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Case Studies

Why "Opposite Day" May Be Your Brand's Golden Ticket to Success

Screen-Shot-2014-10-02-at-9.33.38-AM Once upon a time, a little brand called Warby Parker rocked the universe when they started doing the unthinkable: offering prescription eyeglasses at bargain prices over the internet. In stark contrast to the "traditional" model (pay exorbitant retail prices at brick-and-mortar shops), they flipped the model on its head. No stores. No pushy salespeople. No rush. Want to take your time and browse around online? No problem. Want to take the glasses home and try them out for a week? Go for it.

A few short years later, pretty much everyone is sporting at least one pair of Warby Parkers. For all the naysayers who said it couldn't be done, Warby did it. And they did it awesome. 

Nobody will deny that stylish, affordable glasses are a good thing. But the secret sauce to WP's success is that they saw a need -- and they went after it. They saw a hole in the traditional model -- and they moved to fill it. To quote a wise book, when everyone else zigged, they zagged.

In his article, "The Law of the Opposite," Michael Farrell says:

In strength there is weakness. Wherever the leader is strong, there is an opportunity for a would-be No 2 to turn the tables.

Much like a wrestler uses his opponent's strength against him, a company should leverage the leader's strength into a weakness.

If you want to establish a firm foothold on the second rung of the ladder, study the company above you. Where is it strong? And how do you turn that strength into a weakness?

You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite. In other words, don't try to be better, try to be different. It is often the upstart versus the old reliable.


Everyone under the sun has heard of Dollar Shave Club at this point. (If you haven't, rally your fingers and check out their video below.) The premise is simple: for a low subscription fee, you receive quality disposable razors/blades in the mail each month.

Pretty genius.

With 17 million Youtube views, hundreds of thousands of followers on social and an army of rabid fans, I'd say its working for them.

Enter Thousand Dollar Shave Society:

Join us in rebellion against the cheap-as-possible, throwaway shaving products of Internet warehouse clubs. Return to the days of a shaving ritual to be relished, not endured, with the finest collection of shave products ever assembled into a single package.

It appears the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Game. On. 


How Turned "Oopsie" into "Opportunity"

As the finger that pulls the trigger on a monthly newsletter, MailChimp's sense of humor makes me laugh. In those final moments before you push the button and relinquish control, the longer you linger above the button, the sweatier the nervous monkey arm gets. mailchimp In August, the popular site had a moment of flub. Over a weekend, subscribers received an email blast featuring little more than a photo of a tiny kitten contemplating his face in the mirror. Fab fans were left scratching their heads and wondering what does it mean? 

(The inner Community Manager in me knew right away: someone had selected the wrong test list.)

A few hours later, sent this apology email, proving that eating crow doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience.


Thanks to the quick action (and quick wit), what could have been "Remember time Fab randomly sent a cat photo with no further explanation?" turned into "Remember that time Fab turned oopsie into opportunity?"

Accidents happen. How you decide to respond makes all the difference.

Want to read more? Check out these brand tips for saying "I'm Sorry."

Creating a Culture of Heroes: A Brand Lesson via Chipotle

It's no secret I am a Chipotle fan. I live in a city where that sentiment seems to be shared by all. A place where you can find a Chipotle thoughtfully situated at both ends of the same suburb, with a line 20+ patient people deep at both. I love their purpose and soul. I love their clever branding. Their social team is at the top of my list of people doing customer happiness right. And it's that last point I want to talk about today.

As much as I love the line of 20+ patient people at both our Chipotles, I've gotten into the habit of placing my order online so I can pop in, bypass the line and pop out. Lunch hour maximization! It works like a charm. For the longest time, I used to skip the "additional comments" section on the web form, until the day curiosity got the better of me and I started wondering if anyone actually reads the additional comments. So, I tried it. I left a little message.


When I picked up my order, I noticed this...

heart bowl

IT WORKED! A SECRET RESPONSE MESSAGE! (Okay, for all I know they do this for everyone, but it still made me feel special and happy.)

Flash forward a couple weeks and I am hurriedly throwing together a lunch order. Additional comments? You're the heroes of my burrito lunch. Off I go. Bypass the line. Hurry home and eat.

A couple hours later I notice a voicemail on my phone from a number I don't recognize. "Who is this mystery caller," I ask myself?

[audio m4a=""][/audio]

Alyssa, I don't know who you are. (I don't even know if I'm spelling your name right.) But I just want you to know that you are not only still the hero of my salad, you were the hero of my entire day.


I can't think of a single brand that doesn't want to be, as Chipotle puts it, "unconditionally loved," but I can think of so many that just can't seem to figure out where to begin. The answer is people. People on the inside, people on the outside. It starts at the top (and from within) and trickles down. It takes root when you create a culture where people can grow and be their (awesome) selves. You can't create a brand that people love until you build a company your people love. And once that happens, they're going to carry that love out into the world via burrito bowl lids, clever tweets and unexpected voicemails. You're going to create a culture of heroes.

This is my Thursday nugget of wisdom for to you, brands. Go look at your team. Can you spot your Alyssas and your Joes and your Rustys? Are you giving your people permission to be awesome? And I don't just mean telling them to be awesome, I mean actively giving them the resources, trust and support to be awesome. Are you fostering a culture that inspires your people to become honorary cupids who carry their love for your company out into the world?

If not, you've got some work to do.

After all, heroes aren't born, they're made.


How a woman named Thelma changed my views on marketing...and helped me clean up my act.

mrs. meyers soap radish When I was little and we would leave a restaurant, two things would inevitably happen. My dad would pop a red-and-white peppermint in his mouth before we had hit the door, and as soon as we climbed in the car my mom would roll down the window, gasping for fresh air. I always liked the smell of mint so I never understood her aversion, but the day I walked face-first into a friend's vanilla candle-laden home, it all started to make sense. I felt like someone had smeared my nose in a cupcake. And while I love a cupcake just as much as the next girl, I'd rank artificial cupcake scent somewhere between "wet dog" and "dorito feet" on the olfactory offensiveness scale.

Among all the wonderful things I inherited from my mother, it seems  I also inherited her acute sense of smell.

Which is precisely what inspired my first purchase of Mrs. Meyers hand soap. Actually, that's not true. The design drew me in, the scent sold me. I'd like to say "the rest is history" (because that would make for an epically succinct blog post), but it wasn't so. That afternoon, standing in the soap aisle at Target, was just the beginning of a true love story about to unfold.

There aren't a lot of brands I'd profess to love. Even fewer I would say make me feel giddy with joy. Mrs. Meyers is both of those and more. And as someone who so feels enraged over paying $12 for a pack of toilet paper that she has to text her sister to express said anger from the store, pledging allegiance to a $4 bottle of hand soap is kind of a big deal.

Months after becoming a Mrs. Meyers fan, I finally moseyed over to to check out Thelma's website...only to discover a mecca of marketing excellence. (I'm only sort of joking when I say I tiny digital branding and identity angels descended on my screen...)

Beautiful, clean, on-brand site design! Amazing execution of brand storytelling! A tagline that integrates the phrase "like the dickens!"

And that's when the music began. 

Had I found the Holy Grail of  marketing done right?

So here we are. You be the reader, I'll be the writer. And we'll spend the next couple weeks worth of blog posts taking a look at a company that is more than just another pretty smell.

Cupcake huffers need not apply.

CASE STUDY: Kmart "Ship My Pants"

kmart ship my pants I am one of those people who only watches the Super Bowl for the commercials. Perhaps it's a result of my aversion to professional football, but I prefer to think it's inspired by my curiosity about the marketing industry.

I don't throw the word "epic" around very often, but last night I stumbled across what I feel comfortable calling an epic triumph in advertising. A commercial so great, in fact, that I watched it about twelve times...and laughed during each rolling of the tape.

If you haven't seen Kmart's new "Ship my Pants" spot...brace yourself. (Thoughts continue after the leap...)

As one YouTuber put it, "this is a commercial that appeals to the 12-year-old inside of all of us." As the commercial, which has been live for less than two weeks, nears 15 million views, I'd say that's a lot of inner 12-year-olds. Beyond the potty humor, the spot was a genius move for several reasons...

  • It's talkable. Admittedly, it's not exactly high-brow humor, but the spot uses just enough shock factor to strike that sweet spot where amused meets aghast. When this happens, it gets people talking and sharing. In an age where everyone hits the fast forward on the DVR, you've done something right when 15 million people have made an effort to track your spot down so they can share it with their friends and watch it over and over again. 
  • It  targets a new demographic. Traditionally regarded as the retailer of choice for grannies and cat ladies, this spot was a ballsy way to break the schema associated with Kmart. By breaking through the clutter with messaging that is totally out of character, the brand has tapped into the minds (and mouths) of a new, younger demographic. (Or as Dr. Jonah Berger eloquently puts it in his book Contagious, top of mind = tip of tongue.)
  • It launches the brand into a new space. As a bricks-and-mortar store, Kmart has no doubt been impacted by the changing retail landscape. Sure, they have a website, but when it comes to online ordering, it's hard to compete with amazon. At the core, the spot drives home a clear message, flipping the proverbial bird to Amazon and giving their shipping policy a run for its money.

While a tv spot can't save the world, I can't help but wonder if taking a messaging risk can ignite a turnaround for a brand many consider(ed) to be on their way out. I'm curious to see what the future of Kmart's messaging has in store for us. In the meantime, I'll be here giggling away every time that lady enthusiastically whispers, "I just shipped my drawers!"