• REI #OptOutside Blazes New Trails on Black Friday

    by Chris Wallace | Dec 21, 2015

    The words Black Friday have come to mean very different things to different folks. For many retail execs those words are deeply ingrained, translating roughly to: The Most Important Day of the Year. To shoppers, those words increasingly conjure up nightmares of stampeding deal seekers and rock-em-sock-em grandmas duking it out over the bargain bin. Possibly worst of all, for retail workers on the ground, it means leaving the Thanksgiving table earlier and earlier each year to work extended hours in that cauldron of consumerism.

    Now imagine a world where Doorbusters are replaced by The Great Outdoors. That’s the future that REI CEO Jerry Stritzke and his leadership team envision with their radical #OptOutside campaign, which launched in October and built through Black Friday. In a move that scuttles retail dogma, all 143 REI locations were closed on Black Friday 2015 with a message on their doors, web site, and social profiles to get outside and enjoy nature. Instead of joining their point-of-sale counterparts in the trenches, all 12,000 REI employees will receive a paid day off.

    This campaign, baffling as it may be to retail traditionalists, speaks to an emerging corporate ethos that places the values of customers ahead of short-term dollars, focusing instead on brand integrity and lifetime value of the customer. To be clear, it is a great PR stunt if nothing else. But more importantly, it shows a willingness to adapt to a changing marketplace ahead of the curve. It takes courage (some would say hubris) to fly in the face of convention and abandon a top ten sales day. Still, emerging results appear positive[1] and potentially indicative of a broader trend we will explore.

    In Social Business practice, we use both research and social data to re-examine tried-and-true business practices in order to find and exploit competitive advantages and unearth new ways of measuring success. For the retail sector in 2015, this means taking a sober view on the possibility that we are witnessing the beginning of the end for that most hallowed holdover from 20th Century retailing. It also means formulating a clear plan to fill that void.

    To start, let’s look at some high level indicators of campaign performance:

    • Volume - #OptOutside was mentioned on social media and the web more than 106,000 times over Thanksgiving Weekend, with Twitter and Instagram comprising 94% of those hashtag mentions. 
    • Reception - Sentiment was largely positive, confirming that the campaign aligned well with the values and wants of the overall REI audience. Those posts with negative sentiment frequently expressed criticism for a 3rd brand, comparing them to the #OptOutside movement. This is not to say REI was not without it's critics.

              largely positive sentiment

    • Engagement - The vast majority of mentions were attached to user generated photos or videos of outdoor activities.  This constitutes a much deeper level of individual activity and brand engagement than (for instance) a campaign whose key metric is garnering “Likes” or "Follows".

      The rise of social as a mature medium has given a platform and a voice to the pervasive consumer resentment surrounding the bloating of Black Friday. In November 2014, analyst Jeanine Skowronski told CBS Moneywatch, "Black Friday, I think, has a pretty bad rep now. People see the horror stories, they see the long lines. The casual Black Friday shopper of yesteryear is reluctant to go and brave that, largely because they don't have to."

      In an attempt to extend the holiday shopping season earlier each year, retailers from Macy’s to Home Depot began staged rollouts of holiday decorations and promotions prior to Halloween, drawing ire and exhaustion from many consumers. Social Listening reports and other sources of business intelligence confirm this backlash, leading many retailers including Staples, Gamestop, Costco and others to close their doors on Thanksgiving. REI, however, is the first to abandon Black Friday itself.


      Perhaps unsurprisingly, the National Retail Federation (@NRFnews) reported a marked decline in Thanksgiving Weekend spending between 2013 and 2014. Early numbers for Thanksgiving Weekend 2015 indicate a similar year-over-year decline in terms of aggregate dollars spent.[2], largely owing to lowered Average Spend figures. 


       Year Total Est. Shoppers   Average Spend  Total Avg. Spend YoY Delta in Spend 
       2013  141,000,000  $407.02  $57,389,820,000.00  
       2014  133,700,000  $380.95  $50.933,015,000.00 11.25% 
       2015  151,000,000  $299.60  $45,239,600,000.00 11.18%

      Always-on retailers like and Zappos have conditioned consumers to expect doorbuster discounts and great customer service 24 | 7 | 365 by delivering exceptional customer experiences. Combine this trend with an established backlash in consumer sentiment and shopping habits, and an ultra-competitive landscape between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the prospects for Black Friday success begin to fade considerably.

      While it is unlikely that retailers will completely abandon Black Friday in the near future, they should currently be considering alternatives to the one-upmanship and media clutter of advertising over Thanksgiving weekend.

      As an option, retailers can choose to spend 2016 creating an alternate plan:

      Generating business intelligence around your brand, products, and competitive landscape from social, web, CRM and other sources

      Focusing resources on re-aligning their brands with the values and sentiment reflected by customers and prospects

      Creating brand-centric shopping holidays that appeal to that core audience

      Shifting key metrics from only sales figures toward those that help evaluate customer experience and ensure the lifetime value of the customer

      The lesson to be learned from REI: By avoiding the cross-cancellation that occurs during ultra-competitive periods like Black Friday, retailers have the opportunity to free up resources to rewrite the rules, and ultimately create unique sales holidays tailor-made to their individual brands - at any point in the year - with the ability to own them outright.

      REI’s Stritzke told CBS This Morning, “While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors.”

      Have the courage to find your Brand’s Great Outdoors.


      [1] Source: Trellist Social Analytics Team, powered by Sprinklr 

      [2] Source: National Retail Federation - Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Survey, Prosper Insights & Analytics, 2013 - 2015

  • 3 Keys to Surviving the Age of Social Disruption

    by Chris Wallace | Jul 28, 2014
    surviving the age of social disruption

    Without question, social technologies rank among the most disruptive trends in business and culture in the 21st Century. So disruptive, in fact, it could prove to be an “extinction event” for businesses too inflexible or slow to evolve.

    Consumers (whether B2C or B2B) have built expectations for brands on social that mirror the way that they interact with their friends and counterparts. These expectations cause consumers to be drawn to, and ultimately choose, brands that actively engage with them socially.

    Socially mature companies make the investment to understand the complexities of their consumers and use that information to improve their products, services and brand interactions.

    This requires brands to be present and active in channels their customers prefer. It requires real time, on-demand listening and engagement, and making that information shareable and actionable without porting around spreadsheets. It means all internal touch points participate in social on some level - from customer service to marketing to investor relations. 

    Essentially, brands are forced to move from DOING social to BEING social, and this movement is happening right now.

    According to Dion Hinchcliffe of the Dachis Group, the number of global companies that have truly and fully mastered social integration across their operations numbers in the low hundreds[1]. The importance of doing so is apparent however. He explains we are, “witnessing a steady and inexorable rise in social business adoption over the last five years.” 

    This means that now is the perfect time to begin planning your social road map and seize on a fast-mover advantage in your marketplace.

    What separates socially leading companies from lagging ones? How are these leaders approaching the challenges and reaping the benefits from opportunities presented by the era of social disruption?

    It helps to look at where industry norms will be in 5 years to create a roadmap to becoming fundamentally social by re-configuring 3 key factors: People, Processes and Technology.

    To help our clients understand these 3 key factors and address these challenges, Trellist launched a dedicated Social Business Division to provide consulting, design and development for clients looking to integrate social across teams, divisions, locations and business functions.

    We've also partnered with Sprinklr - the single "most powerful technology" in the social space (Forrester's Wave Reports). The result: an alliance that spans every need of every forward-thinking, large- to medium-sized organization seeking to implement social on a global, integrated level.


    3 Keys to Surviving Social Disruption.

    Don’t be the disrupted. Be the disruptor. If you are a champion for social in your organization, and are interested in taking the right steps toward becoming social at scale, Trellist is ready to help you meet the challenge head on. Engage with us; we're listening.

  • Social Media is So 2012

    by Chris Wallace | Nov 19, 2013

    four keys to social business

    When did your organization make the move from practicing Social Media to practicing Social Business? In most cases, you can’t say when it happened. But it has.

    The more important question is: What are you going to do about it?

    Separating the concept of Social Business from Social Media is not about semantics or buzzwords. It’s an acknowledgement that Social Media impacts many areas and disciplines within your organization, and a concerted effort to account for this trend across the organization.

    Oddly enough, this understanding is frequently arrived at as a result of the law of unintended consequences. 

    Most companies decide that the best way to test into social media is in Marketing and PR. The reasons are easy to understand, the benefits are transparent, and it feels like a low risk/high reward proposition. Often they launch their blog, set up their Facebook and LinkedIn Pages, begin generating content and driving their audience to it – all good things in the realm of marketing. 

    Then something interesting happens: The instant that first social mention appears which your marketing department is incapable of responding to; the first time that your social media team is aware of product feedback before your R&D team is; when Customer Service becomes aware of a dissatisfied customer through social instead of the phone lines, you've graduated to Social Business. Congratulations. 

    With this step come an entirely new set of business challenges to deal with. Very quickly, new levels of coordination become critical, content generation becomes a focus, roles such as the Community Director become central, and a proper portfolio of social management tools become vital.

    These examples represent the 4 key aspects that we examine when developing Social Business strategy for clients: Structure, Methods, Resources, Software. This infographic is intended to shed some light on a topic that many of our clients are asking about. 

  • Social Media: Changing the Rules for ROI

    by Chris Wallace | Feb 26, 2013

    “When a new medium borrows from an existing one, some of what it borrows makes sense, but much of the borrowing is thoughtless, “ritual”, and often constrains the new medium. Over time, the new medium develops its own conventions, throwing off existing conventions that don’t make sense.”

    – John Allsopp, founder of the Web Standards Project

    Back in 2000, Allsopp (@johnallsopp) noted a tension between the web as we know it, and the web as it would be.  The web at that time was heavily influenced by print, as designers and builders had little other frame of reference. Those attempting to measure the value of the internet were using Nielsen-like ratings held over from TV. It’s all they knew.

    Many marketers and business people find themselves in a similar conundrum when evaluating social media performance. Social media challenges long held traditions about ROI from online media. Advertisers, publishers, agencies, investors and even social networks themselves desperately want to measure social media using the “tried and true” methods and metrics for ROI. The problem is that many traditional measurements miss out on the true value of social media and, worse, can lead to the false impression that social media is not a valuable marketing channel.

    Evaluating social media based on metrics designed to measure, for instance, search advertising can be problematic. Users on a search results page are in “target acquisition mode”—they are looking for the most direct route between where they are and what they want. If your ad represents a good chance that their heart’s desire is a click away, they are all over it. They click or tap on the ad and this action is easily measureable, its value is quickly quantifiable.

    The social consumer does not play by the same rules. Social media blurs the lines between how people interact with friends and how they interact with brands. This changes the rules for selling and requires adapting both your methods of customer interaction and how you measure success.

    Social consumers have different sets of expectations and exhibit different behaviors on social channels than they do when they are elsewhere on the web. Social consumers want to learn about your brand and expect you to learn about them. They expect a conversation. They gravitate to social channels to hang out, to catch up, to share, to waste time, to celebrate, to rant. This is not a shopping mindset, and as such they are exceptionally resistant to overt sales pitches while in social channels.

    Thus, measuring direct sales from social media alone, while seemingly expedient, can be a false ROI indicator. A broader, more inclusive approach to social media measurement will uncover dimensions of ROI that may have previously been ignored. Here are a few additional ways to measure social media ROI that may add dimension to your current calculations:

    1) Social Traffic versus Display Traffic

    • How much would this traffic level cost if you generated it via paid display advertising?
      This can help you optimize hard spends (ads) versus soft spends (content and customer interaction)

    2) Visitor Quality

    • How do your social visitors perform against key performance indicators (KPIs) compared to their non-social ones?
    • How much do your social visitors spend versus non-social counterparts?
    • What other actions do your social visitors perform (beyond purchase)?
      This dimension lets you begin to get a handle on the lifetime value of a social consumer.

    3) Revenue via Social Conversions

    • How many purchase decisions are influenced at some point by social media?
    • Does social media assist in conversions along the way?
      A visit from a social referral may result in a conversion immediately (Last Interaction Social Conversions) or it may influence a conversion that occurs later on (Assisted Social Conversions).Comparing the two is essential to understanding the role that social plays in business outcomes.

    4) Channel Quality

    • Which social channels result in highest performing customers/conversions?
    • How do social consumers prefer to engage with you?
    • Do visitors from one social channel perform better than another?
      This metric helps optimize which social media channels you pay most attention to.

    5) Content Quality

    • What types of content do your social consumers respond to?
    • Do your social customers value your content enough to share it?
      By tagging your social media posts by “function” (i.e. direct sales, informative, conversational, customer service, brand building) you can identify those types of content that optimally drive results against your KPIs.

    The methods mentioned above acknowledge that social media is breeding a consumer culture of peer-oriented relationships. They recognize that social interactions are non-linear while most measurement tools attempt to draw linear relationships. Ultimately, they may help you realize previously unforeseen value from your social media endeavors.

    If you’d like to learn more about Social Media marketing and strategy, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via

  • The CEO Must Take Branding Back

    by Chris Wallace | Aug 23, 2012

    Consider this: There are more than 42 results pages of “branding agencies” on Google – each promising to help marketing managers turn their company into the next legendary brand.

    Companies spend billions in marketing and advertising campaigns annually to make sure consumers remember their brands. We admire certain companies and remember great brands because they stand for an ideal that is expressed in every facet of their operation…and in every customer interaction.

    So why can we only name a handful of brands that we really admire?

    Most brands lack leaders. These leaders don’t have to be geniuses/tyrants who micro-manage every nuance of a company’s products and communications (although apparently that works, too). What’s important is thoughtfulness and vigilance at the top.


    Often, CEOs delegate branding decisions solely to the marketing department without taking an active role, instead tending to financial or operational affairs. In doing so, they risk committing one of the most underreported business blunders of our time. They give their company almost no chance to become the brand that their marketing department promises to their consumers.

    A strong brand is established when the product or service, along with every customer experience, exceeds the expectations introduced by marketing and the branding campaign. Brands are embraced by customers when the product development team innovates, and the customer service organization operates as if they invented the brand message. All company staff, from the receptionist to Accounts Receivable and beyond, must embody the brand message presented to the world. A breakdown at any touchpoint can tarnish or even destroy the brand’s image.

    This alignment requires a meaningful, top-down strategy and stewardship from the C-level to provide the proper foundations for marketers (and others) to work from. And that’s why it has to begin with the CEO.

    Inverting this structure, when branding is owned and managed solely by the marketing department, runs the risk of marketers making brand promises without the commitment or full support of other departments. The CEO, by contrast, has purview to the broadest possible range of business functions and the responsibility to act to ensure alignment.

    To achieve this, a CEO must provide the company with the right tools to succeed. Brand development begins in your mission statement and company charter, which define why you are in business. These inform your brand guide, which spells out your brand’s story, voice, personality, promise of value, and the experience of interacting with it. With these foundations in place, your marketing team can make informed decisions about everything from positioning and identity to channel mix, copy, and creative. In addition, these tools serve as guides for the rest of your enterprise, from HR, Customer Service, R&D, and all other areas. The result is a consistent customer experience with your brand, no matter who they interact with.

    At Trellist, we have developed a branding methodology which includes our CEO.  With this structure, we established a process that has helped CEOs take back ownership and build the brand their company needs.

    If you’d like to talk about your branding efforts and how Trellist can help, feel free to drop us a line,, and follow us on Twitter @trellist to get daily insights.

  • Siri Puts a Second "S" in SEO, Part 2

    by Chris Wallace | Apr 27, 2012

    In part one of this series, we discussed the phenomenon of intelligent digital agents, and their significance in the future of our computing experience.

    In this second installment we’ll discuss ways to start incorporating mobile thinking into your SEO strategy.

    Tips on how to Optimize SEO for Siri:

    1) Tailor Keywords and Metadata to Natural Language.

    Think about how people may ask for information in a conversation. “What’s the new Cantonese place in Chinatown” is semantically different from “Chinese Food, Philadelphia”.

    2) Location Optimization.

    Make sure that your address and contact information are displayed on every page on your site so your content is associated with both you and your locale. Also of value is submitting your business to services like Yelp, Google Places, Angie’s List, and other localized directories. This is your best shot to be recognized as that pizza place around the corner.

    3) Utilize Rich Snippets.

    These are really just highly specific meta tags (called schema tags) with properties that can help Search Agents easily determine details about your business. For instance, Professional Service organizations can include contact points, employees, location, founding date, and more. For a full list of what Rich Snippets can do, check this out

    4) Be Social.

    When you ask Siri a question, she does not just hit Google and return the top result. Rather, Siri queries its own servers that are fed from any number of sources (only Apple knows for sure). What is clear is that Siri’s servers index and include social sources of information like Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, Epinions, TravelPost, and others. Making a concerted effort to promote yourself on these platforms can only serve to expand your reach, whereas neglecting this in favor of putting all your efforts into manipulating Google Search results may yield lowered returns in the future.

    5) Develop a Mobile Optimized Site.

    It may seem obvious, but as of 2011, 79% of online advertisers do not have a mobile optimized site. With smartphones now comprising roughly 60% of total mobile ownership in the US, some of our clients have seen as much as a 300% increase in site visits from mobile devices from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011. Going through the trouble of optimizing for intelligent search agents means little if users abandon your site due to bad mobile usability.

    Keeping up with the pace of technological advancements in marketing can be challenging, but that’s why we are here. If you have any questions, or want to talk about how Social Media, Mobile Optimization and SEO can impact your business, feel free to drop me a line or give me a ring.

  • Siri Puts a Second "S" in SEO, Part 1

    by Chris Wallace | Jan 13, 2012

    If you have watched TV or touched the web in the past 3 months, you’ve probably seen the iPhone 4S, which boasts an intelligent “personal assistant” named Siri. Siri is a bold step forward in natural language processing, allowing users to access many features of the iPhone by speaking as you would to a person. Siri can get you directions, write and send emails, calculate your tip, even remind you to call your Mom.


    Siri’s capabilities go far beyond voice recognition, which has been around for years. Siri heralds a shift in how we search for and filter information – by using an intelligent digital agent. Some might call it Web 3.0 or the semantic web. Nomenclature aside, what’s important is the effect it will have on your findability on the web, and ultimately, your bottom line.

    In the 90’s, Google, Yahoo and others (remember WebCrawler?) brought Search to the forefront of computing. The vastness of information online became more manageable and relevant to the user. By the turn of the millennium, Search Engine Optimization had become a burgeoning business practice as people devised ways to manipulate websites to favor search engine results. Now, 10 years later, SEO and content marketing are at least standard practice and at worst an arms race. Businesses who do not prioritize SEO see diminished returns online.

    Siri, and her inevitable descendants, have the potential to change how information is indexed and consumed, and we need to understand how to prepare for it. As computing moves to increasingly mobile and personalized environments, users require greater relevance. Mobile search has grown by 400% in the past year alone, and 1 in 3 of those searches has local intent (source: Google).

    When I search for a pizza shop on my mobile device, I don’t want just any pizza shop. I want one around the corner. Soon, I will ask my digital assistant for the closest pizzeria and she will get me what I am looking for. The point is, if a digital agent like Siri is doing the searching, web content will need to be formatted so that it can be easily indexed by those agents.

    Stay Tuned.

    In part 2 of this blog, we’ll address how to optimize for Siri and other intelligent digital agents. In the meantime, if you have any questions or want to talk about how Mobile Optimization can impact your business, feel free to drop us a line,

  • Gamification & The Brussels Sprouts Dynamic

    by Chris Wallace | Nov 22, 2011

    Did you hate brussels sprouts as a kid? I sure did. How did my parent’s get me to eat them? That’s right, we played Here Comes the Airplane.

    It’s a time tested solution to an age old problem: Make it fun and people are more likely to participate.

    Now, let’s fast forward to the age of social media and pervasive mobile connectivity. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon hear digital marketing enthusiasts using the term Gamification to describe this phenomena.

    Gamification (a term borrowed from behavioral economics) is the practice of utilizing gameplay mechanics in non-game scenarios to change behaviors or incentivize users perform otherwise mundane tasks.

    While there is some merit to the adage that “there is nothing new under the sun”, social and mobile technologies have certainly given this concept fresh legs and new possibilities for engaging customers to participate with your brand. Whether your goal is to get customers to use their loyalty cards more often, to visit your bricks and mortar locations, or simply to participate in your survey, applying the principles of gamification to your marketing programs may be a great way to generate lift.

    So what are some simple ways to make a marketing program more game-like?

    Let’s look at that program to incentivize loyalty card usage:

    • Make the incentives simple and attainable: Use your loyalty card 4 times this month and get 20% off your next order
    • Let participants track their progress and encourage them to keep playing: Mobile App with a progress bar with SMS reminders
    • Give it legs via social media: Let users share their progress to social media friends and followers, make it easy for those friends to get involved as well.
    • Make rewards easy to redeem: Send your 20% Discount coupon via SMS to their mobile device

    While this is a simplified scenario, there are endless gamification techniques that could be applicable to this case including:

    • Location based check-ins: Check in (via foursquare or other location based service) at any of our bricks and mortar location and receive points, badges, discounts or other benefit.
    • Badges for achievement: Rewarding brand interaction with small tokens of appreciation is a strong motivator considering the game-like engagement channel. i.e. Reward users for using the loyalty card 4x, 8x, 12x in a month.
    • Virtual currency: Points programs that can be “spent” as rewards. This could be on real world or virtual merchandise depending on your brand and your goals. Providing clear point totals and easy redemption of those points is key. Farmville dollars is a great example.
    • Head-to-head challenges: Allow users to engage their friends by issuing challenges or other competitions, i.e. Who can check into the most locations in a month?
    • Leaderboards: Who has the most points? Where do I rank? People play games to win, capitalize on this.

    Employing some of these concepts may just help you bring that plane in for a landing.
    Interested in chatting about how social media, mobile, or gamification might help you reach your business and marketing goals?

    Feel free to drop us a line.

  • QR Codes: The Missing Link

    by Chris Wallace | Apr 15, 2011

    You’ve probably seen a QR Code before but never took notice of those innocuous square barcodes that appear on everything from product packaging to movie cutouts.  While QR Codes are close cousins to traditional barcodes, they are far more versatile to marketers.  While you may already know what QR codes are, you may not have realized some of the fascinating ways they can be used. 

     A QR (Quick Response) Code is a square, matrix barcode that can be read by QR Reader applications on any smartphone.  These barcodes can be used to store data and access features on your mobile device such as a Web Browser, Phone, GPS, even individual apps.  insert

    How can a QR code be used as a tactic within a successful campaign? While the answer is always, “That depends on your business and marketing goals”, let’s explore some concepts and ideas that could be applied to many types of campaigns.

    As always in digital media, the critical side of the equation is the delivery.  Applications or pages that users link to must provide some unique value or service.  Even more critical, the app or page should be relevant to the user’s needs at the time and place where they scan your QR code.  And, in all cases, pages must be optimized for mobile viewing.  Nothing is more frustrating than going through the effort to scan a QR code to find a page that doesn’t work on your phone.   

    Keeping those guidelines in mind, here are your ways you can apply QR codes for your business:

    When a QR Code lives on:

    You could offer:


    Print Advertising

    Mobile couponing for bricks and mortar, sign up for SMS messaging, special offers, links to mobile commerce, scan to call.

    Retail Receipts, Branded Materials

    Mobile customer feedback forms, mobile coupons, promo codes for next visit, scan to call, scan for a survey



    Ability to move from the desktop to the mobile environment, i.e.  link users phones directly to the app store to download your new iPhone  app.


    Outdoor and Transit Advertising


    GPS directions to nearest location, geolocated couponing, even scavenger hunts (scan all the codes and get clues where to find the next one).



    Point of Purchase Displays      Product information, nutritional information, check-in and share via social media, link to product information and promotional videos.

    Tradeshow Booths                   Links to Whitepapers, Vcards for contact info, RSVP for events/breakout sessions, coupons for free drinks at sponsored Happy Hours!

    Retail/Garment Tags                 Product information or specs, product videos, etc.

    The possible combinations of QR code location and associated applications are limitless, and we’d like to hear your ideas as well.  QR Codes are another great example of the intersection of Marketing and Technology.  Trellist has the creative ideas, marketing savvy and technical horsepower to help you deliver on concepts like these.

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