Nine innings of wireless wonder: Target Field “Twi-Fi”

The spring-season arrival of Target Field’s Wi-Fi network has hit a home run with social media, texting, email and smartphone addicts all over Minnesota.

The network, cleverly known as “Twi-Fi,” allows fans to follow Twins bloggers and writers during the game, enter Target Field Twitter contests, upload Facebook videos of the on-field action and send photos of the beautiful skyline to jealous onlookers.

A self-proclaimed social media/smartphone addict myself, I made it my mission to make the most of the new Twi-Fi during my last trip to the greatest stadium in North America.

My first mission upon entering Target Field: Find the food. During its inaugural season, the ballpark pulled out all the stops to ensure that the atmosphere looked, smelled and tasted like Minnesota, offering Kramarczuk’s pork sausages, Murray’s Restaurant steak sandwiches and Angie’s Kettle Corn, to name a few. Curious to find out if Target Field offered any new food this year, I sent a tweet to @MinnesotaTwins and asked for some #newfoodsuggestions. Just an inning later, I received the following response:

Impressed by the response time and suggestions (the Minneapple Pie really IS a #homeyum), I felt encouraged and excited to continue on with my Twi-Fi adventure.

Next on my list: Make a big-screen appearance. This opportunity presented itself when fans were invited to take a picture and send it to Twins@fanchatter.com for a chance to get on the big screen (my brother and I took our chances with the photo to the right). Although we didn’t quite make it all the way up there (we decided bunny ears, in honor of Easter, would have sealed the deal), it was fun to see our picture posted on the FanChatter website.

As the seventh-inning stretch neared, my last Twi-Fi opportunity scrolled across the big screen: Tweet your pick for #playerofthegame for the chance to win a $50 gift card to Sports Authority. Kubel’s seventh-inning, two-run double to pull the Twin’s ahead for their first series win of the season made my #playerofthegame choice a piece of Minneapple pie. The following morning, the @MinnesotaTwins tweeted me with a surprise:

After a solid nine innings of wireless wonder, my Twi-Fi adventure hit my expectations right out of the ballpark. Although I did come across a couple of Target Field “dead zones,” I was thoroughly impressed with the overall quality of the wireless connection and the high-level of fan engagement.

What do all of you other Twins fans think? Has Twi-Fi lived up to your expectations?

Posted in Social Media

Giddying up with Fast Horse

Some of you might hear Fast Horse and think of betting at the race track or of the Wild Wild West. I, on the other hand, think of the innovative Minneapolis-based marketing agency situated between Target Field and Club Jager in the heart of the North Loop neighborhood. As part of the second round of the Fast Horse intern-for-a-day program, I, along with three other advertising/PR internship-seeking students (Vince Koci, Grant Spanier and Margaret Steck), joined the agency for a one-day paid internship.

After an afternoon of brainstorming sessions, tours around downtown Minneapolis and completing an actual proposal, I learned a thing or two about making it in the advertising and PR world:

1. Be Proactive: Get out there and do something why don’t you! The world of advertising and PR is a fast one. Seize every opportunity you can, whether that be attending networking events, shadowing an agency for a day, seeking out volunteer and/or internship experiences, or participating in online forums and social media discussions. When you can prove you’re an avid learner who’s eager to get involved with anything that comes your way, you get noticed.

2. Sell Yourself: In a business that’s all about marketing products and ideas, you won’t be taken seriously if you can’t sell the most important person of all – yourself. Advertising and PR agencies seek out candidates who know how to market themselves and know how to do it well. Here are a few tips to get started:

- Start a Blog: Blogging not only showcases your writing ability (an essential tool in the marketing biz), it gives you the chance to prove to potential employers that you’re always thinking, whether it’s about current trends in the advertising/PR world or about your passions and interests.

- Get Social Media Smart: Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are great tools to connect with potential employers and learn more about the industry. Retweet interesting information from companies and agencies you follow, send a direct message to followers with careers you’re interested in learning about, stay on top of industry news and trends and get involved with online discussions.

3. There’s No “I” In Teamwork: In such a fast-paced, creative industry, there’s no room for people who can’t work well with others on a team. After all, the very best ideas are born out of collaboration and the melding of several good ideas into one GREAT idea. None of us knew each other pre-intern-for-a-day, but we wasted no time getting down to business and quickly discovered each other’s individual strengths. Some of us are awesome writers, some of us can edit kick-ass videos and others of us are great at seeing the “bigger picture.” We tossed around lots of crazy ideas (some better than others), and put together a real proposal  that we presented to the rest of the Fast Horse crew. By the end of the day, you would’ve thought we’d known each other for years!

4. Network, Network, Network: They aren’t kidding when they say “It’s all about who you know.” One of my fellow intern-for-a-day’ers found out about the program from a Fast Horse employee at a Twin Cities networking event. Others of us have gotten a foot in the door at a competitive agency after taking the time to set up informational interviews and job shadows. We’re all on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, we’re all blogging and we all jump at the chance to attend in-person networking events. Just remember, network to make genuine connections. It’s the quality, not the quantity that counts.

My time at Fast Horse, though short but sweet, not only gave me the chance to meet some awesome new people, it provided me with a hands-on glimpse at the ins and outs of an innovative, up-and-coming marketing agency. Thank you, Fast Horse for the exciting ride!

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations | 4 Comments

Groupon’s superbowl fumble

The innovative group-buying website Groupon placed a high- stakes bet on the Superbowl with their series of controversial advertisements that were pulled from the air last Friday. The commercials featured spoofs of celebrity do-gooders that were used to compare injustice in Tibet to a deal on fish curry, deforestation to a cheap bikini wax and endangered whales to a bargain Caribbean cruise. The commercials were part of Groupon’s “Save the Money” campaign to raise awareness and funds for charities who support the causes. While Groupon’s intentions were admirable, its campaign execution failed as the company neglected to include the SaveTheMoney.org URL in the advertisements, leaving many viewers confused and angry.  It seems that there are a couple important marketing lessons to be learned from the Groupon Superbowl fumble:

1. Clear-cut messages are a must: If the viewer has to dig for the message, consider it a dud. Without any indication that Groupon had joined forces with charities to raise money, it appeared that the company was mocking important world causes to make a quick buck. It should have been a no-brainer for Groupon to include the SaveTheMoney.com URL in the commercials; a simple move that likely would have prevented the sticky mess the company found itself in.

2. Clever is as clever does: The Superbowl is the most-watched television event of the whole year and is infamous for two things: Football and clever commercials. I would argue that the commercials are even more hyped up than the actual football game. Social media and blog fanatics have continued talking about the controversy surrounding Motorola’s and Pepsi’s Superbowl ads, but do you still hear any chatter about who won the game? It seems to me that Groupon got caught up in the frenzy to create a bold first-time Superbowl commercial and didn’t consider how the audience would react to the message. The political crisis in Tibet is no laughing matter and as communication consultant Liz Strauss pointed out, “Clever isn’t clever when it offends.” The reaction on Twitter was much the same:

Groupon probably would have come under less fire if they had included the SaveTheMoney.com URL in the ads, but would the trivialization of world injustice still be criticized as tasteless and offensive? Groupon argued that in spite of unintentionally offending viewers, the ads raised awareness of critical world issues.

What’s your take on the Groupon controversy?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Beef-y, Beef-ish, Beef-adjacent: Taco Bell fights back

Recently, the buzz surrounding  Taco Bell hasn’t been about what’s outside the bun, but rather what’s inside the bun. By now I’m sure everyone knows that Taco Bell was recently rocked with allegations that its taco meat isn’t quite as beefed up as it’s made out to be. Unlike many others, my personal interest in the Taco Bell scandal isn’t buried in the not-so-secret secret beef recipe, the percentage of beef content or the claims that the meat isn’t meat at all. No, the issue here for me isn’t about the beef, it’s about Taco Bell’s bold response to the crisis.

Last week, Taco Bell launched a counter-attack campaign and ran a full-page ad in newspapers nationwide declaring, “Thank you for suing us.” The ad goes on to uncover the truth behind Taco Bell’s meat and provides a full break down of its beef ingredients. The message behind the campaign is simple, bold and effective: Taco Bell stands 100% behind the quality of its products. The crisis communication team at Taco Bell wasted no time responding to the allegations and, in my opinion, did an excellent job of doing so. Not only did the company boldly defend its products in print, it used social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reassure fans and customers that Taco Bell is committed to providing top-notch service and is working hard to set the record straight.  

Taco Bell’s use of Twitter makes its counter-attack campaign even more bold and unusual, seeing as no company has ever made an official statement about a lawsuit via a promoted tweet. Many initially wondered if the tweet was a smart move on Taco Bell’s part. Wouldn’t it just bring more negative attention to the scandal? I happen to think that the company made an excellent choice in personally informing the public about the issue and showing no hesitation in defending its products. It’s always better to get in front of an issue before it spirals out of control and Taco Bell did just that. Are there still angry customers? Yes. Is the company still receiving negative attention? Absolutely. However, I think the public reaction to the scandal would have been much worse if Taco Bell hadn’t been so forthright about the issue. The company even showed a sense of humor about the controversy, encouraging customers to #LaughOnUs and watch comedian Stephen Colbert’s spoof of the Taco Bell beef scandal.

So, will Taco Bell’s bold counter-attack campaign prove to be successful? It might be too early to tell, but I’m going to go with a definite yes. What do you think?

Posted in Crisis Communication, Image, Public Relations | 1 Comment

Lord of the QR Codes: Chino Latino goes digital

Chino Latino, the trendy Uptown restaurant famous for its bold attitude and dishes straight from the streets of the world’s “hot zones,” recently took another giant leap ahead of the game with the unveiling of its interactive “Lord of the Hot Zones” QR (Quick Response) code campaign. The restaurant is no stranger to creating a marketing buzz – billboard slogans such as “Third world prices, Sally Struthers portions” and “As exotic as food gets without the dog” have been notorious for stirring up quite the controversy among concerned citizens who think the ads are “offensive” and “tasteless.” Personally, I think the advertising guru behind Chino’s racy campaigns is somewhat of a genius. Chino Latino owes part (or most) of its success in establishing itself as a hotspot for the twenty-something hipsters of Uptown to its shocking advertising campaigns that dare to go where no other restaurants have gone before – perfect for a young crowd always on the lookout for something bold and different.

 Chino’s new campaign first caught my attention via Facebook when I noticed that the restaurant’s popular pineapple drink had sprouted a QR code tag from its leaves. A few days later I read an article in the Star Tribune about the cutting-edge marketing tactic that knocked my socks off. I grabbed my Blackberry and headed straight to Chino Latino’s Facebook page, now equipped with a QR code profile picture. After a few clicks, I was directed to a YouTube video called “Lord of the Hot Zones,” starring a cartoon version of Chino Latino’s head chef Tuan Nguyan in a loincloth and a talking chicken, in typical Chino fashion. To top it off, patrons who embark on the QR code adventure are rewarded with a free order of Habanero Hell Poppers when they show the phone screen to the server. Score!

I give props to Chino Latino for taking a risk on a technological campaign that seems to be the first of its kind in the restaurant biz. Although QR technology is far from new (it’s been used in Japan for years), it’s just starting to gain recognition in the U.S. What’s a better place to try it out than at a trendy hotspot catering to an age demographic of 18-34? According to a recent mobile barcode trend report, people ages 18-34 make up 34% of all QR technology users, the largest percentage of any age group. Chino Latino realizes the gamble they’re taking on the new technology and is making it easier for patrons to use by posting directions to install a QR code reader on their Facebook page. With all the predictions that QR technology will boom in 2011, Chino Latino’s groundbreaking campaign seems to have perfect timing. If you ask me, the guys and gals over on the QR team should be thanking Chino for putting the recent spotlight on the technology because if anyone can create great hype, its Chino Latino.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gone in a flash: Everything I (don’t) know about PR

Someone once told me that in PR you can look away for 12 seconds and BAM, suddenly you’re 12 minutes (or hours) behind.

During my short time in the PR world (and through my adventures on Twitter), I have quickly learned that this statement is no joke. PRofessionals need to know what’s going on in the world before it even happens to stand a chance in the biz and are constantly challenged to respond, react and respond again.

As an aspiring PRo, I happen to love the fast-paced nature of the biz. With a passion for writing and a drive to learn everything there is to know about the PR world, starting a blog seemed like the inevitable next step for me. Inevitable, yes. Challenging and intimidating, double yes. But, when I put my mind to something, there is no turning back, so I decided to take the advice of Nike and Just Do It.

A recent post on the Fast Horse Peep Show blog caught my attention and challenged me to think about PR, specifically image, in a new light. It only seems appropriate to start out with some of my thoughts on this topic because, after all, isn’t image what PR is all about? PRos work hard every day to create an image for their client that tells a story and resonates with the audience. Great stories have the power to transform a brand into a lifestyle.

Take the recent Starbucks logo change for example. Like all change, the logo has been met with a mixed response and plenty of criticism. A rare non-coffee drinker, I consider myself worthy to make a fair assessment of the new logo (although I have always thought that Caribou Coffee does a fabulous marketing job). Even though some have criticized the company for categorizing themselves with the likes of the wordless logos of Nike and Apple, I applaud the company for creating a logo that more accurately portrays the new image they have built. “Starbucks is selling an experience, but by no means is coffee the only part of the experience,” said John Quelch, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. The new wordless logo will help Starbucks tell their story to the consumer: Don’t just come for the coffee, come for the experience!

Here’s where the “everything I (don’t) know about PR” comes into play. As a “millennial,” I realize that my generation is constantly criticized for thinking we know everything there is to know about anything. So, I’d like to start out by confessing to you that I don’t know everything about PR. Not even close. I realize that this biz is a constant whirlwind of learning, change and progression, but I am up for the challenge and won’t be going anywhere soon. :)

In essence, this blog will be all about everything I (don’t) know about PR. This means that even though I still have a lot to learn, I want to challenge myself to critically think about the current issues, trends and changes in PR and bring some of my own ideas to the table. All comments/suggestions/criticisms are not only welcome, but much appreciated! I said it before and I’ll say it again, when I put my mind to something, there is no turning back!

Posted in Branding, Image, Marketing | 2 Comments