What is SEO?

By John David Ariansen

SEO is a specific type of marketing that focuses on improving your website’s relationship with search engines. Google is the largest search engine, but Bing and Yahoo still have a small market share. They are all your partners. If you are providing good content or useful services, they want as many people to find you as possible. It’s their job to connect their users to you.

The internet has evolved

Search engines have become the main way that most users navigate the internet. In fact, a recent study found that a full 92 percent of adult users use search engines. So if you want your target audience coming to your site on a regular basis, you should build a healthy relationship with them.

Google catches fakers way more easily now (we’re no longer in the wild west days of the internet when unscrupulous outlaw developers would pump massive amounts of keywords into the background of a page, and have the color of the text match the background so the user didn’t see, but Google was quick on the draw, and would pick it up).

SEO is a process

The main focus of SEO is growing your stream of organic traffic. There are many facets that you can focus on to help this stream grow. This improvement process has both a creative side and a technical side, and includes everything from fine tuning the nuts and bolts under your website’s hood to writing keyword heavy and engaging content, and a lot of different tasks in between.

So to summarize, SEO isn’t one solitary thing, but a process. SEO is about optimizing searchability of your content. In laymen’s terms, this means making relevant Google searches more likely to pick up your content and rank it higher, whereas social media exposure, for example, is simply the explicit external promotion of links and content.

What’s an SEO audit?

While no one can sell you “SEO” as anything but a service (remember, it’s a process, not a thing), some companies, like Human Creative Content, will provide an SEO audit for a website, group, or company. This includes insight into the state of your website’s Googlebot Access, mobile device compatibility, security, accessibility, page speed, and even the amount of findability and links. A quality SEO audit should give you all of that.

So even if your website is packed and regularly updated with engaging and well written content, you won’t get the same return on your investment if your website is not optimized to receive the highest amount of traffic possible. Good content drives traffic, but if your website doesn’t even allow Google to crawl your website, it’s like you’re trying to drive with the parking brake on.

Will Tesla Make a Smartphone?

Tesla Motors is a company known for its willingness to take on huge, seemingly impossible projects, and turn them into amazing products, all without compromising the original idea. This is evident in their range of fully electric cars, nationwide charging stations, and home solar batteries. Could they also be a name soon synonymous with smartphones?

Now, I’m not talking about the TESLA Android phone already in existence, which has no relation to the company other than a shared namesake. I’m talking about a smartphone designed and built top-down by Tesla Motors, with the full strength of their expert team and incredible innovation behind it.

Why would a car company make a phone?

It’s not as unlikely a crossover as it may appear. After all, smartphones are becoming increasingly integrated into the way we drive, with Volvo unveiling plans for a new model in which your smartphone acts as your car key, and Tesla Motors themselves adding a feature called Summon, which lets owners control their cars just by using a smartphone app. Summon lets you call your car out to meet you in the morning or have it park itself in the garage when you get home. As the technology advances, Tesla hopes to expand the Summon feature to allow you to control your car from great distances, or even have it meet you on the other side of the country at a predetermined time, charging itself along the way. Collaboration between smartphone manufacturers and car makers is only expanding as the line between the two technologies becomes progressively blurred, changing the way we interact with our mobile devices, our vehicles, and even each other.

So, why would an electric car manufacturer want to make a smartphone? Possibly for the same reasons that a smartphone manufacturer would want to make an electric car. Apple is also seeking to get into the car manufacturing industry

Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

Apple Car: the Open Secret

By Kayla Robbins

Rumors are swirling about Apple’s intentions to develop its own electric vehicle. The alleged project even has its own cool, secretive internal nickname - Project Titan. From that name, I’d be expecting an electric boat, but maybe they’re just trying to throw us off the trail. Though the tech giant has always been secretive about its new releases, and rumors regarding their products arefrequently proven to be unfounded, there may just be something to this one. There’s no denying that- if true, this will be a big, innovative project. Bigger than bendable smartphones. Bigger than the Apple Watch, for sure. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, an electric vehicle that would rival the apple car, spilled the beans about this open secret. “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it,” Musk told the BBC. 

Early Indications

Apple has shown some signs of moving toward integration in the automotive industry already. There is a lot of potential for collaboration between the smartphone and auto industries, fromkeyless entry advances to smart entertainment systems. Its recent soirée into in-car computing,CarPlay, is evidence to this effect. CarPlay transforms dull onboard computer operating systems with the familiar functionality and aesthetic of the Apple UI, right down to the rich app ecosystem. All the user needs to do is plug their iPhone 5 or later into the dash of a compatible vehicle, and the phone will treat the car’s infotainment center as a monitor of sorts. All the computing still takes place in the phone, but it’s broadcast to the bright, convenient display of the vehicle. It’s a system that has been built from the ground up to work around the way we use cars and their onboard computers, emphasizing safety, accessibility, and fluid voice commands. Could this be a test run of a system originally designed to be incorporated into Apple’s own car model?

Copyright Monkey Business

By Andrew Hendricks

Take a lesson from one photographer's lost legal battle with a monkey. Whoever snaps the shot owns the copyright—or at least, if you don't snap it yourself, you don't own it!

In 2014 while in Indonesia, British nature photographer David Slater was photographing crested black macaques, one particularly mischievous monkey, attracted by the shutter sound of one of Slater's camera's it had picked up, and began snapping photographs of itself while staring quite-charmingly into the lens.

The now infamous monkey-selfie has unexpectedly caused a bit of a stir in both the photography community and among copyright law advocates after the photo was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, an online repository of free-use images, despite the protests of Slater. Part of the Wikimedia Foundation, along with Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons only uploads photography and images that exist in the public domain or that no copyright can be claimed.

In both Britain and America (as in most countries) the law clearly states that copyright belongs to the person taking video or photograph, not the owner of the equipment. Threatening legal action against the Wikimedia Foundation, Slater still insisted that the photograph was still his intellectual property. However this year, his allegations of copyright infringement finally got the U.S. Copyright Office to officially rule on the issue, taking the side of the Wikimedia Foundation[end link], reaffirming that that no one owns the photo. So despite any headlines you might have read that implied monkey was ruled owner of a digital image, sadly, all this ruling affirmed was that “a piece of work cannot be copyrighted if it is not created by a human.”

All-in-all, the decision was met with mixed opinions among primate photographers and photographers of primates. 

The $80,000 Facebook Post -- Lessons from Public NDA Violators

By Andrew Hendricks

We've all posted something to social media that we ended up regretting. Maybe the night out at the bar wasn't best shared with our family and coworkers, and maybe our aggressive political opinions at 3AM were best kept to ourselves. Yet, no matter how often you've shot yourself in the foot by talking to the world, a single Facebook post is generally unlikely to cost you $80,000. But it could.

And for one girl and her family, it did. It all began when the former headmaster of Gulliver Preparatory School, Patrick Snay settled out of court with the school after he sued over their refusal to renew his contract. The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that he signed, however, was predicated on the condition that he and his wife keep private the “terms and existence” of the settlement that totaled $80,000.

Whether or not Snay actually told his daughter the amount of the settlement is unclear, however, by the terms of his settlement, even telling his daughter of the existence of a settlement would violate the agreement.


So it did not help matters when Snay's daughter posted the following to Facebook:

Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”


Gulliver's lawyers cried foul and were originally still ordered by the court to pay Snay, but they won on a higher court appeal because, as Slate writer Katy Waldman points out, “the infractions here were twofold: Snay divulging the deal to his daughter and his daughter broadcasting it to all of her 'friends.' What can we learn from their misfortune, fellow millennials? Do not boast. Do not mess with attorneys.”

It apparently didn't help matters when it was pointed out that there was no European trip planned and Snay's daughter was joking (in case the “suck it” didn't make it clear).

The Snays are not the only sob story of someone who ought to have known better. Rushing online to brag about a new boyfriend, car, or job is simply second nature to some—especially younger people who have lived their entire adult lives in a world with internet access. Yet as natural as it may be, it's important to remember when you brag about specifics, it's not exactly anonymous. And if you've signed a piece of paper saying you won't publicly disclose any aspect of that which you wish to brag about, don't be surprised when it gets taken away from you. NDAs are not suggestions—they are legally binding agreements.

Another, somewhat sadder example of a naive NDA-violator was that of an excited poster in the “Pics” section of the website Reddit, a popular news aggregator website. Going by the user-name filthy33, the user posted a picture with the title “After 2 years, 4 months and 18 days of being unemployed. Tomorrow I can finally put on my new uniform.”

In the post's picture was a “Chrome Specialist” badge, a certificate of training completion, and a Google Chrome shirt. The post received a lot of attention, but it  was pointed out by someone that his answer to a fellow commenter's question regarding a plan of Google's to push sales of Samsung Chromebooks through Best Buy was probably a violation of the NDA he had to sign. It was. Google demanded he delete the Reddit account and terminated him from his position.

This led to a brief outcry when the poster informed the Reddit community of these facts from a new account. Yet to filthy33's credit, he owned up to his fault in the matter and did not blame Google for their response to his actions, which he really should have been able to predict.

Some who watched the drama unfold pointed out that even if he had technically violated the terms of his NDA (and boy did he),  this was bad publicity for Google and that they would be smart, from a PR standpoint, to give the nice-if-not-naive Reddit poster his job back. This is a nice sentiment, however it misunderstands the entire concept of non-disclosure agreements and their purpose. Google undoubtedly bore this poor guy no ill will, but the last thing any major business would want to do is set a precedent for selectively enforcing and not enforcing NDAs.

In the digital age, employees are able to have access to more and more sensitive information, and the reasons for the sensitivity of certain details are sometimes not obvious to the individual employee. While many NDAs exist for the standard, boilerplate “don't contact or steal my clients under threat of law” rationale, when it comes to major tech companies, the leaking (even unintentionally) of a sales strategy, product launch, or a partnership with a new business can cost the company millions of dollars—a situation you do not want to be caught on the wrong end of. And when it comes to NDAs that spawn from court settlements, remember to also apply Slate's recommended strategy: “Don't mess with lawyers.”

Tesla Says YES to Open-Source Electric Cars

By: Andrew Hendricks

Open Source Electric Cars

In an unusually altruistic move, Tesla Motors has announced on their blog with a post titled All Our Patents Are Belong to You that they will be releasing to the public patents behind the proprietary technology that functions at the heart of the Tesla Model S. vehicle. 

Elon Musk, the power-investor and founder behind Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors, has said that he wishes for all electric cars to compete on a playing field against each other, and leave the fossil fuel-based cars in the dust, so to speak.

In the same post written by Musk himself, Tesla boasts of their move: “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

Some are quick to point out the this open source mentality Musk is adopting with the release of Tesla patents is a purely rational, strategic move to help make the Electric Car a more accepted vehicle in consumers mind. Certainly a venture capitalist extraordinaire like Elon Musk has a long-term future in mind for the profitability of Tesla, but does it matter if it is for one other the other—for greed or for good? 

Reddit founder and Alexis Ohanian commented on a recent episode of the Nerdist Podcast with this very point. Reddit.com is a website is no stranger to the open source movement, as it gives their code away freely so that others can improve upon it with their suggestions, or even make their own Reddit clone if they wanted. Comparing this Silicon Valley philosophy to Tesla's new open source effort Ohanian went on to say that, since he is a known investor in Tesla, people have recently been asking him how altruistic was this move really? “Why to be mutually exclusive?” he said. “Why does it have to be either an altruistic thing or a sinister corporate thing? Maybe it's actually in the best interest of a for-profit company to open up this database—and it's valuable, because if the world moves to electric cars Tesla just knows they're going to out-innovate, and they're building supercharger stations everywhere. 

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Ohanian said.

So you can easily see a future where Tesla can only benefit by contributing to a marketplace where the public infrastructure begins to support electric cars—even if it means more electric car manufacturers competing with Tesla. “We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position,” Musk said. To be at the head of the pack, as Musk wants for Tesla as a company, there has to be a pack. With Musk's leadership, Tesla is taking the unusual position for a growing company—rather than edge out their competition Starbucks-style, they're purposely creating more competition, in a way, without competing at all.

“Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced,” Musk went on to say, “but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.”

Speaking of competition and free markets, Tesla is currently battling this very problem of getting the cars it has already to produced to customers who already want to buy them. Tesla sells to individual consumers directly, as they are not already part of established auto-dealers such as Dodge, Ford, etc. etc. The National Association of Auto Dealers (NADA) have taken issue with their sales method, and have put political pressure to ban the sale of Tesla's in certain states using anti-trust laws and other methods.

Forbes published a piece critical of the arbitrary anti-consumer nature of the auto-dealers attempts to stunt Tesla's growth: “So far, Tesla's direct sales have been blocked in New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, with battles ongoing in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Caroline, Minnesota, Georgia, and Ohio.  

Rooster Teeth founder and CEO Burnie Burns decried the sad state of affairs on his podcast. He is an ardent advocate of how nifty his Tesla is, and complained that as a resident of Austin, Texas, he could not legally by a car from Tesla, and had to go out of state and purchase from an individual out of state and have it driven in.

Perhaps, opening the market to more electric cars is part of the solution to this somewhat odious problem of the car dealerships' political influence. In the blog post announcing the release, Musk wrote that “given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous.”

Lest you think this was all merely a publicity stunt for an obscure and overpriced electric car, bear in mind that consumer reviews for Tesla have been phenomenal, and a year prior this announcement Tesla was already on the rise as a recognized, publicly traded company with an ever-increasing share-price and forecasts for growth. Listed as TSLA on the NASDAQ, Tesla's positive consumer feedback and stellar tech reviews lead 2013 to be on of the best years for Tesla, prompting headlines as simplistic and positive as Tesla's Stocks Soar.

Of course, Tesla has plenty on the horizon for their own company, besides making life easier for their fellow fledgling electric car manufacturers. Seeking to break the electric car out of the luxury car market, Tesla has announced their new Model 3 car will be available for only $35,000.

Until recently, cars have competed based upon their unique exteriors, luxury features, and engines as an almost secondary concern. With the advent of the Prius and the stellar success of the Tesla brand, consumers are becoming more and more interested in the battery and engine technologies inside the “post-carbon” car. With prices on the decline, electric cars being taken more seriously, and nothing but positivity from its users who are the single biggest pushers of the Tesla gospel, the future is bright, and as a brand, Tesla has never been stronger.

Nike's Running App Made Free

By Andrew Hendricks

In retail branding, Nike is a juggernaut with few equals. From catchy television advertisements to effective product placements, and a diversified line of products no longer limited to just sneakers, Nike has shown exactly the sort of growth and longevity that every brand aspires to cultivate. Nike continues this trend recently with the re-released Nike Running app, formerly $1.99 on the app store, now available for free. Sporting rave reviews, streamlined functionality, and a download rate that would make a Silicon Valley startup weep, Nike has made a smart move by forgoing the revenue of their app to get Nike in the pockets of as many athletes and amateurs as possible.

According to their website: the Nike running app “tracks distance, pace, time and calories burned with GPS, giving you audio feedback as you run.” I have personally used the app, and it is now one of my favorite parts of long-distance running.

In years past I have used an assortment of different pedometers. Pre-smartphones, the novelty of them always wore off and it seemed easier just to estimate or calculate your run rather than dealing with some $20 electronic device in bulky cheap plastic that you were never quite sure was accurate. However, now that I always run with my smartphone in an arm-strap, having a device I know is a relatively accurate GPS constantly monitor my runs has truly changed the way I view my workout.

Every mile you run, a pleasant voice tells you how many miles you've gone, how long it has been, and what your average mile time is. For long-distance runners like myself, this is a super efficient, hands-free way to know mid-run whether you're pacing yourself well enough, or whether you need to kick it up a notch. Also, by recording your runs, the Nike+ app helps you treat your week-to-week runs almost like a video game score you're constantly battling with. It has been years since I ran competitively, so having very concrete evidence of my personal best that I need to beat is a motivator I had forgotten was so effective.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Shortly after the app was originally released, Engadget reviewer Vlad Savov said: “Nike has put together a very polished app, with few downsides that we can really harp on. It makes for an entertaining little accompaniment to what's usually an unpleasantly dull affair, and it certainly manages to generate an itch to keep improving and bettering your numbers. Which, given the budget price of $1.99, makes it a winner in our eyes.”

A criticism of users during the last version of the running app was what users described as interfering or intrusive ads. So when the app was re-released Nike essentially took off all of their ads, however they also pushed the new social media functionality of the app. You can now tag what shoes you were wearing on a run, and post it online.

So essentially, Nike decided to forgo revenue from a popular, useful application and not advertise other products to support their app, but turn the app itself into an advertisement. This is done not only by Nike potentially exposing your friends again and again to the brand, but merely by the app being an extremely useful, free product that you are going to be looking at with regularity.

"By allowing you to look back at your most recent run and let you put it up against your last seven, the engagement value of Nike’s app goes through the roof,” said Drew Olanoff, writer for thenextweb.com.

I, myself, am evidence of the products efficacy in turning engagement into value for Nike. No, it's not because I post every run I make to Facebook through the application like a braggart. You can avoid any of the unnecessary bells and whistles of the application with merciful ease, and the core functionality of the app is incredibly simple and easy to integrate with whatever music or radio you may like to play during your workout. And no it's not because I'm doing my runs in Nike brand shoes either (I don't know if I've ever actually owned a pair of Nike shoes).

Rather, I'm evidence of Nike's effectiveness because when I went to a Kohl's two months ago to purchase new socks (good socks, I told myself), I did not go in with an idea of what brand I was going to buy. I just wanted at least three or four pairs since my sock drawer was currently a mishmash. I saw Nike brand socks on the shelf and I knew that even if they aren't the best quality in the store, they weren’t going to tear on me too quickly. I thought of how I was wearing through my socks by running more, and I thought of the Nike+ application.

I don't know if it's accurate to say I thought Nike deserved my business or that I owed them anything because I had used their product for free, but rather, I now had a very positive association with the brand, and the parity of the purchase simply made sense. I have to wonder if Nike is all too aware of a similar thought process in their customers’ minds when they sell a relatively cheap headband with the Nike swoosh. If you're running around your neighborhood with a Nike logo on your head, on some level you're going to want to match that with some Nike shoes, rather than your off-brand kicks.

By forgoing the ongoing substantial income of a very popular, very well-reviewed app, I'm sure Nike was probably hoping to get a little bit more out of me than the single package of socks I purchased. However, Nike is not exactly a new brand, and they understand better than most the success of other emotionally marketed brands like Coca-Cola. Just think—how often do we put Coke instead of Pepsi in our shopping carts because we subconsciously really like cute CGI Polar Bears?

While I'd like to think that I am a rational consumer, immune to the tricks and tactics of advertisers, the next time I need to purchase a pair of sneakers I can't say that I won't go for a pair of Nike's rather than an equally-priced pair of Adidas shoes. Just like when I purchased my socks, Nike has succeeded in penetrating my emotional core in a way that all advertisers aspire with a nagging little voice that says “just do it.”

How Business Jargon Changes the Way We Think

By Andrew Hendricks

I want to have a dialogue with you about some new paradigms for us to utilize as a company. I think if we really hit the ground running we can most effectively monetize our stratagems in the marketplace. Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

If you have an overwhelming roll your eyes, that is because you understand that mindlessly substituting three-dollar words for common sense language is no way to effectively communicate with people! Business jargon is something that is seeing more common parlance these days. This phenomenon is so rampant that seeing a headline like Five Ways to Leverage Your Verticals, Synergize Your Team, and Shift Your Paradigm, one can only hope the title is ironic!

There is nothing wrong with having a hefty vocabulary or using jargon regularly—but only if it serves a purpose. The way you speak and the words you choose to use can make a great impact on the person or customer you’re talking to in the business world. When you find yourself using jargon in the business world, ask yourself if it is really having the effect you intend. Are you just parroting nonsense words to seem like a better manager? Are you using technical language to explain a technical subject? Or in the case of Apple and their “geniuses,” are you using jargon to obfuscate your meaning?

In an attempt to separate Apple products from the accepted terminology that comes with computer devices and their accepted problems. Apple Genius training manuals include a list of banned words and suggested replacements. “Geniuses can say that an application "unexpectedly quits" or "does not respond," but are not allowed to say that the software "crashed." Similarly, there can be a "condition," an "issue" or a "situation," but not a "bug" or a "problem.”

Or as George Orwell might say, your bricked iPad is double-plus not good.

As annoying as retail jargon can be (I'm a customer at a fast food joint, not a guest!) we must remember not to be too judgmental when we see our peers slip into this habit, however, as it is one which we are undoubtedly also guilty of from time to time. It is not a personality flaw to use office parlance from time to time, however much like Apple's use of jargon for obfuscation, jargon can often be a substitute for any meaning at all. U.C. Berkeley Business professor Jennifer Chatman said in a 2012 Forbes interview “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

Rejecting this broad admonishment of jargon, Nature.com's Trevor Quirk says that writers and business professionals shouldn't fear jargon, and understand that it has its place and its utility. “People seem to resent not just specialized language, Quirk writes, “but any language that requires a large degree of labour to understand, appreciate and use.”

Quirk isn't wrong that there is a definite mistrust that can occur when we hear jargon being used. A recent study: “If you want to come across as a straight shooter, the study's authors suggest, stick as much as possible to simple language that's easy to visualize—concrete verbs like 'write' or 'walk' beat ambiguous ones like 'benefit' and 'improve.'”

One can see the difference between the good and the bad kind of jargon. If you know that you can condense a lot of technical information into some jargon because you're talking to a peer with the same contextual knowledge, there really is no offense, and the simplest way to communicate is generally the most advisable. What you want to do is risk slipping into that other category of jargon, where your language is doing the opposite of providing elucidation.

What a Low Price Can Cost Your Brand – A Lesson in Arbitrary Pricing and Perception

By Andrew Hendricks

When times are tough, it can be tempting to lower the costs of your goods and services. While this can sometimes be the right call to lure back business, the success story of Grey Goose Vodka reminds us that how you price your product sometimes affects its perceived value regardless of quality. At least one person has become imminently wealthy from this simple rule, and his name was Sidney Frank.

Frank's first success came from the unlikely success of his importation of Jägermeister, a German “herbal elixir” in 1972. The brew was famous for their distinctive bottles and an unusual black-licorice aftertaste not familiar to American and non-German European pallets. Yet through either dumb luck, his unrivaled branding skills, or the marketing of Jägermeister as a “Frat Guy” beverage (or some combination thereof), Jägermeister was enough of a success (and an unlikely one to boot) to establish him among the wine and spirit elites.  

His greatest success, however, would not come until age 77 after developing the idea of released a “super-premium” vodka. Taking great pains to market themselves as “The Best-Tasting Vodka in the World,” Grey Goose focused heavily on their basis in France, with their use of French ingredients, and peppering unnecessary French words throughout their advertising copy. Because of the vast distribution network Sidney Frank had already established, Grey Goose was managing sales closer to decent than meager, however it wasn't the game-changing success Frank was after. The decision he and his business associates settled on subsequently is one which was so successful that many can't help but describe disparagingly. They simply doubled the price per bottle of Grey Goose. 

“They weren't always in such a great position,” wrote business blogger Jason Maxwell. “So what did they do? The brand managers realized that most of their consumers couldn't distinguish between good and bad vodka and rather just use price as their guide. The higher the price, the better it must be! So what did they do? They jacked up their price to $30 a bottle.”

Lest you think this is an unfair assessment by blogger Maxwell, just two years before Sidney Frank's death he gave an interview with Inc.com, an online magazine where he stated: “The big-selling high-priced vodka at the time was Absolut, which was $15 a bottle. I figured, let's make it very exclusive and sell it for $30 a bottle.”

Challenging the merits of such a decision (or at least, challenging a public that can't discern between value and marketing), lone columnist in New York Magazine writes: “Yes, some people may taste a difference,” says Wright of Liquid Intelligence. “But you’re talking about a grain-neutral spirit. The FDA definition is pretty narrow. At an elemental level, there is no difference. And anyway, you can’t possibly taste it when it’s in a Cosmopolitan. Grey Goose is about quality because Sidney Frank said it was about quality.” 

It was a well-known motivating ambition to all who knew Sidney Frank that he wanted badly to be a billionaire in his lifetime. In 2004, he was granted his wish when Bacardi purchased the Grey Goose brand for $2.3 billion. This was the most expensive acquisition of a single liquor brand in history and a price tag that is estimated to be 20 times Grey Goose's pre-tax cash flow at the time. Sidney Frank would die two years later having just been named No. 164 on Forbes “400 Richest Americans list.”

Get the Door: It’s a Better Brand.

By: Andrew Hendricks

Just a few years ago Domino's took a big risk with their brand and did something businesses rarely do unless they're forced: they pulled a mea culpa. Stopping just short of saying their pizza was gross, a Domino's executive took to the television and told the America they were dramatically changing their recipe from the ground up. The advertising campaign for their new strategy of more-edible food had a subtext of “please stop making fun of us,” however as people tried their new recipe (and even if you hated Domino's, you had to at least try the new Domino's once, right?) the consensus on the new recipe seemed to be “not bad.” “Definitely better.” Perhaps even... good? Years out, the question is obvious: “did such a risky strategy pay off?”

Yes, it did.

Domino's Pizza is the quintessential “delivery pizza” brand of America and has been for decades. Pizza Hut may be the top dog, however Domino's has always managed to beat the restaurant chain on price by committing more fully to faster, lower-quality pizza with a greater emphasis on delivery.

By sales, the third in line for being the “Pizza King” is Papa John's, however Domino's was also losing  business to Little Caesar’s as the real “cheap pizza” competitor. With a marketing campaign oriented towards their “hot-n-ready” pre-made pizzas (which high school me really appreciated), and less-than-national franchisement, Little Caesar’s was less of a threat to the Domino's brand than Papa John's which touted their slogan: “Better ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa John's.” It also must have been frightening to Domino's when in 2009 the year before their new recipe rolled out Papa John's began opening new restaurants at a rapid pace attempting to edge out Domino's. They succeeded too, as Papa John's stock has seen a 200% increase since 2009

“Get the door, it's Domino's” was the slogan of Domino's for the better part of a decade. Any of us with dogs whose ears were sensitive television where someone rings a doorbell or knocks on a door will recall how frustrating this period in Domino's history was. It was a successful campaign in raising awareness in America that if you want Pizza brought to your doorstep (and for your dogs to go crazy), Domino's was your man. But for the longest time these commercials and their marketing strategy de=emphasized the quality of their pizza along with a skittishness to make comparisons (understandably so) with their pizza to other chains. It was a running joke that Domino's crust tasted like cardboard and their cheese merited air quotes. “Cheese.”

“What's the problem, really?” you might ask. We all know it's supposed to be cheaper rather than “good” pizza. It's not like McDonald's or Jack in the Box is competing with In-N-Out or Five Guys in quality and they are still making money hand-over-first by being the time-saving proprietors of “acceptable” burgers. But even though Domino's had market-share comparable to McDonald's, they weren't winning on the price game against Little Caesar’s ($5 for a medium pizza is a heck of a deal to a teenager, whatever it tastes like), Pizza Hut had a better foothold internationally, and Papa John's slogan which seemed to directly insult Domino's in every time it was said in their ever-increasing number of commercials.

The Consumerist made this same point after posting an article on the changes made. Writer Phil Villarreal speculated at the time that “Really, it’s almost certain that the changes will be for the better because there’s so much room for improvement. Whether or not Domino’s will be able to hang with rival Papa John’s is the real issue”

On the surprisingly honest new Domino's strategy, an article on Brandchannel.com noted at the time: “Here's something you don't see very often: a brand outright admitting that its product is crummy. Or, at least, that its product was crummy.”

Yet those of us who are more cynical could easily imagine an alternative history where Domino's, instead of increasing the quality of their pizzas, reduced it even further to make up for lagging sales. Or alternatively someone like the former CEO of Grey Goose advising Domino's to arbitrarily raise their prices with a glitzy new marketing campaign. Make the consumer think your product is better because you say it is. Don't actually change anything, but since it's more expensive, people will value it more!

While that worked for Grey Goose Vodka, the Domino's brand made the smart decision by remembering what they are in business doing—providing pizza. So they went back to square one, admitted failure, and then began re-branding and aggressively advertising their new pizza. It is a strategy that still makes us chuckle when we think about the day when Domino's admitted to being just awful pizza, but now, nearly four years since the change, the data is in and as Domino's opens their 11,000th store and posts record profits.

Domino's learned early what companies are catching on to today with our “viral” web and social media culture. At the time of the change, people took to social media of all kind to talk about it and see if others shared their opinion on the new recipe. Reddit, a news-aggregate website that advertisers salivate over penetrating was equally abuzz on the subject.

In a Reddit thread on the pizza change, one commenter posted: “I really respected them for coming out and saying “You know what? Our Pizza sucks a** and you know that and it's about time we did something about that. We've done our research, drastically changed our recipe, and it's awesome now."

The lesson is clear: honesty can be very good for a business and a brand, but only if you actually fix the problem!