Be True: a Wednesday reminder.

After a job interview this summer, I got a follow-up email that said several nice and normal things before closing in this unusual way:

Keep painting your nails any color you want.

Last week's philosophy: why use one color when you've got two hands?

See, I had taken a small risk by deciding to keep my robin’s egg blue nails for the interview. Robin’s egg blue – however pretty – isn’t exactly a “professional” shade of polish. But it is a true reflection of who I am, a woman whose nail polish changes as often as the weather. And apparently, that small, honest glimpse worked in my favor.

I can’t think of a better reminder for today, whether you’re a nonprofit, a company, or just a regular person like me: be true to who you are. Marketing cycles through trends, just like any other industry. Don’t board a train just because every other brand in your market is riding it, and conversely, don’t be afraid to pioneer just because no one has gone before you.

In this hyper-connected, new economy world, consumers choose to connect with authentic brands.  In fact, research proves that the more genuine a brand feels, the more likely a consumer is to become a high value customer and recommend the brand to others. (This goes for people, too.)

So be exactly who you are. Hold firm to the values that have shaped you. Don’t suppress the personality that makes your brand distinct.  Keep painting your nails any color you want.

Love Talk: be useful or be interesting.

I follow Anthropologie on Tumblr. (And yes, someday I’ll stop talking about Anthropologie. When they stop being so cool.) Here’s why: their Tumblr blog, etymologie, reads like great editorial content, because it is. Each week, the folks maintaining this blog choose a word: “pet” or “garden” are recent examples. Then, they feature a variety of content – sourced from employees, customers, ordinary people – that expresses the essence of the word. The tone is casual, conversational. The photographs aren’t always styled. It feels like a community effort.

A photo that appeared on the etymologie tumblr during "pet" week.

The only marketing that ever appears in the blog is a small “shop anthropologie” link in the top navigation. So what makes the Tumblr blog such a smart marketing strategy? It obeys the two essential rules for communicating in our world today:

Be useful or be interesting. Bonus for being both.

Consumers are overloaded with information. Messages – of all kinds – fly at us from every channel. Still, organizations somehow believe that simply moving their marketing communications to Facebook or Twitter means consumers will listen to them. Nope. The reality is that none of us can process all the information that’s thrown at us everyday, forcing us to become more and more selective about the content we consume.

If brands hope to be heard, they must create communication that actually offers something of worth to their customers. It should instruct, inspire, ease, entertain. A few forward-thinking fashion brands have been quick to grasp this concept and have created their own editorial outlets – like the etymologie tumblr or like The Journal, an online magazine produced by men’s clothing brand, Mr. Porter. Consumers are attracted to the content for its own merit. It’s like going to a smashing party given by a cool host – your brand.

Granted, if you sell jet engines or potting soil, creating a lifestyle publication is probably not your best communication strategy. The question to ask yourself, then, is how can I give to my customers? How does my brand fit into their lives?

Perhaps the only “marketing strategy” that matters is simply love your customers.

When you love someone, you make a concerted effort to please him. You consider her needs, and how you can meet them. You listen. You pay attention to what he likes.

And when you open your mouth, that’s what you talk about.

On allnighters.

What’s your most memorable allnighter?

(In honor of CreateAthon 2011, happening here at Riggs as you read!)

Cathy Monetti
The 1992 C.C.Rigg’s Christmas Party at my house in Greenville. It was my
first social since giving birth five weeks earlier, and I do believe Tim
Burke, Jay Coles and I were standing in the driveway when the paperboy
delivered the newspaper the next morning.

Pete Anderson
The night before my senior thesis was due. The fatigue was nothing compared
to the sense of relief I felt upon completing a semester’s-worth of work!

Kevin Archie
When I was at the design program at USC, I distinctly remember the night before portfolio review day (aka Armageddon) because it was the end of my first “trial” year as a graphic designer, and I would soon find out if I could continue studying in the program. In other words, the rest of my life hinged on my ability to mount ten pieces of paper in a book. Fortunately, after spending the entire night cutting and pasting, I turned in my portfolio on time and found out the next afternoon that I was accepted to the program and would be “allowed” many more sleepless nights to come.

Kevin Smith
Determined to use my frequent flier miles, in the Paris airport, where hotels clearly insisted that every chair have arms.

Rebecca Jacobson
If I could remember that far back, my guess is it wouldn’t be something to
write about publicly!

Teresa Coles
The all-night ADPi house party at North Myrtle Beach during “first week”
after my freshman year. I left the beach house at o-dark-thirty, snuck into
my parent’s house for a shower without being seen, and went straight to a
job interview with a local bank. Then back to the beach in time to lay out
at 11:00 am!

Kathryn White
I’ve pulled more allnighters in my life than I’d ever care for my mother or doctor to know. Most memorable: the time I did two in a row — when after staying up all night to write papers, a boy kidnapped me the next night for a spontaneous trip to a legendary 24-hour restaurant several hours away. I still think that four a.m. “dinner” was worth it.

Ryon Edwards
Probably shouldn’t answer that question. My Mom reads our blog occasionally.

Inspire Ownership

When I meet someone interesting, I usually ask “What’s your best advice for me?” And then I write it down. As I flipped through my coffee-stained Moleskine this morning (stained being an understated description of this summer’s Great Coffee Spill), I came across this little gem:

Act like an owner. – Chris Colbert, CEO of Holland-Mark

Chris told me a story about an empty yogurt cup. On his way into the office one morning, he noticed a used yogurt cup – just hanging out on the floor of the entryway. It looked pretty gross. Had his arms not been full, he would have picked it up. But they were, and besides, a whole office of employees would be coming in behind him. Someone would surely dispose of it. When he left for lunch, the yogurt cup was still there. He brought the empty cup to their next meeting, where it became an object lesson in ownership and responsibility.

What does it really mean to be an owner? To take responsibility for our investments. We choose to do this or not do this every day. We can be owners in our relationships, in our workplace, with our brand of toothpaste. We get to decide when something matters enough to us to take action.

The key for marketers is understanding what inspires that transition from mere participant to owner. What does it take for a brand to become meaningful enough for a person to claim their part – however small – in that brand’s story?

People step up where their contributions matter.

People who love your brand are more common than you might think – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re your brand advocates. I’m a fan of CVS pharmacies. When faced with a choice between CVS and Walgreens, I’ll always choose CVS. In fact, I’d even call myself as a “CVS loyalist.” But I’m not sharing my CVS love with anyone in my life. I’m not a fan of CVS on Facebook. I don’t follow them on Twitter. I don’t know if I’ve ever visited their website. Why? Well, I’ve never been asked. And if I do decide to fan their Facebook page, does CVS actively want to hear from me? Is their online community centered on getting to know and love the people who love them the most?

People step up to be part of something.

We all want to belong. Think about the brands people talk about, the classics they are proud to wear and claim and be identified by. The common denominator is a vibrant community, a sense of group identity. We are more likely to take ownership when we feel we are joining something larger than ourselves.

If you want to create brand loyalists, keep doing the things that make your organization special. And if you want to create chatty brand loyalists, build a community that inspires your employees and your biggest fans to claim their own piece of your brand story.

 

On rooms.

What did your bedroom look like in high school?

 

Julie Turner
Duran Duran and other random band posters from the free bin at Sounds Familiar.

Pete Anderson
My room had a fly fishing decorative motif (mom’s choice) and very little
free space. Being the oldest, I got the room with the most privacy and
sunlight, which was nice.

Teresa Coles
We were building on a new wing to our house at the time, and all I wanted
was orange shag carpet (Go Tigers). It was set off with a custom gold
quilted spread, yellow/gold/orange combo stripe/flowered wallpaper, and
white dotted swiss curtains to calm it all down. A result of my daddy’s
directive to my mother “Let the baby have what she wants.” :)

Ryon Edwards

Maria Fabrizio
10th grade when I lived at home: 4 lemon yellow walls, 1 wall with Starry Night by Van gough. That year, the day after christmas I went to my room with a new set of paints and just painted it. Without permission. And my closet was plastered with Hanson posters. 11th and 12th grade I shared a dorm room at Governor’s School. It was small with two twin beds, two mis-matched comforters, two disparate sets of family photos, a poster of Jim Morrison with two hand drawn lobsters covering his chest, two completely different styles and sizes of teenage girl clothing, one small mirror above a small sink, and a trashcan filled with empty ramen packets.

Cathy Monetti
One summer I went away to camp and came home to discover my mother had completely redecorated my bedroom while I was gone. I was livid, and being 13, vowed to hate everything about that room, forever. Now I’m the Mom (of a daughter no less), and I realize my mother did this as a generous act of love. It is a great truth that the view is very different from this side of a mother/daughter relationship. Although—I must say—I never touch anything in my child’s room without permission!

Kathryn White
Clean. I was vigilant about hanging up clothes as soon as I was done with them. I didn’t allow books to stack up on my bedside table. Clutter never saw my floor. (What happened to that person?!)

Yanti Pepper
It had a credenza that housed my Emerson stereo with turntable, record albums (this was pre iPod, even pre cd’s!) and a 13 inch black and white tv with only a dozen channels (all local stations, no cable).  And I’m pretty sure that I had a poster of The Police on my wall because they were my favorite group back in the day. And I think I had a poster of Michael Jackson from his Thriller days.