At the end of May, I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai with a team from Delta Faucet to attend the Kitchen and Bath China (KBC) trade show. Delta and Brizo (Delta Faucet Company’s premium brand) were both exhibiting at the show.
Honestly, a trade show is a trade show—big booths, small booths, demonstrations and classes. But, with the Chinese market being so very different from the U.S., this was a great opportunity to learn more about the local market.
The show was monstrous with eighteen halls, thousands of exhibitors and mobs of attendees. The housing market in China is massive and the growing middle class aspire for luxurious, expensive products, which is making things like custom showers and elaborate bathrooms very popular.
Import brands are a very big deal. American brands, such as Delta and Kohler, are viewed as durable, reliable and well-made with the general idea of American manufacturing being the worldwide standard. German brands are also incredibly common, but they represent the height of European style. Sleek, minimalist, angular.
One key difference between the U.S. and China is the focus on the bath as opposed to the kitchen. In China, the kitchen is not a gathering place for the home. It’s small and often used by a maid as opposed to being the place in the home where the whole family assembles, like in the U.S.
Now the bath on the other hand is a whole different story. People seem to really aspire to have a bathroom that is a showplace, particularly as it relates to the shower or the bathtub. Showerheads are huge. Many mount flush to the ceiling and release gallons/liters of water per minute. Water conservation is a growing trend, but not as it relates to a shower. People want a highly luxurious shower at any cost.
We’re seeing this bath trend in the U.S. too, but it was incredibly prevalent in China. The free-standing tub is also very popular. Ornate, elaborate tub fillers mounted into the floor stand beside beautiful bathtubs to create an almost spa-like experience in the bath.
Even digital showering has made its way to China. It’s a small part of the market, but it’s a status symbol people aspire to have. What’s interesting to me is that the big players in digital showers in the U.S. (Moen and Kohler) are not the big players in China. Grohe, American Standard and Hansgrohe showed digital showers that we haven’t even seen in the U.S. before.
When we attend trade shows in the U.S., there is always a ton of excitement about the elaborate, digital and electronic toilets that are shown by Kohler or Toto, but in China the reaction is kind of meh. The digital toilet has been common in Asia for many years and you actually see them in public restrooms in hotels, malls and restaurants. Toilets are the one area where water conservation seems to be making headway. The dual-flush toilet is very common in commercial applications, but we saw the trend moving towards residential toilets as well.
Anecdotally, we have always felt that international markets skew towards and prefer contemporary or modern styling as opposed to something more traditional. Though that definitely is true, there is a niche for traditional-styled products with some caveats. Brands are showing their traditional products in unique finishes such as bright, polished brass or polished bronze. The matte finishes are not as popular. The traditional products are very ornate. We often think of traditional as being rustic, but that’s not the case in China. If a brand has something really unique, there seems to be a market for it.
Overall, the show was incredible and it was awesome to see it live. I learned a ton about what the Chinese prefer and gravitate towards and it was an invaluable experience that will help us to be better marketers moving forward.
Congratulations to the IU Simon Cancer Center, The Indianapolis Colts and everyone involved in making the inaugural Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala an enormous success. With 400 guests in attendance, the one-night event brought in $1.1 million to tackle cancer.
The idea of a fundraising gala typically conjures up images of exclusive invitations, evening gowns and passed hors d’oeuvres. However, when Mary Maxwell and her team set out to plan this one-of-a-kind gala they had something entirely different in mind. Considered risky by those in the gala planning business, the team went out on a limb to create a memorable event that was both high scale and casual.
The “no heels or tuxedos” tailgating event kicked-off on the indoor NFL practice field at the Indianapolis Colts complex. The facility featured a mini football combine where guests could kick field goals, catch touchdown passes from Andrew Luck and even tackle a 260-pound NFL lineman – all for the common cause of funding cancer research. An autograph signing session, cocktail reception and silent auction also took place on the practice field followed by dinner and a live auction in an adjoined banquet hall at the complex.
While glitz and glamour were not on the ticket at this sold out extravaganza, the event had all the details necessary to make it memorable. While seeing Barbie Wentworth catch a touch down pass from Andrew Luck ranks near the top of high points for the evening…the highest by far was hearing Coach Pagano tell his story first hand. How family, friends and team members have the power to get us through the toughest of times. How wonderful beating cancer feels. How making a difference for the greater good is what matters most.
I feel very blessed to have witnessed this event come together. And even more blessed knowing that $1.1 million is being put towards the fight against a disease that impacts so many.
Congratulations to the event planning committee and board of the IU Simon Cancer Center for an event well played!
When is the last time you visited the obituary section of the New York Times (NYT)? For me, it had been a good number of years until my interest was recently piqued by—of all people—Alec Baldwin. In his “Here’s the Thing” podcast, Baldwin revealed that the obituary section is one of his favorite components of the paper and a daily read for creative inspiration. So, I followed his lead, began exploring past articles and was somewhat surprised to uncover some compelling takeaways that relate to the modern day marketing and media landscape.
Compelling storytelling. From the perspective of both a consumer and marketer, the personalization of brands through storytelling is in high demand. Chronicling a person’s life is much like the chronology of a brand.
Cultural depth. Context is now king (dethroning content’s long-standing reign), which means that now more than ever marketers need to keep a better pulse on the world around them to effectively garner attention. The obituary section of the NYT is a valuable shrine of cultural grit — from ring shouts to concentration coats—this captivating content is sure to spark creativity.
Vocabulary-stretching syntax. The words ubiquitous, musculature, and polemical make rare appearances in my daily news feed—as well as memorably vivid descriptions such as a “sharp-elbowed world”, “triply marginalized” and “prolific procurer.” Drawing inspiration from the obituaries can help freshen your vocabulary and add distinction to your message.
Astoundingly succinct headlines. In a world of 140-character tweets, there’s something to be learned from a powerfully pointed headline. The NYT’s formula for headlines requires intricately crafted wordsmithing—an incredibly valuable skill across a wide variety of marketing tactics.Tweet
The luck of the Irish might be with you this weekend, but it takes more than luck to create a successful social media strategy. With diligence and persistence, your social media plan will begin to fall into place and luck can be seen as the extra cherry on top. So stop searching for that elusive four leaf clover and try the following social media tips.
Study Each Platform – There are different “rules” and nuances for every social media platform that you need to familiarize yourself with before jumping in. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal platforms for visual content and Facebook also lends itself to initiating conversations.
Start Small - After researching the best social media outlets for your users and overall strategy, start small. It takes time to get the hang of each cyber community and to truly maximize your efforts and reach your intended audience. Select one or two outlets to focus on and once you get the hang of the routine, expand to more social media outlets, if appropriate.
Network - Reach out and begin to follow key players in your industry. If you don’t know who these people are, do your research. Begin by listening to relevant conversations and influencers within your industry. Also, ask your followers who they are engaged with — this gives you insight on who to follow and also begins to cultivate a relationship between you and your followers.
Be yourself. Show your followers who you are — loosen up the corporate tone. It’s OK to be more casual on certain outlets (i.e. Facebook) and reserve a more business tone for others (i.e. LinkedIn). Identify your audience for each outlet and it will help you decide what tone is most appropriate, but always stay true to you or your brand.
Be Visual - Spice up your social media content with some great visuals. After announcing the most recent changes to Facebook’s News Feed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that almost 50 percent of News Feed content today is photos and visual content (hence the new visual-focused News Feed design). According to HubSpot, photos generate 53 percent more likes than the average post and 104 percent more comments then the average post.
Not only can visuals be more interesting to your readers, but we naturally process visuals quicker then text. WIth so many other companies competing for a user’s attention, this is key to marketers.
This isn’t just a strategy for Facebook either. Facebook reached 100 million users in four years, but Instagram is on pace to beat that record. Check out this article from Mashable to help put this in perspective.
Do it Daily – Make your social media strategy part of a daily routine. This will allow you to give timely responses to any questions or comments from users. According to Socialbakers, only 48 percent of customer queries are addressed by surveyed companies. That number is steadily increasing, but think about the competitive edge this could give your brand. Be persistent and you might just make your own luck.Tweet
What inspires you? What inspires your co-workers and employees? What about your children or significant other? It’s obviously different for everyone, but for me, two words that I feel are very important (both at work and at home) are “positivity” and “perspective”.
Here’s a quick, bite-sized look at a couple of recent (and not-so-recent) examples that I have found interesting and inspiring. And maybe you’ll feel the same way.
Bobby McFerrin summarizes the key to happiness nicely, but it’s more than just a matter of letting go and feeling better.
Or is it?
“The Happy Secret to Better Work” is a stellar TEDx video that I stumbled upon a few days ago and I’ve already shared it several times— including with my three kids. It talks about how people often seek a goal, achieve success, and expect happiness. When, in fact, they should really be seeking and living a happy life, which will help them achieve success. And there’s scientific evidence to back it up.
Check is out. It’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time.
NOTE: Bob Knight has recently parlayed his anything-but-positive approach into a book deal with his new book “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results.” According to a few reviews I’ve read, it’s not really about negative thinking, rather it’s about planning for the worst and expecting the best. It’ll probably sell millions.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. The title alone should be enough to pique your interest, as it did mine.
Published in 1998, this atypical business book isn’t new. But it’s among my favorites that watch over me every day from their bookshelf perch. Author Gordon MacKenzie worked for Hallmark for three decades (not overly corporate on the corporate scale, in my opinion) and learned to successfully navigate the written and unwritten rules of the business world.
Even though he held the title of Creative Paradox (a title he gave himself), it’s written from somewhat of a proletarian point of view, which provides an interesting perspective for worker bees and queen bees alike.
It’s an easy, entertaining read and I’d recommend picking up a copy here. Or feel free to swing by my office and borrow it off my shelf.
I’m a sucker for surveys. Whether they’re online or via telephone, I’ll always take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions. I love the idea of someone actually wanting my opinion and listening to my point of view, and I attribute this to my senior year in college.
I was enrolled in MKTG451, or something like that, which was the market research class required for my degree. Our semester project involved helping the local ELKS club determine why membership was diminishing and how to improve things going forward (ie, getting young families to join, increase dinners at the club restaurant, etc). It’s important to note this class was before the Internet (say it ain’t so) and, as such, our research was done mostly via telephone.
With a specific line of questions, we called current members and ex-members during the evening, most likely interrupting their dinner and personal time with their families. It was terrifying. Thankfully, most of the people were relatively patient and kind, and looking back, they could probably hear the fear in my voice. But even with the occasional surly old ELKS member, I still believed what I was doing was important, and I believe that to be true of Voice of Customer (VOC) research now more than ever.
After all, what better way to get the pulse of an industry or brand than by going out and asking those important questions? Why are people buying what they’re buying or doing what they’re doing. More importantly, why aren’t they buying our product or service, or doing what we think they should be doing?
But get this—research shows marketers may be missing critical opportunities to truly connect with customers at key touch points. Is it because as much as we want to know what customers are thinking, we’re still hesitant to ask? Perhaps some are afraid of what the answer might be!
Whatever the case may be, the current environment (internet, CRM, social media, etc.) makes doing VOC research both easier and more important than ever. Is VOC research part of your marketing strategy for 2013? Should it be?Tweet
How many times have you had an awesome customer experience and then shared it with your virtual community? Have you ever had a really bad experience and used social media to get notice from a company? It used to be a typed letter or a phone call to an 800 number, but now those complaints, and sometimes resolutions, can be created in minutes.
Customer Service Via Facebook
It happened to me last weekend. I left my wallet in a grocery cart outside a store and didn’t realize it until I was home over an hour later. I called the store (after first freaking out), and the manager told me one of their employees found it and placed it in the store’s safe. They had tried to find me via my loyalty card, but it had an out of state address attached to it (oops.) When I went into the store to get it, I could not tell them enough how thankful I was. They felt it was no big deal, but it was huge to me. Since then, I have told anyone and everyone in my virtual community about it, and also sent a note to the corporate office singing the praises of the store’s employees.
On the flip side, this fall I submitted a negative customer survey response to a rental company regarding a condo I had rented in Charleston. Within a week, I received an apologetic letter along with a certificate for a free week of rental within the next year. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed as getting free stuff was never my intent. I just wanted them to stop renting dated condos that had half the lights not working. I expected better from them.
I find though that others don’t share my sense of embarrassment. There is word of a disturbing trend right now that business owners are dealing with customers threatening to write negative reviews unless they receive a refund or upgrade.
TripAdvisor, one of the company’s that is having this problem, has decided to fight back with a new management tool to help business owners who are being blackmailed. A business can report potential blackmail or threatening behavior before a negative review is submitted and the TripAdvisor support team will investigate the issue.
TripAdvisor is currently the world’s largest travel community with more than 60 million monthly visitors, 32 million members and 75 million reviews and opinions. Imagine if even just a fraction of these reviews were problematic, and the associated cost for them to be investigated. It’s certainly a business cost that TripAdvisor doesn’t want to incur, but they have to because their site relies on honest reviews.
Every company should and generally does have a process to address every type of customer issue, but many didn’t see this coming and are scrambling to put measures in place to eliminate these threats from “less then ideal” customers.
I love to hear the great customer service stories you find on social media and I secretly enjoy the bad ones too. I guess I would just like to ask consumers to consider their true intent when giving comments. Make it constructive and don’t expect anything in return except that maybe you saved another customer from having a similar experience.Tweet
I am a sucker for the Hollywood awards season. The Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the Oscars all have me glued to my TV each year. I have already seen eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture and have many of the acting nominees already under my belt.
In no way am I a Hollywood odds maker, but I can tell you this: shameless self-promotion will get you an Oscar. If you’re going to win, you probably have to butter up the voters. Show them love on the press junket, take out an ad in Variety or the other trades. Those For Your Consideration DVDs are very important. Anne Hathaway is campaigning HARD for that Oscar. After all, It’s not acting alone that gets the job done.
Yours truly has used shameless self-promotion to win the Miller Brooks Cook for the Cure cook off three of the last four years. Of course, I give loads of credit to my teammates for two of the wins. But, I also give a ton of credit to pushing our “brand” through any and every mean, much to the bane of my co-workers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m in marketing. If I can’t market myself, I’m probably not in the right career.
All joking aside, the same is true for what we do each and every day. You may have an amazing product or service that you’re selling, but if no one knows about it, no one is going to buy it. Very, very few products move themselves off the shelf without some help.
And don’t forget, just because you (the marketer) know each and every facet about the product doesn’t mean the entire world does. You and your co-workers may be tired of talking about a particular product and think you’re beating a dead horse. But, the reality is very few brands have 100% awareness. And, let’s face it, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s did not become ubiquitous by being shy.
Tell your story. Tell it again. Tell it once more. Then start telling it in different ways. Stay fresh. Use any outlet that makes sense. And even if it doesn’t make sense, be open to an off-the-wall idea. There might be a way to morph the crazy idea into something that could work.
And remember, that Oscar isn’t going to win itself. But good marketing will get you closer.Tweet
We have many team members at MB, including interns, whose jobs keep them occupied, and we don’t often get the opportunity to introduce them to our clients and the rest of the world. As part of an ongoing weekly series, we’re sharing a fast, interesting Q&A with one of our people that will let you (and us!) get to know them a little better.
1. How long have you been at MB?
I have been here for 16 years. I moved around from Media (as an intern), to Production Management to Project Management, to Account Manager, and now back to Media. I have come full circle in 16 years : )
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
I love all aspects of my job, but I particularly like planning the media with a set budget. It is a challenge I always look forward to. I also like that I am able to work with both outside vendors and our clients.
I would say History. I am a huge fan of the History channel.
4. What movie did you recently see and enjoy?
Over the holidays I watched Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee Returns back-to-back and I loved them both.
5. Where would you move tomorrow if you could, and why?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. I have lived in Indianapolis since my parents moved here when I was 3-years old. If I would have to move from Indy, I would say Wisconsin. I visit the Milwalkee area at least twice a year to see extended family. I love the weather, agriculture and social scene. Wisconsin Badgers are very laid back, extremely nice mid-westerners.
6. What is the best thing about growing older?
I treasure the simplest things out of life. I have become a better person from my life experiences and I am able to make a difference for other people—friends, family and even complete strangers. Especially in the past two years, I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by the people I have in my every day life.Tweet
In a world where information travels in a nanosecond and little is sacred in terms of online privacy, brands need to embrace a higher level of “conscience”. Why? Because even the best lain plans can quickly backfire if you are not proactively considering the consequences of your actions. Consumers are eager to share their opinions and have a myriad of opportunities to do so online. In fact, there are 2.4 billion online conversations about brands every day.
Case in point — Allstate Insurance recently launched a new television spot dedicated to homeowners impacted by Super Storm Sandy. Coined “1,000 Thank You’s”, the ad depicted storm-stricken areas on the East Coast, which included the home of an Allstate customer whose insurance claim was denied. In a matter of days, word of the faux pas quickly spread in social and traditional media networks. As a result, Allstate pulled the ad.
So, how can you ensure a healthy conscience for your brand? Here’s a few thought starters to consider:
Leverage Team Diversity. Getting feedback from a broad array of team members — even those who might be deemed the company curmudgeon or work outside of the marketing department — can help ensure your campaign won’t be ill-received or misconstrued.
Foster Open Dialogue. To make conscientious decisions, it’s imperative that team members speak up when anything seems off kilter. Creating an environment where open dialogue is welcome and encouraged can go a long way in protecting your brand’s reputation.
Brainstorm the Risks. We typically think of brainstorming as an opportunity to generate positive energy and ideas. However, why not dedicate a quick meeting to assess any risks or unintended consequences of a campaign? Start by putting yourself in your target audiences’ shoes and try to anticipate their reaction.
Of course, small missteps are inevitable from time to time, since we can’t possibly make everyone happy all of the time. However, taking the time to polish our moral compass can go a long way in building ongoing trust with customers.Tweet
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