Crowdsourcing: Vitamin Water Announces New Flavor

Following up on my earlier post about Vitamin Water’s crowdsourcing efforts to create and name a new flavor, a winner has now been selected. The new flavor, voted on by the brand’s Facebook fans, will be called “Connect” – with Facebook’s logo prominently displayed on the packaging.  All told, one million people participated in the initiative. That’s a lot of people who will no doubt be interested in buying the product.  What a great example of crowdsourcing!

Full details about the can be found here.

Looking Forward to 2010 and Beyond

This post is also published on the BCAMA marketline blog.

Ten years ago at this time, on New Year’s Eve 1999, there was a significant amount of uncertainty worldwide regarding potential computer failures. Ah yes, the infamous Y2K bug. It was also a time for reflection and anticipation, particularly given that it was not just the dawn of a new year, but also a new century.

It is amazing to look back and observe the innovation and changes that have occurred over the past ten years.

From a marketing standpoint, we have witnessed a number of things, including:

  • The rise of Google and the importance of search engine optimization. “You are what Google says you are”. Try typing in the name of your own brand, or heck even your own name, and see what you get. As many as 59% of online consumers now use search engines as a source of researching product information. How did I find that stat? Well, using Google, of course!
  • Media fragmentation. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of available methods for communicating brand messages to target audiences. A recent global study revealed that, for the first time, the Internet is more popular medium than TV. Now, more than ever, companies need to figure out who their target market is, and determine the best methods for engaging them.
  • Social media. Some companies, such as Starbucks and Ford, have done a great job at leveraging social media to truly engage consumers, deepening relationships and enhancing loyalty. However, it seems that many companies and their respective agencies are still trying to grasp the power and potential strategic applications. See Motrin and Toyota. With countless blogs, and tens of millions of people using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, social media is here to stay. Your customers are talking about you. Have you joined the conversation?
  • The long tail. Made possible by the Internet, and popularized by Chris Anderson in a 2004 Wired magazine article and his book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”, companies such as Amazon have achieved success through a niche selling strategy of selling a large number of unique items in small quantities. This has resulted in some new marketing techniques, including the strategic use of word-of-mouth and viral marketing.
  • Mobile access and smartphones. Smartphone usage and WiFi access is increasing worldwide, and so is mobile commerce. Consequently, companies must consider optimizing their websites for mobile access. Opportunities also exist to develop marketing strategies involving mobile applications and augmented reality.

These are just a few highlights that came to mind, as you know there are scores of others.

As I write this, on New Year’s Eve 2009, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds for marketing and advertising. However, there is also significant opportunity for companies to thrive  – leveraging new mediums and technology to grow awareness for their brands, as well as engage and deepen relationships with consumers.

The computers did not stop working on January 1, 2000, and the sky is not falling right now. Far from it.

It will be interesting to see what the next ten years have in store. What are your predictions? Please feel free to share your thoughts here. It would also be great to hear your insights on the decade that just passed.

Wishing you all of the best for a successful and prosperous 2010.

Cheers,

Eric

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Often times, small business owners underestimate the value of marketing in growing sales and generating revenue. As such, they don’t devote nearly enough resources – in terms of talent and money – to the marketing function. To be fair, many small business owners juggle a multitude of tasks, making it easy for marketing to get lost in the mix. However, even small investments in marketing can make a large difference.

Here are some ways in which small businesses can build awareness about their products and services.

1. Build a presence on social networking websites. Create a group for your business on Facebook. Invite all of your friends and contacts to join,and send periodic updates about your business (for example, new products or services offered) through the group. It’s entirely free, and fairly easy to manage.

2. Think out of the box, and be creative with your marketing strategies and tactics. Maybe you’ve always ran an ad for your business in the local paper. Instead, perhaps consider investing an incentive program that will entice your current customers to invite others to sample your products or services. Remember, the most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth!

3. Sponsor a community event that is relevant to your business and your target market. Show your customers, or potential customers, that you care about your community, and you will help bond them to your brand.

A Difficult Decision

I made a tough decision over the weekend.  I pulled the plug on Sip Social Group, a social club which I co-founded with my friend in May 2007.

Actually, my mind was already made up a few weeks ago, but I wanted to take some time and ponder whether it was really something I wanted to do.

And it is.  When I took over as organizer for the dining out group on Meetup.com, I really felt that there was a need in Vancouver for an open, inclusive and fun social group geared towards young professionals. I also wanted to explore Vancouver’s food and restaurant scene, and help promote establishments that truly stand out as being unique and first class.

Initially, we had aspirations of transforming Sip into a business, and we discussed ways that it could be monetized. Membership structures and advertising packages were conceived, with the hope of creating a unique brand that would be synonymous with fun and friendliness – one that could be extended and franchised to other cities.

In total, we held over 30 events at restaurants and pubs in Vancouver, including Irashai Grill, Salt Tasting Room. and Central Bistro.  We made a number of great friends at our events, which were well attended and generated positive word-of-mouth – as you know, the most powerful form of marketing. In the end, through Meetup, and group on Facebook, and our mailing list, Sip grew to over 1200 participants – making it one of the largest social groups in Vancouver.

However the reality is, Sip was not poised to generate revenue, not even a minimal amount to justify a part-time venture. In spite of the quality of events we created, and the reputation we garnered, there are just too many free social group alternatives in and around Vancouver. They may not be well-known, in fact part of our goal with Sip was to grow awareness outside of Facebook and Meetup, but their presence made it very difficult for us to even charge a nominal fee for our events.

In the end, with many lessons learned (more than what I can summarize here), the time has come to focus attention elsewhere.  In the success literature I have read, over and over again I learned about instances where entrepreneurs failed once, twice, three times and even more before achieving success.

I think Sip taught me a lot. And for that, I am grateful.

Off and Running!

I have been active in social media for quite awhile now. I use social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter quite regularly. I also co-founded a social group with a friend, Sip, which leveraged several social media platforms, including a blog, Twitter, Ning and Meetup. Sip actually grew to over 1,000 participants, it was a lot of fun running the group.

Yet, for one reason or another, I hadn’t started my own personal blog. I suppose I didn’t blog because I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted my blog to be about . I didn’t want to write for the sake of writing, I would much rather create a blog with content that will be of value to those who read it.

Which leads me to this, “Running with Scissors”.

I’m a marketer, branding is very near and dear to me. Given the significant changes the profession is enduring, with the evolution of social media and the shift in spending to new media and non-traditional platforms,  it is a very exciting time. I would like to use this blog to to share my thoughts and opinions, and hopefully hear yours, as I develop and advance my career in the field.

I am also very interested in topics related to personal development, innovation and leadership. I am an avid reader of publications such as Fast Company and Success, and I regularly read books from authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin and Stephen Covey. From time to time, I will provide some insights on what I’ve learned, as well as book reviews.

Regarding the title of this blog, well … I really enjoy running! I have completed several marathons and half marathons.  I also have a somewhat whimsical nature, and in life I believe it’s important to take risks and experiment. Thus, “Running with Scissors”.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to the journey I am now embarking on.

Eric