The Holy Grail Found In A Small Pub

TimsTap4

Hearthside.

Walking into Jim’s Tap is like walking into the pub that all the beast slayers and bounty hunters hang out at after a long day of escapading, exchanging tales of adventure and whimsy over tall flagons of ale. The dim orange lighting and red carpet is accompanied by the warm glow of a fireplace illuminating a mounted boar’s head above its mantel. The walls are adorned with various medieval décor (including knight’s armor) hanging over the bar’s wooden tables and black chairs with silver-studded upholstery.

When I was a college student in Brookings, SD, Jim’s Tap was my bar. I and my social circle could frequently be found there next to the fireplace, tables pushed together, enjoying a bounty of brew (sometimes perhaps too bountiful) and exchanging our own tales of whimsy, our conversation getting louder and louder as the night ages. (My social circle was pretty big, comprised of many smaller, more close-knit cliques.) When we weren’t drinking tap beer we’d be downing Backpackers – a concoction unique to Jim’s Tap. Not much is known about the Backpacker other than the fact that it’s enchantingly delicious and neon green in color, which only adds to the bar’s fanciful mystique.

JimsTap3

Not my hog.

When I think of Jim’s Tap today, I think of the many laughs I shared around those pushed-together tables. I think of some of the greatest times I had with old friends and new. I think of the initial formative moments I spent there getting to know my now fiancé (who hailed from a neighboring clique), chatting and crushing on each other over the noise of our surrounding friends. I think of all this, set to a scene of perfect ambiance that sparked the imagination.

Every once in a while you come across a business that doesn’t need to talk you into liking it. It doesn’t need to have big sales promotions to keep customers coming back or launch social media campaigns with an inhumanly gregarious presence; it’s perfectly happy with its 133 Facebook Likes and sparse, punctuation-less updates. Sometimes businesses win consumers over by just being themselves, humbly doing what they do best. If they do it right, they can acquire what I think is the holy grail of business – true customer loyalty. This loyalty is not won by drink specials or fast service; it’s won by consistent positive experiences, experiences that turn into life-long memories.

So what makes Jim’s Tap so special to me? Why does it ignite such passionate nostalgia? Is it the boar’s head or the free snack mix? Nope, it is the memories. To me, Jim’s Tap isn’t just some bar; it’s a symbol of the good times. And if I lived in Brookings today, you can bet that I’d still be frequenting that old pub.

After living in Sioux Falls for about a year now, I have yet to find a Jim’s Tap replacement. Any recommendations? A mounted boar’s head is a plus.

– Andrew

_ _ _R _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _ _R _ _ _ _ _ _ Sep 25, 2012

The other night I was driving home on I-229, probably paying too much attention to the billboards, businesses and illuminated signs along the road. I couldn’t help but notice the number of businesses and buildings that had signs with burnt out letters. One in particular read “_ _ _R _ _   _ _ _ _” (or something like that; I just remember seeing a lonely lit “R”), on the side of a large building, probably retail of some sort.

If they just took care of their sign, I’d be able to tell you the name of their business, but instead, we’re left trying to play hangman. This is definitely one of the worst cases of sign-neglect I’ve seen.

They had one chance to tell me who they were as I zoomed by at 67 mph, and they screwed it up. And the neon red “R” sign immediately left me with all kinds of preconceptions about their company. Thoughts scrolled through my head as I continued home.

“Their merchandise is probably out-of-date and disorganized.” “Going inside would be like being in a Kmart. Eww.” “They definitely have a bunch of fax machines in there.” Then my imagination really started to run wild. “On the upside, maybe they sell fun obsolete technology that you can’t find anywhere else, like shoe phones or mini disc players, and not as a ‘retro’ gimmick, but because their building lies within a rip in space-time that has frozen them in a perpetual state of 1993.”

A consumer’s first impression of a business, whether it takes place online or on the street, is extremely important. Often-times signage is a part of that first impression. The sign can say a lot about a business, almost foreshadowing what kind of experience consumers may have if they come inside. So based on the sign “_ _ _R _ _   _ _ _ _,” what kind of shopping experience would you expect to have? It definitely would not be like a trip to the Mall of America; I can tell you that.

Letter burn-outs can also result in comical changes to the sign’s meaning. Here’s a bunch of unfortunately funny examples.

– Andrew

Sticks and stones can’t break their bones, but words can hurt brands.

In the past, if someone had a beef with a business, the worst they could do was to tell their friends and family about the horrible service at “Al’s Diner,” and maybe send a spiteful letter to Al. But now they can unleash their opinions and words of venom to the world through a never-ending list of business review sites, social media channels, forums etc., for all fellow consumers to read.

A major part of a brand’s identity comes from the way its consumers perceive it. And a part of the consumer’s perception of a brand is influenced by what other people are saying about it. In this Digital Age in which we are all connected, the modern consumer is capable of reaching a lot of people, potentially affecting their opinions, perspectives and feelings about a business.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of power, much more than consumers have ever had in the past, and both good and evil can come from that. As the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

I completely support the consumer’s right to be heard, as long as they’re honest and fair. The consumer voice of reason keeps businesses in line and helps them improve. It’s the unreasonable people that I have a problem with. It’s way too easy to turn on the laptop and rip a business a new one just because the cashier “looked at you wrong.”

We may assume that our lone little rants, out there amongst thousands of others, don’t have an impact, but they do. They’re out there for the world to see. Whether just one reader or 1,000 readers stumble across the consumer review, it has the potential to affect people’s perception of the brand. And if the review is unfair, irrational, unnecessarily mean, or a flat out lie, then that’s not fair to the business (no matter how big or small it is), nor the  bystander who now has the wrong impression.

The Digital Age has connected businesses and consumers in an unprecedented way. Both are now on an even playing field. And just as we expect integrity and fairness from brands, we are responsible for reciprocating. If we as consumers aren’t fair and judicious with our comments, reviews and complaints, then we’re just as bad as the allegedly loathsome businesses we’re complaining about.

– Andrew

OTA Sessions 2012 – Takeaways

In addition to an Augie tote bag, a few books and some OTA garb, there were many takeaways from the excellent speakers at this year’s 3rd annual OTA Sessions, which were held Friday, March 23. In a short, rapid-fire format, here are some of the main things we ADwërkers learned from the sessions.

Jim

  • The web is being rebuilt around people!
  • Consumers don’t experience “average” service; the curve has big peaks on both ends – very happy, and pissed.
  • Work in low-fidelity first.
  • Curiosity and luck are closely related.
  • When I grow up I want to be able to tell stories like Jay O’Callahan.

Sara

  • The most important things to people are their interests, their friends and their friends’ interests. We are not influenced by society; we are influenced by the people we are emotionally closest to. As advertisers, we can’t shout at consumers, we have to develop relationships with them over time with lightweight interactions like their friends did at the beginning of their friendships.
  • There is a lot of similar content in your inner circle of friends, but there is a vast amount of new content all around the circumference of your circle of friends. The circumference is where new content can get exposed and enter into a person’s circle. That’s where our clients can start their lightweight interactions that build into a brand that will eventually matter inside a person’s inner circle of friends.
  • Start with something you know. Then, take it to a new place. Satisfaction comes from being taken to an unfamiliar place.

Andrew

  • We need to stop attempting to apply the TV and print mediums to the web; the internet is an entirely different medium. It would be like reading a radio script in front of a camera, then broadcasting it on television.
  • If you want to move people, there is perhaps nothing more powerful than the original medium of face-to-face storytelling. That was made evident by the master storyteller Jay O’Callahan, who I think moved every single person in the audience that day with his story titled “Forged in the Stars.”
  • Ideas are like buying stock – the lower the risk, the lower the pay off, the higher the risk, the higher the payoff. Be willing to take risks with your ideas.

Mike

  • Today in marketing and advertising, the words “story” or “storytelling” have become so watered down. When Jay O’Callahan told us his story, he wasn’t trying to increase brand awareness, or he wasn’t trying to sell us something, he showed us how powerful authentic storytelling can be.
  • My hunch has always been that big creative ideas rarely come from people who have a narrow focus; they come from those that are open to learning; and it was nice to have that validated by some of the speakers.
  • My favorite form of communication is still the first form of communication – verbal.

Kara

  • It was encouraging to see so many attendees came from outside the Sioux Falls area. I saw people from Pierre and Rapid City and while I didn’t recognize anyone from the other OTA’s (ND and MN), I wouldn’t be surprised to know they were represented. The caliber of speakers was impressive and I was really amped when I walked out the door. We’re extremely fortunate to have this event held right here in “fly-over country.”

Thanks to Hugh Weber, Mike Billeter and Andrew Brynjulson for all of your efforts in putting together this event. We can’t wait for next year!

– ADwërks

To All You Brands Out There

Specifically the ones that don’t take branding seriously:

Branding matters, a lot, no matter how big or small your business, even if you have 6 Likes on your Facebook page. Remember, every single time your business is represented in relation to your customers and the general public, whether it be a Tweet, a sale or an ad, it all affects your brand image. And not only can your brand image affect your sales and reputation, but it can affect the entire future of your business.

Your brand isn’t necessarily defined by you; it’s defined by consumers, and the way they perceive your business. And that perception partially comes from what you have put out into the ether. Influencing that perception occurs in a number of ways, from the content of your website, to your logo, to your advertising, especially the experiences customers have with your company. All of these things (among others) contribute to your brand’s identity.

If you own a small business, do not make the mistake of thinking this kind of neurotic concern for brand development only applies to large, global brands. It’s just as important to your business, especially if you’re in the early stages of brand development. Every “branding moment” matters, regardless of how minuscule some moments may seem to you. By “branding moment,” I mean, every opportunity your business has to influence or support your brand in the public eye. And the outcome of every moment applies a plus or minus to your branding scoreboard.

So take it seriously. After all, this is your business. A business you’ve probably made sacrifices for, a business that puts food on your table, and provides for your family… You probably put a lot of care into every aspect. Don’t leave branding out of it.

– Andrew

Click for photo source.

What’s In A Name

What’s In A Name Feb 09, 2012

Celebrities name their children after fruit, colors, numbers and even cities. (Or in the case of one psuedo-celebrity, Press. Yes, Press, for all the attention she allegedly did and will receive.) Us common-folk laugh at birth certificates filled with words more commonly used on spelling flash cards for first graders. But the stand-out-in-the-crowd naming mentality does not start or stop with preschoolers hounded by the paparazzi.

These superlative skills also flood companies and products. Want something in HD, you get your pick of makeup, movies or sunglasses. Then there’s extreme (or EXTREME or even X-TREME) for games, pop or memory cards. And the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show introduced ultra – ultrabooks, ultracomputers and ultratelevisions.

Add to all of this, 3-D and ultimate, and you get the Ultra Ultimate Extreme HD 3-D phone, television, computer, apple, car or pajama jeans (ok, that may be a little extreme).

But it begs the question – Does an avalanche of adjectives actually help sell a product by moving it into the sphere of talked-about-ness, or does it end up disappointing? Does a name in itself create credibility, or cause chaos in an already overwhelmed marketplace?

Maybe in the end it’s not what’s in a name, but what’s in the product itself. If we sell people on exaggerated expectations, we often end up with disappointed consumers. So if a name brings with it the showmanship of an Elton John costume, but also delivers, it does the consumer some good by delivering what it promises. But when we brand an object outside of its personality and label it for headlines and not accuracy, well, it ends up like a 72-day Kardashian wedding, a lot of talk and even more gifts that should be returned.

And then there’s the guy who named his sons Winner and Loser. Names hold power, but the product (or the person) holds even more. As for naming children, she may not be a celebrity outside of her own yard, but we named our pug Mayhem Awesome. Unfortunately, as our furniture proves, she did not over-hype her name.

– Jolene

“Adjective” Photo by Procsilas Moscas, “Mayhem” photo by Jolene Loetscher

From FMOT to ZMOT

From FMOT to ZMOT Jan 13, 2012

For those who haven’t heard of the First Moment of Truth (FMOT), essentially it’s the moment in which a consumer is in a store deciding between your brand and the next guy’s. For years this has been a profound moment for businesses and marketers – a final fight to the death between two gladiators. Who will win? Lucky Charms or Cap’n Crunch? All of your branding and marketing efforts have led up to this moment. If your efforts were good enough, you’d close the sale and bask in the glory of the crowd’s roar in the Coliseum. But if you failed, you’d lose the sale to your competitor and fall to your death.

Although FMOT is still significant, it is yet another victim affected by digital technology’s wrath. Recently there has been a lot of hype around our office about a new book called ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth  by Jim Lecinski.

Now that you know about FMOT, the term Zero Moment of Truth refers to the moment of competition before the consumer reaches FMOT, and it takes place online rather than in the store. For example, if you were thinking about buying a new TV, whether you plan to buy it online or in-store, would you first conduct a little research online to learn about your options? You may compare brands and prices, read customer reviews about the potential candidates, or even consult your Twitter followers for suggestions. If you’re behind the times like me and still have a cathode-ray tube television, you may even do a little research to learn about HDTV’s in general before moving on to comparing brands, specs and prices. The instance in which you are conducting all of this research, from learning about the product category to the brand options, is the Zero Moment of Truth. And it’s becoming increasingly important for brands and businesses to be present at this moment and to take advantage of the opportunity, especially in today’s digital retail environment where some consumers may not even leave the couch when purchasing your product. And if they do, there’s a good chance that they’ve done some online research before coming to your store. And this is why your business needs to be there during that decision process.

I’ll give you an example from the book. It’s not enough for businesses to only be present when their brand name or product category is typed into a search engine; there are more innovative ways to be present as well. To illustrate this strategy, the author points out a popular Google search phrase – “What’s in dog food?” Now if you were a dog food company, wouldn’t you want to be present when a consumer has a question like this? Who better to answer it than you? Maybe you could start a “What’s in dog food” campaign and educate your consumers. Plus, it’d be a great way to stand out among your competitors.

And that’s the kind of stuff you’ll find in this book. It’s a short and simple read, but incredibly insightful. The author presents numerous case examples and offers tools, tips and ideas on how you can apply and implement ZMOT in your business. The Zero Moment of Truth concept is no doubt a monumental, game-changing notion for the field of marketing. Although this book is a great way to get acquainted with ZMOT, I have a hunch that it is a subject that will only receive deeper analysis in the future as it becomes even more important and more relevant to business and advertising.

The book is available in about every format you can imagine (I downloaded the app on my iPod touch). And the best part is – it’s free! Again, it’s a painless read, nothing compared to the pain of being struck down by a gladiator. So check it out, before the caged lions get you.

– Andrew

Liver is Always Liver

Liver by any other name, well, just call it liver. Dress it up with gravy, corn or peas, but liver will never be a juicy cut of steak slathered with A.1®. Sauce, a mouth-watering filet mignon or a burger beefed up with cheese and bacon. It can never be the other white meat, it will always be beef. And whatever name you use, it still tastes like liver and I will not, cannot and could not think of eating it. But not that my mom did not try.

Growing up on a farm, when you butcher your own cattle, you get left with a lot of leftovers which includes a freezer full of tongue, Rocky Mountain oysters and liver, when all the rest found its way to a plate. My mom knew this, and she would call liver any other name but liver in hopes I would eat it. Sometimes it would almost work. I’d take a nibble or two and then question the cut. Sometimes simply the look would throw me into a toddler-like tantrum.

When it comes to PR, you get plenty of liver. Good stories, full of iron. They beef up a company, but rarely do they suit everyone’s palate – the specialized, niched and super-quirky pitches. As business owners, we want to pitch everyone everywhere every story, because we want to believe everyone everywhere loves to know everything we do. But you would not serve a plate of liver, steak or stew meat at a meeting of the American Vegan Society (yes, it exists – http://www.americanvegan.org).

So as PR professionals, we cannot serve every story to everyone. We need to know the menu, our audience, and what they like and want to eat. Blame it (or credit it to) technology, but journalism evolved in the last decade into the Mall of America, filled with amusement parks, Subways, Hooters and lots of stores, each catering to a unique audience. If we want to create effective (and efficient from an opportunity cost perspective) pitches, we need to know what our audience wants and to not waste their time with what we think, or hope they will like. As advertisers, we research what works and what doesn’t, and PR must follow the same philosophy. It may seem like I’m serving up some strained peas, easy and obviously little chewing required, but so often (as I remember from being a journalist receiving emails every day from the launch of a Bosnian eat-on-a-dime cookbook to pitches about throwing the perfect children’s party with a budget of $20,000 when I reported on courts, cops and crime). When we pitch to the masses, they pitch our idea in the trash. Instead, we need to know the reporters, the blogs and the beats that care most about what idea we want to sell them. We must find the unique angles, and then serve our stories up on a silver platter. I admit, I am as guilty as my mom at trying, wanting and hoping someone will eat what I dish up. I pitched faux-Facebook websites like a pop-up-shop on a random street corner pushing the latest Louis Vuitton bag, and I would pitch to anyone and everyone because my client wanted a story on the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. That’s when a slice of humble pie helps for all involved. Communicating to clients also becomes critical so they know why and how you want to reach the people you believe will be most interested in them.

Now I’m kind of hungry with all this talk of food. I think I’ll grab a delivery menu for pizza tonight.

– Jolene Loetscher

Photos by Spec-ta-cles and coolmikeol. Thanks!

More Brains for Your Buck

ADwërks recently partook in the modern trend of crowdsourcing. We had been running some Carino’s bus sign ads with copy that depicted famous movie quotes with an added Carino’s twist. For example, “May the fork be with you,” or “Pasta la vista, baby.” The community really seemed to respond well to the ads. Customers would often offer up their own movie quote ideas to waiters and waitresses when they came in to eat. So we decided to give Carino’s customers an opportunity for their ideas to be heard and to possibly be used in the movie quote ads. We ran a contest on Facebook and the winning ideas were awarded with a Carino’s gift card, and the fulfillment of seeing their movie quote copy featured in Carino’s bus sign ads.

This is an example of crowdsourcing. In a certain context, it can be controversial. Crowdsourcing is basically the process of utilizing the public to gather new business ideas and to accomplish work tasks. It’s a complicated subject with many pros and cons that may change based on the context and the circumstances in which it is being used. But in general, crowdsourcing is considered to be less expensive than paying someone to accomplish the same tasks, plus you get a lot more “brains for your buck” by having an almost unlimited amount of potential participants. A con would be a lack of quality work and an unreliable deadline. For every, let’s say 500 submissions you get, you might only find one good idea. And it may take a long time to sift through all the bad ideas to find it. Or in some scenarios, you may not get any good ideas at all. So is this strategy really worth the risk?

I think it all depends. We utilized crowdsourcing in a simple, practical way. The task was pretty straightforward – take a famous movie quote and make it work as a Carino’s headline, something everyone could participate in. And in the end we got some good ideas. Plus, it was a great way to get Carino’s fans involved with the brand. But we didn’t put all of our eggs in one basket. And we certainly didn’t ask people to do anything they were unqualified to do. When companies start crowdsourcing people for more skilled work like graphic design or animation, then the issue starts getting more complicated.

It would be hard for me to say that utilizing the kind of crowdsourcing that gets your client’s customers more involved is a bad thing. When used for the advancement of a brand and customer engagement, crowdsourcing can be a great advertising tool. But when it’s used to harness people’s skills, talents and ideas for cheap, or in some cases free labor, that’s a whole different story.

What are your opinions on crowdsourcing?

– Andrew

Photo credit: Cheng-long Chang

The Learning Circle

The Learning Circle Jul 28, 2011

You start out in kindergarten, then finish 13 years later when you graduate high school. For some, you become college freshmen and finish as a college graduates. Fresh out of college, you most likely start out as a newbie at some kind of business or corporation. The circle continues.Circle

The learning process does not necessarily have a definitive beginning and end. And completed schooling certainly is not the end of our education. After graduation, the responsibility of learning becomes our own instead of our professor’s. Because the truth is, there will always be plenty to learn. Once we’ve become comfortable enough in our jobs, to the point where we’re just maintaining the routine, it’s easy to allow ourselves to go with the flow, instead of forcing ourselves to constantly push the threshold of our knowledge, skill sets, and definitions of success. The more we learn, the more we grow, and the better we can be at our jobs (and of course, life). Once we convince ourselves that we have learned enough, or become too arrogant or too proud to admit that we don’t have all the answers, that is when we stop learning. And when we stop learning, we become vulnerable to failure in the always changing world of business and advertising.

This is not to discredit the many intelligent, wise, talented, and highly acclaimed people in business, advertising, and the world in general, but it is a reminder to keep an open mind so we all can continue to learn and improve. That’s the beauty of The Learning Circle – with no true beginning or end, there’s always something new to learn.

– Andrew