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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Northern New Jersey and Me: Perfect Together!

Way back in late July, Robyn McMaster tagged me in East Koy Four Corners - My Home Town. I was stunned by her descriptions and images and enthralled with the mental picture that Robert Hruzek's meme - called My Home Town - a New Meme - generated [be sure to check out Bob's Home Town, too].

I got a bit side-tracked since then [it's only been 4 months]. Luckily, as Robyn originally tagged me for NYC, and I had the opportunity this week to take fresh pictures, I no longer need to hold back.... And I won't limit myself to NYC!

I first experienced New York City during college. During one visit [to a French friend of the family whose cheap apartment in the Bronx I eventually moved into], I remember being awed by the verticality of Fifth avenue. I madly snapped black & white photos of buildings, of parks, or bridges.

I love walking the streets of NYC. Everywhere you look, there are delights - from unusual architectural details, to inspiring store window displays, to preposterous neon lights around Times Square... I love how a neighborhood changes character within just a few blocks, and how intensely different one neighborhood is from another. People watching is beyond description.

From the Bronx, I moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, to the very neighborhood where my father was born [the rent increased dramatically, but it was trendier!]. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey.

New Jersey took some getting used to as I needed a car to get around, unless city bound. Nonetheless, having now lived in New Jersey longer than anywhere else, I have decided that New Jersey and Me are Perfect Together [to paraphrase former governor Tom Kean].

Per the question that Bob asks for this meme: What, in your opinion, is or are the most amazing, unusual, strange or just plain weird things about where you live?

Write a post answering the above question, then tag a few folks (choose your own number). Don’t limit yourself to just one thing, either – in fact, the more, the merrier. PLEASE include photos as appropriate (to amaze us all, and, you know, prove you’re not kidding – we all know what a picture is worth, right?), but remember – the more memorable, the better!
Bob has since posted My Home Town: The Grand World Tour which, in addition to Robyn's post, includes:

+ Charing, Kent, United Kingdom – Karin H. at Stop/Start
+ Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands – also Karin H. at Stop/Start
+ Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – Markk at My Opinions Are Important
+ Edinburgh, Scotland – Joanna Young at Confident Writing
+ Belgrade, Serbia – Danica at Belgrade and Beyond
+ Abilene, Kansas, United States – G.L. Hoffman at What Would Dad Say
+ Geneva, Illinois, United States – Brad Shorr at Word Sell, Inc.
+ Upper Marlboro, Maryland, United States – Edith Brown at Jeteak Press Writer Blog
+ Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - Yvonne Russell at Grow Your Writing Business
+ Montego Bay, Jamaica - Galba Bright at Tune up your EQ

It's a wonderful world tour that underscores our rich, global and vibrant community!

And, now for some lovely flavour and textures that explain why New Jersey and me are perfect together....

I live in Morris County, just west of New York City, at the foot of the Ramapo Mountains.

We have a rich park system, filled with hiking trails and history [the park closest to me used to be a speakeasy]. As close as we are to NYC, we are home to the New Jersey Black Bear, which according to the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife lecture my daughter and I attended last year, is healthier, lives longer and produces more young than the New York or Pennsylvania Black Bear. Go figure! You can learn more by viewing this New Jersey Black Bear slide show.

No lions or tigers, although we do have Alpacas, preserved farmlands and Puddingstone.

Another gem of a resource for foodies is CowsOutside.com, the home of Bobolink Dairy, makers of the best and purest organic cheese, artisanal bread and other delights. It was featured in Anthony Bourdain's episode on New Jersey of No Reservations [this is the wiki]. [Tony is the author of Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.) and executive chef of Les Halles in NYC, an authentic French bistro.]

Although I need a car, I have easy access to Newark Liberty International Airport and, of course, to New York City thanks to NJ Transit or the New York WaterWay Ferry.

And, the really nice thing about having such easy access to NYC is being able to participate in NYC Blogger Meetup - Night of the Iguana, or -- even more exciting! -- the event of 2008: the Blogger Social '08!

Per CK's "social media goes REALLY social, these are some of the folks attending Blogger Social: Susan Bird Tim Brunelle Katie Chatfield Terry Dagrosa Matt Dickman Luc Debaisieux Gianandrea Facchini Mark Goren Gavin Heaton Sean Howard CK Valeria Maltoni Drew McLellan Doug Meacham Marilyn Pratt Steve Roesler Greg Verdino CB Whittemore Steve Woodruff Paul McEnany Ann Handley David Reich Tangerine Toad Kristin Gorski Mack Collier David Armano Ryan Barrett Lori Magno Tim McHale Gene DeWitt Mario Vellandi Arun Rajagopal Darryl Ohrt Joseph Jaffe Rohit Bhargava Anna Farmery Marianne Richmond Thomas Clifford Lewis Green Geoff Livingston, ...

So, in anticipation of Blogger Social, and to whet the appetite of anyone who hasn't yet registered, I invite all of the New York area based attendees to share their perspective on what makes NYC so special, with specifics on what our visitors should absolutely do when they are here in April [e.g., CK, Greg Verdino, Steve Woodruff, David Reich, Tangerine Toad, Susan Bird, Terry Dagrosa, Marilyn Pratt, Steve Roesler, Kristin Gorski, Tim McHale, Gene DeWitt, Darryl Ohrt, Valeria Maltoni, Joseph Jaffe, Thomas Clifford....]

Robyn, thanks for being so patient! Any chance you might make it to the Blogger Social?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Extra, Extra: The Age of Conversation on Amazon

Change is afoot!

Drew McLellan describes it best in Age of Conversation: Time to play in the big leagues.

You may have also read all about it in Age of Conversation Revisited by Anna Farmery or The Age of Conversation Going Amazon by Todd Andrlik or Act Now! Last Chance! by Scott Monty or Age of Conversation makes a great holiday gift by Colin McKay or even The Age of Conversation Goes from Lulu to Amazon by Valeria Maltoni.

Here's the scoop: you have until November 30th to purchase through Lulu.com the hard cover or paperback version of The Age of Conversation.

Starting December 1st, we are joining the big leagues and The Age of Conversation will be available only through Amazon and other book sellers throughout the world. That means at an increased price to cover the book sellers' commissions.

So, from that point forward unless you are buying either the hard back or the paperback versions in bulk, neither will be available directly through Lulu.com. The e-book will remain on Lulu.com for the same price of $9.99.

In case you're not sure what you are missing out on, check out The Age of Conversation Roundup where I give you a taste of each of the chapters that over 100 authors generously contributed to create The Age of Conversation, a book released in July 2007 that has since raised over $11,000 for Variety the Children’s Charity. [The book was the brainchild of Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton.]

With this move, we anticipate raising even more money for Variety! Will you be a part of this great project?

With the holidays upon us, you might be looking for some holiday gifts. Look no further!

Especially since the list of authors is impressive: Gavin Heaton, Drew McLellan, CK, Valeria Maltoni, Emily Reed, Katie Chatfield, Greg Verdino, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Mike Sansone, Paul McEnany, Roger von Oech, Anna Farmery, David Armano, Bob Glaza, Mark Goren, Matt Dickman, Scott Monty, Richard Huntington, Cam Beck, David Reich, Luc Debaisieux,
Sacrum, Sean Howard, Tim Jackson, Patrick Schaber, Roberta Rosenberg, Uwe Hook, Tony D. Clark, Todd Andrlik, Toby Bloomberg, Steve Woodruff, Steve Bannister, Steve Roesler, Stanley Johnson, Spike Jones, Nathan Snell, Simon Payn, Ryan Rasmussen, Ron Shevlin, Roger Anderson, Robert Hruzek, Rishi Desai, Phil Gerbyshak, Peter Corbett, Pete Deutschman, Nick Rice, Nick Wright, Michael Morton, Mark Earls, Mark Blair, Mario Vellandi, Lori Magno, Kristin Gorski, Kris Hoet, G.Kofi Annan, Kimberly Dawn Wells, Karl Long, Julie Fleischer, Jordan Behan, John La Grou, Joe Raasch, Jim Kukral, Jessica Hagy, Janet Green, Jamey Shiels, Dr. Graham Hill, Gia Facchini, Geert Desager, Gaurav Mishra, Gary Schoeniger, Gareth Kay, Faris Yakob, Emily Clasper, Ed Cotton, Dustin Jacobsen, Tom Clifford, David Polinchock, David Koopmans, David Brazeal, David Berkowitz, Carolyn Manning, Craig Wilson, Cord Silverstein, Connie Reece, Colin McKay, Chris Newlan, Chris Corrigan, Cedric Giorgi, Brian Reich, Becky Carroll, Arun Rajagopal, Amy Jussel, AJ James, Kim Klaver, Sandy Renshaw, Susan Bird, Ryan Barrett, Troy Worman, CB Whittemore, S. Neil Vineberg.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Consumer's Tale

This article appeared in the 09/24/2007 issue of Floor Covering Weekly. Can you guess who the consumer is?

Here follows the legitimate tale of a not-so-average consumer from the flooring industry. Read on and experience for yourself her retail highs and lows.

Our consumer
After 20 years of living the suburban dream in a 2800 square foot house in Dalton, our married-with-no-kids-boomer and boomer husband have decided to move to an apartment in a beautifully renovated and elegant 1890s department store building in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn. She has been ready to transition to an urban setting for several years; her husband has only recently reconciled himself to being 30 minutes away from work instead of five!

Why Chattanooga?
This dual-income couple loves culture [the arts, the symphony] and fine dining, and has taken in doses of Chattanooga culture since moving to Dalton. Given how often they drive there, it only seems natural to consider it for their new, simpler urban condo lifestyle.

No surprise, they fall in love with a condominium that makes both boomers feel that they are ‘trading-up’. Our couple may be downsizing to 2600 square feet, but the new space better suits their current needs. Not only is the master bedroom large enough for a king size bed, but the master suite closet is big enough to get lost in! The kitchen and living room are open, and 10 to 11 foot ceilings create elegant airiness in the historic space. Don’t forget the magical wrap-around balcony with views of downtown that an artist would die for.

The flooring experience
As we’ve mentioned, we are not observing a normal flooring consumer. This woman knows the ins and outs of the flooring business. She has installers she works with regularly and routinely schedules them before purchasing materials! Furthermore, her husband [a former installer] knows how to measure and judge quality in an installation.

Our consumer simply identifies the flooring products that best capture the look, feel, style, price and availability she envisions. She selects an upscale, non-patterned, almost contra-dential [contract/residential] construction carpet in a neutral color. Rather sophisticated and certainly not an opening price point item!

Ugly situation
When she selects carpet for her large master bedroom closet, the salesperson looks at her and says “why would you pick an expensive carpet like that? It’s going into a closet. Why don’t you pick something a little less expensive?” This salesperson actually wants to trade our consumer “down”! This happens all the time. Does it happen in your store?

Flooring projects
For a ‘normal’ consumer without industry connections, the flooring experience is often so lousy that she will prefer not to think about another flooring project ever again [or at least for another five to seven years]. But consider this: most consumers have ongoing projects and are rarely ever done with their home. We routinely, then, miss out on major opportunities! Our consumer, for example, intends to rip out the master bathroom tile and replace it with travertine, and replace the low grade wood flooring throughout the condominium with a higher quality choice. She is not thinking about doing this in five or ten years, but rather in the next 1 to 2 years. Imagine if we enabled all consumers to feel this way! If the consumer could experience at least a painless - if not positive - experience, she would readily replace and even upgrade her flooring products on a more frequent basis rather than avoid it completely.

How salespeople approached her
Salespeople routinely greet our consumer with “Can I help you?” She wonders about that question. Salespeople seem more than happy to ‘write up’ an order, but when it comes to actually helping, they become scarce. Her questions relate to the purchase process: How long will it take to order this item? When will it be delivered? Can it be ordered with different fabric/arms/skirt?. They represent clues to an observant salesperson that she is a serious buyer. Although obvious, many just don’t get it. You might consider how to develop a less salesperson-intensive-environment for certain questions.

Another turnoff
Our consumer goes to another store where prices are marked up ridiculously high and has harsh words: “Do retailers take consumers for idiots? We are savvy and can compare prices and relative value. Why bother with such a scam? It only turns the consumer off, and encourages her to tell everyone she knows to stay away!”

Our consumer generally prefers the low pressure sales approach. Stores like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters have perfected a retail environment where the consumer sells herself. In fact, those stores disavow direct selling! They fully engage the consumer on all levels, offer no hassles and the consumer inevitably walks out with a purchase!

Despite her confidence and flooring industry knowledge, our consumer is concerned about making a mistake. Finding what she wants is hard, visualizing it in her space is hard, taking ownership of it is hard –if and when it ever arrives- and so few tools exist to let her regain control. It’s no wonder that purchases often get postponed or made in stores like IKEA where the consumer is in charge and can take product home immediately!

Working with designers
This consumer tries to work with a designer, but the designer won’t listen, promoting her own preferences instead. She won’t internalize the message that our consumer shares with her and misses out on business! The designer offers a shopping service [valuable for a time stressed consumer], but after experiencing the designer’s poor listening skills, our consumer feels it would be a waste of money. “It’s hard to give up important decisions about one’s home to someone who doesn’t seem to be listening to me.” Remember that this consumer works full-time. “If I didn’t have a full time job, this might be fun. But imagine what typical consumers have to go through. Talk about stressful.”

She does, though, make an appointment with a furniture store designer. This time, the designer truly makes a difference and facilitates the process. She listens, she asks questions and tests concepts. She acts as a true consumer resource sifting through concepts, ideas, and products to come up with the perfect answer. She acts as a sounding board and helps validate decisions.

Retailers - whether your store is furniture or carpet focused - consider having trained designers on staff ready, willing and able to provide your consumers with support. You will see the difference in your bottom line.

Color influences
Color choices are neither right nor wrong. Rather, in the words of the famous French artist, Edouard Manet, “Color is a matter of taste and sensitivity”. Everyone is drawn to different color choices, and may have existing colors schemes to work with. Selecting the correct choice is a matter of putting together a palette or combination of four to six colors, two or three main colors with an equal number of accents.

Our consumer is no different. She is drawn toward her signature color scheme of black and tan, with the addition of chocolate brown. This palette combined with an unusual departure for our consumers – red – creates the backdrop for the formal spaces. The red comes from striking red silk drapes with gold bamboo accents, a legacy from the previous owner. The end result includes chocolate brown leather, strong black and tan patterns, and – for the accent pillows – a red, gold, chocolate and tan paisley pattern, and a red, black, gold, tan and brown area rug.

Our consumer inherited a garish color scheme in her master bedroom and opts to shift from intense oriental reds to a soothing marine blue accented with golden beige. The end effect calms and relaxes – creating a gender-neutral sanctuary for both male and female sensibilities. Our consumer states: “I like the coolness of the blue color and the contrast to the khaki that's also in the room. I have this great painting that looks killer against the dark blue background and I plan to bring up a rug I used in Dalton in the music room. It has that deep blue plus the red that will tie into the other rooms.”

And, finally, the spare bedroom features gold walls and carpet. It has been harmonized with the living room theme via a red and black paisley bed set.

Final words of wisdom
Retailers, as you’ve read this story, have you considered that this could be your consumer? Given the levels of frustration she routinely encounters as she progresses through these home related projects, imagine how you might forever redefine her flooring experience for the better.

How might you showcase the latest flooring fashion in your store? Can you integrate these latest styles into a vignette with all of the other elements your consumer will be considering in her home?

What tools can you create to help your consumer make sense of your store offerings? New signage? A printed guide? Photography?

Do your sales associates respect your customers? Have you trained your sales associates to act more like consultants than hard sellers? Do they know how to listen?

Above all, be sure to completely and fully listen to your consumer. Let her talk about her dreams and expectations; let her guide you. She knows what she wants, and looks to you to facilitate the process. She wants something perfect for her home. And, if you satisfy her, you can be sure she will tell everyone she knows about the positive experience, which guarantees you success!

These are the fabrics our consumer used in her living room:

+ The lighter one is for the sofa,
+ the brown/black/tan geometric covers one chair;
+ the brown leather is on another chair and the paisley is for accent pillows.

Thanks to Ann Hurley and Kim Gavin for making this article possible. I can't wait to get back to Chattanooga and see the final results.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!! originally uploaded by pinkbirdgirl.

A wonderful American holiday.

Did you know about this micro site on The History Channel's History of Thanksgiving site? It's pack full of fascinating information.

My all time favorite Thanksgiving story comes from Art Buchwald as described in Giving Thanks. Even if you are familiar with the story, I urge you to read it as it is filled with Buchwald's amazing humour.

Thank you for reading so faithfully, and showing me so much encouragement. I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming Blogger Social 2008 and Surfaces 2008 or simply continuing our online interactions.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. May your holiday be filled with great humour and cheer, delicious stories and warm interactions.

Here, as captured by my daughter, are my Thanksgiving thoughts to you and yours. [If you can't see the video, click here for the YouTube link.]

Again, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Grinch Who Stole November's Christmas

The Grinch originally uploaded by Graubart.
It's that time of year again... when something has to be done.

No surprise, it came up last year in Elmo Saves Christmas,... But Not From Retailers. This year, with so much added wisdom under my belt, I'm wondering whether to induct unimaginative retailers into David Meerman Scott's Interruption Marketing Hall of Shame.

[BTW, the title to this post is my daughter's suggestion - her alternate choice: The Grinch Who Stole November's Thanksgiving.]

Yes, Thanksgiving is coming right up. It's even early this year. Most consider Thanksgiving the official launch of the Christmas [shopping] season. And, yet, retailers continue to outdo one another to get the process started sooner.

Target: while shopping for my daughter's Hallowe'en costume in early/mid October at Target, we kept stepping into the Christmas section which abutted the costumes. The Christmas stuff has now taken over all of that real estate....

Town Center Mall in Kennesaw, GA: not only was it decorated to the max on Thursday, November 8 [including music blaring], but it also had Santa and elves looking bored and desperate for customers.

These past weekends, wherever we've gone, we've been assaulted with holiday tunes and red & green decorations. My daughter [6] has gone up to shopkeepers asking: "Where is your Thanksgiving stuff?" To me, "Momma, why don't stores respect Thanksgiving?" And, since she has blended Veterans Day with Thanksgiving: "We need to say thank you to our Veterans. And the stores are ignoring them!"

Now, the outlook for the 2007 Christmas retail season seems grim [see The Holiday Shopping Outlook: I Saw Mommy Dissing Santa Claus from 11/14/2007 and Penney, Kohl's Predict Tough Holidays from 11/16/2007 by Emily Fredrix] given the host of economic worries, an excessively warm fall that left too many back-to-school goods in stores, and too many retail stores. And, the jury is out as to how much retail sales will be up [see Black Friday, Opaque as Ever. Why Forecasting Firms' Holiday-Sales Predictions Just Lead to Uncertainty by Emily Bryson York from 11/19/2007. Note the comment that "consumers will start shopping later than ever this year..." ]

The prediction is for deep desperate discounts benefiting bargain hunting consumers [see Closeout Racks Overflowing for Holidays by Mark Jewell 11/16/2007].

Shopping Bargains Before the First Bite of Turkey from 11/17/2007 by Michael Barbaro details those retailers getting started early - Toys R Us, CompUSA and Kmart [open Thanksgiving Day], JC Penney - even offering pumpkin pie to get shoppers in the mood. Wal-Mart has been holding mini-Black-Friday sales throughout November. Best Buy however is deliberately waiting until 5am on Friday to open its doors. Then there's Some Black Friday sales to begin on Wednesday....

I actually admire these particular shows of seasonal shopping exuberance. For those consumers wanting to take part, they can. Those who don't [myself included] can simply remain blissfully unaffected.

What I don't appreciate are the heavy-handed approaches many retailers push relentlessly onto consumers -- moves that are the equivalent of interruption marketing:
- Christmas music in malls and stores in October and November? That doesn't fly when the kids are busy singing about witches and goblins, Veterans and giving thanks.
- Santa and elf photo ops in November? Keep Santa boxed up until after Thanksgiving.
- Red, green, tinsel and ornaments in October? Wait until after orange/black and orange/red/brown/black and green have had their moments of glory.

By staying out of stores in October, I was able to ignore it. I'm back in stores and I can't run. So, please, give me back my November. Don't overexpose me to Christmas and make kids [and me] gag upon hearing those fake hohohos. I'll delight in them and in you if the season is right.

Grinch, steal the fake November's Christmas so we can truly treasure the magic of the real Christmas season! Help retailers remember how to cleverly draw customers in without resorting to unimaginative interruption marketing methods.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

10 Tips To Not Trip Up a Speech

Public Speaking For Success originally uploaded by wardomatic.
At the MarketingProfs Business To Business Forum in Chicago, Ann Handley and I got to talking about public speaking and the tips we've gathered over the years to guarantee success.

[BTW, Ann is guest-blogging at Rohit Bhargava's Influential Marketing Blog - a really cool site even when Ann's not guest-blogging!]

We had so much fun comparing notes, that it only seemed right to share my top tips here. I bet you, too, have accumulated a fair share of worthy words of wisdom. Would you like to share yours? Link to this post, include them in the comments or send them via email to CBWhittemore [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll gather them all together in one place.

Here are my top ten tips:

1. Never eat a banana immediately before a speech. For that matter, avoid dairy products, too. Both contribute to a distracting need to clear one's throat during a presentation.

2. Drink lots of water, ideally with lots of lemon [I avoid ice]. Have water with you at the podium. This helps minimize dry mouth.

3. It's okay to feel nervous. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous. Anticipate it and be prepared. Yes, you'll be aware of it, but the audience won't. No one but you will feel your knees shake. If you're worried about tripping on stage, then don't wear high-heels...

4. In the few minutes before the presentation, clench and unclench all of the muscles in your body. Do that again and again. It will help dissipate excess energy. Remember to breathe. If you tend to race at the beginning of a presentation, then consciously make plans to slow yourself down and breathe.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Videotape yourself speaking. Practice some more, especially the parts of the presentation when you feel most vulnerable. If it's at the beginning, then learn the beginning by heart. Understand the rhythm of your material.

6. Project your voice and your presence. If you're not sure what that means, then go into an empty church or auditorium and practice projecting both without a microphone. Try singing, too. Fill the entire space with your voice. That will really help things click.

7. Make eye contact, with every part of the room. Hold contact for a few seconds. If you forget, place boldly dressed friends in strategic places and look at them!

8. Do not read your presentation.

9. Do not clutch the podium. If possible, stay as far away from a podium as you can [except for when you need to drink water].

10. Remember that you are the expert. Express that energy and passion and have fun. You will be contagious. Guaranteed!

A quick Google on public speaking tips brought up:
+ Presentation Tips for Public Speaking
+ FREE Public Speaking Tips
+ Overcome Your Fear of Presenting

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roger Adams Remodels Home Depot Brand

How might you remodel the Home Depot brand?

That's what Home Depot's Chief Marketing Officer, Roger Adams, addressed at the Association of National Advertisers annual meeting in October.

I found the presentation fascinating. Adams made sense; the programs he described combined the knowhow expertise that Home Depot has been known for with a focus on the different needs of women, Hispanic and African American consumers. I left thinking that maybe Home Depot was back on track. And, yet, Roger Adams - in position for approximately one year - left the week after this presentation. [See Home Depot's Dilemma: How Much Can A CMO Fix? by Sarah Mahoney on 10/19/2007.]

According to Adams, Home Depot is the 8th largest employer in the US with 350k associates. Its growth has been fueled by price, selection, and service. The original premise was based on the simple idea of making pro brands available to all without price discrimination. Associates were hired from the trades to bring specific knowledge and experience to customer interactions.

Home Depot creates an emotional connection to its brand through the notion of "I did it." It's about giving consumers the confidence to try a project; helping them develop a sense of personal ownership and empowerment because they actually did the project themselves. Experienced associates represent a teaching base to communicate and engage consumers across a rational/emotional continuum that recognizes that the home represents an individual's identity, and the most expensive and expressive badge of color, individual style and personality.

Adams says that price is not a key driver for consumers. Rather, it is a matter of how satisfied they are with the fun factor of the store, whether the store is friendly, how knowledgeable associates are and how well organized the store is.

Women Consumers
The market has changed considerably. From a consumer perspective, female decision makers account for 2/3 of the business. They aren't just looking for decor related items. Rising home ownership means that they want to know how to do and fix things themselves -- learning at their own pace.

Through the "Do-It-Herself" workshops, Home Depot has successfully engaged and empowered women. To date, over 200,000 women have participated across the country, and the momentum continues. It has resulted in a huge base of loyal consumers who get the word out. Home Depot does not promote the workshops via mass media.

Interestingly, the workshops are online driven, with customers developing topics. The online site offers additional web-based training, podcasts and registration for in-store events.

Hispanic Growth
Home Depot has also seen a growth in Hispanic customers. As first time homeowners, they have a high comfort in DIY and require more product information, the right assortment to choose from that is relevant to the hispanic culture. Home Depot engages with them via projects and context and has been successful creating an emotional connection by letting them tell their own story [Adams showed an advertising clip showing a Hispanic family speaking in both Spanish and English].

African American Growth
African Americans are ready for home improvement. Although intimidated by some projects, more women are purchasing homes. They want knowledge more than any other segment. Home Depot engages them with fun know-how.

For example, it has successfully connected via Urban radio and Steve Harvey [see Steve Harvey going against the grain. ‘King of Comedy’ brings civility, God, and big ratings, to morning radio] who does a lot of home improvements himself. In one year, Home Depot saw its awareness improve considerably.

Online, Steve Harvey offers how-to workshops.

In addition to the Steve Harvey celebrity seminars, Home Depot offers Ed Begley, Jr. seminars promoting its "Eco Options" product ideas. These cut across categories, using a classification system similar to Energy Star.

Despite the market being down, Home Depot is focusing on the customer again, investing in store labor and paying closer attention to customer service. Master trade specialists are returning, and associates have taken to the "orange juiced associates program". As a result, morale is up, attrition is down, and customer scores are up.

Engage the Community
Community activities represent a strong part of the Home Depot DNA, according to Adams. The NFL Neighborhood MVP Program, for example, creates a local connection, involving NFL fans, to do good in urban communities.

Home Depot is learning that, to engage the customer, it must forge an emotional connection through giving away knowhow, and being honest. It can inspire customers to do more, by understanding their dreams, and helping them fulfill those dreams. An effective way of conveying that commitment is by letting consumers tell their story, and filming that in a documentary approach. [For example, Reginald's Story.] This puts the consumer in control of mass communications. [View all stories!]

This Advertising Age interview from 10/09/2007 took place right before Roger Adams' presentation took place: Home Depot CMO: We Need to 'Start All Over' Q&A: Roger Adams Wants Retailer to Refocus Efforts on Service, Other Basics by Mya Frazier.

I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer for Home Depot to get back on track.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Communications, Flooring & SoCal Wildfire Update

I promised in California Wildfires to update you on how the flooring industry has been affected by the Southern California wildfires.

First, we confirmed that the Mohawk representative whom we thought had lost his home did not. He was evacuated, but is back.

And, from all reports, the stores we work closely with also made it through. Some closed for a few days, but are back in business.

Floor Covering Weekly reports SoCal fires: Flooring companies deal with the destruction on 10/29/07 that more than 1,300 houses burned down, including the house of the founders of Pacific Solutions - suppliers of management software for the flooring industry.

The situation has radically improved since then, although the Sierra Sun's Firefighters warn of continued wildfire threat in California by Michael R. Blood from 11/06/07 states that "catastrophic wildfires that burned across the state last month and in 2003 were of an intensity that should be witnessed rarely — perhaps once a century, they say. The proximity of those fires has raised fears that furious blazes could become more frequent, threatening lives and property."

The result is a state task force to review responses, preparedness, building codes as well as "issues from radio communications to building codes to aircraft used in firefighting..."

These issues of communications got me thinking about Communication in a Crucible: Imagination vs.Image Control During California Fires by Communication Overtones' Kami Huyse. She says that "as communicators we are increasingly faced with the choice to either build new bridges with people or work to deceive them." She develops these thoughts in depth in Communication in a Crucible: Imagination (Red Cross) Vs. Image Control (FEMA) During California Fires.

I've heard many say that the wildfires brought out the best in people. Kami qualifies in her article that "...the wildfires brought out the best in those who were prepared, and the worst in those who were not." Those who were prepared took advantage of the tools of social media in exciting and creative ways to share information and get it to those who most needed it. Rather than bury the crisis in bureaucracy, rather than worry about controlling the uncontrollable, they rode it, herding people in the right direction with bits and bytes of relevant and accurate information. In so doing, they eased the crisis. [Becky Carroll from Customers Rock! describes how social media positively affected her evacuation.]

Bruce Nussbaum on 10/24/07 shares a different perspective in Inside The California Fires--A Need For Innovation To Fight Them. He says "There may have been systems in place to alert people of various stages of danger, but I didn't see or hear any. Clearly, precise, constant information over the web and landlines is needed. Information that provided odds of your house being in danger given the various variables, especially wind direction, would be especially valuable." The comments point to innovations with specific links and examples, although the state task force will have plenty to discuss.

We have learned lessons since Hurricane Katrina, as Kami describes in her article: crisis communication requires a multitude of ways to reach people with timely information.

Although the same can be said anytime a message needs to be communicated, a crisis creates urgency. And urgency demands immediate effectiveness. That's where creativity and preparation come in.

As you think about communications in your business, prepare. And then consider how to engage the energy, creativity and enthusiasm of those around you to get the word out. Certainly in bad times, but also during good times. You might be surprised at the range of unusual yet effective social media channels available.

Photo courtesy of Greer Leisz, our Wear-Dated Regional Manager for the Central Region, whose cousins both live in Orange county and were affected by the fires. The Santiago fire was within 5 miles of one cousin's home. The other cousin housed family friends who lost their home down near San Diego, yet were able to get their horses safely evacuated.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The M20: Top Marketer Blogs: Why I Blog?

Forrester Research's Peter Kim - who blogs at Being Peter Kim - has created a powerful resource with the M20 list of top client side marketing blogs. He has just published the November list and it's an honor for Flooring The Consumer to be included.

Peter has enhanced the M20 list blog by showcasing blogging marketers and highlighting why each blogs. Although each answers the same questions, the paths taken to blogging vary greatly. It's fascinating to read.

To date you can learn more about:
+ Max Kalehoff - AttentionMax. He blogs at AttentionMax about marketing, media, and life. He is VP of Marketing at Nielsen Online.

+ Valeria Maltoni - Conversation Agent. Her blog, Conversation Agent, discusses "how talk can change our lives." She is Director of Marketing Communications at SunGard Availability Services.

+ Tamara Gielen - BeRelevant blogs at BeRelevant about email marketing best practices. She is an email marketing manager at eBay in Belgium.

+ Todd "Turbo" Watson - IBM blogs at IBM about technology and e-business. He is the e-relationship manager at IBM Software Group.

+ Kris Hoet - 'Cross The Breeze from 'Cross The Breeze blogs about interactive, technology and a host of related topics. He is the EMEA Marketing Manager for Microsoft.

+ Kevin Dugan - Strategic Public Relations blogs at Strategic Public Relations. He is Director of Marketing Communications at FRCH Design Worldwide.

I'm very excited that Flooring The Consumer and C. B. Whittemore from Wear-Dated are the latest additions! You can find us at C.B. Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer.

Thanks, Peter!

In other news, The Hughes Group publishes a digital newsletter called The Nudge and included a story about Flooring The Consumer in the October 2007 issue.

Very exciting!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest 2007 Wrap-Up

What a wild 2007 Bathroom Blogfest Week! I hope you've had as much fun as we have.

In case you missed any of the posts from Flooring The Consumer, here's what happened, starting with Let the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest Begin....

Day 1:
Taking Bathrooms To The Next Level - Kohler
Taking Bathrooms To The Next Level - II
Taking Bathrooms To The Next Level: Michigan Tile...

Day 2:
Bathroom Brand Manifestations:M&Ms
Bathroom Brand Manifestations: Bass Pro Shops
Bathroom Brand Manifestations: Mickey Mouse
Brand Manifestations In The Bathroom: Advertising

Day 3:
Bathroom Blogfest 2007 - Extreme Solutions
Bathroom Blogfest - More Extreme Solutions

Day 4:
Bathroom Blogfest and Measurement

Day 5 [overlapping into Day 6]:
Bathroom Blogfest Brings It Home to Retail
Bringing The Bathroom Blogfest Home - Advice
Bringing the Bathroom Blogfest Truly Home

Thank you for reading. Thank you for participating. We look forward to seeing you again for the 2008 Bathroom Blogfest.

Here's to another terrific Bathroom Blogfest, with great appreciation to all of my fellow bloggers:

Kate Rutter—Adaptive Path
Laurence Helene Borel—Blog Till You Drop
Iris Shreve Garrott—checking out and checking in
Susan Abbott—Customer Experience Crossroads
Maria Palma—Customers Are Always
Becky Carroll—Customers Rock!
Toby Bloomberg—Diva Marketing
Stephanie Weaver—Experienceology
Linda Tischler—Fast Company Now
C.B. Whittemore—Flooring the Consumer
Ed Pell—K+B DeltaVee
Helene Blowers—Library Bytes
Claudia Schiepers—Life and its little pleasures
Katie Clark—Practical Katie
Sandra Renshaw—Purple Wren
Reshma Anand—Qualitative Research
Marianna Hayes—Results Revolution
Carolyn Townes—Spirit Women
Sara Cantor—The Curious Shopper
Anna Farmery—The Engaging Brand
Dee McCrorey—The Ultimate Corporate Entrepreneur
Katia S. Adams—Transcultural
Katie Konrath-Get Fresh Minds
Jennifer Brite-Kitchen and Bath Business

Don't forget the Bathroom Blogfest group site!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bringing the Bathroom Blogfest Truly Home

Continuing with Day 5 [yes, into Day 6] of the Bathroom Blogfest, I have one more entry relating to Bringing The Bathroom Blogfest Home. And that is bringing it into the home.

Starting with "The Master Bath Matures. Luxury amenities and calming colors create peaceful and convenient settings in master bath suites" by Maureen Alley from the May 2007 issue of RDB Magazine. It is filled with glamorous bathrooms photos and interesting tidbits [e.g., baths vs. showers].

Some particularly relevant quotes from the article: "homeowners ... expect their bathrooms to offer them a peaceful haven from the commotions of work, children and traffic. Homeowners want their master bathrooms to provide a Zen feeling in a spa setting." [might this remind you of Taking Bathrooms To The Next Level - Kohler?]

The section on Functionality reminds me of Bathroom Blogfest Brings It Home to Retail: "The key to designing a truly functional master bathroom starts with finding out what works and doesn’t work in a client’s existing setting. “We need to find out what the key elements are in their minds — what they don’t like about their master baths. Then we need to take away all the negatives and make it a total positive room design,” Trzcinski says. "

I hope you are thinking how you might help this consumer extend the Zen feeling to the rest of her house via her flooring and carpet choices? As the bathroom evolves, so do the other rooms in the house...

This 01/25/2007 New York Times article by Suzanne Gannon titled For the High-End Bathroom, Something Unexpected examines another aspect of home bathrooms: urinals which are becoming "a definite must for luxury master suites." However, as "there is still a certain amount of squeamishness about home urinals, particularly among women, so marketers are focusing on designer style and claims about cleanliness in an effort to overcome negative associations." Interestingly, urinals even offer environmental benefits... Combine that with hand sculpted artistic statements of style and you get an article definitely worth reading.

For design ideas, you might consider visiting Kate Smith [from Sensational Color]'s Room Vues and checking out Bathroom Vues.

Finally, it just doesn't seem right during a Bathroom Blogfest not to review some history. Nora DePalma from Building Profits forwarded me these links to the Flushology section of PlumberProtects.com, a website American Standard maintains for plumbers, including:

+ The History of Flushing
+ Videos on how toilets are developed and tested

She reminds us, too, given our need to conserve water to look for the new WaterSense label for toilets from the EPA—very similar to ENERGYSTAR.

With that, the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest has truly brought it home!

The latest Bathroom Blogfest postings...

From Linda Tischler: Toilet Terror
From Susan Abbott: Extra touches at convention hotel ladiesroom
From Iris Shreve Garrott: Ladies Rooms Coast to Coast
From Dee McCrorey: Innovation Where You Least Expect It
From Katie Clark: My Greatest Accomplishment Last Year, Just say NO to hand dryers and
I think a man designed this
From guest contributor Mary Hunt: A little skip to my loo...

Participating in the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest are:
Kate Rutter—Adaptive Path
Laurence Helene Borel—Blog Till You Drop
Iris Shreve Garrott—checking out and checking in
Susan Abbott—Customer Experience Crossroads
Maria Palma—Customers Are Always
Becky Carroll—Customers Rock!
Toby Bloomberg—Diva Marketing
Stephanie Weaver—Experienceology
Linda Tischler—Fast Company Now
C.B. Whittemore—Flooring the Consumer
Ed Pell—K+B DeltaVee
Helene Blowers—Library Bytes
Claudia Schiepers—Life and its little pleasures
Katie Clark—Practical Katie
Sandra Renshaw—Purple Wren
Reshma Anand—Qualitative Research
Marianna Hayes—Results Revolution
Carolyn Townes—Spirit Women
Sara Cantor—The Curious Shopper
Anna Farmery—The Engaging Brand
Dee McCrorey—The Ultimate Corporate Entrepreneur
Katia S. Adams—Transcultural
Katie Konrath-Get Fresh Minds
Jennifer Brite-Kitchen and Bath Business

Don't forget to check the Bathroom Blogfest group site.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Bringing The Bathroom Blogfest Home - Advice

Chandelier in ABC Carpet's 2nd Floor NYC ladiesrooms.
Another aspect of Bringing the Bathroom Blogfest Home at Retail is providing advice.

This National Floor Trends article from 9/24/07 on The three C’s for your showroom: Clean, Clutter-free and Creative (very creative) by Annette Callari makes wonderful suggestions on how to improve the look, feel and appeal of your flooring retail environment.

Annette writes: "Create a space that invites shoppers to explore. Use dramatic lighting and bold colors. Make sure there is a place people can sit comfortably and discuss their options. Eliminate clutter and craft a look that tells the world you are in the fashion business and you take great pride in your showroom.

Here's an interesting perspective: "Studies show that few people (maybe 20 percent ) can actually visualize “room-size” from what they see in a small product sample. So when you give them the opportunity to see an entire area decorated in a specific product, this is a huge advantage."

Hence the value in putting together vignettes for your customers as well as taking advantage of spaces like bathrooms to showcase new ideas.

In her article, Callari includes a picture of a beautiful bathroom vignette to "add a touch of elegance and give your customers ideas."

Note the anchor photo for this post. It's of the chandelier from the 2nd floor ladiesrooms in ABC Carpet in NYC. It's absolutely elegant and definitely adds an unusual detail to a bathroom.

These next two photo details come from Lewis Carpet One Floor & Home in the Chicago area. Note the attention to different surface treatments and details - from two separate bathrooms. They demonstrate exactly what Ms. Callari describes in her article.

The article offers very practical advice:
- Unclutter the clutter
- Optimize the space
- Add the right light
- Get a white glove

However, the best advice in the world is meaningless without feedback and reactions - especially as it relates to bathrooms.

Enter Elizabeth Hise, based in St. Louis. She is Channel Relations/Assistant Brand Manager for The Hughes Group and supports me for Wear-Dated and Ultron public relations. I have ever so gradually been exposing her to the blogosphere and am quite proud to have dragged her into the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest!

Here, Elizabeth offers reactions to bathroom experiences! She says:

"When I first heard about the Bathroom Blogfest, my immediate reaction was one of relief. Finally someone (or a group of someones, in this case) is paying attention to the importance of bathrooms in public places - especially places of business. Because of the size of my bladder (pea-like), I'm constantly visiting bathrooms everywhere, from restaurants to gas stations to malls. I feel that perhaps, I'm becoming an expert.

One of my most recent bathroom experiences took place at
Monarch, a delicious (literally and figuratively) restaurant in St. Louis. Exquisite in both ambience and cuisine, Monarch offered a dinner I won't soon forget, and I visited the ladies room hoping that it wouldn't ruin my memories. Thankfully, the ladies room mirrored the restaurant--quiet, serene, bathed in candlelight, and smelling fresh.

Later that same week, I traveled an hour and a half outside of St. Louis with my company on our annual Getaway Day. We visited
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, located in St. Genevieve, Missouri. The ladies room was oh-so-spacious, with three separate toilet areas--not stalls, but actual rooms with locking doors. It was like having your own private suite. Clean and well-kept, the ladies room was also odor-free, and delightfully decorated with tasteful floral wallpaper, a full length mirror, and enough room to turn pirouettes.

But my favorite ladies room in recent memory was that of
Niche, another restaurant in the heart of St. Louis' Soulard neighborhood. An new, upscale restaurant, Niche takes a minimalist approach to decor. It's small, with clean, crisp tablecloths and rows of cozy tables. Not only was the food amazing, but when I excused myself to the restroom, I found a little oasis, just as sleek as the restaurant in which it was located, and complete with REAL towels on which to dry my hands. They rested in a basket next to the sink, with another basket on the floor for used towels. Not only does this this prevent waste, but it makes my hands happy.

Thanks to all of those businesses who do bathrooms right!"

Thank you, Elizabeth!
The latest posts in the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest:

From Jennifer Brite: Bathroom Round Up
From Carolyn Townes: Meeting in the Ladies Room - Part Deux and Meeting in the Ladies Room - Part Trois
From Stephanie Weaver: Oceanaire restaurant serves up a swanky bathroom
From Reshma Anand: On bathrooms and babycare rooms...Bathroom blogfest 2007
From Becky Carroll: Bathroom Blogfest: Door Signs
From Toby Bloomberg: Friday Fun: Which Floor Belongs To Which Loo?
From Dee McCrorey: Innovation In The Loo
From Claudia Schiepers: Bathrooms In Belgium

Participating in the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest are:

Kate Rutter—Adaptive Path
Laurence Helene Borel—Blog Till You Drop
Iris Shreve Garrott—checking out and checking in
Susan Abbott—Customer Experience Crossroads
Maria Palma—Customers Are Always
Becky Carroll—Customers Rock!
Toby Bloomberg—Diva Marketing
Stephanie Weaver—Experienceology
Linda Tischler—Fast Company Now
C.B. Whittemore—Flooring the Consumer
Ed Pell—K+B DeltaVee
Helene Blowers—Library Bytes
Claudia Schiepers—Life and its little pleasures
Katie Clark—Practical Katie
Sandra Renshaw—Purple Wren
Reshma Anand—Qualitative Research
Marianna Hayes—Results Revolution
Carolyn Townes—Spirit Women
Sara Cantor—The Curious Shopper
Anna Farmery—The Engaging Brand
Dee McCrorey—The Ultimate Corporate Entrepreneur
Katia S. Adams—Transcultural
Katie Konrath-Get Fresh Minds
Jennifer Brite-Kitchen and Bath Business

October is National Kitchen & Bath Month!

Don't forget to check the Bathroom Blogfest group site.

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