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We thought a little less business talk and a few fun videos about the holidays would be more the order for the season.  So, some videos we’ve come across that are worth sharing with friends and family.

Enjoy … and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Guest Relations Marketing!

Turn photos into a entertaining interactive card.   Watch your pets, your kids or your grandma do a dance – elf style!  Elf Yourself.


The JibJab gang always has some very entertaining “greetings”  – some fairly irreverent. Jibjab.

 

Share a special message from Santa Claus.

 

Create Talking Holiday Cards.

 

Send A thank you card to our military personnel.

 

Create your own “special” holiday story.

 

Combine photos, video and music into your own family card.

 

For the pets, or children that act like dogs, this is your site.  It’s worth it just for the instructions by the dogs. Pet Centric.

 

A site for more than 100 free Christmas movies and television classics that you can download.

 

And, for a a stunning musical piece, how about Celtic Woman recorded live in Dublin, Ireland performing “O Holy Night.”

 

And, finally to begin to usher out 2010, no better way than this video.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy 2011!

Just in time for Holiday giving, we bring you our recommendations on the best gifts.  In Our Top Ten, there’s something in this list for everyone, especially that “hard to buy for” person.  Without further ado, with our compliments:

1.  The exquisite romantic experience:  on the beach at Hawaii’s top rated hotel – the Halekulani. Five-diamond dining, the best Mai Tai poolside or beachside, live Hawaiian music and a gorgeous sunset.  What more do you need for the perfect romantic location? Get this gift.

2.  The hottest car on the planet – a new Mustang!   Motor Trend just staged a Mustang versus BMW M3 contest.  It was a draw!   What is an uncontested win – the service, care and selection at Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln. Not to mention right now at both Allan Vigil Dealerships, you can get up to $4,000 off MSRP when you purchase a 2011 Mustang.   Get this gift.

3.  The gift of entertaining.  For the person who loves to entertain, Swoozie’s has literally everything the consummate hostess needs to take care of guests … and herself.  Browse these gifts.

4.  The gift for the environmentally conscious.   Need the gift that gives every single day?  How about electric energy produced from renewable sources?  Green Energy from Georgia Power.  Get this gift.

5.  The gift of a better life for a child.    CURE Childhood Cancer is dedicated to solving end cures of childhood cancers through research.   Many advances are underway.  To support a Fellow and help accelerate solutions, consider a gift to CURE as a honorarium or memorial.  Give this gift.

6.   The Jersey Shore awaits!   Looking for that getaway that is right in the heart of the Jersey Shore?   Try Ocean Place Resort.  And, how about a 45 minute ferry ride from Ocean Place straight to Manhattan for an extended adventure? Get this gift.

7.  For that unique, one of a kind crafted furniture.  Palecek designs, specs and creates distinctive, environmentally-sensitive furniture that is often as much art as  a functional piece of furniture.   Find out what in-the-know interior designers already have found. Browse these gifts.

8.    For the cook on your gift list … premium Italian goods.   Bella Cucina offers the best in cooking and gourmet Italian goods.  If you like to cook … or love to eat, there’s something for you at Bella Cucina. Browse these gifts.

9.    Fashion for the kitchen!  Think grandma’s apron with a chic fashionable twist. That’s IceMilk Aprons.  Martha Stewart loves them … and so will the women in your life.  Get this gift.

10.   A place to be productive.  Know someone that needs their own workplace?  Give them the gift of productivity and professionalism.  Carr Workplaces is at the leading edge of solutions for the entrepreneur or solo practitioner. Get this gift.

And, one for the road …  Amazon has pretty much a gift and a deal for anyone, but one of the more unique items is the “Marshmallow Shooter” from the Marshmallow Fun Company.   They come in seven varieties.  Our favorite?  The Camo Blaster!  Really!

It may be amusing or disgusting based on your point of view. But, 5 people are zealots of bathroom matters enough to write blogs from the sanctuary of  portable toilets in New York City over the upcoming holiday season.   No less than brand maven Proctor & Gamble is.

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P&G’s Toilet Talent Search

If you love the loo, and we mean really love it, then P&G (Stock Quote: PG) has a job for you.

P&G’s Charmin toilet paper division launched a national job search this week to locate five “outgoing and enthusiastic people” to work in New York City’s Times Square Charmin Restrooms this holiday season for a salary of $10,000 each. The lucky five selected will interact with a multitude of restroom guests while getting paid to revel in their own “love of the loo.”

Yep, we’re serious. And don’t you call them bathroom attendants either. Charmin is referring to its new employees as “Charmin Ambassadors.”

Now that’s what we call spin. And it doesn’t stop there.

In its want ad, Charmin says “all candidates must really, really enjoy going to the bathroom.” Furthermore, applicants must be prepared to answer why they “enjoy the go” more than anybody else.

Believe it or not, this is not Charmin’s first potty promotion. This is the fourth straight year the company will provide tourists and locals alike with what it calls a “relief refuge” and momentary respite from the holiday rush. And Charmin is not being chintzy with its portable potties. The 20 deluxe and soon-to-be fully-staffed restrooms will offer additional amenities, including stroller parking, baby changing stations seating and a family photo area.

As to what kind of family would snap photos of its bathroom experience, we have no idea. But we are sure the five “Ambassadors” will fill us in on all the details part of their job will be to blog about their experience in the proverbial hot seat.

Source: Mainstreet.com


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The FTC recently updated its guidelines – taking dead aim at companies attempting to fake zealotry actions. Failure for bloggers to disclose their potential sponsorship or material gain is potential fines up to $11,000 per posting. “Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

No payment was made to GRM by the FTC for the posting of this article.

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Blogola: The FTC Takes On Paid Posts

The Federal Trade Commission wants bloggers to disclose when they’ve been wooed with cash or freebies from companies they cover

Readers of Adventures in Babywearing, a blog for parents, got an up-close look at the Ergo, a $135 embroidered baby carrier in a shade called “organic blue” in a May 14 post on the site. Blog operator Stephanie Precourt was impressed. “The Ergo truly is now my first choice for long-term wear as well as nursing and doing chores around the house,” she wrote.

Money can’t buy that kind of advertising for Maui (Hawaii)-based ERGObaby. Or can it? As Precourt wrote in her blog, the company sent the carrier free, along with a matching pouch and backpack. Precourt says it’s legitimate to blog about a product she’s been given by its manufacturer. “I try to keep my blog filled with personal stories and real-life content so that when I do happen to write about something that I’ve been given, it’s credible,” she says in an e-mail.

But such back-scratching endorsements could become tougher under a coming set of Federal Trade Commission guidelines designed to clarify how companies can court bloggers to write about their products. This summer, the government agency is expected to issue new advertising guidelines that will require bloggers to disclose when they’re writing about a sponsor’s product and voicing opinions that aren’t their own. The new FTC guidelines say that blog authors should disclose when they’re being compensated by an advertiser to discuss a product.

Google Downgrades Paid Blog Entries

It’s the first revision of the FTC’s guidelines for editorials and testimonials in ads since 1980, and regulators say it’s needed in an era when consumers increasingly turn to blogs and other amateur Web sites for information about the goods and services they buy. The rules seek to clear up some of the tangled connections on Web sites that make it hard for readers to tell who’s getting incentives from whom. “The presumption is that we can apply traditional advertising principles like transparency and accountability to social media the same way as it would apply to traditional media,” says Rich Cleland, staff attorney for the commission.

Maybe. But the FTC is trying to legislate ethics in the wild and wooly blogosphere at a time when marketers and amateur writers are forming new kinds of partnerships that fall outside the traditional boundaries between vendors and consumers, say critics of the plan. And the Commission’s rules may be less effective at squelching behind-the-scenes arrangements between advertisers and bloggers than policies at Google (GOOG), which has been penalizing paid blog entries by demoting them in its search results. The FTC’s policy change mostly concerns the activities of independent blogs vs. posts written by journalists who work for news organizations.

As marketing budgets remain tight, advertisers are looking for cheaper ways to get their messages in front of shoppers. Many have turned to the blogosphere, offering cash and products to amateur journalists in exchange for glowing reviews about their products. “Bloggers are cost-efficient,” says Sean Corcoran, an analyst at Forrester Research (FORR) who wrote a Mar. 2 report titled Add Sponsored Conversations to Your Toolbox: Why You Should Pay Bloggers to Talk About Your Brand.

Nonbinding FTC Rules Have Wiggle Room

Often companies don’t need to disburse cash to win bloggers’ favor. Microsoft (MSFT) sent bloggers pricey Acer laptops loaded with Windows Vista to promote the software’s launch in 2006.

Blogger Jessica Smith of the lifestyle and product reviews site Jessica Knows got a free Ford (F) Flex for a year in April, plus a gas card for it. And readers of Shake the Salt, a blog for frugal moms, were among the first to hear about Banana Nut Cheerios when General Mills (GIS) released the cereal in March—after the blog’s author got free cereal and kitchenware from the company.

In some cases, bloggers disclosed the incentives up front. But there’s wiggle room: The coming FTC guidelines don’t define what’s meant by a “payment” and don’t specify what incentives—other than cash—must be disclosed to readers by blog authors. “That’s a real challenge, determining what compensation means,” Corcoran says.

The FTC says it wants to protect consumers, who may take a blogger’s opinion at face value without knowing it was influenced by an advertiser. But advertisers say the new guidelines don’t take into account nontraditional partnerships being forged between bloggers and their sponsors. The rules “really raise more questions than they answer,” says Thomas Cohn, an attorney with Venable, a law firm that represents the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and four other ad industry groups that have weighed in with the FTC on the policy change. Cohn advocates self-regulation by bloggers.

Advertisers’ “Obligation to Control”

Like other FTC guidelines, the new policies won’t be binding. But they may influence which cases the agency decides to bring to court, says FTC attorney Cleland. Two bloggers’ trade groups, the Word of Mouth Marketing Assn. and the Blog Council, have already adopted self-regulatory guidelines for how advertisers should work with bloggers. According to the FTC, however, the buck will stop with marketers who pay for favorable posts. “If it’s paid for by the advertiser, then the advertiser has an obligation to control it,” Cleland says.

Yet an even more powerful force on the Web—Google—may bring opaque bloggers and advertisers to heel. In 2007, Google began tightening restrictions on blogs that linked to sponsors’ sites, requiring them to insert software code that negates the value of those links when users search for those sponsors. In February, Google turned the rule on itself when it penalized Google Japan for paying several Japanese blogs to advertise Google software. “When you have large organizations like the federal government and Google coming at you, it deters you from being deceptive,” says Forrester’s Corcoran.

The world’s more ambitious bloggers like to call themselves ‘citizen journalists.’ The government is trying to make sure these heralds don’t turn into citizen advertisers.

Douglas MacMillan is a staff writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Source: BusinessWeek.com


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Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.”

 

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Quantum Leap Marketing asked small businesses about their planned marketing tactics for 2009,

76% of small businesses indicated they will using referrals to get more leads and new clients:

· 55% email marketing

· 49% web presence

· 43% seminars or trade shows

· 40% direct mail

· 31% social media

44% plan to increase on-line marketing spending; 22% plan to decrease spending on-line.

Does beg a question – why are 24% of small businesses not interested in greater referral?

It is only the most effective long-term marketing strategy.

The Erin Andrews video has become a very hot (pun intended) topic on the Internet.

There is nearly 11 million results for the ESPN reporter on the web.

Is ESPN unhappy about this? Probably not too much. Apparently, their lawyers precipitated the fury that has resulted.

The video was uploaded four months ago, and just recently re-posted with a vague description by a blogger.

A threatening letter demanding a takedown and revealing of sources is what apparently created the maelstorm. By exposing the “carrier”, an unintended result apparently occurred.

It demonstrates the viral impact of subjects of passion to followers – in this case its almost a perfect storm melding sex (nudity) and sports.

Had only beer been present then it would have been an absolutely perfect scenario for a certain (and obviously) large group of followers.

 

A couple of truths:

1. What interests a customer/follower supercedes what you are offering as a product or service

2. In social media, the reporter can quickly become the reported

3. Social media doesn’t create the story, but it can be a fast and extremely captivating carrier

People fall in love with brands each and every day. In this economy, some brands fail thus making them unavailable to past customers. For Zealots, this can certainly be a detrimental thing. So the question is, can your Zealots save your business? If your own customers knew you were in jeopardy of going away forever, what lengths would they go to to ensure you stay afloat?

Well, Paste Magazine surely has an answer to this question .. and it’s a good one. Yes.

In spite of the current economic conditions, Paste Magazine (a music-focused industry pub highlighting up-and-coming artists) recently launched an online “Campaign to Save Paste,” reaching out to their readers & supporters to help keep the magazine alive. They also reached out to their musician base, several of which offered to donate music to the campaign for readers who supported the publication via donating money.

As a result of the campaign, the magazine has raised in excess of $240K so far, enough to keep them afloat a little while longer, and have realized the ultimate power of the Zealots for their brand.

As a Zealot for “the late”design pub Domino Magazine, I would absolutely have liked to have known they were struggling and would have supported them in their efforts to keep the magazine afloat.

What do you think? Are there brands you would help save? Would your Zealots help save your business if you reached out to them?

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Ted Turner’s Atlanta-based restaurant chain Ted‘s Montana Grill’s latest promotion aims to find their “Burger FANatics.” The company’s website poses the question via a mounted bison head – “Are you a Ted’s Burger FANatic?” and asks folks to submit videos, audios, or documents proclaiming their love for the brand & their burgers.

The concept behind the contest is tried & true, not unlike a doctors office gathering patient testimonials, referral is king. But, could the execution be enhanced to truly bring out the Zealots for the brand? We think so – here are a few suggestions:

– The first place winner prize is a Toyota Prius. What this has to with the brand or being a FANatic we do not know based on this site alone. The companies eco-friendly commitment is one that their Zealots likely know about and would appreciate, but it should be explained rather than counting on the consumer to make the connection between the brand & the prize.  The 2nd place prize seems much more likely to please a Zealot for Teds, or even the 3rd place prize for that matter.

– There is no foundation of submissions. When I log on today I see only two “recent submissions” that are clearly done as samples by a marketing agency or internal person. Makes the program loose some of its grandeur and appeal. What if Ted’s had pinged their 1,400+ Facebook page fans inviting them to participate first before full-on launch of the promotion? These folks may be the most likely of Zealots, willing to proclaim their love for the brand for all their Facebook friends to see, and even more importantly, they would have had a chance to build up a database of some entries before all the world took a glimpse at nothing.

– In visiting their Facebook page, there is no mention of this contest to their fans.  Perhaps they did send a message to their fans, we do not know – but these are avid supporters for your brand, with the power to spread the word about the contest to all their friends online. Make it easy for them. Connect the dots.

What we love?

Promoting the Facebook page and E-Communication Sign-Ups prominently on the contest pages. True Zealots are certainly most likely to become engaged in the brand in as many ways as possible so as not to miss out on the action.

Your thoughts welcomed.

Rewards programs are simple in theory, reward someone for their behavior with and involvement in your brand and they’ll keep coming back. From a Zealotry Marketing standpoint we’ll put that theory to the test.

Brandweek’s recent article  “Rewards Program Members are Brand Champions” features a new study by Colloquy that has a few important stats to note:

  • Members of rewards programs are 70%  more likely to actively recommend a product, service or brand than the general population
  • 55 % described themselves as brand champions

While positive word-of-mouth and referral are certainly keys to success for a brand from a Zealotry standpoint, there seems to be a disconnect between “Brand Champions” and “Zealots.” With brand champions coming in at an astonishing 55 percent, we are more likely to liken brand champions to “supporters” for the brand, not true Zealots. The postive-impact business difference between “champions” and Zealots is huge, thus finding ways to dig deeper into your Rewards Program membership base to mine out your most zealous fans is one that is well worth the time & effort. And establishing an intimate way to go beyond simply rewarding  – by involving, engaging and nurturing your Zealots – now that has the makings of a true loyalty program.

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