Big Box Stores Getting Creative With Gift Cards

Gift Cards…

When I think about gift cards, I think that they are such an easy gift to give to those in which you have no idea what to give. I admit that I bought one this month for a friend’s birthday.

Everyone buys them, right? It seems that the answer is a resounding “yes” as gift card sales exceed $25 billion dollars a year. A few big box stores are getting creative since most retailers are estimating that due to the current economy, sales from the previous year will be down 5-25%.

A recent Wall Street Journal article explains how Home Depot is engaging in Interactive Cards. “When a customer receives one of the company’s interactive gift cards, he or she can go to a special website, enter the gift card amount and hold the gift card up to a webcam. The webcam will show the consumer’s image and the image of a crate on the computer screen. When the customer shakes the gift card, products will appear in the on-screen crate within the card value range.”

The article also discusses Best Buy’s new “Pitch In” website may be a play to combine both the practical and innovative. “Inspired, in part, by social networking trends, customers can create a card online and friends and family can contribute any amount to the card – starting at $5 – to be used towards larger items on that customer’s wish list. The card can be used at any U.S. Best Buy store or online.”

I find both of these strategies interesting. Are they giving more to the consumer or are they asking them to do more?

For me, gift cards are an impulse buy. When it is difficult to know what the recipient would like or if they “Have Everything,” a gift card is easy to grab in the check out line. At least this way, they will know that they are on my mind and I care.

So this holiday season, think about how you can be creative with your gift giving or if you don’t want to think, The Creative J would love to do the thinking and shopping for you.

The Joy of Chocolate

This weekend we celebrated Connor’s 9th birthday.

Do you remember being 9, when life was a simple joy?

For the birthday we made chocolate balls. They were a delicious blend of cream cheese and crushed Oreos, rolled into small 1″ balls and then dipped in chocolate. Yes, they are as amazing as they sound.

While we were making the chocolate balls, I started thinking that as adults, why shouldn’t we enjoy the same joy of chocolate?

The 2009 year is rounding out and it is more important than ever to let our clients know how much we appreciate them. So why not give them the gift of chocolate? Whether it be brownies, chocolate covered almonds, truffles, chocolate covered sunflower seeds or simply just a great big chocolate bar, everyone loves the gift of chocolate.

It doesn’t matter what kind or name brand, everyone enjoys the smooth silky richness of chocolate melting in your mouth whether you’re 9 or 99.

The Buy The Big O Show!

Last week was Omaha’s annual “Buy The Big O Show!” Every fall, the with the help of a few corporate sponsors and the Omaha Chamber, businesses both large and small gather at the Qwest Convention Center to show off their services.

Being in the business of trade show giveaways, I love to see what businesses will give away to attract new clients. This year, the winner of the most unique giveaway was Creighton’s Werner Institute. Their giveaway was a harmonica! I loved it. It was
fun and had a nice size branding area. The real kicker was that no one else was giving them away.

As for the businesses, it was pens, pens and more pens. But, as I always tell my clients, people love their pens. The AIM Institute gave away tech-like looking pen. Mutual of Omaha Bank and the UNO MBA progam gave away the trusted simple retractable pens.

My favorite pen was the Valley Boys pen. It was bright orange with black trim. It had a solid feeling plunger/retractor, which is exactly what you want from a roofing company.

Another favorite included the Inter Tech Auto Collision nail file, bright with a big and bold logo on something so practical. I also liked Children’s Hospital’s First Aid Kits. All of the above are excellent ways have branded merchandise become lifestyle giveaways.

Branding

Brand

This word bores me. Maybe because it’s only one syllable. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to think about it. As usual, an unanticipated string of events occurred that forced me to take a stand and make a declaration on this subject.

What is a brand? Her brand? My brand? I have decided that brand is an opinion that one forms when they first meet you as well as lingering impressions or afterthoughts. I believe that a brand should be perceived in a positive manner, it should be the essence of what you represent and the experience of you. There’s a little of “you”, or each of you in a team scenario, that is mixed in with it, something that is personal or unique.

Should we sterilize a brand to make it safe for everyone? No. Should you be afraid to be you for fear that someone else doesn’t like your brand? No. Brands are like canned corn, most people love it but there is occasion that it is intolerable to another. That’s ok, you can’t please or accomodate everyone.

I recently got to work with a new client. She had a desire for apparel that would build awareness of her yet-to-be-opened business. She had a deeply personal passion for a color but others didn’t share her vision. I got to sit at her dining room table, and watch her children, on summer vacation, playing with visiting cousins. I saw her garage filled to the brim with items for her new establishment, all snatched up at yard sales and flea markets. I witnessed her dedicated assistant sweating in the hot summer sun stripping, sanding and painting items for their new space…and she wasn’t complaining!

From her kitchen table, her calmness in the midst of mayhem, from the cheeriness of her spirit and the colors seen throughout her home. I knew why she wanted to incorporate this color into her brand. I knew she gained comfort and happiness from it and it represented her joy in creativity, like the warm rays of the sun rising each day. She didn’t tell me this, she exuded it.

Pursuant to this meeting the client told me what her vision was for her “dream shirts”. Another marketing company advised that they didn’t agree with the concept stating they felt were too bold. The client didn’t change her design because she was not afraid to show her strong and exuberant brand. As I attended her grand opening last week I was delighted to see how awesome those shirts looked on her entire staff and how perfectly they fit into the concept of their business.

I am a brand. I have my thoughts about what others perceive and I’m sure that doesn’t agree with actual perceptions all the time. What I do know is that I am my brand, I am not playing make believe. Like canned corn, you either like me or you don’t and that’s okay.

Five Years and Counting