Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - GAP & A Questionable Judgment Call

Posted this on my Tumblr the night I found it, but here's another example of questionable judgment while posting to a corporate Facebook page.  

GAP was calling out & looking for reactions to their branded garment appearing on this Libyan protester in the Breaking News CNN news clip shown below. 

In case it's too small to read it says:
Check this out. The closest Gap store is miles away. We still can’t figure out how this sweatshirt ended up in Gadhafi’s palace. Theories?

Is this "no big deal" or a "social gaffe" in your book? 

 Curious to hear what others are thinking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Olivier Blanchard's Social Media ROI - Part 1 of a 2-Part Review

The wait is over.  After what seemed like an eternity, following Olivier's tweets while he labored through the process of writing "Social Media ROI - Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organization" and then patiently waited for it to be edited & finally published - it is a reality. I ordered my copy back in January and was thrilled when it shipped ahead of schedule.

Let me start out by saying Blanchard's 1st book writing effort does not disappoint. If you follow his writings on, The BrandBuilder Blog, you would agree that Olivier is a master of debate, has a brilliant, fluid mind and is a purposeful communicator. He is also more than just an "Influencer" with an enviable Klout score. ;  )

However, I have to admit that finding this equaled a fun day of tweets between those that respect Olivier Blanchard & his work.
Everyone will tell you that integrating Social Media into your overall marketing initiatives is not a cookie cutter process. The architecture will be different for every business & for different sized organizations. 

The 1st half of the book deals with Social Media Program Development & Integration. Olivier lays down a structured framework for your needs analysis.  He explains why the pre-work of identifying "business goals" & turning them into "specific targets" is important.  He then provides the questions you need to ask to determine where to start "mapping the process".  It's not just about Social Media infrastructure - you need a "socialized digital communications" plan to ensure you are building your organization's efforts on solid ground.

Blanchard does not get hung up on citing specific niche tools & apps which will be here today & could very well be gone tomorrow. He gives you that homework - to research & determine which operational tools, whether off the shelf or customized are best for your specific B-B or B-C needs. He also sprinkles in analogies from his military background to illustrate his points, i.e. terms like "a force-multiplier - a tactical element that makes a given force significantly more effective than it would be without it." 

Olivier did not intend for this to be a reference guide for people who profess to be "social media experts." This book should be, however, required reading for people like me, who need an accurate baseline to jump off from & build on, as well as decision makers who need to fully understand the Social Media integration efforts they are signing up to support within their organizations and how it can help prioritize, better support & optimize multiple functional area's initiatives and overarching goals.

I will do another review after I finish reading the entire book & share how Olivier handles the second half, on Social Media Program Management & Measurement. I'm really looking forward to it.  

I give Blanchard 5 out of 5 stars : D

For more information on where you can order the book, visit:
This is a must read.  You can't afford to it leave out of your collection, so order your copy today - in paperback or digital editions.

3/29/2011 UPDATE: Yes, I now have the eBook too!
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:  The Lure of Blog Comments or Life On Both Sides of the Working/SAHM Mom Continuum

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - All About The Cars... Cars 2 That Is

What would I do without good friends?  There's usually some really fun idea that I would have never considered had they not brought it to my attention.  Such was the case with some photos I ran across on Facebook previewing the Minneapolis Auto Show.  

Yes, you read right. Something at the Minneapolis Auto show this year enticed me to venture out on a peaceful Saturday afternoon (with my Munchkin) to check it out.  

Must have been something really good right?! 

Well, even this Mom was pretty impressed.  Munchkin & I really love Cars & because we decided to go, we, along with hundreds of other attendees got a sneak preview of Cars 2, which will be arriving in movie theaters very soon.

We saw Mater
Munchkin was in awe as you can imagine, but refused to pose with any of the Cars guys

And Lightning McQueen

And a sleek looking character I thought was Sally at first, but may actually be new.

They also had the movie trailer running

And once we were inside the main hall, they had a Nascar car the kids could actually sit in & have their photo taken.

A car tipped on it's side so you could see the undercarriage.

A sensible looking little Porsche that this Mom would love to drive

and a little $9,995 trinket for our basement
What auto show would be complete without a garage?!
Mom watching her Munchkin "behind the wheel" for the first time

Time sure flies when you are having fun!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - LEGO My Kind Of Store

Just call me late to the party, but I finally took my preschooler munchkin, who is obsessed with everything Duplo LEGO & Mega Bloks, to the LEGO store at the Mall Of America.  Here are a few of the shots I took of the incredible LEGO art they have on display:

And if you need a few spare LEGOs to complete a project at home...

There are more than a couple individual pieces available to buy in bulk.  
Almost makes your mouth water, as if you were a kid in a candy store ; )

Sunday, March 6, 2011

For Better Or For Worse - When A Store Brand Isn't Really A Bargain

I have to admit that I generally love a bargain.  In years past I was a total "name brand snob". I didn't want to stray from the security & reliability of the name brands products I knew I could trust.  That's why when I found a substitute at Target I could live with, I stuck with it. In this particular case, there was virtually no difference between the 1st generation of the new brand product & the old brand product initially. Judging by the photo below, are we really talking about bath tissue here? Yes, I am - toilet paper indeed.

 Photo found on - Bath tissue, before and after. 

But just a few months after the initial brand introduction, 
something had changed.

These are photos I took of rolls I had at home...
Notice the differences? 

The first change in quality under the up&up brand transition was the considerable change in size, which they now call "cozy".  I went as far as e-mailing Target as soon as I noticed this change.  I searched & searched to see if I still had the e-mail as well as the response I received from Target HQ customer service, but it's long gone.  I was genuinely upset that they tried to disguise the changes in this new packaging after they lured us in with the earlier version of product.

But as you can see below which are samples of Northern Bath Tissue, which Target openly compares their product to there is a big difference between the two.

View of the back of the plush & very soft Northern sheet.

Northern branded product is 3-plies & you can not see the object below it in this photo

Where as with the up&up, you can see it easily with only 2 thinly quilted plies & the front & back are nearly identical. 

Phase two of changes came & it is now far from soft to the touch.  The last package I bought I noticed an immediate difference in that it felt like a second cousin to sandpaper against my skin. Not the most comforting feeling in the world unless I was out camping in the wilderness & my only other option was a piece of bark from a nearby tree.

This isn't to say all the up&up products are sub-par quality.  I will still buy the paper plates, plastic silverware, flex trash bags, and even the kid's toothbrushes.

I will not buy the up&up bandages again, which literally fell off within 5 minutes of putting them on & the paper bowls seem to soak through really fast - you almost need to double them up - defeating the purpose of buying the store brand. The facial tissue is an on-the-fence item.  I've tried it & it's not horrible, but I still prefer the name brands.

Just for kicks & giggles I included a press release from when Target first updated their store brand's look & feel - the birth of up&up. A focus on comparable quality seemed to be a priority for them less than two short years ago. You have to wonder if that has changed in the face of ongoing cost savings initiatives.


Target up & up Brand Offers Great Quality at Low Prices

Completely Updated Store-owned Product Line Features New Look, Expanded Selection of Over 800 Everyday Essentials
— Target announces the re-launch of Target brand – the company’s core commodities owned brand – as up & up™, delivering low prices and great quality with an expanded product selection and a unique new design.

up & up products have been phasing into Target stores since March, and by the end of September, guests will find over 800 everyday essential products from across the store – spanning more than 40 categories – including household, healthcare, beauty, baby, and personal care. Nearly 100 of the items are brand new for 2009, including a few new categories such as cotton balls and swabs, laundry detergent and baby food. The up & up brand is equal in quality to national brands, but at a lower price, offering a savings of 30 percent on average.

"Our guests are savvy and know they don’t have to spend a lot to get high-quality products," said Mark Schindele, Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Target. "By re-launching Target brand as up & up, we’re able to create a unique identity for this powerful owned brand. The new packaging incorporates an element of design, giving us the opportunity to deliver on both the ‘expect more’ and ‘pay less’ sides of our brand promise."

Target consistently reevaluates its owned brands to ensure they meet guest expectations. Before introducing up & up, Target reviewed more than 4,000 guest comments on the quality and performance of its store-brand products. This resulted in the reformulation or enhancement of more than 130 products in the line.

Additionally, a third-party testing facility examined a majority of the Target brand products for characteristics such as flavor, aroma, ease of opening packaging and appearance. These tests helped to guarantee that up & up products are equal in quality to national brands.

up & up products are available at Target stores nationwide, with some bulk packs of products available for sale online at


Like any other purchase decision, you have to try, try again. Figure out what works for your family and what doesn't. Place priorities where it makes sense for you & your budget.  Compare prices too. I always shop with a calculator & compare the unit cost of the store brand vs the name brands. Don't always assume the store brand will be less expensive or a better value because sometimes it really isn't.

If there is one thing I'd like retailers to understand, it's that people are watching these small merchandising & manufacturing changes. Consumers are taking them into consideration when making future buying decisions.  Don't think your regular customers don't notice when you make a change that you believe to be insignificant or subtle.  It may be the exact opposite, so when you hear chatter, take the feedback to heart, rather than dismissing it.

Happy shopping!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Wordless Wednesday: Caribou Coffee...What's New? 
or Converting those who say: Foursquare's NOT for Me!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Thank Heavens For Our Little Helper

Here we are in March already 
& there's plenty of snow left to go around.
Spring seems to be no where in sight.

Thank God for our Little Helper 
who is happy to do everything just like his Daddy.

Thought of the day:
 Take some time out of your busy day 
just to be happy.

Focus on being thankful for being blessed.
Make an effort not to spend too much time worrying 
about the things we do not have 
& that which is beyond our power to change.

As for that which we are empowered to change,
respect your gifts & talents -
don't waste time 
or let anything or anyone 
stand in the way of your ultimate goal & destiny.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

Wordless Wednesday - Fun is the Mother of all Inventions

or Wordless Wednesday - MN November Sunrise or

Not So Wordless Wednesday: Sample the Beauty - Mpls Farmers Market