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Newsletter #1002: The “Lessons from a Texas Grocery Store” Issue

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If you’re from Texas, you’ve heard of H-E-B. It’s the central Texas grocery store that people are actually proud of. It’s not because they’re a locally-sourced, organic-certified co-op. It’s because of all of the little things they do to earn customer love and word of mouth.

Here are three examples:

1. A sense of belonging
2. Customer experience
3. Take care of your people
4. Check it out: Instead of TV, you should watch…

1. A sense of belonging

H-E-B is a grocery store for Texans. Tons of salsa and barbeque sauce varieties, Shiner baked beans, Whataburger brand condiments, Mexican candy, Texas-themed coffee blends, shelves of Texas-brewed beer, and other stuff Texans love that you can’t find at just any grocery store. H-E-B capitalizes on Texan pride in just about everything they make and sell (including crackers, cheese, tortilla chips, and almost anything you can think of shaped like the state). They even send out a “Texan Guide” in their mailers.

The lesson: Everyone likes a sense of belonging — a sense that someone gets them. How are you showing your customers that you understand what makes them special?

Learn more: BuzzFeed

2. Customer experience

A lot of grocery stores have samples. But not many of them have their own mini kitchen in the middle of the store giving live cooking demonstrations while they hand out samples. This is just one of the ways H-E-B focuses on your experience in the store. They also make fresh sushi, agua fresca, and handmade tortillas inside the store. On some occasions, they’ll even throw crawfish boils or grill burgers in the parking lots.

The lesson: Your product isn’t just what you sell, it’s also how you make your customers feel. The more of these little happy moments you can sprinkle into their experience, the more great things they’ll have to say about you.

Learn more: Forbes

3. Take care of your people

H-E-B calls their employees “partners.” But it’s not just lip-service — they actually care about the people who work for them. One example: A quick Google search of “H-E-B benefits” will bring up employee blog posts describing how well they care for their staff. Just check out their Glassdoor and Indeed ratings — where even the most beloved companies have a hard time, H-E-B has an average of four stars on each.

The lesson: When you take better care of your employees, they’ll take better care of your customers. H-E-B employees are nice because they’re happy to work there. You can feel it when you walk through the door.

4. Check it out: Instead of TV, you should watch…

Instead of watching Wheel of Fortune, wouldn’t you rather learn why the earth spins, how microwaves work, or what sponges and octopi have in common? This site brings up random educational videos that aren’t just about science. You might also stumble across videos on the French Revolution, the Olympics, or the history of birth control.

Check it out: Instead of TV, you should watch…

Newsletter #1001: The “Real People” Issue

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Real people: They work for you, they buy stuff from you, and they spread the word about you. And yet, most marketing doesn’t focus on real people. It focuses on consumers, target demographics, and influencers.

Here’s why real people should be at the center:

1. Real people write marketing
2. Real people build relationships
3. Real people make mistakes
4. Check it out: Nested

1. Real people write marketing

On every bottle of RealBeanz iced coffee, the packaging text introduces the guy who wrote it, Kurt. It might say: “Hi, I’m Kurt, the guy who writes the packaging text, mainly because after 34 years, his parents have decided it’s okay to charge their own flesh and blood rent. Anyway, the folks at RealBeanz wanted me to tell you…” It’s not your typical packaging text, but it’s funny, it’s surprising, and it’s starting conversations.

The lesson: Your customers are smart. They know marketing when they see it. So why not have a little fun with it and acknowledge it for what it is?

Learn more: Tumblr

2. Real people build relationships

When Johnson & Johnson reaches out to mom bloggers to talk about their brand, they make it personal. According to their Director of Corporate Communications for Social Media, Devon Eyer, that means actually caring about those influencers. She says she reaches out from her personal Twitter handle, meets them at conferences — becomes their friend. It’s not a marketing tactic, it’s a real relationship.

The lesson: Devon says those brand advocates often tell her, “The relationships that I have are not with the Johnson & Johnson Twitter handle, but with you, Devon.” Earning ambassadors for your company is about much more than your stuff. It’s also about the real people behind it.

Learn more: Vimeo

3. Real people make mistakes

The news loves when employees fall victim to accidentally tweeting something inappropriate from the company Twitter account. Will disciplinary action be taken? Will someone get fired? But when one Red Cross employee accidentally tweeted that she was “#gettingslizzard” after work from the Red Cross’ official account, they used the negative publicity to do something positive by accepting donations using the same hashtag.

The lesson: When your employees make mistakes, sometimes it’s best to embrace them and to let your customers know your company is run by humans.

Learn more: BuzzFeed

4. Check it out: Nested

This list is like a nesting doll for a universe. Click “Universe” and a drop-down menu will appear for galactic superclusters, galaxies, galactic centers, black holes, star systems — all the way down to the stuff string theory’s made of and back again.

Check it out: Nested

Newsletter #1000: The “Greatest Hits of All Damn Time” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

This is the 1,000th issue of the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. (Well, not quite — in the early days we rounded to the next hundred at the start of a new year. But, trust us, there are a lot.) We thought we’d take a moment to look back at the most popular content from the blog over the past decade. Some of the results surprised us — but, it all came back as a good reminder to just try a lot of stuff. You just never know what’s going to take off.

Here are seven of our greatest hits:

1. “Why is the top of a UPS truck white?”
2. “Please read: A very important speech about social media in America”
3. “How to make great eggs in 2 minutes”
4. “Everything you need to know about content marketing in 100 words”
5. “Mystery solved: The IKEA naming system”
6. “What do the ‘FTC Guides re: the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials’ mean for Social Media Marketers?”
7. “The Coca-Cola Company’s case study: How to monitor social media on a global scale”

1. “Why is the top of a UPS truck white?”

Did you know that UPS trucks have white roofs so natural light illuminates the cargo bay? Why talk about the tops of UPS trucks? Because it’s one of those everyday, little ideas that has a big impact. I shared it, but the initial post didn’t get much attention. Then a few weeks later, out of nowhere, someone on Reddit asked the same question. Another Redditor shared the post, and it sent us gobs of traffic. It was just dumb luck, but it comes from the habit of always 1) having a camera handy and 2) asking lots of questions.

See the post.

2. “Please read: A very important speech about social media in America”

In 2011, Admiral Gary Roughead of the U.S. Navy gave a speech on the importance of social media in naval operations. It was groundbreaking then, and it’s still relevant today. I shared it, and it got picked up and linked to by some influential bloggers. The post was really long — maybe the longest post ever on the blog — but it was also one of the most shared. A good reminder: Short doesn’t necessarily mean more sharable.

See the post >>

3. “How to make great eggs in 2 minutes”

I shot a video of myself making eggs once, and it turned out to be one of the most popular videos I’ve ever made. Why? I think it had a few fundamentals of word of mouth going on. For one thing, it was behind the scenes. At the time, most videos were me, at a podium, in a suit, talking business. But this one was more personable. The other reason it got such a response: Sometimes it’s just easier to talk about eggs than inspiring marketing ideas. This gave a lot of folks an easier way to introduce themselves into the conversation of the blog.

Watch the video >>

4. “Everything you need to know about content marketing in 100 words”

This is just one of those headlines that resonated with a lot of folks trying to get their head around an industry buzzword. And I like to think, unlike a bait-and-switch headline, this post delivered. In 100 words, this post explains the entire secret to every business success I’ve ever had: Replace your marketing with useful advice.

See the post >>

5. “Mystery solved: The IKEA naming system”

Another one of our top five most popular posts, this one is all about sharing those little-known facts. And like cooking eggs in a microwave and the top of a UPS truck being translucent, it’s one of those life mysteries that a lot of people apparently wondered about. Also worth noting: This post didn’t require a lot of investigation on my part. Just keeping an eye out on other smart folks (in this case, David Byrne) who share interesting stuff.

See the post >>

6. “What do the ‘FTC Guides re: the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials’ mean for Social Media Marketers?”

I don’t cover a lot of breaking news on the blog, but I’ve traveled the country talking about ethics in marketing. It’s one of my core passions. When it’s about this topic, it’s important for me to get information like this out there to help others understand new rules. I want to help the good marketers stay informed, and I want to remind the few bad guys out there they’re going to get busted. After spending years of covering this topic, I’m proud to be a trusted resource when people need help on this issue.

See the post >>

7. “The Coca-Cola Company’s case study: How to monitor social media on a global scale”

We’re big on repurposing and sharing useful content wherever people can find it. In this case, it was a video from a great presentation at our SocialMedia.org conference. We shared it here, with our audience on WordofMouth.org, and as a guest post on SmartBrief. The big idea: Good content can be good content anywhere, if you package it right.

See the post >>

Newsletter #999: The “Do More” Issue

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A little extra oomph goes a long way. But a big extra oomph goes a longer way. It’s about more than having a great product or a worthy cause. It’s about making people say, “Wow, I can’t wait to tell someone about this.”

Here’s how three different companies are doing more to earn word of mouth:

1. Make it wayyyy better
2. Think about the entire experience
3. Forget what everyone else is doing
4. Check it out: The Refugee Project

1. Make it wayyyy better

Not much innovation happens with coolers. Some hold ice a little longer, some have wheels. So why is everyone talking about Coolest? Because it does everything: It has a blender, a charging dock, a Bluetooth-speaker, a cutting board, a bottle opener, an LED light, and the list goes on. Does everyone need all of this stuff in a cooler? No, but that’s what makes it ridiculous and cool.

The lesson: Incremental improvement is nice, but sometimes it takes a massive upgrade to really start conversations.

Learn more: Kickstarter

2. Think about the entire experience

Dogfish Head craft brewery gets a lot of visitors throughout the year. People come from all over to tour their brewery and meet the people behind the beer. The problem: Dogfish Head’s brewery is located in a town with less than 3,000 people. There’s not much going on. So to give their fans another reason to stick around, they built the Dogfish Inn, a themed motel close to the brewery. They also put together a map of stuff to do in the area, including kayaking, hiking, and biking.

The lesson: Dogfish Head knows that the experience of visiting their brewery is about more than just peeking behind-the-scenes. They make sure their fans go home with a great experience to share — one that’s about more than their beer.

Learn more: Drink Philly

3. Forget what everyone else is doing

We throw away millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. Most of this tossed produce is perfectly fine to eat, it just looks a little ugly. Misshapen, imperfect fruits and vegetables just don’t make the farmer’s cut for distribution. So to call attention to the issue, French supermarket Intermarché bought this produce and created special labels and a display for “The Grotesque Apple,” “The Ridiculous Potato,” “The Disfigured Eggplant,” and other “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” and sold them for 30 percent cheaper.

The lesson: Most supermarkets just accepted this problem as a part of the business. Intermarché stepped up, highlighted it, and created a whole new business around it.

Learn more: Adverblog

4. Check it out: The Refugee Project

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees created a site that maps out an enormous amount of data on refugees across the globe over the last 40 years. The site shows where people were fleeing to and from, and sometimes why they fled. Did you know that the U.S. has had over 4,000 refugees since 1990?

Check it out: The Refugee Project

3 digital designs that earn word of mouth

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

We don’t always share techie examples of word of mouth marketing, because word of mouth shouldn’t rely on digital or social media to work. But that doesn’t mean your web strategy couldn’t use a little WOM boost.

Here are three ways to do it:

1. Feature your customers
2. Give it some personality
3. Make sharing fun

1. Feature your customers

For their first anniversary, Free People, a women’s clothing retailer, replaced models with photos sent in by their customers. If their customers love them enough to share pictures of themselves wearing their stuff, they’ll certainly love getting recognized too. Even better, lots of their customers are fashion bloggers and big talkers online. Once their followers see how much Free People values their fans, it might inspire even more photo submissions and more word of mouth.

2. Give it some personality

To tell their clients and friends “thanks,” digital agency Grow created a site for them to choose a T-shirt called “Thank you begins with a T.” Each Grow employee modeled a different shirt and created an interactive design to fit their personality. For example, their office manager, Sheeryl, stands behind a play, pause, and fast-forward button that shows off her dance moves when you click them. That gives their customers a look at the personal side of their business while also showing off their digital chops.

3. Make sharing fun

Publicis Groupe gives a digital greeting at the end of every year with a YouTube video. But last year’s video used facial recognition to give it a twist. The more people who gathered around to watch it, the more outrageous the video got. That’s a techie example for a word of mouth basic: build sharing into your experience. The more fun you make it to share your stuff, the more your customer will want to do it.

How to make water, pushpins, and Boring remarkable

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. It’s easy to feel like the underdog out there sometimes. Maybe you can’t afford that store space in the cool part of town, maybe it’s hard for your product to stand out, […]

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Newsletter #997: The “Make It Ugly” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] The race to make the flashiest, most impressive, and most beautiful is a crowded one. Sometimes it’s worth it to make […]

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Why useful is remarkable

This is a post from our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. We love viral stunts and funny ads as much as the next person. But there’s a more sustainable way to get your customers to talk about you that earns word of mouth […]

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Newsletter #996: The “Your Customers are Innovators” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Paying attention to your customers’ feedback, criticisms, and compliments isn’t enough. You could be missing something even more remarkable: the innovative […]

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