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Archive for 2011

UNSUBSCRIBE. Email marketing fail.

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Over the last few years (pre social media time) email has been the basis for my “digital” CRM communication, and remains such for a large part of the rest of the US. I consciously opt into 75% of the CRM emails I receive. Key word- consciously. It keeps everything I want in one place, my inbox. I receive ~50-60 marketing/solicitation emails a day. (Note: I DO NOT subscribe to blog post updates in email- I save that for my RSS reader/Flipboard).

I subscribe to lots of different email CRM. To date email has been my choice of how I prefer to receive information about brands/products/categories of things I’m interested in/have a relationship with. (I like everything on Facebook but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll make it into my feed, email always gets into my inbox)

  • Fashion & beauty retailers like Barneys, Bloomingdales, Origins, Sephora
  • Concert ticket announcements from Ticketmaster, LiveNation and The Bowery Presents
  • Daily deals like Gilt Group, RueLaLa, Groupon, DailyCandy
  • Personal Credit & banking updates from Amex, Citi, ING, WellsFargo
  • NYC neighborhood events and ongoings
  • Health plan updates from Aetna
  • Competitive products that I work on professionally (ps- anyone that works in marketing & doesn’t do this is not doing their job, IMO)
  • LinkedIn, Meetup, Plancast general & group updates

I rarely rant via my blog, but I am going to now- so consider yourself warned. I’m at the point that I might cease all branded email communication except for a handful of brands/companies—I know how I can find the rest of it in my Facebook/Twitter feed or one of my friends is sure to tell me about it via WOM. (more…)

Apple really is about the user experience

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011


I came into the Apple store on 14th/9th at 3:20 pm with a tech problem. I’m still here (writing this from my iPhone) Starving and missing my spin class right now (sorry @FlyJessA22) …..but shockingly none of that even matters.

My iPad1 wifi/antenna was broken which causes a huge issue with syncing to iCloud (um, & not being able to watch TWCable app in bed) After hours of diagnostics, friendly chatter & back & forth my uber genius Matt said the repair would be $389, and by repair that equates to a new iPad1 unit b/c they don’t open up the iPad1. They don’t even make iPads1s anymore. I have been waiting for 3 to come out b/c I have plenty of iPad2s I can use at work if need be. Either way I wasn’t planning on “buying” anything today….

I didn’t buy apple care for this iPad1 and I don’t remember why i didn’t.
Anyhow Matt excused himself & then came back and said he talked to his manger & they decided to just going to give me the new ipad1 at no charge, he didn’t feel right charging me for something that wasn’t my fault even if it was 89 days out of warranty. Then he installed iOS5 & showed me how to reinstall all my apps from iCloud (an hour later 116 apps are still downloading)

This whole experience was flat out amazing. Apple continues to impress me not only with their products, but with their gold standard user-centric/user experience positioning which goes far beyond devices/products and plays into in personal interaction/purchase behavior/customer service.

Thanks Matt. Thanks Apple. You really do make such a difference in people’s lives, especially mine.

What the hell does a digital strategist / planner do, anyway?

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Someone asked me the other day to explain my job function. I started to talk about one thing and then another and then another and then another…and then I stopped when I realized I was jumping all over the place and said, “I think I need to visualize the structure and get back to you”.

This was an eye opening moment for me in many ways because over the past 2 years my responsibilities have grown, shifted, adapted and redefined themselves on a need-based timeline. I know what I do on a daily basis; I know no day is ever the same; I’m in a needs-based position. I am also cognizant of having the word strategist in my title; it begs for a “functional” definition of what do you “do”? Not what do you “think”– but what is it that you “do”, what do you “produce”?

So I’ve gone through this exercise to sketch out what is I think a digital strategist/planner does. (based on my personal experiences and what skills I believe are needed for optimal cross-channel marketing integration)











The net-net: I believe a digital strategist provide guidance to departments: account, creative, UX and production & works as a liaison with departments such as UX, IT, project management and analytics. We facilitate the path for others to define and design sustainable ideas, quality engagement initiatives and memorable experiences across digital channel opportunities, and sometimes I even create those paths alone, by myself. (more…)

Pearl Jam Twenty

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

History captured, 20 years of my inspiration documented.



We all have different forms of creative inspiration and different motivators throughout our lives. Some come and go for me, but nothing has remained as constant for me as music. Music provides a creative outlet to fuel and soothe my emotions, tie me to a memory or take me away from something I don’t want to think about.

Over the last 20 years the remaining musical constant in my life has been Pearl Jam. Some people take sabbaticals from work to reinvigorate themselves, Pearl Jam does that for me in a night (sometimes 2) when I’m in need of something to clean my head or get me through a tough project.

For some it’s simply the voice of Eddie Vedder, the riff of Stone Gossard, Mike Mike McCready or Jeff Ament; and for others it’s the sometimes dark emotional lyrical vault of  Eddie’s life that brings you to that place you need to be. For me it’s a combination of both.

I can remember in 1992 when I first heard Alive & Jeremy the weekend of my senior prom- I was addicted and have been ever since.

photo credit:



In college I spent long nights in my university’s art building sculpting my heart out, sketching and designing countless projects fueled by Ten, vs., Vitalogy and No Code; care of K-Rock radio, they got me through it all.

I’ve taken weeks off work to travel for Pearl Jam tours and Lollapalooza festivals (33) visited the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, made countless new friends and snapped countless MBs of photos, all of which have stayed with me and been a part of some great times and rough times.






Photo credit b/w:

Most recent and memorable was the 09 tour that ended in Philly where they played 3 shows in a row and didn’t repeat 1 song over the course of the 3 nights. I went the 2nd night on 10/30/09 and on the Acela on the way down I went through the past evenings set lists and based on experience predicted what would be played. I was 85% correct on the first 6 songs. The next night the announced a last show on Halloween and the amount of $$$ my friends and I paid for the tickets were worth every minute of that 3+ hour show. The creative energy the band puts behind each show’s setlist is 1 of the driving factors for me, as Eddie usually writes them an hour before the show based on the vibe of the day and venue.














Over the years I’ve collected my favorite bootlegs and videos of the shows I’ve attended and those I haven’t (read: Spodek Poland 00’, Fox Theater 94’, Benaroya Hall 03’, Newcastle 06’)

This is not about me being a fan.

Fans come and go with the speed of the bandwagon. This is about my constant inspiration which is music, and which ultimately is Pearl Jam.

Tonight I saw the Pearl Jam Twenty documentary.






I felt like I was watching the last 20 years of my life flash in front of me, and it’s because I was. Thank you Pearl Jam and Cameron Crowe for putting together the most memorable film that will forever be a part of me, especially because I was at the last 2 shows highlighted in the film (MSG 5/21/10 & Philly 10/30/09). I feel as though my musical inspiration has been solidified as part of their history and now it’s officially documented for the whole world to experience, far beyond what I have in iTunes or iPhoto.

Marketing gamification & healthy rewards; learnings from Foursquare

Monday, September 5th, 2011

I am not going to wax poetic on Zygna’s successes Farmville or Mafia Wars because they annoy me to no end and I wish people would stop herding sheep on Facebook because I think there are better ways to spend your time! As my Yelp profile says “I have opinions”, and so I digress.

What I am going to highlight are a few evolving marketing theories and platforms I have become more familiar with over the last few years as they relate to applying behavioral change modeling to gamification & marketing.

As defined by Wikipedia, Gamification is the use of game play thinking 1 and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications (also known as “funware”),2 particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications.3 Gamification works by making technology more engaging,4 and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.5 The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.4

The 2nd citation in that definition is related to healthcare…. Sinanian, Michael (April 12, 2010). “The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games”. Venture Beat. This will come into play later in the post.

Applying gamification to marketing

A few weeks ago I watched a riveting 60 minute Google tech talk “Fun is the Future: Mastering Gamification” by Gabe Zichermann; a marketing goldmind. Theories on how gamification is currently in-progress of redefining what old loyalty programs used to be—no longer about the intrinsic product or rewards per say, but replacing them with personal status as a new type of reward. Now as a marketer, you may say “but it always has to be about my product!” True to a point, but it’s all in the delivery and shaping what the “reward” looks and feels like for the consumer. This is a must-watch for anyone in marketing thinking about, or currently re-establishing their customer relationship marketing programs to better align with customer expectations of the forms in which brand loyalty translates to them.

60 minutes of goodness- I would bookmark this for Sunday evening enjoyment, it’s worth it!

Absorbing the theories in this talk has fueled a personal fury of ideas surrounding marketing, gamification and mainstream acceptance and utilization as we have seen demonstrated with social platforms like Foursquare. Most recently there have been some newcomers to the “game” if you will applying these theories across multiple industries looking to drive behavioral change amongst their consumer targets, such as DailyFeats and Foodzy, just to name a few.


No stranger to the gaming world, Foursquare has come a long way in maturing their businesses model; no longer viewed as a “stalker” app to broadcast your daily visits around town & finding where your friends are, there’s more to it and this social game has 8M users, 2.5M check-ins everyday. They have led they way for driving behavioral change by checking into local venues earning you points, sometimes specials & discounts at participating retailers as well as badges based on the different types of places you frequent; 50% of the badges are sponsored by national brands and local brands businesses. The more brands and companies you follow, they more opportunity you have to un-lock a special badge created by them. Independent satisfaction for you whilst climbing the leaderboard vs. your friends.


Foursquaropoly has taken the API from Foursquare and building a citywide game around buying & owning properties just gives reason for more social interaction with our friends in NYC. Billed as “Monopolize Your Life.” a gaming app that uses Foursquare to make you the game piece and your city the board. They have launched some recent press surrounding their use case and are still currently in development, but this video gives a GREAT idea of what’s to come. I can see down the road all forms of monetization for this platform with local businesses as well. I can’t wait for this.

Foursquaropoly from Deanna McDonald on Vimeo.

In pursuit of behavioral change

Foursquare has effectively tied together 3 things: motivation, simplicity and triggers for acting on a check-in. They have driven behavioral change across socializing location-based marketing. How does the Foursquare gaming model translate into health?

Sometimes, gaming just isn’t about monetary or tangible rewards such as discounts, points as much as it is about personal rewards. Everyday, most of us, strive to lead a life full of satisfaction attained through the creation of personal goals and accomplishments. In the age of mobile living sometimes writing these goals down in your notebook doesn’t really fuel the effort it takes to accomplish them.

Enter mobile/portable coaching through gamification.

Myriad goals exist in the form of feeling better, being productive, eating well, complying with/being aware of drug/food interactions and allergies. Such are all examples of what an individual determines  to be a “healthy interaction” throughout their day, week or month.

There is a method to the madness behind cultivating healthy behavioral change, or any behavioral change for that matter. No one covers this more in-depth than BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, my personal go-to for all things behaviorally related on his blog Behavior Model. His research focuses on designing for behavioral change using today’s technology via the FBM model. The FBM highlights three principal elements, each of which has subcomponents.

  • 3 Core Motivators (Motivation)
  • 6 Simplicity Factors (Ability)
  • 3 types of Triggers (Action)

The takeaway: “while motivation is very high, ability can still be low.” You have to establish the triggers of change and participatory adoption.

In marketing speak— you need market traction, you need your audience to participate (acquisition/compliance), and keep participating (retention/persistency). They key building blocks to any successful business plan or individual tactical objective and/or strategy.

Marketing healthy rewards

There are a plethora of mobile coaching programs, apps and services in market today to help people make healthier choices. But again- when it comes to marketing, your biggest competition is what and how the rest of the world is accustomed to responding and actively participating in something. WIFM? What’s in it for me mentality? Everyone wants to be incentivized these days- that’s where gaming comes into play and there are 2 standout “healthy” startups who I think are doing this very well.

An online check-in system that turns healthy eating into a gaming, Foodzy has been covered by Fast Company in July and their new mobile app was recently covered by TechCrunch this morning. By introducing game and social elements in your eating habits, Foodzy encourages peoples to maintain a healthy lifestyle over long term, and bring back the fun in enjoying food with friends.

As noted by Fast Company “Sure, there are other apps out there that track your calories, and Weight Watchers has been gamifiying watching what you eat since before the Internet existed. What might set Foodzy apart, other than it’s cute Web 2.0 design, is twofold: the social connections and the crowdsourced database of food items.”

Foodzy is not pitching themselves as a weight-loss site. The app makes this more fun than other food tracking apps by giving calories a fun new name (bits. 1= 20 calories) and earning badges for certain good foods or fun eating habits. An upgrade to Foodzy Pro ($15 month) gives you access to the mobile app and allows you to start a personal diet plan that advises you how many bits you should eat per day if you want to lose, gain or keep your weight and offers a personalized dashboard to analyze your food habits.

Note to readers: the online system is currently set up in height (cm) and weight (kg) I had to bust out my calculator for this. (side effect from having an Amsterdam origin for the startup)
1 Inch = 2.54 Centimeters
lbs / 2.2 = kilograms

Foodzy currently has a database of 90,000 foods, for different countries. This is still very new, it was just released to the public in July so only time and traction will tell, but I like the idea behind it. I see a lot of marketing opportunity for additional monetization through brand/product sponsorships that all ties back to indirect brand loyalty. I also personally wish someone would create this for the gluten intolerant/food allergy community. Huge opportunity there!



Certain social wellness gaming programs such as DailyFeats takes these measures into consideration through their mantra of “Doing good should be rewarding”; DailyFeats guides you in doing small but significant actions — or “feats” — that add up to big change. Along the way, you earn points, share with friends, and treat yourself to real-life rewards, motivating you to go do good — every day for health and happiness.

Whenever someone has completed a meaningful, positive action — like enjoying a piece of fresh fruit, tutoring a kid, or taking a brisk walk after a stressful day –they can check in that feat or accept a challenge which is a group of feats that person can plan to accomplish over a period of time. Users will earn points to redeem for discounts at neighborhood businesses or savings from national brands. DailyFeats has most recently partnered with MTV,,, Cigna and Charity: Water.


Go on, earn yourself a healthy badge

Health is something we ALL take seriously; it’s part of our everyday. I think those in the health and wellness arena, including the government and health plans, can learn a lot from the consumer realm of social gamification. As I stated earlier, when it comes to marketing anything, a product or a service, your biggest competition is what and how the rest of the world is accustomed to responding and actively participating in something; know the drivers whether it be marketing effort or support program.

Incentivizing positive behavioral change through utilization of gaming mechanics as the core structure within marketing ideas and personalized support programs definitely has some relevant and worthwhile points to go after.

Additional suggested reading: The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games Venture Beat


References via Wikipedia:

  1. Popkin, Helen (June 1, 2010). “FarmVille invades the real world”. MSNBC.
  2. Sinanian, Michael (April 12, 2010). “The ultimate healthcare reform could be fun and games”. Venture Beat.
  3. Stuart, Keith (19 September 2010). The Observer.
  4. Takahashi, Dean (September 30, 2010). “Gamification gets its own conference”. Venture Beat.
  5. Radoff, Jon (2011). Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games. Wiley. pp. xxxii. ISBN 9780470936269.


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