Posts Tagged ‘Target’


The Keys to Success and Longevity in Business and Events

November 4, 2013

This originally was published as my contribution to the RSVP MN Magazine Article: Click here to read it therersvpmn-logo

In 2003 there was a huge transformation of the entire workforce in the United States as a whole generation of women bought into the mantra of a revolution known as “Opting Out.” Women were choosing to opt out of the job force to stay home and raise families and seek a balanced life. By 2013, with economics in their current state, women and men are choosing to “Lean in” to their careers and seem to be driven for success. Both movements became vastly popular, and have worked for several individuals, and that is where the problem lies.

These movements have had a huge impact on both our corporate culture and the dynamics of companies, but they have failed to last the test of time. I believe they fail because they have been focused on the individuals that make up a team or company. They fail to work on or have impact on the entire team and culture. The focus has been on the change of self rather than on the team, business or culture. While this has profound effects for individuals, the impact and benefits to business and events has been scattershot and in many instances has had a negative effect.

To go the distance and have longevity, an event or business has to pull together as a team and effect change for growth and success. They need to innovate. The key to all Innovation is that the people in charge are able to keep their vision focused on the Big Picture, instead of being sucked down into the mire and details that often leads to tunnel vision. We have two incredible examples of a company and an event here in the Twin Cities that are exemplary models of this: Target Corporation and the Minnesota State Fair.

Target was recently named as No. 10 of Fast Company’s 2013 “Most Innovative Companies” and is in the caliber of such companies as Nike, Pinterest, Square and Amazon. Its attention to the trends and needs of current shoppers and the future of shopping has lead it to re-imagine its “Big Box” concept to create CityTarget, a half-size store prototype that launched in Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

This model focuses on a demographic that is looking for four-packs of toilet paper rather than a 36-pack, has furnishings more suitable to apartment and balcony dwelling, smaller packaged food proportions, and is more mobile friendly for research, e-commerce and speeding up checkout lines by having additional employees deployed with mobile register scanners.

Target’s focus on value versus volume has proven so successful that they will add three new stores, doubling their new concept and look to take this concept globally in the future. Target’s ability to continually transform and respond to the rapidly changing retail behaviors will keep its chain ahead of its competition at a time when its competition struggles to keep pace and in fact are downsizing the numbers of locations.

The Minnesota State Fair has had innovation at the core of its mission statement since 1859. An event that has continued and has thrived for 154 years has put in a lot of work to keep its offerings fresh, educational and entertaining. Each year, from attractions and food offerings, to events and displays, the Fair not only embodies and lives out its own belief of innovation, but encourages and challenges its participants and vendors to do so as well. Continual feedback and communication from attendees each year drives changes for the future.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the food vendors that innovate each year to come up with the newest flavor trends or gimmick “food on a stick” (candied bacon cannolis or deep fried pickles and chocolate anyone?). Not only does the food then become an innovation that is fresh, but the popularity of the inventive foods has driven media coverage, self fulfilling its ability to remain relevant and fresh year after year.

It is clearly evident that the companies and events that are built on a best practice that focuses on the entity or event such as innovation will far exceed and surpass any practices that focus on the individuals involved. If your team and culture can fully embrace a concept that leads to benefits for all, versus benefits to one, than it is a concept that can stand the test of time. It’s time to opt out of bad practices, lean in to a team concept and employ innovation to your business.


The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

July 2, 2013

rsvpmn-logoToday I contributed a guest blog/article to RSVP MN Magazine. Here is the post also a link to the post on their site:

The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

By Christopher Lower, Co-Owner and VP of PR, Marketing, & Social Media for Sterling Cross Communications

For many years we have come to learn of the power that celebrity influencers have on businesses. It’s one of the hottest terms in marketing today: Influencer Marketing. Businesses are looking for that lift that can be achieved when a person with a huge audience on multiple communications channels speaks fondly of your service or product and endorses it to their audience. In the most wildly successful cases, it became a phenomenon called the “Oprah Effect” due to the frenzy of business activity a company would receive when mentioned on the popular Oprah Winfrey show by the host herself.

On the negative side of the spectrum would be what has been happening in current events and could be ascribed as being victim to the “Paula Deen Effect”. In this case, the person of influence has become associated with a negative event and has triggered a wave of impact across several businesses that were connected to her, either as a direct working relationship, or in an endorsement relationship. Because of her negative online reputation, and current public perception of her, any brands that are tied to her are suffering. There has been a massive wave of companies scrambling to distance themselves from her brand, many of whom have been intrinsically tied to her popularity in the past.

To be completely fair, Ms. Deen isn’t the only influencer to have a negative impact on brands when a scandal has been tied to their reputation. How easily we forget those like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and so on.

This current case is only greater proof of how important the public perception of your brand and reputation is online. It affects the bottom line, and can impact the stock prices in public companies. It could be your greatest weakness and many companies don’t even know how they can protect and defend their online reputation.

Because of the nature of social media users to have an extremely short attention span, people are more willing to perceive what they find on search engines to be the true nature of your business. You are what Google says you are. Sadly, you are also only as good as the latest and highest search engine ranked review.

As “The Deen Effect” demonstrates, you are also affected by the online reputations and perceptions of those people associated with you. These range from your vendors, suppliers, resellers, channel partners, employees, board members, and anyone else that impacts your brand. Their negative reputations can harm you online as well. You may not have “celebrity” endorsements, but you do have influencers inside and attached to your company. You no longer can afford to not monitor your own company and brand, and it would also be beneficial to monitor the reputations of those associated with your brand where you rely upon them to conduct your business.

Many businesses are scrambling to put together teams that can respond to these new crises situations. These issues may occur across multiple communication platforms in an instant, and can go globally viral in seconds. Traditional PR professionals who don’t have both the crises communications skills and a mastery of social and mobile technologies are obsolete. Using interns to solve the problem is fine for their knowledge of social media tools, but inadequate to deal with the crises communications. You need a team experienced in both that can respond immediately 24 hours a day, every day.


Blogs. Borrrrrrinnggggg.

June 30, 2008

Yep. That’s how a 20+ year veteran of the advertising and creative industry ended a 500+ word rant on his corporate blog, about how he “hates blogs” and decries them as a “self-aggrandizing fad”.  Wasn’t the internet, and television once called a “fad”? He equates those that read, follow, and comment on other blogs as “new-media groupies.”  He just doesn’t get it.  It’s a shame really.  It is another case of a creative talent, responsible for the promotion, innovation, and differentiation of the brands that his clients entrust him with, who can’t adapt to the future.


I know Advertising is all about the interruption approach, and has been forever.  TV commercials, radio spots, full-page glossies in magazines, and billboards – all mediums going through a whirlwind paradigm shift which will reshape and recreate the media field at the speed of light.  These methods don’t work and customers “get it”.  Sadly, some agency owners do not. 


The customer realizes that they have the power.  They can Tivo out your commercials, block your pop-ups, and block out all of your attempts to push your catchy jingle or edgy catch phrase.  They realize that your four-color glossy ad is in that magazine specifically because you paid to place it there.  Oh, and please do me a favor, and stop trying to disguise your paid ad as an advertorial!  That’s just insulting our intelligence.


They want to be engaged in a discussion rather than pitched to.  So what would be a first step down that path?  How about engaging your potential customers in a conversation?  How about you open up your pitch, your claims of “new” and “improved”, to the feedback and comments of your audience?  Could your product and brand survive that?  If it truly is what is says it is – then it will survive.  Otherwise it could be trashed and trampled.


Blogs can open up your brand to discussions, especially if you accept comments.  Even if the comments call out a shortcoming (if there is a shortcoming that needs correction), it is better to have them do so while you are paying attention to them and have the opportunity to make the change, rather than find out these shortcomings as the blog author puts it: “I figure I’ll hear about our shortcomings by our clients walking out the door.”  By then, it’s too late.  They are on to your competition.


The advertising exec blog author (the irony of him blogging about how he hates blogs is just too sublime!) goes on to say that corporate blogs are the worst offenders – “And the corporate blog is the worst because it’s just a big PR tactic that is so very transparent.”  Amen to that.  He has just stated the key principal has to be integral to every communications campaign: transparency. 


You can’t hide behind the spin and shine.  You’ll be called out as the Emperor with no clothes.  People want transparency.  Target got called out because they were enticing people to rave about them in the social online communities. They want to feel they can get to know you and your brand.


A blog lets your audience get to “know” you a bit better, by reading about what you care about on your blog.  They can encounter your “parroting” of your company’s reports, or your pitches, just like anyone you speak with, whether online or in a face to face meeting.  They can also encounter your expertise, knowledge, experience, opinion, tastes, likes, competence, and so on.  A website is a great place for your audience to find and interact with you, if there are the right tools to do so.  A blog is one of those tools.


I spoke to a group of business professionals last week that were skeptical yet eager to learn about how blogs are being used today and whether or not they should have a blog or even recommend blogs to their clients (they are consultants).  I was impressed by shared inquisitiveness and curiosity, and most of all with their ability to embrace this new form of communication. They wanted to join in the discussion.


I think advertising will ultimately survive – there will always be a need for creative content, but it will have to move to the new communication mediums, and become on demand rather than an interruption.  Agencies, the slow ones, refusing to be nimble and embrace the changes and keep with the times, will be culled from the herd.  Those that embrace and innovate will be the ones setting their brands truly above the buzz.  What do you think? Leave a comment. Start a conversation. Engage!