Target, you get me.

Alright, Target has officially crossed over from like, into the realm of love. That mystical way it knows what I’m thinking. Target could probably finish my sentences. And it always anticipates my needs. For dinner, it knows what I’m in the mood for. On Cartwheel, it always flatters me with cute clothing suggestions. And Target, you reward me with $.05 for saving trees. It’s like a big hug at the checkout. Oh Target, you always leave a lady satisfied. Siggghhhh. I’m in love.

I may have tested you in the past (see below post), but you’ve taken the time to truly understand me. I mean really get to know me.

You’ve really outdone yourself. Once upon a time, Target thought I was pregnant. After realizing I was just looking for the health benefits pregnancy vitamins offered, Target course-corrected its couponing. The marketing data folks must have put together the big puzzle, and realized I’m just a health-conscious shopper. I stopped getting baby coupons. I started getting better, more relevant deals.

proteinpowder

Coupons: two-for-one!

Powerbar

 

I get excited.

 

 

 

I used to be creeped out by hyper-targeted ads, but ya know, I think I’m a converted fan. I’ve used both of these coupons and love both products! I would have went to GNC or the Vitamin Shoppe for these specialty “health” foods, but Target saved me a trip and a few bucks by pointing me to these items! Ahh, now if only every man could read a woman’s mind like Target does 🙂

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Don’t judge me, coupons.

sorrymeme

Like any good shopper, I like me a bargain. That’s why I like my Target REDcard. I save 5% each trip and get coupons based on what I buy. A Win in my book. But Target’s “targeting” is a somewhat contested matter. Creepy things happen. About a year ago, the store got some grief for identifying pregnant women based on items they bought (cocoa butter, vitamins, lotion, etc.).  And sending them baby coupons. Here’s the original article by New York Times. Long, but good read.

Target-quote3

In light of a HUGE uptick in ad retargeting this year, I thought this story was worth a revisit. I can see where targeted couponing is privacy-breaching, even if it’s 100% legal. But I love it. My philosophy is this: If I’m going to get marketed to, it might as well be for things I like. Coupons are neato. 

But not this one I got:

evidence

Here’s the story. I’ve been told that prenatal vitamins are great for skin, hair, and nails. What girl isn’t tempted by this trifecta? But right before buying them, I remembered that story… Maybe it was my latent juvenile delinquency at work. Maybe it was for the thrill of it. The rush. I bought them there, just to see if Target would in fact, jump to conclusions. They did; I was couponed! Right at check-out the register spat out that gem.

target

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But wait, it gets better. This was my homepage splash the next week.

One time, Target thought I was a vegetarian. I bought a mock-chicken tenders package by accident, and for the next four months or so I got coupons strictly for tofu, hummus, and veggie burgers. But I think we have a new reigning champ.

As long as stores target me with the things I like, keep the deals rolling.

Sidenote: Do you ever notice how slowly the grocery department men are always stocking the greek yogurt shelves… Trying to chat it up with those yogurt-buying ladies. Every time.

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Restraint like a pro

chop

chop shop

I visited a friend last night who’s in the hospital. Long story short, he needs surgery on his leg. I wish we had a rave review to give, but the attending staff was less than professional. Everything his mom asked came up fruitless. Q’s: “What time is surgery? When can he return to work? What’s the aftercare? Will he get a cast?” Normal mom questions… A’s: “I mostly only deal with cancer.” And “I have no clue.” Or “Well, I assume they’ll do that. Probably, but maybe not.” After pressing, we finally got, “I’ll ask someone who knows.”

Frustrating.

When it comes to communications, we Wordies tend to over-do it. If I say more, stronger and louder, my message will take. We’re all guilty of it. Saying too much. Adding. Even if we’re not sure… But it’s our job, right? To speak up. To advocate. To talk.

Think of any professional in any field. Any “pro.” Pros know when to use restraint. In baseball, players know when to walk. You don’t swing at every pitch that flies by. Is it a good pitch? Is it better to advance another runner on base? Is there a better pitch my way? Strategy. Think about great Italian cuisine. The Italians know the true meaning of “less is more.” It’s about cooking with the best ingredients. Only a few staples are necessary: some extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, pasta noodles (cooked al dente), perfect tomatoes, really that’s it. Some freshly cracked pepper and sea salt to finish. Yumm. It’s in the actual preparation and delivery that makes or breaks a dish. You don’t throw the whole kitchen sink in and call it delizioso. If you’ve listened to a song (nod your head yes, I hope),  you know how powerful silence can be. When the violin halts in the finale of a Tchaikovsky overture, or when there’s a pause and the bass finally drops in dubstep, you are moved. If an art collector went for every interesting piece of art, she wouldn’t really have a collection. I believe she’d be a hoarder. Pros use discretion. Restraint.

Nobody goes 100%, 100% of the time. Nobody has all the answers. But you can go 100% some of the time. It’s better than half-assing an answer. Think quality of communication, not quantity. Instead of hour-long meetings once a week, how about ten minute meetings bi-weekly? Or maybe there are meetings you can just scratch entirely. Emails too. Think critically about what you need to say, and how. And then say it- as concisely and clearly as you can. We should be continually refining our writing and speaking. If you’re a great communicator, you’re probably already doing this, so keep fighting the good fight.

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Good designers know the value in white space on a page. While we, words people, fear it. We fear dead air time on the radio and voids in conversations. It’s just a thing we have. In reality, an amount of silence is healthy. The negative space is so important.

Just showing up and throwing in our $.05 doesn’t cut it. That’s lazy communication. Slack-jawing off. Whether you believe it or not, people listen to you. And respect your authority on your subject. So you talk pretty. So what? Make more space for listening. I promise, your communication reputation will be better for it if you take a little longer finding the right thing to say, even if it means saying, “I’m not sure, but I will find out.”

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Perspective

Everyone’s got one.

Perspective: A point of view. A cultivation of billions of unique experiences, making no two people’s perspectives identical. At least I believe.

Sure we can share a hometown, family, nationality, religion… But that only guarantees more reference points will overlap. Reigns in those degrees of separation. At best, prints out a report of data, but not a personality. The best we can do is try to understand one another. Depending on the situation, that can be really, really tough. It can also be extremely rewarding. Finding things in common is always better than looking for differences that divide us.

One of my friends is a landlord. This morning he posted on facebook that a tenant of his came to him unable to pay this month’s rent ($280/month). Her reason was that she cremated her dog and her husband was too depressed to go to work. He then wrote “What is this world coming to?”

About 35 comments and most were outright condemning the couple. One of those walk a mile in someone else’s shoes situations. I can’t imagine the position they are in. I can’t imagine. I can’t conjure up feelings of near-eviction. I don’t have a dog, husband, or landlord. The best I can do is wrack my own tiny vault of memories for something that resembles despair. I can’t imagine how my friend will decide how to proceed as a landlord, who has given them a previous warning. Without judging their choices. With compassionate, yet fairness. Right before Christmas.

I think about something a lot when I’m running that I want to share:
My running route is through a residential neighborhood, then a high-traffic busy road, then a park. Cars, bikes, and pedestrians. When I’m on foot, in my running shoes, I expect everyone to yield to me. Don’t pedestrians have the right of way? Always. No matter what! I’m walking here. I bike a lot too. Sidewalks and bike lanes alike, I’m not picky. As long as cars stay the hell away from me and those slow people on the sidewalk MOVE to the left. I drive most often. When I’m behind the wheel, I roll my eyes at pedestrians who don’t use the sidewalk or follow the lights. I impatiently wave them forward at the stop signs. I silently curse bikers who dart in and out of traffic. Why don’t they get out of the way?

I think about how dramatically my perspective shifts. Same road. Totally different points of view.

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My Grandpa’s loud mouth

What can I say about my Grandfather? Hmm…. He’s always been the story-teller. Known to supply a steady stream of jokes. You laugh, whether 0r not he’s recited the joke 20 times already. Approaching 80, yes 80 this man is whip sharp and still working. Why?Mostly because he loves to stay active. And gab.

At 80 he’s as ornery as I can remember him. Spitting off to anyone who will listen the best deals on hardware, or how to fix something in a pinch. Or why history is repeating itself, or who would know which answer to complete the Sunday crossword puzzle. My Grandmother is equally active, and I can only hope to be blessed with the energy of an 18-year-old when I reach senior citizen status.

I’m not sure how my Grandpa got his start, but he sure as hell didn’t have social media in his day. John Bennett, Handyman, would rather be caught listening to that rap music shit than using social media. I can almost hear him now – Social media? What the hell is that? I can go down to the VFW for a beer and that’s my social media.

But hey, who am I to say otherwise? My Grandpa is the busiest old-timer I know. He works almost every day: Installing someone’s carpet, measuring new counter tops, plumbing, light fixtures, repairing a snow blower, you name it. He does good work. People tell other people. And he gets more work. A lot of work.

In my world, people press the importance of networking online. Building your social network. Blah blah blah all that. But without so many distractions, my Grandpa gets more done in a day than some people in one week. How often do you just pick up your phone and call somebody for an answer? Rather than trying email or text first… I’m so guilty. While there are some good tools, doing the work is the best way to get results.

An all around good guy, my Grandpa coincidentally rocks at word-of-mouth advertising. His secret? Do consistently good work and talk to a lot of people. The referrals take care of themselves. And the networking? Definitely doesn’t need help with that one.

Love you Grandpa John 🙂

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simple.

Just a simple idea for today- the idea that simple is good.

So many people complicate their ideas. In speeches, in the books they write, in how-to’s, in company email, in text messages, by leaving a voicemail, even in a tiny sticky note. I’m not suggesting your ideas are simple-minded. In fact, I’m sure they are jam-packed with genius. Just that your communication should be clear and simple.

1) Start with a good idea 2) Get excited about it 3) Do your homework 4) Spread idea

About the spreading… think simple.

Some people worry that by getting to the point, they risk giving away expertise. They’ll beat around the topic and only allude to what they mean, just to hold an audience for 15 minutes. Yes, if you are an expert we WANT your advice. People are DIY’ers and yes we want the tips from the pro’s. It’s true: People don’t care about what you’re selling, we just want our problems fixed. Quickly and affordably.

If you are this expert, and people are seeking you out, then what are you afraid of? If you know your stuff and are a geek about it, you should naturally love to share it.

I think some worry that they will come across as too simple. That they must compete to be bigger and better and over the top. But the truth is, there can never be too much simple. And in this cluttered world, I can bet you’ll actually stand out for it.

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America needs a Rebrand

Let’s not waste time talking about Apple, Target, Best Buy, Nike, 3M, Medtronic, Old Spice, Coke, Disney, or Volkswagen. Or even Oprah Winfrey, Lady GaGa, or Charlie Sheen as brands. We’ve got a bigger brand in trouble. We live in it.

The “American dream” itself has become a brand. We as Americans collectively transformed a piece of land into something more. America is female. She has an inception story. America has founders. America has slogans, mascots, iconography and loyal evangelists. We the people created these connotations. User generated. A crowd sourced creation.

The classic images that come to mind are Uncle Sam, the bald eagle, stars and stripes of the flag, open roads, empty spaces, skyscrapers, red, white and blue. But do these things seem a bit emptier than earlier times? Do people still feel they can trust in America’s promise? When a brand does not deliver on its promise, people will voice their grievances. Seems that America’s been under the “crisis management” plan for a few years. Do you agree?

I sent out a quick two-part survey awhile ago to read the temperature. The first part asked for an open-ended definition of the “American dream.” I received 28 responses; here’s what a few have to say: “Having the chance to be fully successful and achieve your dreams through hard work, perseverance, and a little luck.” Another person describes it as “the ability to create the lifestyle you desire.” And another says, “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” Most answers are peppered with mentions of happiness and security.

*Size of the word bubble represents frequency of the word in the responses*

Snapshot of how a few young people describe the “American Dream” as well as some financial insights

For the second part of my survey I asked, “How has the recession changed how you feel about the ‘American Dream?'” They were not hesitant to tell me their personal lifestyle changes: “Less money in the family, tighter budget on what parents can give, no family vacations, try to spend less.” Another person responded with, “I started clipping coupons for groceries. It makes me feel like an old lady.” These are brand testimonials. In creating the American dream, we decided the nation’s mission statement– Ultimately the guidelines to how we define our country and selves. “All men are created equal” with rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” But America is askew. Who are we without prosperity?

Good brands are about sparking action. And what better time to act! We have a hot bed of people who want to be mobilized. People really do want to Rebrand America. But in order to have a functioning democracy, we need one for the modern age. A democracy 2.0. The next generation is reading bedtime stories on ipad, while our businesses and government struggle to keep information digestible on mobile and social platforms. Political views aside, I have to acknowledge Obama’s call to get government websites optimized for mobile.  “Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”

That’s the idea. And the website already has clear navigation that people might actually visit:

screenshot of barackobama.com

I’m not saving I really know what America needs right now. Better communication for sure. And better ways to engage people through modern media about what matters to us. We all will have to decide America’s fate. I’m not sure how to rebrand America, but I do still believe good branding can create change. Maybe even save the world. I’m not sure, but I’m optimistic.

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