February 12th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

For me, there’s no such thing as a “favorite chocolate brand.” Why choose just one? They’re all delicious in their own special way, I say. But not everyone is as inclusive as I am when it comes to chocolate. Consumers can be picky, especially around Valentine’s Day when buying the wrong box could prove disastrous. According to NetBase, a social media analytics company, Dove is the “most loved” chocolate brand on social media this year, while competitors such as Hershey’s, Godiva, Ghirardelli, Ferrero Rocher, Neuhaus, and Lindt trail behind.

NetBase conducted an evaluation of brands across social media using its natural language processing technology, which analyzes volume, passion, and sentiment of online mentions. After compiling data from 2013, 2014 and 2015, NetBase determined that over the past three years, Dove has fallen into the “love” category consistently, but only this year beat Ferrero Rocher on its sentiment and passion score. Though both brands were “loved” and Ferrero Rocher was mentioned more often, Dove received a Net Sentiment score and Brand Passion score of 92, while Ferrero Rocher received a 91 and an 80, respectively.

So what caused Dove to pull ahead? Its Twitter account paints a pretty clear picture of why Dove excelled, and it all comes down to content marketing. Dove’s page is chock-full of content. From recipes to fan photos and videos, the feed is versatile and strives to offer value to followers. The company’s #LoveLessOrdinary campaign, for example, aims to engage followers in a conversation about their own love stories in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. There are videos of adorable elderly couples, images of letters that partners have written to each other, and more. Even the branded photos don’t have a traditionally “marketing” feel to them. They are (or at least look like they are) images that are taken by real people that happen to be enjoying Dove chocolates. There’s conversation, and there are retweets, and Dove seems like a living, breathing brand.

For comparison’s sake, I decided to explore another brand’s Twitter feed as well. I chose Godiva, and its page had a very different feel. Tweets containing valuable content were few and far between, and were instead largely promotional, often directing followers to Godiva’s e-commerce site. I think I saw at least three tweets today about free delivery for chocolate covered strawberries that all took me to the same product page. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that Dove and Godiva sell products in very different ways. Few people order Dove chocolate online, for example, while Godiva probably gets a solid amount of business from its e-commerce site. Still, that’s no excuse for scarce content. The brand also doesn’t post nearly as many photos and videos as Dove does, which is hurting engagement. Overall, the content component seems underdeveloped.

Interestingly enough, Lindt, a chocolatier that was the “least talked about” in 2013 and 2014 picked up its game significantly this year, earning 47 percent more mentions. As expected, its Twitter feed is booming with content. Recipes, images, hashtag campaigns…they’re doing it all. Now that Godiva’s on the bottom (along with Neuhaus and Ghirardelli), they might consider following in Lindt’s footsteps. The payoff, I predict, will be sweet.

February 9th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

During the Grammys last night, the 24 year old pop singer Iggy Azalea started tweeting about a negative experience she had with Papa John’s Pizza. After ordering food from the company last Friday, Azalea discovered that the delivery driver had given away her phone number. The singer said she received “tons of calls and messages” in the following days. Though she hasn’t shared most of them, the one message she did post on Twitter seemed innocuous enough:

“Hello is this iggy azalea my brother had delivered something from Papa John’s to u and he gave me the number on Friday night I am ur number one fan call me back please

The “fan” added,

“Is this u please answer u r my idol”

The tone of the texts is pushy, no doubt, but I find it hard to believe that it’s nearly as bad or explicit as some of the fan mail Azalea must get.

Azalea was unforgiving nonetheless. She launched a series of heated one liners directed at the Papa John’s’ Twitter page, stating that she couldn’t believe the brand would allow for such a “privacy breach”. She also lambasted the driver’s supervisor for not sending her pictures of the employees so she could identify who the perpetrator was.

Papa John’s (or, rather the company’s ghost-operated Twitter account) responded with a light-hearted apology containing a reference to one of her songs:

@iggyazalea #We should have known better. Customer and employee privacy is important to us. Please don’t #bounce us!”

Azalea didn’t think it was cute, though, and threatened to take legal action if the pizza chain didn’t proceed to take care of the matter.

Now, it goes without saying that customers have a right to privacy, but I can’t help but take into account the human elements involved here. Customer service is far from a foolproof area, as we’ve seen with Comcast these past few weeks. There’s a limit to the supervision a large company can place on one person with a mind of his own.

Pizza delivery is a job that doesn’t require much education beyond a driver’s license, so there are bound to be some blunders or lapses in judgement. There have been multiple occasion when I’ve ordered pizzas and the delivery person couldn’t speak English.

Assuming Azalea’s delivery guy was a teenager or at least relatively young, he was very likely taking on one of his first jobs, and still has lot to learn about what it means to behave professionally. He should definitely be held accountable for his actions, but I think it’s important to remember that there’s a lot worse that he could have done here. For one thing, he could have given away the singer’s home address (let’s hope he didn’t).

Needless to say, Papa John’s should do a better job of educating its employees on the seriousness of privacy, and make it clear that they will be reprimanded for giving out a customer’s personal information.

I still think Azalea may have overreacted a bit by turning to Twitter, though I do commend her for taking the initiative and doing something to call out a company. After all, as a celebrity, her voice is far more powerful than anyone else’s, and she can do more to make a change.

But then again, as a celebrity, she also has access to far more protection.

On a sidenote: another thing that struck me as strange is DiGiorno’s decision to get involved from the sidelines with a plug for their frozen pizza brand. The company tweeted a cheeky note implying that only a “delivery” pizza company would allow something like this to happen. Personally, I thought it was pretty clever. But I wonder if on some level it suggests poor taste on DiGiorno’s part.


February 6th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Ancient wisdom tells us that the third time is the charm. It’s a common saying, offering words of encouragement to someone who has failed at something twice before, expressing hope that things will work out on the third try.

It might get used at a bar when one friend complains to another that he has hit on two women who responded to his unwanted advances by throwing drinks in his face.

“Sorry, dude. The third time’s a charm, so get back out on the dance floor.”

Your car mechanic might use it to entice you to bring your vehicle back to him for repairs. “I know I haven’t fixed that annoying wheels-keep-falling-off thing on my last two attempts, but the third time’s the charm, right?”

If ever there was proof that the ages-old adage isn’t true, it came this week from Comcast. The third time was at least just as disastrous as the previous two attempts, if not worse.

Days after it was revealed that Comcast changed one customer’s first name to “a**hole” on his bill, the company found itself in a similar situation; this time 63-year-old Mary Bauer’s name was changed to “SuperBitch.”

And then let’s not forget the first incident, the awkward phone call between a Comcast customer service representative and a customer that was recorded and then went viral this past summer.

Once again, the company’s overworked damage control teams are trying to thSwearaddress the situation, promising an investigation and giving assurances that events like this will not happen again. Its censors will no doubt be hard at work, looking to bleep any further expletives that might show up on customer bills. Well, not to add fuel to the fire, but here’s one more expletive-laden communique to throw into the mix, sort of:

WTF, Comcast? This is the third in a string of ugly customer service—and ultimately, customer relations—blunders in the past six months. Get your s**t together, and put your house in order.

In the past few  years, Comcast has routinely been near the bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. If the previous two incidents didn’t convince you that the company has serious internal problems, maybe the third time will be the charm.

February 5th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

In an interesting turn of events, the company that many thought would bring on the demise of traditional brick-and-mortar retail could be coming to, you guessed it, brick-and-mortar locations nationwide! It might just be speculation for the time being, but a number of sources have confirmed that Amazon is in the process of bidding on RadioShack locations after RadioShack announced plans to file for bankruptcy this week. Apparently, Sprint is trying to get in on the bidding action too, so this might not be written in the stars for Amazon. Still, it would be pretty cool if it happened, right?

Amazon has already dabbled with the idea of pop-up shops and opened up a few locations during the holidays. But a tenure in a local strip mall would be a very different direction for the e-commerce giant. After all, Amazon has an opportunity to (I’m borrowing this phrase from my editor) “reverse-engineer the brick-and-mortar experience.” The way I see it is if Amazon does open a number of physical locations, it can use those resources to fill any gaps in its business and eventually even serve as a model for other businesses that are born online, but eventually grow into the brick-and-mortar environment.

A brick-and-mortar strategy for Amazon could go in a number of directions. In the past, the company has used its pop-up locations as hubs for order pick-ups, and that’s certainly a possibility for permanent locations. The company might also leverage the real-estate as a demo zone a la Apple Store, where the products are on display and customers are invited to use them and explore for as long as they’d like. This could be a key route for not only boosting sales of Amazon devices like the Fire phone, Kindle, and Amazon TV, but also tackling some customer service challenges. Again, I’m thinking of the Apple Store. Apple’s Genius Bar is a great concept that consistently earns a thumbs up from customers, and Amazon could benefit from borrowing a page out of Apple’s playbook on that front. The Amazon Mayday button is a solid tool, but sometimes I don’t want to try and figure it out myself. Sometimes I just want to give my device to someone that understands it better than I do and say “Fix it.”

Local stores could also make Amazon’s “same day delivery” dreams a scalable reality. And who knows, if there’s enough space to store inventory and enough demand for the service, those old RadioShacks could eventually be buzzing hubs of activity. Drone activity, that is! I’m kidding about that, I think. In all seriousness though, this is going to be an exciting venture for Amazon.  I, for one, am eager to see how Bezos does brick-and-mortar.

February 2nd, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

I like professional sports just as much as the next guy, but I’ve never been a huge football fan. I think there are a few reasons for this. One is that my dad was never into football, and he was always the guy holding the remote control. Another reason is that the Raiders and the Rams both left my home city of Los Angeles when I was very young, before I had developed the attention span required to truly follow the game. From the ages of seven to 13—formative years for a young sports fan— I lived in Israel, where the only game that mattered to most people was soccer, and basketball was the distant second.

When my family moved back to Los Angeles in 2001, we were just in time to witness a glorious decade from the Lakers that deemed all other sports superfluous. There were great football teams at UCLA and USC, but I never paid college and high school sports much attention. Even though my high school would go on to send a number of our players to the NFL, I’m ashamed to admit that I never attended a single one of their games.(In fact, I distinctly remember sitting next to my high-school’s football star, Malcolm Smith, at our high school graduation, not knowing who he was. Smith would go on to win the 2014 Super Bowl MVP award for the Seahawks, and get interrupted during the post-game press conference by a conspiracy theorist. But in 2007 he was just the guy whose name came right after mine in the alphabet. As we baked in plastic chairs in the middle of the football field, “rehearsing” for the graduation ceremony, he teased me for reading a dorky fantasy novel instead of taking in the scenery. )

I then had the misfortune of attending a college that had discontinued its football team in the early 90s. And throughout grad school, I stood silently by as my friends discussed the sport with fervor. So here I am today, somewhat indifferent to our nation’s most popular pastime.

Despite my ongoing indifference to football, I always feel some sort of obligation to watch the Super Bowl. It’s an obligation I don’t feel with other comparable sporting events–not even the World Cup. This is largely because I know that people will be talking about the game (or, realisticaly, everything surrounding the game) for days afterwards.

Anticipating this , I spent much of Sunday putting pressure on myself to figure out a way to watch the game while I’d take care of any work I had. Of course I didn’t follow through, and I didn’t end up watching the game. I had my excuses ready. For one thing, I don’t own a TV right now, and I didn’t feel like jumping through hoops just to stream it.

A lot of friends asked me why I wasn’t watching, and I didn’t know exactly how to answer that question. I probably could have figured out how to stream it, if I’d tried hard enough, but I chose to spend my time differently.

Anyway, I still knew that if I wanted to feel at least a bit in touch with civilization, I’d have to know a thing or two about what happened during the largest media event of the year.  I quickly discovered that it would be possible to watch all the ads online before they even aired, so I did just that. But, again, there were so many ads that it would take me a while to watch them all , so I opted for just a select few to start. I’d read my colleague’s post about the GoDaddy ad that was pulled off the air for animal cruelty, so I was curious to see what they ended up replacing it with. It wasn’t an exciting ad. Just a schlubby guy sitting at a desk, working on something dry, instead of watching the action-packed Super Bowl. An untrained voiceover narrator described him as a “business owner” while he sat there, writing something on a pad of paper.

Many were disappointed with the ad, pointing that it was clearly rushed. These people do have a point, but I appreciated GoDaddy’s nod to the boring dude who works when everyone else is having fun. I raise a guacamole-loaded chip to him too.


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