Social Media Contests: It’s Always a Good Time of the Year

Photo courtesy of Blast Radius

Well, folks, it’s here. ‘Tis the season of giving and we’re knee deep in gift wrap and holiday cards, cookie dough and frosting, tree lights and ornaments – hopefully not all at once!

In a season that is already globally known for its high-stress characteristics, why not add in a little friendly competition? Brands that host a social media contest, especially during the holidays, can effectively boost online engagement, fuel your customer base and promote your company online.

Before highlighting a few brands that have successfully carried out a social media contest, keep these tips in mind when considering this opportunity:

  • Set a goal that doesn’t focus on increasing followers alone. Emphasize the value of reaching a new demographic or generating more sales leads during the contest period.
  • Don’t forget to promote, promote, promote! Use your social channels, company website and blog to spread the word about contest details and why people should enter to win this insanely awesome prize – which brings me to my next point!
  • Offer an appropriate prize. Know your demographic in order to choose a prize that participants will not only find valuable but worthy of a little effort on their part.

These brands have successfully hosted social media contests – maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your brand’s next online competition!

McAlister’s Deli has decided to get in the holiday spirit and host a “Name Our Gift Card Mascot” contest. Customers can Instagram photos of the brand’s promotional penguin in various situations, then submit their name idea with the tags #givedelicious and @McAlistersDeli. The winner can choose between a personal tablet and $500 McAlister’s gift card or a $1,000 scholarship and a $500 McAlister’s gift card. This is a great prize that incorporates a third party gift and a gift card from the company hosting the competition to reward loyal customers.

Alamo Drafthouse Filmmaking Frenzy – This Austin-based movie theatre is expanding rapidly to cities nationwide and is known for its quirky personality. To go along with its eccentricity, the cinema house recently hosted a film contest (how appropriate!) for viewers to send in their version of a public service announcement highlighting the negative consequences of talking or texting on a cell phone during a movie. Submissions were uploaded to Badass Digest, the theater’s pop culture site, and viewers voted on their favorite film. Winners for each location received a $200 gift card to Alamo Drafthouse and their PSA was screened at their respective theaters. While video can be intimidating for some brands’ marketing teams, it is still one of the fastest growing social mediums that should not be dismissed.

Nike hosted a month-long #RiseAbove Instagram contest over the summer that highlighted fans’ love for basketball by submitting inspirational photos while wearing Jordans, its popular line of shoes. Winners were spotlighted on the contest’s website and the efforts reached millions of fans.

Mellow Mushroom offered free pizza to random lucky Twitter followers in a campaign called “Follow Us and We’ll Follow You”, but complimentary pizza pies are not all a fan might receive. As a friendly joke, the pizza eatery’s mascots would “stalk” its followers participating in the social media contest and make them the stars of online videos and social pranks. While it is an interesting concept, we’d recommend going with a less offensive effort.

A trend not to be overlooked is the growing “Pin It to Win It” campaigns on Pinterest. This effort can be tailored to almost any brand, product or service and brings highly visual emphasis on the subject at hand. Take a look at this page of the Top 50 Pin It to Win It efforts.

These are all great examples to find inspiration for your next social media contest – every brand is different so tailor the competition to fit your image! You’ll quickly see it’s a great way to learn more about your target and an effective way to gain momentum in your marketing efforts. So go make that next big Tw-Insta-Pin-book contest and see where it takes you!

State of the Millennial Union

Reposted from Digby’s Mobile Retail Blog

At the risk of being considered a traitor by my fellow Generation X’ers, I am not ashamed to admit that I have a fascination with the Millennial Generation.  In a recent blog, I bragged about how this group of young men and women born roughly between 1980 and 2000 have completely changed the way we live, shop and communicate. I work with Millennials, and I have learned as much (if not more) from them as they have learned from me.

So much has been written about this “tribe” of techno-savvy, confident, determined and goal-oriented young adults – it almost seems as though Millennials have that magical Midas touch – especially when it comes to their significant contributions to the success of mobile and social media technologies.  Check out these recent stats:

Which brings me to my next point – while doing research for this blog, another trend that I noticed within the Millennial generation is that they seem to be growing up, and maturing. In a recent Forbes article by Barry Salzberg, global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limite says, “…many millennials are not driven by money or success in quite the way their parents were. This generation wants to know what your organization stands for in improving society, what it stands for in action, as opposed to blowing smoke. Millennials want to know how they will make a positive difference in the world if they join your business, not by wearing a colorful T-shirt on a special project once a year but in their actual work.” 

In the recent presidential election, the Millennial Generation made its mark yet again. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 23 million, or 50% of, young people voted in this election. According to The Hill, “This rate of turnout can now be considered ‘the new normal’ for young Americans. This is the third presidential election in a row with turnout around 50%.” Bottom line – Millennials want their voices heard.

Millennials are eating out less, perhaps a trend to live healthier lifestyles and save their hard-earned dollars for exciting trips to Europe or down payments for modest homes and cars.

Whatever your opinion of Milliennials, you can’t deny this group of savvy individuals are a force to be reckoned with.  What do you think will be the hottest millennial trends in 2013?

Catherine Seeds is the Vide President of Ketner Group, a PR and marketing communications agency headquartered in Austin, TX.

Photo Credit: Study Breaks College Media

How Reverse Logistics Makes Online Returns Easy And Keeps Customers Happy

More and more major online retailers are offering free and convenient returns, and the experience is creating return customers. It’s no simple feat, since returns are an integral part of doing business.

A recent white paper from Newgistics noted that the average manufacturer will spend up to 15 percent of its total revenue on returns alone. But the ease of the experience for the consumer, retailer and supplier alike can mean the difference between success and exasperation.

4 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Company’s Branding Without Spending Too Much Money

Have you ever gone into your closet at the change of a season looking for something to wear to mark the change (it’s finally chilly!)—and left disappointed? After ignoring your fall/winter clothes for the better part of half the year (in Texas), your clothes seem boring, blah and so last season. Well, instead of throwing on a pair of jeans and whatever t-shirt looks good with a scarf, refresh your wardrobe by mixing what you already have up a little.

The same concept is true for your company. A web designer once told me that companies usually spend a lot of time and effort building a website they’re happy with, then leave it stagnant. Then after two years, they’re unhappy with it again. I have worked with clients who are never completely happy with their company messaging and try to do a complete rewrite every year. I get that—the market changes, customer needs change, you find what works, what doesn’t—but there has to be a better and less time-intensive way to refresh a company’s brand without a complete overhaul of your website, collateral, messaging, etc.

1. Blitz your Blog. Reorganize and refresh the design of your blog instead of your entire website. Give your blog’s template a shiny new look—change up your categories, or add more. Putting more internal and external (promotional) focus on an interactive and ever-changing messaging avenue such as your blog will allow your company to respond more quickly to changing trends or hot topic industry news. And you’ll be less likely to grow tired of your website.

2. Create an evolving campaign. Evolving campaigns are brand initiatives that involve a central static idea with variable details/messages that change based on different tradeshows, product launches, customer events or promotions your company is planning. For example, take a look at our Be Spectacled campaign. Our central idea is our monocle man’s Be Spectacled slogan, which challenges our visitors to make their public relations program shine (with us, of course). Currently, we’re focusing our Be Spectacled efforts on NRF 2013, a huge retail technology-industry tradeshow. In the past, we’ve focused the campaign on South by Southwest Interactive. Our Be Spectacled evolving campaign lives in a prominent location on our homepage, and this helps our website stay up-to-date with our changing focus.

3. Quarterly reviews of messaging with sales team. The sales team is a great source of information when it comes to messaging. They’re out in the field every day speaking with prospects and customers, so they are loaded with information about the most common challenges prospects experience and can see first-hand what messaging points resonate with prospects and customers. Sales teams can point to the benefits your company’s services provide that are most important and helpful to customers. Sit down with your sales team every quarter to refresh company messaging. This ensures that it changes little by little instead of in huge chunks—which means less time and effort on the marketing team’s part!

4. Socialize. Social media can be an easy and cost-effective way to give your company a boost in chatter and activity. If your company is not on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook, yet, then you probably should be (with some exceptions). Brands should be involved with even more—Instagram and Pinterest are a must for brands right now. Ketner Group is even dabbling in some Instagram and Pinterest activities. Already in the social world? Change your social media profile photos and information. Something this little could provide you with a breath of fresh branding and is something your followers may notice.
On that note—follow Ketner Group on our other social pages—Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

How Setting Relevant Geofences Can Increase Loyalty

Mobile is a game changer. Retailers have been watching as customers walk into their stores, mobile phone in hand, in order to use their locations as showrooms, scanning barcodes for better deals on Amazon. Retailers must turn the tables and harness mobile phones to their benefit, instituting branded, rich apps that bring customers into their location on their terms, providing relevant, time-sensitive notifications with valuable information in order to drive in-store and in-app purchases.

NRF 2013: What Editors and Analysts are Predicting

They don’t call NRF “Retail’s Big Show” for nothing! Ketner Group has attended NRF for the past 13 years, and year after year, it’s the ONE show that matters more than any other – and a great place to connect with retail’s leading editors and analysts. We asked a number of our friends in the editor and analyst communities to share their insights about NRF, and you’ll be interested in seeing their thoughts on retail trends, technologies, and the biggest surprises of 2012.

What will you be looking for at NRF 2013, in terms of retail trends and technology?

Jordan Speer, Editor-in-Chief, Apparel Magazine: Generally, I’ll be looking for technology that apparel retailers/brands are using. In particular, I’ll be interested to see how things continue to integrate to make a seamless omni-channel experience possible. It’s difficult for me to think of distinct technologies these days. It all goes together: Social media is connected to CRM is connected to loyalty is connected to POS is connected to mobile is connected to RFID is connected to fulfillment and so on and so forth. I’ll be looking for ways in which retailers are casting off the barriers between all of these solutions and getting the big picture of their enterprise.

Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research: What I’m looking for is practical usability of technology.  I have been hearing a lot of buzzwords – “mobility,” “the customer as part of merchandising processes,” “Big Data” (my current fave), “Cloud.” So what I would like to see is the nitty-gritty of what it takes to actually get the job done.  For example, “What does the user interface in a system that includes the customer dimension of data look like?”  “How do you manage 30,000 iPhones and iPads in your stores?”

Joe Skorupa, Group Editor-in-Chief, RIS News: I am looking for technology strategies and solutions that are responsive to the dramatic shifts taking place in the marketplace as well as those that enable retailers to become more pro-active and get ahead of fast-moving trends.

Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints: I am expecting to see more advanced solutions that address the data collection and analytics related to Big Data and omnichannel retail. Retailers like Macy’s are starting to focus more on allocating by individual store, based on the demographics and seasonality of each store. New solutions need to provide an easy way for merchants to make this happen.

I also anticipate more solutions targeted to mobile payments, and the requirements around EMV. Retailers need to be prepared to accept EMV when the April 2013 deadline rolls around. Additionally, by October 2015, fraud liability will shift in the marketplace, which could be an incentive for merchants to enable EMV transactions before that date.

Greg Buzek, Founder and President, IHL Group, and Co-founder of the Retail Orphan Initiative: I think we’ll see a lot of emphasis in three main areas.  The rise of Big Data and Social integration will be a major trend.  Mobile will be everywhere – in all flavors – iOS, Android, Windows 8; we will be past our first mobile Christmas.  And then there are the rapid changes in the POS industry.  We are seeing a seismic shift right now in threats to this business and a changing of the guard in established competitors.  And of course everyone will be talking about how great Retail ROI’s SuperSaturday was!

What have been the biggest surprises in the retail industry so far in 2012?

Joe Skorupa, RIS: This is the year of bold transformation of business models and instead of taking a cautious approach or battling it, retailers are embracing change and finding new opportunities.

Greg Buzek, IHL: The biggest surprise is the speed in which retailers have come out and said they are never buying another POS terminal again.  We haven’t even seen mobile survive a Christmas rush, and several retailers have already said they are all mobile from now on.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I think the big surprises for me are the increasing shift to the “fulfill-from-store” model and also the sense that, in apparel, we are really on the edge of seeing technologies like “magic mirrors” and such start to materialize at the commercial level. One other thing – it has really hit home with me this year just how much Amazon truly presents a major threat to so many retailers. I am glad that many of them are addressing that and will be interested to see some of the clever ways that retailers use product and technology to keep customers in their brick-and-mortar or online stores.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR: I suppose it’s the explosion of mobile payments – or the apparent coming explosion.  Starbucks adopting Square and Home Depot adopting PayPal was a pretty big surprise.  Beyond that? That wireless is still just not prevalent.  And overall in the industry, that the luxury market is softening.  I honestly don’t understand why it’s happening.

What do tech vendors and PR people need to keep in mind as they reach out to you for NRF?

Debbie Hauss, Retail TouchPoints: We look forward to meeting with as many companies and retailers as possible during NRF, to discuss industry trends and announcements. The most productive conversations are around innovations and how we can help retail companies improve their businesses. Once again this year, Retail TouchPoints will be filming short video interviews with retailers and solution providers during the NRF event. If any companies are interested in participating in these videos, they should contact us as soon as possible.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I always appreciate a brief synopsis of press releases announcing new technologies, along with information on which apparel companies are using the technology (if any). If they can’t reveal that info specifically, it is helpful to know at least what type of apparel companies are using it (big vs. small; specialty vs. department, etc.) In the synopsis, it is helpful also for me to understand if the technology (or process or whatever) being announced is a significant shift, or basically just an update of what’s been available. It’s also helpful for PR people to keep in mind that I am looking for apparel companies that will talk to us on various topics, including but definitely not limited to those on our editorial calendar.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR:  They should understand that we’d be happy to take pre-briefings and will be doing a webinar or something for our customers afterwards to review what we saw at NRF. I would imagine what they want to know from us (besides “do you like our stuff?”) is “What did you see that was cool?”  This year, we’re going to have time to actually answer that question adequately.  Heck, we might even attend some sessions!  After much thought, we realized it’s a way better way to add value.

Greg Buzek, IHL:  Vendors should have talking points in handout form either in the meeting or use the meeting as more relationship building and very short demos rather than marketing speak. We see between 12-18 sales pitches a day; what gets remembered is the one-pager with key talking points. What are the 3-4 things you want me to remember? Have that on a piece of paper or better yet, show me and email it to me while we are in the meeting (not “I’ll get that to you”) so I am sure to have it in my inbox when I get home.

Personally, I am buried in the materials from my own event, other interesting things and several bags of swag items from different events. Standard collateral material doesn’t make it home. An analyst is not going to pay extra luggage fees to carry home a bunch of glossy materials.

Like everyone else, we are sleep deprived and exhausted and we will have heard 40-50 company pitches and caught up with another 100 friends and colleagues. Vendors give the same pitch over and over; we hear 50 different ones. What gets remembered past the show is what is written down or on a single page handed to us – and the meetings with our friends.

Sprouts to Deploy Enterprise Business Intelligence Platform

Natural and organic foods retailer Sprouts Farmers Markets, which operates 148 retail stores across eight states, has selected Manthan’s ARC platform for enterprise-wide reporting and analytics.

The grocer plans to use Manthan Systems’ dynamic analytical views and dashboards for greater insights into product sales, store operations, labor, task management, inventory optimization and merchandising as well as to enable Sprouts personnel to immediately see key business opportunities, identify trends, and enhance the decision-making process.


Favorite memories of NRF – A Look Back at 12 Years of the Big Show

This year, Ketner Group will have officially been going to the NRF Show for 13 years. A lot has changed since Jeff’s first trip to the Big Show in 2000 – an attack on our country, two wars, two presidents, a few recessions, numerous technology advances, just to name a few.  We have been very lucky over the past twelve years to support more than 12 different clients at NRF, and make so many great friends along the way.  Going to New York every January is something our team looks forward to every year, and this year, we are excited to launch a new KG website and our “Be Spectacled” marketing campaign. Be sure to seek us out at the show to get your own KG mustache and monocle!

To get you in the NRF mood, we’ve collaborated on our favorite memories from NRF over the years.  Enjoy!

Caitlin: The Incredible (Yellow) Snow Storm of 2011

Hands down, my favorite NRF memory has to be the snow storm of 2011! As a Texas girl I rarely get to see inches of snow falling so quickly all around me, and I have to admit that my fellow Texas colleagues and clients got really excited, too. We had a snowball fight in the middle of Times Square and we all laughed so hard. My colleague, Valerie, picked up a fresh patch of snow, threw it at me, and we both realized moments later that the snow beneath it was…yellow. Yes, it was that kind of snow.

Jeff: Making the KG Mark at NRF

The very first time I went to NRF was in 2000, representing Cornerstone Retail Solutions, which later became 360Commerce. I met a senior editor at the time with Executive Technology, and she was bowled over that I had actually taken the time to connect her with a retailer to interview at the show – the client got an exclusive story out of the interview, which ran in Executive Technology and Women’s Wear Daily. Later that day, she brought a colleague by and introduced me as “the one PR guy at the show who really gets it.” My other favorite memories from NRF include the very first Rock and Roll Retail event in 2010. It was pure garage-band rock and roll and a great bonding experience. And 2011 was a blast, with the snow, a full complement of clients, and having our whole Ketner Group team turn out for the show.

Brittany: A Walk We Will Never Forget

My favorite moment was from NRF 2011. Catherine, Caitlin, Valerie and I finished up a long day on the show floor and dragged our tired bodies on board a complimentary shuttle bus that would take us from the Javits Center back to our hotel. Keep in mind that these Texans were all woefully unprepared for the extreme winter weather NYC experienced that week–10-20 degree weather, inches upon inches of snow, howling wind, the winter works. Even the 10-step walk from the Javits door on to the bus was uncomfortable. We found seats and settled in, and a few moments later the bus departed. Well, it departed only to completely die every time it came to a complete stop, which in rush hour traffic in the city is basically every 20 feet. The driver would brake, the lights and heat would go off, and the bus would go “guh guh guh gu gu g g” and would slowly lurch to a stop. You can only imagine the sighs of exasperation from everyone onboard by about the seventh break down, sighs that were only topped by the final breakdown, at which point the driver gave up, exited the bus and headed down the street – all without saying a word to any of us. So, there was nothing left to do but get off and walk back to Times Square. This walk, remember, is in freezing weather on frozen sidewalks. We slipped, slid, shivered and giggled uncontrollably the whole way home. And we couldn’t catch a cab to save our lives! If memory serves, it was an awful half hour for these freezing Texas girls, but we have never laughed so much at NRF, ever!  A glass of cab in a warm hotel bar never felt so good.

Catherine: Bullets, and Babies and Broadway, Oh My!

NRF 2013 will be my 9thanniversary of attending NRF – wow!  Thinking back to my first NRF in 2003 – I was newly married and so excited about my first trip ever to NYC.  I remember being so excited to go out and explore the city as soon as I got there, but I was such a chicken (and was freezing to boot!) that I only made it a few blocks before I high-tailed it back to the Marriott Marquis. I really have so many favorite memories of NRF it’s hard to narrow it down to just one!  Instead, I’ve decided to take a little trip down memory lane and highlight just a few of my most memorable moments from the Big Show:

  • 2003: First NRF, first time riding in a cab all by myself, first time seeing a Broadway musical, and going club hopping with the crazy fun team from Wincor Nixdorf.
  • 2004: Sal LoSauro and John Hall treated Jeff Ketner and I to a wonderful steak dinner in Manhattan then took us to see Rockefeller Center. After, we took the elevators at 30 Rock up to the (now closed) Rainbow Room for a fun cocktail party.
  • 2005: I was pregnant with my daughter, Madeline, that year – so, when I wasn’t on the show floor, I stayed in my hotel room most of the time – watching TV and eating hamburgers and ice cream!
  • 2009: Pregnant with my son, Nolan. That year, my favorite memory has to be when Valerie and I discovered that a client’s press kit box had been hijacked somewhere between Austin and NYC. Not only were more than half of the press kits destroyed, but there were papers in the box that were not ours, not to mention we found a bullet casing!  Needless to say, there was a lot of freaking out in the hotel room that afternoon!
  • 2011: This has to be the BEST NRF of all time. The whole KG team was in NYC that year, and that was the year of the great snowstorm that slammed the eastern seaboard.  Because of the storm, we were snowed in for an extra day and got to explore the city – even got to explore Central Park! Snowball fights with our fun clients from Digby, braving a Russian Vodka room (which I think was a Russian Mafia hangout) with our fun client from Escalate, and we all went to a Karaoke bar and sang our hearts out until 2 a.m.  Oh, and we did a little work, too!
  • 2012: My favorite memory from last year’s show was getting to sit in the fourth row to see Mary Poppins on Broadway!  Our last night in NYC, Jeff Ketner treated Caitlin and me to a Broadway musical, and we had a blast!