Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Future of Marketing? This Morning's Run Was Sponsored By #SauconySunday

See Jeff Run

I do my best to run several days a week.  I am not fast.  My running is more of a tortoise style - slow and steady - but I love the physical and mental benefits of running.  I love getting into "the zone" and letting my mind wander and think.  I love getting lost in podcasts or audio books, the cadence of my steps and breathing in the background lulling me into another world.  I love the portability of running - that I can do it anytime and anywhere.  And, as a geeky member of the Quantified Self Club, I love tracking my running progress with the RunKeeper app.

As a gadget guy and early adopter I've owned and used just about every fitness tracker, from the early, enormous, Garmin GPS Running watches, to FitBits, Fuel and UP bands, and multiple smartwatches.  RunKeeper has been my Running App of choice for a number of years, and I love the way it seamlessly integrates with my Pebble and Android Wear watches.  Today, RunKeeper changed the way I think about marketing too.

Sunday Runday

The other day an in-app alert let me know that today would be #SauconySunday: Anyone who records a 30 minute workout in RunKeeper would be entered in a drawing for one of 10 pairs of Saucony Running Shoes, and everyone who participates would get a coupon code for a 20% discount on Saucony shoes.  I took mental note, and promptly forgot about it.  Then this morning, when I set out on my typical Sunday run and launched RunKeeper a pop-up reminded me that it was #SauconySunday and asked if I wanted to participate.  With one click I was in, and proceeded with my slow and steady 5k.  At the 30 minute mark, a voice in my headphones acknowledged that I had completed the 30 minute challenge, and shortly after I ended my run, an email from RunKeeper confirmed I was eligible for tomorrow's drawing and gave me my 20% discount code.

3 Reasons This Could Be The Future of Marketing

I loved this campaign and kudos to RunKeeper and Saucony for smartly leveraging smartphone technology to create an effective promotion.  Many "in-app" ads are still very traditional. Click a banner and jump from the app to a mobile web page.  Click a banner and download an add-on, etc.  Instead, the Sunday Runday campaign is truly integrated into the function of the app, which I think is a positive sign of things to come.  I didn't have to "enter" by sending a disingenuous tweet... I simply had to RUN.

Here are three reasons I think this is an example of the future of great marketing:

1. It was relevant to ME.  By linking the campaign to the RunKeeper app, Saucony reached runners.  As a runner, I don't mind learning about running shoes.  I use and need running shoes.  Information about running shoes is content to me, not just advertising. I want to know.

2. It was integrated into MY LIFE.  This is the one that gets me excited.  As someone who is into wearable tech and tracking and measuring everything from steps to calories to sleep, this is an example of what I'd call Quantified Marketing (or Quantified Advertising) - marketing that leverages personal data and behavior in a relevant and meaningful way.  I didn't have to change my behavior to benefit from this campaign. I run. I use RunKeeper when I run.  This promotion was built into RunKeeper on the product level - it tracked my run as always, and, with my opt-in, qualified me based on my running at least 30 minutes today.  I didn't have to do anything differently or disrupt my routine or be disrupted for the campaign to impact me in a positive way.

3. It WORKED for the brand.  I may or may not win a pair of Saucony's tomorrow, and I may or may not use my 20% discount code (but I will go to and take a look).  Regardless, this campaign succeeded in bringing Saucony to the forefront of my thinking, and made me think more highly of the brand, both for their recognized quality and value in running shoes, and for delighting me with a cool promotion.  While I was running today I was thinking about the brand.  I remembered that my very first pair of running shoes, back in my college days, was a pair of Saucony's, and that I have owned and enjoyed several pairs over the years as I've bounced from brand to brand in search of the perfect running shoe for me.  The chances of me trying Saucony again have dramatically increased, thanks to my regular Sunday run today.  That's good for the brand.

There's a lot of debate about the amount of data our mobile phones and wearable devices know about us and our behavior.  Personally, as a consumer, and professionally, as a CMO, I am excited about the creative opportunities apps and wearable tech can present for brands and marketers who are willing to try new ways of bringing immediacy, relevance and a bit of fun into their campaigns.  I look forward to seeing more.

What do you think? Do you think this type of advertising is invasive or effective? Have you seen other examples of campaigns that leverage apps and user data in creative ways?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why A Good Steakhouse Is A Vegan's Best Friend

Food, glorious food.  It is no wonder that was my favorite song from "Oliver."  Like most humans, I love to eat (and, arguably, it shows via the extra fifteen or twenty pounds I can always "stand to lose...")  My love for food notwithstanding, I have been a vegetarian for more than twenty-three years, and a vegan for the past eight or nine of those.  I became a vegetarian after my daughter was born and her mom, a very compassionate animal lover, declared that she was going to adopt a vegetarian diet (along with many pets).  As the dutiful husband (who did not do as much of the cooking as she did) I went along for the ride... and it stuck.  The more I learned about and ate vegetarian, the more I came to believe it was the right choice for me, both for compassionate and health reasons.  When I finally gave up dairy as well and became vegan, my path to becoming a business associate's most hated travel partner was complete.

On The Road Again

Throughout my career I have traveled a lot for business, and from the perspective of many of my business partners and co-workers over the years my choice of a plant based diet has been the object of much frustration.  Dining out is an integral part of business, especially when traveling.  For some reason, everyone I travel with gets overly concerned that wherever they choose to go eat there will be nothing for me on the menu and I will starve (or at least ruin the flow of their dining experience by having an empty plate while they feast on meat, cheese and other contraband).  I always try to assure them...  "Relax," I say. "Let's go wherever you want.  I can always find something to eat.  In fact, why don't we go to that great steakhouse you mentioned."   And I always do find something great (and vegan) to eat.  That's because I have learned how to make a good steakhouse a vegan's best friend...

A Good Chef Is Inherently Creative

Here's how I have enjoyed some of the best vegan dishes I've ever had at some of the finest steakhouses in the world.  It is simple, really.  I toss aside the menu and throw myself to the mercy of the chef.  My theory, already proven at countless restaurants all over the globe, is that cooking is a creative pursuit, and great chefs love to be creative and almost always rise to occasion when asked to create a masterpiece meal from limited ingredients.  Based on my own experiences, a great chef at a fine steakhouse is even more inclined to jump at the chance to be more creative than prepping the perfect rare or medium filet mignon, an act they repeat day after day, serving after serving.  So, when it is my turn to order, I put down the menu and simply say "I am vegan.  Please tell the chef they can prepare whatever they want for me, as long is it is vegan, and I will happily enjoy it."

What Happens Next...

Occasionally I will get a question or two.  Are there certain vegetables you don't like?  What about rice, couscous or quinoa?  I always reply, "Whatever the chef wants to prepare is fine.  I'll trust them."  And this simple process has led to absolutely delicious and beautifully prepared and presented off-menu vegan dishes that have delighted my palate and surprised my dining partners time and time again.  Even better, more often than not, the chef themselves will come out from the kitchen and visit my table to see what I thought of their vegan creation, giving me a chance to thank them in person for   a delicious meal (and always impressing the rest of the guests at the table).  Good times.

Some Examples

So there you have it.  That's why I have come to believe that a good steakhouse is a vegan's best friend.  As I've tested this theory during my travels, I often will post a picture of particularly impressive vegan dishes I am served.  In the video below I've compiled all my Instagram "food related" posts from 2014.  Enjoy!

I'd love to hear from other vegetarians and vegans.  If you have similar tips and tricks for getting a great meal from a "regular" restaurant, please share them in the comments.  Bon Appetit!