August 13th, 2014


Facebook Contests

Facebook has decided to change an important rule around brand-sponsored contests. Changing rules is not surprising since Facebook is consistently evolving. However, there are implications to how success and failure of contests may have been measured in the past.

Up to this point, contests have been a great opportunity to gain Facebook “Likes.” Often times, one of the rules to enter a contest was to first “Like” the brand page. First “Liking” has not been required, but if trying to gain an audience, this was one tactic to capture potentially interested people for your message.

Since “Liking” a page was never required, although often recommended, potential “Likers” could learn about a brand contest through their friends and decide for themselves if they wanted to “Like” a page. This approach can lead to a more authentic audience. Possibly a more engaged audience.

Facebook has decided to no longer allow brands to require “Liking” their page before entering a contest. Contests can still happen and information can be collected of contestants, but contestants will decide if they want to “Like” the brand.

Contests will continue to be a great way to raise awareness and this change ensures that “Likes” are deserved rather than paid for. It is important to know of this change if contests are part of your social media strategy moving forward. At the very least, rethink success measures to fit the new rules.

August 6th, 2014


Yelp Party

I tweet, Facebook, and blog about restaurants on a regular basis, but I don’t Yelp. I’m not sure why other than the fact that I don’t really use Yelp to help me find places to visit. The few times I have used it have been disappointing, probably because I am very picky.  Translation: I’m vegan and in the past the network has not been as helpful for my goals.

A couple weeks ago I was at one of my favorite local restaurants and the owner said his vegan cake would be at the Yelp party in a few days. Yelp party? What’s that? He gave me a flyer and explained that several local restaurants would be there and all were asked to have vegan options for guests. In addition, the event was an opportunity to help raise money for a local nonprofit that I like. I was in!

Wanting to go, I figured out I first needed to become part of the network. Okay. I signed up and received an email I was on the list to attend the party. The event was held in one of my favorite local bars, would have live music, support a local nonprofit, and have free drinks and vegan food. Score!

I was also excited to see how a social network would bring digital relationships to life. Yelper only parties are happening all over the country.

Unfortunately, score was not my outcome. I did get a small piece of vegan cake, but none of the other restaurants had vegan options. The band was good, but so loud I couldn’t talk with anyone. And, overall, I couldn’t get the point.

Wait, why was Yelp having a party anyway? There was SWAG (stuff we all get, like magnets or sunglasses) to take home, but I’m not into SWAG. Restaurants were there, but I couldn’t eat the food or talk to the representatives. I did talk with the people from the nonprofit, but that was because I know them and we caught up (i.e. yelled at each other for a few minutes).

If the purpose of Yelp is to connect people to local businesses, this was a fail. I didn’t meet anyone new and none of the other Yelpers were talking with anyone either. After about an hour, I went home. I was surprised there were not ambassadors helping make sure the event accomplished the goal of the network.

Events are a common tactic to help connect brands to their customers. We often recommend them when appropriate. However, we also work hard to make sure events meet pre-established goals. Yelp needed someone at the party to at least turn down the music so people could talk.

July 30th, 2014

Robin Donovan

Please Don’t Ask Us to Promote Your Wrinkle Products!

There are millions of dollars worth of wrinkle reducing products out there. And there are millions of dollars working to promote them.

In order to conduct my own very scientific experiment on various wrinkle reducing products, I first had to search for folks with wrinkles (denial is really a remarkable thing – isn’t it?).

After painstaking research conducted over a several year period I have come to the conclusion that there are four kinds of wrinkle reducing products that produce results of any kind, and they break out as follows:

  1. The kind that puffs you up so that wrinkles appear to fill out. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a mature individual that needs help in “puffing up.”
  2. The kind that tightens your skin so that the wrinkles disappear completely. The ensuing tightness is irrelevant – the mirror tells you you’re gorgeous! Unfortunately, one blink (and this is no exaggeration) and all your wrinkles come tumbling back into place. Talk about heartbreaking – I’m told.
  3. The kind that wend their way into your eyes, thus blurring your vision and creating the appearance (to you only) that your wrinkles are softer and less defined, and finally
  4. The kind that gives you an allergic reaction and you break out into hives or develop a red crusty irritation where the product was used most heavily. Works like a charm in deflecting attention from the deepest of wrinkles – so they say!

Based on my extensive research I have come to one inalienable conclusion. We are way too honest to help promote any of these products, including those that hail from some of the finest names in skincare and cosmetics.

July 21st, 2014


Uber Ice Cream

Last Friday, Uber, a ride-sharing program delivered through a mobile application, offered something out of the ordinary, ice cream. UberIceCream was available in 144 cities (38 countries on 6 continents) and allowed Uber users to request ice cream to be delivered to them. All costs are paid through the mobile app that users set up ahead of time, so there is no worry about how to pay.

Uber, and its fuzzy pink mustached competitor Lyft, has not been available in Omaha long. And, like in other cities, there has been some controversy that is not yet fully resolved. I have happily used both services. But, on Friday I wanted to have ice cream delivered and be part of a global event.

The deal in Omaha was between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm and five ice creams could be delivered for $20. Four dollars an ice cream is on the high end, but it is delivered and the sheer novelty was inspiring. At 11, I started trying to order my ice cream. The app needed a few extra minutes to finish activating the ice cream cone icon and by 11:05 I had ordered. I immediately received a phone call to verify my location and I headed outside for what was next.

An actual ice cream truck pulled up! No songs were playing, but Uber had recruited ice cream trucks in Omaha to deliver whatever ice cream my heart could desire. I don’t actually eat ice cream, so I requested five of their most popular item and got those cones of vanilla with chocolate and nuts on top. It was easy for me to find other office tummies to file the treats.


I was actually their first delivery of the day. For ordering, I received a t-shirt and was allowed to take photos of the truck. It was great fun.


This was the third year for Uber to have an ice cream day. In 2012, the event happened in only seven cities in the United States. Uber was a bit smaller then. The entire purpose is for publicity and it works. The conversation was active on Twitter (#UberIceCream) and many online news outlets wrote about the offering, but no one in Omaha.

I’m glad I got to be part of the day. Rumor has it that other delivery services could be on the horizon for Uber in the near future. For example, in NYC, UberRush offers messenger pick up and delivery. What is in store for Omaha? I can’t wait to find out.

July 16th, 2014


Smartphone Culture Shift

I can’t stop thinking about this article. A NYC restaurant wanted to understand more about why recent customer reviews included long wait times for service and food, so they watched video footage from today compared to 10 years ago. The incredible answer has nothing to do with the restaurant. The “wait” times are due to a dramatic shift in smartphone culture. As guests focus more on their phones, their time to decide what to order, when they begin eating, time to pay, etc., changes dramatically. Adding almost an additional hour to visits. But the restaurant has maintained delivery times for service and food.

Many responses to this revelation have included a call for greater consideration (as mentioned in the article) and mindfulness of the moment. Yes, maybe patrons could be more considerate and not use their phones as much, but considerate to whom? I feel like this is a response similar to “get off my lawn” or “pull up your pants.” The request benefits one person, usually older, that is frustrated by the behavior of another person, often younger, that does not necessarily have a direct impact on the first person.

Instead, we are living a true cultural shift. I do not foresee people putting down their smartphones anytime soon. The phones, and the usage behaviors, are now a part of who many people are and who they want to be, just like wearing pants low.

So what is to be done? I don’t know that I have the answer. It depends on the situation and the reputation one wants to foster. One response is similar to the Alamo Drafthouse that has strict rules about phone etiquette. A patron will be banned for life if they use their phone during a movie. I must admit that I dislike the distraction of mobile phones during a movie. But do I dislike it when the table next to me at a restaurant is so excited about their food they want to take photos? Nope. This seems like a good thing.

If our cultural shift in smartphone use is causing change, how could this change actually help? For a restaurant, maybe the answer lies in helping patrons be excited by encouraging the food photos be shared in the restaurant social media spaces. Or maybe create games around getting orders in faster. What about creating a digital menu patrons can access ahead of time and order through their smartphone to reduce ordering time? How about using Square Order, or similar technology, to electronically push costs directly to a smartphone and let the patron decide how long they want to take to pay. There are lots of opportunities to embrace the shift and reduce perceived negative impacts while also improving experiences for all customers.

June 2nd, 2014

Robin Donovan

The inside scoop on Toilet Paper

A year or so ago I was asked – through my blog on menopause - to participate in helping to “name” a new product offering by Kimberly-Clark. They wanted a cute/clever name for the pairing of toilet paper and wipes for women 50+. I was aghast!

What were they thinking? More to the point, what were they implying? That women 50+ leak waste?

I was offended and angry and defensive and more – but nothing good. They didn’t understand us at all! And they were going to get crushed.

I don’t know what happened between then and now, but I have to say they paired those products and made it work!

If I had to venture an educated guess I’d say two things made all the difference. First, they don’t appear to target a specific age or sex. The fact that they seem to be talking to everyone does not come across as offensive to me. Stuff happens. Second, they have employed British humor – and that gives them a whole lot more latitude. How mad can you get when they’re talking about your “bum?” Even in the middle of a restaurant.

I don’t know if this dynamic product duo will ever catch on – but I’m impressed with how they started in a place that infuriated me and wound up in a place I have to admire.



May 13th, 2014


Are You Healthy?

Last year a study was released that shared Americans think they are healthier than they really are. Many in the study wanted to lose as many as 25 pounds, but thought they were healthy.

When asked why this is, psychologists may point to something called illusory superiority, or the idea that lots of Americans think they are above average in many skills. People will often give themselves higher scores for positive traits and rank others lower. Other cultures are less likely to do this, but Americans are notorious for it.

However, I propose a more sociological approach to why Americans think they are healthy despite over 60 percent of the population currently overweight or obese. It’s not just that we think we are doing better than others. Instead, we receive a lot of misinformation about what is healthy and the correct information is mixed in with a lot of incorrect information. For example, when asking the internet health questions, billions of answers are available.

  • What is healthy weight? 303,000,000 results
  • What is healthy eating? 357,000,000 results
  • What is good health? 2,550,000,000 results
  • What are good health habits? 205,000,000 results
  • What are good health practices? 169,000,000 results

At the very least, that is a lot of information to sort through. At the worst, it is confusing and discouraging. The cultural implication is that no one seems to know what healthy is and so we are each allowed to recognize ourselves as healthy until something happens to indicate the opposite is true, like a heart attack.

For marketers, it creates an opportunity. People want to be healthy, even if healthy starts where they already are. They want information and tools to help them be healthy from groups and brands they trust. How can your brand help people be healthy without contributing to misconceptions and misinformation?

May 8th, 2014


U.S. Instagram Users

A common, and smart, question asked by many clients is, “should we be in Instagram?” The number of platform users certainly continues to grow. Interestingly, the question is often followed by something like, “I keep hearing all the kids are there.” We could replace Instagram with Snapchat in this scenario, but let’s focus on Instagram.

Everyone should be asking if they are utilizing the right social media tools for their business/brand. It’s an important question and the answer changes as more platforms become popular and businesses/brands evolve.

My answer always begins with the questions:

  • What do you hope to accomplish with social media?
  • How will social media enhance other activities and goals?
  • Do you know your audience is there?
  • Can you afford it?

My recommendation is dependent on how these questions are answered. Instagram requires a visual approach that can be difficult to communicate for many businesses/brands and very easy for others. For example, a clothing store has lots of opportunity to share their latest styles while an insurance company probably has fewer visual opportunities.

Are the “kids” really in Instagram? Apparently all ages of people use Instagram and the two largest age groups are 18 to 24 and 25 to 34, with 35 to 44 as the third largest segment. I guess it depends on who one thinks are “kids” and if the audience is important to larger strategic goals.

Instagram By Age Mar2014

In addition to answering my questions, I advocate digging around in the platform and seeing what competitors are doing. Are competitors using the tool? Are they experiencing success? What are they doing that is working?

As you already know, being thoughtful in the beginning can save time and resources, as well as provide greater success in the long term.

May 5th, 2014


Personalized For You

Online native advertising is more popular today than ever and, thank goodness, has become more integrated into online experiences. In some cases, users are not even aware that content they see is a form of advertising to take them to an article or video outside their original query.

Just to keep us all on the same page… Wikipedia says native advertising is

content in the context of the user’s experience.

It can be a great way to share content because native ads:

  1. Are unobtrusive. Since it is designed to look and feel like part of the space where it lives, encountering it should not be blatant. This is the true value of the tactic.
  2. Are more likely to be viewed than banner ads. People look at them up to 53% more frequently.
  3. Can positively increase your brand perception when seamless and comfortable to the user.

Promoted tweets in Twitter and promoted videos in YouTube are some of the more blatant examples of native advertising. However, there are many additional ways to seamlessly share content through native environments.

The problem comes when native advertising doesn’t feel seamless or is not relevant to users.

Exhibit A: Personalized for Me

Gravity clearly had no idea what kind of information I accessed or want to access. When implementing native advertising in a smart digital media plan, make sure your content is delivered in a relevant experience.

April 21st, 2014


Eternal Beta, Episode 12 – Snapchat

In this Episode, Scott & Scott talk about Snapchat. They discuss how the social network works and how companies are using it for marketing.