3 Lessons My Move Taught Me About Marketing

This is the last article about my move, I promise! The interesting thing about a move is that it forces you to step outside your comfortable bubble of everyday life. Suddenly you’re forced to navigate new situations, often on a tight timeline.

Recently I orchestrated a cross-country move, shifting 19 years of my life in the course of a week. When you’re in a high pressure situation like that, customer service experiences are make or break. I’m always on the hunt for luxury goods and experiences, but it’s been a long time since I’ve viewed a brand experience through such a high-stakes lens.

Unfulfilled Promises = Customer Resentment

Adding a pandemic-related banner to a website or a COVID-19 reference in the hold music seems to be a common recommendation, but it’s vital that those messages be based on transparency and the desire to communicate useful information to the customer.

While I was trying to get my wifi set up, I spent what felt like a lifetime on hold with the Internet provider, Spectrum, and its droning hold music that reassured me they were “keeping me connected” during COVID. Meanwhile, I had to wait 17 days for installation and wait on hold (with no callback option!) any time I needed help.

Big communications utilities are notorious for fueling absolute resentment and anger, but all brands would do well to remember that it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver. And hey, reminder to check your client experience so you’re not infuriating them with messages that they matter and you’re keeping them connected when you’re not.

High Functioning Service Beats High Tech

In my previous post I mentioned brands’ increasing reliance on tech solutions, often at the expense of customer experience. It’s only becoming a bigger issue as companies turn to tech for help adjusting to the pandemic landscape. While some companies are more well suited to replacing in-person services with tech solutions, what customers really care about is whether they get what they need.

One of the standout brand experiences during my move was surprisingly low tech. I set up a business account with FedEx to manage shipping my 20 boxes from NYC to LA. The website felt absolutely antiquated, but the customer service was exceptionally smooth. Could they benefit from revamping their customer portal? Of course. But I got exactly what I needed. I’m not even close to a luddite, but providing great service is always going to be more important than keeping your tech looking cutting edge.

The Net-Net and Inspiration From Being an Airbnb Host

At the end of the day, the moving experience really helped me think about how I counsel my clients on their customer experience. I think what happens is that brands develop a service or product, pay a ton of attention in the development phase, think they have it all sorted out, and then just set it and forget it. What this taught me is that brands need to actually go through their own customer experience.

Call customer service and try and get a new install. Wait on hold and hear messages about keeping you connected or taking advantage of the brand’s latest tech. Ship packages and see how jarring the experience is when you have to jump back and forth between old and new platforms. By walking in your customers’ shoes, you’ll discover what’s working with your brand experience and what is not.

This whole experience reminded me of Airbnb. I have a vacation home that I rent out on the platform. To get to super host status and become Airbnb Plus, I tried to walk through the customer experience by reminding myself what makes me happy when I check into a 5-star hotel: cookies from the bakery on the counter, bottles of water next to each bed, and making sure the essentials (like milk for a.m. coffee) are always stocked. Then I would sleep in every single room to see what it’s like at night. Does the TV work? Does the AC blast cool enough? Does the street light peep through the blinds? By walking my guests’ walk, I was able to see the areas of friction and create a great customer experience that resulted in only 5-star ratings.

Brands need to walk their customers’ walk.

WWTT? Barefoot Wine Pivots Summer Campaign to Be ‘Pandemic Appropriate’

Many marketers have had to scramble due to COVID-19 wrecking current and future campaign plans. For Barefoot Wine, which had debuted new Barefoot Hard Seltzers and Barefoot Spritzer cans in January, this meant re-editing a summer ad campaign shot before the pandemic to ensure it was still spot-on.

Many marketers have had to scramble due to COVID-19 wrecking current and future campaign plans. In some cases, this meant cancelling campaigns completely, and for others it meant having to pivot quickly. For Barefoot Wine, which had debuted new Barefoot Hard Seltzers and Barefoot Spritzer cans in January, this meant re-editing a summer ad campaign shot before the pandemic to ensure it was still spot-on.

Featuring Kenan Thompson and Aubrey Plaza, the original #SummerDream ad was shot in a pre-physical distancing world, and was directed by black-ish’s Anthony Anderson. However, Barefoot Wine knew it couldn’t share the campaign as-is for the summer during the current pandemic — but it doesn’t mean that the summer dream had to come to an end.

Anna Bell, VP of Marketing for Barefoot Wine commented:

“We had planned to launch this campaign just as COVID-19 became a pandemic, so we knew we needed to examine the creative to ensure it was appropriate and relevant for current times. We hit the pause button, brainstormed ways to present it in a different, more appropriate manner, and went back to make the edits. In the end, we wanted to ensure the content was uplifting and positive for our audience, and give them something that would make them smile.”

That pivot involved reworking the audio and adjusting the edits. Instead of the ad being about a current Memorial Day party, its new focuse has Kenan sharing a dream he had about a party he would have thrown. Still timely, topical, and gets the products front and center for summer.

Having Kenan also share the ad on Twitter with the reminder about social distancing (but hey, still enjoying a cold, tasty beverage), was also very smart of Barefoot Wine in terms of audience reach.

I can only imagine how hard it has been for marketers to adapt their work during the pandemic, while also remaining as creative as possible. But I have to say, when it works, it works.

Marketers, what do you think of the campaign from Barefoot Wine? How have you had to adjust your current campaigns, as well as plans for the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, next week marks the 4-year anniversary of “What Were They Thinking?”!!! I’ll be working on a post about some of my favorite campaigns to date, and feel free to let me know what some of your favorites were … or if I missed covering them!

WWTT? La-Z-Boy Campaign Offers Comfort and Thanks to Healthcare Workers

If you’re a bit of a YouTube watcher, or a fan of The Office, you may have heard about “Some Good News,” hosted by John Krasinski. So in that vein, here is some more excellent news, along the lines of a new La-Z-Boy campaign that combines a considerate donation with some heartfelt user-generated content.

If you’re a bit of a YouTube watcher like me, or a fan of The Office, you may have heard about “Some Good News,” hosted by John Krasinski. If not, watch through some episodes, and take joy that there is still plenty of good in the world. So, in a similar vein to SGN, here is some more excellent marketing news, along the lines of a new La-Z-Boy campaign that combines a considerate donation with some heartfelt user-generated content.

To offer some physical comfort to healthcare workers, La-Z-Boy is donating $1 million worth of furniture to frontline nurses. According to the furniture retailer’s CMO, Eli Winkler, the company is working directly with the American Nurses Association to select nurses in areas of the country most heavily impacted by COVID-19, and those individuals will be able to receive their choice of a chair, recliner, or sofa.

But the La-Z-Boy campaign doesn’t just end there. Dubbed “#OneMillionThanks,” the furniture retailer has created a microsite that encourages the public to find creative ways to thank healthcare workers — and to share those thanks on social.

#OneMillionThanks La-Z-Boy CampaignI had the opportunity to ask Winkler some questions about the La-Z-Boy campaign earlier this week, and of course my first question was about the campaign’s inspiration, and why the retailer wanted to get the public involved. Winkler responded:

“La-Z-Boy has always provided comfort to those who need it most. Frontline medical professionals have had to live without the normal comforts of home for the last while. In many cases they have had to distance themselves from their families, while also enduring an incredible amount of stress. We saw an opportunity to say ‘thanks’ in the way that we know best — by providing furniture to nurses who deserve both physical and emotional comfort.

“This is our way of showing thanks. But we wanted to create a million more ways to say ‘thank you.’ People have shown an incredible amount of creativity while at home. We wanted to harness all that creativity and generate one big “thank you” for medical professionals. A simple show of thanks goes a long way.”

Participants are encouraged to get creative with their thank yous and post to social, tagging with the hashtag #OneMillionThanks. The campaign is supported by 15 and 30 second video clips, created by creative agency RPA and supported by a digital buy.

La-Z-Boy campaign, featuring Kristen BellIt’s great that La-Z-Boy has its brand ambassador Kristen Bell participating in the project, but I feel like there’s more to this than having a Hollywood sweetheart encourage UGC.

When I look at the microsite, the impression I get (whether intentional or not) is that this campaign does more than just help healthcare workers feel good. #OneMillionThanks is also a creative exercise to help the people doing the thanking feel good, too.

Scrolling through the site, you come across myriad activity ideas to help create your thank yous, from origami heart-folding to DIY sidewalk chalk paint.

La-Z-Boy campaign ideas for showing thanksDespite the fact that these activities are geared toward creating thank yous for healthcare workers, at the end of the day they’re also great activities for individuals, couples, and families to work on while under quarantine — whether they’re creating a thank you or something else. I’m certain the DIY sidewalk chalk paint instructions will be put to use for many more projects down the road, and perhaps the origami heart folding will inspire people to look deeper into the Japanese art form as way to de-stress and be creative in general.

Practicing the act of gratitude is a great way to improve your mental health and well-being … something I’m sure we could all use a bit more of nowadays. And while the #OneMillionThanks La-Z-Boy campaign probably wasn’t aiming for this, I’m glad that by asking people to create thankful content, La-Z-Boy is helping us all be a little more creative and gracious.

Speaking of practicing the art of gratitude, one of my and favorite authors and YouTube personalities, John Green created a wonderful Vlogbrothers video about it, as well as gratitude journaling. I highly recommend giving it a watch — once you’ve finished making your own #OneMillionThanks post.

Marketers, tell me what you think about this campaign, how you’re practicing creativity and gratitude, or anything else on your mind in the comments below!

WWTT? You Can Attend a Virtual Dog Adoption Interview, Thanks to Pedigree

If you’re looking for a furry best friend, stay at home orders don’t have to keep you from finding them, thanks to Pedigree. The brand, best known for its dog food and care products, has a new campaign helping animal shelters provide virtual dog adoption interview possibilities via Zoom.

Have you noticed when you’re on a video chat with just about anyone nowadays, people get excited if your pet(s) decide to participate as well? The stress of the pandemic is taking such a toll on people that seeing an animal is a highlight to their day, especially if they don’t have any pets of their own. But if you’re looking for a furry best friend, stay at home orders don’t have to keep you from finding them, thanks to Pedigree. The brand, best known for its dog food and care products, has a new campaign helping animal shelters provide virtual dog adoption interview possibilities via Zoom.

The campaign, known as “Dogs on Zoom” is featured on the site MeetYourNewDog.com (a landing page on Pedigree’s site). The campaign kicked off on May 13, featuring the Nashville Humane Association (Pedigree has a replay of this Zoom event available to watch on YouTube, so if you need a little extra cuteness I highly recommend watching for a bit.).

Potential adopters can sign into the event via Zoom, ask the presenter questions about the featured dogs, and receive additional information about adopting — all without ever leaving their homes.

As of May 14, there are dog adoption interview Zoom meetings scheduled for May 14, 15, and 18 with different shelters, and the possibility for even more shelters to sign on to the project to help dogs find their forever homes.

"Dogs on Zoom" campaign hosts dog adoption interview events via ZoomAccording to MediaPost, the Nashville Humane Association was selected for the first few events, since it is the hometown shelter for Pedigree. And while the MeetYourNewDog.com site lets potential adopters know that the brand is covering adoption fees, MediaPost also shared that Pedigree is covering the Zoom fees for shelters.

This makes the decision for shelters to apply to participate in these dog adoption interview Zoom events easy, because the barrier to entry is fairly low, and there will still be adoption fees collected (instead of a standard practice of waiving fees in order to entice more adopters). Because these fees go directly into the care of animals and running of the organizations, anytime a shelter can keep them in place is important to the bottom line … also known as the bottom of the kibble bag (excuse the cheesy joke — I used to volunteer at an animal shelter).

Pedigree worked with BBDO NY on the campaign, and I have to say that the “Dogs on Zoom” Shelter Toolkit — available on the site — is an excellent example of educational content creation to provide all parties with the necessary tools for a successful outcome. The toolkit walks shelters through the entire practice of hosting the virtual adoption event, from how to use Zoom to how to best keep the dogs and audience engaged.

Not only is this campaign doing something great for shelters and supporting the pups it’s helping to find homes, but it’s also helping a lot of humans. Not everyone is sheltering in place with families, significant others, or room mates. There are a lot of people living alone during this pandemic, and feeling very isolated.

While being able to get on a Zoom call to enjoy a virtual meet up with friends is nice, having a pet to share space with helps a lot people deal with loneliness and other mental health issues that could be exacerbated during these extremely challenging times.

It’s uplifting to see, week after week, the creative minds behind myriad brands and agencies think of how to help. Not every brand can switch over to making PPE or necessarily do something monumental to support healthcare workers.

But it’s still meaningful when a brand thinks about what other sources of good it can provide. And sure … the more dogs adopted can mean more Pedigree brand dog food sold … but for now, I’m going to take solace in the idea that Pedigree is helping shelter dogs find their forever homes and people find their newest four-legged friends.

But marketers, that’s just what I think … tell me what you think about this campaign in the comments below!

WWTT? Post-Pandemic Vacation Daydreams Courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

It’s not a question that COVID-19 has devastated multiple industries, but maybe one of the hardest hit has been travel and hospitality. While it might be hard to answer the question of should these brands be working on advertising right now, there is room for some thoughtful post-pandemic vacation messaging.

It’s not a question that COVID-19 has devastated multiple industries, but maybe one of the hardest hit has been travel and hospitality. From airlines to hotels to destinations big and small, they’ve all felt the pain, and are trying to figure out what they can do to stay in business and keep their employees safe and on staff. While it might be hard to answer the question of should these brands be working on advertising, I think there is room for some thoughtful post-pandemic vacation messaging.

The weather is gradually warming up in Philadelphia — usually by now I have a trip planned for May/June, with more mini-trip planning speckled out through the summer. But thanks to COVID-19, those plans and daydreams have been set aside. And not just for me — for pretty much everyone. So when Puerto Rico’s nonprofit destination marketing organization (DMO) Discover Puerto Rico reached out about a new campaign, I was intrigued (and ready to look at something other than the inside of my apartment).

Discover Puerto Rico’s newest campaign, “All in Good Time” has a simple, yet clear, message: “Right now, it’s time for patience, but soon enough it will be time for paradise — all in good time.”

Discover Puerto Rico’s series of videos are available on YouTube, and the marketing campaign will run across the DMO’s social channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In an interview with CMO Leah Chandler, she explained that the campaign’s sentiment will remain “All in Good Time” until travel restrictions on the island loosen — then it will shift. ” … messaging will shift from ‘All in Good Time’ to ‘It’s Time for Puerto Rico,'” states Chandler. “We’ll carefully evaluate before this shift is made to ensure we market the Island responsibly.”

“‘All in Good Time’ is about reminding travelers that as much as we would love to host them, we know it’s not the right time,” Chandler shares. “Now is the time to stay safe, and soon it’ll be time to come explore our beautiful Island – ‘All in Good Time.’ We wanted to make clear that we’re in this together. The elements highlighted are, similarly, some of which truly define Puerto Rico – the hidden natural wonders of the Island.”

I appreciate that there’s no hard-sell of this campaign. No “get your plans squared away now so you can book as soon as travel restrictions lift!” Instead, the campaign is a gentle reminder of Puerto Rico’s natural beauty and place as a desirable vacation destination. It feels like a permission slip to let your mind wander and daydream a bit about a post-pandemic vacation, something I think we all could use.

But, in the meantime, Discover Puerto Rico is offering several virtual events via Instagram Live and Facebook Live. These are fantastic opportunities for people interested in Puerto Rico to go on virtual tours, and could end up converting them to booking clients once travel is possible.

Again, it’s about offering value, and Discover Puerto Rico is doing a good job of that while being unable to welcome physical visitors to the Island.

What do you think marketers? Having any post-pandemic vacation daydreams of your own? Drop me a line in the comments below, and stay tuned for a Q&A with Discover Puerto Rico’s CMO Leah Chandler in the next week or so as we dig more into this campaign and how the DMO is handling COVID-19.

WWTT? Coors Light’s New Campaign Calls It Like It Is — Times Are ‘Sucky’

Marketers have seen, and used, every available euphemism for COVID-19 in marketing messages. “Pandemic,” “crisis,” “uncertain times,” and “the new normal” are all accurate, but it’s beginning to sound a bit tired. Enter Coors Light’s new campaign, “#CouldUseABeer.”

Most marketers have seen, and used, every available euphemism for COVID-19 in marketing messages. “Pandemic,” “crisis,” “uncertain times,” and “the new normal” are all accurate, but it’s beginning to sound the same and a bit tired. Enter Coors Light’s new campaign, “#CouldUseABeer” and the fact that the brewer is calling these times like they really are: sucky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWEwr3wrykQ&

As part of the ongoing “Made to Chill” program, Coors Light is giving away up to $1 million worth of beer via the new social media initiative. Legal-age drinkers can tweet at a friend, who can then receive a rebate equivalent to the price of a six-pack of Coors Light (in states where legal; Coors Light provides all promo rules here).

https://twitter.com/CoorsLight/status/1255128607682412546

What went from a 93-year-old grandma becoming an Internet sensation when a photo of her holding a Coors Light and a dry erase board reading “I Need More Beer!” turned into the brewery answering her plea for a cold one. And then, from that point, further inspired Coors Light’s new campaign, “#CouldUseABeer.”

Sure, this campaign isn’t necessarily changing lives drastically … it’s not providing PPE for healthcare workers, but it’s staying true to Coors Light and the brewer’s product.

Chris Steele, marketing director for Coors Light, commented:

“A lot of times, when you see someone working hard, doing something really good, you want to recognize them and you take them out for a beer. That’s not really possible right now, but we want to help people get that brief moment of pause and enjoyment that Coors Light provides.”

Coors Light’s new campaign features 15- and 45-second ads narrated by  Paul Giamatti who reminds us that Americans have dealt with really had times before, and during those times, beer kinda helped.

The marketing is relevant, and in my opinion, the message is spot on. These times DO SUCK. They’re hard and they’re scary, and the only thing we can do is take care ourselves and our loved ones, and make it through to the other side. And if responsibly enjoying a cold beer helps, I say go for it.

Because I’d rather see an ad from Coors Light — a beer I don’t drink — being unapologetically themselves than to have to sit through some somber ad telling me for the umpteenth time that some brand is “there for me.”

Better yet, if you want to talk about a brand offering value to its audience, Coors Light also has shared recipes for beer-battered waffles and beer bread for home chefs to try out. And on a philanthropic note, the brewer hosted a pre-NFL football draft happy hour with pro football MVP Patrick Mahomes and college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit on April 22. As a thank you for their participation, Coors Light made donations to the charities of choice for both men.

I think it’s amazing when brands step up and show how they can affect positive change during a catastrophic event such as this. But I also think it’s pretty great when a brand finds ways to just be there for their audiences, bring some joy and fun, and stay relevant.

What do you think marketers? Drop me a line in the comments below, and in the meantime, check out this really handy infographic from our friends at Hero’s Journey Content about how you can be a bit more creative when talking about these “sucky” times.

30 New Ways to Say Unprecedented
Credit: Hero’s Journey Content

WWTT? Yeti+ Launches for Earth Day, Offers Unique ‘Streaming’ Content

This past Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Despite dealing with a pandemic and quarantines, a number of brands put out campaigns to celebrate the environment, including Yeti’s launch of Yeti+.

This past Wednesday, April 22, was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Despite dealing with a pandemic and quarantines, a number of brands put out campaigns to celebrate the environment, but the Earth Day campaign that caught my eye the most was from Yeti.

The Austin-based brand, known for its outdoor lifestyle products, created Yeti+, along the same vein as Apple+ or Disney+. But unlike those streaming video subscriptions, Yeti+ is free (though available for only a limited time), and has some pretty great content to watch, especially during these super stressful times.

Yeti offers Yeti+ streaming service to celebrate Earth Day
Credit: Yeti

What sort of goodies can you watch? Some fun nature documentaries? Action-packed outdoor events? Nope. You can watch streams be streamed.

The site copy reads:

We’ll be back outside before we know it. Until then, kick back, grab a cold one, and wet your appetite for the wild with one of our streams.

Click on any of the options, the video goes full screen, and you’re treated to the calming serenity of simply watching a stream — literally a body of water (each one runs about 10 minutes). If you’ve ever been to a holiday party where someone puts on a festive Yule Log video, then you get the picture.

But where the holiday Yule Log videos are often more about kitschy ambiance, I think the video offerings of Yeti+ are not only clever, but honestly, good relevant content.

They’re soothing. They’re beautiful. They take us out of our homes and transport us to a place of calm. Maybe to a place we’ve never been before. And though many of us may still be able to go outside and exercise while maintaining our stay at home rules, not everyone lives someplace this beautiful, green, and lush. Or is even physically able to go outside at all, for whatever reason.

Yeti+’s website copy may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think their Earth Day campaign offers a much-needed escape from the harshness of this world. And in my opinion, every little bit helps. We talk about how important it is to offer value to our customers and prospects. Well, I think Yeti+ nailed it.

What do you think, marketers? Leave me a comment below!

How to Best Use Direct Mail Marketing During COVID-19

During a time of crisis like COVID-19 it can be hard to know how best to market to your customers. Direct mail is still a great way to reach them, but you will need to adjust your tactics somewhat in order to remain a trusted resource.

During a time of crisis, it can be hard to know how best to market your products or services to customers. If your customers are consumers and not businesses, direct mail is still a great way to reach them. Of course, with businesses having employees work from home, this certainly creates challenges for B2B marketers who use direct mail in their marketing mix. However, there are other channels that can be used instead. So for now, you many want to put B2B direct mail plans on pause  and wait for when those individuals are back in the office.

Also to note, a few people have expressed concerns about virus transmission from mail, but the WHO and CDC both say that no coronavirus transmission has occurred from a newspaper, magazine, letter, or package. Sending your mail pieces to customers and prospects is still considered safe. So what is the best way to use direct mail right now?

  • Images – Avoid images of people in groups, touching, or at events. Instead find other images that are compelling to convey your message.
  • Message – Avoid using terms that involve touch and closeness. Instead, keep your message about how your product or service will help the prospect out. Do not try to capitalize on the crisis. It is acceptable to mention any changes you have instituted, but do not have a COVID-19 sale. It’s just tacky phrasing. And of course, do not dramatize the crisis for your benefit.
  • Empathy – Be sure to show sincere empathy for what your customers are going through. Times are tough and you don’t want to come across as insensitive. Consider creating direct mail that conveys optimism, hope, and humanity.
  • Plan – When setting up your mail piece, consider how it can actually help people. If you have a product or service that already will help prospects during the pandemic, highlight that – without capitalizing on COVID-19. If not, then find a way for the mail piece to educate, entertain, or inspire prospects into action.

Another way you can help customers and prospects at this time – and generate some good PR – is to find ways to help your community, as well as encouraging mail recipients to do the same in their communities. Or consider teaming up with a relevant local nonprofit, and make a pledge to donate a portion of your sales revenue. Creating a mail campaign with a positive message and needed products, services, or information will be well received and responded to.

It also is important to consider your list. There may be people on your list who are better targets to reach out to than others right now. Segment them out and send only to them. This is not the time for a one-size-fits-all campaign. Sensitivity and relevancy really matter right now. The best direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person at the right time.

In a crisis, your customers want you to be reliable and credible. Provide them with needed products, services, or information so that your mail is relevant and appreciated. Be a friendly, trusted resource to help them through the crisis. Keep in mind that how you communicate contributes to how your brand will be remembered. This will position you now and in the future as a company that your customers and prospects want to do business with. Are you ready to get started?

WWTT? Draper James’ Free Dress for Teachers Giveaway Debacle

Sometimes well-intentioned plans can land a brand in hot water with customers and prospects, especially when there is a fail regarding the plan’s execution. Such is the case of Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James fashion line and the debacle it’s facing with the free dress for teachers giveaway launched earlier in April.

As I began to work on this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I dug through my inbox, looking for a campaign that celebrated solidarity, creativity, or just something worth talking about this week in the world of marketing. Then I saw an email from Target Marketing friend and blogger, Chuck McLeester, and down the rabbit hole I fell as I read The New York Time’s article, “Reese Witherspoon’s Fashion Line Offered Free Dresses to Teachers. They Didn’t Mean Every Teacher.” with my morning coffee. The debacle involving a free dress for teachers giveaway brought this to mind:

The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew

Who knew that on Day 36 of quarantine/isolation/social distancing/THIS (gestures wildly), I’d be quoting a Robert Burn’s poem in a “What Were They Thinking?” post, but here we are. So let’s look at the issue of not thinking through your well-intentioned plans enough, and the kind of havoc that can cause your brand, your marketing team, and your reputation in the long run.

On April 2, Reese Witherspoon’s fashion line, Draper James, shared the free dress giveaway via the following Instagram post:

Draper James Free Dress Instagram Post

Now, as my Mom has always said “It’s the thought that counts …” and while it certainly is a nice thought to offer a free dress, there are NO expectations for giveaway applicants set in the post. The post reads:

Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress. To apply, complete the form at the link in the bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET (Offer valid while supplies last – winners with be notified April 7th)

Yes, the post states “while supplies last.” But c’mon. If there are a set amount of dresses, SAY IT. Especially when the line before reads: “To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress.”

What did most of these people see? “To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress.” Their expectations soared, and while most people would realize that there probably weren’t enough for all applicants, there also wasn’t a single expectation set. A lot of teachers — who have been working their butts off, are most likely exhausted, burnt out, and worried about their own host of concerns — got their hopes up.

What would I have done, had I written the copy? Made it really clear. Maybe something like: “To show our gratitude, Draper James is offering 250 free dresses to teachers who apply to this giveaway as a thank you. If you are not selected as a free dress recipient, we will be providing discount codes, should you want to purchase a dress from Draper James.”

Because without setting clear expectations, you have these sorts of conversations and complaints cropping up:

That’s right … when teachers signed up for the giveaway, they had to include their email address (that’s standard for most giveaways, so no issue there) … however, my question is will Draper James be using them to market to these teachers now? In most cases of giveaways, this is not a big deal because it’s in the fine print (and I’m sure it was included here, too). But the way this was executed has really turned off a lot of individuals.

In an attempt to address this and apologize, Draper James did reach out to those who applied for the giveaway and added the following messages to its Instagram story (now a highlight called DJ <3 Teachers):

Draper James Free Dress Instagram Story Part 1Draper James Free Dress Instagram Story Part 2Draper James Free Dress Instagram Story Part 3It’s something, but honestly, it feels a bit too late. There are a lot of disappointed teachers right now, and the partnership and offering of funds to the nonprofit might not be enough to completely remove this scuff from Draper James’ brand reputation.

Look, it’s hard right now, and there are so many people at brands who want to do good things for others; that is a great mindset and spirit to have. Fashion designers have shifted over to creating masks for healthcare workers; meals are being donated; there is a lot of good being done. And I think the decision makers at Draper James had very good intentions. Quoted in the New York Times article I mentioned above, Draper James SVP for Brand Marketing and Creative Marissa Cooley said:

“We felt like we moved too quickly and didn’t anticipate the volume of the response. We were really overwhelmed. It was way more volume than the company had ever seen. We expected the single-digit thousands.”

Even when you want to help, you still need to stop, think through the plan, and figure out the best way to execute it in a sustainable way.

As Chuck said to me in our email exchange about the story:

“My take on it was purely from a metrics standpoint. 3 million teachers, 77% female, 2.3 million prospects, a free offer of a valuable item — even at a paltry 1% response rate that’s 23,000 responses or 100x the number of dresses that they had to give away.”

This could have been avoided, and I bet if applicants had known there was a limited amount, it would have been received in a much better fashion. But what do you think marketers? Drop me a line in the comments below.

The Grand Reopening of the U.S. Economy Will Happen, Plan for It

We are in uncharted territory, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

I love defaulting to optimism – even in the darkest of times. It’s been part of my survival mechanism through all sorts of crises. That being said, we are in uncharted territory in this new normal, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. “The Great Recession” of 2008-2009 was largely Wall Street born and Main Street slammed. But remember, the Great Expansion followed. A possible recession stemming from COVID-19, however, would be largely reversed, with millions of livelihoods suddenly denied, and both Main Street and Wall Street being slammed in tandem. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

Listening to the U.S. President talk about getting parts of our country back to some semblance of normal by Easter may seem wild-eyed and some might say irresponsible. In reality, China is reportedly already back on line – after six-to-eight weeks of paralysis. Does this mean a possible “V-shaped” recession (very short), a “U-shaped” one (mild), or an “L-shaped” one (long term)? We don’t know.

It’s always dangerous to make prognostications, but we can learn from patterns elsewhere in the virology. With the United States now the most afflicted nation in sickness, we yet have a massive fight ahead to control viral spread. And doubt and fear have taken hold as two debacles have come about, one public health and one economic.

Unfortunately, there is no “on/off” switch for the viral crisis. Even when its spread is curtailed, which will happen, we’ve been shaken and edginess is going to remain. That’s only human.

Patterns of consumption will not resume as if nothing happened. Unemployment shocks will not reverse as easily as they came. So there will be a “new” normal.

However, a reopening is coming. You might say that’s my optimism, but folks – we are going to be okay in a time. It may not be of our choosing, as Dr. Fauci faithfully reports, but one that will be here nonetheless. As marketers, let’s get ready for it.

Look to Your Data to Prepare for What’s Next

Recessions are actually good times to look to the enterprise and get customer data “cleaned up.” The early 90s recession gave us CRM, and database marketing flourished. The end of the Internet 1.0 boom in 2000 brought data discipline to digital data. And the Great Recession brought data to the C-suite.

So let’s use this time to do a data checkup. Here are four opportunities:

  1. Data audits are often cumbersome tasks to do – but data governance is a “must” if we want to get to gain a full customer view, and derive intelligent strategies for further brand engagement. Quality needs to be the pursuit. Replacing cookie identification also is a priority. Understand all data sources to “upgrade” for confidence, accuracy, privacy, and permissions.
  2. March 15 might be a good date to do an A/B split with your customer data inputs – pre-virus and during-virus. What new patterns emerged in media, app usage, mobile use and website visits? Are you able to identify your customers among this traffic? If not, that’s a data and tech gap that needs to be closed.
  3. Customer-centricity or data silos? It’s always a good time to tear down that silo and integrate the data, yet sometimes healthy economic growth can mask this problem. Use the recessions to free up some time to actually get the work done.
  4. Test new data and identity solution vendors to increase match rates across your omnichannel spectrum – to better create a unified view of audiences, both prospects and customers. I’ve already seen one of my clients come up with a novel offer to analyze a subset of unidentified data to drive a substantive lift in matches.

As we work remotely, it’s important to understand that this current state of crisis is not a permanent state. Only once the virus is conquered, on its weaknesses not ours, can we really have any timetable to resume the economy. That being the health science, it just makes great business sense now to “stage” your data for that eventual Grand Reopening.