brand

Marketing Monday: Picky Bars

After looking into the Whole 30 a couple years ago, I started paying more attention to labels. They say that ignorance is bliss, and that’s definitely true for me once I started tuning in. For me, the absolute worst thing was reading the labels on granola/granola bars. “It’s pure sugar” I internally wailed while agonizing over putting it back on the shelf.

Enter Picky Bars, created by Jesse Thomas and Lauren Fleshman. Jesse is a professional Triathlete, and Lauren is a recently-retired professional runner (I’ve listened to her on a few different podcasts now and she’s my hero when it comes to running/motherhood/creativity/health). Picky Bars was born from a need for a way to fuel before/during/after workouts in a natural, not heavily processed way. Way before I started reading the labels on my food, Jesse and Lauren had already been working to create a healthy solution to their problem.

Of course, they didn’t stop at production (this would hardly be a “Marketing Monday” post if they had). Lauren and Jesse found a way to create their product and make it fun along the way.

Social Media

I started following Picky Bars on Instagram about a year ago, which is where this whole thing started for me. One thing that stood out was that they primarily featured their own employees in their content. They have scenes around the office that feature inventory, ‘a day in the office,’ and what their employees are up to (something like “so and so went on this hike today”). From the outside looking in, it seems like a fun place to go work.

pickybarsinsta

Promotions

Another fun thing I noticed on Instagram was the occasional promotions that they run. The week before Halloween, just for fun, all orders were shipped with fake vampire teeth. Sure, it’s not the most profound thing ever, but it was putting ‘out of the box’ in the box, so to speak. They also recently promoted their BFS, or Big Freakin’ Sale, where everything was 30% off. During the BFS, they also ran a Bar for Bar offer that donated a bar to a local charity for every bar purchased in that time period.

Subscription Options and Creative Marketing

While Picky Bars can be found in various retail locations, they aren’t everywhere (the nearest one to me is in Bethel, about 130 miles away). However, they have an easy online subscription system called the Picky Club, where members select the amount of bars they’d like to receive each month and their favorite flavors.

Members also get some perks, like getting a Sneak Peek bar each month and being able to give feedback, and perks not available to the public.

Plus, their call to action is pretty fun. Not to mention the actual names of their bars, from Moroccan Your World, Cookie Doughpness, and Need for Seed, to name a few. My weakness is cleverly named products, and I think this creativity is what sold me on Picky Bars.

pickybarssubscription

The Site

The Picky Bars website is more than just an ecommerce site. From the copy to the font, it reflects the values and personality of the business. You have a pretty good idea what to expect from a customer standpoint. And, that’s what websites are all about, right?

As someone who is fairly active and loves subjects in health and fitness, Picky Bars has found a way to market their already amazing products in a way that’s fun and true to the brand. And, if they ever ask me, I have a few new flavor selections to offer them.

 

 

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Marketing Monday: Top 5 Favorite Holiday Commercials

My working title for this post was “Marketing Monday: Selling the Holiday,” but realized that sounded cynical and Krampus-y, which is not what this post is about.

I love the holidays, and I especially love TV during the holidays (it might be more of a winter thing, now that I think about it). The classics, like Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and A Year Without a Santa Claus are on, and even the commercials are better during this magical season. And, just as with the classics on TV, I have a few classic commercials that I look forward to watching over and over each year.

    1. Frankie’s Holiday- Apple. (This one isn’t quite ‘traditional’ yet, because it just came out this year)

Why it works: In my personal opinion, we all have a part of of us that identifies as an outcast. Or, maybe it’s a longing to connect. Either way, this commercial, combined with the sentimental song “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and a very minimal flash of the Apple logo, is my new holiday favorite. It’s not the “in your face” commercialized ad we expect, nor does it say “hey buy our thing.” It leaves us with “Open your heart to everyone,” and that’s what the holidays are all about, right? (Fun fact: part of my senior thesis at Bates was about Frankenstein, mainly because I’ve always had a soft spot for characters like the monster and the Phantom of the Opera).

2. Polar Bears- Coca Cola

Why it Works: This might be an oddly specific reason for me, but it reaches into childhood memories of sledding, and the special occasions where our parents jumped into the snow with us. And I usually got really thirsty by the end of all that sledding(I mean, it was hours), so a Coke would’ve been welcome.

For the larger public, this commercial celebrates family and spending time with loved ones. In other words, it’s about ‘togetherness.’ And also, sharing a Coke.

3. M&Ms meet Santa- M&M

Why it Works: Again, I must confess to personal bias- M&Ms are my all time favorite candy. That aside, this commercial is actually kind of funny. When it came out, we were used to seeing this pair of M&Ms in a commercial sense. It addresses the tradition of setting out snacks for Santa the night before Christmas. Then, there’s the “He does exist/They do exist” meeting, and everyone passes out. There’s a similar amount of branding to the Coca-Cola commercial, but again, no shoving sales down your throat (although it does make me want to shove some M&Ms down my throat).

4.  Merry Kisses Bells- Hersheys

Why it Works: There’s a reason why simplicity in marketing is recommended. Although I’m sure the animators for this commercial would disagree with “simplicity” here. Again, there’s not an overwhelming amount of branding plus a Christmas-y tune. Around the holidays, my brother and I helped my mom with baking by unwrapping the Hershey’s Kisses to get them ready for cookies. It was a simple, kinda mundane task, but I loved doing it because we had Christmas music playing and were usually giggling the whole time. So, this is yet another win for “Kassie’s sentimental childhood.”

5. Christmas Kittens- Bangor Savings

Why it works: I hadn’t seen this commercial until last week, when Nicole referenced it in our Tech Thursday video (which you can find on our Facebook Page). It’s really just a cat video, but for Christmas. If you have pets, especially cats, they tend to get a little…er, excited about all the shiny presents and MY WORD the tree. (Is it just me or do the cats get progressively feisty as the video goes on?) Apparently, there was a community connection remembering this video years later. To the outsider, it probably doesn’t seem like that thrilling of a commercial. For the people ‘in the know,’ though, it’s a different story.

What do all five of these commercials have in common?

Little to no branding, and a message that’s nostalgic/sentimental. After all, as Dwight Schrute once said, “Nostalgia is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses…second only to the neck.”

Any commercials I missed that should be added to this list?

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Ethics in Marketing

ethicsinmarketing

Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.

So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Your Business and Spotify: Using Music To Market

I’ll be the first to say I thought I was too old and uncool to use Spotify. Also, seeing my friends who have their accounts connected to the service, having people know what I was listening to sort of freaked me out.

Then, Spotify offered a $.99/month for three month trial. You know me, I’m a sucker for a deal.

Traditionally, when we talk about ‘content marketing’ we mean using pictures and text (and, if you’re ambitious, sometimes video) that you create to reach your customers. Increasingly, content is becoming more diverse: music, art, animated gifs… So Spotify is helping change the kind of content businesses can share easily with customers and potential customers. 

In this new world of online marketing, as more and more messages and platforms are needed, we don’t have time as businesses to make everything from scratch… so we’ve begun curating. Platforms like Pinterest and Spotify show that businesses can do marketing without making everything from scratch themselves but by curating something interesting.

In short, Spotify is a way for businesses to easily curate content.  Let’s look at a few ways this can be done.

Spotify Branded Playlist

The most popular type of content is the branded playlist. You have a user account as a brand and from there, you make playlists. We can look to early online adopters like Starbucks and Coca Cola for examples of this:

starbucksplaylist

Now I know what you’re thinking, it must be pretty cool to make a playlist and your own little album cover and let people follow you. The ability to create a pretty playlist cover is only available to a few users, so the visuals of the first four songs added create the tiled artwork of most playlists:

dentistplaylist

(I tried to think of the most non-musical seeming service and boom, found a dentist office playlist… with 25 followers!)

In what may be the most hipster thing I’ve ever seen online, someone was complaining about this because they had some “uncool” song as one of their first four and they were ‘too embarrassed to even share it on Tumblr’. I had a chuckle at that but I understood the struggle.

Note: Searching Spotify from a computer is super annoying. This kind of works but best to do it from your phone: http://www.listenspotify.com/

That said, if you want to share a link to your playlist from your computer (because, let’s say you’re scheduling things on social media) here’s a way to do it:  http://www.listenspotify.com/en/share-your-playlist

Spotify And Targeting

As you can imagine, if you’re willing to pay Spotify some cash, you can target people based on their demographic information and more: https://www.spotify.com/us/brands/targeting/

The Premium members (like myself for the moment) don’t hear ads but it seems like the average Spotify user spends 148 minutes a day on the platform so those who are on are really into it-meaning they are willing to put up with an ad here and there.

Spotify At Your Business Location

It may be natural to think of having a soundtrack for your brand that maybe plays at multiple business locations, events, and other locations where people experience your business (you know, without annoying ads and all that). That’s the goal behind Soundtrack Your Brand, but it doesn’t yet seem universally available but it’s only a matter of time for things to move from online to real life.

If you’d like to be an insider, Spotify has a Rock Star Program: https://community.spotify.com/t5/Spotify-Community-Blog/Rock-Star-Program-News/ba-p/1310201 Note that you can only join it if you’ve previously contributed to the community but perks include being among the first to try new features.

If you want to learn more about Spotify and your brand, I found this pretty comprehensive podcast (the show notes also link to resources). That’s right, I’m leaving you an audio resource about audio content:

PODCAST: How to enhance your small business brand with Spotify [Episode 6]

In short, Spotify is one way your brand can connect to people in a fun way. And maybe if you follow a Coca-Cola’s playlist, you’ll find yourself craving a coke a little more often.

cokespotifyplaylists

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

BEC Story #4: Dealing With Trash Talk

There are all these sayings out there that boil down to “When you seem like a threat, people aren’t going to like you.”

Don’t believe me? Type ‘haters gonna hate’ into Pinterest and watch how many different ways this has been reworked:

hatersgonnahate

What I’ve always found kind of interesting is that people who talk about haters seem to have a lot more of them than the rest of us. I have a feeling talking about them adds fuel to that fire.

And that’s why I don’t talk about it…Until today.

Problem: Based on a misreading of an email I sent, a local person decided I was incompetent… and began telling everyone in town.

I found out because three people told me. (Thank you everyone who didn’t tell me at the time; my skin was a lot thinner eight years ago than it is today.) The people who told me laughed it off as they know what kind of person I am… but they also wanted to bring it to my attention.

I was very worried this was going to effect my reputation since Chatterbox (which I’ll use as a stand-in name for this story) was much more established than I was. I emailed Chatterbox back to explain what I meant in my email but it was clear an opinion had been formed. What was I going to do now that someone had already made a firm judgment?

Solution: I ignored it. It’s hard to control what someone else thinks of you so all you can do is try to clarify (if they are willing to listen), put your head down, and keep doing a good job.  Guess what? It blew over.

Years later, I was having lunch with a friend whose judgement I admire who had a business relationship with Chatterbox. I asked her about Chatterbox and basically, she told me when she got her information, she always considered the source. The fact that Chatterbox did this to me was not surprising to her.  Years later, Chatterbox and I continue to exist, ignoring one another. It appears the issue has officially blown over.

Values demonstrated: integrity, whatever the opposite of petty is, the ability to ignore and keep going, friendship

How this story could be better:

You know what doesn’t make a good story? De-escalating someone trying to start drama. I actually have a fair bit of non-stories like this I am proud of.

Invoking how this is a small town thing.  Living in a small community, we are all forced to interact with each other in multiple ways. So you could have a heated discussion with someone at town council then run into them at the grocery store in the same 24 hours. The ‘ignoring’ thing is something we all have to do living in a small town. Maybe inserting more small town markers into this story would have made it more relateable, since many of us reading this live in small communities.

Dropping some inspiration would have been a little more… inspiring. I bought myself a copy of the Tao Te Ching a few years ago. It really helped me see my ‘let the water flow in and out’ type attitude is something worth cultivating. One way to beef up a story is to bring another way of looking at an issue from some inspirational person in the way of a quote or story. That could definitely help here. Maybe I could have grabbed one of the ones from Pinterest for this story!

Finding out who your friends are is a valuable universal (even business) theme. My friend didn’t believe this person. And I like to think that most of our clients are my friends as well. Getting that reaffirmed is a good theme. Let’s all tell more stories about  how awesome our friends are. I should have gotten my friend’s permission and named her in that story.

BEC Story #3
BEC Story #2
BEC Story #1
Why I’m Writing All These Stories

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

BEC Story #3: Space To Grow

One thing I love/hate about running a business is when problems you thought you solved reappear (or sometimes more accurately, decisions you thought you had already made and were done with). For example, once upon a time had an office… until we needed another office.

Problem: After four years in business, Breaking Even got an office. And when we were two people and our income was at the level it was, that office was very functional. When we (the business) needed to increase to three and four people, I hired a part time, two hour away friend (telecommuting) and worked with a subcontractor (also who would work remotely). Then one day, I thought how helpful it would be to get us all in the same room for a day. So I started calling around.

I wanted someplace private (a lot of the local banks have conference spaces but they don’t feel like you can really close the door and be undisturbed… unless you were having a meeting with a bank employee of course). I wanted someplace nice. I wanted someplace with good internet. I didn’t need to pay hundreds for a banquet hall for a weekend wedding; I wanted six hours of peace and quiet in a nice room with a table, some chairs, and the internet.

As I tried to make a list of amenities writing this, I realize more of what I wanted was for my coworkers to feel a certain way. I wanted them to feel taken care of. Relaxed. Inspired. Happy. Productive. Engaged. Warm.

I ended up renting a hotel ballroom. When I walked in, I smiled. In this relatively large room with a crystal chandellier was a small table (big enough for four people) with four water glasses in the geographic center of the room. And nothing else. I chuckled because it looked cute and a little absurd. And I wondered how many other people needed what I needed at least sometimes. If we were going to work well together, we needed a room we could all fit in.

I had done a pretty exhaustive search of office spaces in the area.  I’ve seen about 20 total offices in my community and much of what I looked at years ago is still on the market now.

Why? Remember the feelings I wanted my coworkers to have at the retreat?  These spaces exuded none of that. And if we were going to make a change, I like changes to be ‘onward and upward’, not ‘lateral and with the same issues.’ Plus, a new office space was not going to be able to fulfill our meeting needs anyway, even if we could get past weird smells, a lack of natural light, or lack of parking options for our clients.

Solution:

Honestly, a bigger office would have been a lot less work than opening up a whole new business. But in these stories, you may know hard work is one of the qualities I value and try to cultivate.

The idea of a coworking space has been rolling around in my head for almost four years. Since I heard of the concept, I loved the idea. It makes a lot of sense for an entrepreneurial community like the one I live in to have something like this, not just for Breaking Even Communications but small businesses operating out of homes, coffee shops, and libraries as well as bigger firms who did work in the area but didn’t have office space nearby (contractors, engineers, etc.)

Opening Anchorspace was part selfish-we needed more space. But I truly believed that the solution to our problem could simultaneously be beneficial to the community, so why not help others while we were at it?

So I wrote a business plan, did cost projects, worked with a career counselor, worked with an intern on market research, secured a space, painted the space, furnished it, had security cameras installed and a few other upgrades, and opened Anchorspace in less than a year. My coworkers in the meantime picked up my slack at Breaking Even so I had not only the time but the brain space to deal with this very big idea.

Values demonstrated: Open to ideas of others, community minded, hard work, teamwork, resourcefulness, going with my gut (intuition maybe?)

How could this story be improved?

If you’re emotionally attached to something, have someone else write it. Problem is, when you are very emotionally into something, it’s hard to step back and make it interesting. Like in this story, I didn’t tell you we opened and had no customers for three months. Or any of the other small and big struggles that would have made it more interesting and relatable. I’ll admit this, I’m a writer and I paid my friend to write my bio on this website. What comes across is something much more balanced and less weird than it would be if I wrote it. This is why most magazines have journalists interview authors. Authors could write their own story… but it’s just not as good somehow, especially for that emotional stuff.

Take credit. I think as a woman in particular, I tend to not take as much credit for my accomplishments as I should. I remember in college doing well in something and hearing myself say, out loud, that what I did was nothing, not important, anyone could have done it, blah, blah, blah. Actually, I had worked hard. I had earned that grade. I told myself that from now on, when someone gave me a compliment, I would simply say, “Thank you.” I would take the credit for the work. In saying, yes, I made Anchorspace happen, I am not taking away anything from people who helped. I am just taking ownership of what I did. I saw a problem we had, zoomed out and saw we could help others, and took a harder road than a lot of people would have taken to get there. So yes, I’m going to take some credit for that.

Epilogue: I’m really struggling to write these stories. In other words, if you’ve taken our story challenge and our struggling, please know I am too!

Previous Stories:
BEC Story #2
BEC Story #1
Original post about why we’re doing these stories.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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