuable mobile databases by leveraging their SM followers and email subscribers to opt-in for mobile campaigns. Big brands are taking the lead with mobile campaigns, websites and m-commerce. But any small business can get started in mobile by launching simple SMS campaigns and building a list. Mobile is being recognized as a serious marketing channel that is here to stay and will only grow.

It’s incumbent on marketers and business owners to understand all the tools and how to integrate each channel into a tri-messaging strategy. And the real beauty is that these tools let small businesses and marketers compete with the big brands on a tech-savvy scale. Embrace these tools and develop a marketing strategy that utilizes the strengths of each. To dismiss one over the other because you’ve gotten along fine without it may be doing a disservice to your brand, your client and to yourself as a marketing professional.

Drew Dahms is a Relationship Manager with Sumotext who provides SMS campaign solutions for marketers and business owners. Sumotext is a CSCA approved short code provider and member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Marketers as Publishers – An Interview with Kristina Halvorson

Liz-GielBy Liz Giel

Content strategy. It’s a relatively new idea that continues to pop up in marketing discussions. As marketers in the digital age, content strategy is a topic we can’t ignore. And it goes far beyond writing copy for a website. “Says who,” you ask? Kristina Halvorson. That’s who.

“Content strategy is not deciding what is going to go on your website,” says Halvorson, President of Minneapolis agency Brain Traffic and author of the upcoming book, Content Strategy for the Web. “It’s the journalistic questions around it. ‘Who’s going to create it?’ ‘Who is going to take care of it?’ ‘Why are you releasing this?’ ‘How does this map back to your user goals?’ 'How is this going to get on your site?’”

According to Kristina, there is a barrier to adopting this new way of marketing. “Traditionally, marketers have been focused on wins, numbers and reach,” she states. “Marketers don’t consider themselves publishers. Because of this, many organizations have failed to develop any sort of editorial infrastructure that would allow them to publish and update content on the web.”

On the flip side, there are those businesses that have embraced the idea of content strategy. Kristina praises such companies as REI, Room & Board and Kodak for offering content that is helpful for their audience. offers expert content on better living outdoors. Room & Board’s website has an ideas and advice section. offers information about how to be a better digital photographer. This ability to differentiate their brand from competitors has led these businesses to success in their web marketing initiatives.

Following this approach, marketing professionals are faced with the onerous task of creating original, useful content on a regular basis. But it’s a necessary evil. As Kristina puts it, companies must “connect their brand in the minds of the consumers with value, and not be totally promotional.” How can we do this? By finding answers to those journalistic questions mentioned before. This is content strategy.

To stay competitive and create loyal, enthusiastic customers, Kristina believes that businesses have to offer valuable content, but there must be a strategy. Marketers must rethink their traditional responsibilities and view themselves as publishers.

Kristina Halvorson is a recognized thought leader on web content strategy and is finishing her first novel, Content Strategy for the Web. She is the President of Brain Traffic, a Minneapolis agency specializing in web content strategy and information architecture.

To find more information or register for the June 23 event, "Content Strategy and the Future of Marketing," please visit
the MN AMA event page.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Value of Honesty

By Emily Jasper

Much criticism can be found on the web for the current state of marketing. A lot of it is around how blatant companies are getting about pushing a product. It’s so out there.

Yet times are forcing marketers to approach buyers differently. They practically say, “Look man, I know you only have a few extra dollars in your pocket nowadays. Please pick me.” There aren’t many story lines out there, product placement is considered the norm, and all control of marketing is being stripped away thanks to the Internet.

For many, that’s not okay. The art of marketing and advertising is whittled down to who you know and how quickly and directly can you get the message to them. For instance, we all know a product touched by Oprah turns to gold. Her personal trainer might not have been thrilled with the KFC coupon promotion, but look how that turned out. Marketing campaigns don’t seem to be clever anymore. And you don’t even have to be a pro. Look at the Super Bowl Doritos commercial. Even the government is getting involved, striking against General Mills for making medical-like claims for the cholesterol benefits of Cheerios.

Perhaps the real issue isn’t the demise of marketing. Perhaps it’s more that companies are going with the old-school promotion route: “Here you go, have one for free,” “We’d like you to try our product and write what you think,” “Did I mention this is a full-sized sample?” These tactics aren’t new, but the public-ness is.

For instance, if provided with Product X for free and requested to write about it, years ago, it would be done in an R&D study within the confines of a lab/conference room/grocery store/etc. The R&D team would take the feedback, probably throw it away, and marketing would come up with a campaign on its own. Now, when writing an opinion, sure it could still end up on that piece of paper in that feedback box, but it could also be on a blog, message board, tweet, video, podcast, and on and on. So you know that DiGiorno’s gave that tweetup free pizza. Everyone knows. Their 3,658 followers know, too.

What has been happening since the first sample was ever created is now magnified in the public eye thousands of times. It is so out there.

Blatant public-ness is valuable to marketing today. It is honest, and it is working.

Emily Jasper is a Marketing Manager for Technology Alliances with PDI Ninth House. In addition to marketing, Emily has sales and PR experience from previous roles. She currently writes a blog, "From the Gen Y Perspective," and can be followed on Twitter at

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Monday, June 1, 2009

The Culture of Participation – An Interview with Wayne Lindholm

Liz-GielBy Liz Giel

This month’s MN AMA meeting will address the topic of organizational leadership and development. With this event on the horizon, I sought the opportunity to interview one of the guest speakers, Wayne Lindholm, President of the Scanlon Leadership Network. He was kind enough to answer a few questions and give our readers an idea of what the discussion will have in store.

How do Scanlon's practices differ from and/or compare to other organizational Development practices?

Traditional Organizational Development processes tend to be initiated and driven by leadership. For example, they tend to be top-down approaches where management owns the culture. The Scanlon EPIC Leadership Principles, while initiated by top leadership, is driven by cross-functional teams of employees. Implementing Scanlon EPIC Leadership Principles is a bottom-up approach with the end result being the employees owning the culture.

What can participants expect to take away from your session?

Participants will take away an understanding of Scanlon EPIC Leadership Principles and how any organization is positively and substantially changed for the better by applying these time-tested principles. They will experience a case study of how one organization, Landscape Forms, has successfully applied Scanlon EPIC Principles for over 20 years and created a highly energized and fully engaged organization that not only survives but also thrives!

How will your session benefit marketing professionals and their department(s)?

Our presenter from Landscape Forms, Richard Heriford, will show participants how embracing Scanlon Principles and developing a culture of participation and engagement helps them deliver consistent high end results to their customers and markets served, reward all employees for their positive contributions, and deliver outstanding results to their investors. In short, Richard will demonstrate how a positive people culture supports everything Landscape Forms does and how they continue to be recognized and rewarded by the market for how they tie it all together to create success for everyone.

Can you offer a teaser on the EPIC principles you will discuss during the session?

If you asked yourself "What day is it?" at your organization, would you know how to answer that question? I will share the meaning behind that important question and how anyone in an organization practicing Scanlon EPIC Leadership Principles has no problem sharing the answer with anyone.

For more information on the June Monthly Meeting, please visit the MN AMA website. To register for the event on June 9, click here.

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