james-harrison-son-trophy-tweetPittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, never one to shy away from giving his opinion, was in the news again this past August, this time for giving back his kids’ participation trophies. This issue ignited a national conversation on youth sports, entitlement, and competition.

It reminded me of an interaction I had years ago with a friend. I wished his sons good luck before a soccer tournament, but was told that “luck wouldn’t be necessary.” Everyone in the tournament would get a trophy just for showing up.

“Just for showing up.” I was surprised at the visceral reaction that phrase elicited in me.

As a business owner for 25 years, I was stunned. What would these boys’ first day of work look like? Would they demand a signing bonus just for walking in the door? Would they expect to a raise the first time they stayed late to work on a project? (more…)

This post originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Hardware + Building Supply Dealer.

tool-library-1As much as I hate shoveling snow, I can’t possibly justify spending upwards of $500 on a snow blower that I might use five days a year and would take up space in my garage for the remaining 360.

According to a recent PwC study, 43% of consumers agree that “owning feels like a burden.” When you consider the cost, maintenance and storage requirements, buying things is kind of a pain. It’s no wonder, then, that the “sharing economy” is estimated to be $110 billion (and growing fast), according to a November 2014 Leo Burnett study. Whether it’s Netflix, Spotify, Zipcar, TaskRabbit, Uber or Rent the Runway, there’s another, arguably better, alternative to ownership for virtually every aspect of our lives.

In a world where people don’t aspire to own their own homes or even openly despise the idea of owning a car, where does that leave the tool, yard care and appliance markets? (more…)

Put your opinions about trashy reality television aside for a second and just hear me out. I think I have a valid argument.

That’s what I said Tuesday morning to our CCO, Rob Schapiro, when I told him I wanted to write this blog post. Because I have this mad-scientist type theory that there is a significant correlation between people who live-tweeted The Bachelorette finale with incredible sarcasm and wit and the kind of people who we need to be hiring for writing positions.

He laughed and said, give it a shot. So here it is. A shot in the dark - a dark partially caused by the wine my friends and I consumed Monday night while watching the overly dramatic debauchery.

If you didn’t watch this season’s of The Bachelorette, or any season, or even if you think that it is part of a sector of entertainment that represents the downfall of our society’s integrity - I still think you’ll find that this argument holds some clout.

Agencies need to start scanning live-event associated hashtags as a consistent means of finding writing talent. (more…)

Companies large and small are being disrupted by digitally-powered competition. As UBER runs over taxi companies, Lose It steals share points from Weight Watchers, and Amazon eats into the profits of grocery chains and other retail giants (nom nom nom).

All because the cost to compete has gone down. For everyone.

In Jame’s McQuivey’s must-read Digital Disruption, you’ll learn:digital-disruption-book-3d-200x243

  • How free and low-cost digital tools let individuals (not just companies!) build new products and services, get feedback, and iterate business models, faster.
  • How access to digital platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google let these businesses scale, cheaper.
  • And how the growing number of digital consumers has changed the game for brand marketers and innovation teams.

McQuivey explores what makes disruptors different. A few selections:

  • Disruptors innovate the “adjacent possible.” In other words, they look outside the current product experience (and business capability) in order to focus on what the consumer needs next.
  • Disruptors think through the total product experience and put the consumer first.
  • Disruptors remake their company’s culture (and way of working) to drive change.

Great for the C-Suite, marketers and corporate innovation teams. Download a couple chapters free, here:

In her new book, The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation, Charlene Li provides leaders with skills and confidence they need to transform their leadership and their organizations.

She lays out a simple framework and road map that leaders of any level can adopt.engagedleader_border

In one example of engagement, the CEO of a large telecom solicits input on his company’s internal social network (Yammer): “What processes and technologies should we eliminate? We will either fix it or explain why it exists.”

98 pages, $17.99.

Nic Wilson, Senior Social Media Strategist, contributed to this post.

Disclaimer: This is not a blog post about a small carnivore and vertical tube with mirrors.

Meerkat and Periscope, two new social media technologies that allow you to stream a live-broadcast captured on your phone over Twitter. Two new social media technologies overshadowing F8, Facebook’s annual conference. And to think that only a few weeks ago discussion among the masses about mobile live-broadcasting via a social media platform really did not exist for the most part. Another reminder of the rapid pace and evolution of the digital world in which we live.

Immediately at Brunner we wonder how brands may capitalize on this new social media specific live-streaming technology. Via Twitter, our clients could stream live events, new product introductions, product demonstrations, and exclusive news or business announcements. Live-streaming through Twitter provides many possibilities for brand marketers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s give you some background and examine each of the applications.

Meerkat, launched by a start-up, made a big splash at this year’s SXSW Festival which wrapped this past Sunday. Since then, Meerkat users have been growing by 30% a day. Periscope, a Twitter-owned app in beta until yesterday, is making headlines as the direct competitor to Meerkat. And it seems likely that Twitter moved up the launch of Periscope due to the rapid rise of Meerkat.

Both broadcast real-time live video from a smartphone via Twitter. And each allow viewers to comment and chat about the content of the broadcast. While Meerkat and Periscope share similarities, there are differences. The chart below compares and contrasts the two live-streaming apps:



KitKat's #Bendgate tweet

KitKat's #Bendgate tweet

If you have any exposure to social media in 2015, “Real-Time Marketing” is undoubtedly one of the phrases you’ll hear (besides “bae” and “fleek” of course). Maybe you’ve even been asked what your real-time marketing plan is for your brand this year.

In a recent article on The Outreach Marketer, Nick Rojas defines real-time marketing as “a way to make the most of the continuous flow of information via the internet right now.”

Real-time marketing is about immediacy, flexibility, and creative responsiveness. And it happens on Twitter most naturally because of the platform’s instantaneous, rapid-fire format. You may recall KitKat’s tweet about #bendgate in 2014. Rojas’ presents this tweet as an example of real-time marketing done right. The brand saw an opportunity in the moment – and ran with it.

Might real-time marketing seem overwhelming though? Possibly. How can you make real-time marketing realistic for your brand? Here are three suggestions:


i-am-a-big-kid-nowI recently had the pleasure of speaking at PRSA Pittsburgh’s Professional Development Day. Ispoke about some of the changes that integrated marketing is having on the PR industry.

The part of my presentation that drew the greatest reaction from the mostly entry-level and student attendees was when I said that the industry has to stop the incessant whining about how PR doesn’t have a seat at the table or how people just don’t “get PR.” I even shared a great quote from my friend Rick Rice that raised some eyebrows: “The PR industry is in need of disruptive change and none of this generation are even willing to try.”

All of the issues with today’s PR industrythat we’re an afterthought that people don’t understand what we do or the value we bring, that anyone can do what we doare nobody’s fault but our own. For decades, many public relations professionals have chosen to complain about their lack of participation in the big picture rather than taking charge and forcing their way into it.

Here’s a hint for all you young PR pros out there: If you want to sit at the big kid table, start acting like one of the big kids. (more…)

Part I

“Customer Value = Perceived Benefits – Perceived Costs”

It’s a simple equation learned by marketers early in business school. But which side of the equation can best be influenced to motivate a sale? Which has more enduring effect on the customer experience?

12082-10_blog-graphic_equation8Adding benefits over discounting is the better play. Here’s why:

1. Earns Stronger Goodwill

A customer feels better receiving more of something than feeling like they got something for less. While everyone likes a deal and money saved, adding things like a free attachment with a sweeper purchase is a “purchase trophy” of tangible value

2. Lengthens the Value Tail

Not only do we put a higher value on products or services that we pay for, but that value endures. Having a tangible reminder of that transaction lengthens the “value tail” and leaves a more enduring impression of the brand. (more…)

Google Express, the same-day shopping service, just rolled out in my area (Washington, D.C.), so I decided to give it a trial run.

The user experience is simple and clean. You’ll need a Google Wallet account which requires a quick registration. Delivery is free on orders over fifteen bucks if you commit to a $10 monthly or $95 yearly subscription fee.

I placed an order for toothpaste and mouthwash at 11am and WHAMMY: it arrived on my doorstep by 4:15, via Google Express-branded delivery car and pleasant delivery dude.


Retailers vary by region, and inventory can be limited for speciality items, but they’ve got most of the bases covered in DC:  grocery, drug, babies, books, sports, office supplies, and one oddball: guitars.

The takeaway for CPG brands? Services like Google Express, Amazon Prime, Peapod and others are changing the way people shop in a significant way. And they’re making it easier to justify your investment in eCommerce (since Google Express is sourcing from the same retailers you already partner with).

Same-day service also challenges the conventional shopper marketer’s wisdom that eCommerce is irrelevant for so-called “mission trips” (for products that are needed right away). And once these services start to layer on alerts for profile-based offers and one-click ordering, the barriers will really start to fall away for the average consumer.

In the past, I was always reluctant to buy low-interest  household items like toothpaste online. With same-day service, it’s one less stop to make on my way home from work, and probably saves me 15 minutes. Which at the end of a workday is all that matters.