Posts filed under Strategy

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

The Following post is by Melissa Zimdars . © 2016

Some of contents of this educational resource/google document, specifically the list of potential false, misleading, clickbait-y, and/or satirical news sources, have been removed in order for it to be transferred to and expanded on in a more permanent, dynamic, and collaborative home.  This page will reflect updates as they become available.

Tips for analyzing news sources:

  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

For more tips on analyzing the credibility and reliability of sources, please check out School Library Journal (they also provide an extensive list of media literacy resources) and the Digital Resource Center.

Here's the link to the complete document.

What is Your Wawa?

I talk about branding constantly. Just ask the poor guy who sat next to me on a flight to NYC last week.

One of the many things I always hit on is the “essence” of a brand. But in many cases, a brand also has a physical manifestation.

That point hit home for me in a personal way when I was driving to the taco joint ... um, I mean Whole Foods ... a few days ago and eyeballed a Wawa convenience store/gas station under construction in my neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know Wawa, there is nothing more fabulous when it comes to a convenience store.

The brand has roots in the Northeast, but has progressively found a home in the South. The first Orlando location opened with the amount of fanfare we normally reserve for visiting celebrities and high-profile court cases. My wife and I eagerly stood in line the first week awaiting the opportunity to use Wawa’s DIY touchscreen sandwich maker and get a whiff of their multiple coffee flavors.

Now I am getting a Wawa less than a mile from my home. From a brand standpoint, something hit me like a ton of swizzle sticks while I sat at a red light and surveyed the construction site. At least in our region, all the new Wawa stores have a consistent architectural style defined by a sloping roofline that covers the gas pump area. 

And guess when they build that pavilion?

They construct it before the first yard of concrete is poured, and before they erect the walls for the building that will dispense those heavenly sandwiches.

Sitting at that red light, it suddenly occurred to me that Wawa takes advantage of a brand-centric pre-marketing device like no other. For months before the new store opens, that roof structure spreads the gospel like a street-corner preacher promising to deliver us from mediocre gas-station food and bland coffee.


What other brands have this effect? 

Back in the day, Taco Bell used to have a little “bell” niche on the building’s facade that might have given you an indication. For those who remember the freestanding restaurants, Pizza Hut had a distinctive roofline. You can probably think of others.

So what is the Wawa for your business? More specifically, when you deploy a product or service in a new marketplace, what signals your arrival? This question has actually haunted me for a couple of weeks. I’m tuned into it every time I see a building under construction. And that’s easy here in Central Florida, where new shopping centers, restaurants and banks pop up like zits the week before prom.

Pre-marketing takes on a lot of forms:

  • Actors, musicians, and miscellaneous celebrities always spin a good tale about the next big thing they are involved in
  • The traditional “coming soon” sign
  • Certainly doing a press release creates some momentum, but only with specific customers and businesses through the right media channels
  • Capitalizing on social media and asking the audience to share expansion updates with friends in new markets
  • Blogger buzz, immersive marketing, and outdoor advertising may also get the needle to twitch 

However, I’m fascinated that Wawa can announce its arrival without any typical media spend. The physical structure already does the job.

Now I would like to challenge you to see if you can identify any other brands or products that employ this tactic whether or not they know that they’re doing it. The challenge is great but I think you’re up to the task.

Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Brand, Process, Strategy.

“Plinko” Content: Zig and Zag Your Way to Brand Awareness

Storytelling is the most powerful messaging tool available to us. It doesn’t matter if that story comes from blog articles, video, podcasting, or other channels. Nothing can convey the heart and soul of brand essence like a solid story that can be retold (shared) with all the contemporary social tools. However, there is also a fallacy in the assertion that a great story is all you need...

For the remainder of this article click here:

Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Brand, Advertising, Strategy.

Marketing Tips From Tenacious Toys CEO Benny Kline

In a previous article I wrote regarding "marketing the now," I found great insight in one of the most peculiar places – the toy industry. Benny Kline, CEO for Tenacious Toys, has been a virtual friend of mine for some time now. His scrappy entrepreneurial wisdom always gives me a lot to think about. I hope the following interview with him benefits you as well.

What fuels new products in such as sub-niche (designer toys in vinyl, resin and plush) within the toy industry?

I'm not sure exactly what it is that fuels the changing interests in the toy industry. I think the toy, more than any other item, is presented specifically as a disposable item. Not because you're supposed to throw it out, but because it's meant to entertain. And entertainment is fleeting these days.

Computers. Kids have a shorter attention span and thus need a greater number of different toys to make it through the day without boredom. Multiply that by 1 million, and factor in the fact that toys aren't just for children anymore, but are often marketed to and sold to adults (young adults today are the first adults ever who grew up surrounded by computers), and the result is an entire industry whose product life cycle is growing shorter by the year.

Interest in toys seem to change all the time. What drives that? And how do you forecast that evolution?

I deal with a fickle toy market on a monthly basis. An artist, designer, or company is hot one month – and all of a sudden the sales dry up.

I deal with this in two ways: Firstly, I am extremely active on social media and on my blog, sharing new and upcoming products and gauging the responses of my network. Soliciting feedback by entering, and in many cases, starting the conversation about a toy is my most effective strategy in making purchasing decisions. Instead of trying to predict the response of the ever-changing collector market, I just listen a lot. So much easier.

My second tactic is to have a backup plan for each item I end up purchasing. When will I discount it, what can I do online to increase interest in that item? Do I offer it to my core group of customers at an exclusive discount in order to move the remaining stock? And finally, if all else fails, can I use that stock as something of a barter to get myself something else of value, like exposure, building my email list, adding blog subscribers, or maybe I send to an artist to customize into a OOAK piece so that the item is more desirable once again?

Why does the Toy market move so fast?

My assertion is that the speed of technology – texts and Twitter and instant messaging - lead kids to have a shorter attention span, and this carries over to non-electronic entertainment as well.

Anything culturally/generationally?

If we're talking plastic toys, I have a feeling an average 6-year-old today will play with an action figure for like 20 minutes tops, whereas 30 years ago, a 6-year-old might ONLY have a couple action figures and would be FORCED to play with them for hours.

Now, people amass collections of the figures - disposable entertainment with shorter play value. Most adult collectors don't even take their $10 Funko figures out of the boxes. I own several FunkPOP figures, and I've never touched the surface of any of them. They're in the box still. A testament to my own fleeting interest ...


Now that I think about it, there's an interesting point to be made here: The issue at hand is the fleeting nature of consumer interest in any given product or genre of products. My assertion is that it is the existence of technology in our lives which generates this faster product cycle by limiting the attention span of the average consumer.

Yet, as I described earlier, my solution to this problem is also technology-based: I utilize social media (the source of the truncated attention span) to assess the economic feasibility and marketability of any given product. Computers / social media / technology is both the cause of, and solution to, the fickle toy industry. Weird.

How do you create interest or desire around new products?

I don't create desire, the desire already exists. Fortunately in the toy industry, the companies themselves do a ton of marketing. So all you're really dealing with is merchandising properly and making sure the interested customer knows he can get the product from your shop. That's all SEO and communication.

Talk to me about “Urban Vinyl” or “designer toys” as they are also known.

In my niche, which is a subset of the overall toy industry, there is a bit more opportunity to set trends, because an art toy shop is basically half toy shop, half gallery. The gallery aspect involves curation, which is a trend-setting endeavor. Galleries must pick and choose hot (or, even better, soon-to-be-hot) artists and brands to represent within a very limited set of curated art products. Art toy shops definitely get to set trends and influence the market a bit. Toys R Us doesn't, it basically just stocks everything, and they let the consumer decide what they want.

This is almost a “what is the meaning of life” question for marketers: What makes something cool?

A lot of the cool factor of the art toy involves a surprise - the customer has never seen the item before they walk into the shop. It's so limited they've never heard of it or laid eyes on it. That uniqueness is desirable, as far as art toys are concerned, so just displaying and selling a unique art toy can serve to set trends moving forward. Better yet, it establishes the shop as the nexus of trends, so that people keep coming back to see what's in stock. This essentially dictates the shop owners' assertion of what's cool right now. And as we discussed before, what's cool right now will most likely NOT be cool next month (according to the consumer AND according to the shop owner/curator). Thus the churn, turnover, and shift in attention and purchasing habits on a monthly basis.

How do industry sub-niches such as yours affect the larger whole of the industry vertical?

I AM seeing a bit of the art toy industry rubbing off on the big-box toy stores. This only started within the past few years. I noticed that Kidrobot and Toy2R started popping up in smaller chains like Urban Outfitters a few years ago. Now you can find The Loyal Subjects items in much larger chain stores. That transition was not surprising, as those items are mostly licensed products. Licensed products are supported by mass appeal. However, the interesting thing for me to see over the past year is The Loyal Subjects rolling out "exclusives" to these chain stores, such that a particular chain would be the only set of stores stocking a particular item. This is the same concept that indie art toy shops have been enjoying for decades, magnified x 1,000 to support the production numbers required to supply a chain of hundreds of stores.

What makes your marketing/approach unique?

That is a challenge. My No. 1 goal is to create an excellent buying experience that the customer wants more of. I write to customers myself, and deal with issues myself. And I employ blunt, self-effacing honesty when I discuss issues with people. I refund customers when there's an issue, I try to remain calm and detached when dealing with negative situations.

Basically, I want to make shopping at my shop a pleasing experience.

That's the primary way to win customers. Slowly, by word of mouth.

I wish my clients understood that! (laughs)

As far as my own marketing goes online, I have a social media motto: "Be everywhere, all the time." I employ tools to deliver my content to as many platforms as possible. I have an iPhone which allows me to check incoming messages across 5+ social platforms all day long.

Finally, I don't operate in a vacuum. If I do not have a product, I will steer a customer to a shop that does. Often I can reach out personally to an artist or company and get something for a customer that might not normally be available. I am happy to pass off a sale to another member of my community. By doing this, I ensure the possibility of them doing the same for me. In short, I am operating not as Team Tenacious but rather as Team Art Toys. Whether the other shops and personalities in the industry are on board, I don't care. That's how I operate. Supporting everyone.

It’s a very helpful and authentic way of being — I dig that. I dig you.

It's a total concept of my place inside the community. I am always aware of where I fit in and whether I am helping move the industry forward.

It probably makes me a shitty businessman as well. But I long ago abandoned the idea of getting rich off of art toys, in a financial sense. I'd rather just build this thing up as high as it'll get to benefit us all.

Thanks Benny — You rock!

Here's a link to Benny's efforts with a Toy Designer on Kickstarter too! 
The "Four Horsies of the 'Pocalypse collectible art toy figures!"

For more on Benny & team see:

Tenacious Toys
Our Blog
Voicemail: (347) 223-5869
Skype: tenacioustoys 
Twitter - Blog - eBay - Facebook - Flickr - Tumblr - Instagram

Posted on February 3, 2015 and filed under Advertising, Business, Social Media, Strategy.