Yum’s Smooth PR Move


You’ve probably never heard of Yum Brands, but they’re the fast-food giant that owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Last week they opened Bahn Shop, a Vietnamese-style-street-food shop in Dallas, selling the bánh mì, a popular Vietnamese sandwich that’s starting to catch on in affluent American cities.

But, Banh Shop barely opened their doors before complaints started pouring in from members of Dallas’s Vietnamese-American community. The outrage wasn’t over inauthentic recipes or bad food, it was the shop’s use of a five-pointed red star in the logo.

“Think about a German shop that sells bagels, and the logo has a swastika — what would you think?” asked Thanh Cung, president of the Vietnamese-American Community of Greater Dallas. “That’s exactly what Vietnamese people in the United States feel.”

Cung started a petition to have the red star removed from the logo, saying it evoked bitter wartime memories. Having fought against communist forces in the South Vietnamese army, Cung spent two-years in a prison labor camp at the conclusion of the war where he was starved, tortured and regularly beaten.

In response to the petition and criticism, Yum Brands acted immediately.

“We made a mistake,” said Yum Senior Vice President Jonathan Blum. “It was never our intent to offend anyone, but we see we have made a mistake and in hindsight, we should have recognized this logo could be offensive. As soon as we learned about it, we immediately took action.”

Yum not only removed the logo from the building, leaving it’s new food outpost nameless and unbranded, but they pulled menus, interior signage and employee uniforms.

Blum has even asked for Cung’s help in vetting new branding. “We will design a new logo, and would greatly appreciate your reviewing it, along with other aspects of this restaurant, before we make a final decision,” he said to the community leader via an apology letter. “We hope that you can let us know if there are any other elements in the new logo or aspects of the restaurant that could be perceived poorly.”

While Yum probably should have done a better job during brand development, they clearly responded perfectly in a potentially disastrous situation. Bad PR can be turned into good PR, if handled correctly.

Developing a Brand Story

It’s a crazy, cluttered world out there, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. There’s more brand pollution now than ever before. With the average consumer being hit by a constant barrage of branding, advertising, messaging and hype, how does a company stand a chance at standing out and connecting with potential consumers?

Theoretically, it’s easy. Just be compelling.

When a company becomes something other than ordinary it suddenly stands out as meaningfully differentiated from others in the same market or industry. And, it’s at that point where an emotional connection is made between the company and their customers. It all happens through a relevant and compelling Brand Story.

Here’s six steps that are extremely useful in developing a compelling brand story.

1) Develop Your Back Story

Back story in fiction writing is a set of events or history invented to lend depth or believability to the main story. In branding it is the background necessary to explain the problem that must be solved for the brand. It includes an thorough assessment of the brand’s past and existing culture as well as problems and opportunities it faces in the marketplace.

“Backstories influence expectations, perceptions and, ultimately, how consumers value a product,” says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and the author of New York Times bestselling books, “Predictably Irrational” and “The Upside of Irrationality.”

“Think about the experience of drinking coffee,” Ariely says. “Part of it is the actual smell and the sensation on your tongue, but the other part is what you expect it feels like to drink regular coffee versus . . . coffee that was picked in the mountains of Indonesia.”

2) Create a Brand Persona

Developing a brand persona simply means humanizing it, with a voice and values that come across as genuine and can connect with the consumer.

It’s a highly important step in the process, as brands that successfully take on human like traits are the most revered. People seek them out, become attached to them and assign human personalities to them. After all, brands are like friends, hanging out with them says something about us to the people we know and encounter.

A good example of a company who has successfully created a likable brand persona is Target. Not only has Target clearly distinguished themselves from competitors like Walmart and Kmart by skipping the whole ‘low price’ thing, but they’ve done a great job of incorporating style, design and lifestyle into content. Plus they’ve employed hip, trendy language in everything they do, which has become their friendly, fun brand voice.

3) Develop a Story Brief

A story brief serves the purpose of outlining the entire brand story in ways that promote an empathetic understanding of the brand. It should include story or narrative arc charts, which serve to establish a chronology of the plot or action. This is also the time when you’ll want to develop a strategy around the creative supporting the story and the methods for telling it.  Imagine the story brief as a detailed game plan or internal mission brief.

Here’s a few considerations to keep in mind when developing a story brief:

Tell a real story. Craft your brand story around people and their dreams, not around your products and business challenges or successes. “The best brand stories are irresistible, compelling and provocative,” says Mary van de Wiel, founder, CEO and global brand therapist at ZingYourBrand.com. “The most memorable brand stories tell the unexpected, speak directly to the heart or dare you to live life to the fullest.”

Keep creative simple. The look of your story should reflect the mood and tone of it, and nothing more. A polished story cluttered by elaborate effects or overwrought imagery will only present a disjointed message.

Serialize your story. Find ways and places to tell the story in glimpses. Keep people coming back to discover more.

Give your story momentum. Make it exciting. Build revelations and twists into what occurs over time. Brand stories come alive for people when they feel they are participating in it.


Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” ― Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

6 User Interface Design Fundamentals

I was recently tasked with redesigning an outdated and rather cumbersome shopping portal. Over time, what had once been a trendy and even uniquely clever interface, had grown tired and clunky. The goal was to bring it up-to-date and simplify the experience so it would be more intuitive for the user from start to finish, especially considering the savviness of today’s typical online shopper.

As I worked my way through the design process, I made sure to refer to some UI fundamentals I’ve come to trust over the years.

Here they are for you:

1. Know Your User & What They Want

A lot of what we are doing is getting design out of the way.” – Jonathan Ive

Users are on your site to do one thing: accomplish something. Make sure you’ve clearly outlined what that ‘something’ is and the shortest route/action for getting the user to it. But you’ll also need to pay attention to the user group as well since the route a 12-year-old takes will be considerably different from the route chosen by a thirty or seventy-year-old user. That means it might be necessary to simplify the design or forego trendy UI in order to create an interface your user will understand. By focusing on your user first, you’ll create an interface that lets them achieve their goals.

2. Pay Attention to Other Sites

The main goal is not to complicate the already difficult life of the consumer.” – Raymond Loewy

Users spend an inordinate amount of time on interfaces outside of your website (Facebook, news or banking sites, their phone, etc.). Some of those sites have spent a ton of money refining and perfecting user experiences. Others have just done a great job at building bad habits and low expectations. Either way, it’s what users all over the globe have come to anticipate. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to build an intuitive interface. You just need to employ familiar UI patterns people are accustomed to encountering.

3. Stay Consistent

People react positively when things are clear and understandable.” – Dieter Rams

Users love consistency. They want to feel once they’ve learned how to do something, they’ll be able to do it again and again. That means language, layout and design needs to be consistent throughout. Consistency breeds efficiency.

4. Use Visual Hierarchy

The only intuitive interface is the nipple. After that it’s all learned.” – Bruce Ediger

I’m a big believer in hierarchical design. It allows users to focus on what is most important and helps them navigate the interface. Plus, the more time spent designing a clear and intuitive hierarchy means you’ll naturally reduce the complexity of the interface and have a cleaner final product. Think of it as road signs pointing the way to a destination; concise, clear, colored when appropriate and accurate.

5. Allow for Mistakes

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” – Douglas Adams

You might think your interface is foolproof, but people will make mistakes. Therefore, your design should always allow for and tolerate user error. Make sure to include ways for users to undo actions, and permit varied inputs—after all, no one likes starting over because they entered text in the wrong format. (And in a large percentage of those occasions the user will abandon as opposed to starting over.) Make sure the messaging you serve up in the case of a user error is constructive and (politely) teaches the user how to correct and avoid the error again.

6. Keep it Simple

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The best interface designs are completely invisible to the user. Make sure you have that notion in the forefront of your mind when you are designing or redesigning an interface. Nothing should be added that isn’t absolutely necessary for getting the user to the end goal. And, anything that slows the user down should be removed. UI isn’t the place to show-off cool tricks or fancy design.

15 SEO Exerts to Follow on Twitter

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing psuedo-science based on confusing algorithms that are routinely updated by the omnipotent Google. Trying to stay on top of what’s new and how it effects our daily lives is a full-time job.

Thankfully, these 15 experts have made it their lifelong passion…and they regularly share what they’ve learned with the rest of us mere mortals.

  1. Matt Cutts – usually the first one to announce Google search engine updates, algorithm changes and things of the kind.
  2. Barry Schwartz – founder of Search Engine Roundtable, an influential SEO blog that’s frequently updated. His posts are brief and to-the-case so you won’t need too much time.
  3. Bill Slawski – one of the most influential SEOs in the industry who specializes in Google patents.
  4. Danny Sullivan – a major personality in SEO news industry, he’s been sharing his wisdom since 1995.
  5. Aleyda Solis – specializing in international SEO, she shares her experience very eagerly
  6. Dan Petrovic – writes brief but very practice-oriented posts and analyzes SERPs fluctuations with help of Algoroo, free service developed by his company Dejan SEO.
  7. Jon Cooper – extremely good at creative link-building with online courses for those who are not so confident in this sphere.
  8. Mark Traphagen – never misses an SEO conference and shares the knowledge he gets there with the world.
  9. Julie Joyce – one of the first female specialists in SEO, working in the industry since 2002, she has a solid technical background.
  10. Darren Rowse – a blogger by trade, but his SEO advice is really helpful and inspirational.
  11. Brian Clark – was the guru for content marketing, even before it got its name.
  12. Kristi Hines – freelancer for influential magazines such as Social Media Examiner, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal, Unbounce and KISSmetrics.
  13. Mike Blumenthal – runs an advanced blog devoted to Google Places and Local Search, he clearly understands the minor differences.
  14. Tadeusz Szewczyk – an SEO who believes in direct traffic, traffic from Social Media and other referral traffic. He banned Google to see how well his blog could perform without the all-powerful, and he’s never regretted it.
  15. Robert Scoble – the best resource for recent news, changes, sensations, and development in tech world.

Responsive Design – No Longer a Luxury

There was a point in time when responsive design was considered a luxury. It was something extra a company might consider during development or redesign that would in the very least, boost the ‘cool quotient.’ But, if the cost for development was prohibitive, it was one of the first things cut from the project plan.

I’m sure I’ll get little opposition when I say those days are long past.

After all, more people are connecting to the Internet on mobile devices than ever before. While that statement is not only obvious, but practically downright silly (considering nearly every single person you know is staring at a phone when you’re trying to talk to them), it is true.

CNN reported that mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January of this year. People are accessing content on the Internet definitely. And, that means designers need to be changing how they design content platforms. Especially following the release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in August 2013.

Hummingbird is a direct response to people’s increased usage of mobile devices. Previous search algorithms, focusing on each individual word in the search query, became obsolete as users began interacting with search engines differently. Instead of typing keywords into a computer screen, people began typing sentences, almost as if they were texting Google. Then, with the advent of Siri and other voice recognition software, people started talking to Google.

While Hummingbird considers each word individually, like previous algorithm iterations, it also examines the whole sentence or conversational meaning. In the long-run, this will yield better search engine results and, as content managers evolve to meet Hummingbird head-on from an SEO standpoint, a better Internet.

However, the point I am making with all of this about Hummingbird is, even Google saw in necessary to respond to the fact Americans are now using mobile devices for Web searches more than desktop computers.

Small screens and slower load times force efficient and affective content, which requires stripping away the excess that exists on traditional websites. Plus, mobile users are typically impatient and busy. They don’t want to read instructions and excessive details on their phones. They want to find what they want, scan a review and buy it. They want content that is easily perused and can be read in short bursts.

Responsive design not only ensures content is delivered in a mobile-device friendly format, but should also anticipate and answer the user’s needs. Current generation phones and tablets, with the latest advancements in GPS technology, cameras and video, provide unlimited opportunities for marketers to present their products and services in innovative ways.

More importantly—without a mobile-friendly website, your future online is only getting bleaker. Customers will bounce and head off to a competitor’s site that is easier to use. It’s no longer cool to have responsive design. It’s absolutely necessary.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s a couple useful infographics from Google that show the increase in mobile usage and browsing (click to see larger versions):



Jennifer Golbeck: The Curly Fry Conundrum

Why social media “likes” say more than you might think

Jennifer Golbeck is the director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland. Her lab predicts things like political preference, intelligence, age, just by using Facebook. One study was done just using people’s Facebook likes (looking at which pages they liked). A list of the top 5 likes indicative of high intelligence showed that one of those likes was actually for the “curly fries” page.  Why? Because the action of liking reflects back to the attributes of the other people who liked it. If someone intelligent created the page, than their friends who like the page are probably smart as well.

In the below TEDTalk presentation Golbeck explains how this science has evolved and how some applications of the technology are not so benign — and why she thinks we should return the control of information to its rightful owners.

Social Media Strategy – Part 3

In my previous post I covered the Implementation phase for your new social media marketing strategy.

Equally, if not even more important in many ways, is the final phase, when you review your efforts and analyze the results.­

Step #3: Monitoring and Measuring

It will take a good month or two before you will be able to have enough consistent data to truly evaluate your efforts. Hopefully, you have religiously stuck to your calendar, or you might as well start over and wait another two months.

I suggest scheduling your evaluation date into your calendar, even before you get started with your implementation. It’s like having a date in the future when your diet needs to pay off and you want to look good for that beach vacation. It’ll help you stick to the schedule. And, it turns the whole process into a challenging game.

The Metrics

Unlike other digital marketing components, like Adwords, measuring the results of your social media strategy can be a bit of an exercise in ambiguity. After all, the primary thing you’re evaluating is whether people trust and like you, not necessarily if they click to your site and buy/engage.

Because it is so ambiguous, I recommend starting with whatever metrics you have. It will stabilize the measurement process and give you a jump-off point from where you can apply the “it appears people are…” element.

Facebook has moderately decent tools to get you started. One of the biggest drawbacks to the information they make available is the ability to only pull data for a three month period. This is another reason why you’ll want to schedule your evaluation two months out from your date of implementation.

The Insights page has the information you’ll want. It shows a history of your “likes,” your “reach” and who is “talking about you.” Don’t get mislead by the “talking” label. What Facebook means is how viral your posts have been. It’s the measure of shares and comments people are making on things you have been posting to your page.


All of this data will help you get a feel for how successful your strategy has played out. You’ll be able to see what days you posted really good, viral content (the cat video) and the days when you caused people to unlike you for being too serious (or, yes, even too silly).

With Twitter, it’s a bit more difficult since they don’t have built in measurement tools. You’ll need to use something like Klout (www.klout.com).

With Klout, you not only get a breakdown of data similar to what is provided by Facebook, but you get an overall Klout score showing the effectiveness of your efforts. The score is compiled by average sub-scores for Reach, Engagement and Velocity (the measure of how likely your tweets are to be retweeted).


One cool thing with Klout, other than it is free, is that you can link all of your other social networks such as Facebook and YouTube and get an overall measurement.

Time to SWAG

Once you have the metrics in hand, it’s time to use your brain and unbiased, best guess at how you’ve been doing. I say guess because you’ll need to go back through your networks and get a feel for how your audience has interacted and responded to you and your posts. For example, can you tell by their Facebook comments or @tweets that they get a sense of your voice?

Make notes on what looked to be successfully popular and what scared people away. Write down anything significant, such as a share by a much larger and potentially perfect partner company, or comment by someone influential in the industry. Add all of those to your documentation so you have something to guide you through the next two months.

Don’t Blow the Momentum

If it looks like you’re on the right track, then now’s the time to add fuel to the fire and build on the momentum!

Here are a couple ideas to take it to the next level:

  • Consider buying some Facebook ads. They aren’t all that expensive and they are a great way to build up your audience. You’ll be amazed at how granular you can get with the targeting.
  • Try a contest or giveaway integrating two or more of your social networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). Make sure it is super compelling and has a great payoff and you’ll be thrilled with the viral results.
  • Try hosting a live Q&A session on one of your social networks. Promote it well in advance and make sure your resident experts are pulled in to participate.
  • Host a Twitter party. Invite people to storm Twitter and help you trend. Make sure they get a reward for their efforts.

That’s about it! You should have just about everything you need to build a strong and comprehensive social media strategy.

Good luck…and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! 😉