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The Innovation Equation

Everyone’s chasing it: a new idea that resonates. It could be building a company where everyone wants to work, a product that meets unmet needs, or a piece of content that elicits emotion. In a world where change is happening all the time and innovation is a buzzword lacking an understood meaning across trades, finding a way to break through can be complicated. Yet, at a recent American Advertising Federation Kansas City event with leaders from VML and Hallmark, maybe the solution to the innovation equation is within reach if we’re willing to invest in it. The potential key? Diversity and inclusion. Itself a facet of business that’s changing quickly, the need for diversity and inclusion isn’t lost on most people. As Phil Polk, Vice President of Multicultural Strategy at Hallmark explained, the way to foster diversity and inclusion throughout a company is to “teach the organization to fish”. For Hallmark, Michael Gonzales, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, explained that this meant giving business leaders a comfort level with saying they don’t know everything. Hallmark even created a Center for…

What's Your Brand?

Branding Online – A How To

When it comes to branding online, independent retailers get the heebie jeebies. They have the traditional pieces down: put their name on the store sign, publish an ad with that same name on it, run radio ads with the name attached. Yet, with social media, branding 101 sometimes goes out the window. At a recent Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast, Eric Melin, Senior Social Media Community Manager at Callahan Creek talked through the topic of melding personal and professional brands online. His overall point urged social users to be their real selves online, but in the midst of that, he gave a great lesson on social branding 101 applicable to independent grocery retailers. To start, whether you know it or not, your store already has a brand online, just like, Melin noted, everyone. People search every day on Google and social media platforms for information about people they meet and places they support. The results of those searches can be mentions in the articles, or rouge social media accounts created by patrons, or simply a customer talking about…

Telling Your Story on Digital

When I work with retailers on social media content strategy, I always remind them to “tell their story.” But what does that mean? It means posting about more than just product and price. Yes, a good sale can get people to come to your store for a specific item one time. But what keeps them coming back to you? What creates a loyal customer? One of the best ways to attract and retain loyal customers is to share your story with them online. Some of the vendors we work with at AWG are doing this very well when it comes to their digital promotions. For example, Red Gold is sponsoring a Crush Hunger campaign for the month of October. When a customer buys one can of Red Gold product, the company donates one meal to Feeding America. When you visit their Crush Hunger website, you will see that the company not only plans to donate to the organization but they are also educating their customers about those in need and how to help. Another example is Idahoan Foods. Recently I…

Blog Spelled With Scrabble Tiles

Blogging For Your Business

Blogging isn’t just a hobby for parents sharing meal prep ideas or dedicated fans giving their insights on the latest YA fantasy novel. Some people have turned blogging into a lucrative business. Additionally, already-established businesses can use blogging as another digital marketing platform to share their story and connect with customers. Even small businesses can use this platform and see the benefits of it if they put the work into creating and maintaining it. Getting Started Decide on a platform Talk to your website developer or designer about how to integrate a blog platform onto your store’s website. Find your voice Your blog voice will tie into the overall brand voice you have for your store. It’s the same voice you use in other forms of digital marketing like social media, website and email. Ultimately people like doing business with other people so find a voice that captures your business and shows the personality of your brand. Set a schedule Decide how often you’re going to publish blog posts. Do your best to stick to that schedule so your readers…

Photo of man talking to people while sitting at a table.

Marketing To The Middle

As Associated Wholesale Grocers, this community of more than 3,800 grocery stores in the “middle” of America, I would wager that over the years, many of us have had a good pulse on who our customers were. Many of us still know very well who our customers are, but not everyone truly gets the essence of what motivates their customers and what they’re looking for in a shopping experience. Given the current political climate and the election results, it has many questioning if we really know what we’re dealing with in our country. AdWeek has recently published a cover story (http://www.adweek.com/agencies/marketers-everywhere-are-rethinking-middle-america-post-trump-inside-one-effort-to-help-them/) about marketers rethinking their strategy for middle America and it’s a fascinating look at how companies, their agencies, and marketers are trying to figure out who middle America truly is and how they can deliver their message to consumers. It’s a tricky subject and there’s not one easy answer. But let’s take a quick look at some of the themes of the article. Brands don’t understand the middle American shopper. The article tells of tours of the midwest by those…

Graphic of film projector and film

Recap: Use Video Storytelling to Connect to Your Authentic Message (KC IABC BCS Summit Breakout Session)

Did you know that your brain acts the same when hearing a story as it does if the actions in that story were actually happening to you? It’s true. Storytelling has been a part of human culture dating back before the written word. However we’re only recently learning how stories affect the human brain. We use stories to convey many different types of information — from facts being taught in a classroom, to products and services being advertised on television. Jolean Olson, director of development for Scenic Road Productions, gave a presentation at the recent Business Communicators Summit for the KC chapter of IABC about using video storytelling to connect to customers in an authentic way. And before you think this was some ploy to get people to hire her production company, she cited that 92% of people say they want brands to present their advertisements as a story. It makes sense that if just hearing a story activates our brains as if we were experiencing it, that seeing a story would increase that feeling even more. Not to mention…

customer-journey graphic from discovery to educaiton to trust to conversion to advocacy

Practical Steps to Building Your Customer Journeys

Is your customer journey a road to nowhere? That question started off a recent presentation by emfluence teammates Sara Theurer and Alex Boyer. Their discussion revolved around how marketers can help build engaging and memorable customer journeys. To answer the question, though, one had to know what a customer journey is. It is the journey customers take when interacting with a business. Boyer noted it happens in 5 steps: Discovery, Education, Trust, Conversion & Advocacy, yet these days, those steps aren’t navigated from start to finish in that order. There are multiple entry points to the journey because customers are experiencing so many different forms of messaging. Any of the behaviors we want customers to perform aren’t just instinct, customers need to be guided through the journey and we do this through customer touch points, whether indirect like blog posts or direct via emails. Conduct a Customer Journey Audit To help sculpt the customer journey, and the Discovery & Education of your brand, Boyer shared some best practices to put in place. The first is an audit of what you…

Photo example of wall mural in Big John grocery store with Superman because store is in town named Metropolis.

Does your store have a mural?

This timelap video I saw on my Facebook news feed of a mural being made really brightened up my day! Credit:Drumans Filmes/Gael Comunicação via  Storyful. News   After watching this video way too many times, I started thinking about the mural in the produce department at the store I worked at in High School. Would you believe customers would call the store and ask, “Is your store the one with the farm painting on the wall?” That’s STORE BRANDING! Murals can tell a story, and combine several concepts all at once. References to historic events can evoke community and local pride. A landscape can also show location. I have seen murals in stores with musical instruments which shows a popular musical genre connected to the area, like Jazz. Really the sky is the limit on what to put in a mural. Another bonus about murals, if you can’t decide on one theme, you can collage several together. If you have no idea where to start, the AWG Design & Decor Source Group can show you a portfolio to get your creative juices…

Living with Authenticity

Last week I attended AAF-KC’s Gas Can conference, a full day of speeches meant to spark creativity. One of the featured speakers was Hailee Bland-Walsh, owner of City Gym, Hailee focused on the impact each of us can have by living authentically. Hailee always knew she was different, she didn’t know how, but she knew. She found a place where she felt she belonged in sports and when faced with finding a full-time job, a desk seemed daunting. She decided to get certified as a personal trainer, which felt manageable. Upon entering the fitness industry and meeting with various clients she realized she was hearing the same story over and over. People didn’t feel like they fit, they didn’t belong. It’s a feeling Hailee knew well, and she knew it could be different. She noted often in the fitness industry the people who need it the most feel the most unwelcome, the most uncomfortable. That is, obviously, not good and she felt like she could make a change. When Hailee opened City Gym, located in Kansas City, she knew people…

Coffee with Cart Graphic.

Star Trek gadgets could work today with an open mind

“3D printed food you can eat,” makes me think of the “replicator” in Star Trek. The Replicator seemed like a magical device with the ability to make something out of nothing. I had forgotten the Replicator used technology from the transporter. This means the replicator actually found whatever you ordered and sent it to you. Quickly.   At the end of a long day, I read the article mentioned in a recent Coffee with CART about the 3D edible food printer “Foodini”. Reading the article helped me shed my Star Trek Replicator assumptions and first off, I wasn’t impressed. I left work thinking “Big deal, somebody figured out how to fit a cookie factory into a box the size of a microwave, and it doesn’t even cook! Why would any of our retailers be interested?” It takes me 20-30 minutes to drive home from work, so I tend to relax some during this time. I started to think of factories that produce food. Basically, food goes in, it gets rearranged, and then packaged food comes out. Why do we have factories? To mass-produce. Now lets…

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