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JCPenney Celebrates Father’s Day in Style

17 Jun

Recently, JCPenney included the ad shown above in a mailer, as well as on their website. This real-life family reflects an authenticity I’d like to see more of in advertising and just may demonstrate a pattern of companies stepping forward and taking a more down-to-earth approach in advertising (if you missed it, I wrote about this in a previous post).

What do you think about JCPenney’s decision to run this ad? If you aren’t currently a JCPenney customer, would you become one now? When you shop, do you buy a product, or are you also buying values?

Happy Father’s Day! This goes for ALL dads… especially those who are celebrating their FIRST Father’s Day as new dads. YAY, dads!

Build Your Own Eggs: An Infographic

29 Apr

The Everyday, Anytime Egg-Combination Generator (via noraleah)

I love eggs in almost any preparation imaginable, but what drew me to this infographic is that it expresses one of my favorite cooking tactics, the build your own recipe. If you like this approach, Fine Cooking has a vast collection of Recipe Makers, where you can put together your own dish with the basic guidelines provided (you even get to move the items you choose into a virtual bowl). I’ve tried the Create Your Own Braised Short Ribs, which turned out ridiculously tasty.

Do you prefer to wing it (perhaps last night’s wings in this morning’s eggs) in the kitchen, or do you like the structure of a recipe?

Planning the Perfect Vacation

22 Apr

Photo used under Creative Commons from CasaDeQueso.

Over the last month, I’ve done a lot of research for an upcoming vacation to Tulum, Mexico. It will be my partner and I’s first “real” trip together. There are so many things to consider! We had to decide where to go, when to go, and most importantly HOW would we like to travel. I have some friends that enjoy all-inclusive resorts. I’ve never been on an all-inclusive trip myself, but the idea of “choose your own adventure” appeals to me more than having a gated community vacation approach.

Despite having an adventurous spirit, I rely fairly heavily on reviews, using sources such as TripAdvisor, online photos, trusted endorsements by family and friends, and hotel websites (minimally, since photos can be edited to make nearly anything look SO PRETTY). I usually try to gather information on top-rated (yet affordable) lodging that also has a good dose of character. For my upcoming vacation, I sought out a cabaña or hotel room right on the Tulum beach that had: an on-site restaurant, great reviews, a location convenient to the ruins and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a nice long stretch of beach (not too rocky), and that was couple-friendly.

I’m sure most people have been on a vacation where they arrived to find their accommodations much different from how they were advertised! My partner and I had this type of experience once when we spent an uncomfortable night at a very odd bed and breakfast. Upon reading reviews of different places to stay in Tulum, it seemed like several reviewers said that where they stayed was not at all like it looked on the hotel websites.

Sometimes it’s easy to tease out the “crazy” or overly picky reviewers (or the one-time rant reviewer). I disregarded negative remarks from travelers who were upset about needing to sleep under mosquito netting or people who were angered and offended that they didn’t have electricity for their curling irons, laptops, Blackberry’s, panini presses and the like while on vacation.

One of the more valuable resources that I came across in my research were travel blogs. One of blogs I found belonged to Kate Thomas (a travel expert and journalist), who has some beautiful videos on the Yucatan Penninsula’s cenotes, which I’m very excited to visit. Video is a useful way for travel bloggers to share information about vacation spots with their viewers, because it can give a more authentic perspective than a two-dimensional photo. Check out Kate’s video about them here:

 

Aside from online information, it seems like anytime I tell someone that I’ll be vacationing in Tulum, the person shares that they’ve been there! This has helped me acquire a lot of recommendations about things to do, the all-important where to eat, and logistical matters like transportation and what ATM’s to use.

Have you ever been on a vacation where you got something different from what you signed up for? What are your most reliable sources when booking a vacation? Have YOU been to Tulum? If so, what was the best part of your trip?

Social Media: Like or Unlike

11 Mar

When people mention social media, do you light up with EXCITEMENT, or do you cringe? While it now seems necessary to have at least a basic understanding of social media, it can also be a challenge to decide what to use and how to use it.

My social media roots are in AOL chat rooms during my teen year. I graduated to Myspace in my early 20s. My current favorites are: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Foursquare. What draws me to social media is that it is always evolving.

How I Use Social Media

Facebook: I use Facebook to communicate with people I know in real life (friends, family, and colleagues) and with local businesses.

Twitter: I am relatively new to Twitter, but I like it for to-the-minute news, finding out what my friends and businesses that I follow are up to, and to keep current on communications and marketing issues.

Pinterest: Those who read my last blog post know I am a fan of Pinterest. I have always enjoyed the visual, and organizing by genre has long been one of my favorite things (my mother likes to tell people I was doing this by the time I was three).

LinkedIn: I like that LinkedIn is specifically for professional networking. While I don’t interact with other users a lot, I find LinkedIn useful for introductions, groups, and the ability to learn more about companies.

Instagram: For those who aren’t familiar, Instagram is an app that allows you to take and add filters to your photos. I’m convinced that even the worst photo can be made beautiful with Instagram. I enjoy the ability to follow my friends on Instagram and see what they are eating, travel photos, and cute pictures of their kids. I am drawn to their like button (which has a heart on it) and being able to comment on photos in my feed.

Foursquare: Are you a MAYOR? I am the mayor of three places on Foursquare: my chiropractic office (car accident), the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley, WI, and my house. Though I don’t use Foursquare to interact with my friends frequently, I do like checking into businesses for the sport of collecting badges and mayorships!

Do you like social media? What social media do you use most often?

Photo credit via Contagious Agency

3 Attributes of Great Interactive Media

5 Mar

What Draws Me to a Website

1) A clean, attractive, and user-friendly appearance. I want all of the website’s offerings to be viewable on it’s landing page.

2) It functions well, allowing me to connect easily with a company or other people that I want to connect with.

3) There is an element of FUN and UNIQUENESS to the brand. The website breathes life to it’s brand and users enjoy being part of the brand’s experience.

Case in Point

Recently, I joined Pinterest. Pinterest has been wildly popular lately. But why? The concept of pinning is not new. In fact, most people I know started a cork pinboard, or collaging in elementary school. I believe people love Pinterest because it provides it’s users a more streamlined way to view their inspiration boards and makes them into a living thing. Instead of having a single physical cork board, the Pinterest user is able to easily create many online inspiration boards with virtually any theme.

Currently, I have boards on: style, several food and drink boards, cute animals, hair styles, home decor, jewelry, and vacation, to name a few. The website is VERY easy to use. Once you’ve set up an account and sign in, you are able to view, share and like the pins your friends have set up. This makes creating your boards easier, because if you don’t have time to look around online, you might be able to locate new pins on Pinterest’s website through your connections. Since you sign into Pinterest through Facebook or Twitter, you can find existing friends easily (just click on your user name on the right side of the screen and click on “Find Friends.” Additionally, you can install a “Pin It” button to your bookmarks toolbar, which allows you to pin items from any website (except Flickr, which has disabled pinning copyrighted images). Pinterest meets my standards for an amazing interactive website.

Have you tried Pinterest? What other websites provide a great interface, allow you to connect with others, and provide it’s users with a fun and unique experience?

Are Newspapers Going Extinct?

27 Feb

via Cloud Jumper

Many people would say that newspapers are going extinct. Personally, I like a print newspaper for it’s tactile and ritual appeal. Being slightly older than a Millennial, I have a tendency toward print as a media (in addition to digital, of course).

In my household, we opted to only get the Sunday issue of the Star Tribune (Pioneer Press loyalists, commence your chatter). It seems practical because I try to keep most Sunday’s low-key. I am particularly drawn to the Variety and Travel section, the Variety section being my favorite.

The Variety section hosts the crosswords AND the advice column by Carolyn Hax (who I almost always agree with). I also enjoy the Travel section for it’s beautiful photos and the travel tips by Christopher Elliott. I would feel a sense of loss if I wasn’t able to hold a newspaper and to use a pencil to fill in the crosswords.

Most days, I get my news on Twitter. I like being able to choose several sources, and that it keeps me more up to date than waiting until the nightly news or the next day’s newspaper. In this manner, I like being able to choose from a variety of news media.

Do you think print newspapers are on their way out?

Are YOU a Locavore?

19 Feb

In the past few years, I’ve been intrigued by the locavore movement, which, pared down, involves people and business making a conscious effort to consume foods that are local and in season. Some of my favorite restaurants abide by this philosophy, sourcing their products from nearby farms and making creative dishes that don’t require shipping in exotic items from thousands of miles away.The Strip Club Meat & Fish in St. Paul is one of my favorite dining spots.

In this short video posted on their website, business partners of The Strip Club, Tim Never and JD Fratzke discuss their food and business philosophy and show the audience how to prepare a dish and a craft cocktail.

The Strip Club is located on the East Side of St. Paul on Maria Ave., a block away from Metro State University. Their website has a classic, old-fashioned appeal. They use a wallpaper-style pattern as their theme. In the video, the background music is parlor-sounding piano music. Their website is basic, offering the attached video, menu’s, events, and contact information. The video really dials into their marketing appeal by introducing customers to the people and cooking of The Strip Club.

For those who aren’t acquainted with St. Paul, it’s people have a strong sense of hometown pride. Due to this, the decision to utilize a video introducing JD Fratzke as being from Minnesota was a good one. Since Fratzke discusses his familial background, it makes the audience feel like they know him. In the video, he prepares a dish with a Minnesota-sourced foie gras. He says, “This dish reminds me of what it’s like to walk through the woods when there is snow on the ground.” Here, he invokes classic Midwestern imagery, truly catering to their target market. In Tim Never’s portion of the video, he walks the viewer through his preparation of a fancy cocktail, focusing on the quality ingredients, as well as cracking a few jokes.

The Strip club effectively draws on their key brand attributes of being a small local business, using high quality seasonal products, and creating an intimate, comfortable atmosphere. They welcome their target consumer, which is someone with a locavore-type sensibility, who is also a proud Minnesotan.

What do you think of their approach? Are you a locavore?

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