« July 2011 | Main | September 2011 »

Social Media Changes The Branding Game


Brands abc blocks Do we expect too much from social media and in particular social networks? Marketers anticipate Facebook, Twitter, blogs, video sites a la YouTube, niche communities and now Google+ will not only create awareness, support customer service but increase .. ROI .. revenue. Social media has become a one-stop shop for extending the brand. 

So I got to thinking .. does social media really fit as a branding tactic? First, I guess we better figure out what is this thing called "branding." Barbara Findlay Schenck's post on MSN Business On Main goes into a deep dive about traditional branding. Not only does she tell how to value your brand but provides a few definitions. She describes a brand as ~ Your brand is what people believe about the promise your business upholds and the benefits it consistently delivers

Let's zero in on ~ benefits it consistently delivers. Let's move in closer to the word consistently. Most marketers and branding experts (ah at last we can call someone an "expert" without the world coming to a stop!) would agree that consistently is the secret sauce when it comes to branding. It's what gives us a sense of comfort and security in making that purchase decision. 

There are many elements that build brand offline and in the digital world including the social web. Tactics range from the visual .. consistent logo design across all channels to the strategic .. targeting the same audience in all medias. However, social media adds the dimension of people having conversations. That changes the branding game. 

So I got to thinking .. if social media is about the people/employees behind the brand interacting as their authentic selves, can there still be consistency of brand?  The challenge is how to be yourself in the social web while maintaining the value and promise of your brand.

I like to think of it as adding jimmies (or sprinkles for those of you who didn't grow up in the Boston area) to an ice cream cone. The "brand" is of course the ice cream and the jimmies are the dash of Ice cream cone
extra personality and humanity that people bring to the brand. However, some brands just don't go well with bright pink sprinkles. What can you do if you are a pink person but your brand is mint green? 

Now comes the extra fun part .. You can win $100!

 MSN BOM is providing me with $100 to run a monthly contest. Thank you kindly MSN.  This month's deal. Let's create a list of tips on how a business can use social media for branding.

What is your tip on how to use social media to support branding? The suggestion that Max & I and our special guest judge BL Ochman choose will win 100 dollars

BL&Benny_kiss (3) I am thrilled that internationally, respected, marketer B.L. Ochman has agreed to be our guest judge this month. B.L. has worked with Fortune 500 companies helping them incorporate emerging media as part of their strategy. She is the founder of the popular What's Next Blog and the innovative pet lover's site Paw Fun. Join B.L. on Twitter too! 

To get you started here are .. 

3 Social Media Branding Tips 

1. Build the story of the brand, as well as the brand value and promise, into new employee orientation sessions. 

2. Create an internal communications strategy that keeps all employees up dated about new brand strategies.

3. Ask employees, who are participating in social media how they will be the guardian of the brand, while still being their real self. 

Note: More on social media and branding from Heidi Cohen 

Rules of The Business on Main/Diva Marketing Social Media Branding Tips Contest

1. Post your tip for how to use social media for branding on this Diva Marketing post And on this Business On Main post

2. Identify your post on Business On Main with the words Diva Marketing

3. Winner is at the pleasure of Diva Marketing

4. Contest ends midnight September 15, 2011

5. You must be at least 18 years of age

6. A valid eMail address must be included on the "Post a Comment Section" of your Diva Marketing comment. (How will I know where to contact you to send your check!)

That's it .. now it's your turn!

Diva Marketing is part of an online influencer network for Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis. All opinions are 100% mine.

Graphics credit: Luster .. the cute ice cream cones are charms and pins.

We Lost Our Social Media Way


Signs which-way-to-go Once upon a time, in the days when blogs were beginning to make their way into the world of marketing, customer service and branding  blog content was created by CEOs, CIOs and others within the organization who were brand and industry knowledgeable. They were (for the most part) people who had a distinct point of view and, more than not, some prestige within the enterprise.

Posts were valued as nuggests of insights and supported business goals. However, the secret of blogs went beyond providing content. The world was introduced to the real people behind the brand. These real people were using blogs as a key to open doors to building important stakeholder relationships. 

Sure there were challenges .. lots. We were building a new way of communicating that ripped open the Wizard of Oz curtain. We learned to create 'gard rails' and 'house rules' that still allowed for authenticity.

From a recent Hugh MacLeod, gapingvoid post - 

.. it was hard work. You had to write a lot, every day. And you had to be a good writer with something to say. Or else it would wither on the vine.

In other words, the barriers to entry were high, in terms of both talent and energy required.

Then came the social networks and the slide from fully developed ideas to posts that required only 140 characters in a tweet or 420 characters in a Facebook post. (I must tell you I <3 Twitter and social networks that provide opportunites to build community.) Something interesting began to happen in the world of social media. 

Perhaps it was that writing short was perceived as a "throw away" that anyone one could do. Perhaps it was that since many students had spent their high school and college years playing on Facebook that it appeared easy to do. Perhaps it was the perception that if celebrities like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber were tweeting than The Twitter was indeed little more than a toy and not a real business tool. How important could it really be?

Marketing managers realized that updating social media networks could be time consuming. Since The Twitter and Facebook weren't really important, why waste the time of the important people?

Light bulb An ah ha moment! I-n-t-e-r-n-s, who more often than not, were here today, gone tomorrow and junior employees, who had little experience with the brand and less with strategy, were tapped.

Silly marketing managers gave control of builidng relationships in these new socal networks to people with limited brand  .. their brand .. experience. 

Somewhere along the way we as marketers lost our way.

We lost our way in our thinking .. short didn't require smart or brand savvy.

We lost our way in thinking ..  playing with new technologies were the same as building tactics based on strategy.

We lost our way in thinking .. creating games using new technologies equated to "social media."

We lost our way in thinking .. anyone could represent our brand if the "conversation" was short.

On MSN Business On Main post, The Runaway Brand: Who's Tweeting For YouJoanna Krutz provides a series of tips. Her point of view is that with strucure and guidance interns and junior staff can create social network content. I might align with her thoughts regarding junior staff but I would be very cautious about bringing in interns to serve as the front line voice of your brand. Skip over to BOM and let me know your thoughts. 

By the way, Joanna mentions the now imfamous Chrysler Twitter debacle in her post. Ed Garston, head of electronic media for Chrsler, told me the back-story in a Diva Maketing exclusive interview

Graphic credit: Hungry Health Happy The Adventures of Mr. Riley

Diva Marketing is part of an online influencer network for Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis. All opinions are 100% mine.

Food Trucks R Coming! Conversation with James DiSabatino, Roxy Gourmet Grilled Cheese


"Amazing bread does great things for the world. Great bread is inspiring." - James DiSabation

Food truck_james and truck

James DiSabatino has a love affair with bread and cheese. It makes total sense when you find out that he's the owner of the Boston based food truck Roxy Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Barely 3-months out of the gate, Roxy was a contestant (and eventually a finalist) in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race.

James kindly agreed to juggle his packed days to judge Diva Marketing's marketing tips contest re: food trucks (sponsored by MSN Business On Main). The winner is highlighted below. Toss of a pink boa to Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe for the intro to James.

Last week James chatted with me about Roxy's back story, his philosophy on the food truck biz and of course using social media as a marketing tactic. We discovered that in addition to sharing a love of food and food trucks, we are also Emerson College alums .. and the world continues to spin smaller!

Diva Marketing/Toby: Roxy was so new why did you apply for a competition that put you up against more seasoned food truck owners?

James  DiSabatino: We didn't .. they recruited us. We thought it was a joke until we got the casting email. They were searching online and we kept coming up in their searches. Guess they liked the Boston focus and brothers from Boston who grilled cheese sandwiches and were in a rock band. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: So it seems that social media networks works. Twitter, Facebook not only pulled Roxy up in the search rankings but created an image the producers thought would make good TV.

I found it interesting that the Roxy guys were the only team wearing t-shirts that promoted their city not their brand. James told me although he pushed hard to wear Roxy t-shirts, the Food Network insisted the guys wear "Boston" shirts. They never really found out why. Who knows how producers' minds work?

Diva Marketing/Toby: What's the story behind the name Roxy?

James  DiSabatino: A tribute to someone in my life that I want to keep a mystery. People would come up to us and not ask who Roxy was but say things like .. so is Roxy a fill in the blank. They were making assumptions. I thought it would be a good idea to leave it up to their imaginations. Roxy could be anyone they wanted her to be.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Quite naturally grilled cheese lends itself to nostalgia positioning. Roxy's fun branding reflects what I'd call -- retro with an edge.

The Icon/Logo: An innocent young girl, wearing 1950's style pigtails, happily munches on a grilled cheese sandwich. But look closer and you'll find a skull and cross bones tatoo on her arm. The tat pays homage to Blood For Blood a favorite Roxy Boston band.

James was cautioned not to add the tat. Some people thought it could be risky. However, as James said to me, "We don't do safe."

Nope .. they sure don't. Not in their logo design nor in their food. As it turned out the icon fits perfectly with the positioning of a retro feel with contemporary flavorsFood Truck _Roxy twitter
So who are Roxy's clients? They run from college students to grandparents who bring their grandchildren along. Grilled cheese, even gourmet grilled cheese, crosses generations, "It's not a hard sell," James assured me.  

Diva Marketing/Toby: So James, what's your marketing deal? 

James DiSabatino: We never planned to spend any money on advertising and we never will. We wanted the experience to create awareness through our community and using social media. 

We take time to interact with our customers to help create an experience for them. It’s more than getting the food out the window. Our #1 priority is getting to know our customers one person at a time.

Our wait line is longer than most food trucks. It takes 3.5 minutes per side to grill the sandwich .. it’s just part of the experience. Customers hang out with each out and engage with each other .. creating community. I engage with people on line. I respond to tweets. I ask questions and sometimes get flavor ideas. We’re building culture online and offline. 

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Perhaps one day we'll find a Roxy grilled cheese sandwich named for a Twitter @! 

In addition to building community with and among Roxy's customers, James has a strong focus to support and give back to the communities that host the Roxy truck. Watch for the Roxy team to soon be involved with offline events. These events provide opportunities to earn money which will be donated to local causes. One of Jame's favorite causes is early childhood education. 

Diva Markting/Toby: What would you tell people who have not tried food truck food?

James DiSabatino: It's some of best food and the best food experience you'll have. No where else can you interact directly with the chef who is making your food.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Never thought about food trucks in quite that way. I might call food trucks a with the people food experience!

Drum beat please ... the moment we've been waiting ... for the winner of the marketing tips contest re: food trucks is Jane Genova! Jane $100 prize is sponsored by MSN Business On Main.

James DiSabatino's Food Truck Marketing Tips Response 

"As a food truck owner, and having spent years of research before opening, I never once asked myself "What should my marketing budget be?" While this may play an important role in restaurants, food trucks take on a different culinary role in the neighborhood.

Rather than wondering what you should be spending on marketing, a food truck owner should ask him or herself, "What do I need to fully engage my community?" If you're planning on opening a food truck, whether you're going to be the chef, the order taker, the expediter, you will be interacting with your customers directly. And to remain successful, you have to be an important part of the community you're serving in.

So based on my ideology, I choose number four, who suggests feeding the homeless. Rather than giving your money to someone else, you’re using your money to feed people in your community who can’t afford to eat themselves. It's all about community engagement, and bringing a community together is the number one priority a food truck should have if they want to stay in business. 

Runner up would be number two (Debra Gaynor), creating alliances to cater weddings. While 10 food trucks will split the money up quite a bit, two or three trucks offering catering services for weddings is an excellent idea. It gets a group of closely interconnected people (with large networks) excited about your business. This is a great grassroots marketing idea, because you have a public ready to spread the word, all while making money for the wedding!"

Jane genova
Jane Genova's Winning Food Truck Marketing Tip

TRUCK KITCHEN. One day a week for two hours, the truck distributes free servings in a neighborhood for the poor and homeless. But there’s more. Give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for life.

The food truck owner can teach a poor or homeless person to blog about the experience at the local public library. That account could be aired on television. Also, a poor or homeless can be taught to use a video camera and record how it is to be homeless. That could be edited for a documentary.

Thanks to all who participated .. you all offered ideas that could help Food Trucks roll into success .. or something like that. 

Continue the conversation with James and the Roxy Team!

Roxy's Grilled Cheese on Twitter

James DiSabation on Twitter

Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Website

Food Network Great Food Truck Race

Friday Fun: Along The Way I Saw More


Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly.

If I were to ask you what you see or what you remember along the way .. what would you say? 

Last week I visited my family in Massachusetts. One of my favorite spots is the North End of Boston. If you can't afford a trip to Italy it's the next best thing. Turn a corner and you find delight. Even some thing as simple as a box of blueberries or tables in a court yard can inspire.

North End_Kaye
A small grocery's store window. I loved the way the boxes were stacked and the colors of the fruit so I pulled out my iPhone and clicked. After I took the photo I saw more .. my cousin Kaye Ellen's reflection and a brick building from the other side of the street were part of the display.

  North End _Boston Fiore_2

Tables in a court yard. In the Norh End there are more restaurants per square inch than any other place in the city. Looking through the rod iron gate into a restaurant's court yard dining area was especially charming. I felt like I was walking the streets of Firenze. After taking the photo I saw more .. the pattern of the shadows on the ground played like street art.

Sign of a restaurant. To help me remember the name of the restaurant I shot the sign. After taking the photo I saw more .. the tag line "Inspired by you" brought a nod and a smile.

If you were to ask your customers what they saw or remembered along the way what would they say? What seemingly small experience, that you might have over looked as special, help your customers see more of what sets your brand apart?

How can your customers inspire you? Simple. Unexpected. Powerful.  

Dedicated to my dad, Lou Bloomberg, who loved the North End too.