Observations on brands in social media

I have only a few minutes to talk about this interesting read on social media and branding on Fast Company, so here are some observations:

Dunkin’ Donuts: People trust other real people and connect with them more than they do to talking animals or celebrities. And unless you’re trying to set up your brand as the Rolex of your industry (the superior product differentiation strategy), it may not make sense to say how superior your product is – show people, don’t tell them.

Clinique: I agree with the observation on Clinique’s “how-to” videos being more socially relevant than Axe’s frat-house humor. There’s a good reason “how-to” books are consistently big sellers: Consumers are looking for useful information on “how to” do many things. Take a look at your product or service and ask yourself what sort of “how-to” tutorial you can offer to build value to your audience.

Gimmicks: There may be a time and a place for gimmicks, but they just are not effective in the long-term. Find creative ways to play up the unique features of your product – fresh, never-frozen burger patties are a great selling point for a burger chain because of the taste and quality factors (ask Five Guys Burgers and Fries execs why their burgers outperformed McDonald’s and other, larger chains in a recent survey).

Finally, the article makes a good point. Social networking isn’t for everyone (Gillette’s campaign on shaving the “nether region” sends chills down my spine). Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.


‘Healthy’ marketing opportunities

A bicycle tour wound its way into Athens today (Sept. 14), providing city businesses a chance to show themselves off to potential future tourists.

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, or BRAT, is an annual tour organized by the Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Cumberland Trail Conference. A portion of proceeds benefit The Cumberland Trail Conference, a non-profit organization that promotes the Cumberland Trail State Park. The tour is staged along one of six basic routes each year to showcase different rural regions of the state.

The 175 cyclists in this year’s tour came not only from the Volunteer State but from surrounding states and even as far away as Michigan. They made camp tonight at a city park and were setting off the next day for Fort Loudon.

But before they settled in for the evening, all 175 cyclists and their support staff of 20 dined in nearby restaurants. To the best of my knowledge, no local business offered special deals to the cyclists. But they could have picked up future business by doing so.

Events like this present great opportunities for a community to market itself to potential future tourists. Scan the local news for events that draw visitors to your community and decide how you can use the event to market your business. In the case of a bicycle tour, you could hand out water bottles labeled with your logo. If you own a retail business, hand out special discount cards at such happenings that offer free shipping. The possibilities are endless by creating good will with people who like to travel.

Are you a servant leader?

Twenty years after his death, Robert Greenleaf’s ideas continue to inspire servant leaders.

In Insights on Leadership, Larry Spears sums up Greenleaf’s theory of servant leadership in 10 characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, helping people grow, and community building.

The Center For Ethics at Emory University reports that some of America’s top companies have embraced Greenleaf’s ideas. Many of Forbes’ “The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America” such as Whole Foods Market have embraced servant leadership. But what is servant leadership?

Greenleaf’s book Essentials says:

“The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

Do you seek to serve others first? If so, you’re on your way to being a servant leader.

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