Day #16: Arm Customers on Your Site with Seasonal Info


You just heard it on the radio during your morning commute: “Summer sun in store for this weekend!” Your customers, eager to stock up on BBQ recipes, flock to your website. Capitalize on this seasonal swing by catching their attention with on-topic text and a link to an article about healthy living in warm weather.

How can you rapidly arm your online customers with the information they need, steering them to summer safe products like sun screen and electrolyte beverages?

  1. Find a topical article in Content Explorer by using the Search function, previewing with the magnifying glass icon.
  2. Grab a link to the article using the standard “copy” shortcut on your keyboard.
  3. Share the link by embedding it in some text on your homepage. If you don’t have access to your website directly, just pass the link along to your web marketing team to present as creatively as they can.

It’s that easy. Want to get started? Email us now to access Content Explorer. Or call 877-659-7630.

Day #15: Spark Conversation on Your Message Boards with Content Explorer

A message board member posted a question wondering if he can take supplements while on prescription medicine. From the following conversation it is clear that there are a lot of members wondering the same thing about their specific medicines.

How can you provide personalized answers to the community?

  1. Find the A-Z index of prescription drugs
  2. Grab the link
  3. Post it on the message board

It’s that easy. Want to get started? Email us now to access Content Explorer. Or call 877-659-7630.

Skills not Pills — A perfect storm?

I’m sitting here at ExpoWest 201o. The show is over, my feet are swollen, my back aches and my head is spinning — with new ideas on how we can help our customers. I love this show.   It’s such a great example of the imaginative power of capitalism and its ability to bring all kinds of new products and services to market.

One of the key themes that stood out was the mantra “Skills not Pills” coined by Dr. William Sears in his talk on wellness trends. He asserted that the path to get our country out of the healthcare mess is going to be led by education initiatives for self-care, not prescribing more pills. He emphasized that we need to get out of the current mode of prescribing more “silver bullet” prescriptions laden with side effects and into the mode of educating citizens (our customers) that they can lead a healthy, fulfilled, productive life through proper diet, regular exercise, and nutrition.  The science behind eating nutrient rich foods and supplements such as Omega 3′s, Vitamin D, immunity boosting anitoxidants and many others are well known.  The places where American citizens are getting recommendations such as hospitals, health care professionals, and retailers need to be teachers of lifestyle, not prescribers of pills.

I was encouraged by the amount of traffic that stopped by our booth at the show wanting to know how they can put together wellness education and marketing programs to get the word out on the great health and wellness products they carry.  What was especially exciting to hear where the many ways that retailers are thinking about trying to reach their customers.  From strengthening the resources on their website, to building social media programs, educating in-store and reaching consumers through phones, it was clear that many retailers are thinking about addressing the problem holistically, offering wellness ideas and tips in-store, on the web and on-the go through mobile applications.

A good example could be found at the standing room only seminar on social media I held.  The participation was tremendous as retailers, manufacturers and agencies were digging in on how to best leverage this new online marketing channel.  It’s clear that there is a great opportunity.  Facebook is now the #1 internet destination in the world.  Twitter has over 40 million tweets every day.  Wellness is searched on by over 65% of the US population every month.  Consumers are reaching out, interacting with their peers, looking for products and lifestyle ideas to incorporate in their daily routine.   The trend is growing.   There is a lot of opportunity.  How are you reaching out to share in the conversation?

In Their Shoes

There are weeks when the number of topics presenting us with lessons overwhelms the “in” box. So even though I’m the guy with a non-functional snow thrower and four feet of snow, allow me to take a crack at two recent ones worth thinking about.

First there was the Super Bowl. It was a great game that for once was way better than the commercials. But for me, a long-time fan of The Who, halftime was a disappointment. All people age and voices age with them, but I prefer to keep my memories of Roger Daltry the way he used to be. Back to the IPod I guess.

My 23-year-old daughter had a different reaction. While she understands why the networks are skittish about halftime acts since the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” she doesn’t understand why all the acts since then fall into the same category: old, white and male. (Somehow she missed the year Prince performed, but that aside from that she has a point.) Much as I love McCartney, Springsteen, the Stones and Tom Petty, they all do fall into the same group of performers and demographics.

As my daughter put it, having Beyonce instead might actually bring a new audience to the Super Bowl and no performer will make a wardrobe error ever again. And the lesson to us in marketing is clear. Let’s never forget the entire audience isn’t like us, which means we may have to stretch to find a new answer. And sometimes we have to consider those who are very, very different than us.

Second there is the stunning case of Toyota. As I have written before, I have a long and happy history with my Toyotas so the sudden rash of problems is really stunning. And by that I don’t mean the small number of acceleration or braking accidents. Rather it’s the company’s reaction. It seems stunningly competent, logical and complete, especially the decision to stop production of automobiles, which is no small matter. If you think about it logically, Toyota has done a great job responding.

So why does it seem so empty?

Do the words too little, too late mean anything? Once again Toyota is learning the terrible lesson that more problems come from the cover up, not the crime. What’s going to linger with people about Toyota is that they apparently had ample warnings in Japan and the US about the problems and failed to act. Plus once they acted, it seemed unemotional and uncaring.

The parallel to the food industry is stunning. This industry has the gold standard of lessons thanks to the reaction Tylenol offered the world in the early 1980s. Remember, that Tylenol did nothing wrong back then. The company was victimized by a lunatic intent on using a painkiller to cause pain and death. The lingering memory of that case is that Tylenol understood the reaction had to be swift, the words and feelings had to convey both sympathy and support. Tylenol pulled all its products from the shelves, created a whole new industry of tamper resistant and evident packaging that both annoy and protect us. And when the product returned a year later, its market share soared higher than ever.

Against that backdrop, Toyota presents a terribly different picture. Its problems are all of its own doing. No one tampered with the brakes or accelerators. And, in truth, the company took dramatic action, shutting down production and working overtime to fix everything.

But read the messages in Toyota’s ads on the problem. They remain unemotional, sober and completely lacking the compassion that seems so necessary at a time like this.

Ask yourself, as you always should, what would I do? What would I do if I ran the Super Bowl halftime show? What would I do if I ran Toyota? Odds are, you won’t do either one, but the lessons are guaranteed to come in handy. Sometimes we can pretend to stand in someone else’s shoes to learn a great lesson.

Editor’s Note: Michael Sansolo, Aisle7 board member, Retail Food Industry Consultant and former SVP of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has a weekly column on MorningNewsBeat called Sansolo Speaks. You can read today’s news here MorningNewsBeat or reach Michael direct at

In Friends We Trust?

It appears my troubles are over. In just the past few weeks, I’ve been the lucky person to whom countless people in varied countries wish to give scads of money. I’m so lucky. I may buy a baseball team.

What’s more, I have found all kinds of easy avenues of supply for drugs and pharmaceuticals. And somehow my personal charisma has made me the object of desire of countless women. Oh, if only e-mail spam was anything but junk.

Sadly, not all the junk has come from anonymous sites that my server gamely strives to filter out before it gets to me. I have also received countless e-mails from friends and family offering up anecdotes, news stories and important tips that sadly turn out to be completely wrong more than 75 percent of the time.

The problem is these miscommunications actually matter and at times make a difference. A few weeks back my wife got a strange message from an old high school chum via Facebook. The friend’s doctor had recommended she start taking Vitamin D tablets and my wife’s friend wanted to know if this was a good idea. So she asked it of her network on Facebook.

This story could end badly, except this woman was lucky to have many responsible and level-headed friends like my wife – who explained that she, too, received a similar recommendation and started taking the vitamins without any negative impact. Other friends gave similar experiences. Most interestingly, the friends together hit on the idea that their childhood under the near permanently overcast skies of upstate New York may have left them all deficient in Vitamin D. (An observation that would have been wonderful had it come from a doctor.)

The woman who asked the question thanked the friends and complied with her doctor’s recommendation.

But think about that for a second. What if this woman’s friends weren’t like my wife, a person of common sense and intelligence? What kind of advice might she have gotten? Could it have been more influential and her primary care giver? And would her doctor have known or been able to debate such advice?

It’s a question business needs to start contemplating with great seriousness. In the new age of networking and communication, the sources of information and misinformation might be questionable at best and dangerous at the worst. Yet people are going to believe what they hear and read from their networks of trusted friends, even if they haven’t seen some of those friends in 25 years.

It’s one of the critical reasons why I despair when I hear of companies downplaying the potential importance of social networking. To begin with, I think social networking is loaded with potential. It’s a place where companies can create a new relationship with shoppers, offering ideas, specials and connection. Imagine the power that could be unleashed by having key staff from produce, meat, dairy, pharmacy and more offer up information and enthusiasm about products and services.

But more importantly, imagine what havoc could be unleashed if poor or incorrect information is distributed about you or your products without any answer. Think back to my wife’s friend and her vitamin deficiency. Certainly there are many worthwhile alternative ideas on how to get additional Vitamin D, but I’m betting there are some really awful ones too.

The reality is today’s trusted networks might be fabulously responsible and informed…or they might not. Find a way to get involved and make it better yourself.

Editor’s Note: Michael Sansolo, Aisle7 board member, Retail Food Industry Consultant and former SVP of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has a weekly column on MorningNewsBeat called Sansolo Speaks. You can read today’s news here MorningNewsBeat or reach Michael direct at

Finding Time to Blog

Tomorrow morning I’m attending an event sponsored by the Software Association of Oregon (SAO) for marketing professionals called Building a Cohesive and Effective Social Media Strategy. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Even though we’ve been building a community and participating in conversations for some time now, it’s planning season around here and I’m working on our 2010 plans. Like others, we have a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page and a blog. Updates on Twitter are pretty easy, as is sharing some of our great food and wellness content on Facebook, but finding the time to write really great, high-quality blog posts is a challenge for sure.

So, one of my goals for 2010 is to give our communities, including our blog, more time and attention. I’m looking forward to hearing from others at the SAO meeting tomorrow and picking up some new learnings.

One that I’ll share with you today is this post from Mashable called The Top 20 Ways to Share a Great Blog Post. Let’s be honest, if we’re going to take the time, energy and care to craft a wonderful post, we want the world to read it, right?

Want more? Stay tuned – I promise to share tips, tricks & hints from my peers tomorrow.

Food Industry Perspective: A Tale of Two Videos

The Internet is capable of great moments and, sadly, far less. Just as a Twitter fueled rebellion in Iran catches our admiration, there are moments when the limitations are almost too much to bear. For instance, my mother (as wise a woman as I have ever met) has a bad habit of passing on e-mail pronouncements on all types of health issues to our entire family. And 90 percent of the time I have to respond – very politely – that once again mom has passed on a widely debunked myth.

It gets worse. My wife’s 87-year-old aunt has somehow taken to using Facebook. (Take that, teenagers!) Sadly, it doesn’t always work out well. For instance, we have no idea what she thinks LOL means, but it’s certainly not “laugh out loud.” (A recent note from this aunt: “sorry to hear that he needs surgery…LOL.” We’re hoping she means lots of love, but who knows.)

For business, appropriate use of these new technologies is even more critical. Myths, legends, lies and more can float unfettered on the Internet for days, completely slipping by unnoticed unless companies actively seek them. But the picture is also two-sided. An aggrieved shopper now has an incredible device to strike back when customer service and more fails to satisfy.

Luckily there are great examples, both good and bad, for companies to consider.

The bad comes from the easiest industry to mock: the airlines. Recently, a singing group from Canada headed out to the US Midwest to play a concert on United Airlines. While sitting in their plane, the band members noticed a problem: on the tarmac the baggage handlers were playing a version of football with guitar cases. You can figure out where the story goes.

When the band reached its destination the lead singer, Dave Carroll, wasn’t surprised to find his guitar was broken. He appealed to United for help, but received none. So in protest he wrote a music video: “United Breaks Guitars.” It’s a really well done video and one you can watch right now on Nearly 4.5 million people have already watched it and, not surprisingly, United has suddenly become helpful to Dave.

It’s a painful lesson that the consumer no longer has to tolerate poor service and has a powerful weapon to fight back.

But the Internet also can be our friend. In a very different example, consider the convenience store chain Wawa, which is currently in the middle of its Hogiefest promotion. Now Wawa does an outstanding job with its sandwich program and any retailer who believes kiosks don’t work needs to visit Wawa (or competitors Sheetz and Rutters) to see how well kiosks can perform.

The story isn’t the kiosk though. During Hogiefest, Wawa invites customers to submit videos about their favorite sandwiches for a chance to win free sandwiches for a year and a role in commercial. Visit the company’s website to get a sense of what this contest produces, but the odds are very strong that “I love Wawa” (the second place original song) was much better received in corporate headquarters than “United Breaks Guitars.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the new world. It’s about people communicating like never before; fact and fiction, anger and praise. In truth, there is only so much we can do about the anger, although the United video gives us a powerful reminder to pass throughout our companies that the tolerance for poor service is lower than ever. (Keep in mind that United was wrong in how it handled the luggage and dealt with the customer complaint – it deserved everything it got.)

Then again, there is so much we can do along the lines of what Wawa is trying, opening up a new way to delighting, engaging and talking with our customers. There is so much we can do by finding ways to use YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to communicate to shoppers and associates and to help them communicate back.

When you consider the two paths, this pro-active one seems like the easiest choice ever. LOL…right?

Editor’s Note: Michael Sansolo, Aisle7 board member, Retail Food Industry Consultant and former SVP of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has a weekly column on MorningNewsBeat called Sansolo Speaks. You can read today’s news here MorningNewsBeat or reach Michael direct at

The Social Media Revolution: Are you planning for it?

Late last week I had the good fortune to attend a local conference in Portland on the convergence of media and technology.  A specific emphasis was given to the emergence of social media, also referred to as Web 2.0, also referred to as consumer generated media. As is typical with these types of conferences, sweeping claims were made about how the Internet is undergoing a transformation that is changing the way consumers fundamentally interact with each other and business.  Words like transparency, openness, sharing, community, interactivity, loyalty were part of just about every presentation.  And the main premise being that the shift for openness and consumer control continues to accelerate at an alarming pace.

Many say that Social Media started to develop in 2004. Here are some basic stats on growth:

2004:  MySpace (founded in 1/2004); Facebook (founded in (2/2004); Google (trading at 75$/share); YouTube (didn’t exist)

2008: MySpace (over 100 million users); Facebook (over 100 million users); Google (trading at $430); YouTube (8 million uniques a month)

Pretty startling stuff.  Granted….aside from Google the business model for many of these companies hasn’t been fully realized.  But it does show a significant social movement. And I think that’s the key here. While some may define Web 2.0 as a technical revolution or maybe even a business revolution, first and foremost its a consumer revolution, giving people an unprecedented ability to do what people crave: share, learn, commune, organize….   I’m personally very excited about what the next 4 years ahead hold. I think social media is transforming or will transform how we interact with one another, consumers and businesses alike.

What do you think?  Do you have plans to integrate social media functions (blogs, reviews, ratings, voting, wikis) on your site?  Has your company started to think about opening up the conversation with consumers to a greater degree.  Given the growth and what we all inherently know about being human, I don’t think it’s a matter of if but a matter of when.