What Making Leg Lamp Cookies Taught Me About My Business

Leg Lamp!

Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian!

Yes, those leg lamp cookies. If you’re not familiar with the famous (or some would say infamous) leg lamp, then go see
A Christmas Story. And don’t shoot your eye out, kid! 

So back to the cookies. I made the dough on Sunday night and planned to cut, bake and ice the cookies on Monday
morning (along with several other items on my to-do list). Nothing like waiting until Christmas Eve!

Except something happened when I cut the first leg lamp cookie. I was taken aback by the detail. The beautiful high
heel shoe, the fine line of the fishnet stockings (Let’s be honest; that’s what makes the lamp!) … It was a thing of beauty, if I may say so myself.

Our opinions on beauty may diverge from here, but the important thing is what happened next. I decided not to ice the cookies. How could I cover up that detail?! That’s what made the cookies stand out and would be sure to give everyone at our Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrations a good laugh.

No matter how much we plan (and we should!), sometimes life throws you a better idea. Don’t rigidly stick to your plan (business, marketing or otherwise) and miss an opportunity to shine. Take a chance and follow the divergent path to see where it leads. It could lead to a brilliant new idea, unique product concept or branching off your business or marketing plans in a completely new direction.

Because I know you were wondering, the leg lamp cookies were a hit (even without the icing)! I may have started a new family Christmas tradition and reminded myself of an important point to remember at the same time.

leg lamp cookies!

Beautiful & delicious!

What seemingly unrelated task has reminded you of an important business, marketing or life lesson?

What is your favorite holiday movie? Tradition?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or connect with me on the following social platforms.

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Image credits: Leg Lamp – A Christmas Story House & Museum; Leg Lamp Cookies – personal photo
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

Jaime

Where Has All of the Good Journalism Gone?

Along with the rest of the nation, I watched in horror at the events that unfolded in Newtown, CT last Friday. I was out running errands for my business in the morning, so I didn’t see the initial breaking news coverage. I quickly checked my social media networks upon arriving home and noticed a few mentions of thoughts and prayers for Stony Hook Elementary School. Naturally, I Googled the school’s name to see what had happened.

My first search result returned a close-up picture of terrified, crying children being led across the parking lot to safety. I was shocked. First, as I learned of the morning’s events, and second, at the photograph of young children that had been posted online and was spreading like wildfire. That image has been immortalized, capturing those children in a moment of sheer terror forever. Why? What news value does it add?

Of course that was only the beginning as the rush to break the story led to quoting ‘anonymous law enforcement officials’ and publishing the wrong individual as the shooter. To further the misinformation, a Facebook profile and Twitter page were published that supposedly belonged to the (wrong) shooter. Wait, the Twitter page didn’t even belong to the misidentified shooter, throwing yet another innocent person into the spotlight.

excellent journalism quote

Where has all of the good journalism gone?

As a journalism major, I remember learning some of the sound principles of quality journalism. Accuracy. Accountability. Ethics. Legitimate, vetted sources. An accurate story was just as important as speed, and journalists were held accountable to a code of ethics (unless you ended up at the Enquirer, but I digress).

In today’s world, we have instant access to social media and the Internet, which connects us all at breakneck speed. This always connected feeling and easy access to the masses has brought positive and negative effects. But has it killed quality journalism?

Today, I came across an article written by Roger Ebert, a well-known film critic. It’s entitled News coverage, not movies, helps trigger Newtown-type tragedies. You can gather its point from the title, but it’s worth a read anyway. As always, Ebert makes a case for his opinion and gets straight to the point. As I read his article, it made a lot of sense.

If this is true, then the current state of journalism and news coverage is more than sub-par; it’s helping to stoke the fire of violence in this country. As a journalism major, this just breaks my heart.

What are your thoughts on the state of journalism today?

  • Have the Internet and social media contributed to its demise?
  • Would you rather wait for quality, accurate information or receive news immediately (regardless of errors or misinformation?)
  • Are journalism and news coverage helping to contribute to the rash of violent acts in this country?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this timely subject. Please leave a comment below or connect with me on social media to let me know your thoughts. Feel free to invite your friends to chime in with their opinions as well.

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Image credit: planeta via flickr

Stay safe,
Jaime

p.s. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone in Newtown, CT. affected by this horrible tragedy.

Distinctly Downtown: First Night Akron

If you’re in the Canton / Akron / Cleveland area, come on out to First Night Akron. A fun time to be had by all, this New Year’s celebration in downtown Akron provides a variety of entertainment for all ages and includes two impressive fireworks celebrations.

If you’re planning on ringing in 2013 at First Night Akron, we’d love to hear from you!

Distinctly Downtown

It’s that time of year! The holidays are here and the best way to celebrate the New Year is right in Downtown Akron.  First Night® Akron is a family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration to entertain all ages as we welcome 2013. Admission button are Image$10 and children under 10 years of age are free.

There will be a variety of entertainment, from music, arts and crafts, face painting, comedy, showcased art, a mass wedding, fortune telling, dancing, a wide variety of food, and fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight.

Some of the coolest entertainment will be provided by JoyUNSPEAKABLE, a statue mime that moves randomly to surprise and interact with the audience. He looks like a painted statue but if you look closely he is a real person and will entertain you with his talents.

Do you wish you were snorkeling in the Bahamas for New Years, but cannot…

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Special Offers: Are You Engaging Customers or Just Irritating Them?

It’s that time of year! During the Holiday shopping season, companies love to entice deal-hungry consumers with special offers to grab their share of the pie.

Facebook page offers. Mobile discount codes. Coupons, special discounts or gift cards with purchases.

These promotions can be a great way to interact with fans and create ambassadors for your brand. Or you can turn off regular customers, who will instead share their negative experiences. It all depends on implementation.

Implementation? Unfortunately, this extremely important part of the marketing process often doesn’t come up in the marketing department while great ideas are being kicked around. How will your customers redeem your special offer? Will you make it easy or painful? Implementation can be the difference between your customers returning or moving on to your competitors.

Facebook Offers

Has your company experimented with Facebook offers? Have you claimed any?

Case Study 1     (Created Friction)

For example, a major retailer offered a $10 gift card if you spent $50 in the store during a 3-day span via its Facebook page. What a fun idea! Engage your customers on social media and encourage them to purchase now. Upon redeeming the offer on Facebook, I received an email to show the cashier in the store. When I checked out, I noticed that the offer didn’t automatically ring up once I eclipsed the amount needed as it has with past promotions. While showing the cashier the offer email (which she was not aware of at all), we noted that no bar code or special code was included.

The cashier had no idea how to ring up the gift card in the system and actually mentioned the email might be spam. Once I assured her that it was a valid offer from the company’s Facebook page, she directed me to the customer service desk. The two ladies there were actually aware of the offer but neither knew how to ring it up either. Finally, they offered to refund me $10 from my purchase, which I appreciated.


Case Study 2     (Created Friction)

Another leading retailer came up with the novel concept of distributing small Holiday-themed pins in its stores. Customers could pick up these pins at checkout or even stop in to pick some up without a purchase. They had fun designs, and some people really enjoy collecting little keepsakes  (or giving them to others). Each pin had a code on the back, which you had to enter at a website to see what you had won. Prizes ranged, but many were small gift certificates in the $5 – 10 range. After unveiling what you had won, your prizes (i.e. gift certificates) were emailed to you. There was fine print, of course, including that the certificates could not be combined on one order.

Of course, some people ended up collecting several pins and amassing a number of small gift certificates. When they came to the store to shop, they wanted to use all of their certificates, of course. In order to do that, many people had to pay for most of their items as separate orders. Picture this: a retail establishment already busy with the Holiday shopping crowd further slowed with customers checking out 5, 10 or even 20 times a piece.

While I love the pin idea, did anyone think through implementation? Maybe they did and didn’t think the long lines and slow checkout process would deter customers. But of course there were several impatient (and unhappy) customers around, some who would undoubtedly share their experience with friends, family and social networks. Add to this scenario a mobile code discount that the associates weren’t aware of how to ring up, and I’m sure you can picture the scene.


Case Study 3
     (Nice & Easy)

This fall, Starbucks offered a LivingSocial deal to purchase a $10 e-card for only $5. Being an avid espresso fan, I bought. Not only did I receive a deal, I was also introduced to Starbucks’ e-gift cards (yes, I’m a little behind on these things). How convenient to just scan my phone when paying and having the amount automatically updated. After registering the card, I receive rewards on my purchases using it and can easily reload with two clicks (or set up automatic reloading).

This offer was easy to redeem, saves Starbucks money (no physical gift cards to print) and saves me the hassle of remembering where I put the gift card. I’ve now downloaded the Starbucks app and regularly reload my card in order to earn rewards. All from a harmless little LivingSocial deal…

Takeaway

I highlighted these three situations because they are fresh and relevant. The first two companies eventually made good on their offers, so I’m not looking to badmouth either of them (hence no company names). The point is that implementation is a key part of any marketing offer, special promotion or customer engagement strategy and can be the difference in success or failure.

The more friction that you create at customer touch points, the more you encourage them to take their business elsewhere.

What’s your take? 

Is a specific experience redeeming a special offer memorable to you (either good or bad)?

Do you take advantage of these types of offers? Why or why not?

Are there any specific types of offers that are more enticing to you?

Finally, what successful promotions have your company run? What are some tips that you’ve learned along the way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so we can further discuss the role that implementation plays in special offers. Thanks for stopping by!

Image credit: Entrepreneur
Stay warm! (If you live in a warm weather year ’round locale, then bah humbug. Ha!)

Jaime

Online Marketing & Your Privacy: Can They Coexist?

As a marketing professional, I find myself in a conundrum. I completely understand companies wanting to gather information about me in order to present a more personalized experience. Targeted ads, relevant special offers, personalized product suggestions.

Online information tracking creates security concerns

But it’s scary. We live in a digital world, and identity theft and fraud are on the rise. If we don’t have our identity, what do we have? I’ve heard horror stories of people having their identities stolen and fighting for years to get it back, clean up their credit report, etc..

Recently, I read an informative article from Lifehacker about protecting your information online. It really made me think, and I proceeded to install some security plug-ins for my browser and strengthen my security settings. However, I soon ran into issues.

Sites that I commonly use (and trust), such as clients, vendors and mainstream services, were rendered ineffective. I’ve already run into multiple instances where I couldn’t even log in to these sites without enabling cookies. Also, these plug-ins seem to be really slowing down my browsing experience. So what to do? What do you do?

I did check out Lifehacker’s “The Best Replacements for Privacy-Invading Services,” along with other suggestions for bypassing some of these companies and services. But do I really want to forego Gmail and Facebook entirely? I can’t imagine removing my Facebook company page in lieu of a presence on Glassboard. Would you? Have you?

As noted, I can definitely see both points of view as a marketer and consumer. I enjoy the personalized experience and convenience that information tracking allows. However, I’m at a crossroads right now. Security or convenience & personalization? Can these two sides ever coexist?

I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences on how you live in our digital world while maintaining your privacy. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Stay safe,
Jaime

Image credit: cedro via Flickr