What’s Your Policy?

“55% of executives say their companies don’t have an official use of social networks, and 22% said their companies would like to use social networking tools, but haven’t yet figured out how.” That’s Deloitte’s Ethics & Workplace Survey found. Fewer still monitor social networks…

No wonder we have social media marketing “experts” coming out of the woodwork, chasing down these new business opportunities.

I might be able to help, just as I did Two River Interiors. It’s not about pulling the trigger (twitter, Facebook, etc.), it’s about understanding what it means to your business. Your industry, your customers, your employees — no two companies are alike.

Obama’s dog? He’s got it going on: plenty of blogs following him already.

Do Your Research

The difference between good and great work in marketing is good research. Those that do it right, using honest techniques and good sampling — then properly interpretting their findings — are the ones who become more successful.

Today’s press release from a Sage-sponsored study found small businesses are using social media to further their business:

The survey indicates that connecting with peers and customers are the two main drivers for small businesses to engage in social media. Moreover, entrepreneurs regard social media as an online extension of traditional word-of-mouth marketing and believe social networking will improve their image among customers and business partners. In contrast, 52 percent of respondents said that online security continues to be a top concern preventing them from embracing new social media technologies.

The study revealed that the age of a company has an impact on the triggers and drivers of digital social media. Whereas younger companies (less than 5 years) are more driven to adopt social media by peers (68 percent), competitors (49 percent) and clients (65 percent), older companies (more than 5 years) are driven to using social media by a desire to promote the company and its products (44 percent). The survey also found that younger companies are more concerned with finding business services and getting advice on starting and managing their business as compared to their older counterparts.

Interesting? Yes, it is.  How about a little “Research 101” here:  you need a decent sample size, and 151 respondents will satisfy a college-level research project, but not real life (in my opinion). Thanks to B-to-B for catching that…

The study was based on an online survey of 151 small-business owners, conducted in March. It found that 51% use social media to acquire and retain customers.

Another puffed-up press release.

Montana: There’s Nothing Here

I love it. To promote tourism to Montana, they’re pitching “nothing.” The write-up in the Billings Gazette was favorable:

Tourism marketers seeking to lure visitors to Montana are trying a bit of reverse psychology with a new promotional motto that advertises “there’s nothing here.”

“The message of the ad really is that nothing is something. Having all of this unspoiled spectacular nature is something few other places have,” said Katy Peterson, marketing manager for the state’s tourism bureau Travel Montana.

At first, the state’s marketers worried that selling nothingness could backfire, but the pitch tested extremely well with panels representing its target tourists.

“We weren’t sure if people were going to interpret that headline the way we wanted them to. It’s definitely pretty bold,” Peterson said.

The ad campaign, costing about $800,000, was launched in February. In the ads, the motto “THERE’S NOTHING HERE” runs as the marquee text across wilderness photos of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, locations that research indicates most people visit on their first trip to the state.

The campaign is running in Smithsonian Magazine, BackPacker, National Geographic and other publications to reach the state’s typical new visitor, who Peterson describes as a well-educated and passionate traveler looking for an experience that is not “manufactured.”

“They’re just as likely to go to New York as they are to Montana,” Peterson said. “They’re just looking for a place that’s really authentic and true.”

Along with promising pristine landscapes, the ads also exalt the down-home charm of the quintessential small town, where there’s a corner store, people are friendly and pies are still made from scratch. “Nothing but fresh huckleberry pie for breakfast – with a friendly conversation on the side” reads the text accompanying the Glacier ad.

Over the years, Montana has been variously tagged the “Land of the Shining Mountains,” “High, Wide and Handsome,” “Big Sky Country,” “Naturally Inviting” and “Unspoiled, Unforgettable.”

“The people definitely like our open spaces and our uncrowded areas,” said Norma Nickerson, director of the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research in Missoula.

About 10 million visitors seeking to explore the state’s mountains, forests and rivers spent more than $3 billion in Montana during 2007, according to the institute.

Still, the state has to distinguish itself from other Rocky Mountain states that are also popular travel destinations.

While Colorado flaunts its high-end amenities, and Wyoming “just owns Western” as a brand, Peterson said, Montana’s best pitch may be making the most of what it lacks.

“It’s not known for its nightlife or its malls or its superhighways or its skyscrapers. It’s really known for its untouched scenery,” Peterson said.

They also did a great job with their kids site.

I’m not surprised the ad creative tested well.  So many of us are constantly connected — by phone or otherwise — that it get increasingly difficult to get away and clear your mind. As for me, my escape is visiting the Northern Catskills of New York, only 160 miles away.  Planning to be there over the Memorial Day weekend.

Hip Cities

Years ago, I visited Portland, Oregon, for business. Learned Mt. Hood was about an hour away — and it was March — I packed my ski boots. Hopped into my rental car after my business was done and drove out to Timberline Lodge.  Although it was a solitary experience, I did enjoy myself.It was the only time I was ever able to combine skiing with business.

I liked Portland, too.  Thought it might be a really good city to live in some day. Apparently, thousands of others share my opinion, resulting in Portland’s higher-than-average unemployment rate. The story, via The Wall Street Journal:

This drizzly city along the Willamette River has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%.

More photos and interactive graphics Some new arrivals are burning through their savings as they hunt for jobs that no longer exist. Some are returning home. Others are settling for low-paying jobs they are overqualified for.

With his search for a journalism job coming up short, Mr. Singer has spent thousands in savings, and is now earning $12 an hour at a temporary job scanning loan documents, a task he says is so mind-numbing he listens to his iPod all day. “Careerwise, it’s definitely not what I’d like to be doing,” says Mr. Singer.

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and — more than anything else — a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these “youth magnet” cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area’s critical mass of young professionals means it has a “sustained attractiveness” for other young people looking for a place to settle down.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, it won’t be long before Trenton, Newark and Camden “get hip.” My little town my not be hip, but it’s still cool.

Non-stick Lawsuit

Suing DuPont? Good luck.  Here’s a recent verdict, via Chattanooga Times Free Press and the AP:

A lawsuit against DuPont Co. claiming its nonstick Teflon cookware coating could pose health risks to users has been dropped.

The lawsuit included 22 cases from about 15 states. All had been consolidated to be heard in U.S. District Court in Des Moines, Iowa.

The lawsuit has been in the courts for four years.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Longstaff signed a dismissal order on May 1.

The case was dropped because if failed to convince the court it deserved class-action status.

“The court determined that we did not meet the criteria to have it class certified,” said Kim Baer, a Des Moines attorney representing plaintiffs from Arizona, Nebraska, Iowa and New Mexico. “Given the fact that we cannot proceed as a class-action, the cases will not be going forward.”

She said the court did not rule on the issue of whether the cookware is safe.

Personally, I prefer cast iron.

Healthy Global Domination

Calling it an “initiative” is gentler than calling it a “campaign” — less warlike, too. Considering the state of GE’s stock, this really is a global campaign in GE’s battle with the markets’ perception.

GE launched Healthymagination this week and I expect it to genuinely improve the quality of healthcare everywhere.

Under healthymagination, by 2015 GE will:

  • Invest $3 billion in research and development to launch at least 100 innovations that lower cost, increase access and improve quality by 15 percent. GE will also apply its expertise in services and its suite of performance improvement tools for impact in these areas. These actions will strengthen GE Healthcare’s business model.
  • Work with partners to focus innovations on four critical needs to start: accelerating healthcare information technology; target high-tech products to more affordable price points; broaden access to the underserved; and support consumer-driven health.
  • Expand its employee health efforts by creating new wellness and healthy worksite programs while keeping cost increases below the rate of inflation.
  • Increase the “value gap” between its health spend and GE Healthcare’s earnings to drive new value for GE shareholders.
  • Engage and report on its progress. GE will engage experts and leaders on policy and programs and create a GE Health Advisory Board, which will include former U.S. senators Bill Frist and Tom Daschle and other global healthcare leaders.

Healthymagination will draw on capabilities from across GE, including GE Healthcare, GE Capital, GE Water, NBC Universal, the GE Global Research Center as well as the GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of GE.

Now, if we can just rehab the surly nurses’ behavior a local doctors’ offices…

Learning Never Ends

One of my favorite sayings is “learning never ends.” During my years at Smithsonian magazine, we asked our editor, Don Moser, to come up with a slogan. He gave us those three words.

Brilliant, isn’t it?

I get an intellectual charge out of new ideas and new ways of doing things. For a marketing person, that’s good. Creativity is like a river — always flowing.

As with learning, relearning can be a personal stimulus as well. I first played guitar at age 7, then stopped at 22 or so. Now I made a point to learn it all over again. Bought a new Silvertone guitar at a Sam Goody’s that was going out of business. My guitar-playing friends have told it’s the best-sounding $40 guitar in the world. I’d like to learn the Bob Marley song “One Love” next. Beautiful song; always liked it.

Here’s a unique rendition from Playing For Change (yes, their “Stand By Me” was featured on CNN the other night)…

Paying Taxes

This five-story office building on South Church Street in the Caymans serves as the official address for 18,857 corporations? No way!

Way, according to a report on Bloomberg:

President Obama referred to Ugland House yesterday.

“On the campaign, I used to talk about the outrage of a building in the Cayman Islands that had over 12,000 businesses claim this building as their headquarters,” Obama said. “And I’ve said before, either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam. And I think the American people know which it is: The kind of tax scam that we need to end.”

Maples and Calder, the law firm that occupies all of Ugland House in Grand Cayman, said Obama is mistaken.

“I’m sorry to disappoint anyone, but our office is neither the largest building in the world nor a center of financial misconduct,” said Charles Jennings, joint managing partner of Maples and Calder.

“Having a registered office address in the Cayman Islands is driven by commercial considerations, not by tax avoidance,” Jennings said. “It allows companies to raise capital and conduct global business.”

The firm, which provides services for the corporations that use its address, has incorporated more than 6,000 new companies over the past five years. Back in 2004, the building served as home to 12,748 companies using the same address in the Caymans, a British crown colony 150 miles south of Cuba.

Most businesses have tax strategies to help them reinvest more of their profits, but this borders on the extreme and will probably be dealt with differently, given the current economic conditions.

That reminds me: time to pay property taxes.

Sick Vick

This idea has legs: get Michael Vick as a spokesperson for PETA. Via Mediabistro:

Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons star and dogfighting enabler is talking to PETA about doing some spokes-work for the publicity savvy organization, 19-months after the story broke.

AdAge has what little details are available, confirms with PETA that Vick’s unnamed image handlers are involved. Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications, and Drew Kerr of Four Corners are the PR people the trade called upon to comment on the strategy.

I agree with most of it except that PETA has PR “problems”. The beauty of what they do is their ability to preach loudly to their choir while keeping themselves firmly in the media. Those they upset were not going to donate to the cause anyway. Here they have a win-win, they can tout his contrition if Vick is effective, and publicly flog him if he acts out. Public sentiment of sports fans likely ranks Vick higher than any of the drugs-takers.

Another example is PETA’s recent stunt targeting school kids to get the word out about the cruelty in circuses. Gothamist asked if they went too far. It worked precisely because it went too far.

This is one stunt I’d like to perversely see go awry, just to see the outcome in the mainstream media. Like all image rehab campaigns, Vick–like A-Rod et al–needs to start by getting back to playing good ball.

Might be real, or just another memorable PETA stunt.