Fair Trade Takes On Facebook

It is no surprise how fast social media has become an important piece in every company’s marketing plan. However, what may come as a surprise is how the success of the plan is estimated to change. How many likes or followers a company has no longer automatically grants social success. The relationships built between the customers in terms of “comments, shares, downloads, retweets, subscriptions, lead generations, or anything else that prompts human beings to take action” are beginning to show a company’s true success.

Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms with over 1.15 billion users. It is an important platform to take advantage of because it “provides an excellent means by which a company can not only demonstrate their expertise in any given area, but they can actively create a brand personality”. One company that has been successful, but could still use some improving on Facebook is Ten Thousand Villages (TTV).Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.20.18 PM

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade, independent nonprofit, charitable organization (501(c)3) that is dedicated to offering unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories. Each item sold at TTV helps to improve the lives of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans that represent the diverse culture in 38 countries including Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. (Ten Thousand Villages, n.d.).



Ten Thousand Villages joined Facebook in 2009 and as of December 2014, they have 42,682 “likes”. Since Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade company, the majority of the posts discuss the countries they work with or highlight the artisan groups that make the products. They also include information and links to articles when the store is mentioned in the news. Each posting has a picture included, which helps draw attention to the information being presented. The company puts a lot of emphasis in educating consumers about its mission and what their purchases mean for the artisan groups.Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.17.23 PM

They also offer sales promotions on a regular basis, which include discounts, sampling, and occasionally a sweepstakes or contest that the customers can enter. The discounts are usually 20% for a specific country or artisans group and can only be used online. Ten Thousand Villages also includes links to its official website and to its other social media sites to make it easier to connect with customers on each page. The company has also incorporated Instagram on its official Facebook page.

Ten Thousand Villages has also created several other pages for its individual stores. These pages do not have nearly as many “likes”, but it is an easier way for the customers to connect with their local stores. These pages do not post every day, but they tend to include more pictures of items available in the store in addition to the posts about the countries and artisan groups they work with.

Facebook Improvements

Ten Thousand Villages has done a great job managing Facebook, however, they are not currently taking full advantage of the platform. TTV is very active on Facebook, but the Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.16.06 PMcompany does not post every single day. It is very obvious that this store is well liked because it has hundreds of positive reviews. However, the majority of the reviews are only “liked” by the store and the responses are very professional instead of personal. If a customer posts a specific question or concern on the store’s wall, TTV does a great job of addressing the question or concern, but does not try to continue the conversation. When customers comment on a post, the store likes the majority of the responses, but does not engage with the customers unless they have a question. All of these improvements could significantly enhance the traffic to its sight and improve customer relationships.

The psychics at Verticalresponse have created a pocket guide for companies looking to improve engagement and break through the social media clutter. Ten Thousand Villages could benefit from adapting some of the “do’s” such as responding within an hour and removing some of the “don’ts” like ignoring its audience.



Longevity, Safety, Versatility and Adventure. Why do you love your Subaru?

Digital storytelling is a fascinating concept because it goes beyond a typical advertisement. According to Ignite Social Media, “today, instead of talking at the customer, companies are successfully talking to them, and customers are talking back. Advertising has left the rarefied atmosphere of one-way communication and entered the public arena. Companies who manage to harness the power of the public meet roaring success. The key: Company image and actions must meet the standards of the brand story. Today’s customers demand truth, and companies that can’t deliver are crucified across all platforms of social media.”

A great example of a brand that does digital storytelling well is Subaru. In 2009, Subaru collaborated with Carmichael Lynch, an advertising agency, to create the Love campaign. “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” became the new tagline and the company still uses it today. Carmichael Lynch has seen a lot of success with the campaign and stated that, “since beginning our Love campaign, Subaru has tapped into powerful human emotions to double market share and surpass eleven other car makers on America’s list of best-selling auto brands”. With the Love campaign being received positively by consumers, Carmichael Lynch decided to expand the campaign and introduce Dear Subaru. This campaign also began in 2009 and encourages Subaru owners to share their photos and stories about why they love their vehicles. Dear Subaru was launched as a multichannel campaign, however, even after the paid media ended, its owner-centric Facebook app continues to function and serves as a story hub. Readers can scroll through various stories, filter the stories based on themes, and view the ads that were created based on customer stories. Several stories from Facebook are also uploaded to Subaru’s main website. When the campaign first launched, over 150 to 200 Dear Subaru stories were uploaded each week.


It is widely known that Subaru owners are passionate about their cars and are loyal to the brand. “If you ask a Subaru owner what they think of their car, more times than not they’ll tell you they love it,” said Alan Bethke, director of marketing communications for Subaru of America. The Dear Subaru platform provides owners with a fun way to interact with the brand and share their passion. What I liked about this campaign is that Subaru took the stories and used them within its own advertising. What better story to tell than one from a loyal customer? The stories include how the vehicle saved lives, took them on adventures, helped them plow through snow, and much more. Subaru prides itself on the longevity, safety, versatility and adventure its cars can offer a consumer. These stories continue to strengthen the company’s reputation and encourage conversation about the Subaru brand. Owners are sharing their stories on the site, but often the conversations will extend from online to offline.


I think Subaru’s use of user-generated content through the Dear Subaru campaign is fantastic. Subaru is providing its owners with the opportunity to tell the brand’s story through photos and personal testimonies. One Spot posted a great infographic that takes a look at the science behind storytelling. Dear Subaru does an excellent job of showing and not telling its compelling content and its digital story.


“Unofficially” Beneficial.

Many brands are continuously looking for ways to engage with its audience, including hosting its own official company blogs. These blogs allow the companies to interact with consumers while also controlling the timing and topic of brand messages. With the rising popularity of official blogs, consumers have joined in on the conversation by creating their own “unofficial” company blogs. When searching for unofficial blogs, a wide array can be found and each author decides what they want to focus on.

Target Addict is the unofficial blog for Target and is written by a devoted shopper that claims her obsession with the store is about the Target lifestyle, as well as the products. This blog focuses on all things Target and includes information and reviews on the latest in-store products, such as clothing, shoes, home goods, make up and new product lines that are being introduced. The Target Addict blog also makes it a priority to post links to current Target promotions, coupons, and Internet deals, serving as a one-stop shop for Target consumers. The running theme of the Target Addict blog revolves around providing shoppers with useful information.

Target has several official blogs, but the content in Target Addict is comparable to the official Target Style blog, “On the Dot”, because both focus on informing readers about product reviews and promotions of current items in-store and online. However, it’s fairly easy to tell which one holds the “official” title. The Target Addict uses Target’s iconic red and white colors throughout the site, but appears to be less professional and more pieced together without a cohesive branding element. Target’s “On the Dot” blog is hosted on Tumblr and is more aesthetically pleasing and professionally designed with pure Target branding elements. Besides the layout and branding on the blogs, one noticeable difference is that the official blog focuses more on incorporating retail industry trends, while the unofficial blog relies on providing her personal recommendations and opinions about the products she reviews.

The information from the Target Addict blog that could be useful to the official company blog is what consumers truly think about the products and promotions offered at Target. Target could take the reviews and comments that are posted on the unofficial blog and incorporate them to add a more human element to the brand. I think it would be beneficial if the official blog allowed Target Addict to have guest posts so that way it has consumer and branded content at once. The author of the unofficial blog has announced how much she loves the brand, so Target would only be promoting its brand more by making its shoppers aware of the unofficial blog. According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are playing a large role in consumers purchase decisions. The report even stated that blogs and influencers rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence. (Technorati, 2013). I think seeing all of the promotions and positive things about Target could easily influence someone to remain a loyal customer or even begin to shop there.

The report created a chart showcasing online services that are most likely to influence a purchase:technoratis-2013-digital-influence-chart


Here is a sample from the blog:



I’m a pretty devoted Target shopper, but I wasn’t aware that items sold only online were automatically discounted and put back on the sales floor when returned. I liked how she explained how the discount worked and also provided her own review of the quality of the product for those still considering purchasing it online. This is the kind of information consumers are looking for and is just one example of how the Target Addict can add value to the Target brand. I will be checking Target Addict more frequently now to keep up-to-date on all things Target.


Does you rely on an unofficial blog for information? Does that blog influence your purchase behaviors in any way?

Short Films. Entertaining or Just Plain Marketing?


Short films have become an effective tool that marketers can use because it helps to tell a brand’s story.  Ekaterina Walter, chief marketing officer at Branderati and author of Think Like Zuck and The Power of Visual Storytelling, believes that the reason why visuals, like short films, are so well-received by consumers is that we are “moving into a world that is inundated with information”.  Storytelling through videos provides brands with a great way to engage, motivate and connect with consumers on a different level. “With so much content being shared daily by so many brands, the written word just doesn’t have the same impact anymore — particularly for the reader who has grown up expecting a multi-media experience”.

Smart Insights shared four reasons why marketers should use story telling in animated videos:

  • Simple takeaways. Storytelling makes it easy for the viewer to follow what you’re saying. Your messaging is much more memorable and compels the viewer to share your content.
  • Emotional connection. Animated videos embrace the old adage of ‘show don’t tell.’ You can only write ‘Our product is the best’ so many times before people start questioning what you really mean. With animated videos you can share a clear story of your product’s value proposition.
  • Calls-to-action. Video compels viewers to act in ways the written word can’t. By depicting the action on the screen, you can show exactly how the user will benefit, yielding higher engagement rates. Telling stories are much more likely to motivate, inspire action and excite your audience.
  • Trust and loyalty. By clearly illustrating how your product works, you give potential customers a heightened sense of your company’s values and mission.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a great example of a brand utilizing video to tell its story. Chipotle is a fast food restaurant chain that promises to give customers quality ingredients that come from farmers who take care of their animals and the environment. The company prides itself on being socially responsible and sustainable, which lead to the development of the short film, “The Scarecrow”. The film was released on Chipotle’s YouTube Channel on September 12, 2013.  The video currently has over 13.7 million views.

Chipotle teamed up with Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studies to create the animated short film, which attempts to promote sustainable farming and “depicts a kind of creepy, dystopian world that makes a heart-wrenching statement about the sorry state of industrial food production”. The film was entertaining because it uses storytelling to help people better understand the company’s values and the difference between processed foods and the “real thing”. The story conveyed in this film utilized emotional customer-focused messages and brought attention to serious issues within the food industry. Plus, it more closely resembled a movie instead of an ad. “Chipotle’s animation might be marketing. But it feels more important than marketing. Chipotle might be a fast-food company, but its story isn’t about how you can get a cheap but good Mexican lunch on the fly. Instead, it’s about what it stands for: Good food that’s locally and responsibly sourced. You can see that key bigger message incorporated in the animation: Cultivate a better world.

We all know we should make better food choices, so the film made people really start to think about what they consume on a daily basis. Narratives are intended to begin conversations and with the use of social media, Chipotle was successful. “The critics of the video – who charge that it is unfair and distorts the reality of conventional farming in the U.S. – miss the point.  Chipotle is not trying to be fair – the brand is trying to provoke an emotional response, both from the people who agree and disagree with them.   Chipotle realizes that the stronger the outcry is from people who detest the story they’re telling, the closer those who agree with them will align to the brand”.



Text messages. Annoying or effective for brands?

With the enhancements of modern day technology, consumers have become “more and more comfortable with and reliant on digital communication solutions, including the mobile phone”. The phone has become a primary means of communication among consumers, not only for voice but also for digital services such as e-mail, photos, and text messages or “SMS Messages”. With this change in communication, marketers must take notice and develop marketing plans accordingly.

Mobile Advertising – Kohl’s “Win Great Things” Sweepstakes

As a department store, back-to-school shopping is an important time to be on top of consumers’ minds. In 2013, Kohl’s took a different approach for its back-to-school campaign by giving mobile a more prominent role. The campaign was called the “Win Great Things” sweepstakes, which rewarded shoppers with coupons and online game pieces that could be used to win prizes from brands including Keurig, Apple’s iTunes and JanSport.

Throughout the campaign, Kohl’s sent out SMS blasts promoting the sweepstakes to Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.03.53 PMconsumers that had opt-ed in to its mobile alerts program, Kohl’sAlerts. The text informed consumers if they spent $30 or more at Kohl’s, they would receive a coupon for $5 off a $50 purchase at Staples. The blast also included a link to the microsite for the campaign, where consumers could learn more about the sweepstakes and how they could receive and claim game codes. For every $30 that consumers spend at the store, they would receive one game piece to win prizes. Prizes could be claimed in store, online, and through the microsite that was provided in the SMS blast.

Savvy shoppers are always looking for the best deal and back-to-school shopping is no exception, but will sending a text message about a discount help persuade them to shop at Kohl’s? According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, roughly 90% of shoppers are persuaded to visit stores because of money-saving sales. Parents and students are price sensitive and continuously hunt for a combination of good prices, quality, and style. Kohl’s is meeting consumer needs by not only offering sales, but also by providing additional discounts on the back-to-school essentials and opportunities to win prizes. Additionally, the partnership between Kohl’s and Staples provides consumers with more ways to save. Furthermore, the SMS blasts provide convenient reminders for shoppers about the promotion and an easy way to enter their game codes to see if they won a prize.

Since shoppers had to sign up to receive the SMS marketing messages, the overall consumer experience in using this approach was positive. These shoppers have demonstrated that they are already invested in the company and are open to receiving information. The SMS messages served as a nice reminder on how shoppers can save money during back-to-school shopping and not viewed as spam invading their personal space. “Additionally, since 98% of mobile phones have the ability to receive SMS messages, there are no downloads necessary, no technology learning curves, and no behavior modifications required, all making for an easy, user-friendly opportunity for customers to take action.” Plus, shoppers can easily opt out whenever they no longer wish to receive messages.

What are your thoughts on text messages from brands? Annoying or effective?

Engaging With Social Media

Social media has exploded over the years and has become a popular hub for marketers to try and engage with their audience on a more personal level. “According to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business — but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use.” Twitter has become increasingly popular among marketers because it provides numerous benefits, including a cost-effective way to connect with and deliver content to consumers, sending traffic back to e-commerce websites or blogs, track industry buzz, network and engage, provide customer support and, vitally, position their brand’s message directly in front of advocates and fans.

Several studies have been conducted and found several reasons why brands should actively be on Twitter, including:

  • 50% of users say that they are more likely to buy from a brand after they follow them on Twitter.
  • Having a social media button next to your product can (in some cases) positively affect buying decisions.
  • Twitter has been shown to increase sales by bringing in more traffic to your site.
  • Customers who are engaged in social media are more likely to buy and recommend.
  • Twitter shoppers spent more money than Google shoppers this past holiday season.
  • 60% of people say they are more likely to recommend the company after following them on Twitter.

This infographic from Yell takes a closer look at the business benefits of Twitter:


One prime benefit Twitter can provide a brand is a way to improve customer service. A brand that does an excellent job managing its Twitter accounts for customer service is Starbucks. When looking at Starbuck’s Twitter page, the majority of the tweets are directed at users, by either retweeting their thoughts, answering questions, addressing concerns, or acknowledging mentions. By responding and interacting directly with followers, the company is making sure their voices are being heard. One solution Starbucks has introduced to handle customer service is the “@MyStarbucksIdea” handle. MyStarbucksIdea.com was created in 2008 and serves as an online community where people can share, vote, discuss and put ideas into action on how to enhance the Starbucks experience. Since its beginning, Starbucks has brought to life over 270 ideas and viewed over 150,000 ideas.

With the Twitter account, customers can now tweet their ideas on how to improve their experience instead of logging into the site. “Starbucks not only listens to its customers, but its takes action, implementing customer ideas and giving credit on its blog to the Twitter user that pitched the idea. The customers feel empowered when a platform is created for them to conveniently post their thoughts and ideas. Everyone has an opinion, and by taking the time to listen and respond to them via social media, Starbucks has built up its customers’ confidence in the company.” Furthermore, followers that engage with “@MyStarbucksIdea” feel like they have a small role in the decision making process, which helps to develop a stronger relationship with the company.


Does The Total Market Approach Really Work For Everyone?

As the population becomes more and more diverse, it’s become a huge challenge for marketers to appeal to everyone on a personal level. Many thought that the “total market approach” was a great solution to that issue, but does it really work? The total market approach can be defined as “relying only one marketing program designed to reach all consumers across both general and ethnic markets”. Many CMO’s find this approach to be appealing because it simply implies efficiency. Reaching a wide variety of ethnic markets with one campaign? Sounds pretty great, right? While that may work in some cases, “marketers still need to understand when ethnic-specific is required to drive deep relevance”. This relevance comes into play when dealing with the Hispanic population.

The United States has the second-largest Hispanic population in the world, so it’s critical for marketers to appeal to them successfully. The total market approach may seem like an easy way to connect with everyone, but several studies have shown that Hispanics feel it leads to a “one-size-fits-all” result, which basically means “one-size-reaches-none-effectively”. Simply providing a translated version in Spanish or using stereotypical Hispanic pictures in the campaign will not cut it among this population.

Pacific Business News provides three great recommendations on how to reach Hispanics far more effectively than using a total market approach:

Be multicultural: Develop targeted marketing efforts to specific, clearly defined ethnic groups. All markets are not the same, even within the U.S. markets. Make sure your campaign respects the overall brand positioning from the general market.

Be relevant: Building momentum for your brand with Hispanic consumers requires a true intent to earn an authentic relationship. Speak to their culture within the value proposition of your product and/or service offering. Make sure your message is culturally relevant to them even when you use English.

Be loyal: Once you build momentum with your Hispanic campaigns, it is important to continue that dialogue. Your efforts do not end after they buy your products. Make them feel that you appreciate their business and you care about them. This is one of the most important steps to build loyalty. People do not buy brands. They buy experiences.

One company that has embraced these recommendations is Toyota. According to Bill Fay, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, “Toyota has been the top brand for Hispanic buyers for 10 consecutive years”. He credits the company’s success to the fact that they have built equity with Hispanics over the years and continuously reinforce not only the durability of the products, but also its involvement in different communities. So far this year, Hispanic buyers have represented 14% of Toyota’s sales and account for nearly 16% of its market share.

Toyota has done several things to try and appeal to the Hispanic population, like create a Spanish version of their website, but they have recently launched a campaign specifically targeting this ethnic group. Their new gratitude campaign, “More Than a Car” or “Más Que Un Auto”, is a program that pays tribute to a vehicles’ role in the everyday lives of Toyota’s Hispanic consumers and serves as an opportunity for the company to thank its loyal customers for welcoming the brand into their families. This campaign provides Toyota owners with the opportunity to personalize their vehicles with physical name badges for free. The company has created a unique website for the campaign where owners can enter their information (www.masqueunauto.com) to receive their badge and see others that are participating by using the hashtag #MoreThanACar or #MásQueUnAuto on an up-to-date social media stream. Toyota owners were also encouraged to attend the Supersonico music festival, which is the first-ever Hispanic indie music festival sponsored by Toyota in California, to learn more about the campaign and receive their badges.

This site has become successful because it is focused on Hispanic cultural values and gives them a chance to interact with the brand socially. “Hispanic consumers don’t want to be “sold to” – but rather, courted by brands that authentically empower their cultural relevancy and communicate in ways that naturally resonate with Hispanic cultural values”. Hispanics have a very close connection with their families and many generations will typically live under one roof. It’s necessary for brands to respect their family values and take a family-centered approach to their marketing efforts. Toyota has taken this value into consideration by highlighting “family” throughout the entire campaign.

Family sticks together, and Latinos have consistently chosen Toyota to be part of their family. To celebrate this bond and give back to loyal customers, Toyota launched the “More Than a Car” or “Más Que Un Auto” gratitude campaign. The “More Than A Car” program recognizes that Toyota drivers see their cars as members of their families and nothing says you’re family like your own family nickname. Drivers can personalize their vehicles with physical car name badges. The raised, 3D-printed badges give fans the chance to formalize the love – and place in the family – for their vehicles”.

Furthermore, this campaign appeals to Hispanic’s social side. “Latinos own smartphones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three surveys by the Pew Research Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.31.49 PMCenter”. Participants can post pictures of their badges and join the conversion about the campaign by using the designated hashtags and engaging with Toyota through its @ToyotaLatino channel. Hispanics have become known as “super-trendsetters” so it’s important to give them a way to interact online and share their thoughts about the campaign. Additionally, the site had the option to switch from Spanish to English, which is important since “second- and third-generation Hispanics tend to favor English as a starting point”.

Toyota is a great example of successfully engaging with Hispanics, but it’s important for brands to keep ethical considerations in mind when marketing to this group. Hispanics care about how marketers portray their ethnic group and it plays a big role in deciding if they will interact with a brand or not. This population wants to be respected and will avoid brands that cast their culture in a negative light. “When marketers talk about ‘U.S. Latinos,’ they cannot simply fall back on images of first-generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is assimilating and transforming much faster than the speed of stereotypes, acquiring complexity as it blends old and new”. Even subtle stereotypes can undermine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign and create a negative reputation for the brand.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.08.59 PM