At first, I was somewhat amused to see who was endorsing me for the different skills that I put up on my LinkedIn page. But soon, that amusement turned to bewilderment. If someone endorses me, do I have to endorse them back? What if I don’t really think their work is worth endorsing? What if I do not know them or have not worked with them? Is it bad behavior or poor manners not to re-endorse someone? What if I get endorsed by someone who has not worked with me in 10-15 years; is the endorsement really worth anything?
To me, it all is rather hollow. I will be nice to you, if you will be nice back to me. So in the end, it makes all of the endorsements worth almost nothing. According to the LinkedIn sages, endorsements are a quick and easy way of letting people know that you have worked with someone without having to go through the pain of writing a recommendation. Its quick, easy and painless, which is why written-out recommendations are now worth even more. If someone is willing to take the time to write a recommendation, either it is your mother, or someone who really values your work. Endorsing you is as simple as the click of a button, and takes little or no effort. And with the proliferation of mutual endorsements, it’s hard to judge if they really add up to anything other than a courtesy click.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of all of the LinkedIn services and changes that are unfolding. Endorsements may end up being a valuable tool and I will end up eating my words. According to a December Forbes article, “endorsements are fast becoming a popular feature. Since the launch, more than 200 million endorsements have been issued. Users are making roughly 10 million endorsements a day. The goal of the endorsement, she explains, is to make it easy for people to recognize you for your skills and expertise, without taking the time to compose a recommendation.”
Experience may factor into my perspective. For instance, if I was comparing two candidates for a job and one had a zillion endorsements and one had none, that might sway my decision. But if both had serious recommendations, that might take precedence.
So, my own personal rules are:
1. If you have a reason to commend a person’s skill sets, try to write a recommendation—it will go much further than an endorsement.
2. I am not going to get drawn into the maelstrom of endorsements. If you have endorsed me, thanks, but don’t be offended if I do not endorse you back. It’s nothing personal.
To reach the author, CEO Judy Kirpich, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The newest campaign from Oreo captured my attention last Sunday night when the anthem spot (a 90-second commercial) aired during Mad Men. The infectious tune has played in my head for almost a week now. And when I don’t hear it in my brain, my wife is actually singing it out loud.
So what is it about this campaign that’s so brilliant? Well, for one, it’s well executed. The Martin Agency has married smart lyrics and happy melody with vibrant animation. It’s impossible not to smile when you watch the commercials.
But there’s something deeper here — something very smart and insightful in all this wonderfullness. Oreo is reaching out to an audience that has forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. As adults, see the world through preconceptions, doubt, and cynicism. Oreo is reminding us to look with openness and curiosity.
For some, these reminders are impossible to miss. Earlier this week, many New Yorkers were greeted by groups of a cappella singers belting out the cheery Oreo anthem. AdAge reports that similar events are planned for Chicago and Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
Clearly, Oreo is intending to deliver complete brand engagement with these experiences. And I would expect there are many more in the works. Why? Because Martin understands the Oreo-buying world is happy to be “wonderfilled” if only for a few moments. And it’s perfectly logical to connect those moments with a brand they’ve loved for a lifetime.
For me, this is one of those advertising campaigns that makes me say, “Wow, I wish I’d done that.” And in the words of the song, I just wanted to pass my wonder on.
To reach the author, Chief Creative Strategist Hal Swetnam, you can email him at email@example.com.
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In the interest of full disclosure, I am heavy—definitely overweight and probably have been all my life—except for the four months leading up to my wedding. So it is with a biased perspective that I read of Abercrombie & Fitch’s position towards fat people. According to an article in Business Insider, this clothing retailer does not want to sell its clothes to overweight women or men. The CEO, Mike Jefferies, has been given a lot of flak for stating that he only wants to sell his clothing to “cool kids.”
“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” said Jeffries.
People are up in arms over his statement, and while I would never be caught dead in an Abercrombie & Fitch store—and apparently they don’t want me in their stores either—this is nothing but good positioning and a solid marketing strategy. Knowing that you can not be all things to all people is the benchmark of intelligent positioning. In retail, there are tons of examples of brands that clearly define their audiences from Forever 21 to DTLR. You will never see an ugly person in a Ralph Lauren broadside and Lily Pulitzer ads did not feature inner-city youth. In all of these cases it just was not their target market.
Looking at the plethora of comments to an article, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Explains Why He Hates Fat Chicks, the vast majority of them are negative. But one particularly astute comment that stood out among the bashing.
Devon Houston, the CEO at True Artist Productions, comments, “It is a marketing strategy, but it being a marketing strategy does not make it a smart move to openly insult or discriminate openly against people that you sell to.”
Understanding and focusing on a niche audience is smart. Crowing about it in a public forum is not.
To reach the author, CEO Judy Kirpich, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Today has been deemed Give Out Day, and in support, Grafik has made a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. We’re proud to take part in this event and have been actively supporting the Matthew Shepard Foundation for the last three years. With the help of my partner and friends, I began hosting a fundraising event each year in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to “replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.”
You can contact the author Gregg Glaviano, principal and creative director, at email@example.com.
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For many years Grafik has had the privilege of working with the National Museum of the American Indian. As the designers of the museum’s identity, we often worked with curators to make sure that we were capturing the essence of the museum. One such curator was George Horse Capture, a legend in the in the museum professional community. Mr. Horse Capture died in April at the age of 75, and upon seeing his obituary I was reminded of a wonderful encounter that one of my partners, Lynn Umemoto, and I had with him.
Lynn and I were charged with designing a logo for a fundraising campaign in the mid-’90s. The theme of the campaign was The Great American Spirit, and our long time colleague, Maggie Bertin, requested that we use a feather as the emblem of the campaign. As with most of the NMAI projects, budgets were tight, and I was glad to have the client give us a clear idea of what she wanted. To us, a feather was a feather, and I started the design team off and running designing marks.
As with all NMAI projects, all designs were passed by a curator, and in this case George Horse Capture was our man. I distinctly remember presenting a wide variety of beautiful feather marks to him for his approval—all lovely forms. And, I will never forget his face as he looked at our feather logos. “You can’t use any of these feathers! They are all wrong,” he proclaimed. I was stunned expecting that he would love several of our designs. He paused, and in a calm voice taught us that all feathers are not created equally. For one thing, all of our feathers looked like crow feathers, a symbol that was not appropriate for the new institution. And our designer had sensitively broken the structure of the feather at 3/4 of the way down—also a no-no. Quality feathers are those of an eagle or a hawk and the feather’s edge could not be broken—the way we had shown it. George took that opportunity to educate us, not put us down, and yet he would not accept anything that was not perfect. We worked on that feather for weeks until we got it just the way he wanted it.
I have worked with hundreds of clients over the years, but few are stored in my memory bank the way George Horse Capture is. And while I have not seen him in years, the impression he made is indelible. I will miss him.
To reach the author and CEO Judy Kirpich, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Google “hottest woman ever” and you will see a picture of Jena, my buddy Eric Weaver‘s wife. Jena is definitely hot, but this is only her passport photo and still it’s usually the first Google search result. Check it out here or just search “hottest woman ever” on Google.
Eric is SVP Social Strategy & Intelligence at IPG Mediabrands. He posted this image of Jena on Flickr in 2005 and frequently refers to it in speaking engagements to make the point that Google loves engagement.
To quote Eric:
“Google loves engagement (commentary and likes) over impressions because they believe that if one item of content is generating an online reaction, others will find that content interesting too.”
“In this case, there’s no reason this photo should be ranked over Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie —except that Flickr as a destination gets billions of comments around hundreds of millions of photos—so Google is assigning it more priority than most of the “hot chick” blogs, which have very little dialogue. Otherwise, Jena’s photo would be on page 300 or so.”
“I just tell people that she’s hot and Google knows.”
SHARE THIS TAGS:Analytics, Interactive, Search Marketing, Social Media
Okay. I admit it. I am in love with Kodiak Cakes—flapjacks to be precise. I am not a pancake fan, but Kodiak Cakes have me dreaming about breakfast. So why would this be interesting at all? Well, it’s a great example of how packaging and a good story has the power to attract and pull a consumer (me) in.
I was shopping at Target—picking up the usual staples that a family needs to function—paper towels, toothpaste, and soap. I generally do not think of Target when I think of gourmet food shopping. I don’t really consider their Archer Farms to be fine food—maybe for trail mix or nuts, but that is about the limit. I have always thought that Archer Farms has been a mediocre attempt at giving a personality to a store brand, better than most, but still generic. As I went to pick up a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, I noticed a really interesting box—brown kraft paper with a great illustration of a Kodiak bear.
Now, I am a sucker for good packaging, but I hesitated for a moment when I saw that the price was higher than the familiar low price spread. I picked up the box, and read the copy. By God it had great copy. Even the word “flapjack” sounded hipper and groovier than “pancake.” So, price be damned, I felt that good creative deserved support, and I plunked the box into my shopping cart.
I did not expect a whole lot from the mix, but was thrilled to find out that the product was as good as the packaging—and it is even healthy for you. I was so impressed that I actually went to their website to learn more about the firm. I found that in my area you can buy Kodiak Cakes in Target or Balducci’s. Talk about a price spread. By the way, I am not the only fan. If you look on their website, you will find adoring letters about the pancake mix.
I have looked at lots of packaging in my day—too many quaint, old-tyme tea boxes for a lifetime. When I looked at Kodiak and read the copy, I did not feel marketed to—it spoke in an authentic tone, and it invited me in. It jumped off the shelf, packaged in a box that was distinctly different from its competitors, and it made the extra dollar in cost irrelevant. I was able to get past the fact that it was at Target (yes, call me a gourmet snob) but, actually, I will probably look at the food goods at Target quite differently now that I have had a good experience with one of their product selections.
Authenticity. Great packaging. Yummy product. Okay price. All the ingredients for success.
SHARE THIS TAGS:Advertising, Brand Strategy, Branding, Business of Design, Logo Branding, Packaging
“The new JCPenney is an injustice to middle America. The stores look like they are going out of business. Their most notable product lines have vanished, and the walls, shelves, and racks are depleted, stark, and sterile. Survey your customers and respond to their feedback. The board of directors needs to wake up. New is less and the old is more!” —Kathy of Maryland on February 4, 2013
Poor Ron Johnson, CEO of JCPenney. He is getting his pay cut for not being able to transform the JCPenney brand from a lackluster player to a Target-like phenome. And it has not been for lack of trying. First, there were three new logos in three years, all met with a certain amount of indifference. There was a new brand statement: Every initiative we pursue will be guided by our core value to treat customers as we would like to be treated—fair and square. (One of the new logos is a square that clumsily alludes to Fair and Square.) There were the new stark interiors and new mobile checkout units instead of cash registers. And most importantly there was a new pricing strategy—the launch of the new Fair and Square deals—no sales, no haggling, no coupons, no weekend specials. Trouble is, that their customer base really liked shopping for sales, and really liked bargain hunting.
By August 2012, according to Bloomberg Business, “Same-store traffic and sales fell dramatically for a second quarter, indicating—not surprisingly—that JCPenney ’s strategy misfired.” Ron Johnson’s answer was, “While we have work to do to educate the customer on our pricing strategy and to drive more traffic to our stores, we are confident in our vision to become America’s favorite store.” Well, it seems that loyal JCPenney clients were not happy with the new changes. A selection of comments from Consumer Affairs show how angry their customer base is.
“Big CEO person, change it back! Your way is not working. Everybody I know who used to shop there complain about the selection and how much they hate it! We want our old JCPenney back! I am sure your higher ups have to see a drastic decrease in sales since your new buyer personnel has come on board. Change it back!”
“Yet, the majority of us who used to shop there have no products to choose from. Your large women department is a joke. My husband can’t find the brand of pants he used to buy in your store. Your linen department got rid of American Eagle and sold a substandard Penney’s brand now. There are more employees than shoppers. I have money and I plan on spending it, just not in your store. You have become the Kmart of retail stores.”
“I am (was) a loyal JC Penney customer. I am 54 and ex-New Yorker who spent zillion hours shopping in my life while always hunting for a good sale, a good sale, which is something you took away! Why did you allow this to happen? Why did you stop the fun sales? You allowed this non-retail person to end fashionable and affordable lines for ladies (who are not 15 and a size 0).”
Brand, know thy target. JCPenney’s loyal customer base is not the teeny bopper set. It is generally older, with some disposal income, used to shopping sales, and comfortable with many of the once familiar brands the store used to stock. With the new move towards a younger demographic, older JCPenney brand loyalists feel disenfranchised and they are vowing not to return to the brand. And new partnerships with designer brands like Michael Graves, Martha Stewart, and Jonathan Adler are too much like a Target-wannabe for my tastes.
Solid brands form lasting impressions—and whether you are a JCP devotee or not, it is almost impossible to do a remake of an old brand overnight. Changing product mixes, developing a new pricing strategy, AND not allowing the customer base to adapt to it, learn about it, weigh in, is not wise. If in-depth research was not commissioned before the JCP remake, then the CEO and his marketing team should be fired. If focus groups were not asked about the new interiors, then the negative backlash the company is experiencing should come as no surprise. One has to wonder, if indeed Ron Johnson wanted to recast a retail environment for a completely different demographic, should he have lost the JCP brand entirely and launched a completely new retail brand? And perhaps the biggest takeaway Johnson should learn is that it is one thing to mess with a store brand. It is quite another to mess with a pricing strategy.
Shoppers take pride in their “salesmanship”—their ability to save, to get something for less, their acumen at bargain hunting. Witness the success of Marshalls, T.J.Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack—all based on the love of the hunt for a deal. While JCP is now backpedaling on their fair and square deals, it will take a lot more to get shoppers back into the doors of this retailer.
SHARE THIS TAGS:Advertising, Anything + Everything, Brand Strategy, Branding, Business of Design, Design Issues, Logo Branding
The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, was proud that his company had hit over 1 billion hours of video watching in one month. He posted a congratulatory note on his personal Facebook account praising his team for his hard work, and that 43 word message resulted in a slap on the hand from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saying that he broke the Regulation Fair Disclosure act that requires a company to disclose information to all investors at the same time. While he has over 200,000 followers on his personal Facebook page, it is not an official corporate sanctioned page—and the 1 billion hour record could have been deemed insider information. However, if he had followed up his casual praise with a press release on the company page, all would be well.
On Tuesday, according to a NY Times article, the SEC reviewed their antiquated policies towards social media giving corporations a bit more leeway to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to disseminate information. After several months of investigation the SEC has relaxed its stance and said that if a corporation makes it clear which pages or feeds will be used to send out announcements, corporations may use social media outlets to communicate with their employees and investors. Unfortunately, the Netflix investigation may result in less spontaneity. CEOs will be more cautious and seek compliance approval before releasing information, especially on unofficial company pages.
I read this article with a certain amount of amusement. Our newspapers are filled with stories about serious insider trading, from Galleon to SAC Capital. But sanctions for praising employees for a job well done seem a bit crazy to me. And ignoring the importance of social media platforms is not only crazy but insane. The social media horse has already left the gate, and the SEC is wise to re-evaluate antiquated policies—even if those policies are only a few years old.
A CEO should have access to social media to compliment staff, connect with customers, and voice her thoughts and opinions. If smart investors are willing and able to find research and valuable information trolling on these open pages and feeds—is that wrong? Or is it really the democratization of insider trading?
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April Fools’ Day: a day to celebrate a bit of lighthearted fun. To some, it’s just another day; to many, it’s an afterthought; but then there are those select few dedicated souls who await this day all year with eager anticipation, spending weeks (or months) plotting the perfect practical joke. To those, we commend you for your efforts, and thank you for providing the rest of us with a source of entertainment to brighten up the workday. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite pranks from this year:
South by Southwest: The celebrated Austin festival introduced the newest addition to its family of conferences and events. The spoof festival, dubbed SWSWuni , had its own landing page, which tagged the new event as a festival that explores all things “uni,” from unibrows to unicycles. During the event, festival-goers would partake in “unifying unity for the universe” and the site touted a special screening of cult classic “The Last Unicorn” as one of the main events. Note: We won’t name names, but there were at least two Grafites who were devastated to learn this festival was a joke.
Google: Leave it to Google to go above and beyond on April Fools’ Day, and the tech titan pulled out all the stops this year. Positioned in prime real estate below the search bar on Google’s homepage, Google’s new smell-based search engine “Nose” was bound to catch users’ eyes. Dubbed “the new scentsation in search,” the fake tool came complete with a landing page featuring smell-related puns (e.g., “AdScent” replaced Google AdSense), a spoof video, and clickable examples of the “Fragrant Google Experience.”
Google Maps also got in on the joke, adding a new feature called “Treasure” to the map menu functions. When users clicked on the Treasure icon, they could search for buried treasure and experience Street View in a sepia tone. And Google didn’t stop there. Among other pranks, the company released a video announcing that YouTube was no more, turned Gmail blue, and added “Emotions+” to Google+.
The White House: Not exactly the first organization that comes to mind when you think of April Fools’, but the Obama Administration showed off its sense of humor by promoting a special announcement from the President that would air at 10 a.m. However, when users tuned to the White House website, the “announcement” turned out to be a video featuring YouTube sensation “Kid President,” who soared to stardom with his role in a series of viral videos. “Kid President,” also known as nine-year-old Robby Novak, later attended the White House Easter Egg Roll as a special guest.
Twitter: Naturally, Twitter didn’t miss a beat on April Fools’, and the company got in on the action by announcing that they were rolling out a brand new two-tiered service. Under this new model, users could pay $5 a month to continue to use the original Twitter, or they could opt to use the new sister site Twttr for free, with the caveat that they would only be able to post in consonants. The company also announced a new service where users would have the opportunity to post a tweet with 141 characters rather than the standard 140, so long as they purchased the extra character through a bidding system.
Netflix: The video-streaming site has caught some flack over the years for its über-specific categories, and what better way to handle the criticism than getting in on the joke? In honor of April Fools’ Day, Netflix added a tongue-in-cheek movie or TV show category to each user’s account. Examples of these faux-categories included “Reality TV About People With No Concept Of Reality” and “Movies Featuring An Epic Nicolas Cage Meltdown.”
Vimeo: The video site proved it’s up on trends by capitalizing on the wildly popular cat video niche. A letter from the “Pawsident” on the site’s blog announced that the company formerly known as Vimeo was now Vimeow, a “felis catus-centric service.”
What was your favorite April Fools’ prank this year? Share your favorites in the comments section.
Happy April from all of us at Grafik!
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