The Holiday shopping season is looking bleak.

November 12, 2009

The economy crisis will be affecting all aspects of holiday shopping this year.  Sales and coupons will be consumer’s biggest buys while regular priced items may collect dust on the shelves.  People have even voiced that second hand shops for close friends and family will not be out of the question to buying gifts.  Last year’s holiday decorations will be dusted off and reused before the purchase of new ones. 

People will be more opt to buying practical gifts such as clothing and necessities rather than toys and novelty items.  If people are creative that will give them even more options to make gifts this year.  Homemade calendars with pictures printed right from your computer would make a great thoughtful gift.  Joint gifts and secret Santa’s will probably be more popular this year as well.  A ConsumerReports survey on 1,000 adults said that two-thirds of the U.S. plan to spend less this year and that 6 percent are still paying of last year’s holiday debt. 

Some stores have already began trying to make sure that the smaller percent of people who will be shopping, shop at their stores by making sure they market themselves perfectly. has begun their free shipping promotion two weeks earlier this year and also has expanded the number of items available for free shipping.  Some stores who have been already affected by last year’s lack of holiday spending might not have the funds to do as much advertising as the bigger stores. 

Barry Judge the chief marketing director of Best Buy has began targeting young consumers this holiday season.  By placing ads on Twitter and Facebook.  By using these social media networks Best Buy can focus on the younger consumers and that is where they are, not looking in the newspaper.  

The key to financially effective shopping this year is to start the season with a budget and a list.  Start with your budget first, how much realistically can you spend this season.  When doing so remember mostly everyone will be cutting back this season.  Then make a list and next to each name and write the amount you want to spend on each person.  Be creative and talk with siblings about secret Santa’s so you only need to buy for one family member than all five.  Try to use cash unless you know factually you can pay your credit card off after each purchase.  Holiday shopping shouldn’t put you in debt it should be fun!

By Kate Kiselka

Social media: You’re not notable by your absence

July 1, 2009

Lots of companies, especially smaller ones, are a little freaked out by social media. They might not fully comprehend the purpose. They may feel it is a risky, uncontrollable venture. They may view it as the domain of the young and those with too much time on their hands. They may consider it a potential time-waster, or they may not see the value in devoting money and human resources to it, especially when they can still invest money in the tried and true marketing methods they have employed for years and, in some cases, decades.

It is time for businesses of every size to throw all of these caveats out the window. A lack of participation in social media at this point is akin to a lack of a web site or e-mail. Social media offers a terrific, relatively low-cost opportunity for every sort of business that wants to build stronger, more interactive relationships with its customers and spread the good word about its products and services.

Still, admittedly, social media can be a little overwhelming. Where to start?

Read the rest of this entry »

Twitter is dead

April 30, 2009

3291616685_9a9bf42b3b1Well, maybe not, but it sure ain’t sticky and it’s not looking like it has legs. According to this article, called “Twitter users not sticking around”, more than 60 percent of Twitter users stop using the service a month after joining. That eqautes to a 40 percent retention rate. At a similar stage, says the article, Facebook’s retention rate was twice as high. Same with MySpace. I have to say that I am one of those people who went Twitter-crazy for a month and then got tired of the limited functionality and never-ending glitchiness of the site and returned full-time to the wicked but loving arms of Facebook.

While it has some legitimate applications, on a macro level Twitter has all the makings of a fad that we’ll all laugh about fondly in a decade. Celebrity and newscaster tweeting has already become rote fodder for TV comedians. TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley, never one to pull punches, even implied the service was pointless and annoying during an in-show commercial Tuesday promoting TNT’s Twitter accounts. Back in the day, we’d have said Twitter has jumped the shark.

From a PR and marketing perspective, that doesn’t mean we need to abandon Twitter. Quite the contrary. We need to exploit its capabilities as much as we can. But we also need to keep in mind that its influence may very well have peaked.

From my view, Facebook is a much more effective play for all but customer service applications.

Posted by Joe Paone

Ad Guy Says PR Is More Relevant Than Ever

April 16, 2009

Next time you need to justify what you do as a public relations professional, point your judge to this article… which was written by an advertising executive, no less. It’s a terrific, inspiring, timely read.

Posted by Joe Paone

Help for the Yelped: Social media PR tips

April 3, 2009

Fortune Small Business interviewed Yelp’s CEO and co-founder, Jeremy Stoppelman, for a recent article titled “Help for the Yelped”.  Yelp, a review based site posting users’ reviews about local services in the US (please tell me you don’t need this qualifier…if you do, please visit the site) , is exploding in popularity and boasts about 20 million users. The article noted that more than 85% of Yelp’s reviews are positive (earning 3-5 star ratings), leaving 15% of reviews that are negative. That is 3 MILLION negative reviews – Yikes! – and it’s not just restaurants and hair salons that need to worry as more and more users are posting reviews about car mechanics, lawyers, doctors…

Users, as well as the reviewed, can rest assured knowing that Yelp has a system in place to remove “dodgy  reviews” (I love the word dodgy!) that may be skewing results (self-ratings and sabotage missions).  For Yelp users and non’s, the article is an interesting FYI. If you are business owner, take a look at the Do’s and Don’ts on how to “navigate this brave new world without Yelping in pain”. And, if you are a PR or marketing professional, here are some interesting parallels to share with your business or clients who may be tentative to embrace social media.

My paraphrase of the Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Don’t be afraid of it. It’s this new thing called the “in-ter-net” (kidding). It’s like anything else you do, the more you know the game and practice, the more comfortable you will become and better you will be.
  • Sign up for an account.  Identify who’s talking about you (products, services, the market, and related topics) and where (blogs, forums, Twitter, wherever). It’s up to you to decide if it is idle chit chat or warrants a response, but wouldn’t your rather hear it from the horse’s mouth then have it said behind your back? Because, either way, they are still talking.
  •  Email customers who post good or bad responses. Customer service 101. Comcast turned an installer’s flub on camera into a strategic social media plan to ward off future episodes. People vent when their problem is not being addressed “properly”. The don’t want to have a problem so listen, respond quickly and earnestly, and resolve the problem. Turn it into an opportunity to shine and a positive customer service experience (hopefully they will share that too!).
  • Ratings will change. Every business has successes and failures, times of prosperity and challenges. Shoot for 100%, whether it be a customer service or sales metrics. When you fall short, work harder to improve your future rating and get back to your peak performance.

Moral of my story: Whether it’s Yelp, Twitter, or just good ‘ole face-to-face conversation (remember that?), at the end of the day it’s all “social media”.  It’s not necessarily what people are saying, it’s hearing what they are saying and reacting to the chatter that will set your business apart.

Posted by: Katie

What USDA Organic Really Means

March 4, 2009

The organic movement has grown to an almost $20 billion industry in the United States, due in no small part to the federal regulation label “USDA Organic” and its appearance on thousands of products nationwide.  As the desire to eat healthier and protect the Earth grows, so does the willingness of consumers to fork over up to 50% more for some foods simply because they carry the organic label.  From a marketing perspective, who wouldn’t want their food to bear this stamp? 

So how does a company go about getting certified?  It involves paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to certifiers from the Department of Agriculture who then rely on many different sets of criteria to determine whether or not the product can bear the label USDA Organic.  It seems that when the system works, it works and the foods that are certified organic are actually organic.  Recently, however when a plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America was responsible for the samonella outbreak caused by contaminated peanuts and it was found to still have its USDA Organic certification despite the fact that it no longer had  a state health certificate, the system came into question.

A private certifier took nearly seven months to recommend that the U.S.D.A. revoke the organic certification of the peanut company’s Georgia plant, and then did so only after the company was in the thick of a massive food recall. So far, nearly 3,000 products have been recalled, including popular organic items from companies like Clif Bar and Cascadian Farm. Nine people have died and almost 700 have become ill.

Consumers equate organic with safe and unfortunately, this is not always the case.  More and more, Americans are seeking out foods that are grown locally, meats that come from humanely raised animals and are harvested by workers who are paid a fair wage.  The problem is, organic doesn’t mean any of that.  So while the label maybe be a step to ensuring that the foods we pick from our grocer’s shelves are a less harmful choice, it certainly doesn’t end there.

Emily Wyckoff, who lives in Buffalo, buys local food and cooks from scratch as much as possible. Although she still buys organic milk and organic peanut butter for her three children, the organic label means less to her these days – especially when it comes to processed food in packages like crackers and cookies.

“I want to care, but you have to draw the line,” she said.

Recently, a sign near the Peter Pan and Skippy at her local grocery store declared that those brands were safe from peanut contamination. There was no similar sign near her regular organic brand.

“I bought the national brand,” she said. “Isn’t that funny?”

via The New York Times

Posted by: Ashley / Follow me on Twitter

Are you ready for some football?

January 30, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII is Sunday. The Cardinals versus the Steelers. Oh the excitement. Okay, so our office of New England and Philly fans is left a wee bitter.

As an avid sports fan, I would have the entire day, complete with venue, menu and beverage(s) of choice planned for weeks in advance… Seadog Blueberry, yum. This year, the evening of friends, feasting, and football (in that order), will be left to a game-time decision. As a marketing professional, however, I AM still excited to see this year’s commercials. Not only for the creativity and humor, but to see which companies fit Super Bowl ads into the dwindling (slaughtered) budgets of 2009.

If you have not read Jerry Mullman’s recent article in AdvertisingAge, “Yes, the Super Bowl is Well Worth $3M a Spot”, take a gander. Great article (particularly for marketing professionals) and a testament to the benefits of advertising in a tough economy. Mullman speaks with executives regarding their decision to advertise, even at the often ostentatious SB rates. A unanimous decision, Super Bowl is deemed well worth the investment. Each returning advertiser recorded significant and tangible pay off in years past – increased web traffic, publicity, and sales – as a result of commercial spots. (See results inserted below)

A Pepsi spokesman commented, “We almost can’t afford not to advertise…It’s no accident we’ve been doing this for 23 straight years.” (I am now trying unsuccessfully to think of a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial. I cannot think of one. Cindy Crawford? THINK. Ugh. I’ll chalk this up to me not being a soda drinker, because I do believe this to be an impactful statement.)

Great food for thought. It will also be interesting to see how (if) advertisers’ messaging and creative changes to reflect the current economic landscape. Less slap-stick and head-scratching humor, more call to action?! We’ll see. Well, hopefully WE will see, if I can pry myself away from the buffalo chicken dip long enough to observe.

Be safe, enjoy the festivities, and GO … PATS! (had to do it…) Would love to hear about your favorites on Monday. 

Posted by: katie | find me on twitter