Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Ingrid Betancourt is a Haagen-Dazs lover for life!!

I lay in my comfy cozy bed with my 9000 thread count sheets.  I feel uneasy if the slightest bit of light is shining through my bedroom curtains.  My husband must cover the blue of his alarm clock and the room must be completely silent, then, and only then, can sleep come to me.  Oh, and the room must not be too hot and my feet must not be covered.  These are my prerequisites to a good night sleep.

Sleep is important.  Sleep is part of being healthy.  Good sleep, good food, good exercise, good hygiene, we all know the mantra and we try to practice it every day.  But what if there are no comfy cozy beds, no warm food, no exercise and no hygiene? As I go through my everyday life worrying about the most mundane of matters, like where I can find the cheapest Greenies (Dog treats!) for the Dog, I realize not everyone has my life.  Some people have real life dramas happening right now- things that movies are made of.  I realize that in this big world there is a LOT happening so anything that isn’t going right for me is probably miniscule in the scheme of things.  And that’s the way I look at life everyday now that I met Ingrid Betancourt and read her book “"Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle".

Ingrid Betancourt was running for President of Colombia when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapped her in February 2002.  She was warned not to go into a rebel-controlled area, but in her own words, the President of Colombia was venturing forward into this area, so she thought she was safe.  At a roadblock, she looked down at the boots of the soldiers.  She knew that if the boots were rubber these were the guerillas, but if the boots were leather, these were the feet of Colombian soldier.  By the time Ingrid could recognize the rubber boots and demand that her driver immediately turn around, the rebels had surrounded her car and she was captive.  Thus began her long journey into hell on earth.

The rebels knew Ingrid Betancourt and they were happy to have her.  They knew with Ingrid they would have a bargaining chip with the Colombian government, as she was well known and well supported by both the Colombian and the French Government with her dual citizenship.  Ingrid was a ‘well-known’ prisoner.  This was a good, and a bad, thing.

She spent many of these years side-by-side with her publicist, Clara Rojas, who was also captured with Ingrid. Clara and Ingrid spent the first year as each other’s only company. They shared a 6’x4’ living space where they slept, spent their day, exercised and ate their meals. If they had to use the bathroom, they went together.

The Bathroom?  When I leave my comfy cozy bed, I often think of Ingrid’s ‘bathroom’.  Her bathroom was several holes in the ground.  When they got ‘full’ they were simply covered.  When Ingrid first used the ‘holes’ she asked her escort where the generator was as she heard a loud and consistent buzz of machinery.  Her escort laughed, and then shined her light on the ‘hole’s’ where thousands of bugs swarmed making the incessant noise of Ingrid’s ‘generator’.

She attempts escape.  She runs out in the middle of the jungle in the dark, dark night with Clara.  They run as fast as they cannot see a single thing, as the jungle is black; they know the rebels are close behind.  They stop to catch their breath as their hearts pound out of their chests.  Ingrid can feel heat so close to her she could reach out and touch it.  They stand in the dark knowing that they are so close to being captured.  Movement.  An animal brushes past Ingrid’s leg.  She will never know what it was.  In the jungle, it could have been a panther, a wild boar or something else.  They keep running.  The next day Clara leaves the backpack on the side of the road as the women walk down to a stream for drinking water. As they climb back up to the road, there is a rebel waiting.  He smiles and shoots his gun alerting the others that he has found the prisoners. He won.

They chain Ingrid around the neck and walk her back to the compound chained like a dog.  They tie the chain to a tree near her sleeping compound.  She can move but if she moves too much, the chain cuts into her neck. To use the bathroom, they remove the chains and for this, she is very grateful. 

As the Colombian militia moved closer into the jungle to look for Ingrid and the other kidnapped victims, FARC moved the prisoners.  Each time they are moved, first by main roads to minor roads to pathways, they move further up into the jungle.  They were sometimes lead by mules and sometimes were put in boats, small and large, to float up the river.   After a 40-mile march, they were finally sent to a prisoner’s camp with a group of hostages and lived in a prison like environment. 

As hostages they fought for everything that meant anything- food, space, favors from the guards.  They learned that while they had no influence with each other, they could influence the guards who used their vulnerability against them. When you are captive and fighting for everything in your life, you become aggressive towards those that have something you don’t.  The guards knew this and used intimidation whenever possible.  To scare them from trying to escape into the river, the Guards showed them a giant anaconda. They were constantly using intimidation techniques to harness the prisoners.

What inspires me most about Ingrid is that through it all, she hung on to the one thing the rebels could not take- her identity.  The Rebels had given each prisoner a number and in a roll call style wanted each prisoner to say their number when called.  When they got to Ingrid, she replied “Ingrid Betancourt’.  Her fellow prisoners thought she was making trouble but she held on. It was important for her to make sure her captors knew she was a person, not a number!  The guards carried guns and could shoot her or any of the prisoners at anytime for any reason.  Ingrid felt it was easy to shoot a number.  She wanted the guards to have awareness that the prisoners they guarded were people. 

Ingrid Betancourt was freed on July 2, 2008 when FARC soldiers landed helicopters and told the camp commander that the prisoners were to be taken to a different location.  Once the helicopters were airborne, Ingrid was informed that the FARC soldiers moving them were actually the Colombian military by saying “We are the national army. You are Free’.

Following her freedom, Ingrid spent 18 months in Wyoming writing of her experience with FARC.  When asked how she remembered her ordeal in such vivid detail, she replied ‘I will never forget any of it- every detail, every smell, every sound, every color.  I live the jungle every day of my life’.

And how has her life changed now that she’s free?  She’s a Mom to her daughter and son (who were 16 and 13 when she was kidnapped), she’s her Mother’s best friend again and she’s a friend with her ex-husband.  She talks daily to her fellow-captors (although some have been critical of her) and she has been able to keep the promises she made to herself in prison:  To cook for her loved ones and to always have flowers in the room, wear perfume and eat ice cream and cakes- That’s Ingrid’s world now.

So, when the light has wakened me from my perfect sleep and the dog is begging to go outside, I will roll out of bed, think of Ingrid and all those still in bondage and move forward through the miniscule details of my life knowing the one thing for sure that Ingrid herself wanted me, and all of us, to know- Peace. Go in Peace- be peaceful, share peace.

Want to see more of my meeting with Ingrid?

Friday, October 29, 2010

October 6th and 7th, WAG exhibited at the Shopper Marketing Expo in Chicago. The Shopper Marketing Expo is a tradeshow designed to bring all segments of the shopper marketing world together in one room. From there, it is a great place to network and find out what is up-and-coming in the field in which we work. The Expo is put on by the In-Store Marketing Institute; a world-wide network that brings together retailers, brands, agencies, P-O-P firms, research organizations and other solution providers along the path to purchase.

First of all, Chicago was a great city to have the chance to explore while attending the expo. The architecture is amazing from the skyscrapers to the brownstones that were the foundation of the city. Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile are definite must-sees. It’s impossible to miss all the great bars and restaurants; the deep-dish pizza of course is a staple of the city.

The show took place in the enormous Festival Hall at the landmark Navy Pier and we had our WAG’s booth set up among fellow exhibitors. QR Codes were definitely the ‘in’ thing at the expo, and WAG was proud to be ahead of the curve in shopper marketing technology. The expo itself featured a scavenger hunt of sorts, where codes were hidden at various booths, and attendees were challenged to find and scan all of them to win a prize. WAG’s booth featured a Saintsbury wine raffle entry, and we also were handing out giant QR Codes. Most booths had items related to their business to give away, WAG instead gave away information about the future of marketing and how it could have an impact on just about anyone in attendance. It was great how many curious attendees, as well as other exhibitors, approached us to ask about QR codes, how we were using them and how we predicted their use in the future. It was something we could give away to spread information about ourselves, and the codes also served as a great icebreaker that often led into other shopper marketing related conversations.

The expo, and the city, stimulated our creative thinking. Both offered a mix of new people and ideas, deep dish and design, strategy and audience that we have taken back to California with us, inspiring an enriched view of marketing and ways to reach the shopper. The multitudes of people we met gave us new ideas, got us thinking in new directions, and are connections that will mutually beneficial in the future as we move down the new road that marketing is heading.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Americans do online: Nielsen reveals some surprising facts

I was recently doing some research for a project that I am working on and I came across an article posted on the Nielsen blog that delivered some very interesting information.

To see the article, click here!

Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (43 percent increase) according to new research released today from The Nielsen Company. The research revealed that Americans spend a third their online time (36 percent) communicating and networking across social networks, blogs, personal email and instant messaging."

Now, there are millions of things to do online that take up plenty of time. Checking email, playing games, visiting websites, watching movies and checking out pictures of adorable cats with funny caption ( are just a few, but 22.7 percent of US internet time is spent on Social Networks.

Other interesting tidbits:

"Online games overtook personal email to become the second most heavily used activity behind social networks – accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. Internet time. Email dropped from 11.5 percent of time to 8.3 percent."

"Despite some predictions otherwise, the rise of social networking hasn’t pushed email and instant messaging into obscurity just yet. Although both saw double-digit declines in share of time, email remains as the third heaviest activity online (8.3 percent share of time) while instant messaging is fifth, accounting for four percent of Americans online time."

So what does this all mean?

1. Spending High $$ Amounts on a Website = Bad Idea
2. Spending $$ Developing Your Social Media Program = Good Idea

Justin Noland

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Jonas Brothers Meet Our WAG Intern!!

WAG had to post this! When young people get this excited there is reason to celebrate! Yeah to our intern Lauren, who a week after interning with us, had the best day of her life, read on....

Jonas Day, Sept. first <33333
by Lauren Marie Pereny
Friday, September 3, 2010 at 10:12am

So yesterday I met the Jonas Brothers. It may have been the craziest and most surreal thing that has ever happened to me. I was nervous all day. It hadn’t really hit me until that morning, and then I started freaking. It’s crazy when you dream and wish for stuff and then it really happens. I’ve been waiting three years for yesterday.

I’ll start in the morning. So I found out at like 5:30 in the morning about some thing they were having at walmart when I was up with a stomach ache. So I text my friends and go back to sleep and long story short, we went. So when we got there at 11, there were 1,500 people already there, and they only gave away 500 wristbands. So we thought it would be a waste if we stood in the hot sun so we went inside and talked to some people and gave us a hint on where to go. So I wander off and I see a big group of people so I ask them what’s going on and I call my friends over and we waited for like, 45 minutes and then they - the Jonas Brothers!- walked through like ten feet away from us. There were only 30 of us, so it was crazy.

Moving on, I had no idea what was going on with my meet and greet until 5:30. I asked just about everyone in the whole venue where I needed to be and where were meeting and no one knew anything. It was bad. But I don’t want to dwell on that. It was all worth it. (:

So we’re waiting in line and the most wonderful thing happened. It started raining. Yes. Raining while I was waiting to meet the Jonas Brothers. But I met some super cool people in line and we kept each other sane.

But I’ll skip ahead. So we walk down the stairs and there’s the backdrop, and they’re right behind it. I feel like I’m going to puke all over someone, and I was just so excited it was crazy. So we walk up and I pushed the girls behind me to go first. So they go and I saw kevin’s hand and head and I was freaking. The guard asked me if I was going to pass out, I was like, uhhh, I’m meeting the Jonas brothers! So they tell me to go up and I shake my head and I’m like, I can’t do this. But I tiptoe around the corner and I see Kevin and I’m like, Kevin, omg!

I pretty much give him the biggest hug ever and just throw my arms around his neck. And he’s all like, thank you so much for coming, thank you for all your support and I’m like, mentally freaking out. So I see Nick, and omg, he’s so freaking gorgeous, omg omg omg. He had his headband in and I was all unffff. I hug him and he’s all hey, and then I see Joe and I looked into his eyes and I wanted to melt right there. I hug him and then I took a step back and I was like, what do you want me to say? You’re the Jonas brothers. I wanted to say something memorable and cool, but, you’ve heard it all. And Nick goes, just be like hey, what’s up. And Joe said, that’s lame Nick. LMAO. And Nick goes, so…how are you? How was your day? AND AT THIS MOMENT I AM FREAKING OUT BECAUSE IM TALKING TO THE JONAS BROTHERS AND NICK JONAS JUST ASKED HOW MY DAY WAS. I was all cool on the outside though. :P

So i was like, umm, you have no idea what it took me to get here. I had no idea what was going on and it was supposed to start at six and I didn’t want to miss it…and Joe was like, woah, that’s crazy, but you’re here now, so that’s good. I replied, yea, it was all worth it. And then I remembered the picture and I said to them, either we’re doing a cute pose or we’re all smiling. And I pointed at Nick and I was like you especially. And you too Joe. But Kevin’s always happy. And he laughed. KEVIN JONAS LAUGHED AT ME. So Nick was like we can all just smile. So I get in between Joe and Nick and the guy takes like 15 seconds to fix his camera, so I’m dying and then we smile and the security was like, alright keep moving. And I looked at Joe and hugged him again. Like a crazy tight intense hug and my face was all in his chest and I was like, ahshslfnslamjajala. He probably thought I was crazy. So I walk out and I’m like, bye, thank you for everything, I love you, sorry for freaking out, I’m just so excited. And they’re like, no you’re fine. And I walked up the stairs and started bawling and I felt retarded but the tears wouldn’t stop. I was sobbing. It was horrible. Lol.

But yes, most amazing thing ever. Sorry it’s so long.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Volunteer? WHY NOT?!!

We all have such busy lives- professional lives, family lives, and friends. It’s sometimes hard to find a minute in the day to touch base with those you love and when you do, its mundane conversation like ‘whats for dinner’ or ‘can you pick up Matthew?’ We have such minimal time left for things that really matter- like the love and friendship of strangers, who may or may not, have similar life experiences.

How do you become involved with something that has absolutely nothing to do with you? Why would you bother? How can something that you never thought about ever in your life become a major life force that not only changes your life, but also drives your behavior? What entity can give you so much energy in the middle of your busy, busy life?

Volunteering. When you volunteer you expect nothing in return. You are giving your time, energy and efforts to something you know you won’t gain anything tangible but you will gain something that money can’t buy… a full heart. Volunteering is a way to share with the world your interests or talents that are unique to you.

A few months ago, WAG volunteered to assist in an invitation for a local fund raising event. The group, Corey’s Crusade, is a Piedmont, California group dedicated to raising funds to help find medicine and a cure for ALS. WAG assisted by creating the artwork for the invitation- a small task for a design firm. As every design project requires some insight, (we don’t design in a vacuum!) we had to do some research to see exactly what the cause was for, who the target audience was and the best way to communicate the message. As WAG began to ask these questions, WAG saw a need to further offer assistance to Corey’s Crusade and their battle with ALS.

Ted, Wendy, Corey and Claire Reich lead Corey’s Crusade. Together, they have raised over $1 million for research and are leading a national campaign to create a ‘Young Faces of ALS’ (YFALS) group. As Corey was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21, the Reich Family has vested much of their time to bringing awareness and funding to this under-researched disease. Corey say’s it best on the YFALS Facebook page:

"For 70 years Lou Gehrig has been the face of ALS. Sadly, in that time, not a single effective therapeutic has been discovered and most Americans know little to nothing about the disease. It is time to put a new, younger, face on the disease. I hope to be that face, and raise not only awareness, but also the funding necessary to put an end to ALS."

How can that be?! How can the infamous speech of Lou Gehrig on the 4th of July 1939 have gone unheard? One of the most famous speeches in American history?! Lou Gehrig didn’t mention he was sick with a disease that would kill him in less than 3 short years – he died June 2, 1941. American’s loved Lou but they didn’t realize nor did they understand the full impact of his retirement; no momentum was born to assist others with the same disease that took the beloved New York Yankee’s first baseman. Not until now!

The Reich family, along with other families across America, are vigilant in working for a cure and they need help! They need research and research costs money! Who will contribute? How can we build awareness of this horrible disease? How do you get others to care? Why would anyone volunteer to help if they weren’t personally affected? This is a big challenge.

I can only think of one reason anyone would volunteer and that only reason is love: love for each other, love for mankind, love for people who have been given a diagnosis that one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Can a design firm share this ‘love’? Can a design firm spread the ‘love’? WAG said YES we can! So WAG started a Facebook page for YFALS and in less then a month, the page had over 1000 fans but we didn’t stop there!

WAG designed the YFALS logo, awareness button, powerpoint template, letterhead, a restaurant promotion (thank you Adesso, Oakland!), t-shirt and we’re planning a Pub Crawl in Walnut Creek, CA in December. It wasn’t hard to get involved- we just utilized what we had- our design and promotion expertise! Everyone has an expertise and every expertise can be utilized by any group of volunteers.

You can volunteer too! You don’t need to have the disease or know someone with the disease – you only have to want to share your expertise with a group that really, really needs your help. You won’t get a paycheck or a free lunch, but your heart will fill with contentment knowing you are working to help others and that is something money can’t buy.

Please help WAG to bring awareness and funding to YFALS. Support the YFALS Facebook page by becoming a ‘fan’ or contact us to offer your expertise. WAG can assure you you’ll be glad you did, we are.

Click here to see more of WAG’s work for YFALS!

Click here to become a ‘fan’ of the YFALS Facebook page!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wedding Bells

On August 7, 2010, after a year long engagement (and 10 years of dating), I got married. It was a perfect day full of friends, family, love, and dancing!

I loved every minute I spent in the year planning my wedding. Honestly, I never got to the point of horrible stress and frantic meltdowns. Part of that is due to my Type-A nature and love of events and planning, but the other part is owed 100% to my work. Most brides are able to plan their weddings in spite of their job, I however, could not have executed my wedding without the help of mine. The day after the wedding, a friend asked “what is the greatest tip you would give another bride after planning your wedding?” My reply “…get a job at a graphic design firm.”

Our wedding took place in my dad’s backyard in Sonoma, CA, and despite what many people initially think, a wedding at home takes MORE planning and logistics (and is no more cost effective) than renting an established venue. Nothing is provided, nothing is included, every single item needs to be created and brought in. We rented chairs, tables, a bar, benches, glassware, flatware, etc. So once I had figured out all the big items to accommodate our 130 guests, it was time to think about the little details that give every event their own unique personality.

The wedding invitations were clean and simple; moss green ink on ivory paper, mounted on thick, moss green paper. Our wedding ceremony took place under a big oak tree, so our invitation featured a faded out oak tree with a quote on the bottom that read “Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who decided to stand their ground”. I designed the stamp on to match the invitation, with two connected acorns and our initials, M+C, on the top. Thus, without even meaning to, a theme was born.

So why, you may ask, would my best advice for other brides be to get a job at a design firm? All the little details; the things that people barely notice, but that pull everything together and make an event look complete and well thought out, that no detail was spared. WAG designed ten coordinating pieces for me; table numbers, a giant seating chart, menu cards, stickers for the favor boxes, photo sharing cards, programs (attached to paper fans, they were adorable!), and signs to direct guests in the right direction. They also designed a map, an information card and a closure sticker, all for the welcome bag given to guests staying for the weekend at The Lodge at Sonoma. These were the types of details that I simply could not have done on my own, or that would have cost me thousands of dollars to have a stationery company design and print for me. Even though WAG did not design my invitations everything still coordinated with the invitation, matched its clean and simple aesthetic, and played with the oak tree and acorn theme.

I am confident that having a job at a graphic design firm saved my sanity. It’s tiny little details, like all of these things, that I would have wanted to do and had a picture of in my mind, but that even with my rather savvy Microsoft Word and Excel skills, never would have come out looking as perfect as they did. I was able to have even the smallest detail (like the photo sharing information card that directed our guests to upload the photos they took to a sharing site) fit seamlessly into the rest of the wedding. All the ideas that I had and thought, “Oh, that would be so cute!” were ideas that I was able to have turned into reality…all because of my job. I really don’t know how other brides do it (without spending thousands of course).

While I’m sure that not everyone noticed all these details that I spent 2 months concocting, and most people didn’t say anything, I’m confident that our guests walked away thinking “that was beautiful and everything was so well done”. Our wedding had the exact personality I dreamed of; simple, welcoming, romantic and classy. It wasn’t the chairs we rented, or the tables, or the bar (although that helped!)- it was the little things, and all the thought and care that not only I, but my very talented co-workers put in to make August 7, 2010 perfect.

Morgan Nelson

For more photos, check out the WAG Flickr Page!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Observations on Shopping and Eating Local

I’ve been buying fruits and vegetables at our local farmers’ market for awhile now, and enjoy the experience. It’s great getting out early, chatting with the sellers (who more likely than not, are the owners of the family operations), running into friends, and having a breakfast pastry and tasting lots of vendor samples while strolling around. I really love the heirloom tomatoes, especially sliced up with some burrata, basil and olive oil. They’re much better than any I could grow, though my farming skills are pretty dicey, so the cards aren’t exactly stacked in my favor.

My wife Jan loves farmers’ markets more than I do, and she really goes out of her way to buy local products–she’s really “loco for local”. Last night she happily reminded me that the tuna in the Salad Nicoise was bought from a fisherman in Eugene, from one of our trips visiting our son at college. And the olive oil is from Corning, a stop on the way back from Eugene. Local in a roundabout sort-of-way.

Of course, not everything can be local. A lot of my shoes and clothes are made in Italy, though I know there are a lot of local clothes designers in the Bay Area–at least for women. My favorite sport is baseball, and Rawlings MLB baseballs are made in Costa Rica. (Interesting aside–a typical Major League game uses about 100 baseballs). And I‘m not a nutcase about local–it’s just interesting to know where the things you use and eat come from.

Speaking of good food, I recently noticed a burst on the front of my Lay’s Potato Chip bag (their regular potato chips rank as one of the world’s great snacks) and realized that even Frito-Lay, the world's biggest snack-food maker, is getting into the locally-made act. “Discover where your Lay’s chips are made” it proclaimed. (Don’t you just love to see bursts get noticed?).

They are focusing on 80 “local” farmers from 27 states who grow the potatoes used to make its chips. Want to know where your chips come from? Grab your bag and go to

and then enter your ZIP code and the first three digits of the product code from the bag and up comes the location of the plant from where they were made. Intrigued, I checked my potato chip bag and found out they were made in Modesto. The site goes on to say that Lay’s bought 283 million pounds of potatoes from California farmers last year. Which I’m sure helped out the local economy in the Central Valley tremendously.

"Knowing where food is made and grown is important to consumers," says Dave Skena, vice president of potato chip marketing at Frito-Lay. "Sharing with consumers how regional we are is relevant and compelling."

OK, Dave, calm down. It’s not that compelling. But it is interesting to see how very big companies can take a trend and run with it. And sometimes with weird twists–I’ve read of spas advertising “farm-to-spa” by integrating locally grown fruits and herbs into skin treatments and massage therapies. At least Lay’s is still taking the potatoes and frying chips. And though rabid locavores would probably insist on frying their own chips (I’ve done that–they’re tasty but pretty time consuming), the Lay’s ingredients are very straightforward: “Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Salt."

My business partner, Francine Pinoni, is from Michigan. One of the Lay’s TV spots features Michigan farmer Brian Walther, who appears with his brother, Gary, in a spot that aired in that state and tells viewers: "Next time you grab a bag of Lay's in Michigan, think of us." Considering how many people Francine knows in Michigan, she may even know these guys.

"Lay's Local" was the brand's biggest 2009 campaign, and it seems to still be going strong. It doesn’t claim that its products are locally grown, but, rather, it’s “celebrating the contributions people and communities across the country have made to the Lay's brand."

And to their credit, the campaign reminds us that Frito-Lay is an American brand that supports American farmers in tough times. Just like I do, when I pick up my heirloom tomatoes each Sunday at the farmers’ market.

Bon Appétit!

Jim Walcott-Ayers

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet Our Summer Intern!

Meet our Summer Intern!

Hi, I'm Lauren Pereny and i'm visiting from Michigan to stay with my aunt, Francine. I'm 15, 16 in October, and in the fall will be a junior at Lamphere High School. I'm interning here at WAG for three weeks, and I'm really excited to get going. Being new to the working world, I'm anxious to learn a lot on how businesses work. This is my first job-like experience, but I definitely know what it is liked to be coached. I'm on the varsity dance and track and field teams at my high school. I also have participated in two school musicals and was the student director for the fall play. I belong to the drama club, and also something called Interact, where we do community service projects such as caroling for senior citizens or fundraising to donate money to a worthy cause. This year, I was also given the opportunity to become a Link Leader. We coach the upcoming freshman and welcome them into our school, giving them a helping hand along the way.

I have a love of traveling and learning about new cultures. I'm a big fan of history and the arts. Music is a huge part of my life and I could literally live at concerts, I enjoy them so much. I'm a big fan of photography and I love to be inspired. So everyone should get ready to put up with me for the next couple weeks, because I'm raring to go.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Social Media Q&A

Social Media Q & A with Justin Noland, WAG's Social Media Manager:

We know you have some questions so, let’s take a moment and get to know the person that is ready to take your brand’s social media presence to the next level.

FP: When did you start in social media?

JN: Personally speaking, I started being active in social media five years ago with the breakout of MySpace. I was also quickly entranced with the blogging world as I saw well written and current information about topics that mattered to me.

Professionally, I became interested in what this age of new media opportunities would mean to the marketing profession about two years ago. I entered UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business specifically because of their progressive stance in the education of Marketing MBA candidates. The opportunity to learn from the innovators and build my understanding based on the forward thinking of the faculty was too great to pass up.

FP: What is social media?

JN: Social Media is a term that describes a variety of new mass media outlets, but it’s more than that. It is the building of relationships, the conversations between people and a different type of outlet for new information and content. From a business standpoint, it represents a new way to engage your target consumers in a meaningful and impactful way.

FP: What is a social media campaign?

JN: A social media campaign starts with the development of a message and a voice for your brand. The brand takes that message, reaches out to the target consumer and delivers it in a creative and relevant method, while giving the consumer some level of incentive to pass the message along to their friends creating viral growth. The incentive here does not always have to be a coupon or a prize, but could be a simply a form of entertainment, a laugh, or just quality information.

FP: How do you monitor social media for a client?

JN: Great question, there are a variety of ways to monitor social media and new products are continually being developed in order to gain better insight from a marketing standpoint. Right now, I’d have to say that my favorite tool is Brandwatch. It is a cost option, but I feel it provides the right tools needed for a brand to really understand what is being said out. Specialty tools within Brandwatch also help you keep tabs on a particular campaign and can even help you understand what your competitors are doing. So far, Brandwatch is the most comprehensive way to monitor your brand on social media.

FP: How do you measure ROI?

JN: I’d love to take credit for this answer, but I can’t. My answer to this question comes straight from Olivier Blanchard who writes “The Brand Builder” Blog. If you haven’t read his blog, I would encourage you to and to watch his video presentation on social media ROI. It is not only informative, but will help you when deciding on which agency to hire to assist you in your social media ventures.

Measuring ROI in social media is pretty much the same as measuring it in traditional marketing. The bottom line question is “what did I get for what I spent?” If you have developed your campaign the right way, by setting clear goals and setting a baseline for analytic measurement, then simply take the metrics from your monitoring tools (I’m a fan of Omniture, but Google Analytics is helpful too) and see how they correlate to higher sales, better customer retention, or whatever your primary markers for success are.

Then we look for trends. Is traffic up in-store after posting on Facebook? What about Twitter? Does a higher sentiment analysis on Twitter lead to a larger basket size or more trips? Finding trends and tracking them back to their point of origin is the key to measuring ROI.

FP: How do you build an audience?

JN: This really depends on the campaign and what our goals are, but for most campaigns it simply comes down to engaging the consumer with relevant information. Just by joining the conversation and providing the consumer an incentive to listen, your audience will grow.

However, depending on the type of campaign, using Facebook ads or banner ads on the right kind of blog can certainly help build awareness of the campaign.

FP: Do you offer a guarantee?

JN: Yes and no, I always guarantee that I will work hard for my clients and represent them is the best way possible. I guarantee that I will give sound social media advice and always be open to the conversation that’s out there. I am not the guy that is going to guarantee a higher SEO or a certain number of fans because that just isn’t the best approach to social media. Plus, marketing is only one step in the brand equation and a multitude of other factors affect consumer behavior.

FP: How does social media impact SEO?

JN: SEO in its most simplistic form is about generating a higher number of links to the page or site that you want to promote. So, a simple answer is that social media will help generate more links. It’s more complex than that though. Social Media helps build relationships with your consumer base. The more loyal your consumer is, the more likely they are to want to pass along your information. That is what generates links.

FP: Outside of school, how do learn more about social media?

JN: By keeping my eyes open and reading plenty of blogs. Social Media is constantly changing. Understanding these changes and their effects is necessary to be best prepared for the future. Just be open minded and objective. Will this tool help? If the answer is yes, you need to learn more.

FP: What are your thoughts on developing a brand’s voice on social media?

JN: I am of the school of thought that having an anonymous “brand voice” is not the way to go in social media. Social participation works best when done by an individual, real or not. Many companies operate their Facebook page or Twitter account anonymously without identifying the person actually responding to customer inquiries and comments. This detracts from the effectiveness of the effort.

So the question is less about what my brand’s voice should be, but what the individual should sound like. They are the brand ambassador and should reflect the brands goals, passions and interests, while remaining personable and interesting. However, the voice depends more on the target audience that you are engaging with then it does the brand itself. Who are you talking to? What do they expect from your brand? What are their goals in life? Listen, understand and engage.

Have more questions? Email Justin yourself at

Francine Pinoni

WAG Partner

Friday, June 18, 2010

The name change that isn’t a name change

Recently, we undertook the task of rebranding Walcott-Ayers Group, officially changing our name to WAG. The acronym was already in wide use–email addresses, website address, the shorthand way we were referred to by our clients and by ourselves–but that wasn‘t the driving force behind the change. There have been major changes in CPG Marketing, and we have been actively involved in new ways to target shoppers for our clients from start to finish. This isn’t a reflex action, but rather a studied and conscious decision to ride the forefront of a new marketplace. OK, that sounds pretty good, right? I’ll buy it. Onward.

We’ve had the same dog in our logo since 1989, lovingly referred to by waggers as the “Picasso” dog. The only change to the pup in 21 years was a move away from the bright colors used in the original version to a simpler, more straight-forward dog (my own dogs are losing their bright colors as well, especially around the snout–but that’s another story). So when we set out in the beginning of 2010 to reorganize our efforts to focus on Shopper Marketing and Social Media, we had to make a big decision. Simply put, dog or no dog?

We were torn. Some of our clients were torn. We explored several ideas that kept the old dog, or a version of the dog, by putting the image onto a shopping bag (remember the “Shopper” part of this new identity). They had a nice look, but, combined with the shopping bag, they all tended to subtly (or maybe not so subtly) suggest that we were a purveyor of dog toys. Or in the business of dog grooming. Which we decidedly are not.

But it was hard saying farewell to the dog. Do you really want to turn your back on an old friend? But then we hit on a possibility of keeping a hint of canine. (And we do mean a hint).

See it? See the tail wagging? Now we just needed to get the dog presence and the Shopper presence all playing happily together with the type. We picked up the idea of the shopping bag from the “doggy boutique” idea, and replaced the dog with the wagging tail icon. We then started the color studies.

The beauty of having several people work on a project is that you get a whole bunch of ideas - and those ideas spark others (it’s not really stealing when you own the company). For instance, one of the designers had hand-drawn a logotype early on in the process. It had a certain appeal, but some people saw it as old fashioned (and the “w” in particular set off some Freudian anxiety in some) so we sent it back to the drawing board where it emerged much jauntier (and with no more anxieties).

So we’ve done the color studies (dozens and dozens), worked on the dog (or at least the tail of the dog–and no, not the hair of the dog), written taglines to neatly sum up what we do, and now we finally join the computer drawn type with the image and tagline and here we are:

Then it’s redesign the website and the Facebook page, redesign the business cards, letterhead, mailing labels, CD labels and all the rest. We’re getting there. Welcome to the new world of WAG. Design Powered by Shopper Insights. And yes, we can explain it. just call us.

Jim Walcott-Ayers

WAG Partner

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ready for the QR Code Revolution?

What's The Buzz,
Tell Me What’s Happening!!
(borrowed from Jesus Christ Superstar, the Rock Opera!)

What is the buzz with marketers and retailers
in America? What is going to take American
consumers by storm?? QR Codes! What are
QR codes, how do they work and what can they do?

According to our trusty Wikipedia, "A QR Code
is a matrix code created by Japanese corporation
Denso-Wave in 1994. The 'QR' is derived from
Response’, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.” And high speed they are, as they rapidly fire across all measurement of consumer communication.

This two-dimensional bar code is quickly on the rise. In the past five years American consumers may have seen these little codes buried in the legal area of their consumer products. The on-pack QR code helped the manufacturer track parts, production, expiration dates, pricing and an entire myriad of information. But, the life of the QR is expanding rapidly as they are easy to generate, easy to execute and easy to utilize.

How do QR codes work? If you have a cell phone that has a camera and the right app, you can use a QR code. You point your camera phone to the QR Code, snapping a photo. The QR code decodes instantly and voilà: the browser on your phone launches, directing you to the webpage or program that was linked to the specific QR code you just scanned! You’ve now opened up a
whole new world!

QR codes can be used (and are being used!) for special offers and promotions, coupons, websites, maps and directions, menus, as well as other less obvious links: bus signage, business cards, postcards, marketing collateral, real
estate signage, security clearances, the list is endless. You can create QR codes for phone numbers, events, emails, data lists, or for whatever your mind creates the need for. Then, you can measure the data- the number of scans, the number of responses, the dates and times people used them. Using this information you can determine the ROI and how they measure up against other vehicles/channels.

In 2007, British pop group Pet Shop Boys used a QR-code for the artwork of their download-only single “Integral”. The video clip for the song also featured a QR-code. When the codes were scanned correctly, users are directed to the Pet Shop Boys website and web pages about the British national identity card.

Earlier this month I checked in for my Delta flight from Detroit to San Francisco. I was offered a ‘digital’ boarding pass, which I quickly signed up for. After telling them what type of phone I had, my desired phone number for my ‘boarding’ text and my phone operating system, I received my text message within seconds. I opened the text and there it was, my personal QR code for my flight! I used it at security and I used it at the gate. I LOVED it. I didn’t have to remember my paper boarding pass, I just needed my phone! I admit I got slightly panicked a few times when I feared the loss of my paper pass, but that fear ended quickly and I was silently thrilled by my QR ‘secret code’!!

The Pet Shop Boys and Delta Airlines aren’t the only groups utilizing QR codes and bringing them mainstream to the US consumer. Facebook just recently announced that they were enabling users to generate custom QR Codes. On the example provided, they are suggesting two QR codes for your
personal profile: 1) Personal QR Bar code and 2) Status QR Bar code. Now your friends and associates can scan your QR code to download all your personal information! Maybe they need directions to your house? Your personal QR code is their answer!!

Now that we know what QR codes are, how they work and what you can do with them, they will certainly become a marketing gold mine as consumers look to achieve information or offers with QR codes. This gold mine could further be enhanced with the use of Social Media. When Brandweek asked US Facebook Users why they join Fan pages (March 2010), 37% answered ‘to receive coupons and discount offers’. As these Facebook users turn to their ‘fan pages’,
marketers will provide unique promotional offers targeted directly to them using a QR code. For Example...A Haagen-Daz (HD) Facebook ‘Fan’ visits the HD Facebook page and finds a QR code. They ‘shoot’ the code to learn that they have just received a ‘BOGO’ offer exclusively at Safeway. In doing so, they make themselves happy HD consumers, they make the retailer happy
gaining a ‘stock up’ trip with this HD shopper and they helped increase
market share for HD shareholders. A win-win-win!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Help WAG Help "The Young Faces of ALS"

For those of you not familiar, ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease) stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In short, ALS is a progressive, fatal, degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. People who suffer from ALS slowly become paralyzed while all mental capacity remains intact. It’s a disease that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

ALS has commonly been referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the iconic baseball player died of the disease in 1941, just two short years after his initial diagnosis. He is remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game, and is probably most respected for his record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, as well as his unrivaled sportsmanship and class. In 1939, at the age of 35, his streak came to an end when he became too physically disabled by ALS to continue playing. Gehrig, known as a power hitter and RBI king, suddenly felt his strength and balance fading. Athletic abilities that were once second nature to him quickly began to fade. After a trip to the Mayo Clinic, he learned his diagnosis and retired July 4, 1939 after delivering the most storied speech in baseball history. His record remained for 56 years, until Cal Ripken, Jr, broke it in 1995.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of ALS, is that “this disease is not incurable, it’s underfunded”, and in the 69 years since Lou Gehrig passed away, the prognosis for patients diagnosed today, in 2010, has barely improved.

However, an organization called ALS Therapy Development Institute (TDI) is trying to change that. ALS TDI is the world’s first non-profit biotech, and their sole mission is to develop effective treatments as soon as possible to stop ALS.

WAG supports ALS TDI, specifically their new “Young Faces of ALS” campaign. The goal of the Young Faces campaign is to change the perception of this disease, raise awareness, and ultimately raise the money that would lead to a cure. ALS is not a disease that only afflicts people who have lived a long, full life, it strikes an alarming number of young people as well; people who have barely had a chance to start living.

At this point, what ALS needs is awareness and FUNDING. WAG is doing our part by teaming up with the amazing people at ALS TDI, as well as local ALS patient, Corey Reich (whose family has helped raise over $1 million for ALS TDI), age 24, to help launch their “Young Faces of ALS” campaign on Facebook. It is our goal to help ALS TDI and the Young Faces campaign educate as many people as possible about this disease, because once you know about ALS, it is impossible not to be moved to help.

Corey is my friend from high school and was diagnosed our junior year of college at age 21. Since then, I personally have attended fundraisers and awareness events, and simply educated myself so I can talk with people I encounter and spread the word on ALS, what is being done, and what CAN be done. Now working at WAG, I work with people who know how to draw attention to a product. We are using our resources to not only design a visually appealing Facebook page, but also create a forum for young patients, their families and friends, doctors, and volunteers to come and share their stories, promote fundraising events, and RAISE MONEY!

Stay tuned for WAG’s launch of “The Young Faces of ALS” Facebook page, and be sure to ‘Like’ it. In the meantime you can visit ALS TDI, or The Young Faces of ALS to learn more or donate. Or, even easier, text ENDALS to 20222 to donate $5, every cent helps.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

What’s Up Kraft Sandwich Shop and Miracle Whip?

I’m focused on Kraft Mayonnaise and Kraft Miracle Whip sandwich spread and I know why. Kraft is out there heavily promoting both. I don’t even like mayonnaise but recently it’s been a part of my life. That’s how Brands are. Even if you’re not even interested in them, you don’t buy them or you don’t engage with them, they have a way of sneaking into your life. It is almost impossible not to have involvement with Brands no matter what. Here’s why:

Kraft just launched their new flavored mayonnaise “Sandwich Shop Mayo”. Woo! What took them so long? Consumers have been eating (and loving!!) flavored mayonnaise since…hmmmm, how long exactly? I wondered so I used ‘The’ Google ( and The Google says that the mayonnaise history can not be traced exactly, but mayonnaise can be traced back to the 1756 French capture of Mahon, a city on the Spanish Isle of Minorca. Okay, enough of that, lets get back to Kraft.

So, Kraft introduces a line of flavored mayonnaises-the SANDWICH SHOP MAYONNAISE: a sku of reduced fat Chipotle, Garlic & Herb, Horseradish-Dijon and regular Hot & Spicy. They use HGTV design star judges to help introduce the product in a reality TV type format. Using these designers for this product was a little disconnecting for me. Does Kraft want me to believe that because Vern Yip knows feng shui for living rooms, he can ‘design’ a sandwich too? Vern may pull together a color palette for a kitchen but is a color palette really necessary for a sandwich? I’ve been in the design world my entire life and no way do I think I could build a better sandwich then legendary Alice Waters, or even my German engineer husband, just because I studied and practiced design for over 30 years!

I do think the time for flavored Mayonnaise has come though! We’ve had Dijonaise (whatever happened to that product?), Baconaise (we all KNOW what happened to that product!), and even the giant fast food legend Burger King has served aioli on their burgers! The time has come and Kraft is letting me know.

But while the brand managers for the new and exciting Sandwich Shop Mayo are jumping up and down with their new consumer-desired product, celebrity spokesperson, big TV, radio and print campaigns, just down the hall are their Miracle Whip (MW as abbreviated by the brand team) counterparts and unfortunately for them, they are the David of the ‘Sandwich Shop’ Goliath.

How does one market ‘Miracle Whip’ against these new and highly touted consumer flavor profiles? Of course the growing Hispanic market desires a Chipolte Mayonnaise! And the Gourmet suburban ‘indulger’ shopper has desired Horseradish-Dijon Mayonnaise for years! This new Kraft product is the answer to their dreams, right? So what happens to Miracle Whip and who exactly buys that product?

I used The Google again to find PR on MW but the most current news I could find was from May of 2009. In this article (, the SVP of marketing says they ‘reinvented Miracle Whip’. They are targeting the 18-34 year old consumer. Their research shows that this younger segment has fond memories of Miracle Whip, that this consumer group enjoyed MW when they were younger and with the economic situation they’re facing, it’s the perfect way to get MW into this consumer’s kitchen. GREAT! Interesting strategy for an historic brand that is competing for share of stomach against their own colleagues offering a brand with strategic flavor profiles (and every consumer knows what mayonnaise is but what exactly is Miracle Whip anyway?).

‘Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise’ has always been a debate and definitely a consumer preference. This debate was further sparked by a Comedy Central remark made by legendary comedian Steve Colbert, who chose Mayonnaise over Miracle Whip when given the choice during an episode of his ‘Colbert Report’. The MW brand team catapulted the remark into their social media and traditional marketing campaigns to reach their 18-35 year old audience. Using Twitter, Facebook and a ZINGR branded browser plug-in, the brand believes MW ‘zings’ and now they can ‘zing’ the product to the digital world where their target is active.

Well, lots have happened in a year of zinging! They utilized Facebook to ask consumers to ‘take a stand’ against mayonnaise and have compiled 20,357 friends! While this doesn’t seem like a big number, when compared to the Kraft Mayonnaise Facebook page with 162 friends, the MW campaign is a huge success!! They utilized Facebook to encourage debates and discussions on consumer’s love of MW vs. Mayonnaise and to further capitalize on the Steve Colbert debate, they purchased every commercial timeslot during the Colbert Report on Thursday, November 12 to dominate the airspace with Miracle Whip consumers ‘snarfing sandwiches’ topped with, what else?, Miracle Whip.

It’s all good at the Chicago office of Kraft Miracle Whip. The brand has defined the consumer, got the touch points down, got a brilliant campaign to go against their Flavored Mayonnaise ‘Sandwich Shop’ colleagues, so now, I’m just wondering, what demographic data did they look at when they decided to use Red Plum’s Newspouch to deliver me a sample of their MW product within my Sunday San Francisco Chronicle?

In the last ten years, readership of newspapers in the core demographic group that MW has decided to go after has fallen 35-40% based on Scarborough Research survey data.

I’m definitely not their target as I’m not 18, 26 or 35, I’m not economically challenged and I don’t even purchase mayonnaise let alone a ‘sandwich spread’. Lets not forget my consumer segment is double income, empty nesters, indulgent and organic. We are so off the Miracle Whip target. Not only that, I find something very wrong with offering sandwich spread within a plastic newspaper bag. Is Miracle Whip sensitive to heat? How about when it’s in wrapped in plastic twice and it sits in the sun for four or more hours? Does it need to be refrigerated? Maybe the MW brand team did consider this. For their target, maybe food quality doesn’t matter as long as it’s free??

And, maybe those hipster Miracle Whip marketers may need to rethink their ‘kick up’ the flavor copy. I really need to know how mayonnaise (or any sandwich spread) kicks up anything? And, I’m not alone in wondering about the ‘non-taste’ of sandwich spreads and mayonnaise either! Evidently there are many us ‘I hate mayonnaise’ people out there as there’s even a website:

So Kraft, save your money on sending samples out to people that you have already decided are not going to buy your product. Instead, continue to execute the promise that your viral campaign has to offer. Extend it further by going guerilla on people and hitting the streets to target your demographic! Set up sandwich shops at tailgating spots and deliver the samples directly to the people. Take photos, post them to Facebook, announce where the next pop-up sandwich shop is going to be and when!

Cross Promote with sandwich king Subway or sponsor contests that build creativity and brand awareness! Bring it all back by actually using social media to advertise these events, contests and build your brand in the process!

You want web 2.0? You want hipster? You want new age marketing tactics? FORGET NEWSPAPERS! Stick to your guns and dive in, the young and spending shopper awaits, but he’s not reading the morning paper.

Just my thoughts on a Sunday morning! I’m off now to eat my German husband’s breakfast sandwich. (made without the free MW packets we got this morning in our Sunday paper!!).