Awareness is Everything

Friday, September 12, 2008


Arrived at work this morning, and my boss wasn’t in yet. It took me a minute, and then I remembered, he’s volunteering today with LifeWorks. One of our work benefits is that we get one day a year to volunteer for something that pulls at our heartstrings.

What sort of impact does this have on our business? Having been involved in volunteer organizations, my reaction is: volunteering has a big, positive impact! It builds interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, increases patience and flexibility, among other things. And then there’s just that feel-good high you get from helping another human being.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one that thinks this. According to the 2008 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, companies are paying attention to volunteering.

“Not only does skills-based volunteering provide much-needed support to local nonprofits, but it also helps foster meaningful business and leadership skills among employees.”

What are your thoughts? How has volunteering impacted your skill set, career or business?

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity to use and build your skill set or portfolio, check out AustinProBono, a site that connects businesses that want to help with nonprofits that need help.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Starbucks Media Jolt

Branding has become a hot topic again in the mainstream media (to some, myself included, it is always a hot topic. I guess it is the nature of the job). This week on the Today Show they featured the decline of the Starbucks brand. Starbucks’ woes in the last year, slowed growth and declining sales, is no secret and it seems every advertising joe has an opinion on what they should do. Most opinions center on returning the focus to the baristas and making the best espresso. The point being that the barista position (for more on baristas visit here) is not interchangeable with the cashier or the greeter or even the store manager, it is a honed skill that takes training and plays a pivotal role in elevating Starbucks above competitors. AND the extended business lines – music, movies, network tv, really doesn’t heighten the taste of my Grande Non-Fat, Double Vanilla Late at the end of the day either.

It would appear Starbucks is listening. In addition to the expected permanent closure of several stores and 600 job cuts, Starbucks temporarily closed all stores Tuesday evening (2/26) for several hours to retrain employees err baristas to “provide a renewed focus on espresso standards” (see full letter to partners, entitled “Starbucks Makes Organizational Changes to Enhance Customer Experience”). There are also plans to stop serving hot breakfast by the end of Fiscal ’08 and offer free or discounted WiFi beginning this spring.

So the obvious question is…was this really an effort to put the focus back on good coffee making OR was it a PR exploit to show off Starbucks renewed focus?

I present exhibit A: National Media Coverage of Starbucks Closing

Exhibit B:
  • Let me also point out that Starbucks isn’t open 24 hours and could have offered this “training session” after hours.
  • Not to mention, the length of the session was reported to be 3 hours. Can you really impart knowledge, grow your craft, and produce minions of genius baristas in a one-time 3 hour session?

Will it work? Well I suppose an afternoon training session is a start, but something tells me it is going to take more than a few hours of coffee making How To, to fix Starbucks (call me a pessimist). But maybe it is a start? Maybe, just maybe this media frenzy will make Starbucks accountable to their customers and force them to return to what made them good in the first place – good coffee and atmosphere? They have drawn a very public line in the sand, put a big ol’ stake in the ground, etc., etc. and the stage is set (can I use anymore clichés?) to deliver BIG. Does media frenzy = accountability = return to good coffee and atmosphere? Tell me what you think?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dogs Rule!

Here’s a campaign that seems to have popped up with a new found sense of urgency - Pedigree’s Dogs Rule campaign. The site, most likely the brainchild of TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles is extremely well done from both execution and strategic standpoints.

The premise is simple, “We Love Dogs”. What does that mean exactly? Well, in the context of this campaign it means that Pedigree will match monetary donations, as well as Pedigree product donations given by customers to assist animal shelters located near the customer/donator. Ultimately, it means that Pedigree is working to help homeless dogs find homes and ensure they are a little more comfortable during their temporary period of orphanhood.

Normally, at this point in the post, I’d walk through each creative deliverable and critique it’s execution within the context of the campaign. I’d throw around vernacular like viral components, digital revolution and Age of Conversation. In this particular post, I’ll save us the effort in wading through simple concepts with overly sophisticated names. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with the use of those terms, nor do I have issue with any of the sources linked above, but in this instance, they’re not of primary interest. The individual executions of this campaign are not flawless, but they are very well done. The point is this - where this campaign really sets itself apart; is when we step out of our “jaded creative guy” skin and put on the trusty “business” hat.

So what’s so different about this campaign? Take a look at the facts, and think about it……….
  • Dogs eat dog food.
  • Pedigree sells dog food.
  • Homeless dogs are put to sleep, thus removed from the market, if they are not adopted.
  • The Dogs Rule campaign is designed to help homeless dogs find adopted homes.
  • If the Dogs Rule campaign is successful in finding homes for homeless dogs, there will be more dogs in the market consuming dog food, thus the revenue potential of this vertical will increase.
As a result of the success of this campaign there could be a significant increase in revenue potential for Pedigree, given their current share of voice and share of market. This could potentially be the ultimate win/win scenario. Consumers, who love dogs, adopt a dog or an additional dog – Pedigree has helped them do so and the consumer couldn’t be happier. On the other side of the coin, Pedigree gets access to a larger pool of revenue that their customers, financially, helped them cultivate.

So here’s the point – In today’s marketing environment, full of the increasingly sophisticated, inevitably cynical consumer, your customers will cry bloody murder if they smell even a hint of corporate ambition. I’m not implying Pedigree went into this campaign with that particular objective, but what I’m saying is if you know the customer, and you create advertising/marketing strategy that is spot on to their needs……… doesn’t matter. As a brand, if you can show you know your customer and you care about what they care about AND provide the actions to support that claim then your leash (so to speak) gets significantly longer. In this case, people who love dogs tend to love ALL dogs, and genuinely appreciate the efforts of shelters, non-profit groups and dog food manufacturers alike who are working to improve the lives of dogs and enlighten owners-to-be. This campaign is a fantastic example of insights informing the creative process and creative being effectively implemented to support those findings.

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