Let’s Create a Manifesto!

Let’s Create a Manifesto!

Communications Marketing Strategy

Snowflake-029 by yellowcloud on FlickrMaybe you’ve been told you’re not a special snowflake, but actually you are. You are a special snowflake. Each of us is special and unique. Each of our companies or organizations is unique, with a certain way we look at the world and our market and ourselves.

But when the world looks at us, we rarely look unique. We all blend together and are not memorable. Why do we blend together? Why don’t we stand out? We blend together because we so often say the same things about ourselves. The things we say are good things — we talk about quality and being partners with our clients. And yet it all blends together, when what we each want is to stand out. How can we do that? Continue reading

The Right Marketing Mix

Marketing Strategy

by Sarah Mayer, Shift Principal

I think one of the hardest thing for companies to figure out is what amount of resources to devote to which marketing channels – what is the right marketing mix?  The answer to that quandary is relatively simple, although the strategies developed for them may be complex.  Begin by determining: what content do customers and prospective customers need to make a buying decision?  From there decide which channels make the most sense to deliver that information.  You will also need to be confident that your product and pricing are where they should be and get reacquainted with the 4 P’s of marketing – product, price, promotion and place.Marketing-Mix

Take your average small business owner, let’s say a auto repair shop.  They have for the most part probably driven leads by traditional methods – word of mouth, signage, print advertising, maybe radio or outdoor.  Well, these days word of mouth has turned social and people are making decisions based on what their friends and family recommend, how informative a website is, how easy it is to get and receive information online and whether or not the business has invested time in their social media.  So, the auto repair shop owner is now scratching his/her head about the lack of diversity they have in their marketing mix.

Coincidentally, we recently met with an auto repair shop owner who has been in business for over 20 years on a busy highway.  They have in their favor a great location, quality service to stand behind, competitive pricing and a large (yet aging) customer base.  Their biggest concern is that they are spending money on traditional methods like print advertising that just are not working any more.  They also have a very large customer database that they are not utilizing at all whatsoever!  In this case, we would recommend investing in a more content-rich website, increase social media presence, incorporate SEO and paid search, market to their database through mail and email, and develop a referral program to reward their loyal customers.  So, a diverse marketing mix, just like your financial advisor talks about!

There are no cookie-cutter marketing plans.  You have to do the work to get the strategy just right and have it actually work.

    • Find out everything about your current customers and your prospective customers.
    • Diversify your marketing channels in order to reach your targeted audience.
    • Be involved, engage either by listening and talking or just listening and then making changes based on what your customers want.

As we always do with our clients, measure results and then adjust as you go because marketing is always evolving.

Food Psychology: Details can Alter Taste Perception

Food Psychology: Details can Alter Taste Perception

Market Research Marketing Strategy

by Shift Fellow, Justina Eng

When we enjoy a nice meal at a fancy restaurant, it isn’t just the food that makes it “fancy”— the candlelit ambience, crisp white linen, shiny silverware, thick ceramic plates, and elegant glassware not only enhance and heighten your restaurant experience, but also the taste of your dish. These seemingly insignificant details play an important role in the mental associations we build between food and their accompanying dinnerware. Our sense of taste is not derived from just the tongue, but it interacts with our sight, smell, and hearing to produce our overall perception of the meal. This information is utilized for food marketing studies, and chefs use this information to expand your fine dining experience. Which means that $28 hunk of lamb you ordered is more than just a hunk of meat—every element of that dish is coordinated to maximize your overall dining experience.


Salt of the Earth’s vanilla ice cream with yuzu meringue and fresh flowers

Salt of the Earth, a once popular restaurant in Pittsburgh, is known for their modern cuisine and unique plating techniques. When I last visited, I ordered a homemade “curry” ice cream that was served in a large round ceramic plate that had a small round well in the center for the ice cream. It may not seem like the plate affects the perceived taste of the meal, but recent studies reveal otherwise. Researchers reveal that the color and shape of dinnerware can affect the flavor of the food or drink.

For example, angular plates tend to bring out the bitterness in foods like chocolate, while round packaging or plating emphasizes the dish’s sweetness. Additionally, researchers learned that combining a heavier bowl with a heavier spoon will tend to make the food taste better. Such information proves invaluable to restaurants, as they can alter their plating, décor, or ambience to emphasize particular flavors of their dishes. In my case, the large round plate helped to “sweeten” the taste of the spiced ice cream, and the heavy spoons added to the ice cream’s luxuriousness. Heston’s “Sounds of the Sea” – note the Conch shell with earbuds to the right Professional chefs like Heston Blumenthal explore and test boundaries of the fine dining experience by providing meals that not only tactfully display the food, but emit particular aromas and visuals to enhance its overall flavor. An example of this sensory integration would be Blumenthal’s “Sounds of the Sea,” where customers are provided with a conch shell with protruding Apple earbuds, which customers can listen to while they eat a dish that resembles an ocean crashing upon the beach. Blumenthal creates edible “sand,” comprised of various ingredients like powdered konbu (edible kelp), miso oil, crushed fried baby eels, and langoustine oil.

Heston’s “Sounds of the Sea” – note the Conch shell with earbuds
Heston’s “Sounds of the Sea” – note the Conch shell with earbuds


Alongside the edible sand is an edible “sea foam” made from the juices of shellfish like razor clams, abalone, shrimps, and oysters. Blumenthal incorporates the auditory element into his dish because he discovered that listening to the crash of ocean waves enhances the perceived saltiness and flavor of seafood. This was discovered by Blumenthal and Charles Spence of Oxford University, where they studied the relationship of sound and flavor. The next time you eat at a fancy restaurant, pay attention to the small details – the shape and texture of your dinnerware, the lighting and décor, and the smells and colors of your food. There is more to that rack of lamb than you realize.

Social media. What's all the fuss about?

Marketing Strategy Social media

If you’re not using social media for your company right now, maybe you have a reason.  Possibly it’s because you haven’t had the time. Maybe you just don’t see how social media can impact your company. Maybe you haven’t been wowed by the results.  In this article, we will show you some extreme examples that hopefully will ‘wow’ you with the possibilities of what social media can offer.

We realize that the companies we are about to cite have built a large following. They have sizable teams of people working for them to grow and keep followers. They have brand recognition. But, they also have quick-thinking social media teams that react (literally within minutes) to current events taking place. And, they use social media to get a message out to the masses for FREE.  The last two pieces are things any business can do.

How social media can be great for your company’s image

During the Super Bowl, an event witnessed by 108.7 million viewers according to this Huffington post article, you probably know that the lights went out in part of the Superdome. The game was suspended for 34 minutes. The post, 6 Brands That Moved Fast During Super Bowl Blackout, highlights some of the big brands’ sharp moves to address the situation.

The power went out at 5:38 pm PT (8:38 pm ET).  The two most successful tweets posted during the blackout that the above post highlights are Audi and Oreo’s. At 8:40pm ET, Audi posted the following tweet:


This one tweet yielded 9710 retweets and 3218 favorites. At 8:48pm ET, Oreo posted the below tweet and gained 16,067 retweets and 6,159 favorites on Twitter.


Let that sink in for a moment. Those two individual tweets combined had a total of over 25,000 posts and over 9,000 favorites. And that doesn’t count the number of manual retweets (those in which a Twitter user RTs a post with their own comments before or after, usually with the original post either in quotation marks or marked with RT somewhere) that the post received. Nor does it count the people that talked about the tweets without directly quoting or linking to the post.

A little bit of math

According to this study from beevolve.com, the average twitter user has 208 followers. The combined total of followers from Oreo and Audi notwithstanding, the potential reach of those two tweets would be 25,777 x 208=5,361,616. Audi has 314,085 followers and Oreo has 75,168 = a total of 389,253 (stats as of 2/13/2013). Their posts reached more than a potential of 13 times their (already large) existing following base. Now, we realize that some of these followers overlap, and that not every person that follows each of these accounts would have seen it, but those numbers are still pretty staggering.

Imagine you’re a small business that is starting up your social media. Let’s say you have 50 followers so far.  In comparison, it would be like your tweet being seen by potentially over 650 people. Audi’s post didn’t involve any setup, any props, any cameras. Oreo’s was a very simply put together tweet that probably didn’t cost a lot to set up or create.

How not using social media can reflect negatively on your company

Folks on social media are very much in search of instant gratification. This is a large part of the reason why those Super Bowl tweets were so hugely successful. Users grab on to things as they’re happening and ride them out. Fast forward to the State of the Union address (#SOTU), there was a moment during the Republican rebuttal address given by Marco Rubio (@MarcoRubio) in which Marco paused to take a sip of Poland Spring water. Sounds inane enough, right?

The amount of social media attention this drew was far beyond anything anyone would have expected.  According to this Huffington Post article, “Within the hour, #watergate was trending, a Lil’ John remix was in the works, and Rubio himself had even tweeted out a photo of the bottle.” There were fake Twitter accounts being created pretending to be the bottle that Marco drank from, and those fake accounts were tweeting and getting retweeted.

What was Poland Springs’ response? They didn’t even seem to know anything had happened. It took more than 14 hours for them to post an official response on their Facebook page. There are two Twitter accounts that appear to be in their name, one of which hasn’t been used since 2011, the other since 2010. While the posted response was appropriate, it was not timed appropriately to really cash in on the momentum that social media could have given it.

And then there’s this:


The fact that Poland Spring didn’t have a timely response drew negative publicity, despite the fact they had no way of knowing it was going to happen. Andrew has close to 70,000 followers.  And he’s not the only one to react in this way. Many articles and blog posts (not to mention tweets) address the fact that Poland Spring missed the boat. In fact, this article from Brand Channel goes on to point out the volume of the tweets going out during the course of the evening (9200 tweets per minute at the point of the now infamous water bottle sipping) from which Poland Spring could have easily thrived.

What’s your next step

So – we’ve told you why being active in social media can potentially be great, and we’ve told you why not being active in social media can potentially be detrimental. How do you think current events could make an impact in your organization’s social media feed?

Measure ROI with Website Analytics

Measure ROI with Website Analytics

Marketing Strategy Measurement

Purchasing and pre-purchasing decisions happen online these days.  Businesses that want to compete, let alone stand out, need to be actively pursuing an online marketing strategy. More so, organizations need to have control of their website to make frequent content updates and analytics installed to measure those efforts.  And while technology, like running a website and analyzing traffic data, may seem daunting to some, it’s really pretty accessible these days.  Tools like Google Analytics have revolutionized monitoring what is happening on your website.

Website Analytics Snapshot


If you’re into data, then Google Analytics gives you more than enough data to sift through, but if you’re not so much into numbers and just want to see the basics of what is happening on your site then it’s accessible to you too.  Here are some key metrics to review:

  1. Users – this is the number of unduplicated visitors to your site over the time frame you specified (we recommend looking at a monthly view and comparing to that the prior month, but also to the same month last year when you have that much data).
  2. Bounce Rate – this is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left the site from their entrance page).  This can help you understand what pages have the highest bounce rate and give you insight on how to improve that page so that people stay and visit more pages on your site.
  3. Demographics Information – under this area, we like to look at the city metric as most of our business and prospects are in Pittsburgh, PA.  For a local business this metric can be interesting to review.
  4. Visitor Frequency – if you have a blog on your website, then your expectation may be that there is a high percentage of return visitors. So you should set a goal and measure that particular statistic against your expectation.
  5. Mobile Traffic – maybe you don’t have a responsive website and see via the analytics that a large portion of your traffic is entering your site on a mobile device.  This may convince you to make your site more responsive.
  6. Traffic Sources – The above five stats can all be found under the category “audience.”  Under traffic sources you can find data on which keywords are being used by visitors in the search engines, which search engines refer the most traffic and which websites refer you traffic.  It’s a very helpful section for identifying what is working with your social media marketing and search engine efforts.
  7. Social – this is a relatively new area in Google Analytics.  Here you can see which social media networks are sending you the most traffic, the metrics on a particular URL which was shared via social and any conversions that resulted.  If you are taking the time to produce unique content on your site and then leveraging those URLs in social media, this area is a key statistic on the effectiveness of your content.  You can create more than one version of your URL for posting in various social channels, thus tracking which channel is most effective for that piece of content.
  8. Content – in this area you can review the pages of your site that receive the most traffic. This can be especially helpful in evaluating the success of a new page or a content campaign.

These are just some of the basic metrics, but with a tool like Google Analytics there are many more layers . The bottom line is that by tracking some of these data points, an organization can measure their activities in social media and other  marketing efforts. After all, results are the end game.

Marketing Shifted. Now what…

Marketing Strategy

Due to the emergence of what most call new media (i.e. social media, blogging, video, online reviews, etc) marketing is shifting almost daily. Traditional marketing has gone digital.  Buying has gone social.  Experiences with new and current customers are happening online first before the real-world.  As a business, organization or professional it’s important to take a thoughtful look at the best way to adapt to all this evolution.

How to Shift Your Marketing

  • Reevaluate your marketing and communications PLAN – does your plan address new media channels?  If not, then it’s time to dust it off and study the channels where your target audience is hanging out. Or it might be time to create a new plan from scratch.
  • Devise realistic and measurable GOALS to fit your refreshed marketing and communications plan.  Goals keep you on track and accountable.  They help us define what is working and what is not.
  • Identify what TECHNOLOGY updates you will need to put in place – such as a responsive website, analytic tracking, creative assets, a content hub (blog/article area).
  • SHARE your goals and strategy.  Bringing employees, customers and partners into the fold, helps build a connection to the brand.  Those engaged audiences will want to bring in new customers for you.

Shift in business is inevitable.  How you respond to it, makes all the difference in the world.  We want to hear from you.  What’s the biggest shift your business has seen in the last year?