BWOW: Wow Bao

BWOW: Wow Bao

WowBaoIf you’re wondering who owns the eyebrow-lift-inducing Facebook vanity “hotasianbuns”, look no further than Chicago’s own Wow Bao.  Wow Bao is a concept of Lettuce Entertain You, but it has a social media voice and plan of action all its own.   Geoff Alexander, Wow Bao’s Managing Partner joined me on a panel at WOMMA’s School of WOM and shared enough of those elements to make me want to learn more.  The personality and choices that Wow Bao has made qualify it as a Brand Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW) – a brand for whom there is a passionate set of fans that would give up a weekend with their families to come “immerse” themselves in the brand – learn more, meet the people behind the brand, and want to have a hand in crafting the brand’s future.  So what’s Wow Bao’s recipe for a talkable, weekend-worthy brand?

Product Offering w/ Story, Ritual, & Explanation – Chicago is a food town, but steamed Asian Buns aren’t the most common offering by far.  The product itself provides the opportunity for Word of Mouth to be exchanged – in location or on their website in the “the Way of the Bao” video.

Sauce-Up Your Brand Voice – @BaoMouth – Their brand voice on Twitter is the disembodied Bao Mouth.  The spicy Bao Mouth’s location and identity remain a closely guarded trade secret (even when I pressed Mr. Alexander on stage).  It is interesting to note that this is usually counter to what we think of as a best practice in terms of building relationships through transparency, but here it truly adds to the Bao mystique.  What we do know is that he/she is not only listening for mentions of Wow Bao, but ready to comment on other seemingly irrelevant, but fun tweets.  My favorite today:

I’m gonna walk in through the out door all day today RT @CarolBlymire: Prince turns 52. How will YOU be celebrating his birthday?”

Surprise & Delight with Innovation – Despite (or maybe because?) Wow Bao is in Chicago and only rocking a handful of locations, they are innovating their marketing at light speed.  They know that young, digital, early adopters are their bun eaters, so they have experimented by being one of the first restaurants in Chicago to offer Foursquare deals (in fall 09), they have an iPhone app, remote ordering and shipping anywhere in the US, Facebook weekly “secret word” deals, Foursquare Mayor rituals that walk the walk in store (this talkability has to manifest IRL after all), and mobile single-use barcoded coupons with Mocapay.  Even if 75% of these fail, they’re worth remarking about and, while experimental, that probably justifies the ROI on its own.

What other brands are challenging their audiences by pushing their marketing bounds vs. being dragged into the future?  Or using the complexity of their product as a WOM advantage?

Enthusiast vs Influencer Event Best Practices

Enthusiast vs Influencer Event Best Practices

For a few years at this point, I’ve written about Brands Worth of a Weekend – where the weekend in question is a one for enthusiasts to come together and bond with the people behind their passion brands.  Meanwhile, Influencer Events – where influentual bloggers/tweeters and the like are invited to spend a day or two having a brand experience – have exploded in frequency.  While each may be classified as events for content creators and there are some best practice similarities (make personal connections, send a thank you, be clear about where and how content can be tagged), I would argue that there are even more differences.

The below table is a consolidation of lessons shared in an internal discussion of 360 DI strategists across the network for best practices before during and after an event.

Enthusiast Events

Influencer Events

  • Co-Create the event agenda.  They already know a lot about the brand and will be able to offer a lot of instruction on what they want to see.
  • This is also an opportunity to build excitement – send something for them to wear to arrive or a special assignment.
  • Provide opportunities to experience the brand prior to the event so that they will get the most out of the time on the ground.
  • Also, ask them what would be helpful – many bloggers have had multiple of these experiences and can tell you what they do and don’t want.
  • You don’t need to “sell” this group on the brand, but the bar on what constitutes “exclusive” experiences or information will be very high as they already know so much.
  • The opportunity is for time for people to connect – enthusiasts to one another and to brand teams.
  • Give a thorough “background” (origin, invention or founding story) to level set on knowledge
  • Air out your agenda to allow lots of time for liveblogging & tweeting
  • Design photo ops or “moments” worthy of documenting.  Shoot video footage, photos, or audio as appropriate.
  • Provide ongoing ways to stay in touch with the people assembled (Facebook group, brand community, etc)
  • Channel your enthusiasts’ energy!  Provide suggestions for ways they can help you – product testing, house parties, store visits – see how they might want to help.
  • Follow up with edits of the media you created and any appropriate tagging instructions for media uploads
  • Keep this group at the top of your list for other outreach opportunities

An additional follow up consideration for all, especially for complex programs, is Social Influencer Relationship Management.

If you have some experience designing or participating in these brand events, please throw in your $.02.  I think it could benefit all parties to avoid the pitfalls in mistaking participants invited due to their audience and influence for people who are already passionate about everything your brand does.

St. John Knit’s Caviar IS the New Black

St. John Knit’s Caviar IS the New Black

I received a letter from Marie Gray, CEO of St. John Knit at home this week.

I assumed it would be about the economy.  That’s why we hear from CEO’s these days, right?

It wasn’t.  It was a 5 paragraph letter about a major change in the staple color of the staple fabric of the classic clothing line: the black Santana knit.  For various reasons including the environmental impact of dyes, the fabric color dying process has changed over the years.   Marie Gray writes that she had noticed that recent “black” collections had a bluish cast and had migrated far too close to their navy blue color.  So, they innovated.  They created a new process that would use less water and energy and produce a truer black that will be called “Caviar”.

Why does this matter to loyal customers like me?  In short, your old stuff won’t match the new stuff.  Part of the beauty of the items is that they last forever and you can mix and match items from lines and years.  It is garanimals for grownups.  The letter mentions that all stores and consultants have been armed with swatches of old black, navy, and new caviar for people to compare for themselves and prepare for the changes.  It also reinforces St. John’s commitment to craftsmanship at a time when other brands are focused on discounting which re-reinforces why this is a brand worthy of of a weekend – as well as my loyalty and respect.  While I wont be making any big purchases any time soon, the swatch compare will drive me into the store on my next NYC trip and who knows, maybe caviar will be hard to resist.

BWOW: Beija-Flor Jeans

BWOW: Beija-Flor Jeans

Search is over Beija FlorI’m excited to share a relatively new brand in the Brands Worthy of a Weekend series. Beija-Flor Jeans is a transcontinental brand born of necessity and unique knowledge. Emilie Whitaker became aware of an opportunity in the women’s designer jeans market when she spent a frustrating day going store to store with a friend looking for the perfect pair of jeans. The friend was willing to spend whatever she needed to get cute jeans – she just didn’t find anything she liked. Emilie’s co-founder (and mother) Kathy had 20 years of retail fashion experience and an intimate knowledge of Brazilian denim – beautiful quality and merciful with a slight stretch.

Emilie and Kathy put their heads together and realized they had a golden opportunity. They formed Beija-Flor (portugues for hummingbird) and began to design and import jeans made with Brazilian denim for the American woman. Beija-Flor started by selling primarily through home shows and direct through their website and word of mouth took off. It’s not everyday you notice a hummingbird logo on your friend’s great fitting jeans.

What makes Beija-Flor a Brand Worthy of a Weekend?

Founding Story – There is a great founding story for Beija-Flor and they tell it well through all of there materials. Even better is the fact that the faces of Beija-Flor are also the masterminds and founders.

Style Variety – While Beija Flor has extremely cute jeans for dressy/fashionable occasions, they also offer more dressy trouser styles, skirts, etc. They aren’t a one trick pony – you can purchase multiple items to weave into your wardrobe.

Size – Beija-Flor jeans are sold in actual true-to-size 0 – 16 (Dear Ralph Lauren Rugby store who only carries 0 – 12 – J’accuse). For anyone who has looked at a $200 pair of women’s jeans that are a size 29 and look like they are made for a malnourished 12 year old – this is for you.


Unique Features – When you fold their bestselling “Jennifer” jean sideways, you’ll notice that the back is higher than the front. This is to help the forgotten woman who is not just standing in a club, but who will sit down at some point and does not want to hang out the back. This jean is guaranteed to prevent you needing to ask for a booth in a restaurant to cover your exposed assets.

Check back tomorrow for What Beija Flor Fans want from a weekend with the brand.

Nau: Why They’re Fans

Nau: Why They’re Fans

While I am a fan of what Nau stands for, I thought it would be better to turn over Nau’s “Why I’m A Fan” post to the folks who wear the clothes and truly get it.

catch up ladyCatchUp Lady, whose post was my first exposure to Nau.

“I would definitely spend a weekend with the Nau brand. With so many companies “green washing” and merely paying lip service to corporate social responsibility it’s nice to see a company that actually IS doing no evil. I think a company like Nau that walks the walk really resonates with my generation – and I’ll bet we see more companies following their lead in the future. Plus, my cousin works for Nau (disclaimer!) and if I took a weekend out there I’d actually get to both experience a great brand AND spend time with family!”

Chris WojdaChris Wojda of the Incite Kitchen

In his nomination of Nau as a Brand Worthy of a Weeekend: Think Patagonia with a little more Patagonia sprinkled on top. Then add a strong twist of Calvin Klein and Armani design aesthetic… and there you have it. Masters at building a sense of community rather than a marketing campaign.

In response to the question “Why are you a fan?”: I’m a fan of Nau because the brand has a clear purpose beyond making money. In my opinion, every great brand has a double or triple bottom line philosophy. They don’t rely on positioning and image, they rely on having a shared purpose with a core group of consumers to sell who they are to the rest of the world…All that said, their style is great. They not only make clothes that will perform while outdoors (freedom of movement, wick away sweat, keep you dry, breathable), their clothes are also made to perform indoors or in an urban environment (designed so that you don’t always look like you just got back from summiting Mt. Hood).

What would you expect from a weekend with Nau? I would expect a time where work and play were one in the same. As with most passionate people, the group at Nau seems to be the type that doesn’t separate work and pleasure because the two totally bleed into each other for them. They would be completely sold out to their brand and cause and very talkative about it. I’d expect a lot of Stumptown coffee (that’s another brand you should explore), a lot of people riding their bikes to and from the office, and a lot of conversation about affairs that on the surface have not a thing to do with selling apparel. They get their inspiration from a lot of places and clearly don’t chase cool. I’d expect a lot of collaboration in their office which would have few walls, few conference rooms, but a lot of sketches, articles, photos, ads, and other shit scattered through-out as inspiration. I wouldn’t expect them to be very secretive as they are more interested in collaboration than competition.