Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Food packaging trends for 2018

Do you read nutritional food labels? I do. And according to a survey by the Food and Drug Administration, I’m not alone: Half of all adults read the nutrition facts label “always” or “most of the time,” according to the latest FDA Health and Diet Survey.

There is a packaging trend that tracks with that push for more accessible nutritional information: Clean food labeling is among the trends we’ll see in the packaging industry in the year ahead. At Shamrock, we watch those indicators closely, as we create labeling for our clients for use in a host of applications—product labels, specialty packaging, displays and shelf signage, to name a few.   

A recent article by David Roberge of Industrial Packaging outlines the top predictions for food packaging in 2018. Here is a summary:

1. Light and Flexible Packaging
The flexible packaging market is growing across the globe due to the many benefits and flexibility it provides including recyclability and lightweight protection for all types of packaged goods: The lighter the package, the lighter the load, which can significantly reduce freight costs.

2. Clean Labeling and Healthy Foods
More consumers today want to understand ingredients on food labels: Roberge quotes Charles D. Yuska, President and CEO of PMMI, who notes that “37% of U.S. consumers find it important to understand ingredients on food labels while 91% of consumers believe that products with recognizable ingredients are healthier; and the rise in demand for organic food has fueled a more than 10% growth in this sector.”

Here’s a great example of that trend in action: RXBAR, a line of clean-label protein bars made with whole food ingredients—and the fastest growing nutrition bar brand in the United States—boldly lists its ingredients on the front of the packaging. Kellogg recently bought the brand for $600 million, with the deal set to close by the end of this month.

3. Understand Labeling Requirements
In addition to clean labeling, 2018 is the year for the transition to new FDA nutritional labeling regulations for foods. Understanding these requirements is a must. Know the nutritional content for the ingredients in your food product, the serving size, expiration dates and the placement requirements for your package. For more information, click on the link below:

4. Creative Package Designs
With the growing demand for customization as the online sales of consumer goods increases, the need for creative packaging is increasing as well. Using customized shapes for packaging to complement a flavor or product; or introducing a re-usable package are great ways to make a lasting brand impression on consumers.

Think about what packaging elements have left an impression on you—and then consider your brand labeling and packaging and how you can enhance its appeal. Our creative design team at Shamrock is here to provide our input and expertise.

Connect with us today if you’re interested in re-thinking your packaging as we look to the new year.

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Setting Goals for Business Success in 2018

I’m a big believer in the power of planning. It’s that time of year again when many of us look back at our progress over the past 12 months, reassess our path, and develop a plan for making the most of the year ahead.

A recent article in Inc. magazine by Aha! CEO Brian de Haaff talks about the use of planning to achieve success in business. Here’s what he says: “Successful people take a methodical approach to setting career goals. It starts with defining what ‘success’ means to them, then building a career roadmap to achieve that vision.”

It all starts with a plan that defines where you want to go. de Haaff suggests that you come up with a career sentence—the overarching vision for your professional life. “Your sentence could be specific, such as ‘Help build software that changes the way people interact with their doctors.’” Or it could be more wide-sweeping, like “Provide world-class customer service.” Once you’ve set your destination, you can focus on the goals that will get you there.

Here are de Haaff’s five steps to setting career goals:
1. Make it real. Making measurable career goals and setting success metrics will help ensure that your career roadmap is realistic. With those benchmarks in place, you can track your progress in a meaningful way.
2. Push yourself. Your career roadmap should be a challenge, not a cakewalk. If your goals don’t make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, then it’s time to set your sights higher. Push yourself in your overall vision and in the tasks that will carry you there.

3. Write it down. Research shows that people who write down their goals are significantly more likely to achieve them. One of the many benefits is that it forces you to think through what you want to achieve in a concrete way. If you have a hard time finding the words to explain your goal in a sentence or two, you probably have not thought it through.

4. Share your plan. Another benefit of writing down your goals is that it makes it easier to share them. Once you’ve told your friends and colleagues about your goals, you will feel a sense of disappointment if you do not follow through. Accountability is a great motivator.

Credit: Getty Images
5. Visualize your success. A common practice of high achievers is visualizing success. Sports psychologists teach elite athletes to picture themselves connecting with the fastball, kicking the field goal, sinking the putt. You can do the same with your long-term career goals and the efforts that will get you there. Use positive visualization to motivate yourself to work harder.

Read the Inc. article by clicking the link below:

Take the first step in driving success in 2018 by creating your career sentence and then setting your goals. After that, it is all about commitment and follow-through. Establishing a set schedule to monitor your progress, whether that’s daily, weekly or monthly, will help get you there.

If you’re looking for someone to share your goals with and hold you accountable, connect with me and I’ll do the same.

Good luck!
Bob DeGarmo 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tips to Maximize Social Media During the Holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us: The ideal time to revisit your year-end social media strategy to make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to make memorable brand connections with your audience. This article (reprinted in its entirety) from MarketingProfs Today is a good read that outlines seven tips for reviewing and recalibrating your social media effort during this most wonderful time of the year: 

Seven Ways to Maximize Social Media This Holiday Season
by Paul Herman  | 
November 21, 2017

It's a familiar feeling—retailers are breaking out the Christmas deals and decorations. It's time for the holidays, and that means busy times are ahead for advertisers and marketers launching new sales and promotions.

But, beyond that, advertisers and retailers have a huge opportunity on social media, with holiday campaigns on Twitter alone generating $6.67 for every $1 spent by advertisers last year.

Being prepared to conquer the holiday rush is a huge advantage, but some brands can easily fall behind before the holiday spirit even hits us. Stay ahead of the competition with the following seven key steps.

1. Define your holiday wish list
The first step for launching any successful ad campaign is to define a set of goals. Every holiday campaign should be built around these two simple questions: What actions do you want your customers/prospects to take, and how will your social strategy help?

Goals can be wide-ranging, from lead generation and driving sales, to boosting brand awareness among a specific target audience. Brands that want to generate leads might launch ads that invite customers to submit their emails in exchange for more content or company information. For the goal of increasing sales on a website, ads can be specially designed to include links to holiday catalogs or special offers.

When such goals are in place, being able to measure success or evaluate a campaign's performance is just as important. Key metrics for marketers looking to improve brand awareness may include social shares, likes, comments, and call-to-action clickthroughs.

Successful brands will set specific, measurable goals for improvement. If a retailer has 100,000 Twitter followers, perhaps its goal might be to increase that number to 120,000 by the end of the holiday season. Regardless of the goal, if it is measurable and clear, it gives the brand something to chase and an ultimate purpose for the campaign.

2. Know the people on your Nice list
Understanding the customer journey is crucial to optimizing a campaign. Brands should create a buyer persona for their key consumer base, outlining who the customers are, what matters to them, where they go to make purchase decisions, and who influences them. Being able to document where they spend their time online, which social channels they use most, and what they're reading or watching on those channels is a huge plus. Finding that crucial information is fairly easy to do, thanks to modern-day marketing tools and resources.

By better understanding an audience, marketers can figure out how to reach them, which is often the biggest hurdle in building a successful campaign. After all, content may be king for the holidays, but context is queen—and they work best in tandem.

3. Listen to your audience (not just sleigh bells)
Social media doesn't exist just to spread a brand message, it's also an important medium for listening. Through social listening, marketers can identify major trends and product keywords in their industries. For instance, knowing those keywords can help marketers identify which social platforms are more popular for a target audience. With that information, they can make smarter decisions about where to spend their money and which products or services to promote on each platform.

Once they have made that decision, retailers can use social to monitor the conversation about its product or services, or one of a competitor's. What are they happy about? What makes them frustrated? What types of things are they looking for? The more a marketer knows about his or her audience, the better and more effective a message will ultimately be.

4. Give the gift of relevance
When you're giving a present, you make sure that gift is a match for the recipient's likes or needs. In social advertising, adding geo-targeting to your campaigns is like that: It makes your ad more likely to be relevant. There are also opportunities to target users by age, gender and interests so that your message reaches the people who want to hear it.

For example, if a marketer is looking to target Facebook users age 18-35 who are interested in fashion, a campaign can easily do just that. Targeting not only provides a way to reach specific audiences but also makes the most out of crucial ad dollars.

5. Be a Secret Santa (but don't be creepy about it)
Shoppers take their time before buying a product and will often browse a bit before taking a break and returning to the website later on. That behavior makes remaining top of mind a huge challenge for brands, and it's where retargeting comes into play.

For example, Best Buy launches ads that ask customers whether they're ready to check out the items in their shopping cart. Even after people have made purchases, Best Buy shows ads with complementary products they might be interested in.

This method can be effective, but also has its limits. Marketers need to make sure messages naturally fit into the content consumers are already reading online.

6. Surprise and delight
Surprise-and-delight tactics are used to nurture a customer relationship through unique experiences that will stay with the customer long after the promotion has ended. These types of tactics are so unique that they're most likely to be shared—and what people share drives what people buy. Today, sharing is the new commerce.

For example, last year, during the holiday season, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines surprised and delighted customers in Amsterdam. Realizing that many holiday travelers spend their transfer time at the airport alone, KLM decided to surprise its customers with a "Bonding Buffet." Travelers sat down on stools around a KLM tower in the airport. Once the stools were filled, a literal buffet of food came down from the top of the tower:

That thoughtful gesture, which drove ample positive attention on social, highlighted the spirit of the holidays and brought travelers together for a uniquely memorable time at the airport.

7. Don't be afraid to start new holiday traditions
In the hectic world of social marketing during the holiday season, brands should not limit themselves to just one type of content. Customers can experience fatigue if they receive similar content from the same source; when the volume of messages rapidly increases during the holidays, that type of fatigue needs to be avoided.

One way to change it up is video ads. Often, videos work as an experiment for marketers, and there is no clear strategy or path to success. When that's the case, A/B-testing different options is a great approach to optimize a campaign based on audience response.

Video advertising on social is still a relatively new tactic, and it gives marketers a lot of creative room to develop out-of-the-box concepts.

Use social to make it a happy holiday season

There is no one way to use social media to grow a brand's holiday presence, but keeping these lucky seven approaches in mind can make all the difference between ending the year on a solid note and missing out on a huge opportunity.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Grow Your Business By Marketing To Existing Customers

Do your marketing efforts focus on new customers—or those loyal to your brand?

The answer should be: both. When you consider that acquiring a new customer is “five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one” (Harvard Business Review), it makes sense to focus on keeping the customers you have, happy.

According to an article in Marketing Land, marketing to existing customers drives business growth: In addition to recommending you to others, satisfied customers positively impact your bottom line in many ways:

  • They are more open to upsell and cross-sell opportunities, increasing their lifetime customer value.
  • They’re less price-sensitive because they know you’re worth it.
  • source:
  • They are more resistant to outreach efforts by competitors.

Given these bottom-line benefits, it’s smart to develop concentrated marketing campaigns that connect with and engage existing customers. But where do you start? Consider these four questions:

Are we delivering on our brand promise?
A brand promise is a contract between you and your customers. It sets the stage for the experience they should expect to have. By evaluating your business objectives and comparing them against the customer experience, you’ll get a clear picture of what your customers are experiencing. Is your internal and external messaging consistent? Are you over-delivering in some areas and lacking in others?

By gathering feedback from these prompts, you can fine-tune your messaging and delivery, bringing what you do and what you say you’ll do into closer alignment, which equates to a better customer experience.

Who are our most satisfied customers?
It’s likely that you have a system in place to gather customer feedback. So, use that to you advantage in strengthening your brand story. Consider using customer testimonials, case studies, guest speakers, etc. to build your brand reputation and help you stand out among competitors.

Do we have a strategy for growing ancillary revenue from happy customers?
Are you meeting your customers’ needs? How can you provide greater value? At Shamrock we use Business Reviews: We crunch the data on orders/products/categories, etc. that provide meaningful views for our clients. Then, we ask for feedback and use the opportunity to share our other products/services to cross sell and upsell. Always, you want those suggestions to be relevant to your customers.

What are our competitors doing?
Understanding the reasons why you win or lose business is an important to keeping customers happy and your company primed for growth.

How does your product or service stack up against the competition? What are they doing that you aren’t? What are your salespeople hearing from customers? Answering these questions will help to shape your view of where you stand in the marketplace and can help identify areas that require greater attention.

To read the entire article, click here.

Focusing creative efforts on customer retention benefits your bottom line. Are there other questions that you use to identify ways to provide a better customer experience? I’d like to hear from you.

All the Best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Three Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

It used to be that the quality of goods or services is what created a happy customer. But that was then. And this is the age of customer engagement: Today, customers want to feel appreciated, engaged and connected with their chosen brands. Consider these new statistics:

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator (source: Walker)   
Research is also finding that, even in today’s digital era, customers are seeking more authentic, human-centered interaction—but without constant interruption. This is the challenge that we face as marketers: To connect with our customers in ways that are real and relevant, while providing transparency, in a frequency that keeps them engaged at every touchpoint.

Source: Walker

A recent article from Inc. magazine offers three tips for creating happy customers through customer engagement:

Behavioral Marketing  

One way to increase customer interaction is to understand where your customers have been—and where they’re going—based on their behavior. Behavioral marketing is one of the best ways to find engaged brand users. By basing your marketing strategies on behavior (Where are how are consumers interacting with your brand?), you can improve the quality of your leads and identify previously inaccessible customers.   

Influencers and Thought Leaders

Inc. magazine says, “One of the biggest ways to boost credibility for a brand is by developing partnerships with people who already have the trust and confidence of your audience.” Influencer marketing is gaining popularity. Consider the Nationwide campaign with Peyton Manning and Brad Paisley. Together, these celebrities appeal to a broad audience.

If your company doesn’t have the budget to book high-dollar celebrities, you might consider using thought leaders to push your brand. Gaining endorsements from industry experts or existing clients that are thought leaders in their industry is one option.  The other is to create your own content and market your company as the industry thought leader.

Frequency Illusions

Another way to connect with qualified customers is to engage in frequency illusions. According to Inc. magazine, “The basic principle is that after someone encounters a name or brand, they suddenly begin to see it everywhere. For example, after seeing a commercial for the newest Prius, you start to see them more often when you are on the road. In reality, they were around before, which is why it's an illusion.”

Through tools like retargeting, social media, and influencer marketing, companies can intentionally increase the frequency someone encounters their brand.

To read the entire Inc. magazine article about creating greater customer engagement, click here.

I found this article very insightful. It’s a reminder that any successful marketing effort requires a balanced and integrated approach. What tips do you have for creating engaging connections with your customers? I’m interested in hearing from you.

Ellen Moriarty

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Your Guide To Volunteering

It feels good to do good. Most of us who donate our time to causes or organizations that are meaningful to us would likely agree: Volunteering allows us to give back, while rewarding ourselves in the process. 

There’s research that supports those feel-good benefits: It’s been found that volunteering improves your health. According to a report by Corporation for National & Community Service: “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health… those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”

It’s also good for your career: Volunteering can broaden your base of experience and offers an excellent opportunity for networking. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have published articles about how volunteering can help you earn your next job.

At Shamrock, we are fortunate to have a group of very committed people who research and organize volunteer opportunities for our team. As often as possible, we try to volunteer as a group which also allows us to enjoy the camaraderie-building benefits.

If you’re looking for opportunities to plug into your community and respond to a need, we’ve compiled some great resources. Starting with national organizations: These websites offer nationwide campaigns/programming as well as connections to local chapters that offer additional volunteer opportunities.

This user-friendly site allows you to search and sign up for nonprofit volunteer opportunities based on your interests, format (group or individual), location and more. Currently, there are 102,554 active opportunities listed on the site.

The American Red Cross
Whether you’d like to help with disaster relief efforts or be a part of a local campaign like Sound the Alarm, which involves volunteers installing smoke detectors in high-risk neighborhoods, there are many ways to get involved.

Habitat for Humanity
A wonderful opportunity for a team of people to work together to build a new home for a family in need or provide disaster relief building services in communities worldwide.

Humane Society of the United States
Providing administrative assistance, fostering pets, working at shelters or as part of wildlife rescue efforts: There are lots of ways to help with essential animal protection programming.

Below is a sampling of local volunteer resources, based in metropolitan areas where Shamrock has a presence:

Cleveland: Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Provides nutritious meals for those in need throughout the NE Ohio community; outreach for underserved; food pantries.

Walnut Creek/Bay Area: Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters.

Boston: Rosie’s Place. Safe, dignified temporary housing for women; food pantry, classes.

Chicago: Chicago Cares. Inspires positive change through 200 volunteer events every month

Detroit: Arts & Scraps. Recycles 28 tons of material annually to help 275,000 children in low-income neighborhoods think, create and learn.

Dallas: Promise House. Dedicated to ending youth homelessness; emergency shelter, counseling, education.

Pittsburgh: East End Cooperative Ministry. An interfaith coalition of 46 congregations, parishes, and institutions; minister to the frail, elderly, youth, homeless.

I’m hoping these organizations inspire you to check into an opportunity in your area. If you have a volunteer resource you’d like to share with us that’s not listed, please share on our Facebook page.

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

5 DIY Gifts You Can Make in a Blender

With gift-giving season upon us, we’re passing along some great ideas from our customer’s playbook: The following DIY gift blog is from Vitamix. While Shamrock has been working with Vitamix for years, we’re also product devotees (we have a Vitamix in our breakroom), so you can bet we’ll be testing some of these creative recipes soon.

By: Shanna Mallon | 06/03/2016

Why not treat the ones you love to do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts they'll be sure to treasure? You can use your blender to whip up thoughtful, creative presents that cater to the recipient's specific tastes. To help get you inspired, here are five great examples of DIY gifts you can make in your blender:

1. Signature Spice Blends
For the cooks in your life, there are few gifts more thoughtful—or useful—than homemade spice blends. There are endless possibilities, ranging from curry mixes to Italian herb blends, so you can customize them as you like. Gather ingredients, place them in your blender, and pulse them together. When you're happy with the texture of your mixture, pour it into attractive three-ounce glass jars, and consider adding decorative details. Attractive labels are the perfect finishing touch and will help you further personalize your gift.

2. Customized Condiments
Nut butters, ketchup, and other DIY condiments offer all the flavor and enjoyment of your favorite foods—without any of the weird preservatives. Even better, homemade condiments open the door to all kinds of personalized touches. Have a friend who loves cardamom? Make her a cardamom-spiked almond butter. Know that your family member can't get enough heat? Blend up a barbecue sauce with a cayenne kick. Custom condiments make great gifts for people who love to barbecue or entertain. You could even take them to the next party as a host/hostess gift.

3. Spa-Treatment Beauty Products
Give the gift of luxury by creating a custom body scrub, body butter, face mask, or even healing hair mask for someone you love. Your DIY beauty product will show that you took the time to make a homemade gift, and it will provide the recipient with a four-star spa treatment. Enhance each gift by using fragrances and oils that your loved one might enjoy, such as lavender for a busy mom.

4. Homemade Playdough
Natural, simple, and endlessly entertaining, homemade playdough is a wonderful gift. It provides hours of fun, and it's safe to play with because it's totally toxin-free when you use natural dyes. Whether you're making playdough for your kids, grandkids, neighbors, or kids' school friends, you can't go wrong with this entertaining gift.

5. Delectable Desserts
Who can resist a freshly baked treat? When you need gifts for your kids' teachers or your favorite coworkers, you can easily use your blender to make baked goods. Try whipping up gluten-free macaroons or cranberry coconut squares for an upcoming birthday celebration or holiday. Desserts are a crowd-pleasing DIY gift, so consider putting your own creative twist on whatever you make.

The next time you're looking for a thoughtful gift, let your creativity flow and put your blender to work. Consider making one of these five DIY gift ideas to show your loved ones you care. They'll end up with a personal gift that's just as unique as it is useful.

Do you have any gift-worthy treats that you whip up in your blender, or mixer, or crockpot? Please share your ideas with us on Facebook.