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Here’s the world’s first billboard that converts air into drinking water. It was strategically placed in Peru’s rain-starved desert capital, Lima. Importantly, and thankfully, it produces enough water for hundreds of families each month.

It’s a collaboration between Mayo DraftFCB and Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology.

Watch this short video that explains the project.

We talk a lot about putting the customer at the center of our businesses, and delivering marketing that really matters to them. It doesn’t get much better than this!

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A month or so ago, the orange bar began to flash across my screen at an inordinate rate (relatively speaking, read: I might be exaggerating my popularity), indicating new followers on my Instagram.  I also began to notice that the number of retail brands with user accounts had multiplied.  As an avid, albeit infrequent “Instagrammer” (a modest once a week/two weeks post compared with the 40 million photos uploaded daily), I was excited that the social media tool was gaining traction and curious to see how companies were utilizing it to create brand engagement.

But first, some “Instastats” straight from the social network itself (from July 2012 to January 2013).

  • Registered Users. From 80 to 100+ million
  • Monthly Active Users. 90 million
  • Daily Uploads. From 5 million to 40 million
  • Likes Per Second. From 575 to 8,500
  • Comments Per Second. From 81 to 1000 

Within a six-month period, Instagram has seen an explosion in number of users and interaction.  On average, Instagram users spend over an hour more on the site than Twitter users spend on Twitter (257 minutes vs. 170) and in September 2012, surpassed Twitter in average daily mobile users at 7.3 million vs. 6.9 million (out of 100 million and 555 million registered users, respectively).

A rapidly growing pool of deeply engaged potential customers – it’s not difficult to see why companies are eager to jump on the Instagram bandwagon.  According to a data report by Simply Measured, Instagram and Pinterest (that other visually-based social networking site) are the fastest growing social platforms among the Interbrand Top 100 Brands in the world with a 55% and 59% adoption rate – up 9% and 10% from last quarter, respectively.  Clearly, marketers see an opportunity for reaching a wider audience.

Creative ways brands are using Instagram to engage with and expand their fan-base.

  • Behind-the-Scenes/Action Shots: Brands are getting intimate with followers by allowing them to become privy to once exclusive, private-pass-only peeks into the worlds of luxury brands (e.g. Burberry’s commercial shoot with David Beckman’s son).  They also get a glimpse of the daily grind as experienced by employees of famous brands (like Virgin America).
  • Contests: Recently, Sony hosted a photo contest, which required users to first follow them, then submit a photo that represented love, with winners chosen daily at random.
  • Follower Photo Submissions:
    • Sharpie features follower artwork drawn with their product.
    • Free People (FP): Customers are encouraged to take pictures of themselves and append unique FP decreed hashtags.  Select images are even integrated into FP’s website (with permission of course), so customers get to be models for the day and potential buyers get to see how clothes are styled in real life.

Is it working?  If the name of the game is brand engagement, the statistics speak for themselves.  For some perspective on how Instagram stacked against other social networking sites, I examined the number of likes/follows for four active Instagram brands against their other social media accounts:

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For all of the above brands, number of Instagram fans has surpassed Pinterest fans.  Both Free People and Adidas (note: clothing retailers) have amassed almost three times the number of Instagram fans as they have Twitter fans, an impressive feat considering the fact that Twitter is a much more established social platform.  To be expected, Instagram branding companies will need to exercise some social strategy muscles before they come anywhere close to nearing the gap with Facebook.

Room for improvement.  Brand engagement is fantastic and all, but what about direct sales?  Pinterest has earned a reputation for leading potential buyers to direct purchases on retailer websites (21% of Pinterest users have purchased an item after having seen it on Pinterest according to Hubspot).  Instagram doesn’t offer a direct linking capability from photos of products to website pages for purchase – something worth considering, as mobile usage growth, according to a Facebook statement, is poised to “exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future and that the usage through personal computers may be flat or continue to decline in certain markets.”

As the new darling of social media continues to glow brighter in the spotlight, marketers and consumers alike should poise themselves for some “instagramification“.

Check out Trajectory’s newly minted Instagram account here.

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Here’s a tip for brand marketers – my heart races every single day before noon and then again around 9 PM. Unbelievably, it’s not caused by stress at work or my decompressing thereafter. Rather it’s the anticipation of my pending brand engagement – receiving a series of finely tuned email alerts that update me (as an “insider” of course) on the day’s latest, curated flash sales for the world’s most coveted beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands.

My daily fix is Gilt Groupe – a one-stop shopping experience that speaks to me (figuratively that is), helping to create ongoing brand engagement with them multiple times a day (who could miss “Today’s Top Picks” as well as the full spectrum of lifestyle brands they feature). I’m one of those brand advocates that shares the love with friends and family (for a $25 incentive of course) so they too can be inspired by Gilt’s consumer marketing prowess, not to mention the amazing limited-time sales on prestige products like Yves Saint Laurent handbags, Delman shoes and Dr. Hauschka skincare.

The Art and Science of Fashion & Beauty Marketing

But what intrigues me most is that Gilt understands it has to be more than a pretty face.  Engaging customers like me means going beyond having a beautiful website.  It means understanding us. Knowing us. Catering to us on a very human and personal level.

Lessons can certainly be learned from other sophisticated ecommerce sites, including Amazon and Nordstrom, where there is a clear focus on understanding their customers and reflecting this in how they serve up content to address their every want and need. Content is king. Every action is analyzed to determine what sells best and what customers are looking for. What’s hot, and what’s not. How to proactively address customer wants before they (or I for that matter) even know.

Everything ties back to creating customer value (and ROI of course), and only rich customer data can provide that insight. According to WWD, many fashion and beauty brands like Kate Spade, Burberry and Sephora excel in their space because of the attention paid to the science (customer data and analysis) as well as the art (creative and brand marketing).  In fact, it has been said that “data scientists” are going to replace social media managers as the hottest jobs among multi-channel retail, luxury and beauty companies alike.

The fine balance of science and creativity shines through at Gilt

I enjoy the multi-faceted user experience – from Pinterest (who can resist the “Accessories to Die For” and “Shoe Porn”) to my “Gilt on the Go” mobile app (and everything in between).  They deploy great content coupled with proven consumer marketing techniques that create further brand engagement (glad they brought back February Freefall sales).

Yet in today’s time starved and frenetic world, surrounded by stimulus hitting us at every turn, marketing to consumers to capture their attention (and loyalty) is increasingly difficult. Targeting every aspect of the shopping experience based on unique, personal preferences is not an easy task, but probably a required one moving forward.

Today, many fashion and beauty marketers analyze every customer action across every channel (on and offline), identifying key triggers that can increase sales. From customized emails highlighting the latest beauty products or Spring shoes (they know what I shop for), to using data to behaviorally target me on other sites with reminders of the products I just viewed on their sites (but never closed the deal), to tying my actions on social channels to website activity to see what helps me pull the trigger. Again, science (with a healthy dose of creativity) may win when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of customers, moving them from brand engagement to true brand activation.

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Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 11.09.09 AMIt’s potentially an industry-changing time for healthcare marketing. You just need to seize the opportunity.

As consumer interest in pursuing healthier lifestyles and a higher quality of living is on the rise, health has come to be viewed in more holistic ways. As such, the lines between traditional healthcare marketing, health marketing and wellness marketing are blurring. For healthcare system and hospital marketers, the implication is that you have a real opportunity (based on a powerful cultural trend) to become a catalyst in helping your service area communities achieve their optimum health and optimum quality of life (where non-physical ideas of well-being are just as important as physical well-being).

Just one example of this opportunity is the research of Julia Boehm, research fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health. She found that “factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of CVD regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight.” “For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers,” she said. It also appears (based on a review of more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases) that these factors also slow the progression of disease.

There will always be people who are sick. Your key service lines – whether cancer, heart, obstetrics, orthopedics, neurology – will always have a captive audience. And they’ll always be important. But the game is changing, as it does across all industries.

To be relevant, you need to follow the lead of the consumer. And in this case, they’re telling you that they don’t compartmentalize their healthcare. Their attitude is that their overall lifestyle and their health care are closely connected. In turn, this presents you with an opportunity to build around your core traditional services and own a bigger place in their lives. Which provides so many more ways for you to create new value.

Consider the combination of your different audiences, the different actions they could take (and you could promote, support and participate in) and the different places in which they could achieve their desired health/quality of life. That’s a lot of possibilities!

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Beauty Care Marketing

Beauty marketing has a new face… a new major player has emerged as male consumers continue to demand products specifically suited to their needs. Men’s perception of “personal care” has changed significantly – baby boomers understand the effects of aging, and are turning to products that help them look and feel younger. And younger people are growing more conscious and becoming more “proactive” about their appearances. As a result, these consumers have created a “new market” opportunity that both global beauty brands and new & emerging brands are rapidly responding to.

We’re seeing new category players like Bulldog, finding their way into the market historically dominated by the “big” beauty brands. So, how is the industry responding? There’s a shift of focus on product lines and brand marketing strategies that appeal to men’s sense of necessity – offering products that are convenient, multi-functional, and easy to wear. According to manufacturers at Happi, “men want basic items with real benefits, and tend to shy away from products perceived to be pampering – they want something that is unique to their masculinity.”

Brands are clearly gaining traction as this category grows at exponential rates. According to Global Industry Analysts “the global male grooming products industry is expected to generate more than $33 billion in revenue by 2015, and will continue to drive expansion in the wider global cosmetics market.” Already demonstrating great promise for new category players, are early adopter brands like Anthony and Jack Black, who identified this trend over a decade ago.

There is strong brand advocacy for male grooming products as well. Male-oriented lifestyle magazines, such as Maxim, GQ and Esquire, are touting the benefits of skin and hair care regimens. We’re seeing male role models, such as entertainers and athletes, using these products. There are numerous online product sites such as the Grooming Lounge that enhance the users experience by offering men a forum to comfortably seek and share personal care advice. And, women’s beauty sites like Sephora have dedicated sections exclusively for men’s products.

As we can see, opportunity and interest to engage this consumer is growing and the brands that establish a strong product positioning and place in men’s lives – delivering products that meet their unique lifestyle needs – will be at the forefront. We will continue to observe the men’s personal care category, as it is a natural extension of our beauty care marketing expertise. If you have anything to additional to share, I welcome your comments.

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Here’s an example of leisure marketers creating new customer value – as hospitality brands roll out new and more varied options for health and fitness on-the-go. For both guest and hotel, it’s a win-win proposition. For business travelers, it fills a need to re-energize in the midst of high-pressure road trips. For hoteliers, it’s a way to create more value and boost guest satisfaction at what can be low incremental cost.

Multiple hotel brands (e.g. Kimpton, Affinia, Peninsula, etc.) are centering their “healthier” offering around the increasing popularity of yoga, as noted earlier this month in the NYTimes.com article A Moment of Zen, on the Go. Acccording to a recent study released by Yoga Journal, Americans practicing yoga jumped 29%, to 20.4 million — or 8.7% of American adults — since the previous study in 2008, when 15.8 million practiced.

The newest “healthy travel” hotel is International Hotels Group Even, which is scheduled to open its first hotel this year, with a target of 100 hotels in five years. Designed to make wellness a natural part of travel, amenities will include fitness that extends beyond the best-in-class gym to in-room workout spaces with exercise equipment available for checkout, spa-like showers, hypoallergenic linens, healthier food options, signature flavored and filtered drinking water, among others.

We see this same health trend in two of the verticals in which we specialize. For our healthcare marketing clients, consumer interest in pursuing healthier lifestyles and a higher quality of wellbeing is leading them toward “well care vs. sick care” strategies. And in the seemingly very different world of beauty marketing, health benefits are even finding their way into nails and nail care.

There’s a common thread here of consumers increasingly seeking health and wellness (quality of life) through the way they live, shop and use brands. As such, we see a strong opportunity for marketers to integrate a health and wellness idea and to drive growth by executing programs and tailoring messages that relate to the type of health and wellness-seeking consumer their brand speaks to.

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Pew Internet just released their new nationwide study – Health Online 2013.

When you get past the more obvious things like 81% of US adults use the internet and 59% say they’ve looked online for health information in the past year, there’s some good actionable learning for healthcare marketers to integrate into their planning. Some highlights include:

1. In the past year, 55% of internet users have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Pew refers to this segment as “online diagnosers.”

2. Nearly half (46%) of these people felt that the information found online led them to think they needed the attention of a medical professional.

3. Nearly 8 out of 10 health inquiries (who Pew refers to as “health seekers”) started at a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. This trend has remained steady since Pew’s first study in 2000.

4. The social life of health information is reflected in the fact that 26% say they read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months.

5. But among people looking for health advice, traditional offline conversation with clinicians remains high. 70% of U.S. adults got information, care, or support from a doctor or other health care professional.

I think there’s good information here for healthcare marketers to takeaway for consideration. Some of these include: how to create more value through your marketing, where your online efforts might be focused, how patients might access service lines, how to connect prospective patients and physicians and even for creating potential partnerships and affiliations.

Hope you find some good thought-starters here.

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The timing of this article from Bill Lee at HBR Blog Network is perfect – Memo to the CEO: Customers Are the Key to Growth.

I read it following a blog post I wrote last week about Kiehl’s Since 1851 – a great brand backed by an equally brilliant consumer brand marketing effort. Instrumental to the success of this effort (dating back to the early days of the brand) is that the advocacy of their passionate and loyal customers continues to propel and distinguish this brand from its competitors.

Bill’s article (based on research he’s done for his new book) speaks to the fact that key to creating organic, sustainable growth is getting customers to market and sell for you. Out-performing companies (like Kiehl’s) are developing new approaches and competencies that focus on one thing: customers.

Here are three important points from Bill’s article (you’ll need to read it to learn the other two):

1. Get customers advocating for you right now. We know that prospective buyers these days trust one source of information above all others: their peers. Keihl’s has been benefiting from the “pull” of “customer peer” word-of-mouth for years. Creating beautiful interesting stores, wonderful products and living its philosophy of purpose beyond profit compels customers to do their advertising for them as one by one they spread Kiehl’s secret with their friends.

2. Find your customer product developers. In many industries, the source for most of the commercially successful new products is customers, not R&D. Too many efforts, based on Bill’s research, are isolated from customers. His example from 3M’s medical-surgical business is pretty compelling.

3. Get serious, and systematic, about learning what your customers value. Too many companies really don’t know what customers actually value in the products and services they buy. The problem is lack of systematic and meaningful conversations or other engagement that can uncover this. Companies that make the effort can put serious distance between themselves and competitors.

Unleashing the full passion and potential of your customers can spur dramatic growth. But this requires (as the author states) dramatically expanding the value you provide to them — value that goes substantially beyond the value they derive just from your product or service.

Businesses like Kiehl’s understand that their brands can, and should, play a larger role in the lives of their customers. Their brands deliver dramatically more value, and create separation from others, by serving as platforms to help move customers forward to a better place – making them more knowledgeable, more capable, more fulfilled. And when this kind of relationship exists – the value that customers receive adds value back to the brand and the business.

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In a recent client brainstorming session, we were thinking about consumer brands that had a long history as an independent and who had then been purchased by an industry giant. We were interested in understanding if they had the same brand and business energy as they did pre-purchase.

Kiehl’s Since 1851 is 163 years old. That’s a pretty good run. It’s also been ten years since L’Oreal, the world’s leading beauty company, bought the business that began as a little pharmacy on Manhattan’s lower east side.

So, does Kiehl’s have the same horsepower as it did pre-L’Oreal? Beyond Kiehl’s strong and steady growth, here’s why we think the brand still has its mojo:

Basis. The brand has a great back story which starts with its name – since 1851 – as an apothecary business in NYC’s lower East Side owned and managed over four generations as a family business. But integral to Kiehl’s continued success, it’s a story that continues to evolve, capture the imagination of its passionate advocates and emotionally connect them to the brand.

Many other skin care brands have a celebrated past – Lancome (another L’Oreal brand), Nivea (which I worked on years ago at Beiersdorf), Olay, etc. But I’m not sure any are as compelling or as unconventional as Kiehl’s.

Credit L’Oreal for understanding the value of Kiehl’s brand essence and how it needs to be nurtured as the story is re-told to the next generation of Kiehl’s customers. This keeps the brand magic alive, which in turn powers business success and shareholder value.

Belief. There aren’t too many people who stand around talking about the ingredients and physical benefits of their skincare products. But they do talk about Kiehl’s greater sense of purpose – brought to life through its approach to products, distinguishing community-based retail experience and socially-driven activities (reminding me of The BodyShop, albeit less so since the passing of Anita Roddick).

Behavior. Everything Kiehl’s does, every experience they create — with employees, customers, and the public in general — supports and enhances their story and is executed with brilliance.

Products. The Kiehl’s philosophy is (true to its heritage) about choosing the very best naturally-derived ingredients – based on herbal and pharmaceutical formulas. The look of their products also reflects the brand’s apothecary roots – as they have a homemade look that feels like they are individually made in the back of the store. Some of Kiehl’s product formulations also date back decades.

Packaging. Simple, efficient, and made of recyclable materials. And true to its pharmacy origins, detailed descriptions about ingredients, benefits and directions for use.

Retail Experience. Even though the brand now has 500-plus stores around the world, the Kiehl’s brand team recreates the look and feel of the original New York boutique wherever you find the brand.

Why would Kiehl’s have a vintage motorcycle in their store? Because it’s core to the story and the brand’s visual expression. The trademark vintage Ducati motorcycle found in every Kiehl’s store is there because the founder liked them. Just another detail that differentiates Kiehl’s from the (literally) hundreds of other skin care businesses.

The brand also maintains its close ties with the medical community from which it was born. As such, Mr. Bones (the skeleton you see in every store) serves to pay homage to the industry.

Word-of-Mouth. L’Oreal has faithfully adhered to the founding family approach of not advertising the Kiehl’s brand. For Kiehl’s, it’s all about the ‘pull’ of word-of-mouth. Creating beautiful interesting stores, wonderful products and living its philosophy of purpose beyond profit compels customers to do their advertising for them as one by one they spread Kiehl’s secret with their friends.

Sampling. Kiehl’s diehards know one of the most fun things about going to Kiehl’s is snapping up all the samples. Each year they distribute over 40 million samples from their range of 300+ products. When you leave with your purchase, you’ll also be going home with at least three trial size samples to introduce you to another element of their range (knowing you’ll also spread the word to your friends).

Before you know it, you (and the friends you shared with) are heading back to buy the full size, full priced item and leaving with another new sample to try at home.

Benevolence. Kiehl’s just doesn’t give to multiple causes, it participates. And there’s a difference (for today’s more discerning customers) between just writing the check and demonstrating your commitment.

Community service is in the DNA of the brand. It dates back to WWI when John Kiehl’s donated cream to soldiers for their dry, chapped hands. Kiehl’s Gives is the name of their global CSI initiatives worldwide, and their focus is threefold:

• Children’s causes
• Environmental issues

Kiehl’s is also active in the communities where they have established their shops. One example of this is that their stores can be used by local associations to conduct business.

Bonding. Beyond customers interacting with Keihl’s, the brand is a platform for its advocates to share with one another – through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Bold. The brand continues to surprise and delight, by adding new collections and addressing new concerns, and delivering on its mission “to improve in some way the quality of the community…making for better citizens, better firms, and better communities.”

In summary, if you’re a brand marketer and want to create a more passionate and loyal fan base, visit and learn from Keihl’s.

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I started to write this post last week about Help Remedies, a pharmaceuticals company that doesn’t think, feel and act like a pharmaceuticals company.

But then I read the New York Times Magazine cover story about Barney’s, and I’m glad I waited. Because this story about Barney’s new management team and its makeover – Don’t Give Customers What They Want – dovetails with what I was going to write about Help Remedies.

Referring to its makeover, former CEO Gene Pressman states that “Barney’s has never been about giving customers what they want. It has been about educating, expanding horizons, presenting the unexpected. If you give customers what they want, then you die. The fact is they don’t know what they want.”

Which leads me back to Help Remedies, and three things that I really appreciate about this very unpharma-like pharmaceuticals company.

First. It’s very apparent that they are led by a strong belief – challenging expectation of what people believe about a pharmaceuticals company – beyond what they do.

Second. The fact that this belief is powerfully expressed through their behaviors – from name, logo, tagline (take less™), messaging, web, products, experiences, through to online purchasing.

Third. The sense of belonging they promote by living their promise of “we’re not just another pharmaceuticals company.” Case in point, the pop-up Help Shop in Washington DC for relief for any kind of pain. The store offered small remedies for those in need of help, from low dose drugs to life suggestions, from headache to heartache. The goal was to show people that most problems in life can be remedied with something small, rather than high dose pharmaceuticals.

Think about your business. Are you giving customers what they want? Or, similar to Barneys and Help Remedies, are you educating, expanding horizons, presenting the unexpected?

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