3 Resource Allocation Questions to Ask for Better Returns

Here are three questions data-driven marketers and those in customer-focused functions need to ask in order to evaluate their resource allocation during uncertain times.

These are obviously times of great uncertainty and change. Smart business people know that with change comes new opportunities. Somewhere, entrepreneurial spirits are already making bets and shifting strategies. There is another powerful axiom, however, which rarely gets enough airtime during times of change: In times of uncertainty, focus on what is certain. One certainty in business is that resources can always be better relocated to achieve better returns.

Unless you are one of the lucky businesses booming in these times, there will be budget cuts. This is the perfect time to reevaluate resource allocations using an agile, data-driven picture of your business. Considering that there are few industries untouched by COVID-19, agile decisions will need to be made based on sparse but recent data.

Here are three questions data-driven marketers and those in customer-focused functions need to ask in order to evaluate their resource allocation.

1. Do I know who my best customers are and are they okay? Your best customers should be based on current sales and lifetime value. Yes, your best customers today are important. However, most businesses survive on the 20% to 30% of customers who are consistently loyal and profitable over many years. Once you have identified the most important customers, you should evaluate if their buying behaviors are changing and why? How can you reallocate resources to better serve this segment?

2. Do I know the channels where most of my business comes from and is it under threat? The first step to answer this question should involve a data-driven accounting of your marketing and sales channels. However, some of your most influential channels may be the most difficult to track. Therefore, it is important that you establish or refresh your multi-touch attribution models so that you can better allocate sales to channels. Right now, it might be very tempting to simply rely on direct attribution or easily measurable channels. After all, this approach feels more certain, but it is rarely the right answer.

3. Do I have the data I need to make quick decisions? If your data was messy and hard to work with before COVID-19, then it will be even less helpful now. This might be the right time to think about the minimal data needed to make agile decisions. The word minimal is critical here as the more data you collect, the more complex the solutions become, and agility diminishes. Do you know what measures are most important? Do you need to spend resources on agile data-driven capabilities?

How COVID-19 Is Changing B2B Marketing

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses. To discuss what should be top of mind for marketers, Ruth Stevens talked with Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive to gather his views on what’s going on with B2B marketing and offer insights.

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses today. I reached out to my longtime colleague and friend Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive and thoughtful observer of things related to B2B marketing, to gather up his views on what’s going on, and how B2B marketers should be thinking.

How do you see COVID-19 changing the nature of B2B sales and marketing going forward?

I see it as another in a long line of disruptions in the buying and selling process. COVID-19 is a shock to the system. Such disruptions are fertile ground for innovation.

This one is unusual because it affects aspects of the business that marketing does not always touch. We must ask ourselves, “What is this crisis communicating to my customers and stakeholders? And what are my behaviors saying?”

This is a good time for what I call an “everything communicates” audit.

What’s that? 

Like a marketing audit, but recognizing that there is a message in everything a company does. So, you examine not just the product, or features, or messaging, or value proposition. You look at every customer touchpoint, to ensure consistency and excellence. With the pandemic, the customer will be judging you on different criteria. Is your supply chain flawless? If you’ve had a breakdown in delivery, how have you communicated that to your customers? Do your customer-facing employees practice good hygiene?

Where is there an opportunity to innovate in a crisis like this?

If you can innovate through the crisis, and show customers superior performance, it will have a lasting effect on the customer relationship. Of paramount importance is how you make them feel when they are struggling.

Much of it comes down to speed and agility, and the ability to change how you interact with existing customers. Consider this: One of my clients reorganized — in just 48 hours — the way they deliver customer service. They set up a service system combining virtual and on-site processes, which reduced service call times from nearly 2 hours to 28 minutes. More importantly, the new system addressed their customer’s desire to reduce non-essential physical contact.

How has the role of marketing changed?

The roles of both sales and marketing have been changing for a while. COVID-19 is just the latest iteration.

B2B sales was historically a matter of face to face, physical contact. The past 30 years have seen enormous change, what with building security concerns in the 1970s, and then with 9/11.

Technology accelerated the change, with databases, email, social networks, digital advertising, online RFP price bid systems, all dramatically impacting the nature of customer engagement — and increasing the importance of marketing and IT. Marketing is no longer just about advertising, brand, and leads. It is involved in every stage of the customer relationship.

So, where is this heading? 

As you see, there had already been major change in recent decades. I believe COVID-19 will drive further change. We already see upticks in virtual engagement, AI-driven programs for both lead generation and point-of-contact engagement. Will the sales person function disappear?  Or will sales people morph into project managers? No matter what, it’s easy to see sales people moving from two-to-three sales calls to more like four-to-seven productive calls a day.

Here are some other examples:

  • Benefits statements and value propositions will have new or altered components. Think supply chain security and business continuity programs.
  • In your interview with Steve Gershik, he discussed the “funnel beyond the funnel,” which he described as “the systems, processes and technologies to drive value” once a customer has moved to the buying stage. This is exactly why Covid-19 has spawned the phrase: “Retention is the new acquisition.”
  • We are now full circle back to Peter Drucker’s famous words: “Business has only two functions, marketing and innovation. These produce revenues. All others are costs.” As we know, most B2B companies still look at marketing as an expense that “might” produce revenue. Perhaps we are at a tipping point where senior management will move beyond metrics of lead generation, to nurture marketing’s evolving role as organizer of systems, IT initiatives, and sales person engagement for both acquisition and retention. I recommend  “Beyond Advertising,” which in 2016 envisioned a new role of CMO in an agile and innovative organization. Marketing will have a wider span of influence.

Any last words, Roger?

Don’t ask whether we will ever get back to normal. Innovation drives forward motion. Ramp up your virtual relationships. Grab the opportunity to change your practices, your processes and your metrics.  Instead of setting quotas around topline revenue, look at retention metrics. Change the compensation system. Develop new infrastructure. Maybe you need new leadership.

Wow, great food for thought — and action — for B2B marketers!  Thank you, Roger.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.





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!

Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.


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!

COVID-19’s Impact on Millennial and Gen Z Media Habits — And How Marketers Should Pivot

Within a very short period, the way Millennials and Gen Zs buy products and consume media also has changed dramatically. And while many of these shifts — such as the changes to their media habits — can be attributed to the global pandemic, some of them may be here to stay.

Depending on their age and stage of life, the nation’s two youngest generations are getting a first taste of what it’s like to be a remote worker, home-schooling parent, or web-only shopper. Within a very short period, the way Millennials and Gen Zs buy products and consume media also has changed dramatically. And while many of these shifts — such as the changes to their media habits — can be attributed to the global pandemic, some of them may be here to stay.

“When U.S. advertisers pulled back spending dramatically in March, one of the earliest noticeable effects on the display ad market was falling CPMs (the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on a single webpage),” eMarketer reports. Concurrently, marketers were lowering their demand for ads and consumers were spending more time on social and traditional media properties, thus increasing the supply of impressions.

“Where we’re getting the demand right now is from people who are driving sort of more online conversions, direct response, so it’s not like we’re seeing a shift of reach and frequency dollars to us,” Facebook’s Dave Wehner said in an April earnings call. “I think what we’re seeing is people who are driving the kind of direct response actions taking advantage of low prices.”

Feeling the Impact

With COVID-19 affecting all facets of everyday life, it’s no surprise that marketing is also seeing the dramatic impacts of the pandemic. And while some of the changes simply solidify what was already happening in the market, COVID is definitely adding more fuel to the fire. For example, TikTok has become a household term in a world where just a few months ago the typical parent was unfamiliar with the short-form mobile video platform — a platform that  has become a viable channel for reaching younger consumers. The youngest Gen Zs are likely getting as much socialization as possible on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, all while binging on Netflix as they wait out the COVID-19 threat and state shutdowns.

The crisis is going to change consumers across all age groups, and no one knows for certain what the total impact will be. What we do know is that the shifts are already starting to happen, as evidenced by the TikTok videos featuring parents and their children dancing together, and the fact that Instagram Stories usage is up 15% since the outbreak. These and other platforms are keeping people connected, and they’re also presenting new opportunities for marketers that need ways to reach their youngest consumers.

TikTok added over 12 million U.S. unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million, according to eMarketer. “TikTok has been on a growth spurt for several months, even before the pandemic,” the firm points out, adding that as of October 2019, TikTok’s app and websites had 27 million unique visitors, with the app alone accounting for 18.6 million. “But the month-to-month growth between February and March was particularly notable in comparison with previous monthly gains.”

What Are Gen Z and Millennials Up To?

In surveying Gen Z about its routines, media habits, and lives during the viral outbreak, Brainly found that most are turning to social media to pass the time and stay connected, with Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook getting the highest marks from this generation.

Here are other important, COVID-related trends that Hawthorne Advertising has been tracking internally:

  • In terms of social media, Millennials are gravitating toward Instagram and Reddit.
  • There’s also been a big uptick in Twitch usage over the last two months, with live performers among the most active participants on that platform.
  • More Millennials are using YouTube as an information source during the pandemic.
  • Zoom has emerged as the videoconferencing platform of choice for Millennials.
  • Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are popular “binge” targets for both Gen Zs and Millennials.
  • Fans of Instagram, TikTok, Hulu, and the Amazon Firestick, Gen Zs are receptive to pre-roll ads and other targeted advertising approaches on these platforms.
  • Gen Zs are also using GoToMeeting, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends and family during this period.

In assessing Gen Z and Millennials’ post-quarantine media habits and content consumption, YPulse says Netflix will be their must-watch TV platform of choice, but notes that social media content could begin cannibalizing the time these younger generations spend on streaming services.

“While streaming services are reporting massive numbers of new subscribers, our data indicates that the real winner of quarantine viewing is social media,” YPulse reports, noting that a recent survey found that 48% of 13 to 39-year-olds are watching more videos on social media during quarantine, and 40% are now watching videos weekly or more on Instagram (compared to 34% in November 2019).

Get Ready to Turn on the Dime

For marketers who are trying to wrap their arms around these shifts, the best strategy is to embrace the changes and take careful note of their pace of acceleration.

Understand that when we emerge from this crisis — whenever that occurs — you’re not going to be operating in the same world that was put on pause in early-2020. Marketers also need to consider more targeted and customized messaging, as well as dynamic creative optimization, to maximize the engagement with Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

Consider this: In a recent DoSomething survey, 75% of Gen Zs said the top action they wanted to see from brands was ensuring employee and consumer safety, with 73% wanting brands to protect their employees financially. Brands that share positive messages on social media while failing to support their staff are being noticed, Vogue Business reports. “If you’re not authentic, Gen Zs will be the first to raise a red flag. If you are trying to take advantage of the moment, you will lose them so fast.”

Educate yourself on these changes, test out some new strategies, and strap yourself in. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride filled with both challenges and opportunities, the latter of which will be most available to the companies that stay flexible and fluid enough to turn on a dime right along with their target audiences.

How to Use Psychology to Improve Your Direct Mail

Many marketers are struggling to generate leads that convert to sales, and it’s clear that more efficient strategies are needed. Most marketers are well aware of the power of direct mail, especially at times like these. But have they considered how psychology can be incorporated into their direct mail strategy?

Many marketers are struggling to generate leads that convert to sales currently, and it’s clear that more efficient marketing strategies are needed to generate profitability. Most marketers are well aware of the power of direct mail, especially at times like these. But have they considered how psychology can be incorporated into their direct mail strategy?

According to the USPS Market Research and Insights Report, “COVID Mail Attitudes,” 65% of those surveyed stated that receiving mail lifts their spirits, with 54% of respondents stating that mail helped them feel more connected. With people looking forward to getting mail each day, you should strive to be in the mail box. Let’s consider some of the best ways to leverage direct mail right now, and how can marketers use psychology to improve their direct mail pieces.

Customer Loyalty

  • Create special offers for your customers based on past purchase history.
  • Suggest new items they would like.
  • Help them feel how important they are to you and that you care.


  • Be very honest and transparent in your communication with prospects.
  • Vet your messaging well so that you are certain you’re providing a product or service they actually need.

Trusted Source

  • Provide needed information and ways people can help others — this is a great way to show how you care, and will help you build brand status with customers and prospects.

Did you know that the human brain is doing most of its work outside of our consciousness? If we are able to create a good strategy that enables us to tap into the subconscious decisions, we can generate a greater response from prospects and customers with direct mail.

Psychology is an excellent tool to help drive direct mail response. Consider the following when working on your direct mail:

  1. Use Emotional Triggers Appropriately – Both men and women need emotional engagement for direct mail to work. This requires the use of both good emotional copy and imagery. Segmentation can really help you target the right people with the right emotional copy and images.
  2. Avoid Overload – When there is too much clutter within messages, either from words or images, the brain cannot process it. Make sure that you leave white space and use concise copy so that the brain can easily process your message.
  3. Make It Interesting – The brain likes puzzles and humor. Keep them simple for easy understanding. They are effective with increased engagement.
  4. Understand Your Audience – For example, if your audience is made up of women you need to tap into empathy. Women engage with faces and direct eye contact images. Women also respond to group/community activity images and of course babies too. She will pay attention to messages that make life easier, celebrate her or allow her to do multiple things.

A complicated mail message will most likely be ignored by the brain. But there are ways to simplify your copy and images to capture attention and drive results. Here are two ways to capture attention:

  • Novelty: This is the No. 1 way to capture attention. Our brains are trained to look for something new and cool. A novel message or layout can really help you stand out in the mail box.
  • Eye Contact: Humans are social beings. Images of people or animals making eye contact with your prospects or customers grab attention and draw them into the mail piece.

As you can see the brain is powerful and is very good at ignoring messages. Taking the time to consider how all these psychological factors can really help you drive your direct mail response rates up. As always, focusing your messaging with targeted segments to really reach the right people with the right message will increase the success of your mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started?

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!

Resilience and Reinvention: 2 ‘Essentials’ Brands Need to Practice Now

As marketers and consumers alike have felt the effects of the pandemic, there are ways to rise above the challenges of being compromised or shuttered as our country has sheltered in place to avoid COVID-19. There are two attributes of the human spirit that have helped societies thrive: resilience and reinvention.

As marketers and consumers alike have felt the effects of the pandemic over the past couple of months, there are ways to rise above the challenges of being compromised or shuttered as our country has sheltered in place to avoid COVID-19. There are two attributes of the human spirit that have helped societies rise above and thrive — despite the odds and tragic setbacks out of one’s individual control — resilience and reinvention.


Difficulties often force us to look at life from different angles, and quite often those angles reveal opportunities we wouldn’t face otherwise.  One of the things we hear from friends and colleagues, and admit to even ourselves, is that while sheltering in place we’ve learned what really matters, what we really need, and what we don’t. Focusing on “essentials” is a positive we can apply to all aspects of our lives.

In business, we are learning to do more with less, and as customers we are learning to expect less of the “thrills” in order to meet our “essential” needs, like being able to go to a store vs. shop online and hope we get something on time. Our values are changing out of necessity and these values are likely to linger longer than the rules of social distancing.

This is an ideal time for businesses across sectors to rethink the “extras” designed to add value, and focus on ways to deliver the quality and service your customers need without adding to your overhead. Consider:

Reward Programs: I can’t believe I, the person evangelizing customer experience for years, is suggesting to drop your rewards program, but I am. For at least now. Customers want you to stay in business and have learned to focus on “essential” vs. “extra” perks. Cutting out “Free This and Free That” can help you protect your cash flow and get back in the black as we re-open the economy.

Chances are, if you run the numbers, you’ll find a lower percentage of customers cashing in those awards than you think, and when this is the case it is not likely to cause you to lose customers. Right now, customers are just happy to be able to shop again, and want to keep their favorite businesses in business more than they want that “free gift.”

Hours of Operation: So you open earlier and close later to make it more convenient for customers, right? But those extra two hours could be costing you potentially thousands a year, and may not be generating that much in return. While it may make sense to open earlier for particular customer groups (such as having some early morning hours for senior citizens or the immuno-compromised to shop more easily) the current environment doesn’t dictate additional convenience. Now, most customers are just grateful to have you open for a short period of time and are willing to adjust their schedules around you.

Audit Your Inventory: There was a time when customers would buy those cute non-essential items near the cash registers or on the endcaps of aisle just because they could. I’m guessing that when we are all free to move around our worlds and shop freely, in person, at live stores vs. virtual platforms, this will change. Many of us consumers have learned to get by with less, and we’ve learned that “stuff” is just that – stuff.

By eliminating some of those non-essentials from your shelves and counters, you reduce your costs to operate, set yourself up to get to profitable sales volumes faster, and simplify the shopping experience as customers are allowed back in your stores. Now more than ever, the old adage, of “less is more” is critical to live by.


There are plenty of stories about businesses that are making ventilators instead of cars; making face masks instead of clothing; and the like. This is a powerful and critical strategy for all businesses in all categories as we come out of a shuttered economy. Our world has changed and so must we all if we want to rise above and thrive as we move forward.

Reinventing your business(es) applies to not just what you offer customers, but how you operate within the community. Consider this example:

A company making backpacks and duffel bags wasn’t getting any orders. So they offered to use their production facilities to help a local manufacturer of medical protective gear produce more of what was needed instead of focusing more on their products. As a result, that company has kept its people busy and company healthy. They also started making and selling T-shirts as a fundraiser to help raise money to be able to support more healthcare workers on the frontline. The company donated more than $30,000 from their T-shirt campaign, which will pay off much more as people remember that brand and choose to support them when they can purchase more freely again.

Ponder on how can you collaborate with other companies that are fitting a more “essential” need than yours, so you can keep busy, pay employees, and “reinvent” your relevance beyond just the core business you once had.

Another example is a business videographer I work with who isn’t booking those big events due to cancellations. To keep his name top-of-mind for the hopefully near future of business events again, he has started a tutorial offering. He is creating DIY videos and e-books to help clients do their own videos while they can’t afford his services, knowing that when they are back in their groove, he will be too.

The act of reinventing is not always about finding new products to sell, but about finding new ways to collaborate and expand your network while you add to your service lines. Instead, it’s about being relevant, present, and valuable so that the relationships you have in place will still be the ones that help you move forward and resume life as you once knew it.

No matter the nature or size of size your business, use this “time out” of your normal routine to contemplate ways to rise above by refocusing your time, money, energy, and resources on what matters and identify ways you can eliminate waste. Put energy into focusing your creativity on ways to collaborate with others in your community, reinvent your products to fit the needs of customers now, and add affordable services that meet current and future needs. Investing some energy into resilience and reinvention will pay off now, as well as later.

More than anything, keep believing in the you that has achieved the success you have, and do it all again. Shine on!

A Look at Marketing Spend Recalibrated: Where Are the Green Shoots?

We are well into Q2, and the pandemic is having a detrimental impact on U.S. marketing spend. How much so? Firm principal Bruce Biegel recently updated some parts of The Winterberry Group’s Annual Outlook report as COVID19 took hold, citing various sources — and the updated data is worth a look.

We are well into Q2, and the pandemic is having a detrimental impact on U.S. marketing spend. How much so?

That’s where we turn to The Winterberry Group which tracks data, digital, and direct marketing spend vs. general advertising, and releases its Annual Outlook each year in January. As COVID19 took hold, firm principal Bruce Biegel recently updated some of its numbers, citing various sources — and they are worth a look:

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

Green Shoots in Media

Hey, I see a green shoot here. In digital, while display, search, and social are taking the greatest hits, digital video’s loss is less pronounced — and we might guess why. Consumers are consuming digital media in record numbers. In fact, OTT (connected TV) and podcast ad spend is out of sync with the number of consumers migrating to these media, even before the pandemic took hold.

As reported in Digiday:

“According to Magna Global, OTT accounts for 29% of TV viewing but so far has only captured 3% of TV ad budgets. And as consumers increasingly flock to internet-connected TV devices, a wide range of players — from tech giants, to device sellers to TV networks and more — are building services to capture a share of the ad dollars that will inevitably flow into the OTT ecosystem.”

So if anything, advertisers may need to get their tech stacks ready to enable OTT and podcast engagement. But this is not a linear TV buy based on cost-per-thousand (CPM). This is an opportunity to personalize, target, and attribute on a 1:1 level.

Another green shoot: Email remains a staple. Again, as we stay at home, whether as consumers or as business people, it’s been email that is sustaining connections for many brands. So “flat spending” is a positive, even as price compression is underway.

Offline is not a pretty picture — right now.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

My last post sought to document U.S. Postal Service’s woes. I still believe direct mail is a brand differentiator, particularly right now — as I watch my own household pause from the sameness of screens, and take our “print” moment with each day’s incoming mail and catalogs. We’ve dog-eared pages, placed our DTC (direct to consumer) orders, and even some B2B purchases for home office supplies. (Thankfully, all but one of us are still working.)

Green Shoots in Verticals

The Winterberry Group also examined some primary verticals — which ones will lead our economic recovery?

One green shoot is identified as financial services. After the Great Recession (2008-2009), the financial sector — which prompted the Recession beginning with subprime mortgages — recapitalized and strengthened reserves. Banks had to do it, by law. As a result, they are better positioned to weather the pandemic storm; though there may be pressure to lend to less-than-stellar-credit customers, the Winterberry Group reports. We shall see. As of May 7, the NASDAQ had completely erased its 2020 year-to-date market loss.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

In the Media & Entertainment sector, live events are effectively gone — except where they can go virtual, but that’s hardly a dollar-for-dollar exchange. The good news is that media subscriptions (for on-demand media) are rapidly increasing, and ad-supported on-demand media also is increasing — pertinent to the aforementioned OTT discussion.

And another green shoot candidate, Healthcare & Pharma, is actually on neutral ground. Some trends, such as telemedicine, online prescription fulfillment, and anything COVID-related — are booming, but elective surgeries are on hold, and 33+ million laid-off Americans may wind up uninsured.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

Ingenuity — The Greatest Green Shoot of All

And my last green shoot is this — our own innovation, agility, and creativity. I leave you with this one anecdote heard last week on National Public Radio.

Can you imagine being a member of the Graduating Class of 2020? These students will go down in history perhaps as a model of resiliency. Time will tell. But next door in North Salem, NY, the town and school system landed on a novel idea: The faculty, students and families will drive one hour north to a one of the state’s few remaining drive-in theaters. The commencement address will be projected — and the diplomas handed out vehicle by vehicle.

Who knows, maybe Summer 2020 will be the Great American Comeback of the drive-in theater. Maybe Bruce will need to update his out-of-home and cinematic spending accordingly. (You can learn more from Bruce at this upcoming June 17 Direct Marketing Club of New York virtual briefing on your laptop. Registration here.)

I love such ingenuity. If you know of other examples, please share them in the comments section. Stay safe — and keep America innovating.