Zappos gets it

If you want to follow the antics of a company who is doing everything right in social media, look no further than Yes, like many businesses, they have a presence on all the major sites, but it's not what they're doing, it's how they're doing it that makes all the difference.

Zappos isn't just telling you about the great shoes, clothing, and handbags it offers, it is using its company culture to further its brand. There is an "Inside Zappos" channel on YouTube that shows staff festivities (the duct tape challenge is my favorite and you can see it in the player below), intra-office practical jokes, vendor appreciation events, and other videos that solidify the "happiness" of the Zappos brand (check out the cheer-up videos and the culture wall). Amongst its many Twitter accounts, one is "Inside Zappos" which directs traffic to those videos and also to its Inside Zappos blog (which shows more fun stuff, but also how they are supporting vendors and being smart business partners). Zappos has even published a book about its company culture.

All these social media channels have benefits beyond the obvious. From motivating consumers to want to buy from such cool people, to recruiting future talent and attracting potential vendors, Zappos is doing a remarkable job of making its company culture a part of its brand. It's fun, it's irreverent, it's full of life. Who wouldn't want to buy their next pair of shoes from these people?

Pete Cashmore is my idol

It's Follow Friday and my recommendation for today is @mashable. Pete Cashmore oversees the mashable website and it has everything you'd ever want to know about social media. From Twitter and Facebook to YouTube and Friendfeed, Pete knows all. Seriously, this guy will provide you with more guidance and insight than you ever dreamed possible.

I am stunned that Pete isn't #1 on WeFollow. He's #28 overall on Twitter in regard to follower count, but ranks higher in categories such as social media and news. But, to have @kimkardashian and @ashleytisdale ahead of @mashable is simply a sin.

If you like to stay on top of trends and social media news, check out @mashable. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Is sugar bad for corn farmers?

These days many consumers are asking for, and subsequently purchasing, more foods with all-natural ingredients. Consumer buying habits are changing, whether it's due to education or, in some cases, new government-mandated laws (e.g. the war on trans fat). I don't know about you, but I never really thought about the ripple effect here. Who's getting more business because of these changes? Who's getting the shaft?

Well, the Corn Refiners Association's stance is that the resurgence of sugar sodas is bad news for corn farmers. Surely, you've seen the limited-edition Pepsi Throwback which boasted real sugar. Even some Costco stores are selling Mexican-made Coca-Cola with sugar. Sugar is making a comeback. But where does that leave the corn farmers and their vats of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

To combat the surge in popularity of real sugar sodas (and the reduction of HFCS in salad dressings, barbecue sauces, juice drinks, and more), the Corn Refiners Association is launching an all out PR campaign. It spent $12 million in media buys in just the first half of this year. New commercials defending the value of high-fructose corn syrup are on their way to female-focused and family-friendly networks. The Association is even reaching out to mommy bloggers to tell them that HFCS is pretty much the same as sugar, with a similar calorie count.

High-fructose corn syrup has been the sweetener of choice for soda makers in America since 1984. It is, after all, much cheaper than sugar. However, with the "full calorie" soda category flat to slightly down in recent years, the Association is acting quickly to prevent further revenue declines.

And, I can't help but to see the irony. I think it's the consumers who are making a point to buy groceries with all-natural ingredients who are probably the ones who are most sympathetic to the plight of the American farmer. No right or wrong answer on this one (after all, sugar does come from farmers, too!), just something to think about next time you make your selection at the office soda machine.

Bargain hunters rejoice

I'm not afraid to admit it, I love a good deal. The only problem is I'm a terrible haggler. So, I love it when companies just make it easy and offer me a bargain from the get-go. That's why I was excited to stumble across Goldstar when I was surfing the Web the other day.

The site offers tickets to a wide variety of events such as concerts, plays, sports, films, comedy nights, spa treatments, and more. And, here's the best part, tickets are priced below face valuefrequently up to half off!

When you visit for the first time you just need to register, but it's completely free. I did and there weren't any catches or hidden ads (If you've ever ordered from Vista Print, you know what I mean). As I surfed around, I saw that you can earn ticket credits for referring your friends to events. There's also info on parking availability, food and beverage options, dress codes, and assorted tips from other members. I even noticed user reviews, which was a nice surprise. Nothing against the entertainment critics, but it's nice to read what ordinary people think.

If you like to get your deals in real time, just search Goldstar on Twitter and you can sign up for tweets in your area (they have a presence in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Orange County, San Diego, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Jose, and Boston). Its Facebook page also offers contests where you can win tickets.

If you love an evening out on the town, but lack the dinero to pay those astronomical prices, it's worth checking out. As for me, there's a Murder Mystery Dinner with my name on it.

Skip the taste tests, the vending machine knows all

Coca-Cola has just unveiled new machines in a handful of Southern California fast food joints that dispense up to 100 different beverages. They offer unheard of new flavors of soda (e.g. Raspberry Coke, Peach Fanta, etc.), fruity waters and juices, and you can also add vitamins to your beverage of choice. I recently heard about the machines on the news and you may have, too. However, what hasn't been widely reported is how these machines are being used to gauge consumer tastes in an amazingly high-tech way.

The dispenser, called the Coca-Cola Freestyle, isn't just playing bartender; it's an uber-researcher. It's collecting all the data on these taste combinations that consumers are purchasing and communicating the results back to headquarters in real time. It will then use these results to market new flavors to specific regions. Talk about a great way to integrate technology and market research!

Currently, there are only 15 machines in the marketplace, but another 60 will be in stores by the end of September. For a list of current locations, visit the Coca-Cola Freestyle fansite on Facebook.

Drink up, folks! Big Brother is paying attention.

P.S. For those of you who are Lost fans, is it just me or does the video above look like something the Dharma Initiative would produce?

I'd like a fudgy bar and a pink pump, please

Make no doubt about it, women love shoes. As someone with more than 100 pairs, I can attest to that. So it's no surprise that the latest ad campaign from Famous Footwear caught my attention.

The second video on their microsite* doesn't do anything for me; it doesn't ring true (kids don't get excited about shoes like we gals do). However, video #1 with the women, now that's real to me (click on the player below to see it).

In essence, the familiar ice cream truck is transformed into a shoe truck. The driver, dressed in a crisp, white uniform, drives through the neighborhood, playing that hypnotic music that alerts women near and far that fancy pumps and athletic shoes are approaching. Women scurry out of their homes, abandoning their families and household chores. They chase after the truck with the same unbridled enthusiasm we all had when we were seven and the ice cream man came ambling down our street.

It's a fun and memorable spot that captures the joy that we girly-girls experience when we get new shoes. Personally, I'd drop the footage of the kids and husbands chasing the wayward women as they pursue cute heels, but no one asked me.

* Note: Since this original post, the microsite has been taken down.

Give my mail carrier the day off

The United States Post Office is continuing to urge Congress to let it go to a five-day delivery schedule, skipping Saturday and Sunday. Online bill pay and the proliferation of email continue to deliver a wallop to its bottom line. Now, to make matters even more challenging, USPS's direct mail business is suffering a huge hit.

For the quarter that ended June 30, the USPS lost $2.4 billion in direct mail revenue. The Direct Marketing Association had anticipated a downturn in direct mail volume earlier this year, but it was an optimistic 1% dip. On Thursday, the DMA revised that number to 10%.

With digital media taking center stage these days, the direct mail business is facing the same challenges as other print products (e.g. newspapers, magazines, etc.). Viral marketing, social media, SEO, and other more cost-effective online tools are garnering more attention and yielding better results. Technology is changing our world.

If I had a vote, I'd tell Congress to give a thumbs up to the five-day delivery week. What's the point of delivering on Saturdays, if there's no mail to deliver?


With an unemployment rate of 9.5%, I'm sure most of us know at least one person who has been laid off this year. I was let go in a RIF a few months ago and I know firsthand how tough it is out there. Very few job openings, unprecedented competition, and, in some cases, lower than average salaries.

Yesterday, while I was searching my favorite online job sites, I stumbled upon an interesting find that's definitely worth bookmarking. offers a variety of free mixers that are open to the public. They also invite recruiters and hiring managers to their events, too. But, more than anything, it's a chance to network, exchange ideas, offer suggestions, and create community.

If you're looking for a job, check it out. And, if you're searching for good talent, go to a mixer. The ideal candidate for that hard to fill position might just be on the other side of that martini.

LinkedIn's "blacklist" button

If you're a regular user of LinkedIn, surely you've invited people to join your network. Most likely, all of them have accepted your invite. However, if you've ever received the dreaded "I don't know this person" rejection, you should shape up before it's too late.

If you've gotten one of these notices, either you didn't really know the person you were inviting or you neglected to jog their memory about who you are. In all likelihood, it was an innocent mistake. Seems like a harmless error, right?

The short answer is no. LinkedIn considers this to be a big, black mark against you. Get five of these rejections and you have to start inserting an email address into each invitation to provide further evidence that you really know Sally Sassypants or Joe Jawannadance. If you behave from that point on, LinkedIn will eventually let you bypass this extra step. The catch is that you have sign an agreement that says you will allow your account to be suspended if you don't manage your network appropriately.

Ever get an email from someone you didn't know, but who asked you to send them your email address so they can connect with you (remember, people can contact you through LinkedIn without ever seeing your email addy)? Sounds fishy, huh? Well, chances are it's from someone who has been placed on LinkedIn's blacklist.

Those who know the damage that the "I don't know this person" button can cause, usually just archive requests from people they don't know. However, most people have no qualms about hitting this button if they don't know or recognize you. So, remember to use your invite privileges responsibly. Otherwise, LinkedIn might add you to its naughty list.

Give that ad guy a raise

Not too long ago, I said there was nothing innovative happening in the print ad arena. Today, I stand corrected.

I was flipping though a magazine this weekend and came across this great, two-sided ad for Drumsticks. As you can see, there are holes for you to put your fingers through so it actually looks as though you're holding the cone. What a clever way to get consumers to interact with the ad and remember the product. Really, you can't help but to want to do it. I tried it and it's a great effect.

Whoever came up with this concept deserves a raise and a "pink slip pass" he or she can use during the next round of layoffs. Good job!

Journalists r' us

For two years I was lucky enough to walk the halls of the Los Angeles Times on a daily basis. I took the elevator with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, I stood in the cafeteria line with nationally-celebrated columnists, and I was humbled to be surrounded by such intelligent, talented, and noble people.

Over recent years, however, many of those fine folks have been victims of unprecedented downsizing. The print newspaper model is taking a beating, revenues are down, and budgets are being gutted. Great reporters and editors are being shown the door en mass.

This week, I was pleased to learn about an effort to reunite all these talented people under one new cyber roof. If you're looking for a top-notch reporter, designer, editor, or other newspaper professional, The Journalism Shop should be your first stop. Need a seasoned professional to tackle your next contract or freelance assignment? Each former LAT-staffer has a page with a bio, resume, published work samples, and contact information.

There is also a counterpart site for former LA Times photographers. These folks are responsible for some of the images that will be forever etched in our minds. They are experts at visual storytelling and can wow you beyond your wildest dreams.

Amazing talent is out therejust a click away. Check it out.

Going green makes cashiers mean

Each month, I take two elderly neighbors to Wal-mart to do their grocery shopping. They buy their meals for the month, along with supplies for their canine and feline companions. The nearest Super Center is more than a half-hour away, so the whole excursion (e.g. driving, shopping, and unloading) is a 4-hour ordeal. It's a long day, but we get a lot accomplished. However, there is one thing that happens during each outing that makes for a very unpleasant experience: the checkout.

I was green before green was even a movement. I bought my first canvas bags from an online catalog and paid $10 each. Now, you can find them for a buck or two at most grocery or drug stores. And, for our Wal-mart shop-o-rama days, I bought dozens of canvas bags for all the groceries. I even made sure to purchase Wal-mart's specially-branded, reusable bags for our trips so there wouldn't be a problem.

Unfortunately, although Wal-mart talks green, that talk isn't making it to their front line workers. Each time we set our canvas bags at the bagging station, the attitude begins. Cashiers start slamming things around and making sour faces. Many try to only put a few items in each bag so they'll use up our bags faster and be able to revert to the familiarity of their usual plastic bags. However, this week, the unhappiness reached a downright unacceptable level.

"I hate these bags," the cashier said. "These make extra work for us. I can't stand using these." And on, and on, and on. I kid you not. We spent nearly $500 dollars on groceries and had to endure a non-stop rant about what annoying customers we were.

Lots of marketing dollars are being tossed around these days so companies can hop on the green bandwagon. However, unless businesses throw an employee engagement component into the mix, the message is doomed.

Employees are the ones who are ultimately responsible for delivering and enforcing the message. And when an employee says, and I quote, "I don't care about the environment, I'll be dead before there's a problem," how can I believe that a company is really advocating environmental change and responsibility?

Gratitude is sexy

Ashton Kutcher landed the profile in this week's Parade magazine. Although I can't really call myself a huge fan (although I did enjoy That 70s Show), this article did make me like him a lot more. He seems grounded, appreciative, and doesn't take his success for granted.

I remember reading another article on Ashton awhile back that said he used to work at a factory where we swept up Cheeto dust (yes, crumbs from Cheetos). Talk about a 180. Perhaps it's those who had humble beginnings who appreciate the good things in life more than the others. Although, really, it's the simple act of appreciation that I find endearing.

I remember watching an interview with John Stamos where he said he was no more talented than the next guy, he was just lucky. No self-indulgent drivel about how great he was; no "I deserve this" garbage that you get from so many actors. He just knew his hard work had to mesh with some good, old-fashioned luck to get him where he is today. And, he appreciated it.

What Ashton and John have is something Paris Hilton will never possess. Gratitude. It's an attribute that cannot be bought, looks good on everyone, and never goes out of fashion.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...