Guest Relations created a program in September 2009 to honor the courageous fight of children with cancer.  CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time initially featured the personal story of 30 children.  Promoted in social media and other online communications, the program has grown over 5 years to feature nearly 400 children.   The campaign has raised to-date  $1,017,291 towards research aimed at solving children’s cancers.

The Atlanta Journal-Constution recently featured the program.



For 30 days, they shared their stories: the athlete who didn’t let amputation keep him off the lacrosse field, the kid who inspired people even as he lay dying, the sisters who share a bond more profound than blood. Their stories were different — the same, too. Each is young, and has cancer. Some have licked the disease, and are in remission; others remain in a literal fight for their lives. A few have lost that fight.

In September CURE Childhood Cancer, a Dunwoody nonprofit, featured nearly 100 youthful cancer patients in a month-long fund-raiser, Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time. People who visited the organization’s web site could read each child’s store and make an online contribution.
The goal: raising $200,000 to fund childhood cancer research. What it had raised by month’s end: $214,000.

The money will help bridge the funding gap between fighting adult cancer and childhood cancer, said Kristen Connor, CURE’s executive director.
“We don’t (spend) anything to prevent childhood cancer,” she said. “I think that’s wrong.”  Less than 5 percent of the federal government’s annual total funding for cancer research is dedicated to various forms of childhood cancer, according to the National Institute of Health.  At the same time, said Connor, cancer is the No. 2 killer of American youth, defined as newborns to 21-year-olds. Only accidents claim more young lives.
Childhood cancer often isn’t the same as that afflicting adults. Grown-ups, for example, may contract cancer of the lung, colon, breast. Children are more apt to develop cancer in soft tissues, or in growing bones.  About 14,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1.6 million men and women will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

For Connor, the numbers are more than an abstract. Twelve years ago, physicians diagnosed her son, Brandon, with neuroblastoma, a cancerous growth on his spine. The boy was a month old, and she was terrified.  The cancer has been in remission for nearly a decade, and Brandon recently celebrated a birthday. But the experience so profoundly changed his mom that Connor gave up her career at an Atlanta law firm to lead CURE.  “Brandon was lucky,” she said. “But a lot of others haven’t been.”

Some struggled against a disease that proved too much for their young bodies. Silas Edenfield was 3 when physicians diagnosed him with type IV hepatoblastoma, liver cancer. The boy, who lived near Savannah, underwent six surgeries over a 16-month period. He faced chemotherapy, blood tests and hundreds of nights away from home. In May, 10 days short of his fifth birthday, Silas died.  His is one of the stories on CURE’s site. By then end of September, people who’d read his story online had contributed more than more than $2,000 in donations in his name.

Other stories show that cancer is not insurmountable. Sean Dever was 11 when he developed osteosarcoma, bone cancer, above the knee. Surgeons removed the cancerous segment, then reattached the ankle and foot to his knee, rotating the joint so it serves as a new knee. Colleges are recruiting the Marietta resident, now a high school senior, for their lacrosse teams.

Consider the stories of Olivia and Elena Tate. Gwinnett sisters, each was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnoses came five years apart, and on the same day.

April 2, 2004: The Tate family was on vacation in Florida when Olivia’s parents noticed their 2-year-old daughter was tilting her head to one side. She stumbled when she walked. When the child started holding her head and vomiting, the Tates rushed her to a hospital. A CAT scan revealed a brain tumor. A helicopter took her from Florida toChildren’s Healthcare of Atlanta where Olivia underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Eight follow-up visits showed no recurring tumors, and the Tates relaxed — until a ninth checkup in 2008 revealed another tumor.It was removed, too.


April 2, 2009: Elena, 10, had been complaining of severe back and leg pain. Leukemia, her doctors said. Since then, Elena has run the gamut in care: chemotherapy — her hair fell out — spinal taps, blood transfusions. She underwent a bone marrow transplant last year and is in recovery.
Their stories, shared online, had raised $4,200.

In an interview last week, both girls said they feel great — happy to be at home, and in school. Olivia, now 11, is in the fourth grade; 14-year-old Elena is a ninth grader.  School, Olivia said, is “good. I think I need to study a little more.”  Elena, who wants to be a marine biologist, has her hair back.  It’s a red tangle. She also has regained something else.“I’m feeling confident again,” she said.  “Everyone has been there for me.”

From the same industry that once bragged about saving $1 million by removing stale lettuce from pre-packed sandwiches, comes this startling new discovery:


Airlines are shifting their focus from fees as penalties to fees for enhancements, reports Scott Mayerowitz in an Associated Press dispatch (9/30/13). Where “the first generation of charges … dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight.” For example, airlines “are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first-class meals in coach … Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office.”

The airlines also “will soon be able to use past behavior to target fliers.” For the moment, such data is mainly “used to win back passengers after their flight is delayed or luggage is lost,” but this is changing. “We have massive amounts of data,” says Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “We know who you are. We know what your history has been on the airline. We can customize our offerings.” In addition, airlines increasingly can “sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding.” – Cool News.



When I first saw this headline on a blog post, I was intrigued. The author was quoting Don Schultz, Professor Emeritus at Northwestern’s Medill School and the “father of integrated marketing” at the recent Content Marketing World conference. Mr. Schultz was referencing a ten-year study on brand preference in a number of categories which shows a decline in brand preference and corresponding increase in acceptance and use of generic brands.

In a recent Forbes magazine article, Mr. Schultz gave this explanation of the study and conclusions he and his co-author, Martin Block, have reached:

Based on preliminary results of a new ten year, longitudinal study of social media and social media users, (1,100,000+ online questionnaire responses , covering 73 fmcg categories and 1,500+ individual brands) a new research study conducted by professors in the Integrated Marketing Communication Department at Northwestern University’s Medill School, found that heavy users of social media (primarily Facebook) when asked for brand preferences in various product categories, showed higher levels of specific “No Brand Preference” as a brand category choice, than those who used less social media. Also, as social media usage increased (primarily Facebook) over time by respondents, there was a measurable decline in specific product brand preferences in a majority of the product brand categories covered in the study.

The study also found that only 11% of the respondents “regularly asked for or sought advice” from others, indicating that social media is used primarily for “social conversations” among users, not to provide product recommendations to others. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 19% of social media users said they “never seek or give advice” about products or services through social media or other forms of word-of-mouth.

Findings from this study seem to confirm that social media usage is primarily for “social purposes” and the potential for marketers invading social media vehicles or encouraging social media users to become product advocates is not only limited, but, may actually be counterproductive in terms of building brand value and brand relationships. (my emphasis).

After viewing other presentations of this study made by Messrs. Schultz and Block, I have only one conclusion to make.


This finding is based on a large sample from a very limited source. – primarily Facebook users. Putting aside my own personal feelings (mostly negative) about Facebook, I am very surprised that The Medill School at Northwestern University (a highly respected institution) would allow this study to be presented under their auspices. The fact that Drs. Schultz and Block found that only 11% of users want to hear about brands on social networks when the study was primarily from that medium seems rather naïve. I suspect that if you asked anyone if they want to hear about brands on a mass medium, the results would be similar.

But the real naiveté is concluding that this means that marketers and brands using social media are “killing their brands”.

Correlation doesn’t automatically mean causation.
I’m not surprised that heavy Facebook users have increased their statement of “no brand preference” in favor of more acceptance and usage of generic brands. Nielsen sales results shows that many people, not just heavy Facebook users, feel the same way. Just because the number correlate, doesn’t mean there is a cause and effect relationship.

This statement flies in the face of many other positive studies on the value of social media, as many marketers report that they get good results from social media. An IAB study released in July reported that 90% of consumers back brands after interacting via social media.

The 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner reported that 89% of the 3,000+ marketers they surveyed indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure and 75% reported positive increases in brand traffic.

Can social media kill brands?
Yes. There are plenty of bad uses of social media vehicles by marketers.

Does social media kill brands?
No. When brands use social media as a legitimate tool for disseminating relevant information and value to a community, social media works.

Even when heavy Facebook users are turning to store brands!

– Don Morgan

Don Morgan is 2013/14 President of PSAMA, and Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a branding, social media, and business development consulting company in Seattle. He can be reached at

Dear #hashtag user,

I’ve noticed recently that you are quite the fan of this clever linking device. However, I think that you misunderstood its purpose of functionality. You see, the hashtag was created as a method to “tag” tweets, essentially adding organization to the clutter that consumes the Twitter-sphere.

For example, if I were hoping to connect with people in the fashion industry, I could search #fashion and, immediately, thousands of tweets would show up that include the same hashtag. By searching #Obamacare, I can access the opinion and news results of all who are discussing the controversial matter.

Upon conception, the hashtag was (and still is) a brilliant piece of digital creation.

However, I have noticed that you, Mr./Mrs. hashtag user, have used this tool completely out of context. The hashtag is no longer a method of organization, but is now a form of language that is substituting complete thoughts.

Examples include:

“Looking forward to my trip to the Bahamas. Is Friday here yet!? #excited #cantwait”


“This weather is killing me! All I want to do it go for a run, but I can’t in this rain. #RainRainGoAway”

What, on Earth, has the use of these hashtags accomplished? Personally, I am a fan of how GIZMODO phrased its frustration, stating, “But at their most annoying, the colloquial hashtag has burst out of its use as a sorting tool and become a linguistic tumor—a tic more irritating than any banal link or lazy image meme.”

Now, I’m not calling you lazy. No, this annoying use of the English language is not lazy. However, these simple misapplications of a hashtag have turned into a much larger infraction.

Recently, you have begun using hashtags as a way to self promote, hoping that the more hashtags you use in a post, the more likely you will acquire new followers. Your thought is similar to the practices of SEO – use key words and hopefully show up in search results.

A word to the wise? When you do this – people like me will ignore your post completely.

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This is merely a desperate attempt at being seen. Seriously? How many people are searching the hashtags #orange or #thegreatpumpkin?

So, I beg of you, Mr. or Mrs. hashtag user. Think before you # it.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this video of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon. They have no qualms about showing you how stupid you sound when misusing hashtags.

You can support a worthy nonprofit and get your running in through the streets of Atlanta at the same time.  Route 2 Change is a duathlon scheduled for Saturday, October 12 at the World Congress Center.


The event, co-chaired by Stephanie Blank and Lovette Russell is a USAT sanctioned race, but certainly suitable for all participation levels.  Route 2 Change benefits our client, youthSpark, who leads the prevention of exploitation and trafficking of minors.

Click here to sign-up or get further details. 




Fake reviews are nothing new.  We personally know a marketing director who thought it was great sport to create contrived reviews of his company.  He thought he was beating the system and he certainly wasn’t the only one.  The New York Times cited a study indicating 10 to 15 percent of online reviews are not legit.

Well, the Times is reporting that fakers in New York are now subject to legal consequences.   Nineteen companies have been fined more than $350,000.  The deceptive reviews posted on prominent sites, including Yahoo, Google and Yelp.


Yet, the largest consequence may not be a fine.  Those who practice the art of staged or fake reviews risk their entire brand goodwill.  Ask stockholders or employees associated with Arthur Andersen or Enron.  Brand trust is hard earned and easily lost.  Sometimes forever.

They noted marketing consultant Olivia Roat wrote an article titled “All About Fake Online Reviews: The Problem of Separating Fact from Fiction.” In the article she stresses she found “fake reviews greatly disconcerting.”

Today it will be announced her company will pay a $43,000 fine for writing fake reviews for 30 clients.  Great marketing, eh?  Consider more work on delivering in an authentic way and less on how to “fake it.”


If you take the time to send email to someone, this is not the way to respond.
Especially if you are asking for information or action to be taken.

“This mailbox is exclusively used to distribute outgoing email. Unfortunately, email sent to this mailbox will not be reviewed or responded to. If you are attempting to contact  Customer Support, please visit our support site locate at”‘

Um, Wells Fargo. You, in fact contacted me. What is unfortunate is I’m sharing this as a poor example of customer engagement.  If it was worth sending, it was worth having an employee manage responses.  Finish the drill, Wells Fargo.

A truism of branding – just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you necessarily should do it.
Meaning, you can extend your brand way beyond what it stands for or what makes it valuable to consumers.

Conversely, just because you are not comfortable with a media – specifically social media – doesn’t mean your company should not use it.

In a conversation with a friend who heads an interactive agency, he agreed that the hardest sell is a company CEO who doesn’t understand social media or believes it can be handled by some “interns.” We agreed such businesses are never successful at social media. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. To their detriment.

Because of the amount of time spent on the Internet and the sheer numbers on a computer or digital device daily, it simply is a foundational media.

According to eMarketer, adults now spend more time with digital daily (just over 5 hours) versus television (4 and 1/2 hours).  In case you are trying to figure out how that adds up in a day, here’s how.  Over 50% are using a digital device while watching television.  And, this increases to  74% for smart phone users.   Televison viewing is not declining, it has held stead over the past four years.  Clearly, though, multi-tasking is happening at home, just as it does for many at work.

Do you get regular emails from Linkedin announcing this person has “added new skills?”images

Come on, don’t you have just a tinge of envy that somehow you are not keeping up with skills development like your friends?

Personally, I think some new skill categories should be added … maybe a few more creative ones.
Like, “adept at dodging deadlines” or “great storyteller” … or simply, “sarcasm.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 8.52.48 PMGRM spent some time at the lake this summer. But we weren’t sipping on lemonade. We were hard at work on a branding research assignment, partnering with Resource Branding & Design on a new advertising campaign for Reynolds Plantation.

Reynolds is recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the top 12 private golf communities in the US. New owner MetLife and new development company Daniel Corp. are looking for a new campaign that accurately reflects the future direction of this upscale Georgia community. GRM’s initial role was to develop a brand strategy in advance of new creative work. We conducted qualitative research to solve perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle – how to position this active, successful community to a new generation of buyers. Stay tuned… the proof is in the work. A peek behind the curtain suggests good stuff coming soon!

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