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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.

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.


Swag Happens: Stephen A. Burroughs Talks Marketing

“When Stephen A. Burroughs was in the womb
his mother could feel his beard kicking.”

The Knoxville chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted viral Internet sensation and local personal injury attorney, Stephen A. Burroughs at its October luncheon at The Orangery. KAMA’s theme this year is “Shift Happens,” because it’s not business as usual any more, due to changes in demographics, economics and technology. Burroughs was speaking to the change in his marketing strategy and the impact the recently launched Facebook memes page has had on his business.

The story about the University of Tennessee freshman who created the tongue-in-cheek Facebook page has been well documented by Carly Harrington in the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Stephen A. Burroughs Memes page gained 21,000 fans virtually overnight and led to Swagfest, a party at the Sunsphere attended by 14,000 members of Burroughs’ “swag posse.” Talk about a branding bonanza – you can’t buy that kind of awareness and exposure. Not to say Burroughs hasn’t been spending heavily on outdoor advertising and bus wraps over the past several years. He said he took advantage of a downturn in the economy that left billboards vacant to negotiate a sweet deal with Lamar Advertising.

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

This deal has made Burroughs omnipresent, or “top-of-mind” as we say in the biz, plastering his face on 31 outdoor boards and more than a dozen KAT buses. Burroughs had perfected his “Blue Steel” gaze and had become something of a Knoxville celebrity even before the memes page took off, catapulting him to viral marketing legend status. Now he’s Knoxville’s own “Old Spice Guy,” if you will. Or perhaps “The Most Interesting Lawyer in the World,” in a nod to the famous Dos Equis campaign.

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Burroughs delighted KAMA’s audience of marketing professionals with anecdotes about Swagfest, like the one about the girl who tattooed “SAB” on her forearm. “The whole thing was pretty surreal,” he said. Burroughs is already planning Swagfest 2, but he’s eyeing corporate sponsors and considering a charitable slant for the event.

“Right now, I’m in the hole,” said Burroughs, when asked about the return on his six-figure investment in Swagfest. However, he believes he’s building brand recognition with future clients.  After all, his business model is driven by car wrecks; he’s ready to help “when the need arises.”

“It’s not like someone’s going to say ‘Stephen seems really cool. I think I’ll go get an injury,’” quipped Burroughs.

Just Desserts

Just Desserts

Burroughs described his evolution from radio to TV to outdoor advertising, which he thinks is the ideal channel for him. On TV you have to be outrageous – the guy in the giant monkey suit, according to Burroughs.  He aspires to a more professional image.

“The message has to fit the medium,” he said.

Who says this guy doesn’t know marketing?

*This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at

Healthcare Marketing: Making An Emotional Connection

When it comes to choosing hospitals and healthcare providers, consumers think with their hearts. Regardless of the research and statistics, the industry citations and even the insurance coverage, people consistently make life-and-death decisions based on the emotional connections they form with caregivers.

Patients don’t want to hear only about equipment and research, they also want to know how it affects them in a profoundly personal way.


The challenge for clients is to keep the message patient-centered and communicate the benefit in a clear and compelling way. All that really matters to patients is their ability to survive and get well. Kentucky’s Saint Joseph Health System Cancer Center’s “Survivors” campaign is an example of how one healthcare provider got the message right. The Tombras Group created a signature TV spot that is visceral and heart-wrenching, because it features real survivors and real stories. It’s authentic, genuine and focused on patients, not providers.

Eighty percent of healthcare decisions are made by women, who are also more likely to be caregivers when family members are sick or injured. But it’s not about gender, it’s about humanity. The disconnect for physicians, who often matriculate to senior management positions within the hospital administration, happens when they focus on the science of medicine instead of on bedside manner.

“One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner

Another example that gets it right is St. Thomas Health Services’ “More Survivors” campaign. Our creative strategy was based on the heightened awareness and sensitivity that heart attack survivors describe as the new outlook they gain on life. The time-lapsed photography emphasizes this concept, which Tombras executed across all of the screens that consumers interact with: mobile, computer desktop and television.

Often, hospitals are under internal pressure from administrators (who are not marketers) to deliver a message that is hospital-focused: “We do this; we do that. Ours is the biggest and best. We have the smartest physicians. We have the most cutting-edge equipment.” The challenge is to take these inward-facing attributes and position them is a manner that matters to patients.

Additionally, many consumers now expect hospitals to have great physicians and wonderful equipment. These attributes alone are no longer the compelling, unique propositions that they used to be.

Middle Tennessee Medical Center (MTMC) built a new facility, and the administration was understandably proud of the expanded infrastructure and services. Tombras worked closely with our client to ensure that the new hospital was not about what MTMC had built but about how it would benefit patients. The campaign’s consistent theme was “Built Around You.”

Allow us to leave you with a final thought: call your patients “customers.” The word “patient” implies someone who has a lack of choice and empowerment – someone who is simply on the receiving end of care and service. Customers have a choice. They shop; they choose, and they go somewhere else if they’re not completely satisfied with their overall experience.

This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at

Direct Mail: No Saturdays?

What?! No mail on Saturdays? Yes, this is a real possibility as the U.S. Postal Service wrangles with its own budgeting issues just like the rest of us. You probably already know about this subject but I wanted to pose a question:

What effect will 5-day-deliveries have on our direct mail initiatives?

The first thing that comes to mind might seem a little selfish. With one less delivery day (4 less per month and 48 less per year) it seems to me I’m going to have to schedule my mail flights earlier, especially if they are event based. Since most everything I do is last minute, I’m going to have to plan my mailings better and the schedules might be more compact and overlap. Sounds like more work to me. Ugh. The next thing that comes to mind is this is even worse when Monday is a holiday. Three days in a row with no delivery! Life will definitely go on if and when our postal service goes to 5-day-deliveries. Heck, most countries around the world are 5-day already.

What do you think?


QR Code vs Microsoft Tag

Ah! Another format war. I love it!!! That is, when I pick the right format early on. In the late 70′s when I was a kid, I remember my Dad coming home with an amazing contraption known as the Video Tape Recorder. It was a Sony Betamax and I felt so superior to all my friends whose parents purchased a lower quality VHS. Well, that was short lived. Then came the Mac in 1984. Short of Apple’s recent amazing comeback, it would seem I was stuck with the wrong format again. Thank goodness I picked Blu-ray over… er, I can’t even remember what the other HD format was called.

Picking the right format is a big deal in business because you can invest a ton of time and money into something that, if your pick flops, leaves you holding the bag as they say. Clients have been posing a new question to us recently: which of the new bar code technologies should we pick? On one hand you have the QR Code. QR is short for “quick response.” On the other hand you have Microsoft’s Tag technology. Both enable people with smart phones to read these codes, which will then load additional information regarding a piece of real estate, golf swing, product, or whatever else is being advertised.


A little history…

While QR Codes and Tags are pretty cool and each do about the same thing as the other, it is not a new concept. Back around the year 2000 (fire up the way-back machine!) Wired magazine sent what was known as a :CueCat bar code scanner to every single subscriber. Subscribers could then attach the device to their computer via USB and scan special bar codes that appeared on advertisements, which would then load specialized web pages with more info. In fact, you can stillbuy a :CueCat at Amazon right now. I won’t go into the entire story but the thing was a miserable flop. It seemed rather cumbersome to me. So, what’s the difference now? Smart phones! So much easier. No wires and no special scanner to deal with. Nice.

QR Codes have been around since 1994 and were invented by DENSO to track auto parts. Some people think QR Codes are “open source” which really isn’t the case. While generating and using QR Codes is free, DENSO owns the patent but chooses not to enforce it. Also, DENSO owns the trademark on the term “QR Code.” For the entire skinny on the subject, visit DENSO’s QR Code website.

Microsoft’s Tag has been around since at least 2007 and is a proprietary technology. In other words, when you choose to use it, you wed your company to Microsoft in addition to the technology itself. Sound familiar? While creating and using Microsoft Tags is currently free, there is no guarantee they will continue to offer the service in the future. Below is a quote from the terms of use agreement.

We will use commercially reasonable efforts to (a) make the Basic Features available until at least January 1, 2015; (b) provide at least two years prior notice before we terminate the Basic Features or the entire Service; and (c) provide the Basic Features as part of the Service for as long as we operate the Service generally. In addition, we will never require a fee to use the Basic Features as part of the Service for as long as we operate the Service generally.

Who is using QR Codes?

  • National Association of Realtors
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Home Depot
  • Best Buy
  • HBO
  • Pepsi
  • Calvin Klein
  • Tissot
  • TomTom
  • Dunlop Sports
  • And many, many more

Who is using Microsoft Tag?

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Porsche
  • Dell Computers
  • Golf Magazine
  • Volvo
  • Acura
  • Callaway
  • Razor Scooters
  • Justin Bieber
  • Hearst Publishing including CosmopolitanRedbookMarie ClaireSeventeenOGood Housekeeping, and Harper’s Bazaar
  • And many, many more

The Verdict

While QR Codes don’t have any licensing restrictions, Microsoft’s Tag service has an easy-to-use tracking interface that is currently free. QR Codes seem to be more popular with real estate agents and retail while Tags are more popular with automotive and publishing. It seems to me that the technologies are neck-and-neck and neither seems to be on the wane. However, I’m not going to wimp out and say it’s a tie. I believe QR Codes will win the format war eventually because the lack of licensing restrictions lends itself to more innovation by developers and advertisers. Additionally, you’ll see QR Code scanners embedded as a default part of the operating systems on iPhones and Androids. Apple and Google certainly won’t support their arch enemy’s Tag format. So, unless everyone dumps the most popular phones on the planet and switches to Microsoft Phone 7, QR Codes are going to win.

Tell Bill Gates I said so.

This article was originally posted on the In10sity Blog and is used with permission.

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