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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!

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 knoxify.com

A Helping Hand: How Authenticity Facilitates Public Relations


Public relations is human dynamics. It’s the bridge between a brand and its consumers. Sometimes it’s a difficult bridge to build when the brand is intent on self-promotion and hard-line marketing. But when there’s a story to tell that resonates with the public, when the brand is sincere, and the message rings true, public relations happens organically, and the bridge becomes a smooth connection.

Home Federal Bank is building bridges in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Founded in 1924, Home Federal is Knoxville’s largest locally owned bank. With over $200 million in capital above the most stringent regulatory requirements, Home Federal is classified in the highest possible category for financial strength. Perhaps more importantly, Home Federal has heart. The bank has been a compassionate corporate citizen in its hometown for over 80 years, contributing nearly $880,000 to local charities last year alone. Savvy cause marketing, right?

The truth is that’s just the way Home Federal does business. Senior management understands what Marketing Guru Trey Pennington calls the “three-fold human hunger” to be heard, seen and understood.

Eats for Easter is a new initiative sponsored by Home Federal. The bank donated $10,000 toward the purchase of Food CityGift Cards to YWCA Knoxville and the YMCA of East Tennessee to help families in need celebrate Easter. The program is designed to support women in crisis and families in transition at a time of year that is less visible than the Christmas season and traditionally generates less giving.

“Home Federal was founded on the principal of service, and I’m proud we continue that today,” said Dale Keasling, chairman, president and CEO. “Knoxville is a better place, because of the YMCA and the YWCA.”

And Knoxville is a better place because of Home Federal.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett designated Tuesday, April 12, 2011 “Helping Hand Day” in an official proclamation “whereas the Eats for Easter program will provide a helping hand not a hand out to the good people of both YWCA Knoxville and the YMCA of East Tennessee.”

According to Deb Weinstein, pr executive and president of Strategic Objectives, during her remarks at Social Slam 2011, there are five golden “rules of engagement” for brands:

  1. Be innovative, interesting and news-making.
  2. Be integrated with consistent messaging across platforms.
  3. Be credible – that means human, honest, humble and helpful.
  4. Be relevant.
  5. Measure. Evaluate. Celebrate.

Home Federal Bank practices these golden rules and the original Golden Rule as well.  The bank’s actions reflect its abiding commitment to helping people prosper and grow in communities throughout Knoxville and Knox County – “this place we call home.”

Below is a clip of the “Eats for Easter” event from Live at Five at Four:

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

Get Your Game On: Social Media’s Playful Side

Social media’s playful side

In sharp contrast to the stereotypical social misfit in the basement playing video games, is the new breed of online gamer, socializing with a network of friends while simultaneously interacting with a myriad of playable gaming platforms. While the two areas converge, it’s interesting to think where they’ll meet. Social networks become more game-oriented likeFoursquare and Farmville, while traditional console and PC games become more social with features like the Xbox dashboard and Playstation network.

Social media gaming has come of age, bursting out of its awkward adolescence into a full-grown multi-platform, integrated beast with apps for FacebookTwitter and Microsoft’s Last.fm, an online streaming service that allows users to create customized music stations.  Social media gaming gives players the opportunity to consume content as a shared experience, using social leaderboards and messages to feed the fire and keep players engaged.

Consuming digital content together is not an epiphany – people have been gaming as teams online since the multiplayer platform was popularized by Quake in 1996. In 2010 Microsoft took shared gaming to the next level by streaming live TV on Xbox Live, allowing viewers to throw impromptu virtual parties and talk to each other via voice, instant message, and on-screen avatar gestures while watching the show together. Facebook boasts the largest online social network with 600 million users, but Microsoft owns the largest TV social network with over 20 million subscribers.

Social gaming is big business

Virtual goods are driving the monetization of digital gaming platforms. These virtual products exist only online — think avatar accessories and in-game power boosts that optimize the game experience — but players spend real money to acquire them. This downloadable content (DLC) includes everything from new maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops, to new character costumes in Street Fighter IV, to a Lionheart sword in World of Warcraft. In fact, according to PlaySpan, virtual goods account for over 90% of all revenue generated by the world’s top social game developers.

Sponsorships via in-game advertising are gaining traction with premium brands. The Tombras Group has designed game-placement ads for national clients such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt campaign. The name of the game is engagement. Sponsored content via strategically placed in-game ads creates a more realistic gaming experience – no Acme anvils like in the old Roadrunner cartoons. That means when tearing up the streets in Need For Speed: Shift, gamers see real billboards for real companies, which not only gets a message to a target audience, but helps to legitimize the game by offering robust, real-world content.

Another example of branding the gaming experience is the fresh promotion for the upcoming Green Lantern movie that incorporates an augmented reality motion-capture video game to promote the “got milk” campaign. Mashable reports that the game interface uses a standard webcam to ask prospective Green Lanterns to perform three feats to see if they’ve got what it takes to be superhero beacons of justice.  The app went live Tuesday at lanternworthy.com.

It’s not just for kids anymore

Social gaming spans demographics from teenagers playing Call of Duty on gaming consoles to grandparents playing Mafia Wars and Farmville on Facebook feeds. 50% of Facebook gamers are over 25, with women outnumbering men, 56% to 44%, reports Social Game Summit. According to MGM Games, 40% of casual gamers are college grads, 25% are professionals and 55% have a household income of $50,000 or more.

The continued success of social media gaming is linked to the symbiotic partnerships between developers and platforms like Facebook, that provide a pre-qualified, eager audience of players. Because social media is about building community and fostering relationships, social media gaming has evolved from an anti-social behavior to a, well, social behavior. And brands are taking notice. The only question left is where will social gamification meet gaming socialization?

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

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