Monday, March 30, 2009

All Hail the Return of the FroYo

On a recent Friday night in Portland, I stumbled into a little frozen yogurt shop on West Burnside.  I had heard the hype about Skinnidip, but I really never understood the appeal of frozen yogurt.  Boy, was I wrong.  Skinnidip is more than I could have dreamed of as a consumer, a marketer, and an entrepreneur.  A small store space filled with plastic chairs, minimal staff, unique "natural" frozen yogurt, small amounts of fresh fruit, and tons of Gen Y at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night.  

As I perused Fast Company's website today, I stumbled across an article on another frozen yogurt shop, Pinkberry.  The frozen yogurt chain's success from a tiny shop in West Hollywood to 70 locations in two states is a testament to great product but also great branding.

Truthfully, brand building and brand identification are tricky things.  However, a great product and effective brand makes for a happy (and repeat) Gen Y customer.  A few key things Pinkberry did to expand to 70 locations in under two years include:
  1. Building the brand off something other than the product itself: Most marketers develop a product and/or brand image they want to project and then drill down to store design, product mix, etc.  However, Pinkberry did it differently; they based it off the design of the store.  Although not totally applicable to all products or companies, allowing a product to be branded off something other than the product broadens the marketing techniques and opportunities for a company.  By basing a yogurt shop's brand off something other than yogurt, Pinkberry created new venues, mediums, and channels it could use to market itself.
  2. Integrating brand attributes into every portion of the brand: From the store design to the sign that says "Swirling Daily from 11 A.M. - 11 P.M.", Pinkberry creates an entire experience based off the concept of swirly deliciousness.  Any visiting consumer is enveloped (or enswirled?) in the brand experience.  For the time a customer is in the store, they think only of the person they're with and swirly tart goodness.
  3. Integrating social media: To be honest, I'm surprised this worked; I never knew yogurt could have such a following.  In an attempt to elevate Pinkberry to a cult/rock star status, the company started "Pinkberry Groupies".  In two years, they now have 20,000 members who play with their frozen yogurt and design conical yogurt entities...and then consume them.  They also send out promotions, events, and store opening notifications.  This is one of the few branding/marketing ventures that successfully created a community around a central product/service/brand.
If you'd like to check out more on Pinkberry's branding, check out; I personally want some frozen yogurt right now.

- Mama said knock you out -

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mom...I'm In Debt

Gen Y; I hope you're ready for some pain.  No, not physical...unless you count bed sores from sleeping in and spending too much time on the couch  watching House reruns because you're unemployed.  I'm talking about the financial pain we'll feel it for the rest of our lives; yup...we're going there.

The reason for my angst is a recent Wall Street Journal article stating student loan defaults increased to 6.9% from 5.2% over the past year.  Hooray, recession!

Sadly, this default rate comes from a perfect storm of a worsening recession, increased tuition to attend college, less saving by our parents to help us with paying for college, and a general willingness to go along with the crowd and drown ourselves in an average of $20K of debt by the time we graduate.  

The sad thing is this; all our life, we were told to take on debt to fuel our collegiate dreams.  "Oh, you're going to study anthropology at a prestigious and very private liberal arts school?  AND you want to double major in art?  That'll cost you $30K a year in loans!  Don't worry; five years is an average.  That means at least half of the people out there finish after five years!"  No one ever told us that maybe we should do a cost-benefit analysis.  No one ever asked us the question of, "Do you really think that's smart?  What's your exit strategy?  How will you pay that back?"  Nope...we, the happy Gen Y, followed our dreams to minimum wage jobs and debt loads we won't pay off for the next thirty years.  Even without a recession.  Yay.

The hard part is this; should we have known to ask those questions?  I don't feel like our parents did.  Who was supposed to teach us about financial literacy?  The value of compounding interest?  Or even the general wisdom of savings?

Usually, Josh and I post about creative solutions or things that companies or people can do to improve their position (financially or otherwise) with Gen Y.  In this case, I don't see much of a solution for Gen Y.  As the first generation to not exceed the standard of living of its parents, there are few options for us.  I could give the standard "cut up your credit cards, eat Top Ramen, sell your belongings, date cheap women, budget, and only drink PBR" type lines...but they seem inadequate given the number of people in my generation that will stay in debt for the rest of their lives as they struggle to overcome student loan debt, care for their aging parents with no savings, get married, have kids, and generally try to survive their lives.

Well, now that I've vented, I'm going to find that bottle of Three Buck Chuck I've been saving.

Mama said knock you out

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NASA Take Two: Stephen Colbert

Oh, NASA...the chips just aren't falling your way with Gen Y.  I first blogged about your attempt at social media; I predict fail.  Next, you somehow decide it'd be a great idea to let people vote online for the name of the new space module and put out lame names like "Serenity."  Worse yet, 40,000 people vote for it!  If you wanted to impress us, you could have at least tried Moonraker or Centrifugal Force.  At least those sound cool.  Since when was space supposed to be boring?  Battlestar Galactica is in space and it has clones.  And sex.  Both not boring.

Thank goodness Stephen Colbert caught wind of this vote and told his adoring fans to write him in.  Better yet, I'm glad he received 230,000 votes and beat out Serenity by ohhhh...8x the votes.  Although NASA doesn't seem like they'll name the module after him, I'm pleased they may offer to name the toilet after him.

Now I know that Stephen Colbert usually causes a ruckus by convincing his fans to vote him as a write-in for president and/or naming space modules after him.  However, did anyone at NASA think about the opportunity to use this free press from Stephen Colbert to appeal to Gen Y and get people interested once again in space?

Like Burger King and its cross-promotional misfire, NASA stands poised to look the other way and not capitalize on a great opportunity for free press and shoutouts from one of the most influential men on television.

Here are my ideas for NASA to capitalize on the Colbert:
  1. Name the toilet after him: This is probably the least classy thing NASA could do, but at least it'd be free press.  I could see an epic name like "The Seat of Truthiness" or "Russian Purgatory" or even "Communism Anger Demonstration Room" as relevant and somewhat in line with names like Serenity.
  2. Put a copy of his book in the space toilet room for pleasure reading: This is literally some velcro and a nail in the space toilet, and you'd have instant press.  Besides, what do space astronauts read in space when they need to relax while doing their business?  And where do they go to relax?  I mean...they can't go for a walk.
  3. Send Stephen Colbert to space: Seriously...that easy.  You'd have more viewership than your last four space launches combined.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Forbes: Yes, CEOs Should Facebook And Twitter

Last week, Forbes ran an excellent article about social media reaching a tipping point. With Obama utilizing YouTube and Twitter to bolster his campaign, to BlendTec’s Will It Blend videos quintupling their sales, Forbes states that “chief executive officers are finally looking more and more at how social networking tools can extend their brands, create corporate cultures based on listening and learning, and establish their own leadership profiles.”

It’s about damn time.

However, most CEOs in corporate America are just doing what they do best...mitigating risk. It’s their corporate mantra - that and synergy, but don’t get me started on that. They’ve simply been following the product life cycle.

Web 2.0 was the scary unknown, huffing and puffing at the doors of the corporate America in the Introduction Stage. While scores of companies made off like bankers with bailout money, rejoicing in their Early-Mover risk-taking glory, boss man brushed it off. TOO MUCH RISK.

In the Growth Stage, Web 2.0 progressed from a pesky (freakishly rich) upstart who laughed in the face of risk, to a now even peskier, richer, and more threatening unknown. Think: Jonas Brothers. Nobody understands them; they have horrible music, and they came out of nowhere. Now their fan base is the size of a small country, they probably have the money to bailout AIG, and the music still sucks. We’re perplexed, stupefied, curious, and a little bashful - much like the first time you hooked up with that special someone in middle school while standing next to the lockers waiting for the buses to come, only to have your Spanish teacher catch you and yell at you all the way down the hall...nope, just me? Dang. But still, confusing middle school PDAs are too risky for corporate America...(I feel like I may have digressed)

Alas, the heavenly Maturity Stage. All is safe, their is zero risk (unless you’re an idiot who doesn’t even know how to spell: b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s p-l-a-n). Demand is proven. Supply is increasing, but they’re still sure they can carve out their piece. So, they do what everyone else has been telling them to do: they throw a bunch of money at it, and embrace the Jonas Brother...errr....Web 2.0...with their clumsy corporate America hands and expect it to poop gold for them. (see Phil’s posts about the Republican Party and Twitter and NASA and Twitter).

The painful thing, is that most believe it to be simply a fad, so they’ll hop on the party bus, have a good time, and wait for the Maturity Stage of the next wonder product’s life cycle.

However, Forbes slams “big brands” like John Stewart’s left hook to Jim Cramer: “They fail to grasp that the new media require new ways of doing business. Old ways need to be tossed out.”

Web 2.0 is changing the way we do business; failure to act is acting like a failure.

-- Now let me clear my throat --

Josh Groth

Friday, March 20, 2009

Twitterati: Like Glitterati...but Nerdier

If any of you know what Glitterati means...spend less time on  If you're like me and maybe heard the phrase but have no idea what it means, make your way over to  It has definitions to many useful phrases (including all the rap words/phrases you sing but don't understand they really are gratuitous sexual references), and will help you navigate the pitfalls of cultural colloquialisms in conversations with your hip friends.

As defined by urbandictionary, Glitterati is a noun that means "Social elites.  Famed, fashionable, and learned.  The beautiful people."  Sadly, urbandictionary currently defines Twitterati as snotty members of society.  However, as it is with the English language, I think words should have more than one definition.

I believe Twitterati should refer to the growing group of people who use Twitter and/or social media to put on an aura of relevance but fail miserably.  Sadly, just because you can buy Louis Vuitton luggage or have the exact same pair of Slim Taper American Apparel skinny jeans as Lindsay Lohan, that doesn't entitle you to hang with Kanye or hang out with Sam.  However, it does mean you probably spent too much money on your carry-on and should really buy some baggier jeans.

The ultimate reality is this; just because you sit there and say, "Ooooh!  I have Twitter!  I'm sooo relevant and trendy," that does not necessarily make you relevant and trendy.  For some who get into the Twitter game, it's analogous to glittering up Miss Piggy, calling her a supermodel, and throwing her on the catwalk.  Everybody sees that she doesn't belong...except her (and the people who had the grand idea to put her there in the first place).  Companies and organizations legitimately delude themselves every day that Twitter is the answer and fail to look at if they actually are relevant, know their consumer, and offer great products and services to its end user.  The good news is, failing at Twitter is cheap; the bad news is they're deluding themselves that Twitter is their answer.

The latest person to delude themselves by thinking that Twitter will cure their problems, help them win loyal customers, and generally improve their livelihood?  You guessed it; the GOP!  The Republicans are working with Patrick Ruffini to evolve their game.  You can check out the article here.  

Ideologically struggling, this group launched has a mission statement; the first key element in their plan is, "Win the battle of technology with the Democrats."  This is just so sad.  A party that arguably struggles with ideology, lacks meaningful leadership and any response to President Obama's charm, fails to connect with most people in Gen Y, and a host of other issues has chosen it's number one issue as winning the battle of technology against its rival.  Don't you think that winning the battle of technology might be a good idea to focus on after you figure out what you want your message to be??

I must confess; I'm not a Republican.  Then again, I'm not a Democrat.  I just am pointing out an obvious truth; even if you put a gold ring in a pig's's still a pig.  No matter how good your medium is, it fails without a powerful and relevant message to your end consumer.  The GOP seems to lack any message at this point of its long and stories history, and I fear it will be another proud member of the Twitterati in a short time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Paradox of Managing Gen-Y

Corporate America is a lot like a relationship – everybody is sending mixed signals. However, in this simile, I am the lowly Millennial courting corporate America, telling her she completes me, and that together we’ll both be better off, but she can’t make up her mind if she likes me or not…typical.

Over the past few months I’ve read a number of articles on how to manage Gen-Y. While a good majority did cast Millennials as a “problem” and provided a means for fixing that “problem,” I was able to find some gems, one of which was a review of the new Harvard Business Review Case Study: "How I learned to love Millennials (and stop worrying about what they were doing with their iPhones)."

The Harvard Case Study revolved this 23 year-old staff writer named Josh (excellent name), who is given a basic assignment. He instead gives an elevator pitch to his boss on his ideas around on how to use new media to promote the product. What I found most interesting about the case study was actually the “expert” responses provided, and how even though Josh had legitimate ideas around improving the effectiveness of a campaign, he was out of line. Please see naïve “expert responses below:

Ron Alsop, author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace: "Like many Gen-Yers, Josh doesn't respect the corporate pecking order. His generation has little tolerance for lines of authority and proper protocol."

Jim Miller, executive vice president of sales and marketing at General Tool & Supply: "Josh's behavior is wrong on so many levels. He's been hired to do a job, not this other thing that he'd like to do. He has no respect for his boss; that's apparent in his actions."

These responses, along with countless other “expert” opinions from other related articles, all seem to revolve around “roping Gen-Y in,” and keeping them on task, rather than letting them think for themselves. They cast Millennials in a light as believing that since they are more tech-literate, they believe themselves to always be right.

What I fail to understand, is that if we, as Millennials, are encouraged in the workplace to “think outside the box,” be proactive, and most importantly, help make the company as profitable as possible, why then is it a pecking-order faux pas to actually…dare I say…think outside the box? We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Yes, it is incorrigible for anyone, regardless of generation, to always think that their ideas are always better, however it is important to note, that sometimes, people do in fact have better ideas or new insights to provide.

So at what point does our opinion matter to our superiors? If my idea could save the company $5 then probably not, but what about $5M? While that may be an easy answer when the numbers are extreme, it starts getting grey when the numbers move closer together – if my idea were to save the company $500, $5000, $50,000… At what point does my idea make an indecipherable transition from being an irresponsible use of my paid time and an insult to the “corporate pecking order,” to an idea worthy of a promotion?

The point that I am driving at, is that you cannot put a dollar figure on it, there is no magical formula a Millennial can punch in to see if his/her idea is worth pursuing or not. As a company, you either choose to embrace change, encourage forward thinking, and LISTEN to new ideas, or you don’t. It’s that simple. You cannot straddle both sides of the fence and expect to be successful, because you cannot simultaneously preach a practice of creative thinking and a practice of submission to best practices. So please corporate America, stop sending the mixed signals, I get enough of that already.

-Josh Groth

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NASA: We Have Twitter Liftoff!

Liftoff!  Just this week, NASA made headlines by announcing they would use social media websites, notably Twitter, to "lure" Gen Y into increased interest in what NASA does and/or to convince us we should work there.  According to the article, it sounds like they're trying to recreate the awe and amazement of the televised moon landing of the 60's.

Sadly, I fear NASA is embarking on a great mission to nowhere.  Admittedly, failure is part of the process of success.  However, I think there are some serious obstacles NASA must overcome to actually engage Gen Y in any serious interest in space exploration or career opportunities.  Luckily, this mission to nowhere is much less expensive than the billion dollar satellites that fall out of orbit or the Mars Lander that gets stuck on a rock.  Way to go, NASA driver.  Thank goodness Twitter doesn't have a subscription fee...

Currently, only 4% of NASA's workers are under the age of 30.  This alone spells huge problems; with an older group of workers who became interested in space exploration in the 60's, it doesn't take Marvin the Martian to realize the culture of NASA resembles that of the the 60's compared to the 22nd century.  Gen Y has never been attracted to this type of organization; I envision men in skinny ties and short sleeve shirts (before they were cool).  

Sadly, a true Gen Y company isn't one that embraces Twitter, allows flex time, and throws open bar parties (although that all helps).  A true Gen Y company is Gen Y at its roots; you don't see companies like Nike, UnderArmour, Anthropologie, Deutsch, or Google using Twitter to appeal to Gen Y.  These companies, and many others, appeal to Gen Y because Gen Y identifies with and finds appeal in the companies themselves.  Just because you use Twitter does not mean you will become an instant Gen Y marketing sensation.

So what is NASA to do?  Keep Twitter; it's the cheapest thing they do, and I'm sure the budget cuts are hurting the space program.  A few other things NASA should consider if they want to appeal to Gen Y include:
  1.  Do something that actually interests Gen Y: I personally have no idea about anything that space exploration has done for me in the last 20 years.  Sadly, the pace and evolution of science fiction has outpaced NASA's exploration of space.  In a generation filled with ADD (and almost as much Ritalin), NASA needs to find a project or team to inspire this generation and give us a tangible benefit.  That would keep us interested.  My opinion?  Laser guns, sharks with laser beams, or sending Lance Bass into space again.  I swear that's the only notable piece of space exploration I've heard of in the last five years.
  2. Hire younger staff at managerial levels: NASA should identify key areas to create "Gen Y bubbles" inside its organization.  My pick?  Marketing.  Start with marketing, let them develop a Gen Y relevant marketing campaign, and allow them to drive certain areas of the organization.  As you see staff retire, hire in younger managers to bring in top Gen Y talent.
  3. Send us into space: Seriously.  You'd make headlines to send a Gen Y group into space.  Kind of like the whole Challenger "teacher into space" contest, but more Gen Y relevant.  You could let them blog, vlog, and Twitter.  Heck, you could even do the first Twittertakeoff; I sense victory at epic proportions for NASA's marketing and Gen Y recruitment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Burger King Attempts the Possimpible - The BK Lounge

First and foremost, if you recognized “the possimpible” as a quote by Neil Patrick Harris from the show How I Met Your Mother, you get +5 Awesome Millennial points, and a virtual high-five from me. If not, go watch the show, and read the below definition:

Possimpible. adj. Capable of happening yet not capable of happening.The magical place where the possible and impossible meet. Utopia. The Victoria Secret Fashion Show. (Ok, the last one isn’t a dictionary got me).

Or consider the following definition:

Possimpible. mktg. Burger King launches a “lounge.” Burger King FINALLY recognizes the easiest cross-promotional marketing venture in the history of cross-promotions...or marketing...or ventures.

But sadly, this painfully easy, cross-promotional venture that has been blessed by the Gods, Millennials, and Obama (don’t quote me on the last one) has been screwed up more than Chris Brown’s reputation.

“What’s the big deal?” you ask...Burger King decided to name their new “lounge” the Whopper Bar, in an attempt to become more contemporary. FAIL. Had they named it The BK Lounge, guaranteed success - or at least a one hit wonder.

For those of you not familiar with the term, The BK Lounge, it’s a phrase that 90% of Millennials can quote. When they hear it, they make an unconscious association with Burger King with comedian phenom Dane Cook. In one of his legendary standup routines, The Dane calls Burger King “The BK Lounge,” the rest is legend. Many people I know don’t even call Burger King by it’s real name, they just call it The BK Lounge.

If Burger King really wanted to appeal to Gen-Y and become more contemporary, all they had to do was call it The BK Lounge, it’s that simple (and serve beer, the fact that they have a “bar” and no beer is disconcerting...I digress). Name it something 90% of your target market not only can recognize and recall, but name it something that they unconsciously associate with a good time.

I think the most painful part of this, is that this is coming from a company that lays claim to two of the biggest viral marketing campaigns ever - the Subservient Chicken (which had a petty 450 million views) and The King, which not only helped re-brand the company, but also generate word of mouth marketing and 100K+ MySpace friends. I may not eat their food, but I have the utmost respect for the way they market.

How could they have dropped the ball on this? Epic Fail Burger King. Epic Fail.

*walks off sadly into sunset*

-Josh Groth

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gen-Y: It Just...Sucks? Really?

To keep pulse on Gen Y, Josh and I frequently peruse Google News and sign up for Google alerts for anything related to Echo Boomers, Gen Y, and Millennials.  As I looked for some relevant blog topics this evening, I stumbled across an op-ed on titled, "Gen Y: It Just Sucks". 

The surprising thing about the article is the author, Jordan Quinn, ultimately states that Gen Y is a bunch of whiners and losers who are refusing to realize the amazing opportunities they have.  He goes on to call Gen Y females "sperm banks" and seems to have a serious problem with Ecko-wearing, flat-billed hat sporting gentlemen who didn't hear their professor.  Although he acknowledges that Gen Y does have an elite group of diligent students, they are far outnumbered by lazy sperm banks that like people with Ecko shirts and have problems paying attention to their professors.

When I hear such negative talk about Gen Y and how we're all lazy, self-absorbed, or generally useless in society and in the workplace, I'm reminded of the Pareto rule I learned in college.  The rule generally states that 80% of your problems/productivity/anything comes from 20% of your processes/people/anything.

With that in mind, I think it's worth going out on a limb and saying that yeah...Gen Y is generally lazy, self-absorbed, and useless.  However, that's the way most of society has worked for most of modern history.  Heck, what made "The Greatest Generation" the greatest generation was that they probably actually all were affected (and effected) one of the greatest causes and wars in history.  It's not just Gen Y who's caught up in the rat race and doesn't have a clue about global issues and squanders the opportunities they have to help their neighbor, fight global hunger, eradicate preventible disease in the third world, or generally benefit society.

The truth is that it is the power of very few that make the biggest differences in society.  Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others were one person in their generation, race, and/or culture that profoundly affected an entire planet.  It is no different with Gen Y; for the 100 Gen Y that do nothing or will squander their opportunities, you will see a talented and very driven few in Gen Y taking advantage of every opportunity and galvanizing the world (and their generation) to action.  Over the next few years, we will see the elite Gen Y rise up and make a difference in their world.

Take heart, Jordan Quinn; Gen Y is generally lazy, self-absorbed, and useless.  Then again, it's debatable that most of this world would fall into that category as well.  Let's try to look at the glass half-full.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Facebook - The Most Useless Ads Ever

Welcome to the face of Facebook advertising.  Attractive, huh?  

(I'm not going to lie; I am copying Josh's format)

By now, most of you have probably seen the ads on your Facebook profile.  It's the worst thing to happen since Facebook introduced the mini-feed so your friend could see how many women you made plans with over the weekend (oooh...was that out loud?) - but that was almost a year ago.  Like the other social media sites before (and with) it, Facebook has managed to underwhelm its users with lackluster advertising and an underwhelming capitalization of the unique opportunity that is social media marketing.

Before I go further, I must confess; Facebook occasionally provides its users with decent marketing.  I notice some ads will focus on my interests stated in my profile, including cycling, running, triathlons, and real estate.  This is the extent of Facebook's marketing success over its existence.

However, Facebook's most recent ads leave its users (or at least me) feeling dirty and at high risk of identity theft if we click through them.  The two images I posted are actual images of the ads I find on Facebook.  They include the generic:
  • "How many eyes in this image?"
  • "How many deltoids in the picture above?  96.7% of Americans get this question wrong"
  • "Make $75/hour working part-time and being lazy" (smells scammy)
  • "Meet Christian singles" with pictures of busty Catholic school girls looking for a party
Aside from my last example, these ads tend to put nightmare-inducing images on your profile (and this totally detracts from my awesomely attractive friends).  Since when did marketing involve putting incredibly unattractive images on ad space and expecting/hoping for click-throughs?  Did I miss something in Psych 101?  I knew I shouldn't have skipped that day...

Due to not controlling the quality of ads on Facebook, Facebook diminishes its overall reputation in the American marketplace and its users perception of the quality of Facebook advertisements.  Also, poor ad revenues will kill any business valuation...

The solution for Facebook is simple:
  1. Increase the cost of advertisement: Boom!  Facebook's valuation just went up.  Creeper advertisers; go run ads your scammy ads elsewhere.  My profile is a scam-free zone and I don't care how many deltoids that guy has.  Perception is everything, and cost increases will increase the perceived benefit.
  2. Make them bigger: Facebook is a website that needs to generate revenue; increasing ad size will allow companies to develop more original and creative marketing.  It's hard to convince someone of anything with the postage-stamp marketing used today.
  3. Recruit better companies to advertise: Scam-O-Rama still isn't appealing even if they can set me up with busty Judeo-Christian women who attend private Catholic high schools and like to party.  Even the ShamWow guy would be a step in the right direction.
  4. Increase corporate-developed applications: The best (and only) Facebook application I ever used was Red Bull Roshambull.  It had nothing to do with Red Bull but everything with my 9-2 record of crushing my friends at rock paper scissors.  When Red Bull opened up its Roshamblog for tag lines, over 1,100 people submitted ideas to reflect your recent performance in the world of ro, sham, and bull.  Check out the Roshamblog for yourself.  I still laugh.
Mark Zuckerberg; do yourself and Facebook's market evaluation a favor and improve your online advertising.  Please?  

Mama said knock you out.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Skittles – The Laziest Marketing Campaign Ever

By now, many of you have probably read about Skittles’ new website. It’s the best thing to happen to Skittles since Skittles Vodka tutorials flooded the net – but that was two weeks ago. It’s being hailed as “an amazing social media campaign” by Where other brand- built social media websites have failed, Skittles has succeeded. Why? Because they’re lazy.

I imagine the brainstorming session went a lot like the way the late comedian Mitch Hedberg described the way the meeting went for the naming of the Doubletree Hotels:

"Let's call this hotel …Something...Tree." So they had a meeting; it was quite short.
"How 'bout Tree?”
“No, Double Tree."
"Hell yeah! Meeting adjourned!"
“I had my heart set on Quadruple Tree. We were almost there!”

The Skittles brainstorm around their website must have been similar:

“What do Millennials like?”
“Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia…”
“Well let’s just copy and paste those onto our website?”
“Hell yeah! Meeting adjourned.”

Alright, it might not have been that simple, but the layout sure it. It may be the laziest, most simplistic media campaign in recent history, but that’s the genius of it. Although, they left out the how-to on the vodka, unforgiveable. I’d describe it, but that’d take longer than it would for you to just follow the link at the bottom and see for yourself.

The reason the campaign is effective, is because it does not require the consumer to join a new brand-built social media network. Who on earth would want to do that? It lets the consumer utilize the social media networks they are already members of.

It’s also successful because it’s bold and new – hence the buzz it generated – but you could have figured out on your own. However, this only helps in the short run. But what I’m asking you is, will the campaign increase average website hits or more importantly, sales in the long term? I can’t imagine who on earth needs or wants to visit Skittles' website, but they’ve got a slick new campaign, so people will visit right now, much like you’re going to visit the site after reading this out of curiosity (but that’s after reading a few more of our posts…). But will anyone utilize this even a month from now – especially since the Skittles Vodka tutorials are not on the website?

-Josh Groth

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Water Cooler Owns Your Water Cooler

Photo Courtesy of Mordant Orange

Being a consultant, I get the “privilege” of experiencing many different office cultures. Some offices are fun and laid back, others are so uptight I feel like I need to rub my ears and mutter “Woo-Sawhhh...Woo-Sawhhh” just to maintain my sanity (+5 pts if you recognized the Bad Boys II reference).

The one commonality I unfortunately bear witness to from office to office, is the painfully awkward water cooler conversation. It’s forced. It’s unnatural. it’s an obligation. It’s typically the only authorized escape from the mundane dredges of “cube” life - besides a trip to Starbucks.

On one particular project, my cube was right next to the cooler. After the thoughts of banging my head repeatedly against my desk as I was subjected to being a unknown third wheel to all cooler convos, I learned that there are 5 generally accepted cooler topics ( accounting prof would be proud): weather, past weekend events, upcoming weekend events, healthy snacks, and the game.

At which point I wonder, is this really socializing? There are GACTs and there are GSCRs (generally accepted cooler responses). They’re predominately predetermined conversations that are more of a social obligation than actually socializing. Is it socialization when you already know the answer you’ll receive?

However, my water cooler is bigger...better...has 1000 people around it.

The Millennial’s water cooler is Facebook, with a splash of Twitter, and a twist of GChat. I can use that same 5mins you spent at your cooler to have meaningful conversations over GChat in my Gmail, or post a comment/question/reply to a friend’s wall, or even give a quick update to my friends as to what I’m up to.

I would even argue that my cooler is better for business. The time I spend on social media is time spent growing my network outside of the office. The more people I have strong connections with, the more 2nd degree contacts the company I work for has.

So, if both coolers eat 5 minutes of break time, and both are forms of socialization, why do companies allow cooler talk and block employees from accessing social media sites?
Let’s face it, Gen-Y and Gen-X communicate differently. Why should one generation be allowed to converse one way, and a different generation be denied the ability to converse another way?

-Josh Groth

Screw Stocks! Uncle Sam Wants YOU to Buy Skinny Jeans

Fellow Gen-Yers:

I hope you realize the absolute power you hold to bring this great country from the depths of the recession we find ourselves in today.  Heck, if FDR actually had a generation of credit-card carrying, skinny-jean wearing, Starbucks sipping teenagers running around in the 1930s, I'm sure there would be far fewer conspiracy theorists telling me World War II, not the New Deal, brought us out of the Great Depression.

Truth be told, I think President Obama's stimulus bill is all wrong.  Instead of giving individuals tax breaks and doubling that amount for married couples, I think he should give everybody in Gen Y double the amount given to other generations since saving is irrelevant and neon deep-cut v-necks are sooooo the in thing for spring fashion.

This latest brainstrom comes from reading NBC Los Angeles' article Recession Proof: 10 Stores We Can't Live Without.  Although the list included the un-Californian (and un-Gen Y) Wal-Mart and BJs, five stores that target Gen Y made the list.  The Gen Y stores I noticed include:
  • Urban Outfitters
  • American Apparel
  • Game Stop
  • Aeropostale
  • Buckle
As some background, while the world shuddered in fear and most retailers posted a -6% sales decline in same-store sales over Christmas, American Apparel and Aeropostale posted 6-10% increases.  Stand tall, Gen Y!  Just don't do anything involving moving your legs; your skinny jeans may split.

Although the so-called "experts" attribute the stores' successes to their ability to develop "lifestyle brands", I really think they mean to say they successfully created "Gen Y brands."  Each of the stores I highlight from the list are truly for a Gen Y consumer.  I have yet to see my father order the Slim Taper skinny jeans I saw at American Apparel or his "Optimus Prime Says Stay in School" t-shirt I noticed at Urban Outfitters.  If he does, I'm moving out of the house.  For real this time.

Truly, it is the power of Gen Y that has made these companies so successful during the economic downturn.  Our amazing buying power in the face of global calamity, poverty, war, hunger, famine, and economic collapse will keep these brands strong.  Our continued affection from credit card companies means we won't be running out of free cash (with interest) anytime soon.  Oh, and don't forget we generally don't have mortgages, kids, 401(k) accounts worth 50% of what they were with retirement staring us in the eyeballs, or other nasty fixed expenses to worry about each month.  

All in all, the stores listed above will continue to be successful because Gen Y will continue to spend money there.  We don't have to worry about retirement...why would we?

Go forth and spend, Gen Y.  Screw buying one pair of neon pink, ambi-gender, slim taper skinny jeans; buy two.  Uncle Sam needs you.