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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Annie’s Homegrown – An Example of a Great Blog

April 2nd, 2013

As I continue to peruse the Internet for great blogs, I came across one today which in my opinion epitomizes a successful blogging strategy. Annie’s Homegrown Blog, a clean blog frequently updated with concise posts that focus on the the shared values that unite Annie’s Homegrown and its customer base.

One of my pet peeves is a blog or social media outlet that just pushes the company and its products. The quickest way to alienate a reader is to write about things that don’t interest them … things like how great your company is, how great your products are, your corporate picnic or your strategic initiative for the year. People are not interested in being exposed to more 20th century advertising tactics. What they are interested in are participating within a community that holds their same values. If your blog or social media outlet is not connecting emotionally with your customer base then it’s failing.

This doesn’t mean that your blog is just charity work. Going back to Annie’s Homegrown Blog, pay attention to the content and it’s easy to see how the writer(s) has masterfully leveraged connecting the product to the emotional sensitivities of their target audience. I would venture to say that in 8 of 10 cases, the typical Annie’s shopper relates to this content and most likely visits the site on a regular basis and buy their products.

How long do you want to be in business?

August 14th, 2012

How many business leaders plan on sacrificing so much of their life for a business that sticks around for a decade or two? Assuming the answer to this rhetorical question to be “few if any,” then another question is begged: Why is the shelf life of most companies so short?

The best place to look is on the opposite end of the spectrum, to those companies who have created a legacy. I’ve been fascinated by this topic especially since recently becoming an adoring fan of Fiskars, a company founded in 1649 and on the cutting edge today of customer evangelism marketing utilizing social media.

Weihenstephan Brewery

Founded 1040

So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why  are old companies are still around?” Starting with the extreme relics like Kongo Gumi, (the Japanese construction company who was in continual operation from the year 578 until January of 2006) there is a treasure of insight available that we can directly apply to the business environment today. I’m no business history expert, but I am smart enough to deduce that most of these companies are going to be found very strong in two important suits: 1)Exploiting environmental change, and 2)Exemplifying the marketing concept.  Inversely we can deduce that most companies, the ones with short shelf lives, are probably vulnerable to environmental change and don’t adequately embrace the marketing concept.

Here’s what makes this topic so provocative todayas you may be aware we’ve just stepped into a period of radical revolution that will be destroying the status quo of how business interacts with society through social media and  mobile devices.

So what’s the average business to do? Fight the trend?  Stick to the old ways that have worked (or at least kept one’s head above water) and hope it all goes away? It all depends on how you answered the question of “How long do you want to be in business?”  My brash prediction is that companies, large and small, who do not undergo an extreme
makeover and embrace the paradigm shifts of customer facing social media and mobile marketing platforms will cease to exist, sooner or later within the 21st century. For context to my position please see our perfect storm analogy.

As we continue to progress this new era, it’s a prudent tactic to take some time and study those organizations that have weathered and prospered from these storms of change time and time againa truly fascinating  and timely study.  Here’s a list of the world’s oldest companies for those interested.

The Customer Evangelism Manifesto | Review

April 11th, 2012

This article will change your life as a business person. It’s a radical departure from the “conventional wisdom” of advertising and promotion, but like many great movements, its strength lies its simplicity and focus on core values. Customer Evangelism is the pure essence of marketing again. Remember, the definition of marketing that that we read in the first week of marketing 101? Something to the effect that marketing is defined as discovering and meeting the needs of your customers? It seems to have been promptly forgotten or defiled by many executives, product managers, and advertising firms upon graduation from business school. Customer Evangelism is a popular uprising that has the potential to bring marketing back to reality.

“The Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba takes us to the core essence of marketing and beyond. It’s about providing the highest quality solution and then providing even more to a special class of customer: the encouragement and empowerment to become an active advocate, or evangelist, and a de facto member of your organization. It’s a charter to breed a special kind of super customer who not only purchases from you regularly, but feels compelled to tell others.

There is so much gold in this article, you’ve just got to read it, print it, share it, and forward it. If 50% of the businesses in the U.S. today were focused on creating customer evangelists our society would be radically changed for the better. (See how persuasive a customer evangelist appeal can be? How motivated would you be to read their article if you saw “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” advertised in a magazine?)

Here’s just a teaser to get you started: some clues to how a customer evangelist behaves:

  • They passionately recommend your company to friends, neighbors and colleagues.
  • They believe in the company and its people.
  • They purchase your product as gifts.
  • They provide unsolicited praise and suggestions.
  • They forgive occasional dips in performance or quality.
  • They do not want to be bought; they extol your virtues freely.
  • They feel part of something bigger than themselves.

LinkRead or download the Customer Evangelism Manifesto

The Mac is Back: Apple’s customers make it a major player again

June 4th, 2007

Mac ads


Apple’s current ad campaign

For those of you who know me best, you’re already familiar with my incessant evangelism regarding Apple’s Macintosh. For those of you who don’t know me that well, just keep reading this blog. But for all my biased chest-beating, even the most anti-Apple critic has to acknowledge the recent strides the Mac has made in the marketplace. First off, Apple increased its earnings 88% last quarter, the company’s stock/equity portfolio is higher than it’s ever been, and well known icons within the PC industry are in the process of making “the switch.”

So how does Apple leverage their success? Simply buy understanding the consumer and building stylistic products suited to their needs. Steve Jobs and his engineers and marketers strive toward building and communicating value to those who believe there has to be more to computing than blue screens, random shut-downs, and indistinguishable error messages. Not to mention, Apple has developed a reputation for taking care of its customers, providing the industry’s highest standard in design, all the while building quality products that put the competition to shame.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Apple is successfully de-commoditizing itself within the computing market by establishing itself as a leader in consumer satisfaction. It’s one thing for a company to claim it’s good at pleasing customers, it’s another thing when the customers are saying it themselves. While Dell is struggling to right itself by opening low-price channels through Wal-Mart, Apple is creating the undercurrent for a consumer revolution that will only help to break the Microsoft hegemony within the market.

In conclusion, Apple has proven that organizations are able to operate with substantial margins within a commoditized industry. If your business is struggling to find it self within a competitive, dog-eat-dog market, remember to follow Apple’s example in focusing on your customer’s needs. After all, customers are the most selfish people on the planet; they only care about what your product, service, or brand means to them. Apple understands this principal, as do most profitable businesses.

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