Sustainability (and such)

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

9-11 Twitter Fail

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on September 9, 2016

The gift that keeps on giving…untrained employees and social media.


Miracle Mattress posts 9/11 ad

Miracle Mattress in San Antonio recently posted an appalling  ‘9/11 Twin Towers Sale‘ ad with two employees knocking over two mattress stacks as a spokeswoman (identified by angry commenters as the owner’s daughter) asks, “What better way to remember 9/11 than with a Twin Tower sale?” Backlash was immediate, with the chain’s owner first issuing a letter of apology on Facebook.

But, as everybody knows, apologies won’t stop the fire. This company, and others, face deadly floods of Yelp reviews and posts that recycle every time a link or program is aired. (See Amy’s Baking Company and 240Sweet as examples of biz owners facing consequences.)

In this case, the buzz went global and the Miracle Mattress store is now closed indefinitely. Takeaway: Make sure ALL communication matches your core values. Monitor and measure your message consistency and audiences. And learn when to own up and walk away.





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Stand for Girls 2012

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on September 7, 2012

I love Global Washington for framing Washington as a global state; in fact, I’m not aware of an equally successful portal that convenes all the players — from the Gates Foundation to our little nonprofit, Global Spark — in one state’s global development sector.  Their newest initiative, Stand for Girls 2012, is a terrific example of an effective campaign that isn’t glitzy and demanding high energy/donations, yet builds a new audience.  Simply, $12 donations go to 10 recipient organizations that focus on economic empowerment, health, and education for women and girls.  There are also information-sharing strategies, such as a Seattle event on September 22, as well as  tips to network within our own communities on October 11, the Day of the Girl.  Click here for more information and FREE unique toolkits to use with house parties, religious groups, and education.

Why this important:  With traditional platforms and social media leverage, Stand for Girls is gathering steam as a best practices model of cause-related marketing and communication.  And the reasons are clear:

  • 800 women a day die in pregnancy or childbirth from complications that are often preventable
  • Women constitute about 70 percent of the world’s ultra poor, and women still earn less than 75 cents for every dollar men earn
  • Almost three-quarters of the 72 million children not enrolled in primary school are girls

Global Washington describes this as a way to help “women rewrite their story and change the world.”  Personally, I think this is one of the best values-led marketing efforts currently playing out.  Does it inspire you to donate $12 or think more about global women’s issues?

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Launch of our new nonprofit: GLOBAL SPARK!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on August 6, 2012

New Nonprofit to Aid in Issues of Equity, Education, and Environment

(August 6, 2012)   Global Spark, a new nonprofit organization with three founders in California, Massachusetts, and Washington, is now working with higher education and other charitable groups.  And, as the first step of its soft launch, the organization’s website is now live:

“After teaching and researching together as academics, we’ve formed Global Spark to help other groups that need hard and soft skills,” said Deniz Zeynep Leuenberger, Ph.D. and public administration faculty member at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. “And, with this launch, we’re also looking for other practitioners, scholars, and community members to help us offer a strong menu of services.”

Leuenberger is joined by Danielle Newton, M.F.A. and English faculty at Bellevue College, and Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. and Communication Studies faculty at Bridgewater State College.  Coming from three diverse fields, the three leaders have decades of successful non-profit, educational, and corporate experience in:

  • Strategic planning and capacity building
  • Marketing and communications
  • Grantwriting and fundraising
  • Program evaluation, data collection and analysis
  • Community development, outreach, and mentorship

“One of our first goals is to start sharing information, so we’re sending out a call to students and others who might like to be published on our blog,” says Newton.  “Our website offers many ‘spaces’ for people to discuss issues and for plans to move forward.”

Awaiting formal designation of its 501C3 status in early fall 2012, the organization is already working with American Indian tribal colleges as well as educational and charitable organizations in China, the United Arab Emirates, and across the United States of America.  For instance, the group is aiding with food security initiatives in tribal colleges such as the Oneida Nation’s exemplary program.

“We are also a landing space for resources such as fact sheets and links for others,” Van Leuven noted.  “Right now, groups can find how-to tools for grants development, marketing, and organizational planning.”

For more information, contact Global Spark at, via Twitter  (@Global_Spark), and Facebook.

Posted in Corporate Communication, Corporate Social Responsibility, Development, Marketing, Public Administration, Social media, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Talking about my generation…Let’s be Thunder Buddies!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on July 6, 2012

Over the last week I’ve seen/read two surprisingly optimistic explorations of generational values and ethics. One,Ted, is the raunchy box-office champ about a generation that can’t give up its childhood security; the other, When We Argued All Night, is a sweeping new novel by Alice Mattison that also deals with human strengths and limitations. I recommend them both because they remind us about the messiness of loving each other.

I think we’re all identified by our birth dates, many times by hardships. My parents were part of the Veterans – born between 1922 and 1943 – who survived the Great Depression and World War II. If you’re a Boomer like me (born between 1943-1960), you’re shaped by social causes and politics such as Watergate and the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements.  After that, there’s a huge shift in lifestyles and values, mainly because Gen X-ers  (1960-1980) and those in Gen Y (1980-2000) are defined by media and doting parents. As “Ted” points out, it’s easier to wax nostalgically about nachos and video games than ancient events. And then there’s Generation Z, aka the Net/Virtual  Generation of those born since 2001, who will be online curators with no memories of life before globalization and technology. These are tricky times, when we all sit next to each other at the workplace as well as the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Which makes the value of “Ted”  much more than just the newer version of “Beavis and Butthead”.  It’s a quick yet piercing look at culture-cling that allows us to root for characters despite frat boy stereotypes. Even though we already know how the film will end, Seth MacFarlane surprises us with his razor-sharp lens that maturity is meant to be delayed, at least by the alphabet generations. We don’t actually meet the snowplow parents who enabled a child-centered culture with talking teddy bears, but we do sense that hard work and discipline are fluid goals that are up for grabs.

And When We Argued All Night looks even closer at our personal development and social structures.  In focusing on a 65-year friendship of two men, Mattison helps readers mediate issues of aging as well as coming of age. Her words soar beyond Joan Didion’s finality of loneliness or Marilynne Robinson’s tales of survival amidst transience; instead, we are enmeshed in watching how, despite everything, we share common paths amidst lifelong struggles of heredity and happenstance.

P.S.  From a marketing standpoint, Generations X, Y, and Z have little brand loyalty and a hands-on presence that ignores broadcast spin.  It’s breathtaking to watch them identify as cynical, independent, and entitled entrepreneurs within today’s climate of global warming and economic chaos. And it’s a popular theme:  The New Yorker just ran a column by Elizabeth Kolbert about how spoiled rotten kids are turning into “adultesence” who expect elders to take our their garbage and tie their shoes.  While I don’t agree with all generalities, I do think it’s important we acknowledge our differences:  Here’s a chart that sets out the influencers, core values, and attributes of each group – and after you see “Ted” and read When We Argued All Night – let’s talk about how both work as social commentaries that condemn and celebrate demographics.  Oh, and let’s sing the Thunder Buddy song…together.

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GOTTA HAVE FAITH: and other review sites

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on June 20, 2012

A colleague recently asked if I’d ever posted anything to, one of those consumer review sites that’s a Word of Mouth force for potential employees.  It was new to me…check out the description:

“Glassdoor is your free inside look at jobs and companies.  Salary details, company reviews, and interview questions – all posted anonymously by employees and job seekers.”

Wow, who wouldn’t want to check out an insider’s view of how things REALLY are?   What great potential, this powerful, transparent tool! A quick spin through reviews about this particular employer turned up strong themes BUT such sites can, unfortunately, feature more fake reviews than genuine.  What, you say?  You mean every word you say? 

So who to believe? Over the last year, some firms have artificially boosted their scores by using bots or reputation management groups to post fake-positive reviews.  Some employers are literally demanding that workers write glowing posts to negate the biased, negative ones.  How genuine, indeed. (And doesn’t management have bigger things to worry about than what’s posted online?)

In the past, I’ve been mostly amused by such sites, mainly because I’ve seen how academics and students brush off – or buy into – weirdly stilted posts in  Especially horrific reviews are dated just before final exams, a prime time for students to insult everything from the physical appearance to the teaching styles of their instructors.  Nope, I wasn’t immune—One student who visited me after graduating confessed to writing a mediocre review of my class just before a final paper was due that he hadn’t started.  “It was just easier to vent on Ratemyprofessor than start my project,” he said, while also asking me to write a recommendation.  And I know all the games they play, because I play them, too.

“When did students start thinking it’s okay to always hide behind snarky reviews, especially when there are lots of opportunities for anonymous feedback during a semester?” one friend pondered.  And maybe that’s the point. Why hide online? After all, can’t people see through the artificially gleaming reviews as well as the beyond-belief horrible ones? This falls under a fact of credibility and appropriate response: if the content isn’t trustworthy, consumers will turn elsewhere. And how did this online trend pick up so much steam, to now slowly face deflation?  Side note:  If you’re offering any product or service, include possible responses to online reviews within your crisis comm plan.  While less valid than Wikipedia (cough, cough), online reviews can help spot trends that need addressing.

I suppose I see anonymous and sometimes fake reviews as symptomatic of a larger problem: whether in our work environments or in classroom settings, if we can’t talk face-to-face, if we’ve lost the desire and ability to negotiate – to talk out – what’s working and what’s not working between us, how do we find relief for the real dilemmas that face us? How can we communicate toward solutions to our problems if we don’t communicateBut I’ll wait for something more…

As George Michael might say:  Life isn’t a Journey lyric.  You don’t always get it any way you want it.  Because I got to have faith-a-faith-a-faith.

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Consequences of Our Clicks

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 1, 2012

Here’s my belated New Year’s Resolution:  I vow to stop knowing who and what the Kardashians, Lohans, and Snookis are doing in our world.  I’m pinky-swearing (with you) to stop letting the market think I crave the junk food of media.  And here’s why:

As Clay Johnson points out in today’s L.A Times article, we’re paying the price for random cruising.  “Each time you click on a salacious headline on the Huffington Post, you are not only consuming junk information you don’t need (how much more do you really need to read about J-Lo?); you’re also all but ensuring that the Huffington Post will continue to push that kind of story. Every search you make on Google is analyzed by news editors looking to see which topics are “trending” as they choose what stories to assign and put on their websites.”

SIGH.  He’s right, of course.  SO, I vow to steer clear of random clicks that might be measured as interest in what Johnson calls the junk food of media.  I’ll no longer care about relating to students and the marketing world when it comes to such poor media consumption.  And I’d better walk the walk — Back in my days as an Earth Mother, I even wrote a book about steering clear of sugar, fat, and artificial sustenance.   It’s time to alter my media diet, as well, from an obesity of ignorance.

Want to join me in creating new trending topics?

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DEBUTS: TED Conversation and Fortune 100’s social media usage

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 17, 2011

The Twitterverse is abuzz today about Ted Conversations, a Quora-like platform to ideate, question, and debate.    Just five years ago, expertise was top dog; today, it’s all about engagement and social discussion platforms.  On a separate note, check out this Mashable blurb — 10 things you need  to know about Fortune 100’s use of social media — as proof of companies moving from top-down, broadcast into narrowcast communication.

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Value of gaming, cont. (Wanna play?)

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on January 4, 2011

While this semester’s marketing class focused on gaming (such as Richard Muncaster’s presentation about KlickNation) as another layer in marketing strategies, we also touched on interactivity as an increasing force in behavior and philanthropy.  Here’s news about a new UNESCO online game that educates youth about HIV/AIDS; I wonder, when will the seventh MDG enter the fray?

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PR and BP…sigh

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on June 30, 2010

Lots of PR experts are jostling right now to be relevant about the BP disaster.  (Q: What does BP, Tiger, and Toyota have in common?  A: They’ve ignored the critical steps of crisis communication.)   Tweetdeck is stuffed with advice such as to:  1)  remember immediacy, transparency, and honesty; 2) stop throwing $$ into tradition media  and3) quit stonewalling Anderson Cooper! 

Most agree that we’re missing the truly human side of this amidst critiques of BP as savior and destroyer.  But there are strategies:  Alan Weinkrantz and others would partner with Canon to hand out cameras for documentation, for instance.  And  BP should have set up a Wiki long ago so folks could have a place to harness their energy and good ideas.  (Plus set up the best practice of horizontal communication, giving up that fake pedestal of control and moving into collaboration that might just repair reputation.)

But how can we learn from this tragedy to make sure less voices are silenced and future action comes quicker?   For those of us in education, how might we make this lesson-in-progress relevant to students?  Let’s start NOW with being more open source  about everything from concrete clean-up ideas to broader issues of communication.  Let’s  recraft our syllabi to embed  sustainability and social responsibility.  Who’s up for more relevant case studies and long-lasting projects that go beyond awareness to action?

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Junk e-mail into healthy school lunches?

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on June 26, 2010

(From Mashable) Restaurant chain Chipotle has launched the new “No Junk” campaign.  It encourages people to forward their spam to; for every 100,000 messages received, Chipotle plans to donate $10,000 to The Lunch Box, a non-profit organization that provides resources to schools to help them make their food programs healthier. 

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