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Black Thursday is the New Black Friday

Here are some thoughts to consider long before that Thanksgiving meal settles. Thanks to KAMA member Kathleen Atkins for contributing this guest post:

Last year, I documented the day after Thanksgiving shopping madness I have annually participated in and has been dubbed by retailers and consumers as the biggest shopping day of the year — Black Friday. The article was based on a tweet from @LauraLPotts: “Black Friday is like zombie apocalypse: you’re either one of them, or you’re locked inside praying that loved ones don’t get trampled.”

This evening, as I’m scouring the Internet doing my research, I’m prepping and flipping through Black Friday ads that have been pre-released, scanned, and posted on various web sites. I’m beginning to formulate my plan of attack.

But this year is different.

Nearly all of the stores are now opening at midnight or earlier. Gone are the days of 5 a.m. store openings I was accustomed to in the “early days.” Black Friday has evolved into Black Thursday, a round-the-clock, nationwide, sleep-deprived shopping massacre.

Black Thursday is the new Black Friday.

I will be among the thousands lined up on a sidewalk or in a parking lot with red blood-colored cranberry sauce stains on my shirt, and everyone will be facing the store’s front door just waiting for the doors to open. Traffic will be at a standstill in Turkey Creek and West Town Mall, and the struggle to obtain the best deals has never been so perilous.

The zombie shopping fever has spread, and I’m afraid it’s hit a pandemic level. I can’t help but wonder, what would Rick from The Walking Dead do?

Zombies in The Walking Dead are quite similar to Black Thursday shoppers:

  • They devour any living thing (deal) they can catch.
  • They never sleep.
  • They are more dangerous in large numbers.
  • Loud noises attract large herds of them.
  • They stand still or shuffle around rather slowly. However when in pursuit, they move much more quickly.
  • They may turn what would normally be a harmless household item into a weapon.

As I prepare to head out into the darkness the evening of Black Thursday, I will be double-knotting my tennis shoes and keeping in mind that the swiftest shoppers can be far more dangerous than the walkers roaming the earth.

Copper Cellar Going Social

Bart Fricks, COO of the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants, brings more than 27 years of restaurant experience to the table (yes, pun intended J). Previously with Mr. Gatti’s and then Ruby Tuesday, the man behind the Calhoun’s Restaurant Twitter handle @Calhouns, says being part of the “social party” gives him the opportunity to stay close to customers.  Fricks says that managing their many restaurant concepts within the Copper Cellar brand is a challenge but customers follow and engage with the restaurants they enjoy most. Their team, Fricks says it is definitely a group effort at this point, uses tools such as Hootsuite to help space out their posts so they don’t bombard customers all at once with messages from each concept.

The locally-loved restaurant brand first launched into the social web with Facebook pages for Smoky Mountain Brewery and Copper Cellar in the fall of 2009 followed shortly with pages for Calhoun’s and Chesapeake’s. By the end of 2009, the brand had accumulated 1,518 followers. It wasn’t until the group really started joining in the conversation that they saw the biggest increase in followers. Posting each concept’s daily specials, events, and responding to customer feedback and suggestions quickly has driven much of their success in continuing to grow in the social space.  Twitter proved to be a bit different story for the brand. Fricks says that in 2009 and 2010, they didn’t do a very good job with Twitter. He took over as the voice behind @Calhouns and began thanking people for following them, retweeting, and jumping in the conversation especially on #FollowFriday where you suggest that your friends “follow” others on Twitter. “More is better on Twitter,” says Fricks, as he encourages the group to be active in the space and comment on what others are saying.

Posting great food photos and monitoring searches like “Where to eat in Knoxville” has helped the brand expand their reach. Fricks says it’s easy to go after big numbers, using an app to buy followers for example, but he’s not interested in that.  His goal is for the brand “to be great at a few things” and not try to be everywhere such as places like Foursquare, Flickr, or Pinterest. For now, the brand is focusing on cultivating great conversations with their customers mainly on Facebook and Twitter.

My favorite conversation point of the luncheon is when Fricks exclaims, “I hate coupons.” Most people assume that restaurants are just going to be in the coupon business. He goes on to say that in his experience coupons have a way of abruptly bringing in clientele which the restaurant isn’t quite prepared for, and then service and food quality suffers. “You can’t just hire servers for 4 weeks and expect them to provide great service then let them go,” which is what would be required for a huge influx of customers which a deep offer coupon. To Fricks, great service and quality of food every time a guest comes in to one of their restaurants is the ultimate goal of the brand.

The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants is continuing to expand its real estate in the digital and social space. New websites for each restaurant concept are coming soon, and Fricks says they are looking into hiring someone to manage their social strategy. So keep on the lookout for new great things coming from this local restaurant family!

Bush Brothers’ Secret Family Recipe to Marketing

After more than 100 years of canning goods and more than 20 years as a national brand, Bush Brothers & Co. has perfected its secret family recipe—in food products and marketing strategy. Scott Daniel, marketing director at Bush Brothers & Co., shared his company’s philosophy on giving customers what they want and doing it successfully at the April KAMA luncheon.

Add two cups of consumer research …

The “secret family recipe” that Bush Brothers & Co. uses as its marketing strategy starts with the consumer. The company’s immediate approach is to find something people want and find a way to make it in a great tasting and affordable way. How does Bush Brothers do that? Through millions of dollars spent on research each year. However, Daniel noted, “You do not need to have a million dollar budget to learn about your consumer.” He explained by mentioning several low budget ways to research a target audience including social media, surveys, ethnographies or even just talking to them—all methods marketers have at their fingertips.

Three tablespoons of open-mindedness …

“Avoid the marketer’s bias by looking outside your own lens when developing products,” said Daniel. Taking advantage of opportunities for engagement with your customers can prevent personal bias from affecting your marketing activities. Instead of doing what just works, do what your consumer wants. An example Daniel used was that if you talk to someone about baby food who doesn’t have kids, he or she is going to have a different opinion about how to reach the audience from what actually may be the correct way. We are all doing something in our business today that reflects our own personal ideas, and Daniel recommends we take a step back, look at research and visualize how the consumer wants to see a message.

A dash of promotion …

Most marketers struggle with promotion versus marketing. Daniel set a parameter that Bush Brothers follows and that the KAMA audience should follow, too. He said, “Promotion should be an element of your marketing plan, not how you go to market.” Since a promotion strategy just gets engagement, lift up a product or service that reflects your target’s needs and wants.

And sprinkle in fulfilling relationships.

Finally, make your customers proud of your relationship with them. If your brand delivers a fulfilling experience for your target audience, they will purchase your product no matter the price. An example given by Daniel was that, more often than not, Folgers will beat Starbucks in a blind taste test setting. However, when picking a  brand, consumers will most often choose Starbucks because of the relationship the brand has formed.

Mix and serve immediately.

When cultivated, these elements can result in a marketing strategy that will really stand out. KAMA luncheon attendees all learned valuable lessons from Daniel this month, and we didn’t even need Duke, the iconic Bush Beans dog, there to spill the beans.

 

Randy Boyd’s Tips For Business Success

Guest speaker Randy Boyd, CEO of Radio Systems Corporation (RSC), hit home with the attendees at the March KAMA Luncheon when he stated that his employees live and talk about the company’s values every day instead of only pulling out the list at each monthly staff meeting.

Boyd shared the seven values that are prevalent in his associates’ daily lives:

1.)  “Try a lot of stuff and see what works.”

Boyd points out that in order to innovate, you must fail; therefore, he encourages his employees to not be afraid of failure.

2.)  “Be honest.”

“Trust from customers comes from honesty,” said Boyd. It is necessary to be honest within the organization and to be honest with customers in order to have a successful brand following.

3.)  “Create an environment of openness and equality.”

There is a feeling of equality in the many offices operated by RSC, with Boyd even going so far as to ensure that he does not have a special parking spot or a bigger desk than his associates. He is even known to move randomly to departments around the office!

4.)  “Create win-win-win solutions.”

In order for there to be a win-win-win solution, a company must take into account itself, the expansion of time horizons that enable a win for both parties and all other parties affected.

5.)  “Invest in associates.”

Boyd shared the strong focus RSC has on the personal development of its associates by noting that there are dogs always in the office, and that RSC pays for its associates to attend additional schooling.

6.)  “Listen.”

Everyone has three processes of listening, according to Boyd. RSC encourages its employees to hone their processes of listening to become a better communicator and professional.

 7.)  “Have an organization that’s built to last.”

Boyd stressed that building something that will last beyond your tenure is an important thing to take in to consideration.

Boyd’s success is palpable thanks in part to this value system, which shows us that the values he instills in his company are ones that we all can try to practice and learn from today.

Kim Trent – A Shift in Knox County

To kick-off the first KAMA luncheon of 2012, we were delighted to have Kim Trent, Executive Director of Knox Heritage, speak on behalf of her organization. Knox Heritage works to preserve structures and places with historic or cultural significance in Knox County. Founded on April 1, 1974, Kim joked that “fools did rush in” on that fateful day. With a board of directors of 30 community leaders, Knox Heritage provides education for the community and is truly a preservation based economic development organization. In a nutshell, Kim said that, “real estate is what it really comes down to and saving buildings.”

The Culture Change Challenge

In the past, Kim said that preservation is a national issue that fights age old stereotypes of “little old ladies and white guys in suits.” Other erroneous images Kim conjured included “Hysterical Preservationists”, “The Paint Police,” and “A Culture of No”. Speaking of culture, one of the most important points Kim made was Knox Heritage had to change the culture internally before changing it externally. In the 80’s and 90’s, Knox Heritage was faced with declining membership, a decreased role in decision making, very little political influence, and no staff (not to mention money).

Shifting Attitudes – Shifting Communications

To move from a reactionary, resource strapped organization, Kim explained that Knox Heritage had to deal with shifting attitudes and shifting communications. In 1996, Knox Heritage shifted focus to economic development and added professional development people to the board. In 1998, a City of Knoxville budget survey revealed that 80 to 90% of those surveyed supported historical preservation. This game changing information helped create the Vintage Homes Program, which became a developer and job creator. In 2001, a survey of Knox County residents exposed a lack of brand name recognition for Knox Heritage, furthering the cause for more resources. Financial support came in for staff and to save historic places while pro-preservationists gained seats on city council. Kim explained that the creation of the Summer Supper Series went a long way towards building brand awareness in a fun, hip way while the J. Allen Smith House debate (and eventual destruction) brought enormous PR and name recognition.

Where We Are Now

While Knox Heritage has seen its fair share of change during the last 15 years, Kim was quick to point out that she and her organization are still learning and their evolution continues. With a 400% increase in membership, staff of five, a lead role in local decisions, and more financial resources, Knox Heritage has really shifted into high gear. In order to keep up the pace, Kim said that they have to be problem solvers and ready to overcome objectives. Perhaps the most poignant shift in thinking is Knox Heritage’s mission to “make it all about people, not buildings.”

Changing Perceptions

Far from the image of “little old ladies” or “white men in suits”, Kim wrapped up her presentation by painting a picture of her vision of Knox Heritage now and in the future. In addition to being entrepreneurial problem solvers, Kim was keen to note that you have to be able to sell no matter what your brand or product. Understanding marketing communications and keeping relationships honest with the media and citizens are core disciplines at Knox Heritage. Ultimately, Kim said, “Success is when we succeed in saving more places.”

For more information about Knox Heritage, please visit their website.

Evan Carroll – Mobile Happens!

Click here to download Evan’s presentation (2MB PDF).

Mobile technology. It’s one of the most accessible and fastest growing communication tools of our time—as many as 24 percent of people even go so far as to describe their iPhone as an extension of their brain or body. The current push many marketing strategies are making into the mobile world has made this topic highly relevant to members of the Knoxville American Marketing Association. That’s why taking advantage of these trends and statistics was the focus of KAMA’s November luncheon speaker Evan Carroll of Capstrat.

Because “we carry this medium in our pockets at all time,” Carroll covered many aspects of how to reach people through mobile technology including smart phones, tablets, apps, QR codes and more. He also talked about the way to incorporate mobile technology into traditional marketing and advertising strategies on TV, radio and in print. Some of Carroll’s main points for us to take away are as follows:

“Forty percent of tablet and smartphone owners use them while watching TV.” Carroll used this Nielson statistic to explain how important it is for brands to reach out to mobile users through TV by directing them to their mobile apps or mobile websites. Since almost half of mobile users are interacting with technology while watching TV, this is one of the easiest ways to reach a large audience through mobile. iPhone and Android apps are also becoming highly valued as mobile continues to grow, however Carroll reminded us to keep in mind that apps are not right for everyone.

“We can use mobile as a response to radio.” After playing a brief sound clip of a radio advertisement that asks users to text the company instead of call it, Carroll explained that through mobile technology, we can make it easier and more comfortable for our target audiences to engage with the brand. People have become more hesitant to call a “stranger” these days, so texting is a much more comfortable form of interacting with an unfamiliar person.

“Print is becoming an interactive experience.” Tablets are changing the way people consume content, and are making print a more interactive experience. The iPad and Kindle, as Carroll used for examples, offer huge opportunities for advertising that will be seen by people in their daily routine.

All this information doesn’t even cover one of the last stats that Carroll left us with—the fact that more than 72 million people access social media from their mobile devices, which are a key component powering social media.

Carroll summed up his stance on mobile with one statement: “Companies that are not thinking about mobile are jeopardizing their future.” Maybe now’s the time for your marketing practices to become more mobile.

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