Sollitude Challenge

Wonder what this is? Well I was asked to sit alone free of technology, friends, family for 30 minutes and blog my experience on it.

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I consider myself a pretty social person and loves to keep myself occupied and engaged all the time. You can imagine how challenging it must have been for me to let myself slow down especially when you are a mother of two year old who hardly lets you do things peacefully. To me if I am not doing anything (leave about doing something valuable) I am wasting time. However I decided to give that half an hour of vacation time for myself. My first 10 minutes of time I was constantly thinking about reaching for the phone to look for the updates on my social networking sites, or fold my laundry or do the vacuum cleaning and all possible chores that’s left unattended. Later I must admit I enjoyed the remaining portion of my alone time and it definitely was a pleasure to dive into a project with no distractions and commitments. It helped me calm my mind and made me feel more energized for the rest of the day.

I was able to gain an interesting perspective after I finished with the assignment. I realized, how much I am controlled by the exterior world. Constantly pulled by the outside world- by people, by media and by demands of my daily life. I don’t exactly remember when was the last time I had some alone time and recharged myself which is very strange honestly.

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It was definitely a wonderful opportunity which made me envision my needs/priorities and to become more aware of the world around us. There is no doubt that we should learn to balance the pace and intensity of modern/busy life by devoting some alone time and steady the mind. It’s a struggle but we should learn to put ourselves on the priority list and commit to creating some time of solitude which gives a positive experience.

Don’t you agree?

 

Movie Comparison

I was asked to blog on two mainstream movies (one reflecting solitude and the other reflecting technology) and compare them. The movies I chose to blog are 1. My all time favorite movie filmed in the year 2000 “Cast Away” (CA) featuring Tom Hanks (Chuck Noland), is about a FedEx employee who is stranded on an island for over four years after his plane crashes on a flight over the south pacific. The movie depicts about his attempts to survive on that island and his eventual escape and return to the society.

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2.The second part of the movie “The Internship”(TI) starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is about two middle aged men applying for an internship at the Google company after being laid off from their sales man jobs. Despite the generation gap between them and the fellow interns they learn to survive/work together as a team and appreciates the value that each one has to offer.

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There are quite few similarities and important lessons about Life/Career that these movies propose.

1.CA: Change can be sudden and overwhelming that we need to be ready for it before it happens. It’s more like awaiting the unexpected. Although the plane crash could have happened at any time, Chuck never bothered to train/familiarize himself on the emergency equipments on the planes that he routinely flew in. Had he trained he would have been able to secure his valuable belongings and grab on to that survival boat and utilize it properly without losing those vital tools.     TI: The lives of the sales men are thrown upside-down when the wristwatch company that they work for as salesmen unexpectedly goes out of business on the basis that people no longer wear watches anymore. Billy and Nick neither of them have even the slightest experience in the tech sector nor did they bother to upgrade themselves to the world they currently live. Although they try to lend a hand to the challenges, their lack of know-how leads to disaster as interns at Google.

2.CA:It is never too late to utilize your skills: Most of what Chuck knows about modern life was completely useless on the island and his skills accumulated over the years at FedEx in determining efficiency were very useful in calculating how far away he was from his crash site and the original route the plane was taking.     TI: The interns at Google learn that they need to utilize the skills and assets that they already possessed in order to have a shot at a job with Google. At the end of the movie Billy and Nick use their sales skills to pitch Google search advertising to a local pizzeria, which help them, succeed. We have very little amount of time to invest on new skills everyday outside our routine but never should we cease the opportunity to gather/accumulate knowledge that your current job offers which could be very useful at the time of emergency.

3.CA: Adapt no matter what: On the island there is silence, which is broken only by sounds of the ocean, wind and rain. Chuck learns to adjust to living without the distractions of a noisy society. He learns to go inside himself, to be alone and re-examines his priorities while on that island.    TI: On the other hand the interns were placed in a high tech firm surrounded by technologies most of the time and had constant access to virtual socialization but were still able to find their inner strength and actually succeeded as focused interns. Focused in achieving their personal goals and focused on getting the job at Google as a team.This goes to show that we all need to mould ourselves and adapt/cope to different social settings, perform well in different social settings and achieve desired outcomes no matter what the situation is.

4.CA: Disappointment happens but we have to move on: I love the message of moving on which is brought out very well in both the movies and that is a message not many of us want to hear. Things don’t always go the way we picture them in mind and yet we all learn to adapt to the situation and move on to the next chapter. Chuck realizes that he lost the love of his life Kelly when he returned back to civilization. Even when all his dreams were shattered he understands that he must keep on going on the road called “life”.  TI: As in the case of the movie “The Internship” the two salesmen were jobless, billy loses his girlfriend and the two are at a loss not really knowing what to do next but still they had to do whatever it takes to step forward.

Over all both the movies share the themes of perseverance, life/work balance , survival techniques and of following a dream regardless of how tough life can get.

What movies have you enjoyed that inspired you with life and work lessons?

 

 

Turning crisis into success:

What happens when a business makes a mistake? Or an unintended misstep? There is no doubt that social media serves as an excellent platform for brands to understand their customers, build a closer relationship with and promote products. However despite its easy reach and convenience social media can just as quickly turn against them. It’s a double-edged sword.The good news is social media provides chances to fix their problems as swiftly as possible and brands, when they are more perceptive of a situation (when a crisis occurs) can turn a potential disaster into an opportunity.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/21/ann-taylor-employees-mode_n_619531.html

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I am sharing a perfect example of how social media can suddenly attack on a brand even when they did not do anything wrong and how the brand handled the criticisms very well.

In July 2010 Ann Taylor’s Loft released photos of a tall (5’10), blonde model wearing their new line cargo pants on their facebook page. Fans of the brand complained that the pants worn by the model would not look as good to those who had a heavier or a shorter size. So how do you think they resolved the mistake? Well Ann Taylor took down the photos and replaced it with their own staffs wearing the same trousers worn by the model and uploaded them on to Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.402831970676.183692.26483215676

The picture clearly suggested that “real women” can wear the pants whatever their figure might be. The new photos were a hit and received positive feedback from customers. By responding to Fan requests positively, Ann Taylor showed customers that they do listen and care about customer concerns. Customers had a genuine complaint and the brand stayed calm, took the comments into consideration and came up with a constructive solution.

No brand is perfect and it is not easy to please the customers all the time. The best trick however is to be prepared/handle things smart to protect their reputation. When companies learn from their mistakes or successes it helps them stay on the social media’s good side.

Viral Marketing

I know it’s every marketer’s dream to see a campaign go viral but earning the engagement of an enthusiastic audience can be a very difficult task. Which begs the question: Is there even a recipe for your campaign to go viral? Sometimes it’s not really up to brands to decide that.

Let’s take the online magazine “The Beauty Bean” for example. This is one other brand such as “Dove” that tried to change the conversation about the female beauty and boost confidence in women. The beauty bean magazine doesn’t offer the typical weight loss advice or encourage the ideal body image (that creates insecurity for women) for its readers. They focus more on real beauty than the unrealistic ones.

So what did they do? They started what is called “Makeup- Free Mondays” campaign a movement to get women to stop using its advertisers’ products one day each week. So the theme was about women appreciating themselves for who they are and that to remind them that their faces were beautiful with or without make up. It goes beyond merely kissing good-bye to makeup on Mondays. It’s about women empowerment and giving a different definition for beauty as such. Some of the action steps required as part of the campaign goes here http://thebeautybean.com/site/makeup-free-mondays-2/makeup-free-mondays-how-you-can-show-your-support-for-casual-fridays-new-sister/

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Make up free Mondays went viral and a prime spot on AOL gave the brand millions of unique hits. Celebrities such as Serena Williams to Lady gaga posted make up free pictures. Even after two years the campaign is still alive and no signs of fading away.

One thing that is evident of the campaign is customers chose to engage with the brand when there is quality and when brands try something unusual. Like for example one of the calls to action step for the customer was to celebrate “Make up free Monday” by donating a fresh make up item to a local battered women shelter. Here the brand focused on engaging the customer both emotionally and behaviorally there by building strong customer-brand relationships.

Nobody can really place a finger on what causes something to “go viral”. What brands can do is improve their chances of having a viral outcome while accepting the bitter fact that much of it has something to do with luck and fortune. What other viral marketing campaigns have you come across?

Content Marketing a matter of context

Why do most of us go to a salon? Well, we all like to get ourselves pampered every once in a while. This is even more necessary when you have a child or two and hardly have time for yourself. But it’s not just that. I love going to beauty salons because when you come out you feel glamorous especially after a hair do. But the reality is the “DIVA” look is gone a day or two after you leave the salon. Salon visits can be pricey. Is there a way for women to maintain her hair sleek and shiny the way it is done by the stylists? Tresseme India says you can

The brand has launched an interactive salon through its YouTube channel hosted by actress and brand ambassador Diana Penty with DIY videos take a step-by-step approach for the featured ramp ready hairstyles.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TresemmeIndia/RampReadyHair

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The virtual salon has a few options to explore. I had some fun time virtually visiting the backstage of a ramp walk. You get to select 3 hairstyles, create your own ramp show and also learn about the shampoos based on your hair type and a demo on how to use them. The final portion of the interactive salon is viewing your own album. Needless to mention this new concept has not only provided people with great content but has earned a consumer who is interested in trying the products recommended as part of the video.

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On top of this Tresseme has integrated all of its social media sites (facebook, twitter, YouTube) to spread the message driving all its fans to the YouTube site. It is not an exclusive or innovative idea that Tresseme has come up with. But creating a new business from an old idea (depending on your target audience) is all that takes for a brand to get noticed.

The nature and the truth about digital influence/influential communication is “He who has the best content wins”. Good content is essential everywhere but using it in a smart way is the key.

Try the above link out and tell me if you really feel that you can create a ramp ready hair by yourself?

customer experience marketing

Truly memorable ad campaigns create a deeply felt response- one of joy, surprise, motivation, innovation etc. When brands can achieve this feeling with their consumers, chances are that the message will stay with you forever and they in turn create a buzz for the product. This is especially true for an industry that’s truly built on recommendations through word of mouth (wom). Having said that it’s not quite easy for brands to grab people’s short span attention and improve their social media presence.

When I think of a brand that has built a strong online presence and has fostered engagement with a massive audience “Dove” comes to my mind.Here is the link about the campaign   http://realbeautysketches.dove.us/

Now most of us are aware of the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign making it the most viral video of all times. “Real Beauty Sketches” was a viral video in which a police sketch artist contrasted on how women describe themselves to the prettier versions described by strangers.  How did the Unilever brand reach that extreme level of virality?

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Simplest answer could be the brand was trying to connect with the audience on a personal level.It evokes the customer’s true emotions. I broke into tears when I had watched it the first time. The brand was trying to make you think rather than communicating a product or selling it. Second it was sharability content and was not just meant to be watched, because it had meaningful and share worthy content. Third trying something unique and going that one extra mile to show that you care. The company did an extensive research in finding the best sketch artist who was very crucial for the campaign. This was important as they were trying to boost women “self esteem” and they knew they can’t go wrong with that. Lastly the project was pretty diverse involving Caucasian, African-American and Asian women participating and promoting the cause.

One other company I could think of who puts enormous emphasis on creating real relationships is Zappos an online retailer that sells clothing, accessories and shoes. Zappos is continuously trying to improve the communication with the customers and is finding innovative methods to engage with their clients. One of their great strategies I loved the most is their “Like-Like” relationship on Facebook. One strategy where they ask for the customer to first click the Like which then provides immediate access (only after becoming a fan) to their great contents, promotions and videos. Also it asks their fans to join their new email list and interact with their products as soon as they become a fan.

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Although, the bottom-line strategy for all the businesses is the same the content and the intentions behind the brand definitely matters.The above strategy adopted by Zappos shows that they care about building relationships with their audience as they are ready to wait for people to hit the Like and then get into business. This is fairly unique because its common for brands to continuously push people to Facebook wherever possible.

Another excellent engagement strategy of Zappos, I have seen on Facebook is the “Fan of the Week” contest. Fans are encouraged to send their photos with their Zappos box and the best picture is crowned “fan of the week” and is posted in the wall (as their profile pic on zappos fb page) so everyone could see it. Not only does it builds loyalty but shows how Zappos put their customers first. The more the companies put their followers/fans into limelight the more engaging they will be and are ready to get into action for the brand.

The Holy Grail for advertising (be it traditional or social media) in today’s world is the same as it’s always been. To go beyond the soulless sales pitches and thinking outside the box to grab the consumer’s attention will not only make it memorable for the consumers/viewers but will be ready to stay with the brand for a long time. Best brands get that. They aim higher.

Influencers for the beauty industry

We are exposed to tons of beauty products everyday through advertisements, banners, fashion magazines, social media sites and the beauty store itself. With this come a few challenges. Lets say you came across a product you think is good. How do you actually use them? Media (movies, ads etc) has embedded ideal appearances on women and most of us succumb to these model looks. Many a times I have wasted time and money in trying to find the right cosmetic that suits the best for me. Should I blame the product or is it just the way I do it? While some of us have that one friend who has in-depth knowledge on choosing the right make up and how to exactly use them, others are ignorant when it comes to cosmetics. Then there is the question of if you can actually trust these brands and the claims that they make? So what does one to do?

I usually head to a beauty blog or you tube vloggers (video bloggers). These are the fastest growing and the top influencers of the beauty industry.There are more than 45,000 non-brand related beauty vloggers on YouTube who are influential in their own way. Bloggers and vloggers have become an influential part of many of the cosmetics brands to promote their products to consumers exploiting the unique relationship that they share with their audience. What’s even better? You can find a blog or watch a You Tube tutorial focusing exactly on what you need and not lose track of time. In addition beauty videos on the YouTube are the frequently searched item and these videos average 800 million views a month approximately (that’s quite a number isn’t?).

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So what’s so special about them? In beauty industry bloggers and vloggers are very powerful – that they give away very honest opinions (without a care for advertisers) about a brand rather than pushing the brand. They tell us what products they love the most and what they would not use again. Once I have tried their recommendation and believe that it works for me, I entrust them completely about their reviews. These make up artists are like our soul mates trying to talk with us (like demonstrating on how to use the products and show us some of their tips and tricks) on a personal level. They help us expose to even lesser known brands and increase the sales for them. These regular people have the power to get really dirty about a product if the results are not positive or tout the benefits of one (when the product claims are real) and add value to a brand. Of course Michelle Phan, Amy Pham (popular You Tube vloggers) are paid these days to represent a particular brand and promote the brands they work for. But they know their fans are going to love them whatever they say as long as they are authentic and has great content to watch.

Most of the times it’s us who create the content for them. Once we build a relationship (through frequent video uploads and blogging contents) with these vloggers and bloggers, their next topic on their social media sites are based on the requests from viewers like you and me. The fans get what they want. Moreover girls as young as 14, can be a star on YouTube who can generate around million reviews in a month. There is a relatable quality to these beauty gurus that are incredibly appealing to younger girls. These people are self-trained make up experts only with a little more skill and exposed to a lot more products than us. It’s the credibility we share with these people that makes them even more influential.

Vloggers and bloggers have a huge audience engagement/consumer’s attention. They are so influential that I can’t imagine myself going back to the traditional (doing lots of research before arriving at a decision) way of shopping. I don’t mind buying products that I haven’t even heard of. It’s the subject matter that draws my attention to these contents and not the aesthetic quality of the video by itself. These are the aspects that are lacking in a traditional media marketing that makes social media marketing extraordinary and dominant.