Kashi Gets Crunched on Social Media

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All natural cereal brand Kashi tells us in its commercials that the company comprises “seven whole grains on a mission.” Recently, the mission in question looks like one to save the company’s face through strategic social media marketing.

The best defense is a good offense, and this is doubly true in the world of online marketing. When consumers start bombing a brand’s social media pages with complaints, smart brands use those same pages to combat the negative messages. And Kashi is currently working overtime on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to do just that. The issues for the hippie-dippy cereal started late last year when a watchdog group uncovered GMOs in Kashi’s list of ingredients. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are the last thing a shopper would expect to find in an “all natural cereal.”

The story picked up heat this month as Green Grocer, a healthy grocery store chain, dumped Kashi from its shelves. The following sign appeared on Green Grocer’s shelves: “You might be wondering where your favorite Kashi cereals have gone. It has recently come to our attention that 100 percent of the soy used in Kashi products is genetically modified, and that when the USDA tested the grains used there were found to be pesticides that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.”

Soon social media outlets were abuzz with Kashi criticism. The brand’s Facebook page was plundered with posts from angry consumers who felt like they’d been duped by the company. Kashi, which is owned by cereal magnet Kellogg’s, hustled to convince consumers that everything was okay and that GMOs aren’t harmful, even if they aren’t natural. The company released a video late last week on YouTube featuring a Kashi nutritionist and team member named Keegan who reads from a script about the “inaccurate information being circulated online about Kashi ingredients.” The brand has taken to Twitter and Facebook to post the video and to address any product concerns.

Has Kashi’s offense worked? It might be too early to tell, but once a brand has betrayed its image, it is extremely hard to win consumers back. Especially on social media. The Facebook shopper and Twitter critic aren’t easily swayed by corporate moves and they are in no hurry to help a brand restore its name. Also, we live in an era where consumers love to roast a hypocrite and Kashi, with its all natural claims, looks like just that to the average shopper. The big unfortunate fact for Kashi is that in the instant information age, you can’t get away with hiding things from the public. One way or another, it’s going to get out — and when it does, you better be ready to embark on a mission to save your image.

Five Things You Might Have Missed!

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Wanna know how Twitter is helping some nuns or where to play the biggest game of pinball in the world? Then read on, dear friends, because this edition of our Five Things You Might Have Missed list has juicy online marketing and social media news for everybody!

1.) Rollerskating — Better than Crack: Hey, if you found a better local commercial for a roller rink that’s about to go viral, then by all means, post the darn thing! If not, please enjoy the so-hilariously-bad-it’s-brilliant ad for Roller Kingdom in Reno, Nevada.

2.) Help a Sister Out: Nuns on Twitter? Sure! Reverend James Martin is hoping his hashtag #WhatSistersMeantoMe will help raise awareness for work of modern nuns around the world. The Vatican, which has gone Twitter-crazy in the last six months, has embraced the campaign, and now Twitter is filled with nun tales, proving every cause can benefit from a good Twitter campaign.

3.) Le Pinball Wizard: Ford Paris had a little fun with those tres serious French drivers with a one-of-a-kind digital installation which turned parking on a busy Parisian street into a game of pinball. As the drivers banged back and forth between two cars, pinball game noises sounded from a display above. It’s outdoor advertising turned into a game, and all we can say is, “J’adore!”

4.) Gadget-free Getaway: Last week we yammered about turning off our tech and this week we find several articles about how the travel industry is marketing gadget-free vacations. Coincidence? Nah. Gadget-free is the latest trend in getting consumers to spend time (and money) on things like travel where they can interact with one another. Like in person. Call it “anti-tech chic.” We think it’s here to stay.

5.) And Speaking of Phones: Rounding out the quintet this week is a new mobile marketing campaign from Greenpeace. Greenpeace Mode puts your phone to work for good when it’s on silent. The ingenious setting sends out messages about Greenpeace’s latest efforts and causes while you’re busy at work and school. Talk about gadget-free work!

Papapolooza! Dad-centric Marketing Hits All-time High

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From billboards and television commercials to viral spots and online marketing, he’s everywhere. Lately he’s been seen touting a diaper bag, but he’s also found hanging out with his bros shooting the breeze about parenting stuff. He is the modern dad and marketers, it seems, just can’t get enough of the guy.

Some call it a re-verb of the crap economy; others call it a balance of power. But whatever you call it, the Mr. Mom phenomenon is a very real one to advertisers. The modern dude-dad is funnier, more subversive and just the kind of man marketers hope we can relate to. Huggies is leading the way in the dad marketing revolution. Dads are front and center in a series of commercials which put real life papas and Huggies products like wipes and diapers to the test. Huggies and the dads are put through ringer in a series of challenges like eating spaghetti and speed changes. The funny reality TV-like spots are right in tune with the trend of featuring dad as this beleaguered, flawed superhero.

And what’s funnier than one Mr. Mom? A group of supper daddies, naturally. So appealing is the trend of the Dad-Dude Pack that What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a movie based on the famous pregnancy book, has tailored its trailers to feature funny dads. Never mind that the source material is about women’s bodies during pregnancy. Lionsgate Films is hoping to reel in guys with wacky shots of funnymen like Chris Rock and his fellow father friends carrying babies around Central Park.

And as much as we love this modern man who isn’t afraid of some diapers, we still love the stereotype of the dumb dad, too. This Verizon spot, which features some clueless dads with some really bad ideas, is an online hit even if it doesn’t celebrate dad as Superman.

But let’s ask you: Is this Mr. Mom marketing trend about to burn out or have we only seen the beginning of Dadtastic campaigns? Tell us in the comments section below!

Two Magazines Target Fashion & Beauty Bloggers

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Blog writing can translate to big bucks in the fashion and beauty industry. Over the years, we’ve seen the front rows of fashion shows infiltrated with bloggers — most of whom don’t work for big time fashion magazines. Fashion magazines, for their part, embraced the changing tides and were amongst the first of traditional publications to embrace bloggers. This week two powerhouses, Allure and Lucky, have announced two splashy blogger-themed events specially designed for beauty and fashion blog creation mavens.

Call it an inevitability or a sign of the times, but Allure’s Beauty Blogger Awards are a stroke of marketing genius. Not only does the competition call on Allure’s readers to choose the best beauty blogger but the contest relies on the nominated bloggers to help drum up interest in the showdown. And all of it is being co-sponsored by cosmetics company Revlon, of course. The pool of bloggers was narrowed down to 15 which Allure says includes “an astrophysics student, a medical student and a former Wall Street executive who left big business to blog.” Over the next five weeks, the bloggers will be asked to blog on specific topics and, one by one, readers will decide who stays in the competition. The winning blogger gets a VIP package to New York Fashion Week and the opportunity to be published in Allure.

Shopping bible Lucky magazine is taking a different approach to wooing bloggers. FABB, the Fashion and Beauty Blog conference, is a West Coast blogging conference with serious star power. Sponsored by P&G Beauty and Grooming, the conference features speakers like designer Zac Posen, actress Jessica Alba, Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant and Hunger Games star Elizabeth Banks. Lucky clearly cooked up this Los Angeles function to give bloggers something to blog about. The one-day event is chock full of speakers, events and giveaways sure to inspire a blogging frenzy.

Obviously, the fashion industry knows that happy bloggers means more coverage. But it goes deeper than that. Companies of all sizes would be wise not only to work diligently on their own blogs but to embrace other blogs that can help promote their industry. Bloggers love having the exclusive on something and small businesses love getting press coverage. It’s a win-win that never goes out of style.

Likes Are So Yesterday

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Two years ago, when we talked about Facebook marketing all anybody could yammer about was “Likes.” Likes, we said, were the key to Facebook fame and fortune; if you wanted your brand to get noticed in the sea of hungry online marketing sharks, you had better whip up a strategy for Likes, like pronto.

Yet as the marketing platform of Facebook has started to show its wear and tear over the years, we’ve sensed that perhaps Likes aren’t all they were cracked up to be. Now a new study affirms that Facebook Likes aren’t the end of the rainbow. If we want success on Facebook, we have to engage.

Researchers found that 75 percent of respondents Liked the Facebook page of an organization or brand but nearly 70 percent of those users rarely or never returned to the page. Only 15 percent of users made weekly visits to a company’s Facebook page.

“We wanted to find out what the younger generation, those 18- to 29-year-olds, are doing on those sites,” Tina McCorkindale, an assistant professor in Appalachian State University’s Department of Communication and social media expert, said. “They are the Facebook generation. With so many companies spending so much time and money on social media, we need to understand not only social media tools, but the strategies of how to use it.”

Instead, McCorkindale and fellow researchers Marcia DiStaso from Pennsylvania State University and Hilary Fussell-Sisco from Quinnipiac University found that the respondents in the survey were more enthusiastic about brands that offered some incentives to return to their page. Contests, giveaways, coupons and photos are some of the successful ways to get users back to Facebook pages. Also fascinating: 42 percent of the respondents dumped a Facebook page when they found the communication to be over the top. The study surveyed 414 people between the ages of 18 and 29.

So what have we learned here? Mainly, that Facebook users want to be engaged by brands and be given a reason to show up there. Just a steady stream of “please buy our crap” status updates ain’t gonna cut it. With a zillion brands on Facebook, users hold the power here. They can (and will, according to the survey) give your company the heave-ho if you tick them off with too much communication. Yet these numbers signal something bigger, we think. Facebook Pages are truly being used as one stops for company information. More and more, a brand’s page is about the who, what, when and where and not so much about Likes.

Bottom line: Facebook is where we hang out, so we want the businesses on the platform to be easy to find but not too noisy.

Blame Facebook: Corporate Bloggings Downward Spiral

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Is it the end of blogging for business as we know it? Should we shut down our blog campaigns and hop on Twitter instead? According to new numbers from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth report, corporate blogging is on the decline. Of the businesses surveyed, only 37 percent were still keeping the blog dream alive in 2011 — down from 50 percent in 2010. Media outlets like USA Today were quick to point the finger at Facebook and Twitter being the reason why companies have turned their backs on blogging. Yet before we ditch it altogether, let’s look at the truth about corporate blogging.

While the numbers do tell us that many companies have stopped blogging, there’s plenty they don’t tell us. Primarily, that most of the world’s most recognizable brands don’t just do Facebook or only have a Twitter account. When it comes to online branding, most of the big guns do it all, including blogging. Look at Southwest Airlines. Or Food Network. Or Disney. Or Diesel. Successful companies know that in order for new media marketing to work, they have to stick their fingers in all kinds of pies. And blogging is content that sticks, unlike Facebook posts that get lost in the shuffle. Also, these numbers surely don’t reflect the small spitfire companies who’ve had their brands put on the map thanks to blogging. Lastly, the big thing we always miss when we talk about how Facebook or Twitter is ruining blogging is how much those platforms actually help blogs. Blog marketing wouldn’t even exist without social media. Show me a cupcake shop owner, celebrity writer or fashion stylist who isn’t also tweeting links to their blogs and I’ll show a person doing it wrong.

But that’s what we think. How about you? Is corporate blogging over or has it only just begun? Sound off below!

Five Things You Might Have Missed!

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Any blog content management genius will tell you that coming up with a Top 5 or Top 10 list is just an easy ploy to rope in more readers. And they’re right! Still, we happen to think ours — the Five Things You Might Have Missed List — is also pretty darn entertaining and informative. Take a peek and tell us what you think!

1.) Your New Business Idol is Only 9 Years Old: High atop our list this week is the story of Caine Monroy and his cardboard arcade. If you think it sounds like a Spielberg movie now, just wait until you hear the real-life details: Monroy converted his dad’s garage into a cardboard arcade and, with the help of online branding, some enthusiastic customers and a great video, he’s become the latest meme as well as an inspiring startup story for folks of all ages.

2.) Enter the Branding Police: There’s a new sheriff in town on Twitter, and he’s gonna get ya if you mess with the Olympics. Forbes turned us on to the new (and slightly ominous) prospect of Twitter brand cops this week. Turns out the Olympics are taking their image and branding more seriously than ever, enlisting the help of monitors to shut down accounts illegally using the Olympic name and logo on Twitter.

3.) Up, Up and Away: Jack White and his label Third Man Records came up with a one-of-a-kind way to help sales of his new solo record positively soar. Third Man shoved limited edition flexi-disks into balloons and set them free on April 1st from their headquarters in Nashville. The label expects about 10 percent of the copies to be found. The stunt scooped up a handful of headlines for the indie record label and even made hippies happy — the balloons are biodegradable.

4.) Step Away from the Android: Did you set down your smartphone on April 14th and say “enough is enough!”? If so, you were the few and proud who participated in art blog/collective Provocative Penguin’s Leave Your Phone at Home Day. The event encouraged followers to unplug and not use their phones for a whole day. Gasp! We’re happy to report that humanity continued to function as folks left their phones at home and think it’s a great idea any time of the year.

5.) A Little French, A Lotta Fabulous: Lastly, we close out our list with “Petit H,” a video from luxury brand Hermès. The video is a promotional piece for Petit H, which Adverblog describes as a “creative workshop that brings together materials, artists and craftsmen in single space, faithful to the exacting standards that characterize Hermès.” It’s a beautiful video that’s meant to spark creative fires. We say job well done, Hermès.

Social Media Marketing Goes Berzerk on Tax Day

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Social media marketing, in its relatively short time in existence, has already claimed certain days of the year as its own: Cyber Monday, Super Sunday, Black Friday and, most recently, Tax Day. This year, a record number of brands offered big-time deals on Tax Day, and we have the rundown on who gave out what, what promotions worked and which brands missed a golden opportunity.

It was a junk food lovers jamboree on Tuesday as tons of brands used Facebook to promote free food giveaways. Arby’s gave out curly fries to Facebook friends while Chili’s doled out free desserts and appetizers. And the social media gut bomb didn’t end there; Cinnabon, Panda Express and Chevy’s also gave out free Tax Day eats. Seattle’s Best gave out free coffee coupons on its Facebook page. But the big winner here was Pizza Hut, which used social media to pick out winners of free large pizzas in six U.S. cities at midnight to feed those last-minute filers.

Food wasn’t the only category busy on Tax Day, though. Hydro-Massage once again gave away free 10 minute massages and Office Depot donated free copies to the rushed tax day crowd.

Things like free copies, free coffee and free pizzas speak very much to the spirit of Tax Day and using Facebook as the coupon hub makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the companies that didn’t promote at all on Tax Day. If we ran the Facebook marketing for an airline or a travel website, we wouldn’t have missed offering flight specials and vacation deals to those lucky folks who are dying to spend that refund money on its way. Likewise, the pain relief industry, the Tylenols and Advils of the world, really missed a promotion opportunity to hand out free samples to filers who had splitting Tax Day headaches.

The Tax Day social media marketing blitz has become a tradition and we can’t wait to see what the brands roll out in 2013. But don’t get any funny ideas, IRS. We’re in no hurry to file again.