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Kasey Skala, Head of Social Marketing and Online Engagement for Dart Container Corporation’s Solo brand

This is a post from my company, SocialMedia.org’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

For this member profile, we sat down with Kasey Skala, Head of Social Marketing and Online Engagement for Dart Container Corporation’s Solo brand. Previously, he’s done some award-winning work as Great Clips’ Digital Communications Manager.

“It was a complete 180 on the focus.”

That’s how Kasey Skala describes the difference between running social media for the Solo brand and his former strategic social role at Great Clips. For one thing, each company reaches out to completely different demographics: At Great Clips, it’s 18-34 year-old men, and at Dart Container it’s 25-44 year-old women for Solo products. For another, these audiences have different ways of engaging with brands.

At Great Clips, their target audience didn’t want to talk about getting their hair cut.

“We had to develop a strategy to engage with them around topics they were interested in, and a lot of times, that had nothing to do with the actual haircut. It was a challenge to sell a product when your customer doesn’t want to talk about the product you sell,” he explains.

“The Solo brand is the opposite end.”

Kasey says that Solo brand customers are more engaged and talking about multiple Solo products on multiple platforms. It gives him a chance to make the messaging more fun, more aspirational, and even crafty.

That craftiness is why Pinterest is becoming an important tool for Dart Container’s Solo brand social marketing.

“We sell a red cup, but our product is not the red cup. It’s about the experience and the feelings that you have when you’re using our product. So I think Pinterest is a great inspirational and emotional tool for us. It’s about finding ways to create campaigns and partnerships that really speak to what the Solo brand is about and how we’re different from our competitors.”

For Great Clips, it was all about integrating mobile with social and digital media.

Kasey’s role as their Digital Communications Manager from 2010 to 2014 focused on service-oriented social media, particularly on mobile platforms. That work helped tie social to direct ROI and spread the idea of social media as a valuable resource for Great Clips.

“We were able to take it from ‘why social?’ to a point where our franchisees and local markets were excited about using social media,” he says.

In fact, in addition to their 3,500 independently owned franchises, it allowed them to get other departments, like HR and recruiting, real estate, and business development involved in social media.

Kasey says, “Being able to take it from a small, silo program to making it one that scales across the entire enterprise was something that I count as a win for my time there.”

And it’s something he’s striving toward for the Solo brand, too.

But it can be challenging to prove social media’s ROI for a CPG brand.

“At Great Clips, it was a lot easier to tie concrete ROI to what we’re doing online. The Solo brand is a complete flip on that,” Kasey explains.

As a consumer-packaged-goods brand, Dart Container can’t always control things like inventory or placement of their Solo products. For all of their work in social, Dart can’t necessarily change their customers’ experiences when they buy their products in a store.

That makes it difficult to tie their efforts to sales, and even more challenging to help folks in the organization see the value of social media — something Kasey says is crucial.

“Being able to tie results and actions back to our efforts is the most important part of my job,” he says.

Another challenge for the Solo brand has to do with a catchy song you may have heard.

We’re talking about Toby Keith’s popular country song “Red Solo Cup” and the tendency people have to tie some not-so-innocent memories to the brand.

“When some people talk about the Solo brand, the inclination is to go back to their college days when they were drinking alcohol out of it. While we’re aware of that, our brand is much more than that. The challenge is we have these highly engaged, highly attached consumers with our product, but we have to be careful with how we market that,” Kasey explains.

But the biggest difficulty Dart Container faces in social media is category confusion.

“The number-one challenge is that everyone thinks that every red cup is a Solo Cup.
With a lot of our engagement, people are talking about us and posting photos — which is good — but we can’t do anything with that user-generated content because it’s not our cup.”

But Kasey’s team doesn’t let all of this user-generated content and engagement go to waste.

Kasey says, “We can still engage with these consumers and we can still carry on a conversation with them. I still think acknowledging them and reaching out to them goes a long way.”

“We’re not the reason people are getting together, but we’re part of the celebration.”

That mantra for the Solo brand helps drive their social strategy. It’s all about acknowledging those positive memories and nostalgia about getting together with friends and family. Kasey explains that it helps that there’s not a lot of negative feedback from customers who purchase the Solo product.

According to Kasey, “The initial inclination for consumers when they talk the Solo Cup is to relive the great and positive times they’ve had, and our product is usually a part of those experiences. Many brands don’t have this luxury, so we’re really fortunate.”

And in the age of Facebook comments, that’s saying a lot.

Say hi to Kasey on Twitter and ask about his time as a third-grade mile-run record holder.

Simplest way to get people to buy from you

Del monte lima beans

If your product isn’t all that different, how can you get people to buy from you?

Look for the simplest possible improvement in the experience, not the product.

Example: I buy Del Monte beans because I don’t need to mess with a can opener.

It only takes one great feature to put you in the lead. Find it or add it.

Why did the white can freak everyone out?

Coke can

Many people got angry about this fun Coke can. (Read: 1 2 3)

Why? Because it looked like a Diet Coke can. You didn’t realize that you were drinking the wrong thing until it was too late. 

There are a few interesting lessons from this:

  1. Testing is important. You need an outside perspective and a fresh look to catch things that your internal team missed.
  2. Complexity is a problem. With hundreds of products, The Coca-Cola Company has so many possible points of confusion that it’s probably very hard to avoid things like this.
  3. Who’s in the middle? When you have lots of products, you need someone in the middle who can take a high-level view. Someone who can catch things missed by people who are deep-focused on a specific product.
  4. People are way too easily annoyed and probably need some rum in their Coke.

Check it out: NFL Bad Lip Reading

Your talkers can say it better with a gift

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Tonx is a subscription coffee service that delivers high-quality roasted beans to their customers’ doors (and we think they were channeling Dollar Shave Club with this video).

Tonx encourages subscribers to tell friends about them by giving them a discount code to share. If you give your customers a chance to do something nice for their friends, you give them a great opportunity to talk about you.

But that’s not all. Tonx makes it even easier to share by putting these codes into tweets, Facebook posts, and emails. They even have a “generate a clever post for me” button if you’re at a loss for words.

Tonx

How are you making it ridiculously easy for your customers to talk about you?

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