My Moving Nightmare: Good Marketing. Bad Product.



Straight out of the gates let me tell you that this week’s  post is going to be more of a rant and reflection on some of the things I’ve talked about of the last three weeks rather that a post in its own right. Over the last 3 days I’ve lived out a nightmare that most people over the age of 21 might be familiar with: moving. Moving is never fun. Either you, A, have to pack everything up yourself and coerce/bride your friends to help you with pizza and booze, or B., have to spend upwards of $500 dollars to get a moving company to do it for you. Then, on top of all that, if you’ve been living in an apartment you have to make sure the place is spotless or risk losing your deposit. Over the last 7 years of my life I’ve moved 4 times, all of them terrible. The first three times, I went for option A, bribing my friends with a celebratory afterparty and feeling guilty the whole time. I thought that was bad enough. The final time, which was finally finished early this morning (THANK YOU SWEET BABY JESUS!) I foolishly went with option B, and I regret avery single second of it. Here’s why:

Let go back a few weeks in the blog to when I discussed paid, earned, and owned media, focussing specifically on earned.

Simply put, earned media accounts for brand exposure your company has receive through word-of-mouth. Whether it’s the content of your website or your social media channels, your customer service reputation or community influence, earned media refers to the recognition you receive as a result. This often comes in the form of mentions in the press, reviews  and recommendations on sites such as Yelp and Glassdoor, shares on social media sites, content you post in collaboration with other companies and more. Some of the benefits of earned media are that it’s the most credible (because it comes unsolicited from people not connected to your business), it’s transparent, and its long lasting. However, there are a few negative trade offs such as you not being in control of it. Take a look at the trainwreck that used to be Amy’s Bakery. Negative press killed that business (Not that it wasn’t deserved). Earned media is usually at the top of the funnel for lead conversion and is what gets people initially interested in your company.

After I signing the lease on my new apartment and letting the previous complex know I wouldn’t be renewing I began to take the steps necessary to ready myself for the move. The first step was seeking recommendations from both my current and previous complexes for moving companies who would pack and deliver everything in my apartment. Between the list of recommended from the two was a single shared preference for a company that I won’t bother listing, but long story short, I took the next logical step and did my own online research finding generally positive earned media across the board. Naturally, I decided I would use this company and made reservations, scheduling my itinerary for what would need to be done in terms of number of boxes needed, packing services, types of furniture to be moved, timeframe, etc. This was about a month ago. Fast forward to Monday morning, January 18, 2016 and entire the nightmare of a bad product not living up to the hype of good marketing and earned media. To start off with, I had prepared everything to be packed Sunday night and laid it all out in neat piles so that packing would be easier for the movers. I also called the moving company the morning of to confirm my order. My scheduled window for the movers to arrive and start packing was between 11:30AM and 2:30PM. Three hours is a ridiculous amount of time for an arrival window if you ask me, so imagine my frustration when the movers didn’t show up until 3:30 and casually brushed it off as if it was no big deal. Imagine my further frustration when they get up to my apartment and tell me that they didn’t know they would be packing all of my stuff as well as moving it. Granted, that last bit wasn’t their fault as we compared order tickets and they had clearly not been given the correct information on my order by whomever is responsible for delegating such things. From there things got worse. Because they didn’t know they were packing for me, they didn’t have boxes. Because they were an hour late “working another job that went over time,” they didn’t know if they had time to do mine because “the law prevents moving company employees from working more that 14 hours per day.” And because the universe usually finds a way to make things go from bad to worse, we had to wait an additional 30 minutes while the company manager slowly made his way to my apartment to inspect the situation and decide whether it could be done that day. Mind you, I had to be out by 4pm the next day when I had maids coming in to scrub the place down top to bottom. After it was decided that the job could be done, an additional 30 minutes passed while a second truck delivered the 40 boxes that I had originally requested. In that same time frame the cost of my move had to be recalculated from the original $550-$720 estimation to a new estimated range of $850-$1300 (JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE!). At this point I was too frustrated to care. I needed it to be done, so I grudgingly accepted my wallet’s fate 2 hours later. Would that that were the only hurdle along the way. In the 2 hours it took these guys to pack my stuff the tally of damaged items grew as follows: the legs of my antique dresser, a vase that a good friend of mine made specifically for me, 3 dishes, a wine glass (it’s supposed to be a set of four, not a set of three, you heathens), and my college diploma. Yep. you read that correctly. They dropped my framed diploma and the frame and glass broke in such a way that it ripped the actual paper. Lovely. So, now I have that to deal with. As if this weren’t bad enough, worse still was that I had to smile through it because I NEEDED it to be done ASAP. So, we get through this first bit and loading it all in the truck and it’s finally time to move it all to my storage unit (I’m couch surfing for 25 days while I wait for my new place to be readied. yay homelessness!). This part I can say went off without much of a hitch, probably because the movers were as tired of working as I was of watching after them to make sure no more of my stuff got damaged, and alas, 6 hours  and ~$1000 later, it was done and I was able to head to the nearest bar for a stiff drink. The lesson learned in my inebriated reflection? Something I talked about last week.

Marketing means nothing without a decent product. While the quality of his clothing line cannot be derived from simply watching DJ Khaled’s snapchat (which is why I bought a pair of his sandals. They’re super comfortable.), what cannot be argued is the vitality and success of his music. You can’t say you’re the best at something without having the proof to back it up and Khaled can do that. Over the last decade DJ Khaled has had anthem after anthem go platinum. These were all before he was on snapchat too. He is the living embodiment of what it means to have a top quality product before you can even start thinking of pitching it to the masses.

Let me repeat that for you. MARKETING MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT A DECENT PRODUCT! This company had everything going for them from a marketing standpoint: great online reviews on both Yelp and Google, top SEO results, fantastic word of mouth marketing from both my previous and current apartment complexes (I now feel like they get a cut for the referral), and seemingly good customer service…over the phone at least. So imagine the deep seeded disappointment I felt and continue to feel when the product/services I received failed to live up to everything that I had heard. This isn’t meant to smear the company in question, which is why I’ve refrained from naming them. Nor do I believe my experience is the standard at which they operate as is evidenced by the numerous positive reviews they have. It’s just meant to be an unfortunate anecdotal reflection on what i’ve been talking about over my last three posts.

The Best of Black Friday 2015

Black Friday means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some, it’s a chance to forego all civility and act upon baser animal instinct as if living out a scene from The Purge or South Park in order to own the latest hit item at a fraction of the cost. For others, including myself, it’s a wondrous day where hours are entertained by driving around and gawking at the massive amounts of people willing to brave the elements and go concrete camping for a shot at their  pick of the retail litter. Still, for most, it’s a day where those got-to-have items that might have been a tad too expensive earlier in the year can finally be purchased without breaking the bank. No matter the reason for the season it’s an undeniable constant that Black Friday is a day that the whole country lives for, and with it being over until 2016 it’s time to recant the top 10 stories from Black Friday 2015 (in no particular order).


1. Black Friday Breaks Record with 185K Gun Background Checks

To start with, here is an interesting article with some harrowing statistics on the amount of attempted firearm purchases that were made which come in the wake of multiple mass shooting incidents. “The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 185,345 requests on Nov. 27, one of the largest retail sales days in the country.” Read More

2. Cards Against Humanity Sells Nothing on Black Friday, Makes $71,000, Spends It Immediately

In a move that can only be described as hilarious and completely in line with the culture of Cards Against Humanity, the company collected $5 from customers in exchange for absolutely nothing and distributed the gross sum among its employees to spend on whatever they wanted. See what they bought here!

3. Black Friday 2015: Crazy Shopping Fights Nationwide, but What About N.J.?

What would Black Friday be without all the standard brawls and beatdowns over cheap electronics?

Need I say more? Read more here.

4. Black Friday 2015 Rioting: A Roundup of the Chaos, Fighting, Pushing and Shoving from America’s Malls

Okay, that last link was pretty fun so lets keep the chaos ball rolling with another video collection of  Black Friday madness!

5. Amazon Dominated 36% of Online Black Friday Sales, Says Slice

Shocking! /s. As anyone with any sense could probably guess, Amazon is still the online retail king and never more so than on Black Friday (…well except maybe Cyber Monday). This article gets into some pretty cool numbers concerning Amazon’s success as well as that of other retail giants. Check out more here

6. Black Friday Winners And Losers: How Amazon, Walmart, Apple And More Fared

Continuing in the same vein, here are some statistics from a different market research group detailing the amounts of money Americans spend on the most gluttonous of holidays.

7. 3 Lessons Investors Can Learn from Black Friday Shoppers

Let’s just summarize here. “We encourage investors to start early, buy low and have the discipline to stay the course with their financial plans.” Want more details? Here you go.

8. How Data Helped a Little-Known Brand Get a Black Friday Promo at Target

Custom research by NPD Group suggesting that retailers move more memory cards through the bundling than by letting shoppers grab cameras and cards separately helped a small company wedge it’s way to a big payoff and into new deals with Amazon. Check it. 

9. Cyber Monday Breaks Record, But It’s Not Really A Thing Anymore

Different but the same. This article reminisces over the marketing gimmick of Cyber Monday by making pragmatic points comparing it to Black Friday and the rise of internet retail in general. Read more

10. ‘The Madness of the Crowds': The Psychology Behind Black Friday

Get an inside look at the things that make us so crazy for the giant retail holiday. From family tradition to our competitive nature there are a number of reasons for the hysteria. Read more




How Package Design Affects The Way Our Food Tastes.

One man is leading the charge to research how taste is affected by the way our food looks and sounds.

If you’re paying attention the next time you stroll through a supermarket you might notice how colorful everything is, a botanical garden of plastic wrapped consumerism. You might also notice that your eye is often drawn to a particular package design that is subconsciously appealing to you. Whether it be based on the color or the shape of the package, there is something screaming out to you saying, “look at me. Buy me.” This is effective design and marketing at work. But what if your consumer habits weren’t the only thing influenced by package design? What if the way that that food actually tastes to you was being directly affected simply by the way its packaging looks?

package design 1

In a recent New Yorker article about the multisensory studies of Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, this very idea is explored in a way that could have major implications for the future of package design and marketing. With a team of researchers at Spence’s Crossmodal Research Lab, Spence has been studying how taste can be transformed by color, shape, and sound. As an example, their earliest research suggests that the perceived freshness of a chip can be affected by the pitch of the crunch sound that it makes, or that the sweetness of strawberry mousse is ramped up when served from a white container instead of a black one. With many more experiments revealing similar findings alongside the Western world’s already rampant snack-food craze where food is consumed directly from the package, it’s not hard to see where the potential for major marketing comes into play. Consider for example that for the span of a decade, Spence was part of a research group funded by Unilever where he and his team tested the effects of volume and pitch on perceptions of aerosol sprays.

In 2006, with funding from Unilever, Spence conducted a study to see whether altering the volume and pitch of the sound from an aerosol can would affect how a person perceives the pleasantness or forcefulness of a deodorant. Based on Spence’s findings, the company invested in a packaging redesign for Axe deodorant, complete with new nozzle technology. The underarm spray, which is targeted at young men, now sounds noticeably louder than the company’s gentler, female-targeted Dove brand.

With countless studies under the guidance of Spence revealing similar outcomes it’s easy to see that the future of package design in marketing is as big as it’s ever been and just getting bigger. The important question is how marketers will use it. There is a very real concern surrounding the obesity epidemic in the united states. Making packaging more appealing through the employment of color and shape has already been shown to encourage poor choices with regards to purchasing food. Spence contests that his research could be used for the complete opposite reason though, combatting obesity and promoting health. He has recently been meeting with the U.K. government’s Behavioural Insights Team to discuss how companies could use sensory manipulation through package design to replace some of the detrimental nutritional content of packaged foods.

Read more on Charle’s Spence at The New Yorker


Playing Catch-up in the Realm of Website Design

website design

Over the weekend I went to Chicago to visit my old stomping grounds and see family. I got to do all the things I used to do and never get to do anymore like going to see the World Champion Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center, riding the L downtown to wander around, celebrating the Cubs win in Wrigleyville with complete strangers who quickly became family,etc. I even got to eat at all of my favorite restaurants which is a pretty big deal considering some of them are on completely opposite sides of the city from each other. It was almost the perfect weekend getaway with the exception of my grandmother being ill and the call that I imagine will mark the beginning of my next month or so of work.

How you are perceived as a company relies on a few different things: How you personally interact, socialize, and represent the values of your company, how your company  interacts with the community on social media, and most importantly, what your company’s website looks like. In today’s digitally ruled world, your website is the gateway through which potential clients come to determine whether or not you’re worthy of their business. Sorry to say that if your website looks like a late 90s geocities/angelfire site complete with an animated twinkling background and dancing baby gifs you’re most likely going to lose out on a windfall of clients. Granted, our website isn’t THAT bad, but from an objective point of view it certainly needs a makeover. This right here was the nature of the call I received. We need to rebrand. We need to redesign. We need to reevaluate our goals and values.

Keeping up with an ever evolving digital landscape reminds me of that constantly mentioned gym adage, “It’s easier to stay in shape that to get in shape.” Well, this is us trying to STAY in shape. Over the next few weeks (months?) the MG team is going to be hard at work to bring you a website that you (and we) can be proud of. Our goal is to create something that matches and surpasses the industry standard, taking pointers from established agencies like Sasquatch and Brains on Fire. As the head of creative here the challenge seemed a little daunting after receiving that call, but after letting the dust settle I’ve got to say, I’m pretty exited for this and it’s about damn time. This is what I live for and what I breathe: the opportunity to create and produce something tangible from the inner workings of my mind. It’s going to be a long road, but the resulting website will certainly be worth it.


InnoTech Austin: Free to Students

Let’s be honest. For a lot of people, myself included, college is (was) about partying, football, and procrastinating writing 15 page papers for classes you don’t care about until the day before it’s due. A lot of people don’t take it as seriously as they should until it’s too late. I, for instance, didn’t go get my first internship until the second semester of my junior year when it me that I was about to be a senior with no job experience other than working as an orientation leader for my school. Luckily for me, I managed to stretch my senior year across 4 semesters (12 hour semesters are a breeze) during which I managed to get my act together enough to enter the real world with a decent resume.

Granted, I didn’t see myself ever working for a marketing company, what started as a day by day gig to bridge the gap between undergrad and moving back to Chicago has turned into a career that I’m passionate about, and it was all made possible because I started taking advantage of the resources available to me in college. They say that with age comes wisdom, and while I’m no Martin Heidegger, I’m at least wise enough to know that I should pay it forward.

For the last six years, we at Marketing Gunslingers have been charged with the promotion of Innotech Austin, a yearly conference and exhibition highlighting the region’s innovation and technology development opportunities by showcasing pioneering products and services. InnoTech is the region’s largest business technology event comprised of educational seminars, Special Events (like the Austin Digital Marketing Summit, specifically designed for marketing professionals, the Women in Tech Summit, the HealthTech ATX Summit, the Austin CIO Gala Luncheon & IT Executive Awards, for top level IT professionals), hands-on demonstrations at the InnoTech Exhibits and, of course, limitless networking opportunities (throughout InnoTech and at the many after-parties.) Simply put, if you’re a student who is interested in pursuing a career in digital marketing, IT or tech, InnoTech is the place for you to be to make connections that could possibly benefit your future. I know what you’re thinking. “How am I supposed to afford going to this on a student budget?” That’s where we come in.

For the second year in a row Marketing Gunslingers is proud to bring you a student discount code that gets you complimentary access to the InnoTech exhibition, general lectures, and Microsoft Technology Symposium plus 20% off of The Digital Marketing Summit, the Women in Tech Summit, the HealthTech Summit, and all other secondary events of InnoTech. 

So, if you’re in college and want to do something to prepare you for the real world I highly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity because it could be something that changes your life and points you in the right direction. Simply follow the link below and register using the discount code at the bottom of the image.



(un)Happy Prime Day

Amazon’s 20th Anniversary Prime Day Sale Starts Off With a Slow Fizzle

Prime Day Fail

For weeks Amazon has been pushing out content via social media and on its own website boasting about Prime Day, the internet super sale to end all super sales. So, when it finally kicked off today, users were most likely not expecting what they ended up receiving, a digital garage sale rife with things that no one, including Amazon, want. To say that Prime Day was a bust would be a massive understatement. After promising to have “more deals than Black Friday,” you would think that the shopping giant would have offered its Prime customers, who pay $99 per year for the title, at least a handful of things they were hoping to catch a deal on. Instead, what users received early on in the day was the digital equivalent of walking into a Radio Shack going-out-of-business sale on the last day only to find all the odds and ends you didn’t know you didn’t want. To make matters worse, many of the purported “sales” were minuscule in terms of the deal you were getting. Call me a pessimist, but $2 off a 48 pack of Quilted Northern toilet paper hardly registers as a bargain to me.

The best part about it all? I’m not alone in my tickled negativity. In typical fashion, the internet reacted hilariously to the perceived fail, taking to Twitter to post screenshots of some of the more hilarious “deals” and make jokes at Amazon’s expense, using the hashtag #PrimeDayFail. Below are just a few of my favorites that I found after just a minute of scrolling.

I’m sure that in the end the numbers will work out in Amazon’s favor as the deals get better later in the day, but there is no denying that today Amazon’s brand and their ego took a bit of a hit. The only thing for them to do now is to take one on the chin and chug along.