Kitchen and Bath China

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.

Make Your Own Luck Using Social Media

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.

[photo via]

Shameless Self Promotion

If Anne Hathaway can do it, why can’t you?

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.

[photo via]

Without “Conscience” There are Consequences

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.

The world is ending next week!

So…what are you going to do with your marketing next year?


The Mayans were an impressive group, as ancient civilizations go. From art to architecture, urban design to mathematics, they made significant contributions that helped lay the foundation for today’s modern society.

Plus, they were making predictions long before Nostradamus started growing his impressive facial hair. Including this one: Earth is coming to an end on December 21, 2012.

Okay, most people don’t think this is actually going to happen, but those that do believe that Mother Earth could meet her demise in a number of different ways, from being sucked into a black hole to colliding with a planet called “Nibiru”.

Some marketers are lightheartedly using this calamity to help boost sales, including a Pennsylvania winery that’s hosting an end-of-world party and a minor league baseball club from Normal, Illinois (Go CornBelters!) that’s selling single-game tickets. From their press release: “Just in case the world does comes to an end…they want their fans to go out with the finest tickets in hand. Best case scenario… they make fantastic holiday gifts!”

Of course, using “events” like these to promote a brand is nothing new. In fact, one of my favorite TV spots of all time is for Nike, showing a runner’s unwavering focus and dedication, even during the much-hyped chaos of Y2K.

But truth be told, year in and year out, businesses face all sorts of challenges, roadblocks, hurdles and (dare I say) cliffs. And the companies that survive and thrive are those that outsmart their competition while staying true to their brand.

Imagine that. I’m an advertising professional who believes you should continue to advertise. But there is some data to support my biased thinking.

According to the recent book Sexy Little Numbers: “Budget cuts during a recession are often the result of a short-term view. Advertising rarely pays for itself – let alone produces a profit – during the short run. Yet study after study shows that it increases shareholder value. Cutting ad budgets has an even greater (negative) effect over the long term. There is still a lot of work to be done to absolutely prove the case…the understanding of long-term effects of how much you spend on marketing is incredibly important.”

So, when the sun rises on December 22 (fingers crossed), we’ll have a fresh opportunity to plan for 2013—and beyond… And take advantage of your competitors who are still holed up in their bunkers.

Nostradamus, 16th century French doctor and bearded prognosticator, is credited by some with predicting events such as the rise of Adolph Hitler to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

To TV Diary or not to TV Diary… That is the question.


Imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox a few weeks ago to find an impressive looking envelope from The Nielsen Company—as in the Nielsen TV ratings institution. Being in the marketing profession (and much to my wife’s dismay), I’ve always found it interesting to participate in research projects, even though most surveys end pretty quickly when I truthfully answer the question asking if I work for a marketing or advertising firm. As such, I have been known to fib a bit when called by a telemarketer.

And, here in my hand, I held one of the infamous TV diaries that contribute to the life or death of whatever formulaic video endeavors the network programming executives have in store for us. Honestly, I was a little surprised to see that viewing diaries were still in use. Given the advancement in monitoring technology on all fronts, I had assumed that a written diary had met the same fate as laserdiscs, VCRs and Blockbuster. As of this blog post, there are 56 “metered” markets in the US where TV viewing is automatically tabulated through the use of a set-top box that connects directly to your television. This method of monitoring has proven to be far more accurate than the diary method and, after flipping through my own personal diary copy, I can see why.

To say that the written diary was daunting is an understatement. The opening questionnaire I needed to complete before even getting to my viewing tracker made my head hurt. How many TVs are in the home? How many of those actually work? Do I have cable or a dish? Do I pay for premium channels? Do I have the ability to record programs with a DVR? Race? Income? Cell phone? Landline? And, get this, they wanted me to write in the channel number, channel name and originating city for all channels I am capable of watching. The diary provided 57 spaces—my AT&T U-Verse package includes 300 channels.

After scanning the “pre-test” I flipped several pages into the actual viewing grid of the diary. I quickly surmised that participation in this initiative was going to require much more dedication and attention to detail than I was willing to allocate at the end of my day. Not only does Nielsen require that the head of household record all television viewing for 7 consecutive days, but all members of the family are asked to track their time in front of—or away from—the tube as well. So me, my wife and my three kids would be forced to track, in 15 minute increments, all the mind-numbing, energy-draining, and productivity-killing time devoted to stellar programming such as Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, Storage Wars and Say Yes to the Dress. Is it a commentary on reality-focused-TV-programming that the diary even included a column that said “TV on, but no one watching”?

I couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge.

Let me take off my TV viewer hat for a moment and put on my marketing professional fedora. Is it concerning that my indifference to a viewership survey ultimately contributes to television ratings and advertising pricing? Even those participants that invest the time to keep up with the diary will inevitably miss actual viewing details thus skewing actual viewing activity. This is why we always advocate to our clients that they have a multi-platform approach to their marketing plans. What is that old saying about not putting all your eggs in one basket?

So, regrettably, I passed on the opportunity to manually record 7 days of wasted time. I did, however, pocket the 5 crisp one-dollar bills that Nielsen included as a “thank you” for my time. To ease my conscious, I did mail the book back to Nielsen indicating that I was not able to complete the survey at that time.

Now how do I sign up to be a “metered” Nielsen household?

[photo via]

Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review [DOWNLOAD]

Making sense of today’s evolving digital marketing techniques

If you live and work in the world of marketing and communications, you are no doubt aware that the way brands are sharing information and engaging with customers changes daily. In fact, making sense of all of these new changes and trends can easily become a full-time job.

To help you stay on top of the latest and greatest trends, we’ve audited the marketing, branding and communications industries to see what’s working and what isn’t. We have defined what we see as seven trends likely to stick and play a leading role in 2013 marketing strategies across the globe.

To spark some ideas in your 2013 planning, download our Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review to learn how LEGO, Target, Subaru, ExactTarget, Banana Republic and others are leveraging today’s hot marketing techniques to engage customers today.

Find it here.

Hashtag haven: How Twitter adds value to in-person events

If you aren’t following designated hashtags at the next event you attend, then you are missing out. And, if you are going to a digital conference, such as the ExactTarget Connections conference, then it is an absolute must!

While not an avid Twitter user on a ongoing basis — my posts are sporadic and I have a very modest number of followers — I’ve found that cueing in to conversations on Twitter at events and conferences adds a whole new dimension to the learning process.

Here’s how I maximized my experience at the Connections conference by following the #ET12 hashtag:

Find hot topics in advance: A week before the conference, I started following the buzz on Twitter to gauge the most talked-about aspects of the conference to help plan my itinerary.

Join live discussions: While the sessions I attended did not have a built-in Q&A, the real-time discussions on Twitter added a new dimension to the experience. If someone had a similar question, I could easily follow along for a response.

Follow post-event blogging: After the event, I continued to follow the hashtag for a more in-depth perspective on the event. Since many attendees blogged about the event, the hashtag served as a useful aggregator in culling through these posts.

Network with other professionals: In addition, I used the hashtag to determine if there were other professionals that I wanted to follow on an ongoing basis. For me, this is a great way to connect with new industry thought leaders.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not share some of my favorite tweets from the conference.

Have you followed an event hashtag? Did it add to your experience?

Even the best bubbles get popped by social media

How the Internet has altered our political-media exposure since 2008

In preparing to write this, my first-ever blog post, I couldn’t help but look at the calendar and notice that November 6th is fast approaching.  Election Day. I suppose it can’t be ignored, and since my blog posts should be current, I feel the need to address the election in some way.  But there is one tiny little problem: I pretty much already know whom I am voting for and have put myself in a news bubble—avoiding, to the best of my ability, all political conversations.

Life in a political news-avoiding bubble

Living in my bubble has been fairly easy for the most part, and it’s pretty happy here. I watch most TV shows on DVR so that I can fast forward through the commercials.  Any mail I receive is reviewed immediately, and the politically oriented direct mail pieces are tossed out.  I change the radio station when the negative ads air during drive time.  And, I have been able to politely avoid most political conversations at the office and in social settings.

But, there is one place where political discussions and advertising have been able to permeate my bubble, and that’s the Internet.  Between online advertising and social media, I can’t seem to escape it.  My personal email account is bombarded daily with emails. Pop-up banner ads and constant posts in newsfeeds are invading my social space daily. And for some reason, this has really gotten under my skin.

I can’t check Facebook without ads appearing on the right-hand side of my home page. And the countless posts, from both left- and right-leaning friends, are right there, mixed in with baby and graduation pictures, and comments on the weather.  I try to stay away, but my online activities have become so much a part of my everyday life that I feel compelled to go online whether I really want to or not.

Politics and social media: 2008 and 2012

The 2008 election was dubbed the “social media election,” with the Obama team’s innovative use of the Internet and social media to raise money and build its grassroots network.  But think about how the social media world has changed since 2008.  Back then, Twitter was fairly new, and Facebook only had around 100 million users.  We were just beginning to understand how to use social media for marketing, branding and communications outreach.

Fast forward to today, and current 2012 reports reveal that Twitter has grown to a network of 500 million users making over 340 million tweets per day, and Facebook users have hit the 1 billion mark.  Access to personal data about each and every one of us, and our online activities, has resulted in micro-targeting, where specific messages are developed based on what/who we like, who we follow, and what we buy.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. From a marketing perspective, I love its potential. But from a personal POV, I’m a little creeped out. I need to adjust my bubble.

How do you feel about all this?

If you’re curious to learn more about how social media and micro-targeting are being used in this year’s election, check out these two articles:

2012: The Social Media Election
Digging for Voters with Big Data

I think you might find yourself a little creeped out, too!

Related posts:

The politics of advertising: Is your brand in the bully pulpit?
Advertising around the election

[photo via]

8 ways to host a boring, lackluster event

Or, how to ignore ExactTarget’s example

As working professionals, we’ve all attended good events where our basic needs are met, the speakers are competent, and we come back to the office with a few nuggets of useful information. We’ve also attended bad events, where we get lost trying to find the room and the presenters read endless stats straight from their text-heavy slides.

But when we get the opportunity to attend a truly GREAT event, it stands out. These kinds of events are rare gems. I got to attend one of these great events last week: ExactTarget’s annual user conference, Connections, at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

These folks really know how to host a top-notch event. Not only did I come away inspired and with lots of great digital marketing knowledge, but many other aspects of the conference helped to take it over the top.

But if you want to ignore ExactTarget’s example, just do these eight things:

1. Branding? Forget that. Want to confuse people? Throw consistency to the wind and use every color under the sun for your event materials. While it can be tempting to get creative and make full use of a multicolor palette, sometimes you get the most bang for your buck if you just embrace your signature color. It makes you hard to forget. ExactTarget’s primary brand color is orange, and boy, do they own it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Event planning can be overwhelming. But your guests do notice when you’ve put thought into the little details that make their experience unique. Do you know what I heard people at Connections talking about right off the bat? The dispensers of orange soap in the restrooms. Another little detail I appreciated: at registration, they offered travel-size bottles of dishsoap so we could clean the reusable (orange) water bottles in our swag bags.

3. Let your guests fend for themselves: If your event takes place in the one and only room in the building, sticking a sign on an easel may be sufficient. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been to your facility, though. From the moment I arrived at the JW Marriott—where the conference occupied three floors of meeting space—at no time did I question that I was in the right place. ExactTarget had signage everywhere directing guests to the right locations: outside, in the lobby, overhead, behind the registration desk, on the tables in Starbucks… When you have 4,000 people to corral, clear directions are important.

4. Cut costs in the food budget: Hungry, thirsty people are distracted and lethargic. Want to ensure your guests are paying attention to the presentation? Make sure they’re sufficiently caffeinated and their stomachs aren’t growling. Snacks don’t have to be fancy to make people happy, and to help you cover the expense, you can make it a sponsorship opportunity. For example, during two separate breaks at Connections, they offered us single-serving bags of trail mix and chocolate-covered pretzels—emblazoned with a partner’s logo.

5. Choose a facility that doesn’t offer wi-fi access: iPhones, iPads, tablets, laptops… Your attendees will be bringing multiple connected devices, and they will use them simultaneously. Make sure your facility’s wi-fi will be able to handle the load ahead of time, because people do get irritated when they can’t connect.

6. Ignore social media: If your event is something small and for internal audiences only, then by all means, don’t worry about incorporating social media in your plan. But when you have a great event, people want to talk about it. Let your attendees be your publicists by clearly communicating where they can find you on social media and establishing event-related hashtags.

7. Fail at Marketing 101: You’re a marketer—you know people respond to incentives. If you want people to fill out your feedback surveys or be your brand’s publicists, give them an incentive. Money and gadgets are easy bets. On the last day of Connections, I noticed people wearing orange (of course) tshirts with ExactTarget’s user-community name, 3sixty, on them. Were they wearing them just because they wanted to? Perhaps. But the more likely reason was because of incentives like this:

It’s a great combination of incentive + event hashtags, and a nice reason not to forget to use the basics you learned in Marketing 101.

8. Entertainment? What’s that? One way to take your event from expected to exceptional is to think in terms of hosting guests, not just attendees. Treat them like friends and help make their stay in your city more enjoyable. While cocktails and dinner parties are expected and necessary, get creative—some of the extracurricular events ExactTarget organized:

  • Live entertainment: The enviable budget of Connections included an exclusive concert at Victory Field by The Fray and a midnight concert by Mayer Hawthorne. Very few events can organize evening entertainment of that magnitude, but it’s the idea that counts: can you arrange for some discount or free tickets to a performance? Or bring in a local band or performance group? How about tickets to a sporting event?
  • Pub crawl: Take the cocktails offsite and give your guests a walking tour of your city. Plan it ahead of time with the bar owners and treat your guests as VIPs.
  • Morning run: Not all activities need to happen in the evening. Your more health-conscious attendees (probably those who didn’t pub-crawl the night before) will appreciate organized fitness activities. It can be as simple as establishing a meeting time and place to go for a run, like 7:00 a.m. in the lobby of the hotel.

Events of every size and scope can be extraordinary. It’s less about budget and more about the consideration you show your guests.

So tell me: What tips would you offer for hosting a great event?


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