Kel Kelly

Hey, thanks for swinging by my blog.

Whether it's topical news, internet happenings, social media, public relations, marketing, start-ups, mobile shiz or whatever, I promise to wade through the bullshit and give you my unbuffered perspective.

You'll note I never take on a "corporate tone" — whether I'm chatting you up at a party or speaking to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, my voice never changes. I say what's on my mind and I'm often the champion of the underdog.

I'm a social media junkie and smoke Google Analytics in a crack pipe to get my day going. I hope my immersed insight and offbeat view make you laugh. More importantly, I hope you take a second and share your thoughts by posting a comment. If you have any ideas on how to make my blog better, shoot an email to [email protected].

Peace out.

Archive for March, 2009

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…

Mar. 29th 2009

I think Silicon Alley Insider (SAI) is crackadelic. It is my #1 source for keeping my pulse on everything and anything going on with businesses in today’s digital-dog-fight world. Their style is bullshit-free rapid fire reporting — just how I like it. It’s like an all-you-can-eat fast food restaurant but the quality of what you consume is hot, fresh and energizing.

Last week SAI had an edgy piece called Magna Cum Lousy — Where Today’s Bad CEOs Went To School. The story is brought to life via a slideshow. There is a slide for each school including the University of Chicago, NYU, Columbia, U Penn (Wharton), Princeton, Dartmouth, MIT, Yale, and Harvard. Each slide highlights a list of the fat cat graduates who are responsible for the current economic shitshow the world is facing. The lists includes prominent bankers, politicians and regulators, all of whom had their hands on the wheel when the USS Titanic hit an iceberg the size of Mars. Notable titans include MIT graduate and Former Merrill CEO, John Thain, NYU graduate and Former Lehman CEO, Dick Fuld and the “Decider” himself, Harvard’s George W Bush.

I can’t help but chuckle when I see something like this. For the record, I went to a less than notable state school. Back in the day, it was called Southeastern Massachusetts University and has since been renamed the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I grew up in a single working mother household long before single working mothers were a common thing. My Mom worked like a dog to raise three kids on a secretary’s salary. She would take the bus into Boston five days a week from the suburb we lived in, work her tail off, and then ride the bus home at night. By the time she got home she was exhausted. She didn’t have the education or energy to keep tabs on my school work. As such, school just wasn’t a priority for me. At the time, I didn’t know it needed to be. I’m not even sure my Mom saw all my report cards because I used to make my sister stand by the mailbox and grab them before my Mom got home from work. I think the only reason I even got into college was because I could play basketball.

My Mom may not have taught me that education mattered, but what she did teach me I have found to be far more valuable than the imparted wisdom of an Ivy League school. She taught me that everyone matters, particularly those who are less fortunate than me. She taught me to always stand up for the underdog…probably because she was one herself. She taught me resiliency and as Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” She taught me — unknowingly and through her own actions — my work ethic will always say more about me than I can ever say about myself. And she taught me that everyone in life needs a break and to give opportunities to those who have had to push a boulder up a hill for most of their life, something she knew how to do all too well.

Why the eff am I telling you this? Because I never seek out the best educated person when I am looking to hire. As a matter of fact, I usually look for the person who went to a state school — someone who never had anything handed to him or her. Someone who has student loans up the ying yang. Someone who doesn’t have an endless list of prominent alumni to call to help get a plum job. Someone who just needs a chance and will deliver beyond my wildest dreams because the opportunity I just gave him or her is something they have dreamt about for a long time.

Every time I hear the line from nineteenth-century American poet Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” I can’t help but think it’s how I approach hiring and how I live my life. As she so eloquently wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” It’s ironic that these words appear on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty, a stone throw away from where so many of these greedy CEOs sought “the best of the best” in their hiring and then brought them and their families to the bowels of hell.

Disclaimer: I realize the majority of graduates from the prominent schools cited above are nothing like the fat cats listed in the SAI slideshow and many come from modest or challenging backgrounds themselves. This is yet another example that we should never judge an entire category of people based on the extreme actions of a few.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Today’s Social Marketing: Chicka Chicka Yea!

Mar. 22nd 2009

I remember driving in the early 1970s, rolling down the window and tossing out an empty bag of McDonald’s. As disgusting as it is to think about, everyone littered and nobody knew any better. A common afternoon in the seventies included eating a baked potato saturated with a stick of butter for lunch, having a few drinks before getting behind the wheel of a car to drive to the beach, and smoking cigarettes while holding up a silver reflector to get a tan on skin that was soaked in baby oil. Seriously. WTF were we thinking?

What happened to not only change my perspective, but the perspective of a nation when it came to littering, drinking and driving, smoking and skin cancer? The answer is social marketing. Wikipedia defines social marketing as “the systematic application of marketing along with other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good.” In 1974, the anti-litter Public Service Announcement (PSA) “The Crying Indian” launched. The spot featured a native American canoeing through polluted water, landing on a beach littered with trash and turning to show a tear rolling down his cheek. Sounds corny to today’s oh-so-cool and jaded consumer but back then it acted as the catalyst to ignite a change in behavior that still lives today. The PSA won two Clio awards and AdAge picked it as being one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century.

Back in the day when McDonalds chicken included knee caps, elbows and ear lobes, social marketing was primarily executed through TV and print. There was really no viral spread beyond word-of-mouth limited by traditional communication channels: face-to-face, phone and letters. Today’s Web 2.0-driven world has acted like a steroid injection to social marketing. A campaign that used to take months, if not years, to have an impact now sees action in a matter of days or sometimes even prior to the campaign launch.

As an example, look at the campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word.” The campaign’s thrust is to get people to recognize and rethink (and hopefully stop) their use of the “R-word” as it is offensive to the friends and families of the millions of people with intellectual disabilities. The “national awareness day” and official launch of the campaign isn’t until 03.31.09, yet social media has already given the message a platform, voice and following. The Facebook group alone has close to 1,000 members. Yes, the membership number may be modest, but remember the campaign has not even launched yet. Given time, hopefully it will rise to the level of the Feed A Child With Just One Click Facebook group and its 4.1+ million members.

Think about it. A marketing campaign having impact and getting traction before it’s official launch and before any money has been spent. Chicka chicka yea! For us marketeers, life doesn’t get any better. For those who the campaign is intended to benefit, one can only hope that their life does in fact get better. Thanks to Web 2.0, it certainly has a better chance of making that happen.

What social causes have you supported through your social media activity?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

“Value” Is The New “Black”

Mar. 15th 2009

I saw a print ad this week that made my jaw drop. The advertisement was for Frontgate. For those of you not familiar with Frontgate, their tagline says it all — Outfitting America’s Finest Homes. Frontgate sells products for the home that are so high-end that the prices are almost laughable. From a $7,778 stainless steel outdoor grill to a $7,999 eSommelier Wine Inventory System to the $1,650 Hammerhead Resort Pool Cleaner, Frontgate has been supplying the best of the best to the peeps who never had to think about price…until now.

The reason the ad has such a shock and awe effect is because its key message is all about “value” — an attribute that has never been within earshot of Frontgate’s brand and up until now would have made its customers’ noses turn up. The Frontgate brand has always stood for “unprecedented quality.” This particular ad is for World Class Resort Cotton Towels, something you can hear Thurston Howell, III asking Gilligan to get him in a tone dripping in elitism. In its execution, Frontgate highlights the $19.99 price as a representation of the value. The funny thing about Frontgate calling attention to the price is that in previous communications, price has only been used to show a products high-end quality. Also interesting is that these resort towels are the only thing on the site that I could find whose price ended in 99 cents, a tactic places like Walmart choose to employ.

Deliberately or not, Frontgate has just taken its brand to a place were Sonic , America’s drive-in restaurant, sells jr. deluxe burger, chicken strip sandwich, and jr. breakfast burrito for $1 on its Everyday Value Menu. For shizz dudes. For most of us, value used to be what we got when we bought a big-ass bottle of shampoo that gave us 25% more for free. And now, value is something Frontage want to bring us too.

The economy has changed everything and value is the new black. Value is white hot and consumers across all income demographics are looking for it in everything they buy. I recently read an article on how the Palm Beach crowd torched by Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme are all now shopping the sale racks at retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks. It’s a world gone mad! Thank God for private sale sites like Gilt. They have been a lifeline for those who summer in the Hamptons or on Nantucket by giving them their hoity toity brands at value pricing. Value says, “low cost, cheap & inexpensive” in a vernacular that is still palatable to the Lily Pulitzer crowd.

I totally respect and understand why Frontgate is beginning to reposition their brand around value. They are doing it for pure survival. There isn’t a single item on its site or in its catalog that isn’t considered “discretionary spending”…although given the economy, the $349 Premium Margaritaville Frozen Drink Machine might get put on the must-have list with electricity and prescription drugs.

Have you seen any interesting value plays in the brands you come across?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Pimpin’ To Teens

Mar. 2nd 2009

Recently, I was logged into my fifteen-year-old son’s Facebook account. Simma’ down now…I wasn’t spying on him. He asked me to login to upload a wrestling video from his Flip. As most of you know, Facebook serves its ads based on all the granular demographic and psychographic data it pulls from your profile. Many of you will recall my previous post called Facebook Reality Slap where it became clear through the ads it served me that Facebook thought I was a fat, wrinkly, hairy woman on a surfboard. Nice. Anyhoot, it was a complete trip seeing what gets pimped to teenagers.

There was one ad that literally made me spit on my Mac when I saw it. For Shizz. The headline was “Get Cash For Your Calculator.” The body of the ad went on to say something like, “Sell us your TI-83 now for cash…You know your Mom will buy you a new one.” No shit. Forget all the subliminal messaging most brands use to pimp products to kids, these guys put it right out there and told the kids specifically what they wanted them to do.

Just a year ago, I had to buy three of these effin’ calculators for my three teenagers in high school. At $100 a pop, that total cost was the exact same price I paid for my first car — a 1969 VW bug with psychedelic seat covers and a roach clip hanging off a bandanna from the rear view mirror (everything I needed at the time). Every year I would ask what happened to the calculators I bought the previous year and I always got some lame excuse about it getting lost or being broken or having been loaned to a friend. Now I can’t help but wonder if they sold them for cash. Remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!

I clicked on the Calculator ad and really marvelled at its succinct and incredibly powerful messaging. I laughed at the “Mom will buy you a new one” message because in most cases this is true. And then I went around the track a few times to figure out whether I appreciated the savviness of the ad or whether I should be upset. In the end, I give props to the peeps who created the ad. Social media text ads give a minuscule footprint for a company to get its message across. These guys did it in a way that had great stopping power and in a way that I would imagine ignited the desired action. And for me, what the Calculator peeps did was no different than what Nike or PlayStation or any other big brand does when they advertise to tweens and teens. In the vast majority of these cases, any product being pimped is going to have to be purchased by the parents ’cause the rat-fink kids don’t have the money for things like a $125 pair of sneakers. I chuckled again when I thought of the control-freak Moms who push legislation and speak to Congress about the bad language in music. These Chicks would shit a Twinkie if they saw an ad like this. The good news is they are probably not on Facebook and have never seen this type of ad. The bad news is they probably don’t allow their kids on Facebook because in their bubble of delusion they think the only adults on it are pedophiles trolling for children.

What do you think of the Calculator ad? Smart or just plain wrong?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »