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Word of mouth marketing has existed since the day of the first business. Sharing opinions and experiences has always been a means of success or failure for many companies. If you have an excellent product, people will find out and, as you can imagine, this same principle applies to those products of lesser quality.

In today’s age of social media and instant sharing, companies must utilize these tools to their advantage. Not only can social media allow you to monitor what is being said or share information, it can also be used to activate those that you want to share your message.

Marketing programs should be built from a referral perspective based on those most passionate about your brand. These passionate followers, or Zealots, live the philosophy of word of mouth marketing without even knowing the true power they possess. While tapping into this resource may seem obvious to many, it also shouldn’t be the end of the road for your marketing strategy.

Case and point: a recent promotion that our client CURE Childhood Cancer was involved in: Club Diamond Nation (CDN). Launched as the first virtual baseball and softball academy, CDN provided an opportunity for fans to vote for their favorite player for a chance to win a one-on-one training session. Additionally, CDN would donate $15,000 to the charity selected by the player who received the most votes.

CURE Childhood Cancer was the selected charity of CDN athlete and former Atlanta Braves pitcher, Tom Glavine.  Immediately, we began to promote the contest to followers of CURE Childhood Cancer, via e-blasts, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. With more than 31,000 fans on Facebook and even more on our email and blog lists, we were sure that this would be enough to win. However, after a month of voting we realized that this would not suffice if we really wanted to win the $15,000.

Softball player Jennie Finch was blowing Tom Glavine out of the water when it came to votes and, with a week left, Tom trailed Jennie by more than 1,200 votes.

The major issue? Those who are Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer are passionate about finding a cure for the disease and as a result did not feel directly passionate about this promotion, as it was very baseball-oriented. This is when we decided to take another approach and activate indirect Zealots of CURE by targeting those who are Zealots of Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves.

Through Twitter, CURE Childhood Cancer and Tom Glavine promoted the contest to Braves fans and asked them to vote. Tom began to interact directly with fans and reward those who were spreading the word by retweeting and replying to them directly. As a result, the dialogue exploded in frequency.

In a matter of six days Tom Glavine received more 6,000 votes, 4,500 more than Jennie Finch during that time. Additionally, direct mentions of CURE on Twitter increased 810%, resulting in an increased reach of 1,490%.

By simply asking Braves fans to support their old pitcher, Tom Glavine, CURE Childhood Cancer won the CDN contest and the $15,000.

Yes, word of mouth marketing can serve as a wondrous opportunity for organizations.  Now through social media platforms, companies can not only listen to what people are saying about their brand, but also have an simple and direct way to start the conversation.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, we’re Zealots for having fun. With that said, we are thrilled to work alongside Allan Vigil Dealerships as part of their exciting, Summer promotion.

We love the new line of Fords so much that we want the whole world to know about them. So what did we do? Contacted local bloggers, of course.

We asked a handful of prominent Atlanta-area bloggers if they would like to drive a new vehicle for a week. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a hard sell. Each week, I’ll pick up one of our blogger pals and drive them to Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln located in Morrow, GA. The blogger will take a car for a week – and simply put – have fun!

Will they love the car? Will they hate it? We’ll soon find out.

Today I picked up a shiny new 2013 Ford Edge to chauffeur our first blogger, Chad Elkins. And since I had a new car at my fingertips, it’s only fair that I take it for a test drive of my own. So Sarah and I took the Edge out for lunch and made a detour in the lovely Ansley Park:

My reaction? The Edge feels like a spaceship. In the best possible way. Cameras, touch screens and voice control galore.

Sarah’s reaction? “The Edge just feels so fun. It inspired me. Maybe a little too much.”

We can’t wait to hear what our bloggers think about their vehicles and I can’t wait to pick up my new ride for next week. Stay tuned.

As soon as Guest Relations Marketing heard of Pinterest, we were hooked. Not only has the majority of our office been Pinning on our personal accounts for months, but we were eager to be an early adopter with one of our clients: Swoozie’s.

The vast majority of Pinterest users are women ages 25-54. Swoozie’s target market? The same.

Perfect. We signed them up.

And while Swoozie’s Pinterest Followers were growing at a strong, steady rate, we knew these numbers could jump significantly. So we came up with a plan.

Using the promotion Pin It to Win It, for one day we focused on a single retail item: a pink, plastic tumbler. We Pinned the tumbler along with the message that one lucky Repinner would win it. The Pinning ensued. With each Repin that was made – an entirely new network of Pinners was exposed to the image.

By incorporating this promotion in Swoozie’s e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter communications, word spread fast. By the end of the day, not only had the tumbler received 143 Repins, but Swoozie’s had gained more than 100 new Followers and Pinterest was officially Swoozie’s third highest referring website.

Considering 6 months ago nobody knew what Pinterest was – these numbers are simply remarkable.

Have you joined Pinterest yet? Send me an email and I’ll gladly invite you to your new addiction.

Yes Super Bowl is about the football, if you know anything about our office you know we love football. But it is also all about the ads and we love to talk about them. Wasn’t it your water cooler chatter today? It certainly was ours and we asked our team to weigh in on their favorites. Here is what they had to say:

Mike Tyre, Managing Partner:  The Chrysler ad

“One ad stood out.  It was totally about today.  Truthfully with just a little editing, viewers might have considered it a part of the programming.  The commercial was Chrysler.  It is getting widely praised as the “best of” for this Super Bowl.  Three reasons why.  First, in a sea of ads trying to be humor, be clever or tell you how smart or great they are, Chrysler talked about you … or the American people.  It reflected the angst and the polarization in this country’s political climate.  And, it offered a solution … “Americans get behind Detroit.”  Made you feel it.  Great casting.  As a contrast, GE ran a couple of ads.  They were frankly boring.  Why?  They are talking about what they are doing and their people.  Employees and stockholders maybe will like it, but nothing on the emotive meter.  Secondly, terrific positioning.  A great play of media placement and messaging.   Third, people look to brands that can aspire something greater.  In a game that represents the culmination of dreams for players, Chrysler connected their brand.  Not to buying sheet metal, but to being a part of “rekindling” the American Dream.  How can you not jump on that train?  Did it sell cars?  I know this.  A lot of people who wouldn’t have considered Chrysler at all are at least thinking about them now.  Chrysler at least got into the consideration stage for a lot of viewers.  That makes their commercial the MVP of Super Bowl ads.”

Bob Richardson, Copywriter: The Audi Vampires Ad

“An unusual scenario for top tier car brand. This spot uses a pop cult vampire spin to sell the product’s incomparable feature — the Audi brand’s ultra-powerful headlights. They shine on a group of vampires at night, like daylight, making vampires disappear. Even the vampire driver, amused and passing in front of the Audi’s headlights, vanishes in light of Audi’s mystical product feature. The joke IS the product — not detached — therefore effective.”

Jan Sharrow, Designer:  The Budweiser Eternal Optimism ad

“The nostalgic time line of the Budweiser – 2012 – Eternal Optimism ad. Budweiser has been around for many years and this ad illustrates how the brand has been a part of our history. It’s fun to watch snapshots of years gone by in a positive party setting. There are scenes from history from times before I was born until now. It gets more emotional to see times in history that I lived through such as the scene from the 1980’s. Make me want to party.”

April Voris, Partner:  The Honda Ferris Bueller ad

“My pick is the Honda commercial with Mathew Brodrick. It tapped into a nostalgia that anyone in a certain target age will relate, and this happens to be a target for the CRV. Even the last detail of the valet was brilliant.”

Amanda Kirkland, Producer:  The Kia ad

“I was born and raised in Alabama. Which means one thing for sure: I have no allegiance when it comes to NFL. So each year when the Super Bowl rolls around, the commercials are the highlight of my night.  My favorite commercial of the evening was the Kia spot. Which really surprised me. It opened up with a very creppy minion sneaking around people’s bedrooms, sprinkling pixie dust. I didn’t like it at all. Until the overdose of pixie dust resulted in the ultimate man-dream.  Between the macho man riding a bucking rhino and a monstrous sandwich being sawed in half by lumberjacks, I was in stitches. But my favorite part? When our hero rescued his leading lady – his wife – with the message that a Kia is a normal car for normal people. Good job, Kia.”

Charissa Schultz, Designer:  The Budweiser Weego ad

“I loved the Budweiser commercial with the dog named “Weego.” Besides the fact that I love ads with pets in them, It was entertaining to the very end, yet you never lost sight of the product in all the shenanigans with the dog. After carrying bottles to all the individual guests, Wego brought in a keg when he saw the crowd joining the party. And at the end, he came floating by in the pool with yet another cold Bud.  Even with all the going’s on, this ad subtly showed:  1. You can enjoy the product not only in bottles, but also by the keg.  2. It was a good refreshment for when you have a couple of friends over, or when you have a crowd.  3. People enjoy the product both inside and outdoors.  But the best reason to love this ad is that the owner stated at the very beginning that Weego was a “rescue dog.” That was an excellent ( and subtle – using only two words) way to show that the company cared about animal rights and supported finding homes for homeless pets.  And that earned this commercial a five-star rating from me!!”

Ashley Schoenith, Director of Social Media & Engagement:  Beyond TV

“Beyond the TV, I was impressed by some of the creative ways in which marketers capitalized on social for this year’s Superbowl – and Twitter lead the way. Chevy shines again through their sponsorship of trending topic #Superbowl. The folks at Shazam should be giving themselves a pat on the back too – I think I counted 6 different commercials that plugged them in some way. American Express and Pizza Hut partnering for a Super Swarm Sunday promotion on FourSquare – also a nice touch. A few Facebook Ad buys from Toyota and The Voice seem to have garnered some interest, allowing us to engage back with the brand. The only thing missing for me? Pinterest of course. Maybe next year…”

As we’ve discussed in the past, the Guest Relations Marketing team is Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer. Not only are they our client, but we’re passionate about the cause. So much so, that April sits as President of the Board of Directors for the organization. If that’s not Zealotry in Action, we don’t know what is.

As the holiday season approached, we were thrilled to find out that CURE would be selling Elves from Catie as a holiday fundraiser.

These Elves were inspired by Catie Wilkins, one of CURE’s kids who lost her battle with cancer in 2007. Elves from Catie visit your home – or office – during the holidays and remain completely frozen in place whenever you’re around. But as soon as you leave? Chaos ensues. Not only are Elves from Catie a fun addition to any household, but a portion from each Elf sold goes directly to CURE. So it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Elves from Catie have only been visiting GRM for a few days and they’ve already been caught creating mischief.

If you would like to add some spirited fun to your home or office his holiday season – and support CURE – you may purchase Elves from Catie online at www.elvesfromcatie.com or in-stores or online at Swoozie’s.

We have a feeling this isn’t the only time these Elves are going to get in trouble this month. You can’t leave these guys unattended for one second.

As the holiday season approaches, retailers plan for one of the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday. Brand Zealots stake their tents and line up to experience the rush of this chaotic day of shopping. It’s not just about the deals – it’s about the experience.

However, not all Zealots are created equal. For those not cut out for braving the mall with the masses, there’s another day. A day called Cyber Monday.

For a retailer, Cyber Monday is a godsend. Advertising your business’s promotions digitally is relatively inexpensive. And oftentimes free. By integrating a cohesive marketing plan through all digital outlets – including social media – your brand Zealots help spread the word for you. With a simple click of the “share” button, your message has fallen into the laps of hundreds, if not thousands, of your Zealots’ closest friends.

According to ComScore, online sales on Cyber Monday were up 22% from last year, coming in at a record $1.25 billion. When compared to 2010, some of the largest online retailers, such as eBay, did not see as drastic of an increase in sales. However, smaller online retailers have been booming. In fact, most smaller merchants have seen better year-over-year growth on Cyber Monday, compared to Black Friday.

Swoozie’s is one of these success stories. Going in to Cyber Monday, Swoozie’s implemented a cohesive digital campaign to promote all of their online sales specials. By promoting different Cyber Monday specials throughout the day – through social media – Swoozie’s was able to keep the buzz going and encourage their Zealots to not only interact with their brand, but also share the specials with their network of friends. By the end of the day, Swoozie’s had exceeded their online sales goal by 49%.

This proves that a strong digital campaign – with a heavy emphasis on social media – works.

CURE Childhood Cancer’s Annual “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time” campaign just completed its third year. This year was the most successful year yet, inspiring hundreds of donors to join the fight against childhood cancer.

During the month of September, CURE Childhood Cancer honored and remembered children affected by cancer; these children representing the 12,700 children diagnosed each year. The money raised from this campaign is directed towards children’s cancer research, in hopes of someday finding a cure.

This campaign, promoted through Social Media and Online, raised $263,000 this year alone, and more than $640,000 collectively in the last 3 years, while at the same time almost doubling database numbers.

Just another example of the power of tapping into the Zealots for your brand (or cause), in combination with an emotionally driven fundraising campaign.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, we all have strong opinions. We challenge one another’s ideas to ensure that we provide our clients with the best solutions possible. Sometimes this means we have to agree to disagree. However, as different as we may be, there is one thing we all have in common:

A love for all things Apple.

The news of Steve Job’s death was a popular topic of conversation in the office today. The discussion of our zealotry for the Apple brand quickly turned into a discussion of our zealotry for the man behind the brand. Here’s what we had to say:

April:
Steve Jobs was the Thomas Edison of our time; what he accomplished in his lifetime impacted every single person in the entire world. He once said he wanted to strive to be remembered for changing the world. I’d say he achieved just that in the most profound way possible.

Mike:
It’s a sad day for Steve Jobs and the Apple family. On the other hand, this man offered a tremendous legacy that can inspire all businesses. The power of radically looking at the competition and the category and truly offering something different. Of understanding the mindset, not simply the demographics, of customers. But for Guest Relations, we take away from Jobs the understanding that it takes both a distinctive product and a superior customer experience. At every touchpoint. Someone said it well in an article I read last night: Jobs had the creativity and insight not simply to dream up products that never existed, but he also could visualize how to package, promote and deliver them to consumers in a simple, yet integrated manner. Steve Jobs was simply the best Zealotry Marketer of our time.

Ashley:
Apple products have become an essential part of my life from the day I was introduced to them. I remember learning at a young age on an early Apple desktop, and am now connected at the hip via laptop, iPad, iPhone and iPod – all of which keep me up to date and connected to the world. The innovation that Steve Jobs developed has inspired a legacy of amazing things to come for the future.

Holly:
Steve Jobs made Apple a company that completely changed the way the world communicates. His passion for innovating technology made the world a better place. There’s no question that the world just lost one of the true greats.

Amanda:
Steve Jobs envisioned products that simply make sense. They fit seamlessly into our lives. They’re easy to use. They’re beautiful. Jobs set the standard for what all companies should strive to achieve: he was loyal to his high brand standards and Apple customers were loyal to him. Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Let’s all strive to be that yardstick.

Did you know that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month?

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, we’re zealots for a lot of things. One of the causes we’re most passionate about is CURE Childhood Cancer. Not only is CURE one of our clients, but we’ve taken a personal investment in the organization. One of the GRM partners, April Voris, is currently serving as Board President for CURE. Additionally, April and our Director of Engagement & Social Media, Ashley Schoenith, have each set up fund raising pages for the event, CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time. Click here to check out April’s fund raising page and click here to check out Ashley’s.

Since we have asked others, such as some of our blogger friends, to actively participate as a blogger in the CURE Community, we should follow suit as well. As zealots, it’s our duty to help raise awareness and get others involved in helping CURE.

This month, CURE is sharing stories and honoring children who have been touched by childhood cancer each day in September as part of their 3rd annual CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time. In their first two years of the program, CURE has honored over 150 children and raised nearly $400,000 to help fight childhood cancer.

What is “I Support CURE’s Kids?”

The idea for “I Support CURE’s Kids” began as a way for friends in the blogging community to help show their support for CURE Childhood Cancer during the month of September.

An amazing group of bloggers has agreed to “donate” a blog post during the month of September to help spread awareness for CURE Childhood Cancer, as well as a spot on their blog for the “I Support CURE’s Kids” blog badge. Some amazing bloggers have generously agreed to take part already.  We hope you will consider doing so on your own blog, too!

Click here to view the current list of blogger friends in the CURE Community, or to learn more about getting involved.

I Support CURE’s Kids Blogger Raffle

And, as a little extra fun, some amazing bloggers, business owners & companies have donated some fabulous  products and services that moms & kids will simple adore for CURE’s “I Support CURE’s Kids Blogger Raffle.” You can get in on the goods for as little as $10 (which all goes directly to support CURE) – click here to view the list of raffle items that you could win!

Thank you for your support this month. You can join in to raise awareness by joining CURE Childhood Cancer on Facebook and Twitter (@curechildcancer) too!

Aaahhh…baseball season.  Ball parks.  Hot dogs and beer.  Fandamonium galore. One of the purest forms of zealotry in action is baseball rivalries. Check out this video for New Era about the Red Sox / Yankees rivalry and tell us which team you are rooting for this season.

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